Monday, April 24, 2017

The last of the summer basil

Canberra traditionally has its first frost each year around 25 April (Anzac Day). I planted a couple of clumps of basil over the summer, and have used it from time to time on pizzas and to garnish cheesy eggplant dishes. But any day now the first frost will arrive and the remaining basil would have keeled over, so today I harvested everything that was left in the garden and made some chunky basil, garlic and pecan pesto for dinner.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Crunching the numbers (yet again)

For the past eight (!) years I've kept a spreadsheet recording the meals I cook at home. This is pretty easy to do as I keep a daily menu and every now and then just move the data from the hand-written menu to the spreadsheet. Using a menu helps ensure a varied diet and minimal waste; analysing the data each year reminds me to try new recipes from time to time! Over the past year (April 2016 to April 2017) our most-eaten meals were:

Leek, potato, cannellini bean, bacon and cream soup
Teriyaki ... something (tofu, veges, udon noodles, or a combination of those things)
Chinese dumplings
BLTs (sandwiches or wraps)
Creamy tuna pasta
Salmon steaks with veges
Spanish omelette
Pasta with homemade pesto

New favourites, which may appear in future most-eaten lists, include kelp noodle salad, rice paper rolls, spaghetti lentilaise and blue cheese soufflé.

Note to self: need to keep increasing the amount of vegetables in our diet. I hope to increase the size and yield of my vegetable garden over the coming year, so maybe that'll lead to new culinary discoveries too.

The last of our massive crop of tomatoes. They won't ripen outside
(it's too cold now) so fingers crossed I can convince them to ripen inside

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Back to the Baroness

When we moved to Kaleen last year new challenges became apparent. The house was 38 years old and largely unrenovated, so some of the appliances were a bit quirky. The oven – which appears to be original – is a Chef Baroness Deluxe. We'd replaced the dodgy ovens at our previous two places, but this time have decided to hold off replacing the oven (and everything else in the kitchen) till we're ready to renovate the whole room. The Baroness is mostly functional! Anyway ... now that autumn is underway and winter is approaching fast, I'm excited about using the oven again. It was too hot in summer to use it much.

Today's splurge: white choc chip macadamia
cookies for a colleague's birthday

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Brekkie @ Teddy Picker's

It's easy to fall into a routine and rotate between just a handful of favourite brekkie joints! Just lately we've tended to frequent U&Co, Hudson's and Stand By Me ... and now and then we need to shake things up and try somewhere new. When the Her Canberra website recommended Teddy Picker's late last year we decided to give it a go. Like its neighbour The Pedlar, Teddy Picker's is at the eastern end of Constitution Avenue, among the various apartment blocks and government offices that have been springing up lately.

The decor is cute:

and we enjoyed our breakfasts. He had:

Oats with pears, almonds, ginger, vanilla and crumble

and she had:

Avocado on rye toast, with hummus, Meredith
feta, and dukkah, and a side of bacon

The menu looks excellent. Plenty more things to try on future visits.

They're at 65 Constitution Avenue, Campbell, ACT 2612.

Brekkie @ The Pedlar

We stumbled across The Pedlar in Campbell a couple of months ago while looking for the place next door! It looked good and we made a mental note to go back sometime .... today was the day. The Pedlar opened about a year ago and offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. We enjoyed our brekkie there!

He had:

The Pedlar Breakfast: poached eggs served with Pialligo bacon, roasted
mushrooms, avocado and roasted tomatoes on sourdough, plus a long black 

 She had:

House-cured ocean trout with beetroot and sweet
potato rosti, lemon creme fraiche and dill, plus a flat white

They were delicious. The Pedlar is family-friendly, pet-friendly, and has cheerful and speedy service. I'll have to go back someday and try some of their other menu items. The sweetcorn and haloumi fritters and Shakshuka baked eggs sounded inviting ...

The Pedlar is at 65 Constitution Avenue, Campbell, ACT 2612.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

When life gives you tomatoes ... make spaghetti sauce

My mum used to make this when we had lots of home grown tomatoes. She would actually put it into preserving jars, but I find freezing batches in meal-sized containers works just as well.

5.5 kg fresh tomatoes
0.5 kg onions
salt and pepper (to taste)
100 g butter
50 g flour

Cut up tomatoes and onions, season with pepper and salt and cook (no water required) until pulpy. Melt butter, add flour, cook until frothy and add the butter mixture to the tomato mixture, stirring all the time. Simmer gently until thickened. Adjust seasoning to taste. Enjoy!

This year's tomato crop is coming to an end. At least this
way we'll get to keep eating them as the weather cools

Friday, March 24, 2017

Well, hello kitty

Another interesting feature of moving to the 'burbs has been meeting all the local pets. Soon after we moved last year this magnificent critter began visiting us:

We call him (or her) by various grandiose names as he (or she) has so much (c)attitude! Formal titles are usually involved, e.g. His Royal Fluffiness, Captain Fluffypants, and Brigadier-General Fluffybum. You get the picture.

The next visiting cat is a bit more shy, though still has distinct opinions. She tends to show up on our back deck, press her nose against the sliding door, and plaintively ask to be let inside.

Our house used to be a rental property so we're wondering whether, perhaps, she used to live there and wants to visit for old times' sake. We call her Slinky. Because she slinks.

Kitty-cat number three only recently appeared, and likes to pop by and drink from our bird bath.

We've dubbed her Ginger Lips as she has ginger fur on her lower lip.

Occasionally they have a squealing punch-up in the middle of the night, but mostly they just patrol.

As Dr Amy Farrah Fowler said so eloquently, 'I love cats. They're the epitome of indifference.'

