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

29.3.04

It's not dark yet, but it's getting there.

For me, the annual end to 'daylight saving' is a shock to the system.

In the natural order of things, the days become gradually shorter so that you don't really notice it too much all at once. But with the end of 'daylight saving' (what a dumb term) you are jerked suddenly into instant evening darkness. A bit like going to the cinema by broad daylight and emerging in pitch black. (An experience made worse if it's a depressing or scary movie!)

'Daylight saving' ended here on Saturday night so to savour the hour of light that was to be snatched away from us the next night - and to enjoy the unseasonally hot weather - a barbecue dinner was in order.

The fish: rockling. The meat: T-bone steaks (with fillet).

I have seen rockling at well over $30 a kilo, depending on availability and the season. On Saturday morning, there were two sellers at the market. One had rockling at $17, the other at $21. The $17 seller said the other guy was too dear, and I heard the $21 guy telling a shopper the cheaper stall's fish had been frozen. The truth is that the dearer seller has been there for a long time and has an established clientele, while the cheaper stall is a new arrival and is building his business. He could be in for success, because the $21 guy has just bought a fishshop on the main street, possibly as a defensive move against the new competition. Such fun, shopping at the market. Free market economics in action. (By the way, and I'm getting right off the track, I've seen fish in so-called 'upscale' - pardon the pun! - fish shops sold at portion prices. So you don't get to see the kilogram price. How stupid would you have to be to fall for that?)

So, the rockling. One big piece, about 750 grams, or a pound and a half. Wrapped it in foil with a couple of cloves of garlic, some grated ginger and a generous dash of tamari - my old standbys - along with half an onion chopped into thin rings.

Salad: quartered ripe tomatoes, chunks of onion, rings of red bell pepper, fat juicy black olives, cubes of goat's cheese and nice olive oil. I like this because of the robust chunky size of the components. It's good with crusty bread and a glass of white wine while you're waiting for the fish and meat to cook.

But there's not long to wait! The coals were white hot by 7 o'clock. The rest was easy. I thinly sliced some zucchinis (the fat pale green speckled ones) lengthwise and another red bell pepper into strips of about one by three inches. Then I halved some mushrooms. Placed them all in a bowl and drizzled them with olive oil. This takes like three minutes.

Once on the grill, the zucchini were done in a minute or so. Flipped them over, did the other side, onto a serving platter. The peppers and 'shrooms took a little longer, but not much longer.

Meanwhile the fish had been laid gently on the grill over the coals and pretty soon, the first memerising aromas of steaming tamari, ginger and onion forced an opening in the foil. The fish was done in around ten minutes. Straight onto the serving platter, open out the foil to admiring oohs and aahs.

Throw the T-bones onto the grill, done exactly how you want. I'll burn it black if that's the way you want it.

But in my case, I just walk past the grill with the T-bone on the end of a fork. OK, I do actually place it on the grill. Then I flip it real quick. Then I snatch it off of the grill and slam it on my plate, oozing juices. This is steak, man. I don't care what sauce you put on it - chili, mustard, horseradish, tomato, tabasco, blue cheese (yum), butter and garlic, green peppercorns flamed with brandy and cream, whatever. But the meat under it MUST BE RARE! Or I'll have a tantrum! (I'll still eat it though!)

Dessert: thaw some vanilla ice-cream, mix in some rose water and some pistachios you have ground up in a mortar and pestle, refreeze. Serve with a wafer or almond biscuit and espresso. Maybe have a nice liqueur to go with it, amaretto or averna or whatever. Gaze at the stars while you eat.

The light fades and the coals begin to settle, and as you drain the last of the white wine, you throw the steak bones to the dogs who carry them triumphantly over to the lawn to savour and chew on under the big old plum tree.

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