Category Archives: extra thyme


At the beginning of every footy season I make the same pledge. Not to change teams – that’s a never. Not to stop watching this year – that usually comes around the June long weekend.

No, it’s a constructive pledge, made in good faith. And, as any resolution should do, it lasts as long as my resolve, which, generally, is a few weeks.

The pledge is to fill the season with the smells of home cooking. Thus putting all of that time to good effect – it essentially means (football) results don’t matter. If I can put good food on the table, fill the freezer with simple reheats or kids’ lunches, I will be encouraged to watch footy, potentially as much as I want.

I think I may have disclosed earlier that the Tiger curse lays heavily on my kitchen. And, as evidenced by last night’s dramatics*, it’s just not possible to combine watching Richmond and constructive cooking. (Destructive eating – hello, old friend…)

So the cooking comes into play as required, generally as a post-game stress reliever, or a pre-game nerve preventer. (B)eater-blocking.

Well, it’s week 1 and I am master of my own domain. In play we have:

  • Pete’s Table-topping pop-up beef stew
  • Pete’s sneaky beans
  • Pete’s oh! pears

Pete’s table-topping pop-up beef stew

Wake up hungry. Go to the butcher on Good Friday (ah, Marrickville, you perfect ville).

1kg of blade. Cut chunky, say 1.7m cube. Who cares, it’s Easter. Start with an onion, chopped in accordance with mood. Lightly sweat over a mild heat, lid on, cast iron French pot. Smash a garlic clove and dice the bugger, add to the onion. Reserve one garlic clove (raw) and eat if going to the Dendy later. Add the meat and brown. You can coat the meat in flour first, but lazybones will just chuck a table spoon in and stir to make a gravy. Add paprika.

Let this ferment over low-medium heat for 15 minutes while you revisit the empty fridge. Take the scungy carrot and dice it. Voila. Hide a zucchini and dice half of it. Take all the mongrel tomatoes you can find and roughly chop those, chuck it in.

At this stage, add Worcestershire sauce. enough to make your heart stop. Just enough.

Drain a tin of lentils while the kids are high on chocolate. They won’t even notice. Chuck half of that in. Half a tin of diced tomatoes, juice and all. Splash of quality red. Salt and pepper.

By now you’re oven should be nicely 200.

Pop some baking paper over your masterpiece. Lid on, in we go, say 90 minutes. If you’re not rushed, just turn the heat off after that, let the frog slowly boil into a caramel everythingness.

Serving options:

  • if alone, eat straight from pot! Don’t stop till you get enough.
  • Plated with mash.
  • Cooked a glorious second time, in a pie.
  • If rushed for time or don’t give a flying freddo frog, add a square of pastry to the stew/mash plate, and pretend you saw it on Foxtel.

This will freeze with ease, but eat the fucker, it will smell so good!

Pete’s sneaky beans

This one’s a great work lunch microwaver, or easy dinner for kids – could even be tacoised if required.

Half an onion and a garlic clove (avoid the extra fresh one unless going to the Chauvel that night.) Chuck in the second half of the tin of tomatoes above. Get that all tight and saucy, thick and swimmable. Grate the half a zucchini and add with the half a tin of lentils above. Plus salt and pepper. Let that bumble along for 15 mins with the lid on.

Add two tins of red kidney beans, including the sauce; add a bit more salt and pepper.

Cook lid on for 20-30 mins until thick and contestable.

Chuck into meal size portions, cool safely, and freeze until required.

Pete’s oh! pears

Wait till the buerre bosc pears are on special, $2-3 a kilo. Buy them a week ahead so they unconcrete a bit – get them out of the crisper for a couple of days.

We usually cook 6. Core, and peel if you want.  Baste with a sugar/vanilla syrup. Sit in a ceramic baking tray with arses covered in the syrup – make sure you coat the core hole, too.

Cook on that beautiful residual heat from the stew – start at around 150 for 30 mins or so, then drop down to 100 for another 30, then turn the stove off and just let it be.

Re-baste with the syrup every 15 mins or so, until you don’t give a shit.

