In My Kitchen, November 2018

It’s around 5 pm and my mind reluctantly begins to address the question of dinner. Lacking inspiration, I pour myself a drink, an encouraging white wine and immediately think of risotto, a dish that asks if it may share some of the bottle. There are tons of broadbeans ( fava beans) and leeks in the garden and plenty of herbs: a risotto primaverile could be the answer. At other times, I do the common thing and google a few ingredients in the subject line, hoping for an instant answer, fully conscious of the fact that random internet recipes are unreliable and are simply another form of procrastination. I often ask Mr T what he would like for dinner. In our household the answer always comes back as a one word statement indicating a particular ethnic cuisine. “What about some Indian?” (or Thai, Italian, Greek, Middle Eastern, French, Indonesian, Malaysian, Chinese, Japanese)? he responds. Vietnamese is off my cooking list- I save that cuisine for at least one economical dining option when out and about. When Melburnians eat, they choose from a huge array of influences and are familiar enough with many cuisines to cook them confidently in their own kitchens.

Risotto Primaverile. Inspired by spring vegetables and white wine and of course, Italy.

It’s one of the reasons why I love Melbourne so much. Sitting in the A1 Bakery yesterday, a cheap and cheerful Lebanese restaurant in a vibrant inner suburb, we were surrounded by Australian people of the world, dressed in all manner of clothing styles, from Hijab to Hipster. The decor is eclectic and a little quirky. Above the counter stands a large statue of the Virgin Mary, draped in all her blue and white Catholic glory, an outfit not dissimilar to that worn by some of the customers, while displayed in front of her is a long row of 1 metre high golden hookahs. An odd assortment of pictures decorate the far walls:- a primitive painting of Ned Kelly, the Irish- Australian bushranger legendary hero, an oil painting of Saint Sharbel, a Lebanese Maronite saint dressed in brown monastic garb, a large velvet rug featuring some knife wielding Ottoman Cossacks, and a childlike painting of a cockatoo. The place is always noisy and very busy. On a nearby table, a large group of girls are enjoying a shared lunch together: they have just finished their final year school exams and are celebrating at one of Melbourne’s most affordable eateries. They are Middle Eastern, Turkish, African and Asian Australians. A couple wear glamourously draped head-dress over their teenage uniform of jeans and t-shirts. They speak Melburnian – time to recognise that Australian English has many distinct dialects – and their youthful laughter is infectious.

Below, my home-made falafel, this time with more Egyptian influence and lots of herbs

 

My next door neighbour in the city has just returned from her annual holiday in Greece. For the last 22 years she has tried to teach me basic Greek. We chat in a mixture of broken English and, in my case, almost non-existent Greek – a case of trying to recognise as many Greek roots and suffixes or Italian sounding words, over a some warm Tiropsomo, a fetta cheese bread snack. Like a little bit of Ouzo, says Anna at any time of the day. Oooh, my favourite Greek word: yes please. She pours herself a thimble full while I receive a good little glass, enough to change the flavour of the day. Cheers, Stin ygiasou . She is now 86 and I want to spend more time in her kitchen. Greek influence in my kitchen extends to old favourites such as Spanakopita, that famous greens and fetta pie, Gigantes, the best of bean dishes, home-made taramsalada and dolmades. I’m keen to learn a few more Greek tricks.

Crostini with smashed broad beans and Greek Fetta. Italy meets Greece via Sicily often in Melbourne. Pick one kilo of broadbeans ( fava), shell them, boil for one minute then remove tough outer casings, mix and smash, season well. Top grilled sourdough with mixture, then add some crumbled sheep fetta, olive oil and mint leaves.

The annual Spring BBQ at Barnardi’s place took place recently: this is one of the culinary highlights of my year. When I arrive at most parties, I usually reach for a glass of wine before perusing the food offerings. At Barnadi’s, I head straight to the buffet table- the anticipation of his traditional Indonesian food is so overwhelming, I become outrageously greedy. Barnadi is a chef who once ran a famous Indonesian restaurant, Djakarta. Lately, he has returned to his roots and is cooking more traditional Indonesian recipes. The Australians attending this event all share a diverse background- Indonesian, Thai, British, Greek, Italian and Swedish, a healthy Melburnian blend. The dessert table included a tray of sticky rice green and pink Indonesian cakes, some Javanese Gembong, a rich Spanish flan, a chocolate cheesecake and a Hummingbird cake for Adam’s birthday.

