Monday, 24 October 2011

Chicken Soup for the soul

Chicken Soup, aka 'Jewish Penicillin' I'm sure is good for us all. Jewish or otherwise. While it is wonderful for the common cold, it also does wonders for the common soul. Having been sick for a couple of weeks and not quite being able to shake it, I decided to make soup. I always have a chicken carcass on hand and my freezer has frozen stock at the ready for moments like these. Moments when you just feel a little bit sick, and a little bit tired and flat. The process of making chicken soup is just as rewarding as the eating. The smells that waft through the kitchen, trickle down the hallway and into the bedrooms are uplifting, nurturing and, of course, yummy!
So, while the kids ran in and out of the sunshine and shadows blinked across my vision I got my biggest pot out and threw everything in and let it bubble away. In the meantime, I had some buffalo yoghurt from my friends' farm [Shaw River Buffalo] that needed using and a 20kg bag of lemons we picked up from a local farm for free (thank you!). I'd been wanting to try a new Lemon Yoghurt Cake recipe that I found on a most wonderful website called theydrawandcook.com. The recipes are all hand written/drawn. Quite an easy recipe and what came out of the oven was moist and almost cheesecake-like. My friend Amy popped around - I think she liked it when she had a 2nd piece! 
The soup, I decided, could wait for Sunday. I was still quite ill and only when 6pm Sunday evening rolled around could I think about food. I dished a bowl up for myself and my little man - he loves chicken soup, nearly as much as lasagne I think. A big call. I inhaled my big steaming bowl of deliciousness. And then I inhaled a second bowl. It made me feel good, simple. All other concerns receded and all I could think about was scooping up noodles and finding chunks of roasted chicken. I did add ginger at the last minute to ward off any more evils lurking in the vicinity. I was so full I couldn't fit any lemon cake in! My soul, and my stomach, were fulfilled - to the brim! So, thank you to all those Jewish grandmothers out there, for a wonderful bowl of goodness.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Birthday Sunday

I just love birthdays! And not just mine, I love to celebrate that one special day that we all have, that is our own. To celebrate the birth of a wonderful friend or family member, to see the joy on their face when opening presents, to cook or be cooked for, to be around those you love and hold close to your heart. It is pure joy.
Last week was my son's 10th birthday and we all gathered round, with a cornucopia of sweets, popcorn, chocolate cake and games. The kids laughed and whooped with joy running from one game to the next, stuffing as much food in their mouth as possible whilst drinking lemonade and running in the 3 legged race. It was a cool day but it didn't stop ten 10 year olds from starting a large scale water fight - they all went home soaked. Job done.
Today is my birthday and a little more sedate, though we did get wet wandering around Auckland's waterfront in a fine Spring mist. My friend's kids jumped in every puddle they could find, not fussed by the extra water. A surprise lunch at 'Soul' at Auckland's viaduct waterfront area started with bottles of wine and major decisions about what to eat! The menu was a delightful array of starters, and entrees, so difficult to choose. As the plates and platters arrived, a silence settled itself comfortably over our table. We ate, we offered tastings to each other, we shared the most basic of things. Food. I watched faces light up and heard the barely audible gasps of delight. We nourished ourselves and each other. They sang me happy birthday for maybe the fourth time, we clinked glasses, we smiled. Nothing else mattered at that moment of happiness, pure and simple. And as for me, my heart sang and my eyes glistened with the humble pride of being loved. I know that love is a luxury for some, I know that love can be brutal and unkind sometimes. So, I take love seriously. I am humbled completely by it and continually surprised by the generosity and love in all of us.


Thursday, 22 September 2011

Toasted Sangas

So, the talk turns to toasted sandwiches. 'Can your fiancé cook?' I ask my dear friend Noo. She collapses in hysterical laughter. 'No, he puts funny ingredients in things. Like that time we were eating spaghetti Bolognese and I asked "what's that taste in this, I can't quite put my finger on it?"
"Oh, that's ginger" he said. We collapsed again into fits of laughter. 
"So, I said, just toasted sandwiches for him then?"
"Oh, no way, said Noo, I can't trust him with them!"
 We definitely agreed that there has to be that fine balance between crunchy and greasy outside, and it must have butter before it's toasted...not the cheap margarine slathered across the top after toasting - when you take a bite all you get is the taste of bad marg and cold toast. No, there is an art form to the humble toasted sandwich. The cheese must be oozing, but not too much, and if you have ham then it can't overpower the cheese. The bread needs to be thick enough to withstand those sandwich toasters that are like rock crushers. You don't want a pancake with plastic cheese, or a 'cardboard sandwich with blue tack,' as Louie and I later decided.
And the final touch? Salt and pepper on the outside! Oohh...now I have not tried this and am most excited about my next toastie, which I think I will make myself because I also like grainy mustard in mine, but not too much, just a tiny slither for that hint of taste.
No, there needs to be a fair amount of love put into making the perfect 'toastie', as with life, you take out the love and there is nothing. There is an emptiness, a bland taste and still the need to fill the lonely vaccumous void. I would love to hear your ‘toasted sandwiches’ creations, feel free to comment with them. Until then, enjoy!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Mother of the Year

