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Showing posts from May, 2007

Recipe for a cold night in front of a gas fire. (Warning: elephants on the loose.)

It was a cold day, a Tuesday, and it rained all morning and all afternoon. Now it was early in the evening and William was being an elephant in the hallway, as you do when you are 23 months old and it's six o'clock at night. Thomas was laying on his side in the portacot, holding a soft toy block with big coloured numbers on each side and beating it against the side of the portacot as you do when you're seven months old and have just discovered motor skills. The radio on the mantlepiece was playing some jazz music broadcast from 3MBS, Melbourne's first FM station. There was an aroma coming from the kitchen. It was good. Smoked pork hocks on garlic mash. Place two smoked pork hocks in a pot with a chopped onion, a chopped carrot, a chopped garlic clove, a bay leaf, a teaspoonful of peppercorns and half a cup of chopped parsley. Cover with water, bring to boil and simmer, covered, for at least a couple of hours and possibly longer; until the kitchen windows steam up a

Meet the Welsh What I Cooked Last Night.

Rippers is a sports journalist in Wales who drives a temperamental black Fiat Tipo named Boo and likes getting drunk and cooking, not necessarily all at the same time. His blog is an hilarious blend of sports writer banter, some pretty damn good recipes and the odd personal disaster: "Ever had one of those moments when you have woken up and are a. far from your bedroom and b. totally bemused at your surroundings?" Rippers doesn't appear to have a huge number of readers yet, so go and say hello to him here .

Bureaucracy Tales #7,639: The Man, the Book, the Photo and the Librarian.

I'll get back to food very soon (if the mice don't eat it all) but in the meantime, here's an anecdote about a friend who went to Shanghai for ten days. So sit back, put your feet up and listen, all of which I realise is impossible, but you get the drift. He had borrowed one of those tour books from the library; you know, the ones that tell you where to eat, where to go shopping and how bad the government is if it's a Western capitalist democracy and how good it is if it's run by a guy like this . Anyway, he turns up in Shanghai with his tour book and has the notion to photograph himself holding up the book right there on The Bund at Yan'an Road, so that the view behind him is exactly what is on the cover of the book. Neat. Then he comes home, and the book has to go back to the library. So he takes the book to the library and thinks he will leave a copy of the photo in the book as if to say, Hey, this book about Shanghai has been to Shanghai! But instead of

Mice.

So as I was saying, we shouldn't have congratulated ourselves on getting rid of the feral cats. Because just weeks after the cats left, the mice arrived. One ran across the floor in the kitchen late one night. It tried to run in an arc but lost its grip on the lino and kind of scrabbled sideways with its rear end out of control like a Mini Cooper in the Monte Carlo rally, before disappearing under the cupboard on the bathroom side of the kitchen. Next day I was talking to our veterinarian friend down the street - the one who had helped de-feralise the neighbourhood. Mice had invaded her house as well, despite having several - domesticated - cats and dogs in residence. (Her house has a cat cage along the entire side and back so her cats can roam in relative freedom without killing local fauna.) She told me that, despite handling all manner of small animals at work, a mouse running across her floor totally freaks her out. So there are mice everywhere. Blame it on the drought. Bla

Cats.

Of course, we shouldn't have congratulated ourselves after having successfully gotten rid of the feral cats infesting the neighbourhood and destroying birdlife along Merri Creek. Although it was an immensely difficult task. There are two ways to do things, the official way and the way that works. The official way was to 'apply' to the council for a cat cage, 'apply' meaning ring up about a hundred times to get put onto a 'list'. Ringing up and actually being put on the 'list' are not things that happen on the same day or at all - lest you think someone at the council has a pen and a piece of paper and a telephone all on the same table at the same time. Every time we rang up to find out how the 'list' was progressing, our name was no longer on it. During this time, the council was engaged in holding meetings to Free David Hicks, meetings at which his father, Mr Terry Hicks, was feted. Speaking of freeing things, I suggest we free the cou

Kitchen Hand mows lawn; solves drought; makes giant pot of soup.

I spent the weekend mowing. I had to cut the grass because you could no longer see William toddling around the garden. It was like a jungle. Either the drought is over or it's raining in the wrong places. The State government is still resolutely ignoring my masterplan for large mobile reservoirs to be towed around on the back of Kenworth prime movers following the rainclouds. It's not my fault they built the dams where it doesn't rain. Probably the same idiots built VFL Park in a rainbelt. I went to hundreds of football games there over the years and it rained every time. I often wonder why, when the AFL abandoned the ground, they didn't just seal the place with plastic liner and use it as a giant water tank. It would have been perfect. * It's getting colder. I started off the cold season by brewing up a giant pot of lamb shank soup on Sunday afternoon. I don't know what was more appealing: the smell of freshly mown grass coming into the house or the aroma

Thomas at six months.

