Not talkin’ ’bout my generation

Living life, loving life: Lucy, 69, still loves surfing, Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain.

A new magazine hit the newsstands last week. A bright beacon of hope for trillions of Australian women aged 50 and above, hungry marketing analysts and (briefly) a hungry late-50s female writer of an optimistic bent.

Yours, it’s called, dear readership, and you’re welcome to it, because it sure as hell ain’t Mine, or Anyone Else’s I know.

Yours is the Best & Less of women’s magazines – a place where yea who enter should expect to abandon all hope.

It is the cultural equivalent of speaking slowly and loudly to the elderly, the infirm and the foreigners.

It is the design lovechild of a Reliant Robin and a life-size, creepy ‘baby’ doll that grips your finger.

And if, as has been intimated, it is targeted at us 50-plus female ‘powerhouse purchasers’ (I should live so long…), then it seems to have mislaid its bifocals while taking aim, dear.

Granted, as with every clichéd aunty, it means well: the call to community (with prizes); the jubilant affirmation beside Every Celebrity’s Name of Their Age, no matter where they are (The Bush), or what they’re doing (Sticking Acupuncture Needles into Dachsunds), wearing (Harsh Blue) or modelling (The New Bob).

The New Bob. Of course! Why didn’t I think of that?

Much like The Old Bob – still crap if you have curly hair.

There’s Short Fiction – so short, that no one – from the Empowered, Connected 50-Somethings, to the Feisty, Mountain-Climbing 80-Year-Olds – reading it need fear dying before they get to the end.

And among the Team of Experts is a Vet.

Because, in the not-too-distant future, voluntary euthanasia for humans will be legalised.

The Longevity Expert would be hoping not, I’m guessing.

Anyhoo, what I Just Don’t Get (apart from why they haven’t euthanised whoever chose that heinous comic typeface) is why we, being such f**king powerhouse purchasers and all, would spend our stylish, plucky, glass-ceiling-shattering, hard-earned dosh on Yours when we can buy Anything Else.

Shake ’n’ bake

The sum of all hope – a late planting of cos lettuce and flat-leaf parsley

Nearly a whole month gone and not a post to speak of – shame on me. I put it down partly to that summer-weight waffle-weave blanket of gloom that descends once Christmas and New Year are over and you realise once again that if you’re not a kid, or you don’t have kids, there’s very little point to either, and they just get in the way of the summer holidays.

Second, the arrival to my living room of GirlsGeneration War and True Detective, plus nightly doses of QI, has rendered me in turn dazzled, devastated and dumbstruck in equal measure (the last due entirely to the near-incomprehensible accent of Matthew McConaughey and his hypnotic sibilance). The delivery of our new leather rocking chair and ottoman hasn’t exactly helped. Rock ’n’ loll.

But it’s not all soft leather seating and script-writing envy. The silver fox has completed another of his long-running household projects – The Wall. Not, I might add, a remix of Pink Floyd’s bloated opus, but a refix of our outside wall, once raddled and crumbling with damp. Which means that finally, after nigh on a year of neglect, our big, heavy planter pots have been returned to their rightful position and are now bristling with cos lettuce, spinach, rocket, parsley, basil, lemon thyme, oregano and rosemary. (I finally gave up on tomatoes when I discovered, after years of blaming possums, fruit bats, caterpillars and birds for the mysterious disappearance of my fruit, that Lucy the Labrador was partial to my cherry love apples – stop it! – after catching her red-pawed nibbling them straight off the vine.)

These lucky little seedlings have been treated to stinking-rich organic potting mix and a thick and fragrant matting of sugarcane mulch. Each morning and evening they’re cooed over and complimented and watered by yours truly, who believes fervently in the power of verbal persuasion when it comes to horticultural success. Yes, there may be many child-rearing professionals who are (finally!) beginning to refute the worth of constant positive affirmation for the optimum development of children into sane adults (although screaming at them like a banshee isn’t the answer, either, judging by psycho-mater next door), but it’s never hurt with plants as far as I can ascertain.

