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Showing posts from July, 2004

Friday lunch.

Two fresh bread rolls - the ones with the sesame seeds on the outside that scatter everywhere when you cut the roll down the middle. Plenty of butter, a generous spread of black, salty, delicious Vegemite and two thick slices of fresh cheddar cheese. Buttery, salty, nutty, yummy. Eaten reading the op-ed pages of today's Australian - sesame seeds all over the Letters column. Then a nice cup of coffee.

Moroccan chicken, I guess.

Been playing around with couscous lately, so we tried a couscous stuffing for roast chicken. Basically, expand the couscous in some boiling chicken stock with a tablespoonful of butter and then add the juice of a lemon, two or three cloves of garlic, a chopped onion, a couple of chopped prunes, a good dash of cumin, some pinenuts and parsley. Just blend it all roughly once the couscous has expanded. Half a lemon went into the chicken with the stuffing for a more intense flavour. It worked well. Instead of traditional roast vegetables, we boiled carrot, potato and onion with a knob of butter and salt and pepper, adding red bell pepper and zucchini towards the end. Depending on how much couscous you use, the stuffing can be quite 'substantial' - carve a nice solid piece and spoon the fragrant vegetables and some of their buttery juices over the top next to your favourite chicken cut.  I'm a leg man myself.

I'll write the time down next time.

We planned lunch for my brother's birthday. I arrived at 12.30 complete with the usual 'contribution' - this time a large casserole of rigatoni bolognese.   - Lovely to see you so early, said Mum genially as we walked in the door, but the others won't be here until around 2.30. - Oh, are they running late? - No, the arrangement was for afternoon tea, not lunch, she said, laughing. Doh. Son, partner and three girls arrived hot on our heels  (having been incorrectly advised by me it was lunch). So we all sat down and had some of the rigatoni and afterwards helped Mum set out the afternoon tea. Fresh scones with jam and cream and chocolate crackles onto the table, mini pies and quiches into the oven, tray of glasses and small plates to the old sideboard and teacups set up near the kettle. All the usual things. In between all this the phone rang. It was old Mrs Turner from a dozen or so houses up the street. It's a funny neighbourhood. Probably h

Lunch in a cold climate.

I usually take my lunch to work. I'm finding that more and more people are doing this. (Must be the huge mortgages.) There's a kitchen with a microwave and people bring in something left over from last night; some pasta, maybe some soup or curry, perhaps some sliced cold meat and salad. It's fun to see what people have cooked up. The kitchen is fully stocked. There are biscuits, cookies and crackers of all kinds laid on; together with jars of salsas, spreads, peanut butter, margarine, cheese slices and other things that can be added to crackers or bread; crisps and corn chips in several different varieties; plus fresh fruit every day. There is always a stock of avocadoes as well, they are great for spreading on crackers. Then there are the drinks, tea and coffee, of course (plunger and instant); and another fridge full of mineral water, soft drinks, fruit juices, beer and wine. If you wish, you can snack all morning and all afternoon; and at lunchtime, you can s

I felt like something orange. And red.

What to eat on a drab, cold, winter weeknight with nothing on the horizon but more cold, grey skies and work tomorrow? My, what a pessimistic outlook! Actually, I quite like winter, but you do need a little colour to brighten it up occasionally. Colour! OK, what's in the fridge? Two chorizo sausages from the Greek deli in Coburg where you stand for at least twenty minutes before being served, it's that busy. (They have resisted putting in a numbering system because they - perhaps rashly - believe people still have manners and common sense enough to know if someone was waiting before you. Bravo! It's worth visiting just for that rapidly diminishing common sense in a mad world.) So. The chorizos  (yes, I know they're Spanish - the deli is run by Greeks, but they sell Italian, Spanish, German, Polish, Latvian and other smallgoods and products as well as Greek). I boiled some cubes of pumpkin and a carrot chopped into fat rings, put some strips of red capsi

A few extra for Sunday night dinner.

We suddenly had more than expected over for dinner.   Son, partner and their three girls (7, 3 and 6 months) were coming over for our irregular Sunday night roast.   Then we had a mid-afternoon call from sister-in-law (who lives 90 minutes away on the other side of the city). She and husband were making an emergency trip to a hospital close by our suburb to visit a work acquaintance who had had a severe illness relapse - could she drop their children (boy 12, girl 8)  by our place while they visited the hospital?  Of course, we said - and, naturally, stay for dinner after you return from your hospital visit. They wouldn't be back from the hospital until well after six o'clock.     Dinner was to be roast beef with a tray of baked potatoes, cauliflower baked in a casserole with cheese sauce, a tray of roasted pumpkin sections and of course peas; followed by a baked chocolate pudding. And ice-cream. And cream.   But this wouldn't stretch to six adults (sister-i

Hail on the roof, pie in the oven.

