Chicken 65

I’d never heard of Chicken 65 (a popular South Indian dish) but a quick google shows I’ve been missing out.

Ingredients

500 gm chicken

1 tsp lemon juice/plain yogurt

1 tsp corn flour

1 tsp chickpea flour/plain flour

1/2 tsp ginger garlic paste

1 egg

1 tsp chilli powder

1/2 tsp mixed spice powder

Pinch tumeric

Pinch pepper

Salt to taste

Oil for deep frying

Method

1. Clean and cut chicken into bite size pieces.

2. Add lemon juice/yogurt to chicken and set aside.

3. Mix the rest of the ingredients (except the oil) into a smooth paste.

4. Add the chicken to the paste, mix well until combined, and allow it to rest for half-1 hour.

5. Deep fry in medium flame until golden.

IMG_5213Due to my usual habit of altering various ingredients, the ‘paste’ wasn’t very paste-y in consistency. Chris and I heartily enjoyed our fried chicken all the same.

You can see above that there are two distinct colours of fried chicken, varying due to the heat of the oil. The lighter-coloured chicken was cooked at medium (instead of high) heat, and tasted nicer.

Louisette. . . well. .

IMG_5225

Yum Factor: 4

Health: 3 (points for protein; points off for deep frying!)

Easy: 3 (I’ve deep fried a few times in my life, and only set the kitchen on fire once… but this is certainly not something the kids will be cooking solo anytime soon)

Will make again? Probably not. I may not be the poster child for low-fat eating, but I usually steer clear of actually deep frying my food.

Going Bananas

Louisette was deliriously excited about these. I’m mildly intolerant of bananas, especially the smell of bananas.

When I gathered the courage to breach the banana, I realised that the recipe didn’t include proportions. I googled, and adjusted this recipe.

Ingredients

130g butter (melted)

70g caster sugar

1 egg

1 banana, mashed

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla essence

250g self raising flour

160g milk

Another 50g melted butter

60g cinnamon sugar

Method

1. Beat butter and sugar until smooth.

2. Add egg and mix.

IMG_5192

3. Mix in baking powder, cinnamon, vanilla, and banana.

4. Sift flour and add flour and milk a little at a time until it’s all combined.

5. Spoon out onto baking tray in round shapes. (I put the mixture into a clear vegie bag, cut off the corner, and used it like a piping bag—it was very easy to use and would have been tidy if I’d used two trays instead of squeezing it all out here.)

IMG_5194

6. Bake for 6-8 minutes at 200 degrees. Flip with a fork after 5-6 minutes. Also, lick the bowl.

IMG_5196

 

7. Cool on tray for 5 minutes and then turn out onto a cooling rack.

8. Drizzle melted butter over the top and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

 

Okay, so…. remember I had a huge pile of syrup leftover from the baklava? I used that instead of milk. So this is what happened:

IMG_5198

The back row is flipped and the front row isn’t (yet). I didn’t help my case by being too lazy to use two trays (and therefore making six monster donuts instead of 12 small, neat donuts).

They tasted amazing, though!

I used an apple corer to make the holes in the middle.

IMG_5200

Yum Factor: 4.5 (actually, these were REALLY nice. And even crispy on the edges, which I really liked)

Health: 1 (contains a single hard-working banana)

Easy: 4

Will make again? Actually… Yes, I think I will. Strange but true.

Chicken Curry

This was never going to go well. . .

Ingredients

1 kg skinless, boneless chicken breast halves (I used half a kilo chopped chicken thigh and adapted from there)

2 tsp salt (I left it out)

1/2 c cooking oil

1 and a half c chopped onion (I used half a fennel bulb)

1 T minced garlic (I used a jar)

1 and a half tsp minced fresh ginger root (I used a jar)

1 T  curry powder (I used chilli powder)

1 tsp ground cumin (I left it out)

1 tsp ground tumeric (I left it out)

1 tsp cayenne pepper (I left it out)

1 T water

470g crushed tomatoes

1 c plain yogurt

1 T chopped fresh coriander (I used dried and powdered)

1 tsp salt (I left it out)

1/2 c water

1 tsp garam masala (I used my own mixture)

1 T fresh lemon juice

 

Should I even bother typing the method? Looking at the ingredients above, I can see why this didn’t… resemble… the original recipe.

IMG_5162

It was edible, but nothing special.

TJ liked it, presumably because his aim in life is simply to keep us guessing. (Oh, and because I once again set aside some plain butter-fried chicken for him.)

 

Louisette… well…

IMG_5165

Next stop: Banana and cinnamon donuts

Carrot Halwa

I thought this was a dip until I googled it, at which point I went, “Ah, a dessert! That explains all that sugar.”

Ingredients

2c grated carrots

1c milk

3/4c palm sugar/brown sugar

3 T ghee (clarified butter)

Pinch of cardamon powder

10 cashews (optional; I used much more than 10)

1 T raisins (I left them out since Louisette and I are intolerant of dried fruit)

 

Method

1. Heat a pan with one tablespoon of ghee. Fry cashews and raisins until golden brown and then set aside. (I realised I was frying cashews in butter, and added sugar to see if I could create a ‘sugared/toffee cashew’ effect. It worked pretty well!)

2. Put grated carrots in the pan and sauté them until they no longer smell of raw carrots.

3. Add milk and cook on low/medium heat 10-12 minutes.

IMG_5155

 

4. Stir sometimes. Milk will boil and bubble up nicely. Cook it until the carrots are completely cooked and the milk is absorbed.

5. Once the milk is almost absorbed, add brown sugar and cardamon. Mix well. The mixture will liquefy and then thicken up. Continue cooking until all the milk is absorbed. Keep stirring, and add the remaining ghee little by little.

6. When the halwa forms a whole mass and doesn’t stick to the pan, add fried cashews and raisins and switch off the flame.

IMG_5160

I didn’t use nearly enough carrots, so the result was rather like eating wet brown sugar. Naturally the kids approved of this result.

Yum Factor: 2 (it’s unusual for a dish to have too much sugar for me, but this managed it)

Health: 1 (contains carrot)

Easy: 1 (since I fatally screwed it up)

Will make again? Nah. . . but I might make sugared cashews again one day.

Hey, want a cat picture? Sure you do!

IMG_5184

Baklava

Sugar, pastry, butter, and nuts?

What could possibly go wrong?

IMG_5147.JPG

Ingredients

1/2 kilo Antonnious Filo Pastry (we used some other brand)

2 c crushed almonds (we used a combination of cashews and walnuts)

1 and a half c butter

1 T cinnamon

Syrup

3 c sugar

1 c hone*

2 c water

Cinnamon stick

1 tsp cloves sticks

Method

  1. Mix nuts, sugar, and cinnamon.
  2. Butter a slice tray and lay a few sheets of filo pastry onto it (I used one sheet; the one we bought had a smaller number of thick slices which worked fine).
  3. Brush each sheet with butter (sooo much butter).
  4. Spread a small amount of nut mixture over filo layer.
  5. Continue making successive layers of filo and almond that are roughly the same thickness.
  6. Finish with a thicker layer of filo sheets (6-8 sheets), brushing each sheet with butter (I used one thick sheet, as before, and didn’t put butter on top).
  7. With a sharp knife, cut the baklava into diamond shaped pieces (I did squares).
  8. Sprinkle with water and bake in a medium oven for about an hour.
  9. When it is finished cooking, prepare syrup: Place water, honey, and spice in a saucepan and boil for 15 minutes.
  10. Pour boiling syrup over baklava, and let it cool again before serving.

