Archive for

  • 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.
    Nanjing Night Net

    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.


    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''.


    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.


    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.


    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).


    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).


    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.


    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.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

  • Dinner in tomorrowland

    Pete Evans's lamb shank pie. Pete Evans's lamb shank pie.
    Nanjing Night Net

    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.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

  • Can pork be served rare?

    Ceviche Photo: Edwina Pickles Acid test: Orange juice just won't cut it for ceviche. Photo: Edwina Pickles
    Nanjing Night Net

    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.


    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.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

  • Wine vintage a matter of development

    Can we assume, considering the [recent] heatwave, most Australian winemakers will have poor 2014 vintages?
    Nanjing Night Net

    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.

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

  • Mugshot: Experiments in flavour

    Stop me if you've heard this one already.
    Nanjing Night Net

    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.''

    This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.