Thursday, 26 February 2009

Zucchini muffins... oops!

The zucchini plant is doing well, so it must be time for a zucchini muffin recipe. This one that I googled up sounds pretty good. Here's the ingredient list.

* 3 cups grated fresh zucchini
* 2/3 cup melted unsalted butter
* 1 1/3 cup sugar
* 2 eggs, beaten
* 2 teaspoons vanilla
* 2 teaspoons baking soda
* Pinch salt
* 3 cups all-purpose flour
* 2 teaspoons cinnamon
* 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
* 1 cup walnuts (optional)
* 1 cup raisins or dried cranberries (optional)

Look: 2/3 cup of butter, 1 & 1/3 cups sugar? Whoa! This is not your health food muffin. I decided to do it with only 1 cup of sugar, and different berries and nuts, but leave it otherwise untouched. Well, also self-raising flour, not that faffing about with baking soda. I used a cup of pecans, and a cup of dried raspberries that I found at Belco market. At $8 a punnet for the dried berries, and $4.50 for the pecans, this is also not your budget muffin.

By the way, for those new to US recipe style, 1 cup of butter is pretty close to a 250g packet. And they nearly always overdo the sugar. It took 4 medium zucchini to make the 3 cups. And although the original recipe says it makes more than 12, the author Elise must have small muffin pans. I got a nice even dozen.

So off I went on the routine. Mix dry stuff, mix wet stuff - including zucchini, it's very moist when grated. Combine, stuff into the silicone mini-brioche trays that I usually use for muffins. No, I have never made brioche. Then into the fan-forced oven at 175C for 20 minutes. Yes, my oven has been fixed! La la la... Ooh, look, Delicious magazine this month has a recipe for zucchini bread which is remarkably similar. How odd that they call it a savoury bread, when it has even more sugar than these muffins.

Wait, what? Oh Noes!!! This is the oops! I discovered the melted butter still sitting in the microwave. I accidentally baked them entirely without added fat. To my surprise, they are nevertheless quite edible, even when cold. The zucchini keeps them moist enough. I've added a thin smear of butter as I eat them, but it's still considerably less fat than in the recipe.

I find this especially amusing, because I was interviewed recently, and asked if I had any shameful kitchen secrets. No, really, I don't. I have grown up past apologising for my tastes. If I like pineapple on my pizza, or indeed anything unfashionable and daggy, that's my prerogative. De gustibus non est disputandum. And of course I sometimes make mistakes - don't we all? I'm not writing a fantasy blog here.

Now, what on earth am I going to do with 2/3 cup of melted & re-set butter??

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Fake Rojak

We've just had a cheat's dinner. Charmaine Solomon rendang paste, made into a curry with diced wallaby rump (from Eco meats) and some cauliflower. Rice, and salad, and a glass of beer. Good stuff and dead easy. The curry is trivial: mix tin of coconut milk into jar of paste, add meat and simmer until done. I added the cauliflower as part of my regular policy of increasing vegetable content.

The salad is inspired by the Indonesian rojak, but is missing the important traditional note of the shrimp paste. I'm not mad keen on it, and the bloke dislikes it. It's also a haphazard thing, with cashews where you might expect peanuts, and lime juice. I'd have added jicama or daikon if I had any, but I didn't. It worked very nicely, though. The idea is that it's a fresh, contrasting accompaniment to a rich curry: cold and hot; sweet, salt and sour.

Recipe: Fake Rojak
1 small tin pineapple chunks, drained
1 large lebanese cucumber
1 medium wedge rockmelon
2 tablespoons chopped salted cashews
1 teaspoon tamarind paste
1 teaspoon chilli paste
1 teaspoon finely grated palm sugar
small pinch of salt
juice of half a lime

Peel and chop the lebanese cucumber in small dice, a bit smaller than the pineapple chunks. Chop the rockmelon the same. Mix the fruit and cucumber together.

Mix the tamarind, chilli, salt and palm sugar together. Thin with the lime juice. Pour dressing over the salad and mix well. Let stand for half an hour. Add chopped nuts just before serving.