8am Sunday morning and I wake with a start. Where have I been? Oh yes, in that wonderful, magical place dreamy world, where we cross borders and boundaries in the blink of an (R.E.M) eye. No rest for the sleepy however, we have to be at soccer training by 9.30am, it's a half hour drive away. I may be feeling a little under the weather. I may have had a couple of glasses of wine last night. It's possible.
We make it to soccer in time, little friend in tow. I sit in the warmth and safety of the car, desperately needing a cup of tea and some breakfast. I race up to 'Fishtales' cafe. I am rewarded with a perfect cup of tea, just sweet enough to satisfy the sugar gods and strong enough to really taste. The toasted ham & cheese sanga is that perfect mix of melted cheese erupting from the sides along with a crunchy yet soft outer. I sit watching the kids in the wind kicking the ball around. I'm in my own heaven of taste sensations and warm cosiness of the car. Safe.
The kids are not exhausted enough so off we head to 'Kaotic Kids' (I'm warned), an indoor playground. I manage nearly 2 hours, hunched over my paper where I can't even do the puzzles because my brain hurts, and my coffee that I can't drink because my tummy hurts! Other people's children. Need I say more? They're snotty, dirty, noisy and annoying. Oh dear... I try to protect my ears from the bad radio station, and huddle into myself because it's freezing in there. I finally extricate the boys from the pit of plastic balls. Ahhh back to the car, where it's warm. Next up is fish and chips back in Port Fairy. We attempt to eat them overlooking the wild ocean but the seagulls have called in their mates for a rave party and we retreat gracefully home.
A lazy afternoon lies ahead of me. More kids arrive and my dear friend Amy. We have cups of tea and rocky road slice while chatting about life, kids, food. The kids are roaring around us, I'm cocooned in my invisible shield that protects me on days like this. 
I decide on a new roast chicken recipe. Mixing together caramelised balsamic vinegar, brown sugar and soy I marinate the meat for an hour or so, then cook with veges. The smells are sensational. I get little man into the shower, wash off the days grime. His eyes are hanging out of his head. Finally, he is tired! I chat away to him as I slice the chicken, plate the veges, re-heat the juices. I'm not getting much of a response so I walk over to the chair and my little man has already gone to the dreamy world. He's crossed the divide between waking life and the deep peaceful land where we rest, recuperate and get ready for another action-packed day.
Sweet dreams.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Sushi in Sydney?

We'd arrived in the big city. A city full of harbours, boats, iconic bridges and the Opera House. We were ready to EAT! Kids in tow, we wandered around Bondi in search of three things: 
1. fulfilment,
2. nourishment, 
3. flavour
Sushi is a funny thing, there are no smells to entice you to it's little corner. With sushi, it's a need. To eat fresh, to feel full and to get the olfactory senses absolutely ZINGING - with wasabi! Well, in my humble opinion anyway. The Sushi Train beckoned, the little old ladies tirelessly slicing, rolling, pinching and wrapping. I sat with my mouth nearly to the floor in adoration of the array of delights that were running past me. Yep, running on that train. You've got to love it. There is 'tobiko', the bright orange flying fish roe; 'soramame', bright green broad beans that just pop; and of course many variations of sushi, all of which look appetising. But how to choose, you've just got to put your hand out and grab one off that train!
I chose what looks to be a crispy fried prawn, wrapped in rice & seaweed with lettuce and I think pine nuts, slathered with the divine Japanese Mayonnaise (I could nearly drink this it's so good!). It goes down whole. Maybe a bit extravagant of me, must slow down....
The world outside of the Sushi Train became a blur, a mutation of dulled sounds, as 2 dear friends and their children dined like Queens. I took another plate of the same dish, this time 'dabbed' with wasabi. Wow, I love that hit of the Japanese horseradish, it's like a little thrill for the senses for about 10 seconds then, as quickly as it hit, it is gone. Leaving peace and satisfaction.

