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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Warning - Reading This Post May Raise Your Cholesterol

Most of the time, what we cook is pretty much healthy and nutritious, light on the bad stuff and loaded with lashings of veges and other goodness. Sometimes we praise the vices of naughty things like pork crackling.

But ever so occasionally we cook a dinner so bad that we have to duck the Health Department choppers that can detect the sudden surge in the levels of saturated fat in the area by satellite. This is one of those nights.

I blame America.

Last year we had a three day stopover in San Francisco, where we tried our first Philadelphia CheeseSteaks. It was a Californian takeout serving a Pennsylvania specialty in a New York style, but IT WAS GOOD.

When we got back, we made several attempts at replicating this delicious and decadent delicacy, and while they may lack that "our-special-flavour-comes-from-not-scraping-down-the-grill-between-orders" aura, they're still pretty darn good.
Start by thinly slicing 600g of frying steak (stir-fry beef is ideal), and mix up in a bowl with olive oil, freshly ground salt and pepper and 2T of worcester sauce. For the rolls, home-made sourdough would be most authentic, but we tend to go with ones from the shop which do just fine.

Finely chop an onion and 4 garlic cloves. Heat some oil in a pan and fry the garlic until just browning.
Add the meat and mix up with the garlic. Keep cooking on a high heat until the meat is browned.
Add the onions and mix through the meat and garlic. Keep on a high heat so that the meat doesn't simmer, or it will go tough.
As the onion cooks, grate up a cup of cheese. We use Edam and a bit of extra Parmesan. Slice the rolls down the middle and butter.
When the onion is soft, add the cheese to the pan, turn the heat right down and keep stirring to melt it into the meat and onion. As soon as the cheese is melted, and you have a gooey meaty pan full of CheeseSteak, scoop it out and insert into the rolls. Serve immediately. If you have the foresight, you can do a little salad on the side to allay some of the awful bad fat you're about to consume.
Enjoy, and try not to feel too guilty. When it comes to winter comfort food, the Philly CheeseSteak A-la Dan is just what you need. Tomorrow, go for a run.

Or three.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Liz E Bear's Bolognaise

Cooking is great, but sometimes not cooking is just as good. So when your houseguest offers to make you dinner, you don't say no, especially not after a weekend of clambering around in the ceiling, mounting brackets in the laundry room for the dryer to go up onto, planting pumpkins, cooking roast pork and fixing the leak in the guttering over the back door.

So on Sunday evening Liz E Bear set about putting on the mince and boiling up some pasta. I'm pretty sure that I didn't set foot in the kitchen, so her secret family recipe will remain a mystery for now. I can say that I was awfully impressed; fettuccine smothered in tomatoey mince with onions and carrots and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, fresh grated parmesan and freshly ground black pepper.
It went down a treat, particularly as I didn't have to do the cooking. Woohoo. I did get lumbered with dishes duty thereafter, but it was a a breeze compared to the pile that emerges after I cook a roast.

So Liz E, you can cook for us anytime.

ZODIAC and AMERICAN GANGSTER - WARNING - May Contain Spoilers! (But nothing you wouldn't expect)

In a strange string of coincidences, it appears that Ridley Scott and David Fincher have a bizarre cosmic link: 1, They both directed films in the Alien Franchise (Alien and Alien3 respectively); 2, they both directed overly long crime epics in 2007 (American Gangster and Zodiac); and 3, we watched both of those movies over the past 2 weekends. Spooky eh.

I've already vented my opinions on Zodiac here, but I'll elaborate a little more on it now. Basically, I think that it was a personal story that Fincher wanted to tell, even though it really was a bit of a non-story. The Zodiac Killer, whom the film claims is a man that the police had all but caught but couldn't pin the crimes to, is a baby among serial killers now, only ever taking about 7 victims. At the time it was major news in San Francisco, but unfortunately Fincher's attempts to turn this unresolved situation into a thriller flopped into a non-event. There are no real twists or turns, as you could expect from a script based on true life. High point was Robert Downey Jr as sodden crime reporter Paul Avery. Aside from that, Zodiac was interesting at best, tedious at worst.

What really ruined it for me, though, was what I saw in the "making of" doco included on the disc. In an attempt to achieve complete verisimilitude with the 1969 landscape, Fincher wanted a tree in the background of a lakeside shot. To do this, the Art Department chainsawed an existing tree to death, and helicoptered it into a large hole dug in the background of the shot. Did Hollywood not learn from the fiasco surrounding The Beach? A tree died to create an illusion. Can this be right?

