Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Food & Friends’ Category

Do you have time for a cuppa? I’d love to catch you up on what’s been happening over the past couple of weeks. I should warn you though – this is a loooong post!

. . . . .

Firstly, an update on our attempts to try and reduce our household waste. It’s been four weeks now, and we’ve filled our first bokashi bin. It will sit on the back deck under cover for a further three weeks, during which time the contents should ferment into a compostable form.

I’ll let you know how it goes, but we’ve been really pleased so far – it does smell a bit, but not nearly as much as I thought it would, especially given the fish heads I put in there a fortnight ago. And the smell is more of a fermenting odour rather than a rotting one. I think the bins that we bought – Maze 12L Indoor Composters – are particularly good as they have a rubber seal which keeps them reasonably airtight. Some of the others (including the larger Maze one) just have a loose flap on top.

Using these for a month has led to a huge reduction in the amount of waste we have to throw out each week…

. . . . .

We’ve made a concerted effort to reduce our use of paper towels as much as possible. The family are loving the cloth napkins – I’m not sure they’ll ever go back to paper! I’ve found that we needed a lot more than I thought we would – we’ve currently got two dozen on rotation, which means I only need to wash once every five days or so.

I’m also making more cotton dishcloths – not wiping up spills with paper towels means we need more of these as well. I’m trying a crocheted version this time, but it’s been twenty years since I last picked up a hook, so there’s a bit of relearning to do. By the way, if you’re making these, Bendigo Mills has the most gorgeous seasonal colours on sale at the moment (link is here). The 200g balls are $12 and equivalent to four regular balls in weight. I get about ten dishcloths from each one.

. . . . .

The mesh bags are working a treat! I know it’s not essential to colour match the veg to the bags, but it did make for a lovely photo…

Last night, I plugged in my headphones, listened to a James Herriot audiobook, and whipped up a stack of these for family and friends…

. . . . .

We’ve repaired our laundry basket for the umpteenth time. Every six months of so, we talk about replacing it, but we can never figure out what to do with the old one…

. . . . .

I’ve picked up a big batch of socks from Richard the podiatrist – unfortunately the sockless scanning technology didn’t work out, so he still has oodles to get rid of. If you’re new to our blog, you can read the whole story here and here. I’ve washed and sterilised them all, and will donate half to charity this winter.

The remaining half I’m turning into a sock blanket and oil bottle drip savers…

I cut the top band off the socks I’m using for the  blanket, but they were too good to waste, so I zigzagged the raw edges and we now use them in place of rubber bands…

. . . . .

Our lovely neighbour Ellen gave us a couple of rolls of Who Gives A Crap toilet paper to try. I’m sure they’re a great organisation, and the paper is fine, but after much discussion, Pete and I have decided that we need to buy Australian made.  Pete has concerns about the environmental cost of shipping toilet paper from China, whereas I feel that we have so little manufacturing left in Australia that we need to support locally made wherever possible. Obviously this is a personal choice, and I have a lot of friends buying from Who Gives A Crap who are extremely happy with their service and product…

For what it’s worth, I’ve done a bit of research, and our big producers – Kleenex, Sorbent and Quilton – all source their fibre from FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) accredited forests. They all manufacture here. Quilton is fully Australian owned; Kimberly-Clark (makers of Kleenex) now have the Greenpeace seal of approval and donate to the World Wildlife Fund (this article by the Guardian is particularly interesting).

All of the above come in plastic wrap, but if you buy in bulk, there’s only one piece of plastic packaging to REDcycle every six weeks (as opposed to individually wrapped rolls or two-packs).

. . . . .

Our rubbish going into the red bin each week is now down to just half a kitchen bin bag. We’ve found these plastic-free Maze bin liners made from starch. They’re expensive, but we only use one a week now, so that’s not a problem…

. . . . .

Small Man was immediately on board with our waste reduction attempts, but Big Boy has taken a little longer to get his head around it all. So I was very chuffed this week when he packed himself a pita pocket for lunch, wrapped it in a beeswax wrap and then a furoshiki. Success!

And on the topic of the beeswax wraps, they’ve been the bee’s knees (ugh..sorry). We haven’t used a single piece of clingfilm or a new plastic bag in over a month (we have used recycled bags though). If you haven’t made any of these, I’d encourage you to have a go. And for what it’s worth, we tried adding a little jojoba oil to them, but I really can’t notice a difference, so I’d suggest you save the dollars and just use the wax sheets. Our tutorial on making them is here.

. . . . .

Moving on to other things…

Dianmari left me a comment last post about substituting leftover sourdough starter for yoghurt in cakes. It worked! I tried it in the blueberry coffee cake – our starter Priscilla is never particularly acidic, but the cake was delicious nonetheless. Pete thought it tasted a bit like berry pancakes. Worth experimenting with if you have leftover starter! The tip was originally in this post by Chocolate and Zucchini…

. . . . .

