Too Busy To Food Blog

I've finally escaped my fairytale lifestyle in Bangkok and am now firmly implanted in Canberra from now until the unknown future. Hock is yet to join me. Life, work and thus food are all rather uninspiring to me at the moment.

Life in "the real world" is seeing me working during the day, coming home, finding dishes in the sink, and peering into the fridge, wishing something yummy would jump out at me, so I can carry on working on my thesis. Nothing ever does. The laundry needs to be done. I really should vacuum, my skin needs a facial, my back hurts, I need a shower, my hair is greasy.

Yesterday I bought a pre-made indian paneer curry at the grocery store, I made dahl tonight and rice. Enough so I don't have to cook for a couple of days. I should make my lunch tomorrow so I don't have to eat the shit on offer at the University Cafe. Today I had a meat pie, until I realised it was cold in the middle and had to return it.

I can't even think of what I would like to eat these days. Usually I have cravings and think, yum I'd like to cook that. But now my brain draws a blank. I have tiny cans of baked beans and spaghetti in my cupboard. I eat a lot of toast and vegemite.

I have friends who work full time, have children and go home and write their thesis at night. This is my first week of working during the day, and trying to work on my thesis at night. I don't know how they manage, let alone cook.

When life heats up, my luscious diet is the first thing to go out the window. Good food is definitely a luxury in my life.

Come back Hock!!!!!!

Ode to a Single Anchovy

murcia fried octopi

Oh, single anchovy from Fenix on the Plaza las Flores in Murcia, Spain. We did not suspect when we ordered your kind, that a solo fish would meet its fate on a plate in front of us.
Your brothers and sisters joined us too, draped over crackers with mounds of russian salad on top, so the anchoviness suffered no respite. And despite a lack of tomato-smeared bread - to my clara-addled mind, an anchovy's most heavenly resting place - your right to be eaten was not forsook.
Now that I know I can order a single anchovy, garnished absently mindedly with a squeeze of lemon, I'll sleep easily at night. God bless all those single anchovies, whose fate was formerly uncertain.

The Contents of My Fridge
The money shot. Click on the above fridge for annotated Flickr.

There is something that I deeply enjoy about the trend of food bloggers to post the contents of their unstyled refrigerators because it is a nice glimpse of normality amongst the soft-focus shots of cupcakes, or whatever the hell passes for food over at tastespotting.

Mine looks like a sad indictment of my eating habits and is probably of more interest to future cultural anthropologists than to the present day; a random mix of Asian food and white bread middle class.

Until I had to label them, I thought that I owned a more diverse selection of condiments. Random sauces and jams that don't require refrigeration end up there like I've been possessed by a limited bout of dementia.

Revenge of Nagi Noda

MySpace Codes

It's been a couple of years since we've blogged about Nagi Noda (who passed away in September last year). So with Kat!Heath!'s cake hats as inspiration, it seems like an appropriate moment to throw up a few more Nagi Noda pictures tribute to food stylists everywhere.

I like the commercial where all the fruit is stuffed inside the model's clothes.

MySpace Codes


Kat!Heath! is a London-based DJ and Central Saint Martins-trained theatre designer. Her interests include "Earl grey, long hot baths, supermarket reduced sections, pimping shit up," and making hats (she majored in millinery at the Wimbledon School of Art).

I was reading about Kat's latest sound installation/guerilla theatre performance, and came across these great Nagi Noda-esque cake hat photos. I asked if I could blog them and she kindly obliged: what's more, she suggested that next time we catch up she might make some barbeque millinery for the occasion! Kind of like a dream I had once - but better!

About these photos, Kat says: "This was such a fun shoot. I spent hours and hours baking before hand without having slept much the night before though and forgot about the condensed milk I was boiling for the banoffi pie which exploded all over the kitchen. I had to wake everyone up and get them to help me mop the ceiling. Niamh and I are starting a clubnight in August and after I told her this story we have decided to call it 'Hot Toffee'."

The lemony cake in the foreground is intriguing - probably pieces of lime rind on top, but also looks quite a lot like strips of jalapeno chile, which could be a very good idea indeed.


Millinery, Styling, Set, Baking - Katharine Heath
Photographer - Emily Barnett
Hair and Make-up - Clare Elizabeth
Models (L-R)- Kay Sayer, Fiona Albrow, Eleanor Wdowski
Kay's World-famous Victoria Sponge (centre) - Kay Sayer

Hats made to order

If you're ready for a sugar rave rush, listen to Kat's radio show.

