Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Tootling around the Top End

Earlier this month my partner and I visited Australia's Northern Territory for the first time. We'd already explored the six states and one other territory, but neither of us had been to the 'Top End' before. We spent three nights in Darwin before catching the fabulous Ghan to Adelaide. It was delightful, if a little weird, to visit tropical Darwin in the middle of the Canberra winter!

While in Darwin, we took a bus tour to learn more about the city's experiences in World War II, ate at plenty of local eateries, and wandered around on foot.


Tropical vegetation at Government House


Spotted at Java Spice Cafe (where the coffee and cakes were yummy)


We ate Sri Lankan curries on Mindil Beach and watched the sunset

The trip on the Ghan was good fun and included tours at Katherine and Alice Springs.


Nitmiluk Gorge cruise (near Katherine)


My bed on board the train


Sunrise seen through a train window


Panoramic shot of Alice Springs from the top of a hill (click to enlarge)

We also enjoyed the food on the Ghan! This included ...


Wild peach and vanilla parfait


Tasmanian corn bread with smoked salmon

... and many more delicious offerings. Well worth a visit ... especially during a chilly Canberra winter.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Who needs an editor?

Or: how your friendly local editor can help you!

While this blog is mostly an online recipe collection, from time to time I feel the urge to write about something else. Today it is editing. Why? Because I work as an editor, and have felt a little overwhelmed by the number of language errors and typos I've spotted in books and on signs lately. There's no need to be afraid of editors. Most of us are gentle, friendly souls who just want to help others communicate more effectively. Someone once described editors as ‘invisible menders’, and that describes my role quite well.

So, why do I have a bee in my bonnet?

It’s been a long time since I've read a book from cover to cover without spotting any mistakes. Sometimes I notice inconsistencies (e.g. a word or character name written in two different ways, or with and without a hyphen), sometimes it is typos or transposed characters, or weird mixtures of past, present, future and conditional tenses. Sometimes there are inconsistencies in the story or narrative. For example, my partner recently bought a book about the construction of a major rail line, and the text darted back and forth between saying it hadn't been completed yet and saying it had. There had been multiple editions of the book, and it seems nobody checked whether material brought forward from previous editions was still correct. In another example, we read a book where the author appeared to have done a global 'find and replace' process where certain letter combinations occurred, resulting in absolute nonsense. Clearly no human eyes had read through the book between writing and publication.

Types of editing

– Substantive editing – concentrates on the content, structure, language and style of a document
– Copyediting – removes mistakes, inconsistencies, ambiguities and possible embarrassments from a document (most of my work tends to fall into this category)
– Proofreading – final checking and correction procedures before a document is signed off for publication

Things a copyeditor might look out for

– Layout
– Punctuation
– Forms of words (e.g. with or without spaces or hyphens)
– Capitalisation
– Spelling (in accordance with agreed version of English, or publication’s style requirements)
– Typos 

These types of errors are my bread and butter! You wouldn't believe how often I see them …

– complement/compliment
– there/their/they’re
– where/wear/we’re
– affect/effect
– principal/principle
– extend/extent
– its/it’s
– discreet/discrete
– lead/led
– rational/rationale
 pedal/peddle
– ordnance/ordinance
– metre/meter
– pallet/palate/palette
– stationery/stationary
– form/from
– woman/women
– peak/peek
– faze/phase
– potable/portable
– apostrophes in plurals
– scare quotes (putting things in quotation marks, unnecessarily)



Ahhh, scare quotes!

How to get the most out of your editor

– Allow enough time for the task
– Ideally, editing should be factored into projects from the start, rather than a last-minute idea
– Be clear about what you need … a quick check for typos, or more thorough grammar and fact checking?
– If there are rules your document needs to follow, let the editor know. For example, does the publisher have a style sheet or guide? What version of English is required?

So … who needs an editor?

