Sunday, February 28

catching up

Maybe that post heading should be 'trying to keep up"? Very absent blogging here at Chez Pan, not even a Haiku to be had. Things are starting to resemble a post apoclyptic world. Good thing i have the girls well trained. Somehow I need to reconcile my astonishment at just what can happen to ones house and environs when neglected by two adults (and used by four and a toddler adept at untidying a room in one minute flat) for a few weeks with my shock at what actually needs doing once Ive stopped and smelt the laundry. I havent even unpacked from my trip away. My travel bag is open and still on the floor, its guts strewn about and im living out of it! At home! I figure once Ive worked my way through it, it will have been 'organically' unpacked. I think I left one Birkenstock behind but i feel weird ringing the Hilton and asking for an ancient and quite feral Birkie and 'would they please send it back'? Its on THE LIST. I packed on the bed coz it was table height(I kid you not!) and I think it got swallowed in the uber super topped downy cloud. Im now at the stage where I think the Bloke getting a seat in Parliment might be a great idea - Im fantasising about some home help!

Let me tell you how things are around here; for a foodie, a dinner paints a thousand stories. No pasta left, no vege left, no fruit left, no eggs left. Last nights dinner consisted of microwaved jasmine rice with a can of 'emergency' chilli tuna (in olive oil- some standards still apply) stirred through. To which I added the LAST vegetable- an old shrivelling corn cob with the mouldy end sliced off, a fridge stashed quarter red onion rescued from sure death, and a small hard knob of cheddar which I only found when i stood on tiptoes to re-check the cheese bit in the fridge and a handfull of cherry tomatoes (its a fruit). We would have had some fresh zucchini if we'd been watering the garden on a regular basis. In hindsight some basil and parsley from the garden would have been a good idea but between still suffering the gastro I'd bolted home from work with on Friday and the Bloke heading out 'in half an hour' to 'Recycleball', B2 to get to a party and B1 having just broken up with her 'boyfiend' , I just wasnt a thinking epicurean.

THE LIST - must be done today. Heading up in order of importance are:
1. water garden.
2. do laundry
3. GET SOME FOOD
4. 100 other jobs relating to the 'professional' website Im in charge of building and managing and the 400 subscribers Im communicating with so I can actually link the payment gateway that we need operational next week and have everyone onboard, ready for launch in a few weeks time. Food Connect Adelaide is really going off! Weve been averaging two 4-hour meetings per week to get it ready for launch.

Thens there's pics on the camera that need downloading, need to check if the cats actually gone missing, move the potted tomatoes to a possum challenging space, change the sheets (!), a thesis to think about, dusting (probably more akin to washing by now), garden pruning (the lovely Japanese style garden we had is now an experiment in Mediterranean style peremaculture principles), personal pruning (the downside to short hair is it ends up like a thatch if not tended regularly- looking a bit Sharon right about now- sorry if I have any readers called Sharon) and some nail tending might be professionally appropriate before meetings next week; half chewed and chipped and full of dirt can be offputting. Need to cut.

5. Maybe some kid time might be nice too. I say lets go out for brunch!
6. Birkenstock retrieval

(p.s) many apologies for not keeping on top of comments! My standards are really slipping. i love youse all)

Do you get the feeling things are slightly coming apart at the seams? *high pitched slightly hysterical laughter* accompanies

Wednesday, February 24

inglorious basteurds


the possums that is. Little buggers...that's putting it nicely. I had been eagerly awaiting the full ripening of these monsters; the rouge de marmande, as the season has been late late late for us here in the Hills and we have been living off lots of small cherry varieties. These are suppose to be early goers! bah! I woke up this morning to this. They are hanging at just the right height for possums and are just beginning to soften, sweeten and hue. I'm right royally peeved.

Sunday, February 21

green reconciliation


My Greenliness has been challenged yet again. Maybe its dying some kind of death? Im challenged. I made a trip. No real need besides the one I chose to justify; just pure R&R. Girlfriends from various States meeting up for a weekend of togetherness; our annual girly Melbourne weekend. Kids and partners left behind. Massages and cocktals, highbrow dinner and bloated boardwalk walking. Pillows, pyjamas, movies and pizza and whisky and wine and yes... some shopping to be had.

652 kilometres- jet fuelled
New clothes from fancy shops, well fancier than usual...
No bottled water, all dishes got washed...
Our hotel loungeroom view - sinful on all levels! Lit up like a Christmas tree, burning tonnes of fossil fuel, but god it looked fantastic. We all spent time alone with it. Something about a city at night...
Jeez it was good!

