Tuesday, October 19, 2010


When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie
That's amore

This Sunday I went to my Nonna's house (yes, I really do call my grandmother Nonna. It's my Italian half), and we made lasagna.
There is no better lasagna to be found anywhere in the world, than that made by the hands of an Italian grandmother, in her own kitchen, for her own family.  I am totally biased here.

When the stars make you drool just like pasta fagiole
That's amore

 We made special gluten-free, even tomato-free, lasagna using some instant San Remo lasagna sheets from the local supermercato.

If we were not limited by dietary needs, we would have made the pasta sheets by hand (seriously, we do that.  My Nonna has this cool little gadget...anyway).

We used two and half boxes worth to make plenty for dinner, plus some for lunch the next day (about 7 serves).

Even though the packet says 'Instant', don't be fooled.  The softest lasagna is always boiled first.

We threw a few sheets into salted boiling water and left them for about 3-5 minutes (it's casual here, we didn't time anything).

It was scooped straight out of the pot into cold water in the sink, and more sheets thrown into the boiling water (too many sheets boiling at one time equals a big wad of uncooked pasta. Gross)

Note: the sheets are not actually cooked at this point - just softened.

We laid them out to dry a little on a clean tea towel.

I found out that when Nonna was still living in the village in Italy, her family would never ever have lasagna.  Why? Too expensive.  They were living in post-war Italy which was not a nice place.  There was nothing to buy, no work, no money, no nothing except for what could be grown in the small patch of land outside the back door. Wheat, potatoes, tomatoes, olives.  Everything was saved and stretched, because there was nothing in the shops, and no money to buy it with anyway.

It was only when she hit the shores of Australia in the 1950s, that Nonna had all the ingredients for lasagna at her fingertips.
Now, our family has it every Christmas and on birthdays.  It's still for special occasions.  Thankfully, we seems to have lots of birthdays nicely spread out through the year.

Anyway, our sheets have dried enough now...
Time to spread some plain tomato sauce onto the bottom of our baking dish.  The tomato-less dish just had some meat juice spread across the bottom (see on the left?).

Then the fun part.  Press down the first layer of pasta.  This reminds me of doing a puzzle, especially when the dish is round and the pasta is square.

Now is probably a good time to talk about our filling.  Nonna made it the day before, and it is easy and smells great.

She simply fried some garlic and onion in olive oil and added some fresh minced meat (can't remember what type, sorry), and tossed it around for a few minutes until it lost it pinkness and was cooked.  I'd say she added salt, because she puts salt in everything.

This mix above is the tomato-less version, and so my ingenious Nonna replaced that vital ingredient with three orange vegetables: carrot, sweet potato and pumpkin. (Well-watered to be nice and mooshy)

Now some of the filling is spooned generously onto the pasta sheets, covering as much ground as possible.  On top of the filling, exercise your wrist muscles and sprinkle grated mozzarella and parmesan cheese.  Get decadent and spoon a little plain cream over the whole thing...this makes it extra soft and creamy.  We also beat one egg and poured a smidgen across the top to hold it all together.  

Now...Repeat!  Until you have at least four layers.

Finish the top layer off with everything you have, and voila!  Ready for the oven.  
I don't think I forgot anything.

Cook for about 45 minutes and it should look something like this:

The SMELL is heavenly!  But don't take my word for it - you have to make it yourself!

Bells will ring ting-a-ling-a-ling, ting-a-ling-a-ling
And you'll sing "Vita bella"
Hearts will play tippy-tippy-tay, tippy-tippy-tay
Like a gay tarantella

When you walk down in a dream but you know you're not
Dreaming signore
Scuzza me, but you see, back in old Napoli
That's amore
Lucky fella

A Pocket of Time

It's nice when you can set aside a little pocket of time in a very busy life, to just do nothing much.

Time to just sit back, relax, and stare at distant horizons.


I believe that you need to get away from all that busyness and bustle before it drives you mad, so that's what we did.
On a grey morning two weeks ago, we set off on the two-hour and a bit drive to Phillip Island, and arrived in sunshine.
(Actually it was also a little wild, windy, and crisp.  But ever so lovely.)