As we all sat watching a movie later that day, I relished the time with my beautiful friend, that I have known for 10 years. She will always have a most special place in my heart. We had our babies together, we went through break-ups together. We have sat and held hands while the other has cried their heart out; until we were spent. We've laughed until we cried - my friend's laugh a great big guffaw that makes people turn around; mine a high pitched giggle that I cannot contain once I get going.
And, while our visits may only be yearly, we pick up right where we left off. Just like the sushi train!


Thursday, 4 August 2011

Daughter dearest


She arrived home to spend some time with family. The youngest and sweetest is leaving the family nest and heading to the west. Land of big skies and big mines. 
Up early to get ‘things’ ready. Cake tins, measuring jugs, pots and pans, the oven is on and recipe books cover the bench top. It’s time to celebrate and what better way do we know than with food! Food helps us to celebrate and it helps us to grieve. This ceremony encompasses both. Western Australia is a long way. It’s 4 hours in a plane, which the same as London to North Africa.
Memories are being made while the sugar and butter are mixed to ‘pale and fluffy’, family histories are sifted through the fine flour and added to the mix to create a strong but light bond. Flavours are added, pertaining to the cook and the occasion. Orange cakes are one of my favourite; they remind me of the warm sunny days of childhood. This cake is more complicated - a layer cake for the intricacies of this complex family.
The chicken and vegetable soup is already on the stove, bubbling away absorbing warmth and love. It’s what will start the meal, a soup to warm the hearts, to soften the palate. The middle course will be a beef stew, cooked on low heat for hours, as the liquid reduces and the flavour enhances. I love slow cooking. To create something slowly and simply, patiently over time is so rewarding.
People come and go in the house, commenting on the aromas that tickle their olfactory senses, prepare stomachs and minds for the big evening event. I am merely an observer, listening in to the snippets of conversation that thread this family together. To them, they are living life, doing what they do. 

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Mid-winter blues

My young man was getting sick. Mid winter blues had hit the house. Wan faces, cold wind wrapping it's icy fingers around our house, our hearts. We wallowed for awhile, stayed in bed, turned up the heaters. Closed in, walls down. After some time I realised I just had to tell my brain to let the rest of my body and soul know it was time to PERK up! Home-made chicken soup was on the menu and chocolate chip cookies (for the sweet tooth treat when the blood-sugars plummet). Diced the veges to add to the water and chicken carcasses for the stock and let it simmer, topping up as necessary. Decided a tiny bit of star anise would be nice - but not too much as I find this herb can be way too overpowering, so I literally picked off a 'petal' and threw it in the pot. The stock had an overnight stay in the fridge and the next day I lovingly scraped the fat off the top. Popped it back on the stove and added a few more goodies...cauliflower, spring onions, noodles, soy sauce. Served it up in big bowls to the young man who gulped it down as fast as his oesophagus would allow. 


What is it about home-made chicken noodle soup that not only restores our health but our faith? For me, it's about getting back to basics. It's about cooking with love, and cooking for the ones you love. And, of course, self-love, which had been severely lacking. It's nice to have it done for you but oh so rewarding to nurture oneself, especially with food.

We were both better by the end of the day. I felt I had absorbed love and soul nourishment. I'm sure young man felt the same but articulated it differently - "Mum that was awesome, thank you!"

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Bitter Sweet

It's been a horrible last week; my cousin died very suddenly and his death has hit our family hard. I'm hours away from my family and have had to deal with grief over the phone, by text and Facebook. It's a lonely thing, grief. It's like a huge well. On the way down you feel all sorts of emotions and your senses are on alert. Then you hit the cold water of the well and you're numb. You bob up and down through numbness and feeling, coming to a state that is neither here nor there, yet is everywhere. You soldier on, sorting through feelings, old and new, past and present.

I went through the motions getting ready for today's Sunday Sweet Fest! I made sure no tears fell into the divine desserts I was creating. I don't want the whole lot of us to start blubbing! Today was all about sugar; the wonderful world of sweet treats! And, with sugar comes kids - big ones and the little ones of course. A plethora of brightly coloured delights were placed before a hungry table of children. We'd actually had to lock them out of the house earlier to stop them eating!  
The kids all dressed up - pink flowing skirts, face paints and attitudes to match. We set before them all the decorating accoutrements available to child-kind ...brightly coloured icing, pop rock candy, choc bits, mini m&m's, marshmallows ....and anything and everything pink, red and orange. It was a madhouse. All sorts of fantastical creations were erupting. Lamingtons like you've never seen before, with popping candy and marshmallows, soaked in jelly. Cupcakes with rainbows of icing dripping and meringues with caramel and berries. Decadence at its best. They were like tornadoes, as quickly as they'd devoured it all, they raced off to the next exciting thing. Face painting was set up in the garage, with the 6 year old in charge! The lovely Zoe came out with an interesting look.... I asked my son why he didn't get his face painted. 
His reply "I don't trust 'em Mum". 
Ha! Now I understand why. I still think Zoe looked pretty with her 'outer space like face'. She posed for this photo then raced to the bathroom to wash it off.

