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Wee drams

Dram "a small amount of a strong alcoholic drink, especially whisky" Cambridge English Dictionary

"A pour of alcohol. The amount is determined only by the generosity of the pourer." Vedi/Urban Dictionary

"a small unit of weight - very small and various" a summary of various definitions re weight

I'm not going to talk about whiskey, that demands a whole post some day. Not that I'm a fan of whisky. Can't get past the smell. No this is one of my bits and pieces posts - the idea of some kind of small measure being appropriate for this kind of thing. And I have to say I like the Urban Dictionary definition best as it includes a refinement of the original definition which nevertheless is an intrinsic feature. I mean the weight definitions, which do vary depending on which country you are in mostly, are tiny, tiny - a sixteenth of an ounce was one of them.

Water sommeliers

I will begin with a drink though. In this case water. Specialised water - two ways. The first was inspired by an article in the AFR this weekend telling us that in Dubai "the Middle Eastern hub of all things cutting-edge" a new water bar - Aqua Water Bar - has been opened. But it's not just a bar selling different brands of mineral water.

It's selling tap water - Dubai tap water - which I think is mostly sourced from a desalination plant. But of course it's not 'just' water.

"They use a micro-dosing system designed by the German water filtration company Luqel to inject minerals. They offer to match the mineralisation of high-end water brands, catering to all types of water fans, Alpine or Arctic-sourced." AFR/Khaleej Times

Moreover you can use your own bottle or buy a reusable one like this. And it's quite cheap too - only 80c a drink. Apparently the same thing was tried in the USA but it didn't work. So maybe nowadays we should say 'only in Dubai' rather than 'only in the USA'.

And secondly - also in the Middle-East there are now water bars with sommeliers, but selling all those 'posh' mineral waters - water tasting events too.

Expensive books

As a sort of postscript to yesterday's post on my failed attempt at a Delia dish from this book, when I 'acquired' this photo of the book on the Amazon website I noticed with amazement, and bemusement too the price of the book. Would you believe, the hardback version, which I have, starts at $63 new or $31 used - which I suppose is not all that much more than you would expect. However, the paperback - and I confess I did not know there was a paperback version - begins at $149 new and $97 used! Those are massive prices. I can only assume that both are now out of print, and also that there were not many paperbacks produced. It just goes to show that you should really think before throwing out old books into the street library or the op shop - if they'll take them.

Today I picked up a copy of a Matt Preston book from my street library - just to see if it gives me any ideas.

Fried jam sandwich

Still on Delia. It seems that she has introduced into her Norwich Football Club restaurant this deep-fried jam sandwich. She credits her chef with creating it, but it seems that it's an old cheap and cheerful dish from many a British home (not mine). Not very healthy, but alas some the best foods in the world aren't. They say it's a bit like a donut. Here's how you make it:

"The “sensational” £5 sandwich is made by spreading two slices of white bread with Tiptree’s strawberry jam, before being deep fried and dusted with caster sugar. The menu says it “may sound unlikely but has to be tasted to be believed”.

I saw that somebody else used to make a version in which the bread was brioche and it was coated in batter before the deep frying. Even worse - health wise I guess.

Fancy crumpets

Still on 'poor' food basics - well not really. This is a Blackmore wagyu bresaola and horseradish crumpet. I saw it in the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival Newsletter which is always full of expensive, artisan, hip, trendy, food and wine things. It's not aimed at me, but it sometimes nudges me into excursions into the unknown. This one caught my eye, not just because it is so sort of outlandish, although very beautiful, but also because I seem to have noticed here and there that people are doing things with crumpets which are not just slathering them with butter and jam. If you want to try this one you need to go to the newly opened Atria on the 80th floor of the newly opened Ritz Carlton at the western end of Lonsdale Street - which to my mind is not a particularly fashionable part of Melbourne. The chef is Michael Greenlaw - a name I do not know, but that doesn't mean anything. I rarely go to such places these days.

Ballarat's Best Pie

Also from the MFWF newsletter was this notice of Ballarat's best pie competition, so if you are in Victoria in August go and visit. It's on for the whole of August. The Visit Ballarat website has all the details. There are 17 pies to try around town, all but one of them are savoury, and the winner will be announced on 5th August, which seems a little unfair in a way. I mean if you know who the winner is then that particular café/restaurant will get all the visitors. Anyway. A fun idea for a day out, although you're not going to manage to eat all of those pies in one day!

