Brewery fresh

Last year we were given (or, more accurately, my darling was) gift certificates to go tour the Carlton United Brewery plant in Melbourne, and then have a beer tasting.

The place is a fascinating mixture of industrialisation and … well, not artisanship, not when you’re working on the scale CUB is, but beer just is primitive, I guess? It’s water, yeast, malt and hops. Add them together, add heat, and ta dah! Alcohol. The difference between your home brew and CUB is that CUB is making several hundred thousand litres at a throw.

The machinery for making the beer is all pretty straight forward. Enormous metal vats for fermenting, and a control room… and that’s it, really. Very minimal. The packaging area is way more complicated, with bottles going whizzing around; we didn’t get to see the canning area because apparently if you open the door too long, you’re liable to get cans going spinning around the place. They bottle and label something like 700+ per minute.

In the fermenting area we got to see and, if we wanted, taste, the three different sorts of malt they use at CUB (I tasted the caramel-y one, and it was surprisingly tasty), as well as hops (recommended not to be eaten) – I don’t think I’d seen hops before. The packaging area had examples of CUB bottles across the century, which was really cool.

Back at the public area/bar and cafe, we grabbed a paddle and choose six beers to try. I only tried five because I knew I didn’t need to try Carlton Dry or VB (blech). And I have to say it confirmed my suspicion: I am not a CUB drinker. I didn’t mind the Wild Yak, and the cider on tap was also quite nice, but everything else… nah. I think I’m ruined by and for your more crafty beer. Don’t ask me what it is that I dis/like because I don’t have the words to explain beer, but I do know what I don’t like.

If you’re interested in the industrial side of beer making I do think this is a good tour to go on. The food from the cafe was fine, they have a range of CUB beers on tap if that’s your thing… all in all they’re trying hard to present themselves well to both hardcore CUB fans and people like, well, me – interested in process as well as food, and I guess on the snobbier end of the food spectrum 😉

Acts of Kitchen: Christmas food edition

AoK_logo_v2In this episode, I ask some friends to comment on what they like – or don’t like – about Christmas food.

I talk about ice cream Christmas pudding (and I realised in reading this that I forgot the spices! WOE) and other things that make up my traditional, and preferred, Christmas.

Leave a comment here or email me at acts of kitchen at gmail dot com

Cooked, by Michael Pollan

images.jpegThis book was recommended to me by the sourdough baker whose course I took. It turned out that I had already one of Pollan’s books – The Botany of Desire, which was awesome and looked at various plants in light of the general idea of desire. (My biggest take away message: the Agricultural Revolution was the grasses using humanity to destroy the trees. Also that all edible apples are clones.)

This book is Pollan’s attempt to learn more about cooking, having looked at the gardening and the eating side for a long time. He divides the book into four sections: Fire, Water, Air, Earth. Or, basically: barbecue, braise, bread, and fermenting. Continue reading “Cooked, by Michael Pollan”

Pomme Larmoyer

unknownI got to ask Pomme some questions via email, after getting Istanbul Cult Recipes to review…

What draws you to Turkish food, and in particular the food of Istanbul?

Actually Istanbul drove me to Turkish food. First the city is one of my favourite for its beauty and dynamism, and second it gathers all the variety of Turkey (very different people from all over the country, areas, cultures, habits, traditions and modernity, oriental style and trendy places…). I thought such a place was perfect to talk about Turkey, not only a huge country – very rich of particularities from north to south/east/west – but also the former Ottoman empire through which lots of people and cultures have moved during centuries, from Asia to Europe and the Middle East… The whole world used to live in Istanbul ! and still is. Talking about food means talking about all this.

At the end of the book, in About the Author, you say that you can learn everything you need to know about a country from its kitchens. How would you sum up Istanbul as a city from its kitchens?

A place of variety, a crossroads full of tastes, mystery, beauty, stories and fun.

A really intriguing part of the book is that you include a list of restaurants and cafes to visit in Istanbul, to try out different dishes. What inspired you to add this aspect to the book?

I see this collection “Cult Recipes” as a way to travel – through a cookbook. When you walk in Istanbul you (or at least I) want to talk about the places you’ve been and share the smells, tastes, colors, sounds you feel, and you feel a lot of things there. I guess I wanted to talk about concrete places I’ve been to and liked to help the readers to feel a bit of my Istanbul.

If you were going to put together an Istanbul feast, what would you cook and why?

I would start with some meze : kozde patlican, cacik (you definitily have to include yogurt and eggplant in the menu), parsley salad (not really a classic but one of my favorite), lakerda (but not easy to cook), kisir, midye tava… with some raki of course. And then I’ll try to impress my guests with some manti (this you have to try) and as a sweet final touch baklavas or kurabiye with a good turkish coffee. This is not at all a typical turkish menu but dishes I looove.

What do you think a really good cookbook needs to include?

Stories and people (related to food : but who isn’t ?). Cooking is about that : people, places and stories.

If you could do a cookbook for any other cuisine or region, what would it be?

Paris! I would love to talk about my city through its kitchens. I have my ideas on the subject.

Acts of Kitchen 15: Estonian food


In which I get Liina to tell me about the food she grew up (with background noise), and I talk about a cookbook, make a type of jam, and go to a tea and brunch degustation.


unknownIstanbul Cult Recipes: the book and the recipes.
Versions of carrot, cardamom and pistachio jam: like this although without the rose water… and mine wasn’t from Saffron Tales although oh look! Also this one.

