If You Always Do What You've Always Done...Then You'll Always Get What You Always Got

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Ahmet's Turkish Restaurant

Turkish food is high on my list of preferences.  I discovered this relatively late in life - my parents lived for a time not too far from a predominantly Turkish area of Sydney, and once I discovered a particular restaurant it became a treat every visit.  However, last night was the first time I visited Ahmet's at South Bank.  I met up with a couple of friends for a late afternoon coffee, which turned into dinner.  A wealth of choices, and this was our pick.  Not disappointed.

One thing I love about Turkish restaurants (apart from the food) is the decor.  Great throws, rugs, cushions, trinkets... So visually interesting.

Now, I hope you're proud of me - instead of choosing a casserole-type dish (as I normally would), I opted for a salad (chicken and almond) from the list of entrees.  It was massive.  So massive, in fact, that I left what felt like half the salad.  And it didn't feel all that authentic as it contained mayonnaise.  That said, it was delicious.  Really tender chicken, with lovely flavour, and a nice balance with the almonds and salad bits.  Tempted to try this at home.

An aspect of Ahmet's that you wouldn't find at the place in Sydney - belly dancing on Friday and Saturday nights.  This is something I don't think I've experienced before.  Now, I rather like watching dancing, and am enthusiastic about cultural-type activities... However, I found having a belly dancer shaking her torso in my face rather confronting.  Who would have thought.  Plus, the noise level went up so much we resorted to typing on our phones to communicate.  The toddlers trying to join in though - pretty cute.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Photo Trip #1

Well, I hope this is photo trip #1 of many.  This sort of thing is something I've been wanting to do for a long time, it just doesn't usually work out.  Normally for weather reasons.  On Wednesday evening, I did my first decent run in a while, and enjoyed seeing the green and red lights on various city icons - the Kurilpa bridge, the wheel, QPAC.  I thought, I'd love to get some photos...  I was going to do this on Thursday but I realised my timing with dinner was all out (not a huge deal, but enough for my brain to short out - dinner won).  So Friday it was.  In the afternoon we had super clouds but not much storm, just a heap of rain all of a sudden.  I anticipated the clouds still hanging around would make the photos more atmospheric.  I was right.  I left home just after 6, which was pretty perfect timing I think.

There was something I wanted to check out (sales!) in the city, and I went from there up the Queen St Mall.  The lights were just beginning to come on, turning the Treasury Casino red.

Waiting for the lights to change at William St, the gloominess plus the streetlights plus the red lights all added up to a pretty cool photo.  I put it on Instagram with the Xpro-II filter and so far it's my most popular image :)

Crossing the Victoria Bridge, I felt like a total tourist.  But I do like a silvery river.  I contemplated coming across again straight away on the other side, as the clouds to the west were pretty spectacular.  But my main goal was a photo from the west of the Kurilpa bridge with the city in the background.  Below is another I put on Instagram, also with the Xpro-II filter - second-most popular image so far.

I even checked my map (no apple maps jokes, thanks...) and thought I had to go to the Go Between  Bridge... Silly me.  Not only did I have to walk through a fairly dodgy part of town, but I ended up coming back to the William Jolly Bridge.  Face palm. 

And, when I got to the Kurilpa, with the city in the background, I saw the colour filters were not working.  One of them was flickering (spooky much?!) but the others just weren't on. 

Still took a couple more photos of course.  Bit of zoom for this one so it's not quite so clear.  The whole trip (including shopping) took just under 1 hour 45 minutes. 

Friday, 28 December 2012

Pistachio and Saffron Truffles

Now that all truffle recipients have received theirs, I can share the truffle recipes... I made 3 different types this year: dark chocolate with mint (I did these last year, and they are not at all after-dinner-mint-like); Cointreau and almond (a variation on white chocolate and Frangelico truffles, I just use whichever liqueur I fancy and an appropriate match); and pistachio and saffron truffles.  First time.  These are from coffee & bites by Susie Theodorou, a recipe book I purchased pretty much for the white chocolate and cardamom truffles, of which these truffles are a variation.  Possibly slightly concerning that the book opens up to this page, which has flecks of white chocolate just evident...

