Mexicanesqueness

A couple of months ago I had a visit from a friend who suggested rather strongly that I make bean burritos for dinner. I am not a massive fan of Mexican-sort-of-thingie, or Tex-Mex I suppose it is more like, so I hummed and hawed, but my husband backed my friend up, so I fell into line. (Wasn’t a massive fan formerly, I should say.)

ANYWAY so this is how I did it.

I diced two medium onions and set them sauteeing in (YES YOU GUESSSED RIGHT!) my flame-orange Le Creuset casserole. Oh – the sauteeing medium? Olive oil. A good slurp.

While they were setting off on their merry journey to cookedness, I finely diced a large carrot, and added that too. I also finely diced three shortish celery sticks with their leaves, and added them too, stirring and sauteeing to make a nicely-browned mirepoix, to which I also added one finely-diced red capsicum.

I left that to its own devices for a little bit while I mixed up the spices. Into my spice ex-coffee grinder I put – a heaped teaspoon of cumin seeds and another of coriander seeds, a quarter teaspoon of fennel seeds, two bay leaves, a pinch of cinnamon, a level teaspoon of chilli flakes, a level teaspoon of dried savory, a teaspoon of paprika and half a teaspoon of smoked paprika. I should probably confess that all these measurements are approximations (though pretty close approximations) as I NEVER measure spices, I just tip them in until it looks right. I cook by eye more than almost anything else. (For savory you could substitute oregano or thyme or a little bit of both.)

I ground it to a powder and then added that to the mirepoix, and stirred it around for a bit until everything was well-coated.

I opened and RINSED a 400 ml tin of red kidney beans and another of cannelini beans ( I prefer the texture of cannelini). (I always rinse tinned beans. I don’t like the slime) and added that to the saucepan, stirring it around.

I also added a splash of white wine, a tin of diced tomatoes AND salt and pepper. And a few shakes of Tabasco.

After it cooked down for a while, (I mashed some of the beans against the side of the pot with the wooden spoon) I tasted it and it definitely needed something.

SO on Husband’s and Friend’s  respective advice I added a sachet of tomato paste, and a few splashes of balsamic.

When it had cooked for another half-hour, getting thicker and more delicious, I tried it again and it was FANTASTIC.

We ate it like this – After I heated the tortillas (flour ones) we put a scoop of hot rice, then a bigger scoop of beans, then some fresh salsa, some olives, some yoghourt raita, some shredded lettuce, some taco sauce and some extra pickled jalapenos. Then we folded over the bottom edge and rolled the sides in.
(Yes – they were easily the biggest flour tortillas I have ever seen. Mission brand, if anyone was wondering.)
(However the really big Mission brand tortillas are noticeably more expensive per 100gms than the smaller ones, so bear that in mind.)
(My favourite brand of tortilla as maybe you could tell.)

I make the salsa with finely diced tomato, cucumber and pickled jalapenos with lots of finely-chopped fresh coriander.

It was delicious! First time I have made meat-free burritos and I was hooked! I have made it a couple more times since, and I have decided that if you don’t have taco sauce it really doesn’t matter. It is also good with a little chilli mince ( I had some left over from an event – a friend made it with loads of things like chipotle which he soaked and shredded, and various other kinds of spices and chillies…very good) as well – I am still yet to make shredded slow-cooked beef chilli, but I will eventually, no doubt.

Enjoy!

Geese

I seem to be in a position in which I have to write a blopost about geese, because my brother Tom has been hassling me to. I really have no idea why – I think he decided it would be funny. Well, see how funny THIS is, Tom. Not at all, I’ll be bound.

I spent a lot of my school holidays as a child visiting my cousins who lived at an animal park. I spent a lot of time wandering about looking at the birds – they had emus, ostriches, a cassowary, pheasants, lots of different cockatoos and parrots, lots of different sorts of ducks  – domestic ones like Indian Runners and native ones like plumed whistling ducks. There were peacocks and enormous turkeys, which being horrible kids we used to yell at so that they would be enraged and gobble and hiss and puff up their wattles – like Barnaby Joyce or Alan Jones.

