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Showing posts from May, 2009

Coming from good stock.

Yes, Portarlington mussels are better than those prepacked ones that are supposed to be asleep. Decision confirmed, after much deliberation, by a jury of two on a cold winter's night, the event accompanied by a rich, buttery chardonnay with - yes - oak maturation. To cut through the garlic, which makes sauvignon blanc taste like ... oh, you know. Everyone knows the mussels recipe; I must have posted it at least a half dozen times in the almost-six years I have been writing this blog. However, if you just arrived, it goes like this (if not, go to the next paragraph): buy a kilogram of fresh mussels; de-beard them (this is cosmetic only; the wisps won't kill you if you happen to cook them); warm six very finely chopped cloves of garlic in a little oil, a lot of cracked pepper and a cup or more of white wine; cut up six spring onions; place the mussels into the wine and garlic on high heat; cook them five minutes; scatter in the onions and serve immediately in large bowls with c

Boats and trains.

Across Port Phillip Bay on a lonely thrumming ferry in the cold early afternoon of an anonymous Tuesday, to an empty Queenscliff. An hour inspecting restoration works at the Bellarine Peninsula Railway workshops, William and Thomas agog; an hour in the Hesse Street library; a very short look into some shops (the bookshop is closed Tuesdays) and a coffee in the sun outside the 1902 Queenscliff Inn (the coffee is good, the menu looked great and the waitress smiles). Then back to Sorrento across the swell of a blackening sea in the early evening; and home to this dish , prepared in the morning.

A national symbol of Wales; an English cheese from Maffra containing an extract from the tropical Americas and four local eggs.

Talk about food miles. I just set a record. Leek and Red Leicester omelette. It was a nice lunch. Perfect for a lazy Sunday. Crack four eggs into a jug; whisk lightly with half a cup of skim milk and a good dash of salt and pepper. Slice the white section of a leek into very fine rings. Grate a cupful of Red Leicester, the cheddar-style cheese infused with annatto, an extract of the seeds of the achiote plant (although the manufacturer's website declares annatto to be the plant. Don't ask me). I used Maffra Red Leicester and wondered, as I grated it, how much longer they will be permitted to use the Leicester name. Red Maffra doesn't sound the same. Pour the egg mixture into a melting teaspoonful of butter in a non-stick pan. Scatter the leeks and cheese over the egg. Lid the pan. Cook on lowest heat for fifteen minutes maximum. Sometimes less. Depends on your stove. Slide off onto a plate. Segment into quarters. Serve quarters with a salad of rocket, grated beetroo

A shorter history of gingham.

I love the sounds of industry. Especially when it is someone else being industrious. A year or so ago, Tracy bought her first sewing machine. Now, in the evenings, after dinner, a gentle wheezing hum can be heard in the house. Whir, tac-a-tac, whir. Tac-a-tac, tac-a-tac, whir. In at one side goes a piece of material and out the other comes a cushion cover, a tablecloth, a quilt ... all right, I know it’s not that easy. Sometimes the machine is silent and Tracy sits on the sofa sewing one piece of material onto a larger piece that will become a quilt or a coverlet or a bedspread or whatever they’re calling them these days. We spent last winter joining the small town dots of this state, Tracy visiting second hand shops in the search for interesting old materials. We were in no hurry. Like anything else, you turn over tons of rubbish before you find what you are looking for. I went off and browsed through bookshops (there are good ones in Castlemaine , Euroa and Echuca ) or played i

Potato-lovers' mince stew.

