Saturday, July 26, 2014

Spice Baked Blood Oranges

People think I'm strange (which I'm totally fine with) because I love Winter.
In Summer it's sweaty, stinky and the gingers among us will relate to a sun exposure time of 8.3 seconds before sunburn sets in. Winter on the other hand is a wonderland of warm soups, toasty blankets and the start of the blood orange season.

Again this year I get the pleasure of playing with some Redbelly Citrus blood oranges. There is a sense of anticipation when the box arrives in the post of all the citrusy possibilities which is only further aroused by the zesty aroma as you open the box.

The first recipe of the season keeps the fruit very close to their original state, when the produce is this good you really don't want to mess around with nature.

Spice Baked Blood Oranges
  • 4-5 blood oranges
  • 3-4 cloves whole
  • 3-4 star anise whole
  • Sugar
  • If you place your chopping board in a lipped baking tray this will collect any stray juice and help keep your benches clean
  • Peel the blood oranges, removing the pith
  • Slice into 1-2cm slices, that's about 4 slices per blood orange
  • Remove any seeds
  • Lay flat in a glass or ceramic baking dish
  • Add the spices and any juice collected in the tray
  • Sprinkle each slice with a pinch of sugar
  • Bake uncovered at 160°C for 30 minutes
  • Let cool and then place in a jar ready to be used to make porridge something to wake up for.
  • The baked blood oranges would also be delicious with custard or ice cream if dessert is more your style of breakfast
  • If they last that long I'd keep them in the fridge for about a week
  • Cinnamon or cardamom are some other spice options if you want to spice up your life without needing to resort to 90's pop
I think I will have enough Vitamin C to ward off any side effects of my beloved Winter

What a way to start the day!
Shredded coconut adds some texture to the porridge

Thursday, July 17, 2014

To market to market....

I had always hated farmers markets, the hipster havens where you can boast you've paid a ridiculous amount of money for 100g of someone else's hobby.

Traipsing through a muddy school playground to score some old weeds foraged from someone's front lawn, that is if you are lucky enough to get one of the three available car spaces and not walk three kilometres.

Well that was before I educated myself and "got" farmers markets.

Over the past 5 weeks I have been doing 90% of my shopping at farmers markets and thought I'd share how my hatred become love.

I don't want to sound too POOH (Preachy Obnoxious Organic Hipster), this is just my experience and is written with the Don't Boil The Sauce philosophy of as long as it's legal go with what's right for you.

I had always wanted to use farmers markets as an alternative to the supermarkets as I'm not a fan of the producers not getting a fair deal and wanted to shop more locally. I know I had bought gallons of $1 milk to make cheese till I understood its impact and now if poor AB picks up a cheap milk by mistake he hears about how he is personally killing I being over dramatic?

So while I wanted them to be my farmers "supermarket" of choice it took me a long time to realise they are an alternative to a supermarket but they aren't a supermarket.  It's BYO trolley for a start.

One of the major side effects of changing the way I shopped has been a reduction in food waste.
I'm sure it wasn't just my fridge that would have the relics of a vegetable bargain from days gone by.  The bargain element though does lose its shine when you throw it away, unused and really should have just thrown the money in the bin.

So with this in mind, I don't believe farmers markets are more expensive over all. Surely it is better to spend $5 on a bunch of carrots and use every one of them, than throw out $1 bags?

My theory (and there is no data or science here just my own opinion)  is really around quality vs. quantity when it comes to cost.

Is it not better to have a smaller amount of the best quality?

When food can be sold ridiculously cheap what impact does that have on the taste, the life of the animal, and the amount we over consume?

I remember my grandparents talking about how it was a really special occasion if you had a roast chicken for dinner. Now we can get a chicken* for the cost of 2 cups of coffee? *$5.99 1.6kg Woolworths online 17/7/14
(I'm not sure why everything is measured against the price of a cup of coffee but just work with me...)

The meat I have been eating since starting my farmers market "journey" has been some on the best meat I've ever had. This may be due to the way the animals are raised, happy animals make a happy dinner, well possibly more happy for me than them.

So while it might seem $25 is a tad pricy for a chicken let me tell you, the quality of this chicken had 2 grown men totally absorbed in conversation about the virtues of a chook?!?!Plump, juicy, and so enormous that I broke it down and it feed AB and I for almost 8 meals.

