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Showing posts from February, 2021

Caesar salad: the correct recipe spelled out.

One of the teenagers asked for Caesar salad; when I made it, the other - who never touches iceberg lettuce or any of the other lettuces - decided he liked Cos. One of my past obsessions on this weblog was the search for the great Caesar of Melbourne. Incorrect spelling of the name meant immediate disqualification; harsh but necessary. It is probably evolutionary that the human mind recalls bad faster than good; I don’t remember the really good ones, but I can still taste the greasy, stale croutons, the brown-edged limp lettuce and the oleaginous bacon of the worst. It was one of those food halls in Bourke Street where they pile up the salads like pyramids. Detail is everything. Fresh cold lettuce. If not using anchovies, prosciutto - or guanciale or whatever - with the fat rendered out so that it is crisp and its saltiness is not obscured by oiliness. Freshly toasted croutons flecked with lemon juice. A cleanly poached egg added at the last second followed by a shower of flaked parmesa

Top 100: 20 to 11.

20. Ooh My Head - Ritchie Valens. Led Zeppelin stole it, renamed it and claimed it as their own, 15 years after Valens died at age 17. 19. Me and Mrs Jones - Billy Paul. Early 1970s-baroque horn-punctuated soul from heyday of Philadelphia International Records. 18. Witchita Lineman - Glenn Campbell. Otherworldly Jimmy Webb genius, violins riding high like the wind in the wires. 17. Cry Softly Lonely One - Roy Orbison. More crystal-shattering vocal impossibilities from the three-octave master. 16. Halfway to Paradise - Ben E. King. Goffin/King composition was halfway to heaven; Ben E. King took it all the way. 15. Everlovin' Man - The Loved Ones. Cyclonic rhythm and blues on steroids. 14. Back to the Wall - Divinyls. Defiant late-1980s ultimatum by one of the sexiest voices ever to ride around a turntable. 13. Summertime - Zombies. Accompanying Colin Blunstone's burnished vocals, Rod Argent's Hohner Pianet turns out notes that hang in the air like dust motes in a shaft of su

Rigatoni with chorizo.

Sometimes hot weather is best faced by eating fiery food. Don’t know why. Perhaps it’s so you don’t know why you’re sweating; the food or the inferno of an evening.  This robust, flavoursome dish has a touch of fire for those (like the lurking teenagers casting shadows over the kitchen door) who are as hungry as six tigers* and like a little heat. Buy a pre-prepared jar of arrabiata pasta sauce; or use a regular passata and cook with browned onions, garlic, a splash of red wine such as durif or shiraz, and a touch of chilli.  Warm sauce through while pasta is cooking (recipe works best with chunky pasta such as penne, rigatoni or my favourite, tortiglioni). Meanwhile, slice a chorizo sausage into discs the size of ancient coins and fry these on both sides until they brown. Add cream to sauce; reduce until a good consistency and pour over pasta in serving dishes. Top with chorizo discs, torn basil and chopped parsley. Ciabatta bread or similar to mop up remaining sauce. Red wine. *Raymo

Chick Corea and the music of the twentieth century.

Music is introspection. Album titles that stay most in my mind suggest some kind of aural image: ‘The Hissing of Summer Lawns’; ‘In Search of the Lost Chord'; or meditative state: ‘A Strange Fantastic Dream’; ‘Time Out of Mind’. That introspection resonates heavily with jazz, with which I’ve had a lifelong love hate relationship, once describing (on this blog) a certain type of jazz as an airhose going off underwater with notes bubbling up and down the scale like an insane snake accompanied by random bangs and toots. It’s like music by Schoenberg or Bartók: you either get it or you don’t. Sometimes I do get it, and sometimes I don’t. It’s a mood thing. Jazz can sound like one of those cartoons in which a builder turbo-builds a house in ten seconds, yet corralled inside a well-written tune it can add immeasurably to its appeal; hence the brilliance of jazz-influenced rock, pop and soul tracks over many decades. I will never bag jazz or any atonal music again. If something by Berg or

Slow-cooked beef casserole: the Warhol solution.

Oyster blade is the cut of beef that, with a little gentle coaxing, turns into one the tenderest cuts of all. The gentle coaxing involves baking it, or simmering it, very slowly until that sandwiched layer of gelatinous membrane in between the two layers of flesh (ask a farmer or a butcher) bastes the cut until the fibres break down, and your teeth consequently need to do little work at all. I used about 750g of meat cut into forkable rectilinear (one of John Updike’s favourite words; his houses or Danish furniture or low barns are always rectilinear) pieces, and coated these in peppered flour using a shaken plastic bag with the closure held very tight. Then I browned them in peanut oil (Picky Picky from Kingaroy - who makes up these asinine brand names?) Browning is simply that: losing the redness without any burning and straight into the casserole dish. Into the browning pan went chopped onions, carrots, a turnip, and four quartered potatoes in stages, with a dash of white wine to pi

100 great songs of the twentieth century: 30-21.

30. Whispering Pines - The Band. Richard Manuel's plaintive vocal guarantees immortality, while Lowery organ shivers overhead like a cold moon. 29. From the Beginning - Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Once upon a time there was a progressive rock band that was so ridiculed (“ELP = Extremely Long and Pretentious”) that they decided to wreak revenge by writing the most perfect short pop song ever. So they did. And it was. (Although it did blow out to 4:23.) 28. Papa Was a Rolling Stone - Temptations. You can pick your friends but you can’t pick your parents. 27. I Got a Name - Jim Croce. Finally rewarded with fame, then cruelly smashed by fate when his plane crashed days before the song's release. 26. It’s Just a Matter of Time - Brook Benton. Brook Benton’s voice stole out of a billion radios in houses, factories and shops as the ‘50s gave way to the ‘60s. Lives were lived, novels were written, children grew up, and the sun rose and set to Benton's voice. 25. Blue Moon of Kentucky

Where potatoes and sheep collide ...

My grandmother was in her early thirties when the Depression hit. She grew up on a farm out of Daysdale near Corowa, but was now married in Ascot Vale amid massive unemployment. She used cheap cuts of meat to feed two of her own children, their adopted cousin whose mother had died, their live-in grandmother, and a husband. One such cheap cut (not the husband) was called the ‘scrag end’. This was a mutton or lamb neck, thrown into a large pot with potatoes, onions and carrots; and finished with milk and flour and parsley to make a kind of Irish stew. Obviously the Irish can’t claim the concept, which has worldwide variations wherever sheep and potatoes collide. For example, you could make following recipe and give it a fancy title for your dinner party: Bracioline Di Agnello al Forno con Gratin Di Patate e Aromi. The Italians entitle their recipes literally - lamb chops baked in the oven with potatoes and herbs. Of course, this is a peasant dish borne of necessity, availability, and hu