Once again, I have to apologise for being an absentee blogger. I’m afraid I have no real excuse – this has just been one of those weeks when I’m wandering around feeling tired a lot (which could not possibly have anything to do with the five Easter services I sang in last weekend). It’s also been a week when I feel like playing with recipes from actual cookbooks, which gives me less to write about.
I do note, with some amusement, that after three days of basically going “meat, meat, must have meat” after Easter, I’ve been cooking vegetarian food again for the last few days. The craving has been satisfied, and I’m reverting back to part-time vegetarianism. This is a bit of a relief – I really was wondering about my carnivorous tendencies for a few days there.
Part of the inspiration for this has been my discovery of the gorgeous new cookbook The Green Kitchen, which I found quite by accident yesterday, and seems to be the cookbook I have been needing for the last few years.
Posted in Cookbooks, Reviews, Writing about cooking
Tagged david frenkiel, ginger, gluten-free, luise vindahl, random updates, reviews, the green kitchen, vegan, vegetarian
I’ll be honest – I’m not actually 100% certain of the theological reasons for fasting in Lent. I have a vague notion that it’s about commemorating Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness, and that there is a penitential aspect, too. For me, it’s partly because I love the idea of a religious observance connected with food in any way – I think I’ve mentioned before that I find the idea of the Jewish dietary laws appealing in the way they bring the eternal into everyday life. Lent works like that for me, a bit. Also, of course, I tend to view being vegetarian as being an intrinsically good thing environmentally and on an ethical / animal welfare level. It doesn’t work for me very well physically for long periods, which is why I don’t do it full time at present, but 40 days isn’t too overwhelming.
Having just spent the last three days away from home and at the mercy of caterers, however, I’m beginning to think that Lent has another, very good reason for existing: it promotes empathy.
I’m off tomorrow for a long weekend in Brisbane, going to the Australian Romance Readers’ Convention. It’s hard to get further away from grant applications and budgets than that and I’m pretty excited about it, actually.
Anyway, in honour of the Romance convention and my weekend away, I thought it would be appropriate to review a romance novel set in a suitably exotic location – Paris: The Chocolate Thief, by Laura Florand.
The main character in this book, though, is the chocolate, or at the very least, all the ingredients for it. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that has such a vivid, sensual approach to food. Most cookbooks don’t make me this hungry. Here’s a taste for you:
It’s February, which means that medical researchers from around Australia flock to Lorne for a series of
parties conferences, leaving the rest of us behind, eyeing the beach-friendly weather bitterly and noting that the lab is strangely quiet.
We had about 30 people from our floor go to Lorne Cancer this year, so it was particularly noticeable. Fortunately, the RAs and I have our own February tradition – as soon as all our scientists have nicked off to Lorne, we find somewhere gorgeous to go for breakfast or High Tea. Why should the postdocs have all the fun?
After our appalling experience with High Tea at the Grand Hyatt last November, we decided to fall back on the pricier but more reliable Langham Hotel. And we were very glad we did, because really, this was much more what high tea is supposed to be about.
My beautiful scientists at work nominated me for the Engagement Award last year (I’m still not entirely sure what Engagement means in this context), and I won it! I’m not sure who was more delighted – me, with my book voucher from Readings and the warming knowledge that my scientists love me enough to *voluntarily write things when they don’t have to*, or my scientists, who were just about beside themselves with glee at having successfully nominated me in secret *and* having it work.
Anyway, it seemed only appropriate that a book voucher from such an august and esteemed body of cake-obsessed scientists should be used, at least in part, to buy a suitably sugar-oriented cookbook. When I saw this luscious collection of confections, truffles, shortbreads, brownies and tartlets from around the world, my choice was obvious.
Sugar and Spice: Sweet Treats from Around the World is, quite simply, a gorgeous book. It’s also quite an unusual one in the sweet cookbook world, because the author’s unique background leads her to select sweets from a far wider range of cultures than is the norm. Pagrach-Chandra is, as you might expect from her name, ethnically Indian, but grew up on a sugar plantation in Guyana. She was educated in the US and Spain, and then married a Dutchman and moved to Holland. Sweets from all these countries and cultures are well represented, but she certainly doesn’t stop there.
