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Showing posts from October, 2010

Barbecued layered potatoes with garlic and capers.

And now the sun is a red ball falling down behind the thirty foot lilly pilly* and the last of the chili peanut sauce has been swiped with a spring onion and there's steam coming from the grill on the barbecue. This is something I've taken to doing because it's easy and easy is what I like to do at this stage of my life. Wait, we've had three children in five years. Yeah. Maybe that's why other things are easing up. I never stress about having people over any more and what to cook and what the house looks like and if the lawn's mown and the hedge trimmed and the right music going. The hell with it all. I find a gin and tonic cleans up the house magically and two even better. Tracy, on the other hand, being a woman, cleans the house from top to bottom if there's any chance of a human being outside the immediate family entering the house. The steam was coming from the cast iron frypan on the grill and it smelled great. It's the easiest way to cook pota

The dish with a handle.

They sit in the kitchen cupboard, stacked high, their handles generally turned the same way, but sometimes in all directions like a clock with too many hands. Some have flat thumb-sized handles, others have cylinders that flare out and are hollow. Some have lids. Some don't. They are ramekins. They were popular in the 1950s. Some food trend or other, like square plates in the 1990s. Then, like square plates, everyone threw them out and they could be found in opportunity shops and flea markets for next to nothing, or landfill completely free of charge. Eventually, like most things from the 1950s except me, they gained a kind of retro cool. Whether people actually use them or just display them in the 1950s Parker cherrywood lowboy is another matter. I once had a set of round ones in highly glazed brown, with lids and flared cylindrical handles. I used these often for French onion soup, a purpose for which they were well suited. They were robust enough for the rustic dish, hel

Out of the ashes.

It took more than two and a half years to rebuild. Inside, one of Australia's best pipe organs sits in the north transept. One of the first things the fire brigade had done on entering was to throw a tarpaulin about the size of a tennis court over the organ to lessen water damage. Then they put the fire out before the whole place went up. Nice work. Major rebuilding took place in the roof and ceiling . Most of the furnishings - pews, carpet etc - had to be replaced due to water damage. Although the interior is now almost complete, scaffolding fills the apse - the 'east wall' - which in this case really is at the east end of the building. Fabric has been draped over the scaffolding to partially obscure it during services, so that the altar has the appearance of a movie set designed to look like a church. The centre aisle is patterned marble where before there was red carpet. It's a little over the top in design, shines like a mirror and is very echoey. Drop the crysta

The smell of bacon ...

... mixed with aroma of brewing coffee at dawn before the traffic has started and the world is still quiet ... when you were ten and your mother took the pie out of the oven and cut it at the table and steam curled in the air and the aroma of baked egg and bacon and pastry was like something you had never smelled before ... in a takeaway when you are as hungry as a tiger and the sandwich hand slips your freshly toasted $5 bacon and egg sandwich (extra butter on top) into a brown paper bag and you sit in the park and pull out your newspaper and tear open the paper bag that is now partially translucent ... when it is cooked so long in the pan it crumbles into deep red shards of salty crunchiness, because that's how you like it best ... on the fish shop grill when George the Greek throws it down next to the meat pattie and the onions and the egg and he drags the bacon around to turbo-charge the heat and it sizzles and pops and then he builds your burger ... when it comes ou

Many happy returns, even when you can't.

You know you're famous when the papers keep wishing you happy birthday after you die. The Weekend Australian of October 9 carried a panel on its front page below the masthead that read: John Lennon Turns 70 . Turns? I thought he died in 1980. The article was OK and they said he was a genius and they ran lists of his five best songs but they run it every ten years, sometimes every five. They just change the age. One day last January, while I was painting the house, I had ABC radio on to pass the time. They were talking about the 75th anniversary of Elvis Presley's birth. His music was all over the airwaves and a panel discussion decided he could not, after all, be bestowed with the mantle of 'genius' because he didn't write his own songs as did John Lennon, who seemed to be the benchmark or high water mark for pop genius in the eyes of those who know. I don't know. Did Beniamino Gigli write any songs? Look out, here's another birthday: Chuck Berry .

What to do with a can of sardines and a glass of home-made grappa.

The zucchini is one of my favourite vegetables, except that it's a fruit. (Oh, not that debate again.) Not only are they fruit, but they also have a different name depending where you are in the world. In some places they are summer squash, while in others they are courgettes. I once had something like this fractured conversation with someone who misheard, asking "Did you say Corvettes?" Nice. They grow fast. Shame they're not red, because then you'd have little red courgettes. I like the little white ones best. They're called white, but they are pale mottled green. Their flesh is delicate and they are good sliced and boiled with chopped onion and a little butter and a dash of nutmeg and salt and pepper. In the following recipe they support sardines in a dish which combines the characteristic strong flavour of the fish with the warm earthiness of the rice-filled zucchini, accentuated with the tang of lemon juice. Kind of Sicilian, I suppose. Stuffed zucch

How I got my name back.

