hungover: when only grease will do

morh fish’s perfect hangover cure 

Today I’ve been living, or actually more like just ‘existing’ in a world of hurt. Now before you start sending sympathetic thoughts, I guess I need to come clean. You see gentle readers, it was all self induced, the result of some serious over indulgence last night. Yep. The granddaddy of all hangovers.

As someone who has a healthy respect for the fruits of the vine, particularly in liquid fermented form, feeling a little worse for wear the morning after is not all that uncommon an occurrence. Fortunately I am usually blessed with a little ‘hangover hype’ which gets me up and going long enough to pop an asprin, don my running gear and get out on the road to sweat it all out. A big night out tends to result in slowness of thought the next day but rarely any headaches or greasy-food-craving-queasiness. But every now and then I luck out and along comes a tsunami sized hangover that stops everything in it’s path.

Last night I was lucky enough to help celebrate the 30th birthday of one of my ex-winemaker mates, Tobes. From experience I knew that Toby was pretty adept at organizing a fine shin-dig. And with his current wine sales role allowing him to source some top quality booze at wholesale prices, we were always going to be in for some treats.

Really it would have been remiss of me, if not down right rude, to have not tried to sample at least one glass of everything on offer. Sauv blanc, Sem Sauv blanc, Riesling, Arenis, Pinot gris, Chardy, Barberra, Cab sauv and Shiraz. No wonder I woke up this morning on the couch of the party house in Bundanoon fully clothed (shoes on…all class) with a bruise on my cheek (dance floor antics gone wrong…I think?), a desert in my mouth and heavily mascara-ed eyes that took some convincing to open.

When I was at university my hangover cure was either a greasy burger, fries and a large post mix lemonade from the golden arches or a large bag of shoestring hot chips (that’s Oz for fries) with a healthy dose of chicken salt and tomato sauce from Charcoal Charlies. Then there was the Portugese chicken burger phase of my early working life that had the combined benefits of garlicy mayo and chilli. But these days I tend to get my grease fix in the form of bacon and eggs (poached of course). I can’t remember the last time I went in for a classic junk food hit.

As luck would have it the journey home lead straight past good old McDonalds so I did the only sensible thing and stopped. But unfortunately I timed my visit too early so had to make do with the aweful breakfast menu and get my potatoes and oil in the form of a hash brown.

A journey that would normally take an hour and a half can be stretched out infinitely if you need to keep stopping to spew up your hangover cure. But miraculously I made it home after four such stops weary but still in one piece. With a few quick text messages I managed to cancel my dinner guests for the evening and get down to the serious business of wallowing and generally feeling like shit.

It really is amazing how slow your brain can go when faced with a decent hangover, but somehow between the self pity and dozing in the dappled sunlight of my bedroom I did manage to come up with a list of things that the unique perspective of a hangover makes you appreciate more so than in normal life: 
i.    New and thankfully very large Tom Ford sunglasses (a well timed Birthday gift from my Dad and siblings….thanks guys) worn inside, in bed and outdoors. Perfect for protecting delicate eyes from the glaring Sydney sun while at the same time making it possible to look in the mirror without the shock of disturbingly bloodshot eyes
ii.    Being home alone while your flatmate is off gallivanting around Mexico (hope your having fun Kate!). Twofold benefits here of being able to leave things lying around the house willy-nilly without feeling guilty and not having a witness to some seriously sad and self indulgent behaviour
iii.    Clean sheets. I love my bed any time but clean sheets really are the business.
iv.    The magically restorative effects of a long hot shower
v.    Electric toothbrushes
vi.    Actually being thankful for Alcohol-free Monday
vii.    Time to reflect on hangover habits from the past and plan out the perfect hangover cure meal.

Even in spite of the short residence time of the hash brown in my system this morning, I found my hangover thoughts turning to food. I really don’t know what it is about hangovers and greasy food but it truly is a match made in heaven, up there with tomatoes and basil. Throw in some acid in the form of lemon or vinegar and you’re onto a real winner. And this afternoon I found myself with a clear cut choice in the hangover cure department: Britain’s greatest contribution to global gastronomy, fish & chips.

If I had thought they would be open I would have headed straight to Fish Face for Sydney’s best beer battered flathead and chips. And I did toy with the idea of ducking down to Bondi for The One That Got Away’s classic butchers paper wrapped package. But in the end Mohr Fish won out and I made the pilgrimage to Surry Hills for a dose of their almost famous battered fish & chips (not flathead but bloody good. The girl did tell me what type of fish it was but it now escapes me). With an extra serving of tartare sauce and a token green salad I now feel almost human….all good things…

a sunny spring luncheon on the balcony**
pork rilettes with cornichons & crusty crusty bread
globe artichoke confit with potato ‘flowers’ and goats cheese
green salad
rhubarb sorbet

**Note: I was planning to spend this afternoon’s long weekend Monday making pasta and writing about a lovely lunch with some dear family friends that I shared last weekend when my Dad was in town but the hangover had other ideas. Click on the menu items for links to the recipes that have previously starred on these pages.

pork rilettes
makes approx 3 cups
Inspired by a really old Gourmet Traveller recipe.

I prefer to bake things as I find it easier to control the temp and there’s less risk of things sticking but feel free to simmer on the stove top if you prefer. This is a really rich and meaty starter or it could make for a killer picnic on it’s own or with a tasty cheese or two.

150g pork back fat, chopped
150g duck fat (or extra pork fat)
250g smoked spec, chopped
500g boneless and skinless pork belly, thinly sliced
3 sprigs thyme, + extra for garnish
1/2C dry white wine

Preheat oven to 200C. Place fats in a medium oven proof casserole dish with 1/2C water. Cover and bake for approx 30mins or until pork fat is starting to render and melt. Add remaining ingredients and reduce heat to 150C and cook for 4-5 hours stirring periodically until pork belly is meltingly tender.

Drain meat, reserving the cooking juices. Allow fat to rise to the top and scoop off into another bowl. Bring the no fat cooking juices to a simmer and reduce until you have about 1/3C remaining. Place meat and reduced juice in a food processor and puree until very fine and pasty. Add enough fat to moisten to a nice spreadable consistency and season well. Divide paste between three 1C capacity ramekins. Pour reserved oil over each to cover and top with thyme garnish. Refrigerate until fat has solidified.

To serve, scrape the fat from the top and get your guests to help themselves. Will keep for at least 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

potato ‘flowers’
serves 6 as a side dish
Inspired by the potato & Jerusalem artichoke galette I think by Emma Knowles in a recent Australian Gourmet Traveller, possibly July but don’t quote me on it.

800g waxy potatoes
50g unsalted butter
1/4C extra virgin olive oil
4 sprigs thyme
zest 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced

Preheat oven to 200C. Slice your spuds as thinly as possible using a mandoline, V Slicer or a sharp knife. Combine remaining ingredients in a small saucepan and melt butter over a medium heat. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper and draw three 12cm diameter circles on each tray. Brush circles with melted butter mixture and then arrange a layer of potatoes over. Brush with butter and repeat until everything has been used.

Bake 45mins to an hour or until potatoes are dark golden and well cooked through.

ps. Hangovers and proof reading don’t mix so apologies if there are any glaring errors but I need sleep!


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