Saturday, September 26, 2009

ulterior motives

miss k asked me about new year's eve tonight. she/we like to plan early. she had ulterior motives. she wanted to know if we would do new year's eve this year in lavender bay...and who we would have join us. i figured i'd let miss c and miss k decide on who they wanted to join us. no doubt, their core group of friends would be there - ohno, beanstalk, tomi......can osh kosh come?....aha - ulterior motive uncovered within seconds. yes, can ask him, but will he be in sydney then? yes, he's not going away. okay. i suspect miss k has probably already mentioned this to osh kosh.....and she's probably already asked him....
i actually thought i might let their friends stay a couple of nights this time. the last time, they just stayed overnight, but i think they'd have lots to do if they stayed a few days. they'd be able to go on walks around the harbour, and if beanstalk brought a boat, he could use the jetty, and that would be fun for them. another thing i just realised - they're going to be able to toast in the new year with champagne this year - how about that? already know miss k's motives...what about mine? i have a whole pile of things i want to cook...what else? what could be better than a group of teenagers to do some serious eating?

Friday, September 25, 2009


at last i have a mint plant, and it's growing really well. my mint in the past never seemed to do that well. i put it down to planting it in the wrong place. i remember being told to plant it under a leaky tap, but that didn't work. i have it under a tap again this time, but in a bucket, and the soil is saturated. it's sitting in an artificial bog, of sorts. it's right next to the house against a hot wall (my backyard is north facing) and gets full sun. i guess it's still a bit premature yet, but i'm going to have to have a look around and see if i can find myself some great recipes which use mint.....

now that i have the mint going, i'm going to have to work on getting some waterdress going - after all, i have a pretend bog going.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

internet chicken

this is one of the first dishes i cooked from the internet. it was a novelty for me. i wasn't a can of this and that cook....i cooked things from scratch....i made cake from distinguishable ingredients....this was a first for me. mind you, i have never been able to leave well enough alone with recipes and like to add my own touch, so this is now a bit different to the original which had chipped beef in it. no quantities - i just roll with what i have at the time. simple as.

1 carton sour cream
1 can cream of mushroom soup

lay the chicken in casserole dish and strew the sliced mushrooms and bacon over the chicken. combine the sour cream and soup together and pour over everything in the dish. bake at 180 degrees celcius for 45 minutes to an hour. serve with noodles or rice.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

homemade granola

a couple of years ago, miss c went camping with a group of friends and they had to rough it (read: bring their own food and cook it). by chance, i made a batch of this truly delicious concoction and insisted that she bring a couple of snaplock bags of it along. she wasn't keen to bring it, not because it wasn't yum, but because she felt it might have defeated the purpose of the camp, but brought 2 packets along.
on her return to civilisation, she expressed her regret. everyone wanted some of her precious snack, and not only that, they wanted the recipe!!!!
take this recipe as a base and add to and subtract, so you can customise it to your own liking - i like adding my fruits and nuts to the granola just before serving so i can vary it to what i'm feeling like having on the day. if you like your nuts toasted, add them while the granola is being toasted.
no need to say, this also makes a fine snack and a good trail mix substitute.

4 cups rolled oats
2 cups shredded or dessicated coconut
2 cups sliced almonds
3/4 cup light olive oil
1/2 cup honey
6 cups of your favourite dried fruits and nuts - i like cherries, cranberries (craisins), apricots, pears, cashews, pepitas, raw almonds

preheat the oven to 180 degrees celcius.
line a large baking sheet with baking paper.
toss the oats, coconut, and almonds together in a large bowl.
whisk together the oil and honey in a small bowl and pour over the oat mixture and mix it around with a wooden spoon until well combined and all the oats and nuts are coated. pour onto the baking sheet and spread evenly and lightly - you don't want the clumps of granola to be dense because they'll be rock hard after baking. *
bake, stirring every now and then, until the mixture becomes golden and toasty, about 45 minutes. make sure your granola dries completely because any dampness will cause it to go stale quickly.
remove the granola from the oven and allow to cool, stirring occasionally. if you wish, add your dried fruits and nuts of choice at this stage and combine well.
store the cooled granola in an airtight container.

