Saturday, July 28, 2007

Baking: Rock Cakes!

I am now the proud owner of the Margaret Fulton Australian Classics cookbook. And the other day I felt like baking. After a batch of ANZAC bikkies (after which I ran out of syrup) I decided to see what Marg could do for me. And lo, I spied rock cakes! I haven't had rock cakes since I was about... oh, I don't know, maybe nine years old. Then on yesterday I saw someone on TV making some. And so I figured it MUST be a sign!

Once you've preheated your oven to 200C and greased some baking trays, sift 2 cups of self raising flour with 1/2 a teaspoon of mixed spice and a pinch of salt, then rub through 90g of butter. The recipe then calls for you to add currants, sultanas and chopped mixed peel (about 2 tablespoons of each), however I didn't have any of those - I had dates. So I added a dozen or so chopped dates instead (and I thought they worked out very nicely... at any rate, two batches of biscuits disappeared quite easily). Once you've added your fruit mix it through. Combine 1/4 cup of milk with a beaten egg, then add to the dry stuff and mix it till it forms a stiff dough. Put small spoonfuls onto the baking trays in rough heaps - remember, they're rock cakes, so they shouldn't be all pretty and perfectly rounded. Bake the little buggers for about 10-15 minutes, till they're nicely golden brown, and they're done! When you take them out lever them off carefully onto a wire rack to cool. Lovely.

I decided to have a little suppertime treat, so brewed myself up some hot milo, and sprinkled a little icing sugar over the bikky. Bliss.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Eating Out: Coffee Delight

Lonsdale Street (just down from the corner of Spring, near the IGA)

What you see above is the gastronomic delight that is a sandwich from the shop across the road from work: Coffee Delight.

This place has really created a place for itself in my stomach. My usual order there is remembered, to the point where I don't have to speak: just nod, and point. It goes something like this:

I walk in.
The lovely guy at the sandwich counter holds up his fingers: 1 or 2.
I respond (sometimes 1, usually 2).
If it's 1 he asks: chicken or ham. If it's 2 he knows it's both :-)
I respond.
No more interaction necessary, and I get my sandwiches exactly the way I like them (1 ham, beetroot and cheese, and 1 chicken, beetroot and cheese).

Well, today I decided to be different. He was shocked. Stunned. Gobsmacked! For two years I've been going in once every week or so and ordering the same damned sandwiches. But not today.

Today we have an egg and lettuce. Nice. Simple.

But what about that monster?

Roast beef, cheese, tomato, cucumber, lettuce. And they STACK it on (which is one reason why I like that place: they don't skimp on the fillings. Another is the chicken is REAL chicken). The roast beef and salad sandwich, when I'd flattened it somewhat, still stood at a massive 6.5cm tall - and I know, cos I measured it.

Friendly staff, nice fresh salads, and your standard deep-fried goodies. A nice place to duck in for a bite when you just want something simple.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Eating In: Salmon and Sweet Potato Patties

I really love the Super Food Ideas magazine. And Ready Steady Cook :-D (side note: I have a particularly high regard for Jacqui Gowan, of Garfish at Kirribilli - I love what she does with her ingredients, plus she's cute ;-) one day I'll go to Sydney and eat there!)

But I digress. The latest SFI had a recipe for Salmon and Sweet Potato Patties. I figured, continuing on from my salmon adventure of last week, I'd give 'em a bash.

Now, I certainly didn't need to feed four. And some of the ingredients I didn't have. So instead I'll tell you the variation I did. If you want the original recipe you'll need to grab the magazine.

Salmon and Sweet Potato Patties

Dice a 200g orange sweet potato and cook it in the microwave with a little water for about 5-7 minutes until it's tender (time depends on your microwave. I have an old one, think it's about 650W). Roughly mash it up.

Drain a 215g can of pink salmon really well, then pick out the big bones. Tip the salmon into a bowl and separate it into flakes with a fork. Add one chopped spring onion, and a dollop of sweet chilli sauce. Mix that together, then add the sweet potato and combine it all with a fork.

Now it gets fun! Get your hands into it! Shape tablespoon-full amounts of the mix into slightly flattened balls, then coat them in plain flour (shaking off excess), dip them into beaten egg, then coat them in breadcrumbs. From there you're meant to stick them in the fridge for half an hour... but I was hungry. So I compromised: I put them in the fridge while I cleaned up.

Then add a little oil (or spray some) to a frypan and cook them, a few minutes on each side, until brown and heated through. This made five patties for me.

Of course, no meal in my house is complete with the frozen vegies, so here they are: salmon and sweet potato patties with a slick of sweet chilli on top, with my frozen veg.

But they were SO damn gooood... I had this plate, then found myself eyeing off the remaining three!

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Shave: Three Months Later

Well, I don't know about you, and I don't want to sound "up myself", but I really think the hair is growing back quite nicely. It's been three months now since The Shave, and it's got enough length back that it's starting to look more like I MEANT to have this hair-do.

Of course, it still has a mind of its own -- the best I can do is make sure it's not sticking straight up in the air (as it does when I first wake up of a morning, or after I've towel-dried it), after that it settles any way it likes.

It is nice though to have rediscovered my natural hair colour: I don't think I've seen it in 10 years or more!

Oh yes, and I finally got up the courage at the one-month mark to send a picture to my mum. But then I had no idea whether or not she received it, as she didn't make any comment! So I sent this one to her tonight... her reply: Looks nice.

Looks nice? LOOKS NICE?! Such an accepting mien after I stressed over it all??!!

