Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Never too Late for Anzac Biscuits

In belated honor of our ANZACS. This year ANZAC day had completely crept up on me but low and behold I was brought up to speed by FB. This recipe isn’t completely mine, it’s mostly by Donna Hay, because my sweet tooth cooking is still a work in progress – to an extent.
The biggest difference here is that instead of using plain rolled oats, I toasted mine lightly in honey and a pinch of cinnamon, for something different. Also, mine didn't fall as well as I had hoped (mostly due to impatience in preparation) so they take a macaroon meets biscuit status.

Serves two

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup plain (all-purpose) flour
⅓ cup caster (superfine) sugar
¾ cup desiccated coconut
3 tbsp honey
2 tbsp golden syrup
125g butter
1 tsp bicarbonate of (baking) soda
2 tsp hot water

Start by tossing the rolled oats in 3 tablespoons of good honey.  Bake in oven for 5 minutes on high heat. Let cool while you start the recipe as usual.
Preheat oven to 160°C (320ºF). Mix the oats, flour, sugar and coconut in a bowl. Place the golden syrup and butter in a saucepan over low heat and melt. Mix the bicarbonate of soda with the water and add to the butter mixture. Add to the dry ingredients and mix well. Place tablespoons of the mixture, leaving space between each one for spreading, onto baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper and flatten to about 7cm in diameter. Bake for 8–10 minutes or until a deep brown. Cool on trays for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. 

Grilled Corn Mexican Style

 One of my favorite restaurants in NYC is the cool Café Habana, where the waitresses’ sass matches the food. The café was inspired by the original, still operating in Mexico. In the heart of Soho, this small gem is an experience as much as it is a destination. It’s tiny and there’s always a wait, but it’s all completely worth it in the end. When friends come to visit, it’s a must on the to-go list. My two picks on the menu are the Cuban sandwich (with rice and beans) and the grilled corn. Café Habana was actually voted to have the best Cuban sandwich in NYC – IT’S TRUE. There is a Hispanic cheese that is used for the dish traditionally, however for the purpose of accessibility I’m keeping the cheese option wide open.  

 Hot sauce is amazing with this dish too, really, really amazing. The original recipe uses lime too. But this is optional

Serves two

2 corn in husk
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp mayonnaise
½ cup cheese
Salt and cayenne pepper to taste

Bring water to boil and add butter and salt. Shortly after, add corn and cook for seven minutes. Once cooked, let corn stand to dry then grill all sides until corn starts to blacken to your liking. Follow by pasting mayonnaise onto the corn, coating liberally. Coat corn in cheese of choice then broil/grill until cheese is well melted. Dash with cayenne and salt to taste. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Rice Congee: Nourishment from the Motherland

Chinese Congee, aka, ‘jook’ is an Asian cure-all rice soup. Many countries in the Asian region have a history of the soup with many ingredient variations. From China, it was thought to be served during times of famine. For me it’s a nostalgic, penny pinching breakfast, lunch and dinner that I LOVE. My dad always used to make this soup as I was growing up, especially when I was sick. Nostalgic food has a really funny way of comforting you when you need it to. 

The idea is to cook the rice in a heavy weight of water or stock until it breaks up and forms a porridge-like consistency. Jook is served with a deep fried bread stick in many places too. I went to Chinatown yesterday and found a store that sold fresh bread sticks, so I made a huge batch today. 

Serves four
9 cups chicken stock
1.5 cups white jasmine rice
2 scallions/shallots
2 cloves garlic
1 tbsp ginger
1 tsp sesame oil
Salt and white pepper to taste
Soy sauce to taste

Dice garlic, ginger and scallions (leaving ½ scallion for garnish). In a saucepan, quickly heat ingredients in sesame oil and follow with stock (brings out the flavors in hot oil). Wash rice before adding to stock to remove all starch. Once everything has been combined, heat to the boil then reduce and let simmer for two hours. The rice should start to break apart and a thick consistency will start to form. 

The beauty of this soup is that you can add whatever you want, depending on your taste; chicken, duck, century eggs, fish, vegetables or tofu. Depending on what you make the soup with, it can be well nourishing.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Dove Elevating Women, Beauty and Confidence

Today, more than ever, we are taught too quickly by brands what we are lacking before we even know it or given a gentle affirmation of what we may have already suspected. Dove has been a pace setter, working to use its brand and loyal following to correct a mass ill-alignment of personal perception held by women worldwide.

Dove’s latest beauty campaign, quite literally examines the personal and external perception of oneself. The short video campaign uses blind sketching by former FBI trained forensic artist, Gil Zamora to provide two views of one woman and to promote an understanding of true beauty.
The women were asked to describe themselves while being sketched blindly, all describing themselves in a lesser light; thinner lips, bigger noses and wider foreheads, all common soft spots and targets for marketers everywhere.  Zamora then recreated seven profiles based on descriptions provided by strangers who had met with the women earlier. The sketches were more accurate and complimentary. The women were then shown both sketches. This beauty study saw women understand the gap between personal and external perception.

‘It impacts the friends we make, the jobs we apply for, how we treat our children – it impacts everything. It couldn’t be more critical to our happiness.'

Dove has been famed in recent years for its advertising and marketing which has always looked to engage and invite women to embrace natural beauty, not to create or remove it. The world of beauty is no longer beautiful as much as it is judgmental and we have all fallen victim to convincing marketing ploys. By gaining the respect and loyalty of women, Dove enhances its brand by affirming that their family and its products are not for body (or confidence) improvements, but for sustainability and celebration of inherent beauty.

The video has since gone viral, tapping on the shoulders of women (and men) everywhere and sending out a positive affirmation. Dove conducted this experiment to ‘prove something very important: You are more beautiful than you think.’ 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Spring Pancakes

I finally did the walk through Central Park over the weekend. Finally being the operative word here. I have been in NYC for almost a year and always, never had the strength to know where to start. It was really beautiful, cool breezes, sherbet in the air – the works. There was a waffle and pancake cart in the park that reminded me of pancakes in the morning during spring back at home. Mum/mom would be up making stacks of glorious pancakes, sometimes from a mix, much to my disapproval, even as an eight year old gay son.

This is a bit of a bastard recipe, an amalgamation from recipes I have used over the years. I’ve always been intimidated by the makings of a good pancake, but it’s a lot easier than conventional baking! They’re really light and fluffy, so cover them with butter and jam. Lemon curd is AMAZING too! I found a recipe that used vinegar to make sour milk, as an alternative to buttermilk. If you have butter milk use it, but I feel like the sour milk is a much better alternative to using more processed dairy.

Serves two – three

1 cup of all purpose flour
3 tbsp white sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¼ cup crushed walnuts
¾ cup whole milk
2 tbsp vinegar
1.5 tbsp butter
1 egg
¼ tsp vanilla essence

Add vinegar to milk and set aside. Place dry ingredients together in bowl and mix. Separately, combine melted butter and egg with sour milk, whisking lightly. Combine the wet and dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk lightly. Don’t mix through too finely, lumps and air pockets help the pancakes. Set aside for five minutes.

In a pan, melt butter and cook rested pancake batter until well browned on both sides. Serve stacked with butter and your choice of conserves. Jam, maple syrup and lemon curd spring to mind in spring. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

(Chinese) Food for Thought

With a growing concern for sustainable practices and the United Nation’s move to enforce carbon trading, many brands will be forced to reassess their environmental implications through cost increases, financial redevelopment and re-branding with ethics. Businesses everywhere have been subject to prosecution for unethical practices for many decades, but is there a new growing global concern and a need for businesses to assess the implications China will have on branding in the future.
China is now the world’s second largest economy, averaging a growth rate of 10 % per year over the last three decades. The real crunch is this; China’s manufacturing/export industry, a barometer for the global economy, will not see any forced or agreed decrease, however analysts agree China’s economy will only be remedied long term through reform, that being, a consumption driven economy. Too many economies are too far in to pull out now.

There are too many politics in play for China to ever in the near future fall into decline, this is for sure. China is for now at least, a ‘fixed variable’ for the world economy. Every business trading with China will be forced to work backwards to ensure ethical practice. But to what point will this become of great community concern? Cast your mind back to the days when manufactured goods in China were synonymous with inferior quality. Today, quality is not the key concern with Chinese manufacture, but are the correct sustainability measures in place and enforced? Will there be transference of concern? China and many other developing nations will move from the ‘country of origin effect’ to suffering from new consumer whiplash.

Will ethics soon leverage a bigger share in branding? Micro business externalities are adding up and it’s now of worldwide concern. Each economy can only move so far with given resources and dancing with the global economy will force China to address not only its own concerns and behavior, but also the global community’s. As corporations fall liable to increasing sanctions and community concern, early adoption of these business-rethinks may be a gate to be passed by many businesses in the near future. Consumers keep brands alive and destroy them, we’re unable to tip toe around a growing truth.

In Australia, and worldwide, China has been vertically integrating heavily, buying companies operating in many sectors of the economy, leading to short term cost reduction measures, questionable transparency and large domestic land purchases. I am not opposed to China’s economic movements, but I do believe it is a responsibility to map the ethical practices of investment spending against any brand, especially in the years coming. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Google Really 'Nose' All

In Google's latest April Fools' pranks, the media giant engages, brands and showcases its influence to the world. 

 It was 12am this morning and I was in bed with my IPhone pressed to my nose trying to pick up nodes of ‘wet dog’ from Google’s new Google Nose Beta, offering searchers the chance to engage yet another sense. Maybe my IPhone 4 wasn't compatible? Or maybe I got PUNKED by Google. It was ridiculous but pretty funny. Google has yet again found a universal way of engaging everyone around the world in its latest April Fools’ buzz pranks.

Google really has proven itself, now more so than ever as a global giant with seamless reach to everyone, everywhere. Their latest pranks are a true testament to their ability to break down cultural barriers; Google is a world currency, an internet lingua franca. In a wide reaching list of pranks, everyone got involved.

Google Maps Treasure Mode, ‘Youtube’s ready to select a winner’ contest, Google +Emotion, Gmail Blue, Google Analytics Space Station visits, Google SCHMIK, Google Fiber Poles, Google Wallet Mobile ATM, Google Japan Patapata Support.

What a list! I take my hat off to Google for really taking the extra mile to engage everyone. I really want to stress that the company has also shown how ‘social’ they are and also how social their many applications are. We are really already starting to redefine the idea of ‘social media’ and what we can classify as ‘social’ online. Google  is continually building up a universal currency of communication between its users and they're having fun with it. The company has been busy brand building and socializing in its global community, indeed. We do see how much influence and power Google has, but I don’t think that’s the point. We live in an increasingly barrier free digital community and Google will be its Monarchy!  We all like to dream big and Google’s helping the world actualize it's dreams in 'Science Fiction gone Real Time'.

Good work Google!