Eating notes 2013

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

Well, so much for the last two and a half months of the year! I got out of the habit of updating this and even I can’t quite reconstruct from memory meals from that long ago. I’m restarting again at the beginning of 2014.

A couple of dates I can remember. We had people over at our place for New Year’s. Danielle and Marcus arrived first, around 6.30, while I was lying out on a blanket in the back garden, drinking Lillet Blanc with ice and a slice of orange, and looking up at the blue sky and the high branches of the damask rose. Other people from the lab filtered in over the next couple of hours, and we barbequed chicken thighs in chermoula, kangaroo skewers, aubergine slices, and pork belly in Chinese sauce made by Linda. We ate it with a quinoa salad with roast kabocha, zucchini, herbs and pine nuts, and a summer vegetable salad. Beck’s chocolate cake for dessert.

We also had orphans’ christmas lunch here with Heather, Gerard, Henry, Linda, April, Yi and Jim. No no no I will not spend hours in a hot kitchen for a summer christmas, so we had a big plate of cold fish – gravlax, cold-smoked salmon, hot-smoked ocean trout, hot-smoked mackerel – with a kipfler salad and piles of steamed asparagus and broccolini with lemon and aoili. For afters, lemon yoghurt cake with blueberries, raspberries and cherries.

Since I use these eating notes as aides-memoires for events as well as food, here are a few other good things from the last couple of months that I would like to recall. During the Melbourne Festival I went to see Sylvie Guillem in PUSH and 6000 Miles. PUSH was so breathtaking I went a second time. I had lovely end-of-year dinners with two of my pilates classes, one at Zikrayat and the other at Sozai. I’ve been going to pilates three times a week and it’s one of my most happy places. On December 30th, Heather had us, Beth, Alison, Andres and Helen over to teach us how to make proper tortillas. We had great brunches in the last month or two at Silo in the city with Frieda, Wide Open Road in Brunswick with Inaki, Bego and Makrina (I had sardines baked in tomato with chermoula and feta), and Axil in Hawthorn (the corn, zucchini and haloumi fritters with avocado and poached egg, and the house-made salmon pastrami with celeriac croquettes, pickled zucchini, beet relish and caper sauce are both fantastic). The popcorn paper was finally, finally accepted for publication at the end of October, and I drank several bottles of good champagne with the lab to celebrate. I’m growing lots of tomatoes in the big raised bed and in pots, and even though I planted them quite late, we should be able to get a good crop in the next couple of months. When I go out to water or prune them, and come back in with the smell of tomato leaves on my hands, I know that summer is here. The last few months of this year have been, generally, lovely.

Sat 12 October 2013 Drove over to Camberwell to see Bill, who is down visiting his uncle. We walked down to a local cafe with Bill and Paul for brunch, and I had an excellently mustardy ham and cheese toasted sandwich.

For dinner, a perfect plate of steamed asparagus and purple sprouting broccoli, smoked ocean trout, and some sliced avocado, with a vinaigrette of olive oil, white wine vinegar and mustard scattered over the top.

Fri 11 September 2013 Dinner with the lab at Gourmet Dumpling (approaching the record: 18 people in attendance). The steamed vegetable dumplings were unusually delicious tonight.

Thurs 10 September 2013 A laksa at Laksa Bar, with Frieda, followed (unnecessarily but deliciously) by a small scoop of pistachio gelato at Spring St Grocer.

Wed 9 September 2013 Pilates, slice of left-over frittata.

Tue 8 September 2013 Went to the Taphouse with Helen and Ted after work, drank beer (Brooklyn ale, a German pilsner), and split a charcuterie plate.

Mon 7 September 2013 Pilates, and a slice of frittata (a giant one, with leeks, chard, nettles, roast cauliflower, mint, scallions and feta).

Sun 6 September 2013 A stir fry of beef from the farmers’ market (thinly sliced pope’s eye), broccoli and ginger.

Sat 5 September 2013 Went to the farmers’ market at St Kilda, then walked over to Helen’s for a coffee and biscuits. Spent the rest of the day lazing around reading a novel, drinking a gin and tonic, and not feeling terribly hungry.

Fri 4 September 2013 Back to Old Kingdom for more Peking duck, as well as my favourites, kang kong stirfry and tofu with salted fish.

Thurs 3 September 2013Feeling sick, no dinner.

Wed 2 September 2013 Truly amazing dinner at Danielle’s place. She’s been doing an intensive online course in making raw food and the results were genuinely spectacular. Started with nut cheeses, chia wafers, beetroot and carrot wafers, and many other things. Then – I don’t have the vocabulary for this – moulded riced cauliflower with walnut oil and walnuts candied with date syrup, julienned zucchini with hawasabi pesto, and more – god I wish I had written all this down the day after eating it rather than several days later when my memory has failed me! Take it from me, it was all both bountiful and delicious. And we finished with carrot ice cream and keffir sherbert.

Tues 1 September 2013 I was determined not to leave the lab until I had this paper re-submitted. So Ted came and picked me up, exhausted but triumphant, at 11.30 pm. The only food I had at work was muesli and yoghurt, so that is what I ate for dinner.

Mon 30 September 2013 A big salad of chard and beetroot leaves, julienned raw beetroot (grown myself!), hazelnuts, and smoked salmon.

Sun 29 September 2013 A really lovely late lunch of purple sprouting broccoli (from the garden), asparagus, avocado, smoked trout, pine nuts and lime juice.

Sat 28 September 2013 Lunch: orecchiette with asparagus, smoked trout and garlic-infused olive oil.

Dinner: A simple stew that (speaking humbly of course) was just perfect. I cut 600 g of chicken thigh fillets into 1-2 inch pieces, and browned them in a little olive oil, then removed from the pan. Added two quartered, finely sliced onions, two slender sticks of celery (from the garden!), sliced, and three medium carrots, cut into 2 cm pieces, and cooked until light golden. Added a couple of sliced garlic cloves, and deglazed the pan with a large glass of white wine. Then added the browned chicken, four large kipfler potatoes that had been peeled and cut into 2 cm slices, a cup or so of chicken stock, two bay leaves, and a handful of thyme and marjoram. Lid on and into the oven at 160 for 45 minutes.

Fri 27 September 2013 It is surely an indication of how crappy this cold is making me feel that I skipped Friday dumplings, went home instead, and fell asleep on the couch reading Parade’s End without dinner.

Thurs 26 September 2013 We shared left-over pizza, eaten cold in front of a really bad DVD (unfortunately insufficiently bad to be good).

Wed 25 September 2013 Still sick; feeling lazy; Ted went and got takeaway pizza from Assaggi.

Tues 24 September 2013 Home from work, sick with a bad cold. Kimchi and greens fried rice with a fried egg on top for lunch. Dinner was toasted sourdough with caciocavallo grilled on top.

Mon 23 September 2013 Another round of orecchiette with cauliflower, sardines, etc.

Sun 22 September 2013 Lunch: very enjoyable variation on the fried-rice-thing I make a lot for lunches: toss together in a wok a handful of cooked brown rice, a bunch of amaranth, stems and leaves chopped, a couple of chopped scallions, some finely sliced pressed seasoned tofu, chili flakes, and a dash each of tamari and Megachef fish sauce.

Dinner: short ribs cooked in beer and honey.

Sat 21 September 2013 Lunch: possibly the most disgusting sandwich ever created, at a local cafe I’ve previously liked. A chicken, avocado and lettuce sandwich so dripping with sweet mayonnaise I made it through only a couple of bites before abandoning it.

Dinner: a salad of blood orange, fennel, spinach, smoked salmon and avocado, with a side of grilled asparagus.

Fri 20 September 2013 Henry’s birthday, so we went out for Peking duck. Best dishes of the night for me, though, were the tofu with salted fish, and the braised kang kong.

Thurs 19 September 2013 Dumplings with Frieda. We tried a new place, Dumpling Sisters. The xiao long bao were small (which I like) and had very tender skins, but the standout were the pork and prawn wontons in chili oil. Afterwards we ascended many flights of stairs to have a cocktail on the roof terrace at Madame Brussels.

Wed 18 September 2013 Very quick early dinner before pilates. We split a slice of duck and pistachio terrine (bought from the deli, not made!), and ate it with toasted sourdough, green beans, and a sharply dressed spinach salad.

Tues 17 September 2013 Tofu, broccoli and shiitake stirfry.

Mon 16 September 2013 Post-pilates not-really-cooking dinner of steamed broccoli, flaked hot-smoked salmon, squeeze of lemon.

Sun 15 September 2013 Went to see amazing documentary, The Gatekeepers, at the Nova. Had a pizza (margherita) at D.O.C. before going in.

Sat 14 September 2013 Lunch: a salad of grated beetroot and carrot, finely shredded chard and spinach, slivered almonds and salmon.

Dinner: at Inaki and Begona’s place, fantastic as ever.

Fri 13 September 2013 Dinner with the lab at Kimchi Grandma. I have no resistance in the face of takoyaki.

Thurs 12 September 2013 Met up with Frieda for dumplings at Shandong Mama. We had an uninspiring scallion pancake (I think we unintentionally ordered a variant from the specials board rather than the one I was expecting), good vegetable dumplings, and the incredibly delicious mackerel dumplings. Afterwards we went to the Croft Institute for the absolute best cocktails I have had in years. The bartender asked “so what do you like drinking?” and based on my answer suggested a amaretto and dark rum sour with four kinds of bitters. Divine.

Wed 11 September 2013 No dinner. Perhaps I was still being fuelled buy the bite of sandwich Cass gave me in the afternoon – toasted cheese and nutella. Surprisingly delicious.

Tue 10 September 2013 A slice of frittata made with many kinds of greens, sweet potato, feta, sesame seeds, etc.

Mon 9 September 2013 A little dish of kimchi.

Sun 8 September 2013 Damn fine lunch of orecchiette with cauliflower and sardines.

Sat 7 September 2013 I met Helen for a coffee in St Kilda, then went to the farmers market there and bought stupid quantities of vegetables, including three bunches of asparagus. I always go a bit crazy for it at the start of the season. We ate one bunch with dinner: puy lentils, hot-smoked salmon, celeriac remoulade, roast asparagus. Delicious.

Fri 6 September 2013 Trammed down to Windsor to have Indian with the lab at My Restaurant, and then to Nichola’s afterwards for videos and chat.

Thur 5 September 2013 Minestrone for lunch. For dinner, lamb meatballs with barberries and herbs, from Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem. We ate them with couscous tossed with mixed herbs and toasted pine nuts and pistachios, and some roasted eggplant. The eggplant is out of season but I was craving it so illicitly bought some. I’d forgotten this good way to cook it: slice it into rounds about a cm thick, brush with olive oil, and grill under the broiler for 5-10 minutes on either side until golden and soft.