The above pics are the baklava before and after the syrup. I ended up with 150g of syrup left over, presumably because I didn’t use honey. It still tasted fantastic, and I set aside the syrup with a plan to add it to another dish (which I did, with. . . results).

It’s amazing how some recipes take butter and sugar and suchlike and actually make them less healthy. It doesn’t seem possible, yet it happens. I’m no poster child for healthy eating, but the day after making baklava my blood sugar level was insane.

The kids loved it, but even they struggled to finish a single piece in a sitting.

Yum Factor: 4.5 (all this sugar and butter but no chocolate? Pfft.)

Health: -5000

Easy: 4

Will make again? Only if I’m trying to be the first person on Earth to be diagnosed with double diabetes. It was delicious though.

 

I’ve actually made it almost all the way through the recipe book (with blog entries lagging behind). This recipe is #9, which marks the halfway point.

*I pondered the meaning of hone, and googled this exotic ingredient with no success. Then I realised it was HONEY. I used a mix of maple syrup and golden syrup instead.

Utter Butter Chicken

Butter chicken is the biz. Everyone knows that.

Making it without using a packet was a strange and wondrous experience.

IMG_5111

 

Ingredients

2 T peanut oil

3 shallots, peeled and finely chopped (I used a fennel bulb instead)

1/2 white onion, peeled and chopped (I used a fennel bulb instead)

40g butter

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 clove of garlic, crushed or chopped

2cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped

2 tsp garam masala (I mixed my own approximation based on a quick google search)

1 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp ground cumin

1 bay leaf (I used lots, because they were fairly old, then removed them because they’re gross to actually eat)

 

3 T natural yogurt

1 c cream

1 c tomato puree

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

500g boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces

1 T cornflour

3 T water

[Serve with rice. Naan bread and natural yogurt are really nice with it too.]

Method

  1. Sauce: Heat half the oil in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Fry the shallots and onion (or fennel) until soft.
  2. Stir in butter, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, half the garam masala, chilli, cumin, and bay leaf. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

3. Add tomato puree and cook for two minutes, stirring frequently.

4. Stir in cream and yogurt. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and set aside.

5. Heat the rest of the oil in a large frypan over medium heat. Cook chicken until lightly browned, about ten minutes. Reduce heat and season with the rest of the garam masala and cayenne. Stir in a few spoonfuls of sauce, and simmer until liquid has reduced and chicken is no longer pink. Spoon the cooked chicken into the sauce.

6. Mix together cornflour and water, then stir into the sauce. Adjust seasonings and cook for 5-10 minutes, or until the sauce thickens.

7. Beg children to eat it.

8. Decide to stick to packet mixes in future.

 

Louisette was SO SO excited about making butter chicken, and assured me she loved it. As you can see, she gave it “side thumb”. This pattern of wanting food and then refusing to eat it is very familiar to us by now.

Tim is giving a thumbs up… to the plain chicken that I set aside partway through the recipe, knowing he’d most likely turn up his nose at the delicious sauce. Which he did.

Yum Factor: 4.5 (for anyone with good taste)

Health: 4 (I added carrot and water chestnuts to the mix, so it even had vegies)

Easy: 3 (gathering that many ingredients takes time)

Will make again? I know it’s heresy, but the packet mixtures are pretty good. I’ll stick to them in future. (Of course, the kids don’t eat them either, so we don’t have them often.)

 

Pancakes #1

You may know me as a novelist, but for most of my life my true claim to fame was as the maker of pancakes. Technically, I actually make crepes (with lemon and sugar*), usually so thin that they’re slightly see-through.

My recipe is:

1 egg + 500ML milk (I use lactose free) + anywhere between 1/2 and 1 cup of flour.

1. Mix. (Can be left overnight.)

2. Fry with plenty of butter (tipping the pan around as you pour it in, to make it even thinner).

Other people think their way is best. They are wrong. But I’m gonna make pancakes differently this time, because that is part of this whole recipe journey thing. Two of the Year 1 kids came up with pancake recipes, so I’ll be making both.

Here’s the first.

Ingredients

1 c milk

1/2 c sugar

1 egg

1/2 tsp vanilla

1 c self-raising flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 T butter

Extra butter

Maple syrup

Method

  1. Beat milk, sugar, egg and vanilla.
  2. Add sifted flour and baking soda, and fold in.
  3. Then add melted butter. Mixture should be fairy liquid.
  4. Heat pan, grease with a spoonful of butter. Spoon mixture into pan and brown on each side.
  5. Serve with maple syrup.

 

IMG_5097

 

Yum Factor: 4 (mine are better)

Health: 0

Easy: 3 (frying anything is relatively high-maintenance)

Will make again? Nah. But I’ll make my version.

Louisette declared them the best pancakes of all time. Grr!

Perhaps it’s for the best, since the boy who submitted this recipe was one of the most eligible bachelors in Year 1.

Just look at that focus!

IMG_5098

 

*A classic Aussie combination, and my personal favourite. Other recommended combinations include:

Butter and maple syrup

Butter and cinnamon sugar, rolled up (a South African specialty)

Vegemite (strange but true!)

Ham and cheese (cooked into the pancake, and served either as is or with vegemite)

Muesli Bars

If it wasn’t for procrastination, I’d never get anything done.

Today the kids are both with grandparents, so it’s definitely time to focus on my Top-Secret Well-Paid Writing Thingy. (I’m not allowed to tell people what it is, but it’s super awesome). I prepared by getting all the current “Murder in the Mail” stuff sorted: I stamped and addressed ALL of the “7b” postcards, and have already packaged and addressed all the “8” parcels, which is the Very Last Parcel For This Mail-Out (it’s been a huge thing!), and I washed and put away a whole lot of clothes.

IMG_5212

So today I’ve done two more loads of washing (mostly linen), cleaned the bathrooms, applied for a writing thing, invited two more people into the “Magic in the Mail: Feuding Fae” story (and sent them contracts, and chose two possible art options), arranged delivery of two paintings for the “Murder in the Mail” Exhibition (24 August until 7 September here in Canberra), rearranged my twitter profile, ordered contact lenses, arranged a dentist visit for Louisette and a checkup for the cat, and fed all the pets.

IMG_5186

And I’m writing my second blog entry of the day.

In unrelated news, it’s 11am and I haven’t scraped up the courage to open the aforementioned Top-Secret Well-Paid Writing Thingy. Today is my last chance to truly focus for at least ten days (there’s another grandparents’ day approaching, but I have much doctor-y stuff to do that day).

So… let’s talk about muesli bars!

