Tag Archives: cooking

Weekend Coffee Share… 5th August, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week, I’m a year older and wiser, after celebrating my Birthday on Monday. I’m not going to get into the specifics. However, I can still claim to be in my 40’s, although I’m now hanging on by my fingertips!!!

My birthday was fairly low key. The kids went away skiing at Perisher with the Scouts, and my husband and I stayed home. From memory, we crashed out most of the time and slept. It’s still Winter here and I’m still inclined to hibernate. That said, we’re now starting to head into t-shirt weather by day, although it’s still pretty cold at night. Just to put you in the picture,  it was 9-19°C today.

Masterchef Australia 2018 Title Goes To Indian Origin Prison Guard Sashi Cheliah

Last Tuesday night, was the Finale of Masterchef Australia 2019. Have you ever watched Masterchef? You guys come from all over but the show seems to have something of a global audience. I’ve been a diehard, loyal fan since it first appeared 10 years ago when Julie Goodwin became Australia’s 1st Masterchef. Given how much I’ve always loved cooking, especially baking, it’s no wonder I love the show. However, I don’t just watch it as a cooking show. Rather, I’m lured right in, watching the highs and lows, the conquests and defeats of the human spirit. While I’m sure all these contestants are perfectionists by nature and extremely driven, making mistakes on the show is par for the course. The key, however, is not to have two bad cooks in a row, because that’s what sends you home. I made no secret at home, that 19 year old Jess Liemantara was my favourite, although as she faced pressure test after pressure test, it didn’t seem likely that she was going to last the distance. However, she eventually survived long enough to place fourth…a great achievement. The finale saw Ben and Sashi fight it out. While Sashi had been a strong contender throughout and an obvious winner, his form dropped back a bit in those last final cooks and I thought Ben had the title in the bag. However, it wasn’t meant to be, and Sashi romped home with the largest score in Masterchef history.

I’m not much of a TV watcher, but I’ve been left feeling a distinct void since Masterchef ended, even though it’s clearly time I caught up on my violin practice which has been an unfortunate casualty. I’m also waiting on the transcripts of the bigamy case I’ve mentioned a few times. My 3 x Great Grandfather, John Johnston was convicted of bigamy in New Zealand in 1864 and I’m waiting on them to arrive before I do more research on that front.

Asher Hart 1931 record Breaker

Instead, I’ve dug up my research on my grandfather’s second cousin, Asher Hart, who was a swimming champion during the 1930s. However, in 1932, he contracted polio and spent four months in Sydney Hospital in plaster. I didn’t expect Asher to rise from the horrors of polio and certainly not return to competitive swimming and being a lifesaver at Sydney’s Bondi Beach. However, slowly but surely he got back on his feet and into training and his father, Reg, massaged his legs every night for 18 months. He didn’t throw him back into competition either. Rather, he valued rest as much as training and instituted what seems to be a pretty level-headed training regime. I’m still nutting out all his various achievements. However, in 1938 a mini tsunami hit Bondi Beach and hundreds of people needed to be rescued. Moreover, most of them couldn’t swim. Five people drowned that day, but Asher Hart saved four lives. I am so proud of him. Not just because he’s family, but because I’ve also survived the horrors of debilitating illness and for him to be able to do all of that, blows me away. I’m in awe. Indeed, when I first put the pieces of his story together five years ago, my muscle disease had flared up and I had my own questions of whether I was going to get my own muscle strength back, along with very real concerns that my lungs were steadily turning into concrete. I needed a hero. Not any kind of hero, but someone who was where I was at and climbed out. I’ve recently found out that he didn’t recover full strength in his legs, but his arms and shoulders compensated. He was certainly an extraordinary man, and from what I’ve also read, his character was equally inspiring. I am yearning to find out more.

Black Sunday SMH Feb 7 1938

Black Sunday Bondi, 1938. 

Speaking of which, I read a fantastic book this week: My Australian Story: Black Sunday by Evan McHugh. It recounts the story of “Nipper” a 12 year old Bondi lad who is desperate to become a lifesaver. However, it is 1938 and back then you needed to turn 16 and get your Bronze Medallion before you could join up. However, keen as mustard, Nipper starts training, swimming in the surf. The story goes off on many twists and turns and doesn’t just focus on Black Sunday itself, but provides more of an overview of what it was like to grow up and live in Bondi Beach at the time. It also places it within its historic context of the Great Depression, and the rise and rise of Adolf Hitler as the world steadily marches towards another world war. One of Nipper’s friends was a Jewish regugee from Germany.  I found it a gripping, easy read and couldn’t put it down. Read it in a day. Highly recommend it.

Book

 

I’ve also started reading Raphaelle Giordano’s: Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You Only Have One, which I spotted while on holidays at Blackheath but requested as a birthday gift from my mum when I returned home. I’m really enjoying it so far. I love a philosophical, reflective read and so far, this one shows promise. However, it didn’t get a very encouraging review from Sydney Morning Herald Reviewer, Cameron Woodhead, who could well be true to name:  “This awkwardly titled, though bestselling, French novel claims to have made 2 million readers happier. It didn’t make me happier. But then, I didn’t grow spiritually from reading Eat, Pray, Love. Raphaelle Giordano has created the kind of shallow feel-good novel that resembles a self-help book, with the same tiresome platitudes, the same hyper-focus on personal fulfilment.”