Wed 4 September 2013 For lunch, a salad of mixed leaves, steamed kipflers, hot-smoked salmon, finely sliced fennel, green beans, and a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, dijon mustard and two mashed anchovies, whisked until emulsified. Not hungry for dinner, so had a tangelo late after pilates.

Tues 3 September 2013 We drove up to the Dandenongs and walked for a couple of hours in Sherbrooke Forest, after stopping for lunch at the Green Bean Cafe in Belgrave for a chicken and avocado sandwich.

Came home and made a stir fry of tofu, broccoli, tat soi and mustard leaf for dinner.

Mon 2 September 2013 Brunch at the Green Goose: potato and pumpkin latkes with poached eggs, spinach and tomato relish. We took the train into town, walked down to the art gallery, saw the insane lines to buy tickets for the Monet exhibition, and decided to go walking around St Kilda instead. After a stroll and a drink at the Stokehouse, we took the tram back home for some more serious lazing around. Dinner was pasta with a sauce made of various left-overs from Saturday night – tomato sauce, marinated artichokes and eggplant, mushrooms and capsicum.

Sun 1 September 2013 Brunch with Eric, Henry, Janine, Nichola and Rene, on the roof terrace at Woodstock. I had a piece of sourdough topped with pumpkin, spinach, persian feta and a poached egg. We dropped Eric off at the airport, and later made dinner of a rye tartine with mustard, wilted spinach and fine slices of smoked salmon, and a salad of broccoli, peas, avocado, sesame seeds and lime juice.

Sat 31 August 2013 Henry had organised an Eric-visit extravagana of visits to wineries and breweries up in the Yarra. Alas most people were rather hungover, so things progressed very quietly and we ended up spending more time at cheese makers and chocolate shops than drinking. It was a lovely day anyway. On the drive back, Janine called me to suggest that she make some pizza bases and meet us at our place to cook them, bless her. We stopped off to buy various toppings, I made some tomato sauce when we got home, and then people took turns making pizzas for us all to share. For the record, a good tomato sauce: I peeled the cloves from a head of garlic, crushed them, and cooked over low-moderate heat until fragrant. Added a small tub of tomato paste and cooked a further three minutes, then added a large jar of passata and simmered for about 15 minutes. Quick and delicious, and just the right consistency.

Fri 30 August 2013 Ted arrived back from three and a half weeks in the US this morning, HURRAH.

Eric also arrived for a short visit before he moves to Brazil. We had a mega lab dinner at Gourmet Dumpling, with a record-breaking 20 people in attendance. Everyone else had been drinking champagne at work to celebrate various excellent things, and then wine flowed very freely all through dinner. I went home afterwards to experience the novelty of having Ted back, but the others went on to Janine’s for more drinking.

Thurs 29 August 2013 Knackered, and not that hungry, so I steamed some broccoli and tossed it with a tin of mackerel fillets and a dressing of lemon juice and mustard.

Wed 28 August 2013 A kind of bizarro whatever’s-in-the-fridge dinner of roast pumpkin, chard, avocado, a blob of natural yoghurt and a squirt of Sriracha chili sauce.

Tues 27 August 2013 Soft tacos with chipotle pinto beans, roast cubes of pumpkin, chard sauteed with onion, and avocado.

Mon 26 August 2013 A kedgeree-inspired dish of rice, smoked cod, garam masala, ginger, spinach and chickpeas, with herby yoghurt.

Sun 25 August 2013 Rice, tempeh in tamarind sauce, broccoli.

Sat 24 August 2013 Delicious breakfast of steel-cut oats, asian greens, and a fried egg. Met Helen, Janine and Heather at the Nova in Carlton to see What Maisie Knew in the afternoon, followed by wine and tapas at a restaurant along Lygon St whose name I have already forgotten.

Fri 23 August 2013 Dinner with the lab and Wolfgang at Dainty Sichuan in the city. Love it here so much.

Thurs 22 August 2013 A slice of rye toast with grilled grated parmesan, and an apple.

Weds 21 August 2013 A somewhat thrown-together dinner of roast cauliflower and broccoli, sorrel, flaked hot smoked salmon, and a dressing of lemon juice, olive oil and seed mustard.

Tues 20 August 2013 Dumplings with Frieda at Hutong in the city. The wontons with chili oil are always the best here. We also had xiao long bao and steamed vegetable dumplings, both good, but next time I think I will order wontons and then explore the rest of the menu. I was tempted by the spicy tripe and tongue so that may be the go for next visit. Afterwards we stopped off at the Carlton to sink into their squishy red velvet banquettes, drink a glass of wine, and chat.

Mon 19 August 2013 A toasted sandwich with gruyere, mustard, finely sliced apple and watercress.

Sun 18 August 2013 Pasta with broccoli, anchovies, garlic and chili.

Sat 17 August 2013 Sesame ramen: ramen noodles with a sauce of tahini, rice vinegar, soy sauce, chili, ginger and sesame oil, tossed with julienned carrot, finely sliced scallions, and coriander leaves.

Fri 16 August 2013 Yi’s birthday, so we had drinks and enormous amounts of cake at the lab. No need for dinner, and I was feeling slightly dodgy anyway, so headed home early.

Thurs 15 August 2013 Dumplings with Frieda at the new location for Shanghai Street Dumpling. Xiao long bao (we got the pork and crab, but I think the plain pork ones are better), fried pork mini buns, and steamed wontons with chili and peanut sauce. We finished up with a dark wheat beer at Hofbrauhause afterwards.

Wed 14 August 2013 Left-over minestrone.

Tues 13 August 2013 Minestrone with various root vegetables (potato, parsnip, carrot, a turnip), borlotti beans, and lots and lots of cavolo nero and parsley.

Mon 12 August 2013 Saturday’s salmon and blood orange salad was so good, I made it a second time for dinner tonight.

Sun 11 August 2013 Orecchiette with onion, garlic, anchovies, chili flakes, and a big lot of green sprouting broccoli from the garden.

Sat 10 August 2013 A truly delicious salad. For one person, combine 80 g of hot-smoked salmon, flaked; a small palmful of pine nuts, toasted; a large blood orange, supremed; half a smallish avocado, peeled and cut into 1-2 cm pieces; the leaves of a decent bunch of watercress; and a dressing made by whisking together the juice that escaped from the orange, a dash of olive oil, a teaspoon of wholegrain mustard, and a pinch of sea salt. Fanfuckingtastic. The blood orange, avocado and salmon were from the farmer’s market; the watercress was from the garden. Very satisfying.

Fri 9 August 2013 Toast, chard, a fried egg.

Thurs 8 August 2013 Left-over frittata.

Weds 7 August 2013 A couple of persimmons.

Tues 6 August 2013 Big frittata of fennel, wild fennel, chard, rapa leaves, mustard leaves and feta. Roast pumpkin on the side.

Mon 5 August 2013 Cauliflower, potato and fenugreek leaf curry, and a dal.

Sun 4 August 2013 Awesome brunch with Frieda at Dood328 in Brunswick. Egyptian eggs (poached, rolled in dukkah) on a potato and pumpkin rosti, with rocket and chili jam. The staff were lovely too.

We spent the second half of the afternoon over at Heather’s place (with Henry, April, Helen, Janine, Nichola and Rene) while she made us a fantastic dinner of chicken pot pies, followed by cinnamon buns. No Sunday evening blues today.

Sat 3 August 2013 Veg Out farmers market in the morning. I was being reasonably restrained until I hit the stall with lots of Italian wild greens, and then all bets were off. Came home with rapa leaves, mustard leaves, wild fennel, cime di rapa, chinese broccoli, cavolo nero, chard, two kinds of pumpkins, cauliflower, avocados, tangelos, apples, and astringent persimmons. Just a small amount of veg to get through this week.

It turned cold and rainy in the afternoon, so we made a slow-cooked beef stew for dinner. I had a piece of chuck stewing steak from Warialda beef, about an inch thick and 800 gm in total. I cut it into pieces about 1 x 2 inches in size, and seared them in the Le Creuset then set them aside. Chopped and sauteed two onions, two sticks of celery, and 6 medium carrots, then added 4 cloves minced garlic, 3 tablespoons of tomato paste, a tin of tomatoes, about 1.5 cups each of home made beef stock and chicken stock, 2 fresh bay leaves, 2 star anise, a pinch of chili flakes, and salt and pepper, then added the meat back in. Into the oven at 140 C, lid on, for about 3.5 hours. It was still very soupy (in a delicious way), so we ate it with mashed potato to soak up the juices and some cavolo nero cooked with onion, garlic and a couple of anchovies. Man that hit the spot so perfectly.

Fri 2 August 2013 Dinner with the lab at Red Mango Thai in Oakleigh. Slow service but the food was great. Afterwards we all walked over to Nikos for take-away baklava and melomakarona. Couldn’t possibly have contemplated eating them then, but they made a lovely Saturday treat.

Thurs 1 August 2013 Dinner with Keyne and Helen at Blue Corn.

Weds 31 July 2013 An apple and some almonds.

Tues 30 July 2013 We. Are. So. Lazy.  Thai takeaway for dinner, from Thai on High. We asked them to make it spicy, and it was at least that, and quick, but not terribly exciting.

Mon 29 July 2013 Woke up late to discover that Janine had made crepes for breakfast. A last little lie around on the couches, then we tidied up and drove back to Melbourne.

For dinner, I made soft tacos with chipotle black beans, roast sweet potato, and chard cooked with onions.

Sun 28 July 2013 A very relaxed day spent mostly in front of the fireplace, with a minor excursion to walk on the ocean beaches nearby in the middle of the day, in the wind and spattering showers. Everyone headed back to Melbourne apart from Ted, Janine and I, and we had a happy dinner of left-over BBQ in breadrolls with avocado, chipotle sauce, spinach and caramelised onions.

Sat 27 July 2013 Aw yes. Breadtop, yam chips and sugared hawthorn strips for breakfast, supplied by Rene. Then Henry, Linda, April and Heather arrived for the day, and we all headed down to Fish Fetish in Sorrento for fish and chips for lunch. I rarely think to get fish and chips, after too many soggy, heavy battered disappointments, and when I do I usually order the fish grilled. But for some reason I trusted this place, and I was so so right to do so. I had battered whiting, and the fish was firm and fresh, and the batter was shatteringly crisp but very, very light. Perfect! We walked down to the bay and threw the left-over chips to the seagulls, hovering around us on the shore in the strange pre-rainstorm light.

We all went to Red Hill for a wine tasting, then back to the house for reading, more wine, playing with the fire, games, and eventually a BBQ for dinner.

Fri 26 July 2013 We’re going for a long weekend down to Rye with Janine, Nichola, Rene, Yi and Xiia. We stopped off in Clayton for dumplings at Pings, then drove down to the peninsula and arrived at the holiday house at about 11 pm, in time to have a glass of wine, decide not to get the fireplace going until tomorrow, and go to bed.

Thurs 25 July 2013 Finally, finally, finally, after approximately a million years, I submitted the P manuscript today. Celebratory dinner with Ted at Livingroom. I had two entrees: a salad of witlof, Roquefort, pickled celery, walnuts and grapes, followed by seared scallops with celeriac puree, pickled apple and roasted hazelnuts. A couple of glasses of Alsatian pinot gris.

Mon 22 – Weds 24 July 2013 Mostly working late, eating toast for dinner.

Sun 21 July 2013 Met up with Nico and Frieda for Dutch applecake at Figs Cafe on Nicholson St, then walked down the road to the beanbag shop where they worked out which one to buy. Then home, a bit of work, and potato and leek soup for dinner. I also made lunches for next week: brown rice, tofu, steamed sweet potato, steamed broccoli, and a delicious concoction of lots of bok choy and choy sum sauteed with ginger, chili and kimchi.

Sat 20 July 2013 Nico is visiting for the weekend, so we spent the day with her and Frieda, wandering around the city and stopping frequently for tea and snacks. We started the day with brunch at Captains of Industry, then toddled over to ACMI to see the costumes exhibition. Back to the Block Arcade in the hopes of tea and cake at Hopetoun Tea Rooms, but after queuing for a while we ended up at another cafe in Block Place. Another short wander, then a pint of Hobgoblin at the Sherlock Holmes. And finally we trammed up to Madame K for an excellent dinner of lemongrass mock duck, tofu and cashew stirfry, and penang curry.

Fri 19 July 2013 Dinner with the lab in Clayton, at Bikanerwala (on Saijo’s recommendation). Good Indian, and laughably cheap at about $10 each. Also bought some sweets to take home – carrot, pistachio and plain barfi.

Thurs 18 July 2013 Stir fry of tofu, broccoli, snow peas, bean shoots.

Wed 17 July 2013 Pilates, then toast.

Tues 16 July 2013 We went to see Pacific Rim with Nichola and Rene. Aw yiss. Top quality trash. Popcorn for dinner.

Mon 15 July 2013 Tedster went climbing in the city; I made pasta with lots of broccoli, garlic and chili flakes.

Sun 14 July 2013 Lots of lovely satisfying work in the garden, despite a bit of drizzle. It was made even better by the fact that we stopped in the middle of the afternoon to have crumpets, made with this recipe. Really good. I halved the recipe, and used egg rings, and it made 14 crumpets. They’re best right off the pan, but ok toasted later.

We used the rest of the blade beef in a second stir-fry-like dish, based on this recipe for beef with kimchi. I increased the kimchi, sauteed the meat first before cooking the vegetables, added a splash of sesame oil, and used sticky rice rather than steamed. Would happily eat again.

And then I made a big set of lunches for the week. The base was a mixture of quinoa, farro, wild rice and puy lentils, tossed with roasted carrot and parsnip, sauteed onion and mixed greens (whatever looked good in the garden – chard, sorrel, broccoli leaves, cavolo nero, curly kale, red kale), and toasted slivered almonds. Then some pieces of skin-on roasted pumpkin on the side, and St Agur crumbled over the top.

Sat 13 July 2013 Brunch at Spoonful. I used to love their baby sibling cafe beside Armadale station, Sardine. Unfortunately, Spoonful is no Sardine. Food is alright, coffee alright, service alright; whatever. I miss you, Sardine!

For dinner, a stir fry of beef (the little triangles trimmed off blade steak I got from Warialda), a big bunch of chinese broccoli, pak choy and mandolined carrot, with soy sauce, fish sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and lots of chili and ginger. Stir fry the way I like it, with a pile of vegetables and just four or five mouthfuls of meat amongst it.

Fri 12 July 2013 Dinner at Gourmet Dumpling with the beloved crew.

Thurs 11 July 2013 Met up with Frieda in the city at Mr Huang Jin. Best dish of the night was the chili xiao long bao.

Weds 10 July 2013 Pilates, then came home and snacked on a persimmon and some pistachios.

Tues 9 July 2013 Worked late. Ted came to pick me up, and we stopped at Muskaan K in Huntingdale and shared a saag kofta and a lamb madras.

Mon 8 July 2013 Well, despite being on fire in the kitchen yesterday, we were too lazy to make dinner. So we ate leftover frittata, cauliflower and pumpkin for dinner.

Sun 7 July 2013 Breakfast of kimchi fried rice with a fried egg. The Best Breakfast Ever.

I made a giant vat of chicken stock yesterday, using the usual method (frames, necks, onions, carrots, celery, bayleaves, peppercorns; low simmer 4 hours; filter; chill overnight and remove fat). Today it was time for the beef. Roasted 3.5 kg of bones with some carrots and onions for about 45 minutes, then put them in the stock pot with celery, tomato paste, dried mushrooms, peppercorns, bayleaves, parsley, a star anise, and 750 g of tendon and sinew. Kept it at a very low simmer for about 8 hours. Once it had cooled a little, I poured it through a colander to catch all the big stuff, then filtered it all through a sieve lined with a linen handerchief. It’s chilling in the fridge overnight, and tomorrow I’ll remove the fat and parcel it up into ziplocks for the freezer.

I also embarked on a frankly crazy work-lunch cooking plan that involved being highly active in the kitchen for a couple of solid hours. I am knackered now, but at least delicious lunches are made for the next week or two, and the freezer is FULL.

Lunches 1: A frittata of leek, cavolo nero, chard, sorrel, mint, pine nuts, a bit of brown rice, feta and fennelseed. Manchurian cauliflower. A golden nugget pumpkin, halved and seeded, then cut into 3 cm slices and roasted, skin on, with olive oil, salt, pepper and sumac.

Lunches 2: Tempeh with the same shallot-tamarind-ketcap manis-chili sauce I made a week or so ago. Steamed broccoli. Cavolo nero braised with a little tamari, fish oil and sesame oil. Brown rice.

I was planning on making a stir fry for dinner, but was too tired and had realised that I was running out of both tupperware and freezer space, so we ate portions of Lunches 1 for dinner.

Sat 6 July 2013 St Kilda markets in the morning. I bought more stuff than I could carry, including about 8 kg of chicken and beef bones for stock. Also some incredibly good astringent persimmons, including some that were ready to eat. Amazingly I got them home in more or less one piece, despite the fact they were basically bags of jelly inside tender thin skins. They taste just like the ones from grandad’s tree when I was a kid. I remember them so vividly – he would peel them, cut them into pieces, and put them on a plate in the fridge. Now I eat them with a teaspoon straight from the whole fruit, but remember every time I do it how he used to peel them for us.

We’d skipped breakfast, so for lunch we walked up to Milla and Cooper’s. For once I managed to walk past the array of salads and order something from the cabinets inside. I had spiced kofte in tomato sauce with jewelled rice. The kofte tasted very basically of lamb, nothing exciting, but the rice was amazing. It was pale yellow, with some scant threads of what might have been fine short noodles mixed through. It was tossed with slivered almonds, chopped pistachios, slivered barberries, dried green mulberries, and perhaps some fresh herbs. It had a faint but pervasive savouriness – perhaps it was just that the rice was cooked in a weak stock rather than water? I’m not sure. But I would love to be able to replicate it. The sweetness of the mulberries was a perfect accent for the rest of the ingredients. Really good.

For dinner, we drove over to Brunswick East and met Danielle at Rumi for a wonderful meal. Check out number 2 on this list for details.

Fri 5 July 2013 Lab dinner at Lemnos Taverna in Prahran. Very friendly, good food. Particularly liked the marida (fried whitebait with lemon) and the Friday night special of roast baby goat.

Thurs 4 July 2013 Casarecce with pancetta, Brussels sprouts, brown butter and hazelnuts. Quartered a large number of sprouts, tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper and a dash of white wine, and roasted for about 30 minutes at 180C until tender and browned on the edge. Sliced and slow-cooked an onion in a pan until sweet and deep golden, then added some chopped flat pancetta and chopped hazelnuts and cooked a further 5 minutes. Browned some butter. Tossed it all together with the pasta and ate. Bon.

Weds 3 July 2013 I drove back from work with Helen and Keyne and we went to The Local Taphouse in St Kilda for some wine and dinner. I had the grilled pork sausages with mash, pickled cabbage and onion jus; very good.

Tues 2 July 2013 Went to Chadstone to see World War Z with Henry, Heather, Nichola and Rene. Stopped off at Pappa Rich beforehand for a bowl of Pappa prawn mee – prawn broth with noodles, prawns, egg, chicken, sprouts and water spinach.

Mon 1 July 2013 Casarecce with roast mushrooms (field and swiss brown), leeks braised with thyme, a spoonful of creme fraiche, and parmesan.

Finished off the kimchi and jarred it up.

Sun 30 June 2013 For dinner, noodle soup. Started with home-made chicken stock, which I simmered with ginger, chili, and a small dash of soy sauce. Then into the soup went cooked and drained fresh egg noodles, soaked dried tofu skins, fresh shiitake and enoki mushrooms, and some chinese broccoli. Topped with scallions, coriander leaves, a drizzle of sesame oil, and some more chili flakes.

I had extra mushrooms, greens, tofu skins, noodles etc left over so quickly stir fried them all together with a sauce made up of barley miso, shiro miso, mirin, tamari, sesame oil and chili, to take for lunches tomorrow.

I also made a big pot of vegetable soup to freeze in portions for emergency lunches: onion, carrot, flat pancetta, chicken stock, tinned tomatoes, red wine, pinto beans, potatoes, a swede, lots of cavolo nero, and a couple of big pinches of chili.

I got started on a fresh batch of kimchi. Did the first step of Zoe’s recipe today, and the wombok and daikon are currently salting down in a giant laundry bucket in the cupboard/wine cellar. I’ll need to finish it off and jar it tomorrow night.

Aaaaand finally, made another of the same quince and almond cake I made last week. I feel like I have been a very efficient village woman today, even if I didn’t get as much work done as I wanted on paper revisions.

Sat 29 June 2013 A great breakfast of brussels sprouts, eggs and asian flavours (number 6 on this list).

For dinner, we made Italian fish stew with polenta, which we ate with green beans. Good, and very easy. I used rockling, but 400 g is more than we need – I would get a smaller piece of fish next time, 200-300 g. I also used a full tin of tomatoes rather than just half for a little more sauce.

