Sunday, March 29, 2009


Some pics from the great opening night of Felafel. Not much to say other than it was an absolute blast and it was good to meet all the crew from the blogging world. The play was sidesplittingly funny and you could tell when a JSpace joke was thrown in as there were only five or so very loud guwaffs in the crowd. Props to Girl Clumsy for the direction and Squire Bedak for the updated script, it was awesome!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sir Flinthart

I am so weak on Asian cooking. Don't know the basic principles, or the flavour profiles. Got no feeeel for it brother. But I want to get better so when Mr Flinthart's recipes from his ROR trip lobbed into my inbox, I noted the wonton soup with interest.

I'd already stolen the basic principle of using the chicken wings from the stock for snacks for Friday night footy, but this time I followed his stock and soup recipe to the letter, or email as it were. (while I say this, it was a beeso following to the letter, no measurement and added ingredients where I felt like it.)

What a revelation, these beautiful savory packets of pork mince (bangalow pork, the best you can buy in QLD), floating in this delicate, refreshing broth with crispy raw veg. Healthy, cheap and 500g of pork mince did me enough wontons for two meals. The other half went into the freezer for The Wife for next time I'm on the road.

So Dirk you will no longer be Flinty to me, rather you shall be known as Sir Flinthart, teacher of Asian cuisine from afar.

I've included the recipes, (hope that's ok sir flinty) as I know of a least two people who will want them. Jase, this is well within your budget.

Spicy Chinese-Style Chicken Stock

If you tackle French cookery, they start you on making stock. A good, flavoursome stock is the sine qua non of French cooking, providing a base to a thousand different dishes and sauces. Unfortunately, making stock in the French manner takes hours of sweating slavery, skimming a boiling potful of crap until you're happy with the outcome.
I hate doing things like that. I've got better ways to spend my time. But I like stock, because I like risotto and soups and sauces and gravies and curries and cous-cous and... yeah. You get the picture. So what I do, maybe once every eight to ten days, is set up to make a serious pot of stock after the fashion I learned in Malaysia. It's inexpensive. It's really easy. You can store it in the fridge in an airtight container for a couple weeks, or you can freeze it for months if you want.
Normally, I do it with bones and scraps. Works for chicken, beef -- even seafood, if you're careful not to boil for too long, thus leaching iodine into your stock and making it bitter. However in Montville, I couldn't locate chicken frames and necks in time, so I just bought a few kilos of cheap wings and drumsticks, knowing I'd be able to use them independently, once I'd taken them out of the stock.
Here's the recipe:

3-4 kg mixed wings and drumsticks (chicken)
half a cup or so of salt (remember, you're making about 10lt of stock. Be generous.)
Zest of three lemons (or two bundles of lemon grass, finely chopped)
two cloves star anise
roughly one full clove of garlic, smashed and peeled
three medium/large brown onions, peeled and coarsely sliced
Thumb-sized chunk of fresh ginger root, coarsely sliced
half-cup or so of fish sauce
tablespoon brown sugar (palm sugar is preferable, but not vital)
(optional) tablespoon sliced hot fresh chili

Put all the ingredients in a large stock pot with a well-fitted lid. Add enough water to cover the lot. Bring to a boil for about two minutes. Turn off the heat. Put the lid on. Leave the pot alone until it comes back to room temperature. Rescue the chicken pieces, sieve the rest of the junk out, and save the stock. Done.
I know. It seems too simple. It works, though. Oh -- and the business about letting it cool slowly doesn't seem to be a health risk, even in summertime. I've been doing it this way for about fifteen years, and I'm only following the procedures supplied by hundreds of thousands of cooks in Malaysia. I've even asked chefs here in Australia and in Singapore about it; those who are familiar with the technique assure me it's never failed them. I dunno what the classic French chefs would say, but then I don't speak French worth a damn. So
boil your stock very briefly, put the lid on, and let it cool slowly. No problems.

(Again use what you have, i had no star anise so i used a cinnamon stick, but the sugar and fish sauce makes this stock. And the lemongrass and ginger. Hang on thats almost the whole stock!)