The ones we hated were this roaming gang of tough nasty geese – the greylags and white domestic geese which are descended from the original greylag type, and also brown Chinese geese with the big lumps on top of their bills. (Anyone noticed how serrated goose bills are? They look disturbingly like teeth. Angry toothy birds.) (Lamellae, in case anyone was wondering.)

We would be happily playing one of our endless wandering-about-the-place games that often involved being at war with each other, we would round a corner of a deer enclosure, or the area with the camels and barbary sheep and brahmin cattle and so on, and all of a sudden there would be this…this gaggle of big scary geese. Geese may not seem to be scary to an adult eye, but a child’s eye is nerve-wrackingly close to a goose’s bill. (Apropos of gaggle, apparently when they are flying – not that domestic geese are supposed to fly, and possibly can’t as they grow too fat, they are called a skein or a wedge.)
So these geese would waddle at us, craning their necks up and hissing, staring at us with their ice-blue, pinhole-pupilled eyes. And we would…well…we would back right off.

When we were older we learned that if you march right at them they would back off, but you know, sometimes geese will happily peck an adult, and they pack quite a peck.

My uncle also had Cape Barren Geese with their pink legs and odd, stubby little fluorescent-green beaks, and some Magpie geese, which I think are beautiful, and I would love to see them flocking in the wild. Magpie geese have very bony-looking beaks, and only partially-webbed feet. Apparently they are a Living Fossil and are in a unique order – arranged in a  family and genus separate from all other waterfowl. They both (Cape Barrens and Magpie Geese) make very distinctive calls which I can’t remember, but would know as soon as I heard them.

There is a park in Woy Woy I like to go to – along the edge of the tidal ‘river’ between Woy Woy and the large mangrove island which is a huge Ibis hatchery as well as hosting occasional large parties of Hemulens…oh sorry, I mean Royal Spoonbills.  Sometimes when I walk along there I see various kinds of cormorants, snakebirds, huge flocks of corellas and rainbow lorikeets, seagulls, pelicans and an enormous er…’sore’ apparently of ducks. (Introduced Mallards and native Black Ducks, and their hybrid offspring, as well as a few ex-domestic ones, some little Maned Ducks, and a Chestnut Teal.)

(Collective nouns for ducks are a bit odd – I get a ‘raft’ or a ‘paddle’ of ducks on water, and a ‘team’ a ‘string’ and a ‘skein’ of ducks in flight, but why a ‘sord or sore’ of ducks not-either-in-flight-or-on-water? What about, um…an ‘appetite’ of ducks, because if you have read my post ‘Freeloaders etc’ you will understand why I think that is appropriate. )

And as mentioned in that episode, there is also a large white domestic goose that lives around there. He paddles around people’s boats, lords it over the ducks and jostles to be fed by the park duck-feeders, and when he was attacked by a dog, a local resident took up a collection from the other residents to take him to the vet to have his badly-damaged leg looked after, which I found charming. He is back in action as healthy as ever now. And I still have a slight reaction of nervousness when he approaches, beak at the ready, as I sit at a table eating.

I have never eaten goose, and apparently they are a bitch to pluck (according to one of my food-writing-heroes, Clarissa Dickson Wright, who actually has one of the longest and most ridiculous names I have ever heard of – Clarissa Theresa Philomena Aileen Mary Josephine Agnes Elsie Trilby Louise Esmerelda Dickson-Wright.) but I do intend to try it one day. Anyone want to cook goose for me? Or go in with me at some point in buying one to cook and eat together?

Which brings to one of my favourite-ever quotes, also by a food writer –
‘A roast goose is like a magnum of claret – too much for one, but not quite enough for two.’ Of course by the writer-most-likely-to-need-a-magnum – Keith Floyd, who even wrote a book on hangover cookery.

So all up I would have to say I am pro-goose. I like the way they look, I think they add charm to any scene (as well as copious amounts of greasy dark-green shit), I like to call people after them, and I would like to eat one one day.

How’s that, Tom?

I guess you may have noticed I haven’t been writing much lately…

I have had a cold. But lots of things have been happening – I had a party for my son’s 4th birthday – the good kind of kid’s party, in which the kids play and eat home-made sausage rolls and fairy bread, and the parents and friends sit around and eat sausage rolls and butterfly cakes and drink seemingly-endless-supplies of Long Island Iced Teas. It was supposed to be at a playground, but it was wet, so we had it at my house, which was better in many ways as it didn’t matter when people showed up, and the food could be made hot in relays, rather than all at once and transported soggily to the park.
I made an extremely easy and delicious rich chocolate cake which is the excellent kind of recipe that doesn’t have a lot of difficult ingredients such as corn syrup, sour cream, dark chocolate, etc – it just had butter, sugar, eggs, flour, baking SODA and cocoa. All of which I generally have about the place.

I was given this recipe from the blogger at http://thylacinthine.wordpress.com/ but not on her blog.

Put half a cup of cocoa into a bowl, and stir in a cup of boiling water. I use Woolworths home brand cocoa (for which I specifically go to Woollies, as I never usually shop there – but their cocoa is superb, much better quality than Cadbury’s and cheaper.) Add 2 tsps vanilla. You are supposed to wait until it cools down to add the vanilla, but I forgot. It turned out all right anyway.

Beat 185g of butter in a mixing bowl until it is fluffy, or as fluffy as it gets – it’s butter for crying out loud, not egg white. Add 1 1/4 cups of sugar, and continue with the beating until it is light and fluffy…or a grainy-ish paste which looks sort of curdled – depends on how much effort you want to go to.

Add 2 eggs and beat it some more, and at this stage it may even have a chance at the Light And Fluffy Award.

Combine 1 1/4 cups of flour, 1/2 tsp baking soda, and a little salt if you used unsalted butter (but I always use salted as that is all I have in the house).
It sounds sort of counter-intuitive to use baking soda, not powder, as that normally leaves a horrid yellowish colour and a metallic taste unless it is balanced by an acid of some sort, so all I can assume is that cocoa is acidic. Because it works like a charm.

Alternating between the floury mixture and the cocoa mixture, add 1/3 at a time, beating well the whole time until it is a sort of pale chocolaty satiny goop. It will look a lot paler than one would hope from a chocolate cake mix, but fear not, I have made it twice now and it is AMAZING how dark and moist and rich and chocolaty it turns out.

I baked it in a (I think) 9-inch round aluminium cake tin (I use the old-school aluminium tins as they have perfect heat distribution and then cool down rapidly so as not to leave a tough crust) lined with Multix or Gladbake or similar baking paper. Seriously good texture. Oh, at about 170-180 C – it all depends on what your oven is like.

I covered it in very vanillary buttercream icing, and crumbled a flake bar all over it (my five-year-old was asking me why, in pictures of ice-cream, was there sticks in it. I thought he meant, you know, paddle-pop sticks but no, he meant flake bars – so I bought one to show him what the were like) and lots of smarties. At four-year-old’s request. It was delicious and got completely eaten up.

Yesterday morning, after nearly three weeks of miserly doling-out of smarties in the fives and sixes, five-year-old staged a smash-and-grab raid on the pantry cupboard and finished the bag.

In other news – my husband is starting a new job on Monday, which we are all very happy about as it is a LOT closer to home. One reason I have not been writing a great deal is that as a six-month red P-plater I still find driving quite exhausting and have been doing lots of dropping-off and picking-up, and what with these endless colds I seem to be having this year I am so tired it’s all I can do to cook, do laundry and make vast quantities of sandwiches for my ravening hordes of two children. And occasionally do some vacuuming, and also do my important work of reading endless ‘Pure Poison’, ‘News With Nipples’, ‘Politically Homeless’, ‘Dances with Fat’, ‘Fat Heffalump’ and ‘The Failed Estate’ blogposts. No, really, it’s important. True.

Yesterday I dropped off my four-year old at the pre-school and as I walked back through the car-park my nose was caught by that warm, strange (for a person who grew up inland) salty sea-water and mangrove smell that appears when the sun is warm enough to set it going – Woy Woy is so flat that you can be quite a distance away from the water and still get occasional olfactory ‘glimpses’ of that exciting holiday smell. I remember discussing the smell of Woy Woy train station with a couple of friends – one of them loved the smell of mangroves and silty mudflats, and the other hated it and loved the smell of diesel trains. Diesel trains! And train brakes! I ask you! What is that compared to rotten vegetation, pelican shit, decaying crabs  and salt water?!
I did mention that I was an inlander, didn’t I? I LOVE the smell of mangroves – it’s like having one’s nose away on childhood summer holidays, all the time.

