Just Sous Just Me

Musicians, inspired recipes, songs and food adventures.


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Tamworth and the Mid-Festival Meltdown Salad Fix

Ruth's Festival Fuelling Fruit Salad

Ruth’s Festival Fuelling Fruit Salad

Hitting the New-England Highway each year as I drive away from Tamworth back to Sydney, my mind is undoubtedly swimming with many vast and varied wonderful musical moments and memories.  Mixed feelings of relief and exhaustion follow due to having survived it all once again because if there is one time of the year when musicians must be well nourished, match-fit both physically and mentally, the Tamworth Country Music Festival is it. Preparation and fore-thought is vital to endure this festival and to emerge on the other side of it intact rather than a dishevelled wreck which can occur after grabbing food on the run, sleep-deprivation, navigating roundabouts and the ever escalating build-up of traffic adding stress to reaching sound-checks on time only then having to locate a car-park after loading our equipment on to the stage – all of this madness carried out under searing degrees of 39 Celsius plus.  It’s a case of every musician for themselves in these conditions, not to mention the punters who follow a similar regime trying to get around and see as many favourites performing as possible over the ten days.  It’s a conundrum how this is achieved on the smell of an oily bucket of chips laced with chicken salt 🙂

During previous festivals, musician friends and I used to have competitions to see who could do the most gigs over ten days. In 1998 I did thirty-nine gigs, ten of which were in the attractive time-slot of midnight till 3am at the West Tamworth Leagues Club Legends Bar, followed by a few 8am Bluegrass Breakfast gigs and various shows throughout the day, then back to the midnight slot. In those days my body could handle it but now am a bit more selective and wiser (I hope). With that kind of carry-on, coupled with salubrious accommodation (such as squash court floor one particular year) there would always be what I label the inevitable ‘Mid-Festival Meltdown’, something I try to intercept from occurring these days.

Starmaker Grand Final View From The Stage

Starmaker Grand Final View From The Stage

While not hurtling around town from venue to venue navigating roundabouts, camels and cowboy hats, alternatively am required to be on a stage reading charts for more than ten hours backing Starmaker hopefuls, previous winners and students of the Academy of Country Music. Sustaining the level of concentration required for this (including executing fiddle solos in feel-good keys of C# and F#) can only be fuelled by sensible food options. In the words of Ian Lees – Musician of the Year 2014, “There’s nothing worse than staring at a chart and all you can see is a burger”.  Mercifully, the Starmaker organisers supply us with a beautiful fruit platter and some healthy vegetarian wraps on the busiest day which is a very welcoming sight indeed as catering for the musicians is usually a rare or substandard occurrence. (One day, we were presented morning tea in the form of a tray lined with hot-pink iced cupcakes and a plate of chocolate chip biscuits next to a crate full of Coke – not really my idea of musician nourishment however it’s the thought that counts). During these situations, I am grateful to have the hand-bag almonds on hand, never leaving home without them.

The Atrium in Ruth's House

The Atrium in Ruth’s House

It only took thirteen festivals to find her, but serendipitously my angelic Tamworth host Ruth Blakely now opens her home and her highly nutritional kitchen to me every year. Ruth’s home is quite simply Nirvana and an essential link to my survival of this festival. Every morning, she prepares an incredible fresh fruit salad of mangoes, strawberries, paw-paw, rockmelon, blueberries and what ever else of what seems to be endless supplies of fruit on-hand. After this, if she isn’t rushing off to work herself, she will offer to cook up a hot breakfast of eggs, bacon, mushrooms and tomatoes. Then, she will fill up jars with almonds, cashews and macadamia nuts for us to take away. Being a host to musicians for several years, she has surely observed the plight  we face every day and understands the value of a good breakfast in order to face the daily marathon, because when we leave her home each day we are often at the mercy of the un-known, food-wise. Sometimes all we will have time for later in the day in between shows, is a quick and easy no-queue-waiting soggy white bread salad sandwich in a plastic container. Or, if there is more than five minutes to spare, perhaps extravagance in the form of a roast dinner for $26.

