Tag Archives: dinner

Recipe: Aussie Pumpkin Soup.

It’s Winter here in Sydney and warm Pumpkin Soup is almost as Australian as Vegemite, Pavlova and Hugh Jackman. According to Australian Masterchef host, Matt Preston, Pumpkin is the most common type of soup Googled online. Preston has also found that our love affair with Pumpkin Soup, is uniquely Australian:

“As a nation we are rather unique in our love of pumpkin soup. The French cook it but it doesn’t feature as prominently in their kitchens as a bouillabaisse or a bisque. Americans do it too, but the soup is a poor cousin to the far more popular pumpkin pie. And the Korean hobakjuk is as much pumpkin porridge as soup.”

Before we proceed to the recipe, I have found it necessary to clarify what I’m actually calling “pumpkin”. Apparently, pumpkin by any other name does taste the same, but I’ve also found out that what is referred to as “pumpkin” in different parts of the world, isn’t what we Australians know as “pumpkin”.

Indeed, the butternut pumpkin I’ve used, is known as “squash” or “butternut squash” in other parts of the world.

However, to be sure to be sure to be sure, if whatever you call it comes in a tin, forget it. It’s not going to kill you to make this from scratch and some supermarkets do sell pumpkin pre-peeled and sliced so you can cheat without spoiling the soup.

This recipe is based on on a recipe by Margaret Fulton, who helped launch my cooking journey as a child. In 1968, she launched her first cookbook: Margaret Fulton’s Cookbook,  and it revolutionized Australian cooking. Along with the Australian Women’s Weekly Cookbook, these were cooking Bibles in Australian homes and still are in many today.

Pumpkin soup after school

Our whole family loves this Pumpkin Soup and it literally evaporated off the plates . Indeed, it’s spoon licking good!

Pumpkin Soup

Thanks to the butternut pumpkin/squash, this soup has a deliciously sweet flavour and creamy smooth texture. Yum!

Ingredients

90g butter

4.5 cups butternut pumpkin/squash…peeled and diced

A sprinkling of salt.

½ chopped onion (one smallish onion)

2 cups water

3 tablespoons plain flour

1 cup milk

1 egg yolk

Optional Serving Ingredients:

Sour cream

Chives

Bread.

Cracked pepper

Directions

  • In a large, heavy frying pan, melt half of the butter (45g) on high heat.
  • Add diced pumpkin and onion, turning constantly.
  • Fry for about 10 minutes, or until the pumpkin has started to caramelise.
  • Add water.
  • Reduce to medium heat and simmer until pumpkin is very tender and falling apart.
  • Remove from heat and cool for 15 minutes. This produces a finer texture.
  • You need to puree this pumpkin mix. I usually do it in the blender, but this is quite messy and my ancient blender struggles a bit. A friend recommended using a stick blender, which would cut out a lot of mess and encourage me to make it more often. However you blend it, the texture needs to be very fine and creamy.
  • Melt butter in frying pan. If you have pureed the pumpkin mix in the frying pan, you will need to do this a separate, small frying pan.
  • Add flour to the melted butter and stir together.
  • Add a small amount of pumpkin soup to flour and melted butter and mix well, gradually adding the rest. Stir rigorously to prevent lumps from forming. Blend again if lumps develop.
  • Simmer on low heat for 20 minutes.
  • Just before serving, combine egg yolk with a little of the pumpkin soup and then mix that in with the rest of the soup.
  • Serves four.
Floured Lady

The dogs are my ever-faithful companions whenever I cook. Sometimes, however, they can get caught in the cross-flour. 

Serving Recommendations

Pumpkin Soup is usually served with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of chopped chives. I usually chop the chives with a pair of scissors over the top of the soup.

Bread is a natural accompaniment to Pumpkin Soup. It is often served with a crusty bread roll and butter. However, yesterday I diced up a day old baguette, and fried the pieces in a mix of melted butter and olive oil in the frying pan. These were scrumptiously delicious, even if they were a little naughty. Watch the bread closely as it can burn easily.

A word of encouragement. In my experience, it is hard to get this wrong.

That is, as long as you don’t heed the cardinal rule of cooking. Never turn your back on a hot stove.

Bon Appetit!

xx Rowena

5th June, 2017.

