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Showing posts from May, 2008

One peasant dish, a million recipes.

Google chicken cacciatore and you'll find recipes variously calling (aside from chicken) for carrot, capsicum, celery, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, anchovy fillets, rosemary, flour, capers, basil, parsley and olives, among other ingredients. If I kept searching I'd probably find one with pineapple in it, from the 1960s. But then again, everything in the 1960s had pineapple in it. All of which is fine, apart from the pineapple of course, but personally I prefer chicken cacciatore to feature just the bird and mushrooms, accompanied with tomato and a few herbs. Like this: Brown a chopped onion and a scored garlic clove in oil. Remove from pan. In the same pan, fry one kilogram of skin-free chicken pieces on the bone until browned. Place chicken pieces in a casserole. Place the cooked onions and garlic over the chicken. Into the same pan, place a can of diced tomatoes, half a cup each of white wine and chicken stock and one-inch sprigs each of fresh thyme and oregano. Bring i

Moreland Council puts up sign; tractors grind on, slowly.

Could EastLink be finished before O'Hea Street? It's a better bet than Essendon for the flag. But progress has been made. Moreland Council has bowed to pressure from this blog . A new addition to the roadblock, a sign advising that O'Hea's Bakery is open, can be seen in the picture below. (Isn't it typical of bureaucracies to do things in triplicate? Not content with a double-stacked Road Closed sign in two different type sizes on the left, they have a third at the right. Just to make sure you really understand that the road is closed.)

Fast-fried greens, soup dumplings and the Kevin Borich Express.

Saturday morning means market. Queen Victoria, Preston, Footscray, farmers'. It doesn't matter. The buzz of the crowd is a kind of magic music that blows the cobwebs of Friday night into oblivion and, like a drug, masks the memory of the workday week just gone and helps you forget that the longer this day lasts, the sooner Monday comes. All right, it was a bad week. But it would be a good weekend. * Saturday evening. A glass of chardonnay to get things started. Into the kitchen. From the market this morning, three bunches of bok choy, a bunch of asparagus chopped into two-inch sections and a dozen whole snow peas. Into a sizzling pan. The green vegetables cook in minutes over a fast heat with just a splash of sesame oil and the water in which they were rinsed. Turned out onto a serving platter, they sizzle and glisten. The asparagus retains a degree of crunch. To accompany: prawn soup dumplings, little fat pillows of heavenly flavour with the added tactile bonus of s

Sending coffee; saving theatres.

Last year, I wrote about my friend not being sure whether a proposal would clarify a certain issue. He followed her anyway and is a man of leisure while she carries on life as an academic at a campus somewhere in the USA. Oregon? They are both coffee addicts. Here, they lived within the shadow - well, maybe the winter shadow, let's not exaggerate - of Brunetti's. Visits were sometimes twice a day. Excessive? Maybe. They are coffee addicts. My friend emails regularly. He bemoans the lack of coffee of a similar type or standard in the region. I don't know if 'region' means campus, street, suburb, city or state. I haven't been there. I wouldn't know. I was at Brunetti's one morning last week (I'm less of an addict, maybe twice a week) reading a story about the sad demise of La Mama in The Australian while gazing out across a dripping Faraday Street to the theatre itself. Sad. It is one of the best small theatre spaces of its type in the world. My
William with toy, Dromana beach, 11.30 a.m. today. Beach huts, seagull. Dromana pier, Mt Martha to the right. 21 degrees Celsius, no wind. Just about perfect. Ate lunch on the beach. Home-made curried egg and celery sandwiches on Baker Boys' sourdough. Then a perfect coffee on a table in the sun at a cafe over the road and a milkshake for William. Stop the clock, somebody. * Took the coast road home just to remind myself how sharp the curves are around Mt Martha. One minute you're staring at sparkling blue water; the next it's away to the left. Does anyone remember drum brakes? That would have been fun. Or not. I first drove this road one night in February 1978 in a 1965 Humber Super Snipe, a hulking great car with front discs. I had a 12-month-old baby on board: William and Thomas's Much Older Brother. Thirty years gone, just like that. I remember it like it was yesterday.

