(Pickled peach and blueberry shrub)
A few Saturdays ago, I was on the early morning train headed to work. As you do, when you work in a bakery. The first train of the day is pretty special particularly on weekends, since it’s typically filled with people getting home after a big night out. That morning, one such person wanted to know where I was going, because “You don’t look like you’ve been out all night”. I told him I was off to work, to which he replied without a hint of irony, “The weekend pay must be great!” When I told him that the weekend pay was unfortunately exactly the same as the weekday pay, he expressed amazement at the idea that anyone would work on weekends without getting compensated for it. We then proceeded to have a conversation about early morning cartoons (apparently they’re not as good as they used to be, and I’m missing out for never having watched Pokemon), before reaching my stop.
I guess many people probably think Chefs lead a charmed life. All that creativity, cameraderie, hilarious stories of hijinks. For the most part, it is. But let’s face it, it’s also a job that’s basically manual labour in a neat starched uniform and a funny looking tall hat.
For awhile I believed the hype and chased the dream of the perfect cooking job; always ending up feeling mildly discontented. After watching other people go through the motions of behaving badly, hating their job and making life miserable for everyone around them, I gradually came to realise several things along the way : That every job involves a certain amount of repetition and flirting with boredom. That being good at your job means being able to produce consistent results regardless. That team work means everything in your job. That you don’t have to like everyone, but you should be able to work with everyone and treat them with respect. That this isn’t unique to the hospitality industry, but holds true to pretty much any job in every other field, and that once you’ve realised all this, you can get over it and get on with the rest of your working life.
By all accounts, this coming Summer is promising to be a scorcher. I’ve been in many hot kitchens before, but am wondering how well I’ll truly survive this time round. There aren’t enough ice cubes in Antarctica to stop anyone from melting while working next to 300′C ovens. The above pickled peach and blueberry drink, mixed one warm Sunday afternoon, is somewhat similar to a shrub and is the perfect mix of slightly sweet, slightly sour, very cold and very refreshing. One to get me through the Summer. If you’re interested in making something similar, why not try Anna’s Watermelon and Mint Shrub.
This coming October, I’ve been invited to participate in the second annual Food Writers’ Festival. The line up of speakers include Belinda Jeffery (one of my all time favourite cookbook authors) and one of the best chefs in Sydney, Peter Gilmore of Quay. Needless to say, I’m absolutely terrified of being amongst such esteemed company and the very idea of public speaking fills me with gut churning anxiety not dissimilar to that feeling in the pit of your stomach when you’ve eaten too many pork buns.
Which is why I have agreed to do it. Conquering demons, constantly seeking new ways of self improvement and all that kind of stuff.
My presentation will be about this blog and my use of social media. Kind of amusing in a way, given I’m secretly pretty technologically challenged. However, not a day goes by that I’m reminded of how much of an influence social media has had on my life. At the most personal level, B and I met online 17.5 years ago. When he travelled to Tokyo recently for work, I asked an Instagram friend for some shop recommendations, and he managed to bring back a few pieces from a place we would never have otherwise known about. See, the Internet is not just about Grumpy Cat and Gangnam Style!
(Ceramic pieces from Chidori, a shop recommended by Chika)
One of my current projects for work is looking into the possibility of creating a pork bun recipe using sourdough or a preferment. Despite owning hundreds of cookbooks, I ended up with the best first-attempt success via several food blogs. For those who regard the majority of food blogs as self indulgent rubbish, well it turns out self indulgent rubbish can often be quite useful afterall. If you want the recipe, I think it’d be best if you go read a few food blogs
(Steamed buns made with sourdough)
PS: If you’re interested in attending the festival, to listen to Paul Allam and David McGuinness of Bourke Street Bakery talk about the Bread & Butter project, or hear Belinda Jeffery speak about cookbooks and successful recipe writing, or even to heckle me, you can get more information and tickets here.
Tags: Food and Words, Not Grumpy Cat, pork buns
(Goats cheese and garden herb quiche)
A few notes about making quiche :
1 Flaky pastry is a must
2 It is possible to make the quiche without first blind baking the pastry. This is a great time saving measure. The pastry will cook through at the same rate as the filling, but I’ve found that I prefer my pastry a bit darker, so I tend to blind bake the pastry, seal it well with egg wash, then add the filling.
3 Make sure you use plenty of filling. Assorted herbs (nasturtium, sea celery, kale, dill, chives and parsley were used in the quiche pictured above), goats cheese and grated gruyere are some of my favourites. Also bacon, if you aren’t vegetarian.
4 Bacon makes everything better
5 The ratio for the custard is mostly a matter of preference, depending on how rich you want the quiche to be. I’ve been making mine with 60ml cream for every small egg, which is slightly richer than most other recipes I’ve seen. Season with sea salt, pepper and a pinch of paprika.
6 When baking the quiche, start the oven on a higher temperature, then drop it to fairly low. The resulting custard will be smooth, luscious and less likely to overcook.
A few notes about eating quiche :
1 Enjoy, but not too often
2 Accompany with a light salad and a simple vinaigrette
3 Go for a run later