Weekend Coffee Share 4th June, 2017.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week, I’m offering you something a little different…pumpkin soup. Perhaps, this might’ve been healthy once upon a time. However, I’ve ramped it up tonight  with a dollop of sour cream, and a sprinkling of home-made croutons. I don’t know what it is about this recipe. However, it’s the best pumpkin soup I’ve ever had. I always make it using butternut pumpkin, but it seems to have a special something. Could it be love?

Hope you like the photo I snuck in of the kids eating their Pumpkin Soup! It’s only a few years out of date, but they looked so cute!

Now, that you’d been fed, let  me ask you how your week was?

One of these days, I’ll have to add a rating scale.

Today, is my Mum’s birthday and my Dad’s birthday is later in the week. Usually, we’d go down to their place in Sydney, but we’re so busy. Our daughter has dancing on Saturday mornings and our son has rehearsals for the Scout Gang Show. I’m hoping we might be able to get together yet.

The past few weeks have been fairly stressful. I don’t know if  is the sort of stress you experience when you’re stretching and growing. After all, growth is by nature uncomfortable. So much is going well, and yet my awareness of all these things I’m struggling to change, has also increased. So, while I’m now tap-dancing and doing yoga, I’m still wading through stuff trying to clear up the house. I won’t use that dreaded word “declutter”, because I don’t believe in it. Indeed, after spending hours working on my daughter’s room, I arrived home with a crate of books from the op shop. These weren’t any ordinary books either. They included a four volume set of Home Mechanics Books from around 1910. They were more about repairing things around the home  such as your Grandfather clock and were absolutely fascinating. However, I am trying to follow what I’ll call a “trading policy”. That for everything that comes in, something has to go out. It works well for me in theory. However, like so many things, not so well in practice.

Jeffrey Smart Car Park in Bologna

Jeffrey Smart, Parking Lot Near  Bologna 1992.

This weekend, the whole issue of my teenage son’s school assignments reared its ugly head again. He’s been unwell on and off and the night before his assignment was due, our wifi went down. I don’t need to tell you that was a catastrophe of epic proportions. Anyway, not unsurprisingly, yours truly found herself researching Australian artist, Jeffery Smart, and his painting: “Parking Lot Near  Bologna”. Not to do his assignment for him, but to be able to help.

To be perfectly honest, this painting did nothing for me. Yet, I had to find something. Understand, at the very least, why it was considered worthy of an assignment. I personally prefer more of an expressionistic style with thick, lashings of paint, whereas this almost has a flat, photo finish. No, not my style, but I could see why the trucks might appeal to my son. That said, he’d probably prefer a Ferrari!

The last part of the assignment involved writing a 100 word story about the painting. It finally clicked that this was just like the flash fiction challenges I do. So, we talked through various plot ideas and possible names for the two men (Luigi for the Italian and Sergei for the Croatian) and then moved onto people smuggling. I wanted to teach him the thinking that goes into writing something like this, particularly the structure involved. Having that twist or punchline at the end. So, I wrote an example for him.  Here’s the link. It was very difficult to write, being set in Italy. However, as usual, Google came to the rescue.

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Hugh McKay

In  between the assignment and playing Scrabble with the lad, I also read read a fantastic novel, Selling the Dream by Hugh McKay. Hugh Mackay is a social researcher and the author of 17 books, mainly in the field of social analysis. Selling the Dream is his seventh novel. I am in the throws of writing a review. However, if you enjoyed reading Graeme Simsion’s: The Rosie Project, you’ll love it. It’s hilarious and despite being classed as satire, it’s incredibly real. Sorry, I forgot to tell you that it’s set in a Sydney advertising agency and has a serious swipe at the industry and it’s “heroes”.

I really loved reading this book and am really going to try to read books more often.

However, I’m sure you know how it in. Before you know it, the day just disappears.

As has the weekend. So, I’d better get this posted quickly.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share.

xx Rowena

 

Cooking Like A Masterchef.

As I’ve mentioned before, Australia’s First Masterchef, Julie Goodwin and her radio co-host “Rabbit”, arrived somewhat announced at my place with a meal last week… as well as a signed copy of Julie’s latest cookbook…Julie Goodwin’s Essential Cookbook.

Naturally, I wanted to cook a meal from Julie’s cookbook.

Well, actually I wanted to bake a dessert (or two, or three!!!)

However, being a parent and needing to role model nutritional and healthy eating, I launched off with a meal.

