Paul’s Caul… Back in Britain

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Back in Britain

The time has finally arrived for Lauren and I to make the long journey home to my Motherland, my birthplace and a magical place that over the last 23 years I have build up in my mind as a place where all of my fondest memories live and skip around holding hands with chocolate bars and packets of walkers crisps. Yes I’m speaking of England, and yes in my dreams packaged treats have arms and legs, so what! Its my dreams so step off or I’ll let my army of small highland toffee attack you with axes and bagpipes… back to reality and that is what happened the second I landed back in England.

We arrived at Heathrow on a Tuesday morning at 11.45, now this bit of information actually holds no relevance at all so please forget it as quickly as you read it… we had an amazing flight on Emirates, shit loads of leg room, massive screen to watch an impressive array of movies and some pretty tasty food I must say. The food included pulled Texas beef with black bean, quinoa salad with chickpea and a very delicious breakfast with a chicken sausage and frittata, but as you would expect no pork in sight, but as I always say “when in Rome” or more accurately “when on a Muslim airline” but without a doubt it was the best service, flight and food we have experienced, so Allah be praised!

Pork pie love
Pork pie love

My cousin picked us up with his beautiful daughter Rebecca and proceeded to drive around in circles until he felt we had seen Heathrow airport in full, we had so he swiftly drove us 40 minutes away to a small village called Chipperfield where we were staying in a quintessential English pub. Now what is a quintessential English pub and when did I start using such big words? These are the burning questions on everyone’s mind… I shall answer this in a two-part answer firstly to answer the later question, get fucked! Now lets talk about what I think makes an English pub…

• Upon arrival in said pub if you don’t have to duck down to enter it either isn’t a real English pub or you aren’t over 6ft tall
• If every single room in the building other than your bedroom doesn’t have a fireplace, then your not in an English pub
• Glance at the menu and if you cant see at least one ale pie then leg it, as you ain’t in the real deal
• If more than two staff members are English then leave as you are in the wrong country
• Finally make sure that nothing and I mean nothing at all is new, and then I feel comfortable with the fact you are standing in an authentic English Pub.

‘The Two brewers’ was all the above and more, it had Marmite portions on the breakfast buffet which was a highlight of the week for me, they had Aspall cider on tap and they served baked wheels of Camembert (which appeased Laurens veracious appetite for fromage). It was located in a quaint village which offered a nice walk around a small wooded area and… actually that is all it offered, but regardless of it lack of anything, it was brilliant to be back on home soil (or clay like mud as it was).
My memories of childhood chocolate treats were a little shattered as this country much like the entire world had become Americanised, but I still managed to get some Irn Bru, a toffee crisp and some mini cheddars (branston pickle flavour) which definitely hit the spot and most likely will bring on diabetes in some form, but well worth it.

Street pig
Street pig

Now what about pork you say? Good point, what would travelling be without seeing what different countries do with the magical creature we call Pig. Well this is the place for you my non-Islamic brothers, they effing love the stuff here,. They sell bacon rolls in just about every shop; newsagents sell them, café’s sell them, small stands/vans on the road sell them, I’m pretty sure they deliver them like papers straight to your door in the morning. I kid you not, they eat them like apples over here. There are bacon roll bowls on the kitchen bench and they are served with coffee instead of those ridiculously small biscuits… And this is just bacon. What they also do with pork will blow you mind, that is unless you’ve already seen a pork pie, in which case it may not even excite you. If this is the case stop reading now and never revisit this site ever… Good. All we left are the true pork pie loving people of this world who love the soft yet crunchy pastry made with lard and the salty jelly surrounding the blend of pork shoulder, pork belly and bacon cooked with mace and seasoned with the history of a nation that was built on such products.

Don’t get me wrong, you can get pork pies in Australia, but unless my good friend Gavin the Jordie pastry chef extraordinaire makes it then it will be pretty average. If you are in Perth go to the ‘Moon and Sixpence’ pub in the city and order the ploughman’s, as Gav has the pork pie well sorted as well as many other English treats… but I digress, what I love about here is that every second shop sells pork pies and as a whole they are delicious with the pastry being the major difference between a decent pie and a “fuck off that pie was the balls” kind of pie.

Bacon chips and beer… life just keeps getting better
Bacon chips and beer… life just keeps getting better

Other than delicious pork products I was uber excited to be back home so I could see my family, we were staying in Chipperfield purely because my Uncle and Auntie live in the town that is 5 minutes down the road, also their kids (my cousin’s) and their families all live close. We were given the royal treatment and taken out many times in the one week, really getting to sample a cross section of British food from awarded British pub food which was beyond what I expected to get from a pub in the middle of nowhere, to a nice night in with my cousins eating England’s national meal (curry) then finishing the week with Chinese (English style, which is a lot of battered meat with sweet sauce) with my other cousin and her lovely family and finally the tradition that is the Sunday roast with the family.

