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Showing posts from July, 2006

It was the 1960s. And there was pineapple. And sitar music. And flowers. And a girl called Daisy.

I was delving through some ephemera cookbooks of the 1960s - magazine lift-outs, that kind of thing. The recipes were wild. The pictures were all yellow and brown and the food styling was kind of hazy and way-out and then the room started moving and glazed hams passed overhead and there was muffled sitar music and ... and then I actually read the recipes and they were the weirdest thing of all. Schnitzel Royle. (Sic - minor celebrities contributed their favourite recipes to this particular booklet: this recipe was from ABC-TV compere John Royle.) Take a thin slice of veal for each person, season with salt and pepper and cook gently for ten minutes in a covered saucepan. Arrange slices on an oven-proof platter with a piece of ham on each slice of veal. Kind of OK so far, but here's where the recipe takes a sudden and very expected turn off the straight and narrow and into somewhere wild and new and ... disgusting. Surround with bananas, small mushrooms and rosettes of cauliflower.

Name the author.

… George said that, as we had plenty of time, it would be a splendid opportunity to try a good, slap-up supper. He said he would show us what could be done up the river in the way of cooking, and suggested that, with the vegetables and the remains of the cold beef and general odds and ends, we should make an Irish stew. It seemed a fascinating idea. George gathered wood and made a fire, and Harris and I started to peel the potatoes. … George said it was absurd to have only four potatoes in an Irish stew, so we washed half-a-dozen or so more, and put them in without peeling. We also put in a cabbage and about half a peck of peas. George stirred it all up, and then he said that there seemed to be a lot of room to spare, so we overhauled both the hampers, and picked out all the odds and ends and the remnants, and added them to the stew. There were half a pork pie and a bit of cold boiled bacon left, and we put them in. Then George found half a tin of potted salmon, and he emptied t

"You know what REALLY annoys me?"

Gordon Ramsay is such an angry chef, he is often referred to as Gordon F***ing Ramsay. Not that he minds, because his TV show is called The F Word . Food writer Elizabeth Meryment reports in The Australian (no direct link available) that The F Word commissioned a survey to find diners’ top ten gripes about eating out. These were: waiters adding their own tips to the bill; badly placed tables; mobile phones; tables too close to toilets; public displays of affection; breastfeeding; children; overpowering perfume; bad background music and having to pay for bottled still water. The poll was British. Apparently waiters there like to extort their own tip; although in Scotland, that is probably a good idea. (Pace, Scottish readers, it’s nothing personal.) Ms Meryment lists her own top ten gripes: being seated at bad tables while good ones are empty; not being able to get a booking in Sydney for 8pm on a Friday or Saturday night; teenagers; waiters with attitude; being made to wait too long

How to get through a cold night.

Soup is the answer. Minestrone is all very well but WHERE'S THE BEEF? The following recipe is, on the other hand, based around lean meat, barley and root vegetables. This soup fills the house with its deliciously strong aroma - it reminds me of coming home after school - I could smell it cooking about a block away. It is the perfect meal on a cold, wet Melbourne night of which we are currently experiencing PLENTY. Right now I am staring out the window at a massive cloud as black as night stealing into view from the south west, and it's only three in the afternoon. This recipe uses lean beef; some variations use a lamb shank. Scotch Broth. 1. In a litre of water, simmer 750g of lean beef cut into pieces for two hours. Skim if necessary. 2. Now add half a cup of barley, a chopped onion, a diced turnip and a chopped leek and cook another half an hour; then add a diced carrot and a few stalks of celery, finely chopped. 3. When carrot is just tender, remove meat, shred and return to

'The toasted baked bean and duck sandwich, thanks, waiter!'

How could I resist? Only a great chef or a fool would have the confidence to pull that off. We sat up at the bar, awkwardly, because the cutting edge café designer hadn't designed an actual space for legs under the bar. You either ride side-saddle on your stool – try eating in that position – or you splay your legs to each side which, if you’re 6’2”, is awkward, and more so for the people either side of you. Other customers were sitting on those little box things that are increasingly popular in cafes – you prop yourself on a box and either balance your meal on your lap or on the bench that runs around the perimeter. Some of the customers Totally Didn’t Understand The Design and sat on the bench and put their meals on the little box things instead. The designer would DIE if he knew what these people were doing. In short, cutting edge café design stinks. Enough said. Now we can talk about the food. The guy behind the bar came over and we ordered. I chose the duck confit and baked b

Bunch of Fives.