I don’t know about you, but choosing what to make for dinner every night causes me serious apoplexy. Indeed, my usual speedy, intelligent mind goes completely blank in what could only be described as “Cook’s Block”. Desperately seeking inspiration, I often end up staring through the butcher shop window like a starving mutt looking for the meaning of life, or at least dinner.

In the last week, this daily quest transferred to Julie’s cookbook. I really enjoyed reading the intro and picking up tips and feeling like I was still talking to Julie in my kitchen. However, I think it might’ve been the ghost of Rabbit coming back to haunt me. There was this loud chastising voice booming in my ear: “You’ve done enough reading. Stop talking. I’m hungry. Where’s dinner? Ten minutes to go…”

Actually, it wasn’t Rabbit. It was the kids. They were sick of staring at an empty plate!

Well, I finally decided on a recipe.

Last night, I made Julie’s Thai-Style Chicken Burgers (pg 75) for dinner, followed by her Apple Crumble Slice (pg 262) for dessert .

However, before I could power up the stove, I was off to the supermarket…ingredients.

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Due to my health issues, my husband usually does the big weekly shop. However, I set out to buy the ingredients for Julie’s meal all by myself. This wouldn’t have been an issue if I was sticking to the baking aisle. Fish sauce? Not an ingredient in your average chocolate cake. As for chilli…Don’t talk to me about chilli. Fresh chilli terrifies me after our local Thai takeaway redefined “mild”.  As for “Kewpie Mayonnaise”, I remember seeing Kewpie Dolls at the Royal Sydney Easter Show, but what did they have to do with mayonnaise? Not much.

I was pondering these challenges, when my phone rang. Lady, our Border Collie x Cavalier x Houdini had got out. That meant, a race through the supermarket and mad dash home.

That meant another trip back to the supermarket and Kewpie mayonnaise remained a mystery.

Kewpie Mayonnaise

While recipe books are pretty good with providing preparation times for meals, they don’t tell you how long it’s going to take you to find the ingredients. By this I’m not only talking about doing the shopping, but also delving through the flotsam and jetsam in the kitchen pantry. After all, most of us don’t have a “Tupperware Pantry”. Indeed, my pantry could well be described as a “mystery box” along with the fridge.

So, by the time I’d sorted the dog out, I was onto my fourth shop chasing ingredients. That’s not because I didn’t have a list and kept having to dash back again. It was just the usual thing of my day stop-starting and it wasn’t helped when the chicken shop had run out of chicken mince. The butcher came to my rescue again.

Swedish-Chef_Spring-Chickens

So after hunting down minced chicken and doing the Kewpie mayonnaise victory dance, I was back home. Time to get the show on the road. Not that I had any film crews filming me. I might be cooking from the Masterchef’s cookbook, but I’m not Julie Goodwin and no one’s filming yours truly in action. This could well be a good thing because I could get the Health Department closing my beloved kitchen down. As I’ve mentioned before, I cook like  the Swedish Chef from The Muppets and the inspectors don’t like seeing raw chicken flying around, even if the dogs do clean it up afterwards.

Actually, even I’m very careful cooking with this raw chicken mince and am wearing disposable gloves. There’s no way I could touch the raw chicken with my bare hands. For me, this is the equivalent of an arachnophobe trying to embrace incy wincy spider. Erk!

On that note, my daughter who has been chopping the coriander recoils at the smell of the fish sauce. As complication builds on complication, I wonder whether Julie faces any of these hurdles when she cooks at home. However, after listening to Julie on the radio, I know she’s very human and her family is real.

I’m mixing things together and I must admit I added half the red curry paste and sort of “forgot” to add the fresh chilli…just in case. Once you add heat to a dish, it’s impossible to extract. So, this being my first attempt at Julie’s Thai chicken burgers, I added half the stated amount of red curry paste, but will add the full amount next time. It seems Julie’s chilli-meter is well-calibrated and well-suited to my palate.

The only points I would add to Julie’s notes, is to be really careful cooking with raw chicken. With mixing multiple ingredients into the raw chicken mince, you can’t go touching other stuff.  You need to have everything else set up first. Indeed, in future I’ll put everything else in the bowl first and add the mince last next time. Being conscious of food safety issues, especially when using raw chicken, it’s not being mysophobic. It’s critical.

