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Showing posts from March, 2006


Cooler weather is around the corner. It's darker earlier and this weekend, days will get dramatically shorter with one whole hour lopped off the end with the conclusion of daylight saving. I don't like the passing of summer. It's too short. And I like heat. I consoled myself by making a nice big rich hot curry. If you're making a curry and can't be bothered with hard to find herbs and spices, pre-prepared sauces can help. The more genuine, the better. Like Ferns pickles and curry pastes . They are the real thing. You can find them in Asian food stores and some smaller supermarkets. They're definitely worth searching out. I bought some Ferns Butter Chicken Curry Paste and followed this easy recipe: Rich Butter Chicken Marinate half a kilo of boneless chicken pieces in a teaspoonful of Ferns Butter Chicken Curry Paste and half a cup of yogurt. An hour minimum, overnight is better. Then bake the chicken in a hot oven until done. While it's baking, melt 50 grams

We always come back to comfort food.

Comfort food is sweeping the blogosphere like a favourite chequered woollen blanket (does that simile make sense? no) and I'm jumping on the bandwagon. On St Patrick's Day night, this is what graced the Kitchen Hand table (it helped that the day wasn't especially warm because this is food for a cold climate): Coddle. Take four pork sausages. KR Castlemaine is now producing its version of Irish sausages which is what I used but you can use any sausages you wish. Next time I might try kangaroo sausages - it is the healthiest meat in the world, being very low in fat. (Although perhaps coddle made with 'roo bangers should really have a different name.) Boil, simmer, drain and cool your snags. Meanwhile, cut two thick rashers of bacon into half inch squares and cook it in dripping (or butter or oil) for a minute, then add a chopped large brown onion and cook until golden. Now add a crushed clove of garlic and cook for a minute. Remove the bacon, onion and garlic from the

The wedding, concluded.

The aromas emerging from the kitchen end of the long house, deep behind the wide verandah, were now too insistent to ignore. Down on the lawn, people were taking photos and the children from the wedding party were running around waving their birds a little less reverently than they did during the serious part of the ceremony. Then an announcement was made to proceed to the house where dinner - a great buffet - would now be served. It was the biggest feast I have ever seen. There were cold dishes - terrines and platters of antipasti and cold meats of every kind. There were steaming casseroles - pastas in all shapes and in all sauces, lasagnes, cannellonis, timbales; there were curries, hot and mild and in between - lamb curries and Thai chicken curries and vindaloos and tandoori baked meats and parathas and chapatis and naans and jasmine rice and basmati rice and wild rice and red rice and brown rice and saffron rice. I love saffron rice. There were cold salads and warm salads and there

The vegetable interview.

Fellow Melburnian, Mr T. Taco has nominated me to take this meme , which I am calling an interview because I still can't come at the word 'meme'. It reminds me of paradigm and synergistic . So here we go. Microphone on. Do you like vegetables? Yes. That's a relief. 'No' could have killed the interview. Do you have a favourite? All of them. It annoys me when people leave their vegetables on the plate. Eat your vegetables, people! Is there any vegetable that you think (or know) most people don't like, but you find great? Swede. Why? Do you mean why do I like it? Or why do I think other people don't? I mean why do you like it? It has a great colour, a great texture, a great flavour and a great name. Is there any vegetable that you think (or know) most people find great, but you don't love that much? Your questions are complex. Potatoes stretch me a little sometimes. What experiences did you have with it? I used to eat them raw when I was a kid. Hav

The wedding, continued.

We drove for an hour and a half deep into the Yarra Valley and up into the foothills of the Great Dividing Range. At half past one, we turned off the main road and pulled up a narrow gravel drive through dense bush to emerge in a clearing adjacent to a vast, sprawling house surrounded on all sides by a wide verandah. Lawn sloped away from the front of the house until it reached the shrubbery. Beyond that, soaring trees - forest gums, mountain ash, that kind of thing. Through the trees, you can glimpse a mountain that rises dramatically, blue and sheer, in the warm afternoon light. The sprawling house was just part of a larger estate that my sister had hired for the weekend. She had thoughtfully invited guests to stay overnight as it was such a long way out of town. Cabins were dotted around the property way beyond the trees and a shady pathway led to a camping ground 400 metres from the main house. Family and friends drifted in through the afternoon, settling into their cabins or setti

Gardens, gates, games, etc.

