You can see from the photo that at the grand old age of two years and four months you overcame your fear of tulle and net long enough to pull on this tutu and do a few Angelina Ballerina twirls.
Nanna found the tutu on the Internet. It’s actually a pair of bathers but God knows how you’re supposed to swim in it when you’ve got half a kilo of wet net trailing down your legs.
Here’s a picture of Angelina Ballerina.
Apart from the fact that she’s a mouse and you’re not, you can hardly tell the difference can you?
It was lovely to see you and your Mum and Dad on the weekend.
The tutu photo was taken just before we went out to dinner at the Venice Restaurant here in Albany.
As usual it was good food and great service, but as a bonus we also got to find out just how far a kiddie serve of spaghetti bolognese can go (all over your head, face, chest, stomach and knees in case you’re wondering).
We also managed to do some cooking at home, you and I – a really interesting cake made out of wet sand, a handful of blue metal and two orange-glitter birthday-cake candles bashed to pieces with a plastic bucket.
Your recent transition from cot to big girl’s bed has been interesting and continued to be so at Nanna and Grandpa’s house.
I won’t go into it except to say we managed to convince your Mum that auctioning you on Facebook isn’t a viable option.
The use of occy straps, however, is still under consideration.
I was hoping that when we were at the Venice I’d be able to have some chilli mussels for dinner, but sadly they were unavailable.
So I had to cook my own.
Your Grandpa went out to Emu Point to buy the mussels.
You get them from the same place you get Albany’s famous rock oysters – a big red-brick shed-type arrangement up the back of the boat pens.
Signage is not their forte so if you don’t know where to look you’re buggered.
Luckily, we do.
Here’s my recipe.
Serves 4 as an entrée, 2 as a main course
2 tbsp olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
2 red chillies, seeds removed, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 x 400g tin diced tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup white wine
dried crushed chilli/chilli flakes to taste
½ cup chopped parsley
crusty bread to mop up the sauce
Heat the oil in a big cooking pot over medium-low heat (a pasta pot is perfect for this).
Add the onion and chopped fresh chilli and cook for 3 minutes then stir in the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes, until the onion is soft.
Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste and white wine and simmer gently for 10 minutes.
Taste the sauce and if it’s not hot enough for you, stir in some dried crushed chilli.
Fresh chillies vary in strength and I usually end up adding anywhere between a pinch and a teaspoon of the dried stuff.
Remember that the mussel juices will dilute the sauce quite a bit, so gauge your chilli quantities accordingly.
Cook the sauce for another 20 minutes until it’s very thick.
While the sauce is cooking, fill up the kitchen sink with water and tip in the mussels.
Give them a good wash (you may need to scrub them with a brush or scouring pad) and remove the beards by pulling them down sharply along the shell.
Drain the de-bearded mussels in a colander, fill up the cleaned-out sink with water again and tip the mussels back in.
Swirl them around a bit to remove any grit and drain again in the colander.
All the mussel shells should be tightly shut. Chuck out any that aren’t.
When the sauce is ready, tip the mussels into the pot, put the lid on and cook over high heat until the shells open (about 5 minutes), giving the pot a good shake occasionally.
Discard any mussels that aren’t open and put the rest into serving bowls.
Ladle over the sauce, sprinkle with parsley and serve with lots of crusty bread.
Here’s the big tip: one of the next big things on the food scene according to today’s Sunday Times Magazine is segue dining.
Basically, segue dining is all-day dining, as in your breakfast will segue into lunch, which may then segue into dinner etc.
Back in the day if lunch segued into dinner, it was called “Getting drunk and forgetting where you live” dining.
But then back in the day I thought segue was pronounced “seeg” (it’s SEG-way), précis was pronounced pressiss (it’s PRAY-see) and oregano – well, it was a word I avoided like the plague because whichever way I pronounced it there was always someone on hand to correct me (which is called patronisation – patt-ron-eyes-AY-shun).
The Sunday Times Magazine devoted 15 of its 32 pages today to a Hot 100 list “of the hottest people, events and trends set to rock 2013”.
Basically, they listed 100 things that are going to make early adopters cringe and encourage middle-class aspirants to listen to Biffy Clyro, who have been around for about 15 years now but who knew? (apart from several million people in the rest of the world)
It’s funny to think that by the time you’re 35 and old enough to read this blog, Biffy Clyro will probably have been relegated to the CD racks out the front of newsagents, and segue dining will be old hat.
Speaking of which (hats, I mean), here’s a picture of Anna Dello Russo, who’s the editor-at-large and creative consultant for Vogue Japan and is placed at number 62 on the STM Hot 100 list.
If I had known that all it took to be hot was some fake apples on my head and a dress that looks like a Cath Kidston doona cover, I would have tried it years ago.
Here is some more interesting information about Anna:
She is a passionate fashionista who wore Dolce & Gabbana to her wedding in 1996, and Balenciaga for her divorce six months later.
