Kitchen Therapy


Leave a comment

Inspiration: Goethe and Responsibility

“I have come to the frightening conclusion that
I am the decisive element.

It is my personal approach that creates the climate.

It is my daily mood that makes the weather.

I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous.

I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration.

I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.

In all situations, it is my response that decides whether
a crisis is escalated or de-escalated,

and a person is humanized or de-humanized.

If we treat people as they are, we make them worse.

If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them
become what they are capable of becoming.”

– Goethe, 1749-1832


16 Comments

Roasted Rhubarb and Vanilla Rice Pudding

This week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe was Roasted Rhubarb.

It really doesn’t get easier than this.
Chop up half a kilo of rhubarb and sprinkle half a cup of sugar and the rind of half an orange over it.
Cover with foil and bake at 200 degrees celsius for 15 minutes.
Uncover and bake for a further 5 mins until the syrup bubbles.
That’s it. Simple.
Dorie suggests trying it as soon as possible and adding honey if too sour.
I figured the sweetness of the vanilla rice pudding would work well with the sourness of the rhubarb as it was.

Vanilla Rice Pudding

1 cup Aborio Rice
1 litre milk
1/2 cup caster sugar
1 Vanilla bean, split and only use scraped out seeds

Put all the ingredients in a saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and cook for about 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally until rice is tender.
The Vanilla Rice Pudding was absolutely delicious.
It went really well with the tartness of the roasted rhubarb.

Best of all, I was able to share the evening with my parents. The last time  my dad was over for dinner was September 2010. November 18th he had a stroke and a heart attack that he was not expected to survive. Over four months in hospital and lots and lots of rehab later, he is finally back home. It was great hearing his stories of how they make rice pudding in Serbia. He had fond memories of it topped with cream and meringue. Sounded great but figured it best to give it a skip unless I wanted him back in hospital with another stroke!

That’s what I love about food. It brings us together and creates happy times and great memories.

For more stories and roasted rhubarb recipes head over to French Fridays with Dorie.


17 Comments

Quiches and Tarts – and everything in between!

It has been another busy week.
At home there’s school, soccer, band, karate, dancing, netball, get togethers, parties, homework, assignments, fights, tears… mostly mine!

Netball Gala Day to raise money for Cancer Research

Band Workshop

Helping out at school

At work there’s more tears, lots of them, but at least there the tears are from clients trying to cope with their own lives.

In all the madness I tried to foster a sense of control so I went on a cleaning and purging binge!
I cleaned everything! Including my iphone… and all the photos… including the one’s of this week’s recipe.

Probably how I looked when I realised I wiped the photos!
(Don’t you love the pics the kids think are hilarious to take!)

Anyway…

I can tell you Dorie’s Spinach and Bacon Quiche was amazing.
Everyone loved it, from the 3 year old to my 70 year old dad.
Absolutely amazing!
To see actual photos of Dorie’s Spinach and Bacon Quiche from the talented French Fridays with Dorie cooks, click here. 

I made this quiche on the weekend, so I was going to be really good (after missing last week’s recipe) and get my post ready nice and early.
When I discovered I’d wiped my photos I was bummed but ready to make another quiche.
Everyone loved it after all…
But then, as I was flicking through my copy of Around My French Table, I noticed the recipe for Gerard’s Mustard Tart.
I joined after the group made this and I happen to love mustard so I thought I’d make this instead.

Dorie uses the same tart dough recipe for both recipes and I had my trusty sidekick helping…

The dough is so easy to make…

The filling for both quiches was even easier to prepare…

As I said I love mustard.
I also love leeks and pasty.
The taste was unusual and unfamiliar, but in a good way.
It left us with a quizzical but appreciative look on our faces.
I definitely recommend stepping out of the familiar and giving this tart a go.
And the spinach and bacon quiche will definitely be made again and again!

A very comprehensive and detailed recipe of Dorie Greenspan’s mustard tart can be found here. 


26 Comments

School Holidays and Vanilla Eclairs!

It’s school holidays in Australia! Yay!
I missed the last two challenges of French Fridays with Dorie. The first week I was sick with the flu and the next we were in Melbourne.
I was determined I was not going to miss another week!
So I decided, despite having 6 of my 10-year-old son’s friends over for the day, I would make this week’s recipe!

The Vanilla Pastry Cream came together perfectly over arguments discussions about why they can’t watch Sucker Punch or Red Riding Hood at the cinemas.
It chilled in the fridge as I stood out in the middle of the street directing traffic so the boys could scooter and skateboard out of our steep driveway at full speed.
It was all good! I was in control and feeling pretty chilled!

Next, the Cream Puff Dough!
I went through a phase some years back when I made profiteroles on a regular basis so I was feeling pretty confident.
Now somewhere between chasing running after the angels as they moved like lightning between our house and the oval at the end of our street
and more ummm… ‘debates’ as to why they can’t play knock and run or go into the National Park surrounding the oval by themselves,
my Cream Puff Dough didn’t… puff!

Hard as I tried, there was no way these babies were going to be filled. They tasted pretty good, but were flat as pancakes!
I learnt something from my house full of tenacious and relentless boys, don’t give up, cos you’ll eventually get what you want if you keep pestering trying!
The second time around I cut a hole at the end of a sandwich bag, filled it with the dough and squeezed out the eclairs!
Yes! This time it worked!

I was pumped! I managed to complete the recipe!
I piled the boys in the car and met a friend who had the rest of their friends waiting for us at the cinemas.
We settled on ‘Diary of a Wimpy Kid 2’.
We sat them all into their seats and just as we started to think okay! They are in a contained space and we can relax for the next 90 minutes or so, we realised we had taken boys, that already had the resources and stealth of seasoned ninjas, to watch a movie that turned out to be an instruction manual on how to get away with absolutely anything!
We sat and watched in helpless terror!

To see more versions of this week’s recipe and read more stories visit French Fridays with Dorie!


14 Comments

Fig & Goat’s Cheese Fritters Salad with Balsamic Syrup

“People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.” – Zig Ziglar

I love this quote.
It reminds that motivation doesn’t just happen, it’s something we have to work at.
Along with my Short Ribs in Red Wine and Port recipe post, I discussed being forced to challenge my rather limited beliefs I held about creativity.
I honestly thought creativity was about the ability to paint and decorate, and therefore confidently declared myself ‘creatively challenged’!
On my journey to redifine my thoughts on creativity, I stumbled across another deeply held yet totally ignorant assumption I had.

I thought if you were creative, your creative ability oozed out of you.

Seriously, I pictured creative people standing in front of an empty canvas and their art just flowing out of them.

Then I read this quote by Michaelangelo:

“If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.”

It started to dawn on me that I had made many half-assed assumptions about what creativity meant!
(Yes, I am hanging my head in shame as I admit this!)
But I am sharing this because this relevation was a huge turning point for me.
I not only realised that creativity took many shapes and forms, I finally understood that creative people worked hard at their art!
I kinda figured,  “If I was meant to be a fitness and figure competitor, I would live and breathe the gym!”
“If I was meant to be a writer, words would just pour out of me.”
You get the gist…

Now I realise that these people are good at what they do because they make themselves do it.
They don’t live in a constant state of motivation, they’re just persistent and consistent at their art.
Whatever it may be.
That’s why I like Zig Ziglar’s quote. It sums up perfectly what I’m trying to say, creativity requires motivation to produce art! Whatever your art may be!

I saw this recipe for Fig & Fried Goat’s Cheese Salad with Balsamic Syrup and honestly, while I wanted to eat it, after another hectic weekend, it was the last thing I wanted to make!
But these days I’ve learnt to focus on how I’m going to feel after the work is done!
So in no time I was cutting, whisking, dipping and frying!

And boy was it worth it!


Fig & Fried Goat’s Cheese Salad with Balsamic Syrup

(More or less as it appears in MasterChef Magazine)

2 x 150g logs soft goat’s cheese
1 cup plain flour
2 eggs lightly beaten
2 cups panko breadcrumbs
1 lemon zested
150g baby rocket
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
6 purple figs, stems trimmed, torn into quarters
vegetable oil to deep fry

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tbs sugar


Method

1. Wrap logs of cheese in plastic wrap roll into even log shapes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. Place flour in  one bowl, the beaten eggs in another and the breadcrumbs with lemon zest and 1 tsp salt in a third bowl.

3. Unwrap cheese and cut each log into 12 slices. The recipe recommends greasing your knife (and so do I!).

4. Dip each slice into the flour, eggs and finally the breadcrumbs.

5. Place on a tray and refrigerate for 20 mins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. In the meantime put balsamic vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan and cool over low heat for about 3 mins or until sugar dissolves.
Then leave to cool.

7. Toss rocket with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and top with the figs.

8. Fill a saucepan or deep fryer about 1/3 full with vegetable oil and heat over medium heat until a cube of bread turns golden in 10 seconds.

9. Lower crumbed cheese into oil and fry until golden. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towel.

10. Top salad with fried cheese and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

 

I really loved this salad!
I meant what I said about being totally exhausted!
My husband took our 13 year-old with a bunch of friends to watch Rhianna on Friday night.|
Saturday she went camping with her friends (and some of the parents) while we went to a 40th.
The 10 year-old had a sleep over at a friend’s and our 3 year-old spent the night with grandparents!
By Sunday night we were all exhausted so we ordered some woodfired pizza for dinner and I made this as the side salad.

When my husband arrived with our pizza, I took one look at the garlic pizza crust and loaded it with the salad.

I didn’t even taste the other pizzas!
It really was amazing!

 

 

 


16 Comments

Short Ribs In Red Wine and Port

I admit it! I have (until recently) been one of those people who thought creativity meant being able to paint or decorate!
It was something that involved a lot of drawing and knowing which colours went together.
So, given this definition, I routinely described myself as “the least creative person you were to ever meet!”
Then, my 10 year forced me to re-evaluate my beliefs.
I had his future clearly planned for him in my mind. Studying economics at university and then working for one of the major banks! Done!
Then something weird happened. He started to develop a real creative streak!
I started to get nervous.
He enjoyed it and others noticed he had a knack for it.
My banking dreams were being threatened and replaced with visions of him painting portraits at Circular Quay!
How could he do this to me!!!
Just as I was beginning to think I had to do something drastic to save my child from a life of artistic poverty, he said to me “Jack (his friend) and I have been talking and we decided we are going to work for Disney making graphics for their movies!” I wanted to cry! Working for Disney! That was a real job? Right? And he would be making money!

He forced me to re-think my ideas on creativity! It was the best gift he could have ever given me!

Today I see creativity everywhere I go.
Take this week’s French Fridays with Dorie recipe. It took creative genius to pull this baby off!

Juggling work, three kids at three different schools doing three different after school activities, a father coming out of rehab after a massive heart attack and stroke and me deciding to go back to uni, I was sure these ribs were going to fall by the wayside!

But the sadist in me wouldn’t let go of the satisfaction I knew would be waiting for me at the completion of this week’s recipe! So after buying a wheelchair and mobility scooter for my dad, I ducked into the fabric shop nearby and bought the cheesecloth for the bouquet garni.

After driving to uni to pick up my time-table with my 3 year old I realised it was ‘O’ week (orientation week) so I put off my grilling plans and we joined the celebrations!

A few lollipops and some one on one time with my baby was worth the delay!
Back home and the grilling…

…chopping and cooking were finally under way!

Before long the ribs, vegetables and a tonne of booze were all tightly snuggled into the oven for a few hours and we were on our way to pick up the others from school and meet friends for a catch up.
While the kids ran around and the grown ups chatted, the ribs bubbled away at home. We came home to the most amazing smell! Everyone was so excited about dinner till I told them it was for tomorrow night! Ha!
The next day the fat was scooped off and the ribs were ready for the final grilling!

They were pretty amazing!
If I didn’t join French Fridays with Dorie I would never have cooked these!
I would have flicked through the book and came back to it on the odd occasion and maybe even made a handful of recipes I felt comfortable with.
How much I would have missed out on!

The creativity of the other members inspires me, check out their takes on this recipe here.

 

 


12 Comments

Good Stuff and Gratitude

Wineglass Bay – Tasmania

The 4 hour drive from Launceston to Wineglass Bay on the east coast of Tasmania was long, slow and uneventful (except for the wars being waged in the back seat over, well… everything).
It was during this leg of our Tasmanian Christmas vacation that I had a moment of perfect clarity. An Oprah “aha” moment. It was perfect and fleeting. And I knew I had to grab it and flesh it out before it was drowned and lost forever in the singing and wailing coming from behind me.

Life was short and I was spending too much time on things and people that were not serving me. In fact, they were sucking the life right out of me!

This moment lasted seconds but it felt like existential enlightment flooding every inch of my being! It was a very physical experience, I didn’t just think it, I felt it! And for a few fleeting moments, everything made perfect sense!

I decided right there and then to be picky, really picky, with what I allowed to fill my mind!

I resolved to set my standards high and to do everything in my power to fill my mind with good stuff! Exciting, inspirational, “feel good” stuff!

I made an active choice to fill my mind with beauty and creativity.

I identified what dragged me down (and who) and was clear on what fueled me and always set me back on course.

So these days I spend a lot more time here…

And it never fails to shock that pants off me how clear I am when I leave this place! I walk away feeling strong, focused and clear on what and who is  important.

The other thing that has kept me on track is this blog!
If I’m not immersed in putting together the latest post or cooking the latest Dorie recipe, I lose myself in the amazing blogs you guys have. Blogs that feel like a home. Blogs that are lovingly maintained and radiate warmth and personality. Blogs that I look forward to reading simply because they make me feel good.

And then something amazing happened!

These amazing people, whose blogs I admire, actually throw encouragement and acknowledgement my way and make me feel 10-feet tall!

Allison from French Whisk and Yummy Chunklet dished out a Sisterhood of World Bloggers Award!

This award simply asks that you pass it on. I’m kind of new to this blogging thing, but two blogs that have recently struck a chord with me are:

Jane at 7 Sutras

Gina at Gina Marie’s Kitchen

At the same time, Betsy from A Plate Full of Happiness and Katie from Prof Who Cooks awarded me with the Stylish Blogger Award!

Talk about feeling great! I am conscious of sounding like a gushing Gwyneth at the Oscar’s so I’ll just say thank you for the awards!
(And I am pasting the badges on my sidebar with pride!)

This Award has a few more requirements:

1. Thank the Person – thanks again guys!

2. Share 7 things about yourself – I think I’ve shared enough above and don’t want to risk boring anyone anymore!

3. Share 15 blogs you enjoy – again, being kinda new to this I don’t know that many blogs to nominate! But here’s a few that I’ve come across that stood out to me:

Effie at Effie’s Food Corner

Brian at Ottertude

4. Let the Bloggers Know! As it’s after midnight in Sydney, Australia I will do this first thing tomorrow!!!

Good Night!


7 Comments

Why We Love Nigella – Madeleines and Mirror Neurons

 

Have you ever wondered why some people leave you cold while others leave you wanting (or in the case of Nigella Lawson), begging for more?!

Backtrack to Italy in the early 1990’s where Italian researchers made an unexpected discovery (don’t you just love the way most of our greatest discoveries were made by accident?) Anyway…

One day, sitting in the lab, surrounded by macaque monkeys with electrodes implanted in their brains, one of the researchers noticed something interesting as they reached for their own food. The monkeys watching him began to show neural activity in the same area of the brain that fired when they themselves made similar hand movements! The discovery of mirror neurons was made!

These brain cells fire not only when we do something, but also, when we watch someone else do the same thing.

Scientists used to think our brains used logical thought processes to understand and predict other people’s actions.

Now they believe we understand other people by feeling, not by thinking.

These little neurons help us to not only mirror other people’s actions but also the intentions and feelings behind those actions.

For example, when you see someone smile, your own smiling neurons fire up, creating a sensation in your own mind of the feelings that go with smiling.
Or you watch an athlete on television and feel your own heart racing and the exhiliaration of winning.
Or you watch Nigella taking almost erotic pleasure and delight in her cooking, you can feel her rapture and joy in what she is doing (no wonder we can’t get enough of her!).
In all of the above examples, our mirror neurons fire away, creating in us, the same experience and emotion being observed, so in a sense we enter another person’s reality for a moment.

Now this is all fantastic when we are around people who make us feel as fabulous as Nigella does, but consider the effects of those who aren’t so positive in their take on life. People who are anxious, nasty, fearful, depressed, manipulative or just plain whiny! We all have them in our lives (and if we are really honest we’ve all been one of them at some point in our lives!) People who we walk away from feeling drained, empty, anxious and depressed. If we understand how mirror neurons work, we can identify who these people are and prepare ourselves or even choose to avoid them.

And just as importantly, we can ask ourselves, “how do we want others to experience us?”

So… what in the world does this have to do with Madeleine’s???

All this started with a decision to catch up with some really great women one Friday afternoon. Intelligent and supportive women that approach life with a sense of humour, so there’s always a lot of laughter. And there are no hidden agendas or power plays, so there’s a wonderful lightness and a simplicity in being with them. As I flicked through Nigella’s “How To Be a Domestic Goddess” book, I took one look at the simple yet elegant madeleine’s and they seemed to embody the essence of what these women are about and how they make others feel!

Rosebud Madeleines

(Nigella Lawson’s “How to Be a Domestic Goddess” book)

50g unsalted butter (plus 1 tablespoon for greasing tin)

1 large egg

40g caster sugar

pinch of salt

45g plain flour

1 tbsp rosewater

icing sugar for dusting


Steps (abbreviated by me)

1. Melt butter then leave to cool.

2. Beat egg, sugar and salt with electric mixer for 5 mins, until “thick as mayonnaise.”

3. Sieve flour over egg and sugar mixture, then fold with a wooden spoon.

4. Fold in butter (minus one tablespoon for greasing tin).

5. Fold in rosewater.

6. Mix gently, then leave to rest in the fridge for 1 hour.

7. Take out of fridge and rest a further 30 mins.

8. Preheat oven to 22o degrees Celsius.

9. Brush insides of tin with melted butter and fill with mixture.

10. Bake for about 5 minutes, turn out and cool on a rack before dusting with icing sugar.

(Nigella says her recipe will fill two x 24 bun mini-madeleine tin. I used 1 x12 bun tin and only filled 10 of the holes).


11 Comments

Chocolate Lime Cake with Margarita Cream – Valentine’s Day

I came across the “Nigella Forever” at Maison Cupcake and I it was the perfect excuse to cook something totally indulgent!
(I seem to need a good reason to do things just for the fun and pleasure of it, contradictory I know!
However I’ve noticed that something as simple as having a deadline legitimises all my worries away!)

Nigella’s Flourless Chocolate Lime Cake with Margarita Cream really struck a chord with me!
Margarita cream! Really! How flamboyant!
And in addition to a very real deadline I had an even better excuse… Valentine’s Day!
I couldn’t wait!

I made the cake…

It turned out absolutely perfect!

I made the Margarita Cream…

 

And since I was on a roll and loving it I decided to make Margaritas!

And I remembered a few things in the process…
It’s perfectly okay to have fun for the sake of fun!
And when you relax and enjoy yourself, everyone else around you relaxes and has fun.
Isn’t that what life’s about?

 

Happy Valentine’s Day!


You can read the recipe for yourself by clicking on Flourless Chocolate Lime Cake with Margarita Cream or by visiting Nigella.com

 

 


Leave a comment

Australia Day 2011: Dee Why Beach

We get up early and head down to Dee Why beach along with thousands of others.

It’s tradition.

Bacon and egg rolls, sausage sandwiches, swimming, cricket on the beach, BBQ’s and beer!

January 26, 1788, Captain Arthur Phillip, commandeered 11 convict ships from Great Britain into Sydney Cove.

Today, we celebrate everything Australia stands for.

The outdoors, our beaches, our families, friends and community.

So, with the local band belting out AC/DC.

BBQ sauce dripping down our wrists.

And a killer rip dragging us like rag dolls into the surf so huge waves can spit us back out into the sand, we celebrate another Australia Day!