Notes: Seed the cucumber if you wish, though with lebanese or telegraph cukes the seeds are soft and I don't bother. If you like shimp paste, add it - or some powdered dried shrimp. You might then need less salt - it's a matter of taste. Other fruits can be used - star fruit, mango or even fresh pineapple instead of tinned :)

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Classic Chicken Cacciatore

Yay! Cooking again. I'm planning reheatable things, because of the constant business of evening rehearsals and events. Last week was a total no-show on the cooking, except for some roasting of tomatoes, another kilo of rhubarb from the garden, and a few old beetroots.

And they weren't even my beetroots - B1 gave them to me when she went off to Adelaide for a week. They did come in handy: sliced up and sprinkled with white balsamic, they made an excellent salad with some mixed leaves (mostly spinach), brown "kumatoes", and Dutch semi-hard goats cheese. Toss over an extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice dressing, serve with a bit of bread and butter and it's a good lunch. Is that cooking? Mmmm, I guess it wasn't a total non-event, then.

I was out to dinner last night, and the conversation turned to cooking skills, and the ability to look in a fridge and produce a meal from whatever's there. So this morning I felt obliged to live up to my words, and use some things up. Zucchini from the garden (and two from B1's, damn her), the roasted tomatoes, some olives, a cup or so of flat pink champagne, a few bits of salad... It sort of said "Italian" to me, and I started thinking chicken cacciatore.

With that in mind, I toddled off to market with B1, only to find that preparation for the show has shoved them off site and without electricity. No coffee! The horror! I grabbed a couple of necessities - new season apples, blackberries, tomatoes - and then headed for Belco. Beppe's coffee and berry pancakes restored my sanity, and I was able to buy all the things I thought I needed: mushrooms, fresh basil, and chicken. I had a bit of fun at the Market Gourmet chicken shop watching Dave helpfully joint a couple of chooks for me, in between training a new boy in important life lessons such as "Never get in the way of a man with a knife".

When I got home, I turned to the great Italian classic cookbook, Il Cucchiaio d'Argento, in a quest for authenticity. I was quite surprised to read the recipe. It was not what I thought it would be...

Recipe: Pollo Alla Cacciatora
1 chicken, jointed
25g butter
3 tblsp olive oil
1 onion
6 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 celery stick, chopped
150ml water
1 flat leaf parsely sprig, chopped
salt & pepper

Brown chicken and onion in the oil and butter, stirring frequently.
Add tomato, carrot, celery and water.
Simmer 45 minutes, or until chicken is tender.
Add parsley, salt and pepper to taste before serving.

Notes: Well, how simple is that? Note the complete absence of olives, mushrooms, capsicum, zucchini, stock, wine, basil, oregano, bayleaves and even garlic! The book does say that this is the simplest version, and in some regions white wine or stock may be used, or sliced mushrooms added. But 90% of the recipes you find on the web include a lot more ingredients and a lot more fuss.

My version so far this time is quite simple. I've used a lot less fat, and the legs and thighs of the two chickens. I also used the roast tomatoes (not seeded, I can never be bothered with that) and 200g sliced flat mushrooms. The flat champagne went in instead of water, and I've added a couple of bayleaves. I have not used carrot or celery. I don't like carrots in this, and the bloke avoids celery if it's not very well disguised. I may add some fresh basil at the end, just because I have it and it is delicious. Maybe some olives, too. Authenticity, schmauthenticity.

The rest of the chickens is being used separately. I've frozen the breasts for later use in stirfries or grills, and popped the frames in a stockpot with the rest of the champers, plus water, bayleaves, an onion and a carrot to make stock. Also on the stove is a recipe-less ratatouille: onion, zucchini, mushroom, eggplant, tomato, bayleaf. I intend to add fresh basil later. I've left out the usual garlic, because I suspect that some antibiotics are giving me a heightened allium sensitivity. Bugger.

I also have some wallaby rump defrosting, which I intend to curry extremely simply by using a Charmaine Solomon rendang paste that took my fancy in the Food Lovers shop. Three things simmering away at once, and another started, that feels better!

Friday, 20 February 2009

Save The Net!

