Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Christmas Snippits


A very incomprehensive snapshot of three days of Christmas festivities...

I made my two precious housemates these fabric envelopes with stationary for all their adventures. I also made them each a teeny tiny (very fiddly) envelope for keeping treasures. I'd post instructions but I actually did a rather dodgy job of the hemming and would recommend you follow design sponge's advice and use fusible webbing instead.

Tom gave me this beautiful 1970s Danish ivory ring.

I spent Christmas eve making peppermint bark
and raspberry butter and granola for Christmas hampers. The raspberry butter was divine. It tasted like edible childhood (not to be confused with edible child).
On Christmas morning I ate my first home grown snowpea. Hopefully this will become a yearly tradition.
A few days ago we went on a beautiful walk in Tidbinbila with visiting family from Melbourne. We splashed in the crisp clean water and frolicked beneath emerald green ferns. Quite refreshing, especially after three days of dead pig sauced with congealed turkey fat.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Ode to Tomatoes

The street
filled with tomatoes
light is
its juice
through the streets.
In December,
the tomato
the kitchen,
it enters at lunchtime,
its ease
on countertops,
among glasses,
butter dishes,
blue saltcellars.
It sheds
its own light,
benign majesty.
Unfortunately, we must
murder it:
the knife
into living flesh,
a cool
populates the salads
of Chile,
happily, it is wed
to the clear onion,
and to celebrate the union
child of the olive,
onto its halved hemispheres,
its fragrance,
salt, its magnetism;
it is the wedding
of the day,
its flag,
bubble vigorously,
the aroma
of the roast
at the door,
it's time!
come on!
and, on
the table, at the midpoint
of summer,
the tomato,
star of earth,
and fertile
its convolutions,
its canals,
its remarkable amplitude
and abundance,
no pit,
no husk,
no leaves or thorns,
the tomato offers
its gift
of fiery color
and cool completeness.

-- Pablo Neruda, Ode to Tomatoes

The other day I ate my first home grown tomato of this Summer. I excitedly watched it achieve deeper and deeper shades of red for several weeks, until it was clear that its juicy bounty would hold no longer. It had a rustic look, all stretched at the top; humbly declaring its homegrown status. It was beautiful. I ate half of it sliced up on a piece of ricotta slathered sourdough bread, topped with purple and green basil (from my kitchen bench plants) and scattered with Maldon sea salt. It was so surprisingly, almost obnoxiously delicious that I ate the remaining half exactly as it was. No salt, no nuthin'.

To be honest, I didn't really expect it to taste that good. For me it was encouraging enough just to actually grow the whole thing. Australian wisdom has it that a tomato ripened before Christmas is a major achievement, signaling good fortune in the year to come (or so I like to imagine). It also meant that I beat my mother and brother in the official tomato race of 2009-10, which made me feel plenty smug already. But when I ate this glorious fruit, all the sentiments of Neruda's gushy poem came to life. It was a truly celebratory moment, and I can't wait for the next one to ripen (which should be very soon!). There are 15 tomato plants of various varieties all thriving in my garden, so hopefully it will be a summer of tomatoey abundance! If you've never grown tomatoes before, you should give it a try. With sufficient sunlight (which an Australian summer should amply provide), they're incredibly easy to nurture, and the fruit they produce is infinitely more delicious and deeply flavoured than even the best store bought equivalents.

NB. If you've been keenly following my gardening pursuits (and who hasn't?), you'll want to know that this wasn't from the plant I grew from seed and posted about back in October. These are still rather small, but, much to my motherly pride, thriving:

The subject of this post came from a rather mature plant I found hidden at the back of a shelf in a garden shop for $2. I'm not sure what variety it is, but judging by its meaty goodness, I'd say possibly a beef or oxheart. Definitely a winner.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Christmas Treats

Bauble from Nature Bulbs via Cup of Jo

I've been thinking about goodies for Christmas hampers. Every year I make one for my parents, one for Tom's parents and one for any other visiting family/friends whom I can't afford to buy a worthy present for. Although, once I've purchased supplies and spent hours sterilizing, stirring, baking and spreading on Christmas eve I'm not sure that I don't wish I'd just bought them a damn $50 teapot...but still, I think that they appreciate the time and thought. They'd better appreciate the time and thought.

