Jamie’s 50 minute meals

Jamie is Mr Everywhere. Even Lucy Turnball has got the hob on and is whacking out Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals.

Is there anywhere in this great, wide, brown and partially burnt land that does not have a 30 or 15 Minute Meal Book lurking on the kitchen faux marble bench?

Everyone it seems is whazzing it up, pimping up salads and spanking some bad boy asparagus. If you don’t believe me, watch a Jamie episode! There’s pimping, whazzing and spanking all over the shop. Nigella eat your heart out!

I am happy to report that I’ve got the 15 minute meals down to under 50 minutes. A miracle!

Once you take into account shopping and washing up, Jamie’s 15 minutes could take half the week. Sometimes it can take half the week to decide what to cook.

But despite this, Jamie is doing his bit for the world, well at least the first world.

His meals have loads of vegies – sometimes up to ten – and, once you’ve learned to spank those bad boy asparagi, then the actual cooking is short, probably only 15 minutes.

He has a blokey, knockabout appeal and might just tempt some people into the kitchen. Who wouldn’t want to pimp up a salad on a Monday night?

Get those wannabe frog dogs out of my cafes

Dogs have taken over cafes. In just about every outdoor (and many of the indoor cafes) across Sydneydogs are lounging about in cafes.

Cafe owners will do anything for the dog. It’s a VIP. The dog can even get free water and its own special bowl. I don’t know about you but I never get my own special mug and I’m a paying customer.

Annoyingly also there’s no size limit on dogs allowed in cafes, in fact the smaller the cafe the larger the dog that and ipso facto the larger the dog the more likelihood it will not be on a leash.

Now I have nothing against dogs. Apart from not liking them that is. If they want, I guess they can go to the supermaret and stop for a wagochino on the way home if it makes them feel grown up, but who I really hate are dog owners. (Note normal dog owners who treat their pet as an animal are OK – it’s the ones who take them shopping who I hate.) (But cats are still better than dogs.)

Bad dog owners think that because they own a dog, go to cafes and take the dog to the cafe then they are French. No they’re not. They are just some massive bogan who takes a dopey dog to a cafe, preventing paying customers like me coming inside. There’s nothing French about driving in your trakkies to a cafe and taking the dog with you. And theres definitely nothing French about those doggy bags sticking out the pocket of every dog owner.

Besides, if they were really French they’d know you just leave the poo lying around.  I rest my case.

Sydney restauranteurs take the cake

The other day I came across a rare beast: a restaurant in a popular location with mains under $35 AND including vegetables. I’m so excited I’m going to make a booking, just to reward them for not being greedy.

I’m sick of restaurants trying to make us feel that $42 for a (small) hunk of meat on a plate and $16 for a salad is something to feel grateful for. Dining in Sydney (along with shopping for handbags and catching a train) is expensive but I think it is time we demanded a proper meal.

I’ve checked out online the prices of Manhatten restaurants (I have no idea what I did with my life Before Google) and I can confirm we are ripped off. An upmarket restaurant in the funky Meatpackers District of Manhatten, is around $32. OK, it does not include much in the way of vege and granted, does not include a service fee, but it’s in Manhatten! Cue New York New York music!

Much as we try it on, Manhatten is a thought, food and cultural leader and Sydney will always be the bridesmaid.

Being the bridesmaid can have its advantages. Too, too many to mention in this rant. But the point is, we are not a world style leader (unless you like trakkies) and we shouldn’t have stratospheric restaurant prices.

I’m voting with my mouth and my feet and boycotting so-called fine dining restaurants that charge a motza and a half because I think its time Sydney restaurants stop feeding us that line that they are worth it.

The Biggest Loser is the viewer

The other night I watched the Biggest Loser Singles by mistake.

Now, when it comes to TV, I’m not exactly in touch with what most people want to watch. I’m talking Big Brother, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire and anything with George Columbaris. But, The Biggest Loser Singles has reached a new, big, hairy, fat TV bottom for me.

The premise seems to be: take a bunch of fatties, lard-arses, telly-tubbies, call them what you will, they are people who have, well let themselves go. We’re talking 250kg for the men, and not a whole lot less for the women. And they’re single. No surprises (except this: most people wait till they’re married to let themselves go).

Anyway, that fat factoid aside, these fat, single people are put in teams (eg men, over 30’s women, under 30’s women) and have to perform extreme physical challenges, lose 20kg, vote someone off the fat camp and have an emotional meltdown all in one episode.

