Want to learn Australian?

Ever wondered what a drongo is? Daks? Barbie? Tinnie? Have Oz friends and would like to understand their lingo?

If you go here, you will find this:

The best fucking speech-enabled CALL course on the web

If you want to learn to speak the beautiful Australian language, here’s your chance. For your pleasure and edification, a crack team of software engineers and computational linguists, assisted by several attractive and highly qualified Australian native speakers, have slaved for months to create this piece of state-of-the-art web software. Follow the instructions below, which we’ve made so simple that even a Pom should be able to understand them, and you’ll be speaking Strine in no time.

Fair dinkum!

You may, ahem, find the voice sounds familiar. But I deny any further involvement other than finding it my duty to take part in the picture selection for ‘daks’.

Who is it for?

  • Australians who need a refresher.
  • Australians who need a laugh.
  • Aliens hoping to be let into Australia.
  • Aliens who can’t afford the fare but who want a taste.
  • Anybody wanting to become bilingual.
  • Anybody interested in linguistics.

Wherein meat is eaten.

Stay off the stuff for long enough and even Manor mince tastes mmmmmm. It’s been a couple of weeks since we had anything remotely resembling meat, of any colour, I might add.

For years I’ve stuck to the Italian way of doing spag bol, think cream and chicken liver as distinguishing features, along with minimal tomato. And although I love chicken livers, and the authenticity of Margaret Fulton, I’ve never been altogether happy with the result.

It was a revelation to me to discover that the American version is actually worthy of cooking and couldn’t be more different from my notion of the traditional version. This is the famous Italian-American cook Lidia’s version.

Spaghetti bolognese


olive oil for frying
an onion finely chopped
a carrot grated
a stick of celery and leaves finely chopped
glass of red wine
1/2 kg beef mince
1/2 kg pork mince
1 tblesp tomato paste
2 cans crushed tomatoes
3 bay leaves
water as necessary


On med-high heat, fry the onion, carrot and celery until onion is softened. Add the meats and fry, stirring constantly to avoid lumps, for about 10 minutes until browned. Throw in the wine, bring to the boil and burn off the alcohol. Add the tomato paste, stir in thoroughly, and then the tomatoes. Add a reasonably generous quantity of water to cover the meat. Bring to the boil and leave on a lively simmer covered. You are going to cook it at this temperature for at least several hours. The longer the better. Six hours is better. Because it’s actually bubbling away, it means that you do need to check it from time to time to add water as required.

Yum. This is really good, just some parmesan on top to serve. True it takes a while on the way in, but on the way out you have, for two people, four meals ready at the push of a defrost button. And most of the cooking time, you are reading or knitting or doing Goodreads or….whatever your idle preference is.

Spaghetti with mussels

I’m tiring of the format, reporting how many centimes I’ve spent on garlic and whatnot, so I expect everybody else is too. Instead I’m going to cost dishes from time to time.

Eat seasonally.

It is the mussel season here. I always buy mussels from Globus, having had a dreadful experience at Manor. It’s the old story, you get what you pay for. At Globus the sign may say 15.90CHF/100g for mussels, but it does mean 15.90CHF/kg. So that’s alright then. They are cheaper than truffles.

Today we had them like this.

Spaghetti with mussels

Ingredients for two

200-250g dry weight spaghetti
500g mussels (a generous quantity, it could certainly feed 3, 4 at a pinch)
garlic finely chopped
shallots finely chopped
fresh chillies finely chopped: I used 3 bird’s eye
100-200g good quality tomatoes seeded and slivered
spring onion green tops snipped into small rounds
olive oil for cooking
up to 1 cup of dry white wine


While the spaghetti is boiling, clean the mussels, discard any that are open.

Heat the oil and gently fry the garlic, shallots and chilli until softened. Raise the heat, add the wine and let the alcohol burn off. Add the tomatoes and leave on a low heat, get all those flavours mingling.

1-2 minutes before the spaghetti is cooked, raise the heat to high, throw in the mussels along with the small amount of liquid that will have accumulated with them. Put a lid on the pan. While they are bubbling away, drain the spaghetti – I don’t do this too thoroughly as the whole thing probably needs a little more liquid still. Throw the spaghetti into the pot with the mussel sauce, stir thoroughly, turn off the heat.

Serve with the spring onion scattered on top. You need a bowl for shells and, if you are being posh, finger bowls, it’s a fingery sort of dish.

It is SO good! If you can’t get good tomatoes, consider something more like a vodka cream sauce. Might report on that another day.


mussels 8
spaghetti 1.50
wine 1
tomatoes 2
sundries 1

Total 13.50

Definitely an extravagance, but worth every penny and as I said, the two of us could have made do less mussels without feeling the least hard done by.