In contrast, American Gangster was also long and drawn out, but more watchable than Zodiac. Harris Savides extrudes a gritty late 60's-early 70's New York/New Jersey from the pallet, and Denzel Washington was predictably stunning as druglord Frank Lucas. Russel Crowe was typically underdone as the virtuous New Jersey cop Richie Roberts who, unlike the Zodiac crowd, managed to actually crack the case and bring Lucas down.

The key issue I really had with American Gangster was its marketing. The trailer suggests a gripping action movie, some escapist cops and robbers violence for a Saturday night. It's even labelled in the video store as Action. This is simply not true. American Gangster is a true crime biopic, like Zodiac, and it feels like it. The fact that it took two and a half hours to get to the point that no-one in the New York or New Jersey Police believed that Lucas could be a kingpin because he was black indicates just how slowly the story developed.

Overall, it was a satisfying watch, but it seems that Ridley Scott has fallen into the trap so many Hollywood directors have since the success of LOTR, that longer is better at the expense of good storytelling (Look, even PJ didn't get that right. Who really sits through the last 20 minutes of ROTK?). Like Zodiac, for the story that was being told, American Gangster could've been shorter, probably by about 20 or 25 minutes. For anyone with a personal interest in US History, particularly its crime figures, both films are well-made interpretations of a time when killers and druglords held a sway over the population, before police technology began to eat away their anonymity and put them behind bars. But neither of them will be making their way onto my DVD shelf.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

It's more than just the smell

After a hard afternoon's yakka in the garden, there's nothing quite like coming inside to the smell of roasting pork. Before you say "yes, but who can afford roast pork?", we paid about $11.00 for a frozen leg roast that served 5 adults to bursting and left enough for me to make 2 lots of soup.

This is really simple, but it takes a bit of planning to get the most out of your meat. Most importantly, first thing in the morning, cover the whole joint in salt. I use a combination of Table Salt and Rock Salt, just to keep things interesting. As you can see, it was still dark when we started on this. I allow about 5 hours for a pork to roast, depending on size. The one we had for Christmas Lunch took about 6 hrs, and went on before we even opened pressies!

Knowing that one of my dinner guests is gluten-intolerant, I had to pull the gluten-free flour out of hiding. For more Gluten-Free Goodness, visit The Gluten Free Girl.


Morning: Salt the Pork.
Midday: Preheat the oven to 230c, arranging one shelf quite low and one about halfway up, in anticipation of cooking the veges later.
Cut an onion into eighths and place on the bottom of a roasting dish, preferably with a small cooling rack to allow the fat and juices to drain off the meat. If you don't have one of these, or a large deep saucer, inverted, just chop up another onion into quarters and place these in the centre of the roasting dish.
Drain the juices from the pork into the roasting dish, then give the pork a generous coating of pepper and gluten-free flour on all sides.
Place in the tray on the rack/saucer/onion and put in the oven on the lower shelf. After about 30 mins, move the pork up to the higher shelf and turn the oven down to 190c. For the next 5 hours or so, you will simply have to turn the meat every hour and baste it with the juices from the bottom of the dish.

You can prep the veges anytime prior to the last 1 1/2 hrs of cooking, but they should be ready to go in for the last 90 mins. Do whatever veges you most love to roast. Last night's selection was: Little gourmet Potatoes ($1.40 for a 1kg bag at the market!); Kumera; Pumpkin; Carrot; Onion; a Capsicum; Courgettes; Garlic & Shallots.
All of these were tossed in salt, pepper, olive oil, and gluten-free flour, plus I added a big spoon of Garam Masala to the Pumpkin. Most of the veges then go into the oven at the T-90 mark on the lower shelf, and are turned half hourly. The Capsicum goes in for the last hour with extra salt, and the garlic only goes in for the last half hour. Afternoon: When the 5 hours is up, take the pork from the oven and allow to rest. If all has gone well, the crackling should just pull away from the joint. If you have as little willpower as me, lay this in a separate tray and place in the oven. The pork should have at least 10 minutes out of the oven before it is carved.
In this time, steam up a side of greens and mix up some gravy. For this, scrape all the sticky goodness from the roasting dish and place in a glass mixing jug. Mix up a couple of spoonfuls of gluten-free flour with cold water, then whisk up the pork trailings with the flour mix. Microwave this on high for a minute, stir thoroughly, repeat a couple of times until the gravy thickens. This can prove a little trickier with the gluten-free flour than you might be used to, but it does come together with persistence and practice. Alternatively, heat and thicken this in a small pot on the stovetop.
As you start to dish, switch the oven to a hot grill to absolutely blast the crackling. By the time you've sliced the meat and everyone is ready to eat, the crackling should be all crispy and delicious. Unless you have doctor's orders to the contrary, indulge and enjoy.
Then dig in, and watch it all disappear. We also had a jar of my Nana's stewed apples on hand, which went beautifully with the pork.

