Thursday, December 31, 2009

Baked Brain

All my life I've done this weird mental bookmarking thing. I'll be sitting watching TV or on the toilet or something and be thinking absently about the future. Like, "I can't imagine having a baby. That would be so scary. But I bet I'll do it one day." or, "Right now I think boys are really stupid and awful, but when I become a teenager, all that is going to change and I will have no control over it". Then I decide that when those times come, I'm going to think of those moments where I was younger and thinking those things, to keep showing myself that things change rapidly, and to remember more innocent times. It's worked too. When I had Wolf, I thought of my 12 year old self fearing childbirth. At my first teeenage crush, I did think of myself at 8, and laughed.
Bookmarks in my brain of the past. It might be slightly neurotic. Like just now on the toilet, thinking to myself "Some day, I'm going to be incredibly elderly, should I survive that long, and I'll spend half my life in a toilet cubicle." And when that day comes, I'm going to remember today.

Monday, December 28, 2009


I never ever want to shop anywhere but online, at markets and in small, independent but mysteriously successful and lucrative boutiques. EVER. EVER EVER EVER. Bloody supermarkets. Bloody department stores. Bloody shopping centres. Complete idiotic mess and full of insane teenagers and totally cut-throat capitalistic people running each other over. All we wanted was emergency groceries (no open market days that happen on Josh's days off) and some new pyjamas for Wolfgang. How did that take three hours? I love you, internet.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas - Thank goodness it's over

If not for Wolfgang, I may have spent the week leading up to Christmas doing nothing but cooking, and then sleeping in the kitchen. Thank goodness for needy babies who keep things in perspective.

Starting the trifle early Christmas Eve morning. Not to be eaten till the next day, but that was the only chance I had over the two days to get it ready. Sponge fingers soaked in raspberry syrup and sherry! See my breakfast bowl next to it. Just add a splash of sherry in there and I'll be all set.

Many boxes of honey butter fudge ready and waiting. But for who? I went nuts and made a large batch and bought lots of boxes to put them in. Who was I going to give them to? The mailman? My insane neighbors? Now they're set aside for when we finally see some friends.

Vanilla Bavois. To follow Christmas Eve Dinner at Mum's . To be topped with raspberry coulis. A classic combination and one of the few things I can remember doing at Pastry School.

Totally amazing mussels dish made by Michael. Ever grateful that mum picked a guy with excellent cooking skills. We eat these outside sitting on the brand new deck that was sealed just in time for our arrival! But poor Michael, it rained and he thought we wouldn't be able to use it, but it cleared just in time for dinner.

Christmas Eve Dinner at Mum's. My only contribution to this table is the roast pork belly and coleslaw. The rest is made by Michael. Amongst it all, an amazing calamari salad with banana flowers and superb carrot and beetroot salad with toasted sesame seeds.

Christmas Day Lunch at Josh's parent's home. Huge spread made by Natasha (soon-to-be-sister-in-law-whenever-we-find-the-time-to-get-married) and I. She did lovely chicken ribs in garlic, honey and soy, an amazing green salad and wonderfully balanced Blackforest cheesecake. And she baked BREAD, flavoured with herbs and cheese. There's a box of Josh's Nan's yoyos as well. Huge family favourite.
See my pork appears again (I'm a one hit wonder).

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

It's a cruel joke that it is so bloody humid in Melbourne today. I feel like my head has been baked but improperly, and the uncooked inner contents are slowly oozing out of my ears. Was that graphic? I get graphic when I'm sleepy. I'm slightly pleased with myself at having completed a large salad and the Summer trifle for tomorrow within the space of one of Wolf's naps. I've scored the pork belly for roasting. Set the vanilla bavois and made the raspberry coulis. Fudge and brownies are boxed and ready. Just potato salad to go and I'm ready!
Good luck to all of you cooking Christmas brunches, lunches and dinners. We'll get through it somehow.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Turkish Delight

Turkish delight. Tricky, sticky but tasty. I very nearly messed this up! Admittedly there was one batch we had to scrap because I didn't cook the cornflour on the stove long enough, but this one seems to be all right. The number one concern when making Turkish delight seems to be the cut pieces sweating after they've been rolled in sugar and cornflour.

