Tuesday 26 April 2016

Hash browns

Last year my dad and I did a road trip through the American south. In Florence, Alabama we went to our first Waffle House. I'd read an article about it in Bon App├ętit, of all places. Turns out this fast food franchise with its bright yellow sign is beloved of fancy food writers who grew up in the south. And not just them, obviously. In our second Waffle House in Kimball, Tennessee, a couple of loggers in their 60s sat in the booth next to ours and struck up a conversation. Families traipsed in and out. Old people, young people. Open 24 hours, serving breakfast any time of the day as well as familiar fast food fare like burgers and BLTs, furnished with booths and a wraparound diner counter, there was something undeniably cheery about the place, so much so that by our third Waffle House in Dandridge, TN, we were actually picking our motels based on how close they were to one. 

It goes with out saying that they're famous for their waffles. But the other menu mainstay no matter what time of the day or night, are their hash browns. Brilliant for breakfast with eggs and bacon and all manner of greasy goodness, perfect for lunch or dinner too especially if you order them "all the way" which basically means topped with everything from mushrooms to cheese to sausage gravy. There's nothing not to like about fried potato, especially when they're like these: lacy, crispy latticework, golden brown and buttery. Best of all, now I'm back in Sydney and a million miles away from my favourite fried food fix, I just discovered that one of those fancy food writers - James Beard award-winning Josh Ozersky - worked out how to make Waffle House hash browns at home. All you need is a box grater, a potato, some butter, a sprinkling of salt and a cast iron skillet. Oh. And three minutes. Don't believe me? Watch. Then make them yourself. I did. And I'm going to again. For dinner tonight.

Thursday 7 April 2016

Chocolate orange date truffles

Food presents are my favourite. Among the best I've received in recent years: vanilla beans from Bali, a catering-size container of corn relish from Tasmania, biscotti baked in one hemisphere and mailed to another, home-roasted coffee beans, a dozen hot cross buns from my favourite Hobart bakery, a tin of homemade biscuits to last through Christmas and beyond, my mother's green pawpaw chutney (which I'm lucky enough to have a lifetime supply of thanks to her obsessive need to bottle everything she ever grew), and last week, a huge haul of premium grade cocoa from my American cousin Amy, transported across the Pacific Ocean and lugged halfway around Australia by her parents, who've been out here visiting. To thank them for being such good-natured cocoa-mules, I wanted to make them something with it to say thank you. I wanted to make something the gluten-free giver of the gift could eat, even if she wouldn't get to taste this particular batch (her folks are heading home on a three week cruise). Something to showcase the cocoa, in all its dark, bitter beauty. Happily I had just the recipe. It required only a handful of ingredients, all easily available: dates, orange, walnuts and cocoa. Blended together, rolled in extra cocoa to make an elegant truffle that just so happens to be gluten-free and dairy-free too. There's no refined sugar but the natural sweetness of the date and the orange in combination with the richness of the nuts and the cocoa create a taste not unlike the very best dark chocolate... which if you've recently OD'd on supermarket-grade milk chocolate Easter eggs, you will appreciate all the more. Just like a thoughtful gift*. 

* special shout out to my friend George too, for the beautiful plate these truffles sit on, which may not be edible but makes anything that goes near it infinitely more so.