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


Always buy a good umbrella.

Lunchtime yesterday. I was at the top end of Collins Street trying to walk south and the rain was horizontal, propelled by a gale that was howling straight up the middle like a 1970s Western Oval southerly.

It had been raining before the wind came, and the street had been a sea of umbrellas. Suddenly, the wind got up and all the $10 umbrellas blew inside out and snapped their ribs, and someone’s quality one flew up into the plane trees and hung there like a paratrooper landing in a forest. It should be fine if the owner manages to retrieve it. The rain was so intense people had to take refuge in shops. I was outside Harrold’s Gentlemen’s Outfitters and, at the height of the storm, I and four or five others huddled in the entrance set back from Collins Street, and that made the electric doors open, so we stood inside instead, far enough back to let the doors close, and waited for the storm to pass. I amused myself by inspecting the display case nearest the door. Paul Smith driving gloves, $295. The staff just stared. A “Hello, how’s the weather outside?” would have been nice, if a little superfluous, and, indeed, comical. Then the wind died and the rain slowed, and we went out into Collins Street again. $295? Ridiculous. A show-off brand for cashed-up bogans. You can get the old money brand in Henry Buck’s for half the price, or cheap ones in Dimmey's Coburg for $5. I have the $5 ones, but I refuse to buy a cheap umbrella. They are just not worth it.

I went back to my office on the top floor of what used to be a department store, and looked up the temperature. It was 8 degrees but the wind must have sent it lower. Later the sun came out and shone through the skylight and hit my desk.

I left the office late and walked out of the city past the steamed-up Chinese cafĂ© windows in Russell Street and around the corner into Lygon Street. Then past the gas heaters and spruikers of Little Italy, and through darkness and coldness and bitter wind and pooled water reflecting streetlights and car lamps and, at last, home. I love that walk. Everyone should do it. It’s good for the appetite.

Dinner was late. William, still awake, came out and said he was hungry, and I made grilled Jarlsberg on toast, his favourite. He likes the way it bubbles. Pasta with onions for me.

Pasta with onions: for the longest night.

First I chopped a large onion into rings and set it on the stove in a pan with a tight-fitting lid on low heat with oil, and a little sugar. Then I set a pot of water to boil for pasta.

With that out of the way, I made the grilled cheese on toast and, while William ate, to the boiling water I added bavette (the boys call it square spaghetti, although it is strictly speaking rectangular across the grain), and squeezed a lemon, and added the juice to the onions in the pan, and gave them a stir.

Then I made another round of grilled cheese, and drained the cooked pasta. William has a great appetite right now, coming out of a cold. Soon he went off to bed after a glass of milk.

I opened a bottle of Mt Alexander shiraz 2008, the one that reminds me of chocolate paper straws. Then I drained the pasta and twirled it into a large serving bowl, and added several strips of previously-prepared roasted red pepper in olive oil and garlic, and a dozen pieces of semi-dried tomato, and half a jar of anchovies in oil, drained. I folded these ingredients through and the whole thing was unctuous and aromatic.

Then I scattered a generous amount of the now-caramelised onions over the lot, and that made it possibly my best-ever pasta invention, although the one with chicken, asparagus, mushrooms and a touch of home-made pesto comes close.

Try it and see what you think.


jo rosenblum said...

That sounds amazing,
and given the weather we've had (we had a blackout on Monday night due to the no coffee in the morning),you do really appreciate the simple things like being home with the heater on and cheese on toast.
I will try your "pasta invention"

Anonymous said...

love your writing

(and the pasta sounds alright as well)

Oxford said...

I have been reading your food blog and have really enjoyed it. As a fellow foodie, I have a blog about my quest for the ultimate hamburger, I wanted to share this link and project that I have been following as I think they have an very interesting idea for a short film that will appeal to foodies.

A team of documentary short film makers is making a film about the regional foods which are disappearing from our grocery store shelves. Once, the grocery store reflected the foods and culinary heritage of each region of our country. There was a time that Coors beer was not sold east of the Mississippi River, and Moon Pies only existed in the South. Small regional food companies are being bumped from the store shelves, and we are losing these food traditions.

These are those foods that maybe your grandparents had in their pantry and you refused to eat. Things (and these are real) like mudfish in a jar, sauerkraut juice, and canned snake. They are looking for input on regional foods in your area, like those strange food items on the top shelf that you have no idea how they are used or what to cook with them.

The film will include calling the makers of these unique foods and learning the history and reason behind why mudfish is available in a jar. Then they will have a big food tasting offering volunteers the chance to taste these items and give their feedback.
I hope you can suggest possible regional foods or ask your readers. You can learn more about the project on their website

kitchen hand said...

Thank you, Jo. No coffee? I'd just about be eating the beans.

Thanks for visiting, anon.

'Then they will have a big food tasting offering volunteers the chance to taste these items and give their feedback.'
Give their 'feedback' after taste-testing? Sounds disgusting.