Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Caramelised Mangoes to Bid the Mango Season Farewell

We were shopping at a small grocery store the other day when I noticed that they had a bargain bin; my Scottish heritage took over and we bought pretty much one of everything.

Most of the things were fine, but there were some mangoes in the mix that were just... well, they were clearly put in the bargain bin for a reason. I ate one by itself and it very nearly destroyed my great love of mango.

Making caramelised mangoes is a great way is using up mangoes that are just a bit past it (which most of them will be now that they're going out of season!), and are also a wonderful way of sneaking toffee onto your breakfast plate. The mango skins make the perfect bowl to scoop the deliciousness from.

If mangoes are well and truly gone from your local grocery, experiment with other fruit (bananas, oranges or even grapefruit, for example).

They mightn't look fancy, but gosh they taste good!

What You'll Need
Mangoes (as many as you have!)
Brown sugar (around 1/4 should suffice for 2-3 mangoes; I prefer dark brown sugar)
Salt (just the tiniest little bit!)

Grill pan

Now That You're Ready
1. Put a little oil in the grill pan and heat it up. Cut off the mango cheeks; you can cook the seed section as well if you want, but it doesn't cook as well.
2. Put the brown sugar and salt (half a twist/a pinch for each cheek (MANGO cheek!)) on a plate and mix together. Press each cheek into the mixture and place, flesh side down, into the grill pan.
3. Sizzle sizzle! Once the flesh is softer and the sugar has caramelised, turn each cheek 90 degrees so they'll have cross hatching.
4. When both directions of lines are burnt into the mango, flip it over and cook for about a minute on the skin side.
5. Remove from the pan; consume and enjoy!

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Gong Fu Tea Ceremony with May King Tea

On Friday evening, we attended a Chinese Gong Fu Tea Ceremony conducted by internationally recognised tea expert May King Tsang at t-licious, South Bank. It was conducted to announce the launch of the Friday Tea Club, a fortnightly meeting of tea lovers to be held at t-licious starting from next week. But more on that later!

The Chinese tea ceremony differs from the Japanese tea ceremony in that the latter is more about ceremony, while the former is completely about the tea.

Our gracious host!
Tea is, especially in the Australian context, not something we think much about. Most of us drink it, but, compared to the care that goes into choosing a restaurant, the right bottle of wine, or a place to drink coffee, our attitude towards tea is lackadaisical at best: we throw on the kettle, whack any old tea bag (whether it's Twinings, Bushells or (God forbid) Lipton) into a mug, then douse it in milk and... is three teaspoons of sugar too much?

By the time most of us drink tea, it has the subtlety of a shot of cheap vodka, and about as many flavours. OK, perhaps not vodka, but you get what I mean. Because of this, it's not surprisingly that the idea of a tea tasting seems extremely odd, if not downright silly. And, though everyone's heard of green tea, most of us probably don't know that the difference between black and white tea has nothing to do with milk (in fact, there's also yellow tea, oolong tea, and pu'erh tea (which also has nothing to do with milk)).

Until a number of months ago, I thought the same. But, through several conversations with May King, my curiosity was awoken, so it was with much excitement that I turned up a t-licious, not entirely sure what to expect, but knowing that it would be, at the very least, extremely interesting.

What is clear from the outset is May King's absolute love for what she does: as she talks, you're transported through the tastes and senses evoked by the tea, travel through the fables woven around this remarkably underrated leaf, from the mountains of Taiwan to a small temple in rural China and... suddenly you realise you haven't even taken the first sip.

Despite her expert knowledge, she is sure not to force what she tastes in the tea onto you: it's rather intimidating, but after a few moments of silence, someone chimes in “citrus”, then someone else “butter” and... well, perhaps it's suggestion, but you realise that the taste that was just on the tip of your tongue was butter, exactly, and somewhere around the middle was the hint of lime. One of the teas for me started off tasting like nothing, then as the air hit my tongue when I breathed in, suddenly I tasted butter, and lemon; about 30 seconds later it became avocado, and about a minute after that I could still taste macadamia. And that was after just one sip!

The two teas: pre-infusion
In the evening, we tried two oolong teas:
"Tie Guan Yin" (or "Iron Goddess Of Mercy" Tea), a hand-rolled tea from China.
"Li Shan Xi" (named after the mountains). According to May King, “If Tie Guan Yin is an exceptional tea, this is an exceptionally exceptional tea!”, a tea made in Taiwan.

I would hate to ruin the surprise, so I will be brief in my description of the ceremony.

The dry tea we were to try was passed around, and we all smelled it. While we did this, May King “woke up” all the vessels with boiling water.

The tea is then brewed in a small clay pot; it is said that if you brew the same tea in such a pot for several years, one day you will add water and tea will come out. The second infusion is often considered to be the best, so the tea was brewed once, poured, then discarded, then water added again to the pot. According to May King, good quality leaves can provide you with as many as four infusions, sometimes more.

Once the tea is infused for a second time, the liquor (as is called the infused liquid) is poured into the sniffer cup, a thin cup that is used to (surprise, surprise) smell the liquor. The tea cup is placed on top and the two are flipped, pouring the liquor from the sniffer cup into the tea cup. Quickly, the sniffer cup is brought up to the nose, and slowly rolled between the palm of your hands as the essence of the liquor wafts out of it.

Only a small amount of tea is in each cup, but it's incredible the amount of flavour in what most of us, used to the dark brown liquid we usually call “tea”, would think looks quite weak.

