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Showing posts from May, 2012

Brussels sprouts, Richard Clapton, St Ignatius and Jack Dyer.

Once upon a time, this blog started a campaign to promote the maligned Brussels sprout. The campaign has rolled on, relentlessly, like a Capricorn Dancer wave (after the horses). I just don’t talk about it much. The other night, I made this side dish to accompany grilled steaks. It was a particularly cold and bleak late-autumn evening, one on which strong, robust flavours appeal. Brussels sprouts with bacon and blue cheese Trim the ends off a dozen Brussels sprouts and halve them. Peel one onion and quarter it. Plunge sprouts and the onion into boiling water and cook them fifteen minutes. Fry three slices of short bacon, diced, until not quite crisp. I always add a little white wine and pepper to the pan. Drain vegetables. Add to cooked bacon with a tablespoon of sour cream. Stir to coat. Remove to a heatproof serving bowl or platter. Crumble gorgonzola or other blue cheese over the top. Grill three minutes. Serve with medium-rare eye fillet steaks. Pour a glass of red

Goodbye Mr Gregurek.

Ten great things about Vlado's: No menu. Its old decor that ignores 'cutting edge' restaurant design. The meat. The irony-free large picture of contented cows on the wall. The waiters who have been there forever. The cabbage salad. Its old-fashioned friendliness with no attitude. The window on to the grill, not the street. Its continuity in a world of fads. Vlado himself: a humble man who cooked the best steaks in Australia.

Niçoise by candlelight.

It rained all day, and it was cold, and I walked down a sodden Sydney Road late morning and visited the fish shop and one of the two greengrocers; and brought home a dozen oysters, two swordfish steaks, a bag of very good green beans and the last decent tomatoes in Australia. * Early in the afternoon, I visited a friend who was housebound following a hip operation - he will never run another marathon - and drank coffee while his dogs leapt about the small lounge room in which we sat. We listened to the rain outside, and then another noise started. The endless rain, having obviously pooled on the roof, was trickling through the vents of a wall-mounted heater and was dripping on the carpet behind the television with a loud patting noise; drips of slow destruction, water torture for apartment-dwellers, a slow insistent reminder to call the body corporate who would call a plumber who would fix the problem in due course, perhaps June, perhaps July, perhaps never. My friend hobbled to th

Salmon with beurre blanc on a thin-sliced layer of waxy potatoes.

Everyone's doing beurre blanc, so let's give it a try. Reduce 100ml each of white wine and vinegar in a pot with a sprig of tarragon, a bay leaf, ten black peppercorns and a chopped shallot. Cool and strain. Place two tablespoons of this reduction into a pot with a tablespoon of cream. Reduce this by half and then gradually whisk in 200g cold diced, butter until thickened slightly. Add the juice of half a lemon, salt and pepper. Fold in a slew of capers, maybe a dozen. Meanwhile, cut four peeled waxy potatoes (those red ones that seem to change their names every week or so - Pontiac? Red Devil? Red Russet? - will be fine) into half-centimetre slices, boil until yielding but not quite mashable. Drain. Meanwhile, cook salmon fillets gently in a pan with a little lemon juice, lime juice or orange juice; or a little of all three. Layer potatoes on serving plates, salmon on top, beurre blanc over.

Index in the sidebar.

I said this weblog didn't have labels. But now it does, in the sidebar. So far they go back only a few years, whence Thomas is currently outscoring William. Latecomer Alexandra has some catching up to do.

Don't eat fish: doctors.

We have it on medical authority : eat less fish. Nothing to do with your health: doctors are not caring about you. They're thinking of the environment. In fact, they are thinking about the fish. That's a first. Doctor: "You're looking great. But don't eat any fish." Me: "Why? Isn't it good for me?" Doctor: "It's not good for the fish. Or the sea. Or ..." Me: "I'm not paying you to care about fish." Doctor: "Everyone cares about fish now. You should care about fish. There won't be any left." Me: "I thought that was the idea. You get in first and improve your gene pool. It used to be called evolution." Doctor: "It's not evolution any more. It's ethics. Ethical eating." Me: "Now I'm paying you to be a philosopher." Meanwhile, the scientists are not happy: In a submission following the draft report, the CSIRO questioned the use of the term "en

Dinner and a movie. Or dinner in a movie.

Talking of sacks of potatoes (previous post) always reminds me of a movie I saw once, and if you happen to have seen it, you will already know what it was. But let’s start at the start. One bleak night, many years ago, my older sister lent me her MUFS* membership card - as she so often very kindly did - and I went off on my own to the cinema. The cinema was the long-gone Carlton Moviehouse , above Genevieve’s café, also gone. The cinema was known as the bughouse as cinema-goers were not the only patrons. The building now houses a student travel agency, but the cinema had students and others travelling in all kinds of ways long before the agency was selling jet flights. That night at the Carlton Moviehouse, I travelled to London. The movie, Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy , was one of those ultra-gritty British productions typical of the early 1970s. British writers and directors were at the top of their game then, before political correctness softened storylines and killed scriptwriting

Big issues pale into insignificance as discussion turns to potatoes.

It’s the little things in life. The big picture can take care of itself. When the slowest train wreck in history finally comes to a juddering halt, and the fires are put out, and the recriminations are settled, and the retributions dealt, and factional revenge enacted – which could go on for years based on form – all that really matters is ... how you like your potatoes. Or something equally inconsequential. Currently, this household is getting through many kilograms of potatoes each week, although in the context of potatoes, the metric term ‘kilogram’ has always struck me as utterly ridiculous. A description such as a hundredweight, or a bushel, or at least a sack, would ring far truer. Let's go with sack: we’re getting through a sack of potatoes a fortnight, which - if you must know - is 25 kilograms according to a British standard. In fact, we should be buying them by the sack, rather than in the pathetic little plastic bags we pick up from the supermarket or the greengrocer

Almost-caramelised leeks with cherry tomatoes on polenta.

What would you rather eat, say for a special occasion dinner: (a) The shoulder of a pig rolled around some cored heirloom apples stuffed with sage, butter and breadcrumbs and baked in a closed barbecue until the skin crackles and the meat falls apart, or (b) Textured soy protein in a plastic casing. I thought so. Manufactured vegetarian food is a concept that is fundamentally flawed, although it continues to hold shelf space at the supermarket. Its marketers claim their products simulate the flavour and texture of meat. One such product even claims that, when fried, its aroma stimulates the appetite. You’d be better off ordering a salad at Vlado’s and enjoying the smoke from the grill. Or is that a no-no, like passive smoking? There’s a million ways to enjoy vegetables without resorting to soy burgers. And I’m not even vegetarian. I just like vegetables. Leek and late summer tomato stew on polenta Cook polenta, following your preferred recipe. For this, I whisk a cup of pole