Posts Tagged ‘eggs’

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Roadside assistance

April 1, 2011

Sometimes it’s difficult not to feel swamped by the grime and aggression of urban life (not to mention the deeply depressing nature of ghastly world events – sorry about that dispiriting last post, folks). If you live in the inner city, as we do, you may be faced with a constant barrage of noise from cars, leaf blowers, power tools, garbage trucks, street sweepers and aircraft. And if you live near a dodgy shopping centre, as we do, you may also be treated to various instances of human aggression floating in through your open windows as people pass to and fro. Shouting, spitting, swearing, parents screaming at their kids, kids at each other, young men at young women and vice versa – there are days when city living  just becomes too much.

Happily, this urban stress syndrome (I believe it’s official now) can be quickly alleviated by a drive into the country. Last week we spent a night with friends at a house on the Hawkesbury River, only about an hour and a half away from home. Sitting on that verandah early Saturday morning watching the river was the most restorative tranquilliser I could have wished for at the end of a long week.

And even though we couldn’t stay long, the drive home was just as recuperative as the night away. This time, instead of flying past in a hurry as we often do when returning from the country, we decided to take the trip very slowly and stop at many of the roadside food stalls along the way.

I think from now on I am going to try to do this every time we leave the city – apart from filling your fridge or your fruit bowl, there’s something else very satisfying about buying food in this way. It’s partly to do with bringing something of the landscape home with you, and partly to do with closing the gap between you and where your food comes from. Even if the veg is from a van on the side of the road rather than the farm itself, the person selling it to you has usually either grown it themselves or knows the person who did.

There’s a human connection – a warmth in this passing of basic, simple food from their hands to yours that I find deeply soothing.

It also usually means you’re eating seasonal food – most stalls seem to sell stuff when there’s a glut or oversupply – which promotes a direct connection to the earth and the weather. This is a welcome contrast to the kind of grocery shopping that can tend to make you feel like a cog in a great big industrial food machine.

And lastly, there’s the aesthetic pleasure involved. Lots of the stalls and the signs and the food itself are, I reckon, quite beautiful. Each one has its own particular character and casual, amateur beauty. So much so, actually, that I’m thinking of setting up a separate blog purely for photos of roadside food stalls,where people can send me a pic and I’ll post it. What do you think? I didn’t take my camera away with us last week so these photos were taken on the good old Hipstamatic iPhone app, and I love the result.

Anyway – by the time we made it home from the Hawkesbury we had a dozen fresh eggs, two kilos of beautifully ripe tomatoes, a kilo of borlotti beans and two kilos of figs.

The seasonal, gluttish aspect of this kind of exchange also means your cooking gets a nice kick of rejuvenation too, as what you buy dictates your cooking for a bit. For two people, for example, it takes a fair bit of imagination to get through two kilos of figs in the few days they will last before they are too ripe to use. So this week has been fig city at our place, and we’ve loved it.

Apart from the usual fig halves wrapped in proscuitto as a snack, we’ve made a dessert of figs with spiced yoghurt adapted from that published in SMH Good Living  a couple of weeks back (sorry, can’t find a link online!), and then a really delicious dinner in which we adapted this recipe for Maggie Beer’s spatchcock in a fig ‘bath’, replacing the bird with a very succulent bit of quickly roasted pork fillet (from Feather & Bone, natch).

We still have about a dozen very ripe figs left, so this weekend I’m going to throw a few into this salad from last year, and use the rest to make Justin North’s fig preserve published in this week’s Sydney Magazine.

As for the tomatoes, I’ve slow-roasted about half to use in everything, pureed another six or so to throw into a fish curry the other night, and have a big bowl left for salads and whatever else might take our fancy. Next stop, the fresh borlotti beans. I’ll get back to you (or tell me what to do with them!)….

In the meantime, I would love to know if you partake in the highway harvest too? Or have you perhaps even solved your own produce glut this way? If you’re lucky enough to live outside the metropolis, tell me your favourite roadside veg stall or pick-your-own orchard or farm gate stall, and what you love about it.

PS: If anyone knows what ‘moad’ is, and why it should be left in the jar, please enlighten me!

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Mission Impossible

September 11, 2010

When I made a version of Stephanie Alexander’s Crustless Silverbeet, Pine Nut & Olive ‘Tart’ for a friend recently, she recognised it instantly as a picnic favourite that her friend calls Impossible Pie. I have no idea what makes it so impossible, except the fact it’s basically a robust, chunky quiche without the pastry, which I guess leads to the cutseypie moniker. Whatever the reason, Impossible Pie has stuck  in our house, and it’s become a weekend lunch staple that easily feeds a gang of eight.

The original recipe is from this book here, which I still love to death. Stephanie’s version is entirely vegetarian, and very good too, but for omnivores  I have usually added a handful of chopped bacon or pancetta (for as the Empress is fond of saying, “there’s nothing in life that can’t be improved by bacon”). And I think next time I might sling in a few chopped anchovies too.

Speaking of vegetarians, I’ve been having a little Twitter discussion on the topic lately so look out soon for a post on how to make a vegetarian happy. And I’ve decided that as much as possible, from now on I’m including veg options for any recipes here, using this little green V symbol at the end.

Silverbeet Impossible Pie

  • 1 sizable bunch silverbeet
  • olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons pine nuts
  • 3 tablespoons chopped bacon / pancetta
  • 3 tablespoons currants
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 12 black olives, pitted & roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon rinsed capers
  • 5 tablespoons breadcrumbs
  • 4 eggs
  • 200g natural yoghurt
  • 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • a little butter

Method

1. Wash silverbeet & separate stems & leaves.

2. Chop leaves into strips and stems into 1cm chunks.

3. Throw stems into simmering water for 2 mins, followed by the leaves for another 2 mins. Drain and cool under cold running water for a few minutes. Dry in a tea towel or salad spinner.

4. While silverbeet is blanching, toast pine nuts in a little oil until golden brown, then remove and toss into a large mixing bowl.

5. Saute onion and garlic with bacon or pancetta for a few minutes until bacon is crisp and vegetables are soft.

6. Pulse silverbeet a couple of times in a food processor to roughly chop a little more, then add to bacon mix and fry for a few more minutes.

7. Add the vegetables & bacon to the pine nuts in the large bowl, then add currants, olives and 4 tablespoons of the breadcrumbs. Season and leave to cool.

8. In another bowl, lightly whisk eggs and yoghurt together till well mixed, then add to silverbeet mix.

9. Lightly grease a glass or ceramic pie dish and coat the sides and base with the remaining tablespoon of breadcrumbs (add any leftovers to the mix), then plonk the vegetable mix in, top with the grated Parmesan and a few dots of butter.

10. Bake the tart in a moderate oven for 30-40 minutes or until it feels firm and the top is crisp.  Serve warm or cold with a green salad.

V: Just leave out the bacon

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Loaves and fishes: my list of miracle foods

December 15, 2009

Okay, I know Christmas isn’t strictly related to that particular miracle (reminds me of the time my heathen brother-in-law demanded of my mother what the hell Easter eggs had to do with Jesus being born in Bethlehem anyway…), but one of the things I really like Christmas & New Year holidays is the tendency toward spontaneous and sprawly gatherings over food.

You know the kind of thing, two people for lunch turns into ten, and an instant party ensues. But to make that kind of thing fun it’s gotta be stress free – so here’s my list of good stuff you can pull out at the last second for lunch or picknicky dinner, or take to a friend’s place to blast off their Christmas stress.

Some are old summer holiday faves, and some gleaned from these pages this year. Most of this stuff can be bought in advance and shoved in the fridge, freezer or pantry to pull our for miracle-working when requried…

  • Oysters – of course! Buy them unopened a few days before Christmas and keep in a bucket with a wet towel over them in a cool place – they keep for a couple of weeks.
  • Glazed ham – leftovers, for weeks. Mmmmm.
  • Chutneys & pickles – years ago the Empress introduced me to the killer recipe for Christine Manfield’s eggplant pickle.
  • Smoked salmon – or Virginia & Nigella’s cured salmon! – w creme fraiche and/or salmon roe & sourdough
  • Smoked trout –  keep a couple in the freezer and pull them out any old time
  • Cooked prawns, green salad, mayonnaise
  • Bread – keep a supply of sourdough in the freezer
  • Green salad, nicely dressed with good oil & vinegar
  • Chickpeas – of course! Chuck em in a bowl with bottled roasted capsicum & marinated feta or labneh, or try these ideas
  • Baba ganoush & Steph’s beetroot dip – plus packets and packets of rice crackers
  • Quinoa salad or citrus couscous (make a huge batch – both of these keep forever)
  • Lots of luscious, ripe avocado – buy a heap of those rock hard ones now to have softies on hand for later.
  • Lots and lots and lots of ripe tomatoes
  • Devils on horseback – everybody loves them! And you can keep sealed pancetta & pitted prunes on hand for months…
  • A couple of fillets of salmon in the freezer and a couple of spuds can yield a heap of salmon patties for a crowd.
  • Peas! I am never without a huge bag of frozen peas in the freezer. Actually there will be a new post on peas coming shortly…
  • Eggs – chuck a few halved, hard-boiled eggs in a green salad with some chunks of fresh, cured or smoked salmon and you have a delicious twist on nicoise.
  • Labneh – mmmm.
  • Quiche – if you have frozen shortcrust pastry in the freezer, a quiche takes about fifteen minutes to throw together and another twenty to cook. Fast and fab.

Okeydokes, that’s Santa’s (or Jesus’s?) list of magic expandable food for now – but you must have lots of things to add …

*Oh, and today’s Christmas Excess Antidote is courtesy of www.kiva.org– I absolutely love this site. At the click of a mouse you can provide a micro-loan (as little as $25) to someone in a developing country who’s making a go of things with very slim pickings indeed. I love it so much because your loan just keeps on giving – you can either get the money back (though what kind of a person …) or choose that it goes to someone else in the chain. Perfect!

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The chicken and the egg

December 8, 2009

During this last week I have been bestowed with one of the greatest honours of my life. Booker Prize, you ask? Bip-bow. Pulitzer? Shmulitzer. Miles Franklin? Huh – that old rag!?

Nope – this week, I had a chicken named after me.

That’s right, read it and weep, non-chicken-namesakers.

My friend Mistress Alice of the Mountains, aged eight and a half, and her brother Paddy, four and a half, are the proud new carers of two lovely chooks from the increasingly famous and brilliantly conceived Rentachook, where you rent chooks and coop for six weeks on a try-before-you-buy basis, so you can see if chicken-human cohabitation suits you both.

And I am told that on the journey home to the mountains with the chooks in the back of the car, Paddy and Alice pondered on the names for their new friends. By the time they reached home, Paddy’s chook was named Shirley, and Alice had chosen Charlotte. Both fine chook monikers, I’m sure you’ll agree (although Monica would have been nice too?), and I am assured by Mistress Alice’s parents that Chicken Charlotte genuinely is named for me and not some schoolfriend competitor for Miss A’s affections. Strange but true.

I am more chuffed than I can say. And here she is, above. Has there ever been a more beautiful specimen of chook womanhood?? Read the rest of this entry ?