Friday, 31 May 2013

Weekly Recipe: Moroccan Chicken and Couscous Soup

I love cooking Moroccan food when I am at home with toddlers because I can put it on and then walk away for a few hours, wander back and throw something else in and then wander away again. This is a chicken soup that I made with two pieces of Maryland chicken that I found in the bottom of the freezer and a chicken breast that didn't get cooked by my parents-in-law the night before. I heated a slurp of olive oil in a soup pot and sealed the chicken in it, then threw in two finely chopped onions and cooked it all on a medium heat until the onion was soft.

Then I added a teaspoon of ground cumin, a teaspoon a paprika and a litre of water and boiled.

I halved two tomatoes and grated them down to the skin (most Moroccan recipes ask you to remove the seeds, but I like them and leave them in). Discard the skin. I put the tomato in the pan along with a tablespoon of tomato paste, a teaspoon of sugar, a cinnamon stick, three diced carrots and half a diced butternut pumpkin. When the pot came to the boil, then I turned the heat down low, covered it and left it to simmer for an hour.

When the chicken was tender, I let the soup cool. Then I fished the chicken and the cinnamon stick out and put the vegetable soup through the blender before returning it to the pot with an additional 500 ml of water and bringing it to the boil.

I shredded the chicken, threw away the bones and gave the skin to the dogs.

Then that went back into the soup with parsley and mint from the garden (coriander would go well too). I stirred in half a cup of couscous very slowly and then simmered the soup for about half an hour, uncovered.

Very nice with some lemon squeezed over the top and toasted bread.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Turns out that ceilings and floors keep the heat in

Our bathroom renovation has started! Hooray! After six months of bathing Miss 2 in a plastic shell from Bunnings and negotiating a hot water service that operates on scalding or not-at-all, we have decided to cancel our overseas trip to a wedding for our friends (sob) and instead pay to have the bathroom renovated.

The bathroom started off looking stylish with lovely red wallpaper and some great mobility handrails...

It didn't take the builder long to rip everything out, including the wall into the hallway and a cupboard since we are making the bathroom larger. Check out that wasp's nest.


Until by the end of day one there was no ceiling or floor.

That was last Wednesday night. And of course that Thursday morning was the coldest that we've had in Melbourne this year. Wow! The house was like an iceblock. The plumbing went in, as well as the carpentry.

And the wiring.

Next the bath and shower base went in and a hole was punched through the kitchen since the doorway to the study no longer existed.

A new hot water system went in and although we haven't showered with it yet, the laundry and kitchen are working much better now. Hurrah!

[Side note - we have a second toilet, but are currently showered in a hired shower which has instantaneous hot water and runs off the hose. I tell you what, if I'd know how good a hired shower would be, I would have got one six months ago. There's a lot to be said for constant temperature and pressure and going outside isn't really a big deal when you are missing a ceiling and a floor and the inside of your house is ambient with the outside world.]

And finally today, over a week later, we have plasterboards. Should be much warmer tonight.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Weekly Recipe: Bibimbap

So who's good at their rice dishes comprised pickled cucumber and carrot, marinated beef, stir-fried spinach and bean shoots, sesame seeds and gochujang?


This is bibimbap, a Korean mixed rice dish that has a lot going on but is actually really easy to prepare. Marinate beef steaks in two tablespoons of soy sauce to one tablespoon of sesame oil (I did it overnight so that it would be ready when I got home from work) and then cut them into thin strips.

Julienne a carrot and half a Lebanese cucumber and sprinkle on a tablespoon of salt - let that sit for 30 minutes and whilst it's sitting mix together a tablespoon of caster sugar and four tablespoons of rice wine vinegar on the stove top until the sugar is dissolved. Then rinse away the salt with several washes and replace  with the vinegar mix.

Cook the beef in a little peanut oil on the stove. When cooked to your liking, sauté bean shoots and spinach in the remaining marinade. And on another burner, fry an egg each in oil.

Put steamed Jasmine rice in a bowl and top with the vegetables, meat and egg. Add a teaspoon of gochujang (chilli pepper paste) on the side (or put it in the marinade if everyone who's eating likes chilli) and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.

Then stir it all together just before eating.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

On Colour

We're painting the interior of our house yellow. Bright yellow. With added colours.

Cue horror.

Okay, I know that living inside a highlighter doesn't suit everybody. But to use colour in your house you don't have to have it this bright - there are some lovely gentle blues and pinks and greens that look so beautiful. But in my experience (no interior design qualifications whatsoever, obviously) using any interior colour at all is unusual for houses in Melbourne. Aside from my mum's place, which is mostly yellow, with red, green and blue rooms added in for variety, and my mum's best friend's old place, which had lots of gentle greens, I can't think of another Melbourne home that I have visited that isn't painted in neutral colours.

According to Dulux, 'Australia's Favourite Colours' are 'Antique White USA', an ivory white; 'Natural White', which is a bit less warm; and 'Hog Bristle', a beige white. Boring!

Borrowed from Dulux.

On television, houses in the UK and USA look like they might be more interesting. But apparently not. Farrow and Ball in the UK has their their top selling interior paint colours as neutrals, as do Benjamin Moore in the US. Sigh.

I know that these best sellers are based on volume and don't reflect trims and highlights that people much do in some much more interesting colours. But it does seem that most Melbournians lean towards painting neutral shades instead of soft. I think that it has something to do with making houses easier to resell in this funny economic climate, people want houses to be a neutral blank canvas.

Still, there is hope! According to a Canadaian Dulux survey in over 30 countries, “When presented with paint swatches... most people seem to like yellow – as long as it’s called something other than yellow, that is.” Apparently worldwide sales volume of paint colours shows yellow as the most popular, but even though only 5% of people would cite yellow as their favourite colour. It's a lovely warm colour, although apparently it makes babies cry (didn't seem to bother Miss 2 much). So maybe the world as a whole isn't that boring after all!

Do you use colour in your home's interior?

Friday, 17 May 2013

Weekly Recipe: Tuna Inari

My fantastic workmate's other half caught some tuna on the weekend and gave some to us. Yay! I firstly thought that I would make a tuna and bean salad, but at the last minute wavered and with Darren's support switched to tuna inari.

I marinated the tuna in soy sauce for about an hour and then grilled it. I'm sure that raw would be lovely, but doesn't really suit two year olds.

I cooked up one and a half cups of sushi rice in the rice cooker and then cooled it on the bench with a seasoning made of mirin, rice wine vinegar and a little sugar. When cool enough to touch, Miss 2 stirred in a grated carrot.

Inari pockets are fried tofu in a sweet sauce. I opened up the inari pockets gently (Oh! Look how long my nails are! No good for netball...).

Then Miss 2 stuffed the inari with the rice...

... and I put in some slices of green capsicum and a squirt of Kewpie mayonnaise...

... and added in the tuna.

Miss 2 sprinkled rice seasoning (nori, seasame seeds, dashi and other goodies) over the top and we ate it with soy sauce and wasabi.

Thank you, Paul!

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Sellers Picks on Madeit

Madeit has a few different ways of publicising their sellers for free, which is great.

The front page has a different selection of 16 items each day, chosen around a theme (today is Paisley Finds) or randomly from the Gift Guide on the weekend. Newsletters (shopping guides) are sent out three times a week with newly listed items on Monday, a theme on Wednesday and a rotation between the Gift Guide, Undiscovered Sellers and Sale Items on Friday. One seller is featured in detail for a month or so in the Designer Spotlight. The Facebook page has more items as the cover image, as well as promoting the top sellers and new sellers each month and other random items. And then there's the Picks.

Picks is a weekly display of the favourite items chosen by three sellers, as well as a range of items chosen by the Madeit staff, Bec, Tian and Axl the cat. I'm a Picks editor this week and I decide to have a theme to my finds. So I've chosen eight different fantastic brooches, five of which show on the Picks page at any one time. Below are my choices in detail.

Green Silhouette Brooch by Kapalau.

Kimono Tree Brooch by Lauren Williams.

Stunning Red Blossom Brooch by Nomstar Designs

Silver Feather Brooch by Oh Deer.

Hand Painted Bird Brooch by She's Crafty.

Floral Heart Attack by Simonette.

Teal and Maroon Floral Tree Brooch by Under The Shade Of A Bonsai Tree.

Tawny Owl Wool Felt Brooch by foxowlroad.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Weekly Recipe: Pizza

Yay for pizza! This week I made two, one "Italian" and one "Argentinian. The dough was whipped up in my bread maker with 1 teaspoon of yeast, 475 g of flour, 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 tablespoon of powdered milk, 1 3/4 tablespoons of sugar, 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 300 ml of water. The same feat could be achieved by kneading, but I'm lazy.

This was enough for two pizzas - I made square-ish pizzas and pricked them with a fork.

The Italian-ish pizza had a squashed tomato, basil and oregano base, layered with very thinly sliced potato, tomato, ham and capsicum and then covered with cheese.

But the Argentinian onion pizza (fugazzeta) was more interesting. I sliced three onions thinly and cooked them in a little olive oil in the frying pan until soft.

Then put them over the base which had been scattered with grated cheese (a mix of mozzarella and provolone works well) and oregano. I put olives on half of the pizza, since Darren doesn't like them.

Bake in an oven at 210 degrees for about half an hour and yum-o. Enough for two nights!

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Toddler Play: Driveway Alphabet

We are "blessed" with an extensive amount of concrete at our house. The driveway, which runs the whole length of the property, is two car widths at the top end. Plenty of room for drawing with chalk. I covered the driveway with the alphabet, in upper and lower case. Miss 2.5 is very fond of the alphabet at the moment and Miss 2 is very fond of alphabet puzzles.

We did hunts for letters. Miss 2.5 was right into it. We had long negotiations over what letter certain words begin with.
Me: "Where is M for Daddy Marc?"
Miss 2.5: "No! D is for Daddy Marc!"
Me: "Well, D is for Daddy, but M is for Marc."
Miss 2.5: "No! D is for Marc."
Me: "Um... well, D is for Daddy Darren."
Miss 2.5: "No! D is for Marc."
Apparently I had similar stubbornness levels as a child. Who would have imagined it? I'm *so* biddable now...

Miss 2 thought that finding letters was okay to start with...


... but quickly decided that riding her bicycle over the letters was more fun. Not a problem!