Entries from August 2009 ↓
August 31st, 2009 — Bachelor Fare, One Dish Meals, Recipes
It was on a cold and dreary night in November 1892 that I was first introduced to yet another of the singular talents of my friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes, talents with which he was wont to so often surprise those that thought they knew him well.
The fire was blazing in our chambers at 221b Baker Street and I was seated comfortably in an armchair, browsing through the privately published memoirs of a Ruhr industrialist visiting Siam in incognito. Meanwhile Sherlock Holmes sat listlessly at his desk with his commonplace book open before him but ignored. Once again it was clear to see he was in the grip of one of his queer humours.
Looking across, I recognised of old that glint in his eye that signaled a brooding determination to break loose of his lethargy. I feared his gaze would soon turn to the drawer that held his vials of five percent cocaine solution, or worse still, to his violin case.
Suddenly Holmes leapt to his feet and began to pace about the room. “I feel like something spicy and gamey,” he ejaculated.
“Why my dear Holmes, whatever could you mean?” I murmured, rising to feet and closing a chapter on a stimulating account of nubile hermaphrodites in Indochine.
“The Devil’s Kidneys, Watson! That’s what I mean,” he curtly exclaimed.
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August 27th, 2009 — Eating local, Feeding people, Food History, Food Studies, Kitchen Garden, Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden, Thrifty
The Australian Conservation Foundation has just released its From Paddock to Plate: Rethinking Food and Farming report. Along with lots of recommendations about how we should do food production in rural and peri-urban areas, it also contains a number of recommendations about food production in urban areas. For instance, it talks about food sensitive urban design, which includes how we might design new housing estates, but also, where urban planning calls for consolidation and medium-density housing, it might be useful to factor in community gardens, roof gardens and so on.
But this would surely require a change in the current approach of local councils and planning authorities. For example, a vibrant urban food production system directed at household self-provisioning would require some relaxation of current water restrictions. Here in Melbourne, water restrictions serve as a restriction on water use, rather than a restriction on water consumption, and water use for household provisioning rather than commercial profit is severely restricted.
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August 26th, 2009 — Dinner, Not Safe for Vegans, Recipes
A little while ago I got an email from my friend and neighbour Jem which said “Want half a goat? This message has been sent from my blackberry.” I checked whether the goat had free ranged, and when I found out it was pasture-raised by his colleague’s relatives in the country, I was all in. A few days later he popped around with a bag containing half a very fresh young kid.
I knew there was no huge rush to cook it, as the meat hadn’t been aged for long. It was firm, with barely any smell, so I bagged it up and set about investigating what to do with it. With meat so fresh, and a beast so young, you can really cook it like a Spring lamb, but I wanted something goatier. The kid was small, so I figured I could make one dish from the leg, and one from the shoulder.
Indian is an obvious choice as most Indian “mutton” recipes actually refer to goat meat (or so I read). However I ruled that out as we’d just finished the leftovers of a delicious Raan, an Indian spiced leg of lamb. The recipe, from the Foods of the World India book, involved briefly marinating the leg in a paste of ginger, garlic, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, turmeric, cayenne, salt and lemon juice rubbed into slashes in the leg. It then got a prolonged – two day – marinade in a puree of almonds, cashews (substituting for the original pistachios), raisins, honey and yoghurt. Then a saffron bath before a slow roast. It was, as you would hope after all that time and sixteen additional ingredients, utterly sumptuous, but I fancied something other than a curry.
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August 25th, 2009 — Notices and Announcements
Capital Wines is a joint venture between Jennie and Mark Mooney of Grazing restaurant Gundaroo and Andrew and Marion McEwin’s Kyeema Wines, so they should know a thing or two about making food friendly wine. There’s no cellar door yet, but Jennie says they’ll be opening one on site with Grazing restaurant in early 2010.
In the meantime the wines are available through their online cellar and a variety of places throughout Canberra including Plonk – OMIC* reports spotting some of Capital’s ministry label at the national museum gift shop. With names such as ‘The Backbencher’ Merlot, ‘The Fence Sitter’ Rose and ‘The Swinger’ Sauvignon Blanc, it’s a series clearly in touch with this town.
I’m pretty keen to try ‘The Ambassador’ Tempranillo, and while I could wander off to Plonk for a bottle and let OMIC go at it in the kitchen**, the idea of trying some in situ at Grazing is very appealing. On a more worrying note 2010’s not that far away, so once the cellar door is operating, a full report will be lodged.
For more on Capital Wines, the old master Chris Shanahan has an informative post at his website.
*I wanted to start referring to our man in Canberra as ‘our Mick’ but apparently this makes him sound like ‘an indentured Irish day worker’.