Monday, March 20, 2017

A Malaysian bativersary

Ten years ago this month Andrew and I participated in our first Earthwatch expedition, a two-week stint in a Malaysian rainforest helping (we hope?!) on a scientific project investigating insectivorous bats. It was fascinating, eye-opening, bruising, delicious and enjoyable.

Working in a very small team (just the lead researcher, local research assistants and us) we hiked into the forest each morning and evening, recording details of bats that had been caught in harp traps:

We also helped out with tasks such as restringing broken harp traps and painting poles to mark trails.

Twice a day a lovely local family showed up on a motorbike to deliver delicious home-cooked curries. We were already fans of Malaysian food but this sealed the deal!

In the course of the two weeks we met eighteen species of bats including the newly identified Kerivoula krauensis, saw and interacted with all sorts of other flora and fauna, visited a village, learnt a few words of Bahasa Malaysia and were snacked on by many, many leeches.

Bats are gorgeous little critters. We enjoyed meeting so many of them and learning about their lives and activities, and have continued taking an interest in them since returning home.

Our first foray into 'citizen science' was a life-changing experience, and we ended up doing four more Earthwatch expeditions, one in Canada and three in Australia.

Ten years! We're still in touch with some of the people we met there. We were charmed by Malaysia and have visited several times since, to snorkel at Pulau Tioman, travel on an iconic train, and sample the diverse food options.

Terima kasih!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Choc chip cookies

An oldie but a goodie. I learnt to make these when I was about seven!

100 g butter
125 g sugar
2 tbsp sweetened condensed milk
150 g flour
1 tsp baking powder
125 g chocolate chips
Optional extra: chopped nuts

Cream butter and sugar, add condensed milk and beat well. Mix in sifted flour and baking powder. Add chocolate chips (and nuts if you like). Roll into balls, place on cool tray and press with fork. Bake at 160 degrees C for 15 minutes.

I made these to take for morning tea at work tomorrow.
There are pecan nuts in there as well as chocolate chunks ;-)

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Autumnal delights

Autumn [fall] is always a delight in Canberra. A time to celebrate surviving another hot summer, to eat spicy food, to gaze upon exotic sights and to drag the boots and beanies out of storage. Over the past week we've enjoyed the Enlighten festival and the Night Noodle Markets; this morning Andrew and I woke super early to go and watch the balloons launch at the annual Canberra Balloon Spectacular. As promised ... it was spectacular!

Happy autumn!

Thursday, March 09, 2017

My favourite (accidental) culinary discovery last summer

A lot of my recipes involve variations on a theme. Cakes and biscuits adjusted to be more healthy (or at least less unhealthy), meat dishes altered to accommodate vegetarians, ice cream and soufflés tinkered with to feature different flavours and textures. So ...! Last month, while experimenting with what to put into a batch of rocky road ice cream, I stumbled across an incredibly simple recipe for coconut ice cream.

It is magnificent. I'm eating it as I write this.

600 ml fresh cream
200 g sweetened condensed milk
1 cup shredded coconut

Whip the cream, add the condensed milk and whip some more, then stir the coconut through. Combine well and spoon into freezer containers. Freeze and enjoy. Makes around two to three litres.

That's it. A friend recently gave us some dehydrated figs from her parents' farm, and serving the ice cream with figs makes it even more sublime.

Summer is over now and Canberra is seeing its first glimpses of autumn. This ice cream is so good I think I'll keep making it, regardless of the changing seasons.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Rocky road ice cream

Six months ago I made some rocky road. You can see the recipe and results here ... the general consensus seemed to be that it was delicious! More recently I'd found myself wondering about home made rocky road ice cream. What to put in it? Would the heavier ingredients sink to the bottom? I had a go at making it this week and it worked well. Phew ;-)

600 ml fresh cream
200 g sweetened condensed milk
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup peanuts
200 g white chocolate, broken into chunks
200 g dark chocolate, broken into chunks
100 g small marshmallows
2 x 55 g bars Turkish Delight, chopped up

Whip the cream, add the condensed milk and whip some more, then stir the coconut through. (If I'd frozen the mixture at this stage, I would have had a very nice batch of coconut ice cream.) Add all the other ingredients, combine well and spoon into freezer containers. Freeze and enjoy. Makes around three litres.

More easy ice cream recipes here, here, here and here if you're interested ...

P.S. this recipe contains marshmallows (which contain gelatine) so doesn't qualify as vegetarian. You could omit the marshmallows, or find some vego marshmallows, if preferred.

P.P.S. it is seriously sweet! Maybe TOO sweet. I doubt I'll make it often, but it was a fun thing to try.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Really, really easy pizza

Our garden is bursting with fresh tomatoes and basil at the moment so tonight's dinner is a home made pizza. This recipe is really quick and easy, and doesn't require any faffing around with yeast, cake mixers or the like.

2.5 cups plain or wholemeal flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons olive oil
about 1 cup warm water

Combine the flour and baking powder, make a well in the centre and pour the oil in. Mix together, and gradually add water until you have a dough. Roll or pat the dough until it is about 1 cm thick, then brush with oil, add toppings of your choice, and bake at around 220 degrees C for about half an hour. (Makes enough for two hungry people or four not-so-hungry people.)

Usually I just put tomato paste, fresh basil, fresh tomatoes, and mozzarella on top. Maybe a few anchovies too. But be creative – add whatever you like! You can also mix herbs such as thyme or rosemary, or chopped sun dried tomatoes, into the base to liven things up.

Splashed out tonight and used slabs of blue cheese
instead of mozzarella. This is what the pizza looked like BEFORE
it went into the oven. It was much more melty afterwards ...