Saturday, August 31, 2013

Rough Trade

Before continuing this post I want to say that I know that there are tradespeople out there doing amazing work with fantastic customer service so why do I always manage to find the dodgy ones??

Now I regret my lack of interest (bored out of my brain) in workshop class at school, how could I have known an ugly square pencil case could help me in later life.

I'm not particularly gifted in the mechanical sense unless it involves a piping bag.

Don't get me wrong I'm not completely useless, I'm a wiz at a flat pack and even managed to construct a lattice fence to keeps the chicken off the vegie patch. When it comes to anything more elaborate I'm at a loss and am at the mercy of tradies. (not in a 50 shades kind of way, keep it clean)

My list of great tradesperson experience include to date:
  • My latest and favourite is getting a call "we just need to confirm the plans as the design we have doesn't match the kitchen layout" to find out they have removed the oven of the neighbour 3 doors down!! Yes, I speak not a word of a lie they had started at the wrong bloody house!! (one of life's little mysteries as to why the owner didn't stop them)
  • Not arriving on day of confirmed booking because there is wasn't a booking???
  • Arriving to start quoted work then saying it's too hard and will cost more because it is on a slope
  • The electrician who changed the lights in the bathroom after I'd said I didn't want them changed.
  • Having to supply a fence builder with a hammer (seriously)
  • Having to instruct said fence builder that the nails need to go into both pieces of wood or they don't stay joined
  • Having a big enough gap between the ground and said fence for a small child to get through
  • The old chestnut of the long wait, "I'll be there after lunch" to arrive at 6pm (technically its after lunch I know)
  • The lonely tradie that just wants a chat rather than finishing the job
  • The confused tradie with attitude "Look mate, this is old and broken" (which is possibly why I engaged your services Sherlock)

Thankfully the installation of the new oven went without a hiccup once they found the right house and the carpenter and 1 of the electricians were brilliant so I've keep their numbers!

My beautiful Cara.
When it came to naming her my dear friend Lina said she should have an Italian name so Cara is perfect as it means dear and expensive.
You would think I would have launched straight in the baking but the new boundless possibilities had my heart racing and head a wash with a million ideas. I needed a cup of tea and a lie down to calm the nerves so just warmed up a chicken nugget.
Has anyone had any other strange tradie experiences they want to share? (again keep it clean hehe)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


While I have come through this winter with a full bill of health (knock wood) poor AB has succumbed to "a sore phroat (throat) and I coughing"
My nursing treatments have included multiple lozenges, eucalyptus oil burning, ice cream to soothe the sore phroat and even a fruit jelly mostly due to the fact I'd eaten all the phroat soothing ice cream.
I would like to thinking that my doting attention towards the patient has conjured the essence of Florence Nightingale but in reality it's probably a little more Nurse Ratched.
This soup comes from my university days when before most exams or concerts I would end up with a throat infection. Probably exam stress, fear of failure or perhaps just working too hard in the pursuit of vocal perfection (read drinking at the uni bar).
I worked on the more is more principle thinking that if a bit of garlic was good a whole truckload must be bloody marvellous!
Shamefully my early student diet consisted largely of 2 minute noodles and beer so the higher the vegetable content per spoonful the better. With the pumpkin and onions providing I think they're called vitamins, low and behold after a bowl of this I was cured.
There is no scientific testing to back this claim apart from the fact I have been surrounded by sick people and the communal germ fest that is most offices with air-conditioning yet have managed to stay well.
I'm hopeful it will cure AB too and it doesn't turn into an life threatening case of Man Flu though I am a fair more pathetic and demanding patient allegedly.
Perhaps it is the amount of garlic that creates an invisible force field around you that makes all the coughing and spluttering people keep their for me!