However, life hasn’t been all about reading during the last week and indulging in Masterchef. Today, we helped one of my support workers move house. Her situation was untenable and she needed to move in a hurry. I rang a friend from Church with a van and trailer and recruited my husband and son and off we went. It’s not easy to move in a hurry and while I kept myself pretty light when I was in share accommodation, she had the full kaboodle and was moving to a first floor flat with a narrow staircase. So, the guys hoisted the bed up over the balcony and my dear son proved himself a man and quite a rock helping without complaining and doing what needed to be done. Our team of men, and our friend’s son, showed how male strength can be used for good and make a difference. I was not only very proud of them. It touched my heart. I was really thrilled we pulled off the move because it’s not easy for me to help other people in practical ways with my health issues and just this once, we pulled it off. I was able to be the sort of person I admire and want to be…a helper and not a drowning soul myself. I have grown so much stronger.

In terms of what I’ve posted this week, I did my usual contribution for Friday Fictioneers. This week’s contribution was : Secret Shed Business. I also posted a newspaper clipping I came across of my grandmother, concert pianist, Eunice Gardiner. I’ve never seen this photo before, but it showed my grandmother carrying her first son in a backpack and talking about how she attaches the baby on the front to go to the shops. Meanwhile,all in the same breath, she talked about giving a Beethoven recital at the NSW Conservatorium of Music. The baby was three months old at this point. My grandmother was something of a superhuman, although she didn’t go it alone. She had considerable support, despite my grandfather being away with the Army. In was 1943. The Japanese had already knocked on Sydney Harbour. These were very difficult times and yet she played on.

Lady & pups sleeping

Lady with the pups when they first arrived a year ago. 

Lastly, I just thought I’d finish up with a  bit of a tribute to the dog. It seemed everywhere I turned last week, people were caught up in serious trouble and needed an ear. Indeed, I was starting to wonder if there was anybody who was feeling on top of the world. That life was good. By this point, my own gear had moved into neutral, the observer…it’s an easy place for a writer to sit and turn into something of a home.

puppy

A simplistic interpretation…or is it?

Then, I looked up at my dogs…Lady, the Border collie x Cavalier and Rose and Zac our year old Border collie x Kelpies who are brother and sister from the same litter…our “twins”. Just the sound of the car pulling into the driveway, is ecstasy. Rosie is always there with her ball, stick, or fragments thereof, full of drive and enthusiasm. Zac is inclined to whimper when a door closes on him but he doesn’t forget how to wag his tail. It is no coinsidence that we have three dogs in our family and if we lived on acreage, there’d be a fourth…one each. They are simply the best!

Hope you’ve had a great week!

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share -18th June, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Rather than joining me for coffee at my place, today I thought you might like to join me down at the San Antonio Bakery in Kirribilli. It’s right across the road from the stairs taking you up onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge. By the way, you might want to bring a bit of sun and the Northern Hemisphere Summer with you. It was a cheek-smacking 15°C (59° F) there today. Mind you, I must have Viking blood because yours truly sat outside this afternoon to soak up the Kirribilli charm, although I did wrap myself up in one of their blankets. By the way, the food there is amazing and I’ve indulged in a few of their delights. Today, I had a sort of nut crumble topping on a Nutella tart. The texture of the topping was fairly complex with a combination of seeds and nuts. The pasty was perfect and you can’t go wrong with Nutella.

Harbour Bridge Stairs

A wet day in Kirribilli. You can just make out the steps leading up onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

While I was there, I pulled out my notebook and simply started jotting. Kirribilli is a rather rustic part of Sydney with Victorian terraces heading down to the wharf and Sydney Harbour. If you were had bionic strength, you could throw a stone from Kirribilli Wharf straight through the Opera House windows if you were feeling like getting arrested and being rather unpopular.

As I said, I started jotted. A cold wind was blowing straight off the Harbour and round the corner blowing the Autumn leaves in the trees across the road. I was quite mesmerised by the fluttering leaves, although perhaps that was because the rest of me was snap frozen.

Of course, any sensible soul would’ve sat inside, but I wanted to experience Kirribilli. Be a part of it, and feel its breath blowing against my neck, even though it was freezing and giving me a different kind of goosebump experience.

However, my reasons for being in Sydney today weren’t social. After crossing the lung specialist off the list for the next three months, I was off to the gastroenterologist to see if he could do anything to get rid of The Cough. Well, he was full of ideas and conferred with the lung specialist on the mobile and they managed to cut it down to an endoscopy and colonoscopy. It’s not til August so I don’t need to get too excited about it yet. Some people go on a cruise, I’m cruising on off to the hospital. One thing I do know, is that a friend’s wife with MS died of bowel cancer because the early signs were dismissed. It’s important to keep in mind that things can always get worse and not to be complacent or in some kind of la-la land of uninformed positive thinking.

