Well, as we made our way into the sky. We were greeted with the ever beautiful and ever attentive air stewards who brought us a steady stream of food…and many drinks. The food as always was of a surprisingly high standard, we started our journey with chicken and rice and something I can’t remember. Travelling for 24 hours tends to suck the grey matter straight out of your head. Then there was braised beef noodles and chicken curry on the next leg. It was better than some curries I’ve had in Indian restaurants on the ground. Despite the tastiness, I never eat much on planes as I am not exactly the most relaxed flier.
So, I was happy to hear that my darling sister was making me sunday roast when we got back to her house. The smell of beef roasting in the oven as I sipped on a cold cider on a warm sunday afternoon, I knew I was finally home. After dinner I quickly passed out on the sofa and then apparently my nearest and dearest buried me under a pile of cushions. They could have thrown me at a brick wall and I don’t think I would have woken up. And so, I write this now, having slept for 9 hours, on my sisters sofa bed, eating chocolate chip cookies for breakfast. Safe in the knowledge that breakfast is going to be a feast of smoked salmon and scrambled eggs and this afternoon we are hosting a bbq, so I can finally get back in that kitchen! I’m thinking Thai beef salad and some kind of Pavlova, not necessarily at the same time.
Waking up in the city means that if you are in the mood, you can Yum Cha your way into the day. And that is exactly what we did on Saturday. The Dragon Palace in Perth had been heartily recommended and we arrived at 10:15am to find an already half full dining room that probably seats 200, with ease. I don’t know any restaurants that have 100 customers at that time of day so I was impressed from the outset. Spotting the people who had not partaken of Yum Cha before was not hard. We were the ones in the corner frothing with enthusiasm and naively asking for a description of everything on the trolley. And frequently getting the sweet and savoury confused. We were not disappointed, we ate a lot and had a surprisingly small bill at the end of it.
As if starting the day with meltingly soft prawn dumplings wasn’t decadent enough, we then proceeded to Little Creatures brewery to have an early afternoon brewski by the water. After a cleansing pale ale we were ready to attack a plate of nachos. And some hand cut chips with aioli, oops! We rounded out the day by going to a well-known Perth pub for drinks and dinner prior to heading to the Airport. I will not be so crude as to name the place but waiting an hour for a burger is not my idea of fun and having watched as my friends devoured their meals just added insult to injury. When the burger finally arrived, the meat was almost raw in some places whilst well cooked in others and the fillings were mediocre. However, my prolonged hunger saw me eat nearly the whole thing. I wonder if I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t waited so long. I guess we will never know…And so we hopped in a cab and we were on our way to the Airport. Goodbye Perth, ‘Ello London!
Oh it is good to be back in the pumping metropolis that is Perth. After a long sojourn from visiting large cities, I think Perth is the perfect precursor to London town. It is just big enough to remind you that there are weird people wandering the streets and there are criminals in the world and there are more than three good restaurants to visit. We turned up at a brewery type affair and had a selection of tapas, all pretty tasty, there was one let-down at the end of the meal but we’ll let that slide being that it was preceded by 10 nice dishes. And after shared snacks, we went on to enjoy yummy, if a little over priced churros. Being in the city, with our friends, drinking wine and thinking about our upcoming culinary adventure, is a pretty good place to be.
The plan is to blog pretty darned regularly whilst home in the UK. Hopefully I will be bubbling with enthusiasm from all the sensory overload. If I have the energy, then I will blog from Singapore airports free internet terminals and keep you updated with the delights of plane food. We’re leaving on a jet plane…
After a long time away from the keyboard I am finally making a comeback. Not just in the blogging sense, I am also making a comeback to the motherland. Oh that great and politically stable (tongue firmly in cheek) nation of mine is calling me. It is time to go back to the UK.
I was shocked and disappointed the other morning when in a haze of sleep I went to apply the wonder that is Marmite to my heavily butter laden crumpet, only to be met with a scarily empty stupid squeezy plastic bottle. Having never made peace with the redesigned Marmite “bottle”, this just compounded the situation. With the old glass jars, you were aware for weeks that you were running out, all that scraping around with a butter knife in the top corners was a firm reminder that you needed to put Marmite on the shopping list. However, with the new design you never know how much you have left and also, crumpets being full of holes don’t like having Marmite squeezed on them as you end up with very uneven Marmite coverage.
Anyway, I don’t want this to become too much of a bitter diatribe against Marmite bottles but it did get me thinking about the foods that we have grown up with and how much they stay with us throughout our lives. Most of my childhood memories are centred around food. I remember standing on a stool in the kitchen with my Nanny and her teaching me to make Jam tarts and I definitely remember showing her how I could fit an entire jam tart in my mouth without breaking it. And yes I do have an abnormally large oral aperture. Memories of my big sister making homemade chips with lots and lots of vinegar. Sneaking handfuls of peanuts from my gym bag in the narrow, rickety corridors of my primary school. Being taught to make the best mashed potatoes in the world by my Granddad. Watching as my Dad tried to make ‘proper’ gravy which involved roasting lots of vegetables and shouting lots of expletives at inanimate objects. And standing by my mother every day after school and watching and helping her cook everything from risotto to curry to stew, the list goes on. She was a thoroughly modern woman, risotto and curry weren’t exactly de rigueur at everyone’s houses in the 80’s.
