Category Archives: cooking

Preparing food for eating. Recipes, techniques, ideas, ingredients.

Where are the good kitchen scales?

How hard is it to make a set of consumer digital kitchen scales that are reliable? Too hard, it seems.

Exhibit A, below, is the most reliable, moderately priced (A$40) set I’ve found in recent years. The IKEA Ordning kitchen scale is simple, reasonably robust, and fairly reliable. I’ve had two in the last six years. The first broke because I have a habit of knocking things onto the floor. My parents inherited it because my father is nifty with drills and glue and stuff;) The second Ordning scale isn’t quite as good. No design changes, but the displayed weight seems to creep up or down a little sometimes. A pity, because the first one was really, really reliable.

Exhibit B, below, was a piece of junk I bought at BigW. I liked the idea of a solid flat glass surface, and bright display. Junk. It wasn’t enough that weighing something at different spots on the surface yielded different outcomes, but watching the display settle on a weight, then slowly tick upwards gram by gram over a period of about 30 seconds, then (if lucky) slowly tick downwards to (approximately) the original weight, was excruciatingly frustrating.

The design was clean and the display was bright, but that couldn’t compensate for the flaws. This device is sold under many brands both here in Australia and overseas. I don’t know if the one I bought was a one-off faulty unit. There are other scales that are of the same basic design but have a slightly different base or display, and these might behave differently.

Exhibit C (which I’m not exhibiting) was another type of scale (raised glass disc over a plastic housing) at a similar price point. It refused to register the addition of any amount under about three grams, so if you had 100gm of something already on the scales and slowly sprinkled on small amounts of extra ingredient, it wouldn’t notice. Dumb.

What’s a gram or two between friends?

If baking is your thing, and especially if you spend quite some time developing recipes, every gram can matter. For general use, it’s not so big a drama unless you’re adding small quantities of very potent ingredients (e.g. certain flavours, chemicals in avantgarde cooking, leavening agents, etc), or making a very small batch of something where the balance of ingredients is crucial (e.g. a ganache).

I began to wonder if the expensive digital scales sold in most cookware shops and department stores were, in fact, justifiably pricey. A quick look at the reviews on various Amazons left me sceptical, and the fact that the typical consumer probably trusts their scales without testing them for accuracy/reliablity certainly distorts the reviews.

So I wonder what my readers use and have found to be truly reliable?

A decent set of scales should, in my opinion, manage at least to:

  • measure up to at least 3 kg, preferably more
  • measure as little as 2 gm
  • measure in increments of no larger than 1 gm (there are cheap scales out there that only measure in 2 gm or 5 gm increments)
  • be zeroed/tared
  • measure reliably, without the figure creeping up or down, or the baseline changing
  • (added later:) perhaps measure lb/oz as well.

Reliability of scales is difficult to assess if you don’t have access to more than one set of scales. However, smallish weights can be checked by using multiple coins, as the weights of coins are meant to be reliable (e.g. an Australian 50c coin should weigh 15.55 gm; Wikipedia has useful reference lists for many different currencies).

Where there’s smoke there’s crème brûlée

Is Paris burning?

No, it’s just Harry making crème brûlée again…

[My Parisian correspondent, Harry de Paris, has been wanting to write about these lovely custards for Syrup & Tang, so here you are… my first guest writer. Duncan.]

Inspired by the film Julie and Julia, I recently decided I would embark on a similar undertaking to cook all the recipes in a single cookbook. Armed with my beloved copy of Family Circle Dinner Parties (circa 1990), I determined every weekend to cook each of the recipes the book contains which, as it happens, are neatly organised into three and four-course meals.

The first meal consisted of an entrée of tomato garlic mussels, followed by veal with wine and mustard sauce for the main meal, and finally, crème brûlée as dessert. I must admit I was somewhat surprised to find a recipe for crème brûlée in an Australian cookbook from twenty years ago. I’d certainly never made it before, and had only tried it a few times in restaurants in the ten years I’ve been living here in Paris. They are delicious, really, but I’m just not that mad on desserts.

