Parasite attacks Morisset kangaroos: poll  

MORE than 150 kangaroos are believed to have died in less than a month after an outbreak of a parasitic infection led to the discovery of up to 10 carcasses a day in the grounds of Morisset Hospital.
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Alarmed wildlife rescue carers called in the authorities after finding too many of the dead animals to dispose of, prompting a joint investigation involving the RSPCA, Department of Primary Industries, Taronga Zoo experts, the Office of Environment of Heritage and others.

Kangaroos at Morisset. Pic: Dean Osland.

Native Animal Trust Fund president Audrey Koosmen said dead kangaroos were first reported to the organisation, which has cared for the animals at the site for some years, about three weeks ago.

Initially she thought it was the work of more “ratbags” who had run over or attacked the animals in the past.

But with large adult eastern grey kangaroos dying quickly, and more carcasses being discovered, the organisation realised “there’s something really wrong with these animals”.

“There’s a lot of little orphans left too,” she said.

“We had to bring the department in and say ‘we can’t cope with this any more’, when we had to dispose of [the carcasses].”

Initial findings show “no evidence of malicious poisoning” and that the kangaroos have been infected with a blood-borne parasite called Babesia, although the species has yet to be identified.

In livestock, it is referred to as “tick fever”, capable of swiftly killing large cattle and requiring quarantines for large outbreaks.

Samples of the kangaroos have been sent to Taronga Zoo this week for autopsy.

A Department of Primary Industries spokeswoman said other samples had been sent to its Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute.

“Babesia macropus has previously been found to infect kangaroos in Australia,” she said.

“This species is not known to have the potential to spread to humans.”

Hunter New England Health reminded staff and clients of the psychiatric hospital not to touch the animals.

Ground staff have also been asked to wear masks and protective equipment when disposing of the roos.

But animal rescuers are angry large numbers of tourists have ignored signs and fed the kangaroos bread, drawing large numbers of both humans and animals to what has become an unofficial visitor attraction.

“I have never seen so many animals in the one spot. I think they’re over-grazed, they may have contaminated their own area,” Ms Koosmen said.

“Now when you drive in the gates – honest to God, when I got down there, there was probably 150 of them waiting at the gate for the [tourist] buses.”

Ms Koosmen was stunned to witness foreign tourists recently pull a joey from its mother’s pouch for a photo.

“Then one of them was trying to cuddle this big buck who’s about six foot tall. I said ‘leave him alone, he’s a father, he’ll bite you, he’ll kick you’,” she said.

Hunter New England Health population health service director Dr David Durrheim said the number of people visiting the grounds was a concern, “and we request that tour operators and other visitor information websites remove any reference to the facility as a tourist attraction”.

Bland joins Dull and Boring

A COMBINATION of Dull, Boring and Bland is the cause of plenty of excitement with three ordinary-named locales coming together to form the League of Extraordinary communities.
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Last Tuesday, a quirky new tourism partnership was recognised by Bland Shire Council in which it will pair with US Pacific-northwest community Boring and the small village of Dull in the Scottish Highlands in an effort to boost visitors to the region.

Despite opposition, Bland Shire Council mayor Neil Pokoney welcomed the new links saying the partnership was “comedic and fun”, with him hoping the league will give the shire more notoriety to international tourists.

“A few people were worried it was disrespectful to the Bland Shire name,” Councillor Pokoney said, adding he had spoke on US radio as part of the partnership.

“But it’s meant to be light-hearted and a promotional tool for the entire shire, which has plenty to offer for travellers who might want to visit.”

Bland Shire has a population of 6000 people.

Boring has a population of 8000 while Dull is the smallest of the three, with about 80 residents.

Last September, a council employee read about the existing Dull and Boring partnership and thought it could be useful for Bland Shire to become a part of it.

“Boring was driving the initial partnership with Dull it is the biggest of us all,” Cr Pokoney said.

The partnership has already been reported on by the ABC, BBC and in UK, US and Canadian newspapers.

Bland Shire council deputy mayor Liz McGlynn said any publicity was good publicity for the shire and its towns.

“I hope it gets people talking and coming to the region,” Councillor McGlynn said.

Bland Shire has joined forces with Dull and Boring.

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Zohab Zee Khan’s performance poetry a slam dunk for reaching high school students

“It doesn’t feel like too long ago that I was one of them, you know”: Zohab Zee Khan.Zohab Zee Khan has little in common with the dead white male poets students commonly meet at high school.
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Dressed in high-top sneakers and a flat-brimmed baseball cap, he delivers his lines with the rhythm and physicality of a rapper.

As a 26-year-old living in the Illawarra, the world he rhymes about is familiar to the students at Dapto High School. ”It doesn’t feel like too long ago that I was one of them, you know,” said Khan, a state poetry slam champion.

The ease with which the artist connects with the teenagers is what drives the Red Room Company’s education program.

”Where normally it’s poetry on the page, this becomes poetry in the air,” said Tamryn Bennett, the not-for-profit organisation’s education manager. ”And they’re themes that these students are encountering themselves.”

The workshop explored the genre of guerilla poetry, writing and performing poetry in unconventional ways.

Students scrawled their verses across windows, which did not look out of place in the creatively-minded school, which has deliberately coated its walls in murals, paintings and graffiti art.

”We have an inexcusable number of blank walls but we’re doing everything we can to make this place beautiful and interesting,” principal Andrew FitzSimons said. ”Engaged students learn better, they attend more regularly and they take more responsibility.”

Maddison Raisin, who says she has created poetry in private from a young age, wrote about ”a stray cat being tossed from home to home and how it feels”.

Phoebe Parkin was ”utterly blown away” by the energy Khan put into his performance. ”It’s not just words on a piece of paper,” the 17-year-old said. ”Older teachers have the knowledge that younger people don’t have but they don’t have the way to engage them. They can teach you about poetry but he shows you what poetry is.”

