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Showing posts from April, 2004

Creamy garlic mashed potato and ...

Braised steak and onions. What a combination. The dense creaminess of mash, laced with butter or cream, and the homely, honest flavour of beef and onions in steaming gravy which has been cooking away for hours on end, filling the house with an aroma so tantalising it is impossible to resist. If you're salivating already, as I am writing this, here's a quick and easy way to make this all-time favourite dish. Seal your beef, cubed, in oil after dusting it in plenty of flour. Place it in a heavy ovenproof lidded baking dish, place your quartered onions (about the same in weight as the beef) over the beef and cover with beef stock, salt and pepper. Dash of paprika if you wish. Cook away for as long as you like, but at least a couple of good long hours. Prepare your potatoes. Cook them (with garlic if you wish, just toss a clove or two in the water with the spuds) then place them in a big mashing bowl, add copious amounts of cream or butter or both, garlic if you

What to cook on a boring Monday night.

What to do with a zucchini, a red pepper, a green pepper, some pumpkin and a carrot? Chop them and steam them while you cook up a pot of rice. When it's all done, place the rice in big bowls and top with the colourful steamed vegetables. Now it gets interesting. I combined in a mixing bowl some tahini, chopped spring onions (green onions), a tablespoon of pinenuts and a handful of raw sesame seeds. Then I spooned this nutty, yummy, crunchy mixture over the steamed vegetables. Delicious Monday night dinner. More, please.

Lemon tree very pretty. And very productive.

That old song - 'and the fruit of the lemon is impossible to eat' - couldn't have got it more wrong. What were they thinking (or smoking) in the 'sixties? A couple of years back in my previous house I had a lemon tree that produced in excess of a thousand lemons annually. I never counted them of course, but I was always able to go out and pick a bucket of fifty or so lemons, and I did this at least every fortnight. The tree was perfectly positioned in a sunny north-sloping corner, receiving all the benefits of full sun with protection from too much wind - in fact, total protection from southerlies. (Bear in mind this is the southern hemisphere.) There were so many lemons we did not begrudge the scores that were eaten by (o)possums - only the way they ate them: they ate the peel off of the lemon, leaving dozens of perfectly naked lemons hanging on the tree. With lemons in abundance you need to be more prolific in cooking with them than just by squeezing a

The aroma of this fills the house.

This is a dish I grew up with, because lamb shanks were cheap and the meat, when it falls off the bone, is unctuous and delicious. The soup's OK too: Lamb Shank Soup. How easy is this? Place your lamb shanks, trimmed to your liking, in a large pot with a cup of soup mix (barley, lentils and dried peas), a diced onion, a diced carrot, a diced turnip, a couple of sticks of chopped celery, a bay leaf, maybe nip the top off a rosemary sprig and toss that in too. Season. Cover with water. Boil. Turn down. Simmer very slowly for a couple of hours or until the yummy aroma gets too much and you have to have a big, steaming bowl of delicious lamb shank soup RIGHT NOW. Dice a potato or two and place in the simmering soup half an hour before serving (or earlier if you like your 'tatties to turn to mush, they're yummy that way too). Decorate with parsley. Eat with dark beer (Guinness) or a strong cup of tea. There are, of course dozens of variations on this recip

Had some meatballs left over ...

Well, I was hungry, so it was obviously going to be spaghetti and meatballs, wasn't it? Nothing is homelier or more satisfying. You need spaghetti, of course, don't ever use any other kind of pasta. I had some of my favourite spaghetti with the grandi firme lady on the label. This cooks up beautifully, not al dente at all, but that luscious, slurpy kind of texture that really goes well with the meatballs and the tomato sauce. I cooked the meatballs in the sauce (tomatoes from the garden which had been previously cooked up and then frozen - with onions, olive oil and basil - complete with the tomato skins and pips, resulting in an earthy, robust sauce, not one of those thin imitation napoli salty concoctions you get in trendy restaurants), letting it simmer away until the meatballs were done and the meaty, tomatoey aroma filled the house while the cooking spaghetti steamed up the windows. A generous shake of bitey parmesan cheese and a glass of red. Heave

Children should be fed and not heard.

Firstly, I don't believe in cooking special meals for children. I've seen parents actually ask their children what they would like for dinner. What is that? The kid gets used to the routine and starts saying no to everything unless it's ice cream. Or maybe ravioli with meat sauce if you're lucky. Hey - put the food in front of them, don't enter into any discussions should they say 'I don't like that' and simply remove the plate after a period of time. As for 'Eat that or you'll get no dessert', don't even go there. You don't negotiate with terrorists. Whew, I can't believe I just said that. Lest you think I'm a tyrant, let me assure you I'm not. Most of the time. I even like to have a little fun with food and children, like making 'face meals'. As long as the adult calls the shots. Whatever. The other night, the girls came over to stay. It was one of those 'what's in the cupboar

Easter holiday weekend in the country.

Easter eve. So we visited Lisa in her cow milking shed. She wasn't milking cows, she lives in it. Lisa is converting a cow milking shed into a 'house'. The property of around fifty acres is nestled in rolling emerald green hills in a region once clothed in towering Mountain Ash forest with an undercanopy of treeferns. In the nineteenth century it was cleared for grazing. Sure, a cow milking shed is stark and sparse but it's a roof over her head, right? A little render, some ochre-toned wash, some basic plumbing, a few earthy rugs to cover the concrete and hardened earth floors, some more for the walls and you've basically got your Tuscan-style farmhouse. There's electric light and gas cooking. What more could you want? Most of the family had gathered for an Easter weekend, about a dozen in all; each contributing some food due the limited catering resources. For Saturday dinner we had a blazing camp fire, over which were barbecued various good

I've hardly been home.

The family lunch. A kind of pre-easter gathering as several of the party will be away at Easter. Two brothers, one sister, one brother-in-law, two nieces, one daughter-in-law, two grandchildren, one mother, one wife. Roast beef. Roasted parsnips, potatoes, pumpkin, carrots. Salads. Bread. Red wine. Tea. Cheesecake. The yellow labrador which lives next door wandered over to see what all the fuss was about. Well, we are loud sometimes. The birthday dinner. Saturday night at Atami Japanese restaurant, a favourite with local families. After all, you can't introduce small children to raw fish too early. Sukiyaki passable, seaweed salad sensational, sashimi good but only two types of fish, service typically excellent. The birthday party. Sunday night at Andrew and Natalie's for a birthday dinner. Andrew showcased his yummy fish curry with tamarind - not too hot, just a nice slow burn. The kind of heat that gives a warm inner glow without cauterising

You ate how many turnips?

Appetizer: Lebanese pickled turnips. (You've eaten them, sliced, in your felafel sandwich from the Lebanese takeaway, but you can buy them by the jar - whole, about an inch or so in diameter - from middle eastern shops*.) And a small dish of tahini or hummus or baba ganoush; the latter two topped with a splash of olive oil, a squirt of fresh lemon juice and a sprig of flat-leaf parsley. Dip. Eat. *I buy mine from A1 Lebanese Food Store , just up the street from oh my god not again ! That's two in a week !