*these days, i use my thermomix to do a lot of the work; i melt the honey and oil together in the thermomix and toss the oats, coconut and almonds into the bowl and let the machine do all the stirring before tipping everything out onto the baking sheets for baking.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

getting better with age

while i was up at the mountains, wenty and i watched food dvds after everyone had retired for the evening, and one of them was about preserved lemons and cumquats. the lemons and cumquats were salted like how we are told to do in those middle eastern recipes, but the person was saying that you keep them as long as you can (like decades) and they will darken and become very mellow. to illustrate her case in point, she had jars of cumquats of different ages - 1 year, 2 years, 10 years and 50 years (her grandmother pickled that one). she illustrated by taking one cumquat out of each jar, except the 50 year old one, and showed how each one was different and how much nicer the 10 year old one was compared to the 1 year old (have i lost you yet?)...i've started pickling my cumquats. i want to do the lemons too, but have to wait until i can get some home grown ones.
the 50 year old pickled cumquat, she says is so mellow and mature that not only the flesh melts, the seeds become indistinct, cumquat pickle is less than a day old.....
what was funny about all of this was what wenty told me. after his grandmother died, he had to clean her apartment and her fridge.....there was a jar of something dark which looked like it was lemon slices in a past life. he threw it in the bin, naturally, as one does, but little did he know he was throwing away what could well have been part of his inheritance.

Monday, September 21, 2009

murky pinkness

salli is a really good friend and i like to drop by her place every so often. it's actually more i drop by if i've been baking madly, and think she'd like something baked, or if harry would like some. harry's salli's son. he had a bad reaction to an injection when he was six months or so and is now developmentally delayed. i like to make harry the occasional treat. i'd spoil him more often, but salli does a good job as a mother and spoils him adequately. as she does her two daughters. she's a great mother.

when i see salli (or anyone else), i like giving them something, if i can. since my latest thing is soap, i gave her a piece of soap. the piece i gave her was from my second batch. my second batch of soap had the usual olive oil, coconut oil and goat's milk. my intention was to add some lavender oil to it, but it turned a caramel colour, so i put pomegranate oil in it. i also thought it would be good to sprinkle in some paprika to give it some warmth (that's what i'm told - paprika is warming, good for winter, i guess). salli's wonderful. she receives my soap with good grace and uses it straight away and declares her hands feel good. awww....

a few days later, i drop by with a tray of cupcakes and while she's happy to see the cupcakes, she raves about the soap and tells me she brought it into work to show her colleagues. bless her. salli took that opportunity and told me that she was partial to rose scented soap. that was a hint...a suggestion for the next time i made soap. i've already made three batches of soap, and had been thinking that i might just stick to unscented and uncoloured soap, but how could i refuse salli's request? i also figured that if i coloured it pink, i could send it to a friend who loves pink. my soap isn't pure white because i use olive oil, so the pink wasn't a really pure's murky looking; i guess it adds to its natural look. i hope it improves with age.

Sunday, September 20, 2009


i was wondering if you have ever had pretzels? i love them, but find them quite i have made time you make some regular white bread, steal a little bit of dough to try it out. roll the bit you've taken out into a long sausage and twist it into a pretzel shape. get some hot water and dissolve some bicarb in it and dip the pretzel in the hot water, lift it out and put it on a tray lined with baking paper. sprinkle it with some salt flakes and bake until done/golden. voila! a pretzel. you can sprinkle them with sesame or poppy seeds, and if you like, they can be sprinkled with cheese, or left plain. if you want to have them sweet, they can be coated in sliced almonds or streusel and served with a dipping sauce (caramel sauce is really good).

