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Category Archives: Emotions

Less Partridges, More Pears – Yet Another Holiday Jam

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We’re moving up the ranks of interesting to the second of my four Christmas jams today (if you didn’t catch my strawberry jam run down you can find it here). What is this mystery slightly-more-interesting jam? Pear and Vanilla of course!

Pear and vanilla is J’s favourite fruit and spice combo as you all know, and it resonates very much with the holiday season for us, since it was the flavour of the cake I made for our first Christmas together. This jam riffs pretty directly off of that recipe and thus as far as interesting goes this is not a super unfamiliar combo, but it’s still a step away from the traditional standard berry combinations you find in jams at the supermarket.

I think it’s pretty important to develop and keep food traditions. When you think about it, so many of our food associations and memories come from repetition: tea when times get tough, chocolate pudding at a gathering, creamy rice on a cold winter’s night, flummery (a.k.a. in my family ‘amamfa’) on a hot summer’s day. I sometimes feel guilty just repeating the same recipes and combinations over and over, like I should be exploring and discovering and broadening and all those other things, but then I remember just how much I like those recipes and combinations. And each time they’re repeated they just get more and more meaning and feeling.

A summer time jam in a summer time garden

In the US they’d call this a jelly rather than a jam, since it’s made using only the juice of the fruit rather than the whole thing. I’ve based this off of a recipe for apple jelly from here, with a few alterations.

So anyway, first thing’s first, assemble your ingredients:


1.75-2kg of pears

5 cups of water

2.5 cups of sugar

1 lemon’s worth of juice

1 vanilla bean

Some pectin (I used some Jamsetta, about 1 tbsp or a little less)

As for your method:


Wash your pears and chop them up into chunks, removing the stalks.

Boil them up with the water for about 45 minutes at least, until they’re quite soft.

Then you need to strain all the juice out of them. I improvised a set up using a bowl, a sieve, a colander, a clean tea towel, a plate, and a bottle of water. Give it at least 3 hours.

I ended up with about 3 cups of juice. Whack that back in your pot with the lemon and vanilla bean (split down the middle) and bring it up to the boil.

Pop a little plate in the freezer about now.

Mix the sugar with your pectin then stir it in nice and quickly, making sure you haven’t got any lumps of pectin.

Cook that until you can put a little bit of it on your frozen plate and it sets to form a loose jam consistency.


Now put that jam in your jars and you’ll want to waterbath process them so you can store them out of the fridge.

Yay for new nostalgia!

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Crunchy Betty Challenge Update

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So I’ve been doing the Crunchy Betty Honey Challenge for a bit over a week now and washing my face every day with honey. I’m sad to say I haven’t exactly been having terrific results. I’m going to give it the full two weeks though, and we’ll see what happens at the end. For now though, on with the review:

 

Food:

I love honey. I mean, I really love it. It’s so sweet and tasty and wonderful and nuanced. The raw manuka honey I’m using is a little bit expensive, but I’m only using a finger full and I suspect that the bees that make it are likely happier and better looked after than the home-brand stuff I usually buy (I’m told that industrial beekeeping operations often kill the bees when winter sets in rather than feeding and looking after them all winter before they become active again in spring).

Sadly it’s just not having the intended effects. My skin is both dry and pimply. How does that even work? At first I thought the dryness could be from the cold, but it’s not. I can feel my skin suddenly get so much drier as I wash off the honey. And as for the pimples, I was tempted to attribute them to my red-headed friend coming to visit last week. You know, surfing the crimson wave, Aunt Flo coming to visit, code red, the communists are in the fun box. But no, they persist. Maybe my skin will have gotten used to t after another week? Maybe?

 

With:

I’m fast becoming a Crunchy Betty convert. I’m not going to be using all of her suggestions, but I really like trying new things, and I really like food, and I see no reason why something that’s a food may not also be good for other things. Lots of things can be used for more than one thing – see elastic, or hemp, or the internet.

 

Feeling:

I’m very sad it’s not working out, because I love how fun it is to was my face with honey, and the way it smells. I feel like a kid, like a rebel, like a hippy, a bit silly but okay with that. It feels so fun and nice that I’m gonna keep looking into ways to make it work for my skin. We’ll see.

All I know is that I’m excited every time I put on a bandanna to keep my (newly red) hair out of the way. And I like that.

Sometimes I Just Feel Like A Glass Of Wine

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Sometimes I Just Feel Like A Glass Of Wine

Sometimes, sitting down at the end of the day, I really want a glass of wine. White wine. Sweet white wine. Cheap sweet white wine.

Sadly, ninety-nine percent of the time I don’t have a bottle of wine on hand. So I sit, ruminate on wine and glasses and life and cockatiels and whatever else springs to mind, and then the feeling passes and life goes on.

But these last few days, the last week even, each night the desire for a glass of wine has crept up on me. And so I decided it was time.

 

I went to the bottle shop and bought a bottle of the cheapest sweetest looking white wine I could find (five dollars something – bargain!) and brought it home.

As it sat in my fridge through the afternoon the anticipation grew. I thought about how I never used to drink alcohol at all. I thought about the ceremony that goes with a glass of wine in the evening – the fancy glass, the cosy chair, the possible addition of a knee blanket, the slow luxurious sips.

Eventually it came time. And what a magnificent time it was. I really like the wine I got – Gossips Sweet Lips Muscato. It’s very very sweet and very slightly fizzy and just lovely. I could feel myself relaxing even as I looked at it.

 

It’s funny how very relaxing one glass of wine is. It’s not the alcohol itself, because even though I am quite the cadbury, one sip is not enough to affect even me. So I have come to the conclusion that it is the ceremony, the idea, the luxury, the feeling of having a glass of wine. I’ve written before about seeking out luxury, but sometimes one isn’t in fact in Tasmania, and so a little bit of ceremony goes a long way.

I’m even thinking of buying a bottle of Appleteaser and seeing if I can replicate the feeling entirely sans-alcohol. We’ll see.

Do you have any ceremonies you use to relax?

Murphy’s Law and Honey on my Face

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Murphy’s Law and Honey on my Face

We all know Murphy’s Law, and I of course am as susceptible as anyone to its vicious justice. So when I announced a fortnight ago (oh the hubris) that I was going to be good and punctual and bloggy from then on, well old Murphy, like a gleeful leprechaun, was only too happy to intervene. Thankfully I finally gave the little blighter the kicking he deserved and I’m back – back in time to tell that I’m taking the Crunchy Betty Challenge! (And the blog post I promised for last weekend will be up here tomorrow)

What is this challenge of which I speak?

 

 

Well everyone has this vague idea that honey is pretty good for you. There are plenty of things going for it. And apparently lots of those things are good for your skin. So the challenge is to wash your face with honey once a day for two weeks. I’ve started a few days late so I’ll do a midway post about how things are going as well as a wrap up in a fortnight.

Some things I’ve observed so far:

Raw honey is not labelled super well. It’s important to get raw or unpasteurized honey I’m told, since the heating when it’s processed destroys a whole lot of goodness. I couldn’t see any jars labeled ‘Raw Honey’ so I had to look a bit closer – eventually I came across a jar of Bee Products Active’s manuka honey, which in small print on the side says it’s ‘pure, raw, New Zealand’ honey.

 

 

Manuka honey smells weird. As per the label – “Manuka Honey is world renowned for its distinctive rich flavour, unique aroma and special properties.” I can’t say it’d be the best flavour for baking, but it’s growing on me.

My skin seems to be a little dry immediately after I wash it, but since I usually just use warm water it might just take a few days to adapt. Also it’s quite cold and windy at the moment so it could be that.

It’s pretty fun putting honey on my face – I feel a bit like I’m little and playing with my food.

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Last of all, I was pretty charmed by this video Crunchy Betty herself made demonstrating the process – it may have been a large part of my decision to join the challenge:

A Special Birthday Edition Review of Kitami Japanese Restaurant

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I haven’t posted for a while, it’s true, but I have excuses. Reasonable excuses, fantastic excuses, phantasmagorical excuses! But alas, this blog post is far too full already to go into all that. So instead I’ll leave it at: I turnt 21 and I went out and did stuff. One of the things I did was go to dinner at Kitami with some dear friends (and forget my camera, *facepalm*). And so, as well as a bit of an outline of what I want to do with my blog over the next little while after this brief unexpected hiatus, I present to you a Special, Birthday-Edition Review of my favourite Japanese restaurant in town – Kitami.

Cooking:

Fantastic. I’ve been hankering after some decent Japanese food for quite a while now and this really hit the spot. Three friends, my brother, and I got four entrees and two mains to share between us, plus I had some miso soup.

We had spider rolls, tempura prawn rolls, california rolls, and a plate of mixed sashimi for entrees. The rolls were all great, the meat in the spider rolls and tempura prawn rolls was crispy and good and the pickled ginger was as delicious as pickled ginger always is. The sashimi was fresh and delicate and lovely.

I also nicked one of J’s tako yaki balls which were just as rich and tasty as I remembered.

For mains we had a plate of stir-fried beef and a plate of stir-fried pork. They were both lovely with wonderful thick sticky sauces, though I’ll admit I was lusting after some of the chicken dishes on the table, the kara age in particular – it was remarkable last time I ate there. Sadly they don’t use free-range chicken, or at least they don’t say they do and that’s something you advertise. Eating purposefully takes a bit of work and sacrifice though, and it’s only non-free-range chicken so far that I’ve totally ruled out of my diet, so I can hack it.

With:

A most  delightful crowd. There were about fourteen people in all from very different parts of my life – my little brother to the ladies I’ve known since my first year in Law, right through to a new friend from the Linguistics department at Uni. Plenty more great people sent their apologies, and of course J was there too.

It really made me appreciate how fantastically lucky I am. Life is fragile, but it’s easy to forget that with all of these wonderful, supportive, caring, loving people around me. Without these people, my family, my friends, my partner, would I be sitting here at the kitchen table sipping tea and looking out at the dazzling blue of the Australian sky? Would I have the luxury of this blog, this computer, this safe welcoming home?

And who would cheer me, teach me, support me, reason with me, or make me laugh? Who would talk to me when I feel like I’ll bust if I don’t have a chat to someone but but I have nothing particularly interesting or new or relevant to say? Who would make me feel valuable and good?

 

I like birthdays and anniversaries, days that mark time passed. They remind me of just how cool it is that all that time was mine, to share.

Feeling:

Well back to the serious business. Kitami feels… unfinished. But it’s not so bad. It feels friendly, at ease. Like the restaurant itself is relaxed and happy to see you. There’s a little garden near the entrance that’s very sweet, with sand and rocks and bonsai trees. And the staff are super friendly. They’re really professional, sure, and all our meals came out promptly and deliciously. They even got some lovely plates and a tray set out for my friends who decided, sneaky things they are, to bring a cake and not tell me about it.

But more than anything the staff seem happy. Really genuinely happy to have you there. And that overwhelming feel of welcome means more than any decor.

 

—————

 

So, as I hinted earlier on, I’d also like to lay out what I plan to write to you about over the next few weeks. I’ve been lazy lately, taking huge breaks between posts, but now that I’m on Uni breaks for a few more weeks and most of my Big Stressful Things that needed doing have been done, I’m going to try and step back up to the plate – at least one post a week.

My next post will be one I started writing a week ago but didn’t really get to the posting stage with, then if I can find the pictures I took to go with it I have a post written a very long time ago with a modified carrot cake recipe that I was especially proud of. And after that I have some new musings to share, on choosing not to eat everything and healthy(-er) eating. So I really look forward to getting into that.

 

What are you looking forward to? And what makes you happy to look back at?

A Care Package From Spring

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A Care Package From Spring

I had never realised just how much the seasons and the weather affect me until I went to Europe. I left Australia at the end of our winter last year and arrived in France in time for the last three weeks of their summer’s life, before it slid, inexorably, into winter again. Trooping around over there, at times wearing just about every item of clothing I had to my name at once, I missed spring. I missed it almost as much as I missed J, and it often felt like the constant, freezing drizzle of Late Autumn La Rochelle was just mirroring my feelings, not the other way round.

 

Twas a little chilly

 

I arrived home in Australia just after summer here kicked its last. The week before I got home temperatures were in the high 30s/low 40s, but the day I arrived it was 27 degrees and Sydney was breathing a sigh of relief. And winter continued its march, and the days got colder and gloomier, and the rain came, and here we are, at the end of May, with the huge expanse of winter before us, and I hadn’t seen spring for 18 months.

 

Autumn

 

Until last Friday.

 

A red leaf in Autumn

 

Last Friday I woke up, looked at my stacks of textbooks and notes and felt gloomy. But for the first time in days it wasn’t raining so I dragged myself outside to check on my little garden. Oh what a wonderful surprise was waiting for me!

It seems my garden had noticed the decided lack of cheer in my step and together with with the sun and old Spring herself, it threw me a surprise party!

 

 

The first ripe snowpeas for this year were hanging out on their vines.

 

 

My little chillies were soaking up the sun, working on their tan.

 

 

The sky was even wearing its prettiest blue party dress for the occasion.

 

 

I know I heard somewhere that not getting enough sunlight is one of the things that makes people down in winter and so I was super excited that the sun was warm enough to hang out in the garden in a tank top. The sun on my skin felt amazing, and I loved the feeling of freedom that comes from not being tied up in three layers of fabric.

One of the best bits of all, the springiest little tidbit Spring sent my way, had less to do with cooking and more to do with, well, not-cooking. Munching on those fresh little snowpeas straight off the plant, I could taste new life. It was bright and clean and full of energy and exactly what I needed. Sure, five snowpeas aren’t much in the way of physical nutrition, but I could eat nothing but processed packaged food and get fairly decent physical nutrition (it’d be expensive but you could do it).

 

 

What those snowpeas were was a taste of Spring, a dose of vigour and vim standing in the garden, surrounded by life. And I was a part of it all. The sun was in my hair, the wind on my skin, I ate my snowpeas and I watched rainbow lorikeets in the trees. I even hung out on the warm driveway with the cat for a while.

 

Butters the Cat

 

He’s pretty chill.

Maybe I’m just feeling a little airy-fairy, it is exam period after all, but sometimes you need a visit from Spring. Sometimes you need to take a second and feel connected to the world, you eat and you give back, you know? Sometimes you need to get a bit of something fresh in you.

 

Have Your Cake And Eat It Too

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The devilishly-handsome J had a birthday the other day. And since his new favourite cake flavour is pear and vanilla I thought this was a good enough time as any to give you the recipe I promised quite a while ago now. But the flavour of a prospective cake is only the first question to be answered, because as I’m sure you’ve all experienced, the appearance of a cake can influence the mood and emotions of a day just as much, if not more than the actual taste of said cake.

An artist's rendition of J. Note: not actually a baby

I had narrowed it down to two choices: a simple, elegant round cake dusted with icing sugar that was sure to give the day a feeling of special luxury and romance; or some super fun cupcakes decorated with characters from one of his most common evening pass-times – a rousing game of Super Street Fighter 4 (inspired by a photo I saw here) that would no doubt imbue the day with a sense of playfulness and excitement. But which to choose? I wanted this to be just right.

And then – an epiphany.

Romantic and fun aren’t mutually exclusive, and if you put a standard cake and cupcakes in a room together frosting-related violence is not inevitable.

So it was that I decided to have it both ways.

 Why choose just one??

Now to the cooking!

Ingredients – makes one round cake approx. 10cm radius, and 17-ish cupcakes.

(all quantities are approximate)

5 regular sized eggs (each around 50g)

250g butter + a little extra for greasing

250g caster sugar + a little extra for greasing (trust me)

250g plain flour

1 ½ t baking powder (alternatively, use self-raising flour)

icing/decoration

Method

When you’re making something that has poached pears in it, often the first step is to poach the pears. When I originally made this recipe I poached my pears in a little water with a vanilla bean, but this time I decided to try out this paste I found (one vanilla bean costs like a bajillion dollars).

So you peel and chop your pears and pop them in a little simmaring water with a vanilla bean split down the middle or a teaspoon of this paste. The let them simmer away until they’re tender.

Scoop them out with a slotten spoon, chop them into chunks and set them aside to cool.

Now don’t get rid of your poaching liquid. There’s a lot of wonderful flavour in there. Instead, add about a tablespoon of sugar and keep it simmering away (remove the vanilla bean if you used one, but save it, we’ll use it again). As it reduces, this liquid will become a glorious golden pear and vanilla flavoured syrup.

Next, preheat your oven to 180oC if you haven’t already. I’m truly awful at remembering to preheat my oven – unless I’m reading a recipe which explicitly states “preheat your oven”, I’m liable to completely forget. So preheat your oven, everyone!

Then we’ll make what is essentially a basic vanilla pound cake. Cream the butter and sugar, then add in the eggs and either everything you can scrape out of the inside of your vanilla bean, or another teaspoon of paste (or, I suppose, a teaspoon and a half of vanilla essence). Mix it all up, then in goes the flour and baking powder, and there’s your batter!

Now gently fold in your cool pear bits. It doesn’t matter if they’re still a little warm, your batter will change texture a little but it won’t affect the finished cake.

All we have left is to grease the tins, cook, and ice. Grease everything with butter as you would normally, but then may I suggest a little something special for your cake tin? Take that bit of extra caster sugar and swish it around the tin until the buttered sides are completely covered. It’ll make a little bit of a crisp sweet crust around the outside.

Now plop the mix in the tins and bake until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Turn everything out to cool, then ice as you see fit.

For my simple sophisticated cake I just dusted it with icing sugar, and provided some of the poaching liquid syrup for drizzling.

And as for the cupcakes, since J doesn’t like the taste of fondant (crazy, I know), I topped them with smooth white frosting then essentially painted on designs with food colourings.

SSF4 cupcakes

And the lesson learnt? As an adult, J can handle a complicated message and a few different emotions at once, as can I. In fact, invoking a few complimentary feelings with your food can make an experience all the deeper. So I must remember not to be afraid of complicated things, and situations where more than one thing is happening at once.