Brilliant cheap eats in Melbourne

As a recent trip to Ezard proved, fine dining is actually pretty easy. Dress all your staff in black, have them breathe hot air down your neck about the Argentinian fine grain, hand groomed, organic alfalfa garnishing your plate and charge several hundred dollars for the privilege. Serving good, consistent cheap food you’d kill your mother for is a shade more difficult. Thankfully Melbourne has some dead set winners. Here are some favs for lunch. Rose Garden BBQ – Elizabeth St Melbourne. Past all the motorbike shops and just before the Vic Market, you’ll find the ducks hanging in the window and the hordes of mostly people Asian (a good sign let’s face it) queuing outside to get in. Double happiness must have something to do with their $8 spicy chicken ribs. Sublime doesn’t describe this plate of crunchy fried wings and rice drenched in spicy duck and pork dripping. And it’s quick too. Just get yourself there before the 12.30 rush. Giraffe cafe – Lt Lonsdale St. This super cute cafe run by suitably super cute staff serves amazingly good coffee. With a minimal kitchen, they always seem to pull out some great specials and great quality food from nowhere. Their chilli con carne tortilla for $8 or so simply blows my mind. At night they do a great trade with deserts such as tiramisu too. Central Club Hotel. Quite possibly the only $10 pot and parma left in Melbourne it’s the epitome of cheap but blissfully cheerful. Opposite the Vic Markets, the publicans have looked after us for years now and they really know something about running...

Is kosher food organic?

In short, I’m afraid not. This has been bugging me for ages, and as soon as I can be bothered, I’ll put in some references. Perhaps it intrigues me because supermarket food is so mega bland and I’m always looking at kosher product as premium product. Hey kosher chickens from the Balaclava Safeway are mega fat and damned tasty – real tasty. Organic food in much the same light. Both massively expensive, and to some extent, both are approved by the ministry of good intentions and nothing more. As with everything, kosher is way bigger in America. In Melbourne, unless you’re in Caufield, you will struggle to find anything more than bagels, matzoh or pickled gefilte fish. Meh, what can you do. But our question is, is kosher food actually organic? No. Because religious doctrine written thousands of years ago could predict cheeseburgers being really unhealthy, but not petroleum based pesticides being used in agriculture on a colossal scale. And when the chemicals came, did they revise their doctrine? No chance. The only thing with vegetables in kosher I could find was that they must be free of bugs. So in theory you could get tomatoes form Chernobyl and they’d be kosher. No wucken furries. Well what about the meat? From my skimpy research (and I welcome any feedback/corrections on the subject. I’m by no means authoritative on the subject). Again you could feed cows McCrap burgers and it could still be potentially kosher. There’s absolutely nothing I could find to say you couldn’t feed animals feed based on chemicals. Only how the beast is killed, the blood is...

Half decent sausage shepherds pie recipe

This is one tasty pie. It’s relatively easy to make and it’s getting written down because I tried it and it actually worked out pretty well. Feeds a small army. Ingredients: 8-10 sausages 10-12 waxy potatoes diced 3-4 good quality tomatos 1 brown onion 3 cloves garlic sea salt olive oil various spices (I used a garam masala mix and Masterfoods Portuguese chicken seasoning, sumac and cayenne) milk semolina (optional) pre heat the oven as hot as it will go lay your sausages out in a big oven baking dish so they cover as much of the surface as possible dice your potatoes into 1cm squares so they boil quick. chuck them in a cold water pot with plenty of salt. Crank the gas until they’re well boiled. We’re gonna mash these puppies hard. dice up your tomato. Leave it raw and scatter over the sausages and set aside cut up your onion nice and fine and coarsely chop your garlic. now grab a wok or a pan and warm up your olive oil for about 2 mins chuck the spices in the oil and let it mix well. Follow it up with the garlic and let that sit for a minute or two to infuse finally throw in the onion and let it all brown nicely and soften up. 2-4 minutes should do it nicely. This is the most important bit now throw the onion and spice mix over the sausages and toms. cover in salt once your potatoes have boiled, mash them and cover it over the sausages like a pie. Pour over milk to soften the...

Chapel St’s best 80 spaces

I thought all was lost when Cafe Zen changed hands on Chapel St. They used to have the best hollandaise sauce (with eggs Atlantic) ever. That place went really down hill service wise any way. But a few doors up down the Windsor end of Chapel St, I found my new thing: 80 Spaces. Inside the decor is as arty and minimal as the name suggests. Choose something to eat from the blackboard and park yourself on a bench or table and watch a weekend breakfast slowly morph into a lunchtime beer! Food wise, it’s quick and simple. No big kitchens or even rendered walls to flaw you. Their baked beans are home made and nothing short on sensational. They have a bunch of open toasted sandwiches too. I’ve tried the salmon and dill toasty thing and it was sublime. Coffee is half decent too. Not completely sure but I don’t think they make fresh juice and they don’t have any wireless internet, which is handy when you get bored of your skull working at home. Minor quibbles in an otherwise awesome place. So if you get bored of Orange and other places, check it...

Cho Gao asian beer cafe.

When you think Asian beer garden, you might think outdoor furniture, random chaos, icy cold beer and great hawker food. Hot and stinky, yet the patrons wouldn’t have it any other way. Not so at Cho Gao. Take all the bad things about a swanky, pretentious inner city bar, mixed with all the bad things from a swanky, overpriced pretentious inner city bar and you have Cho Gao. You could start with the kitschy Chinese decorations, or the faux rustic brick wall on the boucany. Or even go as far as saying $12 for 3 satay skewers is beyond ridiculous. But it’s the lack of service which is truly exceptional. While there are some Asian staff hidden away from sight in the kitchen, the staff here look about as Asian as the token white guy in a Kung Fu movie. Better still, a ham sandwich. Now an Asian beer garden should have Asian beer. Well think again. They only had Kirin First Press on tap and I couldn’t see any others bottled (well maybe Chang). No Tsing Tao, Asahi or especially my favourite Japanese micro brews. I can’t personally vouch for the quality of my $21 chicken curry though. Because it never came. The kitchen must’ve loved it so much they took it to the framers. Those that did eat, got their meals 5 minutes before their rice came. When I finally cancelled the meal, about the time my mates were finishing theirs, there was no apology from the head waiter. He was ran off his feet attending a half full restaurant. If you like a cultural experience devoid...

Pat Chapman the Curry Bible

Seldom do cook books truly overwhelm, but I am in awe of this one. The New Curry Bible is nothing short of brilliant. Not that it’s hard covered, or 800 pages (it’s probably 150 odd). It doesn’t need to be. If the house was burning down though, this would be the one cook book I’d take with me. Chapman is an English-Indian lad (presumably half caste) with a great insight into the methods and traditions of the curry. He lists the top 20 curries of the UK, each with its own story of how it came to be. These stories are worth the price of admission alone. For example, one curry (Phall) that was invented by irate curry shop owners when pissed, racist Pommies would come in asking for something extra hot.  Kind of like a curry shop owner’s revenge! Each of the curries has variations too, e.g. restaurant style, or traditional, vegetarian, you name it. Each recipe is also broken down into its elements and nothing is left out. For example, how to make ghee, garam masala, a good curry ‘gravy’ etc. So after a few recipes you can start making your own variations. Admittedly the recipes are a bit convoluted, but he’s designed the book that way so you learn. The New Curry Bible will have you walking into Indian shops asking for spices they never thought a non-Indian would ask for guaranteed. I certainly have had some funny looks. Also handy is the A-Z of spices scattered throughout the book. Again explaining the etymology of each herb and how to use them. Chapman has truly left no stone unturned. This...