Simple White Bread from
a book I didn’t write, with tomatoes I didn’t grow

The growing of stuff always seems to have a knock-on effect on this helicopter gardener; namely, the making of stuff. So, over the long and lovely Australia Day weekend – which we spent in a resolutely un-Australian manner (that is, quietly, solitarily and soberly, with nary a lamb chop or prawn on the barbie, nor even a contract to dredge up an entire World Heritage-listed site or old-growth forest) – I dragged out Leanne Kitchen’s fantastic cooking tome, The Baker, from the top shelf in my larder and baked some bread. It was called Simple White Bread and it was good. I didn’t listen to Lorde on Triple J’s Top 100 while I was making it, however. For that I will no doubt burn forever in the fires of Hell, but it was worth it.

And now it’s the first weekend of February, and down at the Royal Botanic Gardens by the harbour, there’s been a weekend celebration of the tomato, called, oddly enough, the Tomato Festival, where all manner of red-tinted events have been taking place – from passata and chutney challenges to ‘best in show’ tomato growing competitions, judged by the Gough and Margaret Whitlam of gastronomy, Terry Durack and Jill Dupleix. Maybe next year – if I can gag the dog.

I wasn’t able to be there to enjoy it, unfortunately. I had other fish to fry. But not shark. I left that to Colin Barnett, whom I’ll doubtless soon be standing with at the gates of Hades.

Extreme greens

Using topiary for good, Rose Bay

Walking the dog this morning, I spotted a car sticker on the back of an exhaust-belching, clapped-out 4WD. ‘STOP THE EXTREME GREENS,’ it hollered, and I couldn’t agree more – I’m so over headache lime and queasy emerald. Come back khaki and sage, I say, all is forgiven.

As my eyesight isn’t what it used to be, I couldn’t read the small print under that call to arms, but I’m pretty sure it didn’t mention fluoro runners, so I’m still pondering what is so extreme about a predilection for clean air and water, social justice, compassion and empathy, but hey, what would I know.

Best to stick to the greens I more or less understand, then, despite being increasingly baffled and buffeted (and I don’t mean that in a hotel-breakfast-bain-marie kind of way) by the plethora of contradictory opinion on what I should or shouldn’t consume. Most recently, I’ve been swayed (I am nothing if not easily led – just send me the link) by the alleged benefits of eating fermented foods including sauerkraut and kimchi – partly because it’s my job to keep abreast of these ‘food trends’ (such as they are, considering most of these comestibles have been consumed heroically since the dawn of time by hungry stoics without refrigeration – bet they’d have been the first to descend on Aldi’s biscuit section if they’d have had the choice).

Yesterday, I was brought to a screeching halt in my pursuit of non-bloating nirvana by the derisive snorts of Kate, a young (alarmingly healthy) nutritionist I know, who proceeded to inform me cheerily that any health- or digestion-enhancing probiotics in food are knocked out swiftly and efficiently by one’s own digestive juices. Our bodies will do what they will with whatever we shovel in our mouths, and there’s not a damn thing we can do about it, apparently. So stick that in your pipe and smoke it, Mr Yakult.

Kate is part of the vanguard of a revolution – one in which people eat food, goddammit, not food groups and, while I prefer to stand with my back to the wall and let revolutions of any kind rush past me until it’s safe to proceed, I’ll be more than happy to trail along in this one’s wake.

So, let’s eat.

Not for the faint of heart,
nor the colour-blind

The latest salad to grace our table – so good I made it twice in as many days – was this vision of green and gold, which, if I were so patriotically inclined, I might suggest as a splendid addition to your Australia/Invasion Day/TripleJ Hot 100 animal-protein incineration party. Or you can just eat the whole lot straight from the bowl standing at the kitchen counter while your partner sleeps in front of the cricket/tennis/Chelsea game.

