Hiatus

You’ve probably noticed that I haven’t been around here much lately.  I’ve been feeling pretty bad about that, to be honest.  It wasn’t my intention to abandon this blog without a word.

As you know, last year was pretty full on at work, and my break over Christmas was pretty much the opposite of relaxing.  I went from that into one of the more intense grant seasons I’ve dealt with in some years, and to tell the truth, I still feel about as exhausted as I did at Christmas (in fact, I keep having to remind myself that it isn’t January).  And then in January, I developed tendonitis in my left wrist, which made both typing and cooking both difficult and painful.  Because it’s virtually impossible to rest the wrist that you do everything with, especially during a busy season at work, it’s really only been in the last few weeks that I’ve reached a point where I can type with relative impunity. Chopping vegetables is still intermittently a problem for me, and the actions associated with baking (whisking, mixing things) aggravate the tendonitis pretty badly.

In fact, as I realised a few days ago, the reason I haven’t been writing here is quite simply that I’m really not enjoying cooking at the moment.  It’s become another chore at the end of the day, and one that I have had to negotiate around my wrist issues – and in general, the really fun sorts of cooking have been beyond my capacity.

While a love of cooking is not something that everybody needs to have, it’s kind of a prerequisite for writing a food blog, hence my absence.

Before I depress you (and myself) utterly, I will add that I expect things to improve, hopefully even soon.  I’ve been doing a lot of physio for my wrist, and I did manage to spend most of Easter Saturday making chocolates and cupcakes without having significant wrist issues afterwards (I suspect I had extra capacity because I hadn’t been typing a lot at work that week, and had spent all my evenings singing rather than doing anything that required my hands).  And I am now reaching the point in my work year where things are settling down and becoming almost relaxed (only almost…), so I’m cautiously optimistic that I will one day reach a point where I don’t want to spend every weekend napping.

In other words, my current lack of interest in cooking is unlikely to be permanent, and hopefully I’ll figure out ways to handle baking without wiping out my ability to do anything else with my wrist that day – though I suspect my days of making cakes using only a fork are behind me.

But in the meantime, I’m officially putting this blog on hold.  I may do the odd post here and there if something inspires me, and I will try to update the indexes over the next few weeks, but I’m not going to attempt to keep to any sort of posting schedule.   (Guilt-tripping myself about my blog is not, as it turns out, helping me to like cooking more right now!)

I started this blog because cooking was a joy to me, and I wanted to share that joy.

I’ll be back when cooking is a joy again.

Thank you for reading.

Recipe: Saffron and Cardamon Yoghurt (Shrikhand)

I originally encountered this recipe in a pack from the glorious (and sadly, now on hold) Curry Delights startup.  It is a beautiful, pale-yellow-tinted, cooling yoghurt dessert flavoured with cardamom and the honey-like scent of saffron, and I absolutely loved it – so much that I made it two nights running, in fact. 

Ambika and Vikram’s version of this dish was super-easy and very quick, but relied on a couple of products that I was unable to source in Australia, so once I ran out (i.e., about four days after first encountering the recipe), I was out of luck.  I did have recipes for Shrikhand in other books, but none of them looked quite right (though I *highly* approve of the one that suggests adding popping candy, and I will be doing this at the first opportunity), and most of them, being more traditional, required a longer preparation time, as the recipes relied on drained yoghurt.

But I was really craving those lovely, cooling flavours again this week, so I decided that it was time to see if I could cross the various recipes, modified slightly to my tastes, and make a version that was feasible here.

Short version?  I did, and it was glorious, and I’m writing it up right now, so that I don’t forget the quantities…

IMG_9648

Your Shopping List

saffron strands – a big pinch, crumbled between your fingers into a little bowl
250 g light cream cheese
1/3 cup icing sugar (slightly heaped, to be honest)
1/4 tsp cardamom powder, also heaped
350 g low fat Greek Yoghurt (nothing wrong with full fat, but the low fat Black Swan one is nicer than the full fat anyway, and frankly, this dessert does not need to be any richer than it is)
200g raspberries, to serve.  Trust me, you want something fresh and acidic. Continue reading

Recipe: Italo-Franco-Australian Berry Trifle

It is no secret on this blog that I am very fond of Josephine’s beautiful French tea shop in Brunswick.  What I have perhaps not mentioned about Josephine’s is that in addition to her beautiful macarons, crème brulées, tarts, savouries and other handmade goodies, she also stocks a small collection of imported French goodies.

Among other things, these include Rose de Reims biscuits, which are a pink biscuit, rather like a small, elegant sponge finger, designed to be dipped in champagne.  They do not, alas, taste like roses, but they did instantly inspire in me a desire to make a pink version of my berry-mi-su trifle (which I could have sworn I wrote about here, but can no longer find anywhere on this site), spiked with rosewater and champagne.