I've already bought some cute little baskets second-hand and cheapy, and have made rather a lengthy list of inclusions. I like to try to mix it up every year - last year it was lemon butter, chilli jam, chocolates and something else no doubt tasty. This year I'm thinking:

  • Tomato Kasundi (from the Charmaine Solomon Complete Asian Cookbook - so so good)
  • Peppermint Bark. This was honestly the best thing about Christmas last year.
  • Home made Chai. Buy some leaf tea and chuck in spices. Easy peasy.
  • Orangettes. I tried making these earlier in the year and they didn't quite candify, but I'm willing to give it another go.

I also think it's a good idea to print out pretty recipe cards for each item so the receiver can make their own when they run out. Genius, no? I also like to make pretty little calligraphed lables and tie everything up with lace. Everything I make somehow includes lace. Seriously, everything. I love lace. I think I will request to be bound up in layers and layers of lace when I die, like a Victorian mummie.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

To market to market

Hello darling, gorgeous, scrumptious readers. I just wanted to let ya'll know that I will be having a little stall this Saturday (December 5th) at the Gorman House Markets. I'll be selling lots of prettie hand made things, which would be perfect for your lovely selves, or perhaps someone dearly beloved. The markets run from 10-3, and you can buy yourself a very yummy lunch while you're there (I like the Ethiopian and the El Salvadorian puposas!). Also, readers of this here blog, or Number One Millionaire who are brave enough to declare themselves as such will receive a hearty discount.

Here are some of the things I'll be selling:

Lace bottle vases, as modeled by my front door step.

Cushions made from antique fabric and linen, as modeled by my couch.

Cushions made from linen and dyed vintage doilies, as modeled by my mid century Danish chair.

Round garlands, as modeled by my living room wall. I think these would be perfect for general decoration (maybe a child's room?), Christmas tree adornment or to add a festive, circus-y vibe to any occasion.

Hope to see you there! xx

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

The Pad Thai

Last week when I made this, it was 36 degrees and I felt like something fresh, yummy and requiring minimal time over a hot stove. Today I'm wearing flannelet pajama pants and a hoodie (yeah, I'm not working much at the moment), despite the fact that it is technically the first day of Summer. Still, I think Pad Thai is pretty yummy in any weather, and this is an extra good recipe with all the authentic ingredients, unlike others I'd tried in the past (I'm looking at you, Donna Hay. Haven't you heard of tamarind?). I've adapted this recipe quite a lot to suit my personal tastes and the exotic ingredients I already had lurking about, but the original can be found in David Thompson's book Thai Street Food.

Pad Thai
Serves 2 (can be easily doubled to serve 4 or provide ample leftovers)

125g dried rice noodles, approximately the width of linguini
3 tablespoons palm sugar, finely grated
2 teaspoons tamarind concentrate, dilluted in 2 tablespoons of water
1 tablespoon of fish sauce (or more if, like me, you like it extra salty and fishy!)
3 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil
4 red shallots, or one small onion, corsely chopped
1 teaspoon shrimp paste
2 eggs
5 snake beans, cut into 3cm lengths
50g beancurd (I used freshly made puffs)
1/2 teaspoon shredded salted radish, rinsed and dried
1 tablespoon coarsely crushed roasted peanuts
a handful of beansprouts
a handful of garlic chives, cut into 2cm lengths
Extra bean sprouts, garlic chives, crushed peanuts, lime wedges, chili powder and fried shallots, to serve
NB: all exotic-sounding ingredients should be easy to find at any Asian Supermarket

1. Soak noodles in boiling water for approximately 5 minutes until soft but still quite al dente.
2. Combine the palm sugar, tamarind and fish sauce along with a tablespoon of water in a bowl, and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
3. Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat. Fry the shallots and shrimp paste until fragrant and beginning to colour.
4. Crack in the eggs and scramble for about 30 seconds.
5. Turn up the heat, add the noodles and beans, and fry for about 30 seconds, tossing through the eggs.
6. Add the sauce and simmer until it is absorbed.
7. Mix in the bean curd, salted radish and peanuts, then simmer, stirring until almost dry.
8. Add the bean sprouts and garlic chives and stir through.
9. Taste: it should be salty, sweet and sour. At this stage I usually add a glug more fish sauce.
10. Serve topped with bean sprouts, lime wedges, extra garlic chives, peanuts, chili powder and fried shallots.