Last night was a wonderful BBQ with the full meal being cooked and eaten outside in the first truly good evening we have had: it was not too hot nor was there a southerly wind shift bring cold wind in from Antarctica. Diane’s school friend Shelley (who studied Geology, trained as a teacher and now works as a prison guard: she says that being a guard is much easier) came by with her husband and two children.
Di cooked the Lamb in the Weber and it was enjoyed by everyone except the kids who dislike almost anything that doesn’t have sugar in it and they were very excited about Diane’s gifts. Di roasted small potatoes with the lamb and also had some pasta salad. I lost track of the few wines we had: they have a 45 minute drive to get back to their home on the edge of the Scarp so Peter had to watch his drinking with two kids in the car plus Shelley.
Last night was almost a repeat of the previous day. This time we had Diane’s Signature Maker’s Mark Manhattan with, as with the previous night, Marinated Octopus pieces and mussels. The marinade was very good and went well with that seafood; the other seafood on the platter was a selection of thick slices of smoked salmon which constituted the rest of the hors-d’oeuviors.
Our main course was a delight: she took the flesh out of the Crayfish tail, added some of the remaining sauce from the previous night and made a delicious mound of crayfish on the plate. That mound was paired with about six, a piece, large prawns for which she made a modest aioli dipping sauce.
I considered the prawns to be ours alone but Di invited her friends over this arvo and they will be eaten; I am not stingy but I hate to see food given away, especially seafood-oh well.
With the fish, Di also bought some of the deli’s pasta salad and potato salad which was delicious plus a roll of garlic bread which I devoured (it’s not often seen in this diet conscious abode.)
We had a bottle of Frascati to accompany this excellent food; wine experts denigrate Rome’s wine but I love the white’s of southern Italy.
Two nights ago, Christmas Eve, Diane and I celebrated Christmas with special food and present opening. The presents were as they always are, useful and appropriate, with one exception: I purchased my gifts online this year and found the experience far better: moving around crowded dept. Stores in a wheelchair is not a good way to prepare for Christmas. The food once again was a standout except this year was particularly interesting. Diane had purchased a seafood platter from our local monger for about $120.00 which at first look seems too much; however, stay with this blog and you will probably think that it was pretty inexpensive.
Christmas Eve’s meal began with Diane’s Signature Sidecar and six oysters a piece (I don’t know where they were from but they were some of the best I’ve eaten.) plus a small dish of marinated octopus and marinated mussels (shelled.)
As if that was not enough the main course came next with more delicious seafood. For decades Diane and I have been eating the same crab salad Christmas Eve; this year however, we added the delights of The Platter: Shark Bay Prawns and four almost scary looking Morton Bay Bugs from South Australia-the Monger gave us four small ones (too much demand this time of year for larger ones.) The Chef added her own mayo based sauce to the Bugs and Prawns after they had been torn into smaller pieces to make this awesome salad.
The beverage for our delicious Chrissie Eve was an inexpensive sparkling wine from France’s Loire Valley produced by Henri Grandin.
Our last two meals were fairly simple things knowing as we do tonight, Christmas Eve, will be a once in a year special dinner. For the last three decades we have eaten a crab salad the recipe that was given to us many years ago by Terri Tsugi; she was the girlfriend of an old dormie friend of mine from years ago at San Francisco State. She has been long gone; we have lost all contact but this lovely recipe has maintained itself in the hearts and stomachs of the Australian Johnsons for these many years.
We are deviating from Terri’s delicious crab salad tonight; our local fish monger is selling beautiful large platters overflowing with non-fish seafood: crays, prawns, marinated ockie etc.
Last night’s meal was a light one: heated peas and corn, rice with chopped vegetables and the second half of the other night’s BBQed store chicken.
We enjoyed a couple glasses of De Bortolie’s Colombard Chardeney box wine.
(The wine commercial says that life is too short to drink bad wine; I have never met a wine that was bad unless humans have stuffed it some way but on its own, regardless of how far the price drops, it just varies in drinkability: I have made it to late 67 and inexpensive wine has done nothing but provided decades of enjoyment.)
Two nights ago, I missed last night with computer problems, we had an annual Chrissie dinner; this night it was with the Soto’s Diane’s oldest friends in Western Australia (her first school posting.)
She began the evening at our kitchen counter with Olives, Nuts and Tapenade Toast and some Bubbly to welcome in the Christmas Season.
After moving to the dining table we enjoyed an old-fashioned Prawn Cocktail made especially good with freshly caught West Australian prawns and cooked exceedingly well by the Chef. They were so fresh and well cooked that they almost crunched when eaten. I think Diane sautéed them in a very small amount of water flavoured with a little stock. I don’t cook frequently anymore but I do remember that too much heat and too much cooking time will destroy any vegetables or seafood. My dad was from the South and they cook well down there but my mother over cooked her vegetables because Dad liked them that way; I dislike vegetables to this day.
Diane’s main course was a delight; she had a packet of muli-colured farfalle, bowtie shaped pasta, made with natural colours. She made the pasta with mushrooms, tomatoes and slices of artichoke bottoms. It wasn’t a sauce; it was just a combination of vegetables with pasta: a delight that even an Argentine meat eater like Luis Soto found good and tasty.
The dessert was some of the Chef’s own ice cream with walnut pieces and choc bits; she also used good powered chocolate for added death of flavour.
