Getting back into cooking since 2009.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mondo Wholesale Butcher (Osborne Park)

I like meat. I like small family-run businesses, sharp knives and watching professionals who know what they're doing. I have a bit of a thing for quality butcher shops.

Our little neighbourhood in the inner suburbs of Perth is blessed with several great butchers. Torre on Lake St is maybe my favourite, with steaks cut to order and any cut minced on request. Princi on Fitzgerald St is old-school Italian, with beautiful lamb, capretto, offal meats and an abundance of pork. Princi is also next door to my favourite Italian deli, Di Chiera Bros.

Meat the Butcher (top name) at Dog Swamp shopping centre and Meat @ The Mezz in Mt Hawthorn also know their stuff. They both make top-quality sausages (I think Meat the Butcher has won some awards for theirs), give good cooking advice, and have a decent range of raw, prepared and semi-prepared meats.

Perhaps the most well-known of all Perth butcher shops is Mondo di Carne on Beaufort St in Inglewood, owned and operated by the gregarious and generous Vince Garreffa. His shop isn't just full of good meat but has well stocked shelves of various 'gourmet' ingredients that you might struggle to find elsewhere. They also have on hand a lot of cuts that you might need to order ahead of time elsewhere, like beef cheeks, veal tail, wagyu steaks and the like. According to Vince, the only pork product they don't get in is the uterus (but apparently some butchers in Northbridge sell that).

Everyone in Perth who cares about food knows about Mondo di Carne. What you might not know is that there is a Mondos wholesale outlet in Osborne Park that also sells direct to the public.

View Larger Map

The outlet sells a pretty wide range of cuts, from game birds (frozen, unfortunately, but we can't get fresh anywhere anyway) to premium wagyu to shoulders of pork. The only potential catch is that everything is sold in packages of about 2kg and up, but that isn't much of a problem if you like to cook. It's also not the sort of place to go if you would like to get things cut to order, or if you need to ask the butcher for some cooking tips. It is the sort of place to go if you want to buy big chunks of the best value meat in Perth.

I recently got six deboned quail, two big bags of chicken carcasses, a free range pork shoulder butt and a pack of six osso bucci for around $75 or so, which is pretty stunning value (especially given the fact that the quail took up about half that amount). A copy of their pricelist is here.

Osborne Park isn't that far to travel for cheap, good quality meat. I've posted the map above. It's in a little industrial unit (number 5) down the back on the left, behind Craft Decor.

Mondo Bulk Meats
5/41 King Edward Rd
Osborne Park WA 6017, Australia
(08) 9446 4778

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


As part of the long weekend/small plates deal, I took on dessert. Churros with Spanish style hot chocolate, to be precise. If it weren't for the bad idea of making it all a-la-minute (I had unfounded fears of making both parts ahead of time, and them not reheating properly) then I would count it all as success! Unfortunately it stressed me out a little, I got oil splatter burns up my arm, broke my cookie gun, and we didn't eat them til 11pm.

1. For the Churros: I followed this recipe, but it proved too tough to push through the cookie gun, who's fault that is I don't know, but if I was to use that thing again I'd make the dough a lot softer and hope that it still all holds together once it hits the oil. After breaking the gun I ended up just rolling some out into rough looking tubes by hand and crankily throwing them in the pan. They still worked! I should've done that from the start. Something to watch out for - exploding churros! This is how I got splattered with hot oil :(

2. For the Chocolate: I had a few recipes I tried for this, none of which were particularly great so it ended up being a bit of a mongrel in the end. A delicious mongrel, though. Something along the lines of:
  • Bring milk to a boil & stir in chocolate, add a cinnamon stick & split vanilla pod (this isn't necessary really but it always feels nice to use a real life vanilla.)
  • Stir in a mix of corn flour + water (so there isn't lumps of flour) over a low heat until it thickens to be something you can dip your fried things into.
  • Ladle into cups, wonder what you are going to do with such a massive pot of leftover hot chocolate, make a mental note to not make so freakin much of it next time.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Long weekend, small plates

This weekend was another one of those meaningless public holidays, which really meant an excuse to spend hours in the kitchen. 

