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


"A minute's success pays the failure of years."

It was a nice stew, almost perfect. It's only taken several decades to refine, but I'm almost there. It can't be taught. You have to learn it by trial and error. How small you cube the beef. The few extra seconds browning it. The amount of flour, salt, pepper. The heat of the pan. The weather. Whether or not you have had coffee yet that day. Where the planets are. Whatever.

Even so, it is still better some times than others. That bit is chance. But even the children ate it the other night. Then they wanted more. That proves it. I used oyster blade, which has a thin layer of connective tissue running through it like a vein of gold in quartz, which melts during long cooking and turns the meat molten. I browned it in seasoned flour in a very hot pan, but browning is the wrong word, so we will not use it again. Seal it only. Browning will cook it. The word browning should be reserved for Robert, or the gun.

Then it was all routine. Beef stock, a carrot, an onion, a stick of celery. Plenty of fluid including a can of beer. Doesn't have to be dark. Any beer. I used Victoria Bitter, $36 a slab at Dan Murphy's. You can get it walking. The best commercial ever to screen on Australian television. With the best voiceover.

Four hours on the lowest simmer you can achieve. I can trick mine lower by rotating the knob from the locked-in 'low' position towards 'off', ensuring there is just enough flame to keep it going, unless anyone opens a door when there's a gale outside, which there seems to have been for most of this month.

Quartered potatoes into the pot halfway through. Make sure they submerge.


Later, there was nothing left but two inches of gravy. And what gravy. Too good to throw out. I could have poured it over mashed potato for another meal, but the next night I decided to do something with the potatoes first.

Baked gnocchi.

I boiled two large potatoes, peeled and smashed them, lay them on a large floured breadboard and set to work on them, adding flour, two tablespoons of fresh ricotta, some finely chopped parsley and salt and pepper.

I moulded pieces of them until they were no longer sticky, but discrete orbs. This was easier written than done. After a long wrestle with the dough, even the air was floured; and the kitchen had the look of a saloon after a shooting, minus the smell of burning cordite. That would come later when I burned the gravy. If I burned the gravy. Sometimes I don't.

I flattened the soft floured orbs into discs the diameter of Tolley's brandy cardboard coasters, but thicker, of course; and hoped they would taste better. They amounted to a dozen or so.

I boiled water in a large pot and lowered the discs in a few at a time. They settled to the bottom and then rose. I lifted them out just as carefully, drained them and lay them in a baking dish, overlapping them like Spanish roof tiles. They made four layers and I added some heated gravy over each layer, pouring the rest over the top and finishing that with a shower of grated parmesan and more parsley.

In the oven for twenty minutes with the lid on; ten minutes lid off.

Side dish: curly kale straight from the garden cooked with a lot of garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper and a little cream.

McLaren Vale shiraz. Heaven.


Melbourne Girl said...

I've had a smile on my face from the opening line..

Yes, it was a great ad...and John Meillon?

What a voice!

kitchen hand said...

Yes, and they used a race walker from Coburg Athletics Club for the "you can get it walking" line ...

Melbourne Girl said...

ahhh didn't know that. Sensational!!