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Showing posts from November, 2004

More Peregrine Falcons found.

The ones in Melbourne were found dead - they had received massive publicity over many years, nesting in a Collins Street building - and it is believed they were killed following the poisoning of pigeons. Prior to that, the council had employed an expert pigeon person from the UK who had recommended not poisoning the pigeons. Well, that money was wasted. The pigeons were poisoned and the Peregrine Falcons died. I've always recommended poisoning councillors. I still do. But they don't die. Like pigeons. Or Peregrine Falcons. Some more have cropped up in Ballarat. There are not many left.

Barry Road? Or the fridge?

Sometimes you can't be bothered going to any great lengths to cook. Like when you come in late, you're tired and there's little to inspire you in the fridge. And when you can't even be bothered going out again to Barry Road (yes, Barry Road!) where the strip shopping centre has 1. an excellent chinese takeaway, 2. the best fish and chip shop 'Barry Rd Fish & Chips', 3. a chicken shop 'Chickens on Barry Rd', 4. an old-fashioned hamburger shop 'Barry Rd Burgers' (see the pattern emerging?), 5. a turkish takeaway, 6. two pizza shops 'Panic Pizza' and another, 7. a Lebanese cake shop (the honey custard rolls 'Znood-al-sit' are to die for) and 8. two more bakeries. The fridge won. I'll save Barry Road for another night. Many other nights. I had a pack of frozen La Triestina spinach and ricotta ravioli. I opened a can of tomato puree, flung it in a pot with a dash of salt and pepper, another of brown sugar and a bay l

Beach. Barbecue.

Blairgowrie beach was deserted. The tide was out and the white sandbars were baking. A container ship was sliding down the bay. The water was a flat as a tack. Where was everyone? Blairgowrie is a sleepy village. There's a large retired population. They come out in their hundreds, morning and evening, walking their dogs. But at two o'clock on a broiling afternoon, they obviously have the sense to stay indoors! I had taken the dogs to the beach for a couple of days. We are fostering Clyde, an enormous blue-fawn three-year-old greyhound. It is his first foster home and he did all the usual things like try to walk through windows and be completely unable to walk up steps, especially timber steps without riser panels. I had to lift him the first time - 39.5 kgs - but he soon learned. At first he tried to leap all six steps - successfully, and both up and down - but then he twigged that he could actually place his paws on those in between. As well as getting the dogs us

Surprise, surprise!

You have to be careful with surprise parties. I went to one once where the couple had had an argument. We could hear them outside the front door shouting loudly at each other. We were inside, in the darkness, champagne and glasses at the ready. The key turned loudly and jerkily in the lock and I clearly remember the bright idea of throwing a surprise party for them dying inside me like a lit candle stub being dropped into cold water. When the door opened, the lights went on and they both had that kind of look where the smile seems to go on forever but takes a wild assymetric downward turn where it should curve happily back up. And stays that way for several long and excruciating seconds. But sometimes in life, it's too late to turn back now. So the champagne popped, the crackers cracked, the music blasted and we all got drunk. What else could we do? Sit around quietly and engage in small talk? But my sister's surprise party wasn't like that at all. (In fact, I'm

Picnic, anyone?

We're going on a picnic tomorrow, it's the Greyhound Adoption Program's annual Christmas picnic. All the greyhound foster-carers and people who have adopted them are invited. And their dogs of course. We're hoping for a nice day, but against the odds given the completely unpredictable weather in the last few weeks. Hot one minute, windy the next, rainstorms the next. Provisions: The wicker picnic basket. The tartan picnic blanket (every time I lay it down the dogs jump onto it first and spread themselves out. They have no manners at all). Ciabatta rolls - havarti cheese and lettuce; curried egg; tuna and onion with mayonaisse. A leek frittata. Some fruitcake. Coffee. Raincoats. Umbrellas. Suncream. The frittata: Lightly beat four eggs with salt and pepper, cook thinly sliced leeks - about two cupsful - in olive oil until soft, about five minutes, pour egg mixture over, cook until set, on a low heat. Carefully turn onto a plate, chill.

If you want your cockatiel returned ...

... teach it to sing. When it went missing last week (original story not online), it was reported that the bird sang a particular tune, but did not mention what tune. Smart move, reporter - plenty of people wanted to claim it. Anyone for a round of La Cucacaracha? I love the way this bird mimics the telephone when its owner is in the garden, ignoring it.

Sweet, sweet paprika ...

I love the gentle heat that paprika imparts. Along with its warm colour, paprika can lift a meal to another plane. Goulash. There are hundreds of goulash recipes, some have tomato; some have potatoes; some have carrot and celery. Just don't leave out the meat or the paprika. So you can make goulash how you want (I stand to be corrected by Hungarian readers). Here's how I made it on Saturday afternoon, as Melbourne was whipped with rain squalls yet again: Brown onions in butter, dredge cubed veal in flour then brown with the onions, toss in a tablespoon or two of sweet paprika and a little salt and pepper then add a can of tomato puree. Cover with water. Simmer for an hour or two then mix through half a cup of cream and serve with some buttered pasta such as tagliatelle or papardelle; or with mashed potatoes. I used the pasta. * Largely unrelated facts: Budapest in Hungary once had the largest tramway system in the world. Today, Melbourne's tramwa

Lest We Forget.