For Khan, too, poetry has been a form of therapy at times.

”It has got me through plenty of times of jubilation and plenty of times of sadness,” he said. ”If I can give them the skills to write and express themselves, I think that’s a job well done.”

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Food trends: Healthy and hot

When did we get so cosy with kale, quinoa and gluten-free foods? Last year it was all junk food this, deep-fried that. Now we’re thinking almost clinically about food’s worth: wondering whether it’ll nurture bacteria in our gut, questioning its protein and mineral contents, and its alkalinity. Maybe it’s no coincidence that our new-found fandom for nutrition comes on the back of a proliferation of pork belly, buttermilk fried chicken and pudgy brioche-bun burgers.
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Focusing on nutrition is not niche. Show us a cafe with even a whiff of a retro/industrial/Scandi aesthetic and we’ll show you a drinks menu offering a green smoothie or juice made with coconut water and kale, or a lunch of ”ancient grain” salad and a sandwich with spelt sourdough. That’s not to say there won’t be waffles with peanut butter and jelly, but, they might be wholemeal waffles, and the schnitzel may be labelled ”gluten free” and come with a farro salad. Far from ascetic, there’s flavour and even fat in these healthier pitched dishes.

Our preference for foods produced the old-fashioned way, with as little intervention from additives and processing as possible, has led us to understand the physiological effects of food and, perhaps, become more sensitive to our body’s intolerances, allergies or preferences. The new breed of eatery highlights health-related choices and has a dish to suit most diets: from Paleo to vego.

1. LIQUID FOOD

Have your vitamins and minerals delivered in the fast, efficient format of a juice or smoothie – almost as ubiquitous a beverage as coffee these days.

Most cafes juice to order, but some, like Neapoli (30 Russell Place, city, 9650 5020), also cold-press their organically grown carrots and ginger. The cold-press process retains more enzymes and nutrients than centrifugal juicers, apparently. For some serious smoothie action, Shokuiku (120 High Street, Northcote) has the $25 Ultimate, with 17 ingredients including marine phytoplankton, hemp, goji berry and ”mega hydrate”.

2. SUPERFOODS

The definition of a superfood is any nutrient-rich food that’s beneficial to health and wellbeing – the more exotic, the better. Acai berries are blueish and high in antioxidants. The fresh and energetic Gen-Y stable, Little, Big, Sugar, Salt (385 Victoria Street, Abbotsford, 9427 8818) has a bowl of acai pulp scattered with granola, chopped fruit and flower petals: pretty and perky. Lunch at ever-popular Barry (85 High Street, Northcote, 9481 7623) could be a whole salad of superfoods including quinoa and kale.

3. PALEO

Also known as the caveman diet, Paleo dieters eat the food groups that our hunter-gatherer ancestors did back in the stone age. That’s grass-fed meat and organic fruit, veg and nuts. The diet prescribes very little to no intake of processed foods, such as grains (flour), dairy and sugar.

Sink your teeth into a Gippsland grass-fed spiced short rib with Kansas-style sauce at Meatmother (167 Swan Street, Richmond, 9041 5393). The beef patties at the Burger Lounge (902 Main Road, Eltham, 9431 4500) have grunt, too: grass-fed, free-range and free from antibiotics and chemicals.

4. WHOLE GRAINS

Brown is the new black; we want brown rice, wholemeal ingredients and ”ancient grains” (pre-GM). Get a load at breakfast at light, bright Touchwood (480 Bridge Road, Richmond, 0429 9347): quinoa, freekeh, wild rice, rocket, toasted almond, chai-soaked raisins, cumin yoghurt and a poached egg. And, Bentleigh’s latest stylemeister, Merchant’s Guild (680 Centre Road, Bentleigh East, 9579 0734), has wild rice, quinoa, sweet potato, beetroot, broccoli, nuts, seeds and tahini yoghurt for lunch.

5. GLUTEN-FREE

The majority of Australians choose to limit their gluten intake for health rather than medical reasons (with just 0.25 per cent of Australians diagnosed coeliacs).

More than 277 eateries in this year’s Good Food Under $30 are listed as having gluten-free options. They range from dishes that are inherently gluten free but flagged anyway, like rice noodle soups, and the 100 per cent stone-ground corn tortillas at La Tortilleria (72 Stubbs Street, Kensington, 9376 5577), through gluten-free pastas such as quinoa and amaranth at Etto (shop 610, 261 Clarendon Street, South Melbourne, 9696 3886) and pizza at Pizza Farro (608 High Street, Thornbury, 9484 2040).

6. FERMENTING

Oh how our eyes, hearts and minds have opened to the invisible world of bacteria and microbes – those tiny critters that keep our guts healthy. From kimchi that’s ubiquitous at the burgeoning number of Korean restaurants, through the flavour balance that pickled peaches provide market fish ceviche at Mesa Verde (level 6, Curtin House, 252 Swanston Street, city, 9654 4417) through to the tang of fermented fish broth with noodles at Thai diner Bangpop (35 South Wharf Promenade, South Wharf, 9245 9800).

7. SUGAR-FREE

Everybody from the National Health and Medical Research Council through to Robert Lustig is warning people to limit their sugar intake. Many of the mostly vegan, wholefood dishes at Admiral Cheng Ho (325 Johnston Street, Abbotsford, 9417 1887) and its southern sister Monk Bodhi Dharma (Rear, 202 Carlisle Street, Balaclava, 9534 7250) are sugar-free (and gluten-free). And Red Robyn (393 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, 9077 3763) has a great menu that’s sensitive to all sensitivities.

8. VEGETARIAN

It’s not hard to get a good vegetarian meal in this town. At the Grain Store (517 Flinders Lane, city, 9972 6993) a vegan cauliflower, quinoa, goji berry, pumpkin hummus and nigella seed brunch dish sits among a sparkling menu that is not averse to meat or fish. Even the local pub does vegan these days. The National Hotel (344 Victoria Street, Richmond, 9429 8811), a revamped boozer with environmental cred (worm farm, solar panels, recycled materials), offers a vegan Thai curry and a veg burger with apple and relish.

