Tag Archives: food

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

 

 

 

Belated Weekend Coffee Share 29th May, 2018.

Welcome to a coffee share that is so late, that I’ve even missed the online deadline. The shop is shut, and for the first time ever, I’ve been left outside pounding on the door: “Let me in ! Let me in!”

Well, it’s my own fault. Even the extended weekend opening hours have to come to an end, and given that it’s now Tuesday afternoon, I am actually wondering whether I should be hosting a weekend coffee share after all. Isn’t it just a bit too late? Why don’t I save it up for next weekend?

 

Above: I am enjoying Autumn.

You see, the thing is that I actually had a very busy and exciting week last week and it’s actually too much to even condense into one week let alone spread it over two, even if the next week is looking rather empty after doing so much. Indeed, I’m currently needing rest and recover.

However, I also figured that some of us need that daily coffee hit, and perhaps a few caffeine addicts might be needing a mid-week hit.

So, given that I’m so far behind, I’m just going to take you through the highlights.

Last Tuesday, which is now exactly a week ago, I have a fairly important meeting with my lung specialist. My lung volumes have dropped by 20% in the last six months and instead of his usual: “I’ll see you in six months”, it was I’ll see you in two weeks and you need to have a lung scan and also handed me a swag of other tests. Well, I didn’t pass them all in flying colours. That goes with the territory. However, my lungs haven’t changed and that’s what really matters. So, from where I was coming from, I consider that good news.

 

After the lung specialist, I caught the train into the Art Gallery of NSW and saw the Archibald Exhibition. This is Australia’s most prized portrait competition, and it’s also been prone to quite a bit of controversy over the years. I am rediscovering my passion for art atm, and just even the sensation of looking at deep brush strokes carved through thick, luscious paint. I can’t explain what it does to me, but it like walking into a dark house at night and all the lights suddenly switching on at once. Wow! I wasn’t necessarily conscious of it at the time. However, I found myself drawn into the eyes and even zooming in and photographing just the eyes on quite a number of portraits. They seems to be telling me something, although in typical fashion, I can’t quite decipher the words and the messages is quite nebulous and difficult to untangle. Anyway, it’s left me wanting  to learn how to draw eyes. Humph..I ‘d probably be better off trying to trace around my hand. Art is an intimidating thing to step into. I was even anxious and crippled with self-doubt as a kid, and when my teacher picked me up on it, I wasn’t bad. Indeed, I got an A.

Anyway, I ended up writing two posts about my trip to the Art Gallery and this included a look at the importance of eye contact.

 

Moving right along, on Friday I caught the train down to Parramatta where Geoff and I went staying for a Couples’ Retreat with Muscular Dystrophy NSW. I am a member of MDNSW because my auto-immune disease is considered a neuro-muscular condition. The Muscular Dystrophy Association actually has quite a broad scope helping people with quite a range of very rare conditions under that one umbrella, which can ideally get the lot of us more acknowledgement and assistance. By bringing us all together, I wouldn’t call it a self-help group. I just see it as being like any networking meeting with colleagues. We encourage and understand each other and while most of us straggle to walk or are in scooters, wheelchairs etc, we still seem to “stand on our own two feet”. We’re a fairly independent bunch. Staff are there to facilitate the get togethers, provide additional information and are sort of like the backbone, which holds us together. I find it very important to mix with “my people” because I get sick of trying to explain myself everywhere else and it becomes a place of psychological, mental and physical rest. That said, I did become pretty animated meeting up with my own and I was exhausted at the end of the weekend, also because we pushed ourselves to see as much of Parramatta as we could. I could recover when I got home.

DSC_0395

Writing with a real quill…Or, at least, being a poseur.

I’ve written a few extensive posts about our trip to Parramatta, and haven’t caught up yet. However, there was walking around the streets of Parramatta and talking in the historic St John’s Church and Town Hall while stopping off at cafes and being quite mesmerized photographing the fountain in Centenary Square. My husband and I are both photographers and see the world better through the lens. We also toured historic Elizabeth Farm, where you could interact with the exhibits and really get a feel for the place and Government House which had real artifacts and was much more stuffy.

Corellas.JPG

I haven’t quite had time to write up about visiting Parramatta Park, which runs along side the Parramatta River. However, in addition to falling in love with the oaks trees in their glorious Autumn finery, we couldn’t but spot a huge tree where hundreds of cockatoos (Corellas) had found a home. They were making an awful din, if that’s how you interpret the screech of the cockatoo. Anyway, something scared them and all of a sudden the sky was filled with birds in a way I have never quite seen before. It was amazing and fortunately the camera cooperated and we managed to seize the moment. Yippee! Photography is so much like fishing and so often I’m left talking about the one  that got away. However, this time, I actually caught it.

a million birds take flight.JPG

Since returning home, I’ve had a big sleep. Actually, a number of big sleeps in addition to trying to share our wonderful adventures on the blog.