**In our loose coalition, he tends to cook and I switch on the Asko.
Opening early 2010
(02) 6236 8555
These posts are cross posted from Our Notional Capital, where Dame Pattie blogs with her partner, our man in Canberra. The progressive list is here.
August 22nd, 2009 — Desserts and Sweet Things, Entertaining, Food for Babies and Children, Lunch
This time last week I was in the throes of preparing to cater for my niece’s 7th birthday party. Last week, right about now, in fact, I was studying the shelves at Woolworth’s Indooroopilly, hesitating between the standard packet of Dollar Sprinkles and the fairy-themed one. At that point I hadn’t fully decided on how I was going to manage to decorate the requested princess cake. I knew I was going to attempt to fashion a semblance of a princess atop a coconut cake using icing and my cheap cake decoration piping set, but as to the details of the glitter and sparkles, well, I was making those up in the supermarket.
I had offered to host my niece’s birthday party a month ago, after my family had celebrated my sister’s birthday at a garden centre cafe. While the garden centre’s cafe was perfectly fine, as we discussed Hannah’s forthcoming birthday, most of us still had memories of the over-priced outing that was my mother’s birthday a few months earlier: $45 for an average high-tea amongst some very pretty decor. The decor, while lovely, certainly wasn’t worth $15 dollars more than the usual price of a high-tea in these parts.
I’m not certain why my family has this high-tea obsession. Something to do with coming from England and wanting to play at being the Ladies we’re not, I suppose. Or perhaps it’s an excuse to eat way too many cakes, the sandwiches merely being a face-saving preliminary. Yes, the latter is more likely. Anyway, it seems the older members of this family have had a corrupting influence on the youngest member, since Hannah now associates all birthday celebrations with fancy, miniature cakes, delicate sandwiches and champagne-flutes of sparkling apple juice. When I volunteered to host her family party–her mother’s side of her family, anyway–Hannah put her own twist on the occasion and requested tiaras and sparkles. And since I’m a total push-over when it comes to my niece, I was determined to throw the best princess-themed party I could.
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August 15th, 2009 — Levity
I burnt myself cooking, didn’t I? While I love a good sore, both my boss and my partner have been turned into squirming schoolgirls at the sight of my horrid blisters. If you’re made of stronger stuff, there’s a picture under the fold.
Despite the obvious qualification of my ability to look marvellous in finger bandages and the earnest protestations of my niece and nephew, I will not be applying to be on the next series of Masterchef. I think it’s highly unlikely that a fat 38 year old mother of young sons who derives great personal joy from cooking and who lives in a suburban regional area will win two years on the trot. If you’ve got a zingier profile, you can apply here.
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August 12th, 2009 — Dinner, Eating Out, Reviews
We had a Big Day in our house recently when The Man turned 30. As he’s a Proper Man who likes Proper Food I obeyed his wish for unusual animal parts and we had a beautiful birthday dinner at Fergus Henderson’s St John Restaurant, in Clerkenwell.
In the revival movement of the last fifteen or so years to give Britain back its culinary history, Fergus Henderson has played a special role. His philosophy of nose to tail eating and, especially, his focus on long forgotten gems of English cookery and use of British produce have been absorbed into the wider gourmet scene to the point that ‘seasonal British’ has become a mantra in every cooking column and the supermarkets actively promote Kent strawberries or Gloucester mushrooms with Union Jack labels.
But even though he’s been part of the London restaurant scene for so many years and so many have borrowed so heavily, Henderson’s approach remains distinctive, challenging and pure. Both St John restaurants, the original in Clerkenwell and the slightly more casual in Spitalfields, are minimalist to the point of harsh. A long row of school style pegs circumnavigates the blank white walls and the only decoration is the black industrial lampshades. Even The Man, who would happily live in a white cube with nowt but a widescreen TV, commented that it wasn’t the cosiest of spaces. I remark on the decor because it makes sense when you get to the food. The food is unadorned and stays true to the founding principles; what it lists on the menu, you get on the plate.
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August 9th, 2009 — Canberra Wine and Wineries, Drink and Drunk, Eating local, Wine and Wineries
I wasn’t in the best mood for wine tasting the day we visited Brindabella Hills Winery. It was a bitter Canberra winter’s day and Our Man and I had a wide-ranging
argument discussion about the best way to spend the afternoon.
Brindabella Hills was on our list but didn’t offer food, so he suggested taking along a picnic. I pointed to the level of the mercury cringing in the thermometer bulb and hastily threw a few items together, thinking that I’d be able to persuade him into going somewhere with tablecloths and waiters.
Upon arrival, however, things started looking better. I like parrots and when I spotted a small posse of Crimson Rosellas as we rolled up to the cellar door, I took it as a sign that the afternoon was about to improve.
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