Fast-forwarding, we’ve squished our mince mix into patties, fried them on the stove, spread our mayonnaise mix on our brioche buns, sprinkled chopped coriander leaves over the patty and added the lettuce.

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An endangered species…the chicken patty was out of the frying pan and straight down the hatch.

It’s hard to describe how something tastes. A better indication is how much is leftover at the end of the meal and are there any scavengers (other than the dogs) chasing leftovers? My kids are very fussy eaters. It’s a rare that my daughter even finishes her meal, let alone asks for seconds and she was almost hoovering the chicken burger off her plate. She also polished off a small leftover patty. You couldn’t get a better endorsement.

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Meanwhile, after polishing off the burgers, I was peeling and chopping apples while watching Masterchef for Julie’s Apple Crumble Slice.

More yum!

All but straight out of the oven, I cut the slice into civilized squares, which were soon by-passed in preference for double-servings all round (except our daughter who’d filled up on the burger). This slice is deliciously moist with a scrumptious crunchy top. Moreover, with all that apple inside, you can appease your conscience. It’s healthy.

We’ll be doing this meal again next week, although I’ll be doubling the chicken burger mix.

You can never have too much of a good thing!

Have you ever tried making any of Julie Goodwin’s recipes? Even if you’re overseas, you can still check out her web site and try making something wherever you are. You too can cook and eat like an Australian.

xx Rowena

PS Oops! The Apple Crumble Slice mysteriously vanished before photographs could be taken. The photographer succumbed to temptation.

PPS I just had a phone call from my Mum. I sent her home with the last piece of Apple Crumble Slice. Here’s her verdict: “Never tasted anything quite like that. Quite perfect by itself. Unique. No idea how you’ve made it. Didn’t need anything with it…other than a cup of tea.

 

Masterchef: Julie Goodwin’s, Essential Cookbook.

As I’ve mentioned often enough, Julie Goodwin, Australia’s 1st Masterchef, made a surprise visit to our home on Monday to drop off a meal and a copy of her latest cookbook, Julie Goodwin’s Essential Cookbook.

So, I thought you might like to join me as I flick through the cookbook and choose something to cook. After all, she didn’t just give it to me  to be nice. Or, to be framed and sent “straight to the pool room”. It was to be used.

Used and even abused.

Indeed, Julie gave me carte blanche to all but destroy the book during the cooking process. Apparently, she loves to see a well-used book,which could well have sampled a few meals itself. For better or worse, my personal cooking style was inspired by the Swedish chef from the Muppet Show back in the 80s. So, this poor book could well be in for a smorgasbord of splattered delight…

Although Julie needs little introduction here in Australia, I thought I’d better introduce her to those further afield.

Julie Goodwin is many things.Every morning when I listen to Julie on the radio, I’m struck by her infectious laugh which jolts me out of the morning’s challenges. Julie has a real depth and sincerity, and I know I’ve only glimpsed the edges of that. Right from her first appearances on Masterchef, she’s worn her heart on her sleeve. Her love of her family and being their Mum, radiate from her heart. You can tell how much she loves and cares for people, and that cooking and food is all part of that. There is no divide. So many of us who cook for our families, feel the same. That there’s nothing like a home-cooked meal. It’s infused with love.

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So when Julie gave me her cookbook, she was also sharing the joy of cooking and sitting around a table laden with scrumptious offerings laughing and chatting with family and friends. Cooking and eating great meals, are joys to be shared, and not to be kept to yourself…top secret.

In her introduction, Julie explains why she put this cookbook together:

“The point I find myself at at the moment is as the parent of three boys who are new adults. They are all still at home right now but I guess the clock is ticking, and although I have taught them what cooking knowledge I could over the years I feel an almost desperate need to get all the important recipes, information and tips together so that when they go, they’re set.

That’s what this book is for. It’s a collection of everything I think is important to know in order to be able to nourish yourself and the people you love; it’s the recipes that bring back childhood memories for myself and my kids;it’s the little bits of kitchen wisdom that have been handed down through generations, or passed on from friends, or discovered by accident or through trial and error. It’s the book I want my books to have when they have families of their own.”

My Mother-in-law did the same thing for Geoff when he moved out of home and we still have a much treasured cookbook she put together for him in an exercise book. I also have detailed recipes my grandmother sent my Mum. One even included a snippet about the birth of a friend’s baby. I have cooked with my own kids both as a bonding experience and to teach them practical life skills. It actually takes quite a lot of smarts to put together a great meal.