"Miracle" Pumpkin Soup
This is a full flavoured soup, not for the faint hearted
  • 2kg mixed pumpkin (kent, butternut, jap)
  • 1kg mixed onions (red and brown)
  • 2-3 whole garlic
  • 250g bacon
  • 5-6 small red chillies chopped
  • 1.5-2 litres chicken or vegetable stock
  • Large handful of flat leaf parsley
  • Zest of 1-2 lemons
  • Peel and quarter the onions
  • Peal garlic (I know it's a lot but you want to get well)
  • Roughly chop bacon
  • Chop pumpkin, the skin can be left on for a more nutty flavour
  • Cut the pumpkin in varies sizes depending on how quickly they cook, e.g. Kent cooks faster that Jap so cut the kent into larger pieces
  • Add a splash of olive oil to a boiler
  • Fry off the bacon, onions, and garlic on a medium heat, a little browning will add to the flavour but too must will taste burnt.
  • The onions need to be softened as boiling raw onions changes the texture
  • Add the pumpkin and chillies and stir to coat
  • Add the stock to just below covering the pumpkin
  • Simmer on low for about 45 minutes
  • Blend to smooth (for a thicker soup reserve 2-3 cups of liquid before blending)
  • Serve topped with a gremolata of chopped parsley and lemon zest minus the garlic (we probably have enough already)
  • Grab a box set of bad TV, get some eucalyptus oil going in the oil burner and stay at home so as to not continue infecting your co-workers, even though you got it from them!

If the symptoms persist a change in crockery may be in order. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Operation Work Lunch: Purple Potato Salad

We all know my great love of anything purple so to find it in a potato is straight out winning.
My local greengrocer has just changed hands and while still maintaining ridiculously cheap prices they have expanded their range. I think they deal directly with the farmers and are happy to sell the non visually perfect stock the supermarkets wont.
I bought a few extras last time so I can add another potato tower tomorrow with the view of harvesting for the Christmas table, potato bling!
The other two towers are progressing well with a little help from their friends but the rest of the garden hasn't been high yielding this year.
There was a moment of contemplating a blog challenge of just eating from my backyard but at this rate I would stave in 3 weeks. (although having typed that I did take some snaps and things may not be as bleak as first suspected)
 Rainbow chard, it will be frittata all round
 Purple asparagus
 Lots of broccoli leaves
 Waiting for the peas to pod off
Broad beans getting taller but no beans so far
Purple Potato Salad
Ingredients serves 1
  • 2-3 medium purple potatoes (or regular)
  • 1 rasher of bacon
  • 2 boiled eggs, quartered
  • 2 spring onions, chopped
  • Splash of olive oil
  • Sprinkle of linseeds
  • Add potatoes to a saucepan of cold water and simmer on low for about 25 minutes, till tender
  • Chop bacon rasher into strips and fry (to the crispness you prefer)
  • Drain the potatoes and cut into wedges
  • Add to a bowl the potatoes, bacon, spring onions
  • Splash with olive oil to coat
  • Add the eggs and linseed and combine gently
  • Season to taste
With bacon, egg, onion, and potato your lunch time really can't go wrong!

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Friday, August 23, 2013

Gluten but not glutton free....

I hadn't set out to create a gluten free treat it was just a nice added bonus so now more people can enjoy it.....but I'll need to work on the sugar/fat free bit.
My too cute metal lunch box I recently learned is actually called a Tiffin, which Google also taught me is the name of a no bake chocolate slice and a chocolate bar. I had to try it, the possibility of a tiffin inside my tiffin was too much resist. 
Normally a tiffin is based on digestive biscuits but I swapped this for a packet of plain sweet ones instead. It's rare for me to buy packet biscuits, maybe 4 packets a year at most. 
Each time has a specific purpose though e.g. making a chocolate ripple cake, or needing a soup mug of milky sugared tea with a packet of chocolate butternut snaps to heal the woes of the world, or a packet of fairy biscuits well because with pink icing and 100's and 1000's you really don't need a reason!
We hit a technique snag as the biscuits didn't survive an infuriating episode of Q and A (political question time) as it was more polite to stuff biscuit in my mouth that yell at the TV!
I wasn't going to buy another packet of biscuits so popcorn became the understudy waiting in the wings to go on.
The proof that this little experiment worked was at 2pm the next afternoon at work counting down the hours till I'd be home for another fudgy piece.
Only 2 pots were harmed in the making of the popcorn, I must have lost my cooking mojo for a split second as the simple task of making popcorn which I've done 1000 time just wasn't a happening thang.
Twitter to the rescue!
The no fail method is to heat the oil with 3 kernels and once they've popped it's ready for the rest.
For this recipe 3/4 of a cup of popping corn give you even for the recipe and a late night TV snack.
Almond and Ginger Popcorn Tiffin
  • 5 cups popped pop corn (make sure there are no uncooked kernels surprises)
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 90g glacé ginger
  • 90g sultanas
  • 2/3 cup cream
  • 100g butter
  • 1/2 sugar
  • zest of 1 small blood orange (optional)
  • 250g dark chocolate (75% + is good)
  • Toast the almonds in a saucepan on low heat for a couple minutes, being mindful so they don't burn
  • Finely chop the glacé ginger
  • Add to a large mixing bowl, popcorn, almonds, ginger and sultanas
  • In a medium saucepan add cream, butter, sugar and zest if using
  • Stir over a medium heat till sugar is dissolved and butter is melted
  • Remove from the heat, add chocolate and continue stirring till melted and silky
  • Add the chocolate to the mixing bowl and stir to combine
  • Press into a plastic wrap lined tray (18 cm x 27cm)
  • Let chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours or even overnight
  • Remove from tray, peel off the plastic and cut into a number of socially acceptable sized potions, I'm lead to believe that "in half" is not the right answer but I am not one to judge 