White House Kitchen Snaps


Every president and first lady is different. Some, like Mamie Eisenhower, are intimately involved in choosing the menu for dinners while others, like Pat Nixon, want the chef to surprise them. After the first large Nixon dinner, Chef Henry Haller went to Chief Usher JB West. "The president came into the kitchen tonight and told me it was delicious. Can you imagine? The president himself. That never happened before."


Quote of the Day

There's something very Khmer Rouge about Alice Waters

Anthony Bourdain at the Food for Thought Forum

Bitch fight!


Recipe taken from the Beastie Boys Message board


Recipe by Beth

stolen eclair picture
N.B. Probably not a true likeness of MOTHERFUCKEN ECLAIRS!

1 cup water
1 stick butter

heat those in saucepan at med high heat. remove from heat when butter is fully melted. add:1 cup flour and mix with a spoon.
then add 5 large eggs, one at a time.
bake the pastry in whatever shape and size you want (you could make it in a ring like a wreath for xmas) at 400. if you make it as a ring, bake for 40-50 min. if you make individual ones, bake for 11 min, then turn the pan and bake 11 minutes more (no, i have no idea what that possibly does to help). DO NOT continually open your oven, as your pastry will fall flat and suck much ass.

2 1/2 cups 2% milk
1 small pkg instant french vanilla pudding
1 small pkg instant vanilla pudding

beat for 2 min with an electric mixer, then add:
1 tsp. vanilla
1 8oz. tub cool whip

mix well and refrigerate until ready to put in the cooled pastry

in a saucepan on the stove, melt:
4 baker's semi-sweet chocolate squares
4 TBSP butter
once melted, add:
4 TBSP milk
1 tsp vanilla
remove from heat and add:
1 cup powdered sugar.

mix with a whisk; put on the top of the custard filled pastries then refrigerate

Slovenian hip hop, represent. Just another hit song about the preeminent savoury pastry, burek.

Nine Euros & Feeling Fine


After the bank wrote a polite letter asking me not to use my credit card until my balance was out of the red, we started scrounging around for change at the back of sofas, and examining the nutritional value of all those condiments stockpiled in the fridge. Is it possible to subsist off of plum sauce?

Probably not, but gladly our friend Carmen dropped by with coconut milk and cauliflower last night, which we combined with various fridge and pantry remnants to make a tasty cashew curry for four. Heidi Swanson's website 101 Cookbooks is very useful when you have just one or two vegetables lying around or half a block of tofu left over, & it's a good place to get inspiration for using up those way-too-healthy dried things in the pantry.

After pooling our loose change, today I took nine euros to the supermarket and was pretty amazed at how far it stretched.

Milk, broccoli and whole grain bread for 40 cents each, oats and tinned tomatoes for 30 cents each, a decent müsli with whole grains, hazelnuts and linseeds for 1.20, a bunch of radishes for ten cents, a head of lettuce for 20 cents, and white asparagus for 1.20. The most expensive thing was a kilo of organic short grain brown rice for two euros.

With the dried beans and aforementioned condiments at home, I think we almost have enough to get us through a nuclear winter – or at least until the end of the week. Tonight we're having rice with black beans and fried plantain (the plantain has been lying on our bench for a week); salsa with chile and coriander; coleslaw with basil, radish, shiso (from one of the plants we're growing) and sesame seeds. If we have to eat oats with plum sauce in a week or so, then so be it.

Seems that if you shop at the discount supermarket Lidl in Germany, even figuring in the occasional bottle of beer, mirin or tamari, you could definitely reduce the daily food budget to about two or three euros per person, and still eat like a king.
A spartan sort of king, anyway - the type who likes to go hiking.

Links Du Jour

Drunkest nations, alcopops or no-alcopops, Australia isn't as drunk as Ireland

Sirloin isn't called sirloin because it was knighted for being excellent :(

Best single malts no longer Scottish

Gluttony mapped (in America)

The rise and rise of kikoman

Cambodian cows go tex mex, hold the sour cream and cheese

My Supermarket Nemesis

dickmanns box

In terms of healthy eating I give myself a six or seven. I stop a few inches shy of bitter herbal tinctures and drinking wine on auspicious biodynamic dates. We buy very little pre-prepared food. Luckily there are no burger bars or hotdog stands around here, and despite living in cake-proud Germany, I eat cake rarely enough that when I do, I blog about it.

But sometimes, I eat trash. Not fancy truffles or gourmet artisan ice cream.... I'm talking cold, hard trash.