Anyone who publishes. Whether you’re writing a novel or a thesis, a journal paper or a restaurant menu, a museum sign or a sandwich board, it is a good idea to ask someone else to read through your material to check it makes sense and point out any embarrassing bloopers. It is also a good idea to use an actual editor rather than just a pedantic friend. Qualified editors tend to have tools and checklists they can use to ensure fewer errors make it into print. We're also remarkably good value. My hourly rate is about half as much as I pay my electrician or car mechanic, and about one-sixth what I pay my dentist! Don't think of editing as an additional expense. Think of it as an investment in making your book, thesis, report or website a pleasure to read.

Sign-writers need editors too ...


Parking for David Tennant, perhaps? Oh, they mean tenants


Such a professional looking sign. What a shame no-one ran it past someone who could spell

Brekkie @ Thyme in Adelaide

It has been a while since I've reviewed any breakfast joints, so here's one we like in Adelaide! Andrew and I visited Thyme Cafe Restaurant on Victoria Square last December when we were showing my Mum around Adelaide, and we ate there again earlier this week. It is a cosy little place with delicious food, good coffee and great service. What more could you ask for?

This time ...


she had poached free range eggs with roasted mushrooms on
char-grilled pesto bread topped with Danish feta, and a flat white


while he had eggy cinnamon French toast with
bacon and maple syrup, and a long black

All was good! I can also recommend the eggs royale, which I enjoyed on our previous visit. Check out the menu here.

Thyme on Urbanspoon

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Salted caramel

Salted caramel sort of sneaked (snuck?) up on me, rather like red velvet cake did. One minute you've never heard of it, the next it is everywhere. The other day my friend Elizabeth treated us both to salted caramel chocolates at Koko Black and I decided to try making it at home. Here's a basic caramel recipe:

125 grams butter
1 can (395 grams) sweetened condensed milk
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons golden syrup

Melt butter and sugar over a low heat. Add condensed milk and golden syrup. Stir continuously until mixture reaches soft ball stage* and is golden brown. Remove from heat. Pour mixture into a greased 15 cm square tin. Cool until set and cut into squares.

* I don't have a candy thermometer and find it fiddly testing the mixture in cold water. If you can complete a figure eight with your spoon while stirring the caramel (i.e. the start of the eight is still visible when you finish drawing it) that's also a reasonable approximation of 'soft ball stage'.


As a final step, grind some sea salt over the caramels

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Luscious legumes

Hmmm. I always think of this dish as vegetarian shepherd's pie, though the name doesn't really make sense. No sheep or shepherds are involved in its construction! Suggestions for a new name are most welcome ...

1 kg potatoes
1 cup cheese, grated
milk

1 cup red kidney beans (tinned, or rehydrated)
2 large onions, chopped
1 tablespoons butter
1 green capsicum, diced
2 tablespoons wholemeal flour
1 cup vegetable stock
basil, oregano, paprika and/or parsley (to taste)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
corn kernels
baby corn spears

Boil the potatoes, and when they are soft mash with the cheese and milk. While the potatoes are cooking, combine all other ingredients in a large microwavable container, and cook on high for about seven minutes, stirring occasionally. Put the vegetable mixture into a large casserole dish and top with the potato mixture. Bake at 180 degrees C for 30 minutes. Serves four to six, and is reheatable.

For a gluten free version, use tamari instead of soy sauce, and either omit the flour or replace it with a gluten free thickener such as rice or potato flour. For a vegan version, you could replace the cheese, milk and butter with vegan-friendly alternatives.

I took this dish to our friends' house for dinner last night, and we enjoyed it. The red kidney beans got me thinking about legumes, and what a delicious and versatile ingredient they are. Some of my other legume-y recipes include:

Nachos
Dal makhani
Potato and pea curry
Hearty vegetable soup
Parapou
Mushroom, lentil and rice casserole
Potato, leek, bacon and cannellini bean soup
Pea and tofu soup
Chickpea delight

All of these dishes freeze well so in addition to being nutritious evening meals they make excellent microwavable lunches. We've noticed that several Canberra cafes and restaurants now offer frozen dinners to take away. I like to keep the freezer stocked with home made frozen dinners ...