We only recently attended a wine tasting for the first time, and, though we all get something slightly different, it's remarkable to see how similar tastes people get from things which, really, shouldn't taste like anything more than what they are. I could go on forever about the embodied mind and community experience, but how two different liquids brewed from the leaf of the same plant produce such different flavours. And then, how can we all taste the citrus, or the butter?

Throughout the evening, May King happily answered the many questions we had, and shared her great deal of knowledge about, and passion for, tea.

If you're currently a tea lover, are looking to experience something new (and, hipsters, you'll be able to say you liked it before it was popular!), or just want to find out whether I really am crazy, May King's Gong Fu Tea Ceremony is a wonderful way of being introduced to the world of tea. You will be enraptured and engaged by May King as she shares stories of where the teas come from, how they're made, the origin of their name, and her love for this marvelous leaf.

The Friday Tea Club begins next week (11 May), and has three sessions:

11 May “Gong Fu Tea Ceremony”
Experience a traditional Chinese style tea ceremony, observe the art and skill of making tea, and experience tea like you've never had before.

25 May “Oolong Too Long”
Learn about the origins of oolong, discover why is has gained so much press in recent years and, most importantly, try some wonderful oolong teas!

8 June “Herbal Infusions / Tisanes if you please!”
Discover the difference between tea and herbal infusions, why these caffeine-free alteratives and proving very popular, and try some locally grown herbs and herbs imported from around the world.

So what are you waiting for! See tea in a completely new light, as you've never experienced it before. If you're unsure, grab a friend and learn together. You will not regret it.

The Friday Tea Club is held at t-licious South Bank from 7-8.30pm. $25 per class. Places are limited, so book ASAP! To book, call Michael at t-licious on 3844 3305.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

A Fabulous Evening Out: The Inaugural Queensland Good Food Guide & Awards (I dressed up! I left the house!!)

Being a food-blogger sometimes has its perks!

Every now and then you hope for a little somethin-somethin to make up for all of the incredulous stares from friends and strangers as you photograph and tweet every meal in a restaurant like it's your very last. What can I say? I love food.

Last night, I had the pleasure of attending the Launch of the Queensland Good Food Guide and awards ceremony, to launch the 2012 Queensland Good Food Guide. This guide was managed and edited by one of the greatest food-lovers I know - my friend with the steel-trap memory, Natascha Mirosch.

If you know me, at all, you'll know that I'm most comfortable in a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. But - for the occasion, I wore a suit and bowtie the awards. Uh huh. This really happened. I hope my effort to dress up made up for my alcohol-induced chattery-friendliness, which increased as the night went on...
My outfit!

The guide aims to find the best food and dining experiences in Queensland, and awards "Chef's Hats" as part of a rating system to brilliant, very worthy restaurants. 

For years, southerners have laughed at the idea of fine dining in Queensland. This guide will be instrumental in changing that way of thinking and prove that in fact, we have some amazingly talented and passionate food-stars here. And some pretty darn good restaurants.

Only one restaurant received the highest honour - the highly coveted "Three Hats" award - Esquire Brisbane, which is, in Terry Durack's words - "The best restaurant in Australia you've never heard of". 

Congratulations to Esquire, and their very, very passionate staff. When we dined there - it was immediately apparent that love for food was coarsing through their veins. The animated chefs talked us through every aspect of their process - we even ate herbs grown on a chef's balcony!

Particular congratulations must also go to Kym Machin, now of Spring Restaurant, who was awarded "Chef of the Year". 

Once upon a time when he was the chef at Urbane restaurant, Kym ignited a passion for fine-dining that I did not know that I had. I can honestly say that Kym created the most amazing meal experience of my life - an 8 course vegan degustation. Kym has a passion and seeks out the best quality produce available, with a focus on locally-sourced items, and has always made a point of extolling the benefits and virtues of flavourful vegetarian and vegan food.
My vegan degustation, by Chef Kym Machin

What an absolutely wonderful and exciting evening it was. Thank you to the hardworking reviewers and staff who put so much blood, sweat and tears, but most importantly - heart - into this book. Thank you to all the hardworking unappreciated & underpaid staff in the hospitality industry who work so hard to make our dining experiences as good as possible. Also thanks to, the organisers and sponsors - including Citibank, Vittoria Coffee, Louis Roederer and Rekorderlig Cider, for making such a wonderful night possible.

It was also lovely and very exciting to finally meet a number of bloggers, writers and food-lovers from Twitter! (Hi all!! Thanks for passing me that bottle of water!!)

For photos, videos and other accounts, see below. I don't have any good quality photos of the night - I was enjoying myself far too much to be taking photographs! 5 points if you can spot me madly tweeting in the video at the top of the articles.

To purchase your copy of the Queensland Good Food Guide 2012, click here - it is available in a number of formats - hard-copy book, iphone app, digitally, ebook, and finally, as a website subscription.

Finally, as you may be aware, Chef Matt Golinski was unable to attend the awards. A group of chefs created a group called "Plates for Mates" to collect donations & provide support to Matt. A representative from that group was collecting donations last night, and it was so heart-warming to see so many people making donations. For further details, and to make a donation (please do - massive karma points!) - the Plates for Mates website is here. 
Excuse me now, while I curl up in a ball, avoid bright lights & think healthy, detoxy thoughts, whilst promising myself I'll never drink alcohol again - at least... not until tomorrow! ;)