Performing with The Bushwackers at the Longyard Hotel

Performing with The Bushwackers at the Longyard Hotel

A night off is not something I get to experience much during the festival, however do manage to squeeze one in this time. As all of my time not involved with performing has been writing charts and learning songs and repertoires, there’s been no time to go to any local restaurants or even do any research on where is best to eat out. Plus my ears need a rest from all of the music as some on-stage volume levels have been monumentally decibelic. A quiet, cleansing salad is in order so I rummage through the well-stocked fridge full of love and nourishment, with the addition of some of Ruth’s own home-grown produce to create this one.

Mid-Festival Meltdown Salad Fix

Mid-Festival Meltdown Salad Fix

As for any salad, you can add any ingredients you like but being absolutely fresh is the key. Even better if you are lucky enough to pick the produce straight from the garden. Realising my schedule for the next few days would be nothing short of monolithic, this was a definite pick-me-up :-).

Mid-Festival-Meltdown Salad

1 Bunch of English Spinach Leaves

1 Bunch of Rocket Lettuce

1 Zucchini, thinly sliced with a mandolin

1 Cucumber, sliced

Vine Ripened Cherry Tomatoes, cut in half

Basil Leaves, torn

Juice from freshly squeezed lemon

1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Sea Salt and Cracked Black Pepper

Dried Chilli Flakes

Method:

Place all ingredients in a bowl, add the lemon juice and olive oil and gently toss. Consume immediately. Goes nicely with a cup of organic green-tea

* You can also add sliced boiled eggs, or for the non-vegetarians some sliced grilled chicken breast.

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Baking Bad Scrambled Eggplant

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Sometimes you need to look outside the proverbial circle to source food and recipe inspiration, or maybe it just occurs naturally if you trust your instincts in certain situations. Usually I find green-grocery shopping nothing short of a rejuvenating sensory experience with display after display of fresh, multi-coloured fruit and vegetables beautifully presented like paint on an artist’s palette. They haven’t just been dumped randomly, serious thought has gone into these displays for maximum visual appeal which turns into enticement and ultimately (in my case) more purchases than needed at the time – like the four inviting artichokes I bought yesterday just because they looked so content nestling happily next to the eggplants, not because I was going to be using them in my recipe but solely for decorational purposes in my kitchen.

Thyme from the Wall Garden

Thyme from the Wall Garden

Right now it appears the planet is collectively obsessed with, either just starting, completely finished or half-way through that ubiquitary TV series Breaking Bad which has presented me with an inspiration for a dish. How is this be possible you ask? If you are familiar with this completely compelling piece of Television excellence you’d be familiar with the character Marie who, as the series goes on you eventually notice is constantly surrounded by the colour purple. Not only is she wearing purple (contrasted with yellow or other complimenting purple colour-matches) the kitchen is also full of purple appliances, the crockery, shopping bags, curtains, the bedroom theme, furniture and even a purple cork-screw makes an appearance.  I also wonder if she she eats eggplant every night for dinner? It’s entirely possible she does.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe more I watch this series and am blasted with visions of purple the more thoughts I have about eggplant and other assorted purple coloured vegetables to the point of Marie Schrader’s obsessive behaviour. Red Onions (which are really purple and should be called purple onions), Raddichio, Beetroot, Purple Garlic, Purple Carrots, Purple Chillis and the King of them all, Eggplant. Traditionally serving sliced, drenched with olive oil, grilled and consumed just like that is sensational but there are other ways to incorporate eggplant in your cooking if you like to experiment. This recipe is based on an Iranian dish ‘Mirza Ghassemi’ plus a few additions and omissions. Baked with thyme the night before, then folded through scrambled eggs the following morning the sweet, smokey flavour intensifies over night. Baking has to be one of the easiest and tastiest ways to prepare eggplant.  Chop the skin and flesh up, fold through the scrambled egg and serve on a bed of rocket topped with dollops of dill yoghurt. and a squeeze of lemon. For the Chilli freaks, throw some chopped fresh purple chillis over the final result.

Baked Eggplant Scramble

1 Large Eggplant; Cut in half lengthways criss-cross scored without piercing skin

2 tsp Sea Salt

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

Few sprigs of fresh Thyme

* Sprinkle salt in the slits of the eggplant and set aside for 30 mins

* Squeeze all liquid from eggplant (like a sponge)

* Pre-heat oven to 200 C

* Brush flesh sides with Olive Oil

* Place flesh side down on top of Thyme sprigs in a roasting tin and bake for 1 hour or till skin starts crisping up.