I've never gone this far recycling a pork roast before, but I figured I might as well give it a go.

Using the pork bone, peelings from the kumera and carrot and the roasted pumpkin skin, boil up a stock. Chop up the leftover veges and any remaining pork. Watch a movie while the stock brews. Blend up the veges, stock, leftover gravy and a couple of spoonfuls of apple, then add the chopped pork. It tastes as good as it sounds, with a little spice from the capsicum and the sweet tang of apple in there with all the meaty goodness of pork and roast pumpkin. Mmmm. It smells great, but its more than just the smell. Its the nom nom nom.

That's all for now. Tomorrow I'll be reviewing last night's entertainment, and the meal dished up for us by tonight's guest chef, Liz E. Bear, who is presently making Spaghetti Bolognaise. Watch this space...

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Busy Saturday

Market Update
We swung by the Tawa Market at 9am, only to see that it didn't start until 10.30am, so off to the Hutt we went. It was crisp and cold by the river, and we got a grand haul of fruit and veges and other stuff.
We spent about $33.00, but that included a a banana loaf for $3.00. We ate the banana loaf at Aunty L's but here's an idea of what $30.00 will get you:

Pumpkin Patch
I have to ask myself: does the person write the blog, or does the blog write the person? If I had not written earlier in the week that I was going to get out and plant the pumpkins today, would I have got out and seen the mission I actually had in store and turned around and gone back inside? Or, knowing that I had determined that I was going to do something, and that there were witnesses to this declaration, did I feel that I could not back out of the work involved for fear of looking like a copout? So I bent to the task and spent and hour and a half clearing weeds before I could spend the required 10 minutes to actually dig a few holes, spade out some compost and plant the pumpkin seeds. I decided in this process that it had been terribly wise of me to leave this job for almost 2 years, as it had given the vege patch we had planted and lost to weeds time to lie fallow, and for the grasses to bond lots of nitrogen into the soil making it good fertile planting ground. That suited me fine. I also dug up quite a few large nails, which suggests that there is plenty of iron in the ground, which is also good. It would all be coming up roses, if it was a rose garden. Don't mention the rose garden right now, though. I think the weeds are winning there too.

So the end result is that the pumpkins got planted, which is really quite miraculous, and probably only because I had told my blog that I would. Now it's holding me to ransom. I would say that tomorrow I'm going to go out and put down some more seeds, this time carrot, beetroot and silverbeet, but I'm afraid it might rain and I'd still have to do it.

On the upside, I also discovered three potato plants, a lemon balm, and what appears to be a shoot resembling a Bay Tree. I can't imagine how on earth a Bay Seed made its way into my vege/weed patch, but if it turns out to be then that's all good. I was going to post a photo of my efforts, but you've probably all seen a patch of dirt before. Now, if I'd thought to do a before and after photo, that would've been good.

The smell of roast pork and veges is filling the house. More on that tomorrow...

Friday, May 23, 2008

Friday Pizza

Firstly, a big cheer cheer to Morgue for the Linky.

Every week before we go shopping, we make a menu and try to stick to it. It was partly our desire to reduce the amount of red meat we were eating, but also a way of cutting down on having excess food in the fridge and freezer and never knowing what we were going to eat when I got home from work. So the menu became a habit, and it has been a Good Thing.

Of course, sometimes there are deviations, like yesterday's. We also allow a little flexibility, depending on what might happen to be on special at the supermarket. Long story short, tomorrow's plan for fish became roast pork (hanging out for that already), and tonight's soup with fresh bread turned into pizza. I felt a tiny pang of guilt when deciding to make pizza after having FnC last night, but reminded myself that home-made pizza is much healthier than the bought stuff. Honest.