She keeps all of her clothes in a separate apartment that’s next door to the one she lives in.
Her boyfriend doesn’t live with her – there’s no space because of the clothes.
Here is some interesting information about me:
I love reading this shit.
Also, even though I’m embarrassed to admit it, I’m secretly pleased that Anna has saggy knees (this is because she’s 50 – it happens to the best of us).
Seeing as Anna is almost vegetarian but likes to eat fish, my recipe today is for something she might like to dip her ciabatta into when she invites a few “super chic party guests” (number 59 on the Hot 100 list) to a soiree at her Milan apartment.
In Italy it would be called Salsa Salmone but here in Australia it’s just called good old Salmon Dip.
Either way, it’s really delicious – much nicer than shop-bought and easy to make.
The recipe is by a food stylist called Janice Baker and is from the book Sheridan Rogers’ Food Year.
You’re supposed to cover the top of it with a thick layer of chopped walnuts and snipped chives.
Feel free to do so if the thought of chopped walnuts with tinned salmon doesn’t make you want to be sick.
Makes enough for 3 small-ish bowls (as in the picture) or 1 big one
250g Philadelphia Cream Cheese (I use the low-fat one)
210g tin of good red salmon, drained and boned
a good squeeze of lemon juice
salt and pepper
Mix the cream cheese and salmon together with a spoon or fork until well combined.
Squeeze in some lemon juice and add five drops of Tabasco sauce and salt and pepper to taste.
Mix it all together, taste it, then add more lemon juice and/or Tabasco sauce, according to how lemony and hot you like it.
Snip chives over the top and serve with crackers or pide, which is what Turkish people call Turkish bread.
In case you’re wondering, I believe pide is pronounced pee-da.
But don’t quote me. I’m the person who used to pronounce pot pourri pott POO-ree.
The day will come when you’ll say to yourself, “Why haven’t I got a proper thermometer?”
That day will probably be a day like today when the temperature in the shade reaches 40C and it starts raining live spiders on your deck.
If it ever comes to pass that it’s raining live spiders on your deck, you’ll want to know what sort of temperature the deck roof has to reach before 50 over-heated spiders drop from their hidey holes ALL AT THE SAME TIME and dangle in mid-air.
Well, I can tell you now that it’s about 48C (which is 118F, which is bloody hot no matter which way you measure it).
It totally freaked me out, I can tell you.
It was as if Google maps had stuffed up the coordinates and decided to treat southern WA to the 11th plague of Egypt.
Or as if the Mira Mar contingent of the Albany spider population had decided to reenact the airborne invasion of Normandy.
Nanna actually screamed.
Luckily your Grandpa thrives on danger, so he braved the 50 spiders that were dangling at eye level, crawled to the outdoor table and put the oven thermometer on top of it so we could record the temperature.
Then he got the Mortein and sprayed the crap out of everything.
It occurred to me later that if you’ve got to have native wildlife dropping from the roof of your deck, spiders are probably better than brown snakes.
Funnily enough, your Grandpa wasn’t comforted by this observation.
All afternoon he’s been shuddering and brushing imaginary arachnids off his shoulders.
This spider invasion wouldn’t have happened of course if I got off my bum more often and cleaned the deck roof with a long-handled broom.
I’ve never made any bones about my lack of interest in housework, but the raining spiders thing plus this news report I came across on CNN (Woman Loses Breast After Spider Bite – yes, honestly) has got me thinking I need to change.
Here’s a picture of how the deck roof looked when it was first erected.
Suffice to say it doesn’t look like that now (I’m too embarrassed to show you a picture).
Anyway, we were going to have a barbecue out there tonight, but while I’ve been writing this the weather has broken and it’s absolutely pissing down.
I was going to cook another recipe from that excellent cookbook, In the Mood for Entertaining, by Jo Pratt.
It’s supposed to be a breakfast dish (it’s the sort that would be spot-on if you were hungover) but it’s just as good on the barbecue for dinner.
As it stands, what with the spiders, the torrential rain and the general state of my nerves at the moment, we’ll probably have bacon sandwiches.
SWEET POTATO HASH BROWNS WITH SAUSAGES AND SWEET CHILLI TOMATOES
From a recipe by Jo Pratt
Serves 2 (recipe doubles easily)
2-3 tbsp olive oil
4-6 sausages or 8-12 chipolatas
1 small sweet potato (about 160g)
1 lge egg
salt and pepper
200g of whole cherry tomatoes or mini Roma/plum tomatoes, cut in half
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
pinch of crushed chilli/dried chilli flakes
2 tbsp roughly chopped parsley
The original recipe calls for proper long sausages, each one cut on an angle into three or four pieces.
I did this and because they popped out of their skins a bit and curled up as they cooked, they looked like turds from one of your smaller breeds of dog.
So from now on I’m going to use chipolatas, which I prefer anyway.
Whatever you decide on, fry them on the barbecue or in a decent-sized non-stick frying pan in 1 tbsp of oil until they’re cooked and golden brown.
