…my local green grocer where they are currently selling trays of strawberries for $6. My sincere apologies to John Lennon for that absolute travesty but just in case you are not utterly awestruck by this, let me reiterate. A tray of strawberries for $6. That’s 16 punnets. For $6 dollars. The world may have not ended on December 21st but it has surely gone mad!
How do farmers make any money when the (literal) fruit of their labour is being sold off at about 40 cents a punnet?
Maybe because the week before Christmas punnets of strawberries were selling for $4 each!
I know, it’s not the farmers, it’s the wholesalers and the grocery shop owners and all the people in between who add their mark up. The farmers probably got paid the same for the $4 strawberries as they did for the 40 cent strawberries.
My joy at my bargain buy lasted until I had to carry, not only all of my regular fruit and veggies, but an additional four kilos of strawberries, from the shop to my car. By the time I reached the car (it was a hot day and I had parked some distance away from the shop to get a spot in the shade), I’d stopped thinking “I’m the best shopper in the world! ” and “I’m in berry heaven” to “What on earth am I going to do with four kilos of strawberries?” and “How can four kilos of strawberries actually weigh a ton?”.
My first task, on getting home, was to sort the strawberries – a few in each punnet were overripe and were starting to get a bit manky. The perfect ones went into a colander and the fridge for eating. We have been feasting on these all week.
The almost perfect berries went into a bag and into the freezer whole. I puréed the somewhat bruised berries and placed them in 6 containers in the freezer where they will be great for smoothies, muffins, etc later in the year. Finally, my kitchen helpers, Oscar and Lulu, were on hand to dispose of the fourth group being the few badly bruised berries that were left.
We have been eating strawberries all week – by the handful whenever we feel a bit peckish; for dessert with cream (Mark) and ice cream (me) and for breakfast with mango and vanilla yogurt:
I have started making a strawberry liqueur based on the link below with some tweaks inspired by other recipes, most notably, I am putting the sugar in from the start.
I searched high and low for tarragon yesterday; I went to three greengrocers and I could not find it for love or money. I decided to use basil instead.
I was so excited about making the liqueur and trying to track down the tarragon, that I completely forgot to check the other ingredients. I knew I had strawberries, I had vodka. I was searching for tarragon. And who particularly someone who bakes regularly, doesn’t have caster sugar? Me apparently. Grrr… Such a newbie mistake!!!
So today, I ducked into the supermarket to pick up the caster sugar and found piles of tarragon. As I had another recipe for tarragon and strawberries I was aching to try, I bought a bunch and pulled the basil out of my would be liqueur and popped in the tarragon and sugar. All the sugar sank to the bottom and when I tipped it upside down to mix it in, it made these drippy pale pink stalactite type things that looked awesome! The mixture is also already a fabulous pink colour. And it’s only Day 2. Imagine Day 30.
It’s Mark’s birthday tomorrow and the temperature is set to soar. Baking in my tiny kitchen when it’s anything above 30 degrees outside is not something I relish. So, I’ve decided that he will get a White Chocolate Strawberry Cheesecake Semifreddo in lieu of a traditional birthday cake. I’m aiming for quirky but cool. We’ll see how that works out. I also need to get busy making it. Which means that my strawberry and tarragon salad recipe will have to wait until the next post.
On a more sombre note, and speaking of temperatures soaring, many parts of Australia are currently experiencing devastating bushfires and my heart goes out to all those who have lost loved ones, homes and belongings in this tragedy and to the brave people, many of whom are volunteers, who are so valiantly fighting the fires. You are in my thoughts and prayers.
On Christmas day, we gathered at my mum’s for a family lunch. I made the carrot and orange flower water salad featured in the last post and a lemon and lime tart with limoncello as my contribution to the meal. The tart was meant to look like this….
Sadly, it didn’t. I lack confidence with pastry so thought I would make it with a crumb crust. But I didn’t let the crumb set long enough so when I poured the filling in it all came loose and mixed in with the filling. I ended up covering it with a meringue (thanks again for that idea Monica) but when it was cut it didn’t have a nice sharp line between meringue, filling and base. It tasted wonderful; it looked terrible. I hate that. Why is it always when you have to cook for a large group of people that things go awry?
I was lucky enough to get lots of lovely vintage and vintage inspired presents – a selection of some are below!