Green and gold salad
Serves 2 – 4 depending on your ethical standpoint

1 cob of corn
1 lebanese cucumber
1 avocado
2 tablespoons of pickled jalapeños (from a jar – one of my current addictions/additions to almost everything I cook)
A generous handful of Sicilian green olives (pitted will save you time and irritability)
½ bunch coriander
1 lime

1. Cut the corn kernels away from the cob over a serving bowl. No need to cook it, unless you’re fussy about things like whether you’ll grow an extra eye if you don’t use organic. I haven’t so far (grown an extra eye, that is, or at least as far as I can tell).

2. Halve the cucumber lengthways, then use a teaspoon to scoop out and discard the seedy centre (not Kings Cross, as some might assume, though that, too, could benefit from being discarded right now). I love doing this – so satisfying – particularly as I have the most perfectly designed kitchen on the planet, courtesy of the multi-talented silver fox, in which the rubbish bin pulls out as a drawer from under my benchtop. Genius.

3. Now cut the cucumber lengthways into thin strips, then chop it all to buggery and add to the corn in the bowl.

4. Cut the avocado into smallish, stylish cubes and add them to the bowl.

5. Finely chop the pickled jalapeños and add them to the bowl. Bored yet?

6. If you’ve been stupid enough to buy unpitted olives, sullenly cut the flesh from the stones and add it to the bowl, or just halve the pitted ones, whistling at your good fortune.

7. Finely chop the coriander, stalks and all (but not the roots – save them for when you hand-pound your own curry paste with a pestle and mortar, which is never, so just throw them away – who are we kidding…). Scoop it all up and add it to the bowl.

8. Cut your lime into cheeks or just halve it, then squeeze half over the ingredients in the bowl. Now go and wash your hands well.

9. Use your newly pristine hands to gently toss everything together in the bowl, then taste a spoonful of the mixture. Turn the other lime cheek (or squeeze it, anyway) if you so desire.

10. Serve the salad on its own or with seafood, poultry or meat. But not with sauerkraut or kimchi.

Back to my roots

Wild fennel, but not as wild as a dancing tuba player

And so we almost come to the end of another year. A year that has (almost) ended pretty much exactly how it began – with a sore lower back, tight calves and temporary but profound deafness. Monetise This’s 2013 started with one of its brave bids for youthful summer freedom – Hot Chip at the Enmore, and Two Door Cinema Club and The Vaccines at The Hordern. It lost its mojo through the middle (much like every year, really), then had a brief bolt for the door with the brilliant (but still irritatingly upper-cased) Cody ChesnuTT at The Metro, before crying ‘Hallelujah!’, leaping into the arms of Urthboy and The Roots (also at the Hordern) and galloping off into the sunset with the band’s dancing tuba player last Friday. In my dreams…

I would have liked to have taken an iSnap or two of The Roots show, we were that close I almost didn’t need to wear my glasses (not for us the dispiriting benches up the back of the Hordern full of 40-somethings, no sirree Bob), but that would have pushed my tragic, age-inappropriate behaviour one step too far.

So here’s pictorial proof instead that my year has not all been They Shoot Horses Don’t They?, and that I am not, in fact, a young Jane Fonda (though you’d probably guessed that already). The siren call of Aldi may have me in its evil grasp, but at least I know how to forage a decent crop of wild fennel when I see one.

Golf does have its use, it seems. This bunch was harvested from one of the many courses that suck up our local groundwater.

This year has brought with it trials – physical, emotional, political (occasionally all at the same time) – to many of my family and friends near and far (foraging being the least of these). For many of them it’s been a complete shit of a year (starting even before the eviscerating debacle that was 7 September) and I’m hoping that the next one will be a little happier, healthier and easier for everyone – unless you happen to be poor, old, young, sick, homeless or stateless, that is. ‘Fraid you’re on your own in that case – sorry, but I didn’t vote for the bastards.

So much for needing to talk about Kevin.

