An ode to my bleeding heart

Hello food lovers,

I would like to dedicate this one to memory. Memories evoked by people and place, smells and words. My earliest memories were being a very committed tomboy and making mischief with brothers George and Alex much to my mother’s chagrin. She had wished for a conventional daughter, one to share clothes shopping adventures with and talks about boys, my wedding and my babies – not to be. What we did share was our love for cooking and creating a beautiful table for our respective guests. My memories of my mother are filled with rustic dishes from the old country, ones that rarely make it into any Greek cookbook I have picked up in my attempt to source the familial dishes that punctuated my childhood and adolescence.

This week, whilst I have wrestled with my grief and loss, I have tried to be kind to myself through the self-nurturing act of preparing food for me. I still thought deeply about what would go into my hollow body. I took some fresh ricotta and mixed in whatever fresh herbs my new neighbour DS could spare – thyme, chives, basil as well as some rosemary cuttings I had taken from mamma’s house which I plan to resurrect and grow in her honour. I then placed the mix of seasoned cheese and chopped herbs into a square of cheesecloth, twisted it to gather up the loose cloth and tied it with butcher’s string before hanging it over a bowl to drain more moisture from the wet ball. I paired this with a Sicilian caponata relish that I made by sautéing red capsicum, diced fresh tomato, Spanish onion, currants, pine nuts, bay and red wine. This sauce is served with sardines and works well with any oily fish like tuna or swordfish.

This is an ode to my bleeding heart.

The pork pies are ready! I have been developing the recipe with my baker Paul and they are good to go. Large Black breed pork neck is braised with carrots, celery and leeks and we then add grated apple, fresh thyme, allspice and loads of white pepper to get that peppery pie finish. Shortcrust base and puff top, I love good pies. Whilst cooking the pie (egg wash then in a 220ºC oven for 20 minutes), I sweated some leeks in extra virgin until transluscent before adding to the blender with some fresh thyme. I thin the leek while blending with a little hot water from the tap and then add knobs of cold butter to create a leek sauce. I then scooped the last of the ham jam (a cherry and mustard condiment that works well with any pork dish) as a final flurry of ‘sauce’ to go with the pastry. Simply prepared comfort food that leaves much time for contemplating a life without my mamma standing between me and the world.

This week I have included baby chook or poussin, spatchcocked. Yes the term spatchcock actually refers to the method of cutting out the backbone and splaying the chicken flat much the way our Portuguese cousins do. We have marinated ours this week in my moroccan chermoula paste, thanks Chrissy Manfield for your recipe! Either pan fry then finish off in the oven or bbq. You can also cut the bird in half down the breast bone, sear in a deep pan on both sides, then add yoghurt and chicken stock or water, cover and braise in a 150ºC oven for an hour or until the meat falls off the bone. Serve with cous cous – I add almonds chopped up with mint and coriander, orange zest and any dried fruit I have in the house, apricots, dates, figs…

This week I have bunches of organic english spinach and organic beetroot from the Central Coast. Roast the beets whole in a 150ºC oven until your smallest knife slips in easily, like you do when testing potatoes. Make a dressing using mustard, horseradish, extra virgin and vinegar and coat the peeled, roasted beets. Add the spinach leaves, torn with coarsely chopped parsley.

My personal pick from the dairy door this week is the Roche Baron. For those of you who love blue but also love the ooziness of a brie this ones for you. Extra creamy brie style with grey, blue moulds for a piquant yet creamy taste. Fresh muscatels in season now would go well here. Sparkling moscato please.

Another great cook died this past week. Keith Floyd was the slurping, bow tied cook who travelled the globe cooking any number of cuisines and all the while downing any number of glasses of wine. He was one of the original tv cooks and had a style that died with him – I don’t see alcoholic ‘celebrity’ chefs making a comeback.

RIP KEITH FLOYD

RIP VASILIKI (Betty) DIMITRIADES (nee Jaloussis) 20.03.1954 – 21.09.2009

RIP all the great cooks who have inspired my passion and flair – I go forth with your smells and words embossed in my memory.

Best

Melinda Dimitriades