Friday, September 18, 2009

soap couture

all the bits and pieces i was able to read about soap making emphasised that all care had to be exercised when making soap. lye was a dangerous chemical and would burn on contact. rubber gloves, goggles, long sleeves and pants were highly recommended. i took this further and ensured i wore something i wouldn't worry about if ruined.

i wore my goggles and made sure i had my gloves on as i poured the lye in. having been prewarned that this action could be dangerous, i did what i was told and exercised all care. there wasn't any bubbling or any toil and trouble. in fact, it was very dull, much like pouring a cup of salt into a pot of water really, but i don't think i would never be blaise about pouring lye into a pot of anything - it does get really, really hot, and there are no reasons to take unnecessary risks. gloves and goggles are always on.

anyway, i've got all this gear one, even after i've cut the soap and all.....then the doorbell rings....sigh.....of course the doorbell rings; i'm dressed like a slob. i look like i'm a mad scientist...of course the doorbell rings.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

chemical reactions

golden one's dad is a plastic surgeon with beautiful skin. as such, i have always told blutsie to pay close attention if he should so much as reveal his beauty secrets (oh, lol, a man with beauty secrets). miss c had already found out that he used neutrogena moisturiser with spf 15....then more recently, blutsie found out that her father in law used goat's milk soap. he bought her a few bars of it and told her that it was very good and that she should use it.

now, i have possessed a desire to make soap for a very long time, and thought that this would provide the opportunity i have been waiting for. i looked at several recipes for soap and found that even though they expressedly tell you to weigh everything carefully because soapmaking was a very exact science, i found none of them to have an identical recipe....can't be that exacting then, i thought.

because i'm me, i thought i could easily replace the water needed with goat's milk and honey, after all, measurements looked approximate when comparing soap making recipes. measuring was not the issue here. it was the goat's milk and honey. i had to add sodium hydroxide to the liquid, and i did. i knew there would be a chemical reaction which would make the liquid very hot. what i didn't know was that it would be so hot that the sugars in the honey and goat's milk would burn. then there was the fat in the goat's milk i didn't consider. this fat would start the saponification process. but that didn't stop me....i persevered. i carried on as if there was nothing wrong. i heated the coconut and olive oils (i used extra virgin olive oil, no less - that was all i had) as instructed and combined the two liquids together. once the lye and fats have been combined, the mixture has to be stirred until "trace" is achieved. this is a state where the lye and fats have combined sufficiently for saponification to occur and develop the mixture into soap. the favoured method of mixing is to use a stick blender; this speeds thing up - mixing by hand using a spoon/stick would take anywhere in the vicinity of an hour or more, especially if olive oil is used; a stick blender would help the mix achieve trace within minutes. i used an old (i think about 40-50 years old) sunbeam mixmaster. my mixture achieved trace soon enough after mixing, but me being me thought that it would be better to keep beating. big mistake. the mixture separated. %##&*$!^%*%$..... i felt the bowl....ahhh....maybe it's not hot i stuck it into the microwave and beat it some more.....hmmmm..... heat it again......beat it again.....and keep beating. finally, i get this mixture that looks like thick, gluggy custard, but a caramel colour. oooh...better pour it into the

i notice the soap is solid really quickly which wasn't what i expected. i thought i'd have to wait until the next day, but since it was so obliging, i went with problems there.....i'm impatient, and if the soap wants to set quickly, i'm good with that.

when i think it's solid enough (and this was only an hour or so after pouring it into the mould), i unmould it....and i cut it. soap is the loveliest thing to cut. it's so smooth and firm and the knife just glides through. nothing as smooth to cut.

i lay out all the bars of soap. it's rustic looking, and it looks like fudge. and it has a distinctive smell which i can't put my finger on. it's probably the mixture of olive oil and honey.

