Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


Six dry gum leaves.

Nobody on the road, nobody on the beach ...

Except me and two boys and a book that I was not reading. Late in the afternoon, almost evening. It was overcast and humid and a northerly had crossed the water and brought with it a deep rumble from a ship working up the bay into Melbourne. The rumble sounded like an old refrigerator heard from another room.

It is the week after the annual exodus from the peninsula, and it is quiet again and slow, and no-one is parking his car on the no-standing sign painted on the road where the ramp allows pedestrians to cross without tripping, and the council cleaners have removed the whiskey and cola cans from the beaches.

The boys were throwing tennis balls into the water and retrieving them, over and over. Thomas Brian has a good throwing arm; William John is more athletic. I watched them and, beyond them, the ship as it slid across the horizon. The ship was bright red below deck and white above, and it had a bright red funnel. It looked like a toy. Its muffled rumble faded and died. We packed up the balls and returned to the house.


With all the heat and the ample rain, the basil has taken off and needs to be pinched back, so I take half the plant off and try to think of something to do with it and the something usually ends up being a pesto of some kind (and in my world there are many kinds) and I never measure the ingredients. Sometimes it is heavy on the nuts - whether pine or walnut or macadamia or some other nut - and you get an earthy flavour, and other times there's a lot of green and oil and you can drizzle it over grilled steaks and chicken and even fish; other times again there is so much garlic you can still taste it the next day. This time it was a cup (by pressed volume) of basil, half that again of parsley and a cup of spinach leaves, baby; along with half a cup each of pine nuts (superior Lebanese ones are back in stock at the nut shop after a year or so of only Chinese ones being available), grated parmesan and olive oil. Salt and pepper as well. Ten seconds in the blender and you're in Genoa. Or is it Turin? No, that's cars.


It stayed humid into the evening and then the northerly got up and the clouds opened and there was a downpour which was a beautiful thing because I was sitting out on the deck above the ti-tree and it was relaxing, unwinding time and there was a book on the white tablecloth beside me and a drink next to the book. Then, an irregular dripping noise, like someone tipping a bucket, broke the rain's rhythmic hiss and the dripping became a torrent and then the roof gutter overflowed and poured its contents over the deck inches from my feet. I considered just moving inside but I don't give in easily. So I resisted the urge to toss the drink, and the book, into the shrubbery out of sheer pique - because that would have been pointless and self-defeating and stupid - and trudged through the house and out the back door and into the rain, fetched the ladder from the end of the garden, got wet, brought the ladder around the front, unfolded it in the rain, propped it up against the house holding my breath because it was just outside William's room, climbed it gingerly for the same reason, placed a hand into the gutter and fiddled about for the downpipe opening. There was a sudden urgent movement and the gush just about sucked my arm down the pipe and I pulled it out and with it came about six gum leaves. Six dry gum leaves can dam a hundred litres of water?

I was back with the book and the drink in five minutes. Three of those were spent drying myself.


Dinner was an old favourite. I like old favourites.

Fettucine with chicken breast and pesto.

Cook your pasta. While it's cooking, poach a chicken breast in a lidded pan in olive oil, a dash of white wine and a scored clove of garlic. Lift lid and turn fillet halfway through. When done, slice chicken into one-inch cubes. Keep warm in pan.

Meanwhile, grill a red capsicum until skin comes away. Peel and slice into sections. Cook florets of broccoli, fresh peas and snow peas - I just throw them in with the pasta.

Drain pasta and vegetables, place on serving plates and add capsicum strips and chicken. Don't forget the garlic clove. Place a tablespoon of fresh home-made pesto on top and scatter parmesan. Crusty bread for the sauce. Glass of very cold sauvignon blanc. You need the acid to cut through the pesto.

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