Wednesday 27 April 2016

Lamb Shawarma Revisited

The Lamb Shawarma has been a meal that has kept on giving (in a good way).

I wanted to share with you how we 'hacked' it to make another wonderful meal when a dear friend came to stay unexpectedly.

I'm not usually this resourceful, so I'll credit the Jerusalem book again, as it gave me these wonderful ideas.

We used the meat from the roast again, and turned it into wraps.

The great success of the meal was a simple salad, inspired by the book:  cucumber, tomato, lemon juice, parsley, sumac and quinoa
I couldn't find the burghul that I'm sure is lurking in the cupboard somewhere to make a proper tabouleh.
We decided that the quinoa was better anyway.

I'm sure all great kitchen discoveries are the result of necessity.

Jerusalem talks about a Shakshuka sauce to go with the meat.

Using what we had (and I was brave enough for...), here's my version:
* Splash olive oil
* 1 -2 shakes of chilli flakes (to your discretion) the original recipe calls for harissa paste, and I wasn't brave enough to go there; I also wanted a meal we could enjoy rather than cry over.

- heat in Thermomix 1 min / 100 / slow

* 1 red capsicum - diced

- add to Thermomix - heat 100 / 3 min / reverse speed slow

* 120 g chopped tinned tomatoes (I didn't measure exactly)
* generous tablespoon tomato paste
* salt & pepper

- heat in Thermomix 5 min / 100 / reverse speed slow

The sauce was lovely - even nicer than I'd expected.  I recommend you give it a try.

Serve for people to spread on their warmed pita; heated on a griddle would have been even nicer, but I was too lazy.

Add Tabouleh & Lamb

Now I'm thinking about it more, a dash of greek yoghurt would have been awesome too!

Sorry there are no photos.

Dinner was late (I can't produce a miracle and have dinner on time and we were hungry)

Monday 25 April 2016

Sunshine Days

Sunshine Days

Snowfall of birch leaves

Poplars aglow in the sun

Azure skies

Cups of Tea

Crafting mess

Listening. Balm

Beatrix Potter tales



Goofy games




Sunday 24 April 2016

Roast Lamb Shawarma - Adventures in Baking with Yotam Ottolenghi

I arrived home from a lovely break with my friend to husband announcing he had bought a leg of lamb to roast.

How fabulous!

I felt inspired once again by Annabel Crabb, this time by her love for all things Ottolenghi.

I found out about this glorious cookbook through the Crabb/Sales Podcast Chat 10 Looks 3.


It's a great podcast.  It feels like you're sitting with (highly intelligent, well-read, knowledgeable) friends having a laugh.  I do appreciate that they educate me about all things current:  TV shows, books, and cooking amongst other things.

I also feel kind of smug that I can now let Yotam Ottolenghi's name roll off my tongue like an old pro!

I flicked through the book and came across this lovely recipe for Lamb Shawarma, which is traditionally a spit roast type arrangement, more like our good old kebab shops.

Understanding that most people don't have access to one of those, a recipe is given for marinading (or is it marinating?  Can someone tell me the difference?) and slow-roasting the lamb instead.

Thermomixing is our only option at present, as we have no cooktop - we are still amidst our kitchen renovation.

So I've thermomix-ified the recipe, as follows.
All the spices (except the fenugreek - we didn't have that)
First to dry roast the spices.  I googled a similar recipe, and took the ideas from Thermofun here, but not for as long, following the suggestion of only a minute or two from Ottolenghi.

I cooked for 2.30 min / Varoma / Speed 2.

However, it proved that the Thermofun recipe was more accurate - I was looking (smelling?) for the fragrance of the herbs, and kept repeating my initial 2.30 until I got an intense enough fragrance - which ended up being about 15 minutes.

I love the way the Thermomix controls the heat so that the spices don't burn (and I can be distracted on facebook and blogger and all), but I guess it means the heat is not quite so intense, and process is longer.

Nothing beats grating nutmeg with one of these thingies...
Then I added the other spices and repeated the 2.30 min / varoma / speed 2 - to roughly equate to the 'few seconds' from Ottolenghi's frypan method.

I've learned to dust the spices from the centre of the blade into the pot
Then, again checking the Thermofun curry recipe, I blended the spices:  30 seconds at speed 9.

I scraped the bowl down, checking for 'uniform consistency' and gave the spices another 15 seconds at 9, just to mill the slight chunks still left.

Blitzed the garlic & ginger in Thermie.  Lazy, but quick.

There is nothing at all attractive about that marinade.

I elected *not* to show you the picture.  It was more than unappealing.

But oh, the fragrance is divine.
There is also nothing attractive about raw meat, so I will spare you, although I have included a picture of it slathered with the marinade, absorbing those glorious flavours.

