Skip to main content


Showing posts from March, 2004

Gnocchi should be so light it floats from the plate.

(Well, it should but mine doesn't always. But it's fun cooking it to try and achieve gnocchi heaven.) The pumpkins were taking over . It was scary. But we won the battle and I now have several trophy pumpkins sitting up proudly in the darkness of the shed, waiting to be eaten. Oh, there's a couple inside the house, too ... somewhere. In a cupboard? a wardrobe? I forget. So. Pumpkin gnocchi. Boil up your pumpkin - do the whole lot at once and then you can make pumpkin soup with what you don't use for the gnocchi. Take about two large cups of the boiled pumpkin. 'Rice' or mash it and combine it well with a cup of flour and half a cup of finely grated parmesan cheese. Add salt and pepper if you wish. (And whatever else you wish - ribbons of fresh basil, a dash of pesto ... whatever.) As long as the dough retains its firm but very slightly elastic consistency. Adjust the ratios where necessary. Roll the dough out in lengths on a floured board t

It's not dark yet, but it's getting there.

For me, the annual end to 'daylight saving' is a shock to the system. In the natural order of things, the days become gradually shorter so that you don't really notice it too much all at once. But with the end of 'daylight saving' (what a dumb term) you are jerked suddenly into instant evening darkness. A bit like going to the cinema by broad daylight and emerging in pitch black. (An experience made worse if it's a depressing or scary movie!) 'Daylight saving' ended here on Saturday night so to savour the hour of light that was to be snatched away from us the next night - and to enjoy the unseasonally hot weather - a barbecue dinner was in order. The fish: rockling. The meat: T-bone steaks (with fillet). I have seen rockling at well over $30 a kilo, depending on availability and the season. On Saturday morning, there were two sellers at the market. One had rockling at $17, the other at $21. The $17 seller said the other guy was too dear, an

Honey, I'm just shooting up to La Porcella for dinner.

Dinner out last night with a bunch of running buddies, after a particularly strenuous run around Princes Park and Royal Park including the Melbourne Zoo. The group usually goes to Lygon Street close to the university, where our favourite place, Ti Amo 2 (next door to Ti Amo 1!) has wonderful food: 'schiaffatelli bella napoli - traditional Italian homemade pasta almost like gnocchi but with no potato, tossed in napoli sauce & basil $11.00 maccharoni della zia- handmade pasta with mini meatballs, eggplant, napoili sauce & basil $11.00 spaghetti don giovanni - mussels & clams cooked with garlic, oregano, olive oil, napoli sauce, spinach and served with chilli $12.90' Believe me, they sound even better after an appetite-inducing run, especially with a nice big glass of shiraz beside you to help you decide! Unfortunately, Ti Amo 2 had been booked out, so one of our party had chosen La Porcella instead. Oops. The day before, La Porcella had been th

Heavenly pasta. All year round.

Over at Il Forno they are talking about one of the most basic pasta recipes of all, spaghetti olio e aglio. It's simply spaghetti tossed with a little fried garlic and parsley. It's a great way to eat pasta any time. I'd eat it for breakfast. Well, maybe brunch. The 'raw' version is my favourite, where you simply soak the uncooked chopped garlic and parsley in the oil, drain the pasta and fold it through. (You have to like garlic, but who doesn't?) I personally don't like garlic to be burned as it often can be when you fry it initially. Instead, I 'score' it and allow it to warm through gently, releasing its flavours (not difficult), without burning. Sometimes I cook a version of this pasta with anchovies. Simply cook your spaghetti, drain and toss through with some good oil, garlic and anchovies. Then fire it up with some flecks of finely chopped fresh red chili and add a little parsley. The silky smooth pasta ... the sea .

What I cooked last night: an index of sorts.

