Thursday, 31 December 2015

New Year's Resolutions

New Year’s Resolutions

I know, I know. New Year’s resolutions are those flighty, lofty, well meaning, seldom kept, do good things that we saaaaay we’re going to follow through with… but often don’t.  Most of the time they are very grand goals, but we lack the strict motivation to follow them through. Plus we don’t seem to beat ourselves up about not keeping them, so there is no sting in the tail. 

So… here are a few goals that I am going to set myself, that I just might be able to follow through with. I’m going to keep them simple… attainable… and fun. So in no particular order, (drum roll please) they are:

Washing the dishes before going to bed each night. 
I know this sounds simple, but who hasn’t had a big day/night of cooking up a storm and thought, ‘pfffft… I’ll do the dishes tomorrow’. Well no more for me. I might just get my zen on from doing this, and who knows, I might sleep better? Case in point. I started this tonight, on New Year’s Eve. Go me.

Efficient travels in the house.
What do I mean by this? When moving from room to room in the house, I plan to take something with me that belongs in another room. Rather than all those solo trips picking up bits and pieces to store them elsewhere, I’ll be more efficient. Heading downstairs? Take some garbage with me to put out. Things like that.

Make my lunch more often.
Too often I rush out of the house each day heading to work and think ‘I haven’t got time to make a nice lunch’ so I end up buying something. I know it is nice to frequent local, often family run cafe businesses, but it is costing me a small fortune. I will though treat myself to a bought coffee every now and then, but that’s about it. Maybe a muffin too, but that’s the limit.

Take more photos…. with purpose.
I take a bunch of photos now. You may have seen them plastered on Facebook and Twitter, but I vow to think about photos more rather than just snap away. I will slow down a bit, take it all in, compose, think, plan… and then snap. I know I will have the voice of my photography teacher Irene in my head saying wise things like “see the light”, and “bump up your ISO”. Thank you Irene.

Write more.
I don’t write as often as I would like. Work and life seem to get in the way. So does internet time, television time, pat the cat time and dawdle time.  Time to create writing time.

Be creative.
This year, I vow to be more creative. Put my energies into fun things. Use my noodle. Be more kid like. Enjoy colours. Enjoy life. Create.


So reader, what are your New Year’s resolutions for 2016? Have you made any? Do you think you will see them through? 



Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Fadden Pines - A nod to Thomas Charles Weston


A recent walk around Fadden Pines reminded me of just how beautiful this park is, and how lucky we are that it still remains in suburban Canberra. But it got me thinking, just when, how and why did this park come into being? 


The 41 hectare park was begun in 1953, as part of the afforestation policy of Canberra which was first decreed by Thomas Charles Weston nearly 40 years earlier. Charles, a trained horticulturalist from England, worked as the officer-in-charge of afforestation in Canberra from 1913 until he retired in 1926. He had a very meticulous and planned approach for the horticultural beginnings of the budding young city of Canberra. 


His four goals for Canberra were:
1. To establish a first class nursery (he accomplished this, founding the Yarralumla Nursery in 1914);
2. To raise stocks of plants likely to prove suitable;
3. Reserve all local hilltops and improve their tree cover; and
4. Seek out and procure useful seeds (the seed library he created at the Yarralumla Nursery is unrivalled).


Charles was also involved in the first plantation of Mount Stromlo, where nearly 1.2 million trees were planted between 1921 and 1924.

Charles' legacy lives in other parts of Canberra, namely Weston Park, which was named after him in 1963. The new primary school to open in Molonglo will be named the Charles Weston School.

For further fascinating reading about Charles, please have a look at these two links.
A thesis written in 1999 by John Edmund Gray about Charles’ contributions to the landscape foundations of Canberra;
http://www.canberra.edu.au/researchrepository/file/0de2a32b-ef6d-b65c-765e-f3baa41407f5/1/full_text.pdf

and


A detailed history of the Yarralumla Nursery and the in-depth planning that went into the first government initiated plantings across Canberra. This report was compiled by Lenore Coltheart in 2011;

References



Sunday, 29 November 2015

Photo trip to the Zoo

For a while now I have toyed with the idea of enrolling in a photography course. I have moved beyond the 'pre programmed' settings on my digital SLR Canon and into the realms of shutter priority mode, and aperture priority mode, but I was somewhat hesitant to move to the full manual mode. It seemed so complicated! How fast should the shutter be? What is the best aperture? and How the heck does ISO come into the picture (so to speak). 

