Eating notes 2012

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

Mon 31 December 2012 New year’s eve party at our place with the lab. I made salads (couscous with roast eggplant, feta, pine nuts, dried figs, mint, orange zest etc; baby spinach with peas and ricotta), chicken thighs in herbs to barbeque, and a tiramisu. Other people brought many other delicious things. We skyped Edwige in France at about 11.30 and she stayed chatting with us for about and hour and a half. We saw a couple of illicit fireworks from the garden, probably in the Union St park, but otherwise it was just us and our lovely selves, in and out of the garden, kids falling asleep in the bedrooms (or not doing so), conversations and conversational partners circling round till about 1.30 am when people headed home on the all-night trams (thank you, public transport workers).

Sun 30 December 2012 Baguette with goat cheese, roast cherry tomatoes and artichoke hearts for lunch. Salad and fruit for dinner.

Sat 29 December 2012 Went to the zoo with Inaki and Bego and kids, Helen, and Heather, and had a picnic lunch there. Being on that side of town, we then obviously had to stop in at Brunetti to introduce it to Heather. Brunetti biscotti (bocconcini di nonno, pine nut crescents, ricciarelli) for dinner.

Fri 28 December 2012 We headed out to see the gardens at Ripponlea Estate, then to the Imax to see The Hobbit, which benefitted from the fact that our expectations couldn’t get much lower. Dinner afterwards at the Dainty Sichuan in Chinatown – a sichuan chicken wok, and tofu threads with leeks (Chinese leeks, i.e. garlic chives, I think). Both excellent. I’d like to go back with more than just two people so we could order the blood curd hotpot. The people at the table beside us were having it, and it looked delicious, but I was slightly wary of being responsible for eating half of it in case I didn’t like it.

Thurs 27 December 2012 Comprehensive laziness meant that we weren’t particularly hungry, so toast for dinner.

Wed 26 December 2012 Left-overs, as traditional: paella for lunch, and all the remaining vegetables from yesterday mixed up with some pasta, fresh herbs and a little creme fraiche and baked. In the afternoon we went to the botanic gardens to see the titan arum (a.k.a. corpse flower) which had just bloomed. Spectacular!

Tues 25 December 2012 Inaki, Begona, the children, and Heather came over to our place for christmas lunch. The main event: Inaki made paella, which we ate with slow-roasted Roma tomatoes, griddled zucchini with lemon and mint, and roasted peppers tossed with sherry vinegar, and a spinach, pea, mint and ricotta salad.

Mon 24 December 2012 Ted made pasta with a sauce of tomato, eggplant, oregano and excellent fresh ricotta.

Sun 23 December 2012 Brunch at the recently re-opened Stokehouse with Helen, Inaki and Bego, Scott and Beth. For dinner, pasta with smoked salmon, zucchini, lemon and mint.

Sat 22 December 2012 We met up with Helen at the Palace in Brighton to see Skyfall (75% enjoyable, 25% horrifically, ah, problematic). We stayed on afterwards for a drink, followed by average Thai at a place down the road from the cinema.

Fri 21 December 2012 Last working Friday of the year, and…. dumplings. At Ping’s, for a change. I think the soup dumplings and fried beef dumplings are better here than at Gourmet Dumpling, but the dumplings in chili oil soup are much better at GD.

Thurs 20 December 2012 Dumplings with the lab at Gourmet Dumpling, after the work christmas party.

Wed 19 December 2012 After lovely, lovely pilates, came home and had soft tacos with chipotle black beans; fresh corn kernels scorched and tossed with lime, mint and chili flakes; steamed sweet potato; avocado.

Tues 18 December 2012 Baked aubergine with miso and mirin, cucumber salad, soba noodles.

Mon 17 December 2012 I cycled home and lay on a blanket on the lawn in the back garden, drinking a beer, reading The Lighthouse, and enjoying the long evening. After Ted got home, we went up to Hawthorne in search of ramen at Ajisen, but were denied because they’re closed on Mondays. We walked around to Straights of Malacca instead, where I had a laksa.

Sun 16 December 2012 Brunch at Cooper & Milla’s on High St. I love it here, because Ted can get the required eggy breakfast and I can have a selection of the best salads I’ve ever tasted. I had three: a grain and nut salad; a green bean, potato and squash salad; and a fennel, witlof and beetroot salad. So so good. I am perfectly happy to pay ~$20 for a huge plate of these.

For dinner (and lots of leftovers for lunches), I made a pea, chard, sorrel and mint frittata, and two salads copied from brunch as best as I could, as below.

Green bean salad: blanch two large handfuls green beans. Scrub 4 medium kipflers, then slice into 2 mm slices. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, spread on a tray, and roast at 180 until cooked and golden. Cut 4 large pattypan squash into sixths. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast until cooked and golden. Make a dressing of olive oil, white wine vinegar, seeded mustard and Dijon mustard. Combine beans, potatoes, squash and dressing and toss well. Add a large handful of chopped parsley and chunk of feta, crumbled, and toss gently once more.

Grain salad: Cook, separately, a third of a cup each of burgul, farro, and puy lentils. Drain each well, then combine. Add a large handful each of toasted pine nuts and toasted slivered almonds, and a handful each of currants, sunflower seeds, pepitas and chopped parsley. Toss well, with a dressing of yoghurt, lemon juice and ground cumin. Strew with the seeds from a pomegranate. I think next time I might make a yoghurt-free dressing with pomegranate vinegar instead.

Sat 15 December 2012 Tedster is sick. We had toast for dinner.

Fri 14 December 2012 In a radical departure from tradition, the lab went not for dumplings, but for Indian, at Banjara on Glenferrie Rd.

Thurs 13 December 2012 Griddled smoked tofu, with a salad of rice noodles, finely sliced wombok and carrot, cucumber, mint, and chili.

Wed 12 December 2012 Went to the night markets at the Vic Markets, with Inaki, Bego and Makrina. Zarzuela for dinner, eaten from a plastic dish, sitting on tarmac that was radiating back the day’s heat into the humid evening air.

Tues 11 December 2012 Barbequed lamb rack, marinated in mint, capers and lemon, with green beans.

Mon 10 December 2012 Had dinner at the Savoy, for the Brighton bioinformatics retreat.

Sun 9 December 2012 So much gardening: pruning and staking the tomatoes, repotting endless loads of chard and herbs into larger pots, and pulling apart a massive succulent that Edwige left us and repotting it in four, still huge, sections.

In between all the potting, we had lunch at Grapeseed – BLT for Ted, char-grilled calamari with Vietnamese salad for me. Then for dinner (after a serious lie on the couch with a negroni), soft tacos with smoky chipotle blackbeans from the freezer, a slow-cooked onion and chard mix, avocado, and cobs of corn cooked in their husks on the BBQ.

Sat 8 December 2012 Salad for lunch, with lettuce, dill, radishes and scallions from the garden, plus tuna, green beans and a perfectly semi-soft-boiled egg.

Then dumplings at Hutong with Helen, Petrina and Heather before we went to Red Stitch theatre to see Midsummer.

Fri 7 December 2012 Sing it with me – Friday night dumplings with the lab at Gourmet Dumpling.

Thurs 6 December 2012 Ted cooked an excellent pasta sauce with chorizo, tomatoes, olives, capers and red and yellow capsicum.

Wed 5 December 2012 Wasn’t hungry after pilates; suddenly ravenous at 10.30 pm, I had a slice of toast on which I’d roughly mashed a soft-boiled egg with salt and pepper.

Tues 4 December 2012 Heather came over to our place for dinner, and so that she and Ted could take apart her laptop and try to fix it. For dinner we had casarecce with roast tomato and aubergine sauce, and green beans with lemon-infused olive oil and crushed hazelnuts. The pasta sauce was good: I had a bunch of roma tomatoes that I had halved and slow-roasted on the weekend. I put them in the blender together with some basil leaves and half a cup of red wine and blended until they formed a coarse paste. Then added this to some onions that had been sauteed till golden and soft, and some pieces of roasted aubergine, and simmered until it all came together. Strawberries and blueberries for dessert.

Mon 3 December 2012 More Japanese food and film: sushi at Sakura Kaiten, then Tokyo Koen.

Sun 2 December 2012 Lunch: scorched corn salad again, this time as last night but with the addition of quartered cherry tomatoes; grilled asparagus on the side. I think that the corn is actually much better when done more simply, like I used to do last summer: just heat in a frypan until jumping and slightly scorched, dress with salt, chili flakes, lime juice and mint. Eat.

Dinner: excellent Tokyo ramen at Kokoro Ramen with Nichola, Rene, Danielle and Keyne. Good broth, chewy hand-made noodles, delicious egg. Other toppings were fine. Then off to ACMI to see It’s a Beautiful Life at the Japanese film festival.

Sat 1 December 2012 Got up at 6.30 after four hours’ sleep to drive Edwige and Jean to the airport (en posse with Nichola, Rene, Henry, Eric and Yi). Sad, sad goodbyes. The rest of us drove home again and had brunch at Pour Kids before finally calling an end to the E+J Farewell Month.

We have eaten so much, so richly and so continually over the last few weeks that I could live off my accumulated body fat for a long time. But I craved vegetables, so we shared a small dinner: the kernels cut from a cob of corn, scorched in a hot pan with salt and chili flakes then dressed with lime juice and finely chopped basil, then tossed with half an avocado, cubed.

Fri 30 November 2012 A last party for Edwige and Jean, who are leaving Australia tomorrow. A BBQ at our place with various lab people, which wrapped up around 2.30 am when we were just too tired to keep on talking. Scott cooked excellent lamb racks (marinate in lots of chopped mint, capers, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper; cook on the BBQ, covered, at low-moderate heat, for about 20 minutes each side). We also had chicken in chermoula, sausages, a salad of spinach/fennel/cucumber/pomegranate/feta/mint, and another of finely sliced cabbage/julienned carrot/scallions/coriander/sesame oil/rice vinegar/chili.

Thurs 29 November 2012 Lab farewell for Edwige and Jean: pizza at Scott and Beth’s place.

Wed 28 November 2012 A few of us (Jean, Ed, Eric, Yi, Nick, Janine, Nichola, Rene, Heather) finally made it to Almazett to try the lamb tartare, which was delicious. We didn’t just eat the tartare – all the other things on the banquet menu were also excellent.

Tues 27 November 2012 Casarecce with sautéed sliced small zucchini, finely chopped shallots, garlic, pine nuts, the last broad beans from the garden, mint, parsley, lemon juice, parmesan.

Mon 26 November 2012 Orecchiette with roast cauliflower, slow-cooked sliced onions, currants, capers, anchovies, parsley.

Sun 25 November 2012 Gardening in the morning – I laid down newspaper and mulch, and then planted out tomatoes and greens into the garden and large pots.

Then lunch picnic with Edwige, Jean and the lab at the St Kilda botanical gardens. I made a big greens pie with feta (2 onions cooked till brown and soft, mixed with 2 teaspoons fennelseed. 1 large bunch of silverbeet and 2 large bunches of spinach, stemmed and wilted until soft. 6 eggs. 2 packets of feta, crumbled. 1 large bunch each of mint and parsley, stemmed and chopped. Combine, season, encase in filo pastry in large baking dish. Cook at 180C about 50 minutes.)

When it got dark we decamped to Ed and Jean’s place for further snacking, drinking and chatting.

Sat 24 November 2012 Frieda’s in town and staying with us for a night. We had snacks at home, then dinner at Gourmet Dumpling: soup dumplings (so good); dumplings in hot and sour soup; fried pork dumplings; chive pancake).

Fri 23 November 2012 Tortiglioni with a sauce of eggplant, chorizo and tomato.

Thurs 22 November 2012 Toast.

Wed 21 November 2012 Stir fry with two kinds of greens, shiitake and tofu.

Tues 20 November 2012 Yi San is in town! A few of us took her out to dinner at Movida Aqui.

Sun 18 November 2012 Diwali dinner at Jyotika’s. She made half a dozen incredibly delicious vegetarian curries, as well as entrees, breads, and desserts. Mind-blowing.

Sat 17 November 2012 We met up with Alex for a seedling swap, and she incredibly generously showed me around the Preston markets. An excellent time!

Dinner: we went with Yi, Nick, Edwige, Jean, Nichola and Rene to Sichuan House in Chinatown, for a festival of meats. Pig ears; chili-fried intestines; heart and tongue; spicy crab; cumin pork spare ribs; sichuan green beans. So good!

Fri 16 November 2012 Korean BBQ in Clayton with the lab.

Sun 11 November 2012 Bego came over for a festival of cooking. We made a galette with pesto, goat cheese and roast roma and cherry tomatoes; a salad of quinoa, broad beans, roast asparagus, mint and parsley; and another salad of spinach, figs and pomegranate seeds. Such a lovely morning. Inaki and the kids joined us for lunch then we went to the park for a while.

Then for dinner we went to the Horn Cafe, with Ed, Jean, Henry, Linda, Heather, Eric and Janine.

Sat 10 November 2012 Brunch at Green Goose: latkes with poached eggs, lots of spinach and tomato relish. I made a good banana cake, following this recipe but only using about 50 g of chopped dark chocolate, which was about perfect for me.

Dinner: palak paneer (as per previous recipe from Sept 12, with the addition of fresh fenugreek leaves), and a cauliflower, tomato and coconut milk dal, soured with lemon juice.

Fri 9 November 2012 Ted is home! After surviving Hurricane Sandy while he was in Manhatten, and food poisoning while he was in Los Angeles. Great trip, as you can imagine. For dinner, a lazy meal of good bread, cheese, slices of aged chorizo, and roast asparagus.

Thurs 8 November 2012 Bah, not hungry.

Weds 7 November 2012 A slice of toasted sourdough, a poached egg, and a bunch of steamed asparagus.

Tues 6 November 2012 Not hungry, no dinner.

Mon 5 November 2012 What the hell is going on with my cooking? Bucatini again again again, with chili flakes, garlic and parsley.

Sun 4 November 2012 Helped Heather move into her new apartment. Came home and made a valiant effort to fix the compost bin (added mulch, lots of stirring). I intended to make something good with the farmers market haul but was tired, so went bucatini with peas, herbs, creme fraiche, lemon juice.

Sat 3 November 2012 I met up with Edwige at the St Kilda farmers markets in the morning, then Eric joined us for coffees and chatting at a cafe on Blessington St. Went home and made lunch of buccatini with broccoli shoots and chili, then headed back to Edwige and Jean’s place for drinks with Heather, followed by an excellent dinner at Graze on Grey.

Fri 2 November 2012 Gourmet Dumpling with the lab.

Thurs 1 November 2012 Left-over tomato panade.

Weds 31 October 2012 Heather made an excellent tomato panade.

Tues 30 October 2012 A really good greens and feta pie. I think the combination of leaves really made it: leeks, spinach, red russian kale, sorrel and mustard leaf (the last three from the garden), plus feta, 4 eggs, and seed and Dijon mustard. I also made a salad of roast aubergines, sweet potato, red and yellow capsicums, chickpeas, mint and parsley, with a dressing of tahini, lemon juice, cumin and sumac.