Amy and I sat back, watching the complete chaos around us. Another bourbon she asked? Absolutely. We sat in her outside spa sipping our drinks, the bubbles of the spa drowning out all the craziness around us. I thought about my family, so far away, and the kids who have just lost their dad, forever changed. That feeling of being in the well sat beside me and I counted my many blessings. For blessings there are plenty.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Bruce

Guts

Bruce was grumpy this morning. I woke to groaning, grumbling and rumbling. He wasn’t happy. And when Bruce isn’t happy, well neither am I. He can be so fickle, and greedy; man can he get greedy. He just wants to consume, fill himself up to the brim until he’s expanded so much that I feel exhausted just watching it, and need to lie down. He becomes so fickle, demanding certain things, that have to be just right, not too this and not too that.
Bruce. Sometimes we’re friends, but lately Bruce has been misbehaving. He’s become the hot topic of conversation amongst my friends. I think they’re getting tired of Bruce too, but I’m stuck with him, and have been for a long, long time. He’s not sociable these days, he’s old and cantankerous. I might have to bully him into seeing someone about his bad habits, he needs help. Maybe it’s just mind over matter? Possible. A therapist would do Bruce good, sort him out once and for all. He can be so delicate and touchy though, so I might just make the appointment and insist he acquiesce.

This week Bruce is going to be forced to be good, to do what’s best – not just for himself but for me. So, it’s gluten free – all of our favourite goodies are out – bread, biscuits, pizza, damper, pasta and even sausages! Apparently gluten is in bluddy everything.

Day 1 today: cup of tea and a mandarin for breakfast. We looked longingly in the pantry at cup-of-soups, crackers, bread....no Bruce we cannot! Lunch was kangaroo fillets on the bbq with a chickpea salad and gluten-free wraps (that fell apart when wrapped!). Followed by chocolate cake (gluten free) with Tamar Valley yoghurt and steaming hot cups of tea. My dear friend Mal decided he is ONLY eating gluten free chocolate cake. That’s it, no more of that other crap, EVER! Wow! “Going downhill one piece of cake at a time...” At this point the dozy koala that had been snoozing in the tree above us climbed down, fed up it seemed with these humans who eat such complicated foods. He waddled off to another tree full of eucalyptus leaves. Ahhh...the simplicity of some things.


So why is it that when food is minus an ingredient that it is SO expensive? Eating healthy hurts; the bank account. When Bruce and I got home, he started up his whingeing again – groaning and grumbling about food, yet again. I rested him in a hot bath for awhile. No, not content. We sat in front of the heater folding the washing. No, still not. We cleaned out the pantry – free from temptation! Seems like I’m just going to have to be tough on Bruce. School of hard knocks this time. Water for dinner. No bread. Worse than prison.

Maybe in giving my tummy a name I have given Bruce life. We have to live together forever, so lets just sort out right now who’s boss. ME! 

Monday, 23 May 2011

Sunday in the city

Sunday 15th May

Hmm....what to do today? Well, we’re in the big city so let’s EAT!
Coffee and pastries first, while we peruse our Good Food Guide to Melbourne. The tiny Choukette is cosy and busy, but we manage to find a table down the back (and right next to the cake display). It’s a difficult decision, but the pain au chocolat is hard to walk past without drooling, as is the almond croissant. Ok, we are satisfied but I have a craving for hot jam donuts from the Vic Markets. A short tram ride deposits us out the front of these famous bustling markets in Melbourne.

I can’t go past Coffea coffee house – the ten minute wait is worth the delicious creamy latte that is put before me. We sit outside in the glorious autumn sun, people watching. ‘Now, what did we come here for? Oh, yeah jam donuts, come on let’s go. Shall we just walk through the food hall’, I inquire? My partner needs no encouragement. Masses of cheese from around the world confront me, lucky they are behind glass cases. Everyone has tastings on offer, but we both just cannot bypass the King Island Seal Bay triple cream brie, which will sit in my handbag all day until we get back to the hotel when it will be at perfect room temperature!