The first two courses of the meal went fine, both in the preparation and the eating. But when it came to the dessert recipe, I’m afraid I have to use the F-words: Fundamentally Flawed. I followed the instructions and doses to the letter, but the end product was a grainy, sometimes lumpy, tasteless custard with caramel on top.

If you haven’t enjoyed the pleasure of eating a crème brûlée, you should know that it is in fact supposed to be a smooth and light vanilla custard (thick, not runny, and certainly not lumpy or grainy). It is served chilled, but with a thin layer of burnt sugar on top.

Despite the initial hurdle, my resolve to pursue my endeavour was strong and I was determined to cook the following week’s dinner party meal. After all, I was on a mission. But sadly, my determination was no match for my desire to get those doggedly difficult crème brûlées right. Family Circle would have to wait!

Disappointed with the recipe I had followed, I delved into my cookbooks and browsed through a forest of websites and online cooking forums, only to discover that there are as many recipes for crème brûlée as there are budding chefs. In the multitude of recipes I found, the proportions of egg yolk to cream and the amount of sugar used varied as much as the cooking temperatures.

My research also revealed that crème brûlée is a dessert whose origins the French, English and Spanish all lay claim to. The Spanish (well, Catalonian) variety is known as crema catalana and, among other distinguishing features, it contains cornflour (unlike the French version). Burnt cream, on the other hand, originates from Cambridge, and is made mainly on the stovetop and can also include cornflour to thicken it. Finally, the French crème brûlée can be traced back as far as 1691 when the then royal chef, François Massiolet, wrote a recipe for it in his book of recipes, Nouveau cuisinier royal et bourgeois. In more recent times, the crème brûlée was popularised during the 1980s by chef Paul Bocuse, and has been a hit in French restaurants ever since.

Through much trial and error, I managed to learn that the French version of crème brûlée is best cooked in the oven at a very low temperature of around 100°C. After all, crème brûlée is a kind of custard, so if the internal temperature manages to get anywhere near that high, you’ll make it curdle. Trust me, on my second attempt, I did! You see, my French oven is powered by gas, and it has only two possible temperatures: a minimum of 160°C, and a maximum which exceeds that of a kiln.

Trying to navigate this French eccentricity, I discovered a further point of discord among recipes: to bain-marie or not to bain-marie. In my case, achieving such a low temperature could only be possible by putting the custard-filled ramequins in a tray of water. As my learned friend Duncan explained to me, the water surrounding the ramequins boils at 100°C. Any hotter and it turns into steam, so the submerged walls of the ramequins (and therefore the edges of the custard) can’t get any hotter than the temperature of the surrounding water. This turned out to be a key factor in getting the custard to set without it curdling. It takes an eternity in the oven, but it seems to work.

A further hint I found on the internet was using a small amount of egg white. This suggestion tends to make waves among purists, who claim that only the yolks should be used, but it doesn’t hurt and it also appears to help the custard to set.

Now that I had finally managed to make palatable crème, I had to “brûler” (burn) them. When making crème brûlée, it really is worth doing the burnt sugar at the last minute, just before you serve them, because the contrast between the chilled custard and the hot, crispy layer of sugar is what makes it so delicious. Nowadays in most restaurants in Paris, chefs tend to use a gas torch, and incinerate a thin layer of sugar sprinkled across the surface of the chilled custard. I had no such torch to begin with, and somewhat precariously held the custards on their side over the flame of one of my gas stove burners. Miraculously, the custard never ended up sliding out of the ramequin and onto the stovetop, but I knew that disaster was nigh and this makeshift solution would never do in the long run.

