Chin Chin

Wow, so um wow! A week ago we went to eat at a darling of the Melbourne food scene, Chin Chin. I don’t follow the trends and new hot things in the local scene very closely but had still managed to hear it is a great place, though little else beyond that.

What the place turned out to be was amazing and well deserving of the buzz it has generated. After waiting an hour to get a table* we ordered the “Feed Me” set menu at $66pp where as we discovered they just keep bringing out dishes of wonderful Thai food until you beg for mercy. We definitely got our money’s worth and tried many dishes we probably wouldn’t have picked otherwise but enjoyed heartily.

I cannot recount all the dishes we ate because of this, it is now one big long beautiful blur. However overall the salads were probably the highlight, so wonderfully flavoured many with a well balanced chilli bite. I will certainly be heading back there, probably taking friends from out of town to show off a shining example of what the food scene in Melbourne has to offer.

* They take your mobile number and SMS you when your table is ready.

Izakaya Den

Finally visited Izakaya Den this evening after wanting to go for *ages*. I am a bit of a fan of the genre after being introduced to dining izakaya style in Japan and have often heard that the den it is the best one in Melbourne. The four of us enjoyed: Octopus with pickled kohliabi and wakame (best wakame I’ve ever had), Crispy school prawns, Duck liver parfait (probably my favourite for the evening), BBQ Ox Tongue (garnered some amusement and was delicious), Barramundi Fillet (the skin was especially good), Kurobuta Pork Belly, Pepper Stuffed Mince Duck and two plates of Seasame Stir Fried Mushrooms (which were freaking win). For dessert we shared a Black Sesame Brulee, Warm Tofu Cake (unsurprisingly not so great), Japanese Trifle, and an Apple Millefeuille (made of layers of dehydrated apple and a excellent apple sorbet).

For a laugh read Ed’s review of the place, he gets distracted along the way and provides much amusement.

Cheese 1

Status

Cheese from Richmond Hill Cafe & Larder for Rob’s birthday, Roy de Vallees (Sheep and goat’s milk semi hard cheese, Basque Pyrenees, France) savoury, salty a great table cheese. Le Conquerant (traditional camembert, Normandy, France) a fantastic camembert, the girls went nuts for it. Bleu des Basques (semi firm sheep’s milk blue, Basque Pyrenees, France) the stand out cheese from the bunch, rich and earthy and a bit salty.

Eating the Odd Bits

Odd Bits by Jennifer McLaganAs I told Thanh Do of the excellent Melbourne food blog I Eat Therefore I Am the other day, I had a bit of a boring anglo-Australian upbringing largely devoid of the odd bits of animals. The exception to this was beef/ox tongue, which I am ashamed to say was greeted with great disgust by my sister and myself. Our mother eventually hid the source of the meat when she served it lest we refuse to eat it. So I am afraid so say I have only the faintest of recollections as to its taste, let alone how it was prepared. How did you prepare it mum?

Since then I’ve dined on many so called odd bits, though always in restaurants. Chicken’s feet are a regular favourite at yum cha, dim sum for those of you in America. I also love a good lambs fry, though I rarely see it on the menu in Melbourne.

Thus after hearing about Jennifer McLagan’s new book Odd Bits I thought it was high time I start cooking some of these items at home. Nose to tail eating has a couple of attractions for me, it provides my foodie self more ingredients and flavours to enjoy and cook with, and my eating sustainably self a warm fuzzy feeling inside.

So to the book. It is beautifully presented with wonderful photos throughout, each “odd bit” introduced with a couple of paragraphs then sections on purchasing and preparation. Interspersed through the book are quotes by notable people of the food world lauding the tastes, smells and sights offered by the various pieces of animal under discussion. These quotes strike me as a useful aid for tempting the more recalcitrant diners in your home to trying the recipes contained in its pages.

The recipes themselves are excellent, with a low complexity and many of them taking familiar recipes and adding an “odd bits” twist. There is a surprising number of the “odd bits” which are actually familiar items, lamb ribs and necks for example already appear on my shopping list as do shanks and oxtail. I also love that some of the recipes have a delightful tongue in cheek title such as Headcheese for the Unconvinced of which my girlfriend and sister count themselves members of.