There's one thing that makes this an easy Friday night feed, and that is a breadmaker. I only ever use the breadmaker to mix up dough, and I use the same recipe for bread, buns, or pizza dough. If you don't have a breadmaker, you can always do it the old-fashioned way (it's worked for hundreds of years, after all), or you can ask for one for your next flatwarming/wedding/birthday/christmas/mother's day/father's day present.

So whether you machine it or massage it, here's the basic recipe:

300g Hi-Grade Flour,
200g Semolina Flour,
2 T Surebake Yeast,
1 T Sugar,
1 t Salt,
315mls tepid water (should be warm to the touch, a bit cooler than you might wash your hands under).

Optionally, you can add in a T of dried mixed herbs or about 3 T of chopped fresh herbs, or a T of Paprika, or a 1/8 cup of raisins and a bit of freshly ground nutmeg and cinnamon. Do this right at the start, not when the mixer beeps as suggested. In my experience waiting for the beep tends to leave the extras unmixed.

Putting it together:

The next most important thing you can have for good pizza is a pizza stone. There are good ones available commercially, but you can also get a plain ceramic tile from a tile shop that should do that same thing. Make sure its not glazed, about 15mm thick, and big enough to hold the size of pizza you want to cook. (PS: the author hereby admits no responsibility for instances of exploding tiles based on this information. Blog advice should not replace the wisdom of a true professional.)

Once the dough is done, remove it from the pan and place it on a floured bench. Preheat the oven to 200c, placing one tray about 1/3 of the way up. Place your pizza stone or pizza tray in the oven to heat up too. With a long sharp knife cut the dough into 2, or 3 or 4, depending on how many you'd like and how big you'd like to cook them. We cook two big ones, but you might like to do little ones for the kids, or whatever. Then the fun bit: Rolling out the dough. With floured hands, push the dough outwards from the centre, turning with every action so that the dough spreads evenly. It should press down to about 1cm high. Toss it if you like, and add extra flour if it feels too damp or sticks to the bench.
What I then do to make life easy is rip off a piece of baking paper and place it on a large chopping board, big enough for the pizza. Place your dough on the paper and spread with a light coat of olive oil. If you like, crush a clove of garlic with a knife and rub it over the dough as well. Nom nom. We use pre-made pizza sauce, spreading about 1/2 a pottle over one pizza. As time allows, I'll investigate a home-made sauce. It can't be that hard, can it?
What you add for toppings is then up to you. We tend towards the less is more theory. We were in NY a few years ago, and it is the next best place in the world to Italy to see how pizza should be. Our favourite toppings tend to be a sprinkle of chopped salami with fresh chopped tomato, or simply ripped basil leaves, or chopped red onion.
Then the cheese, with a good grate of Parmesan and pepper.
I make one pizza at a time, otherwise the second pizza goes soggy waiting to go into the oven. Unless you've got one of those super wide ovens, I only ever cook one at a time, because if you try cooking them 2 high then one won't cook on the bottom, while the other doesn't brown on the top. And swapping them over doesn't seem to alleviate this. So pull your hot stone/tray from the oven and slide the baking paper with its pizza on and pop it straight back in for 20 mins.
When the first pizza has about 10 mins to go, start on the second one, repeating the process and juggling the pizzas across chopping boards and the hot stone.
Slice and eat. Nom nom.

Oh, and if you'd like to make this a healthier option, try putting a little salad on the side.

Things to look forward to: Roast Pork!!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sometimes we cheat

Its hard to be good all the time.

Some days, like everyone, we're too tired and it seems like too much hard work to get into the kitchen and cook a meal. So we made the call, and I went and picked up the fish and chips. No photos of the greasy feast will grace this page.

Which raises the issue of how good is good, and how bad is bad? There are fanatics on this topic, and I have to admit I'm not one of them. I'm a realist. We're a single income family with a toddler and a mortgage, and we have to balance our food spending with our concerns for our health and nutrition. There are things we can stretch to, and there are things we do regularly to save money. Apart from the occasional slip when the local chippy gets the call, we walk this line as best we can.

