The best way to prepare Turkey: Drown it

Guest post by Ben De Jonge

There’s nothing quite like the sinking sense of disappointment, embarrassment and frustration you get after spending $80 and several hours on a Christmas lunch for friends, only to find the turkey as dry as the Lancelin dunes. So, that was Christmas 2012, and we swore it wouldn’t happen again.

We considered our options. Move to Bali for Christmas. Two small birds instead of one beast. Prawns. We Googled. We searched. We read.

We found brining.

Brining made sense. What better way to get moisture into a bird than drowning it in a bucketful of seasoned water over night.

And so last year, for Christmas 2013, we bought our big bird and brined it.

Brining involves soaking your meat, it works for steaks, roasts, anything really, in a couple of litres of water with around 1/3 cup of salt added and whatever variety of spices and flavour boosters take your fancy.

We used cinnamon sticks, star anise, cloves, cardamon pods, orange zest and juice, pepper, sugar and a few other bits and pieces.

We went basic and to Bunnings. We got a standard plastic garden bucket and the mighty bird like hand in glove. We cleared the bottom shelves of the fridge and in she went, over night.

The next morning, remove it well before oven time so it can come up to room temperature. Shortly before you start to prepare it for the heat, remove from the brine and pat it dry inside and out with paper towel.

The brined Turkey, prepared and ready to be roasted

The brined turkey, prepared and ready to be roasted

From there, we employed the usual tricks. The bird was raised on a bed of onion, celery, carrots and garlic. We stuffed butter under the skin and wrapped it up nice and cosy in a blanket of full bacon rashers. Finally, we covered it firmly in foil for the majority of the roasting.

The result, I’m happy to say, was a turkey that was beautifully moist all the way through and superbly seasoned with the flavours of the spiced brine.

Take it from us, brining is brilliant. If you want to bathe in the glory of the best bird ever, try it next Christmas. Or if you can’t wait that long, try it on your next big bits of meat for the oven or BBQ.

Ben De Jonge is a husband, father, home cook and keen jogger. He’s also the Director of The Cut, a website design and marketing agency based in Perth, Western Australia. 

Beach wine festival – Sunset Wine

Sunset Wine on The Esplanade at Scarborough Beach, Perth held its inaugural event on the weekend (Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd February) from 3pm until 7.30pm.

When I arrived on Sunday, the crowd was big enough to be buzzing, but still felt intimate. Some people were relaxing on the cushions enjoying a tipple or a bite to eat, others were dancing with their kids in front of the band, and many were engaged with winery owners as they enjoyed tastings. The number of families there surprised me – loads of them with small kids. It was really nice to see. I think Sundays attract the family crowd.

There were about 30 stall holders all up including wineries from lesser known wine growing areas, such as Nannup, Pemberton, and Harvey. It was great to see some more new stands (to me) such as the Bare Crush Fruit Icicles, Miss Tartufo ice creams, and The Alchemists.

Talisman - one of my favourite Riesling producers

Talisman – one of my favourite Riesling producers

I was delighted to see Talisman Wines. They produce one of my favourite Rieslings – the 2013 is just $20 per bottle, while the more complex and toasty 2009 just $24. Both bargains. Purchase made.

Moroccon food stall Shak Shuka

Moroccan food stall Shak Shuka

Julie, Mark and daughter Jess from Fifth Estate Wines

The Maloneys: Julie, Mark and daughter Jess from Fifth Estate Wines

A foodie and wino friend tipped me off and told me to visit Fifth Estate Wines. I was impressed not only with the friendliness of the family behind the winery, but the quality and price of their Tempranillo, which was just $15. It was not tart or dry like some Tempranillos. It was smooth and very quaffable. I’ll be buying some of that next winter. Located in Harvey, the Moloneys have been producing wine since 2005. Julie Moloney was only too happy to chat when I asked her about Sunset Wine and what she thought of the event.

