Daring Bakers in stereo: Caramel Cake with Caramelised Butter Icing

This month’s Daring Bakers challenge comes to you in stereo on Syrup&Tang. My Parisian correspondent, Harry, has taken up the Daring Bakers cause and baked his little heart out. Alas, he lacks a blog, so he’s posting here alongside me. What did we make? Caramel Cake with Caramelised Butter Icing.

The name of the cake has been slightly modified to reflect Australian norms (in solidarity with the philosophy of Cathy at Everything Goes With Cream). The cake itself? Well let’s just say that I had contemplated starting this post with “And how f**king sweet do you want it, sir?”. The body of the cake is pleasant, dense but a lovely texture in the mouth. The ‘frosting’ is very, very sweet and if I tell you that I halved the quantity and still had more than enough to create a modest, appropriately iced cake, then you can perhaps take pity on those who made the full amount and now lie in bed in a sugar-induced coma. (And I haven’t even dared mention the caramel sauce and caramels which were suggested accompaniments to the cake!)

Anyway, here you go. As a caramel cake it’s mild, pleasant, inoffensive. There are definitely cakes out there that better express caramel notes, but I might still make this one again. Different icing though.

And now for the account from Harry de Paris: (drumroll!)

Caramel Cake

A Different Way to Fry an Egg

Like a good English novel, I’ve given my Daring Bakers Challenge post an alternative title. Unfortunately I don’t have the flair of, say, Jane Austen, but the moral of the story, I hope, will rival a good George Eliot.

When I first read through the recipe for the caramel cake, it all seemed to me like a bit of a sugarfest. Two cups of sugar here, another cup there, add a stick of butter or two and some cream. Just thinking about that amount glucose was making me hyperactive!

Not being a particularly sweet tooth, the challenge for me was how to make something that wouldn’t make my head spin. I determined to add a slightly more savoury element to the recipe, to counter the sweetness of the sugar syrup. After much umming and ahring, I finally decided to incorporate a small quantity of coffee, into the batter in which I soaked a few cardamom seeds. It then occurred to me that I could take the idea further and try making a kind of marble cake, with a syrupy batter on the one hand, and a more savoury coffee one on the other.

Dutifully I turned on my oven to preheat it to the right temperature. Baking in my gas oven is always a bit of a hit-and-miss affair. The three markings which appear on the temperature dial are 150, 250 and 270°C, with the latter two spaced further apart than the first. Precision is not one of its stronger points.

Now to the batter. One lesson I learned the hard way was that, if you’re as bad at cracking eggs as I am, crack them into a cup before adding them to the mixture, because trying to get egg shells out of the batter is a right pain! My second and third eggs went into a cup while I…oh I forgot: the oven!

After faffing about with my batters and eggs and things, my trusty oven temperature gage told me I had well and truly overheated it to levels usually reached in a potter’s kiln. I opened the door for a couple of minutes to cool it down while I went back to my batter. Enter the eggs. I picked up the cup to mix the eggs into batter, and with one swift and somewhat inelegant move, the cup slipped from my grasp, the contents fell squarely upon the open, but still scorchingly hot oven door and fried instantly. It all happened in slow motion, like a dream sequence in a film. The smell of rapidly cooking egg brought me back to reality, however, and I hastened to clean it up – easier said than done on a burning hot surface.

After that minor disaster, and a few eggs later, the cake and icing more or less made itself. I’d left it the oven a touch too long so it came out a little singed. The marbling effect didn’t work visually, as the coffee wasn’t dark enough, but the taste of the coffee touched the spot. My guests that evening were happy as far as I could tell, and they asked for seconds, which is always a good sign. And the story of the eggs certainly made for an entertaining anecdote.

So… the moral of the story clearly is that one must always keep one’s cups of eggs well away from hot ovens when the door is open. But everybody knows that!

Thanks for reading! HARRY.

