Sunday, October 30, 2005

Smells Like Summer

It smells like summer in my kitchen. There is a bowl of mangoes ripening on the table and the sweet, tropical scent fills the air. Although, I might enjoy them a little more if I hadn't read this about their family group!

Speaking of summer, Figman sat up in bed yesterday morning and said "it's barbeque day". Like Puscatawny Phil, my little groundhog wakes up and knows, this is the day. So we dragged the barbie out of the shed, filled the gas canister (a priority ever since it ran out halfway through the cooking one time and the local garages refused to fill it during their "peak times") and called up our friends.

"Keep it simple" Figman said sternly to me. "I do not want one of your extravaganzas, okay? Just a barbie with our mates." So I picked up some lamb cutlets, skinless chicken thighs and good pork chippolatas and a loaf of bread. And decided to throw together one of my favourite summer salads - Nigella's Watermelon and Feta Salad. It's so full of good flavours - crunchy sweet watermelon, the salt and cream of feta, mint, pepper, lime - I mean, how can you go wrong?

Nigella's recipe online misses the "1" from the "1.5" kilos of melon, in case you were wondering (I went and checked Forever Summer to be sure). I used a small pale green mini Lee watermelon - I just love these small whole melons with a thin rind. I prefer Danish feta over Greek, although according to the European Court of Justice, there shall be no such thing as "Danish" feta anymore. I leave out the olives and parsley because I can't stand either, but I have also been known to throw in some salad leaves at times - it's a very adaptable.

The men did their manly thing at the barbeque and some of them even liked the salad! We finished the meal on the same simple note - a couple of packs of mini-Magnums in classic and honeycomb, so that the greedy among us could have one of each if we couldn't make up our minds (that was me, me, me by the way. And a mini-magnum is not THAT big). Not bad for the first of the season.

PS there was a little goats cheese, tomato and ciabatta action going on in the kitchen while the mens were cooking the meat. But it was out of the Figman's line of vision, so it doesn't count, right?

PPS for every mean thing I say about Blogger, and really, how angry can you get with something that's free?, I have to say something pleasant. And today, after the Plumbaby figured out how to turn off the computer with one quick gesture before his mama could go "NOOOOOOOOOOOO I HAVEN'T SAVED THAT YET!" I can only say how very pleased I was with the 'recover post' feature. So thank you Blogger.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

A Careless Cook

I am a careless cook. Really. I am the girl who gets drunk at her own dinner party and serves a cake for dessert - flourless orange and coconut - all the while merrily forgetting to put the eggs in. An entire table of people will happily eat this disaster warm with cream and it is only in the morning when I taste the cooled cake that its egglessness becomes obvious. You know, when there's no flour in a cake, you really can't go leaving out another ingredient. Not eggs anyway.

And yet, I am bewildered by how many people find me intimidating, culinarily speaking. A dear friend told me recently "Oh, I couldn't have you over for dinner. I'd be too embarrassed to cook for you." I was stunned. The last time I'd entertained this friend, it had been an assembly job afternoon tea - fresh berries, double cream and a shop-bought chocolate cake. I didn't make a thing. Since the Plumbaby arrived in our world, my cooking has simplified as a matter of necessity - I don't have the time for elaborate creations or all day cooking-fests. But somehow, the stigma is still attached to me.

If only these people knew the truth. Take this morning for example. I looked at the loaf of white bread on the kitchen counter and thought "no, I must eat something healthier than that". So I got out the chopping board and diced some onion and zucchinis. I sauteed the onions and then added the zucchini for a quick fry. Then (I have a VERY low boredom threshold) I wandered off to check some sites and only went back to the kitchen when I smelled burning. My wonderful mix of golden onions and green zucchinis was unsalvagable.

So I sat down and had a bowl of icecream for breakfast.

Do you see what I'm saying here?

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Sale Watch: Kmart

Yes, you see, I don't spend all my time at fancy chocolate school or sipping champagne at soirees! I wandered into Kmart today and picked up a catalogue at the entrance. I usually stand there and read it and if there is nothing of interest, I hand it back as I walk in. I flicked through and it was very tedious stuff (I don't know, tyres, playstation, blah blah blah) and then a few books were featured. I Could Not Believe My Eyes. This book, The Cook's Book, which retails for $79.95, was on sale at Kmart for $49.95. And Twelve, Tessa Kiros's best seller, which has now been released in paperback, is half-price at $24.95!

I hastened off to the books section with catalogue in hand and found heaps of both books. I looked through Twelve, but it didn't really grab me. I mean, I have several Italian cookbooks and in fact, just bought this one, so it would have to be something very unusual for me to take it. And, I have had my eye on Falling Cloudberries for ages, I think that that is her book that I would like to have. Of the two, that is. So I put Twelve back, but not too reluctantly, because I am trying to be honest about buying cookbooks these days and if I really truly don't adore it and must have it, then it goes back. No arguments. Doesn't matter how cheap it is.

