Thursday, October 19, 2006

Friday the 13th...

plum pudding fruit

My maternal grandmother intrigues me in so many ways, for instance she is the most superstitious person I know. My cousin had the misfortune of being born on the 13th of October, an innocent date to those not plagued by superstition, for all those otherwise it means birthdays that fall on Fridays carry with them an element of wariness and unease, the last time my cousin’s birthday fell on a Friday my grandmother phoned her to suggest she stay in doors for the day and to take care with any mirrors she may near.

Another interesting characteristic of my grandmother is that she does not like to cook, it is as simple as that, she eats very little and most astonishingly does not and never has possessed a sweet tooth. This intrigues me the most about her because fate would have it that her two daughters and two granddaughters love their food immensely and are extremely passionate home cooks.

Every Monday my grandmother has a particular friend over for lunch, never more than the humble sandwich is served and every week this dear friend brings along a cake or slice for them to have afterwards. My grandmother, being the eternally polite lady that she is has never had the heart to tell her friend that she can’t stand cakes or sweet things and so staunchly consumes these sugary parcels with the bravery of one undergoing a tetanus shot….and although she eats a piece of fruit every day, it is purely for health benefits and little to do with sweetness……her life is otherwise sans sugar…

Have you ever had a coffee made by someone who does not drink the stuff themselves?
It will always lack that certain magic.
Have you ever eaten meat cooked by a vegetarian?
Two words….
Boot leather.
Such patterns would lead to the theory…..’that which is not consumed by its maker should be avoided’…..
However like all good theories and rules there are and always will be exceptions, it’s what makes the universe special and exciting…

My dear grandmother makes the best plum pudding I have ever tasted, and I do mean the best, even the most detailed written description could not do it justice. I’m a firm believer that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and perhaps only those that already are fond of plum pudding will understand my passionate praise, after all those that dislike dried fruit are not often easily swayed……..however even ‘The German’, one such avoider of all things raisiny and figgy enjoys his piece of this pudding.

Since I was a small child I have literally divided my year into two parts….December to May, May to December. Every November my grandmother makes two plum puddings, one for the 25th of December and the other is carefully protected until Mothers Day in May when we gather as an entire family once again. I don’t know why the tradition started that the second one would be eaten on Mothers Day, I must ask her, seeing as there are 4 family members birthdays between December and May where it could so easily be gobbled up on….I think it may have more to do with the neutrality of Mothers Day, as my grandmother is a strong believer in fairness and equality…and to have it on someone’s birthday would be seen as favouritism in her eyes and as a loving grandmother there can be none of that….
For some of our recent Christmas lunches, at least one of our family members has been overseas, sad you may say, only sad for them I say, all the more pudding for me!!! Except unfortunatley, on those occasions when our numbers drop to 13, where by we are required at my grandmother's request to invite one more person, no matter who they may be in order to avoid the potential collapse of Christmas luck and happiness by numbering 13.......this year just so happens to be one of those once again the pudding will need to be sliced accordingly to accomodate all......but it won't stop me from hovering over my grandmother while she serves it up, trying ever so slightly to influence a larger piece for myself....

Although as much as I love devouring the first pudding for all that it represents for my family at Christmas time the second one has had longer to meld and our bellies are usually less full on the May occasion allowing the flavour to be more fondly appreciated….oh May, I need May, I couldn’t survive 12 long months without it….my addiction goes so far that in late October to early November when the fruit is soaking in brandy awaiting its fate, I have been known to drive to my grandmothers house to beg her to pluck the tub of fruit from its drunken slumber and allow me to take one long sniff……come March there I am again begging for a sensory fix…..however even I know once cooked and sealed up opening the prized package could risk spoilage so I refrain.
Like any addict, the time was gradually encroaching where my doses would need to be upped.
I had never asked my grandmother for the recipe…..firstly, that would be as doomed as showing a smoker how to grow their own tobacco…..secondly, I feared the possibility of an overdose…...such a disaster would render Christmas fruitless for me….pardon the pun….and thirdly as the recipe was given to my grandmother by her older sister who was given it from her mother in law I felt it was something I must simply wait to be handed….hoping my enthusiasm would one day prove worthy…

