“Sod the wine, I want to suck on the writing. This man White is an instinctive writer, bloody rare to find one who actually pulls it off, as in still gets a meaning across with concision. Sharp arbitrage of speed and risk, closest thing I can think of to Cicero’s ‘motus continuum animi.’

Probably takes a drink or two to connect like that: he literally paints his senses on the page.”

DBC Pierre (Vernon God Little, Ludmila’s Broken English, Lights Out In Wonderland ... Winner: Booker prize; Whitbread prize; Bollinger Wodehouse Everyman prize; James Joyce Award from the Literary & Historical Society of University College Dublin)





16 December 2014


The modern bachelor has little time for extravagant cooking ... photo The Advertiser

Recipe for the modern bachelor:
quick food for quick people
who feel sorry for poor old Coles

Spare a thought for poor old Coles. Having to cough up a $10 million fine and everything. Just for burning suppliers. Embarrassing.

There must be some sort of beta-blocker or something they can get to ease their ailment. I feel real sorry for them.

When I look at the dreadful thing they built in the main street of McLaren Vale, I weep for the Coles people. It wasn't the cutest ivy-hung nuts-and-berries street in the wine world to begin with, but poor old Coles must have been so strapped for cash that all they could afford was a sort of a Guantanamo thing in a hole they dug at the foot of Chalk Hill. No trees. No shade. No comfort.

But there's an acre or so of red hot blacktop and a confoundingly illogical mess of traffic islands and white stripes. In summer, it's like parking in a wok. Poor old Coles has to pay for all that electricity to cool that huge hall of fat, starch and sugar just so you can feel safe leaving your car. At night, the joint is floodlit after the Guantanamo fashion, as if there may be staff trying to escape in the dark.

Catherine Kerry had a huge influence on my gastronomic development way back in the grim war years... photo John Peachey

I've never been in a shop where so many people who know each other apologise for being there at the same time. "But you know," they say, gazing dolefully into their brimming trolleys, "I just didn't have the time to drive all the way to Aldinga," which is embarrassed patois for the superior South Australian-owned Foodland there, ten minutes closer to the coast.

A perfect example of the opposite to the dread such locals feel can be found in the splendid Barossa Foodland co-op in Nuriootpa, where citizens own the property and have shares in the business, and simply glow as they shop. They have coffee together, and talk to each other. At this time of the year, when they all get their dividend cheque, they can't wait to rush back to the co-op to spend it all. It is a magnificent supermarket. 

I suspect this is a race thing: the Barossadeutschers are much more adept at supermarketing than the English who settled McLaren Vale. These Vales frails'll lay on their backs for Coles and dream of selling wine to Tesco. On the other hand, the Barossa co-op drove Woolworths out of their Valley in the supermarket races, while they seem to love that same huge brute buying their vineyards, their grapes and their brands for Woolworths' own Hungry Dan's discount bins.

One learns to cook a bit harder when doing breakfast for the likes of Tony Bilson, another big influence and a friend for nearly forty years

I don't drive on the public roadways. As a petrolhead bachelor who cannot frame his will to the law, I deliberately let my licence expire twenty-five years back, and depend on others to get me to the shops once a week, according to where their empty cars are pointed. So I don't have much choice about where I shop, and end up in the local Coles once every week or two. I manage to eke sustenance from those crowded, repetitive shelves, feeling sorry for poor old Coles every time I reach for an essential. They must be soooo stressed.

Anyway, as I know I'm obviously not alone in simply having to shop in their Guantanamo, I felt that in the spirit of the season I should offer others a recipe I have developed which builds a quick and simple, healthy meal from their droll stocks. This is good for those drinking folk who live quick, attempt to avoid hangovers, and don't quite get the time to make beefstock or paté or gold-chip gourmand delights that would normally require wealth and kitchen staff or Maggie Beer or somebody. This dish will fill you, fullfil you, and help ease any guilt you may, as I do, suffer on account of poor old Coles' obvious impoverishment.

You need a frying pan and a small saucepan. You can get these in Coles.

Squash and peel the cloves of half a bunch of their Mexican garlic. Chop them roughly; not precisely. Do the same with a lump of fresh ginger root about the size of an egg. Put a healthy splash of their Cobram Estate 'Robust Flavour' Extra Virgin Olive Oil in your hot pan with a teaspoon or two of Yeo's Sesame Oil. Sizzle it all a bit, leaving the vegies some healthy crunch.

While that's proceeding, boil a cup of their own brand Small Shells 100% Durum Wheat pasta in your saucepan, stirring occasionally and cutting the boil at about seven minutes to retain some al dente pleasure. Strain it, rinse it  under cool water and let it sit.

To your sizzling frying pan, add a hearty spoon or two of their Hoyt's Mixed Herbs and another of the Hoyt's Hot Dried Chillies Crushed. Keep stirring it, but don't get obsessive. Grind in some pepper and add a teaspoon of rock salt. Add a cupful of those little mixed cocktail tomatoes, whole.

Cheong Liew unlocked the restorative mysteries of Chinese cuisine for me ... here we are with Sheriff James Bourne in the Blinman pub the year we judged the $5000 Cook Out Back camp oven competition organised there by George Grainger Aldridge ... fifty teams came from all over the bush for a two-day cook-off ... those girls were dancing on the bar that evening, when the bar towel slipped from beneath them and down they came, bringing a 10 dozen  bottle wine rack with them ... it seemed very loud ... photo Milton Wordley

By now you have squandered about ten minutes of your precious life, but there about three minutes more to go. Add two small tins of Sirena Springwater Tuna to the saucepan and break the fish into chunks. Then bung in a cup of Birdseye Field Fresh Australian Baby Peas and if you're posh, a teaspoon of capers. Stir in the pasta and keep her going until the pasta begins to soften more and the tomatoes begin to blister.

Now put it in a bowl and devour it.

To put some wine into this unusual food piece - I'm starting to feel like Jamie Oliver - I suggest a cold Clare Riesling. Again. The oils you've used will soften the crunchy acid in even the youngest Rizza.

But as my deceased former de facto father-in-law would say when going for his second scotch, 'A bird never flew on the one wing,' and it's here you may begin to feel a pang of guilt about giving all that money to Coles and none to Woolworths.

So take my word for it: if a bottle of Riesling's beyond your capacity, the Marke Original Oettinger Pils beer Woolies' sometimes sells through Hungry Dan's for as little as $1 per 500ml. tin will do just as well, especially if you've been ultra-generous with the chilli.

Oh, one thing for the true gourmand. To make this dish a fair dinkum shiny magazine foodporn thingo, get your good self some dried natural snow fungus (Tremella fuciformis) in one of the Asian shops in the market, boil that with your pasta, cut it into bite sized bits and add it similarly to your frying pan. Somehow the notion of snow makes the whole extravagance more Exmessy, even more delicious, and guess what? Nutritious.

Oh yes. Another thing for the really sanctimonious wanker gourmand. The whole deal is even more exotic if you use a kippered herring in place of the tuna. The frozen ASP Scottish Kippers do it well. I think I get them in poor old Coles. Just stay sober enough to remove the bones before you stir that lovely fish in.

"Too much vin; not enough coq!" Bilson laughed when he saw my recipe for coq au vin marinated and cooked in Yangarra Ironheart Shiraz barrel lees ... photo by Satanika

No comments: