Eating notes 2011

A log of dinners (and occasional lunches and brunches).

Sat 31 December 2011 Lunch: focaccia at Louie’s. Dinner: new year’s eve party at our place for lab people and a few friends-of, including Dimitrios and Makrina who are down visiting Iñaki and Begoña. We made a bunch of stuff, including a baked ricotta (like this one, but using a full kilo of ricotta, more herbs, and the zest of two oranges and two lemons); couscous, eggplant, fig and orange salad; roast chicken salad; grilled marinated vegetables (cooked on the new BBQ we bought today as a midsummer/new year present for ourselves); pavlova with strawberries, blueberries and nectarine; and Beck’s chocolate cake (cooked in a 23 cm pan for 75 minutes, foil over the top for the last 30 minutes – perfect). Other people brought many great things too – mezze from Iñaki and Bego; saganaki cooked by Makrina at our place and eaten hot with lemon; zucchini slice from Turley and Jess; chili chicken from Henry; plum pastries from Nichola. Eric brought his blender and the knowledge of how to make great icy citrus margaritas. Good times had by all! Leftovers sent home with many.

Fri 30 December 2011 Lunch was sushi at – oh dear – the food court at Chadstone, where we were getting my laptop fixed at the Apple store. It was about as good as you would expect.

For dinner, we had a salad of Gennaro Contaldo’s: orange, fennel, anchovies and olives. It was almost great – I can imagine with Sicilian oranges and top-quality anchovies it would be spectacular. If I try it again here, I think I will increase the anchovies, use a sharper red wine vinegar (I was using Forum’s aged vinegar), not add the juice from the cut oranges into the salad, because it diluted the dressing (might be different if the oranges were much better and the juice more intensely flavoursome), and either salt the dressing a little more or crush an anchovy or two into it so the fishiness is more distributed. But fundamentally I think what’s needed is just better oranges. Had a great nectarine for dessert.

Thurs 29 December 2011 We drove up to Buxton to see Lindell and Marcel and the kids. A great day of chatting, holding babies, playing with toddler and child, climbing on ‘hay barrels’, wading in the creek, etc. Sublime. Mangoes for dinner on our return.

Wed 28 December 2011 Top-notch comfort food for dinner: left-over brown rice excavated from the freezer, fried with wombok, scallions, tofu, shitakes, lots of fresh ginger, a big spoonful of gochujang, good-quality fish sauce and a drizzle of sesame oil. Awwwww yeah. A bowl of moist, chewy, delicious goodness.

Tues 27 December 2011 Big mixed salad.

Mon 26 December 2011 Penne with pancetta, peas and ricotta, from Gennaro Contaldo’s cookbook. Really excellent combination of flavours. For dessert, strawberry and prosecco granita (note that it took about 12 hours to freeze up, not the couple I was naively expecting from the recipe).

Sun 25 December 2011 Lunch: a summer salad like the third one described here, with good bread.

Dinner: home-made linguine with mushrooms, creme fraiche, thyme, parsley and lemon zest.

Sat 24 December 2011 Sushi down the road for lunch.

Dinner: we excavated black beans and some slow-cooked goat from the freezer, for tacos with avocado, greens, and lime juice. Since all the hard work of the cooking had been done a month or two beforehand, we made home-made flour tortillas, from this recipe of Rachael Kendrick’s. Faaaaaaaack they were good. I split the dough into six pieces rather than four, for smaller tacos.

Fri 23 December 2011 Finished off the very last bit of work I am going to do this year, sitting at the dinner table at home. There was pressure on – we were hungry, there was no bread, cereal, milk, yoghurt or fruit in the house, and I was not going to go out for brunch until I had sent the paper draft off. Ted was in a similar position, so we boiled the last two eggs from the fridge, ate one each out of hand with salt and pepper, and got down to work. We were free by noon. We walked through the horrible (to me) or wonderful (to Ted) blazing sun to Sardine, behind the Armadale arcade, for lunch. Yet again, I scored while Ted got something fine but not exciting. I had a slice of the roast vegetable and feta tart, with a salad of pea shoots. I often find people’s enthusiasm for pastry a bit mystifying. Pastry can be dire or acceptable, but I mostly just regard it as a convenient way to encase the tasty part of the meal. Perhaps this indicates that I just haven’t had enough really good pastry. This one was stellar – delicate, crumbly, and flavoursome. And it encased something very tasty indeed. The filling of the tart was a very soft, only-just-set custard that tasted of proper eggs, and as if the milk had been infused with herbs or onion while simmering. A thing of real, very satisfying perfection. The coffee was also excellent.

Dinner: warm salad of steamed green beans, snow peas, broccoli and hot-smoked salmon, with lemon, olive oil and mustard.

Thurs 22 December 2011 Back at the lab even though uni closedown begins today, snarl. But the day was not lost, for we went to Oakleigh for lunch, to try the souvlaki at Eurobites. Dimitrios had told Inaki it was supposed to be the best in Melbourne, and had been furious that it was closed when he was visiting. Oh my god, was he right. Ted’s lamb skewers were fine. My souvlaki was revelatory. So good. And that is very much spoken as an ex-vegetarian who only sees the point in meat if it it very, very tasty. Most beef, lamb, chicken etc leaves me fairly cold. This lamb was fucking fantastic. Tender and deeply savoury.

No need for dinner, still thinking about (and digesting) the souvlaki.

Weds 21 December 2011 First visit to Oakleigh, to try Nights of Kabul Afghan restaurant with some friends from the lab. Extremely good. We started with mantu (lamb dumplings), aashak (leek and pumpkin dumplings, particularly good), and bolanee (leek and spring onion fried flatbread). Then shared borani bonjon (very tender aubergine with tomato and yoghurt, excellent), sabzi korma (I think the best spiced spinach dish I have ever had – really delicious, and not overwhelmingly iron-y nor bitter), kabuli palau (spiced pilau with lamb shank pieces, sultanas and pistachios) and kitcheri kroot (spiced rice and mung beans with meatballs). I would happily eat every one of these dishes again. Afterwards we went down to Nikos for pastries for dessert. Some were a bit disappointing (a fairly tastless rum baba, raspberry cake and cupcake) but my melamakarona was delicious and moist.

Tues 20 December 2011 No dinner. Too tired, too sick of work, too can’t-be-bothered.

Mon 19 December 2011 Scrambled eggs on rye toast.

Sun 18 December 2011 Visit to the Nobbies in the morning (in the rain, alas), then back to the beach house to lunch on the gigantic quantities of leftovers. Always happens when everyone needs to bring a bit of food – we each bring enough for five people. Then lying around chatting. Then cake. Then chatting. Then home. Dinner was (yet more) left-over cheese and bread, with salad.

Sat 17 December 2011 We drove down to Phillip Island, to stay at a beach house with Francesca, Inaki, Begona, Henry, Linda and Helen. Verrrrry relaxing. A swim on the bay side of the island in the afternoon, then cheese and olives, followed by home-made pizzas. And lots of wine.

Fri 16 December 2011 The school christmas party, at Oakleigh bowls club.

Thurs 15 December 2011 Random fridge-emptying salad.

Weds 14 December 2011 Cold almond noodles. This was fantastic. Made the sauce exactly as described. For veggies, added wilted spinach, steamed and chopped broccolini and snow peas, very finely sliced yellow capsicum, and some sauteed tofu cubes. This makes a huge amount of food, much more than the 4-5 servings indicated. Next time I would use the same amount of veggies but only half the noodles.

Tues 13 December 2011 We split a porcini pizza from Assaggi.

Mon 12 December 2011 Gong bao chicken with steamed broccoli and bok choy. Meh. Despite loving all the individual ingredients in the sauce, the flavour of the chicken dish was pretty one-note. Too much sichuan peppercorn? Nothing there to lighten the flavours of the dark soy sauce and chinkiang vinegar? Whatever, wouldn’t make this again.

Sun 11 December 2011 Second dinner in succession of frittery things. This time, these felafel, with a tzatziki-ish sauce (similar to recipe on felafel page but with added tahini), and a salad of tomatoes, parsley, and a splash of good balsamic.

Sat 10 December 2011 Spiced carrot fritters (the extra-carrotty version), with a shaved fennel and rocket salad.

Fri 9 December 2011 Lovely Danielle came over for dinner. Since it was predicted to be 32 degrees today, I planned nothing hot. Then, although it hit 32 in the afternoon, we had a storm around 4 and it was breezy and cool by 7. Oh well! We still enjoyed the chilled cucumber, yoghurt and dill soup, (made with full-fat goats’ yoghurt, not bizarro 0%-fat stuff). And I particularly liked the inspired-by-nicoise salad that followed: blanched green beans, baby spinach leaves, quartered artichoke hearts, roast capsicums torn into strips, quartered large cherry tomatoes, quartered boiled eggs, jarred white tuna, and a dressing of olive oil and lemon juice.

Thurs 8 December 2011 Lunch: I wanted to check out the korean grocer near Clayton station to get ingredients for kimchi-making, so we bussed over there from uni at lunchtime. So glad to have lunch options other than the Campus Centre – we got bibimbaps at Kang Na Roo, kimchi dolsot bibimbap for Ted and a plain one for me. Both excellent.

Dinner: Penne with roast aubergine and zucchini, slow-cooked onion and anchovies, spinach, mint, feta and a dash of balsamic vinegar. Less mish-mashy than it sounds, honestly!

Weds 7 December 2011 Salad of bulgur, corn kernels, mint, parsley, dill, quartered cherry tomatoes, cucumber, feta and pine nuts. Crunchy and delicious.

Tues 6 December 2011 Mixed garden salad, with olive bread and goat cheese.

Mon 5 December 2011 A great night with Flo and Tom. We intended to go to Mamasita, but for a table of four there was a 2.5 hour wait. We went to Papa Goose instead.

Sun 4 December 2011 Lovely, lovely lunch of chicken, three salads, and orange and lemon poppyseed cake, with Iñaki, Begoña, Unai, Naia, Linda, Henry and April.

Sat 3 December 2011 To Namaskar India, down the road. The curries were fine, but not exciting. What was exciting, very much so, was the cauliflower and spice uthappam we shared to start. They have a huge dosa and uthappam menu so we will be back to try many more.

Fri 2 December 2011 At Turley and Jess’s place with Nichola and Rene. Spinach and ricotta cannelloni and two excellent salads – one of sweet potato, and the other a mixed salad that really hit the mark. Then raspberry almond slice.

Thurs 1 December 2011 Jean, Edwige, Helen and I went to Claypots in St Kilda. The cajun flathead was ok, a little overcooked. The rosemary and lemon snapper however, was spectacular. Really perfect. An excellent albarino too. Then more wine and dancing to the live arabic music in the bar next door. Will be back.

Weds 30 November 2011 I liked those black beans on Monday so much, I soaked and cooked another huge pot of them last night. Several ziplocks of plain beans went into the freezer for future use, but I kept a few cups of them back. Tonight, I ate chipotle black beans with roast vegetables, scorched corn, and a drizzle of yoghurt. Very good. To make the black beans I roasted some cubed capsicums and aubergines in the oven; meanwhile fried an onion, added cumin, coriander, and a couple of dessert spoons of chipotle in adobe, then added a tin of tomatoes, some home-dried oregano, and the black beans, and simmered for a while; added the roast vegetables in once they were cooked. The scorched corn: cut the kernels off a couple of cobs of corn. Heat a small slick of oil in a frypan, then add the kernels, a couple of pinches of salt and a good grinding of pepper. Cook a couple of minutes, then add some chili flakes and a large pinch of cumin seeds. Cook over high heat, stirring only once or twice, for another couple of minutes, until the corn kernels are scorching on an edge or two. Remove from heat, squeeze in the juice of half a lime or lemon, and stir through a good handful of chopped coriander leaves.

Tues 29 November 2011 Sushi bowl with tofu, asparagus and avocado.

Mon 28 November 2011 Assembled a vaguely-mexican-like bowl: brown rice and black beans, each excavated from the freezer; very ripe cherry tomatoes, halved; half an avocado, sliced; dollop of plain yoghurt; sriracha sauce drizzled over the black beans; lots of fresh coriander chopped over everything.

Sun 27 November 2011 A should-have-been-better dish of orzo baked with roast cherry tomatoes, roast eggplant, zucchini, pine nuts, mint, feta, plain yoghurt and a couple of whisked eggs. It was fine, but not great.

Sat 26 November 2011 An excellent couscous with roast eggplant, sultanas, toasted pine nuts, feta, mint, parsley and, critically, orange zest and a little orange juice.

Fri 25 November 2011 At The Grand Tofu in Glen Waverley, with lab people. My vermicelli with salted fish was ok, but Nichola’s bak kut teh was delicious.

Thurs 24 November 2011 Disconsolate snacking on fruit, a couple of nuts, a piece of cheese.

Weds 23 November 2011 At Edwige and Jean’s, the long-anticipated champagne dinner. Spectacular!

Tues 22 November 2011 Hot-smoked salmon from the markets, with roast asparagus, roast cherry tomatoes and sauteed zucchini, with lemon juice and mint.

Mon 21 November 2011 Tacos again.