We left it for approximately 1 hour to marinade, before starting the slow cooking.
Ideally it should have been left for several hours / overnight!

We started the lamb at 230 for 30 minutes,

The moment the lamb hit the heat, the house was filled with glorious aromas.

We added boiling water to the bottom of the roasting pan and reduced the heat to 180 C.

Meanwhile we steamed potatoes, to par-cook them.   They were then tossed into the liquid in the baking pan.

Once the meat was ready and resting the potatoes were returned to the oven in another pan at 220 to crisp up.

The meat.  Oh. My.

Husband declared it Perfectly Done.

Husband doesn't often bestow such praise.
(He was in charge of the cooking process, so I'm not boasting.)

Perfection - juicy, tender, fragrant, smoky charred flavour.
Spicy, in the fragrant sense (not hot)
The lemon juice added a freshness to the flavour which had infused right through the meat.

It seemed sacrilege to wrap such amazing meat in a pita and dilute the flavours at all, as the recipe suggested.

So we didn't.
It's really not possible to photograph meat well, but I've done it anyway because I wish you could share it!

We enjoyed the meat in its own right.

The photos don't do these justice either...
Along with potatoes - definitely fabulous:  the outside was crispy and the inside simply melted!

and a simple salad of cucumber, tomato, parsley and lemon juice.
Surprisingly, this was the perfect accompaniment to our roast.
Princess declared it the best. salad. ever.

I declare the meat the best I've ever eaten.

I don't think you could say we exaggerate do you?

Thursday 21 April 2016

Happy Birthday Liz!

Just in case you missed it, the Queen (of England) turns 90 today.

That's a good innings.

I'm sure she's celebrating with a nice cup of tea.

It seems fit that we celebrate too.

But we are Australian, so we need to celebrate in our own authentic way.

How fabulous then, that this popped up in my feed today:  Anzacs Three Ways

I just love the Five Beans Blog.  If you haven't heard of it, it's worth checking out!  Elissa is a Canberra girl, who loves to nourish family and friends with her food.  The blog is intelligent, informative and has an amazing diversity of ideas.

I loved her recent blog post on providing meals for people, check it out here.  Loads of tips for caring for people through food!

I'm staying with a friend this week - it's the perfect holiday.  Our children are playing happily together, so we are free to get some work done (or not...).

Copious amounts of tea are being consumed.

She had popped out on an errand, so I thought it would be fun to follow the inspiration and bake some Anzac biscuits.

I am always in search of The Perfect Anzac.  

My perfect Anzac has to spread a bit when it cooks, so that you get that lovely crispy edge to it yet still have a bit of density to the middle, but not too much, as a stodgy Anzac is all wrong.

The fabulous news?  I achieved The.Perfect.Anzac today.

I used the Womens' Weekly recipe that Elissa shared on the blog.

They are nearly all gone.

The bad news?  I have no idea how I achieved The.Perfect.Anzac.  While I did follow the recipe, I couldn't find the scales for accurate measurement.  It was all about the Guesstimating.

While I'm thrilled that it was a great result, I had a sneaking suspicion they were going to be The.Perfect.Anzac, and I'll never be able to repeat the feat again...

Guess I'll just have to practise.  Luckily there are willing hordes to consume my efforts.

In honour of Her Majesty, we routed out the fine china, poured ourselves a nice cup of tea, and enjoyed.

Cheers Liz, and here's to many more!

Wednesday 20 April 2016

Quince Tea Jelly (Further Adventures in Baking)

Cheese.  Yum.

Cheese & Quince Paste.  Yum Yum.  Such a treat.

Make my own Quince Jelly?  Yes please!

Make my own Quince Chai Tea Jelly?  Absolutely!!!

Thank you Annabel Crabb for that inspiration!

I tracked down Quinces at the local fruit barn, and decided it would be worth the effort to make our own Quince Jelly, and hopefully have some to share.

I started with a Thermomix Recipe from a book called Devil of a Cookbook which my Thermomixer Extraordinaire sister had.  It gave me the basics of what to do to the Quinces using the Thermomix.

De-fuzz them, chop them roughly and throw them in the Thermomix with some water and some lemon.

I followed that recipe for how long to cook them, and what speed.

Both recipes said to sieve the quinces, to remove the grit.  It's not pretty, but it was worth it.

Then, inspired by Annabel I added a cup of chai spice tea.

Sieving the quinces - my exercise for the day!

If you know me at all, you know that I like tea.  And it doesn't take much more to know that I looove Chai Tea.

I used my absolute favourite Chai Tea.
Well OK, I have several absolute favourite Chais, but this one really is awesome, like all Madura teas.  You can't beat the freshness!

The sugar quantity I used was also from the Special Delivery book, at the ratio of 5/6 of the weight of the cooked quince. 

This was markedly different from the Devil of a Cookbook recipe, which may explain why I ended up with a jelly rather than a paste.

