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Showing posts from April, 2005

Dinner at Morgan's.

I don't really enjoy going out on Saturday nights. It's not the going out or the Saturday night parts that I don't enjoy, it's just that every idiot in town is out as well and the traffic is bedlam. It was the athletics club annual dinner, held at Morgans at 401, right in the centre of the city. The plan was to drive as far into the city as possible and then jump on a tram for the rest of the way. Easy. Once we reached Royal Parade it didn't seem so busy, so we drove into Elizabeth St and then, after a hook turn at Collins, found an on-street park DIRECTLY OUTSIDE Morgans. And the meter is free on Saturdays. Amazing. Pre-dinner drinks in the gallery. I've been to these dinners before, of course. There are always speeches. Sometimes several. Sometimes they are crashingly boring. Especially when delivered by sports bureaucrats from some government organisation with an impossible name such as the Department of Sport, Recreation and Leisure (Community Partic

'Shut up or you're off to the pet shop.'

What a household: Simon, about 30, has a turn of phrase to make polite visitors blanch. "He's upset a few people here," Mrs Gordon says. The young are so coarse these days. ... the eldest of the flock, Winston, 99, likes a cup of tea. I'm sure she needs it with Simon walking around cursing all day.

Cold weather fare.

Brr. The days are still warm but the nights are cold. Winter is coming, and with it, stews and soups. Lamb Shank soup was a winter staple when I was growing up. On the way home from school I could smell this amazing aroma from like half-way up the street. On entering the kitchen and heading straight for food, as you do, there would be a massive two-handled pot on the stove, bubbling away and filled to the brim with carrots, parsnip, onion, barley and parsley, with the succulent meat falling off the bone. 'No you CAN'T have some yet. It's not ready. I've just put the barley in. Here, eat this half loaf of bread instead! And some cheese! Or the rest of last night's rice pudding!' (In those days, you would never find lamb shank in a restaurant, it was considered a quaint, homely dish that you wouldn't go 'out' to eat.) I like this version of lamb shank stew. Lamb shanks with red wine and rosemary. Brown four shanks in oil after dusting them wit

Dumplings.

Preston Market is possibly the best market in Melbourne. It is currently marketing (no pun intended) itself as the market at which locals, not tourists, shop. Clever strategy - the perfect way to attract non-locals and tourists is to pretend that only locals shop there. If that makes sense. It's great for breakfast on a Saturday morning. If you like pizza. No kidding, the breakfast of choice at Preston Market is pizza, although last time I went there early on a Saturday morning I had a burek, straight out of the oven and bursting with melting cheese and spinach. And a coffee. You can't beat sitting in the open plaza in the early early morning sun, weekend newspaper spread out, watching busy shoppers stocking up for weekend barbecues and family feasts. Across the road from the market, there's a Chinese cafe that specialises in dumplings. It's a homely kind of place with condiments and chili on all the tables and a TV set in the corner tuned to Hainan TV. You can sit t

What I burnt last night.

Everyone burns things occasionally, but if you really want to do the job right, burn some lentil soup. Man, those lentils turned black and set as hard as a rock. I think I just invented a new element. Lentillae Solidae Pottus Carbonus. It was a good soup. When it was soup, before it became a tectonic plate. Sweet potato, two odd-shaped carrots from the garden, a sprinkling of cummin. And the lentils - red lentils. Smooth, deep orange, creamy and with just a warm glow of spice. Delicious. With a swirl of greek yogurt and a scattering of black pepper on top. And some turkish bread on the side. I did think I had turned off the stove. But I didn't. I left it on. Low, but on. An hour or two later, the smell of molten lava hit my nostrils. It wasn't molten anymore. Back in the '60s, my father used to mix his own cement, sand and screenings to make concrete. He would have been proud. Now what do I do with the pot? I might try vinegar and bi-carb soda. Or I might just t

Bushfires, carrot seeds, ants, cravings, grammar, trees ...

