Country air

Rainy days and Mondays always get me down! Not really but where’s my summer gone? After a glorious, drizzly weekend on the farm for last weekend’s birthday celebrations, I’m ready for some sunshine in the city.

Can I talk you through the farm play time though. This is Robert’s farm, my man on the ground for Extra Virgin Olive Oil as seen on the list. He is amongst other things a mentor, good friend, surrogate dad, an amazing cook, a brilliant farmer and all round special man. You know those encounters you have from time to time where you remember not only how special connections between people can be but how good you can feel about yourself by how you are loved. This man gets me and was able to bring much sunshine to this 1st birthday without that lifelong, anticipated call from mamma. Being out of range I also missed out on a live, choral performance from my niece and 2 nephews – very gorgeous.

Maybe it was all that country air that did it to me – boy did I feel good. Mowing lawns on a ride on with a magic cigarette to keep the swaying motion of my hips on the machine that little more enjoyable is a religious experience. Robert confesses he rarely hands over this particular task given his own personal enjoyment, Miss Moo 2nds. I think it’s making perfect patterns, like a huge tapestry of grass that gets sheered away in perfect lines up and down and somehow ending up at the place you started with one final mow, the cigarette is really kicking in now. It may be that my entire peripheral, visual field is green and full of old ghost gums and weeping willows and all that clean air that makes the task so simple and as if I’m achieving some of my life’s most important work.

The pumpkin and potato patch was groaning with the season’s harvest as were corn stalks. I have almost used up all the potatoes but have 2 huge pumpkins available for purchase. This same night after mowing and harvesting we hit the olive groves on the 4WD, Robert with spotlight in hand and yours truly with a rather heavy Italian Beretta 12 gauge shotgun on the back holding on for dear life. Rabbits were our prey. The base of the olive trees having been gnawed at despite preventative measures was our excuse, that and the fact that I adore rabbit meat and think it should be a staple on every dinner menu, that includes yours. Turns out I’m quite the shot having bagged 4 rabbits out of 4 shots. Miss Moo who shares my enthusiasm for pork and cheese (and not in that order) is in Barcelona so I and the rabbits await her return for the great, inaugural rabbit cook off. She insists on preparing a Catalan dish which includes a chocolate sauce where I will stick to my Italocentric style and make a classic ragu. To turn the whole event into a meditational workshop we will also make fresh pappardelle pasta that will be coated by the shredded, saucy meat. I will take the same meat and make some pies, maybe enough for you to buy next week?? Hopefully Elena, from Livorno, one of the recipients of the pappardelle and ragu dish will approve.

One thing that really struck me was the availability of good, fresh produce on the way to and within the regional destinations. How is it that we city folk go to great lengths to access the farmers produce only to see them eating cheap, gimmicky, fast food. It saddens me no end to stop off at a roadhouse for the obligatory road trip snack only to have the golden arches and other similar cheaply prepared, fried up, sugar ridden food available to the very people who provide us with the lands harvest. The local cafes don’t serve any of the local produce which seems to get trucked straight out to us city folk.

Each piece of fruit, cut of meat or jar of honey pays homage to some notion of the good life, the simple things We reap the provisions of our beautiful soil and our farmers toil only to watch them, after a 16 hour day of very hard yakka sit down to supermarket meat that is pumped full of water and not aged heaven forbid it loses weight in the process. Of vegetables that you know someone has been underpaid for. Honey that is heat treated and eggs from tortured chickens – something’s gotta give. If you’ve ever been on a road trip through Italy (hand up here), the food at the servo is amazing! The compulsory espresso machine takes centre stage along with beautifully prepared fresh sandwiches made with prosciutto, robiola cheese, rocket, stracchino etc. etc. Why hasn’t the food movement we are so swept up in translated to the regions or the venues on the way to the regions. Is good, fresh food becoming a preserve of the wealthy, city dweller?

See below a weekly menu that you can put together using few ingredients. I know you work your arses off and are often very tired and uninspired to cook. I have a fruit and vegie guy who can provide me with the accompaniments.

Here goes:

Monday – Veal cutlets – serve with some fried sage leaves finished with lemon juice and a mesclun salad

Tuesday – Omelette stuffed with basil and mozzarella di bufala

Wednesday – Sirloin Steak with roasted Desiree potatoes and blanched Young French Green beans dressed with vinaigrette

Thursday – Moroccan Chermoula Chicken roasted and served with roasted cubes of Robert’s Pumpkin (in the same pan as the chook to save washing up). Throw pumpkin into cous cous with chopped coriander and Spanish onion and a heavy drizzle of extra virgin

Friday – Shallot and Ginger Pork Sausages with Wasabi Desiree Potato mash (make mash like you would and add wasabi paste)

Saturday – Lamb Rump roasted or sliced and pan fried/bbq with instant Red Capsicum and Spanish Onion relish. Fry sliced onions (leave skin on) and caps in a pan gently until they wilt, then add butter and sugar and a little balsamic vinegar (and currants or sultanas if you have), top with marinated goat’s feta, then add salad and/or roast potatoes

Sunday – Pork pie with Ham Jam and pumpkin mash