Monday, May 21, 2012

One pot wonders

Here's a one pot wonder for you. It's my own invention, a Frankenstein dish that's been influenced by a dozen other recipes. It's delicious and easy, in fact a monkey could do it. If you're capable of putting things in a dish and turning on the oven, grab a pen and write down this recipe.
It's all in the layering. Firstly, get a large baking dish and put in some chicken pieces. I bought a whole chicken and cut it up, so some pieces had bones and other's didn't.
I then tucked some little peeled onions and sweet potato in the gaps, along with some garlic cloves. I cut up a couple of chorizo sausages and sprinkled them over the top. Splashed it with some olive oil, threw in some lemon wedges and layed some sprigs of rosemary on top. Voila!
Then bake it at 180 for about an hour. About 10 minutes before it's ready, add some chunks of sour dough bread. I half dip my pieces in the pan juices then throw them on top.
Serve with a very simple green salad.

Over the weekend I also caramelized some onions. Finely slice about three large onions and cook them over a low heat with a little bit of olive oil for about 20 minutes, until they've gone very soft. Then add in two tablespoons of vinegar (red wine, white wine, balsamic, whatever) and two tablespoons of soft brown sugar, plus half a cup of water. Cook for a further five minutes and bottle. It's great with roast meat and on sandwiches.

To finish my bake off, at the recommendation of a blog reader, I made Donna Hay's Lemon Yoghurt Cake. Delish! It's very easy, and refreshingly, it doesn't have half a kilo of butter in it.
3/4 cup vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
2 eggs
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon rind
2 tablespooons lemon juice
1 cup thick natural yoghurt
1 3/4 cups caster sugar
2 cups s r flour

Set the oven at 180. Place the oil, eggs, rind, lemon juice, yoghurt and sugar in a bowl and mix. Sift over the flour and stir til smooth. Pour into a greased 24cm fluted ring tin and back for 35 minutes (mine had to cook for closer to an hour), until a skewer comes out clean.
You can make an icing for it by gently stiring together 3/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup lemon juice and pouring over the cake. We had ours plain though with a little double cream.

Speaking of olive oil. We buy ours in bulk like this, which is great if you make a lot of houmous or pesto or tapenade, etc. I know this is Spanish and you should buy Australian, but I was highly motivated by the tin, which I want to eventually put a plant in.
Last night while we were waiting for the dinner to cook, the girls and I made this garland. We used a thousand pieces of fabric and tied them onto  piece of string. Then we tossed it over their curtain rod. It turned out quite nifty I think?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Kips Bay Decorator Show House

Each year in New York a house or apartment is chosen to be decorated by a variety of designers, and money is raised through entry to see it, which goes to the Kips Bay Girls Club (or something?). The house is called the Kips Bay Decorator Show House and the 2012 one has just been unveiled.
I've found it almost impossible to steal photos of it, but they have been released on the New York Times website and you can see it here.
There's a whole story on it and a slideshow. If you can't find the link to the slideshow, click here. I've done all the hard work for you.
Since I couldn't show you the current rooms, below are some from previous years. Upscale NYC interiors are so different to ours in the Antipodes. These are utterly glamorous.
I love this blue below, especially with the olive and gold tones.
I find this room a bit ott, but if I were an Upper East Side waspy social butterfly, I could definitely do it.
Bathrooms are well represented.
I love this room. It's cosy and classic.
Love this interpretation of mid century style.
Here it is again.
Every New York penthouse needs a terrace.
I think this room can't quite decide what to do.
Love this outdoor area. Grey and natural timbers really do it for me.
This room is super glamorous, love all the classic pieces; wingback chair, topiary, basket chandelier, chesterfields, pedestal table, etc.
I love the comfy formality of this room too, with a bit of pink thrown in for good measure.
Kitchen. Looks familiar.
There's nothing like an understated bedroom for a good nights sleep.
Interesting, isn't it? Have a look at this year's rooms if you have the time. Beautiful. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Latest additions

I had an unexpectedly productive day today. My partner in crime called early this morning to say she was available to drive us to the Sunshine Coast to pick up our latest purchase. I put tennis on hold, and we were off up the highway, just like the female pickers, minus the denim cut-offs.
It's all been hush hush, but this afternoon we finally brought home these babies. I say hush hush, because the men of our respective households can get a little uptight about more furniture being dragged back to the cave. You've really got to pick your moment to break it to them.
Our focus here is on the chairs of course. How good are they? I was beside myself.
Here they are in silhouette.

...and from another angle.... let's take a close up look.