That was when I discovered the crème brûlée iron (fer à brûler or fer à caraméliser in French) – a round metal disc with a long handle on it, which you heat over the flame. When the metal is searingly hot and about to turn red, you brand the custard with the iron, burning the sugar and turning it to a delicately thin, crisp layer of caramel. This is apparently the way crèmes brûlées were originally made, and it’s loads of fun to do. The smoke generated by this method, however, is a little worrying for the neighbours, who at this point were looking across the street and into my kitchen to make sure I hadn’t started a fire!

Recipe (makes four individual crèmes brûlées)

4 egg yolks (plus a little of one egg white)
65 g white sugar
460 ml cream (30-35% fat)
Several drops of vanilla essence
Brown sugar (demerera or dry crystal brown sugar; normal sugar can also be used)

1. Preheat the oven at 100°C if possible, or at its lowest temperature if not.
2. Slowly heat the cream and the vanilla together in a saucepan until it reaches a simmer.
3. In a separate, large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and the white sugar.
4. While the cream is still hot, gradually pour it into the egg and sugar mixture, whisking all the while.
5. Let the mixture stand so that the bubbles that formed from the whisking break. It depends how much you whisked, but leave it at least 30 min.
6. Once the mixture has settled, pour equal amounts into each crème brûlée dish.
7. Place the filled dishes in a bain-marie (use a large oven tray placed in the oven) and fill the tray with water so that the tops of the crème dishes are slightly above the level of the water.
8. Cook the crèmes in the bain-marie (in the oven) for 60-90 min, until they are just set (the middle may still seem runny). Remove them from the oven and cool on the benchtop before placing them in the refrigerator for long enough to chill.
9. While the crèmes are still cold, sprinkle with the sugar and caramelise using the heated crème brûlée iron, a blow torch, or under the grill.

Thanks for reading!

Beef short ribs cause ecstacy

I’m not a fan of small pieces of meat on the bone. Chopped up duck, chicken wings, ribs, bak kut teh… I’ve never enjoyed chewing modest amounts of meat off bones. For years I ignored a cut of beef – short ribs – believing it would have, well, ribs in it. Duh. In fact, the short rib cut is often sold boneless in Australia, leaving just luscious layers of very flavoursome beef and quite a bit of fat. This cut is the relatively thin layer of meat that covers the outside of the ribs of the animal on the side of the ribcage, beyond the fleshier back areas (with thicker bone) used for cuts such as Scotch fillet (rib-eye) or rib roast.

While I was working on my Where are the Good Meat Books? feature on The Gastronomer’s Bookshelf, I came across a recipe for Korean-style oven-browned short ribs in one of my favourite meat books, The Complete Meat Cookbook by Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly. It sounded very tasty, so it was time to get ribbin’. The outcome was nothing short of heaven. Fatty heaven, but heaven nonetheless.

The idea is to braise rib meat with lots of garlic and ginger until tender, then roast the pieces of meat in a hot oven until they crisp a bit. I must admit that, despite making this dish four times, I’ve never done the final step. It’s just too delicious in its braised form that I didn’t bother with the final oven crisping!

You can use bone-in or boneless short ribs. Trim them of excess fat and cut into largeish mouthfuls. Pop them in a good braising pot (cast iron is great). Add lots of ginger, garlic, soy sauce and some brown sugar, spring onions (scallions) and a little vinegar or lemon juice. Add water to cover the ribs. Simmer uncovered until the meat is tender (may take two hours).

Towards the end, you’ll need to stir more frequently as the moisture evaporates and things stick a bit. The amount of fat which renders from the rib meat is considerable and means that you get that lovely rich browning that readers might know from some south-east Asian beef curries/stews. The result is a dish with a deep, aromatic savoury-sweet profile with tender chunks of meat that separates into coarse layers. Rounded off with a little sesame oil at the end of cooking, it’s fantastic.

Serve it in relatively small portions on rice. Small portions? Yes, because everyone will want seconds! I’d recommend accompanying it with clean sweet preserved vegetables (light flavours), or some fresh, lightly cooked snowpeas or buk choy or wilted spinach.

