gastropod friday – last week

Forgot to note: bought some ace pancetta from nino and joe’s last week, then chopped up a bunch, fried it in virgin olive oil and garlic, added a hydro tomato, then some baby spinach and rocket and a bit of dried chilli. Served with pasta from pasta man, local parmesan on top, and some lovely fresh bread from the mediterranean supermarket.
It was so wonderful i nearly died. Fat? Hell YEAH! We’re not babies here! That pancetta is the serious shit (I’m pronouncing it the way everyone in Brunswick does – pan-che-tta – as I type). It has such a … robust. I have to say robust, even though it’s wanky food talk. It’s saltier and gamey-er than bacon, and has a more full-on flavour than insipid bacony rubbish. You don’t need as much in your dish, and it has a more fierce taste that really works well with stronger flavoured Italian greens or cheeses. I hadn’t cooked it before. It comes in a piece, a bit like spec (specula? that bacony-type thing), sort of like the bit of bacon rashers that’s not the eye. Well, the piece I bought was. It’s darker than bacon, keeps for aaaaages, is kind of greazy but is harder than bacon. I guess it’s cured for longer. One piece cost me $4 (or 6, I forget) and lasted me 2 dinners. Dunno how much it weighed.
The local parmesan is stinking out the fridge.

gastropod friday

Today is, as declared in previous entries and enthusiastically promoted by galaxy gastropod friday.
I haven’t a whole lot of impressive things to say, what with Friday usually being ‘eat out day’ because it’s the end of the week and we’re tired.
Yesterday I went to the pasta dood over on Lygon St (upper Lygon St, thanks, not that tourist trap end) and spent another ridiculous sum. Mostly because The Squeeze had pleaded tearfully with me to buy him some more fresh pasta from the man.
The pasta shop is great. It only sells pasta, a couple of cheeses, olive oil and tomato paste. If it sold garlic, we’d be set. It might, actually, but I haven’t seen it.
They sell mostly plain pasta, but in every single size and shape, dry (still better than store-bought pasta), frozen (mostly filled, and including gnocchi to die for) and fresh (all in trays like ham at the deli – you buy by the weight). I bought a kilo (or half a kilo?) of frozen cheese-filled round ravioli things (I can’t remember their names – I’ll have to check), a kilo of dry curly-edged fettucini (like parpadelle, but narrower), a kilo of half-circle tubes with frilly edges (dry). I figured it was time to stop at $20, even though the pasta man, once again, was disappointed in my failure to purchase fresh pasta. But I couldn’t be sure of when we’d eat it, and I was running out of room in my backpack.
This pasta is amazing. It’s not a chic, foody-porn shop like the ones in lower Lygon St, with fancy ‘hand tooled’ wooden shelves and quaintly aproned middle aged maggie beer types. It’s got white tiles on most surfaces, big freezers with semi-legible hand-scrawled tags that don’t actually list all the pasta available (but that’s ok as the dood follows you around, fetching stuff out for you), and stacks and stacks of piles of pasta all over the place. There are some wooden shelves, but they’re stacked with bags of pasta, so I’m not sure how chic they are. This is pasta-ville. And you can get decent olive oil (though everyone who Knows pops over to the Mediterranean Supermarket for oil – Note To Self: buy tin of virgin olive oil NOW).
The best bit is the old dood serving you. Quite often when I arrive and push through the not-chic plastic anti-fly strips in the doorway, he’s sitting on a stool in the kitchen area out the back napping. I make sure to stomp so he hears me. I should yell out ‘bon gorno!’ like everyone else in Brunswick, but I’m shy. Then he walks out a little unsteadily to help. He is REALLY old. And really helpful. He knows pasta like nobody knows pastas. He’s also Italian (duh). And nice. And very old-school gentleman, so he’s a little ruffled by the way I stuff everything into my bike and then take it all out to lug on the bike home. We have shared a few chuckles over my having to ride really fast so my frozen stuff doesn’t melt on summer days.
Anyhoo, after that, I busted in on a new veggie shop over the road where i wrangled free home delivery for my goodies from a Russian chick who scared me a bit. It’s cheaper than La Manna, but doesn’t have the range. But still, home delivery. It’s good. Seeing as how I can’t carry all our veggies home in my backpack with pasta.
Then it was off to the IGA on Sydney Rd near Albion St for ‘local’ parmesan. I don’t know what ‘local’ means, but it’s some awesome stinky shit. Hey, anyone know what the difference between pecorino and parmesan is? I also bought some procutio, some ham, some awesome mozarella, some spicey sausage slices (dunno the name), some semi-dried tomatos, forgot to count varieties of olives (there are 12 at the safeway near the bike path), got some shitty skip wafer biscuits (i couldn’t find the italian ones which rock – need to go to the med. sup.) and went home.
We had less than excellent pizza (Squeeze liked it, I wasn’t convinced) that night and enjoyed all that good shit.
But tonight is pasta night. Filled pasta with some little meat balls I made a while ago with Nino and Joe mince (man they rocked!) and froze raw. They’ll be served with either a tomatoey sauce or a spinachy one. I will see how I feel. If I’d remembered I’d have picked up some boconcini to make yum-o basil, tomato, baby spinach and boconcini salad as well.
So I guess it really was a gastropod Thursday, what with me stuffing all that goodness into my excellent backpack. I was a little, wheeled snail with a house full of food on my back.

rolled shoulders

So today I scored a new haircut (scored as in paid for).
It’s slightly different to my usual very-short. Uli said “what will it be this time? short?” and I said ‘Yes, but I think I want something different”.
So now I have ‘girly bits’ at the front.

Which is nice. And anyway, I tried to colour it myself. Two problems:
1. dud colour (some crap Loreal product – I need their oldschool hyper-red but can’t find it)
2. missed some bits at the front through conservative application of colour
3. I got no idea what’s going on at the back there.
I guess it’ll look ok. It’s kind of tame, though – it looks like a ‘natural’ red (well, as natural as a chick with black eyebrows and eyes can look with red hair) and I like toxicly unnatural reds.
Will see what I can find out at the shops tonight.
On other fronts, a trip to the hairdresser is always a great opportunity to secure local community gossip. Uli is a member of the Sydney Rd Assoc (I think it’s called) and has lots to do with the council. Apparently the giant Sortino across the road (Sortino = wonderful Italian furniture. Say yes to white, to gold, to marble) will soon become a Priceline. So I might be able to get my hair colour there soon. The big old reception place/furniture store place is to be an Aldi, which we’re not pleased about in Little Sweden’s home of Fine Hair: the local small businesses will suffer. And I agree. I’m not sure why they think a German supermarket will do well in Brunswick (land of Middle Eastern, Mediterannean and Subcontinental -ness), but heck.
I passed on the wonder that is Nino and Joe’s and we tutted over the urban renewal generally.
Speaking of Nino and Joe’s…
went in for a bunch of sausages, came out with $50 worth of fucking amazing meat.
We got:
– 8 fat sausages (2 pork spicey, 2 pork normal, 2 beef spicey, 2 beef normal) because I wanted to test them all. These aren’t the pale and insipid bangers filled with beige paste you find tagged ‘BBQ’ in the supermarket. They’re fat, they’re textured a little like my thighs (helloooo cellulite), they’re kind of blotchy-coloured, owing to the combination of stuff inside them. They taste FANTASTIC.
– 1 rolled beef shoulder roast (1.2kg at $12.99 a kg) – pancetta, swiss mushrooms, garlic, etc. It looks fantastic. It had better be.
– 1 pork chop (because)
– some beef ‘stir fry’. Ordinarily I buy steak and we cut it up ourselves, but I trust Joe. Well, I’ll trust him just this once
– 2 chicken breasts
– 1 pork loin (hellloooo stir-fry)
… and something else I’ve forgotten. At any rate, it took two bags and I had to squish it into my bike bag. This is enough meat to feed us forever. I should perhaps buy fresh rather than freezing, but I wanted to be sure we were stocked up.
I’m a bit excited about the rolled beef. The Squeeze barely tolerates roasted meats, but he likes beef. And I was excited by the pancetta. Though I’ll probably die from botulism, leaving cured and raw meat cohabiting in the fridge for 24 hours.
And from whence does the funds for all this bounty come?
Well, we can thank the Melbourne lindy hop community for the most part – I’ve DJed 9 times since the 23rd February. That’s 9 times in an 8 week period. Going from 0. DJ drought? Naaaah.
I’m certainly learning quickly. Well, I guess I’m learning quickly, because it seems to be going well. Last night was my second time doing the second set at CBD and the room was PACKED and FRENZIED til 12. I DJed for 2.4 hours for $25.
I was abused and been-mean-to by some loser arseholes, but everyone else seemd to really dug my action. I know that the floor was always full, and the reports from dancers were overwhelmingly positive – “Man, it’s really pumping out there. There’s a really great vibe in the room.” That’s really nice to hear, but it’s a bit hard watching your mates flail about in a sweaty, endorphine-charged euphoria while you have to stand up there playing the best music in the world. Thankfully, people seem to have grasped the idea that I like to be visited when I’m DJing, so I spent a large part of the set laughing so much with the Rubinator I thought I’d broken my face laughing.
The few dances I did have were quite awful: I have forgotten how to dance. But I think perhaps it’s recorded music. I only dance to live bands now. heh.
I’d like to end this post with a witty reference to sausages or perhaps rolled shoulders… no, I won’t go near that awful punnage about my own rolled right shoulder impeding my following. Even I won’t stoop that low. Though I could, now that I have super-dooper yoga-strength.

I like Brunswick.

Right now there’s 3/4 kilo of beef bones sitting in 3L of water with some onions and garlic and a bay leaf. I know they’re enjoying themselves – I can smell it.
This is in preparation for a pumpkin soup I’m making this evening. See, the “potatoes, potatoes, fresh and new” guy came around this week and I bought a whole pumpkin. And the most amazing onions. I’m not usually one to wax lyrical about onions, but these… they’re purple spanish onions, and when you slice them they’re so fresh and bright – the layers seem clearer and crunchier than usual onions. We really enjoyed cooking with them and making them into onions last time (don’t get me started on the tomatoes – oh MY GOD!!): organic = yes baby. The taste is far superior to chemicaled crap: you don’t need so many herbs and spices to make flavours, and can really explore simple, effective flavour combinations. Plus everything is so happy and healthy. No gross chemical urk to wash off. Yay!
any hoo…
So I check out Stephanie’s big orange book for pumpkin options – I wanted an interesting pumpkin soup or curry recipe. I love love love a pumpkin and mustard seed curry I’ve had at Nepalese restaurants, but don’t have a recipe. I also like Thai-ish pumpkin and coconut milk soups. But I settled for a sort of Spanishy/European pumpkin soup. Uses bacon bones to make stock, then add pumpkin and spud (oh, what’s that I see? Some organic potatoes (fresh and new)? how wonderful!), and finally some chorizo to finish.
Yesterday, after lunch with J I stopped off at the Spanish supermarket to get some Spanish chorizo (no, not Portugese. Spanish).
Today I got my veggies from la manna, then went over to the Mediterranean supermarket to get some fresh Italian sausages (no thanks to the Italian chorizo – I’m good), side-stepped a brawl between two Italian nannas and tried (in vain) to find that good parmesan Brett buys. Looks like I’ve got to go up to the IGA to get some. Yes, our local IGA sells fucking AWESOME Italian cheeses. We live in BRUNSWICK – home to spotlight and the best food shops EVER.
Then, I dropped in at Nino and Joe’s, a new, fancy (and huge) butcher I’d not been into before (we usually go to Istanbul Meats or up to Coburg to the Chinese dood) to get some bacon bones to make the stock for the soup. No joy on bacon, but they did give me 1 1/3 kg of beef bones for free with some awesome lamb shanks, steak, etc etc. That butcher ROCKS. They do huge, sexy boned lamb leg roasts, a sweet looking rolled beef roast, and even their pre-prepared chicken dishes looked good (marinated drumettes). I don’t usually eat that sort of shit because I hate jarred sauces and stuff – too much salt, too much sugar, too many preservatives, too many extra ‘flavours’ – and frankly, why would you buy that crap when you live 5 minutes by bike from such AMAZING delis? But the ones in that butcher looked good. The herbs were actually fresh herbs. Plus the Italian nannas were buying it, so….
So tonight we’re having soup. I had thought to do the sausages with a fennel salad on the side, but I don’t think I could fit it all in my belly…
Anyway, I do love living in Brunswick very much. And, if you followed those links to the various providore I frequent, they’re all listed under ‘ethnic’. Which is so weird – the crappy skip butcher next to spotlight isn’t listed under ‘ethnic’ (even though it should really be listed under ‘don’t fucking buy meat here’). Sure, sure, I could get onto the whole whiteness = ethnicity thing, but you know the drill. And can google.
But it just seems weird to hear these places popped in the ‘other’ basket, when for me they’re just my local shops. I go to la manna because the veggies are good and fresh and they deliver (though which days they deliver vary depending on who you ask). I go to the mediterranean supermarket because it’s across the road from la manna and sells canned tomatoes for 55c (as well as dried pasta for 90c, fresh pasta, dried fish, chorizo (Italian, thanks) and has a coffee shop full of Italian nannas and poppas and cakes). I went to Nino and Joe’s because it’s around the corner from all these other places. And of course, Spotlight is right there in the middle of it all. All on one block in Brunswick.
The people I see in all these places are my neighbours, and I often run into them at each place or on the bus or street. I like it that the skips are in equal proportion to the Greeks and Lebanese and Syrian and Lebanese and so on.
And I can’t imagine the sort of shit that went down in Sydney going down here in Brunswick… though I did worry when that nanna got shitty in the supermarket. She would totally kick my arse. It just seems like such a mellow, friendly family area. The local high school has kids from at least 30 different ethnic and language groups enrolled. The Chinese butcher in Coburg greets the Greek and Italian nannas with “ciao senora!” The Hope Street Bus* driver will stop to pick you up, even if you didn’t waive him down, just because he saw you walking along the road (and he always waves to me on my bike). I don’t much care for all the young hipsters moving into the area – they’re far more interested in the pubs than the greengrocers and care far too much about their fashion. Arseholes.
But I love Brunswick.
Remind me to tell you the story of the three old Greek doods and the the time I carried three giant plastic crates home on my bike. It’s a good one.
*yes, the Hope Street Bus route is only about 1.5km each way (roughly 10minutes by leg or 3 terrifying high-speed minutes by bus. If you see/hear the Hope Street Bus coming when you’re riding down Hope Street you get on the pavement. You just do). It’s for nannas. And you can get on or off it anywhere. Everyone sits up near the front and talks. Most people get it if theyr’e too tired to carry 10 kilograms of lamb or a charcoal grill home.

mince pies

Dave demonstrates his mastery of pastry once again. I’d add a photo of the pies I made for Christmas day, but they’re all gone, and his were so much better it’d shame me to show mine.
Long live the home-made mince pie, with home-made fruit mince and home-made pastry… oh, and home-made stars.