Tea and brunch degustationimg_1347

Tea and brunch

IMG_1345.JPGA tea and brunch degustation, folks. Tea and brunch. My sister (of Mexican cooking class fame) and I gave this to each other as a Christmas present. It was hosted by Flag and Spear in a cute little studio in Fitzroy. All of the food was served as canapés; on the left is the menu.

The first tea was slightly carbonated and had a touch of passionfruit puree added; it was delightful and I wish it existed as a tea I could buy or easily make up. I would drink it all summer.

The food was excellent. The pumpkin dumpling was soft and there was a hint of lime in the mayo on top; the bircher was delicious, with the layer of pear in the middle. My sister is a bit over things served in Mason jars; I, however, am still besotted by them.The seeded toast – appetisingly presented here on my hand – was actually seeds and nuts that the cook had laid out and baked and then cut into sheets. Delicious. The waffle stack was amazing and we were a bit surprised  about the chilli on top; the tea smoothed it out nicely. And the French toast muffin was an excellent final dish.








Of course, the tea was also a significant part of the event. I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of green tea so I wasn’t expecting to love all of these. But the second one, which is called white tea in Chinese but is actually a green tea – because it’s from a white jade tree – was delightful and smooth and wonderful… and in fact all of them were very drinkable. I wouldn’t have much more than this small glass of most of them, but there was no occasion when I was looking for a pot plant… and the last tea had such a story attached to it (it was all sold out from the tiny little plantation and the owner went to buy some back from her person in Shanghai just for the organiser for this event!).


Istanbul Cult Recipes: the recipes

unknownWhat I thought of the book itself.

Now, the recipes!

Things I’ve made:

“Lady’s thighs” – these are kofte (uh, not softie, autocorrect) that are apparently meant to be shaped like lady’s thighs? Or something. Anyway, steak and rice and some spices – very simple, very tasty.

Beef dumplings – ‘manti’, “the unmissable little Armenian dumplings”. Simple dough (flour and oil and a little water); a spoonful of minced beef and onion into the middle of 6cm squares, fold them up into boats and bake in the oven with some broth around it. SO good. I plan to experiment with spices… and they freeze brilliantly.

Zucchini fritters – zucchini, eggs, dill, parsley, feta. Fry. Delight.

Lentil balls – my one failure so far. They tasted fine… but they didn’t become balls. They wouldn’t stick together, so I used it as a basis for meatballs. Still: lentils and burgh and garlic and chilli paste and parsley and spring onions…

Shortbread – actually the first thing I made, for a church fete. They got a good rap because, as someone said, they’re not toosweet. They’ve got flour and almond meal (the ground walnut option is intriguing), and only 80g caster sugar for 500g other dried ingredients. Easy to make, easy to eat.

Things I want to make:

Milk buns with feta kneaded through… :O

Lentil soup – so easy! red lentils and tomato…

Stuffed vine leaves – I’ve always been dubious of my ability to make these, but you can use silverbeet! instead of vine leaves! and somehow that seems more accessible.

Borek – filo (although given where I leave I might be able to access yufka pastry…) with feta… sounds awesome.

Almond helva – although making my own helva could be a deeply dangerous thing to do HOW GOOD WOULD THAT BE?!

Things I won’t make:

I can’t come at tripe. Uh, no. I also don’t think I can access mutton so I guess I’ll try some stuff with lamb instead…

Istanbul Cult Recipes

This is the book I haven’t been able to mention on the podcast! And now I can!

This was sent to me by the publisher, Murdoch Books, at no cost. It’s available now; RRP $49.99.


The book itself

is a lovely object. My copy is a hardback and the image on the front is delightful; the bits that look yellow in the pic to the left are actually gold. It’s a hefty tome, with about 250pp of recipes and good thick covers.

The book is divided into several sections: At the Kahvalti Salon (breakfast); The Meyhane Table (meze and fish); Lokanta, Kofteci, Kebabci (soups, meats and rice); At Home (family recipes); Street Food; and Turkish Delights (sweet things). It’s an intriguing division, especially that central set of chapters, because they don’t correspond to meal times as other books often do. Instead it’s more about the style of food, which I quite like, once you’ve got your head around how to look for particular sorts of food.

The other intriguing aspect of the book is that it’s not just recipes. It’s not even just recipes plus stories about the people. No; Larmoyer is toying with the reader/cook and may be in cahoots with the Turkish tourism board because each chapter also has a double spread on where to go in Istanbul in order to eat. There’s a map and a list of the best places to go for different specialities. Which… seems a bit cruel, really. But at least the book provides recipes to help those of us who can’t up and run to Istanbul at a moment’s notice.

The book is replete with pictures of both the food mentioned and the places where it’s bought and made. The recipes are laid out across a single page, with a story or tip for each one; pretty much all have at least one photo accompanying the recipe. A lot of these photos look quite domestic – I’m sure a lot of thought went into styling them to get the effect, but I do find it reassuring to see a photo, when flicking through the book, that doesn’t look too enormously different from what would be possible in my own kitchen! (Except for the pictures of producing epic quantities of baklava. EPIC.) The ingredients are listed in bold type, which I like, and so far they seem straightforward to follow.

As a book, this is a very attractive object. Find out tomorrow what I thought of the recipes! (… eh, spoiler: they’re good.)