Not that it was ever called that. It was just mince. Or mince stew. But it includes potatoes three ways; quartered feature ones, diced support ones and mash, just because mash goes with stew like nothing else. All this talk of food nostalgia prompted me to try to replicate the original; or at least my mother's original. She used to serve it for dinner and if there was any left over, for example if half the family were suddenly called interstate, my father enjoyed it on thick buttered toast for lunch the next day. Lucky man. Take a kilogram of minced steak, six medium waxy potatoes, one old potato, three large carrots, a large onion, a garlic clove, two sticks of celery, a Massell or other mushroom - or other stock - cube (or your own stock, of course), and pepper. Three quarters of a cup of rice. Any rice, but I used Arborio for the larger grains. Or use barley. Chop the onion finely. Dice one carrot and a half of one celery stick as finely as possible. Score the garlic clove. P

Recollections of a hungry child.

Jo at Amuse Bouche invited me to reveal what food reminds me of home, which I take to mean childhood home. Let's take it from a different angle: the following are some memories of home associated with food, or possibly the reverse. We have touched on this topic in the past, but a little nostalgia never goes astray. Here are ten memories that come to mind: • The pipe-loaf bread that was delivered to our door daily, still warm and soft and fragrant, by baker Mr Goodwin driving his Baker Boy (brand) Morris J-type delivery van. During school holidays we could even choose from the huge wicker basket he carried to the front door loaded with poppy-seed buns, long rolls, high-tin loaves with black tops, French sticks and fruit buns. • The milk bottles delivered by horse and cart at 5 a.m. every weekday - early to avoid milk spoilage on hot summer mornings. In winter if I was awake, I watched through my front bedroom window as the horses emerged out of ghostly mist, their hooves rin

The string bag.

Footscray, some time in the mid-1950s. Winter. Shoppers swarm Barkly Street. It is a Saturday morning. The shops close at midday. The butchers are auctioning trays of meat to clear the window before closing for the weekend. "Tray of topside - at least five pounds – who’ll give me ten shillings? I’ll throw in a couple of shanks. Madam?" Women press closer to the counter, kicking through the sawdust on the butcher shop floor. They wear coats against the winter chill, buttoned at the neck or right through. Sturdy shoes. Hair pinned back. Gloves. Lipstick. Look closer. Nearly all are carrying a compact item that expands as they place their paper-wrapped parcels inside. Yes. A string bag. They buy them for a shilling at the Coles variety store around the corner in Paisley Street and they last forever. The fancier ones had round handles and they carried home as much shopping as you could heft and then you hung it on the inside of the back door until next time. Midday. The sh

Late dinner: pasta with leek sausage and green onions.

An Indian summer brought us almost to the end of April and then we lurched headlong into a week of dismal weather and everyone caught colds. Yes, at least it rained and softened up that back lawn. And seedlings are growing - rocket, beans, broccoli. We are halfway through the pumpkins. They'll stretch into spring if we don't go wild with pumpkin soup over winter. Apparently they store better on their sides if you can get them to sit that way, a fact for which I am indebted to Mr Peter Cundall, currently writing Australia's best gardening column : "Strangely enough, I never tasted pumpkin until I came to Australia in 1950. I remember sitting at a table with a group of other Poms, all soldiers recruited in Britain, when we noticed what looked like great lumps of carrot sitting on our plates. It was, of course, steamed pumpkin, but it was a profound culture shock for all of us when we took our first mouthful, expecting the taste of carrots." An early example of

The bone doctor.

One day last week: it was the kind of clear, still autumn morning that chills you early, but by 9 o’clock when the sun gets going, you have to take your scarf and coat off again. We were sitting in an otherwise empty waiting room, first to arrive for the morning outpatients clinic in the orthopedic department of the RCH. This was a week or so after Thomas’s fall. Earlier in the morning we had had follow-up x-rays taken, through the plaster cast. The waiting room had long benches for seating, and running the length of one wall, below the windows, was a shelf holding books and pencils and drawing paper, all neatly stacked and ready for the day’s devastation. A television was playing on another wall and a small sign below it read: Please do not change TV settings . I didn’t change the settings, I just turned it off. Televisions should never be placed in waiting rooms, let alone switched on. After a while, the face of a tall, happy-faced blond woman, like a private school matriculant t