A little Scoopon is a dangerous thing, or at least it is where I’m involved. Practically all my eating-out reviews (especially the ones that aren’t within walking distance) are of things I have been Scooponed into, and that is no less the case today.
I’ve been wanting to thank my friend Geoff for his help and accompaniment last year with my singing exam and recital, and when I saw a Scoopon for High Tea in the Yarra Valley, this seemed like just the thing. So on Sunday, Andrew and I, along with Geoff and his partner, drove up into the hills (why do they call it a valley when it’s in the hills?) to Warburton and Wonga Park for High Tea at the Jump Inn Café.
The first thing you should know is that this was *worlds* better than the Grand Hyatt. Worlds. The service was pleasant. Their sandwiches did not curl. Their scones were proper scones. And there was so much cake and pastry that we couldn’t finish our little three-tiered stands, though we really, really wanted to.
And, actually, this feels like damning it with faint praise. Basically, it was a really nice high tea, and one that fit the setting very nicely.
It’s very hot today – in fact, it’s our first really hot day for the season – which is a pity, because I wanted to make red lemonade scones and fruit mince and Christmas Pudding, and also to start perfecting agar jellies. But it really is not the weather for that sort of cooking, so behold! Another book review! And one of great aptness to the weather, as you will see, because it is all about raw food.
I first heard of the Raw Food movement a few years ago. Since I was still in my nut-hating phase, I sort of ignored it, but a few hot summers and more extensive flirting with vegetarian and vegan food pointed me back in that direction. Unfortunately, the first Raw Food cookbook I bought was a dessert cookbook that seemed entirely sensible in the shop, but turned out to be the sort of cooking where you have to start by soaking things for two days, dehydrating them for another day, and grinding the results into flour before you can even start the first step.
While this sort of cooking has its own appeal, I am simply not organised enough – and not dedicated enough – to start planning and preparing my meals four days ahead of time. The cookbook has thus languished unused in the Big Scary Pile of Cookbooks ever since.
Practically Raw, by Amber Shea Crawley of Almost Vegan, is not like that.
It’s very quiet in my Division this week, because there is a symposium on p53 (if you want the basics on p53, I’ve written a little bit about it at the bottom of this post – for the purposes of my story, all you need to know is that p53 is one of my Division’s very favourite proteins) just down the road from us. It’s cheap, it’s a topic that is very relevant to our researchers, and one of my Division Heads is an organiser, so basically all the researchers were there on Monday and Tuesday, before moving back to our own Institute Symposium and Opening for the rest of the week. Not much science is being done just now.
When the researchers are away, it is traditional for me and the technicians to play, and Tuesday’s playground of choice was High Tea at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. We are very partial to a good high tea.
This wasn’t one.
Note: Yes, I’m a bit of an absentee blogger at the moment. Work is particularly crazy, I’m preparing for three separate and unrelated concerts in two weeks’ time, and I’m too tired to feel like eating, let alone cooking anything exciting. Except confectionery. And my sugar thermometer is broken…
So I think you are going to be living in the land of book reviews for a bit. Which is not so bad, because I have a whole list of books I’ve been meaning to review for you for ages… But I’m going to start with the brand new confectionery one, because broken sugar thermometer or no, this is a pretty awesome book.
I had plans for this week. I was going to get everyone’s RGMS CVs up to date (urgh), attend the Wednesday Seminar being given by one of my favourite postdocs, and take today as an RDO to finally get those potatoes into the ground.
Then I walked into my office on Monday morning and found this on my desk:
Anonymous gifts of cookbooks, and confectionery cookbooks at that. Sometimes, I love my workplace.
So my domain has been transferred (as of midnight two days ago), but the actual data it contains has not, and until I hear back from Hostpapa, I can’t actually transfer it without going page manually by page, because of PHP memory issues. Nor, I fear, can anyone access my blog directly, because I have it set to auto-forward, and since this costs a certain amount, I’m unwilling to pay to switch it off and then switch it on again when, for all I know, the transfer could happen ten minutes from now.
I’m really sorry about this – I certainly did not anticipate being off-line this long, and I’m actually quite distressed about it. But these things happen, apparently.
Still, this is the internet, which means that there are plenty of ways for you to amuse yourselves while you await (eagerly, I trust!) the phoenix-like rebirth of Cate’s Cates.
Here are some suggestions…