The recipe says this will take 5 minutes but I’ve yet to meet a sausage that cooks all the way through in less than 15, so bear that in mind.
Once the sausages are cooked, put them on a plate and keep them warm.
While they’re cooking, peel the sweet potato and grate it coarsely.
Put it in a bowl with the egg, season with salt and pepper and mix everything together thoroughly.
Divide this mixture into four and dollop it onto the barbecue or into the frying pan that the sausages were cooked in, adding more oil if necessary.
Flatten each dollop with your spatula to make four hash browns and cook them for 3-4 minutes per side until crisp and golden brown.
While that’s happening, heat 1 tbsp of oil in another frying pan and cook the tomatoes until they start to soften.
Add the caster sugar, balsamic vinegar and crushed chilli and stir everything together.
Cook over low heat for a few more minutes until the tomatoes are very soft.
To serve, put two hash browns onto each plate, top with the sausages then spoon the tomatoes over the top.
Sprinkle with the chopped parsley. This not only makes it look pretty, but also contains heaps of Vitamin C, which if you’re cooking this as a morning-after breakfast, apparently speeds up the metabolism of alcohol by your liver.
Serve with salad and some nice bread to mop up the tomato juices.
I was going to talk to you today about making strawberry jam but I haven’t made it yet so I can’t.
There are five kilos of strawberries in that box in the picture.
Your Great Uncle Gerard was down for a visit last week and asked us if we’d like him to go out to the local strawberry farm and buy them.
What possessed me to say “yes” is anybody’s guess. I must’ve been on drugs without knowing it.
The main reason is that they were only $10 (yes, $10 for 5 kilos) and who could go past a bargain like that, EVEN THOUGH I WASN’T PAYING FOR THEM?
Not your Nanna, that’s for sure (my Mum, aka your Great Grandma, reckons this is because once you’ve been hit with the Kmart stick, it’s a lifelong thing – cheap, cheap, cheap all the way).
These strawberries are seconds. If you look closely you’ll see that some of them have been pre-nibbled by lizards and bugs, others are covered in dirt, and a few (surprisingly few, actually) are turning into alien life forms.
It only took me about 12 hours to wash them, hull them and chop out the dodgy bits.
Then I had to go to Woolies and buy some JamSetta and the equivalent of Alec Baldwin’s body weight in sugar.
The idea is that I will chuck everything into a big saucepan, boil the shit out of it and end up with jars of jam that people will exclaim over at Christmas even though what they really want is a giant Toblerone.
Speaking of Christmas, here are some pictures of our fibre-optic tree, which I love with every fibre of my being.
Your Grandpa and I sit in front of its twinkly-ness every night, grateful that we no longer have to pretend we prefer the real thing and won’t still be vacuuming up pine needles on Australia Day.
The following pictures are of my spice drawers, which I bought at Ikea years ago and painted with some red paving paint I found in the shed at our old house.
The names are written on the front with white coloured pencil, which is easy to wash off if you want to re-arrange your drawers (so to speak).
We love eating spicy food, your Grandpa and I, and this is a good way to store spices because it keeps them in the dark.
“Where are you going with this, Nanna?” you are probably asking right now.
Well, I’m trying to segue into a recipe for Satay Pork, which is what we had for dinner last night.
This is one of our favourite meals – perfectly spiced and great to eat with fried rice.
It also freezes and reheats really well.
It’s from a book I got off eBay called Best-kept Secrets of the Women’s Institute: Home Cooking, by Jill Brand and Carrie O’Regan.
I don’t have a picture of the finished dish because it’s one of those brown jobbies that doesn’t photograph well.
Here’s a picture of the spices instead.
700g pork fillet
1-2 tbsp oil for frying
For the marinade:
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp salt
3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
For the peanut sauce:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped finely
2 garlic cloves, crushed
¼ cup (60 ml) smooth peanut butter
½ – 1 tsp chilli powder (depending how hot you like it – I like ½ tsp)
1 tbsp light brown sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
Mix together the marinade ingredients in a medium bowl.
Remove the silvery bits from the pork fillet and slice the meat across the grain into 1cm slices.
Put the pork into the bowl with the marinade and mix well.
Cover with Gladwrap and marinate in the fridge for at least 6 hours.
To make the sauce, heat the oil in a small saucepan over low-ish heat then gently cook the onion and garlic until soft and lightly coloured.
Add the peanut butter, chilli powder, brown sugar and lemon juice and cook for two minutes.
The sauce can be made ahead of time if you like. Keep it, covered, in the fridge.
To make the satay, heat a little oil in a non-stick frying pan or wok over high heat.
Fry the pork until cooked through (you’ll have to do this in two batches, removing the first batch to a bowl).
Return all pork to the wok, stir in the peanut sauce and heat through for a couple of minutes.
Serve with rice.