Don’t mess with the good stuff

Instead, I count myself lucky that I’ve been able to keep a roof over my head and a pavlova on the table when it matters most (when it’s raining, obviously, like on Christmas Day). As luck would have it, we’d been invited to spend the day with friends at an iconic Sydney mansion, where, as I’ve crowed previously, we would spend the day pretending to be deeply rich and fiercely glamorous by the sparkling waters of the harbour. Instead, we spent the day being deeply damp and fiercely resentful at the hand the weather gods had dealt us.

“I hope this isn’t my last Christmas,” whispered Mrs F, as I plied her with a dessert selection that ranged from said pavlova to a sugar-free raspberry cheesecake (a culinary abomination so unspeakable even Lucy the labrador shuddered and averted her eyes). Thankfully, I was able to assure her that the sugar in my pavlova should keep her (and Lucy, given half the chance) preserved long enough to see in 2016.

For Monetise This, the last few hours of 2013 will be spent with her peeling nose buried in a brick of a book, lying on a shimmering South Coast beach while Lucy digs holes by the water’s edge. Until we meet again, have a sweet new year, gentle reader(s). Wishing you health, peace and a well-calibrated oven.

Deep and crisp and even

Silent night…

All is calm, all is very, very bright here on the mean streets of Botany, whose inhabitants, especially Danny of Bay Street, and Kris of Daphne Street, seem to have put in a bit more effort into putting a dent into the electricity grid this year. That’s the Coalition government for you – Christmas decorations just got a whole lot better.

We had a slump for a few years, as the old Christmas-light show ponies moved out or dropped off the peg to make way for more sparkle-averse, aspirational residents without utes (ourselves included, although the silver fox and I are, in fact, very intimately in touch with our sparkly sides – and utes; I was once the doting owner of a 1961 Holden FB ute back in my glory days – so, not so aspirational really).

Indeed, our courtyard has its wall of sparkling lights (although many bulbs dimmer, such is our seasonal refurbishing ennui). The disco shed, while not requisitioned this year for our usual Christmas party, still has balls – mirror balls, that is – spotlit through coloured filters. We have made liberal use of these festive tokens over the past few days to entertain our continuous parade of overnighting visitors. They do so complement the EXTREMELY LOUD music we’ve been pumping through the disco shed speakers each night, to drown out the hellish, interminable, tear-our-heads-off screams of the excited, sugar-loaded little kiddies and their desperate parents next door.

So… not so silent, then.

But, praise be, while the halls have been decked with nought but a bowl of pine cones stolen from the golf course surrounded by a coil of tinsel (yup – it really does look as bad as it sounds), I have managed to send handmade cards to overseas friends and relatives. I had intended to send them to friends and family in Australia too, but an excess of red cardboard eventually defeated me.

So… not so calm, either.

A frenzy, actually, of shopping and cooking and washing sheets and remaking beds and shouting at each other over the music in the backyard. Just like everyone else really.

But now it’s Christmas Eve, and the tomato kasundi that roiled and boiled for an eternity on our outdoor gas ring in 35-degree heat this week has been dispatched in poorly decorated jars to deeply suspicious neighbours. It’s a recipe that will appear in an upcoming issue of ABC delicious. magazine, so I can’t give it to you as it is not mine to give, but verily, it is good and the neighbours will thank me for it, you mark my words.

The pavlova is cooling in the oven with the requisite wooden spoon sticking out of the oven door, irritating my uber-minimalist silver fox to distraction. He has refused to wrap the dog’s presents in protest and is lying on the couch watching Miracle on 34th Street for the 34th time. Sigh.

It seems I got it all wrong about bringing a salad (I was put down to bring dessert – the fools, the fools!). The pav is a Bill Granger recipe – and was recommended by a friend who had some success with it recently.

But I live in hope. The meringue is, so far, deep and crisp – if not even – and will be duly immortalised in its full splendour once slathered with whipped cream and piled with sharply rebuked fruit via Instagram and Facebook on the morrow – unless I’m too drunk and forget, or it’s a complete disaster (odds are the usual 50-50).

