Tag Archives: Blog

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.

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!

Jamie Oliver’s Chicken Fajita’s, or “What I cooked at the Jamie Oliver Ministry of Food Ipswich Event”

And the title is as much of a mouthful as the Fajita’s were.

The four bloggers with the great man. From left to right: Myself, Jane, Jamie Oliver, Kristie and Margie

For those who are interested, here is the recipe for the Chicken Fajita’s we cooked at the event.  It was an absolute thrill to cook alongside the calibre of people at the event, but to meet the man himself and feel the energy and passion he has for his cooking…well, i’ll never forget it.

Here it is all nicely plated...well, sort of.

CHICKEN FAJITAS

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 1 skinless, boneless chicken breast
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • Small pinch ground cumin
  • 2 limes
  • Olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 small or 2 large flour tortillas
  • 150ml of low fat natural yoghurt
  • 50g cheddar cheese

SALSA

  • Fresh red chilli, ½ to a whole chilli as to your taste
  • 15 ripe cherry tomatoes
  • Small bunch fresh coriander
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lime
  • Olive oil

GUACAMOLE

  • Small handful mixed-colour cherry tomatoes
  • Fresh red chilli, ½ to a whole chilli as to your taste
  • Few sprigs fresh coriander
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 lime

EQUIPMENT LIST

  • Griddle pan (substituted in place of barbecue)
  • 2 chopping boards
  • 2 knives
  • Bowls
  • Spoons
  • Measuring spoons
  • Tongs
  • Microwave-safe dish or frying pan
  • Grater

METHOD

1. Place griddle pan on a high heat.

2. Halve and deseed pepper and cut into thin strips. Peel, halve and finely slice onion. Slice chicken lengthways into long strips, roughly the same size as pepper strips.

3. Place peppers, onion and chicken into a bowl with the paprika and cumin.

Squeeze over the juice of half a lime, drizzle over a lug of olive oil, season with a good pinch of pepper and mix well.

Put to one side to marinate for five minutes while you make your salsa.

4. Finely chop chilli. Roughly chop tomatoes and coriander, including stalks.

5. Place chilli and tomatoes in a second bowl, add salt and pepper and the juice of one lime. Stir in chopped coriander.

6. Use tongs to put the marinated pepper, onion and chicken into the preheated griddle pan and cook for six to eight minutes, until the chicken is golden and cooked through. Keep turning the chicken and vegetables so they lightly char grill rather than burn.

7. To make the guacamole, squeeze a handful of cherry tomatoes on to a board.

Finely chop up the flesh with the red chilli and a handful of coriander leaves, including the top part of the stalks.

8. Halve and stone the avocado then squeeze it over a board so the flesh comes out of the skin. Discard the skin, squeeze lime juice over the flesh and chop everything together until fine. Taste and adjust flavours if need be.

9. At the table, take the chicken and vegetables from the grill pan. Serve with bowls of plain yoghurt and guacamole alongside cheddar, a grater, fresh salsa and tortilla shells.

– Jamie Oliver

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.

2011 Christmas Vacation – Day 7

Day 7 is our last full day in Alice Springs, and the plan is to re-supply for the next major driving stint, and to explore the downtown a bit.  Ok, it really doesn’t take too long to explore downtown Alice Springs, but I will try to make it sound interesting.

The day begins with another visit to the Ford Dealer at 7:30 in the morning.  Just where I wanted to spend a couple of hours.  Apparently Ford wants them to change the fuel filter in case there is some crap built up in there.  Two hours of waiting patiently in the dealership and they are none the wiser.  Oh well, the check engine light hasn’t returned, and lord willing (and the creek don’t rise), we’ll not see that issue ever again.

I drive back to the house, and decide to whip up a big breakfast.  Just to be different, I fry up a few “Camel and Date” sausages.  I’ve never eaten Camel before, so I was excited to give it a try.  It was gamier than I expected, but the combination of Dates with the gamey flavour worked well.  For my taste, it was a little sweet, but they were really good sausages.  I’d certainly eat them again, though maybe next time I’ll spring for a Camel steak.

After catching up on some work emails, we head downtown for a nice stroll and a spending spree at the grocery store.

Given our next journey is to Uluru, we needed to find some hats.  Jeri and I forgot to bring ours (actually, I lost mine in an unfortunate boat sinking 18 months ago, but the scars are still to raw to elaborate on that little episode), so the hunt was on.  And what a hunt it was.  Jeri and I both suffer from a genetic condition called Biggus Headus.  It turns out that One Size Fits All certainly does not “Fit All”.  We must have walked into a dozen stores that sell hats of one kind or another.  The search was so taxing, we had to stop for a beer along the way at one of the downtown cafes.

Side note:  Coopers is a popular option in the NT.  I guess with South Aus just down the track, it makes sense.  In Queensland you cannot find a decent beer on tap in most places.  Ale?  Whats that?  It’s a nice change to actually want to go into a pub for a drink.  Coopers makes the best mass produced beers in this country, in my opinion.  Anyhow…

We walk into a Safari Souvenir place, and it has a big sale on, given we are now in the off season.  I guess people just don’t want to travel to the Alice in the middle of Summer.  Pussies.  Jeri and I both find a couple of really nice hats, kangaroo leather, and walk out comforted by the fact that we have potentially avoided a heatstroke fatality in the future.  Yay for us.

Narrowly avoiding a parking fine for over extending our 3 hour limit in the grocery parking lot, an infraction vigorously enforced by a crack team of Council Parking Officers…come to think of it, Alice Springs has a lot of Crack Council Teams.  I saw one team proudly protecting a public toilet, and extracting a 50 cent toll from all who wanted to enjoy the facilities therein…but I digress.  Jeri and I head back to the house and start the sorting and packing for the trip in the morning.

As night falls, the two families (Crumps and Hills) head off to a restaurant that Cousin Andy has been wanting to try (Monte’s).  Apparently the owners are known to both Andy and Andrea, and Andy has helped him with some shipping of large props in the past (namely an 8′ Nutcracker, and a life-sized rocking horse…if by life-sized you mean the size of a large Shetland Pony).  Look for my food review for Monte’s shortly.  The meal was really good, and thanks to Andy and Andrea for picking up the bill…it really was not necessary.

Back at the house, I end the evening spending about 3 hours trying to load up the Touchpad with some music to stream to the car stereo…tomorrow is going to be epic.