Enjoy!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Friday night treat ... cheese soufflé

My job is pretty cool. Not only do I get to work with a great bunch of people who do really interesting research, but we regularly host visitors from other countries, leading to fun cultural exchanges. Lately we've had a visitor from South Africa. She wanted to see some kangaroos before she headed home, so this afternoon we went to Mount Majura ...


... where the 'roos were very cooperative and posed for plenty of photos!

We also talked about cooking and ended up heading back to my place to collaborate on a cheese soufflé:

3 tablespoons flour
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup milk
3 eggs
1 cup grated cheese
freshly ground pepper

Separate egg yolks from whites and leave at room temperature. Make a cheese sauce by melting butter, mixing in the flour and cooking till it bubbles, then adding the milk and cooking till it thickens, then stirring the cheese in. Mix well and allow to cool. Beat egg yolks with pepper and fold into cheese sauce. Beat egg whites until stiff. Using a rubber spatula, gently combine the egg whites with the cheese sauce. Pour into an ungreased baking dish and bake in a pan of hot water at 180 degrees C for 45 to 60 minutes, or until mixture is firm.


Yum. Not a morsel remains!

Thanks Christelle, and safe travels. We hope you enjoyed your sojourn in Canberra.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Potato and pea curry

Brrrrr! Winter has come to Canberra. Today I made a big pot of potato and pea curry ... some to eat tonight and some to freeze for another day. No quantities, sorry, as I just made it up as I cooked ...

potatoes, diced
onions, diced
olive oil
curry powder (Indian, Malaysian, or whatever you like)
cumin seeds (or ground cumin if you don't have seeds)
curry tree leaves
coconut milk
frozen peas (you could use fresh ones if available)

Sauté the onions in a little oil, then add curry powder, cumin and curry leaves, and fry a little more. Add the potatoes and stir until well coated in the curry mixture. Add the coconut milk, bring to the boil, and simmer until potatoes are tender. Add peas and boil for a few minutes more. Serve with basmati rice, naan or roti.


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Scrambled eggs with smoked fish and hollandaise

I really liked the smoked trout, dill and chive scrambled eggs on toast they used to serve at Ellacure, and always ordered it with some of their fabulous mustard-spiked Hollandaise on the side. Unfortunately the dish disappeared from the menu a couple of months ago and I haven't stopped craving it! So today I had a go at making something similar.

Firstly I made a batch of Hollandaise sauce. Then I added four whole eggs to the two eggs whites left over after making the sauce and made scrambled eggs. When the eggs were almost cooked, I stirred about 200 grams of smoked fish through them. I then added a little seeded mustard to the Hollandaise, gently reheated it and poured the sauce over the eggs to serve.


We enjoyed it! I used smoked kippers instead of
trout, but will try to find some smoked trout for next time

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Baked eggs in avocados

Our friend Elizabeth gave us some fresh avocados the other day. Yum! Here's what I did with them:

2 large avocados
4 small eggs
paprika

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Halve the avocados, remove the pits, and scoop out a little extra avocado flesh to make more room for the eggs. Place the avocado halves, cut sides up, on a baking tray and crack an egg into the middle of each. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake until eggs are as firm as you like. Enjoy. Serves two (as a meal) or four (as a snack).

You could substitute cayenne pepper, other spices or grated parmesan cheese for the paprika if preferred.


Saturday, June 07, 2014

Vibrant Victoria

We love northern Victoria, and try to take a week long road trip there each winter. Andrew calls it (ahem) our 'booze cruise', as we always visit a bunch of wineries and come back with a dozen or so bottles of wine to restock our tiny cellar. (I say cellar, but I mean cupboard in the laundry. Never mind. It does the trick.)

