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


Niçoise by candlelight.

It rained all day, and it was cold, and I walked down a sodden Sydney Road late morning and visited the fish shop and one of the two greengrocers; and brought home a dozen oysters, two swordfish steaks, a bag of very good green beans and the last decent tomatoes in Australia.


Early in the afternoon, I visited a friend who was housebound following a hip operation - he will never run another marathon - and drank coffee while his dogs leapt about the small lounge room in which we sat. We listened to the rain outside, and then another noise started. The endless rain, having obviously pooled on the roof, was trickling through the vents of a wall-mounted heater and was dripping on the carpet behind the television with a loud patting noise; drips of slow destruction, water torture for apartment-dwellers, a slow insistent reminder to call the body corporate who would call a plumber who would fix the problem in due course, perhaps June, perhaps July, perhaps never. My friend hobbled to the kitchen and found a piece of square Tupperware and put a sheet of absorbent paper in it and I pushed it into place on the carpet, flush against the wall, while trying not to dislodge the 53cm flat television and the substation of wiring behind the unit on which it stood precariously. One of the dogs immediately pulled the plastic tub out again, like a game, so I repeated the process and moved the whole unit down eighteen inches to wedge it in place. Rainy days are like that. I'd hate to live where it gets really wet.

Then it was time to pick up the boys from school, so I left my friend and his cabin-fever dogs watching American basketball and baseball on subscription television. It was still raining, so I took the boys to the indoor pool where you can bask in warm water while gazing through the floor-to-ceiling partially steamed-up glass walls and watch the pendulous black clouds rolling across the sky and the rain falling onto the cold bare trees outside. (In the opposite direction, you can also - on Sunday afternoons - watch the football at one of Melbourne's oldest suburban grounds complete with Victorian grandstand, ring of mature trees and smoking Edwardian rooftops in the distance, but that's another story.)


That night, an unseasonal dish because you can't eat soup and stews all the time.

Warm salad niçoise with seared swordfish and parsley sauce.

I boiled a dozen halved small potatoes in their skins, and placed these - hot - on a large serving platter along with with halved very ripe tomatoes in roughly the same number and size as the potatoes. Then I scattered some rocket and mixed lettuce leaves over the top.

On this foundation I built up a construction of quartered boiled eggs, a dozen fresh trimmed green beans, two dozen fat black olives, some strips of chargrilled red capsicum and a dozen anchovies. Then I seared the swordfish steaks, sat these over the top of the whole thing, and rained down a kind of sauce made from quite a lot of chopped parsley, a little fresh oregano, some olive oil, the zest of a whole lemon, a crushed garlic clove, a few cracked black peppercorns and a dash of vinegar. Entree - or if you prefer, the starter - was the oysters steeped for ten minutes in the juice of the lemon from which I had removed the zest and dusted with some black pepper powder.

While we ate, it was still raining, and the children were asleep. Then the power went off, but I had candles ready.

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