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Showing posts from July, 2007

Stews are all very well, but what's for dessert?

All this soup and stew eating brings to mind the need for something sweet occasionally. So let's interrupt our Winter-to-Spring countdown and have some dessert. And maybe a little drink or two to go with it ... Warm fig and apple pudding with King Island cream . This is so easy I wonder I don't do it more often. Pour 30g of melted butter into a well-greased 24cm fluted ring pan, then sprinkle in three tablespoons of brown sugar, toss in a good half cup of chopped dried figs and spoon in the contents of a 425g tin of pie apple. Cream 120g of butter with half a cup of castor sugar; then add two eggs, one at a time, beating well. Now fold in a cup of well-sifted self-raising flour until well combined and spoon the mixture into the ring pan over the apple. Bake in a preheated moderate oven 30-35 minutes, or test with a skewer. Cool in the pan five minutes, invert onto a plate, tap firmly and with any luck the whole thing will fall out unbroken. Serve warm with pure cream. K

Ten pots until Spring #8: Baked Veal Shanks.

Veal (or beef) shanks cut across the bone - osso buco - are often braised after initial brief sealing in a pan. Instead, today's recipe bakes them first for forty minutes and then progressively adds the accompaniments to the cooking process. I prefer it this way; the meat seems to develop more flavour. Osso buco, while a magnificent dish, has become somewhat of a culinary cliche, like spaghetti bolognese; so it is good to try a different way of cooking it. Place a couple of tablespoons of butter in a large deep roasting pan and place the pan in a hot oven for a couple of minutes until the butter sizzles. Lay six two-inch-thick veal shanks in the pan in a single layer and bake them, uncovered, for half a hour; then turn them over and bake for another ten minutes. They should be well browned. Remove the pan and turn the oven down to moderate. Add to the pan a cup of white wine, four cups of chicken broth, a teaspoon each of dried oregano and thyme and a tablespoon of grated lemo

Ten pots: the mini-series continues in blazing sunshine caused by me.

Well, that was always going to happen. No sooner do I commence a ten-part winter cooking series to help me deal with endless biting Antarctic winds, glowering skies, buckets of rain and circulation-stopping temperatures, than the sun races up into a glorious azure sky and magnanimously scatters seventeen lovely degrees about the landscape; a warmth not felt for months on skin of man, fur of beast or leaf of tree. But having caused spontaneous global warming is not going to stop me. I'm going to go right on posting my ten favourite winter pot dishes. Today's recipe: it's all about the dumplings . Pot #9: Beef with Herb Mustard Dumplings . Whatever happened to dumplings? They are the lost tribe of modern cuisine. When I was a kid, we hardly ever ate a beef stew without dumplings: steaming creamy-yellow balls of doughy goodness infused with all the flavours of the stew and dripping in delicious gravy. My global bring-back-the-brussels-sprout campaign met with moderate

Ten pots away from Spring: a mini-series.

Yes, it was a cold weekend. At 6.30 on Saturday morning, the ice was so thick on the windscreen of the Volvo I left it and walked to get the paper. I could have hosed it down but that would have involved getting my hands even colder. A brisk walk warmed me up and when I got back home again the sun was just a smudge of dirty orange in the East. Inside the house, the tea was hot, the porridge was warm and the papers were reporting that parts of Victoria were colder than Antartica. I could have told them that. It stayed cold all day. It was a good day for cooking. But Spring can't be far away. By the time I post ten of my favourite soup, stew or casserole recipes (given my recent posting rate) warmer days will be just about here. Let's start off with a homely chicken stew redolent with the flavours of Greece. Pot #10: Greek Chicken Stew. Take a kilogram and a half or thereabouts of skinless chicken pieces, bone in. Shake them in a plastic or zip-lock bag with a quarter cup of

Saving the world one turnip at a time.

I was driving on the freeway towards the city. A mobile sign, electric-powered, by the side of the road read: 'Offset your car today' with the website of a company that would take your money and plant a bunch of trees somewhere. My brother-in-law recently finished planting 10,000 mountain ash seedlings - yes, 10,000 - in an attempt to return his property in deepest South Gippsland to its pre-European settlement rainforest state. Had he waited, he could have geared his planting to a carbon offset scheme and made a fortune. I did suggest to him a few weeks ago that he maybe should attempt to sell retrospectively planted trees as a carbon offset scheme that is superior to the mere seedlings planted by other companies - 'while their trees will not produce oxygen for years, ours are ALREADY issuing valuable oxygen into the atmosphere on your behalf and offsetting your carbon emissions RIGHT NOW!' He laughed a little too hard and held his back. He has a bad back. Well, yo

Rain falls on tiles; receipts fall on floor.