To save you trawling the archives, here's a list of links to the recipes I've posted over the last few months. Enjoy. Late-night pasta. And a gin and tonic. Asian noodle soup . With butterfish. Barbecue kebabs . With soft Lebanese bread. Easy spring roast lamb . With rosemary. Pasta with chicken, pesto and spring vegetables . Leek and beans: a side dish . (Well, it could be a main course.) Corned beef hash . But where's the corned beef recipe? I'll get on to it. Salad nicoise . With a few additions. Beef stew . With red wine and vegetables. Simple ragu . Made from the stew juices. Curry take-outs . Grilled blue-eye. Fish and mash, yum. Fish patties . Caesar salad . My version. (Or one of my versions.) Several dinners cooked outdoors while camping . Sweet potato and corn salad . Pasta Caprese . Tomatoes and mozzarella. Bean stew . With lemon, garlic, cilantro and pinenuts. And a nice side salad. Osso Buco . In a hurry. Picnic ideas for a heatwav

St Patrick's Day? Well, I'm not cooking tacos, am I.

There's no earthly reason why you should not have tacos on St Patrick's Day. Or anything else you feel like. But if all you have in your kitchen is a couple of onions, a carrot or two and a bag of potatoes, then it's looking a little like Irish Stew. Instant Irish stew if you're running late. Of course, no Irish Stew should ever be instant. In fact, it should never be eaten on the day it is cooked, unless you have gotten up in the morning and put it on in a huge rustic pot over a low fire then gone out shopping past stonewall-edged emerald green fields dotted with white sheep to a rain-sodden Irish village, popped into the pub on the high street to sit by the fire with a glass of stout and a bowl of chips while having a chat and a laugh with the red-cheeked innkeeper, then wandered home late afternoon via the old cobbled lane to reach your front door, which you open to be greeted by the uniquely delicious aroma of lamb and vegetables stewing away all day long.

Recipe for a cold evening when you're very hungry and want something really tasty.

Had some tomato sauce left over. What to do with it? I turned it into this provencale thing that I had adapted from a pasta sauce at a cafe I used to frequent years ago - Baker's in Brunswick Street, Fitzroy - long gone now. It was sensational. The original, I mean, not my adaptation. Well, the adaptation is good too. I've done it countless times, sometimes with variations. Toss a handful of walnuts into a heavy pan to brown very, very lightly in olive oil - under a minute. Add a scored clove of garlic, half a chopped onion, half a chopped red or green bell pepper (capsicum), a handful of pitted black olives, about a litre of tomato sauce (or equivalent amount of canned chopped tomatoes in their juice), a generous glug of white wine, a few chopped button mushrooms, some chopped parsley and a little chopped chili (the chili is optional). Bubble it away until it is of a good sauce consistency, adjusting with more wine or water. This sauce is one of those dishes th

Sunday lunch, Deakin Street.

So I went to Mum's on Sunday for lunch. There were ten attendees: assorted siblings, partners and children, nieces, nephews; but they weren't all there at the same time. They were kind of coming and going, if you know what I mean. That's how it is at Mum's on Sundays. She was a child of the depression, a teenager through the war, a bride in the 'fifties and had seven children into the 'sixties. That's a lot of baggage. Oh, and a lot of cooking. For that generation, the frugality learned during the depression and the war never really went away, and this was enhanced by the economies of scale required to feed baby boomer children, all mixed in with the explosion of supermarket convenience products during the 'fifties plus a sprinkling of the exotic items brought in by migrants in subsequent years. Then there was the 'seventies. Thankfully, mum never really got into that decade. It just kind of passed by with the food on her table being from t

Don't burn the cashews.

Got the wok out the other night to cook some steak in oyster sauce with cashews and vegetables. (When people cook Chinese food at home, why do they call it a stir-fry? Have you ever seen someone walk into a Chinese restaurant and say "I'll have the stir-fry, thanks waiter"?) Some time ago, when I asked a local butcher what he recommends for kebabs, he nominated skirt steak, adding it was also ideal for wok cooking. (Here, skirt is still is a far less expensive cut than some others cuts frequently used for home cooking of this kind. Skirt is either the middle or rear flank, depending on the region.) First, I soy-marinated about half a kilo (one pound) of the skirt steak, cut into strips, for a few hours, tossing a small handful of sesame seeds into the mix. Fire up the wok. It needs to be on a high heat. Toss in some oil, garlic and grated or finely cut ginger. You're supposed to use peanut oil, but I didn't have any. I did all that and then tossed in

Veal. The other, other meat.

