Thursday, December 17, 2009

From our garden: Lilies

I have to confess a slight obsession with lilies- I started a couple of years ago. Some Asiatic and Christmas lilies. Then the next year I got some Orientals and more Christmas lilies. They are the best sort of flower- pop them in the ground or a pot, forget about them until the leaves pop up like little pineapples, then water and feed (only a bit) and then you are rewarded with these beautiful, and sometimes fragrant flowers.
The best bit is that they vegetatively reproduce themselves like crazy, after they're done you can dig up the bulb and there will be a twin and several small baby ones.
So my collection doubles itself each year!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christmas countdown & clean shoes

The countdown to Christmas has really started now. Sure, I’ve put up the decorations last week, we’ve got dried fruit plumping up in brandy for our Christmas cakes, and we’ve been shopping for presents for everyone (nearly there!) But on Saturday night we had to put our cleanest shoes on the back doorstep.
This is something I’ve done every 5th of December since I can remember. My mother is Hungarian and like many Europeans, her family has kept the tradition of St Nicholas. On the eve of the feast of St Nicholas, children have to put out their freshly cleaned shoes and if they have been good during the year St Nicholas will visit overnight and fill them with sweets or presents.
I’m the eldest of five children, so it was always a very exciting evening, as we all went about picking our favourite pair of shoes. Much debate was had over if we picked a big pair of boots whether we’d get more! I’m not sure about our polishing technique, but we set about it. We set our five pairs of shoes out either on the hearth, or near a window or the front door. We also (at my parents suggestion) left a glass of milk and biscuit for St Nicholas, a carrot for his horse (apparently that’s how he got around!) and a list for him to pass onto Santa. This last bit was a bit of blending- my mother’s Hungarian & my father’s Australian Christmas traditions- to help them on their shopping trips. I remember we struggled to sleep- thinking of what we might find in our shoes. Hoping St Nicholas hadn’t caught us misbehaving and thereby earning ourselves a stone instead of a lolly. As soon as the first of us woke up, we’d shake the others awake and run out to see what St Nicholas had left us: chocolate Santa’s, lollies, nuts, popcorn, chocolate coins, and fresh cherries. Then we’d spend the morning eating chocolates & lollies instead of breakfast.
I may be a bit older now, but St Nicholas hasn’t been able to give up the habit of visiting all of us each year- he even makes sure that some little treats get to my siblings in northern Tasmania & the UK.
So now I feel like I'm on the downhill run to Christmas -when do you feel like it’s the start of the silly season?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Duck Dinner

We’re on holidays at the moment- and we’re not going anywhere! Well, that’s if you don’t count Launceston.

We headed up to my stay with my in-laws for a few days. Nigella hates the drive but loves the place- she knows it as the “house of duck”, and it lived up its name.

My duck hams have been hanging in the fridge for last few weeks; we sliced them thinly to eat on the deck (in some rare sunshine) with a pretty bottle of sparkling Rosé. Moving inside we had our main course of confit duck marylands (Rob had been cooking them slowly in the oven all afternoon- then a quick crisp up at the end) served with our broad beans and some little carrots. For dessert, I’d made a Blancmange served with raspberry sauce.

Nigella hung around hopefully- giving us this look- she did get a few pieces of the duck ham and a little confit. Spoilt thing, she would only eat her own dinner, chicken drumsticks if we slathered them in duck fat!

I always enjoy our visits to the “house of duck”- our time is mostly spent deciding or discussing our next meal and preparing it together. We did visit the Niche market, I’m meant to be buying Christmas presents for all my family but sadly I keep finding things for myself. Opps. We walked Nigella around Windmill Hill Park and visited her doggy cousins. We went for a Sunday drive to visit a vineyard that my father-in-law helped start, and where Rob spent a lot of time as a youngster, a trip down memory lane for them all: remembering neighbours, where certain vines were grown, who planted which trees, building the winery. Drove away with a car full of Christmas bubbles.
Sadly we ate our duck dinner too quickly for pics- but we did make a salad the next evening with one of the duck hams- what’s your favourite way to eat/cook duck?

Monday, November 23, 2009

How not to design a kitchen

As a couple who like to prepare and cook food for ourselves, friends and family, our kitchen is the most important room in our house.

Having moved around a lot in the last couple of years we’ve had the chance to take a few for a test drive. The kitchen in our hut will have 5 years of planning behind it!

So our top ten kitchen design flaws:

1. Overhead cupboards- as we’re both 6ft tall these are just lethal for us, the chance of an accidental lobotomy is too high.

2. Bench tops too low- again the height factor means we hunch over the chopping or mixing ending up with a very sore back.

3. Visible compost bin- we create a lot of compost- and it’s not a very attractive look is it?

4. Oven- we've had some doozies, one without a seal so we were heating the whole house, a 1950’s original that had 2 temperature settings off or 350°C. The current one has a bottom element so all cakes cook on the bottom before the top, and most frustratingly only has room for 2 racks- no good for mass biscuit production.

5. Extractor fan- what extractor fan? Our current kitchen has a fan so pathetic that we have to open all the doors and windows whilst cooking. Ok at the moment, but in the middle of a Tasmanian winter it requires rugging up for an Antarctic expedition to cook.

6. Not enough space- I know our current home is a flat, but it’s not possible for both of us to be in the kitchen at the same time! Especially if you add the dynamic of trying to get ingredients from the pantry or the fridge (which inconveniently opens the wrong way so you have to walk out of the kitchen to open the door). This usually ends in both of us growling and the exclamation “I was here first!”

7. Surfaces- darling, I need surfaces! Linked to no. 8, but really who thought of textured tiles in a kitchen, annoying grooves, and patterned laminex? Ok so the current kitchen is a 70’s special but still! Easy to clean is our top priority here.

8. Not enough bench space- Although we only keep the essentials on the bench top, i.e. chopping board, compost bin, espresso machine, coffee grinder, coffee grounds knock box, the constant rearrangement of stuff so you can cook anything is starting to get to me. If you make anything that requires rolling out –well it doesn’t bear thinking about. For your own safety- please vacate the immediate vicinity of our house!

9. Pantry- deep shelves- their only good point is that it makes it easier to hide the chocolate stash. But it’s also easy to hide everything else! To find the ingredients for baking sometimes requires a passport as you plunge into the Narnia-like depths of our pantry. We’re constantly buying doubles because you can’t see the lentils, salt, canned tomatoes, cocoa, cranberries etc, it’s just easier to buy another packet!

10. No view- ideally I think a kitchen needs a nice view, so that even jobs as mundane as washing up can become meditative.

So, in our ideal kitchen, all these flaws are sorted. Quite a nice thought actually!

Please let me know if there are any I’ve missed, or any suggestions for the hut kitchen- it’s been quite a therapeutic exercise for me!

Monday, November 16, 2009


I found him a couple of months ago at our local fresh fruit and veg shop.
Normally the eggplants are bruised, battered, and starting to fester around the green sepals.
He was sitting proudly at the top, the size of a football, perfectly smooth and shiny.
I snaffled him before anyone else could and ran like a small child to show off my find.
So beautiful, he sat proudly on the table for a few days, reflecting the glow of the candles while we ate.
I sent him off for a photo shoot, but I knew that he would have to make the ultimate sacrifice.
We found a recipe for Moussaka in Claudia Roden’s A Book of Middle Eastern Food, said our final goodbyes and sliced him up.
He was delicious, the creamy grilled eggplant layered with the béchamel and lamb mince mixture.
I still check the eggplants every time we go to the shop- but so far no one has even come close to his perfection.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

You have to start somewhere.

Well, I’ve done it. I’ve been thinking of starting a blog for a couple of months. Problem was what about? I thought originally it would follow the building of our hut. Unfortunately that has been delayed a little while, so I was a bit lost for inspiration. Then I’ve become wracked with doubts. Will my writing be of any interest to anyone else? Will I start then lose interest myself? Am I ready to make public some of my thoughts & experiences?

I have become an avid follower of a few blogs and they are usually connected with food. Most of the writers are Tasmanians. I guess I feel more at home with familiar places they describe or topics they discuss.

So what will I talk about?

I do love food and eating out, but there are already several excellent local blogs:
Rita’s Bite- a comprehensive coverage of Tasmanian restaurants & cafes, thoroughly informative and entertaining- but I don’t eat out enough to warrant an entire blog on this;

The view from my porch- a look at the other side of the restaurant industry- often amusing and thought provoking, with a steady undercurrent of love of the local produce; well having never worked in the industry I obviously can’t go there;

Hugo & Elsa-beautiful photos of an idyllic life in the Tasmanian countryside, including plenty of (wickedly) decadent cakes; this one is a favourite, always a refreshing insight into an enviable life- but sends me into a confidence spin- I bake cakes but I’ll need to work on my presentation & photo skills!

Reminiscence of a Food Tragic-Thoroughly knowledgeable & instructive, describing a life-time love of food- I’ve only just begun my own journey with food, how can my memories compare?

Food Trail-an exotic ride to destinations with fantastic food along the way- travel? I do enjoy travel and certainly food is always a major factor in where I go and why – but I’m really a homebody so it’s going to look a bit lame!

Once A waitress, always a waitress-a writer with 10 years experience as a waitress, another insight into food and local eating in Hobart- gulp, a writer? Damn my science background with its near complete lack of training in communication skills!

So as you can see, I’ve nearly convinced myself I should stop before I begin.

But then there is this niggling need to share in this web community, instead of being on the periphery.

So what will I write about?

Food/cooking/eating: sure why not? It dominates my life- and is something that ought to be shared for full enjoyment rather than partaken alone.

Produce, Gardening & plants: I’m a botanist, I live with another one, what can I say? Plants are ingrained in my psyche now, but don’t worry I won’t go too heavy on you.

Nigella: the German Shepherd, not her namesake, well I may not write so much as feature her in the pictures- she certainly the most photogenic of us all, and doesn’t mind if I take her photo (in fact she expects it I’m sure). She’s my fur baby, and ironically enough, a connoisseur of food herself. Her favourite food you ask? Roast duck.

The hut: it has been my home for the last 4 years, even though it hasn’t been built, yet. We’re working on it, got the block, driveway, power & orchard sorted.

So I hope you will join me on the hut chronicles.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...