550g white chocolate (Valrhona is specified of course)
400mL (1 2/3 cups) whipping (light) cream
50g butter (this is in the ingredient list, but not involved in the instructions - ???)
100g unsalted pistachios, finely ground
good pinch of saffron
50g icing sugar

Cut 350g of the chocolate into small pieces and put into a bowl.  Heat the cream until just boiling.  Stir the cream into the chocolate, and continue stirring until the mixture is completely smooth.  Add the pistachios and saffron, and mix to combine.  Whisk the chocolate with an electric beater - the mixture will thicken.  Allow to thicken until the whisk leaves a trail in the mixture when lifted.  Chill for 1-2 hours.  (I always allow an overnight setting time, as I nearly always make truffles at Christmas time when the weather is rather warm and very humid).
Ensure your hands are quite cold - run your wrists under cold water, if necessary.  Take a heaped teaspoon of the mixture and roll it between your palms into a ball about the size of a walnut.  The ball should be quite smooth.  Place on a tray (I always line mine with foil) and repeat to make 34 truffles.  Place in the fridge for 15 minutes (again, I allow much longer).
Melt the remaining 200g chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water (or in the microwave if you're me).  Let the chocolate cool, but remain runny.  [The next 2 steps I omit, partly through laziness, and partly from my memory of what happened last year.  They are: to sift the icing sugar onto a flat dish - I used a small sieve directly over the truffles; and to set a cooling rack over greaseproof paper - if you have a cooling rack with really small gaps this should be fine, but my truffles last year fell a bit, and I had scores resembling those from a char grill on my truffles.  Not ideal].
Take the chilled truffle balls and, using two forks, gently roll each truffle in the chocolate to coat completely.  Well, I just use one teaspoon and a hand.  This results in a chocolate glove on my left hand but I can coordinate much better this way.  Now, I returned my chocolate-covered truffles to the tray, but if you want to follow the official instructions, rest them on the cooling rack until the chocolate has set, then roll them in icing sugar.
 I just dusted them while on the tray.  Actually, I found that after a couple of rows of chocolate-covering, they were starting to soften - hence the above photo.  A few trips to the fridge later, and I had a batch of chocolate-covered, sugar-dusted truffles.

To package for gifts, I just managed to fit them into little Christmas-themed patty pan cases, and then into a small noodle box with the mint truffles and Cointreau truffles.

Although these are rather classy, I do like the simpler Cointreau truffles, all those stripes... And these I did without the whole piping bag thing this year - I think they look just as good.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

The Self-Pedicure Kit

I've mentioned before that I don't have the nicest-looking feet.  Not that I mind that, particularly - being a foot model was never on my list of goals, and I can still wear summer footwear without feeling too ashamed.  But they're not pretty.  And this year, having done lots of running, they've become even uglier.  The first ever pedicure I had was amazing.  She got right into it, scraped off all the dead skin, trimmed the tops of the nails (sorry - but it was necessary, and very welcome), and my feet were pretty happy.  Ever since then, though, I've had rather timid pedicurists (wow, that's really a word).  Except for one, who nearly had my foot up her nose.

Just before Christmas, I decided to look for some heavy-duty toenail clippers.  What I found, though, was a pedicure kit.  Score.  It included the heavy-duty toenail clippers, as well as a foot scraper and the usual emery boards and toe-separators.  I had a good go at my feet, nails particularly, and now feel like a normal person.  I wouldn't say I now have pretty feet, but the ugly level has come down a few notches.  Not so much that you get a photo of them, though.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Christmas Traditions, Tweaked

Happy Christmas, everyone.  Yesterday was the first Christmas I had at home for a few years, and I went back to some childhood traditions - tweaked just a tiny bit.

This was the first year I can recall when I went to the midnight service, but no morning service, and didn't feel totally weird about not going to church on Christmas morning.  I had a tiny sleep in (not overly, as the toddler next door was awake and vocal relatively early).  I had yoghurt, coffee, and panettone with butter for breakfast (totally traditional).  I had a pamper session (new).  My brother came over, we indulged in more coffee, opened presents, contacted family...  Okay, now for the food.