“It was a lovely event and the crowd has been really well behaved,” Julie said. “Sales by the glass were good, particularly yesterday [Saturday] and for an inaugural event, I thought it was great.”

Simply Paella

Simply Paella

The folk from Azure Ice cream in Fremantle have their own funky food truck

The folk from Azure Ice cream in Fremantle have their own funky food truck

SunsetWine08

Nannup Ridge winery stand

Nannup Ridge winery stand

The wines offered by Nannup Ridge Estate were also delightful. Their Chardonnay won me over. Subtle oak on the nose as a result of just 25 per cent of the fruit going into oak barrels during the wine making process. It was smooth, a little buttery that gave it a whole of mouth feel as I sipped it. The finish was clean. More purchases made.

SunsetWine10

The band creating some great vibes

The band creating some great vibes

Mark your diary for next February folks. This is likely to be an annual event. With a relaxed atmosphere, family friendliness, good wines available for tasting and purchasing that you probably won’t find in the bottle shops, and enough food stalls to tempt everyone, you won’t want to miss Sunset Wine next year.

FACT FILE

Sunset Wine
1-2 February, 2014 from 3pm until 7.30pm
The Esplanade, Scarbourgh Beach, Perth Western Australia
Sunset Wine Facebook page

.

Disclosure: CMS Events, the organisers of Sunset Wine, gave me two tickets to attend Sunset Wine. Ssssh, don’t tell them, but I would’ve gone anyway. I enjoyed Unwined – a wine festival in Subiaco also by CMS Events

Enhanced by Zemanta

The worst meal of the year – MON Serving your soul

Walking past MON on Newcastle Street in Leederville, opposite The Garden, I liked the funky tables and covered stools on the pavement. This little Japanese eatery looked cute. That’s where it ends.

The poor waitress behind the counter obviously didn’t have any training as she could not answer my fairly simple questions about the dishes, nor print a tax receipt from the cash register.

We ordered the tasting board and chose four dishes; chicken yakatori, pork belly skewers, lotus chips, and gyoza dumplings. Add two bottles of still water and the bill was a reasonable $41. The food however was not reasonable. It was the opposite of reasonable.

The chicken yakatori tasted like a jar or bottle of sauce had been tipped over the top of the chicken. The Lotus chips had no seasoning whatsoever and were crunchy, very bland and had not taste except that of residual oil. It was like eating cardboard. The pork skewers were pungent, dry, and unpleasant – I couldn’t finish one skewer. My guess is that they used cheap male pork which is far inferior to female pork, something my butcher in Mount Hawthorn taught me. Or that the meat was off. The gyoza’s were probably the best of a bad bunch and they were only average. Zorba hated them.

For the rest of the night, Zorba and I both felt sick. I had to get up at 2am, 3.30am, and 5am to use the bathroom quite urgently. I will never eat here again, cute fit out or not.

Verdict: The only thing MON is serving, is another four-lettered-word beginning with “S”. My soul does not want a bar of it. Ever again. Score: 1 out of 10. Mon_leedy1.IMG_6993

FACT FILE

MON serving your soul on Urbanspoon

Vietnam overview: discover, shop, cook and eat

Travellers are attracted to Vietnam for its natural beauty, its long history, fascinating culture and in my case, its fabulous fresh food. Not only is Vietnam an ideal location for those on a budget, it’s one of the few places for those looking to discover hidden gems off the beaten path. The friendly and hospitable nature of the locals makes this country feel like a second home – even if the old woman at the markets is smiling cheekily while offering you a taste of their special insects.  Here are some things to do on your holiday in Vietnam.

Learn to cook authentic vietnamese food

I did a nine-day Food Writers Tour in Vietnam with the Australian Writers’ Centre last April. Our teacher and guide, Carli Ratcliff, took us to the Hai Bā Trung District of Hanoi, home of Vietnam’s top female chef, Mai Tran Thi Tuyet.  Known to her students as Chef Mai, the gentle grandmother of three opened her home to share her passion for teaching straightforward Vietnamese dishes that anyone can cook at home.

