Monday, 28 December 2009

Internet Salmagundi, Special Xmas edition

This is not exactly how I did my turkey, though mine did also involve a bacon wrap. But it sounds even more awesome. Though there isn't any stuffing and I'm not sure if you'd get good pan juices for gravy. Perhaps it could be modified.

A while back, some people were discussing raw milk - here's a good article on the subject.

And some funnies:

Atheist Holiday Traditions

The War on Xmas

And look.. it's Santa Cephalopod!

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Notching up the achievements

Done massive supermarket shopping trip
Done smaller market trip for pudding and salmon
Put salmon on to cure
Made bottom half of trifle
Decorated cake
Made panforte
Made brandy butter
Took cat to vet to be put to sleep
Made breadcrumbs for stuffing
Collected first batch of relatives from the airport
Cleaned out part of the fridge (more to do there)
Written lists for final market and supermarket trips

Still to go before the day:
Wrap all the presents
Do final market and supermarket trips (twilight EPIC market tonight)
Organise relatives to get the turkey & ham & bacon while I'm at at work Xmas eve
Make rest of stuffing
Finish trifle

One of these things is not like the others. It's not so easy to be festive at the moment.
funny pictures
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Saturday, 19 December 2009

On the countdown

Last weekend before Xmas!

I was just looking back on my blog to see what I did before, and I realised that I have not done a proper Xmas dinner at home since I started writing here. My basic reference is Delia Smith's Christmas book, which I use for things like turkey timing and assorted inspiration. It's not ideal: being British, Delia assumes we'll have winter seasonal fruit and veg. Now I have bought Margaret Fulton's Xmas book, after nobody gave it to me last year despite copious hints, but I haven't had a lot of chance to read it yet.

And now there's less than a week to go, and we'll have eleven people to lunch on Friday. Two of us, seven relatives, and two friends - B1 and M. With my new job, I'll be working up to the 24th, so I'll be buying more than I usually do. I've been to the market this morning, where I bought a huge macadamia and brandy Christmas pudding from Pudding Lane - expensive, but I had a sample and it's awesome. I also got a few mince pies from the "bush breads" people. If I like them, I'll get more at the twilight market on Wednesday. I've tried several supermarket brands, and most of them are easily beaten by a spicy fruit roll biscuit.

I usually make Delia's cinnamon icecream, and sometimes I make a frozen yule log with that as the filling in a chocolate sponge roll, but this year I'm just buying premium cream and icecream, and B1 is bringing a non-pudding dessert. I may even buy pre-made custard. The ham and turkey are on order at Eco Meats, and I'm planning to dispatch some of the relatives to collect them while I'm at work. Luckily B1 is bringing veggies, so there's another thing not to worry about.

This morning I bought a kilo slab of salmon to cure, which I've just now got started. I also have blueberries, which I'm using for a trifle. So far I've stewed them up with vanilla sugar and water. Expect more on that later. For now, here's the salmon, ready to go in the fridge for a few days cure. And now it's time to get on with the next jobs: decorating the cake, cleaning out the fridge, tidying the house, wrapping the presents... weekends are too short!

Friday, 18 December 2009

Oh, Diana!

Here's another back-post from the "drafts" queue.

Diana Lampe writes the vegetarian kitchen column for the weekly Canberra Times food and wine pages. She's a very nice person and I usually like her recipes. Back in October, she had a recipe for "Anglesea Eggs", a recipe from north Wales. You can tell that it's Welsh, because it has both Caerphilly cheese AND leeks in it! I not only have Welsh ancestry but I also had some nice leeks on hand, so I decided to make it. And I have to say - never again!

It's not that it's bland, though it is. It's warm cheesy comfort food, and you don't usually want that sort of thing to be highly spiced. (Or if you do, then some chutney, HP or chilli sauce at table will do well.) The problem is that you really don't want to use so many saucepans, or do so much prep, to achieve just a simple bit of comfort food.

