Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Sometimes Life Gets in the Way

Hey everyone!

Just letting you know that I haven’t been slack and forgotten my whole resolution to blog weekly, but the normal time I would allot to blogging each week was spent on a plane; stuck in a holding pattern for half an hour; waiting for baggage at a broken baggage carousel; waiting for 3 buses to the long term car park (there were SO many people in line!); and then driving 3+ hours back to Barham. I am glad to report that I didn’t flatten any critters along the way. Except maybe a mouse, but they don’t count because you don’t feel the bump (yes, really.). So suffice it to say, I lacked the energy to get into it at 11pm.

You’ll have to bear with me a while longer, because last week was hellish and this week will be more of the same – only time will tell how hellish. Both weeks have/will involve aeroplanes, which is a sure-fire way to sap your time and energy and patience. Hopefully somewhere in the process I’ll have time to reset my blog settings and make posts such as this – which I wrote on my email but is saved as a draft – post straight to my blog, which will make it easier to keep things rolling. Again, hopefully, I’ll have time to blog this coming Sunday, but don’t hold your breath. I may have more important things to do.

I’m exhausted and I think I’m getting a cold (again!!! *shakes fist at air travel*), and this travel thing means the work I’m supposed to be getting done during the week, isn’t. There are so many balls in the air, one of which is “do laundry”, so I’m on the verge of purchasing new socks to save me the trouble!!! But in the last week I DID finish one of those books, and I DID visit a theme park – Sea World. It rained. But with skin like mine, better to be wet than sunburnt! So there are things to tell, but no time to tell it in.

Okay kiddies, I’m off to deal with some of these balls in the air (and "balls" really is the appropriate word for this!) before I drop one and it hits me in the face. Wish me luck...

Sunday, 21 August 2011

101 Things Update - Week 6

This week was just about as slow as last week, with the notable exception that I made cupcakes and went for a jog.

#1 - Declare my 29th year to be Year of the Cupcake. Rose and Pistachio Cupcakes, inspired by how completely crap the ones at Joy Cupcakes at Westfield Doncaster were. Seriously, four dollars and it reminded me of cardboard. Not only the texture, but also the flavour. They. Did. Not. Taste. Like. Rose. And it wasn't just me - mum tried some too. It was like they had forgotten to put the rose flavouring in, or had decided that they didn't respect their customers enough to trust them to enjoy a distinct flavour that they had ordered and so opted to dumb it down. Also, the frosting had what I would describe as pistachio dust in - you could see that there was a bit of very mild graininess about it, but could discern no flavour, next to no colour (besides brown, which makes me think they just added pistachio skins and not the nuts, and come ON, people - pistachios are a vibrant GREEN!!!) and could barely detect the texture. And the frosting left a fatty coating on your teeth, much like you get from that cheap $2 Shop chocolate they sell at Easter. Ugh. I knew I could do better, and I did. I also emailed their customer service department and told them how crap it was (yes, really. I've turned into that person) and how much better I could do and offered my services to assist improving the flavour, which they ignored. Oh well, their loss. Once people get over how pretty the cupcakes are and recognise them for the pile of poo that they are, they'll stop buying them. And then they'll realise that I was right. RIGHT, I tells ya!!!

...Step awaaaaaaaay from the sugar...

#35 - Exercise 4 times a week in the lead-up to the wedding. Done! Two days at the gym, and I worked really hard. Then, on Saturday, Grant and I went for a jog. A JOG!!! I ran!!! Sort of. I kind of more shuffled and panted and sweated and held my right boob in place to stop Zappy from hurting me as he bounced around behind my pectoral muscle. Thanks to Grant for supporting me and jogging with me, even though it must have been infuriatingly slow, and even though he must have been thinking every step of the way that I would require CPR. Dad came for a walk with me today, which damned near killed me even though it was nothing out of the ordinary. I think it was all the strained muscles and lactic acid from yesterday's little effort that did that to me! Oh well, better luck next time. At least I got up and moving today.

And now I'm going to instert a search term bound to be a hit with anyone with LQTS: Long QT Syndrome patients can jog! Although, I must say, when I asked my electropysiologist whether I could, he gave me A Very Disapproving Look and paused a moment before saying that I could go for a light jog. Heh. Me?? Do anything more than a light jog?? Pretty bloody unlikely!!! I'd also like to point out that two of his patients are (or were, 3 years ago) AFL players. They keep that one pretty quiet! So I guess what I'm saying is that it's not against doctor's recommendations, but you do have to be a bit sensible about it. No sprinting, no marathons, nothing that's too much of a stretch on your normal scope of fitness (which I have been gradually improving at the gym).

#49 - Lose 1kg per month. Well, I must say I'm completely unsurprised that I gained half a kilo this week, given how much crap I ate, but it's kind of good to know where your balance is. I'm feeling fat, but have recognised that it's a three steps forward, two steps back kind of proposition because whilst I gained girth last week but lost weight, this week I did the reverse, so I'm not completely disheartened. I do know what I have to do to stay on track with this, though - eat less cake! Even though I technically am on track, if I'm looking to lose 1kg per month.

