Posts Tagged ‘dinner’

A Dinner Party Menu

Tomato panna cotta with basil syrup
with Turkey Flat 2008 Barossa Valley Marsanne Vigonier Roussanne and Rolf Binder ‘Christa Rolf’ 2008 Barossa Valley Semillon

Prawns and Pipis in a light paella style sauce and sourdough bread
with Kooyong Estate ‘Massale’ 2008 Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir, Te Kairanga 2008 Martinborough Pinot Noir and Innocent Bystander 2008 Yarra Valley Pinot Noir.

Olive and rosemary encrusted lamb rack served wtih kipfler potatoes, peas, asparagus and broccoli greens
with Allies 2009 Heathcote Shiraz and Negoce 2007 Heathcote Shiraz.

Warm rhubarb and strawberry pie

Spicy Tomato and Basil Soup Recipe

This post is part of an ongoing series about dinner ideas.

A newfound source of super flavoursome Doncaster tomatoes inspired this recipe at a recent dinner party. I peeled the tomatoes myself, but you could just as easily use tinned whole tomatoes. I also don’t have a blender so just cooked this down and mashed the tomatoes with a potato masher and cooked the tomato skins down in a small amount of water to turn them to paste.

Spicy Tomato and Basil Soup

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small brown onion, finely chopped
  • celery, finely chopped
  • 1 small chilli, finely chopped
  • 1kg juicy tomatoes
  • 500mL of vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • large handful of fresh basil, shredded
  • 2 teaspoons of raw sugar
  • sour cream


Peel the tomatoes by submersing in boiling water for 2 minutes and then transfer them to a bowl of cold water. The skin on the larger tomatoes will easily peel off while the smaller ones will need to be helped with the aid of a knife. Save the skin and blend them to paste.

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan, add the onion and cook until soft, add the celery and chilli and cook for a few more minutes. Add the tomatoes and blend them roughly with a hand blender. How smooth you want the stock is a matter of preference, I personally prefer it to be pretty chunky for a nice mouth texture. Finally stir the tomato paste, sugar and basil into the soup.

Simmer the fluid for as long as is practical, this should reduce the fluid to a nice thick soup.

Garnish with a fresh basil leaf and a dollop of sour cream.

Wine Pairing

Sangiovese and Barbera always go well with strong tomato sauces and soap. However, in this case with the spicy flavours in this soup it will pair perfectly with a peppery medium-aged Barossa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

Supper Inn, Celestial Ave

There are places in Melbourne that make you feel as though you are in another place, or another time and sometimes you stumble down an alley or a laneway and you could well be in both another place and another time. Walking down Celestial Ave, in the heart of Chinatown at any hour of the night or day is precisely one of those experiences. If it wasn’t for the multi-storey carpark towering over the street you would easily expect to see Woo, of Deadwood fame, sitting down beside of one of the stores with his pigs, and his whores. Yet, he isn’t there and in his place is an overflowing dumpster and an angry asian chef having a sneaky cigarette perhaps a beer.

Who can hold it against him though, when the Supper Inn advertises its opening hours until 2:30am and you would have to think that if there were people there wanting to order at half 2 the kitchen surely wouldn’t be closed. The food is great, it certainly isn’t the cheapest between the red gates of Chinatown but it doesn’t seem as jam packed with artificial flavours as other restaurants. $20 will net you the barbecued suckling pig which was very tastey, but quite a small portion and $18 will get a Szechuan Beef and a Sweet and Sour Pork. Of particular note was the sweet and sour pork which was not only extremely tasty but also a great sized portion. The menu consists of traditional style Chinese food, all sitting around this price range. It’s probably the best food in Australia that money can buy at 2 in the morning.

Working our table was an older chinese man who’s lack of conversation was refreshing, considering our conversation was hilarious to us, but almost certainly less so to him. He was happy to pour our cheap ‘Bulli Bulli’ Shiraz which was quite a surprise but nothing compared to how he wielded the spoons when he served us our special fried rice. This was something that has to be seen to believed, the spoons were snapping faster than a pitbull in a cattle yard and before we could say, “Cheers mate” our bowls were overflowing with rice.

Service with a smile and a nod.

Dinner Ideas

Great dinner ideas are hard to find, often recipes are too complex, time consuming or just plain over the top. The problem I have is that I cook the same thing over and over, forget about it in 3 weeks and then start cooking something else over and over. So, hopefully to combat this never-ending story I’m going to compile a list of all these dinner ideas and post the recipes. What does this all have to do with an aching head, you ask? Any of these go perfectly with a bottle of Riesling, Pinot Noir, Beer or a number of other poisons. All you have to do is drink.