Spicy Twice-Cooked Chicken With Polenta Crust

If you chose to use chicken pieces in your stock, you've now got a big platter of very tender, very damp chicken pieces cooked to the bone, absolutely saturated with flavour. Cover them with a teatowel or something, and let the worst of the moisture dry, so they're merely damp to the touch. Ten minutes or so is fine.
Meanwhile, get a freezer bag. Put about a cup and a half of polenta into it. Add maybe two teaspoons of salt, and the spice mix of your choice. (I used chili powder, citric acid powder, black pepper, and basil. If you use the citric acid, keep it to about half the quantity of the other spices, eh? It adds a lovely lime/lemon note, but it can be overpowering.) Shake the bag to mix the spices with the polenta. Add your chicken pieces one or two at a time and shake them to coat them with the polenta/spice mix. Arrange all your chicken pieces on the (lightly oiled) oven racks, and bake at maybe 160-180C until the polenta/spice coating goes golden brown.
Serve the chicken pieces hot or cold. Because the chicken has already been cooked in the stock, it's saturated in flavour -- but relatively low in fat. It will stay moist inside while acquiring a lovely crunchiness outside. You can make a full meal of it with a garden salad and baked potatoes, or serve it as snacks. And as you know, chicken prepared this way makes even the most famous of take-away fried chicken taste like vile, greasy nastiness... so if you make it even once, be prepared to have people asking you to make it again, and again.

(I used chinese five spice, cayenne pepper and lots of salt on mine)

Won-ton Soup

The thing I really like about soups from China, Malaysia, Japan, Vietnam, etc is the way the vegetables arrive still crunchy and tasty in that delicious broth. There's no real trick to it; you just pour the near-boiling stock over the top of the pre-sliced veg in the serving bowl, and that's it. Won-ton soup is a big favourite in my house. The kids and Natalie alike will gorge themselves on the stuff if I make enough. It's kind of spooky to watch.

Plenty of tasty stock
Vegetables for slicing up -- choices of carrots, broccoli, broccolini, baby fennel, Chinese cabbage, snow peas, sugar-snap peas, or anything else that takes your fancy, really.
Two packets of Won-ton wrappers (should get about forty per packet)
About 750 gm pork mince
Spring onions
Fresh coriander
Fresh ginger root
salt, pepper, sesame oil.

Slice your vegetables, and arrange them in the serving bowls. Add a teaspoon of sesame oil to each bowl.
Next, mince a thumb-sized knob of ginger root, and finely dice four spring onions plus a clump of coriander. Mix the ginger, the coriander, the diced spring onion and one decent dessertspoon of salt into the pork-mince, and work it all together. Scoop teaspoons of the pork mince out and make little packets using the won-ton wrappers. Squeeze the won-ton pastry together to make sure the packets stay shut in the stock.
Bring the stock to a simmer in a decent pot. As soon as it's simmering, put all your newly made won-tons in. The stock will come back up to a simmer in short order, but you will know your won-tons are cooked through when they all float to the surface. Stir once or twice, early in the piece to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Serve with a ladle. Garnish each bowl with a sprinkle of sliced spring onion. Eat.
Note: don't feel restricted to pork-mince won-tons. Chicken mince works too. So do minced prawns. You could probably manage something with mushroom if you wanted. Game meats might be a bit heavy though...

Lantanaland from the iPhone

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


I used to run a music venue, mainly cause I love that feeling good music can give you. It's funny though how music can date and age, yet still take you back to a time and place.

Then there is the rare time when you pull out an album that you haven't listened to in ages because you thought it had dated and discover that it was actually a timeless classic, so rich and layered that it shocks you.

The album I am referring to is Cake's Fashion Nugget. I remembered the cool brass and quirky lryics but had forgotten the layering, the way the bass is at the front of the mix, the sheer joy of the songs.

Love it.

Lantanaland from the iPhone

Monday, March 23, 2009

Happy meal

In my quest to save money (so I can afford a cow) we are having one meal a week where I focus simply on the spend. This week was a old Jamie Oliver recipe, like all his early recipes it is very simple.

Just slice a few potatoes into cm thick slices and toss with oil, salt, diced garlic and rosemary. Bake till just golden. Cook off a big heap of mushrooms with butter and more garlic and finish with juice and zest of a lemon. Take enough fish fillets skin on to cover the potatoes, not too thin fillets and cut through the skin halfway about four times. Stuff these cuts with a mix of fennel, dill, basil, parsley, basically whatever you have in the garden. Drizzle the skin with oil and sprinkle with salt. Toss the mushrooms through the taters and lay the fish in skin up on top. Bake until fish cooked.

This may not be exactly how a very young Jamie did it, but it's what I do after having first done it. We had a small salad from the growbed on the side, dressed with a squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of fishy oil from the bottom of the pan.

Normally I won't cook to price, just to flavour, but I really want that cow.(which my mate has named Dolores, great cow name)

Total cost for two? $9

Lantanaland from the iPhone

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Lantanaland is many things. It's a rough piece of land, covered in lantana. It has a beautiful, but run down cottage on it, basically with one bedroom. What it needs is some renewal, not renovation, but for this I need to be sure of one thing. Good design.

We've been watching Grand Designs again, which always gets my design juices flowing. Interestingly the host, Kevin McCloud, wrote an article about the different reactions of the brain. Go shopping and buy something and you are pandering to the heroin of the brain, dopamine. Quick fix, short high, need more. But design or build something, plant a veg garden, anything that will provide pleasure over a period of time, produces serotonin, a much longer and pleasurable high. No wonder I like building things.