Sun 20 November 2011 I woke up stupidly early from a nightmare about giving a very, very bad seminar and couldn’t get back to sleep. The mood of the day never fully recovered, even though we had two good meals: brunch around the corner at Pour Kids, then slow-cooked goat tacos for dinner.

Sat 19 November 2011 Raining for Nora’s last day in Melbourne. We went to Brunetti for lunch, then the Tutankhamun exhibition at the Melbourne museum. Back home, just enough time for dinner of pasta with creme fraiche, smoked salmon, lemon and herbs, with roasted asparagus and cherry tomatoes on the side, then cherries for dessert, before dropping Nora off to the airport.

Fri 18 November 2011 Took a day’s leave to wander around the city with Nora. We started at the Queen Vic markets, checking out the produce and buying cherries and blueberries for lunch. Then an excellent walking tour of Melbourne (run by Melbourne by Foot). It was a skin-crisping 35 C when we finished the walking tour at 4 pm, and we were feeling very hot, parched and a little footsore, so we trammed down to St Kilda and paddled in the ocean. We could feel the portentousness of a huge storm building up, the sky darkening and lowering across the bay, and then a sudden (delightful but freaky) chilling blast of wind, so we retreated inside the Stokehouse beach bar and grill for an early dinner. As the storm hit and the water in the bay surged up into green waves a few metres outside the big windows, we started with a single excellent oyster each – they were fat and perfectly flavoured. (One or two oysters is the perfect amount for me – I love them but there is no need for ordering dozens or even half dozens.) Then spaghettini alla chitara with crab and pangrattato. I would normally expect the pangrattato to be a bit crispier, but it was still excellent. Once the rain had cleared, we left, met Ted, and trammed back to the city to see Midnight in Paris. A really lovely day.

Thurs 17 November 2011 With Nora at our place. Pasta with various leftovers tossed through – chargrilled aubergine, marinated artichokes, zucchini, yellow capsicum, herbs, goat cheese.

Weds 16 November 2011 At our place with Inaki, Begona, Edwige and Eric. Olives, bread and Holy Goat ripe Pandora cheese out in the garden. Then putting guests to work to create their own pizzas on top of  this dough.

Tues 15 November 2011 Dinner at Binh Minh on Victoria St in Richmond, with Helen, Pete and Bronwyn.

Mon 14 November 2011 Red lentil soup with ginger, garam masala, chili, sweet potato, zucchini and tomato.

Sun 13 November 2011 Picked up Nora from the airport, and then went to Terra Rossa in Flinders Lane. Good tortellini with duck and mushrooms.

Sat 12 November 2011 After a gorgeous day spent sitting in the garden working (reading a grant to review), then drinking rosé, decided to go to St Kilda for dinner. Bluecorn: fine, would go again if asked, but probably not of my own volition. BUT THEN we walked down to the pier and saw the penguins. Today = 110% success!

Friday 11 November 2011 Dinner at Inaki and Begona’s place, with Jean, Edwige and Francesca. Spectacular array of dishes, including white asparagus, cheese with quince paste, olives, and other tapas, then quails, a vegetarian pie, and roast asparagus. Lovely!

Thurs 10 November 2011 Worked from home today. Lunch: penne with roast aubergine pieces, some tomato and red wine sauce excavated from the freezer, and a tiny piece of blue cheese crumbled over the top. Very good. I roasted the aubergine very simply, just cubed it, sprinkled with salt, pepper, a little olive oil and some sherry vinegar, tossed it all together, then put in the oven at 180 till softened and going golden.

Dinner: Danielle came over. I made ricotta with goat milk in the afternoon, and baked that with chard and roast peppers (like this). We ate it with a salad of puy lentils, roast small carrots, avocado and herbs.

Wed 9 November 2011 Not a terribly sensible and mature evening. We drank wine in the garden, watching the enormous storm race across the sky towards us (the first time I’ve seen really green clouds). After it had passed, Ted went to collect a pizza from Assaggi, and we watched the Adjustment Bureau.

Tues 8 November 2011 I bought some kimchi a couple of weeks ago, and when I pulled it out of the fridge tonight the container was swollen in a rather ominous way. I tasted some, in my usual oh-what’s-the-worst-that-could-happen way, but alas it didn’t taste terribly good any more. My plans for fried red rice with kimchi FOILED! Damn it! We had the red rice anyway, fried with tofu, finely chopped cauliflower, young kale, scallions, chili flakes, soy sauce, fish sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil. Good, but would have been much better with kimchi.

Mon 7 November 2011 Damn good dinner! This roast fennel, tomato and bread salad with anchovy dressing, with some more of that fantastic buttermilk ricotta added in. Ours didn’t look nearly as pretty as the recipe photo, but it tasted fantastic. The ricotta was a good addition too, the cool creaminess cutting through the salty anchovy dressing.

Sun 6 November 2011 A late brunch with Helen, Hannah and Ian at the Richmond Hill Cafe.

Dinner: salmon fillets pan fried alongside some fat, very ripe halved cherry tomatoes that broke down into a rough sauce, with chili flakes, lemon juice and fresh mint from the garden, mopped up with a slice of Hootsen’s Paysan bread.

Sat 5 November 2011 Went to the St Kilda farmers’ markets in the morning. For lunch, we made penne with tomato sauce, topped with superb buttermilk ricotta I bought from Naomi of the Butter Factory at the markets. (I also picked up two free heirloom raspberry plants from her, thank you Naomi!)

We went to visit Inaki and Begona in the late afternoon for coffee and cake. I brought this yoghurt cake with pear and dark chocolate. There were so many cakes that, even after quite a long perambulation around Ivanhoe with Inaki, Unai and David, we needed no dinner tonight.

Fri 4 November 2011 Asparagus, leek and ricotta tortellini (from Prahan markets) with pesto; roast asparagus; zucchini and beans with lemon and mint. Then radicchio and blue cheese salad.

Thurs 3 November 2011 Cannelini beans baked in a sauce of tomatoes, red wine and chard, sprinkled with feta. Should have been great, was actually quite disgusting. Tasted muddy and dire. We threw the leftovers away, which is something I almost never do.

Weds 2 November 2011 I was sick of cooking and craved Thai food. We tried Phuket Thai, up the road. That was a mistake.

Tues 1 November 2011 Came home from drinks at the Nott to find a burst pipe in the bathroom and water all over the floor, out the hall and into the kitchen. Fortunately (for us, not for them!) Jean and Edwige were with us so they helped mop it all up with towels. Once the hot water was turned off and the mopping done, they stayed to eat olives and cheese in the garden in the twilight with a glass of wine.

Mon 31 October 2011 Lamb cutlets with eggplant puree and parsley and lemon salad. For me this meal was really a perfect combination of flavours and textures. Unfortunately Ted is not such a fan of parsley and lemon as I am.

Sun 30 October 2011 Lunch: a slice of sourdough spread with goat cheese and the roasted lemon chutney, with sauteed mushrooms.

Dinner: whole rainbow trout baked on a thick bed of halved cherry tomatoes and fennel slices.

I also made some curries for lunches this week: a really excellent tomato and zucchini dal, and a daikon, pumpkin and pea curry that I didn’t make well – I didn’t have enough daikon, then got distracted while cooking the spices but stupidly pressed on anyway even after they were a bit overcooked.

Sat 29 October 2011 Brunch at Duke’s on our way to the Prahran markets. Smoked salmon on rye with lemon ricotta and baby salad leaves.

Party at Scott and Beth’s in the evening, to farewell Ya; I took a salad of green beans, roast zucchini and feta, dressed with a combination of pesto and roasted lemon chutney.

Fri 28 October 2011 Went to visit Begona and Naia in hospital on the way home from work, and picked up Unai for another night. My nappy-changing skills are improving. Ted made penne with tomato and olive sauce while I put Unai to bed. Side note: the best olives we’ve found close by are from Louie’s Deli on Glenferrie Rd, but not the ones in bowls in the cabinet. On top of the cabinet they have containers of mixed olives house-marinated in herbs – they’re the good ones.

Thurs 27 October 2011 Ted and I got home from work quite late, and quickly shared a porcini and prosciutto crudo pizza from Assaggi standing up in the kitchen before Inaki dropped off Unai for the night. Spoiler: we returned him slept, clean, dressed and fed the next morning. Success!

Wed 26 October 2011 At Inaki and Begona’s new place, which they moved into yesterday! We got takeaway pizzas from a place nearby, drank some wine, and looked at old photos of Inaki with a full head of hair and Begona looking about fifteen in her mid-twenties. Then I got trained in how to change a nappy, so we can look after Unai tomorrow night. There is photographic evidence of my lack of coordination. I hope we get together to look at those embarrassing photos and marvel at our hair in another ten years.

Tues 25 October 2011 Ted made a mushroom and ricotta galette. Very good, and the lemon kick is essential. Next time we will try putting the pizza stone under the tray to try and crisp up the bottom a bit more. Ate it with a big pile of steamed broccoli.

Mon 24 October 2011 Left-overs from last night.

Sun 23 October 2011 Lunch: cold soba with dipping sauce; slices of tofu gently fried in a dash of tamari and fish sauce, with chili flakes and sliced scallions scattered over the top; steamed sweet potato.

Dinner: Inaki, Begona, Unai and Helen at our place. I&B brought a piece of spanish cheese and a container of greek figs and walnuts in sweet wine and honey, a delicious combination; also a beautiful dried sausage, red and rich with paprika and pork fat. Then we had leek and smoked salmon tart; kipfler and herb salad; roast asparagus. Finally lemon and almond cake.

I was pretty happy with the tart. Blind bake shortcrust pastry in a ~25 cm tart pan with removable base. Halve and slice the white parts of three leeks, rinse well and drain, add to medium saucepan with good knob of butter and pinch of salt, cook over low heat, lid on, stirring occasionally, until soft. Remove lid for last few minutes to cook off any remaining liquid. Set aside to cool. Roughly shred 200g of sliced cold-smoked salmon. Combine the salmon, leeks, two whisked eggs, 250 ml cream, leaves from several sprigs of thyme, salt and pepper. Pour the filling into the tart shell, smooth on top, and bake 25-30 minutes at 180C, until cooked. Let sit for 10 minutes before eating. (We actually let it sit for about 30 while we were out in the garden drinking wine.)

Sat 22 October 2011 Lunch: spaghetti with a sauce of slow-cooked onions, swiss brown mushrooms, garlic, white wine, half a teaspoon of seeded mustard, flat-leaf parsley and parmesan. Great.

Dinner: At Healesville Hotel with Scott, Beth, Marli, Henry, Linda, April, Heather, Eric. Chickpea kofta baked with feta and herbs.

Fri 21 October 2011 Turned away from Assaggi because they were full, we walked up the road to try Rossinis. Penne with eggplant for me, pizza margarita for Ted.

Thurs 20 October 2011 Couscous with salmon, asparagus and broccolini. Asparagus roasted in the oven with a little olive oil and lemon juice. The salmon also oven-roasted: in a baking dish large enough to fit two pieces of fish, put down a layer of lemon slices. Place salmon steaks on top, brush with olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Roast at 230C for 13-15 mins, depending on thickness of the fish.

Weds 19 October 2011 A fairly random fried rice thing. Steamed cubes of aubergine until tender, then briefly sauteed in a dash of sesame oil and soy sauce to pick up some flavours; set aside. Browned some small cubes of firm tofu; set aside. Sauteed a large amount of finely chopped fresh ginger, then added a couple of cups of cooked red rice, half a wombok finely shredded, a bunch of scallions chopped, cooked until the vegetables were wilting but the cabbage still had a bit of crunch. Added in the prepared tofu and aubergine, then tossed with a dressing made of miso, soy sauce, sesame oil, brown rice vinegar, and a dash of fish sauce.

Tues 18 October 2011 At Longrain, with Henry and a visiting postdoc candidate. Good! Beth had recommended the betel leaf starters, which were really excellent – intense and complex. Then we shared caramelized pork hock with chili and vinegar, stir-fried duck, and red curry of ocean trout. Coconut sorbet for dessert was also great.

Mon 17 October 2011 I just steamed some frozen chive and pork dumplings bought at the asian grocer on the way home, because I am L-A-Z-Y.

Sun 16 October 2011 Lunch at the Merthyr bowls club with my parents, overlooking the river again. Dinner was a foil-topped airplane meal on the way back to Melbourne: butter chicken with rice and peas. I’ve had worse.

Sat 15 October 2011 Lunch at the Powerhouse with Brian. A lovely couple of hours sitting on the deck outside Alto, watching the river, enjoying the breeze, and chatting. Then dinner at Bombay Dhaba with Nico and Frieda, including a great aubergine dal.

Fri 14 October 2011 Oktoberfest at the RNA showgrounds. At a VIP table in the Bayrisches Eck, baby! Great evening, with Charly, Sal, Ian, Lisa, Susanna and Nick. Spectacular platters of pork in many and varied forms were a highlight.

Thurs 13 October 2011 We’ve flown up to Brisbane for a few days. We brought up a cubic shitload of excellent cheese from Simon Johnson, and took it over to the Chaddo for a dinner consisting of cheese, bread, salami, fruit and wine, with Charly, Sal, Ian and Lisa. Rich and Jim looked on in genial disgust and commented about the smelly cheese fug (ahhhh, washed-rind cheese, delicious!) that gradually filled the house.