Recipe: Anglesey Eggs
2-3 medium leeks
500g potatoes
6-8 eggs
1 tablespoon olive oil
20g butter
1 round tablespoon plain flour
300ml milk
100g Caerphilly cheese
2 tablespoons fresh breadcrumbs
nutmeg, salt, pepper
butter to grease baking dish

* Hard boil and shell the eggs. (saucepans: 1)
* Peel the potatoes, and boil them, then mash them. (saucepans: 2)
* Clean the leeks well, and cut into slice about 1cm thick.
* Saute them gently in the olive oil. (saucepans: 3)
* Add a pinch of salt, a dash of water, cover and stew gently until soft.
* Remove lid and reduce liquid.
* Combine leeks with the warm mashed potato, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add a dash of milk if it's too dry. It should be soft, but not sloppy. Enough to hold a shape.
* Warm the milk. (saucepans: 4)
* Melt butter over a gentle heat, and stir in flour to make a roux (saucepans: 5)
* Remove from heat and add the warm milk gradually, stirring well each time.
* Return to heat and cook, stirring often, until thickened.
* Add all but 2 tablespoons of the grated cheese, and stir well to melt the cheese.
* Grease a baking dish, and spoon in the leek mash mix. Flatten it and hollow it out in the centre to make a sort of pie shell shape.
* Halve the eggs and lay them on top of the mash.
* Spoon over the cheese sauce.
* Grate on a little nutmeg, and sprinkle remaining cheese and breadcrumbs over the top
* Bake at 180C for about 30 minutes.

Final count: 5 saucepans, one baking dish. Of course you can reduce the saucepan count by re-using the egg pan (which needs only a quick rinse) for the spuds. And a jug in the microwave works well to warm the milk. But don't forget you've also peeled hardboiled eggs and potatoes and washed and chopped leeks, and grated cheese and made a mornay sauce. And maybe cooked some bacon strips to add to the mash, like I did. You can just see them in this part-way picture. So that's six saucepans! All that for a homely simple meal. As I said, never again - unless I happen to have a lot of leftover mash and veg from some other meal.

Diana suggests serving this with baked asparagus on side, which is an excellent idea.

She also suggests cheddar instead of the Caerphilly. Now, Caerphilly is quite hard to find, though one of the Belconnen delis gets it occasionally. It's a slightly sharp firm white cheese, which will crumble rather than grate. White Leicester is not a terrible substitute, especially if you mix it with a quarter amount of fetta to add some sharpness. Cheddar is just different.

By the way, if you're reheating this for another day, pop it in the oven. Or remove the eggs before nuking. Microwaves make hardboiled eggs go rubbery.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009


Rhubarb may be in at the market, but I'm not buying any. I'm getting about half a kilo a week from my plant, and like last year's, it's still green. The first batch of the year was nicely red, but then after that it's not coloured up again. A neat trick with this is simply to cook it with something red.

Last January I tried a raspberry and rhubarb sago recipe, which came out to something that wasn't what I had wanted. The raspberry was far too dominant, and the sago was pointlessly minimal. I haven't worked out a sago recipe, but I have worked out a better balance that lets you still taste the rhubarb.

Recipe: Roasted Red Raspberry Rosey Rhubarb
500g rhubarb
100g raspberries
2-3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons rosewater

* Wash and slice up the rhubarb, and place it in a shallow baking dish.
* Stir through the raspberries.
* Sprinkle over the sugar and rosewater.
* Bake at 180C for 20 minutes, or until done to your taste.

Notes: Frozen raspberries are fine. You can use different oven temperatures, if you have the oven on for something else. Slow is no problem, and very fast is OK as long as you keep an eye on it and stir it so the top doesn't scorch too badly. A little scorching is actually fine, and adds some nice toasty toffee flavours, but you don't want a lot.

Redcurrants do rather well in this, too. And Americans love the strawberry & rhubarb combination, but I'm less fond of cooked strawberries. Try it if you like, though.

It's good for breakfast, with yoghurt. Or add some whipped cream or icecream, and have it for dessert. Maybe with almond bread.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Marketing again

I made it to the Growers' Market again yesterday. They now have flyers with the times. There are two markets left this year:

* Saturday 19th December 2009 8am to 11am; and
* Wednesday 23rd December 2009 Twilight Market 4pm to 7pm.

And then next year they resume on 16 Jan.

In stock at the moment, there is lot of stone fruit, especially cherries. Some early peaches and apricots are out. New season garlic is also in, with big braids of purple, white, Russian and elephant garlic featuring all over the place.