Compare.

Where's my ice?

It was late and it was still warm and we had just arrived home from the beach house and I had unpacked the car and put a load of washing on and bathed William while Tracy fed Thomas and put William to bed and got him up again because he wouldn't sleep and read him a story and got dinner going while Tracy bathed Thomas and put him in his cot. At that point the voice in my head whispered 'gin and tonic', which is not surprising because no other three English language words really cut it at that time of the night. I poured a slug of gin and a splash of tonic and went to the fridge to get some ice. There was no ice. The ice trays were full of blocks of green and yellow and orange frozen substances. That was because Thomas is now eating solids. He's six months. The kitchen is busy. When there are children you do six things at once. Meals for the adults, different meals for the toddler, different meals for the tiny one. William never took to commercial baby food; we boug

The beach.

There was not even the hint of a breeze and the soft May sun was warm. We walked to the beach, down the street where the moonah stretches up and over to form an arched tunnel with a light at the end that is sky. And, past the light at the end of the tunnel, ships pass by; and they look like they are sailing along Point Nepean Road, because you cannot see the water from there. The bay was a mirror and the sand was warm. Twelve or thirteen black swans were paddling about in the shallows. I've never seen them here before; I suppose they were en route somewhere and taking a rest. William played around on the sand and we read papers while Thomas flapped in his pram and then Tracy took him down to the water and dipped his tiny toes at the edge and first he gave a kind of shudder at the cold chill and then he shrieked for joy. The beach was quiet. It was late morning. I swept William up in my arms said come on, let's go out into the water. We walked out for maybe two hundred

Two conversations.

7a.m. at the kitchen table. William: Dogs haf’ tails. Me: Yes, dogs have tails. William: Horsies haf’ tails. Me: Yes, horses have tails. William: Bunnies haf’ tails. Me: Yes, bunnies have tails - cute little fluffy ones. PAUSE William: Pipple haf’ tails - NOOOOO! (Furious shaking of head) Me: No, people don’t have tails. 4p.m. at the boardroom table. J: Guys, the pre-launch two-state test is about to roll out. We’re implementing the Thoresian strategy based on prior learnings going forward. We’ve got above the line, through the line and below the line and it’s been successfully focus-group tested. K: Great. Ambient? J: Check. Plus viral. We’re excited about viral. It’s big. K: It’s huge. Me (THINKING): WTF? I don’t know why I go to work, really. I can get more sense out of a 23 month old baby than a room full of adults.

Stone soup.

It's funny how sometimes an expression you have heard early in life never leaves your consciousness. I was checking out some blogs - click, read, click, read, click, click, click, read - and over at Here's the Veg , Michael was talking about a recipe for celeriac and worcestershire sauce he had found at Stone Soup . Stone Soup, I thought. I wonder ... I wondered correctly. It hit me straight away: the title of a book I read at school when I was about six - Stone Soup by Marcia Brown, published 1947. Jules of Stone Soup (the blog) mentions a slightly different version of the story and she recalls how it inspired her to cook with her mother: ' ... I raced down to our closest creek and picked myself the tastiest looking stone I could find. After lugging my treasure home I persuaded my mum to humour me and help me create what in my small mind was a masterpiece with my new found stone and whatever soup ingredients she could spare.' How heartwarming is that? I

Bureaucrats a few slices short of a pizza.

Everyone from Antony Jay, Jonathan Lynn and Aldous Huxley to Terry Oglesby , Scott Adams , Frank Dickens , George Orwell and Douglas Adams have satirised bureaucrats. But no-one seems to have made a dent. Bureaucratic stupidity must be Kevlar-coated. When it comes to bureaucracies, there are kangaroos loose in the top paddock everywhere you look and they just keep getting worse. Take this story for example. The pizza shop was held up. The pizza guys caught one of the robbers. Nice work, pizza guys! But wait, there's an investigation. The police? No. It's the WorkSafe people, investigating the pizza guys for not following Bureaucratic Guidelines for the Implementation of Outcomes-Based Strategies During Outsourced Asset-Stripping Exercises by Socially Disadvantaged Asset-Poor Participants in the Non-Legal Economy Assisted by Projectile-Emitting Non-Porous Metallic Devices (IoOBSDOASEbSDAPPitNLEAbPENPMD). Bureaucrats, in between turning the entire English language into acro

An ordinary Tuesday.

