Sunday, 1 November 2015

True Confessions or how Socrates should have had a few Double Espressos

This has taken me over a year to fess up but wandering around the river at Kyneton this morning has pricked my conscience and I have swallowed my pride...  forgive me my brothers for I have partaken...  but hey it’s a serious warning.
It started really well, I had been in town and scored a great 60’s bookcase at Joel’s and found the right flooring for the new “don’t call it a studio” studio and also got quite a few urgent jobs done. So when Diane greeted me with the welcome “do you want a coffee? “  when I got home, my rampant enthusiasm was further stoked. Because she had just had one, she presented me with the full double dose long espresso from the new machine, just roasted beans great fuel.
Over the preceding months walks along the river revealed some great plants. Blackberries, feral fruit trees all sorts of wild forrageable foods?  Amongst these we also saw great flushes of a very attractive umbriferous plant that Diane had called wild parsnip. After my coffee I noticed that the small self sown ‘wild parsnip” that I had been watching in the vegie garden had grown considerably and I picked it.

 It had a long straight root a bit like salsify or indeed parsnip. 

 I tasted it and it had a stringy outer layer but the inner root was delightfully sweet and really moreish delicious. Light bulbs went off... hey a new ingredient in such abundance that it will surely inflame the neophilic foodie culture so “on point” for these wild food days.
Intrigued as to why no one else in say, Northcote, Denmark or Brooklyn had promoted this discovery I went to the culinary  books  in the shed and it all started to go pear shaped very quickly. Apparently the more common name for this “wild parsnip” is Poison Hemlock. Now this did not look really good as I had eaten a good couple of inches of the inside of the core root. I quickly consulted the online oracles and it was really looking a bit serious.
I rang the poisons department hot line and a very calm young man after about 6 key identifying questions suggested that I grab the plant and get my arse off to the hospital as soon as possible.  On arrival at the Kyneton hospital at the emergency department they were already getting the equipment ready to get me hooked up to various beeping machines in the ambulance that was waiting with doors open. Mr Poisons Department had already rung the hospital and I was quickly put on a cardiogram and a drip input was poked into my arm. With thick rubber gloves they examined the ‘Parsnip’ and placed it in a labelled bag and very quickly I was on my way to Royal Melbourne Hospital. The ambulance was apparently better equipped to deal with what might eventuate in the next 60 minutes than the emergency dept of the hospital.
Now those of you who know me will attest to my wowser like boring stance on wild fungi and indiscriminate foraging.
The Do Not Taste Without Expert Identification sermon that I always sprout has over the years led to my withdrawing from hosting fungi forays in the dread of someone later innocently tasting a toxic fungus or worse serving one in a restaurant.   So now flat out and wired up in the ambulance I am fantasizing the twitter conversations and Facebook comments and such tut tutting after the death notices appear....
But clearly it did not kill me but the ride down to town was full of apprehension and  I might say a little humour.
The ambos had forgiven me for dragging them off the beat with my stupidity and were quite engaged as they had never had a case of hemlock poisoning before. So iPads came out and a constant communication was being kept with the emergency dept in Melbourne. I had my phone so I was also getting an education in Hemlock pharmacology. We went through the identification with some detail. Yes hollow stem, yes  all the colours habitat etc matched perfectly  We had the Socrates jokes  but my toes and other extremities  had not started to lose feeling and I was apart from being pissed off that I had been so careless  feeling OK. . All bodily functions were beeping normally.  We all found from various sources that eating the root was one of  the most potent parts. That did nothing for my well being but also nothing to the beeps on the monitors.  As the interest waned in my demise the ambos explained to me in detail of why the graffiti for better conditions was scrawled all over the van and I got a good education on the shit conditions they had to work with. Now that at least  has thankfully been fixed. But at the time made me feel even more guilty.  Then on a legit medical website we saw that one of the suggested antidotes to Hemlock poisoning was caffeine... and I started to feel a little better.  But on arrival at emergency the registrar grabbed my bag of ‘wild parsnips’ whisked me into a cubicle and hooked me up to more wires. I told him of the big double dose of caffeine I had ingested and he just looked at me with bemusement Hmm 2 inches of root you say? Shakes head.  After a further hour of observation I was evicted from the cubicle into the hall and told to let them know if I was feeling wonky. Then after a further 2 hours I was released just in time to catch the last train back to Kyneton. I had survived eating poison hemlock and yes it did taste OK. Thanks RMH. So when you see the beautiful flushes of this ubiquitous weed all along the Campaspe, the Barwon or in your vegie beds  take care. It really is everywhere and possibly we should be more alerted to its dangers. Apparently children using the hollow stalks for pea shooters have been poisoned and quail and other game birds [that it does not affect] that have eaten the seeds can also be poisonous.
So another one for the sermon. 


 Hope you got the invite Di’s excited.                 

Friday, 4 September 2015

From Coyote to Grasshopper

Press this Link to  Slideshow

New York City 1989. It’s our first time in the big apple. We had an introduction to Adam Tihany and everyone in his entourage wanted to know about Australia. One thing led to another, Irena Chalmers introduced us to frozen vodka and Milton Glasser. George Lang welcomed us in his private library. I recall his final words to us “remember George, if Joe Schmo wants to eat Snail Caviar who are we stop him” Restaurant design was at an all time high.. ebony and mahogany to restore the Gundel in Budapest, Remi brought the taste and style of Venice to NYC  Tihany was on a roll.  Lunch at the Cafe des Artistes. AliceWaters at the Union Square farmers market. At happy hour in the bar of the Grill Room at the Four Seasons  Philip Johnson was still holding court in the space he had designed with Mies van der Rhoe in 1958  while the barman discusses the East Timor crisis with a couple of wide eyed star struck Aussies. It felt like we were at the centre of it all, it couldn’t get any better for a colonial cook hungry for contemporary perspective. Almost famous.  On our final day Adam [we are on a first name basis now] throws us another clue “if you are going through L.A. check out Rebecca’s.”  On our way home we have a couple of days there and after the morning at the Huntington Gardens in Pasadena we find ourselves in Santa Monica at Rebecca’s. It’s a modern Mexican restaurant. Our Strailyin accent gets us past the door bitch. The bar is a sunken pit with fibre glass crocodiles and mythical sea creatures floating from the ceiling that is all angles and rods. The booths are over sized Hollywood style sets. The kitchen is a glass cube with four big wood fired grills. A kitchen full of sweaty Mexican cooks big flames and piles of exotic gnarled fire wood. There are steel earthquake proof girders holding up the origami like structure of the roof. The vibe is the life aquatic. Our waiter is a Don Diego from central casting. Manicured grey sideboards, a pencil mustache good tailoring. It’s our first introduction to jicama, tomatillo, corn smut, and mesquite. The guacamole kit is wheeled to the table by the commis waiter, he looks like an assassin. Everyone is in character, his knives are sharp bare arms. The tatts are faded old school navy with dragons and Chinese characters, a 3 day growth and no smile.. the gwok is made to order with double knife action by our assassin, with green tomato.. Don Diego plates it up on a granite slab. The cooking was considered- balanced flavours, accurate fresh, aromatic, lotsa lime, our first taste of masa and such exquisite corn and chilli flavours... respect for the traditional cooking of Mexico. On our return we searched out the seeds for tomatillos, jicama, slow bolting cilantro and we have been growing them ever since. Rebecca. She left quite a mark..
 Finally last month we get the chance to go to Mexico it’s only for a couple of weeks so we settle on the city only despite the bad rap that it always seems to get. While we are planning the trip, as we are going via LA, I decide to see if Rebecca’s is still there and as it goes, it closed in 1998 and moved to another site. But Dr Google reveals the designer of the original Rebecca’s building, the interior the whole works was no other than a young Frank Gehry and the fittings are now it seems periodically going up for auction at big time rooms as modern antiques.
United Airlines stalls our arrival in Mexico for 24hrs but Enrique our Airbnb host has sent Hector and Hugo to pick us up in what looks like a bulletproof jeep. Celia Cruz is on the tape... we slide in to Coyoacan [ the Coyote] around 10pm and Hugo decides that we need a body guard as we hit the streets looking for something fresh after the crap on the plane. The square is almost deserted, the Aztec dancers around the cathedral are packing up and we are thankfully getting sleepy.
 The next day Jorge from the Traveling Beetle is due at 9am to begin our DF adventure. The Traveling Beetle is a groovy local touring company that specialises in restored convertible beetles with experienced specialist drivers. Nicolas the director has a list of our interests and we have booked six trips one every couple of days. Our driver Jorge is a delightful thirty something soul rebel architect who loves DF. He lives in the Centro and speaks great English. The days are spent walking speeding on the subway and cruising the city in the soft top beetles, we change colours every couple of days, and quieter nights around our digs. Jorge has very quickly picked up on our quirky interests and cruising with him we become at one with the city. The traffic moves slowly and gives Jorge time to explain each neighbourhood as we crawl through them. After three days in Coyoacan we move to Condesa or Roma Norte within walking distance of Bosque Chapultepec, the 1,956 acre grasshopper park and find the ideal local restaurant Lardo. It rocks, shakes and sparkles day and night and we are surprised to find out that it only opened a week before we first find it. She cranks like a well oiled classic. Most nights are spent grazing late around the bar, we become locals for a week. The chefs sneak us snacks and drinks and warn us where not to eat on the street and tell us of the great local lunch spot Contramar. Between these two spots, both staggering distance from our “Villa Condesa” and the street food during the day, we are more than well feasted. On our last day after the incredible Lagunilla flea market we join Jorge and his delightful partner for lunch at Contramar and farewell this stupendous city.
Viva Mexico    

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Alison Puoliot's Fungi Seminar...