Mon 29 October 2012 Leaving work late with Jean, Edwige and Heather, we decided to enjoy the warm weather and eat outside, in the courtyard at Claypots. Oysters, then a large whole red emperor with ginger and lemongrass. The food and the company were equally exceptional.

Sun 28 October 2012 Eric drove Heather and me out to the open day for Rose Creek Estate, where we met up with Rose, Amatiel and Rose’s dad. Incredibly inspiring! We had pizza there for lunch, walked several times around the property, tasted and bought wine and olive oil, then came home satiated in all ways.

Sat 27 October 2012 Naia’s first birthday party. Between all of us, Bego, Inaki, Nichola, Heather and I managed to make perfect churros. Also huge piles of other excellent food. Snacking and chatting went on till dusk.

Fri 26 October 2012 We tried to make a booking at Gourmet Dumpling but were denied(!!!!!!!). We had to get our lab dumpling fix at Bamboo Garden instead.

Weds 24 October 2012 Left-over chicken pot pies.

Tues 23 October 2012 Quinoa salad, and asparagus with brown butter and pecans.

Mon 22 October 2012 Heather made incredibly delicious chicken pot pies.

Sat 21 October 2012 I went for an early bruch at Sardine with Turley.

Fri 19 October 2012 Turley is visiting the lab and staying at our place tonight (on the blow up mattress since Heather’s in the spare room – Hotel Woolfit-Phelps can always squeeze in an extra guest one way or another). We had good dumplings and other dishes, including a really excellent drunken chicken, at Cina, with various lab people. Then all back to our place for drinks and chatting in the garden till exhaustion set in.

Fri 5 – Sun 14 October 2012 I’m on a boat! In the Whitsundays, with Ted, Sal, Andrea, Don, Jens and Caro. Sailing, snorkling, and chatting, plus a daily quota of lying on deck watching the sun set and drinking cocktails.

Thurs 4 October 2012 Couscous, chard, feta and pomegranate seed salad.

Weds 3 October 2012 Pasta with broccoli shoots, onion, anchovies, pine nuts.

Tues 2 October 2012 We went to Coda for dinner with Tom and Flo. Lovely company, so-so food. No, I lie, the octopus salad was excellent. Everything else, though, was perfectly compenent – but no more.

Mon 1 October 2012 Ted and I split a frittata, containing an onion, half a bunch of cavolo nero, a few leaves each of red russian kale and mustard leaf (garden thinnings), scallions, parsley, a handful of toasted pine nuts, a scrap of good French cheese, and three eggs.

Sun 30 September 2012 Lovely, lovely, lovely lunch and afternoon in the garden with Edwige, Jean, Inaki, Begona, Unai and Naia. For lunch we started with salami, olives and cornichons. Then three excellent things: chicken thighs tossed in chermoula and barbequed (as described below on Feb 14th this year), a red quinoa, cauliflower and feta salad, and a big pile of roast asparagus. Then after a bit more chatting in the sun, a grapefruit and olive oil cake, and some greek biscuits Iñaki and Begoña had brought.

Sat 29 September 2012 A chicken pilaf based on a recipe from the new Ottolenghi cookbook, Jerusalem. I bought it this morning after lusting after it for a while. Once I got it home, I paged through it and had the lovely experience of thinking “oh yes, I’d make that” about approximately 90% of the recipes. It’s really rare to get that kind of hit rate. Tonight’s dish was great, and based on the “chicken with caramelized onion and cardamom rice” from the book. My version: Finely slice two onions, cook in olive oil for about 20 minutes until deep golden and soft. Remove to plate. Cut four chicken thigh fillets into about four pieces each, and season with salt. Over moderately high heat, sear the outside of the meat and get a nice bit of browning happening. Remove from the pan. In the oil remaining in the pan, briefly saute 250 g of basmati rice together with 10 cardamom pods, 5 cloves, and a couple of broken cinnamon sticks. Stir in the onions and about 30 g of currants. Push the chicken pieces into the rice (you want to avoid leaving rice grains stranded on top of the chicken pieces, as they won’t get cooked as quickly as the rest of the rice). Pour 500 ml of boiling dilute chicken stock over the rice, then clap the lid on and put it over very low heat for 30 minutes. Then turn off the heat and leave it sit for another five minutes. Add a good handful of chopped fresh parsley, dill and coriander, and use a fork to stir through and fluff up the rice. We ate this by itself, but I think it would be great with a vegetable side of some kind – I was imagining a dish of slightly sweetened carrots and pomegranate seeds.

Fri 28 September 2012 Korean (at Soora) with lab people to celebrate Nichola’s birthday (which is tomorrow).

Thurs 27 September 2012 Left-over salad from last night. Still good!

Weds 26 September 2012 An excellent warm salad of red quinoa, cauliflower, peas, herbs and feta.

Tues 25 September 2012 Casarecce with cime di rapa, based closely on this recipe.

Mon 24 September 2012 Man, lunch today was good! Left-over cauliflower and chorizo (see yesterday for details), and a slice of leek and silverbeet frittata. Both parts were excellent, and they also were a great combination. The frittata was very simple: 3 slender leeks chopped and sweated until soft; 1 large bunch silverbeet stemmed, chopped, and added to the leeks to cook down; when the vegies were cool they were combined with three lightly whisked eggs, salt, pepper and a crumbled half a round of Holy Goat Silk cheese that was getting pretty old and stinky. Poured into a greased 20 cm frypan over low heat and cooked until almost done, then finished under the grill.

Dinner: puy lentils tossed with some leeks (chopped and braised in the oven with a dash of white wine), parsley, thyme, sheep feta and a dressing of hazelnut oil, white wine vinegar and Dijon mustard. A pile of halved, sauteed swiss brown mushrooms on the side.

Sun 23 September 2012 My god we’ve done a lot of laundry this weekend. I found moth holes in a couple of my shirts, and then on Friday observed a moth fly out of the cupboard when I opened it to put my jacket away. Fuuuuuuck. We have now washed pretty much every piece of clothing we own, thanks to a sunny weekend and the possession of both indoor and outside clotheslines.

In between cycles of hanging, taking down and folding laundry, we made a lovely lunch to celebrate the spring equinox (ok, a day late). Salmon fillets cooked in the pan, grilled asparagus, and braised peas and cos lettuce. The peas and lettuce were great – even better than the asparagus, I think. I did them simply, just cooked one finely chopped golden shallot in butter in a frypan til soft, then added a cup or so of peas and about 8 leaves from the heart of a cos lettuce. Stirred, added a good dash of water and a pinch of salt, then put the lid on and let it braise for about 5 minutes, stirring once or twice. Once the lettuce was softened and most of the liquid evaporated I added another nut of butter, stirred it through, and served.

For dinner, I made a smoky cauliflower thing that didn’t really come out as I was envisaging it, but was good nonetheless. I cooked a sliced onion until soft and golden, then added three minced cloves of garlic and cooked another minute. Then added a length of chorizo, chopped, one sachet of tomato paste and a shake of smoked paprika. After a couple of minutes I added half a head of cauliflower, cut into pieces, and about a cup (this was too much) of water. Put the lid on half-way and let it simmer away until the cauliflower was just tender. Seasoned with salt and pepper and stirred through some toasted pine nuts and lots of chopped flat leaf parsley. Not bad, but would have been better with a less thin sauce.

Lunches tomorrow will be leftover cauliflower plus some leek and silverbeet frittata.

Sat 22 September 2012 Deeeeeelightful day. Abbotsford Convent farmers market in the morning, where I saw the first local asparagus of the season, hurrah. Bought some of that, as well as green garlic, cime di rapa, cauliflower, kipflers, leeks, silverbeet, oranges, blood oranges and parsley. Also some fresh salmon, and a salami and chorizo from Warialda Beef.

Then to the evil Bunnings empire for mulch and some pots. I saw that they were selling Diggers Club seedlings so snatched up some silverbeet and spinach to get a head start – I’m also starting some from seed but they have hardly germinated yet. At home, I potted out the seedlings, gave the germinating seeds a good sunbathe outside on the grass, and finally cleaned out our terrifying/atmospheric/charmingly ramshackle shed so I can use it properly to store garden stuff. It’s got ivy growing all through it, and the dim interior is very liberally festooned with cobwebs hanging thick with dust. I’ve been storing potting mix, pots etc right inside the doorway so I don’t actually have to go in there, but I finally admitted that this wasn’t a sensible use of a potential resource. Ted cut all the interior ivy down, and I swept the benches and floor reasonably clean. The garden tools and so on are now much more usefully arranged.

Cooked up a set of lunches for the freezer: pinto bean, chorizo and kale stew, with quinoa and roasted slices of red and yellow capsicum.

And for dinner, orecchiette carbonara with peas and pancetta, based on this recipe. Springlike and delicious. For my own notes, for the two of us I did this: Cook 200 g orecchiette. Meanwhile, combine 1 egg, 1 egg yolk, a large handful of finely grated parmesan, salt and pepper in a large bowl; whisk just to combine. Cut 1 thin slice pancetta and 2 small rashers of back bacon into 1 cm pieces. Cook these in a large frypan for a couple of minutes, then add 1 large golden shallot, finely chopped, and the leaves of a few sprigs of thyme, and keep cooking. When the pasta is almost done, add to the frypan 1 clove of garlic, finely crushed, and a generous cup of defrosted frozen peas. Drain the pasta, then add that to the frypan as well. Stir everything together for half a minute, then remove from heat. Tip it into the bowl with the egg, and combine well. The egg will just coat the pasta in a glossy sauce. Add a small handful of chopped flat leaf parsley, a large handful of pea shoots (we used broad bean shooots as that’s all I had in the garden) and stir through. Serve with a sprinkle of extra parmesan.

Fri 21 September 2012 Tom’s last day at work. Drinks at Cinque with the lab, then a few of us went to Assaggi for dinner. Pappardelle with venison ragu.

Thurs 20 September 2012 Wasn’t hungry, no dinner.

Wed 19 September 2012 Came home from pilates and opened the front door to a delicious smell- Ted had made pasta with a tomato and pancetta sauce, and some green beans.

Tues 18 September 2012 Toasted sandwiches with gruyere, apple, spinach and mustard. Take two slices of sourdough and butter one side of each. The butter goes on the outside of the sandwich. Inside, generously spread wholegrain mustard on one slice, then layer on a fine slice of gruyere, thinly sliced crisp apple, some spinach that you have already wilted and chopped, and then a second slice of gruyere. Cover with the other piece of bread, butter side up. Place the sandwich in a frypan over moderate heat. Put a piece of greaseproof paper over the sandwich, and put your heaviest pan (I use a Le Creuset dutch oven) on top of that and press down to flatten the sandwich together. Cook with the weight on top until the bottom slice is golden brown, then flip and cook the other side. The cheese should be melting. Eat at once.

Mon 17 September 2012 A long day of segmentation faults, other analyses that failed more mysteriously, moments of horrified shuddering as I remember all the people whose emails I have failed to respond to recently, and a laughably long slate of work I hope to get done after dinner. After staring into the fridge and pettishly dismissing almost every idea for dinner that my brain provides, I finally toss together a potato and salmon thing that turns out to be totally awesome. It’s too ugly to serve to anyone but ourselves, but delicious. In the bottom of a serving bowl, mix together a large dessertspoon of creme fraiche, the juice of half a lemon, a heaped teaspoon of wholegrain mustard, a teaspoon of Dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Add in a few peeled, steamed kipflers cut into 2 cm slices, 100 g of smoked salmon torn into pieces, a dessertspoon of washed salted capers, a large handful each of chopped parsley and chopped chervil, and finally some purple sprouting broccoli that has been chopped and sauteed with garlic until wilted. Toss together and eat it all up. I am writing this five minutes after dinner. I now intend to drink a really big and theraputic margarita, and then get back to work. Fucking seg faults, I hate them.

Sun 16 September 2012 For lunch, fusilli with kale, a little pancetta, onion, garlic, toasted pine nuts and a sprinkling of finely grated parmesan. The kale was a combination of two kinds from the garden: red russian and a dwarf variety whose name I don’t remember.

Damn good dinner: grilled broccoli and green beans with rice noodles, chili oil and cashews. The recipe looks like a bit of a palaver but it comes together quickly if you have multiple pans on the go at once. We made it pretty much exactly as written, with a medium head of broccoli, as many green beans as I could hold in one fist, and about 140 g of rice noodles between the two of us. I forgot the lime juice until after we’d finished and though it was great without.

I also made lunches for the next couple of days: a crustless ricotta and greens pie, and some roast sweet potato. For the pie, slice two small onions and fry in olive oil until golden and soft. Meanwhile, wash and stem a decent-sized bunch of silverbeet. Cut the stems into small slices and add to the onion, and continue cooking until somewhat softened. Chop the silverbeet leaves, and add to the pan to cook down, along with half a dozen chopped scallions. Set aside to cool. In a large bowl, crumble a piece of fresh ricotta about as large as two fists. Add a couple of handfuls of grated parmesan, and several handfuls of chopped herbs – dill, parsley and a little thyme were what I had. Season with salt and pepper. Crack four eggs into a small bowl and whisk them lightly together. Once the silverbeet mixture has cooled down, add it to the ricotta, mix through, then add the eggs and mix again. Tip into a baking dish, smooth the top, and sprinkle with nigella seeds. Bake at 180C for about half an hour, until it is set. Remember that it will keep cooking for a while after you take it out of the oven, so don’t overcook.

Gardening today: I planted seeds of kale (red russian blue scotch and cavolo nero – not sure how these will go over summer but I want to give them a go), spinach, silverbeet, potimarron, and a second set of basil and chives.

Sat 15 September 2012 Brunch: two slices of sourdough toast, one with overlain smears of unhulled tahini and chestnut honey (excellent combination, inspired by a vague memory of this, though I forgot the cinnamon), the other with butter and the marmalade I made last week.

Thank god I didn’t eat anything else during the day, because we went to Chin Chin for dinner with Tom, Flo, and a few others from the lab, and had the banquet (a requirement if you book the one large table). After several rounds of dishes, people were starting to sigh and sit back in their seats, feeling that that would be a good place to stop. Then they brought out two more rounds of savoury dishes, followed by dessert. We all tried everything, because literally everything was excellent, but there was a general sense of waddling out the door once it was finished. It was excellent value though, and a good way to try lots of different things from the menu.

Fri 14 September 2012 Ted was out with Bill, so after drinks at Cinque I caught a lift home with Helen and Keyne, ate an apple and a slice of toast with almond butter, and went to bed.

Thurs 13 September 2012 A dinner of left-over bits and pieces: a few green beans and the last of the roast capsicum from Tuesday night, a couple of pieces of steamed kipfler from the Nicoise salads I made for lunches earlier this week, the remains of the Holy Goat La Luna cheese, and a couple of slices of the aged chorizo we are still working our way through. A small but satisfying dinner, especially after we decided to put the full stop at the end by walking up the road to Trampoline for a single scoop of fig and orange ice cream.