So I did.  I dipped the pink biscuits into champagne from a tiny bottle I was given a few years ago, combined mascarpone and ricotta with a little sugar, and layered the whole lot with mixed berries tossed a little rose syrup.

And it was delicious – light and fresh and unexpectedly alcoholic, a delicious meal for a hot day.

DSCN1004

Your shopping list

600 g mixed berries (prepared weight, any kind)
2 tsp rose syrup
250 mascarpone
250 ricotta (light ricotta works and then you can pretend this is healthy!)
50 g sugar
200ml champagne or chardonnay or any sparkling white
125g rose de renne biscuits (or sponge fingers)

Continue reading

Stories Under Paris project

This is not a post about food, but I thought that those of you who read this blog regularly might be interested in some of the other things I’m writing at the moment.

Between this blog and my politics blog and the writing I do for work, I realised that I stopped writing fiction a few years ago, and I miss it.

So I’ve started a new project, which is kind of grandiose but fun, in which I’m attempting to write a short story for every Metro station in Paris.  Some of the stories will be about the people the stations are named for, others will be riffing on literal translations of the station names.  There are (or will be) recurring characters.  There are quite a few different genres, because some stations imply fairy tales, others ghost stories, and yet others historical fiction.

I’ve posted 6 stories so far (there will be more than 300 in total – yes, it’s a big project!), and will be posting a new story every fortnight, so if this sounds interesting, please pop over and visit Stories Under Paris and have a bit of a read.

You can subscribe to the site to by email, or like its Facebook page to keep up with new stories.

Hope to see you there!

icon

Recipe: Chocolate THING that is basically evil but really yummy

A couple of Thursdays ago, I read an article in the paper lamenting the fact that many Australians would be letting down their employers by taking a sickie on the Monday before Australia Day.  (The article did, at least, point out that employers should be reasonable about granting annual leave on this day, but something about the way it was written still left an unpleasant taste in my mouth.)

My scientists work ridiculous hours, and don’t tend to take sickies, even when they probably should (leading to the fun phenomenon of the Lab Lurgy – we are a sharing sort of team on 5 West!), but I thought that if others were getting a four day weekend, legitimately or otherwise, we should do something to make it worth coming in to work that day.  Accordingly, I proposed a casual lab lunch – anyone who wanted could bring a plate to share, and we’d set up in the meeting room for a couple of hours, with people dropping in, chatting and eating when they had time.

It turned into a smallish but pleasant gathering – certainly worth doing again, with an interesting variety of food ranging from Turkish bread and dips provided by our German lab head and vegetarian sausage rolls from one of our British postdocs, to a proper Gallette des Rois, brought in by one of our French scientists. 

Normally, I would make Nonna’s pizza for this sort of occasion, but my left wrist is still giving me a lot of trouble, and kneading is definitely beyond me.  So instead, I decided to pursue my current favourite confectionery strategy of melting a lot of chocolate, and then opening the pantry and flinging any sweet contents that seem plausible into it.  The results were very tasty – it’s quite a sophisticated, dark chocolate thing, full of glacé and freeze-dried fruits, but I also couldn’t resist pouring in some popping candy, and I got a great deal of glee out of hearing people go “oh, this is really nice – ooh!  Oh my God what is that?” at irregular intervals through the afternoon…

All in all, an excellent way to liven up the day before a holiday.

DSCN1008

Your Shopping List

500 g good dark chocolate (I used half Lindt, half Green and Blacks, both 70% cocoa)
250 g glacé fruit (I used pineapple, peach and apricot, but cherries, pears, oranges, or anything else that takes your fancy would work.  Probably not citron, though.)
50 g crystallised ginger
35 g freeze-dried fruit (I used strawberries and blueberries, but again, pick your own preferred flavours)
35 g popping candy
100 g praline paste (I used almond, but use whatever you prefer)

Continue reading

Farmers’ Market post: Return to Coburg!

It has been so long since we got to our local Farmer’s Market!  We have made it to Flemington a few times, by dint of the fact that it is on a Sunday and on the way to choir, and thus doesn’t interfere with much-needed weekend sleep-ins, but Coburg, falling as it does on a Saturday morning, has been a victim of exhaustion and all-day cooking classes.

all

Continue reading

Recipe: Easy pasta with chicken and optional kittens

This is a recipe I posted on my personal blog back in 2003, when Mystery and Mayhem were still kittens.  The idea was to have a pasta recipe that was done by the time the pasta was cooked.  This recipe can, of course, be made vegetarian with feta replacing the chicken, and these days I might also make it vegan with chickpeas and a little chilli for zing.

