Stuff and that.

Stuff. And yeah. That

Category: Cooking

Changing shit up.

I’ve been giving myself a few long hard talks lately. The kind of talks that end up with eye rolls and shifting from one foot to the other and loads of sighing and whining incessantly about how my life sucks and I’m bored and I’m totally a whiny arsed fourteen year old girl stuck in the body of a middle-aged woman.

I do have Staff for the boring bits of housework, like, the actual cleaning and the ironing. But the cleaning fairy doesn’t do the fucking washing, or tidy up the linen cupboard, or plan the meals or do the groceries. That’s still all down to me. I mean, the fam does a bit, but it’s mostly down to me to at least organise even if I don’t do all of it. But I am a true Queen of Procrastination and I’d rather fuckarse about with my phone or whinge to my friends than actually do the shit I need to do. Which is all very well, except that yeah. I still need to do the shit I need to do.

So, enough of the whining, and more of the pulling my finger out of my self-indulgent arse and even more of the just fucking DO it. Because, you know, most of the time, it takes a lot less energy and effort to just do it, cross the fucking thing off the list, and move onto the next item. Rinse and fucking repeat. Ad nauseam.

My just fucking do it approach to life seems to be paying off… Sort of. Life seems to be meandering along in a marginally less fucked up, slightly more organised kind of way. We’re still eating at stupid late o’clock, and I’m still going to bed even later. BUT… The dry washing is folded and mostly away; dinner has in fact been cooked every night. Take away only occurs when I plan it, and not because I forgot there were SEVEN dinners required in a week, and not, you know. Five. Or sometimes four. Dishes are done and bills are paid more or less on time. Give or take a day or two.

Work is even going orright for a change of pace. Like – actually getting shit done kind of orright. And by change of pace, I mean work is ticking along at a speed that is comfortable instead of insane. Although yeah, have to stop with the leaving at 6pm (that totes does NOT contribute to the eating fucking late and going to bed fucking later. Totally. Not. Probably. Um. Yeah.) I don’t seem to be able to get there on time, but in all honesty, that’s probably a side effect of not going to bed until fucking midnight half the time. And despite my protestations of never a-fucking-gain, wrote a paper. Now, that is in the lap of the gods, but still. On top of all that, I’ve been reading and cooking and doing stuff that’s sorta fun instead of filling my weekend with resentful housework. And I entered a writing competition. Actually did it. Instead of just thinking about it.

I got a multi-cooker for Christmas, so I’ve been learning how to use it. Chocolate puddin all round thank yer mother for the rabbits and that’s all she wrote. And you know those Woollies vegetables last year? Well. I grew beetroots and radishes and lettuces. I did kill a fair few things, but I’ve got a lot of spares to try again once the fucking cucumber dies a natural death. We got this thing called a vegepod, and man, best idea ever. Although carrots fucking suck to grow. Apparently, they grow them in sand and in pipes. Not actually straight in the ground. They taste good, even if you can’t peel the bastards.

Also, one only needs ONE cucumber plant. Not four. I have made cucumber relish and pickled cucumbers and every time people leave my house, they leave with a cucumber in one hand and a jalapeno in the other. Because, while I did only plant one chilli plant, it’s enjoying life in the Pod. A lot. Damn shame the damn cucumber has strangled the capsicum. And the strawberries have mould issues. I shall google it.

Last month, I cooked at least four or five new recipes. That never happens. I also read EIGHT books. That also never happens. Nice mixture of new and old and crime and not and actual books and non-fiction which I also don’t read. And the writing competition, well. Not a hope in hell of winning a prize or anything, because well. Srs competition. Although I did read last year’s winners…

So, I’ve cooked and I’ve read heaps and I’ve written stuff and I’ve grown stuff and I’ve done loads of crochet, and I’ve done the fucking housework. Like a grown up. Who would have thought? Also, who would have thought I could fit so many fucking swears in one less than one thousand word essay.

How’d 2016 treat you, mate?

Well, well, well. For most of 2016, I really felt like I was lurching from one near catastrophe to another, that I was one small step away from disaster at any moment. But, when I looked back on the year from the safety of 2017, it  wasn’t all Drama! Crisis! Calamity! It was merely a string of mild hiccups interspersed with some actually awesome moments. Pretty standard year, really. I read 35 books, I finished my Harmony blankie, I cooked a heap of new recipes, and I made a conscious decision to lose weight (which I have already banged on about).

