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


Wheatfields of your mind.

At the end of a wide road shaded by a straggling stand of old eucalypts brooded an ancient red brick building looking in on itself; darkened windows behind massive cement-rendered arches. The gloomy old hulk stood far enough back from the road to look sad and menacing. Regarding it from a chair on the stoop outside my motel room across the road, I supposed it had once been a convent. 

It had been a long drive; lunch for five sitting in pale warm sun at a table outside a takeaway place in Marong (name: ‘Marong Takeaway’; special: two toasted sandwiches and coffee, $10) that was as good an on-the-road meal as you’d find.

Back on the road out of Bendigo-outer-suburb Marong through the green, pretty elbow of Newbridge, sleepy Tarnagulla and into St Arnaud’s narrow winding main street. Gold town, obviously. Narrow main streets mean no provision for the farmer's horse and drag turning around; just enough width for the gold-laden coaches to scream on through towards Melbourne's safe haven.

I pointed the car out of there, north by northwest, into the vast flatlands of the Wimmera wheatfields where, under a shining blue sky hanging over the flaxen fields, you wonder at the astonishing notion that your parents, as children, grew up, hale and hearty, on the sustaining grain of this promised land.


Top 100: No. 3.

Psychedelic dreamscape by French master composer Michel Legrand. Pictures hanging in a hallway and the fragment of a song/Half remembered names and faces, but to whom do they belong?


Pasta meets potatoes.

From two opposing corners of the ring, these heavy-hitting carbs come together to create a knockout dish, with the gently softening potatoes contrasting the al dente pasta. Marjoram and tomato provide a fragrant background.

Ingredients: 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp butter, 1 diced onion, 2 thick slices prosciutto, 1 chopped celery stalk, 1 peeled and diced carrot,  3 medium potatoes, 1 fresh or canned tomato, chopped, 1 sprig fresh marjoram, 400g tubetti or any short tubular pasta, 1 tbsp freshly grated parmigiano. 

Heat oil and butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add onion and cook 10 minutes, then add diced prosciutto, celery and carrot. Cook 10 minutes. Add potatoes, tomato and marjoram and keep stirring, adding spoonfuls of water when necessary to prevent the potatoes from sticking. The 'sauce' will become creamy as the potatoes cook and soften, but they should still retain their shape. Cook pasta in plenty of boiling, salted water until al dente. Drain, and place in a warm serving bowl. Top with potato sauce, mix gently and scatter the cheese.


The incredible shrinking pumpkin.

Whole pumpkins were fifty cents a kilogram a couple of weeks ago, so one large orb - tangerine-flecked olive green and weighing in at a tick over five kilograms - rode home on the passenger seat, disdainful of the bag of forgettable shopping items beside it.

Coming days saw roasted pumpkin with rosemary and garlic; pumpkin soup; sliced and boiled pumpkin tossed through rigatoni with pesto and roasted red capsicum; and a kind of lasagne comprising pasta sheets and thinly sliced pumpkin bound by a bechamel-like sauce containing crushed walnuts and blue cheese. Incredible. 

More days passed. The pumpkin was shrinking. The risotto finished it off. I peeled, cubed and roasted the last quarter of the golden gourd with olive oil and a shower of basil, and then folded it through a three-quarters-cooked pot of risotto. The rice had been progressively introduced in the large pot to olive oil to coat, white wine to flavour, chicken stock to absorb, butter to oleaginate, salt and pepper to season, and parmesan to finish it off. The last of the pumpkin, well-roasted and semi-caramelised, kind of broke up and disappeared, infusing the dish with its sunset-coloured, sweet-tasting goodness.

It was like farewelling an old friend.


Top 100: No. 4.

The reason he is 'Sir' Ray Davies. Previously reviewed here.


The shopping trip.

93 this month: here she is sitting in bright slanting sunshine at the local shopping mall prior to being served tea and cakes to fortify herself for the supermarket. We had already visited the bank where she extracts sums of cash in small notes to be variously distributed to grandchildren etc. An earlier (very much earlier: 1965) image of her appeared in this blog on 12/11/06 here.

*That old post omitted to mention that that small section of vehicle seen in the shot is a brand new 1965 HD Holden, cream with green vinyl interior.


Top 100: No. 5.

Thought by some to have been the best song of the post-1950s rock'n'roll era.


Short pasta with sautéed vegetables.

Saute a red onion in garlic-infused olive oil, or add a scored or crushed garlic clove.

When almost done, add one chopped red capsicum, 12 large cherry tomatoes, a zucchini chopped into rounds, 12 sliced button mushrooms, 12 parboiled green beans and a handful of broccoli florets, also parboiled.

Stir quickly to sauté, adding more oil and a handful of herbs of your choice if desired. The sweetish red onions should start to slightly caramelise.

Meanwhile, cook rigatoni to al dente.

Pile sautéed vegetables over pasta; top with shaved Parmesan and a spoonful of pesto if desired. 


Top 100: No. 6.


No. 7.


Lamb, herb and leek stew: St. Patrick’s Day.

Trim four rashers of bacon and four forequarter chops. 

Fry the bacon in oil or dripping in a deep heavy-based pan. Remove. Brown the chops in the same pan. Remove. Peel four large potatoes and three carrots; cut the potatoes into thick slices and the carrots into diagonals. Chop a leek into thin rounds, rinsing if necessary. Chop an onion into thick rounds. 

Line the pan with a layer each of potato, carrot, leek and onion. Add white pepper and half the bacon. Arrange the chops on top. Repeat with more potato, carrot, leek and onion and the rest of the bacon. Add a teaspoon of chopped fresh thyme and add enough beef stock to just cover the vegetables. Cover the pan, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for an hour or longer.


Top 100: No. 8.

Dedicated to the memory of broadcaster Pierre Baroni who, after presenting his 3PBS 106.7 program Soulgroove '66 on Saturday March 7, died three days later. This past weekend was a stationwide celebration of Baroni's music, the tributes flowing across from rival stations including, of course, 3RRR.

Saturday afternoons have long been a music lover's delight; even a dilemma, with the Soulgroove '66 timeslot up against the excellent Twang on 3RRR and the early 20th century musical goldmine of Steam Radio on 3CR. And then there's the football ...


Unless I am very much mistaken ...

... Murray Walker, whose magnificently musical upper-register voice almost sounded like a Formula One car itself, has gone to the great pitstop in the sky.


Top 100: No. 9