Presiding over this, are two carton-skinny personal trainers, who enthusiastically bully these fatties, and who I would enthusiastically like to smack.

This goes on for an hour. It’s not even good TV. Sure, fat people are funny. But not every night, and constant footage of fatties trying to run is a cheap gag.

Sure, you could argue that this is a community health message. But we all know eating too much is bad for you, but we still all do it anyway. In fact I think it is encouraging fat people to get fatter so they can get on TV.

Plus tempting the contestants with all the food that got them this porky in this first place is not good nutrition advice. Channel 10 if they want a treat, give them an apple. But fat people eating an apple? Not good TV.

From what I can see Channel 9’s Excess Baggage follows the same lines. The only questions I have in my mind is who is watching this stuff? Why? And the other one – these people vote …

Slow cooked eggs

A few weeks ago I couch potato surfed my way onto Masterchef, only to see some slow cooked eggs being praised by the judges, who quite frankly must have lost their taste buds in a blender accident.

I mean slow cooked eggs? Why would anyone eat this? I’ve heard of the Slow Food movement, but c’mon, these are eggs. They cook in three minutes and you eat them in one.  The three-minute egg was invented for a reason – it does the job.

Now, thanks to Masterchef, or should that be Whack Job Chef, slow cooked eggs could be set to become the new tonka bean, waygu beef or duck confit. If I see slow cooked eggs done nine ways, I’m gonna produce a fast baked scream.

They are up there with absculptors and terror alert fridge magnets in terms of bad ideas. After 20,000 plus years on the planet I think we’ve pretty much done what we can with the egg.

Masterchef, if you’ve run out of ideas, then here’s one – how about just blend stuff. It doesn’t matter what: George’s eyebrows, Garry’s smirk, tonka beans, Delicious magazine – chuck it all in. It’s entertainment for the whole family, makes satisfying noises, with any luck may burn down the studio and would taste better than a slow cooked egg any day.

Feast for the wallet – restauranteurs have more than their fill

I’m cranky, I’m incredulous but most of all I’m hungry. A quick flick through the Good Food Guide while looking for a Big Day Out restaurant for a birthday lunch revealed to me that it is now par for the course for Sydney restaurants to charge $40 plus for a main. In fact $40 is the baseline and entrees are now the same price as mains were around six years ago. I’m no maths genius but that means a two mains, a bread roll and glass of wine are going to cost approximately the same as buying a Subway franchise or a private island in Fiji.

How did this happen? Sure, the $40 main has been on our plate for some years. But only at top notch (overpriced) restaurants like Aria or Bilsons. Other fine dining restaurants not in the same rarefied league (but probably with bigger portions) were once around the $35 mark. OK, I can cope with that, especially for a big day out.

But nowadays any restaurant in the Good Food Guide is charging $40. And $40 just gets you a little hunk of meat and possibly a confit of fig on the side and foam drizzle – if you’re very lucky. These days you won’t even get a booze ballast potato mash to go with it. That’ll be another $17 due to the extra virgin twice pressed Himalayan rock salt they sprinkled over it with love (so they say). Yeah right. And those truffled pigs can fly. Before we know it we’ll be sniffing a degustation of air done eight ways.

I’m over it. These restaurants are a wank, the food is not exactly life-changing. $80 a main for two could stretch to several nights out in other (cheaper) restaurants where the food fills the plate, tastes yum and you don’t go home hungry. Cabramatta here I come.

Making cakes from scratch doesn’t make you nice

Thanks to Masterchef and a smorgasbord of cooking shows where the ability to produce a tonka bean done nine ways on a bed of confit foam is seen as a heroic deed, cake baking is the latest food fashion victim.

Making cakes from scratch – as opposed to the time-honoured method of packet mixes – is seen as a sign of love, kindness and general all round niceness. It seems to me that making cakes from scratch is enough to give a person a Mary Mackillop style halo, whereas if you’ve made a cake from a packet mix you are seen as the devil’s spawn or possibly related to Frank Sartor. 

But wait a minute …. it’s just a cake, people. It’s not a measure of spiritual worth, intrinsic human value or self-esteem. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, it doesn’t even mean you can’t cook. It’s simply a nice enough tasting cake with a bit of icing, whipped out at short notice to serve as dessert at a party, take to a morning tea or sell at a cake stall. It’s not a moral issue, any more than, say jogging, is an ethical dilemma. As a packet mix ingesting non-jogger, I rest my case.