I also got well over my “fear” of driving our hot rod. To be honest, I was never actually scared of driving it, just when you have someone in the passenger seat sucking in their breath every time you do anything they disapprove of… Pinched the keys from Reg and drove it like I stole it. Epic. And now, don’t even think twice about stealing the keys from Reg and yeah, Driving is ace. Also, now I have my *own* car, I like driving that, too. Ok, cannot/will not back it out of the driveway, but hey. “Reg, get the XP out, I’m going for a KROOZE”. Hotrodders cannot spell for shit. I also like the term “fat-arming” which is exactly what it sounds… driving around with the windows down with your arm hanging out. Makes you look like you got muscles. Also, truckie tan and sunburn if you forget that your arm is normally inside the vehicle.

Reading has been a thing again – I’m reading a book about every ten days. This is ace. I am nowhere near my BC reading rates, but after spending more than a few years barely managing to read 15 or 20 books, you can sense my excitement. I’ve come across a couple of new writers (Charles Stross, Elly Griffiths, Denise Mina) that I really like. I’ve revisited some old favourites, most of whom haven’t disappointed. Most importantly, I AM READING AGAIN. I have even lolled on the couch and read in daylight. Although sometimes I have to decide between crochet and reading. Can’t do both at once. I decided I wasn’t that jazzed with colouring in. It’s nice enough but I get bored *really* quickly, and hey, at the end of the day, I can make something tangible and snuggly warm if I colour in with yarn. (Can’t blog and crochet at the same time either. I am going to work on time jugglement in 2017). I also decided that life’s too short and gave a project I was hating the arse. And started another that I love. That I sort of want to do now, but I want to blog and um, my book’s at a good bit. Two heads are better than one.

And cooking. I love cooking a lot. It’s like chemistry you can eat. Although I srsly need an actual dishpig at mine for cooking extravaganzas. Chaos does do the dishes, but because I have to clean the bench so we can eat dinner, I do my cooking dishes. Snot fair. Chaos is also expressing an interest in learning to cook. He’s requested I teach him how to make muffins. Of course, this means I will have to actually write down the proper recipe for him. I base mine on the Stephanie Alexander muffin recipe from Cook’s Companion, then it goes a bit free-range and if this then that and I double bits and not other bits. However, if he wants to learn, I shall write it down. Another thing I noticed if I cook with my son is that as long as I don’t look at him, we have the most interesting chats about all manner of random things. I also discovered Chaos has maths homework when I creepy stalked his maths teacher to see if I knew him (I didn’t.) I’ve sort of got housework under control ish sort of if you don’t look too hard ish. Ish. But that’s possibly a blog post of its own. (While I haven’t taken Flylady back, I’ve invited her around for coffee. Ditto with KonMari))

I learned something about myself that I probably already knew. For me, the endorphins from exercise stop me from being a psychotic hose beast with a short temper and a snippy tongue. I sort of already knew that, because when I had a Madness after my dad died, it was exercise and sleeping tablets that pulled me through, and once I had one under control, I didn’t so much need the other. But that’s what works for me. Walking is enough, too. I don’t need boot camp or running or endless bloody gym sessions. I am not a team player, I honestly think boot camp is fucked up (hence my not doing it, good for you if that’s what pops your cork). So I walk every day. 11,000 steps because 10% extra is good.

Music is another thing I started to enjoy again. Like, I’ve always enjoyed music and having it on and around, but for some reason, I stopped listening to it. This year, I revisited my yoof (like, I’m talking 14 or 15 angsty teenager yoof here) and I’ve started listening to 3RRR and I subscribed. Sort of payback for all the years of enjoyment I got from RRR in the early 80s. I discovered bluegrass/hip hop fusion and rekindled my love of blues music. ANd digital radio. Crikey. I’ve now worked out how to use my digital receiver and there are quite a lot of interesting stations out there. Like, um. Aussie for indulging the inner bogan, and there’s a couple of stations that just play 80s and 90s music. Tunes and LOUD if you please. Also, can I pls have stereo for XP, ok thx. One with a remote.

OOh, and streaming. I have watched So. Much. Telly. Loads of stuff. Mostly half watched because crochet and writing (and playing silly games), but watched enough to say yeah, watched a lot of telly. Love the Netflix and the Stan and yeah, cannot wait for new episodes of my shows. Give me a good serial killer and I am happy as a clam. Although Netflix, I needs you to pop sub-titles in the blurb because I only half watch and do something else, I really need the talking to be in the englishes. Please?

So yeah, that’s a whole lot of not actually sucking going on in 2016. Dunno what I was complaining about really. Bring on the 2017.



