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Showing posts from September, 2012

Walking through history in Tigerland.

Obscure quiz question: what’s so special about the following football score? Carlton 18.6.114 Richmond 10.9.69 Answer at the end of this post. (If you’ve already picked it, you are a football tragic with an eye for detail, or a Richmond fan who never forgets.) * Richmond was Struggletown for most of the twentieth century, a hazy suburb of worker's cottages jammed in amongst factories that made glue and paint and matches. The Bryant and May matchworks and the Rosella cannery employed thousands. When there was a northerly, the smoke from the factories drifted across the river and got in the eyes of South Yarra residents. * Every year I spend four weeks – sometimes more – in Richmond, one of the world's great inner suburbs. It's work; but I like to pretend it's a holiday. I enjoy walking the narrow streets at lunchtimes, gazing at the mostly renovated worker's cottages amongst the jumble of factories, warehouses and buildings of no clear description that c

Sweet potato gnocchi topped with grilled cheese.

Sweet potato has been cheap lately. I like it cubed and cooked and turned into a warm salad with torn spinach and segments of vine-ripened tomato and toasted pine nuts, all dressed with a mixture of vinegar, lemon juice, horseradish and a touch of mayonnaise. A large bowl of that makes a meal in itself, if you add a couple of freshly poached eggs and some lightly-toasted batons of Turkish bread. But here’s how I cooked it recently: Sweet potato gnocchi. Peel and chop one Beauregard sweet potato. Boil it until soft. Mash it or press it through a ricer, and place it in a mound on a bread board or marble work bench. Let it cool for ten minutes. Open a bottle of shiraz and pour a glass. Now make a crater in the top of the mound. Crack one egg and the yolk of another into the crater. Using your hands, gradually work in up to half a cup of flour, a scant tablespoonful of polenta and a finely diced clove of garlic. Press and knead the mixture lightly, adding more flour until it hol

Life uncorked.

It's been a big week. I minded a two-year-old for two days, launched a book, had lunch with my mother, took a five-year-old for blood tests (all clear), wrote a million stupid words for clients, read a primary school Principal's weekly bulletin in which he lambasted parents of children making their First Communion for noisily using iPhones and other devices in the church during the ceremony, pulled out a now-shaded climbing rose and planted lawn in its place, made two days' worth of gravy beef and mushroom casserole, and read Squadron Airborne by Elleston Trevor. I'm going home to a big marbled steak, cooked rare on a red-hot cast iron pan, with a slew of fragrant garlic butter on top; and served with whipped potatoes and silver beet from the garden cooked with garlic and cracked pepper and pureed with a touch of cream. I would also pull the cork out of a bottle of Mt Alexander shiraz, but these days they come with a screwcap.

Comment, allez-vous.

Not only has word verification outlived its usefulness; it is also now counterproductive, having become completely unreadable, thereby preventing humans - let alone robots - from posting comments. So I've switched it off. In any case, the verification function is a relic from the days when weblogs were cutting edge social media and targetted by spammers. Now we're as old hat as sending birthday cards and thank-you notes through the mail. Presumably robots are no longer interested, and are trying to ingratiate themselves with the Twitter crowd. We'll see. Meantime, commenting is easy again.

Pasta and gingham.

Last time I was at Florentino’s Cellar Bar, which was on a cold, wet Friday night years ago (the review is somewhere in this weblog), I had a robust dish of pasta tossed through with black pudding and pine nuts. It was very good. But you have to like black pudding. (The Cellar Bar is a cafe-society style dining room where there is no artifice, Italian cafe traditions endure, the food is robust, and old-fashioned gingham lives on .) I’ve replicated that dish, with variations, many times since. Here's its latest incarnation. Rigatoni with black pudding, broad beans and roasted tomatoes. Drizzle some olive oil and shake some cracked pepper and salt over two dozen cherry tomatoes - or other miniature variety - and roast them until they collapse. Slice black pudding into rounds about the size of a ten cent piece (use smooth black pudding rather than the Scottish type which is flecked with oats) and fry on both sides until slightly crisp. Pod and peel a bowlful of broad beans
I was going to post some of the children's art, however illustrator and retired RAAF Squadron Leader Hugh Dolan has beaten me to it. Here's William's illustration of a First World War dogfight; and here's Thomas' picture of a Sopwith Camel.

World turns; sun comes into back yard.

The sun crept across the pale painted wall of the shed in the back garden at 7am for the first time since autumn. It couldn’t reach the wall that early during winter, being lower in the sky. Now we get an extra burst of reflected light in the south-facing kitchen. The warmth is welcome. Even the creatures think so. Last night I saw the season’s first huntsman, crawling along the side fence. It’s less than a fortnight ago that I passed, while walking home through Yarra Park on a bitterly cold Melbourne night, someone walking one of those snow dogs that has those piercing pale blue irises. Nothing unusual about that? The dog was wearing a coat. Spring warmth comes in on the arms of a vicious spring wind. Everything is covered in blossom. It would have been nice to see it sit on the trees a bit longer. Seems to have lasted only days. And the work begins. I pulled out ten metres of rocket and wondered whether we’ll ever plant it again. Put it in pesto; make salad; that’s it. Then it