The Soto’s brought the wine one bottle of which was particularly good. It was a Spanish Monasterio de las Ninas 2008 Crianza from a region in the Ebro Valley near Zaragoza in north eastern Spain.
Last night was our first BBQ of the summer and the Chef made sure that it was a beaut. Actually the evening started off early when we went shopping at Garden City and had our normal lunch at the Dim Sim Train. Later the Chef made a serve of her Dukkah and added a great Margarita to begin the evening. We always use gold tequila but Di suggested I mention that the Jose Cuervo Especial is about $40.00 dollars a bottle here: Daniels, Makers M., Stolli, Absolute, Beefeater… All are wallet munchers. It is expensive to be a drunk here except with beer but even that is becoming expensive.
The next delight was Roasted Corn on the Cob; the corn tasted particularly good: it is still early in the summer and the high, drying temperatures are not upon us as yet.
The third dish was a real surprise in that it was not planned until we went to the local fish supply shop at Southlands Centre yesterday. Celeste, the owner’s wife, drew Di’s attention to some fresh crabs brought in that morning and they were delicious; they were as fresh as she said. We only bought two knowing that we also had the lamb for the evening. Our crabs are Blue Swimmer Crabs and these might have been the best either one of us have ever eaten.
The main course of the BBQ was four Lamb Chops that Diane cooked to perfection over our little Weber Q. With the chops Diane served some rounds of braised cold eggplant that she had made earlier.
Our beverage of the evening was a cool bottle of Greek wine: Tsantali’s Retsina.
After returning from our little Get-A-Way at Bunbury the Chef made a new meal from Jacques Pepin’s cookbook Essential Pepin. She bought a bag of Boston Bay Blue Mussels from South Australia and served them as our dinner last night.
The First Course was a small piece of Pate’ from Maggie Beer with some small commercial toasts; with these toasts Diane served some sliced cornichons which complimented the richness of the pate’.
Before the mussels she made us, with a few of her own changes, his “mixed Vegetable Salad with Croutons.” The dish is as it is named with corn kernels substituted for the green beans and spinach substituted for the lettuce. It was very repeatable also using his Dressing of crushed garlic cloves, balsamic, wine vinegar, and olive oil.
The Main Course was “Mussels in Cream Sauce” which was as delicious in Luxemburg many years ago as it was last night. Besides the mussels you will need by Pepin’s recipe: onions, garlic, parsley, thyme, bay, white wine as well as a Beurre Manie’. In short after the mussels have opened make a cream sauce from the Beurre Manie’ and the mussel cooking broth. That becomes the delicious “soup” that is eaten after the mussels.
A very tasty Pierre Naigeon Bourgogne white wine that was a perfect accompaniment to Diane,s French meal.
These package meals are not as easy on the Chef as one might imagine; in this case, there are about five bits that must come together at roughly the same time. It is not like European food that can be presented in courses; nor is it like Thanksgiving where everything must be on the table at the same time.
This is the same packet food that I have mentioned before although a different curry. It is called Street Kitchen: authentic Indian Dhaba Style Cuisine. Besides the curry Diane fried some package Paratas and served them before the main course with a package of Ainsley Harriot’s Rice and Indian lentles which we have never tried before. I thought they were excellent but Diane lesser so.
Ainsley is a TV chef from Africa via Jamaica and England and he has had quite a large amount of exposure even coming to Perth on occasion for cooking demonstrations. I also find his books interesting and worth having; he is quite prolific.
We opened a bottle of local Houghton’s white to accompany this lovely curry dinner.
Off to Bunbury for four days.
Last night we continued our quiet pre-Christmas eating before the holiday splurges soon arrive. Our old friend Colleen came over for a movie night and some food to accompany it. She does not like sit-down meals (she lives alone) so Diane made a plate of excellent crab sandwiches and she also made a platter with cherry tomatoes, pieces of sun-dried tomatoes, pieces of pecorino cheese, and little bread crisps.
With these delightful nibbles Colleen brought a bottle of delicious New Zealand Marlborough Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc. I am far, far removed from being a wine connoisseur but as soon as I tasted the wine I knew it was a Kiwi wine; it tasted so remarkablely herbaceous that it could not be from anywhere else in the world.
After enjoying the movie as well as Diane’s nibbles we all had a coffee with some, actually all, of the cannelloni that Colleen brought from a little pastry shop near her home. I tasted three of them and can attest to their goodness. The movie was a ‘90s movie based on actual events-not an opera though. The movie was built around a guy in a mental hospital who convinces one of the workers to put on his favouite operas, Cosi van Tutti and you can imagine where it goes from there. A lovely night was had by all three of us!
Thus. Dec. 4th Tonight Diane met with a teaching friend from some years ago and her two children: Yr 4 and preschool. All of them met in Perth; Perth closes up early so they had a McDonalds before the show that was staged particularly for children. Diane had a Macas Quarter Pounder which she thought was off the mark. They all went to see the Hungarian ballet of Snow White and the Seven Drafts. I on the other hand had a package of Indonesian Noodles which became Mee Goreng and after opening the five flavouring packets and mixing with the noodles became a satisfying meal.
Fri. Dec. 5th Tonight the Johnson kitchen was back in order and running smoothly because the Chef had returned. Di was a little tired from her adventure the previous night so the penne pasta filled the emptiness of the evening meal. There was sauce Puttanesca from the freezer and we enjoyed an easy yet extremely enjoyable meal.
We had the remains of several bottles of red that was just waiting to be finished and so they were.