Beef Appreciation & Beef Pies: Marty’s Gourmet, Willetton and Jean Pierre Sancho, St Georges Terrace

The beef pie I had from Marty’s Gourmet was one of the best pies I’ve had this year. On second thoughts given most pies I’ve had have been the reheated frozen kind, a voice, of my subconscious in some American accent I’ve dreamt up, yells out: ‘that’s no yardstick!’

This pie was certainly better than a Four ’n’ Twenty.

It was a pie that could’ve worn proudly a badge reading​ ‘Grandma’s recipe’ or ‘like Grandma used to make’. For any aliens reading this, firstly I’m honoured you’ve stopped by my blog—I’m totally pro-extraterrestrial, in case you were wondering. Secondly, it’s kind of universally understood on our planet that Grandma’s or grandma-level something means amazingly-good. I feel compelled to add to that previous sentence: where baking’s concerned. Not if you’re talking computers. 

Grandmas are good at pie-making. That’s what the stereotypes tell me. Grannies have carved out a reputation for beautiful baking, and isn’t it just the most comforting imagery that comes to mind at the thought? I think hot goods seconds out of the oven and wondrous aromas wafting through the house. I think apple pies, luscious savouries, bellies finding themselves back in the kitchen right after a main meal. I think hot Milos with marshmallows on top. I think contented chatter amidst a backing of the songs playing on Curtin FM 100.1. I think cake crumbs, the only trace left of dessert.

I think it’s a great stereotype. I love the idea. 

I had ended up at Marty’s as I’d been feeling very under the weather. I had made a visit to the doctor’s, right across from the café. Rest and recuperation had unsurprisingly been in the dicta of the doctor’s orders and I’d decided that a pie for lunch might be a great start to meeting that second ‘r’. Wait what am I saying? The pie just looked so very tempting I was like a bee to honey.

The pie arrived. I sat there appreciating the creation in front of me. The elements of a pie and sauce were simple and inviting. 

With the hesitation of a kid at the cinema deciding between a popcorn upsize and an extra large frozen Coke, and eventually going for a pack of Smarties, I cut open the top.

Hidden under that golden pastry was a steaming filling with actual chunks of beef. Manageable, large, hack-sawed pieces of beef. Like pieces originally part of a giant slab of economy beef you’d buy at a place like Spudshed, glowing with unabashed pride at the bargain scored, only to spend a good hour at home, armed with a cleaver, splashing yourself with beef blood, in a mangled attempt to get even, mandibular-ly-agreeable portions, all the while keeping admirable goals of awesome chunky beef dishes in mind. 

A lot to swallow? I’d agree.

The beef sat in a highly viscous sauce, a rich peppery concoction smacking of garlic, onion, a generous splashing of the Worcestershire, gravy cubes—best guess, there was salt from something, and a fair shake of the tomato sauce bottle (a phrase that reminds me of the former Prime Minister responsible for bamboozling us with that beauty: ‘detailed programmatic specificity’). 

The sauce was thick, and held together without soaking through the pastry bottom. 

The crust was a good puff pastry, cooked ’til golden, flakey, and soft. With the chunky beef,  sauce and puffy pastry, let me say this was amazing.

And here she is:

I also went with a mocha; it was so-so. The pie and mocha came to $10.30. 

My journey into pies continued two mornings later. I was running late on my clock—early in another universe, of course—and I was running on empty. I needed a coffee. Spying a coffee and pie deal for $9.95, I stopped and convinced myself I could do with an expensive coffee $9.95, and a bonus pie. 

The pie had employed unscrupulous tactics to make its way into my life. It had coupled itself with coffee. It knew that, like pastry, resistance​ would crumble. 

It was a pie loaded with a free serve of denial and I had lost the fight.

I sculled the coffee; JP’s do a great one. Pie in hand, I finally arrived at my desk. I went to zap my now not-extra-hot-but-still-hot pie.

‘Morning!’ came the unfamiliar voice of a man in a crisp blue uniform. He was from the other Division. The communal kitchen had a not-so-uncanny way of bringing people together and forcing conversation. 

‘Hey there, morning,’ I said doing an awkward shuffle past him, hoping I wouldn’t stack myself and send the pie flying. I seem to have greater than average odds when it comes to dropping things, which in my plentiful experience generally makes awkward​ situations worse. Stepping into the small kitchen had increased​ my odds.

‘What’s that? Early lunch?’ he said reaching for the milk. I noticed the tomato sauce in the fridge behind him. It might as well have been unobtainium.