Creamy Scrambled Eggs

4 – 6 Free Range Eggs

1/4 Cup of cream or Milk (or if dairy issues, just plain old water)

50 gms Butter

Salt and Pepper

Smokey Paprika for dusting

* Crack eggs into a bowl and whisk with a fork

* Add milk then use an electric beater to whip them up till well mixed, light and aerated

* Melt butter in pan till sizzling, pour in egg mixture and let settle for around a minute before moving it all with a spoon.

* Do not over stir, just gently fold cooked parts over each other till barely cooked; just slightly un-cooked as off the flame it is still setting. (Over-cooked scrambled eggs become watery rather than what you want light and fluffy)

* Chop the eggplant at this stage and gently mix through the scrambled eggs.

* Serve on a bed of Rocket drenched with lemon with the dill yoghurt sauce and a sprinkle of smokey paprika

Dill and Yoghurt Sauce

1/2 cup of Greek Yoghurt

2 Tbs finely chopped fresh dill

* Mix together till well combined

Note*

For the full ‘purple explosion’, grate some purple carrot over the rocket and add some caramelised red-onions before the eggs go on top, sprinkled with some edible purple flowers. (Sorry there is no picture, am only imagining this but am sure would look great)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy cute little Artichoke 🙂


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The Loveless Cafe, Music City Roots and the Missing Biscuit Recipe

MCR

There’s only one way to describe the final Bushwackers show in Nashville and that is simply Going Out With A Bang (and a broken Lagerphone). Staged live at the Loveless Barn behind the famous Loveless Cafe we performed a set of tunes on the weekly two-hour Music City Roots radio show hosted by Jim Lauderdale. English ex-pat, founder of the band Traffic and rhythm guitarist on Hendrix’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’ plus composer of ‘Feelin’ Alright’ Dave Mason opened the night followed by a special showcase of Australian acts including Mustered Courage, Melody Pool, Catherine Britt and Bill Chambers as The Hillbilly Killers and the indisputable Aussie music legend Paul Kelly. This performing vehicle, via simultaneous radio and web-cast enabled the voice of the Bushwackers to be well and truly heard by the packed-to-the-rafter audience and music fans world-wide, a tremendous and unforgettable experience.

BootsThis is our second last day in Nashville and we are certainly trying to pack in as much as possible in between our finale performances. We’ve sound-checked early afternoon at the Loveless and have a few hours before show-time so shopping is now on the agenda. We head to Oprymills, a massive retail-outlet shopping mall of steroidal proportion – Tennessee’s largest. Architecturally designed in a giant circle spanning two kilometres, satellite navigation is needed to find your way around this building and it’s almost impossible figuring out where it starts and ends. An entire day is needed here to shop leisurely and find exactly what you want but we only have one hour to spare?  I hit the ground running and manage to buy all the necessary items ordered by family back home within this time-frame, and am even shown by one shop assistant a short-cut, staff-only passage down endless lonely grey corridors through the bowels of the building in order to get to the other side of the mall in half the time. Miraculously, it worked as had no idea when or if I would make it out alive and emerge directly in front of a Cowboy Boot Warehouse.  With five minutes to spare, I snatch up a very nice pair of Dan Post, hand-crafted Mexican-made boots, the real deal. The shop assistant clinched the sale by telling me I simply can not leave Nashville without them. (She’s right. I have worn them nearly every day since returning to Sydney, they are fabulously comfortable and blister-proof too).

Halloween is on the horizon

Halloween is on the horizon

The credit-card action and lightning-speed of the shopping has made us all ravenous. Lucky for us the Loveless Cafe is catering for the evening before the show, and what a delectable spread is presented of pure heart and soul, traditional Southern cooking at it’s best. The food is assuredly made with love even though the cafe name suggests otherwise. Mashed potato, the most silky smooth, buttery (no lumps whatsoever) I have ever tasted with luscious red-eye gravy to match; Melt in your mouth, tenderly cooked fried chicken, delicate but with just enough special Loveless spices making it a bit ‘too’ moorish; sautéed green beans and then last but most certainly not least, the biscuits – ceremoniously piled high in a large bowl that kept getting refilled again and again. With accompanying preservative-free made on the premises peach, blackberry and strawberry preserves, these biscuits are what the Loveless Cafe, besides being a go-to restaurant by both struggling and famous country musicians in search of relief-from-the-road comfort food for decades,  is most famous for. Yes, it’s all about the biscuits here.