Sometimes real life – as in, work – gets in the way of blogging, which is a bugger because I’d be quite happy to sit here all day, every day, writing nonsense and posting recipes.
Work has gone ballistic in the last couple of weeks, which is why I haven’t had the time to sit here and write things like, “I was stunned by the woody freshness of the avocado” or, “This method of cooking steak was taught to me by my French friend Nathalie” or, “With a little care, a simple snack can make a delectable mini-feast”.
Luckily for me, all this stuff has already been written by Carina Cooper, who is the author of the Notting Hill Cookbook.
Since buying this cookbook I’ve been asking myself do I dislike Carina because she’s a wanker?
Or do I like dislike her because she’s thin, blonde, good-looking, lives in one of the most desirable suburbs on Earth, has directed documentaries for the BBC and appears to be filthy rich?
The answer is yes to all of the above.
To add insult to injury, Carina has an “inspiring husband” called Franc and four daughters called Ithaka, Flynn, Sidonie and Zazou.
Here is more of what Carina has written in her Notting Hill Cookbook.
“From the age of about four my children cooked their own supper on a Sunday evening. Oeuf en cocotte was Flynn’s favourite.”
And, in the introduction to a recipe for Prawns Margarita: “We were sitting on a beach in Mexico with our friends Goffredo and Alix.”
As someone who would only be able to write, “From the age of 10, my children were able to microwave their own baked beans,” and “We were sitting on a beach in Safety Bay with Ron and Maureen,” I’ll make no bones about the fact that I dislike Carina with every fibre of my being.
So the question is, why did I buy her cookbook?
Well, because it was $2, hardback, hardly a mark on it, at the Salvos Community Store in Chester Pass Rd.
Your Uncle Paul is on leave at the moment and came down for a visit, and because we’re both book fiends we did the usual trawling of the op shops.
Here’s the big tip: Notting Hill may have fabulous bars, flower shops, cafes, restaurants, delis, bakeries, fishmongers, butchers and markets, but Albany has the best-value second-hand shops in the Universe.
The Salvos! My God, you haven’t lived until you’ve trawled through their bookshelves.
And unlike the Red Cross shop, which has gone all upmarket retro and is selling books for upwards of $4 (the cheek!), the Salvos are sticking to two bucks a pop, no matter what the original price.
Here’s what I bought for $8 on Friday.
You’ll see that the book by Masterchef Australia judges Gary Mehigan and George Calombaris was originally $49.95.
And it was one of two that was on the shelf (the other one is probably still there, so if you live in Albany you should stop reading this right now and get on your bike).
I was going to give you a Carina Cooper recipe because, despite the pretensions and gag factor of the book, some of the recipes don’t look half bad.
But I haven’t cooked anything from the book yet so I’m going instead with something from The Best, the TV series that was on Foxtel ages ago.
There are some great recipes in the book that accompanied the series, so grab it if you see it in an op shop near you. It’ll be the best $2 you’ve ever spent.
I made this Oriental Noodle Salad because I’d bought some sesame seeds for a prawn recipe that failed miserably and needed to use them up.
It’s very different, light and healthy and good to eat on a hot day.
ORIENTAL NOODLE SALAD (recipe by Silvana Franco)
100g rice vermicelli noodles
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
½ tsp salt
½ tsp caster sugar
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 Lebanese cucumber
1 red chilli, finely chopped
100g smoked salmon, torn into shreds
handful fresh coriander leaves
1 tbsp sesame seeds
Soak the noodles for about five minutes in boiling water to cover.
While they’re soaking, grab a big bowl and mix together the vinegar, salt and sugar.
Add the sliced red onion and mix to combine.
Peel the cucumber, halve it lengthways, scoop out the seeds with a spoon and chuck them out.
Slice the cumber thinly and put it in the bowl with the chopped chilli, smoked salmon and coriander, stirring to combine.
Drain the noodles in a colander and run them under cold water until cool.
Put them in the bowl and toss everything together.
Toast the sesame seeds in a small non-stick frying pan and sprinkle them over the top of the salad before serving.
Here at party central there’s been quite a bit of Henry VIII “nastalgia” going on.
That’s because, while Foxtel can’t spell, it HAS been good enough to re-run the entire four seasons of The Tudors and it’s the absolute, hands-down best.
We missed it the first time it aired and now can’t wait for the repeats on Thursday nights. We’re like addicts waiting for a hit.
I’m especially hanging out for the next episode because I’m hoping it’s the one where Katherine Howard (the Queen) and Thomas Culpepper (Henry VIII’s manservant) get their heads chopped off.
I don’t often wish painful deaths on people because, as the owner of a cervix that has twice stretched to I’m-dying capacity (hi Paul, hi Kate), I’m well aware that when you mix extreme fear with extreme pain it’s not very nice.
But these two are so irritating I’d jump inside the telly and swing the axe myself if the opportunity presented itself.
Here’s a picture of the two of them getting ready to cuckold the King (as in, do the deed).
Are they insane? They’re cheating on a man who eats swans and beheads people at the drop of a hat.
Someone should have slapped them at this point and told them to pull their heads in, not to mention other bits.
I’m surprised they even had the energy for all this sex considering what they were shovelling down their throats on a daily basis.
Basically, truckloads of food.
I know this because I found a fascinating website called Historic Royal Palaces and it’s got all sorts of information on the kitchens Henry VIII built at Hampton Court Palace in 1529.
They were designed to feed the 600 or so members of his court twice a day and consisted of 55 (yes, 55) rooms.
Here’s how much Henry’s courtiers chewed their way through each year: 8,200 sheep, 2,330 deer, 1,870 pigs, 1,240 oxen, 760 calves and 53 wild boar.
These animals were then washed down with 600,000 gallons of beer (that’s 2,728,000 litres, or 95,719 middies), so I should imagine there was more than a bit of the old “pull my finger” thing going on around the palace and adjoining gardens.
I’ll now show you what a middy of beer looks like in case it’s extinct by the time you grow up.
You can see from the picture that when taken on a State-by-State basis, the beer situation in Australia is quite confusing.
Hopefully it will be sorted out by the time you grow up.
After visiting the Hampton Court Palace page, I was tempted to tackle an authentic Tudor dish but realised in the nick of time that spit-roasted boar just might be Nanna’s kryptonite.
I was nearly sucked in, however, by this recipe for something called Buknade:
Take veel, keed, or hen, and boyle hem in faire water or ells in good fress brot, and smyte hem in peces, and pike hem clene; And drawe the same brot thorg a streynor, And cast there-to parcelly, Isoppe, Sauge, Maces and clowes, And lete boyle til the fless be ynog; and then set hit fro the fire, and aley hit vp with rawe yolkes of eyren, and caste thereto poder ginger, and vergeous, & a litel saffron and salte, and ceson hit vppe and serue it fort.
I mean, given half the chance, who wouldn’t want to lete boyle til the fless be ynog?
In the end I decided to forego Tudor and go with Thai instead.
This recipe is for Thai Crab Cakes, which are more like fritters than cakes but are delicious all the same.
I’ve been making them for years and have yet to meet a person who doesn’t love them.
They’re from a book called The Night Before by Australian caterer-to-the-stars Victoria Lewis.
It’s now out of print but if you can find a copy online, grab it.
Victoria says of these Thai Crab Cakes, “Of all my recipes, this is probably the most sought after.”
Try them and you’ll know why.
THAI CRAB CAKES WITH SWEET CHILLI SAUCE
(I’ve never actually counted because they get eaten too quickly)
1 bunch coriander
90g self-raising flour
250g seafood extender (from the freezer section of supermarkets – also called seafood salad mix, seafood highlighter and crab flakes)
1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp ground cumin
125ml vegetable oil
extra sweet chilli sauce for dipping
Chop half the bunch of coriander and put it in a food processor.
Add the flour, milk, egg, seafood extender, 1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce, fish sauce and cumin and process until you have a smooth batter.
You’ll need to cook these in batches, so heat half the oil over a medium to high heat in a big frying pan.
Place teaspoons of the batter a reasonable distance apart in the frying pan.
When the crab cakes are lightly golden underneath (the top of them will have little bubbles), turn them and cook on the other side.
You’re looking at 2-3 minutes per side.
When they’re cooked, remove the crab cakes to a big plate covered with kitchen paper.
Add the reserved oil to the frying pan as it’s needed.
You can serve these immediately on top of a platter covered with lettuce leaves.
Scatter over the remaining coriander and serve with lime wedges and a bowl of sweet chilli sauce for dipping.
You can also keep them in the fridge for up to 48 hours, or freeze them for up to 1 month.
To reheat, preheat the oven to 200C.
Place the crab cakes on a baking tray and reheat for 5 minutes (longer if frozen).
It’s your second birthday today and, as I write, your Grandpa is cleaning the bathroom.
This is because I’m not allowed to do any housework for another couple of weeks.
It’s the seventh time your Grandpa has cleaned the bathroom in 38 years.
It’s put him in a really vile mood.
In a minute I’m going to pour bleach in his mouth and sit on his head because even though I’ve shut the two doors that are between him and me, I can still hear him carrying on like a pork chop.
I was going to give you a comprehensive history of what’s happened in the world in the two years since you’ve been here, but because of the bathroom scenario (I’ve had to show him how to open the packet of Windex wipes THREE times), I’m going to run with a brief overview.
First up, it’s strange to think that on the day you entered the world, 33 miners in Chile were wondering if they’d ever see it again.
They were into their 27th day of being trapped 700 metres underground and it was going to be another 42 days before they were rescued.
In later awfulness, a tsunami off the coast of Sumatra killed hundreds of people and North Korea started to play serious silly buggers.
Queensland suffered its worst floods in history and Perth had its longest ever heatwave – more than 30C for 26 days in a row.