Wed 12 October 2011 Turley and Jess came over to our place for a very simple dinner. Olives; spaghetti alla Norma; pfeffernusse. I am so converted to having people over for easy meals. I’d rather have people every week for something simple than do something more extravagant only once every couple of months. Screw impressive dinner parties, it’s all about good company.

Tues 11 October 2011 Pot-luck party at our place for Luciano, who is visiting for a workshop. Our whole lab here, much good food and wine, talking and talking and laughing. Love them all!

Mon 10 October 2011 Pasta with asparagus, ricotta, mint, lemon, parmesan.

Sun 9 October 2011 Lunch: fantastic spaghetti alla Norma. Fried an onion and garlic, added a tin of tomatoes and small glass red wine, cooked down while pasta was cooking, near the end stirred through left-over grilled aubergine from last night and some fresh herbs; served by tossing through pasta then crumbling fresh ricotta over the top. Forgot how good this combination is.

Dinner: second great meal of the day, osso buco in stout. 4 smallish pieces of osso buco, about 800 g total. Brown in olive oil, remove. In same olive oil, lightly brown about 15 peeled shallots and a couple of inches flat pancetta cut into lardons. Add four small-medium carrots peeled and cut into 2 cm dice, and 6 peeled and halved garlic cloves. Deglaze with half a bottle of Coopers stout, then add a tin of tomatoes, roughly chopped, plus their juice, a couple of sprigs of rosemary, two bay leaves, salt and pepper. Put the meat back in – the liquid should lap at the meat. Cook at 150 for 2.5-3 hours, until the meat is very tender and the vegetables and liquid have cooked down to an intense melange. Serve with mashed potatoes and cavolo nero braised in a little garlic and anchovy. Serves 4 liberally (or us two plus left-overs for three lunches).

Sat 8 October 2011 Lunch: fig and anise bread from Phillipa’s, with Pont L’Eveque. Perfect combination.

Dinner: couscous mixed with chickpeas and left-over roast peppers; grilled aubergine slices; green beans; tahini and yoghurt sauce.

Fri 7 October 2011 Ted home from three weeks of work in New Jersey! Dinner: a dish of roast peppers and cherry tomatoes, scattered liberally with torn basil and toasted pine nuts; couscous; broccolini.

Thurs 6 October 2011 Toast.

Wed 5 October 2011 Left-over cauliflower.

Tues 4 October 2011 Pseudo-Sicilian veggie dish: slow-cook two sliced onions, several anchovies, several cloves of chopped garlic; add chopped up head of cauliflower, a drained and rinsed tin of chickpeas, a couple of large pinches of chili flakes, a dash of aged red wine vinegar, a handful sultanas, half a cup or so of veggie stock; stir, put the lid on, cook 5 mins or so until tender. Remove lid, stir through large bunch of chopped spinach, wilt, adjust seasoning to taste. Good.

Mon 3 October 2011 Soba noodles tossed with tofu, pumpkin, black fungus and broccoli, with a sauce of miso, tamari, mirin, chili flakes, sesame oil.

Sun 2 October 2011 Miso soup with soba noodles, tofu, dried shitake and black fungus, steamed pumpkin, wakame, spinach.

Sat 1 October 2011 Dinner at Henry and Linda’s with Francesca, Jean and Edwige. Henry tackled vegetarian cooking and passed with flying colours.

Fri 30 September 2011 Dinner at Jean and Edwige’s with Inaki, Begona and Unai.  Chicken tagine with couscous; manchego; incredible dark, bitter chocolate cake eaten in slender slices.

Thurs 29 September 2011 Made-up asian-style dish of braised eggplant, shitake, black fungus, and tofu with soy sauce, sesame oil, fish sauce, lots of chili flakes, lots of ginger. With rice and broccoli. Better than the last few days!

Weds 28 September 2011 Toast.

Tues 27 September 2011 Pasta with roast cherry tomatoes, wilted spinach, remains of leek confit, peas, creme fraiche, lemon juice.

Mon 26 September 2011 Ice ceam, pistachios, Legally Blonde (first time viewing). Why yes, I did have a stressful day, thank you for asking.

Sun 25 September 2011 Brunch with Francesca, Inaki, Begona and Unai at Proud Mary. Smoked salmon with celeriac gratin, caper remoulade, herb puree and a poached egg.

Dinner after yoga: red lentil, ginger and garlic soup.

Sat 24 September 2011 Picnic lunch in the garden with Danielle on leftovers from last night’s dinner. Then we went to a biodynamic cooking course for the afternoon, made salads and a vegetable bake, and ate them followed by an avocado chocolate tart. On the way to cooking course we passed through Melbourne Central station. Coming up the escalator from underground and seeing the Coops Shot Tower shooting up towards that huge glass dome, I hugged myself with glee about living in Melbourne.

Fri 23 September 2011 Dinner with Jean, Edwige, Inaki, Begona and Unai at our place. Goat cheese and confit leek on toast. Chicken pieces roasted on potatoes and apples, with a bowl of steamed green beans, snowpeas and peas. Lemon possets. The chicken used a method similar to the Tuesday’s effort, but with different flavourings. I liked it a lot. Slice peeled kipflers into 1 x 2 x 2 cm pieces. Enough potatoes to well cover the base of a large baking dish. Add a couple of peeled, chopped pink lady apples, lots of thyme, some chopped flat pancetta, salt and pepper, and a generous cup of chicken stock. Toss. Place bone-in chicken pieces (I used thighs and drumsticks) in a single layer on top, rub a little olive oil over the skin, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook at 200 C for 40 minutes. If potatoes need more cooking, or there is still some liquid remaining, remove the chicken pieces and keep warm. Crank the oven up high and cook another 5-10 mins. When done, the potatoes should be tender, and the apple will have cooked down to a sweet paste spread throughout the dish, and the chicken stock and juices will be reduced and intense.

Thurs 22 September 2011 Spring pasta. Penne with shallots, garlic, zucchini, baby spinach, peas, roast cherry tomatoes, lemon, dash of creme fraiche.

Weds 21 September 2011 Puy lentils dressed with hazelnut oil and seeded mustard; slow-roasted cherry tomatoes; steamed broccolini; half a piece of hot-smoked salmon.

Tues 20 September 2011 Dave off to Singapore this morning. Dinner: roast chicken with chorizo, olives and sherry. Something in the taste of this that I didn’t really like (unfortunately, as I made enough for three lunches of leftovers). Method was good though – skin was crispy and flesh was moist, for very little effort. I hate having to brown chicken in the pan before baking it, so will try this method again another time with different components/flavourings.

Mon 19 September 2011 Dave and I went on a bus tour along the Great Ocean Rd all day. ~700 km of driving – a long day but a great one. We took a helicopter ride over the Twelve Apostles; so glad Dave suggested that bit, because I would never have thought to try it myself but it was incredible. Dinner was brief stop in Colac on the drive home; I got chicken sambal rice at Noodle Kanteen.

Sun 18 September 2011 Looking for some good food for a late lunch, we tried our luck to get into Movida: success! Started with an anchovy on a thin, crisp crouton with smoked tomato sorbet – one of the best things of the meal. Savoury sorbets usually make me roll my eyes a little, but this really worked – the fishy anchovy plus cold sorbet was like eating the sea. Manchego with quince paste – ok. Olives. Pressed quail and morcilla with apple and pickled garlic – excellent combinations. Slow-cooked duck shank with hazelnuts, raisins and onions – perfect: perfectly cooked and perfect combination of flavours. Finished with Valencian salad of endive, orange, palm hearts and manzanillo olives. Then dessert – persimmon pie with arroz con leche and apple. The whole meal fantastic, very satisfying. I had a spanish cider and Dave had two glasses of wine. Total cost ~$145. Utterly worth it.

Sat 17 September 2011 Met Dave’s brother in St Kilda for lunch, then had drinks at Republica. For dinner, Hutong with Dave, his friends John, Amy and Nichole, and Jean and Edwige. Then cocktails at Electric Ladyland.

Fri 16 September 2011 Dave has arrived for a visit from Ireland! Dinner at Thai on High.

Thurs 15 September 2011 Dinner at Edwige and Jean’s with Inaki. Duck confit with potatoes in duck fat, then salad. Lots of wine and lots of talk until midnight. Great time, rather suffering the next day.

Weds 14 September 2011 Ted’s mini penne, with sauteed onion, garlic, tinned mackerel, broccoli, white wine, chili, dill, spinach, lemon juice.

Tues 13 September 2011 Pasta with spinach, thinly sliced fennel, spinach, smoked salmon, creme fraiche, lemon juice from own lemons!

Mon 12 September 2011 Left-over stew, with mashed swede and green beans.

Sun 11 September 2011 Beef and stout stew (beef, onions, carrots, parsnips) with bread and a glass of stout.

Sat 10 September 2011 Minestrone.

Fri 9 September 2011 Pizza and other things at Mr Wolf, with the lab, to celebrate Turley’s arrival in Melbourne and recent birthday. All was good, but the salads – and particularly the pickled vegetables with goat cheese – were best.

Thurs 8 September 2011 First dinner in our new place. As a first step in returning the many hospitalities of Edwige, Jean and Inaki, we had them over for a very simple dinner of salmon baked on top of potatoes and cherry tomatoes with parsley and dill, followed by some good cheeses from Simon Johnson. The method of cooking the fish was based on this recipe. For the quite large, fat salmon pieces, 13 minutes at 230C left them cooked perfectly. Moist but cooked through.

Weds 7 September 2011 We moved into our new house! Inaki, Jean and Edwige came over to drink a glass of wine amongst the boxes and check out our garden (lemon tree! fig tree! giant mint bush! lavender!). Then we all walked down for wood-fired pizza at Assaggi.

Tues 6 September 2011 Burgers at Grill’d, with Inaki. I got a simple beef burger with cheese and pickles.

Mon 5 September 2011 Dinner at J and E’s with Inaki. So good of them!  Vegetable soup, then roast leg of lamb (salt and pepper the outside, garlic stuck into cuts, rub with butter, put thyme sprigs across, put in pan, roast at 200 for ~15 mins per 500 g – or less if want it more bloody – turning several times, rest 5-10 mins) with salad, then pear and frangipane tart. Spectacularly good. Love my friends.

Sun 4 September 2011 Another attempt at hotel cooking: pasta with a sauce of slow-cooked onions, garlic and zucchini, with fresh mint and lemon juice.

Sat 3 September 2011 Dinner at Scott and Beth’s with Nichola, Rene, Yi and Nick. Chicken with beans and bacon with asparagus, then pastry with cream and raspberries.

Fri 2 September 2011 Pasta carbonara at Jean and Edwige’s with Henry, Linda and April.

Thurs 1 September 2011 Sushi with Inaki.

Weds 31 August 2011 Dinner a deux with Tedster at Barca.  Seared scallops with tuna croquettes, cauliflower skordalia, green peas and jamon – perfectly cooked. A delight. Then liquorice-smoked duck breast on parsnip puree, with caramelised apple and red cabbage. Fine, but I would rather have had a second entree, perhaps the pan fried gnocchi with lamb shoulder and olive ragout on green pea puree that Ted had for entree. I should finally, finally learn that two entrees are better than an entree and a main, 99% of the time. I usually remember, but I was seduced by the combination of duck/smoked/apple/cabbage – four keywords guaranteed to get my attention.

Tues 30 August 2011 Vegetarian Indian, Gujarati Rasoi, with Inaki and Francesca. Thali: potato and saag paneer curries, yoghurt curry, rice, onion pakora, two roti, two thepli (fenugreek leaf flatbreads), pickle. Cheap but good.

Mon 29 August 2011 Posh Indian, Araliya, with Inaki. Fish baked in banana leaves.

Sun 28 August 2011 Brunch: eggs cocotte at Depot de Pain (yes, it is downstairs from our hotel and I forsee quite a few meals here). Afternoon snacks at Danielle’s PhD completion exhibition, catered by Black Olive. No need for dinner.

Sat 27 August 2011 Our paid time at the Quest at St Kilda (part of my relocation package) has run out, so we are moving in with the lovely, lovely Inaki at the Quest in Hawthorne until we can move into our own place. Thank you Inaki!

Lunch: quiche a l’oignon at Depot de Pain. Dinner: wine and Mr Wolf pizza at Jean and Edwige’s new place in St Kilda.

Fri 26 August 2011 Beers and chips at the Nott with the Building 53 people.

Thurs 25 August 2011 Frittata of eggs, onions, garlic, jarred roasted peppers, wilted spinach and the last scraps of some very strong washed-rind cheese. Very good. With green beans.

Wed 24 August 2011 Lamb, mint and israeli couscous soup from a pack. Not as bad as one might think. Or perhaps that’s just the lassitude talking.

Tues 23 August 2011 Toast and fruit.

Mon 22 August 2011 Felt so sick and laryngitisy, went for laksa again at Chinta Blues.

Sun 21 August 2011 Lunch: at Kotch Lane on Blessington St in St Kilda. Salad of beetroot, pumpkin, chickpeas, goat cheese, semi-dried tomatoes and pesto. Good, and also good coffee.

