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Showing posts from March, 2022

Autumn hits: lamb shanks with rosemary and aromatic vegetables.

The price of meat has gone through the stratosphere as has the price of everything else so it's back to austerity cooking, if it ever left. I always cook austerely, if austere means making the most of everything and paying the least for the best. The money goes on paying too much - mixed salad leaves in a plastic bag cost anything up to $50-plus in supermarkets, but at the greengrocer they are $11-$12 in bulk. You're paying for the packaging which increasingly is ending up in the environment and ultimately ingested by animals and humans (see current reporting on the subject - no hyperlink required; it's all over the news). So it's back to lamb shanks. Yes, I do realise the net kilogram price is higher because you can't eat the bone, but it still works out cheaper than eye fillet steak for example. I've done lamb shanks a thousand ways over the years but versatility is what makes them work so well. Throw them in a pot with water, salt and aromatics and you've

Giulio Cesare (the opera) and the spaghetti dish at the back of the cupboard.

It was autumn and humid, early evening. A Handel opera, Giulio Cesare, was playing on the radio on 3MBS. It had been composed in 1724, the announcer said: two years short of three centuries. Given what is going on in the world now, no one can really get their head around that. I had been looking in the back of the cupboard. I had a packet of spaghetti, and some olives and capers in the larder. What to make? I found a can of tomatoes. Listening to the countertenor, I fried some garlic and onion in a little olive oil and added the tomatoes to the pan. Then I threw in a dozen pitted black olives chopped in halves, and a handful of capers, and left it to reduce slightly. The aroma filled the house. It hit me when I went out to the back garden to get some oregano and parsley from the herb patch, an old concrete laundry tub. It hit Casper, too, the foster greyhound who might be staying and might not be staying, depending on his behaviour, who raised his nose to the north-west breeze that sou

On Somers Beach, Part Two.

We came out of the ti-tree tunnel and walked onto that beach of memories, the two teenagers the age I was then, seeing with eyes I once gazed through, not yet carrying the burden of having seen too many things. It was as if I were accompanying my own past, times two. They went off with their sister and their mother on a walk along the sand to the yacht club, where a giant arc of shoreline cuts right in close the clubhouse, buttressed by a wall of stone. I did what I often do on beaches these days. I fell asleep. * It had been a torrid January day. I had spent most of it floating around on a sea as flat as a tennis court on an old tyre inner tube. Then I'd returned to the old rambling house that my parents rented each summer for a fortnight. That year I'd made it, through seniority, since a couple of siblings had left home, to the double-room bungalow that was an annex to the old house. It was all old stained timber and panelled walls and a picture window overlooking the bay and

On Somers Beach.

The steep shaded path from the road down to the beach was as it had been all those years ago, winding under a ti-tree canopy and levelling out before opening suddenly on blinding sand and sea. One difference: the path was shorter now, the relentless circular wash of the bay having eaten into the foreshore over time. They were always building groynes and piling up rocks and trucking in sand, but the cruel sea just swept them all away again. It was a humid Sunday, early afternoon. We had driven across the peninsula from the carnival side, past vineyards and through forested valleys where knots of brown ponies carrying school children can sometimes be glimpsed through the trees, like questing hobbits. Half an hour later a Westernport Bay slideshow had appeared from behind the crest of a hill. Somers sits on a lip of the peninsula midway between quiet southern seaside towns with hedges as clipped as their accents, and a naval base and deep-sea harbour at Hastings to the north. At low tide