We choose to have our Sunday roast at a French Brassiere (Raymond Blanc’s restaurant) because they do a cracking roast with big fuck off Yorkshire puddings and bread and butter pudding for dessert (or pudding as it is over here) and lets face it, Waterloo was a long time ago so lets give those cheese eating surrender monkeys another go… well it was a triumph, the company which included two beautiful little cousins and their parents as well as my uncle and Lauren made the day very special, and I think horseradish is the best condiment for company.

Lauren (the pretty half of the Paul and Lauren crew). Somewhere with some other people taking photos
Lauren (the pretty half of team Paul and Lauren). Somewhere with some other people taking photos

We are now in Birmingham visiting some good friends Dom and Alec plus their awesome boys Francis and Jack that have just moved back from Perth where they were for a few year’s, one of our favourite bits of this trip has been catching up with friends old and new. We love getting to be part of a family for a week, cooking, drinking and having a laugh with the kid’s, we are so lucky to such great friends all over the world. And contrary to public opinion we are having a lovely time in Birmingham, so be it we go for runs in the morning around the canal wrapped up like crazy homeless people, but that just adds to the charm. We are very excited to be getting a Balti Curry from number 3 on the UK’s top takeaway joints… Balti curry was actually invented here in Birmingham by the local Pakistani community (that I believe is larger than the one in Pakistan). So needless to say we cannot wait for culinary curry cuisine served by the peeps that created and perfected the Balti curry.

I off course have been exploring local supermarkets and cooking up regular feasts for all that are lovely enough to put up with us. The supermarkets here do seem to have a larger range of many things that I love, for instance you can get rabbit, duck, venison and black pudding from Sainsbury’s, this pleases me greatly. I cooked a banging braised beef with Stilton penne last night and here is the recipe.

Marmite love
Marmite love

BRAISED BEEF with STILTON and PENNE

500g gravy beef (shin meat), left whole and sealed in a pan
1 onion
2 sticks celery
1 leek
1 fennel bulb
1 carrot
• Cut all above veg into small dice and fry off in pan of meat juices after the meat has been sealed
• Add 1 tablespoon cumin seeds and fry
• Add 1 cup of red wine, 1 tablespoon smoked paprika, 2 bays leaves and a handful of fresh thyme (be generous)
• In a large oven dish with sides, place meat down first then pour veg and wine mixture over top. Add 1 tin of chopped tomatoes and 1 cup of beef stock
• Cover with lid or with tin foil and bake @ 120c for 5-6 hours until the meat just falls apart when pushed with a spoon

At this point you could serve straight onto some mash, but I spooned all the meat into a beef braise and added some cooked green beans cut into small lengths, whacked in a handful of stilton, some spinach, chives and a whole lot of cooked penne and chucked it into bowls with a fork sticking out… then stood back and marvelled at what I had created like a proud father.

Next off we travel down to Gloucester to spend some time with Kev and Sue. We have never actually meet these lovely people but as they are my sister and husbands friends I just know that the week will be filled with laughter, wine, food and most likely more wine followed by a little more laughter… god I love travelling and more accurately I love eating and drinking with amazing people.

Paul’s Caul… Chicken Three Way

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Chicken three way

Holy shitballs that tittle sounds saucy in a too many beaks in the bedroom kinda way…

Do not fear I am neither into bestiality or in fact sharing my poultry with more than one person, but I am a sucker for cheap eats that are healthy and tasty food for my ever-hungry face hole.

I’m back from our extremely long and equally as amazing journey through South America, but as to be expected I seemed to have smuggled in some extra baggage in the form of my belly whom I shall name Jose. And to counter this excess weight we made sure that my wallet was completely void of weight and content. So healthy eating on a budget is my new hobby, its possible more than a hobby, its essential if I hope to continue to wear any of the clothes in my cupboard. So with Jose looking up at me with a wanting eye (that is a belly button I speak off, as I feel that should be made clear) we start the process of training everyday and cooking on a budget.

What better way to save money than to buy whole chickens and break em on down, one chicken enters three meals leave, it’s the anti-thunder dome sans Tina Turner and possibly any other relevance to the actual thunder dome. This nonsense aside I start with a chook and knife…

And end up with 2 whopping great big breasts (possible from all that food I’ve been eating) couple of Maryland cuts (leg and thigh) wings and a carcass.

So here we stand with our prey laid out before us about to become dinner.  Dinner it is, praise Valhalla…

We shall honour this creatures life by simmering its bones into a delicious master stock inspired brothy thing… its once moist bossom will once again be moist with my garlic & oregano titty rub… and to make sure she ain’t going no-where we be roasting the shit out of the running parts and da flying parts, connecting in their heated journey with an olive oily, chilli, lemony, black peppery little number.

The master stock inspired brothy thing
Carcass of any birds (within reason)
1 onion roughly chopped
6 dried chilies
4 star anise
1 cinnamon quill
2 big nugs of yellow sugar (nugs are about 2cm cube)
Good splash of Chinese cooking wine
Not quite as much kinda splash of black vinegar

• Whack all ingredients in a medium to large pot (depending on what you dictate as large I guess)
• Then fill pot with water and place on a gentle simmer to bubble away for 1.5hours then strain.
• Carefully pick any of the chicken meat that may be on the carcass and place to one side.
• This broth can be slightly thickened with corn flour if you wanted but I prefer a nice flavorsome stock to add what ever you want to.