We cooked a tapas-ish feast for a few friends. It's tapas-'ish' because the dishes aren't all Spanish. I can't be bothered with scrupulous authenticity.

To start we had some spiced almonds, which were blanched almonds pan-fried with cayenne pepper, salt, oregano and paprika. Delicious. I can definitely see myself snacking on these all summer. Soda also made a Cava cocktail with Licor 43, vanila extract and orange peel which was pretty great.

Our first wave of dishes included some ugly-but-satisfying jamon croquettes (pictured above), from this easy recipe. We also had a salad of white anchovies, parsley and shallots. I love white anchovies. I like to think of them as gateway anchovies, because they're not hairy and not too salty, so they'll hook anyone who's not already an anchovy fiend. It turns out that all our friends already love anchovies (we know good people), so this was just preaching to the converted.  

We served things in threes, with the third part of the first wave of dishes being chickpea pancakes with onion confit and creme fraiche. I'm not sure what I was thinking with that one.

The second wave included some slightly disappointing shoestring fries with smoked paprika salt that were a bit soggy, but also the spectacularly successful salad of home-cured salmon with blood orange and fennel, pictured above, and these quail egg, chorizo and romesco bites (pictured below).

I got the idea for these little bites from an old Manthatcooks post in which Mr Spice Magazine made an apĂ©ritif thing of chorizo, aioli and sliced soft-boiled quail egg. Soft boiling and peeling quail eggs seemed a bit fiddly to me, so I fried them and cut around the yolks (messily, as you can see), and sat them on top of romesco rather than aioli. I'm not sure what everyone else thought (I think they were confused, mostly) but I was quite happy with these. I made the romesco extra acidic to try and balance the yolks, which worked well I thought. Someone did mention that it tasted like bacon and eggs, which was true and a pretty big compliment in my book. 

The third wave of dishes included albondigas (aka meatballs) with a sauce of blended piquillo peppers. The sauce was incredible and vibrant, one of the highlights of the night. It was just a tin of Spanish piquillo peppers, blended, with salt. Nothing else.

We also had some slow-braised octopus that I dressed in a lemon vinaigrette. This was another highlight. I'll post the recipe for this later. Unfortunately both the albondigas and the octopus were not particularly photogenic, so I don't have photos of those dishes. 

The third wave also included some beautiful thin new-season asparagus with an anchovy dressing. I just quickly grilled the asparagus and tossed them in the dressing. Lucky everyone was an anchovy fan.
The final set of savoury dishes included oxtail rillettes with a Pedro Ximenez reduction, which was one of my favourite dishes of the night. I braised the oxtail for 3 or 4 hours in tomatoes and white wine with smoked paprika, then shredded the meat off the bone, blended with a few cornichons and capers, spooned it into a ramekin and baked in a bain marie. Once it was warm and semi-set I turned it out onto a plate alongside some sherry that had been reduced to a sticky syrup with a star anise and some blood orange peel. We served this with some thin slices of baguette, so that you slathered a bit of meat and a bit of sauce on a crostini. Holy hell this was flavourful. This is another that I'll write up later with a proper recipe.

The final course also included some squid with a chorizo and sherry vinegar dressing. Tasted great, though I overcooked the squid slightly. 

Finally we had little capsicums stuffed with manchego cheese. The butcher at Torre on Lake St saw me eyeing off a can of piquillo peppers (which I ended up using with the meatballs), and offered to get me some little peppers that would be better for stuffing. He came through with the goods, these were delicious.

We finished with churros and pots of chocolate. Delicious.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Am I a foodiot?

This week, another ridiculous buzzword seems to have entered the food world: "foodiot".

The NY Observer posted this article a few days ago lamenting the rise of the foodiot, which it seems to define as anyone other than a professional chef or critic who talks about food or cares about what they eat. Grub Street ran with it, hilariously tagging their article a 'thought piece'. Grub Street seems to define a foodiot as someone who doesn't have sufficient food knowledge to render their food ramblings interesting, or alternatively someone who treats mundane food with undue reverence. 

