Flight Facilities & MSO @ Melbourne Festival – Sidney Myer Music Bowl, 17 October 2015

Flight Facilities got themselves a new band on Saturday. It may have just been for the night, but it was sure worth the effort.

A 60-strong Melbourne Symphony Orchestra lay the musical landscape for Flight Facilities’ mixing to soar over – a recreation that breathed new life and energy into a string of songs that have become Aussie favs over the last couple of years.

Fronting the huge stage of musicians was a revolving door of guest vocalists, who provided a string of highlights. From Kurt Kristen’s moves (showy meets hilarious), to Reggie Watts’ mimed impersonations (the violinist was impressed), through to the vocal talent (and effortlessness) of Katie Noonan, as well as the volume of the crowd accompanying Owl Eyes on ‘Crave You’ and ‘Clair de Lune’.

Between vocalists and throughout each performance the MSO shone, producing a terrific score across the entire suite. They kind of made you question what the pilot outfitted duo were actually doing at the back of class (ooh, contentious… not really).

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The Basics @ Melbourne Festival – Foxtel Festival Hub, 14 October 2015

This was The Basics of new and old – politically driven in the lyrics of their new material, while continuing to wear their musical influences on their sleeve.

The set list was effectively divided between recent Basics songs and not-so-recent cover versions; everything from Split Enz, The Everly Brothers and Eric Bogle, with the crowd given the opportunity to offer up sheet music to any tune they liked (one offer resulting in some classic Farnsy).

The set thrived on good times, grooves and goofs, as always, with added passion in Kris’ fervent singing on tracks like ‘Time Poor’ and ‘Lucky Country’.

And having tried an in-the-round gig in January before this event, the trio proved the format’s merits: it was a far more inclusive experience for the crowd, both visually and in the general vibe.

With another hiatus on the horizon, this was a great Basics experience to add to the list, with Melbourne Festival’s Hub offering a unique and strictly limited musical environment.

Festival of the Pizza

October is Pizza month, so in addition to my usual Eat the World blogs I have launched Festival of the Pizza! The bulky pizza menu was originally going to take place over the Grand Final weekend, but I decided to spread the love and make a new style of pizza every weekend for five weeks instead. In my research, I was pleased to find there are some great differences, not only throughout Italy, but across the globe.

Each weekend brings a pizza contribution from one of five countries…

Week 1 – Italian style – 2 October 2015

FOTP 1 - Italy

A popular contemporary legend holds that the archetypal pizza, Pizza Margherita, was invented in 1889, when the Royal Palace of Capodimonte commissioned the Neapolitan pizzaiolo (pizza maker) Raffaele Esposito to create a pizza in honor of the visiting Queen Margherita. Of the three different pizzas he created, the Queen strongly preferred a pie swathed in the colors of the Italian flag: red (tomato), green (basil), and white (mozzarella). Supposedly, this kind of pizza was then named after the Queen as “Pizza Margherita”, although recent research casts doubt on this legend.

Ingredients (base)
• 1 tsp salt
• 2 tbs olive oil
• 1 cup lukewarm water
• 7 gm packet dry yeast
• 3 cups flour

Method (base)
1. Combine water, yeast and salt in a bowl. Cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place until it has gone frothy (15 minutes).
2. Add flour to yeast mix 1 cup at a time. Mix well, then kneed on a floured surface for 10 minutes so the dough is nice and flexible.
3. Return dough to an oiled bowl, cover and store in a warm place for an hour to rise.

Ingredients (sauce)
• 250 gm ripe tomatoes
• 2 cloves garlic, sliced
• ½ tsp sugar
• 1 tsp oregano
• 1 tbs olive oil
• Salt and pepper

Method (sauce)
1. Peel and de-seed tomatoes, remove excess liquid, chop fine.
2. Fry the garlic in oil until golden.
3. Add the tomatoes, oregano, salt & pepper to taste. Cook to reduce, but stir carefully so your tomatoes retain chunky texture.

