Saturday, December 26, 2009

Looking forward to 2010 — and those soon forgotten resolutions..............

This Christmas has been relaxed and easy. The warm summer days are a joy and our neighbourhood is pretty quiet as well. Most likely several are off and away on their boats making the most of the cool sea breezes:  probably headed for favourite fishing spots. As their children grow older and become more independent we see and hear less of them. In previous years, lots of excited kids dashed about playing on new bikes, compared their toys and darted about in general — showing them off to all and sundry.

Anyway, keeping something on hand is a good idea particularly at this time of the year and  so easy with these two simple recipes. I usually whip them up quickly and put them aside to have whenever friends drop by:  it just makes life easy. There is generally enough in the freezer to cater for surprise visits and using up the leftovers, rehashing these and the sauces, is a breeze. Usually enough in the garden for salads and so on, and of course, this leaves time to spend catching up on all the latest — with little attention needed in the kitchen.  Carefree summer days as they should be.............

This recipe is absolutely delicious with a cuppa.


STICKY GINGERBREAD

  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup golden syrup
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 160 C
Combine boiling water with golden syrup and baking soda. Leave to cool slightly.
Beat butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg. Mix in the golden syrup mix and then add the sifted dry ingredients and mix until smooth.
Pour batter into a lined loaf tin and bake for 45 minutes or until cake tests cooked.
Serves 12

Another old favourite. Craig reminded me to throw this together yesterday. Mmmm...... delicious.



GINGER CRUNCH


 
185 grams of soft butter
¾ cup of sugar
2 ¼ cups of plain flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
2 teaspoons of ground ginger   

Method:
Preheat the oven to 190degC.
In a large bowl cream the butter and sugar.
Sift the flour, baking powder and ginger together and mix into the creamed butter.
Press the crumbly mix evenly into lined 20×30cm sponge roll tin.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly brown.

Ice with the following while the base and icing are still hot:
  • 75 grams of butter
  • 3 tablespoons of golden syrup
  • 1 cup of icing sugar
  • 3 teaspoons of ground ginger
Melt the butter and golden syrup in a small saucepan.
Sift the icing sugar and ginger and add to the butter and syrup stirring constantly until well combined.
Pour over the base while still hot and leave until almost cool before cutting into 24 squares.
Makes 24 pieces

Well, I'm sure you are enjoying the festive season as much as we are. We wish you all a very happy and prosperous new year...........

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

So much for just swanning about........


The past week has been fraught with annoyances, starting with a visit to Bunnings to buy a new spark plug for the lawnmower, and the thingy to remove it. It also seemed like a good idea to check out a suitable file in order to keep Corban's nails clipped, and on the way, I came across self-adhesive tiles for the upstairs loo. I learned that one packet covers a metre and a half, I think it was:  time to pace it out on the floor.  But I've had better ideas in the past, and this wasn't one of them.


This wasn't one of them either...

Anyway, as I stretched one foot out, the slippery floor simply --  did the rest: there was an impromptu can-can, followed by a clumsy attempt at the splits, before going, head-over-turkey, and being literally floored by my own rendition.

So, is it all there on camera...........?  Hopefully, a power surge took care of that lot.

Anyway, after fitting the spark-plug and no joy, it ended up being some sort of carburetta problem and required a new part, and a few other bits and pieces. All which Craig footed the bill for, thank heavens.

So, now that is sorted out, peace-perfect-peace........... Not quite -- can't get online. Time for a chill-pill...........!

After phoning my ISP and arranging for a replacement modem, I filled the next two days with gardening and finished off the book I was reading. But --  after installing the new modem -- same problem..........Two chill-pills!

Another call to my ISP, and after a thorough process of elimination, it turned out a double adapter was causing problem. A clumsy apology, my offer to pay for the replacement modem, kindly declined, and now I have two modems.   Whoopee........................!




"What a stupid idea, think I'll just sleep on it instead."









Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Easy, delicious and so effortless......................

Here is a real favourite in my household, and flung together in no time at all:  just the way I like it.

CURRIED EGGS
Serves 4:  ready in 10 minutes


1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
8 boiled eggs, sliced in half  (I prefer the yolks to be slightly runny, so would only boil for 5 minutes, or so).