Weds 12 September 2012 Excellent curries! I made these last night, because I knew that Ted would be working late tonight and I had pilates. I think they probably benefitted from the overnight rest. First up a dal, made with masoor and moong dal,  cooked with turmeric and amchur powder, with a tadka of ghee, mustard seeds, cumin seeds and chili flakes. Second, a completely non-authentic but surprisingly delicious palak paneer. I started by cooking an onion and a large thumb of ginger, then added a large teaspoon each of cumin, coriander and garam masala. I prepared the greens by stemming two large bunches of spinach and three large leaves of mustard greens (these were from the garden), and chopping all the greens fairly finely with the mandoline until they were in pieces roughly a cm square. I added these to the pan and cooked about three minutes to wilt them. Then added a large dessertspoon of creme fraiche, and some cubes of paneer that I had previously pan fried in a small slick of oil until they were golden on two sides, and cooked the whole thing together a further four or five minutes. The sauce was densely green and quite thick, but tasted just as I like it. Leftovers will be lunches for the rest of the week.

Tues 11 September 2012 Fennel fritters, with side dishes of slinky soft roast capsicum sprinkled with a little aged red wine vinegar and blanched green beans. The fritters tasted great but lacked structural integrity – they were a bit soft and flabby. Not sure how to correct this. Maybe slice the fennel more thickly, or let it sit in the batter for less time? Tonight’s method: Combine 1/4 cup atta flour, 1/4 cup corn flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp baking powder, salt and pepper, 2 lightly whisked eggs, 1/4 cup soda water. Mix this batter with 1 large head of fennel sliced very finely on the mandoline, 2 large handfuls chopped parsley, 1 handful chopped dill, 1 heaped tablespoon of fennelseed lightly toasted and roughly crushed, zest of 1 lemon, 100 g crumbled feta. The batter will only just be enough to cling to the fennel. Let it sit for half an hour. The fennel will collapse substantially and there will be a little pool of batter at the bottom of the bowl. Stir the mixture, then fry spoonfuls of it in a slick of olive oil until golden brown on either side and cooked in the middle. The fritters will be thin (too thin! must work out how to improve that structure and texture).

Mon 10 September 2012 Pasta with purple sprouting broccoli from the garden. (So proud!!!! I can’t quite believe we grew broccoli ourselves.) We didn’t have orecchiette, so used fusilli, with sliced onion cooked till it was soft and sweet, garlic, anchovies, chili flakes, purple sprouting broccoli, a ladle of pasta water and a sprinkle of pecorino.

Sun 9 September 2012 An omelette with chives and chervil from the garden for brunch. Coffee from Gardiner and Field, followed by an hour of lying in the sun in the park. Went home and made citrus and thyme yoghurt cake, and a batch of Seville orange marmalade. Not terribly hungry for dinner, I ate a couple of slices of aged chorizo, a little piece of Holy Goat cheese and a handful of crispy cornichons.

Sat 8 September 2012 I got up early to plant out seedlings of borlotti beans, flageolet beans, roc d’or beans, shelling peas, radishes, sorrel and spring onions. Then in to uni to set up my new computer, while Ted packed up his office. An early dinner at Sake, with Ted, Helen and Eric, before going to a play at the Arts Centre.

Fri 7 September 2012 Dinner with some lab pals at Eurobites, for Ted’s last day in the lab (he’s moving to a new office in the city, with Paul).

Thurs 6 September 2012 Beth cooked up a Mexican feast, and some fantastic cornbread, for dinner at her and Scott’s place to farewell Tom.

Wed 5 September 2012 Chard panade, using this recipe. Deeply, deeply fantastic.

Tues 4 September 2012 Duck with star anise and ginger from Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries. It was… kind of bland, actually.

Mon 3 September 2012 Healing salad for lunch: leaves, finely sliced fennel, cold-smoked salmon and grapefruit segments, with a dressing of olive oil, grapefruit juice and wholgrain mustard. Eating that and sitting on the grass in the sun for lunch made me feel substantially better.

An evening of all the cooking I was originally planning to do on Sunday. We started off by making and eating dinner: fusilli with onion, smoked bacon, peas, a little creme fraiche, mint, parsley and parmesan.

Then made our lunch for tomorrow: a fat frittata – 6 skinny young leeks, 1 smallish bunch of silverbeet, half a bunch of nettles, half a head of fennel, 100 g feta, and 4 eggs – and some roast cauliflower. I think roasting the cauliflower for later eating was a mistake – it doens’t stay crisp for long, so it will be rather floppy by tomorrow.

I also made tomorrow’s dinner, Nigel Slater’s duck with star anise and ginger. This takes a couple of hours to prepare, so I wanted to be able to just reheat it tomorrow when we get home starving. Finally, I cooked the onions for a chard panade I’m planning for Wednesday night. My efficiency, let me show you it.

Sun 2 September 2012 Slept in, made eggs, slothed around in the garden in the sun, and finally at 3 pm went over to St Kilda to help Helen do a little bit of furniture moving. After a subsequent G&T on her back deck, we moved on to Edwige’s place for wine and further chat. Helen sensibly left at 7.30 or so, but the rest of us had more wine, gave up on the idea of making dinner, and went down to Mr Wolf for pizza… and more wine. So very, very mature for a Sunday night, with the weekly lab meeting first thing Monday morning.

Sat 1 September 2012 I went to the St Kilda markets in the morning, bought gigantic quantities of vegetables, and saw a dapperly dressed man leading a fluffy alpaca on a lead while I was walking back to the tram stop opposite Luna Park. Got home to find Ted still in pajamas, but willing to shower once brunch was mentioned. We tried the Green Goose on Station St Malvern. The veggie breakfast (toast, eggs, spinach, mushrooms, tomatoes, avocado) is great, if way larger than actually needed. Coffee good too. Some interesting options on the menu I might try next time – a breakfast with black and white pudding, and another with Serbian sausages.

Melbourne also totally came through for the first day of spring. The sky was huge and cloudlessly blue. We cracked out the deck chairs and sat in the garden reading novels and drinking margaritas in the afternoon.

For dinner, nettle risotto. This was the first time I’ve cooked with nettles and it was a bit disappointing – they didn’t have a hell of a lot of flavour.

Fri 31 August 2012 So tired. Spaghetti with tinned sardines, fennel, pine nuts and currants (with added parsley for a bit of green), and roast broccoli on the side. Then some lying on the couch with a novel.

Lunches report: we successfully avoided buying our lunches at uni all this week, hurrah. I think by today Ted was feeling a bit rebellious at the sight of the last of the lentil soup, and even I could have done with something a bit different. Still better than refec food (and cheaper and healthier and certainly involving less unhappily farmed animals), but I think the better strategy is to stock up tupperwares of various things in the freezer and also aim for leftovers a couple of days a week, so there’s more variety. I tend to manage that for a while then let the system slip – time to get back on it once again. I am super keen for the Veg Out farmers’ market tomorrow and have lots of lovely plans for good cooking next week.

Thurs 30 August 2012 Ted and Helen went to see The English Beat at the Corner Hotel in Richmond. Beforehand, we had an early dinner of tacos and margaritas at Radio Mexico with Jean and Edwige.

Wed 29 August 2012 While I was at pilates, Ted made tubettini with roast eggplant, tomatoes, onion, garlic, feta and parsley.

Tues 28 August 2012 Lentil soup. Was ravening for something junky, until I finally knuckled down between 6 and 7.30 and wrote that paper review that was due. Immediate cessation of desire for junk; instead I docilely went home and ate perfectly lovely lentil soup with great satisfaction.

Mon 27 August 2012 Spaghetti with zucchini, onion, garlic, smoked salmon, dill and lemon juice. Love zucchini cooked liked this – quartered lengthwise, finely sliced, cooked until silkily soft and sweet. Was going to add creme fraiche to the sauce but no need, the zucchini did it all.

Sun 26 August 2012 Slothed around for a bit, then walked up to Gardiner and Field for coffee. Forty minute wait for a table, so we got takeaways and went and sat in the sun in the park to drink them, while watching young Harrisons and Siennas and Madeleines run around energetically. Then, in search of amateur cookwear, we trammed into the city and at David Jones found a Le Creuset non-stick frypan to cook our frittatas in. Stopped in at Journal for late lunch afterwards: a very good dish of a piece of roast chicken with garlicky roast celeriac, rocket salad, and toasted bread to mop up the copious chickeny juices.

I wasn’t hungry for dinner, but was determined that I wouldn’t have to eat lunch at the refec this week. I cannot face another lunch of bad pasta, bad noodles, or bad sandwiches. Just not prepared to do it. So I made a few dishes that can be used for lunches or dinners this week. It was a reasonable amount of cooking but not so much hands-on time, and now I feel like I have the week’s food more or less under control. I’ve also got the ingredients for a few other possible dinners – quinoa with herbs, pine nuts and feta with roast aubergine; fennel and grapefruit salad (with something as yet undecided); pasta with smoked salmon, zucchini, dill and creme fraiche – so we should be set.

The dishes I made tonight were this Greek lentil soup, which we can have with sourdough; fasolakia (a good recipe for Greek green beans and potatoes, the closest I’ve come yet to making this taste like the dish I ate on Crete. Next time I’ll put the simmer mat under the pan, still on lowest heat, because it did end up catching very slightly); and something that I’ve been calling a tian, even though I know that’s not accurate, because ‘vegetable bake’ sounds so desperately awful. This one included an onion, garlic and a finely sliced red capsicum sauteed until the onion was dark golden and the pepper was soft; a large zucchini grated, salted and drained; two bunches of English spinach, wilted; chopped mint and scallion; 150 g feta; 4 smallish eggs; all combined, smoothed into a round baking dish, and baked at 180 for about 25 minutes until set. What is the proper name for this? An oven-baked frittata? If you do a Google image search for that, all the hits look much more eggy than what I make, which really is vegetables only just held together with egg.

Sat 25 August 2012 Tedster and I are in need of a new frittata pan (a reasonably shallow 20 cm frypan; non-stick but the kind of non-stick that isn’t going to flake scary shit into our food). We trammed down to Scullerymade, where we realised that of course non-stick pans are for amateurs and that is not who Scullerymade is designed to cater for. Still, we had a good time admiring the copper basins and jelly moulds, the parsley graters and the girolles for shaving Tete de Moine cheese into ruffles, the twelve sizes of ice cream scoops and the twenty-seven varieties of ramekins.

Thwarted, we trammed back and stopped off at Mercer Rd for brunch at Le Petit Prince. We almost passed it by, because the outdoor tables were full of High St women with caked-on makeup and men with their collars up. But I’m glad we went in. We had excellent coffee, and oeufs cocotte with smoked salmon, spinach and tomatoes, with perfectly runny egg yolks.

Then the most exciting part of the day – we set up the compost bin! Aw yeah. I also weeded the garden, and planted out the seedlings of lemon verbena, Cretan savoury, and moroccan mint I got from Green Harvest a couple of weeks ago.

Finally, for dinner: soba noodles, pan-fried tofu and steamed broccolini drizzled with Lucy’s peanut sauce. On the side, buk choy wilted with lots of chili flakes, sesame oil and a dash of tamari.

Fri 24 August 2012 Panda’s farewell dinner with the lab, at Trunk. Lots of fun chatting. Great antipasto plate to share, so-so rabbit canneloni. The piece I tried of Beth’s pizza (crushed peas, pancetta, scamorza, mint, goat cheese) was very good though.

Thurs 23 August 2012 Coming home late from work (and then a side trip to Bunnings to buy a compost bin and various other things), we stopped in at Thai Thai in Hawthorn for dinner. Grilled pork salad with red onion, mint, chili and ground rice, and a vegetable and tofu green curry. Best Thai I’ve found around our place so far (though I know that is a low standard, and I’m hanging out to try more interesting places like Tidlom Thai Antique).

Wed 22 August 2012 Pilates; no dinner, still digesting meat-fest from last night. Anyway, I was too busy planting  seeds – so exciting! I am not entirely sure where I am going to plant out all these seedlings once they appear, but I am working on the plan. I planted seeds for nine heirloom tomato varieties (we had seven last year, and grew two of each kind; this year I think I will just grow one of each), three kinds of broccoli (de Ciccho, purple sprouting, and broccoli raab), beans (flageolet, borlotti and roc d’or), peas, parsley, basil, radishes, spring onions and sorrel. I ran out of seed raising mix or I would have added the spinach and chard as well. Grow, little seeds!

Tues 21 August 2012 Came home from work and had just put my hand on the fridge handle to inspect the dinner options when Edwige called asking if we wanted to eat with them at France-Soir tonight. The answer, of course, was yes. We caught the train over (I love the public transport near our place so much) for an 8 o’clock booking, and didn’t leave till just before midnight. I knew they served andouillette there and had been contemplating trying it, but had stupidly been put off by reading things on the internet about how it smelled and tasted litererally of shit. I should of course have known that this is not typically the case! I had a leek tart and then an entree-sized serving of steak tartare, both good though the leek tart was much more melted-cheesy than I had anticipated. I had a taste of Edwige’s andouillette, and kicked myself for not ordering it. Best dish of the night though were the lambs brains, which Jean ordered. They were the perfect consistency, like a lightly set custard, and served with a caper sauce.

Mon 20 August 2012 A plate of eeeeeeeexcellent osso bucco, cooked with red wine, bay leaves, orange peel, cinnamon, star anise and pumpkin, based on this Ottolenghi recipe for oxtail. Very very good. Next time I cook osso bucco from an older animal, though, I must remember to slit the band of fat encircling the meat – it contracted and contorted the meat, which was not a problem here as I pulled it apart for the last bit of cooking anyway, but it would have been a bother if I wanted to serve it whole.

Sun 19 August 2012 Fried rice with tofu, home-made kimchi, gochujang, scallions, ginger and coriander.

Sat 18 August 2012 So glad we have Sardine as a local cafe. It is so good! Tiny space, restricted menu, but works perfectly. The staff are friendly, the coffee is fine, and the food is excellent. I am usually not that excited by eggy breakfasts (or rather, if I am going to spend money and calorific intake eating out, I would rather do so on lunch or dinner than breakfasts). But I’ve always been surprised at how much I like the breakfasts here – both the spinach and mushrooms on toast and the chipotle baked beans punched well above their weight. I really love the lunches though. I once had a slice of the tart there that made me realise why crumbly shortcrust pastry was a good thing rather than just a shell for the interesting stuff inside, and the green bean salad is also great. Today I was very tempted by the tart again, but got distracted by the sandwiches. I ended up taking a sandwich of ham with celeriac remoulade, which was really wonderful – the richness cut perfectly by mustard and capers. Very fine.

In the evening, delicious meze at Helen’s place, followed by dinner at the Dog’s Bar – a perfectly cooked piece of ox cheek with mash, near the open fireplace. Then back to hers for another drink and home-made chocolate-coated ice cream balls. Impressive!

