Produce

Red Rice

Camargue red rice - one of several available brands

Red Rice from the Camargue region of France, not far from the foothills of the Pyrenees (where wild white horses roam), is sold in good speciality shops everywhere. It is a short grained rice and unmilled which makes it as nutritious as wild rice but it tastes far better. It’s wonderfully nutty flavour makes this a wonderful side or main. As a side you can serve it as a salad or as a main tossed with roasted or smoked chicken or beef. Its deep russet colour gives this rice a glamorous dinner party addition. It is more filling than normal white rice so smaller quantities are required

deep russet coloured red rice (before cooking)

The tastiest way I have seen this served is tossed in with gently sautéed spring onion, leek or shallots, semi-sundried tomatoes and chopped and gently sautéed spicy chorizo. A perfect combination for a light meal.

The Apple Revival & the war against the bland

UK based celebrity chef Raymond Blanc is attempting to revive apples that have long disappeared from our markets and supermarkets. He has started a serious apple orchard in Oxfordshire (UK), where he is planting some varieties of apples that are no longer retailed!  This is good news for all consumers who have, for too long accepted, without complaint, the increasingly bland apples they are  forced to buy – powdery flesh with fake looking shiny skin.

Blanc is now in pursuit of old-fashioned visual perfection and taste – rough skins, sweet and juicy insides – real character. You can get an occasional glimpse of such perfection only when you drop in on farmers markets!

In fact there are some 1200 native apples to choose from in Europe, centuries old like the Hoary Morning or the Laxton. Blanc has invested in a 5 acre orchard in Oxfordshire. You can only of course right now enjoy his apples in his hotel/restaurant.  However if he has his way, supermarkets will be encouraged to take the risk and start selling what their consumers really want!

http://www.brasserieblanc.com/

and for more about his philosophy about food produce, check out:

http://www.brasserieblanc.com/food/producers.php

Onion Sense

Onions are wonderful additions to many recipes. Almost every culture uses onions in their cuisine.  They are related to the garlic family.

There are several common varieties and all have different flavours and uses.

There are essentially 2 categories of onions:

  • Storage Onions
  • Sweet Onions

3 common varieties of storage onions

Storage onions are low in water and high in sulfur, so they store well and are available year-round. Storage onions are more pungent and flavorful than sweet onions, and they’re best if cooked before eating.

Sweet onions are usually served raw or lightly cooked and only available in the spring.

red sweet onions (for salads)

The most common varieties of storage onions are the red, yellow, brown and white and vary in their taste (sweetness) and water content. Depending on what you are cooking, the choice of onion is important input to the final flavour of the dish you are cooking.

  • For casseroles and soups use yellow onions
  • For pastas and salads use red onions (they are also excellent grilled)
  • For grilling (or a dish that requires less heat) use white onions (higher water content so will be milder)
  • For sauces use shallots (Australians use the term shallots to describe green onions, but in other countries  shallots are shaped like small brown onions with papery brown skins.  They have a more delicate, garlicky flavor than other cooking onions, and are a common ingredient in French sauces.  Many people find them too hot to eat raw
  • For salads use sweet onions – some green grocers call them salad onions and come in bunches of white or red.

shallots

Onions should be firm and heavy for their size – if not it has been on the shelf far too long.

Smell the onions you buy – avoid onions that have a strong  odour as these are starting to go off.

If you’re prone to crying while cutting onions, try chilling them first, then peeling them under running water.

Always cook onions over low or medium heat, since they become bitter at high temperatures.

Simon Johnson’s new Asian sauce and paste range

Simon Johnson has recently released a range of thai bottled pastes and sauce sachets. They boast of sourcing all the ingredients from Thailand.

The sauce sachets however were underwhelming and were somewhat bland to taste. However the bottled pastes get top marks from me.

I thought the thai marinade paste was excellent and so was the chili stir fry.  The chili stir fly worked well with seafood but also with vegetables.  I used the thai marinade to BBQ a whole fish wrapped in foil. Place generous helpings of the marinade in the slit fish and leave it in the fridge overnight or for half a day.  Wrap in foil and BBQ – perfection with any white fish.  I expect it would be as good with chicken also, although I have not tried that.

I also loved the chili jam in this range (which asians will know as sambal). You can even use a tsp of it to fire up your pasta and other sauces.

You only need to use half a bottle for a meal for 2 or 3 depending on how flavoursome you wish the dish to be.

In this bottled range is also a laksa paste (malaysian), red curry and green curry

Priced at $4.95, they seem like good value as it will stretch for 2-3 meals for 4 or 4-5 meals for 2.