These are great served hot with custard, ice cream etc. But we like ours cold, with hot porridge, so store them in the fridge until the perfect autumn breakfast moment.

From this you should get dinner for four (stew) plus a couple of piefuls leftover; 3-4 work lunches; and a cracking dessert for four plus a couple leftover for breakfast.

Next week, it’s the Tigers and the Pies on Friday night, so cooking might be Saturday night – it’s going to rain for much of the week, so I can feel a soup coming on.

Until then, happy cooking, happy eating, enjoy Shane Watson’s final moments, and I hope your team wins, unless it is Adelaide, Brisbane, Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon, Fremantle, Geelong, Gold Coast, Hawthorn, Melbourne, North Melbourne, Port Adelaide, Sydney, St Kilda, West Coast, Western Bulldogs or Western Sydney.

* If you haven’t caught up, the Tiges managed to turn a routine win over wooden spoon contender Carlton into a great escape. Still, we’re on top right now, and they’re right on bottom.


What lies beneath the veil of Bradmania

Found this intro to a book Jonesey and I were going to write into the beautiful period of cricket before Bradman, It’s not bad! Dated 2007 so the attacks are on JW Howard, who manages to make other offspinners look good…

It’s hard to see history as a continuing, evolving stream. We like markers, a beginning and, often, and end.

In European terms, “Modern” history, at least as taught in Australian schools, begins with the French revolution in 1789. Before that, all history is “Ancient”. So, 100,000 years of human history in one category, and 216 years in the other.

You might expect that the delimiter would move forward in time with us, making what was once modern now ancient. Look in the mirror and tell me that’s not true.

In cricketing history, we choose the advent of the Bradman phenomenon as the delimiter. His first game in Sydney, for St George against Petersham at Petersham Oval, in November 1926, is the dawn of modern cricket history.

This is not to equate Bradman with Napoleon – his successes too polite, his failures so unromantic. (If we were looking for a parallel, Ian Chappell, the great moderniser, would be a better fit.)

As each year passes, and the amount of information placed in front of us grows, it becomes harder to look back into time and see what has gone before. This is especially the case with cricket, where our ageing memories shrink in direct proportion to the number of tests played, and the decreasing periods between them.

Each wave of history, each crescendo of achievement, works to obscure what has come before. Already we’re being force-fed the Clarke/Watson era as if it was a reality, and we haven’t even laid to rest the Waughs/Warne/Hayden/McGrath/Gilchrist era. Before that was the Border/Simpson era; the Chappell(s) era; the Benaud/Davo era; Bradman’s Invincibles; and Bradman before the war.

To put it into perspective, between 1877 and 1926, 50 summers, Australia played x tests, or . We also capped x players, or … And even outside of the Great War, there were still gaps of up to x months between tests (example)

You can see how Bradman’s complete domination of Australian and world cricket form 1928 to 1949 blots out anything that happened before it. It’s a cricketing blanket fog.

But there was life before Bradman. Just as there was civilisation before Napoleon, and even before the Medicis, Michelangelo, Leonardo.

We talk of how the Renaissance ended the Dark Ages, but in cricket many have called these pre-Bradman years “The Golden age”. Indeed, George Giffen wrote a book of that title.

So to ignore Clem Hill, Archie Jackson, Victor Trumper, Fiery Fred Spofforth, Tibby Cotter or Arthur Mailey would be as heinous as ignoring the Norman Invasion, the Hansa League, the Domesday Book, Magna Carta, not to mention the centuries of enlightenment that flowed out of Africa and Asia, long before Europeans started to get their shit together.

Not to mention Bardsley, Armstrong, Trumble, Murdoch, Noble, the Gregorys.

Yet all we ever seem to hear about, from our Prime Minister down, is Bradman. And what he begat.

There’s history there, lying under the silt and clay, like those skeletons at Lake Mungo. Just waiting to be uncovered.

Looking at that era gives a glimpse of the major issues cricket would face – debates over professionalism, contract disputes, constant rule changes, attempts to globalise the game. There were Aboriginal tours, games of XI vs XXII, and even the ugly face of sectarianism. It was time when it was Ok to be a Trott, and, if you were Midwinter, to change horses mid-summer.