Monday, February 15

a *#ducking revelation

Thank you Nigella! Domestic Goddess of Easy Streets entertaining. Having removed the last spare duck from its frozen home on Thursday to defrost in the fridge (i needed the space) with a grand plan of cooking it for Saturday nights' post-conference dinner. Home at 3pm with the bean, 7 people due at half six, gear to unload and chaos to clear I was left with no choice but to commit to the damn thing.! fuck fuck fuck! With tales of hairdryers and half cooked ducks, hours of roasting, dried out flesh and burnt skin shadowing my memory bank, I wasnt feeling very confident. In a manner quite unlike me, I really hadnt prepared what we were going to eat, I just knew it was 'had to involve a duck. I had vegos and allergies to cater to and wasnt sure of the full extent of allergies until the day so I figured Id just have to wing it as best as I could without killing the guests. Besides, I had no other main!

So, at half four, duck in front of me and no time to re-commit or dither nor do anything fancy (ie: involving any preparation- i didnt even remove the neck! eek!) and with a kid meal and bath to fit in somewhere and allergies of the soy, lactose and wheat variety (no pasta, no asian, no cheese), i was definitely going to have to let the basics of the meal speak for themselves. I pulled her off the shelf. Nigella. Domestic Goddess of the need-to-channel-a-bit-of-that-right-now, kind. I resolved that unless it involved a mars bar, some marshmallows and a bottle of Coke, whatever I found in there, I was doing exactly what she told me. She told me to boil the duck in a big bath of water. So I did. She told me to remove it after a while and to feel free to leave it hanging around cold until forty minutes before dinner. So I did. She told me to roast the bird for half an hour in very high heat. So I did. It was freakin excellent! Crispy and moist and completely unadorned, besides salt n pepper, it was delicious. New motto - No duck too big or too small! Boil n bake.

True to style at some point of the routine however, the next day I did add some carrot, celery and onion to the duck bath, reintroduced the refridgerated carcass and uneaten bum n neck, bay and seasonings, boiled the bathwater down further, strained and fridge set. et viola. Rendered duck fat and 4 litres of stock.

Sunday, February 14

teach every child about food



I have been meaning to post this excellent lecture for a while. I love Jamies passion; pacing like a caged animal, full of feeling about the terrible state of disconnect humans have with their environment, ie: with the food that feeds us. A discord. A lie. A sleight of hand most humans have been dealt. Bad food. Poor quality food. Poor food education and instruction in home economics. After a full weekend at the Plains to Plate Food Convergence; the Future of Food in South Australia (what a great conference!) packed with discussion about food security issues, housing issues, system issues, foraging, gardening, community (most of you blog readers would have LOVED it!) and inspiring people, Ive come home very bouncy! So, to echo the passion, here's Jamie. Winner of the TED. If you've never seen a TED lecture, bookmark TED.com, brilliant contemporary stuff from some of the world best thinkers. Grab a cuppa and get inspired!

Tuesday, February 9

10 things i really hate about being green- the food edition

{insert sad face picture here}

I had salad for dinner and um, I cant even recall lunch, so I admit to feeling quite hungry. I was fantasising about some delectables to eat and started dreaming of food and realised that most of the things I was salivating about are óff the list'. Contraband, not even just plain banned. Sheesh. Sometimes it sucks, especially when you see everyone else just blithely consuming, discounting, figuring that they only eat a little bit so it really doesnt count (i do realise that I am assuming that people are not doing it as a one-off, an educated moment, an exceptional event and am myself blithely assuming that people are generally doing the norm'' when they're out there consuming) So here's my top 10 , fuck I miss them, ethicurean-ism sucks list to compliment my previous 10 things list.

1. Prawns. Garlic prawns, Thai curry prawns, BBQ prawns, marinated prawns, Indian curry prawns, King prawns...any prawns'! Major over farmed problems with prawns.

2. Lobster. Lobster thermidore, lobster with homemade lime mayonaise, American lobster ala Julia Child...any lobster!. Ditto the prawn problem.

3. French cheeses. Sloppy stinky brie, teensy weesy hand rolled ashed cheesies, Boursin. Major bourjeoise food mile issues when we have plentygood local cheese, just not quite...

4. Çanned tomatoes. Any idea how hard it is to find a can of tomatoes that is made from local ingredients. Have a LOOK next time.

5. San Pellegrino- expensive and rather bad for you carbonated sugared drink all the way from Italy- i love the blood orange fizzy stuff. Sigh

6. Salmon... Its densely farmed...full of shit...loads of antibiotics, really, you wouldn't/shouldn't want to touch it with a bargepole... but god its good.

7. Lindt chocolate balls. No fair trade.

8. Coopers Pale Ale. GM yeast! Did ya know that??

9. Tuna. Sashimi, sushi, pasta, with salad, so easy. You KNOW its over farmed right?

10. Tommy Ruffs- bottom of the fish food chain and acceptable re. sustainability but so BLOODY expensive!

There ya have it. The food whinge at Chez Pan. You?

Monday, February 8

tree faeries


This is my most favourite flowering tree. Eucalyptus ficifolia. A Western Austalian flowering gum. Its a romantic soft, drooping stunner> It's no wonder to me that May Gibbs made up fairy tales about banksia men and gumnut babies. We have this salmon flowering one in the garden; a lovely old, knobbled, bent, gnarley thing it is with huge clusters of drooping pods. There are so many colour variations. My favourite is the salmon orange that is just a little deeper in colour than ours and the screaming hot magenta. I have driven past many in flower but only today had my camera, but sadly en route only captured one, this gorgeous deep red. Like summer fruits, i savour these in season.

Saturday, February 6

being irregular

Irregular not of body, just habit. My blogging brain has been replaced with a hectic schedule. The Bloke is caught deep within the green bowels of his election campaign and subsequently 'aren't we all'?. I'm juggling my work with his schedules, meeting crossovers, the kids look after themselves and the studio, once a spot for creative pursuits is home for an average of four meetings per week and is election campaign headquarters for the Greens up here in the hills. We've transported thousands of cups and glasses up there but still lug the kettle. Must get kettle.

The reason for my absence is just too bloody much going on.Its all good but like Tricia, the gardens getting a bit of a thrashing, damn cabbage moths and ,well so is the house, home beautiful's not coming round here this week that's for sure. In between meetings and work I have actually managed to get to the park a few times this week and surprised myself how protective Ive been with the bean- gentle soul he is and jeez- there's some nasty little buggers out there aren't there? Mother bear has come out to play at the park a few times this week. I gave the little shits the most evil eyes I could and they just glared right back. Yikes. Boys are whole new revelation.

The house is full of inter-state anti-GE dudes at the moment, all in Adelaide for the GE conference on this weekend. Western Australia has just caved in to Monsanto, South Australia is the last mainland state to remain GE free. We're surrounded. Word is that both the Liberal and Labour governments are committed to keeping the anti_GE moratorium for now. So lots of great dinner table conversations and networking has been going on at Chez Pan. Just havent had time to talk about it. So really, 'scuse my irregularity until the election is over. March 10. Vote Greens!

Thursday, February 4

Zucchini . Day 3


Love in a dish. This was heavenly, if not crazy! I decided to cook a French meal when i got hone from work last night?! Sauteed diced potatoes (with no duck fat, boo!), sauteed beef, baked ricotta and this! I have finally found a way to get B2 to love zucchini! This zucchini loathing vego will gobble the green stuff up if its grated. Makes all the difference and I have to say, I know what she means.
This zucchini posting is turning in to a little bit of my own year of french cooking ala Julie & Julia. This is Julias' Courgettes au Gratin recipe from Volume 2. Its really really good. I could have eaten the whole dish on my own. Seriously, having too many zucchinis may not be enough.

Zucchini
1 1/2 pounds zucchini
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon shallot, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil or butter

Velouté Sauce
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 cups liquid (zucchini juices plus milk)
Salt
freshly ground white pepper
pinch nutmeg.

Cooking Directions
Zucchini

Grate the zucchini and toss in a colander with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt.

Let steep 20 minutes. By handfuls, twist in the corner of a towel to extract juices.

Saute; 1 tablespoon minced shallot briefly in a large frying pan with 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter, then add the zucchini and toss over high heat for two minutes or so, just until tender. 4. Save the squeezed-out zucchini juices.

Sauce

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan, blend in the flour with a wooden spoon, and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until butter and flour foam together for 2 minutes without turning more than a buttery yellow color. Remove from heat, and when bubbling stops, vigorously whisk in all the hot milk and zucchini juice at once. Bring to a boil whisking. Simmer, stirring for two minutes season to taste.

Fold the zucchini into the sauce, spread in a buttered baking dish, and sprinkle over 1/4 cup grated Swiss cheese.

Bake in upper-third level of a 400 degree F. oven until bubbling and browned, about 20 minutes

I hand squeezed the zucchini and it may not have been enough. I was trying to cut corners and not use a towel ( why Im not sure??) but consequently, it was quite a runny gratin but bloody good. This one gets an A+++

Wednesday, February 3

the struggle to grow up

Watching your children struggle with learning how to navigate and integrate lifes' lessons is particularly heart wrenching. The words that tunmble out of my mouth at times seem clumsy and ineffective and being an adult, trying to explain or synthesis succintly into small consumable chunks, all of lifes' contradictions, unknowns and exponential possibilities confuses me and is daunting at times, especially with a weeping child to hand.

B1s issues of coming to terms with the reality of who her Dad is and not who she thought he was and wanted him to be really rip at the seams of my heart. Its agony watching her dreams crumble and her reality being forced to shift to account for the father she now experiences. For her, the stripping bare of the father figure; his limitations and inadequacies exposed, his apparent lack of ability to understand and empathsise and his inability to change behaviour that hurts her is making her grow up in a hurry.

Knowing I can do nothing really sucks. Talking, writing, engaging him is impossible. He lacks basic comprehension and empathy and is unable to change. He cannot commit, cannot make good on promises, cannot even remember what words he has said. His borderline personality disorder, which leaves him only half a person, one I was able to finally leave behind and make sense of, is now his oldest daughters turn to navigate.

Im just glad that I really understand , really know, the things about his behaviour and attitude she says hurt, frustrate and confuse her. He was my teacher about this disorder, now I am hers. Hopefully she can come through this next life phase with only a small wound. I have no doubt that he will blame me for her 'disillusionment', her perceptions and her experiences. I will be seen as the parent who is alienating his children from him; he is apparently completely unaware that his behaviour towards them and his conversations with them have real consequences. They are no longer little kids who can be manipulated and bought off with a piece of cake nor can their opinions be disregarded.

Tuesday, February 2

Chocolate and zucchini cake


For a change from the savoury use of zucchini, here's how i used up two a few days ago. Hide a few in some cake for a really moist eating experience! B1 & B2 were disappointed that they couldnt taste the zucchini (go figure)so if you like your cakes with veg then add some more. It was rich. It looks a little like the whoopie cakes from my university days, but dont let that put you off!

So if you have an extra zucchini or two hanging around (don’t we all?), this is a wonderfully subversive use for it!

INGREDIENTS

100g ounces good-quality organic, fair-trade dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup GE free canola oil
1 1/4 cups sifted all-purpose unbleached organic flour
1/4 cup unsweetened fair-trade cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup organic butter, softened
3/4 cup organic sugar, or less, according to taste
2 eggs
1 teaspoon fair-trade organic pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup organic buttermilk
1 1/2 cups grated organic zucchini or squash

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Grease a 9-inch cake pan and dust with some unsweetened cocoa powder.

2. Melt the chocolate along with the oil in a double boiler or in a saucepan over low heat, taking care not to scorch.

3. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into a medium mixing bowl.

4. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture and buttermilk, beating until combined, then fold in the chocolate and oil mixture, and the zucchini.

5. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan for about 10 minutes on a wire rack, then invert it on the rack, remove the pan, and cool completely.

We ate it served plain, but i think some whipped cream and berries with it would be bewdiful!.

Thats 4 zucchini in 2 days! only what, 12 weeks of the season to go?

Monday, February 1

Smoosh pasta


This is one of my most favourite, yet super simple pasta sauces and it uses up quite a few of those veges that can languish in the fridge. The key ingredients are garlic, eggplant (aubergine) and ZUCCHINI! The thing with this pasta is its transformation from some pretty basic ingredients into a really deep, flavoursome smoosh that coats the pasta. Proportions are up to you and what's left in the fridge or ripening in the garden.

SmoosH pasta (serves 4)

1 eggplant(aubergine)
2 zucchini
1 large carrot
4 cloves garlic
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil ( a fair slug)

I added a leek to last nights sauce coz I had one that needed using. This dish is also particularly good with bacon added early but we cant do that here with the vego kids.

Finely dice all veg and cook for about 40 min on a low/med heat in olive oil until vege have lost most of their structure and are smooshing into each other. I actually mashed this with a potato masher last night so that B2 - the zucchini and eggplant hating vego (?!) couldnt pick anything out but she loves the overall flavour!

Serve with pasta and top with parmesan, black pepper and herb.