I have a few problems with the word.

It strikes me as professional critics' defence of their turf against the unwashed masses.  I understand that good critics have a deeper and broader food knowledge than most of us, and can convey the details of a meal with more precise and expressive prose than us mere mortals could ever muster. That's why I read reviews. It just seems profoundly, distastefully elitist to dismiss non-professionals as 'foodiots'.

Another part of the point of the Observer and Grub Street pieces (if there was a coherent point) is that people are devoting too much time to talking about food. I don't understand why a widespread interest in food is a bad thing. In fact, I think it's a very good thing. I understand that people can become food bores (and I hope I'm not one), but people can become tediously obsessed with any kind of hobby or interest.

Finally: it seems like an attack on everyday food. Part of the point of the Observer and Grub Street pieces seems to be that non-fine dining food is not a legitimate subject for discussion. A burger is not worth talking about, apparently, even if it's a great burger (unless it features foie gras and truffles, presumably). Bollocks.

I sincerely hope that the term doesn't catch on.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

How to make shoestring fries, Spotted Pig style.

I'm pretty happy to have recreated the shoestring fries that they serve at the Spotted Pig in New York with their famous burger. At the Spotted Pig they chuck some rosemary into the fryer for the last 30 seconds and season the chips with salt mixed with lemon zest. I seasoned mine with smoked paprika salt, to go with some saffron aioli I had left over.

This is too simple to really count as a recipe, and chips are so basic that I'm sure everyone has their own way of preparing them, but these chips are delicious and worth recreating.

Shoestring Fries

Potatoes (about 1kg for four people)
A few litres of vegetable oil
Smoked paprika (aka Pimenton de la Vera, Dulce)


1) Peel your potatoes, then slice off the tops and bottoms. Lay the potatoes on one of the flat sides you just made, and cut into very thin slices. Cut the slices into matchsticks.

2) Toss the matchsticks around in some paper towel, to dry them out a bit and blot off the excess starch.

3) Heat your oil in a deep fryer to 180c. If you don't have a deep fryer, heat the oil in a deep pot and chuck in a cube of potato. It's at 180c when the potato starts to sizzle.

4) Slowly drop your potato matchsticks into the oil. If you've got a heap then you might need to do this in batches. This is really a lot easier if you have a deep fryer. You can get a decent enough Breville for about $130. Do it.

5) Give it around five minutes, but keep an eye on the potatoes. Some of them will cook faster than others (unless you have laser-precise knife skills), but that's kind of nice. So long as you don't end up with any that have turned the corner into burnt then you're OK.

6) While you're waiting for the chips, mix about one teaspoon of smoked paprika with about four teaspoons of good salt.

7) Drain the fries on some paper towel, then place them in a metal bowl and season them with your paprika salt using that chefly wrist flick method you've seen on TV.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

How to make carnitas

Every culture seems to have its own variation on slow-cooked pork. Porchetta, red roast pork, pulled pork and the now-ubiquitous braised belly are all worthy entrants in the porcine hall of fame. I've become a big fan of one of Mexico's contributions to the genre: carnitas.

Carnitas is a delicious dish of pork shoulder, braised, then shredded, then roasted and served in a taco. If the thought of tender, crispy pork in a fresh tortilla does not appeal to you then you are not a person I want to know.

Mexican cuisine has nearly-infinite regional variations, as with any great cuisine, and they each seem to have their own variation on carnitas. Homesick Texan tells of Michoacan carnitas which are cooked in vats of their own fat (ie. lard). Apparently it's common in some areas to braise the carnitas in beer, which I'll definitely try at some point. Pork, beer, yes please.

The recipe I use is by David Lebovitz, with a couple of minor changes incorporated from other recipes I've read. This dish is very, very easy to prepare but obscenely tasty. It's also fairly cheap to cook for a crowd; the free range pork shoulder pictured below is $13/kilo at Mondo's wholesale outlet in Osborne Park (more about that place later).

