February 2008

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farm lamb sunday roast

It’s been quite a big fortnight for me and I mean quite big in the same way that a werewolf Sean Connery would be quite hairy (although not on top, which would raise the possibility of a combover werewolf; terrifying yet also funny in a sad kind of way. “You know you’re not fooling anyone…aiiiieeeeeeee”)

Anyway two weeks ago Eva was born and it does not so much turn your life upside down as create its own space in your brain that squashes everything else out of the way. Although not in a way that creates a large bulge in my forehead and the urgent need to take a piss every thirty minutes. She’s also absolutely adorable and makes me laugh, which are great qualities to start life with.

We also managed to get issue 10 of SPICE off to the printers. Well when I say we, I mean everyone else and me distractedly checking commas and apostrophes and asking if it’d kill us if we got it out on the 7th instead of the 1st.

The other thing was the family farm’s clearing sale, last Friday. A clearing sale is a kind of garage sale but with heavy machinery and drinks afterwards. It also means that the family farm is sold and so ends my father’s forty years on a wheat and sheep farm and my family’s 80 year ownership of the wheatbelt property.I grew up there and it was as a good a childhood as anyone could want – I was rarely priveleged. By my teens, the appeal had waned; it became holiday farm work through uni; and by my twenties I’d supplanted my home town of twenty with the 14 million person megalopolis of Tokyo. Although things changed on the farm there was always something I could relate that linked to some part of my life. On the day, most of theses things were lain out in straight lines in the paddock and all that was left in the workshop were the neatly painted labels of where the tools once went.

It was a hot day, the wind blew with dust all day, my first car struggled to raise $50, and I’ve never enjoyed a can(s) of mid-strength beer so much. The sale went well beyond all expectations, I only got one ‘why didn’t you take over the farm’ question, and a lot of people weren’t shy in saying how they’d miss my Dad.

I took two things with me; the Cramphorne wool bale stencils and a leg of lamb from the freezer. This was from one of the sheep on the farm and, as they aren’t there anymore, it’s the last of the lamb. I roasted it old-style with garlic and rosemary stuffed into slits in the meat and we had our Sunday roast together. Eva didn’t quite make it up to the farm and she’s a few months away from solids but whatever Toni eats, she gets eventually. And so in an odd, indirect way, the farm became part of her.

filing cabinet farm lamb

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A small person

As a believer in music as the companion of all good things in life, I’ve always been taken by Californian friend and how on the day his child was born, Beautiful Day by U2 came on the radio and he started crying. As I drove home in what would be a quick stop on the way to hospital the iPod gave me What’s Inside a Girl? by the Cramps. Three and a half hours later I found out.
It’s another girl.

seven pounds and one ounce

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Cowboy Pie


cowboy pie


Sure it’s not your ‘Gordon Bleu’ but when Toni comes back at t minus three weeks and wants shepherds pie even though its in the mid- thirties, then it gets made. Unfortunately she bought beef mince which means its technically cowboy pie. Traditionally you would make it using leftover roast lamb or mutton and wiggle your eyebrows lasciviously every time you said ‘Shepherds Pie’.
There’s no particular magic in the recipe here – just the usual ragout principle of cooking the liquids out before adding new ones. Lightly brown the mince, then add some chopped mushrooms to soak up the liquids. Add some rosemary thyme and pepper. Then cook out a good splash of leftover white wine. Add some kidney beans and a jar of tomato cooking sauce and simmer until reduced. You want to be able to eat it with a fork but at the same time have some gravy to latch onto the mash. Season to taste.
Meanwhile boil the spuds, mash and then stir in a mixture of hot milk and butter. Spoon over the top of the ragout. I just used the cast iron pan I cooked the ragout in. If you use a spoon, you can tease up little peaks like on a meringue.
Brown off in the oven.
Don’t slack off on the salt – it likes it. Them’s good eatin’!

FOR TRAGICS: Name that cast iron pan.

OTHER SHEPHERD’S PIE THOUGHTS: If you get Supergrass’s “In it For The Money” Bonus CD there’s a bit that deadpans “A year’s supply of shepherd’s pie” which I just really like and it makes me laugh just thinking about it.
Funnily enough, in Zappa’s similarly titled “We’re Only in It for the Money” there’s also a deadpanned “Creamcheese”. Admittedly Creamcheese isn’t a pie but it does feature in cheesecake which is similar to pie. Did you know Lincoln was riding in a Kennedy?