Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Our growing furniture collection

Nigella with "her" armchair

One of the bargain dining chairs from the tip-shop. I forgot to take a before shot, this is after it's been sanded, oiled and polished.

Our latest acquisition: a myrtle board table from the Hydro for our dining table.
Best bit is that it's 1.2m wide!
It is waiting in our carport to have the horrible polyurethane stripped off, then it can be sanded and oiled.

But we couldn't wait yesterday, we had lunch outside at our table.
Almost the full collection of our chairs too.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Thrifting Goddess

I must have been in the zone on the weekend. Inspired by PMM and Michelle I have been in thrifting training over the last six months. We have two favourite shops to browse in, one of which is on the way to the block at the Margate Train. So every weekend we drop in and look around, trying to envisage items for furnishing our hut one day. New furniture is so soulless don’t you think? Rob also felt that as the hut will be brand spanking new (we still live in hope that it will get built soon!) it would be nice to have some pre-loved furniture to provide some character. We have been undecided on what style of dining chair we’d like. Do we go country? But the price of “trendy” bentwood chairs had put us off. A couple of months ago we visited the train shop, and I spotted four chairs. They’re not country, I guess they’re retro, a little daggy but beautifully crafted. The best bit was that they were Tasmanian made, by a (now extinct) company called Pipers Tru-line. Made of Tasmanian Blackwood. They had a nice padded seat, and a curved wooden back, we’re guessing 1970’s? Because of their supposed dagginess they were reasonably priced. We snaffled them. My first real dining chairs- the novelty of this was exciting, each time I walked past them I experienced a little thrill.

I then had my Pipers eye in so to speak. Barely a month later, I spied another Pipers Blackwood dining chair at the Train shop. This chair was a little wider, with a padded back, and arms; a Carver chair. It was extremely comfortable. I dragged Rob over to try it out, so we bought it and its twin (which was hiding out the back), these were even more of a bargain.

Then this last weekend, we drove by the Train shop on Saturday. But Rob was keen on Sunday, and was duly rewarded. This time I spied two IKEA armchairs. We tried these out a couple of years ago in the Richmond store, and I thought I was going home alone- Rob wasn’t leaving it! But the freight costs are a little prohibitive. Although not quite the ones we wanted they are still enormously comfortable and the price wasn’t too bad. I stood guard over the chairs (there were others customers circling like sharks) and despite a scary moment when the other shop owner wanted to check that the price tag was correct (he went away grumbling how lucky we were cause he meant the price to be for each chair not the pair) we scurried away with our new chairs. I have abandoned the couch in favour of mine. At the risk of you realising just how domestic our life is, neither of us could imagine being happier than sitting in our chairs with little rugs over our knees, drinking a glass of wine and watching TV. We even thought it a little pathetic! Nigella sulked at us until I relinquished my chair for her turn.

Now I didn’t think my weekend could get any better. But I was wrong. On Monday we headed to the block. Driving past the Train shop we instead visited the tip-shop for stakes for our new trees. I jumped out and from the car park spied the perfect lines (well I thinks so) of a Pipers Tru-line chair. Barely able to contain myself I rushed over and sure enough somebody had abandoned two dining chairs that match our Carvers chairs. They had obviously been unloved for a long time, worse, judging from the state of the wood they had been left outside! Like the big brown eyes of a puppy in a pet shop window the chairs pleaded with me, I couldn’t leave them there. The shop attendant said we could have them for $5 each! My god I nearly kissed her. Triumphant we took them home to provide some TLC, a little sanding, some new foam and fabric and we have two more perfect Blackwood chairs. Rob is a little worried though- will our hut turn into the home for lost Tru-line chairs? I’ll post some photos soon!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Our baker’s dozen