Dinner: pasta with roast peppers, wilted spinach, and the last of the goat cheese.

Sat 20 August 2011 Lunch: sardines and kingfish at Claypots Evening Star at the South Melbourne markets.

Dinner at Henry and Linda’s place. Incredible hand-made dumplings, soup, noodles, and more, all cooked by Linda.

Fri 19 August 2011 Breakfast: toasted sourdough spread with raw honey and thin slices of pear. The honey is great – Miellerie, Tasmanian, ‘Lake Pedder’s Nectar’, and incredibly flavourful.

Got the answer from the real estate agent that we can lease the house we applied for, hurrah!

Dinner: pasta, smoked trout, wilted English spinach and lemon juice. Then strawberries. I think I am coming down with a sore throat again, bah. I am glad that we’ve got the house, but wish we could move in earlier. We have another 16 nights of hotel living to get through and I am sick of it already.

Thurs 18 August 2011 Beer and pizza at The Banff with Jean and Edwige.

Wed 17 August 2011 After a trip to Richmond Hill Cafe and Larder, made a dinner in the hotel room of Dench sourdough, sardines, and a salad of spinach, rocket, mushrooms and tomatoes. Man the dude who served us in the cheese room was bossy. Still, good cheese was bought.

Tues 16 August 2011 Nichola, Yi, Rene, Ya, Edwige, Jean, and us at Monroes for Yi’s birthday. Dip trio surprisingly excellent. Paella for main.

Mon 15 August 2011 Dinner with Inaki, Henry, Linda, April, Nichola, Rene, Ted, Edwige, Jean, and Yi at Hutong. Dumplings spectacular: soup dumplings far better than Bamboo Basket’s, chili dumplings also excellent. Shredded turnip rolls and steamed duck dumplings good. Main dishes that followed were fine but dumplings were the best and what I would come back for.

Sun 14 August 2011 Spent all day driving around Elwood looking at the outside of apartments to decide whether it is worth going to the inspections in the coming week. Answer generally no. Dinner at Chinta Blues with Jean and Edwige. Food rather unexciting.

Sat 13 August 2011 We have now officially moved to Melbourne. First night here: to the Melbourne Wine Room with Jean and Edwige. Wine; charcuterie; veal rib. A feeling of slightly vertiginous promise.

Fri 12 August 2011 At parents’. Salmon, fresh vegetables. Lemon delicious.

Thurs 11 August 2011 At China Kitchen with Ian, Lisa, Charly and Rich. All good.  Sour and chili stir-fried potato, fish with chili oil, green beans with pork mince, something eggplant, something dried duck. Should have written this sooner after the event!

Wed 10 August 2011 At parents’ place. Pide from Flour Power, then clafouti.

Tues 9 August 2011 Last night at Moray St. Pappardelle with duck ragu at Beccofino.

Mon 8 August 2011 Pasta with leeks and goat cheese.

Sun 7 August 2011 Farewell BBQ with Ted’s climbing friends at Kangaroo Point cliffs.

Fri 5 August 2011 At Pomona with Peter and Judy. The usual magical falling away of stress as soon as we step out of the car. Wine, conversation, and chicken tagine with dates and cinnamon.

Mon 1 August 2011 Puy lentils, braised carrots and kale, a duck sausage, and a spoonful of left-over slow-cooked onions from Friday night.

Sun 31 July 2011 Lunch: left over lamb, potato and green beans.

Dinner: panchmel dal with some sweet potato added in, and aubergine with crushed mustard seeds, panch phoron and yoghurt. The aubergine was great, though next time I think I will either add less water, or cook it for the whole time with the lid off.

Sat 30 July 2011 Lunch: at PonyCat with Woody, after signing the lease for him to rent our appartment for a couple of months. Corn and sweet potato fritter with spinach and ham.

Dinner: drinks and canapes at Scott and Beth’s place, to say goodbye to Jenny, Carol, Ellie and Yin San.

Fri 29 July 2011 Ian, Lisa, Sal, Jim, Charly and Rich at our place. A good dinner! Onion tart with salad; seven-hour lamb with potatoes and green beans; lemon possets.

Thurs 28 July 2011 Pasta with sauteed mushrooms, cavolo nero, and the last bits of gruyere. Not great, and not what I’d intended to do with the cavolo nero, alas. But better than takeaway.

Wed 27 July 2011 Minor nervous breakdown over moving stress, leading to takeaway Indian from Karma. Bad decision. Should have stepped up and cooked something at home, to avoid paying for unexciting and unhealthy food.

Tues 26 July 2011 Left-over cauliflower soup.

Mon 25 July 2011 Cauliflower soup with mustard and gruyere croutons.

Sun 24 July 2011 Dinner with Danielle. Quinoa, grilled aubergine with yoghurt, tahini and herb sauce, garlicky chickpeas with smoked paprika and sherry vinegar, roast cherry tomatoes, green beans.

Sat 23 July 2011 Lunch: scrambled duck eggs with sautèed mushrooms and rosemary.  I really need to remember that mixing the sautèed mushrooms through the eggs while they are scrambling just leads to rather unappealing grey-brown eggs.

Dinner: Christmas in July at the Chaddo.

Fri 22 July 2011 Picked Danielle up from the airport at 3.30 and came home for well-deserved gin and tonics (gins and tonic?). Then she went off to a conference dinner, and we made a completely random (per-)version of gado gado with the contents of the crisper – cabbage, carrot, snowpeas, pea shoots, tofu, boiled eggs, and a peanut sauce that I won’t link to because it didn’t really work very well. Never mind, I feel very protected from scurvy.

Thurs 21 July 2011 Toast

Wed 20 July 2011 Dinner with Fiona and Lisa at Granada on Melbourne St. Excellent!

Tues 19 July 2011 Soba noodles with green vegies and tofu.

Mon 18 July 2011 Grilled aubergine with yoghurt-tahini sauce and herbs.

Sun 17 July 2011 Lunch: fusillotti with sautèed chestnut mushrooms, gigantic quantities of wilted spinach, and aged goat cheese.

Dinner: lemongrass chicken. I was drawn to this by the dark, caramelised colour in the photo, which seemed to promise an intense flavour. I ended up with a paler, wetter dish, with the vegetables soggy and overcooked. Quite edible (and I will have the leftovers for lunch a couple of times this week) but I wouldn’t make it again.

Made this pistachio cake from Trotsky and Ash, too. Tastes great, but is very, very buttery. There’s a glaze of butter on the bottom of the cake, and after eating a slice I feel rather as if I ought to glisten.

Sat 16 July 2011 Lunch: stirfry of tofu, broccoli, fresh shiitake, snowpeas, ginger and chili.

Dinner: party at Bill and Ruth’s place, with BBQ and excellent brownies.

Fri 15 July 2011 A meal that perfectly hit the spot. Kipflers and parsnips, cut into pieces, roasted with peeled and halved shallots, then tossed with a dressing of creme fraiche, grated horseradish, Dijon mustard and white wine vinegar, and topped with flaked hot-smoked salmon. It was creamy-sharp-smoky-slightly sweet, and comfort food of the very highest order.

Thurs 14 July 2011 Sometimes veggie slop works. Sometimes it doesn’t. There is nothing identifiably wrong with this pan of onion-speck-cauliflower-chard-chickpea slop, but it is somehow Not Good. It made me cry. This could be at least partly due to other factors – but the slop contributed.

Weds 13 July 2011 Tedster and I went to My Thai at Auchenflower.

Tues 12 July 2011 A disgraceful evening of IndoMie noodles followed by indigestion. Bah.

Mon 11 July 2011 Spelt pasta with sautèed chestnut mushrooms, rosemary, garlic, spinach and sheeps cheese.

Sat 9 July 2011 A slice of fruit toast with my mum at Ponycat after going to the Northey St markets. A BLT at the Little Larder for lunch (a bizarre departure for me – perhaps I was slightly hung over). No dinner, as I was still being fueled by bacon.

Sat 9 July 2011 Lunch: roasted butternut squash with feta crumbled over the top and grilled; sprouting broccoli braised with garlic and anchovies; a slice of Chouquette bread.

Dinner: Lovely night at Barb and Andy’s with Wenda and Steve. Wish we didn’t only meet up when we were about to leave the city!

Fri 8 July 2011 Home-made laksa with steamed butternut squash, spinach and silken tofu.

Thurs 7 July 2011 Left-over curries.

Wed 6 July 2011 Dinner at Anise with Leonie and her niece Rachel. Best dish of the night for me was the game terrine with mustard and cornichons.

Tues 5 July 2011 Left-over curries.

Mon 4 July 2011 Left-over ricotta-stuffed pasta shells.

Sun 3 July 2011 Brunch at Chouquette with Inaki, Begona, Jean and Edwige, after which we all walked down to the Powerhouse to check out an exhibition and then sit at Watt cafe, watching the river, drinking and chatting till 5 pm. Idyllic.

Dinner: panchmel dal and lamb saag. Next time I would cook the lamb a little longer, and use much less stock.

Sat 2 July 2011 Breakfast: orange halva cake and coffee at the Three Monkeys with mum, Barbara and Melinda, after going to the West End markets.

Lunch: pan-roasted spiced cauliflower with peas. This was great, both for the complex spicing and for the look of it. I made it with fresh turmeric I bought at the markets this morning, and when I sat at the table and looked down at my bowl it shone back at me with golden cauliflower, green flags of coriander and scallions, and glistening little clumps of whole spices. Beautiful.

Dinner: stuffed pasta shells. The lemon zest in the filling is key here. I added some cooked chard and extra herbs to the stuffing.

Fri 1 July 2011 Pasta agrodolce: a sauce of slow-cooked onions, garlic and anchovies, chilli flakes and currants, with cauliflower and chard, served tossed through fusillotti.

Thurs 30 June 2011 So I can’t win over the forces of lethargy every night. Toast, but at least good toast, made with German rye bread.

Weds 29 June 2011 We went to Piaf, at Southbank. We’ve been there only once before, a couple of years ago, and I thought at that time that the food was simple but perfectly done. Alas, things tonight were fine, but not great. Rillettes were ok, but served too cold and badly let down by the commercial bread; duck salad was again ok but not actively enjoyable either – no kick in the dressing and fairly wan duck meat. Meh.

Tues 28 June 2011 Soba/tofu/bok choy/miso thing.

Mon 27 June 2011 So glad that I overcame laziness to make a frittata for dinner rather than giving in to the temptation to just have toast. Sometimes frittatas can be so much more than the sum of their parts, and this one was divine. I sauteed thickly sliced field and chestnut mushrooms till dark golden brown, then added a few halved cherry tomatoes, a bunch of red-stemmed spinach, and some chopped sage leaves, and stirred till the greens were wilted. Added whisked eggs and a good handful of finely grated mature gruyere. Cooked over low heat on the stove then finished it under the grill. It was at the just-set stage, and full of earthy wintery flavours. Lovely. The gruyere is raw milk stuff from Switzerland that I buy from the Fromart stall at the weekend markets – it is orders of magnitude better than even good-quality Australian gruyere like Heidi Farm.

Sun 26 June 2011 Lunch: a bed of green tea soba noodles, topped with stir-fried shiitakes, bok choy, fresh chili and ginger, then a few pieces of sauteed tofu, all drizzled with a miso sauce, and sprinkled with coriander leaves. Exactly what I was after. The miso sauce is just a couple of very heaped dessertspoons of miso paste mixed with about a tablespoon of mirin and a splash of tamari, all to taste, thinned with warm water if needed.

Dinner: three curries, all good, and all found via Ganga108‘s twitter feed. First and best, a panchmel dal, which was superbly spiced. Because we’re trying to eat down our pantry stocks before moving to Melbourne, I only had chana, moong and masoor dal; I soaked the chana dal for a couple of hours before cooking; otherwise I made it as written. Secondly, kattarikai gotsu, a smoky spicy eggplant dish. I got a good level of smokiness by grilling the eggplants under the broiler with the oven on at the same time, for about 30 minutes, turning them three times. This wasn’t quite as interestingly flavoured as I’d expected, but very pleasant. And finally, mint paneer from Ganga108 herself. I will definitely make this again, but would increase the greens by quite a lot. I made this with 200 g paneer, a full cup of packed mint leaves, and a few spinach leaves, and would happily have had two or three times as much sauce (I had less sauce than is shown in the photo). The combination of mint, spinach, and the spices is perfect though. I used our last spoonful of creme fraiche and another of plain yoghurt, rather than cream, and I think either would work fine.

Sat 25 June 2011 Oh wow. We just had a great dinner, but I am very glad that I have some relatively healthy vegetarian meals planned for the rest of the week. Dinner was brined pork chops, brussels sprouts and apples in brown butter and cider, and bread from the German baker at the markets. The sprouts were delicious but, honestly, that is just too much butter – as I would have known had I read the recipe headnotes. I would love to make this again with even just a little nut of butter, because the combination of brussels sprouts, apples and cured pig is great. We used the last cubic inch of some smoked, air-dried pork belly bought from the Eumundi smokehouse a few weeks ago instead of bacon. Brining the chops was an excellent idea. The last time we cooked pork chops (which was also the first time), they were bland and dry. This time I brined them for 90 minutes before cooking, in a solution of 3 cups water, 4 tablespoons rock salt (I would reduce this to 3 tblsp next time), and a tablespoon each of black peppercorns and caraway seeds. The chops were juicy and seasoned all the way through. Success!

