Sunday, August 23, 2009

cyber friends

i've been using the internet for years, but it was only recently that i've become better acquainted with other cybernauts.
miss c and miss k have had cyber friends for years now and miss c actually arranged to meet some a few years ago. i went with her to ensure her safety, naturally. we met in the city and of all things, one girl actually lived a few streets away from us. miss c sees her occasionally and they have been quite friendly over the years.
miss k has wanted to meet her cyber friend in person as well, but has not, to date. they did try to arrange something, but her friend's mother exclaimed, "what if she's a dirty old man?". she's a sensible woman. i wouldn't be any different. this girl lives in a different part of sydney to us. if miss k and this girl ever cross paths, it will interesting for them.
me? much as i love the internet, i hadn't made any friends until now. just a couple. we email back and forth, and they're interesting people to chat to. i try to chat in the same style as i talk because when and if i ever meet them, i'd like to think that they would recognise me. my friend, poppelle, thinks i type just like i talk, and i think that's important - i don't want to sound like someone i'm not.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

gula melaka

this has been one of the best desserts i have ever unwittingly made. following on from the sago dessert i had in kowloon, i found this to be really versatile. how do i know this? i made it to take down to tze's place in bulli, and it was hugely popular, and not only that, it was allergy people friendly. richard's a coeliac, and christopher is allergic to dairy, peanuts and eggs (could be more, but i don't remember) everyone could eat it. it's super easy too.

4 litres water
1 cup sago

150 grams palm sugar, chopped
150 grams coconut sugar, chopped
1/2 cup water

200 ml coconut cream, to serve

bring the water to a rapid boil. while stirring the boiling water, slowly sprinkle the cup of sago into the water. make sure none of the sago sticks to the bottom of the pan by stirring. once you have poured in all of sago continue stirring and let it boil for 1 minute. turn off the heat and put the lid on and let it sit for 5 minutes. stir the sago and turn the heat back on full for 1 more minute then turn the heat off and let it sit until the pearls are translucent, about 10 minutes. don't worry if you have a few pearls that are still white in the middle. pour the sago into a sieve and rinse under runnng water until the pearls have cooled. scoop into either moulds or little ramekins. cover and set in the fridge.

to make the gula melaka, place the sugars and water in a small pot over a medium flame and stir until dissolved. bring to the boil and set aside to cool.

when ready to serve, unmould the sago, if necessary, and pour over the syrup and coconut cream to one's liking.

sago is usually best served within several hours of making.

Monday, August 17, 2009

wiggy's penguin cake

this is wiggy's penguin cake. i don't know whatever possessed him to make such a request, but he did. and it had lots of black obscene amount. everytime i make a cake with black icing i find that i have to use masses of black food colouring to get it anywhere near black...and this is starting with really dark chocolate icing. all the other colours don't need anywhere near the same amount, and i'm thinking strong colours green....

Sunday, August 16, 2009

it smells like spring

i just stepped into my backyard and had a "smell" smells like spring. i know that it's still winter officially, but it was so warm today, and tonight, the backyard smells lovely. i don't plant anything special in the garden on account of the ground being infertile and all, but it's better than what it was when i first moved here.
i remember when we lived in lindfield, the smell of each season was quite distinct until the charcoal chicken shop opened up at the station; lindfield just never smelt the same again. now that we're in killara, and far enough from the highway, the seasons smell like they should again, although not quite the same as when i was a child. people are no longer able to burn the autumn leaves anymore. i do miss it a bit, but we're supposed to use our green bins now. i think it also helps that we're so close to the garrigal forest.....i love the way the air smells....

Saturday, August 15, 2009

quick apricot mousse

remember my strawberry mousse from last year? i thought that was pretty effortless. this is even more so. and three ingredients, to boot.
this is another offering from the same australian women's weekly menu planner i got the cream cheese flan from; this one's from page 54.

825 gram can apricot halves
2 teaspoons gelatine
300 grams sour cream

drain the apricots and reserve 1/2 cup syrup. sprinkle the gelatine over the syrup and allow to soften over a bowl of hot water.
puree the apricots, add the sour cream and gelatine mixture and mix until combined throughly.
pour into individual dishes and refrigerate until set.

isn't that easy? i'd suspect that it might be diabetic friendly if you used apricots in natural juice, but you should check that out with a dietician just to make sure.

Friday, August 14, 2009

roasted capsicums

on the tail of my post about convenience foods, i like finding easier ways of doing things without sacrificing taste. roasted capsicums have always been one of those things which finds itself in the "fiddly" basket....much loved, but fiddly.......gone in a blink, but forever to prepare...sort of...
so......i did a bit of a taste test thing with roasted capsicums: capsicums roasted whole and sliced off the core.
roasted whole requires the capsicum to spend more time "cooking" and as such, the fruit releases a lot of juice. slices spend less time being grilled and are firmer than their whole counterparts and retain their juices.
another consideration is capacity. one capsicum, sliced, takes up more tray space, but doesn't take so much time to get to the point of being peelable. more whole capsicums can be placed on a tray, but has to be turned until blackened all around, and by that stage has collapsed and is mushier in texture.
slicing the capsicum also enables the bottom of the capsicum to be blackened easily (when left whole, i always think it's that awkward spot) and there is also not the problem of having capsicum seeds scattered throughout.
so were the capsicums sliced off the core and roasted able to meet the deliciousness of whole roasted capsicums? i loved them. this is a personal opinion. i loved them because they still had a bit of chewiness and bite...they weren't as messy to prepare...and i like how they quicker to prepare, getting them closer to instant gratification.
i used capsicums which had nice thick flesh, so the resulting roasted capsicums were nice and meaty.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

convenience foods

i'm always weary of some convenience foods because they taste "funny"..... processed....not they've had something done to them. one food/recipe author once said that the roasted capsicums one could buy in jars were "just as good as" those done at home from scratch. against my better judgement, i bought a jar and there was no way those jarred "pepper" could cut the mustard. i should know better. this author also wrote that she would go around the table when she had dinner parties and collect the bones off her guests plates, bag and freeze them for use in stock at a later stage.....eugh.
after this capsicum episode, i still maintained my faith in human nature and bought a jar of grilled eggplants. these were quite different from all the others i had seen on the market. i carefully read the label. so far, so good. no weird ingredients or preservatives. it was also made in australia - a great big plus there. they looked really good...and so i bought them and can report back that they were really good. no weirdness and a really good addition to salad. i suspect alot of it has to do with it not having citric acid in its composition. at last, grilled eggplant which i don't have to grill myself. so worth it. now i have to hope the people who make it (norton street grocer) don't stop.....i wonder if they make roasted capsicums?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

exfoliating sea salt scrub

i was rummaging through all my things today, trying to find some light olive oil i had infused with essentials oil. instead, i stumble on some salt scrub we made a little while back. it was wonderfully fragrant with all the lovely things we put in it - orange peel, rosemary, lavender.... to make it, use a light oil; sweet almond oil is a favourite, but light olive oil is fine. olive oil is very warming on the skin and can be "thickish" - choose what you think you might like to use.
with the salt, don't use something too coarse. rock salt is too coarse - find a finer crystal of sea salt because it will feel much coarser on the skin.
i already mentioned that we used orange peel, rosemary and lavender. other things you can use to add to your mix include:
rose petals; use fragrant dark red rose petals which have been grown naturally without pesticides.
mint would be nice and refreshing. there are many varieties of mint, so choose the one you like if you want to use mint.
one you may not have thought of is pineapple sage. pineapple sage has lovely red flowers and velvety fragrant leaves.
lightly mix half a cup of salt with a handful of your herbs or flowers of choice, then start to add your oil. stir the mixture around gently with a stainless steel spoon while you add the oil until you get a consistency you are happy with - you can use as little or as much oil as you like - both are good. use your spoon to fill sterilised containers with the mix and seal them. the salt acts as a preservative, so the leaves and flowers will not rot (as long as you don't stir it around with your hands - your hands have lots of germs on them no mtter how clean you may think they are).
whenyou are ready to use the scrub, scoop a little out of a jar and place it on your wet hands and scrub away and the salt will exfoliate while the oil moisturises. rinse and pat your skin dry.