i've used it since, and it is lovely. i don't think i could go back to using regular bought soap anymore; there's no comparison.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

spinach and salmon roulade

a long, long time ago, there was a wonderful little cheese shop in eastwood. i forget the name...could it have been granny smith's? the granny smith who grew the apples called granny smith used to live in eastwood, did you know that? this little cheese shop also served very nice light meals. one memorable item on the menu was a spinach and salmon roulade. we'd go along and be faced with the difficult decision of what to choose for lunch. they also made a sublime pumpkin soup....then there were the sweet things.....but i digress. this spinach and salmon roulade was something i thought i would like to add to my repertoire. it looked nice, had to have some sort of keeping property and was pretty tasty.

i don't know about everyone else, but i used to like having collections of things, and cookbooks became something i liked collecting. so when the australian women's weekly started its home library of cookbooks, i collected those. and wasn't that a good thing? because if i hadn't, i wouldn't have found this recipe; it's from the barbeque cookbook.

60 grams butter
1/3 cup plain flour
1 cup milk
4 eggs, separated

2 x 220 gram cans red salmon, drained
4 shallots
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon chopped chives

place frozen spinach in pan, cook over moderate heat until all liquid has evaporated. melt butter in separate pan, add flour, stir 1 minute. add milk gradually, stir until mixture boils and thickens.
quickly stir in egg yolks and spinach, transfer mixture to a large bowl. beat egg whites until soft peaks form, fold lightly into spinach mixture. pour mixture into a swiss roll tin lined with baking paper. bake in a hot oven for 12-15 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. remove from oven, turn onto wire rack covered with tea towel. carefully remove lining paper, spread evenly with filling. holding tea towel with both hands, gently roll roulade.

combine salmon, shallots, mayonnaise and chives, mix well.

i use fresh salmon, which i poach lightly, instead of canned and fresh spinach instead of frozen. that's just me. if you do, you'll have to check for seasoning. the other thing i do differently is to season it with freshly ground pepper.
i use the thermomix to cook the spinach and chop it, then continue on to make the white sauce in the thermomix; i just throw the butter, flour and milk into the bowl and let it do its thing while i prepare the filling.

Monday, September 14, 2009


i went and got my pasta machine out of storage a couple of weeks ago because i thought it was about time to give it a whirl. it's over thirty years old and never seems to get much of a work out. i believe it was originally bought to make noodles, but my mother has never been much of a cook, it got used maybe once? she passed it onto her sister, but i don't think much happened there either. i thought that now i had the thermomix, there was really no excuse to at least try it out. the thermomix did a beautiful job of mixing the dough, and i believe cranking the dough through the rollers of the pasta machine several times.made the texture of the fettucine we made exceptional. i used continental sharps flour - i remember yuyah's mother saying she liked using a coarser flour for making fresh pasta and who better than an italian lady to advise on such a matter?

allow 100 grams of flour per person.

400 grams continental sharps flour
4 eggs
a splash of olive oil
a little water, if necessary

mix the flour, eggs and oil together until combined. if you are unable to press bits of the mixture to form a dough, just add a little water. knead the dough until smooth. cover it and set aside so it can rest. if you use the thermomix, knead the dough for 3 or 4 minutes on interval speed.
once rested, take off a handful of the dough and put it through the machine, rolling and folding it on the thickest setting until it becomes very smooth and strong. once you're happy with it, roll it thinner progressively and use it as you wish.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

another awkward silence

i was just reading about how to make labneh cheese and it reminded me of a lunch i went to at mingay and paul's place. i got a call from wenty saying that he was going to the markets with mingay and paul to buy lobster for lunch and if i wanted to join them.

can i bring a friend?

of course you can.

i rang salli.

salli had never met mingay and paul before, and for some strange reason, i told salli about mingay's yoghurt. the first time i encountered this yoghurt was on a hot summer's day. mingay excitedly showed me the yoghurt saying that they made their own yoghurt and had it for breakfast everyday with fruit. it smelt.....ummmm.....not very nice.....not a pleasant sour smell, but a vomitty smell (sorry....that's what it smelt like). then, not only had fruit flies flying inside the jug; the jug was loosely covered with cling film that had seen better days. wenty, always blunt and rude said simply that he was surprised that mingay hadn't killed paul with food poisoning.