Fri 24 June 2011 At home again, where I can take naps every couple of hours. Lunch: linguine with pea pesto, since we don’t have a single vegetable other than frozen peas in the house. We were planning on being in Melbourne Wednesday-Sunday this week (cancelled by the Chilean ash cloud and my bronchitis), so I didn’t buy any fresh vegetables at the farmers’ market last weekend, and have just been eating up the last scraps of this and that from the week before. Vegetable deprivation probably isn’t helping me get better.

Dinner: radiant bok choy, with rice. All hail Ted, bringer-home of vegetables.

Thurs 23 June 2011 I went back in to work today, which was an error. I am absolutely wrecked. As evidence of this, I couldn’t face the tiny effort involved in cooking lentils for dinner, so stopped off at the IGA for tinned lentils, to toss together with left-over roast Dutch carrots and some wilted spinach. It tasted as sad as it sounds.

Wed 22 June 2011 Lunch: spaghetti with tomato sauce and parsley.

Dinner: our tenth wedding anniversary! And because I am sick and exhausted we got takeaway pizza from Beccofino, ate it on the couch, and let the champagne sit unopened in the fridge. Sorry Tedster.

Tues 21 June 2011 Lunch: kamut pasta with chopped roasted carrots, parsley, dill, a squeeze of lemon juice, garlic olive oil and goat cheese. Not terribly successful, honestly.

Dinner: left-over pea and ham soup. Texture tragically not improved. Meh. I have another couple of serves of this in the freezer for future lunches, but I think I am going to ditch them – no point forcing future Meg to eat depressing lunch food.

Mon 20 June 2011 Home sick from work again, with laryngitis and bronchitis and god knows what else. I feel like hell. Lunch: in an attempt to unblock some sinuses, I made fried rice with lots of ginger and chili. This was absolutlely fantastic.

Dinner: a pear, then a slice of toast.

Sun 19 June 2011 Lunch: pea and ham soup. This is very visually striking with its garnish of pink ham and fresh peas against the vivid green soup, but I think I prefer the traditional, non-pureed version. As Ted said, “the traditional version tastes less …. synthetic”. There is just something a bit odd about the mouthfeel of this one.

Dinner: a lovely quiet night at Nico and Frieda’s, with vegetarian cottage pie and veggies, a couple of glasses of wine, and spicy rooibos tea.

Sat 18 June 2011 Lunch: A couple of slices of cold-smoked salmon with a herby-mustardy-potatoey thing. I intended this to be a normal potato salad, but the potatoes I used didn’t take terribly well to being simmered in pieces – they went rather shattery and mushy. So I drained them, and in a frypan cooked some finely sliced onions. Once they were golden and soft, I added most of a bunch of shredded cavolo nero and a splash of water, to let it braise until wilted. Then tossed in the potatoes and gave them a good stir to combine and warm through. Took off the heat and immediately stirred through a dressing of the juice of half a lemon, a couple of dessertspoons of creme fraiche, 1 heaped teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 heaped teaspoon seeded mustard, salt and pepper. Also added large handfuls of chopped parsley and dill. Good in a cod-scandinavian, solid winter dish kind of way.

Dinner: Matt had a 6-hour stopover in Brisbane airport between Cairns and Dubai, so we scooped him up from the airport, went to Bamboo Basket for dumplings (v good) and hand-pulled noodles with soy and beef (noodles excellent, let down by the sauce). Then to our place for a cup of green tea with ginger, and finally back to the airport. Lovely to see you, Matt.

Fri 17 June 2011 Woke up very sick with swollen sore throat etc. Bleh. Possibly explains the awful unhappiness of yesterday afternoon and evening. Stayed home and made many cups of hot water/lemon/ginger/honey. For lunch, I had another miso soup, very similar to Saturday’s, though this time I simmered fine slices of ginger in the broth, and the add-ins were green tea soba, cavolo nero, wakame, shiitake and quickly sauteed firm tofu, with sesame oil and chili flakes. I then slept on the couch most of the afternoon and all evening until it was time to go to bed. No dinner.

Thurs 16 June 2011 Horribly depressed? I recommend that you go to Enoteca, sit across a small table from your lovely husband, eat three primi between you, and drink a couple of glasses of wine each. I feel much better.  We split a plate of carciofi alla giudia with marscarpone, lemon zest and mint, then I had braised lentils with cotechino and witlof, while Ted had ethereally light gnocci with veal sausage and truffled pecorino sauce.

Wed 15 June 2011 Fish and chips and mulled wine at the Chaddo with Charly, Sal and many others to watch the State of Origin (first time I have ever watched it).

Tues 14 June 2011 Dinner was great – a modification of this recipe for farro salad with roasted red grapes, kale and swiss chard. I was initially intrigued by the roasted grapes, and they were indeed delicious. Modifications: I cooked the grain till it was al dente, not crunchy(!), so about 45 minutes. Because it’s a reasonably chilly winter night, I wanted to eat the salad warm, so intead of letting it cool and then adding uncooked greens, I sauteed half a bunch of cavolo nero, chopped, with the onions once they were done, then took the pan off the heat and immediately tossed through the leaves from a bunch of very young kale and some english spinach until they were just wilted. Then mixed it all together and ate straight away. So my salad didn’t look quite so perky, but it tasted excellent. I think this would be very good with some sharp goat cheese crumbled over it too –  I might eat some of the leftovers that way tomorrow for lunch.

Should also record that while I was waiting for the grapes to roast for 90 minutes, I drank some Samuel Smith’s organic cider, and had a slice of Alpine cheese. Both absolutely delicious and even better in combination. I will definitely be buying more of both.

Mon 13 June 2011 Lunch: spelt pasta with cavolo nero and fontina. Wow. I imagine that this dish would be fantastic if you had been out in the snow skiing for four hours. For lunch on a sedentary and mild winter day, however, it was massive overkill. I can see the potential for bliss, given the right circumstances, though. If you make it, don’t be freaked out by the seemingly large amount of stock added with the potatoes – it all simmers away nicely by the end. Also, I split the recipe in half but kept the full amount of cavolo nero, and could easily have dealt with having twice as much of it. I am a bit of a cavolo nero fiend (the reason I tried this recipe in the first place) but honestly I think more greens would only be a good thing here.

Dinner: my god, I couldn’t even contemplate it. Eight hours later, that pasta is still sustaining me perfectly well. I haven’t been hungry all afternoon or evening.

Sun 12 June 2011 Lunch: miso soup with soba, tofu and vegetables.

Late afternoon refreshment: After spending terrifying amounts of money at the David Jones sale (but hey, warm clothes are a good thing and a worthwhile investment), we stopped off at the Belgian Beer Cafe for a good beer each and a shared serve of frites with mayonnaise.

Dinner: at 9 pm, after spending the previous two hours dithering over whether or not we were hungry enough to make dinner, we finally toasted a couple of slices of rye bread and ate them with butter.

Sat 11 June 2011 Lunch: strozzapreti with zucchini, thyme and blue cheese.

Dinner: Nigel Slater’s pumpkin and cherry tomato laksa. Not terribly much like a traditional laksa, but tasty and warming on a cold evening. We made it with unseeded chillies, and steamed butternut squash. I also added a couple of handfuls of baby spinach in the last minute of cooking the broth, and cubes of silken tofu with the noodles in the bowl.

Fri 1o June 2011 A big table at A Night in India for Nico’s birthday. We had a vegetarian (or vegetarian-keen) cohort in the middle of the table so we shared two paneer dishes, one eggplant curry and one mixed vegetable and tamarind curry.

Thurs 9 June 2011 The coldest day in Brisbane for over ten years! It was 11 degrees at 6 am and stayed 11 degrees all day, changing only to get colder overnight. So naturally Ted and I went to Beccofino and sat outside on the terrace for dinner. The cold was mitigated slightly by (a) wearing a jumper, a jacket and a scarf througout dinner, (b) being reasonably close to an overhead heater, and (c) ordering strozzapreti with beef cheek and red wine ragu. Intensely meaty but delicious.

Weds 8 June 2011 Worked late, came home and had toast.

Tues 7 June 2011 A night of coming home and staring blankly at the kitchen wondering how on earth I ever have the impulse or energy to cook. Ended up eating a slice of gruyere, a bite of pumpkin cake, and a pear.

Lunch was better though: the curries I made on Sunday, of which the chickpea one is particularly delicious. Also had a slice of the date and tamarind cake, very stodgy but very good.

Mon 6 June 2011 Nourish Me’s beetroot and lime soup. Deep earthiness of the beetroot is beautifully cut by lemongrass, kaffir lime and lime juice. Wish I had been able to find some dried limes too.

After dinner I baked Dan Lepards’ date and tamarind cake and left it to cool overnight – looking forward to trying it tomorrow.

And hey, I had some left-over pumpkin cake for lunch. It was nice last night, but after settling, cooling completely, and giving the flavours time to meld, it is spectacular.

Sun 5 June 2011 Lunch: broccoli rabe, with sourdough and grilled goat cheese.

Dinner: a narrow slice of savoury pumpkin cake, with green salad.

I also made a couple of curries to have for lunches this week: Madhur Jaffrey’s very spicy, delicious chickpeas and cauliflower, cashew and green pea curry.

And then I made a small pot of rhubarb poached with orange juice, and another of apple compote with a splash of calvados, using four superb Tenterfield apples from the market that I let get a bit past their prime. Both to be eaten with breakfast muesli or porridge, or for desserts. Now I’m ready for the week.

Sat 4 June 2011 Lunch: zucchini, pea, haloumi and dill fritters, with plain yoghurt and lemon. Good, the kind of fritters that are all innards, only just just held together by batter.

Dinner: Spelt linguine tossed with a big pile of field and chestnut mushrooms sautéed with thyme and garlic, wilted english spinach, a dash of creme fraiche and some grated gruyere.

Fri 3 June 2011 Dinner with Ian and Lisa at China Kitchen on High St in Toowong. Such an unprepossessing name for a fantastic restaurant. Both times we’ve been here the food has been great. This time we had dry-fried intestines with fresh and dried chilies, Grandma’s braised pork with red wine, sliced pork with omelet and black fungus (this dish was mostly slivered crispy white vegetable, I think maybe almost raw potato, with just shreds of the named ingredients), and pumpkin with salty egg yolks. All very good.

Thurs 2 June 2011 I had an hour to pass between physio and pilates, so went to Viet Hoa (only quite recently reopened after post-flood refurbishment) and had vermicelli salad.

Wed 1 June 2011 A lovely dinner with Judy at our place! Such good chatting. We had mushroom and ricotta galette, with a pile of roasted skinny Dutch carrots, and a salad of english spinach, slow-roasted shallots, and a mustardy vinaigrette. Then the last of the quinces for dessert.

Tues 31 May 2011 Left-over rabbit and polenta.

Mon 30 May 2011 Left-over parsnip and pear soup.

Sun 29 May 2011 Brunch: corn cakes at Brio. Dinner: two slices of Leavain spelt and walnut sourdough, toasted, with goat cheese and honey.

Sat 28 May 2011 Lunch: the ritual soup to clear out the last of the previous week’s vegetables from the fridge, so that today’s farmers’ market haul can be put away. This one was excellent: parsnip, potato, pear and thyme soup. It was two largish parsnips and three smallish potatoes, all peeled and diced, 1 pear diced, and the leaves from several sprigs of thyme, all simmered together in dilute vegetable stock until tender. Then pureed with the immersion blender, a couple of spoonsfuls of creme fraiche stirred through, and seasoned to taste. Really really good.

Dinner: Edwige and Jean came over.  Olives plus air-dried saucisson from the Eumundi Smokehouse. Toasted Leavain sourdough with chevre and leek confit (with the confit slightly warmed beforehand – even better this way than at room temperature). Slow-cooked rabbit with tomatoes and olives, with polenta. Poached quinces with creme fraiche. These quinces turned colour as they should (unlike those of a couple of weeks ago), but only after I squeezed in the juice of half a lemon halfway through cooking, in a despairing last attempt to get them to stop being beige. Can lemon juice really be the key? I am going to buy a single quince and cook half with and half without lemon juice, next weekend, to test this hypothesis.

Four very good bottles of wine, too: Bald Hills 2008 Last Light Riesling (very slight sweetness), Spring Vale 2010 Gewurtztraminer (great with the goat cheese and leeks), Passing Clouds 2008 pinot noir (as the bottle says, spiciness and some vegetative complexity on the nose – I will definitely be buying another couple of bottles of this), and Stonier 2009 pinot noir (brighter plums and cherries).

Fri 27 May 2011 Beth and Scott’s farewell drinks in the Alumni Court at uni, from 3 pm – lots of wine and canapes, leading to me phoning up Ted to come and pick me up from the Green bridge a bit after 9 pm. What a spectacularly good husband he is.

Thurs 26 May 2011 I really didn’t think I would ever say this, but: delicious tempeh.  It’s this recipe for orange pan-glazed tempeh from Jude Blereau via 101 Cookbooks. It is really the sauce that makes it delicious, although the simmering does make the tempeh very tender. I ate it with a small amount of wheatberries mixed with a much larger amount of wilted chard, spinach and scallions dressed with lime juice.

Wed 25 May 2011 Brilliant! The kind of dinner where you are just jumping in your seat with pleasure. Pear, gruyere, honey and thyme toasted sandwiches, with a salad of young English spinach and peppermint rocket dressed with hazelnut oil, champagne vinegar and seeded mustard. The sandwich recipe was basically the same as this one. I cut the last of the boule (bought on Sunday, but kept in the tagine so it was still pretty fresh) into slices about 8 mm thick. Drizzled macadamia honey on both pieces of bread, then on one of them layered thinly sliced pear, thinly sliced gruyere, thyme leaves, more pear, then the second piece of bread (honeyed side inwards, obviously). Then heated a dash of olive oil in a non-stick pan over moderate heat, put the sandwich in, balanced the Le Creuset on top of it to squish it a bit, cooked till browned, then flipped the sandwich to cook on the other side, weighted down again. Eat straight away while the cheese is melty. Perfection!

Tues 24 May 2011 Toasted slices of boule (my favourite bread at Chouquette, made with the same dough as the baguettes traditionnelles, but with a denser and more springy crumb because of the shape I guess), with goat cheese and leek confit. I love this combination.

Mon 23 May 2011 Left-over zucchini and pea soup.

Sun 22 May 2011 Lunch: zucchini, pea and stilton soup.

Dinner:  slow-braised lamb shoulder with mashed potato and green beans. I browned an 800g lamb shoulder (the ones from the organic butcher always seem to be far smaller than the 2kg shoulders mentioned in cookbooks) in olive oil, then set it aside. Chopped two onions and two sticks of celery, cut three carrots in half lengthways and then into 5 cm pieces, and peeled and roughly chopped the cloves from a full head of garlic. Sautéed them all in olive oil in the Le Creuset until the onions were softened and had a bit of colour, then tipped in two tins of tomatoes, half a bottle of red wine, a scant teaspoon of salt, two bay leaves and several sprigs of rosemary. Mixed it all up, and put the lamb back in, spooning the tomato mixture over the top. Lid on, into an oven at 140C for about four hours. Once an hour I removed it from the oven, turned the lamb over, spooned more sauce over the top, and returned to the oven. I cracked the lid open a fraction for the last hour to reduce the sauce a little. At the end of four hours, the meat can be pulled apart with a couple of spoons, and the vegetables and sauce have reduced and are intense, sweet and rich with cartilage.

Sat 21 May 2011 Hot-smoked salmon with a spoonful of crème fraiche, and roasted parsnip, potato and shallots with fresh horseradish and mustard dressing. Fantastic. Wish I had roasted the second parsnip instead of thinking I was making too much food for two and putting it back in the fridge. It would have been eaten for sure. For future reference and replication, it was 3 small potatoes (bought at the market last weekend and I’m sure the man said the variety was Fremont, but I can’t find any potato by that name on the web – anyway, they are a semi-waxy variety), scrubbed then quartered lengthwise; 1 largish parsnip, cut into batons about 1.5 cm wide and 8 cm long; 6 shallots, peeled and halved. Tossed in a dish with olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme leaves, and roasted at 180 for about 45 minutes I think – our kitchen clock has stopped – anyway, until cooked and golden on the edges. Whisk up a dressing of about a teaspoon finely grated fresh horseradish, a heaped teaspoon seeded mustard, a dash of white wine vinegar, and a bit of olive oil just to loosen. Toss through the vegetables and serve.

Also excellent eating today: slices of Chouquette baguette with Meredith Dairy chevre and leek confit.

Fri 20 May 2011 Left-over lentil soup.

Thurs 19 May 2011 Oh man, what a lovely dinner. I walked home from the bus stop in drizzling rain, stopping off to steal two bay leaves and a sprig of rosemary from a couple of neighbours’ front gardens on my way. (I love the smell of rosemary – it always brings back an intense scent memory of the kitchens at Hampton Court, one freezing winter day in the mid 1990s. I had come over to Europe for a holiday, but was horribly lonely and depressed, and ended up leaving England early and fleeing to France to visit my sister for longer instead. But before I went, I took the train out to Hampton Court.  When I stepped into a whitewashed little room before the cavernous main kitchens there, I was suddenly surrounded by the smell of fresh winter herbs: rosemary, thyme, and sage. There was a huge earthenware pot on the hearth, filled with herbs. My heart lifted up and I’ve always loved the smell since.)

ANYWAY. Dinner tonight was a small slice of raw-milk gruyere, followed by lentil, roast tomato and rosemary soup with rye toast and chevre. After I got home, I roughly chopped six dense, very ripe tomatoes, each larger than my fist, which I bought at the markets last weekend, drizzled them with olive oil, salt and pepper, and slung them into the oven to roast. On the stove I cooked 300 g Puy lentils in a moderate amount of dilute vegetable stock, with the bay leaves and rosemary, adding salt and pepper half way through. By the time the lentils were almost done, most of the stock had been absorbed, and the tomatoes were cooked down with a few golden edges. I tipped the tomatoes into the soup pot, stirred well, and left it to simmer another 10 minutes. This soup, based on the memory of one that Lindell made for us at Hesmond’s Farm cottage in the early 2000s (a much happier time in England for me!), is intensely and surprisingly flavourful. Garlic and/or a glug of red wine in the pot would not go astray, but weren’t necessary.

Wed 18 May 2011 Delicious festival of animal fats! Boudin noir, sliced into 1 cm thick rounds and gently fried on either side, served with apple segments sautéd till golden in butter then flamed in armagnac, plus mashed potatoes and green beans. Everything except the butter and armagnac bought at the Powerhouse markets last Saturday. The boudin noir, from the Eumundi Smokehouse stall, was excellent.

Tues 17 May 2011 A tian of silverbeet, zucchini and fennel; chickpeas with onion, tomato and smoked paprika.

Mon 16 May 2011 After pilates I cycled over to Somerville House to watch Ted’s volleyball final, and stayed to eat the complementary (Eagle Boys) pizza afterwards. My god. It’s a long time since I’ve eaten food so frankly bad. Fortunately(?) I was ravenous so ate two pieces without balking.

Wanting to avoid refec food for lunches, when we got home I made a couple of tupperwares’ worth of stir-fry:  tofu, broccoli, capsicum, fresh chili, ginger, dressed with a sauce of approx 3 well-heaped dessertspoons miso, 1 tablespoon mirin, and a dash of tamari, sprinkled with finely chopped peanuts, and spooned on top of cooked wheatgrains excavated from the freezer. For such a mishmash, it tasted really good.

Sun 15 May 2011 Left-over lasagne, roast tomatoes and roast zucchini.

Sat 14 May 2011 Got up and made rhubarb compote to eat with porridge (traditional oats, water, pinch of salt) and plain yoghurt for breakfast. Aw yeah. That’s better.

Went to the Powerhouse markets: raw milk gruyere! boudin noir!  quinces, mushrooms and apples! Hello autumn.

Nico and Frieda came over for dinner. Made spinach, mushroom and gruyere lasagne, with roast tomatoes and green beans tossed with seeded mustard and hazelnut oil. (Lasagne: one portion of Alastair Little’s besciamella; four large bunches of English spinach, blanched, squeezed and unravelled; about a kilo of field mushrooms sliced and sautéed until deep brown; grated parmesan and gruyere. Butter lasagne dish; pasta, besciamella, mushrooms, parmesan; pasta, besciamella, spinach, gruyere; repeat these two layers once more; cover top with pasta and remaining besciamella plus a scattering of finely grated parmesan; bake 180C 30 mins.) Poached quinces and ice cream for dessert. Reminder to self: don’t try cutting the sugar in the poaching liquid again (I initially used 1 cup sugar : 4 cups water : 3 quinces). Tasted of nothing, and I had to do a sugar-dumping rescue in the last few minutes of cooking. I wonder if it was also a factor in the quinces not changing colour as they should? They turned a sort of unappetising beige, though the poaching liquid was pale pink.

Fri 13 May 2011 When are takeaways the answer? Never, Meg, never never never when will you learn? Arrived home late, hungry, messy kitchen; got takeaway curry and stirfry from a local Thai place that were edible but otherwise had nothing going for them. Result: money laid out on bad food that satisfies neither tongue nor brain nor heart. Extreme boo to this crap.

Thurs 12 May 2011 Wholemeal toast with parmesan grilled on top. Eh. Fortunately I ate leftover curries for lunch so should not succumb to scurvy too quickly.

Weds 11 May 2011 Made a decision, bizarre in retrospect, to cook three Indian curries on a weeknight. Didn’t turn out to be such a bad call, though the washing up pile is looking horrendous. The curries: 1. Dal with curry leaves (so-so), 2. spinach and mushroom with garam masala (good), 3. pumpkin with chili and amchoor powder (excellent).

Tues 10 May 2011 Inspired by this post of Rachael’s, brussels sprouts and tofu sautéed with soy sauce, rice vinegar, sriracha and sesame oil.

Mon 9 May 2011 Thai green curry with eggplant, zucchini, mushrooms and thai basil (found a huge bunch at the Rocklea markets on Saturday).

Sun 8 May 2011 Brunch with Brian at Brio, where I had their kung fu tofu again. So good.

Dinner: a wee pork chop braised in cider (eh, boring), with remoulade and green beans. The remoulade was fantastic. Cut about 300 g of celeriac (half a medium-sized celeriac, after peeling and trimming) into fine matchsticks using a mandoline. Whisk together until emulsified 1 egg yolk, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon seeded mustard, salt and pepper. Toss the dressing through the celeriac and leave for an hour or two to wilt. Toss through a couple of good handfuls of finely chopped flat-leaf parsley and leave another five minutes before eating. Makes enough for two enthusiasts, or three or four more sensible consumers.

Sat 7 May 2011 Zucchini gratin, with pencil-thin roasted carrots on the side. The gratin was fine, but caused a bit of cognitive dissonance as I kept expecting it to taste like frittata (vegetables only just held together with egg), and of course the milk makes it much more custardy. Easy enough, and the crispy roast feta on the top was good, but I’m not sure I would actively seek to make it again.

Fri 6 May 2011 After two nights of pasta, I was determined to cook something more interesting, but when I got home I was so tuckered out I knew it had to be something extraordinarily simple, easy and brainless, or the takeaway menus would be coming out. So we had penne with hot-smoked salmon, zucchini, spinach, capers and lemon juice. Can’t let the best be the enemy of the good, and this dish was, after all, faster, cheaper and healthier than takeaway.

Thurs 5 May 2011 Tagliatellini again, this time as part of Heidi Swanson’s pasta with greens and egg. I used spinach, zucchini, (frozen) peas and herbs, since neither asparagus nor pea shoots are in season. Interesting method, but ended up a bit dry – not sure what the solution would be. I could have kept back a bit of the pasta cooking water to toss through at the end, since I cooked the pasta fresh, but that wouldn’t work for left-over pasta as suggested (not that I ever have or keep left-over pasta, anyway).

Weds 4 May 2011 Tagliatellini with sautéed garlic, zucchini (shredded with a julienne peeler, salted and left to drain, then thoroughly sqeezed out), lemon zest and juice, pine nuts, basil and a bit of sheeps cheese. Very good.

Tues 3 May 2011 Dana Treat’s spicy sweet and savoury cauliflower. I added anchovies to this and it threw off the flavour balance completely – don’t be tempted to do the same! I think it would be good as originally written.

Mon 2 May 2011 Thakkali rasam, as a slight corrective after all the eating of the last four days.

Sun 1 May 2011 We were tired, Melbourne was Sunday-slow, and it started to drizzle. Nonetheless, after walking from Prahran to Richmond, breakfast at the Richmond Hill Cafe and Larder was perfectly decent. Corn cakes (made with corn meal as well as kernels) with smoked salmon and a poached egg. Coffee ok but not great. Best part of this place? The cheese room inside. Temperature and humidity controlled, so all the cheeses are laid out free-range, not sweating under plastic wrap. The smell. It reminded me so vividly of Sheridan’s in Dublin, which was the last time I was in a properly curated cheeseroom. I knew we couldn’t buy anything, which probably made the visit less stressful in a way as I didn’t have to choose between the many, many cheeses I desperately wanted.

We toddled into town via Fitzroy gardens, including a stop-off at Captain Cook’s cottage for nostalgia purposes, and had a coffee and chocolate at Koko Black in the Royal Arcade (wank-o-meter off the scale, but excellent chocolate). We started to wander further but eventually acknowledged that we were flagging badly, so installed ourselves at C&B in Block Place for a glass of wine, which turned into a second glass of wine, which led to me ordering a plate of risotto, which surely by now I know better than to do at an Australian restaurant. So alas our last meal in Melbourne was pretty crap but we have had several incredible meals to balance it out.

Sat 30 Apr 2011 A lovely, lovely day, mostly due to spending it with Danielle. She proposed brunch at Cavallero, which turned out to be one of the top three meals of this trip. I had poached eggs on sourdough with a side of cavalo nero with preserved lemon. Perfection. Also excellent coffee. In a parallel universe I refused to leave this lovely space, and sat at the same big table all day, having for lunch the three cheese and balsamic fig tart with soft herb salad, and then perhaps the ham hock and parsley terrine for dinner. We didn’t do that, but it was ok because instead Danielle took us on a strolling tour of the city for the rest of the day. We wandered through Collingwood and Fitzroy, then took a tram to East Brunswick to go to an excellent clothes shop and refresh ourselves with beverages and a superb slice of lime syrup cake at Small Block. Then back to the city, and a stroll through various lanes and arcades, with D pointing out good coffee places, soup cafes, and the best shoe repair place in town. We ended up by the river, for beer, a shared small pizza, and chat.

Later, we trammed out again to  Carlton for pizza at DOC on Drummond St. Excellent again. The margarita was perhaps the best of the three we tried, with the special with figs, prosciutto and gorgonzola a close second. The mushroom, fontina and thyme was slightly cheese-heavy, but all three crusts were perfectly crispy-chewy. We ogled the pastries in Brunetti’s on the way home but were too comprehensively satiated to consider even a takeaway.

Fri 29 Apr 2011 Setting out in the morning, we had a little brioche and a sourdough roll at Brioche by Philip. Then an hour or so later, brunch at Il Fornaio at St Kilda. Spectacular espresso; Ted’s brioche with asparagus and eggs was lovely. Afternoon tea of a poppy seed pastry at Continental Cakes on Acland St. I’d had a similar pastry here about a decade ago and it had lived in my memory as a paragon ever since. Tragically this one was rather dry and not terribly special.

Dinner: ashamed to admit this, but after hours of walking around St Kilda/Elwood/Balaclava and getting all emotional about whether we were going to move to Melbourne or not, etc etc ad infinitum and then etc again, we bought takeaway Chinese and a bottle of wine, and ate dinner at the hotel, in bed, while watching the BBC coverage of the royal wedding on the gigantic television. Stay classy, Meg and Ted. Lucky for us that the Chinese was from HuTong again, this time the ma po tofu (ok, good tofu, should have been spicier), fragrant crispy duck (a good call on Ted’s part, this was the best of the dishes) and stirfried chinese cabbage with mushrooms (turned out to be braised bok choy and shiitakes, fine but not what I was expecting).

Thurs 28 Apr 2011 In Melbourne! A brilliant lunch at HuTong Dumpling Bar in Prahran: wontons in szechuan chili oil (incredibly spicy and incredibly good), tofu with salt and chili (deliciously custardy inside a membrane-thin crisp skin), and pickled vegetable salad. Best meal of this trip to Melbourne, for me.

Dinner at Becco: Ted and I shared an antipasto of thin bruschetta with white anchovies, parsley, raisins, and other things I cannot remember. Then three Coffin Bay oysters (three is the perfect number of oysters for me, so I love places where you can order whatever number you want, rather than having to get them by the half dozen). Finally,  casarecce with quail ragu and green olives. One waitress was animatronic; fortunately it was another, far more friendly, who recommended glasses of wine and did a fantastic job of it (Pieropan soave classico with the oysters, Port Phillip Estate pinot noir with the pasta).

While we were waiting to go in to Becco (we overestimated how long it would take to get there on the tram from Prahran), we walked around chinatown and then around the streets near the restaurant. I am already planning future visits to Bottega, Self Preservation, and Von Haus, all within about 100 m of Becco.

Weds 27 Apr 2011 Lunch with my parents at Bamboo Basket. Dinner: Ted cooked risotto, with zucchini, thyme and goat cheese.

Tues 26 Apr 2011 Leftovers from yesterday.

Mon 25 Apr 2011 Luciano in the house! He’s back in Australia for a Gates meeting and came over for dinner, jetlagged but lovely as ever. We assembled Francesca, Mike, Henry and Eric at our place. I made torta rustica, a variant on catalan chickpeas with smoked paprika and sherry vinegar, wheatgrain and roast vegetable salad, roast roma tomatoes, and blanched green beans tossed with hazelnut oil and seedy mustard. For dessert, I made almond and lemon biscuits, Francesca brought a chocolate ricotta cheesecake, and Henry brought red bean and rock sugar dessert. It was a lovely evening, with several interludes of laughing so hard it was tricky to breathe, which is a pretty nice way for an evening to go.

Sun 24 Apr 2011 For lunch, a fat, fluffy frittata with roasted cherry tomatoes, roast garlic, wilted scallions, pesto and goats cheese. Perfectly cooked, though alas not replicably, as it was the  result of shifting between stovetop and broiler multiple times in between squinting at it and prodding it and generally being a fussbudget about what kind of heat it needed at any one time. Worth the fussing, though.

Dinner: aubergine and ras-el-hanout soup: very good. Slightly too tomato-y for me, though Ted disagreed. Next time I’d probably use just 200 g of tomatoes (if using tinned).

Sat 23 Apr 2011 Ted is home from the US after about three weeks away! He got in around 7 a.m., so after coming home and showering, we went for breakfast at the Little Larder, then kept walking around the river’s edge to the Powerhouse for a second coffee. To Ted’s despair and my delight, the Powerhouse markets were on (they’re every second weekend and I can never remember which it is). I’ve often been a bit dismissive of these markets because they have a lot less variety of vegetable stalls than the West End markets, but walking through them again reminded me that they’re not bad at all. Many of the vegetable stands aren’t particularly inspiring – cauliflowers may be $1 each, but they’re not terribly fresh, either – but there are a few standouts. Some good family-run tomato, herb and apple stalls, all selling varieties I don’t see often, if ever, anywhere else. A woman selling fresh horseradish. Gympie goat cheese, of course. We left with two huge large bunches of basil, so green and full of volatiles they almost shimmered, a kilo or so of burstingly ripe small tomatoes, a few heads of locally-grown garlic, a bag of field mushrooms, and some horseradish. For dinner, we halved and slow-roasted the tomatoes until they were sweet and intense but still juicy, roasted the garlic heads whole, quartered the mushrooms and roasted them with thyme, butter and olive oil, and made pesto. We ate a bit of each, with turkish bread, then Ted fell asleep on the couch at 8.45. Lovely day.

Fri 22 Apr 2011 Leftovers picnic: roast tomatoes, a bit of avocado, some grapes, a couple of thin slices of parmesan.

Thurs 21 Apr 2011 Pasta e ceci, made with thyme rather than rosemary.

Weds 20 Apr 2011 Sourdough toast (the last of the Levain loaf I bought at the local hippy shop on Saturday), with avocado (one of Leonie’s shepards, slow-ripened in the wine cabinet), Maldon salt, and a drizzle of Mark Bittman’s chili spice oil. Delicious. But therein hangs a sad-ish tale. In at least one version of the original recipe (it is in multiple locations), Bittman says to refrigerate the leftover oil. I pshaw-ed this as American food paranoia (like keeping eggs in the fridge inside air-conditioned supermarkets) and put the leftover oil in a sterilised jar and kept it in the cupboard. Several months ago. Yes, you can see where this is going. After I’d eaten the two delicious slices of toast I went to put the oil back in the cupboard and noticed that there were a couple of wisps of bacteria floating in mid-jar. Tasty extra protein, right? So I am telling myself. If I am dead of botulism in a couple of days, someone please tell the coroner what it was that did me in. More practically, I am going to make a fresh jar of the chili spice oil and keep it in the fridge this time.

Tues 19 Apr 2011 Penne with hot-smoked salmon, chopped roasted tomatoes squished up in the pan to make a sauce of sorts, and lots of finely chopped parsley and thyme.

Mon 18 Apr 2011 Sourdough toast with avocado and smoked sea salt.

Sun 17 Apr 2011 Spelt linguine with confit zucchini, garlic, lemon, thyme, parsley and peccorino.

Sat 16 Apr 2011 Braised lamb shanks with white beans.

Fri 15 Apr 2011 A couple of beers and chips with Nico and Frieda and friends at the Staff Club.

Thurs 14 Apr 2011 Pasta with left-over bits: fresh ricotta, roast peppers, mushrooms and herbs. I can’t believe I spent so many years fussing over how to cook mushrooms. The answer: quarter them; heat olive oil and butter in frypan, add mushrooms, salt and pepper and stir briefly; leave over high-ish moderate heat for about 10 minutes or so, stirring only two or three times. YES.

Wed 13 Apr 2011 Toasted sourdough, with half a shephard avocado (one of the several that Leonie brought down for me, which was at a perfect stage of delicious ripeness – I am converted away from Hass, Leonie), a sliced roma tomato, pepper and smoked sea salt.

Tues 12 Apr 2011 Minestrone, heavy on the borlotti beans I cooked up on the weekend, with their pot liquor.

Mon 11 Apr 2011 Mecca Bah with Matt and Leonie. Lamb and pine nut bourek; lamb, olive and lemon tagine; grilled fish wrapped in vine leaves with artichoke, parsley and olive salad (excellent). Standout dessert was halva icecream.

Sun 10 Apr 2011 Semi-comatose all day, but woke up sufficiently to make a tian of chard, roast peppers and ricotta for dinner. Sorry for not being a more generous host, Matt and Leonie.

Sat 9 Apr 2011 Dinner at Edwige and Jean’s with Eric, Henry and Yves-Marie. Osso bucco followed by orange cake, delicious. Also a large amount of wine, cognac and conversation, leading to me catching a taxi home at 2.30 am.

Fri 8 Apr 2011 Left-over pasta on the couch, as M+L are visiting relatives for the next couple of nights.

Thurs 7 Apr 2011 I come home from pilates to find that Matt is making pasta with roast cherry tomatoes, zucchini and garlic, with goat curd and herbs. M+L can stay forever.

Wed 6 Apr 2011 To Enoteca with Matt and Leonie. The peas, pancetta and cuttlefish is very different to the way it was the first time – now the cuttlefish is in large chunks, the peas are less delicate, and the pancetta is more deeply browned. Not the ephemeral delight of spring, but I guess it is probably not the time of year to be ordering a pea dish anyway! Matt’s scallops on aubergine and Leonie’s vitello tonnato were both superb. Then we all had seafood brodetto for main.

Tue 5 Apr 2011 Taj Mahal with Matt and Leonie, who will be staying with me for the next week or so. Alas, it was not on top form tonight.

Mon 4 Apr 2011 Flying in late from Canberra, I walk in the door and flop into bed.

Sun 3 Apr 2011 Leg of goat cooked as for gigot a sept heures.

Sat 2 Apr 2011 Pasta with zucchini, tomato and herbs from the garden for lunch. Risotto with chicken and asparagus for dinner.

Fri 1 Apr 2011 Am in Canberra, visiting Lindell and Marcel and the kids!

Wed 28 Mar 2011 At Taj Mahal with Ted.

Tue 27 Mar 2011 Puy lentils with feta, roast beetroot, roast cherry tomatoes, roast capsicums, sherry vinegar – so yes, all remaining vegetables in the fridge, roasted in various ways.

Mon 28 Mar 2011 Left-over rejigged lamb.

Sun 27 Mar 2011 Ah ha! The meat from last night was successfully rescued by being plopped into tomato and red wine and simmered in a covered cocotte in the oven for another couple of hours. The left-over potatoes and olives were added for the last half hour. Much, much better. Braising for the win.

Sat 26 Mar 2011 Lunch: Ted and I split a baguette traditionnelle from Chouquette, which we ate with Meredith Dairy goat cheese, prosciutto and rocket, with a tomato salad on the side. The salad was just ultra-ripe cherry tomatoes, halved and tossed with a dash each of sherry vinegar and olive oil, plus sea salt and black pepper. Fantastic as the rest of the meal was, the tomatoes were the star.

Dinner: Slow-cooked Greek lamb shoulder with lemon and potatoes. Not great – the meat was still fairly chewy and, well, tasted of meat. Cut a piece and it’s a slab of flesh with lemony flavour on the outside but an eternity of meat flavour for the rest. I no more like this than I would like eating my way through a large boiled potato. I knew I should have made gigot a sept heures instead!

Fri 25 Mar 2011 Take-away curry from Taj Mahal – an OK paneer in ginger and tomato sauce, and an excellent dal palak.

Thurs 24 Mar 2011 I have a massive cold and feel like death. Toast with cherry jam.

Wed 23 Mar 2011 Pasta with hot-smoked salmon, zucchini, peas and lemon.

Tues 22 Mar 2011 And the very last piece of the lasagne, eaten at my desk before Italian class.

Mon 21 Mar 2011 Left-over lasagne from Saturday night.

Sun 20 Mar 2011 Lunch: left-over zucchini fritters, warmed up in the oven: suprisingly still great. Eaten with green beans that were simmered for 3 minutes, drained, then tossed back in the pan for a further minute with a couple of heaped teaspoons of seedy French mustard, and a dash each of garlic-infused olive oil and hazelnut oil. Man I love beans with mustard.

Dinner: anchovy pizza.

Sat 19 Mar 2011 After an awful, awful week, Saturday breakfast was a soft white quilt of porridge, made on half water half organic milk and a pinch of salt, with a generous spoonful of runny French cherry jam on top. It’s the first moment of quiet pleasure I’ve felt in what seems like a long time.