Some people call them Eiffel Tower chairs, sometimes they're called spun fibreglass. They are the perfect chair; beautiful, light weight, durable, comfortable, weather proof. Peaches loves them because 'the food will fall straight through them' - when she leaves the table after dinner it looks like a litter of hyaena puppies has been eating at her place.
The chairs are reproductions of a mid century design, they're about 15 years old, but look like they're straight off the showroom floor. They came out of a cafe. I have 10 and my friend has 10. They're powder coated fibreglass. I love them!
Little round cushions came with them, which I'll have to get recovered. I'll also need a mat or run under the table to break up the black chairs on the black floor. I just love a project.
I've also got this's original though.
That's enough excitement!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Oranges and lemons

Lots of people I have spoken to recently have said they've been in the mood to bake up a storm lately. It's because of our beautiful weather I think. It's not too hot to have the oven on, and with the chilly temps on the way, we know our winter coat of blubber won't need to be bared for a few more months.
Eat up!
How do you improve on a fresh salad of rocket, tomatos and cucumbers with a light simple lemon juice and olive oil dressing?
Why, top it with some grilled crispy skinned salmon and danish feta of course.

I grew that rocket by the way. It's easy peasy. If I can do it, you can too. The little flecks of yellow are marigold petals, I grew them too.
It's the season for citrus. I've been whipping up one orange cake after another. It's a special gift I have, give me a low calorie, healthy food and I'll show you how to add calories, sugar and fat in a jiffy!
This is my latest favourite, it's a whole orange and coconut cake from Miss Donna Hay. Notice, there's a bite taken out of it. I almost devoured this piece before I remembered to take a photo. It's so easy, here's how.

Whole orange and coconut cake

2 navel oranges, (washed or ideally, organic)
185g butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups caster sugar
3 eggs
1 cup desicatted coconut
1 1/2 cups s. r. flour, sifted (or not)
Preheat oven to 160 and prepare a 22cm round cake tin with non stick baking paper.
Place the two whole oranges in a bowl with water and microwave for 15 minutes. Tip out the water and roughly chop the oranges so you can scoop out any seeds.
Blend the whole oranges in a food processor and transfer to a bowl. Mix in your butter and sugar, eggs, coconut and flour and whisk til smooth.
Pour into the cake tin and bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until the skewer comes out clean.
Serve with vanilla ice cream or double cream and my orange syrup.

Orange syrup

In a small saucepan boil a cup fresh orange juice and 1 cup of sugar for about 10 minutes until it becomes thicker and syrupy. Cool and use to pour over pieces of cake before serving.

Claudia Roden's Middle Eastern orange cake

This is the cake I usually make. I'm including the recipe for our ceoliac friends because it's gluten free.
2 large oranges, washed
6 eggs, beaten
250g ground almonds (almond meal)
250g sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder.

Cook the oranges as per the recipe above and blend until smooth. Preheat oven to 190 and prepare a 24cm spring form pan.  Blend the oranges and remaining ingredients until smooth in a food processor. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 1 hour. If the cake is still very wet, cook a little longer. Cool in the tin before turning out.

Also on the subject of citrus, here's my recipe for Lemon Butter, you may know it as Lemon Curd, and I have a friend who also calls it Lemon Cheese, which is a bit off putting.

Lemon Butter

2 large lemons
100g unsalted butter
175g white sugar
3 eggs light whisked and strained (whatever you do, don't skip this step)

Finely zest and juice the two lemons (a good dose of zest is essential for success). In a heavy based saucepan, or double boiler, combine all the ingredients and stir constantly* until the mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon - usually 10-15 minutes. Do not allow it to boil or it will curdle. Pour into small, hot sterilised jars.
*I know all recipes say to 'stir constantly' but I think this may be an urban myth. Years ago when I had just started stirring some lemon butter our dog, Charlie, decided to half kill a blue tongue lizard outside the kitchen window. The poor thing was in agony, so I had to leave the lemon butter, run up the road to get  'old Fred' (every street needs one), who promptly came down and put the lizard out of its misery.
When I got back to the lemon butter, it had been unstirred for some time and it was just fine. Whenever I make lemon butter now I still think of Charlie, Fred and the blue tongue lizard, none of whom are with us anymore.