About this time last year my grandmother wrote out my very own copy of the recipe… can imagine my joy at finally being able to re-create my own piece of plum pudding pleasure.
Last year I made my first ever plum pudding, well two puddings in fact as the recipe makes two. One was eaten at the Xmas lunch my friends and I have each year and the other was kept with enormous willpower until my birthday in March. So now my year can be broken down into three delightful parts, December to March, March to May and May to December. I have successfully resisted breaking the dry spell between May and December…..I just convince myself I am content with four serves a year…..for now anyway…..
That’s not to say plum pudding isn’t ever far from my mind, on Friday, seeing a one kilo bag of sultanas on special was enough to prod the pudding receptors in my brain……so without planning to I returned home with all the fruit and brandy I needed to start this year’s process…...since the recipe my grandmother gave me is framed and hangs proudly on my kitchen wall I have the ingredients committed to memory, allowing such spontaneous purchases for pudding items possible.

plum pudding fruit 2

So really the May to December period can be broken down into sub-parts taking into account the tantalizing top up of my taste buds from preparing the fruit in October and then mixing it with the remaining ingredients and boiling them in November.

plum pudding fruit 3


So on Friday after hovering over my tub of fruit gloriously soaking in the delicious brandy and smelling the magnificent aromas I sealed it up and stored it away with the hope that I may forget its whereabouts for the following four weeks, to avoid me opening it every second day for a sniff. There I was, in a state of bliss……until I went to mark day 1 of the pudding process on my kitchen calendar......there is was staring back at me…..the date…Friday the 13th….eek…I gasped…what had I done…..soaking the fruit on such a day…deep breath…...mmmm not only have I inherited my grandmothers recipe but her superstitions seem to have hitched a ride over to my house with it ……

…to be continued… 3 weeks time…..when I open the fruit up with all my fingers and toes crossed…hoping this year’s pudding won’t be plagued by some wretched superstitious curse……..

Friday, September 22, 2006

Mixed bag...

rhubarb tart 3

Yes I know I am a bit behind, but I’ve been busy….and as you may know by now I haven’t quite mastered efficient use of my now bountiful time…uh huh I know, I’m hearing you, PRIORITIES….Rabbit Tales should be holding strong near top position, but I am confident a balance will fall into place soon.

Anyhoo back to my mixed bag…..that recent weekend that I spent alone was also the weekend of the North Sydney produce markets and by the Saturday morning I hadn’t seen nor spoken to a soul for more than 24 hours, a fair stretch by any standards, so before I hit the point of navel contemplation I marched out on foot to the markets, armed with no more of a plan other than to hopefully communicate with someone.

Perhaps a reflection of my state of mind or perhaps just the consequence of a food lover let loose without a sidekick to regulate her spending….I bought (in order…which shows my lack of any forethought) a packet of smoked mackerel, simply because I have only had mackerel in Ireland and didn’t know it was fished in Australian waters and I love mackerel....

...a loaf of black rye, because I love any bread that resembles a brick, in weight that is...

...a tub of tomato crusted chevre…its impossible to go past this cheese and not buy it...

...a lettuce, 3 tomatoes and a cucumber all for their magnificent ability to cry out “pick me”...

...2 bunches of rhubarb…well it was $5 for the pair and damn it a gal couldn’t pass up such a bargain...

...and last but not least a dozen eggs from free and happy chooks, the poo still adorning the shells sold me….

After such a spontaneous spending spree I plonked myself on the grassy hill to take stock of my purchases. As I proceeded to photograph my wonderful mixed bag of goodies one of my dearest friends rang to see how my self imposed exile was going…with something along the lines of “I’m sitting in the park at North Sydney photographing my eggs” my dear dear friend, fearing I had possibly gone off the deep end was no sooner in her car and by my side for a coffee and a slab of olive bread…..I forget that what seems perfectly normal to a food blogger may at times come across as slightly eccentric to others….

Once at home with my mixed bag I was left to piece together the puzzle that was smoked mackerel and rhubarb. Thankfully days prior I had invited a group of mates for Sunday dinner, not only because they provided the best ending to a weekend of isolation, the dinner gave me the opportunity to tie my interesting items together.

To nibble: Black Rye with an assortment of smoked mackerel, Willowbrae chevre, cheddar and my very own onion jam.

Willowbrae Chevre with cheddar

Main: Kasespaetzle with a simple salad of tomatoes, lettuce and cucumber.

