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Showing posts from June, 2004

I think they were bratwurst but I can't remember.

I can't remember the first thing I cooked, I can only remember the first thing I burned. As as kid, I spent my whole life in the kitchen because it was like, a communal family room, with a huge table around which everyone sat. We did school homework around the table and played boardgames on Saturday afternoons, had arguments, played cards, all the usual stuff. So we were always party to any cooking that was going on, we kind of got insinuated into it. 'Shell these peas while you're sitting there.' 'Peel these potatoes, will you?' (Peelings wrapped up in newspaper and into bin, peeled 'taters into cold water). 'Butter this bread and put it on a plate for dinner.' Fringe benefits: tasting the cake mixture! Scraping the bowl! Man, to a kid, that stuff tastes WAY better than the actual cake. (Maybe even now.) Later in the evening we would usually adjourn to the lounge and watch the black and white television while dad filled the room with s

Cutting edge.

At the place which provides me with both (a) a job and (b) blogging time, there's a bunch of nice people, which I sometimes think is even more important than (a) or (b). So I guess I've hit the jackpot (although I'm planning to leave work soon - I need more time in the kitchen and the garden and walking the dog and blogging ... and ... and ...). They all have their little ways, however. Like G. So G. comes back from lunchtime shopping expeditions loaded with boxes. She does this most weeks. The stores seem to be forever having sales nowadays, and G. is forever saying I got 30% off this and 50% off that. Which is fine, except poor G. is always complaining about never being able to pay off her credit card and never being able to afford to buy the house of her dreams, which of course is a mansion. So she spends like thousands of dollars a month on upscale junk. Yesterday, G. went shopping at lunchtime and came back with cutlery. Not nice cutlery. Ugly cutlery.

A traditional pie for the shortest day of winter.

Speaking of funny conversations in the butcher's (we were), we had this exchange: - It's freezing. Steak and kidney pie would be nice. - My mother always made it without kidneys. - Well if she made it without kidneys, it's not steak and kidney pie, is it? You can only have steak and kidney pie if it's got kidneys in it. By definition. - The English make it with kidneys, the Scots never use kidneys. So we start with a discussion of what to have for dinner and in a few sentences we're discussing the reasons for the Battle of Bannockburn. Amazing isn't it? No wonder so many of them migrated to Australia ... to leave behind all that warring. (And the weather's better, despite current conditions. At least you can still drink coffee outdoors in the depths of winter.) Steak and kidney won, by the way. I got to cut up the kidney and remove the tubes. What is it with women and offal? There are many recipes for steak and kidney pie, with two

Like lasagne but different.

Awoke to a bleak day on Saturday, one of this winter's coldest. Off to the market in scarves and coats. Coffee before commerce, as usual - steaming cappuccinos in a glass, piled high with dense froth and dusted with chocolate - in the plaza which was busy despite the cold. An old man was feeding pigeons; a couple of joggers went by, bravely baring skin; an anti-war group was trying not very successfully to sell newspapers and the local scouts were doing a roaring trade at their 'sausage sizzle' stall - a sausage with fried onions and your choice of tomato sauce or mustard sauce in bread, $2. If you want to know how appetising the aroma of frying onions can be, visit Victorian Mall on the third Saturday morning of each month. At the butcher's stall, a man was telling the butcher his wife had asked him to get veal shanks and 'was there only one kind of veal shank?' as he didn't want to get the wrong thing. You can't make up stuff as funny as you

Hungry for reading.

When I was a child entertainment wasn't what it was today so I and my six siblings spent time reading. Boring, huh? Imagine life without DVDs, personal computers, MP3s, gameboys, childrens' mini karaokes that plug right into their parents' widescreen home theatre system (with FULL volume - perfect for next time they have a dozen six-year-olds for a sleepover!), laptops, cellphones with text so they need NEVER be out of touch with their scores of friends and televisions in the back seats of their parents' SUV. My god, it makes my childhood sound like the Dark Ages - I'm surprised I actually survived and made it into adulthood. Maybe I didn't. Maybe I'm in permanent arrested development, a victim of technology-deprivation syndrome as a child. So when we weren't outside pointlessly climbing trees, making billycarts, investigating frogs in the local stream or riding low-tech bicycles aimlessly around the neighbourhood, we would read anything we coul

Pasta with chickpeas etc.

I keep inventing pasta dishes. Some work, some don't. How do you know until you try? Spaghetti. Chickpeas, chopped canned tomatoes complete with juice, walnuts, olives, a chopped chile (mild or hot but not too hot). Cook the spaghetti. Toss the cooked spaghetti over low heat with all the other ingredients. When the juice from the chopped canned tomatoes reduces a little, serve. How easy was that? And delicious. Maybe I should give it a name. Pasta with chickpeas etc. doesn't really sound all that appetising.

Drink your oranges.