I think we will go for rice noodles, julienne of carrot, leek and spring onion with ginger and coriander.

Mmmm, titties
Mmmm, titties
Titties with other good things
Titties with other good things

Garlic & oregano titty rub
Half a handful of fresh oregano
2 large garlic cloves
Sea salt & pepper
Olive oil
Whatever meat you want delicious

• Chop up oregano and garlic on a board until nice paste is formed.
• Pull a little hole on the side of the chicken breast skin.
• Jam lots of the paste up and on to the breast.
• Roll breast on board to pick up all traces of love.
• Cook skin side down in olive oil, until skin is crispy as shit, then flip for a minute. Place on an oven tray and in a well hot oven for approx. 10-14 or until the breast be seeping clear juice and felling the goods.
• Serve with whatever you like, tonight I went for the literally the only things left in fridge approach, and came up with…. Corn, red onion and jalapeño cooked down with cannellini beans in a (light) coconut cream and fish sauce reduction. Recipe can be devised through looking at the picture and reading the description.

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Ready to get it’s ass into the oven
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Effing fantastic
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Oh dear good lord. Don’t pretend you don’t want it

 

Olive oily, chilli, lemony, black peppery little number
All the best bits of a bird (legs, thighs and wings)
1 long red chilli sliced on a fancy angle
½ red onion cut into strips
Lemon zest or strips if you’re a wanker
3 garlic cloves
Decent amount of black pepper (freshly cracked people, we are not animals)
Little olive oil for lubrication
Good quality sea salt

• Whack all in a big bowl and roll around each other.
• Line a small high side oven dish with over sized glad bake.
• Place all chicken in with skin side up.
• Cover with smaller piece of glad bake.
• Cook in hot oven (mine was at 220C) for 20minutes approx.
• Take top piece of paper off and place back in oven for further 10minutes to crisp up.

• Chicken can be eaten straight away, but I like to leave sitting in its juices for an hour or so before diving in, it’s worth the wait.

So all up I’d say that’s three solid dinners out of a $14 chook and not a lot of extra expense to get some vege love into us, alongside the holy trinity of non-foul foul.

Paul’s Caul… South American Quest Part 7

Don’t fry for me Argentina

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Our first port of call in the beautiful country of Argentina was the magnificent Iguassu Falls, this is one of the seven natural wonders of the world and with over 250 separate falls in a small area it is easy to see why. This area borders three countries (Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil) so the food is a little bit of all mixed up in one. But once again it is very touristy so most menus were filled with the usually pizza, pasta and burgers bollocks that is taking over the world. We did however have our first taste of the famous Asado or Argentinian grill, and it did not let us down.

Lauren and I set of for a walk around the town and straight away we realized a couple of things…
1. We walk way to quickly to stroll around a small town
2. We set off too early for anything to be open in said town
3. We get really hungry, really early
4. We are not nice people when hungry

So with our angry minds set on eating or at least planning our next meal we went in search, we came across a nice old man starting a wood fire in an open pit/grill outside his restaurant on a shitty street in shitty part of town. Lauren was sold instantly and didn’t even need to see a menu, she said, “this place looks the real deal, can we eat here” I then perused the menu, saw black pudding and quickly agreed with her choice. The man however was looking at us crazy gringo’s trying to work out why they were hassling him so effing early in the day. We spoke our terrible Spanish towards the man and worked out through mime and general vibes that we should come back in 90 minutes, in this time we went olive shopping and gazed at some lovely sausage (charcuterie not man pole).

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Upon our arrival the man was overwhelmed to see us again as I reckon he had now drank coffee, lite his fire and was thinking gringo money is just what the doctor ordered. As with all restaurants in this beautiful continent, bread came flowing freely with butters and oils, this is like our communion, we break the bread, sip on our wine and thank who ever wants to listen for what we are about to consume… that was the gospel according to fat Paul.

Before anyone has even ordered there is always a few massive cuts of brisket and some whole chickens splayed open and slowly cooking at most Asado’s. This brings such a great feeling to the place, the smell is to die for and I imagine all that fat dripping onto the ashes of dyeing wood embers giving them a final few moments of life. Just enough to impart special flavour notes to fill the fire place and find their way onto your steak or veges, or what ever is lucky enough to be spending the final minutes of their life cycle resting on the metal rack crafted by Zeus himself.

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With all Asado menus it reads like a butchers price list, giving only cuts of meat on one page and an array of offal and small goods on the other. Now for a chef or in fact any meat loving foodie, this is heaven, its euphoric and to be quite honest its overwhelming and hard not to order yourself half an effing cow with all the trimmings. Yes this is the kind of problems I’m faced with daily, just how much delicious meat shall I order. Well I went with their finest cut of fatty sirloin cooked only enough to get the smoky flavour through it, topped with bacon, roasted capsicum and grilled onion… now I like my meat without all that shit on it, but it was their house specialty so I went with it, yes I admit I scraped it all off and ate it separately, but I also admit it gave some kick arse flavour to the already fine cut of cow.

