Well, I’m back home in Albany and I must say it was wonderful to see you last week.
Unfortunately it looks like the Flu Fairy has decided that, for Nanna at least, this year is going to be a FIFO sort of flu season: one week on, one week off, one week on, one week off etc etc.
So much for alcohol being the cure for winter ills – I’m sitting here with another sore throat and a raging head cold.
But luckily I had a week of exuberant good health and during that week I managed to get all sorts of things done wedding-wise.
Yes, it’s only three weeks until your Mum and Dad walk down the aisle (or rather the carpet) at the winery.
And in keeping with Nanna’s motto (“What do we want? Procrastination! When do we want it? Tomorrow!”), I didn’t buy my mother-of-the-bride outfit until Friday.
On a scale of 1 (Utter Perfection) to 10 (Total Nightmare), this shopping trip to buy a frock was approximately a 15 (I’d Rather Have My Face Sawn Off).
Don’t get me wrong.
I’m extremely grateful I get to go on this mother-of-the-bride journey before I reach the age where my bum slips down the back of my legs and I’m able to draw a map of Tierra Del Fuego by joining up the liver spots on my hands with a biro.
But I swear if I’d had to look at one more piece of draped fabric or lace overlay or anything at all that was (God help us) asymmetrical, I would have ripped out my retinas with a coat hanger.
Luckily, your Mum came with me.
She’s like a machine when she shops and left no piece of Myer, David Jones and roughly 320 boutiques unturned in the five hours I was whingeing my way around Perth CBD.
She was a rock, your Mother. Her blood should be bottled.
If it hadn’t been for her and the unflagging sales assistant at David Jones I never would have discovered St Anthea of Crawford, who came to my rescue with this.
This is only the top half. I couldn’t find a pic of the skirt on St A’s website but, trust me, it’s fab (I tried photographing mine but because it’s black it just looked like a black hole).
Your Grandpa crossed himself when I told him how much it all cost but when I explained that it was actually only $8 more than 2 kilos of Szechuan peppercorns (you’ll find the price here), he felt a lot better.
Speaking of food, your Uncle Paul shouted us dinner at the Mille Café in Inglewood.
He’s a gem, your Uncle Paul. His blood should be bottled.
Grandpa and I had the slow-roasted Linley Valley pork belly with slow-braised onions and pork jus.
It was so much like the one I cook, I suspect they used the same recipe.
It’s based on a recipe from this book by British chef, Gary Rhodes, and it’s delicious.
You’ll find it on page 64.
What happens is that you cook the pork for ages and over that time, the crackling gets really puffy and crisp and the meat is pull-apart tender.
I didn’t take a picture the last time I cooked it, so instead here’s a picture of you flying down a really big slide, really, really fast.
You are fearless.
See Nanna standing at the bottom? She’s shitting herself.
SLOW-ROASTED PORK BELLY WITH ONIONS
1kg piece of pork belly
2 lge brown onions
1 tbsp vegetable oil
white wine (whatever you’ve got in the fridge – I use leftover Yellowglen because I’m such a classy chick)
about half a small carton of Campbell’s chicken stock
Preheat the oven to 160C.
If the butcher hasn’t scored the pork rind already, score it into diamonds with a really sharp knife (a Stanley knife is good – you’ll find one in your shed).
Peel the onions and slice them into four cross-wise. Put them in a roasting tin that will take them in a single layer (they need to fit in the tin snugly).
Put the piece of pork belly on top of the onions, rub the oil into the skin and grind a good amount of sea salt over the top.
Pour enough wine carefully around the edges to come just to the top of the onions. Don’t pour any over the pork rind or it will be buggered.
Cook for about three hours, topping up the wine halfway through if necessary so it doesn’t burn.
When it’s cooked, put the pork and onions on a plate and keep warm.
Skim all the fat off the juices in the roasting tin (there will be enough to kill an ox), stir the chicken stock into the juices and simmer, stirring, until it’s reduced and thickened.
Serve the sauce in a gravy boat with the sliced pork, the crispy crackling, the onions and lots of veggies.
PS: In case you’re wondering, here’s a picture of Tierra Del Fuego.
Here is another eggplant recipe.
The buggers won’t stop growing.
It’s called Moroccan Eggplant with Couscous and it’s from Leanne Kitchen’s book, Grower’s Market: Cooking with Seasonal Produce.
Leanne Kitchen isn’t a celebrity chef but she should be because (a) look at her surname!!! and (b) look at her surname!!!
See all those bits of pink post-it notes sticking out the top?
They mark all the things I want to make.
So far I’ve only cooked one, even though I’ve had the book since 2006.
That’s not Leanne’s fault, it’s because my middle name is Procrastination.
Moroccan Eggplant with Couscous is really nice with lamb chops that have been grilled or barbecued.
Unfortunately, it’s unlikely you’ll eat lamb chops until you’ve moved out of home because the thought of cooking baby sheep makes your mother hysterical.
When she was seven and realised what she was putting in her mouth, she became a vegetarian for almost a year.
It was a difficult period in our lives because she didn’t like vegetables.
You can imagine my relief when she was lured back to the dark side by a bacon sandwich and a Rainbow Brite doll.
Here is a picture of Rainbow Brite in case she’s extinct by the time you grow up.
Rainbow’s best friend was called Twink and she had a white horse called Starlite who had a rainbow mane.
It was round about this time your Mum decided she didn’t want to be called Kate any more; she wanted to be called Allora.
So we called her Allora.
“Allora! Dinner’s ready!”
“Allora! Time for bed!”
When you’re making Moroccan Eggplant with Couscous, it turns into bowl city but it’s well worth it because it tastes so good.
The original recipe contains cloves, which I hate because they always make me think of that scene in Marathon Man where Laurence Olivier is drilling into the roots of Dustin Hoffman’s teeth.
Feel free to add a pinch of powdered cloves if such things don’t bother you.
MOROCCAN EGGPLANT WITH COUSCOUS
1 cup instant couscous
1½ cups boiling water
1 onion, chopped small
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 big eggplant or the equivalent in mini skinny ones
3 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp paprika
½ tsp salt
big knob of butter
small bunch parsley, chopped
Put the couscous into a large bowl and pour over the boiling water. Let it stand for 10 minutes then fluff it up with a fork and put to one side.
Grab a frying pan that’s big enough to eventually hold all the couscous and veggies.
Put it over medium-low heat, add a little olive oil and cook the onion for about 10 minutes until it’s golden brown.
A couple of minutes before the end of cooking time, add the garlic and cook, stirring, just until the garlic is fragrant.
Scrape the onion and garlic into a bowl and put to one side.
While the onion’s cooking, cut the eggplant into 2cm chunks, leaving the skin on, and put into a big bowl.
In a small bowl (what did I tell you?), mix together the cumin, cinnamon, paprika and salt.
Shake this over the eggplant and mix everything thoroughly so the eggplant chunks are coated with the spice mixture.
Cover the bottom of the frying pan with olive oil – about half a centimetre deep – and cook the spiced eggplant over medium heat, turning it occasionally, for 25 minutes.
Scrape the eggplant into the bowl that’s holding the fried onion and garlic.
Melt the knob of butter in the frying pan over medium heat and tip in the couscous.
Cook it for a couple of minutes, stirring, then tip in the eggplant, onions and garlic and stir everything around for a few more minutes until hot.
Serve with chopped parsley scattered over the top.