MotoGP Road Trip!

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By , October 23, 2010 8:48 pm

Well a few (3!) of us decided it would be a great idea to do a road trip to see the MotoGP (the formula 1 of motorbike racing) at Phillip Island on the south coast of Australia.

So some time ago we bought our tickets and got the camping booked on the island – the count down was on! For weeks and weeks emails were flying around between us getting more and more excited about the prospect of a long trip on the bikes. Much more fun than the odd Saturday morning ride around the local roads.

First night

Trial pack

The plan was to leave work on the Tuesday afternoon and get a couple of hours out of Sydney where we would stay with Bill’s brother at Moss Vale. The ride out of Sydney was slow until we got to some nice twisties and we were at Bill’s brother’s pad in no time.

Early the next morning we got up for the big push down to Bairnsdale over 600km away where we had a motel booked.

Well we woke up to the sound of rain, and the rain pretty much didn’t stop all day! We had a brief dry spell somewhere in the middle which was nice, but the rest of the day was very, very wet! Luckily we knew it was going to be like this so had sort of prepared ourselves. I had bought a waterproof over-jacket a week earlier in preparation. I have a jacket which has an insertable waterproof liner. It’s ok for commuting but if it rains the actual jacket gets wet. Not ideal for a long trip. The waterproof over jacket worked really well, the best $30 I’ve spend in a while that’s for sure because I arrived at Bairnsdale easily the driest out of the three of us!

Fuel!

Gerry was convinced his ‘dryrider’ jacket had kept him dry – even as he was taking it off at the first fuel stop on day two he was proclaiming how dry he was! Until we pointed out that, in actual fact, he was soaking wet.

Other incidents on day two included Bill running out of fuel, in the pouring rain. His bike had the smallest range at about 180km (none of the bikes are really designed for long distance riding, but particularly Bills!) and he ‘knew’ there was a fuel stop at a town called Collector. Well, we pulled in to Collector and it quickly became apparent that the petrol station had now been converted into a cafe!

Doh!

So we just had to plough on and hope that we would find another station. Soon. Unfortunately that didn’t happen – soon after Collector Bill’s bike died a slow death. He hoiked it onto it’s side to get a bit more fuel from the tank down to the pump (I think he may have been in this situation before!) – that got him another 5km, but no petrol station was in site. So I left Bill and Gerry at the side of the road, in the rain, whilst I charged onwards to the first petrol station I came to – a further 20km down the road. I filled up and bought a 5 litre gerry can which was also filled and strapped to the back of my bike as best I could.

A quick charge back down the road, punching the air as I passed a very soggy looking Bill and Gerry on the other side of the duel carriageway. I managed to find a gravel track to cross to the other side of the carriageway not much further onwards. Much laughter was had as we filled Bill’s tank (actually, 5 litres wouldn’t be far off filling it!!), but that laughter soon stopped when MY bike then wouldn’t start!! Now I’ve never had any trouble whatsoever from my bike and it was very strange that it wouldn’t start. I can only put it down to the shear amount of water around – it really was pouring. I think some water had got into the electronics so it thought the clutch wasn’t pulled in or something (you need to pull the clutch in to start). Anyway – there we were, not more than a few hours out of Sydney and we’ve run out of fuel and had a broken bike!!! Quite funny in a way! We managed to bump start my bike (a first – never jump started a bike before) and carried on our merry way. What a start!!

We had some great roads on the way down and had great fun, despite the rain.

Gerry check the bikes

It was wet!

We arrived in Bairnsdale in pretty good time and pulled into our motel, in the pouring rain (of course), at around 6pm I think. The whole town was full of bikers, all with a story to tell about there trip so far and all with lots of wet gear to try and dry! There was such a big number of bikes in this particular town because the next day (Thursday) was the Barry Sheene tribute ride to the race track a further 280km down the road.

Thousands of bikes do the ride, which is a properly organised and police escorted ride. This means thousands of bikes riding two abreast, straight through red lights, straight through towns where seemingly everyone was out waving flags to see all the bikes pass. Whole schools and old peoples homes were out on the pavements waving us through – is was absolutely spectacularly awesome. The weather was much, much better than the day before which also helped. It was a really, really good day and a great way to arrive at ‘The Island’ as it’s affectionately known in Australia. We also registered for the ride which meant that we actually got a lap of the race track when we arrived. Obviously you are with hundreds and hundreds of other bikes at the time so it was more of a slow punt around – but great all the same.

After leaving the track we headed up to Cowes where we have our camp site booked. So all in all a fantastic trip down, despite the weather on Wednesday!!

A picture says a thousand words...

Rossi

The next few days were spent watching the practicing and qualifying. Friday was the first day of ‘stuff’ going on on the track, and the weather was spectacularly bad! Very cold, horizontal rain due to the belting southerly gale coming off Bass Straight. It was truly awful for the riders, and not much better for the spectators!

Saturday was a little better, but not much.

Luckily for everyone, race day was a pretty big improvement. Still pretty cold but at least it was mostly dry, sunny and the wind was no where near as bad as the previous two days.