My olfactory senses are tingling, the waft of German sausages hits them like hit of rain on the face. Ok, we will share just one! We stand outside amongst people tucking in to all sorts of foods and the seagulls patiently waiting on the rooftops for scraps -none to be had from us. We continue making our way through the food hall, past more cheese, artisan breads, smallgoods, olives and we just have to sample a börek (pastry filled with meat); then we finally get to the hot jam donut caravan. Thank goodness! We buy 6 (‘cos it’s cheaper) and meander our way through the throngs getting sugar and hot jam everywhere.

Now, I realise it seems like we have just eaten all morning, but I have a hankering for dumplings in Chinatown. We do walk the several blocks into the city, to make room for these little morsels of doughy pork, splashed down with Chinese tea. 

I think today has turned into a mission; we need to rest, recuperate and let our poor tummies relax. Sitting on a park bench outside St Paul’s Cathedral seems as close to godliness as we will get, and it’s a great spot for people watching. After awhile (quite awhile) I suggest we pop in to the Lindt Chocolate Cafe, just for a look. Chocolate is practically oozing out the door, what a mountain of fine delectable delights there are! I limit myself to a few small chocolate balls, to share – later!

Exhausted and full we amble home to rest and chill out. As we sit I quietly lean over and ask, 'what shall we have for dinner??'

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Mother's Day 8th May

My little man arrived with tea and toast this morning! And beautifully wrapped gifts for this one day of the year, that is commercial, but I do feel special to be a mum. I think of my mum, my mum’s mum and way back....all the strong and beautiful women who had children, ran households, worked, cooked and loved with all their heart. And I feel blessed to be one of them; and proud of my little boy who knows just the way I like my cup of tea. Hot, a little bit sweet and strong. My divine purple hot water bottle with its bright orange cover makes my day.
Off we head to soccer (no day off for the mum’s). I’m happy to sit in the warm car watching the boys and girls run around in the rain. Then it’s time for morning tea; we go to Wyton’s where it’s warm and bustling with mums, daughters, sons, partners – families and friends. A delicious chocolate brownie oozing with decadence delights us both and gives the required energy for the day, which as yet, is unplanned.
 
I decide flannelette sheets are needed to go with my hot water bottle, I'm already thinking about going back to bed! 9 year old sprints to the toy section while I peruse the range of bed linen, deciding floral is not for me...
And then the decision is what to eat for lunch? Many options but everywhere is too busy, so I suggest take away pizza from Alex’s Pizza and wok in Koroit.

We sit overlooking Tower Hill and the Southern Ocean, eating cheesy garlic pizza and our own concoction of favourites – anchovies, olives, salami & mushrooms. We drive down to the bottom of the now extinct volcanic crater and race to the top of a majestic hill speckled with drooping sheoaks, gums and wattles. The colours are splendid in the autumn afternoon. I lose the race gracefully but rejoice in being loved and loving my precious little man.

Tea for 1 and Curry for 10

Sunday 1st May
The weekend began with discussions with my mother about who was most deserving of a cup of tea in bed in the morning. She tried the good old ‘I’m older’ angle and won (un)fair and square. So, my 9 year old son made tea for Grandma, while poor old me got to sleep in - completely unaware of the travesty taking place in my very own house! Huh!
We had celebrated my dear friend Amy’s birthday the evening before...with piles of food once again. Huge pots of steaming rice accompanied by beef madras, Goan fish stew, Aloo Chole (chickpea and potato curry); along with accoutrements of mango chutney, lime relish, banana & coconut sambal and fresh buffalo yoghurt with cucumber and coriander. We gathered around the 1950’s laminate table – all 10 of us cosied up, tucking into a combined effort Indian feast.

I had a bee in my bonnet about making a orange chocolate cake for dessert (I know, not very Indian), slathered in chocolate ganache with mascerated mandarins in orange blossom water. Wow, it was rich and delicious and fed 10 adults and 4 kids.To top our food fest off, we played a game called ‘The Art of Food Conversation’ [http://www.taoc.com.au/food.aspx] which had us all talking for hours about our first tastes, favourite meals, dislikes and a plethora of other food experiences. Lots of fun!
So back to Sunday....I decided I’d then set my elderly mother to work and got her sanding and painting my chest of drawers while the sun shone. I plied her with cups of tea and home-made slices. She is quite a hard worker my mum. We then took a bunch of wild and raucous children down to Pea Soup (of course it has a FOOD name!) beach where we all pranced around in the sand and scampered over rocks until the sun started to set and it was time to go home, get warm and ummm.....decide what was for dinner!


Sunday, 24 April 2011

An Easter Sunday Best

Spent the day with my mum today, feeling blessed to be with family whilst enjoying the Autumn sunshine.  We wandered through Ceres nursery buying up big on organic vegetable seedlings, ready for a late winter/spring harvest of peas, carrots, beetroot, shallots and broccoli. So energising to meander through the garden - wanting to grow and create everything but having to be somewhat modest given my means and time. I did splurge on a Digger’s Club fruit and vegetable book to get me going!

