About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Hashed Potato Pancakes
Easy Tomato Soup
A Matter of Opinion
Ruby Blood Navel Oranges
Chicken Cacciatora
Goulash Soup
Fennel, Guanciale & Fontina Quiche
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Polenta with Cavalo Nero & Borlotti Beans
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1001 Dinners 1001 Nights
A Few of My Favourite Things
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Cooked And Bottled In Brunswick
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essjay eats
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I Am Obsessed With Food
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My Kitchen in Half Cups
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Not Quite Nigella
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Steve Don't Eat It!
That Jess Ho
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tummy rumbles
What I Cooked Last Night
where's the beef
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St Kilda Today

Thursday, December 22, 2005
Christmas Message
Well, this is it. My last post for the year. Going on holidays for a few weeks, not really, we're painting at home. Wish we were going on holidays. Maybe Easter. M. is going to her school holiday program, which she loves.

Braved the Xmas traffic to get my piece of salmon for gravlax. Take some to my mates place Christmas morning, to have with champagne, some to the inlaws for Christmas Eve. Back to the inlaws for Christmas day when I will roast a whole rump of beef. Still waiting to see what brother-in-law J. will bring; he can't cook to save himself, but always brings something at the last minute, usually prawns which he likes fried in breadcrumbs. As if we didn't have enough to do. Last time J. bought salmon which I promptly turned into a ceviche, the look on his face, when I told him it wasn't cooked, after he had eaten it, was priceless. J. is sort of a well done kind of guy.

It will be a bit sad for J. this year, as his mum died a few months ago, this will be the first Christmas without her, so maybe no food tricks ~ this time. My wife D. has taken over the pierogi making from J's. mum and changed the filling from cheese and potato to cabbage and mushroom, but there will be no stuffed quail, her signature dish. We will still set a place for her of course.

I would like to thank everyone that has taken the time to read me, especially those who left comments. Promise to tidy up my profile and list the music I like, but for those who want a taste of my music, you could do worse than to hire 'School of Rock' on DVD; it's a comedy ~ of course, but there isn't a song on there that I don't like. Listen out for AC/DC's 'Long Way To The Top.'

In case anyone was wondering, yes, half of the post 'No Bull' was a joke; it kind of flowed on and I was powerless to stop it, and yes, I did eat what I said. For my Spanish speaking readers, I will try to learn a few words, so look out for that next year. Should be back by the 16th Jan., unless I can't stand the painting.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.
  posted at 4:55 pm

Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Saucy Girls
Was watching a Marilyn Munroe movie last night, when I drifted off. Woke a short time later and the movie was still going. In that dreamy half awake, half asleep state I watched as Marilyn tried to win her man, when it hit me. Nigella Lawson, the English cookery writer and television presenter, and Marilyn Munroe are a lot alike. The same voluptuous bodies, the flirty looks, pouting lips and eyes that speak of a thousand pleasures. In fact the only thing Nigella doesn't have of Marylins is her vulnerability, Nigella is more your Wusthof Trident kind of girl, all hard and sharp.

Can't imagine Nigella singing, "Happy Birthday Mr Prime Minister," to Tony Blair either. But if she did, the effect on him would be the same as for John Kennedy.

My mate L. loves watching her on the telly. L. can't really cook, he just loves to watch. He tells me there is something about the way she tastes food, a sensual parting of the lips, flashing eyes and the morsel slowly devoured.

I've watched Nigella a few times, but she kind of lost me a while back. She was making guacamole and was chopping coriander with her trendy mellazuna when she said something like "I can't be bothered with too much chopping" and proceeded to put the coriander into the mashed avocado pretty much intact. I know she is appealing to the time challenged, but her statement showed she knew it wasn't chopped enough.

Another time I heard her say, "I never salt water before it boils, as it takes longer to boil that way," with a gee I know a lot kind of look. Well I'm not Harold Mcgee, how much longer Nigella? A second, two seconds and who is going to watch the pot to save all that time? We all know a watched pot never boils.