‘Nah, just a snack,’ I said with a twinge of immediate regret. He was having a cuppa and a muesli bar like a normal person. I’d already finished a coffee and I was preparing to stuff my face with pie.

‘You can’t have snacks without bringing us all some!’ he exclaimed with a hearty smile.  

The beeping of the microwave, the half-awkward laughter where I managed to squeeze in a ‘yeah’, ‘sure’, ‘cool’ and multiple other filler words was the rest of our conversation. By the powers of the small kitchen, there will hopefully be future opportunities to undo this trainwreck of a ‘hello’.

For now, it was time to test out this pie.

They had included the complimentary, non-obligatory salad element. Mesclun, straight out of the Woolies pre-packs. It was a nice touch.

Inside the pie was a saucy mince meat that had a more commercial gravy taste to it. I would be mincing my words if I said this wasn’t good and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I did. The pie was very juicy. It made for a very moist experience, and I was sure it wasn’t the microwaving that had done it. I’d picked it up prior and still it had felt like a frail beast. The pastry​ was more a shortcrust than a puff. It was awfully soft. It was also very yellow.

Who reigns supreme? Both were tasty pies. One was just beautiful and chunky and delicious. The Marty’s Pie takes this round.

Taste verdict Pleasing pies aplenty.
1: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
2: ⭐⭐⭐

**

In the midst of composing the above, in the wee hours of the morning, I had this paragraph on beef chunks. I was thinking about the chunky beef in the Marty’s pie and my thoughts meandered, in and out, and over and over, on the whys of beef as a product of deliciousness. (And no, while it would have been a nice excuse for staying up to write prose about beef, I hadn’t been drinking).

Beef, of all types, is wonderful. 

Tearing through it is animalistic and raw. 

Cathartic on a primal level.

Ravenous and impatient are those awaiting steak on the barbie.

Understandably awake and discontent is the bloke who had only salad for dinner.

Voracious are the appetites red meat inspires. 

Flesh makes lions of us all, bringing out pure instinct at the sight. 

It’s evidence​ that maybe we’re all just animals. Well, animals in clothes.

Beef isn’t elitist.

Wagyu, marbled, aged, Porterhouse are desirable attributes​. But in the realm of pies, stews, and everything saucy, it’s chunky beef all the way.

Chunky beef reminds you that you’re not eating beef that’s been stitched together. Or minced to the point of no return. Or that bears a label with its percentage of beef content, because clearly that was considered necessary.

Forgive the beef spiel.

I’m an omnivore with hardcore carnivorous tendencies. 

I’m chewing on starting my own Beef Appreciation Society.

**

enchirist 2018

Baking: Choc-Mint Slice

I have a confession​ to make: I messed up. I got my dates all mixed up. I’ve gone and done something that’s almost criminal. 

I let July 21 pass without the moment of reverence it deserved.

I missed National Lamington Day. I know. It is with an unopened pack of dessicated coconut against my heart that I say ‘Lamington proponents of the day, I acknowledge your right to get the pitchforks out’.

Early last week (I lie: coming on two now) I was up late researching Lamington recipes of all types—traditional, filled, flavoured, banana bread Lamingtons even. I feel like that last one might fail the bona fide Lamington test if there were such a thing. An unAustralian Lamington or a very Australian Lamington? I wonder what Captain Cook would have thought. Would he have shipped the banana bread Lamington pairing? I have a feeling he might just have flagged both as delicious.

Lamingtons had, by all accounts, been in mind. I had sorted through all the must-know tips for sorting National​ Lamington Day (I was amazed: there are articles on this). I had the date set in my mind. During the week, I had done a Woolies shop for Lamington supplies, and had even remembered to bring my reusable Woolworths Macro Jute bag like a good little Woolies customer. I had bought my two types of coconut for the pantry: shredded and dessicated. Yes, they are different, and no, that wasn’t impressed upon my mind until said research into Lamingtons. I had got a new half-kilo butter block for the fridge. I had stocktaked my chocolate stash to ensure the adequacy of supplies: two full tins of dutch cocoa powder, one of Nestlé’s cooking cocoa, and three blocks of chocolate. Ostensibly satisfactory to most minds, but I always get a niggling feeling that more I could do with.

Then things got in the way. Enthusiasm waned. Lost in a sea of distractions, the arbitrary passing of time, somewhere between four sunrises and sunsets, Lamington Day dropped off my radar. 

Four days later I instead did up a choc-mint slice.

Because I felt like mint. 