Anyway, aside from all that medical stuff today, there have been some great highlights during the last week.

Firstly, on Saturday my husband and I drove our daughter and friends up to perform in Starstruck at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre, about 1.5 hours North of here. This showcases school talent in the performing arts, and our daughter appeared in two dance numbers with the Year 7 dance troupe. I have to be honest and say that during their performance, I only had eyes for her. She was like a twinkling star, and as much as their was that immense pride in watching her perform, I was also dumbstruck. She didn’t get any of this from her father or myself. Sometimes, you’ve got to wonder whether God can be a bit random in how he allocates gifts and interests. That, or he has a very good sense of humour!

scouts prepared

 

Also on Saturday, we dropped our son off for an overnight Scout Camp and something like a 17km hike. That meant he was sleeping in a tent in this freezing Winter weather, which as my Dad would say, puts hairs on your chest. They had to carry everything in, and everything out so it was quite a credit to him. The hike ended at the local tip and the backpack went straight into the car and tales of aching feet, back, neck began to unfold. Clearly, he went to great lengths to avoid going to his sister’s dance concert, and we’re proud of his efforts.

Meanwhile, with our daughter at an evening performance and our son away at camp, Geoff and I ventured out for dinner at Mum’s cousin’s restaurant Talulah at The Junction in Newcastle. This place has become a bit of a rock to me when visiting Newcastle and I think I’ve been there about 3 times in the last couple of years. I remember going up to Newcastle for family get togethers. My grandparents initially lived there, and then we went up to see mum’s aunt and her family and there were 21sts, weddings, birthdays, christenings and unfortunately too many funerals of loved ones who died before their time. The family home was sold years ago, so the restaurant gives me some kind of bearings, and there’s an old piano in there which I wrote into a story a few years back. I don’t know if it came from the family. Or, was simply found beside the road, but it’s over 100 years old and it tells a thousand stories, despite staying silent. There’s also a Cenotaph outside the restaurant where a soldier stands to attention. He looks like he’s standing over the place and looking out for us. Goodness knows we’ve needed it at times. Apparently, the pigeons poop all over him, and doesn’t show him an ounce of respect.

I’m not real good as a food writer, especially when I don’t take notes at the time. However, each mouthful had such a burst of flavour and the meal was very refreshing. The ambiance was also fantastic. Quite aside from the fact that we’re family, Talulah feels like a stylish yet casual family home with appealing paintings throughout and fresh, modern decor. It’s a fun place to be and I could feel the stresses of life fall away, although I was also rather conscious of a growing list of “absent friends”. You can read a review Here

Before I move on from Talulah, I just wanted to share about our navigation difficulties, which you could say are something of a feature of our marriage. Geoff drives the car. I navigate. Unfortunately, this division of labour is driven by necessity, not ability and I have no shame in admitting that I could get lost in our own driveway. However, when it comes to navigating our way through Newcastle, I’m back being a kid in the back seat of the Holden and Dad’s driving through the streets without a map saying he only needs to go somewhere once and he can find his way back again. Of course, this boast was filled with bravado and a bit of cheek, but it was true. Moreover, it did sting a bit as I couldn’t direct Geoff to Talulah using Google maps even though I’d been there three times before. Geoff turned down Darby Street and from there, we zigzagged back and forth desperately hoping to see a spark of familiarity but seemingly driving deeper and deeper into the maze. Both of us were getting frustrated and it came very close to simply driving home, but we persevered. Quite frankly, I don’t understand why they don’t have signs set up specially for my visit…”Rowena turn here!” It would’ve made it so much easier.

In terms of blogging, I posted two more family history stories. Firstly, there was Fire in North Sydney…Grandma & the Mosman Bomber. The next one focused on my difficulties to finding my 3rd Great Grandmother, Maria Bridget Flanagan’s, name of birth: Digging Up More Family Bones. I’m hoping that by posting this info in my blog, that I might flush out the answers.

Getting these stories written up, is feeling great. I’m gaining more confidence in my ability to weigh up quite a mass of data, and actually get a story onto the page. As far as I’m aware, the data is well researched and documented, which is just as important in my mind as a good story.

Lastly, I wrote a story revolving around food for this week’s contribution to Friday fictioneers: Madame Cuisinier.

Well, I’m sorry for talking at you for so long. Clearly, there’s been a lot on and all the chatter in my head has spewed onto the screen. Thank you for listening and being there for me tonight. It’s much appreciated and I look forward to popping round to catch up on your week.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Ali.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share… 11th June, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

It’s well after midnight here and the dog who was parked underneath my desk, somehow relocated without catching my attention, and another dog, Zac, is parked beside me. Raindrops pitter-patter on  a tin section of roof overhead. Meanwhile, outside the backyard has become something of a wetland, submerged in water. Sitting here at my desk, it doesn’t take much imagination to believe I’m onboard some kind of house boat. Well, the only except being that the ground is steady underfoot and not lilting with the waves.  Thank goodness for that! By the way, the waves aren’t that far from here…just at the end of the street about 700 metres away.