Now what sides to have? Well I went with Blood sausage/black pudding/morcilla or blackish sausage as they have translated it here… black pudding holds a special place in my heart and when I come across a good one I tend to get a little excited and bang on about it for days afterwards, and yes this was one of those occasions. This encased tube of deliciousness was crafted by a magical butcher with special powers and spells passed down to him from his one eyed, cauldron stirring grandmother. Who’s final act before she was set alight by the town folk was to make him promise to mesmerize gringo’s for years to come with the grainy, spicy, moist and flavour packed cylinder of blood. Well ‘old crazy eye’ would be proud as I was dumbstruck with what this log of offal brought to the plate, it lifted every component to a place where only angels fly… flavour doesn’t cut it, it was filled with the ashes of fairies and let me tell you that they didn’t die in vein.

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So its safe to say I enjoyed my first Asado, I was also served hand cut chips, fried egg, green beans cooked in butter and a corn tart thingy (which was weird) but lets face it you could of served me that steak and the black pudding on the carcass of a dead seagull accompanied with a raw potato and I still would of loved it.

What did Lauren eat?

Good question, well as much as I love meat, Lauren loves cheese and pasta, so she went for gnocchi in a four cheese sauce… not what I’d order for a place famous for cooking meat on an open wood fire, but hey you tell her that and see how far you get. However it was also delicious and extremely well made gnocchi.

That afternoon we had an 18hour bus ride to Buenos Aires and my belly was satisfied the whole way, Lauren lasted a good 9 hours before trying to eat the headrest, but that’s pretty good for her.

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Buenos Aires is definitely a very unique city and instantly you feel at home there, it has a very European architecture mixed in with the local culture. I admit it is a strange mix but somehow it work, not sure if the locals with their terrible economy and no real infrastructure will agree but for a tourist passing through it is a beautiful place.

As to be expected there is Asado’s everywhere and most of them doing a stand up job, in fact we often questioned why Australia doesn’t have more of these eateries as we are mad for a good bbq and these guys are showing us up. But along side the myriad of grills there is also heaps of funky new restaurants opening up, offering everything from Japanese to Scandinavian fare. And for the most part doing it all really well, they are very service orientated so this just lifts the place instantly and adds a great dimension even to a small humble café. And with great wines ranging from $4 to $20 at most, I feel I could live comfortably in a place like BA.

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We did a few tours of the city which gave us a better understanding of how hard the Locals have had it since basically the city was started, they often say that “their ancestors gave them plaza’s, monuments and amazing buildings when all they wanted was a country” this really rang home with us and you cant help but feel for them, as there dollar is worth less every year and life savings mean nothing, leaving a lot of people on the street. But regardless of that they stay positive and embrace tourists with gusto… we did our part by spending shit loads on food and tipping generously, it’s not much but I feel it’s got to help.

We also did a street art tour as the country as well as the continent is adorned with amazing street art, why oh why cant other countries open their minds and allow otherwise horrid scenes be filled with the most spectacular and relevant art. Recoleta cemetery was also a massive highlight, it is the largest collection of art in an open air setting in the world and is a sight to behold, creepy and stunning, possibly the best mix.

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We even ventured out one night to Pacha, which is worldwide super club… those that know me would know that I used to frequent clubs quite a lot, but it is now safe to say that my clubbing days are behind me as I enjoyed the museum of national history a lot more than I did attempting to get a drink form a bar packed with spoiled twats. But we tried and regardless of the rooms full of idiots we where still there with our amazing travel team and as you can imagine had a great night.

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But with everything we’ve enjoyed on this incredible trip, it always seems to revolve around food for us and you know what, I’m very comfortable with that, my now huge guts is also very comfortable but lets not worry about that for a few more days. We are currently skiing on the side of a volcano in Pucon (Chile) with the flight home looming we spend every minute jamming meat in our mouth and pouring Chilean wine down our necks, it is hard work but with 8 weeks practice we are getting by just fine.

Paul’s Caul… South American Quest part 6… Rio de Janeiro

 

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Rio de Janeiro

This tale of Brazil actually starts in Brasilia but as the capital of Brazil is a lot like the capital of Australia, its best not to spend to much time and energy trying to regale people with stories from these sterile pre planned cities. This is not to say we didn’t enjoy our time there, as we most certainly did, but as it was our first stop in Brazil and the location for our first ever live World Cup match it really wasn’t a true indication of the true Brazilian vibe.

Brasilia is a very new city only being constructed in the 60’s, Oscar Niemeyer designed it and is the capital of Brazil purely in name alone, as Rio and Sao Paolo are generally considered the people’s capitals. But Brasilia does have some interesting architecture, it was designed in the shape of a plane and some of the structures are very cool. But in-between the funky churches and government buildings are rows and blocks of office buildings constructed in exactly the same size and placed in exact rows creating a futuristic layout that removes any sense of artistic license and leaves with a sense of I may jump out of my office window onto my face. It’s a city with heaps of open space (filled with fuck all), which as a local may be nice but as a tourist trying to find a bar or restaurant, it’s very hard to get around. But we were there for a purpose and that was to see the World Cup, and to be more precise to watch Switzerland play Ecuador at the newly constructed National Stadium.

