Friday, 29 February 2008

Pumpkins, hippos, new cameras and geriatric pets

Butternut pumpkin soup
The other day an old friend who I went to primary and high school with, but hadn't seen for quite some time, dropped by for a catch up and brought this! I was absolutely delighted! What a beautiful butternut pumpkin, fresh from her father's garden - it was almost a shame to cut it up. But I did, and turned it into a delicious roasted pumpkin soup. I roasted the pumpkin with onion and 2 cloves of garlic (not too much, because the garlic overpowers the delicate butternut flavour). Added a litre of stock, brought it to the boil and simmered for 15 mins. I blended it with a stab mixer until smooth and then ate it with toast. YUM!

Isn't this the most beautiful butternut?

Hippopotamus playmat
Gib and I have been a bit under the weather with a rotten cold, so the soup was delicious. Having a cold also means lots of inside activities, so it's forced my hand in making this hippopotamus playmat. She's due in <2 weeks (which means it'll come any time from now!), so I REALLY need to get my butt into gear. There are so many pieces! And they're either really big or really little pieces! I hope I get my fuzzy head around it. At least it's all cut out now.

My little furry friend
I was going to write a tutorial on how to make some winning rat toys, hammocks etc., but I don't think I can bring myself to do it now. I have a gertiatric pet rat, and I know pet rats aren't everyone's thing, but this one really is a dear. Even my mother, who was petrified of rats, completely went mushy over her when she met her! She's so affectionate and sits on my shoulder for cuddles and she has the sweetest little face. But she is getting on - >3 years old! - and finally her left hind leg has stopped working. She's usually an active, excitable rat, but ever since her hind leg stopped working altogether yesterday, she's gone downhill very quickly. So while I sew, she's snuggled on a little towel, and it means I can keep an eye on her progress. We'll see how she goes over the weekend, but like everyone, I hate having to make 'the decision' on old animals.

New camera today!!!
In more positive news, I pick up my new digital camera today! So no blue-tinged, poor resolution photos from my phone again.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Bulgarian red pepper soup

Sorry I don't have a photo, but Meet me at Mikes had a post about posting your favourite soup recipe! I guess this half way between a soup and stew... a soup with chunks. It's out of a book called 'Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant'. It's one of my all time favourites.

1/2 cup dried lentils
1/2 cup dried navy beans
2 large brown onions, diced
2 medium sized red capsicums, diced
400 g tin tomatoes or fresh tomatoes
3 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried marjoram
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
S&P to taste
3 cups vegetable stock
2 tbsp dry sherry
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup sour cream

Soak the beans and lentils, preferably overnight.
In a dutch oven, saute the onions until clear. Stir in capsicums and saute for about 5 mins. Add tomatoes, herbs, s&p and leave for a minute or two before adding the stock, wine and sherry. Add the beans and lentils. Bring to the boil and reduce the temperature, let simmer on low heat for the next 1.5 hours. Stir in tomato paste, leave for a bit longer. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and some fresh parsley if you have it on standby.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

My favourite 15 minute meal: Home made pizza

When I'm feeling lazy after a big training session or on a Saturday night when I want to veg out and not think, I make these. To me a pizza is best with a thin crust and not so totally covered with cheese that you can't identify whatever else is on the pizza.

Today's pizza features:
- Pita bread
- Tomato paste with a mexican blend of spices, just for something different
- Mushrooms
- Spinach
- Tomato
- Spanish onion
- Fresh cut pumpkin, thinly sliced (I usually microwave the pumpkin for a minute in the microwave to give it a head start)
- Cheese (low fat, cos low fat tasty is so tasteless it's almost like mozarella anyway!)

Bake in oven, 200C for 12-15 mins.


After -- ohhh doncha just wish you had dinner at my place last night?

Any leftover pitas (why on earth do they sell them in packs of 5?) are chopped up and popped in the oven for 5 mins to make pita chips. And then, if I'm still feeling lazy Sunday night, I can turn them into pita nachos!

Friday, 22 February 2008

Watermelon sorbet

As a "healthier" dessert I decided to try my hand at making sorbet. This recipe is adapted from this recipe, but I found I prefer to use honey because it gives a more interesting flavour, and lemon gav I don't have an ice cream machine or anything like that, but I do have an 800 watt ice crushing stab mixer and that seemed to do the job just nicely.

  • 500ml water
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3/4 cup caster sugar
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1.2kg seedless watermelon, rind removed, coarsely chopped
  • 2 egg whites
  1. Combine the water, honey and sugar in a medium saucepan and stir over low heat for 5 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Increase heat to high and bring to the boil. Boil for 5 minutes or until mixture thickens. Set aside for 30 minutes to cool. Add lemon juice and combine.
  2. Meanwhile, place watermelon in a jug and blend with a stab mixer or blender until pureed. Strain puree through a fine sieve into a jug, pressing with the back of a spoon to extract as much liquid as possible. The recipe said I should have about 600ml of watermelon juice, but I had about 800 ml. This didn't seem to affect the recipe.
  3. Add sugar syrup to watermelon juice and stir until well combined. Pour into an airtight container, cover and place in the freezer for 4-5 hours or until almost set.
  4. Roughly break up the sorbet with a metal spoon and use a stab mixer to blend to a smooth, soft texture.
  5. Return sorbet to container and place in the freezer for a further 4 hours or until firm. Remove from the freezer and repeat step 4. Return sorbet to the container and place in the freezer for a further 4 hours or until firm.
  6. Place the sorbet and egg whites in the bowl of a food processor and process until sorbet is pale and smooth. Return to the container and place in the freezer for a further 4 hours or until almost firm.
This keeps for up to a week. If you're not serving it on the day you make it, you'll probably have to give it a quick beat with a metal spoon before balling it up to serve.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Coconut creamed rice = absolute bliss

500 ml milk
400 ml coconut milk
1 cup short grain rice

Bring milk and coconut milk to almost boiling, add rice, reduce to low. Keep stirring until it's that delicious oh-so-creamy consistency and the rice is cooked through.

Serve with peaches or raspberries or whatever. Keep the left overs in the fridge.
I have found myself doing the whole "Oh, maybe I just need to pop by the kitchen for... errr.. what was I in the kitchen for? I don't remember but there's creamed rice. I'll just have a bit more..." or mysteriously walking past the fridge and winding up with a spoon in my hand and there being not-very-much creamed rice left...

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Hippo playmat

This morning I started making a hippo playmat for my friend, Von, who is pregnant and ready to pop next month. I remember now why I have been putting off making this: there are just so many parts! So many liitle bits to sew! It shouldn't be too bad because it's on a large scale (130 x 100 cm). There are about 20 pattern pieces for this. You can see I wouldn't make a very good quilter!

Monday, 18 February 2008

One Sassy Apron - Sent!

I decided to get my sassy apron swap apron done early because I'm sending it overseas. I posted it today! I had to keep the weight of the package below 250g or postage was going to go up a whole lot. I decided to send the curried carrot soup recipe that I made last week with Kate. It's one of my favourites, but I decided to halve the amount of cayenne pepper that I added because it nearly knocked my head off when we had it for dinner. You can read some background behind the apron here. With the apron, there are pockets on the side panels and on the front next to the sheep (behind the dessert print are the pockets) - I made the pockets invisible so as not to disrupt the desert scene ;) The apron is reversible, so if a sheep and tree is too extreme, or if it gets dirty, then my recipient can just flip it over and have some little clouds.

Floppy sun hat

I made a sun hat. I needed one desperately to protect my delicate, pale skin! I have a bad habit of going out without any protection, getting burned so I look like a lobster (oh yes, I definitely inherited my father's pommy skin!). And let me tell you that there is nothing worse than getting a burnt scalp. The pattern, again, comes from Lotta Jansdotter's Simple Sewing book. I laughed when it said "Oh you'll need a couple of nights to finish this" and I re-read the instructions and thought "Pfffft! What is she on about? No way will it take that long!". Well I learned why.

The crown was all wrong for my head. It looked plain silly. My head just isn't that long. I kept the top of the hat the same, and the brim (I really liked how the brim came out), and just had to play with the crown a whole lot. But then it didn't stay on properly in strong breezes, so I added some ties. Now I have a nice hat for pottering out and about in the garden in, or snoozing while trying to read a book outside under a tree. It is very comfortable to wear though.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

How to make an axolotl cake

As I mentioned previously I had to make an axolotl cake for my friend's birthday. She has a pet axolotl and is generally an avid axolotl fan, so of course wanted an axolotl cake. It was certainly an unusual request, but not an impossible one. The cake is a white chocolate mudcake with white chocolate butter cream frosting. Here are detailed instructions on how to make your own.

I always make my cakes at least a few days beforehand. Then, if your cake fails (as mine are prone to) you have time to make another. It also means you can refrigerate/freeze the cake which helps you to carve them into shapes.
  • Mudcakes are fine for sculpting into cake creatures and can be stored in the fridge. If you are freezing them, allow a day to thaw out in the fridge because they are very dense.
  • If you are making a butter cake or any other soft, less dense cake, then I strongly recommend freezing the cake. This can be done up to 2-3 weeks in advance. This doesn't affect the taste of the cake, but if you were concerned it did then I can assure you that your friends will be so amazed that you even made an axolotl cake they wont really care how it tastes. These thaw out fairly quickly, and you want the cake to be semi-frozen while you're carving it, so take it out of the freezer 1-2 hours before you want start carving it.
White chocolate mudcake (recipe from Cafe Cakes, Women's Weekly)
250 g butter, chopped
150 g white chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 cups/440 g castor sugar
1 cup milk
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 cup self raising flour
1 tsp vanilla essence/1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Grease a 20 cm round cake tin. Line with baking paper.
Combine butter, chocolate, sugar and milk in a medium saucepan.
Sitre over a low heat without boiling until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl and cool for 15 mins.
Preheat oven to a medium-slow oven, 160 C fan forced.
Whisk sifted flours into mixture. Stir in eggs and essence.
Pour mixture into your prepared pan and bake for 1 hour. Cover the pan with foil and bake for a further 40 mins.
I had some troubles with these baking times and after the 40 mins the cake was nowhere near cooked. I baked this for a further 20 mins covered, and another 25 mins uncovered. It still wasn't perfect then, but to be honest, when it came to eating the cake, no one really noticed or cared. It seemed like the cake tin they suggested was too small? Hope you have better luck with this than me!

White chocolate buttercream frosting
1/2 cup solid copha
1/2 cup butter at room temperature
40 g white chocolate, melted
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
500 g sifted icing sugar
3-4 tbsp milk
Desired food colouring (I used red)

Orchard icing
Red food dye
Sour straps
Pink jelly snakes. The harder these are the better, so go for the cheapo brands. I used the snakes out of a packet of 'Dip Dunk chew'
(I didn't end up using the smarties)

Make the cake
Cream shortening and butter. Add the white and vanilla. Gradually add sugar, one cup at a time, beating well on medium speed, scraping down the sides of the bowl as required. When all sugar has been mixed in, icing will appear dry. Add milk and beat at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add food dye until you are happy with the colour.

Alternatively, if you're lazy like I am, you can put all of the ingredients into a food processor and blend on a medium speed until a fairly stiff but fluffy mixture forms.
If you're not using the mixture immediately, store it in the fridge and then rebeat the mixture until it's fluffy again when required. This can be stored in an air tight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Carve the cake into shape
Place your cake onto a chopping board and, using a sharp knife, cut out your cake into the shapes below
Carve away the edges of the cake to create a nicely shaped body and head. Remembering that people have to eat this cake and have decent sized pieces, I kept the tail nice and thick, so it wasn't exactly anatomically correct (sorry!).

Transfer your cake to your prepared board. Place two slices of baking paper underneath the cake. After you have iced the cake you will slide these out (you wont messy up your board that way). Attach the head of the axolotl to the body using a bamboo skewer.

Ice your cake
Smother your cake all over with icing using a metal spatula. For finer areas, like the inner curve of the tail, I use a butter knife. Smooth out most of the creases in the icing using a metal knife or spatula dipped into very hot water. You will set the icing and repeat this later, so just get the worst of the creases out now.

Add the legs and dorsal fin
Make the legs by adding a bit of food colouring to your Orchard icing and kneed it through until the colour is uniform. Pull off a clump and roll into a sausage. Flatten one end slightly between your thumb and forefinger and then make 3 cuts to make the toes. Press to the side of the body.