Fri 28 June 2013 Dinner with the lab at Hot Pot Paradise – so good!

Thurs 27 June 2013 Green thai curry with eggplant, tofu, zucchini and green beans. Got to remember that our current fish sauce is really strong – need to start off with just a few drops and then work up from there.

Wed 26 June 2013 Sauteed brussels sprouts with curly kale, bacon and chestnuts.

Tues 25 June 2013 I was working late, so Ted came out and picked me up and we stopped off at Euro Bites on the way home to share a gyros plate.

Mon 24 June 2013 Finally, a tempeh dish I like!! I made this, tempted by the photo which made it look like the sauce would be very caramelised and strong. In fact, after making it to the recipe, the sauce was only mid-brown and tasted almost exclusively of tamarind. I sloshed in a good bit of kecap manis and a couple of very large pinches of chili flakes, cooked another minute or two, and suddenly all was good. Still not quite what I was expecting, but I would happily eat this again. We ate it with rice, and blanched green beans and snow peas.

Sun 23 June 2013 Brunch with Frieda at the Auction Rooms in North Melbourne.

For dinner, Ruth Bruten’s extremely good haloumi, spinach and nigella seed gozleme, with roasted sweet potato on the side. Will definitely make this again. Essential to roll the dough as thin as possible.

I also made a big salad for lunches that is probably the most hippy-ish thing I have made for a long, long time. It’s a mix of red quinoa, roast cauliflower, roast mushrooms, the leftover sweeet potato from dinner, kale, spinach, mint, scallions, feta, chickpeas sauteed in garlic oil, and toasted pecans. A dressing of hazelnut oil, white wine vinegar and seed mustard. It tastes great. Ted gave it major side-eye.

Sat 22 June 2013 A perfect winter’s day, cold but with a pure blue sky and warm sun. In the afternoon, I made this quince, almond and rum cake – excellent crumb, with a delicious slightly sugary crust and the faint aroma of rum. Used macadamia oil rather than vegetable oil, and would do so again.

For dinner, we made greens fritters with Manchurian roasted cauliflower. The sweet sharp sauce of the cauliflower went extremely well with the iron-y flavour of the fritters. Fritter recipe was cobbled together on the run, but worked well. Combined 6 large leaves of curly kale, stemmed, torn into pieces, simmered until tender; leaves of a very large bunch of english spinach, wilted and chopped; a cup or so of frozen peas, defrosted in hot water; salt, pepper, a small chunk of feta, crumbled, and a teaspoon of fennel seeds. Made a batter from a cup of atta flour, 3 eggs, a couple of large spoonfuls of yoghurt, and a drizzle of water. Mixed all together, left to sit for 5 minutes, then cooked as fritters. Made about 12 fritters.

Fri 21 June 2013 We had a beer tasting at work for an hour or so (standouts included Sierra Nevada Harvest Ale, Wells banana bread beer, and the Mountain Goat Rapunzel). The others went on for Korean chicken in the city, but I was knackered so came home.

Thurs 20 June 2013 Ted and I walked over to the Living Room for dinner. I had a perfectly cooked ox cheek braised in Pedro Ximenez with mash and brussels sprouts; Ted had gnocchi with ragu and peas. After a few nights where we were both working or otherwise engaged in the evenings, lovely to chat for a couple of hours with no computers around.

Wed 19 June 2013 Pilates, followed by toast and marmelade.

Tues 18 June 2013 I worked very late again, and came home to dinner made by Ted: chicken drumsticks roasted on mixed root vegetables (potato, jerusalem artichokes, carrots, parsnips).

Mon 17 June 2013 The lovely Ted came and picked me up from work around 9 pm so I didn’t have to get home on the train in the cold rain. Not much food in the house, so we made a 10 minute dinner of steamed broccoli, a couple of handfuls of small macaroni cooked in the water in the bottom of the steamer, a grating of parmesan and a drizzle of garlic olive oil.

Sun 16 June 2013 Made a warming wintery soup of pinto beans (some of the giant pot I cooked last week and froze in portions), onion, celery, carrot, potato, bacon, and greens from the garden (chard, silverbeet, basil, parsley). There were only two small pieces of bacon for a very large pot of soup, but they flavoured it perfectly. It was Saskia Beer’s sugar-cured bacon, very good.

Sat 15 June 2013 pasta with smoked salmon, creme fraiche, roasted broccoli, pine nuts, lemon juice and mint.

Fri 14 June 2013 Tried out a new dumpling restaurant with the lab – Potsticker in Caulfield. Not very excited. Food was ok, service was pleasant but very slow, the bill was three times what it is at Gourmet Dumpling and we didn’t have as good a time.

Thurs 13 June 2013 Both of us working in the evening, so once we hit peak ravenous we split a pizza from Assaggi.

Wed 12 June 2013 What is unfortunately becoming a bit of a post-pilates trend: toast.

Tues 11 June 2013 Dinner with Frieda, at Bentoya in Hardware St. Bento box with red miso-dressed vegetable stir fry.

Mon 10 June 2013 Very good dinner. Based on this recipe, chicken with swede, cider and creme fraiche, with a salad of mixed leaves and apple. Surprisingly quick and easy, and delicious. We deviated from the recipe in cooking the shallots for longer (until just golden), not slashing the chicken (because we were using drumsticks rather than marylands), and using only a tiny fraction of the creme fraiche called for (1 good dessert spoon full, not 150 g). A++ would cook again. I think this may be the first time I’ve cooked swedes.

Sun 9 June 2013 Soft tacos with excellent beans and vegetables. For the beans: soaked and cooked pinto beans until tender, then cooked two sliced onions, added several crushed cloves of garlic, cumin powder, chipotle in adobo, dried oregano, a couple of bay leaves, a bottle of beer, a little of the reserved cooking liquid and the beans, and gave them another hour on the stove. Vegetables: roast sliced red peppers, roast sweet potato, chard sauteed with onion.

Sat 8 June 2013 We split a pizza from Assaggi – the Berlusconi (with porcini and truffle paste, ha ha). Man we are being lazy with cooking at the moment. I know I’d feel better if we cooked more, but stress + laziness + feeling of being overstretched = cop-out.

Fri 7 June 2013 Dinner with the lab at Kimchi Grandma. So good!

Thurs 6 June 2013 Craving Indian, so we got takeaway from Moti Mahal. Lamb with fenugreek leaves and spices, very good. Paneer with almond sauce, a good match for the slightly bitter lamb dish. Mushroom kulcha.

Wed 5 June 2013 Cauliflower frittata with leftover lentils and green beans. For the frittata: 1 large cauliflower, broken into florets and roasted. Two onions, halved, sliced and caramelised. A piece of King Island smoked cheddar, grated. Parsley, radish leaves and chives, chopped. Five eggs, salt and pepper.

Tues 4 June 2013 Ted made chocolate chip biscuits, and I’m afraid that’s what we ate for dinner.

Mon 3 June 2013 Roast pumpkin and capsicums with feta and mint; roast Brussels sprouts in vermouth with hazelnuts; Puy lentils.

Sun 2 June 2013 Met up with Helen, Heather, Jenny, Scott and others to do the 5 km MS walk around Albert Park lake. We retired to the Middle Park Hotel afterwards for gruyere hamburgers, beers, and chat. No dinner required.

Sat 1 June 2013 Pasta with tomato and rosemary sauce.

Fri 31 May 2013 After a fairly long absence, back at Gourmet Dumpling for dinner with the lab. So good – there is a reason we have eaten here about 30 times. Afterwards, people came back to our place for more drinking and chatting. Nichola and Rene went via their place and brought over both the kittens and the makings of chocolate lava puddings, which Nichola then proceded to cook for everyone. Love my lab.

Thurs 30 May 2013 Meh. No dinner.

Wed 29 May 2013 Spaghetti with chili, garlic and parsley.

Tues 28 May 2013 Dinner with Frieda at Kokoro Ramen. Not as great as the first time we went, though still good. Need to remember to order the egg addition if you’re just getting the basic soup.

Mon 27 May 2013 The beef stew that Meg of yesterday so thoughtfully made for Meg of today. Ate it with couscous, roast pumpkin, and green beans. Bon.

Sun 26 May 2013 Baked pasta: 350 g pasta, cooked until very al dente. Mixed with a tomato sauce (onion, garlic, 2 tins tomatoes, 400 ml passata, red wine, cooked down), a jar of Meredith Dairy marinated feta, 2 eggplants cubed and roasted, basil and parsley. Into a baking dish, parmesan on top. Cooked at 180 for 25 minutes, rested for 5 minutes. Eaten with broccoli on the side.

I also made a beef stew that we will eat tomorrow night: 750 g oyster blade, cut into 1.5 inch pieces and browned. 6 large shallots and 8 cloves garlic, both peeled, halved and browned. In the Le Creuset combine the beef, alliums, a large glass of red wine, 250 ml passata, 1 cup of beef stock, 2 bay leaves, 2 star anise, salt. Cook for two hours at 150 C, leave overnight, rewarm the next day. This used up the last of the beef stock from the freezer – I need to make more.

Leftovers of both pasta and stew will make lunches for a lot of the week.

Sat 25 May 2013 Met up with Dave, Louise and Magnus for brunch at the A1 bakery in Brunswick. Split a spinach triangle and a zaatar pizza.

For dinner, we finally tried the laksa at Fortunes. It would be fantastico to have good laksa nearby, but alas this is probably not it. OK, but would be much better with a load of vegetables.

Fri 24 May 2013 Chopped an aubergine and four ripe tomatoes, tossed in olive oil and red wine vinegar, and roasted till the eggplant was golden and soft and the tomatoes completely collapsed into sauciness. Ate with pasta.

Thurs 23 May 2013 I caught a lift home from work with Helen, and as we were both feeling sociable, and neither of us had much food in the house, we rendezvoused with Ted at Jaipur in Caufield for Indian for three. The saag chicken was particularly good.

Weds 22 May 2013 Ted came home from a week away, and we celebrated by having… lemon crisp biscuits for dinner.

Tues 21 May 2013 After hearing tales of the excellence of Shanghai Street Dumpling from Ted for months, I finally managed to make it there, with Frieda. We shared the vegetarian xiao long bao, pork and prawn wontons with chili oil and peanut and sesame paste, and fried pork mini buns. All three were fantastic, with the pork mini buns best of all.

Mon 20 May 2013 Feeling like I am about to die of scurvy after a week of being so sick and not eating enough fresh vegetables, I left work early and went by the green grocer on my way home. Made an oven frittata of beet leaves, spinach, steamed sweet potato and baby beetroots for dinner.