I'm talking about the kind of supermarket foods that exploit the weak and devilish recesses of your soul.

In NZ I had an unhealthy, secretive, co-dependent relationship with Earnest Adams ginger kisses, and Cyclops organic yoghurt with coffee jelly.

Here in Germany, I've recently developed a Dickmann's addiction (the coconut-sprinkled version is pictured above & below). When I first stepped onto German soil, my boss actually gave me a packet of Dickmann's as a welcome gift, but they didn't make too much of an impression on me. Looking back it seems auspicious (or suspicious).
A few years have passed in the mean time, and somehow, within the last few weeks - god knows how or why - I became addicted to Dickmann's. It's a mystery. I'm starting to think they put crack cocaine in those things.

The worst thing is that Dickmann's have a dubious public record - back in the day the proto-Dickmanns were called 'Neger Küsse' (Negro kisses). Dick means 'fat', and a more recent slogan on TV used to go "Man, they are fat, man" (Mann, sind die dick, mann)

I'm told that these nefarious treats are commonly eaten inside white bread rolls at swimming pools. After swimming, kids usually get either hot chips, or they take a Dickmanns and whack the two sides of a bun around it, squashing it into gooey smithereens.

A packet of six costs about one euro and ten cents. They are creepily melty and soft - like sweetened stiff egg whites. With a thin dark chocolate shell, and a thin wafer on the bottom. Rather like a next level mallowpuff or english teacake, without all the biscuit nonsense, and with a much gooier centre.

I'm afraid that I currently have a daily obsession going on. And I've found that a succession of recent kiwi visitors felt the same. Which makes me feel all the more justified in my habit. ....I think it's called 'enabling'.

But I can definitely stop. I just need one more, y'hear?

dickmann bite

Below is a photo of my other supermarket craving, this time from the Biomarkt (organic supermarket). If I'm hungry I can't seem to resist buying a kreta-strudel and scoffing it down before someone tries to steal it from me. (It's crispy pastry with a tangy mix of feta and roasted peppers inside).
At least this particular weakness doesn't have quite the same white trash overtones as Dickmann's. It's like the bogan and bourgeois parts of me are duking it out on the daily.

kreta strudel

What's your supermarket nemesis?

Mark Bittman vs Alice Waters

Shapiro suspects Waters is being accused of elitism. That's Shapiro's supposition. So, Shapiro forgives her for it, and tells us we're wrong. Waters is not an elitist; she's just silly. Shapiro says that Waters is a "utopian, a relentless radical," and expects us to agree. Let's not confuse utopianism with foolishness. Let's not confuse Nelson Mandela with Lady Bountiful. In a world beset by poverty, obesity and hunger, Waters comes off as (...) condescending and ridiculously melodramatic.

This quote comes from the comments posted underneath a Gourmet magazine article about the War on Alice Waters.
While usually I find the comments on most blogs and newspaper sites out there to be way inane - there are a few websites which are exceptions. The comments about articles on Gourmet, Gawker and the Gothamist are sometimes just as amusing as the articles themselves. Apparently, it's all about websites starting with 'G'.

Here's an excerpt from the original article by Ms Shapiro:

What irks people, I think, are the impossibly airy goals she likes to swirl about herself like so many silk scarves. But she isn’t a thinker, she’s a utopian, a relentless radical who just doesn’t care whether the current checks and balances of real life can accommodate her ideas. Where she’s been effective—amassing widespread support for small farms, reinventing school lunch, overhauling our image of luxury dining to put three carrots and a radish at center stage—it’s because she had the power to make her own fantasies come true. (...)
Clearly, Waters is a focal point, whether you think of her as the Gandhi of food or the Britney Spears. And if you’re in the latter camp, just remember that while you don’t have to share her conviction that Satan invented freezers, you do have to give her credit for helping to inspire a genuine turnaround in the way Americans think about food. “Do we really need to know the provenance of an egg?” asks restaurant critic Todd Kliman, who can’t stand what he calls Waters’s “inflexible brand of gastronomical correctness.”

I would argue that anyone who thinks of themselves as a 'locavore' probably has an element of Alice Waters-style blockheaded romanticism to their personality.

Consumers who are not exclusively locavores may be interested in the findings of papers such as this one from Mellon University, which suggests that reducing one's intake of meat a la Mark Bittman is a much more effective way to reduce your impact on the environment, when it comes to food-related production of green house gas emissions.