Lightly dust your clean, dry work surface with icing sugar. Roll out a strip of Orchard icing so its 3-4mm thickness and 3cm wide (you will need to work out the length depending on your own cake, but mine was from the top of the head to the middle of the tail). Arrange the dorsal fin along the length of the axolotl.

The gills
Take your 'snakes' and cut them 4-5cm long sections. You will need 6 in total. Make slit down one end. With your sour straps, cut them into 6 x 3cm sqares. Cut 10 slits down the sides of each square to make the furry gill segments - do not cut right the way to the middle! Slip the sour strap into the slot in the snake and trim the sour strap "gills" so the top bits are shorter (see diagram). Squeeze closed. The stickiness of the snakes should keep the sour strap gills in place. Poke them into the head. I didn't have any trouble with them staying in place but if you do I would suggest poking a tooth pick into the "snake" and then poking that into the head.

The eyes
Roll a small amount of the Orchard icing into a ball. Flatten slightly. I used a coriander seed (oh yes!) for the pupil because it was the only thing I could find in the cupboard. But you could use mini m&ms or those little silver ball things or whatever else you find in your cupboard.

Finishing off:
Leave the cake in the fridge for about an hour or so to allow the icing to set. Run a hot knife (a metal knife or spatula dunked in hot water) to smooth over your axolotl's icing. Mop up any messy bits on your display tray with a paper towel -- or ear bud for fine parts!

Thursday, 14 February 2008

No stolen lunches ever again!

My friend Sarah and I have both have problems with people in our workplace stealing our lunches. I don't just understand it! Cool pens get taken from my desk all the time and I can understand that... but food? I'm not even talking about treats, like chocolate... I'm talking sandwiches or tubs of yoghurt. Sure if you have a nectarine and someone else has a nectarine and you get confused and happen to eat the other person's, then sure, fine, that's not really stealing because a) it was unintentional and b) they still have a nectarine. But I'm talking about someone who sees a tub of yoghurt in the staff fridge (not their own) and goes "mmm that looks mighty fine, I think I might just eat that". Sarah is in a small workplace and it still happens to her! She can see in people's little office bins and precisely identify who took that yoghurt, yet they still do it regardless! How bizarre... anyway, to prevent all this hassle, she bought me these:

Now this photo doesn't do them justice. These are REALLY fluoro coloured: bright pink, orange and green. The coolest part is, on the lid there's a little dial with numbers from 1-31 so you can indicate when you put them in the fridge. There's also a little vent on top for microwaving and they're dishwasher safe. Working in scientific research, we have little 'nuclear' and 'biohazard' stickers over everything, so hopefully my colleagues get the hint. But maybe it might backfire and they like my awesome, nerdy tubs so much and will steal them? I think I'll leave the "Warning - experimental meal - consume at own risk" tub for Gib though.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Cooking with Kate

Today my buddy Kate came around and baked and cooked. I found out that Kate is remarkably more productive in the kitchen than I am. I made curried carrot soup, gingerbread men and Kate made steamed sweet red bean buns, pumpkin scones and baklava. What an absolute machine she is! I gecook quite healthily but today we went all out... I don't think I've used that much butter in one go for quite some time (heheheh just ignore the fact that we worked together as researchers at a heart research institute!). The steamed buns, while fun to make, didn't turn out so well so I wont bother posting the recipe for those.

Now you'll notice that there are photos! I haven't got my new camera yet, but I did get a new phone which has a camera! So some of the photos have come out a bit strange and aren't great quality... oh well.

Curried carrot soup
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 kg carrots, grated
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp hot cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 5 cups vegetable stock
  • 400 ml light cocounut milk

Heat oil in a large heavy based pot. Fry the garlic for 30 seconds and then add onion. Cook the onion until clear.

Add the mustard seeds, cayenne, cumin, cinnamon and turmeric and fry for 1 minute until fragrant and the mustard seeds are starting to pop.

Stir through carrot and ginger. Add stock, bring to the boil and then simmer for 30 mins. Blend with a stab mixer until smooth.

Stir through the coconut milk, bring the soup up to temperature and serve.

