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house-1113

The Ginger Menace inspects the new colour…

I’ve been on holidays for the last month, with a full list of things to do. Some of which I have managed to tick off, in between binge-watching British crime TV and regular nap-times.

One of my holiday jobs was to finally paint the laundry door and window on the interior. When I moved in, I had run out of the paint I used and never quite got around to buying another tin of paint and finishing the job. It wasn’t all paint-tin procrastination, though. I had to fill a hole that had been left in the door thanks to a lock replacement prior to me buying the house, mind you I did that in 2011…there’s still 5 years of “one day I’ll get around to it…” in there.

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The before shot.

I had to remove venetian blinds, scrape, sand, fill and prime the door and window: some of the old paint was in pretty bad nick. Then, after 2 coats of primer (it’s a wet area, so I wanted to get very good coverage before I top-coated), I applied the water-based enamel.

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Job almost done.

The dark surround does make the room a little darker, but it’s so worth it. If I want the room to be lighter, I could open the venetian blinds a tad.

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This looks like…another tick on my to do list 🙂

 

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The horror and the glory

You may, or may not, know that I do like a retro cookbook. I have a vast and fantastic collection thanks to my mum’s collection, which I have posted about previously:

Marvel at the wonder, the glory…and the interesting food photos, people.

There are a couple of twitter accounts which celebrate the wonder and the horror that was the retro cookbook, and regular stories about them (when my friends find these stories, they often tag me in them so I can add to my collection):

Again: marvel at the wonder and the horror. I love it AAAAAALLLLLLLL.

My aunt also has (or shall I say “had”) a glorious cookbook collection, one that I explored when I lived at her house for a while. I have dropped hints over the year that they would find a good home in my collection…

…years passed, and the time came for her to rationalise her house in preparation for a new house. Yes, dear reader, she handed her amazing glorious cook book collection onto me. All of the wonder, all of the horror, all mine. My precious.

It’s a wide ranging collection, from classic Australian cookbooks, to celebrity chefs of the time, to curated cordon bleu cookbooks and more. I’ve taken photos of some of the more amazing recipes and books in the collection.

And I do plan to make recipes from this collection, even if they won’t visually be presented in the same way…or will they? Would you mess with the presentation of the Black Forest Bavarois?

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The 80s called, it says there’s not enough piped cream on this.

On the other hand, not so sure I will make a stuffed cabbage:

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Cabbage leaf rolls fine, stuff cabbage…not so fine?

The books are a fantastic document of food presentation and techniques of the time, including artful platters of fish with grapes on top (Sole Veronique) or piping (Fish in Spinach Sauce):

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Savoury piping is a lost art.

Delia does Sole Veronique differently now. And these days Fish in Spinach sauce comes without the fancy piping and artfully placed toppings.

How could you not marvel at the glory of endives, radishes, and a starburst of white asparagus (probably canned white asparagus)? It is majestic:

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Majestic or Bombastic, To-MAH-To To-May-To.

And then there’s the wonder of some sort of spinach mould, filled with baby potatoes:

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If that was a chocolate cake, and those were chocolate easter eggs I would be like HELLS YEAH HAPPY EASTER. When it’s spinach mould and baby potatoes, my enthusiams are more moderated.

While we are still on the savouries, can I get a holler for the chicken and peanut butter stew…ye satay chicken from ye olden days:

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I plan to make this. You’ve been warned.

And then there’s the variant on beef wellington, which involves stuffing a loin of lamb into a home-made loaf of brioche:

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Note the cold veal pie to the right with the immaculate hard boiled egg in the middle of it. This cookbook is about stuffing foods, into other foods. And I applaud it.

If we leave aside the savouries, there’s always the desserts. Like the Nectarine Cream Mousse, which is now a life goal:

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Who wouldn’t want a jelly mould that’s this fantastical? I ask you!

Then a confection of evaporated milk, lemon jelly and glace cherries, served on a bed of EVEN MORE glace cherries:

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I do like a glace cherry.

While we’re on the subject of mousse, gin and lime mousse anyone?

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An epic of piping.

Then from the Australian Women’s Weekly classics, there’s the children’s cake book. Featuring cakes in shapes and sizes to suit every child…as long as they still make the lollies and chocolates used for decoration. If not, find a suitable alternative or risk making a child cry on their birthday, and no one wants to do that, do they?