Our neighbour Mark allowed us to raid his fig tree this year, and Pete turned the surplus crop into amazing fig and nectarine jam…

. . . . .

We visited Carriageworks a couple of weeks ago to view  the Katharine Grosse installation. It was magnificent, but we were all troubled by the massive amount of fabric used – 8,000 metres of super heavy duty canvas. And given that the work was spray painted after the fabric was hung, it would be impossible to rehang it anywhere else. One of the volunteers told us that the fabric was all going to be unpicked and then shipped (!) back to Germany to the artist. I hope she turns it into something else…

. . . . .

A cooking class update on lovely Stephen, who nearly set fire to his kitchen baking his first solo loaf of sourdough. His second loaf was rustic but serviceable.

His third loaf was unbelievably good – it looked like the product of a fancy artisan bakery.  He told me he’d “done some reading” and that because he was adding rye to the mix, he’d had to judge the water quantity “by feel”. Watch this space, folks. I’ll let you know when he opens his microbakery…

. . . . .

I placed my first online order with Harris Farm and was delighted with how my goods arrived. Apart from the carrots and onions (which I’d ordered in bags – obviously I still have a lot to learn) and the half a celery, the remaining veg were all loose in the cardboard box. They’d clearly made an effort to carry through their plastic-free stance to home delivery.

A tip – if you subscribe to the Harris Farm newsletter (at the bottom of this webpage), they’ll email you a barcode that will give you 5% off all vegetable purchases in store. And the first time I used my code, they emailed me a $20 introductory voucher for their online service…

. . . . .

I finally tried Emilie’s sourdough pita breads, and they’re fabulous! It’s from her book Artisan Sourdough Made Simple – have you picked up your copy yet?

. . . . .

Last Sunday, I baked three burnished loaves of sourdough…

…and traded them with Tom of Living Fossil Gallery for a $15 discount on this 400 million year old orthoceras plate. If you ever want to get into fossil collecting, orthocerases are a great place to start. They’re very affordable, and highly underrated in my opinion…

. . . . .

Finally, let me end this long-winded ramble with a couple of photos from yesterday morning’s walk. The sky was filled with the most amazing cotton wool clouds…

. . . . .

If you’ve made it all the way to the end, thanks for reading! It’s been lovely having a cup of tea with you! ♥

Read Full Post »

Marvellous Things

A few of the marvellous things which have made us smile over the past few weeks!

. . . . .

Pete and I had our 29th wedding anniversary recently. As always, we celebrated with our darling friends Nicholas and Mary, who were married on the same day of the same year. We’ve spent the last 22 anniversaries together and this year we spoiled ourselves with lunch at Cirrus Dining in Barangaroo

After a fabulous meal, Mary and I wandered over to the Rocks Markets while the boys enjoyed a cool drink at the MCA Colour Bar…

At the markets, I bought this glass jellyfish from Argyle Glass. It’s marvellous. Especially as it was handmade by Marc in Sydney and it only cost $25. I picked up the colour-change light stand for an extra $10…

Best of all, it glows in the dark!

Argyle Glass are at the Rocks Markets every weekend – here’s a photo I took of Marc at work in 2015 (from this post)…

. . . . .

As you know, I think fossils are properly marvellous, and as a collector, I was very chuffed to pick up some gorgeous pieces at great prices from my mate Tom at Living Fossil Gallery today. He also has a stall at the Rocks Markets, as well as a gallery in Mosman.

This cleoniceras ammonite is quite a common fossil, but the carving is very unusual – it’s a fish on one side…

…and a dragon on the other. It’s my first ever carved piece, and I love that it still retains some of its mother-of-pearl lustre…

On the other hand, this specimen is quite rare and collectible. As I now have quite a few, I try to only buy ammonites which are different, and I’d never seen one like this before…

. . . . .

Until the 18th February, Word: MCA Collection and the Jon Campbell exhibitions are on at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Focusing on art pieces associated with text and language, they’re both marvellous. The Campbell one is colourful, bright and very Australian…

Word includes these great public health posters from the late 70s and 80s…

…and these artworks by Toni Robertson…

My favourite piece was this wall-sized painted canvas by Richard Bell – unfortunately a small photo doesn’t really do it justice…

. . . . .

Our quest to live greener in 2018 has started quite well.