So, How Good is Good? In an ideal world, we would eat only certified organic meat and produce, vegies grown in our own garden, eggs from our own free range chickens, and make our own milk and cheese from dear Daisy who doubles as a full time lawn mower. But the hard facts are you can't have livestock in a suburban area, the levies charged by the council to keep chickens swallows up any savings you might make by having them in the first place, and any vegies we grow will only be enough to occasionally supplement our diet, never to sustain it. If anyone has ever tried to do a full grocery shop in an organics shop, they'll know just how hungry or poor you'll end up as a result. I fully support the concept of organics, but we just can't pay that sort of a food bill. So, next best option is the local grocer's market. We've been going to the one in the Hutt for the past few weeks and I'm loving it. The variety is great, you can shop around for price and quality, and it's a chance for the whole family to get out for a walk around by the river. Even with the extra petrol expense, we come away with more vegies than we ever used to at the supermarket, for less expense overall. This week we'll probably check out the Tawa market, as its closer to home. Looking forward to that.

Also, How Bad is Bad? We avoid as much processed food as we can, but there are things we tolerate and things we don't touch. We know how bad they are, but we still eat processed smallgoods like salami, luncheon and sizzlers, in small quantities. Every couple of weeks we weaken and get the above-mentioned shark and tatie. But we pretty much don't touch the extremes, the McDs and the BKs of the world, unless we're travelling and really too tired to care. There are an awful of people with an awful lot to say about the fast food giants of the world, about how they destroy the environment and the health of everyone they touch, and 99% of the time I fully agree with them. But sometimes, its just what you need. I would be a hypocrite to claim that my position was otherwise. Yes, there is no nutritional value in the food that these companies serve; they are largely responsible for the environmental degradation of several third world countries; there is a strong ethical and health argument to support the general boycott of these companies, and this has been documented by others more thoroughly and succinctly than I could hope to achieve here. But as long as the economic models we live within value speed of service and fat-saturated taste over good health and ethical business practice, there will be a market for KFC, BK, McDs, DQ, and AJs.

So what exactly, I hear you ask, do we not touch? I personally just can't abide prepackaged dinners. TV Dinners, to use the American. I simply have too much pride as a cook and someone who eats to stoop to that. There are a few organic suppliers who do nice risottos and soups and suchlike in single serves, and full credit to them, but that's the limit of it. I just can't imagine what must go into those meals to make them all heat up just right at the same time. And don't get me started on the issue of heating plastic in the microwave.

Well, that was a rant.

To end on a good note, last night we had Stuffed Sausages with Coconut Rice. Very quickly:

Vigorously boil 6 Real Sausages (ie, not precooked) for about 5 mins, then remove to a grill tray and slice lengthwise to about 3/4 deep. While these cool, mix up in a bowl 2 chopped fresh tomatoes, about 4 finely chopped garlic cloves, freshly ground salt and pepper, about 1/4 cup of grated edam and parmesan cheese, and a handful of chopped fresh herbs such as parsley or thyme. Squeeze this into the sliced sausages and place under a grill. Give them a good 15 mins, time enough to brown up beautifully, melt the cheese and cook right through.

This basic recipe can be modified to suit your own tastes and the flavour of sausage you have on hand.

To make the Coconut Rice, first fry up a finely chopped onion in a large pot. Then put 1 cup of boiling water, 1 cup of rice, and a tin of coconut milk in the pot with the onion and a little sprinkle of salt. Bring to the boil then turn down to a gentle simmer until almost all of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is soft to the bite (about 20 mins).


Wednesday, May 21, 2008

G Y O: Grow Your Own

Here's a list of good reasons to grow something - ANYTHING - at home:

1. It just tastes better;
2. It's relaxing and rewarding;
3. It reduces your carbon footprint;
4. It reduces demand on the agricultural industry, thus easing the strain on the environment;
5. It just tastes better.

There are more good reasons, but just to be balanced, lets consider the cons as well:

1. It takes time, patience and care to keep anything alive and growing well;
2. Not everyone has the space to grow a lot (though most people have the space to grow a little);

That's me out of cons. Comments in the positive and negative will be appreciated. :)

Here's the historic- enviro-political side of it: The Industrial Revolution was the single most significant change in social dynamics since nomadic herders thought to build houses inside walls and call them cities. The IR saw a mass migration of rural people into the cities, where they went from growing and gathering their own food to working in factories and relying on an emerging transport industry to relocate food to them from the countryside. The Oil Age simply mushroomed this trend, until now, 100+ years later, the majority of the population of the Western world wouldn't know where to start if they had to plant a vege garden. We rely on an increasingly mechanised agricultural industry, which is driven to meet demand and extend profit margins. In doing this, it continues to consume disproportionate resources and to pollute and sterilise the earth that it works. As a result, those same toxins that deaden the earth and have turned the central prairies of the Continental United States into a dustbowl and poisoned New Zealand's waterways make their way into our food, and into our bodies.