The young camellia - the one I put in the ground in September - suffered through the heatwaves of summer but survived. Some leaves turned brown. Now it's flowering in early autumn. Aren't they supposed to flower in winter? * Three quotes to rebuild the back fence: $1300, $1100 and $450. The $450 guy did a great job. Moral: always get several quotes. * The weekend before last saw temperatures creep into the high thirties but it was far hotter in the house than at the height of summer, because the sun is lower and hits the two north-facing windows. Given that it appears the previous owners of the house seem never to have opened their windows , I don't know how they coped with the heat. I have ordered exterior awnings. They'll be installed within weeks. I will also put two trees in the front yard, something deciduous and with a good canopy. The local nursery has a good selection. The guy mentioned Manchurian Pear and some kind of a maple. I don't know my tree varieties

Most of Queensland under giant banana smoothie.

When Cyclone Larry (who names these things - haven't they caught up with modern naming trends? I'm waiting for Cyclones Jayde, Tylah and Harrison) hit Queensland yesterday it took 90% of the entire nation's bananas with it. And that's a bloody lot of bananas. I should know. We eat most of them. A lot of the sugar crop went as well in the cyclone which, at its peak, was measured at strengths of up to 70 million Kenwood blenders. Fortunately there were few, if any, casualties. Fears however are held for towns further inland whose structures might not have been built to withstand cyclones. Meanwhile there's another cyclone, Wati (that's better!) lurking off the coast. Queenslanders have a dry sense of humour which seems to surface at times like this . The Innisfail Hotel lost most of its roof and three quarters of its wooden veranda. But was manager Nick Bohm fazed? No: "There are a few people in the pub having a drink and talking about it and others driving

The wedding.

The Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony featured a boy with a lost duck, an airborne tram, flying koalas, giant fish, Queen Elizabeth II and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. It was almost as theatrical as my sister's wedding. But not quite. L. is my youngest sister. She has spent the last few years living with her boyfriend in the rolling windswept hills behind Toora near Wilson's Promontory. Having studied the original topography or whatever -ography is involved in finding out what the landscape looked like thousands of years ago, they planted four thousand of whatever trees used to be there before the original rainforest was razed for grazing. Yes, four thousand trees. In between planting eucalypts, they converted a cow milking shed into quite a passable rural cottage, the kind of thing too often described as 'Tuscan', because it is tan rendered. You kind of expect to see doe-eyed goats emerge from behind a stone wall overhung with grapevines or eighty-year-old grand


It's all happening here. The Commonwealth Games are in full swing and the city is gold in the autumn sunshine. Here's the marathon course . It's on Sunday morning, 8.30am. We're away for the weekend to a country wedding - my sister's - somewhere around the upper reaches of the Yarra river. Enjoy your weekend. Enjoy the Games. And happy St Patrick's Day.

Music to cook, eat, wash up and peel potatoes by. An A-Z.

Cooking is fun. Usually. But sometimes it's not. Like when I'm peeling ten potatoes or trying to get the skin off twenty cloves of garlic or scraping an inch of char off the bottom of a burnt pot or washing up. (Did I mention we don't have a dishwasher? We don't have a microwave either. We're practically cavemen.) But music helps. Whether you're cooking or eating, music can heighten the experience. For example, if you crank Neil Young and Crazy Horse up to maximum volume, you won't even hear your dinner boil over and burn. (Nor will next door theirs.) In talking about music and cooking, may I preface this by saying I don't like those cookbooks that come with a CD inside the front cover with titles like Warm Food Cool Jazz . Why? I don't know. I just don't. If anyone has given me one, I apologise. It's nothing personal. In fact, I don't even like 'cool' jazz. I like a lot of different types of jazz, but not the kind that sounds lik


T. woke me at about two, maybe 2.30, in the morning. 'It's big and it's crawling across the kitchen floor,' she said, showing admirable brevity and conciseness for such an early hour. 'It has four very large feet and it's about a foot long.' And that's all I really needed to know. I was down the hallway in seconds. I didn't want it to disappear under the fridge or wander into the laundry and hide itself in the washing or maybe eat the washing. I swung the door to the kitchen open and it whined horribly on its hinges. They all do that at 2.30 in the morning. Maybe oil doesn't work when it's dark. It's one of those mysteries of life. Why do things look bigger in the light of a full moon? I don't know. And why does something that looks like something that moves also appear to be moving itself? That is, when it's not something that moves but is actually an inanimate object. That doesn't make any sense at all, but it's what

18,000 kilograms of rice.