*This soup is actually more orange coloured than this, and the wall is actually white, not blue. But you get the idea!

Karatebread men (makes 18)

Kate and I met at work and became buddies after we both discovered we both do karate and both love to cook. So we combined our passions today and made... karatebread men!
  • Melted butter, to grease
  • 125g butter, at room temperature
  • 100g (1/2 cup, firmly packed) brown sugar
  • 125ml (1/2 cup) golden syrup
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 375g (21/2 cups) plain flour
  • 1 tbs ground ginger
  • 1 tsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 150 g icing sugar
Preheat oven to 180°C. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper
Beat the butter and sugar in a bowl until pale and creamy. Beat in the golden syrup and egg yolk until combined. Stir in the flour, ginger, mixed spice and bicarbonate of soda. Turn out onto a

floured surface and knead until smooth. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Roll the dough out on a floured surface to 4mm thick. Make sure to coat the rolling pin in flour too because this dough is quite sticky. Avoid handling the dough too much. Cut out your 9cm gingerbread men and use a spatula to lift and place onto trays (about 1 inch apart). Reroll the dough and repeat until all the dough is used up. Any scraps can be rolled up and made into some random shape, like a circle or gingerbread "log" or if you're like me you might just like to eat the dough raw! Or if you're feeling boring, put scraps into the bin.

Bake in oven for 10 minutes or until brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 mins before transferring to a rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make your icing by beating the eggwhite to soft peaks. Add icing sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Ice your men however you want, but we chose to put little white dogis on ours... and once we started to run out of icing we made sumobread men. My icing skills aren't well practiced, so you'll have to use your imagination a bit!



Recipe from here.
  • 375g (1 packet) filo pastry
  • 180g butter, melted & cooled (although, I think we only used about half of this! I don't think we were trying hard enough)
  • 2 tsp water
  • 150g walnut pieces
  • 150g unsalted pistachios
  • 55g (1/4 cup) caster sugar
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
Honey syrup
  • 1 375g jar honey
  • 165g (3/4 cup) sugar
  • 250mls (1 cup) water
  • 1 lemon, rind finely grated and juiced
Preheat oven to 180°C. Spread the walnuts on a baking tray and lightly toast in the preheated oven for 5-8 minus. Cool.
Combine walnuts, pistachios, sugar and cinnamon in the bowl of a food processor and process using on 'pulse' until they are finely chopped.

Remove the filo pastry from its packet and lie flat on the work bench. Cover with a dry tea towel and then a damp tea towel. (This will keep the filo from drying out while making the baklava.)

Brush a shallow 18 x 28cm cake tin with some of the butter (see right). Take 1/3 of the sheets of filo. Brush the top sheet generously with butter and fold into thirds to make a rectangle the size of the tin. Place in the base of the buttered tin and brush surface with butter. Spread 1/2 of the nut filling over the filo to cover. Layer 1/2 of the remaining filo sheets as before. Spread left over nut filling over filo and top with the remaining layered buttered filo sheets. Lightly brush top with remaining butter.

Using a sharp knife, cut a diamond pattern into the top layer of filo and sprinkle with the water. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Cover with foil and cook for 45 minutes longer or until the filo layers are cooked through.

Meanwhile, to make the honey syrup, combine honey, sugar, water, lemon rind and juice in a saucepan and stir over high heat until sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and keep on medium heat for 10 minutes or until the syrup has thickened slightly.

Remove from heat and allow to cool. When cooked, remove baklava from the oven and immediately pour the cooled syrup evenly over the surface. Stand to cool completely.
Cut into diamond shapes. This can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Pumpkin Scones

40 g butter, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
350 g pumpkin (e.g. jap, kent)
2 1/2 cups self raising flour
1/2 tsp nutmeg
~1/3 cup milk

Preheat oven to 200°C. Grease your tray. Cut off the rind from the pumpkin, cut into chunks and steam or microwave until soft.

Beat butter, sugar and egg together. Stire in pumpkin, flour and nutmeg and enough milk to make a soft, sticky dough. Kneed lightly until nice and smooth.