Sun 19 May 2013 Pasta with garlic, chili and parsley for lunch.

For dinner, this baked mushroom and rice dish from Nigel Slater. Good chicken stock essential. Roasted Brussels sprouts on the side.

Sat 18 May 2013 Fried rice with kimchi, ginger, chard and spring onions from the garden, and sesame oil. This was the last of the last bottle of kimchi – need to make more soon.

Fri 17 May 2013 Pasta with smoked salmon, spinach and lemon.

Thurs 16 May 2013 Pasta e ceci.

Sat 11 May 2013 Brunch with Francesca, Henry, Nichola and Inaki and Begona at Birdie Num Nums.

Fri 10 May 2013 Dinner with the lab – we got takeaway from Aoba and ate it at our place.

Thurs 9 May 2013 Dinner with Frieda at Dainty Sichuan, then drinks at Siglo (the rooftop bar above the European).

Tues 7 May 2013 Eric’s last night in Melbourne. Lab people came over and we had a BBQ.

Mon 6 May 2013 A dish of couscous, roast cauliflower, pine nuts, feta, parsley, mint and pomegranate seeds.

Sun 5 May 2013 We both felt in need of a little refortifying after multiple beverages last night. For Ted this takes the form of eggs and bacon, for me as many vegetables as possible. The obvious brunch choice was Milla and Cooper, where Ted got the protein-and-fat combination he required, and I had a plate of three great salads (cypriot grain and seed salad with goat cheese and pomegranate seeds; a salad of green beans, pattypan squash and zucchini with lots of herbs; and a red salad of beetroot, radicchio, ruby grapefruit, hazelnuts and various other things).

I finally got around to planting out into the raised bed the broadbean, broccoli and kale seedlings that have been ready to go in for well over a week. I also potted out at last the chives and thyme into large pots, hopefully before they were completely potbound.

We’d been thinking about making gnocchi for dinner, but were too lazy, so just had casarecce with roast pumpkin, pine nuts, Meredith Dairy marinated goat cheese, chives, parsley and parmesan, with a side of green beans. Eric is staying with us until he leaves on Wednesday.

Sat 4 May 2013 Janine’s housewarming in the afternoon and early evening, then we headed over to Brunswick East for dinner with Dave, Jenny and Will at Kumo Izakaya. The Urbanspoon rating for this place is not great, but every dish we had was delicious. Standouts were the seared scallops with bonito flakes; eggplant agebitashi with amazake miso on rice crackers; whitebait tempura; and spicy black vinegar karaage chicken. We stopped off for a last drink at the Alehouse Project on the way back to the tram.

Fri 3 May 2013 A last Friday dinner with Eric and twenty or so of the lab, at Vegie Hut in Box Hill (tragically, Gourmet Dumpling was booked out for the night).

Thurs 2 May 2013 Lunch with Dave (briefly visiting) and Ted at San Telmo. Very good, which was a relief, as I’d been tasked with chosing the restaurant for Dave’s birthday. We started with prawn ceviche, provoleta and grilled morcilla, then shared grilled hanger steak and three vegetable dishes: one of cauliflower, paprika and pumpkin seeds, a second of potatoes, peas and shallots, and a third of char grilled eggplant with romesco and rosemary.

Wed 1 May 2013 Pasta with leeks cooked in white wine, a marinated white cheese from Yarra Valley, and pine nuts.

Tues 30 April 2013 Rice with tofu, eggplant, broccoli, green beans and pseudo-peanut sauce. The tofu was cubed and gently browned, then tossed with tamari, rice vinegar and sesame oil. The eggplant was cut into 2 cm pieces, tossed with tamari, fish sauce, sesame oil and rice vinegar, and roasted for about 30 minutes until soft and golden. The broccoli was cut into florets, tossed with a little drizzle of garlic oil and sea salt, and roasted for 20 minutes until crisped on the edges. Green beans were just blanched. The sauce was based on this recipe, but I realised as I came to make it that we were out of peanut butter, so used a combination of almond/pecan/hazelnut butter and some unhulled tahini. I always just make this sauce in a bowl, whisking with a fork, and usually add some chili flakes.

Mon 29 April 2013 Chicken and corn soup.

Sun 28 April 2013 We climbed Hanging Rock in the morning, and then had lunch at The Good Table in Castlemaine. A lovely room, with very friendly and accomodating staff. We took the set menu of four small courses: potato fritters with smoked trout; wild rabbit galantine with parsley and cornichon salad; pan-fried gnocchi with roast pumpkin and fromage frais; crumbed disks of osso buco with horseradish, and a brussels sprout, avocado and hazelnut salad. There was some interesting cooking here, and the gnocchi were really excellent – a perfect texture. But the rabbit was pretty tasteless, and while the osso bucco was well flavoured it was a little dry. I think if we hadn’t eaten so spectacularly well the previous day I might have been more impressed. I’d come back here very happily but it wasn’t quite in the same league as yesterday’s food.

We got home in the early evening, and I made a few dishes for dinner and lunches: a frittata of roast cauliflower, chard, parsley and smoked cheese; Puy lentils with onion, carrot, celery, parsley, a couple of tomatoes, red wine vinegar; roast beetroot chopped and tossed with oil and aged red wine vinegar.

Sat 27 April 2013 A day of much great food. We had lunch at Annie Smithers Bistrot – I am really glad we managed to eat here before it is handed over to the new owners. The food was, as expected, clean and simple but superbly done. I had two entrees and a dessert (the latter of which reinforced for me that no matter how well made the dessert, they just don’t do it for me). The first entree was the best, a real delight to eat. It was a salad of finely sliced house-smoked trout, with small leaves, julienned green apple, pine nuts and a quenelle of horseradish cream. It was light and just complex enough to be enlivening. For the second entree, I’d been tossing up between wild mushrooms and chicken livers, both served with spinach. I chose the livers because I knew they would be cooked well here, and they were. But it was still too much meat for me – I’d been expecting a couple of livers, but there were five or six. No matter how delicious the meat, or how expertly cooked, a few bites is enough. I don’t need to eat twenty mouthfuls of the same meat. For dessert, I had fino and prune puddng with caramel sauce. Ted had quail, followed by duck, and then chocolate mousse, and enjoyed it all enormously.

We took a postprandial stroll around the botanic gardens and down by the river in the lovely autumn air, then went back to the cottage to lie in front of the fire and read. We had a booking for dinner at Mr Carsisi but almost cancelled it because we weren’t feeling terribly hungry. I’m so glad that we decided to press on anyway. We ordered five tapas to share, all of which were good. The absolute standout was a special, a salad of finely shredded chicken, pickled wild cucumbers and turnips, red onion, herbs, and a lemon and sumac dressing. Also great: haloumi and mint fritters with orange blossom honey; pumpkin kibbeh with almond tarator; sauteed cauliflower and almonds with black eye peas and pastirma in a golden dressing of tahini and spices; and spiced lamb, tomato and pomegranate borek with dill yoghurt. Half the price of Annie Smithers, and to be honest I found it more interesting and almost as expertly done.

Fri 26 April 2013 Ted and I are off to Kyneton for the weekend. We arrived around 4, wandered through town, and stopped in at Pizza Verde for an early dinner. We split a mushroom, taleggio and herb pizza, another pizza with tomato, mozzarella, pesto and some kind of cured meat, and a dish of wood-roasted broccoli, almonds and lemon oil. Lovely place, great vibe, and great pizza.

Thurs 25 April 2013 We were too slothful to cook anything new, so at various times throughout the evening we snacked on the meagre leftovers from last night, a piece of dark chocolate, a pear.

Wed 24 April 2013  Potato, parsnip, carrot, shallots, garlic, and chicken drumsticks, all roasted together in a pan.

Tues 23 April 2013 Ted went out to dinner with Yvonne and friends; I intended to go but was sick and went to bed early.

Mon 22 April 2013 I always find it really tricky to time a traditional meat-and-three-vegetables dinner. It seems way more complicated than organising any number of vegetarian dishes which seem to be much more forgiving. This dinner took a bit more faffing than I’d expected but was delicious in the end. We had a couple of confit duck legs from Skinner and Hacket, which we cooked by simmering in their vaccuum-packed bag for a bit under 10 minutes, then extracting them and putting under the grill for a few minutes until the skin was crisped. We ate them with mashed potato, roast carrots, and greens. The greens were delicious, my favourite part of the meal. I quartered and sliced an onion, then sauteed with an anchovy until soft. Finely sliced four leaves of cavolo nero and five leaves of chard. Simmered the cavolo nero for several minutes until softened, then drained, and added this plus the chard to the saucepan and kept cooking over low-medium heat for another 10 or 15 minutes until they were completely collapsed. I added a few spoonfuls of water half way through to stop them drying out. Really good. (Veg box note: the potatoes, carrots and greens were all from this week’s box.)

Sun 21 April 2013 Minestrone for lunch, with left-overs for lunches during the week. Chop 1 onion, 2 small carrots, 2 sticks celery, 1 leek and 1 small red chili, then sweat in olive oil until tender. Add 1 chopped eggplant and 8 leaves of young cavolo nero, stemmed and finely sliced, plus a glass of red wine, two tins of tomatoes (roughly chopped in the can), a cup or two of chicken stock, and a good pinch of salt. Cook 10 minutes or so, then add a tin of borlotti beans, drained and rinsed. Keep simmering until the aubergine and cavolo nero are very close to done. Add a couple of handfuls of small pasta shapes, top up with a little extra water if needed, and simmer until everything is cooked. Season to taste, and serve with pecorino and parsley. (The onion, carrot, celery, leek, cavolo nero were from the veg box. Chili and parsley from the garden.)

Sat 20 April 2013 Picked up Whole Larder Love vegie box in the morning, then had breakfast at Woodstock.

For lunch, BBQ at Jell’s Park to farewell Eric and Taz. I brought a quick potato salad – steamed potatoes, fresh corn kernels, celery (all three from veg box), chives, parsley and mint (all from garden), in a dressing of creme fraiche, Dijon mustard, wholegrain mustard and lemon juice.

So much good food at lunch, no need for dinner.

Fri 19 April 2013 Vegetarian lasagne for dinner – layers of tomato sauce, roast pumpkin, eggplant and mushroom, and fresh ricotta and spinach.

Thur 18 April 2013 Pasta e ceci.

Wed 17 April 2013 Yet another variant on the easiest of warm salads: two medium potatoes, scrubbed, chopped and steamed, mixed with the kernels from a cob of corn, some finely chopped celery, two sliced radishes, lots of chopped parsley and chives, and 150 g of hot-smoked salmon, flaked; tossed with a dressing made of a dessert spoon of creme fraiche, a teaspoon each of Dijon mustard and wholegrain mustard, and the juice of half a lemon.

