In My Kitchen: not even half baked

Posted on Updated on

Late in June the oven in our apartment stopped with a pop; adjourning baking of the G.O.’s rain-checked sausages, bacon & onion gravy birthday dinner to the electric fry-pan.

Our relationship with the appliances in that apartment is uneasy. It’s coming up to 6 years old and the shiny appliances selected by the developers are more for show than go, rather than the domestic day-to-day use the G.O. and I put them to. We rent from my sister and in return for a not paying an arm and a leg we fix anything that goes wrong.

Even though I use it constantly I treat the oven cautiously since a couple of years ago I was wiping out the base when the door exploded into a storm of shattered glass that covered the expanse of the kitchen and then some. It took numerous telephone calls, 2 afternoons home from work and $600+ to realise the repairs. At the time I assumed something I did must have caused it but a later Google search for “smeg oven doors shattering” indicated probably not.

As we had enough food to keep us going for a few days and were reluctant to consider the unhappy subject of appliance repairers we took a leisurely approach to investigating the issue. A week or so later we tested and diagnosed a blown fan heating element as the problem. Once again I consulted Google, and found I could buy a replacement online. Which I did, from http://www.stoveconnection.com.au. When it arrived the cardboard box went directly into the back of the wardrobe until the G.O. could get around to installing it… which took another week or so. 

In the meantime we had to eat.

Out came the slow cooker, for a pot of old fashioned pea and ham soup, onto the balcony because of its pungent cooking aroma habitually remarked on by the G.O. The ingredients -dried green split peas+soup veges+ham hock+Massel vegetable stock- cost about $12 and when cooked are so much more delicious than the sum of their parts. We it enjoyed for weekend dinners and there was enough leftovers for 5 containers of lunch soup for me.

old fashioned split pea and ham hock soup for lunch with a view
old fashioned split pea and ham hock soup for lunch with a view

Out stayed the slow cooker on the balcony and in went lamb shoulder, Buller’s Malmsey, Massel vegetable stock, onions, carrots, and potatoes for the making of Pulled Lamb Shepherds Pie… except I forgot I didn’t have a working oven to bake pie so it ended up being Deconstructed Pulled Lamb Shepherds Pie. The leftovers are slated to become ATMT’s Shepherds Piesties.

slow cooking deconstructed shepherds pie on the balcony
slow cooking deconstructed shepherds pie on the balcony

Out came the simmer mat I recently bought from Victoria’s Basement, and the big stainless pot. In went a piece of silverside, water, onions, carrots, celery, malt vinegar, mustard powder and brown sugar to transform into corned beef for the G.O.’s weekday lunches. On went slowly sautéed tomatoes.

corned beef and winter tomatoes
corned beef and winter tomatoes

Out came the retro pudding steamer I bought from Braidwood Markets and in went a suitably old-style recipe using pineapple & coconut jam also from Braidwood Markets. On that, later, went a new recipe for Perfect Custard made with leatherwood honey.

steamed pudding with pineapple & coconut jame and perfect custard
steamed pudding with pineapple & coconut jame and perfect custard

Out went our no supermarket biscuits rule guideline. In came ginger biscuits for the G.O.’s smoko. The Woolworths Select Stem Ginger Cookies are delicious but tooooo sweet. Far better are the Nairns Stem Ginger Oat Biscuits.

invaders... supermarket ginger biccies
invaders… supermarket ginger biccies

We survived several oven-less weeks but the last week of easy pasta and toast meals when imagination and time ebbed meant the other thing that’s gone out are our waistlines…

Thanks to Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting In My Kitchen and the IMK community for foodie inspiration & the virtual company they provide. If you’d like to join in, link back via comments on Celia’s August IMK post.

“But the kitchen will not come into its own again until it ceases to be a status symbol and becomes again a workshop. It may be pastel. It may be ginghamed as to curtains and shining with copper like a picture in a woman’s magazine. But you and I will know it chiefly by its fragrances and its clutter. At the back of the stove will sit a soup kettle, gently bubbling, one into which every day are popped leftover bones and vegetables to make stock for sauces or soup for the family. Carrots and leeks will sprawl on counters, greens in a basket. There will be something sweet-smelling twirling in a bowl and something savory baking in the oven. Cabinet doors will gape ajar and colored surfaces are likely to be littered with salt and pepper and flour and herbs and cheesecloth and pot holders and long-handled forks. It won’t be neat. It won’t even look efficient. but when you enter it you will feel the pulse of life throbbing from every corner. The heart of the home will have begun once again to beat.”Phyllis McGinley (1905-1978)

a story of Us

Posted on Updated on

Do you believe in love at first sight, serendipity, synchronicity, fate or meant-to-be?

a story of Us
a story of Us

Sara commented on my story the long way ’round” my favourite ever stories are ‘how we met’ stories” and other commenters shared snippets of their own.
Kate said… “You only have to read Celi’s account of how she and Our John met, missed, met again and married. One of the most fascinating ‘how we met’ stories and clear evidence that some things are just meant by the universe to happen” and “It sounds like the start of a collection of stories to me”.

For myself, being slow on the uptake, it took literally a word in my ear from the Universe to finally set the wheels in motion for us, as the G.O. so inelegantly phrases it, to “hook up”!

If you have a happy ever after or a relationship stepping-stone in life story, I’d love you to share it by commenting below, or posting and linking back to this post.

This is mine.

♥ EllaDee

It’s so easy to see now. But for many years I didn’t. I know there are a few doubters who look at us with speculative eyes. All I have to say to them is don’t judge us by standards which are not ours.

I can feel the autumnal Saturday afternoon, daylight waning. I can see the place: scruffy shops adjacent a suburban Sydney railway station. I remain connected to the moment as if by a long silver thread. A thread that twisted and tangled but joins us still twenty-five years later.

