Wednesday, 30 December 2009
Wednesday, 9 December 2009
Traditions are wonderful things. They link us to a group. They hold out memories in their fabric of sameness and comfort. But like everything, they have to evolve. Not change, so much as evolve. Like Mater Beige's AMAZING Xmas pudding. It was her mother's recipe of WW II, when many "traditional" ingredients were unavailable. That particular recipe has now become the tradition for myself and my children.
This year is the third without our beloved Hobbit. And will be the first of a new tradition of just lunch with Mum, my family and my brother's family. Other family members are off starting other family traditions with other families, and I am only too aware that this may be my last Xmas in Melbourne for a very long time.
So this year is going to be the best Xmas lunch EVAH and I have been given the best Xmas present of all time... darling Mater Beige has handed me the responsibility of the vegetables this year.
Now, it mightn't seem a big deal, but I can assure you it is. Mater Beige keeps telling me that my turn will come.
I have been champing at the bit, to get my hands on cooking the Xmas lunch. I lie awake at night planning and plotting. Subbing the glace cherries in the pud for 1/2 and 1/2 dried cranberries and glace ginger. Sneaking a small ramekin of brandy butter onto the table. Doing a 2 cavity stuffing of sage and chestnet puree for a real whole bird.
The possibilities are endless.
So, I need to keep traditions alive (potatoes, cauli and cheese, string beans) while giving these humble veggies a pg twist!
So my plans are:
Kipfler potatoes cut lengthways, roasted in duck fat with chunky-cut Speck, sea salt and garlic.
organic cauli with Gruyere and nutmeg sauce.
blanched organic green beans with balsamic glaze and toasted slivered almonds.
What say you, dear reader? Any other suggestions on how to keep the veggie traditions alive, yet improve on them?
Sunday, 6 December 2009
Traditions are funny things. And nothing makes me laugh more than traditions in food. It's one thing to have a traditional Xmas lunch, or Granny's pie for your birthday, but there are those within the food community that make much of 'traditional" food.
Another term they use is "authentic"
And the one dish that gets the "authentic"-sists going like no other is Carbonara.
Sites like Chowhound and e-gullet abound with vitriolic posts devoted to the inclusion (or not) of peas, cream, onions, bacon, speck, pancetta, parmesan and any variation of that combination of ingredients.
The origins of the might Carb are lost in antiquity, but the name is derived from the Italian word for charcoal. Some believe that the dish was first made as a hearty meal for Italian charcoal workers, or that the inclusion of a liberal sprinkling of black pepper before serving looks like coal dust, thus the name. This theory gave rise to the term "coal miner's spaghetti," which is used to refer to spaghetti alla carbonara in parts of the United States. Others say that it was originally made over charcoal grills, or that it was made with squid ink, giving it the color of carbon. It has even been suggested that it was created by, or as a tribute to, the Carbonari ("charcoalmen"), a secret society prominent in the unification of Italy. The dish is not present in Ada Boni's 1927 classic "La Cucina Romana", and is unrecorded before the Second World War. It was first recorded after the war as a Roman dish, when many Italians were eating eggs and bacon supplied by troops from the United States.
For me, the dish is simply about the eggs and the bacon. I will admit to some cream, some time. But recently I was given a dozen freshly laid free range eggs from my ex SIL's happy and pampered hens. I thought about a quiche (given that I am dying to try a new recipe for sour cream short crust pastry), but the siren song of barely emulsified egg was too hard to resist.
That and I freakin' HATE blind baking quiche cases.
So, sweat some white onion in butter, add the bacon/lardons/speck/prosciutto **insert pig meat of choice** and fry gently until crisp. Set aside.
Boil some pasta (I "traditionally" use spaghetti/bucattini). when done, drain, reserving 1/2 a ladle of pasta water.
Bung back in the pot and add 4 eggs and the proscuitto/pancetta or guancia, (if you are lucky enough to be able to get some) and the pasta water.
Let the steam of the pasta gently set the eggs. Don't return to heat, or you'll get scrambled eggs.
Serve with one extra perfect egg yolk, some sea salt, a goodly grind of fresh black pepper and parmigina reggiano.
Heaven in its simplicity.
Saturday, 5 December 2009
It's the first Saturday of Dec. Traditionally the day that my father, The Hobbit, would gather us all together and put up the Xmas tree. My father LOVED Xmas. For a man so usually restrained and classy and self-assured, the Silly Season took hold of him in ways that I can't account for. It gave him permission to let his inner Tacky Consumer out for a run. Mum and Daddy-Oh's house was filled with bells that chimed "Silent Night", Nutcrackers which performed voice activated electronic renditions of "Sleigh Bells".
This the man who instilled in me a love of museums, art and architecture, but had "Hooked on Christmas" on loop for the entire month of December. One day I will blog about the Furtive Santa.
So today is the first time since he died that I have been able to get out my Xmas tree.
I must be his daughter in all senses, as my xmas tree is a tribute to tack.
It's a revolving, purple fibre-optic tree.
And I love it.
I love it more because My Dad bought it for me. We saw it in Target in Aug 2002 and both gasped with sheer wonder at the complete cheap tawdriness of it.
I proudly confess to assembling it on the August Saturday and displaying it a full FOUR months before anyone else.
I have had people knock on my door at night, breathless with the shlock frowziness of my tree, asking where I got it from.
So in about 1/2 an hour, Mater Beige is dropping by, we're going to have a coffee and dress my tree.
And talk about how much Dad would have loved it.
Will post photos when it's up.
Off to pop "Santa Baby" on loop.
Thursday, 3 December 2009
Rising prices are the work of our food giants, not landlords
MICHAEL BAKERDecember 1, 2009
As all of the excitement ebbs from the much anticipated replacement of one Canberra political hack with another, Australian consumers will now refocus on the things that concern them most in the runup to Christmas. This includes the price of food.
University of NSW professor, Frank Zumbo, recently made waves by drawing attention again to what makes execs at Woolworths and Coles absolutely squirm—that food prices in this country are growing at a faster rate than anywhere else in the developed world.
The professor's explanation was pretty simple, basically that the Big Two raise prices faster than their foreign counterparts because they can get away with it. Why? Because they own 80 per cent of the market.
Read the full article here.
More and more I realise that most people out there are sheeple. And particularly truculent, habitual sheeple at that. Maybe because I am an old lefty hippy at heart, and believe in the collective ju-ju of "people power", but we (YOU!) have no-one to blame but yourselves.
It was the glorious Froggie who was shunned as "the ferals up the hill" when choosing to live as sustainable lifestyle as possible.
Me? I don't get shunned, but I still have friends and family who look at me with that endearing moist-eyed, pitiful smile when I tell them I buy most of my produce at small independent supermarkets, or at farmer's markets. They think it's a game to come to a BBQ at my house, bringing with them their pre-fab Slaveways coleslaw and asking "where did this come from" as they poke my Rutherglen Lamb.
It's like recycling. Once upon a time, it was only loonies like me who recycled. Now everyone does it without a thought. Some of us have been saving water for years. Now even the most hard-hearted right winger gets a twinge of conscience at taking a long shower (Except for Tony Abbott who I suspect takes perverse delight in singing all the verses of "American Pie" during his morning ablutions)
So I will brook no whingeing from the "but groceries are oh-so-expensive" crowd, because there ARE alternatives. And the information about those alternatives is easily accessible and valid.
Once again, I jump up on my soapbox and point out that shopping the way I and many other do IS CHEAPER THAN SHOPPING AT COLES AND WOOLIES.
So shut up all you numpties with your designer grocery bags, and your "free-range" eggs. You're still shopping at Coles or Woolies for all your posturing. If you are REALLY serious about saving money AND doing something nice for the planet, get to your local farmer's markets, learn about seasonal produce, source an ethical supplier and buy the other stuff like toothpaste and bog-roll at Aldi and IGA