Our problem’s not with Bradman. He WAS the greatest player ever, quite possibly of any sport. But he was not the only great player Australia ever produced. And he certainly wasn’t the most interesting –the metronomic prose of My farewell to cricket, reflecting the robotic nature of his genius, is one of the great cures for insomnia.

Just as history would suffer if we only examined Caesar, Alexander, Napoleon or Churchill, so is cricket the loser from an obsession with the Don.

His star eclipses everything.

But if we could build a Hubble telescope (rumoured to be named after WA’s spare parts paceman of the 1960s, Jim Hubble), to look past our sun back into time and place, surely it’s time to look past the Bradman constellation, to see the mystery and complexity of cricket as it was forming?

Welcome to extra thyme – Cranky Pete’s Onion Jam – EAT ‘EM ALIVE, TIGES!

Seasons. You add them to food. You watch them out your window. And, as a footy fan, you live or die by them.

Tonight is the night, the AFL proper kicks off, with the blockbuster of the Carlton Blues (boooo!) versus the glorious Richmond Tigers. This house is a Tiger den. We live a bit and die a lot with the Tigers. I wouldn’t swap them for the world. The least successful but most fascinating team in Melbourne – well, least successful over the last 30 years, before that we had a very successful decade and a bit, and it is one of the few benefits of relative age that I can recall most of that period with clear mind and moist eyes.

The idea behind extra thyme is that you cook while you watch the footy (and, later this year, the Ashes cricket from England). I’ll be researching recipes that are appropriate for the time of year, and that can generally be cooked around the 3-hour, multiple short break and one long break of a live AFL match (with a bit of help from the old Foxtel IQ pause/rewind button).

I envisage blogging as I cook and watch, so extra thyme could be a life history of the Tigers’ season, all of its ups and downs. There will be the odd classic for the neutrals, too, such as this weekend’s curse game between Geelong and Hawthorn.

To kick off the season, it will be Cranky Pete’s Onion Jam, which will get real sweet if the Tiges are in front but threatens to turn into a chilli monster if  the Blues jump us as they have the last few years.

Until then, a taster…


Fifteen restaurant at Redfern?

We’ve been watching a lot of Jamie Oliver. Cooking in 15 minutes, 30 minutes, seeing 8 seconds of him here and there. Wall to wall Jamie.

That’s OK, he’s mostly a good egg. Putting his clout where it matters, with kids’ food at schools, working with the homeless, and just generally getting us all thinking about what we eat and cook.

About three years ago, Jamie was going to make a flying visit to Sydney. I had long harboured a desire to convince him to run a Fifteen restaurant at Redfern. It had come into my head on one of those long, balmy Redfern afternoons when I was in an obscure role in state government, ensconced in the unloved TNT buildings (which I loved). I did nothing with the idea at the time, and Jamie and Tobey Pittock put a Fifteen in Melbourne, global cool capital at the time.

If you don’t know the concept, here’s some background: Fifteen has always been about providing opportunities for troubled youths or those from disadvantaged families. Fifteen youths from across a city undergo training, work in the restaurant for a year, and hopefully move on to long and successful employment in the food industry. Then another 15 youths start the program…

I thought Fifteen at Redfern was an opportunity to do much more. What if half the intake each year was Koori kids from the Block, and the other half were from the Redfern-Waterloo housing commission towers?

What if the restaurant had a stream of cooking traditional native foods?

Then you’d have a project that helped address the systemic economic and social issues facing Sydney’s iconic indigenous population. But it would be a project that united all of greater Redfern, the west and the east side of the railway. It would place a major tourist attraction in the heart of the Redfern-Waterloo redevelopment, helping to make it a place, not just a redevelopment.

My dream was that the restaurant could be the catalyst for rejuvenating the old art deco classic Redfern House building opposite TNT tower. This is a glorious building, but also a highly visible site for passing traffic. It may not be suitable for a commercial restaurant, but a similar site, in downtown Redfern, shouldn’t be hard to find.

In March 2010, with Jamie already on his way to Sydney, I bashed a submission together and sent it through to the then Premier, who was also the local Member and Minister for Redfern-Waterloo. I heard nothing back. Then I tried to get it through Jamie’s elaborate online fortress. Again, nada!

Now I have a blog, and an undertaking to share with you some of my crazy ideas, either to get them off my chest and move on, or in the faint hope that someone sees a glimmer of merit and starts taking something forward.

Lots has changed in Sydney, NSW and especially Redfern. The woman who does a lot of cooking training with the local kids now runs the fancy new café in Victoria Park. The model would be different, but the basic idea the same.

I must stress that I have never consulted with the local Aboriginal community, and I think that would be an absolute priority if anyone wanted to do anything with this. Their land, their people, their culture, their food.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. It’s free. And without prejudice, it’s yours. Happy to hear any feedback….


               bush pukka!


Using the Fifteen model to bring economic opportunities to the under-privileged youths of Redfern and Waterloo.


  • A branch of the globally recognised Fifteen chain in central Redfern
  • Annual intake of 15 local youths aged 16-24 for training and employment – 8 from the Block and 7 from the housing estates
  • Emphasis on using traditional native foods
  • Potential to reflect the broader multicultural nature of Redfern

Why Fifteen?

Fifteen is a globally recognised brand, the brainchild of chef, entrepreneur and activist, Jamie Oliver. But it is a charitable foundation, with a proven record of establishing and maintaining programs – Fifteen restaurants to train youths in culinary and life skills; healthy lunches for school kids etc.

Why Redfern?

It has major economic and social disadvantage.

It is the cultural centre of Sydney’s indigenous population.

It is undergoing significant gentrification and commercial redevelopment – there are fears this could exacerbate economic and social disadvantage. But an immediate home-grown clientele, of residents and office workers, is emerging.

It is highly accessible – all lines except the Airport line feed it; it is walking distance from the CBD; it is served by many bus routes; and cycling connections are strong.

Why a Koori focus?

It is (Ab)original – no Fifteen project has yet focussed on a specific group.

Empowerment towards economic development is crucial.

It would help break down barriers between indigenous and non-indigenous people. And link Redfern at its heart.

It would make the restaurant a national icon, not just another restaurant.

The food would be innovative – Redfern could become the heart of a new (very old) culinary trend (from a peak in the late 90s, it seems many “bush tucker” restaurants have vanished.)

International tourists would love it.

Key stakeholders/potential partners

Stakeholder Potential Contribution Likely Requirement Comment
Fifteen Foundation Establish restaurant. Administer training and employment program. Suitable premises. Possibly start-up or ongoing support – either direct, or for fundraising efforts. Planning approval with RWDA area. Jamie Oliver in town in March. Would Tobey Puttock be interested (he established the Melbourne branch.)
Redfern Aboriginal community (e.g. Redfern Aboriginal Housing Company) Support – for restaurant establishment, and for participation. Consultation and project ownership likely to feature. Could assist the Foundation with the governance of the program.


Consultation before any announcement advised.

Redfern-Waterloo Development Authority Site selection and development approval. Possible financial support (perhaps in-kind, or peppercorn rent?) Assistance with marketing. Long-term commitment from Fifteen. Has the mandate to transform Redfern, and the cachet to achieve objectives across a range of economic, social and cultural issues. Should easily be able to locate a suitable site in the heart of Redfern. Within the parameters of sound policy, should be able to expedite development approval.
Sydney City Council Inclusion of the concept in its Sustainable Sydney 2030 Strategy – especially the Eora Journey cultural initiative. Consultation. Consistency with RWDA objectives. Council can assist with marketing the restaurant – e.g. signage along the Wilson St cycleway, support in its publicity materials etc.
Other Redfern cafes/


Support during the program for placements. Possible employment of graduates. Consultation. Recognition. Could be expected to benefit from emergence of Redfern as an eat street/centre.

Ashes to Ashes

It probably hasn’t escaped the sports-savvy ones among you, but for others, Australia and England are to play back to back Ashes series from June till January. The idea of conjoined bowlers baffling left and right handed conjoined batsmen is probably an idea I should pitch to a Brendan Cowell/Farrelly Brothers consortium. Or not. Switch Hit seems a nice title.

