Friday, October 30, 2009

It's a love/hate relationship.

Although my collection would suggest otherwise, there are some things about Gourmet Traveller that I dislike.

Number one on that list is the branding of it as a "luxury" magazine.  I know the food is luxurious (although often not that expensive - the agar agar for the parmesan marshmallows was 80c.  An affordable experiment) but it irritates me that this translates to an expectation the rest of your life will be equally luxurious (and these extras do have the pricetag to accompany them).

Exhibit A:  This month's Gourmet has a section on champagne.  Oh Good, thinks I, who have been known to enjoy a glass (or two) of bubbles on the odd occasion (or even occasion for that matter).  So I turn to the section and find it really is a section on Champagne with a big C - the proper stuff.  The cheapest bottle featured is a steal at $85.  Most hover around the $100-$150 mark, but if you're feeling like splashing out, there is a $220 bottle (the 1999 Charles Heidsieck Rose Reserve, if you're interested).   

But ok, fancy pants wine can perhaps be expected - it is Gourmet Traveller after all.   And good wine and serious food are often a pretty good match.  (A bottle of $10 lambrusco and serious food can also be a pretty good match in my experience, but I suspect I am a wine philistine.)

So onto Exhibit B:  A piece on party invites for adults.  Instead of emailing or ringing your friends to invite them over to your house, why not drop them a note?  So much nicer in the age of instant communication.  And if it takes a $31 set of invitations, each enclosed in its $7.50 envelope (yes, that's per envelope) - well, so much nicer.

I don't have the money to spend on stationary like that - I'm too busy buying agar agar!  And king prawns, which did put a little more dent in the wallet than the agar agar.  A worthwhile dent though, because this brings us to the love part of love/hate.

The food.  When it all goes right, it is so wonderfully right.

Last night's dinner was this chicken, prawn and caramel coconut salad from a recipe from Longrain.  It was a perfect Thai recipe, a wonderful balance of salty, sweet, pungent, sour and hot.  

It wasn't the quickest recipe - the chicken had to be poached in a heady mix of coconut milk, stock (I used duck stock Tony had made a few weeks ago - very nice indeed), fish sauce, ginger, garlic, lemongrass and oyster sauce, cooled and then shredded.  The coconut caramel sauce was made with palm sugar, coconut (well, dur), shrimp floss, shrimp paste (lot of shrimp featuring here), fish sauce and lime juice.  Then the shredded king prawns, chicken and dressing was tossed with mint, coriander, julienned ginger and chillies.

It was AMAZING.  Cooking, I was a little worried - the dressing was very pungent, and I was afraid it would overwhelm the delicate prawns.  I shouldn't have been.  It all combined perfectly, and we polished off the whole thing.  Definitely a keeper.  And for the money I saved by not sending Tony an invitation in the mail on luxury paper, we can probably even make it again.

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