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Showing posts from May, 2006


It seems to have been cold and wet for months now, although winter doesn’t officially start until June 1. We had a nice respite from the bleakness at the weekend, down the coast. I woke up at six on a freezing, drippy Saturday morning and walked a kilometer to the shop to get the newspaper. It hadn’t arrived. I often have trouble getting the newspaper early in the morning. We once went camping near Finley in southern New South Wales and the local shop had the Melbourne papers by five every morning yet I can’t get the blasted things in an inner suburb an hour later. I read yesterday’s instead, grumpily. After breakfast with yesterday’s paper, we drove around the bay and by the time we reached the pointy end of the peninsula, morning shards of cloud had slowly contracted away to the north east revealing a perfect azure sky. At lunchtime we pushed the stroller up and down a few hilly Moonah-lined streets and wound our way down to the Blairgowrie cafĂ©. Here, a table outside is like a fr

Random lasagne.

We had a nice lasagne, nothing unique or special or different or noteworthy; just layer upon layer of cheesy, tomatoey, meaty, bechamel cheese-saucey and pasta-y sublimeness, all topped with a crust that was just turning golden-brown and was still bubbling when it was brought to the table. It really is a great shame to cut into such a perfect work of art as a fresh home-made lasagne, in the tray, fresh out of the oven. But you have to eat, so art be damned. The lasagne sighed a little curlicue of steam as it yielded its flavours to the knife .... No, wait, that was WAY too verbose. I'm starting to sound like an Age restaurant reviewer. It's lasagne. Eat it and shut up. Now to the point of all this. What happened was that there were some lasagne sheets left over. But not any meat sauce or cheese sauce or tomatoes. This happens to a lot of people. I know, because I often have conversations with people about lasagne and everyone seems to end up with leftover lasagne sheets and wh

A trip to the market. And Fish Balchao.

It had just gone two o’clock on Saturday afternoon and rain was threatening in an overcast slate grey sky but threatening was all it did. There was no wind but leaves were falling off autumn-yellow street trees – planes – and they fluttered to the ground in slow motion. I love autumn. Everything is in slow motion. I drove the car in slow motion down Elizabeth Street, looking for a parking spot and found one near where the old blue and yellow Go Go Goodyear neon sign used to be, years ago. We angle-parked in front of a car dealership over which hung half a dozen sad flaccid flags advertising a run-out sale. Inside the otherwise deserted showroom, three black-suited salesmen were sitting around selling no cars but probably talking about last night’s football game. T. and I got out of the car and we got William out of the car and we walked down to the Victoria Market, past camping shops and cheap printers and the Independent Order of Foresters building and a land sales office. We didn’t

Name the blogger.

'He was interested in everything ... (with a) robust appreciation of life, its canvas ... crowded with detail ... there was nothing too trivial to be passed over.' 'Trivia' - ring any bells? 'His wife, his friends ... his habits, his ideas, his emotions; the domestic routine of his household; his books, his pictures, his music ... the food he ate ...' Especially the food he ate. This latter was ' ... a treasure house of information ... what he bought and what he paid for it. He told us when the food was good, when it was bad and when it was beyond endurance. ... He had the habit of switching from events grave and gay to the food consumed when he contemplated them.' And why wouldn't you? The food is always more interesting than the event. Occasionally he is too busy to write: 'Infinity of business to do, which makes my head full ...' Not good for a blogger to go without posting. He had, however, an eye for fine detail. His first entry: 'Di

If music ...

Welsh mezzo-soprano Katherine Jenkins is in town. Comedian Richard Stubbs just interviewed her on ABC Radio, although 'interview' is probably ambitious; he basically reduced her to helpless laughter. That was music to behold as well. Not to mention the soft Welsh accent. In between the lilt and the laughter she recounted how she cracked the chandelier in a theatre during a rendition of O Holy Night - probably that last super-high note in the second line of the chorus. That song cracks me up as well. The sun sure is shining today. No wait, this is a food blog. Damn.

Cauliflower soup: what to have on top?

