Mar 31, 2010

Wearing the weather on my shoulders. Directions in jauntiness and box knotted to boot.

There's something about head stands and being upside down in general.   It does wonders for the creative mind.  I was beginning to feel I'd developed blogger's block up until then but all those inversions must have loosened a few thoughts and words up.  Thank goodness.  Is 105 posts all I have in me?  Do I just fade away and curl up in a corner when Terry Durack is unable to give me direction as to how to lead my culinary life (or delusions of reference as the case may be) in every one of his restaurant reviews?  No.  I don't think so.

It's getting chilly, grey and wet these days in Sydney.  Which hasn't been terribly inspiring.  On the upside, it will soon be time for a change in wardrobes.  I like to think of it as tilling the earth layers of clothes in my wardrobe.  Time to bring the heavier clothes up for air from under the summer ones or from out of where they have been stored.


 

The heavy duty umbrellas begin to get an airing on the front porch.  I will let you guess which is mine and which is Mr SSG's.

It's the kind of weather that makes you glad you survived the drive to and from work without an accident (just accept facts, you will definitely be held up by one either direction).  And also that you have a temporary house husband.  Mr SSG has been on leave for a week and besides having some down time, has been doing things like housework and bringing home the bacon - in a literal sense.  We went to mid week yoga together tonight which isn't something we've managed for ages.

He patiently read the paragraph describing what kind of bacon to buy. And got it right.  Tomorrow he is going in nice and early to get the pick of the last batches of hot cross buns before Good Friday.  I did write before about being comatose from my first buns of the season but I'll be right.  That was just warm-up.



It was for my favourite bacon recipe - bacon-y bok choy.  I love cooking bacon with vegetables.  My mum makes a great dish of bacon and brussel sprouts.  I am convinced that bacon is made more healthy when it gets cooked with a vegetable.  In turn, the vegetable in question gets imbued with a bit of salt and grease whilst still retaining crunch and zing.  The bacon-y recipe (so good the y is hyphenated for emphasis) because not only do we have bacon, we also have chilli, red onion and garlic in the mix. 







Which, naturally - we ate with udon noodles.



In a pink package.  It felt good eating carbs out of a pink package.  I was gutted that all my rice had been infested by weevils.  It was Superior Thai Jasmine Rice as well.  In a red and gold bag.  I was a  but ambitious buying a 5kg bag for 2 people.  This may be the right thing for a Chinese wife to do, but perhaps not in cases where the family of 2 eats rice possibly once a fortnight.

All the pink and grey inspired my choice of outfit for today.


The first cardigan wearing day of the year.  It's grey and made me feel as if I was wearing the weather over my shoulders.  If I were 40 years older (or this were a photo from the '40s which may be the same thing when all is said and done), I think the scarf would be classified as 'jaunty'.  It's a little bit crisp, a tad bit dapper and a whole lot of natty.  I think it is box knotted to boot.

In other news today, a big thank you and hug to the lovely Carly for her award today.  It was also an inspiration and motivation.   I need to figure things out a bit before responding and forwarding accordingly.

The end of the week is nigh, readers.  Tomorrow is the end of our working week.  We can make it.  If nothing else sustains you, think of all the things you'll be doing for the 4 day weekend.  Even if it does include trying to survive the Fish Markets or diving for the last 6 pack of hot cross buns.

Mar 30, 2010

SSG, Reporting From the Vault and Stirring the Flames of Monarchy.


Be still my beating heart - I'm watching last night's ep of The Good Wife and Chris Noth has appeared, as Peter Florrick but I like to think of him always as Mr Big. In a suit. Mr SSG is still waiting for Alicia Florrick to stop doing pro bono work and put in some billable hours. He's also useful for explaining the plot to me.  However, he's just left the room.  It's AFL season, I'm already an AFL widow some half a week into the season and Mr SSG has serious business to attend to - building his virtual AFL dream team and listening to the radio commentary of the game.



I was reminded of The Good Wife by my photos from Sydney Town Hall at the weekend.  All that sandstone, brick and pillar work.  I was In The Vault to be precise. 
This free exhibition is on at the Lower Town Hall until April 26, 2010.  It is a celebration of the re-opening of the Hall after being closed for 2 years for a $40 million essential services upgrade.  Unvaulted features items unearthed, uncovered, unexpected, unbelieveable, unfirgettable, unique, under attack, unwired, unkown and unwrapped.