I stocked up on cherries, and bought a few plumcots. Otherwise, I mostly bought bread and meat and salad, as I have too many veggies in the crisper needing to be used up. A good veggie curry seems like the plan for that - and I bought some hoggett chops to make a meat one. I'm also planning a noodle stirfry with fresh beansprouts and the remains of last week's herbs, and I picked up some frozen ravioli. I've got the old tomatoes and a head of new garlic in the oven to roast for a sauce.

I'm intending to go to the Xmas twilight market for a big stock up on Xmas fruit and veg. Maybe flex off work a little early if I can manage it. (Ooh, the novelty of flex!) I'll have family in town by then, so I can take them along, and nonchalantly point out Lindsay and Edmunds, and Robin Rowe...

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Ask a Question

I keep seeing people asking questions on really old posts. I don't have an alert for that, and anyway they're often not relevant to the post. So here is one you can use for general questions, that I will check more often. I'll link it up the top right with the indices and spam reporting things.

A New Start, A New Cafe

The first week back in full time work, after all this time off, has been a bit of a shock to the system. I'm lucky in that I have flextime, and my supervisor is quite happy if I start work at 9.30am. Also, I never got into terrible late night habits during my time off - a lot of the time builders were arriving at 7am. But I'm out of the habits of planning meals and doing some dinner prep in the morning.

So last week we had simple dinners. One leftover curry; one mixed grill with steak, sausages and oven chips; one quicky pasta with a pre-made tomato sauce and some cauliflower, capsicum and sausage pieces chucked in; one pide from the Dickson TurkOz - the best pide in town, IMO!

And I bought lunch three times, all from Cafe Momo. This little cafe is right next to my new job, less than five minutes walk away. It caters to a range of tastes, with a hot box of chips and pies and such; a sandwich bar; and a sit down cafe with some full meals and a short wine & beer list. There's inside tables, a pleasant little deck out the back, and a small room that can be closed for a private group of maybe a dozen. There are some pictures on their website; I snaffled one showing the approach that I take, walking in from the back. Pretty!

The prices are very reasonable compared to town. Once I had a chicken and avocado salad sandwich ($5.50 I think) which was nicely fresh and well filled. Another day I took in some fruit, and supplemented it with a pepper steak pie ($4). It was a good pie, made in house, with big chunks of lean meat and a lovely golden pastry top. The pastry bottom was a bit soggy, though.

And I had a sit down lunch with my friend F, who works across the road. She had a Thai beef salad ($16), and an iced chocolate heaped high with cream. I had zucchini fritters ($14.50), which you can have with smoked salmon or roast capsicum. I chose salmon this time, and the serve was generous. The fritters are those standard blobby shaped ones, Turkish restaurant style, drizzled with yoghurt and served with mixed leaves. They were cooked well - no soggy insides. F's salad looked good, too: plenty of beef and beansprouts, and made a bit substantial with noodles. I'll try that one sometime soon.

I also bought a muffin one day when I missed breakfast. That was due to chasing down our wandering sick cat, and then making him take pills and coaxing him to eat. But I wasn't rapt with it - too cakey for my taste. I don't like muffins to be too much like cupcakes, I prefer less sugar and a more solid style, given some guts with bran or wholemeal flour. Cake for breakfast is just wrong. Next time that happens, I'll just get a vegemite sandwich on wholegrain.

I'm pretty pleased with Cafe Momo, despite its minor flaws, and I'll certainly be a regular there. The coffee is decent, too. It's not the greatest, but it's not too bad. A little on the weak side, it's overly light and sweet in flavour. But hey, at least it's not burned or cold or obviously stale. Canberra is not strong on great coffee, unfortunately. I count myself lucky to find a drinkable one out here in Bruce.

Cafe Momo is at 14 Thynne Street, Fern Hill Park, Bruce. They are open Mon-Fri 7.30am to 4.30pm, and Sat 8am-2pm.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

The Lazy Way

I know it's all uncool, and serious cooks make their own pasta sauces and curry pastes; and do all their own meat & veg prep from fresh; and blend their own spice mixes from whole spices; and all that sort of thing. But I'm quite a sucker for a nice looking sauce being sold at a market stall. Or a good name on a product in a supermarket. Sometimes this works really well; sometimes it's just OK and a useful time-saver. And sometimes you just want to tip it in the garbage and pretend it never happened.