Here's an easy soup for winter. Saute an onion in oil, then add an entire cauliflower, chopped. Give it a good stir around, then turn the heat way down low and let it sweat for five minutes. Now add a chopped clove of garlic and after a minute or two, four cubed potatoes. Cover the lot with chicken or vegetable stock and add a bay leaf, salt and pepper. Simmer until everything is nice and tender, then puree half and return it to the pot. Stir some milk through and reheat, without boiling, before serving. How to garnish? Well you don't have to, but this is how we had our cauliflower soup: William had his with a little plain yogurt on top. T. likes cheese so she piled her bowl up with some grated Colby and chopped parsley. I like a bit of heat so I threw a good tablespoonful of Fern's hot lime pickle into mine. That stuff is fantastic, it has whole sections of pickled lime and the heat is intense so it worked beautifully with the bland, nutty taste of the soup. We also warme

Not raining, dripping.

Sunday was one of those days that can't make up its mind whether to rain or not. So it just dripped instead. It was like someone wringing out a giant dishrag over the city. Drip, drip, drip. We drove to the flower stall. The flower guy was trying to keep the rain off about a million bunches of chrysanthemums. I bought a bunch, making his job one-millionth easier. Then we drove to Mum's. It took a while. Every car in Melbourne was on the road but we made it on time. You can tell you're getting close to Mum's because you can smell the cooking aromas from a distance, probably a suburb or two. Mum doesn't undercook. Yes, I know you're supposed to take mum out for Mother's Day but we dragged her out for her birthday a couple of weeks ago and even then she brought food . She insisted on staying put for Mother's Day. Everyone brought something so Mum didn't have to cook, but what's she going to do all Saturday? Read a book? Family Tree cousin was alread

Pasta with swordfish and roasted red pepper. And some thoughts on aging rockers.

What's your favourite fish? Mine is the last one I ate. The last one I ate was swordfish - 'pesce spada' at the market - and it was quickly seared on a very hot heavy pan and served with potatoes mashed with olive oil and zucchini and onions simmered with butter and a shake of nutmeg. But there was a piece of pesce spada left over - rather a large piece - and here's what I did with it: - I sliced the fish into three quarter inch cubes and marinated it in lemon juice while I prepared everything else. - I roasted some red pepper, peeled it and cut it into strips. - I cooked some tomato fettucine. - I quickly cooked the fish in a heavy pan and added it to the drained pasta along with the roasted red pepper. - Then I tossed some capers over the pasta and decorated the dish with celery leaves and a shower of cracked black pepper. It looked as good as it tasted, with the white fish standing out on the pink-red pasta background with roasted red pepper and caper accents. It'

Who needs a barometer?

The weather has been appalling lately but you don't have to stick your head outside to know what the weather's doing in Melbourne; all you need to do is check out the local food blogs and see what people are cooking. A few examples posted since the start of May: a warming full-flavoured chicken and chorizo stew ; a dead easy tomato and red lentil soup ; an autumn braise full of colour and taste; a robust Moroccan tagine (albeit cooked in a saucepan) and for the tots , a magnificent daube of oxtail . All those cooking aromas drifting in the evening air over Melbourne, while their recipes drift around the blogosphere, makes our weather - the incessant drippy rain, the freezing southerly, the puddles - almost bearable. Almost. Speaking of winter food, if you're sitting down to a nice hot steaming meat pie in golden shortcrust pastry with some potato mash and peas on the side, watch out for exploding sauce bottles .

Mr Blake departs.

The last time I saw Mr Blake, he was standing at the side gate with an empty peanut butter jar in his mouth. He had been the perfect visitor. He was well-mannered and had a vigorous appetite. It is always pleasing when guests appreciate hospitality. Mr Blake is intelligent and learned very quickly that for him, eating was no longer a competition with others. Mr Blake enjoyed chicken stew, lasagne, peanut butter sandwiches, cheese, the occasional bone, leftover sausages and didn't leave a scrap on his plate. (The plastic peanut butter jar, when empty, provides hours of amusement. They lie in the sun and lick out all the remaining peanut butter.) By the end of three weeks I had ticked all the boxes. I could take Mr Blake’s bowl away while he was eating and he wouldn’t snap or growl. Tick. He would wait for the command before taking food very gently from my hand. Tick. He would not try to enter a doorway ahead of me. Tick. I don’t believe in teaching dogs tricks but these are basic so

Tea, anyone?