Lunch at ‘Copperwood’ in Lygon Street’s famous precinct was perfect, with pesto gnocchi, minestrone soup and a lovely glass of Majella ‘The Magician’ red. The restaurant filled to near capacity, many people taking their parents and/or children out for lunch; just like my mum and me. The city streets were so quiet as we passed golden trees in full Autumn splendour, a riot in themselves.

Enjoying a late afternoon walk through the quiet Brunswick streets I am inspired by the sense of community and generosity out on the footpaths. Free easter eggs sitting on a fence because the “easter bunny’s eyes were bigger than its belly”; a box of rosemary with a sign “lamb roast”; and a footpath communal garden offering chillies and herbs with the offer to weed and water. So nice to see the sense of community spirit alive and well in the big smoke and that people still want to share and exchange things they love, just because. Because they have too much and don’t need the extra and rather than leave it to rot or throw it in the rubbish, items are placed on fences and nature strips for the taking. All is well in the city on this Easter Sunday.

Monday, 11 April 2011

a Spicy Sunday Best..

The rain had set in. It had been absolutely hammering down for a good 2 days and there was just no way anyone was going anywhere outside, in THAT! So, the mortar & pestle was nestled in my arms ready for some spice grinding...a Goan curry seemed like a good solution to no particular problem.

The smell of freshly ground spices takes me away to far off places, India first and foremost. [Although in India, the smell of faeces and incense attacked the senses way before any foods were even allowed to step in the window of olfactory nerves.] I lit some incense in honour of the curry feast we were about to embark on. Deep earthy fragrance invaded the house, while the unrelenting rain swam about the weatherboards threatening to seep into hidden cavities.
While the naan bread dough sat rising on its special seat in front of the heater, I ground cardamon, fenugreek, cinnamon and nearly all the aromatic herbs in the pantry until they were a fine chestnut-coloured powder. Roasting them was delicious and my nose tingled in delight. A few hours on the stove gave me time to knead the dough for the naan, one of my favourite 'chores'. I adore the feeling of dough in my hands, and the sticky mass turning to velvety elastic.
Condiments assembled, bowls of yoghurt with lemon & cucumber, chilli lime pickles and pappadams; children assembled. Time to enjoy.
Then the couch called me from far away, and my stripey pj’s, the bottle of port, Lindt chocolate and lovely friends to share rainy Sundays with.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Sunday Bereft 3rd April

Sunday spent in the airport. Missed flights. Long queues. Credit card blues....
How to fill in 6 hours? With 9 year old in tow, we did our 'best'. I had my pretty skirt on and sweet pink cardigan. In search of fine foods and delectable delights we went...
I worked out that airport marketing people must have great fun 'creating' names for their eateries, but wordsmiths they most certainly are not.
So after deciding to put an 'embargo' on ANY establishments that were a play on words and any place that wanted to charge $9 for a sandwich, the young one and I resorted to fried galumph with deep fried humph!
Why wasn't there a 'Waiting for a Plane' bar? Or, 'Better late than Never' cafe? Or 'Why did I decide to fly the cheapest, nastiest airline' bar n grill?
As the sky darkened and stars came out, the city lights began to flicker in the balmy Brisbane evening. Body feeling oh so weary, but with hours to go and a long drive home when we finally get there I decided to go in search of caffeine. A beacon in the otherwise drab landscape appeared right at the end of the terminal and possibly THE loveliest people behind the counter made me a great coffee! There is salvation right here - good people, good coffee and the promise that soon I might be home.
[Well I was far, far from home but that coffee and the feeling that there are lovely people in the most unlikely places got me through - and I finally arrived home at 2am].

Monday, 28 March 2011

A very Spanish Sunday

“Dani this is so relaxing, I’d only be doing chores if I was at home”
“You’ve captured the essence of South America perfectly, this is just how it would be back home in Peru..”
“an EXCELLENT day had by all yesterday, beautiful food great friends... this was one of the best days out I have had for a long time, thanks very much to all that came :)”  Ben

As people from as far away as Iceland, Austria, Germany and Peru sat around the big table feasting, the conversation and comments flowed, as did the diverse languages. We did all manage a universal ‘salut’ – to your health! The table was laden with empanadas, guacamole, black eyed beans with chorizo, spiced almonds, fish & olive stew, marinated olives in fennel & citrus, paella, manchego cheese with figs and of course, jamón. Jugs of sangría kept appearing in hues of brilliant deep red, orange and lemon slices sparkling inside. And just like the oranges we all sparkled too, girls in frocks and flowing skirts, boys in suits and alpaca vests  and kids in brightly coloured ponchos – dressed up for Sunday Best, getting together and celebrating the wonderful life we have.
We talked physics, viscosity and the fact that ‘dice’ is actually the plural of die [very confusing for our Icelandic princess], and she was sure there were no other words like this? Well how about thrice I ventured? Ah, she said “once twice thrice a lady”. We all erupted into laughter thinking of the song, humming now in my head. 

