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

11.7.13

Forget nasty animated movies in the major cinemas: take your children to the library during the holidays.

Two teaspoons of salt? someone exclaimed (re yesterday's recipe).

It’s not that much, I replied. Indian main courses are meant to be small serves filled out by much more rice or bread and vegetables. And in any case, these recipes are upfront about their ingredients, instead of sneaking them in progressively like some others.

Take a British-style beef stew, for example; in which the beef is shaken in seasoned flour before being browned. How much salt goes into the flour? More than a shake. Then stock is added to the stew. How much salt in the stock? Who knows. The rest of the seasoned flour usually thickens the stew. If it is served with potatoes, these may be cooked in salted water, mashed with more and then salted further at the table, as are any side vegetables. The whole thing may then get a downpour of Worcestershire, HP, tomato sauce or similar. Thoroughly delicious: and by that stage, quite salty.

The curry, on the other hand, is garnished with yogurt and herbs. In other words, you start out with a lot of salt (for preservative purposes in the subcontinental climate, if nothing else) and it gets gradually weakened by context, where the other dish starts slow and finishes like a train. A salty train.

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Kath-Lynn asked in comments about grating tomatoes. It’s just a way to process the tomato without the complication of removing the skin. Just rub the tomato up and down against the grater, and it will just about disappear of its own accord, leaving the skin to protect your hand. You can deseed if you wish, but it's not necessary for dishes of this kind. It's also a good alternative if you don’t have a rapier-sharp knife for dicing something soft and squishy. Anything less than a super-keen edge has them collapsing like circus tents.

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School holiday update: the children have returned from the seaside. Forget the museum or the zoo during school holidays; you’ll lose them among two million other children. Take them to the State Library and make them read books. Just kidding, but only partially. Their mother brought them in today, and I met them for lunch before they went on to the Library, a treasure trove of exciting old exhibits upstairs and a vast open space on the ground floor where children can play lifesize chess, take books inside floor tepees and read them (for hours if they like) or draw pictures with the vast amounts of supplied pencils and paper. Parents can relax, or sleep for that matter, on the large lounge chairs supplied. We’ve been coming here for years, usually on Saturday afternoons after coffee at Brunetti city square and perhaps rice in Chinatown, and my usual routine in the Library is to take some obscure volume from the new releases table adjacent to the open space and immerse myself in an unfathomable subject while the children amuse themselves. Then across the road to Melbourne Central Station and home. Probably the most civilized children’s activity in Melbourne, and two great things about it: (a) no-one knows about it, and (b) it’s free. On the way out you can look at the ongoing photographic displays in the gallery on the left before the exit. Just finished is Gusto! A History of Cuisine in Melbourne and prior to that As Modern as Tomorrow: Photographers in Post-War Melbourne. Currently, Free, Secular and Democratic is an exhibition based on the library itself, to mark the centenary of its amazing dome. Forget sporting stadia, Melbourne’s best dome sits on the State Library.

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