ICED COFFEE

UNTIL I MOVED TO ADELAIDE, I’D NEVER TASTED ICED COFFEE. Along with AFL, pawpaw cream, emu oil, bikie associates and the chicken parmie, it’s one of those things that are almost ubiquitous here, and virtually unknown in most other places.

Very soon after arriving, we’d noticed that it was everywhere; predominantly Farmers Union down here in those days, although their market share has been encroached upon by many pretenders to the iced coffee throne in the intervening years. Apparently, it out-sells Coca-cola – this is one of those things people in Adelaide tell to newcomers (along with “It’s a large country town”, “two degrees of separation” and “I like to smoke a bit of ice to get the housework done”). I remember me and the little ‘un, keen to start living the ADL dream, going out one morning and sitting on a bench overlooking the sea (or ‘ocean’. As we’d come to know it) and drinking a Farmers Union Strong, which tastes like cold, watery-milky instant coffee with a shit-load of sugar, served in a tetra-brick. Not bad at all.

Iced coffee: the perennial Adelaide favourite.

I later went on to try the fancy ones available in cafes, which suffer from the curse of Australian food, which is Too Many Ingredients. Essentially, they end up being a coffee-based knickerbocker glory.

I’d assumed that iced coffee was introduced to Australia by Vietnamese migrants at the end of the last century, but, according to wikipedia, it’s been around a lot longer than that. The warm weather makes you want your drinks cool, I suppose.

Just the first of many Vietnamese iced coffees.

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure to visit Vietnam, where I did my best to drink as much coffee as possible. These varied in quality, from those where single-filter coffee, full of bitter dark chocolate notes drips tantalisingly slowly into a glass of ice, cooling before it touches the layer of condensed milk in the bottom of the glass, where both elements mingle into, what has to be, one of the world’s great coffee – if not taste – experiences, to those that tasted a bit rough-arsed and Caterer’s Blend-y.

So, here’s my recipe for iced coffee. Sometimes I drink it with sugar; sometimes I don’t.

Large shot of espresso (see here).

Milk (whichever variety tickles your fancy)

Brown sugar

Ice

Dissolve the sugar in the coffee and pour over the ice. Add the milk. Drink. Best served whilst wondering if the weather will ever get cooler again.

YOGHURT

Yoghurt is truly wonderful stuff. I still recall getting a tub of flavoured yoghurt as a treat as a kid and just loving it. In those days, it was all fruit pulp and sugar. Things are very different now, with supermarkets having a huge range of flavoured and unflavoured yoghurts to choose from. (In Australia, I think we have to give a big shout out to our Greek community for pushing things forward in this area). Still, similar to the hummus situation: such small tubs; such high cost.

The English-speaking world struggles with the word yoghurt. It’s apparently Turkish in origin and the way people say the word in English tends to fall into two camps: yo-gurt and yog-ert. I think each group considers the other’s pronunciation as odd and slightly foolish. I come from the yog-ert part of the world and live in the yo-gert part, can’t find it in myself to change and have had to come to terms with the fact that I sound faintly ridiculous.

I eat yoghurt most days, either in my morning muesli smoothie or with something like preserved peaches or a drizzle of honey for a simple dessert. Making dairy or non-dairy versions are just as easy, as the same ‘good’ bacteria work on both dairy and plant milks.

That, dear reader, is the perfect consistency.

Years ago, when I was a vegan, I started making my own soy yoghurt. The homemade stuff is really cheap, has all the good stuff in it (blah, blah, probiotics), and can be made with the minimum of faffing about.

In the old days, I had a wide-necked thermos and I’d bring a pan of soy milk up to just below the boil, let it cool to just above blood temperature (too hot, the bacteria will die; too cold, the bacteria won’t multiply), take off the skin, then add a bit of the previous batch (or some shop-bought live yoghurt) and let it sit overnight.

More recently, I’d been making it directly in mason jars using much the same method, only this time putting the filled jars into an esky with a jar of boiling water overnight to maintain the temperature.

However, about six months ago, I bought myself a rice cooker. Turns out that the ‘keep warm’ setting is perfect for yoghurt fermentation. I just pour in two litres of unsweetened soy milk, add the starter (either the last of the previous batch or a few tablespoons of bought yoghurt), flick the switch and leave overnight. I end up with two litres of thick, delicious, nutritious soy yoghurt.