I have to admit that with my slight autistic leanings I love writing lists. I do it all the time, for work, for home, for grocery shopping, for what I’d like to buy, plants, spices, cookie cutters. Oh dear! But one I’ve recently started is a baking recipe list to keep track of ones we do cook and how we rate them. There are over 200 cakes I’d like to try from our cook books, and we’ve barely cooked any of them. I admit we had a large bias towards one particular cook, and although we are moving on from our love affair with the domestic goddess in most cases, there are a few of her cakes that we do cook over and over. Last week it was my turn to bake a cake for the work morning tea roster. I tried to pick some new cakes to try. I ended up baking David Herbert’s lemon syrup cake (wasn’t on our list as it was in his book I’m borrowing from the library) and Nigella’s store cupboard chocolate orange cake. So my list writing wasn’t entirely successful: I didn’t pick a new recipe! What are our favourites, the ones we cook again and again? In no particular order here is our baker’s dozen of cakes:

1. Christmas cake- combination of Stephanie Alexander’s, Maggie Beer’s and Nigella’s recipes. We bake on average 5 Christmas cakes a year as we give most of them away. I love the spicy, fruity smell of the cake mixture pervading the house as they bake. They’re not difficult to prepare but do take some patience, as they take several hours to cook. If you rush the cake will be dry and overly browned. Whilst I mix up the batter, Rob carefully lines the tins with baking paper and wraps them in brown paper to help insulate them; also Maggie’s tip is to put a tray full of water in the oven to create a nice moist environment. As neither of us is overly fond of mixed peel we add a few tablespoons of our cumquat marmalade to the mix. We usually decorate them with plain white fondant icing- they look pretty but I actually peel it off to eat. Come to think of it, there’s a nicely maturing cake at home, only 6 months old, might have to try it soon!

2. Chocolate Guinness Cake – Nigella. A recent addition but a great textured chocolate cake, and any cake with cream cheese frosting has got to be a winner.

3. Upside down pear and almond cake- Ian Parmenter's recipe, we made a few of these recently with the Comice pear season.

4. Banana Bread- Nigella. A quick mix cake for those bananas that are looking a bit sad in the fruit bowl. Bananas walk a fine line in our house- I like them slightly under ripe, once they taste too much like a banana I can’t eat them (silly I know). Can also add choc chunks or brandy soaked sultanas.
5. Orange and almond cake- Claudia Roden. A classic - Rob’s trick is to pierce the oranges a few times with a skewer and then microwave them for a few minutes instead of boiling them for 2 hours. Perfect with Greek yoghurt.

6. Chocolate Cloud Cake-Nigella. A cake lightened by whipped egg whites. Rises impressively in the oven but sadly sinks once out. But then that’s what cream is for. A lovely combination of textures, crisp outer shell and mousse like interior.

7. Lemon syrup cake- David Herbert’s recipe is straight to the list. This cake has a serious lemon kick. Not only does it have lemon juice & rind in the mix, it is soaked once cooked with lemon syrup then topped with a covering of lemon icing. Sounds simple: it is.

8. Nutella cake-Nigella. One of those cakes moist with ground nuts- hazels in this case. With the chocolate and Nutella, this cake is for when you need chocolate.

9. Date and chocolate cake- Stephanie Alexander’s short recipe hides in her comprehensive tome, The Cook’s Companion. As she says- simple and very easy to make. With only 4 ingredients, it’s one to keep in mind as a dessert.

10. Store cupboard Chocolate Orange Cake-Nigella. A cake where the first step is melting chocolate and butter. Then mix in a jar of marmalade (cumquat of course), or raspberry, cherry (below) or apricot jam, or Armagnac soaked prunes. Topped with ganache another special chocolate cake.

11. Persian Love Cake- A cake featured in Gourmet Traveller – a reader request for a recipe from Qöm. After combining almond meal, raw and brown sugar and butter, half of the mix is pressed into the base of the pan. To the remaining mix add a few eggs, Greek yoghurt and a serious amount of freshly ground nutmeg. Pour this over the base top with some chopped pistachios and bake. Heaven.

12. Gingerbread-Nigella, I know yet another Nigella recipe. Her gingerbread is a favourite topped with lemon icing. Fudgy and dark, very addictive. It doesn’t last long in our house.

13. Apple and almond cake-Nigella. You may have realised by now, we quite like almond meal cakes. Another moist cake, and as it has fruit in it, Rob considers it a health food!

What is your favourite cake recipe?
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