The Emperor’s New Clothes

A little while ago, I dipped my toes into a cult of sorts. No, not a Tupperware party – I’ve made it through a few of those relatively unscathed. And it wasn’t one of those Chef’s Toolbox parties either (yes, been to one of those, bought a pizza stone that I never used, lugged it around for years because I spent quite a lot of money on it,  then I started using it for baking bread a year ago. Not a waste in the end, hey?) However, I’m digressing again. How unusual.

No, I went to a Thermomix party.

I’d been hearing about this wonder of German technology off and on for a few years, how every restaurant had banks of them and if I let one into my house, it would revolutionise my cooking and I’d be throwing out ALL my other appliances. Suffice to say I was pretty curious. I do like to cook a bit, and I like to bake and if this thing was as good as they said it was, well – there’s my Christmas and birthday presents sewn up for the next year or so. I was quite interested when I agreed to go to the party. Myself being the researching type of person, I did consult Mr Google and found only rave reviews (this was prior to the Great Thermomix TM5 Scandal of 2014) and could not find a single person who didn’t totally love their Thermie (or Gladys. People give their appliances cutesy names. Weird.)

Anyway, I rocked up to a friend’s place with a couple of other curious punters and the demonstration began. Firstly, this life changer was going to set me back close to two thousand dollars ($1939 for the machine, and by the time you bought the really rather excellent heating dish thingie and a couple of cook books, two gorillas will have left your care). On the sample menu was a sorbet, a beetroot dip, a risotto, dough, and lemon custard. Now, everything tasted nice, and being able to cook up all of that stuff in the three hours of the demo was indeed quite impressive. But was it worth $2K? And would a Thermomix fit in my life if I decided to save up for it?

For starters, it took up a LOT of space, yet the cooking device was quite small (only 2.2l). And noisy. Oh. My. Goodness. That thing was so loud. Even when it was making custard, it was bloody noisy. Hrrm. Ok, I don’t have the shift worker at home any more, but the noise level was ridiculous. Then there’s the time saving of the device – nothing took very long to make – but would it really make that much difference?

Of the things we made, I would be the only person who would eat risotto at my house, and while the demo suggested the risotto would take a mere 15 minutes to cook – it still needed a few minutes to dice and sort of saute the onions, then it had to sit and rest for ten or so minutes. I’m pretty sure that the risotto I make only takes about 30 minutes in total anyway. Ok, I wouldn’t have to stand over it and stir, but that’s why someone invented baked risotto. Mmmm. baked risotto. The custard was yummy, and the dough was pretty good, too.  But a teensy quantity. The bowl only holds 2l. Bread is something I make at least once a week – the recipe has just over a kilo of dry ingredients, and 750ml liquid. It’s not going to fit. Nobody at mine drinks smoothies (it’s NOT FOOD, it’s a drink) and we’re past the having to hide the vegies in the food for the offsprings. They eat more vegetables than I do.

I didn’t buy one there and then. But I still thought about it. So, I decided to slot an Imaginary Thermomix into my kitchen and see how it fit in. The only difference between a real Thermomix and my Imaginary one was that the imaginary one didn’t take up anywhere near as much room on the bench and it was way quieter. I do some kind of half arsed meal planning so I have a vague idea about what I would have cooked for a couple of weeks.

Commence Thermomix v the stuff I already have:

Sunday, I made sausage rolls. Now, while I could have used Thermomix to make the pastry, but Mr Pampas kindly makes puff pastry in sheets that are just right. The filling has a heap of grated vegies and mince. Thermy doesn’t grate. It minces. Thermy would have stayed on the bench while I got the Whizz n Chopper out and grated all the things. The rest of it requires squooshing stuff with my hands.

Monday, we had burgers. I actually made them on Sunday while I had the whizz n chopper out for the grating of the vegetables. Bought rolls and sliced all the other stuff with the mandoline. No Thermy for Monday.

Tuesday – spag bol. This is a standard Tuesday night meal, because it’s a busy night. I make it in bulk in quantities that fill a 7l slow cooker. Plus, bolognaise is about the only recipe that’s not for Thermomixes.

(Not doing so well, are we? Hrrm.)

Wednesday was parmies and veg. Yay! Something I could use the Thermy for.  I could steam the vegies and make mash. And I could make the breadcrumbs for the parmie, and the tomato sauce (I make passata myself, too) as long as I made them in advance. Planning. Not something I’m awesome at.

Thursday. Big, fat lamb roast. Yum. Roast vegies and gravy and all the trimmings. Puddin’ for dessert – I could either mix it in Thermy then chuck it in the oven, or I could mix it in the Kitchen Aid and make custard in the Thermy. Ok… not improbable.

Friday is takeaway night – we make takeaways. This Friday was pizza – I could have made the dough in Thermy, and the passata. Everything else involved cutting stuff with a knife or the mandoline. I buy grated cheese in a bag. I could have pulverised the cheese in Thermy, but it doesn’t grate (the whizz n chopper doesn’t grate cheese, either).

Saturday, we had steaks and veg. Again with the making of steamed vegies and mash in the Thermy and cooking teh steak on the barbeque.

On the weekends, I bake. As well as the aforementioned bread, I like to make breakfast crumble. I stew a heap of fruit and make a seriously thick crumble and serve it with yoghurt. Mmm. Magnificent. I could probably stew the fruit in Thermy, assuming it could cope with about a kilo and a half of fruit. And while I could make the crumble in it, I’d have to wait til it was finished stewing, wash the bowl and make crumble (butter, sugar, oats, coconut and almonds) without pulverising everything. So, I stuck to the rice cooker and the Kitchen Aid. Plus, I made muffins for lunches – I could have done them in Thermy (after the fruit finished stewing and I’d made the crumble etc), but I just mix it up in a jug. I use a whisk. Very low tech.

Now, that’s only a week of fairly standard meals at our place, but the only thing I’d really use a Thermomix for would be cooking vegetables, and making the odd dessert. We’re not fans of casserole type meals, and I’m the only one that eats curries and fancy rice dishes. Yes, it whips up a cake mix in seconds, but so does the very attractive mixer I already have. It wouldn’t get much use when we have tacos or lasagne or souvlaki from left over roast. And aside from the noisy factor, the appliance is butt-ugly and not something I’d want out on the bench all the time.

Don’t think I’ll be rushing out to drop close to $2K on a Thermomix any time soonly. It’s a glorified saucepan really! Maybe if I win tattslotto or something, I might consider one of the cheapie knock offs. Or I might look into whether the grater attachment for my Kitchen Aid will grate cheese. That’d set me back $150, which is much more acceptable to the wallet.

If my family had food allergies or if I wanted to grind my own flour and stuff, maybe I’d consider it. I also sort of wonder a bit if all the people who have laid out the loot for one of these machines don’t ever mention not loving it because hello, just spent TWO THOUSAND DOLLARS on a machine and I’d better bloody well love it.

Saving dinner

We had a bit of a situation involving a slight case of miscommunication and a protracted phone call which lead to nearly a kilo of cooked potatoes. Option one was to chuck them out (which seemed a bit wasteful), option two involved feeding them to The Hound. But she’s not *that* keen on boiled potato. So, that lead me to option three… what on earth could I cook with nearly a kilo of slightly more boiled than par-boiled but not completely cooked potatoes? It also had to constitute dinner and be reasonably nutritious.

So, scruffled around amongst my many cookbooks and thought “O. I should look in my new Jamie.” And whadderyou know… There was a recipe for Sag Aloo which needed a tiny bit more than a kilo of uncooked potatoes, but as it involved a chunk of simmering, I figured I could shorten that bit and it would probably work. The main beefs I have with Mr Oliver’s recipes are the number of pots that are required, the need for one or two weird ingredients (well, they’re not normally weird – I just have to translate them into Strayan) and the level of mess that I create.

This one needed two pots – a big one to cook the sag aloo in, and a little one to cook the chilli and cumin seeds – while this is low on the “normal people don’t have dish-pigs*” scale of dish use, it still required use of the food processor for like twelve seconds. I have a honkin’ big one – I love it with many hearts, I use it fairly regularly and it makes big grating and chopping jobs an absolute breeze. And it *is* easier to clean than my old cheap and nasty one. But for the effort involved in getting it out, the time of use and the effort involved to clean it compared to doing it by hand?

Weird/odd/untranslatable ingredients? Actually none. Mr Oliver is a fan of Mr Patak. So am I! I have a couple of jars of Mr Patak’s finest in my cupboard. Tomatoes, onion, garlic, aforementioned potatoes. Some spinach, chilli and cumin seeds and some natural yoghurt. Aside from cumin seeds (I normally have cumin, not necessarily seeds though), I had everything at hand. (Oh, it’s supposed to have coriander in it as well, but ah doan like it! And it asked for ground nut oil. I just used olive oil)

And it was good.

Really good, actually. The depth of flavour probably would have been better had the spuds boiled in the sauce and there’s no doubt in my mind that I could reduce the dishes – cook off the chilli and cumin in the big pan before I do the rest of the cooking; and I’m down to one pan. And the question of whether I could actually have chopped onions and tomato and mixed the rogan josh paste together in less time using a v-slicer and a bowl and spoon?  I think so.

That would definitely reduce the dishes and make it more likely that I would cook it again.

My next cooking challenge is to make something from the Great Australian Bake Off cookbook.

*”dish-pig” is the official title of every dishwasher in every restaurant I have ever worked in. Which is a few over time.

Missing breakfast, a spot of Holiday Reading (it also appears to be Book Season)

Almost as soon as I finished The Ocean at the End of the Lane, I picked up the other Neil Gaiman book that I ostensibly bought for my resident seven year old, and gave it a read. Of course, I was only doing this to ensure that it was of a suitable nature for seven year olds and not because of any desire to read it myself.

“Fortunately, the milk…” (complete with ellipses, super shiny cover and illustrated by Chris Riddell) is a cracking good yarn. It’s a total Dad Joke – the kind of tale I remember my dad spinning when I was a wee lass. Although, there weren’t as many dinosaurs in dad’s stories. The Resident Seven Year Old looked at it sideways, picked it up, put it down, said it wasn’t his cup of tea, then wandered off to bed with it several hours later, never to be seen again. Page was carefully marked before he went to sleep, so I take it he approves. He is only nice to books he likes.

I’m on a break from work – apparently, it’s my turn to look after the children while they’re on school holidays. So needs must and I’ve got a week off. A ‘tradition’ of sorts for the holidays is that I buy the children a book each for their holiday reading.  Coincidentally, they often lose ‘electronics’ for several days during the holidays – especially during the second week when they’re just enough over each other that a punch on seems like an awesome idea. Books are a viable and suitably quiet alternative. So far though, they’ve resisted the urge to either punch on or be vile enough to require confiscation of electrics. Possibly because they have books.

So, the next thing on my reading agenda is getting back into A Dance With Dragons. I’m just over half way through, but while I’m waiting for Book Six, I think I have a few books to be getting along with. While looking for suitable books for the children (smallest boy got the 39 Story Tree House, the larger one got an Eric Vale book); of course I wandered through the grown ups section and could not believe my eyes.


(Telly season)


(Telly season)

Ok, there’s a couple of good shows on the telly as well, but Lordy, it totally is Book Season. So far, I have collected:

  1. Murder and Mendelssohn – Kerry Greenwood (the 20th Phryne Fisher book.) As a not entirely unrelated aside, Essie Davis is spot on as Miss Fisher.
  2. Never Go Back – Lee Child
  3. Bones of the Lost – Kathy Reichs
  4. Save with Jamie – Jamie Oliver
  5. The Great Australian Bake Off Cookbook.

Plus, I have a list with another six or so books on it (on my phone, natch, which is on charge and I can’t be bothered getting up and getting it.) But there’s a true crime written by John Safran about the murder of a white supremacist he met in Mississippi; Val McDermid has a new Tony Hill mystery out, there’s a new Stephen King that’s a sort of sequel to The Shining. Not 100% certain about the wisdom of that one… but still.

The cook books were always going to happen. Think I mentioned earlier that I might have a problem with cook books, and I’ve been eyeing off the GABO Cookbook since before the series even started. It seems to be a decent cook book in that it has proper instructions for some of the technical bake items (things every good baker should be able to bake) complete with illustrations. The Jamie one – well, glutton for punishment I think. I’m hoping that it’s not as insane as the 15 and 30 minute cook books, and that at least some of the recipes don’t use every dish in the house!

I’ve semi-planned to cook one thing from each of them before the end of my week off BUT it’s going along quite quickly, and I may run out of time. I’ve had a flick through Jamie, and it seems reasonable, and I am loving the baking one, but I need to be in the Mood to cook fancy cakes, and some of those cakes are fancy. Dinner tomorrow night is a fat, juicy lamb roast followed by chocolate puddin’ (from Cookery the Australian Way) and lemon delicious from Merle’s Kitchen. So, even if I don’t make anything from my two new cookbooks, I will have made about five things from proper recipes by the end of the week (I’ve already made bread, hummus – although I made that one up a bit as I was missing stuff, and sausage rolls Maudy Style) .

The rest of my holidays involve finishing A Dance With Dragons and getting stuck well into the new books on my reading list.



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.