Last week we spent the first night of our journey in Wangaratta, partly because I'm a little addicted to the potato cakes with smoked salmon, rocket and Milawa mustard they serve at Scribblers Cafe:


The potato cakes had become less rustic than
they were on previous visits, but were still good


Andrew enjoyed the French toast, which was served with
honey, fruit and cinnamon sugar (and his inevitable side of bacon)

We were also interested to see that the menu featured Shakshuka ... another favourite brekkie dish. If only I hadn't been craving the potato cakes I would have tried it ...

Scribblers on Urbanspoon

Next stop was Bendigo, a charming city with some great architecture and a rich history of gold mining.




... and the local food platter at Coffee Business ...


... and the Golden Dragon Museum!


Guerilla knitting is alive and well in Bendigo

After leaving Bendigo we spent one night in Euroa, a surprisingly delightful wee town. We can recommend having dinner at the Seven Creeks Hotel. The décor was eclectic and the food delicious.

Last but not least, we spent two nights in the Rutherglen wine district, where we ate, drank and were merry. As well as buying wine from six fairly obscure cellar doors, we popped in to the Milawa Cheese Factory and discovered a fabulous goat's cheese called Ceridwen. It's bound to become a new favourite.


Blessed are the cheesemakers!

We're back home in Canberra now but will keep visiting Victoria. A great place to explore.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Apple crumble goes upmarket

When I was young my mum used to make a dessert called apple crumble. To make the crumble, she rubbed butter into flour and sugar. This mixture was sprinkled on top of stewed apples, and the whole thing was baked (till the top was crispy as well as crumbly) then served with cream or ice cream. Delicious! Over the years I've experimented with different toppings  adding spices, and using rolled oats or other cereals instead of flour  and this week I decided to take the dish to new heights. Mmmmmmm ...

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.

Make the crumbly stuff
Combine 125 grams rolled oats, 25 grams almond meal, 50 grams pecan nuts (roughly chopped), 2 teaspoons cinnamon and 1 tablespoon brown sugar in a bowl. Add 50 grams of butter and microwave it all for about a minute till the butter is melted. Mix well.

Prepare the apples
Remove cores from about 500 grams of apples (I used three Pink Lady apples 'cos they're not too sweet yet not too sour), then chop the apples roughly. Microwave apples for three minutes till cooked but not mushy. Stir 50 grams of dried currants through the apples.

Put it all together
Spoon the apple mixture into a casserole dish. Spread the crumble mixture evenly on top, then bake for about 40 minutes.


What it looked like before going into the oven


We enjoyed it!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Dear Hotel Management ...

Dear Hotel Management

What is the deal with those cards and signs exhorting guests to do the right thing and reuse towels? Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of the three Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle). But just about every hotel I stay at tries to guilt me into reusing my towels yet doesn't provide adequate facilities for me to do so. When I see a sign that says, for example:

SAVE OUR PLANET
Every day millions of gallons of water are used to wash towels that have only been used once. 
You make the choice:
 a towel on the rack means 'I will use again'
 a towel on the floor means 'please replace'

... I am more than willing to hang my towel and reuse it. Positively eager, in fact! But in many, indeed most, places there are too few racks. Or no racks at all. Maybe one hook on the back of a door, or a rail inside the shower. News flash: towels don't become dry if hung inside the shower cubicle! Oh, and in many cases the cleaning staff ignore my signals and replace the towels anyway, no matter how carefully I've hung them on the (inadequate) hooks or rails. So, what's the point? Why do you send such mixed signals and screw with well meaning guests' heads?

Yours faithfully,
The Guest

P.S. I know some people (more cynical than me) say that when hotels ask guests to reuse linen it's about their financial bottom line, not about saving the planet. I don't actually care what your reason for wanting to reduce waste is  reducing waste is an admirable idea, and I'm happy to participate if you'll let me.

P.P.S. Maybe this sounds like a first world problem. That is, I'm lucky enough to live in a developed country, and wealthy enough to occasionally stay in hotels. Well, yes. But surely it is everyone's responsibility  especially those of us who live in developed countries  to reduce, reuse and recycle?

Monday, May 12, 2014

My favourite recipe book ...