Ok! :-)

Friday, July 13, 2007

A Salmonless Existence

It's only in the last few years that I've started approaching the seafood side of the human's food chain. It started out, as I think I've mentioned previously, with a tentative nibble on insanely fresh and delicious battered flake at The Boatshed in Batemans Bay (NSW south-ish coast). It progressed over time, until I was ready to have my first go at barramundi with a few muscles at E'cco Bistro in Brisbane.

Then at Easter this year I tried my hand at cooking fresh, as opposed to frozen and crumbed, fish fillets with quite nice results.

But I hadn't yet tried my tastebuds at salmon.

So, in consultation with mellie we decided the best, easiest, least-scary way for me to ease this apparently delight of delights into my eating regime. And we decided that I should definitely start with cooked salmon in some quality sushi, and leave the raw stuff for another time. I'm sure there are plenty of places to get some quality sushi in Melbourne CBD, but I decided to stick with somewhere I knew.

I had a couple of choices for my experience and, in consultation with the lovely guy who served me, I decided to dip my toes in the water with a grilled salmon onigiri: cooked salmon flaked through rice, wrapped up in lovely crisp nori. I grabbed a teriyaki chicken handroll as well, just in case I needed something to flush the flavour away.

No need! Far nicer than tuna (in fact, it's an insult to salmon to compare the flavour to tuna, I think!). So nice, in fact, that I decided to go the whole way and grab me a roll with the raw stuff. So back I went, and grabbed for myself a salmon and avocado handroll.

Now, I'm not a fan of avocado. It's that whole mouth-feel thing. And I found that I really enjoyed the salmon... it was the avocado that was turning me off! So halfway through I started yanking the avocado out as much as I could. And I REALLY enjoyed it.

So there you go. I survived. And I enjoyed. Now to trip something a little more adventurous, to take a running leap into what salmon can offer me. And then... learn how to prepare it at home.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Eating In: Home-Made Pizza

I don't know why I don't have this type of dinner more often! It might not be pretty, but DAMN it's tasty. Not to mention the lovely smell in the house.

I was looking at a packet of wholemeal "Mountain Bread" at work today thinking "what on earth am I going to do to use this up?" I eyes roamed absently over the packet, when the word "pizza" jumped out at me. Hmm, yes, what a good idea.

Of course, the great thing about home-made pizza is that it can have exactly what you want on it. For me it's the merest swipe of tomato paste topped with capsicum, semi-dried tomatoes, pineapple and ham, with a smattering of cheese to finish it all off. In line with my "make a better me" resolve all ingredients were low fat, low salt, low sugar, etc. and as healthy as I could get them. And you know what - it still tasted awesome. The mountain bread was delightful - light, and crispy, and added a lovely ever-so-subtle flavour to everything else.

I cooked up two - one to eat tonight (which I've just finished, yummo!) and one for lunch tomorrow. It can't come soon enough!

Monday, July 09, 2007

30-day Check-In

Well folks, tonight I had my 30-day check with the gym.

The results so far:

Blood pressure: MUCH better
Weight: loss of 1.9kg
Hips: loss of 3cm
Thighs (R/L): loss of 2cm/0.5cm
Arms (R/L): no change (trainer advised that as I'd put on muscle and still losing the fat that may hinder the measurements of arms and thighs going down. And I can actually feel muscle!)

But then, the measurement that bought tears to my eyes, and earned me high-fives from the trainer and other staff....

Waist: loss of 13.5cm

The next check-in is in 30 days time again.

I know I'm feeling better, I'm definitely fitter, and I've finally kicked that cross-trainer into submission. Weights have to be increased in the resistance workout, and it's taking more and more effort to get my heart rate up to it's target workout level. So things are going well. And, considering I'm still a bit naughty now and then with my food, I'm stunned there have been any results! A week in Canberra eating out and catching up with old friends (plus one very big night on the booze) didn't help either!

But, it's progress, and it's a start. Stay tuned for more in 30 days.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Eating Out: Wagamama

Canberra Centre, North Quarter

Bunda Street, Canberra

It was a stroke of immense good fortune that led me to Wagamama one night during my stay in Canberra. I'm not sure what drew me -- it might have been the funky orange light shades, it might have been the prices on the menu, but I think mostly it was because there were immense letters on the door that said "noodlebar"... and I had a hankering for something like that.

I grabbed a menu and eventually decided on the yasai katsu curry. To quote from the menu: "slices of sweet potato, aubergine and butternut squash deep-fried in panko breadcrumbs. served with a light curry sauce and japanese-style rice. garnished with a combination of mixed leaves and red pickles". And may I say -- phwoar!

Like some people, I don't enjoy eating in a restaurant on my own. I can do it, but if I'm going to be eating on my own, I prefer to do it in private. So I ordered to go.

This had me impressed from the start - it was all kept separate! Perhaps not great for the environment, but made the eating back in my hotel room SO much better. There was a container for the curry sauce, a container for the leaves and pickles, and the vegies and rice were in another. This meant the vegies stayed crunchy, I could add as much or as little sauce/rice as I liked, and the garnish hadn't wilted!

I know my presentation skills would not quite be up to the standard of the establishment, based on the dishes I saw whisking past me while I waited, but hopefully this isn't too bad. What can I say about this meal... bliss. I'm still salivating over it now, just at the thought! I could have happily just had a big bowl of the vegies, they were SO good. The curry sauce had a nice bite to it, while not being overpowering. All in all, I completely enjoyed my meal, and at $14.50 I thought it was well worth the price (although I didn't pay for it).

And do you know what else? The most fantastic thing? I don't have to go to Canberra any time I want to check out Waga's other culinary delights -- there're a couple right here in Melbourne! Mere blocks from work!! [insert contented sigh here]