Making Vietnamese spring roll

Making Vietnamese spring roll

The cooking class began at Chef Mai’s local market where we shopped for ingredients for lunch. Chef Mai led the way through narrow lanes flanked with stalls set up on tables, upturned crates or on plastic mats on the ground selling mounds of green herbs like Vietnamese mint, perilla, betel leaf, coriander, basil and saw tooth herb, stacks of tropical fruit including dragon fruit, kiwi fruit, watermelons, mangosteen and limes, every vegetable from bitter melon to cucumbers to tomatoes to yams, slabs of meat from every part of the animal, baskets filled with clams, shrimp, eels, and snails, trays of fresh fish from almost microscopic to trophy-winning in size, sacks of iridescent powders and gnarly shaped spices, and freshly-made rice and egg noodles rolled into neat bundles ready to take home. This is experience was an absolute highlight of my trip.

Markets in Hanoi

Markets in Hanoi

Eating in Vietnam

Pho is considered Vietnam’s national dish. It’s a soup with a clear broth usually made with of chicken or beef stock that has been infused with star anise, charred ginger, smoky shallots, roasted cinnamon, cumin and depending on regions, sometimes cardamon. Add to that fish sauce and a little sugar to balance the broth. Pho contains flat rice noodles, some chicken or beef, with a plate of spring onion, coriander, mint, bean sprouts and a wedge of lime served on the table for the diner to add as they like. It’s cleansing, moorish, light, and the perfect meal to have for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I’d need a whole blog-series to talk about the food in Vietnam, but for now I’ll leave it at my favourite dish, Pho.Hanoi_pho1.IMG_2102

The best Pho I’ve found in Perth is at Tra Vinh in Northbridge. The service is haphazard, the setting plain, and the atmosphere is busy. But the food is cheap and the pho ($11.50) is just like the ones I had in Vietnam.
Tra Vinh on Urbanspoon

In Vietnam, I found that the best food we ate was street food. When we went to “upmarket” restaurants, I found the food was good, but not as exceptional as the food I bought in markets or on the street, and about five times the price. Take probiotics though, just to keep your gut healthy.

Get clothes tailored in Hoi An

A trip to Hoi An isn’t complete without choosing some fabric and having a gorgeous tailored outfit made in one of the 400 boutiques available. The key to doing this successfully is by shopping around outside the main market street for the best price and fabric. I would also recommend bringing your favourite pieces for the tailors to copy – dresses, trousers, blouses and jackets. On of my travel companions had a a Gucci jacket that three others also asked the dress maker to copy. It’s fine to haggle, but try not to do it too much unless the prices really are absurd, remember, back home this kind of service costs an arm and a leg. One of the best known tailors is Yaly, 358 Nguyen Duy Hieu St – Hoi An. They also have shops in the city centre. You can  have shoes made in Hoi An also.

Visit the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is the final resting place of Vietnam’s most popular leader (obviously named) Ho Chi Minh or Uncle Ho as the locals like to call him. Despite his wishes for a humble cremation, the mausoleum was constructed between 1973 and 1975 from materials reaching all across Vietnam. As you move through the quick lines and sea of guards, you’ll eventually make your way into the bowels of the building where the preserved body of Ho Chi Minh’s body lies in a glass cabinet. The mausoleum is closed for two months of the year while maintenance is performed on the embalmed body.

Explore the wonder of Halong Bay by Kayak

I wish I’d experienced the breathtaking sights of Halong Bay. Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998, Halong Bay has a rich history with pirates, bandits and revolutionaries claiming this territory as their favourite hiding place. Discover unspoiled beaches, towering limestone barriers, vast hidden caves, tranquil lagoons and floating fishing villages. Missing Halong Bay is just one of the many reasons why I have to go back to Vietnam. Have you been? What are your tips for Halong Bay?

Like hiking in Sapa in the north of Vietnam, kayaking can also be risky without a guide to show you the way, so make sure you team with a reputable company to help create this unforgettable voyage. If you want to stay safe in a new foreign country  http://www.travelmoneyoz.com/ offers good travel insurance deals.

Mobile florist

Have you travelled to Vietnam? What would you recommend? Let me know in the comments below.

FACT FILE

Tour
Food Writers Tour in Vietnam
The Australian Writers’ Centre Food Writing Tour in Vietnam  16-24 May 2014 .

Tailor – Hoi An
Yaly
358 Nguyen Duy Hieu St – Hoi An
Tel:+84 510 391 4995

 Perth – Vietnamese Restaurant
Tra Vinh on Urbanspoon

Disclosure: This is sponsored post containing original and provided content

Waiters and why I love critic John Lethlean

20140125-092947.jpg

I love reading John Lethlean’s reviews in The Weekend Australian Magazine every Saturday. This week, he reviewed a new trendy “oh-so-predictable” restaurant in Brisbane called Hatch & Co.

I burst out loud laughing when he talked about Australian restaurant service going down the toilet. Rather than a waiter, he was served by “an interrupter”.

It’s an absolute pet hate of mine too – so many young bouncy service staff seem to think it’s all about them. I feel like screaming some times: DON’T INTERRUPT OUR CONVERSATION MID-SENTENCE! It’s not about them, it’s about us, the diners. The ones paying the bill and ultimately, their wage.

A good waiter should glide in and out topping up water and wine without an announcement, wait for a pause in conversation to take orders, not barge in ruining someone’s punch line.

Some of my favourite restaurants in Perth that have excellent service staff are Rockpool, Galileo, Lamont’s Bishop’s House, Cantina, and Il Pasto. Places that do not include Lalla Rookh (nice food, annoying service that interrupts conversation), The Prophet (a cheap eat, great food, too many waitresses asking us if we want anything else every 10 mins), and Jamies’s Italian (arrogance would be the word I’d use).

I tip my hat to John Lethlean for bringing this most annoying conduct of waiters to the fore.

The thing is, it’s not that hard to get it right. I waitressed for four years all through Uni, it can be hard work I know. All it takes to be a good waiter is good manners, a smile, and good timing.

20140125-093145.jpg

Win a double pass to Sunset Wine

We all love a wine festival. The latest wine festival event, Sunset Wine, will take place at Perth’s beautiful Scarborough Beach from 3pm to 7pm on the 1st and 2nd February, 2014.

One lucky Travelletto reader will win a double pass to the inaugural Sunset Wine. There are three ways to enter:

1. Comment on this post with the name of your guest to Sunset Wine if you win
2. Like Travelletto’s Facebook page
3. Share Travelletto’s Facebook page on your timeline with the name of who’d you take as your guest.

Winners will be drawn at random on noon Friday 24 January 2014.  Keep an eye on Travelletto’s Facebook page to see if you’ve won. The winner will need to send me their details in order to receive tickets.

Summerset_A3sunset poster_14v2

Good luck!

This promotion is not affiliated with Facebook, WordPress or any other social media channel.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Great places for road trips

Life on the road can be one big crazy adventure, and something that millions travellers hope to do at least once in their life. Whether it be for the luscious scenery, the people you meet or the freedom away from the grind, one things for certain, the road is unpredictable and I mean that in the best way possible.

Considering the world is lined with over 18 million kilometres of paved roads, how many of them are actually worth the drive? Call me biased, but our road trips and that of our neighbours New Zealand have to be some of the best on the planet. And of course, we have to mention USA when talking about road trips.