More and more, it seems to me that everyone simply does what they enjoy doing (or are medically compelled to do), and then looks for a way to calculate some scientific or moral justification for their diet. Whether it's eating small amounts of ethically-farmed pork to support the existence of domestically-farmed animals, or abstaining from animal products altogether due to reasons of hygiene and environmental impact - I get the feeling everybody's still eating how they eat, pretty much just because they like to or have to eat that way. I am sure that Mark Bittman's writing resonates with me in part because I am not addicted to daily portions of red meat anyway - so his general ethos fits with my natural inclinations. It's very convenient.

Still, whether it's omnivores reducing their meat intake or flexi-vegans with a more relaxed attitude running trendy Tom Colicchio-endorsed cupcake eateries in NYC, it seems a new era of moderation is upon us. Food activists like Mark Bittman who preach such moderation will no doubt be much more instrumental in achieving a paradigm shift in our eating habits than starry-eyed polemicists like Alice Waters.

Raw Oyster Malevolence

I just read this cute blog on Blue Lotus about a person who has never liked raw oysters, trying one fresh in Hokkaido and becoming a convert. I like this story. I like it when people try something new and change their opinion. It always fills me with hope.

Except I know if I was her friend and there with her, she would probably still hate oysters. This is because of the way I embarrass and harangue people into trying new food.

I'm a bit of an old nasty hag, you see. I know that.

I recently berated someone I like very much for never having eaten a raw oyster. Our common friend had a dinner party and bought fresh oysters which he shucked himself. A real treat. I happily downed my allotted two and then turned to my friend D and enquired as to why he wasn't eating them?

"I've never tried them before"

"let me guess, you grew up in some inland rural town of Australia"

"yes" he said relieved that I understood that raw oysters were not native to him

"yeah, but you're 31 now and how long did you live in Melbourne? I'd understand if you were 18 and fresh from the bush, but goddamit your 31 and you still haven't even tried one? What the hell is wrong with you"

So then, ummm, yeah. He tried one. I patted him on the back and he gave me a look like I am evil.

I know I am. I like to point out people's sore points, give them a hard time, see if they'll crack under pressure. If I had not said anything maybe he would have tried one, decided he liked it and ate another. But having eaten one under such trying conditions, I'm sure that he was left with a bad after taste, raw oyster or not.

I guess that makes me a not very nice person.

But really the story of raw oysters and me is not really a very nice one to begin with.

I was eating oysters in the womb. I kid you not. My mother reckons that when she was pregnant with me she constantly craved raw oysters, even though she herself doesn't like them. Nonetheless she gouged on them, swearing it was me demanding them. Pregnant women are not supposed to eat raw oysters, or raw anything for that matter as a bad one can give you such violent food poisoning that it can kill your baby. So perhaps I was so demanding of raw oysters in the womb that it was impossible to resist, or maybe she was trying to abort me from the start. And given that my mother and I have never really gotten on, I sometimes think it was possibly a little of both.

Sometimes I like to think being fed raw oysters in the womb has given me some sort of bad raw oyster immunity

Today, happily alive and blogging, my raw oyster fetish continues unabated. They haven't killed me yet. However on a recent trip to Sydney to see my sisters, I'm now a little more wary of the true dangers of oysters. As per family tradition, we all trundled down to the Sydney Fish Markets and I bought five dozen oysters. 3 trays of Sydney Rock oysters (small and sweet), and 2 trays of pacific (larger and salty).


They were pre-shucked. It was the last day of the Easter holidays. We ate them and a few hours later my little sister was in agony out both ends.

I stayed up the entire night with her. Bought her glasses of water and kept a watchful eye to make sure she didn't cark it. She survived the night and the next morning was driven to the airport, placed in a wheelchair and flown back to New Zealand.

She has made a full recovery, but is unlikely to eat a raw oyster for a very long time.

I'm so glad that it wasn't her first time eating an oyster. I'm glad that she wasn't my friend D and that on top of being harangued into eating an oyster he wasn't nearly killed doing so.

I swear to the Flying Spaghetti Monster that the next time I tease someone into eating something they've never tried it will be fresh, cooked and unlikely to kill them.

Quote of the Day

It may be easier for Ms. Waters and her cadre to simply label Americans stupid and ill-informed than to tackle the real reason people are not eating more organic and locally grown food — i.e., most Americans simply are not able to afford it.