Barnadi’s sweet creations, photo courtesy of Adam. The long dish second from the left contains Gembong, my favourite Javanese sweet, sold in streets of Cipanas, West Java.

 

My mother recently moved into an elderly care facility, commonly known as ‘the place’. The first thing we checked out was the menu. The food is fabulous and varied: the chef, who once had his own restaurant and is of Indian Fijian background, has a great approach to the menu. He hopes to eat this well when he is elderly and so he cooks as if he were a guest at the table. Yes, it’s Karma, we both agree. Visitors can eat with the residents with notice, and there’s always a spare dessert available when visiting during meal times. They are sensational. Each member of staff, from manager to cleaner, is genuinely caring and friendly: they smile, dance and chat to all. These Aussies have Chinese, Malaysian, and Filipino backgrounds and I am so thankful for their loving care of my mother.

I’ll leave you with a couple of my favourite Australian comedy clips, each with a multi cultural theme.  Laugh or cringe. Thanks Sherry, from Sherry’s Pickings, for hosting this monthly series.

28 thoughts on “In My Kitchen, November 2018”

  1. Fran – have just reached your post in the middle of a busy Friday and suddenly feel good and balanced for the day and so proud to be s present-day Australian . . . envious of not living in Melbourne in spite of the weather: always have been; so happy for your Mom tho’ no one wants to go into care; still laughing about the so-true videos I had not seen . . . . oh, must make the crostini over the weekend . . .have everything and I could pick one off the screen now . . . have a fab weekend whilst we swelter . . .

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Fantastic Francesca! What a wonderful multi-cultural post. It had me wishing that I lived in Melbourne. Finding a care home for elderly relatives is tricky. We’ve been there, but the food in even the best British “places” tends to be stodgy stuff people remember from their school cafeterias. I love those crostini and make something similar, but (alas) we have a while for fava season again.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Debi, Melbourne is an exciting place at the moment, especially in the inner suburbs. we visited quite a few ‘places’ for Mum and are really delighted with the one we chose. She was lucky to get a spot there. Still, it’s a hard decision. I would happily dine there, and I am pretty fussy,

      Liked by 1 person

  3. How wonderful to find a facility with great food. My mum in law was in a place with the worst food. I couldn’t even bear the smell:). Yes Melbourne is marvellous! Such food such culture … I love going back regularly. I was born and bred there till 19. Thanks for joining in this month. Cheers sherry x

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The Indonesian buffet and dessert table look just amazing. I would love to have the opportunity to try those foods! The multi-cultural environment you describe is also wonderful, though I suspect that your open-minded attitude makes it more accessible, and that some people may not welcome it the way you do.

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, true Mae, we have our racists here too, though I suspect that Australia is a far more tolerant place than most countries as it;s wealth is built of the understanding that migration makes our country great.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. As someone living in this world of ours and hence morally, intelligently and legally responsible for its future and well being, are you and yours also not responsible to use this to work towards understanding and caring for each member of the human race , each religion, each colour . . . ? . . . . who are the ignorant of ‘some people’ . . . . ?

      Like

  5. Thank you Francesca, for reminding us of the wonderful things immigrants have brought to our country (a reminder I feel shouldn’t be needed, but sadly is) xx
    The Indonesian desserts are also fascinating, and I love the look of that crostini (I noticed broad beans at the markets last week so might try and grab some this weekend), and maybe you could post the spanakopita recipe sometime 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Those felefal are very herb filled indeed. The best ones I have ever had were freshly made for breakfast in out hotel in Aswan, Egypt. It’s one thing I haven’t really mastered but will give it another go as the ones we buy for lunches (which are made locally and are delicious) are not very economical. I really enjoy both Akmal and Nazeem too. We see a lot of comedy shows and are very lucky to have so much of it accessible at a reasonable rate.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. It is such a balm to read your blog posts. You reassure me with your groundedness and focus on the cornerstones of life that matter… in any order but as they come to mind… food, family, friends and faith that positive attitudes such as inclusiveness & generosity carry us well.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Francesca, I totally enjoyed your descriptive musings on the diverse world in which you live, the drool-worthy photos of your food, and the brash (and true!) humor at the end of your post. Well done, my dear! Truly a pleasure to read and experience, xo.

    Like

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