Monday, May 29, 2006

Plum Duffer

I seem to collect plum sauces, the way some people collect, you know, um, shoes. Or Tupperware. Something useful and utterly necessary at any rate. It puzzles me though, the sheer volume of the stuff I attract. After all, it's not the most common or popular of sauces and yet I seem to find it everywhere. And I mean everywhere. You see that Alice Langton Spice Chilli Plum Brandy Sauce at the front? I bought that when we drove up to Mount Macedon to look at some lovely autumn gardens which had opened for the weekend. Gardens. Lots of deciduous trees and ornamental topiary, but not exactly prime plum sauce material. I'd only stuck a twenty in my pocket for incidentals.

But after a long walk through a 20 acre private garden, I spied a patchwork shop by the side of the road. They had some beautiful quilts, lovely fabrics, and a very small selection of commestibles. Which included said sauce. Yes, I go for a walk in the country and come back with plum sauce!

The others were purchased at more likely locations - farmers' markets and fancy stores. I've rhapsodized about the Cunliffe Waters Spicy Blood Plum Sauce before but the Flambe Yum Plum is my favourite at the moment - a very simple concoction that reflects just plum - not soy or onion or anything else. I love it on chicken wings or dolloped on ice cream - just about anything really.

And for dinner last night I needed a quick throw-together-type meal. Half a jar of Cunliffe Waters Plum Sauce. One tin of organic tomatoes. An onion, sliced. Tip in a kilo of prime lamb chump chops and bake for 1 1/2 hours in a slowish oven. The meat was falling off the bone. The sauce was rich and savoury. And very plummy. Yum.

Reminder: Please email your entries for Cooking for Children 2: Birthday Party Food to favouriteplum(at) by 29 May 2006.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Hide and Seek

I don't know how I'm going to break it to the Plumbaby that now that his throat is feeling better, he's not going to be getting chocolate ice cream for breakfast anymore!

At least we won't be resorting to desperate attempts to get his medicine into him. He quickly learned that whatever was in the syringe tasted nasty ("strawberry" flavoured my arse!) and however I doctored it up, it was no go. He would turn his head to the side, purse his lips and when cornered, would simply wait until it was all in his mouth and then let it trickle out one side.

I thankfully remembered Roald Dahl's Danny the Champion of the World. And if I remembered rightly, Danny devised an ingenious way to poach pheasants from the wood - by slitting open raisins and concealing tranquilisers. I took a plump sultana and inserted a tablet. Squished it closed and you could hardly tell it had been tampered with. Certainly Plumbaby couldn't, well, until he chewed it.

We soon fell to new versions - hidden in banana, inside soft peach, wrapped inside some fluffy bread. Plumbaby's reaction ranged from weary acceptance to bitter disgust - when Figman hid one in chocolate he received some dark, dark looks and a glare that said "I'm not going to be falling for THAT one again". But the course of medicine is over. And just as well, because we've run out of foods to hide it in!

Reminder: Please email your entries for Cooking for Children 2: Birthday Party Food to favouriteplum(at) by 29 May 2006.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Weekend Herb Blogging: Rosemary Redux

We eat roast lamb a lot round here, in the standard permutations of rosemary and garlic, rosemary and anchovy, rosemary, garlic AND anchovy - you get the picture. One of my last efforts included shop-bought rosemary and it was just UGH, nasty and bitter, left me wondering why I'd bothered to put it in at all!

Buying rosemary is a bit of a new phenomenon for me, as I've tended to live in houses with enormous rosemary plants. One so much so, that when meeting a neighbour for the first time, she exclaimed "Oh so you own that rosemary - the entire street helps themselves to it!" And the rosemary we planted in the last house grew so quickly that visitors could snap off a few arm-length branches without any visible effect. So paying $2.99 for a piddly package of rancid rosemary does not thrill me.

But after the last debacle I decided to go raid the fledgling potted rosemary in the garden for a handful of needles. I was cracking open my copy of The Silver Spoon to make the simple Cosciotto Arrosto. The bush withstood the pillage and soon I was happily wrapping the needles in sage and poking them into little slits of lamb fat. Then scattered with garlic chunks and slices of pancetta, a tip of wine and vinegar, it was into the oven for a long roast.

This time the rosemary tasted sweet yet strong. A most pleasing result. And, speaking of which, I am most delighted that I managed to enter Weekend Herb Blogging again, after many missed weekends. Check out the rest at Kalyn's Kitchen!

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Kind of Blogger I Am

Well I seem to have posted not once but egregiously TWICE on No Food Blog Day, but in my defence I'm sure it was Wednesday by Australian Eastern Standard Time if not Blogger time. Oh well. These things happen.

On a personal level, this is what I found more appalling than the above transgression. Imagine this.

Girl gets jealous of Jamie Oliver's streaky bacon shown in Italy. Girl buys huge slab of pancetta and feels immensely self-satisfied.
Girl promptly hacks some off for use in authentic Italian Silver Spoon escapade, being careful to document the process.
Girl wraps pancetta and ignoring Nigella Lawson's directions to freeze, chucks it in the back of the fridge for use later. Which will surely be soon.
Two months later Girl is flicking through her Photos For Blog folder and is reminded that indeed she bought some pancetta. And it's still there at the back of the fridge.