Roll out dough to about 1 1/2 inch thinkness, cut out into circles with a cutter (or a tumbler or wineglass or whatever!). Brush the top with milk and cook for 12-15 mins. Best eaten soon after baking.

Perhaps 12 mins would be better than 15! But ooooohhhh soooo yummy!

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Aloe vera propagation

Back in the summer of 2002 I bought an aloe vera at a market. I left it in the boot of someone's car and nearly killed it but it survived. I nearly killed it during another summer and revived it again and the poor thing has been harassed to within an inch of its life by snails many times. But still my aloe vera continued to grow and thrive and after about 3 years of ignoring it I decided to repot it and propagate it (a plant as strong as this needs to be propagated). I took about 20 babies off the mother plant. The large, brown one, falling over to the left was being thrown out by someone at work because they didn't like it's organic shape, so of course I rescued it.

How to propagate aloe vera:

Carefully take your aloe vera out of the pot/ground and gently shake the soil off. From the main stem of the mother plant, you will notice many smaller offshoots coming off the bottom of the stem. Simply separate these offshoot from the mother plant, taking as much of the white root with it as possible. Place the offshoot in a pot of soil/sand or cactus mix and water well (adding the sand assists drainage so they don't get root rot). Warm weather and water will definitely help your aloe vera take off.

This photo is a few weeks after they were repotted, and you can see the leaves are fairly brown (there's a happy looking sage on the right though!). I've found this is common after propagation but with regular watering it clears up within a month. We've just had some more rain and they're now looking very green again.

Pardon me...

Excuse me while I play around with blog templates. It's like rearranging the furniture in your house: you try one thing, think it works, and then you hate it and then you keep rearranging your furniture for a year and then you're finally happy. For a while.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

The carnivorous plant collection

These carnivorous plants are some of my absolute favourite plants in our collection: they're both pretty (in my opinion anyway!) and functional. They sit on the kitchen window sill and brighten the whole place up - and keep those pesky pantry moths down too.

The smaller plant on the left is a cobra lily (Darlingtonia californica), named for obvious reasons. The little "tongues" on these guys are fantastic, such interesting little plants. They're very fussy, but amazingly we've had some luck with this one.

The bigger plant is my own personal favourite: Sarracenia flava. It's colloquially known as a 'cut throat' because in more mature plants a red splattered line forms across the neck of the leaves, but I just liked it because the shape of the leaves look almost alien! For a while I had this plant sitting in my work office and it became the focus of many office conversations. People were always shocked to learn that it was carnivorous (although I never mentioned its colloquial name! That'd really freak em out) and they'd lose interest in it after that, like it was socially unacceptable to enjoy a plant that supplements its diet with bugs. I don't really know!

Below, on the left, of course we have the classic carnivorous plant: the Venus fly trap. This one is growing well in this position, with nice, large leaves during spring/summer. The central pot in this photo has a Sarracenia flava plant growing amongst two types of sun dews: a Drosera capensis and a bifucating sundew (Drosera binata; the leaves are two pronged).

Finally we have our Sarracenia leucophylla: white pitcher plant. You can definitely see from the top of the leaves that it's related to the cut throat above. Gib particularly liked the white head on this one, with red veins all through it. In the bottom of the pot you can see an extra little venus fly trap growing too; it was a freebie that just popped up in the pot. (The giant vine you can see on the decking in the background is a native passionfruit but unfortunately its fruit can't be eaten).

Friday, 8 February 2008

Peanut butter cookies

Betty Crocker is no good for my waistline!

It's my last day of work today (yes, ever, at this job) so at about 11pm last night I decided to bake a batch of peanut butter cookies. I found the recipe here.

For whatever reason my cookies didn't turn out exactly like the picture (I suspect my habit of not bothering to measure might have played a part in this... I think I put in too much butter) so they flattened out a little more, kind of like the cookies you buy at Subway, but damn they still taste good. I'll post my version of this recipe:

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 egg
1 1/4 cups plain flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
A handful and a bit of peanuts

1. Mix sugars, peanut butter, butter and egg in large bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate about 2 hours (or overnight) or until firm.
2. Heat oven to 180ÂșC
3. Shape dough into 1 1/4-inch balls. Place about 3 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten in crisscross pattern with fork dipped into sugar.
4. Bake 9 to 10 minutes or until light golden brown. While waiting and watching the butter from your cookies ooze underneath the greaseproof paper, eat the remaining scraps of mixture in the bowl with a spoon. Cool 5 minutes; remove from cookie sheet. Cool on wire rack.