IMG_5056

1/2 c honey (I used maple syrup, which definitely did NOT work as well)

1/4 c brown sugar

125 g butter

3 c rolled oats

1 c rice bubbles

1 c choc chips (the original recipe said 1/2 c but that’s clearly an error)

1/2 c desiccated coconut

1/4 c pepitas

1/4 c sunflowers

(with ANOTHER thank you to the grandparents for supplying the last two ingredients because I did not want a whole pack of either)

IMG_5066.jpg

  1. Grease a slice tray.
  2. Add honey, butter, and sugar to a saucepan and stir for two minutes or until the sauce is nice and thick.
  3. Mix everything else in a big bowl (except choc chips).
  4. Add syrup and stir.
  5. Put in tray, sprinkle with choc chips, and press down firmly with the back of a spoon.
  6. 15-20 min at 160 degrees (or until golden).
  7. Cool on tray before cutting into pieces.

Like I said, maple syrup didn’t work as well as honey. . . but I ended up with a kind of granola which was actually delicious (I ate it dry, with a spoon).

It was impossible to get the kids to stop eating long enough for a smiley-style picture. I am okay with that!

Yum Factor: 5

Health: 4 (a pretty good snack)

Easy: 4

Will make again? I don’t know. It doesn’t have as much protein as peanut butter balls… but then again, I’m not as intolerant of these either. And healthier than Anzac Biscuits, I reckon—but somewhat less portable. I might do some syrup experiments, because these could potentially be a school snack that Louisette actually eats. (No peanuts at school.)

Are ya chicken?

And so we come to the “actual meals” part of my daughter’s class recipe book.

First, we have Sweet Chilli Chicken Skewers.

IMG_5039

 

6 chicken tenderloins, sliced in half lengthwise

12 bamboo skewers, soaked

2 T sweet chilli sauce

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 T grated ginger (I got mine from a jar)

2 tsp olive oil

2 garlic cloves, crushed (jar)

1/2 tsp ground coriander

IMG_5049.JPG

  1. Thread chicken strips onto bamboo skewers.
  2. Mix everything else and marinade the chicken in it.
  3. Bake in moderate oven for half an hour, keeping it covered with aluminium foil for the first twenty minutes, and turning once. (The original recipe said to char-grill or BBQ for 3-4 minutes each side.)

(I cooked some frozen chips to go with them.)

 

IMG_5050.JPG

I wasn’t super enthusiastic about this—I’m against anything with chilli, as a rule—but the sauce was simply exquisite.

The kids enjoyed squeezing and sucking on the lemon:

TJ also enjoyed the sauce—as did I!

It was  a rather nice dinner. TJ was enthusiastic (he likes novelty, and is going through a pro-unusual food phase, although he still likes being able to clearly see exactly what each item is—the sauce was thin enough that it fundamentally didn’t register as “other”). Louisette. . . not so much. We made a rule at the beginning of this adventure that she had to have at least one bite of everything we made.

 

Yum Factor: 4 (an excellent meal)

Health: 4 (loses points for only being a meat recipe, rather than a balanced meal)

Easy: 4 (no real skill required, but slicing the chicken and putting it on skewers is more work than I usually do for a meal)

Will make again? Probably not as skewers (unless I’m bein’ fancy-like), but that sauce was great and I expect I’ll make it again at some point.

Excuse my French

Regular readers will know I’m a sucker for punishment.

Allow me to rephrase.

It really helps my depression to have a win in life, and taking on something a little bit special/difficult/unusual really works for me (while also making all my near relatives—except my Mum, who also loves a good project, and my Dad, who is used to her—try to talk me out of it*).

In unrelated news, Chris and I watch the Tour de France each year.

One of the sexiest things about Chris is that his reaction to virtually any sport is to immediately and pointedly fall asleep (he’ll literally change the channel/mute if sports news comes on). The Tour is the one exception; something he inherited from his father.

For about three weeks each Winter, our household grinds to a halt as the Tour is on from 8:30pm until 2:00am most nights.

It has a bewildering, hypnotic beauty (once one becomes desensitised to all the lycra). There are castles, and coastlines, weirdo spectators, epic art, plenty of heroes and villains, complicated and ever-changing team strategies, sprinklings of French, and amazing feats of endurance.

Aaaand then there’s Gabriel Gaté. He’s one of those chefs that just adores his job. Each night he films a short segment meeting local restauranteurs* and/or farmers, and cooks a dish (the recipe is written out in full online) inspired by the region.

The first night was last Saturday, so he cooked a “perfect coastal dish”: Prawn, Potato, and Hazelnut Salad. You can see what he actually did here.

This is what *I* did:

Ingredients:

Boiled cubed baby potatoes

Boiled cubed sweet potato

Chopped hard-boiled eggs

Diced cucumber

Finely chopped cashews

15ish cooked and ready-to-eat prawns, defrosted overnight (did you think I’d cook them myself??) and chopped (except for several saved for garnishing)

Some walnut halves, for garnish

Sprinkling of chopped chives, for garnish

 

50mL olive oil

1/2 tsp lemon myrtle/salt mixture

1/2 tsp mustard

1/2 tsp sweet chilli sauce

 

I mixed everything from the first section of the above list (except the garnishes), put it into fancy glasses, drizzled the dressing (ie the last four ingredients, mixed) over the top, then garnished it, then served it.

IMG_5128

This is what the dressing looks like. We actually didn’t need that much.

IMG_5129

The great thing about salads is that it’s easy to adjust them for different people. TJ’s salad contains carrots and cheese instead of prawns (I also chucked in some water chestnuts, because why not?)

Louisette had… sausages.

IMG_5135

Now let’s analyse the work of an international French chef using the same system I designed for 6 year-old home cooks:

Yum Factor: 4 (an excellent meal. Loses point for having no chocolate, and both kids refusing to eat prawns)

Health: 5 (vegetables and everything!)

Easy: 3 (no real skill required, but it took me a while to coordinate all the moving parts; 3 garnishes is just silly so next time I’ll probably just whack a prawn on top, sprinkle chives, and call it a 4. 4.5 because it can be prepped in advance).

Will make again? I was thinking ‘no’ during dinner (although it WAS nice to eat—and good to be able to do a  bit and then sit down, and then do the next bit, then rest again, etc) but I think that’s mostly because of the process of adjusting the recipe as I went along. So, in conclusion, yes I do think I’ll make it again (with the changes to make it a 4.5 on the easy scale). I reckon I’ll save it until we have (adult) guests coming over, so I can be all fancy-like.

*Chris evaluates each project on its own merits, and on how exhausted I’m likely to be afterwards. That determines his emotional reaction along a sliding scale from “enthusiastic” to “terrified”.

*Is there any word that’s more FRENCH than that? HOW MANY VOWELS DO YOU PEOPLE NEED?

Isaac Biscuits

TJ insists that I’m wrong to call these “Anzac Biscuits”. Well, what would I know?

IMG_5027

 

Ingredients:

 

1 c rolled oats

1 c plain flour

2/3 c brown sugar

2/3 c desiccated coconut

130g butter

2 T golden syrup

1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda

Method:

  1. Mix oats, flour, sugar, and coconut in a bowl.
  2. Combine butter and sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir for 2 minutes or until butter is melted. Stir in bicarb soda (fun).
  3. Mix butter mixture with dry ingredients.
  4. Line a tray with baking paper.
  5. Roll mixture into balls and flatten slightly.
  6. 10-12 minutes at 140 degrees.

Having only eaten store bought Anzac biscuits (as far as she remembers), these were a revelation for Louisette. They were gone in 24 hours (mostly because of me rather than Lizzie).