I’ve resolved to postpone Lamingtons until such time that I can do them justice. Lamington Day Atonement Day is in the pipeline. Lamingtons on hold…

Here’s the recipe for the choc-mint slice

Ingredients:
150g butter
1 egg
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp peppermint extract
1/2 cup plain flour
1/3 cup SR flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup desiccated coconut, plus extra

Mix butter and sugar. Mix through egg. Add extracts, cocoa powder and stir through flours. Bake in a lined slice tin at 150°C for 20-30min until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool while preparing icing.

Icing:
2 cups icing sugar 
50 g butter
2 tbps water
1-2 tsp peppermint extract
1 drop green food colouring

Cream butter and sugar. Add water and extract. Add colour. Mix well.

Spread on top of cooled slice. I didn’t let mine cool, they were just out of the oven and onto the board—definitely made it fiddly to ice and cut. 

Ever since discovering Nestlé’s Peppermint Crisps this year, I’ve been digging minty flavours. It’s like it flicked on a switch allowing me to appreciate mint-flavoured things rather than have them remind me of toothpaste. 

These mint slices are light as, and very easy to eat your way through. They won’t do your wallet in. 

For an absolutely mint version of these, I’d add:
• to the topping, a sprinkling of crushed Nestlé Peppermint Crisps and chopped up Nestlé Mint Patties. Replace the icing with melted dark chocolate. Add a tablespoon or two of peppermint schnapps to keep things cool as a cucumber.
• to the base, a good chunk of a block of melted Lindt Dark Intense Mint from their Excellence range. This stuff is velvety and simply mint.

I am going to have to do the decadent version of these. I’ll add it to the list of things I’ve mint to do but haven’t.

Sicilian Toastie and Margherita Pizza, The Italian Corner, William Street

I spend way too much on lunch.

Every day I consider going on a diet of Vegemite sangers and Robert Timm’s instant coffee. I also promptly tergiversate on the idea when faced with lunch break and ever-present possibility of happiness being just around the corner.

I also spend way too much on coffees.

I once had a particularly bad streak of buying coffee each morning. I then decided, pledging to make better decisions, that I should probably put a stop to the daylight robberies. 

The first day without my morning coffee, I gained a full appreciation of this quote, commonly but mistakenly attributed to Michael​ Jordan: ‘You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.’ It was 100% a difficult morning. Sans magical concoction, the withdrawal symptoms began. Said symptoms were notoriously mild, in the scheme of things and given the substance in question: I ate a Cherry Ripe—an unwise choice of appetite suppressant that at best satisfied the wrong craving—following which, I made up a sachet of Moccona’s Peppermint Choc Bliss—which, admittedly, proved to be a substitute relative in deliciousness and enjoyment.

Taking things out of context, the sporting origin of this quote has me wondering about the existence of possible deeper meanings behind it. Dope, just unintended double-entendre. 

Here’s what I had for lunch on Thursday and Friday this week. I decided I’d frequent the new, well fairly new, place The Italian Corner.

I went for the Sicilian Toastie, ‘prosciutto, fresh tomato, bocconcini’, $7.50 and the Margherita Pizza ‘mozarella, semi-mature cheese, fresh basil’, also $7.50. How good do they look?

The toastie had a lot going for it. 

It had melty, stringy cheesiness, which I ate all the while mindful of the ease with which I might grow a cheese beard. It had saltiness from the prosciutto and freshness from the self-described ‘fresh’ tomato. It had sufficient crustiness and grillege, an imaginary word which here seems proper and conducive to communicating the requisite grilledness this toasty exhibited. As my one-thirty pm late lunch, it was a well-primed and served lunchbox of happiness.

The pizza, too, was a satisfactory option. The pizza featured a non-floury base of mid-range thickness, with a profusely gooey cheese sitting amidst a moderate backing of tomato sauce that had the slightest detection of onion. It was a stroll through the park on a day with the sun shining and the smell of spring in the air. The limited topping of spinach acted as a garnish on the already-satisactory pizza. I enjoyed it.

Which reigns supreme: the toastie or the pizza? I conclude the result of this cheesy conundrum a confused ‘currently inconclusive’. A determination will demand further visitations.

As an observation, pizzas, coffees and ice-cream earn you a punch on the loyalty card. No love for the toastie.

Taste verdict Classic lunchtime fare. I’m a great fan of cheesy things.

⭐⭐⭐

Trio of Cheeses at Toastface Grillah, Wellington St

To be honest before I ended up making a visit to this place for lunch, it was a ‘skip over’ place in my head. 

