Sunday, January 31

maîtriser l'art de la cuisine française


Not to be behind the 8-ball or anything, but I finally got around to making a French meal in this post Julie & Julia world. I really love French food and the meal I cooked last night was so simple, used minimal pans (just 3!!!) which I always thinks adds to the excellence of a meal, and so bloody tasty that I wondered why i dont cook French food more often, then I remember just how much butter I really used. About a normal 2 weeks worth. Maybe its a telling sign, the last hoorah on my butter love, maybe Im about to give it up? Nah, prolly not. But this meal was glorious.

If you've never used Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child et.al, then you're probably wondering what all the fuss was about, but the book(s) really is(are) a revelation. She makes the art of French cookery easy and essentially understable; it's more like a conversation and a step-by-step guide through a recipe. The text guides you what to do with the dish if you want to cook it ahead. They leave nothing to chance in your own distorted thinking. If you need it spelt out, this book is for you (and me).

Im usually in the cooking camp of chuck in whatever you've got, improvise and adapt to suit. And it usually works. But last night I decided to follow the recipes to a T ( yes , I basted that damn chicken every 5 minutes, yes I added butter and oil to the basting tray, yes I rubbed salt on the bird in the last 30 and then the last 15). I reckon it made all the difference. The poulet roti was the best I'd ever produced. Dont tell anyone but I added the three lonely swiss browns mushrooms in the fridge to the baking tray along with the requisite onion and carrot and minced spring onion(thats the big brown blob you can see on the chicken).

Then there was the accompanying carrottes glacees (next time I'd put in just a fraction of the sugar - it was a stretch for me to add sugar to a vegetable I must say) and as for boiling fresh carrot in beef stock and butter...yum! The gratin dauphinois; superb, but as I was using up the weekly stocks I used regular tasty cheese, not the swiss style as called for, and I reckon the difference would have been phenomenal. Next time.

I would have made a zucchini dish but the glut I was expecting, well, it wasn't . Damn bees arent doing their job and the five i thought would be ready to go had started to shrivel, so not enough for dinner. Im going to have to go out and hand pollinate again this morning. However, for all you suffering a courgette glut, in the coming week/s Im going to do a series on zucchini ala cuisine française, coz they look sublime. courgettes farcies aux amandes (stuffed with almonds and cheese) , timbale de courgettes (molded custard of zucchin with onions and cheese)...I think I may be on the butter for a few weeks yet, there's a duck in the freezer...

Saturday, January 30

the week in review

I have read somewhere that blogging drops off in the month of january. If thats true then I've got about a day and a bit to get mah mojo back! (or are we in a leap year? or do leap years only relate to Febuary, "30 days have September, April, June and November all the rest..." its Febuary, oh great! leap years relate to Febuary, Ive got 2 days !

Not much happenning at Chez Pan, well actually there's heaps but nothing supremely interesting, well nothing I can make interesting anyway. If you're good you can make watching a sloth interesting...Im not that good.

Lots of Food Connect meetings have gone down- i live and breathe Food Connect these days. We launch in March and if you ever thought that getting a fresh food distribution system up and running was easy...go stick your head in a toilet. Sounds easy really doesnt it? Source farmers, get some customers, take food from farmer to customer, et viola! Nup. Its been a long slow haul for the founders. Consider too that the organic market in adelaide is small and tight and arelatively closed business for many years...

I had a perilous public transport moment that felt emotionally akin to a kinergarten experience of not making it to the toilet and weeing on my seat. My weekly bus trips to and from work had been coming along quite swimmingly (Im averaging a book a week now) until my fruit salad container decided to explode on the trip home. I had accidently left it on my windowsill over night and by hometime the next day the few pieces of pineapple and melon and juices that and been languishing in there had obviously fermented nicely in the sun. I tossed my bag on the seat, the container made a huge bang and the lid flew off and its contents spilled through my sring bag and all over the velvety bus set in a lovely yeasty sodden vomity mess. Note to self. Must get lunch sack. The back of the bus smelt like a small kid in a school yard. I slinked off (should it be 'slunk', never sure)the bus after deciding to leave the bits of fruit on the seat to warn any unsuspecting travellers away from a sodden seat. Was that wrong? Oh the guilt.

I learnt that my new alltime favourite writer of my new alltime favourite books Stieg Larson (Girl with the dragon tattoo) died leaving his partner Eva of 30 years without benefit, coz in Sweden they dont recognise de facto relationships when it come to inheritance(I thought Sweden was progressive?) and his estranged father and brother inherited his fortune (which was realised ony after his death and they even got the house she and stieg lived in for 20 years!!). The saga is a novel in itself and the fourth and fifth unpublished manuscripts following from his 'trilogy' remain so until the legal wrangling ends.

I finished writing up an abstract for a conference presentation. After many revisions between my Prof and I, it now looks absoloutely nothing like the piece nor story I started with and should provide the foundation for an absoloutely riveting 10 minute talk in Barcelona. Yes folks, all that way for 10 minutes work! Catalanian cuisine, tapas, champagne and mojito's are drawing me forth. I promise to offset double, OK? (heck, I shouldnt have told you!) Whaddaya do? forfeit your career? Probably the greenest thing to do. Someone else will just step in and fill my place...its a dilemma....

The boybean has been picking any tomato that has a hint of red so we have been a little bereft of tomaotoes around here, thank god for green zebras! haha! and thank god he's not interested in zucchini plant wrangling as I am planning on a zucchini themed weekend. Stay tuned for exciting marrow creations and pics.

Friday, January 29

Wednesday, January 27

onion post

Im not really a fan of The Onion- too much satire not enough politics. but this piece caught my fancy- enough tongue in cheek and real politik to make me happy.

'How Bad For The Environment Can Throwing Away One Plastic Bottle Be?' 30 Million People Wonder

WASHINGTON—Wishing to dispose of the empty plastic container, and failing to spot a recycling bin nearby, an estimated 30 million Americans asked themselves Monday how bad throwing away a single bottle of water could really be.

"It's fine, it's fine," thought Maine native Sheila Hodge, echoing the exact sentiments of Chicago-area resident Phillip Ragowski, recent Florida transplant Margaret Lowery, and Kansas City business owner Brian McMillan, as they tossed the polyethylene terephthalate object into an awaiting trash can. "It's just one bottle. And I'm usually pretty good about this sort of thing."
"Not a big deal," continued roughly one-tenth of the nation's population.

According to the inner monologue of millions upon millions of citizens, while not necessarily ideal, throwing away one empty bottle probably wouldn't make that much of a difference, and could even be forgiven, considering how long they had been carrying it around with them, the time that could be saved by just tossing it out right here, and the fact that they had bicycled to work once last July.
In addition, pretty much the entire states of Missouri and New Mexico calmly reassured themselves Monday that they definitely knew better than to do something like this, but admitted that hey, nobody is perfect, and at least they weren't still using those horrible aerosol cans, or just throwing garbage directly on the ground.
All agreed that disposing of what would eventually amount to 50 tons of thermoplastic polymer resin wasn't the end of the world.

"It's not like I don't care, because I do, and most of the time I don't even buy bottled water," thought Missouri school teacher Heather Delamere, the 450,000th caring and progressive individual to have done so that morning, and the 850,000th to have purchased the environmentally damaging vessel due to being thirsty, in a huge rush, and away from home. "It's really not worth beating myself up over."
"What's one little bottle in the grand scheme of things, you know?" added each and every single one of them.

Monday's plastic-bottle-related dilemma wasn't the only environmental quandary facing millions of citizens across the country. An estimated 20 million men and women wondered how wasteful leaving a single lightbulb on all night really was, while more than 40 million Americans asked themselves if anyone would actually notice if they just turned up the heat a few degrees instead of walking all the way downstairs and getting another blanket.

Likewise, had they not been so tired, and busy, and stressed, citizens making up the equivalent of three major metropolitan areas told reporters that they probably wouldn't have driven their minivans down to the corner store.
"Relax," thousands upon thousands of Americans quietly whispered to themselves as they tossed two articles of clothing into an empty washing machine and turned it on. "What are you so worried about?"

Tuesday, January 26

unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot...


We intended to go to the final race stage of the Tour Down Under on Sunday. We won tickets for the family to attend in the corporate box but when the time came, i said I'd rather take the kid for his first trip to the zoo. Men in tights, albeit on enviro-tools, whizzing past for a second and a small bean to chase around in a very adult environment..pass. Totally in my style we missed the pandas (you have to be one of those book ahead, uber organised families (read mothers) which Im not usually, unless we're travelling...sorry kids -if you're not from around here, you need to know the whole State has gone freakin' panda crazy, drives me nuts!) i clapped eyes for the very first time on the zoos chameleon, which just blew me away! my new alltime favourite (well, maybe the meercats still win), best- est ever with the oogliest eyes and most fabulous skills ever, animal!.

I loved the new envirodome they have there, its small; Adelaide style, but awesome... when you walk in the door you're faced with a quote from The Lorax by Dr Seuss, which got me in a good mood straight away. I knew it would be intelligent fun from there-on in.

seating... made from cardboard boxes


small, fascinating creatures...
a plaque in the loo was right up my alley...

My kind of public toilet message!

the magnetic storyboard plates were a fun way to construct a day...good choices and bad both rated on a happiness, wealth and environmental meter...B2 enjoyed being a total enviro-pig!

and the bean doing lots of learning...
and the coolest bit of the day!...the Aldabra tortoise which is like 100 years old and i have never seen move, actually only ever seen in the same spot looking like another boulder, was doin' his stuff with Ms Galapagos and makin' a whole lotta feral tortoise noise. Go George!(oops, he's called Tati!)

Sunday, January 24

tallow, oh my! what have i done?


*spoiler alert *warning* gross pics to follow
Seriously, I had an excess of fat, lots of beef fat. Ick. It makes me realise why I usually hate cooking meat. All that grease. Our carbon footprint at Chez Pan has been getting a bit more of a meat driven workout; the meat we have just started to buy is high quality and incredibly cost effective and can keep in the freezer for ages if vacuum packed. Our stsh has been eaten at a rather rapid rate - it must be all that meat deprivation thats been going on for quite a while in this normally vego household! It has to stop soon. She says drooling at the memory of a parmigiana.

Anyway, after another delivery of a fabulous beef rump by the Gnomes, I trimmed and portioned into into various cuts leaving me with a great pile of beef fat. Last time I did this the Gnomes were here and took the fat home for their chooks. This time no Gnomes. What to do with all that fat?

Compost it? nup

Feed it to the cat? nup

Bin it? ugh nup

So I bit the bullet and made some tallow. I just couldnt toss it. Tallow! Yikes. So I chopped it into small pieces, put it into a pan, covered with water and boiled it for about 30 minutes. Gross. Needin a shower right about now.Boiled meat stinks, the worst smell in the world I reckon and our kitchen fan is busted too! Double ick. I scooped out all the chunky, browned bits then i forgot to strain it and left it in the fridge to set hard.
When set, I cut the hard disk of fat in half and removed it from the pan. Underneath the layer of set tallow was a clear gelatinious layer and underneath that a layer or purplish sludge. dont ask! I washed the tallow under running water, rubbing off gently the jelly and the tiny fat balls and impurities that were on the undersides of the pieces.
I will probably ues it for some soap, beef tallow makes lovely big bubbled soap or some candles. What do you think? What to do with the leftover, very unappetising gristly,fatty meaty bits? Ive put them in the freezer to whizz up with bird seed to keep the native finches with a supply of fat which they find tricky to source mid-winter. Not my most favourite way to spend an afternoon but hey, that cow and its bits need some respecting right?

Friday, January 22

Haiku Friday


morning creation
holidays stretched out ahead
plastic perfection

Thursday, January 21

Haiti brought home

Ive deliberated whether or not to blog about last night. Swung too and fro- i dont like to make a personal tradgedy into fodder, just something else to blog about. But I decided in the end that I would write about it, it happenned, it affected me, it may help in some way to touch one of you and lead you to make a difference somewhere, in some small way.

Last night at book club we learnt that one of our members, an old firend of mine, had been touched by the tradgedy in Haiti. My friend is from NZ and her old friend and bridesmaid, also a New Zealander had been living in Haiti with her Haitian/french husband and her three small girls. She was at work when the quake struck and raced back to her home to find it collapsed to rubble and her three children and husband missing. She dug through the rubble herself and found her husband and one child dead and miraculously and thankfully her baby still alive, protected from the falling rooms by the bath and her father. Sadly her other child is still missing. The grief of this woman i cannot imagine. Having rescued oned and recovered just two family members she has vowed to stay until she finds her missing daughter.

So last night my friend brought to bookclub a birthday cake, iced in purple and decorated with the name Zanzie in silver sparkly cachous and the number 4 in jelly beans, as it was little Zanzies wish to have a purple cake on her 4th birthday which would have been on Monday gone. As this woman has lost everything in the earthquake, except her youngest daughter, she has asked my friend to send photos of last night to her in rememberance of her little girl.

Red Cross
Avaaz
Médecins Sans Frontières
Haiti Earthquake Sanson-Rejouis Family Fund

Tuesday, January 19

loving earth on toast


I don't buy many processed foods and if I do its certainly not on a regular occasion. Canned/bottled/wrapped goods tends to be 'unmake-able' sauces/condiments like mushroom sauce/oyster sauce (the organic stuff! not the chemical goop from China) , canned coconut milk and tomatoes and beans, cellophane/glass noodles and sometimes tofu. Processed breakfast food is something not found here at Chez Pan. Its bulk muesli or porridge for cereal, smoothies or fruit salad. Alternatively a lazy breakfast is sourdough toast with local honey, fresh pressed cashew or peanut butter, local or home-made jam/marmalade, weekends can be tomato and basil or eggs with my home made chorizo sausage. The only processed spread we buy is Promite (like Vegemite but not as salty); full of sugar and salt and un-guaranteed GE free, but an addiction which goes with my butter. I keep meaning to buy some Aussie Mite ( made here in the Adelaide Hills!) but I suspect its made for the Vegemite lovers, and I loathe Vegemite so I haven't got around to buying a jar as no-one else here likes it either.

So I got sucked in by the packaging of the raw chocolate coconut butter! Earthy and wholesome. I was in the mood for splurging and I had a houseful of kids sleeping over and wanted to try a kid friendly but 'not all the way from Canada' alternative to maple syrup. It's a bit like eating a chocolate crackle with your toast - disconcerting but not too awful. Raw cocoa, fairly traded, single origin, sweetened with agave and certified organic. Its a product of Oz (Vic) but probably not Australian sourced raw ingredients. Fat content 4.0/100g and sugar 2.0/100g so pretty reasonable. Buying fruit and veg and nuts and cheese is as exciting as our weekly shop tends to be, this added a moment of sweetness.

Sunday, January 17

a white stick for the blind

What with returning to work two weeks ago, meetings galore for everyone and a new year performance for B2 with productions every day this week and sometimes two, the creative juices haven't been flowing around Chez Pan. Basic gardening has been done in accordance with the extreme heat; lots of watering the fruit and veg, Ive read three books in a week and a half and have been cooking per usual, but nothing special, nothing really to get excited about, besides 'the date' the bloke and I had where we trundled off to go see Avatar and share a pizza when all the kids went swimming at their grandmas. Yawn. Thrilling huh?

The only bit of real drama around here has been the revelation that the ex- and his ex-(?!) are now readers of Taurus Rising. An interesting turn of events to say the least. What would you do? Make your blog private? Keep going without censorship but just be a little more restrained? Business as usual? Ive reviewed what I have written since I started this blog (about separation and divorce and blended family issues and his particular issues) and think that I have been quite fair and considered in my criticisms of situations so feel quite OK with him having read my thoughts. Really, I mean what a score for an angry 'not-yet-over-it' bloke.. a blog! just imagine? Hehe.

Ive decided to use the situation as it stands at the moment as a chance to list my top 5 parenting tips for separated parents in order of importance.

1. Don't bitch about the other parent to the children. It might make you feel better for offloading in the short term but you damage your own relationship with the child, its doesn't make them hate your ex (their mum/dad) it makes them disrespect and distrust you.

2. Leave your adult problems and issues as just that. Adult issues. Children get stressed when significant adults in their life pass on their worries. A problem shared in this situation is actually a problem doubled for the child. Let children be children and talk to another adult about your problems.

3. When your maturing child starts to develop opinions about life, the universe and everything which are confronting to you, don't tell them that it sounds like the 'other' parent talking. Young adults can think for themselves and find it disrespectful and painful that you cant love them for who they are despite differences in opinion.

4. Don't keep making reference to 'how much you look like your mother/father' when all that child hears is how awful that mother/father is. They put two and two together and conclude that therefore you don't like how they look. Just tell them they're looking lovely.

5. Trust, respect and love are earnt, they are not automatic. Relationships need to be built and maintained. If you don't live near your children you have to work extra hard at maintaining the relationship and use every opportunity you can to keep the relationship. You are the parent - it's your responsibility. Listening to your children and hearing what they say is an essential part of maintaining that bond. The small things are the important things and if in the course of your snuffling you come across a blog written by your ex - dont use the stuff you find as an excuse to bitch yet again to your child. They do not like it.

What have i missed?

Now back to business as usual here at Taurus Rising.

Friday, January 15

knock knock

who's there?

An ex husband who apparently had to move to QLD to get away from me but just cant resist searching for me on the internet. Go figure?

Im now saved to file://C:/Users/Vivi/Desktop/taurus rising.htm

He's had a good root around and spent hours visiting Chez Pan courtesy of Taurus Rising yesterday. Pity he had to traumatise B1 last night with a demanding phone call which reduced her to tears and great distress coz her mum blogs and he couldn't handle what he'd been reading.

The fun never stops!

Wednesday, January 13

life is a whiteboard*

As a consequence of our very un-SLOW living, we now have a white board in the kitchen. It details for all 'n' sundry, who's doing what, when. No arguments "its on the whiteboard!" has been used to stop a brewing one in its tracks. FAST. One surreptitious glance will prove the point. We're juggling set building and painting for the local theatre production which starts this week, FoodConnect meetings to meet the March 4 launch date, sports club responsibilities, Murrundi Pangari Ringbalin Coroboree planning- (exciting, huge connective Ngarrindjeri-Murray river RiverCountry Spirit Ceremony - will post more about this later) meetings, Greens Meetings and election meetings. The kids are not getting much of a look in these school holidays.I m not sure if I hope Si does get into parliment in March...

*title intended to be sung in tune with 'life is a highway'

Tuesday, January 12

tortillas


We have been living through another heatwave and facing catastrophic fires conditions; Code Red for 3/4 of the state yesterday. Just crazy; my brother is snowed-in in London and friends on holiday in Hamburg have been experiencing record snow and lows!
Too hot to cook? Bring on the burrito. The only cooking required is a few minutes on a hot pan per tortilla and some pan cooked meat if you want it.

Perfect vego food. Raw and healthy. Its B2s favourite dinner. Grated carrot and cheese, strips of red capsucum, cucumber, diced tomatoes and lettuce. Easy garden fare. Topped off with yoghurt guacamole spruced up with loads of chopped coriander, spring onions and chilli and if you like, some free range spicy chicken pieces.

If you're using store bought tortilla breads, then you have to give these a go. The day i tried my own tortilla bread i was a convert to the extra half hour investment. You won't believe the difference; flaky but feather soft and much more filling than store bought breads.I gave up the store bought breads for a few reasons mainly due to the plastic packaging and the distance traveled to get here and then there's the preservatives and basically, lack of quality product. Hmmm, tortilla for breakfast sounds goooood.

Tortilla
:
3 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
11/2 tsp baking powder
7 tablespoons oil
1 cup hot water.

Mix for 3 min.
Rest for 10 min
Dry fry on a very hot skillet turning four times

Makes 8

Friday, January 8

Haiku Friday


sometimes it's tricky;
hanging on for dear life, or
gracefully growing?

Wednesday, January 6

tomato tee pees


I've taken a new tack with the tomatoes this year. Tomato tee pees.
They seem to be working well so far. I decided to do it this way for a few reasons. One is that we have a few bamboo groves around the garden so we use bamboo for most of our vegetable trellising, fencing and other basic structural needs and unlike regular tomato stakes, they are slippery and smooth and don't take to normal methods for tomato staking and supporting, the other is that I don't have to sacrifice perfectly good stockings at that time of the year when I'm least like to care. This year i planted more tomato plants than we have tomato stakes so a new method of providing structural support was required. Ive got tomatoes everywhere; in pots and in the ground.

As tomatoes apparently love to be free, hang loose and don't really appreciate trying to be fully productive under restrained circumstances (being adhered to a stake) I tried a tomato tee pee method this year. This tee pee approach allows for movement of the plant in a breeze and apparently encourages growth and development due to some molecular/biological function in the stems that I quite frankly cant be bothered looking up and explaining. As I also hate having to tie up tomato plants periodically during growing season, this method looked very attractive as it requires just one major time investment.

A tee pee of bamboo is erected over each plant and secured at the top with twine or wire. A piece of twine is then tied to the base part of the major tomato stem and then tied to the top of the tee pee. The new growth at the top of the plant is then 'twirled' around the twine as it gains height, which takes about 2 seconds a plant to swing around the twine. Soooo easy to do and it allows for that movement. No gagged and bound tomatoes at Chez Pan this year.

Sunday, January 3

new year brunch


'brunch' (its the burbs!) is possibly my most favourite time for having people around for a meal. I'm well rested (usually) therefore relatively stress free and ready for what the day brings. Surprising then that i don't do it very often!? New Years brings a flurry of activity and today we had a lovely meal with friends who were all en route home to far away places and wouldn't be seen again for quite some time. we ate, chatted, sunned ourselves, and the bean showed everyone around his favourite place: the vege garden (always something edible to be gleaned at a visit)

Brunch for 12 required 2 hours of prep (pretty good in my book). On the menu was local wood-fired sourdough toast with Gnomes scrambled eggs ala Maggie Beer (secret ingredients of orange zest, local cream and local BD butter and strictly! stirred only with a wooden spoon) local BD bacon, oven baked to extra crispiness ( never ever do bacon in a pan if you like quick and crispy bacon), pan fried mushrooms with garlic, crispy wholemeal waffles with maple and homemade baked ricotta with a tomato balsamic glaze.
Thanks to the wonders of modern online social networking sites, I unearthed a friend with a this recipe which Id made 10 years ago and loved but the ex took all the good cookbooks and this recipe was in one of them. I put the call out and viola, recipe sourced. Its a ripper.

Individual Herbed Lemon Ricotta

500g Ricotta
Dressing:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic – crushed
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
½ cup olive oil
150g semi dried tomatoes, roughly chopped
4 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Crusty bread to serve

Lightly grease and line four ½ cup ramekins with plastic wrap.
Divide the ricotta between the moulds and press down firmly
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours
Preheat oven to 220°C.
Unmould ricottas onto a tray lined with baking paper and bake for 20 minutes or until golden
To make the dressing – combine all the ingredients in a bowl.
Place each baked ricotta into a shallow bowl and pour a little of the dressing over each one.
Serve immediately with crusty fresh bread.

I didn't bother making them individual nor turning onto baking paper, nor wrapping in plastic stuff, nor serving IMMEDIATELY, I just baked a whole-lotta ricotta in a round pyrex dish and periodically poured out excess liquid, for a lovely big wheel, slopped tomato dressing on top and on side. I used freshly oven baked/dried tomatoes instead of semi-dried ones and per usual didn't really measure anything! just tossed stuff in a bowl. Hence the rather large olive oil pool...

Friday, January 1

Haiku Friday


new camera, small kid.
a perfect match. shutter falls,
again and again.

Aims for 2010

I'm not a NYE resolution maker, but here's a lost of my goals for 2010. Blogging is such a good way to ensure a modicum of accountability for myself, putting it all out there lets me a) remember them! b)review them and c)cross them off when done!

1. get back to a regular exercise routine (at least 3 times a week of a dedicated hour)
2. give up my butter addiction
3. graduate
4. take the bean to a local kinder gym/playgroup
5. do more then two successive sowings in the garden for a more continuous supply of veges!
6. have a 'WoW' of a 40th birthday party
7. green my workplace a little more
8. make lots more champagne!
9. read more books
10. work harder at reducing household plastic waste

Whats topping your list for 2010?