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Showing posts from May, 2005

Early start to sales. And an early lunch.

The mild weather right through autumn has seen sales plummet in the department stores so they started their June sales early. T. is now 37 weeks but we still managed a trip into town to pick up a few things. Here's how we did it: Drive to Carlton. Park near St. Jude's on the north side of Elgin. Fifty metres to Lygon Street. Pass ten shops. Look in a few windows. Reach Ti Amo. Time for coffee! The coffee at Ti Amo is as good as you'll get. It hasn't changed in twenty years, probably thirty. If you go for lunch, try the spaghetti carbonara. Next: walk another hundred metres to the tramstop outside university. A ten-minute trundle down Swanston, off at Bourke. Into David Jones , elevator to second floor. Babywear. Pick up a few things. Stroll up to furniture for a quick look. Didn't buy anything. Check out the new food hall. Another short stroll to ladies shoes, then down to fragrances and cosmetics. Pick up few more things. Out the back way into Little Bourke

Seven Year Beans.

That's what they call them in the market because the plants apparently last for that time, but I hear they're also known as Scarlet Runner Beans. They're not scarlet, but they are delicious. They're probably my current favourite vegetable, if a bean is a vegetable. About six to eight inches long (we changed to metric in 1972, but who knows how long 17cms is - not me), they are stringless and almost flat with a kind of bumpy zigzag shape rather than straight. Boil or steam and serve with butter and salt and pepper. Or chopped toasted bacon pieces. Or toasted almond pieces. They have that particular bean flavour, but impart a kind of creamy, velvety taste and texture that complements the butter and salt so well. On Saturday night (why don't we say 'Saturnight' instead of, illogically, Saturday night? I've always wondered) we had a simple meal of grilled sausages - some of the very best I've found, from a small butcher's shop in Victoria Street,

Lygon Street.

We picked up the girls Sunday morning and were going to take them to Acland Street to see the cake shops (Monarch, Le Bon etc); anticipating watching as their eyes pop out of their heads as they gaze at the amazing arrays of cakes of all kinds. However, T. had a minor scare and had to make an impromptu appointment at the RWH where she is undergoing 'shared care' with her own doctor, a system which appears to be as good as it can get, offering personalised service together with all the facilities of a major hospital. The RWH is, of course, just around the corner from Lygon Street. Like thirty seconds walk. While we were waiting, I took the girls along to the park connecting Cardigan and Lygon Streets. We sat there and ate some sandwiches and I said to Canisha and Shanra, 'You know, girls, see that building right over there? That's where your Dad went to school!', pointing out what used to be St George's Church and school. 'Oo-hh.' 'And see that re

Favourite cookbooks # 1.

A quiet moment. Perhaps even an entire afternoon. There's no sound except the tick of the clock in the hallway and the occasional twitter of birds in the garden. The ancient brown leather chair in the quiet room is beckoning. There it is, sitting regally in the corner, over an old frayed afghan rug. It must weigh a ton. Its leather is worn but its springs are like new. (Isn't it a pleasure to throw yourself into a chair and not have it shoot halfway across the room like some of today's staple-gunned rubbish that passes for furniture!) Time to read a book and then maybe take a nap. Now reach an arm out to the sideboard, groaning with old books and well-thumbed magazines. Place a drink down within easy reach - use a hardback book for a coaster, naturally - and pick up a book at random. Oh, look - it's a cookbook. What a happy coincidence! Written by one of the great food writers, Tamasin Day-Lewis, Tarts With Tops On is her foray into a world of pies, a far gr

What's wrong with British cooking?

Only one thing. There isn't enough of it. Traditional British cooking, done well, is among the best in the world. Proof? Ask yourself 'Would I rather sit down to a fat slice of robust, golden-pastry-topped Egg and Bacon Pie ... or a limp piece of quiche?' Exactly. Here's how my mother made Egg and Bacon Pie. OK, she wasn't British, but her grandparents were. Grease a glass or enamel pie dish and line it with a sheet of shortcrust pastry. Crack eggs - about six depending on dish size - into the pastry-lined dish. Scatter some chopped parsley and white pepper over the eggs. Now lay strips of bacon over them. Top with a disc of puff pastry, trim and seal the edge. Decorate with the trimmings. Brush with egg white or milk. Bake at 200C for about 35 minutes at which point it will be golden brown and the aroma of eggs, bacon and pastry will be too irresistible for you to leave it in the oven a moment longer. (Just check that the base is done.) Serve hot with

Fog in the morning, pea soup at night.

