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Showing posts from April, 2007

Another car nut.

Over at Counting Sheep, Jo's father has a new toy , a Willys Jeepster, the original two-wheel-drive four-wheel-drive. If you can see a family resemblance with a Jeep Wrangler that's because the Willys is its great-grandfather. Now what's that parked next to the Willys? Looks like a nicely-preserved Jaguar Mark II with wire wheels. That would make weekend motoring a delicious choice. Round here, it's Pick Your Volvo. I might have to broaden my automotive tastes.

Weekend weather forecast: rain. Weekend kitchen forecast: long, slow, aromatic cooking.

Lamb shanks with rosemary, red wine and a head of garlic. Rosemary comes to the fore in this highly aromatic dish which will have family, friends, neighbours, random people passing by your front door etc swooning, because of the aroma. A whole bottle of red wine and a dozen cloves of garlic makes it irresistibly rich. Carrots add a further sweet dimension. It's easy. The hardest part is battling the wet weekend crowds to get to the butcher for the shanks. Place six lamb shanks in a plastic bag with a tablespoon of flour and salt and pepper. Brown them three ate a time in olive oil a heavy pot. Remove browned shanks to a bowl and place two chopped onions, three carrots chopped into fat rounds and twelve minced garlic cloves in the pot. Turn the heat down and sweat them for about ten minutes. Now add: a bottle of red wine (not the Grange or Hill of Grace - a Lindeman's Bin line is fine); two cans of tomatoes; three cups of chicken stock; a tablespoon of fresh rosemary a

Would you like your bag in a bag?

Shoppers have rushed to Sainsbury's stores in the UK, many no doubt driving actual motorised vehicles, to snap up the retailer's entire 20,000 stocks of cotton shopping bags emblazoned with the words I'm not a plastic bag . The bags were described by one paper as the 'latest must-have celeb eco-statement', which, as a collection of words, is beyond parody. So why did people go nuts over a cotton bag? I don't know. There could be a number of reasons: 1) Because the bags are good for the environment. 2) Because the bags were designed by a famous designer. 3) Because every B-grade celebrity (i.e. people you've never heard of and don't want to or people you have heard of but wish you hadn't) is toting one around London and people want to look like B-grade celebrities. We can rule out reason one immediately because even the most rudimentary research reveals that cotton is bad for the environment in terms of both water consumption and usage of c

Food magazines and opera houses.

Cooking, working and raising children doesn't leave a whole lot of time for reading, so why we continue to subscribe to food magazines is a mystery. Maybe because they are fun to read. My personal favourite is New Zealand's Cuisine . I've got old food magazines stacked away in cupboards, spare rooms, in the boots of Volvos and just lying about on coffee tables and floors and in bathrooms, ready for a quick flip through in an increasingly rare spare moment. The May edition of Bon Appetit just arrived. It features the cuisine of Australia among those of other lands and it has a picture of the Sydney Opera House on the cover. Inside, the first several pages are glossy double page ads. One of these is a for a shipping line advertising tours to Australia. It shows a couple gazing out of their tour ship at ... the Sydney Opera House. What is it with the Sydney Opera House as an Australian symbol? The Sydney Opera House was someone's idea of a post-modern architectural jo

Speaking of orange swedes ...

It's autumn, when tubers and other root vegetables crawl out of their holes and make their way slowly, with a yawn and a rub of their eyes, back onto plates everywhere, via the pot, of course. I am partial to root vegetables. I never met a tuber I didn't like. I often bake slices of parsnip and carrot and onion, in a little white wine and water - which means it is not strictly baking but stewing - in a covered casserole in the oven until they are almost done. (The aroma from this is a revelation.) Then I take the casserole out of the oven and place over the vegetables some fish, any white-fleshed fish such as blue grenadier or trevally or rock ling, along with a generous pat of butter and some fresh ground black pepper, and put it back in the oven and a most heavenly dinner is ready in ten minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. Then there's the swede. The yellowy, orangey vegetable is almost an object of derision in some circles. In Scotland it is mashed and

Tangerine Dream.

Good morning, sir, your new car is ready. Shall we run through a few features? Outside the vehicle, there's a nice long bonnet finishing in a cutting-edge seventies shovel-nose grille and a bumper that juts out like the cow-catcher on an overnight freight train. Now if you'll step around to the driver's door, we'll take a look inside. As you can see, there are acres of velour. It's the last word in 1970s interior comfort. As you requested, we have fitted the front seats with the factory-accessory padded black velour headrests. These can be zipped off for ease of cleaning. Right below the cigar lighter, you'll notice the Town and Country push-button AM radio. We've pre-tuned it to Melbourne's top five stations - 3AR, 3LO, 3DB, 3AW and 3XY. The speaker in the top of the dash. Pardon? Yes, one speaker: it's an AM radio, why would you need two? You'll notice the big, bold instrumentation. That big disc in the middle is the space

A room with a view.

