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Showing posts from November, 2006

Herb or spice? That is the question.

What is the difference between herbs and spices? I researched the question. Nobody agrees. Here are some of the answers I found: * Herbs are grown in the northern hemisphere; spices in the southern. (That makes the parsley in my garden a spice. Unlikely.) * Herbs are medicinal; spices are not. (Like brandy is medicinal and vodka is just for fun?) * Herbs are the leaves; spices are the seeds. (What about cinnamon? Isn't that the bark of a sub-tropical tree?) * Herbs are or used to be green; spices are not. (I like this simplistic theory - it would save a lot of argument if it were true.) And * If it's in a brown jar it's a spice; if it's in a yellow jar, it's a(n) herb. (Mine are in assorted plastic tubs, cello packets and screw-top clear glass jars.) And from The Guardian: * A Herb is a respected jazz musician; a Spice is one of five talentless C-grade celebrities. Help me out, please, with serious or not so serious opinions.

Where was I?

Cooking fish. It was great. But there were leftovers. Garlicky Fisherman's Pie. I stripped the skate flesh from the cartilage (it's dead easy, I don't know why people are frightened of fish, it's easier than negotiating a T-bone steak), chopped it roughly and blended it with some just-boiled and mashed potatoes, a cup of milk, a good amount of olive oil, some chopped parsley and spring onion and plenty of salt and pepper. Into a baking dish went this glistening fragrant mess. I thatched it with a roof of grated colby, placed the dish into a hot oven and baked it until the cheese was brown and crunchy. Possibly the finest fisherman's pie I have ever tasted. Even if I do say so myself.

Warm Friday night. Let's barbecue some fish.

The tops of poplars reach away to the east, way above roofs of terracotta tiles. Off to the south, lillypilly canopies turn gold in the setting sun. Birds sqawk and shriek in them. Beyond the fenceline, red brick chimneys poke upwards here and there; while along the fence itself, a white cat moves silently, as if on tiptoes, before disappearing so suddenly you don't know if it was really there. Sit in the back garden and that's what you'll see, if you look around. Of course, you could just sit at the table and have a drink and try to catch up on the week's papers you haven't read yet. That's what I usually do. There could be fifty cats. After a while, the barbecue is hot enough to grill. I use coals and you have to be patient. Don't watch it. Go inside and make a salad and that will speed things up. Barbecued skate in soy, lemon and garlic. Marinate a piece of skate in plenty of chopped garlic, the juice of a lemon and some good soy. I always use tamari

Wagyu: don't order it lean or well-done.

Wagyu is everywhere, like Bert Newton. But unlike Bert, Wagyu is often mistaken. Wagyu is the breed. It can be bred anywhere. Kobe Wagyu is Wagyu bred to Kobe specifications, but I understand it can be bred and grown anywhere in the world and then shipped back to Japan for preparation to Kobe standards and then re-shipped. So if you are eating genuine Kobe Wagyu, it may be very a well-travelled cow. Ed Charles in The Australian takes an appetising look at preparing Wagyu in various cuts at Jamon Sushi in South Yarra: Our first taste is a tartare of chopped fillet sitting on top of an upturned shiitake mushroom. Easy. The next dish is more of a challenge: cooked tongue cut from the tip as well as a slice from further down the organ. Generally, wagyu doesn't taste beefy, yet the firm tongue tip is just that. The other cut is softer. We are also given chunks of muscle from the tongue's root, which has the texture of leftover roast beef. Bit of a change from the jellied to

Leave out the egg.

Yesterday was 36 celsius. Today's forecast top is 39. Less than a week ago some parts of Melbourne failed to top ten degrees, meaning there has been a variation in daily peak temperature of thirty degrees celsius within the same week. Are other places like this? I like variety but this is ridiculous. I pegged out a load of washing this morning and it was dry by the time I got all the way around the rotary hoist, like the guys painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge. * Last night I made up a pasta dish from things we had in the fridge. Kind of a mixture, but let's call it pasta nicoise. I slowly fried some red capsicum strips, right down low so they didn't burn; boiled some diagonally cut crisp green beans; sliced some previously boiled new potatoes (they were in the fridge, excess from a weekend potato salad) into quarter inch discs and boiled some penne until it was done. To complete the dish, I drained the pasta leaving just a tablespoon or so of the cooking water in the

Melbourne suffers severe climate change; Kitchen Hand reverts to winter favourite.