I digress.

The house here is small and very run down, particularly the deck. But we will need another room if (when) we have The Child, so the plan was to build a small extension, providing a bedroom up top, with a lounge below. The current lounge would be invaded by the kitchen, keen to pursue an old world colonization policy.

But what about the design! This house is very well designed. It doesn't need aircon in SE QLD, as the whole house breathes and catches the breeze. I'd like to build in strawbale, as I love the organic lines and texture. In fact The Wife and I have a great list of ideas, but it time to put together a master plan.

By this I don't mean sketches of how I want the house to look, because I'd rather the architect came up with those first without my influence, but rather the plan of how this building will fit into our life. For instance the kitchen is very important. I would like Lantanaland to one day be the provider of my income and food will play a big part of it. So the kitchen has to be able to look toward the future Lantanaland and anticipate what I might need. In other words how big do I make the walk in larder? Where does the cold room for hanging sides of beef and whole pigs go?

I've already had a lesson in poor design. When we moved here I found the old chook pen was full of white ants and had to be dumped. So we moved and I madly designed a chook house and pen. A chook house that turned out to be a feed trough for fox and snake, hard to access and hard to modify. So lately I've been working on a small changeover system, then I'll pull down this one and start again.

So this is the first of a few open discussions with myself about what needs to be discussed, pondered or put to paper. Feel free to butt in with any thoughts of your own, because I'd hate to miss something because I'm only using my brain alone.

Lantanaland from the iPhone

Thursday, March 19, 2009


I've been working as a sales rep for over three years now, that's a lot of radio national, AM, PM and The World Today. Not to mention the rubbish local ABC radio passes off as community minded interest in politics. As a result the once bright flame of interest and passion in politics and the political process is now just a twisted blackened cinder of cynicism. Too many interviews where the pollie parrots back the party line ( I almost crashed the car when Gillard gave a coherent and reasonable answer to a Fran Kelly question this morning. Maybe she was spending some of those tax dollars on drugs before handing it back to the grog companies). Too much party politics and to me they seem the same anyway, a bunch of lifers from the political system who wouldn't know what a real job looked like if it bit them on the arse.

So it takes a fair bit to get me angry these days, but this Muppet, Mr Moral High Ground Senator Stephen Fielding has got me fired. I mean I didn't know we had gone to the American system and had a president whose personal views controlled the veto over the parliament.

Anyway he sort of was elected so we've got him I guess, but it gets better. This muppet has the delusion that by defeating this bill he has struck a blow against binge drinking in this country. Well in the seven years I ran pubs I never heard this statement "gees beeso, those drinks are a lot cheaper, I'll have less of them tonight. "

I mean if he'd screwed the Ruddbot for some restrictions on advertising or had siphoned some more money into research or prevention then I'd be fine with him calling a press conference like Robert Downey Junior to say "Screw this - I AM IRON MAN!"

But all he did was focus the stupidity of a system where one man with a minority vote and a set of personal beliefs can stick it to the majority elected government but doesn't have to answer to the majority of the people come the next election.

I guess Karma has it in for me though, for in return of the flickering flame of political interest, this lobbed into my inbox today.

Hi, beeso (beeso).

Pauline Hanson (HansonPauline) is now following your updates on Twitter.

Check out Pauline Hanson's profile here:
Oh Dear.

Lantanaland from the iPhone

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Cook books

I own a few cook books. Some are essential, like Stephanie Alexanders cooks companion, the best reference that I have, while others are beautiful, like Jamie Oliver’s garden based book with all the color sketches and Maggie Beers book with the embroidered cover.

Most have been given to me as gifts, in fact one of the few things I miss about being a kid is the stack of books I'd get a Xmas. Now no one buys me fiction anymore. But I still get cookbooks and the occasional garden book. A couple of our close friends gave me my favorite non fiction book -The Healthy House Cow.

I do have a few yawning gaps in my library. Asian cooking. Need the spirit house cook book or something that will teach me the building blocks of that style of cooking. Suggest away people.

But flicking through my collection with some guests on the weekend I saw a book I would recommend to everyone. Practical, no silly cheffy food and the picture on the front features the authors obviously sloshed. Cooking Under the Influence -check it out.

Lantanaland from the iPhone

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Mmmm bacon

After my eureka moment on the weekend the conversion of the washing machine has been surprisingly smooth. Normally I miss something in the planning stage, I probably need to do a few sketches instead of just imagining it in my head. I bought a few bits and bobs from Bunnings and scammed a few bits from my fantastic neighbor Eric. Eric has two whole shipping containers full of stuff, something I will only be able to aspire to if I can keep it out of eyesight of The Wife, who is not that fond of clutter, for some strange reason.