I had to find out what had happened to my name. When I changed my template, Blogger substituted the word 'writer' for the words 'kitchen hand' in the footer of every post in my blog. And there are more than a thousand posts. I couldn't put up with that. First a quick fix. In advanced template design, I made the 'posted by' section white over white so it could not be seen. Of course, I could have left it at that and just typed 'kitchen hand' at the base of each post and to hell with the footer, but that wouldn't really solve the mystery. I had to go in and investigate. Into the netherworld I slipped, silently, like Philip Marlowe into General Sternwood's orchid greenhouse. The atmosphere was similarly stifling. Jagged, ugly, indecipherable HTML was everywhere, running off in absurd line-breaks and full of words like maxwidget and fauxborder. Brave? I'm taking my life in my hands even typing those strange words in this post. They migh

That seems to have worked.

Except now I've lost my byline altogether. I'm going to climb inside the edit box with a spanner and a flashlight and push some HTML around and find out where the hell my proper name is. I could blast the whole thing sky high and take Blogger with it. Send out a search party if I'm not back in a week.

Cabbages and kings.

The snow peas are still popping out, the last cos lettuce went into a Caesar salad last week, and I've just picked the last red cabbage. Ten of them sat in the front row of the vegetable garden, a straight line of perfect round purple balls wearing large bluish outer leaf collars, like Elizabethan royalty sitting up at a long table. We gave some away and ate the rest. Much went into salads; I cubed some of it and boiled it and served it on platters of gado gado and similar hot-and-cold dishes featuring peanut or chili sauce variants. The leaves are densely packed and they stay together well when cubed. Of course, you can just boil the stuff and eat it in the ordinary way. Or try this: Red cabbage and onions. There's a million variations on this dish, but this version was easy and good. In a heavy pan, fry a couple of chopped medium size onions in ghee. Cut a red cabbage in two. Shred one half and add it to the pan. Stir gently to coat in ghee, then turn heat way down and

Voice silenced.

Farewell, Dame Joan Sutherland . This record (yes, record) still hits my turntable every Christmas. It's not Christmas dinner fare but is good for a quiet Christmas Eve with a drink. There might be enough trills on it to decorate the tree, and the old record might crackle like a Northern Hemisphere yuletide fire, but Sutherland's voice is sweet and pure and soars like an angel, reminding you somehow of childhood Christmases and the joy they held. Choice cut: O Holy Night .

A Barbecue With No Name.

It's a monster. It rests patiently and silently all the long winter in a corner of the windowless shed at the bottom of the garden under a corrugated cement-sheeting roof and a layer of dust. Then spring arrives and it comes out and I dust it off by hosing it down, like an elephant at the zoo. It is made from cast iron and it weighs either a ton or a tonne, the French version. Who knows? It's heavy. But it is humble. My barbecue has none of those things that copywriters call 'features'. It has no side burners, no cabinet, no window, no quartz ignition, no batteries, no warming rack and no rotisserie, motorised or not. It has no wok feature, no built-in lighting, no flame-tamer and no fancy name like Tuscany or Renaissance GrillPro . I couldn't bring myself to cook on a barbecue called Tuscany . It would just be too ridiculously pretentious, like wearing an apron and a chef's hat while you grill for your guests. If they must give barbecues names, why don't

Chocolate and timber yards.

It didn't pour like fluid, it fell like coiled rope into a well of oil. Something rose from it that was chocolate, or dried figs, or a timber yard on a warm morning after rain. Maybe all of them. Maybe none. Maybe it just smelled like red wine. Then I got the chocolate again. I don't even like chocolate that much. Hardly ever eat it. But in here it smelled fantastic, like something you've eaten long ago and have memories that get fonder with time. But what was the chocolate? It wasn't bar chocolate, or soft chocolate made with extra butter, or creamy Easter egg chocolate. It was something else. How specific can you be with the aroma of chocolate in red wine? Then I tasted it. It tasted like Kiri te Kanawa's voice sounds. The chocolate was still there. I wasn't sure now whether I was tasting it, or smelling it, or both at the same time. I should ask a wine bore how it all works one day, and request he keep the answer to ten words or fewer. Red wine is just