Queen of the street lights, Kris (her real name), of Daphne Street.

Merry Christmas, and may all your mince pies come true.

 

Lettuce with a gladsome mind

We say it every year, don’t we… Don’t we? Well I say it every year, then… How is it suddenly Christmas again? And how could I have missed the signs?

Neighbours, eh? Can’t live with ‘em; can’t live with ‘em. Which is why they’re called neighbours, I suppose, rather than husbands, or friends, or paying guests.

Neighbours and Christmas parking… The couple over the road from us have started putting out two orange and white witches’ hats on the road outside their house to “save a space in case visitors come”. This year they’ve refined their black art by laying a slender plank between them (the witches’ hats that is, not between the couple). I can only assume that this means I’ll need to ask them to check their diary before I can book an extra space for friends who might care to visit us over the Season To Be Giving.

Obviously, I’ve not been able to get out do any Christmas shopping, as it’s too risky leaving the car space we’ve managed to cling on to. So it will, as usual, be a hasty, last-minute guilt-trip to Easthell, my local Westfield gulag, in the dead of night. Sorry, in anticipation, for the novelty scrapbook with matching glue stick.

Happily, the Actual Day To Be Giving will be spent by the harbour with friends and family, all of us gaily pretending to be extremely, extremely rich in a mansion none of us owns or has to pay the window cleaner for.

And all I have to do is bring a salad. Which is quite handy really, as salads are what have been consuming me in the past couple of weeks – and, indeed, what we, in turn, have been consuming – which was even more handy, seeing as it was dinner time.

This mild obsession was sparked by a plea from a friend who had been deprived of anything remotely resembling fresh, nourishing – nay, edible – food, during a prolonged and challenging stay in (where else?) a hospital. That mortal enemy of nutrition and palatability.

So when I’m not working at my desk or someone else’s, or buggering about in my courtyard fiddling with my succulents (settle, petal), I’m chopping stuff up and throwing it together in bowls. And cooking a lot of it, too – that’s a prerequisite for my friend – raw’s not so great for her right now.

It started with the I Can’t Believe It’s Not Niçoise Niçoise Salad. But this was hardly the first – merely the one I remembered to photograph before we ate it. No, the composed salad is not new to me. It is how I most like to cook. No weighing, no praying.

So, here are three rather toothsome examples I’ve made over the past week or so using ordinary-ish ingredients. They require little skill and no technique and have always depended on the kindness of strangers. Not really. I made that last bit up. Sorry Blanche.

Not hospital food, oddly enough, but a potato and broad bean salad, badly framed with a tomato, green bean and beetroot salad

Potato and broad bean salad

Serves me very well, thank you

Small-ish potatoes that you can quarter prettily, scrubbed but not peeled

Broad beans (I used frozen ones – I love ’em)

Finely chopped spring onions

Loads of chopped dill

Lemon

Dijon mustard

Jolly nice Australian extra virgin olive oil

1. Chuck the potatoes in a pan of cold salted water and bring them to the boil. Why? Because they’re potatoes and that’s what you do. Ask anyone. It’s something about starch. Cook them, checking neurotically, until they’re done.

2. Meanwhile, throw a couple of handfuls of frozen broad beans into a heatproof bowl.

3. Find that jar you found for the last salad under the sink again, make sure it’s clean, then squeeze in at least half the lemon, a large teaspoonful-ish dollop of Dijon, a good couple of tablespoons of olive oil, and some salt and pepper, then stick the lid on and shake vigorously. Set aside. Whichever side you prefer.

4. Once the potatoes are just done enough (be vigilant, dear friends, with that skewer or knife tip), drain them in a colander OVER THE BROAD BEANS IN THE BOWL! Is this not truly week-night-cooking short-cutting genius? But make sure you don’t flood the bowl in your Superwoman exuberance. You will get burnt. Remember – vigilance, always vigilance.

