Just Sous Just Me

Musicians, inspired recipes, songs and food adventures.


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Roast Garlic and Ginger Soup (Flu-Shot in a Soup Bowl)

 

GarlicThere appears to be much discussion in Sydney right now about the unusually warm weather we are experiencing for this time of the year, but it’s only a matter of time before it will inevitably snap. And when it does, contrary to Summer-loving Sydneysiders  I am a self-confessed cryophilic and find gratification with the on-set of Winter – presenting with it a season of opportunities to create hearty soups, aromatic stews, roasts and whatever else needed to be nourishingly slow-cooked for hours with the fire crackling away near-by, luckily situated in my kitchen. Early darkness also appeals, as this means I can get dinner cracking earlier and usually do a little happy Mexican Hat dance whenever Daylight Saving finishes as this signifies remedying, cosy kitchen times ahead.

Annoyingly, there is a not so enjoyable side to Winter in the form of the Flu. And the hot topic on the talk-back radio I caught today comes as no coincidence coinciding with the cooler weather approaching being about none other than the Flu-Shot. It’s not something have given much thought to before and only subliminally being aware of its existence after seeing posters on the walls at my GP’s office, or after hearing people talk about it. Visiting the USA last September, it was hard not to miss the confronting billboards displaying the question, ‘Have You Had Your Flu-Shot Yet?’ placed along freeways we were frequenting? Impressive and ominous advertising for a jab. I won’t bang-on about vaccinations here as it’s the recipe am in a hurry to share, and do realise the Flu-Shot is necessary for some people such as those chronically ill. However I truly believe if you are otherwise a healthy specimen with your immune system in top match-fit fighting condition achieved through consumption of good food full of vital nutrients on a regular basis, those nasty little flu germs should have little chance of successfully invading your body and creating the irritating havoc they are very capable of achieving.

Royal Blue Potatoes

Royal Blue Potatoes

Roast Garlic and Ginger soup is a good place to start. Not only is this incredibly tasty, but it can be referred to as having a ‘prophylactic’ nature, which translates to using with the ‘intention’ of preventing disease or infection but does not actually have an effect on the severity or duration of the symptoms if you are already sick, just what the Flu-Shot is designed for (I think devouring this soup is a more enjoyable experience).  Consuming on a regular basis, it can also decrease the frequency of colds and flu. There’s no secret about the therapeutic properties of Garlic having been used for thousands of years to treat various ailments particularly respiratory issues.

Head of Garlic, sliced and ready for roasting

Head of Garlic, sliced and ready for roasting

Garlic is the main star of this show, with Ginger in the co-starring role. Besides benefiting digestion, which ultimately leads to better immunity, Ginger also has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties and makes your body sweat out nasty toxins. And it tastes great in this soup, added in the cooking process and again finely minced and stirred through at the end.

Mmmm. Garlic Bread

Mmmm. Garlic Bread

The final essential ingredient for this soup is the home-made, thoughtfully prepared chicken stock. Apologies, but the pre-packaged store-bought variety which is usually just salty water, just won’t do here. If the prospect of making your own chicken stock scares you or isn’t something you’ve ever bothered doing preferring the purchasable convenience, I can offer assurance there is no comparison taste-wise between the home-made variety and the stock-standard cube. Plus if you’ve made it yourself, you know exactly what’s in it and it’s not likely you’d be adding extra flavour and colour enhancers or, gulp, MSG which is found in some of those mystery parcels.  Next time you roast a chicken, and go organic for extra taste and goodness, throw all of the remaining bones and bits in a pot with water, sea-salt, peppercorns, parsley, celery tops, onion, bay leaf and half a lemon. Bring to the boil then simmer for a few hours – don’t bother skimming off the fatty bits because you’re going to strain it afterwards. Then place in containers , freeze or refrigerate if using within the next week. Or, start from scratch with one kilo of chicken necks and feet using the same method.  Or even better, use this genius method to make a chicken stock from scratch in fifteen minutes !

Flu-Shot in a soup bowl :-), and unless you are watching you grain in-take, make sure you serve it up with some very garlicky bread or giant garlic croutons drenched with olive oil for an added hit.