I am currently thinking of becoming a business analyst writer – this is the next Big Great Idea after becoming an electrician, or a pilot. Who knows. What I DO know is that anxiety has turned my brain into a terrified hamster on a permanent wheel of self-doubt, fuzziness and zero-self-confidence. I suppose come to think of it, that’s self-doubt. Also my formerly-excellent memory seems to have carked it. I am so tired and un-motivated all the time, I seem to be sick most of the time, my neck is stuffed and at the moment I can’t afford a new pillow OR an osteopath and so the thought of getting to grips with even looking into doing a TAFE course, let alone actually DOING it, let alone seeking gainful employment seems daunting and intimidating and frankly terrifying. But I really do need to do something with my life, other than reading detective stories. Speaking of which, I have an historical detective novel to read and review, which I shall get onto next week, and let you all know.

So that’s me roughly caught up. Sorry for the long delay since my last post, which was, let’s face it, cheating as I didn’t even write it. (Thanks again Tom!)

Guest Post from Tom – What Shit’s Worth

This is a guest post from my brother, who has a range of amusing jobs, including juggling hats for money.

What Shit’s Worth, Volume One by Tom

As it happens, I am somewhat of a connoisseur of food bought from a petroleum dispensary. As a voracious consumer of both poor scheduling and a lack of preparedness (two of the key ingredients in a servo pie), I feel suitably educated to offer the best in choice and value for the hungry and cold late night employee.

From best to worst: SevLev’s ‘Munch’ range, especially the brief but delightful run of Lamb and Rosemary, but not discounting the Chicken and Mushroom pie for edibility. A suitable alternative title for the latter is ‘Paste with White Chunks’.

Special mention goes to the ‘Munch’ veggie roll for actually producing a mass produced baked good that tastes nice, is a decent alternative for the starved, half drunk vegetarian, and is pleasingly spiced with a healthy shot of pepper. Surprisingly edible.

Mrs. Macs rocks in a tough second for goopy richness and a delightfully rock hard crust that only improves with the addition of microwave cookery.

Four ‘n’ Twenty last for the audacity to claim that puree of testicles and organ meat compares to 24 whole roast blackbirds, beaks feathers ‘n’ all in taste.

In terms of health, I think we can all agree that wolfing down preserved meats in a commercial crust provides no nutrients of any kind, but keeps your protein levels high, staves off hunger, and adds a 50% stronger bouquet of awesome to your output.

Averaging at around $3-$5, depending on the particular clip joint you happen to be loitering nearby, shit is totally worth it.

What Shit’s Worth, Volume Two

I’m going to expand on an oft argued point of mine and decry the ever-present food that is the music festival pizza.

There are two types of festival pizza; the first being your standard McCain’s or similar frozen garbage heated up in a bain-marie. these aren’t worth commenting on, as you know well in advance what you’re gearing up for, and the results are always as expected.

No, my problem is a deep, deep river of discontent gushing towards the entity known as the gourmet pizza stand.

See the biggest beef I have with these is the whole argument of gourmet in the first place.

These vendors aren’t wise old Italian craftspeople, dedicated to perfecting the simple, though hard to perfect meal that is pizza. these are people who argue that a pizza with no toppings on it isn’t “Plain”, It’s now “Gourmet Margherita”. You know it’s gourmet because it has flecks of dried basil on it.

What pizzas there are that aren’t plain are a silent claim by the purveyors that they are fond of the Nullarbor plain, or the diets of the Spartans. If one treks across the surface of their pizza, after days spent without sustenance they might stumble across a stream of yoghurt drizzled across a sad looking piece of tandoori chicken.

I would be cool with this to the extent that all festival food tends to be overpriced, and not super worth it. I am also acutely aware of the huge amount vendors pay for overheads, site rental, and tithes to the festival management, but pizza? seriously? there’s got to be what, like a buck thirty-four spent on materials, and you’re charging me $10? It’s a slice.  A Slice. I can’t emphasize that enough. and when it isn’t a slice, when they generously dump the whole whacking great pizza on your super absorbent serviette that sticks to the base and provides much needed roughage, it’s the size of a slice.

No way.

Shit ain’t worth it.

(Tom – you forgot that they also have to factor in the nine months necessary to produce a first-born-child for appeasing Festival Management. That drives up costs, man.)

The Pizza Shop

My two kids were playing pizza shop this afternoon. First O was the customer and walked along with an exaggerated air of nonchalance.
“I’m looking for a pizza shop. I wonder where one is?”
C frantically waved his NAIDOC Week flag that the kids at his preschool were making this week and said ‘Here is a pizza shop, sir!”
O walked up and C said, ‘What sort of pizza would you like SIR??!!”
O asked for Pineapple and Vegetable Pizza, a boy after my own heart. Or tastebuds. Or something.

Then O asked if he could be the pizza shop person, and C had to be the customer.
C wanted a salami pizza. No vegetables. Iggle Piggle wanted a pizza too – or was going to be cooked in a pizza – I couldn’t work out what was happening.

Anyway. C did the whole elaborate nonchalance, but didn’t say anything, so O got impatient and said,
“CUT! You have to say, ‘I am looking for a pizza shop. Is there one around here?”
That scene took many, many takes.
While O alternately frantically waved the Aboriginal Flag (Or the pizza shop flag, depending on what dimension one was inhabiting) and told Cadar what to say.

O gave on up the game eventually, but C was still involved, and when Craig got home from work, C pulled out one of the most perfect specimens of Customer Service – he walked up and said in a perfect surly monotone,
“Go to my pizza shop and buy a pizza. You can sit on a stool and read a newspaper.”
‘No. I don’t have chocolate pizzas.”
So Craig asked for an anchovy pizza. Both C and O asked what were anchovies, and when Craig told them, C looked surprised and said, ‘But you wouldn’t like THAT would you?”
Yes, yes he would.

I hope that Iggle Piggle didn’t get cooked.

Carrot Soup

‘Nother post – just a short one (and yes, it’s another food one).
Today I had a friend over for lunch (Cue cannibal jokes hur hur) and as well as some delicious sausage rolls, (one onion, 2 carrots, and large stick of celery including leaves, 2 cloves of garlic in food processor, add a few grinds of black pepper and a sprinkle of dried savory, one ‘tube’ of sausage mince from supermarket, mix together with a drizzle of worcestershire sauce, roll in frozen puff pastry. VERY nice. I would add a few gratings of nutmeg next time)
I made spicy carrot soup.

I diced and sauteed one onion and two large cloves of garlic in a slosh of olive oil, and then added 5 sliced carrots and stirred them around a bit. I stirred in about a half teaspoon each of ground coriander and cumin, and a level teaspoon of turmeric (I don’t know! I don’t measure!), a few grinds of pepper and a few dashes of tabasco. I let the spices cook a bit and then I also added a maissel chicken stock cube and…some water. Some. Yes. I don’t know! To cover the carrots with a cm or so to spare!

I simmered it until the carrots were tender, and then added a slosh of cream and pureed it with a stick-mixer.

It was really, really good. ALSO, it was like a delicious and cheap mild curry simmer-sauce, in case anyone was interested in making a big batch, eating some as soup, and cooking some diced chicken thigh fillets and maybe, I don’t know, some vegetable or other with the rest of it. Or chickpeas. It would work with chickpeas. And a handful of chopped fresh coriander, maybe a few toasted flaked almonds?

Turned out well for a never-made-before-experiment with a bag of cheap carrots, anyway.

UPDATE –
Today I made another, much bigger batch of the soup/sauce/stuff – Later I diced two chicken thigh fillets and browned them in a slosh of olive oil, added the florets of about half a large head of broccoli, and a thinly sliced half-a-green-capsicum, stirred them around a bit and then added half the soup I made today. I cooked it a bit longer (With the lid on as vegetable purees spit like seething volcanoes) and served it with steamed rice. DELICIOUS! And both the kids enjoyed it too, even the broccoli-despising one.

Biscuity cookily goodness.