72 nations form the Commonwealth. They're all in town for the Commonwealth Games and a guy called David Payne of Delaware North (Australia) got the contract to cook for the athletes. A story in today's paper (not online) shows what he's ordered for the fourteen days of the Games. As well as the rice, there's 5000 kilograms of pasta, one hundred kilograms of garlic, 1160 kilograms of mushrooms, 6000 loaves of bread and 60,000 lettuces. Sounds like spaghetti alfredo and caesar salad for dinner every night. Just kidding. There's also 25,000 chickens, 50,000 eggs, half a million pieces of fruit and two and one half tonnes of meat (what's a tonne?) coming in. Up to fifty chefs will be cooking at once. Leave your egos at home, guys. Here's a sample of what's on the menu: for breakfast, kippers, Jamaican porridge and ugali (corn meal mash). Lunch could be boiled boiled coco yam, goat stew, shepherd's pie, lamb korma or okra with tomato gumbo. What's fo


9.30 on a warm, humming, late-summer morning. Sun streaming in the double doors of the beach house, facing east onto the verandah. A titree thicket beyond, in a garden which falls away sharply so that the verandah sits halfway up the trees. Birds visit. It's like a treehouse. * A flash of black and white dropped from somewhere above and lit on a branch above the verandah. A magpie. It let go with an ear-piercing call, kind of a musical, ringing oggle-oggle-oggle , as if it were gargling diamonds. The magpie finished his song and then the children arrived. One hopped up the steps, because they were there; one dropped down from a branch above and one flew up from down below. These are the children that were eggs in September, when their parents would swoop on anything that moved including you and me walking down the street. Now they're sociable again, out and about, visiting, that's don't mind if we stay for a little something and have you met the children visiting. Th

Saag paneer.

My first attempt at this. Although the concept is dead simple - it's essentially spinach with cheese - recipes seem to vary widely in terms of spices and other ingredients (other than the spinach and the cheese, of course). Here's how I did it: Sautee an onion and a couple of cloves of garlic in a little peanut oil and butter. (I believe ghee is the correct medium but I had none.) Cook up some spinach - I used two 250 gram frozen packs. Lightly toast some spices. I used: a teaspoon each of coriander seeds and cummin seeds and some dried curry leaves ground with the mortar and pestle (which is which? I can never remember); a half teaspoon of turmeric and a half teaspoon of chilli powder. Then add these along with a little grated ginger and salt to taste to the spinach. Now also add the sauteed onions. Tip the whole lot into a processor, give it a good swizz until roughly pureed and then place it back into the pan. Meanwhile, or subsequently, depending on how many hands you have,

Eight months and one week.

My, how he's grown .

The glass casserole dish.

Having made a basic bolognese sauce (onions and garlic sauteed in a large pot, mincemeat browned; finely diced celery and carrot, tomato paste and fresh diced tomatoes added; herbs aplenty - basil, a bay leaf, whatever; topped up to the brim with water and maybe some wine if you wish and then left to simmer for hours, scraping the sides occasionally as the fluid evaporates), what to do with the excess? Cook some rice. Make a mixture, about two to one cooked rice to bolognese sauce, maybe throw in a little sumac, stuff capsicums or peppers (or whatever they're called in your part of the world) with rice mixture having removed seeds, put their tops back on and place them in a glass casserole dish, preferably close-fitting so that their tops stay on, place some canned diced tomatoes in plenty of juice around the peppers, top the whole shooting match with cheese sauce (that was left over as well - or use breadcrumbs and parmesan or any combination of cheeses), bake. Peer into the oven