Anyway, it is time to go home and be with the people who look like me and cook like me, what a pleasure it will be to eat my sisters roast dinner, have my Mum make me grilled tomatoes on toast when I’m feeling tired and vulnerable and have my Dad make me Cornish saffron bread. Oh, the wonders of home.
Tell me your food memories…
Ok, I finally screwed my head back on and realised that life goes on. There is a lot to be said for travelling interstate and entering national competition, I have met some fantastic people and hopefully made some good contacts. It is also a really good opportunity to look at the work that other people in the industry are producing and where you stand in relation to that. There are some very talented chefs out there, producing some really outstanding food. And the reality is, if our food was as good as theirs, we would have been standing on that stage making really ineloquent speeches.
It seems that the trend that was popular with the judges was modernity, well, slightly jaded modernity that has been around for a good five to ten years and has slowly reached Australia but modernity none the less. Think, soils and foams and condiments in jam jars. Oh so achingly trendy ! Hmmmm….
But, it makes me want to up my game. And that has to be a good thing. I’m not quite sure how I am going to get there or who in the region can teach me their new and edgy techniques but it definitely makes me hungry to learn. And tonight I learnt a thing or two about Molecular Gastronomy or Empirical Cuisine, as it is now often called. I am fairly confident I could make you a foam, or cook you some duck in the sous vide style. Call me a coward but I’m still not sure I am overly confident about the idea of liquid nitrogen, I really don’t like the cold! I’m not sure that I am completely sold on the idea of spherifying everything or eating muesli foam and 60 degree poached egg for breakfast every day but I think it is important to challenge our ideas. The people behind this movement, the culinary alchemists of the world are worth their weight in gold. It is as true for food as it is for life in general, it only takes one radical to make us stand up and pay attention. Stagnation is never a good thing and if you stand still for too long in the world of empirical cuisine, they will probably whack you in a thermomix, process you to a puree and turn you into a foam. So, the moral of this story is, don’t forget to challenge yourself and your ideas, not just in food but in life.
I sat on the toilet and my snot tickled the ground; partly because I have a stinking cold and partly because I was so utterly, completely, intrinsically disappointed. I would love to talk about how enriching it is to compete and what good experience it is and how I will learn from it but really I am just fricking angry. I sat, and I cried and honestly, the tears trickled down my face and reached all the way to the ground. There is nothing quite so painful as being a 28-year-old, unemployed apprentice with premature grey hair and no potential job prospects.
However, I am sure, objectively, one day I will think it is a good thing to be fourth. Unfortunately that day is not today. After about three days of very little sleep, a horrible cold and partner deficit, I am not exactly in the right head space to be magnanimous. The competition ran smoothly and we all came away feeling positive, there was only one potential disaster. Our souffles looked a little overdone on top and a brief panic ensued, we all ran around like headless chicken trying to get a second batch together and then we decided to trust the first batch. All in all, it was pretty relaxed and all of our food was presented on time.
I will write more detail when I have the energy to think straight. Despite the tears in the toilet incident it was an amazing experience to compete with two outstanding chefs and two fantastic friends.
Buttons and badges and lists and a desperate search for a blow torch and eating awesome Korean food and running around a supermarket scrambling for ingredients. That pretty much sums up the day, however, I will be kind and expand on it somewhat.
The confiscated blowtorch was a slight issue; I had a beautiful pen sized blow torch which fit perfectly into my chef’s toolkit. However, the mean little man at the airport seemed to distrust me and therefore wouldn’t let me bring it to Adelaide. Ho hum, we kind of suspected that might be the case, so we spent a large part of the afternoon searching for a blow torch in a city which is completely alien to us all. We finally tracked one down in a distant suburb.
With 100 dollars in our pocket and a trolley in our hands we wound our way around Foodland in a hyperactive frenzy. There was a desperate scramble for the ripe tomatoes, luckily no knives were drawn. So, after finally tracking down the pistachios we approached the counter with caution. We held our breath for about three minutes whilst the really chatty checkout chick took her sweet time with our produce. Amazingly, we came in 20 cents under budget.
It was a whirlwind of a day and we drew the earliest time slot of the competition so we will be up at disgusting o’clock tomorrow, or today, as it is past midnight. We better be off to bed. Tomorrow will hopefully be a day of glory for us all, we’ve done our homework, we’ve shined our shoes, we’ve sewed on our badges and we’re…