and so onto the lunch we go. they bought ten lobsters so we could have two each (they weren't big); one we had cold and one we had with mornay sauce. we had a fig and soft cheese starter, the lobsters and salad to finish off. when mingay brought out the salad, we eagerly looked into the bowl and he told us happily about what was in it. homegrown radishes, herbs, olives...a little of this and that. then he tells us about the dressing. a bit of oil, vinegar, seasonings and......his homemade yoghurt. dead silence.....then wenty breaks it by saying "and why is it suddenly so quiet after you say you put in your yoghurt?"

i can laugh about it now, but eating mingay's food is a bit like playing russian roulette.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


ambrosia is food of the gods or the heavens, depending on which definition you find.
in the food world, it's the name they give to a fancy fruit salad normally made with canned pineapple and canned mandains with sour cream and marshmallows. sometimes it's sprinkled with marachino cherries and or shredded coconut.
mine's a bit different. i like to put all the different fresh fruits i can lay my hands on in mine.

this is a list of fruits i'd put in:
and whatever other fruits you can think of.
sour cream

wash and prepare the fruit and cut into pieces. spoon over the sour cream and add the marshmallows. mix very lightly so as not to bruise the fruit.
chill in the refrigerator until required.

Friday, September 11, 2009


while i'm waiting for my sourdough starter to mature, i thought i'd make brioche. and i'm glad i did. the dough was easy to use, silky smooth and nice and elastic. i use my thermomix to help with the kneading and only very roughly followed the recipe. i think it must be very forgiving.

3 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 cups milk
1 sachet yeast
1 teaspoon salt
100 grams butter
650 grams strong baker's flour
1 egg

warm the milk and add the rest of the ingredients. mix everything around and once it has combined, knead the dough until it becomes elastic and is no longer sticky.
shape as desired and bake for 30 minutes at 200 degress celcius.

this dough os also good for making smaller rolls, such as clover leaf rolls, and to be really indulgent, could be made into rhum babas with the simple addition of rum syrup! absolute yumness.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

something wild

my lovely friend julie is an inspiration and has inspired me to explore the world of wild yeast. julie shared a great recipe with me for a seeded bread, and i caught the bread making bug. while i'm enjoying her seeded bread, i wondered if i could take things a bit further and make my own sourdough. not content to just buy a bread mix for sourdough bread, i've decided to make a sourdough bread from scratch and make my own starter. this involves "capturing" the wild yeasts in the air .....
after a bit of reading, i decided to go with the simplest method which was to combine a cup of water with a cup of flour. technically, filtered water should be used, but i just used regular tap water. because i bought a 12.5 kilo bag of strong baker's flour, i went with that. other types of flour can be used such as spelt or rye. the mix is covered with a fine muslin cloth to allow the wild yeasts in and keep larger particles out. i admit that this went against the grain for me, but i'm going to go with it. it isn't as if i was making a mouldy cheese, and the bread will be cooked before eating.
so far, i'm onto day three, and have fed the starter twice. so that i don't end up with masses of starter, i've only fed the starter with quarter cups of flour and water, and yes....i am seeing some action. yesterday saw some bubbles and today, more bubbles. it isn't smelling off, so i hope things go well. from what i understand, i'm going to have to wait a week before i can use it....stay tuned.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


today is blutsie and golden one's ninth anniversary.....yes....their ninth anniversary is on the ninth day of the ninth month of the ninth year.....and what do they have to show for this time together? four boys....wiggy, sly, engine and ack dack. i'm baby sitting tonight so blutsie and golden one can go out. naturally, engine's was the one still up - he was put on this earth to make my life interesting...and he does...he does....

