What’s for dinner? Some things I ate, July 2013

A street in Bankstown with lots of signs in Vietnamese

We went to the Bankstown Bites food Fair. This was interesting and fun. Bankstown in Sydney’s western suburbs, is positioning itself as a food destination. It is culturally mixed with strong Vietnamese and Lebanese/Arabic communities. The local Council runs the festival with food stalls and themed tours of restaurants and shops. We went on the Saigon tour. If you are going to find out about local cultures and their food, participation in these kinds of events is a good intro.


I am food obsessed. I love to eat and over the past few years I have begun to love to cook. However, I seem to have a memory like a sieve. I forget what I have cooked or eaten, so I decided to start keeping an occasional record (below) of some of the things I am eating.


Tuscan sage chicken with soft polenta.

A great meal, browned chicken, then cooked with wine, sage leaves and dry-cured olives. Tastes great the next day. We love polenta though it is only recently that we have started to cook with it. We are concerned about its healthiness. Served with steamed cauliflower and baked sweet potato. Inexpensive and easy to cook.

The recipe came from “Winter Cooking’, a Penguin collection of recipes p.281.


We ate some sweets with a black coffee at Sweets of Lebanon, Bankstown. A great cultural and interesting culinary experience. We will return. Wish I could remember the name of the cheese slice eaten as a sweet. Fantastic!


Caramel Salmon

This tastes better than it sounds. Chinese inspired, a lightly browned salmon pieces and a sweet soy and onion sauce. This is a regular at our dinner table. Salmon is the only expense, 600 gms cost $22.

Recipe from ‘Everyday’ – Bill Granger p144.

English Spinach, chinese style

We served this with an English Spinach, chinese style with a garlic and chicken stock sauce, an adaption from a Snow-pea recipe.

Recipe from ‘My China’ – Kylie Kwong p446.


Gnocci with braised veal and parmesan

This wasn’t too bad. I am keen on Gnocci and will have to make my own one day. I don’t think the veal shanks I bought were great. The butcher is important.

Recipe from Neil Perry’s ‘The Food I Love’ page 132


Penne with Zuccini, Broccolini and Cauliflower

A Neil Perry classic, though not everyone (the kids for example), likes it. You cook some garlic, olive oil, chilli flakes and salt then add the vegetables and slowly braise. Add it to the pasta, it is wonderful.

Neil Perry’s recipe book is really good, not only are there many good recipes, but he gives an interesting and informative overview of the dish and then a few permutations on the idea.

Recipe from Neil Perry’s ‘The Food I Love’ page 128


Florentine Roast Pork

Basically a roast dinner of pork shoulder seasoned with rosemary and garlic. Daughter and friend loved it. We didn’t think it was much to write home (blog) about. Pork is great value.

The taste for white wine necessitated opening an old 2000 Petaluma Riesling, probably past its prime but still fantastic.

Recipe from “Winter Cooking’, a Penguin collection of recipes p.304.


A couple of other Neil Perry past recipe’s

A simple tomato sauce

I never would’ve believed that this recipe would be any good, but it is great! I have done a bit of camping this month and it is easy to cook while camping and still tastes good. But, it is a recipe for any time and it goes really well alongside some sausages or bbq’ed meat.

It is olive oil, salt, chilli flakes, sugar, lots of garlic add a can of tomatoes and that’s it. Brilliant.

This recipe is from ‘Rockpool’ Neil Perry, p219


Spaghetti Vongole

This is also a wonderful recipe of a classic Italian dish. I have cooked it with prawns, pipis and clams – getting the clam out of the shell with the wine based sauce is a great eating experience.

Recipe from Neil Perry’s ‘The Food I Love’ page 117


Asian Chicken

We definitely cook this recipe once a month if not once a week. An Asian friend of my mother-in-law gave us this when my wife, Karen was recovering from the birth of our first child and we have been cooking it ever since.

Cut up a whole chicken into pieces, brown lightly in peanut oil. Add garlic and ginger and some Shao Hsing wine, add some water to cover, bring to the boil and then simmer until cooked. A wonderful, if simple, meal that we are thankful for. I added some soy sauce to the sauce before serving which worked well. We often serve this with some steamed peas.


Another pasta dish, Simple easy and tasty.

Angel hair pasta with smoked trout, rocket, chilli and lemon

This is a recipe from the internet that I particularly like. Usually I use a smoked rainbow trout, 300gms or so, but this time I bought a quite oily smoked fish which didn’t work as well.


I also joined a tour of a local Chinese supermarket conducted by a Malaysian born Cantonese woman, Meow. Afterwards we cooked wontons, noodles and chinese mushrooms at her house. Yum!


Admitting to the occasional use of the packet mix for a Beef Rendang, we couldn’t resist an easy meal using beef skirt. Not bad, better the second night! Where we served it with fried tofu, a firm tofu coated with corn flour and salt and pepper and served with a mirin and soy sauce dressing, okra, a cucumber and peanut salad and our own chicken eggs, soft boiled.