Ingredients – Topping (quantities as desired)
• Uncooked prawns
• Chilli flakes
• Shredded mozzarella
• Basil leaves

Method
1. Preheat oven to 250C, put pizza stone 10 minutes ahead of cooking.
2. Once risen, divide dough as required.
3. Stretch out dough a little, then use fists under the dough to stretch it out and be all fancy spinning in the air (or you can roll it out).
4. Top with tomato sauce, uncooked prawns and shredded mozzarella and sprinkle chilli flakes and cook for 8 minutes.
5. Place fresh basil leaves on top, slice and serve

Week 2 – Chicago style – Deep-dish – 10 October 2015

FOTP 2 - USA

Deep-dish pizza is the most famous variety of Chicago-style pizza and is the USA representative for FOTP. Cooked in a deep pan to create a high walled base, this is a thick, chunky take on the Italian classic. Traditionally this is made with a tomato sauce and baked to a pie consistency: an inch high and it can still be sliced without slopping everywhere!

First make the base (it takes an hour to rise):

Ingredients (base)
• 100 ml lukewarm water
• 1 tsp dried yeast
• 1 teaspoon caster sugar
• 1 cup plain flour
• 1 tsp salt
• ¼ cup olive oil

Method (base)
1. Add yeast and sugar to water. Cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place until it has gone frothy (15 minutes).
2. Sift flour into a bowl with salt. Create a well and pour in the yeast mix and oil. Mix well, then kneed on a floured surface for 5 minutes so the dough is nice and flexible (this one is quite stick so you will need a bit of extra flour to keep things clean).
3. Return dough to an oiled bowl, cover and store in a warm place for an hour to rise.

The tomato sauce is extremely important for this dish. It makes up most of the pizza, so it needs to have an amazing taste; but it also needs to be thick enough to not slop everywhere post bake. I used the following sauce and it worked a treat:

Ingredients (sauce)
• 1 red onion, chopped
• ½ bulb fennel, chopped
• 1 long red chilli, chopped
• 3 cloves garlic, chopped
• ¼ cup red wine
• 2 bay leaves
• 1 bottle of passata
• 1 tin of tomatoes
• 1 tbs tomato paste
• 4 tomatoes, chopped
• Salt & pepper

Method (sauce)
1. Blitz onion, fennel, chilli and garlic to a paste.
2. Heat oil in a pan over high heat and fry paste for 5 minutes.
3. Add wine and reduce a little.
4. Add bay leaves, passata, tinned tomatoes and tomato paste.
5. Cook on a medium heat for 1 hour.
6. Meantime, roast chopped tomatoes on 180C for 20-25 minutes. These should then be added to the sauce about 10 minutes before finishing.
7. Season sauce as needed.
8. Allow sauce to cool.

And now to assemble the deep dish pizza…

Ingredients
• Base, as above
• Tomato sauce, as above
• Chorizo sausage (or Italian sausage), sliced and fried
• Mozzarella cheese, sliced (enough to cover the base – thickness to liking)
• ½ pecorino cheese

Method
1. Preheat oven to 200C.
2. Knead out the base (it will be quite elastic so be careful).
3. Line your pan with the dough, bringing it up the sides about 5 cm (you’re supposed to use a case iron pan, but I didn’t have one and instead used a 22 cm spring form tin).
4. Place slices of mozzarella to cover the base.
5. Sprinkle over half the pecorino.
6. Top cheese with sausage pieces.
7. Fill entire dough casing with tomato sauce.
8. Sprinkle remaining pecorino over the top of the sauce.
9. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes.
10. Leave in pan for 5 minutes, then slice and serve.

Week 3 – Turkish style – Pide – 17 October 2015

FOTP 3 - Turkey

The Turkish have their own answer to pizza in pide, a traditional and staple dish consisting of topping, often meat, atop a kind of dough-boat. It varies from its pizza cousins around the world in its shape, doughier base and greater volume of toppings. Pide is a cheap and cheerful meal, made throughout the day.