Fri 17 August 2012 Dinner at Longrain – betel leaves, stir-fried hapuka with salted duck egg relish, salt and pepper silken tofu – all perfectly fine but who cares about food because afterwards we went to see….. David Attenborough!!!!!!  Oh yes!!!!!! It wasn’t really what I had expected, but it nonetheless turned out to be wonderful. Great anecdotes including several stories about the early days of filming the TV series and highlights of his later experiences. Towards the end there were short filmed interviews with scientists and film makers talking about how much he had inspired them. He said, after this, that in fact it was not he who had inspired them, but the animals he had filmed – his job was just not to stand too much between the camera and the animal. Too modest, I think, but also a reminder for me that yes, it is the biology that’s important and ultimately inspiring, not the biologist.

Thurs 16 August 2012 Man we are in a not-cooking rut. It was raining; we ordered takeaway from Shallot Thai. Was impressed with the online ordering system; food was fine but nothing too exciting (beef salad, vegetarian green curry).

Wed 15 August 2012 A handful of pistachios and an apple before pilates.

Tues 14 August 2012 Tortiglioni with spinach, roasted capsicum, pine nuts and lemon zest.

Mon 13 August 2012 I was feeling ill (and no doubt still processing the gigantic amount of food eaten on Sunday), so no dinner.

Sun 12 August 2012 Breakfast of soft-fried eggs (thank you Lisa for the masterful demonstration!), roast cherry tomatoes, leeks cooked with a dash of butter until soft, and sourdough toast. Jeannie and Tim came down with Oscar for lunch (a hamburger with pickles and mustard at Grilled) and a play in the park. For a late dinner, we considered going somewhere flash in the city, then finally decided to just wander round the corner to Assaggi for pasta.

Sat 11 August 2012 Ian and Lisa have their visa interview at the US embassy in Melbourne on Monday, so came down for the weekend. Picked them up from the airport in the evening, then came back to our place for good cheese (Roquefort, aged Gruyere, Epoisses), well-cured saucisson (the same one Richie once described as “necrotic cock” when he saw it – I have to recognize the justice of this appelation, but it is at least extremely tasty necrotic cock), cornichons and olives, and good wine. Then Beck’s chocolate cake, the cake we must have made 20 or 30 times over the years.

Fri 10 August 2012 Tiiiiiiiired, too tired to cook (though I didn’t think to suggest Indomie). So we went down the road to Assaggi, and I had venison with eggplant and polenta. Very good, though the serving would have been sufficient for two people. I’d rather pay half as much and get half as much on the plate. Still, I really do love it here and am glad it’s so close.

Thurs 9 August 2012 Ted got back from Brisbane late last night, hooray! Tonight, Danielle came over to our place for salmon moqueca (a Brazilian fish stew). Good, though next time I would definitely use fish stock (this time I used water), would use a bit less liquid, and would let it sit for 15 minutes before serving – the flavours had melded and improved when we took seconds.

Wed 8 August 2012 At Bar Lourinhã with Tonya, a visiting postdoc, Henry, Nichola, Alison and Andreas.

Tues 7 August 2012 I confess: dinner was a packet of Indomie Mi goreng. Ahhh, MSG and palm oil.

Mon 6 August 2012 Helen, delighful lodger extraordinaire, moved into her fantastic new place today over in St Kilda. I went over to first foot it for her, and we had a relaxing evening, with takeaway from a good Thai place around the corner.

Sun 5 August 2012 Lovely coffee, breakfast, and talk with Ruth and Bill at their place in the morning. Then recovery party at Ian and Lisa’s, including the several kilos of bacon Lisa correctly estimated would be consumed. We headed off in the late afternoon, me back to Melbourne and Ted to an early bed in Brisbane.

Sat 4 August 2012 We helped decorate the Regatta for the reception in the morning (lots of chinese lanterns strung on fishing line across the upstairs room), then dashed back to Bill and Ruth’s to change into wedding gear, and then at a more sedate pace to Ian and Lisa’s for champagne on the back deck at noon. Once everyone was there, we walked to the park for the ceremony. Lovely! Brief, but honest and direct, which is how I think of Ian and Lisa in general. I don’t think it was the champagne making my eyes misty. Thence to the Regatta for hours of snacking, drinking and chatting, and finally back to Ian and Lisa’s for more drinking and curries from a Night in India. Lisa asked me to chose 15 curries and phone in the order – aw yeah. Finally a chance to try everything on the menu I have ever been curious about (as well as the favourites we always get). I loved the way that everything about the day tied in with their daily life (or at least many of the parts of it that we shared when we still lived in Brissie). Well done you two. Also well done to Sal for organising lots of fantastic things, including going with Ted to collect Terry the tandem from I+L’s place, adorning it with a Just Married sign and tin cans tied to the rear rack, and bringing it to the Regatta for a celebratory (and helmetless) ride home for Ian and Lisa.

Fri 3 August 2012 Making a flying visit to Brisbane for Ian and Lisa’s wedding(!!!). Dinner at my parents’ house.

Thurs 2 August 2012 Toast with grilled gruyere.

Wed 1 August 2012 Left-over pasta; Ted in Brisbane.

Tues 31 July 2012 Pasta with tomato, chorizo and roast eggplant, with Luciano and the lab.

Mon 30 July 2012 We missed Turley’s farewell dinner on Saturday, so made up for it by going out with Turley and Jess for dinner tonight, to Chin Chin (finally!).  Excellent food: kingfish sashimi; corn and coriander fritters with chili jam, mint and lettuce; crispy sardines with nahm prik play yang and steamed vegetables; sour orange curry of whitebait omelette with papaya and basil flowers; and crispy skinned duck, pickled cucumber and ginger salad with sesame.

Sun 29 July 2012 A pork and fennel sausage from Gypsy Pig (bought at the Abbotsford farmers market yesterday), and a good potato and leek thing. This made much more than we needed for two people but will get eaten as part of our lunches for the next couple of days:  6 good-sized kipflers, peeled, steamed, and very roughly smashed with a fork; 6 fairly narrow leeks, trimmed, halved and sliced, then sweated with a pat of butter and a couple of dashes of vermouth or water until very soft and pillowy; a couple of good handfuls of chopped flat-leaf parsley; a heaped teaspoon each of Dijon mustard and wholegrain mustard; and a spoonful of plain yoghurt. Stir all together in a bowl and season to taste.

Also made some other things to take for lunches: Puy lentils tossed with onion, a few bits of chorizo, roast cauliflower florets and parsley; and young carrots, split in half lengthwise and roasted. And finally also a batch of roast rhubarb, tossed with the zest and juice of a couple of blood oranges and some sugar.

Sat 28 July 2012 To the Abbotsford farmers market in the morning. I stopped off at the Johnston St Milk Bar on the way back to the train, for a breakfast of rye toast with poached eggs and mushrooms.

Sal is in Melbourne for the weekend, and she came over for a couch picnic of cheese (gorgonzola picante, gruyere, Delice de Bourgogne), good bread, prosciutto, cornichons and olives. She brought citrus tarts for dessert.

Fri 27 July 2012 After Friday drinks, we went to Mr Wolf for pizza with Edwige, Jean and Turley.

Thurs 26 July 2012 Fritatta of spinach, leek, cauliflower and feta, with roast Dutch carrots.

Wed 25 July 2012 Even though Helen won’t be moving in to her new place for another ten days or so, we worked out that this will be the last night we’ll all be having dinner together before she moves (one or other of us will be away or busy every remaining night). To celebrate a lovely few weeks of lodgerdom, we went out together to PM24 and got the five-course chef’s whim menu, with matched premium wines. The standouts amongst the courses for me were the first two: a tiny bowl of exquisite pumpkin soup, and the charcuterie platter to share. All of the wines were supurb and very well chosen. A fitting end for an enjoyable month. Thank you Helen!

Tues 24 July 2012 Grilled gruyere on toast.

Mon 23 July 2012 Pea fritters with smoked salmon and creme fraiche.

Sun 22 July 2012 Day two of Gavin’s tour. After a quick detour out to the eastern suburbs to give Eric’s car a jump start, we had an early lunch at D.O.C., before going to the Melbourne Museum to see a particular megafaunal skeleton. The skeleton of this four metre long lizard used to be posed walking down some stairs, looking eerily threatening. But ALAS, it’s been moved in with the rest of the megafauna skeletons, where it’s no longer so striking. Still, I love walking under the hugeness of the brontosaurus, and the extraordinary pterodactyl with its massive wingspan and neck length and tiny tiny torso. We attempted to revive ourselves post-museum with biscuits and coffee at Brunetti, but we were all tuckered out so came home and drank wine in the back garden. Ted made us dinner of spaghetti with chorizo and tomato sauce.

Sat 21 July 2012 Gavin is in town. We met up with him for an enjoyable day of tramming around. First in to the city, for a walk around the arcades and laneways, and lunch at a cafe in one of them (not terribly memorable). Then down to the botanic gardens for a while, and then further south to split a bottle of wine at Stokehouse, sitting in the sun and watching the water. Finally we headed back to Prahran for dinner at Colonel Tan’s. Not as good as the first time we went, though the food was still quite ok. Just – not quite special.

Fri 20 July 2012 Ted and I drove up to the hills to see Lindell and Marcel for the afternoon. Back in Melbourne for dinner, we tried out Livingroom, which I’ve cycled past many times but never eaten at. Lovely – not too noisy, good food, friendly staff. The mains are huge though, so next time I will not be tempted by the entree-main combination but will stick with the much more sensible options of either double entree or just a main. I had a salad of smoked eel with potatoes, fennel and radicchio, followed by hand-rolled gnocchi with duck and mushroom ragu.

Thurs 19 July 2012 Left-over chicken stew with rice and roast carrots.

Weds 18 July 2012 Ted made this chicken, herb and orange stew while I was at pilates. Not as tasty as I’d hoped – the long cooking blandifies the herbs and citrus. Perhaps better to add them half way through cooking?

Tues 17 July 2012 Fusilli with smoked salmon, zucchini, mint, parsley, lemon zest and juice, and a dash of creme fraiche.

Mon 16 July 2012 Tacos with chipotle black beans, zucchini and steak seared on the BBQ, crumbled feta, and avocado. Helen demonstrated her excellent tortilla-rolling skills.

Sun 15 July 2012 Gardening in the morning, planting out well-progressed seedlings of kale, broad beans and a few herbs. A brief period of slothing then house-cleaning, grocery shopping, etc etc blah etc.

For dinner, a seasonally inappropriate salad of young cos, cucumber, blood orange, marinated goat cheese and pine nuts. Ted was so horrified at the idea he had toast instead.

Sat 14 July 2012 Slept in after the festival of hard liquor and chat last night. Finally arose a bit before lunch to eat toast, and bottle the latest batch of kimchi. Mmmmm, kimchi. It needs to continue to slowly ferment a bit in the fridge for another few days, then it should be ready to start in on.

Dinner at Iñaki and Begoña’s, with Edwige and Jean. Bego cooked spectacular food as always – salted cod frittata, olives, and bread and tomato to start; shots of gazpacho; pork with roasted peppers; orange syrup cake. A lovely time.

Fri 13 July 2012 Dumplings with lots of the lab, and Keyne, at Gourmet Dumpling on Glenferrie Rd. Then back to our place for sloe gin/armagnac/cognac/wine, according to taste, and futher chat.

Thurs 12 July 2012 Fusilli with roast pumpkin, marinated goat cheese, toasted pine nuts, lemon juice, mint and parsley. Side of roasted broccoli.

Weds 11 July 2012 The steak I bought at the farmers’ market came in a two-pack, so we ate the second one tonight. I made a Thai beef salad based on this recipe, together with glutinous rice and some crispy young Cos lettuce and cucumber. The salad was very good. For future reference, I’d make it more like this: Mix together 2 tablespoons of fish sauce (the one I use is deliciously rank so don’t need as much), 2-3 tablespoons of lime juice, and a heaped teaspoon of grated palm sugar; mix, taste, and add more of whatever is needed to balance the flavours. Add half a teaspoon or so of hot chili powder, 2 finely sliced red shallots, and 2 finely sliced scallions (green parts only). Sear a ~250 g steak, 2 minutes either side, rest it for a couple of minutes and then slice finely. Toss in the dressing, along with a medium bunch of coriander, roughly chopped, a couple of large handfuls of mint leaves, roughly chopped, and a couple of teaspoons of toasted rice powder. Together with the rice and greens, this gave us enough to serve 3.

Tues 10 July 2012 A densely green frittata (two leeks, two zucchini, a decent bunch of silverbeet, a few crumbled cubes of marinated feta, and three large eggs), plus cauliflower braised in tomato and cinnamon.

Mon 9 July 2012 We split a rare (in both senses of the word) steak between us, eaten with celeriac remoulade (a non-mayonnaisey version, see recipe from 11 May in last year’s eating notes) and roast brussels sprouts.

Sun 8 July 2012 For brunch, Ted and I split a cheese danish and an almond danish from Aviv in Elsternwick. Both very good, the pastry on the cheese danish excellently light and a nice level of sourness to the filling. What made my heart happy though was the queueing system – take a number as you enter the door, and then spend the couple of minutes in the queue deciding what you want to buy before your turn is called. No jostling for precedence at the counter, no stress about queue-jumping. I love good systems. They’re so relaxing.

Dinner: chicken and corn soup. I made this with home-made chicken stock, which was a big plus, but with tinned creamed corn and corn kernels, which were both pretty dire. It averaged out ok, but I would like to make something similar with all fresh ingredients and see how much better it can be. The sesame oil is an essential addition, I think.

A note about the stock: I had the carcass of a roast chicken in the freezer, and bought an additional kilo of chicken frames and a kilo of necks for a total of about $5 at the farmers’ market last weekend. Together with a few vegetables they produced several litres of stock that we packaged up into portions and froze. It’s totally worth buying the frames and necks to make delicious stock, rather than using packaged stuff because we don’t eat enough whole chickens to keep us in stock carcasses ourselves.

Sat 7 July 2012 Just as we were walking to the train station to head into town to try Hardware Societe for brunch, Edwige phoned with a suggestion that we meet for lunch at Claypots at the South Melbourne markets. Great plan. We got a table outside, and spent the next few hours gradually eating our way through small plates of oysters, sardines, clams, bruschetta of slow-cooked onions and anchovies, and I’m sure there was something else that I can no longer remember. That’s not due to the wine, even though there was a reasonable amount of it (a decent gewurtztraminer). Lots of talking, sunshine after weeks of grey skies, white wine, good food; bliss.

Quite late at night I got a little hungry, so cooked up a stew that will also provide left-overs for several lunches this week. Spiced pumpkin, zucchini and chickpea stew: Peel, halve, slice and cook two onions until soft. Add a generous thumb of ginger and 6 cloves of garlic, both finely chopped, and cook another couple of minutes. Add three heaped teaspoons of garam masala, a teaspoon each of cumin, coriander, cinnamon and chili flakes, and three cloves. Cook two minutes, then add a couple of cups of water and half a large butternut pumpkin, cut into half-inch cubes. Bring to a simmer, cook a few minutes, then add three zucchini chopped into 1 cm pieces and a tin of chickpeas, drained. Add salt to taste. Simmer 20 minutes or so until vegetables are soft – the time will depend on the size and how hard you simmer.  Add a bunch of coriander, leaves picked and chopped, just before serving. Serve with couscous tossed with toasted pine nuts and almonds, and a spoonful of plain yoghurt.