5. Take the potatoes outside to dry in the colander on the garden table. Dead-head a couple of geraniums, then, as soon as you can put your hands in the bowl of broad beans, start peeling them and slinging them in your serving bowl. If I can be bothered, I’ll dry them on paper towel after I’ve peeled them. Sad, but true.

6. When the potatoes have cooled enough, cut them into quarters and add to the beans with the spring onion and dill, then pour over as much of the dressing as you like (I like plenty) and gently toss it all together. Season it with more salt and pepper if so desired. Lovely with sausages, delightful to know.

The first class cabin of garlic travel

Tomato, green bean and beetroot salad

Serves to remind us to always wear an apron around beetroot

A bowlful of green beans

A large, contented garlic clove, preferably from a bulb grown by Patrice Newell, which was delivered in a purple box, nestled with its brothers and sisters on a strawy mattress

More fabulous Australian extra virgin olive oil

Balsamic vinegar Ideally, voluptuous, juicy home-grown tomatoes, redolent of the Italian sunshine; realistically, Amoroso truss tomatoes from Coles, because Lucy the labrador has eaten any I’ve tried to grow myself

Cooked small beetroots (yes, I admit it, I have been known to use the Love Beets™ that come in a handy packet from the supermarché, so sue me)

Chopped flat-leaf parsley (although I admit to a fondness for the curly stuff too – there will be a revival of that much-maligned herb soon enough – you mark my words)

1. Chuck the beans into a saucepan of boiling water. Why? Because this time they’re beans and that’s what you do. Ask anyone. No starch to speak of. Cook them for about 5 minutes, or until they’re dead enough to stop squeaking when you bite into them but alive enough to still feel plump and giving.

2. While this mortal battle is going on, smash the garlic and chop it to within an inch of its own sweet life, then put it in a bowl with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and 1 of the balsamic.

3. Chop the tomatoes however you deem fit – I like quarters or sixths, especially after a glass of wine to concentrate the mind – then cut the beetroot into similar proportions.

4. Once the beans are cooked to the tenderest of limbo, drain them and IMMEDIATELY (or face the wrath of the gods) add them, hot and steaming, to the bowl where the garlic, oil and balsamic wait in breathless anticipation. Toss them all together and leave them to stand idly by for a couple of minutes, while you inhale that soft tang of garlicky goodness.

5. Add the tomatoes, beetroot and parsley, and gently toss to combine one more time. Season with salt and pepper, and, if you’re feeling particularly louche, dollop some goat’s cheese over the top. I wasn’t, so I didn’t. One has to draw the line somewhere.

Absolutely-bloody-delicious,
even if I do say so myself

And finally, the roast cauliflower salad

Serves no other purpose than almost erotic pleasure

1. There is no better way to cook cauliflower than roasting the f—k out of it at about 200C after you’ve broken it into florets, slathered them with olive oil, cumin, salt and pepper and maybe lemon juice, and tossed it all with a dozen halved, peeled cloves of aforementioned cosseted garlic.

2. Once it’s all caramelised and nutty and sweet, put the lot in a bowl with handfuls of chopped parsley and mint, currants, and toasted slivered almonds or pine nuts.

3. Drag out that jar again, give it another wash, then add a large dollop of black olive tapenade, a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and another cheek or so’s worth of lemon juice. Shake it up, then pour enough of it over the salad to make it a teeny, weeny bit unhealthy but oh, so lush. Gently toss to combine and check on the seasoning. If it’s not home by midnight, you’re locking the back door.

4. The pièce de résistance (and only ingredient I’m ever prepared to eat that squeaks) is a batch of freshly scorched slices of haloumi, cooked with a little bit of olive oil in a hot frying pan or on a chargrill at the last minute and thrown with gay abandon over the top. Eat the lot with relish – but not mango chutney.

And save some for the next day if possible. Even better then.

