Setting Off Fire Alarms and Other Adventures in Winter Cooking

The Australia Letter is a weekly newsletter from our Australia bureau. Sign up to get it by email. This week’s issue is written by Tacey Rychter, a writer and audience editor with the Australia bureau.


Where in the world is Besha Rodell?

Some of you wrote in, noticing that our Australia Fare columnist has seemingly gone missing. Our food critic has been traveling the world on an enviable eating/writing project, but she’ll be back in business at the end of July.

In the meantime, I’m devoting this week’s Australia Letter to food — specifically, what to cook when it’s too cold to go do anything else.

I rang Dave Verheul, one of my favorite chefs and the force behind two Melbourne restaurants, Embla and Lesa, for some winter cooking inspiration.

His tip: the bitter-vegetables seller in your farmers’ market is your new best friend. Growers of hearty winter vegetables like kale, radicchio, chicory and dandelion greens can be oddly obsessive about “weird varietals,” but they’re “my kind of people,” he said.

These sturdy greens actually develop sweetness when grown in frosty weather, he told me, and they’re delicious braised.

Here’s how: sweat off diced onion (or shallots and garlic in a pan with plenty of olive oil and throw in hard herbs like rosemary, bay leaves or thyme. Add a little chicken stock. Start braising your bitter vegetable of choice, which will turn “bright green” and will be done at “army green” (except the reddish radicchio.

Finish with a dash of acid (sherry vinegar or malt vinegar works to sharpen the flavors, and season with salt and pepper. Serve with roast chicken or pork and mustard, or as a vegetarian pasta topping with lots of Parmesan.

I had great fun plumbing the NYT Cooking archives this week for tips and recipes to help see you through the winter.

Now, onto some other stories from the week.


What to Know About Hong Kong’s Evolving Protest Movement: We explain the main takeaways and look at why things took a destructive turn on Monday.

Why So Many of Us Don’t Lose Weight When We Exercise: Most of us eat more when we exercise, and though it may be just a few extra bites a day, the result is weight gain.

Princess Haya, Wife of Dubai’s Ruler, Seeks Refuge in London: The princess, the most visible and glamorous wife of the ruler of Dubai, has fled to London and is seeking a divorce.

Last week, we discussed the Israel Folau case and asked you whether freedom of religion and equality for all can truly coexist. We appreciated reading all of your responses.

“When Australians voted in favor of same-sex marriage, the government was obliged to change the outdated law. When Folau expresses his religious views, based on his understanding of the Bible, as he has been doing in social media for years, no one is obliged to do anything.

We accept gay and straight and various sexualities, but no one tries to make everyone share their choice. We accept Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and many other religions, but no one who tries to make the beliefs of one into a rule for everyone is going to succeed. The problem arises when ‘values’ are invoked, by a government or a football code, with the implication that if you don’t share them you are un-Australian, or not a ‘role model’ for the sport.

What’s ironic about Folau’s absurd claims is that the very Christian churches who endorse Folau’s views about mortal sins have fostered and concealed clergy who committed them. When the Coalition introduces its ‘religious freedom’ legislation, it will be interesting to see how far into their comfort zone that freedom extends — Or how far into the confessional.”

— Alison Broinowski