**

Hear me out. Toastface is in an alleyway. With bins—skip bins at that and from that I take that they should be skipped​ over, if you’ll pardon the pun. With graffiti on the walls. 

Thoughts of the most pleasant things aren’t exactly what come to mind. 

As a twenty-something female living in a first world country, in one of the safest cities, who’s fortunate to never have met with the nefarious or had an encounter with the untoward, I can’t explain it. Feelings are irrational. Logic and reasoning often don’t factor in—and when they do, no amount of explaining makes it better.

Alleyways are a subset of the fear basket the subconscious flags as ‘avoid’. Alleys together with unlit passageways, confronting-looking faces, creepy things, and things that emanate a vibe that something’s off, get thrown into this pile. 

Because the possibility of a threat is something to  avoid. Heck, people devote their lives to becoming experts on risk avoidance and risk management. It is pretty much the work of unoptimistic psychics: they predict what could happen in the future and then they put life plans in place to avoid possible unfavorable darkness.

There are plenty of examples. Release of convicted criminals into the community may depend on the outcomes of an assessment of risk, recidivism, and their ability to meet tightly controlled conditions of release. Scissors are banned from being carried in hand luggage. The content of scary movies is ninety percent foreshadowing, suspense-building, and false alarms, and avoidance of the threat—and ten percent actual interactions with the threat, if that. It’s a win for movie-goers and -makers. The idea that a blue steak might have unkilled bacteria has a great deal of people avoiding anything under a medium. Perceived and possible threats can be as impactful as actual threats.

My point is that alleyways are an example of how the feeling of safety can be impinged upon by things that aren’t obvious. It is like a rug: one that doesn’t have the weight of furniture to stop it slipping, a rug that can be pulled out from under at any moment. Everything can be fine then something—a thought, a thing that becomes noticed—can threaten the sense of safety in a space. It need not be of the severity of a bomb threat. It may just be in a need-to-be-extra-vigilant kind of way. Both are impacts; both somewhere on the spectrum.

Safety and fear I would suggest are highly individual feelings. We live in a world that is analogous to a great, big videogame. Although perhaps that’s too self-referential to work as an analogy, more like the other way around—videogamesmitate life. We are each brought to life endowed with certain attibutes—strength, dexterity, health, wisdom, personality, conscientiousness, and so forth. The list of pre-determined characteristics and  predispositions goes on.

We each experience life as ‘player one’ in the game. Uniqueness of the individual journey is true in every sense: no two lives are exactly the same, and we react and respond to our immediate environment. And in my case, that includes sometimes bypassing places like this for no other reason than because they’re sorted into some basket, as autonomously as the whites, and the greys and blues, go into different laundry baskets. 

I guess all that came to mind when I had this toasty. Huh.

**

Anyhoo, on to Toastface. 

Like any good joint the venue is greasy; the type of greasiness that comes with the greasy smell that gets absorbed into clothing. Beware sitting for extended periods right outside the grill window.

The toasties clearly keep it simple and the one I had was great. 

I watched the dude go about the making of the toasty. I will now reveal the secrets of achieving the toasty: 

  1. Generously butter both sides of normal, supermarket white bread. By generously, I mean go crazy with the butter. No wonder it tasted so good.
  2. From the relevant box of Tupperware, grab a big dollop of whatever filling is ordered. 
  3. Spread on insides of the bread.
  4. Put together the slices and whack it on the grill. 
  5. Grill until it’s a proper brown.

Ta da! There was one other thing. I’m not sure which step it comes under. It has to do with the rosemary-ness, herbiness of the outerside of the bread. They must either use a herby butter or roll the buttered bread in a herb mix. Either way, it gives the bread this unique flavour. Yum.

Taste verdict This was great tasting stuff. It is seriously artery-clogging material.

⭐⭐3/4

Baking: Hot Cross Buns

I love a good hot cross bun.

It’s sad though. Hot cross buns only go on sale between the period just after Christmas ’til Easter-time. Then they seem to go on a break from the shelves for a good couple of months before they gradually reappear at the beginning of each year. It’s like an unspoken rule that deems January-April socially acceptable but decries May-December deplorable.

I don’t agree. Hot cross buns are delicious any time of the year, and any time of the day. They should be enjoyed all year ’round. They’re a fruit bun. A delicious fruit bun. Best had all toasty and firm on the outside, steamy on the inside and generously buttered up. I think there’d be a market for it; maybe the same market that buy them when they’re available? Those who like fruit buns? Who doesn’t like tucking into glorious, soft fruity flesh? 