I learnt today that vinegar, not salt, makes pork crackling ‘crackly’ which I am very happy to know for my next pork belly cook-off! And I learnt that it is sometimes the most unlikely of souls that can come together in a small country town to make you laugh, be happy and truly feel communal joy.
‘There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle’


Friday, 25 March 2011

It occurred to me today that Sunday Best, although slightly indulgent, is about family. And I don't just mean bloodlines. Many of us live remotely from our parents, siblings and extended family.  It is hard at times to only talk to my mum on the phone when I really need to share a cup of tea, or my brother who works in the mines in the middle of the continent. I think about my brother's well set up 'bar' and would dearly love to have him mix me a gin & tonic and talk 'til the early hours...
Sunday Best provides me with family - dearly loved friends who share passions, sorrows and joys. Yes, it is a luxury that we can eat some of the best food in the region, and it is a luxury to grow much of this produce ourselves. Given the calamities that surround our lives - tsunamis & earthquakes, countries erupting into civil war and the rest of the daily horrors we see splashed across our night-time TV screens - I get immense enjoyment from spending time simply, with friends preparing good food. There is no greater joy than seeing people’s faces light up when they bite into one of my creations, especially the kids because they don’t lie when it comes to food...
So, here's thanks to 'family' and the love that binds us all.
my son's painting

Monday, 21 March 2011

Well the sun came out and calls were made, texting to and fro for a good 2 hours as mixing bowls edged their way out of cupboards, chocolate was melted on the stove, fruit picked from the trees and picnic baskets packed. Dresses were laid out on the bed, tried on, many discarded and one finally chosen. A picnic was in the making in my home town.
My man and I dipped strawberries in chocolate and made pear crumble from the tree so heavily laden in the driveway the pears kiss the ground and gently fall off when ready for us to eat. We poached them slowly in sugar syrup, cinnamon, star anise and cloves - to be later covered in crunchy crumble topping. We put together a cheese plate piled with Danish blue, a King Island brie rolle, Havarti, creamy goats milk feta, brandy & sage pâté, spicy salami and slices of nectarines (from a friend’s tree still fruiting). The smoky buffalo cheddar didn’t quite make the plate as we ate it while cooking....
Everyone arrived at the river with baskets of goodies, (literally a laundry basket – we haven’t quite got the ensemble perfect) pretty tablecloths and bottles of bubbly, in their Sunday finery. So many frocks and girly hats, even my chap looked dapper in his hat (tried to get him in a frock but alas not this time). We chatted, kissed cheeks, clinked glasses and ate slowly, enjoying our feasting and knowing how fortunate we are. The kids ran around in their Sunday finery, scampering up the canons, running through the bush tracks and generally being kids (happy to say that not a DS was in sight!).
As we sat by the water’s edge, the kids cast a line in and we enjoyed the afternoon sun’s rays... but even the fish were too full it seemed, not a single bite. The kids queued up for pear crumble with vanilla ice cream and cream (got to have both I think!), devoured it and lined up for more.


The talk turned to future Sundays. Ideas ran rampant, lists were made, food recipes discussed and finally we all just had to retire for Sunday rest. A sunny Sunday Best spent with best friends and the stunning backdrop of this little coastal town we all call home.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

A Folky Sunday...