Ingredients (makes four Pide bases)
• 2 tsp dried yeast
• 1 tsp sugar
• 150 ml water or milk
• 300 gm flour
• 1 tsp salt
• 2.5 tbs olive oil

Method
1. Warm the milk (lukewarm) & add the yeast and sugar. Cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place until it has gone frothy (15 minutes).
2. Sift flour into a bowl with salt. Create a well and pour in the yeasty milk and oil. Mix well, then kneed on a floured surface for 5 minutes so the dough is nice and flexible.
3. Return dough to an oiled bowl, cover and store in a warm place for an hour to rise.
4. Preheat oven to 250C (you want it really hot), put pizza stone 10 minutes ahead of cooking.
5. Once risen, return the dough to your surface and knead out any air.
6. Cut dough into four portions and knead each very well, shaping into an elongated football shape (with pointy ends).
7. Top the pide with your preferred toppings, then crimp the edges up around it all (it should look like a boat). Brush with olive oil, transfer to stone in oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until dough is cooked through and golden.

The filling. I’m going to avoid cheese because there’s enough of that in other varieties through FOTP. There are plenty of very meaty varieties in Turkey so here’s one that celebrates lamb and spices:

Ingredients (topping)
• 2 tbs olive oil
• 1 brown onion, finely diced
• 2 cloves of minced garlic
• 100 gm lamb mince
• 150 gm diced lamb
• 1 tsp ground cumin
• 1 tsp sweet paprika
• 1 tsp sumac
• 150 ml red wine
• 2 tbs chopped parsley

Method (topping)
1. Add oil over medium heat, brown lamb pieces and remove.
2. Add onions and cook – 5 minutes
3. Add garlic – 1 minute
4. Add all spices – 1 minute
5. Add mince and cook through, then add cooked lamb.
6. Pour over wine, add a little more (or water) to cover the meat.
7. Cover the dish and cook for at least an hour – the lamb pieces should be quite tender.
8. When cooked, mixed through chopped parsley.

When using on the dough, if the topping has not dried/thickened enough, you should decant excess liquid before baking (or it’ll be quite soggy).

Week 4 – German style – Flammkuchen – 24 October 2015

FOTP 3 - Germany

Flammkuchen represents Germany’s contribution for FOTP. Translating directly to “flame cake”, it consists of an uber-thin, rectangular bread base (that will “snap” when cooked) and typically covered in either cheese or crème fraiche, onion slices and lardons or bacon pieces. Other varieties include gruyere, mushroom or munster highlights.

Ingredients
• 200 gm ‘00’ flour (you can use normal flour, but ‘00’ will make it super easy to get thin)
• 2 tbs oil
• 125 ml water
• 1 pinch salt
• 1 tablespoon butter
• 200 gm creme fraiche (or sour cream)
• 200 gm onions, sliced
• 100 gm bacon, sliced thin
• Salt & pepper

Method
1. Preheat oven to the highest temperature possible.
2. Mix flour, oil, water and salt to make a dough and knead it until it is no longer sticky.
3. Roll dough into a large rectangle as thin as possible.
4. Melt butter in a pan and soften onions – 2 minutes.
5. Add bacon and heat through – 2 minutes.
6. Spread crème fraiche on top of base, then scatter onions and bacon.
7. Season with salt & pepper.
8. Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until base is completely cooked and crispy.

Week 5 – Argentinian style – Fugazzeta – 31 October 2015

FOTP 5 Argentina

Argentina’s population is half Italian, so you’d very much expect them to have a contribution to the world of pizza. The fugazzeta is such prize, taking its name from the Italian focaccia, but its style elsewhere. With a breadier base, this style consists of a lot of cheese and a lot of onion. Basic, but unique.