Loveless Cafe Famous Biscuits

Loveless Cafe Famous Biscuits

Whilst boot-scooting around Oprymills earlier in the afternoon, the same shop assistant who sent me into the unknown, after informing her we were performing at the Loveless just about fell over herself with excitement and flapped on about these biscuits and that I MUST try them, along with the preserves as they are the best. They look like scones, and pretty much taste like scones and are decidedly yummy especially with the creamy butter swirls and fruity preserves loaded on top. We are a happy band and ready to take to the stage at this point, and we do just this to a resounding, standing ovation – The Broken lagerphone representing testimonial of the triumph.

Loveless CafeIt occurs to me a nice gesture would be to try to recreate this magnificent Loveless Cafe meal upon returning to Sydney as a sort of ‘Nashville Reunion’ and synopsis of the trip with the band members who have all shared this unique experience.  I buy the Loveless Cafe Cook Book which am told includes all the famous recipes for everything we were served tonight. Listed in the index are recipes for the fried chicken, the red-eye gravy, mashed potatoes and even the blackberry and strawberry preserves. Nothing under ‘B’ for biscuits. Nothing at all. Further research uncovers that this recipe is under wraps and was sold by the original cafe owners to the current owners along with the cafe and never to be revealed!

Guess will just have to cook up a batch of Margaret Fulton Scones instead 🙂

* The web-cast recording of the entire Music City Roots concert can be viewed here


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Peanuts in Coke Bottles and The Time Jumpers

Knoxville Carpark Mural

Knoxville Carpark Mural

To say that Nashville has opened my eyes, ears and taste buds to new heights is an understatement. The level of musicianship is sky-scraperingly good. The food options vary from organic, wholesome, tasty goodness to off the Richter-Scale sugar and cholesterol levels. And sights like the monstrous Opryland atrium spanning nine acres of lush indoor gardens including a river with a gondola, or the fifteen semi-trailers surrounding Broadway worth of Taylor Swift’s touring machinery must be seen to be believed. My violin has been lovingly repaired, restored and polished by talented Luthier Jennifer at the Fiddle House and the mighty Bushwackers have had a run of well-received shows at venues all over town during our involvement with the Americana Festival and Sounds Australia.

A Musicians Dream Sign

A Musicians Dream Sign

Musicians are taken care of by signs such as this on bustling Broadway. I so wanted to dismantle one and pack into my suitcase in order to temporarily place outside the front of certain performing venues in Sydney where No-Stopping signs are often conveniently situated. No wonder the musicians in Nashville are so approachable and happy in spite of only being remunerated by tips. Even when not touring with Paul Simon, his Drummer Jim Oblon performs regularly at the FooBar with a slick, four piece band as a blisteringly-good guitarist smashing out the blues and blues-inspired country standards for tips alone. He plays for the love of it and we all buy CD’s from him after seeing him walk around in the break with a tip bucket :-).

With Rick Price and Sam Hawksley at the Rutledge

With Rick Price and Sam Hawksley at the Rutledge

Which brings me to the Time Jumpers.  Any band with the likes of twenty-time Grammy award winner Vince Gill as a member, would not be playing for tips. I think not. They are playing for the love of it as this ten piece exquisite band are all individually in high demand outside of being a Time Jumper and this doesn’t stop any one of them showing up every single Monday Night at Third and Lindsley (with the exception of a coinciding world tour of course). Where to start with trying to describe the magnificent Time Jumper experience? A good place is probably with the fiddles. I have played in bands with more than one fiddle in my time but never have I heard anything as finely tuned, sweet sounding with killer intonation to match as that of the triple-fiddle tones of Larry Franklin, Kenny Sears and Joe Spivey. (I’d like to use every adjective for ‘Sublime’ found in the thesaurus to describe their sound but will settle for ‘Superlative’ for the moment). It’s jaw dropping to say the least and not once do any of them try to out-play or out-clever each other during their solo moments – their personalities are identified through their own playing each having something different to say, and then coming back together for their three-part distinguished sound.  Can it get any better?

