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Showing posts from June, 2009


Melbourne is a bowl and the Dandenong Ranges sit on its the eastern rim. From where I grew up, you could see the Dandenongs clear and blue and serene above the smoke and dust of Collingwood and Fitzroy. The Dandenongs were a frequent weekend destination, with fern gullies full of lyrebirds and wombats, quaint cafes full of lace and hot scones and villages hanging off the slopes at every turn. After years of day trips, my parents bought a block of land in then semi-rural Selby. The block, on a steep slope, was covered in blackberry and you strode up the hill almost knee-deep in fallen bark from the gum trees. We never got around to building on the block and eventually my parents sold it to buy an old farmhouse at Birregurra instead. But I never lost my fascination for the hills at the eastern end of Melbourne. During my supposedly bohemian student years, which were about as bohemian as a weak cappuccino, I knew poets and actors who retreated up to Olinda and Emerald on frozen winter we

Nice bright colours/dreams of summers/all the world's a sunny day.

My brother recently found some old slide photographs taken by my father in the early 1970s and posted them on his weblog. The colours are unearthly: golds you can almost feel, unearthly greens; even the shadows have a tangible depth. I remember the day. I was there, but not in the shots. The pictures are nothing special, just family and friends fooling around in the back yard at a beach house at Somers. But those colours! So that was Kodachrome? I shot some slides once. I'll look for them. They are in a box somewhere.

Pea and ham soup in an era of cultural change: some critical insights.

The heavy pot lives under the sink, off to the side, next to the wok and in front of a rotary food mill that I have never used. Lifting the pot out requires a manoeuvre straight out of an Eastern stretching guide, but putting up with the complicated move has two advantages: I get to the keep the $100,000 for a new kitchen and the $40 for an Iyengar yoga class. The heavy pot in question no longer has its lid handle. When I cook with it, I have to kind of flip the lid up with one hand - gauntleted with a tea towel, catch it with the other hand and try not to sustain steam burns. Apart from all that, the pot is in perfect condition. Why throw it out? I dragged it out for the annual mid-winter pea and ham soup ritual. Imagining I had posted a recipe for this at least once a year on this web log, I searched the archive but couldn’t seem to find one more recent than 2005; in any case this new recipe is probably a better one. Pea and ham soup for the winter solstice. I sliced the end – about

Recession-busting tips # 2157: get your children to make their own birthday cake.

Happy birthday, William. And a glance back at 2005 , 2006 , 2007 and 20 08 . (Car spotters' note: the toy in Thomas's hand is the original 1960s Matchbox 'Models of Yesteryear' 1929 4.5L Bentley I was given at age ten; currently his favourite toy. William plays with its companion, a pale green 1907 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost. Here's a Bentley in closer detail .)

Newspaper sub-editor likes pizza.

This story from yesterday's paper is headlined: Thai tops pizza as fattiest takeaway . As a generalisation, that takes some beating. So let's go along with it and generalise. Generally , Thai food is packed with vitamin-dense vegetables, herbs and spices. Generally , in terms of mass sales at major pizza outlets, pizza is packed with ham that was scraped off the abattoir floor, compacted and then shot out of a mulching machine. Generally , Thai food is fiery and flavourful and is accompanied with and balanced by healthy, non-fat steamed rice. Generally , pizza's key flavour drivers are fat-dense ingredients such as cheese, and it is accompanied by z-grade television and beer. Generally , Thai food is served in moderation. Generally , pizza comes in a box the size of your DVD player, but squarer. So how do we arrive at Thai tops pizza as fattiest takeaway ? By extrapolating the contents of one Thai dish - Pad Thai - across the whole cuisine. The only way pizza - generally

Email me your email address and I'll email you a recipe.

Recipes were flying through cyberspace between Tracy and her mother. Mother is not great with email and took three goes to get the message through. Kept putting spaces or capitals or @ signs where spaces or capitals or @ signs should not go. A letter in the mail used to be such a beautiful thing. Now you have to telephone someone three times to get their correct email address because the telling of it does not flow like normal human communication; i.e., words. What is all that underscore and backslash rubbish anyway? Then they go and change their email address on you. The recipe could have been described over the telephone. But mother had to go off and find it in a book somewhere, and she has six million cookbooks. It must be in one of them, she said, as if that meant looking through six million books were not a great deal. Potato scones. A month later, an email arrived with the recipe. We could have googled it, but that's just cheating and, furthermore, it would have rendered th

Cook your own takeaways.

You won't starve on the five-kilometre walk along Sydney Road from Glenlyon Road to Bell Street - one I have completed many times, both ways - especially if you like Turkish food. It's grilled meat lover's heaven and the quality is generally high, especially after the temporary closure of Alasya some years ago. A favourite of mine is adana - kebabs of minced lamb generously spiced with chilli and wrapped in bread. But now I like to make my own and avoid the queues. Anyway, I prefer adana in Lebanese flat bread - available fresh every day for $1 a pack at every second ethnic grocery shop along the strip (the supermarkets charge $2.20 and the bread is usually a day older). To make your own adana, simply combine minced lamb - or a combination of veal and lamb - with chilli powder or hot or sweet red pepper flakes and salt to taste: this is sheer trial and error. (Some recipes variously use cummin and other spices.) I used a ground pepper from a sampler pack of chilli peppers

Rocket fuel.