Well I did it. I took the plunge. I enrolled in an 8 week photography course with the Canberra School of Photography, run by Irene Lorbergs.  The location of this course is very handy, as the classroom is based in Phillip, just a stones throw away from my work place. Plus the course offers evening classes, so fits in with my schedule. 

So far, I have 3 of the 8 sessions under my belt, and seem to be getting a better handle on my camera, its settings and I think... I am already taking better shots. So far, we have had two classroom based lessons, and the third lesson was at the National Capital Zoo and Aquarium. The '8 session course' students, plus a day class of students met at the zoo, and under the guidance of Irene we focused on aperture settings and ISO, which allowed the camera to select the best shutter speed. We photographed a variety of animals, everything from furry to feathered, and from reptilian to aquatic. There were also a number of small 'two legged' creatures roaming the zoo that day, by that I mean children, who seemed to be having a great day, just like us. 

Here are my most prized shots from the day: 

A female white lion, just after she had her breakfast - F5.6 1/320sec ISO200
One of the playful, cheeky otters - F5.6 1/250sec ISO800
Fish for breakfast for this otter, nom nom nom - F5.6 1/500sec ISO800
Penguin with sand in the background - F5.6 1/2500sec ISO200
A Meerkat, very much on sentry duty - F5.6 1/500sec ISO200
Two Meerkats on sentry duty - F5.6 1/1000sec ISO200
A gloriously vibrant coloured peacock - F5.6 1/640sec ISO800
Birthday party children, feeding the emu - F8.0 1/250sec ISO200
Arms at the ready - F8.0 1/500sec ISO200
Some children seemed more apprehensive than the others about feeding the emu - F8.0 1/200sec ISO200
The emu - F5.6 1/160sec ISO400
A blue groper - F5.0 1/30sec ISO1600
A very photogenic lizard - F5.0 1/50sec ISO3200

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Devonshire Tea

I love a good Devonshire Tea. The scones, the jam, the cream and of course a nice hot, strong cup of tea.  But where did it all start? Where did the term ‘Devonshire Tea’ originate from? 

English in origin, it is thought to have originated from the southern county of Devon, and usually consists of scones, jam and clotted cream paired with tea. The same light meal is also known as ‘Cornish cream tea’ as Cornwall is the neighbouring county, or a ‘Devon cream tea’.

The ‘Devonshire’ way to serve the scone is to split a fresh warm scone in two, cover each of the halves with clotted cream and then top with strawberry jam.

The ‘Cornish’ way is to use a warm sweet white bread roll, as opposed to a scone. The roll is first split, then buttered, spread with strawberry jam, and finally topped with clotted cream.

I have found the typical Australian way is to split a fresh scone, spread with any variety of jam (strawberry, raspberry, apricot, plum, cherry etc) and then to top off with fresh whipped cream. It may not be the traditional method, but its OK with me.


Scones are an incredibly frugal treat.  The recipe that I followed making these called for:

3 cups of self raising flour - $0.28
1 ½ cups of milk - $0.75
60 grams of butter - $0.55

Which costed a grand total of $1.58. The recipe made 13 decent size scones.


I used plum jam on mine for the photo, as I had a jar of homemade jam gifted to me from a work colleague. The next round, had as afternoon tea, used cherry jam as my hubby and I visited the Canberra Old Bus Depot Markets that morning, and bought some lovely sour cherry jam from Torry Hill Orchards.  Don't be put off by the name sour in the jam title, it was very cherry flavoured, but not overly sweet. Perfect for devonshire tea, with slightly sweetened cream, and a fresh scone. 

Friday, 6 November 2015

Breakfast at Space Kitchen, Woden

Image of bar overlooking kitchen area

On Wednesday this week I was invited to join Serina Huang and 6 other food bloggers for an indulgent breakfast hosted by Rick De Marco at his new Woden premises, Space Kitchen. Why the name Space Kitchen? Well this eatery sits on the ground floor commercial space in the newest, and prettiest building in Woden – the SkyPark multi storey car park. There is a nod to ‘spaces’ everywhere, from the artwork adorning the walls, the polished concrete flooring reminiscent of a garage, and a vivid yellow crosswalk painted on the floor. The interior is itself spacious, contemporary and airy, with cosy nooks and various table configurations. Perfect for a group outing, or a quiet sit down with friends, or colleagues.