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So, after enjoying  Julie’s Butter Chicken on Monday night (thank you Julie!!), I decided to cook something from her cookbook on Tuesday night.

Something…

With 300 pages of recipes to choose from and possibly two recipes per page, I was bamboozled by choice.

Where to start?

Of course, my sweet tooth went straight to Baking and Desserts. I’m already making plans to bake her Flourless Chocolate Cake on page 250. Actually, I just spotted a recipe for Chocolate Fondant on page 287. I’ve been wanting to try making one of those for years, along with tiramisu, but have never had the guts. Not because I can’t cook. Rather, it’s the paralyzing perfectionist in me. That stupid fear of making a mistake, which stops me from lifting my wooden spoon. Indeed, I use it to beat myself up instead.

Well, it doesn’t stop me entirely. I obviously have to feed the family and every year when Masterchef starts up, my home cooking goes up a zillion notches. The other day, for example, I made pan fried perch with lemon and raspberry, a dash of honey and sprinkled with macadamia nuts…just something I threw together.

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Hasselback Potato.

So, rather than being ambitious, I started with something simple…Hasselback Potatoes on page 192. Actually, with my fine motor challenges, these potatoes, which have horizontal slices 2 mm apart, could’ve been more challenging than the fondant. However, aside from chopping off a few pieces, all went well. I poured the mix of melted butter and oil over the potatoes and threw them in the oven. They emerged with a scrumptious crunchy crust, but soft in the middle.

Wow! Those potatoes were so good. We ate them as finger food like a row of scalloped, potato chips.

Indeed, we loved them so much, I swapped them for our usual roast potatoes. I’m doing a roast lamb tonight. Sorry, Julie, I went AWOL on the roast and did my own thing.

By the way, if you haven’t seen the footage of Julie and Rabbit’s visit to our place, you can see it here: Rabbit & Julie Goodwin Visit Rowena

If you would like to try some of Julie’s recipes or purchase her cookbook, please visit her web site: Julie Goodwin

Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to MY big day tomorrow and arrival of the fairies during the night.

xx Rowena

PS I thought you all might also want to check out Rabbit’s new cookbook as well in these very entertaining clips. As much as I love Rabbit and did pass on one of my own recipes, I am concerned he’s trying a bit too hard: Rabbit Tells Julie about his cookbook on air and Rabbit & Julie:The Battle of the Cookbook Signings

Rowena & the Radio Stars.

Well, on Monday morning, I had a bit of fun trading places. Instead of being behind the lens looking out, I was being filmed, inspected and watched under the microscope.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, our local radio station Star FM arrived at my place on Monday morning. While I was expecting breakfast radio host Rabbit to turn up, it was quite a surprise when his co-host, Julie Goodwin, Australia’s first Masterchef, pulled up in our driveway in her gorgeously cute white mini.

Wow!

That wasn’t the only surprise.

Indeed, we were off to make a salad together in MY kitchen.

Cooking with Julie

Talking salad with Julie.

Phew! Thank goodness I was prepared. Geoff had anticipated something like this and warned me about the kitchen. So, when it was looking like I was going to need an orbital sander to remove the black ring around the hotplate, I persisted. Pulled out the big guns…Gumption, the green scourer and pure unadulterated elbow grease. Wow! My stove top could now appear in a commercial.

Or, indeed, on the radio station’s web site.

I also thank my lucky stars that I wasn’t wearing my pink, fluffy slippers.

The dogs are complaining bitterly about being left out. After going through the torturous bathing process, they feel a bit ripped off . Bilbo is particularly grumpy after trying so hard to be nice. (He’s seemingly forgotten, that he was barking so much, that he was removed from the opening scenes.)

Anyway, of course, I had to share this with you. No doubt, it will be quite weird for you to actually see me in person and hear my voice for the first time. I’d love to know what that’s like for you. After exchanging posts and comments with some of you for years without meeting, it’s actually rather exciting that you’re stepping into my real world, after being in my cyber one for so long.

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

In case you’re wanting to follow this story through from start to finish…I wrote a post on my blog about meeting Rabbit and Julie Goodwin when Star 104.5 broadcast from my daughter’s school. In that post, I mentioned that as much as Julie had been there for me throughout the years, she’d never brought me a meal. That was until Monday morning when Julie pulled up in my driveway with butter chicken, rice and a salad for dinner. Go Julie! The radio station filmed the whole thing and posted the footage on their Facebook page tonight. It’s already had 964 views…amazing.