Lunch: zucchini fritters, using Annabel Langbein’s fritter recipe via Lucinda at Nourish Me. Excellent and delightfully springy. We were missing both mint and feta, so used flat-leaf parsley and a combination of parmesan and fresh pecorino instead.

Dinner: lasagne with eggplant, chard and ricotta, from Dana Treat. Followed the recipe more or less, though I added nutmeg to the chard and I think it might have done better without it (or perhaps I just needed a lighter hand with it). Also used more and thinner layers, with only tomato plus one set of ingredients, either cheese/chard or eggplant, per layer.

Fri 4 Mar 2011 Spaghetti with tomato and anchovy sauce.

Thurs 3 Mar 2011 Anne and Arthur’s going-away dinner at Siam Samrarn.

Weds 2 Mar 2011 Chicken tagine with couscous.

Tues 1 Mar 2011 Tofu and eggplant in a tomato and ginger sauce.

Sun 27 Feb 2011 Arthur made crepes for breakfast. Then gorge walk and gelati with the lab. An afternoon with Edwige, Jean and Henry, on the beach. Home late and too tired and full for dinner.

Sat 26 Feb 2011 Home-made pizzas, Straddie again, after a lovely day of swimming and working.

Fri 25 Feb 2011 Grilled fish and prawns, with asian salad – the first night of our lab retreat on Stradbroke Island.

Tue 22 Feb 2011 Spaghetti with pesto, after walking home from Bardon (missed the hourly bus, so waiting for the next one and taking it would have taken about as long as walking the whole way home). Lovely thoughtful stroll in the cool evening.

Mon 21 Feb 2011 Toast, grumpily, after getting almost instantanously soaked to the skin in the 300 m between the bus stop and our apartment. Crazy thunderstorm.

Sun 20 Feb 2011 Pizza at Beccofino with Nico and Frieda.

Sat 19 Feb 2011 Pan-fried ricotta gnocchi (via Shari) with slow-roasted halved cherry tomatoes, sautéed zucchini, and home-made pesto.

Fri 18 Feb 2011 Hot-smoked salmon with leftover potato and greens salad.

Thurs 17 Feb 2011 Can I just hymn for a moment the absolute perfection of the coffee break I just had? It’s raining, so I walked around the cloisters of the Great Court to the Merlo cafe. I had an espresso and a slender piece of a chocolate-caramel slice. It was a perfect 1-2-3 punch of rich, sweet, bitter, but all with moderation. A very fine, crisp base, then a thin layer of dark, not-too-sweet caramel, covered with a thicker layer of almost black, smooth chocolate paste, dusted on top with bitter cocoa. Perfect. I am back at my desk with new enthusiasm.

Lunch: wheat grains with peas, spinach and salmon.

Dinner: kipfler and green vegetable salad.

Wed 16 Feb 2011 Dinner with Ted at Bamboo Basket: steamed tofu and vegetable dumplings, fried pork dumplings, shredded duck with hand-cut noodles.

Tues 15 Feb 2011 Came home late and lazy, so it was the same as last night.

Mon 14 Feb 2011 A slice of dark rye bread with hummus, spinach and tomato.

Sun 13 Feb 2011 A second go at scrambled tofu for lunch, trying the modifications I thought of yesterday, plus cooking it for a shorter period of time so it didn’t get tough. Better!

I like keeping this record of what I eat mostly as a kind of diary that reminds me of good times when I read over it. It has a second useful function, which is that sometimes I can cast my eye over it and be struck by how absolutely abysmally I have been eating recently. Reading it yesterday, I thought, “my god, woman, when was the last time you ate vegetables?” – particularly sad as vegetables are amongst my favourite things.  So tonight’s dinner was a start at correcting this.

I made a riff on this recipe for chard and saffron tart, modifying it by leaving out the crust (too lazy), and substituting half a cup of plain yoghurt for the cup and a half of cream. So it was much more of a simple slab of green, but that is kind of what I like. Good with the yoghurt and pine nuts – I should include these more often in these sorts of green tians I often make. I also made a very solid side salad of chickpeas tossed with parsley, lemon and various cooked vegetables I had in the fridge: pumpkin roasted with sumac, roasted peppers, and roasted roma tomatoes.

Sat 12 Feb 2011 To Brio again for breakfast, this time for corn cakes with poached eggs. The corn cakes were great. Unfortunately the coffee here is dreadful – next time I reckon we will just make a separate stop elsewhere for coffee. In the afternoon, we went out to Brookfield for Charlie’s first birthday party.

And then in the evening, Ted was at a friend’s place so it was time for Ex-Vegetarian Solo Tofu-Fest. I made scrambled tofu with tomato and peppers, from Stonesoup. Pretty good, with some modifications. I used fresh-roasted peppers, and increased the vegetable to tofu ratio – I used one full large pepper for 100 g of tofu, plus several big handfuls of baby spinach wilted into it at the end. Next time I’d add the tomato paste a bit earlier, so it gets more cooking and loses that slight metallic flavour. And I reckon it needs something else – maybe a dash of really good sherry vinegar towards the end. I didn’t think of this till the last couple of mouthfuls but I reckon it would be the go.

Fri 11 Feb 2011 At A Night in India with Ian, Lisa and Sal.

Thurs 10 Feb 2011 Dinner at the Cricketers’ Club for dad’s birthday. Lime and chili mussels, followed by gnocchi with zucchini and peppers.

Wed 9 Feb 2011 Grapes.

Tues 8 Feb 2011 A hot cross bun. Far too early, I know.

Mon 7 Feb 2011 Left-overs from last night.

Sun 6 Feb 2011 Vaguely Mexican things: smoky red-bean chili (quick version with tinned red beans); seared corn and capsicum with lime, salt, chili and coriander; avocado; soft tacos.

Sat 5 Feb 2011 Got my hair cut short. Trauma!!! My god. Anyway, then went to Brio in Newstead for brunch, which is the perfect location for us as I can have the Kung Fu Tofu (a bowl of tofu, asian greens, many kinds of delicious asian mushrooms, and delicious and mysterious sauce) and Ted can have eggs benedict. Then in the afternoon to see True Grit at the cinema and eat popcorn. No need for dinner.

Fri 4 Feb 2011 I took Ted to Ortiga for his birthday, along with Ian and Lisa. Some of the food was excellent – but given the choice I would go to Enoteca instead every time. I just do not want to have my napkin re-rolled each time I get up from the table, nor every ingredient recited to me when a plate is put on the table. I read the menu! The standout dishes for me were the two salads: the first a salad of asparagus, zucchini flowers and romesco sauce; the second, a dish that initially silenced us with its excellence before we burst out talking about how wonderful it was, of spring vegetables – including peas, broadbeans, infant carrots, leaves – interlaced with tissue-thin Iberico jamon and placed on top of a confit egg yolk. Superb!

Thurs 3 Feb 2011 Torta rustica.

Weds 2 Feb 2011 The lovely Brad is staying with us for the night on his tour of the homeland. We met at UQ, had a couple of beers at the staff club, then went to the Schonell pizza caffe for dinner.

Mon 31 Jan 2011 Pawpaw.

Sun 30 Jan 2011 Ted and I split a pizza with white anchovies, capers and herbs, after spending the first half of the day at Lexa and Mark’s pulling down the gyprock from their walls (continuing post-flood cleanup).

Weds 26 Jan 2011 After a day of barbeque at E+J’s for Yi San, we came home stuffed and crashed early.

Tues 25 Jan 2011 I go over to Edwige and Jean’s for ‘just a glass of wine’ and to put together the photo album the lab is giving to Yi San as a farewell present. Suddenly it’s 1 am.

Mon 24 Jan 2011 After a full-on day for me of new cycle routes (in traffic! up big hills! riding alongside giant trucks! then through pitch-black Kangaroo Point riverside park with no streetlights after dark!), running around at work, and a hard workout at pilates, Ted made pasta with zucchini, cherry tomatoes, hot-smoked salmon, lemon juice and herbs.

Sun 23 Jan 2011 Tom yum at Renu Thai.

Sat 22 Jan 2011 Champagne on the Powerhouse terrace, then dinner at Bar Alto. The food there never really lives up to its promise, unfortunately.

Fri 21 Jan 2011 Pasta with slow-cooked onions and zucchini, roast tomatoes, mint and torn bocconcini.

Thurs 20 Jan 2011 Leftovers from yesterday.

Weds 19 Jan 2011 Tacos with beef (eh), avocado, and a riff on this corn salsa – this time, fresh corn, diced red pepper and chopped scallions were seared in garlic-infused olive oil till they were jumping, then at the end tossed with fresh coriander, sea salt, pepper, and a couple of teaspoons of butter, very good.

Tues 18 Jan 2011 I was (insanely) planning to make pissaladiere, even though it was 35C and thunderstormy. After staring at the ingredients for a while, we decided to go out instead. Tried Thai on High again – it’s better than it was in 2008, but still not as good as its glory years of the late 90s. Red curry was too sweet, but tofu salad was pretty good.

Mon 17 Jan 2011 Roast zucchini, capsicum and tomato very much like yesterday, but this time with haloumi.

Sun 16 Jan 2011 The New Farm grocer is open again. Fresh vegetables!! Chunks of capsicum, zucchini and tomato, tossed with garlic olive oil and a dash of balsamic vinegar, roasted till all softened down together then mixed with black olives and lots of thyme. Eaten with moghrabieh and some torn bocconcini.

Sat 15 Jan 2011 After spending the day scrubbing stinking flood mud off people’s possessions at Yeronga, far, far too tired even to boil pasta. Posh pizza and one of the best-tasting beers ever.

Fri 14 Jan 2011 Salt and pepper tofu with braised eggplant. Excellent, though the servings are out – even I, the tofu queen, only wanted half as much tofu as was called for per person. This recipe would easily serve 8, especially if you had some greens on the side. Used the pressed silken tofu I found at the asian market at Princess Plaza.

Thur 13 Jan 2011 Met Jim and a couple of his friends for a drink at Gerties. Wandered up to Wilson’s Outlook to look at the floods, serendipidously meeting Brian and Ivan on the way. Then to Taj Mahal for curry.

Wed 12 Jan 2011 Salad nicoise. We spent a lot of the afternoon wandering around New Farm, watching the river as it rises higher and higher. We’re fine though (unlike many, unfortunately) – our apartment is many metres above the river level.

Tues 11 Jan 2011 Penne with roast peppers, feta, capers, parsley and pine nuts. Apparently by Thursday the river will have flooded to levels higher than the 1974 flood!

Mon 10 Jan 2011 Joining the Annabel Langbein love that seems to be taking over my RSS and Twitter feeds, we made this asparagus, avocado and almond salad with sesame citrus dressing (substituting green beans for asparagus since the season is over). Slow-roasted roma tomatoes on the side.

Sun 9 Jan 2011 A late lunch at Beccofino (strozzapreti for me, pizza for Ted), then a series of snacks (hazelnuts, cherries, olives).

Sat 8 Jan 2011 Lunch: Matt’s orecchiette with hot-smoked salmon, peas and spinach. Excellent!

Dinner: couscous, chickpeas, and vegetables, not really successful. Carrot just doesn’t belong here.

Fri 7 Jan 2011 Attempted to go to Beccofino with Ian, Lisa and Jim. But it has a no-bookings policy and when we arrived already had so many people waiting that they wouldn’t add us to the end of the queue. But this was not necessarily a bad thing, as it meant we went over the road and tried Dish Bistro instead. The menu looks at first glance like standard modern Australian, potentially yaaawwwwwwwn, but it’s done well, the staff are lovely, and I will go back again. Had an entree of fried local squid with skordalia and a lemon, parsley, olive and mint salad, followed by a second entree of linguine with spanner crab, chili and garlic. Lisa’s creme fraiche risotto with seared scallops and microherbs was also great, as were the heavier dishes of duck and lamb, apparently. Then back to Jim’s for a series of nightcaps (sticky, home-made calvados, Drouin calvados…) and further chat.

Thurs 6 Jan 2011 Tortiglioni with spinach, goats cheese, sultanas simmered in sherry vinegar, and hazelnuts.

Weds 5 Jan 2011 Moroccan olives; pinot grigio; rewatching Out of Africa and being glad that I had watched this at least proto-feminist movie in my teenage years.

Tues 4 Jan 2011 Kipfler, green bean and spinach salad with hot-smoked salmon. Made the salad more or less as written, though with less dressing (and it took my potatoes about 25 minutes to steam, not the promised 10).

Mon 3 Jan 2011 Lunch: puy lentils with sautéed capsicum and zucchini, parsley and feta in a sherry vinegar dressing. Oh lentil salad, you are so delicious. I’ve missed you.

Sun 2 Jan 2011 Lunch:sautéed tofu with ponzu sauce and scallions; salad of thinly sliced cucumber, pickled ginger and nigella seeds with rice wine vinegar dressing; blanched green beans.

Dinner: for mum’s birthday, dinner with mum and dad at Siam Samrarn in West End.

Sat 1 Jan 2011 Lunch: carrot salad with harissa, mint and feta, with turkish bread and avocado. Our current batch of harissa is very fiery, so the balance of hot spicy salad and cooling avocado was perfect.

Dinner: multi-hour grazing on left-over carrot salad, semi-dried olives, and some fantastically fragrant pawpaw.