So far this winter, the weather has offered a sullen series of half-hearted south-westerlies delivering slow-moving patches of rain in between teasing sun. Today, it hauled off and hurled a frozen blast at us, straight from the north and right off the alps, where snow has just fallen. The icy blast rode in on the same north wind that destroyed half the state by fire just four months - 16 weeks - ago. I put on a coat. That fixed it. Then I went for a long walk. * Last night I cooked - with a little assistance - comfort food, fuel for a cold winter: home-made gnocchi with rocket from the new vegetable garden (that is, so far, a major success thanks to its northerly aspect). To five old potatoes, boiled and mashed, I added - in a large bowl - a cup of plain flour, 30 grams of melted butter, cracked peppercorns and half a cup of grated parmesan. Any parmesan will do - if you have to have the imported stuff, save it for the top of the dish. Then I threw in seven or eight rocket leaves finel

Letter of the day.

From one of this morning's dailies: To parents whining about fast food outlets offering toys with food, the word you are looking for is "no". These tactics are not new. In the '40s and '50s football cards were were offered with chewing gum, and toys were put into cereal packets. Our parents knew the word "no", and we respected that word. Fast food once in a while will never hurt anyone. It's about moderation - another word modern parents may like to look up in a dictionary (if they have one). - Glenyse Sims-Ellis, Invermay Well said, M/s. Sims-Ellis. I like the parenthesised crack about the dictionary in the last sentence. Talk about dripping with sarcasm. And perhaps a little unfair, but in keeping with the tone of the letter. My favourites were the collectors' cards from Shell (transportation, flowers and trees, animals); stamp packs from AMPOL petroleum; 45 r.p.m. popular records from Golden Fleece service stations; moulded plastic train engin

Product of the Month: No. 1 in a new series.

Victoria is no longer The Garden State , The Place to Be , On the Move or even the People's Republic of . Instead, it is now the swine flu capital of Australia. If you read newspapers, you will have noticed that at the political level, the swine flu epidemic has moved from 'contain' to 'sustain' (or vice versa - I have no idea what they mean) to 'high farce', with Victorian bureaucrats accusing New South Wales and Queensland of 'retaliating' for stealing their citizens as tourists. The level of the discourse could not sink any lower, but it just did : JOHN BRUMBY (PREMIER OF VICTORIA): I do know that we launched a very successful tourism campaign in New South Wales just a little while ago. I do know that there are lots of New South Wales citizens who are being attracted to Victoria and maybe it's a bit of a retaliation for a successful tourism campaign. Victoria has also given up on testing people for swine flu and is, instead, hoping it will al

Day of the Triffids, Part Two (Apologies to John Wyndham)

I was sitting in the doctor's waiting room wondering if they would ever discover a cure for arthritis and reading an old Burke's Backyard magazine when suddenly a sentence jumped off the page and smacked me in the face and I had one of those light bulb moments (which, by the way, will never be the same with those twisty eco bulbs). "Jasmine is a thug," Don Burke had written. "Eureka!" I almost shouted before remembering I was in a doctor's surgery. Not that it mattered: the television was blaring - out of reach above and beyond the reception desk - and an obvious dementia case was conducting a loud soliloquy in a far corner, so a man with a bandaged knee shouting "Eureka" was hardly going to make a huge difference to the ambience, if grey plastic racked chairs and carpet that would have been the colour of coral in 1988 could be called ambience. There's good ambience and bad ambience. Because I knew all along. I just wouldn't admit it.

Journalism: how to do it.

Thanks to Jon Kudelka, who I'm sure won't mind me displaying his work from Rupert Murdoch's Weekend Australian if I provide a link to his excellent site. Meanwhile, over at another Murdoch newspaper, Herald Sun editor Simon Pristel gushes about his 'new-look' Weekend liftout: There is also a funny piece by Wendy Tuohy on those killer high heels. We made her wear them for an entire day - taking the kids to school, and driving her car. Tuohy describes her heels as '14cm'. Go ahead, kill your reporters in the line of duty; but try to keep their children out of it. Simon Pristel is the man who last year splashed convicted drug dealer Roberta Williams in a bikini on the front page of the Sunday Herald Sun. Murdoch wants people to pay for his papers online . Good luck with that.

Wine flavour confirmed by six-year study.

In comments at the previous post, Neil wondered who first associated sauvignon blanc and cats' urine. Apparently, it is official , according to a six-year study by wine scientists: The team spent more than $12million defining the flavours of the country's most popular grape variety, which has a unique flavour and character that has captured the world's interest. They concluded it was a winning combination of sweet, sweaty passionfruit, asparagus, and cat's pee. But what on earth is 'sweaty passionfruit'?