So we set up camp in our grandstand seats and enjoyed all the racing of the day.

Bill & Gerry

Originally we were going to sleep over on Sunday night and leave early Monday morning for the big, huge, monstrous push back to Sydney. But we decided (very wisely!) that we should pack our bikes up before going to the track, ride to the track and park there so we could leave straight after the races and get a few hours under our collective belts on the Sunday night.

It was a great move and we were off the Island pretty swiftly (it’s great having a bike in situations like this! Traffic just doesn’t matter) and got to Sale where we found a cheap 3 bedroomed motel.

The next day (Monday) was a great, great day riding the coast road back up to Sydney in the sun, stopping at little coastal towns for fuel and food. The weather was great and the roads were mostly beautiful – swift, twisty and smooth.

Lovely weather on the way home

We came across a stranded rider at one point – sat at the side of the road with a dead BMW. We stopped to check he was ok as there was no-one else with him. “What’s up” Gerry asked, “out of fuel” came the reply. “Ah ok, well my mate’s got a 5 litre gerry can strapped to the back of his bike which he’s been carrying for the last 1500km” quipped Gerry. The bloke just did not believe it. He seriously thought Gerry was taking the mick. Here he is with a big powerful BMW and a guy on a 400cc single cylinder dirt bike pulls up and saves the day! It was great to help him out, I don’t think he could believe his luck! It transpires that his bike was telling him he still had 100km left in the tank, but it was clearly empty. It’s a fault I’ve actually heard of before with BMW motorbikes – so there you go!

The run in to Sydney was pretty uneventful and I eventually rolled onto the driveway at around 7.30pm. Quick feed, long shower and bed ready for work the next morning.

Awesome!

Click for gallery

Click on the picture on the left for a gallery – or go to the gallery page.

Beer…

By , October 7, 2010 8:49 am

Well, I like beer. It’s no secret.

I was thinking for a while about setting up a home-brew experiment, particularly as my youngest brother along with my brother in-law both have home-brew set-ups in the UK. Trouble is Nic wasn’t too keen and I also worried a little about the logistics of keeping the beer at a constant(ish) temperature whilst it was brewing – 40 degree summer days do not lend themselves to this unfortunately. Well not without more expense I guess.

Anyway after a bit of googling I came across a place in Sydney, just 10 minutes down the road, where you go along, pick a beer you want to brew (from a list of well over 100), brew it yourself (with guidance). They then keep it stored in their temperature controlled storage space whilst it brews, you go back in 3 weeks (dependant on the brew you picked) and bottle it up yourself – and voila! Perfect, beautiful beer. And much cheaper than going down the bottle shop too! So a few of us at work clubbed together and tried it out.

Our first batch was/is so good that we have already booked in to brew some more – double quantity next time! We were amazed. This is the future!!

Here’s a video from our experiment at The Beer Factory!

The Beer Factory Experiment from Graham Midgley on Vimeo.

Macaroons take 2!

By , October 5, 2010 8:27 pm

Macaroons take 1

A friend recently got some chickens for her garden, and she promised me that once the hens started laying excess eggs I could have some. Well Friday was the day, sitting on my desk when I got to work were 4 of Speckle’s eggs. With freshly laid eggs I had to find a suitable way of appreciating them so I made the Royal Mail inspired egg salad (see last post). But having only used the yolk I couldn’t waste the rest of the egg.  The obvious option for egg whites is meringue, but with only two small whites (Speckle is still a novice layer) I thought I’d have a crack at macaroons.

For the first attempt I followed a recipe from the BBC food website, but it was a little vague as to how long you whisk the egg whites for, and I don’t think I did it for long enough judging by the flat results :(

Macaroons take 2

Not one to give up easily, I had another crack at macaroons today, but this time I whisked for at least five minutes as I added the caster sugar which made them much stiffer. No collapsing problems today, but they also didn’t form nice smoothe tops like the ones in the Masterchef recipe. They are better, but still not right I think! They do taste good though, and here is the recipe for the cream I made to go in them:

150ml whipping cream
1tblsp Limoncello
1tblsp Greek yoghurt
1tsp caster sugar
strawberries or raspberries

Put the Limoncello in with the cream and whisk until thick. Stir in the yoghurt and caster sugar.

The final result

Chop the strawberries into quarters (don’t worry about chopping raspberries they are small enough) then assemble the macaroons. Put a blob of cream on the base of one macaroon and carefully place the strawberries/raspberries around the edge, then sandwich the second macaroon on top. Repeat until all of the macaroons are complete.

Please note that these quantities are a vague guess and made enough cream for 6 macaroons for someone who is not really a cream lover! You may need to adjust the quantities to suit your own taste!

Another new venture!