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Dinner in tomorrowland

Pete Evans’s lamb shank pie. Pete Evans’s lamb shank pie.
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Lamb shank pie.

“Drunch”, Chris Sanderson explains, is the future. It’s lunch … but a long, drunken lunch, that rolls into dinner. It’s how 40 and 50-somethings, no longer willing to stay up till the wee small hours, will kick up their heels. And along with iPad wine lists, boozy brunches and Paleo Diet menus, it’s one way restaurants might keep current in a competitive world.

The UK-based company that Sanderson co-founded, The Future Laboratory, is in the business of looking at how we live now, and projecting from that how we’ll spend our money in the years ahead. He has been in Australia delivering “Futures Forums” where paying customers come to hear what research can tell them about where to find success.

The audience at the Food and Drink Futures Forum at Melbourne’s RMIT also heard from taste-makers including chef Andrew McConnell and Fairfax Media food writer Jill Dupleix. Here’s a take-away menu.

● We’re getting older. So food will need to be stocked on lower shelves, with bigger lettering on tags, in single servings, and with medicinal qualities. By 2015, boomers will control more than half the global grocery spend. And Sanderson cites a figure of 77 per cent of boomers choosing food and drink to boost their health.

● But we don’t want to have less fun. The “SKI” generation (Spending the Kids’ Inheritance) are kicking up their heels like there’s no tomorrow (because they know, at their age, there mightn’t be one). Cashed up boomers and 40 and 50-somethings are living it up. Their catch-cries ”fomo” and ”yolo” (fear of missing out, you only live once) are giving rise to phenomena such as the “drunch” (long, drunken lunch) “which suits an ageing demographic. They’re quite happy to go home (drunk) at six in the evening, but don’t want to stay up until three in the morning”, Sanderson says. He adds baby boomers love food online, spending on experiences, and “if they buy a barbecue it’s going to be the most expensive in the range”.

● We’re going to want to eat and drink healthy. Salt, sugar, fat and obesity are being “put under the same microscope” as drugs and alcohol. Big brands will hop on the bandwagon, Sanderson says, pointing to Japan’s Suntory, famous for whisky and spirits, buying British beverage-makers Lucozade and Ribena in September last year. Expect to see more lower-alcohol and lower-kilojoule drinks and restaurant menus “become as specific as the back of labels on products, and more transparent” when it comes to revealing fat, salt and kilojoule counts of dishes, Sanderson says.

● We want our food to make us well. This might very well explain why the big four Japanese convenience-food makers have joined forces with pharmacies. Food will have medicinal qualities.

● We’ll get nostalgic about our dinner. Post-recession, Sanderson cites a boom in sales of sticky sponge puddings in Britain. Comfort food will help us keep it together. Punch and ”lawn drinks” will make a return, as evidenced by the Punch Room at Ian Schrager’s London Edition hotel.

● There’ll be no more red wine with Coke. Discerning Chinese consumers are looking for “proof of quality when it comes to food and drink”. China’s emerging middle class will drive other demands too. Sanderson says: “They have an unquenchable thirst for premium alcoholic drinks.”

● Food will take over the locker room as well as the medicine cabinet. “Brands are reimagining food as sports and health supplements,” Sanderson says, as many of us take an aggressive line on diet and exercise, turning to things such as the 5:2 Diet (two days of virtual fasting); becoming vegan, alternating bingeing and purging, or taking to “caveman culture and the Paleo Diet”. We’ll see restaurants such M.O.B. in Paris, which does vegan fast food. And many of us will embrace fortified, synthetic and genetically modified foods that promise to enhance our performance.

● We’ll party like it’s 1999. The millennials (born circa 1980-2000) “are dominating the food and drink market”, Sanderson says. “They rank spending on food more highly than on electronics.” Really? They like eating more than their phones? Nearly half text about food, or use social media at the table when they eat out. They love craft beer, trying new cuisines, batch-produced drinks and conviviality when they eat out. The menu’s on an iPad? Even better.

● We’ll want to eat local. US snack food manufacturer Lays is identifying the field where their ingredients were grown, on every packet of chips, Sanderson says, predicting a “continued growth of localism”. Here in Australia, he cited the “Track my Maccas” app, from fast-food giant McDonald’s, which claims to tell you where the burger you have in your hand came from, down to individual farmers. “Companies will source more local ingredients and promote that,” he says.

● Franken-foods may be here to stay. The cronut may have started it, but culinary thrill-seekers will ensure hybrid snacks and cuisine mash-ups will follow in the footsteps of the ramen burger, the egg and bacon-filled breakfast doughnut, flavoured popcorn and foods such as Adriano Zumbo’s chouxmaca (half macaron, half choux puff). Super-savvy foodies seek ethnic fusion foods (Sanderson cites Cajun Italian), esoteric ingredients, and primitive experiences.

● Dumpster diving will be in. “More of us are questioning sell-by dates” Sanderson says, of a trend identified that sees more people looking to use ”waste” better. Dumpster diving will be acceptable, charities will work to redistribute unwanted food and businesses will cash in. Examples? The Espresso Mushroom company in England sells mushroom-growing kits that utilise coffee grounds, while Joost Bakker’s Silo in Melbourne’s CBD is aims to be a zero-waste cafe.

● We’ll want DIY food. We’ll tailor products as we want them, such as chocolate and muesli, with brands including Yoosli encouraging us.

● And we’ll all play with fire. Seeking more authentic, earthy food experiences will fuel grilling, flaming, smoking. Sanderson cites Swede Niklas Ekstedt, whose Stockholm restaurant eschews electricity for cooking over coals and fire.