Method:
Make a white sauce by melting the butter, stirring in the flour and salt and leave the roux to bubble for 1 minute or so. Then gradually add the milk, curry powder, and continue to stir over medium heat until thickened.  Finally, add the halved eggs. Garnish with chopped chives, or parsley if you prefer.

Delicious served on toast for a quick and easy lunch, or as an accompaniment to other dishes, whether meat, chicken, fish or just whatever comes to mind at the time.  A crisp salad with a variety of lettuce, tomato, spring onion, radish and avocado, sprinkling of seeds and nuts will definitely tantalise the taste-buds.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Good to be back home........................

after two days:  probably trapped in a garage, or garden shed somewhere. Anyway, this cat was more than pleased to be greeted with his plate of food; two more helpings, and a little saucer of milk..




It was a couple of hours after the letterbox drop around the neighbourhood before a sheepish Harrison came sauntering in and made a beeline for the fridge.
And will his curiosity be getting the better of him any time soon...?  Probably not.............


'You see, I just kind of walked into this - without giving it much thought.'  It's also possible he well and truly outstayed his welcome: it's all the fuss he kicks up when he wants to come in. Prancing back and forth outside any bedroom window, wowing and wailing; on and on....................

Perhaps he couldn't be heard from where he was, hence a couple of days of solitary confinement. Or maybe, after coming across the note in the letterbox, the homeowner was only too pleased to see the back of him.............. and the wailing.

Needless to say, he would have been in full flight in his dash for freedom. But, we love him, despite his funny little ways, and it's lovely having him back home again.



Saturday, November 21, 2009

Roast dinner in 30 minutes.......



 
Of late I have been freezing all sorts of vegetables, sauces, soups and casseroles; ready for another day. It's all about planning ahead, cooking in quantity, and making the most of supermarket specials as you come across them.

Yesterday I cut several pumpkin pieces, washed potatoes (leaving the skins on), peeled and cut carrot pieces as well as a lot of small onions. I put all these together into a large pot of salted water:  after coming to the boil, reducing the heat to a simmer and when nearly cooked, I strained off the water before allowing them to cool slightly, then placed them onto a large flat plate, ensuring they were not touching, before putting them into the freezer. The large plastic bag of free-flowed vegetables will be come in very handy, later.
I came across a large beef bolar roast on special at Pakn'save for just $7.99kg: the $10.00 piece of meat, cut into five pieces provides for five meals. Some pot roasted, others casseroled.

Broccoli is well priced at the moment, mostly under a dollar, and lasts for several days in the fridge.

Now for the 30 minute roast..........

This small piece of bolar steak would be enough for one or two people. Start by heating a small piece of butter in a large saucepan, add the salted, floured piece of beef, and brown all sides. Add about a quarter of a cup of water or thereabouts, (enough to stop it burning to the bottom of the pot),  cover with a lid and cook for 15 minutes. I usually cut into the middle of the meat at this stage to check: if the meat is pink, it's ready. Otherwise, longer if you prefer.
While all this is going on, the vegetables will have finished roasting in the oven and should be crisp and brown. It would probably pay to thaw them a bit in the microwave beforehand.

I usually cover the broccoli with a lid before bringing it to the boil, then turn the element off and let it steam through. Some of the boiling stock can be added to the gravy mix;  brown onion is my choice.

I am sure you will enjoy this delicious meal, which is effortless to put together, costs less than four dollars and gives you 30 minutes to unwind after a busy day.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Roses in full bloom.........





Buff Beauty and Graham Thomas flaunt their beauty and the fragrance is quite heady.




Graham Thomas nestles beneath the Copper Beech.




Bantry Bay sprawls over the gazebo, upstaging the lilliums at the front: however, they will be flowering shortly...




Command Performance, living up to her name, soon to be dwarfed by thirty tomato plants and the grapevine just takes things in its stride. With so many birds in the garden, there's not an aphid in sight.

These days, rose sprays are a thing of the past.........................





Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cooking for one is fun................

and what makes it so, is to prepare for four people instead of, just one. Leftovers can be put in the freezer for another day, but often enough, they come in handy to add to other dishes and of course, the flavour is so much better after a day or two.
I always make large quantities of various soups and these are a mainstay in my kitchen. I find particularly, tomato soup is rich in flavour after having been caramelised, then further enriched with garlic, coriander, onions, celery, chilli and so on: it is the base of all my cooking. Whether it's a casserole, chicken dish, or whatever comes to mind.
Another thing I find useful, is keep French sticks in the freezer, some already with garlic butter or herbs, and ready to just pop into the oven. Stale bread, put through the food processor, provides enough crumbs for several meals, and these are kept in an air tight container in the pantry.