Union Station Hotel Foyer

Union Station Hotel Foyer

Well yes it can because enter stage-left pedal-steel extraordinaire Paul Franklin, Nashville’s top session steel player for two decades. ‘All Aboard’ is an instrumental written by Paul and was one of my favourites of the night. Tuning into the associated train whistle noises created by all instruments on a bed of descending diminished chord-cluster made you feel as if you were actually on board the train. Eat your heart out ‘Orange Blossom Special’. Likewise, the reed work of Accordionist Jeff Taylor cuts through accurately and spell-bindingly – pure genius. Next,  additional Grammy Award winner veteran  ‘Ranger Doug’ Green arises from his seat behind the band and Yodels us all to Nirvana in a most chivalrous manner. If your eyes were closed, you’d be forgiven for thinking the lead guitar work subtly emanating from Andy Reiss would be Charlie Christian or Wes Montgomery. Every phrase tantamount to excellence. Drummer Billy Thomas (Robert Plant) and Bassist Dennis Crouch provide the back-bone with absolute first-class sensitivity and feel.

Dawn Sears, positioned regally at the front of the stage is now the second singer who has made me cry, Bonnie Raitt being the first and only till hearing Dawn. (I never attend a Bonnie concert without a box of Kleenex, and didn’t think to bring any to the Time Jumpers so know to do so next time. ) The delivery of her own composition ‘So Far Apart’ tears my heart apart it’s so hauntingly beautiful and the entire room is gob-smacked and mesmerised by her vocal propensity. We meet Joe Spivey at the bar during the break and he is very friendly and happy to give us his time and a picture with him. He tells us the Time Jumpers have literally just stepped off a plane from Switzerland where they had been performing at a country music festival, so please forgive us if we seem a bit faded due to travelling. You would never have picked that from these high level musicians (except for maybe Vince Gill donning a pair of shorts and a track-suit top).

What is the culinary element to this story you maybe wondering? Here it is. We obviously haven’t come here for the food tonight but at least there is salad with the option of Ranch dressing on the side at Third and Lindsley. Of more interest than an iceberg lettuce (which seemed to be the main ingredient in my mediterranean selection) was what I learned at the merchandise table where Jean, widow of original Time Jumper pedal steel player John Hughey who died in 2007, is seated. Jean still collects admission fees on the door and rarely misses a TJ performance and has many stories and happy to share them. I mention the fact I like to write about food and music adventures so she offers me this tasty morsel: “John and I spent many years on the road together, travelling to shows, criss-crossing all over the USA and we hated flying so we always drove, no matter how far the miles we weren’t ever getting on a plane if you paid us to! It’s a Southern tradition to put salted peanuts in the coke bottles and shake them up as the concoction enables you to stay awake for hours on end, and was the method we and other musicians used as a fatigue deterrent for driving such monumental distances”.

Peanuts in Coke? I laugh at the bizarreness and am perplexed but not at all surprised at this invention originating from the land also responsible for the creation of Peanut Butter and Chocolate together. Might take Jean’s advice and try Peanuts in Coke next time I drive to Tamworth 🙂


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There’s No Salad Here Darlin’, This Is A Honky-Tonk !

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If you happen to be a deep fried food fanatic and like all of your meals to contain large components of melted cheese laden with potato chips, a Honky-Tonk is the restaurant most accommodating.  Alternatively if you are a calorie-counter, satisfaction will not come in the form of food but from listening to the bands play some of the greatest Country Music you will ever hear on the planet. I have already been transported to heaven listening to fiddler Aubrey Haynie on my first night out in Nashville and wonder if any more music I hear during my stay will match his level of excellence. And of course, it does just this at the World Famous Nashville Palace. The go-to venue for a complete dose of fine Western Swing and true tradition, performed by musicians well-trained and often descended from a long line of Hillbilly and Appalachian Ancestry.

