Sunday, 21 December 2014

Cooking the perfect Christmas turkey

I've had this recipe for many years - in fact I think it might have been passed down to me by my late mother. The newspaper is yellowing and by the end of this you will be mellowing! So this is thanks to Oliver Pritchett - and is from the Telegraph (London I presume!) Have a wonderful Christmas and thankyou for following along with me as I muse from the terrace! May 2015 be all that you wish and more!
Heston Blumenthal's turkey (

And so to the recipe - a little dated but....enjoy!!

"Today, for the benefit of those few readers who have not yet bought my new cookery book, Hot Dishes, I am reproducing my recipe for the Perfect Christmas Turkey. 

What you will need: one turkey - ask the butcher to pluck it for you. Quite a lot of unsalted butter. About three cups full of coarse sea salt - I get my cups with a nice pale blue floral pattern on them, from Thomas Goode and Co, a nice little shop just down the road. A box of good-quality crackers. A large sheet of organic silver foil - not the ultra-shiny artificial stuff; I get mine from the Real Silver Foil Company. Turkey giblets - including the weird-shaped bits that are an off-putting sort of turquoise colour. Some Brazil nuts, preferably the 'montanha' variety.

At 5.30 on Christmas morning, get up and turn the oven on to 200 degrees Celsius. If you have a fan-assisted oven, turn it three clicks below the little symbol that looks like a cigar with stripes on it. Go back to bed. 

When you get up again, stuff the turkey - see page 449 of my book The Right Stuffing. After stuffing it, I like to give my turkey a good slapping all over. It may or may not tenderise the flesh, but it certainly helps to restore the circulation to my hands after being inside that cold bird. 

Add some salt to the unsalted butter and smear it all over the bird, then bung it in the old oven. The basic rule of thumb about timing is that a turkey betweekn six and seven kilograms will take roughly 45 minutes longer than you expect it to. 

Take a sheet of silver foil, fold it into an envelope shape and place it on the floor to catch the Krakatoa tidal wave of hot fat that is going to shoot out from the dish when you open the oven door to take a look because nothing seems to be happening in there. 

It is important to have organic foil, because when you get up from crouching in front of the oven, you will feel dizzy and the gleam from the ultra-shiny foil could dazzle you, causing you to lurch into the bread sauce. 

After 45 minutes, turn the oven down to 180 degrees, or if you have a fan-assisted oven, until the humming noise coming from it changes from 'moderately annoying' to 'slightly irritating'. 

While checking the bird after the first hour, I usually find my oven glove bursts into flames. I like to put it out by dousing it with the giblet stock, which has been simmering for a day and a half. I do not feel bad about losing the giblets because of the nagging doubts about those turquoise bits. Throw the giblets out the window.

Take the crackers from their box, grip each one by the indented part, next to the centre and pull outwards sharply. Don't worry if there is a slight explosion, this sometimes happens. Collect the paper hats, give them a generous sprinkling of salt and lay them out as stepping stones on the greasy kitchen floor. Take the riddles and give them to the family and guests to keep them amused until the meal is ready. 

Take six or seven decent-sized Brazil nuts and throw them at the cat, which is eating the giblets in the garden. 

It is now time to turn your attention to the gravy. You will find the recipe on page 675 of my large, lavishly illustrated book Just Jus. When you have made the gravy, place the book against the cat flap to stop the cat coming into the house, where it will be sick. 

The turkey will be done when a member of the family comes to the kitchen for the fifth time to ask: "Is there anything I can do to help?"

Throw a couple of Brazil nuts at them, take the bird from the oven, place it on a carving dish and leave for 20 minutes or so, to allow the cook to 'rest'.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

The fall of the wall

With a title like that I bet you thought I was referring to the Berlin Wall! But no! Although that was a momentous occasion seeing my beloved back wall (strangely one of the reasons I bought my home) go down in the blink of an eye was a lot more up close and personal.