The first fog of the season hung low and damp over the city. But not for long. This autumn's eternal sunshine broke through by 10 o'clock for another perfect day in Melbourne. It's the time of year when, after the sun goes down around five-thirty, you can still feel the earth giving off the retained warmth of the day; but then, as you walk through the gardens, a cold mist steals in from somewhere like a ghost without a home and reminds you that winter is on its way. And you think 'soup'. Pea and ham soup for a foggy night. It's the easiest. Get some bacon bones from your butcher or deli. Soak some peas - I used green split peas - overnight, changing the water once or twice. Then drain them, throw them in your biggest pot with the bacon bones, a couple of chopped carrots, a chopped onion, a couple of sticks of chopped celery, a bay leaf and some pepper. Salt? The bacon bones may be salty enough. Cover the lot with water and away you go. Cook for two or thr

Chicken soup.

After a busy few days I felt a cold coming on, so I did what I do at least once a year - head for Scheherezade . We should really visit more often but it's on the other side of town. Chicken and soup with kreplachs and a basket with fresh rye bread and gold-foiled butter for me, latkes for T. The chicken soup was of the most intense flavour, the kreplachs bursting with more chicken and it was all garnished with dill. Worth crossing the world for, not just the city. T's latkes are delicious, she's a potato girl at heart and you won't get better. We shared the bread, dunked it in the soup. Dunked the latkes in the soup too. It's that kind of place. Even so, our eyes nearly popped out of our heads when we saw a pair of diners at an adjacent table being served schnitzels. The schnitzels were the size of the plate itself. Such that the steaming fresh boiled potatoes which accompanied the schnitzels had to be brought out on separate plates. As did the coleslaw! Afte

Late Friday night.

T. had a three hour breast feeding class from 6 until 9pm. I dropped her off, went home, walked the dog, did some shopping, came back, picked her up. Some of the women coming out of the class looked ... somewhat tired. Imagine having a three hour class of any kind on Friday night after a long working week. Home by nine-thirty. Pasta on the stove, bacon shards in the pan to sizzle and then some garlic, a dash of white wine and a scattering of cracked peppercorns. Spaghetti cooked, drained, tossed in the pan with just a little of the cooking water, maybe a tablespoon, two eggs cracked over the top, a sprinkling of chopped parsley, fold the eggs through, some parmesan added, stove off, lid on for a minute as the egg sets, having been folded through. Spaghetti carbonara. You can't beat it as a late Friday night meal. It's easy, fast, homely and delicious. PS: The dateline shown is about sixteen hours behind actual time here, which is Saturday morning, ten past ten. The sun is

I'm tired. I don't know what to cook. And why am I in the supermarket?

Sometimes you (meaning, of course, 'I' or even the Royal first-person form 'one') just do (does) not know what you (I/one) are (am/is) going to cook. [That is probably the single most complicated sentence I have ever written. I just have this thing about the English language and how complex it is. For ease of expression I'll use 'you.'] And then you just happen to be walking through the supermarket to pick up something totally unrelated to eating, like some laundry detergent because you've been using dishwashing liquid in the wash for several days or four litres of motor oil because the low oil pressure warning lamp flickers on every time you turn left or maybe you've even forgotten why you went there in the first place ... when suddenly something jumps out at you and says, 'Dinner idea!'. Last night that happened to me and it was a piece of ling, which is usually rockling but can also be pink ling or any one of several other fish. I thi

What? Cold weather?

It's almost mid-May and still the really cold weather has yet to set in. By 'really cold weather' I mean top temperatures of 12 to 14 celsius, with overnight lows of 2 or 3. Through Melbourne's most balmy April on record, we averaged top daily temperatures of 24 - an all-time high - and temperatures so far in May have hovered around the high teens. Still, I did detect a certain chill in the air when I walked Goldie at 6.30 yesterday morning. Excuse enough for a hearty beef stew - with dumplings! and red wine! Cold weather beef casserole with dumplings. Stew : Fry half a kilo of cubed stewing steak, a medium chopped onion and a scored garlic clove in oil until lightly browned. Sift in a tablespoon of flour, stir in half a litre of boiling water. Return to the boil, add a chopped carrot, a cup of red wine, two teaspoons each of french mustard and tomato paste, a bay leaf and a handful of chopped parsley. Simmer low for about an hour. Dumplings : Sift one and on

Huey.

