Monthly Archives: December 2012

Magpie – the Australian type

I kinda, sort of, really like Magpies. They’re always around the place and among their calls is one that is my all time number one favourite. They’re outside now making that song. They aren’t your typically timid Dicky and often hang around on the ground in groups of two or three, just looking around the place. I generally worry that they’re up to no good and casing the Cubby house ready to break in and raid the fridge. Also, when they’re on the ground, they walk rather than hop. They will walk right up to your plate and help themselves to a bit of chocolate cake if you let them. They are the hard men of the air and will take on anything that they reckon is invading their space. It could be a big raptor – they don’t care – they just terrify it with aggro. 

Now the bad news is that in November, when the baby pies have hatched. The males get super agro about territory and will swoop down to attack humans. If they are super successful at this, the government will sanction a hit on them. Seems a shame as it ain’t that difficult to pop a hat on in November – preferably made of steel.

Anyway, here’s a pic of a pie. They’re very formal in their black and white and wouldn’t look out of place at the front door of a club, just checking out who’s coming and going and sorting out the more difficult customers.

leftovers 

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Profiteroles – easy peasy

Back in the olden days, when the Responsible Adult’s dear old Mum was still alive, she got me to make her Profiteroles. She would use any excuse, Christmas, her Birthday, Mothers Day. I sometimes wondered where I would find time to do some weeding. Anyway, when I was telling my youngest’s gorgeous gal-pal about this, she didn’t believe that I could make them – but they’re easy peasy. Choux Pastry is about the easiest thing you will ever make. And people love to eat the stuff. Here’s how, with plenty of pics for you.

But before you even think about this, get your oven going. You want it 220c or 430f – that’s right, good and hot.

Start off by measuring a cup of flour, and sift it onto a bit of baking paper (you want it on baking paper to be able add it all at once in a minute).

Prof 001Now put a cup of water and 75 grams (or 3 ounces – or 5 tablespoons – or a third of a cup – depending on where you come from) of butter in a saucepan to heat up and melt.

Prof 002

When the butter has melted, dump the flour in. Don’t be fussy, just get it in and start mixing with your wooden spoon. It will all come together – and that’s when you stop mixing. Only takes a couple of secs.

Prof 003

It should look a bit like the pic above. Now here comes the only bit that could possibly be the tiniest bit tricky, but stay with me, I’ll talk you through it. You’re supposed to add 4 eggs one at a time. The problem is, who knows how big the eggs should be? 4 really small eggs might be like 2 really big eggs. So here’s what I’d like you to do the first time. Add 3 medium eggs and forget the fourth. You can muck around and experiment next time, but this time I want your Choux pastry to work out. So, in with 3 eggs and use one of those electric beater thingies. I bought mine about 30 years ago from a cheap chain store and its still going strong. Now the point is too few eggs and you loose a certain richness. Too many eggs and your mix won’t stand up. You want a stiff mix. Next time you can experiment all you want, but for now just stick with 3 eggs and make a really stiff mix.

Prof 004

Now remember that bit of baking paper you used for the sifted flour? Hope you didn’t toss it out, because you want to put that on a baking tray, grease it up a bit, then lump on your pastry mix. What you want is a ball shape. You can see I didn’t spend a lot of time on mine – if you make it too round, people will think they came from a bakery. Use 2 tablespoons to make your shape, or 2 teaspoons if you feel like making a whole lot of little ones.

Prof 005

Bang it into that hot oven. In theory, you want it in a hot oven for 10 minutes, then turn down to a moderate oven for a further 15 minutes. But as I have recommended a dry mix for your first batch, I would like you to check after about 5 minutes and turn it down then. The drier the mix, the quicker it will cook. You can see mine got a bit burnt here and there. Don’t worry, once I pour some chocolate over them nobody will know. A shiraz or two and I’ll forget myself. Here’s another important bit. When you take them out of the oven, you want to put them on a rack to cool. As you take each one off the tray, stab it with a small sharp knife to let out any steam that has formed in the cavity.

Prof 007

So here they are. If you’re feeling extra kind, you could now make a nice custard to go inside. As we have a local dairy that sells Jersey cream, I just whack in whipped cream (obviously when they have cooled). Then it’s melt some chocolate to put on top and there you go. A word about the chocolate – I use 70% cocoa chocolate given that there is a bucket of cream in each one. The guaranteed way to successfully melt chocolate is to boil water in the bottom of a double boiler. When the water has come to the boil, remove from the heat and put the top on with your broken up chocolate. Just stir and stir and stir. No need for anymore heat, the chocolate will melt nicely. If you are really keen, then after that, melt a tiny bit of white chocolate to wave about over the top to make thin, pretty white lines.

Anyway, that’s the batch I made for my youngest’s gorgeous gal-pal’s birthday. She seemed reasonably happy to see them.

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Bring Up the Bodies – Hilary Mantel

I saved this one for my Christmas read. It was, well, FANTASTIC, BRILLIANT, LOVED IT. No wonder she won the Booker Prize again with this. The previous book, Wolf Hall, copped a bit of flak – not for the wonderful words, narrative, prose etc, but more for its treatment of the characters of Thomas Cromwell and Thomas More. Cromwell is a traditional villain and More is a Saint. In this series, you can’t help but like Cromwell as an anti-hero. More is portrayed as a zealot. The point is, this is a work of fiction. The characters are imagined – extremely impressively – by an author.