Then it was just two days of cutting and riveting, plus a few of my favorite hardware item, the mighty zip tie. A bit of the chipped gum trees and some herbs (bay, rosemary and lemongrass for all you suspicious bastards out there) and I was away. I'll try leaving it in the smoke for about two days. It'll be a bit of trial and error at first, but then it will rain bacon, smoked tomatoes and chilli, salmon and ham.

Lantanaland smokin from the iPhone

Sunday, March 8, 2009


When we came home from NZ a few things had happened. Lantanaland looked like part of the set from The Thin Red Line, eight foot high thick grass everywhere, troops moving stealthily towards their LZ, well they could've been, that grass was thick. The other one was that our trusty washing machine veteran of seven years of sharehousing, finally gave up the ghost.

The washing machine was easily replaced with a nice new water efficient one that put less strain on my limited tank based water supply. I spent most of the weekend slashing and mowing, only reinforcing my feeling that a cow, while it might be a lot of work, is much better value than mowing. Take all the gardening I did this weekend, I used liters of fuel and all I get is a better-looking Lantanaland. If I had a cow, not only would I have mown grass, but that grass would be converted to milk and cream and cheese and manure which can be converted to fruit and veg. Hughesy has kindly put me on to a few leads for the cow, so I can only hope that my mowing days will soon be limited to the house block.

So that leaves one dead washing machine. I originally had planned to strip out the motor and the barrel and turn it into another chook house. The last thing I wanted to do was just dump it and I thought a washing machine chook house would be cool. I did a bit more mowing than started to strip out the washing machine when I had one of those moments that make Lantanaland and being here and having this place just the most satisifing thing for my soul.

You see I've been wanting to build a cold smoker for a while, but I lack the materials. I dry cure my own bacon but it needs that beautiful smoky flavor to be the real deal. A old wine barrel would be ideal, but they are pretty expensive, so my long term plan was to build one out of stone, which would be cool, but not cheap and time consuming and I need that time to mow the bloody lawn.

So I'd taken out the barrel and motor and was sitting there looking at the shell, thinking of how the best way to use it for a chook pen when it hit me, here was the perfect cold smoke oven. It already had easy access through the lid a strong steel box and a hole in the bottom for the smoke intake. All I need is a firebox, some pipe, some racking and a flue. It just happens that I put some belly bacon in the cure today, the first Lantanaland bacon.

To complete a great recycling day I used the barrel to repot a jade tree of The Wife that had badly outgrown its pot. All I need to know now is who's coming for breakfast next weekend?

Lantanaland from the iPhone

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Classic Album Mindworms

During the last few months I've been partaking of the great TV series "Classic Albums". Nirvana. U2. Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix and Metalica. And also ...... Def Leppard

Now if you like music and are at all interested in how things are done you have to get hold of this series. All the interviews are top notch and you really get a grip on the creative process. In particular you come to realize how much difference a good producer makes.

I'm not even a fan of some of these records. Never really dug Pink Floyd. I don't mind a bit of Metallica, but I don't own the black album. I doesn't matter though, because it's like watching history being built.

Which brings us back to Def Leppard. I quite liked these guys when I was a teenager and had some hormones. I can't recall when I last played one of their tracks, they're definetely not on my iPod. But like a gnawing hungry tapeworm, I now have their songs in my subconscious. All week I've been humming tunelessly to myself.....hysteria, dum de dum, can you feel it......

Lantanaland from the iPhone

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Random NZ thoughts from the plane home

Writing at 3am is not really my strong suit, so this might be a little rambling. It's been a fantastic trip around NZ, about 3600km in two weeks, but we saw a fair bit. This is what has struck me about the shaky isles.

Fruit trees-I may have been a bit hopeful but I was hoping to see an apple or peach or apricot tree in every rest area and miles and miles of wild blackberrys (though really I shouldn't wish for that). I saw the odd fruit tree, but never in one of the many rest areas we stopped at for lunch and camping. I did scam a few overhanging apples from private yards and we had peaches in the van park on our first night but that was it.

The water-I never got sick of the crystal clear streams and rivers and pools around the place. The highlight was the Blue Pools, a sparkling blue pool with several brown and rainbow trout lazily swimming in the gullys and gravel beds.

The farms-I loved all the little farms I saw and I got an answer to the fence question from Kieth the dairy farmer. All fences have to be at least five strands on the boundary line. So one of my quirky mysteries solved.

The beer-I know I keep harping on about this, but I had some awesome beers over here. It'll be pretty easy to have a break from the beer in the next few weeks.

There are a heap of places I'd like to visit at a bit more leisurely pace, especially to do a touch of fishing, so I'll be back. Just plant me a few more fruit trees

Lantanaland from the iPhone