Yum Factor: 4 (they’d be a 5 if I was a biscuit type of person, or if they contained chocolate)

Health: 3 (relatively healthy by snack standards, but definitely a treat)

Easy: 4 (hard to screw up. . . although I technically did screw them up by just mixing everything instead of doing the syrup properly)

Will make again? I reckon so. They’re quite similar to peanut butter balls (in terms of being oat-based and a relatively healthy treat that’s simple to make and has some nicely basic pantry ingredients), but with less protein and chocolate (sad but useful because I can’t eat too much peanut butter; I’m intolerant of nuts).

Plus I’m pretty sure that adding the bicarb to the syrup makes it fizz up in a fun way (and presumably makes the final biscuits even nicer too), and I’m annoyed to have missed that.

I reckon we’ll make these next time we run out of choc chips.

Bicarb is cool.

 

Today is Saturday. The kids woke up at 6am as usual and instead of turning the TV on (the usual morning routine, while Chris and I sleep) they decided to do our world puzzle together. Wearing beanies.

(For the sake of honestly I should mention that there were intervals of screaming rage before they settled down into this charming scene. Then there was some more screaming, which is why I was awake to take these pics.)

So, how’s the cooking project going? This is only the fourth official blog entry, but we’re actually up to Number 8 (of 18). The next FIVE are rather tricky for various reasons, so it’ll be interesting to see how that goes (I’ve deliberately delayed the actual blog entries so they’re spaced out nicely).

One week of school holidays is DONE and OVER and no one has been hospitalised. So that’s good. The grandparents are visiting us today, which of course is fantastic. Nana is entertaining both kids, and Poppy and Chris are fixing various things around the house. They just walked through carrying the innards of our sofa bed.

Grandma’s Spaghetti

The Year 1 teacher who organised Louisette’s new recipe book wanted FAMILY recipes (with a strong hint of ‘multicultural, please’) and this one is a ripper.

My children are dead-set against anything to do with tomatoes (except of course, for tomato sauce, which bears little resemblance to the fruit*) so I knew that this was unlikely to be accepted with grace. However, any recipe that contains only three ingredients is a winner in my book.

  1. 500g spaghetti
  2. Tin condensed tomato soup
  3. Grated cheese

Cook the spaghetti, drain it, mix it with soup and sprinkle it with cheese.

Aaaand. . . you’re done!

 

TJ liked it (although I know from experience he’d probably refuse it next time.)

Yum Factor: 3 (I like grated cheese)

Health: 3 (passable as a meal, but is mostly made of starch and salt)

Easy: 5

Will make again? Probably not, because Louisette won’t eat it; I require more meat in my meals; and putting any red liquid near my 4 year-old is asking for trouble (especially when there’s also long, whippy, drippy noodles involved).

*     *     *

In other news, today I filled in my annual stall holder form for the Goulburn Waterworks Steampunk & Victoriana Fair. (Here‘s the facebook page for last year, and I blogged about it here, with pics.)

The fair (now called the Steampunk Victoriana Fair) has been getting much bigger every year, and this year they’ve gotten big enough to have “Stall Holder APPLICATION” forms rather than just forms.

What I mean to say is, they’re bringing in STANDARDS.

They now request details about the stall, and a picture or photo of what the stall will look like. If you’re connected to me on facebook (especially on either my ‘general‘ page or my ‘Antipodean Queen‘ page), you probably see such things about once a month, for example:

Screen Shot 2018-07-06 at 1.08.12 PM

 

But since I’ve been stallholding at the Steampunk & Victoriana Fair for the last three years (before I had any books out, in fact!), and have enjoyed all my interactions with the divine (and divinely well-organised) Julianne, I decided to do a drawing instead. This drawing:

Screen Shot 2018-07-06 at 12.51.47 PM

I feel there’s a raw honesty to my work that goes beyond the merely picturesque. I also feel that I probably won’t be a contributing visual artist to the “Murder in the Mail” and “Magic in the Mail” stories anytime soon.

 

*Or is it a vegetable? Argue away in the comments.

Moose?

My daughter had heard of moose, but not mousse. . . so when her dad and I discussed making chocolate mousse she asked, “Will it come alive when it’s finished?”

(Being scientifically-minded, she knows perfectly well that mammals have live young. . . but she also knows there are a lot of weird and wonderful ways to make life happen.)

Speaking of Louisette, she and I were talking today about what she wants to be when she grows up.

She told me that she wants to be a scientist, spy (a new kind who doesn’t spy on people), vet, doctor, nurse, police officer, firefighter, artist, writer and mum. “I have decided that I WILL be a Mum and I WILL marry a man.”

[I have told her that she can’t marry a family member, and if she marries a girl it’s slightly trickier to have kids.]

I said, “The most important thing about marriage is picking the right person. If you pick, for example, a bully—that would be terrible every day.”

She said, “I already have some ideas.”

Of course I wanted details, so she told me (names redacted, obviously):

Kid1, “because he likes science just like me.”

Kid2, “because his name starts with ‘L’ just like me.”

Kid3, “because he is kind.”

Kid4, “because he is funny and has all the best stories.”

Kid5, “because he is very very very very kind.”

I was very impressed with her logic, and with her choices (I know all of these boys; some quite well). I was especially happy that none of her choices have ever been mean to her (I do encourage her to be friends with those that tease her, within reason), and that only one is Caucasian.

We talked about how far away marriage is, and how marrying a good friend is definitely the way to go.

So that was fun.

Chocolate Mousse was always going to be a winner. (You can google your own recipe; I’ve typed enough today.) Vast amounts of chocolate and cream, with sugar added?

 

Yum Factor: 5 (so rich it’s deadly)

Health: -1000 stars

Easy: 4 (gotta use a dry bowl to whip egg white. . . which I didn’t, and it was still fabulous)… but it’s not easy to tell the kids they can’t eat it until the next day.

Will make again? Probably not, but maybe at Christmas (probably with Bailey’s added). It’s WAY too much cream for my system to handle, so I’d attempt it with lactose free cream (after consulting my also-low-lactose Mum about whether lactose free cream can whip). It’s gluten free (like my mum), so actually that’s helpful. A LOT easier than cake, and yummier too. So… probably yes, now I think of it.

Holiday Recipes

My daughter is getting three weeks of holidays between Terms 2 and 3. She’s a pretty great kid, but that still fills me with blinding terror.

A few weeks ago, her Year 1 teacher asked the kids for family recipes. Those recipes were typed, bound, and printed (with illustrations by the kids). There are about 15 recipes altogether, and I decided that Louisette and I would cook them ALL these holidays.

Yes, THAT will make everything less stressful! Come along and watch as I inevitably regret all the life choices I ever made to end up on this path to horror and pain!

We started with. . . us. Louisette’s recipe was originally from a low-FODMAP recipe book, and it’s a fantastic snack—high in protein, easy to transport (after it’s been cooled, it stays non-sticky even when left out), and still yummy!

I love the magic of SCIENCE inherent in this recipe; taking a gooey mess and adding elements that dry it out to a perfect texture.

