Diane began our Monday night meal with a plate of pantry nibbles: small slices of prosciutto, 10 or 12 dried olives, a slice of dry provolone and a glass of Marque’s de Riscal ’12 Rueda which is a delightful, inexpensive Spanish white wine that carries on beautifully through all of dinner. According to the label on the back of the bottle (and who doesn’t like reading the little bits on the back) the Rueda grape is native to the region and has a particular very slight bitter taste that is characteristic of the grape variety. I find it delightful different and noticeable only on the palate as the wine goes down.
The main for this evening was a superb in-house paella (rather than cooked on an open BBQ fire) that in Diane’s version had pieces of chicken, slices of chorizo, frozen peas that were heated in the mixture and of course the rice which was cooked with gentle ladles of stock.
Later we enjoyed one of Diane’s delicious homemade ice cream cones.
If any reader has read this diary in the past they would be familiar with this dish because it is a “pantry” meal around our digs. We always have the ingredients on hand and the recipe is easy to put together. Roughly, and pantry meals can always give or take timing, the ingredients or amounts; the flavours are strong and will therefore blend together. All right let us get on with the these important ingredients: black olives (or green if that is what you have), garlic, capers, chopped tomatoes and here is where the variations make an important impression: I like a small can of chunk tuna that can be broken up to suit your tastes and olive oil of course.
Ah, now the big question: what shape of pasta? If your tomatoes are juicy and the mixture is fairly thin then I would recommend a penne, orecchiette, agnolotti or farfalline. However, if your pasta is thick then use a spaghetti, linguini bigloi or tagliatelle. It is fascinating to work with sauces that are suitable for different kinds of pastas. Remember, in the old days, bread would go stale in the Italian heat so they made the bread dough into shapes and then purposely dried it. That simple decision allowed for many, many combinations to suit the pasta shapes with a suitable sauce.
Diane made a simple salad to complete the meal. We enjoyed a glass of De Bortoli box red as our beverage.
The circumstances of late have dictated a stronger beginning to our meals and Diane certainly came to the table last night. She made us a 3 olive Martini with a little plate of salted macadamias, toasts with olive paste and wonderful Italian dried olives.
Our main was a Keith Floyd recipe that he claims he found in southern Spain. I have a number of his cookbooks and I find his recipes very cookable (if I can use that word.) If you can find his books, this one in particular, (Floyd on Fish)b uy them for your cookbook library. Last night Diane made a beauty! It was Swordfish grilled with a cornucopia of fresh chopped herbs: bay, sage, basil, parsley, rosemary and thyme leaves with anchovy, garlic and capers. This was made a paste with olive oil and spread on the swordfish for an hour before grilling each side for one minute. Delicious (it works equally well for tuna).
Our wine of choice for me was De Bortolli Colombard Chardonnay and Diane enjoyed Houghton Chardonnay Verdello.
Diane and I have had to shoulder many odd bod problems so we both decided that a break was needed and last night proved to be the night when the break happened. It took the form of a delivered pizza that was needed so we ordered one. The guy at our local Pizza King provided a great large pizza which was enough for two famished clients. Diane could take a break from her culinary excellence and we were all satisfied.
To begin our day-early Two Person Party Diane fixed us a little hors-d’oeuvre plate of mini-toasts with a dab of her pesto. All of these nibbles to be accompanied by two glasses of the remaining wine from the previous night.
Last night was a lamb eater’s delight. We shopped yesterday afternoon and bought a package of eight lamb chops: four to eat last night and four frozen for a point sometime in the future. I realize that it is out of season for lamb, exactly opposite on the calendar in fact but the desire to have some lamb was too great. Lamb chops deserve to be cooked over white coals but the desire outweighed the time of the year therefore we enjoyed them with some of Di’s very tasty cannoli beans with a little chopped tomatoes and some crushed garlic among other delights too numerous to mention.
The wine of choice was from a box but is a good wine nonetheless and much enjoyed by the individuals residing at #37. It was a De Bortoli Shiraz Cabernet.
Our dessert was the ever-tasty Diane-made combination of flavours that are too complicated for me to put to memory. Suffice to say that it is very good without being overly sweet.
This meal occurs only once a year, or two years when the olive tree produces fruit. Our tree seems only to fruit every other year and we have not spoken to other growers to find out if this is normal. We have tried to preserve black olives but that has proven to be a losing game because they just do not turn out so we have stuck to preserving green or unripe olives; they are the same as black olives, just picked earlier. In Leslie Forbes cookbook from 1985, A Taste of Tuscany, on page 146 will be found fron the recipe called “Agnello con Olive Nere” (Lamb and black olive stew.) The flavour that, to me, makes this simple dish and makes it anticipated is the use of partly rippened olives, olives that are coloured partly green and red. These olives cannot be eaten in the stew but like bay leaves they give the dish marvellus flavour that cannot be reproduced.