Sometimes I have to work. I know, a great shame, but there it is. Money doesn't grow on trees, unless you're a cherry farmer like my cousin in New Zealand. One small compensation for working, apart from money, is the view. In between working and blogging, I gaze out the window; just like so many years ago in school, when I sat at a wooden desk with an inkwell and stared out at a line of poplars turning gold in the autumn sunshine while Miss Burns read the next chapter of Mavis Thorpe Clark's The Min Min , Ivan Southall's Hills End or Colin Thiele's February Dragon . Unfortunately, there's no Miss Burns to read books to me here, so I have to do it myself, when I'm not blogging or working or gazing out the window. Recently I read John Buchan's Greenmantle online at Project Gutenberg: Almost at once I struck a road, a big highway running north and south. I trotted along in the bitter morning to get my circulation started, and presently I began to

Spaghetti with chicken and zucchini meatballs in fragrant tomato and basil sauce.

Who doesn’t like meatballs? Well, yes, vegetarians, of course; but I'm talking about the texture and homely appeal of these little orbs of hot deliciousness dressed in a fragrant sauce - irrespective of their actual content. Vegetarians may substitute a combination of cottage cheese and ground nuts or tofu for the flesh. It's really very easy - I combined 750 grams or thereabouts of chicken mince with half a cup of bread crumbs, an egg, two tablespoonsful of grated parmesan cheese, a couple of finely chopped garlic cloves, half a very finely chopped zucchini (cutting the zucchini in two radially, cross-hatching on the cut surfaces progressively, an inch or so at a time, and then slicing thinly, radially again, to achieve very fine dice), half a cup of milk, a handful of chopped parsley and some salt and ground black pepper. The measurements are inexact but you are trying to achieve a consistency that sticks together but isn’t too dry, with the milk balancing the added dry i

Summer hat.

Exultets and eggs.

A faint pinprick of light appeared in the distance and then approached rapidly, grew larger and passed with a whoosh of something that whooses as it passes; and then it disappeared into the rear vision mirror of life. It was Easter. At least the hot cross buns and chocolate eggs are out of the goddamn supermarkets. Now it's hello, Christmas decorations, I suppose. For supermarkets it is eternally Easter and Christmas, like a cut-rate liturgical calendar. * The days were hot and windless and golden. The sun is still powerful but lower in the sky. Every year around this time, Melbourne turns gold and copper and bronze. Do you remember those Copper Art commercials with the Peter Smith voiceover on television in the early eighties? People used to fill their houses to overflowing with the stuff - fake escutcheons to hang on walls, fireplace implements and coal buckets to stand uselessly by the gas heater, kettles you couldn't boil and a thousand pointless ornaments that were t


Sneak preview.

One of only two early 244 emblems in Australia with an as-new, unfaded black background. The other? On the passenger side, silly.

As I walked out one mid-autumn morning ...

... this is what I saw from the porch. It was ten to six, the air was warm and there was a faint hum in the air, as if at a great distance. I didn't know sunrise made a noise. This one did. It was like the morning of the earth.

How to rob a restaurant.

First, never shoot your accomplice . 'A bungling armed robber shot his female accomplice as they held up a restaurant in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne overnight.' Second, remember that the plastic bag doesn't always contain the takings: 'The pair demanded the staff member hand over a black plastic bag, which it is thought they believed contained the restaurant's takings. However, the bag actually held left-over bread rolls, which the staff member was planning to feed to his chickens.' Third, never try to deny chickens their bread rolls. 'Restaurant General Manager Horst Lantzsch said the bandits then demanded the staff member's car keys. He said as the staff member handed over the car keys, the shotgun discharged, wounding the woman in the stomach.' General Manager Horst can't resist a handy food metaphor, even in the face of a crisis: ' "She dropped to the ground like a sack of potatoes." ' He would know p

The car.

Some people collect stamps, some people collect cookbooks. I collect old Volvos. (I collect cookbooks as well but they fit on a few shelves. Volvos clog up the driveway.) I looked at a 164 a couple of weeks ago, a model by noted designer Jan Wilsgaard . A 164 is kind of like a scrap metal art installation that you can drive to the supermarket if you get sick of just looking at it, which is unlikely. 164s handle like the Queen Mary. It’s still coming around the corner five minutes after you see the headlights. I made an offer on the car and I knew the owner would hold out. She thought the car was beautiful and when they say that, they always ask too much money. Then I happened to see an ad for an old 244, an early '76 car. There's usually nothing special about these - most are being scrapped now because the cost of fixing them is more than what they’re worth. Something made me check it out. The car was in Eaglemont. I went to Eaglemont early on a Thursday afternoon, drove