Don't get me wrong, I do like Nigella, she obviously loves her food, likes to eat it, dresses so well and looks good all the time. It's just that I can't help the feeling that food is something to help her get to where she wants to go. Wherever that is.
  posted at 2:06 pm

Monday, December 19, 2005
Top This
Every Friday I pick up daughter M. after school and we go shopping, always ending up at Coles. Asked what she wants for dinner, M. invariably says jaffles, so off to the bakery section for bread, the dairy section for cheese and the tinned goods section for some Stagg Chili ~ Dynamite Hot. The good people at Stagg should be told that their chili is not Dynamite Hot, maybe Firecracker Hot, but definately not Dynamite; and because it contains beans, I know your not from Texas. But it's nice enough for a jaffle.

Sometimes for a change, we cruise past the fresh pizza section, if they're on special, we grab one or two. Sometimes I like to cook, sometimes I don't. Putting an uncooked pizza into a blazing hot oven is not cooking, only warming.

M. decided to choose her own pizza topping, reached out and grabbed an Hawaiian ~ ham & pineapple. Having spent the best part of twenty years trying to convince my other kids not to eat Hawaiian pizza, I wasn't giving up without a fight. Showed M. all the other toppings, but she wasn't having any of it, ham & pineapple it was.

I'm sure we all have food abominations, ham & pineapple pizza is mine, feel free to leave a comment about yours. In Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, she lists about half a dozen pizza topping combinations, all very simple, all very classic. When I have the urge, I will make pizza from scratch. It's not hard, you just need plenty of time for the dough raising, oh, and some bread making flour, which can be found in the bread making section in most supermarkets. After that, all the other ingredients can usually be found in the pantry or fridge.

Watched a movie with M. while eating our pizza. When we were done, I took the plates back to the kitchen. There on M's. plate were little golden nuggets of pineapple.

Daddy's girl.

Pizza Margharita

Bread making flour (usually comes with dried yeast)
Dried yeast (if required)
800 g tin crushed tomatoes
half an onion, finely chopped
50 ml olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Few leaves of basil, shredded
salt and pepper
Mozzarella, sliced or grated

Makes two

Follow instructions on packet to make pizza dough, use enough flour for two bases. While the dough is proving, make the sauce. Heat the oil and soften the chopped onion, add garlic and cook one minute more. Add crushed tomatoes and cook until a loose sauce is obtained. Season and add basil. When the dough has been punched back, turn the oven to 240 C. When the dough is ready, roll out to fit whatever baking sheet you have or to suit a pizza stone if you have one. Spread sauce almost to the edge and top with mozzarella. Cook until mozzarella is melted and the edge is nicely browned.
  posted at 11:20 am

Sunday, December 18, 2005
Christmas Party
Feeling rather inspired today after reading "MY FATHERS NEW YEARS DAY BARBECUE".
How to Roast a pig the cuban way It reminded me of the Christmas barbecues that my mum used to put on for clients and friends every year. Not that we did something as exotic as to dig a pit for roasting a pig, ours involved copious quantities of lamb forequarter chops, steaks the butcher tenderised and lots of sausages. Plus beer ~ by the keg for the men, Stones Green Ginger Wine and Pimms for the ladies. Mum only ever invited ladies, never women.

My dad died when I was three and mum took over his electroplating business. It was pretty unusual for a lady to work in this type of industry; a result of which mum became well known, so lots of people would turn up to her Christmas party. There were four of us kids and we all got involved in the preparations. As I got older my job was to mow the lawn, tidy the garden, blow up balloons and help string up party lights.

Tidying the garden was a fraught occupation. Dad was a bit of a gardener and planted a few different things. After he died, these plants became untouchable, the only problem was that I didn't always know which ones they were. One time I cut down a branch of a huge flowering gum (eucalyptus ficifolia) that was about to extend over our roof, over one tonne of wood came crashing down, no problem, but when I trimmed a cumquat tree that had overgrown the entrance to our house and you had to push past to get in, especially bad in the wet, mum didn't talk to me for almost a month.

There was a police station across the road from mum's factory and she was friendly with all of them, they used to keep a special eye out for her, so they were always invited. One of them would turn up early to set up the barbecue. In those days barbecues were easy, a forty-four gallon steel drum was cut in half, four legs welded to the base, some wire grate was pilfered from somewhere and voila ~ a barbecue.

When the keg arrived, the delivery man would patiently explain the mysteries of its workings to the appointed barman, usually a friend of mums. None of her friends could ever have become publicans as no one that I can remember ever got the keg to work properly, not that anyone really minded, especially me as there was always a shandy (half beer, half lemonade) to be had, so long as mum wasn't looking.