Kennedy Ranges, Gascoyne, Western Australia

Kennedy Ranges, Gascoyne, Western Australia

Australia

Road trips are synonymous with the Australian holidays. It’s one of this countries biggest pastimes and nothing beats loading up the car rolling the windows down and taking in fresh air amid the wide open space. The Land Down Under is known for its rugged terrains and beautiful coastlines. But there are also mount ranges, lush rain forests, tall timber national parks, unforgettable sandy beaches, reefs teeming with colourful marine life, wide open spaces and the biggest sky you’re likely to see anywhere and unique wildlife you won’t see anywhere else in the world. While it’s amazing to journey along Victoria’s Great Ocean Road, there’s nothing quite like a 4WD escapade off the beaten track. Just be sure you are prepared with plenty of water, extra fuel, spare tyres, medical kit, food, and blankets. It’s also a good idea to let local authorities know where you are heading and when are you due back. A breakdown in the outback could cost you more than car repairs.

New Zealand

Stunning NZ scenery. Photo from www.thespark.org.nz

Stunning NZ scenery. Photo from http://www.thespark.org.nz

The Land of the Long White Cloud is every a dream for every Lord of the Rings fan. Escape the big polluted cities and relish the opportunity to fill your lungs with the crisp, clean, fresh New Zealand air. This is a destination where everyday stresses are quickly forgotten as the stunning scenery captures your full attention; nothing can quite prepare you for the sheer beauty of a land time has forgot. A drive through the mountainous planes towards the centre of Middle Earth, Milford Sounds, will have your mind’s camera in complete overdrive as you pass mighty cliffs, pristine snow-capped summits, cascading waterfalls and lush greenery.

America

The ol’ USA has a rich history waiting to be unearthed if you take the time to seek it out. Roar through the winding coastlines with the top down on your convertible or jump into a van and head deep down into the south for an unforgettable journey. Sure, Route 66 is one of more romanticised, but there’s a myriad of paths that offer a remarkable view of America. Take on the legendary Highway 61 (otherwise known as the Blues Highway); a route that runs out of Memphis and along the Mississippi River. What’s so special about this drive? This area is deeply rooted with a genre of music known as the Delta Blues. Follow this road if you want to immerse yourself in music culture and history at every turn – from soul and gospel to R&B.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the awe-inspiring countries worthy of a road-trip. From the mirrored Salt Lakes in Bolivia, the sand dunes of the Gobi Desert, and The Golden Road to Samarkand, Uzbekistan – the world is your oyster. Don’t forget, you are going to need a sweet ride to complete your trip so check out Jaguar.com.au for a sneaky peek on the latest dream cars.

Photo from the rough guides.com

Photo from the rough guides.com

 

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post
Enhanced by Zemanta

Family friendly: Peasants Table, Mount Hawthorn

Looking for a restaurant where you can catch up with friends and keep the kids happy? The Peasant’s Table in Mount Hawthorn is the place for you.

Situated in the pedestrianised outdoor area of The Mezz Shopping Centre, surrounded by wooden garden beds, the Peasant’s Table has a large outdoor television screen showing kids programs, and is just a few steps away from a new children’s playground, complete with rubberised flooring. This means that kids can sit in front of the screen, or run around and climb equipment with little risk of breaking any bones, while adults enjoy a glass or two of BYO or drinks from the bar.

When it comes to food, the kids package is fantastic value. For $15, kids can make their pizza and also receive a juice, an activity pack with colouring in pencils and colouring book, and ice cream for dessert.

Kids making their own pizza

Kids making their own pizza

The kids pizza was delivered with the base prepared and the toppings in small containers ready for kids to add as they like.  My niece and nephew both opted for Hawaiian pizzas and had a great time sprinkling their bases with chopped pineapple, chopped ham and grated cheese.

Niece Indi making her own pizza

Niece Indi making her own pizza

As for the adult food, all I can do is apologise for the lack of photos. Hunger and the loving distraction of great family company meant I simply forgot to photograph my linguine with slow cooked lamb in a creamy sauce, a special for the night ($32). It was rich, comforting, and the lamb shredded and tender. If I’m to be completely critical, I would say the pasta was a tad overcooked and not perfectly al dente, but it was well seasoned and the taste was great.