There are some years when I go fancy for Christmas.  This year, though, I had an overwhelming urge to make my mum's chicken salad (frequently on the Christmas menu when I was a kid).  I had a vague recollection of the ingredients (and yes, I got them all correct) - I did check with mum in our Christmas phone conversation if I was about to get the proportions correct.  Here's my version from yesterday, with indicators of my tweaks for the day.  I only made it to serve 2 ish, but obviously when I was younger the quantities reflected the great horde of kids and adults eating.

300g chicken breast (we used to use a cooked chook)
approx 100mL sour cream
approx 100g natural or Greek yoghurt
a bit of Spanish style paprika, garam masala, turmeric, ground chillies, and ground coriander (mum would use curry powder, but I don't have any - I got the right sort of colour happening though.  For this amount of salad, I'd estimate it totaled about 2 teaspoons of spice)
about a cup of white, seedless grapes (I love grapes so I put in lots, plus quite a few to taste-test.  I recognise not everyone is such a grape-fiend, so some may prefer to use not quite so many)
about a cup of roasted pumpkin and sweet potato (last minute inspiration)

Put the chicken in a small saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to the boil over medium heat, then cover and reduce the heat to low.  Simmer for 8-10 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.  Remove from the heat, drain, and allow to cool.
In a medium serving bowl, mix together the sour cream and yoghurt.  Add the spices or curry powder.  Slice the grapes in half, and chop the roast vegetables so they're about 2cm cubes.  Add the grapes and vegetables to the yoghurt mix.  Shred the cooked chicken into the bowl, and mix thoroughly. 

(Great as leftovers the next day with some egg and cheese mixed in).  We had a Christmas-y salad of mixed leaves, cherry tomatoes, avocado, and mango as well.  And then dessert.  My brother suggested (I use the term loosely) I do a trifle.  Another tradition that has been somewhat neglected in recent years.  I won't share a photo, nor will I share my recipe (also, term used loosely).  I admit, I used all packet substances.  The cream in the fridge was maybe half a day too old, so we didn't risk it.  Result: one ugly yet tasty, alcoholic-y dessert.  In future, I'll find a recipe and follow it.  Promise.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Fruit and Macadamia Pork with Port Sauce

I've just had a few days visiting my parents.  I really enjoy cooking (as you may have gathered), and especially at this time of year, enjoy being able to do this small thing for my parents.  It was really outrageously summery on Monday and the thought of standing up, let alone cooking, was a bit much.  Chicken and mango salad was the result.  Yummy, but I'm not going to post the recipe here.  Tuesday evening, I made Fruit & Macadamia Pork with Port Sauce, from the first of the Simply Heaven books from Philadelphia Cream Cheese.  I also have this book, but this was the first recipe I've made from it.  I halved the recipe (yes, for everything!) and had to make some substitutions, but was mostly faithful...  I'll put in the full recipe here (not the halved version).

125g Philadelphia block cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup dried fruit medley (I combined some dried apricots and cranberries)
1/4 cup chopped macadamia nuts
salt & pepper, to taste
4 pork fillets (approx 250g each) - not available, so I used pork loin instead
50g baby spinach leaves (very approximate...)
2 tablespoons oil

1 cup port (thanks Dad for the really nice port!!)
1/2 cup chicken stock
2 teaspoons cornflour, blended with 1 tablespoon water

1 bunch watercress, trimmed, to serve
Steamed baby squash, to serve (or steamed carrot and cabbage, if neither of these is available)

(Not mentioned here, but preheat oven to 180C)
Combine cream cheese, fruit, nuts, and seasonings. 
 Make a cut lengthways down the centre of each pork fillet, 3/4 of the way through the fillet.  Place spinach leaves down the centre of each open fillet then spoon the cream cheese mixture over spinach.  Fold the fillet over to enclose the filling and secure with toothpicks.
Heat the oil in a large frypan and brown pork fillets on all sides.  Transfer to a baking dish and bake in moderate oven for 20 minutes or until cooked through.
Remove fillets from baking dish, wrap in foil and rest for 10 minutes.  Combine pork juices, port and stock in baking dish (I used the frying pan) and bring to the boil, stirring to loosen all pan juices.  Add blended cornflour and cook for 3-4 minutes or until slightly thickened.  Slice pork and place on serving plates, drizzle with sauce and serve with the vegetables of choice.