If you haven't already signed the GetUp! petition, well, what are you waiting for? You can put this on your own blog, too. Go here to find out how. I would have put it as a widget in the margin, but it's too big.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Goulburn Blues

Every February, the Australian Blues Music Festival is held in Goulburn. The Bloke and I have been going for several years now, first staying in a caravan park on the edge of town, and more recently at a motel in the centre of town. There are dozens of musical acts, from all over Australia, and they perform in the various clubs and pubs around town. There's workshops and jam sessions, and a market day in Belmore Park, and a shop window decorating competition. Most places do some sort of blue theme - this bakery's blue cup cake faces cracked me up.

The festival has downsized somewhat in the last couple of years. There used to be a big tent out the back of the Tattersalls hotel, but that stopped with a change of management. But it's still a terrific festival - and it really is an Australian Blues festival. All Australian acts, and all bluesy. No international acts, no pop, no hiphop - unlike some others I could name...

So what do you eat? Goulburn itself isn't exactly a foodie destination. The surrounding countryside is our own local region and has much good stuff, but wanting to get to various acts leaves you with very little time for lunch and dinner breaks. You're not about to drive off to a Lake George winery for lunch. The Saturday market tends to just knickknacks, jewelry and clothes, with no food. Sometimes a local vegetable and honey seller is there, and a Rotary Club does a sausage sizzle. But still, there's some quite decent stuff around.

We had dinner on Friday night at the Suwannee (how I love ya, how I love ya), Thai restaurant. It's pretty good food, and has quick service: we were in and out in under an hour. The chicken satay sticks were nicely moist with a good peanut sauce; the massaman beef curry was a bit too sweet for me, and the potato and sweet potato had been microwaved separately rather than cooked in it. But the beef chunks were large and tender and well-flavoured. The "hot" chilli basil stirfry prawns were probably frozen rather than fresh, but good nevertheless. They came with plenty of crisp veggies in the stirfry, though only a mild chilli.

I had breakfast on both Saturday and Sunday mornings at Cafe Book. This is new - last year there was some other cafe there, with dreadful slow service and very ordinary food. Cafe Book is a huge improvement: it's light and bright, with country style pale lime-wash painted tables down the centre. Dark wood and banquette tables line one wall, and bookshelves line the other. The books are second hand, for sale, and organised eclectically by author. There's no genre separation: China Mieville, Herman Melville, Val McDermid and Henry Miller all jostle in the Ms.

The menu is quite simple - variations on bacon and eggs and toast for breakfast; sandwiches, burgers, quiche, roast meat rolls and sausage in a bun for lunch. The coffee ($3.20) is not bad, as long as you remember that you're in a country town and ask for double shots. My bacon and eggs ($9.90) was served piping hot, with a baby spinach garnish, and the white toast served on the side so it doesn't get soggy. The eggs are free range, the bacon is short rindless rashers. On Sunday I had raisin toast and fruit salad, which was similarly sound without being flashy. Thick slices of toast, nice and hot, with butter. The fruit was varied and fresh - the apple was just starting to brown a little; they should learn the lemon juice trick. Good honest grub, friendly and competent service, and books, too! I'll be back. Beats waiting an hour for your coffee at the Paragon.

We also ate at the Astor, taking our food from the service counter to the upstairs bar where the music was playing. The electronic pager discs came in handy. The Astor had a makeover several years back. They seem to be aiming for upmarket pub grub, with some fancy presentations and interesting combinations. The menu reads well, but the execution is a bit patchy. I wouldn't choose to eat there purely on its merits, but it's not a problem if there's some act on that you want to see. Unlike the Bowling Club, which is very dire.

At the Astor, I had a chicken salad ($12.90) for lunch, which came with a mound of thin sweet potato crisps on top, and a generous sprinkle of sugar crusted kahlua pecans. A very nice combo in concept, and the chicken was nicely warm and moist, but the greens were a tad on the flabby side. The bloke had some bacon and cheese potato skins ($6.90) which he found over-greasy. They came in an edible bowl made of flat bread (I think) - a bit poncy and not so nice. We didn't eat the bowl and neither did a couple of other people around the room. Their pizzas ($13.50) were much more successful, I thought. The Astor kitchen has a wood fired oven, and the pizzas come out with a nice crust. The local cheddar mixed in the cheese topping gives them a bit of difference, the toppings are plentiful, and the tomato sauce has a strong oregano note that I enjoyed.

