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Unfulfilled expectations

Poached eggs as they should be...

Poached eggs as they should be...

A couple of weeks ago I went in to a little cafe in West Preston to have a quick lunch with a friend. The menu boasted an “all day breakfast” and as I’ve always had a fondness for breakfast at lunchtime, I ordered poached eggs on toast.

What arrived was literally that – two poached eggs on a single, if large, piece of dry toast. No butter, no salt and pepper, no Worcester sauce, and definitely no greenery in sight.  My friend quipped that at least the menu had described the dish accurately, but I was so gobsmacked that I couldn’t talk. And, as she was technically correct in saying that I got what I ordered, there was really no way for me to complain, although I did feel very hard done by.

I felt compelled to make myself poached eggs for lunch a couple of days later, though, to restore my faith that they could be appealing and delicious. And, of course, before I ate I took the photo above and sent it to my friend. I’m thinking of sending a copy anonymously to the cafe, to show them what this dish should look like!

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Christmas Pudding time

Pudding Bowls

 It’s past the mid-way mark in October, and my mind has turned to Christmas. Meg and I are planning and buying components for gift making, and are well on the way to knowing who is getting what – although we still have to get everything ready in time.  I’ve given myself until the first week in December to get the presents ready for those interstate, which is the bulk of the family.

This year, because I am able to, I am spending time on presents, rather than money. At least, I am for those who appreciate it.  Not everyone sees the thought and effort that goes into making something from scratch. For these people, a gift of food seems to work where perhaps a handmade bracelet doesn’t.

So, the next thing on the list is the Christmas cooking. I’ve checked with my local nut shop owner, Ross, to find out when he will be getting the dried fruit in for the Christmas puddings, and have been assured that it will be in, in the week after the Melbourne Cup is run.

Making Christmas puddings has become a big deal for me.  Last year I made 13 – this year it will probably be 15. They are not all huge by any means. Some of them are only big enough to serve two; others are big enough to serve 12. I’ve got an arrangement with everyone who gets one, that if they return their empty bowl to me, I will refill it the next year. The image above shows the new set of pudding bowls I recently bought at Queen Victoria Market.  I love them so much that I won’t let them stray too far from home.

My Christmas Pudding recipe is a cracker – given to me by my mother-in-law about ten years ago, it originated in the Australian Womens’ Weekly, sometime in the ’70s, I believe. I make a gluten-free version for my coeliac friends, by substituting a wheat-free mix for the regular flour, and an alcohol-free version for my Buddhist friends from Tai Chi, so pretty much everyone is covered. In the latter case, I substitute orange juice for the brandy, and only let it soak for an hour or two before proceeding with the mixing. That’s the other thing I should mention: where the recipe calls for rum, I’ve always used brandy because I prefer the flavour it produces.

For those who don’t like dried fruit (though I find it hard to imagine myself),  I make various other confections, with Meg’s help: shortbread, gingerbread, chocolate balls (rum balls without the rum) – even jars of laksa paste and chutney.  Throughout November and December, the house is full of the smells of Christmas. I can’t wait.

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Who doesn’t love a book sale?

Railing detail, Flinders Street station

Today the city was full of people. A protest march against the Work Choices legislation saw as many as 25,000 people walking through the CBD and bringing city traffic to a standstill, and a concert celebrating Saturday’s AFL grand final meant that Fed Square was packed like a tin of sardines (mostly by young Australian Idol groupies). Fortunately, we had caught the train in, rather than driving, as parking would have been impossible to find.

Our mission (Meg’s and mine) – to get the the City Library for their book sale – was almost thwarted by the crowd. Sweeping us along in their wake, it was almost impossible to break free at Flinder’s Lane. 

The book sale was worth braving the crowds – 28 books (at $1 each) found their way home with us.  Maybe it’s trivial of me to be thinking about a book sale when thousands of people are fighting for our rights at work, but I’ve never been a ‘joiner’.  I’ll vote with my feet at the election – when they eventually tell us when it is going to be!

Lunch was steamed beef dumplings and red bean-paste buns at Camy Shanghai Dumpling and Noodle restaurant, in Tattersall’s Lane, just off Little Bourke Street.  If you don’t know Camy yet, and are ever in the Melbourne CBD near Chinatown, you should really give it a try.  And don’t be fooled by the prices into ordering extra – their dishes are generous as well as really tasty, and you will end up with more food than you can eat!

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