You can read more about their visit Here and Bilbo’s view of it all Here Bilbo had quite a lot to say.

I hope you enjoy it!

xx Rowena

Here’s a link to Julie’s recipe for Butter Chicken.

The Masterchef & the Rabbit.

Rabbits are usually the target, and not the decoy. However, this was no ordinary Rabbit.

This was Rabbit as in “Rabbit & Julie Goodwin” Star FM’s breakfast radio hosts. A few weeks ago, I was contacted by our local radio station. I was simply told that I’d won a prize and Rabbit would be at my house on Monday morning. Mia on the phone didn’t say much and was very adept at evading questions.

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Naturally, I had to do something for Rabbit’s visit. Create a bit of theatre. On Sunday night, I finally came up with the idea of Mad Hatters Tea Party…an Alice in Wonderland theme. After all, where is White Rabbit? I have quite a lot of Alice in Wonderland paraphernalia and it all came together very well….especially with some home-made, gluten free cupcakes which our daughter decorated. I also tied a scarf to the massive Norfolk Pine Tree in our front yard so they could find our house (as if they couldn‘t spot the crowd in the front yard and the tea party and don’t have GPS.) Well, my daughter and her friend were feeling “bored” and nabbed armfuls of my scarves and tied them to the tree. It looked fantastic, but very out there.

Suddenly, Rabbit and Mia arrived…along with a cameraman. Now, I should warn you that Rabbit knows how to keep a straight face and tell pure porky pies without flinching. Rabbit apologises that Julie couldn’t be there and presents me with a signed cookbook…Julie Goodwin: The Essential Cookbook.

As much as I appreciated the cookbook, I sensed there was more. That something else was up his sleeve. After all, they could’ve posted the book. AND, a radio station wouldn’t film someone who isn’t the author, presenting a book.

Then…  a dashing white mini convertible with “COOKING” on the number plate, pulls into our driveway and out steps Julie Goodwin, Australia’s first Masterchef. She’d arrived at our place with a meal…butter chicken, rice with saffron and we were off to the kitchen to prepare the salad together…and for the cameras.

OMG!!! Obviously, I’ve never been the mild-mannered reporter type, but I was uber-excited. I was so happy, that I all but burst into song. Julie was here!

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Well, you might ask why Julie Goodwin came here. After all, our place is hardly Masterchef Central.

Well, that’s a long story.

As I said, I received a message from the radio station a few weeks ago saying I’d won a prize. I suspected this was in response to a post I’d written after Rabbit and Julie Goodwin hosted the breakfast show on Star FM at our daughter’s school. I’ve been a mad Julie Goodwin fan ever since I first saw her battling it out on Masterchef eight years ago.

When I heard that Julie and Rabbit were going to be at my daughter’s school, I drove the 45 minutes up the freeway along with her cookbook and my heart was almost palpitating. Once I saw her on air, I was absolutely transfixed and I found it so hard to pull myself back and harder still to watch her leave… “Julie! Julie!”

Pathetic, I know! Yet, there was just something about Julie, which made me feel home. There was something about her which calmed a raging sea I didn’t understand. I was having a wonderful day and yet something inside me was drowning. The waves were crashing overhead and yet there were blue skies and things were the best they’d been in a long time. Indeed, I’d even become a believer in miracles.

rowena-amelia-with-rabbit-julie

My daughter and I with Rabbit and Julie at her school.

Anyway,  when I wrote about meeting Julie, I made a tongue-in-cheek remark about how Julie’s never dropped around here with a meal. Of course, I’d never expected that, but around the time season one of Masterchef went to air, I’d been diagnosed with a life-threatening acute auto-immune disease called dermatomyositis, where your muscles attack themselves causing debilitating weakness. Although I’d improved, I wasn’t out of the woods. Our kids were aged 5 and 3 at the time and with Mummy being an endangered species, it wasn’t uncommon for Church or friends to drop in a meal. It’s what you do.

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Dinner with Julie (she’s the cookbook at the end of the table).

Now, I’ve not only received a meal from Julie. I also have another of her cookbooks and it’s time for me to share the love. Pass it forward…at least to my own family.