Rick De Marco

We were introduced to several of Rick’s kitchen staff; Russell his head chef, and kitchen hands Christian, Layla and Raj. Several other staff man the coffee station (aka the Rocket Fuel Station) and the famous incandescent, eyepopping Ricardo’s cake filled cabinet. The cakes for both the Woden and the Ricardo’s Jamison premises all now emerge from the Woden premises. While I was at breakfast, I saw trolley after trolley filled with cakes burst forth from the kitchen to be loaded for delivery to Macquarie.

Rick and his team are passionate, creative folk who enjoy delivering good food, great flavour combinations and don’t shy away from adding in an element of theatre. This is especially evident with their use of dry ice in dispensing truffle oil, and liquid nitrogen to snap freezing raspberries. They have plans on purchasing an industrial sized freeze dryer with ideas of freezing entire watermelons, and pineapples. Ooooh I can’t wait.

We were privileged to try six breakfast dishes, and each one was created right before our eyes. You see, we were seated at a long bar perched adjacent to the kitchen area. It was not only great to see the care and effort involved in creating each dish, but we were able to chat with the staff.

The first dish offered was the Breakfast Fritters. A hearty offering of corn, zucchini and haloumi fritters, nestled next to two poached eggs (oh, all the eggs are Gunning Bum Nuts) drizzled in a feta harissa yoghurt. The corn was fresh, and the fritters deliciously fluffy inside and crisp outside.

Breakfast Fritters

Next up was the smoked salmon breakfast. Consisting of a generous serve of in-house tea smoked salmon, avocado, coconut roesti, more poached eggs, a scattering of puffed crunchy grains, with a lime and coconut dressing. The salmon was perfectly cooked and flaked easily and the roesti fluffy and moist.

Smoked salmon breakfast dish

Bircher Muesli was up next. Now I love a good bircher. Its always my ‘go to’ at a hotel breakfast buffet. The Space Kitchen bircher is up there with the best. A moulded serving of muesli, topped with fresh strawberries, blueberries and edible flowers and dotted with blood orange curd, passionfruit caviar, yoghurt and crushed pistachios. Fresh, tangy and filling.

Bircher Muesli

Each of the breakfast dishes were served up first to be photographed by all the bloggers, then passed around to be sampled. The Hotcakes were the next to be offered, and they were delicious. A stack of three perfectly shaped boysenberry hotcakes, topped with a quenelle of coconut mascarpone, and parked next to a lake of blood orange curd studded with a white chocolate crumble and pieces of smashed freeze dried raspberries. This dish could double as dessert, and would be best shared for breakfast.

Hotcakes

The Space Kitchen signature dish was next. I say signature, as it has been the most photographed and shared on social media. It is the Space Benedict, a twist on Eggs Benedict. It consists of pulled pork encased in crunch, shaped into a flattened croquette shape (complete with paddle pop stick), sitting on a beetroot hollandaise sauce. Of course the dish wouldn’t be complete without two perfectly poached eggs. There is also pork crackling, brioche crumble and dots of pureed pea here and there. A decadent and very savoury meal that is as good to eat as it was to photograph.

Image of Space Benedict dish being photographed

The last dish to be served and sampled was Polenta Waffles. This was by far the most dramatic dish, as dry ice and truffle oil was combined and ‘poured’ over waffles, mushrooms, poached eggs, goats cheese, corn puree and salsa verde. The mushrooms were chunky and fresh, and the waffles savoury and light. The touch of lemon thyme came through and mixed with the truffle oil quite nicely.

Rick pouring vaporized truffle oil over Polenta Waffles

My favourite dishes were the Bircher Muesli, the Hotcakes and the Fritters.

Space Kitchen takes pride in sourcing its produce from local sources, including some new mushrooms from a grower in Yass. They aim to provide food that is a little different, without being alienating. Look forward to a living menu, as they like to stay fresh and tweak things up. 

Image of food bloggers enjoying breakfast

They are open from Monday to Saturday from 7.30am to 5.30pm. Weekdays usually attracts the nearby office workers, including myself, and Saturdays are busy all day. Group bookings can be taken for 6+ but they are limited. Space Kitchen is licensed, and will begin late night Friday trading from 6 November 2015.

SpaceKitchen can be found on the Ground Floor of SkyPark, on the corner of Furzer and Worgan Streets Woden. Ph 6281 6668.