Saturday evening at the beach house. Our first weekend here for some time. We’ve been busy in the city. Polar-fleeced and scarved, we’d walked on the beach under heavy brooding clouds in the afternoon and it had seemed just a couple of weeks since William had paddled naked in the warm shallows on a sweltering afternoon during the last heatwave of summer. Now it was six o’clock and already dark on a cold May evening. I boiled the electric kettle to pour into a pan to place in William’s room in order to humidify the air – he has a cold. I poured out the water and placed the pan carefully on the floor, out of reach. Hmmm. Now what’s that smell? There was a kind of strongish smell like … dried porcini mushrooms rehydrating in water. I went back to the kitchen. Dinner was cooking, but there were no mushrooms of any description. I had a thought. I picked up the kettle and drained it. I lifted the lid, looked inside. I peered under the element. Yes, something was there, caught. It wasn’t a po

Another complete waste of time.

Procrastination is an art. Some people are idle; some merely bored; others become frustrated with 'down' time. They don't know what to do. Or rather, they don't know what not to do. Procrastinators, on the other hand, know exactly what not to do. Procrastinators love doing interesting but useless things such as reading P. G. Wodehouse instead of mowing the lawn. Even better, taking their chair outside and reading P. G. Wodehouse ON the lawn that they are supposed to be mowing. That's pro-active procrastination. That's the art of it. So when I found yet another one of those internet survey questionnaire things that they call memes over at Canadian Sara's blog, I dropped everything and settled back for some serious time-wasting. This meme is even more insufferably self-indulgent than the others. It should be called a me-me . (Reader: consider yourself tagged, enjoy a bit of procrastination and talk about yourself shamelessly. It's OK, you can't be i

Something for any time of day.

Egg and leek pie. Or leek frittata. Sometimes there are too many ingredients in things we make but this just the eggs and the leek and highlights their respective charms perfectly. And, of course, it's easier when there are fewer ingredients. Slice a large leek very finely and wash carefully to remove any grit. Sweat the leeks in some butter or oil or a combination of both. Leeks sweating in butter is one of any kitchen's very best aromas. It practically brings people running. Using a fork, lightly beat three or four eggs with a little milk. Add some grated parmesan if you wish, it's not essential. Salt and pepper are essential. When the leeks are soft and the aroma has filled the house, fold them through the egg mixture and pour into the container in which you will cook the frittata. I use a covered non-stick pan and do it on the stove-top. Others bake it. Whatever. It will be delicious either way. Egg and leek pie is one of those very special dishes that can be eaten at a

Meltdown: cheesemakers face off.

Artisan cheesemakers want more freedom to make raw-milk cheeses but the main industry body opposes deregulation. It's a long article but worth the read, if only for the hilarious quotes. Chef Guillaume Brahimi was reported to have said he "would not use Australian cheese to trap a rat" . Ouch. Stung, the Australian Specialist Cheesemakers' Association hit back. President David Brown opposes deregulation along with the importation of raw milk cheeses, asserting without any trace of tongue-in-cheek that the French method of manufacturing Roquefort is unhygienic because it is "matured in caves" . Stop the press! Small-scale cheesemaker Ann-Marie Monda defends the artisans: "Our dairy more than meets the criteria for handling raw-milk cheese and we have control over our herd ... people really want good quality cheese. They want texture and the flavours that nature brings: the weather, the wind and the goats." What? Cheese comes from goats? Someone

Steamy windows.

It was the kind of place where you can order by pointing to the photographs on the wall or by pointing to the numbers on the menu. The photographs show steaming bowls of broth with noodles or dumplings; steamed white fish fillets on huge plates of rice; delicate spring rolls on crisp lettuce beds; roast duck with rice; grilled eel, pork ribs, prawns in chilli and garlic, fried stuffed tofu. Some of the photos are fading but you can still see what they are. It was also the kind of place where the tables and chairs are functional but comfortable, there are jars of chilli, vinegar and soy sauce on each table and, on a cold day, the windows get all steamed up. It was a cold day and the clouds hung low and black which meant it would be raining soon. We pushed open the door and went inside out of the weather and sat on the functional but comfortable chairs. An old man in a corner was reading a newspaper over a plate of steamed chicken on rice and, over near the window, a family group. The gr