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By , October 4, 2010 10:33 am

Egg Salad

For a while now I’ve been wanting to write my own cookbook, and with no signs of a Masterchef audition I think I’ll have to accept that it’s a bit of a pipe dream. I felt the need to write my own book because when I cook for others I often get asked for the recipe, but the problem is, more often than not I haven’t followed a recipe, but adapted or sometimes just made it up! So as an extension of my Jamie project I’ve decided to blog about my other cookery adventures.  The Jamie project is all about following his recipes and forcing myself to try recipes that I wouldn’t normally do whereas this blog will be a place to write my own recipes so I can recreate them again and maybe if you’ve been over for dinner and liked something you could try it too!

So the first recipe is one I have tried to recreate from an amazing meal we had a the Royal Mail Hotel last year.  I don’t think it’s exactly the same, but it’s a tasty entree that looks good on the plate. So here is the recipe for the Royal Mail inspired poached egg salad.

Royal Mail Poached Egg Salad Serves 2

2 egg yolks (with spares in case of breakages!)
splash of grapeseed oil
2 slices of pancetta
100g of mixed sprouts
100ml good chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
Truffle oil to serve

Put a splash of grapeseed oil in a 50ml shot glass and rinse around so it is greased. Repeat with a second shotglass.

Place the egg yolks in the shot glasses carefully without breaking them. Allow them to come to room temperature.

Chop the pancetta into small cubes about 5mm square. Fry until crisp and drain on kitchen paper.

Combine the sprouts with the crispy pancetta and set to one side.

In a small pan reduce the chicken stock by half and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Bring a pan of water up to 65 degrees centigrade and use a thermometer to maintain this temperature. Place the shot glasses containing the egg yolks into the pan of pre-heated water and allow to set for 5-7 minutes.

Whilst the egg yolks are setting, dress the sprouts with the truffle oil and place them in a mound on the centre of the plate, making a dip in the centre for the egg yolk to sit in.

After 5-7 minutes (depending on how set you want the yolk to be) carefully pour the yolk into the centre of the sprouts trying not to break it.  Sprinkle the yolk with a little salt, then pour the reduced stock around the bottom of the sprouts.

When you cut into the yolk it should be just set on the outside but still runny on the inside – simple but delicious!

60% there

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By , October 3, 2010 9:14 am

I’ve been at it since June, and I’m nearly done. Well I’ve completed 60% of the recipes in the first Jamie book. The momentum has slowed down a bit, as the more I do the harder it becomes. I have cooked most of the everyday meals and all of the wintery dishes, which only leaves the recipes that require fancy ingredients or would benefit from a summers day before eating.

Semi-freddo

Last weekend I made the most of the seasonal figs and tried the semi-fredo. This was a surprisingly pleasant dessert that highlighted the need for food and wine matching. I haven’t worked out whether it’s the cream, figs or honey, but paired with lemon cordial or dessert wine it leaves a strange taste of anchovies in your mouth! Try it! I dare you!!!

It might also be time to start changing the rules of the game, as I’m really keen to move on to book two. So this might be a good time to confess that I can’t cook the red mullet and ham as I can’t buy the raw ingredients. It’s not a cop out, honest!

Birthday meal courtesy of Nic!

By , October 2, 2010 9:59 pm

Well it’s fantastic having a wife who loves to cook, especially when your birthday comes around! Luckily for me my birthday also fell the day Nic does her private work each week but, sadly, she didn’t have many clients booked in this week. More time to cook for me!! :)

So here’s a quick run down of what Nic had in store…

Figs and pig

Course 1

Fig wrapped in Prosciutto with balsamic reduction.

Figs are in season – hooray!

A beautiful start – I love figs and I love pigs. What I love even more is thinly sliced pig wrapped around figs.

The sticky balsamic was also lovely – go Nic!

Gyoza

Course 2

Home made Gyoza with soy and chilli dipping sauce.

I love food like this.

In fact we are almost regulars at a chinese dumpling place in Ashfield. Ok, ok – I know Gyoza are Japanese really, but they are at least similar to Chinese dumplings – especially because these are cooked identically to my favourite Chinese ones – with a fried bottom.

Awesome.

Raw fish, yum!

Course 3

Tuna with crispy noodles, herbs and chilli

Raw tuna – give me raw tuna and I’m a VERY happy bunny!

I find almost any excuse to go to the Sydney Fish Markets just to get my grubby paws on sashimi fish – tuna, kingfish, whatever. I’m not fussy.

Just as long as it’s fish, and raw, I’m happy.

Epoisses cheese

Course 4

The best cheese course ever. Bar none. Epoisses cheese with maple syrup

Seriously, the best ever.

We discovered this combination when at a lovely little restaurant/cafe in Surrey Hills called Bentleys where I had it as a desert. Nic chose a chocolate something-or-other if I remember correctly, but I had to guard this cheese with my life once Nic got a small taste of it. It was that good.

Fig & Honey Semifreddo

Course 5

Home made Fig Semifreddo

This has lasted all week so far – quite a treat for mid-week puddings!

We don’t really do puddings, but with Nic’s recent preparation for her appearance in Masterchef Australia 😉 she has been practicing. This is a beauty – and it’s also great to have stuff like this in the freezer so we can even have puddings mid-week!!

So, in conclusion, I can’t wait until my next birthday!!!!!

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