waffles: brunch with my oma

My waffle iron is so old that it proclaims it was “Made in West Germany”. But not to be hindered by age, on the (rare) occasion that I bring out this heirloom, it does no less than produce some spectacular waffles. Although I’m generally against single function appliances, it’s true, I’m highly sentimental about this one. Since it was handed down, I’ve carried it from place to place. I thoroughly clean it after each use and tenderly put it back in the cupboard. It never lets me down. (*Oma is German for grandma/nan)

waffles and berry compotewaffle batter:
1 ¾ cup plain flour
¼ cup self raising flour
¼ cup caster sugar
2 eggs, separated
1 ½ cup milk
60 g butter, melted
2 tbsp cold water
extra butter to brush the iron

sides:
Berry compote – frozen raspberries, frozen blueberries, a tsp of caster sugar and a few fresh strawberries. Microwave for a minute, stir and repeat to produce a saucy berry mix.
Greek yoghurt
Lime (because I serve lime with everything I can)
Maple syrup

Sift flours and sugar into a large bowl.
Make a well in the middle and gradually combine the egg yolks and milk.
Add butter and water, beat the batter until smooth.
In a separate bowl, whisk egg whites until firm white peaks form.
Fold the egg whites into the batter.
Brush the waffle iron with butter and spoon about ⅓ cup of batter into the iron, in about 2 mins remove and repeat with remaining batter.
Keep waffles warm in a low oven until serving.

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social niceties: do they still exist?

Thank goodness for social niceties. If they didn’t form my social interactions, I’d have no friends and be on bad relations with my neighbours. Or perhaps I should say, thank goodness social niceties ‘regulate’ my interactions.

So I like cats. That doesn’t make me a psychopathic, nature-hating, bird-culling, three-headed bigot. Quite the contrary. So please don’t paint me with that brush.

However, I smile sweetly and politely engage in your judgmental hypocrisy while your yapping dog demands my attention and jumps up my leg.

It’s probably true that our little social world would be a mess if we didn’t have a bit of English conservatism to guide our interactions. And I’m not sure I would like to know the harsh truth about what everyone else honestly thinks all the time, but what I find most baffling is, why is it ok for some to disregard the niceties while others of us do not?

What I would have liked to say was, “Well your dog clearly has no manners, and that says more about you than it ever will about me liking cats. Good day, Sir”.

Now that I put it down in black and white, it’s not outrageously impolite. It doesn’t include name calling. Perhaps it all comes down to the niceness scale and where we all sit on it.

I guess the takeaway message here is that if someone enthusiastically tells you about something they like, whether it’s cats or picking their nose, the polite thing to do is say something nice.

queen picking nose

* Image: http://www.popcrunch.com/ 

ratatouille: a healthy dinner in 15 minutes!

Ratatouille is a super fast and super healthy meal. What’s more, I think it’s super tasty. You don’t need a lot of ingredients to make a basic ratatouille but you can jazz it up with extras like parmesan or romano cheese, olives and more fresh herbs, like basil and parsley. Don’t make your vegetable chunks too big, this will slow cooking time.

Ratatouillle1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 red capsicum, 2 cm dice
1 eggplant, 2 cm dice
1 zucchini, 2 cm dice
1-2 tomatoes, diced
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp thyme leaves
½ cup water
½ tsp sugar (sugar will balance the acidity of the tomatoes)
handful of baby spinach

In a medium saucepan, start by frying the onion in the olive oil.
Add the remaining ingredients, minus the baby spinach.
Simmer for 10 minutes or until eggplant is soft and cooked.
Watch the moisture level, add a little more water if you need to, the aim is a thick sauce but not too dry.
As soon as eggplant is reaching ‘cooked’ which is 5 minutes before serving, prepare couscous (1:1 with boiling water, cover and allow to absorb for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork).
Finally, add the baby spinach and stir through. …Bon appetit!

Alternatively, serve with brown rice, pasta, a bread stick, or on its own.

Ratatouillle

a silky white russian cocktail

For a while I had been fantasising about the Russian Torte “Mashenka” posted on one of my favourite blogs* and I finally succumbed and made myself one. Although mine is not as beautiful to look at as the original, and my lesson learned was to have more layers not less – It’s divine!! I’m enjoying it immensely.

I baked it in the quiet of the evening and by the time I had reached the point of layering the delectably creamy sauce, I was thinking about a nightcap. With about 2 tablespoons of cream left in the mixing bowl, I created a silky smooth white russian cocktail that didn’t seem as heavy as with pure cream.

white russianIf you don’t happen to be making the cake at the time, here’s what would achieve the result:
2 tbsp sour cream
¼ tsp caster sugar
30 ml Kahlua
30 ml vodka
½ cup milk
Ice

Combine well and serve with lots of ice.

Thank you Anastasia for a very decadent evening!!

My attempt at Anastasia's Mashenka Torte

*While Chasing Kids

9 things I moderately dislike about gardening

1. Weeds. I was going to say more about that but I think its pretty much wrapped up in the one word.

2. When little sticks and leaves fall down the gap in the back of your pants and gather in your undies. Please tell me that this happens to other people too…

3. Roundup weed killer on the sole of your gumboot. You’ll only discover this in a few days time when you’re wondering how the lawn got that weird pattern of dead spots.

4. When your gloves start to feel wet on the inside. Usually after some enthusiastic hose use. It just feels yucky, ok?

5. When you pull out a ‘weed’ only to discover that it was a keeper and you desperately shove it back in the ground, only to find it a few days later all limp and browning, making you suffer its slow death as a reminder to how silly you can be.

6. When the phone rings inside and there’s a moment when you frantically try to remove your gumboots while running, before giving up and letting it ring out. I say, ‘letting it ring out’, when I mean, you missed it anyway, you’re probably lying on the ground somewhere.

7. When, later that evening, the phone rings inside the house and you can’t find the handset.

8. Poo-traps, both the dog and chicken kind. Particularly on the occasion that you decide to ‘risk it’ and go inside with your gumboots still on.

9. Other peoples gardens. They fall into two categories: either making me feel inadequate, or leave me thinking they really need to put more effort in. Just don’t say a word about my garden.

a wheelbarrow

rum raisin chocolate fudge tart

rum raisin choc fudge tartI had some sultanas soaking in rum which were left over from Christmas puddings. The drunken dried grapes had absorbed as much rum as they possibly could and had almost fully re-hydrated. What better to use them up in a very simple, no cook, ganache tart. My supportive man called this one, “freaking awesome!!”

biscuit base:
150 g ‘digestive’ wheat biscuits
30 g butter, melted

ganache:
250 g dark chocolate, broken
200 ml cream
¼ to ½ cup rum soaked raisins/sultanas (either will work and amount is your preference)

rum raisin tart in the tinMake boozy sultanas by putting them in a clean jam jar, covering the sultanas with rum and leaving for about a week (or more), with the lid on, in the fridge. If you need them in a hurry, warm the rum and let them sit for an hour or so.

Make the base by processing the biscuits until fine then add the butter, combine well.
Line the base of a springform tin with greaseproof paper and press the crumbs into the base and a little way up the sides of the tin. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes (an hour is better).

Make the gananche by pouring the cream into a medium sized microwave-proof glass bowl. Heat cream until just below boiling, then add chocolate. Mix until chocolate has melted.
Add the boozey sultanas, mix. (Don’t get too heavy handed with the rum, otherwise your chocolate will struggle to set)
rum raisin chocolate fudge cakeLet the chocolate cool to room temp before pouring into the base.
Then return it to the fridge for 1-2 hours.

I like to eat this in small slices with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a short black espresso.

Tip: Use a hot knife to slice it.

affinity cocktail

Affinity: a natural liking for or attraction to a person, thing, idea, … cocktail.
This drink proves that scotch has a special friendship with vermouth and bitters. The cherry isn’t compulsory but it adds a little something – I think it’s flamboyance, but we all need some of that from time to time.Affinity cocktail scotch cherry and lemon

30 ml scotch
30 ml sweet vermouth
30 ml dry vermouth
3 drops angostura bitters
twist of lemon peel
1 maraschino cherry

Put the bitters and cherry into a chilled martini glass.
In a cocktail mixing glass, pour scotch and vermouths over ice, stir to chill.
Strain into the glass and garnish with lemon peel.

spinach and chickpea curry (or, how I decided to just buy beans in a tin)

The most discerning of you will notice that this isn’t a picture of chickpea curry.