Monday, August 10, 2009

cream cheese flan

every so often, i like to flip through my australian women's weekly menu planners. i don't have the whole set and would love to complete it if it is at all possible. anyway, this recipe is from the third book of the first series and was printed in 58, if you must know. i love these little books - they hark to a different time and the recipes in them have that quaint quality to them, retro, if you like, but definitely not mainstream.
a gluten free version of this flan can be made if gluten free biscuits are used for the base.

this flan can be made up to 1 day ahead; store, covered, in the refrigerator. recipe unsuitable to freeze.

1 1/2 cups (185grams) sweet biscuit crumbs
90 grams butter, melted
250 grams cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons lemon rind
300 grams sour cream

combine the biscuit crumbs and butter and press over the base of a 23 cm flan tin; refrigerate until firm.
beat the cream cheese and sugar until soft, add the eggs and lemon rind and mix well.
add the sour cream and beat to combine.
pour the mixture into a saucepan and whisk over heat without boiling until slightly thickened (or microwave on high 8 minutes, stopping every 2 minute to whisk mixture).
pour mixture over biscuit base, cool and refirgerate several hours or overnight.

decorate with whipped cream, drizzled chocolate and strawberries if you'd like.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

a candle...sort of...

for as long as i can remember, i've always wanted to make candles. today, i did...sort of. i remember my auntie have these lamp things which she fuelled with cooking oil, and had a wick burning out of it. i'd been burning the odd tea light lately and wondered if the aluminium casing and little thing left after burning (i've since found out that it's the thing that holds the wick by clamping the wick firmly to the base) were recyclable. so i decided to see if i could make a lampy/candly thing.
i found a tag from a jacket i bought for miss c the other day had a cotton stringy cord atached to it and decided to recycle that as the wick. it was short for a piece of string, but long for a wick. gives new meaning to waste not want not. at that stage, i only had a aluminium casing without the wick anchor, so used a mangled paper clip to act as the anchor for my first attempt. it wasn't fabulous, but it worked. i poured in extra virgin olive oil (that's what i had on hand...ideally, it should be the cheap non food grade olive oil, but i was on a roll and did not want to wait), waited for the wick to become saturated with oil and then lit it...and it burned properly! like a real candle! if i didn't know better, i'd say it actually burns with a nicer flame than a candle....the flame seems smoother. of course, i could be biased, but you should try it yourself.
having done one was not enough; i wanted to make another one. at this stage, i found another casing, and this casing had one of those wick anchors. this was when i paid more regard to the wick anchor. it had a hole in the middle, for the wick to go through, and it also had something to hold the wick so it wouldn't loosen. the anchor made the second candle thingy easy and faster to assemble. i used one of my pointy tweezers to poke the wick through the hole in the anchor and pressed the clampy thing together to hold the wick securely. put it in the casing and poured oil into the casing, again waiting for the wick to absorb some oil, then lit it.
i've got both candle thingies burning smoothly next attempt will be to make lampy out world, here i come.....oh yeah, i think i'm going to have to get me some of that there cheap olive oil.....

Friday, August 7, 2009

chinese flavoured stock concentrate

i thought i'd take yesterday's vegetable stock concentrate a step further and make a chinese version. i realise mine is not authentic by any stretch of the imagination, but it works for me, and that's what matters.

1/2 cup rice bran oil
250 grams garlic, peeled
500 grams ginger, peeled and sliced
some spring onions, chopped
100 grams salt

place everything into a blender and blitz until everything is pureed.
scrape it all out of the blender jug into a non stick saucepan and heat gently until everything is bubbling away, and allow to do so for a good five to ten minutes. stir the pot every so often to make sure the mixture doesn't catch.
decant into sterelised jars and put the lids on immediately and invert the jars so a vacuum will be created once the puree cools. refrigerate and use within six months.

one tablespoon will flavour up to a litre of water and would make a good poaching stock for chicken. this is also pretty good stirred through noodles and can be used as a dipping sauce for the poached chicken (a la hainanese chicken). a bit of sesame oil mixed in wouldn't go astray either.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

vegetable stock concentrate

this is a new thing for me, and a new favourite. i've always made my own stock because i've always felt a bit odd opening a tetra pak stock, or using a cube. making my own stock has also taken precious time and effort....this stock concentrate has revolutionalised my thinking about stock. let me get on with the recipe and you can make your own judgement. the vegetables only need to be chopped roughly as they will be pureed once cooked.