On the "works really well" scale:
1) Frozen baby peas. Shelling fresh peas is one of those jobs that you need to do in company, or at least with the radio or TV on. I was reminded of this recently when I bought a kilo of peas in the pod from the market. Shelling peas isn't unpleasant work, but compared to the ease of just chucking some frozen peas in the microwave, it's ridiculously laborious. And the frozen ones are more reliable. I was sampling as I shelled (of course) and while some were beautifully sweet, some were insect attacked, and some were mealy and tasteless.

2) Tubs of Thai curry pastes. Honestly, many Thai people use these too. On the advice of a Thai chef, I usually buy Maesri or Mae Ploy brands. Find them in most Asian grocers.

3) Crankypants Adobo marinade. Yum! It doesn't seem to be listed on their website, so I hope they haven't discontinued it. Find them at the Kingston Sunday markets, and the Handmade markets.

4) Herbie's spice and herb blends. He knows what he's doing. Find them at Cooking Coordinates, Manuka Fine Foods and many other places.

5) Ameet's Homestyle curry sauces. I bought a jar of Kashmiri Masala from a lovely young Indian woman with a thick plait of dark hair down her back, at the Growers' Market last week. I fondly imagine that it's her mother or grandmother's recipe, but anyway, it's a small Australian company. There's so artificial colours or preservatives, and it was very delicious. I used some Galloway chuck steak in it.

Less successful things follow.

Reasonable for rush hour:
On the "it's OK" level of the scale, there's a lot of things. Some good examples from the supermarket include:
* Patak's Indian curry pastes
* Some of the Paul Newman and Five Brothers jarred pasta sauces
* Some of the San Remo and Latina refrigerated pasta sauces - the plainer tomato ones, mainly.
* frozen "oven chips", spinach and green beans - but only if the beans are for a longer cooking time, they won't be crisp. In a veggie curry, for example.

Got very close to tipping in the garbage
Foodlover's macadamia satay sauce - to my taste, it is thin and harsh, and the nut flavour seemed artificial, like in those flavoured coffees. But I added lots of peanut butter and lime juice and chilli, and it turned out OK. Hmm, but now I think of it, so would water.

Ainsley Harriot's "citrus kick" couscous - this seemed to be very heavy on citric acid and dried onion in flavour. Not nice at all. If I hadn't had a lot of chilli to cover it up, I might have tipped it out. I never bought it again, and won't now try any others in his range.

Actually tipped in the garbage:
This almost never happens, as I'm against waste. I'll still eat food that isn't very good. It's got to be seriously dire to go uneaten into the bin. That usually means badly burned, or gone off, or well past its use-by date. But one product made it to the bin: Jamie Oliver's tomato and chilli pasta sauce. This tasted to me like tinned tomato soup with a dash of tabasco. And I had such lovely ham and olives waiting to be to put in it that I couldn't bear to spoil them. An ordinary tin of tomatoes was a much better choice.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Fauzi's dinner

I have no idea who Fauzi is or was. But I consulted a friend who speaks several languages, and she explained that the title of this dish, Masak Fauzi, is the Indonesian and Malay word "Masak" for "to cook", with "Fauzi", a name. The recipe comes from a 1970s pamphlet called simply "Curry Recipes" put out by Community Aid Abroad, who are these days known as Oxfam. This is one of the first ever curries I cooked, when I was in my teens, but I haven't made it in, oh, at least a decade. I rediscovered the pamphlet in a recent tidying phase, and decided to give it a try.

And of course you need some greens for a balanced diet, so I tried a veggie dish from the booklet, too. It involves cooked lettuce, which may seem weird but is really quite alright. It's a nice bright look, so that's the photo. Fauzi's yummy brown sludgy thing looks like a brown sludgy thing. Not so photogenic.