 

ROAST GARLIC AND GINGER SOUP

1 Whole Head of Garlic; and a few extra cloves reserved for mincing and stirring through at the end

1 TBS Coconut Oil

1 Celery Stick, chopped

1 Brown Onion, chopped

1 Thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and minced – 1 Tsp full reserved for adding at the end

500gms Royal Blue Potatoes, peeled and chopped

500ml Chicken Stock

1 Bay Leaf

Fresh Thyme

Sea Salt

METHOD

1) Carefully slice the top off the head of garlic making sure it all stays in-tact, then wrap in foil and roast in 200C oven for 30-40 mins, or when smells amazing and is just caramelised.

2) Heat Coconut Oil in a pan then Saute Onion, Celery, Ginger till soft and fragrant

3)Add Potatoes and Thyme and gently fry for another five minutes

4) Pour in stock, add Bay leaf, bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer till potatoes are soft

5) Turn off heat, squeeze all roasted garlic into potato mixture

6) Transfer into a blender and puree till smooth

7) Put back in the pot, re-heat till ready to serve

8) Just prior to serving, stir through reserved minced garlic and ginger

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The World’s Most Healthiest Birthday Cake

Watermelon Cake

Watermelon Cake

Birthday parties for kids are generally speaking synonymous with one thing – sugar, sugar and more sugar.  I shudder thinking of years gone by, gracing the lolly aisle of the supermarket investing in giant-size bags of all things equivalent to zero nutritional value and great expense resulting in short-lived sugar hit highs for all and added reasons to visit the dentist.  I once jokingly informed my daughter one particular year, we were going to have vegetable bags instead of lolly bags – cut up pieces of celery and carrot in shapes of lollies, and also broccoli chips. This idea was met with a very disappointed expression and the irony was lost on her, so it was back to the lolly aisle once again.

A decorated birthday cake can be a virtual work of art. Over the years I have occasionally splurged and ordered gorgeous custom-made and individually decorated cakes as am simply not skilled enough to make such a creation and there’s one less thing to think about on the day of the party. Additionally to the lolly bags, the actual birthday cake can also be an extra vessel for all things sugar and fat. Besides being visually attractive, cake batters are traditionally all butter, sugar and flour and then loaded with frosting which is also just more butter and icing sugar. Not to mention all of the other sugary trimmings on top of the icing, like crushed up Tim-Tams or shredded Mars-Bars with individual slices topped with scoops of Ben and Jerry’s Choc-Chip Cookie Dough – not something you’d want to consume everyday, once a year is enough.  Yes, there are many versions of ‘healthy’ cakes whether they be gluten-free, flour-less, sugar-free, fat-free, made out of vegetables even, falling short of putting a cauliflower head on a plate with some candles stuck in it, there can’t be anything healthier than the Watermelon Cake.

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Whoever invented this idea is a genius. Really, it’s just a fruit salad but is in cake form as opposed to chopped up little pieces in a bowl. But trust me, when it comes to assembly and decoration of  a watermelon cake,  I really can’t remember having this much fun in the kitchen, ever.  And, with the knowledge that you are creating something that is also extremely healthy – fat-free, gluten-free, wheat-free (not sugar-free because of the high fruit-sugar level but it’s not the dreaded refined variety) this is most certainly a win-win situation.

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The trickiest part about making a watermelon cake, is getting the desired shape. Topping and tailing a watermelon is potentially a perilous exercise without the aid of a very good quality razor-sharp kitchen knife. After each end of the watermelon has been removed, it’s then just a matter of carefully trimming off the skin and all the white melon part so that all that is left is the juicy vibrant red bit, sculpting as best you are able into a ‘cake base’ shape.  Once you are happy with the shape, it’s time to start decorating and creating your work of  ‘fruit art’.

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Using tooth-picks, secure the fruit to the outside of the cake like pictured. I started with peeled and thinly sliced kiwi-fruit, and slithers of oranges. Next it’s time for the berries to work their visual magic – raspberries, strawberries, blueberries arranged in whatever creative way imaginable. Blackberries and Mulberries and pomegranate could also be used. And a very useful tool is a melon-baller – use this to scoop out cute little melon ball shapes out of the discarded watermelon tops, and some rockmelon then pile on top of the cake between the berries. I was slightly naughty at the end and added a dusting of vanilla sugar all over.