I've found that if you pretty much cover the Turkish delight with a 4:1 powdered sugar and cornflour mix and leave it out of the fridge uncovered to air dry, the coating stops turning into wet icing when in contact with the sticky jelly.
So that's one item down. Countless to go. Next step, honey fudge!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sweet gift from a lovely friend

Josh has the loveliest, sweetest boss I can imagine. Shane randomly bought this cute airplane fork for Wolfgang at the Flight Experience store near their bike shop. Isn't that sweet? I love a guy with a natural spirit of generosity. He is a total catch! When Wolf was first born, he also gave us some beautiful things: a white towel, singlet and lovely wool blanket with Wolf's full name, date of birth and a cute picture of a teddy bear embroidered on them! I'm so ridiculously moved by men that become enamoured with babies. It's too sweet. I know it's not that unusual, and that the old cliche of men being aloof with children is completely inaccurate, but it's still something I like to see. Maybe it's some kind of modern mating instinct (don't take that the wrong way!). Like if there was a time when women saw men fighting each other as a sort of guarantee that they would protect their young, modern woman see men who are sweet and gentle with children as the sort of father they would want for their own babies? Something like that. It makes me want to put them all in a sack for safe-keeping. Not for me obviously. But for the next suitable female that comes along. Does that sound crazy? Yes probably. Considering I don't know any single girls, they'd be in that sack for a long time.

Cheap Thrills

I love making dorky desserts like this that get a huge reaction out of Josh. It's just a raspberry fool with sponge fingers at the base at strawberries throughout for texture. I whipped it up while he was giving Wolf a bath and hid it in the fridge until Wolf had gone to bed and his dad and I could sit down and have dessert while watching Die Hard (Go Alan Rickman!). I am possibly missing the fancy presentation part of being a pastry chef. Except that my old boss would say that this was shit. One of the best things about working at the patisserie was the collection of old ice cream sundae glasses I got for free. Some past owner of the store had them, but the master hated them and thought they were ugly. Score! I love ice cream glasses; they can make any dessert look fancy.

Wolf's first Christmas present

Technically this would be his second present, because Josh and I already bought him a bunch of wooden toys for Christmas. But his maternal Grandmother wasn't far behind, with this awesome playmat from Bubbamats, a local company based in Dandenong. I first saw one of their mats at the Tweddle sleep school, in their lovely toy filled lounge room. It's absolutely what we needed, because Wolf is at that stage where he just rolls over and over until he hits something; not a great idea on floorboards.
The mat is made of PVC and is 11mm thick. It feels nice and bouncy and is textured like a grid; Wolf bumps his head a lot and the cushioning from the mat prevents any injuries. It's 1.9m by 1.3m so it's pretty big, but if it can fit nicely in our little apartment then it's pretty good. I preferred the Miffy design because we've already got so many Miffy items for him (including a raincoat and umbrella that he won't be big enough to use until he's about 2 years old!). It cost $199, but if you have a Australian Baby Card, it's $30 off, and they're currently doing a deal where you get a free picnic mat with your purchase. Perfect for Summer Picnics!

This was such an awesome early present, exactly what Wolf needed and I can't thank my mum enough for getting it for him! Now whenever friends have a new baby, I think I'm never going to buy them clothes or toys again; they get that from everyone else. Just practical things that they want and need but can't bring themselves to ask for!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Sleep is good

My dirth of posts has been due to some intensive sleep training with Wolfgang. On Tuesday we went to the Tweddle sleep school to teach Wolf how to put himself to sleep so that when he wakes up in the middle of a nap and is still tired, he can go back to sleep on his own without being rocked. It's an awesome service and completely free, but it takes some work and a bit of crying to get them there. Unforunately Wolf was just taking a nap and the rubbish truck came and woke him up, so I'm off to deal with that.
The little guy is 6 months today. Amazing how time flies!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

35 minute brownies

Here I am trying to lose my baby-weight, and the baking bug has come back. What can I say, it makes me feel sane. Plus if I can successfully complete a baking project while Wolf is asleep, that means I have succeeded in putting him down for a good nap. It's win win. In saying that as I write this I bet he will wake up. That's the kind of instant karma I have. This is a picture of the very last morsel of brownie left from a batch of 12 pieces I made yesterday. It goes bloody fast. It's also fast to make. This is a variation on a Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall recipe. Except that his calls for 250g of dark chocolate, and your average chocolate block is usually 200g, so this simplifies it a lot. Caster sugar has been exchanged for brown sugar for richer brownies.

Chocolate Brownies
200g good quality dark chocolate
160g butter
160g brown sugar
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
100 plain flour
40g cocoa powder
pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees celcius.
2. Line dish about 20 x 30cm with tin foil
3. Break up chocolate and melt with butter over a double boiler
4. Whisk together eggs, sugar and salt till thick and aerated. When the whisk is lifted from the mixture, the trailing ribbon should hold for a couple of seconds on the surface before disappearing.
5. Sift together flour and cocoa
6. When chocolate and butter have melted, whisk into egg mixture until combined.
7. Fold in flour and cocoa.
8. Pour batter into your prepared dish and bake for about 20 minutes
9. Brownie should have a lightly cracked surface when done. Do not over bake. When you press the centre it should feel slightly soft. This is definitely better when still gooey.
10. Leave to cool and then slice. Or just eat it. 

It only takes 10-15 minutes to put together and 20 minutes to bake, so this makes a pretty good emergency Christmas present if you've forgotten someone or people are coming over. These brownies look good cut into small squares and placed on patty pans and put in box like chocolates. You know if you give them a box of chocolates they're going to be eaten in one sitting anyway. And these cost a lot less to make. I'd estimate about $6? Something like that. Bargain. And they always get a good reaction. This recipe is easily multiplied and altered. Add nuts or for a Christmas-ey twist, dried cherries, cranberries, candied orange peel or white chocolate chips.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Two Special Books

Yesterday the three of us were hanging around Sydney Road in Brunswick and went to the Brunswick Bound Bookstore. It's an incredible place with many unusual art books, heaps of literature and a great children's section that includes a lot of Charlie Harper stuff. They even have Belle and Boo prints! We found two awesome things there, (three actually but the last one we couldn't quite afford so I might have to wrangle a way of getting it for Josh for Christmas).  

Firstly, 'I ♥ macarons' by Hisako Ogita is a beautiful cookery and photography book all about French style macarons. Macarons were one of those major things I never managed to perfect while apprenticing at the patisserie. The number of bad batches definitely outweighed the good. But I love eating them. Especially chocolate filled with ganache. Heaven. 

This book is just superb. Photographs accompany every instruction and there are also pictures of macarons that have gone wrong and explanations why, so you'll never be left with a mystery tray of ugly things wondering what happened (I really could have used this during my apprenticeship). Ogita also suggests different buttercream and jam fillings for every different flavour macaron; some are pretty unusual but most seem spot on and look amazing. But my favourite part of the book is section with a handful of recipes for using up the egg yolks that you don't use in making macarons. Genius! The creme brulee and caramel ice cream recipes look fantastic.
Our other purchase has become a sort of baby bible in less than 24 hours. I blew my trumpet far too early when I said I'd managed to put Wolf down for a nap without rocking him in my arms the whole time. After that he tried his hardest not to sleep all day and has been taking 30-45 minute naps getting crankier each time. A lovely friend suggested the Tweddle Sleep School and just after we made a call to them for an appointment, we came across their book Sleep Right, Sleep Tight.

I'd previously been pretty wary of books like this, thinking they were just crackpot stuff that didn't work, or just variations on the 'leave your baby to cry it out' sort of thing, which I just can't bear. Truthfully the Tweddle method does involve crying, but not abandonment. To summarise (though it absolutely worth getting and reading the whole book) you need to give your baby some downtime, ie. cuddles, story, singing, before you put them in their cot. Following that, give them a pat, say 'Goodnight' and leave them to it. If they don't fall asleep and cry (which he/she will of course do), you go in and use your settling action of choice (patting, rubbing back, stroking forehead, singing) for at least 5-20 minutes, until your little one shows signs of sleepiness. Don't let them fall asleep to your ministrations, the point is to teach them to get to the point of doziness and learn to fall asleep themselves.
Obviously we're not there yet, seeing it's only been 24 hours, but usually Wolf needs a good solid rocking and singing to before he'll even deign to be put in his cot, and he has no idea how to fall asleep by himself. I'd had to pat him through some very anguished crying for about half an hour this morning, but he's asleep and that in itself is amazing. I'm trying the method where he is rolled on his side, I hold his shoulder with one hand and pat his bottom with the other. It seems to work and though he sobs and kicks, eventually he calms down enough to be rolled onto his back. He looks around, snuffles a bit, then closes his eyes and tries to sleep. It's a big step up for us. I hope that continuing this program will work!


When you were a kid at school, did you ever draw a really fantastic picture, an image that really reflected what you were seeing in your mind, only to look across the room and see that some other less talented kid had looked at yours and copied it exactly but for their lack of artistic skill? The designer of Corky Saint Claire has had that exact experience, although his copycat can't justify her actions through the excuse of childish ignorance. Lauren Ridley, otherwise known as Cherryloco, who can be found on various craft and handmade websites, including the Glasgow Craft Mafia, purports that all 'Cherryloco designs are handcrafted by Lauren from a small makeshift workbench in her flat'. Someone with a BA Honours degree in Jewellery should really know better.

At Corky Saint Claire, every design is carefully perfected and a simple idea becomes something incredibly beautiful and unique. According to Burnished and Buffed, Lauren stated that she found images of Corky Saint Claire designs such as 'Rolly the Radcore Robot (the original pictured first, copy second, images from Burnished and Buffed)' on Google images, so considered them to be in the public domain and free to be used as she wished. What bullshit. 'Scuse my language. She even copied the sales spiels from Corky's website. You can see her version is just a cheap, rough job compared to the lovely, delicate original. It's terrible that someone can make money by stealing the ideas of an innocent, hardworking artist.
Apparently Folksy have taken her stuff off their website. Good! Now we just have to wait for the others to follow. Plagiarism is totally not on, and people need to know that. Glasgow may be far from Melbourne, but that's no excuse.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Domestic Miracles

1. Wolf did not need to be cuddled to sleep for either of his naps. Just wrapped him tight, put him in his cot and read to him till he fell asleep. Incredible! That's the magic of Harry Potter.

2. Gave in and decided to try and find lunch in an incredibly crap looking sandwich shop and 'deli' full of peculiar drinks imported from Indonesia and awful 3 inch thick squares of lasagne. They actually make a decently fresh and tasty schnitzel sandwich. Of course I said rye bread and she heard white, and the mayonnaise was the strange white kind that doesn't have any eggs in it, but the sandwich was still good.

Can I help it that these two things make me incredibly happy? I must have some sort of strange, deep connection with sandwiches in my sub-conscious. Complex layers. Which is odd because when I was little I used to throw out some of my school lunches because I loathed eating plastic wrapped squishy things that smelled plastic-ey even when unwrapped. Eventually they started giving me plain bread rolls and sometimes I didn't eat those either. You never know, picky eaters can grow up to be cooks. Sandwiches have everything you need though, if you make them right. Meat, cheese, vegetables, sauce, bread. It's like the height of all human culinary creations. As opposed to Alien ones. I really can't be bothered going back and changing that sentence though. It's too hot to make corrections.

What would cap off the day would be a surprise visitor of some sort. Nice visitor. Not the Jehovah's Witness. Please not them again.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Never trade your granny in for a dollar

Grandparents are amazing people. I don't have any of my own anymore, but Josh has all of his and I received three gifts from them, all arriving promptly on November 26, the day before my birthday! I am amazed at the organisation of grandparents! I suppose when you've little else to do but think of family, then you would be terribly good at remembering birthdays. Pooled together their presents enabled me to buy a stack of beautiful books.

I bet loads of people are getting Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden Companion for Christmas. It's so beautiful. It is an incredibly comprehensive book teaching you how to plant a strong, sustainable veggie garden and how to put the results to good use! Of course we don't exactly have any sort of a garden in the building right now, unless you count the strip of hard earth by the fence filled with incredibly ugly and useless shrubs. The apartment block across the way from us puts their garden to much better use, all the beds full of rich soil, growing silverbeet and herbs by their washing line. Brilliant.
Two Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall books too. Such a fan. Sous Chef at the River Cafe, got fired, became food writer. How ideal is that? I wouldn't have the first clue how to get into food writing. Generally I don't have a clue how to do anything at the moment other than cook and make things for Wolf and generally be incredibly domestic.
Another thing that has amazed me is beautiful grandmotherly crafts. Josh's paternal grandparents make incredible hand-made cards. While Neville composes witty poems about the recepient, complete with cleverly Photoshop-ed photos to match the sentiments (here is a grandfather who no grandchild will ever have to explain the workings of computers to), Elva makes these incredibly delicate and unique quilted cards. They are always mounted in lovely thick textured card.

These three were for Josh and my birthdays, the green one the most recent creation received on Thursday. But the yellow is my favourite.

Elva also makes does beautiful cross-stitched cards. The blue flowers were from when Wolf was born.
She knits, sews and bakes wonderfully as well. A really traditional grandmother! To me that's sort of amazing. I grew up reading storybooks about such grandmothers with their pure silver or white hair, always bearing baked goods, sitting in a rocking chair knitting you a scarf, telling you stories about their own charmed childhood. Meanwhile my own grandmothers were sort of Asian battle-axes; one smoked, read romance novels, played patience and did jigsaw puzzles all the time, the other I hardly knew, she having many other grandchildren who spoke her language and lived in the same country as herself. The only thing I remember my paternal grandmother cooking well was Oxtail soup. It was vibrantly red and slightly oily but very tasty. I think she adapted it from some sort of Italian recipe because I don't think the Chinese version would have included so much tomato and carrot. Her scent was a combination of cigarette smoke (Benson and Hedges I'm pretty sure) and Glen 20. She played the Chinese Zither. She dressed like the queen. Despite all that I think that our paternal grandmothers would have liked each other. Elva would have made cakes and my grandmother would have eaten them all. They would have drunk copious amounts of tea and been very impressed with each other having lived long enough to see another generation added to their respective families. In another World maybe.

yasmin lawsuit