22 November 2009

Stuck in the airport...

I'm currently sitting in the domestic lounge in Melbourne airport (where I have spent more collectively bored hours than I care to admit...) after visiting my partner for the weekend. No cooking time unfortunately (no kitchen!) but, despite the jetlag and having to get up at 5.30 am, not a bad way to spend a weekend!

So while I'm stuck at the airport, thought I'd share a few of the more entertaining things I've come across today... not really food related - but funny!

Recruitment ad for a burger joint... not sure if it would fly at the equal opportunities commission!

Best wedding cake topper ever!

Expanding on the on the optimist/pessimist question...

15 November 2009

The hardest part of being lazy...

... is knowing when to accept defeat. Accepting the result of the mental cost-benefit analysis (is it worth cooking it?) that any lazy cook should do for every meal is one of the hardest things to do - especially when you love to cook. Today, for example, after losing a battle with a wardrobe (not the kind where you will find an enchanted world behind some fur coats - more the kind where the kind where the door has decided it does not, under any circumstances, be parted from the hinges, and is not afraid to put up a fight), sore muscles and a craving for Indian food meant that cooking just lost out. Unfortunately, the one food that loses out every time is Indian food. I love it - especially the vegetarian dishes - but it just falls into the category of too much effort, not enough reward. Creating the complicated spice blends, stewing meats overnight, making naan from scratch - who has the time? Or, for that matter, all the spices you need to do it really well?

Making Indian food is definitely something best left for the experts. That being said, eating Indian food is something everyone should do - just because it's so good! When I'm in Melbourne, the Classic Curry Company is a mainstay of mine - practically nothing is over $10, and everything has been made the day before in large vats - just like good Indian food should be! This place is especially good because it delivers to the CBD and surrounding suburbs, and if your meal totals over $25, it's free. When I'm in Perth, 2 Fat Indians in Cottesloe (not Leederville) is my favourite spot - mostly because of the way it treats the proteins. It respects the proteins - every mouthful of meat or dahl or Paneer is a melting morsel (although they're not afraid of the chilli, so don't be afraid to ask for it mild if that's what you want!). They also fry the paneer before cooking, so it can actually be distinguished from tofu (something not every Indian place achieves...).

If you are an Indian food virgin, make sure you try the Palak Paneer (cubes of Indian cheese in a really rich spinach sauce), butter chicken (chicken in a mild tomato sauce) or chicken korma. And make sure you have a lot of rice, a lot of raita (yoghurt with cucumber, tomatoes and spices) and some naan - all these will help take out the heat. If you try extra mild Indian food doused in raita (as I did with my first butter chicken...) in the presence of someone from India, they will likely laugh at you. But if you can live with that, it's very much worth it!

14 November 2009

Drunken Goat (no I'm not Kidding...)

One of the most delicious but underrated meats in the world is goat. It's kinda hard to come by (my theory is that any butcher serving anything labeled 'kid' would come under a fair amount of investigation), but if you can find it, try it - it's fantastic. Tastes a little like lamb, but richer, more savory. I get mine pre-marinated from the butcher in red wine and oregano - but the meat is fantastic plain as well.

I'm cooking some for dinner as we speak - I'll post some photos afterwards because words alone cannot express how wonderful it is.

So here is my recipe for Drunken Goat (aka my dinner tonight...)

3 x goat cutlets, marinated in red wine and oregano
1 glug olive oil
leftover red wine

oven safe casserole dish with lid
wine glass

  1. Turn on the oven and set to 140 C (don't worry about preheating it - it won't take long to heat)
  2. Put the olive oil in the casserole dish (enough to coat the bottom of the dish) and place the goat in on a single layer
  3. Pour over enough red wine to come halfway up the sides
  4. Cover with lid and put in the oven
  5. Drink a glass of wine and read a book for 2 hours or until the meat is falling off the bone
  6. Serve - it's really nice with polenta or mashed potatoes or mashed turnips

Yes, I realise this is a little similar to how I cook my lamb... but it's just so easy and yummy!

11 November 2009

Lazy Lamb Forequater Chops

I love lamb. OK, so I'm an Aussie, and the Sam Kekovich marketing campaign may have done a bit of a number on me, but it's one of my favourite foods. Not only is it yummy, full of iron and cheap (if you get the right cut), but it is ridiculously easy to cook - and cook it well. So here is the first Lazy recipe: Lazy Lamb Forequater Chops

You will need:

olive oil
4 lamb forequater chops (available from any good butcher - they cost about $2 each!)
bottle red wine (merlot works well)
clove garlic/precrushed garlic
salt and pepper (to taste)

casserole dish (with lid - the lamb spatters)
sharp knife
chopping board
wine glass

  1. Turn on oven and set to 140-150 C
  2. Put a small glug of olive oil in the bottom of your casserole dish.
  3. Swirl the lamb around in the oil to give it a good coating.
  4. Season lamb to taste and put in casserole dish.
  5. Pour red wine over lamb until it comes about halfway up the side of the chop.
  6. Add garlic to dish (if it's crushed, fine - if not, it doesn't matter, so long as you've peeled the garlic) and put on lid.
  7. Put in oven and close oven door.
  8. Pour yourself a glass of red wine and read a book for 2 hours
  9. Open oven door and serve. (If garlic has been left whole you don't have to serve it - but it will be really sweet and tender and make a good sauce!)
Works well with roasted veggies (put veggies into oven at same time as lamb after chopping into chunks the size of your fist) or salad in summer

Note: this recipe works well for as many chops as you can fit in a single layer in the casserole dish. You can add oregano, mustard or rosemary if you like.