Needless to say, I should be snuggled away in bed asleep, basking away in the warmth of my electric blanket. However, it’s a long weekend and I slept in this morning and had a nap this afternoon. So, I set myself up for this post-midnight moment with you, a cup of herbal tea, my computer screen and the dogs.

It’s so easy to feel reflective, out in the elements with the rain falling all around me. Our house is built more for Summer. So, there’s a fine line between inside and out. Moreover, with the dogs needing to go in, these boundaries merge even closer . Indeed, the back door is open beside me, and I know I should be cold. That it should be closed.Yet, there’s something very refreshing merging with the rain in semi-darkness.

Or, perhaps I’ve finally crossed that fine line into madness, delirium. Drunk on too much poetic thought. A case of Keats.

Oops, I just got sprung. My son just appeared in his dressing gown and found me awake. I’m in trouble. So, I’m needing to pause our coffee til the morning, which could very well extend into the afternoon. I have a feeling that it’s going to be hard to sneak into bed without alerting my husband about just how late I’ve stayed up. But it’s hard. The raindrops almost sound like music and like the pied piper, they’re luring me off into some sort of trance. A trance that should be sending me to sleep, but is actually doing the reverse. I’m firing up on all cylinders. Oh oh!

However, before I head off to the land of nod, what did you get up to last week? How was it for you? I hope it’s been good.

……

It’s now Monday afternoon, and I swear my backside has barely touched my seat after walking the dogs with the family, and already I’m being called away. Last weekend, I bought some daffodil bulbs and my husband’s informed me that they’ve already started to sprout AND he’s putting some good soil in the pot and it looks like the only thing missing now, is me. Humph!

Last week was quite reflective for me. Last week, I shared about my friend’s funeral, and that’s not something you just throw off like a blanket on a hot night. Indeed, I was in the supermarket on Friday and suddenly had this intense awareness of both her presence and her absence, which kind of gripped me. It was strange, too, because I don’t recall ever seeing her in the supermarket. It was just one of those things. I don’t think it’s such a bad thing to have this conscious awareness of the fleetingness of life, but there’s that temptation or even expectation just to get on with it, and even not to talk about her anymore. Yet, I don’t want to be like that with people I care about, even more so with people I love. Moreover, when I go, I don’t want my loved ones to be crippled, but I don’t want them to pretend I didn’t exist. I want them to build a statue…a place for birds to stop and chat. Perhaps, that’s going a bit too far.

Famous Fights

Anyway, this week I’ve been uncovering all sorts of secrets researching my family history through the online newspapers. I shared two of these stories on the blog. The first was about a fight between Thomas Waterhouse & One-Eyed Bourke in 1857 and the other was  the fractured love story of Ivy and Jack, which ended up in court for breach of promise. That story provided quite an insight into dating around 1910, which was much more supervised that today. Of course, we know that, but it was interesting to see how that all played out.

Valentine 1910

This week, I also contributed to Friday Fictioneers. My take on the prompt, Lover’s Potion was rather influenced by reading the love letters of Ivy and Jack and his betrayal.

Yesterday, I also wrote a post questioning whether most of us feel different and that we don’t belong in some way and also whether that sense of difference and not conforming to the perceived norm was actually a good thing. Had benefits. I put this out there more to get feedback and generate some kind of discussion, so I’d love you to check it out. I’ve just thrown different ideas out there, and haven’t really formed a strong conclusion. Here’s The Struggle to Belong…Or not.

Roti.JPG

Hot Roti made by yours truly and served with babaganoush.

Lastly, I did want to mention that we’re engrossed in Masterchef Australia 2018. We LOVE it and all sit around the TV watching it every night it’s on. While I don’t try to replicate the dishes from the show, I tend to pick out new ingredients or elements to add to what I already make. I was particularly proud of myself on Friday night for making roti or flatbread. I’d watched them making it on the show, and it seemed so easy that I thought I’d have a go. Much to my amazement, it worked and I was so proud of myself. I am very quick to doubt my abilities and really should have more faith in myself. Do you find that?

Anyway, being a public holiday here in Australia and having my husband and kids home, sitting here and the dogs running around, isn’t doing much for my capacity to write. So, I’m heading off., not doubt just in time for them all to take off. They have Gang Show rehearsals this afternoon.

I hope you have a great week ahead and I look forward to popping round to your place for coffee too.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Ali

Best wishes,

Rowena

Ed Sheeran & the Jackpot.

Despite my meek and mild exterior, you would’ve been mighty suspicious if you’d followed my car last Thursday. Indeed, even you, would’ve called the Police, the Terrorism Hotline, or just the usual number for “Suspicious Weirdos Hanging Out in Carparks”. In scenes reminiscent of Jamie Lee Curtis in True Lies, surely Mummy couldn’t be a spy?

Of course not! As usual, reality doesn’t live up to the hype. That’s probably a good thing, even if it doesn’t make for a great story.

That said, I was a woman on two missions.

As for Mission 2, I’ve already explained that I was picking up puppies. Yes, that strange plastic contraption you thought was an alien spaceship, was a pet carrier.

As for Mission One, that was purely about “the cash”.

