Archive for April, 2009

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Holus bolus – whole orange cake

April 26, 2009

orangecakeThe dimpled things in life are often the best.

Why does the idea of making a cake using a whole orange – peel, pith, flesh & all – appeal to me so deeply? Apart from the taste and texture of the purely gorgeous orange and quince cake we’ve made twice in the last couple of weeks, from Jared Ingersoll’s Danks Street Depot Sharing Plates book, there’s just something I absolutely love about chucking a whole piece of otherwise fiddly fruit into a cake. 

There are lots of different variations on this cake, which seems to have originated with the classic Claudia Roden Middle Eastern Orange Cake. Some (like hers & Jared’s, which I will now refer to as ours) use almond meal instead of flour (and are thus perfect for gluten-intolerant folk)  but otherwise whole-orange-cake devotees appear to divide into two camps – old boilers and cold callers. Read the rest of this entry ?

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A song to the tong

April 24, 2009

tongsOne of the great pleasures of all this visiting and house-sitting we’ve been doing while our place is renovated is having the chance to play in so many different kitchens.

I have developed quite a list of new gadgets to stuff into my capacious drawers (ooh!) when I eventually get them. 

And a few new sets of tongs will be on the list. I love tongs, and cannot fathom how anyone lives without them.

Over Easter I visited my sister and was aghast to find not a single pair of tongs – not even a crappy old supermarket pair – in her kitchen. As I whined and ransacked every drawer in the place, berating her for her tongage shortage, she looked on, nonplussed, and asked what was wrong with a fork.

A fork. How could she possibly substitute a fork for tongs, I gasped. And she said, with rather too much relish for my liking, ‘Well I probably don’t fry things quite as often as you do.’  

An outrageous slur, of course. There’s roasting, too. And sauteing, and flash-frying, and … hmm. But Senor has also pointed out there’s the whole serving aspect. And barbecuing. And fishing pasta out for testing whether it’s cooked. And – surely other uses!??   Read the rest of this entry ?

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Save Australian books

April 23, 2009

Seven Things I Hate About the Productivity Commission inquiry

I’m making a rare but important departure from the delicious world of food here – although the proposal detailed below will certainly reduce the food on my table once writers’  incomes are decimated!

Am hopping mad about Australia’s Productivity Commission inquiry into book prices in Australia – specifically, its recommending changes to a couple of laws called ‘territorial rights’ and ‘parallel importation restrictions’. Boring on the face of it, but quite terrifying in actuality. It means basically handing over our hitherto protected book market (same as those of the UK, US and Canada) to international publishers, who pay Australian authors much less than Australian publishers do.

What the PC report means to a writer like me:

1. Literary fiction, my game in the book world, is a very difficult avenue to make money from as a writer. It’s very difficult to be published at all in Australia as a literary fiction writer. The Productivity Commission itself has openly admitted that the Australian book industry will contract as a result of its proposal. This means publishers will shed jobs and publish fewer books. Literary fiction is already a tiny portion of a publisher’s output – if it shrinks even further, I have no confidence that my books will continue to be published here at all. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Floral tribute

April 23, 2009
zuch-flowers5Had a few people round last night, which gave me an excuse yesterday to come over all Stepford and cook three courses for dinner – which my friends will tell you is virtually unheard of.

Senor is usually dessertmeister, but I replicated his orange and quince cake (more on that later) from the weekend, and the main was Neil Perry’s cinnamon-scented lamb, which is the new Syrian chicken as far as I’m concerned (foolproof and everyone loves it).

But my major Proper Little Housewife moment came in stuffing zucchini flowers as a starter.

Have never done it before, but having now discovered just how easy it is, I plan to get stuffed much more often. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Meals as emblems

April 22, 2009

waitingroomTwice in two weeks I have heard public readings from Gabrielle Carey’s new memoir, Waiting Room, about her mother Joan. Once was at the launch, and today was at Caroline Jones’ talk about her own new memoir about her dad, Through a Glass Darkly: A Journey Of Love And Grief With My Father.

Both memoirs are about an adult ‘child’ dealing with the illness of a strong-minded, forceful parent, and the unexpected grief that results. And both readings from Waiting Room – one from Gabrielle herself, the other from Jones apropos of her own strange adventures in grief and bereavement – were about food.

I was struck by these choices – the same passage, about  the kitchen, and I realised that some of the strongest writing in Waiting Room plays out in domestic duties, and in the inheritance of those routines of the kitchen, seemingly so commonplace, yet so resonant with symbolism. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Truth in labelling

April 21, 2009
stock1Made some more soup yesterday, and with nowhere handy to buy chook bones I bought some chicken stock.

Happened to be veg shopping in the fancy organic shop in Crows Nest, as was in the area and unable to find an ordinary grocer. And of course they only had this rather expensive “premium” brand of stock. 

stockbrand2As I poured it into the pot, thinking this stuff had better be good, recalling how many arms and legs it cost, I caught sight of the brand name on the packet. So refreshing to have a bit of straight talking on a label, don’t you agree?

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How to chop an onion?

April 20, 2009
What I want: beautiful,tiny, uniform dice...
What I want: beautiful,tiny, uniform dice…

Okay, here’s an embrrassing public confession. I don’t know how to chop an onion.

I mean, I know how to bludgeon an onion into enough smithereens to get away with it once it’s in the food.

But what I want is to be able to chop an onion into small, fine, perfectly uniform dice, in the way that Philippe Mouchel (I think?) demonstrated on last week’s SBS Food Safari. Such calm, rhythmic slicing and dicing, resulting in a pristine little pile of pinky white crystalline onion bits. Sigh.

Watching a trained chef chop an onion is a joy – but how do they do it?  TV chefs either do it at the speed of light while chatting about their organic garden, or it’s so boring to them that they completely skip over the actual mechanics of it. Read the rest of this entry ?