And to top it off, a rhubarb tart of Nigella’s. I hadn’t made this before and to my surprise it turned out wonderfully. I was initially dubious of putting cream cheese in the pastry but it was perfect, I think it helped maintain the moisture and prevented it being too dry or burning.

rhubarb tart 1

So a mixed state of mind lead to a mixed bag of food which lead to a much appreciated evening of feasting with the finest of friends…


I’m not a religious person. I admit I know very little about religion. However there are some concepts that are used in religion that can be applied to life regardless of any religious devotion or worship. Like the 7 deadly sins. Originally established to educate and protect followers from the basic immoral human instincts, they are relevant to many aspects of modern life that we seem to keep a personal check on.

While reflecting on my time absent from Rabbit Tales I took stock of my recent behaviour and realised I had become quiet the sinner….however…I have come to the conclusion that my sins were neither deadly nor entirely what I would deem immoral….after all, I decadently enjoyed myself while commiting some of them….. and so in order to explain my month long exile and my somewhat recklessly carefree behaviour of late I feel I need to admit and declare all.

Sins are usually absolved through confession. Here is my pugatory.

Excessive love of self

Guilty. I’m not ashamed to admit it, I have been locked up in my own little world lately, doing things simply for myself, because I enjoy them and they make me happy at the expense of all consequences. You probably want an example I’m guessing…..well, sitting on my balcony in the glorious spring sunshine grooming my eyebrows and sipping on coffee for a period of time longer than really is acceptable is one example that comes to mind… may think that sounds harmless, however those of you who know me, know that my new work schedule was established to spend much sort after time on a long list of higher priority things I should be doing in order to build a new career path…..eyebrow remodeling was not one of them…..

Desire to gain material wealth

Guilty. Besides my regular purchase of Monday night lotto….which each week I haplessly believe in all honesty is mine to be won…..lately I have been harbouring a deep desire to buy a 30GB iPod……you’re probably questioning where upon the guilt lies in this conundrum….well I am now earning less than half my previous wage as a result of that previously mentioned new work arrangement…..and the new iPod is the pricely sum of $450…….I am meant to be saving every dollar and monitoring my spending like a hawk but damn it I want an iPod, I have been resisting the iPod craze for long enough and I am on the verge of giving in…

Desire for excitement

Guilty. This past weekend I saw myself home alone. Although having some quiet time to watch movies and devour a good chunk of chocolate for dinner was immensely appealing on Friday night by Saturday I was craving some excitement of grander proportions. With only myself for company for the evening I went through the list of possible entertainment I could engage in to turn Saturday night into something above average. Having been to the movies by myself before and having taken myself out for a meal before I wanted to do something I had never endeavoured to embark on solo……so I looked up the Sydney gig guide and decided to take myself out to see some live music. To add to the craziness of it all I picked a band I had never heard of and a venue I had never been to. I dressed myself up in clothes that had never been teamed together as an outfit prior to that moment and walked out the door with an unfamiliar spring in my step….I felt like my own little Robinson Crusoe….out to discover something completely new… adventure was full of excitement and I had a fantastic time accomplishing what I set out to achieve…..the personal strength to go it alone and to have fun in the process….all good training for my leap off the deep end of my career platform…….

The grass is always greener

Yup don’t I know it. Damn that verdant illusion.
I am guilty of idolising the other side. Instead of providing specifics as I have trouble reconciling these with myself let alone bore you with them…just be rest assured I am learning to cultivate my very own special patch of turf to bring an end to such corrosive envy.

Over indulgence, usually refers to food and drink

Oh so very, very guilty……
Getting drunk in the Rocks on a Tuesday night.
Menacingly neglecting to trim the excess fat off lamb shanks and devouring them with reckless abandon….leaving my mouth surrounded with enough grease to cause an oil slick if washed down the drain.
Baking a batch of Bill’s Breakfast Muffins and proceeding to eat the whole lot over 3 days…..failing to register their ‘Breakfast’ role.
Making Nigella’s Rhubarb Tart and polishing off the remaining cream cheese filling by wiping the bowl clean with strawberries.
…and this was all just last week……
Oh restraint reemerge from hiding….please….and bring motivation back out with you….to shift these extra 2 kilos that have come and taken your place in my life.

Inappropriate feelings of hatred and anger

This is a heavy one. I have not felt hatred, but anger yes. Anger at how destructive the world has been lately. Anger at those that have used division to instill hate in others.
Anger towards the Australian mainstream media for failing to make the devastation in Sudan an issue…….thank heavens for SBS world news..... what makes this anger inappropriate you may ask......well in theory being angry at those who use anger as a tool is somewhat hypocritical of me but this is a confession of sins after all....


mmm…this is quite relative really but its fair to say this is the lesser of my sins…….oh except for last Wednesday…it followed last Tuesday night….that gluttonous night boozing it up in the Rocks….my bed was my demon, convincing my pounding head to forsake activity for extended slumber, waking only for pyjama clad afternoon daytime television watching.