For the last eternity, our local radio station has been holding a $20,000 Ed Sheeran Cash Giveaway. You just had to work out what Ed Sheeran would make for breakfast, AND get through to the station. With Google to the rescue, the first part seemed easy. However, getting through was the hard part. Of course, every listener, along with their dog and cat, was feverishly trying, and the radio station was only taking two calls a day. Fueling the frustration, there were many repeated guesses and wasted opportunities…Drats!

A bystander on my daily Mum Runs, the competition had been going on around me. Then, I started to wonder why it hadn’t gone off. Ed Sheeran might be a rock star, but surely no breakfast is too much for Google?

I picked myself up and got to work. I could do this. I had just as much chance as anyone else, and plenty of motivation… a $20,000 pot of gold parked at the end of the rainbow. That was definitely worth waking up for!

So, I took a deep breath. Tried to think like Ed Sheerin, and consulted Google.

Humph! I read all about Ed Sheerin pairing up with Jamie Oliver and promoting healthy eating. I found a lot of annoying references to his music. Geez. Who cares about all of that? I just wanted to know what he makes for breakfast.

Meanwhile, the radio station posted a list of past guesses.

By this stage, I was hooked, but Google wasn’t cooperating. Nothing was coming up.

So, I entered a more direct question: “What does Ed Sheerin make for breakfast?”

Finally, Google delivered. In fact, the answer was so glaringly obvious, I wondered why it hadn’t been guessed before.

Ed Sheerin eats Sheerios. His face was even on the box. Indeed, even his fans are called “Sheerios”.

This had to be it. That $20,000 was mine.

Now, I just had to get through. Time it exactly right and be THE CALLER!!

Not so easy. Of course, the segment came up somewhere in the middle of the busy after school run, and I couldn’t just sit by the radio and wait. Rather, I had to pick my daughter up from the station. She always needs something. Is hungry. Needs eyeliner, foundation or lipstick. More clothes. Going straight home, is never an option…even when SHE needs to be somewhere. I also had to fill a script. A script I couldn’t do without. Ouch. the pressure was killing me. I was so wound up. Why couldn’t life wait? Go away? Didn’t it know, I could be $20,000 richer and fly to paradise?

Phew! We made it back to the car in time and I drove home as fast as I could, while getting caught up in the usual traffic. I had to win. I was running backwards and forwards in my head, struggling to remember quite when the segment went off. Was it before or after the news? Should I ring towards the end of this song? Or the next? The timing was critical. I thought if I could just channel my thoughts hard enough, that we’d get through. I even prayed.

Of course, all missions of any worth, are besieged by obstacles and challenges. In this case, we don’t have a radio in the house. So, once we were home, my daughter was out in the car listening, while I was inside… both on continuous redial. Much to our surprise, the phone actually rang twice, then rang out. Hopes up, hopes down. Engaged signals persisting.

Through all this madness, I remembered calling up the radio station “back in the day”, with the home phone at full extension in my bedroom. Back then, the phone was primitive with a rotary dial, no redial and your fingers really got a workout. However, my wins included Sting’s Island of the Blue Turtles. For awhile there, it was like I had a direct line. I always got through.

No such luck with Ed Sheerin.

That’s what Calvin Coolidge forgot to say. That in many situations, you’re not the only one with persistence, and the battle’s intense. Indeed, in this instance, I’m surprised the switchboard didn’t blow up.

phone rotary dial

Actually, I’m getting pretty suss about that switchboard. Indeed, I don’t think they have a switchboard at all. Rather, they must have an old-fasioned, beige rotary dial sitting there like the bat phone? Something so low-tech, it’s underwhelming. Otherwise, why are they always engaged? Moreover, why don’t they put us on hold, listening to the radio?!!

Obviously, I’ve done a lot of plotting and planning trying to win this thing, but unfortunately, it all came to nothing. Someone else got through with another incorrect guess…”Welsh Rarebit”.

Ooh! The frustration! By now, even the radio station was getting desperate. There were promises of another clue in the morning. Promises that it’s going to go off. However, it was all too hard. I hung up my hat and poured myself a bowl of Sheerios.

Later that day, I heard they’d had a winner. A winner who’d got it wrong.

How could Ed Sheerin sell out on all his loyal Sheerios, and make Cumberland Sausages for breakfast?!!

I don’t know, but trust me! I’ll be having words with Ed Sheeran!

I might even write him a song.

By the way, in case you haven’t seen it before, here’s a clip of when the radio station came to my house:

Rabbit & Julie visit Rowena & Family

xx Rowena

 

 

Masterchef 2017 Finale…Three Minutes To Go.

Tonight, I wanted to share the magic, pressure and suspense of the Masterchef 2017 Grand Finale with you from the comfort of my loungeroom, which may not be so cosy with all of us in it.

DSC_5836

Fake Bilbo watching Masterchef with the family.

As much as I love Masterchef, it does terrible things to your nerves and loyalties. I had no idea who was going to win this year and the producers were very sneaky. They built up all these other characters and we pinned our dreams onto them, only to watch them fall like dominoes as their hope and dreams were dashed, along with our own.

