Beef Cuts – What are you Buying?

I’ve been working on ‘not shopping’.

That means reducing trips to any kind of commercial supermarket and concentrating on buying direct from farmers and producers to supplement what we grow ourselves, then ‘top up’ with market visits. It takes a bit of jiggling, but it’s worth it.

Recently, I joined with friends and bought a cow. Well, I only purchased 1/4 cow.  Grass fed, and raised in Kyogle (a small country town in Northern NSW well-known for both beef farming and dairying)  and butchered to our specs. Thank goodness, because although butchering is a skill I’d LOVE to explore, I think starting with something smaller than a cow would be more suitable.

These days, most people are content to swoop into the supermarket, pick up sanitary, plastic-wrapped slabs of meat and swoop back out again. If this is your style, then this post is not for you.

Step away now.

My thoughts are that by shopping in swoop style, there’s probably little thought given to the breeding or background of the animal, the farm, or the conditions in which the animal lived before it became dinner fodder.  And with the current emphasis on ethical eating and looking at where our food really comes from, I don’t personally find this approach well… palatable.

So let me ask you: how much do you know about meat cuts? Do you venture past the topside roast and fillet steaks?

So, in the goal to convert you to anti swoop style shopping, here’s a quickie catalogue of cow cuts.

The prime cuts are the ones best used for roasting. These are the ones you find at eye level in the supermarkets. Rib eye, scotch filet, sirloin, rump. They are the most tender cuts because they from the less used muscles along the back of the animal. The more active muscles, such as the shoulder, flank, and leg will produce beef that is a little less tender, but very flavourful because they have more marbling. Marbling means fat and fat means flavour and flavour means good. But you already know that, right?

Finally, the cuts from the front of the animal – chuck and round and shin – are from body parts that are heavily exercised and do more work. This means they are less tender, and wonderful for slow cooking. Good slow cooked beef gives that incredible mouth feel of soft, almost gelatinous moistness that comes down to one thing: sinew. Sinew breaks down and softens with slow cooking and as the proteins change the result is wonderfully soft meat that pulls apart with your fork.

Since the most tender cuts are the prime cuts and make up only a small proportion of a carcass, they are most commonly sought and usually command a higher price than other cuts. The price usually drops as you move down the animal, with chuck, short ribs, shin, oxtail, cheeks, neck at the bottom of the scale in their sinewy deliciousness.

So, tell me.

Would you be prepared to bulk buy meat?

Do you only buy prime cuts?

And if you were to buy in bulk, what would you do with all the scraggy bits?  Or would you prefer not to even think about it?

Bugs in my Apple

Details matter, it’s worth waiting to get it right.

So said Steve Jobs, co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Apple.

~

Now, I’m just a simple girl.

The way I expect software to work, is to, well… work.

Plug it in, turn it on, off we go.

And I totally get that in today’s world, software updates happen so fast that there are full-time, high paying jobs employing people just to keep up on top of them.

But for simple folk, like me?  I see the word update – and I think: right. UPDATE. As in things get better. Work better. The same is before but better. Or faster. Or with extra features.

I mean, even the free online dictionary (updated!) informs:
UPDATE:

1. to bring up to date; incorporate new information in.

2. an act or instance of updating.
3. new or current information used in updating.
4. an updated version, account, or the like.

Essentially, the updated version of something does exactly the same thing but with added goodies. Or superfluous goodies removed.

When I update my car, I get a faster one. Or a shinier one. (or like this year – I got a faster and shinier one.) When I updated my fridge it came with an ice maker, superfluous ice trays discarded. When I updated my TV I got 113 channels of shit on the TV to choose from.

Apparently Apple see things differently.

Apple gave me a phone update that turned all my contacts to numbers, made my iMessages disappear to never-land and ate my photographs. My not superfluous photographs. Apple gave me an iPad update that enable it to  send and receive text messages instead of them being delivered to my phone, gave me a screen font that requires 4x zoom to read and kindly took away my stored WiFi settings.

And lets not talk about the calendar, which defaulted to the fluorescent colours of a Barbie DreamHouse and is way too hard to read, let alone use.

Then, Apple decides my iMac needs OS X 10.9 ‘Mavericks’ which took 5 hours to UPDATE and 3 hours to install, and now nothing works, except I have THREE calendars in Barbie DreamHouse purple, pink and eye-aching  electric blue.

There’s no java in my Java,  no flash in my Flash, and my scroll function has a dead ‘C’. And, I have new font. It’s possibly called iNvisible, because as I type words onto my screen, the cursor moves but the letters vanish.

