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Showing posts from February, 2014

Hot chocolate: a memory of Mexico.

Last time I was in Mexico, a housewife passed on to me the following deceptively simple recipe .... That was never going to work. I've never been to Mexico*, but I kind of like the music, to quote a 1970s songwriter; but he was talking about Spain. This is a deceptively simple recipe, but it works well if you like the intense heat of your chili hit softened by a smoky cocoa and cumin background, like a Gulf breeze rolling across the Yucatan peninsula. Chili con carne. Brown 500g of beef mince in a little oil. Remove. Dice an onion and saute in the same pan with a little more oil. Dice a red capsicum, crush a clove of garlic, chop one, two or three small hot chili(s) and add these to the softened onion. Cook a minute or two. Add a tablespoon of cumin powder, two teaspoons of coriander, and half a teaspoon each of cinnamon and cocoa powder. Stir to combine. Add the cooked mince, two tablespoons of tomato paste and a cup of vegetable or beef stock or plain water. Stir and co

Cannery Row.

Now let me get this straight. The federal government refused to hand over a fistful of dollars (yours and mine) to the Shepparton Preserving Company so the canner could build, I don't know, some new sheds? A mechanised fruit picker? A bin for peach and apricot pits? A new office for the managing director? Despite this obvious, sensible and prudent move, the Victorian government's premier, Dr Denis Napthine*, stepped into the dispute and handed over $22 million (yours and mine, but only if you live in Victoria) to the 'embattled' canner for product 'development', embattled meaning no-one is buying its tins of fruit any more. Now to the point. I went to the supermarket. Rows and rows of cans with convenient ring-pull tops. Then the SPC cans of fruit. No ring-pull tops. You have to rattle around in your kitchen drawer and find a manual can opener (I also have an electric one dating to the 1960s in my collection of kitchen oddities) and physically open your c

Tomatoes arrive in the heat.

They are coming in all at once, clusters of orbs changing overnight from pale green to orange and then to red: not burgundy red or crimson or any one of a number of other reds, but that unique red of ripe tomatoes that is as warm and deep the sun dropping into the Indian Ocean, a sight I have not seen since the great autumn of 1988 and, before that, the seminal coming of age summer of 1971/2, when Australian cricket spawned a new sensation, the moustached fast bowler named Lillee who would inspire, both in style and in facial hair, another sensation forty-one years later. That was exhausting to write so I can imagine how it reads. Yes, it's Bulwer-Lytton time again; the competition that asks you to write the opening sentence of the worst-ever novel. Shouldn't be hard: just read the average corporate mission statement or the introduction to a bureaucrat's PowerPoint presentation. * The crop had not looked great, but that changed last week. Most are cherry tomatoes, bes

The Cult of Non-Celebrity: Four Chefs You've Never Heard Of.

Postage stamps used to depict noteworthy individuals such as queens, explorers or generals; or significant events such as the hundredth anniversary of the invention of the combine harvester. Not any more. Australia Post has just released a new series of stamps portraying celebrity chefs, obviously having decided that these people do not get enough exposure via television, radio, newspapers, weblogs, Facebook, Twitter, and life-size cardboard cut-outs in supermarkets. The subjects for the stamps include Neil Perry, who once franchised his name to cardboard packets of airline food, Kylie Kwong and some others whose names I forget. Octogenarian Margaret Fulton features as the token ‘retro’ food celebrity, which is like serving ironic lamingtons at your dinner party. There is a sense of clich├ęd obviousness about this, as there is about most of popular culture. It would have been far more interesting to depict some of Australia’s unknown chefs. Chefs who had never been on television,