● Tea will be the new coffee. Well, maybe we made that up, but Sanderson told his audience that cravings for no-alcohol and detox drinks would give the brew a boost. The influx of Asian cultures will drive new teahouses and a lust for rare teas. We might even see more hip, alcohol-free events or bars, such as London’s Redemption. Sanderson is also predicting a push-back against juices because of their high sugar levels.

● Hello, hipsters. Spirits will go all crafty, with inner-city distilleries using science to create interesting flavours.

● We’ll toss out wine tossers. Trying to woo younger, less interested drinkers to wine means it’s presented “in a way that puts consumers at ease and brings a new sense of informality”. Putting a list on iPads can deliver an 11 to 20 per cent increase in sales, Sanderson says. And sites such as Europe’s winecast南京夜网 (motto: “wine that’s you”) will cater to this market.

For more information or to buy the report, go to thefuturelaboratory南京夜网

What direction would you like to see food and drink take in the future? Share your suggestion or prediction using the comment function below.

CORRECTION: the original version of this piece referred to a long drunken lunch that rolls into dinner as ”dunch”. This is incorrect. The word has been changed to ”drunch” in the text.

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Can pork be served rare?

Ceviche Photo: Edwina Pickles Acid test: Orange juice just won’t cut it for ceviche. Photo: Edwina Pickles
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Can pork be served rare? E. Brown

In Australia we have a cultural memory that extends back to the northern hemisphere, where the bulk of our population originated. There you’ll find a nasty little parasitic worm called Trichinella spiralis. It lives in pigs but also in bears, horses, foxes and other furry animals.

If one were to eat the raw flesh of one of those animals (unlikely unless your name was Bear Grylls), you could contract trichinosis, which is like being taken over by hundreds of tiny aliens. Not pleasant.

Thoroughly cooking pork infected with Trichinella spiralis kills the parasites. According to Animal Health Australia, “Trichinella spiralis has never been diagnosed in animals in Australia.” Mitch Edwards from Australian Pork says, “Pork is as safe or safer to eat rare than almost any other meat”.

With those little facts under your belt, you should actually consider cooking the prime cuts of pork slightly rare. During cooking, fat equals both flavour and moisture. Modern pigs are bred to be lean.

If you cook lean pork until well done it can become dry, so Edwards recommends serving grilled and roasted pork dishes a little on the pink side.

Why do the vast majority of chefs remove the roe from scallops before cooking them? A. Knott

Scallop roe contains sperm and eggs that some diners consider to be especially delicious. I spoke to several chefs and some found the flavour of scallop roe too strong, one preferred to remove the roe for aesthetic reasons and one said she did it because the roe cooks faster than the white adductor muscle and dries out. Others leave roe on.

There is another reason. Some scallops have no roe. Generally, with commercial scallop species – the ones with shells shaped like an oil company logo – the roe is enlarged throughout the year and most are sold with the roe intact. Saucer scallop species have a round smooth shell, and a tiny roe that only enlarges around spawning time.

At other times of the year it looks like an unappetising membrane. During processing, the roe is removed from saucer scallops. Scallops need little preparation and cooking. Remove the dark tube and sear the scallops each side and allow to rest. The interior of the scallop should still be translucent and the roe nicely set.

What can I use instead of sherry vinegar? F. Donaldson

Sherry vinegar has a round nuttiness and oaky aroma that is hard to replace. Rice wine vinegar can replicate the smooth mouth feel and good wine vinegars aged on oak will give you the subtle aroma of wood.

Good apple cider vinegar, or perry vinegar made from pear cider, is very pleasant and can give some of sherry vinegar’s funky qualities. Use balsamic vinegar at a stretch but understand this will change the direction of the dish towards Italy.

Can I use orange juice instead of lemon or lime juice when making ceviche? G. Pascoe

I got this wrong a few weeks back when I wrote, “lemon juice is about 2.2 pH while orange juice has a pH of 3, making lemon juice eight times more acidic … so one needs to use more orange juice” to ”cook” the fish. I received emails terse enough to make me quote Kamahl: “Why are people so unkind?”

So I put the theory into practice and tried to make ceviche with lime, lemon and then orange juice. Lime juice denatured the protein, turning the flesh white and soft in 20 minutes. Lemon juice took 45 minutes.

Orange juice from a freshly squeezed navel orange left the fish firm and pink even when left in the fridge overnight. I threw that batch of fish out, along with the food science publication I had been referencing, and dined on the lime-infused fish and humble pie.

Letters

From D. Stone comes, “I recently read a book based in Cornwall in which a ‘morgy stew’ was referred to. I can’t find reference to it anywhere else. Can another reader please help?”

Send your queries to [email protected]南京夜网.auor use the comment function below.

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Wine vintage a matter of development

Can we assume, considering the [recent] heatwave, most Australian winemakers will have poor 2014 vintages?
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In the early 1970s, while dining with American envoys, Chinese premier Zhou Enlai was asked for his opinion of the impact of the French Revolution. “It is too early to say,” was Zhou’s sage reply.

So the story goes but apparently it was a lost-in-translation moment and Zhou’s interlocutor was actually asking about the French insurrections of 1968. Never mind: I repeat the anecdote because it’s too early to make wide-ranging calls about the 2014 vintage. Australia’s wine regions are so diverse in location and climate. What counts as a good year in one region may be a poor year for vineyards within a couple of hours’ drive. For a lot of growers, cold and rain have been a bigger problem this season than heat.

Does excessive heat affect quality? Grapes are more susceptible to heat damage at some times in their development cycle than others and some varieties cope better so, much as I love to generalise, it’s hard to.

Badly heat-affected grapes often shrivel before harvest and drop off, so don’t always make their way into the final product. If they do? Accelerated ripening may lead to simpler, less complex flavours. Very ripe grapes make for higher alcohol levels, which some people love but others abhor.