I used to work for a certain organisation that sold biscuits and muffins and coffee and nothing else. This organisation was founded by an American baking GENIUS who looks oddly like a life-size barbie doll.
Anyway while I worked there I bought the recipe book, and then a few years later when my husband and I started running a market coffee-and-cake stall I modified the recipes and sold them to my adoring fans.
SO if you are looking for a recipe that will make you swoon with delight while your arteries clang shut with a resounding SNAP, here you go.

The method is the same each time so I will write out one full recipe and then just the different proportions/ingredients for the others. Butter always refers to salted.

Orange and Chocolate biscuits.
In a mixing bowl or jug, preferably with a pouring lip, mix together (for these I whisk rather than bother sifting. If you have weevils – sift.)

2 and 1/2 cups of plain flour. (I use strong bread-making flour which absorbs more liquid so you may have to up your flour content, or the biscuits will spread out thinner and overcook.)

1/2 tspn salt

1 or 2 heaped tspns baking powder (2 for slightly more ‘cakey’ bikkies.)(And don’t for the love of mud get your baking POWDER mixed up with your baking SODA. I beg you.)

Grated zest of one orange. Eat the rest of orange.

In a large mixing bowl, preferably connected to a mixmaster, kenwood, or kitchen-aid, put

1 cup raw sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

3 or 4 tspns orange essence

250 gms softened butter.

Don’t have it too softened as it will ‘saturate’ the flour and the biscuits will spread during baking more, and be flatter and thinner. (Although you might like them that way.)

ALSO don’t have it too hard or when you turn the mixer on you will spray sugar across your entire kitchen with the resultant ickiness underfoot. Take my word for this.

Blend until it is a creamy/grainy paste (it ain’t going to go light and fluffy, whatever cooking writers say) and then add

2 eggs

and blend again until it is creamy.

Add the flour/orange zest mixture (See why you needed a pouring lip?) and

1 block chopped milk or dark chocolate. You may need to test out a few of the pieces of chocolate by eating them, in case the chocolate is poisonous. I use milk in this one.

Stir gently a few times before turning the mixer on again – or you will spray your entire kitchen with flour. Take my word for this.

Blend but do not overmix or yet again you will make biscuits that spread and are thin and flat.

Spread out a piece of cling wrap on your bench and spoon the dough onto it into a log shape. You might need to try some of the raw dough at this stage, in case it is poisonous. Roll the dough up in the cling wrap and freeze. When you want to bake any, slice a few 2cm-thick pieces off and bake on good-quality baking paper (I use Multix, Glad-bake or Coles) on a cookie sheet or flat shallow baking tray at 180C until the edges are browning and the centre is not wet-looking (damp, yes. Not wet) any more. Don’t overcook or they will be too crunchy. You may occasionally have to try a piece of frozen dough in case the freezer has turned it poisonous.

Enjoy! But don’t let anyone try any until you have checked them – for poison.

White chocolate Macadamia/pecan/walnut/whatever-nut-you-like

2 and 1/2 cups plain flour

1/2 tspn salt

1 or 2 heaped tspns baking powder

1 cup BROWN sugar

1/2 cup RAW sugar (opposite way to the orange biscuits.)

250 gms butter

3 or 4 tspns vanilla essence

2 eggs

1 block chopped white chocolate

1 cup toasted macadamias/pecans/walnuts/whatever.

Triple Chocolate biscuits.

2 and 1/2 cups flour

3/4 cup GOOD cocoa. (I use Woolworth’s Home Brand as it is processed in Germany and you can TELL. FAR superior to Cadbury’s.)

1/2 tspn salt

1 or 2 heaped tspns baking powder

1 cup raw sugar

3/4 cup brown sugar

250 gm butter

3 eggs

2 or 3 tspns vanilla essence.

1/2 block each chopped dark or milk and white chocolate. I use dark in this one.

Ginger and chocolate biscuits.

2 and 1/2 cups flour

1/2 tspn salt

1 or 2 heaped tspns baking powder

1/2 tspn each ground ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg

3/4 cup each brown and raw sugar

250 gm butter

2 or 3 tspns vanilla essence

2 eggs

125gms or so of roughly chopped crystallised ginger

1 block chopped dark chocolate

ENJOY!! I certainly do! (Occasionally – in moderation. I encourage responsible consumption of cookies.)