Recipe: Shuna Fish Lydon from Eggbeater published on Bay Area Bites.
Challenge: hosted by Dolores of Chronicles in Culinary Curiosity. Co-hosts: Alex of Blondie and Brownie, Jenny of Foray into Food and Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go.

France, celebrity chefs and bad diet

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the cliché about how well the French eat. You know, fresh produce markets everywhere, everyone eating good cheese and drinking decent wine. No fatties, no fast food diets, blah blah blah. We read this garbage often in nice comfy middle-class lifestyle rags and see it perpetuated in breathless television travel shows. Reality is, of course, a bit different.

The Guardian has two articles (with interesting links) about the popularity of celebrity chefs in France and the rise of one chef, Cyril Lignac, who is campaigning for better eating in much the same way as Jamie Oliver does in Britain. [1,2]

You see, the French don’t (as a whole) eat fantastic, fresh, healthy, homemade food. They behave rather a lot like Australians, in that they have access to a wide array of restaurants at many budget levels, can buy produce of reasonable quality and like to talk about food, but don’t always cook frequently and are quite fond of large meals and fatty or sweet snacks. Similar, EXCEPT that on the one hand the French have a stronger concept of good food, quality ingredients and more (cakes! cakes! chocolate! cakes!), and on the other hand have much larger numbers of socially disadvantaged or disenfranchised communities who fall entirely outside the much-vaunted food culture.

So yes, the French have great dining culture, marvellous markets (with their own flaws), etc etc. But at the same time, fast food joints are packed out with teenagers, discount supermarkets do high trade in canned and long-life foods, and frozen meals are popular in time-poor or can’t-cook households.

(There are many nuances one could explore here, but I just wanted to draw attention to the articles in The Guardian. I might write more about this in the future.)

Review: Eating Between the Lines, by Rebecca Huntley

Eating Between the Lines has received a bit of media attention since its publication recently. I heard an interview with the author, Rebecca Huntley, on ABC Radio National and found the discussion interesting. I decided I should read the book, and then Neil over at At My Table wrote a great review that increased my interest further. You should read it.

I’ve now worked my way through the book and as you’ll read below, I wasn’t impressed.

Summary review

Eating Between the Lines claims to be “A different kind of food tour” and sociologist Rebecca Huntley certainly takes the readers on a journey. The book is a series of discreet chapters exploring aspects of food culture in Australia. From the subtitle of the book, “Food & Equality in Australia”, you might expect the focus to be on poverty, access to food, and perhaps the ability to cook. In fact, Huntley ranges over these themes and adds a sociopolitical agenda involving gender roles, racism, Slow Food and more. At times, the reader might feel that the author lacks much insight into deeper cultural and historical issues, leaving her argumentation a little popular-conscience rather than achieving insightful examination. Nonetheless, many interesting pieces of information come out of the interviews and stories and the footnotes are interesting. I found Eating Between the Lines very irritating, but it’s well written and designed to hit the right “how terrible” buttons with certain types of readers. Huntley might, however, have cast her net a bit too wide, because there are enough touches of sneering through the book that she might well offend even some of her target audience.

The structure of the book

The introduction paints a picture of inner-urban living with access to many food options in opposition to a decaying suburban environment with limited choice, most of it unhealthy. The author asks “how fair is Australia’s food culture?”. She then ventures into the contrast between a wealth of television chefs cooking fancy food and the supposed realities of eating/cooking in the normal population, using obesity, other writers’ commentary about British food, and some data about purchasing habits to get the ball rolling. Each of the next nine chapters covers an issue that Huntley feels is relevant: poverty and bad eating, child obesity, domestic cooking, men not cooking, single people and food, indigenous food and social disadvantage, ethnic food and racism, local food, ethical/rich-people food trends. Huntley concludes with an honestly ideological position about food, equality, empowerment, access and more.

The author

Rebecca Huntley is a social researcher, director of the Ipsos Mackay Report on social trends, and writes for Vogue Australia.

What is particularly good/interesting/new/special?