Fri 6 July 2012 Couch-flopping. Ordered pizza from Santoni in Hawthorn.

Thurs 5 July 2012 Shared a mushroom curry and a goat curry in Clayton with Henry and Ted before going to see Prometheus.

Weds 4 July 2012 Pilates; toast with marmalade.

Tues 3 July 2012 Lovely Helen made dinner for all of us. Seared lamb chops, with couscous, mushrooms, and roasted leeks.

Mon 2 July 2012 Dinner at home with Ted and Helen. Pan-fried pork and fennel sausages from the farmers’ market, with mashed potato, roast baby carrots with parsley, and roast brussels sprouts (cut into thirds lengthwise, tossed with olive oil, thyme, garlic, salt and pepper, roasted until soft inside and crispy outside, then tossed with a little balsamic before serving).

Sun 1 July 2012 Lunch: made two salads, both great. One of mixed peppery leaves, pieces of blood orange, and hot-smoked salmon. The other steamed kipflers tossed with creme fraiche, seeded mustard, parsley and lemon zest.

Dinner: an excellent fat frittata. Cooked a bunch of small leeks with garlic until soft, then combined with a large bunch of spinach that had been chopped and wilted. Mixed these vegetables together with 4 eggs and some marinated feta, then cooked in a small frypan over low heat until almost done. Finished under the grill. Ate the frittata with a bunch of baby carrots that had been peeled, halved lengthwise, and roasted with walnut oil until cooked then tossed with lots of fresh flat-leaf parsley.

Sat 30 June 2012 To the Boroondara farmers’ market this morning. Then lunch at Cooper and Milla’s on High St. Every time we walk past here I ogle their salads for ideas to make my own, but we’d never eaten there. Ted had poached eggs, and I had a plate of three salads: one of green beans, small potatoes and herbs; a second of rocket, goat cheese and pear; and the third a Persian grain salad of cracked wheat grains, brown lentils, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, parsley, pomegranate seeds and currants, with a very light dressing of yoghurt and cumin (so light I couldn’t identify the dressing by taste and had to check the label on the way out). Excellent.

Dinner: I fell asleep on the couch, jetlagged, and couldn’t bring myself to think about dinner. Ted made a mighty effort and got up to make spaghettini with tomato sauce and parmesan, without which I don’t think I would have had the energy to make it to bed.

Fri 29 June 2012 Francesca’s last day in the lab. We went for drinks at Cinque Lire, then helped her carry her last boxes to the car. Knackered, so instead of following through on my plan to make hot and sour soup at home, we tried a Chinese restaurant near our place for the first time. Their hot and sour soup was nothing to write home about. No dried mushrooms, lily buds, or other expected ingredients; instead it contained weird shit like peas. Eh.

Thurs 28 June 2012 Got off the plane this evening after three weeks in Europe. I was on  Ile d’Oleron for a conference, then visited my sister in Paris, Marie and Laurent in Lyon, back to Paris, then to Dublin for a few days in my old lab and finally the SMBE conference. Lots of fun, despite the extremely bad cold I got in Dublin that left me without much of a voice for several days and made me often go to bed early rather than taking the opportunity to go out drinking with my lovely friends in the city best suited for doing so.

Fri 25 May 2012 I have got to stop working so late that I push on through the blood-sugar crash and into the enraged zombie state that lies on the other side. Yes, it’s good that those genome edits I made between 6 and 8 tonight got done; no, it probably wasn’t worth the no-doubt-incipient stomach ulcer. As we drove home I was feeling that nothing could ever make me happy again, and then, thank god, I thought about kimchi. A soothing awareness of the possibility of contentment flooded through me and I suggested to Ted that we try the Korean restaurant down the road from us, Soora. We ordered the kimchi casserole, and as soon as I saw it I felt that the world was a decent place again. Delicious broth, dumplings, meat, kimchi, beans, sweet potato noodles, and various other things, simmering away on a gas hob on the table beside us. Lovely service too. Humanity is redeemed.

Thurs 24 May 2012 Determined to cook all of the oldish vegetables in the fridge and have some decent left-overs to take to work for lunch tomorrow. A random mish-mash that actually totally worked: roast pumpkin and eggplant; a stew of sliced capsicums, slow-cooked onions, a little tomato puree, chickpeas and smoked paprika; red and white quinoa; yoghurt with garlic and lemon.

Wed 23 May 2012 With a mighty effort, I broke the streak of cheese-and-bread before pilates. Despite getting home only 25 minutes before I had to leave again, we had spaghettini with creme fraiche, finely chopped preserved lemon, lemon juice, toasted pine nuts, parmesan and abundant parsley. Very good combination.

Tues 22 May 2012 Pasta with slow-cooked onions and cabbage, fennel seed, pancetta and the last skerricks of washed-rind cheese.

Mon 21 May 2012 Worked very late and massively overshot all mental and physical resources. Was having a minor breakdown in the car home about what we were going to make for dinner, until Ted fortunately thought to suggest pasta e ceci. Easy, moderately wholesome, done.

Sun 20 May 2012 Yum cha at Sharkfin with Yi and lots of other lab people. Then dinner at The Horn african cafe with Francesca and Keyne.

Sat 19 May 2012 Pasta with eggplant, tomato, and a spoonful of creme fraiche.

Fri 18 May 2012 Dinner at Nights of Kabul in Oakleigh with Edwige, Jean, Henry, Linda, Marion and Manu. The eggplant, kabuli palau, kitcheree kroot and spinach were the standouts from a universally good meal.

Thurs 17 May 2012 Yasai udon at Chadstone, before seeing the Avengers.

Weds 16 May 2012 Ummm, the second week in a row of bread, cheese and wine before pilates. There could be healthier habits, but few dinners so rapidly prepared. This week, bushranger’s gold (a washed rind) and grandmother’s blue, from the Red Hill cheese shop.

Tues 15 May 2012 We split a fillet of smoked mackerel, with kipflers, green beans and a sort-of sauce gribiche (More like the first recipe here, but with lemon zest/juice rather than vinegar, and less oil).

Mon 14 May 2012 Left-over cauliflower soup. Much, much better than the night it was made. I wonder what the chemical process is that makes that happen?

Sun 13 May 2012 This red lentil and lime soup from a Dana Treat recipe. Really good!

Sat 12 May 2012 Brunch at Cavallero with Brian and Ivan, lovely. Then cauliflower soup for dinner.

Thurs 10 2012 Roti plate at My Restaurant in Prahran with Jean and Edwige. Very good curries and roti, especially for ~$10.

Weds 9 May 2012 A very small piece each of roquefort and gruyere with bread. If we had any vegetables in the house (or I weren’t going to pilates in 10 minutes) it would have been a salad. The last few days have been exceptionally enjoyable but the body needs a rest.

Tues 8 May 2012 Last hurrah with Matt and Leonie, at Bistro Thierry, as recommended (and booked for us) by Tony Hancy. Scallops with pea bisque and an emulsion I can’t quite remember – very good, though it could have been even better if the scallops were slightly less cooked inside. Then lambs brains in jamon with a very reduced and strongly flavoured onion jus. The texture of the brains was perfect, like a firm mousse, but their flavour was rather lost amongst the jamon and jus. Ted had saltbush lamb rack with pommes Anna, and that was really superb.

Mon 7 May 2012 Leonie had succeeded in arranging for us to have a tasting at Prancing Horse winery, even though it is officially only open the first weekend of the month. So glad that she did. The tasting was supposed to be of six wines and take about an hour and a half; in fact we ended up tasting about 15 wines over three extremely enjoyable hours. They make chardonnay and pinot noir, here and in France, and the wines are much more French than Australian in style. We bought some rather expensive (but worth it) French pinot noir, made tipsy requests to come back for the vendange, and rolled up the hill to the Red Hill bakery for rabbit pies. Then coffee. Then another wine tasting at Tuck’s Ridge. Leonie drove us back to Melbourne, we all had a short Nana nap, then to Movida for a small dinner. Not quite as good as the previous time I went, alas – anchovies with tomato sorbet still excellent, smoked mackerel with pine nut gazpacho sorbet truly incredible, but everything else either just fine (salt cod fritters, grilled veal tongue with green pepper soffrito) or really not that great (a strangely firm and stodgy duck liver parfait, and an almost tasteless nettle and prawn tortilla).

Sun 6 May 2012 To the Mornington Peninsula with Matt and Leonie. A quick stop for a tasting at a not terribly exciting winery near Frankston, then pizzas and beer tasting at the Mornington Peninsula brewery. Onwards after that to the wonderful Red Hill Cheese, where we had two successive tasting plates, containing 16 cheeses in all. Only tiny bites of each one, mind. Between us we bought several pieces of cheese to take with us, including the Bushranger washed rind and the Granny’s blue, which between them were to fill the car with intense cheese fug for the next two days. Then to Hurley vineyard, where they make just three kinds of pinot noir. The 2009 vintage was very good, especially considering the conditions during the season, but Tricia brought out a bottle of the 2010 Garamond while we were there. It hasn’t been released yet, but it is going be spectacular. We’ve pre-ordered half a case each already. We stayed the night at the Whitehall Guesthouse in Sorrento. We were the only ones there, so had the huge building to ourselves to wander – though we spent most of the time in the lounge in front of the huge fireplace. Very friendly staff, and only a short walk from the ocean beach, highly recommended.

Sat 5 May 2012 Matt and Leonie arrived to stay with us for a few days. I made venison stew, which was almost an excellent dish. I browned about 700 g of venison oyster blade cut into 5 cm pieces, over high heat, set them aside. Cooked two quartered, sliced onions till soft and golden, added 4 carrots cut into 2 cm pieces, some cubed pancetta, and chopped garlic, cooked another 5 minutes. Generous tablespoon of tomato paste, cooked 2 minutes. Large dash of gin (in lieu of juniper berries), half a bottle of red wine, two bay leaves, springs of thyme, 1 cup of beef broth (from the lot I made a couple of weeks ago and froze in portions) and the venison. Then into the oven at ~150C for 90 minutes. Then added about 4 handfuls of swiss brown mushrooms that had been quartered and sauteed until quite deep brown, and returned to the oven for another 30 minutes. Had it been eaten at this point, it would have been great. BUT I made it early, so just turned the oven off and left it there for a couple of hours until Matt and Leonie arrived and we were ready for dinner. Those of you paying attention may be wondering about the effects of the residual heat. And well you should. It continued to cook gently for quite a while, I think, so by the time we ate it the sauce was greatly reduced, some of the meat was falling apart, and other bits were starting to get a bit dark and crispy. That sounds like it could be ok, but in fact it was not good. Totally edible, but nothing like as delicious as it was when it was at its peak. Oh well! It was still ok, and I will remember for next time. Eaten with mash of potato and celeriac, followed by a mixed leaf and fennel salad.

Fri 4 May 2012 Dumplings at Gourmet Dumpling Restaurant, with Helen, Petrina, Edwige, Jean, Henry and Eric.

Thurs 3 May 2012 Driving home from work we hit a traffic jam on the Princes highway, so inched our way to the first turnoff and then detoured via Oakleigh for dinner at Eurobites while we waited for the traffic to clear. We shared three specials: slow-cooked goat with risoni, feta and oregano (very good), pastitsio, and xorta.

Weds 2 May 2012 Home from Mt Buller. Pasta with collected bit of various vegetables from the fridge for dinner.

Tues 1 May 2012 Second night of the lab retreat. Jean and Edwige cooked ratatouille and potatoes dauphinoise.

Mon 30 April 2012 First night of the lab retreat at Mt Buller. I and many helpers cooked chicken thighs baked with herbs, couscous with orange/currants/pine nuts/dried figs/herbs, and a salad of green beans, snow peas, peas and spinach. For my future reference: I used skinless chicken thigh fillets, cut into two pieces across the thinnest place, giving a large and a small piece from each fillet. These were tossed briefly in this chermoula mixture, then placed into baking trays and cooked at 180 C. The small pieces take 15 minutes and the large 25 minutes, to be just cooked but still very moist. Or at least, they take that long in my oven when there are only a few pieces in the oven. In the big oven at Mt Buller, crammed with many serves of chicken, it took about 40 minutes for the large pieces – even though the oven thermometer I’d taken up with me said that the oven was at 180. A useful lesson!

Sun 29 April 2012 Freaking out about what to cook for the lab retreat tomorrow (dinner for 20+ people in an unknown kitchen – a little stressful even though the people are lovely friends). I was going to make fish with Inaki, to his recipe, but he can’t come, and I whenever I cook fish it is always full of stab wounds by the time it is served, as I test it for doneness over and over again in an attempt not to overcook it. In the end, my nervousness, combined with the poor fish selection left at the Queen Vic markets by the time I finally get there, convince me to make chicken instead. I spend the whole evening calibrating exactly how long it takes to cook this kind of chicken, whipping out a new sample from the oven every four minutes or so to test if it is done. After this comprehensive (paranoid) experimentation and testing I think I may never want to eat chicken again.

Sat 28 April 2012 No breakfast or dinner, only lunch: at Red Spice Road. Very good! Betel leaves, then pork belly with chili caramel, black vinegar, cabbage and mint salad, and (my favourite) a sharp fresh salad of kingfish, asian celery, green tomato, coriander, green chili and lime.

Fri 27 April 2012 Birthday dumplings with the lab at Ping’s Kitchen. Good company, good dumplings, stupendous price ($11 per person for approximately one million dumplings and other dishes).

Thurs 26 April 2012 Fried rice made with the last of the home-made kimchi, tofu, celery, ginger, and dashes of fish sauce, soy sauce and sesame oil.

Weds 25 April 2012 Anzac day holiday, cold and rainy. Lunch: pasta e ceci. Dinner: thai green curry with eggplants, tofu and green beans.

Tues 24 April 2012 The day before a public holiday feels like a Friday; therefore we went for drinks at Cinque Lire; therefore we ended up going out for dinner with Jean and Edwige rather than going home to cook. I am not complaining about this pattern! We went to Almazett, as Ted and I remembered it as being fantastic when Dave and Louise took us there over a decade ago and it is only 5 minutes on the tram from our place. Spectacularly good! We ordered a bunch of smallish things to share, and they were brought out gradually, over the course of almost an hour or so, which was perfect. Baba ganooj, makaneek, loubia bi zeit, stuffed cabbage rolls, kibbi bi lahem and shish tawook. We still had room for dessert. The others all took baklava, which was great – crispy, light, not too drenched. I had mahalabieh, a blancmange flavoured with mastic, with pistachios and orange blossom water. A perfect end.