A little bit country… redux

Country Style, December 2013

Oops! Well, that will serve me right for getting over-excited. I’ve just posted (and swiftly removed) a piece about my latest foray into the world of magazines, talking about the wrong restaurant. I think they call this hubris…

Suffice to say, what I really wanted to promote was the latest issue of Country Style, which goes on sale tomorrow, complete with a story I wrote about St Isidore, a fab restaurant on the NSW south coast in the edge of the buzzy little town of Milton. Chef Alex Delly and his partner, Jo Thomas, have created a garden paradise, where they grow most of their own produce and create gorgeous, modern-rustic food, and a warm, welcoming haven for lucky locals and an ever-increasing band of travellers. Apologies to them, and to you, for rushing into the previous post. I’ll just put it down to over-excitement.

Now for a Valium and a good night’s sleep…

Salad daze

Salad niçoise, but without the egg or Frenchness

Astonishing! I’ve had a request from a reader of this morning’s post for the recipe for the salad pictured here (not, I might add, as another wag pointed out, for the bowl of succulents and shells). As she’s in a particularly un-salady phase of her life at present, through no damn fault of her own, I am more than happy to share a bit of mild food porn with her.

So – it was Tuesday night, the silver fox was sulking on the sofa with a bad case of post-boating-weekend-induced man flu, and I’d eaten too many post-check-up Coles Anzac biscuits with tea over at Mrs F’s.

As usual, after too much sugar, trans fat and sitting down, I crave but two things – a brisk walk with an amiable chocolate labrador, followed by a hefty bowl of something fresh and green (but not succulent).

A salade niçoise was what I fancied. Too easy, I thought, smirkily, having stopped off on the way home to pick up some heinously expensive green beans from Parisi’s in Rose Bay, until I looked in the fridge and realised there was but one egg, a half-eaten tin of tuna, and some dodgy-looking greenery.

No matter – I managed to cobble together a totes delish dinner (eaten toute seule in the courtyard on that balmy nightas the fox didn’t stir from his feverish slumber until morn).

I am a good cobble-togetherer. I put it down to my being a lazy and erratic cook, and a haphazard shopper. I am frequently able to conjure gold from dross – although I draw the line at any kind of alchemy involving sow’s ears.

I adhere, more or less, in my cobbling, to the fashion rule espoused so forcefully by Steve Martin’s shrill and shiny girlfriend in LA Story, which I watched again in joyful solitude last weekend, while the fox was getting hammered both nautically and alcoholically on a rocky boat. Wear no more than seven items (though apparently this has now been reduced to five, according to my girlfriend, Kate, who is au fait with that sort of thing). And if in doubt, look at yourself quickly in the mirror and take off the first thing you notice.

Nuts and herbs occasionally have me reaching for that proverbial mirror, in the salad scheme of things. But what the what – rules, of course, are meant to be broken. Which is why I’m likely be issued an infringement  by the salad police with the following recipe.

No matter. This one’s for you Caroline. I hope that, even if you can’t eat it, you’ll enjoy licking the computer screen. And there’s plenty more where this one came from.

The I Can’t Believe It’s Not Niçoise Niçoise Salad

With apologies to Nigella and Audrey

Serves 2 (or 1 straight out of the bowl in front of Masters of Sex)

1. Place the cooking music of your choice on the stereogram*.

2. Using the slow-motion setting, shower some torn salad greens from a great height into a large bowl.

3. Next, add a goodly handful of soundly chopped parsley, a flushed and well-drained can of cannellini beans (discard the can), some small potatoes, boiled, drawn and quartered, and a Croesus’s fortune of green beans, steamed to bitey softness.

4. Swearing continuously, fossick around for 10 minutes under the sink for a small, clean jar with a lid that fits, then add a dollop of Dijon, a frisson of white balsamic dressing and a slop of extra vertiginous olive oil.

5. Make a double entendre while screwing the lid on, then shake it to the core or until the contents resemble the spun-gold tresses of Rapunzel.

6. Using your hands and whistling softly, toss through enough of the dressing to coat the salad mixture like a Chanel suit.