Down the Coast

I spent that recent hot weekend down the coast, with my mates B1 and B2, and it was just lovely. First stop was Braidwood, for lunch at Cafe Albion. This has changed hands in the last year, and the new management has extended into the former antique shop next door. It's in a simple and clean country style - a slow combustion fire, wooden furniture, open to the air in the heat.

The menu has been fluffed up a bit, but it's still a cafe. Coffee and cake, sandwiches, light meals. I'm impressed - the coffee ($2.80) was good; my salad was pretty good; B2's tomato bruschetta ($9) was tasty with a noticably good olive oil. I had a smoked trout salad with mixed leaves and kipfler potatoes, beetroot and asparagus - the veggies were warm, the horseradish dressing was mild but good. The menu concentrates on local produce, with a few exceptions like Fremantle sardines. They have a license now, and the wine list is also mostly local. Lots of their cakes are gluten-free, too. Nice place - I recommend it without hesitation.

After lunch we grabbed some sourdough from the Braidwood bakery, and headed on down the mountain. B1 has a coast house at Guerilla Bay, not a fancy one but a pair of little shacks set in among the trees. The shade and the sea breeze keeps it pleasantly cool - even when in town it was sweltering up round the 40 degree mark. We swam, we ate random snacky meals of fancy cheese and fruit from the fridge, we threw fruit and bread scraps at the foraging possums, we lazed around and read books, we shopped at Mogo.

Mogo has quite a few places to shop, but mostly we went to the Trading Post and Suzanne's. The Trading Post is clothes, jewelry and knickknacks all in the general hippy eastern vein. I bought a couple of cheesecloth shirts and two rayon ones, and some shell earrings. And in a surge of fellow-feeling, the three of us now have matching beach cover-up shirts. It's like a club. I feel so teenaged!

We ate lunch at Suzanne's, which is now known in the local pamphlet guides as the "Blue Fox Cafe". This will not help you if you're looking for it: the only external sign says "Suzanne's". The cafe is on the left side of the entry, the bakery and organic grocer on the right. The bakery is deservedly well known: Suzanne bakes the most amazing sourdough breads. B2 and I shared a loaf of fruitbread to take home. It's $10.50, which sounds a lot, but it is a large heavy loaf. It's jam packed full of figs and dates and apricots, and baked with a layer of nuts on the base, and amazingly good.

I was hoping to come home with a loaf of 10-grain sourdough, too, but they were closed when we dropped in. We had placed an order for pickup on Sunday, and they said they'd be open to 5pm, but they were firmly closed when we got there just before 4pm. Damn!

I had sampled the 10-grain sourdough with my lunch on our Mogo shopping day. The Blue Fox does a simple menu of cakes, sandwiches ($8-14) and salad bowls ($12-18). They are very good. The salad bowl is the larger meal: it's accompanied by two slices of toasted 10-grain sourdough, as well as some home made potato salad. I had a tuna one, with a balsamic dressing, and some olives and semi-dried tomatoes. Very delicious - a good simple lunch. The coffee is organic and free trade, and not too bad. My macchiato was a little too bitter for perfection, but with plenty of flavour.

Our final meal was at the Star Deli in Bateman's Bay. This is a very reliable standard large cafe-restaurant, which is also open longer hours than most. It's light and airy, and looks out over the river. They do fish & chips, pizza, sandwiches and regular meals; they have a kids menu, and a standard type wine and beer list. The toilets are updstairs, I'm not sure if there's any disabled access.

This was our last meal before coming home, a very late lunch after clean-up. We had a mixed seafood platter to start, and two different veggie pizzas between the three of us. The platter was very good: 3 large oysters, quite a few large cold prawns, some dips, fetta and olives. The pizzas were pretty good, too - though the chef there has a big thing for roasted garlic. Quite a few huge whole cloves of it on both pizzas, not just a thin smear in the sauce. I thought it was a bit much, and only ate about half of mine. They were easy to pick off, being so large.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Err, hi

You'd think what with being unemployed and all that I'd have lots of time to cook and blog. And yet...

I've been down the coast for a few days, and then off to Goulburn for the Blues Festival. And then there's other stuff. February sees my musical commitments starting up again, and then there's seeing the builder and the vet and going to the gym and the Fringe festival and all that.

I'm not at home one single night this week. Tonight it's choir practice, tomorrow a movie, then a dinner out for a review, and a folk festival practice. I do have a couple of posts planned, on food at the coast and Goulburn, so hopefully this week won't be so blank.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Gadgets! I has them!

I'm typing in from my laptop, which is sitting on the new "lapinator" pad which I am loving already. A batch of brownies is baking away, but sadly the package did not arrive in time for me to try out the new measuring cup and digital scale-spoon.

The skull & crossbones icecubes are in the freezer. And I'm wondering what to make from the Hungry Scientist Handbook: should it be the glow-in-the-dark lollipops? The edible origami? Dry-ice martinis?

Plus also I can has a sonic screwdriver. Wheee!!!

Friday, 6 February 2009

Internet Salmagundi XII

This is a Salmagundi Special Edition: stupid things that people do.

Perhaps it's a personal failing in me, but I do tend to find these things hilarious. (Ov corse i r sew mutch smrter.)

For generic FAIL, the icanhascheezburger people have got failblog.

And while not speaking a second language well isn't particularly stupid, the results can be very funny. There is the classic Engrish, for funny English language mistakes. And the cheezburgerz now have their own variant, Engrishfunny. And for some balance, there is also Hanzismatter for funny English speaker mistakes with Chinese and Japanese - especially on tattoos.

The Darwin Awards have been around for a while. It's about people removing themselves from the gene pool in especially stupid manners. Not always in the best of taste. Oh no.

Doctors and nurses are also not known for their good taste in humour. Student Doctor Network has this jaw-dropping Things I learned from my patients thread. And allnurses has a similar discussion.

Computer people have their own classics - we probably all know the cup-holder and "too stupid to own a computer" stories. There's a good collection at Rinkworks, and for some industry reporting, the daily WTF is often good.

Retail sales like to point out that the customer is NOT always right.

I once saw a lengthy thread about professional cooking mistakes at some chef site, but I can't remember where. I found another one at, though. And I know I've mentioned cakewrecks before, but it's worth a reminder.

Got any favourites of your own?

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

L is for Lyneham

I'm fond of Lyneham. When I was a student, my first group house was near the Lyneham shops. None of us had a car, so I did all the shopping on foot. I still visit regularly - it's close to a friend's house, quite handy to stop off to pick up some bread or meat for the BBQ. And I've often been to Tilleys, and more recently, The Front.

We have, for your foodie pleasure, an IGA with a nice range of European deli and bakery items. Their fruit & veg is OK but not brilliant - handy for top ups if you miss the markets. There's a Brumby's bakery, a pizza & takeaway joint, the Lyneham Pide Hut and the Mee Sing Chinese. The Pide Hut is, meh, not so great but OK. They do good zucchini balls. But given the option, I'd always prefer Dickson TurkOz. I've never tried Mee Sing, but I hear it's not bad at all.

Much more notable is the Lyneham Meat Centre, the home of Country Pride sausages (also available in many IGAs). This excellent local butcher sells a good range of award-winning sausages, all low in fat and most gluten-free (I asked). They actually bought the Country Pride recipes from the original owner, who has long since retired. There used to be a rumour going around that it wasn't legal to call these products sausages, because they contained too much meat, not enough fat and filler. My favourite is the hot chilli beef - they have a serious kick to them. Today I bought some of those, and some lamb and rosemary, and spicy Italian pork - all for the freezer, since I'm heading off to the coast tomorrow. They're all good, except I think the lemon chicken one is a bit weird. Most of them are $11 per kg.