Everyone knows this, but it's good to remember how easy it is and how yummy: A late night - I knew nothing was in the fridge, so called by the supermarket which had fortuitously just renewed its stocks of fresh fish. I usually try to buy fish at the market but the supermarket is OK as a last resort. And the girls who work there are so sweet. Sometimes, at the checkout, they ask you what something is so they can key in the right code, like: - 'oh, are these oranges?' - 'yes, they're oranges.' - 'thanks.' (keying in code) - 'that's OK!' No sarcasm intended - sometimes the grapefruits are more orange than the oranges (some oranges at certain times of the year are greenish-skinned, even though they are perfectly ripe and juicy inside ), then there are the tangelos and the blood oranges and the oversized mandarins. So: fish. Arrive home, unpack fish - a nice white-fleshed, slightly translucent freshwater fish - place on double

Holiday weekend.

Monday was the Queen's Birthday Holiday (in all States - and New Zealand - except Western Australia, where it is celebrated on 27 September). Go figure, the actual birthday of Queen Elizabeth II (the Monarch, not the ship) is 21 April. Any excuse for a gin and tonic. So. Three wet, rainy days on the coast. I wouldn't call it miserable, I'd call it perfect weather for long walks along the ocean beach clifftop culminating at the cafe where dogs frequently outnumber people. Well you do enjoy the walk more when you know there's coffee at the end of it. Or in the middle in this case. It wasn't all that cold, we were able to sit outside and watch the massive black rainclouds scudding across the sky and the waves crashing beyond the ti-tree. Against the clouds, four pelicans - such ungainly looking creatures when not in flight - hovered in formation on the wind, before being joined by several more, whereupon they all wheeled off together in some other direction,

Anyone know how to peel an egg?

Bought way too much fish, the rest went into a Fisherman's Pie, the 'seafood' version of shepherd's pie. Flake the leftover cooked fish and add it to the juices and any remaining cooked vegetables from last night's baked fish dinner (see previous post). Make a cheesy white sauce, not too thick, and combine it with the fish, adding plenty of chopped spring (green) onions. Throw in some capers as well, if you have them. Place the mixture in a baking dish. Meanwhile, boil some eggs, two or three, until just done, then peel them carefully (I have never learned to do this successfully without peeling off parts of the flesh!), slice them in halves (or leave them whole) and lay them in the baking dish along with the fish mixture. Boil up some potatoes and mash them when done with your usual favourite accompaniments, grated pecorino is nice. Place it over the fish mixture, top it with some thinly-sliced onion rings and a little paprika and it's ready for

Baked fish, haven't done this in ages.

So I hope it's as good as I remember. The market had Sea Perch (no doubt it has eight other names as do so many fish - so confusing) fresh at $10 a kilogram this morning so it's fish for dinner tonight (I'm posting before the fact). It's very simple. Quarter an onion and thickly slice a carrot and a parsnip and place them in a lidded glass baking dish. (You have to like parsnip - if you don't, use something else or leave it out.) Half cover them with water and a dash of white wine. (Note: this combination produces the most remarkably fragrant aroma that fills the kitchen.) Bake until they are minutes away from soft, then remove dish from oven, carefully place your fish fillets over the vegetables, add a knob of butter and a shake of pepper and return dish to oven. The fish cooks quite quickly due to the residual heat of the fluid in the dish - it almost steams. Depending on thickness, anything from ten minutes upwards. Serve with some greens, ma

Winter's here.

Winter has arrived with a vengeance and I found myself reflecting - in fact, marvelling, in a weird kind of way - that it will be the very first winter since 1904 that my grandfather will not be here. How amazing is that thought - all those winters through war, depression, another war, baby boom, prosperity, disco(!) ... he was there. Born in February 1905, he died three days before Christmas last year. Just a few weeks before, I had been visiting his house (he lived on his own, refusing to go into a rest home) and, showing some other relatives the plants in his small back garden, I pointed out a clematis. 'It's not a clematis, it's a WISTERIA! ' boomed his voice from inside the house. He was totally on the ball. And the selective hearing was 100% accurate to the end! So - winter. The infamous London yellow fog (and occasionally, a Melbourne fog) was called a pea-souper after this: Take a ham hock or some bacon bones, place them in your largest pot with a c

My best meal ever.

The best meal I ever ate, or should I say, the meal I remember most, was when I was like about four or five. Well I wouldn't call it a meal as such. It was a cheese sandwich. I had been sick with some horrendous stomach bug that had kept me and my six siblings - no wait, when I was five I only had three siblings (I'm Mr Middle) - projectile vomiting for days. My mother used to give us only flat lemonade until our stomachs settled down. After 24 hours of flat lemonade, mine was fine and raring to go. Lunchtime rolled around. The baker (who used to go door to door) had delivered a delicious still-slightly-warm unsliced high-tin white loaf - the kind with the bakery's name in raised lettering along the side of the loaf (how did they do that?) and that shiny, black, glazed top that was so incredibly nutty and yummy. I can still smell that bread. My mother sliced it and smeared the slices with butter - yummy, creamy, salty. Then she placed a generous sli