Monday, 29 March 2010

Brisbane Masterclass Weekend

I know it sounds a bit tragic, but for a while now I've been looking forward to seeing the program for this year's Brisbane Masterclass Weekend. Luckily my wait is over, and the program is now up on the Masterclass website.

If you haven't heard about the Masterclass Weekend, it's a huge food and wine event that happens at the Brisbane Hilton. Presenters are brought from all over the world, and usually the program spans a fantastic range of the food & wine spectrum.

Here are a few of the sessions that I'd be signing up to:

Asian Affairs - take three core ingredients – duck, crab and citrus – and hand them over to two of our finest exponents of Asian cuisine to work their magic. The nuances of Thai and Vietnamese will soon become apparent as Martin Boetz applies his modern Thai sensibilities to the ingredients while Luke Nguyen takes an authentic Vietnamese approach. Enjoy the dishes they devise with some of the aromatic Granite Belt Wine Country wines that so suit this style of food, presented by leading consultant and Master of Wine Peter Scudamore-Smith.

The Passionate Patissier - are you a “Zumba loompa”, a follower of the pâtissier extraordinaire who created the croquembouche which brought many of TV’s Masterchef contestants undone? Sign up for this Saturday only session and you won’t have to queue as Sydneysiders do outside Adriano Zumbo’s Balmain pâtisserie to indulge in his famous French macaroons or his luscious cakes and pastries lauded as “unique in concept and execution”. You’ll leave with a special treat.

Flavours without Borders - throughout his journey from his birthplace Hong Kong through Toronto, Singapore and the USA, Susur Lee has never wavered from his consuming passion: to create unique combinations of textures and flavours and juxtapose the complex food traditions of China with the classical techniques of French cuisine. The results are “endlessly inventive” and “daring”. Exquisite artistry on the plate is a hallmark of this chef, named as one of the Ten Chefs of the Millennium in company with Ferran Adria and Pierre Gagnaire. Stepping up to the challenge of perfect wine pairings for Susur Lee’s stunning dishes is experienced Brisbane sommelier Peter Marchant.

Sensational Sherry - Emilio Lustau is one of Spain’s largest Houses of fine sherry, established in 1896 and still garnering swags of international awards year in year out. In November it took home the trophy as Spanish Wine Producer of the Year at the International Wine & Spirit Competition. Join fine wine specialist Christopher Cannan to explore a range of glorious styles from the Lustau bodegas, from the dry and fine Manzanilla and Fino, through the richer Amontillado and Oloroso, to the luscious Moscatel and Pedro Ximenez.

Going the Whole Hog - when it comes to pork, the Italian approach is very much “waste not, want not”. Nino Zoccali will show why the whole pig is prized, demonstrate how to cook the different cuts and take you through salumi – lardo, pancetta, culatello, coppa and the other delicious charcuterie that is a cornerstone of Italian cooking – all using Australian pork. The perfect wine for an array of fresh and cured delights, including classic pork and fennel sausages, will be selected by Italian fine wine importer Dan Clark

Sounds great doesn't it? The only catch is, it's not cheap. Tickets are $350 for one day, or $595 if your stomach will allow you to go both days. Start saving now!

Brisbane Masterclass Weekend
24-25 July 2010
P - (07) 3231 3239
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Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Coeliac Awareness Week

This week (13-20 March) is Coeliac Awareness Week, so I thought I should do my bit to spread the word.

Luckily the food scene for coeliacs has improved tremendously over the last few years. Not only do most supermarkets now carry a good range of gluten free products, but more and more restaurants and cafes are catching on, and offering gluten free options. If you're looking for a restaurant that's coeliac friendly, have a look through my list of gluten free posts - there are plenty of places all over Brisbane.

If you've recently found out you have coeliac disease, or have a friend with coeliac disease, then look no further than the Coeliac Society, which does an amazing job of collecting all kinds of useful information for their members. I've been a member now for about 4 years, and I'm constantly overwhelmed by their helpful resources - their pocket sized ingredient list book was invaluable when I first started my gluten free diet.