Try to resist caving in to puppy-dog eyes throughout the cooking process.

Of course, the nicer the port, the nicer the sauce...

Sunday, 16 December 2012

The Vivaldi Gloria

On Friday evening, I was part of a performance of the Vivaldi Gloria.  This is one of those works I have heard forever, so I knew how all the different parts sounded (as a whole, that is).  The Gloria bit has been performed by so many school orchestras I could quite possibly play you the first and second violin parts from memory.  But Friday was my first time performing the real thing, in its entirety.  It rocks.

In May I was part of a performance of Theodora, done by the Alexandra Chorale and conducted by Nathan Aspinall.  Same group, but a reduced orchestra - we had just a quintet of strings, plus a flute and an oboe when required.  We performed a few other things as well, including Bach's cantata #82 (Ich habe genung) - which was a revelation in itself. 

From listening to the Vivaldi, I hadn't really noticed or realised which part does what.  Playing second violin in this concert, I relished the importance given to this part.  There are some sections when the second violin is just as important as the first, another equal voice.  In other parts, the second violin plays more an obbligato part. 

The best bit about this performance was the presence of a sensation I sometimes - but not always - get, that awareness of nothing but the music, a bit like staring at one of those 3D drawings.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Caramelised Pineapple Tart

One of the perks of having food home delivered, is the free magazine that accompanies deliveries every so often.  Recently, the Aussie Farmers magazine had a recipe for this Caramelised Pineapple Tart... and I just happened to have a pineapple sitting temptingly in the fruit bowl.  I couldn't resist.  This was my first attempt at this sort of recipe, so a few naughty words might have escaped.  This was also my first time using my frying pan in the oven.  One of the reasons I bought this pan was for its oven capabilities, but I was still a bit nervous as I put it in. 

165g (3/4 cup) caster sugar
2 teaspoons softened unsalted butter
1/2 pineapple, peeled
2 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
vanilla bean ice cream, to serve (I used natural yoghurt, which was a great balance to the all-out sweetness of the tart)

Preheat the oven to 210C.
Put the sugar and butter in an ovenproof frying pan and set over moderate heat.  Cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes until well caramelised.  Remove from the heat.
Slice the pineapple into 5mm thick pieces and remove the core.  Arrange the pineapple pieces decoratively on the caramel, then return the pan to the heat and cook for 3 minutes.

Place the pastry sheets on top of one another and roll out to form a 26cm square.  Trim off the corners to shape into a circle, and drape over the pineapple.  Tuck in the edge, then bake for 15 minutes or until the pastry has risen.  Reduce the oven temperature to 170C and bake for a further 15 minutes until the pastry is crisp.

Invert the tart onto a plate, then cut into slices and serve with ice cream (or yoghurt).

The first time I ate this, I found it incredibly sweet - like, sugar-coma-inducing levels of sweet.  I don't know if it was my sweet-tolerance increasing, or some sort of chemistry over the course of the next few days, but the next indulgences were not as tooth-hurtingly sweet.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

The Graduation

No, I wasn't graduating.  I had an all-day gig yesterday, playing for 3 graduation ceremonies (for Griffith University, at the Gold Coast).  Most boring gig, ever (so far).  We had a sound check at 9:30 (about 15 minutes, all up).  We played from about 10:15ish - 10:55ish, and a piece as the musical interlude (about 3 minutes), at about 11:40.  Repeat the last 2 steps at 2:15ish and 6:15ish.  So, less than 3 hours playing... More than 5 hours not playing...  We were informed in the initial email that there would be lots of break time.  Accordingly, I took along a book, my phone, and my phone charger - all of which I used - plus ear phones, which I left in my bag.  The other players didn't bring anything to do in the break times.  I read a lot of my book and played a lot of games on my phone, as well as texting and checking Facebook a lot - I would have gone totally insane without these things. 

The actual playing bit was easy.  On one hand, much easier than playing for a wedding (no 'it has to be perfect' pressure).  However, just before we started playing, we (and all the soon-to-be graduates) were told the ceremony (and subsequent ceremonies, obviously) would be live streamed for the first time ever.  Ooh, hello pressure!