Sassy Aprons and the drought in Australia

The apron I'm making for the Sassy apron swap is coming along very nicely. The theme is spring, so I thought I'd use some ideas from close to home and encorporate it into the apron.

To give you some background, most of Australia has been experiencing drought, some places more severe than others. Much of the fresh produce I buy comes from central Victoria, which has been hit particularly hard, so this year Spring meant water restrictions, fresh fruit and vegetable shortages, livestock being sold off and many farmers leaving their land. Importantly, the Murray-Darling river system, a ~3400km river that helps supply 40% of Australia's agriculture, is finally drying up and can no longer support the agricultural demands placed upon it. This river system receives 5% of Australia's total rainfall but supplies 70% of Australia's irrigation. Half of Victoria's agricultural water supply comes from here. So a combination of extended periods of low rainfall, unsustainable farming practices and state/government arguments over who should take action over this (this river covers 3 states) meant it's had serious implications for everyone.

So... the apron. Haha, don't worry, it's not depressing like the picture I painted above is (is it even possible to create a "sad apron?"), but basically I've used it as inspiration for an "Australian drought colour scheme". It features a lamb (when I think 'Spring' I think 'cute little lambies') and a pocket, of course. I'm having a go at some hand applique and so far I'm quite pleased with the results. I have used various machine applique techniques in the past but I've never been fully pleased with the look, so even though it takes longer I'm going with the hand sewn way.

The pattern I'm using for the apron is the reversible aprong from Lotta Jansdotter's Simple Sewing book. I love the pattern for it because it seems to fit so well on whoever wears it. It is a little flared at the bottom and is fitted a bit at the waist, and if you make a mess of yourself (as I am prone to doing) you can turn it over and look clean again.

So I'd say I'm about half way through making the apron, and given that today is my last day of work for a whole month, it really wont take me very long to finish. The camera that I placed on order is due in next week, but the guy from the camera store said there is a world wide shortage so it might be two weeks before I get it. I'm hoping to borrow one of Gib's parents cameras to take some action shots then.

As for my soup recipe that I have to include, well, it's a bit of a tough choice - I have so many favourites. But regardless I will include a recipe for damper, which is a good traditional Aussie bread/scone that goes with all soups.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Recipe Swap - Chickpea and almond couscous with spicy grilled corn cobs

This is one of my all time favourite recipes. It's quick to whip up, it's nutritious and it's just so very visually appealing. I love the pink from the spanish onion, and the orange from the apricot, green herbs, flecks of red from the chili flakes. Sometimes the quantities of almonds or apricot or herbs might change depending what I have on hand on the day, but you can't really fail with this.

Serves 4 - 6

Corn cobs
Corn cobs (however many you eat)
Masterfood's Moroccan seasoning

400g couscous
100g whole almonds or almond slivers, toasted
400g chickpeas, drained
1 cup chopped dried apricots
Handful of currants
2 cups roughly chopped flat leaf parsley leaves
1 cup roughly chopped mint leave
salt & pepper to taste

1 thinly sliced red onion
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 teaspoons ground cumin
¼ teaspoon dried chilli
3 cloves crushed garlic
5 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
salt & rough pepper to taste

Remove the leaves from outside the cobs and all of the stringy bits. Brush the corn cobs with oil and rub the seasoning all over them. Place them on a grill plate or bbq, turning every until cooked (Usually ~15 mins). For this recipe, I really like my corn golden and even a little bit charred in spots. Prepare the salad in the mean time.

Cook the couscous according to the instructions, set aside.
To make the dressing, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a frying pan. Add spices, garlic and onion, stir and cook over low heat for 5 minutes or until onions soften. Stir in remaining oil, lemon juice and honey.
Add chickpeas, apricots and sultanas, parsley and mint leaves. Toss gently together. Season with salt and pepper. Add the almonds and dressing to the couscous and mix through (alternatively you can serve it on top of the couscous, but I prefer to mix it through).
Serve with grilled corn cobs on top.