IMG_5009.jpg

Peanut Butter Balls

3/4 c peanut butter (cashew butter is good but stickier, so you gotta add more cinnamon and/or coconut if you cashew it up)

2 T maple syrup

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 c oats

1/4 c coconut

2 T dark choc chips

Method:

  1. Mix everything in a bowl.
  2. Using your hands, roll into balls (this gets very messy and sticky).
  3. Place in the fridge until set.

IMG_5011.JPG

We make this recipe all the time (and of course we always eat one before they set anyways). It’s great for diabetics and low-FODMAP people (low salicylates, not so much). The above pic is the result of a double portion.

Yum Factor: 5 (aka “yes, it contains chocolate”)

Health: 4 (not exactly a salad, but a million times better than just chocolate)

Easy: 3 (heavy to stir but mixes easily; annoying to put into balls)

Will make again? Uh. . . yes. About three times a week until the kids move out. This is one of the five foods they eat willingly AND it counts as a treat (useful, since our household is a treat-based economy).

How to Make an Epic Dino Cake

My son turned four this week, and asked for a dinosaur cake. Once I had the revelation that (a) I don’t like cake, so (b) Why bother making it? but (c) I do like creating peculiar things, and (d) The only thing they’ll eat is a horrifying amount of icing anyway… It all fell into place.

Or at least, it fell.

TJ is a winter baby (which means parties must be inside), and his father, grandfather, uncle, and oldest cousin all have birthdays within about a week. So I arranged to have two parties today: one for TJ’s friends (at an inside playground with a dino room), and one for his numerous relations (at my house).

That meant I could make a single giant cake and use leftovers for party #2.

There are two basic schools of thought for dinosaur cakes: One big dinosaur, or a scene with several dinosaurs. In my opinion, the one big dino cake takes more skill. Sure, there are dino-shaped cake tins out there, but you still need to be able to have smooth icing. Not gonna happen.

I was clever enough to assemble the cake at the location of the party, rather than attempting to carry it safely in a vehicle (and to take my own knives and large containers in which to bring home the leftovers). I was also clever enough to order the base from Woolworths. I ordered a basic slab cake, two layers, no icing. It was $20. I took three layers off part of it, and moved them to the top at the back. Voila! A cliff face ready for a waterfall.

IMG_0622

At Woolies I’d previously bought various items: edible glue (which I couldn’t figure out how to open, so I hacked it open with a knife; used it to stick cupcake topper sheets around the sides), writing icing (used for the blue lines in the water), Natural Confectionary dinosaurs, and a full roll of “ready rolled icing” suitable for a 22cm round cake, which I sliced into shapes with a butter knife for the water.

IMG_0623

I’d made a double portion of chocolate buttercream icing at home (it needs to either be made or re-mixed on the day or the butter hardens and it’s useless), which had a pleasantly different texture to my “water”. I spread it in a hurry, and quite thick, so it just covered the top. I was using my hands and laughing maniacally at this stage, rather aware of my deadline as one of the kids had to leave early and there was another party using the room at 12, etc etc. The buttercream icing had enough stickiness to draw up some of the cake, and it also struggled a bit to hold onto the “cliff”. But it worked well enough. As you can see, smooth flat icing is not my forte (not that I was particularly trying this time).

This icing was easy to shove about, and it was great for standing up little dinosaurs later.

 

IMG_0624

I had prepared some desiccated coconut ages earlier with food dye, intending it to be green grass but it was too blue so I chucked it in the water.

The trees didn’t really work (but who cares? They’re made of Tim Tams, mint leaves, and lolly bananas), although leaning them against the cliff helped (the edible glue didn’t—using icing might have worked a little).

The mountains and volcanoes are “chocolate” waffle cones. I’ll go into more detail about the volcanoes in a bit…

The flowers were a pack of edible flowers I impulse bought at Woolies when I was examining sundry icing/sprinkle products for inspiration.

IMG_0625

 

I also used:

-Green and yellow sprinkles for grass/sand. (If your child is very scientific, this is not the cake for them… grass is a relatively recent plant.)

-Edible white balls from the same pack to be dino eggs (quite a stretch).

-Dino candles (they are parading across the water at the top of the waterfall. I presume this is how they became extinct. That, and being on fire). Ebay.

-Lots of fondant dinosaurs from ebay (actually, I was pretty happy with them despite how fragile they are. They mostly survived the post and last a long while (weeks), and taste better than anything rice paper-ish).

-Dino sprinkles around the edge of the water (SO not necessary… AND mixed with other sprinkles… but TJ was rather taken with the idea of dino sprinkles).

-Strawberry topping carefully applied around the edges of the volcanoes for lava (it was important that none of the topping got inside the volcanoes).

-Mini plastic dinos (tube of 20 or so for $4 from Kmart and I dropped some in each party bag afterwards), and two wind-up dinos ($3 each at Kmart).

-Dino cupcake toppers for the sides of the cake (stuck on with “edible glue” from Woolies), and Tim Tams.

As you can see, the aesthetic I was going for was: I bought a whole lotta vaguely cake-related stuff and I aim to use it ALL.

IMG_0628

 

So there it is in all its glory.

Now let’s talk volcanoes.

I dug two holes in the cake, and inserted small empty (clean) coke bottles (I experimented with other shapes and the mini soft drink bottle worked best). Then I broke a hole in the pointy end of two waffle cones and placed them over the top.

I was careful to make the bottle hole and cone hole match up as well as possible. You can see one of the bottles in the top of this pic:

IMG_0627

The cones did shatter a fair bit, but they fundamentally worked.

Bring a SEALED bottle of DIET red (the colour doesn’t matter; a lot of people use Coke because the dark colour is more dramatic but obviously red was better here).

At the last moment, fill both bottles. Then drop two MINT MENTOS into each one.

NB: The red diet drink I used uses stevia (considered a more ‘natural’ sweetener than the old chemical ones that have a number and/or a multisyllabic name). A LESS natural drink is likely to cause a greater explosion.

 

My daughter and her friend held the wind-up dinosaurs and let them go when I said, “Now!” and dropped the mentos into the volcanoes.

I lit the candles before pouring the diet soft drink into the bottles.

Mega Lolly & Chocolate Review

It’s been a while since I reviewed something heinously unhealthy on this blog, so when I saw a whole bunch of new and exciting permutations of sugar, cocoa, and chemicals at Woolies today I bought them all.

Let’s begin, as every good beginning does, with chocolate.

Lindt Orange Intense

I’m not usually a fan of dark chocolate, but this has almond slivers and orange bits in it which just works. It’s also beautifully thin, with a lovely crack when you break it. It’s also ten squares adding up to 100g, which pleases me immensely.

It’s particularly good at a certain time of the month, when I suddenly want more chocolate.

Not to be confused with their orange creme variety, which I don’t like.

Lindt Fruit Sensation: Raspberry & Cranberry

The fruity centres are quite sickly sweet, which is necessary to hold their own against the dark shell. I don’t think I’ll buy them again, but I may change my mind. I’m a sucker for a round chocolate, especially one that can be eaten without getting sticky fingers, so this wins points for shape and surface texture.

If you like dark chocolate, I think this will suit you. They also have another flavour (orange maybe? I can’t remember).

having said that, I think the candied fruit innards won’t appeal much to adults (who tend to be the ones eating dark chocolate) so I think this is a short-term product only.