Coincidentally, I think April 26 will be around the time The Good Wife returns to Australian screens.  Ten, in their wisdom are resting it for 2 weeks!!!  It doesn't need a rest.  It's at its prime and I am just getting into the swing of the series.  I suspect there will be no revolt or jamming of the network switchboards.  I am thinking that us fans of The Good Wife are a sedate bunch of tea drinking ginger nut snap and dippers who will find other ways to fill in their time.


Such as by exploring their city's historical roots, appreciating restored furniture and reminicing about royal families. 


Maps like this always remind of me school excursions.  I had to look down to check that I wasn't in my school uniform, run my tongue over my lips to see if I still had my braces on or a thick coat of The Body Shop Apricot Lip Balm on my lips.  Nope, I'm all good.


Lower Town Hall has been transformed into a multi-purpose public venue.  I think it was actually excavated before any of the rewiring and other things could happen.

The mace looks a little ghostly in the images above.  It even has a velvet roap cordoning it off from the rest of the room.


The space is filled with gifts to the city and artefacts relating to Sydney's heritage.


These Samurai costumes were a gift from Japan, from the 1980's.



This is the first time I've seen fur trimmed official robes up close. I have no idea what kind of fur is on the trim.



Original chairs have been restored and are on display.


Nope, no sitting allowed.


The Vault as once a fire proof room for Council records.  It will now be a meeting room, the chairs and table are restored cedar.


The roof contains a new three-tiered fire protection system including sprinklers.


It's been a while since I've read The Australian Women's Weekly.  From what I can gather, it's also been a while since a Royal graced the cover.  Oh for the days of my school aged youth.  Our late Princess of Wales in a fetching pastel evening dress and emeralds (before she went Dior chic with Dodi and had The Mario Testino photo shoot), The Duchess of York, the Princesses of Monaco.  It was all so sedate and refined - even when there was a 'scandal'.  It really was 'another world' escapist reading and modern day celebs just don't cut it for me.

I rediscovered my monarchist tendencies at the exhibition.


These are the ceremonial spades used by Prince Philip and The Queen as the marked the commencement of Rembrance Driveway to Canberra.


A portrait of Elizabeth and Phillip.


Oops, I forgot to take a photo of Bonaparte's lock of hair, allegedly on show as an exhibit and apologies for not being able to identify the marble bust and portrait above.


A model of Sydney Town Hall by Gleb Levshin, from thw 1970s.


I stepped out from the dim light and humidity controlled air into the sunlight and blast of summer heat a little wiser about the past and the diverse elements of different cultures and eras of history which have made their mark on Sydney.


Mar 29, 2010

Scones for the start of a short working week.

Hello and happy Monday.  I'm being hopeful there on the happy.  What's not to be happy about though, people - it's a 4 day working week.  Followed by another.

For some reason, I've been craving a good scone recently.  Except that I always forget to buy them whenever I'm at the supermarket.  I remember hearing many people swear by recipes that use cream or lemonade instead of the traditional butter.  So I went to google and found a recipe that uses both lemonade and cream.  I like that the liquid 'fat' is easier to work into a dough than butter which you need to crumb into the dry ingredients.  However, I think with the lack of butter, these scones are less golden than the butter based version.  You can't have everything.

Here's just about everything you need for the recipe.  I whipped out my red (of course) silicone rolling pin - just in case.

Get the dry ingredients out first.  Sift 2 cups of SR flour into a large bowl, that's 2 Babushka doll's heads worth.  I like the stainless steel bowls found at places like $2 shops.  They are light, hardy and easy to care for.  Not to mention cheap.


1/4 cup of caster sugar - or a bottom of a Babushka.



Add a 1/2 teaspoon of salt.


Then the wet ingredients - 1/2 cup of thickened cream.


Shame on me for wimping out and getting light thickened cream rather than the real deal.




At least it's a full fat half cup of lemonade.  Lightly knead into a dough.  Being careful not to overwork the mixture.


The dough - plus a couple of tablespoons of sultanas.  Just to be unpredictable and adventurous with the original recipe.


My trusty Ikea plastic chopping board toppers.  Great kneading surface with minimal mess.


Lightly knead the dough on a flour coated surface. 




Shape into a rectangle about 2cm thick.  Then use a cutter dipped in flour. 


According to taste.com.au's scone baking tips, try not to twist the cutter too much in the dough.  This may prevent the scones from rising fully.

It's a bit abstract having all those half Babushka dolls in amongst the baking.  A domesticated, Nigella-ized version of those mutilated Barbie doll artworks.

How did that thought get there? 

Glaze with milk after placing the rounds of a greased baking tray or one lined with baking paper.


Goodness - more of this low fat business. 


Bake for 15 minutes 200C on a baking tray.  Try to group the scones close together, it is meant to help them rise.  Plus, I like breaking them apart when they're cooked.




Best with a cup of tea, jam and cream.  I'm having my daily dose of Donna by way of her Strawberry and Vanilla jam as well as the red tea towel that came with a previous issue of her magazine, my dinner designator.





I see the error my low fat ways.  Real thickened cream would have sat regally on top of the jam.....  I was dreaming of King Island Cream in fact.

Never mind, if it's low fat, I can have double helpings of cream on top.

Mar 28, 2010

Happy Anniversary. Dinner at Becasse.


Mr SSG and I, March 28, 2008.
 Thank you for the last 2 years and I look forward to the rest of our lives together.
There never seems enough time to get ready, no matter how much time I think I have and how much I try to organize everything in advance.  Things never look quite the way they do in my head and I lack the patience to dress rehearse outfits.  Anyway, it all came together.



Barely had a chance to sit down before the taxi arrived.  Bye - gotta run!  See you at Becasse.

I think run was an optimistic plan.  Walking in heels doesn't come easily to me - let alone trying to run from where I stopped the taxi to where Becasse actually was.  The difference between 104 and 204 Clarence St seems like miles when you're in heels.  I think I will gladly leave heels and the city to SJP.  I padded along the street in my bare feet, while holding my shoes and trying not to look like I was getting in after the night before at 7pm.


Becasse is housed in a beautiful split storey space just away from the main streets of the CBD.  The decor is warm with just a touch of luxe.  The flocked wallpaper actually reminds me of our wedding invitations - so I guess the restaurant was the right choice for dinner.  We went for the degustation menu and shared a bottle of Tasmanian sparkling.  It had lovely lychee notes and was just right for the meal.  Becasse also have a vegetarian degustation menu as well as a la carte.  All the information is on the link I made to this post above.


I love bread.  My favourites are the in house varieties that Sydney restuarants seem to excel at.  There always seems to be 3 or more varieties and the staff are very generous in refilling your bread plate.  The 3 varieties last night were a pumpkin bread (complete with a piece of pumpkin inside), a sour dough (the branching bread) and I think the last one had potato and rosemary in it.  My favourite was the pumpkin.


Besides the standard butter for our bread, Becasse also serve an emulsion of olive oil.  It is delicious and I am a huge fan.  Never quite got used to olive oil and balsamic vinegar with bread.


The amuse bouche.  Fennel and trout.


On the left is a view of the wine cellar (is it a cellar if it's on the first floor?).  The candle lit staircahse on the right.  I think the candles were in preparation for lights down at 8.30pm.



The salad of organic autumn vegetables. Pea mousseline, white carrot puree, black olive and lemon balm.



A view of the kitchen and a hen's night in progress in the mid ground.  It was a very sedate affair.



Yabby tails and heirloom tomatoes.  Green zebra gazpacho (you really can see the zebra effect in the gazpacho).  The olive oil sorbet sounds strange but worked well in this dish.



I love the light fixtures.  They were dimmed for Earth Hour.

Then arrived my favourite dish of the evening.  Low temperature cooked Hapuka fillet.



Sigh.  It was deluxe.  I don't know exactly how low temperature cooking works or is done but it was the perfect way to cook this dish.  The fish was served with braised leeks, baby onions, clam beignets, curry and creme fraiche.


Fricassee of king prawns and hand rolled macaroni, above.  Served with local prosciutto and smoked crustacea butter.

Below is the braised pork tails and smoked scallops.


For the next course, Mr SSG had the 12 hour briased shoulder of salt bush lamb with roast loin, aubergine, black olive oil and savoury jus.



I had the roast Gundooee organic grass fed Wagyu, saute of mushrooms, red wine and bone marrow, below.  In true old married couple style, we swapped plates half way.




Creme fraiche pannacotta with kiwi fruit granita for the first dessert.  Heaven.  I love the green!!!


This is Mr SSG's banana creme brulee with salted peanut brittle and milk coffee sorbet.  Unfortunately, he's not really a dessert person so I had to finish it for him.



As well as my dessert - fresh autumn berries with lemon verbena and white chocolate parfait and an almond dentelle.


It was a special meal for a special evening and I couldn't have picked a more perfect person to share it with.

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