If you have read my page about a spoonful… you will know that I stopped buying beans in a tin. It was one of my great ideas for eating healthier, minimising waste, or some such rubbish that I’ve since forgotten.

Last night I thought I’d make chickpea and spinach curry. What is usually a quick and easy meal with a tin of chickpeas became an hour and a half of boiling the dang peas, followed by a frantic throwing together of miscellaneous-veggie pizzas with whatever was in the fridge/garden (while the chickpeas still boiled in the pot).

Today’s chilli beef and bean con carne has been a day-long exercise in boiling and draining and rinsing and boiling again and rinsing again – because the last thing we need is to have a house full of phytohaemagglutinin toxin poisoning and be expelling chilli beef and beans like something out of The Exorcist! And don’t think that you can save time and energy by cooking kidney beans in your slow cooker either, because that makes them 5 times more toxic than a raw bean. Oh the pressure!! (Insert: raise back of hand to forehead and tilt)

There’s no such thing as ‘whipping up a quick meal’ with the dry bean. It’s hot, frustrating, tiresome, water-consuming work. And I haven’t even started cooking yet!

On a scale of 1 to any other number, I’d have to say no, it’s not worth it.

Kale tomato pizza eggplant capsicum olive pizza not with chickpeas

Kale and Tomato Pizza, Eggplant Capsicum and Olive Pizza, not with chickpeas

… And in case you’re wondering what happened to the chickpeas in the end: I just baked some of them with Moroccan spices to make a wine-time snack. They don’t taste that great and they are like little rocks. Essentially, I spent all that time re-hydrating them only to re-de-hydrate them with some spice on! (insert: eyerolling)

look where I’m pointing (or, patience is a virtue)

Dogs just don’t get the action of finger pointing. I’m standing there, in a public space, with finger extended, “what’s that?! That. There, Froy*. No. There!!”

Sure, it’s higher order cognition but what I don’t understand is why it takes me so long to give up. He’s snuffling around, looking up at me through shaggy fur-covered eyes, humouring me by pretending to look around – but never in the right direction.

Where’s your ball?! It’s there! Look where I’m pointing…” He looks at my other hand, my feet, the passing car. The ball sits idle. I can go on like this for quite a while. Changing the emphasis. Waggling my finger a little to accentuate my indicator. I take pride in being a patient person. Patience is definitely a virtue. But perhaps patience is a virtue with limited logic and no shame.

* Froy: Ben’s non-responsive nic name, a combination of Fluffy and [Good] Boy with an ‘r’ because he’s a dog and dogs speak in ‘r’ noises. I’m more likely to call him this when being supportive. He’s a labradoodle.

Ben the labradoodle

ginger soy barramundi on rice with bok choy

The most time consuming part of this dish is cooking the rice. It’s clean, healthy, quick, cheap and tasty. For the vegetarian option, substitute fish for tofu.

barramundi fillets
soy sauce
ketchup manis
ginger, small julienne
garlic, thinly sliced
water
rice to serve
Asian greens to serve

Put the rice on.
In a suitably sized pan to hold your fillets, pour in about 2 tbsp of each soy sauce and ketchup manis, add the garlic and ginger and about 3 tbsp water.
Turn on the heat and mix the sauce.
Add the fish (skin down), essentially you will be poaching the fish so keep adding water in small amounts if the sauce becomes too thick and sticky. If you have a lid, put it on.
Dinner is done in 15 minutes from start time.

Serve over rice with quick steamed Asian vegetables (bok choy, choy sum, pak choy, whatever).

Sub: Barramundi for sea bass, snapper or almost any white fish. Barramundi for thick cut tofu.

ginger soy barramundi with bok choy