Speaking of lemons, I had a baby shower to go to this morning, and in the spirit of disorganisation, I decided to stop by the Trading Circle in Paddington on the way to pick up a gift. It's meant to open at 10am, but by 10.15am I was still standing outside waiting. I decided to go to a shop close by and get a present instead - this entire shop was on sale, I think they're moving. I picked something out, out of desperation and asked the lady working there if she could gift wrap it. She gave me a look of disdain and said they offered gift wrapping but not on sale items. I left without anything because by now it was nearly 10.30am and I was already half an hour late.
Third time lucky. At another shop further up near the antiques centre (something & something??) I managed to find a little toy car and had it wrapped.
Retailers, come in closer, let me tell you something from this side of the fence, if you don't want people to buy stuff on line (even though it's half the price), then open your shops on time and offer some service - we're a captive audience once we walk through your doors.
Enjoy your oranges and lemons.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


It's come to my attention that Mims and Peaches, and even my husband, are displaying the signs of acute 'spoiltness' when it comes to dinner time.
Most nights they sit down to a Morrocan feast, or a hand stirred risotto, a stuffed chicken breast or an Asian style salad with grilled salmon. Occasionally, I'll get a complaint that it's too salty or there's too many vegetables. At times Peaches will simply push her plate away with a look on her face like she's just stepped in dog poo.
So, with this in mind, a few nights ago I decided to serve them what I was most likely to be served, night after night, circa 1978. We know it as 'meat and three veg'. In my case the 'meat' component would usually be a wafer thin charcoaled steak or a fatty little chop.
I took a photo of mine, but due to my misplacing the camera cord, here's a generic shot of 'meat and three veg'... we all know it anyway.
Yesterday I had the misfortune of reading the newspaper and watching the news all in one day. It was more than this koala could bear. The news is such a source of frustration and angst for me that I had no choice but to retreat to a nicer place, using only my mind! That place in this case was 1978.
I started school in 1978. I remember the first day of school. Mum packed my little blue cardboard port with good stuff like pencils and exercise books. I remember the smell of them.Then we walked to school, as I did everyday for the rest of my primary schooling.
We didn't have a 'healthy options' menu at the school tuckshop. It was open everyday and it sold sausage rolls, Samboy chips, Mr Juicy orange juice, Surfie iceblocks and finger buns, and no one was overweight.
I would go to Woolworths with Mum on a Saturday morning. It closed at noon on Saturdays and wasn't open at all on Sundays. There was a designated person in the fruit and vegetable section to weigh and price your things. On the checkout one person would punch in the prices and another would pack your groceries in brown paper bags.
We'd take our paper bags home and put everything away in a kitchen that looked a bit like this....except our fridge wasn't yellow, not sure where they would have got that?

We ate out at a restaurant when it was someone's birthday. It was a Chinese restaurant with red walls and a lazy Susan on each table. I remember we always had chow mein and I had pink lemonade.
Most weekends my parents and their friends had a party at someone's house. While the parents got sloshed the kids would play pool for hours on end or spotlight, depending on whose house we were at. Dad would have ten scotches and drive us all home at midnight.
He would also smoke in the house, and shoot feral animals in our yard - and we lived in town! This was Rock-vegas in the 1970s.
We would open our birthday and Christmas presents very carefully so we could re-use the paper. That was just the done thing. Grand-ma always gave us a bath towel, and it got harder and harder with each year to look excited.
We only had two television stations; the ABC and RTQ7, which had quite a few local shows. I remember watching the test pattern early in the mornings waiting for a program to start, and it would come on again later at night once all the shows were finished. Notable programs that I was impressed with were Charlie's Angels, Young Talent Time and I Love Lucy.

Jimmy Carter was in the Whitehouse and Malcolm Fraser was in The Lodge. Bread was about 50c a loaf. Petrol was 21c a litre and at the petrol station someone would fill your car for you and take the money. Most transactions were done with cash. Mum was a nurse and each pay day she'd go to the hospital and pick up her little envelope with money in it.

There were no mobile phones, but everyone had a house phone and you only paid for the calls you made - how's that for a system? Genius.
Fashion in 1978 was out there. Saturday Night Fever was starting to have its influence. Being only six years old, I missed all this.

It was a heyday for men's fashion. No shirt was tight enough, no collar too wide...think dress shorts, Farrah slacks and the famous safari suit.

Like any other era though, not everyone can win a prize.

Actually, this crowd above had the last laugh. They formed a company and called it Microsoft.
And that folks, is 1978 according to me.
In other breaking news, I attended the opening of the Nespresso shop in Queen Street last night. They had a flash mob. It was very exciting. I'd only ever seen one on the tele.
Maurice Sendak died. I would have liked to meet him. I wonder what he would remember about 1978?

Adios amigos.