7. Scatter over the contents of a half-eaten can of tuna, then drape with a little more of the dressing.

8. Retire to your corner and serve immediately with Sonoma sourdough, a glass of something soothing and a healthy appetite.

*We used Pandora Radio, available free on your computer.

 

Back to food

Amateur salade composée
– house-made in da house

Last night, having prepared and consumed – and, naturally, photographed – a rather fine example of one of my few culinary specialities, the salade composée (to give it its full French due), I thought it was probably time I wrote something about food again, seeing as that’s what I do for a crust (ha!)… mostly. I’ve been eating a lot of it recently, which is nothing unusual in itself, particularly while standing up at the kitchen bench.

For lunch… mostly.

But when I’ve not been enjoying brief encounters with my kitchen counter, cramming leftover Meat Free Monday thrice-rice salad, or Tragic Tuesday Triangles of Agapé Organic Restaurant’s Patagonian scallop-prawn-and-shitload-of-garlic spelt pizza, I’ve been eating at the odd restaurant.

These places, in order of appearance on Latergram, were Rushcutters, in Darlinghurst, The Cut, down at The Rocks, Honeycomb, back in Darlinghurst, and Nomad, a disappointingly immobile establishment in Surry Hills.

Rushcutters twice, in fact: once for the launch of the fab cookbook I had a small hand in, ABC delicious. Love to Cook; the second, a cheery lunch perched by the big, breezy open window with Mum, on one of our regular let’s-make-this-cancer-shit-fun-or-it-will-be-the-death-of-us days out.

She’s doing well – best line this month was after her last check-up with her spectacularly ill-dressed but well-shod oncologist. “Well, you have to say I’m eking out my living,” chortled Mrs F in the car on the way home, after the Prof told her that she’s defying the survival-rate odds.

Also defying the odds – or my expectation – was The Cut, which, as far as I knew (from nothing, generally), was either a film starring Meg Ryan as a skinny English teacher who gets to have murkily lit sex with Mark Ruffalo, or a damn good steak house with low ceilings and high overheads.

Wrong on both counts, my friends – although not about the low ceilings (or high overheads, I’d hazard). There are steaks, yessirree, but there is so much pretty, creative deliciousness besides, thanks to the busy hands and enquiring mind of head chef Grant Croft.

Honeycomb – do you want fans with that?

At Honeycomb (another check-up, another LMTCSFOIWBTDOU day out), we sat on Hi-Vis yellow bentwood chairs by another open window on a silky-warm afternoon, cooling ourselves with cheap sandalwood Chinese fans proffered by the nice tattooed waiter wearing what looked like a tooth necklace. Nice touch, those fans. The necklace, not so much.

Afterwards, Mum and I each bought four of those fans from the two-dollar shop in the mall under the Coke™ sign at Kings Cross in some misguided belief that they might make good Christmas stocking fillers. The waiter had told us where he’d got them, “Only three dollars each!” and showed me how to speak into my iPhone™ instead of having to type text messages.

“Maybe now I won’t have to look at the top of her head all day,” snipped Mrs F, leaving him a generous tip.

Welcome to the 21st century – a post-menopausal woman being scolded by her octogenarian mother for playing with her iPhone.

Professional salade composée – house-made at Nomad

No such problem at the not-even-slightly-wandering Nomad, where four grown women all blithely took iSnaps™ of the house-made cheese, house-cured meats and house-cooked food served by house-proud staff – each blissful in the knowledge that the resolutely hirsute Surry Hills hipsters having a Vale Ale at the bar were too busy comparing ironic T-shirts to notice.

Been there, loved that

Hooray! My South Coast locavore story, aided and abetted by the talented Josh Tyler, of Tyler’s Pantry in Mogo, is out today in the fabulous December/January issue of ABC delicious.

To celebrate, I’ve thrown together a few extra snaps for your delectation. Suffice to say – I bloody well love this stunning part of the world, so please don’t all go rushing there and spoiling it with your small bars and pig’s ear sliders. Just read about it, instead, okay?