Thursday, July 31, 2008

sigh of relief

I suspect a lot of people have been coming here over the last couple of days looking for my daring bakers post.

Sorry folks, there ain't one.

As you may have read a few weeks ago my cat Hester (known to those who love him - like me - as Mr Poo) was very sick. Well, Poo died a couple of weeks ago and there have been lots of tears chez BHG.

So I took my other cat Thurston (aka Birdie. Yes, I realise my cats have strange nicknames), to the vet to work out a diet for him. He was always partial to pushing Poo aside and finishing off his dinner. So he's always been a little, well, generous around the waist. Just like his mum really.

Anyway Bird's blood sugars were off the scale. There have been lots of tests, and lots of credit card transactions since then Tonight the word came through that although he's diabetic, the vet things he's been diagnosed early, and has a pretty good chance of having his sugars levelling out and him living as long as he should. It's twice daily insulin injections, but even they are nearly as expensive as I though they would be, although I would pay what ever it cost in a heartbeat.

On top of that I've been appointed to a project team to write a new strategic plan and organise the community consultation for same (something I have zero experience in), and have also taken on a major, major project with uni. However that latter is assessing the wine tourism industry in the Adelaide Hills and Barossa Valley, so that's slightly more exciting than strategic plans.

Anyhoo, as you can see one thing has led to another and baking complicated layer cakes has not been on the agenda recently.

Here are some random links to people who actually got it together:

BC at Beans and Caviar, what a great name
Karen at Do Better also has a fantastic header to her page (although she mentions exercise which causes me anxiety)
Elsepeth at So Familiar A Gleam completed her first challenge and has a kick arse name. Go Elespeth!

Also in my journey through the blog roll I found many others like me who hadn't managed the July challenge.

I did come across Caviar and Codfish. Who would have though I would have clicked on two blogs with Caviar in the title, but it was totally random. There are some great recipes and photos here, but most unusually one for pickled tongue. Just like in The Famous Five. Not something you really see anymore, so have a look, although I warn you the pictures are quite ... ... ... anatomically obvious.

So, in closing, thanks again to all of those who have sent kisses to Poo, Bird and BHG. Bird and I are looking forward to lots of years to go, and the August DB challenge!!!!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

shadenfreuden

This morning all of Australia is waking up to the shocking news: Starbucks is shutting most of its Australian stores, including all of its ones in Adelaide.

Oh my god. Where will people go if they need some ridiculously over sized very milky coffee with some strange sugary syrup in it provided buy some money hungry multinational giant trying to gain a monopoly on the global market while pushing local businesses out of work??? How will we all cope????

Well, I guess we'll have to go to some Australian owned chain. Or perhaps even one from Adelaide.

Or, mercy, here's an idea. Just go to a cafe. One owned by the people running it. They may even be bringing their kids up in the business. The other staff being part of the family may not be a 'motto' it may actually be a reality. And the money stays with these people, who have pride in creating a high quality product of their own. And so the money stays in their community. And multiplies to benefit that community.

Outrageous idea.

They probably also have some really lovely, home made cakes. Colour me crazy......

Sunday, July 27, 2008

birthday cake

Happy Birthday to JC from Dumpling Girl, who ticks over another year today.

To celebrate we had dinner last night at the well known China Town eatery Ying Chow. Snake beans with chili, BBC, aniseed duck and salt and pepper squid. JC said she thought the squid tasted of ammonia. Luckily I couldn't taste it so I tucked into that big time. and the beans. I love beans, they're one of my favourite vegetables.

Then we came back to my place to huddle around the heater and have desert. I nicked a recipe for individual gooey chocolate cakes from Joy The Baker's fabbo site.

Gooey Chocolate Cake
1/3 c plain flour
3 tblsn cocoa powder
pinch salt
120g roughly chopped chocolate
25g finely chopped chocolate
125g butter, cut into cubes
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
6 tblsn sugar

method
1. Heat oven to 220 degrees Celsius
2. Butter and flour 6 muffin tins
3. Sift cocoa, flour and salt
4. Place roughly chopped chocolate and butter over a double boiler until just melted
5. While chocolate is melting, whisk together the eggs and the yolks. Add sugar and whisk for approximately 2 minutes, to combine well
6. Add the dry ingredients to the eggs and stir together, but using a whisk, until just combined.
7. Little by little stir through the chocolate
8. Spoon this mixture into the greased muffin tins. Sprinkle with the finely chopped chocolate
9. Bake for 13 minutes. As they are soft in the middle there is no way to test them. Just trust your timer and take them out


10. Let cool for 3 minutes before carefully turning out and then lifting very, very gently onto serving plate.

We ate ours with praline icecream. They're very runny inside (as you can see from the leak in the photo. When I say carefully turn out and transfer them, I mean carefully!!!). Considering the amount of butter and egg for six cakes you can imagine how heavy they are. I just ate one of the left overs cold and that was pretty good too, but not as good as straight from the oven.

I feel I've earned a cake, as I've been weeding all morning. Lordy knows my garden needs it. I'd love to be a good gardener and grown my own vegetables, but so far the only thing I've had any success with at all is weeds. I guess you can't be a cook and a gardener too? Or maybe my thumb is just black. At the moment it's blue from digging around in a freezing wet garden. I can see a cup of tea and hot shower in my near future!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

plus de poulet

even more chicken news. Kate at A Merrier World, is running a food blog event, for chicken chefs.

Those who followed my Rome Week events last month will already have read my killer roast chicken spaghetti recipe. Go to the link to see the full story, with photos, but for novices to my chicken splendour, here's the synopsis.

You'll need to get together:
1 plump, beautiful organic free range chicken (with no added nasties)
butter. lots of butter.
salt. lots of salt. no - lots of salt
a head of garlic
rosemary
a cup of white wine
a cup and a half of chicken stock

this is so simple it will make you cry. slit the chicken and stuff with garlic cloves. put any un-used cloves in the cavity, smear the bird with butter and salt it really, really well. put the rosemary sprigs in, on and around the bird and get into the oven.

roast the bird until it's almost done. then poor over the stock and the wine. Continue to cook the bird until it's done. While it's resting either reduce the resulting sauce over the hob, or add a little flour to make a gravy. Stir through some thick style spaghetti or fettuccine and shredded meat from the chicken.

serve with a ridiculous amount of parmesan, grana or pecorino (and a salad or steamed vegetables to reduce the heart attack quotient).

Of course with all of the butter and salt this is a special occasion dish - I tend to serve it on my birthday or New Year's Eve. It always goes down a treat.

if you think you can beat this, which i seriously doubt, let Kate know, and feel free to post some inflammatory comment on the post that started it all below.

un poulet n'est pas toujours un vrai poulet

I know, two posts in one day, can you tell I'm sitting at home at a bit of a loose end?

Always on the hunt for a new blog, I recently came across The Belly Rules The Mind, where a happy chappy from the West Midlands talks about all the normal things that food bloggers do. One of his recent posts related to a chap by the name of Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall. I don't how wide a presence Hugh has outside of the UK, but he's basically a celebrity chef, who goes on a lot about sustainably and local, organic food shopping. I think he also did a show where he grew his own produce in some rather nice home counties mansion or something. What he's on about are things normally very dear to my heart, but he can be a bit pompous.

Anyway it was on Belly Rules The Mind that I discovered there'd been a bit of a hoo ha in the UK when Hugh raised the issue of factory raised chickens in the UK, which were selling for one pound ninety nine at Tescos (one of the country's largest supermarket chains).

I've seen the HFW story on a couple of sites now, with various arguments being floated about. The discussion has included:
  • this method of raising animals is inhumane and basically wrong
  • large scale food production such as this produces sub-standard food, sold to the poor resulting in poor nutrition, leading to poor physical and intellectual growth (ie. the rich get richer and the poor get poorer)
  • the poorer sections of society can only afford to buy this standard of food in the attempt to clothe/house/feed their families in the current economic environment
  • those who are not comfortable in the kitchen use low cost, mass produced food products as their main source of nutrition for themselves and their families
  • HFW is a bit of a tool, and it's very easy for him to take the moral high ground from his Chelsea flat, and is totally out of touch with the shopper on the street
Quite frankly, I can see both sides of the story, I've been the struggling student, and have eaten some seriously cheap food to get by, but have never had to worry about how my low finances effect anyone other than myself (ie I've never had to feel children on a low budget). On the other hand, although I am a dedicated omnivore and believe it is part of my genetic makeup to be so, I think we have an obligation to ensure that the animals that we eat are treated with some level of dignity before they are killed for consumption. Added to this is the argument that western consumers probably consume too much animal protein, and we should be looking to increase the plant content of our diets. Not only to make us healthier but also as large scale livestock production consumes too much arable land as centralised populations take over more and more of the earth, and produces considerable amounts of greenhouse gasses.

And this can be related back to the 'what we feed our kids' arguments. Is feeding your children chemical loaded meat from unhappy animals (the karma police will get you) really the best thing for them. Wouldn't it be better to bake them up some vegetables, or make a chickpea salad or lentil stew? 'But not everyone knows how to do this' I can hear the devil's advocate say. Well i say, tough cookies sweetheart. I'm not asking parents to enjoy cooking the way I do. To spend their whole Saturday putting together some gourmet creation for their families. But if you've taken on the responsibility of having children, you have a responsibility not to feed them things that will make them sick. This means high levels of fat, sugar, salt and e-numbers. Surely this is child abuse? Just as bad as making them sleep on the floor or depriving them of an education. They put this crap inside them for god's sake. Basic, nutritional, sustainable food cooked into simple to prepare meals is within reach of all but most unlucky of western society.

I would love to hear opinions.....

one party and a funeral


I've taken leave this week to stay at home and look after my little mr poo. this is a picture of poo taken last week. he normally looks grumpy in photos, but this is probably exacerbated by the fact that he's not very well at the moment. so a big thanks to all that have wished poo well, either via BHG, or through personal contact. he's a very special boy.

normally he's a bit of a sook and spends the whole day either on my bed or on the couch. since he got sick he's preferred to be outside (and it's freezing here at the moment), but last night he sat and watched crap movies on the couch with me a spent a good couple of hours asleep on the bed. I've always found it very hard to sleep without him in his normal position on my pillow, so i got the best sleep I've had since last Monday last night.

this Sunday I'm supposed to be doing the food for Luke's first birthday party. I suspect I'm not going to be in a party mood come Sunday, so I'm looking for stuff i can just drop off, say happy birthday to the wee one and then leave again (i hope mum understands). it's only for about 20 people, so i was thinking of doing filo triangles so that i can put them together there and then they just need to be heated when they're needed. mum really likes a chicken curry one i do, and a mushroom one and a cheese and spinach for the veggies. one of Luke's cousins has also demanded the sausage rolls that i made for Luke's christening. desert will be cake (no surprise). I'm going to do a version of the opera cake that was a daring bakers challenge a while back, but with different flavours. and cupcakes for the kids.

but I've had this idea in my head for duck filos. duck with black fungus and ginger and spring onions. I'm just not sure how to get it all together. any suggestions would be most welcome! I'm having problems engaging the brain at the moment

Sunday, July 13, 2008

it's all gone quiet

it's been very quiet on BHG recently i know. This is partly due to the fact that I've had precious little to say. Life has been very ho-hum, and recently has been very sad with one of my beloved cats diagnosed with something I can't even bring myself to say. So I've been staying at home nursing and dispensing as many kisses as I can while I still can.

But today is was lovely and warm, which has been unusual recently, and he wanted to go out. So I did what any normal person would do, and painted my study. As you can see, it's red.

I've also moved my computer under the window, so I can see outside while I study/blog/play free cell/look at tat online. This picture belies just how much rubbish I own, and I still have several dozen books to move back to the shelves that you can't see in this picture.

I've slowly been painting the whole house, and this is the last room. It means that I can finally put away all of the rollers, brushes and tins of undercoat that have been kicking around since January (I've been delaying tidying the house on the basis that everything will get moved when I paint, I have no excuse now). But I also hooked up my old stereo, which I haven't done because it's a pain in the neck to do and I didn't want to have to do it twice. But now I have my turntable again. Hurrah! This means that I can drag out all of my old vinyl and dance around to all of my old Wedding Present albums. In this photo you can also see the two scratches I made in the pain, putting up the venetian blinds a mere five hours after I finished paining. sheesh!

But now I'm sitting here, at a desk that frankly is a little to short (or maybe it's the chair but something will have to change), and listening to John Safran and Father Bob on the radio. Its an out of place happy moment in a shitty week.