I am interested in the role that food can play in building community relationships. The Willoughby local government area in which I live has a large chinese community in its most populated suburb, Chatswood. so far there a few opportunities for us all to mix. But, the food in Chatswood, as in Bankstown is very enticing. An exploration of it, offers the chance to mix together.

Castlecrag’s Walkways – conflicts of access and privacy

This article (below) first appeared in the CRAG a publication of the Castlecrag Progress Association. I have lived in Castlecrag for ten years. I am only beginning to understand the Griffins and the significance of their lives. I am sure I will return to them, but I hope some of my enthusiasm for them is demonstrated below. Please feel free to express your opinions whatever they may be about Castlecrag and its walkways by using the ‘leave a comment’  link at the bottom.

walkways-5706Walter and Marion Griffin’s Castlecrag is soon to be celebrated with two commemorative walks. These walks will be supported by a map, an app, the way finding posts that you may have noticed popping up around the place and the ongoing upgrade, maintenance and sometimes reclamation of public land. We are fortunate in Castlecrag that public land is plentiful. The abandonment of plans to make Castlecrag an expressway linkage to Seaforth and Griffin’s development regarded by some as arguably the most generous act of property development in Australian history have contributed to our very fortunate situation. 

The Griffins were schooled in the progressive architectural ideas of Chicago of the beginning of the last century. Theirs was a democratic architecture for people that was inspired by nature and philosophy. Walter trained not just as an architect but as a landscape architect and urban planner, so his plan for Castlecrag was mindful of the importance of the rocky contours and its native vegetation. Rather than the typical grid pattern of streets with red roofed houses and paling fences that ran from the shoreline to the ridge and obscured any sense of the sandstone beneath, his plan followed the contours. The walkways, that could also double as service corridors, provided the pedestrian linkages between streets and the shops, shoreline, outdoor theatre or the bushland reserves in between where neighbours could meet and nature could be enjoyed. Castlecrag became known as a cultural and spiritual hub. It thrived but the Griffins’ vision was derailed by the depression and Walter’s untimely death in India in 1937.

Today, after more than fifteen years of progressive improvements, many of the walkways are able to function in something like the way that Griffin envisaged. But, the walkways are sometimes considered to be an intrusion to residents’ privacy or to bring social problems to the backdoor.

As a person who lives on a walkway, I have a perspective that comes from experience. I live on a relatively busy walkway that connects Castlecrag with Warners Park, Northbridge and Sailors Bay. I have lived here for ten years. I view Castlecrag as a quiet place without population pressure. I have never considered the small number of people who walk by an imposition. I like hearing their chatter, women on workouts and young kids being taught by fathers and mothers about the bush. From time to time, they provide an opportunity for a conversation and even a friendship. But usually they simply walk by and the moment is as brief as when anyone passes your house. At times, I have tourists asking for directions. For example there was the Frank Lloyd Wright devotee from England whose interest in Griffin derived from the fact that he and Marion worked for Wright.

All in all, the walkway is a really positive part of my relationship with Castlecrag and our community. Many walkways are yet to be reclaimed and it is important that people view them for what they are, public assets that may provide amenity to the community. It is also important that any discussion about walkways or footpaths considers their benefit to a wider community’s need to access shops, shoreline or the occasional walk in the reserve.

Matthew Keighery, Castlecrag resident, is also a committee member of the Griffin Reserves Advisory Committee (GRAC). GRAC meets with Council representatives eight times a year to discuss and advise on plans and improvements for the Reserves. The Committee is currently looking for new members.


Resources – learn more about the Griffins and Castlecrag

There is currently a web app being developed that I have largely written and provided photographs for that can be used to navigate some of Castlecrag’s walkways. I will post a link when it becomes available. There will also be a link to a physical map. I suggest you do these walks and access the information. it is a fascinating and beautiful part of Sydney.

The Griffin’s story is incredible. They are well worth reading more about and Alasdair McGregor’s book is excellent.

Alasdair McGregor (2009), Grand Obsessions: The life and work of Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin Penguin/Lantern, Camberwell, 2009

There is a great ABC radio program on the suburb, The idealists: creating Castlecrag (2012) which is informative and entertaining

The University of New South Wales, 2012 Utzon Lecture Series has one by Professor James Weirick entitled “100th Anniversary of Walter Burley Griffin: Griffin and Canberra” which is available online as a video.



My five remaining brothers
Michael, Paul, Matt, Luke, Tony and Graeme

I was born the youngest of seven boys. There are now six of us, Mark sadly died a few years back. Yesterday we got together with our families to celebrate Xmas. It is a wonderful experience having so many in a family. Sure, they annoy you from time to time. I am sure I annoy some of them. But, the ability to share time and often but not always thoughts and feelings with so many who have meant so much is something that I am very grateful for.

After Mark died we decided to start having brothers meetings. They are non-structured meetings where we may or may not have any issues to discuss. Though our mother who also dies recently was often the major area of concern. Yesterday was our first meeting with our families since Mum died. It went well, there is a great amount of concern and care for each other and each other’s families.

Our family history is no richer or poorer than others. But it is funny how the stories, values and traditions which we are brought up with, such as the Xmas pudding, seems to make or family just like the Xmas pudding from Mum’s recipe, that much richer.