Tuesday 25 August 2015

what to eat - winter


I love food and I love cooking... sometimes.

I have bursts when I am inspired when I search for new recipes and new flavours, and I love the whole process of chopping, stirring, cooking.

But I also have times when cooking everyday for five people is a chore. And that's when Mr Flowerpress and I just cook old favourites, quick tried and true meals.

I find that half the battle in those times is deciding what to make.

This little post is a catchup for me as much as you, keeping track of all the good stuff we've been eating this winter. A reminder of all the new and interesting food we've cooked, those recipes I need to remember and cook again!

Like most people I search for warm, filling comfort food in cold weather. This winter has been no different, soups, casseroles and pies have featured.

I have had a craving for fennel, such a winter vegetable and it seems to feature at the greengrocers much more these days, especially in my Italian neighbourhood. One night I was inspired to make a chicken and fennel pie, inspired by a favourite Karen Martini recipe for Chicken and Mushroom pie. Not everyone around here likes mushrooms but they all like fennel. It was a winner and I made it for guests who came a week or so later. I might write up my recipe here one day as I actually took some photos of the method the second time round. And its simple. That plaited top is actually quick to make but looks so pretty.

Another new recipe Pea and Feta fritters is a simple, quick family filler. I made this again last night with Colcannon, a cabbage and mash recipe. They made a really quick and filling vegetarian meal.

A great vegie dish I make often is my old favourite Minestrone. Miss A asked for this in the week she was doing her trial exams which made me happy. The recipe is really simple. I will blog it sometime. I made it with this amazing cheese bread from a video I found online. Mmm, that went quickly!

Speaking of vegie recipes, have you cooked any Ottolenghi recipes. I tried his Cauliflower Cake. That's it at the top of the page. Isn't it beautiful. It was delicious, vegetarian, quite unique, and very popular with the troops.

My sister gave me a Luke Nguyen book for my birthday last year. I love Luke's food and the recipes are delicious so I've made a couple more than once - the Chicken and Lemongrass (SO delicious and easy) and these Chargrilled Pork Skewers (yum!).

My brother is a great cook. He made some delicious gyoza type dumplings for me a few months ago. I tried to replicate them one night and had them with delicious Kewpie Japanese dressing (from Coles in the Asian section). Deeelicious. I've got it written down somewhere. Really simple but effective. Must share that.

The other thing I've been cooking are homemade dips. We love dips around here but with three teenagers they go pretty fast. Homemade is quick, cheap and so easy. I'm slowly building my repertoire. Homemade hummous and baba ganouj are delicious and easy. Another blog post due on those.

Apologies for my underwhelming food photography. I mostly cook at night and am way too hungry to style anything and I know it looks pretty unappetising in the low light. But you get the idea.

Out of the house I've had a few memorable meals. We've really enjoyed eating at Jasmin1 in Leichhardt, fantastic Lebanese food, the best I've had, the famous dumplings at New Shanghai and a new place Luyu and YumYum in Newtown (where I tried the caviar dumplings) and recently we discovered Afghan takeaway from Bamiyan in Five Dock. What a fabulous cuisine (and the Afghans make dumplings too!) I'd never tried it before. Must go back and taste test again!

I'd love to hear what you've been cooking. I hope I've inspired you to try one of these recipes. And don't forget to look in my Recipes section for my own recipes and others I like to cook.

Tuesday 18 August 2015

homemade orange spray


I'm a big fan of natural cleaning in my home. I think homes like gardens are safer, healthier and nicer places without chemicals.

So I always buy 'eco' cleaners which have more natural ingredients and are gentler on the environment. In some areas though I've experimented with making my own so I know exactly what is going into the product and to save money. I've been surprised at how simple the recipes for natural cleaners are.

Previously I've made bathroom soap and clothes detergent. The clothes detergent is a standout, we haven't gone back since we started making our own. If you haven't tried it do! A batch gives us nine or so bottles and saves us hundreds of dollars a year. Our clothes are just as clean (or even cleaner actually since our old washing machine blew up this year and we invested in a new front loader!). And its quick to do.

I've always hated manufactured smells too, which is one of the nice things about homemade cleaners, you can use natural scents or leave them unscented.

Similarly home made soap is a luxury, and one I must get round to making again. It also makes a lovely gift.

In the kitchen I often use bicarb of soda in place of commercial cleaners. It can be awkward and messy in some situations though, like on vertical surfaces, and I like to use a spray cleaner then. The 'eco' one I've used for years is Orange Power, which is made from orange oil. It smells nice, its natural, and works as well as chemical versions.

A while ago though I read about making your own Orange Spray and I filed it away in my mental filing cabinet (that one with all the jumbled folders and papers falling out of every drawer!) and its been on my mind for a while as a 'must try' project.

Fast forward to the other day when we were on orange duty for the boys' soccer game. I came home with a large container of orange peels. A light bulb went on, at last I was ready to make some spray. You might have seen my post on instagram. Here's the method I used in case you want to make it too.

Orange Spray Method

Take a large jar or container (I used this big jar left over from bulk buy kalamata olives. It holds about two litres worth of liquid.)

My oranges half filled the container which I then covered with white vinegar, about one litre's worth.

But first I washed my peels and removed the left over orange flesh.

From what I read you can either fill the jar in one go like I did or add orange, lemon or mandarin peels as you have them till the jar is full. Keep the jar on the kitchen bench or pantry and fill it as you go. They don't seem to rot or go off, I suppose the vinegar preserves them.

When the jar is full put it aside for two weeks at least to absorb the citrus oils. You know its working when the liquid changes colour to orange.

Then strain out your peels and pith, put your orange spray into a recycled spray bottle and away you go! Smells delicious and works well.

p.s. Yes that's a mandarin, no oranges in the house today!!

Wednesday 12 August 2015

rebuilding the garden

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So back in September last year we started renovating our house, adding a room and deck on the back and enlarging our kitchen and dining rooms. We are still finishing the downstairs room but the bigger kitchen, the lovely open deck among the trees and the longer dining area have all been fantastic changes to our little house.

The one casualty as predicted from all this change was our garden. The extensions began with a great big hole in the ground made by a big yellow excavator which then trampled that clay soil up and down the side, over the top of my pretty little side garden.

We managed to protect all our trees, and we saved some plants by digging them up and putting them in pots. But everything else suffered through the digging and building, had piles of sand and gravel and clay plonked on top of them, bricks and lime and cement mixers emptied on to them and were compacted by machinery and a portaloo.

The garden was a battleground by the end of our renovation.

But then we had a landscaper friend come in earlier this year and restore order and install our new layout. Crushed granite steps, pavers and garden beds were put in and last of all turf was laid. This was most exciting as we'd been away and returned to instant lawn!

Here are the bones of our new garden. So neat! I can't wait to mess it up a bit!

A few weeks ago I went online and ordered some perennial plants mail order. They arrived last week and all have been tucked into the garden beds. They came bare root, which means they were winter dormant, but little shoots are coming up every day.

I've designated the side garden as the vegie patch and I have little seedlings growing in makeshift beds and pots. Its such a relief to have plants already in as spring arrives.

I'm going to write another post about the planting but wanted to share the landscaping with you and the dramatic before and after pics first.