Anyway, this is a big moment in domestic relations. For cricket lovers, this is heaven. For the rest, hell is about to descend. The last time such an occurrence occurred was 1974-5, when Australia hammered England 4-1 out here and then snuck a 1-0 win in the series rapidly scheduled to coincide with the inaugural World Cup in England. Bizarrely, if we had lost in England, which wasn’t out of the question – Free George Davis and all of that – we would have held the Ashes for about 6 months. I guess the shortest reign in history. That could happen this time – we could win over there and lose over here (more likely, England could win over there and then lose here, which raises tactical issues about playing a bit dead in the first series.)

And we know that there were major political shockwaves later in 1975. I’m not saying David Steele was to blame for the Dismissal of the Whitlam Government. But the natural rhythm was disrupted. And he did look like a Governor General.

But I digress… My real point in posting is to seek to reduce tension in households all over the world. There are five (5 only) matches in each series. Each one goes for five days (maximum). Each day covers six hours of play and one hour of breaks. Take off about 2 hours per test for rain or early finishes.

That means there are only 5 x 5 x7 – 10 hours in a series. Only 165 hours a series. In contrast, a week has 24 x 7 or 168 hours in it.

So, the Ashes goes for less than a week.

See, no reason for any fuss.

Post – structure

Mine is a mind that roams a bit. Collects fragments of argument and evidence and then mangles it into a pseudo intellectual pop riff roller coaster, sort of like cooking risotto on a hotplate in your brain. Whilst watching the footie. And listening to a CD. While eating. And talking on the phone. It can be done, but it’s hard work. Especially for the person on the other end of the phone.

But some of you like your food straight, meat or tofu and 3 veg type of fare. You order, you get, you eat, you pay.

With the help of the good folk at wordpress, I will be able to respond to your needs as an audience by instituting, wait for it, STRUCTURE INTO MY BLOG!

On the general pattern menu bar, found on the right, you will see a number of categories. These are effectively sub-directories. You simply scan the categories you want, for posts and comments. So those allergic to sport never have to come into contact with its nuts; conversely, the pitter patter of geographers trying to discern a pattern is yours for the taking, or not.

You, the reader, are in control. See how far we have come as a species?

A quick word on each of the categories on the menu:

  • General – I will use this for administrative posts. and the Welcome.
  • Pattern – this will be for posts that explore the soft edge of geography, why things are the way they are etc – such as Kenny MacFaber’s great query today about the absence of trot tracks on the NSW South Coast.
  • ellipsis – feature type posts, essays, something to make you think…
  • out of the past – like the Mitchum movie, this will be smooth and noir, but content will be historical and mostly sport related.
  • maps and legends – not sure. love the REM song. love the title. should have been my blog title.
  • extra thyme – very excited about this. Recipes and advice on cooking stuff while you watch the footy. And the Ashes in England this year. Hopefully a cookbook comes from it. Peter’s 3-hour meals etc etc.
  • urban improvement program – some observations on cities, especially Sydney.
  • mug shot – photos from this amateur. everyone’s a photographer…
  • -verse – could be inverse converse perverse obverse adverse reverse, but it’s just some poems and kids’ books and things, often based on nursery rhymes, which you might like, especially if you have kids (of all ages).
  • crowdfun – this will be like an ideas trash and treasure, all the dodgy or brilliant ideas from my notebooks and piles of “lifeplans” that I know I will never get to implement. They are yours for the taking. Or use the page to reshape them into workable ideas that we could have a crack at. Therapy for me, op shopping for you. Everyone’s a winner.
  • leverage – links to other sites, youtube clips such as the Lene Lovich already posted, and the odd movie, book or music review.

Now, clearly, I would be remiss if some of my posts didn’t demand recognition in a couple of categories. Stick with it, I’ll try and get some logic into it, and also serve up something for everyone fairly regularly. Oh, and if you came looking for anal retentiveness, you need your eyes checked.

Here’s the REM song as a reward for those who made it this far. Thanks for coming!