Also notable is the Front, a cafe-gallery with not much in the way of food, but quite decent coffee. It's host to all sorts of music, performance art, exhibitions, and other artistic happenings. This is absolutely the hippest cafe in Canberra.

And then there's Tilleys. Oh, Tilleys, how you have fallen! Perhaps my rose-tinted nostalgia glasses are on, but I remember when it was new. It was just a single shop-front, and controversial because of their "no unaccompanied men" policy and their lesbian Friday nights. It was the hippest cafe in Canberra, no question. I heard my first live blues music there - Madam and the Ragtag Jazz Band. I danced the night away to DJs playing Do-Re-Mi and the Eurythmics.

I used to sit there in the afternoon, nursing a coffee with a cheap second hand paperback, while my laundry ran in the laundromat two shops down. And they had a fabulous cheese and fruit plate which fed all three of us housemates lunch for $6. (Yes, yes, but then again, the rent was only $60 a week for the whole house and our weekly food kitty was $20.)

Anyway, Tilleys grew and grew, and absorbed the neighbouring shops and restaurants in a slow but relentless crawl. Much like All Bar Nun, in O'Connor. The Thai restaurant, the sausage shop, the post office - all gone. The laundromat now houses a post office agency, and the sausages can be bought from the butcher, and the excellent little second hand bookshop is still there, so it's not a total loss.

When we came back to Canberra in 2002, Tilley's had grown huge and rather staid. The size of the place made it good for large group brunches, or random evening post-choir meals. There's lots of outdoor seating, and brunch until 3pm. Also, the music acts drew us in, so I've been there quite a few times.

They had some really good music acts, on a regular schedule. Eric Burdon was perhaps the best I went to. It's an excellent cabaret venue, all dark wood and red interiors, with a nice little stage. And all the edges are lined with booths of varying sizes, fitted with comfortable cushions. But a couple of years back, unfortunately for us, they cut back a lot on the music.

In recent experience, the food has been up and down. I've had good, bad and mediocre meals there in the last five years. Today was bad. I stopped in for lunch, and had a macchiato that was mostly just bitter. And a Cajun chicken salad ($17), which was disturbing. The fridge-cold slices of chicken breast seemed a little dry and overcooked, but the mild spice was quite pleasant and the lime-yoghurt dressing rather good. So far, OK. But the salad was highly dodgy. The cherry tomatoes were a little too squishy for me, and the mesclun included not just lettuce that was slightly brown around the edges; not just yellowing baby spinach leaves; but even some that were actually slimy. Oh dear. I ate the chicken and some cucumber and onion, because I was hungry, but I left most of the salad behind.

There is currently an ad on the door for a new cook, so perhaps it will turn around again.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

More baking: carrots and onions

I've been slowly cleaning out the fridge and discovering things that need using up. Some very nice young carrots from the EPIC market had gone all limp and floppy. I also had some baby leeks and spring onions (the kind with the bulb) that were looking the worse for wear. And a couple of old tomatoes and half a punnet of large cherry tomatoes. These are easy things to deal with.

If you're a regular reader, you know that I roast tomatoes all the time. Cherry tomatoes work too. Since I'm basically reducing them to sauce, it doesn't matter that they take less time than the larger ones. Into the slow oven for an hour or so to caramelise a bit, peel when cool, and squish into a container for later use in a pasta or pizza sauce.

Floppy carrots will come good with iced water. You peel them and cut off the tops, and stick them in a container of cold water. Then it's into the fridge for an hour, or up to several days, even. They came so good that I ate several of them raw as a nice crunchy side to my sandwich lunch the other day. But I also saw a carrot muffin recipe in one of those cheapie supermarket food magazines and I felt inspired. I didn't have quite the required set of ingredients, so I improvised a bit. See below for the recipe.

As for the onions, well, as long as they're not too slimy you can just keep stripping off outer layers until you get to a nice core. I did this and chopped the resulting onion and leek mix fine. I fried them gently in a little mixed olive & canola oil until soft and a bit browned. Then I mixed them in to a beer bread mix, along with a teaspoon of caraway seeds and half a cup of coarsely grated strong cheddar. The beer was Cascade this time. We'll have it for dinner tonight, with some of that Carolina pork from the freezer, and a coleslaw.