Luckily I still have more quinces on hand to try again at a true Quince Paste.

Someone good at cooking chemistry might know why, because the original paste recipe called for 250g of sugar, whereas the Special Delivery recipe calculation required 550g sugar.  Can anyone tell me how this works?  

How awesome was it that I had 660 g of quince flesh.
Neatest 5/6 calculation in my cooking history.  Also only 5/6 calculation.  But still, little things make me happy.

The first recipe required another 30 minutes or so of cooking, while Annabel recommended 10 minutes of simmering.

I have to admit, these were both well off the mark, although I think the precision temperature meant the jelly was never quite simmering.  So in the end I think it took at least an hour (or more) of cooking until the jelly started to turn pink.  It was also much more fragrant then, which seemed another good indication.

I followed Annabel's instructions to have chilled plates in the freezer for testing the jelly on (I also forgot about them and had to tell husband later so they didn't burst out of the freezer unexpectedly and shatter on the floor.
Do I look wrinkly?

I have no idea about "place a drop on the saucer and see if it has a wrinkly appearance".
Wrinkles here!
But while I was faffing around trying to find wrinkles (only time I've wanted wrinkles), the mixture still in the thermomix obligingly wrinkled to let me know it was ready.

I knew dude's mini ladle would be useful one day!
Into the sterilised jars, and all good to go.
That was a pleasing harvest of quince jelly.

The only thing left is to taste it.  

Well, officially, like with Cheese and all.

It tasted great licking it from the spoon!

Come on over and bring your cheese!

Revised to try to avoid the sieving action...
* Peel & core, reserve, then chop 10 sec / speed 5
* Quince flesh - varoma - 25 min / varoma / speed 1 with 600g water
* Strain peel & core mixture & collect liquid, dispose of pulp.
* Clean bowl, weigh liquid & quince pieces into bowl.
* Record weight, blend 10 sec speed 5
* add sugar & tea - mix 15 sec / speed 5
* Cook 50 min / 100 / speed 5 / MC off (basket on to avoid splatter)

Monday 18 April 2016

Adventures in Baking 2: Most Excellent Apple Crumble Cake

Part 2 in cooking my way through Special Delivery.

The challenge is on!
With family coming over and the need to put the new oven through its paces, it was time to choose another recipe to bake.
We chose the Apple Crumble Cake from the Annabel Crab book Special Delivery.
No pictures were featured in the book because it's just a crumble cake.  So I have taken my own.

I think this is one of the nicest cakes I've eaten.  The sour cream in the recipe gave it a richness, but it was still so light and most.  The crumble was delicious.
Helpers!  Because it's always good to have helpers right!?!

Apples - I stopped peeling after the first one!
I was a little lazy & didn't peel all the apples.  If you wanted your cake to look really schmick, you would, but it was fine not to.

I may also have thrown in approximately 100 times the recommended amount of cinnamon.  But I'm a firm believer that you can never have too much cinnamon.  The Dude agrees with me.  I'm kind of addicted to it...  I'm sure I'll prove myself wrong in some kind of kitchen fiasco sooner or later!

Otherwise, I followed all of Annabel's instructions.  I have serious respect for her baking abilities.  And all her other abilities.  But that sounds a bit weird.  Let's stick to the baking abilities.

The cake was lovely.  We ate it warm and deliciously fragrant.  The only possible improvement would have been the addition of some clotted cream (distant memories of Cornwall...).

Of course, it was made perfect by enjoying with a nice cup of tea!

If it looks good in the pictures, you should come over soon so I can bake it for you :D

Don't you just want to dive into that?

Confessions of a (tired) introvert mama

It's morning again.
I can tell this because husband has kissed me goodbye.  Setting off for work in the early hours, to faithfully provide for us.

I sink back into slumber.  Surely it can't be morning already.

Thankfully I can't hear the kids yet.

Last night, we decreed today "pyjama day" which may buy me a few more precious minutes of sleep and of silence.

The minutes, even hours pass, although it feels like seconds to me, when I crave more sleep.  Even though we are past the numbing sleep-deprivation of the baby days, I still seem to be in a season of exhaustion.

I gradually become aware of the kids playing, chattering, thumping around (that would be my dude).  I'm thankful today that they don't come in to disturb me.

But still there's some mourning for the departure from the toddler days when my mornings started with snuggles and cuddles.

Eventually I get up, lured by the thought of that first, glorious cup of tea.

I even dream that maybe I'll get to drink it in silence before I have to face the onslaught.

As I open my bedroom door, I am greeted by my dude's sunshine face, and wide grin.  "Mama!".  He's so excited to see me, to tell me what he's doing.  A hug.

A barrage of words.

"Please, don't talk so loud, please buddy can you turn your voice down."