Ohau Lodge and the Glen Mary House Bar

As casual observer you might think that the Ohau Lodge is a quiet ski lodge in one of the most remote parts of New Zealand and that it would only cater to a family ski holiday. While no-one would blame you for thinking this you would be horribly incorrect. I will say that it does cater perfectly to Mum and Dad, not only is staying there cheap but it is easy, very easy. The cheap cost of a room (we paid $270 for 3 people) includes breakfast and a 3 course meal for dinner. The lodge itself is nestled in the startling landscape of the South Island’s Mackenzie country, where the bar, dining room and spa pools look out over the breathtaking view of Lake Ohau.

What does all of this have to do with an aching head you may ask? To which, the answer is the Glen Mary House bar. This place may well be the heart and soul of Ohau, it is a bar which you can only wish that every place you go to has. $4 basic spirits and cheap beers would normally be all I would have to say, but it doesn’t stop there. The deck is massive and get’s some great afternoon sun, the staff are extremely friendly and happy to have a chat and the chances that your fellow visitors are going to be like minded are very high.

My mention of the spas is definitely relevant to the hangover that I woke up with, when we checked in we asked the receptionist about the whereabouts of them to which she replied, “Oh they are just over there, and there aren’t any rules. You can drink in them and they don’t have a closing time.” Taking full advantage of that, my companions and I polished off a couple of boxes of beer and pretty much put ourselves on the ropes for the rest of the evening. A couple of gin and tonics, dinner and a couple of glasses of wine and we were well and truly ready for bed.

Dinner was close to the highlight of the stay, (except for the beef and gravy rolls on the skifield) we were served pumpkin and coconut soup, followed by roasted yams and pork belly with a blueberry pie for desert. I certainly didn’t walk away hungry and the preparation and quality of the food was top notch, especially when you compare it to other places within a 200km radius. While the dinner was sensational, the breakfast was somewhat of a let down, billed as a 2 course breakfast the cereal, fruit and coffee was good, not great (although how you have below average cereal beats me) and the hot part of the meal was small, served with no toast and tasted like it had been being warmed for a few hours.

Don’t let me put you off with my lack of enthusiasm for the breakfast though, everything else about my stay was amazing and I’m really keen to go back. Hopefully in the summer when all I’m interested in doing is getting boozed and having a lazy time and not letting something like snowboarding get in the way.

Vknow Restaurant, Fernhill, Queenstown

Vknow is the sort of restaurant that you could go to once and go back week in week out for the next 10 years of your life. The only restaurant anywhere nearby, I’m certain that anyone who has dined there before and lives in Fernhill contemplates dropping in there for dinner, rather than the long trek in to town. I don’t know what it is about this sort of place, but it really does feel like you are sitting at someone’s dining table. This feeling was enhanced while we were there as we were asked to sit at the other end of a table as another couple, to who we were introduced by the waiter (and owner) as “good Queenstown locals”.

The decor consists of country style tables and chairs, and a vast array of art. The art are comic like water-colours depicting a random selection events and things to do, such as “Jumping around in Australia” with a paining of a couple of silly looking Kangaroos. Even though Vknow is situated right next to a road and the carpark is just there, you don’t notice it, there is hardly any traffic on the road and the large windows look out onto a few trees and gardens, all in all it’s very pleasant.

The menu consists of a very New Zealand (or maybe Queenstown) like selection consisting of lamb shanks, venison and fish. Don’t get me wrong, I love this style of food and the meals here did not fail to disappoint, my seared venison with mushroom risotto was exceptional if a little bit small and the lamb shanks with garlic mash and gravy was amazing. All of this great tasting food and reasonable prices is definitely a winner with our bill coming in under $100 for 2 meals and a bottle of wine.

I had been told that Vknow’s wine list was impressive and so it should be, considering the name. Due to being cheap arses we grabbed a bottle of the “budget and good” “Vknow bloody good red”. Turns out it was a bottle of the Australian Oxford Landing GSM, which I really enjoyed, not overly dry and definitely not too fruity. Often when you order the cheapest bottle on the list you walk away regretting your decision, but in this case I most certainly was not.

As far as Vknow goes catering to the world’s share of aching heads it gets my vote, not only do they have a takeaway menu (who would have thought, takeaway fine dining), they also host “Bluff oyster” evenings and beer and wine tasting sessions. I’m told that Danny the owner really loves his beer and wine judging by our experience I can imagine one of these sessions would be a great experience, educational and entertaining.

On Mexican Food and Hangovers – an Interview with RumDood

As the first of hopefully a series of boozing and cooking related interviews Matthew Robold from agreed to answer some quick questions about drinking, cooking and hangovers. I’ve run into the problem here that I could keep asking more and more questions, so I might leave them for another time.

Over here at My Aching Head we love nothing more than a home cooked dinner and a bottle (or two) of wine. What’s your dinner of choice?