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We had previously visited Ecuador so we did feel some connection with the lads but I was still hoping for the chocolate making peeps to get up, but Carla Da Bruce and G-money had caught the Ecuador bug and were adorned in their Ecuadorian scarfs and well into the chants that moved around the stadium. I think it would be very hard not to enjoy a world cup match in person as even if you remove the actual game, the vibe and energy in the place is magical… second thought removing the game may be weird and cause unnecessary trouble and confusion. Hordes of passionate, patriotic and, a lot of the time, idiotic fans travel the globe to support their team, and for the most part are great ambassadors for the sport. We haven’t come across any trouble and have enjoyed every minute of all matches, except for perhaps the 60 minutes we lined up to get into the match in Brasilia. I hate lines and people so lines of people are not for me.

 

Food at the matches could definitely do with an overhaul as silver packages are sold that may be the same food space men eat. They say they contain hotdogs and hamburgers but are not even close to either of those products. You could also opt for a cold sandwich, and by cold I mean frozen solid, now that’s weird by anyone’s standards. But they have beer and that is what most people want, the beer comes in cups that have teams flags on, so is a great souvenir and basically the only reason I drank at least two each match. The Bruce’s however finished each match with more cups then they could carry, well done for representing.

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After a few days in the city that time forgot we were well ready to hit the sunny shores of Rio De Janeiro. Rio is a city that everyone in the world has seen images of and have expectations of what’s in store… and it didn’t let us down.

From the taxi on the way to Copacabana from the airport we could feel the World Cup buzzing around us, whistles were ever present and cold beverages were sold everywhere. Not just beers but caprioska’s (caprivodka’s as they call them) are made to order by hobo’s with carts on the streets, and they were for the most part delicious, if not a little strong, but delicious non the less (the drinks not the hobo’s). We arrived to a very cool apartment one street back from the beach and made our selves at home as it had been a while since we had our own space. This space came with a kitchen so even though I was on holiday I really wanted to cook, as cooking for me is very cathartic and soothes my soul as well as feeding my very lovely girlfriend Lauren, which in turn makes my life exponentially more relaxing.

Caprivodka!
Caprivodka!

It’s as exciting for me to go into a supermarket in a foreign country as it is to visit it’s tourist attractions, seeing the different ingredients that are staples to them yet exotic goodies to us, its brilliant. I bought a massive calabrase sausage, some delicious bacon in two forms, thyme, rosemary, snow peas, mushrooms, onions and Arborio rice… so as you can guess I was making risotto. I also bought what I thought was cream, butter and chilli flakes, the butter was as I expected, the chilli was chilli but just extremely hot (which is cool with me) but the cream was actually a kind of cream cheese. This is essentially what I love about cooking in random places. I wouldn’t usually use cream cheese in a risotto but what the hell we can make this work.

I made the risotto with the sausage, bacon, chilli and onion and finished with a shit load of butter as is my style… then I cooked the mushie’s in more butter added some chopped up snow peas and finished it by stirring through the cream cheese off the heat and pouring all that goodness over the rice. Not you average risotto but I have to say it was very pleasing to the palate. After this Lauren and I set off to enjoy some amazing gelato from a place called ‘official gelato’. They had a kick arse range of frozen goodness from fig and ricotta to salted caramel, but we couldn’t go past the coconut gelato… seriously it was exceptional, well worth the massive brain freeze I gave myself as I got it in me quicker then should be possible.

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Over the next week we all experienced different sides of Rio. As I have come to realize I am getting old and soft and can’t stay out later than 10pm, so the Bruce’s flew the party flag daily and did a stand up job of it. Lauren and I went for a few runs along the beaches but alas most mornings I was content with a nice sleep in, breakfast at home followed by an adventure around the city. We tried ever so hard to do all the touristy things in Rio but with the Cup on and millions of other tourists in town it was so hard to achieve this goal. The queue for Christ the redeemer was going to take over 4 hours, so we opted for a lower vantage point, which had no queue and pleased us equally. We did manage heaps of other less line orientated tourist like activities like the Lapa steps and the Tijuca forest, which were both amazing, and basically Christ can be seen from anywhere (I of course speak of the statue not the fictional character made up by Christians).

But whatever your plan for the day was, inevitably it was going to include watching a match or two of football, as every TV had it on and everyone was interested in what was happening. We all went to the Fan Fest for the Brazil vs. Mexico match and it was mental, so many people it was close to being out of control but just managed to keep itself together. Mexicans were pouring tequila straight into ours mouths, so for the most part we were supporting them, unless we found ourselves surrounded by Brazilians then it was Brazil all the way.

