My wife D. put a lot of effort into the dinner. Our special tablecloth, napkins and candles. I had wanted to take her out, but she wanted to do something that said "I love you".
We had four courses
- parsley soup
- crumbed lamb cutlets served with potato & jeruselam artichoke mash and peas braised with artichokes
Yes, I know I said four courses but we didn't quite make it .....
Bought a bottle of bubbly to go with it, kitchenhand at www.verygoodcooking.blogspot.com has something to say about this ~ I wish I could do the links properly but I'll learn.
The wine was Domaine Chandon `99 Rose and very good it was too. But there is something ironic about a French champagne house making wine in Australia and being unable to call their sparkling wine "champagne". You can just imagine the marketers talking to their masters in France.
"C'mon, can't we put the word champagne somewhere on the bottle".
" Sacre Bleu, non non non, do you Ozeees really think you can make proper wine".
"C'mon, we'll sell more wine".
"If you Ozeees want proper wine, buy champagne!"
posted at 9:47 am
Daughter M. loves pick your own, as do her sister P. and brother A. Roaming up and down the rows M. always manages to consume more than are going into her container; mum has taught her well. Its fortunate for us that we are not weighed before and after picking or we would never be able to afford to go. For the first time we went on a Saturday and the picking is much better than Sunday when the canes have already been well and truly picked over.
There is something awesome about having kilos of raspberries to eat instead of those stingy little punnets. All kinds of ways to do them, but our fave is to whip up some cream with vanilla extract (essence is good too) and icing sugar to taste. The French call this Chantilly cream and very good with raspberries it is too. Chantilly cream has a dark side- provoking all kinds of wars over who will get to lick the bowl.
We have several friends who have gardens with a veggie patch so all kinds of bounty comes our way. Last week it was a huge bunch of parsley, the curly leaf kind. Most cookbooks books will tell you that flat leaf parsley has a better flavour, but I wouldn't care to put my life on the line in a blind tasting between flat and curly leaf. Parsley is one of those herbs that everyone seems to have sitting in a little glass of water on a kitchen bench slowly going yellow because somehow nobody ever needs a whole bunch and here I was with the equivalent of two bunches.
There are only two recipies that I know of that will use two bunches of parsley in one hit.
Tabouli and parsley soup.
Tabouli is a traditional Middle Eastern salad that was a big hit in Australia in the 80's, but now no-one, except middle eastern people, makes it anymore. How do I know this? Because I had run out of burghul (cracked wheat). Off to Coles I went and searched and searched and searched. It was nowhere to be found. In frustration I asked a Coles person where to find the burghul and was told that it was six months since it was stocked and that in the last four stores this person had worked not one of them had stocked burghul.
So off to the health food shop where they had two kinds, organic and not. Why is it that organic can sometimes be sooo expensive? The difference in price was more than three times. Its not true of all organics but sometimes I feel a little bit touched.
Burghul is a bit like parsley in that I know of only two recipies for it, tabouli and kibbe; both of them are a lot of work and I think this is why no-one is making tabouli anymore, its too much effort all that chopping and no-one can be bothered. Another problem was that there were too many dodgy recipies that contained far too much burghul: tabouli is primarily a parsley salad and the other ingredients have to be in balance. No self respecting middle easterner has a recipe for tabouli but they all know how to make it.
Start with two bunches of washed parsley, picked from the stalks. Whiz in a food processor until finely chopped or if like me you don't possess a food processor, chop with a knife. I've been meaning to buy one forever- really. Take four tomatoes and with your very sharp knife chop into about 10 mm dice or as small as you can manage and mix with the parsley. If it doesn't look right chop and add another tomato or tomatoes until the mix looks right- trust yourself. Take two maybe three spring onions (green onions) and finely chop, green part and all, add to mix, some people like to add a few finely chopped mint leaves as well. Take some burghul which you have pre-soaked in boiling water for about twenty minutes until soft, squeeze out the water and add to mix; it should just fleck the salad. My own son A. has ticked me off for adding too much - beware there are critics lurking everywhere. Squeeze the juice of two lemons- I know this sounds a lot but the mark of a good tabouli is that it is lemony- add with a good splash of olive oil- it must be olive oil- and salt and a bit of pepper.
Traditionly tabouli is served with lettuce leaves, just spoon tabouli onto the lettuce, roll up like a taco and eat, but I am perfectly happy to eat it on its own.
After demolishing an entire bowl of tabouli I immediately regretted not making parsley soup so on the way back from the berry farm we stopped at one of those farmer stalls beside the road and bought all the makings for the soup. There has been so much iron in my diet this week that I am positively magnetic.
