yarra valley after the fires

>I had reason to travel to Healesville and Yarra Glen this week, ten days after the worst bushfires in Australian history hit.

Read more here.

We all want to help, so what should we do? Go there. Have a coffee. Go for lunch. Taste some wine. Buy something. Tell your friends.

We love our Victorian wines and our country towns. Now is the time to support them.

If we all promise to make at least one trip to a bushfire-affected town sometime between now and Anzac Day, spend some time and spend some money, maybe some of the local businesses will survive and life will be better for all of us.

Make your plan. It’s not a stay-or-go plan. It’s a Go Plan.

A Real Slow Food Weekend


Never mind A Taste of Slow, this weekend I did things my way.

For once I got up early enough to get to Victoria Market at a reasonable hour. Still suffering from my cold, I didn’t delay, but headed straight for my favourite local winery stall to stock up on shiraz. Davd from Candlebark Hill winery chatted about famous people (he traded his story about Tim Spall for mine about Sir Ian McKellen). Six bottles better off, I wandered back through the throngs to my own local market in Footscray.

There I bought some beautiful pork belly from the Vietnamese butcher, and some diced beef. At the fishmongers I chose a nice slab of fresh tuna (which I froze when I got home for later in the week) and threw in a kilo of fresh sardines as they looked so lovely.

Back at home, I realised that the sardines would need gutting before we could eat them. Orlando vaguely remembered how, from his aunt Gloria, and after a brief instruction session I set to. Fifteen minutes later I had a big bowl of fish guts and 22 tiny butterfly fillets.

I remembered my chilli chutney from the Taste of Slow market, and combined it with garlic and lime for the marinade. I grilled the sardines lightly and we polished them off for lunch with some fresh bread.

It didn’t take long to prepare the spices for my favourite Rick Stein recipe for crispy pork belly. You have to leave the meat resting in the spices for a day or so before cooking so I got that organised after the washing up.

While I was at it, I cleaned out and re-filled my trusty masala dhaba. From the top, we have lemon pepper, black mustard seeds, cloves and cardamoms, garam masala, turmeric, chilli powder, and finally szechuan peppercorns in the centre. Pretty, isn’t it?

Then I took a nap.

Next day, I spent the afternoon on the sofa watching a remake of South Pacific, with a proper old-fashioned box of Milk Tray chocolates on my lap and a blanket over me. It took almost five hours to cook the pork belly to perfection and less than twenty minutes to devour it.

Now, that’s what I call a slow food weekend.