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Archive for the ‘Food & Friends’ Category

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…

mca1

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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! ♥

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“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!

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I know, I know…making juggling balls isn’t your usual Easter craft project, but I’ve had so much fun that I thought I’d share them with you anyway.

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Start with three pieces of scrap fabric, each 10cm wide by 18cm long. Woven or jersey cottons work well.

Fold one piece of fabric in half, right sides together, and stitch along both sides to form a small bag…

Turn it right side out and poke out the corners…

Fill with 75g of rice, lentils or small beans…

Bring the seam lines together at the top to close…

Fold under a small seam allowance and pin…

Now either handstitch the opening closed with a small slip stitch OR carefully machine it closed, making sure not to run over any of the filling (a narrow machine foot helps here, as does making the bag from stretch fabric)…

Make a big bowl of these little pyramid sacks and leave them on the table for folks to play with. Small people love them and they’re relatively painless on impact (I’ve been throwing them at the boys to check).

There’s a lot of research to suggest that learning to juggle is good for your brain – I’m a bit rusty at the moment, but I’ve been practising hard!

Here’s my earlier post on juggling, and my video from 2014…

Have a fun Easter break!

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Snippets

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

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I made my first attempt at cleaning and cooking baby octopus, following a recipe from the Australian Fish and Seafood Cookbook that my friend Amanda recommended (I bought a Kindle copy)…

Gutting and dismembering cephalopods isn’t for the squeamish, as they look quite alive before you start (plus it was 5am and I thought I could hear a mouse under the bench, so I was a bit jumpy). But it’s worth learning to do, because the Australian varieties are regarded as a sustainable form of protein.

The octopuses had a long 40 minute braise until tender, then rested in a vinegary wine stock for a couple of days before serving. They were a big hit…

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My friend and neighbour Maude crocheted me another cotton poncho. I loved the purple one she gave me last year so much that I wore it until it was matted and threadbare…

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Last weekend, we had our Autumn dinner with friends Kevin, Carol, Gil and Therese. We get together at the start of each season for a night of (mostly) vegetarian food and wine. At this dinner, we served Sawsan’s hummus, a garden broccoli raab dip, spiced mixed nuts, mascarpone reale and French Ossau Iraty sheeps’ cheese.

Remember my $4 wheels of organic brie from Costco? I defrosted one of these and brushed it with Ian and Diana’s backyard honey, added chopped pecans and garnished the top with garden thyme and rosemary flowers. It was oozy and perfect, and no one could believe that the cheese had been frozen (or cost $3.97!)…

I opened a bottle of Graham’s 1970 Vintage Portuguese port and was very chuffed when the 47 year old cork came out in one piece…

Our plan this time was simple…fill the table with nibblies to go with freshly baked sourdough, followed by vegetarian pizzas…

…then serve three desserts! Tiramisu, little chocolate cakes, and a plate of dark chocolate coins and fruit cake with port. It was a glorious night…

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On Sunday, my niece Hwa and her boyfriend Ian came to visit. They brought me sunflowers!

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I had planned to study clouds this year, but instead I’m reading the teachings of the ancient Roman Stoics. A good friend suggested that it might be helpful in my efforts to manage my anxiety. This was the book he recommended I begin with, but I’ve now moved onto the actual texts (well, translations thereof – I can’t read ancient Greek). It’s been a wonderful, enlightening process that I’m enjoying immensely. I’m learning to think in a different way…

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And while we’re on the topic, you’ll be pleased to know that the Headspace meditation continues. I’ve now clocked up more than two months of daily 15 minute sessions and it’s been joyous. I can’t recommend it highly enough!

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The rainy weather has been playing havoc with my walking schedule, but there’s been more time for baking as a result. Of the eight loaves below, five went to the neighbours…

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I cooked abalone recently and kept the shells as tea light holders…

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Finally, a delicious new tipple, taken from Nigella’s Christmas Cookbook. It’s two parts cognac, one part Grand Marnier and one part Amaretto (I substituted Frangelico). If the measures are sized carefully, this can be consumed without falling over…

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Hope you’re all having a wonderful month! ♥

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I went to Southern Cross Supplies in Marrickville today to buy a sack of bread flour.

As I walked past the clearance pallet, I noticed two large bags of Australian sea salt, marked down to $5 each. If you’re ever there, take a peak at the items outside the office door – there are often huge bargains to be had. I’ve picked up everything from foil chocolate cups to torn bags of bread flour, all at heavily discounted prices (cash only).

I use Olsson’s all the time in my cooking and baking, so naturally I came home with one of the bags of salt. It’s a wonder that I didn’t buy both…

salt1

As I was driving home, I tried to figure out how I was going to explain it to Pete. Big Boy brought the bag in for me, and left it next to the stove.

Then my darling husband walked into the kitchen…

Pete: “What the f…?!”

Me: “It was $5!! It was a torn bag..”

Pete: “You shouldn’t have taken it even if it was free. What are we going to do with it?”

Me: “We might need it for trading when the next Bedouin caravan comes through..”

Pete: “Babe, you bought 25 kilos of salt…”

Me: “It’s ok! We’ll be ready for the zombie apocalypse now!”

Pete: “Right…if we’re attacked by zombie snails…”

{Silence}

Me: “Kiss me on the head so that I know you still love me…”

Pete: (sighs) “I still love you, you mad woman…” ♥

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I reckon I could have gotten away with buying both bags…but it’s probably too late now.

But you know what? For the last 33 years, my life has been filled with conversations like this every single day. Full of laughter and teasing and deep affection, even at the hardest of times. I feel like the luckiest woman in the world.

And opening the sack to discover that the locally produced “kiln dried flossy salt” was perfect for baking? Well, that was just icing on the cake!

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