Over the break I finally got to visit the Gusto exhibition at the State Library which explores the culinary history of Victoria. Among other treasures, they had an amazing array of vintage cookbooks which I was just itching to get my hands on!
The days between Christmas and New Year are tinged with sadness for me as my Nana passed away during this period a few years ago. In memory of Nana, I cooked some devilled eggs which was a dish she used to make quite often . My devilled eggs weren’t nearly as good as Nana’s stuffed eggs but they weren’t terrible….maybe next year I’ll get Nana’s recipe and do it properly! In the meantime, the recipe I used is here:
Asparagus rolls were another of Nana’s specialties. Nana’s asparagus came straight from the tin, the rolls were made with white bread with the crusts cut off, and the asparagus was melded to the bread with a mixture of butter and finely grated cheese. There may have been some mustard in there too…again, I’ll have to snaffle the exact recipe, if such a thing exists, off mum for next year. Ribbon sandwiches were another of the lovely, dainty things she made…..it’s funny, for someone who had a very sweet tooth, all of the best of Nana’s recipes were savoury high tea type delicacies.
On a more mundane level, I remember school holidays sitting in front of the television watching Days of Our Lives eating hard-boiled egg and tomato sauce sandwiches that Nana had made for me. Just in case you were wondering, these were eggs mashed into tomato ketchup on white bread. I kind of shudder at the thought of them now but back in the day….delicious!
Every year in the school holidays Nana would take me into the city and we would have Frog in a Pond at the Coles Cafeteria. I think Frog in a Pond maybe a uniquely Australian dessert so for those of you who have no idea what I am talking about here it is…
I made us some mushroom vol au vents…can you get more retro than a vol au vent? They were light and lovely after the rich food at Christmas. The recipe I used is here although I cheated and used bought shells. One of my goals for this year is to master pastry!!!
In between some house renovations, we had a boozy lunch and some fabulous cocktails with some girlfriends one day. The cocktails were served in jam jars and look almost as good as they tasted!
Ended the day on the couch watching Bond on the telly. The Spy who Loved Me…which has to be the best Bond song ever if not quite the best movie.
We had a very quiet New Year’s Eve as the dogs get frightened by the fireworks and we didn’t want to leave them alone at home. I lit a tea light – in one of these gorgeous candle holders made from vintage doilies – and reflected on the year gone and the one to come. 2012 was a turbulent year for many reasons and in some ways I was glad to see the back of it. I have a feeling 2013 is going to be a fabulous year! I also wish the same for everyone reading this and hope all your hopes and wishes come true.
Last week I mocked some of the food styling in The Hot Weather Cookbook, so in the interest of fair and unbiased reporting I thought it was only fair to show what I think is easily the best photo in the book. Not only that, I was so inspired by the photo I had plans to cook the exact meal as shown for a barbecue dinner we were having.
Why do I love this so much? First, I think it has a clean modern look to it. This would not look out-of-place in a current issue of Bon Appetit or Delicious magazine. Second, I love gingham. One of the reasons is that it evokes memories of summer, picnics by a river in the shade of a tree, the gingham table-cloth spread on the ground absolutely loaded with super tasty picnic food, the sound of birds and crickets chirping lazily in the background, the sun dappling through the leaves…In my mind picnics look like this. Thanks to the lovely Amber Clery from the Vintage Homeblog for her permission to use these gorgeous photos.
In reality, I remember having a picnic with my parents by a river. I went for a swim and got a leech on my leg. The sounds of that picnic weren’t so much the gentle noises of nature or the hushed sounds of silence but hysterical screaming and uncontrollable sobbing. I vastly prefer Amber’s version. If you would like to see more of Amber’s lovely work (and I honestly think you should), you can link to it from here:
Apart from the gingham, the other things I liked in the photo from “The Hot Weather Cookbook” were those amazing looking kebabs and the saffron rice with juicy raisins that they are lying on top of. The legend for the picture told me that were Barbecued Lamb Sosaties accompanied by Carrot Salad and Cucumber Salad. No mention of the rice. I had never heard of a Sosatie before so I flipped to the glossary which told me that Sosaties were a:
“Cape Malay (South African) dish of curried meat, cooked in small pieces on a skewer”
So now, not only do these kebabs look delicious, they sound delicious. I was salivating in anticipation of finding out how to cook these delights because I thought they would reconfirm my position as queen of the barbecue. One of the first things I ever cooked for my family was a “Spicy Feta Burger”. I must have been eight. I didn’t even know what feta was but begged my mum to buy some so I could make these burgers. Some decades later we still make them. People invited to family barbecues demand them. In my family and circle of friends, they are legend. However, all empires fall and it had been quite some time since I had come up with some delectable barbecue goodness. I’ve rested on my feta burger laurels for far too long. The time was ripe to launch a new taste sensation.
In my mind, my spicy feta burgers were already singing that Coldplay song about “that was when I ruled the world”. My Barbecued Lamb Sosaties were running up and down flights of stairs and humming “The Eye of The Tiger.”
We’ll pause there and I’ll tell you about the rice with raisins. Remember how I said they weren’t mentioned in the picture tag? I searched for the recipe in index. Under R there are two entries:
Radish Salad, Cool
I didn’t really know where else I might find the recipe for the rice with raisins (it was not the rice salad recipe listed). So I flicked through the entire book and found the recipe on page 64…well I found something on page 64 called Yellow Rice With Raisins. As it’s not name checked in the photo, I can’t be entirely sure it is the same recipe but given that what is pictured is yellow and it’s rice and it contains raisins I used my best Sherlock Holmesian powers of deduction and decided they were one and the same. I then went back and checked the recipe index. This time, I not only checked under R in case I had missed something in the vast number of recipes beginning with that letter. (I hadn’t.) I then checked Y…just in case. Not there either. I then checked every recipe in the index to see what exactly was listed for page 64. There’s a Barbecue Sauce which is actually on page 64. There is no mention of the Yellow Raisin Rice in the index at all. Grrr….
That annoyed me. It’s slapdash and surely someone in the editing process should have picked it up before the book went to print. Never mind, at least I could make it. After all, I had the recipe, even if it appeared to have been inserted into the book by stealth.
Ok, so the last time we saw the Barbecued Lamb Sosaties, they were fist pumping the air and claiming global victory in the barbecue stakes. I looked up Barbecued Lamb Sosaties in the index.
I started with L…not there.
S…not there either.
I tried B…I may was well not bothered.
I tried a lateral approach and looked under K for kebab and, harking back to the glossary definition, I looked under C (Curry and Cape Malay). I then looked through every other letter. There was no mention to the Barbecued Lamb Sosaties in the index. Double Grrr!
But the rice recipe wasn’t in the index either. No point in getting upset. So, in the spirit of keeping calm and carrying on, I flicked through “The Main Course” section of the book.
I flipped back to the picture. Those kebabs look hearty but I thought that maybe they are meant to be a first course, like satay sticks in an Asian restaurant.
They weren’t in the first course section either.
I then looked through the entire book.
Zippedy doo dah.
I then looked through the entire book again, this time focussing on the page numbers. (This was a second-hand book and, given the awesomeness of the Barbecued Lamb Sosatie, someone may have ripped the page out to keep it for posterity).
Every page was accounted for.
THE RECIPE FOR WHAT LOOKED LIKE THE MOST AWESOME DISH IN THE BOOK….WAS NOT IN THE BOOK.
If that looks like I am yelling, it’s because I am. It’s actually a lot nicer than what came out of my mouth when I initially made this discovery. I probably wouldn’t be allowed to print exactly what I said. It’s more than likely illegal in some countries and frowned upon in most others.
I could give you a recipe for Barbecued Lamb Sosaties. I (eventually) found a number of them on Google. Instead, I was so annoyed with the HotWeather Cookbook, I am going to give you the original recipe for the spicy feta burgers. This recipe is so old now, it comes from a time where they didn’t quite know how to spell spicy. These are awesome and you should all make them immediately. (Sorry it’s a bit crooked, that is literally the way it is stuck to the page in the family recipe compendium).
Just to top off a few days where recipes from the past have really let me down, it is also wrong.
I defy anyone to make 12 burgers out of 50g of minced steak. Unless of course they happen to be pixies. (To anyone not familiar with the metric system, as a point of comparison, I just weighed an egg from my fridge. It came in at 64g. )
I used 500g of mince when I made the burgers this time and made 12 decent sized burgers. I left all other amounts as stated.
This can also be very much treated as a base recipe. For instance, this time round I added some dried chilli flakes and some chopped up coriander. You could use mint or parsley or basil. Pinenuts in the mix are fabulous! You can also use lamb mince instead of steak for another variation in flavour.
Out of sheer spite I also didn’t make the rice or either of the salads from The Hot Weather Cookbook. I made a gorgeous carrot salad inspired by a recipe from Gourmande in the Kitchen. This recipe is amazing…quite possibly the most vibrant delicious taste sensation I have had all year. The orange flower water in the dressing is a stroke of genius! The original recipe required watercress. I tried three local green grocers and was advised that due to the hot weather, we are suffering watercress drought. I used rocket and it was lovely. I will definitely also try it with watercress as soon as I can get my hands on some!
The cumin and the orange flower water actually go very nicely with the lamb and feta to create a lovely Middle Eastern vibe to this meal.
I made a really quick cucumber salad to go with this, just sliced cucumber, a sprinkle of cayenne pepper and chives, and a squeeze of lemon. I had a small bowl of pomegranate molasses as a condiment for the burgers.
Et voila! Here is my Not The Hot Weather Cookbook Middle East Feast!
This will more than likely be my last post before the New Year as I need to focus on cooking and other things related to the season for the next few days.
Best wishes to all for a safe and happy Christmas and a joyous New Year.
Summer has arrived in the Southern Hemisphere. As I write this it is nudging 40° outside. So, as it is too damn hot to do anything else, I thought I would seek some cooking inspiration from the Hot Weather Cookbook. The book promises:
“Cool easy to prepare meals, featuring luscious fruits, crisp salads, refreshing appetisers, barbecues, light desserts and long, icy drinks”
Bring it on. As I sit here sweltering, I could do with some of those, particularly the long icy drinks! The back blurb further advises that the author Kim MacDonald
“fully understands the problems and potentials of summer food preparation”
As she should, given she has written a book about it. I would expect nothing less. However, the blurb significantly does not claim that Ms MacDonald fully understands the problems and potentials of attention to detail or the problems and potential of colour coordination because there are some shockers in here.
It starts off really well with this lovely artwork. This is not only very pretty but it also has a “Where’s Wally” / hidden object game feel to it. I’ve amused myself for a considerable amount of time locating a garlic crusher, a trident style fork, the ever-present pineapple, a cocktail with an olive in it etc. I’m easily amused. Or possibly delirious. Did I mention how hot it is?
Sadly, the pleasure brought on by that picture doesn’t last long – 14 pages to be exact because that’s when this photo appears.
Did no one involved in this think to take those oranges out of their plastic netting? At first I thought that maybe they couldn’t fully understand the problems of how to photograph a round object without it rolling all over the place. However, other pictures in the book demonstrate that some bright spark realised that oranges can be prevented from rolling by being stacked on top of each other:
Or by being placed in a more appropriate receptacle:
I can only conclude that someone from the art department thought that leaving the oranges in their netting was a creative, citrussy version of fish nets hanging from the ceilings in seafood restaurants. It’s not. It just looks like someone left their shopping on the table.
The styling in this book is BONKERS.
I’ll start with one of the milder examples. I don’t understand why anyone thought this table-cloth would look good with this collection of icy drinks. It clashes with everything else on the page, particularly that purple drink. Although, there’s probably not many places where that drink would fit in. Maybe a circus. One where the clowns kill people.
The next one scares me. There is a distinct “beware of what’s lurking in the dark” vibe. That ivy has a very creepy Evil Dead / Day of The Triffids aura, not to mention the menacing looming shadows. I honestly believe that if you tried to help yourself to some of the Banana Rum Mousse that ivy would wrap itself around your wrist and drag you up the wall kicking and screaming before you could even wonder why the mousse is being served in such inappropriate glasses. And, surely, the only reason for the existence of that tablecloth must be that those colours and swirls do a really good job of hiding the bloodstains left behind by the victims of the evil ivy.
The next photo has an equally hideous tablecloth but there is some internal logic to it. Curry is tropical. Batik is tropical. (But then, to paraphrase my man Martin Lampen, so is dengue fever). You can have too much of a good thing. Which could explain why they chose jonquils for the vase instead of a tropical flower. Personally, I would have gone with a frangipani and a less leery table-cloth but I probably don’t fully understand the problems and potential of theming table coverings and floral arrangements. It’s a good thing Ms MacDonald and team do.