Mon 23 April 2012 Puy lentils with slow-cooked onions, roast tomatoes, braised greens, venison sausages.

Sun 22 April 2012 We drove up to the Yarra Valley with Inaki and Bego for the day. Drinks at Yering Station, then lunch at Innocent Bystander in Healesville, and a final stop at Chandon on the way home. The red and gold autumn leaves were swirling around the car as we drove along the back roads.

Sat 21 April 2012 Spectacular start to the weekend, with Danielle’s PhD-celebrating morning picnic, in the botanic gardens by the lake. When we arrived the city was still shrouded with fog, and walking into the gardens felt like stepping into a silent green parallel world where traffic noise was replaced by birds. The almost eerie early-morning-look was made more intense by the pale green weed covering the lake, cut only by ducks and a couple of black swans. The sun came out in force half-way through, so I was glad of the parasol collection Danielle had brought for the occasion.

Afterwards, we trammed over to Balaclava and met Edwige for drinks and a late lunch at the Carlisle. The gnocchi special and a couple of glasses of wine out on the terrace, combined with good conversation – this day has been really pretty perfect.

Fri 20 April 2012 After drinks at Cinque, we went to Nicosia for Turkish with Ed, Jean, Henry, Linda, Helen, Turley and Jess.

Thurs 19 April 2012 Danielle had her PhD graduation today, and invited us, along with her mum and her supervisors, to dinner. Invited in the European sense – thank you Dr D! It was at Takumi, and was delicious.

Wed 18 April 2012 Casarecce with roasted buttermilk ricotta, roast backyard tomatoes, fried eggplant and basil.

Tues 17 April 2012 We went to see Dave Gorman at the Forum with Helen, Beth, Scott, Bron, Enrica and her husband. Dinner at Izakaya Den afterwards. Absolute stand-outs: tuna tataki, grilled kingfish head, a couple of varieties of sashimi, ox tongue with spring onion, baramundi cooked in a leaf with coconut milk(?), and liver parfait. The meal was not quite so meat-heavy as this list makes it sound, honestly. Salads/vegetables were good, I just can’t recall them in sufficient detail to

Mon 16 April 2012 Utter sloth: pasta with garlic, olive oil, chili, parsley.

Sun 15 April 2012 Lunch with my parents at China Kitchen (so good, I really love it there) – fish in chili oil, spicy sour potato, and green beans with pork mince. Then to the airport and home.

Sat 14 April 2012 Brunch at the only-just newly re-opened Regatta. Then Ian and Lisa and I cycled to West End (while Ted took the ferry) for bloody marys  and chips. Cycled back to Ian and Lisa’s place a couple of hours later to get ready for the Chaddo clearance party in the evening. Lovely, lovely time, right up until we left at 2 am and I realised that this was goodbye to Charly and Rich for quite a long time. Nothing better than stumbling into a late-night cab while quietly snivelling.

Fri 13 April 2012 Dinner at A Night in India (ah nostalgia) with Nico and Frieda.

Thurs 12 April 2012 Charly and Rich are leaving Brisbane for a year or so of travelling, so we flew up to see them for a last time at the Chaddo. Wine and cheese and talk at their place tonight.

Weds 11 April 2012 Puy lentils, a little chorizo, roast capsicum.

Tues 1o April 2012 Not hungry, no dinner.

Mon 9 April 2012 We ate so well last night, we hardly ate at all today until dinner time. I had a little bowl of rhubarb and yoghurt for breakfast, and at lunchtime we wandered around in search of coffee until we found an open cafe and ended up at Phillipa’s again. Ted had a friand and I had a slice of Catalan cake (flavoured with lemon and fennelseed). We finally started getting hungry around 7, and made potato and chorizo tortilla, and chard with currants, pine nuts and red wine vinegar.

I also finished off the beef stock procedure. When I took the bowl out of the fridge, it was covered with a thick layer of solidified fat. I scraped this off to reveal the totally jellified stock underneath. After shaking the bowl and watching the jelly shake a few times for the shock/entertainment value, I plopped it into a saucepan to reliquify it. Once it was liquid again, I skimmed off the last couple of pieces of fat, then strained it through a sieve lined with a linen handkerchief to catch grit. Returned the strained liquid to the cleaned saucepan and simmered for half an hour to reduce down a bit. Finally, packed it into jars to go in the freezer for later use.

Sun 8 April 2012 Pasta with onion, garlic, anchovies and broccoli for lunch.

Then I tackled the soup bones I bought at the market yesterday to start making beef stock. I roasted the bones with onions and carrots for about an hour, then put the bones in the stockpot, covered with water, added peppercorns and bayleaves, and simmered for 3 hours. Added the onions and carrots and some celery, and simmered a further three hours. Strained the liquid into a bowl and put it in the fridge overnight.

We went to Iñaki and Begoña’s for dinner, and had a fantastic meal. Tasty antipasto, then a spectacularly good fish dish (snapper baked with onions, fennel, ginger, coriander, olive oil and soy sauce – so good), with roasted potatoes and salad. Then a cake that Bego was far, far too apologetic for!! It was all delicious. Such a lovely evening of good food, good company, and lots of baby-holding.

Sat 7 April 2012 Trammed over to Veg Out at St Kilda in the morning: I bought a huge bag of stock bones and some osso buco from Warialda beef; a couple of pieces of venison; rhubarb; probably the very last of this season’s Cox’s orange pippin apples; ruby chard, parsley, two bunches of incredibly slender leeks, a bunch of fat hen, pumpkin, hazelnuts; and!! … two trays of pine mushrooms!!! Very exciting!

Lunch: a hot cross bun from Phillipa’s, eaten in the park around the corner from our house, where we were lying on the grass reading and soaking up the sun.

Dinner: casarecce with the pine mushrooms sauteed with a couple of finely chopped golden shallots and a couple of cloves of garlic, with some Holy Goat fromage frais, parmesan and parsley. I have to admit that this was not as great as I was hoping.

Fri 6 April 2012 Lunch: frittata of rainbow chard, feta, and tomatoes from the garden; a small head of cauliflower sliced, tossed with olive oil, sea salt and pepper, and roasted; eggplant kasundi.

Dinner: spaghettini with pancetta, cabbage, parsley, parmesan, and toasted pine nuts.

Thurs 5 April 2012 Dinner with Eric, Edwige and Jean at Eurobites. The waiter dissuaded me from ordering the vegetarian meze plate as a main because it was “a lot for one person”, but delivered ludicrously gigantic plates of lamb to our table without a murmur of protest. Conversation was wide-ranging but finally settled on a discussion of the origins of  obscenities in various languges and teaching Edwige new variations thereof in English.

Weds 4 April 2012 Two slices of left-over pizza, cold from the fridge, before pilates.

Tues 3 April 2012 Despite a fridge full of excellent produce from the market on the weekend, I appear to be a hotbed of raging hormones and my desires for dinner were encapsulated as “carbohydrates with fat on them”. Hence, pizza from Assaggi, probably the least revolting reification of that desire that could still satisfy it.

Mon 2 April 2012 Penne with a sauce of slow-cooked onions, garlic, anchovies, chopped then roasted ripe roma tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, crumbled feta (I forgot we were out of ricotta salata) and fresh mint.

Sun 1 April 2012 Huge day of enjoyable cooking to get lunches etc set up for the week. Started out before breakfast, with roasted rhubarb with lime and cointreau. Then breakfast of eggs baked in nests of roasted garden tomatoes and left-over spinach.

Lunch: inspired by this recipe for gratin of potimarron, I made a similar thing by mixing 1 kg peeled, chopped and steamed Kent pumpkin, 2 large zucchini grated, 500 g fresh ricotta, a chunk of smoked cheese, a bunch of finely chopped parsley, nutmeg, salt and pepper, and baking at 180 for 45 minutes. It was ok – I think it would be improved by using a sharper cheese, and maybe adding in some small pasta. As it was, it had the texture of – well, not quite baby food, maybe more like toddler food. Leftovers packed up for lunches with steamed broccoli.

After lunch: made this kasundi, to have with frittatas etc in the future. Tastes great – I cut down the sugar by about a third and then added in a couple of extra spoonfuls near the end to get it tasting right.

And for dinner: slow-cooked leg of goat. It was a little too long to fit into our dutch oven, so Ted managed to hack it into two pieces with one of our cleavers. Not sure that the blade on the cleaver will ever be the same after getting through that bone. Cooked it in fairly standard way – base of onions, celery and carrot, then tin of tomatoes, bottle of red ale, bit of stock, cook for 2.5 hours, add chopped mushrooms and cavolo nero, cook another 30 minutes. I’m coming to think that maybe it’s better to keep the latter vegetables on the side – it sauce was quite perfectly flavoured before their addition, and afterwards a bit muddy. The mushrooms also stayed a bit flabby – they would have been better fried or roasted. Still, OK, and eaten with some great bread from Thomas Dux. Large volumes of leftovers that I will have to work out how to perk up a little for lunches.

Sat 31 March 2012 Went to the Boroondara farmers market, and carried off a good vegetable haul: kale, cavolo nero, rainbow chard, spinach, parsley, cauliflower, broccoli, kohlrabi, young celery. Four kinds of apples: Cox’s orange pippins, akane, belle de Boskoop (which I originally read as Belle de Bookshop, much more charming), and someone-or-other’s late variety. Local chestnuts and pistachios, both superb. A couple of astringent persimmons, which I hope will finish ripening on the sunny windowsill in the kitchen, and a fat bunch of rhubarb.

We sat in the back courtyard at Blac in Hawthorn afterwards for brunch, and I had the excellent special: young pea and haloumi savoury pikelets, with creme fraiche, smoked salmon and poached eggs.

For dinner: spinach cooked with garlic, a couple of anchovies, currants and chili flakes; roast cherry tomatoes; toasted sourdough; blue cheese.

Fri 30 March 2012 Korean in Clayton with Henry, Linda, Edwige, Jean, Nichola, Janine and Turley.

Thurs 29 March 2012 Toast with marmelade, and a pot of tea.

Wed 28 March 2012 The second half of Monday’s celeriac soup. This time with mushrooms (finely chopped and fried till they were deep golden brown), a drizzle of walnut oil, and chives. Great – better than on Monday. The walnut oil works really well.

Tues 27 March 2012 Corn, zucchini and besan flour fritters, with roast tomatoes and snow peas from the garden.

Mon 26 March 2012 I was inspired by this photo and dinner description of Shari’s, in particular the celeriac soup with blue cheese and sauteed apples. I didn’t have any more information than that, but this is how I imagined and then made it: Cook a chopped onion in olive oil until soft and translucent. Peel and chop two medium potatoes and one medium-large celeriac. Add the potato and celeriac to the saucepan, together with just enough weak stock to cover. Bring to a simmer and cook until soft. Puree in a blender until smooth. Taste for seasoning, and add extra water or stock to thin slightly if needed. Peel and core 2 large granny smith apples and cut into slices about 2 mm thick. Saute in butter until golden and soft. Spoon the soup into bowls, top with a portion of the apples, and sprinkle with crumbled blue cheese and finely chopped chives. Serves 4 as a main meal or 6 as entree. I liked this a lot. Ted was less convinced, but he is not a huge celeriac fan.

We have left-overs of the soup (I only made enough apple for tonight). I’m thinking it could also taste good with sauteed mushrooms and a drizzle of nut oil, rather than the apple combo. Maybe I will try that later this week.

Sun 25 March 2012 Bread, goat cheese and roast peppers for lunch. For dinner, aubergine and potato roasted with sherry vinegar and smoked paprika, tossed with parsley, with a merguez sausage.

Sat 24 March 2012 Extremely cross about still being disease-ridden. Partly because my nose is rubbed raw and I breathe like Darth Vader, but most frustratingly because I really wanted to go to the Slow Food markets at Abbotsford Convent this morning but (a) I didn’t have the energy and (b) that would be epidemiologically immoral.

Breakfast cheered me up very slightly: we harvested our tomatoes to make baked eggs and tomatoes with sourdough and chevre. After lying around reading in the morning, with blankets and the central heating on, we ate a small bowl of left-over minestrone for lunch (as ever, much better the following day). When the sun came out in the afternoon, we sat at the garden table and played cards. It was a really superlatively pleasant day, despite my cold.

Dinner: slow-cooked lamb shoulder stuffed with currants, pine nuts, rosemary and garlic, using this recipe. T’was ok (and smelled delicious all afternoon while it was cooking), but I think I do prefer slow-cooking with more liquid to keep things really moist. We were supposed to have it with buttered parsnips and braised kale, but I was transfixed with dismay in front of the ABC website looking at the Queensland election results (oh! my! god!) and let the kale burn beyond repair, so it was a rather monochromatic dinner.

Fri 23 March 2012 Sick at home, I made pasta e ceci for lunch. In my current state, I can imagine wanting to eat nothing but this, meal after restoring meal, for the rest of my life.

Dinner: minestrone, based on this recipe, rather than the more tomato-y version I usually make. This one was let down by the poor stock I used. I should get onto turning the couple of roast chicken carcasses in my freezer into stock, and am also thinking about trying (for the first time) to make beef stock.

Thurs 22 March 2012 Paul came over for dinner. I’d caught an express cold – sniffly at 8 am, earache and sore throat at 2 pm, kill-me-I-want-to-die by 7 – and so rudely bailed and went to bed, where I slept for 12 hours, waking regularly to cough and mop my nose. I was sorry to miss talking to Paul but glad to have reduced the chance of passing this revolting bug onto him.

Weds 21 March 2012 Ted met me after pilates and we went to Hoi An, across the road, for vermicelli salad with grilled pork. Alas it was pretty bland and devoid of herbs. After we went home I made dal with roast eggplant to take for lunches for the rest of the week.

Tues 20 March 2012 Most storecupboardy of storecupboard pastas: spaghettini with frozen peas, wilty bits of parsley, the last scraping of creme fraiche, lemon zest and juice, finely grated parmesan.

Mon 19 March 2012 Dinner sitting outside at Carlisle in Balaclava with Jean and Edwige, after we realised we were all leaving work late, and the weather was good and should be taken advantage of. Drank some delicious Italian sangiovese; Ted and I shared a charcuterie plate, followed by orecchiette with rabbit agrodolce for me.

Sun 18 March 2012 Brown rice fried up with kimchi, tofu, shitakes, ginger, scallions, gochujang, and a dash each of soy sauce, fish sauce and sesame oil.

Sat 17 March 2012 Lunch: frittata of swiss brown mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, parsley and fresh ricotta.