I will blog about it as soon as I cook some of the recipes, probably something in the liver or tongue sections given I’m somewhat familiar with those ingredients and flavours!

Update: I do remember our mother also did liver at one stage which was met with similar incredulity and ox tail braised in tomato sauce which went down pretty well from memory.

Weeknight Meal: Mussels in Beer Broth

An ode to mussels

Mussels are in my eyes one of the greatest week night ingredients. They’re cheap, simple to cook, flexible in flavour pairings and take less time than pasta to cook.

On top of that they’re one of the best meats for environmentally concious foodies, their farming does little or no damage to the environment and they’re farmed in a wholly renewable fashion.

The only drawback to mussels I could point out would be that they are a little difficult to get hold of, only infrequently appearing in my local supermarkets in the deli section. The closest reliable source is the fishmongers at Prahran Market which is a 20 minute drive from our abode. Grab them when you can!

Mussels in Beer Broth

This recipe is an adaptation of a usual suspect in our house, Mussels in White Wine Broth however I had a bottle of Red Hill Brewery Belgian Blonde in the fridge from a trip to their establishment last weekend. A light slightly sweet beer with a bit of spicy hops, I had one bottle left this evening and pairing it with the mussels just made sense.

1kg fresh mussels cleaned
300ml beer (about a bottle, drink the rest)
1/2 brown onion diced
3 cloves garlic diced
large pinch dried chilli flakes
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon butter (optional)

1. In a large pot cook the onions and garlic in some olive oil [1] with a large pinch of salt until softened. Then melt the butter in with the onions.

2. Add chilli flakes, lemon juice and beer and bring close to the boil.

3. Put in the mussels and cover. Cook for around 5 minutes, stirring once or twice until most [2] of them have opened.

4. Serve immediately in bowls with the broth and a side of bread for dipping.

[1] Use olive oil for the flavour, especially if you are not adding butter later.
[2] 
Eat the bloody closed mussels as well! The myth of mussels that don’t open being off is utter rubbish, not only does the eminent science communicator Dr Karl agree with me, but so do mussel farmers! I ate 5 of them tonight.

Seared Salmon

Seared SalmonI love doing complex meals and trying new recipes continually but like everyone I have a few standby recipes that I fall back on time and time again and I’ve just found a new one. One of the recipes I often do is one of Nigella Lawson’s super quick Mirin Salmon.

I got some beautiful salmon fillets from the Prahran Market yesterday morning in preparation for a quick and easy sunday evening but come Sunday evening there was a giant bowl of Waldorf salad left over from Saturday that needed finishing.

Deciding that the paring of Waldorf salad and Mirin Salmon was probably not the greatest onto the internet I went. Seared Salmon popped up as a paring with the salad in question and given the quality of the salmon I decided to investigate the best method.

A quick google popped up Gordon Ramsey doing his thing in a manner that seemed both easy and sensible but also with the usual flair that Ramsey provides. So here it is, the first half is a potato dish that also looks worth a try.

My Cooking Secret

Yesterday I purchased some Rapini, which I’ve never eaten before let alone cooked with. I grabbed it as it was there, figuring it would make a good side for the duck legs I had found in my local butcher. When I got to checkout of the grocers the girl asked me what I was going to do with it. I replied that I didn’t know as I had never eaten it. The checkout girl looked shocked, I didn’t know what I was going to do with it? I was buying something I had never eaten? What the hell?!

Her reaction got me thinking about my attitude towards cooking and how it differs from others.

I enjoy wowing with food, and that includes wowing myself. There is a thrill and sense of accomplishment when a dish turns out and people enjoy it. To do this I’ve learnt a trick, not being afraid to fail when cooking a dish. With this I am happy to leap into trying new dishes, new techniques, so I regularly cook with new ingredients or untried recipes.

Too many people are afraid to fail when it comes to cooking, so they don’t try and the lack of variety leads to boredom and cooking being a chore. I still get annoyed when a dish doesn’t turn out as I had wished, but that just means I take another crack at it later. Rarely will there be an inedible disaster, so guests are rarely left hungry even if I have to apologise for such and such not quite working.

Cook one thing a week that you have never tried to cook, I dare you.

ps. I did sort of know what I was going to do with the Rapini and that was add butter and garlic, if in doubt use butter and garlic, you can’t go wrong!