I'm going to have to be particularly careful what I put in my mouth this week, though, given that I'm headed to Brisvegas for a work thing (where they will feed us - already made my menu choices and chose the healthiest things I could, but that's not saying much), and then having dinner with my aunt and hopefully my cousins, and then spending the weekend with my friends Danielle and Kaye. Work thing = abundance of food and wine. Family thing = abundance of food and wine. Girls weekend thing = abundance of food, maybe not so much the wine. Maybe I'll just go easy on the wine and desserts, cos you get so little bang for your calorie buck.

Anyway, don't expect much exciting to happen next week. Oh, except I am (#65 - read all unread books before buying more) in the middle of reading Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, so with all this flying around I may get it read. Oh, and just to let you know, my BFF Emma bought me Gone With the Wind (#66 - read Gone With the Wind) for my birthday (she had to order it in which is why it has only just arrived) because she knew how long it is and that I would probably have to keep reborrowing it from the library to finish it, which would be annoying and inconvenient. OH! And the girls and I will be hitting Sea World next weekend (#51 - visit a theme park) so maybe I WILL have a post after all! I count Sea World as a theme park, by the way. I don't care if you don't. So there.

Right. It's well past my bedtime and I have to finish packing for Brisvegas before bed (seriously! Who ordered the weather up there?? It's supposed to be NICE and SUNNY, and instead it's going to be COLDER and WETTER than it will be down south. Harumph). Night all!

Year of the Cupcake #2 - Gluten Free Rose and Pistachio Cupcakes

Well, it's August and it's time for my next installment of -


Mum began to suspect quite recently that she is actually gluten intolerant. Testing has shown that she does not suffer from Coeliacs but has nonetheless been alleviated of many, many health problems ranging from stomach cramps to joint swelling, insomnia and exacerbated back pain (it's already screwed, but it had been getting worse, and suddenly, it's good again!)) in the fortnight she has not been eating glutinous foods.

So, thoughtful daughter that I am, I opted to make this month's cupcakes gluten free, as well as last month's. Mainly thoughtful about my own waistline, truth be told, because if I'd made them with wheaten flour then I would have been doomed to consume the entire batch more or less on my own, which would really have set me back on this whole weight loss thing. I gained weight this week anyway. Boo. Imagine how bad it **could** have been, though! Oh, my, it would probably have been something akin to this:

homer simpson eats donuts in hell more more more 300x225 6 Devil ish Foods That Everyone In Lincoln Should Know Will Wreck Havoc In Your Weight Loss Goals in Lincoln Ne.

(replace Homer with me, the doughnuts with cupcakes, and the Devil with... yeah, okay, the Devil. The Devil made me do it! Ahh, personal responsibility: threatening weight loss since [insert arbitrary date in the mid to late nineteen hundreds, when weight gain hit popular culture as being a growing health problem (and beauty problem) for society]!)

Anyway, to the recipe:

1c canola oil (I used olive oil cos it's all we had, and I think this made it denser and richer)
1 1/2c castor sugar
2 eggs
1c (280g) natural yoghurt
2c self-raising, gluten free flour, sifted (as I do with regular flour, I used plain GF flour with baking powder added - 2 tsp per cup of flour, and be sure to use a baking powder without gluten! I think the Ward one is fine, but Anchor is not)
1tbsp + 1tsp rosewater (I used rosewater essence. Add 1tbsp first and then add more to your taste)
1/2 tsp Xanthan gum

250g butter (room temperature)
500g pure icing sugar, sifted
3tbsp chopped pistachios
green food colouring

Preheat oven to 200oC. Put 18 cupcake wrappers out in cupcake/muffin tray. Beat oil, castor sugar and eggs in a bowl using an electric mixer until well combined.

Looks yum already, doesn't it! And I wasn't tempted to stick my finger in and eat the mixture as I usually am at this stage (maybe because it has oil and not butter. Nowhere near as fun!)

Add yoghurt, followed by flour (in several batches - mix xanthan gum and baking powder (if you're using it) into the flour first to distribute it more evenly) and then the rosewater.

Divide amongst cupcake wrappers (about 2 soup spoons' worth each will divide it amongst 18 wrappers).

Bake for five minutes at 200oC then turn it down to 180oC and bake for another ten to fifteen minutes or so before beginning to check. Cakes are done when a skewer comes out clean (moist crumbs is okay, wet batter is not). Cool.

The cupcakes will be quite flat because that's how GF baked goods tend to turn out (and also why you crank the oven for the first five minutes - apparently the heat gives it a boost and makes it rise faster in the beginning so that it doesn't fall as badly in the end).

Beat the butter with the sifted icing sugar until all nice and whipped and pretty. Meanwhile chop the pistachios to about this size, so that they don't come as a nasty surprise when someone bites into the cupcake:

Add the pistachios to the mix, then gloat over your new Americolor food colourings.