My breakfast was courtesy of Space Kitchen.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

In My Kitchen - October 2015

Greetings to the 'In My Kitchen' family who hail from all corners of the globe! I haven't done an IMK post for what seems like ages, due mainly to hubby recently undergoing surgery. My love of all things food, cooking, books, blogging and gadgets has taken somewhat of a back seat. But, its great to say he is on the mend, and my mojo is slowly returning. 

So In My Kitchen... there has been experimental baking, using an unusual ingredient. Aquafaba.  
Um... what did I say? Aquafaba. Aqua = water, and faba = bean. Bean water, the stuff usually discarded from a can of chick peas! If you whip it in a stand mixer (or a hand mixer) it Will. Become. Meringue. and can be manipulated and cooked exactly the same as egg meringue.


I was also lucky enough to receive a box of fresh Australian Asparagus from the lovely Vicki Leng of the Australian Asparagus Council. This lovely produce was turned into a variety of dishes, including....


A puff pastry tart (made in my favourite tin which perfectly fits one ready made pastry square)... and


Crunchy, salty morsels, wrapped in serrano ham.


In My Kitchen... was a deliciously different roast beef dish. Roast Beef Stroganoff and it was, in my humble opinion, an absolute show stopper. A 'go to' dish for sure when throwing a nice dinner party. The trick was oiling and rubbing the beef in sweet paprika first, as shown here...


In My (outdoor) Kitchen... is an ever expanding array of spring plantings. Mainly seedlings, but I'm trying my hand at growing a few veg from seed this year, so keep your fingers crossed for me! Here is some wonderful passionfruit, that have already started entwining themselves on their rebar support frame. 


In My Kitchen is a banana and chocolate loaf, made with banana, eggs, baking soda, almond meal, maple syrup and coconut flour. I so love coconut, and the coconut flour gives this bake a wonderful new dimension. 


And finally, In My City of Canberra is the wonderful Floriade. This year's theme is Reflections, a 100 year tribute to the Anzac landing at Gallipoli.


So, what's been going on in your kitchen this month? 
Feel free to drop me a comment, I would love to hear from you! :) 

The IMK series is founded by the lovely Celia, of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial blog fame. Pop over to her site to see other IMK posts, and maybe create one of your own :)  
Cheers, Kirsty 

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Aquafaba

Aqua what?

Aquafaba.  Aqua = water.  Faba = bean. 

You know the liquid that chick peas are canned in? The liquid that you usually drain off? Well, did you know that this liquid is called aquafaba... and if you whip the heck out of it, IT WILL TURN INTO MERINGUE !!

How's them apples eh? Vegan meringue, with not an egg in sight. 

So I don't quite know how this magic works, or who it was that discovered this awesome miracle, but it is something amazing that you should have a try at making.

1. Begin by turning on the oven to 140 degrees celcius.
2. Take a single can of chick peas. Yep, just one can.



3. Drain the liquid from the chickpeas into a stand mixer, or a large bowl if you intend to use an electric mixer. Use the chickpeas for something else. 



4. Begin on low speed to start the whipping process and get the mix frothy, then turn the mixer (or beaters) up to near High and whip for around 5 minutes. 



5. At this stage, add in 1 cup of caster sugar, in spoonfuls, while whipping on med/high speed.
6. Whip for around 5 more minutes, or until the mixture turns glossy, and stiff peaks form.



7. Add in 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar.
8. Mix this in on low speed for another 30 seconds.
9. You can then spoon out into small rounds, or into a couple of 8 inch circles.
10. Turn the oven down to 130 degrees. Bake the small rounds for close to 60 minutes, but watch them closely. Bake the 8 inch circles for around 90 minutes. When done, turn the oven off and leave the oven door ajar. Remove when cool. 

I chose to bake small rounds, and kind of globbed them onto baking sheets, on large trays. I admit that I over-baked these as they cooked faster than I anticipated. 

No worry, I just turned them into an Eton Mess, along with whipped cream (I know, not vegan), and some chopped fresh strawberries. Oh myy YUM!



I could not believe the texture of these were exactly like eggwhite meringues. They have the same airy crunchy texture and after whipped they lose all of their 'bean' aroma. I will have to try these again, but will bake them a little less. Hopefully then, I will get the crisp outside and chewy centre that I am looking forward to. 



Why not give them a go?  A totally frugal and egg free alternative to traditional meringue.



Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Have one of those conversations

Hi there.

I've not blogged for a while, and not had much interest in the foodie side of life of late. 
Why? Well my husband is about to undergo heart surgery, and the recent focus has been on him and the lead up to this day.

