The Annual Window Display

Every year, as the days draw closer to Christmas, I anticipate a visit to the magnificent Queen Victoria Market, a food market situated close to the heart of Melbourne. And before stepping inside to join the busy throng, I usually stop at Ambiance, a little giftware shop near the market’s front entrance.  Ambiance adds glittery Christmas themes to their December display, but I am more interested in the arrangement of ostentatious Venetian masks. masksmask-1

Ambiance, 509 Elizabeth Street, Melbourne, Australia


Hot Summer Nights. Calamari Fritti in Fretta.

The season is hotting up, in both senses of the word. Mr Tranquillo, my current Cabana Boy, refuses to don the appropriate costume or demeanor as he attempts to get the pool functioning in time for a sizzling hot weekend. My adult daughter sips her white wine as she ponders the thought of her father as Cabana Boy. She announces that she doesn’t want to go there, the thought is just too ‘gross’.

Whenever these hot evenings string out for too long, dinner preparation must be super fast. I had calamari fritti on my mind. As my daughter left before the meal, her black eyes glared from the car ” Don’t send me a photo, it’s not fair!”.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese lovely molluscs were acquired from the Queen Victoria Market on the best day of the week, Tuesday. In terms of Melbourne’s catch, this is the first day of the week, when the fish are still jumping fresh.  The fishmongers at the Vic Market are happy to clean your purchase.

Calamari Fritti con Rugola in Fretta ( for two)

  • 2 big handfuls of wild rocket/rugola
  • 3 spring onions, sliced, including green end
  • 1 chilli, chopped finely
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped finely
  • a little olive oil
  • 400g freshly prepared calamari, sliced, including tentacles.
  • cornflour
  • salt and pepper
  • five spice powder
  • neutral tasting cooking oil, such as canola, for frying.
  1. Prepare the salad base. Arrange the rocket leaves and toss with the spring onions on a serving platter.
  2. Make a quick dressing. Crush the chilli and garlic with some salt in a mortar and pestle. Add some olive oil. Lightly dress the leaves.
  3. Heat a fryingpan or wok and add some oil. Toss the calamari slices in cornflour mixed with salt and five spice powder. Cook the calamari in batches, tossing well, for around one minute. Using tongs, drain well on paper towels.
  4. When all the calamari is fried, toss through the salad leaves.

Serve with lemon wedges.


It is heartening to know that calamari is a sustainable seafood here in Victoria. The rubbery frozen tubes sold in supermarkets are not worth buying unless you fancy eating fried condoms. These usually come from Asia or the USA.  If you do choose to buy these from the supermarket, ask about the source.

The following is a great site to check out the sustainability of Australian seafood.


Song plant.  Ooo Ooo, Ooo Ooo Ooo, Ooo Ooo, Ooo Ooo, Ooo,  Hot Summer Nights.



The Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne

A trip to the Queen Victoria Market is a one way ticket to Il Paradiso or  L’ Inferno. I arrive and never want to leave these acres devoted to food heaven and hell. Known locally as the Vic Market, it is a major landmark in central Melbourne, a top tourist destination, and a national treasure.  At around seven hectares (17 acres), it is the largest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe space is divided into different halls and sheds. The fish area houses ten or so different specialist fishmongers offering the freshest catch in Melbourne. This section has diminished over the years but the quality has improved. With quick turnover and now correct labelling with regard to source, it is worth a tram ride to shop here on a weekly basis.


But it is so hard to choose. Will I have those baby snapper, the freshly shucked oysters from Coffin Bay, or the lovely scallops still in the shell? Hmm, fresh baby calamari. All too tempting.


The Vic Market Deli comes next, which is housed in a hall of Victorian glass fronted shops and tiled floors. You may go there with a list, but I guarantee you won’t stick to it. My levels of greed and gluttony soar to unholy levels.

Thomas Aquinas, 13th century Italian philosopher puts it this way:

 ‘gluttony could include an obsessive anticipation of meals, and  the constant eating of delicacies and excessively costly foods.’

This sin includes,

  • Praepropere – eating too soon
  • Laute – eating too expensively
  • Nimis – eating too much
  • Ardenter – eating too eagerly
  • Studiose – eating too daintily
  • Forente – eating wildly

This Deli Hall is a wicked place indeed but at least I can’t be accused of eating too daintily so there’s hope for me yet.


I came here especially to buy a large jar of Mt Zero Olives  from the Grampians region of Victoria as  these mixed olives last forever in the fridge. A little scoop here and another one there provides a lovely drink snack. No need to marinate them or tart them up with herbs and garlic. They speak for themsleves. The young vendor is keen to be in my picture too.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACheese was not on my list, and yet I was tempted, severely. I was lucky enough to stop after purchasing three small delicious wedges. This is the place to find Christmas treats. Oh yes, I might be accused or eating too expensively, Sir Thomas.  Just to tuck away, in anticipation of guests.


And then there’s the row of takeaway instant treats. The Bratwurst shop is famous and has been there for at least 40 years, but my favourite is the Borek shop. Still, I find it hard to choose: I want it all. Perhaps I have I eaten too soon, Mr Aquinas?


After the deli, the acres devoted to fresh fruit and vegetables beckon. My mind races as I obsessively anticipate the meals that could be made.  I stand accused of the sin of gluttony every time I enter the delectable land of The QueenVic Market.