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


We're from the government and we're here to help you "achieve your energy saving goals by allowing you to monitor your energy usage online".

There was a flyer in the letterbox from a semi-government body. It wanted me to "imagine if you could stream videos, download music and play games over the web at lightning fast speeds" and promised that it would "change how we access information, use communications and enjoy our entertainment". I imagined, and then I went out into the street to play football with the boys.

On the same day, another semi-government body sent me a flyer offering me a "new online way to reduce your energy usage". It said I could "go online" (currently the most-used expression in marketing) and "track how much energy I was using", "see how the temperature can impact your energy usage", and "build a personal energy saving action plan".

Today is just about Melbourne's coldest June day in history. The government is sending me a letter telling me the temperature affects energy use.

There was a photograph in the paper the other day of a family standing in front of a small screen set up on its kitchen table. The accompanying article explained that the screen was a new device that told you how many appliances were turned on around your house, and that if you looked at it frequently, it would help you "save on your energy bills". You could always walk around and switch off lights and pull sockets out of walls yourself, but that is so old school.

Imagine that. A device running on electricity that cuts electricity bills.


Which is the side dish?

On a cold winter night (even for others than a traveller) nothing beats onions fried until golden and then spooned lovingly over creamy potato mashed with garlic and olive oil. The aroma fills the house and seems to isolate it from the outside world.

The rare fillet seared with a peppercorn and cream sauce is good too. I like it when items on the plate fight each other for star billing.

Look out, more rain coming. The Merri Creek might break its banks again, like it did a fortnight ago. I couldn't walk further north than Queens Parade or be washed away. No, not the one in Clifton Hill; this one. The creek was under water where it winds around to the east.

Quick. Pour another glass of red.


Tag Heuer, Dior, Hermes, washing powder.

The Australian's Wish magazine rents out its expensive pages to world famous brands in return for advertorial articles. It pays to get these right. The latest print edition commences a story on one of Italy's oldest prestige eyewear manufacturer thus:
For its latest collection, the Italian eyewear brand Persil has gone for a vintage look ...
I'd be asking for my money back if I were Mr Persol.


Winter's best stew: shanks with aromatic vegetables and potatoes two ways.

Gently fry a chopped onion and a clove of garlic in olive oil. Before the onion browns, add a leek chopped into quartered rings, a chopped stick of celery and a few chopped sprigs of parsley. Sweat the aromatics for a few minutes.

Meanwhile, in another heavy pan, brown two seasoned shanks well in olive oil. Add them to the pot, cover with stock and add a bay leaf and some chopped dried rosemary.

Bring to boil. Turn down heat and simmer an hour. Peel and chop four potatoes into quarters or eighths. Add these to the pot along with a cup of barley. Adjust fluid. Simmer another hour. Stir occasionally.

To serve, place each shank over a mountain range of whipped potato. Spoon leek and barley sauce over; add stewed potatoes for the potato lover. That's all of us here.

For a side dish, saute whole button mushrooms in the pan in which you browned the shanks. Delicious. Red wine please, but none of that strawberry coloured pinot nonsense. Try a McLaren Vale shiraz. Or a Victorian cabernet. Anything from around Heathcote is good.