There’s been much discussion, at least in our house, about who was going to take out this year’s title. It wasn’t who we thought. Indeed, you could say this year’s winner fell under the radar, but in aiming for the thrilling twist at the end, I presume the producers kept her fairly low key throughout. Yet, she was incredibly consistent, had the inner stillness  you need to overcome all these uber-stressful challenges, and she plated up with such flair. Of course, I obviously can’t comment on the taste. Indeed,  watching Masterchef makes the perfect case for taste-TV.

Obviously, in the time it’s taken me to write this post, my three minutes has well and truly expired. The show is over and tonight is almost gone as well.

I know who won.

However, we’re just going to reverse back a bit and go back to the start of tonight’s show. Back to where I was poised in front of the TV set with only three minutes to go.

….

Tonight, we’re parked in front of the TV watching the finale of Masterchef Australia 2017, where Diana Chang and Ben Ungermann are fighting it out. We have watched every single episode at least once. Well, at least I have. I’m hooked.

DSC_5835

It seems it takes more than divine intervention to win Masterchef. It really looks like I caught Ben in prayer in this snapshot.

While they had to get through three challenges tonight, the first two are a prelude to the dessert challenge. I swear the judges must travel the globe to find the trickiest, bastard of a dessert on earth. I’m not even sure that a word exists to describe their dessert challenge which was terror stacked on terror.

Chocolate fruits

Trust me. This is the dessert they had to recreate and not real fruit.

Tonight this involved tackling a dessert by “Queen of Chocolate”  Kirsten Tibballs  When they lifted the cloche to reveal their challenge, there was platter of fruit sitting there and I was thinking…where is it? Where’s the dessert? Well, those fruits were the desserts. If you think recreating the outside is tricky, the interior was worse. As beautiful as it looked and surely tasted, it was pure hell in terms of complexity and technique, with layer upon layer of scrumptiousness. Well, it would’ve been if I’d been there to actually taste this thing, instead of watching the whole thing from my lounge chair at home, feeling like I was on the set of Gogglebox

 

 

Just to share a bit of the action. I took some screen shots with my camera (definitely NOT my phone. Get real!!) and you can see rows of my prized tea cup collection on the shelf above the TV. So, you can feel right at home, even though there are no photos of me. My SLR doesn’t do selfies. That’s justification enough for me!!

DSC_5856

You can get some “interesting” effects photographing things on TV.

So, as it turned out, Diana won Masterchef 2017. Congratulations! Well done and well deserved.

However, I couldn’t help feel sorry for Ben who came in at number 2 and Karlie at number 3. So close and yet, too far.

Of course, this leaves me with the terrible realization that everybody on Masterchef 2017 has gone home, including the judges, and there will be a huge void in my TV wtahcing. Well, at least until The Batchelor starts on Wednesday night. This year’s Batchelor is Matty J, who was the runner up in the Bachelorette last year, so we’re old mates. Not that I watch a lot of TV. However, I do find these TV competititons the ultimate in people watching. They fascinate me. Well, the ones where the contestants are nice to each other do. I switch the rest off. There’s enough bitchiness and hate in this world without adding to it or becoming part of the audience.

Indeed, I’d much rather watch Friends. That’s what the Masterchef contestants were for 2017, and I think for every other year too. Despite the huge stakes, there’s such a supportive and enouraging vibe and I truly love it. So much  so, that I’ll be playing it again Sam. Watching re-runs on catch up TV without shame.

Who knows, one day I might even throw my hat into the ring with Rowena’s Vegemite Toast. 

Something tells me, I might need to reinvent that dish just a little…

Have you ever watched Masterchef and what sort of cook are you? Do you have a speciality dish? Mine would be pavlova.

xx Rowena

Cooking An Alien Being.

“For I am he who hunted out the source of fire, and stole it, packed it in pith and dried fennel stalk”

Aeschyles: Prometheus Bound.

Last night, I took a leap of faith and cooked an alien. Not anything extra-terrestrial. Rather, I made a dish heroing the weird-looking, fennel bulb. Fennel is a flowering plant species from the carrot family. It is a hardy, perennial herb with yellow flowers and feathery leaves. I was challenged to try cooking fennel after seeing it used in every episode of Masterchef. After all, I’ve never even tasted fennel let alone cooked with it myself. While there are weirder looking fruit and veg, than the humble fennel bulb, even how to cut this thing posed enough of a challenge.

Indeed, the last time I bought fennel bulb it sat in fridge until it was only good for the worm farm. I simply couldn’t get my head around trying to cook it.

“There’s fennel for you, and columbines; there’s rue for you; and here’s some for me; we may call it herb of grace o’Sundays.”

William Shakespeare, ‘Hamlet’ (1564-1616)

So, this time I turned for help to what many know as the Australian cook’s Bible, Stephanie Alexander’s: The Cook’s Companion. The book is organized by ingredient. So, when you’re stumped by that mystery ingredient, Stephanie’s talking in your ear guiding you through the challenge.