I ordered this student colour kit online from Baking Pleasures. I'm addicted to these sorts of stores. It's dangerous.

So many pretty colours! As I look at this lineup, I'm dreaming of making macarons in all the colours of the rainbow. I dream about such things at very odd moments. I may order more of their colours at a later date...

I ordered these because a) I'm doing a lot of baking in Melbourne now, and mum only has her old liquid colours, and b) because I heard that they were the amongst the best gel colours on the market, oh and c) I'm a grot, and the fact they come in a squeeze bottle and don't require you messing about scooping the gel out of a tub like you have to with the Wilton colours really appealed to me.

I still managed to get it on my hands, mind you, but it happened when I was pulling the seal off the bottle and not when I was using it. So there.

Anyway, add a drop or two to the icing and beat it in, then pipe the icing onto the cakes using a super-fat nozzle.

Et, voila! (<-- me pretending to speak French. I don't. Except for asking for chocolate bread or coffee or whether anyone speaks English. Yep, I'm one of those tourists. In France, at least)

They're quite sweet and quite rich (might be the frosting contributing to it, but the cake is pretty rich on its own) but if you're a fan of rose flavouring then give these a whirl. All guinea pigs so far have approved.

A Day In The Life of My Phone, and a Half-Arsed Pavlova Recipe

Actually, that title is a blatant lie.

It’s several days in the life of my phone.

Not that my phone has a life. I haven’t somehow bestowed animation upon it. If I could do that sort of thing I would probably raise the dead. But only the ones who deserved it. And only if they were still fresh. And not likely to change the course of history in a bad way.

Several days in my life, some moments of which I have captured on my phone.

There. I’m much more comfortable with that statement.

In no particular order:

Something you don’t want to see crawling out of your boot in the morning

Spotted this plant at work in a swamp. Didn’t know what it was and thought it looked invasive so I decided to photograph it and look it up later. I was a bit worried that it was alligator weed, but now that I have gotten around to looking it up (several months later) I have discovered that it is not... I don’t think... Good thing, that...

Same day. Someone found this fella on site. I guess he died from shock because he didn’t seem to be physically injured. We **were** making quite a bit of noise, I guess... I was pretty sure at the time that it was an Antechinus (native rat) but now that I’m reviewing the photos I think it might be something else, possibly a domestic rat. Either way, it was dead when we found it.

Same day. Frogger! Obviously my phone prefers taking photos of things 2 meters away than up close.

Different day, different place, same operator. What the hell is it?? Does anyone know? I’m talking about the creepy-crawly on the piece of redgum. It looks kind of like it belongs in the ocean. Like Krill, only bigger and bitier. Again with the preferred depth of focus on the phone's camera! The dirt's pretty clear in the background but the critter I wanted to photograph is not. Boo.

Sometimes I come across these massive stumps out in the forest, and I wonder how old the tree was when it was felled, and how long ago it was felled, because we have a redgum stump in our yard that’s been there for thirty years and it’s nowhere near this rotten... then again, my yard doesn’t sit under water for months at a time like this part of the forest has at times!

Speaking of being underwater, same day, same area, taken from eye level (for those who don’t know me, I’m nearly 6’2”). I was thinking “if I’d been standing in this spot three or four months ago, I’d have been a little damp”. Seeing things like this has made me suddenly unsurprised that we're working in the largest remaining redgum forest in Australia... I mean, who the hell would build a house in the middle of this?? (okay, a couple of people did, but in very carefully selected locations)

Wire grows from trees in this forest!

Honest it does!

(Obviously I'm lying. I'd say at some point, many moons ago, this tree was used as a makeshift fence post)

Oh! Here’s one for you folks in Adelaide. It’s a photo of a miracle. Specifically, when they relaid a service under the intersection of Military Road and Semaphore Road near our house, they managed to lay a completely smooth bit of asphalt over the top of it!!! And that includes a manhole that was completely flush with the surrounding surface!!! Anyone who has driven anywhere in Adelaide would know that the road surface is pitted with manhole covers, and for some reason they are always unable to lay the asphalt evenly, or match the level of the road to the level of the manhole, or, as a last resort, to fill the holes in the metal lid with asphalt like they sometimes do. You go BA-DUM! BA-DUM! as your drive over them, particularly in the inside lane, but not always, the non-standard-ness of which is puzzling. It’s quite off putting because most services in Melbourne seem to be laid under the footpath, not the road. That would make sense, wouldn’t it... I’m just glad I’ve been driving a big ute around town and not a little zippy low thing.

Here’s a photo of The World’s Worst Fencing Repair. Seriously. I’m no expert, but I can see that it’s crap. Suffice it to say this is going to be re-fenced!

