Sunday, September 4, 2011

Emotional Cooking

When you love food and cooking, you come to realise how much your emotions come into play. When I'm feeling the love, I enjoy going to buy wonderful ingredients to turn into delightful dishes. What is even better is when I get to share them with loved ones to enjoy.

On the other hand, when ye old black dog comes snapping at my heels, my meals are less inspired. They are meals I wouldn't share with anyone else in a million years.  I tend to get very boring and make the same things on rotation. Perhaps this depresses me even more?

The last week has been very challenging for me. I had the week off with blackdogitis and have not felt like socialising with anyone. So when Saturday came around and I had invited friends to come over for dinner, my plans for a spectacular dinner were scaled down somewhat. I was even going to call it off but seeing 2 of the friends coming had arranged with their husbands to stay home with the children, it wouldn't have been very fair.

So I decided on a lamb tajine as it's easy to make but looks impressive served in my Scanpan tajine. When I served it up, the girls oohed and aahhed and said they loved it.  I was impressed that it actually tasted pretty good despite my bad energy but I think having these fabulous women in my home made a great difference. Three of them have their own labels and the other one is a musician embarking on a new band and style of music she hasn't performed before so the conversation around creativy was inspiring. We also drank copious amounts of alcohol which rendered me useless for the following day!

It's got me thinking; what is my creative strength? What do I have to offer and contribute? How can I break through this darkness and creative light? How can I do these things for myself and stop waiting for someone to sort things out?

It looks like I'll be having pasta with broccoli again tonight as it's what's available. Or perhaps I'll roast some vegies... all I know is I want to get my energy back and enjoy my life with a black cat with the black dog far away..

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Lazy Haianese Chicken Rice

Laziness is the mother of invention- or so it is at Casa Lola.

The other week, I bought a package of chicken wings for both Django and I. He would get one or two to chew on (and strew around the apartment) and I would use the rest to make soup. Realising I was missing a couple of key ingredients for chicken soup, I wondered what else I could make in a hurry. I opened the cupboard and the first thing I spotted was a bottle of Vietnamese chilli sauce and a light bulb went off in my head; Hainainese chicken rice- my stylie!

  • Chicken pieces of your choosing
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Rice
  • Frozen baby peas (the one's from Aldi rock)
  • Vietnamese Chilli Sauce in a squeezy bottle from all Asian grocers
Place chicken pieces in a saucepan and cover with water (don't fill). Add salt to season. Boil till cooked. Take out chicken and rest on a plate. Add rice to the stock you just made with the chicken pieces as well as the peas. Cook till the rice has absorbed the stock- add more water if still uncooked.

When rice is ready, add to plate with chicken. Serve with a huge squirt of chilli sauce.

Great for a simple lunch/dinner/hangover snack.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Thursday, July 7, 2011

An Open Letter To Mama Elias.

Dear Mama Elias.

I could faff about and start this letter proper like but I won't. You are far too practical for such nonsense so I'll just get to the point;

I miss your chilli.

It used to arrive regularly, when your daughter, Sabrina (aka as Saboobies) would bring me a stash when she came to visit you and Papa Elias. You were overjoyed to give me those gifts in a jar with your cute handwritten labels; 'Dry Chilly with oil,salt and ginger'- I still have one that I cherish.

That jar has long since been empty. I pine for that gorgeous chilli paste which makes all others die in its strong presence. Only half a teaspoon is necessary to give a dish that snap,crackle,pop and roar. A whole teaspoon would set your hair on fire- delightfully, I must add.

The last time I was in Sydney, you gave me 2 jars of this heavenly,hot,homemade joy along with another packet of your favorite Baba's spice mix. Saboobs gave me some of her home grown curry leaves. I took that armful of heaven back to Mel's where I was staying and made a lamb curry that made our whole being sing.  Since Saboobs has taken a job in Perth to make more cash, she is no longer able to supply me with this wonderful condiment. All my attempts to recreate that curry of a year ago have failed. Oh the memories of that meal.

I can't live on these memories much longer. I must throw down the gauntlet; Either you make me more and post it to me (or better still, send my gorgeous Saboobs over to deliver it personally) or give me your recipe so I can at least try to make it myself.

So, Mama E, it's all up to you. I either await a care package full of chilli paste or an email containing the recipe.

Or better still, handwritten. 'My Chilly Recipe'. How cute.

Post Script- Received a text from Ms Saboobies stating she had just arrived back in Sydney and Mama Elias is going to hand write her recipe for me. Stay tuned for that! YAY!

Monday, July 4, 2011

Easy Chicken & Spinach Curry

Oh Monday night.. when you work full time, it's the hardest day to get through. You get home,you want to eat but imagination is low and creativity in the kitchen isn't that high on the radar either. However, I was craving Lamb Saag like nobodies business. I went to the supermercado and all they had in the way of affordable lamb were shanks. So I bought them thinking a nice,slow roast would make them perfect with that sauce and a pile of spinach. I also bought some F.R chicken drumsticks thinking I'd get clever and make chicken & veg soup for a couple of meals this week.

Then I got home.

The hunger gland kicked in and I knew there was no way I was going to wait 2 to 3 hours for shanks to get to that tender-fall off the bone-cut it with a spoon stage. So lamb saag became chicken saag. This is how it all went down;

  • Chicken
  • Spinach-
  • A splodge of oil (vegetable or olive)
  • A wodge of butter
  • Onion(s), chopped anyway you like 
  • Heaped tablespoon of Baba's Spice Mix *
  • Garlic (minced or smashed)
  • Thumb sized piece of fresh ginger ( minced or fine julienne)
  • Salt to taste
  • Fresh curry leaves- about 12 should do it- I love them.**
  • Chilli (you decide the heat)
  • Cream- you decide on light,full cream,pouring or coconut and the amount you want
Put on a CD and start prepping your ingredients. Have a sing song whilst your slicing and dicing.

In a heavy bottomed (hee hee hee) pan, heat the oil and butter. Add the onion,garlic,ginger,chilli and spice mix and sweat it down-careful not to burn. You want it translucent,not brown. Make sure your heat isn't too high. If using a cast iron pot, it retains the heat nicely so it should be a lower heat. Add your chicken thighs and keep turning till they change colour. Add your can of tomatoes and curry leaves,stir and cover. You may need about half a can of water to make sure it doesn't burn.

Let this simmer for at least an hour. Keep tasting to check the seasoning. Add your spinach. About five or so minutes before you think it's ready, add the cream. Don't do it early or the cream will split and then it all goes horribly wrong.

When you feel it's ready, serve with Basmati rice. Remember the culinary jazz aspect and improvise for the amount of people you're cooking for.

*My dear friend,Sabrina's sweet mum whom I will refer to hereon in as Mama Elias,gives me jars of her homemade chilli paste which kicks all chilli pastes arse as far as I'm concerned. She also put me on to this stupendous ready to go spice mix. I love making my own mixes,but when you're short on time but still want quality, Babas is the bomb. You can pick it up from most Asian grocers and it will set you back about $2.50.

**Curry leaves should always be used fresh or else they are shit. These can also be purchased at Asian grocers and are usually found near the front counter.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Good Roasting

I am an unabashed coffee snob. I love my coffee. It must be good coffee. I buy my beans from a rather expensive coffee shop in town but it's worth it because each coffee is wonderful. I have a coffee machine and a grinder so those beans are fresh and good when they are brewed into liquid gold.

So it was only a matter of time before I entered the foray of roasting my own beans. The gorgeous Ruth Bruten of the award winning blog Gourmet Girlfriend blogged that she roasts her own coffee beans as she drinks a lot more java than I do. She also has a brood of six boys to feed (including her husband) so buying good beans on a regular basis would cut into the budget a bit. I do drink 2 to 3 cups a day-2 during the week and 3 on the weekend. I buy my coffee a kilo at a time and at $43 bucks a kilo, it gets a bit pricey on my salary.

So I emailed Ruth and asked her to give up her coffee bean connection and she very nicely did. I won't give them up in case she wants it to remain a secret. I did my online research and discovered a method using an air popcorn maker. After watching a few  You Tube tutorials, I decided this was for me. Now as we all know, air poppers are one of those things that people buy,use a few times and then it dies in the back of a cupboard somewhere. So I put a shout out to my peeps on Facebook to see if anyone had one they didn't want. My good friend Louie came back and said he had one that he never used and he was happy to pass it on to me in my quest for home roasted coffee. 

So I ordered a green bean starter pack and 2 days later, it arrived. It comes in four different bean types;Peruvian,Ugandan,Indian Mysore and Ethiopian Ghimbi. Due to my love of all things South American, I used the Peruvian. The green beans are pale and strange smelling.... it's hard to believe when you normally buy them and the smell is intoxicating.

                                                                  The raw product
 The before and after
Django the quality controller watching that all goes well.

I'm still finishing the last of my beans from Seven Seeds so I haven't tried them yet. I'll write a postscript to this blog when I do. Right now,they are resting. I am amazed that the popcorn maker does such a quick and good job on roasting them. Seeing I'm rather forgetful, I'm sure if I put them in the oven, the fire department would be around lickity split so the air popper is a better option for moi... Many thanks to Ruth,Coffee Geek and the gorgeous and yummy Tom from Sweet Maria's for helping me along.

Post Script! The coffee is wonderful! The smell developed into an intoxicating perfume overnight and when ground and brewed, tasted a bit like Nutella! I am in coffee heaven!

Olive Harvest

My friend,Cathryn has an olive tree in her backyard and a damn fine one. So when she invited me to strip the tree bare-with the help of her gorgeous 18 month son Ned- I was there in a minute.

I brought those babies home,cleaned them and packed them in salt. Two months later here they are;

It was a long wait but definatly worth it. They taste salty and buttery.
Aerial view of beautiful black olives..
Here they are doused in Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Will add garlic and chilli then store in jars to give to friends.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Food and Life Flummery

I'm in a hole.

Despite my best efforts to tap dance and smell the roses, I've hit the skits and living the boo hoo life again. This is probably more of a post for my 'Tango and Madness' blog but seeing my mood is affecting my cooking, I feel it's appropriate to scratch this out here. This madam is feeling burnt.

I read my cook books, I trawl through recipes on the internet and think of shopping sprees in markets and the Middle Eastern bounty on Sydney Rd. Yet these days I inevitably end up at Coles or Woolies and it seems I'm on a rotation of pasta,soup and some form of curry. Even my foray into soba noodles has become a yawn fest
I went to a 50th birthday party on Saturday where a sexy Afro Cuban man was winking and waving at me and I was only barely impressed. Normally I'd be rearranging my cleavage and getting my groove on. This time, I just didn't want to. The juice,the mojo,the drive or whatever you want to call it just isn't there. Even Herb and his Tijuana brass can't do it for me at the moment.

So I've taken to my bed. The blinds are down and I'm holed up alone watching reruns of Northern Exposure. I've slept in my clothes for the past 4 days. My house is a feral pit. I wish I knew which direction to go. I am writing this in the hope that it will snap me out of my malaise. Damn chemical imbalances of my brain! My doctor wants me to increase my meds. I am ambivalent as I hate taking them in the first place and more meds means buying them more frequently which equals more money. I want to take them LESS so I can eventually get off them altogether.

I wish I could just snap my fingers and be in Buenos Aires. I'm not saying my life would be simpler but for some reason my life made sense there. Nothing felt foreign or odd there. I'm always having people comment about me in someway- such as when most people are preparing to have lunch, I'm having breakfast. When people are having afternoon tea,I'm having lunch. In B's A's, everyone's eating is on delay. No one rushes it and the only time someone commented on my eating time was when I went to La Plata at 9 they asked why I was having dinner 'so early'. It's a city where chaos and peace co habitate. No one wigs out at the slightest provocation as they do here. Jay walking is encouraged. If you can get across the street and live, you've earned it. I miss the men stopping and telling you that you are 'muy guapa'. Most of the time I am invisible in this town. I've had women say 'how sleazy are the men in Argentina' and I said 'not at all.' It was a nice change for men to appreciate me.

Anyhoo, what I'm trying to say or figure out here is maybe lack of creative is causing me to bottom out. I dream of making fancy cakes and feasts of roast goat and divine seafood but then I think 'who's it for?'
I'm not lonely and I love my little space but sometimes I feel it would be nice to meet Mr Lovely and co-habitate. To know what a real relationship is like because quite frankly, I've never had one. My first boyfriend ended up being gay and in reality, I was just a Sindy doll and he was gay Ken. We dressed up in our vintage sixties finery and I guess I was unknowingly a fag hag. A lack of self awareness made sure every other attempt at coupling was doomed from the start.

Perhaps the thing to so is get out of this bed, deferalise this apartment,go for a walk and buy some food. Then I should decide on one thing to do to change; get my learners permit,go dancing,realign my jaw and lose a bunch of weight.

Maybe then, my cooking creativity will return and my posts to this blog will start again with more frequency.

Like Thelonius Monk, it's all about space and time.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A Few Of My Favorite Kitchen Things

The Kenwood. I touch it everyday and tell it how much it is loved.

Matching Bessemerware butter dish and sugar bowl. Melmac love!

The love of my life. The first thing I think of when I wake up.

The result of using awesome beans purchased from Seven Seeds and using full fat extra creamy moo juice.

Ah coffee how I love thee!
Orange Tupperware cannisters just like the one's I grew up with in the 70's. My mum still has hers.Plus the funky 60's style one's purchased whilst visiting the lovely Ms Contessa is Taswegia. My wire basket full of bits;chillis,ginger,garlic,onions, the essential can of EVOO and another shot of the divine Kenwood.

Mi encanta mi cucina mucho!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Much Food But No Blogging!

Jaysus Jones! Has it been THAT long since I've posted any new recipe blogs??

I must I must I must START!

Good news- have purchased a dead sexy Kenwood Chef circa 1970's that works a bloody treat. So far, have made chocolate mousse in it but plan to use again this weekend.

Internet has arrived at Casa Margarita as of today so more time for bloggage.

Watch this space and feed yer face!