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Potatoes

Potato Stall, Union Square Market, New York

Potato Stall, Union Square Market, New York

Of the great passions to which I’ll publicly admit, two are gambling and food.  Every Monday night, I combine both.  At a shady poker league, I make the rules.  One of the unbreakable ones demands that last week’s pot winner provides next week’s snacks.

Usually, the blokes just lay down a lazy fifty for some average pizza.  One memorable night, however, a fella made baked potatoes. The pizzas arrived as usual, but the sizable Irish contingent in our league looked as though they’d just seen the Pope.  Through a misty vale of tears, six young men from County Wicklow landed on the spuds in preference to pizza with a passion.

Carb count aside; if you’ve a little Irish in you, there’s no point in denying your love for this humble root vegetable.

Although, my mother did do her best to ruin the potato for all time.  Thanks to the foul alchemy of over-boiling, she turned them into grey, chalky flavourless little pellets.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Now is a decent time to go on the hunt for out-of-the-ordinary potatoes. There’s an excellent spud seller at South Melbourne Markets and some upright purveyors at Prahran and Queen Vic. Here, you’ll almost certainly be able to find the new staple of posh kitchens, the Dutch cream.  This waxy, rich cream-coloured veg is a genuine indulgence au gratin. It’s of such sterling quality, though, that you can just enjoy it gently boiled in its skin with a little sea salt.

You’ll need your ready reference guide to match a tuber with its purpose.  If it’s mash you’re after, add butter, double cream and waist-band inches to Nicolas, Desirees, Bintjes, or King Edwards. For fries, select low sugar varieties such as Sebago, Russet Burbanks, and Bintje. For potato salads, favour waxy varieties like Pink Fir, Patrone or Pink Eyes. If you’re preparing the classic Nicoise or any of its wonderful springtime variations, you may not use anything but Kipfler. I also like to use chats in a salad. And Malaysian curry powder, crushed peanuts, coriander and good mayonnaise to the little boiled bullets.

My favourite way with potatoes, perhaps a Sebago, is to slice thinly and layer the discs in a baking pan with olive oil and a goodly amount of minced garlic between the spud sheets. The taters turn out equally soft and crispy in all the right places after about 40 minutes at 190°. As winter does not seem to be done with us, this could be served in the next few weeks with quality kransky or wurst and some sauerkraut.  What cold afternoon is not improved, after all, by a good continental sausage?

Potato in an even simpler form is the buzzing gastronomic dish right now in Melbourne.

Ripponlea’s Attica is serving “A simple dish of potato cooked in the earth it was grown” to scores of die-hard foodies. I adore all this swooning over Ben Shewry’s $20 spud. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m on the root-vegetable waiting list.

You have to respect the sort of simplicity that requires eight hours to achieve.  Just as much as you have to respect carbed-up Irishmen at the poker table.

 

 

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iDuck

I didn’t try this. But I do love the almost desperate duck on the packaging. Like he’s really really trying to convince you that duck gizzards are tasty. Photographed in the basement supermarket at Super Brands Mall, Pudong, Shanghai.

Tasty Smoked Gizzards

Tasty Smoked Gizzards

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Martelli

Famiglia Martelli

Famiglia Martelli

Dear Ms.

thank You very much for Your very appreced proposal. We are at Your complety disposal.

In this week, we send You same imagines of our pasta.

At Your disposal

Martelli  famiglia di pastai

Pastificio Artigianale

Famiglia Martelli

Via San Martino,3

56035 Lari (Pisa ) Toscana

tel. 0587-684238

fax 0587-684384

www.martelli.info

This was the email response I received a couple of years back after contacting the Martellis for a high-res image of their pasta for magazine publication. One of the buzzes of being an editor was being able to shamelessly promote stuff you really like. And when it comes to pasta, I really like Martelli.

It’s the way the Martelli family make it. According to their website, “Only the members of the family work in the pasta factory.”

Whatever they do, however they do it, they produce a superior pasta that is slightly textured allowing for ultimate sauce adhesion. At around $15 a pack it costs about ten times more than your regular supermarket brands.  But it is one hundred times better. Look out for it and make the investment.

martelli

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Costco

costco

In my larder, there is a litre of hummus; two kilograms of cherry tomatoes and 602 Gummi Bears.

A packet of corn chips won’t fit onto the dry goods shelf. I have enough washing detergent to clean the shorts of the Essendon midfield for a year.

I’ve just been to Costco.

I first visited this retail behemoth was when my sister lived in Texas. In the outsize Lone Star state, a store of these dimensions made sense. Everything is bigger in Texas. Including, and especially, Texan arses.

As a tourist I didn’t pay much heed to the prices of everyday things like chicken thighs and loo rolls. I was entranced by high thread count sheet sets and quality luggage.

My experience of the newest major to hit the local market was sure to be different. Once, Costco represented a fun day out, observing Americans in their natural domestic setting. Now, it’s to be considered for its value in my own retail landscape.

After lining up for an hour to secure our membership cards ($60 for both of us), Partner and I cut through the crowd with our enormous trolley in search of bulk chicken and Sorbent.

Among the groceries there were some standout bargains. We bought 3kg of sweet potatoes for $3.99, a kilo of limes for $4.69 and just over a kilo of corn chips for $8.99. A 2.25kg block of Monterey Jack cheese was $17.99. Nobody actually needs that much cheese, but this is the first time Monterey Jack has been available for retail sale in Australia. As there is simply no better cheese for Tex Mex cooking, I succumbed, declaring it Mexican week at our house.

It's Tex Mex Week

It's Tex Mex Week

A kg of avocadoes for $3.99 and a bulk twin pack of tortillas later and we were ready to investigate the liquor department. Slabs of beer are no less expensive than your local bottle-o. The wine selection is well thought out and belies the Super-Cheap-Discount-Warehouse environment. And it’s not that cheap. Oyster Bay Pinot Noir for $13.99 and 2005 Penfolds St. Henri Shiraz for $69.99 are the sort of prices you’d pay anywhere. The benefit may be in being able to pick up decent wine for a decent price in the same location as you grab the smallgoods and dips for a party.

For families the savings are more significant and noticeable. Likewise for natty share house occupants, who, if they are able to pool organisational talents and a few dollars each, will also stand to benefit.

As a couple I don’t think we’ll be frequenting Costco terribly often.  When I need American mustard, I’ll go. If I’m entertaining and want affordable manchego sheep’s milk cheese, I’ll go. My house simply isn’t big enough to accommodate 1.8kg jars of organic salsa for $8.79.

Items that seemed a reasonable quantity in the stadium sized warehouse that is Costco reveal themselves to be stupidly massive on my kitchen table.

The sheer heft of Costco makes it an enjoyable spectacle. It makes Coles look like a dodgy milk bar.

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