I’m a big fan of Asian cuisine.  I cook in my wok a great deal, although lately I’ve been in a big ahi tuna phase and have been making seared ahi steaks, sushi, sashimi, and ahi salads quite a bit.  I’ve been experimenting with using different rums as ingredients in marinades for the fish when I sear it.  So far I’d say a good demerara rum like Lemonhart or El Dorado seems to work the best at matching with the fish.  Something about the smoky richness of the demerara rums just makes it so tasty…although I’ve also enjoyed using Mount Gay Extra Old for the same purpose…and sometimes I skip the marinade and just have a dram with my fish.

I’m interested in Rum, but surely that isn’t the only thing you drink, so what else is in the liquor cabinet?

Well I don’t keep the rum in the liquor cabinet…it won’t fit.  My main fallback when I’m not drinking rum is gin.  I’m a big fan of Tanqueray and Plymouth gins, and a simple gin and tonic is just so refreshing.  I’ve also taken to drinking whiskey more often, and have probably 2 of every style but Scotch.  I keep a single bottle of vodka around for guests, but can’t remember the last time I opened it.  Then, of course, there are the numerous liqueurs, vermouths, tinctures, bitters, etc.

I’m also a big fan of port and pretty much always have a bottle of ruby and 20 year old Tawney at hand, in addition to a few bottles of wine, and a refrigerator door full of beer.

I love a gin and tonic as well. The problem I have is I always suck them back way too fast but I’m always curious what other G&T drinkers have as their garnish. Personally I’m a lime man, but lemon is good and more recently people have been sneaking cucumber into them. Where do you stand?

I’ve never gone wrong with lime.  I mean, it’s such a perfect garnish…you can garnish just about any drink with a lime and it works.  If I don’t use a lime, I’ll usually opt for a lemon twist.  I can’t say I’ve ever had a cucumber garnish in a G&T.  I’ve had a G&T garnished with an orange wheel before, which was interesting.  I think the most unusual garnish I’ve ever seen in a G&T was probably a sprig of mint.

And what do you drink when you are looking to get boozed up?

Rum is still my first choice when looking to tie one one.  Granted, I don’t generally go for the rarer stuff for that purpose.  I’d say my go-to rums for a good bender are Sailor Jerry’s Spiced rum or Appleton Estate V/X.  They’re both very inexpensive and easily replaced.  The Sailor Jerry is good for a rum and coke or mixed with juice…the Appleton Estate is good in anything.

If I really want to hurt the next day, I’ll even through in some J. Wray and Nephew overproof or the Lemonhart 151.

Gah! You actually think about causing yourself pain? I generally let the barman sort that out for me. Do you have a favourite haunt for a few quiet (or loud) drinks?

I don’t necessarily think to myself, “Self, let’s put a hurtin’ on for tomorrow!”, but I’m usually cognizant of when I’m headed down the path to alcoimmolation, and sometimes I really just don’t care because I want the drinks – and zombies are just freaking good.

As for a favorite watering hole, it depends on who I’m with.  My brother and I tend to spend a lot of time in various bars all over Downtown Fullerton – usually in Bourbon Street, Mulberry Street…any bar named after a street apparently.  I also have a buddy that loves dive bars, so if I’m out with him the odds are very high that I’ll end up at the Goat Hill Tavern in Costa Mesa.  Of those bars, only Bourbon Street really has any decent rum in its selection – but when you’re a rum snob, you learn that unless you can get to places like Tiki Ti in LA or Forbidden Island in Alameda really easily, you’re going to have limited options.

And as far as waking up with a hangover, how do you sort that out? Are you a hair of the dog man or a coffee man?

When hungover, I generally maintain a strict regimin of coffee, gatorade, ibuprofin, antacids, and either pizza or Mexican food.  Something about the grease in a taco stand’s offerings or a big slice of meaty pizza just seems to make the world right again.  A burger and fries, animal style, from In’n’Out will also work in a pinch.

I will confess that the “hair of the dog” approach served me well in New Orleans at Tales of the Cocktail this year – though it’s not my typical approach.

I personally am a “hair of the dog” man and if I asked you to whip me up a quick rum-based cocktail that wouldn’t be too harsh on the stomach or the head. What would you give me?

That’s easy.  If I’m going “hair of the dog” with rum, I usually mix up a Dark and Stormy (dark rum and ginger beer), with a few dashes of bitters.  The combination of the effervescence, ginger, bitters, and the blackstrap rum all just work wonders on an unsettled stomach and headache-addled brain.

Ah, I love a Dark and Stormy, maybe with a splash of lime.

Personally, I love heading down to my local coffee shop, ordering a bacon and egg surprise. What about you?

Are we still talking about hangovers?  If I’m hungover and by myself I usually opt for pizza delivery simply because it means I get to stay in the house with the shades drawn and wait for food to come to me.  Either that or I’ll call a friend and ask them to save me with a carnitas burrito.  Carnitas, beans, rice, cheese, salsa, and guacamole really hits the spot when I’m trying to get my feet back underneath me.