Another Saturday night.

I parked in Franklin and walked four blocks through the city. It was Saturday night and early queues were gathering outside the nightspots in Queen Street. Around the corner into quieter Collins Street and up the hill. The entrance to the club was between two columns almost the size of the ones holding up the Parthenon. I expected a guy with gold braid on his shoulders to greet me but instead two glass doors slid apart with a soft humming sound. I walked on carpet through to a plush timber-lined room with display cabinets around the walls containing ceramic artefacts. The room was half-filled with people wearing dinner suits and black dresses. A waiter was weaving around them with a drinks tray. Yes, thank you. More people arrived and after about half an hour, waiters opened a curtain and started the seating process, which is not too far away from how a kelpie rounds up merino lambs. They circle and make shooing gestures with their arms. Nicely, of course. It is a club. By now it

A long-winded preface and a recipe for rigatoni with chicken, ricotta and herb sausage and butter beans.

And here we slide, headlong into the colder months. Again. The drought means it is no longer socially acceptable to complain about the rain, but I don't have to like it, do I? Especially when it kind of just drips all day. I'd rather a good downpour and then be done with it. I don't understand why people even like cold weather. I've never met a heatwave I didn't like. What's there to like about grey, dripping skies, a howling southerly direct from Antarctica via King Island and shivering and catching cold for five months of the year? Ah, they say, it's all about snuggling up in front of the fire. So you do like heat, I reply. I prefer my heat in its natural environment: summer. The only good thing about winter is the food. In colder months good eating seems homelier, more robust, stronger of flavour. I grew to like winter food as a schoolboy fortunate enough to be able to go home for lunch. I would still be halfway up the street at one o'clock on a f

Torch climbs mountain; goats unimpressed.

So the Chinese took the Olympic torch to the top of Mt Everest. Big deal. Before the 2000 Sydney Olympics, the torch was carried the entire length of Bell Street. Mt Everest would be a cakewalk compared with Bell Street. Seriously, this whole Olympic torch relay nonsense is completely out of hand. Next they'll be flying it to the moon or past Venus and making it do a space walk. Just get on with the Olympics and the hell with torch relays.

Twenty Years After.

I spent 20 minutes of most mornings in 1988 standing at the bar in University Cafe. Ham, cheese, tomato croissant or sandwich; strong latte. Maybe two, if a really busy day was in store. This was after dropping my children - William and Thomas's much older sister and brother - at school and before hitting the office. They were busy days. It was a good time. And we were younger then. * No, I was never a fan of eighties mainstream pop music, much of which was complete rubbish. But sadly and somewhat ironically, amidst the Stock Waterman Aitken dross there was some great stuff. And so this year is the 20th anniversary of Under the Milky Way by The Church. If there is a better pop song ever recorded, let me know. Or at least wait for the bagpipes solo. You'll never sneer at bagpipes again. The Saints' Grain of Sand and Just Like Fire Would came out around the same time, maybe a year earlier. And 'golden oldies' radio plays Farnham and Barnes ad nauseam? * A re

Autumn enters home straight; cold, wet snap hits Melbourne.

It doesn't help that it was 40 degrees six weeks ago. I like autumn. Let's have some. I'm not ready for winter. Where are the balmy days, the golden skies? I can't control the weather, but I can continue the great Kitchen Hand Grain Clearing Program in which the scores of jars and containers clogging the larder are cleared to make way for winter provisions. Oh look, here's some brown rice in this jar and wild rice in that one. Both at least least a year old, maybe two. Maybe three. I took the jar down and thumbed through some old recipe books to find something to do with brown rice. (Maybe I should stockpile it. It might double in value in the time it takes to cook .) No. That would be avaricious. Let's just cook the stuff. Wild and brown rice salad with almonds. Cook half a cup of wild rice (which is apparently not really rice but a seed or grain or something. Who decides these things?) and one cup of brown rice separately until just tender. Drain, ri