Sunday, August 22, 2010

Cooking August

Drew's "Labour" pains result in a rash

"Repay the debt, turn back the boats, end the waste and stop the big new taxes. And make mine a shandy with light beer and 70% lemonade" - Tony Abbott

"Let's move this country forward. I'm for jobs. Don't risk waking up with Tony Abbott as PM. Yes we will. I'll have a schooner of stout, ta" - Julia Gillard

Last night’s Cooking Your Calendar dinner party coincided with Election Night 2010, so as we walked down to our host Christie Cooper’s beautiful Rushcutters Bay apartment, we had these catchphrases (and a jumble of other well-worn and now annoying pre-election slogans or "Tweets") ringing like bells in our heads. And even though we’re pretty cynical when it comes to politics, there’s still something exciting about a federal election. It’s a bit like watching a sporting match, and in Sydney there was definitely a buzz in the air. Like so many other Aussies around the country, it was time to get together to watch the election over dinner and a few glasses of wine.

Tiga for PM!

In our case, last night’s dinner party was also to celebrate Sydney artist Kendal Murray’s birthday. So when we arrived at Christie’s apartment, we were greeted by our bubbly host Christie, birthday girl Kendal, a bunch of friends including Julia, Ash, Juliana, Susanna, Matt, Paul, Alison and Julia’s fluffy dog Tiga.

Tiga on quality control

After wishing Kendal happy birthday and catching up over a glass of bubbles, we couldn’t resist turning the TV on. From that moment on, the conversation was dominated by politics. And we were asking the big questions too. For instance, would 20 year old parliamentarian Wyatt Roy's first post-election initiative be to install a skate park in his hometown of Coochin Creek? Why does Senator John Faulkner insist on wearing eye-glasses that make him resemble a seventies porn star? Is Bob Brown healthy enough to spend another three years in Canberra, and why doesn’t he eat a big steak now and then? Will Bronwyn Bishop go to the grave wearing that "helmet-head" hairstyle? Why wasn’t Channel Nine’s broadcast in 3D? Surely that would have given them an edge over the other networks? How does ABC election analyst Anthony Green earn a crust between federal elections? Daniel and Ash amused themselves by adding silly election commentary to Daniel's Twitter and Facebook feed. The "well hung" double entendre never got tired!

Julia with birthday girl Kendal (right)

These and more questions were relocated to the dinner table when our election feast was served. It was a truly awe-inspiring array of dishes that included Julia’s amazing baked chicken with rustic gravy (special nod to her inspired use of a tea strainer), Christie’s homemade meatballs done “two-ways”, barbequed gourmet sausages, a selection of delicious salads and a mountain of freshly baked bread from the Blue Mountains.

After our main meal, we took a break while Rachel cooked Jen De Bortoli’s Pudding Chômeur. As the recipe says, it is a very simple dessert to make. It’s just a matter of preparing the cake batter, then separately melting butter, brown sugar and vanilla in a pan. Simply pour that sweet liquid over the top of the batter in a large dish and you are ready to go. Rachel was a bit alarmed when she saw the amount of liquid that goes onto the pudding mixture but the cooking process does the trick. Forty-five minutes in the oven, and hey presto, a delicious self-sauced caramel pudding emerges. All the liquid had dropped to the bottom of the pudding, and thickened into a gorgeous sticky hot syrup. Perfect with ice cream and a glass of De Bortoli’s dessert wine, Noble One, which is a dessert in its own right.

The proof is in the pudding (to quote a fine cliché!)

But dessert didn’t stop with the Pudding Chômeur and Noble One. Like in the federal election, we had a choice of candidates with Christie putting forward an equally delightful pavlova with rose-water flavoured cream and strawberries. Paul offered a box of artisan chocolates. Every dessert received votes, including Tiga's who normally only supports meat.

No, not a hat for the Melbourne cup, but Christie's epic pavlova

Unfortunately we have to wait to find out how Australia voted, since the election was too close to call on Saturday night. In the words of Julia Gillard, we are now “moving forward” to September’s Cooking Your Calendar dinner party. See you then!