Now there are not many people who would buy a house because of a wall but....then I'm not like many people! My home is around 20 years old and the wall around 60+++ years old. It was obviously part of an old factory/stables. My home was built on all that remained of the factory/stables - an empty piece of land. I loved my wall. It had a great presence. If a wall can have a great presence - then it had it in spades - or bricks!
My 'Moroccan' wall and the young yukkas - divine
And then along came my next door neighbour who wanted to build 3 x 3 storey townhouses at the rear of his property. We fought him to the death on the plans - but only managed to reduce the footprint to 2 x 3 storey townhouses. The local court of last resort (VCAT) gave permission for him to build on the proviso that my beloved wall remain. I was ecstatic. The local council gave permission for the build based on the height of my yukkas which they considered would protect me from being overlooked by the new neighbours. At the time I stated that "the neighbour/developer couldn't 'borrow' my yukkas as trees die". My pleas fell on deaf ears and the development was approved. So much for looking after current residents - this council is all for looking after new residents which of course = more rates income. 
Growing, growing, growing, having babies, having babies, having babies
But we had a problem. The yukkas which had been planted around 10 years ago 'had gone troppo'. They crushed the watering system - but it didn't deter them. They just kept growing - both upwards and outwards at the base! The narrow garden bed couldn't fight their growth - it looked like they had enormous elephants feet - and they proceeded not only to push over the small retaining wall bordering the garden bed - they also had a fine time pushing my beloved wall to the point of no return.
Yukka 'elephant' feet! Pushing the retaining wall forward (they ain't got anywhere else to go!)
The last thing any of us wanted was a death by the fall of a wall (particularly after the appauling death of 3 people walking past a development site in Carlton last year) There was no choice. It had to go. 
Looking at the wall from the developers side. Look at the height of the yukkas - great privacy screen!
After much angst on my part the deed needed to be done so the 2 x 3 storey townhouse development could proceed.  And a temporary fence put in place - until closer to the finish of the development when the neighbour/developer and I will decide what I WANT! I can forsee a year of dirt, noise, blasting radios and more angst - but this post is about the fall of the wall!

So follow me on the fall of the wall - a journey that was over in seconds. Along came the wall puller downerer - he hooked his shovel thing over the wall and in one fell swoop it was GONE! I've never seen anything like it! BANG! That was it! Talk about a ton of bricks!
The flattened wall - almost in one piece. The neighbours yukkas - almost eating their 2.5 storey home, and my yukkas waiting to go to the toxic tip
Thank goodness it fell towards the vacant land and not towards my home. It would have killed me and wiped out the back of the house! Then out came the chainsaws to remove the offending yukkas. Some were so big that they need a special saw as the chainsaw wouldn't/couldn't get through them. 
You can see the bottom of the wall as it fell - as for the chainsaw - it won't cut through the elephant feet!
Then up went the temporary fence so that all and sundry wouldn't be able to see me watching television (after all the cricket season is on!). Oh - and for SECURITY!
Looking through the patio doors from my sitting room - zero security
What a day in the life of a wall. I'm even keeping a bit just for prosterity. I'll keep you posted on my new design - but that's a long way down the track. And it won't include rampant elephant feet yukkas - the height of my 2 storey house - and the house opposite - see above.
The temporary fence (1 year?!) and the ravaged courtyard (1 year?!) I can't bear to look
And a final warning - DON'T PLANT YUKKAS unless you live in the country and can plant a copse of them (if that's what it's called) a very long way from the house!

As you can imagine I am now horrified by how many yukkas are for sale at every garden shop often in the courtyard department - they start off small but end up...... 

And the piece-de-resistance - yukkas are toxic - they have to be taken to a special dump. Dump cost - a mere $1000!

So plant yukkas at your peril as they were ultimately the cause for the fall of my beloved wall.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Vale Phillip Hughes

A life cut down by a freakish one-in-a-zillion accident. He will remain 63 not out - forever. 
On a short walk over the weekend it was moving to see cricket bats and hats on front lawns. What an amazing idea and so symbolic of the 'Aussie way'. (hashtag#putoutyourbats) - and the world did.

Cricket bat and hat - a wonderful tribute
It's a timely reminder to us all to Carpe Diem, to seize the day - everyday. You never know when it's going to be over. 

In Berlin Elton sang a tribute to Phillip and gave support to the bowler Sean Abbott 'Don't let the sun go down on me'. You can listen here.