On a side issue, I don't much care for the re-issue in paperback of this or the Food of the World books recently. The Murdoch Food of the World books are gorgeous (and I have a particular weakness for the Food of France and China) but they are fairly big books and I don't see how they can be properly enjoyed in paperback - it just makes it too unwieldly. The price is more affordable, but I can't see getting these into a cookbook stand without difficulty and likewise, reading it flat on the kitchen table. This actually motivates me to try to pick Falling Cloudberries up before it goes into paperback, because I would rather pay an additional $10, not to have to cram it open all the time!

So, I think The Cook's Book is terrific value at this price and I might just possibly have snuck a copy into the car boot and I could be waiting to smuggle it in past the Figman when he's not watching. And as it's almost November now, it could be an early Christmas present. Definitely. We'll see.

Postscript: If I had read the stupid catalogue more carefully, I would have seen that Lindt 100g blocks are on sale at $2 each. I must have been distracted by the 15% off irons. Oh well, sale on until Wednesday!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Chocolate School

Yes, there is such a thing! Melbourne has its very own school dedicated to chocolate and patisserie in Brunswick East, maybe 10 minutes from the city centre. I had been wanting to do a course at Savour for ages, but for a variety of reasons (namely money and time), it hadn't happened. And when I saw that they were holding an open day last weekend, I hopped along quick smart, despite being a tad, shall we say, squiffy?, after the racing.

I was tired, the room grew rapidly hot with the number of people present and the door open, I was standing for a couple of hours, but it was worth it. We watched demonstrations of tempering, moulding, mixing of fillings. I saw techniques that I hadn't even dreamt of. I got to taste some of the delights and eat the best mango gelati I've ever tasted, fresh from the ice cream maker.

Many of their classes cater for professionals, particularly when guest lecturers arrive from overseas for a week of classes. But most of the people in the room watching on Sunday seemed to be interested home cooks - people who just loved chocolate really. There were plenty of kids and they got to step and help with stirring and moulding - one little boy got very enthusiastic and dipped his hand as well as the wrapped foam into the chocolate. The crowd roared with laughter and he looked a little embarrassed, but hey, he got to lick it off later, right?

I'm a convert now and can only drool over the list of classes, wondering which I can manage to do and which is the best? How do you compare Level One Chocolates and Pralines to a class specialising in traditional French truffles (which, if it has to be said, I adore). Hmmmmn. And, I found a new and slightly cheaper supplier for this chocolate. Not that I would ever buy any, no sirrreeeee!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Spring Racing Carnival

Melbourne in spring is about many things but one that the locals take very seriously is Spring Racing Carnival. Melbourne is the racing capital of Australia at this time (although Sydneysiders would dispute it) and everyone gets dressed up to the nines - men with suits and buttonholes and women in dresses, fascinators and hats. Each major race has a different buttonhole - although I only learnt this fascinating fact on Saturday at the Caulfield Cup.

Yes, I was fortunate enough to be offered hospitality at this event and let me tell you, it was all champagne, cleavage and canapes! I had a lovely time, drinking in the spring sunshine and watching all the weird and wonderful outfits. And I picked a winner! Although not by any study of form books or racing guides. I simply looked at the list of horses and went "Hmmmn, Roebouchon - reminds me a little of Joel Robuchon". And that, dear friends, is how I did it! Easy peasy!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Cheesymite Scroll Story

Is this not golden perfection? I don't know about the non-Aussies out there, but this, to many of us, is the answer - vegemite, cheese and a roll all in one. They sell them at Baker's Delight and trust me, I delight in them.

When they first appeared, I was mildly horrified. In a "who would eat that?" kind of way. I don't even remember how I first tasted one, whether it was a sample on the counter or an eager friend egging me on, but I do know that I rapidly became addicted. To be clear, I don't eat white bread. Maybe once in a while, when I'm utterly bored or it's something truly fabulous. But this, I find hard to resist. I have to walk past the Baker's Delight booth and look the other way, so not as to be tempted by the savoury smell, calling out to me!

I am also very ashamed to say that while the Plumbaby was in utero, I could not keep track of how many I ate. Maybe it was something to do with needing all that Vitamin B. It is Vitamin B in Vegemite, isn't it? After I'd read aloud to Figster about all the wholegrain, organic nutritious food I should be eating, he'd come home and find crumpled Baker's Delight bags in the bin. Oh Internet, I am so ashamed. But if I can't confess to you, to whom can I? And anyway - they're really, really good.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

And meme again!