Cricket pitch (it’s summer in Australia after all):

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The most boring game on earth, slightly more interesting in cake form. Sorry cricket lovers, I am at best a disinterested party, at worst (when it’s put on the tv in my workplace): a hater.

Soccer pitch (also called football, if you’re not Australian):

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I particularly like the recycled netting used for the goals. Find that in your fruit & veggie compartment if you’re old skool.

Lest we forget, the covers and graphic design of these glorious tomes:

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If the bubble print gets larger on each line, people will know this book is about PARTIES.

Another Australian Women’s Weekly classic, The Big Book Of Beautiful Biscuits:

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Apparently Beauty is in the eye of AWW, and NOT the beholder. Someone tell Margaret Wolfe Hungerford.

I’ve now got two versions of this glorious Cordon Bleu cooking series, one from my mother and one from my aunt (one appears to be the abridged version):

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They’re slightly different. So I can’t part with either.

And then lastly, the glorious recipe that started it all. Frosted Green Cheese Mould. This is the photo that was my epiphany about retro cookbooks and recipe. If you want to blame anything or anyone, blame Hudson and Halls and THIS:

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Check out the milk glass goblets, the painting and the turquoise stoppered bottle. I have home decor envy.

If you’re getting a sense of deja vu, you’ve seen this shape earlier in this post: the spinach mould with baby potatoes. Apparently in the 80s everyone was big on the ring shape, with various fillings piled in artfully. And if that’s kale on the right, Hudson and Halls were well ahead of the kale trend of the 2010s. If it’s curly parsley…it’s bang on their era. Perhaps we could update the recipe with kale?

Let me introduce you to Hudson and Halls, TV chefs from New Zealand who made it big in the UK. FYI: They were actually a couple, and were known for the quote “are we gay – well we’re certainly merry”. Love ’em:

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When I grow up, I want to have a trifle bowl that I fill with Iceberg Lettuce, just like Hudson and Halls.

There’s a documentary about them: Hudson and Halls: A Love Story.

 

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Good for breakfast, brunch or brinner.

I served these as part of a two-course brunch for Les Chicas. We also had fancy (but very easy to make) breakfast trifles to finish. And champagne. A lot of champagne.

Ingredients

  • 300gm grape tomatoes (approx 5-6 per person)
  • 2 tbsp EVOO
  • 240gm ricotta (I accidentally picked up light ricotta)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 and 1/2 cups milk
  • 1 and 1/4 cups self raising flour
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 4 very thin slices of red onion
  • 250gm rocket

Serves 5 people (3 pancakes per person).

I made the pancakes before my guests arrived, then popped them on a baking tray lined with baking paper and covered with alfoil. Then I popped them back in the oven to heat up closer to brunch time.

In a largish mixing bowl, whisk ricotta and egg until combined. Whisk in milk, then flour. When everything’s combined, stir through basil and parmesan. Season with salt and pepper.

Melt a bit of butter in a large fry pan, then pour in 1/4 cups of mix per pancake. I could fit about 3 pancakes in my largest fry pan (the pancakes will spread to 10-15cm wide, so allow for that). Cook until golden, then flip to cook on the other side.

When your first batch is done, do a second batch. I could do 2 batches before I needed to wipe out the pan and add more butter. It look 5 batches to get through all the mix. When you’ve finished each batch, stack them in servings (3 pancakes per person) in your baking paper lined baking tray. Don’t forget to cover the tray with alfoil when done.

Preheat your oven to 220°C, timing it so that when your guests arrive you can pop the tomatoes in to roast (they take 10-15 minutes). Pop the tomatoes in a baking dish with 1 tbsp of EVOO and season with salt and pepper. Roast until the skins have split.

At 10 minutes, pop in the baking tray with your covered pancakes into the oven. If you are taking the tomatoes out, dial down the oven to 160°C. The pancakes need about 5 minutes to warm again.

Add the rocket and red onion to a bowl, pour over the remaining olive oil and the apple cider vinegar. Toss thoroughly.

To serve: pop a pancake stack (3 pancakes) on the plate, put a pile of the rocket & red onion salad on top, then artfully place 5-6 roasted grape tomatoes on top.

I recommend serving with a french champagne to drink on the side 🙂

 

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Artfully placed tomatoes.

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Little pots of joy

Having made my toasted muesli, I swung on to making breakfast trifles for my brunch with Les Chicas. I made these trifles on the day, because I wanted the muesli to still have crunch.

Ingredients

  • 1 punnet of strawberries
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 tbsp agave syrup
  • 125 mL ricotta (I used light ricotta, because I picked it up by accident)
  • 250 mL greek yoghurt (I used light greek yoghurt, mainly because there was no non-light greek yoghurt in stock)
  • 100 mL thick cream
  • Toasted muesli (if you make my recipe, you’ll have leftover muesli for breakfasts)

I made this for 4 people, in Bonne Maman jam jars. The jars are ~7.5cm in diameter, and ~9.5cm high, to give you an idea of portioning ingredients.

Hull and slice the strawberries, then pop in a bowl with the caster sugar and mix well. Leave to macerate for about an hour.

Whisk the ricotta, yoghurt and cream together until smooth, then add the agave syrup. Chill for about an hour.

Assembling the trifles happens in layers, and I discovered over the course of assembling that the perfect proportions for each layer is:

  • 3 soup spoons of the yoghurt mix
  • 2 soup spoons of the muesli
  • Strawberries in a layer

Order of the layers:

  • Yoghurt
  • Muesli
  • Yoghurt
  • Strawberry layer
  • Yoghurt
  • Muesli
  • Yoghurt
  • Strawberries to top

Pop back in the fridge to chill until needed. This is where making them in jars was so handy: I could pop the lid on and chuck them in the fridge.

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Et voila!

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Toasted muesli, served traditional style.

I had Les Chicas over for brunch last week, so decided to kick it up a notch with a two course brunch of basil and ricotta pancakes (savoury) and then breakfast trifle (sweet). To make the breakfast trifle, I needed a toasted muesli. This recipe is pretty delish on its own (yes, you can eat it by the spoonful), with milk and in the breakfast trifle so I thought I would share.

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Cooling in the pan

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup rice malt syrup (finally a use for the remainder of the jar of “honey for sad people” that I bought for a recipe)
  • 1/3 cup pure maple syrup
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  • 1/4 cup golden flax flakes
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 cup dried cranberries

Makes enough toasted muesli for 6-7 days worth, or 4-5 days worth and 4 breakfast trifles. (NB: I only eat small rice bowls of it for breakfast, see picture at the head of this post. That’s what my serves are based on.)

Preheat your oven to 160C and line a large roasting pan with baking paper (hot tip for making sure the paper doesn’t slip: spray a little oil in the pan, then put the paper in. It’s a lifechanger).

In a bowl mix together the rolled oats, coconut, pepitas, flax and chia seeds. Pour in the rice malt syrup and maple syrup and mix to coat everything well.

Spread mixture in roasting pan, make sure it’s an even layer, then pop in the oven for 15 minutes. Take out, stir well and then make sure it’s all laying evenly before popping back in the oven for another 5 minutes.

Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then pour into a bowl and stir in the cranberries. Then transfer to the jar you’re going to keep in. Will keep in an airtight container for ~1 month.

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Resting.

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Bluebells on my front patio

It’s Day 3 of 2017, time to think about the 2016 goals I managed to check off and what I want to carry over into 2017 (only 362 days left in the year y’all). Last year, I did pull back on house-related stuff in 2016, due to travel, family visits and some other commitments. Having said that: I did manage to cross off some items that had been carried across a couple of years of houseolutions lists. If I didn’t finish them, I did manage to make significant progress (hello Daybed).

2017 Houseolutions

Achievable:

  • Culinary and domestic skillz
    • Learn how to pipe buttercream icing
    • Make a gingerbread house and gingerbread men and women
    • Learn how to knit
    • Learn how to use one of my two sewing machines
    • Take a knife skills course
    • Make more passata and investigate other foodstuffs I can preserve at home
  • Daybed: make a mattress cover for it then transport it northwards.
  • Wet areas:
    • Finish painting bathroom cornices and fixing wall paint from last attempt to paint cornices (not a gift of mine)
    • Patch and repaint areas in the laundry (there are a couple of plugs that need to be removed from the wall, I need to fill, patch and repaint those areas)
  • Paint external window frames (done, d.o.n.e. and DONE).
  • Eaves: I need to repair, strip and repaint my Eaves. This relies on DIY Dad direction, and he’s currently busy renovating his house. So although I’d hoped to do this over summer, this will happen at some point in the future.
  • Front garden:
    • Topsoil and levelling of lawn
    • Finish front garden bed:
      • Buy agapanthus to fill in gaps and add some purple to the bed
    • Planters around patio:
      • Relocate bulbs in the patio planters (they need to be thinned and relocated from where I will be repointing)
      • Once new homes for bulbs are located, plant in Dianella Little Jess to add some year round foliage and colour to the beds
      • Relocate the reed/grass plant currently in the garden bed (to the front verge, sectioned and replanted)

Dreamable:

  • Passive Solar Measures
    • Insulation: I live in Australia, y’all.
    • Get universal tile ventilators for roof: Whirly birds destroy the roof line, imho.
  • Termite treatment: I live in Australia, y’all.
  • Front verge
    • Plant front verge with drought resistant plants that attract pollinators and/or are native bush tucker foods (with the aim of total cost of plants being less than $50, so far no money has been spent :D)
    • Mulch it like it’s hot

Longer term:

Some other goals that are optional and will probably not be achieved in 2017, but one can live in hope (and carry them over into 2018 and beyond):

  • Buy some big (preferably retro) pots and trees for front:
    • Yellow desert lime
    • Fig tree: DIY Dad has a very neglected Fig Tree in a pot at his. I will be bringing it to mine and seeing if I can resuscitate it.
  • Restore roof and then get solar panels: to make use of abundant resources and for guilt free electricity
  • Not as pressing, but on the radar:
    • Re-pointing:
      • I need to dig out sections of my patio planters, to enable those sections to be repaired
      • I’ll need to remove all my downpipes to repoint behind them
      • I’ll need to work out how to repoint in sections where there is no easy access thanks to a later wall being built (see next point)
      • I’d like to get the mortar gun working (issues to do with quality of sand are causing the problem, according to my research), as that will help with some of the trickier sections
    • Restore freecycled furniture in my garage
    • Get stainless steel + sailing wire trellises for out the back.
    • Carport: draw up a rough plan for what, where and how.
    • Grey water system to water lawn.
    • Garage:
      • Re-roof garage: making it water tight and insulated with a view to turning it into a studio.
      • Replace window and door, again making it water tight.
      • Replace garage door, making it water tight (or at least so I don’t get leaves from the street blown into the garage).
      • Invest in garage shelving to remove requirement for storing stuff on the floor.
    • Spare room: build a murphy bed, so I have space for visitors and painting. Murphy beds are the coolest.
    • Gallery hanging system: even if I can’t do the whole house, if I can do some of the rooms (or even just some of the walls in some of the rooms) it will mean I get some of my paintings and other sundries off the floor.

Previous Houseolutions

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First handful of sugar snap peas and snow peas.

Given I’m writing this post about late spring in the veggie garden in the middle of summer, you would be right in thinking I am a little behind in posting. Luckily a patch of 34+ days are crimping my summer holiday DIY plans.

Segue: crimping my holiday plans unless I get up at before sparrow fart when it’s cool, or stay up until…(actually what is the opposite of sparrow fart for the people who have to wait until sundown and cool down? Is there a colloquial expression for that? Should we make one? How does before bat fart read to you?)…until before bat fart. And I have done that: mainly the before bat fart because I don’t mind late night door and window painting while being eaten alive by mosquitoes, whereas sparrow fart is just too f*cking early. But I digress…

The veggie garden has been a very productive member of the household this year, I’ve had a couple of harvests of snow peas and sugar snap peas, in suitable quantities. I like how they become ready in handfuls, which is the perfect amount for a stir fry or salad.

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Pea plants in action.

And now, in summer, I am starting to harvest courgettes while little ears of corn grown on my dwarf corn plants. Actually I am not sure if they are dwarf corn plants, but I suspect so since they are a lot shorter than other corn I have grown. Whatever they are, they look like they will give me a plethora of corn.

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Looking out, over the courgettes…is a phrase you don’t use that often.

The silverbeet has now gone to seed, finally. These plants are 2 years old, so I am impressed they made it til now. I didn’t use it as much as I’d like, simply because I didn’t have the freezer space free. But I did make a large patch of silverbeet and potato soup plus I have some canneloni filling for when it’s cool enough to want to eat pasta again.

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Splendorous vegetable landscape.