Eating Between the Lines serves as a window on food issues in Australia (and the rich world more generally) in the mid-2000s. That’s probably its greatest value. Its timing was good, though might have been even more interesting if written after consumers began to react to the global economic problems (that’s life).

The book is well written and stimulates readers to think, but because the author is quite definitely writing to an (at least loosely) pre-determined agenda, its value isn’t really as an objective assessment of issues unless you read between the lines of Huntley’s own perspective. The footnotes and bibliography are valuable inclusions which will give interested readers more paths to explore.

Huntley interprets “equality” more broadly than some readers might expect (extending it to food choices, urban sprawl driving out local agriculture, and more). This comes as a surprise as the book develops, and at times I really wondered how chapters were meant to relate to the overarching theme and the neighbouring chapters. Certainly, Huntley covers a range of interesting topics and illuminates many issues which are worth attention, sometimes very skillfully, but it’s difficult to work them all into a coherent thesis.

The author makes some interesting points, such as “If Jamie [Oliver] wants to encourage more family meals, why doesn’t he criticise those fathers who won’t shop, cook and clean for their families?”, raising the tricky issue of whether indigenous foods should be part of mainstream Australia’s diet, reminding us that food is about sustenance for many people, and highlighting the gulf between the dietary/cooking habits of the rich/empowered and other parts of the population.

What flaws/problems are there?

This book reeks of “I know what I think and I’ll paint you a picture that shows I’m right”. There are certainly many valuable points made and examples given. But Huntley seems to disrespect some of her subjects, sometimes moments after describing their plight or using their situation to prove a positive point.

On many occasions, Eating Between the Lines presents arguments based on nothing more than uninformed conjecture. There’s little serious data, but lots of social commentary to support more social commentary. Huntley is too comfortable generalising beyond her experience. Even the introduction shows a willingness to poo-poo something that doesn’t suit her: she provides a secondhand quote of London-based Australian reviewer Terry Durack saying “I grew up in a country where good food was available to all at a good price”. Huntley then writes “… I don’t believe we can be confident of the truth of Durack’s claim that good food is available to all Australians at a good price. Not all of us live in a lucky eating country. And the top-class food familiar to critics like Durack is not the kind of food the vast majority of Australians have the time, money or opportunity to enjoy.”

Excuse me for being blunt, but that’s just rank ignorance. If Huntley understood something about relative costs and quality of food historically (and now) between different rich-world countries she would hopefully have been more careful in dismissing Durack’s statement. The vast majority of Australians have had much better access to good, affordable basic produce than most people in many comparable countries for many decades (and Durack was writing about when he grew up). That doesn’t mean the same degree of access across the population (and has to exclude people living in extreme poverty and/or isolation) or that it applies to every type of produce in every place. But Huntley’s rejection of Durack’s slightly-too-broad statement is symptomatic of an impaired openness to different experience or possibilities.

Some readers will quickly tire of the author’s cynical depiction of men as kitchen chauvinists who can’t cook, won’t cook, or get treated with kid gloves when they do manage to step into the kitchen. I don’t for a moment deny that the vast majority of men don’t do much/any domestic cooking. It’s likely that it’s primarily because of established gender roles being perpetuated/enforced by various parties, including the men themselves. But Huntley dwells on men not cooking, or only learning to cook because of necessity, with limited consideration of other factors. I found it offensive personally, and on behalf of those men who do cook as part of their normal domestic roles. Huntley isn’t scared of moments of passing chauvinism about men, gay cooks, women in commercial kitchens, fat people, and more.

I could write much more on the flaws (I’ve bookmarked about 20 examples of particularly irritating stuff), but I think you get the idea. I’ll finish with one vaguely amusing example:

In the chapter called Basic Meals for the Ultra Rich, Huntley simultaneously derides people shopping at farmers’ markets (“Sucker prepared to spend a lot of money on not a lot of food.”) while admitting she’s one of them too. To prove how expensive it is she presents a short shopping list. This includes a bag of organic apples for A$5, half a kilo of organic coffee for $11.50 and two organic lamb shanks for $8. How strange that the coffee is actually cheap, the apples are only a little pricey (assuming it’s a kilo bag), and the lamb shanks are about the same for most Australians paying typical (non-market) silly prices ($3-4) for any shanks. She didn’t even get her “here’s proof” shopping list right. I’m sure many readers could have done better.

Target audience

Oh, this will appeal to all sorts of people riding the food-consciousness wave. Ironically, the ones who’ll probably like it most are the “Bobos” that Huntley describes and sneers so effectively at in the chapter mentioned above (though they might not like it if they make it to that chapter). It’s perhaps worth reading to make you think, but not necessarily because it’ll enlighten you.

As you can imagine, not everyone shares my perspective on this book. In addition to Neil’s review mentioned at the top of the review, you could also consider this and this.

ISBN 978-1-86395-263-7 – Black Inc.

Favourite dishes you don’t serve to guests

I’m reading a recently published book called Eating Between the Lines by Rebecca Huntley (recently written about by Neil at At My Table). It’s an irritating book (about which more in another post sometime soon), but one section about single people’s views of the food they prepare for themselves as not being ‘proper’ cooking is interesting.

Although most of the food I cook is quite definitely suitable for guests, there are one or two dishes which fall into a sort of ‘private comfort’ zone. People I’ve lived with have eaten them, but that’s the burden of the house-share, where all sorts of dubious food is cooked communally — Reis mit Scheiß (rice with shit) as one German housemate described things.

After I’d stopped living with my sister, she admitted some time later that she missed my ‘veg spag sauce’, despite having moaned and teased about it while living together. For me, my ‘veg spag’ is delicious. It’ll go in a cookbook one day. But it needs a bit of marketing spin to make it sound publicly viable.

‘A deliciously simple vegetable sauce for spaghetti, featuring the honest flavours of tomato, carrot and zucchini. Great for a quick, homely meal.’

Put to one side that it doesn’t look very pretty, and that its ‘honest’ flavours can require a little adjustment. This, ladies and gentlemen, is my favouritest simple no-motivation-to-cook accompaniment to pasta:

Duncan’s veg spag sauce

1 clove garlic, chopped finely
pinch dried marjoram
olive oil
250ml tinned tomatoes (unenhanced with gloop or flavours)
some coarsely grated carrot
some coarsely grated zucchini (optional)
salt, pepper and sugar to taste

Sauté the garlic in olive oil, add the marjoram and then the tomatoes. Break down big pieces of tomato and then add remaining vegetables and a little water. Simmer for about 20 mins until it has reduced to a fairly thick sauce. During that time, cook some spaghetti. Serve with grated cheddar or parmesan.

The consistency is thick and not very wet, because of the grated veg. Not pretty. I think it suits spaghetti best, because of it’s texture and the ratio of pasta to sauce in each mouthful.

The sauce must be tasted during cooking because, let’s face it, tinned tomatoes vary radically in tastiness, and carrot can often taste very ‘green’. Don’t be shy about the salt (the acidity of the tomatoes might mislead you), and a very small pinch of sugar can also lift the dish. If the sauce tastes too ‘honest’, you can add cream to improve it. It also tastes great with good black olives (chopped) through it.

I think the ur-sauce is actually something my dad made when I lived at home, involving chopped veg and slices of kabana or salami, but my memory is uncertain. Certainly, a little bacon can perk up the sauce too:)

Okay, so I’ve spilt the beans on a ‘private’ dish that I don’t feel comfortable serving guests or friends. What about you? If you write about it on your own site, please link back here and leave a comment.