As the true impacts of Peak Oil start to bite, we will notice more of what we have been seeing for the past year, specifically soaring food prices as a result of rising fuel costs and the demand for crops for biofuel. How people and communities respond to this will be a matter for serious debate, very soon. It already is.

In parts of England, Europe and the US, there are entire communities that are self-sustaining, producing their own food, generating their own power from solar and wind, and recycling ALL their waste. Ultimately, this Self-Sufficient Carbon-Neutral Village concept will present itself as a viable social model in a Post-Oil Age. However, the reality is that the process of urbanisation that started in the 1800s has left about 95% of us city-bound, with neither the financial resources nor the knowledge base to remove ourselves to the country and start a new life. The question is; what can we do right now?

As with any major change in our lives or our societies, we must start by taking baby steps. The simple answer: grow what you can. Pot herbs on a windowsill, grow tomato plants on the balcony, plant a lemon tree. The first great shift in social dynamic before the nomads built cities was when the hunter-gatherer cavemen started planting crops and harvesting them to provide a more certain source of food. If cavemen can do it, then so can we. What is a city apartment but a glorified cave, after all?

Over the past 5 years or so, we've successfully grown corn, strawberries, tomatoes, lemons, beans and all sorts of herbs, on the small suburban sections that we've lived on. We've just planted out broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower in pots for our winter harvest, and on the weekend I'll be planting pumpkin on the top of the section.
It's a start. And aside from all the other reasons, my main desire to grow and pick and eat food that we've grown ourselves is still the most selfish one: It just tastes better!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Here it is! With a picture just to show off, one dinner course of Chicken Pasta Alfredo. Just boil up a pot of pasta and mix up the Alfredo sauce on the stove:

Melt 2 T Butter. Add 1 Cup of cream and gently stir for 5 mins or so. Heat well without boiling. Whisk in 3/4 Cup of Cheddar Cheese and about 1/4 Cup of stronger cheese, like Parmesan or Emmental until melted. Add pepper and parsley to taste.

A good friend pointed out tonight that if this is the quest for a model of financially prudent food purchasing, then the fact that butter, cream and cheese are three of the most expensive foods in the supermarket right now might actually make this a luxury dish. I guess I consider that since we've made two dinners and two lunches out of one chicken, that the money we've saved by buying less meat leaves a little extra to go into making the leftovers go down that much more pleasantly.


And here's Isaac, helping with the grinder photoshoot. Very helpful!

Monday, May 19, 2008

One Chicken - Three Meals!

There are many reasons why I love to cook, and thats what this blog is all about. Food is our link to the earth. Eating should remind us that there is an alternative to the pleasure of satiation, and that is hunger. Every day I am thankful that we live in a country where we have such an abundance of fantastic food. There are millions of people in the world who do not, and I think that sometimes we take for granted how good we've got it here. It seems a shame that so many people lose sight of this in the rush and pressures of the world, and turn to eating instant this and express that. It's the way of things, but it doesn't always need to be.

In a society that is driven by the desire to save time to be able to do more with our lives, it seems to me that we should spend more of that time appreciating not only our food, but the process of engaging with our food.

Its the meal that matters. More on this philosophy later.

With the economy tightening around us and the price of food rising, it seems important to me that we all learn to make the most of everything we put on our tables. Our grandparents knew how to do this, and I'm ever grateful to those older generations who have shared with me over the years the secrets of making a little go a long way. It not only makes good economic sense, it also impacts on our consumption patterns and our carbon footprint.

Now watch, and believe your eyes, as one size-16 chicken makes 2 dinners for 3 adults and a one-year-old and 2 lunches for one hungry young man.


Roast a Chicken. Do a pile of roast veges, more than you need. Watch this space in the future for delectable variations on this theme. Make sure you roast at least one whole bulb of garlic and a couple of onions. you'll figure out the quantities after a couple of goes.