Recipe Swap - Rockmelon Sorbet

This is great, so easy to make. I can't believe more people don't make it themselves. I don't have an icecream/sorbet maker or anything like that, I just make it ye olde fashioned way and the results are fantastic.

1 rockmelon
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
small segment of vanilla bean, seeds removed, or use vanilla extract
1 slice lemon peel
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
icing sugar, for garnish
  1. Remove seeds from rockmelon, then scoop out all the flesh onto a sheet of plastic. Wrap the melon in the plastic and put it in the freezer. Leave it there until it is completely frozen.
  2. Prepare the syrup by placing the sugar, water, vanilla, lemon peel and salt into a saucepan, then bring to the boil and simmer for about five minutes. Chill in the fridge.
  3. Place the sugar syrup, lemon juice. and rockmelon into a food processor. Blend well, scraping down the sides occasionally. Put the mixture into a container then into the freezer.
  4. Freeze for several hours, beating it and scraping downt the edges about every 20-30 minutes for the first 1.5 hours to prevent icicles from forming, then less so after that.
This is fine in the freezer for a week or so, but in my house there is no way it would ever last that long!

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Recipe swap!

This sounds fun. I'm going to take part in a recipe swap tomorrow! For some reason the 'add link' function isn't working (how curious!) anyway, here's the link:

Just comment down the bottom of the post and then post your own favourite recipe(s) on your blog.

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

New camera on order!

I've put down an order for a new digital camera. It's an Olympus FE-130. It was the best one I could find for the price I wanted, and even though doesn't come out for 3 more weeks but I thought it'd be worth the wait. I'm excited!

Saturday, 2 February 2008


This Japanese, pancake-like creation has to be my favourite dinner. I whipped it up for dinner the other night with some miso for my friend after our nice post-work jog. So fast and simple to make, and great after a big training session. I never thought I could love cabbage so much.

There are several different ways you can prepare it (whether to put cabbage in the batter or or cook separately), what you put on top, whether you cook the the "toppings" into the pancake, or whether you pile it on top. But this is my favourite way of doing it.

The "pancake"
  • 300 g flour
  • 240 ml water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 - 1/2 cabbage thinly sliced
  • Japanese mayonnaise
  • Okonomiyaki sauce (I buy this from my local asian grocer, but you can substitute bbq or worcestershire sauce, thickened with cornflour and some sugar)
  • Whatever else you want: mushroom (I cook them in soy sauce, mirin and a bit of sugar), spring onions, pork floss, minced pork or beef, seafood, noodles, shredded nori, onions...

Finely slice the cabbage. Combine the eggs, water and flour to make a smooth batter. Stir through the cabbage. You can also add shredded nori to this mix too (just get a sheet of nori and cut it up with a sharp knife or scissors). Cook it up as you would a pancake.

While you're making your pancake, cook up your mushrooms, onions, whatever else you're having with it. Pile it on top. Cover with mayonnaise and okonomiyaki sauce and eat!

If you want to see how mine turn out, they look EXACTLY like fellow blogger, f00d for thought's attempts. As mentioned in my previous blog I don't currently have a camera to show you mine... but check that out for an idea!


My digital camera has died. The little display thing has completely given up the ghost. I had to purchase a new computer this month so things are a little bit tight. My graphics card died (I think technology hates me right now). Only a week to go til I finish up at my job and become a full time student again too! But maybe I could splurdge a little on my savings and buy a new one? Surely that's what savings are for?

Until I decide what to do there won't be too many photos around here. I feel so incomplete without a camera!

Thoughts on an axolotl cake

No, not a cake made out of axolotls. I've developed a bit of a reputation with my friends for doing crazy birthday cakes over the years and my friend Sarah has really thrown down the gauntlet for me this time. She has requested an axolotl cake. Now I reckon the body and head (made out of white chocolate mudcake) will be easy... but those damn gills! If at all possible, I want to make them out of something edible. I'm thinking perhaps chocolate, or maybe some type of icing... but I'm not so good with modelling icing: it always wants to crack into 1000 pieces. Maybe this will just have to be the time to perfect that. Either way, Sarah has given me a damn good challenge.