What was diagnosed as a possible heart murmur by his GP several weeks ago started this journey which has involved:

  • x-rays
  • an ultrasound
  • a CT scan
  • meeting a cardiologist
  • undertaking an angiogram, and 
  • finally having a chat with a lovely cardiothorasic surgeon. 

Even though his surgery is pretty straightforward and low risk, it has promoted us to have one of 'those' conversations. 
You know the ones, the conversations that are difficult to get through, and hard to be serious about.

(Photo credit: http://7-themes.com/data_images/out/67/7000746-red-heart-tree.jpg) 

You should always know the following about your loved ones...

... are they willing to be an organ donor? are there any organs/tissues that they would not want to donate?

... do they have a will? 

... do they have an enduring power of attorney? ie have they nominated someone to make decisions for them, should they become incapacitated? 

... if the worst was to happen, would they want to be buried, or cremated? Do they want their ashes scattered anywhere special? Do they want a plaque? if so, what would it read? 

... do they want a service? what are their favourite songs? flowers? colour? 

... do you know their passwords to access their many electronic devices? (and we are all quite likely to have multiple devices)

... do you know their Facebook password? 

... do you have a list of their close family's phone numbers and email addresses?

Here are some useful links, to get you thinking about the 'what if's?' that life may throw your way. Its always better to be prepared.

End of life information
Funeral Directors
Lifeline Australia
Memorialising a Facebook account
Organ Donor Register
Power of Attorney
What is a Will?

Take a moment. Tell your loved ones you love them today, and have one of 'those' conversations.. 

Kirsty
xoxo



Sunday, 16 August 2015

Sumo Mandarin Syrup Bundt Cake

The first time I spied a Sumo mandarin I stopped in my tracks and said 'THAT'S HUGE!'. They are certainly a showstopper compared to their smaller mandarin cousins.


So when I heard there was a competition from Sumo Citrus using these beasties, I was onto it.  Pop over to the Sumo Citrus competition website and check out the entrants [click on 'See Entries']. I am entering the competition a tad late, but would love you to vote for my recipe :)  Voting closes 4 September 2015. 


Now... what did I make?

A moist, mandarin syrup laden bundt cake, generously drizzled with melted dark chocolate. This showcases the Sumo mandarin flavour zested in the cake, seeped onto the cake with the syrup, and the match with chocolate is just heavenly.


I found the perfect syrupy bundt cake recipe in Susanna Shorts' book 'Bundt Cake Bliss', but I adapted her oranges and lemons, for Sumo mandarins, and added a drizzle of chocolate.

Sumo Mandarin Syrup Bundt Cake

Cake:
1 3/4 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda (bi-carb)
225g butter, at room temperature and soft
1/2 cup sugar
grated zest of one Sumo mandarin
3 large eggs, separated
1 cup low fat vanilla yoghurt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Syrup:
Juice of two Sumo mandarins
1/2 cup sugar

Chocolate:
70g dark chocolate
10g butter
1 teaspoon vegetable oil

Start by heating your oven to 160 degrees Celsius (fan forced). Spray a bundt tin with cooking spray and set aside. 

Beat the egg whites until stiff, and set these aside. 

In a medium size bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside. 
Using a stand mixer (or electric beaters) beat the butter until light and fluffy. Slowly add in sugar and mandarin zest and beat until sugar is dissolved, takes about 6 minutes and makes the mixture light and fluffy. Next, add in the egg yolks, yoghurt and vanilla. 


Run the mixer on low speed, and carefully spoon in the flour mixture, until its all incorporated. Next, gently fold in the beaten egg whites until they are just mixed in. Pour the mixture into the bundt tin, and smooth down the top. 



Pop into the oven for about 30 minutes. Check if the cake is cooked by inserting a toothpick, it should come out clean with no crumbs sticking to it. 

Meanwhile, while the cake is in its final 10 minutes cooking, begin the syrup. Pop the juice and sugar into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to medium, and cook for about 8 minutes, until nice and syrupy. When the cake is cooked, turn out after 10 minutes onto a cooling rack, and baste the syrup over the cake while it is still warm. When the cake is cooler, melt the chocolate, butter and oil in the microwave, and drizzle over. 



Thank you for reading about my luscious Sumo mandarin bundt cake. I really had fun making it, and if I get any votes in the competition, that would be an absolute bonus!

Cheers,
Kirsty