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Showing posts from October, 2007

Spring racing carnival tip.

Football's over for the year and we're well into the spring racing carnival. The Melbourne Cup runs next Tuesday - 3200 metres, one and a half laps of Flemington, clockwise - and once that's over, you're staring down the barrel of Christmas. Isn't that a nice prospect? Of course, Christmas junk has been in the supermarkets for weeks, probably since Easter. Today, walking through IGA, I saw a rack of Simpsons Advent calendars. Moving suddenly onto the recipe, because there is no possible segue, unless you can think of one. Prosciutto-wrapped chicken breasts with cheese and pesto. Slice two chicken breasts in half, but not all the way through. Stuff them with a generous amount of pesto and a slice of cheese. I used a nice creamy havarti. Now wrap the breasts in slices of prosciutto. If this is very thinly sliced, its texture will ensure it stretches and holds well when wrapped carefully. Otherwise use toothpicks. Now cook the wrapped breasts very gently in

Spring cleaning.

Yes, that ti-tree and moonah is nice, but it throws a lot of rubbish, especially as it matures and ages. The beach house is not on an overly large block but I've spent days cleaning up. Several older trunks were rotten and had to come out; the younger ones have thrown down enough junk to pose a hazard come high summer. The foliage and finer twigs dry out, drop off and make a carpet of flammable material; while wind regularly blows down larger branches. Summers around the world this past year seem to have produced a greater number of particularly disastrous fires, or is it just that I'm more aware of them? Anyway, I'm taking no chances. Rake, rake, rake. Then there's painting to be done. Sea air is hell on woodwork.

Garden party.

Five days out, the forecast was 21 degrees and fine. Two days out, 24 and fine, with late rain. A day prior and we were looking at 31. On the morning of the garden party for Thomas's first birthday, the Bureau had revised yet again: 34 degrees and windy, with late rain. 34 is getting uncomfortable, but 'windy' can mean anything from ruffled tablecloths to detached roof shingles. We proceeded, with one eye on the sky and the other on small children climbing under the table. The wind stayed reasonably civilised and cloud cover kept the temperature down to about 32. It was very humid. The air smelled of rain and about one drop hit my head around three. I doubt it would have made it to the ground in any case. The last guests departed around six. It was still 27 degrees at midnight. A cool breeze blew through the house early next morning. Thomas enjoyed his first birthday, thank you very much.

The Return of the Falcon.

If pigeons annoy you when you're trying to enjoy an uninterrupted five minute conversation with a cup of coffee at Brunetti's in the city square, help is on its way. The help takes the form of a 350k/mh air-to-air missile that takes out the pigeons out mid-flight. They will never know what hit them. The falcons were wiped out, as I mentioned in November 2004, by some idiot poisoning the pigeons, obviously unaware that the poison would move along the food chain and subsequently kill their predators, the falcons. Now, peregrines have returned to city pigeon duty: 'The fastest animal on earth, a peregrine falcon dives on its prey at up to 350km/h. The sheer force of the bird's striking talons stuns the doomed victim, which is then whisked back home to a simple box, filled with sand, fixed to the window ledge. ... The new chicks, two males and a female, are believed to be 17 days old. Their grey-white fluffy down will be shed in about a fortnight as they prepare to tak

Canisha's blueberry pancakes.

When I mentioned her in my first post at this weblog on Sunday 9 November 2003, she was six, almost seven. She will turn eleven next month. Canisha and her younger sisters visited last week. She read books to William. It seems not so long that she was as young as he, and we read books to her. She is William's niece; William's much-older-brother's eldest daughter. During the afternoon, we cooked and ate blueberry pancakes. Blueberry pancakes. I do pancakes by consistency. I never measure the ingredients, but mete out milk to the point at which the batter runs like honey on a hot day. Is that exact enough? Of course not. What honey? How hot the day? Never mind. Pancakes are rarely tripped up by the recipe; more often by the pan. They can stick. I try to pour the batter into the half-tablespoonful of oil I add to the pan, so that it pushes the oil outwards like a concentric wave and creates a barrier. This usually works but sometimes doesn't. I once bought a non

What to eat with the Sunday papers. And my favourite asparagus salad, via Nice.

I picked up a steamed new season's spear, plunged it into the pesto, sour cream and yogurt mixture, then raised it to my mouth. It snapped sweetly, making a faint 'snick'. Some food even sounds delicious. Asparagus is in season. Steaming aparagus and dipping it into your favourite sauce, dip, dressing or whatever is probably the ultimate way to enjoy it; even if it is sometimes a little indelicate. For a late Sunday breakfast in summer, I sometimes steam asparagus and dress it with a light vinaigrette and serve it on oval plates alongside two or three very lightly poached eggs and barely toasted, buttered sourdough bread. You dip the asparagus spears into the egg and afterwards you mop up the egg remains with the barely toasted sourdough bread while idly searching the Sunday papers for something worth reading. Dip, dip, dip. Flick, flick, flick. This year, to start the asparagus season, I made my favourite salad, a kind of hybrid nicoise salad. First, I hauled out

Two years.

The almost-ill-fated move was October 2005 and it seems like just weeks ago. (Reminder: never move with Max.) Now, two years down the road, let's take a look around the back garden. East fence: was totally bare; now all covered in jasmine, two types to make it a little more interesting, and now all in bloom. Throw up a window in the house, and in comes the scent. South fence: was totally bare, syzygium australe now seven feet tall with a bullet. Look! It has edible berries! West fence: was totally bare, viburnum hedge now four feet tall and growing. Lawn central: ornamental pear, ten feet tall. Will provide good summer shade in years to come. Now let's take a walk down the path, through the side gate and into the front yard, which slopes north directly into the sun. Along the eastern boundary, the weigela I planted as a one-foot shrub is growing strongly and will create a hedge with the older ones already there. They bear masses of deep pink, smallish flowers. The Qu

Print, stick, cook.

Back in August, Dr. Alice linked (scroll down) to this list of 101 summer recipe ideas published by the New York Times. I found it brilliant in its simplicity. Every recipe is appealing and is described concisely in a line or two. Some of my all-time favourites are listed in some form or another; such as 5, 34 and 96. Print it out, stick in on your fridge and cross them off as you cook your way through a long hot summer. Thanks to Dr. Alice.
The lake. Blossoming cherry and tree ferns obscure towering mountain ash and eucalypt.
The lawn overlooking the lake. Yes, he had to run down it about twenty times. Only tumbled over once.

Picnic.

The hills are in the East and they are soft blue at this time of year and if you go up into them on a quiet weekday you will be a world away from the suburbs they rise up from. I took a right turn off the highway and away from the furniture barns and the traffic snarls and the giant intersections that would take five minutes to cross on foot, and pointed the car into the relative quiet of the lower slopes. Then we climbed. The first thing you notice up here is the size of the plants. Everything grows larger due to the crisp air, the cooler temperatures and the rain. I rounded a sweeping curve and an immense photinia hedge came into view, glistening in the sun and hiding an old house except for the top of its faded tiled roof and a red-brick chimney with twin terracotta pots. Viburnum with dense clumps of white flowers gave way to rows of camellias and an occasional jacaranda. Eucalypts made a grey-green background and, around another curve, a massive late-flowering rhododendron can