It was one of the coldest Saturdays in memory.   A direct southerly, hard and fast,  dragged freezing air off the Southern Ocean or maybe even Antarctica and dumped it on us.    Cross-country raceday at an elevated venue with a southerly aspect saw us taking the brunt of it. To get through the race, we had to keep reminding ourselves that tonight, we were to have an old-fashioned pie for dinner, one of T.'s mum's Scottish recipes.   T. had already made the filling, so assembling the pie was easy. Ground beef combined with grated carrot and onion and bound with Gravox , some tomato sauce  and a good dash of worcestershire sauce. Plus, plenty of white pepper. You want your pie filling to be peppery as well as piping hot. Homely rather than gourmet, baked simply in a pie dish with a flaky pastry lid. (T.'s mum encases the whole pie in pastry, but we only had enough for the lid.)   I soothed my tired muscles in a bath filled with hot water and Lectric Soda (sod

Don't set the kitchen on fire.

On and off over the years I have been making a version of pepper steak that has been both easy and extremely yummy. I always use the same brand of green pickled peppercorns from St Maur in France. They come in a small tin. I use the whole tin for two steaks - I do like my peppercorns, but it would actually be sufficient for six. I tried to google the brand* but couldn't find it, but in doing so, I came across all these steak au poivre recipes that said I'd been doing it wrong all these years. For example, you're apparently supposed to remove the steaks and flambe the pan juices only. I always flambe the actual steaks. Whatever. Mine's easy and still tastes great, and anyway, who am I, Paul Bocuse or Alain Ducasse? No. I am a lazy kitchen hand and sometimes I take shortcuts. However, I found a recipe in Dave's Pepper Pages at under Pepper Profiles which seemed to confirm that the way I do it is at least ... done by someone else. If that

Favourite chicken recipes # 1.

Chicken breast stuffed with cheese and pesto. This is really a summer thing with fresh pesto, but the bottled alternative is just fine. Take some chicken breasts, slice them in halves, add some cheese (I used a 'trecchia' that is sold locally, it's a kind of plaited mozzarella) and a generous amount of your pesto. Carefully wrap the stuffed breast all around with some very thinly-sliced prosciutto. The thinner, the better, it kinds of 'wraps' better if you know what I mean. You may need to use toothpicks to secure it. Brown very carefully and gently in olive oil, then add some white wine and some peppercorns, place lid on pan and allow to simmer very gently, turning the breasts after several minutes depending on thickness. Finish with cream, remove cooked breasts, raise heat slightly to reduce sauce and pour it over chicken. One the side: rabe or spinach braised in garlic, olive oil and a dash of water; scalloped potatoes baked in the oven in chicken

George's special.

Down the coast last weekend - it's just as nice mid-winter as it is in summer, all stormy skies and windy foam-flecked waves. Across the road from the beach, separated by the highway, there's a pizza and pasta place. It's cheap and cheerful, run by a Greek guy called George and his wife. (I think she runs it, he just has his name on it.) Sometimes their children sit at one of the tables, cutting out pictures, drawing, doing puzzles. There are Greek flags and pictures of Greece on the walls, fading to blue and white. Appropriately. There's a couple of tables out front as well. Sometimes in summer, the old Greeks and Italians stop and have an ice-cream in the sun - and a cigarette - before strolling on. From inside, you can see the water. In summer the waves twinkle and sparkle, in winter they heave grey and misty. George (or his wife) does this pizza, 'George's special' (he's got his name on that as well!). It has tomato and salami and is topped


There’s a cafĂ© in Melbourne bayside suburb St Kilda I like to visit occasionally. Scheherezade was opened in 1958 by a Jewish refugee couple from Poland to provide for others who had migrated to Melbourne to escape the Holocaust. I first went there in the late seventies. It doesn’t appear to have changed - neither the food nor the decor - in all that time. It’s nice to go there in winter around lunchtime. How bittersweet to see the original customers now in their fading twilight years. The old men wander in and order frankfurts and potato salad, latkes, hot, spicy, robust goulash, hot borscht, chicken soup with kreplachs or gefilte fish. I usually order the cabbage soup - a steaming bowl of delicious broth, magnificently spiced and reddish-brown with paprika, full of ribbons of cabbage and served with mounds of well-boiled potatoes breaking up in the soup like icebergs. You can order a basket of delicious rye bread on the side with little gold foil packs of creamy Tatura

A taste of summer in mid-winter.

I just love corn, it is summer on a cob. Since it is the middle of winter here, it's time for a reminder, using canned sweet corn. Tuna goes magnificently with sweet corn, the saltiness of the fish contrasting with the sweetness of the corn. The contrasting textures work well also. Sweat some onions in a pan and boil some diced carrot in a pot until soft. Boil some potatoes. Combine these in a casserole with two cans of tuna, a can of sweet corn, some roasted red pepper (capsicum) and some a nice binding sauce, maybe cheese and a little flour in some milk - just enough to bind it all, not too wet. Salt and pepper. Top with mashed potatoes and bake until golden. Yes, I know I've done similar things lately; including a Fisherman's Pie, but man! The weather! It's cold and it's blowing a gale and rainclouds are scudding across the sky. It's casserole weather. Can't wait for summer, when I'll be grilling those juicy, yellow corncobs on