2 kilo piece of boneless pork shoulder (also called the "butt"), cut into rough, large pieces like in the picture above
About a tablespoon of salt, but no more
2 tablespoons or so of vegetable oil or another oil with a high smoke point
1 cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons chilli powder (use 1 tsp ancho chilli, if you have it, along with 1 tsp regular)
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon cumin
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 or 2 oranges, juiced

1. Preheat your oven to 180c.

2. Rub the pieces of pork shoulder with salt. You want to try and salt every surface of the meat, but don't be tempted to over-salt at this stage. The liquid is going to reduce while you braise the meat, and it will get very salty if you're not careful.

2. Heat the oil in an enamelled cast iron pot or similar over a medium-high heat. A decent roasting pan would do, you just want something that can go on the hob and in the oven and is reasonably deep. Brown the meat on all sides. Make sure you're not crowding the pan; if you are, your meat will sweat and boil rather than browning. Brown the meat in batches if it won't comfortably fit in one layer.

3. If you like, remove the pork from the pot and blot away the excess fat. Alternatively, don't bother.

4. Put the pork back in the pot and add enough water to cover about 2/3 of the pork. Add the spices, garlic and bay leaf. Add the orange juice. I add the orange juice because it will help the pork to caramelise later on.

5. Place the pot in the oven, uncovered.

6. Leave for 3-4 hours, until the pork is falling apart to the touch and there isn't much liquid left. Turn the meat over every now and then, as the top of the pork will get quite brown as it peeks above the waterline.

7. Remove the pork and shred it with forks. Some people chop their carnitas into chunks, but I like the stringiness of shredded braised meat.

8. Put your shredded pork back into the pot with the little bit of liquid left in it. The liquid will be dark, intense, spicy, fatty, salty and a little sweet from the orange juice. Roast until the pork is nicely crispy on the outside. This will take anywhere from 10 to 40 minutes, mostly depending on how much liquid you have left in the pan and how crispy you want your carnitas.

That's it!

I like to serve carnitas with a side dish made of finely shredded red cabbage, red onion, julienned carrot and coriander that has macerated in a bit of red wine vinegar. I mix a couple of tablespoons of red wine vinegar with a pinch of brown sugar and a pinch of salt, toss well with the cabbage mix and leave until the cabbage has been lightly pickled. It might seem slightly strong, but remember you're not eating it as a salad, it's going on a taco with your porky, fatty, salty carnitas. A tomatillo salsa is also a delicious accompaniment (it's just a shame that we don't have fresh tomatillos here as far as I know, and tinned tomatillos are ridiculously expensive).

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Ezra Pound (Small bar - Northbridge/Perth)

Ezra Pound is my new favourite small bar in Perth. It's small, simple and not too slick. It specialises in classic cocktails (like the Tom Collins in a jar shown above in a shitty iPhone photo), but you can also get a longneck of Coopers in a paper bag or with glasses for $10. My kind of place.

I like a good cocktail, but I'm not really into the posturing that sometimes goes with it. Elsewhere it seems to take about 20 minutes to make a drink, with each Negroni accompanied by redundant Tom Cruise-style gyrations. Here the approach is more laid back, but the drinks are still of a high quality.

The bar looks great, with a vintage cash register in pride of place behind the bar, next to a (functional) record player playing an assortment of Motown hits. I like the amount of effort that has gone into Ezra Pound: it doesn't feel slapdash or thoughtless, but it's not overwrought and slick either.

The only potential drawback is that the bar is in an alley way off William St between James St and Roe St, meaning it's pretty much at ground zero as far as horrible weekend Northbridge stuff goes. 399 is far enough away from James St and Aberdeen St that it feels separate from Northbridge proper, but Ezra Pound is right in the middle of it.

Talmage, the co-owner and bartender (previously of the West End Deli) tells me that they plan to close the gates to William St on weekends to try and minimise the number of people who mistakenly stumble in on their way to the Paramount. I hope it works, this place is great.

UPDATE 16/11/09: Ezra Pound finally has its laneway license, just in time for summer! Awesome.

Ezra Pound
189 William St

Northbridge WA

Tannic Teeth has some great photos of Ezra Pound.