The US Chief Weather Forecaster and part-time filmmaker, Al Gore, is in Melbourne again and to honour his visit this week we have put on EVERY kind of weather. He'll go home either very happy or very confused. (Mr Gore informed The Age newspaper that Nuclear is Not the Answer . Sixty years after bombing the crap out of Japan, the US tells a small foreign country that nukes are not the answer for non-military purposes? The Japanese would be amused.) * Meanwhile, over at Kitchen Hand's place, it was dinner time. It had been raining and hailing and sleeting and snowing all day, as if it couldn't make up its mind what it wanted to do. And it was cold, the mercury hovering around nine degrees celsius. Just the right weather for: Steak with Green Peppercorns. Take two steaks - porterhouse is ideal but I used eye fillet - and sear them in a little olive oil and butter to your preferred doneness. I like mine blue, so thirty seconds either side on a very hot pan or grill is en

Two days ago we were swimming in the sea. Today it snowed.

Well, it's frozen and slippery so it might as well be snow. Like the car? It's completely original and has over 440,000 kilometres on the clock or whatever that is in miles. The right headlamp guard was taken out by a cockatoo (might have been a galah) early one morning in 2002 on the Northern Highway just south of Elmore and I haven't been able to find another since (the guard, that is - there are still plenty of cockatoos around). I'm thinking of removing the left one to even up the look of the car but let's not rush things. Here's the front lawn:

Baked pasta stuffed with veal and ricotta.

I can't believe that in three weeks we had a new baby, the 'old' baby was sick for five days, my sister finally formalised her divorce, the new baby caught and recovered from bronchiolitis, my mother finally booked in for serious surgery, my oldest son flew to Finland for another three weeks work and the weather turned cold again. I think I did some work as well. Also, they ran the Melbourne Cup. A horse won. So there hasn't been a lot of posting of actual recipes. Let's resume with a good one. I don't know why home-made pasta frightens some people. It's not that hard. Quite frankly, when you've done this a few times, it's easier than putting together a Sunday roast. Make the pasta. First we will make three sheets of pasta, each of a different colour. Each will take a cup of plain flour, half a teaspoon of salt and an egg. For the green pasta, add two tablespoons of leaves - rocket, spinach, basil, whatever you have. For the yellow, half a teas

1965.

When I saw this shot of Janis Gore's family, I thought: bring out those old photos. Here's mine. I'm front and centre, age eight. The two older children are not in the picture; possibly one is behind the camera. The youngest is three years away from being on this earth. Over to everyone else.

It helps if you like food.

In today's Melbourne Age was this article about collecting cookbooks, featuring a specialist bookshop called Books For Cooks. The item appears in the Money section rather than in Epicure (which itself can be found under the Entertainment tab rather than Life and Style on the paper's website.) Whatever. The article's author nails an eternal truth: An example of quality is the "beautiful, elegant writing" of Elizabeth David whose books, he believes, helped changed the way the English-speaking world thought about European casual food. How true. It's always about the writing, no matter the subject. People want to read good writing. But then: Books classed as "different" include publications such as the Liberace cookbook. White says this type of book tends to be collectible because it's "quirky and unusual and there were only one or two print runs". So even though a book might not have sold because it was rubbish, its very rarity en

William helped, of course.

By paddling in the freshly watered garden bed. He loved it. It's okay, it's clean dirt. The hot bath afterwards was fun, as well.

Gold bunny invades garden.

Well, it hasn't exactly invaded yet. So far it is just sitting in the corner. I put my Gold Bunny in on Thursday, the day it rained more than for the whole of October, so it should be off to a good start. It will eventually cover a fence and be seen from inside the house, a cascade of glorious yellow.

Barbecued Tasmanian Alantic salmon with grilled orange pepper and zucchini.

They stole an hour from the morning and gave it to the night. Waking at five thirty to brilliant sunshine was nice, but ultimately a waste. For one, I don't always wake at five thirty and for two, there's not a lot you can do that early. I mean, you can go for a walk or plunge into the sea or make a cup of tea and sit out on the porch and watch the birds messing up the garden beds and throwing the mulch that you swept up only last night all over the pathway; but you can't have a barbecue. But you can at night. Summer's first barbecue is just for practice. Just to check everything out and see if it still works. Just to see if you still know how to light a fire and not make clouds of white smoke or singe your fingers or burn the place down. The old iron barbecue is still as solid as a supercharged Bentley , and nearly as heavy; but the outdoor table has cracked and will need replacing. The view hasn't changed. The poplars rise over the line of rooves and shimmer