The whole show was very finely organised and ran really smoothly.  Especially the 2nd and 3rd graduations - more instruction beforehand on the doff, faster reading of names - that's pretty much it, really.  And I trusted our contact would actually come and find us at the right time (as she promised she would, repeatedly), instead of wandering out there 10 minutes too early and being tempted to do cartwheels in all that lovely convention centre wide open space.  Well, in the bit that wasn't housing the hundreds of academic gowns.  And the hangers to accompany them. 
I was disappointed, though, to find our green room lacking its apostrophe.  Now that I think of it, I should have used a pen... Oh well.  Next time.

Monday, 10 December 2012

The Virgin of Guadalupe

Because I do music, I'm part of a mariachi band.  Because I'm part of the mariachi band, I am finding out all the Latin American festivals.  Did you know, for example, that Mexico alone has 3 Independence Days?  Yesterday, we were part of the (drum roll) Celebracion de la Virgen de Guadalupe. 

The food was pretty amazing - and the aromas...wow...  But the biggest perk for me yesterday was being part of a big saint's day feast-type thing.  I've seen and read about these - a huge community celebration, parading a picture of the saint, a big high mass - and I've secretly wanted to witness one of these for years. 

I go to St John's cathedral, which is high church Anglican - so, not all that different from a catholic mass.  Despite yesterday's proceedings being entirely in Spanish, I could follow what was happening.  I also feel a little more fluent in Spanish.  And, music being the universal language of mankind and all, I could sing along and understand pretty much what I was singing.  I do enjoy seeing all the national dress for different countries, too - and a little kid not much more than knee-high wearing national dress including a sombrero is the peak of cuteness.

For lunch I had a papusa (from El Salvador) - like a savoury pancake filled with beans and cheese, with coleslaw and salsa on top.  Just right for pre-performance sustenance.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

The Camerata Concert

I am a little bit embarrassed to admit this, but... last night was the first time I went to a Camerata of St John's concert not in the cathedral.  And wow, what a concert! 

It was rather long - and even longer because we had an applauding audience.  But it wasn't one of those 'sit down and listen to a symphony' concerts.  All the works were descriptive but quite varied.  We heard the Ravel Quartet in F Major arranged into a Chamber Symphony by Brisbane violinist Gail Aitken; Four Seasons of Buenos Aires by Piazzolla, arranged by Desyatnikov; a Cuban jazz pianist (this was the wild card, and I can't actually remember which jazz standard they performed); the world premiere of Impressions of Erin, by another Brisbane violinist (now composer in Hollywood) Cameron Patrick; and Appalachian Spring Suite by Aaron Copland.  See what I mean?  A huge programme!  And all with the guest soloist/leader Dale Barltrop, another Brisbane-born violinist.

I had a fabulous seat in the Conservatorium Theatre: A1.  Yep.  Even the guy on the door who took my ticket commented I had the premiere seat.  I do generally prefer to be a bit further back, but I think because it's such a small group I didn't feel I was just getting first violin sound, and it was so close you could see them breathing.

As another new thing - I actually bought some of the promotional merchandise during the interval.  I'd had a sneak peak during the week and couldn't resist.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Mixing Tea

Despite the hot weather, I haven't dropped my tea consumption.  Especially today, when 4pm brought a need for a remedial cuppa.  Now, last week I wandered into T2... and bought some Madagascan Vanilla flavoured black tea.  I heard the word 'combination' (or something very similar) and had this in the back of my head.  Today, I did something about it.

I combined this new tea with one I received for my birthday, an Apricot and Mango black tea concoction from the Tea Centre, using approximately equal proportions.  This is so exciting!  New flavours for hot drinks... Yum.  It tasted like I was having apricot and mango with a creamy vanilla overtone (how's that for a wanky flavour word).  Next combination: chai with vanilla. 

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Movie #29 - Bulletproof Monk

I've just received a new round of movies from DVD Sam.  He told me they were all fairly serious, except for Bulletproof Monk.  I got the impression it was meant to be a comedy.  I was disappointed.

Not just disappointed in its comedic value, but in the whole movie.  It was so predictable and cliched.  Typical fight movie.  Typical diamond-in-the-rough movie.