Do you know what the free online dictionary (updated!) has to say about the word Maverick?
MAVERICK:

2. One that refuses to abide by the dictates of or resists adherence to a group; a dissenter.
iNdeed.
After 4 hours of stuffing around, I had to call a very nice man in America who finally explained why the voice recording in PowerPoint won’t work when being uploaded to a University server.

His answer? IT HASN’T BEEN TESTED YET.

Stuff me.

I spent my ENTIRE Friday trying to  upload one assignment and synchronise the family calendars.

It would have been quicker to walk to the Post Office, buy a stamp, mail my assignment. Head home and write appointments on the wall calendar. With a pen.

~

Apparently all will be well when ‘the bugs are fixed’.

I know what bugs I’d like to fix.

They’re all on the inside of my Apple.

Halva Ice Cream

Last week, a group of Brisbane foodies came together for a bit of an ice cream cook off. Or freeze off, if you prefer.

It all started with a tweet (doesn’t it always?) about ice-cream . Halva Ice cream. My halva ice cream.

The inspiration behind this ice cream came from David Chang, who offers halva as an icecream topping. His version of halva is quite a journey from a traditional halva. Pop into Momofuku Milk Bar and you can get a crumbly, peanut-buttery halva sprinkled on your ice cream to try yourself.

I prefer to try for authenticity (sorry, David).

Traditional halva is more than a little bit removed from the pulled sugar, fat and added peanut butter version at Momofuku.

It comes from the Arabic word, halw, which means sweet. It’s origin has been claimed throughout the Middle East, as well as Asia and India. Alan Davidson’s Companion to Food offers reference to an amazing array of halva variants. A little more research tells me the first known, written halvah recipe appeared in the early 13th century Arabic Kitab al-Tabikh [The Book of Dishes], and included seven variations.

It seems one of halva’s most prominent enthusiasts was Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-1566), who was the Ottoman Empire’s longest reigning sultan. Legend says he had a special kitchen built right beside his palace which he called the helvahane [house of halva], where at least 30 varieties were produced.

That’s a pretty impressive pedigree. And it my mind, it deserves a little more respect than pulled sugar and peanut butter.

BWxPB1BIEAAQRRZHalva Ice cream (Thermomix)

Makes 1 litre.

Ingredients:

200g plain halva
3 whole eggs
130g sugar
350g cream
250g milk
seeds of one vanilla bean
Pinch Murray River salt

150g halva variant – couveture chocolate and almond or Vanilla and Pistachio (or half of each)
* For adding after churning. Do not add this in your initial mix.

Ice-creaming it:

Place plain halva in bowl and blend 10 sec/speed 8. Remove from bowl and set aside.
Place eggs and sugar into bowl insert butterfly. Beat 4 min/37°C/speed 3.
Add all remaining ingredients, including blitzed halva and cook for 6 min/80°C/speed 5.

Set aside jug and allow to cook for 30 mins.

Pour into compressor and churn for 60 mins. (If the mixture isn’t set, churn again, I usually need to add another 20 because I don’t wait for it to cool properly!)

While ice-cream is churning, rough chop the remaining flavoured halva. You want irregular shapes, some small, some large.

Pour semi frozen icecream into freezer safe bowl alternating with layers of halva. Finish by sprinkling remaining halva on top, freeze for 24/48 hours before serving.

It’s halva-nly :)

If you’d like to see some photos of the fabulous icecreams shared, type in #IceCreamCabinet on twitter.

Dining with Dogs – Dogs at the the dinnertable?

This morning, idly flicking through twitter as I sipped my tea, I came across a tweet.

Interest piqued, I replied.

Screen Shot 2013-10-14 at 7.27.24 AMIt seems ‘Tony from Windsor’  dined out on the weekend, at a dog friendly restaurant in Noosa.

It reminded me of the time when a certain newly wed, newly mortgaged couple were invited to their neighbours for a dinner party. For the newly espoused, this was a big event. Suitably frocked, Mateus Rose in hand (it was the late 1980s), our delightful duo embarked to the land next door, where they were met by amazing smells of spices, meats, pastry and something vaguely sweet.  The nose always  knows, they say, and in this instance the nose was not disappointed. Neither were the taste buds, the tongue or the tonsils. Course by course, the hostess – ‘Mum’s from France, Dad’s Vietnamese, we were raised in Noumea‘ – presented dish after dish and plate after platter piled with delightful goodies, well fortified by Mateus,  not to mention a few extra sips  here and there, as it were.

Duly sated, table cleared, the new bride wandered through the immaculately presented home to the kitchen to offer to assist with coffee making, washing up, or whatever was required.

What greeted her seemed impossible to her eyes. It made no sense.  For there were all the dishes and cookware, lined across the floor in what appeared to be military precision. Platters, plates, bowls, trays. Baking dishes. Oven tray. Chopping boards. And busy, on duty, a large Alsatian and a small, furry black ball with legs – both head down, tail up, ‘doing the dishes’.