Daniel takes Julia Gillard's "moving forward" slogan literally

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Announcing August

For more reasons than one, this month's Cooking Your Calendar event on Saturday 21st August is going to be a bigger night than usual. To begin with, we are cooking August's recipe - Pudding Chômeur served with De Bortoli's Noble One dessert wine - at a BBQ to celebrate the birthday of Sydney-based artist Kendal Murray. Our mutual friend, Christie Cooper, is hosting Kendal's birthday bash at her apartment in Rushcutters Bay and, so far, there is quite a crowd coming along. The guest list includes an assortment of designers, artists and academics including Julia Park, Juliana Swatko, Freida Riggs and said host Christie.We might make two puddings to feed the crowd, one nicknamed "Julia" and the other "Tony". And that of course leads to the next reason this month's Cooking Your Calendar event is special. Yes, it's Election night when Australia decides. So while we celebrate Kendal's birthday, we'll also have our eyes and ears on the TV to see whether Julia "Kath Day-Knight" Gillard or Tony "The Budgie Smuggler" Abbott wins the top job. Interestingly, the word "Chômeur" means "unemployed". Is that some sort of warning? Is it a cooking prophecy? Will Prime Minister Gillard be out of a job within a matter of days? See you on the 21st when everybody finds out.

Kendal Murray
Camper Van Game Plan, 2009
11 x 13 x 13.5 cm
Courtesy of the artist & Arthouse Gallery

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Cooking Christmas in July

Rachel's prosciutto wrapped cranberry stuffing balls

Last night we converged once again on our friend Holly Williams' gorgeous home for a Christmas in July dinner party. Being the final evening in July, Saturday the 31st, we made it just in the nick of time. A ‘Christmas in August’ party just wouldn’t have had the same ring. Our guests included our host Holly, artists Aseem Pereira and Jonathan James, Daniel’s brother Sean Mudie, and the three of us. Oh, and of course, Mr Smoochy, Holly’s beautiful cat.

Part of our reason for hosting a ‘Christmas in July’ dinner was to try our hand at making mulled wine, something that none of us had prepared before. Luckily before arriving at Holly’s house, Rachel had a very helpful conversation with her lovely uncle and aunt, Harley and Dee Roberts, who are very experienced mulled wine makers. Their advice was simple. Basically there are countless different ways to make mulled wine. So, like sangria, you can pretty much add as much sugar and whatever citrus, fruits and spices as you like. The key is to taste the mulled wine as you go along, so that you make it to your own liking. As easy as falling off a log.

Rachel mulls up

We knew mulled wine was definitely on the menu, but what would we do for our main course? In the end, we decided to bake turkey drumsticks. The rationale behind cooking turkey legs, rather than a whole turkey, was to save cooking time. And a wise decision too when we saw the size of the turkey legs in the supermarket. Gargantuan things! The birds themselves must have been Pterodactyls!

As soon as we arrived at Holly’s house, the turkey legs needed to go straight into the oven. Then it was time to make the mulled wine and relax with our friends for a while. Our version of mulled wine was 250 grams of castor sugar, about ten cloves, a cinnamon stick, nutmeg, the rind and juice of an orange, the rind of a lemon and a lime and two bottles of De Bortoli Sacred Hill Cabernet Merlot. The result was utterly delicious - sweet, spicy and warming. Daniel said it was like Christmas cake in a glass, only with a whole lot more punch. With a few glasses of that stuff under our belts, we were definitely feeling the Christmas spirit.


Alongside the turkey drumsticks, we had decided serve an array of side dishes, including prosciutto-wrapped cranberry stuffing balls, mashed pumpkin with roasted pine nuts, pan-fried brussel sprouts with bacon and steamed broccoli. Every bit the Christmas feast that we had imagined but perhaps we had drunk a bit too much mulled wine by that stage because we almost started a fire in Holly’s wooden kitchen while we were cooking. Thanks go to Sean for noticing that Drew had accidently set a tea towel alight. Preparing a Christmas in July dinner was quickly becoming a high risk activity.

Tea towel flambé

Our dinner thankfully didn't burn. Every dish turned out to be an unqualified success. Given the size of the turkey drumsticks, the meal was a bit ‘Flintstone-esque’ but what it lacked in grace, it made up for in taste. Drew’s turkey was a particular triumph - moist, delicious and cooked to perfection. After dinner it was time for a hilarious game of Articulate, which we interrupted briefly for Holly’s delightful dessert of rhubarb crumble and cream. Some more mulled wine and we found it was well past midnight. Turns out we were having a ‘Christmas in August’ party after all!

Playing (in)Articulate