Mary McKillop was made Australia’s first saint and Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse went to join her in the great beyond after over-indulging for the last time.
Barack Obama, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip all dropped in to see us in 2011 and, just last week, Prince William and a large chunk of the rest of the world got their knickers in a twist because Wills’ wife was photographed topless.
(Princess Kate was in Brisbane a couple of days ago and was on the TV news. When your Grandpa saw her he shouted, “Show us your tits.” In the olden days your Grandpa would’ve had his head chopped off and put on a spike. He thinks the Royal Family is on a par with the Real Housewives of New York City.)
The most important part of the history of the world, of course, is the two years you’ve spent in it.
So here’s a brief history of you in pictures.
Your Mum and Dad are taking you to Perth Zoo for your birthday today and then tomorrow you’re all coming down to Albany to spend the weekend with Nanna and Grandpa.
We’re going out for dinner tonight, your Grandpa and I, but if we were staying home and watching the footy I think I’d cook Spicy Steak Kebabs because they’re really good footy food.
I have to go now because your Grandpa wants me to show him how much water to put in the bucket (I’m not making that up). Happy birthday, sweetheart.
SPICY STEAK KEBABS
2 pieces of steak, cut into 2.5cm cubes
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp paprika
½ – 1 tsp chilli powder (depending on how spicy you like it)
1½ tsp sea salt flakes
½ tsp ground cumin
Mix all the sugar and spices in a small bowl.
Make sure they’re well combined.
Spoon half the spice mix onto a plate and roll the cubes of steak in it until they’re well coated.
Thread the steak onto satay sticks and sprinkle the remaining spice mix over the top.
Put in the fridge to marinate for an hour.
Pour a little bit of oil into a non-stick frying pan and cook the kebabs over high heat for a couple of minutes each side, or until done to your liking.
The brown sugar makes a hell of a mess of your frying pan if you let them cook for too long.
If you like your meat well done it would be better to cook the kebabs under the grill.
Just lately when we’re staying with your Mum and Dad, and Nanna rushes in to your bedroom in the morning to get you out of your cot, you sometimes get all pouty and stick your head under the quilt and say, “No!”
At first I thought it was because you were just being a little shit but then I realised it might be because when I get out of bed I look like this.
I took this picture at 8 o’clock yesterday morning after frightening myself when I looked in the bathroom mirror.
I’m not sure why it happens, this hair thing.
Your Grandpa says it’s a gift.
Personally I think it’s because of “product”, which looks like this.
Back in the day, when Nanna was younger, bottles of stuff like this were called “hair care”.
They changed the name to “product” so they could start charging gullible people like me $35 a pop.
Things were a lot simpler on the hair front when Nanna was young.
A drop of Silvikrin shampoo or Sunsilk Lemon (for Greasy Hair), and you were set for at least a week.
If you wanted to be blonde you just sprayed something called Sun Up on your head and stood out in the sun until you passed out and/or your hair was bleached to the desired shade of lightness.
OK, fluorescent yellowness.
This is a pretty scary photo isn’t it?
It’s because it was taken in 1973 (look at that pampas grass and the umbrella tree and the pink hibiscus – so 70s).
That’s your Great Aunty Pauline on the left looking gorgeous with her natural red hair.
The scruffy, long-haired bloke in the middle is your Grandpa and the girl with her nose in the air and bright yellow Sun Up hair is me.
I remember the day that photo was taken. I was dying to go to the loo and just seconds before had been shouting, “For God’s sake, get on with it!” (some things never change, do they?).
One thing that’s changed, though, is Nanna’s gall bladder.
It’s now home to a gallstone the size of a minor planet plus “a host of smaller ones” (sort of like a host of golden daffodils only round and brown).
My doctor told me that lots of people get gallstones, especially if they fit into the category called The Four Fs, which stand for female, fair, 40 and fat.
My doctor is a warm, witty and wonderful man but I must admit that when he came out with that one I nearly summoned up a fifth F and told him to fuck off.
Instead I advised him that I wasn’t fat when I was 40 and that even though I’m moving more towards the lard-arse end of the weight scale than the skinny-girl end, people had yet to start pointing and laughing at me in the street.
Luckily he had good things to tell me about my bowels and we were able to move on.
Anyway, I had my pre-admission appointment at the hospital this morning because in a few weeks my gall bladder and its various stones are being removed.
I’ve decided that the weekend before this happens I’m going to go out to a restaurant with your Grandpa and some friends for a Goodbye Gall Bladder dinner.
It will be nice not to have to cook but, if I had to, I would make these Gingered Chicken Cakes with Coriander Sauce.
If you Google the name of this recipe you’ll find it’s on caterer’s menus all over the world – probably because it’s so easy and impressive and delicious.
It’s from one of my favourite cookbooks – Diva Cooking: Unashamedly Glamorous Party Food by Victoria Blashford-Snell (yes, really) and Jennifer Joyce.