Here are some links to posts from my travels:

What Are Museums For?

A Weekend In Parramatta, Sydney

An Autumn Stroll in Sydney

Making Eye Contact At the Art Gallery of NSW

The Artists Behind the Eyes

We hope you and yours had a great week and that you enjoyed catching up with me for coffee and enjoying a little piece of Australia.

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

A Weekend in Parramatta, Sydney.

Last weekend, my husband and I went to Parramatta for the weekend. In many ways, it was quite an unlikely place for us to go for the weekend, as it’s not exactly known as a tourist Mecca. However, I’m really glad we had the chance to explore this part of Sydney for the first time in any kind of depth. By the way, the reason we were staying in Parramatta, was that we were on a couple’s retreat hosted by Muscular Dystrophy NSW, which helps support my various “idiocyncracies”, as I’ve now  refer to them.

It is hard to quite known how to adequately describe Parramatta. Indeed, it’s hard to to encapsulate any place in a few words, or a handful of photographs. Yet, it’s seems that travellers, those of us who are only passing through, always feel the need to try, at least on the back of a postcard.

If I had to summarise Parramatta on the back of a postcard, I’d start of with a brief history lesson.

Parramatta was founded in 1788, the same year that the First Fleet arrived in Sydney. The British settlement desperately needed food and was struggling to find fertile soil in Sydney Cove.  During 1788, Governor Arthur Phillip had reconnoitred several places before choosing Parramatta as the most likely place for a successful large farm. Parramatta was the furthest navigable point inland on the Parramatta River (i.e. furthest from the thin, sandy coastal soil) and also the point at which the river became freshwater and therefore useful for farming. Although initially called Rose Hill, On 4 June 1791 Phillip changed the name of the township to Parramatta, approximating the term used by the local Aboriginal people.[19]

 

In 1789,Phillip granted a convict named, James Ruse, the land of Experiment Farm at Parramatta on the condition that he develop a viable agriculture. There, Ruse became the first person to successfully grow grain in Australia. The Parramatta area was also the site of John Macarthur’s Elizabeth Farm, which had pioneered the Australian wool industry by  in the 1790s. Philip Gidley King’s account of his visit to Parramatta on 9 April 1790 is one of the earliest descriptions of the area. Walking four miles with Governor Phillip to Prospect, he saw undulating grassland interspersed with magnificent trees and a great number of kangaroos and emus.

In years gone by, the story of Parramatta would’ve been a white man’s story. Indeed, when I was at school, we learned nothing about the frontier wars between Europeans and the indigenous Aboriginal people. It’s only now, that I’ve heard about the Battle of Parramatta, a major battle of the Hawkesbury and Nepean Wars, which occurred in March 1797 where resistance leader Pemulwuy led a group of Bidjigal warriors, estimated to be at least 100, in an attack on a government farm at Toongabbie, challenging the British Army to fight.Governor Arthur Phillip built a small house for himself on the hill of The Crescent. In 1799 this was replaced by a larger residence which, substantially improved by Governor Lachlan Macquarie from 1815 to 1818, which is now referred to as Old Government House.

Above: St John’s Church

So, having given you a brief historical snapshot, how about you join me at Parramatta Station. After such a long trip, I just had to stop for refreshments at the Guylian Cafe, where I had a heavenly chocolate dessert and a cappuccino. From there, I walked across to Church Street. On the left, there’s historic St John’s Anglican Church and across the road, you’ll find Parramatta Town Hall, which reminds me of a two-tier wedding cake. Next to the Town Hall, the future of Parramatta is starting to rise out of what has often been hard times. Indeed, throughout our walks around the Parramatta CBD, new buildings and construction sights resemble alien intruders. Next to the Town Hall, we spotted the Bourke Street Bakery, where we had an unforgettable Raspberry Cream Meringue Tart. That’s when we spotted the captivating water fountain, and I’ve just found out this whole area is now called Centenary Square. There’s a ping pong table, large outdoor chess set and on Sunday night, we even spotted a group doing salsa outside together. So, there really are moves afoot to give Parramatta not only a facelift, but also a strong community feel and a heart.

This leads me into a dynamic thriving food area further up Church Street, known as “Eat Street”. Personally, I found this area had a sort of bazaar feel about it with restaurants and street food all sandwiched together to a point that you’re almost not sure where your chair or table belongs at times. There are street vendors, restaurants from a smattering of cultures…Italian, Greek, Lebanese, Thai, Mexican, Cuban. The choices were dazzling and in the end we went to a burger place my husband had been to near work and I had a pork belly burger. We went to a chocolate cafe for dessert. Yum.