Bon Appetit!

xx Rowena

PS You might also enjoy reading Bilbo’s account of events. I must admit he did write quite a lot about himself: The Queen of the Kitchen.

The Queen of the Kitchen…Dog Reports on Intriguing Home Visit.

G’day, Mates!

This is Bilbo, Rowena’s superlatively intelligent and inimitably handsome Border Collie and the reigning ball chasing champion of the universe. Not that I boast. Rather, I’m actually surprisingly timid. Mum’s always telling people I’m like that reserved guy standing in the corner of the pub holding his beer. I need time to warm up. Not that I’m unsociable, or one of those whimpering dogs who hide under the house whenever someone comes over. Yet, I certainly don’t jump all over strangers either. I call that “respect”.

bilbo & Lady friends

This is Lady on the left and I’m on the right.

Anyway, despite my prowess with the tennis ball, I also have a way with words. Being a philosopher’s dog, I also ponder the meaning of life inside, outside and upside down until my rattling, rusty brain short circuits.

It’s been a long time since I last launched myself into cyberspace. I apologise for my long absence and could easily blame writer’s block, but I’ve been busy. That wretched posty still insists on coming round here every day delivering the mail. Although I’m now considered “elderly”,  I haven’t lost my touch. Indeed, it’s a bold and intrepid posty who knocks on our front door with a parcel.

There’s been a series of macabre machinations around here, and that’s why I’m back. I’m trying to get to the bottom of it all and could use your help. Lady, my canine companion and troublemaker extraordinaire, keeps telling me that I’m over-thinking all of this. However, I have a scent for trouble and I smell trouble in capital, huge, bold letters with four exclamation marks…

TROUBLE!!!!

So, let me run through the evidence, and perhaps you could help me make sense of it all. Please explain!

Actually before I launch into what the family HAS been doing, I thought I’d better eliminate the obvious. They’re not going on holidays. That’s the usual reason routines go out the window around here and pandemonium prevails. However, the suitcases aren’t out and instead of packing, they doing what I can only describe as “reverse packing”. All the crap’s being picked up off the floor, couch and even the kitchen table and put away. Mum won’t want you to know this, but much of that, was stashed in the laundry. I don’t think Mum’s planning on doing any washing for a month.

That might also be a clue.

The other bizarre thing was the magical appearance of a new garden out the front.

Now, I bet Mum hasn’t fessed up about her gardening disasters, but she’s a serial plant killer. I pity all those beautiful purple flowers and that striking plant with the colourful leaves, because unless I come to the party with my personal watering system, they’re going to die. Indeed, I’ve even heard her talk about the convenience of heading down to Bunnings, whenever we’re having guests to “buy new friends”. Mum might write a lot about changing the world and making a difference, but she’s supposed to be making a difference in a good way, and not leaving a trail of dead plants in her wake.

Next, Mister was mowing the lawn. That could’ve made it into the Guinness Book of Records, if they recorded personal greats and the rare occurrences when teenagers levitate out of their rooms, put down their devices and move. Indeed, I should be training those kids to take Lady and I for more walks. Find their true calling in life.

As you can see, the evidence is really starting to mount…reverse packing, a new garden and mowing the lawn…my super-sensitive sniffer was very suspicious.

Yet, I was still stumped.

Then, Mum got her Sunbeam mix master out and started baking. I’m always telling her not to turn it up too high at the start or she’ll end up with chocolate splatter paintings on the ceiling. But, does she listen to me? Of course, not! AND, the busier she gets, the less she hears until her ears completely switch off. Humph! However, she actually listened this time, which also meant that no mixture splattered on the floor either. Grr! Of course, all the food which falls on the floor is automatically mine, although Lady my canine companion, now thinks she has rights as well. I was here first and that’s all that matters!

Queens-Corgis

By this stage, I’m starting to think the Royal Corgis are coming for a visit. However, why would they come here when they could go for a run off the leash at the beach?

Humph! As much as I delve into and grapple with humans, the pieces never fit together and none of the dots ever join up either.

What’s going on?

Well, on Sunday all this frenzied activity climaxed with an event of diabolical proportions.

Lady and I were given a bath.