Feeding two in Geneva 150CHF/week – day 9

I’d been meaning to make Ottolenghi’s Green pancakes with lime butter for ages. It was an elegant lunch for three – it’d do four at a pinch, but I’d make the mixture just a bit more generous; this would be easy.

Porridge with brown sugar and cream
Orange juice

Costed here but we used a little less cream.

Total 4.30

We had a visitor for lunch, so this fed three of us.
Green pancakes with lime butter

For the lime butter
100g unsalted butter 1
Zest 1 lime plus 2 tbsp lime juice .30
sundries .50

For the pancakes

110g self-raising flour .30
1 tbsp baking powder .30
2 eggs 1.60
50g unsalted butter, melted .50
sundries including chillies and oil 1.50
150ml milk .30
10 spring onions, finely sliced 1
250g baby spinach 2

Salad of baby beet leaves 3

Total 12.30

Unstructured bits and pieces, largely toast and cheese.

Total 3

Total for day 9: 19.60

Running total: 162.65

Ottolenghi’s Green pancakes with lime butter

This was lunch today. I have cut and pasted the recipe from his Guardian column.

Green pancakes with lime butter

For the lime butter

100g unsalted butter, at room temperature

Zest 1 lime plus 2 tbsp lime juice

½ tsp salt

½ tsp white pepper

1 tbsp coriander leaves, picked

½ garlic clove, finely chopped

½ tsp chilli flakes

For the pancakes

110g self-raising flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1 egg

50g unsalted butter, melted

½ tsp salt

½ tsp ground cumin

150ml milk

10 spring onions, finely sliced

2 green chillies, finely sliced

250g baby spinach

1 egg white

Olive oil, for frying


First, make the lime butter. Put the butter in a medium-sized bowl and beat with a wooden spoon until it turns soft and creamy. Stir in the remaining ingredients. Tip everything out on to a sheet of clingfilm and roll into a sausage shape. Twist the ends to seal, then chill until firm.

For the pancake batter, put the flour, baking powder, egg, butter, salt, cumin and milk in a mixing bowl, and whisk until smooth. Add the onion and chilli to the batter. Put the spinach in a pan with a splash of water, cook until wilted, drain, squeeze dry, then roughly chop and add to the batter. Whisk the egg white to soft peaks and carefully fold it in to the batter.

Pour a little oil into a heavy frying pan and place on medium-high heat. For each pancake, ladle two to three tablespoons of batter into the pan and press down gently. You should get smallish pancakes, about 7cm in diameter and 1cm thick. Cook for a minute on each side, until a nice golden-green colour. Transfer to a paper towel and repeat, adding oil as needed, until all the mixture is used up. Keep the cooked pancakes warm.

To serve, pile up three pancakes per person and place a disc of flavoured butter on top to melt. Serve a flavoursome leaf salad on the side.

· Yotam Ottolenghi is chef-patron of Ottolenghi, London.

We found this served 3 for an ample lunch with a plain green salad – perhaps a more substantial salad would be the go if serving for 4. There was quite a lot of lime butter left, which is now in the freezer for another occasion.

Feeding two in Geneva 150CHF/week – conclusion of week 1.

After one week we are up 28.65 – goodness that feels like a lot of money! I can see there are lots of ways it could be spent.

(1) We’d be wondering how often we’d be able to eat fresh seafood on 150/week. 28.65 will let us have fish soup, or perhaps salmon udon noodles with enough left for some mussels maybe in a spaghetti sauce. Alternatively it would buy a packet of frozen Australian green prawns in their shell from Manor. That could go all at once, or it could spread over several dishes of Japanese soup noodles.

(2) Equally I can see it permits us to invite people to dinner once a week without worrying about busting the budget.

(3) This week was entirely meat-free. The closest we got was tinned fish. So we can actually afford to buy some meat/poultry.

(4) It can go towards luxuries such as saffron threads which we love to use.

Waste: we haven’t wasted a thing this week and I’d say in general our level of food waste is very low.

Feeding two in Geneva 150CHF/week – day 8

Yikes, overboard for the first time! That was easy without doing anything special.

Cereal with strawberries and banana

Cereal 1
Fruit 3
Milk .50
Orange juice 1.50

Total 6

Spaghetti with swiss chard and tinned salmon

spaghetti 1.50
salmon 3
chard 2
handful of small fresh tomatoes 1
sundries: garlic, shallot, chilli .60
cheese 1.50

Total 9.60

Pumpkin soup and toast

Total 4.10 (costed here)

2 clementine and 2 apples 2

Total for day 8: 21.70

Running total: 143.05