Do you see what being a food blogger can do to you? Get out now. While you can. Hehehehe

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Cooking for Children 2: Birthday Party Food

I remember the parties of my childhood. Presents, dresses, running around screaming with my friends (too much excitement or red cordial?). I also remember the hours spent beforehand, carefully looking through the Women's Weekly Birthday Cakes cookbook wondering whether the doll with the icing skirt was better than the sugar popcorn train? I never understood how anyone could go for that swimming pool cake (filled with green jelly). But I heard editor Pamela Clark on the radio the other day and she insists that it remains one of their most popular cakes. Hmmmn.

For my own darling Plumbaby's birthday, I'm trying to think of food that's fun and fresh. So please help out with Cooking for Children 2: Birthday Party Food and send me any ideas for this year's festivities. Cakes, savoury snacks, sweet treats - you name it.

Please email your entries to favouriteplum(at) by 29 May 2006. And remember, it doesn't have to be a new post - any great ideas from your archives are very welcome here!

Note to Self

Do NOT hustle your visitors out of bed on a frosty Saturday morning. Do NOT glare at anyone who's not dressed within 30 minutes and snap at a pathetic creature who wants breakfast that they can "get something there!".

Do NOT hoon through the countryside, sure that all the best breads, bargains and books will be gone by the time you get there. Because you may find a half-empty square, with only a handful of stalls. Freezing wind which has you all scurrying back to the car within minutes. A car full of half awake folk who haven't had any coffee. And after they brought me this.

At least we got pastries?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Food Poison Casserole

Well actually, it was a curry. You see, Figman has this thing about waste. Hates it. Loathes it. Detests it. (you get the picture). And I was clearing out the meat compartment yesterday when I found some chicken thigh fillets I'd bought on Friday. They were large and plump, but also coated in that bacteria-laden slime so beloved of food poisoning epics. I was about to throw it out but I KNEW what F would say if he saw it in the bin. We have very different views about what constitutes spoiled food and I'm happy to admit that I once squirted dishwashing liquid over a pan of lamb chops to stop him from ingesting them. Anyway, I knew that Figman would insist on eating this.

FINE, I thought and decided that if I was going to do this, I might as well do it properly. So I found some ancient curry paste which had formed a crust over the surface at the back of the fridge and threw it together with some yoghurt whose use by date was more than a week ago.

I gave the man a full disclaimer and he demanded a platefull. He said it tasted delicious. Humph.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Lavandula Swiss Italian Autumn Harvest Festival

Last weekend we trekked out to Lavandula for their Swiss Italian Autumn Harvest Festa. Lavandula is a lavender farm near Daylesford, and they hold a festival each season to celebrate the bounty of nature. This one promised "olive harvest, jam making, bottling quinces, roasting chestnuts, Italian music and singing and dancing the tarantella". While much of this was here, it was really a great deal more like being present at someone's party than attending a festival.

Busloads of apparent Swiss Italians arrived just as we did and quickly claimed the reserved tables under the trees. They mostly brought their own picnics, which was just as well, given that the farm restaurant, La Trattoria, was besieged from all sides by hungry visitors. They featured a short menu of oxtail with gnocchi, minestrone and several types of pizza. As I stood waiting to give my order, a serve of mushroom pizza went flying out the kitchen window and just missed a waitress who had bent down for some paper. "Oh well" she said, unflappable. "You can't be perfect all the time".

The oxtail tasted a little smoky (burnt?) but the mushroom pizza with thyme and taleggio was scrumptious. I suspect the base was nothing more than flour, oil, egg and water and it was crisp and flaky and just what was needed out in the cold.

There was plenty of fruit and vegetables to be seen but not a great deal for sale. There were a few vendors of olive oils, preserves and cheeses, but to be honest, you'd find a wider selection at most of the farmer's markets. However there is the lovely Lavandula giftshop for anyone needing to flex the plastic! We walked around the property, peeped at the lavender fields (not in bloom now) and tasted wine and cider and just-made jam. When the music started up, the crowd under the trees began to sing and dance, elderly women in scarves joined hands and began to dance and for a moment, you forgot you were in Australia.

Lavandula holds these festivals regularly but I think I'd be more tempted to return on a quiet day when we could hole up in La Trattoria and see fields bursting with lavender blossom. Until then, enjoy the pics!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Change of Seasons/Change of Coats

The rain that thundered down last weekend has transformed the countryside. Hills that were golden are now coloured green. Fields bleached beyond pale have turned lush overnight. It's quite bizarre, as quick as a change of coats.

And now it's time to finally accept that summer is over. I have held onto the last of the summer fruit, paying exorbitant prices for mangoes ($5 apiece) simply because I've been dreaming of them. And gathering large bags of blood plums, my absolute favourite fruit, and storing them in the fridge. But as you can see from the photo above, the plums are growing soft and saggy. I like them hard and fresh, sour and green. It's time to put them away and wait with eagerness for next summer's crop.

Meanwhile the apples are in. When at Fernleigh Farm, I picked up some new season organic apples. One bite and I was in love. Crisp, sweet and almost dripping juice. Old plums simply don't compare to new apples, no matter how much I adore them.

And it's even time for a change of cookbooks. On my counter is a copy of Vogue's Short Order and Seasonal. Vogue Entertaining and Living brought these two out a few years ago - one for spring/summer and one autumn/winter. They are full of quick, if fancy, ideas for seasonal eating. I don't think they are still available - I got one free with a Vogue magazine and the other appears to have been picked up cheap at the newsagents for $4.00. As I put spring/summer away I flicked through autumn/winter, peering at soups, roasts and other warming foods. And despite the bowl of plums in my fridge, I know now winter's here.