Sometimes I get so caught up in the workings of day-to-day living I forget things; often which home something is at – we’ve been wondering for a week about the location of an item thinking it was at Taylors Arm but it was right here in the city apartment on a shelf in plain sight.
Similarly, the Belief that is necessary to imbue everyday life with magic wasn’t missing, just overlooked.
The days following the G.O.’s birthday lazy long weekend quickly resumed their everyday feel but with magic restored it seemed like no time at all had passed and I was back at Velvet Garage, this time meeting up with Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial and her husband on Saturday morning. After shuffling arrangements we finally managed a catch-up. We exchanged gifts, each sharing a bit of our lives… I offered a few things I’d been accumulating for this purpose, dragon pearls from my friend Nancy-from-Narrabri’s Hip Herbal ‘n Happening Tea, lemon myrtle seasoning from Perry’s and a small bottle of Isabella from Gruber’s Winery at Taylors Arm. I was thrilled to receive lemons from their tree, a jar of Pete’s quince jelly, and package of chorizo. After a pleasant hour breakfasting and chatting we departed to our respective Saturday errands.
I headed over to Eveleigh Farmers Market primarily to pick up the beef cheeks I’d ordered. The Linga Longa Farm stall was my first stop, and I waited patiently, as you do at farmers markets, while the 3 people manning the stall discussed the meaty offerings with a customer. Eventually I was noticed, introduced myself and requested “can I pick up the beef cheeks I called the number on the business card and ordered over the phone… leaving a message on Lauren’s mobile”. Response: I’m Lauren – blank look – When did you ring? Hmmm, I thought… “Wednesday or Thursday”. [ I checked, it was Wednesday ]. Lauren looked at me as if that explained everything: oh, it was my birthday on Wednesday; your message must have gotten mixed up with the others… Still hopeful, I asked “so do you have any beef cheeks?” Lauren shifted her attention to me once more: no, we’re sold out. A little bemused I waited but that was it, so I stepped to the stall next door and impulse-bought a Thirlmere duck, while the man chatted to me about how much better value a whole duck was as opposed to buying packs of maryland or breast, how to cook it, and rounded the price down from $28-something to $25… once again I was stepping out of my culinary comfort zone.
[Note: Received text on Tuesday from Lauren of Linga Longa Farm offering me beef cheeks this coming Saturday market. Nice gesture but I’m not sure of plans this weekend. However, I’ll call them next time I’m going.]
Wandering home from the markets I found a colourful memo-board free-footpath offering to take up the overload of loose bits & pieces from the fridge door, and spent a couple of dollars at a footpath sale on a decorative cage that I’ll sit a plant in and hang from a hook or in a tree at our Taylors Arm house.
We’re car sharing due to the G.O.’s being in for repairs after a small bingle during the week, so when the G.O. returned from his morning activities, we immediately set out for necessities to driving-distance shops; at which a box of glossy dark plump cherries imported from the U.S. caught my eye. Usually I would think imported-no but I thought duck-yes… and grabbed a handful, and a bunch of orange gladioli that remind me of my Nanna’s garden.
We paused at home again only momentarily, before going off on foot locally to re-visit a couple of items from last week’s birthday browsing-shopping expedition still lingering in our thoughts, to which end yet another old kookaburra and flower picture found a home with us.
Back to normal after the birthday-fest, this weekend was about eating in, therefore cooking. On Saturday afternoon, thinking ahead I quickly chopped and cooked pear & apple compote for Sunday morning porridge; and a bag of tomatoes, onions & basil and put them on to simmer for sauce: later combining a cupful with shallots, prawns, crème fraiche and pasta for a quick Saturday night dinner; and during the week, duck ragu.
Sunday morning was leisurely but chilly so I warmed the apartment with the oven, baking the G.O.’s smoko banana bread; chopped and sautéed kale for weekday breakfast and lunches, chopped cherries and peeled potatoes & carrots for dinner.
I’m new to duck, and had never cooked it whole before, so once the G.O. washed, dried and pricked it I followed my usual slow-roasting practice: into the cast iron pot with halved potatoes, a couple of dried bay leaves, stock and Madeira/Malmsey at 140 C (284 F) for 3 hours, popping in carrots toward the end, then lid off at 180 C (356 F) for an hour.
While the duck & veges were resting on a tray in the still-warm oven, I ladled a scoop of cooking juices with the cherries, 3 slices of fresh orange peel, a dash of Madeira/Malmsey in a saucepan, and set to simmer & reduce. The rest of the cooking juices were saved for the ragu.
I learned a couple of things…
Given the size of the bird, I’d anticipated a couple of roast duck dinners and a couple of duck ragu dinners. The duck was flavoursome, more-so than chicken but there was a lot less of it. So no follow-up roast dinners.
And, as pointed out by the G.O. in response to my gastronomic stage-fright, roast duck was the domain of many home-cooks, including his grandmother and mine, before the elevation of its profile by fancy restaurants and TV cooking shows.
“In fact, people who possess not magic at all can instil their home-cooked meals with love and security and health, transforming ingredients… Cooking is a kind of everyday magic.” Juliet Blackwell
This post is dedicated to Christine of the dadirridreaming blog who I met early on in my wanderings through the WordPress world. Her husband Stuart kindly let her many [blogging] friends know via a touching post of her sudden passing. Many of you would have seen dadirri7’s delightful thoughtful comments on my posts, which I will miss. Christine has been a wonderful inspiration, and very much in touch with the magic of living. I’m sad because I didn’t get to meet Christine in person but I am richer for having known her.