I’m re-posting this recipe today for several reasons.  First, Mystery has not come home, and at this point, we are inclined to think that we have lost her.  I have written a memorial post for her on Cate Speaks, but I remembered this post, and thought it made a fitting memorial to put on a food blog.

Second, I have tendonitis, so typing is painful, and this recipe comes pre-typed.

Thirdly, it turns out that cooking is even more painful than typing, so I’m probably not going to be writing much here in the next little while.  I wanted to explain my probable absence in advance for a change.

Your shopping list

1/2 barbecued chicken
1 punnet cherry tomatoes
2 roma tomatoes
1 green capsicum
1 bunch basil
200g sundried tomato pesto (the ‘stir a whole bottle through pasta’ kind, not the ‘use two teaspoons worth’ kind)
Dried oregano and black pepper to taste
300g vegeroni sprial pasta
Two black and white kittens (optional garnish) Continue reading

Recipe: Vegan Cheeseburger Cupcakes

This is the time of year when bloggers do their retrospectives, but I don’t feel like doing a blog retrospective for 2015.  For one thing, I did hardly any blogging, and barely kept up with reading other blogs.  For another, the end of 2015 was made absolutely horrible for us by the disappearance of our beloved cat, Mystery.  She slipped out on the evening of December 22nd, and has not been seen since.  We’ve letterboxed and doorknocked and rung vets and visited shelters, but to no avail, and at this stage, we hold out little hope.  It’s been a painful and distressing way to end an exhausting year, and it’s very hard to look ahead and come up with plans, resolutions, or even hopes for 2016 at this point – because right now we are all too aware that life is uncertain and cannot truly be planned for.

mysteryposter4

So no perspectives from me, just a remarkably silly recipe, inspired by Rosanna Pansino’s Nerdy Nummies Cookbook.  She has a very fun recipe for a cupcake that looks like a cheeseburger, with a brownie patty, coconut lettuce, and buttercream piped to resemble cheese, tomatoes.

It’s very cute, but it also looked terribly sweet.  Also, I was cooking in part for Steph, so I needed a vegan recipe, and frankly, I found the idea of a vegan cheeseburger cupcake absolutely hilarious and thus irresistible, so off I went.

To avoid the excessive use of buttercream, I decided it would be more fun to give the burger a fruity sort of theme. Mango fruit leather strips make an excellent (and truly revolting-looking) substitute for plastic cheese, jam makes a fine substitute for tomato sauce, and tinned plums replace the beetroot that is a necessity in any Aussie hamburger. Mint leaves made a delicious substitute for lettuce, and at that point, you’re done.

IMG_9487

Continue reading

Recipe: Pasta with Chickpeas and Greens

This is a recipe I made way back in August after being given a big bunch of broad bean leaves  – I didn’t even know they were edible.  It’s a nice, simple, wholesome dinner recipe, good for Boxing Day, when you just want something plain and not too rich and reasonably healthy to eat.

You can use any greens you have in the garden – wild greens, tromboncino zucchini greens, Warrigal greens, silverbeet – whatever.  Or you can use supermarket greens.  120g is a standard packet size for a lot of things like rocket and baby spinach.  Just get a good mix – 2-3 big bunches worth – chop them roughly and off you go.

DSCN0893

Your Shopping List

olive oil
4 garlic cloves (I mean it!)
1 tbsp chilli flakes (I mean that, too!)
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp italian herbs (or just oregano)
salt, pepper
120 g baby kale
120 g baby spinach
1 bunch broad bean leaves
400 g chickpeas, tinned (drain and use the water for meringues!)
300 g pasta
80 g pine nuts
parmesan to serve

Continue reading

Pot-Pourri Post: Nerdy Nummies, Sugar Geodes and Jam Sugar

A post all about sugar, what a surprise at this time of year!  Today is horribly hot, and I’m sitting inside, obsessively tracking the cool change across Western Victoria via the BOM weather observation map, and there is no way I am doing any kind of baking right now.  But as it happens, I have been playing with some very fun things recently, so this is basically a post about several things that aren’t long enough for a post of their own, but which I wanted to share with you nonetheless.

First, please let me draw your attention to the Nerdy Nummies Cookbook.

It is, in my not at all hyperbolic opinion, the best cake decorating book ever.  I love it with every fibre of my being.  It’s as though someone took the Australian Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book and then added the periodic table of the elements and blood cells and the moon landing and rainbow unicorn poo and twenty-sided dice every other bit of science fun or geek culture it could find and made it into a book.  It is AWESOME.  I have scientifically tested this on real scientists, and they agree that it is AWESOME, so we know that this is true.

So far, I’ve only made one recipe from it, but I have no hesitation in recommending it to basically anyone who likes cakes or science or just fun silly things.

Continue reading