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Here on the southern hemisphere, as the rest of the world begins warming up, we are looking forward to the cooler autumn and winter months. While the temperature drops and the tank tops and flip-flops make way for cardigans and boots, our kitchen undergoes a shift as much as my wardrobe does.

The essentials stay the same, but the pot, casserol dish and slow cooker get more benchtime. Piping hot stews, soups and heartier dishes find their way onto our table, as our bodies crave the comforting warmth of liquids and carbohydrates. Not the most ideal combination for keeping the winter fat off the bones, is it?

This stew is rather versatile and I would usually pour in a stubby of ale, cider or stout (375ml) for the liquid, but I didn't have any and substituted it with sherry instead.

Beef stew with oregano and thyme dumplings

  • 500gm beef chunks
  • 2 onion, sliced
  • 1 zucchinni, chunks
  • 1 turnip, chunks
  • 2 potatoes, chunks
  • 3 cups stock (or water)
  • 1/2 cup sherry
  • 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • 1 tbsp cornflour, mixed with a little cold water
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • 1 1/3 cups plain flour
  • 1 handful fresh oregano and thyme, chopped
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1/2 milk

  1. Brown the beef in a pan over medium-high heat. If your pan isn't large enough, brown the meat in batches. Transfer to a casserole dish.

  2. Brown the onions in the same pan. Pour in the stock, sherry and wholegrain mustard, and bring to a simmer, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Pour liquid into the casserole dish with the beef and the rosemary sprig, cover and put into a 160°C oven for 2 hours.

  3. Add and stir through the vegetables and cornflour liquid to the casserole dish, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, make the dumpling dough: in a medium bowl, stir together all the dumpling ingredients and stir just until the dough comes together.

  4. Remove the pot from the oven. Drop the tablespoons of dumpling batter on top of the simmering stew, cover and cook for 20 minutes, until the biscuits are cooked through. To test, stick a toothpick into a dumpling and it should come out clean.

  5. To finish, put the pot under the broiler for a few minutes to allow them to brown. Serves 6.
20th-Mar-2011 07:32 pm - Our new kitchen baby
Apparently I have been whinging a weeeeee bit too much about whisking/mixing by hand and oogling a little too hard in the department stores' homeware sections. However we wouldn't be able to afford the KitchenAid stand mixer (and therefore none of the awesome attachments).

So while we were in David Jones and Myer, the SO dragged me to have a closer look at the mixers available. There were so many options that boggle the mind, but it's really the shininess that's so distracting.

After an hour or so of um-ing and err-ing, we finally came home with our very own stand mixer!

Breville Wizz Planetary Mixer

It's the Breville Wizz Planetary Mixer in red! Its RRP $549.95, but we got it for $444 after the Myer every-$75-get-$14-off (a total discount of $105).

And in typical infomercial style, THERE'S MORE!!!

That includes a Freeze and Mix kit (RRP $99.95) to make ice-cream/gelato and a copy of Luke Mangan at home and in the mood (USD$25.55).

How could we say no?

And the first thing I made with the mixer: a marbled sponge cake. I followed the recipe that came with the mixer and while the resulting cake was more like wet sand (definitely not my best cake attempt), I'm still thrilled I never have to whinge about mixing dough ever again.
19th-Mar-2011 07:58 pm - Cockatiel Q
Cockatiel Q

Every now and then, Q decides he'll be darn right adorable.

Those are the times he'll sing back to every whistle (including on the television and the birds outside), hop on your finger every time you ask and tweet like he's asking you a question.

And usually the question is "Can I come out now?"
18th-Mar-2011 07:56 pm - Making milk bread
Milk bread

My 2nd attempt at making milk bread, which turned out better than my first - which I used to wrap around pre-cooked beef sausages for a lunch time snack.

I followed Christine's recipe and while this attempt came out lighter than most of the other breads I've made, it's not as fluffy as the pictured desired result.

Then again, I was handmixing and have not been able to get the dough as smooth as I would like. 20 mins of mixing and my arm felt like it was going to fall off. Hats off to the people and professional bakers out there who still knead their dough by hand everyday!

Next time I make this, I definitely should have some kaya on hand - which I should get the recipe off my mother someday. Homemade kaya cooked over a charcoal stove was a childhood luxury I still fantasize about.
17th-Mar-2011 09:51 pm - This week's Food Connect mini box

  • Broccolini x 1 bunch
  • Chinese greens x 1 large bunch
  • Corn x 2
  • Lettuce x 1
  • Potatoes x 4
  • Squash x 1
  • Sweet potatoes x 6
  • Tomatoes x 3
  • Zucchinni x 1
  • Pears x 4
  • Red apples x 4
  • Green apples x 1
  • Lime x 2

Shoot, no more bananas. Shame, cuz they've been tasting pretty darn good.

I am not too sure what to do with the squash though. It's not a vegetable I have any experience cooking with or eaten. Anyone with any ideas?
I have caught some sort of bug that included an OMG-my-head's-about-to-EXPLODE-in-pain and waves of nausea that felt worse than any boat trip of seasickness I had ever felt. And trust me when I say I've had some pre-tt-iiie bad seasick trips - the SO's company directors still remember me as the wife with the green face.

