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


Like lasagne but different.

Awoke to a bleak day on Saturday, one of this winter's coldest.

Off to the market in scarves and coats. Coffee before commerce, as usual - steaming cappuccinos in a glass, piled high with dense froth and dusted with chocolate - in the plaza which was busy despite the cold.

An old man was feeding pigeons; a couple of joggers went by, bravely baring skin; an anti-war group was trying not very successfully to sell newspapers and the local scouts were doing a roaring trade at their 'sausage sizzle' stall - a sausage with fried onions and your choice of tomato sauce or mustard sauce in bread, $2. If you want to know how appetising the aroma of frying onions can be, visit Victorian Mall on the third Saturday morning of each month.

At the butcher's stall, a man was telling the butcher his wife had asked him to get veal shanks and 'was there only one kind of veal shank?' as he didn't want to get the wrong thing. You can't make up stuff as funny as you hear in real life. Maybe he, or the wife, meant whole as against cross-cut or vice versa. I hope he got it right, he sounded quite worried.

The icy wind strengthened during the afternoon, whipping sporadic rain across the sky.


Later, made a baked pasta dish with 'abissini' (small shells - don't know the origin of the name).

Cook the shells and lay them in a baking dish, cover them with a bolognese sauce and then cover that with a cheese sauce. We used a Greek-style cheese sauce - with eggs - for a more robust dish. Top this with more cheese and bake until bubbling and ready to eat!

Bolognese (one of hundreds of different versions): cook onions in oil, add ground meat, cook until browned, add a hot Italian sausage after removing its casing (or some chopped salami, sopressa or similar), add finely chopped carrot and celery and some oregano and pepper, stir it all around, add tomato paste and canned tomatoes or tomato puree, a good amount of red wine and some water. I like to add a lot of water and let it simmer away for hours, topping up the water if necessary and scraping down the sides of the pot where the tomato tends to coagulate. It's ready when it's a silky and glistening consistency.

Cheese sauce: melt butter then add flour (off the heat) to bind, then slowly add milk (back on low heat) while stirring. It will thicken. Again off the heat, cool a little then add cheese and a couple of whisked eggs, stirring through. It should now be a thick cheesy sauce.

The golden bubbliness of this beauty emerging from the oven is a sight to see. The shells give it a robust texture and take up the sauce beautifully. The windows are steamed up, the sun has gone for the day, and there's a glass of red at hand.


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