Stuff and that.

Stuff. And yeah. That

Month: September, 2013

Oh Mr Oliver, What a MESS!!!

Picture this, if you will…

Most evenings, we arrive home from work and school somewhere between quarter to and six, in a flurry of bags and jumpers and papers and homework and musical instruments, still carrying on with the fight that started in the car on the way to school and work in the morning. Chaos AND mayhem. Figuratively and literally. Add to the noise and the flinging of things and the flouncing of small boys an equally small and equally annoying Hound who has been alone all day and needs some company. Bouncy, shouty company. And food.

Because the children need to be in bed by 8.30pm, they need to eat by 6.30 or so; and because, you know, one of the ways to help turn children into civilised adults is to actually eat a meal with them from time to time – this will allegedly make them eat with appropriate cutlery and stop them from eating peas with their knife. Although it hasn’t appeared to prevent the eating of peas with a spoon. (A pea-spoon. Geddit?) I digress. Because it is good for children to eat with their families, we try to do this whenever we can.

So, you can imagine my delight when I first got a hold of Jamie Oliver’s 30 minute meals (and the subsequent 15 minute meals). Here was an opportunity to whip up a nice meal for the family, a little bit fancy, nice dessert instead of just grabbing an icecream cone from the freezer. Excellent. Being a cautious soul, the first time I cracked open Mr Oliver’s book, we made sure the children were well and truly fed – there’s nothing more frightening than two starving children sighing and moaning, draped over the table while waiting for food. We did however have guests for dinner. Patient ones, fortunately.

To be perfectly honest, the actual cooking part of the recipe did only take about 30 minutes BUT the preparation to get started took me nearly half the entire allocated time. There were no weird ingredients – I had to pick up a couple of things, but they were items I would normally have on hand, so that wasn’t the issue. And I had all the equipment I needed – but I don’t have a supply of kitchen fairies who can magically chop, grate, mince and pass the ingredients. Nor do I have metres of bench space, so I can have things spread out in front of me while in various stages of preparation. It was stressful.

And the dishes. Man, I have never before created SO MANY DISHES (except for – well, except for when I’ve made a couple of other Jamie Oliver recipes.)  So, in order to cook the “30 minute meal”, I needed 15 minutes for prep, 30 minutes for cooking and 45 minutes for cleaning up (did I mention I didn’t have a dishwasher, either!)

So, sorry Mr Oliver, your idea of a 30 minute meal aint going to cut it when the chef has to supervise homework, music practice, sort out school notices, fold washing, clean out the fridge, find toilet paper and $6.50 for an excursion that was due in yesterday… not to mention finishing off the argument from the morning. Chopping up a a few vegies and tossing some meat in a pan leaves plenty of time for running through spelling words, testing times tables, logging into Reading Eggs and doing all the other bits and pieces that need to be done; rather than trying to balance all of the above with reading a recipe, chopping, dicing, sauteing and dirtying every dish in the house. I don’t have a dish pig and a kitchen hand!

However, I have taken a little of this and a little of that and made the odd recipe or two from 30 Minute Dinners – but I don’t make them when I only have thirty minutes to get a meal on the table!

(Still reading Dances with Dragons – page 539 or thereabouts. Loaned my e-reader to a friend in need, and am currently reading Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman)

That other thing I like to do…

Yes, still reading A Dance With Dragons (378 pages down, about 700 to go… still totes loving it sick and still totes loving the politics of Westeros and preferring it to that of Australia. Nobody I like has died yet, either, however I suspect that Mr Martin is lulling me into a false sense of security).

So, what else have I been up to? Hmm. Spot of cooking actually. I like cooking, and I like cookbooks. In fact, I like cook books to the point that I have to stage a mini-intervention on myself every time I walk past the cook book aisle at any given bookshop and ask myself the following questions:

  1. Is there anything in this one you would like to make?
  2. How many other cook books do you have with the same recipes?
  3. What is the relative proportion of fish and pork related meals? (I don’t eat either, and while I love my family, I don’t love ’em enough to cook pork or seafood!)
  4. How complicated are the recipes? And do I need any special equipment?
  5. How weird are the ingredients?
  6. (this one is a big one…) Even if it’s only $10, do you really need another cook book!

I also like cooking shows (however, totally lost interest in MasterSook about three seasons ago, although I was quite keen on the Great Australian Bakeoff, which is another competitive cooking show. It was nothing like the ads made it out to be, and the “mean” judge was actually very fair while the “nice” judge could be a bit catty. There were no contrived challenges, and they made some seriously awe inspiring things, and yes, I have been stroking the cookbook every time I go into Big W!

Back to the cookbooks…

Now, I probably have around 50 or 60 cookbooks, ranging from the exotic all the way through to the ordinary. I have a fondness for those cookbooks you get at school fetes, and have at least four from local schools, and my particular favourite – a selection of recipes from the Mallee. Now, the thing about these cookbooks is that they’re written by people who have nurtured these recipes or handed them down from mother to daughter for generations, and they always seem to leave out some kind of crucial instruction or the quantities are on the vague side. This is because these women know how to make the recipe, they don’t look at Gran’s instructions any more; and they’ve tweaked it or made the changes that needed to be made for Gran’s secret recipe to actually work! For a prime example… I have a recipe for jam drops that requires a “quick” oven (mine is lazy and slow, apparently) and short changes the amount of flour needed by about half a cup. Yes, they work. More or less. And it’s a good thing I know what the mix should look like!

And jelly slice. That was another recipe fraught with difficulty. My mum was more of a biscuit and cake baker than a slice maker (aside from her mum’s hedgehog recipe); so I never grew up with the jelly slice thing. Never saw the attraction – wobbly slobbery stuff, and bland to boot. Anyway, combination of two or three recipes from two or three cookbooks and off I went – wasn’t until I actually TALKED to someone who made that sort of thing on a regular basis that I discovered that it was actually important to let the slobbery bit set and use a spoon for the jelly. I never would have worked that out for myself.

I’m on pretty good terms with most of my cookbooks, I call them by their first name – although I have to be more specific when I ask someone else to go get one (“Go get Merle for me will you? Merle. The white one. The one with the old lady on the front? Ok, I’ll get it myself”) or if I need a Jamie Oliver (whole blog post about him simmering away if you’re interested?) I do like his cook books, but hey. And Stephanie (Alexander) and Maggie (Beer) often get a work out when I am looking for something fancy. But my go to cookbook? The one I would save from a burning fire? My Desert Island cookbook (it has some wicked things to do with pineapple, assuming my desert island is mostly deserted, and tropical) is Cookery The Australian Way.

I have the third edition – it was the first paperback edition and the second one that was all metric-ified. Originally, I had the second edition however, the way of parents being what they were, my copy was given to my sister when she did Home Economics a couple of years after me (probably fair enough, too). I was the only girl in my entire school who refused to do Home Eco past Year 8, necessitating an entire timetable to be written around one recalcitrant student who was more interested in blowing stuff up than blending it together. Ironically, it was the realisation that if I could in fact do chemistry without blowing inappropriate stuff off, I could probably cook. Which necessitated my handing over the cold hard cash and getting a copy of the 3rd ed. of Cookery The Australian Way and discovering that there were more similarities than one would think between chemistry and cookery.

CAW is my reach for when I make self-saucing chocolate pud, scones, biscuits, banana cake, lemon delicious puddin’, cooking eggs (which I am still all kinds of pants at doing, I have to admit), pastry, quiche lorraine, scalloped potatoes – not a cook book I would part with in a hurry, either. Nor do I want to upgrade to one of the later editions because being a school text book, it’s moved along with the times and appears to have healthified it’s recipes as time goes by (for example, mine doesn’t have the recipe for coddled eggs as that was in the Invalid Cookery section – and with my form with eggs, not necessarily a bad thing.)

And there the monster was born. I developed a cookbook addiction and the ability to chuck several ingredients together in a reasonably appetising fashion. My main love though is baking – and indulging in my love of baking means I get to assuage the guilt of the working full time mother by filling the kids lunch boxes with home made baked treats, while doing something I find ridiculously soothing and calming. Win/win.