 If you have a serious interest in fungi  not just the edibles but the full gamut of this extraordinary and highly important environmental Eco system? Do yourself a favour and book yourself into Alison Puoliot's seminar/foray next weekend in trentham

details here 


Just got back from today's in Macedon/Woodend totally inspired...    
 Has rekindled an old passion...

Take care without the  level of knowledge that Alison can impart  its a minefield out there.

Thursday, 20 February 2014


Home Made Smallgoods Competition Lara Food and Wine Festival

The Lara Food and Wine festival is looking for any backyard or small producers of Salami, Prosciutto, Jamon or indeed any naturally fermented smallgoods for the inaugural Hamster of Lara smallgoods competition. Naturally produced smallgoods have been a part of the Australian culinary landscape since the first fleet. Through the different waves of immigration, New Australians, [as we were called before the ‘boat thing’ rocked the nation] have continued family traditions. It began largely in the background below the surface of mainstream food production when food laws were a lot more sensible. All the big players in the current smallgoods market think Tibaldi..Don.. Primo, Marchetti, Bertocchi, Hansa, Barkly to name but a few, started with humble beginnings from immigrants bringing with them rich traditions that have made Australia the diverse culinary haven that we now enjoy. It looked like these traditions were in danger of being lost but the younger generations of these immigrants and their new Skip mates have rekindled a passion to embrace all good food and especially the fine flavours that naturally fermented foods can offer. We have been through the Roquefort saga and can now legally enjoy one of the finest imported raw milk cheeses and the first raw milk cheeses are being made in Australia now but not before some hard guerrilla action from the wild food warriors. Tomorrow Sandor Katz the author of the Art of Fermentation is presenting some lectures in Melbourne link here Fermentation is again in the spotlight Sandor is largely about vegetables and milk but the really difficult one for many to come to terms with is naturally fermented meats.
The handful[ but influential] readers of this blog all know the score but this is a serious call for entries into the competition. The lead time has been short the larders are getting thin but  there are hundreds of busy little Hamsters out there turning, sniffing, tasting and proudly plating up what to those who have been initiated are flavours hard to live without... the problem is many don’t read twitter so Tony Bourdain’s, Matt Preston”s, Sticki, Skinny John,  Mr. Ed and many others’ [thank you troops] call to arms may not get into those cellars as quickly as we might think.  

So please pass this on to any shops [small producers welcome] or indeed anyone who you may know that cures their own. Small factory production is fine. Taste will prevail.
The Lara Food and Wine Festival is a delightful grassroots affair with all volunteer support, even from the big wigs.  I confess two ulterior motives for joining Frank Camorra, Richard Thomas, Rosa Mitchell, Gail Thomas, Ed Charles, Bob Hart, Max? on the tasting panel.
Firstly the pork and Secondly the main prize [$1000 all together] is dedicated to Angel Cardoso who,[mad bastard as he was]  gave quite a bit to the development of good tucker in this country.   
Lara Food and Wine Link HERE
Entry Form Here
Macedon Ranges entries can be left here at Kyneton or I can pick up if you are too busy just email gbironatbigponddotnetdotau for drop off time before 13 March.

Friday, 13 December 2013

New Growth

The gardens in Kyneton are magnificent exceptional trees, explosions of colour, vigorous growth We were determined to start a small domestic vegetable garden as soon as possible and after 3 months we are back to normal sourcing all our salads and  herbs from just outside the kitchen.. Tomatoes will be ready for Christmas and new year  the fruit trees have taken well and the  new collection of flavorful species is growing.
The racecourse is close by and there is a pick- up- your own small depot for  horse manure mixed with sawdust . and unlimited piles of  deciduous leaves piled up in the gutters This is gold for making compost.
We started the tomatoes in tree guards with a peg to keep the earlier frosts at bay. You can warm the beds naturally by adding a good deep layer of manure with decayed leaves at the bottom of the garden beds before adding the soil. A bit like an ecological electric blanket... makes the seeds sprout quickly and the growth has been magnificent.  We started with an equal mix of compost, mushroom medium, and soil enriched with some blood and bone and potash. I had to take some of my own advice [always dangerous]
click HERE