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"Speck - a tiny patch or spot"


So these are not really specks - they are too big, but it is Speck with a capital S if you like. So what is speck?

"Speck's secret can be enclosed in one simple phrase: "Little salt, little smoke, and plenty of fresh mountain air."

It obviously deserves a whole post to itself, so I will just say that you might have thought it was German, but no it's Italian from the South Tyrol in North-eastern Italy in the region of Alto-Adige. And yes it is on the Austrian border, so it's almost German. Fundamentally it's ham made from the legs in a particular way. And I will do a 'proper' post on it one day. Today it is just a useful illustration of 'specks' - sort of - because this is one of those this and that posts.

Apple postscripts

Coincidence, serendipity - call it what you will but my friend Wendy on viewing yesterday's post on Adam and Eve and all that, had just that evening been to Aux Fines Bouches in Burleigh Heads, and had eaten this rather special looking dessert. How amazing a coincidence is that?

And still on the apples - particularly the Apple logo. I thought of several other symbolic notions that that brilliant logo personifies: fundamental; basic; life-giving; simple; satisfying; nourishing; almost infinitely variable; greed; natural; beautiful; - I'm sure you can think of so many more. Then there is the notion of freedom - iPods, iPads, iPhone, iWatch - if you go with the notion that Adam and Eve eating the apple gave them freedom. But of course, in the case of Apple it simultaneously denotes captivity - captivity to the world of Apple and its interconnectivity. It's brilliant and we all know instantly what it means without the need for words.

I have a bunch of green grapes in my fridge, that have been steadily pushed to the back by newly bought black ones. They are very possibly completely unusable by now, but I thought I could maybe make some chutney with them. Just a small jar. I do like making chutneys, but it's sometimes difficult to get people to try them.

If they are still just usable I might have a go at this recipe from The Incredible Kitchen. The Indians seem to be the ones who are into making chutney with grapes, particularly green ones. We westerners seem to prefer the black grape option. I have to admit that most of the recipes I saw were for 'fresh' grape chutneys, but this one does indeed look possible. So I shall have a look and see if a rescue can be achieved.

Platters are really a thing

I have missed the actual paper version of this month's Coles Magazine, but I did download the pdf, and as I browsed through it I was struck by how many pages of the magazine were dedicated to platters. They were all advertising something of course - whether it be biscuits, cheese, delicatessen meats, drinks or just a whole range that you can find on the supermarket shelves. It was somewhat overwhelming, but it did make me think how easy it is these days, to just throw together a scratch meal for unexpected visitors. Or just to feed a crowd. I suppose it's Autumn and we can now light fires, so barbecues are the go because the weather - as today - is still pretty wonderful every now and then. Coles even provided the platters and the tables! It also shows how prosperous we are in that we can buy all these things. I cannot imagine such a spread from my childhood. But then again maybe I could at least consider the possibility of what we could have done - if it had been a thing. After all we had bread, we had cheese, we had biscuits and cold meat - the leftover roast, plus cucumber and tomatoes. No dips although we did have potted meats, fish paste and - yes - spam. No olives, but we had pickled onions. You would just need a stylist to make it look pretty. I suppose, in fact this could have been the kind of thing we ate on a picnic, or a weekend lunch. We just never thought of the notion of the platter.

Every week I get a newsletter from the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. Mostly it is full of expensive and trendy restaurants or bars that are (a) not aimed at me and (b) I am never going to go to anyway. However, every now and then they have something interesting to report, and this time it was saffron that is being grown here in Australia. In Victoria in fact by a couple named Rosie Pamic and Drew Black who did a tree change from Melbourne, where she had been a chef and he an engineer with a particular interest in alternative energy. They grow their crocuses above ground - out of reach of the rabbits - and where they can provide better soil than is in the ground.

The stamens are hand-picked dried and packed into small glass vials. Also:

"Some of the saffron is infused in salt, and some with local honey. Squirrel Gully puts together paella kits and saffron cultured butter kits, which are popular with patrons at farmers' markets. The owners also have other plants growing on the farms and make other products with their produce, including a saffron and pear shrub." Richard Cornish/Melbourne Food and Wine Festival.

It's a small farm and what they grow they sell. I tried to find the price - I'm sure it's not cheap - their other products certainly aren't. But then saffron is the world's most expensive spice. Good on them really, but once again the best things in life are not free. In fact they are so expensive that only the rich can afford them. Still it is good to see that Australians really are at last realising that they too can grow more or less everything and anything.

The Ottolenghi recipe of the week

I am painfully aware that I am becoming a bit of an Ottolenghi tragic, not to mention an Ottolenghi bore. But I just had to have 'one more thing' as Steve Jobs so famously said every time he introduced a world changing Apple product that we were all sucked into buying. With ultimate joy I have to say. And now that I think of it I probably have Ottolenghi up there on the same kind of pedestal, for he has really revolutionised our way of cooking I think. Or he should do yours if you are not already a fan.

This is Cheesy curried beans on toast - my chosen recipe to share this week. Last week we had the family over for dinner and this is what I cooked for our vegetarian granddaughter although it turned out to be the favourite dish of the evening for everyone I think. Her father had to check with her as to whether she wanted seconds before everyone made off with the remains. Also somewhat unfortunately for her, she had forgotten to think about her braces which had just been tightened and were a bit painful and this made it a bit difficult for her to eat because the toast was a bit crunchy. Well she did choose it. Anyway it's one of those recipes which is super easy and quick to make and which is infinitely variable - different beans, different cheese, different herbs and spices, (I had to use parsley instead of coriander because there are coriander haters in my family), different toppings ...

Yum, yum, yum. Something of a step up from good old baked beans on toast. But you can meddle with them too I suppose. Beans are nourishing, delicious and filling, so see what you can do with a tin of beans.

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