These past few weeks of selfishly sinful behaviour may in a snapshot sound like all I have been doing is….eating, drinking, soaking up sunshine, contemplating the world and my place in it…..o.k you’re right.….and although I have enjoyed every minute and feel really relaxed as a result I have decided I require my very own retreat, a personal conference….in order to put an end to this seemingly holiday lifestyle and start building foundations for my future career…….so I’m heading up to Byron Bay for the good part of a week. I plan to do a good deal of soul searching, forward thinking and planning for the year ahead. However like all conferences there will be down time…..besides much anticipated activites such as swimming, reading and writing ….I hope to rediscover the hippie within…

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Soul soaking sunny Sunday

pruniers scones

Sunday afternoon was filled with Spring sunshine, soft soothing melodic jazz, my four favourite friends and high tea at pruniers. The most noteworthy morsel of the three tier ensemble was the scone, a delicate crust enveloped a warm moist centre, the strawberry and apricot jams were smooth and mellow, perfectly devoid of too much sugar and the cream....oh the delicately light and airy, flavoured by tiny flecks of vanilla bean. My pot of camomile tea was full of whole flowers, its calming properties contributing to the lovely lazy feel of the afternoon....

.....oh why do Sundays ever have to end.......

65 Ocean Street
high tea $25

Monday, August 21, 2006

While you were sleeping...

mini schnecken

Friday night was one of the best nights I have had all year! No I didn’t eat out somewhere new and exciting nor did I go to the pub with friends and come rolling home drunk and I didn’t see a great band in concert. I had the extreme good fortune of spending the night at a particular bakery that supplies several top notch restaurants and establishments in Sydney. From 8pm till just before 6am I egg washed, glazed, cut, assembled and filled many of the yummy creations produced by the pastry team.

I had gone along in the hope I could stand by and watch the night of a pastry chef unfold…….but before I knew it I was being kitted out in black and white pants, a white top and a spiffy navy blue apron. Within minutes of the pastry team starting their shift I was handed a tub of eggy mixture and a brush and given a 2 minute crash course in the art of washing…..except I think I took the art bit too literally and proceeded to paint each croissant like it was a delicate canvas……I was politely ushered to speed up my pace and explained of the imminent oven schedule…..

By about 2am it dawned on me that I had entered another world…..a place where people were wide awake at this hour creating and being productive…….any notion of day or night no longer really existed for these people…… as they were shifting into full swing I was starting to fade and at about 3am I had hit a wall……this must have been noticeable because I was swiftly handed a slice of rich moist chocolate brownie and a hot cup of tea…… and suddenly I was a new woman…..with my second gust of energy I decided to expel all thoughts from my mind about what time it was and avoided looking at the clock……and as a result my mind was open to the workings of this strange world……I ate portugese custard tarts still warm from the oven at 4am…..Oh and the friands…so fresh, so crumbly on the outside and soft and warm on the inside….who cared if it was 5am, it was only 5am to those that were sleeping…..I realised how relative time was…

mini danishes

I received tips on how to do things the best way and was shown the inner workings of baking at such a scale. I was in my element, I didn’t want to leave no matter how exhausted I may have become, I was functioning off excitement……and perhaps off a sugar high from the tarts and brownies…….as the clock approached 6am and everything was winding up I was given one warning…..make sure you get to sleep before you see the sun………so declining an offer to head off for a meal with the team I drove home with the feeling that if I didn’t make it under my doona before the sun knocked on my door I would perhaps turn into something else….it was like I had entered another world and if I didn’t obey this one warning I may be stuck in the night for all eternity…..

I was in bed by 6.30am, however sleeping was not easy and I found myself giving into the daylight and got up at 11.30am…… least I was assured that I was still a day creature and not gobbled up by the night….


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Curry Co-op

I have always loved the idea of a co-op……or any sort of system based on bartering. The ethos of pooling resources and skills for the common good gives me a warm fuzzy feeling.

The first time I had any real interaction with such a notion was 9 years ago. I spent 6 months living on an island off the coast of Ireland. During the peak summer months I had a full time job working in one of the hostels. With a steady income, free accommodation and only minimal retail opportunities to deplete such funds I either bought whatever I wanted in the one and only exorbitant supermarket or ate out willy-nilly without giving it a second thought.