2 bunches parsley (about 200 g in total)
2 leeks, white part only
75 g butter
3 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 litre chicken stock (store bought is fine)
half litre water
100 mls whipping cream
salt and pepper
Wash parsley and pick the leaves off one bunch and reserve. Roughly chop the rest, stalks and all. Clean the leeks by making a cross with your knife where you cut off the green part, separate the layers and rinse well under running water. Slice leeks and add to large pot with the rough chopped parsley and all the butter. Sweat for five minutes then add the chicken stock, water and potatoes and cook at a simmer for twenty-five minutes. Add the reserved parsley and cook for another two minutes- this will improve the colour of the soup. Blitz the contents of the pot in batches in a vitamizer until smooth. If your vitamizer is not powerful you may need to strain the soup. Return the soup to cleaned out pot, add cream, salt and pepper. Warm and serve.
Coming from the other direction was a station wagon, the woman driving was running a little late, not really speeding just hurrying. Sun glare was making it difficult to see so she pulled down the sun visor, her turn was just up ahead. Suddenly, as the woman started her turn, a shape burst from the shadows that the sun glare had made it hard to see into. Sensing the danger she jammed on the brakes; the car had enough momentum for the tyres to screech but it was too late.
Hearing the noise of the tyres I turned around just in time to see the cyclist collide with the car. He bounced off the windscreen in a slow motion somersault, cartwheeled across the bonnet and landed on his feet on the other side of the car. The cyclist immediately launched into verbal abuse of the driver, which gentle reader I have no intention of repeating other than to say it was intensely felt.
Our bodies are wonderful things that have amazing mechanisms to get us through a crisis, this mans' body was no exception. Shock kicked in, the cyclist went from standing to slumped on the grass beside the road, he ripped off his helmut and glasses and laid down. I went into the shop where I buy my morning paper to make sure they were calling an ambulance; I could still see the cyclist, he was grimacing with pain.
Life is really strange when you think about it, if either one had been going a little slower they would probably have never met. Now they have plenty to talk about.
I was going to talk about food, but nothing tasted any good to me this morning so I will tell you about my daughter instead. M. is five and has a real zest for life. One of her favourite things at the moment is a commercial on telly for a soft drink. In it a man is riding around town on a childs' scooter wearing only a helmut and a carry bag. Nothing else. M. calls him the nudie nudie man and will stop whatever she is doing to watch him. The music that accompanies the ad is Simon and Garfunkles' tune Feeling Groovy. So M. and I sit on the couch and sing it for all we are worth.
Slow down, you move too fast,
you've got to make the morning last,
just kicking down the cobblestones,
looking for fun and feeling groovy.
That feels better.
I've got a mate that follows the same football team as me (go bombers!). We get along to a couple of games every year but the real highlight is our grand final barbecue. Both of us are into wine and food, so about a month out we start our planning. Food is my go and L. organises the wines. Every year, just because I can, I change the menu. Its only fair because we never drink the same wines every year. But there are two items we have to do every year because everyone demands them.
My wifes' lamb shashlicks and my spicy barbecue prawns.
I know what your thinking, wine at a barbecue..... at a grand final barbecue, where's the beer? Okay, okay its just what we do. And sure beer would go better with spicy prawns, but this is our tradition.
Anyway, the other day we planned a barbecue for our friends in the run up to xmas. We live in an apartment so we have our barbecues somewhere else, in this case it was the Maroondah Dam park. This place must be Melbournes' best kept secret. They have real wood fired barbecues not those sad electric ones and they supply the wood! And the best walk after having eaten too much. I asked my wife what she would like to have; she smiled sweetly at me, the smile every man knows not to ignore at his peril, and aked for spicy prawns.
Tradition- I have never cooked this dish outside of the grand final- but there was that damn sweet smile.
1 kg shelled and deveined raw (green) prawn tails
4 spring onions finely chopped
4 cloves garlic crushed
2.5 cm piece ginger grated
2-3 small hot chillies finely chopped
Half bunch coriander washed and chopped
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
100 mls olive oil
Juice of 2 limes or 1 lemon
Salt and pepper
Mix all the ingredients in a bowl, cover and refrigerate for two hours, no longer or lime/ lemon juice will cook prawns. Heat barbecue plate until smoking hot, oil plate and tip entire contents of bowl onto the plate. Working quickly spread prawns apart and cook for two minutes. Turn prawns over and cook for another two minutes. Remove to a plate and garnish with fresh coriander leaves and quarters of lime or lemon.