Friday, April 18, 2014

The one day of the year, revisited

Today, Good Friday 2014, is this blog's 3rd anniversary, and  so I'm republishing the first post from Good Friday 3 years ago..which is about the one day of the year in my childhood when the menu at our house was less than inspiring. 

Funny I've finally got around to starting this blog today--which I've been meaning to do for some time--because it's Good Friday, the one day of the year in my frangaroo childhood that the menu at our house was anything less than inspiring. That's because we kept the Good Friday fast or rather diet. We always ate fish on Fridays but I never minded that, because I always loved fish except for the very bony ones, and under Maman's skilled and imaginative fingers it was always tranformed into a meal fit for a king, anyway. But Good Friday meant the following menu: Boiled whitefish with salt; boiled potatoes, ditto, steamed cabbage, ditto. Water to drink. And that's it. No wine for my parents. No cheese, fruit, sweets, butter, meat, oil, eggs, or any flavourings other than salt(not even pepper.) No salad. No yummily-cooked vegies. Nothing other than that miserable monochrome menu.
Just one day of the year. And a very small sacrifice, in pathetic and even ridiculous proportion to the terrible event we were memorialising. We knew all that. But of course we complained. And we eternally hungry kids who from the tenderest babyhood were accustomed to having our palates delighted every day, weren't the only ones to complain. My father would spend much of Holy Thursday evening lamenting the culinary ordeal that was soon to follow, and was up bright and early on Holy Saturday morning to tuck into a tasty breakfast of crisp-fried pancetta and fresh bread--he who hardly ever had more than a cup of coffee most mornings. And, oh, his glum looks at his Good Friday plate! All that was tradition too--and so was Maman's half-joking, half-serious reproof to him, telling him off for giving us a bad example.
These days, I'm not as assiduous as my parents on the Good Friday food front, and though I cannot bring myself to eat any meat or sweets that day, the fish and seafood menu at our place can hardly be seen as a penance. But then my parents themselves aren't as dedicated as they were in my childhood. In 2010 we were at their place in France for Good Friday, and though it was fish of course, there was not only salt, but pepper and oil and vinegar and nice vegetables and fruit. Monochrome it seemed was gone forever. 'Well, you see, ' said Dad, 'once you're over 70, the Church says you no longer have to keep the Good Friday fast. You just musn't eat meat.' And he smiled, and happily helped himself to another bowl of Maman's excellent fish soup.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Pan-fried mackerel with tangy sauce

Mackerel is a fish that's not much eaten in Australia, unlike in Europe, but that's a pity, because it's a delicious fish with a firm juicy white texture and a distinctive taste. And it's very
reasonably priced too!

We had lovely cutlets of it the other day, pan-fried with a simple, tangy sauce. First, you pan-fry the mackerel till done, salt and pepper, then set aside, add chopped onion, garlic and parsley to the cooking juices, cook half a minute, then add red wine vinegar, cook till a little reduced, add a small lump of butter, stir, then pour over the fish and serve!
Perfect with small boiled potatoes and chopped spinach.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

After pineapples--why not peanuts!

After the New England pineapple, here comes the New England peanut..

first of a crop, perhaps! This one was very immature inside though the shell was the right sort of crackly texture.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Perfectly simple, delicious and colourful starter

A starter we had the other day, simple, delicious and beautiful, with all those gorgeous summer hang-ons:
mellow yellow tomatoes, herbs, Moroccan-style eggplant cooked with garlic and cumin, roasted capsicums, and olives to garnish. Worthy of being painted!
Postscript: I've been asked how we prepared the eggplant, so here goes: using a vegetable peeler, remove 1 cm wide strips of skin along the length of each eggplant. Cut the eggplant into 1 cm slices. With our home-grown eggplants, we didn't need to do the next step(in italics) but with shop-bought ones you will have to. Sprinkle with salt and layer the slices in a colander. Leave for around 20 mins, then wash under cold water, drain, then pat dry with paper towels.
Heat olive oil in a frying pan and fry the eggplant slices in batches until browned on each side and set aside on a plate. Add more oil to the pan as needed. After all eggplants are browned, cook 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped, over low heat for a few seconds. Add paprika, cumin, and pepper--or a little fresh chilli--then add the eggplant slices back to the pan and cook, mashing them gently with a fork(but not too mashed!)Continue to cook until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add some chopped coriander and lemon juice--and serve! Can be served hot, warm or cold.