Nashville PalaceToday we are watching the Spaghetti Westerneers who are performing a four-hour set with only one short break and the place is packed. Song after song of sweet, slick, well executed tradition by the masters. Twin Fiddles, Accordion, Bass, Guitar and a lead singer who has similar pipes to Roy Orbison (and an un-canny resemblance to Elvis, he surely must be an impersonator outside of working with the Westerneers).  The walls are lined with row upon row of cowboy boots and flourescent neon beer signs. This is Honky-Tonk Heaven at it’s best and in the words of Neil Young, ‘Are you ready for the country?’ We most certainly are.

Nashville Palace Menu

Nashville Palace Menu

The twin-fiddle action is making me hungry so consult the menu. Unlike other Nashville eateries, there is no mention of anything remotely like a salad. It’s all burgers, fried everything and more plus white bread sandwiches and I’ve forgotten the hand-bag almonds so will have to order something. I ask the very friendly waitress (as they all are in Nashville) the possibility of just a salad? Oh no this is not possible she replies, Honky-Tonks do not serve salad. As am still trying to avoid bread and cheese at all costs, I try to order the Turkey and Swiss Sandwich, but please hold the bread, the cheese and the chips so all that’s left will be the lettuce and tomato. Both the waitress and I have a laugh at how ridiculous this is and she says ‘Sorry Honey, nice try’.  I go in hard. A salad is out of the question and am curious to how they taste so settle for Fried Pickle Spears with Ranch Dressing instead. Washed down with a glass of Chardonnay, they were actually OK but I conclude those delicious American Dill Pickles are quite fine just as they are. Why fry them?

Stainless Steel Silver Bird Sculpture at Shelby Park, Nashville

Stainless Steel Silver Bird Sculpture at Shelby Park, Nashville

As the week evolves I discover almost anything fried will appear on a menu in America, even Coca-Cola.  Healthy restaurants certainly do exist but research is essential to find them before venturing out for a meal – the Urbanspoon App was useful for this task. Besides the almonds, I had better start carrying around an iceberg lettuce as well. In the mean time the music we are being exposed to is enough soul nourishment and I am yet to see the world-famous Time-Jumpers at Third and Lindsley. To be continued 🙂


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Hot Pickin’ and Even Hotter Chicken

photoI was given a great tip-off for a gig tonight in Nashville. There was to be a house concert staged at The Violin Shop where none other than fiddler extraordinaire Aubrey Haynie would be appearing accompanied by a band of Bluegrass elite starring Sam Bush, Dennis Crouch, Alan O’Bryant and Brian Sutton. This gig was unadvertised and not promoted so felt very privileged to have been in the know thanks to Nashville based English no-slouch himself fiddler Eamon McLoughlin who let us in on the secret.

We were told only that the venue was on 8th Ave Nashville, no street number and Google Maps couldn’t find it either so made a special trip in the afternoon along the twenty kilometre long street eyes peeled when our driver and Musician friend Tom spotted it so knew where to return in the evening. In the car-park there was a BBQ oven in the shape of a steam-engine smoking away, in which was housed a side of pork being prepared for the evening’s festivities.

The Magnificent Violin Shop

The Magnificent Violin Shop

Later after satellite navigation confusion and a slight logistical drama trying to again locate the venue, we arrive back luckily just in time for the concert to commence. Champagne, Lobster and Caviar would most certainly be on the menu if I was hosting a House Concert back in Sydney with musicians of this calibre however we are in the deep south of America, so the steam-engine cooked pulled-pork rolls presented on sweet, doughy rolls are suitable for this occasion. Complimentary Chardonnay and Shiraz flowed civilly along with the omnipresent basket full of Hershey Chocolate bars.  I am listening to one of my most favourite  fiddle players of all time so the food here is of little importance as it is the music that really matters tonight. And it is, impeccable of course and I even got to Meet Aubrey afterwards, he is a most agreeable chap indeed.