Flavour always trumps any cultural and social meanings ascribed to food. The composition of a dish—or of anything for that matter—doesn’t change simply because one is aware or knowledgeable of its history or significance. Knowledge influences perceptions, opinions, and ideas; it impacts on the hot cross bun as a construct. Indeed, the humble hot cross bun is a complex symbol: a quilt interwoven with narrative and history that is richly underpinned by beliefs, religion, followers, and devotees. 

At the risk of sounding sacrilegious, I ask the following, for argument’s sake—and in honesty, because I revel in contemplating the ridiculous and in entertaining nugatory musings. 

Does knowing the story of the hot cross bun affect its taste? Does not knowing the story affect its taste? Deliciousness doesn’t need a story for us to decide what to feel about it. Deliciousness speaks for itself. 

Should the values and attitudes attached to the humble hot cross bun have any bearing on the bun as a source of nutrition, and enjoyment? Should there be the separation of church and food when it comes to decisions on the timing of hot cross bun sales and availability? What impact do culture and religion actually have on hot cross bun sales? Is this considered in some PhD’s thesis? 

It is arguable that the absence of year-round sales of hot cross buns virtually everywhere is responsive to the section of the community that would feel offended​ at the idea. Divorcing knowledge and surrounding significance, with positivity, the ‘what is’ composition of the hot cross might be seen as too big an encroachment on established beliefs and values. The perception would probably stand even if they were sold under the guise of ‘fruit buns’—which does hold a lick of irony. It’s​ not really a guise if the name is the exact descript of the bun in question. 

Maybe going against the current of the the status quo, like many things, is just not worth the trouble. Fighting perceptions is a task in itself. No one’s been deprived of anything but enjoyment  potential, which for obvious reasons would never hold water. It’s like kids and Disneyland. Enjoyment potential would be at all time levels of high as a kid. If you don’t get to go—putting aside the holes in this nonsensical analogy, like the fact that the vast majority don’t go and that you’d be diagnosed with the disorder known as entitlement syndrome—could you reasonably complain about being deprived of all that potential enjoyment you might have had? The opportunity to convert potential enjoyment to enjoyment? I’d say so, if you’re one of Michael Jackson’s kids. Most people are lucky if they have bread and butter. Wanting hot cross buns, all year? Why that’s next level.

Needless to say, it’s an incredibly, astoundingly trivial matter: there are bigger fish to fry. There always are. 

With that in mind, baking inspiration struck and I decided to bake a batch. 

I had to find my sultanas first. They weren’t lost-lost; they were lost somewhere in the kitchen sultanas and had somehow moved cupboard. Much joy there was in finding my sultanas. It made a reality of my dream of having hot cross buns tonight, past the shops being open, by the light of my beloved steam oven.

Here’s the base recipe I followed:  https://olivesandfeta.blog/2018/03/11/classic-hot-cross-buns/

It’s a keeper!

Adjustments:
– Lemon zest used instead
– A heapful more sultanas, 1 1/2 cups
– Went cray-cray with the spices (nutmeg, cinnamon, mixed spice).
– Steambaked at 160°C for roughly 35 minutes.

And the super end result. That shine.

img_20180620_233516405195006619346766.jpgimg_20180620_2339146547365555435111584.jpg

For a first foray into the delightful world of home-made hot cross buns, I am pretty chuffed. Lovely smell throughout the house and eating them delicious and hot has justified all the kneading it needed.

One ingredient I like but am impatient when using is yeast. It gives flour that wonderful bread texture – with time. When I do get around to baking, I like to be doing something while I’m in the kitchen. For the yeast to work its magic, takes half an hour at least. EoFY deals helped to pass time. That I was in the kitchen baking, prevented a few potential impulse purchases: a Miele C3 All Rounder vacuum that was, albiet expensive, very well priced (we’re on the hunt for a vacuum, this could’ve it); and a bargain on a Peppermint Grove reed diffuser that I’d been eyeing for a while – because nice smelling things are addictive. Sniffing out a bargain is always fun.

The best thing about the buns were the top glaze and firmness of the outside bread ‘skin’ almost. The lemon will be a must-add for any future hot cross buns I make. It just goes so well with the sultanas and adds that lovely citrus-y note to the buns themselves. The texture was okay but could’ve been more stretchy and pliable. I need to rest the dough longer. I was also thinking about making chocolate centred hot cross buns. Something for next time.

All in all, these hot cross buns certainly hit the spot.

Making hot cross buns out of season, I definitely will be!

Why are vendors so hot and cold about hot cross buns?