However as the tourist traffic tapered off, the work dried up and I had to reconsider my situation… did most of my friends relient on seasonal four of us decided to move into together to cut back on costs, in a hope it would prevent an early departure from the island.

Once the work stopped all together we were forced to re-assess our food supply situation. The two of us who were comfortable with all aspects of fishing took on the task of catching Mackerel off the rocks and the other two of us who were a bit more sensitive towards seeing the innards of sea creatures opted for working in the local organic veggie patch in return for fresh produce. For any other necessities we dipped into what little money we had saved over summer….and combined, we managed to cover the costs. One house member was entitled to rent assistance and the dole and so they volunteered to use this to cover the cost of having a roof over our heads. A sporadic gig for the two musicians of the house would bring in some extra cash which went straight towards maintaining our idyllic co-op lifestyle that we were becoming quite accustomed to. We ceased buying peat for the fire and used our unemployed time to collect driftwood off the shore. Life was wonderfully simple.

This system kept us going for a few extra months….until the depths of winter took hold of the island and forced us away…….departing was sad and I wept as I pulled away from the pier…..…but I left having experienced some of the best moments of my life in those six months……. I learnt so many things that I have carried with me ever since, in particular a deeper awareness of the core aspects of life…….food, warmth and shelter…..and that co-op living is essentially just sharing what you have with those around you…

A co-op can exist at so many scales and after some contemplation I have come to the conclusion that last Saturday we had a micro co-op of our own without realising. Sort of a curry co-op if you will. Ten friends of 4 different nationalities….none of which may I add list curry as their national cuisine, got together for lunch on the premise they must be accompanied by a curry of some sort. What eventuated represented all the admirable qualities of a co-op.

‘Members’ of this micro co-op brought along a Green Lamb Korma, a mixed vegetable curry, roasted aubergines, a beautifully bright tomato and coriander salad, bowls of raita, a delicious marinated chicken curry with yoghurt, an extremely tender Beef Rogan Josh, a fiery Prawn Balchao, tomato chutney, lime pickle, mango chutney, a Thai Green Chicken curry, a Beef Massaman curry, bread and rice. Some brought along beer, others plucked bottles of wine from their bags, there was a great big chocolate mud cake, ice cream and coffee. Some members turned up with their instruments and provided the entertainment with music and song while others washed and cleaned up. One special little member provided endless amusement with her gorgeous little smile and warm cuddles. Everyone brought something to the table, metaphorically speaking as much as physically.

…..and the sum of all the parts made for a perfect afternoon……

Census Night, 8th of August, 2006

Homeward bound 8th August 06

While walking home last Tuesday night, Census Night 2006, I took this photo.....I also thought long and hard about many things, one being the selection of questions listed in the census booklet. I pondered what additional questions could be included to gauge an insight into the cross-section of our society. If it were up to me, I would want to ask what is your favourite cuisine, which restaurant do you frequent most regularly and what meal do you cook at home the most......imagine, 13 million forms were printed and distributed......such potential to find out so much....and yet not a single question about food, what a shame.....what a missed opportunity to discover what makes this nation tick gastronomically.

Not to be forgotten

The Butcher

Oh how time flies in blog world. One week in any other sense is not long but in blog terms, especially food blog terms, it’s a long time, you can have eaten a lot in the space of a week, so many food experiences and so little time to write about them. In a way having a blog is good in that it keeps you accountable for your time, it makes you reflect on what you have done in your waking hours, other than your paid employment...... in another way it makes you realise how quickly time does move, it leaves you feeling a little daunted at the pace you can now measure your life by.

With this in mind I want to write about Sunday the 6th of August, even though it was over a week ago......... because otherwise such days are lost, long gone in to the ether of life.

If things are written about, they can not be forgotten.

So this post is dedicated to the Concordia Club. A place I have been to many times.......and well worthy of being recorded.

On the first Sunday of the month the Deutsche Club in Tempe holds Fruehschoppen. Literally translated this means morning pints. In Germany this takes place every Sunday morning and is simply what it says, morning pints, of beer that is. However when you are a long way from home you need more than a liter or two of bubbly beverage to console your homesick blues. The Concordia Club provides just the cure for such ailments. Here is a tried and true formula:

1) Arrive at 11am. Claim your table (if you don’t have a trusty friend that has already reserved one on your behalf).

Lebensmittel Deutsche Club

2) Head straight for the Lebensmitteltisch (grocery table). Stock up on all your favourite imported German goodies such as Ritter Sport Chocolate, Sauerkraut, marzipan, Senfgurken, jams and mustards. The lovely lady that operates this table is not out to make money off those desperately missing their homeland, any money she makes above her cost goes back into the club, what a trooper!

3) Once the butcher’s wife has set up her tables in the side room and opened the doors, head in, grab your basket and stand in line. Your eyes will always be bigger than your stomach, but that’s o.k. you can freeze a lot of what you buy……Weisswurst, Lebekaese, Landjaegerwuerste, Berliner, geroestete Zwiebelwurst (think liverwurst/pate with delicious course grains or roasted onion throughout….yep, yum….ours is now long gone and its another 3 weeks till we can get more…)

4) O.k. now its time to go back and reacquaint yourself with your table. Chat…chat…chat….all about what you have bought and how you intend on using the meat you have just purchased. Quickly head to the bar and get a glass of icy cold imported German Bier. Whip out the almost still warm Southern German (Swabian) potato salad you made that morning, along with a few plates and a handful of forks to share with everyone. Someone somewhere once said ……give and you shall receive…..I think they may have met a few Germans in their time……because outcomes the pretzels that your table companion has lovingly carted down from Konditorei Schwarz in Wentworth Falls…..and in return, out come your Landjaegerwuerste ……..

In case you find yourself at the Concordia Club and need a tub of potato salad to start a conversation:

Swabian Potato Salad

1kg Kipfler potatoes
1 large onion, chopped finely
Fresh cracked pepper
1 teaspoon mustard (Dijon, mild American or if you have some German stuff such as Thomy)
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 cup of beef stock
3 tablespoons of sunflower or vegetable oil

Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Wash and scrub the potatoes. Once the water is boiling, add salt and put the potatoes in whole still in their skins. While these are cooking put the onion, salt and pepper, mustard, vinegar and oil into a large bowl and mix. Warm the stock in a small saucepan, keeping it just warm. When the potatoes are cooked enough for a sharp knife to be inserted, drain. Peel the potatoes while they are hot. I hold the spud with tongs and peel the skin off with a knife, they come off fairly easily. After peeling each potato, slice in half lengthways, then slice these halves lengthways again, then chop into pieces about 1/2cm thick. Put the chopped potato straight into the bowl. Repeat with all the potatoes. Mix the ingredients in the bowl, pour over the warm stock and mix again. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and let sit for an hour. After this time the liquid should have absorbed into the spuds, taste it, it may need a bit more salt, or mustard or even vinegar. Eat with sausages, green salad and bread, even better if you can get your hands on some authentic Schwaebische pretzels!

Concordia Club
Richardsons Crescent/Mackey Park
(opposite Tempe Station)
Tempe NSW 2044
Tel 02 9554 7388 Fax 02 9554 7588

Monday, August 07, 2006

Organic instinct....

Schnecken from top

Saturday was a day of domestic bliss for me, our home had been neglected for quite a while and the clutter and mess was seeping into my conscience, affecting my state of mind and my sleep. So when I woke up I was eager to get stuck into it but knowing I wouldn’t be able to convince the other creator of this mess to leave the warmth of his slumber at such an hour I took off to Macro, our local organic supermarket and bought some thick and sturdy Kipfler potatoes destined for a large bowl of southern German potato salad, some leek, chicken and broccoli for soup and a few other bits and pieces. I don’t regularly shop organic but I have found Macro supplies the best Kipfler potatoes I have found yet so when I am there I just can’t resist buying a few other items and so the soup idea was thrown together on a whim.

Once The German was up he dutifully joined me in returning our apartment to a livable state before disappearing to the garage for the day to build things, you know, boy stuff. His days in the navy put him in good stead for bathroom cleaning. Although I’m sure the quantity of cleaning solution he used and the subsequent fumes negated all the goodness and health benefits of my organic leek, broccoli and blue cheese soup planned for dinner.