Above: I spotted these in the Army Disposal Store.

Moving further Church Street towards Phillip Street, the buildings looked rather old and sad to be honest. There’s old and historic, but quick cheap and nasty construction only gets worse with age. However, that’s not to say that the shops didn’t have character and appeal. Indeed, we found an army surplus store, which in itself is a rare breed these days, but this one also had loads of personality, and there was even a chandelier when you walked in. I also found Tom Cruise and the Terminator on the wall 80s style. In terms of interesting places, I should also point out the Bavarian Bier Cafe, which is housed inside an historic Church. We had planned to have dinner there on Saturday night, but couldn’t get a table.

Above: The German Bier Cafe.

We stayed at the Parkroyal Hotel on Phillip Street, and really enjoyed our stay. As I said, we were staying there with other couples from Muscular Dystrophy NSW. We met up together in the foyer and had a beautiful dinner in the hotel restaurant together on Friday night. I think I only knew one person well beforehand, but by the end of the weekend, we were one big happy and well-fed family and exchanging email addresses and contacts. It really felt like such a blessing to all get together, but it was also great that the weekend away also provided for time for Geoff and I to be on our own. We have really been quite desperate to spend any time to actually focus on each other and take care of each other, without trying to spread ourselves four ways, or even further if the dogs or work are also demanding attention. We are by no means alone in this and I’m very grateful to Muscular Dystrophy NSW for organizing the retreat, my parents for taking the kids and a friend for minding the dogs and the home front.

In my next post, we will visit Elizabeth Farm and Old Government House.

Have you ever been to Parramatta? What are your thoughts about it?

Best wishes,

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

Do the Milkshake!

Yesterday, my daughter had a friend over and we ended up walking down to a local cafe for a milkshake with the dogs in tow and then onto the beach.

However, these weren’t your average milkshake. Indeed, if you tried doing the milkshake after one of these, your stomach would start to quake. These wacko jacko milkshakes are called Crazy Shakes, and have everything stuck on top but the kitchen sink.  The kids ordered a caramel shake and this came with an entire cinnamon donut parked on top  along with pretzels, popcorn, a caramello koala, a lollypop, possibilly some kit kat, caramel topping and goodness knows what else. Just like our local pie shop makes you sign a waiver before you try their scotchingly hot chilli pies, this place should do the same although I’m not sure how the waiver should read: “Warning: too much gluttonous pleasure contained in this glass?” Or, this milkshake could exceed your annual calorie intake? I’m not sure. I didn’t order one for myself, and ordered a chcolate muffin instead. As nice as it was, it really was “Plain Jane” next to the milkshakes, and I sprinkled some of the kids’ popcorn over the top.

It’s interesting how food trends have changed over the last couple of years. I didn’t bat an eyelid when I saw popcorn or pretzels in the milkshakes. What has become an indulgent take on the norm, would have had you locked up for your own good, a few years ago. That is, unless you were pregnant and could blame it on the cravings.

Anyway, shouting the kids these milkshakes made me feel like the fairy Godmother. “Bad cop” was nowhere in sight.

As I mentioned, we had the dogs with us and they loved being at the cafe. We were sitting outside, which was glorious. Although it’s winter here, sun and blue skies had broken through what had been a week of heavy rain and grey clouds and those warm rays of sunshine felt sooo good! Anyway, Bilbo wandered around the coutryard on border patrol and decided he loved the cafe life when he was given some leftovers. That’s right. It’s perfectly acceptable for dogs to dispose of those delectable leftovers as long as they don’t help themselves off the plate.

IMG_0953

Walking off Indulgence.

After their milkshakes, we strolled down to the beach and walked for a bit. Our struggling beach has been battered further and the erosion and removed more sand and tree cover. While it’s great for those gaining water views across the road, as much as water access would add value to their properties in theory, having your house washed away isn’t quite the same thing. Fortunately, unless there’s a very strong storm, that’s not on the cards…yet.

IMG_0955

Our Beach in Winter.

It was fun walking with the kids and getting to know my daughter’s friend better. While not being gossippy, I’ve found her friends are much more chatty about what’s going on at school and I at least gain some idea of what’s going on. That doesn’t mean that I have my finger on the pulse but at least I might be able to find a pulse if it’s needed.

Amelia looking out to sea

One last point before I head off about this playdate. At 11, the girls are almost old enough to have gone to the cafe themselves and yet they’re not. Not so much because of them as they’re quite capable of ordering, but because of those despicable characters we know are out there and we somehow need to be vigilant without growing out kids up in a dark cupboard. I’m glad they were still happy to have Mum and big brother in tow. We had a wonderful time.

xx Rowena

 

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.

MackayHugh03

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.

supermarket trolley2

 

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.

DSC_5373

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.

DSC_5378

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.