I made Bruschetta!

In anticipation of the food fair, I decided upon preparing a dish which would showcase wonderful Italian cuisine in a healthy and simple manner; Bruschetta.

Bruschetta is a popular antipasto dish thought to have originated from Ancient Rome. The dish was created as a way of not only salvaging stale bread but also as a way for olive farmers to taste the very first oil of the season. While this style of Bruschetta now known as Fettunta is unique to the region of Tuscany, other variations include toppings of beans, cured meat or cheese.

Bruschetta with tomatoes is the most popular recipe outside of Italy; I felt it was fitting to serve at the fair considering how it is a familiar and healthy dish. The topping was prepared with Italian produce in mind; diced Roma tomatoes and garlic seasoned with balsamic vinegar, salt, extra virgin olive oil and basil accompanied with grilled Pani di Casa bread.


While tomatoes were originally introduced as an ingredient from the Americas, it is complemented with traditional ingredients such as olive oil and grilled Pani di Casa bread which makes the recipe notably Italian; particularly Southern Italian with the usage of vegetables, bread as a starch and olive oil as opposed to animal fats.

One particular challenge in preparing the dish was preserving the freshness of the ingredients. I prepared the toppings on the morning of the fair however the texture of the bread regrettably softened in the following hours; the dish is normally served with freshly grilled bread. Fortunately the dish was well received with fellow foodies complementing the freshness of the tomatoes and balance of seasonings!


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Panada – cooking with two simple ingredients

Cue the trumpets! I hope you are excited and hopefully not too hungry, as we are going on another culinary journey through the history of Europe without breaking the budget.

I can’t help but develop a sense of respect for importance of bread in the Italian diet especially during poverty stricken period of the 19th century. Panada, a form of bread soup composed of bread boiled in water or other liquids was an inexpensive dish that utilised bread as its centrepiece. It was a vital form of sustenance regional to the north-east of Italy frequently prepared for the elderly and ill.

The simplicity and versatility of Panada stood out for me; cooking the bread through boiling it in liquids not only changes its texture but also may result in a sweeter flavour through breaking down it’s sugars. This allowed Panada to be served as a either sweet or savoury dish which was evident through the influence of Italian cuisine in other areas of the world.

French cuisine enriches Panada through the addition of butter, milk, cream or egg yolks whereas in British cuisine, the dish is flavoured with regional ingredients such as nutmeg and Zante currants (traditionally used in British deserts such as Christmas cake and pudding).

This dish in particular, exemplifies the meagre food habits as described in Heltosky’s article. Panada was in part due to Italy’s unevenly developed economy of the late 19th century. The primary ingredients of bread and water demonstrates how an inadequate died was a fact of life for much of the Italian population of the time.

The dish also demonstrates the regional diversity of starches consumed through-out Italy with bread and rice being more commonly consumed in the North as opposed to pasta and polenta consumed in the southern regions.


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Gertrude Street – best bits of Fitzroy is equal parts

Most Melbournians know that they can’t ignore the gravitational pull of the Fitzroy area for its unique take on multiculturalism. Gertrude Street is no exception with its contemporary atmosphere which uptakes influences from a multiple forms of art and cuisine. There are several cafes along the street that primarily serve brunch, alongside other restaurants and bakeries which offer French, Italian and Spanish cuisine.

I couldn’t help but feel the pleasant and comfortable atmosphere of Gertrude Street. The varied European, Asian and American foodscape isn’t overwhelming as a result of being mindfully segregated across the street. Trendy clothes and furniture shops lend a hand towards upholding the dearer price bracket of neighbouring restaurants. Contrarily, while the cuisine of Gertrude Street is refined and of a high standard, it tends to gravitate towards authenticity rather than haute cuisine.

That said, we were still able to enjoy a delicious crepe from Breizoz without breaking the bank!


The emphasis on extending the foodscape across the street was much appreciated, doing so contributed to the street’s natural yet distinguished vibe. The sweet aroma of Fatto A Mano’s breads did not intermix with Breizoz Creperie’s rich, buttery atmosphere considering how they are moderately spaced within a block of each other. Ultimately, the generous spacing between the restaurants contributed to a distinct sensory experience.

As is the case with the younger Australian generation, multiculturalism has essentially been a large part of my life and many fond memories are tied to sensory experiences; particularly through food. Being an Australian born to immigrant Chinese parents, my upbringing has been a result of a mixture of different cultural traditions.  Naturally, Gertrude Street’s multicultural foodscape ties well with me, bringing a strong sense of nostalgia of the countless cuisines my family and I experimented with whilst growing up.

I now have a greater understanding of how migrant cuisine impacted the street resulting in a varied foodscape. The focus towards the three nodes in particular gave a deeper insight towards the role multiculturalism has played in allowing such a plethora of cultural cuisines to function under one street.


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Pot-Au-Feu a French Classic!

Pot-au-feu, Pot-au-feu, what a nice and easy phrase to say! Much like the simplicity of my rhyme, simplicity is foundation which has grounded this dish as a hallmark of French cuisine.

It is often rare to come across a national dish that isn’t insinuated with the complexity of culture and local produce. Specialised techniques of cooking and unique ingredients often allow national dishes to withstand the course of time. Pot-au-feu however is remarkably the opposite. When one wonders how could a dish with the same number of ingredients as the words in its name become so iconic and celebrated on a national level, we must accept the historical significance and the less than humble beginnings from which Pot-au-feu comes from.

A stew comprised of meat, vegetables and spices essentially describes what Pot-au-feu is. Inexpensive cuts of beef alongside root vegetables such as celery, carrots, onions and turnips represented the standard ingredients available since the 17th century of France.

In 1600, King Henry IV of France declared, “I want no peasant in my kingdom to be so poor that he cannot have a Poule-au-pot [a variant stew cooked with chicken] on Sundays” and nowadays, the dish has followed this declaration as what has been described by chef Raymond Blanc as “the quintessence of French family cuisine … honour[ing] tables of the rich and poor alike.”

The simplicity of the recipe has allowed leeway for regional variants such as the Soupe-au-aard of Lorraine with involves the use ingredients native to Northern France (bacon and rassache) and the Bouillabaisse which is a provincial fish stew of Marseille.

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Interestingly, elements of Pot-au-feu permeated into cuisines outside of France in unexpected ways. Pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup has strong influences of Pot-au-feu with its rich beef-based broth with onions and spices.

Ferguson’s article “Writing out of the Kitchen” gave me a deeper understanding about how pot-au-feu was an integral part of careme’s cooking books – the dish highlighted his desire of simplifying French cuisine. The use of inexpensive, widely available ingredients exemplifies the point of Pot-au-feu being fit for the masses rather than aristocracy which renders it suitable as a national dish.


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