Unfortunately the book’s out of print but if you ever see it on eBay, grab it – it’s a little treasure.
I use 500g chicken breast mince instead of mincing 2 chicken breasts as directed in the recipe.
I also use bought mayonnaise instead of making my own (surprise, surprise). You’ll notice that these chicken cakes are the same colour as my hair when I was 20. How embarrassing is that?
GINGERED CHICKEN CAKES WITH CORIANDER SAUCE
Makes 20 small canapés or 10-12 bigger patties
500g chicken breast mince
45ml (2 tbsp plus 1 tsp) Thai fish sauce
2.5cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
3 spring onions, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
½ tsp sea salt
½ tsp dried chilli flakes/crushed dried chilli
oil (not olive) for frying
mixed salad leaves
2 tbsp mayonnaise
¼ cup fresh coriander, finely chopped
juice and finely grated zest of 1 lime
Make the coriander sauce by mixing together all the ingredients.
Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge until needed.
For the chicken cakes, put the chicken mince into a big mixing bowl.
Put all the remaining ingredients except for the oil and salad leaves into a mini food processor or blender and process until pureed.
Pour the pureed mixture on top of the chicken mince and mix everything together until well combined.
Form the mixture into patties – small ones for canapés, bigger ones for an entrée or main course.
Coat the bottom of a large frying pan with oil and cook them over medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes each side, until cooked through.
Drain the chicken cakes on kitchen paper and serve them on a bed of salad leaves with a bowl of sauce in the middle.
To eat, drizzle some sauce over the chicken cakes and salad.
As I write this, someone, somewhere in the world, is buying a copy of the erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey.
It’s very famous at the moment, this book, because it’s sold 31 million copies in about five minutes.
That means there are 31 million people out there who know a lot more about bondage and discipline and S&M than they did before they ventured on to Amazon.com.
Nanna’s not one of them but, truth be told, she’s tempted.
The trouble is, I’ve heard the book is so badly written, I’m not sure I’m willing to fork out the ten bucks required to bring it home.
So I’ve more or less decided to wait until I can get a copy from Albany Public Library.
I just worry that by the time I do, all the pages will be stuck together.
Laugh if you like but I worry with good reason.
There was a story last week in our local newspaper, the Albany Advertiser, that since sales of Fifty Shades of Grey have gone gangbusters, so have the sales of sex toys at the local sex shop.
You know, sometimes I sit out on the deck at night, sipping a glass of Yellowglen and watching all the lights come on in the houses on the hill opposite.
I often wonder what sort of lives the people in those houses lead – what sort of things they get up to.
Well, now I know.
While I’m knocking back the fizz they’re pulling out their whips and strapping on giant dildos.
Who would’ve thought? Not me, that’s for sure.
The next time I see a cluster of people around the triple-A battery stand at Woolies, I’ll start wondering big time.
Are they buying them so they can listen to something uplifting on the ABC on their portable radios or are they planning a session with their shiny new vibrators?
And if it’s the latter, where are they hiding them from the kids?
We used to keep ours up the back of your Grandpa’s sock drawer.
I say “used to” because it got lost during the move to Albany four and a half years ago.
For months after the move I was worried sick it had ended up in one of the cardboard boxes we’d given to the Salvos, wedged down the bottom between the Rena Ware casserole dish and the Reader’s Digest Complete Do-It-Yourself Manual.
Then your Grandpa said it had probably ended up in landfill somewhere, and I must admit I felt much better knowing that it was underpinning one of Perth’s outer suburbs rather than causing a coronary in a soldier of Christ.
Speaking of Rena Ware, how stupid was I to give it away considering that it was totally vintage and therefore totally desirable in a totally non-sexual way?
Well, basically it was because it wasn’t big enough or deep enough to cook anything in, especially this Malaysian Chicken Curry, which is one of my favourites.
And seeing as it’s spicy, it sort of fits in with today’s little chat, doesn’t it?
MALAYSIAN CHICKEN CURRY
1 brown onion
2 garlic cloves
3cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and quartered
1 small chilli, halved (with or without seeds – your choice)
1 tomato, quartered
2 tbsp Madras curry paste (I use Patak’s)
¼ cup vegetable oil
2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp salt
8 fat chicken drumsticks
400ml can coconut cream (I use the “lite” version)
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into eighths
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Cut the onion into quarters and put it in a food processor with the garlic, ginger, chilli, tomato, curry paste and 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil.
Whiz it all around until everything is reduced to a thick paste.
Mix the turmeric and salt on a dinner plate and roll the chicken drumsticks in the mixture to coat.
Heat the remaining oil in a big frypan over medium heat and cook the drumsticks for about 3 minutes each side, until golden brown.
Put them in an ovenproof dish that’s big enough to hold them in a single layer.
Reduce the heat under the frypan and add the onion paste from the processor.
Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes or until it’s aromatic.
Stir in the coconut cream and bring it to the boil.