Ingredients
• 7 gm sachet dried yeast
• 125 ml (½ cup) lukewarm water
• 225 gm (1½ cups) baker’s flour
• 80 ml (⅓ cup) olive oil, plus extra, to grease
• 600 gm (about 3 large) onions, thinly sliced
• 150 gm mozzarella, grated
• 150 gm provolone, grated
• 2 tsp dried oregano
• 12-15 olives, pitted

Method
1. Combine yeast and 125 ml (½ cup) lukewarm water in a bowl. Cover with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place until it has gone frothy (15 minutes).
2. Combine flour and ¼ tsp salt in a large bowl, stir to combine, then make a well in the centre. Pour yeast mixture and 2 tbsp oil into the well.
3. Gradually incorporate flour until dough comes together. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic.
4. Return dough to an oiled bowl, cover and store in a warm place for an hour to rise.
5. Heat remaining 2 tbsp oil in a large frying pan over high heat. Cook onions, stirring, for 2 minutes or until just softened.
6. Season with salt, transfer to a bowl and cool completely.
7. Preheat oven to 250°C.
8. Lightly grease a 31 cm pizza pan, then gently and evenly stretch dough to cover the base, creating a higher ‘lip’ at the edge.
9. Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap, then set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 30 minutes to rest.
10. Combine cheeses in a bowl, then scatter over base.
11. Top with onions, sprinkle with oregano and scatter over olives.
12. Bake for 20 minutes or until base is golden and cooked through, and cheese is melted.

Augie March & The Drones @ The Croxton, 2 October 2015

Having not played in a few months, and with their last tour consisting of Australia’s finer venues, it had been a while between spilled drinks on sticky floors for Augie March. The far subtler of the pair of headliners, Augie led with a mixture of their last three albums, as always the musicality the strength rather than any physical energy. ‘Brundisium’, ‘Song in the Key of Chance’ and ‘The Night is a Blackbird’ – all from Strange Bird – were twists in Augie’s ever changing setlist, while newie ‘Definitive History’ was a fantastically wordy conclusion.

The Drones were less still, less reserved and less sober than Augie. Off the back of their Wait Long by the River album shows, they were well and truly ready to christen the Croxton with their poetic, guttural, heavy supremacy. A double of ‘Shark Fin Blues’ and ‘Baby’ straight out of the gate set the tone for the next hour – a rampage of rock and eerie harmonies, big guitar and thunderous drums. The creep of ‘Locust’ and momentum of ‘Minotaur’ were additional highlights, but the closing cover and Drones staple ‘River of Tears’ was the most poignant moment of all.

And how did the venue fair? The Croxton’s new bandroom is an interesting addition to the Melbourne scene. Without knowing any numbers I can only make assumptions, but it looks to hold a fair lot more than its similar peers (vibe-wise), such as the Corner Hotel bandroom. And there’s no pole in the centre. The capacity bodes well for future lineups, although while standing up front is fine, a lack of any changes to levelling means the further back you are the less you’ll witness visually. It plays the pub well though, so that is hardly going to concern many.

In any case, the fact that Melbourne is opening a venue like this instead of closing one is the biggest winner of all.

Eat the World – Part 8

Week 31 – Portugal – 13 September 2015

In my last week of Europe for Eat the World, I landed in the continent’s Western most country: Portugal. After being flooded with choices for the likes of France, Italy and Spain, I was surprised to struggle with options presented to me this week. Kale and broad beans seemed mighty popular – no thanks. Seafood was another big choice, but as much as I would have loved a cataplana, I didn’t have any of the equipment. Even the obvious choice of piri piri chicken didn’t grab me, with recipes seeming all too easy and lacking.

I eventually realised that I could recreate something I never thought I would: Porto’s famous sandwich, the Francesinha! This is a beast of a meal native to the country’s northern city. Having heard a lot about them, I hunted one down in Porto and quite enjoyed it. I even wrote about it on this here blog.

The Francesinha is a monster. It’s a multi-bread layer sandwich involving steak, sausage and ham, covered entirely with melted cheese, topped with a fried egg and ladled with tomato sauce. Except it goes one better – the tomato sauce is made with beer! Completed with potato chips, you do not leave the table hungry, believe me.

Having looked at a couple of options for inspiration, I pulled together my own sauce for this guy. So I present my own recipe for Porto’s prize:

Bread + Steak + Bread + Fried chorizo + Ham + Bread + Cheese melted over the top + Fried egg on top.