Southern side, overlooking Bass Strait

I recommend wide open spaces uncluttered by anything built by mankind, and very fresh air directly from The Source which hasn't passed through someone else's lungs/car/air conditioning unit.

Sunderland Bay, Phillip Island is a good place.

Climb a cliff (on the conveniently provided board walks with sturdy railings to stop you plummeting into the sea), and take it all in.

It doesn't get much fresher than that, let me tell you.  

From left to right: Dad, Mum, Jono and Me.

Our pocket of time lasted for something like five days (it all merges into one lazy afternoon in my mind.)

Garlic Prawns at the Fisherman's Co-op, San Remo. Yum.
We went to the supermarket (a lot) and ate good food (possibly too much), we wandered into a Saturday craft market, down the main street of Cowes, across the pier, onto the beach, down the esplanade, through the rain, burnt by the sun and blown by the wind.  

When we weren't out we were in watching the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, or endless episodes of Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em.  

We visited Churchill Island and saw nice old things inside the homestead (1879), and nice young things (baby animals) outside in the farm.

This nursery had the most adorable nursery-rhyme wall paper.

I ran out of space on my memory card trying to get a shot of these frisky lambkins without blurring them (I failed utterly).

Awwww. Hello baby

There was the sweetest baby calf, baby rabbits, baby mice (not), and a baby horsey.  I love horses, especially ones with little hooves, soft noses, and squeaky neighs.  Awwww
A seven-day-old Clydesdale baby.  Very sweet.

Churchill Island is now owned by the government, but it was once owned privately.  This is me...dreaming about owning my own private island.

Not mother's best angle, right Junior?

My family's little pocket of time on Phillip Island was very satisfactorily filled.
Now we're back doing busy things, meeting due dates, keeping appointments, and crossing days off the calender.

But, I'll be back on P. Island sometime soon...

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Down to the line

Last Saturday, Prime Minister Julia Gillard sat in the MCG watching the 2010 AFL Grand Final begin to vaguely mirror her recent political nightmare.

I was watching the game, too, from the comfort of home, sitting nervously on my hands and watching Collingwood and St Kilda fight a football war.  By the time the fourth quarter was on the clock St Kilda had the upper hand and led for the first time in the game.  Saying that I was watching nervously is an understatement.  Try querulous, tense, wired, worried...almost hysterical.  Anyway, moving on from those bad memories... (GO PIES)

No way.  This could not happen.
Let's rewind to sometime before the game, when the PM is giving a prophetic speech at a pre-game function.
I quote: 

“Please, please, we cannot have a draw. A week without a premiership football team - I'm not sure our nation's strong enough to take it.”

It turns out that it is.  Since the 2010 Grand Final WAS a draw.

But why did the PM bother to specifically mention something that hasn't happened since 1977?  
Well, because the recent federal election was a draw of sorts as well.  The morning after the vote count it was still "to close to call".  Our first hung parliament since 1940.

The journey to the draw.
It didn't stop there, though, and after two weeks of 'horse trading' with the Independents, Julia managed to come up with enough seats to form a government.  Labor had 76 seats to the Coalition's 74.  I say it was a draw, since neither of the major parties won.  (One headline declared the 2010 Federal Election as 'The Night No-one Won'.)
When it was finally announced on September 7 that Labor had government, there were no fireworks or speeches aired on live TV.  The results were 17 days late.

I don't know what it's going to be like today, watching the Grand Final Mark II.  The premiership cup will be there, and maybe even 100,000 supporters (again).  But the Grand Final was played last week.  The results are just going to be 7 days late.  
At least we know that there won't be another draw since the AFL has kindly changed the rules.       

Who would have known that the Liberal party would gain back so much ground?  Who knew that the Saints would shut down the Pies' stellar defence and kick some goals?

2010 has been a tough year on big results so far.

I'm going to take a leaf out of the PM's book and predict a draw for the Melbourne Cup.  And a hung parliament after the Victorian State elections (I know, I know. That's about as likely as a drawn Grand Final.)

Go the Pies!!!
Black and white.
If you want to read this again because for some strange reason you don't believe me, click on these links:
Julia Gillard Foreshadows Grand Final Draw

Polling Centre

Federal Election 2010 Results
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