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The kids were mightily impressed, demolishing this creation within seconds, and of course you slice it up like a normal birthday cake and remember to remove the toothpicks 🙂

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This cake isn’t just for kids, an adult-only version can also be made. We all know how wonderful Hendrick’s Gin and cucumber is, well there’s no surprise it also pairs extremely well with watermelon. You go about making the cake exactly the same way except prior to starting the decoration, pour a generous drenching of Hendrick’s over the cake base and let infuse for a few hours in the fridge.  Then get creative with a fancy mandolin slicer and use cucumber as decoration instead of or as well as berries.

Happy Daze indeed.


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Everything in Moderation and the Paleo Effect

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere can’t be too many of us who haven’t ever subjected our bodies to some kind of ‘diet’ at some point in our lives. And for what ever reason it may have been for, undoubtedly would have been to lose weight. I’ve tried a few in my time – Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, The Liver Cleansing Diet, The Scarsdale Diet plus others. Out of these I think the Jenny Craig version was the most successful and easiest, only having to pull out little boxes of pre-prepared meals from the fridge and not really having to think much about it except for payment time as was quite a costly exercise and to be honest, quite bland food – not much love there. However, the goal of losing kilos gained during pregnancy was achieved at the time. But, I never really knew what I was consuming or how it had been prepared, something I am far more interested in now, almost a decade later as a result of the ‘dining boom’.

More recently I have become an advocate of good food consumption and it’s direct impact on health and well-being. This is an ideal of which there is no shortage of information available to us now on the internet or via nutritionists and dietitians. These are the principles that many of us follow everyday in our meal choices today, but sometimes the information given to us can be overwhelming and it may be challenging or sometimes difficult to adopt good eating practices. Especially when you start googling everything in relation to diet and just what we should be putting in our bodies, you’ll find relevant and helpful information yes, but also contradictions within the mountain of information available at our fingertips..

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt all began when my daughter became very ill, culminating into her not being able to move at all eventually (we had to carry her up and down stairs and lift her in and out of baths/cars etc) over a period of months and was eventually diagnosed with an auto-immune disease labelled dermatomyositis some years ago. As we were told by doctors at the time that this was an extremely rare disorder and they knew not of the cause but only how to treat the symptoms, it was up to us to do our own research to find out any information we could. An often unrewarded path being a rare condition and very little information existed anywhere except drug information in relation to treating the disorder. The drugs did indeed help the symptoms but had very nasty side-effects, one of which was immune suppressing – the very essence of what needed to be healed the most. So, it was not making much sense and did not seem like a sensible long-term option as they were really just masking her symptoms, not curing her.

The ordeal lasted almost three years, of which one was spent dragging her to hospitals and specialists, including invasive procedures like painful muscle biopsies before she was actually diagnosed. A glimmer of light was shone on the whole affair eventually after I was referred by a family member to a very knowledgeable naturopath who not only had heard of the disorder (as many other medical practitioners surprisingly had not), but had also treated another young patient with dermatomyositis back to health through a combination of natural herbal remedies and a diet consisting of organic, good, fresh food – nothing processed and no refined sugar. This naturopath told me that all diseases begin in the gut, and even though we didn’t know what had caused the disease, it was the gut that needed special attention in order for the healing process to begin.

The feeling of relief, firstly that someone out there finally had answers to a cure as well as an understanding of the process of recovery for this disorder was indescribable at the time after having almost nothing else to go by till then. The elimination process of non-helpful (processed and glutenous/sugary) and insertion of fresh, healthy variety foods began, and we watched as she eventually recovered while being weened off the drugs till non-existent and her good health finally returned. I witnessed first-hand how a truly good, sensible diet can eliminate disease and have a positive impact on health all around.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhere does Paleo come into this? Well, approximately one year ago it was I who became unwell. After a particularly gruelling few weeks of work/sleep deprivation at the Tamworth Country Music Festival the end result was sheer exhaustion and absolute depletion of energy to the point of almost being incapable of anything other than being immobile lounge lizard all day. On top of this there was digestion issues and headaches and I thought something more serious than exhaustion must be going on. A visit to the doctor and a few tests revealed nothing other than that. Just plain old exhaustion, the remedy being to keep lying on the lounge and to do absolutely nothing for a week.

At this point is where the decision was made to really scrutinise what I was eating and to see if I would feel any better by adopting a sensible diet to aid in the recovery process as I had been through with my daughter. I didn’t take herbal remedies except drank green tea and knocked the coffee on the head too. All grains were eliminated, mainly pasta and bread and consumed nothing that came in packaging of any kind (I believe any food presented in a packet has at some point been processed in some way). Then went the dairy – no milk or cheese, the cheese being difficult not to have as I love it so much. Instead, it was vegetables, vegetables and more vegetables – salads, steamed or raw vegetable concoctions and lots of boiled eggs dusted with turmeric. If an attack of the hungrys occurred, I’d have a few raw almonds, walnuts and cherry tomatoes – was purchasing those by the palette load. Yes it was a hard-core approach to begin with.

IMG_8854I included a reasonable amount of fish, and never having been a huge red meat-eater anyhow, kept this to consumption maybe once every two to three weeks. And this would be served in the form of a top shelf grass-fed eye fillet, served pretty much rare. No processed meats of any kind, and everything was cooked in coconut oil or good quality extra virgin olive oil – the good fats.

Basically, before putting anything in my mouth I was utilising common sense assessing the nutritional value while not being overly obsessive about it, and making sure everything was as fresh and as healthy as possible based on the principle of trying to digest only good food in order to feel better. It was a simple way of eating and I never consulted any diet site or scientific studies in regards to food, just got back to the basics. And, there was no surprises as it was only a matter of weeks when my energy started returning and the health problems departed.

IMG_8834As a pleasant and unexpected side effect, there was also weight loss. It was interesting that this had occurred, when it had not been my intention and had not being following a specific ‘diet’ of any kind. Following an eating regime consisting mainly (not always as mentioned above) of vegetables at main meals, it’s a challenge to keep coming up with new and interesting ways to serve them, without the assistance of flavour enhancers. Again, there is a minefield of recipe sites devoted to this but investigation can be mind-boggling and confusing. Till the day when was given a few lovely plump pumpkins from my mother’s thoughtful vegetable garden in the Hunter Valley when I decided pumpkin soup was best way to utilise this produce and I stumbled across a fabulous recipe of Spicy Coconut Pumpkin Soup on a website dedicated to all things Paleo.

Not only was this recipe a complete winner, it was also of Paleo nature which was a bit of an enigma to me at first. I’d heard of it but like many others immediately associated it with visions of dinosaurs and cavemen, so decided to research it more as the soup was so incredibly tasty. During investigation of Paleo principles I discovered that this was actually the way I had been eating and the path I was on. Further discovery revealed that this way of eating and lifestyle can be adopted as a way of life to prevent a multitude of diseases besides just inducing weight loss. It was quite a revelation to discover that what I had been doing via common sense and because of previous health issues suffered by my daughter, actually had a name and was a so-called ‘diet’.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA year has passed and I still continue to follow the Paleo principles of eating, and probably will for the duration of my life. I have discovered that Zucchini is far more versatile vegetable than ever imagined and many other ways with vegetables to make you wonder how you ever needed pasta or bread in the first place. However do nowadays allow myself the odd ‘non-paleo’ treat occasionally as also firmly believe in the old saying ‘everything in moderation’. I just make sure the non-paleo treats are of extremely good quality, like a spectacular piece of creamy Dauphinoise cheese, spread over a french baguette freshly baked and still warm, with a nice glass of red. I mean, who can resist this? One of my most favourite things.  Just as long as you don’t do it every day because you will appreciate it more when it is only very occasionally. And this includes chocolate too, go top-shelf for these rare occasions.

It’s all about how good you feel when you make wise and sensible food choices,  that’s my take on Paleo in a chestnut shell.

*Here is the recipe for the pumpkin soup from this fantastic website Eat Drink Paleo plus plenty of other great food ideas.


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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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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. 🙂