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Showing posts from June, 2012

Winter break.

School holidays were once in May, when the odd sunny day could make the beach just possible. We spent many of these holidays at Inverloch where we'd venture to the beach in sensible day clothes but inevitably end up in the water with wet jeans, jumpers, shoes, etc. These days the holiday fortnight is in deepest darkest winter. Where to go, what to do? Who knows. We'll just set off.

What to buy a seven-year-old.

William turned seven on Saturday. Here he is with his brand new tin reproduction of Donald Campbell's Bluebird, powered by wind-up friction engine.

Marsupials 5.3 on the Richter scale.

Yes, it is cold today. The chill north wind is blowing across the Australian alps and you can practically smell the snow. But today is the day: the winter solstice. For some reason it varies between 20-22 June and this year it is today. Roll on summer. It's all downhill from here. Last night, dinner was simple and you'ce probably heard it all before. What came after was less common. Salmon with linguine. Linguine in the pot. A large square salmon fillet cubed into bite-size pieces and poached gently in a little white wine and a squeeze of orange juice. Just until done. Then the fluid reduced with the addition of a little cream, perhaps a tablespoonful, and poured over the salmon cubes on the linguine. Simple. Nothing else needed. Maybe a few springs of parsley, just for decoration. Then came the rumble. It was only a tremor, of course. The whole plate shakes, like the skin of a drum. They only break at the edge, and I don't think we're on an edge. Of course, sha

What to do with leftover apples.

One day I'm cutting energy bills to shreds; then I'm running the oven for seven hours. Leg of pork, bone in, from the butcher. Slashed the skin, studded it with garlic, rubbed it with oil and salt, into a low oven for seven hours, the first twenty minutes on high. * The children are eating apples like there's no tomorrow. They leave them half eaten. So the uneaten parts are peeled and chopped and boiled and drained and pureed. There's your sauce. Two onions - one white; the other red. Chopped finely, cooked gently in a little oil and white wine and a clove of garlic in a covered pan until soft and translucent. Generous salt and pepper. * Switch on the news: left-leaning inner urban newspaper saved by a rich West Australian female miner. Some ironies are beautiful in their completeness. * Now it's hours later. Baked leg out to rest under foil; skin off, skin back in oven with a dash of soy and a little honey, left to almost crisp. Roast pork served

Power bill alleviation strategy: my seven-year plan.

They called it sticker shock in the 1990s recession–or was it the 1980s?–referring to overnight rises on price stickers shocking shoppers. We are about to experience bill shock. I could call it electric shock, but that might be a little dramatic. I anticipated this some time ago, well before any mention of a carbon tax. In fact, we have to go right back to 2005, after I bought this house . When I first inspected the house, a 1948 weatherboard bungalow, its operational economy was apparent. Today you’d say the house had ‘green credentials’ or was ‘eco-friendly’; but it simply had very few lights and no built-in appliances. Frugality was written all over it. It was a sale by the estate of the original owner; possibly someone who grew up in the shadows of the 1930s depression. There was a single gas heater in the lounge room and the rest of the house was unheated; there was no air-conditioning, no dishwasher, no exhaust fan in the bathroom (but an enormous sash window that, raised a

Solstice approaches; aromatic fog rolls across suburb.

Lamb shanks were a winter staple when I was growing up. When walking home from school on cold winter afternoons, I came to love the soupy redolence of lamb, carrot, celery, onion and barley rolling across the suburb like an aromatic fog. Everyone made lamb shank soup! There was nothing like that smell. * Six days to the winter solstice, so I’ve dragged this recipe out of the archive. Right now we need something robust, homely, and crammed with flavour. Lamb, rosemary, and a bottle of red. (Important note: the bottle of red wine in the title is an ingredient, so you’ll need to buy two if you plan to actually drink some.) Rosemary comes to the fore in this highly aromatic dish that will blanket the neighbourhood with tantalising aromas of lamb braising in red wine with herbs and garlic. (Is garlic also a herb?) In a plastic bag, dust six lamb shanks with a tablespoon of flour and salt and pepper. Brown the seasoned shanks in olive oil in a large heavy pot in batches. Remov

Eating their words.

