Sunday, May 4, 2014

this place

Why haven't I posted about Hazeldean Forest Farm before?

Amazing, delicious apples of many varieties. Also beautiful other fruit (see persimmon above), and some darn good cider, both of the beery kind (King Pippin) and m├ęthode champenoise (label says BawBaw). Everything organic.

They had a harvest festival last weekend and I was lucky enough to be free to get down to Gippsland.
They sell their stuff at the farmers' markets around Melbourne most weekends.

Friday, February 14, 2014


So I'm back in the land of cheap butter. And the best thing I have eaten in the last month, apart from fruit, is this.

Kokoro Ramen means 'Heart/soul ramen.' To avoid gushing, I have no comment on that name.

The staff in the kitchen were speaking Japanese. The next two people to me sitting at the bench (or counter, if you're that way inclined) were Japanese, speaking Japanese to each other. And the food tasted like in Japan, with the exception of vegetarian gyoza, which you would never see. They were ok, the gyoza. The other stuff was really, really, really good.

They've got Japanese beers and other drinks, including umeshu - sweet plum wine - and a cider made by Asahi. Open till 5 am Sat night/Sun morning. I can't wait to get back there.

157 Lonsdale St Melbourne VIC
Tel: 03 9650 1215

Monday, November 12, 2012

wanko soba

Something I never expected to find myself doing in Japan is an eating competition. 
The room before: wooden tables all set, tatami floor, floor cushions waiting with bibs.
Of course, the Japanese are known for doing well whatever they do... and for doing everything. Whatever you can think of, there's a Japanese person doing it or who has done it.
They're also known for small, cute things... so, without further ado, Wankosoba.

You can read the story here. 'Wanko' means something like 'cute little bowl'. And that's what happens... a lady stands over you and gives you a mouthful at a time, into your little bowl. 15 of these serves is equivalent to a single normal serve of soba.
Seasonings make the experience more enjoyable.
The challenge is 100 bowls, after which you get a little wooden plaque.
Now, I'm not an eating competition kind of person. I find it kind of disturbing. Not only is it a waste of resources, when there are so many hungry people in the world, but it's gross. But being in a group kind of changes things... this was a fun experience. 
Wanting to get to 100, some people left their sashimi. It was sad. 

I made 65 bowls. There were boys sitting around me on all sides, and most of them got to 100. Our champion was a tiny Japanese guy, of course, at 150.

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Meet Nabe. 

Nabe is 2 things: 
1. a pot
2. a soup/stew with everything in it. (Some call it a hotpot.)

Today I want to praise the second of these things.

It is warming, delicious, and comforting. And can be, naturally, brimming with health!! 

Here are some things that are particularly good in nabe, and help to make it.

dashi (stock - I use powder, which is made of fish and probably MSG)
miso (add it at the end)
pork (in Japan, it pretty much always comes in thin slices, with fat on)
bean sprouts
konnyaku noodles

Chuck it all in. Or if you're like me, cut and add as you go. Cook.

*Nabe was the first time for me that tofu tasted really, really good.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Thai cooking class

Amn't I in Japan? Yes, I am.

Being in Japan, as a Caucasian person, I have instant access to international communities, and also the high school English of every Japanese adult, which often greatly expands when you find them drunk, or 'dorinku'. ("Nice to meet you, I am doRINku!")

In Japan, I have met people from more countries than ever before, and from countries whose people I never would have expected to find in Japan - either because the country is far away or I never used to think about the country very much. Here is a brief list. (I may be a bit wordier than usual at the moment because I've been reading Tolkien.)
Ireland, Jamaica, Philippines, Korea, China, US, Canada, UK (England, Scotland), Singapore, Mexico, Kenya, Germany, Finland, Thailand.

And it is thus that I found myself invited on Facebook to a Thai cooking class, called 'Connie's Mum's Cooking Class.' I don't know who Connie is, and because it was explained in Japanese, I don't know who her mum is either, but off I went.

spicy glass noodle salad
We made three things: green curry, spicy glass noodle salad, and an almond 'pudding', which here, as it seems in American English?, means basically milk jelly, or, gelatinous custard in a cup. Kind of like creme caramel, however that's meant to be spelt.

'pudding' or 'purin'

It was all good, but the green curry was premium. I should have taken a photo of the paste - yes, we did use curry paste, but it seemed to be made entirely of spices, and it came out of a bag, not a jar. It was dry, not at all liquid.

But, I will post the recipe here. I think the secret is as much in the method as in the amazing curry paste.
By the way, Japan's tablespoon size is 15 mls. 
green curry (and half an egg, yes.)

(serves 4-6)

chicken, diced 150g
curry paste 2-3 tablespoons
canola oil 2-3 tablespoons
coconut cream 200 ml
coconut milk 400 ml (or 200 ml coconut cream and 200 ml water)
eggplants 3 medium
fresh, skinny, red chilli... 1-5 [depending on how hot they are and how hot you want it. Slice the chillies and soak them in water. I believe this takes out some of the heat.]
kaffir lime leaves 3 or 4
fish sauce 7 tablespoons? I'll check.
lime juice 3 tablespoons? I'll check.
sugar 1 tbsp
fresh basil mmmm about 8 fully grown leaves

1. Heat oil in a pan, and over a LOW heat, fry the curry paste until fragrant. (It can become bitter at too high a heat).
2. Add coconut cream and stir over a medium heat until a green oil separates on the top. This might take a few minutes.
3. Chuck in the chicken, cook for a few minutes, and then add the coconut milk. Cook for about 5 minutes. Cut the eggplant into Ds or however you like.
4. Add kaffir lime leaves and half the sliced chilli. (The rest will be a garnish.)
5. Add seasonings (not basil) and eggplant.
6. When eggplant is cooked, add the basil and turn off the heat. Serve with rice. Make it as pretty as you like.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Japan: good, bad, etc

Because it amuses me, here is a list of stuff. My impression, obviously. 




Spinach (though kind of sweet)
Alcohol (particularly spirits, excluding whisky.)


Fruit (when mouldy - not joking, a mouldy peach was discounted to about $2)
Peanut butter

Good + expensive:

Fruit (fresh)
Rice (!!!!!!!!!! Japanese short grain)

Unavailable/insanely expensive:

Rice (non-Japanese)
Wholemeal anything (though I did find some brown rice in a little backwater town.)
Goat cheese, haloumi
Dips (not made of cream cheese)

Also, chicken breast is pretty well the cheapest part of the chook, because it has the least fat.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Everything goes with rice

If you read this blog because you are a friend of mine, which I suspect you are, then you probably know that I'm in Japan this year. 
Whee! Japan is fun. Japanese food is also fun. And I am slowly, slowly immersing myself, like at the swimming pool. I'm probably in up to about my ankles so far.

So yes... I'm working for a company that apparently pays pretty poorly, but it's still the most money I've ever earned, because it is full-time work, plus through the company I've met a heap of great people, plus the company organises housing and car lease, and places for me to teach, and a bit of extra security for when I do stupid stuff or if something goes wrong. So I don't mind too much about the pay. 
The foreigner community is great, too. I'm probably at just the right age to appreciate the sort of stuff that happens... one such being a cooking club, whose inaugural session I was lucky enough to attend. 

We made nikujaga, which means 'meatpotato' or maybe more like 'meatpota' because 'potato' is 'jagaimo' ... and which is better than its name. My next door neighbour calls it Japanese soul food.

And I made it tonight! OISHIIIIII!!!!! (delicious/yum) 

I also made the kind-of-pickled cabbage/cucumber salad that we made at the cooking club, and it was also oishii. Cut some cabbage and cucumber. Put on a bit of salt and maybe a tiny bit of granulated dashi. Squash a bit. 

Nikujaga - serves 2 people

200g sliced beef (or pork)
2 potatoes
1/2 carrot (I used 1)
1 onion
Snow peas (if you can afford them. I didn’t bother.)
1 cup water
½ tsp granulated dashi
1 ½ tbsp sake (we had US tablespoons, i.e. 1 tbsp = 15ml)
1 ½ tbsp sugar
1 ½ tbsp soy sauce

Peel the potatoes and cut into 8ths.
Blanche snow peas. Set aside. (Or just chuck them in a minute before the end, that’s what I would do.)
Slice carrot into rolling wedges. Cut the onions in half.  Cut each half into 3 wedges. Cut the meat bits in half.
Fry meat until brown.  Add carrots, onion and potatoes.  Cook until potatoes become opaque. 
Add dashi, water, sake and sugar.  Cook for 10 minutes, covered.
Add soy sauce.  Cook for another 10 minutes or so to reduce the soup. Add snow peas and cook for about another minute. 

Serve with rice, and cabbage salad. Itadakimasu!