Recipe 1: Masak Fauzi
1 lb (450g) meat
5 onions
10 dried chillies
2 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons raisins
2 tablespoons tomato sauce
2 carrots
salt and sugar to taste

Slice onions and fry with chillies and a tablespoon of oil, until quite soft.
Pound them to paste.
Brown the cubed meat in the other tablespoon of oil.
Add the onion paste and tomato sauce to the meat.
Simmer until meat is tender and onions are reduced well.
Add raisins and chopped carrots and simmer for another half hour.
Add salt and sugar to taste.

Notes: This is quite sweet, even without adding any sugar, and reminds me a little bit of a sauerbraten with that mix of meat, raisins, vinegar. It's not a normal curry, as there are basically no spices. I used 550g of lamb. I tipped my onions into a bowl and used the stick blender to make the paste instead of a large mortar and pestle. Ah, technology.

If you feel tomato sauce is just too appalling, you could use a tablespoon of tomato paste, a tablespoon of vinegar and two teaspoons of sugar.

Recipe 2: Pea and Lettuce Sambal
2 teaspoons sunflower oil
1 small onion
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4-6 large lettuce leaves, shredded and rinsed
1/2 medium capsicum
1/2 cup peas
1 tablespoon dessicated coconut
salt, lemon juice to taste

Chop the onion, and fry it in the oil until translucent.
Add the crushed garlic and ginger and continue to fry for 2-3 minutes.
Add the spices, stir for a minute, then add a dash of water and stir well to loosen it up.
Add the peas and capsicum, stir, then add the wet shredded lettuce leaves on top.
Cover pan and simmer 5 minutes.
Stir in the coconut.
Add salt and a dash of lemon juice to taste.

Notes: This is a good use for those larger outer leaves of a cos lettuce, that are a bit strong and tough for salad. Iceberg outer leaves work, too. If you hate the idea, you could try using spinach instead. I used red capsicum, and a few extra green beans, in the pictured one.

By the way, this is a blog post that I had underway two months ago, before I took the break. I made the green veggie sambal again recently; it makes a good side dish for any meat curry. The second time I used fresh peas, and green capsicum.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Well, I'm back.

Happy December, everyone!

We're on for the count down to Xmas, and all the foodie stuff that goes along with that. I've ordered a free-range turkey and half a ham from Eco meats; the cake has been soaking up its weekly dose of brandy for almost two months now; and the Farmers' market special Xmas times have been scheduled. I'm annoyed that I forgot to pick up a leaflet, since they haven't posted hours on their website. I'm pretty sure there's an evening market on 23rd Dec.

In the market, it's cherry season. You pay from $6 to $12 a kilo, depending on the variety and quality. So I simply have to go to the market every week for a couple of kilos. I have sweet black rons and sharper bright red merchants in the fridge right now. So good! Blueberries are also pretty good, though not as cheap - I got 500g for $12. I've been eating them straight, and I made some blueberry muffins on Sunday.

The garden's doing alright. A few things got crisped in the week of 30-38 degree heat, so I've replanted a bit. I've been picking rhubarb and herbs, and the apricot, tomatoes and boysenberries are setting fruit. A few redcurrants are nearly ripe, though there won't be enough of those to do anything with except maybe adding to the breakfast cereal. Or perhaps to the rhubarb.

In personal news, I'm starting a new job next week. The Public Service has got me at last! It's actually my first preference out of all the public service jobs I applied for, so I feel pretty lucky. I got the job offer officially on 19 Nov, and we went off and bought a new car the same day. I'll be working in Bruce, near Cafe Momo and Ellacure, neither of which I've managed to get to yet.

So hey, I'm not DOOOOOOMED to useless unemployment and depression (well, duh). I have recovered some cheerfulness and enthusiasm. Recently I've been thinking of blog posts that I should write. I'm planning to get back to this more regularly, maybe twice weekly or so.

The cats are OK. Plummet is cheerfully getting fat on his renal diet food and Shadow's leftovers. Shadow is still alive, bright eyed and bouncy, though he's taken up a few odd habits. Sleeping under the car is the most annoying. He has to be coaxed to eat, and won't touch anything but real meat and tuna. He got some fillet steak trimmings a week or so back, and I was thinking how extravagantly cat-tragic a thing that was. And then I worked out the price of the k/d tinned food that Plummet is supposed to eat. The steak was cheaper. Lucky I've got that job, now.