The Unexamined Dish...

They say that the unexamined life is not worth living. I maintain a corollary of that is an unexamined dish is not worth cooking. That is to say, if I'm going to get up off my butt and actually cook a meal, particularly if it is going to be a complex but delicious dish, I find it necessary to ask myself the following

  1. Do I have everything I need to make it? (Sounds obvious, but when you're tired, cranky and hungry, there's nothing worse than having to turn off the stove and run down to the shops to get that damn bay leaf. Laziness requires forethought.)
  2. By the time I finish making it, will I still be awake? (Again, sounds obvious - but try falling asleep with the oven on with a casserole in it - scrubbing blackened char off Corningware requires a lot of effort)
  3. Can I make enough portions (and successfully store them) to save myself some time later? (Making a large stew then discovering you have no clean/empty tupperware, again, creates a situation that requires effort)
  4. Is there an easier way of doing this? Google is generally very useful in that respect.
  5. Could this be an excuse to see someone I haven't seen for a while? (Inviting someone over for a yummy dinner can not only be a great way to catch up with them, but is a good way to find the motivation to cook something you're craving but are yet to be arsed to make)

    And finally

  6. Is there a local takeaway joint that does this better than I can?
Lazily and pragmatically yours,

The lazy cook

09 November 2009

On Washing Up

So, I thought I'd start at the end - specifically, at the end of the meal, at the task I like the least - washing up. As one of the poor unfortunate backwards souls who does not have a dishwasher, washing up is generally a manual affair. All kinds of fun skin conditions make this a particularly joyous activity for me, generally leaving me with bleeding cracks between my fingers, so I tend to avoid it as much as possible. Traditionally, washing up is a fairly prescriptive affair - first glassware, then cutlery, then crockery, and finally pots and pans, then everything gets rinsed, dried and put away - but I feel that, for the time poor and/or slack among us, there are a few nuances in the washing up process that should be examined...

  • Not everything needs to be washed immediately, Sure, anything fat based or protein based is not going to improve upon sitting, but really, washing up does not need to be a daily activity. A quick rinse under the tap before leaving things on the side of the sink generally suffices for a day or two (so long as you don't eat off them until they have been properly washed! Nobody likes e.coli...). That said, if it starts to smell, or if anything with more legs than you has started to show interest, it's definitely time to do a load of washing up. If you're going to do this though, make sure you keep anything dirty well separate from anything clean, or you'll end up spending the night with your head over the toilet. Not a fun way to spend the evening.
  • Anything with dried on food should be separated from anything without dried on/baked on/generally stuck food. The largest (water holding) item with stuck-on food should be filled with hot water and detergent, and as many smaller items with dried on food as possible should be left to soak in it before you start the dishes. Leave washing these items til last.
  • Traditionally, cups should be washed early in the load. This rule, however, does not apply to anything that is structurally integral to the pile of washing up. Leave these til later.
  • If the washing up water is not crystal clear, do NOT put any sharp knives in to soak. Keep a hand on the handle at all times, and make sure you're aware which side is the sharp side. It's harder to be lazy with fewer fingers.
  • Drying up is generally optional for anything ceramic - very little harm will come to it from letting it drain on a draining board. Some of my dishes have never actually seen the inside of the cupboard - they just rotate from one side of the sink to the other. It's probably a good idea to dry anything steel (to prevent rust - even in stainless steel), bone or glass that you have any kind of attachment to, though.
  • Make sure you wipe down the joins between your sink and the wall once you've finished. It's a favourite mould hidey hole - and it's much easier to prevent than cure.
Yes, I am a slob. But you knew that.

An Introduction to Lazy Cooking

The first, and pretty much the only thing you need to know about me is that I love food. I seriously love food. I love eating it, I love cooking it. The smells, the textures, the hissing of sealing meat, the first crack of a creme brulee... yeah - I could go on.

But the second, and slightly less important thing is that, like many of my generation who have skipped straight from school to uni to the work force with barely a second glace, is that I have very little time. Needing to be at work before 7.30 most mornings and generally not getting home before 7 at night (at which point I can barely do more than collapse on the bed with the newspaper) leaves me with very little time and energy to cook - or complete the jobs associated with cooking (like shopping, washing up, eating...). The result of all of this is that, in my year or so of living like this, is that I have developed a somewhat pragmatic approach to cooking - but in such a way that I can generally cook some pretty damn yummy meals.

So, inspired by Julie and Julia, I thought I'd jump on the egotistical bandwagon (yeah yeah, I'm a late adopter... so sue me!) and share a few of the tips, tricks and general thoughts I've picked up along the way on how to cook damn good food - and not kill yourself in the process.