Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A personal chef for baby

One of the things that has surprised me most about motherhood is how experimentation in food and cooking is required. Here I was thinking that I would have some sort of advantage working in food and knowing what to do with it to make it tasty and appealing...most of the time. 
But within a month Wolf has gone from a good eater opening his mouth for everything I might offer, to a super fussy one displaying a sudden penchant for toasted ham and cheese sandwiches and little else other than a lot of fruit. What did I do wrong? I made him the tastiest beef casserole and he spat out every mouthful. He won't even eat avocado, his first proper solid food and (used-to-be) hands down favourite. We're pretty over spoon-fed meals, as he spits them out or pretends to take the spoon to bring it to his mouth then throws it on the floor. Then when you bends down to clean it up, he reaches down and pulls your hair with his sticky hands. Argh.
I was almost tempted to buy a baby food recipe book to see where I'm going wrong, but that feels like cheating! If I can come up with grown up solutions for meals, why not a baby? 
Then yesterday I re-read the passage on finger foods in What to Expect in the First Year, and actually took the advice given. Not great and taking advice. Not great at listening. Must work on that. 
I'm surprised the feeding solution has been about presentation and not taste. Small cubes of food, no more than five at a time on his high chair table. Yesterday we tried cubes of boiled carrot and whole grain macaroni. He snapped up each piece at it was placed on his table and gobbled them up like sweets! Couldn't believe it. Maybe that says something about me as a cook. I like it when things look sort of rustic and edible in an accessible way, rather than neatly and carefully presented. Why I would fail as a proper chef and why I was definitely not destined to finish my pastry chef apprenticeship. Wonky eclairs. 
Now I just have to work out how to get some red meat into his system without him spitting it out. Will it be cubes of jellified beef consomme or little meatballs poached in broth? I have to remind myself no salt, not too much oil, not too much flavour generally. But it's so hard!
Other amazing thing. Beetroot comes out looking much the same as it went in. But it sure gives you a heart attack when you open that nappy!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


I was inevitably sucked in by the adorable TV advertising for Bonds babies' roomies pants. It was too cute! But Wolf's pants have rapidly become shorts and with the weather turning cool, it was time! Bonds baby stuff is so irresistible. Look at the mad pattern on these pants! Complements Wolf's already crazy colourful wardrobe. Though I think his dad bought them because they resemble one of his flannel shirts. Can't resist a bit of father son matching. They need to make these in adult sizes. They're a lot like those old happy pants. Couldn't we all use a bit of extra space in the seat of our pants for expanding and sagging bottoms?
Sad but true.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Corner IGAs are a constant source of delight. When Josh and I lived in Hawthorn, the Riversdale road IGA was actually normal supermaket size (perhaps normal by standards in the 90s. Hello supersize 2000s). It stocked properly seasonal and organic produce as well as these incredible iced cupcakes made by a local woman. In Prahran the High street IGA was much smaller, but never seemed to close and stocked interesting beers as well as my favourite petit ecolier chocolate biscuits.
Today Wolf and I are both pretty sick with combined colds and throat infections, so we only managed a short walk with Wolf stickily cuddled up to me in the sling to the our corner IGA. But untold delights lay within!
Baby-Mum-Mum rice rusks have an admittedly stupid name, but Wolf adores them. I was kind of dubious about them initially cos I used to eat a lot of spicy rice crackers made by the same people. But after seeing the massive Worldwide online fanbase I thought I'd give them a go. They've been especially good for Wolf's seemingly unending teething and his refusal to eat solids when sick. They don't taste of much, just faintly sweet and they dissolve on your tongue. $3.90 for 18 is pretty good, considering a lot of rusks are about $6 a box of 12. Admittedly they don't last nearly as long, but they certainly don't leave that disgusting crumbly newspaper grey mess everywhere and he very rarely doesn't finish one so there's no waste. Here Wolf is trying get more out of the box. Not very successfully.
But even better, Little Golden Books! They had absolutely loads just sitting there in the magazine rack (amongst all the Ralphs and Sports Illustrateds. Charming.) all of them with beautiful illustrations in very old school style. No modern titles or Disney character versions at all. Sweet! I remember having Tenggren's Tawny Scrawny Lion and Richard Scarry's Good Night, Little Bear when I was a kid. Color Kittens we had to pick up because it was written by Margaret Wise Brown who wrote Goodnight Moon. They were $4 each, which wasn't too bad. Did they used to be a dollar when I was a kid? I can't wait to read these to him! Maybe when I get my voice back. Most of my Little Golden Books were last minute pick ups at supermarket check outs. Better than chocolate bars. It's awesome we can just wander down to the IGA and see what we might find next time. If Josh is good we might even pick him up a copy of FHM. Joking. He's much more likely to get his jollies from a classic cars magazine.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sick days

Sick days are a source of quiet anxiety for me. I used to have the tendency to get sick as often as a Primary schooler, and hence would have a good number of days marked missing-in-action by my name. A shameful weakness. Now it's a bit different. I'm sick but so is Wolf. The first time ever. He has a horrible croaky, raspy cough and an itchy nose so won't eat or sleep. Naturally we haven't slept much either. 
One thing that seems not to have changed in me since becoming a mother, is my genuine terror at having to call my bosses and tell them I can't make it in today. I hate that call. I seriously have to psyche myself up to it. Sometimes I just don't make it at all, go in, work through the fever and come out the other end feeling better as a result of all the endorphins consumed. Then of course I crash and burn when I get home.
Things that aren't options any longer. I have a young son who needs me to be here for him, to nurse him and comfort him through illness, something even a much beloved grandmother can't do on her own. 
Making the call always makes me feel as though I'm about to fire myself. The deadened tone of their voice as they express their disappointment in you and resentment at the unwanted stress of finding a replacement. I really hate doing that to people. I feel like a bad employee, a bad person generally. My replacement today is supposed to be one of my bosses. Who at the time of the call, had not arrived home yet. 40 years of age and still partying through the night.
I'm not sure how to make peace with this problem. I just feel very torn.

But I think I'd like my next employers to be parents, so they understand that once you have a child, your heart lives outside yourself and there are things you must do for them that are so much more important than work.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Lamb Pizza

After enjoying pizzas so much the previous week, I couldn't resist having a go at a lamb version. The aim was to make a lamb mixture that tastes like the lamb pizza they make at Lucky Coq and Bimbos. We make pretty similar things at Gas, so it wasn't too hard. So if you love a Tukish(ish) lamb pizza then here's the recipe. This will serve three people with normal appetites, or two with enormous appetites.

Lamb Pizza
400g lamb mince
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp cinnamon
4 tsp cumin
2 tsp paprika
1 tbsp sriracha chilli sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp caster sugar
handful of pinenuts
salt and pepper

1 lemon
a few handfuls of rocket
Greek yoghurt

Quantity of yoghurt dough from recipe below (500g flour, 450 yoghurt)

1. Dice onion and finely chop garlic, saute. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius
2. When onion and garlic are translucent, add spices, fry till fragrant
3. Add chilli sauce, fry briefly
4. Add lamb mince, brown off
5. When mince is fully cooked and brown, add brown sugar and pine nuts
6. Cook out until mixture is quite dry
7. Season to taste
8. Spread some lamb mixture on an already cooked yoghurt pizza base
9. Sprinkle with some caster sugar and return to the oven for 5-10 minutes, until meat on
pizza caramelises and begins to form crusty bits.
10. Top with a handful of rocket, drizzle with Greek yoghurt and a squeeze of lemon

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Autumn in here

I know that for sure, because I made the first Shepherds Pie of the year! YES! The cold weather has come! Good-bye stinking 40 degree days where all I can make for dinner is some sort of bloody salad. I cannot tell you how much we love Shepherds Pie. It's slightly ridiculous. I get quite excited about it. 
Cold weather means real serious cooking. Something bubbling away on the stove for hours. I've been waiting for this since last Winter!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Watermelon Cordial

The end of Summer came and went but it's still bloody hot so I thought I'd chuck this on here while I had the chance. What do you do when you've got a nice big quarter of a watermelon, but you've not had a chance to eat much of it in the week that you bought it and it's starting to get that funny sour taste and slimy texture from being in the fridge too long? Make watermelon cordial!

Blend the watermelon flesh (it's going to vary but effectively the amount I had filled the normal sized blender to the top) with the juice of half a lemon or orange or whatever you have and a sugar syrup made from 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup boiling water. Strain through a sieve and dispose of solids. Mix the liquid with lemonade or soda water according to taste. Very refreshing! Inevitably you can mix this very well with vodka. If I did that I'd be passed out for the rest of my life, so I won't. It'll still taste good for about 3 days. It's a fruit life extender! I suspect this would do just as well with any melon. 

Best Ever Pizza Dough

Yoghurt dough
500g plain flour
4 tea spoons baking powder
450g plain yoghurt
Pinch of salt

1. Add yoghurt to large mixing bowl
2. Sift flour and baking powder over yoghurt
3. Gently mix with hands until slightly lumpy slighty sticky dough forms
4. Cover surface with flour, knead dough gently, form a ball
5. Place dough ball in lightly floured bowl, cover, keep in warm place for 1/2 hour
6. Cut dough into six pieces
7. Heat griddle pan or hot plate and lightly brush with oil
8. Roll a piece of dough into a flat round, roughly 3mm in thickness. No need to be too precise. Only roll out each round before you are about it cook it, because this is a rapidly shrinking dough.
9. Place dough round on griddle pan/hot plate. Bubbles will rise on the surface. Should onto need 2-3 minutes on each side. Surface should be slightly golden with charry bits. 
10. Cover pizza base with desired toppings and cook in oven or under griller until toppings are cooked
and base is crispy.

Actually the pizza base can be eaten after it has been cooked in the griddle pan or hot plate. It's like a really nice, soft flatbread. It gets wonderfully crispy following it's turn in the oven though. Because the dough is made with yoghurt, the living culture acts as the raising agent; there's no need for yeast. 
Josh reckons this dough tastes a lot like damper, but softer and somehow more flavoursome.
This would be awesome to cook outdoors on a barbeque!
Last night we topped ours with some roasted zucchini and mozzarella, onion confit and mozzarella and the good old tomato, basil and mozzarella combination. It's really an excuse to eat a lot of bread and cheese. Admittedly the pizzas in the picture could have been cooked longer, to brown the mozzarella, but we were far too hungry.
It's a baby safe recipe too. Wolf is going to have some of the leftovers for lunch today.


Why is custard always flavoured with vanilla these days? It's as though plain custard must always be vanilla, whether it be disgusting sickly extract flavour or wonderful black seeded pods. But custard in it's original incarnation tasted of eggs. Vanilla wouldn't come till later, and it was bloody hard to get for starters. Next time you make a custard dessert, be it a pudding, creme caramel or plain old yellow custard, try making it without the vanilla and remember what a proper egg custard tasted like. I have nothing against vanilla; it is an incredible thing. But a really good simple egg custard can be a revelation! Think about Cantonese custard tarts. Now you know what I mean.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A cook's joy

I'm beginning to see that the best recipes I come up with won't be the one's made for customers and the profit of my bosses. It's going to be recipes for my kids, recipes tweaked till I've made something exactly to their tastes, needs and general enjoyment. On Friday I perfected my baby pancakes recipe. Low in sugar, no egg whites, light and fluffy and incredibly easy for Wolf to eat. They even keep well in the fridge for an afternoon snack. I don't think I've ever felt happier about anything I've ever cooked in my life. Better than my first time baking a cake on my own. Better than the first time I didn't screw something up in the pastry kitchen and actually received praise. This is so much better and I can't wait to do more!


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