The guests would arrive, the barbecue lit and when the charcoal glowed, the cooking began. Half a forty-four gallon drum holds a lot of charcoal and the sides of the barbecue were almost glowing. Cooking a steak was no problem, but forequarter lamb chops with their ribbons of fat and sausages were a special challenge, flare ups meant the food had to be constantly rearranged, lets just say nothing came off the barbecue that wasn't well done.

Nobody really cared about the burnt food or the beers with too much head. Mum would gaze over her party with quiet satisfaction, holding her gin and tonic. It was almost Christmas and her friends were all here.
  posted at 9:19 am

Friday, December 16, 2005
Chile Theory
My son N. recently returned from a trip to Korea. N. is twenty-one and has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, which was the reason for his trip; he was entered in the world championship for his sport and traveled to Korea for two weeks. Unfortunately in the first minute of his first bout a stray kick to his hand badly dislocated a finger and N. was unable to continue.

We were chatting about his trip, when out of the blue N. asked me what is the taste of chile. It transpired that pretty much all the food he had eaten on his trip was out of his comfort zone for chile heat, with kimchi (spiced, fermented cabbage) a principal offender. Kimchi is to Korea what sauerkraut is to Germany, it's found everywhere there.

I asked N. did he mean the taste of the chile pod or the taste of the heat itself and he replied the heat. Everybody reading this knows what he meant.

The first time I overdosed on chilies was at some Pakistani friends' dinner. Everything was going well until I noticed my friends were munching on long green chilies in between mouthfuls of food. In a when in Rome kind of thing, I picked up a chile ~ my friends chorused it was HOT. Yes it was! My mouth went into meltdown, but there is nothing you can do except wait for the moment to pass. They must have smuggled the seeds for this chile into the country, because there are similar chilies available here that are nowhere near as hot.

To answer N's. question, I told him that chile heat doesn't have a flavour only a sensation, interestingly different chilies seem able to produce different heat sensations. Of course the chile pepper has a taste of its own, ranging from herbaceous to fruity. The mighty habanero is the hottest chile in the world and has a lovely fruity flavour, at least until the heat catches up with you. But I discovered a way to harness the habanero in one dish so that the character of the chile shines through without the bite of the snake. Simply make up your favourite marinade for fish and add one ot two chopped habaneros, marinate for two hours, discard the marinade, unless you like it real hot and cook the fish anyway you like. Fish is perfect for this as you will get good chile heat, layered with fruitiness, permeating the flesh.

Ever been to a Chile Festival and witnessed the chile eating competition? Inevitably it involves men who should know better, mixed with those who have a supernatural ability to ingest super hot chilies with no apparent side effects. I've always wondered at how they can do something that would cause the average person paroxysms of agony, until one day it struck me.

Boronia is an Australian plant that flowers in spring; people tell me it has the most heavenly perfume and they tell me because I cannot smell it at all, everything else I can smell fine, just not boronia. Just as some people are colour blind perhaps some people lack receptors for capsaicin ~ the chemical responsible for the heat of chilies ~ and can tolerate the intolerable. I'm sure there is an element of building up tolerance over time, but I witnessed someone eating habaneros, chewing on them, one after the other as if they were lollies. I can just imagine Robin saying, "Holy habaneros Batman, there goes the burning ring of fire!"
  posted at 7:51 am

Thursday, December 15, 2005
Double or Nothing
What I said.

"Darling, can you buy me 750 g calamari (squid), make sure their not too big."

What the Wife heard.

"Darling, can you buy me some squid. I need real big ones, you know the sort that chase Captain Nemo to the ocean depths and when they're done with him, go and wrestle sperm whales."

My request turned into a kilo and a half of two hulking squid - when I was expecting three or four sweet, tender calamari of 750 g.

The stir fry just went out the window.

Maybe they could be floured and fried, so I got to work cleaning. Separated the body and tentacles. Yuk, one of them had had a last supper of a large sardine. Flaps off, skin off, divided the tentacles and cut the body into rings. Dipped into seasoned flour a squid ring and a piece of tentacle and dropped them into hot oil, sizzled for two minutes and tried them.

The squid ring wasn't too bad, but the tentacle I could have used to replace my car tyres. What next?