Macarons by Duncan – a project comes to fruition

[UPDATED: PRODUCTION HAS ENDED FOR NOW. SEE THIS ANNOUNCEMENT] Some people are organised enough to document a project and then tell their readers all about it, blow by blow. Not me. All good intentions of snapping photos evaporated as I juggled the eccentricities of an induction stove, the buttons and dial of a fancy Rational oven (it does almost anything, except tell me why it’s not doing what I want!), and the largest macaron batter I’ve ever made! You see, on Monday I stepped into the kitchen of the new food venture, EARL Canteen, by Jackie and Simon.

You probably all know that I expect a lot of the macarons (one-O, not macaroons) of the world, and Jackie finally persuaded me to try my hand at commercial production late last year (abetted by another long-time nagger who is largely anonymous). I understand the baking challenges that confront the home cook, and have never understood why professionals in Australia don’t do a better job. I also understand the pressures and limitations of business (my dream of gold-leaf initials on my macarons will have to wait… hehehe), but a professional should manage demands of mass production and cost and time, right?

I hadn’t been at the practical end of a commercial kitchen until about three weeks ago, and my first production run was, well, last Monday. I went from home batches of at most eighty macarons to 250 in one fell swoop. And you know what, despite everything (including batter up my armprints and ganache down my front), I’m pretty happy with the final product. There are some things that I think could have gone better (no way I’m telling you what, hehe), and I’m sure I’ll be more satisfied as I get more into the groove. And my piping technique has improved:)

Of course, I hope that customers of EARL Canteen enjoy my macarons and that they meet expectations at least most of the time (hey, I’m aiming for all the time, but nothing can be perfect).

Choosing launch flavours was fun. By pure chance, I saw finger limes at my local Coles supermarket (apparently they bought almost the entire supply for this season… I hate to think how much of the fruit went unsold in the stores). I liked finger lime immediately. Funny little “capsules” (actually “vesicles”) of tart, slightly peppery/musty juice. They’re quite robust, and I immediately thought of mixing them into a ganache. Pop! Pop! Fun. Indeed, someone has already described this macaron as “like a sour warhead going off in your mouth”!

Despite this fun, in macaron mass production I found the fruits are an utter bugger to de-capsulate, so to speak, as the vesicles are a bit sticky, and there are quite a few pips in there too! Grrrr.

The second launch flavour had to be passionfruit. Why? Well, Pierre Hermé (the Parisian super-master-macaron-deity) has a delicious, popular passionfruit+milkchoc macaron named Mogador, and everyone seems to love it (including Sarah, who indicated dire consequences if passionfruit didn’t make a rapid appearance in my repertoire). I wanted something fresher, brighter than the Mogador, as passionfruits are in season right now, so a white chocolate ganache was ideal. Add a few pips for cosmetic value and surprise crunch, and there you go…

I’ve agonised over branding for my macarons, and eventually settled on simple, clear Macarons by Duncan. I guess it’s as honest as can be! I hope you like the logo. Was fun and fiddly to get that far. Every Macaron by Duncan will bear a small, colourful dot on one shell… it seemed a fun way to “brand” the product. What’s more, every flavour has a name. Sometimes there might be a reason, sometimes it’ll be a whim. Finger lime is CLANCY dark. Passionfruit is ZARA white.

A third flavour is on the way, quite possibly this week. I’ve set up some subscription options on the Macarons by Duncan page, so that people can keep up with new flavours (and a small amount of trivia (if you subscribe via Twitter) relating to Syrup & Tang, The Gastronomer’s Bookshelf or food in general).

For the moment, I have an enormous list of ideas for new flavours, but if you’ve got a reallllly special request, you can always message me… maybe sometime in the next year I’ll squeeze it in! (Honestly.)