... is not a book! For many years now, we've been collecting the seasonal fresh fruit and vegetable recipe cards produced by the Sydney Markets. No, you don't have to live in Australia to use these recipes ... they're on the web!

Fruit and vegetables are good for us. The World Health Organization recommends we eat 400 grams per day to prevent chronic disease. So it's great that these recipes make it so easy to whip up quick, delicious, vege-packed delights. All the ingredients listed are real foods, rather than chemical cocktails. They easily fit in with Michael Pollan's Food Rules, e.g.

#2: Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.
#19: If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don't.
#22: Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.
#39: Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.

Some of our new favourites include:

Fennel, feta and pomegranate salad


Char-grilled zucchini, rocket and prosciutto salad


Bananas with salted caramel fudge sauce


while recipes that have become old favourites include:

Eggplant and cheese bake
Spanish vegetable and chorizo soup
Pumpkin, leek, and cannellini bean soup
Rocket, cherry tomato and haloumi salad
Broad bean, mint, and goat's feta toasts
Roasted spiced cauliflower with tahini yoghurt dressing

... and so much more. THANK YOU, Sydney Markets. Your recipes are fabulous.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Trifling matters

When I was young my mum used to make a dessert called trifle. It consisted (if I recall correctly) of layers of sherry-soaked sponge cake, tinned peaches, jam, custard and cream. It looked pretty impressive at a dinner party. Then, when Andrew and I visited the USA about 14 years ago, our friend Lisa very kindly threw a party so we could meet some of her fellow Pittsburghers. One of her friends brought a chocolate trifle. It was delicious, and I asked for the recipe. Not being very familiar with processed foods, I was surprised to learn it contained chocolate cake (made from a packet mix), sweetened cream (out of a can), and a chopped chocolate toffee bar.

Anyway ... this weekend I found myself with half a chocolate mud cake, left over from a surprise party we attended. In a spirit of waste not, want not, I had a go at creating a local version of the chocolate trifle.

half a (day old) chocolate mud cake, roughly chopped
60 g white chocolate, roughly chopped
150 ml pouring cream, lightly whipped
125 g fresh blueberries, slightly squished

I combined all the ingredients into a mushy brown mess. (Not sure if something that is mingled rather than layered can be considered a trifle?) We enjoyed it, though it wasn't the most aesthetically pleasing of desserts! It was a little reminiscent of my deconstructed pavlova (or as my friend Denise calls it, Eton Mess). Maybe next time, I'll try layering it in parfait glasses and it'll be more worthy of the name trifle ...

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Cooking as therapy

I don't like yoga. The first time I tried it, over twenty years ago, I tagged along with a friend to her regular class. I'd been working very long hours (for a company now known as Bastards Incorporated in my household) and simply nodded off in a corner, snoring softly. (How embarrassing.) About five years ago I tried another yoga class, but struggled to relate to the activity and the teacher. Oh, and every time I did the downward facing dog pose I wanted to vomit. When the teacher moved on and another arrived, I continued with the classes, in the hope I'd somehow 'get it'. Nope! Still found the activity absurd, and still wanted to vomit. It was a relief to finally admit yoga wasn't for me.

Why am I waffling about yoga? Because there are other ways to achieve inner peace and a sense of flow. For me, cooking does the trick. Not the quick throw-a-meal-together type of cooking I do on busy week nights, but the sort that requires lots of chopping and stirring. If I've had a stressful week, a couple of hours slaving over a hot stove is usually enough to both blow the cobwebs away and fill the freezer with nutritious ready-made meals. Win win!

Some of my favourite meditative meals include:

Hearty vegetable soup
Boeuf bourguignon
Kumara soup
Shakshuka
Vege soup with brown rice
Pumpkin risotto
Dal makhani
Asparagus, mushroom and blue cheese risotto

Give it a try! I've also found that other household tasks (like washing dishes, ironing, and gardening) can be therapeutic. That may just be 'cos I'm a bit weird, though ...