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

29.7.14

The anti-road protest sticker read: No East-West Link.

It was on the back of a car.

26.7.14

Brussels sprout campaign resumes.

Once upon a time, many years ago, I embarked on a campaign to champion the much-unloved vegetable, the Brussels sprout. This robust brassica with its distinctive earthy, nutty taste is one of my favourites and lends itself to far greater cooking variety than it is generally credited with.

Linguine with bacon and Brussels sprouts.

Trim sprouts and slice in half through the core. Cook pasta and sprouts. This can be done in the same pot.

In a pan, cook a few scored cloves of garlic in olive oil. Add two or three slices of short bacon chopped into small squares. Take care not to burn the garlic. Add a slosh of white wine, a shake of white pepper and a third cup of cream. Reduce.

When pasta is done, drain. Pour creamy bacon mixture over pasta and sprouts. Top with fresh grated pecorino and chopped parsley.

Drink: McLaren Vale shiraz.

*

The boys are watching the Commonwealth Games. Comment: "Dad, this is not as exciting as the World Cup."

22.7.14

In the dead of winter, the aroma of an old classic recipe drifts across the suburb, setting noses twitching.

We don't have central heating, so sometimes I warm the place with the aroma of food. Not sure how this works but the smell of a joint roasting in the oven, for example, makes the house feel a few degrees warmer.

The following soup recipe does the same as it bubbles away slowly on the stove. It reminds me of coming home after school when I could detect the delicious aroma about a block away, produced by the unbeatable combination of onion, beef herbs and root vegetables.

Scotch broth.

1. In a litre of water, simmer 750g of lean beef cut into pieces for two hours. Skim if necessary.

2. Now add half a cup of barley, a chopped onion, a diced turnip and a chopped leek. Cook another half an hour; then add a diced carrot and a few stalks of celery, finely chopped.

3. When carrot is just tender, remove meat, shred it and return it to the pot. Season and add white pepper.

4. Serve broth in large bowls sprinkled with parsley, and hot thick buttered toast on the side.

Drink: scotch whisky, of course.

17.7.14

Drop punt perfected.

The first time around, meaning marriage mark one - many years ago - our two children were in creche or day care or after care depending on their age. We worked; and they came home at six from paid care, and they had dinner and they went to bed. No time to play on weekdays. I was in a career, and a career means you have to have 'quality' time with your children.

These days, since I am freelance - meaning quite often not working - I can pick up the boys from school and take them to the football ground and kick the ball with them until darkness. This is the pinnacle of life. It doesn't get any better. I have had a business career, a sporting career, houses, girlfriends, wives, cars, wine, holidays, money, gourmet food, dogs, holidays, books. Some I have lost. (Not just the books.)

However, spending endless unharried - and unhurried - hours kicking a ball around on the well-kept lawn of a mostly deserted football ground defeats everything else. Sometimes the sun falls behind the 1920s grandstand and casts a lengthening shadow over the green grass; sometimes the wind blows and the ball floats and you can't catch it; or the rain has turned the goal square to a bog.

A few weeks ago the older sibling finally perfected the drop punt after four or five years of blazing away, and now his ball turns over and over, end on end, in a perfect lazy back-spinning arc, straight to the chest of the younger sibling, who has taught himself to fly for a mark. His blond hair makes him look like ... well, whoever you like, or remember: Knights, Van Der Haar, Anderson? And the pleasure is only tempered by the thought that he might hurt himself. The older one is slow and patient and takes longer to learn but once he learns never drops his skills; the younger is fast and showy and impatient and what the football writers used to describe as 'mercurial', a word not seen in the press for probably twenty years.

None of this would matter if they didn't love it. They love it. There's no Auskick, no junior football teams, no pressure; just out after school onto the park to play with the ball. Sometimes they bring friends along and have a match or play markers-up. Sometimes it's just me and them. Sometimes we just go home and they play in the street - we live in a cul de sac - but those days are fewer because they kick farther and fall heavier now. There are several buildings around the place with one of our balls on its roof, including the Coburg Leisure Centre, and a factory near the velodrome. One ball recently was kicked over the old Pentridge wall. The boys waited a week, and the day I bought another new ball from Rebel Sport, the old one was thrown back. So now they have two.

5.7.14

Don't have a famous name? Put one in the title.

My Salinger Year is a fascinating 'insight' (a greatly overused cliché) into how a writer met a famous author, whom she didn't know from Jerry Seinfeld. Or else it is a cynical exploitation based on the most tenuous of links. You decide.

While the title technique cannot be ignored, has it been utilised to its full search term potential?

I have never met a famous author, but I do have an uncle who saw Bryce Courtenay signing books in Angus and Robertson once. He didn't buy one.

Me and J. R. R. Tolkien, W. E. Johns, Enid Blyton, George Orwell, P. L. Travers, Hugh Lofting, James Hadley Chase, Raymond Chandler, Dan Brown, Clive Cussler, Shakespeare, Geoffrey Chaucer, Ovid, Ernest Hemingway and Dr. Seuss.

There's a connection somewhere.