And if you've never heard of coealiac disease, here's a bit of a background from the Coeliac Society's website:

Coeliac disease (pronounced seel-ee-ak) is an autoimmune disease. Autoimmune means the body mistakenly produces antibodies that damage its own tissues. It is a permanent intestinal intolerance to dietary gluten. A number of serious health consequences can result if the condition is not diagnosed and treated properly.In those with untreated coeliac disease the mucosa (lining) of the small bowel (intestine) is damaged: The tiny, finger-like projections which line the bowel (villi) become inflamed and flattened. The function of the cells on villi is to break down and absorb nutrients in food. Through a microscope, the lining of the small bowel normally looks rather like shag-pile carpet, the villi making up the “pile”. The entire surface area of a healthy small bowel is comparable in size to that of a tennis court.In those with untreated coeliac disease, the villi become inflamed and the bowel has a characteristic flat appearance (like a threadbare carpet). This is referred to as villous atrophy. The surface area of the bowel available for nutrient absorption is markedly reduced (to the size of a table or less) which can lead to nutrient deficiencies.

What is the Cause?

In people with coeliac disease the immune system reacts abnormally to gluten, causing small bowel inflammation and damage. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats.

Who gets Coeliac Disease?

People are born with a genetic predisposition to develop coeliac disease. They inherit a particular genetic make-up (HLA type) with the genes DQ2 and DQ8 being identified as the “coeliac genes”. Gene testing is presently available through pathology laboratories (by blood test or buccal swab). The gene test is useful for excluding coeliac disease. The presence of HLA DQ2 and HLA DQ8 is not helpful as a positive predictor of coeliac disease, as only 1 in 30 people (approximately) with these genes will have coeliac disease. The gene test cannot diagnose coeliac disease – only exclude it.Environmental factors also play an important role in the development of coeliac disease.

How Common is the Condition?

Coeliac disease affects approximately 1 in 100 Australians. However 75% currently remain undiagnosed. This means that approximately 157,000 Australians have coeliac disease but don’t yet know it.

Can Coeliac Disease be cured?

People with coeliac disease remain sensitive to gluten throughout their life, so in this sense they are never cured. There is no correlation between symptoms and bowel damage, so even if asymptomatic (you have no symptoms), damage to the small bowel can still occur if gluten is ingested. Once gluten is removed from the diet, the small bowel lining steadily repairs and the absorption of nutrients from food returns to normal.People with coeliac disease should remain otherwise healthy as long as they adhere to a diet free of gluten. Relapse occurs if gluten is reintroduced.

What are the Long Term Risks of Undiagnosed Coeliac Disease?

The long term consequences of coeliac disease are related to poor nutrition and malabsorption of nutrients. Untreated coeliac disease can lead to chronic poor health, osteoporosis, infertility, miscarriage, depression and dental enamel defects. There is also a small, but real, increased risk of certain forms of cancer such as lymphoma of the small bowel. In children, undiagnosed coeliac disease can cause lack of proper development, short stature and behavioural problems.

Fortunately, timely diagnosis of coeliac disease and treatment with a gluten free diet can prevent or reverse many of these problems.

The Coeliac Society
P - (07) 3839 5404
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Thursday, 11 March 2010

Italian Food Safari

When it comes to food related shows on TV, Food Safari is my favourite, hands down. Over the years Maeve O'Meara has done a fantastic job of presenting cuisines from countries as diverse as Mauritius to Mexico.

Although I was sad to see that tonight was the last episode of Matthew Evans' Gourmet Farmer, I was over the moon to find out that it was being replaced with a new series of Food Safari. And just for something different, there's a twist with this series - it's all Italian. Guy Grossi from Grossi Florentino will be joining Maeve every week to tell us all there is to know about Italian food. I can't wait - tune in for the first episode next Thursday night at 7.30pm on SBSONE.

If you do happen to watch the new Italian Food Safari, make sure you keep watching at 8pm for the new series of Costa's Garden Odyssey. I'm hoping the second series will be just as interesting as the first - Costa is a very entertaining host.

Italian Food Safari
Thursday 18 March 2010, 7.30pm SBSONE
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Costa's Garden Odyssey
Thursday 18 March 2010, 8pm SBSONE
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Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Chopan Charcoal

I only recently found out about Chopan Charcoal restaurant at Milton, thanks to a review by Tony Harper in the Brisbane News. Apparently the restaurant opened in 2006, but until last weekend I'd been completely oblivious to the existence of an Afghani restaurant in Brisbane.

I'm always very keen to try out new cuisines, so it only took us a week or so to pay Chopan Charcoal a visit. It's in a bit of a tricky spot for parking, on the corner of Milton and Baroona Roads at Milton, but it's extremely handy to Milton train station.

Chopan Charcoal has a fairly small dining room, but the walls are smattered with Afghani decor. I'm also guessing that the low level music in the background was Afghani (which added to the overall atmosphere).

We were greeted by a friendly waitress, shown to our table and given menus. The menus look excellent from the outside - they have a very cool picture of a horseman in traditional dress on the front cover. Once you open up the menu, you'll see it's divided into entrees, salads, kebabs, kormas, pastry dishes and desserts. There are also pictures of a few dishes inside the menu.

A few options on the menu were listed as no longer available, and most of the prices had been changed at some stage along the line (some with liquid paper). Sure the presentation of the menu could be a bit better, but I didn't really care if the food was going to be good.

The only entree which looked gluten free was the chapli kebab (spiced beef patties) which I promptly ordered. The other entrees at Chopan Charcoal are bulani (savoury pastry filled with potatoes & herbs) and samosa (savoury pastry filled with spiced mince & served with chutney).

Shortly after our orders had been taken, the waitress popped out to let me know that due to a large order of chapli kebab earlier in the night, they had run out. So sadly no entree for me.

My wife ordered the bulani ($9.50). When these arrived at the table they looked and smelled delicious. There were two slices on the plate, and the dish consisted of a thin pastry filled with potato and herbs. The pastry was so thin, you could see the green herbs inside. The bulani were served with a small pot of yoghurt and although I didn't get to try any, my wife enjoyed them - the herbs were fresh and the pastry was crisp. Judging by the amount of bulani we saw going to other tables it was a popular entree.

By this time, and after having the flavours of the bulani waft my way, I was starving. Fortuitously I had ordered the mixed kebab plate ($24). When this arrived at the table, I was glad I hadn't ended up getting an entree, because I would have struggled to finish my main. The mixed kebab consisted of one each of the chopan kebab (lamb pieces on the bone marinated in spices), shaami kebab (minced lamb with ground garlic & cherry tomatoes), chicken kebab and teeka kebab (lamb backstrap marinated in spices). The four kebabs had been cooked over charcoal and were served on a large square plate, on a bed of rice, with a green salad on the side.

This turned out to be a lot of meat, and would be a great dish to share around the table. My pick of the kebabs was the chopan kebab, which had a delicious flavour from the marinade, but the shaami kebab wasn't far behind. As this dish isn't served with any sauce, a small pot of yoghurt would make a good addition.

My wife ordered the burani banjan - eggplant cooked with fresh tomatoes, garlic & onion and served with yoghurt. The burani banjan was also served with a side dish of white flat bread. Without a doubt, this dish was the star of the night. Eggplant cooked well is one of my favourite foods anywhere, and this dish was excellent. Normally I'm not a big fan of a lot of onion, but the slices of onion in this dish were meltingly soft and had picked up a lovely flavour from the eggplant. I tried to steal as much of the burani banjan as I could, because it was a fantastic accompaniment to my kebabs. By the time we'd finished this dish there wasn't even a drizzle of the sauce left on the plate, as it had all either been stolen by me, or was mopped up by the flat bread. If you do visit Chopan Charcoal, make sure you order the burani banjan.

Other main course options include karahi (BBQ lamb pieces with tomatoes, eggs & herbs), qabuli (rice with lamb pieces, carrot, sultana & meatball korma), lubia korma (red kidney beans cooked in tomato sauce with selected spices) and mantoo (steamed pastry filled with spiced minced lamb).

At this stage of the night we didn't have any room for any more food, but if you are after something sweet there are a few dessert options, including firni, an Afghani custard served with toasted almonds.

Service was friendly during the night, and fairly relaxed. Although we didn't wait very long for either course, you get the feeling that care is taken with the food at Chopan Charcoal and nothing happens in a hurry.

Chopan Charcoal is BYO and there's a bottle shop handily located in the Baroona Road centre next door. Be warned though, the wine glasses are tiny, so you'll find yourself topping them up every few minutes.

I'm always excited to come across new cuisines in Brisbane and Chopan Charcoal didn't let me down. Although it's a fairly rustic setting, I'll definitely be back with a few friends next time, in order to share a good selection from the menu around the table. Chopan Charcoal is also very good value - our meal was $46.50, so it's not going to break the bank balance even after a few visits.

What does all this mean? Tasty grilled meats and rich vegetable dishes add up to a night of exotic Afghani food, that's both BYO and great value.

food bling ratings
Food - Good
Service - Good
Value for Money - Great
Ambience - Rustic feel with Afghani touches
Vegetarian - Good
Wine - BYO

Chopan Charcoal
Corner Milton & Baroona Roads
Milton 4064
P - 07 3367 2212

Chopan Charcoal on Urbanspoon