mutteringhousewife

What does the last of the housewives do?

Month: December, 2012

Jamberoo on New Year’s Eve

Not a Jamboree, that’s those twelve thousand Scouts converging on Queensland today and tomorrow. Jamberoo, where you control the action, the water park down the South Coast. That’s where we took the kids today.

I’ll pass lightly over the cheap shots, the astonishing variety of tummies and all those tattoos on display. All I’ll say is that if you’ve got a tattoo that’s over twenty years old, it’s going to be a blur unless it’s a very strong pattern. Also, if you’re going to tattoo the names of your children onto your skin, don’t put a border around them because if you then have another, you’ll have to have some laser work done and the next tattooist may not use the same font as the previous one. That’s all.

It’s a terrific family day out, there’s lots to do for little kids, for medium sized kids, and not so much for teenagers, which means there’s not that slightly antisocial horseplay you get with a lot of teenagers around. The grounds are lovely, with lots of shade and a large swathe of grass for you to spread your towels out on and park your esky at. I would highly recommend packing an esky (one with wheels), so you can avoid that deep fried stuff with yellow powder sprinkled on it that these places of amusement seem to specialise in. We brought a whole lot of water (the water out of the taps isn’t potable), cheese and vegemite rolls made last night (I’m sure I’ve blogged about these, anyway, the white bread recipe from Friday, roll it out after the first rise, spread it with Vegemite or cheese, slice it and roll it, rise again, bake), cut up watermelon, nuts and biscuits (Anzacs and ginger nuts). That pretty much did us.

There’s a variety of things to do. There’s a wave pool, a very wet kids playground with buckets of water tipping over them, water guns, and lots of little slides, one of those river circuits with inflatable rings, some big slides. The Taipan was probably my favourite, you and four of your personal friends or offspring load into an inflatable round raft and get shoved down a very twisty covered slide. The Funnelweb is their latest attraction, you’re loaded into a raft, pushed down a covered slide with no light and ejected into a huge funnel, where you twist and slip down to the vortex and get spat out. The kids loved this one, but said landing in the funnel hurt their buttocks, they may want to tweak that aspect of the ride. I didn’t go on it because I already have enough excitement in my life. The Moose said it made him feel a little ill.

They also really loved Jump Off the Rock. There’s a cliff over a five metre deep pool and you have three choices, the five metre jump, the three metre jump, and a slide for the slightly more risk averse among the crowd. I enjoyed watching this very much, the kids like to have someone to say “yes, I did see you do a triple corkscrew, you’re so clever”. Even the Horror managed the five metre jump, he appears to have conquered his fear of heights. The key to this jump is to take it at a run. Almost everyone who tiptoed to the edge to peer over chickened out. Something the lifeguards have evidently noted is that if you have a person of foreign appearance wearing street clothes instead of swimmers taking the slide, they will need rescuing. I saw it twice. I wonder what exactly they were thinking? That water I’ll be landing in after a five metre descent will be shallow enough for me to stand up in? Possibly. Both guys that did this looked very surprised in that brief moment between surfacing and thrashing their arms around then sinking like a stone. Both times the lifeguard was in the water as they landed.

You can have a full and action packed day if your kids are between, say, eight and fifteen. If your kids are younger, you may want to come with another family with similar sized sprogs so you can share the guarding of the various kiddie pools. If your kids are older, you may wish to leave them at home, or rope them into supervising the younger ones. Either way, it is fun to go with other families, everyone keeps dividing into different groups and meeting up throughout the day all over the place. During the afternoon the road surfaces get extremely hot, I just told the kids to harden up so I expect that over the next week the entire soles of our feet will be peeling off. It was too complicated to leave your thongs at the top, then fight back through the queue to retrieve them. Might be worth it for littlies though. Take your long sleeved rashies, this is not the kind of place you go to show off your breast enlargements or your months of hard work at the gym.

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Here’s the Moose drying off. We’re all going to need a rest day tomorrow, especially judging by the appalling headache inducing dreck “music” thumping through our neighbour’s fence at this early hour. Hope you have a Happy New Year.

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White Bread

I do appreciate that everyone is entitled to holidays, even the hard working Vietnamese couples that slave away at all hours of the day and night at our local hot bread shop. I hope they’re having a lovely time. What I should have done is to buy a whole lot of bread before Christmas and stuck it in the freezer, not that there would have been any room with all the ice blocks I was making. But I didn’t, so here we are with no bread. Oh, yes, I could go up to the nearest mall because Baker’s Delight doesn’t go on holidays, but then the Horror will want to come too and he’ll want a milkshake and a surprising amount of sushi and then I’ll have to have a coffee to cope with him and then a loaf of bread will have ended up costing me thirty dollars. I’m going to have to make it myself.