Squid, octopus and cuttlefish are cephalapods, members of the mollusc family, only they don't have an outer shell. When cooking, it's a choice of fast ~ about two minutes on high heat or long and slow ~ up to an hour on low heat. Anything in between will leave them tough.

A braise was my only hope of salvation, so this is what I did.

Squid with Peas

1 & 1/2 kg large squid, cleaned and skinned - see note below
1 onion, chopped
4 fat cloves garlic roughly chopped
4 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
1 cup dry white wine
1 - 400 g tin crushed tomatoes
100 mls olive oil
cayenne pepper to taste
250 g peas
salt and lots of black pepper

Gently fry the onion in the olive oil until it turns pale gold, while this happens cut the squid body into rings, cut the tentacles and flaps into short lengths. Add the garlic to the onion and fry two minutes more. Turn up the heat, add white wine and reduce till almost gone, add crushed tomatoes, squid, parsley, marjoram, pinch of cayenne and season. When it bubbles, turn down the heat to low, partially cover with lid and cook for one hour or until squid is tender. Check if it needs water from time to time. Add peas and cook until peas are ready, about five minutes. Serve with rice.

Note - large squid have a stronger taste - smaller, sweeter squid can be substituted.
  posted at 7:32 am

Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Rolling On
Our gorgeous Christmas tree just had its first fall for the season. In previous years daughter M. would lurk around it until our attention was somewhere else, reach up and CRASH down it would come. This year M. understands better but her mates little brother does not. Collateral damage report - three baubles have gone to Santa.

One of the things I love about cooking is finding out new things or information. Last week I found out two new things. Reading Chubby Hubby's post titled "A good cheap eat" he talked about wok hei or breath of the wok, which he went on to say is the "deliciously smoky taste that food cooked in a well used cast iron wok over high heat can take on." It's something that I have noticed in asian food from time to time, but never realized it had a name. Before all the Asians in the world say "tankedup, you are sooo slow," I would like to say that my asian cooking really is a western interpretation of the real deal and it shows. It's not that I don't try hard but something is eluding me. Want barbecue hei, no problem; grill hei, it's yours; but wok hei, well, it's a wok in progress.

The other thing I found out was the result of my poor pastry rolling skills, hmmm I'm giving away too much about myself. Making pastry is no problem, even very short pastry; it's just that I can't roll it evenly. When it comes to lining a tart ring, some of the pastry is too thin to push up the side, so when it shrinks back in the blind baking, sometimes it shrinks back a little too far; when it comes to putting in the liquid filling, well lets say some of my tarts are exquisitely thin.

There is a great recipe for lemon tart by Marco Pierre White, which Rick Stein described as a real chef's pudding ~ high praise indeed. I've made it a few times and I always have a lot of lemon curd left over, which is stored in the fridge for a few days before sadly being tossed. This time I was determined to do something with the left over curd. The day before my new edition of Stephanie Alexander's, The Cooks Companion, had arrived from my ebay seller and I eagerly searched for advice. And there it was.

Stephanie wrote that she had read in a journal, that an egg mixture containing a lot of sugar could be cooked over direct heat with no fear of curdling, unlike a custard. Well, the nine eggs in Marco's recipe contained 400 g of sugar, more than enough to conduct a test; off to the stove I hurried, put the pot of curd straight onto the flame, stirred continuously and brought to the boil, no curdling!

It felt like an episode of The Myth Busters.

Marco's Lemon Curd

5 lemons, juice of all, zest of two
400 g caster sugar
9 eggs
250 mls double cream

Whisk the eggs and caster sugar together, add lemon juice whisk again, fold in the cream.

You can now cook on the stove and serve with berry fruits or ice cream, or if your pastry rolling skills are better than mine, make your favourite pastry, line a flan tin, blind bake, then pour in filling, bake at 120 c for 30 minutes or until set. You could even buy ready made pastry shapes from the supermarket and fill those.
  posted at 8:23 am

Monday, December 12, 2005
Chardonnay Blues
More testing for me. A different researcher this time but the same strange tests. Either someone out there has some pretty serious issues or is waking up every day and having a laugh to themselves. One of the tests involved jigsaws ~ not the traditional kind, more free form. When we got to the last one the researcher told me that she had seen only two people solve it. Off I went and after a little time I got it together!

Told the Wife.

"Guess what? I solved the butterfly."

"So did I."

"How long?"

"Straight away."

I've married well.

