Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.

27.11.03

Fun with hash.

Take your left over corned beef - you had some left over? Why? - dice it into small pieces, mix it with mashed potato and a little chopped parsley.

That's corned beef hash.

Now the fun starts. You can add all sorts of things to it.

Add heaps of butter and beat it until it glistens. Man that hash is sinfully delicious. Add some mustard for a real taste kick.

Add tomato sauce for a reddish hash with a bit of bite. Or worcestershire sauce. Or HP sauce.

Add some boiled cabbage for colcannon-like creation. Or leeks.

Turn it into hash cakes by frying it up in oil or butter. Superb.

25.11.03

What to do with a leek.

Slice it finely. Rinse it if it is gritty, this normally at the top where it pushes through the earth.

Fry some bacon, diced finely, in a little olive oil. Add the leeks after a couple of minutes and a dash of water or white wine. Cover tightly and cook until soft over a very low heat, adding a dash more fluid if it starts to dry out. Keep it nice and moist but not 'wet'.

Then add a can of butter beans or some you have cooked.

Season and serve as a side dish to a roast, a grill or a barbecue.

Great with beer, as is anything involving bacon, beans or leeks.

Variation: add cooked cubed potatoes to bulk it out as a main meal.

18.11.03

I made this up and it's the best thing you will ever eat.

This is amazingly good. I made it up, it kind of evolved from other pasta dishes I've made. I've made this about a hundred times now and I'm convinced it's one of the best.

1. Place a tablespoon of olive oil and a scored garlic clove in a pan with a close-fitting lid. Place a chicken fillet, just a dash of white wine or water, some sliced red pepper and several sliced medium mushrooms in the pan, and set it on a low heat. It has to be low so it won't burn. The idea is to cook the fillet through without browning it - it kind of poaches. Turn it after a few minutes. Experiment to get it right.

2. Meanwhile set your pasta cooking. Whatever you like. It works well with gnocchi, spaghetti, rigatoni.

3. Throw a cup of peas or snow peas in with the pasta so their cooking time coincides with when the pasta is done. (Remember, snow peas are done in thirty seconds.)

4. Slice an avocado into half and then cut the halves into half-inch segments.

5. When the chicken is almost cooked through, remove it from the pan to a cutting board and dice it in three-quarter inch cubes using your sharpest knife. Because it is barely cooked, this will be easier - don't sear it, it will not cut so easily. Return the cubed chicken to the pan with the avocado slices and and a generous tablespoonful of pesto mixture and place the lid back on. Cook until done, give it a shake to mix the pesto around, just a minute or so longer and still on a low heat, please!

6. Drain the pasta and peas and place in a large serving bowl. Add the contents of the pan over the top. Add grated or slivered parmesan, pepper and salt and chopped parsley.

It's great isn't it? And remember, I invented this dish.

How I celebrated the Cormo Express arriving back in Australia.

With lamb of course. At $7.99 a kilo, it's perfect right now. A small roast in the oven for two hours and it's done nicely. I tossed in a fresh rosemary sprig straight off the bush and a few cloves of garlic.

Oops, forgot the potatoes, so I cut them finely, a couple of millimetres only - so they'll cook faster - and threw them in a baking dish with milk, cream, salt, pepper and some more rosemary. (They're also good like this cooked with chicken stock).

On the side: broccoli from the garden. Hmmm, running out of ideas for broccoli. And peas. The peas were frozen. That's OK.

I served it all up and tossed some mint sauce that I made over it for a delicious tart taste. Never use supermarket mint sauce, always make your own. It's easier. Just pick some sprigs of mint and put them in a jar with vinegar. If it's that easy, why would people waste money and time going to a supermarket to buy mint sauce made in a factory?

I dunno.

PS: The Cormo Express was the ship carrying 53,000 sheep to the Middle East. Saudi Arabia rejected them and much trouble was had finding an alternate buyer. They were eventually given away for free to Eritrea together with a million dollars for processing costs. They were very well-travelled sheep.

14.11.03

Barbecue.

Around here, everyone eats outside in summer.

I wheeled out the big heavy cast iron cooker from the shed and lit the coals. The sun was low and the birds were making a racket in the trees - several massive conifers, a huge pine, a tall apple tree, a couple of plums and some evergreens. It's great just to sit, eat and watch the birds flitting through the trees on a summer night.

Last night's recipe:

1. Pick a heap of parsley and mint from the garden.
2. Chop it finely along with an onion and a clove or two of garlic and mix it through the mince along with an egg, a sprinkling of continental flour, the juice of a lemon and a dash of sumac, or use whatever you've got.
3. Form it into kebabs and skewer them.

Check the coals. When they're all glowing, start grilling.

Serve your kebabs when they're done to your liking in any bread you have - I used soft fresh Lebanese bread from A1 bakery - with sliced tomato, onion and lettuce with a little leben and a dash of hot chilli.

After a while, the sun was gone and the birds were quiet.

10.11.03

Avoid the supermarket.

What's the secret to asian cooking? Stock. Herbs. That's it.

I cooked this soup - vietnamese? malaysian? I dunno, but it was good.

Stock for the base flavor and fresh herbs to carry it through. Many people don't understand this, so their interpretation of asian food is to (a) deep-fry or (b) to add sweet sauces. Wrong. Take a stock, add fish, vegetables, meat, whatever, cook with lashings of herbs and you have a great meal.

Butterfish. Onions. Garlic. Ginger. Fish stock. Boil it in a big old pot then add noodles and all the herbs you can gather - fresh coriander, dill, chinese basil - and there's dinner. Beanshoots on top after serving.

See? Easy.

PS: If you don't grow the herbs yourself, go to a market where they'll be cheaper and fresher and not wrapped in plastic. Don't buy them from a supermarket. Just don't.

Kitchen garden on steroids.

Rule #1 of gardening: the kitchen garden is never big enough.

It stands to reason. If there was extra space you would plant something in it, wouldn't you? And then, being a kitchen garden, it would explode in late spring when everything grows like crazy.

Mine has exploded. The bean plants are fully six feet high. The cabbages are huge. I think they're late, so they'll be picked soon to make way for tomatoes. Can you put tomatoes where cabbages have been?
I dunno.

The mint, the oregano, the dill, all going wild.

The spinach I am eating until I turn green. Braise it in olive oil and garlic. Put in some cream and fresh ground pepper. Eat it with veal in vino bianco and die happy. Accompany it with a nice white wine - chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, I dunno, whatever - and die even happier.

Uh, oh. The fruit trees are loading up. Watch out.

Saturday night dinner, late.

Home at 10.30pm after six-year-old Canisha's concert across town. The freeway traffic was light or it could have been closer to midnight. I hate going out on Saturday nights. It's just total madness, complete lunatics on the road everywhere.

Made a quick gin and tonic and then take a look in the cupboard. Hmmm. Not much there. Pasta spirals. Can of tuna.

I cooked the pasta, added some frozen peas a minute or so before it was done, drained it, threw it back in the warm pot with some olive oil, tossed through the tuna, grated some cheese over - I used two, parmigiana and trecchia - and served. It goes all melty and silky. Delicious.