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

2.7.04

Scheherazade.

There’s a cafĂ© in Melbourne bayside suburb St Kilda I like to visit occasionally.

Scheherezade was opened in 1958 by a Jewish refugee couple from Poland to provide for others who had migrated to Melbourne to escape the Holocaust.

I first went there in the late seventies. It doesn’t appear to have changed - neither the food nor the decor - in all that time.

It’s nice to go there in winter around lunchtime. How bittersweet to see the original customers now in their fading twilight years. The old men wander in and order frankfurts and potato salad, latkes, hot, spicy, robust goulash, hot borscht, chicken soup with kreplachs or gefilte fish.

I usually order the cabbage soup - a steaming bowl of delicious broth, magnificently spiced and reddish-brown with paprika, full of ribbons of cabbage and served with mounds of well-boiled potatoes breaking up in the soup like icebergs. You can order a basket of delicious rye bread on the side with little gold foil packs of creamy Tatura butter. You never ate better.

I thought of Scheherezade yesterday when bought some frankfurts from the Polish stall (they have hundreds of specialty sausages and meats) at the Queen Victoria Market.

Their frankfurts are studded with paprika and smoked - so strongly you can smell the smoky aroma when you open the fridge (I know that annoys some people but I love robust food aromas!)

Boiled the franks. Boiled a huge pan of cabbage with a few whole black peppers. Boiled a mountain of pink potatoes with an onion. Mashed the potatoes complete with their skins. Served it all up.

Doh! No sauce or mustard on hand. Can you believe that?

Had some tomato puree in the fridge, so I took a couple tablespoons of that and shook it violently in a jar with an equal amount of Worcestershire sauce. Not bad at all.

The windows were all fogged up as we ate and wondered who was dining at Scheherezade on this cold night.

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