1/2 cup olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 parsnip, peeled and chopped
1 turnip, peeled and chopped
2-3 stalks of celery (i used several of the inside stalks, including the leaves), chopped
a good handful of parsley, chopped
150 grams salt (yes, you read that correctly. it preserves the mix and provides an accent to the mix)

heat the oil in a saucepan large enough to contain the vegetables (which should weigh about a kilogram altogether).
sweat the onion and garlic until soft and slightly coloured.
add the parsnip, turnip, celery, parsley and salt and continue to gently cook the vegetables. the salt will draw out moisture, so the vegetables can soften in their own liquid.
give everything a good stir, lower the heat and place the lid on the pot and allow everything to cook slowly. check every now and then to ensure the vegetables don't catch; once everything is very tender, use the bamix to puree it all.
have some sterilised jars ready and decant the puree into them. place the lids on immediately and invert. once cooled, the jars should be vacuum sealed. store the jars in the refrigerator and use within six months.

that's it. a tablespoon is equivalent to a stock cube. use the mix as you would salt - sparingly and carefully. mixing a spoonful in water will give you instant vegetable stock. in some cases, i've found that i will use it to season food instead of salt and it's just that bit more interesting than seasoning with plain salt. remember not to overdo things because there's alot of salt in the mix, and if you go overboard, whatever you're cooking is going to be mighty salty.
for those of you with a thermomix, you'll recognise it as a thermomix recipe, but i don't see why it should be made exclusively by those with a thermomix; everyone else should try it too.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

something simply garlicky

the last few days i've been going through a garlic phase and have been making things with lots of it, and have no doubt been very pongy. since i don't want to be pongy on my own, i'm sharing this recipe, so we can reek together.


2 cloves garlic, crushed
400g can chick peas, drained, liquid set aside
rind and juice of 1 lemon
a good splash of olive oil
handful of parsley
2 tablespoons tahini

i used to make this with my bamix - i'd throw everything together in a large vegemite or peanut butter jar and blitz away, adding a little of the reserved chick pea liquid if required.
since i now have a thermomix, i put the garlic in first to blitz, then add the other ingredients and blitz until i get the texture i like - it can be as chunky or smooth as you like.

essentially, this is quite a healthy dip and it makes eating raw vegetables very easy.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


i like making mayonnaise with my bamix - it is so easy, it's almost instant.

get hold of a 2 cup capacity container. i have been known to make mayonnaise in peanut butter jars - it's convenient - after the mayonnaise is made, you don't have to tip it into another jar or container, you just put the peanut butter jar lid on, and it's covered. one less thing to wash and isn't that the way to go? so environmentally friendly.
pop 2 egg yolks or a whole egg into the jar and blitz until the egg is nice and frothy.
keeping the motor running, start drizzling your favourite oil into the jar (your favourite oil might be olive, canola, rice bran...although i do find using all extra virgin olive oil very strong - i just use a combination sometimes). keep drizzling until the mayonnaise becomes nice and thick and luscious.....that egg will absorb about a cup of oil, so be prepared. i admit the first time i made mayonnaise, i found it really difficult to keep adding oil, but believe me, you have to do have to go all the way, otherwise what you've started will be wasted.....if you can't handle it, don't start at all....
once your mayonnaise is how i've described it (nice and thick and luscious), you can stop adding oil. you can now drizzle in a tablespoon or 2 of lemon juice or tarragon vinegar.
season with a little salt, if you like.

if you want to make aioli, put a peeled clove of garlic into the jar when you're blitzing the egg and continue from there.

my personal favourite is mayonnaise with some sundried tomato in it. i just chop some up and fold it through the mayonnaise. i don't bother with either the lemon juice or vinegar in this case.