Category Archives: Writing

Poetry, Essays, Opinions, and Observations. Some funny, some poignant, all original.

Back – New Beginnings

To those who have subscribed to my blog, I want to apologize for the unexplained, and unexpected, hiatus.

In short, here is the last eight months (in brief):

  • Got asked to vacate our rental house, 3 months prior to the proposed completion date of our new home.  Contract ended, and the owners did not want to extend for a short period.
  • Chilli plants got dumped all over the verandah (thanks to the dog), none survived…but we won’t quit that project quite yet.  Look for a sequel soon.
  • Purchased a small (old) caravan and rented a shed to live in for the short 3 months until the house was finished.  This ended my blogging due to not being able to cook much of anything (except BBQ).
  • 3 months became 6 months, as weather and labour delays cost us dearly.  Christmas was spent in the shed, instead of a new home.
  • End of January, and our house was completed…at least the building.  Landscaping to come.

So now we are in a new home, and I have a nice space to start cooking again, it’s time to bring back the blog.

Thanks to those who have sent me messages.   The good news is that I am now contributing the occasional column to our local newspaper (The Daily Mercury, in Mackay Queensland).  The next entry will serve double duty as my submission to the paper…but here it is the directors cut.  The newspaper version will likely be shortened for space.

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Grow your own Chilli’s – Week 2

Last week, I wrote a post about my ambitious attempt to plant 15 varieties of Chilli’s, bedding down 4 seeds of each for a total of 60 plants.  What I am going to do with 60 Chilli plants, should they all be successful, is beyond me, especially as one of the varieties will grow to be 4 metres tall and produce more than 20kg chilli’s in a season (and I planted 4 of these seeds too).  I guess those who have followed my blog thus far have realized that I am not one to think things through to their conclusion much of the time.

Still, the start of week 2 is here, and what an exciting week 1 it was!  It was way more exciting than watching grass grow, which is odd because here there was not even any plants to watch grow.  That was, until this morning…but more on that later.

It turns out that I really do need to water these things daily.  The paper egg cartons are a great idea, but they wick the water away from the soil very readily, especially with the ocean breeze blowing across them.  I learnt very quickly that a 2 day watering cycle wasn’t going to work.  Not only were they bone dry at the time of watering, but one occasion I found one of the cartons on the floor, contents partially spilled.

I am not sure if it was the wind that blew it of the table, I actually doubt it, or whether it was some wicked local animal playing mischievous games with my crop.  Number one suspect is my English Staffy, Brunson, but he denied any knowledge.  As you can see by the photo, however, he is hardly a dog to be trusted.

Brunson: Suspect #1, can’t be trusted.

I recovered about 4 seeds from the mess, and given the bulk of the soil was still in the cartons, I am pretty sure that most of the seeds stayed in the carton.  I did replant the escapees, and topped up the lost soil, so let’s hope that tray sprouts some time soon.

Today we are going to reveal the seeds planted in tray 1.  The seeds in tray 1 were given to me by Cecil at work, and I am not 100% sure of the actual varietal.  I can only go by what he has described, and maybe make some assumptions.

Tray 1, with 3 kinds of chilli’s

As it so happens, tray 1 is also the home of my first sproutling.  This morning, when I opened the cartons to water them, I noticed one of the seeds had burst forth a pale green shoot.  Very excited, especially as I didn’t expect any action until mid way through week 3.

My first chilli!

Seed #1:  Round Red Mild Chilli.

This is the seed that has sprouted for me already.  If it is as described, I will probably save these chilli’s for one of 2 uses:  stuffing (with a cream cheese mix) or pickling.  From the description, it is either a Pimento (very mild) or a Cherry Chilli (mild).

Seed #2:  Mild Bell Chilli

So, to me, this is a capsicum, or Bell Pepper.  It may end up being something more similar to a pimento, which is pretty much what I imagine Seed #1 to be, given the vague description given to me.  This blog entry is rapidly going down hill!  If it is the Pimento or Cherry Chilli, I’ll be looking to do the same as seed #1.

If it is a capsicum, I will be eating these raw…or roasting them and preserving them in oil.

Seed #3:  Long mild chilli

Again, a very vague description that could mean anything, however I am thinking they are the generic “Red Chilli” and “Green Chilli” which is common in mega marts around here.  Quite mild, i’ll be using them to give flavour to salsa’s and mild curries, as well as using them for Taco night, given the kids are not exactly chilli heads.

Pickled Chilli’s
(recipe courtesy Jamie Oliver)

  • 600gr / 1lb 5oz medium green chillies
  • 15 black peppercorns
  • 5 bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons coriander seeds
  • 5 teaspoons salt
  • 6 heaped tablespoons caster sugar
  • 1 litre / 1 3/4 pints white wine vinegar or rice vinegar

Stuffed Cherry Peppers (or Pimento’s)

  • 100g chopped and seeded Kalamata Olives
  • 100g soft goats cheese
  • 50g plain yoghurt
  • 1 lg garlic clove, minced

Blend ingredients and stuff the chilli’s.  Serve raw.  Pickled chilli’s can also be used here.

or

  • 150g cream cheese
  • 100g dried apricots, diced fine
  • 20g slivered almonds, toasted
  • pinch salt

Blend and stuff into chilli.  Wrap chilli with bacon or proscuitto, and bake in a hot oven until tender.

Stuffed Cherry Peppers

Next week we’ll cover the seed that have been planted in tray 2.  Hopefully i’ll get a few more sproutlings, and hopefully my wife will remember to look after whilst I am out of town this week, lol!

As always, enjoy the meal.

The Pathway to Redemption – Make your own Salad Dressing

Nothing represents our failure as a culture as much as Salad Dressing.  I know that’s a big statement, given all of the issues we are facing in the world today, but Salad Dressings have to be one of the most vile and evil things that we can possibly buy.

Let me explain.

First of all, the recipe for a basic salad dressing is:

  • 1 part vinegar
  • 3 parts oil

And that’s it.  End of story.

So, here’s a homework project.  Check you pantry.  Do you have oil?  Do you have vinegar or lemon juice?  Great!  Or…if not…get some the next time you are at the store.  It doesn’t have to be fancy oil or vinegar, just plain old vegetable oil and white vinegar is fine…for a start.

Grab an old jar from that cupboard full of old jars and lids that ‘someday’ you are going to find uses for, and add a splash of vinegar.  Don’t add much, just a good pour.  If you have to have a measure, go with a 1/3 of a cup or a couple of shot glasses full (my personal favourite measure).  Then add roughly three times more oil.  Cap it and shake it.

Now make yourself a basic salad.  Just lettuce.  Fancy lettuce, plain lettuce, bagged lettuce, whatever you want.  Drizzle on some of the dressing, and toss the lettuce around (best to use your finger tips, and toss gently).  You want to just coat the leaves.  And you are done.

Taste it.  How good is that?

Now, think about some variety.  A pinch of salt…a spoon of garlic…a turn of fresh cracked pepper…even a little bit of sugar.  What’s that?  You want to get fancy?  Try a different oil, get a different vinegar.  How about lemon juice instead?  Or….how about some herbs, or a spoon of mustard…a dollop of mayonnaise…and now you are really cooking.  I mean, really cooking…literally and figuratively, and we haven’t even addressed the salad mix yet!

So why is Salad Dressing so evil?

Well, $15 a litre, for a start.  Emulsifiers, preservatives, and colouring agents, that’s why.  The fact that we allow a market for Salad Dressings to even exist, is proof we are spiraling down a drain of culinary helplessness.  Billions of dollars are spent on this ridiculous convenience, not counting the cost to the environment in plastic bottles and packaging.

You see, a salad dressing is analogous for all cooking.  It can be complex, or it can be as simple as 2 ingredients.  The point is, sometimes we buy things for no real reason, and all we are really doing is spending money that we could be using elsewhere, and filling our bodies with the ingredients and chemicals that food companies use to make their profits.  Salad dressing is not a convenience food, so quit buying it.  Instead, spend the money on some quality vinegar and oil.

Returning to the basics can be a very eye opening experience.  Food doesn’t have to be, and should not be, a complicated chore.  Don’t let Masterchef or MKR or Top Chef fool you.  You don’t need a degree in cooking, or be practiced at complicated techniques, to make good food.  Keep it simple, and most of all, keep it home made.

For gods sake people, make yourself a salad dressing.

Tips for a perfect Salad Dressing:

  • Vinegar is roughly 5% acidic…so is lemon juice.  If you are using something less acidic, such as orange juice, use more of it.
  • Dried herbs will take some time to release their flavours into a dressing.  If you have fresh herbs, add them to the salad, instead of the dressing.  Dried herbs are fine, but the dressing won’t benefit from them until a few days soaking.  You can shortcut this by simmering the herbs in the vinegar before making the dressing, but you will want to cool it down before adding to the salad.
  • A salad dressing doubles as a killer marinade.  NEVER forget that tip.
  • Try an Asian flair…a dash of soy, a splash of sesame oil, and a blob of honey (maybe some Chinese 5 spice or fish sauce too).
  • Most of all, have fun and play around with flavours…but never forget the basics.  1 Part Vinegar, 3 Parts Oil.

Jamie Oliver’s ministry of Food Ipswich Event – Video is Posted

In case you didn’t get to see the Webcast of the event, brought to you from Ipswich by The Good Guys, here is a link to the video.  The Good Guys have posted the video for you to watch whenever you can.

Jamie dispenses some good health wisdom to us all

Watch it and be inspired, oh and look out for the big guy in the Hawaiian shirt standing behind the Premier, Anna Bligh.

http://www.thegoodguys.com.au/mackay/content-ReadMore2?cm_sp=sidebar-_-leftpromoespot6-_-jamiefood

After you’ve watched it, click HERE to review the blogs, as written by the 4 finalists in The Good Guys Home Chef Blogger contest, and vote for the best blog.  Click the “Vote” button on this page, because there seems to be an issue with the buttons on the actual blog pages.

My Jamie Oliver Blog – Posted (finally)

Well, here is the link to The Good Guy blogging page:

https://www.facebook.com/thegoodguysAU?sk=app_203351739677351

They are 4 really great pieces of writing, so read them all for each of our perspectives.  Vote for the best of them, and if that’s me, vote for me.  If you don’t want to read them all, read mine and then vote for me, lol.

The whole process was mentally exhausting, and I take my hat off to those who write for a living.  Writing a blog when it’s for fun is one thing.  Writing something when it really counts, it was very stressful.

Still, I hope you all appreciate the result.  It has been a fun ride, and wouldn’t change a thing win or lose.

Enjoy, and thanks for your support.

It's a new superhero called APRON MAN!

The Good Guys Blogging Contest

The blog is done…I think.  I have ached over it for hours, writing and re-writing, and I think I have finally come up with something I am happy with.

Thanks heaps to my lovely wife, who did the bulk of the critiquing, and thanks to Azra, who helped put the finishing touches together, I have met the deadline and submitted my entry (along with photo’s).

Now The Good Guys will collect the entries, and post them online in the next day or so.  I will follow this up with the link to the voting, and I will also write up a blog for this site to post.

Unfortunately I can’t give you a preview of my entry, but hopefully it fits with my “style”.

Thank you all for your support, past and ongoing, and I look forward to blogging from London (if and when I win, of course).

My competition Bio page!

This is the link to my bio page for the upcoming Jamie Oliver cooking session!  Keep posted for an opportunity to vote for me, pretty please!

 

 

Can’t believe my luck…The Good Guys and Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food

I am gobsmacked, and those who know me know that it is not an easy thing to do.

It has just been announced that I am one of the four finalists for the Good Guy’s and Jamie Oliver’s Ministry of Food blogging competition, and I can hardly type (the backspace button is getting a mashing).

Unfortunately, I am not able to write too much more at the moment, given I am at work (and have very little access to social media), but look for some more tonight.  Hopefully I will have calmed down a little, and be able to pen some thoughts.

I would like to thank the Good Guy’s and the Ministry of Food for this amazing oppotunity, and turn my thoughts to the thousands of quality bloggist’s out there who were unsuccessful.  I have read many of your blogs, and many of you are at least as equally deserving of this opportunity as I am.  How do the organizers select a final 4 from the mountain of applications?  It surely could not have been easy. 

Until I can write more later, thanks again and I look forward to your support.