Some of the many cliches:
Little kid witnessing fighting at the beginning plays a crucial role 60 years on.
Token female for romantic subplot which they try to turn into something just as important as main plot.
Thief turns out to have a heart of gold.
The unlikely and reluctant hero - the thief, the pickpocket, the loser who doesn't want any greatness is the 'chosen one' who fulfills the prophecies.  He, of course, tries to resist.  His worthiness is also questioned by many.

There are so many other movies which do this sort of story so much better.  If this was my first diamond-in-the-rough movie I would no doubt be super impressed with the message that anyone can be a hero, we shouldn't accept appearances as a mark of the inner worth of a human.  But it's not my first, so I wasn't impressed with the rather unsubtle approach.  So unimpressed, in fact, that I did a blog post and had an sms conversation with someone while watching it.  There were only 2 good quotes.  "Every man's life concerns every other man" (I think if more people remembered this before thinking and acting the world would be a better place), and "Rich manure can fertilise fields which will feed millions" (in response to 'really? I think he's full of shit' - there's so much we ignore, we just take what we want at face value).  But that's it.  So, if you like fight movies, or you're addicted to movies involving unlikely heroes, watch it, but otherwise... 

Tuesday, 4 December 2012


Warning: lots of cute photos in this one...
I have a confession to make (it's been a while): I grew up totally terrified of dogs.  It was only in the last few years, when my parents got a dog, that I learned how to be not terrified.  (I also read a couple of books, narrated by dogs - sounds weird I know - that helped me understand a bit more).  If I'd received the text I received late on Thursday evening 5 years ago, I would have said no.  But I didn't even give it a second thought.  The text ran along the lines of, I'm going away for a few days, the person who said they would look after the dogs has just bailed, would you help me out?  As I'm on holidays and no longer terrified of dogs, I said yes.  Except for one day, and someone else could manage that day.

Some things I learned:
Even an anxious dog, who doesn't recognise you, will recognise a dog lead.  A bit snarly and yappy turns instantly to tail-wagging.

You can't get a lead on without a collar.  (One dog could only get a whole lot of Ball Time and Out-in-the-yard Time because he'd removed his collar and hidden it well). 

I think this was my first time actually putting on a lead and walking a dog.  Thankfully, this is a really small dog.

Dogs attract.  Every walk we had, at least one person would approach - "Oh what a sweet puppy" "I have one just like him" etc.  The second day, a couple of girls (about 8 and 10) hovered a bit, so I asked if they wanted to say hello... They smothered him in kisses and told me all about their lives and their pets and then gave me a flower.

You can train a dog really quickly.  Feeding time the first day, I did what I have to do with my parents' dog: Dog is told to sit and stay; dog must stay until given the okay.  First dog took about 5 'stay's before showing that maybe he realised he shouldn't try to lick the plate while it was still in my hand.  Second day, I told him to sit, and he sat; I told him to stay, and he stayed; and when I said okay, he had his dinner. 

A well-trained dog will let you know if you're doing something wrong.

Even little dogs can run and make the person on the other end of the lead run too. 

The other part of this experience was feeding the chickens.  Once I'd found the jug for the feed (I had absolutely no idea how much grain to feed 5 chickens so was rather thankful for this guide) this was a piece of cake. 

I didn't take my camera the first day, and really regretted it - the light was still good the second day, but not quite as amazing.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Jamie Oliver's Fish Pie

It's been a long time coming, but I finally made Jamie's fish pie.  While it was very easy, there are some alterations I would make for the next time - different vegetables in the mix, and probably a combination of potato and sweet potato for the topping.  While Jamie says this feeds 4 - 6, I had a good 7 or 8 meals from it.