At this stage I wouldn’t assume much about the 2014 vintage. Indeed, every year, for every winemaker who issues upbeat early pronouncements – “best vintage yet!” – before the grapes have even been squashed, there’ll be another of the Zhou Enlai persuasion who’ll decline to opine until the wine has been in bottle for at least six months.

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Mugshot: Experiments in flavour

Stop me if you’ve heard this one already.
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A high school chemistry teacher bins the chalk and turns his attention from the synthesis of fruity esters and aldehydes to the preparation of one of the world’s most traded mood enhancers.

He gets so good (or is it bad?) that he takes on some of the local heavy-hitters in the game, and soon he’s the regional champ …

But we’re not in Albuquerque with badass Walter White. We’re in Melbourne, Australia, the stimulant is coffee, and the chemistry teacher is called Joseph Liu.

The mode of preparation is AeroPress, that gadget created by the same guy who brought us the Aerobie flying ring.

(Flying rings and coffee? Smells like Palo Alto … and, in fact, inventor Alan Adler lectures in engineering at Stanford University.)

Liu, who teaches at a northern suburbs boys’ school, is the current Victorian AeroPress champion, and although he isn’t a professional barista, he beat various local cafe guns in last year’s final.

There’s this thing about how to use the AeroPress – the way it says on the box it comes in, or the inverted method favoured by many AeroPress geeks. Liu uses the standard, non-inverted method, and ”lots of coffee – 18 grams rather than 14 or 15.”

What’s his secret? ”The key is to keep the water temperature low – about 80 to 85C,” he says. ”I reckon that’s why I won. If you go over 90C, you over-extract and make the coffee bitter.”

Liu drilled a hole in a perfectly good pouring kettle so he could insert a thermometer, but don’t try that at home – just pour boiling water from a kettle into another vessel, and it will cool to around 85C in 15 or 20 seconds. Also important is giving the filter paper a good rinse – about 20 seconds under the tap, Liu advises.

Liu favours Kenyan coffees for their clean fruit flavours, and a grind almost as coarse as for French press – coarser than recommended in the instructions. He also presses very slowly – about 45 seconds – and stops pressing at the ”1” mark on the AeroPress to minimise extraction of bitter flavours from the grounds.

Liu produces an AeroPress brew that many of us would hardly recognise as coffee, with a pale, soupy colour and very bright, delicate fruit flavours. Absent are the chocolate, nutty and bitter notes that espresso drinkers are used to.

Liu once worked at Melbourne’s Bio 21 Institute researching a cure for anthrax, but ”I found sitting in a lab boring”, he says.

”I still enjoy experiments. But I want to experiment with the stuff I like – coffee.”

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A brew on the wild side

Experimental: The founders of Abbotsford’s Moon Dog Craft Brewery, Karl van Buuren, and Josh and Jake Uljans. Photo: Ken Irwin The founders of Abbotsford’s Moon Dog Craft Brewery. Photo: Ken Irwin
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You can’t see it but you can certainly taste it. It worries winemakers and delights a growing breed of brewers. What is it? It’s a funky little wild yeast called Brettanomyces (Brett for short), increasingly prized by the most adventurous craft brewers because – when used skilfully – it adds complexity and depth to their beers.

Not that winemakers are convinced. “I can see why wineries are paranoid, as their wines can age on oak for years, giving Brett plenty of time to alter the flavours,” says James Brown of La Sirene, an Alphington brewery that uses the yeast in a beer called Wild Saison. “I’ve just been to [Northern Californian brewery] Russian River in the Sonoma Valley, where some winemakers won’t even come in for a beer, lest they leave with some Brett on their shoes!”

The reason for this is to do with Brett’s tenacity (it can live for many years in oak) and its opinion-polarising flavour. “I would describe Brett as ‘horsey/goaty’ or ‘Band-aid’,” says Brown, 38. “I know this doesn’t sound very appealing but … there’s a sense of ‘Old World’. These days, everything is manufactured so cleanly, so purely, that these more rustic, challenging flavours are rarely experienced.”

The most famous breweries to use wild yeast are the Lambic producers of Brussels and the Senne Valley in Belgium. The likes of Cantillon, which has been brewing in the Belgian capital for more than a century, believe that the use of wild yeast ensures that their beer perfectly expresses the local terroir. Winemakers fear Brett can do the opposite: it destroys fruit character and therefore masks their product’s native flavours, they argue.

Cantillon’s devotion to the traditional method used to produce Lambic has inspired brewers around the world, including Josh Uljans at Moon Dog Craft Brewery in Abbotsford.

“A few years back, [my business partner] Karl van Buuren and I made the pilgrimage to the Cantillon Brewery,” says Uljans. “It was so inspiring to taste beers that were so perfectly crafted, but made in a way that is so completely different to modern brewing methods. We knew that we wanted to make wild beers that paid homage to the traditional Lambic breweries, but at the same time we wanted to put our own spin on the beers.”

Brett’s rise in popularity has come courtesy of the growing interest in experimental brewing, and the increasing demand for sour beers – Brett does not produce sourness but is often used alongside bacteria that does.

Moon Dog uses Brett in conjunction with oak barrels and fruit in order to produce a complex, unusual beer. “We’ve got a pretty decent collection of oak barrels that we use: ex-bourbon barrels, cognac barrels, pinot and shiraz barrels, French, American and Hungarian oak,” says Uljans. “They all provide their own unique characters that we pick to work with the flavours of the Brett. Right now we’ve got heaps of shiraz barrels from Mitchelton Winery filled up with our Perverse Sexual Amalgam [a dark wild ale] with cherry plums.”

The rising popularity of Brett is shining new light on the critical role yeast plays in brewing (and, indeed, winemaking). Much of the focus of the recent craft-beer movement has been on hops, but cannier brewers have always known that yeast is the real star: you only have to taste beers made by British family brewers like Fuller’s, in London, and Adnams, in Suffolk, to realise what a big difference yeasts make to beers produced using fairly similar ingredients.