IMG_4890.JPG

Cadbury Marvellous Creations: Clinkers, Raspberry Chips, Marshmallow

Love it, especially the clinkers. There’s a great range of texture and flavour without being excessively sticky (I’m looking at you, Cadbury Boost Block) or taking away too much important space in the chocolate. The eccentric shape is cute (and, I admit, fun to consume) but an obvious ploy to make the block run out faster.

Excuse me. I’m going to go eat some more right now.

Cadbury Boost Block

I’m a big fan of the Boost bar, and this is. . . not as good as that. It has a little bit of caramel, and plain crunchy things (similar to rice bubbles; no flavour to speak of but a crunch) in a differently-textured chocolate segment.

Yes, it’s fun to eat and a bit different. I don’t expect it to be around forever.

Cadbury Picnic Block

Like the Boost block, this is a variation of a popular (and superior) bar. The white stuff is pleasant but nothing to do with the original bar. I salute the creators for including a good amount of peanuts.

It’s a good way to have peanuts with your chocolate, but inferior to chocolate-coated peanuts, Darrell Lea brand peanut brittle balls/fingers (chocolate coated also; the pinnacle of chocolate/peanut relations and unlikely to ever be outdone in this world) and the Picnic bar itself.

Once again, this is a product that is fun to eat and a bit different for a limited time.

Cadbury Crispy Mint

I adore mint chocolate (I had mint M&Ms at my wedding reception) so I was initially disappointed by this block having those plain crunch things in it—I suspected they were there mainly to fill in space and save money as a result.

In the end, I grew to really like this bar. It has its own flavour (mint, obviously) and a distinct texture with both mini M&Ms (who doesn’t love tiny bits of crunchy coloured candy?) and the plain crunchy bits working together nicely.

Natural Confectionary Carnival Mix

The shapes are not as fun as dinosaurs (my favourite) or snakes (Chris’ favourite) but they are smaller, which might be good when bribing kids with a specific number of lollies. Also, the Cherry Cola and Watermelon flavours use the same shape—which is doubly unfortunate since it makes them difficult to distinguish.

Apparently these are “all new flavours”: Lemonade Float, Strawberries & Cream, Cherry Cola, Watermelon, Apple & Raspberry, Peach Pie.

I found the Lemonade and Cola flavours a bit syrupy; the watermelon, apple raspberry and peach pie were all probably a little too subtle, giving them a jelly-like effect (especially the watermelon; the peach pie also had a white section which offset the low flavour pretty well). The fruit-based flavours were clearly a minor alteration on existing flavours (and the existing flavours are better).

Conclusion: They’re an adequate addition to the range but not one that deserves to stick around.

NB: People on low-FODMAP or low-salicylate diets should be careful with Natural Confectionary, since they purposefully use fruits for flavouring, which is excellent except when one is intolerant of that fruit.

Natural Confectionary Sour Soda Pops

The soda pops are all bottle shapes, so some are quite difficult to distinguish. The flavours are Blackcurrant Soda, Raspberry Lemonade, Orange Fizz, Cola, Lemon Squash, and Lime Pop.

Fundamentally, these are sour lollies (a shocking conclusion, I know). I’m generally not a big fan of sour lollies (the best, in my opinion, are Sour Patch Kids, not least because the sourness goes away as you eat the lolly). They taste exactly as you’d expect a high-quality sour gummy lolly sprinkled with sugar to taste: not too sour, so as not to put off mainstream consumers, and with a nice texture.

Wattleseed bread, finger limes, and bush tomato

Yesterday I sold books at the Goulburn Reader Writer Festival, and met Fiona, who was selling a range of Australian native foods from Bent Shed Produce.

Naturally I was deliriously excited and I tasted several different things before settling on buying lemon myrtle (which I already know is delicious; it really is as if lemon has magically turned into a herb), forest berry (which is actually made from a particularly aromatic eucalyptus; the smell is delicious and it’s especially good mixed with sugar), bush tomato, wattleseed (I’d heard people used it to make bread), and finger limes.

Bush tomato/Akadjura

I just made tuna mornay (a somewhat bland dish) and sprinkled it with dried and powdered bush tomato. It was incredible! Apparently when it’s dried it’s called Akudjura, so that’s how I described it to the kids (who think they hate tomato). They both said it was great. It’s very similar to sundried tomato in taste, but sweeter (and of course it lasts longer because it’s fully dried). It was utterly delicious simply on it’s own (so I’ll be having it with cheese and crackers very soo—

Excuse me.

IMG_4694

Well that was delicious.

Cheese and crackers and akudjura = yum! I do believe I’ll have some more once I’m finished this blog. I used water crackers (nice and plain; perfect) and Massaman cheese (ditto, although next time I’ll put much more akadjura on).

I’d definitely recommend akudjura for any cheese platter or dukkah (powdered herbs, spices, and nuts for sprinkling or dipping), or with bread and olive oil (macadamia oil would be even better, if only because macadamias are Aussie too). There are lots of really excellent Aussie dukkah recipes out there, and there are several Australian salts (bizarrely, some are saltier than others) too.

I now wish I had a kilo of this glorious substance in my cupboard. The 20g I have may not make it to the weekend.

NOTE: There are several species of bush tomato and some are poisonous, so don’t pick your own unless you know what you’re doing.

Finger Limes

I’d heard a lot about finger limes so I was eager to give them a try. This is what they look like (although different varieties can get a lot bigger, like banana size):

IMG_4690

Unfortunately they’re a semitropical fruit so they’re unlikely to become part of my regular diet (unless they show up in shops, which is already happening). But if I’m ever lost in an Australian rainforest, I’ll definitely keep an eye out for these.

Their taste is sour, very much like lemons or limes (or both). Apparently different colours have different tastes, but I couldn’t tell the difference. It’s very cool that the inside echoes the colour of the outside (particularly if one wants to colour-coordinate one’s food). But it’s their texture that really blows my mind. I don’t want to open any right now because I have plans to make finger lime sorbet another day (gonna stir in the finger lime at the last minute to see what happens to the texture; I know they freeze well usually), but you can see a pic (along with instructions on how to grow them yourself) here. A lot of people talk about “finger lime caviar” and that is exactly right. The entire fruit is these tiny, perfect crystals that pop in your mouth with a tiny explosion of juice.

They’d be brilliant on pavlova, on a fruit salad (this recipe recommends sweetening them first, which could be a great technique for all sorts of things), and anything that could do with a zap of citrus. I hear they’re great in drinks, but I badly want to know if they float or not. If they float, that’d be brilliant. If they sink it’d be a waste (you’d have to crush them, which would still have a grand taste, but I’m so in love with the texture I don’t want to do that).

I fed some to several children (aged 3-8) this morning, and they loved how easy it is to break open the limes in the middle (with fingernails or a butterknife or whatever; it’s easy) and then squeeze them (also easy) to get the crystals out. The 8-year old tasted some and said, “It makes my body all tingly!”

Wattleseed

I was extremely excited about trying wattleseed because I’ve recently discovered that Australian Aborigines were probably the first bakers in the world—and wattleseed (one of the few plants I know by sight) was one of the possible ingredients. Given that our neighbour’s wattle bush is hanging over our fence (that makes it ours, right?) I thought I might be able to harvest it myself. Unfortunately, there are several species of wattle trees and some are poisonous, so I won’t be picking my own wattleseed anytime soon.

The wattleseed I bought was roasted and dried, ready to go. The process of making any kind of flour is very labor intensive. (You can read a bit about it here.)

It was immediately obvious that if I made “proper” wattleseed bread it would take a lot more wattleseed, would not rise, and would taste incredibly intense. I suspect (given the intensity combined with the wide range of native flours) that it wasn’t used alone, but in combination with several other ground-up foods. The smell alone was like walking into a starbucks: so much coffee, and chocolate too. Unsurprisingly, a lot of people recommend making wattleseed coffee or hot chocolate.

Hold on. I have an idea.

IMG_4697

I just heated some milk (400mL) with some wattleseed (three teaspoons) in the microwave for 4 minutes (you can see the milk-covered microwave plate in the pic above), then added four teaspooons full of milo and one of sugar. Finally I put canned whipped cream on the top, and sprinkled a 2:1 mixture of sugar:wattleseed on that.

A lot of recipes say wattleseed should be soaked before cooking, which is why I put the wattleseed in the milk before heating it. Certainly it absorbed a lot of milk.

There’s two mugs because I fed one to Chris, who (unlike me) likes coffee. We both very much enjoyed our drinks. The wattleseeds didn’t dissolve at all, and sunk to the bottom. It still tastes nice, but that wasn’t the effect I was going for. It’d probably work better if I either blended it or strained it before serving.

The sugar-based powder on top of the cream, however, was utter genius. Highly recommended, even for anti-coffee freaks like myself. It’d work on anything that would usually be improved with cinnamon sugar (or just cinnamon).

This morning I made wattleseed “damper” (I’m putting damper in quote marks because damper is bread you cook when you’re walking across Australia… which means buttermilk etc is somewhat unlikely). Plus obviously it uses standard refined white flour (which does made a great bread of course). This is the recipe I used, from here.

Bush Damper

Ingredients
2 cups self raising flour
1 Tbspn Ground Wattleseed
1 tspn Ground Lemon Myrtle
1 tspn Ground Mountain Pepper (I used forest berry instead)
250ml well shaken buttermilk (I only had 110g)
1 Tbspn Macadamia Nut Oil (I used peanut oil; a total of 110g to make up for the lack of buttermilk)
Milk for brushing

Preheat oven to 180C
Sift the flour and seasonings into a large bowl and make a well in the centre. Combine the buttermilk and oil and pour into the well. Mix quickly and lightly to a soft dough. Turn onto a floured board and knead until smooth. Shape into a round (or whatever shape you like) and place on a lightly oiled baking tray. Brush with milk. Bake for 40-50 minutes (it will sound hollow when tapped).
Serve with Macadamia Nut Dukkah

I mixed and kneaded it in the thermomix and served it with butter (although it was nice by itself too).

The smell of bread and wattleseed filled the thermomix, and the house. Here it is, raw and cooked:

 

I sprinkled akudjura on top, which unfortunately just burnt. Other than that, it was great. It had a pleasantly thick texture with a crumbly crust. It’s got a vibe a little like hot cross buns—something that has a distinct flavour, except that the flavour of wattleseed bread is. . . well, distinct. Not much like hot cross buns at all.

It was very good. Someone I fed it too described it as “fresh”—not because it was cooked this morning, but because of the flavour.

IMG_4692

I think, generally, wattleseed is too similar to coffee for me (more so the smell than the taste)—but I’ll still gladly buy it anytime I see it, for sugary sprinkles if nothing else.

Chocaroo

I’ll be going to this year’s Goulburn Reader Writer Festival on Saturday 24 March (10am-8pm). The theme is “Feed Your Mind” and there will be a bunch of food-oriented authors. “Murder in the Mail” has two clues that can be consumed (technically you could consume all of them, but I would NOT recommend that) so I’ll fit in nicely, in my own peculiar way.

One of the authors is John Newton, and when I realised he’d written a book on pre-European Australian food I grabbed it at once. The Oldest Foods on Earth: A History of Australian Native Foods With Recipes was enthralling and I finished it quickly. . . but of course I had to stop and copy out a recipe while I was there. That recipe was “Kangaroo Loin, Semi-Smoked in Lemon Myrtle” by Indigenous Chef and star of “Wild Kitchen”, Clayton Donovan. You can see the real recipe here. and can follow the movements of the Jaaning Tree Restaurant (it does pop-ups and stuff) here.

The mechanics of smoking the kangaroo reminded me of the epically delicious Chicken and Cashews with Coconut Satay Sauce and Coconut Rice by thermomix cooking genius Quirky Cooking, here.

One of the cool things themomixes can do is cook rice while also steaming meat and reducing the liquid of a sauce. But it’s possible to still cook this recipe without one, especially if you use a rice cooker that can fit a wire frame inside. I’ll leave the Macgyvering up to you.

I found ALL my ingredients in Woolworths except the cooking wine (our Woolies has a separate shop for booze). The kangaroo was very near the chicken (and it cost the same amount to buy the marinated ones, so why not?), and the Masterfoods herb and spice mixture was just below all the herb and spice bottles (I didn’t find any plain lemon myrtle but I did order some online via ebay once I’d tasted it).

I was extremely excited about trying this out, and the results were spectacular. TJ and Chris were both impressed; Louisette refused to eat anything other than the sauce (3 out of 4 happy at dinner time is well above average). It’s incredibly rich, and the meat is lean and tender with a taste similar to lamb but. . . well. . . richer. It may have actually knocked lamb of its podium for me, which is incredible. There’s no fat to trim and no bones to negotiate. You can certainly taste the French influence. It feels weird to have rice with kangaroo, but it worked. The wine turns the rice a gorgeous purple, and the coconut makes it taste delicious.

Ingredients:

4ish kangaroo steaks, marinated in garlic and herbs (ie one pack)

Rice (enough for four people)

100mL red cooking wine

1 can coconut milk

20g bag Masterfoods “Coconut, Lemon Myrtle, and Garlic” Herb and Spice Blend (pictured, after I tore off the top).

1 tsp sugar (optional)

20g crushed macadamias (I crushed them on speed 6 for 1 second in the thermomix; putting them in a clean back and hitting them would also work)

2 tablespoons dark chocolate, broken (choc chips are handy)

1 tablespoon cranberry jelly/sauce

1 tsp stock (I used thermomix vegie stock; I recommend beef stock if you don’t have a thermomix)

IMG_4282

 

  1. Pour the coconut milk and red wine into the thermomix/rice cooker. Place the rice in the thermomix basket and rinse thoroughly with water (or it doesn’t cook right).
  2. Place the kangaroo steaks on the top layer of the wire rack/thermomix steamer (the lower layer stays empty, or can be used for vegetables).
  3. Mix the herb and spice mix with the sugar and 1/2 of the macadamias. Sprinkle half the resulting herb mixture over the rice, and another tablespoonful (or two) over the kangaroo steaks. Keep the rest for now (taste it; it’s salty but delicious).
  4. Put the thermomix basket (with the rice) into the thermomix, with the steamer (containing the kangaroo) on top. Then cook rice as normal (Varoma temperature, Speed 4, twenty minutes).
  5. When the rice is finished, put it in the thermo server (or other closed container) and mix in half the remaining macadamias. Put the steamer (with the kangaroo) on top of the rice (instead of the thermoserver lid) or cover it with an al foil tent.
  6. To make the chocolate sauce, add the chocolate (first, so it has time to melt), jam, and stock to the coconut milk and wine mixture remaining in the thermomix jug. Mix it on speed 1 for up to five minutes (until everything else is ready).
  7. Thinly slice the kangaroo and arrange it on plates with the rice. Add little piles of the herb mixture and macadamias to the side of the plate for diners to use for dipping (I literally couldn’t decide which flavour combination was the greatest). Pour chocolate sauce over and beside the kangaroo.