Nice a chocolate barricade, just like Les Miserable but you actually want to go back a second time!
(referring to the film not the stage show, which is brilliant)

Sunday, August 18, 2013

"That's not how you make a French breakfast"

AB's favourite show of the moment is Four in a Bed, it is just Come Dine with Me for B&B's but I can see why they didn't go with the obvious title of Come Sleep with Me.

The show is full of the weird, the wonderful, the downright offensive or just plain odd and their B&B's (bed and breakfast)

AB and I will sit and critic the rooms mainly based on price "and for this room we charge £99....." to which we replay "you're dreamin' love, £99 for that, it's not even got a bathroom. Travelodge was £19 and you get your own bathroom and Tattoo does the best breakfast." 

Ahh Tattoo, so named for his resemblance to the fantasy island character, just a but taller worked the breakfast shift at the Travelodge. I wish I knew his real name as he did a brilliant job and I suspect held the place together. He offered friendly banter that wasn't intrusive until, if breakfast was quiet he would try and force feed you because after all if he had gone to the trouble to cook it you can bloody well eat it.

One of the last episodes screened here in Australia was 4 B&B's in France with an Englishman who hated France and his Wife a tizzy Kath Day Knight type who judged all the rooms on their tea making facilities.
She did turn out to have quite a good sense of humour and did a great impression of the Francophile B&B owner's lecture of traditional French breakfasts.

Needless to say the phrase "that's not how you make a French breakfast" is on high rotation of a morning.

So combining the traditional B&B bacon and eggs with a little touch of France we have the "That's not how you make a French breakfast toast" or bacon eggy bread depending on your mood.

That's not how you make a French breakfast toast
Ingredients serves 2-3
  • 6 eggs
  • 4 rindless bacon rashers
  • 3 spring onions
  • 50g of grated Parmesan or Gruyere (see note)
  • 1 Ciabatta roll/loaf
  • Blend all ingredients till smooth
  • Slice ciabatta into 2-3cm thick slices
  • Pour mix into a baking tray or similar dish
  • Soak the bread in the mixture, coating both sides
  • Heat a frypan on high with a splash of oil and a small knob of butter
  • Reduce heat to medium and add the ciabatta 3-4 at a time
  • Cook on each side for about 2 minutes till golden brown
  • Serve with an extra sprinkle of cheese
Note: Both cheeses work well for different reasons, the Parmesan is sharper but the Gruyere bring a sweetness to the toast. I like both versions and the decision which way to go is usually made by what is in my fridge. Also with the bread, dry and stale works the best and not cut too thick or the middle wont cook before it burns. A baguette also works well.

The baguette, gruyere prototype.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Bye Bye Dry July.....

It's time to raise a glass and bid adieu to Dry July and congratulate the winners of the 1st birthday competition.

I am breaking the drought with an espresso martini but these last 31 days has put an end to my soft drink habit, I suspect for good. Now with all this new found will power August will be a month of exercising everyday.....well maybe that could wait till September.

The winners of the Big Girls Blouse DVD were Anieweb for correctly answering that Lynne Postlethwaite "works" with Carmel, and Faye who won the Dry July donation round. Congratulations and enjoy your prize.

Thank you to everyone who donated I look forward to the day when cancer charities are redundant because we have found a cure!!

Until then I will leave the link on the site as I'm sure they will accept donations at any time during the year not just July. (June is the perfect time for those tax deduction receipts, just hinting) 
This is a great effort for the first year participation, next year will be even bigger.