Friday, October 8, 2010

The curse of bad drivers and antiquated retail hours

Being forced to change seafood ingredients turns out a winner

The curse of bad drivers and antiquated retail hours.
Let me tell you about the mission to get dinner on the table on Tuesday night. Firstly, there’s two things you should know about Perth; one, its citizens are notorious for being bad drivers. I, of course, would not class myself as such, but I do admit to occasional acts of stupidity. Two, the majority of Perth shops close at 6pm, leaving us back in the 1950’s; but I will be fair and say the state government recently passed legislation allowing them to stay open until 9pm, though this doesn’t kick in for another month or so.
Paper bags just waiting to be opened

So it was with great dismay and anxiety when I heard that two (or more) bad drivers had caused two accidents on the freeways during the homeward peak hour. One was going the other way, but meant the city roads would be clogged; the other was on my way home and sounded like the worse of the two, and left me scrambling to find another way home. I quickly realised that my chances of picking up the prawns and clams from my local seafood monger that I needed for paper bag seafood linguine before it closed at 6pm were rather slim.

It took me 35 minutes to travel this distance. To put it in perspective, during normal peak hour, I can usually get home in around 30 minutes. When there’s no traffic, I can make it in a little over 10. Thank goodness though that I realised that The Herdsman, which is on the detour way home, is open until 8pm. I managed to pick up the prawn cutlets, but as seems to be my destiny with seafood, they didn’t have any clams. I compromised and went for calamari rings instead. It turned out to be a great choice.
Open up the bag and it looks
like food Christmas!

Getting home nearly 45 minutes later than usual, I started to get everything ready; put the water on the boil for the pasta; turned the oven on to preheat; start chopping the garlic… um, where’s the garlic? In an irritated state after battling traffic jams and stressing over closing shops, I asked (okay, accused) Emperor D what he did with the garlic. He denied all knowledge of garlic – and then pointed out that I used it the night before to make Moroccan chicken tagine. We frantically searched for it, and then, with stress levels rising, I grab my keys and head out the door to the corner shop – which thankfully doesn’t close until 7pm – to get some more garlic.

So good!
There’s something to be said about cooking and good food soothing stressed-out, anxious minds. Chopping up garlic, measuring out ingredients, all serve to calm me down. I put all the ingredients together and tie up the baking paper so it cooks en papillote – a method of steam cooking in a sealed bag. At the end of half an hour or so, I take the bags out of the oven, and open them up, which releases a gorgeous aroma of garlicky butter. I drizzle over some lemon juice and good Olio Bello olive oil and sprinkle some parsley over the top and serve.

And, oh goodness. It was gorgeous – the prawns were cooked perfectly. The calamari was so, so tender. The butter, garlic, lemon, white wine, salt and pepper; all these flavours worked in harmony to produce an amazing result. Next time, I would love to try it with the vongole (clams) – I’ve actually never tried them before. However, despite the anxiety and stress to get it on the table, it was so worth it. Made my night.

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