Pardon me if I seem obsessed with the weather, but the biggest, darkest cloud I ever saw just floated in from the south, settled itself above my house and then proceeded to dump its contents on the roof. (The roof is tiled. It muffles the noise of the rain. I once lived in a house that had a corrugated iron roof. You can't beat an iron roof for rain noise. When it rained heavily in that house, it sounded like elephants stampeding in a thunderstorm.) The rain set in and stayed all afternoon. I wasn't doing anything, just cooking up a nice slow stew of lamb cooked with lemon and egg, so I listened to the rain and chopped and stirred and had a sip of the white wine used in the recipe, which is a Sardinian specialty by all accounts. Agnello in salsa bianca. Seal a kilogram of cubed lamb shoulder in olive oil, then cover it and let it cook on a low heat for fifteen minutes. The juices will run, so uncover it again and reduce these juices so that the meat is once again frying.

Roast chicken with basil, currant and lemon stuffing.

Haven't seen the sky for days, but the clouds are putting on a show, crowding the sky and moving around each other like over-eager yachts at a regatta. Big low ones, heavy and dark and ponderous, break away from each other to reveal faster, flightier ones higher in the sky. I don't know what the wind's doing, but while some clouds drift one way, others lean in another direction. It's cold enough to make roast chicken sound like a good idea. It's always a good idea but sometimes more than others. Here's what to put in the middle. Basil stuffing for chicken. Take a whole bunch of basil. Process it with some crusty breadcrumbs, for example, the interior of a vienna loaf or similar. Simmer a cup of currants in a cup of balsamic vinegar until fat. Mix the basil mixture and the currants and vinegar well. Add salt and pepper. Stuff the chicken with this mixture and half a lemon. Roast.

How big is a dead squid?

As big as you want it to be. Reuters reported the length of the large squid discovered on a Tasmanian beach today as two metres long. Later, the ABC had its length at six metres . That wasn't good enough for News Ltd , which subsequently described the dead cephalopod from the ocean depths as having a 'cross-section as big as a truck tyre and (being) longer than a station wagon'. Well, how long is a station wagon? Depends what model, I suppose. Then, icWales took the motoring analogy further, declaring the beast to be as long as a bus. If this keeps going the squid will have grown to Titanic proportions by morning. Which is kind of appropriate, because tales of giant squid have been a rich source of ancient mythology and human imagination.
George Megalogenis in last Saturday's Weekend Australian : 'Today, every Australian should have a decent restaurant within walking distance of their home.' Nice idea, George, grammar aside. But within walking distance of every Australian's home? I know people whose front gate isn't within walking distance. I know people who have to take a packed lunch to collect the mail. I have a friend in New South Wales who drives a two-hour round trip to visit the nearest shop. I can't see Neil Perry opening a Rockpool Grill in his driveway. Although my friend would be quite pleased if he did. Which raises the question: of the restaurants within walking distance to most people, due to the sheer numbers of their outlets - McDonalds and KFC etc (if they can be called restaurants) - why do people almost never walk to them?
Grain silo, Grong Grong, southern New South Wales.

'Waiter, there's a UFO on my plate. Waiter?'

The oddest thing about dinner was that the service was non-existent. Literally. There were no waiters. Mid-afternoon, we had checked in to suite 12, a grand-proportioned, high-ceilinged pair of rooms heavy with gold brocade drapes, thick carpeting and massive brass bedsteads. French doors in high arched windows led to a rear timber verandah with scattered wicker furniture, outdoor potplants and a couple of those old polished aluminium smoking tables that have a bracket for your cigarettes and a tray for the ash. And plenty of room for your drink. Later in the afternoon, the busy manager knocked on the door and dropped in a paper menu for the dining room. 'We're short on service tonight, so you might want to order early,' she said kindly. 'I'll make sure it's ready at the time you want to eat. Everything's on except the pork belly,' she added helpfully, with a smile; before rushing off again. So we put in our dinner orders early. Fish for Tracy; filet
The oddest thing about the Hydro Motor Inn was that, at first glance, it was entirely deserted. Steps of old marble rose up to two huge timber swing doors. Beyond, another set of doors opened onto a lobby about the size of Telstra Dome but a lot older and a lot darker. To the left of the lobby, near the doors, was a glassed office with no-one in attendance. A sign said 'Ring bell if not attended'. I rang the bell and had a look around. In the semi-darkness, ancient leather chesterfields and easy chairs sat on acres of axminster. To each side of the room, massive arched doorways led off to east and west wings of the building and above, an enormous dimmed chandelier hung in the space created by an open mezzanine edged with timber balustrades. On the far side of the room, I could make out a fire place big enough to stand up in and a hearth to match. Someone had chopped up several trees into handy sized logs and stacked them neatly to one side. It was going to be a cold night.
Sunset, Temora, New South Wales.