“Yeast’s unpredictability appeals to me,” says Brown. “You get the same, repeatable flavours from malt and hops, but yeasts are so sensitive to environmental factors (such as temperature, nutrients, etc), that you can make completely different beers with the same strain. We have only scratched the surface of Brett’s potential in brewing.”

Leading the way in investigating this potential are American brewers like the aforementioned Russian River, which has built a worldwide reputation despite distributing only in a handful of American states. It’s a sign that craft-beer drinkers are now ready for more challenging flavours, Brown believes. “The reaction to the Wild Saison has been very positive,” he says. “I think that beer tends to attract the more adventurous drinker. I don’t think Brett beers will ever be top-sellers, but I think there is still a lot of room for growth.”

Uljans agrees. “Some people that haven’t tried them before are a bit shocked by the flavours, but once you explain where the flavours come from and what you’re trying to achieve – the balance of flavours, structure and mouth feel – most people want to try more.”

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Mr sippy: Shirley, the queen of mocktails

Say what you like about Academy Awards, Nobel prizes, Victoria Crosses and grand slams, the true mark of having burrowed into the public imagination is having a drink named after you.
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Of course, it helps if people remember the drink. There are any number of cocktails named after famous people – the David Bowie (chocolate liqueur and bourbon), the Joan Collins (vodka, grapefruit, sugar and soda water), the Jean Harlow (light rum and sweet vermouth) – that rarely, if ever, see the light of day. Which is what makes the Shirley Temple, named after the child star who died this month, so legendary.

Not only does the Shirley Temple live on, 80 years or so since it was first concocted for underaged superstar Shirley (at the Brown Derby on Wiltshire, or Chasen’s in Beverly Hills, or the Royal Hawaiian on Waikiki, depending on whose story you believe), but it does so without any help from booze and with most people not knowing exactly what’s in it. This sweet, pink mixture of ginger ale and grenadine, served in a glass full of ice and topped with a maraschino cherry, is the queen of mocktails.

Mocktails are treated with a certain amount of derision, which is a fair enough default setting, especially if they’re of the unimaginative sort that take a perfectly good cocktail – a bloody mary or a margarita, for example – and simply leave out the alcohol. A similarly hamfisted approach is to make overly colourful, sickly sweet concoctions, bristling with a thousand garnishes as if all the colour, movement and sugar will keep you from noticing the lack of booze. But it needn’t be this way.

To make a mocktail worth drinking by an adult, it’s best to keep it thirst-quenching with some citric sharpness or bitterness in the mix. Tonic water, bitters, fresh citrus juices, syrups infused with botanicals such as juniper, pomegranate juice, soda and mineral water, even products such as verjuice and good-quality chardonnay vinegar (such as Spain’s Forum) can make drinks that are sophisticated rather than embarrassingly childish.

Infused syrups are probably the mocktail makers’ best friend. You make these by heating a simple sugar syrup (usually one part sugar to one part water) and infusing it with anything from herbs and flowers to citrus, ginger, chilli, vanilla or even tea.

Best of all, these less flashy, more adult mocktails will all easily take a shot of alcohol if so required, something that Shirley Temple herself worked out after she reached drinking age. To the mocktail named for her, she would either substitute alcoholic ginger beer for the ginger ale or she would add a shot of dark rum, naming the drink the Shirley Temple Black. Here’s to Shirley.

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Georgia on winemaker’s mind

John Wurdeman. Photo: SuppliedBlame the traditional winemakers of Georgia, the former USSR state. They’re behind the trend towards fermenting white wine on its skins in clay amphorae, concrete eggs and other strange vessels. It’s loosely known as ”orange” wine, and it’s part of the ”natural” wine movement that’s taking root in many wineries, across Australia and the world.
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The Georgians call their clay vessels qvevri (pronounced kwevri) and they’re hardly new. The Georgians have been fermenting in these 2000 to 4000-litre clay vessels for thousands of years. They never stopped doing it: the modern wine movement, with its stainless-steel tanks, crusher-destemmers and French oak barriques, had little impact on Georgia.

According to a Georgian winemaker who attended the recent Rootstock Sydney wine festival, John Wurdeman of Pheasant’s Tears winery, the qvevri is the only vessel used in Georgia. They’ve been used there for 8000 to 9000 years. “The qvevri is lined with acacia wax and buried in the earth,” he explains. “It breathes like a barrel but imparts no flavour or tannin to the wine.”

Today, qvevri are so fashionable throughout the winemaking world that even the Georgians must join a long queue to buy new ones.

Wurdeman, whose Pheasant’s Tears wines have recently become available in Australia through importer Vinous Solutions, isn’t a native Georgian: he’s United States-born. An artist, he went to Moscow to study painting and, while there, learnt Russian. Then he discovered Georgia, fell in love with Georgian polyphony, a unique kind of choral part-singing, and went to live there, collecting musical recordings. He then learnt Georgian, as you do, which wasn’t simple as it’s a totally different language to Russian.

The Georgians have a vibrant tradition of music, food and wine, and Wurdeman quickly realised that whenever they drank and ate, they also sang, and whenever they sang, they ate and drank. Then he fell in love with Georgian wine, and resolved to make his own. In 2007 he established a wine-producing business with eighth-generation Georgian winemaker, Gela Paliashvili.

Pheasant’s Tears has 12 hectares of vines in one province and seven hectares in another, and produces 38,000 bottles of wine a year. Its vines are managed according to biodynamic principles and have an organic certification.

Orange wines are fashionable in a fringe kind of way, and you’ll find them on many smart restaurant wine lists, including Bentley, Fix St James, Quay and Momofuku Seiobo.

Wurdeman prefers the term amber wine, rather than orange.

“They’re not white and they’re not red, but in between,” he says.