I’d escaped a too-young marriage and utilitarian country town to seek better in the city. I’d come without a job but with a man. It was complicated. I should have known it was never going to end well. It took fourteen years and the failure of a second marriage before I gave up trying to deny to myself that blind naivety had given what ought to have been a misguided fling an artificially long shelf life. Abetted by impossible pride, I’d made another mistake.

Its redeeming legacy was my friendship with the G.O.  Husband#2 had introduced us in the beginning; on that autumn afternoon so indelibly inked into my story. For more than a decade after that day, the G.O. came and went from my life. Familiar to my family and friends. Beloved of my cats and dog. Sometime sharer of households and long late night conversations. We attended each others weddings and wished each other happiness.

In the end, it took a serendipitous job where I spent week-nights away from home to distance me literally, figuratively and sufficiently to see clearly and disconnect from my marriage. Finally forced by foolishness and deceit to view it with honest eyes.

Although Husband#2 and the G.O. had teamed up once again working together, just as the marriage couldn’t withstand the increasing chicanery nor could their friendship. The G.O. also had had enough, and returning to his country life, left Husband#2 to his own injudicious devices. The G.O.’s withdrawal was another clue how far Husband#2 had gone. Too far.

Change was in the wind before I consciously realised it. Months before I physically left, a chance remark tipped me off to what would soon eventuate. A work colleague commented about my long daily commute and my spontaneous reply “I’m moving back to the city” surprised us both. But sure enough, as inevitably transpired, sufficient responsibilities and impediments fell away to enable me to rent a small apartment in the inner city – alone.

Lingering obligations tied me to Husband#2. His problematic life continued to encroach my progression to freedom. I couldn’t save him from himself and I damned sure wasn’t going down with him. Holding him up financially and materially simply perpetuated his imprudence. One of the last accommodations I made was to indulge his claim I had gotten the better of our two mobile phones, and swap. It was a gesture that would go on to change my life.

Just when I’d had enough, thought I’d done enough, there was more. Several months after I removed myself, the significance and permanence of my absence revealed itself to other parties inveigled by Husband#2 into involvement with his business affairs. I swapped phones but kept my number. It started ringing; revealing mendacity I hadn’t been involved in and couldn’t explain.

Husband#2’s phone came complete with contact numbers I didn’t bother removing. After one particularly harrowing late night call I scrolled through the list and saw the G.O.’s home number. If there was one person who might enlighten me about the dealings I was being confronted with, it was him.

Although not feeling it myself, the time of day I waited until to call the G.O. was civilized. He was surprised to hear from me, somewhat surprised at the news of my marriage split but unsurprised at the purpose of my call. He’d been aware of escalating dubiousness in Husband#2’s conduct, had interpreted my apparent tolerance as acquiescence and prudently refrained from interfering.

Neither the phone call nor confirmation of Husband#2’s further transgressions had an immediate effect. By and by once the complainants believed I neither had knowledge nor influence their entreaties fizzled out. Eventually I extricated myself from the snarled web woven by my good intentions and Husband#2’s schemes.

While I sorted out peripheral details, the core of my life was strong. Half a year before the dam of my denial broke, the contract role that had taken me away from home morphed into a permanent job. The decision to move back to Sydney freed me not only from the marriage but from a four hour daily commute. As if by magic the small apartment that felt like home manifested at the right time and place.

I didn’t miss having a man in my life. Monday to Friday professionally the law firm partner I assisted was sufficient. Lovely man that he is I revelled in shutting the door each evening and not hearing him call my name. I explored the streets of my new neighbourhood. I invested my spare time variously in the blissful peace of aloneness, books, meditation, massages, a spiritual development group, the cinema, and volunteered with an asylum seekers support program.

And so the months pleasantly passed until just-another-Wednesday evening in the last days of winter I was leaving work waiting for the lift to arrive at my floor. In the moment before the doors opened I heard a clear silent voice say “Call Wayne”. There’s no mobile coverage in the lifts so I had twenty-five floors to digest this communication. It wasn’t until I’d exited the building, descended the escalator, walked the expanse of the near empty food court and stepped onto the next escalator that the authenticity of the message registered.

Half way down the second escalator I pressed the G.O.’s number on my phone. He answered by the time I stepped onto the street. He hadn’t been expecting my call, rather hoping as he was working in the city for a few days, intended to call me but inadvertently left his wallet containing my phone number at home.

He suggested we catch up; it had been some time since we’d talked on the phone, longer since in person. He was busy that night but not the next. That suited me as well so we agreed on time and place.

The next evening when I climbed the railway station stairs he was waiting for me on the overpass. We greeted each other like the old friends we were, proceeded to drinks and dinner. As with our past long late night conversations the hours flew, until it was nearly midnight and we were again standing at the steps of the railway station. I was about to get on a train when he kissed me goodbye. I missed that train and the next.

At last seated on a homeward bound train, I knew it would be a long time until my whirling thoughts let me sleep.

This story would be a real life fairy-tale if our happy ever after started at that point. In reality we lived disparate lives; him country, me city. It would take another year before the lovely possibility of us became a true Us.

The G.O. has been waiting for me at railway stations whenever he can manage ever since.

We got married last year ten years to the day after that first kiss.

when the bough breaks

Posted on Updated on

"She returned home early. He'd been and gone. So had someone else. A lipstick on the dresser. It didn't belong to her. Any colour except red..."
“She returned home early. He’d been and gone. So had someone else. A lipstick on the dresser. It didn’t belong to her. Any colour except red…”

In February, I was out on a limb trying to come up with a ‘branching out’ themed short story to enter Country Style Magazine’s short story competition. Thanks to some inspired suggestions from comments to that post, I managed to cobble together an entry just before the cut-off date.

Winning $5000 and being published in a magazine would be lovely but that’s not why I do it. The occasional challenge of entering a competition exercises my short story writing around a topic, word count and deadline.

Winners were to be notified prior to publication in the August magazine, which is out now. I haven’t had a call, so I can share it here.

**********************

when the bough breaks

I remember her as she was then.
This is not going to work out.