I am loving the range of vegetables available at the markets because they are in season, taste like veggies once did and aren't imported. I flat out refuse to buy imported fruit and vegetables, and have learnt the hard way with frozen berries, always read the fine print, packets lie!

There are also much more interesting vegetables available, so a salad of just dressed carrot is pretty darn exciting when those carrots come in multiple colours. You know purple will always win!

These are some of the things I've learnt about how to "get" and love farmers markets

  • Be early, you'll have an easier time parking and you'll get first dibs on the produce

  • Take your time, there is no checkout queue to beat so relax and see it all, you'll even be able to have breakfast there, I mentioned it's early right!

  • A trolley is a must, or a strong helper as it won't be much fun lugging your shopping around

  • Be virtually social as social media is a great way to see what specials the stall holders have and  can give a bit a planning time for what else you'll need for the weeks meals.

  • Be personally social, this is the one I struggled with the most in the past. I was always worried the stall holders would be offended if I didn't buy from them, I know I'm a complex over thinker. The reality has been a very welcoming experience, and the mornings have become quite a community event. By getting to know the stall holders they also get to know you and what type of products you'd like. You might even meet your neighbours.

  • Try new things, who doesn't love a free sample? This can extend to products you wouldn't normally buy, I'm wasn't really a mussel fan as I just remembered those cold, tough, flavourless morsels I've had from buffets. So when I saw mussels at the market for $6/kg I thought I'd give them another go and wow were they delicious in a chilli cream sauce. I will be making sure I get another kg next time I see them.

  • You also don't need to be the next Maggie Beer to benefit from the markets as not only is there fresh produce there are also stalls of ready to eat sweets, cakes, pastas and sauces if opening is more your style of cooking

  • Do your research, check out the websites to see which market has what you need. The stall holders do move between the markets so each week may be different. There are 5 different market locations that are close to me so I can see exactly what I need and can decide which one to go to or if it will be a 2 market day. That sounds like a lot of time but it was really only a couple of hours and a lot of that's just chatting!

  • The practical food safety nerd in me also takes an ice brick to keep everything cool, though possibly not necessary in winter...
Are you a regular market goer? What other tips do you have? 

Share your market experiences, I'd love to know the good, the bad or the ugly!

mmmmmm bacon.........

The milk  has cream under the cap, it's like a flash back to staying at Grandma when they had bottles with the little silver foils.
I'm really not that old I think she was the last one to not have a milk man, we had plastic bottles at our home.

The best part of market shopping is that sometimes you get a little extra bonus, which the chickens are very grateful for!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

More Eurovision- Out of the frying pan and onto the stage

This is my note from home as to explain I haven't written anything in the last month.....not forged I promise.
Following on from the Chow Down to Eurovision, I had the opportunity to let my Eurovision obsession take over my life for a second time this year by hosting an event with the Australian Eurovision Fan Club.
I know I will probably end up on one of those shows about my bizarre obsession, and I could not care less!
Just like the real thing the night consisted of 13 countries singing their hearts out to be crowned the winner, country's voting, and some awkwardly dodgy French from the host.
The songs were featured a range of the Eurovision back catalogue with the link that they had all placed 5th in the contest. (as the event was held on the 5th)
The stand out, I doubt ever to be repeated highlight was the surprise guest during the interval act. (well not a surprise for me, we'd been emailing for weeks)
Picture this, it was variety show 101, I'd sung the interval song, and then of course the votes weren't ready so I needed to I attempt another song, Caroban, but of course couldn't do it and needed to call for assistance from the audience to complete it, but who??
Well of course my assistance was from Nina who represented Serbia in 2011 with Caroban, you could hear the ripple of OMG when people realised what they were about to witness.
Nina was an absolute delight to watch perform, an amazing voice and a truly lovely person, those that were there on the night really did get to witness something special.
It's not everyday you have a real Eurovision contestant performing at a little pub in Brunswick!

 Nina singing Caroban in Brunswick 2014

Nina singing Caroban in Dusseldorf in 2011
The on stage "don't look like a crazed fan" selfie.....yep totally pulled that off!
It seems traditional at Eurovision that the host now needs to sing during the interval act so I sang Molitva - winner for Serbia 2007 in English and possibly Serbian, complete with reveal. (not footage of that one)
Now I also love a good parody and while "Let It Go" is the parody of the minute, I hadn't seen a eurovison version, so I had to rectify that ASAP! 

Thanks to Carl who captured this performance.

So now I've finished treading the boards for the moment it's time to get back to the chopping boards.