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


And another thing ...

I posted my first asparagus recipe for spring.

Now here's the second.

Boil the tender, juicy, green spears until soft enough to your liking in water with a generous squeeze of lemon juice.

Drain, place on plate, sprinkle with crumbled blue vein cheese, capers, cracked pepper and a dash of vinaigrette dressing.

Eat with buttered bread rolls for lunch in the early spring sunshine, watching the leaves coming out on the magnolia as the last winter blooms fade.

And a glass of chardonnay to toast the warmer days ahead.


My favourite spring vegetable.

It's here!

The first asparagus of the season have arrived.

Actually, the first ones arrived about two weeks ago, but they were too expensive. Now they're here in greater numbers and the price has stabilised.

So - how to eat the first asparagus of spring?

Made a kind of salad, a bit like a nicoise, bed of lettuce, some boiled baby potatoes (out of the garden - walked outside one day early in spring and thought - oh, we have a vegetable garden! It's the kind of thing you let go during winter. Actually, it wasn't too bad, a couple of months ago we put in broad beans, mustard greens, silver beet, carrots, garlic, onions, cabbage and broccoli, so all we had to do was pull out the weeds encouraged by late winter rains to allow our fledgling vegetables to turn their leafy faces to the early spring sunshine. Mission accomplished, back suffering).

Where was I? In the kitchen, improvising a salad.

The lettuce, the boiled baby potatoes, plus quartered tomatoes (out of season - where do they get them? Queensland, New South Wales, California? I don't know, I should ask), halved softish boiled eggs (the yolks still slightly runny), capers sprinkled over the eggs and a few big black olives tossed about along with generous chunks of tuna. Oh, and shavings of nutty, creamy, salty parmesan cheese scattered about as well.

Then - the stalks of asparagus, boiled for just a couple of minutes with the juice of a lemon. I tossed them carelessly over the top ... and they just happened to fall into a perfect radial pattern over the top like spokes of a wheel, what a coincidence!

A nice dressing of olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, white pepper and a scored clove of garlic.

Glass of rose.

Cheers, here's to spring. Bring it on.


Easy broccoli soup.

An easy, all-in-together soup ideal for those spring days that revert suddenly to winter.

First, set three large cubed potatoes, a whole finely-chopped onion and a chopped clove of garlic to boil in chicken - or preferred - stock (this time I used an Oxo chicken stock cube in about a litre of water - they are quite salty so I didn't add extra salt). Toss in a few ground black peppercorns for some heat.

Then add a bunch of broccoli - stalks can also be used if peeled and soft inner section grated or chopped finely - and cook until everything kind of melts down. You can puree it if you like a really creamy consistency; I just gave it a few swishes with my trusty old hand beater. Add milk or cream before serving.

Finally, I added some crumbled fetta over the top for an extra burst of salty, creamy flavour. A nice lunch on a cold, showery spring day with fresh bread rolls or ciabatta, spread with pure creamery butter.


Trevally with udon noodles and broccoli.

Bargain of the week at the market - fresh trevally $6.99 a kilo, a delicious silver-skinned fish ideal for baking.

I wrapped it in foil with a dash of soy, a squeeze of lemon, a chopped chile pepper (from my magic chile pepper bush which produces chiles of all different heat intensities), some onion rings and a sprinkling of curry powder for good measure.

Then I dropped some fresh udon noodles (the thick, soft ones - from Wing Cheong asian supermarket in Chinatown) into boiling water, rinsed them and then tossed them in a pan - along with some lightly steamed, crunchy broccoli florets - to lightly stir-fry in a small amount of delicious, fragrant sesame oil and a little soy.

Noodles and broccoli into a bowl, baked fish over the top.

Jasmine tea.

Around the Mediterranean with a pot of meat sauce (I wish).

A big pot of Bolognese for a cold night: a large chopped onion and a clove of garlic cooked a few minutes in some olive oil, to which I added ground beef and cooked until brown, then tossed in a can of diced tomato and a good dollop of tomato paste, a dash of marsala, a few herbs from the garden, some ground black peppercorns and a dash of salt. And about a litre of water. I let it cook for hours, topping up the water level and letting it simmer away.

Boil up a big pot of water, salt and add spaghetti. Cook to your liking. I’m not an al dente kind of guy, I like the slurpy unctuousness (-osity?) of well cooked pasta when it’s paired with traditional sauces like bolognese.

It was great. But there was a heap of Bolognese sauce left over.

So the next night, I tossed a can of sweet corn in the base of a baking dish, layered the rest of the Bolognese sauce over it alternately with thin slices of salted-and-drained eggplant and topped the lot with a creamy b├ęchamel of milk, continental flour, some parmesan cheese (it’s all I had but worked great) and a dash of nutmeg and salt.

Voila! instant moussaka. (Pardon the French, I don’t know the Greek equivalent.)


Reports of winter's demise premature.