Lauren is in there somewhere
Lauren is in there somewhere

 

We had lots of different and delicious styles of food in Rio from a traditional Brazilian dish Feijoada which is braised pork, sausage and beef in a bean braise, served with dried tapioca with bacon, sautéed kale and rice to a kick arse Brazilian bbq concept that cooked the meat in front of you a little like teppanyaki but heaps more manly with chunks of meaty goodness, accompanied by basic salads but done with a little bit of Brazilian style injected in, as they dress and serve it for you at the table/bench. In between these meals there was an abundance of ham and cheese filled pastries to eat, think of a shape and style of pastry then whack ham and cheese in it and bam, that’s what they love. Don’t get me wrong I’m a fan of ham and cheese but alas my soon to be massive gut is not.

We did find an extremely cool wine bar that was called “Abaporu” which means ‘man who eats man’. You will all be impressed that I made no gay jokes at all…. It was only a few streets away from our place so we went twice it was so good. Not only did Juan our barman make a kick arse caprioska he also spoke great English and was kind enough to fill us in on many local tips and a bit of their culture. The menu was what drew us in as we were walking around looking for something less touristy then all of the burgers, pasta and pizza that adorn menus worldwide in tourist areas. The menu was small but filled with local produce that was still very foreign to me, but done in styles very familiar. Cassava root in liquid butter, fried cheese in sugar syrup and local calabrase sausages were just a few of the great dishes that the chef owner had put together. She had travelled the world so knew many styles of cookery and had come home to give the local fair an international feel, without destroying all that is cool about it. The chef even came out and spent time with us explaining where she gets her ingredients and her ethos about the whole thing, along with the cracking malbac we drank everything about the place was spot on.

For all I know this is actually Paul on the mountain there, as he is well know for his Jesus pose antics...
For all I know this is actually Paul on the mountain there, as he is well know for his Jesus pose antics…

Rio was all in all a great place to be during the world cup, but I left feeling we hadn’t seen the real Rio, as the Cup is just so overwhelming, the people the noise and the intensity that comes along with such an event doesn’t allow the sprit of such a city to shine through… so perhaps another visit may one day be in order. But now we are in Florianopolis, which is a beautiful island down south in Brazil and it is such a pleasant change of pace, I’m currently sitting on our balcony looking out onto the massive lake that runs up this amazing island, Lauren is going between doing yoga and cocooning herself in the hammock, the Bruce’s are flying around the island, wind in their hair, driving a hire car… destination unknown but fun is inevitable when G-money is behind the wheel. We are planning bike rides and horse rides so sore arse’s are coming our way, and with the accolades of being the happiest people on earth, how can it be bad.

Paul’s Caul… South American Quest part 5… Gustu

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Gustu, La Paz (Bolivia)

When a couple of chefs from the worlds best restaurant decide to move to the other side of the world to open a new restaurant purely because the local produce is so different, then we should definitely take notice. Gustu is just such a place. It’s found in a La Paz (Bolivia) and the chefs are from Noma (should need no explanation) as well as several front of house staff. These guys and gal’s have started the same food movement that they kicked off in their Nordic homeland. The concept is to use produce found only locally and prepared keeping traditions alive, and what is blatantly obvious is that this concept works so very well.

I know it’s not rocket science and to be honest most of us try our hardest to follow the same simple rules, but without the financial backing and pure grit and determination it’s a lot harder to achieve then first thought. Gustu are not only pushing the food integrity they have also set up a training school to educate locals on all aspects of 5 star cuisine and all of its many careers. They have gone into the poorest neighborhoods and areas, and then given numerous amazing individuals an opportunity to achieve goals that were before out of reach.

For this I salute them from the bottom of my heart, it makes me proud to be part of an industry that is evolving, as the world is starting to look more with reverence at the creators of food, the leading champions of the food to face industry are stepping up and performing acts that are worthy of such an honour. You could see the pride that the young Bolivian staff had during our experience at Gustu, without being condescending in any way it was beautiful to see individuals grateful for a chance and embrace it with gusto (see what I did there?).

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Now with all that aside you still need banging dishes to be leaving the kitchen if you want anyone to take you seriously, and with an extremely modern and shiny open kitchen with all the bells and whistles us spoilt chefs like… even with all that expectation Gustu still really do deliver. The food was original yet traditional, it was creative without be ridiculous and it considered flavour above all else and in my opinion that is what makes a quality restaurant.

With dishes like ‘freeze-dried Q-ahti potato with duck skin’ & ‘homemade bacon with chankaka, cacao and lime’ starting the proceedings we knew were onto a good thing…. The cocktail menu was no secondary thought either, with tobacco cocktails and basil and coconut beverages arriving at our table, we were happy little campers.

As the more sizable dishes which were matched with beverages started to arrive, I was pleased to see that the simple motive had been continued as bowls filled with flavour but exempt from confusion started to flow… these were matched with wines and on occasion lovely little numbers like a local quinoa beer which was matched with a ‘Native potatoes cooked in salar salt, elderflower, capers and flowers’ one of the best matches of the day.