Had some friends over for dinner. D. is the store manager for a large wine retailer and always brings something interesting to drink. We were having fish pie, the English version, with three kinds of fish, mussels, shrimps and mushrooms, bound together with a sauce made from the court bouillon used to poach the fish along with the mussel liquor, all topped with mashed potato and baked. D. selected a Chassagne Montrachet from France to drink with the meal. For those that don't know, this wine is from the famous Burgundy region where only three grape varieties are permitted under classification ~ pinot noir, chardonnay and alligote.

This wine was a chardonnay from the 2000 vintage. It was still undeveloped but had great length with mineral undertones and as all good wines do, it started me thinking ~ about Australian chardonnays.

In Australia, for the most part, we have no trouble getting grapes ripe. Our alcohol percentages are always higher than in France, an indicator of grape ripeness as grape sugar converts to alcohol. In winemaking there is a balancing act between ripeness and retaining enough acid to allow the wine not only to live longer but to give it a backbone. Picked too early, the resulting wine will be acidic, too late and the wine is sweet and lacking charm.

In making chardonnay, most, but not all Australian winemakers have made a deal with the devil. In order to hurry up the evolution of the wine and increase their sales, they indulge in malolactic fermentation. This legal skullduggery softens the acid in the wine, making it approachable at an earlier age but at a cost to the wine; its soul has been sold. Most aussie chardonnays reach their peak between one and five years after vintage; it is rare to see a good one after ten years, they mostly just fall apart. Excessive malolactic fermentation also confers a sameness to our chardonnays, all butterscotch and nutty characters, which leads to the subtler characters of the wine being lost.

In France it's illegal to add acid to a wine, but not sugar; Australia has the exact reverse. While we are struggling to retain good acid levels in grapes before they are ripe, why do we then set out to soften the very thing that will keep the wine fresh and youthful; why then do we constantly need to add the acid back in?

The Chassagne Montrachet we were drinking was five years old and still had tremendous development in front of it, possibly another twenty years. In this modern world it can be hard to be patient, but I know which wine I would rather be drinking. Don't get me wrong, I drink more aussie wines than any other, but a good wine is a good wine and I think the French, in this case, have got it right.
  posted at 8:47 am

Friday, December 09, 2005
No Bull
One of my mates N. has three daughters, two of them are in their twenties and one of them traveled extensively overseas. As is the way with these things, she met and fell in love with a Spaniard, living with him and his family for a while before returning to Australia with the boy in tow.

As a bloke I can't say I really understand the appeal of Spanish men, but there is a certain something about them. Watch Flamenco and you will know what I mean, the intensity and control, the strutting, arrogant way they move, all right I'll say it ~ their manliness.

Chatting with N. one day, he revealed that the Spaniard had charmed the knickers off his other two daughters and his wife ~ no, not literally ~ with the Spaniard barely able to speak English. Wanting to help I told, N. about a Spanish grocery shop, Casa Iberica in Fitzroy, thinking that if the Spaniard had something to do, well you know the story about the devil making work for idle hands.

N. told me that the Spaniard had cooked for him already, something with potatoes. "Tortilla", I ventured. "That's it", he replied. Told him it contained potatoes, onions and eggs, N. said there were no onions as they gave him bad wind, but opined it was very tasty.

Like most other European nations, the Spanish still like their offaly bits. When I traveled through France, one of the things I remember, besides the lurid displays in the butcher shops ~ who would think to display offal in a way to resemble women's genitalia ~ was eating testicles. Not unlike sweetbreads in texture, it's something that I'm unlikely to eat again, as I recall there was a tear in my eye with every bite.

Two of my mates traveled to Spain to have a look around. They did a few things together and some apart. One of them went to the bull fights to check it out, while the other went to a soccer match. After the fight my mate was hungry and looking for somewhere to eat, located a restaurant built into the bull ring, went in and spoke to the waiter."

"What have you got."

"Ze special of the day, Senor."

"What's that?"

"Don't ask, I will just bring, si?"


What came out were round pieces of meat, in a sauce, that looked like they had been carved off something about the size of a grapefruit. My mate being adventurous tucked in and thought it quite delicious.

"What is it?"

"You know when ze bull, he lose, we serve 'is manliness, you know, 'ow you say, 'is testicles."

He thought it was pretty funny and decided to invite his much less adventurous mate to the next fight, to get a reaction, so the next week, after much persuading, his mate came. After the fight , they took a seat in the restaurant.