I was blissfully left to play music at will and dance around my kitchen uninterrupted. I have been meaning to try out Nigella Lawson’s Schnecken for a while but had been hesitant to do so on a day when I would be the only potential sampler, the flesh is weak, especially in this girl. Knowing the German would be on hand to gobble them up…he can’t resist anything derived from his homeland…… I proceeded to make a batch of Schnecken (English: snails). While mixing the ingredients for the syrup and filling for these little pastries a growing concern was mounting in my wary mind that there was just too much of everything, the butter, the sugar, the nuts…all too much for only 12 little Schnecken. I paused for a moment of contemplation and decided to proceed, figuring Nigella, self proclaimed domestic goddess that she is should know her stuff and who was I to doubt her. As I put these 12 wonderful cinnamony, nutty smelling little darlings in to the oven I could not shake the overwhelming feeling that such excessive butter and sugar in such shallow tins could only equate to disaster, and upon reflection this should have been the point where I stopped and listened to my inner voice, to acknowledge my own cooking ability, to have faith in my own experience, I couldn’t help but sit in front of the oven to watch, just in case my suspicions were justified and luckily I did…….as the syrup oozed its way to the edges of the muffin pans I had just enough time to slide the grill tray underneath to catch the dripping butter and sugar mix. For the next ten minutes I didn’t move far from the oven for fear of what I suspected, the syrup pooled in the grill pan and began to burn, producing a steady stream of thick sugary smoke, I tried releasing the smoke regularly, but to no avail, it refused to abate and so I was forced to turn the oven off, expel the grill tray to the rain soaked balcony and remove the Schnecken. With ten minutes of cooking time left I had to come up with an alternative, so I removed them from the pans by inverting them, allowing the syrup to run out over them. I allowed them to rest long enough for the goo to disperse, the goo being the culprit of this fiasco. I transferred them to a fresh lined tray and returned them to the oven, I decided not to turn the oven back on but simply let the residual heat dry them out gradually. I felt like saying I told you so, but to whom I don’t know, so I decided it was time to turn my hand to something of my own creation and forget about the little snails…

soup ingredients

I have never eaten broccoli and blue cheese soup, I just saw a blackboard in a café once with it listed and thought that sounds nice but forgot all about it until Saturday when I was standing in Macro and saw the wonderful heads of broccoli all piled up. My memory was triggered…and lacking any recipe to guide me I just decided I would make my own version, keeping it simple so that the main two ingredients would shine. The result was beautiful, deliciously thick, delicately aromatic soup. I was a tad impressed with myself I must say.

There I stood basking in the glory of my successful little creation, the pride counterbalancing all previous disappointment felt over the Schnecken……the Schnecken, I had forgotten about them tucked away in the oven……they had continued to cook, perhaps even a little too much but they were fine……just with a slightly smoky flavour to them……I ate them and so did my unexpected dinner guests…..but I think they enjoyed my soup better…..

upright soup

Leek, Broccoli and Blue Cheese Soup

1.5 L water
3 organic chicken drumsticks (skin on)
5 bay leaves
1 onion, quartered
1 tomato, halved
10 peppercorns
2 tsp salt

30 grams of butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 leek, sliced
3 cloves of garlic
900 grams Broccoli, chopped into pieces
100 grams blue vein cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil the water, add the chicken, bay leaves, onion, tomato, pepper and salt, reduce to a strong simmer until the chicken is cooked through and the water seems nice and stocky.

Drain the pot, keeping the liquid, discard all other ingredients except for 3 bay leaves. In the same pot melt the butter, fry the leek for a few minutes then add the garlic and olive oil and continue to cook until slightly brown. Add all of the stock back to the pot and bring almost to the boil, add the broccoli and let simmer until the broccoli is soft. Using a stick blender or a regular blender, give the soup a good wizz, try avoiding leaving big stalky chunks. Crumble the cheese into the soup a third at a time and taste it after each addition add more according to taste…..I of course ended up putting the whole lot in and it was delicious but I am a huge blue cheese lover. Season with salt and pepper as needed and put the 3 bay leaves back in and continue to simmer for about another 20 or so minutes, stirring regularly. I let this cool down in the afternoon and left it on my stove top and just reheated when it was time to eat.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

An old flame is reignited...

Konkan Prawn Curry

The time has finally come.......and what a stretch it has been. Perhaps it was the cold and blustery weather on Friday, I'm not sure but I finally had a craving to eat Indian food again. Thanks to my little Giardia friends I brought home from India with me in May I have been unable to even stomach the thought of Indian food let alone go anywhere near it. About a month ago I thought I would give it a shot and so The German & I took ourselves off to Tandoori Hut in Enmore, a trustworthy favourite of ours......but that trip only caused more injury than progress, I couldn't do it, after a few mouthfuls my conviction to abstain from this cuisine only strengthened. Then recently I met up with a group of friends for dinner in a particular Indian restaurant we always go to at least once a year. I had to use this opportunity as my second attempt to venture back into the world of Indian food. I chose to go with the blandest, creamiest dish……and to be honest although I could eat, the experience lacked passion and enjoyment and I realized I just wasn’t ready yet. To truly gauge the depth of this distressing situation you must understand the loving relationship that exists between Indian food and I.