Tues 16 April 2013 Udon noodles with tofu, fresh shiitake and shimeji mushrooms, scallions, coriander, finely sliced fresh young chard leaves, and arame; with a dressing of tamari, fish sauce, sesame oil, brown rice vinegar, mirin and chili flakes. (A retrospective note that this was much nicer as leftovers for lunch the next day. I’m not sure what kind of settling or mixing occurs exactly, but it is necessary.)

Mon 15 April 2013 Risotto with mushrooms, lemon thyme and spinach.

I also salvaged some mushy bananas by making this cake, and made a salad for lunch tomorrow by clearing out the crisper: roast pumpkin and eggplant, sauteed zucchini and spinach, farro, pine nuts, feta, and a dressing of olive oil, cider vinegar and dijon mustard. All this and watched an episode of David Attenborough too.

Sun 14 April 2013 We had a couple of cubic metres of soil delivered for the raised bed, and spent an hour or so in the afternoon transferring it from the driveway to the back garden via shovel and wheelbarrow. We got the work done under a sunny sky, and shortly after I’d topped the soil off with mulch, nature obliged by watering it in with a long rainstorm. I took advantage of the chilliness and the rain to cook goat shanks with white beans and vegetables for about three hours at 150 C in the oven.

Sat 13 April 2013 Because my give-a-shit levels are not significantly different from zero right now, we made a dinner by mixing the contents of a large number of little tupperware containers of leftovers with pasta. It ended up being fusilli with pesto, barbequed zucchini, blanched green beans, toasted pine nuts and labneh. Fine. The labneh was the right texture by now. 24 hours’s draining wasn’t enough; it was ok after about two and half days. I did start with natural, non-homogenised yoghurt rather than Greek yoghurt as I had before.

Fri 12 April 2013 It’s April’s third birthday next week, so we had a party at Henry and Linda’s place tonight to celebrate. Linda made an array of delicious curries and noodle dishes. Various people in the lab bought April a gigantic play horse, three times as large as she is, complete with reins and stirrups (which she called pedals).

Thurs 11 April 2013 Dinner with Yvonne and Danielle at Vegie Bar in Fitzroy. Really lovely to catch up with Yvonne, who we haven’t seen since 2003. Much reminiscing about Brighton. Good food; I think my favourite was the Mainly Greens with tempeh and tahini sauce.

Wed 10 April 2013 A dinner that utterly failed to work – couscous, barbequed zucchini with lemon, pesto, labneh that I’d started last night, but which hadn’t drained sufficiently in the subsequent 24 hours and so was too sloppy to form into balls. Bleh.

Tues 9 April 2013 Pumpkin, cauliflower and silverbeet frittata, and beetroot, avocado, herb and pea salad.

Mon 8 April 2013 We made a salad of vegetables and smoked salmon: several small potatoes, scrubbed, cut into 2 cm pieces and steamed; a big handful of crispy green beans, blanched, refreshed under cold water, and cut into shorter lengths; the kernels from an ear of corn, sauteed; the leaves from a bunch of watercress; a few sprigs of fresh dill, chopped; a spoonful of salted capers, chopped; 150 g hot-smoked salmon fillet, flaked; all tossed with a dressing made from a spoonful of creme fraiche, a heaped teaspoon of Dijon mustard, a heaped teaspoon of wholegrain mustard, and the juice of half a lemon.

Sun 7 April 2013 We bought some timber from Bulleen Art and Garden and built a frame for a raised bed in the garden, 4 x 1 x 0.4 m. The last screw was drilled in just as the sun was setting. We’ll order some soil to be delivered next weekend.

For dinner, we made a tagine, based fairly loosely on this recipe. I used stewing beef rather than lamb, and ended up cooking it for two and a half hours rather than one and a half. I added pumpkin about 45 minutes before the end, and lots of chopped spinach along with the chickpeas. We didn’t have green olives so skipped them, but added a good squeeze of harissa paste close to the end. We ate it with couscous. I had plans for green beans and other vegetables to go alongside, but we were so tired we left it at that. Very satisfying.

Sat 6 April 2013 Went to the Veg Out markets at St Kilda, then met Helen for brunch at Lo Spuntino. Made more chicken stock in the afternoon, in between checking out garden centres and taking a trip to Bunnings with Janine. Dinner: radiatori with mushrooms and spinach.

Fri 5 April 2013 Even more than usually excellent dumplings with the lab, at Gourmet Dumpling. There were about 18 of us there and we ordered profligately.

Thurs 4 April 2013 Rose submitted her Honours thesis today, so cake in the lab.

Dinner: a not-quite-successful greens pie. Cooked onion, leek, kale and chard, and mixed with ricotta, sumac, sultanas, pine nuts and egg, then encased in filo pastry. Perfectly edible, but a bit dry and undersalted. An unworthy companion to the very, very last of the garden tomatoes, roasted with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

Wed 3 April 2013 Reheated tomato and fennel soup for dinner.

Tues 2 April 2013 Inspired by this photo (I love Gourmet Girlfriend’s breakfast photos), I made an almost identical breakfast for myself: sauteed corn cut from one of the cobs in the vegie box; a gently fried egg with just-cooked white and runny yolk; yoghurt mixed with a squeeze of harissa paste; chives from the garden. Very good.

Dinner: pasta with shallot, guanciale, zucchini, peas, mint and parmesan.

Mon 1 April 2013 Heather’s partner Kyle is in town, and Eric is ticking off items on his to-do-while-in-Melbourne list, so we decided to drive out to the Yarra Valley to do some wine tasting. It turned out to involve tasting lots of other things too – chocolate, cheese, beer, cider – but the very, very best of all was the wine tasting at Yarra Yering. Eleven superb wines; we ended up buying two bottles of the 1994 sparkling and one bottle of  malbec with a nose like a perfume bottle. We stopped off for dinner at Innocent Bystander. Most of the others had pizza; I had a very good dish of spatchcock stuffed with ricotta and pine nuts, with a side of braised cavolo nero.

Sun 31 March 2013 The vegie box included two heads of fennel that were the largest, toughest, gnarliest fennel I have ever seen. They clearly needed to be cooked and blended into submission before being eaten, so for lunch I made this tomato and fennel soup.

After lunch we cycled slowly around the neighbourhood, finding new streets and checking out the hard rubbish people had left out for this weekend’s collection. I was scouting for bits of timber to make a raised bed in the garden. Didn’t find anything appropriate for that, but did pick up a pilates ball, which I deflated and strapped to the back of the bike with bungy cords.

Dinner: stew of chicken thighs, farro, potato, carrot, parsnip, turnip (finally I have managed to use a turnip!), peas and parsley.

Sat 30 March 2013 Went to St Kilda on the tram to pick up the vegie box, then the very excellent Ted called me to tell me he had arisen from bed and would come and meet me with the car so I didn’t have to lug the box home on public transport. Since we were out and about, we stopped in at Garage Espresso for breakfast (vegie scramble), then drove over to Skinner and Hackett to inspect their range of happy-animal meats. We picked up some bacon for Ted, some guanciale for me, fresh lamb mince to make kofte, and 2 kg each of chicken frames and necks to replenish our stock supplies.

Got home, had a slice of apple cake, and filled the stock pot with chicken bits, onions, carrots, celery, bay leaves, parsley and peppercorns and let it simmer gently for four hours. While it was bubbling away I planted some new seeds: spinach, silverbeet, dente de leone, white mustard, turnip leaf, cime de rapa.

Then picked up Helen and drove over to Yarraville to eat tapas and see Performance at the cinema there.

Fri 29 March 2013 Good Friday holiday. Awful, unhappy day. For dinner made pasta e ceci, one of my ultimate comfort foods. We didn’t have any chicken stock, so I added a tiny dash of tamari to give some umami, and that worked well.

Also made an apple and walnut oil cake with some of the huge bag of apples the lovely Alison gave me (collected from Andres’s parents’ farm). Used brandy as we didn’t have any grappa, and it gave a very pleasant warmth to the cake.

Thurs 28 March 2013 The lab got takeaway Japanese from Iroli and came back to eat it at our place.

Wed 27 March 2013 Went to the Living Room with Helen for a drink and light dinner after work. We split little plates of scallops with cauliflower beignets; goat cheese and thyme croquettes with a delicious slaw; broad bean fritters with tomato salad.

Tues 26 March 2013 Made a great noodle salad to take for lunch: springy udon noodles, rinsed well; tofu fried then tossed with tamari; finely sliced scallions, young chard leaves, sorrel and rocket; green soybeans; rehydrated shiitake, chopped; arame; and a dressing of tamari, sesame oil, rice vinegar, mirin, fish sauce, chili flakes. So good.

Dinner: another round of black bean and goat tacos using left-overs from Sunday.

Mon 25 March 2013 Roast feta and tomatoes (put in a baking dish a ~100 g piece of feta and about 20 halved cherry or medium sized tomatoes from the garden, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt, pepper, dried oregano, and cook for 20 minutes at 180, sprinkle with chopped flat-leaf parsley); sourdough; a side dish of broccoli.

Sun 24 March 2013 Lunch: frittata of roast beetroot, beet leaves, potato, scallions, sorrel, young chard leaves, plus pesto.

Dinner: excellent soft tacos. Chipotle black beans, slow-cooked goat, sauteed zucchini, avocado, coriander, lime. These were really perfecto – an ideal combination of flavours.

Sat 23 March 2013 Lunch at Isit with Rob, Tonya and Farley.

Dinner: minestrone (of onion, carrot, celery, capsicum, tomato, chili, cavolo nero, borlotti beans, tiny macaroni, parsley, parmesan).

Fri 22 March 2013 Afhan food with the lab at Nights of Kabul. The food was all good, but next time we need to remember that we really prefer the mantu dumplings to the aashak. As always, the eggplant, dal and spinach were fantastic.

Thurs 21 March 2013 Delicious, squidgy chard panade, made with C2 raw milk cheese from Bruny Island Cheese, rather than the gruyere I usually use. C2 is so so good.

Wed 20 March 2013 Barbequed chicken thighs; sauteed corn with lime and chili; a slaw of finely shredded cabbage, carrot, scallions, and herbs. The slaw was not great – it turned out much better after I repurposed the leftovers for lunch by adding left-over shredded chicken, many more herbs, chopped roasted pine nuts, and a dressing of soy sauce, chili, rice vinegar and sesame oil.