 

Bilbo being bathed.jpg

While I understand other dogs have the misfortune of being bathed weekly and even endure the horrors of the dog salon, I can take care of my own coat and refuse to suffer the indignities of the hose. That’s why I make myself scarce when that excited anticipation of a walk, quickly turns south when my beloved leads gets tied to the dreaded clothesline instead.  Indeed, I feel perfectly justified in getting narky and having what Mum has described to the Vet as a: “pathological hatred of the hose”.Well, by now the evidence was more than mounting. Indeed, there was a veritable mountain of paperwork outside my kennel, as I tried to sleuth my way towards the truth.

If it wasn’t the Royal corgis, who is it?

What if the Queen herself was coming?

The Queen of Australia…

Hang on. Who is the Queen of Australia?

I might be all-knowing, but there seems to be something wrong with the cogs in my brain…a breakdown of sorts. Who is the Queen of Australia? This brain of mine is a veritable Google, yet it keeps bringing up the Queen of England. Humph! It must need a restart. .

morning tea.jpg

Mum prepared an Alice in Wonderland morning tea for Rabbit, but I have no idea why.

I was starting to ponder the philosophical ramifications of all that, when there was a knock at the door. Another knock and a whole pile of kids arrived. However, before I could even find my tennis ball, there was more commotion and I was back to defend the house. Be it the Royal Corgis, or even the Queen of Australia, they could still be a security threat. So, I dashed into position at the side gate. I’d keep the lot of them out if I had to.

Mum had clearly lost the plot.

Then, I hear them mentioning something about the barking dog messing up their sound recording and Mister grabs me by the collar and drags me away from my post with no appreciation whatsoever.

That’s okay. I’m used to it.

They might’ve got me out of the way but through a very complex interconnecting network of mirrors and reflective windows, I could still keep an eye on things. Moreover, despite being somewhat “senior”, my hearing’s just as good as it ever was.

Rabbit

Rabbit in our kitchen.

All I could hear was: “Rabbit! Rabbit! Rabbit!” and I was a bit concerned Lady might get confused. Before she came here, she was a farm dog and between you and me, she knows exactly how to prepare rabbit. Mum died a thousand deaths when Lady ate a rabbit at Palm Beach.

Of course, Lady needs to watch out. Eating humans is a dog’s one unforgivable crime.  However, just this once, Lady behaves herself.

Rabbit gave Mum another book and I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. A book? You can’t eat a book.

Juli Rabbit Rowena in kitchen

Then this car pulls up and everyone goes hysterical, especially Mum. They’re all calling out: “It’s Julie! It’s Julie!”

I don’t know if this Julie is the Queen of Australia, but I know chicken anywhere and Julie has chicken in her handbag.

Meanwhile, while I was barking on high alert, Lady, my ever-unreliable canine companion, was swanning around with the royals being rather glam, while secretly plotting to nab  the chicken. Of course, I’m no fool. I smelt the chicken too. What dog wouldn’t, but somebody had to keep a level head.

However, before Lady could strike, the chicken was put straight in the fridge. It was “dinner” and I didn’t need to be told it wasn’t my dinner. I already knew.

Well, this Julie might not be the Queen of Australia, but she’s definitely Queen of the Kitchen, because she was teaching Mum how to cook.

By the way, if this Julie character ever comes round to your place, you’d better be good. I saw the way she cut up an onion and trust me, I was being a very, very good dog!!

At this point, I also wanted to mention, that Julie was there showing Mum HOW to cut an onion. Not only that, everybody was watching that onion, as though it contained the very meaning of life. In all the years that I’ve been watching and interpreting humans and feeling completely out of my depth, that onion incident had to be the most confusing moment of all.

What does it mean?

Cooking with Julie.jpg

And what is it about humans and onions? Day after day, Mum’s there crying as she’s chopping them up. I told you. Humans are crazy!!

Then, just as suddenly as this Queen of the Kitchen and the Rabbit person and al the camera people arrived, they were all gone and Mum and her friends were all huddled round the book.

Of course, they take me for some foolish illiterate. However, as I’ve said before, I’m a Border Collie of vastly superior intellect which stretches so much further than simply herding sheep, chasing my ball and getting rid of the posty.

I can read.

Humph…Julie Goodwin’s Essential Cookbook. It just happened to open up to page 43…Roast Leg of Lamb and Lamb Chop Tray Bake. I can already taste that scrumptious lamb fat.

So much for reading, this dog is learning how to cook!

On second thoughts, it’s time for me to put my herding instincts to good use.

Where’s Mum?

xx Bilbo.