In an attempt to reduce our paper usage, I decided to make cloth napkins. We actually tried this 20 years ago, but the cotton damask we used at the time wrinkled badly after washing, and I wasn’t keen to spend hours ironing. This time I used coarse weave cotton tenegui (tea towels) that I’d bought from Daiso to make furoshiki

I simply cut each one in half and hemmed the unfinished edge. These wash well, wrinkle very little, and dry in a flash, which makes them ideal for napkins. And being able to use a cloth with a monkey’s arse or mating pandas on it? That’s marvellous

. . . . .

The morning walks continue – by the water on weekdays, and often in the city on weekends. We’re fortunate to have Shepard Fairey street art on public display in Sydney at the moment – from this mammoth multi-storied mural on George Street…

…to these posters in Spice Alley…

. . . . .

Big Boy and I are always entranced by the light shows on our morning walks. In winter, the sun reflects off the water onto the pedestrian overpass, but in summer, the patterns appear under the motorway bridge. Glorious, joyous, marvellous…here’s what it looked like at the start of our walk one morning last week…

. . . . .

…and again as we headed towards home an hour later…

. . . . .

Finally, anything that makes us laugh is marvellous, right? Well, discovering this sign language symbol made me roar with laughter, so naturally I had to share!

. . . . .

Wishing you all a fun week ahead, filled with marvellous things! ♥

Read Full Post »

Christmas Spirit

It’s beginning to feel very festive at our place!

The Christmas Elves have set up the tree – as always, Small Man dragged the tree up from under the house, assembled it, then added all the lights, before asking Big Boy and his girlfriend Monkey Girl to help him with the decorations. I think they did a wonderful job!

I’ve pulled out my Christmas sunnies

…and paired them this year with red Indian happy pants. Yes, I went walking in this outfit. If elastic waisted, hand printed cotton pants are your thing, I can highly recommend buying them from Parvez on Ebay. He’s been excellent to deal with and ships directly (for free!) from Jaipur, but you need to buy ten pairs at a time (I gave five away as early Christmas presents). Here’s the link.

My Chatbooks have arrived and they’re awesome.

Edit: I’ve discovered that as an existing customer, I can give you a referral link. If you use it, you’ll get your first book free and I’ll get a $5 credit! Here’s the link.

I made two Christmas cakes and gave one to my mum…

This year’s Christmas spirit is Drambuie 15, made with aged malt whisky…

…and a batch of homemade Chivas Regal irish cream (or “Mummy’s Little Helper”, as my girlfriends call it…)

Last week, chef Steve Manfredi offered me some of his gorgeous stone ground Italian flour to bake with. Molino Quaglia Petra flours are the secret behind the amazing pizzas being produced at his restaurant Pizzaperta at The Star Sydney. The Petra 3 is stone ground and wholemeal…

I took him a furoshiki full of cime di rapa and purslane from our garden as a thank you…

The flour was sheer joy to work with, producing a bouncy, pillowy dough that baked to perfection…

I’ve always found local stone ground flours heavy and unresponsive, but the Petra loaf was light and crispy with an elastic, open crumb. Thanks Steve! ♥

Speaking of bread…I’ve been baking like a madwoman.

Yesterday, I had three batches on the bench before 9am. The baguettes were straight from Emilie’s book, and the chocolate sourdough was a variation of her recipe as well, with two types of Belgian chocolate and added cacao nibs…

The three loaves at the top left are filled with walnuts and Lebanese fig paste. If you’re a bread baker, the paste is well worth seeking out (you should be able to get it at Arabic grocers). Each jar has a mountain of figs, sesame seeds and a hint of anise, and it works brilliantly in a filled focaccia or walnut loaf. Good for just eating with cheese as well.

The 800g jars at Harkola were just $5.50 – my preferred brand is the Salloum Bros. one on the left. Here’s the formula I used for my three loaves:

  • 100g bubbly starter
  • 1kg bread/bakers’ flour
  • 200g walnut halves
  • 200g Lebanese fig paste
  • 750g water
  • 18g fine sea salt

Our garden is full of leafy greens at the moment! We’ve planted shiso for the first time…

…and we’re harvesting this much cime di rapa every day for dinner…

We have a seasonal dinner with close friends every three months. The final one for 2017 had this amazing entree of bought and garden greens (purslane, shiso, basil and mint) on a green mole sauce…

The recipe came from Bread is Gold, a wonderful book by the amazing Massimo Bottura. All the recipes in the book were created by internationally renowned chefs who cooked at the Refettorio soup kitchen that Bottura created to use up waste food from Expo 2015 in Milan. There is a documentary about it on Netflix called “Theater of Life” – well worth watching if you get a chance…

My gorgeous neighbour Jane went on holidays to the Northern Territory and brought me back a grab bag of beautiful scrap fabric designed and printed by indigenous artists and craftswomen at the Bábbarra Women’s Centre in Arnhem Land. My friends know me so well!

The scanning of old photos continues. This one of Pete and Big Boy is priceless…love is letting your wife dress you and your toddler in matching homemade jungle print shorts…

Our hydrangeas have been stunning this year…

…and our daily walks have been blessed with views like this…

I hope you’re all enjoying the festive season as much as we are!

Much love from our house to yours! ♥

Read Full Post »

Madly Baking Bread

Since my friend Emilie’s book landed in my Kindle app, I’ve been baking bread like a mad woman…

She’s convinced me to actually use the bannetons I own (normally, I’m too lazy), and the results have been fabulous…

It helps that I can line the baskets with the Japanese tenegui (hand cloths) that I bought from Daiso. The open weave makes them less sticky than regular tea towels. Plus they’re dead cute…

I followed Em’s shaping technique and ended up with this magnificent holey crumb in my high hydration loaves…

. . . . .

I made her chocolate sourdough recipe with Callebaut 811 54% dark. The neighbours lost their minds…

It was unbelievably good, especially with the Belgian chocolate…

I tried another version with leftover Halloween candy. That was less appealing to anyone over twenty-five, but the kids loved it (yes, that’s melted Snickers Bars in the middle)…

. . . . .

I’ve tweaked Em’s focaccia formula a bit to accommodate for our local flour. I think our plain (AP) flour might be lower in protein than the US ones, so I’m substituting a 50:50 mix of bakers flour and plain flour. The results have been perfect – non-cakey crumb but controlled even rise and super-crispy crust.

I made a cheese and black olive filled focaccia using her croque monsieur shaping technique…

. . . . .

For the caramelised onion and goat cheese bialys, I again subbed a mix of bakers and plain flour, and ended up with easy to shape balls…

…that kept their shape (and fillings) as they rose. The crumb was super tender and the crusts thin and chewy. All twenty-four bialys (I made a double batch, as you do) were shared out and eaten on the same day…

. . . . .

Finally, the overnight baguette twists were an absolute doddle to make and completely delicious. Definitely one for a future dinner party…

. . . . .

If you’re a home sourdough baker (or would like to be), I can’t recommend Emilie’s book highly enough. Yes, she’s my friend, and yes, we share a sourdough starter, so my opinion was always going to be biased. But I can honestly now tell you that I’ve tried a stack of recipes from her book, and they all work brilliantly (just ask my neighbours). If you’d like to know more about it, here’s my first post on Artisan Sourdough Made Simple. I hope you enjoy baking from it as much as I have! ♥

Read Full Post »

So…how’s that for a blog title?

It’s actually pretty apt for what turned out to be a hilarious weekend!

On Friday, my friend and neighbour El rang and said…”I ordered a mountain of paper pom poms but the whole lot arrived in this tiny flat box. Help!” Three hours and several cups of herbal tea later, there were enough huge pink paper balls to cover a double bed. We (cough cough) may have said a few bad words along the way…

On Saturday night, Pete and I headed over for her 50th birthday party. The theme was simple and very doable – wear a fancy hat. I wore my Anatolian (Turkish) bride fez that I’d bought years ago for no reason at all…

The matching fez was too small for Pete, so he wore a captain’s hat that I’d found at Hat World instead. I think his naked lady shirt (look closely) complemented it perfectly…

A happy selfie from later in the evening, taken by lovely Ray. The birthday girl was glamorous in her diamond tiara, Ray was at his handsome best, and I was red-faced after my sixth glass of champagne…

Dinner was an incredibly scrumptious roasted free range pig on a spit, provided by Feather and Bone. Earlier in the evening, I’d sidled up to Chris the chef and said…”You know at the end of the night when the pig’s head gets thrown away because no-one will eat it? I know for a fact that the Asian up the road will take it!” (putting up my hand). He roared with laughter, but was delighted not to have to waste it and asked me to bring him a baking tray.

So at 1am on Sunday morning, and ever so slightly inebriated, I found myself trying to jostle this into my fridge…

The following morning, I got to work separating the head into rind, fat, meat and bone. Chris had generously thrown in the trotters as well, so I had a lot to work with…

I rendered down the fat in a saucepan over low heat and ended up with half a jar of delicious roasted lard for the fridge. I saved the crispy bits too, possibly to go into a loaf of bread at a later date…

The bones were enough to flavour eight litres of pressure cooker stock for the freezer – the second batch with the trotters produced a darker broth…

I crisped up all the rind under the griller (broiler), then salted it…

There was an enormous amount of strongly flavoured meat on the head. Half of it went into the freezer and the other half into a mountain of tray baked nachos for Sunday night dinner…

As we were sitting down to eat, El’s son dropped back the Christmas lights they’d borrowed for the party. Have I ever mentioned that my neighbours are hilarious? It was the perfect ending to an awesome weekend! ♥

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: