We bought a box of second grade ox heart tomatoes from the markets for $20. Second grade due to sheer ugliness. There’s something quite nice about tomatoes that refuse to grow to supermarket specifications!
On our return home we sliced up some tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers, semi dry black olives and feta cheese for a Turkish breakfast much like I had most days in Istanbul (minus the strange variations my hotel had each day such as the potato wedges and slow cooked capsicum in the photo below!)
What a bad blogger I have been this year. I had so many thoughts and ideas and photos to blog but somehow the will to follow through seems to have abandoned me this year. I hope to make amends…and will start with sharing some photos and stories from a recent (mostly work) trip.
Starting at the end of my trip here….I managed to squeeze in a ridiculously brief visit to Paris on my way home. At the airport, tired and sick of lugging bags around I mentally berated myself for having such a silly idea to come to another country and end up being there for less than 48 hours. But then I got to Paris. And discovered that I love, love Paris in Autumn!
I managed a visit to the wonderful Musee d’Orsay. Looking at all that amazing art was soothed and calmed my tired mind and heart. A truly amazing collection. Last year when we were in Paris I missed the visit to the Centre Pompidou and the Musee d’Orsay, both of which the kids and Andrew loved. I asked them to help me choose which one to visit since I could not fit both in. The boys voted for the Pompidou and Tara voted for the Musee d’Orsay. Andrew talked about it with some architects at work who had all spent lots of time in Paris. Interestingly they all voted for the Pompidou too, but said their 10-12 year old daughters loved the d’Orsay. Something to explore in that split I think.
And ofcourse I had to fit in as many baguettes with fantastic French butter and cheese as I could. And I have to report that my food quest for this year in relation to making proper French baguettes has not been a success…yet. Far from it. Just look and marvel at this crumb…
Ofcourse there were cakes, and galettes and other sensational food too. It was Paris afterall, and I do love to eat!
I haven’t taken a great photo here but this was a really nice curry. I wanted a red curry but not the usual creamy, sweetish red curry. I wanted itto have a hint of bitterness mixed with a hint of heat. Bitterness from little Thai eggplants, snake beans and grachai (Thai ginger). Sweetness from pumpkin. Creaminess from delicate silken tofu. Yum yum! Part of my motivation was to keep this low fat and healthy, hence the low amount of coconut cream and use of tofu.
My Thai Red Curry
1 tsp corriander seeds
2 tsp Thai shrimp paste
1 tbs sliced galangal
1 tbs sliced lemon grass
2 tsp chopped grachai
1 red shallot
1 tsp peppercorns
2 tsp chilli powder
3 kaffir lime leaves
2 tbs fish sauce
1 tsp palm sugar
4 tbs coconut cream
250gm packet silken tofu
Thai apple eggplants
1 bunch snake beans
1 cup butternut pumpkin
1 carrot cut into sticks
Handful of snow peas
Handful of mushrooms
Roast the coriander seeds and shrimp paste in a pan for a few minutes. Grind with the rest of the curry paste ingredients into a fine paste.
Put two tablespoon of coconut cream into a pan and cook until it splits. Add the paste and finely shredded lime leaves and fry well. Add a little water a few times to prevent it from burning. Cook for approx 10 minutes. Add fish sauce and sugar. Add remaining coconut cream and some water until it is a thick curry consistency. Add the pumpkin and carrots and cook for ten minutes. Add the eggplant and cook until tender. Now add the remaining vegetables and stir. Cut the tofu into large cubes while still in the container. Carefully place them on top of the veggies. Cover the pot and cook on slow for 10-15 minutes. The tofu should steam and cook while sitting on top of the curry – keeping its flavours clean and separate from the curry.
I ate this without rice and loved the contrast of the bland delicate tofu with the spicy and slightly bitter curry. Crunchy snake beans against creamy pumpkin and eggplant.
Too much sanity may be madness. And maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be.”
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote
I have decided that this year I am going to get really, really good at making sourdough bread. Most of the time I make mighty fine bread, much loved, mostly eaten. Occasionally the dog and the chooks have to step in and eat the duds, but that happens less often these days. I started on my sourdough journey a few years ago thanks to Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. She gave me a jar of starter, her bread recipes and a dvd showing me the technique. I have had such fun with it over the years. I have passed on jars of starter to many friends and it has traveled to many new cities and homes. I have even had little sourdough bread making demonstrations in my kitchen.
And yet, and yet….I want to get better at it. I want to make perfect pillowy, bouncy dough. I know it will make me happy to make and shape perfect dough. (Do you get an incredible urge to ‘touch’ when you see someone working with superb looking dough? Do you suffer from dough-envy like me?) I want to make baguettes like the ones I ate in Paris. And loaves of bread that taste better than anything I have eaten yet. I know I can get better crumb, better flavour, better crust.
Why the quote from Don Quixote? Apart from being a very good quote anyway, I thought of Don Quixote as I set off on this mad quest of mine. It may be impossible to make a perfect Parisian baguette in my home kitchen, or strive for a perfect loaf that is more perfect than anything I have yet tasted. But most of all it is quite mad because I am still gluten intolerant and will certainly ‘suffer’ for my quest along the way. But oh such fun I will have!
I have ordered some new bread making books, and some French couche linen….and I can’t wait until they arrive!
I hope you are surviving the extreme hot weather this week – the hottest on record for Australia apparently. Friends living or holidaying on the other side of the world keep sending photos of snow, making me wish for some of that icy cold.
Eating this lovely sheep milk yogurt, drizzled with some of our honey and topped with a gorgeously ripe peach and blueberries is how I attempt to stay cool. Decadently healthy and it does very nicely for afternoon tea when I am trying to avoid the vanilla cupcakes with chocolate glaze Tara is baking (freshly baked cakes, still warm from the oven, would be one of my biggest weaknesses. Many a good intention has come undone when faced with such temptation!)
Not a cake for a ‘date’ but a cake with dates! I needed something for afternoon tea for my kids. Swimming lessons after school so they needed something for an energy boost. Not enough time to make anything complicated and the usual challenge of no chocolate since Sam does not like it, no nuts since Tara’s friend is highly allergic and she won’t take anything with nuts to school so she does not harm her friend. What to make in a hurry that they will both like? Well, we all love sticky date pudding so I used that as my starting point. More cake-like and healthier. It turned out so well that I will be making it again. As soon as Tara took a bite she asked if I remembered what I put in it and told me to write it down straight away. So here I am, writing it on my phone while the kids have their swimming lessons.
1/2 cup water
150gm unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2tbs golden syrup
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 cup milk
1.5 cups plain flour
Cook the dates in the water until they are soft and jammy. You may need to add more water. Add the butter and allow it to melt. Take it off the heat. Ad the baking soda and stir well until the mixture gets a little frothy. Add in the eggs and sugar and mix well. Add the milk and flour and ate until just combined. Pour into a baking tin lined with baking paper. Bake at 180C for 20-30 minutes.
Update: I have made this cake many times since – it is a great standby cake, super simple to make and much loved by all who try it. Easy to throw together in five minutes, with butter straight from the fridge (no softening of butter required – why does that drive me nuts?!). It is relatively healthy too since it is not laden with sugar and butter. My kids take big chunks of it to school.
I even made it as a bit slab cake for a kids music camp and topped it with icing to make it fancier. I used brown sugar (not recommended – too ‘gritty’) and golden syrup in the icing while trying to hint at the taste of the caramel sauce that goes with sticky date pudding. I had to whip it for a very long time to overcome the brown sugar grittiness, and next time I would melt it with the butter before adding it in. It did taste great though and was very popular with the kids.