Figs, I’ve noticed, are surprisingly polarising. You offer them to some people and they act like you’re presenting them with a bag of precious gems, loaded with memories of childhood and warm autumn sun and being perched in the middle of their grandfather’s fig tree. And then, there are people who look at you with the deepest suspicion, as if sizing you up to see if you are actually serious. They take a moment, looking at the prospect of eating some kind of poison, then reply an awkward ‘no thanks’ and try to change the subject. Continue reading Fig and quark (or cream cheese) strudel
Tonight at dinner our 18-month-old daughter finally decided that beans are pretty good. We didn’t have to cut them up into little pieces and ask her to ‘go quick’, which is a silly game that involves her stuffing as much into her mouth as fast as possible, and sometimes ends with the food dribbling back out (we resort to it only if we’re getting a bit desperate). We also didn’t have to scatter tinned tuna on top like I did the other day at lunch, or sneak bean pieces in on chopsticks hiding behind something else more appealing. Instead she sat there with a half-eaten bean wobbling in her hand as if to say, you know what Mum and Dad, these aren’t bad. ‘Maw’ she said after she’d eaten that one, and I thought, hurray! Continue reading Green bean, coconut and yoghurt salad
I think our suburb must be the apricot capital of Melbourne – there are trees drooping with fruit all around us, not too many birds to steal them, and the owners of most trees don’t seem very interested. It’s perplexing! I’ve taken to doorknocking and last year I found a house with two trees and a lovely Vietnamese family who were happy for us to pick what we wanted, as they eat a few apricots but prefer fruits from Vietnam. They are swimming in apricots – or squelching really, as they are spattered all over their driveway. This year we visited twice and took some eggs from our chickens as a small thank you. Continue reading Apricot, almond and spice cake
About three weeks ago, spring officially ended in our vegie patch. I pulled out the lettuces that were all of a sudden full and large, the parsley that had gone to seed, and a small, proud patch of my first ever beetroots and carrots. Saddest of all, I picked the last of the broad beans, then chopped off the stalks a few centimetres above the dirt. Instead of a lush green view out the kitchen window, we were left with rather desolate beds scrappily covered with last season’s mulch. And it was suddenly a very different feeling gazing out the window while doing the dishes. Continue reading Broad bean stir-fry
A few years ago, while searching in an op shop, I found a small hardback cookbook that’s become a favourite. Believe it or not, good cookbooks are so hard to find in op shops that I’ve almost given up looking. You sift through a gazillion microwave and diet cookbooks and mostly come up with nothing.
Published in the 1980s, Italian Pizza and Savoury Breads by Elizabeth Romer is from a different publishing era – it’s not gorgeous or fleshed out with photos to make you drool. Instead there is a scattering of still-life illustrations by the author – tables covered with blue tablecloths and laid with a pizza, a bottle of wine, a bowl of tomatoes and
a stem of vine leaves; that sort of thing – which you can imagine inside aluminium frames hanging slightly crookedly on the walls of someone’s holiday villa.
Continue reading Italian chickpea bread
In my uni days I used to stay at my boyfriend’s share house almost often enough to chip in to the rent – it was a house of four guys, where the dishes only got washed once they started to turn the corner of the long u-shaped bench; where the figs on the big tree in the backyard were used to play cricket (no-one knew what to do with a fig, even me); and where someone’s basket of dirty clothes stood in the laundry unchanged for two years. Carbonara was a feature on the menu, involving pieces of bacon not fried for long enough and still with its chewy rind on; onion or spring onion; and a 600 ml tub of cream.
Continue reading Proper egg carbonara
I have read that Italians sometimes eat cake for breakfast – perhaps with a milky coffee made with espresso leftover from the night before. They don’t do dessert after a meal, but sweet snacks and a decadent breakfast seem okay. (As for coffee – after midday it’s strictly without milk.) Continue reading Date, banana and wheatgerm loaf
We’ve been eating lots of sandwiches of late. When I can, they involve homemade sourdough, and we toast them up in a frying pan with a splash of olive oil to make them extra delicious. But still, it equals bread for lunch, and I don’t think it’s clever if we’ve also had bread for breakfast. Continue reading Brown-rice nori rolls
Pork ragu on soft polenta and steamed orange pudding – the menu seemed perfect for our wintery weather just a few days ago as we gathered in our lounge room in front of the fire. But now we’re in t-shirts and bare feet, have changed to our summer doona, and taken our daughter out of her winter sleeping bag. The ragu and polenta leftovers are sitting in the fridge and looking rather unappealing, as instead I’m thinking about crunchy salads or skewers and asparagus on the barbecue to match these balmy days. And I’m wondering about how I can use up all that polenta.
Continue reading Polenta pizza