"We will have the special thanks."

"Si, Senor."

The waiter soon returned with a large dish that had plenty of sauce, but only two small pieces of meat about the size of walnuts.

"Waiter, there must be some mistake, I was here last week and ordered the same dish. It came with much bigger pieces of meat."

"Si, Senor, that's right, you see sometimes the bull, 'e wins."
  posted at 7:40 am

Thursday, December 08, 2005
Simple Pleasures
Jingle Bells, Jingle Bells .....

Our tree went up yesterday, wife D. did a wonderful job, it looks absolutely gorgeous.

Went to the Myer window last week. For those of you that don't know, Myers is a famous department store here, and every year they do a Christmas display in their store windows. It's a tradition to take the kids for a look.

This year I was vaguely troubled by the display. It told the story of the man who bought Christmas. Of course there were elves and reindeer everywhere and Santa saves the day, but I noticed in the corner of each window a copyright assertion. Is it just me or is there something wrong about copyrighting a story of the man who bought Christmas? And Myers, Christmas was bought out a long time ago; it's us ordinary folk who are saving it.

Now I have got that off my chest, I'll risk breaking the copyright to tell you about the last window. The scene was of a gathering at a Christmas table. On the table there was all sorts of food but especially noticeable were the fish dishes; it was a traditional European Christmas Eve.

Every year this is the way D. and her relations celebrate Christmas. They still do Christmas day but Christmas Eve is more important to them. Meat is absolutely barred from the table so it's a chance to do the whole repertoire of fish dishes. D. does a wonderful dish that is a celebration of wild things ~ gummy shark with morels. The shark is floured and fried then laid into a baking dish, to this she adds fish stock, morels that we picked and dried, along with onions and seasonings then bakes in the oven.

The fish stock we make ourselves, usually from the bones left over after filleting fish that I've caught. Love homemade stocks,they have a depth of flavour that is essential to certain dishes and I'm thinking here of the classic Spanish dish Arroz a la Banda, literally abandoned rice or rice served apart, and Hainese Chicken Rice. For deceptively simple dishes like these to really succeed, it is necessary to go to the trouble of making your own stock.


1.5 litres fish stock(include in it garlic, tomatoes and a good pinch of saffron)
500 g paella or risotto rice
4 cloves garlic crushed
2 teaspoons paprika
4 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

Heat the olive oil in a pot and add the garlic and paprika. Cook slowly for two minutes. Turn the heat up, add rice and cook quickly for two minutes. Pour in hot stock and season. Reduce heat slightly and cook for 8-10 minutes uncovered, reduce heat to low and continue to cook uncovered for another 8-10 minutes until done to your liking. Serve with stir fried squid rings and garlic sauce.


1 whole head garlic
1 tablespoon lemon juice
olive oil

Blitz peeled garlic and lemon juice in vitamizer, slowly add olive oil until a sauce is obtained. Season with salt. This sauce is very good with grilled chicken too.
  posted at 7:48 am

Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Burn Me On The Stake

Fished Western Port Bay last Sunday, I have been fishing there for forty years and my father fished it before me. It is a sadness for me that I never fished with my dad as he died when I was very young; it is also a sadness what has happened to this beautiful stretch of water. All the sea grass has pretty much gone and with it all the creatures that depended upon it for their survival. Forty years ago it was possible to see the bottom through twenty feet of water (six metres for younger folk), now mud that was held down by the sea grass, discolours the water with every breeze.

Despite this, it is still a productive stretch of water. We target King George whiting and gummy shark but catches of snapper, Australian salmon, the ubiquitous flathead and other species are possible. I finished up with a bag of whiting and flathead; I also caught a snapper but traded it for a whiting as my mate P. wanted to steam the snapper for his girlfriend. Who am I to stand in the way of love?


One thing I have never been able to understand is the fuss people make about catching a fish and cooking it as soon as possible. Sure I want my fish fresh, as it spoils so easily, but I place no premium on cooking fish the same day I catch them. In fact fish, properly looked after, is better one or two days after being caught. There, that's my heresy.