Neil (formerly Tanked Up Taco) at Food For Thought tagged me for this quite some time ago , before we went on holidays. Why five? I don't know, but it reminds me of a restaurant I visited once. It was called Fives and it was at No. 555 in Nicholson Street and its telephone number ended in 5555. Anyone remember it? I think it became Ajay's and then Flor.) Five items in the freezer. 1. Bottles of frozen water. I use them to keep food cold in the Esky when travelling. 2. Two packs of frozen peas. One pack to eat and the other to treat knee and back injuries, as an ice pack. Don't mix them up - the ice pack peas have been defrosted about a thousand times. 3. Stock. What kind? Who knows. I never label anything. I defrosted some fish stock once and it was leek soup. 4. Ants . 5. Empty plastic ice block makers. I keep forgetting to refill them. Most annoying when you want a cold gin and tonic. T. goes right off at me. Five items in my closet. (I suppose this means wardrobe, unles

Sociology lecturers, spatlese lexia and the Patricia Sandwich.

At university parties in the late seventies, there was always Brown Brothers wine - usually White Hermitage and Cabernet Shiraz and usually out of the ten-litre box. I remember the lecturers celebrating the last sociology lecture of 1979 by laying on cubed tasty cheese, sliced salami, olives and Brown Brothers wine. This was at ten in the morning, you understand. Then we had lunch at the Clare Castle in Rathdowne Street. I don’t remember much of the afternoon, but then I don’t remember much sociology either. All this came back to me as we drove through the King Valley and past the Brown Brothers winery at Milawa, on a cold winter morning under a heavy black sky. Although they are based here, the Browns now grow fruit in about seven different regions. It’s a label that is slightly out of favour so I suppose they must export. Why out of favour? I don’t know. Maybe it was the tankloads of spatlese lexia they sold in the eighties. Or maybe it’s the name. Today’s edgy wine labels bear names

Cold night in Bright.

The outside temperature was down to about two degrees by seven o'clock. We left our apartment, coated and hatted and scarved, to walk a hundred metres under a black moonless sky to Sasha’s Restaurant and Bar, which took all of a minute. Once inside, we removed our coats and hats and scarves and hung them on the rack, which probably took two minutes. Then we sat down and read the menu. Sasha is Czech and specialises in his homeland's cuisine. I chose the roasted pork knuckle 'Prague-style' with potato pikelets, red cabbage and horseradish. The 'knuckle' was about the size of a lamb shank and the meat had been roasted so long it almost melted on the fork. The potato pikelets were lightly fried and infused with spices and flecked with bacon. The whole thing was on a bed of glorious mash over which flowed, like the river Vltava, delicious smoky-roasty juices. I just about stood and applauded when the waiter came to take the plate away but I was able to restrain myse

Afternoon tea in Bright.

We wound our way back down the State of New South Wales through pretty towns like Cootamundra and Young (cherry capital of Australia) and ugly ones like Albury-Wodonga and then we were back in Victoria and we turned towards the high country and stopped in Bright and stayed there for three days. Bright is a ideal name for a place to stay in the middle of the coldest winter for forty years. Nestled among forest deep in the foothills of the Australian Alps, it is the prettiest town in Australia, maybe the world. Summer’s green turns to stunning reds, yellows and oranges during autumn and this is when most people visit, but it is starkly beautiful in winter as well with pale sunlight filtering through the tracery of bare trees. In the early afternoon, I went for a long walk with William in his stroller (the three-wheeled jogging type, easy to negotiate), while T. rested; and we went up the steep hills at the back of the town where the streets switch back and forth and found ourselves almos

Signs, bushrangers, authors and coffee.

There is a Colonial Motor Inn in every town in Australia. There must be a law about it. * Pack lunch before travelling and you'll find heaps of places you would like to have eaten at. On the other hand, take no food and you'll find nothing worth eating along the way. That happened several times. In Grenfell, southern New South Wales, we ate a huge picnic lunch in the sunshine and then walked down the main street only to find a cafe with the most amazing array of food. Special of the day was mulligatawny soup with spicy bread and the cake display was awesome. We could only manage coffee. Next time we'll stop for lunch. * More than several towns claim that Ned Kelly, Ben Hall, Dan Morgan and other notorious bushrangers slept there. How would they know? Wouldn't bushrangers with a price on their head choose to hide out in the bush somewhere overnight for fear of capture? Obviously not, they clearly rode their horses up to the local Flag Inn and booked in. * Likewise, accor

The farm.

Now we're a couple of hours north of where we were before and the towns are smaller and the roads are narrower and at last there's a turn-off and we're on an unsealed road, just dust and gravel, and that means we're nearly there. Exactly 17.5 kilometres from the turnoff (as per the very precise instructions), we turn in at a gate on the right and the car trundles over a cattle grid and crunches up a long winding gravel drive, past fenced-off paddocks and outbuildings and a machinery shed and some old stables. Then, through a blur of winter-bare, gnarled fruit trees we see the house and the car sweeps around a last bend and pulls to a stop outside a small gate which leads to an inner cottage garden beyond which is the farmhouse, a low, white affair with shady verandahs all around. The cottage garden is wild and rambling and a pathway through it leads to the front door. It's a sweet little place and it's just half an hour to the nearest very small town and if you

Afternoon walk.

Lake Cargelligo is a natural overflow basin for the Lachlan River. For thousands of years, it was a ceremonial, and practical, meeting place. The locals used to source red and yellow ochres for body paint from pits near the lake's edge. The remains of these pits can still be seen. I learned all this as I walked around part of the perimeter of the lake, pushing William in his stroller, reading the signs that have been erected explaining the history of the lake. It was one of those quiet, still afternoons that seem to go on forever. There was faint sunshine and the birds were milling about the lake doing what they were doing yesterday and I could hear a tractor or some piece of farm machinery buzzing in the far distance. I walked on. Australia has been inhabited by Europeans for 218 years last January , I thought. Most of the country, including here, much later. That's the blink of an eye. The stroller crunched in the gravel and we rounded a tiny inlet in the lake. My grandfat

Sunrise at Lake Cargelligo.

We were greeted by pelicans. Some were just overhead, heavily banking and wheeling like airplanes being flown by trainee pilots. Some were higher up, flying in formation. Some were just sitting on the lake with their big beaks stuck out in front like signposts to nowhere. Lake Cargelligo isn't really on the way to anywhere in particular and isn't big enough to be a destination in its own right. Which means it's the perfect place to visit. The lake is sanctuary for the aformentioned pelicans, black swans and great crested grebes (not that I'd know; I read that in the motel's Guide to Lake Cargelligo . Well, I know pelicans and swans but I wouldn't know a grebe from a budgerigar). The motel was fewer than a hundred metres from the edge of the lake and the entire east wall of our room was glass, a window onto the water. The show started at 6am. There was absolutely no noise. It was so quiet you could hear yourself breathe. At first, there a slight tinge in the sky,

Art deco towns and back roads.

Of the two roads north(ish) out of Narrandera, one goes via the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area - the fruitbowl of Australia; while the other grinds up through the major town of West Wyalong, which is west of a smaller town called Wyalong, which means the latter should really be called East Wyalong and the former Wyalong. Oh, forget it. Anyway, we took the first route. Both will get us to where we want to go but the MIA sounds more attractive. We stopped for morning tea at Leeton, a cannery and rice processing city designed by Walter Burley Griffin. It's all art deco shopfronts and theatres and guesthouses . (Griffin also designed Canberra and the Essendon Incinerator . Shame about Canberra.) We stopped for a picnic lunch at another town, taking a stroll down the main street looking for a takeaway coffee. We found one. And a vanilla slice with passionfruit icing. The car purred on into the afternoon and we turned north towards Rankin's Springs. We were well away from the main high