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Before I forget I must take a second to mention the bread and butter, three breads and three butters arrived early in the piece… I love anything a bit different and gluten free bread, served with the gluten that had been removed then fried crispy much like pork crackle is effing superb in my world, this was accompanied by another sour dough roll and the butters. One of butters was not for me and strange as it reminded me of eating straight mull butter but with none of the benefits or side effects depending on how you look at it. It was coca butter, so dried coca leaves churned in butter. Another butter was organic butter with salt flakes and we all know that’s delicious. The final butter of sorts was possible the greatest triumph of the night… it was a quinoa tofu and it was exquisite, I would of quite comfortably eating the crispy gluten smothered with quinoa tofu until the proverbial cows came home, but alas it was just a bread course and it came to an end far to quickly.

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A couple of stand out dishes are par for the course (pun intended) and this nights winners were a uber rich in texture and flavour Chicken Fricassee, which G-money was so close to ordering a full dish off. It sat on a buttery crouton and was bathed in a pristine jus, which was finished with so much butter it shone like a black star. Butter was most definitely ever present in their cookery, they used burnt butter a little too much as its so strong and should be used with a little more subtlety but that’s just me nit picking. The fricassee was so rich I don’t think much more than the 1-2 inch block would have been needed, which is just another reason that I love the dego style of eating, lots of dishes that leave you wanting.

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Lauren and I both loved the same dish, it was ‘Palm marrow, dried Alpaca and poached egg yolk’ it was served much like a Bolivian take on carbonara, strands of palm marrow, a cured alpaca that held a meaty punch, poached egg yolk and a drizzle of beurre noisette, in this particular case the butter was well at home and made this one of the most interesting I’ve eaten in a while. Four simple ingredients treated with respect, and once together and set free from the confines of the prep section become best mates on your palate ready to live the rest of their life’s out in your belly. My god I want to eat it again now, but I will have to wait until I recreate it myself once I’m home, a prospect that excites me no end, as what I will create will be a homage to said dish, but will inevitably change or evolve into something new… food is without a doubt the best shit ever.

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The entire evening was seamless with everyone from the sommelier to the food runner playing his or her part in this well orchestrated performance. We were all well full and ready to be rolled home, but then the coffee course came along and took me by surprise… I didn’t expect any thing to be done with my coffee, how wrong I was, it had theatrics, it used many senses and it delivered in the taste department. They brought out a local wood (I forget the name) and set it on fire only to put out and place under a glass as for the smoke to fill said glass. Then a pre brewed strong coffee, that had been shaken over ice once brewed and brought to the table in a science beaker, then poured into the smoky glass. It was delicious and went really well with the chocolate ganache tart it was served with.

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Sounds like a great way to finish this evening… yes it would have been but we had spotted a bacon and onion cocktail on the menu and we thought
“We must try that, how can it not be tasty?”

What we were served next was the worst tasting liquid to pass my lips, it tasted like liquid bad breath and didn’t possess any of the great characteristics of either bacon or onion. If it had the sweetness of the onion with any one of bacon’s magical flavour properties then it would have been a victory for food cocktails worldwide, instead sadly it was a swing and a miss.

But we didn’t leave with a bad taste in our mouth, in fact it was smiles all the way back to our hotel, Gustu is a shining light in the world of restaurants and I feel we will be hearing a lot more about them in the next few years.

Paul’s Caul… South American Quest part 4

EATING PETS IN SOUTH AMERICA!

My posts of late haven’t been that food orientated as I’m on a South American tour and have quite frankly been so busy doing incredible shit and fell the need to tell the world. And as you all are the closest thing I have to the world you all have copped it, but am a fair kinda guy… actually I’m more of a self centered prick, but who’s keeping score. So I felt I should share some of the culinary adventures we’ve been having as well as all of that fucking hiking and snorkeling blah blah holiday fun bollocks.

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From the first day of this trip something that has been blatantly clear is that these peeps effing love meat and cheese, now I hear you all say “so fucking what, we all love that shit” firstly I’d appreciate less of that language, and secondly I didn’t say it was a bad thing so settle the fuck down.

Of course as with any new country/continent even the simple things are done differently it may be that for some reason they seem to respect the toilet so much that dirty paper isn’t allowed in it, no they prefer to keep a small lidless bin right in front of you keep the stink paper in all its brown glory. Each to your own I say and as my dad always said don’t knock it till you try it, now even though I’m pretty sure my dad was speaking about homosexuality its still relevant in any situation. So I have tried it and I’m just not sold on the whole concept, but to be honest I only remember 50% of the time.

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I have digressed ever so slightly, back to the meat and cheese or carne and queso as we say here… the most common cheese used here is a kind of haloumi/feta/ricotta hybrid its semi soft white cheese and does melt a little when heated, but it doesn’t really pack a flavour punch. Besides that it is still cheese and any cheese is good in my book, not literally as that would ruin both the book and the cheese. The meat comes in many forms all of the usual suspects are here, but there are a few guest appearances along the way like Guinea pig, Llama and Alpaca… I have to admit all of these excited me more than a man should get excited about meat (but as my dad said…) but more about them in a minute.