To make the sauce, I cooked a chopped onion and two chopped cloves of garlic until soft, added a splash of fortified wine, a scoop of tomato paste (maybe ¼ cup) and about 150-200ml beer. I let that cook and reduce a little, then blended to a soup consistency, ready to pour over the top.

31.1 Portugal

As something a little less specific than a Porto sandwich, I also decided to make some of Portugal’s famed pasteis de nata, or Portuguese tarts. After searching around and finding several variants, I settled on this recipe.

I found that the custard worked very well, and came to a really nice consistency once it cooled down. The pastry, made from puff, didn’t seem quite right, though. The method only allowed for quite shallow tarts, with very thin pastry. As a result, while the custard worked a treat, the pastry didn’t end up quite like the champion, flaky, genuine article. All in all, it still tasted pretty tops, but I would stress the instruction to eat these on the day of cooking.

31.2 Portugal

Week 32 – Morocco – 20 September 2015

My first week in Africa and I decided to use up the one country on the continent I had any idea about food-wise: Morocco. Like India way back in week 15, Morocco is famed for its abundant spices and generous use of such, along with cooked meats and cous cous.

My recipe was for a lamb stew that combined lamb and vegetables, crushed spices, chilli, tomatoes and apricots. Cooked over a moderate time (about 1.5 hours), the dish had time to develop some great flavours as the ingredients – layered when they went into the oven – sank into one another.

What I liked about the stew was that it transitioned in texture and flavour as you ate it. The lamb pulled apart, the veges were soft and the stock thin but rich, while the flavour was instantly sweet and deceptively spicy (it kicked in late with some surprise). I too often forget about using dried apricots and along with some middle eastern examples, this one has re-sparked my interest.

The recipe is available here.

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Week 33 – Algeria – 27 September 2015

As far as African food goes, I really have little idea what to make. I went to a bookshop to visit the cookbook section, and while there were plenty of books on Moroccan cuisine, there was little going for the rest of the continent. In addition to this hurdle, many of the exciting recipes I managed to locate online contained ingredients I could hardly get my hands on.

For Algeria, I decided to go with a northern African staple: the tagine. By definition, I was unable to make a tagine as I didn’t have the “conical earthenware”, but I managed to stay true to the process and flavours at least.

This was a vegetarian number, featuring whole okra and diced potatoes in a thick sauce of onion, tomato and spices. I concocted a variation of an African ras el hanout spice mix, which included cinnamon, ground ginger, turmeric, pepper, nutmeg, cardamom, cloves and allspice. This, along with a generous amount of minced coriander and parsley, gave the dish a great flavour. It was really a celebration of the spiced sauce, with the vegetables there to bulk things out.

There are a couple of things to look out for if using the recipe I did. The first is that some water or stock should be added to ensure the potatoes cook through. I did this and it didn’t dilute the flavours. The other point is that the okra could go in a little while after the potatoes so it doesn’t turn too soft. All in all this was a tasty addition to my global menu.

The recipe is available here.

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Week 34 – Egypt – 4 October 2015

Making my way across the north of Africa, this week Eat the World brought me to Egypt, and with it a variety of simple recipes with distinct character. Having not really known much about African cuisine a month ago, I seem to be developing a picture of how popular stews and the like might be, with this week’s recipe making it three from three.

While the recipe list has far less requirements than Morocco two weeks back, I decided on this lamb stew because of its secondary ingredient: taro. I have never used taro, but have long been curious about it. It’s a root vegetable that looks like a bulbous, rough and ugly tree stump, with thin twisting veins running through its white centre. Along with the taro came a vegetable I know all about, and normally avoid: silverbeet.

The recipe for this stew is here and it is very straightforward. The only changes I made were spicing the lamb with salt, pepper and ground coriander before initially cooking, and using less water to begin with (adding a little at a time if needed), so the end product wasn’t overly watery.

The abundance of garlic added serious punch to this dish, while texturally it maintained interest with tender lamb, wilted greens and the taro, which was creamy, starchy and kind of sweet. A simple meal, but a good introduction.

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