I think termites did this. I’m not sure how, but I’m imagining it involves termite spit or poo or something. It came from inside one of those massive River Red Gums, you know, the sort that are a good two hundred years old, maybe more. The ones that are about 4 or 5 meters around and ten, twenty, thirty metres tall. Amazing, amazing trees. So, so sad when they come down. But it’s for the long-term benefit of the trees left in the forest, so, sad though it is, it’s justifiable, because it means more trees will live to this grand old age.

This fella was found in a tree that came down. He was a little NQR for a bit, but once I had warmed him up to give him the best possible chance to escape predators (it was a freezing cold June morning), he was good to go. I always jump a bit when I see larger reptiles in hollow trees because I think I’m conditioned to believe that if it’s long, thin and has scales, it’s probably a snake. Totally not a snake. Just a very cold lizard. I gave him a bit of a cuddle to warm him up and sent him on his way to find a new hidey-hole.

This is an awful, awful photo of Grant in Sydney (I think he was hoping I’d let him eat his sundae in peace and was thinking "hurry up and take the damned photo!" while he tried to smile politely... he's so supportive :) )... so focus out the size of the sundae!!! Initially we were miffed as to why they cost so much. If they had written “to scale” on the pictures of them on the walls, we wouldn’t have ordered one each. Sundae ordering fail! Double fail because we had to scoff it down quickly on our way to the theatre to see Mary Poppins, and got icecream headaches. It was totally worth it J

When I told Grant I was putting this terrible photo up he made me promise to put it side by side with a good one, so here it is:

Every now and then when I’m walking through the forest I see shapes that don’t often exist in nature, like right-angled trees. They stick out because they seem a bit odd.

(and before anyone gets smart with me, I'm talking about the tree with two branches in the middle of the photo, and not the telegraph pole a little to its right... telegraph pole... geez, what an outdated term! It's actually a power pole, and don't know whether any telegraph poles actually still exist in Australia and probably haven't during my lifetime, and yet it remains in my vocabulary...)
Oh, and quite often as I wander about the forest I bump into these fellas...

....aaaaand to give you an idea of scale:
They give you a little scare when they're about an inch from your face but don’t seem to bite. You also develop an instinct for them and learn to stop dead or swerve, even if you haven't fully registered that they're there. And I don’t feel anywhere near as freaked out about them as I do about that Mystery Critter further back, even though they’re nearly half the size of a can of spray paint when fully stretched out. And they get bigger, too.

What else do I have... OH! I got excited when I saw this:

...because I really wanted a picture of this (and nearly ran up the back of another car taking it):

The other day, my BFF Kirsti and I went to see Jane Eyre, which, as Kirsti wrote in her blog, was somewhat disappointing. We arrived early and headed to the food court for lunch, and I swear to God, we are broken. BROKEN, I TELLS YA!!! Once upon a time - and I’m sorry if Kirsti doesn’t want me to tell the world this, but it embarrasses me, too, so that kind of makes it okay...? - a trip to the movies would have involved something greasy like pizza or a big pasta for lunch and then a popcorn and/or massive bag of Malteaseters during the movie, and maybe a soft drink or juice or frozen coke (or as I call it, Froke). A movie night at home would have included Red Rooster, 2 types of chips (usually Pringles and Cheezels), a block of chocolate and 2 types of lollies (usually Strawberries and Cream, and Killer Pythons). Oh, and a can soft drink. Yeah, we were a bit porkier back in those days. It took many, many years for it to sink in, but as it turns out, healthy eating and exercise do actually help you keep your weight down! *reaches for another slice of cake* So this time around, each of us quite a few kilos lighter, we independently of one another chose stir fried vegies with steamed rice and a bottle of water for lunch, and during the movie we each ate two lollypops. We’re officially broken. Of course, I am perfectly aware that food court Chinese can be swimming in grease, but let’s face it – it’s a healthier option than most of the other things available there, and at least it had vitamins and fibre and stuff. I could tell you a story about trying to make a healthy choice with a sandwich, but the thought of the cranberry sauce it was swimming in makes me gag a little and I don't want to ruin my appetite for dinner!

Buuuut later that day I had a small dietary relapse in the form of Pavlova.

Awwwwww, yeah! One of my other BFFs Ness (yep, there's two of us!) and her lovely husband Adam were the willing beneficiaries of my mini pavs that night, as I was Ness' Osso Bucco. Yummo spagummo. Good food + good friends = awesome night.

Oh, and I maintain the calories don’t count because I made them for someone else *whispers* and me *whispers* and I took them to another place to eat them *whispers* where I also was *whispers* and they had lots of yummy, healthy fruit on them *whispers* and a whole lot of whipped cream and are made largely of sugar *whispers* aaaaaand... yeah, I got nothin’.