Meal 1: Dish up the legs, wings, and thighs with steamed and roast veges and gravy. Should serve 2 or 3 depending on how hungry you all are.

Meal 2: Reserve the breast meat, allow to cool, covered, and refrigerate. The following day, chop this up and stir through pasta with cheese sauce or something similar with fresh greens and Parmesan. Once again, watch this space for more detailed recipes.

Meal 3: Roast Vege Soup. Collect all the chicken scraps, including all the bones from the legs and wings. Combine with any vegetable water you might have. Boil for about 20 mins then allow to simmer for 1&1/2 to 2 hours. Chop the leftover roast veges up into a bowl. When the stock is ready, pour into the bowl with the veges and grind up with a hand blender. Make it as smooth or chunky as you prefer. Season to taste. Transfer to lunch size containers, to be frozen for later and eaten with toast or bagels.


Why Canaries are Yellow

Midnight last night we were awoken by the crying of a rather unhappy baby. I'd been asleep for about an hour and trying to find the necessary awakeness to deal with the situation was a challenge. As C and I stumbled through the process of settling Isaac, giving him some Pamol for his teeth and putting a bottle into him, I realised that I was somewhere between being awake, and being dreaming but not asleep. Every time I closed my eyes I was back in that odd experiential place where the dream was the most real thing in my perception.

And that was when it all became clear: Canaries and corn are the same colour because they're made of each other, tomatoes grow best on red bricks, and just about everything in the world is actually built of lego. Amazing how the mysteries of the world become clear in the middle of the night when you're dreaming but not asleep.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

It Begins with Sugar Free Stew

Firstly, lets be clear about one thing. Normally, I remember everything thats meant to go into my cooking. Being sent home sick from work on Friday, I have to admit I wasn't really on form on Saturday when I started on one of my famous stews. To put that in perspective, I rarely work off actual recipes anyway, but there are certain things that must be done. So it was rather unfortunate that with Uncle K coming to dinner, I missed out the critical dosage of brown sugar necessary to balance the balsamic vinegar that gives the beef its melty texture.

On top of that, I thought that rather than my tried and true dumplings, modified only slightly from the classic Edmonds Cookbook recipe, I'd have a go at Yorkshire pudding. Well, there's some work needing to be done to get those right. I'm sure that its not meant to form a dark crust on the underside that tastes more like burnt toast than either Yorkshire or pudding. I'll give them another go at some point, maybe doing it in muffin tins like C has suggested. Until then, it'll be dumplings all the way.

Luckily, the homemade bread came out perfectly, but you get that after about 6 years practice. Thanks to L for the extra cheese in the fridge.

Despite the hiccups (no pun intended), everything got eaten and was well enjoyed by all, even the obligatory steamed broccoli and cauli. Dinner was followed by Celtic beer and the David Fincher mini-epic Zodiac, which was longer than it needed to be, but nicely shot, before discussions about building fences and gates.

Sugar Free Stew (with optional recommended Sugar) - Serves 3 (plus one 1-yr old)

600g Topside Beef - cube and season with freshly ground nutmeg, salt & pepper, olive oil, worcester sauce, balsamic vinegar, dried tarragon, carraway seeds, 2 bay leaves, flour to coat. This is also where, if you remember, you should add the brown sugar. Leave to stand for at least 15 minutes. Chop 2 onions, 2 carrots, and a bulb of garlic.

Preheat the oven to 200c.

Brown meat in hot oil in batches. Place browned meat in an ovenproof dish with a lid, and put the onions, carrots and garlic into the hot pan. Wilt lightly, then add a good splash of soy sauce. Simmer that for a few minutes. Remove to the dish with the meat, and heat the pan before adding:
1/2 cup of red cooking wine, 1 1/2 cups of beef stock with about 2 T of condensed tomato paste. Deglaze the pan, scraping all the sticky good stuff off the bottom. If you have forgotten the brown sugar before this point, this is also a good time to add it. When the gravy has reduced by about 1/3, drain it off into the oven dish. Add hot water to cover the stew, stir everything together, and place in the centre of the oven.

Cook for as long as possible, preferably about 3 hours.

Serve with fresh bread and dumplings. Watch this space for that recipe at a later date. Good with a bold red wine, such as a Shiraz.