Thanks to all who have encouraged me to make the macarons happen, especially Jackie for making it possible, and Harry, Mittens, Josh, Sarah and Thanh. And thanks to Mark, Y-C and Matevz for their technical advice. I hope everyone enjoys them (if you live nearby or are visiting).

Breakfast time and pancake temptation


For the most part, I’m not the kind to dally over, under or prior to breakfast. Once upon a time, I could barely manage the few minutes of showering before my stomach felt like it was devouring me. Staying with various friends in Germany was a special torture, as the morning routine extended beyond showers and shaves, to setting tables, brewing coffee, laying out cold meats and cheese, and popping down to the bakery for fresh rolls. At times, breakfast begins more than an hour after rising. (It must be said that such German breakfasts are delightfully homely affairs — totally gemütlich — and can fill a day with bonhomie. But only if I haven’t already collapsed from the aforementioned self-consumption.)

Breakfast, as some readers already know, is rather important to me, associated with simple but very important dietary specifications. It is, however, here that I first reveal the temporal parameters of my breakfast. As a child, I would eat before showering. Little did I know this would establish digestive patterns that have turned me into a wimpering hunger-immobilised wreck when visiting Germans or poorly-catered hotels.

As a student, I tried going to the gym before breakfast, and quickly found myself staggering, zig-zag fashion, across campus as my nervous system gradually shut down non-essential functions. I think it was around about this time that I discovered morning croissants were not only delicious, but an excellent surrogate for gym exercise.

After quite a few years of travelling, I can now manage almost 45 minutes without food before my stomach starts gnawing. And you know, 45 minutes is just right for making puffy pancakes. I grew up with my mother making pikelets (the only true puffy pancake in my family) with butter and golden syrup for special breakfasts, and of course she was up well before me, so there was never a delay in product delivery. As an independent adult, these morning luxuries have been rare, because they take too long.

However, I was so attracted to the recent tasty photo of banana/bacon/ricotta/maple pancakes on The Last Appetite a few weeks back that I decided to brave the ticking clock and reproduce them at home. 45 minutes. Done, dusted, devoured.

I rarely post recipes on Syrup & Tang because most readers have their own trusted books, or you can Google pretty much anything (with about an 85% chance the result will have been “adapted” from a book). So, off you go and find some fat pancakes (often called American pancakes. I like the buttermilk pancakes in Stephanie Alexander’s big fat Cook’s Companion). Slice or mash some banana. Fry some streaky bacon over low heat for quite a long time until fairly crisp. Have heaps of butter and maple syrup ready! Try not to forget the ricotta whipped with honey (ehem, damn). Devour noisily.

And if that doesn’t suit you, have a bowl of Rice Bubbles. They’ve made me the man I am today.

Postscript: My co-eater, Mittens, was browsing through Maggie Beer’s Maggie’s Harvest and came across a salad with pear and prosciutto. “How about this on our next batch of pancakes?” What a good idea… (not the salad part, of course).

Of ovens and baking (and macarons)

On the occasion of Jour du Macaron 2010 (I’m a few hours late) and the approximate occasion of Syrup & Tang’s third birthday, I have decided to write about ovens, rather than presenting more pretty domes of deliciousness. Why ovens? Because a lack of understanding of how ovens work is one of the main causes of so many home bakers’ problems. And I promised to write about them a year ago.

Many of you know that the macaron has become one of the, um, signatures of Syrup & Tang. In December 2007, I wrote a series of explanatory articles which I dubbed La Macaronicité. Many, many questions have been answered in the comments to those articles, and my instructions and formulae have been reproduced all over the place (sometimes without acknowledgement, unfortunately).

It’s easy to bring together the themes of ovens and macarons, because if you know your oven, the likelihood of a successful batch of macarons, for instance, is much greater. Knowing your oven is more than just the common problems of people (1) just not letting their ovens preheat for long enough (your oven’s walls need to absorb and then retain heat: it takes more than 15minutes!), and (2) opening oven doors for too long (you can usually expect a drop of at least 10C in a simple open-insert-close transaction).