Oh yeah and I promised a pav recipe – scroll down to the bottom for it.
Here’s another few random ones –

“Dickhead on a roof” (Opposite the North Sydney cricket ground - no fall protection of any sort, up a ladder, with a large drop down to concrete)

“HAHAHA... dickhead” (sensing a theme here? Not my car, by the way – mine’s the one safely up the top - and I didn’t bog this one, either. When asked why he tried to drive through the lagoon crossing, the driver shrugged and said “it looked like fun”. It was removed using an excavator. But hey, we get paid to do this!)
“Just another work function” (yep, somehow we talked our way behind the bar at the local pub. It works for them cos it’s often late and they CBF serving anymore)

And then there’s a whole bunch I took driving around the place. Testing water is about a 120km round trip for me on country roads. I feel so blessed to work in such a beautiful place, even though it’s a royal pain the bum to get to and from and around. Most people don’t see this part of Australia, which I find to be sad. Most people don’t even make it out of their own suburb, except maybe to go to work. I... I dunno. I’ve just always gotten a bit choked up about the Australian landscape. I can understand why others would find it boring or uninspiring, but I find it to be beautiful. Big skies, subtle colours, breathtaking space. In these photos, though, I also find it to be somewhat nauseating – potholes will do that to a photo, at least when it’s taken with a phone!

I drive upwards of a thousand kilometres each week, sometimes closer to fifteen hundred or more. My car is a dusty, muddy pigsty and I get a sore back from the seat. It has a wobble because there’s mud stuck inside the wheels and every time I decide to climb under the car and chisel it out, it rains, or I drive through more mud, and I don’t much care for having mud dropped on my face when I’m stuck under a car so I don’t do it. I am perpetually sleep deprived because I have to be up early to drive to work, or I have to stay up late driving home, or because I don’t get to bed early enough because going to the gym – which is very important to me – requires a 45 minute round trip. I am tired of packing my bags every week, of wearing the same clothes every week (and yet, it’s totally liberating!), of eating the same food every week.

But I never get sick of this.

Those colours, that space. Simply breathtaking. This is our country. I wish more people felt about it the way I do.

Anyway, as promised, and in a suitably patriotic theme:


4 egg whites
1c castor sugar
1tbsp cornflour
1tsp white vinegar

Ensure mixer and bowl are totally free of grease.

Whip until stiff peaks form and then trickle castor sugar in, whipping until dissolved.

Add cornflour and mix.

Add vinegar and mix.

In this case, I then piped four “baskets” (using a big piping nozzle, approx. 1.5-2cm across) onto baking trays lined with baking paper, and baked for around 45-50 minutes at 150oC. They were starting to brown, which they’re not really supposed to, and I’m pretty sure that’s the mistake I always make. If you want them pale brown and crispy outside and chewy inside, bake like I did. If you want them dried out in the middle, bake at about 120-130oC for about an hour and a half (check on it though!).

I know, it’s a very rough recipe. But that’s the one that I use cos that’s the one that’s in my head.

I then whipped up 300mL of cream, and made a fruit salad of 1 Granny Smith apple, 1 punnet of strawberries, 1 kiwi fruit and a tin of passionfruit pulp and plopped them both on just before serving.

So very scientific of me :) I also know it's unconventional to put apple on a pav, but I love the crunch it gives, and the tartness of the apple balances the sweetness of the strawberries and meringue and passionfruit pulp. Note also that I did not sweeten the cream as I didn't want it to be overwhelmingly sweet.


Monday, 15 August 2011

The Daring Kitchen - Daring Cooks #1: Appam and Curry

Well! This is my first ever Daring Cooks challenge on Daring Kitchen and I'm still trying to figure out how it all works. I know that I'm already a day late in posting, but you can get in a lot of trouble for posting early, and considering I'm half a day ahead of the majority of people, that would be unwise.

The idea is you join up, and every month you participate in cooking a new and challenging food. This month it was appam and curry. Appam is a southern Indian/Sri Lankan leavened rice pancake. Think pancakes, but grainier (because of the rice), and with a different flavour (because of the yeast and coconut milk). They're ever so slightly crumbly but when you're using them to soak up curry juice that's no biggie.

Mary, who writes the delicious blog, Mary Mary Culinary was our August Daring Cooks’ host. Mary chose to show us how delicious South Indian cuisine is! She challenged us to make Appam and another South Indian/Sri Lankan dish to go with the warm flat bread.

I chose to make the appam, along with the Sri Lankan Beef Curry and an accompaniment of Carrots with Tropical Flavours. The appam was the compulsory item, and you could choose one or more other dishes. One of them was a prawn one and another was a fish one, but I went with beef because it was on special!

Note that you should read the recipes very carefully, especially the appam one. I made a couple of assumptions because I am unfamiliar with Indian cuisine or even with just the recipes themselves, and I made a couple of errors that could have been fatal to my attempts. Note also that I used a total of one can of coconut milk for these three recipes. I don't know why it was important for me to say that, but I just had to get it out there!

Mistake #1 was adding extra liquid to the blended rice before adding the yeast mixture, which meant that it was far too sloppy. Luckily, mum was on hand to suggest that I add rice flour - which is just ground rice, which is basically what I already had in the blender - to make up for the extra fluid I had added. It worked a treat. Phew! Crisis averted!