Her reflected pale visage flanked by her mother-and-sister-in-law-to-be in the backlit mirror of that mining town hair salon whose windows faced Shoey’s supermarket car park. Fair fine hair coiffed into a chignon heightened the strange dream sensation.

Despite her calm mien understanding was revealing itself viscerally. Realisation of the mistake reinforced by her mind refuting all avenues of extrication. Flash of insight accompanied by gut instinct left her with the resolute conclusion she’d have to proceed.

Exit and explanations at this late stage weren’t going to happen. Yesterday was her twentieth birthday. Today was her wedding day. For better or worse.

Less than a year before, walking home one late night from her second job behind the bar at a local hotel, she turned the corner from the main road at the rose garden house, breathed in scented air, looked up, saw a bright star and silently chanted her customary… star light star bright first star I’ve seen tonight wish I may wish I might please make my wish come true tonight. Only this time she said the words, actually made a wish. “I wish for someone to love me. Just for a little while.”

The wish came true.
As they do.
Be careful what you wish for.

It manifested in the form of a new neighbour. A young bloke who for the first month had roared in and out of her apartment complex in a blue Toyota four-by-four. She’d spent the day studying, and lost track of time. A knock on her door made her realize it was late and she was starving. It was him. Hair damp, wearing ironed jeans and shirt.

“Do you like car races?”

“What are you asking me for?”

“I thought you might want to go?”

Momentarily she responded, “Wait”. Fled inside. Looked in the mirror. Looked for clothes. Found none better than what she saw in the mirror. Picked up her handbag and walked out the door.

The car races were cancelled due to rain. Over dinner they got to know each other.

Her flatmate commented “He’s a bit of a yob”. She agreed. There was no avoiding him. Walking past his door. Taking the rubbish out. He was at the pub on nights she worked and ordered beers he didn’t drink much of.

He came to her door again.

“The car races are on tonight.”

She went.

Meeting his parents was like being welcomed home. Home that was a modest white cottage on a farm. She met his mother, father, sister, two large cats and small fluffy white dog. A special roast dinner.

The following Sunday after his parents attended their church meeting, he drove her out to the farm for his mother’s Sunday bacon and egg breakfast. Soon she accompanied him for mid-week laundry drop off and dinner.

As other things changed his presence didn’t. When new hotel owners took over, she didn’t ask to stay on. When her lease ended he helped her shift to another apartment in the same complex.

A change of job meant driving to a neighbouring town. After several months her new flatmate moved out. He suggested they get a place together.

Her new job didn’t require her to study so she deferred that semester. She read books instead. He never did. He preferred her to watch movies with him.

Several months later, officially a couple, they attended his cousin’s wedding. They met curious looks, expectations and enquiries with “It’s early days yet. Plenty of time”. Several evenings later, sitting on the sofa watching TV he dropped to one knee, produced an engagement ring and asked her to marry him.

“When?”

“On your birthday.”

“Next year my twenty-first is a Saturday.”

“Wait a year?”

“We could have both.”

“What about this year? The day after.”

“Only three months away?”

Not ready to say yes.
Or no.
But she wasn’t ready for things to change either.

He wanted to tell his parents straight away. They were pleased. Living together wasn’t right. He spoke to her Dad whose only comment was “Good thing”. Testimony to new wife, baby and business concerns rather than regard.

She wanted her mother’s borrowed wedding dress but it had been passed on. He chose a fairy-tale princess white gown & veil with a faux pearl circlet. Grey suits for him and the best man. Her baby half-sister flower girl a smaller rendering of his frilly pink bridesmaid sister.

The day before the wedding among her birthday mail was an envelope addressed to him in female handwriting. He shredded the note it contained.

Despite her epiphany, on the last Saturday of spring they stood before a celebrant, family and friends.
She looked like the bride doll from Santa the Christmas after her mother died.

She thought to make the best of it, and went on much as before. She hadn’t resumed part-time studies but continued working, enjoying her job and co-workers’ company. Her mother-in-law remarked it didn’t look right.

He sold his ute. To buy a newer model with a big truck kit he sold her car as well. They didn’t need two. She could walk, or he’d drive her.

His parents celebrated the first wedding anniversary with a family dinner. His father had a proposition. A late wedding gift. Five thousand dollars. Possibly his wife’s moonstone bracelet. When the baby was born.

They’d talked of babies. She’d said she thought not. He’d said she would change her mind. All women he knew wanted babies.

His work took him out of town. His friends took him out at night. She went out with her friends. Her mother-in-law remarked it didn’t look right.

He wasn’t there to drive her around. She went to the bank, arranged a loan and bought a second-hand Corolla.

On work weekends he stayed away. When invited, she drove to where he was. She spent Saturdays browsing the shops or walking the beach. They went out with his friends.

He liked her to look nice. To wear make-up whenever she left the house. Not too much. He had an eye for the female form. It was harmless. When he compared her, he meant well.

He’d had a couple of girlfriends. He talked about how sexy they were. He said he thought she was pretty. He didn’t like other men looking. He offered to pay for D cups. The kind fellow walking past smiled at her. He didn’t like that. Her encouraging looks. She hadn’t.

Grateful for an unwitting kindness.

If he was home on Saturdays, after she did housework she cooked dinners from magazine recipes to take to the farm. He liked her cooking, often enough finishing her dinner if she didn’t eat quickly. She played card games with his parents. He watched TV in the back room. They stayed overnight for his mother’s Sunday bacon and egg breakfast.

They drove to his grandparents at their hometown eight hours distant. His father sped like no time was to be lost. His mother took a sleeping pill. He went out with his friends. He didn’t come home. His father went looking for him. Found him at daylight outside a pub in the next town with a mate and an old girlfriend. He had nothing to say.

He didn’t want to feel bad so he told her. It didn’t mean anything. He was drunk. He felt better that she knew. He was being honest with her.

It was her fault.
She’d tried so hard.

He couldn’t be home for her birthday. He gave his workmate’s girlfriend money to take her out for dinner. He was going to buy her a present but he’d spent the money at the pub.

He went on a boys’ trip. Her aunt and uncle invited her to join them for the weekend at the beach. The weather wasn’t good. She returned home early. He’d been and gone. So had someone else. A lipstick on the dresser. It didn’t belong to her. Any colour except red.

She drove to her aunt’s. Her aunt said “I knew he was no good”. Her aunt confronted him. Told him what she knew. Told him what she thought. Her aunt and uncle picked up her belongings.

His parents telephoned. Could they visit? They knew but didn’t want to. Another old girlfriend. They wanted her to make it right. She couldn’t. She never spoke to him again.

She took back her maiden name. Left her job. Found a place to live in the city. She accelerated as her car reached the highway. Up through the gears over the crest of the hill. She didn’t look back. Not ever.

As I flick through pages of photo album memories I see her as she was then.
Humming…
“Rock-a-bye baby, on the treetop,
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.”

things have changed . . .

Posted on

I wished I’d kept a food journal, but now I’ve thought about it; a consumer journal. What I supposed were lifelong constants are no longer. I was willing to be faithful so long as manufacturers were true. I wanted them to care about the things I did. They offered more products and promises to get my money. I ditched them. But it took many years to get to that point. Back to the less-is-more world I grew up in.

During my rural small town 1970’s childhood brands didn’t map my life. My earliest memories are of Mr Sheen, the timber furniture polish and Fabulon ironing aid. The overspray from both made our timber floor fantastically slippery… great fun for a 4 year old wearing socks. I can’t remember what kind of washing detergent my mother used but a vague memory of the fragrance of Handy Andy mopped floors. At my grandparents’ farm I can remember only Sunlight soap and Phenyle.

My own first household brand choice was clothes washing detergent. My sister once remarked about our joint and ongoing dedication to Cussons Radiant washing detergent as we collaborated on bargains. It’s been around for over 25 years, and I’d been loyally using it the entire time until almost 4 years ago when a move to an apartment with a front load washer rather than top loader made me take another look, and opened up the world of eco brands.

"I pressed the fire control... and ahead of me rockets blazed through the sky..." Once I started changing I couldn't stop!
“I pressed the fire control… and ahead of me rockets blazed through the sky…” Once I started changing I couldn’t stop!

Light turned on, I made the switch to eco not only clothes washing detergent but everything I could get: dishwashing detergent and tablets, paper towel and toilet paper. Not only changing brands but decreasing consumption.

I swapped out half washing powder scoops for bicarb soda and ditched cleaning products except eco glass spray and bleach of which we use less than a bottle per year. I substituted vinegar as laundry rinse, adding lavender and eucalyptus oils to make sprays for cleaning the kitchen and bathroom. Reusable cleaning cloths and tea towels go into the daily wash. This, in the city by choice… But in the country by necessity because we have a septic tank for sewerage and otherwise our grey water runs into the garden.

No not-so-plastic-fantastic bottled water for us. In the city we boil & filter tap water kept chilled in the fridge or taken with us in stainless steel water bottles, and we use a Soda Stream to make carbonated-aka-fizzy water. In the country at Taylors Arm we employ an old-fashioned soda syphon and drink rainwater collected on the roof into tanks straight from the tap. For the G.O. and I, both coming from farming backgrounds drinking tank water is back where we began.

Coffee has been a lifelong journey from the instant powder of my early teen years to a grown up penchant for takeaway large soy lattes.  About 4 years ago we went with straight blacks and invested in a Jura Ena 5 coffee machine which has more than paid for itself. I buy bags of organic fair trade coffee and we use our own cups at home or KeepCups for DIY takeaway. At Taylors Arm we make pour over coffee using a Hario drip decanter and unbleached paper filters.

Occasionally I encounter the G.O. shuffling jars around the tea shelf hoping, in vain, for a glimpse of a yellow Lipton’s teabag label therein. Left to his own devices he is a creature of habit. I offer to swap out another of his indulgences. Coke or Cadbury? No. He was just hoping but he’s fine with Daintree or herbal tea. He’ll have a Lipton’s at his mother’s.

I feel that same way about personal products as I do about food labels, if I don’t know what it is I don’t want it as an ingredient. It didn’t make sense to go to the effort and expense of pursuing clean and home cooked food while undermining the effects by applying goodness-knows-what to our persons.

Seduced by product claims, marketing and colours I have a drawer full of accumulated lotions and potions. Now, I wear less makeup, perfume, nail or skincare products and look for brands that are safe-ethical-eco-organic such as Natio. I’m fond of Clarins and OPI which are apparently ok but could do better. We use locally made lemon myrtle products and oral care products such as Grants.

Of course, it’s all work-in-progress. Ongoing changes come about as I continue to research and discover good products. I’ve checked my habit of impulse buying fragrant candles replacing them with beeswax, essential oils and incense. Magazines also are a treat rather than a regular purchase. I find more than enough inspiration via the blog-world, Facebook Pages Feed, Pinterest and free online subscriptions to websites that interest me.

On my to-do list is make my own washing powder and skin moisturisers. On my to-do-better list are clothes and household items. Possibly the most complicated and expensive exercise. The best we manage at the moment is to limit consumption, buy Australian Made where possible, get value from wear and reuse-recycle.

A daunting and recent change is abstinence from hair colour. As a kid my fair hair was naturally blonde due to the time I spent outdoors. In my late teen years it darkened to mouse with increased time spent indoors at a desk studying, then working. It’s been lightened unnaturally for just over 30 years. Now I’m turning 50 and my hair is turning silver, I’ve decided to embrace it.

“Act as if what you do makes a difference.
It does.”
William James

In My Kitchen: birthday bits n’ pieces

Posted on Updated on

Having recovered from the flu lurgy that curtailed my Saturday morning farmers market expeditions I was desperate for farmers market eggs, fruit, vegetables, and meat. Despite stocking up there the previous Saturday, when Celia told me that Beth from Burrawong Gaian Poultry would have a stall at my local Eveleigh Farmers Market I didn’t hesitate in agreeing to meet her the next.

Even better, the G.O. took Saturday off work and came along as my porter and to select key ingredients for his traditional birthday dinner of sausages, onion gravy & mashed potato which he assured Celia you can live on.

IMK: Birthday bits n' pieces - flowers, apple rice meringue and Tojiro blades
IMK: The G.O’s birthday bits n’ pieces – roses “no-ones ever given me flowers before!”, apple rice meringue and Tojiro kitchen knives for his inner Samurai

The G.O. doesn’t get to the markets as much as I do but he’s familiar with and to the stallholders and has his favourites. So while Celia and I wandered around chatting to stallholders at Olsson’s Australian salt and Margin’s Mushrooms, the G.O. chatted to Mr Apples and Moobi Valley Meats. And came away with Pink Lady’s as well as Granny Smiths for his birthday sweet treat (my first attempt at this dessert made by his grandmother) plus sirloin steaks grown just up the road from where my grandparents had their farm when I was a kid.

The G.O. approved my selection of sausages and bacon from Linga Longa Farm’s stall and potatoes from Highland Gourmet Potatoes.

IMK: Traditional birthday dinner of the G.O.
IMK: Traditional birthday dinner of the G.O.

Did you know potatoes have a season? The guys that have this stall are lovely but we only see them from December to September. At the moment my go-to potatoes are Lustre for lustrous silky mashed potato, Emma for light crisp air-filled baked potatoes and Pink Kiss for old-fashioned tasty baked potatoes like my Nanna used to make.

IMK: Lustre, Emma and Pink Kiss
IMK: Lustre, Emma and Pink Kiss

Of course we caught up with Beth at her Burrawong Gaian Poultry stall and sampled her delicious pates and rillettes. The duck marylands were selling fast but I managed to buy 2 packs of 2 for Sunday night dinner.

IMK: Burrawong Gaian duck marylands 3 ways
IMK: Burrawong Gaian duck marylands 3 ways

By the time we left my nanna trolley was overflowing and my wallet empty. A few extras depleted my own funds and I had to borrow cash from the G.O. He’s not only handy as a porter but a mobile cash dispensing machine.

As I explained to Celia, how I make fresh food shopping at the farmers market viable is to use it all, and buy little other food for the rest of the week… and sometimes the week after… when freezer, fridge and pantry stock comprises the greater part of our eating.

IMK: Organic Australian oats, honey and salt
IMK: Organic Australian oats, honey and salt
  • Moobi Valley sirloin steak, baked Highland Gourmet potatoes, Muscat’s carrots & golden beetroot plus Darling Mills micro salad was Saturday night dinner.
  • Sunday breakfast was porridge made with organic Australian organic rolled oats and Highland Organics milk topped with Mr Apples compote, Nambucca MacNuts macadamias and R. Stephens Mole Creek Tasmanian Leatherwood Honey.
  • Linga Longa Farm bacon, Margins mushrooms, peas, pasta and cream sauce made from Highland Organics milk made a cosy lunch for a damp chilly Sunday.
  • Duck marylands slow roasted at 150 C in a bath of Massel chicken stock  and Buller Malmsey plus re-fried roast veges and steamed sugar snap peas was Sunday night dinner.
  • For Monday lunch the G.O. took half the leftover pasta, the other half went into the freezer. I took the leftover piece of cold sirloin and salad which I added to a fresh bread roll.
  • Monday dinner was noodle, vegetable and shredded duck Maryland stir-fry with puffy omelettes made with Thirlmere eggs, sesame oil and a dash of carbonated water.
  • Tuesday, the G.O.’s birthday, we headed out and enjoyed a lovely lunch of fish and chips at Watsons Bay so didn’t need to cook dinner. But we had room for birthday apple rice meringue made from Mr Apples’ Granny Smiths, Thirlmere eggs and Highland Organics milk.
  • Wednesday, Thursday and Friday the G.O. took apple rice meringue for smoko.
  • Wednesday I had an in-house work lunch and as there were no dinner leftovers the G.O. fended for himself.
  • Wednesday night I prepared the rain-checked birthday dinner of Linga Longa Farm sausages & bacon with Muscat’s onions and gravy made with Prickle Hill Worcestershire sauce from Coleambally and Tetsuya’s Wasabi Mustard, and mashed Highland Gourmet potatoes.
  • For Thursday lunch the G.O. took mashed potato, sausages and onion gravy for lunch. I took bits n’ pieces of leftover vege & duck noodles, omelette and baked veges.
  • Thursday night dinner was leftover mashed potato, sausages, bacon and onion gravy. The leftovers went into the freezer.

Note: We’re a 2 person household. We both work full-time. We live in a small city apartment and wish we had a vege garden and chooks. Maybe one day. For now, where possible I buy pastured/free range/organic produce and improvise using ingredients I have on hand. For us farmers markets an equitable option as if I can’t get there we spend the same money or more at supermarkets, takeaway food or eating out. My choices may not suit everyone –  it’s up to each of us to do what we think and best can. Corporate commodification of food, marketing, advertorials, profiteering and undue influence on our lives concerns me greatly. Shopping and eating mindfully is my antidote to that.

Thanks to Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting In My Kitchen and the IMK community for foodie inspiration & the virtual company they provide. If you’d like to join in, link back to Celia’s blog.

“You can’t just eat good food. You’ve got to talk about it too…” Kurt Vonnegut

IMK: Apple Rice Meringue from The Commonsense Cookery Book (Source - http://community.tasteofhome.com/community_forums/f/30/t/332742.aspx)
IMK: Apple Rice Meringue from The Commonsense Cookery Book (Source – http://community.tasteofhome.com/community_forums/f/30/t/332742.aspx)

hop, skip and jump to the point

Posted on Updated on

I could get used to this. The G.O. not working on Saturdays, and spending time by the water.

Last Friday when the G.O. communicated the news he has at last finished working at the site where he’s been doing 160 kilometre daily round trip commutes, often working Saturday, I called my sister to see if she and our new niece, sunny Skye apple of her family’s eye, had a free Saturday. Not quite, but could meet up in the afternoon.

Excellent. That meant we didn’t have to rush our trip from Sydney to the Hunter Valley. And could take up a recommendation from a work colleague who’s a local, to stop for breakfast from the Estuary Kiosk on the way.

An hour drive and about half way along our journey, only minutes from the M1 motorway exit, Estuary Restaurant is at Kangaroo Point just over the old bridge and first turn to the left on the Old Pacific Highway on the Hawkesbury River driving towards Brooklyn. The restaurant has scored some spectacular reviews… currently some spectacularly bad… so we’ll be giving it a miss until that’s ironed out, but our takeaway coffees and bacon and egg rolls from the kiosk were first-rate. The refurbished park area is attractive and the views are amazing. We’ll be back!

We love the Hawkesbury River. The G.O. has a long affection for the area as he worked an oyster barge on the river for a few years, and still says it was the best job he ever had. Nearby Brooklyn is a favourite for fish and chips or meeting up for family celebratory lunches at Lifeboat Seafood, handy for us as we can catch the train from the city.

The Hawkesbury River is the setting for the 2004 Australian film The Oyster Farmer and recently the two-part ABC television mini-series The Secret River adaptation of Kate Grenville’s novel of the same name.

“This place had been here long before him. It would go on sighing and breathing and being itself after he had gone, the land lapping on and on, watching, waiting, getting on with its own life.” Kate Grenville, The Secret River

Elementary, my dear Watson

Posted on

Trying to get the G.O. to celebrate his birthday is like trying to prise a stubborn crab out of its hidey-hole. Unsurprising as he is born under the Cancerian astrological sign. For the first time ever I managed to persuade him to ditch work on a weekday birthday. Coercion that involved me using a precious annual leave day and suggesting he wouldn’t want me to celebrate his birthday on my own. It worked. Just. My backup tactic was to suggest if he didn’t stay home with me, I’d go to work with him.

As work commitments prevented us taking a long weekend away the G.O.’s celebration of choice was a coastal escape within the city environs.

After a sleep-in, leisurely coffees and gift unwrapping in bed we followed the route of my usual morning commute to Circular Quay, even making a dash to the cafe in my building for a soy chai latte & hot chocolate before joining Tuesday tourists and day-trippers on a ferry ride across Sydney Harbour to Watsons Bay, a 17 minute trip as opposed to the other public transport option of bus that takes near an hour to cover the 11 km distance.

Watsons Bay is located on the southern head of the entrance to Sydney Harbour. To the east is the Tasman Sea and to the west is the Harbour with a glorious view of the city of Sydney in the distance.

Watsons Bay is where Governor Phillip first landed in Australia. It’s also recognised as Australia’s oldest fishing village, having been established in 1788.

The Bay is famous for being the home of the first Doyles Restaurant. The site on which the restaurant now stands is where Doyle originally sold his daily fish catch in 1845. It’s well worth the trip to Watsons Bay to eat at the restaurant or, alternatively, for a more informal meal, buy a take-away lunch from Doyles’ fish and chip outlet, located on the wharf, and eat it in the park and feed the seagulls.

There are two walking paths from the wharf, both require around one hour for the round trip. From the wharf you can walk north past Lady Bay (see their nude beach) and on to South Head…”

And we did just that, walked around to the north looking across to Manly, didn’t see any nudists although the day was a pleasant and sunny 20 degrees Celsius (winter in Sydney at its best!), enjoyed a simple fish and chip lunch accompanied by attentive seagulls, postprandial strolled until the sun enticed us to a garden bench with a harbour view before a speedy afternoon return on the ferry to Circular Quay.

Despite widely being attributed to him, Sherlock Holmes never said those words “Elementary, my dear Watson” but no doubt he would have by way of approbation of the G.O.’s excellent choice of destination of the same name.

*The first known, or at least recorded use of the phrase was in the 1915 novel, Psmith, Journalist written by P.G. Wodehouse.

Note: Australia’s place names have lost their apostrophes.

 

no hard feelings . . .

Posted on

I’m not one to hold a grudge… fortunately, in regard to chickens. Despite an indelible experience I had as a kid with a rooster I still admire their kind. And care about what manner of lives they have before they grace my table.

I spent a lot of time on my grandparents’ farm up until age 9. One of my favourite things to do was collect the eggs. The chook yard was down the back away from the house near the gully. It was something I could manage myself but usually my Pa tagged along. Encountering a opportunistic snake or cranky hen was possible.

One day aged around 6, I tagged along with Pa as he checked the cows’ water reservoir halfway up the hill to the dairy. I wandered down toward the chook yard on my own. The chooks were let out, next thing I know there’s a feathered devil on my back and I’m running up the hill towards Pa screaming at the top of my little lungs. My hero grabbed the damned rooster by its scrawny neck, laid it on the nearby wood heap chopping block and took off its head with the axe. At which point the rest of it ran in circles before it dropped momentarily. Fascination quickly erased the terror I’d felt.

Like other chooks for the table the rooster was duly dunked in a kerosene tin of scalding water and plucked. I still remember the distinctive, not pleasant smell of scalded chicken feathers and guts. The rooster had a good long life so he was old and tough but waste not, edible enough. He was dinner.

Now that’s not so awful when you consider what goes on in a factory farm or CAFO. CAFO stands for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation. Call me a coward but frankly I don’t want to see it. Even passing trucks packed with chickens and trailing white feathers along the highway, something that makes my sister cry, evidences the dreadful commodification of poultry and that’s why I buy ethically produced free range poultry and eggs.

Just because I can’t bear to see it doesn’t mean I don’t care. Factory farming makes me angry because how our food gets to us shouldn’t be shrouded, dependent on interpretation of the word ‘adequate’ or haggling over free range standards and scruples of a few with vested interests.

It might look like a roast chicken but it’s far more. I’d like us to do better but a properly free range life it’s the very least chickens are entitled to. It’s the very least we’re entitled to when we shop. Worth thinking about when buying poultry products or eggs.

Celia and I are very excited about ethical poultry farmers from the Mid North Coast of NSW Burrawong Gaian Poultry’s first appearance at my local Eveleigh Farmers Market on Saturday 20 June 2015, and won’t miss the opportunity to cheer them on in person.

Easy weekend food: Roast Free Range Thirlmere Chicken from Eveleigh Farmers Market


Despite food safety warnings I rinse whole raw chicken inside and out using cold water and paper towel to dry, then wash sink and hands with hot soapy water and wipe out with paper towel and vinegar spray. It’s up to you if you do this or not.

The G.O. loves stuffing. My usual recipe is: roughly chop several of slices of sourdough bread and a large onion. Combine in a bowl with an egg, ginger powder, salt and pepper, adding milk to moisten. In this case there was no milk so I substituted plain full fat homemade yoghurt which gave the stuffing a lovely rich slightly tart flavour. I have also been known to use sage, rosemary, hazelnut meal, chopped dried figs, garlic, lemon zest, a whole lemon or onion… none of which are favoured by the G.O.

If you make extra stuffing mixture, put it in a oiled small loaf pan sealed with foil or wrap it in oiled foil and bake for an hour or so.

After stuffing the bread mixture into the chicken, massage the outside with butter. Sit on a rack in a deep cast iron pot with lid over a bath of chicken stock and Malmsey (or other Madeira type wine) and slow roast on 150 – 160 degrees Celsius for about double the time you would pan roast. Turn up the heat to 180 C and take the lid off for the last 15 minutes. Remove the chicken to rest covered and cook the pan juices down on the stove top to make gravy.

Sometimes I put potatoes, onions and carrots in the roasting pan as well and they bake to a lovely tenderness.

This reasonable size chicken, 1.7 kg, gives us 2 nights of dinners, several lunches and chicken stock from the bones.

Note: Every day I eat. Every now and then I blog about food: I thought it only fair on occasion to share what passes as a recipe for something I’ve made. We’re a 2 person household. All quantities and times are approximate. Additions and substitutions may be made according to preference, taste and availability. Where possible I use pastured/free range/organic produce and improvise using ingredients I have on hand.

slow progress

Posted on Updated on

The G.O. drove. It was quiet and my thoughts roamed. I was thinking about numbers. Heading back to the city three days after we’d driven up to Taylors Arm for a quick busy Queen’s Birthday long weekend, my mind calculated we’re coming up to owning our house for a decade and we’d been driving this highway public holiday weekends and then some, so my very ordinary maths estimated we’d spent about 140 six-hour days in the car doing just that. Given I have a zero annual leave balance, to consider I’ve spent a good part of them in the car pains me slightly.

In contrast to this contemplation of distance between our city and country habitats is the realisation we’re making progress. We veer from a quiet home-life busy work-centric city existence to hyper-gardening home handymen on long weekends and holidays. In between we have plans and measurements and lists and reminders scrawled across numerous convenient yellow post-it notes.

But also we manage to get things done remotely. So far this year we’ve had a gas stove installed and a shed built without us being on site. Both items have been on the patiently waiting list while we figured out what we really wanted. Ditto for the new fridge/freezer purchased via phone & internet but which we managed to be around for delivery. No wastage there either, both the old electric stove and fridge found a good home with a neighbour.

Taking our time has enabled us to rethink our energy consumption needs towards a lighter footprint. Originally, back in the crazy days of cheap electricity when climate change seemed to be a catchphrase rather than reality we were aiming for pigeon pair fridges, chest freezer and a bar fridge! However, the days of thoughtless energy consumption are gone. The clothes dryer purchased because of my penchant for warm towels in winter is too good to get rid of but now rarely used, so has gone to a corner of the shed. The bar fridge is alongside it waiting for a new owner.

An upside to slow progress is better options come along, and it gives things time to find us. It took us years to source the right kitchen sink unit and longer to find the kitchen sink tap still in its box waiting for the G.O. to get time to install it, so much more functional than the current tap with a bit of rubber hose clipped to the end. Two big old cupboards, shelves and a pot stand have come our way in the last couple of months. And when he couldn’t fulfil my wish for a side burner addition to his barbeque, the G.O. bought me my very own barbeque with side burner & hood on sale at a ridiculously low price. He of course isn’t parting with his old-faithful.

In turn, while wishing for his own the G.O. got by borrowing box trailers to move things, which twice involved doing running repairs on someone else’s trailer. The new barbeque and a cupboard bought in Sydney finally necessitated the G.O. parting with cash for his own. Delayed gratification sweetened his delight in a shiny new black trailer.

Then there’s the opportunity for serendipity that slow progress affords. As the shed build progressed, RHS neighbour put us in contact with an old friend of the G.O.  Sixty years ago the G.O.’s family share-farmed on their property just down the road. This lovely, now older lady was cleaning out her late husband’s shed and offered the G.O., who’d spent much time in the farm sheds with him and his father before him, pick of the contents. Once again the G.O.’s trailer, plus RHS neighbour’s carted benches and tools home; the big timber bench coming back to Taylors Arm just up the street from the house where it originated.

Slow progress also requires flexibility, compromise, sharing and caring. We wouldn’t make quite so much progress without the kindness of neighbours and friends who are there for us when we’re in situ, and when we’re not. They mow our lawn, keep an eye on the house, help us move things, keep a spare house key and share a cat.

The G.O. and I although both cat lovers never considered our lifestyle suitable for a cat but Soossie Cat decided otherwise and shares herself between LHS neighbour and us. Soossie brought her kitten over for a visit last weekend. LHS neighbour wanted a litter of kittens, got two litters, and found other homes for them except Soossie’s grey and white daughter who will be staying. LHS neighbour now has our cat carrier so Soossie is off to the vet for her op, as will be daughter when she’s a little older.

We’ve still a little way to go, and inevitably more trips up and down the highway but steady-as-she-goes suits us just fine.

Some quit due to slow progress.
Never grasping the fact that slow progress…
… is progress. Anonymous

In My Kitchen: baby, it’s cold outside…

Posted on Updated on

Donna Hay's At My Table (1995), photography by Quentin Bacon
Donna Hay’s At My Table (1995), photography by Quentin Bacon

Over the past month the weather has gotten quite nippy here on the south east coast of Australia. It’s perfect for indoor enjoyments, warming our small apartment by turning the oven on, and comfort food.

At My Table
At My Table

Just as well, because the G.O. and I have spent the last three weekends keeping each other cosy company on the couch while fighting off our common cold/flu lurgy. Expeditions have been circumscribed. I haven’t been to the farmers market for over a month. We’ve been eating courtesy of our pantry-freezer stash and foraging at local shops.

Garlic /  Ginger Grater
Garlic / Ginger Grater

En route dashing to the shops I diverted to a garage sale and was rewarded, netting myself a ginger-garlic grater -perfect! fresh ginger for tea was on my shopping list- and yet another cookbook I couldn’t resist buying for a few dollars. One day rather than just browsing, I’ll make something… What attracted me to Donna Hay’s At My Table (1995) was the artistic photography by Quentin Bacon and the simple fresh recipes and ideas. “The photographs in At My Table have been taken as polaroid transfers. Each image is printed onto cotton paper and each is therefore an original work of art.”

Backyard feral chook eggs
Backyard feral chook eggs

When I can’t get to the markets what I miss most is proper free range eggs. The eggs at the local shop are labelled free range and they’re local from within a 100 km radius of Sydney but I can’t help thinking they’re not what I envision as really free range pastured eggs from farm chooks. I couldn’t have been more delighted to get a text from my bestie Mrs S. who was coming for a visit asking Do you want eggs? Yes. Half a dozen or a dozen? However many you can carry, was my response. Her husband has a band of what she calls not free range but feral range chooks in his Blue Mountains backyard.

Free Range (left) vs Backyard (right)
Free Range (left) vs Backyard (right)

As she hands the eggs over Mrs S. says to me. I don’t eat the eggs… those chooks will eat anything, bugs, food scraps, rubbish. My suggestion to not die and fall over in the back yard or they’ll eat you, didn’t comfort her. That’s why backyard eggs are better than shop eggs! You can see, Mr S.’s chook egg is the one on the right, with the lovely yellow yolk. The other egg is free range but grain fed, hence the orange yolk.

Pa's Rice Pudding
Pa’s Rice Pudding

 

Backyard eggs inspired me to cook rice pudding like my Pa used to make, as close as I can. The G.O., enigma that he is, won’t eat plain boiled rice in any form but will eat rice pudding. My grandfather’s rice pudding was my favourite dessert when I was a kid. He made it just like this in an old enamel dish, but in a wood burning oven. I can’t replicate that nor milk from his dairy cows, or home grown eggs usually. But it’s still good, and the G.O.’s current preferred sweets for Sunday afternoon tea and Monday smoko.

Pa's Rice Pudding Recipe
Pa’s Rice Pudding Recipe

The recipe is from my 1984 revised version of The Commonsense Cookery Book. Thumbing through it, refreshing my memory on rice pudding how-to I came across a recipe I’ve been seeking for a decade… The G.O.’s favourite sweet made by his grandmother was apple rice meringue… I’d never heard of it. But I have the recipe now. It’s his birthday in a few weeks. Stay tuned.

Best Pumpkin Soup Ever
Best Pumpkin Soup Ever

Pumpkin is the G.O.’s favourite soup. I love it because it’s the easiest to make. I saw Beck from In Search of Golden Pudding’s Roasted Pumpkin Soup and decided it was time to turn into soup the pumpkin given to us in April by a Taylors Arm neighbour. Similar to Beck, baking on a non stick tray pumpkin pieces skin on with whole unpeeled onions and garlic until golden. When cool, scraping/squeezing out the softened vegetables into a saucepan, I blend them with stock… by mistake I added 1 tub of chicken and another of beef stock… it was delicious… plus a generous glug of macadamia oil to give the soup weight and depth, and season only with white pepper. This time inspired by Beck I also scraped in the caramelised cooking juices off the bottom of the pan. Best Pumpkin Soup Ever.

Vacu Vin Wine Saver
Vacu Vin Wine Saver

During winter in particular my motto is “I love cooking with wine—sometimes I even put it in the food”, so I was pleased when I re-discovered untried in the bottom of a draw the wine saver my sister gave me for Christmas… a few years ago… I like a drop of red in a glass or in the pot but the G.O. doesn’t drink it. The wine saver works by swapping the screw cap/cork with the stopper then using the pump to vacuum out the air inside that will turn the wine if left for too long. Not that it happens much!

The quiet transition from autumn to winter is not a bad time at all. It’s a time for protecting and securing things and for making sure you’ve got in as many supplies as you can. It’s nice to gather together everything you possess as close to you as possible, to store up your warmth and your thoughts and burrow yourself into a deep hole inside, a core of safety where you can defend what is important and precious and your very own. Then the cold and the storms and the darkness can do their worst. They can grope their way up the walls looking for a way in, but they won’t find one, everything is shut, and you sit inside, laughing in your warmth and your solitude, for you have had foresight.Tove Jansson, Moominvalley in November 

Thanks to Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting In My Kitchen and the IMK community for foodie inspiration & the virtual company they provide. If you’d like to join in, link back to Celia’s blog.