I confess that I had to throw out some green beans and plums. They were definitely off. And some bread went moldy. In this weather, it really helps to keep it in the fridge. Mea culpa.

Recipe: Carrot and Honey Muffins
1 cup white SR flour
1 cup wholemeal SR flour
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
2 cups grated carrot
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup sunflower oil
1/2 cup plain yoghurt (low fat Greek)
2 eggs
3/4 cup milk

Mix all dry ingredients thoroughly.
Mix all wet ingredients well.
Add wet mixture to dry mixture, stir gently to just combine.
Bake in muffin pans for 20 minutes at 200C, or until a skewer comes out clean.

Notes: Makes 6 large or 12 small.
Tip: honey is easier to measure if you microwave it for 20 seconds to runny. Using an oiled spoon helps, too.

These muffins came out surprisingly well. At first I thought I'd totally screwed up by burning them, and I'm still dubious about whether my oven is behaving itself on the non-fan setting. (Fan setting is still broken.) I made 6 large ones, baked them for 25 minutes before testing, and by then they were all a bit burned on the bottom and a couple a tad burned on top. (Oven is hotter at front than back.)

But it wasn't too bad - cut off the bottom and trim any burned bits, and they are good to go. They're even nicely moist; perhaps that's the yoghurt. They are good with cream cheese - it's almost like having carrot cake for breakfast.

Oh, and here's a bonus. My lunch, a tuna pasta salad. Using up the last of several salad veggies - and now I must go to the shop to restock.

Monday, 2 February 2009

About that Spag Bog

I like to use the term "Spag Bog", because I doubt very much that any self-respecting citizen of Bologna would recognise my variant. Or rather, variants. I am not sure if I've ever made the same spag bog twice. What a "spag bog" is, is a tomato and minced meat pasta sauce, with Italian herbs. All other facets may vary. It's not easy to go wrong. I've never made an inedible one, except when I forgot about one and burned it.

The one I made last week featured kangaroo, and three different colours of capsicum. I also had a couple of little zucchini from the garden. They were lovely, much crisper than the usual ones. Bayleaves also come from the garden.

Here's my "recipe". Such as it is. Which it isn't.

Recipe: Generic Spag Bog Sauce
* Minced meat {lean beef, kangaroo, pork & veal, turkey, chopped up leftover roast beef etc}
* Baconish meat (optional) {bacon, prosciutto, ham etc}
* Alliums {garlic, onion, shallot, spring onion etc}
* Oil {olive, bacon fat, sunflower etc}
* Veggies to be cooked soft {mushrooms, eggplant, zucchini, carrot, celery etc}
* Tomatoes {fresh, tinned, roasted, paste, puree, sugo etc}
* Herbs {oregano, basil, bayleaves etc}
* Spices {pepper, chilli etc}
* Liquids {stock, wine, brandy, water, tomato juice etc}
* Other flavour agents (optional) {salt, sugar, balsamic vinegar}
* Veggies to be cooked crispish (optional) {capsicum, zucchini etc}

Fry up the alliums in the oil.
Add any of the soft-cook vegetables that need browning.
Add the meat (and optional bacon) and keep stirring until browned.
Add tomatoes, liquids, herbs, spices.
Simmer for at least an hour, stirring occasionally.
Taste and adjust flavours if need be.
Add in the last minute veggies for crispness while the pasta boils.

The proportions are left entirely to your own sense of culinary aesthetics. If you like it heavy on meat and light on veggies, or vice versa, go for it. I have done this with as little as 250g meat for 8 servings. Grated eggplant and finely chopped mushrooms do quite a good meat masquerade, if you want a vegetarian version. A half teaspoon of brown sugar helps if your tomatoes are too insipid - which fresh non-premium supermarket ones can be.

PS: Don't forget about the wonderful handmade market coming up at the Albert Hall next weekend. I'll be at the coast, so I'll have to miss it. Dang.

PPS: Look at me posting on a Monday morning. This unemployment thing is looking good so far.