Mistake #2 was attempting to fry flip the appam as though they were pancakes. Nope. You pour the batter in, swirl it so it is thinly and evenly distributed in the pan, then you put a lid on it and leave it to cook/steam for a couple of minutes. It should come out of the pan quite easily. If you try and flip them, Western style, they'll just fall to pieces and be uncooked on one side and ugh *shudders*

So with no further ado, here are the recipes. I'll post a photo of my completed product at the end. Good luck!

Servings: Makes about 15. I found 2 were enough for a serving when served with curry and carrots.

Preparation time: Soaking the rice: 3 hours

Fermenting the batter: 8-12 hours (8 hours if it’s hot in your kitchen, longer if it’s cooler)
Mixing the batter: a few minutes
Cooking the appam: 2-3 minutes each

Equipment required:
● large bowl for soaking rice and fermenting batter
● blender or wet/dry grinder or mortar and pestle
● sieve
● small ladle <-- I tipped it straight in from the bowl but if you're not confident in the kitchen use a ladle!
● small frying pan/skillet (preferably non-stick) with a lid <-- I used a pizza tray, balanced precariously atop a frypan that was rather a lot smaller than the tray. Precarious balancing in the kitchen is how I roll!
● small heatproof spatula

I also used a glass measuring cup for initially getting the yeast going.

1 ½ cups (360 ml/300 gm/10½ oz) raw rice
1 ½ teaspoons (7½ ml/5 gm) active dry yeast
2 teaspoons (10 ml/9 gm) sugar
½ cup (120 ml) of coconut water or water, room temperature
1 ½ tablespoons (22½ ml/18 gm) cooked rice
½ teaspoon (2½ ml/3 gm) salt
about ½ cup (120 ml) thick coconut milk (from the top of an unshaken can)

1. Soak the raw rice in 4 to 5 cups of water for 3 hours. You can soak it overnight, although I did not try that. <-- I did because of the 8-12 hours of fermentation time required of the batter
2. Dissolve the sugar in the coconut water or plain water and add the yeast. Set aside in a warm area for 10-15 minutes, until very frothy.
3. Drain the rice and grind it in a blender with the yeast mixture to make a smooth batter. You can add a bit of extra water if needed, but I did not. <-- I got excited and added the water to make it smooth before adding the yeast mixture... fail! I then realised my error and added a whole bunch of rice flour to compensate for the liquid Add the cooked rice, and grind/blend to combine well. It is not completely smooth, but very thick—think porridge-ish, inasmuch as if you swirl it about with a spatula it sort of holds a little shape. Actually, more like a dip does..
4. Pour into a large bowl, cover and leave in a warm place for 8-12 hours. You not only want the mixture to rise and collapse, but to ferment. When it is ready, it will have a slightly sour and distinctly yeasty smell. Don’t worry--they are mild tasting when cooked!
5. Add the coconut milk and salt, and a bit of water if necessary, so that you have a batter that is just a bit thicker than milk. <-- I added a bit of water here cos I guess the rice flour I added to rescue it earlier was a bit **too** much Notice how it bubbles after you add the coconut milk. I recommend test-cooking one before thinning the batter.
6. Heat your pan over medium heat. Wipe a few drops of oil over it using a paper towel. Stir the batter and pour in 3-4 tablespoons, depending on the size of the pan. Working quickly, hold the handle(s) and give the pan a quick swirl so that the batter comes to the top edge. Swirl once only, as you want the edges to be thin and lacy.
7. Cover the pan <-- not like me at first! and cook for about 2 minutes. Uncover and check. The center should have puffed up a bit, and will be shiny, but dry to the touch. When ready, loosen the edges with a small spatula and serve immediately. These need to be served hot out of the pan.
8. Make another, and another... Here you can see some that were made in regular skillets.
9. I have found that the leftover batter can be refrigerated for a day or 2.

Servings: 4 as a side dish

This is a simple and tasty way to serve carrots. It is creamy and with a bit of chili heat. Serve as a side with one of the saucy curries.

1 pound (½ kg) carrots, about 5 medium, peeled
1 tablespoon (15 ml) vegetable oil
about 8 fresh curry leaves <-- nowhere to be found in my town! Google tells me you can substitute bay leaves or basil leaves for curry leaves but it's never quite the same. CURRY LEAVES DO NOT EQUATE TO CURRY POWDER. THEY ARE A TOTALLY DIFFERENT THING!!! You can also substitute the zest of 1 lime for 8 curry leaves. I used bay leaves for this recipe, and the zest of 1 lime and 2 curry leaves for the curry recipe
2 tablespoons (30 ml/15 gm) minced seeded green cayenne chilies  <-- note that I omitted about half the chili for this and for the below curry because mum had a suspected stomach ulcer at the time. It tasted fine
3 tablespoons (45 ml/27 gm) minced shallots
2 teaspoons (10ml) rice vinegar (I used lime juice)
1 teaspoon (5 ml/6 gm) salt
¼ teaspoon (1¼ ml/1 gm) sugar
½ cup (120 ml) coconut milk
¼ cup (50 ml) water
coarse salt, optional
cilantro (coriander) leaves to garnish

1. Julienne or coarsely grate the carrots. Set aside.
2. Place a deep skillet with a tight-fitting lid over medium-high heat. Add the oil, then add half of the curry leaves, the chilies and the shallots. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring.
3. Add the carrots, stir, and add the vinegar, salt, sugar and mix well. Increase the heat and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes, until they give off a bit of liquid.
4. Add the water and half of the coconut milk and bring to a fast boil. Stir, cover tightly and cook until just tender, 5-10 minutes, depending on size. Mine took about 5 minutes. Check to ensure the liquid has not boiled away and add a little more water if it is almost dry.
5. Add the remaining coconut milk and curry leaves. Simmer for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and taste for seasoning. Sprinkle with coarse salt, if desired, and garnish with chopped cilantro leaves.
6. Transfer to a plate and serve hot or at room temperature

Servings: 4 <-- 3 of us polished it off quite easily

This curry has an amazing depth of flavor from the spices, coconut milk and tamarind. It may look like a lot of sauce, but you will just want more.

1 pound (½ kg) boneless beef (such as round steak or roast), or about 1 ½ pounds (¾ kg) short ribs or cross ribs (or boneless lamb shoulder)
1 tablespoon (15 ml) vegetable oil
10 fresh or frozen curry leaves <-- see above notes on potential curry leaf substitutes
1 green cayenne chili, finely chopped <-- see above notes on how much chili I used
generous 1 cup (250ml/250 gm/9 oz) finely chopped onion
1 teaspoon (5 ml/3 gm) turmeric
1 teaspoon (5 ml/6 gm) salt
½ cup (120 ml) coconut milk
1 tablespoon (15 ml/15 gm) tamarind pulp <-- note that I could only find tamarind puree at my local shops. This appears to be free of seeds, which is what I take the whole soaking and straining steps in this recipe to be about. Because I didn't need to remove the seeds I omitted the soaking/straining and only added 1/2 to 2/3 the quantity of what was required because I presumed that if you were straining it, you would be removing about that volume. Sometimes you gotta roll with it!
¼ cup (60 ml) hot water <-- for the tamarind pulp (as opposed to puree) straining hoo-ha
3 cups (720 ml) water

Dry Spice Mixture:
1 tablespoon (15 ml/13 gm) raw white rice
1 tablespoon (15 ml/10 gm) coriander seeds
1 teaspoon (5 ml/4 gm) cumin seeds
one 1-inch piece (2½ cm) cinnamon or cassia stick
seeds from 2 pods of green cardamom

1. Cut the beef into ½ inch (13 mm) cubes or separate the ribs. Set aside.
2. In a small heavy skillet, roast the dry spice mixture over medium to medium-high heat for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring continuously, until it smells amazing! You will be able to see that the rice is a toasted color.
3. Transfer to a spice grinder or mortar and grind/pound to a powder. Set aside. Chop the tamarind pulp and soak it in the hot water. Set aside
4. In a large, wide pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the curry leaves, green chili, onion and turmeric and stir-fry for 3 minutes. Add the meat and salt and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally so all surfaces of the meat get browned.
5. Add the reserved spice mixture and the coconut milk and stir to coat the meat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
6. Press the soaked tamarind through a sieve placed over a bowl. Use a spoon to press all the liquid and pulp out. Discard the seeds and stringy bits. Add the tamarind liquid to the 3 cups of water.
7. Add the tamarind/water mixture to the pot and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and cook uncovered at a strong simmer for about an hour, until the meat is tender and the flavors are well blended. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Serve hot.

So here are my photos - nothing to write home about, because I took them on full Auto with a flash, due to the fact that the light in mum's kitchen is appalling at the best of times, but at night-time...!

And of course, I had to get artistic...

If you have a little time up your sleeve, take yourself on a culinary adventure and have a crack at these. I think that once you are familiar with the recipe it would be a piece of cake, but because I was a novice it was a bit messy. But all consumers were suitably impressed - the flavours of the curry are incredible, particularly in contrast with the rubbish curry paste you get ready-made in jars. Go on - be daring!

101 Things Update - Week 5

Well, I don't have anything to report this week besides:

#35 - Exercise 4 times per week in the lead-up to the wedding. Check! <-- quite proud of this one

#24 - Blog at least twice per month for a year. Third fortnight done - check!

#49 - Lose 1kg per month until under 75kg. Check! Except that I'm scared I'll put it back on again... maybe I should wait until the end of each month to actually declare victory on this one, especially because this one actually stipulates that I am to keep it off. Yes, that sounds like a much better idea. In the meantime, if you're interested, you can keep track here. Note that I meant I had lost 1kg, not that I was under 75kg - I wish! My pre-publish read-through made me realise that may not be quite clear.