I have alluded to this method of making bread when I was chatting about cheese and bacon rolls a while back. It isn’t a method that requires a whole lot of kneading, but you do have to stay a little focused, otherwise you get the risings all wrong and you end up with a loaf that looks like a depressed Frenchman. This method comes from that monumental tome, The Cook’s Book.

Place in a bowl twenty grams of fresh yeast with three hundred and fifty grams of water. Squash up the yeast with a fork until it’s dissolved. Add five hundred grams of flour and about ten twists of the salt shaker. Mx it all up with your hands until the flour is incorporated, then cover it with a damp tea towel and go fold sheets for about ten minutes. Pour a slug of nice olive oil over the dough and knead it in. Go pay a phone bill or two. Repeat with the olive oil and the ten minute pause until you’ve done it three times. Leave the dough covered in a warm place to rise until it has doubled in size. This is very dependent on how warm the spot you’ve left it in is. Often I put it in the oven with just the light on, but today my oven is occupied with ginger nuts, so I’ve placed it in the square of sunlight that comes through the kitchen skylight and moves like a laser beam through the room during the afternoon, melting everything in its deadly path.

Once it has doubled, punch it about a bit and manhandle it into a loaf tin that has been lined with baking paper. Leave it again, covered with a damp tea towel, until it has doubled in size. For my sized tin, this is when it’s doughy shoulders have just risen above the sides of the tin.

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You put it in a hot oven, about two hundred and twenty degrees for fifteen minutes. You can mess about with brushing the top with water and slashing it with a sharp knife, but nobody really cares about that kind of stuff among my consumer base. Drop the temperature to one hundred and eighty degrees Celsius and bake it for a further thirty to forty minutes, but keep an eye on it. It should be all brown and crusty looking on top and sound hollow when you, feeling slightly foolish, knock on its top.

Once it’s out of the oven, lift it out of the tin by the baking paper, otherwise it’s sides will get damp as it cools. My grandma says you shouldn’t eat bread the day it’s baked, it’ll give you a tummy ache. I defy you to try abstaining from chopping off the end of your loaf and slathering it with butter and possibly Vegemite while it’s still warm. I’m willing to risk a tummy ache.

The Hobbit Review

Those of you that didn’t like the Hobbit movie or found it boring can go suck a lemon.
Admittedly, it isn’t for everyone. It is exactly tailored to people like me. I spent a lot of time in Middle Earth in my youth, way before there were any decent movies made about it. I taught myself the Angerthas alphabet, featured in Thorin’s map. I learned quite a bit of Sindarin. I read not only the Silmarillion, but the far more disjointed Unfinished Tales. I took for myself a Sindarin name, and here it is, rendered in Tengwar.

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I am a hard core fan, and was delighted with the job Peter Jackson did with The Lord of the Rings. The Hobbit didn’t bother with trying to be a stand alone movie. It assumed that you had a working knowledge of Middle Earth and were aware that it was the first in a trilogy. All those people that thought it went on forever and nothing really happened, they should have gone to see Skyfall. This movie was not for them.

Well, I’m glad we’ve got that established. I’m looking forward to seeing it in 2D when we get the DVD, because I found the 3D experience to be a little unnerving. I appreciate it was new technology, and was certainly nothing like anything that has gone before it, but it made me feel like I was in a Disneyland ride. I’m not sure what it was, something about the lighting, or some weird perspective thing made me feel like I was being tricked and it was off putting. I also hate wearing the glasses, especially as they have to rest uneasily over my own glasses.

I really liked how fondly they treated us fans, with the cameos by LOTR characters and the music. I thought the bit with Galadriel and Saruman was very important and well done, despite not being in the book, and how old is Christopher Lee now? Hang on, I’ll look it up. He’s NINETY!!! A month younger than my grandma, and she hasn’t starred in any blockbusters lately.

I felt like the massive amount of nose and hair and eyebrows the dwarves had going on hampered their performance a bit. I agree that Richard Armitage spent a lot of time scowling and brooding, a very similar performance to that he gave in Robin Hood, but that’s really what Thorin does if you’ll go back to the text. I’m glad Gandalf got to get a bit of fighting in, rather than just standing about looking wise and saying memorable stuff.

I thought there were some overly cheesy moments. I really didn’t think Bilbo rushing in to save Thorin from Azog’s minion worked at all, Bilbo really shouldn’t be starting to earn his place until the second film. Much of the action inside the goblin’s lair was frankly unbelievable. But I LOVED Gollum, and I thought Radagast was a good inclusion too, and a past Dr Who!

I’m really pleased Peter Jackson has been allowed to lavish such attention on this story. We had a lovely time in the car going home discussing what dialogue was and wasn’t in the book and where they’ll be able to stop the next movie and how much a mountain troll looked like a cave troll. We’ll have to go again these holidays and next time I’ll remember to wear my dragon earpiece along with my Evenstar, Mordorable T-shirt and One Ring that I wore to today’s viewing.

