The past couple of weeks, for me, have been filled with tales of a very different type of cooking to that which I adore. As a juror on a manslaughter trial, I have been immersed in the world of drug-making, trafficking and addiction, and have observed a host of cooks of a very different nature. To say I am thankful this experience is over is an understatement. It’s been difficult to hear gruesome details and bear witness to the darker side of society daily, and not succumb to viewing the world in a very macabre way. I’ll admit that most mornings, in those few seconds after waking when I realised I had to go back to court again, all I wanted to do was spend my days on the couch watching The Little Mermaid on repeat, hiding.
I spent many an evening after court mooching about the lovely streets of the city, wandering in and around the National Gallery of Victoria to view the art that makes my smile, and strolling through the Botanic Gardens with a ‘happy’ book in hand. These attempts to try and free my mind of the sorry stories and faces did help a little.
Thankfully, my wild imagination kicked in big time and came to my aid on many a day. In the depths of my crazy mind, I had created ‘choose your own adventure’ endings to the witnesses’ accounts of the events; where one character writes his bestseller, Meth tales: My life as the Don Juan of the underworld, from a hamlet in Siberia; where another becomes a Hare Krishna or Santa Claus and spreads good cheer to the world; and where another whom we had the ‘pleasure’ of listening to for three straight days, records a dance track called, ‘I- I- I- just can’t recall what happened’. I have created a whole new series of Underbelly (an Australian crime drama based on real-life gang wars) and a spin-off variety show where the shady characters play host and interview celebrities about their own drug habits, then show-off their dancing (yes, dancing!) and swindling skills, throw to a ‘cooking’ segment and just generally make us laugh with their ludicrous street names.
Distasteful, these thoughts may be, but they sure did help. I think the other jurors appreciated hearing my ideas as each day became more confusing and grisly than the last, and they learnt to make the best of my very twisted sense-of-humour.
After my first week of jury duty, a wise lady and colleague said I should fill my weekend with things that make me happy. Without referencing too many a Julie Andrews’ song (which many of you know I will gladly do at a moment’s notice), I had taken my colleague’s advice and indulged in a few of my favourite things: vino and cheese, teaching my 2-year-old nephew yoga poses and giggling like crazy together, 70% dark chocolate, massages, walking through parks while listening to music, Pride and Prejudice (the BBC and movie versions interchangeably), and French food. There is something about French food that reliably warms my soul and transports me back to the many beautiful regions I have explored in France, especially with my papa.
I will say that my cooking has taken a bit of a hit these past couple of weeks. It’s been one of the few times in my life where I’ve had no interest in cooking, and have pulled together some seriously quick meals. This is where my Bistro Filet de Boeuf comes in. A somewhat sexed-up version of ‘steak and egg’, this dish has become my very own happy meal. Usually there would be frites, but to be frank, I couldn’t be bothered with that hassle. Good quality ingredients are the key to this simple meal, unless you want your bistro feast to turn into a grease-fest. Same goes for the vino!
In time, I shall put this whole scary chapter behind me and pop the rose-coloured glasses back on. For now, I am thanking the heavens that I didn’t land the eight-week trial that was also on offer, and shall rein that crazy imagination back in before it gets me in trouble!
Ingredients (pour deux):
2 x 150 g pieces thick-cut eye fillet beef (or scotch fillet)
extra virgin olive oil
1 bunch asparagus
100 g goat’s cheese (I used a yum ashed version)
red wine vinegar
Cut the woody ends off the asparagus spears and rinse. Prep the eye fillet by rubbing with olive oil and seasoning, on both sides and around the edges. Cut the baguette into four nice, thick slices on the diagonal. Spread both sides with butter … and please don’t use margarine! Pull apart about half of the butter lettuce and rinse the good pieces, then dry thoroughly and place in a bowl.
Heat a medium-sized frying or griddle pan and add the buttered baguette pieces. Turn each piece over after a couple of minutes, or when slightly chargrilled and the butter has melted. Place two pieces on each plate and spread the side facing up with a generous spread of mustard (good mustard!).
Ensure the heat is medium to high and add the beef to the pan. Now … the beef. For medium, I cook eye fillet for about 5-6 minutes, turning repeatedly after a minute on each side (a faux pas for many chefs, but for a wee home cook like me, it seems to work). Using tongs, I also cook the beef around the edges by clasping each piece and rotating it in the hot oil for 10–20 seconds at a time. The beef is medium when it is still springy, but not overly malleable. Set aside to rest when cooked to your liking. Give the pan a bit of a wipe, then add a little butter or olive oil. Fry the eggs to your liking, but if you can, leave the yolks a little runny so that it adds a creaminess to the dish. (The leftover meaty bits will help the eggs to crisp up around the edges.) At the same time, steam the asparagus spears for about 3-4 minutes, or until bright green and just cooked.
Assemble your petit bistro delight by placing each fillet on top of the prepared crusty bread pieces. Add your beautifully fried egg on top and then scatter over a little parsley. Add generous pieces of goat’s cheese to the lettuce and drizzle over some macadamia oil and red wine vinegar (remember the 3-1 part rule respectively). Add the asparagus to the plate and pour yourself a generous glass of vin rouge. Bon appetit et ‘chin chin’ to happy thoughts and no more jury duty!