We're not quite sure when this week's Sunday best began... was it with pancakes for the masses, followed by the extremely decadent (and yes I think gluttonous) 'Volcano' strawberry fiesta of cream, ice cream, yoghurt, berry coulis and sweet sweet strawberries? Or did the 'Best' begin when we frocked up and went to church?
Yes, this heathen girl and her cohorts went to church. I love churches, they are peaceful and serene; and whilst I'm not sure about the whole God thing, churches certainly fill my spirit with love and a true sense of being. Alas, we did not go to pray but to listen to 4 beautiful voices known as 'Akasa', an a'capella group from Melbourne [http://www.myspace.com/akasaaustralia]. 
As they sang "walk with me, hold my hand I don't want to walk alone..." I got the warm fuzzy tingles and knew I was at one of the best sermons I'd been to. The sun shone through the stunning stained glass windows and, as the cockatoos screeched their maddening cry overhead, I smiled to myself at the majesty of it all.
With folded hands my dear friends and I went into different realms - all experiencing the same event but responding in our own way. As we left the church I felt quite pious I must say, an extremely uncommon emotion for me. Luckily it was short lived and as we walked back through the wrought iron gates and into my backyard (the church is right behind my house with no fence between us) the talk turned to food and beverages...
Corks popped and we felt we truly deserved a glass of bubbly and a plate of buffalo mozzarella topped with tomato, fresh basil and drizzled with Limestone coast olive oil and  pink Murray River salt flakes.
Utterly divine in the late afternoon sun...celestial even. Then it was back for more 'Volcano' strawberries...

celestial delights












This week's Sunday Best was courtesy of my home town's annual Folk Festival.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Thought I should do a mid-week post, in consideration of this Sunday's range of goodies to be...
Hmm...am seriously thinking about a chocolate crème caramel for one! Although it just wouldn't taste as good  not shared, and I would feel gluttonous. One of the 7 deadly sins and worth contemplation...
I think a sojourn to the mountains is in order, in search of delectable delights, maybe a cold ale, maybe a devonshire tea, maybe a pie at the bakery.... Any which way it goes, it will be shared with good friends and in good spirit. Maybe I could pack a picnic of desserts only? The divine poached pears in cinnamon I made last night with Lindt chocolate oozing over the top...or maybe just the block of Lindt?
I shall ponder this, along with the idea of gluttony; see what my Sunday couterparts think about it...

Sunday, 6 March 2011

A Sunday Picnic

Well, Sunday Best started off a bit Sunday worst, as hangovers creeped along neural pathways unrelenting in their urgency to debilitate their host....however, the sun came out in rural Victoria and the North Easterly wind blew its warm breath on those who needed it most.
Starting off watching friends sing their tunes at the local drinking establishment, we sipped champagne with strawberries, Mexican beers and tangy Sauvignon Blanc wine. The sun shone through the stained glass windows, the talk got merrier and the inevitable happened....what shall we eat for dinner?
After much deliberation we decided on take away Indian - the best we could muster given various levels of hangovers and star signs (at least one Libran makes decisions tricky).
We headed to one of our favourite little beaches known as 'Pea Soup', where we spread out our picnic rug, laid various curries and accoutrements onto plastic plates and cracked open a few bottles of vodka and ginger. Early evening/late afternoon walkers with dogs, young guys fishing on the rocks, little tackers paddling in the water all quietly passed us by as we dived in to our delicious looking food. The sun turned a glorious tangerine and the world turned into silhouettes and shadows, people stopped to chat momentarily. Those few who were out and about truly felt the glory of the setting sun, the luxuriousness of the day and the anticipation of a good night's sleep.
So, Sunday Best evolved into a sunset picnic on the beach with good friends and good feeling, and of course, good food. Good night.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Sunday Best is about dressing fine, feasting on delectable delights and sharing this all with friends, family, new acquaintances and those who need it most....
No rules apply, just food, finery, friends and laughter, or tears if that what comes along.

The sharing of food and conversation seems to be getting lost along a highway of take away, quick snacks, breakfast-on-the-run and 30 minute dinners. A group of us decided, as we sat down to 'High Tea' on a country farm in rural Victoria, that we want to share food in an atmosphere of celebration and ritual.
Sundays - traditionally the day of rest, for church, for putting on your best, for sharing in whatever way fulfils your spirit, your culture, your religion.
We made cucumber sandwiches, vol au vents, mini pavlovas with chocolate and cream, vanilla panacotta made from fresh Buffalo yoghurt (we sat at the window watching the very buffalo who gave their milk); the kids had their own treats on the picnic rug in the lounge and I'm sure the cat and 2 dogs had the best leftovers they'd had in a long while...
We dressed up, put our frocks on, combed our hair (even managed to run the comb through the 9 year old boys hair) and felt good. So nice to be out of work clothes - a gardener out of her green tinged shorts and sun hat, a horse trainer out of her jodhpurs and blundstone boots, a cheese maker freed from the white hair net... We could change roles, we could be fancy in our finery, we could discuss the possibilities our lives and our world around opportunes us, we could dream lofty dreams and make them our realities.
The days of fighting battles with kids, partners, workers were laid to rest for a few hours, while we ate and laughed. So, we decided to create 'Sunday Best' and live our dreams for a few hours on a Sunday, the day reserved for rest, for enjoyment, for laughter and for food....