1 kg potatoes
1 carrot
2 sticks of celery (this was the first time I bought the separate celery sticks instead of a whole or half)
150g good Cheddar cheese
1 lemon
1/2 a fresh red chilli
4 sprigs of fresh flat-leaf parsley (or some generous handfuls from your parsley plant outside - washed carefully thank you ants and grasshoppers)
fish pack of 700-750g assorted fish and shellfish, or
600g assorted fish from your freezer and
125g king prawns (or prawn meat), raw, peeled
olive oil (I bet you thought I'd forgotten this, right?  But it's a Jamie Oliver recipe!)
optional: a good handful of chopped spinach
optional: a couple of ripe tomatoes, quartered
(I didn't use either of the optionals)

To prepare:
Preheat oven to 200C and bring a large pan of salted water to boil.  Peel the potatoes and cut into 2cm chunks.  Once the water is boiling, add potatoes and cook for around 12 minutes, until soft.  Soft, but don't get distracted like I did and burn the bottom of them... Salvaged, thankfully, but still.
Meanwhile, get a deep baking tray or earthenware dish and stand a box grater in it.  Peel the carrot.  Grate the celery (weird, but there you go), carrot and Cheddar on the coarse side of the grater.  Use the fine side of the grater to grate the zest from the lemon.  Finely grate or chop your chilli (and, I guess, add it to the pan).  Finely chop the parsley leaves and stalks and add these to the tray.

To cook:
Cut the fish into bite-size chunks and add to the tray with the prawns.  Squeeze over the juice from the zested lemon, drizzle with olive oil and add a good pinch of salt and pepper.  If you're adding any optionals, do so now.  Mix everything together really well.  By now your potatoes should be cooked (or slightly over-cooked if you haven't been paying attention), drain them in a colander then return them to the pan.  Drizzle with a couple of good lugs of olive oil (yes! he said it!) and add a pinch of salt and pepper.  Mash until nice and smooth, then spread evenly over the top of the fish mix.  (I didn't actually weigh the potatoes, so they didn't quite cover the fish - I put some foil on top instead to keep the seal factor happening).  Place the tray in the oven for around 40 minutes, or until cooked through, crispy and golden on top.  (Mine was cooked through but not as crispy or golden as I imagined it would be).  Serve piping hot with tomato ketchup, baked beans, steamed veg or a lovely green salad.

I apologise for the photos.  By the time this was ready we were really super hungry so photo composition was not a priority.

Sunday, 2 December 2012


It's finally happened.  Today, I started using Instagram.  One of the deciding factors for me in getting this phone was the camera.  And once I had it, I checked out various photographic apps.  I didn't install any though, fearing a sudden iPhone addiction.  Recently I have been feeling that it's time to do something more with my phone photos, and Instagram was recommended as my 'first'.

My first photo (so far, my only photo), was the angel on top of my Christmas tree.  One of my traditions is to put up the Christmas tree on Advent Sunday - despite the heat.  It took me many attempts to find a suitable username, but eventually I came up with 'missannabananna'.  So if you're on Instagram, do stop by...  Or you can go through this link.  I am loving the different filters!

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Banana Lunchbox Bars

A friend posted the link to this recipe (find it here) and I had one of those "I have to make this" moments.  Unfortunately, when she posted it I only had one overripe banana.  Earlier this week I had four black bananas so got all excited.

I had just turned on the oven when my mum called.  As it was my first Monday of the holidays (yay!) I wasn't pressed for time, and turned off the oven.  Later in our phone call, mum asked if I was 'procrastibaking' - snaps to mum for knowing that term!  I explained it was the 'I have 4 black bananas what am I going to do with them' baking.  It seems there has been a lot of that this year.

Naturally, I didn't quite follow the recipe... For unsweetened apple sauce, I used some of the stewed apple I had in the freezer.  I realised it was not quite the 2/3 cup required at about the same time I realised my bananas couldn't really be classified as 'large' - so I used 4 medium bananas instead.  I also didn't really read the instructions properly before I began (really, who does?!) so I added my oats and pecans to the banana mix instead of the other way around.  I figured, it's all getting mushed up together anyway... So I'm not sure if that had any bearing on the result.  Which is rather yummy, if I do say so myself.  Two pieces never seems like it's enough.

Next time (pretty sure there will be a next time) I am considering doing a bit of mini-chopper chopping to make the texture a bit smoother - and also using a smoother apple substance.  I leave the peel on apples when I stew them but that creates slightly chunkier bits.  As always, I was amazed by the 'optional' chocolate on top.  As if you wouldn't.  Oh yeah, unless you're allergic or something... but the chocolate is the best bit.  Aside from all those good vibes of eating something so amazingly good for you (note the abundant health benefits listed in the recipe!).