Tues 19 March 2013 Fusilli with leeks cooked in white wine, toasted pine nuts, parsley, and Meredith Dairy marinated goat cheese. So incredibly delicious.

Mon 18 March 2013 Saturday’s red cabbage, beetroot and smoked salmon salad was so good, I made it again for lunch, this time with added chopped hazelnuts. Dinner: Chicken and fresh corn soup.

Sun 17 March 2013 It’s Heather’s birthday, so a bunch of us drove down with her to the Mornington Peninsula for some tasting of wine and cheese. We met for lunch at the Red Hill bakery for wood-fired pizzas, then progressed onwards to Paringa Estate for some wine. Really enjoyed this one – the wines were great, particularly the pinot noirs, and the guy giving us the tasting was very knowledgable and pleasant. We drove on to Ten Minutes by Tractor, about which I have heard many good things from different sources. They were out of several of their Estate wines, so the tasting was very abbreviated. I liked (miraculously, unprecedentedly) their rosé, and thought the pinot noir was interesting and well-made, though very much not a style I like. Last stop of the day was at Red Hill Cheese, which I’ve loved since first coming here with Matt and Leonie. We shared the large tasting plate (ten small pieces of cheese), then asked them to plate up anything else they had available on a second plate. Many good things, and I ended up buying three cheeses from the second set of tastings, including a particularly strong blue and a lovely aged pecorino. Absolutely no need for dinner after all of this.

Sat 9 – Sat 16 March 2013 Check out the meals for this week here.

Fri 8 March 2013 Lunch was a replay of yesterday’s. Dinner: went to Ping’s with the lab.

Thurs 7 March 2013 A great salad for lunch: found half a lettuce and a cob of corn in the fridge, and combined them with loads of rocket, finely chopped sorrel and young chard leaves, parsley, mint, basil, tomatoes, all from the garden. This plus a tin of tuna made a very satisfying meal. Dinner: Mixed mushroom noodle soup from Gourmet Dumpling.

Wed 6 March 2013 We left Bruny Island after an early beachside lunch, and got home late. But we’d eaten so well over the previous couple of days there was no need for dinner.

Tues 5 March 2013 I was on breakfast team with Alison, Jim and Scott, and we made breakfast tacos. We then all drove down to the south side of the island for a walk to some beautiful rock pools with blue starfish and other less startling occupants. On the way back to the houses we stopped off at Bruny Island Cheese for some incredibly good washed-rind cheeses, and at Get Shucked for oysters. More swimming in the afternoon, then dinner cooked by Henry’s team: chicken, fried rice, and a beautiful salad of greens, green beans, feta and ripe peaches. Alison demonstrated some fine rapping skills. Then more lying on the beach, wine, stars, you know the drill.

Mon 4 March 2013 We drove to Bruny Island for a couple of days staying at Dennes Point. Bliss. We went swimming at the beach directly across from the houses we were staying in, and saw stingrays and little fish. An excellent dinner of lamb, pumpkin and date tagine, and spinach salads. Heather hand-made eclairs (lab retreat desserts have never been this flash before). After dinner we lay on the beach drinking wine, chatting, and looking up at all the millions of stars we normally never get to see.

Sun 3 March 2013 Up at 5 to get ready to go to the airport to fly to Tasmania for lab retreat. We got to Hobart, had brunch at a cafe in Salamanca Place (corn fritters with confit trout and tomato relish). Then back to MONA! The awesomeness was less this time, because I knew what to expect, but it was still a superb four hours. Then an hour or two of lying on beanbags on the lawn drinking Moo beer. The only less-than-fantastic thing about the day was the crappy dinner – but I should know better than to order an asian dish at what is effectively a fish-and-chippery.

Fri 1 March 2013 2013 Dinner with the lab at Gourmet Dumpling.

Thurs 28 February 2013 Pizza, in the BBQ again but this time entirely successful. Made some tomato and garlic sauce, which went underneath two kinds of toppings: one was roast sweet potato and aubergine with Meredith Dairy goat cheese. The other was olives, marinated artichoke hearts, and cherry tomatoes and fresh herbs from the garden. The secret seems to be putting the pizza stone on the grill bars to protect the base from getting too flamed.

Wed 27 February 2013 Came home from pilates, to discover that Janine had made pasta carbonara and there was a bowl of it waiting for me.

Tues 26 February 2013 Pasta with slow-cooked onion, chard, roast tomatoes from garden, and feta.

Mon 25 February 2013 Heather gave us some freshly made tortillas, which were so so good. We ate them with chipotle black beans from the freezer; sauteed onion and chard; BBQ aubergine and peppers; avocado with lime; seared corn with lime, chili and mint.

Sun 24 February 2013 Spent the afternoon at the open day at Rose Creek Estate with Heather, and Inaki and Bego and the kids. It was great to see the gardens here at the end of summer, rather than the beginning as on our last visit. It’s so inspiring. Came home and Janine put together a delicious dinner that Ted cooked on the BBQ – aubergine, chicken thighs, mushrooms, peppers. Then J made hot Sunday night rocktails with pineapple juice, coconut milk and malibu.

Sat 23 February 2013 Went to see 4000 Miles at Red Stitch Theatre with Helen, Heather, Scott and Beth. Fantastic dinner beforehand at the Newmarket Hotel. Really, really good nouveau Mexican. The bone marrow tacos and squid ink tacos were standouts, but almost everything was great.

Fri 22 February 2013 We had lab dinner at Maya Tequila Bar in South Yarra. Good food. Great ceiling in the restaurant – horizontal louvres that were open so we could get some breeze and see the stars.

Thurs 21 February 2013 Orecchiette with onion, anchovies, broccoli (veg box), pine nuts, chili flakes. I also made a chocolate and zucchini (veg box) loaf.

Wed 20 February 2013 Frittata of greens (kale, cavolo nero, chard, from veg box and garden), cauliflower (veg box), capsicum, shallots, garlic, oyster mushrooms, tomatoes (garden), sorrel, mint and parsley (all garden), plus feta and eggs. Also roasted carrots and parsnips (veg box) and cooked lentils for lunch tomorrow with left-over frittata.

Tues 19 February 2013 A bunch of us went to dinner at Hu’s Pie and Dumpling to celebrate Eric’s excellent PhD examiners’ comments.

Mon 18 February 2013 Janine cooked hotpot – rice, noodles, pork balls, oyster mushrooms, chinese greens, shaved chicken, wontons, in sichuan broth.

Sun 17 February 2013 Lunch: a salad of lettuce and tomato from the veg box, tomatoes, cucumber and herbs from the garden, cold red skinned potatoes, tuna, and capers. Dinner: pasta with roast aubergine, zucchini (veg box), broccoli, capsicum, greens, pecorino.

Sat 16 February 2013 I ordered a veg box from Whole Larder Love, so went to pick it up in St Kilda this morning. On the way, I stopped for coffee at Las Chicas, and bought a cheese danish and some bread at Baker in the Rye. Staggered home under the weight of the huge and exciting veg box. Trying to clear out old veggies from the fridge before putting new ones in, I made a so-so salad of steamed potato, broccoli, boiled eggs, lots of herbs and a mustardy dressing for lunch.

It was exhaustingly hot and we were all lying on the couches wilting, so we called up Helen and went to see Life of Pi over on the north side. On the way home we stopped in at I Love Dumplings in Fitzroy for dinner.

Thurs 14 February I made pizza bases and lovingly topped them with carefully-cooked produce from the garden. I had the oven cranked right up to the maximum to cook them, put the first one in, then realised 5 minutes later that the oven had turned itself off (and wouldn’t turn back on again) because it was too hot. Fuuuuuuuuuuuck! We fired up the BBQ and tried to finish the cooking in there. The first pizza was ruined – it was solid black on the bottom. The second one, which we put on the pizza stone before BBQing, was better, but paler than I would like. Boo.

Weds 13 February 2013 Great pilates, then came home to find that Janine had cooked an amazing dinner of noodle soup. Freshly made chicken broth (4 drumsticks, 2 garlic cloves, chunk of ginger, chili, half a finely chopped onion, a couple of pinches of wonton soup base), plus noodles, shitakes, baby corn, and bok choy.

Tues 12 February 2013 We went to Spicy House in Clayton with Henry and Eric – finely sliced pork belly with garlic, sesame oil and chili; sichuan cucumber salad; chili chicken; salt and pepper squid. Then to henry’s house to watch I Love You Phillip Morris

Sun 10 February 2013 Salad of baby spinach, fennel, mint, parsley, feta, cucumber and pomegranate, with a dressing of olive oil and pomegranate molasses. (I am still so cross about that salad yesterday, I had to make a good one to make myself feel better.)

Sat 9 February 2013 We went for brunch to a cafe down the road that has recently changed hands. We didn’t like it before, and now I like it even less. I paid $16 for a salad that was mostly a mound of baby spinach, with small amounts of overcooked pumpkin and tasteless beetroot. It was also supposed to have pine nuts and feta – no sign of them, nor of the balsamic that should have been in the dressing. My god. I have never eaten a worse salad.

We then went to help Janine move from her old apartment into our spare room. She’ll be staying with us till she finds a new place.

Dinner was much, much better than brunch. We headed over to Carlton to have pizza at D.O.C. with Iñaki, Begoña, Unai and Naia. I had a bizarre but good aperitivo of prosecco with lime and rocket. Then across the road to Brunetti for biscuits for dessert.

Fri 8 February 2013 In a radical departure from lab tradition, we went out for Japanese rather than dumplings.

Thurs 7 February 2013 Coming home from work late, tired, and grumpy, I called Ted from the train to meet me at Assagi. Pizza with fresh figs, gorgonzola, prosciutto.

Wed 6 February 2013 Pilates, then pasta with tomato sauce.

Tues 5 February 2013 Indian in Clayton, then to Henry’s to watch Princess Mononoke with Henry, Eric, Janine, Ben and Nichola.

Mon 4 February 2013 Ted’s birthday. I took him to Vue de Monde for a spectacular meal with even more spectacular wines.

Sun 3 February 2013 Crackers with White Pearl marinated feta (from Grandvewe), and a cucumber grown in the garden, sliced into wedges lengthwise.

Sat 2 February 2013 A lovely afternoon pre-housewarming in the garden at Danielle’s place, which did us for both lunch and dinner.

Fri 1 February 2013 Gourmet Dumpling with the lab, what a surprise.

Thurs 31 January 2013 A very tasty salad: roast halved banana shallots, roast red-skinned potatoes, wilted chard from the garden, kernels from a cob of corn, flaked hot-smoked salmon, two soft-boiled eggs. A dressing of creme fraiche, white wine vinegar, and shitloads of dijon and wholegrain mustard.

