I’m sorry I haven’t written much lately.
It’s because a lot has been going on, some good and some very bad.
The very bad is that your Uncle Paul was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes a few weeks back and it’s knocked everyone for six.
He wasn’t feeling well, so went to the doctor, who ordered some blood tests.
Next thing you know it’s 7.30 the following night and his doctor’s ringing him to say go to hospital immediately, you’re in danger of slipping into a diabetic coma.
So he did (go to RPH, I mean), and now he’s injecting himself with insulin four times a day.
No type of diabetes is good, but Type 1 is the pits.
It’s the less common kind – only about 15 per cent of diabetics have it and it’s not related to lifestyle like Type 2 can be.
No one knows what causes it, nothing can be done to prevent it or cure it, and if you don’t have regular insulin injections, you die.
To say your Grandpa and I have been worried out of our minds is an understatement.
Not surprisingly, your Uncle Paul hasn’t been feeling too flash either but he’s amazingly stoical and is getting on with the business of living with a condition that unlike many illnesses can at least be controlled.
For that we are extremely grateful because we love him very much.
To continue on the “keeping it under control” theme, I’m very pleased to announce that at two and a half you are in control of your bodily functions, with the exception of picking your nose and eating it, which we’ll have to train you to do in private if you’re not to grow up a social outcast.
But what the hell. You’re toilet trained!
This is such a milestone and it’s really good for your Mum that it’s been reached before the arrival of your baby brother in May.
It was a short and highly successful campaign waged by the day care ladies and your Mum and Dad and helped along greatly by a special toilet-seat insert that allows you to sit on a proper toilet without dropping bum-first into the bowl and ending up in the ocean out beyond Capel.
These inserts hadn’t been invented when your Mum and Uncle Paul were little and, believe me, they’re a godsend because every little kid loves the challenge presented by a big toilet.
You particularly love your after-dinner session and will sit there for ages, singing and chatting to yourself and seeing how much toilet paper you can unroll onto the floor before someone catches you.
It’s a joy to witness and makes me think that we’d probably all feel a lot more valued if our Mums and Dads and Nannas and Grandpas could come into the toilet and clap and cheer every time we perform a bowel movement.
I’ve got no idea how I’m going to segue into a recipe after this discussion.
In honour of your Uncle Paul’s pancreas and your own bowel movements, I should probably post something healthy.
Instead I’m going to give you a recipe for Scallop and Leek Tart that I made for your Grandpa and I on the night of Good Friday.
It’s from the book A Consuming Passion by Michelin-starred New Zealand chef Adam Newell.
I love this book and I love Adam Newell.
The last time I wrote about a recipe of his he sent me a very nice email and I almost died of shock and amazement.
I’ll leave you his book in my will but I would suggest to everyone else that they buy it at Fishpond (a bargain at $25.95, hardback, free postage).
It goes without saying that my Scallop and Leek Tart was nothing like Adam Newell’s because I’m not a Michelin-starred chef, I didn’t make my own puff pastry, I didn’t have any saffron and I couldn’t find white balsamic vinegar for love or money.
That said, it was still bloody delicious.
Your Grandpa said it tasted like a scallop pizza only silkier and better and with puff pastry.
He means wells.
One year ago on this blog: Yorkshire Lasagne
SCALLOP AND LEEK TART AFTER THE FASHION OF ADAM NEWELL
4 sheets frozen puff pastry, defrosted for 5 minutes
1 lge leek or 2 smaller ones, rinsed well and chopped small
4 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
24-32 scallops depending on size
1 egg, beaten
shaved Parmesan cheese
small salad leaves – mesclun or spinach and rocket mix
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar (or pinch of saffron and 1 tbsp white balsamic vinegar)
1 tbsp small capers
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper
To make the vinaigrette, put the tomatoes in a bowl and cover with boiling water.
Leave for a few minutes then peel, de-seed and chop the flesh into fine dice.
Brig the vinegar to the boil in a small saucepan, take it off the heat and stir in the balsamic vinegar and capers (and saffron, if using).
Let it cool then add the diced tomato, olive oil, salt and pepper.
Leave it to infuse while you get on with the tart.
To make the tart, preheat the oven to 200C.
Sweat the leeks in the olive oil in a frying pan (use a low heat) until they’re soft but not coloured. Season with salt and pepper, stir and cool.
Cut 15cm circles from each sheet of pastry and crimp the edges by pinching them with your fingers.
Put the pastry discs on a baking tray(s) and spread the leeks over the top, leaving a 1cm or so leek-free edge.
Put the whole scallops on top of the leeks in a single layer.
Bake for 10-15 minutes until the edges of the pastry discs are puffed and golden.
To serve, put some salad leaves and shaved parmesan on top of each tart, pile the rest of the leaves on the sides of the plates and drizzle the vinaigrette over the top and around the edge of the tarts.
Here in Western Australia it’s the season for blue swimmer crabs, which are called blue swimmer crabs because they’re blue and they swim.
When I was a kid these crabs were called blue mannas and I used to go with my Dad (your Great Granddad Keith) down to the estuary in Bunbury to catch them with wire scoop nets attached to long wooden poles.
The best time to catch them was at sunset because that’s when they were scuttling around on the floor of the estuary looking for things to eat.
You’d wade through the shallow water in a pair of old sandshoes, getting eaten alive by mosquitos and hoping the crabs wouldn’t mistake your ankles for whatever it was they liked for dinner.
They’re vicious little buggers and I still have a scar on my ankle to prove it.
I needed five stitches – I suspect you could hear my screams in the Middle East.
Not that it put me off.
I’m certainly no hero but I was always willing to risk limb, if not life, in order to get a feed of crabs.
I absolutely love them.
Later on, when I married your Grandpa, I used to go out crabbing on the ocean with my father-in-law, your Great Grandpa Roy, and his mates.
We’d stop the boat and throw drop nets over the side – far more civilised.
Later still, my Mum and Dad bought a caravan and a tinny and kept them at a caravan park at Yunderup, so crab-wise I was (for want of a better expression) like a pig in shit.
You’d get back to the caravan park with your catch and almost every van would have a campfire blazing out the front with a drum full of boiling seawater on top to cook the crabs in.
All the blokes would be standing around the fires having a yack and sipping Swan Lager from a can, even though it was 10 o’clock in the morning.
They were all called Vern or Len or Ted and they smoked Turf and Craven A and had bow legs.
Their wives had exotic names like Valmae and Merle and smoked Alpine while they sat around reading the Women’s Weekly and James A. Michener novels.
Speaking of crabs, when your Grandpa and I were at uni we knew a bloke who caught the sort you don’t find in an estuary.
This bloke got rid of them by sitting in an empty bath and spraying his private parts with Pea-Beu.
I’ve often wondered if he used the Pine Fresh or the Surface Spray.
I now buy my blue swimmer crabs from the Boatshed Markets down on the Albany foreshore.
Here are two I bought last weekend.
They go red when you cook them, as I expect I would too if I was dropped into boiling water.
These crabs were really big ones, so I cooked them for five minutes after the water had come back to the boil and then left them to cool in a colander.
They were perfect and, as always, well worth the effort of cleaning and peeling them.
Our favourite way of eating them is as crab cocktails (like prawn cocktails but without the prawns) and crab fettuccine, so I’ll give you the recipes for both.
One year ago on this blog: Bum Biscuits
shredded iceberg lettuce
fresh crab meat
For the cocktail sauce (makes about 1 cup):
1 cup whole egg mayonnaise (I like Paul Newman’s brand)
3 tbsp tomato sauce
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
a few drops of Tabasco sauce (or to taste)
1 tsp lemon juice
freshly ground salt and pepper to taste
Put the shredded lettuce in the bottom of individual serving bowls or glasses.
Pile the fresh crab meat on top.
Mix all the sauce ingredients together and stir well.
Drizzle the sauce over the crab meat.
This cocktail sauce will keep for up to a month in the fridge – just cover it with plastic wrap.
The recipe is easily halved, third-ed (sorry) or quartered, depending on how many crab cocktails you’re making.
The sauce is also delicious in a fish-cake burger – even better if you stir in a finely chopped spring onion before you dollop it on the bun.
The next recipe is a classic, taught to me back in the day by my friend and former colleague, cookery writer Margaret Johnson. I’ve been cooking this for years and, as you do, have changed it around a bit. I would still crawl over hot coals to eat it.
FETTUCCINE WITH CRAB, GARLIC AND PARSLEY
For each person you will need:
scant tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 fat clove garlic or 2 small ones, very finely chopped
chopped fresh chilli to taste
the meat from 2 small crabs or 1 big one
1 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
freshly ground salt and pepper
Cook the fettuccine in lots of boiling salted water until al dente.
Just before it’s ready, heat the olive oil in a big frying pan over a low-ish flame and cook the garlic and chilli for about 30 seconds (just until the smell of the cooking garlic hits your nostrils – no longer).
Tip the drained fettuccine into the frying pan, add the crab meat, chopped parsley and salt and pepper to taste and toss everything together with a pair of tongs.
Tip into a serving bowl and serve immediately.
Marg doesn’t bother cooking anything but the fettuccine.
She then tips it into a bowl and mixes all the other ingredients through.
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.
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).
I’ve been really busy with work lately, so it was lovely to see you last week and take some time out, even if my visit was only a fleeting one.
It never ceases to amaze me how many cuddles you can fit into 12 hours if you really put your mind to it.
Also, have you noticed this yin and yang thing we’ve got going?
Eg: I love drawing on your blackboard and you love rubbing it out. It’s a perfect balance.
The bit you actually like best is cleaning the blackboard duster by bashing it against the palm of your hand.
The dusting gene skipped a generation on my side of the family so it’s good to see it’s re-established itself in you – you’ll be able to save Nanna from suffocating under a pile of her own filth.
Here are a couple of other dusting options we could investigate further down the track if you’re interested.
I found them on this website when your Grandpa was watching Band of Brothers for the 400th time and I was forced to either kill myself or surf the Internet aimlessly.
The first option depends on your Mum and Dad providing you with a little brother or sister but in the meantime we can always borrow your cousin Ava.
I made some prawn pasta for dinner last night, which your Grandpa loved but I thought needed a bit more oomph.
It came about because I had some nice fat prawns in the freezer and then when I went down to Reeves to get some veggies they had really nice-looking baby spinach and punnets of cherry tomatoes on special for $1.99.
They also had this Australian-made pasta.
If you read the guff on the packet you’ll see that Australia is one of the few countries in the world – possibly the only one – that can grow ready-packaged fettuccine in its fields.
Who would’ve thought?
I must say it was very relaxing and celebrity-cheffy wandering around Reeves, squeezing produce and putting fresh, seasonal vegetables into my basket.
If I was a bloke and wasn’t as old as Methuselah, I think I could easily have been mistaken for Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.
PRAWN FETTUCCINE WITH SPINACH AND CHERRY TOMATOES
150g fettuccine or spaghetti
1 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 big pinches crushed, dried chillies
1 punnet cherry tomatoes
1 glass white wine
1 big pinch dried basil
salt and pepper
12 raw king prawns, shelled
3 handfuls of baby spinach
lots of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Put a big pan of water on the stove to boil and cook the fettuccine according to packet directions.
All up this should take 15-20 minutes.
While that’s happening, heat the oil in a big non-stick frying pan over medium heat and cook the garlic and chilli for 30 seconds.
Tip in the tomatoes, white wine and dried basil and stir until simmering, squashing the tomatoes down with the back of a wooden spoon.
Season to taste with salt and pepper and let it simmer gently for 5 minutes or so.
Add the prawns and when they start to turn pink, chuck in the spinach.
Cook, stirring, for a few more minutes until the spinach wilts and the prawns are cooked.
Drain the cooked fettuccine and tip it into the frying pan, tossing it around to coat with the sauce.
Serve with a bowl of Parmesan cheese to sprinkle over the top (OK, here’s a confession that should send me straight to culinary Hell – I actually prefer the taste of Grana Padano and that’s what I always use).
Next time I make this I think I’ll wilt the spinach in a separate pan and drain off any liquid before adding it to the sauce.
Or maybe I’ll forget about the spinach and use some fresh basil instead.
Edit: I made this again and added two finely chopped anchovies with the tomatoes. I also left out the spinach and when the prawns were cooked (but before I added the cooked fettuccine), I stirred in half a bunch of chopped fresh basil. It was really delicious – much better than the spinach version.
Seeing as you’re only 17 months old, you won’t be aware that Ella the Wonderdog has an inverted vulva.
You also won’t know what a vulva is and I have no intention of explaining it here except to say that when a dog’s vulva is inverted it sometimes involves ointment (or Vulvalene, as one of your Mum’s exes once put it).
We’re going through an ointment stage at the moment and for the first time EVER, I’m not the one pulling on the rubber gloves twice a day.
Yes. Your Grandpa is applying ointment to the dog’s bum.
As rarities go, this is on a par with unicorn sightings.
Sometimes I have to lie down just so I can grasp the enormity of it all.
Anyway, here’s another picture of Ella looking at some Salmon Puffs.
It was taken ages ago when we lived in North Perth.
I’ve been making Salmon Puffs since your Mum and Uncle Paul were little kids.
They love them and so does your Grandpa.
I love them too but they give me crippling heartburn, so I had to take a break until a nice Swiss drug baron invented Somac and changed my life.
I also make these pies with chopped-up leftover chicken and – for me at least – they are heartburn free.
The original Salmon Puff recipe was copied from a magazine (I can’t remember which one) about 25 years ago.
It contained two tablespoons of canned green peppercorns. So 1980s.
Feel free to add them back in if you like living on the edge.
Makes 6 pies
1 small brown onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp flour
¾ cup milk
¼ cup salmon liquid from the can
a few grinds of black pepper
415g can John West red salmon
3 sheets frozen puff pastry
1 egg, beaten
Preheat the oven to 200C.
Melt the butter over low heat, add the onion and cook until it’s soft but not coloured.
Stir in the flour and let it cook for a couple of minutes.
Stir in the milk and salmon liquid, grind in some pepper and cook, stirring, until it boils and thickens.
Leave until cold then fold in the drained, flaked salmon and mash it in well with a fork.
Defrost the puff pastry sheets for 5 minutes then cut each into quarters so you have 12 equal squares.
If you want, flute the top of six of the squares with a blunt knife, making sure you don’t cut all the way through the pastry. Poke a hole in the middle.
Divide the salmon mixture evenly between the six remaining squares, brush the edges with beaten egg, top with the fluted squares and press down well to seal.
Place a Chinese bowl (about 12cm diameter) over the top of each pie and cut around it.
Put the pies on a baking tray lined with baking paper and brush the tops with beaten egg.
Bake for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown.
You can put all sorts of fillings in these pies, so long as they’re not sloppy.
Because there’s only your Grandpa and me and we’re leg and thigh people, the chicken breast is always left over when I roast a chook.
So I make this same white sauce, using one cup of milk and leaving out the salmon liquid.
Then I take the skin off the breast, chop the meat into small cubes and stir it through the white sauce with some seeded mustard and chopped parsley or with just a bit of chopped thyme.
It’s very nice indeed.
More prawns! It’s the promised second recipe and it’s called Prawn and Prosciutto Ravioli.
I suppose it’s really a special-occasion dish because even though it’s not difficult, it does involve a bit of faffing around.
It’s also a Nanna creation, in that I combined about four different recipe ideas.
The garlic butter recipe is pinched from a top New Zealand chef called Adam Newell, who has won a Michelin star for his restaurant, Zibibbo.
Like all celebrity chefs worth their salt, Adam has an “absolute passion for food”.
At least that’s what it says on the fly-leaf of his cookbook, A Consuming Passion, which was given to me by your Great Uncle Gerard and his partner, Mignon, and is an excellent read.
In case you’re thinking of being a celebrity chef when you grow up, I should warn you that you will have to have “an absolute passion for food” every minute of every single day.
When you’re a celebrity chef, you’re never allowed to say things like, “I’m really tired and I couldn’t give a shit about the confit.”
Or, “Fuck seasonality. I want to eat strawberries in winter.”
You’re only allowed to say things like that when you’re like me and all you want to do is cook something nice, then eat it, then fall asleep in front of the telly.
A word on pasta machines.
I bought one 10 years ago and have never used it.
So, every time a chef on TV uses one to make pasta, your Grandpa says, “There’s a good idea, Michele. Why don’t you buy one of those?”
He thinks this is funny, but after 10 years it’s wearing a bit thin.
So I’ve decided that when I do use the pasta machine for the first time, I’m going to put your Grandpa’s fingers through the rollers.
In the meantime, I make ravioli with those wonton wrappers you buy in Chinese supermarkets (or, if you live in Albany, at Mariella’s Deli).
For this recipe I use the round gyoza skins so you get a nice half-moon shape, but if you can’t get hold of any, just use the square wonton wrappers and fold them into a triangle.
The ravioli are dead easy to make and just about everything is done in a food processor.
You can also make the garlic butter a day or even a week ahead.
PRAWN AND PROSCIUTTO RAVIOLI
Makes about 32 (enough for 4-6 people)
For the garlic butter (don’t panic, you won’t use all of this)
100g butter, softened
100ml extra virgin olive oil
handful flat-leaf parsley
2 cloves garlic
salt and pepper to taste
For the ravioli
Packet of gyoza skins or wonton wrappers
500g raw king prawns, peeled
50g prosciutto (about 4 slices), chopped
1 spring onion
salt and pepper
20 or so grape tomatoes (Nanna grows her own)
Another handful of parsley, chopped finely
To make the garlic butter, put all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until the parsley is chopped.
You won’t use all the garlic butter, so put what’s left in a tightly sealed container in the fridge.
It will keep for a couple of weeks and is great for garlic bread or on top of spuds or barbecued steak or fish.
To make the ravioli, wipe out the food processor bowl and drop in the prawn flesh and chopped prosciutto.
Pulse it until it’s all chopped up.
Finely chop the spring onions and mix them into the prawn mixture along with a little salt and pepper.
Fill a big pot with salted water and bring it to the boil while you’re assembling the ravioli.
To do this, first put some water in a small bowl.
Next, lay a gyoza skin on your chopping board and put a heaped teaspoonful of prawn mixture in the middle (see pic at end of recipe).
Dip your finger in the bowl of water, wet around the entire edge of the skin and then fold it over and press the edges together tightly to seal, pressing out any air as you go.
Repeat until all the prawn mixture is used up.
Cook the ravioli in the pot of boiling water for about 3 minutes.
While they’re cooking, fry the tomatoes in a big frypan in a little of the garlic butter.
When the ravioli are cooked, fish them out with a slotted spoon and put them in the frypan with the tomatoes, along with as much of the garlic butter as you think your arteries will stand (basically you need just enough to coat the ravioli).
Heat everything up for a couple of minutes then serve in big bowls sprinkled with the extra chopped parsley.
This is really nice eaten with broccolini.
I recently saw a restaurant menu that listed a dish called Prawns Two Ways.
In our house that would mean putting them in your mouth with your right hand AND your left, which we usually do anyway because we love prawns your Grandpa and I.
But it made me think that I should give you two of my favourite prawn recipes.
They’re my favourites because they both involve enough butter to harden every single artery in your body by bedtime, which is why they taste so good.
The first is a recipe for Garlic and Tarragon Prawns that I came across in a Donna Hay magazine I was reading at the hairdressers.
I didn’t feel comfortable tearing it out because I knew I’d probably get caught, so I had to hunt around town for my own copy.
It was in the 10th Anniversary edition, which unfortunately was sold out, but on the up side I now know exactly how many newsagents there are in our little corner of the Great Southern.
I eventually found the mag for free, would you believe, as part of a Donna Hay app for the iPad.
It was obviously in my stars that this recipe and I should be together so I cooked it for all of us for Christmas lunch while you were sitting in your high chair pushing bits of banana in your ear.
The prawns were so totally amazing that despite the fact I think Donna Hay looks disturbingly like Neil Perry (could they be the same person, do you think?), I wrote this grovelling little song for her.
You have to sing it to the tune of Hosanna, one of the hit songs from that old musical, Jesus Christ Superstar.
If you want to check out the original on YouTube, you’ll find it here.
Donna Hay Superstar
Donna Donna ho
Hey DH, DH
Can I use crème fraiche?
I was telling a friend in Perth that I was cooking the prawns again on the weekend and she said, “You’re turning the OVEN on? TOMORROW? Are you INSANE?”
Seeing as the summer temperatures here in the deep south are always somewhere between marvellous and exceptional, I’d forgotten it’s so hot in Perth at the moment you could fry an egg on Eric Ripper’s head.
So I reckon if you’re suffering through a heatwave you could always cook the prawns in the garlic butter in a frypan instead of baking them (OK, you’d still have to turn on the oven to roast the garlic but it’s a small price to pay for such deliciousness).
By the way, I grow my own tarragon because that’s what Nannas do.
Feel free to substitute the dried variety, I’m sure it would be fine.
GARLIC AND TARRAGON PRAWNS
1 head garlic, unpeeled
1 tbsp olive oil
60g butter, softened
4 or 5 sprigs of French tarragon, chopped
1 tsp Spencer’s crushed chilli/dried chilli flakes
salt and pepper to taste
24 raw king prawns, peeled, with tails intact
lemon wedges to serve
Preheat the oven to 180C.
If you’ve forgotten to take the butter out of the fridge, microwave it for 10-15 seconds to make it soft.
Place the garlic on a baking tray, drizzle with the oil and roast it in the oven for 20-30 minutes, until soft when squeezed.
While the garlic is roasting, butterfly the prawns by cutting down their backs (but not all the way through) and removing those stringy bits that are their intestinal tracts.
Spread the prawns out flat and put them in a single layer in a big shallow roasting pan (see pic at end of recipe).
When the garlic is cooked, increase the oven temperature to 220C.
Slice the top from the garlic bulb and squeeze the roasted garlic from each clove into a bowl.
Add the butter, tarragon, chilli, salt and pepper and mash everything together with a fork.
Top each butterflied prawn with some of the garlic butter and roast for about 8 minutes until cooked through.
Serve with lemon wedges.