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


Beach weekend.

We were looking forward to hosting my brother-in-law, his wife, their two children (15 and 12) and their two dogs (miniature fox terriers) at the beach and we had been planning lazing on the sand, unpacking picnics with all manner of delicious goodies, watching the dogs tear around in the sunshine and the children frolicking in the sparkling blue waters of Port Philip Bay before returning to the beach house for maybe a barbecue and some cold beer and ...

It rained all weekend. Well, most of the weekend.

It's not a large beach house. But then, six people and four dogs is a tight fit in any household. The dogs, however, were exceptionally well behaved (as were the children). Blueboy, the foster greyhound, slunk off to the bedroom - two foxies were way too boisterous for him; Goldie spread herself out in the guest foxies' wicker bed; and they in turn settled on her mat after jumping up on the couch.

After lunch (salad sandwiches, prosciutto, home-made cold lamb meatballs with mint and yogurt, cheese, biscuits and coffee), the rain stopped so we walked to the beach with the dogs. The sun even peeped out for a while. Black clouds were gathering by the time we got back to the house.

Later in the afternoon, we thought a swim before dinner would be a good idea, but, oddly, the girls disagreed. My bro'-in-law, his son and I drove back to the beach and plunged into the bay. How was the water? The water was icy. We lasted fifteen minutes. My fingers were white when we came out. Brother-in-law has more insulation.

Warmed up with a scotch before dinner, which was was T.'s signature home-made gnocchi, light as a feather, with a robust and homely bolognese sauce generously showered with parmesan cheese. Can't think of a better dish on a cold, rainy evening. There was a massive salad and a side of fava beans cooked in garlic, olive oil, lemon and cracked black pepper. Crusty bread. Red wine. Afterwards, a lemon yogurt cake with pouring lemon syrup and ice-cream swirled with pistachios and rosewater. Coffee.

Sunday morning: rain, rain, rain. Breakfast - porridge to start; then bacon, eggs and fried black pudding on toast with lashings of hot tea.

Late morning, the skies appeared to clear so we hazarded a walk to the Blairgowrie cafe for coffee, hot chocolate (with marshmallow), muffins for those who hadn't eaten sufficient bacon or black pudding and milkshakes for the children. We sat outside with one of those outdoor gas cylinder things keeping us warm. The dogs (who came with us, naturally) made the acquaintance of Frank the fat dog, who clearly dines at the Blairgowrie cafe rain, hail or shine. He was partaking of a morsel from a kind patron's Blairgowrie Big Breakfast (bacon, eggs, house-made sausage, mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, sourdough rye).

Later, we were strolling down the street looking at the shops when a woman said, 'Oh, what a cute dog!', looking at Otis the miniature foxie. 'A miniature pinscher!'

'A mini foxie, actually,' my brother-in-law replied.

'Oh, no, he's a definitely a miniature pinscher, dear,' insisted the woman, smiling. 'And I should know, I'm a breeder.'

They had a chat about the origins of the breed and its relatives. Apparently, it had a touch of Italian Greyhound in it.

Imagine going out as one breed and coming home as another. Hope the poor dog doesn't develop an identity crisis.

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