Archive for January, 2010

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Four-letter word, and it’s not ‘food’

January 12, 2010

I am indebted to my friend Eileen for alerting me to this nugget of gold from The New Yorker’s Shouts & Murmurs: The Cursing Mommy Cooks Italian. Perfect antidote for a crap day in the kitchen (or the marriage!) …

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Saturday seafood

January 11, 2010

Funny how you can have a groaning bookshelf full of cookbooks and still sit round wondering what to possibly cook for dinner, isn’t it? Which is where the weekend papers come in (I barely read them really – just flick to the books, which are hardly there anyway these days, and the recipes)…

So Saturday’s dinner was this seafood curry, a thrown-together version of Terry Durack’s Good Weekend kingfish curry. I used prawns and barramundi instead of kingfish, because I decided on dinner just before five o’clock, the perfectly adequate fish shop across the road had no kingfish, and it was way too hot to bother getting in the car to go to the best local seafood place we have, Faros Bros fish market (it’s a beauty).

I am an ignoramus about seafood generally, being an inland-bred girl, and am sure barramundi is not supposed to be great for curries – too delicate, or you overwhelm it or something, but it was lovely.

My version was given extra oomph because I had made & frozen a prawn stock which the Empress urged me to do after we ate these fantastic Neil Perry marinated barbecued prawns with her & the emperor on Christmas Eve, and she said the grilled shells were too good to waste. I can’t tell you how amazing that stock was – gave the whole thing a deep richness it wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Anyhoo – here’s what we did for our Saturday seafood curry, shopped for at five, eaten by seven. It was more than enough for two, probably more adequate for four non-greedy-grunters, so our (ahem, small) leftovers are safely in the freezer for some midweek surprise sometime.

Seafood curry in a slowish sort of hurry

  • 100ml rice bran oil
  • 2 tsp brown mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 8 curry leaves
  • ½ an onion, chopped
  • 3cm knob ginger, finely chopped
  • coriander roots & stems, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp chilli flakes
  • salt
  • 1 fresh birdseye chilli (only because we had a single one on our teeeeeny chilli bush – use as many as you like)
  • ½ cup tomato passata
  • 1 – 2  cups prawn stock (use water or chicken stock in its place)
  • 1-2  handfuls frozen peas
  • 100g shelled green prawns
  • 2 barramundi fillets, cut into three or four pieces each
  • 1 tablespoon natural yoghurt
  • ¼ bunch chopped coriander
  • lime wedges, to serve
  • Basmati rice
  1. Heat the oil, and when hot toss in mustard & fenugreek seeds & curry leaves. When they start to pop & crackle, add the onion, garlic & coriander stems, cook a few minutes till translucent.
  2. Add other spices, passata & stock, and simmer gently, covered, for around 20 -30 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, cook some Basmati rice & leave to fluff.
  4. When you think the rice is ready, toss in the peas and cover to cook for two or three minutes.
  5. Chuck in the prawns & slip in the fish pieces, turn the heat to low (or even off, if you aren’t quite ready to serve),add the dollop of yoghurt, and leave a few minutes.
  6. When you’re quite ready to eat – table set, rice fluffed & on the table with the lime & the glasses ‘o wine – up ze fire (as an old Italian friend used to say) enough to ensure the fish is just cooked, then put the curry in a bowl.
  7. Sprinkle with coriander & and take to ze table.
  8. Serve with flourish and flush of pride.

* By the way, the rice here is served in a beautiful wooden bowl given to me at New Year’s by Miss Jane J, she of Ali’s mention in an earlier comment. Isn’t it gorgeous? Did you get any good kitchenish presents for Christmas? Do tell. And if you got any shockers, even better!


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The summer cocktail hour …

January 9, 2010

Well hello again, and happy new year to you all.

I am finally emerging from Christmas / New Year chaos and family visits galore alternating with some beachside lazing. But as of next week, being visitor (and fun-) free, it’s back to work with a vengeance. My resolutions are the usual – work harder, write more, drink less, ease up on the gluttony, you know the drill. Gotta get a book written this year if it kills me.

But it ain’t Monday yet, and here in Sydney it’s a stinker of a day, hot and humid. So I think it’s appropriate for us to think about weekend summer afternoon drinks, don’t you?

A few weeks before Christmas we had a little progressive do here, starting with drinks at my friend Mr Pimm’s around the corner. I haven’t had Pimm’s for years and years, so when he suggested it, I leapt at the idea. At his beautiful house we sat lawnside with Pimm’s and lemonade, plus a little plateful of matching retro canapes, the devil you know. It raised my memory of the first time I was introduced to Pimm’s No. 1 Cup many years ago, at a Gatsbyesque lawn party in the homestead garden of an otherwise droughtbaked farm at Nimmitabel outside Cooma, where I grew up. The garden of this party was large and elegant, with cool green lawns and enormous weeping willow trees, and we lounged on the grass while others played tennis. I was an unworldly young woman, to put it mildly (as I recall, my drink of choice at the time was gin and squash – eww), so I was tres impressed when my sophisticated friend Bridget handed me a tall glass of Pimm’s and dry ginger ale with  a curl of cucumber peel spiralled inside the glass. It was possibly the most refreshing thing I’d ever drunk. I still love it. The cucumber peel, I have discovered, is essential in cooling off the sweetness.

This holidays we’ve been indulging in my other favourite summer arvo drink, the Americano. Its stunning crimson colour and the slight bitterness of the Campari makes it a winner in my book – refreshing and zingy, with as much or as little kick as you like, depending on the amount of soda you add at the end (when Senor is mixing, for example, it’s best sit down time).

An Americano is simple – chuck into a glass equal parts Campari & sweet Vermouth, a few cubes of ice and a wedge of orange – and top up with as much soda water as you like. If you add a slug of gin, it’s a Negroni.

So there you have it – a Saturday arvo summer drink to quench your thirst and cool your brow.

Here’s to a fab 2010 for you all, filled with good food and fine experience. And what might be your favourite summer cooling drink?