To be perfectly honest, before I opened Stephanie up, I had no idea that fennel had an anniseed or licorice flavour. Not a fan of licorice, I wasn’t so sure about cooking this fennel after all, and was seriously concerned about wasting good ingredients. Yet, I guess its popularity on Masterchef encouraged me to have a go. I found a recipe in the cookbook for fennel with a simple cheese sauce and added a few of my own touches.

So here’s my adapted recipe for Pumpkin and Fennel Gratin. It was absolutely scrumptious and I’d describe the anniseed flavour as subtle and refreshing. I had no mad aspirations of giving this dish to the kids. So, I made it for an adult taste with mature cheese. My daughter helped herself,  and said it was “yuck” and tasted of vomit cheese and licorice. On the other hand, my husband and I loved it and I’d be proud to serve it for a dinner party. Well, that’s if we were to host a dinner party…

Well, at least I’ve extended myself!

DSC_5791

Pumpkin and Fennel Gratin

1 Fennel Bulb

1 cup roast butternut pumpkin

left over chicken, beef or lamb optional

Cheese Sauce

40g butter

2 tablespoons Plain Flour

1 ½ cups warm milk

1 cup grated strong cheese. I used Ashgrove Vintage Cheddar.

1 cup breadcrumbs made using stale bread.

2 tablespoons parmesan cheese.

salt and pepper to taste

a scattering of fresh thyme.

Directions

  • Turn the oven onto 200ºC.
  • Line a baking tray with baking paper. Add olive oil, a teaspoon of mustard,  crushed garlic and a sprinkle of salt. Mix.
  • Slice half a butternut pumpkin into cubes. Place on baking tray and bake until golden brown. Add to fennel in baking dish. Use your own discretion on the ratio of both.
  • Grease an ovenproof gratin dish.
  • Blanching Fennel: remove the outer layer of fennel, wash and drain. Boil in a saucepan of salted water for about 2o mins, turning over to ensure it is cooked through. You should be able to push a sharp knife through the fennel bulb.
  • Slice fennel and line the greased baking dish. Add pumpkin and meat if desired.

Cheese Sauce

  • Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Try not to let it brown.
  • Stir in flour over low heat and cook for two minutes with a wooden/large plastic spoon, to prevent the sauce tasting like raw flour. This is called a roux.
  • Gradually stir in milk and bring to the boil.
  • Stirring continuously, add cheese.
  • Spoon cheese sauce over veggies.
  • Cover with breadcrumbs.
  • Sprinkle with extra cheese. I used grated parmesan.
  • Bake until golden brown. The top will develop a scrumptious, cheesy crunch.

I sprinkled roughly a handful of finely chopped left over roast lamb into the mix, which also gave it a rich flavour. Well recommended.

Have you made any dishes with fennel which you’d recommend? 

Bon Appetite!

Rowena

PS Next stop…beetroot. It’s been in the fridge for a week. Do you think using it to make a chocolate cake is cheating?

 

Weekend Coffee Share Catch Up.

Welcome to an Extended Catch-up Coffee Share!

I’d better offer you a rather comfy chair today and at least some kind of snack (if not a meal) in addition to your beverage of choice. The last couple of weeks have been full-on. So, this coffee share gets quite philosophical.

Sorry, I’ve been MIA the last couple of weeks. While the saying goes that “no news is good news”, the reality is often quite the reverse. That no news is bad news and it takes time for you to emerge from your rock and return to the land of the living.

Bilbo going home

Bilbo leaving the beach for the last time. 

On Monday 26th June, our beloved Border Collie, Bilbo, who has featured on Beyond the Flow, passed away in the early hours of the morning. We’d taken him to the vet on the Saturday and found out he was severely anaemic and most likely had a severe auto-immune disease. The vet hoped for the best and didn’t write him off. However, when a ball-obsessed dog stops chasing his beloved ball, you are prepared. While in a sense losing Bilbo could seem like the worst, he passed away peacefully at home. It was his time and felt like part of the natural order of things. I’m also relieved we were spared making difficult decisions and didn’t have to weigh up expensive treatment for an elderly dog because we loved him too much to let go. Ever a considerate dog, he spared us that and I’m incredibly thankful and relieved.

Meanwhile, we go on.

For better or worse, we are not “Keep Calm and Carry On” people. Yet, at the same time, we’ve had things to do and places to go. No doubt, you’ve also had those times where you’ve wanted to switch out and hibernate. When, although you know it’s beneficial to keep going, that’s about as palatable as a spoonful of liquid antibiotics. No matter how much they try to disguise the taste, it still tastes “yuck”.

Unexpectedly, the kids went off to school on the Monday and Geoff and I stayed home. Monday night, our daughter was in the local Dance Festival with her school and that worked out well. I kept thinking about the dog throughout the performance, but dance is such a tonic. Tuesday, the kids stayed home and we were all subdued by an overwhelming blanket of sadness. I personally believe in indulging your grief when it happens, as I think that actually helps you to let it go. You go deep in and you come out of it faster rather than expending energy trying to keep the door shut while the monster’s trying to bust its way out.

What do you think?

lady walking in clouds

Lady has been pretty quiet without Bilbo.