It all started about ten years ago when Butter Chicken came into my life, it was the first time I had eaten any Indian food and I loved it time went by I began to branch out and try different, spicier dishes, I gained an addiction to chilli and as my relationship with Indian food became more complex, the likes of Butter Chicken became a distant memory as I strove to find more authentic dishes. It started to become apparent that I wanted more than what most restaurants had to offer so I went in search of cookbooks that had recipes of dishes I had never heard of in any restaurant. I started asking every Indian person I met where their favourite place to eat was in order to broaden my horizons, more often than not ‘at home’ was their reply. I realised the best Indian people to put this question to were male taxi drivers, firstly because the majority of them were single and rarely cooked for themselves so often ate out and secondly because they had access to a vast geographical range of Sydney’s establishments. This process led me to a few great new places I would have otherwise never come across. I learnt the difference between northern and southern food and my spice selection went from a couple of jars to a 60x60cm drawer in my pantry full of spices. My interest seeped into all things Indian, especially music. I was eating Indian meals 2 to 3 times a week. It was becoming obvious the time was approaching that I would need to go to India. Thankfully I had introduced The German to Indian food early in the piece and he embraced it with great gusto (although he hasn’t ordered anything other than lamb or beef in 8 years). So when it came time to plan a honeymoon the overwhelming choice of destination was India…….unusual I hear you murmur…..I know, it doesn’t conjure up images of romance and relaxation…..but this trip took place one year after our nuptials, in order to have enough time up our sleeves.

India was amazing, it is a land of contradiction, it defies description. If you wish to gain some insight into the experience that is India then start by reading Sarah Macdonald’s book Holy Cow, it is wonderfully accurate.

In regards to food I was initially disappointed. It wasn’t long before I realized this was attributable to the fact that the food that was on offer in restaurants that western tourists such as myself would deem fit to eat in were created to cater for western tastes and therefore lacked the essence of what I was in search of. I had been warned by all and sundry, including Indian people to avoid eating from roadside establishments. However it became apparent that these roadside places were where the real food was, where the locals chose to eat. I had traveled to India to experience the food so I still wanted to go to these places at least to smell and look……..the food coming from these kitchens, stoves and hotplates smelt amazing and standing by without sampling anything became torturous……eventually my willpower waned and I couldn’t resist…..I decided to throw caution to the wind and started eating from roadside stalls and shacks……and the food was wonderful…..whenever I found something I really liked I would order two or three portions of it and devour it all, licking my fingers with reckless abandon…..oh it was a slippery slope……..before long I found myself eating from a portable cart on the side of a dusty road…….and then it happened….my brazen rebellion was over…..without warning……I found myself confined to the lavatory of the Tundla to Varansi overnight express train…..I shall spare you the horrific details, and I assure you they are horrific…..but I was to remain in this gastric state for another three weeks in India, through two rounds of Indian antibiotics and another 5 weeks and 3 courses of nuclear strength antibiotics at home in Australia before any degree of normality returned.

Throughout my remaining time in India, despite these non-favourable conditions, I continued to eat Indian food. I just could not bring myself to eat western food, I hadn’t traveled so far to consume sandwiches and toast. So when it came time to ordering food my stomach would cry out for a piece of plain dry bread but my heart wanted more and I would always end up ordering something from the Indian pages of the menu ……in hindsight this is what lead to my down fall…..because once I was home, my body and mind had somehow developed an association between Indian food and being ill which subsequently bred my instinctive avoidance of the entire cuisine.

curries with parathas

The saving grace of this tale is a southern Indian meal I had in Kerala, on my second last day in the country, to put it simply, it was the best Indian food I have ever eaten. So on Friday night when it came time to nourish my new found enthusiasm I relied on my one shining memory of Indian food, this fantastic meal and chose a great Southern Indian restaurant, The Malabar. I’ll admit, I erred on the side of caution and ordered my old favourite, Konkan Prawn Curry as it is consistently good and because well its one of my favourites. Any angst I may have had subsided after the first mouthful, it was absolutely delicious, the flavours were full of depth, the prawns were succulent and it had just the right amount of kick.

After 96 days, countless Metronidazole tablets later and two failed attempts at reigniting the passion, I have fallen back in love again with Indian food.