The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. At that precise moment, a shaft of sunlight strikes and then passes over the word Love on a tablet - the Stone of Remembrance - bearing the words Greater Love Hath No Man, on the central floor of the Shrine of Remembrance , marking Armistice Day. At that moment, the entire city comes to a halt, to remember the 19,000 Victorians - of 62,000 Australians - who fell in the Great War: the war to end all wars. Huh. * We were in town to visit the Queen Victoria market - Thursday is its busiest day. The seafood stalls were staggering, loaded with magnificent fish of all kinds. We bought some fresh Tasmanian Atlantic Salmon (yes, I know Tasmania is nowhere near the Atlantic) and some oysters; then walked through the fruit and vegetable section and picked up some mangoes fresh from Queensland. The variety was astounding, red papaw, melons of all kinds, chinese greens of every type, bunches of fresh herbs most people have

A childhood favorite, otherwise known as comfort food.

Comfort food is the best food of all. Easy, unpretentious and most importantly, redolent of years gone by, a taste of the past. For me, it was baked meatloaf , among other things. For T. it is sometimes this: Mince and tatties. Heat some oil in a pan and saute a large chopped onion until brown. Add a pound of beef mince and cook until well browned. Add two medium carrots, sliced thinly, and a tablespoon of toasted oatmeal. Pour in enough water to just cover. Crumble in one or two beef stock cubes, season with salt and pepper, cover the pan and simmer for about twenty minutes. Then, thicken with three teaspoons of gravy powder or corn starch mixed with a little cold water. That's the mince. Now the tatties. They're easy: Boil your peeled potatoes. Then mash 'em. Serve the mince and the potatoes side by side. (Note: do not serve the mince over the potatoes. Why? 'Because you just don't,' says T.) T.'s father cooked this for her and he

Beach weekend.

We were looking forward to hosting my brother-in-law, his wife, their two children (15 and 12) and their two dogs ( miniature fox terriers ) at the beach and we had been planning lazing on the sand, unpacking picnics with all manner of delicious goodies, watching the dogs tear around in the sunshine and the children frolicking in the sparkling blue waters of Port Philip Bay before returning to the beach house for maybe a barbecue and some cold beer and ... It rained all weekend. Well, most of the weekend. It's not a large beach house. But then, six people and four dogs is a tight fit in any household. The dogs, however, were exceptionally well behaved (as were the children). Blueboy, the foster greyhound, slunk off to the bedroom - two foxies were way too boisterous for him; Goldie spread herself out in the guest foxies' wicker bed; and they in turn settled on her mat after jumping up on the couch. After lunch (salad sandwiches, prosciutto, home-made cold lamb meatbal

Calves liver and onions. Or for those who prefer animal parts not be included in the title of their dinner, fegato alla veneziana.

Apparently fegato originally meant figs, don't know what figs have to do with calves liver and onion, maybe someone can enlighten me. Or maybe I should have studied Latin beyond Year 8. I was such a lazy student. I hated everything about school except lunchtime. Ah, the aroma emanating from the pie-warmer in the canteen! That's five different angles in the first paragraph. I really should be more disciplined in my writing. Now, where were we? I've been doing calves liver with onions every now and then for years and I can't remember where I found the recipe. So I googled it and couldn't find one exactly the same (which is kind of good in a way). Cook two or three finely chopped onions in half butter, half olive oil until well coated and on the point of becoming translucent, then add half a cup of white wine and three quarters of a cup of lemon juice. Plus a good dash of nutmeg and a shake of salt and pepper. Set on a low heat and let the onions cook away fo

The Cup's over, I lost, it's raining and I want pasta.

Horseracing. Sport of kings. And losers. Lucky I've never been a gambler since reading Frank Hardy's The Four-Legged Lottery at age 12. What an eye-opener that was. After all the barbecuing and picnicing over the last few days, something a little blander is called for. Not that this is boring: it's simple but really packs a flavour punch. Cook your spaghetti . Cook the silverbeet until it is well wilted. Drain, add salt and pepper. Fold silverbeet through cooked and drained spaghetti. Toss your sliced chile peppers (which should ideally have been marinating in olive oil for 24 hours) over the top and then crown it with paper-thin slices of parmesan. A glass of red and a thick slice of buttered vienna. Heaven. Even if your horse came last.

Today's Melbourne Cup: predicting the weather is harder than picking a horse.

Despite predictions of heavy rain overnight (there was none) and showers this morning with possible thunderstorms during the afternoon, Cup Day has dawned warm and sunny. So how can you pick a winner with all that uncertainty? It's difficult . But here's mine: 1. Vinnie Roe. 2. Elvstroem. 3. Pacific Dancer. We're going to pack a picnic - egg and lettuce rolls, cheese and gherkin relish rolls, some nice buttercake and a flask of tea - and find somewhere nice to spread a blanket in the sun, under a tree ... and hope the rain holds off. UPDATE Vinnie Roe's connections were to announce at 8am this morning whether the horse would run - and it would only run if there is a heavy track. They have just now confirmed Vinnie Roe is a starter, yet the weather bureau has just advised the rain should hold off until after the race. Clearly, there's plenty of bluff being called. UPDATE 2 The heavens broke open two hours before the race. Makybe Diva he

The weather held.

The ominous mid-afternoon clouds drifted away as our barbecue guests drifted in around six. Two brothers and partners; two sisters, one with daughter; other with second husband and three children from first marriage; son and partner with their three girls; mother. We sat outside at tables covered with white linen and watched the sun sink between the massive conifers. The children sat on a tartan rug spread on the lawn under the fruit trees. The calamari was a hit (marinated in garlic and lemon, tossed with continental flour and dried oregano and fried very, very quickly in very hot oil) as were the lamb kebabs (marinated in garlic, oil and lemon juice, skewered with alternate onion, red and green bell pepper sections), bratwursts and fresh turkish and lebanese breads with eggplant, spinach and chickpea dips. Forgot the olives, they were behind something in the fridge and forgot to dress the mustard greens ('Hmm, they're a little bitter,' someone said). To add to t