My extensive internet research tells me (rightly or wrongly) that I don’t need to bring my milk up to near-boiling point anymore, so I don’t.

I primarily use unsweetened soy milk, largely because it has a good protein content (as opposed to, say, oat or almond milk, is lower in cholesterol than cow’s milk, and has a pleasant ‘beany’ taste. Also, I’ve found that different brands of soy milk produce very different results – not so much in flavour, but in consistency. I recently tried hemp milk, which made a runny yoghurt, with a pleasant taste, but cost a dollar or so more per litre.

I understand that you can also put it in your pants if you get thrush.

A FEW WORDS ABOUT COFFEE

I FUCKING LOVE COFFEE. Always have. It helps you wake up, helps you think; helps you poo. Living in Adelaide, a city where the inhabitants try to distract themselves from the ennui caused by living in Adelaide, by being obsessed, not just with coffee, but with perfect coffee, has only made this love more potent.

Quality froth.

I try to start every day with as good a cup as I can manage and drink two or three more cups each day. I avoid regularly buying from coffee shops, despite working near one of the best, largely because I’m a bit of a skinflint, but also so that – when I do go out for a cup – I like it to feel like a treat.

I bought a cheapo espresso machine a few years ago, which was quickly flogged to death in this household of relentless coffee drinkers. When my mum died and I inherited a few quid, I invested in a fancy DeLonghi coffee machine, which, although it was eye-wateringly expensive, lasted years with the occasional service and repair, churning out decent coffee, multiple times a day. We were all fucking bereft when it finally gave up the ghost. When I priced up a replacement, they were, sadly, just too expensive to justify the outlay.

As luck would have it, I’d been in an op shop (thrift/charity shop) and picked up a boxed, Bodum glass milk frother a couple of years previously, just because it was too good to resist at $5. It looks and functions like a traditional cafetière (French press/plunger), but without any metal parts on the jug, so you can put an inch or two of milk in it, pop it into the microwave to warm up, then plunge the plunger up and down to froth the milk. I thought I’d dig this out of the cupboard and give it a whirl, not having very high hopes, to be honest. Turns out it makes hugely thick, luscious, frothy milk. Well done Bodum. It also produces good results with your non-dairy milks, too.

I did a bit of internet research and found the Brikka moka pot, made by Bialetti, which has a little valve inside which is supposed to add crema to the coffee. I invested in the 6 shot version. It makes consistently superb coffee, frequently with a decent crema, which I drink with my frothed milk which takes, rather conveniently I think, about the same amount of time to prepare as the coffee takes to percolate.

It’s also worth noting that this process takes about the same amount of time as using the machine, once you factor in waiting for it to flush out, warm up etc. You also avoid having to clean the machine, which was always a proper ball-ache.

The only problem I had was sitting the moka pot on the gas stove. The iron trivet-thingy was just too small, so it would always be a bit of a balancing act, leading to the occasional spill – and fuck me, it makes a mess if it falls over.

To resolve this, I managed to buy online some small, flat, circular iron things which sit on the stove to support the pot. Unfortunately, due to my inability to read Japanese, I bought three, but never mind, eh.

One afternoon, on a day off, I was pottering round the house when I fancied a coffee, so made and drank a six-cup special. This gave me the worries. Quite uncomfortably so. So, for the sake of my mental health, I got myself a smaller version.

This wonderful little gadget (also made by Bialetti, as it happens), delivers a single shot of espresso straight into the cup and is perfect for giving you a little coffee-caffeine hit, without causing your brain to spoil your precious day away from your place of employment by causing you to ruminate over conversations you had ten years ago or why your boss is such a cunt.

I’m not getting paid to recommend this.

During the day at work, I drink black coffee made in my little cheapo one cup cafetière/plunger/French press. Whilst I’m not one to skimp on the essential ingredient, I’ve recently discovered that the organic, fair trade ground coffee sold by Aldi is, to me, pretty hard to beat. It’s not just because I’m trying to be woke, either.

It’s frothy, man. [Shout out to the 70’s kids out there]

A note about milk. Currently, I’m drinking oat milk at home and will happily go for whole milk, soy, dog, cat or oat if I’m out and about, depending how the mood takes me and I appreciate the taste variations.