Diane has always served polentta with this delicious stew; polentta has the capacity to not only allow the absorbsion of the delicious juices from the stew fbut also to simply accompany the flavours of the stew.
Diane served a light but tasty salad with the usual suspects incarcerated there in.
Our wine of choice is an inexpensive Tuscan red wine called Dogajolo by Carpineto. It is a good drop if you see it in a store.
No dinner diary tonight because Diane and I had a wonderful and filling luncheon at Joelle’s and Kevin’s yesterday afternoon. April is the best month for eating in the garden and yesterday proved that beyond argument: it was sunny with not a cloud in the sky but it was not hot nor was there a breath of wind. It was a perfect setting for a luncheon.
Our host, Joelle, served an excellent braised rabbit that was so done that the meat fell away from the bones and was cooked in a Dijon mustard sauce. The sauce disappointed the chef (certainly not her guests) because she felt that the mustard taste should be more pronounced; to me it was just perfection.
With the rabbit Joelle fixed butter fried potatoes with a mixture of new runner beans and borlotti beans in a soft sauce.
The next course was a board of three cheeses: Brie, a hard Spanish cheese and an Australian goat’s cheese served with fresh pear and quartered figs.
This was followed by a sweet course: chocolate tarts and espressos. What could be finer?
Last night Diane and I had one of her old teacher friends (the friendship not her age) over for a small meal bracketed by much conversation. Diane prepared the entire meal: her friend likes to eat small bits rather than sitting down to an entire meal.
She did not want to drink a hard booze cocktail because it being Good Friday she was afraid there would be more police on the streets than usual. Therefore we sat at the kitchen counter and she and Diane had a glass of sparkling wine while I kept up the reputation of the side by imbibing a delicious Gordon’s Martini. Diane prepared some nibbles to accompany the drinks: a bowl of Italian dried olives and a bowl of dried almonds.
After these predinner snacks we retired to the dinner table to enjoy the remainder of the meal. Di made us an old fashioned but always tasty Shrimp Cocktail with her own sauce mix. With Colleen’s bottle of Sparkling Wine the course was an excellent way to begin a meal.
Diane prepared a serve (about 10 apiece) of the most delicious small prawns (shrimp). She purchased some native prawns from Shark Bay; they were small by our standard of prawn but they also tasted the best that I can remember eating. They were crisp to the tooth as you bit into them. Di said that she sautéed them very gently in a little stock so that, along with their small size, delivered a brilliant dish (the simpler the cooking the better).
Dessert was simply some good chocolate Easter Eggs.
Two nights ago all of the nasties have, for now, been put to rest for a while so the kitchen beckoned me to return and I took up the invitation (the kitchen you see is organic.)
I started with an antipasto which in this case was a simple (remember I am cooking) bruschetta. In Fremantle restaurants they, for some unknown reason, serve the piece of bread with a layer of chopped fresh tomatoes which of course begin to fall everywhere but in your mouth. After taking this memory into account I tried another approach: I took a can of diced (read all broken up with much juice) tomatoes to which with several spoonfuls I shook until the liquid was out and I then put them on the slices of bread after being pressed gently into them. I put some chopped basil on the tomato with some salt and pepper. Albeit the tomatoes smelt a little of being in a can but at least they stayed on the bread. Diane thought it was repeatable.
In order to begin the main quietly I began with an old favourite that even I could make: a tomato sauce to which I added chopped green olives, a sprinkling of capers and the leftover (from lunch) canned tuna fish. My pasta of choice was one of my favourite pasta shapes, orecchieti. These are the small pasti that have a shallow depression hence the name which translates as little ears. The idea is that the sauce if made correctly will fill the hollow of the pasta and retain the sauce bits in the pasta. The classic sauce is cauliflower that has been broken into small flowerets that loge themselves in the orecchietti hollows.
As a beverage we had two glasses of box red.
Last night was, again, a peaceful night here in Leeming and coinciding with this peace Diane prepared a meal that reflected this it: she made an excellent package meal with her own sauce. The meal was “Veal and Caramelised Onion” Tortellini from a package and although Di has made shaped and filled pasta in the past it is something better purchased in a refrigerated package. The ones available here in Australia are of excellent quality so just preparing the sauce is enough. This begs the question: if the filled pasta is so good why not make the meal totally simple by using a bottled prepared sauce? We have both come to the same conclusion that although the refrigerated pasta tastes more or less fresh the bottled sauces smell of the chemicals that keep them preserved on the shelf. Diane can compose a fresh sauce in minutes so we do not mind the packaged filled pastas but she will not use bottled sauces: that is fine with me. The sauce she made up was a fresh tomato sauce with a few fresh herbs.
As a beverage we had a couple of glasses of boxed wine from De Bortoli and even further peace descended on 37 Collett Way.