I recently listened to a very entertaining and informative podcast on Stuff To Blow Your Mind about Stendahl Syndrome which is a reaction some people have to great works of art. They can faint, become intensely anxious, or even hallucinate – in short they are utterly overcome by the sheer beauty and magnificence of the works around them. If you want to know more about this fascinating disorder, you can link through to that podcast here:
The reason I mention this is because I had a similar reaction, for the absolute opposite reason, with these next two pictures. Similar in that I started to feel dizzy, headachey and slightly nauseous. Opposite because my reactions were in response to sheer unadulterated ugliness. I honestly felt like these pictures were screaming at me. They not only made my eyes hurt, they made my ears hurt!
I haven’t been able to find existing references to an Anti-Stendahl Syndrome. So, I may have just invented a disorder. Fryer’s Syndrome – what happens when people have an intense physical reaction to something really ugly.
I can’t tell you what appalls me most about this picture of gazpacho. The hideous green tablecloth? The sieved egg yolks that look like maggots? The the ice-cube sitting on the egg? I suspect all of the above. I can tell you it inspired an acute attack of Fryer’s Syndrome. It was however, nothing to the bout of Fryer’s syndrome caused by this:
Oh boy, I don’t even know where to start with this one. I don’t think I can. Being rendered entirely gobsmacked in the face of the fugly must be a symptom of Fryer’s Syndrome.
Ok, I’m now going to try to convince my family that having their previously good name associated with people wanting to throw up in the sight of really ugly stuff is actually a good thing.
I was recently strolling around my local purveyor of fine alcoholic beverages (or as we like to call it, our second home) when a retro looking bottle caught my eye. A very glamorous Elke Sommer looking woman is being draped in a fur coat by a man who looks like a 1970’s tennis player or a porn star (possibly both). The label promised “an experience of elegance and lingering pleasure” which only further reinforced the boom chicka wah wah soundtrack that was going through my head. The name: Kellermeister Sable. According to the back of the bottle, Sable is a
“base of ruby tawny into which we have steeped dark German Chocolate, special spices and three year old brandy”
You know those moments when Homer Simpson goes into the donut fugue state? I think I lapsed into something very similar. Standing there mumbling to myself “Ruby Tawny…dark chocolate….special spices….brandy…ruby tawny…..” Ruby Tawny may well become the name of my first-born child. I hope it’s a girl.
The bottle, in all it’s gorgeous retroness did give me pause though. I honestly wasn’t sure if it was meant to be retro chic. Or it just came from South Australia. If anyone from South Australia wants to dispute the implication of this statement I suggest they first go and count the people with mullets walking down Rundle Mall. They can lodge their complaints when they have a number less than ten.
Ok, we may have lost South Australia forever so the rest of us might as well get on with it. Sable is meant to be retro chic and forms part of the Kellermeister Retro Range which includes this and two Moscatos which I am very keen to try. One is called Pink Minx. This may become the name of my second born child. Again, a girl would be good.
The Sable is great on it’s own as a little tipple – rich, silky, porty, chocolatey loveliness in a glass. If I was prone to swooning I would. However, as I do not live in a Jane Austen novel I will remain upright and advise that this is utterly delicious and is likely to become a staple on my drinks trolley for some time to come! This will be my go to product for those days when you just want a little something sweet and lovely after dinner! Or mid afternoon….or…you know…whenever….
The loveliness of the Sable does not stop with drinking though. It is equally good in food.
I’ve now made three recipes with it and they were all gorgeous (even if I do say so myself). If you cannot get Sable, your liqueur of choice can be substituted in all of these.
First up was a Raspberry Meringue Roulade which I adapted from a Bill Granger recipe.
Rolling, Rolling, Rolling
Raspberry Roulade and a glass of Sable – a lovely afternoon tea tipple
I then made a Strawberry and Mango Zagablione where I used the Sable instead of marsala. This tasted divine! The zabaglione was also lovely swirled into some plain yoghurt the following day.
Finally, I used some Sable in my version of the Australian Gourmet Traveller Chocolate and Caramel Tart. I adapted the original recipe as I am not that good with pastry and I used a bought caramel. This is a truly decadent recipe and tastes like heaven! My only word of caution is give yourself plenty of time to make this. I started mid afternoon. I added the final layer at midnight. This takes a LONG time to make as you have to let each layer chill before adding the next one. It is worth it though as this is absolutely delicious!
I love the ombre effect of the four layers!
If you really want to make your own pastry and caramel, the original recipe can be found here: