In My Kitchen – September 2014

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I’m an experimenter; a tweaker. I find it difficult to follow a recipe exactly, unless it is for baked goods, which often don’t lend themselves to much tinkering. But my tweaks in early August were a pleasure free zone. I won’t waste your time.

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Beef Cheeks Ragu over eggplant shards

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Beef cheeks in slow cooker with stock

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Shredding the meat

By the third week, however, I was number 1 with a bullet (read: top of the charts and ascending!). I decided to experiment by cooking beef cheeks. I’ve tasted them a couple of times and thought they were slightly stronger tasting than a normal roast. I decided the flavours would work well in pasta sauce. I slow cooked the cheeks first, and shredded them, then added to a very simple passata sauce. My husband had pasta, I had the sauce over eggplant that I had roasted in shards in the oven. Heaven on a shard! Two thumbs up from my husband. Four grass fed beef cheeks ($13.52) made enough sauce to feed 6.

IMG_2049The weather has a hint of spring in it here so I’m starting to get urges toward salad-y things. I thought I’d ‘lean into’ them a bit with a recipe I saw for Brussels Sprouts and Potato salad. Very nice ‘transitional salad.’

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Cucumber and Corn salad with coconut bacon

Coconut Bacon‘ should just about offend everyone equally, I’m guessing. I’m not a vegetarian (see beef cheek paragraph above) but I used to be, for two years, and I still get curious to try things intended for vegetarians. Good food is good food. My curiosity was whether the crispy texture and savoury flavour would be nice in salads this summer. It is. Then I tried Cucumber, Corn and Coconut salad from a favourite blog I’ve been following for a while http://www.remedialeating.com/2014/08/in-the-weeds.html  Except I tweaked. My version was to use a bit of dill and some chives instead of the herbs called for in the recipe, and because I couldn’t find dry roasted peanuts anywhere in Alice, I used straight toasted peanuts, and the Maple Coconut Bacon to add the savoury element. It did work perfectly. Two thumbs up from hubby again. That’s twice in space of a week, if anyone is keeping track!

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basket of lemons

We have been picking lemons by the box and basketful! It’s such a shame to not be able to use more of them, but we give them away, so nothing is wasted. I have frozen some zest and juice in ice cube trays (zest and juice of 1 lemon per cube) for use later in the year. I wish you all were here so I could give some to you!

Also I have been soaking legumes and nuts before eating them, in order for the phytase to develop which lowers the phytates, which effects nutrient absorbtion. Because I drink almond milk much of the time, instead of dairy, I consume quite a few almonds. I soak them before whizzing them, the resulting milk tastes noticeably better, and hopefully, I’m getting more nutrients from them. I can now eat chick peas again, simply by soaking them for 24 hours before eating! Who knew? According to a Paleo site, ancient people used to soak most grains and legumes before eating them, but we got out of that practice somewhere along the way.

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Grilled salmon, eggplant strips and cucumber/corn salad

Finally, Don cooked most of dinner on the grill the other night and it was amazing! He cooked the salmon filets simply, with olive oil and salt, and the eggplant strips I had simply drizzled with olive oil as well. You can also roast the eggplant in the oven, but it’s the dressing for the eggplant that made it special. As per usual, I did have to make a change in the recipe, omitting the garlic, but it was still a new favourite.

Will send him to your place for weddings, parties, whatever…

Have a delicious month!

–Ardys

Please check out the other IMK posts at figjamandlimecordial.com  Thank you to Celia for hosting this monthly tour through kitchens around the world! Pop on over there and see what other interesting things are happening.

 

We’re the People – Alice Springs

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Grocery store fairy

We are the people. Even the little people. Especially the little people. I have been dwelling in a parallel universe this week–the Past. It is for good reason I have gone so far afield from my usual space. I have been assembling an album for our daughter, of photos, poems, mementos from as far back as four generations before her. A nearly overwhelming task.

In between assembling pages I have done the usual domestic chores of washing, ironing, cleaning, cooking and grocery shopping. One of the highlights of my week was this tiny person skipping up the isle at the grocery store… in her fairy costume. Not wanting to seem like a stalker, I held some distance between us as the little fairy gazed at some strategically placed items on the shelves, would you believe it— at just her height!! (Thank you Walt Disney.)

She reminded me of the fairy and princess costumes our own daughter wore out in public at that age; the age before we stop believing we might actually be a fairy. I love that it is still winter here, and, to keep warm, she had the appropriate leggings and tights on underneath the fairy dress. Her mother’s influence no doubt, because fairies do not feel the cold. I love that with all the troubles going on in the world, somewhere a little fairy has gotten her wings and is learning to fly.

Have a great weekend.

–Ardys

We’re the People – Alice Springs

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When I was a young girl, Dad taught me to do a good job of sweeping grass clippings from the foot path. He used this phrase ‘Always do this little test, make your good better, and your better best‘. He was teaching integrity and work ethic. He taught it to many of the young men who worked for him over the decades, as well as his children. Our Mother was, and still is, a role model of integrity.

That is how I know it when I see it.

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Delivery man

I was going for my usual walk one morning this week when I saw the man depicted putting advertising flyers into letter boxes at a nearby complex of units. I couldn’t help but notice the precision with which he was working. Notice how nicely all the flyers are tucked into the slots. The flyers were neatly folded and organised in the bottom of his delivery wagon, too. He was so mindful about his job I couldn’t help but admire him, even though I dislike the ‘junk mail’ as much as many people do. Here was someone, no doubt making small money, but doing the job with integrity.

So, when I look at this photo I see, the smallness of the task need not reflect smallness in the person. I shot the photo from a lower angle so that we could all look up to him.

And when I got home from that very same walk, there in my letterbox was the following notice…IMG_2036

I wonder how many will do the job with this man’s integrity?

(This is part of a series of photos based                                                                      on an original post titled ‘We’re the People‘)

the sharp with the soft

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Our last rain was weeks ago. After all, we live in a place that gets only an average 8 inches (200mm) of rain per year. Damp earth is always temporary here. After the rain, two seeds quietly sprouted beside the curb, at the curve of the road. The ground returned to dust. They thrived. It was a dusty and seldom tended place, on the ‘nature strip’–not owned by the houses on either side. No man’s land.

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Ouch!

The small plants grew at a rapid rate, extending variegated, pointed branches in all directions. A woman who regularly walked the roadside where the plants grew, took note of them. They were unusual, but beautiful–in a spiny way. She had some experience photographing spiny plants in the arid lands and even a close encounter, or two, with prickles that she’d rather forget! But she made a mental note that when the light was right, she would stop and photograph the plants.

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Opening bud

One morning, the woman did indeed take a photograph of the plant, though the result was unremarkable, except that it recorded a life. But she regularly observed the changes in the plants. After a week or so, she noticed atop one of the plants a small white pillow-y shape. She got closer. A blossom! She bent to photograph it in the early morning light. It was made of delicate, gossamer petals that would be a flicker of soft ephemera and then gone. Capturing the fleeting beauty called for strategic effort.

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Silky petals

It was a cloudy day that afforded photos one often could not accomplish in the bright, clear sky of central Australia, and possibly meant the blossom would last a little longer. Think hours, not days. The woman returned to the blossom a couple of hours after first seeing it, in hopes the flower would be fully opened. What luck. It was like many cactus blossoms she had seen, a splash of floral silkiness amidst forbidding spines, unapproachable to many, all the more alluring because of it. But she was sure it wasn’t actually a cactus.

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In the centre of beauty

A couple of hours later the woman returned to the blossom to see its progress. It was nearly spent, flaccid and waving in the arid breeze. Its delicate centre now dried. The moment of glory finished.

The next day on her walk, the woman approached the plants with anticipation. Gone! Extracted by their roots and disappeared completely. The end of life. Ah, she thought, at least I preserved some memory of them in their prime.

It reminded her of the photo album she was putting together, and some humans she had known. People could be prickly and hard to handle, then shine in a moment of photographed brilliance. Glorious. Then gone. She was grateful for photographs.

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The sharp with the soft

She later discovered the plants were Mexican Poppies, toxic to all animals and humans. Pity. Her husband declared ‘someone has done the environment a favour’. True enough, she guessed. But not before the siren-like, petals enchanted her and reminded her of the nature of some of us, and the potential for beauty in all of us.

We’re the People – Istanbul

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Alone in a crowd

Hasan was our tour guide in Turkey. He was a lovely, open man. He was of Syrian and Arab derivation but born just inside the border of Turkey. I can’t imagine a better tour guide. In fact, he told us more than I could possibly process and remember! Here we are in the Blue Mosque and I have edited this photo to emphasise what he was demonstrating to us. In response to a question, he went through all the motions that a woman would go through when praying in the Mosque. There we stood, among hundreds of people, without our shoes and with our heads covered (women) and were riveted on his demonstration. He even went down on the floor and did the entire sequence of movements. This photo speaks to me of his willingness to share everything he possibly could with us, so that we might understand as much as possible about Turkey.

Masallah,* Hasan.

 

(*Arabic for Blessing someone, or something that happens)

This is part of a series of photos based on an original post titled ‘We’re the People

International Scone Week – August 2014

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Gluten Free Currant Scones

This morning I read on Celia’s figjamandlimecordial blog that it is International Scone Week. Who knew? As it happened I was preparing my shopping list. I added a couple of things to it so that I could have a go at ‘playing’ the scone making game this week!

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dough before kneading

round piece of dough, cut into 8 pieces, brushed with yolk/cream mixture

round piece of dough, cut into 8 pieces, brushed with yolk/cream mixture

Yummy piece of goodness!

Yummy piece of goodness!

The recipe I’m making available to you is one I’ve cobbled together from a couple of others… mmm, well, kinda, sorta… with a dash of creative modification of my own. I hate to brag, but I could have eaten the entire batch. Good thing it was small!

I’d been craving some kind of bread type food and this satisfied me perfectly, without having to eat gluten or sugar. I’d invite you over to taste them, but they may be gone by the time you get here! Have a great week!

–Ardys

Gluten Free Currant Scones

½ C almond meal

¼ C gluten free flour (Orgran)

¼ C coconut flour

1.5 T xylitol or sugar

1.5 tsp baking powder

½ tsp xanthan gum

¼ tsp sea salt

2 T cold, unsalted butter

1/3 C currants

2 tsp grated orange zest

1 egg yolk

½ C heavy cream

Preheat oven to 210 C (425 F). Place parchment paper onto a baking sheet.

Combine dry ingredients into a bowl and mix with a fork to blend well.

Chop butter into small pieces and add to dry ingredients. Rub into dry ingredients with tips of fingers until it resembles course bread crumbs.

Separate the yolk, add to a cup along with the cream and mix well with a fork to blend. Add all but a small amount of the cream mixture to the dry ingredients, saving a scant tablespoon of mixture to brush over the tops of the scones.

Mix the dough until it comes together as a ball, then turn onto bench top that has been dusted with GF flour. Knead just a few times until it is quite consolidated, then pat into about a 15-20mm (3/4 inch) thick, round shape. Place onto the baking sheet and make cuts right through so that there are 8 small, wedge shaped scones. Brush with the remaining egg and cream mixture.

Bake for 12-13 minutes. The scones will be fairly crumbly, but delicious, if eaten while warm. Or they will become slightly firmer as they cool. Also the sweetness develops a bit further as they cool. The inside is a very tender, soft texture with a nice outer crust.

 

We’re the People – Budapest

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There are amazing sights to be seen when travelling, but none more amazing than the people. Architecture can be looked up in a book or on the internet, but watching people is the biggest thrill for me. I try to be respectful of personal space, and usually ask, if I’m in doubt, whether a person minds having their photo taken. Sometimes I’m told ‘no’ so I back off. Not everyone wants their image ‘captured’.

I spend a lot of time in solitary pursuits when at home. People are often a mystery to me. But looking back over photos of our recent travels, it is the photos with people that I value the most. I thought I would publish a series called ‘We’re the People’, named for the post I wrote a couple of weeks ago of the same name. Mostly I won’t know much about the strangers in the photos, but I’d like to share my thoughts with you.

I took this photo fairly early on a humid, warm morning in Budapest. We were happy to find a beautiful tree-shaded street. The two young men appeared to be workers, dressed in the traditional blue workers outfits, and one carrying his case of tools to their job for that morning. I liked the juxtaposition of the workers against all the neatly folded umbrellas of the cafés, ready for the tourists, and locals, who would be relaxing beneath them. Someone has to work, right?

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Going to work in Budapest

–all the best, Ardys

In My Kitchen – August 2014*

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*Warning to those on a diet, this post may be hazardous to your mental state!

Most of the passed month, I’ve been eating from other people’s kitchens in Budapest, and along the Danube to Istanbul! I’ll be writing about some of that, hopefully not so much you will be bored, but for now I’m back in my own familiar surroundings preparing very simple meals to recover from ‘travel tummy’! The problem with eating very cleanly and healthily at home is that when you travel it is very hard to replicate. And then there are the temptations…

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Variety of Turkish Delight

‘Travel tummy’ is different than Bali belly!! Now returned to normal, I have learned my tolerance for certain foods, combined with summer heat, is even lower than I had thought. So, future efforts will have to be more restrained, which of course means passing up certain flavours one would love to experience when travelling… like tasting Turkish Delight while IN Turkey!! While it was very interesting to see all the amazing varieties that come under the umbrella of ‘Turkish Delight’, I was shocked that in my new incarnation of eating almost no sugar for all of this year, they were way too sweet for me. So I did taste them, but they were so sweet there was certainly no temptation to overindulge.

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Tower of Baklava

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Assortment of Baklava, Grand Bazaar, Istanbul

The Baklava in Turkey was amazing. It was incredible to see, as much as eat, though, again, it was really way too sweet for me to enjoy. I had never tasted Baklava until I moved to Australia 31 years ago. The Greek community in Darwin meant that it was fairly available in cafés, as well as occasionally offered from the Greek family across the street from our house. I used to love it. But now, I taste it more in the spirit of research, than passion. (That’s my story and I’m sticking with it!)

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As good as it gets croissant, Sofitel, Budapest

The one indulgence that I will forever remember was from the kitchen of the Sofitel Hotel in Budapest. Croissant. And fresh butter. No, croissant is not on my menu normally. In fact I guess you could call me a croissant snob. I declared to my husband a year or so ago that I would not be eating another croissant unless we were in France, where they are quite obviously a level above any others I’ve tasted. But I could tell from one look, these were special. They were the kind one only finds in France, or a French owned hotel like Sofitel. They were small, perfectly flaky, buttery miracles. So yes, I ate one. Okay, two—but not on the same morning. Such restraint. With stunningly fresh butter. I savoured every mouthful, and I swear a little tear escaped my eye the day we boarded the ship and left the Sofitel buffet!

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Hungarian stuffed cabbage rolls

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Hungarian meatballs

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Hungarian cuisine, Little Bites of Hungary, Budapest

Two of the most outstanding dining experiences were possibly the most humble. On our second night in Budapest we found a little place that specialised in Hungarian food. Not so unusual, you might think. However, their menu offered a few different ways you could eat, or sample, the selections. You could order a fixed menu consisting of several courses, all in small servings. You could order the same dishes individually, a la carte, as small servings, or as regular sized servings. We seldom want a large evening meal so the a la carte small servings of a couple of dishes suited us perfectly. And the dishes we had were absolutely delicious! We marvelled at what a good concept this was and wonder why we have never before seen a place like it. (excluding Tapas, which is something different again)

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Grilled squid and eggplant (babaghanouj)

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Lunch by the sea in Gelibolu (Gallipoli)

The other beautifully simple meal was in Turkey, in the small town of Gelibolu (Gallipoli). We ate next to the water and had simple grilled squid, with babaghanouj (grilled eggplant), and grilled fish. Delicious. Since we returned home, I have twice replicated the babaghanouj, and that is without having a recipe. It was that simple. We discovered the secret is, a little tiny bit of salt, and only the tiniest hint of garlic. I have always found baba ganoush recipes called for so much garlic, it was inedible for me (I have sensitivity to onion and garlic family). But the ones we ate in Turkey, in four or five different places, were always very, very lightly flavoured as I have described above. It allows the buttery, mellow flavour of the eggplant to dominate, which we loved. (in the interest of giving value for money, click here for my version of grilled eggplant)

I hope this gastronomic tour will appease your desire for IMK from me this month. I assure you it is more interesting than my own very simple cooking has been. Thank you to Celia at figjamandlimecordial.com for hosting this monthly tour through kitchens around the world! Pop on over there and see what other interesting things are happening.

a bald man in Budapest

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My last couple of posts have been on the serious side, so let’s have some fun! The starting point of our recent travels was Budapest. We had spent a couple of days there a few years ago and enjoyed it, but knew we still had some exploring to do, so we decided to go back for a few more days at the front of our trip to the Black Sea area. No doubt I will tumble forth with facts and photos in subsequent posts, but today I will tell you a short story.

Our second evening in Budapest, we decided to look for a restaurant that had been described to us as, near St. Stephens cathedral. It was the perfect place to try a bit of several classic Hungarian dishes, in small servings. Great idea, don’t know why more places don’t pursue this idea.

The meal was fun, but what happened on our way to eat was the highlight!

As we were walking toward the cathedral, the sun was getting low in the sky and perfectly highlighting it. I got my camera out to take a few photos.

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St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Budapest

Far in the distance there appeared a bright orange apparition. It got closer. I took another photo.

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The orange apparition approaches

As the orange figure approached, we were somewhat transfixed on it. What was it? Then we quickly decided the only thing we had seen that looked remotely similar were photos of Spider Man.

As Spidey-man got within earshot, one of his three comrades called out to us… (in a thick French accent) “Can he (pointing to indicate ‘spidey’) kiss your head?” pointing to indicate my HUSBAND! It was a very absurd request, but my husband who has a good sense of humour, said yes! Orange spidey-man was very tall, and he bent down to kiss the top of my husband’s head!!

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Kissing the bald man

We all laughed and I took a photo and they were going to just keep moving, apparently without further explanation!! We couldn’t let that happen! I quickly asked them if there was significance to the orange costume, and that kiss! Again, Mr-Thick-French accent told us, “Our friend is getting married and we are celebrating his upcoming marriage and he must do whatever we dare him to do tonight!”*

So the mates had dared him to kiss a bald man’s head!! I hope all the dares turned out so well for all parties involved, as did this one. We are still laughing.

 

*(we call it a ‘buck’s night’ in Australia, a ‘bachelor’s party’ in the USA, I believe)

In these uncertain times…

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Leafy winter walk

‘There’s no better way to kill a bad product than with good advertising.’ When I worked in advertising that phrase was our way of reminding ourselves to stay true in what we said about our product, but also, to try our best to make sure the product was good in the first place. If we launched very clever, successful ads and people responded and bought the product, which turned out to be a dud, word would spread fast!

Every time I hear the phrase ‘In these uncertain times…’ I think ‘that is advertising a lie’. Humans have never lived in certain times. I doubt there even exists such a thing in a parallel universe! All that we know about life is, at best, that certain things may be likely to happen, or not. The only certainty that may possibly exist for us is in this moment. Not a nanosecond from now, or an hour from now, but now… oops… gone.

What is my certain moment, is not your certain moment.

Frustrating.

It is to our detriment that we buy into this well advertised concept, that somewhere out there, was, or might one day be, certain times. It is a bad product of faulty thinking.

Yesterday I was diagnosed with glaucoma, and partial sight loss in the lower portion of my visual field–both eyes. This was the third in a series of tests, so there is no doubt. For half the day I morphed through four of the five stages of grief and loss… denial… anger… bargaining and sadness. We’ve all been there.

I took the eye drops the doctor said for me to start ‘immediately’.

I went to bed. Stuck at sad.

This morning I woke, if not happy, at least aware of the many times in life I have been lucky. It was an unusually warm morning for the middle of winter, so I grabbed my camera to greet the sunrise. The amazing colours and cloud formations put everything into perspective again. The power of the thing that is bigger than us, more beautiful than artists can replicate, reassures me– restores me. All things are possible, and as they should be, if not always as they are advertised to be.

Stage five: acceptance.

 

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Sunrise – Range Crescent, Alice Springs

In the wise words of Bob Dylan…

“The Times They Are A-Changin'”

 

Come gather ’round people

Wherever you roam

And admit that the waters

Around you have grown

And accept it that soon

You’ll be drenched to the bone

If your time to you

Is worth savin’

Then you better start swimmin’

Or you’ll sink like a stone

For the times they are a-changin’.

 

Come writers and critics

Who prophesize with your pen

And keep your eyes wide

The chance won’t come again

 

 

 

sunrise-alice-springs

Good Morning

And don’t speak too soon

For the wheel’s still in spin

And there’s no tellin’ who

That it’s namin’

For the loser now

Will be later to win

For the times they are a-changin’.

 

Come senators, congressmen

Please heed the call

Don’t stand in the doorway

Don’t block up the hall

For he that gets hurt

Will be he who has stalled

There’s a battle outside

And it is ragin’

It’ll soon shake your windows

 

sunrise-alice-springs

Modern

And rattle your walls

For the times they are a-changin’.

 

Come mothers and fathers

Throughout the land

And don’t criticize

What you can’t understand

Your sons and your daughters

Are beyond your command

Your old road is

Rapidly agin’

Please get out of the new one

If you can’t lend your hand

For the times they are a-changin’.

 

The line it is drawn

The curse it is cast

The slow one now

Will later be fast

As the present now

Will later be past

The order is

Rapidly fadin’

And the first one now

Will later be last

For the times they are a-changin’.

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Sun-kissed Macdonnell Ranges, millennia old, and ever new

(I shot all these photos on my walk this morning, isn’t it incredible the spectrum of light, shadow and colour?)

xx Ardys

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