As More is well and truly dead by this novel, it will be interesting to see whether the critics remain silent. Cromwell is again a brilliant strategist (the real Cromwell must have been) In case you have no idea what I’m on about, it is a work of historical fiction based on Thomas Cromwell, at this time Master Secretary to Henry VIII. 

Cromwell is a puppet master, manipulating people and events to suit his purpose. He is ruthless, vengeful, dangerous, a complete hypocrite but you can’t help but warm to him. He is a genius and it is a pleasure to roam among his thoughts. But this is not a one dimensional character portrait – the surrounding characters are well developed too. My book of the year. If you are thinking of reading it, be sure to read Wolf Hall first.

I would really like to quote the entire book – it’s great. But here are some samples:

“The things you think are the disasters in your life are not the disasters really. Almost anything can be turned around: out of every ditch, a path, if you can only see it.”

“Truth can break the gates down, truth can howl in the street; unless truth is pleasing, personable and easy to like, she is condemned to stay whimpering at the back door.”

 

“~ You know young Francis Weston? He that waits on the king? His people are giving out that you’re a Hebrew… Next time you’re at court, take your cock out and put it on the table and see what he says to that.
~ I do that anyway, if the conversation flags.”

bringing_up_the_bodies

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Pud on fire

Thought I’d better post a pic or two of the final stage of the Christmas Pud. Warm some brandy in a saucepan (too much is never enough for me, but remember, you will only burn off the alcohol, not the liquid). Pour over Pud. Ignite!! Serve with Custard, or Hard Sauce, or Cream or whatever takes your fancy and a nice Shiraz.

Pud 006  Pud 005

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Left Overs – try Croquettes

‘Tis the Season to have left overs. Here’s one way to deal with left over meaty stuff. Can be this meat or that meat – fish – whatever. First, chop it up finely. Then chop up an onion finely. Fry the onion in a bit of butter and add some herbs – I went for Oregano and Parsley. Use a low heat – it doesn’t take much to soften your onion. Add your chopped up meat, a tablespoon of mustard, a couple of tablespoons of flour and about the same amount of milk. Remove from the heat. Beat an egg and add some grated sharp cheese. Mix in the egg and cheese. Remove from the pan and put it in the freezer while you pour yourself a well earned Shiraz. After about 15 minutes in the freezer, you can work the mix into shapes. Then heat a bit more butter and some oil and fry. Serve with more Shiraz, some crusty bread and a salad. The Responsible Adult was happy while I finished off the rest of the Christmas Prawns.

leftovers 001

Cooking the onion etc

leftovers 002

About to go into the freezer

leftovers 003

Frying Up

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Tawny Frogmouth Owls

Got to be one of my favourite Dicky Birds. These guys are so inoffensive. They just sit there blending in with the rainforest knowing that you can’t see them. As they know you can’t see them, they just sit nice and still for the camera. Also, like your Prince, they mate for life. How lovable.2002 09 Tawny Frogmouth Owl

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A mere Trifle

Despite having slaved away for hours and hours making a Christmas Pud, my youngest wants a trifle. So I made him one. What I would have liked to do was make a very pretty stylised trifle, but I know he would want a traditional kiddies one so that’s what I did. Trifle was a way to use up your old dried up sponge cake. Tear it up, add some sherry, then jellied fruit and custard on top. What I did was slice up some mini Swiss Rolls, add kiddies jelly, then fruit with more kiddies jelly, then custard.  I’ll put a bit of whipped cream on top just before serving. I might have a go at styling a trifle for his birthday. Here’s a couple of pics, just about to add the custard.

Trifle 001

Purple Jelly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trifle 002

Some Peaches and Yellow Jelly

 

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BBQ Installed

Gave the little timber deck I built a second coat of oil and prepared myself to move the BBQ from the cubby house down to La Studio. Let’s not go into detail of the pulling apart, cleaning and moving with all the various little disasters this process entailed. Lets just look at the nice picture. Hope to post some cooking on BBQ shots VERY soon.

Parrot 014

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Another Garden Tap

Managed to get a garden tap installed at the back of La Studio. For the front tap, I had bought fittings from the local store in our little town. Easy peasy. Then, while visiting a big chain hardware store I saw some fittings for a whole dollar cheaper. Being a shrewd Paddock worker out for a bargain, I bought the cheaper fittings. After much swearing and time wasted, I threw them out and went back to the local store. Things got much easier after that. Phew! Needed a Shiraz or two after all that hard work and swearing at plumbing fittings.

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Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoos

A couple of not that good pics for you. We always know when Black Cockatoos are visiting the Paddock. They scream in (and I mean scream) – not as annoying as a Crow or a Cat Bird, and no where near as annoying as White Cockatoos that hang around in big mobs, but you certainly know when they are there. These blokes are pretty timid and stay a long way from the cubby house, but anyway, I had a go to show you. Even though they don’t have a pretty song to sing to me, I still like having them around because they are so pretty. Makes we want to go out an plant another tree.

Picture 1 014

Picture 1 013

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