*

My in-laws had Schnauzers.

I have photos of them sitting at the table, hair brushed and bibbed up, ready to eat with their ‘parents’ at the set table.

So tell me – what’s your views on doggies and dishes?  Is lick and wash an acceptable practice?

Oh – if you want to know what happened to Tony from Windsor – you can hear it here  (slide to 1.10)

*image courtesy of Google

Cooking for Bachelors ~ 1959 – Ted Moloney & George Molnar

Country bookshops and second-hand stores. They get me every time. I’m the one flicking through the old cookbooks, rattling through kitchenware and cutlery, looking for anything that speaks of the yesteryear when time seemed slower and a little more genteel. Sometimes I find things. Sometimes I don’t.

The National Library of Australia tells me Cooking for Bachelors (1959) by Ted Moloney & George Molnar is pretty hard to get your hands on.  With Molnar’s somewhat risque cartoons peppered through the text, and Moloney’s recurring references to the clique Sydney restaurant circuit and social circles, I’m reminded of how progressive the mid to late 1950’s and early 60’s were for developing socialisation and the food movement. I’m taken back to black and white reruns of Doris Day and Rock Hudson/Cary Grant. Now they were romantic comedies.

IMG_2990Cooking for Bachelors offers me advice right from the point of my boy first leaving home. In the preface, the ‘Letter to Mother‘, I am reminded that ‘It’s a natural urge for a young man to want to spend part of his life, wedged between his mother’s cooking and his future bride’s, as a bachelor. Hence the scarcity of bachelor flats in King’s Cross and St Kilda.’

Indeed.

Cooking for Bachelors assures me this will ‘lead him to an interest in the type of girl every mother approves of… a girl who is interested in cooking.’ In the meantime, my bachelor will need to feed himself and remind himself of the etiquette he learned from his ever loving mother.

We begin with the Elementary Techniques. (I love that a subscription to the Herald is number one in the purchase of necessary instruments. Moloney goes on to explain why: the bad press notices in The Telegraph simply won’t do).

IMG_2977We move through, chapter by chapter.

Our bachelor learns to ‘earn a reputation’ (let’s assume as a reasonable cook!), tackle soups and savouries, ‘many of us remember the great Sydney hostess, her most formal dinners, as we formed up two by two with our lady on our arm and walked slowly to dinner. Those days are gone. You need to know a spoon works more efficiently than a fork for soup, especially when consuming a TV dinner’ and manage vegetables ‘…a vegetable is not a fruit. Neither are you’.  Sauces and seafoods have dedicated chapters ‘…steaming… in the colander place your fish (cleaned). When fish is tender take it out. Taste it. Now throw it away. It’s horrible. Most fish is’ before leaping into full elements of entrees, meats and casseroles, finally triumphing in the fanfare for quenelles, which are every bachelors secret weapon.

IMG_2980Quenelles might sound scary. But the bachelor is reminded to ‘think of the triumph for yourself, the very real pleasure for the guests when served this Lucullen entree which they would not have experienced  since their gourmet tour of Europe’. Once conquering the Quenelle, our bachelor works through managing pancakes before jumping head first into Filet de Boef with truffles. Although, if that’s too daunting, there is a nice recipe for  corned beef and carrots as a fallback.

The bachelor is reminded of modern social graces.  When inviting friends over after a party, ‘open a bottle of red wine… put some flamenco on the new stereophonic and let yourself go. Chop up anything which the wailing, clapping flamenco inspires’ . Or perhaps a light supper with a female from the office? ‘break an egg into a pot of scalding hot soup, cream or consomme at the very last minute. A poached egg turns a bowl of soup into a satisfying casual meal which should appeal to career girls who may be reducing’.

Finally, there are Graduation Exercises. Menus set by Tony Gemenis (Prunier’s, Double Bay); Chales Fourcade (Normandie, Sydney); Mr Luigi of the famous Quo Vadis, and my favourite, from Miss Margaret Fulton, Chief Home Economist at the J. Walter company,  herself.

IMG_2989

I’m thinking of cooking my way through Cooking for Bachelors. I’m considering the primary lesson dishes for home, the exercises as dinner parties. I may have to pass on the use of the recommended aluminium saucepans, estimate the weight of a thrupence worth of flour, and make a few substitutions (can you even buy blue boxes of Kraft Swiss cheese anymore?), but I think it would be a fine way of teaching my teen of what to expect in his bachelor years.

And choosing my audience to sample the pâté de foi gras stuffed profiteroles and iced sliced pineapple sprinkled with white Curaçao could be fun.

IMG_2986Would you be interested?