Now you are all aware about the love affair that G-bags McFilthy Mouth and I have with Pork in all of its glorious guises, and seemingly we are not alone these guys are mad for the stuff. They even have a street in Cuzco (Peru) nicknamed Pork Street, so we of course went there and had a couple of belting pork dishes. Now keep in mind not all countries/chef’s create dishes in the same way and what might to the layman/simpleton look like half a dish or just a few ingredients whacked on a plate, is in fact exquisite cuisine. The first pork dish could have been mistaken for just that, it was crispy pork on giant white corn kernels, onion slices, fresh mint leaves, a wedge of lime and some green chilli sauce in the middle of the table. The pork was twice cooked, firstly I’m guessing in the oven until cooked and then it was cut into fuck off pieces, salted and deep fried… fuck yeah! It then sat in a warmer (by warmer I really mean glass box with no form of heating or cooling) but they knew what they where doing and we smashed it quick sharp and ordered a second round of the same dish, the best complement you can pay us chef’s.

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The other dish we tried on Pork St was Adobe, which is a pork soup with one of the largest chilies I’ve ever seen floating in each serve. I stupidly thought it was a capsicum as the soup was ridiculously tasty but not spicy so I cut a sizable piece of supposed capsicum only to find it was not the hottest I’d ever had, but it was the quickest to bring heat to my mouth… holy Christ on a popsicle stick it was hot, but so effing tasty and it made the everything I ate for the next hour exponentially more delicious. Chilli can be a wicked vehicle for flavour, it doesn’t, as people think, destroy taste buds. I reckon it opens up another range of flavours that have previously laid dormant.

Now about that Guinea Pig or Cuy as it is called. It came out like a small crispy bear skin rug from in front a crackling fire place in a parallel universe where a fox may wear a jacket and smoke cigars whilst sipping whiskey on a leather chair adjacent to his crispy Guinea pig rug… wow I hope you have pictured that. Now back to reality, and reality was it didn’t taste that good at all. In fact it had a slight seafood taste about but I still persisted and ate my way through the whole creature I even sucked out his eyes and ate them, his cheeks and ears where by far the tastiest bits, his eyes however were as to be expected… horrid.

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Alpaca on the other hand is a very fine meat me thinks. I have had in a quesadilla, made into burgers and as a steak all were very acceptable and the burger was divine, it’s a little stronger in flavour than beef but not gamey at all. And the Llama steak I had last night with Roquefort sauce was rib ticklingly superb, but Roquefort sauce does have a tendency to make me happy. But sauce aside the meat was tender and soft in flavour and would lend itself to many styles of cookery.

Ceviche is also very prevalent on the continent, they have it many forms and although I find most of it a little over done, they do rock the textural approach. By this I mean they use some cool crunchy components which I reckon ceviche is crying out for… they use crispy corn kernels, plantain chips and an awesome tahini sauce to lift their almost soup like version of this citrus cooked seafood and chicken.10390545_10152548664848783_8071022006900893024_n

Bananas are a contentious point with me, I have come to love eating a good banana although I lean towards breaking pieces off as not to deep throat the penis of the fruit world… but that aside they have many varieties here, some for boiling, some for roasting, deep frying and some for simply scaring us gringo’s. Seriously a banana came out on a plate the other night and I thought it was sausage, I was not impressed to find out it wasn’t. What’s my point, I hear you ask. Well I think bananas should be used for eating fresh, possible in a bread or dessert and at a push coated in coconut and served with curry… that’s it!

As for my newfound love for food carts and stalls, I really am head over heels in love with these mobile bringers of deliciousness. You can get everything from freshly squeezed juice to hot chips, roast chicken dinners, hamburgers, pastries filled with chicken, beef or corn… I kid you not, there isn’t anything they don’t try to sell from these mobile miracles of the culinary world. I have seen a crackle stand, yes a stand that just sells pork crackle, some shards as big as my arm. If its ceviche you want then bam you’ve got it, shaved ice, ice-creams, soups, buckets of weird looking congealed something… yes they have it all and for such a small cost it isn’t even worth trying to work out that cost in dollars. Yesterday we all sat in a hole-in-the-wall café like thing and without realizing it we had said yes to a set menu of soup, crispy chicken, banana & chips (KFC ain’t got nothing on this lady) and a jelly dessert all for 78 boliviano’s including a big bottle of soft drink… this equals to about $17 for the four of us, absolutely mental and delicious.

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We are going to go for a special dinner tomorrow night at a place called Gustu here in La Paz, its run by some chefs from Noma and is pushing the same culinary formula that has put Noma on the world wide foodies map. They use only local ingredients and stay true to indigenous believes and practices. I think we will be in for a treat as Bolivia has some incredible food, I can’t wait to see what Gustu do with their produce… I do know they have a bacon and onion cocktail to help wash all that goodness down. Every meal on this trip excites me, but I’m extra special excited about this one.

I will leave you now and get ready to go to a local steak house that cooks all the local goodness on a massive wood fueled char grill. Have I mentioned how much I love this place?