Here, Saturday was the coldest September day in seven years.

So the soups and stews haven't quite gone away yet. (Not that there's anything wrong with soups and stews in warmer weather. One of my favourite hot weather dishes is a curry so hot it has you sweating.)

We made a lentil and vegetable soup like this:

Brown lentils soaked overnight.

Next day, into a large pot with a couple of meaty beef soup bones or some gravy beef. (Meat optional, use your favourite stock.)

Cook for an hour, skim if necessary.

Add a chopped onion, a stick of chopped celery, half a diced carrot, a potato chopped into small cubes and a scored clove of garlic.

Add a teaspoon each of cumin and dried coriander, a generous dessertspoon of tomato paste and a good sprinkling of sumac, say half a tablespoon. Salt and pepper.

Cook for another hour. Remove bones, remove and shred meat, return meat to soup.

This made a nice Saturday lunch with crusty bread after a shopping trip to the market where, despite the weather, we still managed coffee in the outdoor mall. A coat and scarf does wonders. The regular guy selling the socialist workers' newspaper was being severely upstaged by the Greens who, like the major parties, are into full election mode. Stickers everywhere, pamphlets blowing around in the wind, shocking waste of trees.

However, both groups were upstaged by the First Moreland Scout Group fund-raising sausage sizzle stall. The aroma of onions and sausages drifting across the mall was almost irresistible ... they were doing some serious business.

I saw one of the Greens tucking into a sausage. Reducing meat consumption is in their platform. Then again, how much meat is there in a sausage?


Prime Minister in cheese attack, unfazed.

Well, this was quite funny - I heard the exchange on the radio news.
Instead of leaping on the interjector, wrestling him to the ground and carting him away in a police wagon, the security guys let him talk, and then he just, like, wandered away. To the supermarket, I guess, to get some more cheese.

The funniest part was the PM's rejoinder (it's not in the press report). He just stood there and when the guy had finished his diatribe, Mr Howard replied, laconically, 'Well, I've obviously lost your vote!'

The laughs don't stop there. Following the incident, Tim Blair posted a poll, see sidebar asking which is the correct cheese to direct at the PM.

I love the way Bega Bar-B-Cubes are way ahead in the poll. Mr Howard is so not a brie kind of guy.

Of course Roquefort is disqualified on the grounds that its importation to Australia is illegal.

Speaking of which, my favourite meal involving Roquefort - apart from eating it au naturel, which I can no longer do, so thank god for King Island Dairy's Bass Strait Blue - was at Paris Go restaurant circa 1994 (pre-import ban) - Steak Roquefort: a large puck of finest sirloin, chargrilled rare, topped with a slice of roquefort and melting butter and served with crisp, thin pommes frites and a plain green salad. I remember that meal like it was yesterday. My future wife had the fillet of Blue Eye cooked voluptuously in butter and lemon and served with snow peas and potatoes dauphinoise. Delicate little french bread rolls on the side, glasses of beaujolais. Dessert was Mont Blanc, some kind of a sweetened chestnut puree concoction topped with double cream - amazing. Followed by percolated coffee in little french glass cups and petit fours.

This post is a mess. Where it ends is so not where it started.


Butterfish over wok-tossed vegetables.

Butterfish. I just looked it up in The Australian Seafood Handbook - Domestic Species (eds. Yearsley, Last and Ward; updated version 2001; published by CSIRO Marine Research and the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation.)

It's a great book, but I'm none the wiser*.

Butterfish has also been known as Dory, John Dory, Morwong, Old Maid and Scat; while a number of other fish have in turn been known as Butterfish.

Whatever. The fish I bought was a succulent white-fleshed cutlet.

I wok-fried onion, garlic, ginger, green beans, very finely julienned carrot and broccoli florets in peanut oil with a drop or two of sesame oil until crisp.

Set some jasmine rice to boil (absorption method, water to rice two to one, boil, switch off, let absorb).

Then, right when the vegetables and rice were almost ready, I pan-fried the fish simply in just a smear of peanut oil, adding a dash of nice soy and a squeeze of lemon when almost done. A few minutes either side.

Rice in a bowl, scatter greens over, fish over the greens, a sprinkle of sesame seeds, more lemon juice and soy.

Jasmine tea on the side.

*The book actually has a protein fingerprint identification appendix so it is possible to ascertain your fish.


Easy midweek dinner.

Three-colour fettucine with sweet potato.

Boil sweet potato in cubes. Boil your three-colour fettucine.*

Gently cook a large onion sliced into rings in olive oil. Add some garlic. Then add a can of diced tomatoes. Salt and pepper.

When the fettucine is done, combine with the sweet potato and sauce in a large serving bowl, toss in some pine-nuts and scatter with parsley and parmesan cheese.

Colourful and delicious with some nice buttered bread on the side.

Chardonnay, please. Not too cold.

*Bad website, but great pasta without the gourmet price tag. And I love their brand name.