It was ten minutes to two on an ordinary Tuesday and I was walking through the city by taking the lanes and alleyways. It was a cool afternoon but not cold. Even so, scarves and coats were everywhere. Maybe people are thinking, It’s May. Wear a scarf and a coat. It has always been possible to walk entirely through the CBD on foot via lanes and alleys. It’s fun to do this and avoid the major streets. But now there are even more lanes and alleyways than before, and they all seem to be full of cafes and fast food stalls. I was walking through a new development heading towards Elizabeth and Lonsdale and in the alley that was more of a breezeway, there was one of those cafes that only sells chocolate. I thought, what is it about chocolate? How can you make money selling only chocolate? What if a customer wanted a steak or a chicken sandwich? They were making money. The place was packed to the rafters and there were extra seats in the alley. You could smell the chocolate. It hung on

Winter is coming.

Dr O. has retired. I suppose it had to happen. He looked after my two older children since about 1980; and then William and now Thomas this past year or so. I'll miss Dr O.'s wit and his intelligence and his eccentric practice. He never computerised. (Some doctors sit there and tap your disease into a keyboard and print off pages of information about your condition. The hell with that. I want a doctor to talk to me.) I wonder what Dr O. will do with the six thousand wooden toys and three million dog-eared picture books in his waiting room? Dr O. recommended another practice, which was a relief, because how do you doctor-shop unless you're a doctor yourself? Thomas cried on and off all night. It's just a cold. William woke on and off all night. He's getting molars. They'll be fine. Tracy and I will yawn our way through the day. Last night I threw dinner together after we got home from the new doctor. Vegetables with chick peas, tahini and sesame. Three l

Stop me if you've heard it before.

The blog is entitled What I Cooked Last Night and it's been running nearly four years? You'll forgive me if I repeat myself. You'll also forgive that I occasionally wander off into another realm like a charged proton blundering into another dimension - posting pictures of cars or children or broken teapots or clouds; complaining about ugly buildings or celebrity shopping bags; narrating the trivialities of a cocktail party at Docklands or a holiday in Queenscliff or a dinner at Mother's or my plate collection. Then again, some people eat the same thing for each night of the week - fish on Friday, baked beans on toast Saturday, roast on Sunday. Your blog would end in seven days. The recipe below is a favourite. You might have seen it before. But there's no escaping the truth: it's what I cooked last night. Pasta with chicken, red capsicum and avocado. Cube a chicken breast fillet. Slice a red capsicum into one inch strips. Chop some button mushrooms int

Cooking with a wok.

See? I proved it. I proved - although no newspaper sub-editor in the world would agree - that it is possible to write a pun-free headline containing the word 'wok'. Wok puns are so dreadfully ubiquitous that I estimate nine out of ten people reading the above headline would be looking subconsciously, if not consciously, for a second meaning. THERE IS NO SECOND MEANING. Poached fish with wok-tossed greens and udon noodles. I'm liking fragrant food at the moment. It must be the weather. This recipe was perfect for dinner on a cool, mid-to-late-autumn (oh my, is winter really only 28 days away?) evening. Marinate some fish - I used fresh salmon this time - in the usual suspects: soy, ginger, garlic. I threw in some finely chopped lemongrass as well and a squirt of lime juice. Chop a bunch of choy sum - sometimes referred to as Chinese flowering cabbage, brassica parachinensis , flowering pak choi or the one with light green leaves and the slender stems . Chop ten spring

Gremlin.

Sometimes, Blogger loses your photos. I clicked edit, reloaded the photo and compared. The reloaded photo's HTML was different to that of the lost photo. Why? I don't know. I just blog here.

Ball park.

The ball was his first birthday present. It was inexpensive. The electronic beeping, tooting 'interactive' Christmas toys bored him months ago; but he takes the ball everywhere with him. He throws it high and kicks it low and shouts 'catch!' and then he puts it up in the air with a jerk of little arms and I catch it and give it back to him and he does it over again. He's twenty-two months. The ball is wearing out. The pattern is fading. We'll go ball shopping soon. We'll wrap it up in some nice paper and he can open up a birthday ball, all over again.