Pour this mixture immediately over the chicken, then tuck the potato pieces in between the drumsticks, pushing them under the sauce.
Cover the dish with a lid or foil and cook in the oven for one hour, turning the drumsticks over after 30 minutes.
Serve with rice.
For the past couple of days I’ve spent every spare moment punching heart shapes out of the pages of Mills and Boons romance novels.
The idea is that we’ll scatter the hearts along the centre of the tables at your Mum and Dad’s wedding reception, thereby providing guests who may not know each other with handy conversation starters (“Christ! Have you read this crap?”).
In other news, your dress arrived from over East last week, so I hot-footed it down to the post office to pick it up.
This is not your flower girl’s dress.
This is what the French call your “avant le marriage” frock (no they don’t, I just made that up).
Nanna saw it on buyinvite.com.au and had to have it, so the pre-ceremony preparations with your Mum and the bridesmaids seemed as good an excuse as any to buy it.
On the day, you’ll be able to do exciting things like sit on the floor and spill stuff down it while everyone’s getting ready for the wedding.
As you get older you’ll notice that one of Nanna’s many talents is buying stuff that is essentially non-essential.
On the kitchen bench, for example, is a pistachio-green Kitchenaid mixer, which cost $625 and was my reward for giving up smoking six years ago.
I’ve used it roughly seven times.
I also have six plate/bowl thingies that are the size of car tyres.
They were THE thing to buy a few years back if you really wanted to look the business on the foodie front.
Unfortunately they’re too big to stand upright in the dishwasher so I don’t use them.
I’ve already mentioned the pasta machine elsewhere, but if you open the drawer above the one where the car tyres are stored, you’ll find a tonne of other useless crap that includes a lemon zester, an avocado slicer, a meat thermometer, a turkey baster, a bean stringer/slicer, a pasta server that your Grandpa uses to scratch his back and a purple plastic spoon in the shape of an aeroplane (guess who that’s for?).
Next I want one of these double egg poachers.
Your Grandpa is always whingeing about the quality of his eggs, plus the testicle-ness of this design always makes me smile.
Having said all that about non-essential stuff, I actually used the car tyres last night to serve a curry.
This wasn’t just any curry. It was curry that involved major faffing around but was totally worth it because it was fabulous.
I copied the recipe out of a magazine at Great Southern Radiology while I was waiting to have some bits x-rayed a couple of months ago.
I can’t remember which magazine it was but suspect it may have been Delicious.
You’re supposed to use cottage cheese but I didn’t have any so I used natural yoghurt instead.
I also halved the number of chillies and increased the cooking time by more than an hour.
Seriously good stuff – your Grandpa’s still raving about it.
LAMB SHANK ROGAN JOSH WITH BASMATI RICE
4 lamb shanks
2 tsp finely grated fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2tsp ground turmeric
3 fresh bay leaves
1 tbsp fennel seeds
6 green cardamom pods
½ tsp ground ginger
4 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 small red chillies
100g natural yoghurt
½ a can (about 200g) tinned chopped tomatoes
coriander to garnish
Pre-heat oven to 170C.
Put the lamb shanks in a heavy, lidded casserole dish that will take them in one layer.
Mix the ginger, garlic, turmeric and bay leaves in a small bowl and rub this mixture into the shanks.
Wash your hands immediately or you’ll look like you have a 60-a-day cigarette habit.
Put the shanks to one side while you make the sauce.
Whack the cardamom pods with the flat of a knife to split them and expose the seeds inside.
Put the cardamom seeds in a mortar and pestle with the fennel seeds and grind to a coarse powder.
Tip the ground ginger on top.
Heat 2 tbsp oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium-low heat.
Cook the onion, stirring, for 6 minutes or until softened.
Stir in all the spices from the mortar and pestle and cook for another 5 minutes.
Set aside to cool slightly then put the onion/spice mixture in a food processor or blender with the chillies (including seeds), yoghurt, tomatoes and remaining 2 tbsp oil.
Puree to a coarse paste (it will be the colour of cat sick at this stage but worry not – it doesn’t stay that way).
Grab the casserole dish containing the lamb shanks and tip in the paste and enough water to cover the meat (about 350ml).
Stir it all around to combine.
Tear off a big sheet of baking paper, crumple it up and wet it under the tap.
Push the baking paper onto the meat/liquid to cover it closely, then cover this with a sheet of alfoil (this hold in moisture).
Cook in the oven for 2½ to three hours, stirring occasionally, until very tender.
Pour off all the oil/fat that’s gathered on top and serve sprinkled with chopped coriander.
Wash one cup of basmati rice under running water then put it in a saucepan.
Cover with two cups of boiling water (from the kettle).
Stir in about a tbsp of olive oil, four cloves and a pinch of salt.
Cover the saucepan with a lid, bring the water back to the boil and cook for 8 minutes over a medium heat.
Remove the pan from the heat but leave the lid on and let the rice sit for 10 minutes.
It will be fluffy and delicious.