They’re amber because they’ve been fermented with their skins: Pheasant’s Tears’ amber wines spend between one and six months on skins. This is most unusual, and much longer than the reds, which have a more normal 10 days to four weeks’ skin maceration.

Not surprisingly, the amber wines are quite tannic because, as Wurdeman says, they’re meant to go with food. This was graphically demonstrated to me. I tasted all eight wines he had brought, firstly without food, and then with food. The most charming, aromatic and easy to comprehend (to a regular Aussie palate) was the rkatsiteli, which is widely planted and is the preferred wine of Georgians. It lends itself to long times on skins, up to six months. The ’09 was high in aroma and freshness, and low in tannin – notwithstanding the long time on skins. I could happily drink this without food.

The 2011 Kisi was formidably grippy and a little charmless. It was my least favourite white without food, but with food it suddenly became my favourite. It was transformed. And the rkatsiteli, which had been my favourite without food, did not satisfy at all with food. It lacked the structure to accompany food. My preferences were reversed. Without leading the witness, Wurdeman had made his point.

Pheasant’s Tears produces wine from six varieties, all vitis vinifera and all indigenous to Georgia.

The wines are quite confronting, although not as difficult to taste as I had feared. There were no objectionable faults such as volatile acidity, sulphides, brettanomyces, mousiness or excessive oxidation – although I would have to say most drinkers accustomed to modern white wines may find the amber wines taste slightly oxidised, but not detrimentally. Wurdeman believes in giving his wines a little sulphur dioxide before bottling.Pheasant’s Tears

Dry Unfiltered Amber Wines

Chinuri 2011 $56 – One month on skins. Full amber hue, gingerbread aroma, soft light tannins.

Mtsvane 2011 – Three months on skins. Full orange-amber hue, vaguely citrusy, orange-peel and fruit compote aromas. Quite tannic.

Kisi 2011 $56 – Dried apricot, cooked fruit and crushed-seashell aromas. Very grippy tannins. This makes a statement.

Rkatsiteli 2009 $56 – Full orange-amber hue, spicy stone-fruit aromas, almost as spicy as traminer. Fruity, soft, round and balanced; low tannin.

Unfiltered red wines

Takveri 2012 $56 (due late April) – Ten days on skins. Clear, bright, deep red-purple; clean spicy and ironstone aromas. Light-bodied, soft and spicy taste, with gentle structure.

Saperavi 2007 $56 (due late April) – Four weeks on skins; two years in qvevri. Deep, dark colour; intense black fruits, licorice and spice aromas; very savoury, with ample but smooth tannins and good length. Full bodied but nothing like the inky monsters saperavi makes in Australia.

Retailers: Vintage Cellars Ultimo, Cremorne Cellars, The Oak Barrel.

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25 wines for $25 or less

Riesling is a good value grape. Photo: Jennifer SooWe demand so much of a value wine, don’t we? It can’t simply refresh, be nice to drink or be a good little quaffer. No, a value wine has to over-deliver for the price. It has to excite, lead the tastebuds on a bit of a journey around the mouth, give complete drinker satisfaction and still come in under the $25 mark. Here are 25 wines perfect for warm-weather drinking that also happen to tick the value box.
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1. Glaetzer-Dixon 2012 Uberblanc Riesling($24)

Nick Glaetzer pursues riesling with fineness, tight line and length, and a gentle reserve. A seminal riesling-making experience in 2001 in Germany influenced the Tasmanian winemaker’s style, shown here so effectively with refined citrus-floral beauty.

2. St John’s Road Peace of Eden 2013 Eden Valley Riesling ($18)

With its juicy, mouthwatering lemoniness, smooth glide and depth of flavour, this delicious and inexpensive drop punches way above its weight. You have Phil Lehmann as the winemaker and an excellent vintage working together – perfect match.

3. Stonier 2012 Chardonnay ($24)

Stonier makes five excellent chardonnays from Mornington Peninsula fruit. This is what some might call the ”standard” wine, made with fewer bells and whistles. It’s still far from standard. Deliciously restrained, fruit and acidity are nicely poised.

4. Devil’s Lair The Hidden Cave 2012 Margaret River Cabernet Shiraz ($22.99)

Cabernet is the structure and shiraz is the pleasure in this trad Oz red blend, which works on being open and friendly right from the get-go with sweet fruit to the fore. Ripe black and red fruits, crushed cranberries for bite and mild tannins smooth the way.

5. Pizzini 2013 King Valley Prosecco ($19.50)

So clean, so lemony-fresh with striking acidity to cleanse the palate, prosecco is not a complex wine. It’s not meant to be. The Italian grape loves life whether it’s solo, in a cocktail, served over summer fruits or as granita or jelly.

6. Sam Scott La Prova 2013 Rosato ($23)

Last month, I named Sam Scott’s Adelaide Hills cool rosé´ as best rosé´ of 2013. This month I’m going a step further, calling it best rosé´ of summer 2014. With its pretty tea rose colour, scent of raspberries and sweet strawberries, and moreish dry, dusty, lightly savoury, cherry flavour, it ticks all the boxes.

7. Oakdene 2011 Blue Label Pinot Noir ($24)

Bravely, Oakdene declassified its pinot from the 2011 vintage. It’s a charming, drink-now wine, a zippy little Bellarine Peninsula pinot that goes down very easily indeed. A big mouthful of spice-dusted cherries.

8. Jacob’s Creek 2012 Riesling ($10)

It’s been said before but it’s worth repeating: this is the best under-$20 Aussie white wine around. Nothing more to say.

9. Red Claw 2012 Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir ($23.50)

This is the wine to disarm those pinotphiles who reckon you have to pay big money to get something half-decent. You don’t. Crunchy red-berry fruits abound. Don’t be scared to chill a bottle when the sun scorches.

10. Deviation Road 2013 Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc ($24)

Deviation Road deviates from the herbaceous screaming sav blanc. Nectarine, passionfruit, ruby grapefruit with a savoury herbal finish and appealing texture make this wine extremely food-friendly.