Prince's Hot Chicken Shack

Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack

Our first night in Nashville is far from being over yet and Tom decides for us where our next destination will be. I have mentioned that I like to write about food and music adventures so he ponders this for a moment then has an idea for our next food experience. We jump in the car and drive around the spaghetti-western freeways to the other,  not so well-cowboy-heeled side of town and arrive at Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack. As the name suggests, this is exactly what they serve – Chicken and in varying degrees of heat starting from Mild through to Extra Hot and is a local specialty of Nashville. Portions of breast, thighs and wings are drenched in buttermilk, breadcrumbed then marinated in a heavily guarded secret blend of spices of which Cayenne Pepper is most abundant. They are then deep-fried and served up on slices of thick white bread which soaks up all of the oil, no salad leaf in sight. Presented in a grease-proof papered basket with ubiquitous potato chips adjacent, Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack is a cholesterol-lovers paradise and the restaurant is full at 11.30pm.

Being a chilli addict and not afraid I place an order through the small window in the fluorescent-lit shop for a quarter chicken ‘Hot’. With a quizzical stare the girl promptly retorts with, ‘Oh no you won’t, it’s too hot for you. You need mild or medium.’ How can she know what I need, I ask? She continues, ‘Not even my mother (who cooks in the Shack kitchen) eats the ‘Hot’ because the last time she did while pregnant twenty-four years ago, it sent her into early labour and I was born. So you want the Medium, and if it’s not hot enough bring it back and we’ll make sure it is but I don’t expect you’ll be back with this request.’ When I enquire about what’s in the spices she says ‘If I tell you, they will kill me.’

Musical Horses

Musical Horses

While waiting for the order, I take a few pictures of the Chicken and Jesus art displayed on the walls. The security guard approaches, who judging by his size and physique looks like he consumes nothing BUT Prince’s Hot Chicken everyday.  He tells me the pictures are FOR SALE, not for taking pictures of. He’s got a .45 Caliber Handgun strapped to his wide girth so I quickly delete them all.

The chicken arrives, the girl wasn’t wrong about the heat-factor and I do have to admit tasted great. Fat drenched white-bread and all, I will just drink green tea for the next four days to combat the digestion havoc that will undoubtedly result from this culinary experience.

Finger Pickin’ Good indeed 🙂


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Joy McKean, Anne Kirkpatrick and the Heart-Shaped Scones

Scones and Jam

In one week from today an incredibly famous and talented woman will be visiting me and I am a tad nervous. During my recent trip to the Gympie Muster where she was also attending, I spent a little bit of time with her at the Artist World and was lucky enough to be part of the wonderful Tribute Show performed on the Main Stage organised in honour of her late husband Sllim Dusty, who passed away a decade ago. Regally positioned to the side of the stage, she was attentive and supportive during the two-hour-plus show with a cast of thousands including family members and a myriad of well-known Australian Country Music Artists. With a long and illustrious career spanning decades, an OAM and recognised as one of Australia’s leading song-writers and bush balladeers, the ‘Grand Lady’ of Australian Country Music Joy McKean is making a visit to my house for Morning Tea.

The idea of inviting Joy around came about after a series of consequences. Earlier in the year we had been in contact via email in regards to the case of a missing cheque which we both agreed was due to a mishap by Australia Post. As I had to re-send an invoice directly to Joy for a re-draw, this highly observant woman recognised my address listed as being none other than one associated with Henry Lawson who did in fact reside in my house sometime within the years 1914 to 1919. Joy is an afficiando of Lawson’s Work, her husband Slim Dusty having recorded several of his poems put to music and according to Joy was a Lawson fanatic. She and Slim once walked along Euroka Street years ago and she remembers seeing the plaque (still there) marking the fact that Lawson had indeed lived in the street.

Henry's House

Henry’s House

Astounded with her astuteness, I reply to Joy with a photo of the house attached and confirmation she is correct. She then responded back with some beautifully articulated  words about ‘how special it is that I now own this piece of history and will look at me in future as the custodian of a special place, also that Slim would have been quite excited about it too.’ (I have printed out this email and placed it inside a copy of ‘The World of Henry Lawson’ – Biography and volume of his works).  After some encouragement and suggestion from a few music industry people who are great mates with Joy, I invited her around for Morning Tea and a visit to Henry’s old house which she graciously accepted. She will be accompanied by her daughter Ann Kirkpatrick, another famous and talented Australian Contry Music singer.