We have another dog, Lady. So, we won’t be rushing out to buy another dog. Indeed, we adopted Lady 3 years ago thinking Bilbo wasn’t well and she gave him a very strong second wind. I’m not sure if he was trying to impress her but he lost weight, got fit and learned how to socialize with other dogs. He was quite an introvert, but he gained a lot more confidence. Lady, on the other hand, loves everybody, aside from the odd dog and wags her tail like a maniac.

Jane Grover

Jane Grover: Photo from her website.

That Thursday night, I attended a cooking demonstration by chef Jane Grover at Church. I really wasn’t sure about going and felt like I was dragging a sack of potatoes a hundred miles to get there. However, I had a nap and when I woke up, the clouds had lifted and I felt so much better. Going to see Jane, was such good medicine and without the awful aftertaste I mentioned earlier.  She had me in stitches and I felt very much in synch with her sense of humour and general zanyness. Of course, I had to buy her cookbook  Our Delicious Adventure

Here’s a link to her promo video.

Amelia with ballet shoes

Miss with dancing Shoes

This Monday, was the first day of school holidays. I drove the kids to my parents’ place in Sydney and Geoff and I stayed for dinner. Our daughter came home on Wednesday night to attend dance workshops on Thursday with Daniel Russell  from West Side Story International Tour. These were such a blessing. It is hard for me to introduce Mr Daniel in a few sentences. His parents are the Principals at the dance school and quite aside from his professional success which has taken him to Broadway, he has a special place in our hearts. Our dance school is a close, loving family and we count on each other.

west-side-story-foto-09-credit-johan-persson-683x1024

Daniel Russell, West Side Story. Photo: © Johan Persson

I have mentioned before that my grandmother was an International concert pianist and this has given me a different appreciation of what it means to be a star. That while you have that stage and professional life, you are still human. Unless you’re incredibly wealthy, you still have the everyday and you are still somebody’s son, cousin, friend who’ll always know you without all of the trimmings. Personally, I think that’s critical for some kind of balance. After all, the clouds roll in, and you can’t always see the stars. Everyone needs some kind of grounding.

Eunice 1948 USA

My grandmother, Eunice Gardiner, at the Australian Embassy in Washington, 1948. She juggled having seven children and a successful career as a performer, critic and professor of piano at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. There’s almost too much to fathom. 

Anyway, I really appreciated Mr Daniel and Miss Carley putting back into the kids and giving them such encouragement and for giving us parents a smile, as we were treated to a brief performance at the end. We deserve it, you know. As much as I love and support my daughter’s dancing and love dancing myself, it is a sacrifice. While I spent hours working on her knotted hair last night, I can’t remember when my hair last got seen to. Unfortunately, I just can’t drop it off at the dry cleaners and pick it up later.

Today, my daughter had in-house dance exams…ballet, modern, jazz and tap all in one day. One day was great, as they didn’t take up the entire school holidays. However, this was very stop-start and loads of deadlines and this is not my thing. Time to leave the house, arrive, exam start time, pick up multiplied by four. This was exacerbated by disentangling a bird’s nest the night before, despite weeks of coaxing to apply the treatment sitting in the bathroom to her hair, me not sewing the elastic into her ballet shoes until this morning and finding out when I dropped her at the studio that she didn’t have a hairnet, hairpins or any organization whatsoever. I did ask her last night. I have bought it all before. But, who am I? Mum is about as useless as those flaps of skin hanging off the side of her head…ears. I don’t get worked up easily and I was fuming. I am also going back to the drawing board and devising: “Standover Mum”. This is anything but a helicopter parent. This is tough love on steroids.

Yet, we survived.

Being a dance mum isn’t a glamourous occupation. While the swan’s shining like the sun up on stage, you are the feet madly paddling in the dirty pond, doing all that hardwork behind the scenes. However, you can rise to the surface and there’s nothing quite like seeing your own up on stage…any stage. It doesn’t have to be Broadway. It could be your loungeroom at home. You don’t care. This is your child, your star and not even the most discerning of audiences, could ever love them quite as much.

Speaking of performances, our son will be appearing in The Gang Show next week, an annual variety show put on by our local Scouts, Guides and their leaders. They rehearse for months and really put heart and soul into it. I almost split a gut laughing through last year’s performance, which incorporated Roald Dahl’s Revolting Rhymes. It was fantastic. Our son is singing and dancing and I can’t wait to see him up in lights.

This leaves me searching for a light.

My next challenge is writing a short story for the local short story competition. I don’t write short stories and had been meaning to get some practice in after last year’s story didn’t place. That said, I have been writing flash fiction almost weekly so hopefully I can expand on that and put out a winning entry with a 1500 word count.

I’m sorry this update has sprawled on for so long. It’s a cold Winter’s night here. The heater’s on and the neurons are defrosting, and starting to fire up again. So, you could say I’m clearing the backlog. Indeed, it’s been good to share the last couple of weeks with you as I’ve been feeling bottled up on so many fronts and after almost 1500 words, the cork has popped off.

How has your week been? I’d love to hear from you.

xx Rowena