Dinner: Mamasita! With Helen and Francesca before going to a film from the French film festival. We arrived at about 4.45 to find a huge queue already, and I think we were amongst the last people to get a seat once they opened at 5. We ate quite a lot. Shared two kinds of tostaditas: blackbean/sweetcorn/jalapeno/queso fresco (excellent) and chicken/avocado/chipotle mayo/queso fresco (ok, less tasty than the black bean ones). Three quesadillas: queso fresco, queso criollo, jalapeño & jalapeño salsa (fine, if unexciting), chargrilled chicken, coriander, queso criollo, pico verde & queso fresco (kind of…. moist and not much flavour), and refried blackbeans, queso criollo, pico rojo & chipotle mojo (really good, both the quesadilla itself and the fantastic smoky mojo). The real standouts, however, were a couple of the tacos. Ted and I shared three. The huitlacoche one was sadly not what I was hoping for – it tasted of avocado and zucchini, mostly. But the meat ones, oh wow. One with grilled black pudding, jalapeno herb mayo and apple, rich and dark tasting. The other braised ox tongue and cheek, pickled veg and ghost chili mayo, superb. The ghost chili was hot but very fruity, and the rich tongue/cheek and pickled veg played off one another perfectly. If I go back, I think I will just stick to the tacos. And perhaps try the carnitas and the venison tostaditas.

Fri 16 March 2012 Walked down to Assaggi. Ted had the home-made pappardelle with duck and chiodini, I had rabbit legs stuffed with capsicum, capers, anchovies and herbs with polenta.

Thurs 15 March 2012 Ed came home with us while Jean had a chinese lesson at uni after work. We sat in the garden with a glass of wine, then moved inside at dusk when it started to rain. Shared a rummaged-up dinner of good bread, goat cheese, chestnut honey and sliced apple.

Weds 14 March 2012 Putting the lie to my claims of the arrival of autumn from the weekend, it was 30 degrees this afternoon. We seized the good weather and had a BBQ at our place with Edwige, Jean, Helen and Eric. Started with two kinds of crostini: goat cheese with capers and roast peppers, and ricotta with fresh figs, prosciutto and fig vincotto. Then barbequed some chicken thighs and merguez sausages, with a salad of pink fir apple potatoes (dressed with olive oil, white wine vinegar, dijon mustard, seed mustard, parsley and mint) and another salad of rocket, roast cherry tomatoes, and finely sliced swiss brown mushrooms. Edwige brought a strawberry and hazelnut tart for dessert. We sat outside till midnight or so, not at all cold.

Tues 13 March 2012 Left-over osso buco (with tubetti and broccoli) – and there is more than enough left over for lunches tomorrow, too. They were some huge slices of meat.

Mon 12 March 2012 What happens when we work late, come home tired and cross, and just want to lie on the couch? That’s right, we end up eating toast for dinner at 10.30 pm. Don’t do this, kids. Leave work at a reasonable time. Have a life.

Sun 11 March 2012 Lunch: spaghettini with left-over leeks and tomatoes, pine nuts, fresh thyme, and lots of freshly-made pangrattato.

Dinner: osso buco.

Sat 10 March 2012 Lunch: leeks, tomatoes and bread. Baby leeks braised in white wine and stock, cooked till soft then topped with pangrattato (sourdough breadcrumbs whizzed up in the blender with a couple of anchovies, the zest of a lemon, a good handful of thyme leaves and a clove of garlic) and baked another 10 minutes or so until the breadcrumbs were crispy. Very ripe roma tomatoes sliced into three (two cheeks and a centre slice), laid in a roasting dish, sprinkled with olive oil, sherry vinegar and sea salt, and roasted till soft, concentrated but still juicy. And a slice of sourdough to mop everything up.

Dinner: Yves-Marie is down from Brisbane, staying with Edwige and Jean. We met them, Nichola, Rene, Yi and Nick at the Black Cat on Brunswick St for a couple of drinks, then crossed the road for dinner at Madam Sousou. I had a charcuterie plate shared with Nichola (excellent terrine and chicken liver parfait, so-so rillettes), then moules frites.

Fri 9 March 2012 Got home from uni then jumped on the tram to Chapel St to see what looked good for dinner. We ended up at Colonel Tan’s. Good thing I had never seen the website before going, because the schtick sounds so unappealing, but I really enjoyed it. Dim lighting, lots of couches, good music, amusingly bearded but highly socially skilled and pleasant bartenders who made excellent wine recommendations (we each had a glass of gruner veltliner and another of pinot gris), and, most importantly, great food. Mushroom and tofu spring rolls that were long cigars of intense flavour – I actually started to wonder whether they were perhaps dusted with msg spice dust or something, they hit all those pleasure centres. Then stir fried morning glory with fermented tofu, and pork belly with red curry, peppercorns and kaffir lime leaves. Mmm, both perfecto. A great night.

Thurs 8 March 2012 Spaghettini with roasted cherry tomatoes, buttermilk ricotta and fresh basil.

Weds 7 March 2012 Sourdough toast with cherry jam before pilates.

Tues 6 March 2012 Randomish dinner of leftover puy lentils, fried haloumi, and a salad of shredded red cabbage, julienned target beetroot (white and pink stripe variety), julienned apple, lots of parsley, and pepitas with a dressing of dijon and seed mustard, apple cider vinegar and olive oil.

Mon 5 March 2012 So tired all day. Left work at 6 under a blue sky and decided to drive to Beaumaris and find somewhere to eat dinner overlooking the sea. Turns out there’s a greenbelt of tall coastal vegetation between the shops and the sea all along the coast road there, so we got a decent takeaway pizza from Vincent’s and walked with it to a cliff-top bench where we could watch the water and the lovely pre-sunset light over the curving shore of the bay while we ate. There were a dozen or so of some kind of largish black animal bobbing about in the waves in the middle of the bay all the while we were there – I couldn’t see them well enough to work out whether they were seals or very large birds.

Sun 4 March 2012 Puy lentils with slow-cooked onions, carrots, wilted spinach, parsley and a dressing of white wine vinegar and seed mustard, with some white pudding sliced and fried then crumbled through the lentils. The pudding was lovely, chunky and herby, bought from the Pacdon Park stall at the farmers’ market yesterday.

Sat 3 March 2012 Got up reasonably early and made it to the Veg Out markets at St Kilda. It was cool and drizzling, so they were not too busy. A lovely autumnal feel, despite a couple of stalls selling the last of the season’s heirloom tomatoes. This market is only on once a month, and I don’t make it every time, so I bought about two months’s worth of meat for us, from various producers: a leg of goat, a kilo of diced goat, a leg of lamb, three large pieces of osso buco, and a white pudding. Most to go in the freezer, and get brought out for slow cooking on weekends at home. Also vegetables, mostly wintery to suit the weather: cavolo nero, field mushrooms, kohl rabi, beetroot, pink fir apple potatoes, royal blue potatoes, leeks, and some very crispy, juicy red apples.

We’d been intending to go to an outdoor concert with Helen at the zoo this evening, but since it’s been raining all day (and most of the previous several days) we thought it was likely to be a unenjoyable mudbath. So Helen came over for dinner. Started with the last heels of some good Holy Goat cheese and a spanish blue, while we waited for the slow-cooked stew of goat, red ale, mushrooms and kale to finish cooking. Ate that with some mashed potato. Then after a bit of couch-sitting and digestion, fig and hazelnut cake. The cake was great – the fig/hazelnut/brandy flavour combination is perfect. The recent rain has been too much for the figs – the ripe ones are starting to split on the tree – and the cooking concentrated and improved their flavour.

Fri 2 March 2012 Luciano’s last night in town. Drinks with him and Rafaelo at Cinque Lire, then we, they, Ed and Jean, Inaki, Henry and Eric went to Wabi Sabi in St Kilda for dinner. Excellent, delectable sashimi, agedashi tofu, and the trio of green tea, black sesame and red bean ice-creams were the culinary highlights of a long evening of good food, lots of wine, and lots of talk.

Thurs 1 March 2012 Working late, then in no mood to cook. So we went home via Glen Waverley, and ate at the Grand Tofu. A not-terribly-good laksa – not enough variety in the ingredients, almost no vegetables, etc etc blah blah.

Weds 29 February 2012 Leap day. Two slices of toasted rye bread with avocado, pepper and smoked sea salt, before pilates.

Tues 28 February 2012 A couple of glasses of excellent 2004 cab sav, then some cold left-over fried tofu straight from the fridge at 10 pm because we couldn’t decide if we really needed food or not. All class, the Woolfit/Phelps household, ALL CLASS.

 

Mon 27 February 2012 Fried brown rice with tofu, home-made kimchi, scallions, shitake, coriander, gochujang, soy sauce and sesame oil. Good, but would have been improved by the addition of fresh ginger.

 

Sun 26 February 2012 We went to meet Danielle in North Melbourne to watch Tower Suites, by Ros Warby. Went across the road afterwards for antipasto and a couple of drinks, to chat for a couple of enjoyable evening hours.

 

Sat 25 February 2012 This morning’s harvest: 15 figs! Though several other ripe ones had been half-eaten by possums overnight, and left splattered across the lawn, alas. I pruned and re-tied the tomato plants, then got a call from Inaki saying they were going to the Vic markets and then for a picnic. Scrubbed off garden dirt and plant juice in a quick shower, shimmered down the road under the sun to the train station, and met the fam at the markets. Red-letter day: I have now graduated in Unai’s vocabulary from being Ted (or rather “Teh”) to a person deserving of her own name (“Meh”). Coffee and castagnaccio at a cafe outside the markets, then in to buy picnic stuff and some fruit and herbs for later. We walked to Carleton Gardens to meet Ted, then lay about on the grass snacking and talking for a couple of hours, while the temperature rose to 38 degrees. We eventually packed up to walk to Brunetti for another coffee, then home again on the tram.

For dinner, minimal time spent near a hot stove was required. We made spaghettini with a quickly cooked sauce of very ripe black russian tomatoes, crushed garlic, dried olives and basil.

Fri 24 February 2012 35 degrees at 5 pm. The entire building decamped to Cinque Lire to drink beer or white wine outside. When only the die-hards were left, Linda came by with April, and suggested dinner at Anshumann Da Dhaba, an Indian restaurant in Clayfield. We went along with Linda, Henry, April, Ed and Jean. Very basic set-up but great food. The eggplant masala, a mushroom curry special (name I can’t remember, extremely unfortunately – it was great, full of herbs and ginger) and a goat done in a hot but rounded, complex pakistani sauce were my favourites of the night.

Thurs 23 February 2012 Picked four figs in the morning.

In the evening, tried a new pub with Helen – the Flying Duck, in Prahran. The menu ranged from chicken parma with chips to seared duck breast, fanned out on the plate, with geometric vegetables and jus. I had seared blue eye with prawn and fennel risotto.

Wed 22 February 2012 Chicken larb, rice, and a salad of shredded red cabbage, scallions, coriander and mint dressed with rice vinegar and a splash of lime juice.

Tues 21 February 2012 I was home sick all day. Ted made omelette with parsley and parmesan for dinner. After dinner, I went out into the garden and realised that the first figs had finally ripened! Two figs tonight. Delicious.

Mon 20 February 2012 A really pretty unsuccessful hippy dish of roast tomatoes and zucchini, wilted greens, feta, herbs and wheatgrains, bound together with eggs, sprinkled with parmesan, and baked. Now that I type it out I’m not sure why I thought it would work. Edible, but no more.

Much more successful – finished reading Margo Lanagan’s Sea Hearts, while drinking a little glass of Laphroaig.

Sun 19 February 2012 Brunch at Kanteen, looking over the Yarra. Corn cakes (actually toasted slices of corn and polenta loaf) with avocado/tomato/chili. Then to the Heide museum of modern art, for a footle around the sculpture garden and though one of the buildings. Finally a stop at Brunetti for coffee and pastries before dropping Nico and Frieda to the airport. No need for dinner, just the right amount of good eating this weekend already.

Sat 18 February 2012 Nico and Frieda are staying with us for the weekend. We are all tired so plan lots of sleeping, interspersed with tea drinking, talking, and occasional ventures out to do good things.

After the first couple of pots of tea, a late brunch at Sardine. Mushrooms, spinach and creme fraiche on toast for me, with a seed I couldn’t identify sprinkled on top. It had the shape of cumin or caraway or anise, but didn’t really taste entirely like any of them. Delicious though.

Then we drove down to Frankston for ice-cream and a walk on the pier; further down the peninsula to Red Hill estate for a glass of sparkling wine overlooking the vines and out to the sea; then on to Mornington for dinner. We wanted to go to The Rocks, on Edwige and Jean’s recommendation, but it was full. Instead we found a table at D.O.C., which worked out excellently. We shared the tasting plate of mozzarella (fior di late, scamorza affumicata, mozzarella di bufala), then three pizza: margherita, fungi, and bianco with cherry tomatoes and rocket.

Fri 17 February 2012 We met Nico, Makrina, Dimitrios and Danilo at Fed Square, after they got back from their conference at Lorne. A beer at a bar there, then Dimitrios led us to the famous Stalactites, where I had excellent gemista – tomatoes and a pepper stuffed with rice and herbs.

Thurs 16 February 2012 Black beans with smoked paprika and fresh tomatoes; sauteed corn kernels and zucchini with lime juice and coriander leaves; avocado; home-made tortillas.

Weds 15 February 2012 We went to a lecture by Brian Schmidt on the expanding universe, with Helen and Enrica. Then home, and out into the garden to tie up some new tomato growth. I sat out there on the grass in the twilight with a glass of wine, watching the bats fly past overhead until it was too dark to see them. Finally, late, we made Ye Olde Standby Dinner of pasta (casarecce) with smoked salmon, something green (lots of sauteed zucchini), a little creme fraiche and lemon juice.

Tues 14 February 2012 This chicken grilled with chermoula, served with rice and green beans with a squeeze of lemon juice. Damn fine. We used boneless chicken thighs, and cooked them on the BBQ (for our own records: under the hood for 10 minutes with medium direct heat. They were perfectly cooked.)

Mon 13 February 2012 We came home late after a 12 hour day at uni, and shared the last leftovers of the macaroni cheese, out of the tupperware, straight from the fridge. We have had finer culinary moments. (I don’t know that having a microwave would have served us here – we microwaved similar leftovers at lunch and they were soggy.)

The evening was improved by consumption of a glass of campari, grapefruit juice (left over from the cake yesterday) and soda. Superb combination.

Sun 12 February 2012 At Ted’s request, macaroni cheese made with gruyere and mustard, served with a bitter leaf and fennel salad.

I also made this grapefruit and olive oil cake, which was deliciously flavoured, and had the kind of crumb I love – moist but not dense.

Sat 11 February 2012 To Coin Laundry for late brunch, where I had the Thai beef salad, which was excellently full of  herbs and greens. There was a long wait for a table, spent standing in line with several pairs of overly face-lifted, made-up and blow-dried 50-ish Armadale matrons. Not quite sure why the review linked above thinks it is funky. The food and coffee were both good though.

For dinner, spaghettini with olive oil, garlic, chili flakes and parsley.

Fri 10 February 2012 Dinner at Eurobites with Edwige, Jean, Nichola and Rene. The souvlaki was still better than at most places, but not the spectacular experience of last time. The menu has changed a little – I hope not also the ownership.

Thurs 9 February 2012 Pizza from Assaggi. We were so tired we squabbled about who would walk 300 m to pick it up.