It’s time to start thinking about what food to present. As this will be an historical occasion, I can’t think of anything better to serve Joy than some good old-fashioned Scones with Jam Cream and a nice cup of tea, can you? I am sure she would have had her fair share of scones during her extensive travels to regional Australian towns and probably knows how to bake excellent ones herself so I will have to research the art of scone making as have only ever attempted them once before in a previous life-time.

Scones

There can only be one place to turn for this recipe so I consult the writings of another equally famous woman. The legendary Cooking Master, original writer of all things food, author and journalist single-handedly responsible for shaping the cooking adventures of Australian kitchens, Margaret Fulton – Mother of Baking. If anyone has a decent scone recipe in their repertoire it must be Margaret. Not only do I find her recipe, there is also a video of exactly how to do it correctly. Just to be sure I check-out a few other recipes and how-to but Margaret’s approach seems to be the simplest. (I did try another recipe for comparison but the scones burned on the bottom before the top cooked. Straight in the bin).

Some people might think making scones is easy but if you’re not an experienced baker it can seem daunting. YouTube is a useful tool with instructional content for how-to-do just about anything nowadays so I carefully follow the well presented method and manage to replicate Margaret Fulton Scones perfectly. (The tactile feeling of rubbing silky butter into flour with your fingers has got to be one of life’s great pleasures). There’s a reason for them being heart-shaped and that is simply because my kitchen utensil drawer only contained a heart-shaped cookie cutter, no circular one in sight. There was no cream in the fridge either so used Greek yoghurt instead. Topped with Beerenburg Caramelized Fig Jam, surprisingly this combination was terrific.

Heart-Shaped Scones

When Joy and Ann visit next week, I will make sure there is cream available of course but will give them the option of Greek Yoghurt in case they’d like to give that a go. Joy being well-known not only for her song-writing but as a generous woman with her time and a kind-hearted soul, I think the Heart-shaped scones will work.

Epilogue

Flowers by Joy

Flowers by Joy

When they arrived in Euroka street today, Joy realised she had forgotten to write down the number of my house so quickly consulted the plaque in the street to find the six numbers listed knowing it would have to be one of them. As happens every second day in my street, there was a group of people following the Henry Lawson North Sydney Historical Walk and I could hear Ann talking to someone in the party (who recognised them and wanted a photo) so I went out into the street to greet these two gorgeous ladies.

I invited them into Henry’s House, and after soaking up a bit of historical ambience we sat down for Morning Tea. The Heart-shaped scones were noted, as was the Greek Yoghurt option while Joy entertained us by recounting a few of her vast collection of road stories, caravans and cooking capers. (She is currently writing her Auto-Biography which will undoubtedly be a fascinating read).  She also opted for the cream as had already had her dose of yoghurt with breakfast and informed me that Ann is actually the Queen of Scone Making! Turns out Ann is also very passionate in the kitchen and has ambitions for future writing about travelling and food. Being a successful Artist, just like her mother she has toured and performed extensively around the country so is very familiar with food options on the road and has her own fair-share of road stories.

Ann has kindly shared her scone recipe which originally came from Alistair Jones a musician who toured and wrote a few songs for Slim in the early nineties. This recipe is even easier than Margaret’s, and according to Ann produces brilliant scones every time.

Ann Kirkpatrick Scones (via Alistair Jones)

5 Cups Self-Raising Flour, sifted*

250 ml Pouring Cream

250 ml Water

Method

1) Preheat oven 220 C, grease and lightly flour a baking tray

2) In a bowl, combine flour and cream

3) Fill cream container with water then add to flour and cream mixture

4) Mix with a knife or spatula till combined

5) Tip out onto a floured surface, knead lightly (less handling the better)

6) Plop onto baking tray and roughly shape into a rectangle (There will be a lot of dough, so depending on the size of your oven you may need to do this in two lots – halve the amount on the baking tray and bake in two separate batches)

7) Using a knife, make indents lengthways and crossways, not cutting all the way through so dough is still in one piece

8) Bake for 10-15 minutes or till risen and lightly browned on top

Serve within Jam and Cream OR Natural yoghurt

* According to Ann these measurements make a mountain of scones, so unless you have lots of guests for Morning Tea, this recipe can easily be halved:  2 and 1/2 Cups Flour, Tip out half the 250ml cream carton then top up with water. Use the reserved cream to top baked scones. 🙂