Huey had three weeks' fostering at our place and is now available for adoption. Not sure why they describe him as being 'no oil painting'; I thought he was beautiful. But then they all are. They are the gentlest dogs on earth. Usually. I wrote about Huey earlier at A Hundred Million Miles, my dog and running blog which I have now closed .

Monday night. What to eat?

I found a source of brown arborio rice which also happens to be 'organic'. The brand is La Risera and costs no more than ordinary arborio. It makes a magnificent pumpkin risotto, perfect for brightening up a Monday night. Heat oil in a pan, add a couple of chopped sprigs of rosemary, two scored garlic cloves and a couple of cups of pumpkin chopped into one inch cubes. Sweat this over a very low heat for twenty minutes or so. Give it a shake every now and then. Remove from pan and set aside. Cook a finely chopped medium onion in the pan in a little more oil. Then add about a cup and a half of arborio rice. Stir to coat in oil. Add hot chicken stock in increments, alternating with a few dashes of white wine. The rice will take it up gradually and expand. Stir, stir, stir. It will take at least a litre of fluid. Add the pumpkin, garlic and rosemary back into the rice. Towards the end, stir through some parmesan cheese. OK, we cheated. You don't have to stand there stirr

Sunday morning.

(Question - does one give a woman in the late stages of pregnancy a Mothers' Day gift? I don't know. Just to be sure, I took T. out for an early lunch.) Port Philip Bay sparkled in the late autumn sunshine as we pulled up outside the Blairgowrie cafe. We usually make the trip on foot - a pleasant twenty minute stroll, but since T. is now the size of a ... the size of a seven months' pregnant woman, she is past walking that far. This autumn's record of absolutely sublime weather continued at the weekend and we sat outside in warm sunshine with just a mere zephyr tickling cotton wool clouds across a perfect sky. Goldie came too, of course, and sat at our feet ignoring the wet Golden Retriever at the next table. It had obviously just had a pre-lunch swim in the bay. The cafe is a favourite for dog owners and the usual menagerie was there; schnauzers, shih-tzus, standard poodles, lots of labradors, a few spaniels and a couple of great danes that almost dwarfed their own

Comments back up.

I'm going with Blogger comments. Haloscan didn't work. Not sure why. Wasn't Haloscan's fault. I think it's because I made such a mess installing the original CommentThis comments way back in 2003, leaving bits of HTML strewn around in the template like straw in a barnyard. Then last week I made it worse, shuffling around bits of code trying to get Haloscan to work. I thought I was on the point of completely wrecking my whole blog. It's moments like those computers get thrown through windows, which is a shame because replacing glass is such a nuisance. Then Andrew, my computer whiz son, came to the rescue and cleaned it up for me. Thanks Andrew.

Monday night Kedgeree.

Here's another thing from childhood. Kedgeree was generally made from left-over smoked cod, but when was anything left over in my family? Maybe my mother bought extra fish to make this delicious rice dish, apparently an Anglo-Indian creation and traditionally served for breakfast. It's quite simple - cook a cup and a half of long-grain rice, flake your left-over fish and add it to the rice with a tablespoon of melted butter, a generous teaspoon of curry powder, half a teaspoon of cumin, three chopped hard-boiled eggs, a very generous squeeze of lemon juice and some salt and pepper. (Along with the left-over cod was a quantity of last night's white sauce. I reconstituted that with a little boiling water and added it to contribute a little creaminess to the dish.) Combine well. Some recipes recommend baking; I cooked it stove-top. Add more fluid if baking because it will dry out. Serve with chopped parsley.

Sunday night. After a day at the farm.

This evening, smoked cod. With white sauce flecked with parsley, served alongside mashed potatoes (of course) and boiled carrots and brussels spouts. The fish is cooked in milk and chopped onions, the latter are then used to make the white sauce. It is bland but salty, homely yet redolent of times gone by. You can add cheese to make it richer, but it is better without. It was an Easter favourite when I was a child. * Today was Open Day at Collingwood Children's Farm. We took Canisha and Shanra along. We made a picnic and ate cheese sandwiches and boiled eggs and freshly baked banana muffins - T's special - by the Yarra river, in the autumn sun, on the grass at the edge of the farm. There were donkey rides. The children fed the goats and were amazed at the size of the mud-encrusted, happy pigs. Shanra climbed the horse paddock fence, 3 years old and as agile as an Olympian. Later, they cooked 'damper' - a simple flour and water dough - in coals, and ate it wit