I initally tried to be a bit of a matyr and brave through a work day, but by lunchtime, I had to run - yes, RUN - to the bathroom and attempted (unsuccessfully) to dry heave whatever demon being was possessing me. Threatening to spew one's guts on a colleague is not a professional look, so high-tailing it home was the only option to save what little face I have.

However being an adult (and I say this with some amount of distain, since I am still a little sick and let's be honest, which sick person wouldn't kill to have their mother's nursing them back to health) with a gainfully employed husband meant having to take care of and comfort myself.

... besides, I'm not entirely sure the SO knows what to do with a sick me, besides leaving me alone to sleep.

So since flu season will be upon us in the southern hemisphere and in an attempt to educate the SO (and the many boyfriends/partners/husbands out there), who will one day have to nurse a sick woman (or child), this is what you can prepare for them. All recipes is for 1 large serve (since it's likely whoever's sick won't have much of an appetite), so if both of you are sick, double everything.

Whether you're Western and porridge means oatmeal, or you're Asian and porridge means watery rice or congee, porridge has to be on the top of the list of food for the sick.

Image and crock pot congee recipe by Shave Dice Sundays

Due to its liquid consistency, it goes down easy for anyone with a sore throat, easily digested and keeps tummies warm longer. Keep it plain for anyone with nausea, but as the invalid feels better, they are versatile enough for you to throw in other flavours.

Basic oatmeal recipe
  • 1 cup quick oats or rolled oats (take longer to cook)
  • 3 - 4 cups cold water (more if you like it creamy, less if you like it thick)

  1. Place ingredients in a pot.
  2. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally.
  3. Turn down to simmer.
  4. Cook until thick and creamy, about 10 minutes, stirring a few times.

Alternatively, substitute the water for milk. You can also zap this in a microwave on high for 1-2 mins for quick oats, 5mins for rolled oats. Flavour with cinnamon powder, dried fruit, honey or brown sugar.

Basic rice porridge (gruel) recipe
  • 1/2 cup rice (jasmine or pearl)
  • 3 cups water

  1. Wash the rice by putting it in a strainer. Run the water on the rice until the water becomes clear.
  2. Add the water and rice in a small saucepan and turn on medium heat. Wait until it boils and turn it down.
  3. Let simmer on low for 15 mins.

Alternatively, substitute the water for any kind of stock for extra flavour. Serve with soy sauce, pickled vegetables, eggs (hard boiled, scrambled), pork mince, shitake mushrooms, slices of any white fish, bamboo shoots... just about anything savoury will work.

Basic congree recipe
Making congee is essentially the same as rice porridge, boiled longer. What you're looking for is a thick sludge consistency. Boil for 30 mins.

“Soup is cuisine's kindest course.
It breathes reassurance; it steams consolation;
after a weary day it promotes sociability,
as the five o'clock cup of tea or the cocktail hour.”
Louis P. De Gouy, ‘The Soup Book’ (1949)

Ah, soup. Just about everyone knows chicken soup as one of the best foods for someone ill, but really, any kind of soup can do: beef, vegetable, tomato, hot and sour, chicken noodle.

However, if like me, you're all alone, soup is hardly one of the easiest things to make from scratch. Unless you get it out of a Campbells can, which is great, but we probably want to avoid too much sodium when we're sick and in need of fluids.

So the next time you're making a batch of chicken/beef stock, keep simmering it till it's reduced significantly and freeze it. Wait till the stock is cool before pouring it into ice trays, muffin trays or even ziplock bags (removing as much air as possible) and sticking them in the freezer. Frozen stock will keep for about 2 months.

When needed, pop out as much stock as you need into a pot, pour in water, chop up whatever vegetables (potato, carrot, beans, frozen veg) and protein (leftover roast chicken, steak, tofu) you have in the fridge, bring to a boil and simmer for 25-30 mins before serving.

Photography by Ben Dearnley. Chicken noodle soup recipe by Delicious

Basic chicken soup recipe
  • 200gm of chicken (breast, thigh, drumstick, whatever you got)
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 1 small carrot, diced
  • 1 small potato, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, whole
  • 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 5 peppercorns (black or green)
  • 2 cups of water (remember the stock? Use that if you've got it)

  1. Combine everything in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to boil, before reducing heat to low and simmer, covered, for 40 minutes or until vegetables are very tender.
  2. Use tongs to transfer the chicken to a clean work surface and cut the chicken meat from the bones. Discard bones. Finely chop the chicken meat and add to the soup.
  3. Season with salt and serve immediately.

Your stomach is feeling queasy and your appetite has gone into hiding. Bread is about as plain and as simple as you can get. It is usually recommended that the sick nibble on dry toast to absorb excess stomach acids.

Obviously if you're a coeliac, regular wheat based bread is out of the question. Nonetheless, gluten free breads and crackers will offer the same effect.

There are dozens of recipes for making bread, but when you're sick, a regular loaf from a supermarket will most likely do.

It's a no brainer. Fruit are loaded with vitamins, phytonutrients and anti-oxidants, and they don't require any cooking. When you're sick, doctors advise you consume protein. But a diet heavy in protein requires the balance of fruit and vegetables.

For a quick fruit salad, cut up any fruit into bite sized chunks (or use a melon baller if you're feeling fancy) and pour in a can of tinned fruit. The sugars in the syrup will help prevent fruit like apple and pear from browning, and aids in the preservation.

So those are my top 4 foods to feed any invalid. Do you have anything in particular you must eat when you're sick or feed to someone who's sick?
15th-Mar-2011 09:04 pm - Gmarket Global Tutorial
This tutorial is for international (ie. non-Korean residents) shoppers on Gmarket.

Gmarket Global is a Korean based shopping platform, where international shoppers can order items from sellers who are listed as 'available' to international shipping. See more.

All those awesome Korean clothes, cosmetics and gadgets you have been eyeing? Well, this is the place for you!

Get ready... steady... go!Collapse )
14th-Mar-2011 05:28 pm - Are we losing our humanity?
Unless you've been living under a rock (and it would have to be the Mother of all Rocks), you would've heard about the Great Sendai Earthquake of 2011 and the devastation it has wrecked upon Japan.

Having just gone through a natural disaster in Brisbane (though nowhere near the epic proportions of Sendai's earthquake), I have some understanding of the loss, confusion and sheer magnitude of emotions the people of Japan must be going through during this trying time.

However, as I wait anxiously for word from friends in Japan and/or with family and friends in Japan, I find myself disgusted and buzzing with rage at that little part of the international community, who decided that this act of Mother Nature is either:

  1. Payback for Pearl Harbour, or...
  2. Payback for all the dolphins and whales Japan slaughters in the name of science (or consumption)

These aren't just 1 or 2 wayward individuals - there's a whole bunch of them out there. To those people, I say:

  1. How convenient of you to forget the two atomic bombs the US dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in retaliation of Japan's attack on Pearl Harbour.

    Payback? I think Japan's already more than paid with the 90,000–166,000 (Hiroshima) and 60,000–80,000 (Nagasaki) deaths, not to mention the radiation damage effecting generations to come.

    Apparently this comment originated from a scriptwriter as a 'joke'.

    Well, I don't find it at all funny. And then again, I cannot stand the show 'Family Guy'.

  2. I don't agree with Japan's whaling policies or activities either, but lumping anti-whaling sentiment with the effects of a natural disaster as a cause-effect relationship is just wrong. That's like drawing a direct co-relation between New Orleans suffering at the mercy of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the 98,170 - 107,152 civilian deaths due to the US's invasion of Iraqi (2003 - 2009) - ridiculous, untrue and totally insensitive.

And then of course, there's Channel Newsasia's email to clients to book commercial slots now on the back of the disaster. And they don't even have the decency to issue a proper apology.

So it isn't just individuals, it's corporations as well.

Seriously, people? SERIOUSLY?!

I understand trolling on the internet will always exist, but this truely takes the cake. Have we been so bombarded by tragedy after tragedy that the only way for us to deal with more tragedy is to become insensitive pricks content with saying 'haha! You deserve it!'?

I hope not.

Help (courtesy of MacaronHearts), don't help, the choice is yours. Just stop kicking them when they're down.
13th-Mar-2011 07:42 pm - This week's Food Connect box

  • Beetroot x 3
  • Chinese greens x 1
  • Corn x 1
  • Lettuce x 1
  • Mushrooms x 5
  • Potatoes x 4
  • Sweet potatoes x 3
  • Tomatoes x 2
  • Zucchini x 1
  • Apples x 5
  • Bananas x 3
  • Pears x 2
  • Grapes x 1 bag

And as an added treat, I also ordered a organic olive and rosemary sourdough batard. FoodConnect's breads are from Leavain Bakery and they are so yum! Check out how fat and juicy those olives look!

When I suggested to a couple of girlfriends in October 2010 that we should catch Wicked - the Broadway Musical (Australia) while they were in Brisbane, we excitedly booked for the 2nd night of their run and waited in sweet anticipation for the day to arrive.

However the Brisbane flood threw all that out the window and for awhile, we anxiously waited to see if the show would be extended or our tickets would be refunded. Thankfully the show was able to extend into March and the staff at QPAC were lovely enough to call us to rearrange new seats at a new timeslot for us.

And it was an absolutely blast! I was totally blown away by the sets and costumes. So much detail and atmosphere was created to bring to life this other world, where animals talk and magic is real.

And the performances! Gosh, G(a)linda (Lucy Durrack) and Elphaba (Jemma Rix) were phenomenal. I wondered if they would match up to the original Broadway duo, Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth, and you know what? I think there are parts when Jemma and Lucy rocked Wicked harder. I actually found myself adoring the ditzier blonder Glinda Jemma plays, even though her self-serving actions and chipmunk voice could've been enough to grate my nerves like nails on a chalkboard.

If you're still debating about catching it, just grab tickets and go see it. It's a musical you wouldn't regret seeing.
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