The menu is organised into quarter planks, half planks and full planks. I can see how this could be confusing for some as planks conjure up images of sharing, but the dishes don’t all sound like the sort of dishes one would share.  The prices are moderate and the specials board changes regularly and is worth a look before ordering.

It was a busy night and the service was friendly, if a bit slow initially. The chipper waitress later explained that they were a staff member short which is why we had to wait for what felt like a year to get wine glasses, water, and order food. Luckily the nearby playground meant the kids were happy, which meant the parents, grandparents, aunt and uncle were happy too.

Verdict:
A terrific choice for parents wanting to catch up with other parents.
Score: 7 out of 10

FACT FILE

The Peasant’s Table
148 Scarborough Beach Road, Mount Hawthorn
Tel: 08 9242 4297
Open every day for lunch and dinner, and breakfast Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
BYO and licensed.

The Peasant's Table on Urbanspoon

Going on a road trip? Five must-have items

There is nothing quite like a road trip in Australia. The feeling of freedom when you hit the wide-open highway and driving for miles, without seeing anyone else for hours at times, is very liberating. It’s what many travellers dream about – especially those who live in high-density areas. Not only is it a great way to see the country, but you control where you stop and when you stop. Whether you are planning to cross the continent or just travel to the next city, here are our top five tips of what to bring to make your road trip a success.

If you are going an extended trip, you may want to consider packing your house up and placing your contents in a professional storage facility. If you are a homeowner, you can earn money by renting your house out, or if you are a tenant, then you’ll save money by not having to pay rent while you are away. The terms of storage facilities are flexible and the security of knowing your precious possessions are packed away securely will give you peace of mind when you are on the road. You can check out what’s on offer at http://www.fortknoxstorage.com.au/

1. The Map

A road atlas or map is essential

A road atlas or map is essential

Half the fun of a road trip is pouring over a map and planning your route. While most travellers have a GPS these days, a map is invaluable for giving you the bigger picture, for showing alternative routes, and also when there is no signal or if the battery fails on the GPS!

2. Spares

Be prepared in case of a breakdown. Every car should carry at least one spare tyre – imagine being stuck on the side of the road without a spare tyre? It’s a good idea to carry extra fuel and oil, a fan belt, air filter and a basic tool kit that includes a jack. It is also a good idea to carry an extra set of keys in case of loss.

3. First Aid Kit

You can buy a first aid kit or put one together for yourself. You should include the basics like band aids, antiseptic, a bandage, pain killers, diarrhea and some anti-nausea tablets. Consider taking a first aid course so you know how to handle a medical emergency when on the road. I also take ear plugs with me everywhere.

4. Electronics

Don’t forget your camera, laptop or tablet, and mobile phone. You will find many spectacular sights along the way so carry your camera in the car.. I always have at least one spare camera battery, a spare memory card and a phone charger in the car. Even if you want to get away from it all and be disconnected from the modern world, I would still recommend you take a mobile phone, just in case. You don’t have to check it every five minutes, but it could really help if you ever got stuck or if you needed to get in touch with loved ones back home. .

5. Food and Water

It can be a long way between stops in Australia, particularly in the outback, so you need to carry plenty of water with you. Breaking down without water and food can be fatal. Carrying your food in an esky will help keep it cool and fresh. Ice is available at most truck stops and petrol stations, or better still, invest in a powered car fridge. This is a much cheaper option than eating out all the time and cooking your own can be a better option than eating fried food offered at a roadhouse.

Happy road tripping and drive safe. Are you taking a road trip over these holidays? 

Gorgeous autumn colours, the approach to Silkwood Wines

Gorgeous autumn colours, the approach to Silkwood Wines, Pemberton, Western Australia

Disclosure: this sponsored post brought to you by Fort Knox Storage