11. De Bortoli Vinoque 2012 Yarra Valley Gamay Noir ($25, cellar door)

A pretty name (apparently it means “which wine” in Latin) for a pretty wine sourced from the Roundstone Vineyard, which suffered in the ’09 bushfires. The owners now sell their grapes to De Bortoli, who keep things deliciously simple, bringing black cherry flavours to the fore.

12. Sutton Grange 2013 Fairbank Rosé´ ($22)

Made by Burgundy-born Gilles Lapalus with – dare I suggest – a French-motivated sense of what a dry rosé´ should be, along with a touch of savouriness. It belongs on the list of Australia’s best rosé´s.

13. Tahbilk 2013 Marsanne ($17)

The Aussie marsanne by which others are judged, this unwooded, bare-bones Rhone white grape gives the gentlest honeysuckle-jasmine touch. It’s beautifully understated and is extremely drinkable now but built for age.

14. Josef Chromy Pepik 2012 Pinot Noir ($23)

If you’re looking for a wine to serve alongside barbecued quail, antipasto, salt-and-pepper calamari, baked snapper – or indeed just about any summer dish – this versatile pinot noir fits the bill.

15. Oliver’s Taranga 2013 Fiano ($24)

There’s no oak and no added acid. Just plenty of solid fruit from nectarine to citrus, a little pear skin and even some of that preserved citrus-rind character that immediately lifts a wine into savouriness.

16. Coriole 2012 Sangiovese ($25)

Why do Italian red grapes make for such excellent summer drinking? They’re medium-bodied, lower in alcohol than many trad Oz shirazes, less oak-reliant and savoury. Coriole defines the style to the letter.

17. Scarborough 2013 Green Label Hunter Valley Semillon ($20)

Scarborough’s flagship White Label semillon is in the classic mould – built to last. Its Green Label offers the alternative – drink-now, succulent fruits, pleasing texture and acid for zing.

18. YarraLoch 2011 Estate Arneis ($25)

Another Italian white grape that likes it super-dry and almost neutral in flavour, save for a sheerest veneer of pears, stone fruits and an Italian-like almond character.

19. Tar & Roses 2013 Strathbogie Ranges Pinot Grigio ($18)

It’s almost rose in colour, but that’s because the winemakers haven’t removed the pink blush as many do. A solid grigio with an arresting saline spiciness.

20. Dal Zotto 2012 King Valley Barbera ($25)

I’m thinking pulled lamb on a bun with spicy harissa slaw and a glass of this, a wine that takes spice in its stride and loves lamb so completely. Smooth and just a bit rustic.

21. Voyager Estate Girt By Sea 2011 Cabernet Merlot ($24)

Girt By Sea opens up easy and is so accessible right now. A soft, understated elegance here with fresh, pulpy red berries and just a whisper of oak. Lightly chill if desired.

22. Mawson’s Cape Denison 2013 Limestone Coast Sauvignon Blanc ($15.95)

The connection between the Wrattonbully wine region and Antarctic explorer Sir Douglas Mawson seems tenuous, but forget that and just enjoy this simple tropical fruit-accentuated savvy that is sufficiently dry enough to raise it above the average. .

23. Wynn’s 2013 Coonawarra Riesling ($24.99)

Get this while it’s young, punchy and full of tangy citrus fruit. As Coonawarra gives backbone to cabernet, so the region’s fruit offers a rod of steel to riesling.

24. Yalumba Eden Valley 2012 Roussanne ($24.95)

Can’t say I see the “pink flowers, blood orange and biscotti” referred to on the back label. To me it’s more like fresh herbs, lantana, pear and gunflint.

25. Taltarni T Series Chardonnay Pinot Noir Sparkling ($17)

A generous, confected mouthful of stone fruits and honeyed nougat with quiet acidity, but acidity nonetheless. Cool on a hot day.

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Malthouse not bothered by Carlton’s loss to Adelaide

Carlton coach Mick Malthouse admitted it was a minor concern that he was unable to nominate a best player for his side, but said his primary objective against Adelaide on Monday night was for his players returning from injury to get through the game unscathed.
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The Blues were overrun in the last quarter, with the Crows eventually winning by 38 points after what was a terribly sloppy and unattractive first half.

Malthouse said with six senior players – Kade Simpson, Dale Thomas, Heath Scotland, Michael Jamison, Jeff Garlett and Matthew Kreuzer – all playing their first games of the year after injury-interrupted pre-seasons, it was always likely the team would flag in the last quarter.

Bryce Gibbs and Chris Yarran sat out the final term after suffering minor soreness.

“I said to the players before the game, if we win we will tick it, if we lose I will make an excuse to the media. But I don’t have to make an excuse … it was almost predictable that six of our players who had been out of action coming back were never going to impact the action in the last half,” Malthouse said of the loss in which Adelaide kicked six goals (including one super goal) to the Blues’ single goal in the last quarter.

“It was most important that they got running. In this case, most of them played approximately the minutes that we wanted them to play but knowing full well that under pressure they were always going to be head down cramped pretty much ‘let’s get this game over’.

“Dale, I thought he was good, I thought he gave us a bit, predictably like the other boys that played (he tired).

“Garlett has had one possession in the last quarter predictably; Jamison has had four. I suppose the ball was down there a fair bit; Scotland has had two or three; Simpson had three or four; Thomas had two. It was predictable.

“The most important thing was that they got through.”

Malthouse said he was pleased that – the final quarter blowout notwithstanding – defensively the team was better structured and organised than last year.

“To try and pick our best player was a long way short of being our best player whoever it was. Because we didn’t have a best player and that is a bit of a concern, but it is the second game of the year and we are not into round one.

“The most important thing today was whether we got a few defensive things right, and by and large we took some pretty significant steps there from last year. Can it hold up? We have to pick our best 22 players and see if it does hold up.”

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