I am afraid, dear reader, that nothing else has changed, and that this has been a very dry post. As mentioned previously, I just want to get into the habit of blogging weekly. Normally I'd do it on a Sunday afternoon but this week I was too consumed with eating Twisties reading Mansfield Park to prepare myself for #65, the reading of my next unread book, Murder at Mansfield Park.

I also never came through with the cupcakes I promised this week, either, because it's been a mental week. For that I apologise. I also apologise to myself because I probably would have preferred to eat cupcakes than Twisties! I guess that also means I'll have to bake some this weekend, because next weekend I'm out of town for a work thingie, and I can't let #1 (declaring my 29th year to be Year of the Cupcake) beat me so soon!

Hang ten and I shall post on something I cooked for The Daring Kitchen, a website which issues you with cooking and baking challenges. I have signed up for the cooking challenges and not the baking ones, because I am not as naturally inclined to challenge myself with savoury meals as I am with delectable desserts. This month's theme was southern Indian cuisine, and was very different to anything I have made before. If you have a bit of time up your sleeve you should try out the recipes.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

101 Things Update - Week 4

Just checking in, even though not a lot has gone down in the last week. I'm just trying to make blogging a weekly habit for me. Apparently blog readers are creatures of habit and like to know when you'll be updating, so I'll be aiming for Sundays.

#24 - to blog at least twice a month for a year... seems to be on track

#35 - to exercise four times per week in the lead-up to the wedding... did really well this week! Check out my progress here. And note that whilst I really am sorry you probably can't read all of the right hand side of the table, if I make it any smaller you won't be able to read the writing. Unless I shrink the columns... hmm, maybe next week...

#49 - to lose 1kg per month until under 75kg (but above 70kg)... I ate a lot of random stuff this week that weren't really conducive to weight loss, but I also exercised 4 times (twice at the gym and twice at home), plus did a fair bit of incidental exercise. As a result I lost 1kg. So even if I lose nothing else for the rest of the month, I'm on track. Huzzah!

#65 - to read all my unread books before buying more... two down (hehe. Sort of), thirteen to go!

Sorry this week wasn't so exciting for y'all. But next week I promise there will be cupcakes...

Book Review - The Awakening, by Kate Chopin

Well. Didn't I stuff this one up! As a result of the fact that I counted a book that I actually have read in my list of books I needed to, I am now ahead of the game, which frees me up considerably to do some pre-work for my next book by reading Mansfield Park (the next book I plan to read is Murder at Mansfield Park, and I want to remind myself of the actual storyline and characters before I go reading a spoof of it. For those who are unfamiliar with it, it is much of the same ilk as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and others - classic (usually) Victorian books re-written to make them cool for the kids of today by adding blood and guts and zombies. I love the trend. Some call it bastardisation of classic literature, but some people thought 10 Things I Hate About You was a bastardisation of Shakespeare. It wasn't. It was just a creative film adaptation.)

Aaaaanyway, the book I read was The Awakening, by Kate Chopin. I realised about three pages in that I'd read it before, flipped to the last page to confirm my suspicion, then closed the book. It's not that I don't want to read it again; it's that there are other books that I have a more pressing need to read. I'll get back to it one day. I think I **thought** I hadn't read it, because it was one of the books I bought for a uni subject that I never took (as several of the books for #65 are, including Homer's Odyssey), and I had read that particular book over summer before realising I wouldn't take the course, and so I have read it once but not studied it intently.

Apparently it was super-memorable!

My personal recollection of the book is that it is set in the South (of America) and there are a whole bunch of people with French names, so presumably they hang about in the French Quarter of New Orleans (and if I'd re-read it properly I'd be able to give you a definitive answer on that) when they're not swanning about at this resort island for the upper-middle class in the Caribbean.

PLOT: Wife neglected by absent husband and unfulfilled by the whole no life outside caring for the children and home thing; handsome, charming, attentive younger man on the resort island; hubby goes back to the mainland for business thus facilitating a flirtatious and slightly inappropriate (for the day) friendship between his wife and her would-be lover; shenanigans take place (although my recollection is that there aren't any actual shenanigans, but, rather, unfaithful thoughts and a fair bit of unrequited lust. I think she visits him alone in his home which was completely improper and scandalous for the day, and the young man kisses the married lady at which point she wigs out a bit when she realises what a mess she's gotten herself into, but I don't remember it being a full-blown affair); wife realises that she is completely unfulfilled by her life and is in an impossible situation and will never be happy but has no way out; wife... oh heck, I'll tell you and ruin the story - she drowns herself at the end.

The more I think about it, the more I recall it was a fairly light and fluffy summer read - think a Jodi Picoult novel for the complexity of relationships, crossed with a bit of Mills & Boon intrigue, and yet absolutely nothing like either of those!

I haz wikkid book reviewing skillz.

I wouldn't suggest you rush out and buy it, but if you ever see it lying about in a youth hostel or doctor's surgery then give it a go.