Two quick tips for leftovers

I picked these up from The Guardian in a recent newsletter.

Number 1 that leftover-pickle juice from your jar of pickles can be used in all sorts of ways, from brining chicken before you roast it to the one that caught my eye - use it in a vinaigrette - instead of the vinegar. I must take the jar offa juice waiting in the fridge to be used, and therefore forgotten, and put it beside my vinaigrette making collection on my bench top. Then you add whatever you like - dill was obviously a common suggestion. They also suggested using olive brine in a ragù. I suppose you could take this further with any kind of pickle juice - including chillies. Try adding it to all sorts of things for that extra hit of acid.

Tip number two which I probably won't do, but was intriguing - leftover fat from a roast - well anything really, can be poured into ice cube trays and frozen for use at a later date. They say it will keep for three months.

My mum used to keep leftover and also melted fat in a ceramic pot in the larder. I keep it in a pyrex container in the fridge - I mix all the meaty ones together and then use it as fat for cooking - depending on what I'm cooking. In my youth we called it dripping and had it on toast. Post WW2 thrift - but it was delicious. Although very bad for you I suppose.

The modern chef who suggested freezing it said you could use it to dress boiled potatoes, as a gravy base, in rice and stir fries - which sounds a bit unadventurous really. However he does have a good saying - “Call it a magic trick: flavour added without salt and powder.” The picture is of old-fashioned dripping. In Yorkshire they call it mucky fat. You certainly shouldn't just throw it away anyway. Again - not healthy.

Yacon syrup

Now this supposedly is, and also magic. There has been a lot in the news lately about a new drug for weight loss. Well this is a 'natural' product touted by many as a way to lose weight. And yes it's a syrup and has sugars in it. However, one clinical trial - run properly but small - seems to have proved that taking this will make you lose weight. Healthline will explain all the chemistry involved. I have to say that as soon as you get into all that chemical jargon around food, my brain sort of freezes and just does not absorb. But if you are interested it's all there. I think they are saying maybe but watch this space.

What happened to Tobie Puttock?

I'm not really a follower of celebrity chefs, but do you remember Tobie Puttock? He was everywhere for a while. He came to fame via his friend Jamie Oliver who put him in charge of the Melbourne Fifteen restaurant. We dined there once. It was great, but alas one of the staff burnt it out and it was closed. Remember the staff of the Fifteen restaurants were sourced from young people, with various troubled back histories looking for a new start. Anyway Tobie Puttock then seemed to disappear from view but he has resurfaced - another something from the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival Newsletter. It seems that during lockdown he started this business Made by Tobie, which is home-delivered frozen meals. Made by Tobie though and featuring all those good things - the right foods from the right suppliers, home-cooked by tobie himself, the right packaging, and so on and responsive to individual requests. It will cost you $15.00 a meal - I think for an individual portion. Deliveries are made on Saturdays to anywhere within 30km of Alphington in Melbourne. I suppose for something really gourmet it's a fair price. or is it? Do enough people spend enough on such things to make it stand out from other offerings?

I don't think Tobie has been unemployed in all those years. He appears to have done other things with Jamie, has written books, consulted, probably worked as a chef here and there.

Cara cara oranges

David came back from the supermarket recently with a bag of Cara Cara oranges. Since it was David I can only assume they were cheaper than others on offer. I thought it was a commercial name but no. The cara cara orange is a kind of navel orange, midway between an ordinary navel and a blood orange. It's the result of a spontaneous mutation on one individual tree, they think and was discovered in Venezuela back in 1976 but only began to be produced commercially in the 80s. But that's still a long time ago so I don't know why it has taken them so long to get here. They are certainly new to me - and really, really nice - very juicy and sweet. Lovely - keep an eye out for them.

Recipe of the week

And yes it's Ottolenghi. It's actually marginally frustrating to see recipes like this in The Guardian Newsletter and I mean to talk about this some more some time. Frustrating because it's summer over there and it's cold winter here, so, not only is watermelon not in season, but this is also a summery dish. You can just imagine a barbecue party outside in the sunshine with people nibbling on this with a glass of bubbly when they arrive, can't you? So store it away for later. The sun will shine again. Probably too much and we shall complain, but in the meantime we can dream. It's simply called Watermelon with lime syrup and spiced salt. The spiced salt features chilli, sumac and pepper - so maybe the whole thing is a sort of Mexican/Middle-Eastern fusion. Simple but brilliant. Roll on summer.

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