Wed 8 February 2012 We split a steak, barbequed rare, with a side of my current obsession: corn kernels and diced zucchini, cooked in a frypan in a slick of oil over high heat till slightly scorched, tossed with sea salt, chili flakes, lime juice and a little crumbled feta.

Tues 7 February 2012 Casarecce with a quick sauce of aubergine, fresh tomatoes, a pinch of chili, a very large glug of red wine, and flat-leaf parsley.

Mon 6 February 2012 Four-component dinner, which was less effort than it sounds (though I am a little glad that it is Ted’s turn to wash up, not mine). Carrot, ginger and arame salad; stir-fried fresh shitakes and oyster mushrooms with ponzu; tofu slices sauteed with a dash of tamari and fish sauce and a sprinkling of chili flakes; soba noodles. All very good.

Sun 5 February 2012 Further experiments in baked ricotta. Getting closer to what I want. This version: Halve about 16 large cherry tomatoes, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast at 180 C until beginning to go golden at the edges, but still juicy, about 25-30 minutes. Set aside in their dish. In a large bowl combine 1 kg fresh ricotta, yolks of 4 eggs, 1 cup finely grated parmesan, 1.5 cup finely chopped fresh herbs (mostly parsley and mint, plus rosemary, marjoram, thyme), the zest of two oranges and two lemons, 15 fat black olives pitted and chopped, generous sea salt and black pepper; stir until everything is well mixed. Whisk the 4 egg whites until they form soft peaks, then fold into the ricotta mixture. Spoon into a 23 cm springform pan that has been lined with non-stick baking paper on base and sides, and gently smooth top. Cover the top with the tomatoes, cut sides up, and tip any juices in the roasting pan over the lot. Bake at 180C for 70 minuntes, covering with alfoil after about 30 minutes to stop the tomatoes burning.

Next time I think I will add more tomatoes, and might leave out the olives. The cooking time and temperature are better though – that, plus perhaps lining the sides of the tin rather than buttering them, meant that the sides of the ricotta cake were just the right level of golden, not too dark as they have been before.

Anyway, very good, eaten with a salad for dinner, and leaving several lunches’ worth of leftovers.

Sat 4 February 2012 Ted is back from his trip to the states, hallelujah. Celebratory but exceptionally jetlagged dinner at Assaggi – porcini pizza for him, the special (pizza bianca with slices of fresh fig, gorgonzola, and prosciutto) for me.

Fri 3 February 2012 A piece of challah bought and eaten on the walk home from the train station, then very, very early to bed. Night after night of insomnia is beating me down.

Thurs 2 February 2012 Over the course of a couple of hours, a sliced apple, a handful of pistachios, and a piece of parmesan.

Wed 1 February 2012 A bowl of the minestrone that I made last night after dinner because it was very chilly and I wanted to keep standing by the stove. (And this only two days after the weekend of 35 degree days. Crazy.)

Tues 31 January 2012 Moghrabieh with roast tomatoes and aubergines, fresh mint and parsley, and finely grated ricotta salata.

Mon 30 January 2012 Penne with sauteed zucchini and golden shallot, peas, parsley, mint, lemon juice and grated ricotta salata.

Sun 29 January 2012 So hot! Too hot! Too hot even to lie on the couch, I lay instead on the cool wooden floor in front of the fan and ate bites of turkish bread with left-over tarama when I could get up the energy. In the evening I got it together and trammed over to Camberwell to have a good long talky dinner with Francesca at an Afghani restaurant there. Best dish was the prune and yellow split pea quorma.

Sat 28 January 2012 Lunch: a couple of zucchini, finely diced, and the kernels from an ear of corn, sauteed together in a slick of garlic olive oil over high heat till they’re golden but still crunchy, then tossed with sea salt, a pinch of chili flakes, the juice of a lime, a little crumbled feta, and a big handful of torn coriander leaves.

Dinner: to celebrate the PLoS Path paper, Ed, Jean, Henry and Linda came over for a BBQ. Possibly the easiest dinner I have ever prepared for other people. I bought tarama, hummus, bread and olives for meze. I also bought steaks, tossed some field mushrooms in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and wrapped bite-size pieces of haloumi in brined vine leaves. That was it. Henry brought marinated lamb chops, and Edwige brought a salad and an orange cake for dessert. Jean barbequed the steak, lamb, mushroooms and haloumi parcels. We all drank, ate and chatted. Distributed dinners for the win.

As a side note, those haloumi parcels are great! I first had them when Michelle made them, one time when we were up at Peter and Judy’s place many, many years ago. Just BBQ or fry them until the cheese inside is softening, then eat, vine leaves and all, with a squeeze of lemon over the top. Delicious!

Fri 27 January 2012 The traditional glass or two of pinot gris at Cinque Lire with people from the lab after work. Got home feeling lazy so had plums and almonds for dinner.

Thurs 26 January 2012 Lunch: salad of freshly shucked corn kernels, finely shredded napa cabbage, finely diced celery, capsicum and cucumber, halved cherry tomatoes (from Inaki’s garden),  scallions, basil, mint, a little crumbled feta, tossed with lime juice, salt and a pinch of chili flakes. Great flavour but the thing I really love about this kind of salad is the texture. Crunch crunch crunch, nothing but crunching for 15 minutes. Very soothing at some level.

Weds 25 January 2012 And we’re back to toast. With avocado.

Tues 24 January 2012 Cabbage, pea, mint, radish and parmesan salad. Not as delicious as I remember it being at Mr Wolf.

Mon 23 January 2012 Random but delicious fried rice thing. Brown rice; scallions and lots of fresh ginger; roast cubes of eggplant; tofu sauted with a dash of soy sauce and fish sauce; chopped home-made kimchi; a drizzle of sesame oil. Made in the proportions I prefer, which is about 45% vegetable, 25% tofu, 30% rice. Fried in a dryish frypan just until the rice starts to get very slightly crispy in places, but is still moistened throughout by the other ingredients.

Sun 22 January 2012 Cycled down to Elwood beach for a picnic dinner with Edwige, Jean, Tom, Flo, Pete and Bron. Lots of lounging about, a bit of wading in the ocean, then snacking on the meze everyone brought and drinking white wine, until it was almost too cool for comfort and the stars were all out above us. I much preferred the cycle home at 10.30, when it was 22 degrees, to the cycle there at 6 in 32 degree heat with the sizzling sun direct on my face. So grateful for the coolness of the nights here.

Sat 21 January 2012 Rosemary was down from Brisbane to watch the tennis, so we met up in the morning and perambulated around the south of Melbourne. We stopped for brunch at Q Eleven, across from the South Melbourne markets, then walked down to South Melbourne beach, along the shore to St Kilda, out on the pier for a coffee and to see a couple of sleeping penguins nestled amongst the rocks, then along Acland St and finally back to her hotel by tram. A lovely lovely day of talking and walking.

Dinner: an almost complete dearth of vegetables in the house led to me making a quite impressively bland soba noodle salad from a Nigella Lawson recipe.

Fri 20 January 2012 Went home from work with Edwige and Jean to see some of their photos from Burma. We sat on their balcony, ate saucisson, tartines, and rockmelon, looked at photos, and got into a long and involved discussion about cultural differences (with reference to Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack). I left their place at about 1.30 in the morning and caught the 16 tram home. How much do I love that tram and its late running? A LOT.

Thurs 19 January 2012 Dark rye toast with avocado, tomato and smoked sea salt. Better – at least some vegetable content – but a woman ought not to live on toast alone.

Wed 18 January 2012 Dark rye toast with grilled parmesan.

Tues 17 January 2012 Went into town with Eric, Jean and Edwige to see Tuba Skinny playing at the Toff. Loved it! We had dinner beforehand at Cookie, just downstairs. Apart from having to yell across the table to have a conversation, the food was very good. The best was probably steamed tapioca dumplings filled with pickled turnip, pork and peanuts, which were delicate little blissful bombs of flavour.

Mon 16 January 2012 Tedster and I went to Aoba; unfortunately we hadn’t made a booking so were exiled outside in the warmth at a footpath table. I had the sushi and sashimi box, and Ted had the dinner box, which included as well as sushi and sashimi some gyoza (excellent! good skin texture), agedashi tofu and spring rolls.

Sun 15 January 2012 A relaxing and inspiring evening with Danielle. She made a feast of wonderful food: rare beef tagliata with rocket and parmesan salad – the lemon/rosemary/garlic oil on this is spectacularly good; roasted aubergine with miso dressing; carrot, ginger and arame salad; and something else I can’t remember at the moment but which was equally delicious. We cooked together, ate outside in the back yard, then lay on the trampoline, drinking ginger and lemongrass tea and chatting, for a couple of hours. Extremely good fun.

Sat 14 January 2012 Lunch: cauliflower, golden shallot and spinach frittata. Would have been even better with some kasundi or an eggplant chutney.

Fri 13 January 2012 Drinks and dinner at The Royston with about half the lab. Good food (corned beef salad with kipflers, greens, capers, cornichons, etc) and excellent beer. But best of all it was so, so, relaxing. Not too busy. Music not too loud. Squishy red velvet couches. Friendly barmen. Lovely.

Thurs 12 January 2012 We left work just before 8 pm and lazily decided to eat out. We tried the Greek restaurant up Glenferrie Rd. The waitress (possibly owner?) was so warm and friendly that I am very sorry to report that the food was not great. Overcooked prawns, so-so souvlaki, Greek salad that was 90% chopped iceberg. Sorry, nice waitress. We left a tip for her but won’t go back.

Weds 11 January 2012 Penne with cauliflower, slow-cooked onions, anchovies, currants, chili flakes and parsley.

Tues 10 January 2012 Salad of roughly shredded poached chicken thighs, finely shredded wombok, julienned carrot, cucumber and orange capsicum, coriander, mint and vietnamese mint leaves, chopped toasted peanuts, and a dressing of lime juice, fish sauce, rice vinegar, raw sugar and fresh red chili.

Mon 9 January 2012 I tried some kimchi out of one of the jars for breakfast – tasted good but no sign of fermentation. I put that jar in the fridge, and left the other four in the cupboard for the day. When I got home from work, I tried one of the cupboard jars and there was that faint fermenty tingle and flavour. Spot on! I jammed them in the fridge and we will see how they progress. At least at this stage, I prefer the taste of the ones that were left out for 24 hours. They’re delicious.

Dinner: palak paneer, cooked using a recipe from Pushpesh Pant’s India cookbook (a bit bland, honestly), and smoky eggplant curry, using a couple of eggplants we roasted whole on the BBQ on the weekend.

Sun 8 January 2012 Lunch: another fish from the markets, cooked using another Diana Henry recipe, this time mackerel stuffed with dates and almonds, with couscous. Good again, though not so brilliant as the sardines and socca.

Dinner: the mackerel lunch was late and proteinaceous, so we had cherries and blackberries for dinner.

After dinner, the major kimchi event! I had to toss everything together in a bucket; even our largest salad bowl couldn’t contain it all. I used a generous hand with the chili and a light one with the soy sauce. Even so, my kimchi had a definite blackish sauce, unlike either Zoe’s photo or the kimchi you see elsewhere. Still, it tasted good, so I filled five jars with it and left them in the coolest cupboard overnight.

Sat 7 January 2012 Big trek to the Victoria markets in the morning, where I went a bit overboard and bought so much fruit and veg I could hardly carry it home on the tram and then train. I teetered on the edge of also buying a tray of KP mangoes for $20, thinking, “I can do it! I can carry it all!” before coming to my senses. Fortunately (though I am still craving those mangoes).

Lunch: Nicosia turkish restaurant around the corner on Glenferrie Rd. I got the mezze plate for one, which was enormous and full of good things – grilled vegetables, a dolmade, a piece of grilled haloumi, a felafel, tabouli, marinated mushrooms, etc etc, with excellent warm flatbread. Ted had the sis plate, good lamb plus a pile of very fresh shredded salad. We’ll go back.

Dinner: I bought sardines at the markets this morning, so after gutting and cleaning them (with the help of several instructional YouTube videos) we grilled them on the BBQ and ate them with socca, harissa roasted tomatoes, and parsley, olive and lemon salad. Really fine. A Diana Henry recipe from Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons.

After dinner I started the first step of Zoe’s kimchi recipe – chopping the wombok and daikon and letting it sit with salt and sugar overnight. For future reference, I used 1 kg of wombok, and one and a half large daikons, for the 2 tblsp each salt and sugar.

Fri 6 January 2012 Stopped in at Namaskar India on the way home to share a cauliflower utthapam and a masala dosa. The utthapam was fantastic; dosa was ok, but soft rather than crispy at the edges which is what I was expecting.

Thus 5 January 2012 Soft tacos with fresh tortillas, black beans, BBQ zucchini, avocado, crumbled feta, and lime.

Wed 4 January 2012 Went to Hawthorne with Helen for a drink after work; we were heading for the Undertaker, but they were closed so we went across to the Glenferrie. Then on to Petaling Street for dinner. The nasi lemak with beef was fantastic – tender meat in good sauce, lots of tiny crispy anchovies, roasted peanuts, pickled vegetables, hot sambal. A huge portion for $9.90.

Tues 3 January 2012 Salad for dinner: english spinach, quartered piccolino tomatoes, cucumber, avocado, olives, shallots, herbs. With turkish bread.

Then we made orange and lime juice popsicles in this ludicrous machine I can’t quite believe I bought. I’d been searching for small popsicle moulds but all the moulds I found were huge. I just want to make little wee popsicles, not bucket-sized ones! Anyway, after searching for a couple of weeks as summer got hotter and hotter I gave up in frustration and bought this machine from the local kitchen shop, as it makes iceblocks the size I’m after. Verdict: the popsicles tasted good, though the texture is odd (rapid freezing = very small ice crystals = smooth, plasticy texture), and the sticks are weirdly broad so eating the last of the popsicle may bring blowjobs to mind (if your mind is that way inclined). Nonetheless I reckon we will use it. I will still be keeping an eye out for old-fashioned small moulds though.

Mon 2 January 2012 Not too bad in the morning, as it rose from 25 degrees to 30 to 32. Once it got to 35 around lunchtime: too, too much. Time to go in to work and the air conditioning a day early. Lunch of spinach and ricotta pie at Nikos in Oakleigh on the way in.

My tomato and basil plants are thriving, but the parsley, zucchini and coriander aren’t terribly happy. I drag their pots out of direct sun a couple of times a day; the zucchini perks up but the parsley and coriander are looking a bit stunned (and more importantly, stunted).

To Inaki and Begona’s house in the evening, to learn from Makrina how to cook kourabiedes. Then a late dinner on the terrace, after it had finally cooled down sufficiently to go outside – steak, zucchini with feta, grilled asparagus, and greek salad (no lettuce! just cucumber, tomato, red onion, feta, dried oregano, salt, olive oil).

Sun 1 January 2012 Beginning the process of consuming the leftovers from last night’s party. Cold salads and pavlova for the win for both lunch and dinner, especially as it was 37 degrees this afternoon. Supposed to be 40 tomorrow.