Yay....more Alice Watery backlash, it isn't just me, thank god, she raises other people's ire too. Although I don't agree with the author's unfettered enthusiasm for the American food system (it is a little flawed now come on) I do like her comments on Alice and Bill Clinton

Consider, also, her campaign for a White House vegetable garden. Waters has been badgering U.S. presidents about this vegetable garden for years. In 2000, she wrote a letter to Pres. Bill Clinton about the importance of a White House garden, saying: “I can think of no more powerful way to ground your legacy than to leave behind you a kitchen garden and the compost pile to nourish it.” Really? A garden and a compost pile? Grounding President Clinton’s legacy in compost? Did she think about how this sounds, alongside Clinton’s other goals, such as Middle East peace, a secure and nuclear-free Korean peninsula, health-care reform, and Russia’s peaceful transition to democracy?

Sweet Thais


I knew Thais had a sweet tooth but seriously...

108 tonnes of smuggled sugar seized

Customs officers seized about 108 tonnes of smuggled sugar worth more than 2.5 million baht on Monday.

Customs Department deputy director-general Somchai Poonsawat said the sugar was found in eight trucks stopped on Ekachai road in Bang Bon district, Bangkok.

The smuggled sugar was impounded Legal action would be taken against the offenders.


Japan is really amazing about having almost every edible thing from around the world, of course, if you are ready to pay for it.

One of the cravings I have not been able to fulfill, even in the cosmopolitan Bangkok (or perhaps I just do not know the right place), is Baumkuchen. So, on my recent trip to Japan, I was looking forward to satisfy my Baumkuchen cravings.

While Juchheim is one of the first to introduce Baumkuchen to Japan and is all over the place in department stores, I thought I'd check out what else is available.

I was amazed by the number and variety of Baumkuchen available throughout Japan. Wow! Hundreds. Even Juchheim alone has several different types of Baumkuchen which started to make me dizzy. I almost think there are more Baumkuchen sold in Japan than in Germany.

There are even websites dedicated to Baumkuchen, such as バウムクーヘン三昧, in which they sometimes even organize Baumkuchen get-together offiline meetups!

After checking out nearly twenty Baumkuchen shops, I ordered one from K.B.Kaiser in Kobe.

Kobe, having been a port town, has many great German bakeries including Juchheim and Freundlieb. My family friend used to send us Freundlieb's Stollen as winter oseibo.

Vacuum-packed in "eco package" - they have fancier regular fare with a cookie on top, but this one's good enough for me.

Isn't it beautiful?

Quote of the Day

Hank - I think 73 hours is the traditional amount of time that a hot dog stays on those rollers at convenience stores.

Phil Lees, 4.30.09, in response to Hank's question on why Hock decided to sous-vide the hot dog for 73 hours

You see it's all about distilling the true essence of highly processed industrial meats in order to bring you a heightened culinary experience.

To begin with the chef must ask himself, "what is a hotdog?"

It's about knowing

Second, he must seek to understand the key elements of a hotdog

Third, he must respect the essential elements of the hotdog

Only then can one truly become the hotdog master
Hock and I are both currently living in different countries in studio apartments

Yes sad, I know. I'm currently in Bangkok though, but only for a two week conjugal visit.

But given that we are both facing the challenges of living alone and cooking in kitchenettes (two stove top elements, no oven, microwave) I thought I would begin a series on kitchenette cooking solutions

My most recent ingenious solution, if I do say so myself is pressure cooker dumplings

Take said frozen pre-purchased or pre-made dumpling from your freezer and place in a bamboo steamer


Place a cup of water and a rack inside your newly purchased pressure cooker

Place bamboo steamer on rack

Secure pressure cooker lid and place on stove top. Bring to pressure, reduce heat and cook for 15 minutes.


Turn off heat and let steam release slowly

Eat dumpling

This seriously speeds up the cooking of frozen dumplings. It also works well for sticky rice parcels, various bao and other steamable items

I haven't managed to figure out precise cooking times for different items, but I find between 15 to 20 minutes does the trick

Same Cow, New Beef

I'm always shocked that despite having 10,000 years practice at cutting up animals for food, we're still finding new systematic ways to do it. The NY Times runs through four of the new cuts of beef that the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (USA) has deemed fit to market as new. The "boneless country-style beef chuck ribs" are intriguing for one reason: they're not of the ribs:

The "ribs" have never seen a bone. They are cut from the chuck eye roll to resemble ribs and are intended to be braised, like a short rib. They can be finished on the grill with barbecue sauce.

The American hunger for beef ribs is now so great that cows cannot contain enough of them.

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