Wed 30 January 2013 Pilates, not hungry for dinner afterwards.

Tues 29 January 2013 Helen’s birthday. I took her to the Carlisle Wine Bar for white wine and a shared charcuterie plate.

Sun 27 January 2013 Lunch with Bill, at the Pour Kids. Dinner (inspired by the cooler weather yesterday, not quite so appropriate today) was slow-cooked venison with red and yellow capsicums and black olives.

Sat 26 January 2013 Brunch at the Bond House with some friends of Ted’s from climbing in Brisbane. Dinner: Soba noodles with tofu, ginger, red pepper and broccoli.

Fri 25 January 2013 Went to Pings for dumplings with the lab, then back to Yi’s place to watch….. Sand Shark!

Thurs 24 January 2013 Lazily, we split a Napoli pizza from Assagi.

Wed 23 January 2013 Orecchiette with broccoli and chorizo, in the unprecedented absence of anchovies from the household. Didn’t really work – the sausage was too sweet, and lacked the saltiness of the anchovies.

Tues 22 January 2013 Stir fry of tofu, broccoli, asian greens, chili.

Mon 21 January 2013 Our last day in Tassie. We checked out lovely Richmond, had a really extraordinarily bad brunch (never chose a cafe because it has a maze attached), but redeemed the morning by stopping at Wicked Cheese. I was expecting it to be awful (the name, the logo) but in fact we tasted some excellent cheese there. On our way into Hobart we detoured past the airport, parked on the side of the road and scrambled over a couple of high dunes to have a super-quick paddle on Seven Mile beach, then carried on and did a tour of the Cascade brewery. The best part was sitting in the beer garden there afterwards. It must surely be the most attractive beer garden I’ve ever seen – lush lawns, drooping shade trees, landscaping, fountain, trestle tables. Very pleasant. Back to the airport and home to Melbourne.

Sun 20 January 2013 A day with a fair amount of driving. We headed off to see the Hastings caves, via the charming Coffee House Cafe in Huonville for some coffee and cake. After seeing the caves we also walked along the river, where I saw a platypus in the wild for the first time ever. It gambolled up the stream, with us following, for a hundred metres or so. Exciting! On our way back to Hobart we detoured to find Grandvewe sheep cheeses, because we had been fascinated by a mention in a guidebook of their ‘sheep liqueur’. It turns out that this is a combination of a clear liqueur, lemon, sugar, and the whey left over from cheese making. It wasn’t nearly as bad as it sounds. The cheeses, however, were fantastic, though the best of the lot was one left over from the previous week’s tastings, which was the only one I really felt was ripe enough. It was very pleasant sitting on the deck of the cheese tasting house, looking over the sheep in the fields, eating cheese and drinking local cider. We stopped off at a Thai restaurant for dinner, then returned to the cottage for more wine and cards.

Sat 19 January 2013 We checked out the Salamanca markets in the morning, then drove up to see the view from Mt Wellington. On the way back down, we stopped in at the Fern Tavern for lunch. Sensible people got pub food, which was fine. Unthinking people like me, who were craving vegetables, ordered vegetable laksa, and got something that was not really what we were expecting. We drove down to Opossum Bay for a long exploratory walk along the beach, then picked up some good wine, and pizzas from Naté’s, and returned to the cabin to play increasingly bizarre versions of Kerplunk, culminating in one that involved rounds of paper-scissors-rock-lizard-spock to determine who would draw the next stick.

Fri 18 January 2013 Exellent brunch at the Machine Laundry cafe: parmesan, caramelised onion and spinach pancakes. We spent the day at MONA, loving it, then drove a little way south down the coast and made our way back to Hobart stopping for tapas at Sandy Bay, then more tapas at the Grape Bar in Salamanca Place. We finished the night with a couple of bottles of wine and lots of discussion of MONA back at the cottage. Deconstruction of Davila’s Arse End of the World featured heavily.

Thurs 17 January 2013 We’re in Tasmania! For a long weekend holiday with Eric, Heather and Janine. We arrived late and drove to the cottage we rented near Richmond. Dinner was takeaway pasta (they were out of pizza) from Nate’s (pronounced, in our minds only, as Naté’s.)

Wed 16 January 2013 Orecchiette with broccoli, anchovy, garlic and chili flakes.

Tues 15 January 2013 A stirfry of tofu, broccoli, dried shiitake, ginger, chili and coriander.

Mon 14 January 2013 Popcorn.

Sun 13 January 2013 Green Thai curry of tofu, eggplant, green bean and zucchini.

Sat 12 January 2013 We (very trivially) helped Danielle move from Bentleigh into her lovely new place near Northcote, and she repaid us a million times over by taking us for lunch at the Fairfield Boathouse. Ignore the twee and unappealing webpage – this place is marvelous, and I’m so glad I’ve found it. It feels like the perfect cafe by the river – tables on the grass by the waterside, relaxed and low-key, and surprisingly excellent food. I had poached prawns with watercress and lemon aioli on a brioche roll, with was exactly as it should be.

We went home via the Vic markets, where I bought loads of fresh stonefruit and mangoes for under $20.

For dinner, I made lamb and pistachio kofta, then this banana bread, which is a classic traditional style and very good.

Fri 11 January 2013 Tacos and margaritas at Radio Mexico with lots of the lab, after which we retired to Helen’s place to carry on drinking and chatting. It’s a pity that the margaritas at Radio Mexico are so much better than the food, which is fine, but just… fine.

Thurs 10 January 2013 Went to ACMI after work with Helen to see Helvetica. Very good. Then very so-so dumplings and sichuan green beans with pork at Spicy Fish.

Weds 9 January 2013 I wasn’t hungry, and Ted has been craving pizza, so he ordered some and ate it on the couch while I read.

Tues 8 January 2013 Trammed over to Sukhumvit Thai for a penang curry and a stir fry of duck, crisp vegetables and basil. Walked home via Malvern Gardens.

Mon 7 January 2013 I submitted the proofs for the wBol paper, and then came home and drank sparkling wine with Ted. After we were tipsy enough to forget that it was a Monday night and already 8 pm, we started to make stuffed long peppers and couscous. We ate at about 10.30, but the meal was good. For the peppers, cook a sliced onion and a medium aubergine, chopped fairly small, until soft and golden. Add cumin, chili flakes, allspice and cinnamon, then about 400 g of minced lamb. Cook until the lamb is browned through. Season to taste and add some finely chopped mint and a dash of good balsamic vinegar. Cut the tops off five large pointed long red peppers, cut out the cores, and then stuff with the lamb mixture. Place snugly in a baking dish, and pour over a sauce made of garlic, tinned tomatoes and a good pinch of salt, which has previously been simmered until the tomatoes have broken down and the sauce has thickened. Cook at 180 C for about 40 minutes, until the peppers are soft and browning on the edges. The couscous (180 g before cooking) was tossed with a slow-cooked onion and lots of cooked chard from the garden, mint, toasted pine nuts and pistachios, and the seeds of a pomegranate. Makes five serves.

Sun 6 January 2013 We drove to Torquay with Eric, Heather, Helen, her friend Georgie, and Janine and her flatmate Ben. Lunch at Kobo Cafe (lovely spot, very relaxing and friendly), then lying on the beach for all, and swimming for some (me, Heather, Ben).

Dinner: spaghettini with zucchini, pine nuts, goat cheese, lemon-infused olive oil.

Sat 5 January 2013 I’m so, so tired. It was well over 30 C till about 3 am this morning, when temperatures finally started dropping into the twenties, and I consequently finally fell into a doze on the couch, in front of the wide open doors to the garden, thankful for the slightest breeze. I had great plans to tram over to the St Kilda farmers’ market early, but in the end I slept until about 9.30 and then buggered about for another hour, so got there very late. And reaped the consequences – morello cherries sold out, Plains Paddock lamb sold out, most other stalls looking pretty bare. I did pick up some great apricots, raspberries and plums, and some aubergines, long red peppers to stuff, radicchio, various other things.

Brunch after getting home from the markets: soba noodles with green soy beans, wilted greens from the garden, oyster mushrooms, firm silken tofu, and a sauce of almond paste, mirin, rice vinegar, soy sauce and chili flakes. Now I am lying on the couch with a giant negroni, looking out at the lovely enclosing green cube of our garden and listening to the hum of the fan.

Dinner: seared salmon marinated in soy sauce, mirin, lime and brown sugar, on top of steamed rice with stir-fried broccolini, oyster mushrooms and zucchini.

Fri 4 January 2013 A day like a roaring furnace. 40 C and 15% humidity. We hid inside at uni all day, then insanely decided to go into the city to Dainty Sichuan for lab dinner. Walk to bus stop; bus to Huntingdale station; announcement that trains are running 30 minutes behind due to extreme weather; decide to detour to nearby bus stop; catch bus, smelling strongly of vomit and with low-functioning air con, to Caulfield; get on different train line to city; sit at platform while they fix fault on train; express train is converted to all-stations train; arrive city; tram up to Bourke St rather than walking because we’re already 40 minutes late anyway and it’s still 39 C; walk to arcade where restaurant is on top floor; ascend escalators towards (literally) deafening roar of motors in the roof overheating as they try to power the building; enter restaurant to discover that they have had to chose between powering the lights/stoves and the air con and have chosen the former; sit down at crowded table, fourteen people in a space made for about ten; go right on ahead and dip our napkins in the ice bucket for the wine and drape them across the back of our necks while we decide what to order. Slowly, slowly relax as cold water trickles down our torsos. Then eat a spectacularly good meal of duck and beer hotpot, spicy beef jerky, pork sliced paper-thin with sichuan chili sauce (so good, perhaps the best dish of the night), sichuan chicken wok, green tea jelly noodles, cold noodles, potato threads, tofu threads with garlic chives, and I’m sure some other dishes that I’ve forgotten. We were all sweating profusely from our eyelids due to both heat and chili, gulping cold wine, and checking iPhones in the vain hope that the temperature would drop before we had to leave. It didn’t, but it was still worth it anyway.

Thurs 3 January 2013 We went to Heather’s for dinner, with Helen. Delicious smothered enchiladas and mexican rice.

Weds 2 January 2013 Ted went back to work; I spent the last day of holidays working in the garden, tying up tomatoes (which are going beautifully), weeding, and acknowledging that I’ve mucked up the beans and they’re all dried out, better luck next year.

I wasn’t hungry for dinner; Ted made pasta for himself.

Tues 1 January 2013 Ted’s a little hung over, so we spent the day relaxing on the couches, chatting and reading. Left-over apple cake (Bego’s) for lunch, then for dinner we cooked chorizo with roasted aubergine, capsicum and cherry tomatoes.