Serves 4

IMG_4292

Useful stuff:

As with all meat, the kangaroo will be best if you leave it at room temperature for 30-60 minutes before cooking (but I didn’t do that and it was glorious).

Take your time making the sauce. It’s good for the kangaroo to ‘rest’ for up to ten minutes before getting sliced.

The sauce is amazing, and would also go beautifully with a pavlova (keeping in mind that this version will have some juice dripped down from the kangaroo, so you’ll need to use it fairly soon or make a fresh batch solo).

I’ve heard kangaroo is difficult to cook, and there seems to be a consensus that it’s important to leave it rare. But this was a winner on my first go. I’ll be cooking it VERY frequently from now on.

Kangaroo is a brilliantly lean, tasty, sustainable meat. One of the reasons it’s sustainable is that sheep and cows harden the ground they walk on, but kangaroos don’t.

Bloody Kickstarter

The “Murder in the Mail: A Bloody Birthday” Kickstarter campaign starts this Saturday (very much aligned with THE MONSTER APPRENTICE Book Launch & Pirate Ball, because I’m not one to waste an audience), and there are some EPIC rewards on offer.

One of the rewards will be the chance to have a custom cake made for the launch on August 25. A cake based on this picture (“Bloody Cake” by Shauna O’Meara):

felicitycakepicdone

It’s a tribute to Shauna that I want so, so badly to eat that cake, even with the blood dripping all over it (I’d eat around the blood, okay??) and the fact that it’s black and white.

 

Rice paper rolls

Lately I’ve been weirdly obsessed with rice paper rolls. Luckily for me, the Vietnamese shop “Roll’d” rapidly became the supplier for my latest addiction. It seems like every day I end up at Roll’d and walk away with those delicious parcels of yum. (I also strongly recommend their sweet potato chips, and I’m dying to try their Bao buns.)

A gluten-free friend of mine (Wendy Jensen, in fact) brought rice paper rolls to a party at my house once, many years ago, which is definitely how this entire habit-forming journey began. I attempted to make them shortly after that, but I had to go and make them “more healthy” by leaving out the vermicelli noodles. It was a disaster.

Last Thursday I ran into another friend, Meg, near Roll’d and we talked rice paper rolls. She said the brand of rice paper is essential, recommending the “pinky-purply” packet that isn’t stocked by Coles.

Today I was chatting to Brooke at church and I was contemplating putting a sauce of my own invention inside the rice paper rolls to make them neater. She said that method only works if they’re served right away—otherwise, the rolls disintegrate. Good to know!

So today, out of dinner ideas but with rice paper and vermicelli noodles (also called ‘glass noodles’, apparently*) all newly-bought on the table (thanks to Chris’ grocery shopping). . . I made rice paper rolls. And they were fantastic.**

My thermomix came in very handy, so I’ll write this as a thermomix recipe. I trust anyone who attempts it sans thermomix will find their own technique.

Obviously, this recipe is dedicated to Wendy, Meg, and Brooke.

Ingredients:

-Vermicelli noodles (those super thin ones; pandaroo brand is good)

-Rice paper (pandaroo brand)

-1 tin coconut milk

-Half or less of a BBQ roast chicken (or other leftover/cold meat). Roughly 400gms. Chopped into bits/lengths.

-1 carrot

-Roasted cashews (a handful)

-Snow peas or capsicum (both is too much)

-Sesame seeds

-Coriander (I used dried coriander but fresh leaves look and taste great)

-Mint (as above)

-Sauces eg Hoisin, Nuoc mam (the Vietnamese one; recommended), Soy, Sweet soy sauce, or a half-half mixture of mayo and maple syrup (recommended).

Method:

  1. Put the coconut milk in a saucepan, add the same amount of water, and set it to boil. Boil the rice noodles for two minutes (they get soft fast, so it’s easy to push them down into the relatively small amount of milk/water) then drain and set aside to cool completely.
  2. Smash your cashews in the thermomix (4 seconds on 6), mix in a teaspoon of mint, and set aside (in a small bowl is nice).
  3. Finely chop your carrot in the thermomix (some cashew powder in the mix is fine; 6 seconds on 6, possibly in two bursts), mix in half a teaspoon of mint and a teaspoon of coriander, and set aside.
  4. Prep your snow peas by cutting the tops and bottoms off./Cut your cucumber into sticks.
  5. Use tepid water to soak and lay out two tea-towels.
  6. Take out 8 rice paper circles (so you can work quickly).
  7. There are probably better ways of doing Step 8 but this worked for me:
  8. Run a gentle stream of tepid water into the sink, and quickly wet (not soak) each side of your rice circles, laying them out on the tea-towels. Do this twice (they will be much floppier the second time).
  9. Prep all your rolls (you don’t need to hurry, but don’t wander off and leave them on the towels or they’ll dry out):
    1. Optional. Lay out any leaves you’re using (instead of dried herbs, like I used) on the rice paper circles.
    2. Sprinkle sesame seeds in a rough line across the centre of each rice paper circle (leave a few centimetres of empty rice paper at either end).
    3. Add 1-2 bits of snow peas/cucumber; 3-4 bits of meat, 1ish spoons of nut mixture, coupla spoons of carrot mixture, and a handful of rice noodles (you’ll need to physically pull it apart from the noodley mass because they’re so long). Basically, you want your contents to make a fat sausage shape with plenty of room all around.
    4. Fold up both short ends of your roll, then physically roll it up (squashing the rice noodles; they can take it). I found that it worked well to make my first fold of the roll over the top of the mixture (rather than trying to fit all the mixture into each turn of the rolling procedure). Whatever your most dodgy rice paper edge is, place the roll with that side down while you do the rest. It’ll be better ‘glued’ in about thirty seconds.
    5. Serve cold with dipping sauces.

If kept in the fridge, I think these are good to eat for 2-3 days.

But be warned: Although they look perfectly neat and convenient, the inevitable forces of chaos will always cause you to drop rice noodle fragments everywhere and/or helplessly mouth-flail as your rice noodle package loses all structural integrity during the last few bites. Trust me on this.

IMG_4083

A lot of the steps can be done well in advance (the whole meal, of course, can also be done in advance and refrigerated), so it’s relatively good for people like me who can’t stand up for long. With the notable exception of Step #9.

 

*In Malaysia (but not, I think, Indonesia), they’re called bee hoon; in China they’re mie fen; in Thailand they’re sen mee and in Vietnam they’re bahn hoi.

**Roll’d adds a sprinkling of crispy fried onions which is pure genius. I may experiment with crushed chips in future (since I’m intolerant of onions).