The best fish I have ever had was a piece of wild barramundi from the Northern Territory and since I was in Melbourne when I ate it, this fish must have been two days old minimum. So what's going on? Why do so many people think eating a fish the same day it's caught is best? I think the answer lies in olden times when there was no refridgeration, fish pretty much had to be eaten on the spot or risk spoiling. The only ways to preserve fish were salting, smoking or fermenting which considerably changed the taste and texture.

So why do I think the way I do? It's to do with observing what happens to fish after they die. Any fisherman will tell you that fish become stiff as a board for several hours after death and this is why they are better eating the next day ~ they relax. When you eat a fish that is in rigor mortis, the flesh is tight. When the fish has been rested, the flesh becomes tender. Pretty simple really.

King George whiting yield thin fillets that take no time to cook, about one minute on the first side and thirty seconds on the other in a very hot pan. Usually I season the fillets directly rather than season the flour, then flour them. Last night for a change I used breadcrumbs. First dipped the fillets in beaten egg, no flour, as I didn't want a thick layer of crumb ~ flour helps more breadcrumbs to stick by holding the egg on better, then pan fried the fillets in peanut oil. I prefer this with breadcrumbs rather than butter, it seems to yield a lighter result. Served them up with a wedge of lemon and a kohlrabi salad.
  posted at 10:23 am

Monday, December 05, 2005
No Brainer
Interesting morning.

At daughter M's. school they give out a weekly form called "weekend news", to be filled out by the parents, giving the students cues for discussing the weekend. The Wife asked me this morning to fill it out.

Saturday, ... tram ride to city ... stand in line ... look at xmas display in Myer window ...

Sunday, ...?

"Darling, I think Sunday is yours".

"Can you just write something"?

"I was fishing all day, I don't know what you did".

"Just do it".

Monday... enrolling in mind reading course.

Wish I could have done Friday.

Picked up M. after school, hurried to Coles to do our ritual shopping (snack and drink for M.), as a researcher was coming over to test me for a project. We bumped into a lady handing out chocolate samples for a new cappuccino flavoured chocolate bar, M. needed a couple of tries to make sure she really liked it!

We got home and the researcher arrived soon after. Man, she had some weird tests, the weirdest ~ and hardest ~ was identifying the colour of a word that was different from the written word; for instance the word red was written in green and I had to say green and so on down a list. Nearly passed out after that one. There was even a sneaky test where I wasn't tested at all - go figure.

After we were done, we got to talking about M.

At school M. has a large circle of friends but she has one special friend . After watching Shrek a zillion times, she has taken to describing him as her "true love". I was relating this to the researcher and called out to M.

"Who's your true love"?

"The lady with the chocolate".

Good girl.
  posted at 8:46 am

Friday, December 02, 2005
Bean There, Done That
Oops, burned the bottom of the pot last night. I've been playing around with a new recipe from Antonio Carluccio's excellent book on vegies. Usually new recipies are a snap. Like the look of it and off I go; mostly get them right first shot, definately by the second.

I'm a real Casanova for ingredients ~ have my way with one, love it tenderly, passionately then having tired of its charms, say, "Its all over, there is another I love more, but we can still be friends." Mostly they aquiese in this arrangement, but sometimes it requires all my seduction skills to win their hearts. Artichokes, cauliflowers, eggplants, I've wooed and won them all.

Aaaah, my new love. Sigh. How can I tell you how beautiful she is. Sigh ......

Gently I undress her, caressing her out of her pod, so gorgeous with speckled white and pink flecks; so fresh, as time has yet to dry her charms.

Wonderful fresh borlotti beans. *

There is something satisfying about borlotti beans when fresh. They look wonderful, but sadly turn into Cinderella after midnight upon cooking; kind of a pink plain Jane. This drab exterior hides a rich creaminess that partners most foods. When cooked well.

They say in golf that you are not really hooked until you crack a great shot straight down the fairway; with borlotti beans I'm all slice and hook. I mean I burned the beans ~ twice ~ even with a simmer mat. Let me hasten to add that they weren't cooking in water, the beans were in a pot with crushed tomato and pasta and everything thickened right up. Maybe I should have been stirring the whole way ~ but that's not my way, not even for that notorious pot sticker, polenta. But that's a whole other story.

So I have a plan. The defences of this wonderful bean will melt like the polar ice caps suffering global warming. Hmmm, that sounds too severe, maybe more like the ice in my scotch.

I'll let you know right after cleaning the pot.

* I think they're sometimes called cranberry beans.
  posted at 8:50 am


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