Of late, I have been cooking up quantities of vegetables and putting smaller lots into the freezer for later use.
Very little ever gets wasted in my household and there is always a meal at the ready. Particularly useful when people arrive unexpectedly: you're not stuck in the kitchen preparing food with a lot of cleaning up and missing out on all the chatter, or trying to concentrate and chat at the same time.

Another reason for cooking this way, is the cost factor: so much cheaper in the long run than buying takeaways, which often happens at the end of a busy working day, when the thought of cooking a meal, is daunting.

I use my microwave only to thaw out food, rather than to heat or cook it. By the time you grill or fry the meat, vegetables and soups (sauces) would have thawed out sufficiently to add to it, then, putting a salad together - is just a breeze.

Gravy mix added to boiling water is quick and easy: Cook in the Pot mixes, both thicken and add flavour to any casserole.
At the end of the day, cooking for one should not cost more that $20.00 a week. This covers seven delicious homemade meals that are both satisfying and healthy.

Desserts are just as easily made and, just as inexpensive. Once again, I make in quantity: a Lemon Meringue Pie for instance, sliced into single portions, thaws out well. Apple Shortcake, Steamed Syrup pudding, Vanilla Cream, Rice Pudding, or whatever you fancy, will keep in the freezer. I generally make these from ingredients I find on special at the supermarket, or from produce markets when ripe fruit is sold off at a really good price.



LEMON MERINGUE PIE


 

Shortcake base:
60g butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg
1 cups plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
Soften butter in microwave and then add other ingredients before pressing into a pie dish.

Lemon Honey:
2 lemons
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
75g butter

Grate the thin, coloured outer layer of the lemons, then squeeze out the juice, discarding any pips. Beat the eggs until combined, and cut the butter into small pieces. Place the lemon rind, juice, eggs, sugar and butter into a heatproof bowl. Stand over gently simmering water and stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture is thickened and lightly coats the back of the spoon. Be careful not to let it boil or the mixture will curdle and not set.

Meringue:
3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 tablespoon vanilla
6 tablespoons sugar
Beat 3 egg whites with cream of tartar and vanilla. Gradually add 6 Tbsp sugar till soft peaks form.

Method:
Press shortcake into pie dish, pour over lemon honey, spoon meringue over top of pie. Bake in moderate oven 160 celsius for 12 to 15 minutes.
This is really delicious and well worth making.....................


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Just Pottering.........




Craig has just finished the lawns as we head for more rain. Earlier today, he dashed around the house with the vacuum cleaner getting the place back into shape. I have been spending so much time fiddling with the new camera, not much else gets done at the moment.




Climbing rose Compassion is just coming into bloom and towers over the grapevine. Akebia Quinata is a perfectly hardy fast-growing vine from Japan with magnificent foliage: it produces large clusters of chocolate purple coloured flowers with a delicious vanilla fragrance. Wonderful for covering trellises, verandas, pergolas and so on, the foliage is not bothered by insect pests.




Hybrid tea Uncle Walter, is a bright red large growing rose with shapely flowers that grow in trusses along the branches: it is lightly scented very hardy and perfoms well each year. Mine has grown happily in this part of the garden for over twenty years.

The tomato stakes are in and soon enough the strong little Beefsteak plants will need tying up. In the background, the beautiful Horse Chestnut grows in our neighbours garden across the street and makes quite a statement: a welcome sight at this time, every year.




I love the soft pink leaves of the Copper Beech that appear each year at this time as we head towards summer.  David Austin's climbing rose Graham Thomas has many new buds opening daily and will soon be covered in a mass of golden blooms. Ekeveria lives happily in the hanging basket below and is often visited by the little wax-eyes as they forage for nectar.




Gleditsia Sunburst seems to be reaching out towards the Grandiflora Magnolia and provides a shady area in the garden over the hot summer months ahead.




The rich golden blooms of Graham Thomas are spectacular: Buff Beauty grows alongside and soon enough, the buds will burst into bloom. It has a delightful fragrance which will waft over the newly planted vegetable seedlings that shelter behind the wall.











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