Among the many problems macaron-makers face, there are five that are almost always caused by issues with heat:

  • no feet
  • lopsided feet
  • air pockets
  • ruptured shell (minor volcano)
  • sticky bottoms

Issues which aren’t usually to do with heat are: wet macarons, collapsed or cracked shells, very thin (translucent) shells (some of these issues are discussed in other posts).

Time for macaron-physics 101!

A macaron has an outer shell which should be thin and crisp in its cooked form (not thick and crunchy!). Below this crisp exterior is soft airy cooked batter, and keeping that soft stomach in is a thin dry layer with a chewy edge (the foot) where the macaron was in contact with the baking paper or Silpat. How is it that the sticky, temperamental batter of almond meal, sugar and egg white turns into a dome of three textures?

chocolate macaron

Heat causes drying, expansion and a whole pile of other more interesting things to happen. Our primary concern is how the distribution of heat in the oven affects the correct development of the shell. The diagram below gives you an idea of the desired process, with a hard shell forming before the air in the batter under shell expands too much. (Ok, other things expand too, but the air is the main thing.) With the right timing, the expanding batter causes the shell to lift, with the foot forming in the gap between shell edge and baking tray.


When reading most macaron recipes, you’ll find (a) no info about the type of oven (fan-forced or no-fan), (b) occasional strong recommendations for using stacked baking trays, (c) various instructions to vent the oven by opening the door at some point during cooking.

None of that helps most bakers.

People obey these instructions without having been given insight into why or how relevant such things are for their own situation. Is your oven gas or electric? Does the heat source cover the bottom of your oven, the rear of the oven, the top of the oven? Fan or no fan? Is your thermostat reliable? How efficiently does your oven recover from the door being opened? I could go on.

When I wrote my first instructions for making macarons in my La Macaronicité series, I had battled through so many wasted batches of these diva-biscuits thanks to my belief that published recipes would help me understand what to do right. Doubling baking trays was utterly wrong for my oven (type B below). Venting the oven was pointless. Leaving the shells for an hour before baking was unnecessary (but at least had little negative effect). It took a while after that for me to better understand the relationship between hardened crust, batter expansion under the shell and the resultant rise of the macaron off the baking surface. I get the feeling that too many people who should know this stuff are nonchalant about communicating it to home bakers.


Of fundamental importance: heat rises. If your heat source is built into the base of the oven (oven image A), as in many modern gas ovens (especially in Europe, perhaps also North America), the heat rises strongly below a baking tray. If the gas flame is at the back of the bottom of the oven (type B), as in typical older Australian oven designs, heat below the tray will be relatively weak. Electric ovens vary in element placement and heat distribution, but if you have a crappy electric oven with an element just at the top (type D), abandon much hope of easy macaron making without a serious oven stone of some sort to store heat in the lower part of the oven.

That double-tray thing you might have read about is entirely a function of people baking with ovens with lots of heat under the trays (types A/C). You double the trays to slow down the penetration of heat from below which could otherwise cause a weak outer shell to burst (minor volcano) and/or the base to brown before the rest of the shell is done. In my case (oven B), I needed to *increase* the heat below the macarons by heating the tray, otherwise the bases were always sticky, making the macarons impossible to remove from the paper.

Understanding how heat in your oven affects your macarons is at least as important as not overmixing your batter. Doing small test batches of just a few macarons is the easiest, least frustrating way of testing the effects of various parameters (I’ve written that before, both on Syrup & Tang and eGullet, but too many people still chuck a whole tray of macarons in an oven, believing that divine providence will deliver unblemished beauties).

In my original experiments two-and-a-half years ago, I found that air pockets seemed to result from minor temperature differences. In my normal method I almost never experience air pockets, but there are still rare occasions which I can’t explain.