‘The Fresh Food People’ bring you tired, woody asparagus

We’re all familiar with limp artichokes, shrivelled ginger and pale, rock-hard tomatoes at our favourite supermarket chains. Thin spears of asparagus often sit in bunches, gradually drooping into sadness. Imagine my surprise when my local Safeway had boxes full of thick, thiiiiick green asparagus… obviously as woody as hell, and on closer inspection also sadly soft and shrivelling. Impressive effort for ‘The Fresh Food People’.

Pastéis de nata — Portuguese custard tarts

Of the many baking projects I’ve launched in the last ten years, only one has caused serious weight gain, burns and an absolute lack of fear of puff pastry. Portuguese custard tarts, known as pastéis de nata (cream pastries) or pastéis de Belém (Belém pastries) do something magical to many eaters. They are an enchanting combination of lightly crisp pastry layers and a very, very pleasant egg custard filling. And, of course, they’re a little tricky to make at home.

Once I’ve started one of my projects I rarely drop the bone until I’ve exhausted most avenues. If I remember rightly, it took eighteen batches of tarts to develop the recipe which was published in The Age newspaper back in 2004. At the time there were no reliable recipes online or in any of the books I could find or friends could source, either in English or Portuguese. It’s still the case that few published recipes are the real thing. Why? Because rather than admit failure, too many cookbook writers prefer to pretend they’ll fulfill your dreams. If it fails, you’ll probably assume you made a mistake.

Look through your cookbooks and magazine cuttings for a recipe for these tarts. A surprising number omit to show a picture of the final product or they make sure they dust the tarts so liberally with icing sugar and cinnamon that you’ve got no chance of seeing what happened to the custard. It’s called cheating.

The greatest examples of Portuguese custard tarts have frightening burnt spots on the surface. That charring might at first seem unappetising, but it adds a lovely extra dimension to the flavour. For many home cooks, those spots are what seem to be the unattainable, essential marks of beauty. It is very difficult to get them at home, and it’s wise to deprioritise such freckles and go for luscious interiors and texture instead.

A commercial kitchen has hot ovens. HOT. Without setting fire to your kitchen, you can’t get there at home. But with luck and some experimenting, you might come fairly close to the commercial product.

A bit like my beloved macarons, it’s rare to find a bakery in Australia that can make them properly. When I was writing the original article, I travelled near and far in Melbourne, hunting down establishments producing good tarts. After far too many wild goose chases, it transpired that, with the exception of one rural bakery producing embarrassing garbage, every café and restaurant in Melbourne was sourcing their tarts from a single bakery in Burwood, the Magical Munch Bar. I’ve seen no evidence that anything has changed in the years since. This producer is reasonably good, better on some days than other. For better tarts, you have to head to Sydney, where Fernandes Patisserie in Dulwich Hill and, apparently, La Patisserie and Sweet Belem in Petersham all make great Portuguese cakes and tarts.

Ironically, a photo of my tarts which for some reason doesn’t appear on my original newspaper article online is visible (without permission) on a piece about Portuguese tarts in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Here’s some of what I wrote in 2004:

Whether at a highway roadhouse, a dusty village café, or an upmarket town eatery, the tarts are everywhere in Portugal. They are as ubiquitous as lamingtons (and suffer similar quality assurance issues), but unlike lamingtons, there is one place – just one – which everyone knows serves the best in the land. In the waterside Lisbon suburb of Belém, a cavernous blue-tiled pastry-and-coffee house serves thousands upon thousands of custard tarts every day. And the tarts here, at the Antiga Confeitaria de Belém, even have a special name: pastéis de Belém. Lisboetas (residents of Lisbon) and tourists alike flock to the Confeitaria, buying calorifically frightening numbers of tarts, neatly packaged in nifty cardboard tubes with little sachets of icing sugar and cinnamon. The impatient then rush to a bench in the nearby park, usually ignoring the grand scenery (the Jerónimos Monastery, and the Belém Cultural Centre), in order to devour the tarts at their peak of freshness, warm and soft. More prim visitors may actually dine at the Confeitaria, taking a coffee with their repast.