He worked out early that a loud voice was necessary to overcome my hearing impairment and ensure he had my attention.

I heard years ago that, counter-intuitively, loud noises are harsher, more painful for those with hearing impairments.  It doesn't make sense, but it fits my experience.  Maybe because we don't get the prelude to the heights of the sound, maybe because we don't get all the quieter layers, and therefore can't interpret the sound in it's entirety.  I don't know why, but I do know that loud noises, and loud voices, are an assault.

In fact, being an introvert as well, any noises, especially voices, are an assault once my interaction-capacity has been drained.

I can't think when the words interrupt the world inside my head.

We go downstairs together, dude chattering all the way.

Maybe I can slip outside with my cup of tea.

The kettle boils.  Dude chatters.

I potter around clearing up the detritus of yesterday while I wait for the kettle to boil.

Oh blessed Tea, how would I do life, how would I adult, without you!

Dude demands breakfast, giving specific instructions on what, exactly, has to happen to the bread to make it acceptable.

Unable to comprehend his complete, detailed sentences (it's before 8 am after all!), I toss the bread bag to him and tell him to get it himself!

He's happy to oblige, then he proceeds to rip his slice into the tiniest of pieces, give most of it to the dog (describing every action in minute detail all the while), and leave the remainder lying like snow covering the table, chair, floor.

At least the dog will clean the floor.

And possibly the chair and table if I look the other way long enough.

Princess has joined us now.

When I went into her room to say good morning on my way down, I was disapprovingly told to go away as she was making something for my birthday (bless).   I promised not to look.  She didn't realise I couldn't see a thing, still bleary-eyed, and not-yet caffeinated!

Now she's downstairs she's talking too *sigh*.

They are both full of miraculous, glorious, detailed plans, and they are informing me about everything.

They insist on responses too!  I get in trouble if my yes/no is not appropriate to the request.

I pour my cup, let it brew, add the milk, and then make my escape.

I sit outside, enjoying the freshness of autumn mornings.

The long summer has meant there is no chill to the air, but it is still refreshing to be here in the cooler air, morning fragrances and dew.

I enjoy silence.

For a few seconds.

The children join me outside, dude demanding tea.

They continue talking.

I love their glorious, complexities of play, their sheer miraculousness of being.

I struggle so much with the incessant chatter, the morning-to-night conversation that requires me, requires thought, requires listening

There is the added exhaustion that comes from listening when one has a hearing impairment, the constant requests I have to make for things to be repeated.  It's exhausting for me, and for my family.

They wear me out, because everywhere I go they follow.

But I sit here, with my just-perfect first cup of tea, and I realise, despite the exhaustion, it is a miracle.

It's an honour, to have these miracles orbit around me.

To be the world to them, and have them my satellites.

I'm so blessed to have their love. It's what I've longed for all my life.

I'm thankful.

Even in the weariness, I'm thankful.

Friday 15 April 2016

2773: Best.Coffee.Shop.Ever!*

*the children may have had something to do with naming this blog post

We asked a local where we should go for coffee.

So glad we did!

They directed us further down Ross St (we would have been too lazy to walk further down the hill because we couldn't spot anything), to a fantastic cafe called 2773.

If you've been to Grounds of Alexandria.  It's just like that.
Only better.
A fraction of the size
A fraction of the crowds
Easy parking
No queueing
Loads of room for the kids to play
Lovely food
And probably closer to the majority of Sydney-siders than Alexandria is.

It was set back a bit from the street, possibly in some lovely historic-type building.  I got a little distracted by all the funky details so I didn't pay attention...

There were lounging beanbags out the front, on a picket-fenced (fake = no mud) grass area.  Great for chillaxing.  There's a pizza oven out there too, which would be fabulous fired up in the evenings!

There were plenty of tables, overlooking a children's play area. The kids loved the cubby & slide. 

A path runs down beside a pig pen and chickens for kids to say hello to.

The entire back area had places for children to run & hide, but all was fenced, so no escapees!

Good Coffee :)

Considering the milkshakes.  The verdict was good!

Ice Cream Cart!
Kids were thrilled when their ice cream order was done here!
Most importantly, there was awesome Tea!  Because nothing is more important than a nice cup of tea.  They had a good selection of leaf teas!  It's so easy to make a nice pot of tea that it surprises me that so many cafes don't do it!

I ordered my favourite of a black chai.  It was fabulous!

Banoffee Pie with Coconut Ice Cream

Apple & Pecan Crumble Tart
 Loads of room to eat inside too.

We had a lovely afternoon soaking up the warm sunshine and the general vibe.
This was a great place all round, but definitely a must do for families with little kids - they can play & run safely while grown-ups get the required caffeine-fix - whether you require the bean or the leaf variety!

We will definitely make a day trip back to Glenbrook just for this place!