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Showing posts from June, 2006

Somewhere, New South Wales.

In the hotel dining room, the tables were decorated with lace tablecloths and single flowers in cut-glass vases, which made the room look like something out of the 1950s. A log fire was dying slowly in the fireplace, crackling occasionally. On one side of the room was an ancient carved timber sideboard and, on the other, double timber and glass doors led to the lounge bar. Soon the food arrived. My steak (rare, pepper sauce) came on its own plate. There was no room for anything else, so the vegetables arrived on another. T. had ordered fish and chips: a huge beer-battered piece of fish lay over a bonfire of fries with salad and vegetables. The chef, who must have been no more than eighteen - might have been the apprentice - delivered the food himself. Enjoy your meals! he enthused. Then he pointed to the sideboard, on top of which sat a tarnished and dented silver tray bearing bottles and jars of sauces, relishes, jellies and condiments. Help yourselves! he said, and disappeared b

One.

Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday to you, Happy birthday dear William , Happy birthday to you.

Oops!

I cancelled the mail, diverted the phone and asked the neighbours to keep an eye on the house, but I forgot to post here that we would be away for a week or two. Apologies. Normal posting will resume shortly. Right now we're in Bright, on our way back from mid-west New South Wales. It was dry and flat and stark and beautiful. Here in Bright it's cold, but no snow yet.

Braised chickpeas with spinach.

(This is the kind of thing I make as a side dish and then eat too much of it, so the main course goes back into the fridge for tomorrow.) Finely slice two onions into half rings and saute them in three tablespoons of olive oil until translucent adding two chopped garlic cloves towards the end (I find the garlic tends to burn even on low heat). Take the skin of a preserved lemon (i.e. cured in salt and lemon juice) and finely slice it into slivers, adding this to the onions and garlic along with two cups of cooked chickpeas (or a 410g can). Cook five minutes or so and then add half a bunch of spinach, roughly chopped. Cook until the spinach wilts. Add salt and pepper or sumac. Serving suggestion. Make 'sandwiches' with fresh rounds of Lebanese bread: line the bread strips of chicken or lamb quickly grilled with olive oil and lemon juice, some of the braised chickpeas and spinach, topped with hummus, some yogurt and a squirt of lemon. Roll up and eat.

Sunday night.

Antidote to a cold Sunday night: take the family to a Turkish restaurant in Sydney Road. You may as well. Everyone else does. It looks like half of Brunswick is here. We were there for an early dinner with my son and his wife and their three girls, Canisha, Shanra and Aria. I didn't realise how big the place was until we stepped inside. The takeaway section is at the front, off to the right as you walk in the door, and beyond that is the first part of the restaurant. Then, behind that, through an archway about the size of the arc de triomph (just to mix countries), is a dining room that probably holds several thousand people. I'd hate to be the booking clerk. Or the chef. We sat in the middle section. Waiters were flying around the room with platters held high. Huge baskets of bread from the oven, sizzling plates of meats straight off the grill, plates of dips and vine leaves and stuffed things and all manner of Turkish cuisine. One of the waiters took our orders and whizze

Two perfect coffees and garlic seafood on rice.

The sun failed to penetrate the fog at all and it was grey and cold and drippy all day. We piled on coats and scarves and hats and went for lunch at an old favourite coffee shop with my mother and sister and niece and niece's daugher and of course, T. and William. The coffee shop has been there forever and is toasted-ham-cheese-tomato-sandwich-and-cappucino perfection. Because sometimes you just want a perfect coffee and a perfect toasted sandwich; or in my case, two perfect coffees and two perfect toasted sandwiches. The usual Saturday lunch crowd was out in force and the place was crammed. Is it only my imagination or is there a new baby boom on? There are prams everywhere you look. Imagine that, another baby boomer generation! Cop that, Generations X, Y and whatever they're up to now (Z? A2?) - you're surrounded by baby boomers! The afternoon disappeared in the rear view mirror of life and I read too many newspapers full of angst, attitude and trivia. Why do I keep d

Gnocchi Provencale, according to Baker’s Café.

Once upon a time, many years ago, there was only one cafe in Brunswick Street north of Johnson Street. Go on, laugh in disbelief. They all do. But it’s true. There were haberdashers and grocers and butchers and blacksmiths and typewriter repair shops (I had mine repaired there once, the ’ didn’t work so if you typed Today’s Specials it would come out as: Today8s Specials) and offices of the type that had an entrance of frosted glass panels on which was printed the business name in black lettering with a thin gold outline, leading to a timber-lined anteroom with green linoleum on the floor and a bare counter with a bell for service and a transom over the doorway to the inner office. Insurance agents, accountants, coin dealers, that kind of thing. Then it was the 'eighties and no-one needed grocers or butchers or coin dealers any more and the insurance agents retired and all the frosted glass panels and timber counters were ripped out and the offices were turned into cafes which

Fog.

Six o’clock in the morning. Dark. A cold monochrome fog hung over everything like a wet blanket. I was out in the fog, going for a walk, getting the paper. There’s something nice about a foggy morning. I don’t know what, perhaps the fact that you can’t see anything except the fuzzy orange glow of the still-burning lamp on a telegraph pole down the street. Back home for breakfast – porridge, fruit, yogurt, toast, vegemite and six gallons of tea. I left the house at eight. The fog was still there but tinged with gold as the sun hauled itself into action. By the time I reached the freeway the car heater was pumping out warm air. Volvos have the best heaters. I crossed the Bolte Bridge and the freeway swung around towards the city and all you could see were the tops of half a dozen of the very tallest buildings poking out of the fog, sitting up there in the sky like knitting needles sticking out the top of a giant ball of golden wool. Later, the fog burned away and the sun shone and tre

I told you it was cold.

The Weather Bureau agrees with me, having confirmed that last month was the coldest May since 1970, which for the majority of the population means forever. But not for me! I remember 1970 as if it were yesterday! Maybe the day before. So let’s indulge in a little nostalgic walk back in time to see what Kitchen Hand was up to during that freezing May. - I caught the bus to school every day – a streamlined Ansair model still with 1950s styling: rounded edges, a sloping back, green glass windows and cream livery with a red pinstripe. Cool. It picked me up at the corner of my street and dropped me at Essendon Railway Station. I walked the last mile to school from there. - It snowed in the school yard for the first time on record. It lasted probably five minutes and melted soon after that, but snow is snow. - We dissected a mouse in science class. I thought, is this really necessary? - Queen Elizabeth II’s motorcade rolled past the school on its way from Essendon Aerodrome to the c

The bone with a hole in it.

We grew up with shanks. They were poor peoples’ food in the fifties and sixties; disappeared almost completely, like crumbed brains, in the seventies and eighties and then returned, triumphant and trendily ‘Frenched’ - in the last ten years or so. Along with osso buco, which is the same thing cut across the bone, shanks are now a winter staple on dinner party tables and in the pages of food magazines. In posted my favourite lamb shank recipe here – a delicious one with barley - less than two months ago so today I will share with you my current osso buco recipe (it evolves, you see): Easy osso buco. Coat the meat – four medium pieces of beef or veal shank cut across the bone - in seasoned flour. (I put the flour into a plastic bag, add the meat, seal the bag and give it a good shake – perfectly coated.) Seal the meat in olive oil and set aside. Finely chop an onion and finely dice a carrot and a large stick of celery. Add these to the same pan and sweat them over a very low hea