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Have you ever cooked with kelp?

The Japanese call it kombu and they use it to make dashi stock, the backbone of many traditional dishes. The Koreans refer to it as dashima (pronounced “dah-sheema”) and it’s readily available in grocery stores like Komart in North Strathfield (providing you know what to ask for).

There are both dried and fresh salted versions available – I found this bag in the Komart fridge section for about $2.50…

It was heavily salted, so needed a good rinse and an hour’s soaking time before use…

I squeezed the water out and chopped up the prepared seaweed, stirring a handful into my sourdough…

It was a huge hit with the boys and the neighbours, with the kombu adding a little bit of salt and a subtle umami kick to the loaves…

Here’s a second batch that I made last weekend. This time I added more kombu – 100g (soaked and drained weight) to my four kilo batch of sourdough…

The leftovers made spectacular croutons…

Kombu/dashima is more readily available in dried form, which rehydrates brilliantly for use in stocks and soups…

My clever hubby tried grinding up a little of the dried seaweed in the spice grinder with flossy sea salt (50/50 by weight) and ended up with this delicious blend. I’ve been sprinkling it on everything from focaccias to steaks – it adds flavour with less actual salt…

Do you cook with kombu? I’d love to know what you do with it!

When the sun is shining and our timing is right, Big Boy and I get to experience this magnificent light show on our morning walks. It’s created by the sunlight on the wind-driven waves bouncing off the concrete pillars on the underside of the pedestrian footbridge. If it was a contemporary art installation at the MCA, I’d happily pay to view it, so you can imagine how chuffed I was to be standing in the middle of it!

It  was particularly glorious earlier this week, so I took a video to share with you. This is exactly as my iPhone captured it – I haven’t added any filters or special effects…

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In case you’re having trouble figuring out all the angles, here’s a photo taken this morning from the outside…

…and a middle of the day pic from a couple of months’ ago…

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Pete suggested I upload the wider video as well, so you can see a bit more of the bridge (click on the fullscreen tab on the bottom right of the video for a better look)…

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If you’re walking the Greenway or the Leichhardt side of the Bay Run in the mornings, the best time to catch the light show is around 8.30am, on sunny, windy days when the tide is high (I’m adding that info for you, Greg!).

Wishing you all light and happiness every day!

A few random (happy!) snippets from the past couple of weeks…

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The closing down sale at Cash Palace Emporium continues, and Elaine seems to magically produce new stock each time I pop in. She’s still taking delivery of goods that were ordered months ago, then immediately reducing them by 50% to try and sell them in the remaining four weeks that they’re going to be open. I have absolutely no affiliation with the business, but we share a passion for ethnic and vintage textiles. Like so many others in Sydney, I’ve come to quite adore her.

She has a new shipment of vintage kantha silk shawls on offer…

…and gorgeous Uzbek suzani pieces…

I couldn’t resist this hooded kantha coat – the Ajrahk cotton is hand block printed (stamped) and hand quilted. Maybe it’s because I’m now in my 50s, but I think it’s cool.

Pete, however, was less convinced but greatly amused. My friend Bethany thought that I looked like Friar Tuck. I’ve ignored them both and worn it constantly since I bought it…

The garment is so beautifully finished on the inside that it just needed a few buttons to make it fully reversible. I asked Elaine if she could spare me any and bless her, she gave me these vintage hand-carved camel bone ones…

Cash Palace Emporium
139 Catherine St
Leichhardt NSW
(02) 9569 5977

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My daily walks on the Inner West Greenway and the Iron Cove Bay Run have been enlivened by Art on the Greenway – “An Outdoor Art Exhibition with a Green Focus” – which will be on display until Monday 22nd May 2017. The artworks are located on the Canal Road Hub (near Blackmore Oval).

I met local artist Allyson Adeney as she was setting up Memory Wave IV

Allyson uses upcycled crystal and glass stemware to create her gorgeous pieces…

…which she then carefully positions in situ…

We Stand Together by Janny Grant was created from rescued local gum branches which were destined to be chipped…

Nomadic Winds: a journey’s rest II by Sally Kidall is a collection of small “houses” positioned at various angles over the pedestrian footbridge…

The Battlers by Ro Murray and Mandy Burgess was inspired by a group of Hunters Hill women who banded together in the 1970s to save the bushland near their homes. I have to say though, that every time I walk past the figure in the photo below, I find myself humming the disco classic…”You can’t stop the music…nobody can stop the music”…

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As a result of all the fabric treasures I found at Cash Palace, I’m been in the midst of a little sewing mania. Last week I discovered these instructions for turning a shawl into a poncho with one seam and proceeded to madly stitch up all my pashminas. After all, as Noel Fielding once said, it’s impossible to be unhappy in a poncho…

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The fossil I bought myself for my birthday a few months ago continues to live on my desk – I find myself holding it quite often during the day. It’s incredibly smooth and exquisitely beautiful. Oh, and 113 million years old…

…and translucent!

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I popped into the MCA recently to view Khadim Ali’s The Arrival of Demons 2017, a site specific mural commissioned for the MCA foyer. It depicts imagery from Ali’s Afghan/Pakistani/Iranian upbringing, overlaid with eucalyptus leaves taken from the Aussie passport that Ali has held since 2015. It’s truly glorious – I particularly love the way he’s incorporated the steps into his artwork…

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Finally, if you’re a Sydney foodie, you’ve probably heard about Yakitori Jin by now. This new Japanese eatery has (finally!) opened up in our neighbourhood and it’s been packed out since day one. And what else would you expect from a restaurant where you can order five chicken tails (bishops/parsons nose) on a stick?

Chef and owner Aki hard at work…

We’ve never been to Japan, but our friends who have tell us that it feels like eating in Tokyo. As a bonus, the food is delicious!

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Hope you’re all having a wonderful month! ♥

“Why do you do it?”, my friend Ellen asked me.

She’d popped in to pick up a couple of loaves (one for her and one for our neighbour Lou across the road) when the doorbell rang and Will arrived to pick up the third loaf of the four I’d just baked.

I thought for a minute, then I explained.

Four one-kilo loaves of freshly baked, slow proved sourdough bread cost me $2.36 in flour (59c each). It used to be less, but I’ve recently upgraded the bakers’ flour I’m using. I’d had to bake anyway as we’d run out of bread, but we rarely eat more than a loaf a day and it always feels wasteful to run our big oven just to bake a single.

Mixing up four kilos of sourdough by hand isn’t much harder than making a one-kilo batch. Our high hydration overnight technique (my current go-to formula) involves just minutes of hands-on time, so the only tricky bit is finding a container large enough to hold the dough as it proves on the bench…

And then…I get to have cups of tea with the neighbours when they pop over to pick up loaves. They send me photos of their kids scoffing Vegemite toast and the lunches they take to work the following day, often with suggestions and feedback. It helps to fortify the powerful bonds we already share as a community. Best of all, every bake saves four families a trip to the shops to buy an $8 artisan sourdough loaf.

If I’m honest though, my neighbours are doing me a favour, because they give me an excuse to bake in bulk. Over the past ten years, sourdough baking has become a huge passion – I adore the feel of the spongy dough, and messing about with different shapes and slashes, and the oooh moment when I lift the roaster lids to see how much the loaves have risen. It may be one of the oldest and most prosaic forms of cooking, but it has never lost its magic on me – every single loaf feels like a gift and even after all this time, I still find myself marveling at the alchemy of it. It saves us heaps of money (even with all the loaves that go out the door) and it keeps everyone I love fed. That’s a pretty addictive combination!

Duck fat and smoked paprika twists for our neighbour Mark, who very kindly mows our front lawn!

If you’ve never baked bread before, I’d encourage you to give it a go. Our basic yeasted tutorial or, if you have access to some starter, the basic sourdough tutorial and the overnight sourdough tutorial, are all good places to start. And if you’re already an enthusiastic baker, I’d love to know who you share your loaves (or other baked goods) with! ♥

Sorry folks, I don’t have any more dried Priscilla starter at the moment. I’ll let you know when I have more to share!

*with thanks to Maree at Around the Mulberry Tree for the title suggestion.

A final update on the stripey socks!

In case you’ve just joined in, here’s the background story on the socks we’ve been collecting from our podiatrist Richard. Happily, the scanning technology has now improved, which means the socks will no longer be needed (or subsequently discarded).

Of the last batch we picked up, forty cleaned and tumble-dried pairs were delivered to the folks at the Mustard Seed Op Shop in Ultimo for distribution to the homeless…

I’ve discovered that the cotton-rich heel-free tubes make perfect heat packs, filled with 500g of whole wheat and stitched across the top. They cost me just 80c each and take five minutes to put together…

Serendipitously, my neighbour popped over that afternoon with a migraine and neck pain. She’d baulked at the $40 wheat packs from the chemist, so I popped one of mine into the microwave, then draped it over her shoulders…

I split the side seam on one sock and turned it into a useful bag

Stripey sock juggling balls only require two seams and if I cut carefully, I can get all three balls from a single sock…

I filled another sock with flossy salt to form a soothing eye pad. I chilled it in the fridge for an hour or so, then my young friend Grace tested it out for me…

It takes four socks to make a beanie, but then again, I do have a large head…

I’d managed to wear a few socks out at the toes, so I turned them into fingerless gloves for my morning walks. I emailed Richard to tell him that I’d been out in my matching hat, socks and fingerless gloves, and he deadpanned… “You have issues I’m not qualified to work with”…

A couple of photos to finish…Richard the Sock Monkey…

…and Karen the Sock Owl…

It’s been great fun – thanks for coming on this socky journey with me! ♥

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