Thai Marinade

The wonderful Kifler Potato

This cigar or finger shaped potato, originates from Austria and is my most favourite of all potatos. It was once not easy to find in Australia but now is plentiful in most good greengrocers and markets around Australia. It has a wonderfully buttery nutty taste and best for boiling, steaming or roasting.

Here are some recipes that are perfect with kiflers:

When steamed or boiled it is lovely in a tuna nocoise salad or in a green bean and olive tapenade salad

A roasted version (with skin on) that works well as an accompaniment to a main course is fork crushed Kiflers (with skin), dressed with extra virgin olive oil, fresh parsley and parmesan shavings. Another variation to this is to serve the fork crushed roasted kifler with olive oil, lemon juice, dijon mustard and chopped spring onion.

For nibbles with pre-dinner drinks, season small discs of Kifler with olive oil, paprika and rock salt and then roast in oven till golden brown and serve the crisp discs (when room temperature) with goats curd or any other soft goats cheese.

But possibly my most favourite treatment of Kiflers is to do them on the BBQ with chorizo and scallops (leave this out if you are not a seafood fan) – put chorizo in first on the BBQ plate in order to get the oil you need (to crisp the potato) and then toss in the sliced discs of Kifler to cook and get golden brown (do not overcook as they will get hard). Add the scallops last as these will only take 1-2 mins to be cooked through. Again serve with fresh parsley and parmesan shavings

The kifler is not recommended for frying

Wild Vs. Farmed Salmon

There is still confusion about the difference between farm raised and wild salmon, especially in relation to the source and nature of the risk.

In simple terms, farm raised salmon carries risk you should know about.  It contains anything from 10-15 times more PCB than wild caught salmon.

So what is PCB and how dangerous is it?

Polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs are mixtures of up to 209 individual chlorinated compounds (known as congeners). There are no known natural sources of PCBs. PCBs are either oily liquids or solids that are colorless to light yellow. PCBs have been used as coolants and lubricants in transformers, capacitors, and other electrical equipment because they don’t burn easily and are good insulators. The manufacture of PCBs was stopped in the U.S. in 1977 because of evidence they build up in the environment and can cause harmful health effects. However, PCBs have continued to persist in the environment and fish absorb PCBs from contaminated sediments and from their food.

So why is there such a concentration of PCB in farmed salmon?  It comes from the feed that is fed to salmon that is farmed:

  • Fishmeal/Feed: Studies found that the fishmeal fed to farm raised salmon is highly contaminated with PCBs
  • Farm Raised salmon are “fatter”: farm raised salmon are generally bigger in size and contain more fat than wild salmon. PCBs are stored in fat and remain there for an extended period of time, therefore farm raised salmon contain more PCBs.

Research reports that farm raised salmon have 16 times PCBs found in wild salmon, 4 times the levels in beef, and 3.4 times the levels in other seafood.

You have a choice

  • Find a supplier that sells wild salmon (be warned you will spend more)
  • If you have to choose farm raised salmon, then only eat an 8 oz serving  once a month (although one serve of salmon is unlikely to poison you, regular consumption of farmed salmon will cause a build up of PCBs in your body)
  • Eat tin salmon as salmon in tins is almost always wild salmon and therefore does not carry PCBs.

So when buying salmon always ask for wild salmon and if your supermarket does not stock it then give them the feedback and find a local fishmonger that knows the difference and can provide wild salmon with certainty.

For more information check the web site

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/1098564.stm

BBC film “Warnings from the Wild: The Price of Salmon”

An Oyster Treat!

Kumamoto Oyster

Nothing better than a sweet tasting oyster accompanied by a glass of creamy French champagne.

Kumamoto Oysters hail from  the Kumamoto area of Kyushu in Southern Japan but are now being grown here in Australia.

What you’ll immediately notice, when compared to their rivals, is their size – these are small oysters but they are truly the sweetest of all oysters on the market.

Not always available but if you see them at your local market grab them.

Award Winning Pasta!

Yarra Valley Pasta has just won gold at the Sydney Royal Fine Food show out of 40 fresh pastas.  They were offered gold for the following pastas on the criteria of colour, taste, texture, translucency and surface properties:

1) Chilli Linguine

2) Free Range egg spaghetini

3) Lemon and Parsley linguine

The 12 year Colaneri family history of this pasta made in Healesville marks out this 100% durum wheat pasta (made with free range eggs and no artificial stuff) an enduring product.

The cheerful Lynne at the Yarra Valley Pasta Prahran Market stall is always brimming with useful recipes including a wonderfully fresh crab chilli linguine and she even offered me tips on how I might get more depth in my own tomato based pasta sauce.

Prahran Market Stall 118a

161 Commercial Road

South Yarra

tel 0398241887

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