Write about food for money? Beyond a few observations, food is food. Its nature determines that over-analysis is not natural, like chewing a mouthful eighty times. Food is for eating, not analysing; not for very long anyway. Food writing has to be sleight of hand. You have to write about something else and food has to just be there, along for the ride, without getting in the way. Food columnists go in and out of fashion. Eventually they pall. Jeremy Clarkson never palls, even though his writing is as formulaic as it gets, because his subject is motoring. But because the subject is food and the medium is their words, food writers’ pet phrases turn stale, like bread. It is something to do with the imaginative right and logical left brain, and hunger and desire, and what happens to your brain - or your stomach - when you read about food, and having the ability to go out and buy a burger right now; while you can’t go out and buy a Bentley right now. I don’t know. It is fashionable to

Linked Out

I just closed my L***edIn account. I'm not even sure why I was on it in the first place . I can't even bring myself to type its whole name in case a bunch of Russian hackers close in on my blog. The Russians are coming! Does anyone see the irony of this? In the early 1960s, the nuns warned us about the Red menace; and there was a grain of truth in it, because my school had one of Melbourne's highest proportions of eastern European immigrants (the Polish and Ukrainian girls had the most beautiful skin and eyes and ringleted blond hair I had ever seen) whose Catholic parents had fled Stalin in the 1950s. Then the Russians weren't coming any more and anyone who had been afraid of the Red menace became the butt of liberal jokes. Now they're coming again! Actually, it would be quite amusing - in a dark way - if Russian hackers closed down the whole internet and we went back to posting letters and writing in diaries.

The rain, the park and other things.

The city was bleak at 6.30 p.m. I walked diagonally across Flagstaff Gardens from King Street towards the market, in softly falling rain. The paths were dull yellow and slippery with wet fallen leaves. It had been windy and the leaf carpet rolled out onto William Street. I waited at the tram stop for the 55. Out of the darkness lit by pixillated orange, a giant mechanical monster emerged and ground its way slowly along the track heading towards the city. It was the leaf-eating machine that patrols the grid in winter, removing leaf mush from the inset tracks. The 55 came along and we sailed along William and into Flemington Road and then up into the blackness of Royal Park and behind the zoo. Is this the best tram ride in Melbourne? I like the part where the tram slams around the sharp turn under the rail bridge and cuts through the golf course. I was looking forward to dinner: home-made kebabs. * Question: do you eat bread that is older than a day? My routine is eat bread on day

Don't forget to write, they used to say. Now a social media giant finds my sibling. Invest!

I was 'visiting' Facebook (do people 'visit' books in the library? of course not - ridiculous) and it suggested - or even commanded, if the imperative mood is what Facebook intended - that I " Find friends from different parts of your life. " Among the list of 'friends' Facebook suggested I 'find' from different 'parts' of my life was my sister. I don't need to find my sister. I know where she is already. * A few weeks ago Facebook listed on the stock exchange after ridiculous valuations fuelled by near-hysteria. It was a bad idea to invest, but many thought it was a good one. That misapprehension lasted what, two weeks? Maybe some still think it's a good idea. We saw this twelve years ago, but they never learn. "It's not the same," everyone said, "The dotcom boom was different." I wasn't talking about the boom part, I said. They're always different, like tulips. But how they turn out is

Risotto and the gold rush: a timeline.

Risotto doesn’t usually figure in the quick and easy recipe pantheon, but it is a frequent solution here. Preparation is minimal, and it lets you do other things while you are cooking; such as opening the mail, reading, drinking, getting changed ... you get the idea. Here’s my risotto timeline when I get home late, but still want to eat well without having to stand at the stove or preparation board for very long: Risotto with zucchini and chorizo. 1. Walk in from the cold. Place keys and wallet on fridge. Fill kettle and turn it on. Peel and chop one onion. Peel and score one garlic clove. Toss both into a pot with glug of olive oil. Light stove. Elapsed time, 1 minute 20 seconds. 2. Place one chicken stock cube (I use Massel) into glass jug. Fill with boiled water. Stir. Pour rice into warm oil in pot. Stir. Elapsed time, 4 minutes. 3. Take bottle of white wine from fridge, tip a good glugful into rice, stir. Elapsed time, 4 minutes 30 seconds. 4. Pour stock into rice. St