I have to reiterate that home bakers have to be willing to read through tips, comments and to test things out themselves — careful, systematic persistence yields results. The problems that can occur often have multiple interacting causes.

Venting the oven at some point (typically for the last few minutes in a fan-forced oven) helps prevent the shells from browning while letting the bases firm up, but even fan-forced ovens may not be giving truly evenly heat, and there’s the added drying effect of fan-forced cooking.

Leaving the shells to crust (dry on the surface) is a kind of insurance policy. It means the surface hardens in the oven a little more quickly. With lots of heat rising under a single baking tray, the batter can easily erupt through the still-weak crust like a mini-volcano. A harder crust will prevent this and, instead, all that expansion will go towards pushing the shell off the sheet, giving (hopefully) a nice foot. Poor professional bakers often leave their shells to crust for ages, resulting in an overly thick, crunchy shell (hello Sydney and Melbourne!). If you’re unlucky, the uncooked batter can adhere to the baking surface as it crusts, with the result that the shells eventually rise unevenly or the batter vomits out from wherever the seal is weakest.

That’s the round-up of macaron-related oven issues. I hope they help inexperienced home bakers solve problems better with temperamental baked goods like macarons (or canelés or pasteís de nata). I might eventually build this information into the original series of articles, but I don’t have enough time at the moment. If you have observations along the above lines that could strengthen these tips, please share.

Soulless food: My Kitchen Rules

Yet another unreality food show has hit our Australian telly screens. My Kitchen Rules, where teams representing five states vie for the title of most-self-confident but not-quite-expert home entertaining maestros. People showing off to each other isn’t exactly my idea of fun cooking viewing, but hey, maybe there’s something to enjoy in it.

My arse.

The first episode surprised me with the ageist comments of some dinner guests (and co-competitors) about their advanced-middle-age hosts. So, like, wrinklies aren’t meant to be able to cook like pros? I wonder what granny might have to say about that…

The competitors, mostly 20-somethings, show a startling lack of humility (except for the lovely, warm Queensland sisters), but if the second episode is anything to go by (perhaps best subtitled The Guys Who Couldn’t), viewers might be in for more lashings of hubris and patchily competent execution. You know you’re watching quality TV when overconfident lads have a range of high class restaurant chinaware on which to serve up their leathery ravioli, burnt pinenuts and (thankfully) excellent chocolate cake, all the while observing that their performance just wasn’t up to their normal standard (what does it take to boil your pasta to the right consistency when you’re competing for food show-offs of the year?).

It’s good that each pair is locked into whatever menu they submitted before the filming started, otherwise the strategic menu designing would perhaps lead to the last couple having a distinct advantage. But of course, that couple will still be able to correct some of delivery problems that the first two pairs have experienced.

Such a pity that the last couple (some episodes away yet) are the most putridly bitchy pair from Adelaide. May their custards curdle, their fish be dry, their spices stale and their dishes greasy. They seem to deserve little better.

We have yet to endure the we’re-perfect meltdown of the Perth team, and (I hope) a fine performance by the only people who seem truly nice: the aforementioned Queenslanders.

Something tells me that out there in high-end-food-mag-land there are in fact obnoxious people actually engaged in this sort of repulsive pseudo-culinary exhibitionism. I’m glad it’s been a long while since I’ve been to any such “event”.

Meanwhile, I was sitting in front of the telly happily, quietly, unexhibitionistically consuming a delicious plate of rigatoni with red capsicum, bacon and delicious naturally cured Victorian olives. Cooked by me for my tastebuds. Cooked for satisfaction, not show. Just like thousands and thousands and thousands of other foodloving people around Australia.


Now, if you want to see how really frightening these guests-to-dinner competitions can get, check out some of the mortifying episodes of the UK series Come Dine With Me on YouTube: (competitor 2 Val, part 1) (competitor 2, part 2) (competitor 4 Dawn, part 1)

And if that didn’t make your day, dear readers, nothin’ will! 🙂