Okey dokey, here is a quick round up. I'd like to tag

Cin of A Few of My Favourite Things
Joey of 80 Breakfasts
Rachael of Fresh Approach Cooking
Glutton Rabbit of Pearl of the Orient
and Caroline of Bibliocook

I realise that some of you may have been tagged already but if you had just spent half your morning struggling to change a child car seat and collapsing from (a) exertion (b) frustration and (c) utter utter lack of success, you'd be blase about it too!

This is the first meme I ever did and it's actually quite easy (even if you can't believe what rubbish you wrote in your 23rd post!). It's also a good moment to reflect on how your blogging style may have changed and what your priorities now are. At the time I was trying to post every day. HAH! is what I say to that now. HAH!

Oh, and there are some absolutely amazing Malaysian bazaar photos over at Pearl of the Orient. So go, see, savour. They are brill. And I wish I had my camera back is all I can say.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

23/5 Meme

Hey, it's my first meme! Barbara at winosandfoodies tagged me for this and it's a pretty simple.

Find your 23rd post and its fifth line and ponder the meaning. Now my 23rd post is this one, about some fresh Yarra Valley truffles and how they cost about the same as what the endodontist was threatening to extract from me (along with the inside of my tooth).

Now I have to admit that I do not like this post much. I mean, it doesn't fall into the realm of Great Posts I Have Known. In fact, I was tempted to remove it altogether and THEN my 23rd post would be about my secret desire to be a checkout chick instead. But I suppose I have to play fair. It's also an opportunity for me to point out that I was posing a question that was entirely theoretical. It should have in no way conveyed the impression that I in reality have $3000 to blow on (a) handbags (b) root canals (c) fresh truffles. If you asked my bank manager such a thing, it would probably take him several minutes to get up from the floor from where he had collapsed in a fit of laughter. Ahem.

I suppose this is also the place to make the confession that I have never eaten a fresh truffle. Ever. Unless you count dark chocolate with cream. And I'm pretty sure the Larousse gang wouldn't.

I have been thinking about who to tag for this meme and I simply haven't had the time to go and check people's sites to see if they've already been tagged or worse still have written a post about it and I haven't remembered!! So, when I get through my list of things to do, I shall, but in the meantime, if anybody'd like to be tagged, just post a comment. I was going to wait to publish this post until I had done said checking, but you know, you might be waiting a long time. Possibly almost another week. Which is a long time in blog world ....

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Pashmak - Persian Fairy Floss

Glutton Rabbit over at Pearl of the Orient wants to know what Persian Fairy Floss is like, so I thought I'd post a picture. It's not mine, I am sans camera at present, but taken from the Pariya website.

Pariya are, in their own words, purveyors of "exclusive persian produce that is unique, simple, elegant and delicious". I don't know about that, but their packaging, while not expensive looking, is distinctive in the Australian market (not an easy thing to do) and their website is simply stunning - take a look!

Theirs was the first pashmak I came across and for a couple of years I suspect it's been one of the few available here. But in my enthuisastic travels today, I found several brands, including mecca and the one I'd bought at the market - a repackaged vanilla floss which had been purchased in bulk and then repackaged in a simple plastic tub. The Pariya pashmak comes in a plastic pouch and is in one elegant clump of floss threads - it would be up to you to tease them out. Mine came in individual little clusters - about twice the size of a Baci chocolate and a similar shape.

Persian fairy floss, according to the label, is mostly sugar, flour and oil, but it has a curiously nutty taste. Less sticky than traditional candy fairy floss, it fascinated my guests T and J. J said that it reminded her of halva. It was quite the hit of the evening, utterly eclipsing my Chocolate Tofu Mousse!

I flicked through the order page on the Pariya site today and sighed over the Persian honey toffee. It looked gorgeous. And when I came across it at Leo's I didn't hestitate. Although perhaps I should have. When I opened the individual little packet, the scent was overwhelmingly of cardamon. Now I like cardamon, but only in very very small quantities. And this, while interesting, is a little too much for my tastes. But I couldn't resist. Again with the judging at first sight stuff. Hummm

Glutton Rabbit by the way, managed to make five vegan dishes. Looking at her list, it occurred to me that I am probably cooking vegan meals more often than I realise. I guess no one, apart from vegans, wants to think that they are actually eating vegan, it sounds so unappealing! But that was the point of this IMBB I suppose, to shake things up and challenge our ideas!

Note: I am allowed to say that vegan food sound unappealing, as I was a vegetarian for five years, he he he. A true vegetarian, none of this fish on Fridays or chicken stock in soup wavering round the edges business. But I never considered going vegan. Evah. And now? Pass the lamb cutlets please.