For a blog entitled What I Cooked Last Night, I sure haven't been writing much about last night's dinner lately. So: here's what I cooked last night. Spaghetti Marinara. You can buy 'Marinara Mix' at supermarkets and even at the fresh food markets. At some places it's good and at others it's dreadful. Usually I prefer to make up my own. I bought a nice thick piece of swordfish, some fat prawns, some calamari and some scallops. Set the pasta to boil in salted, oiled water. Slice the swordfish into cubes, peel the prawns, slice the calamari into rings. Cook an onion in some olive oil, score two cloves of garlic and throw them in (don't burn). Then add half a glass of dry white wine and a grind or three of black pepper. Then add some chopped very ripe tomatoes or a can of diced ones. When it's simmering away nicely add the seafood - fish and calamari first, then prawns, then scallops. By the time you check and drain the spaghetti, the sauce

Wilson's Promontory.

I'm glad I visited my sister the other week - I got to see Wilson's Promontory before the State Government burned it down after bungling a 'controlled' burn-off of 200 hectares that has so far razed 7000 hectares and spreading. The spin coming out of Spring Street is something to behold. It will result in 'glorious displays of wildflowers' in spring. 'No animals have been burned.' Yeah, sure - we're from the Government and we're here to help you. We're from the Government and we're here to burn the place down, more like it.

Romeo's.

There are two kinds of restaurants in Melbourne - ones that are so edgy you think you're going to cut yourself on the furniture and others that haven't changed since cocky was an egg (old farm expression my grandfather used to use). Romeo's is in the latter category, all dark timber walls and furniture, waitpeople wearing black and white and smiling, menu ignoring a generation of food trends. We visited again the other day after a long hiatus, maybe ten years. Toorak Village was basking in sunshine, early on a golden autumn afternoon. (It has been unusually warm for two glorious weeks in Melbourne; as if to make up for the rainy, unpredictable summer.) We walked past the fashion shops, the galleries, the Post Office and the book shop and took a window seat at Romeo's. T. ordered the spinach lasagne while I chose the Caesar salad. The lasagne is a house specialty - pasta, tomato, spinach and bechamel in perfect balance. Just as I remember it. Romeo's version of C

Carrots.

In the garden shed, I have an old tin of seed packets. I 'inherited' the tin from a house we lived in some years ago. The previous owner - Mr Treadwell, a keen gardener - had left it along with a glasshouse full of orchids and a shed full of tools. We used the seed tin for our own seed packs, just placing them on top of the old packs. I finally went through the tin the other day. The label on one pack, right at the bottom of the tin, reads Carrot - Manchester Progress. Tasty and Tender. Deep Rich Colour. Yates Reliable Seeds on the front and, on the back, Price 12 cents. Good For Sowing Season 1969. I guess I probably shouldn't bother sowing them. (I presume Manchester Progess was a proprietary variety of Manchester Table .)

Mashed potatoes? Rosella tomato soup?

T. came in one afternoon quite some time ago now (I was at home) and said to me, 'I would like some mashed potatoes right now.' 'That's fine, honey!' I replied. 'Easy! We'll just peel some spuds, set them to boil - and after a while, we'll beat them up with some salt and pepper, maybe a little milk, maybe some olive oil, and you'll have your mashed potatoes! Then we can go out for a run ... or walk the dog!' 'No, you don't understand. I need mashed potatoes RIGHT NOW.' A few days later, she came in with a similar bizarre request. 'I want a bowl of tomato soup. With a slice of cheese on top. And some toast on the side. And the tomato soup has to be Rosella tomato soup. And I want it RIGHT NOW!' * I suspected. And I was right. And many readers will already have guessed. * We're due late June. God willing, and all going well, Andrew and Erin will have another half-sibling. Along with Matthew. Canisha, Shanra and Ari

Breakfast on Brunswick.

The white plate was the size of an average steering wheel and the pancakes rose about five inches above its surface. But you couldn't see them at all. They were covered in blueberries. Completely. The blueberries cascaded down the sides of the pancakes. Way up there on top was a huge dollop of maple butter, slowly melting into the sweet blue-black syrup. Maple butter is one of the best things you will ever taste. Especially at nine-thirty on a sunny Saturday morning with nothing else to do for the rest of the day except enjoy the unseasonal warmth, maybe lay in the backyard on the banana lounge and read a book. Or not. 30 degrees yesterday and 32 today. We are having the summer we didn't have in December, January and February in April. If that makes sense. * So we went down to Brunswick Street, sat outside Nova Cafe and had breakfast in the sun. Goldie sat under the table, emerging every time another dog walked past. There were plenty. A Kelpie, a pair of Maltese Terriers