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

awkward silences

wenty first started driving me around when i was in my first year at university. i had seen him before when i had been to his parent's holiday place in narrabeen, but had never acknowledged each other, until one day, my mother came home and told me wenty was going to drive me to uni. i was horrified. and mortified. it was awful.
the morning came around, soon enough; i got into the car and probably said hello and that it wasn't necessary to drive me. i remember him saying it wasn't any trouble...and that was it...silence.....for the rest of the trip..... to give you an idea of how long the silence was - it took a good hour to get to uni, that's how long our silence was. i was so shy, and i didn't know what to say or do, never mind wenty not having anything to say either.
i got out of the car, thanked him, slammed the car door and thought that that was that. no such luck.
somehow or rather, wenty was back the following week. the same thing happened. we were totally silent. i don't know how long this went on for, but somehow we got through it and ended up had lots to talk about. eventually, wenty drove me to and from uni every day we had in common.

Monday, September 7, 2009


people always ask wenty and me about our history together...always. i don't know how mingay and paul got together, but they know all about us. it was on one such delving occasion that i realised that i had an amenesia moment with wenty.
one of the first times we went to dinner together was to the double bay steak house in st leonards. wenty and i barely knew each other at the time, and i was terribly shy. because the place we were going to was called the double bay steak house, wenty automatically assumed that it was in double bay and suggested that we could go to the french riviera for ice cream after dinner. alas, it was in st leonards, but he had already committed himself to ice cream, as he kept his word on that count.
but i'm going off on a tangent....back to the amenesia. apparently there was some dancing involved with the dinner. while i remember a lot of what happened between the two of us back then, i didn't remember the dancing. wenty was telling our eager audience about how we were on the dance floor and he was spinning me around and then suddenly realised that everyone else was dancing much more slowly. that, he said was the one thing that has stuck in his mind after all these years. i don't remember it; i put it down to being so traumatised that i had temporary amnesia. yes, it was traumatic for me. wenty has traumatised me no end.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

pumpkin soup

as we were driving up to the mountains last week, wenty was telling me about how he made pumpkin soup every now and again, based on MY instructions. i asked what he meant, considering that i hadn't i hadn't made pumpkin soup for a very long time.
"you always told me to place everything into the pot in layers"
"i did?"
"you did. onion and garlic sauteed in oil, then topped with peeled and cubed pumpkin. then put the lid on and allow the pumpkin to steam over the sauteed onions and garlic until very soft before adding stock and blending. it gives the soup a depth of flavour."
that was probably over a decade ago. fancy wenty remembering after all these years. and he always tells me i have a good memory....i guess between the two of us, we can piece together our memories and missing pieces.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

blue mountains

i've just returned from a fews days away in the mountains. wenty rented his sister's holiday place in wentworth falls for jurgen's 80th birthday. the first night, there was just the six of us - jurgen, mingay, paul, tina (jurgen's neighbour), wenty and myself. the following day, alan and ross arrived and we went to dinner at lillianfels. it was one of the nicest dinners i have ever been to, not that the food was fantastic or anything, but because i had such a nice time with wenty. it was the first time i have realised that wenty has always spoilt me so much...and he's been spoiling me from the moment we met 30 years ago...fancy that.....
the following day, we sent five of them sightseeing and mingay, wenty and i hung around for most of the morning in the house, chatting and it was really pleasant....i have to admit that i was amazed at how pleasant it was; normally, the three of us fight, and if mingay isn't in the picture, wenty and i fight....we always fight, and always have done soon after we met, so if you do the maths, we have been fighting a mighty long time. anyway, in the late morning, wenty and i left mingay to the house and went into katoomba and checked out the shops along the main street. i think wenty must have got in touch with his feminine side or something because not once did he complain as i looked through all the shops...omg...this is sappy.....all i can say is that it's taken me three decades to realise that apart from our constant bickering, he's looked after me all the time; best not to let him know though - he's not the sentimental type.