In a little lane tucked away in Melbourne's central business district is an Italian cafe that has been there forever*. The name dates it, of course: Campari Bistro. When did you last visit a bistro that wasn't trying to be retro-cool? It is also old enough not to have that retro-cool attitude problem. You know, where the waiters are so cool you wonder they serve you. Campari has the look of the 60s (not the flower power 60s, but the 60s that everyone else lived through) with its timeless menu items hand-painted on wooden slats on the walls. Bizarrely, it also has a feature wall of American motor car number plates. I first visited Campari many years ago. It has traditional Italian staples including, of course, pasta, risotto, grills and an amazing antipasto section where you point to what you want from huge platters and the lady behind the bar piles your plate high with your selections - salamis and other meats, pickled vegetables, cold sliced fritattas, stuffed peppe

Pasta with fresh pipis.

On Blairgowrie beach, you can wade out for a quarter mile and the water is still just waist-deep. You will often see people bending over in the shallows searching for clams (known as pipis) - vongole to the Italians. Not that it's a difficult search at all, just plunge your hands in and you can feel them in the sand. I think there's a daily bag limit, but they don't appear in any danger of being fished out any time soon. Yesterday a woman was patiently filling a bag with the little bivalves and I asked her if she was looking forward to pasta with clams for dinner. She said "No, I hate them myself, I only cook them for the family!" That's dedication - she should send her family out to fetch 'em. When you get pipis from the sea yourself, soak them in a bucket of salted water for twelve hours so that they expel sand and any other impurities. Then they're ready to eat. Cook your pasta. I use linguine for this dish. Throw your pipis in

Three day break.

Why the holiday weekend? Good question. Originally the Monday was the Eight Hours Day , then it was simply renamed Labour Day. In 1954, it became the day on which the Moomba Festival Parade is held (a kind of Macy's Parade/St Patrick's Day variant). It still is that, however this particular weekend is better known in Melbourne for the Australian Grand Prix won on Sunday by Michael Schumacher in the Ferrari. This day is also Clean Up Australia day. Let's just call it a good opportunity for a break. Avoiding the Friday night rush out of town, we slipped out of town early Saturday morning. Weekends away are extra lazy, so lunch at the Blairgowrie Cafe, which has a large outdoor terrace area packed with tables and umbrellas. As usual, almost as many dogs as human customers. They were everywhere. Schnauzers, collies, spaniels, terriers and of course labradors and golden retrievers. All pretty well behaved. Ordered scrambled eggs which came piled high on s

Spicy burgers, rice, salad.

These mini beef burgers are sensational with southern Mediterrannean? African? Algerian? spices. Don't have one of those smoke extractor things? Barbecue them on an open grill outdoors as they produce a lot of smoke. (My locality has many Middle Eastern migrants. Grills are central to their cuisine and most of them cook outdoors - often year-round. In summer it's a joy to take the dogs on an evening walk around the streets while enjoying the wafting aromas of a thousand different spices melded with barbecuing chicken, fish, lamb or beef. The dogs love it too! In the cooler months people have their grills set up in their garages or carports - winter here is very mild.) Ground beef, about three quarters of a kilo, mixed with a large minced onion, some chopped parsley, a couple of chopped mint leaves, a teaspoon each of ground black pepper, cinnamon, cumin and coriander and a half teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Form smallish balls, about an inch or so, flatten slightly and d

I hate the end of summer.

So a kind of summery mixture of things to end the best season of all. Bruschetta Dice some tomato as finely as you can. If you have a good knife, you'll get really fine dice. If your knife is not so sharp, it will turn to mush. No matter. Just cut it as well as you can. Now dice some onion in a ratio of one part onion to three parts tomato. Finely slice a few sprigs of parsley and mix them all together. Lightly toast some slices of bread on one side. Spread some home-made pesto on the untoasted side and cut the toast into bite-sized sections. Take a teaspoon and carefully spoon the mixture onto the toast. Pumpkin and red pepper soup with chick peas Roast six or seven peeled pumpkin pieces 45 minutes or until soft. Roast a red bell pepper until the skin blackens. Remove the skin and the core leaving just the red flesh. Puree them in a litre of chicken stock. Add a dash of coriander (cilantro) powder. Cook twenty minutes. When it reaches a smooth consistency, add a drained