The custard tarts are as prominent a part of Portugal’s national identity as meat pies are for Aussies, except that Australians don’t generally write about, wax lyrical about, meat pies. But search the web for pastéis de nata, and you find an inordinate number of teenage bloggers extolling the virtues of these tarts, recounting their most recent tasting, reporting on their visit to the Confeitaria.

Pasteís de nata are a pain to make without good guidance, for two reasons: Firstly, most recipes in English are poor. Secondly, some recipes in Portuguese are pretty useless too. Thirdly, they are a maddening combination of two substances which need entirely disparate treatment – custard likes low temperatures, while puff pastry likes high temperatures. Fourthly, home ovens rarely reach the ideal temperature. Ok, so that was four reasons, not two, but I didn’t want to scare you.

Below is my slightly revised recipe. You’ll also find a good recipe, though slightly different, over at Leite’s Culinaria. We wrote our respective articles at about the same time, as enthusiasm for these tarts reached its peak.

RECIPE — Pastéis de nata [UPDATED]

makes 10

As puff pastry requires high heat for 10-20 minutes, and custard curdles at high heat after just a few minutes, it is necessary to use thin puff pastry so that it cooks as quickly as possible. The custard is stablised slightly by adding some flour to the mixture, but is still fairly sensitive. That’s why it’s hard to achieve the burnt spots without curdling the custard.

Make the pastry first, up to a day ahead. Can’t be bothered? Buy a reallllllly good quality puff pastry instead, though the result will be inferior. Follow the custard instructions carefully.

The ideal cooking temperature is probably 300-350C. Many ovens set to their maximum temperature will come close to this on the top shelf, but you need to know your oven. Convection (fan-forced) ovens generally cook hotter than standard ovens. Preheat your oven for at least 30 minutes.

You need standard size muffin pans (or my wonderful little tart pans 😉 which are 3cm deep and 7cm wide at the rim). Non-stick pans are probably unsuitable, as most of the coatings only tolerate temperatures up to 230-250C.

If you want to make sure you get the hang of the cooking time in your oven, start by cooking just two or three tarts. Taste them once they’ve cooled a little (burns!). Your main goal is to cook the pastry well. I used to recommend prioritising the custard, but undercooked pastry just makes the tart less impressive. So it’s better to accept that your custard might curdle (it’ll taste a bit like bread and butter pudding), but if you can get the pastry cooked in under about 12 mins, you should have the best of both worlds. 🙂

Note that during cooking the custard will rise up and bubble and look distinctly unpromising.

This is about enough pastry for ten shells.

70g plain flour
40-50ml cold water
1/4 tsp salt
55g butter

  • Make a puff pastry using the above ingredients. Instructions for making puff pastry (not ‘rough puff’ or ‘flaky’) can be found in most basic cookery books.
  • For this recipe, the pastry should be folded and rolled at least three times, but resting time between phases is less important.
  • If the pastry starts getting warm to the touch, it’s time to refrigerate it for a while.
  • When finished, roll out the pastry to a 20cm x 10cm rectangle, 4-5mm thick. Then roll up the pastry into a log shape, like a rug or swiss-roll, with the long edges forming the ends of the log. The log will be 4-5cm in diameter.
  • Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for half an hour.

At this point, make the custard.

This is enough custard for 10-14 tarts, depending on the size of your pans.

22g plain flour (not more)
160g sugar
3 egg yolks
1 egg
300ml milk
approx 2cm x 4cm shaving of lemon rind

pure icing sugar and ground cinnamon, for sprinkling

  • Sift the flour and sugar together into a bowl.
  • Lightly beat together the egg yolks and whole egg.
  • Put the milk, lemon rind in a saucepan and gradually bring to the boil. Remove the lemon rind.
  • Pour half of the boiling milk over the flour and sugar and stir until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is smooth. Add this mixture to the remaining milk.
  • Pour a few spoonfuls of the hot mixture onto the beaten egg and stir well. Then pour the egg into the flour and sugar mixture, stirring constantly until completely mixed. This is the finished custard, and should not be cooked further (unlike more familiar custard types).
  • Let the custard cool in the fridge.

Preheat the oven to 300C or the maximum setting if your oven can’t heat that high.

  • Remove the pastry from the fridge and with a sharp knife, cut 10 discs from the log, about 1cm thick. Some recipes say that you should now just press the disc into the pan, and up the sides, but this can be tricky, so I recommend first gently flattening the disc with a rolling pin to increase its diameter.
  • Press the disc into its pan, starting in the middle of the base, and working outwards, up the sides. The pastry will be thin, especially on the bottom.
  • Chill the pans briefly if the pastry has become too warm.
  • Place the pastry cases on a baking sheet or tray. If you find your pastry doesn’t cook fast enough, using an aluminium tray may help.
  • Pour the custard into the pastry cases, leaving about a centimetre between the custard and the rim of the pastry.
  • Put the tray in the oven. Use the middle shelf for the first batch, and adjust if necessary for later batches. Bake for 8-12 minutes. If the pastry edges are browning very well then the tarts are ready. If you get brown spots on the custard, congratulations! (But don’t bank on it.)
  • Once you’ve removed the tarts from the oven, let them cool for a few minutes, then remove them from their pans, and place them on a rack to cool. Try to resist the temptation to eat them straight away, as they are at their best when just warm.
  • Before eating, sprinkle the tarts with the icing sugar and cinnamon. Or not.

This batch didn’t want to get any spots

This batch did get some spots. The pastry looks less good because the pans had been lined two days earlier, so the edges had dried a little before cooking.

And finally…

One of my goals after starting Syrup & Tang was to revisit these tarts and improve my recipe. So much time had passed and my baking skills had improved. As life would have it, with a different oven and different trays, I learnt more about baking in one or two further tests for writing this article. Happily, the recipe needed very few tweaks (mostly in technique).

Now all I need is a café pingado and a view of Lisbon…

For final entertainment, here’s a really sweet video on how to make pastéis de nata. Unfortunately they’re not quite the Portuguese thing, but this Brazilian take on them. The video is 8 mins long but is quite charming.

Where are the Australian chefs on Wikipedia?

I’ve been meaning to write this for months. Where oh where is the Australian culinary content on Wikipedia? It’s pitiful. Stephanie Alexander is completely absent. Maggie Beer is described as a ‘cook’ and doesn’t even get a mention in the category Australian chefs. Donna Hay is an Australian chef, apparently. Neither Gay nor Tony Bilson get an entry. And if you explore related categories, you’ll find that numerous significant restaurants are missing (Quay, Aria, Bennelong, Claude’s, Grossi Florentino, Mietta’s, Jacques Reymond, Vue de Monde, etc), while alongside the few notables (Bistro Moncur, Flower Drum, Berowra Waters Inn) are dross like the Pancake Parlour and Henny Penny.

I think it’s time to encourage food-aware Australians to get online and fix this! For all its flaws, Wikipedia still offers a great resource — especially when articles benefit from many knowledgable people’s input. Too often, the internet offers a wealth of thoroughly impoverished information. It can be improved! Although Australian foodbloggers are by no means the only people with knowledge of the food scene, past and present, they are at least some of the more community-minded participants in that scene. So come on guys and gals, get onto Wikipedia and fix the flaws, add content and perhaps make some of the PR drivel in some entries a little more informative. It’s fairly easy to sign up and do edits. Just keep it nice.

And don’t stop at restaurants and personalities! How about padding out the Australian cuisine section too. Heavens! The delightful Iced Vo Vo makes and appearance, but Cherry Ripe is subsumed into an article about a song. 😛

Think of it as a service to journalism… cos we know that with so few writers and editors left at various major papers, the quality of plagiarisable sources has to be at its best 😉

And if you live in another land, why not check whether there’s adequate content for your country’s/cuisine’s food scene?

Spread the word.