But try telling that to the packet mix Nazis, who sneer and look snooty during cake making confession time.  The only answer is to pretend you made it from scratch (they never know the difference), then wait for their impressed oohs and ahs, before they ask you for the recipe.

Masterchef

The other night on Masterchef, judge George Colombaris said that the be a great chef your aim in life should be to serve. Now, I don’t know about other people, but when I think of the Great Telly Chefs of Our Time, I don’t think there is a whole lot of love of service going on.

The only thing Gordon Ramsey serves is insults, lobbed with such carefree abandon as though he was just throwing some air-aged balsamic over freshly shucked oysters. And as for Jamie Oliver, his idea of service is to take over a perfectly good bit of land that was just sitting around, not hurting anyone and get other people to plant a fully televised herb garden, while he walked around saying nubbley, rubbley, jubbley and other words he read on a packet of jelly.  As for Nigella, well, we all know what service she provides.

George, people don’t become chefs because they lerve to serve. You’re confusing cooking a steak with nursing, being a social worker or curing cancer. They become chefs because they needed a job and don’t mind eating leftover restaurant gloop late at night. So let them get on with it, and let’s leave “service” to the TV chefs.

Cupcakes

So what’s with the cupcake craze? They popped up a few years ago and show no sign of going the same way as legwarmers or West Coast Wine Coolers. Everywhere you turn, be it local bakery or  tarty, top end  patisserie, there they sit. Those little cupcakes are all lined up in a row, bling attachments shining, edible micro rainbows or perfect flowers sitting perkily on top. As for the colours – they look like Ken Done has been brought in to supervise the cupcake colour code. Anyone born the uphill side of the 80’s will be familiar with a palate of aqua, hot pink, jaundice yellow and orange colour not found in nature.

But unlike Ken Done scarves, cupcakes have taken off. They represent a kind of retro chic, a bit like a fifties handbag, only edible, and they look so cute it’s impossible to believe they would have any calories. They are oh-so-feminine and uberprincessy,  they’d practically make Bob Downey want to go chop some wood. 

But I for one don’t buy it – I don’t even like them. I ate enough of the buggers growing up in 70’s, now that I’m a sophisticated adult and have finally worked out how to pronounce friand, I’ve got no need for the cupcake. Plus cupcakes have the nutritional content of a garden gnome – at least banana bread and cranberry muffin pretend to be healthy.  

Come on people – we’ve moved on from that. Plus – what will be next? If cupcakes are the height of sophistication then maybe washing dishes by hand will be next? Or God forbid, an apron? No, no, no, no we’ve got to stop the cupcake invasion. These pretty little pieces of fluff are up to no good. Ban them baby before they outcute themselves and take over the world.

Men in the kitchen

What is it about men when they’re in the kitchen that they think they are in the final round of Masterchef, performing untold culinary feats? Even if they are making curried snag casserole, they seem to expect a reverence and praise that on par with an Iron Chef winner.

In keeping with Iron Chef, have you noticed they also tend to keep a running commentary going. Like for instance: Just putting the pastry on the mince now, tearing off a piece of grease proof paper, putting on base of baking tray. Then they get into some sort of wierd combat role play. Maybe channeling a surreal mixture of Bruce Willis and Jamie Oliver, with a dash of old-school Arnie thrown in. Oven – On; sausage rolls In. Oven – 200 degrees – I’ll be back.

Yes, that’s right, they’re out of here. Kitchen resembles First Blood – mounds of grease proof paper everywhere, the benches and floor peppered with flour, excess mince strewn across the bench and recipe book (not that he used it – this is a man after all), with a nice splat of butter and wine on it.

But hey, he’s still a hero because – HE COOKED!  And when the masterpiece emerges from the oven, deep freeze, microwave or jaffle maker, Masterchef Husband is rapt, and expects praise for his chicken stir fry commensurate with winning Masterchef at least, but more like creating world peace or discovering another planet.

And people treat the male chef as though he is some kind of reconstructed genius. So what that his pork medallions taste like an alien turd burger. So what that his chocolate mud cake is like crunching house bricks. He is a man and he cooks!

And us girls, I hate to say are the worst. I could take into my mostly female office a sample of my husband’s more indigestible offerings and they would practically drool at the site of misshapen waffles the consistency of a bathroom tile, and say isn’t he clever!

Well, maybe he is. Anyone who gets to use the kitchen without tidying up isn’t as silly as they let on.