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I am Boost Juice

One of the many advantages of getting older is an increased pragmatism around gift giving events. In our youth we imagine that those who love us can also read our minds and will occasionally buy us the perfect gift. If you are young and are feeling slightly disappointed once again, take my advice. Buy your own presents. Or at least have very tight specifications to minimize the risk of getting something from Aldi.

For those of you who follow my meanderings on Facebook, you’ll know that I chose for myself a blender. I decided on the Sunbeam Cafe after a great deal of research and deliberation. It arrived from Kitchenware Direct with days to spare and was very neatly wrapped for reasons I’ve yet to get to the bottom of by the Moose’s friend Charles. He also has lovely handwriting. The kids hustled me up to Broadway shopping centre today to spend their Christmas money and I promised them that if they didn’t nag me for any food or drink, I’d make them homemade Boost Juice as a reward. We even went to Harris Farm to pick ingredients.

Proportions of ingredients are different for smoothies than they are for ice blocks or sorbets or soda syrups. Some trial and error will be necessary, but here are two I’ve tried today.

Pina Colada. Place in blender a cup of crushed ice from the button on the freezer, half a chopped pineapple, half a cup of shaved coconut (this doesn’t disappear entirely, only include it if you’re prepared to chew your drink a little), the juice of three limes and a quarter of a cup of condensed milk. Why the condensed milk people haven’t given me money and a cookbook deal yet I just can’t fathom. It adds sweetness and creaminess which was otherwise a little lacking. The blender has a smoothie button, which you press and it goes through a couple of different speeds then stops by itself, having produced the perfect consistency. This makes two tall glasses of something really very delicious. The kids didn’t like the coconut bits in it, but I did. This group of ingredients would also make a terrific ice block.

Mango Apple. Actually, mango apple passionfruit. One cup of crushed ice, one large mango cheek, one peeled, chopped green apple and two passionfruit. You guessed it, kids didn’t like the crushed up bits of passionfruit seed. The blender made very short work of the chopped up green apple. This only made a bit over one large glass. The kids advised me that next time I should leave out the passionfruit and double the mango. This mixture didn’t need sweetening.

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I can see why Boost Juices are so expensive, it’s a really quick way to consume fruit. On the plus side, you’re getting the whole fruit, not just the juice, only without the trouble and expense of chewing it. I still have to try various berry combinations, but I’ve bought frozen berries for that, way cheaper than fresh. I’m thinking they’ll go nicely with yoghurt and possibly honey. I’m also eyeing off some lychees that are past their best and a bag of peaches that was on special.

I must go and wash out my new blender, I’m planning schnitzel for dinner and have some dried up bread rolls that are going to be pulverized in there shortly. It’s a far far more impressive unit than my poor old one hundred and forty watt Ronson and I can’t wait to turn all kinds of things into liquid or powder, according to original composition. I just need the weather to warm up. Or to have a cocktail. Anyone got tequila?

Cinnamon Scrolls

Of course I brought too much dessert to Christmas, but that’s much better than not bringing enough, surely? Some of everything went, it’s nice to have a choice. The most popular were the cinnamon scrolls and my Christmas present to you, dear reader, is to share the recipe.

I’m not entirely sure who gave me this recipe, it was in the days before taste.com, but I suspect it may have been our Washington correspondent, Kathleen Brady. Way back before my dear husband was able to grow hair in his chest he spent six months working in the US, an experience that marked him in many ways, the most permanent of which is an annoying assumption that all shops are always open, like they are in the US. He struck up an acquaintance with a girl on a beach there, and she turned out to be quite terrific, I spent two weeks sponging off her in her home about eighteen years ago, and even though it’s very hard to see her when we don’t really spend a lot of time over there and she’s only come over here in the distant past, we manage to keep in touch. I believe it was she that gave me a handwritten recipe for TJ’s Cinnamon Rolls to which dear husband had become much attached during his US sojourn. It’s a little involved, I only make it for special occasions. Here it is.

If you’re planning to take these to Christmas lunch, or serve them for morning tea, start the night before. Place in a bowl twenty grams of fresh yeast with half a cup of water. Squash it about with a fork until the yeast is dissolved. Mix in three cups of flour, a teaspoon of salt, one third of a cup of sugar, one cup of milk, one third of a cup of vegetable oil and two eggs. This will be quite a wet mixture. Gradually add in a further cup and a half of flour. You should now be able to turn it out onto your floured bench top and start kneading it. Knead in more flour until you have a soft, smooth dough. Bung it back into the bowl, cover it with a damp tea towel and stick it in the fridge overnight.

Next morning, remove it from the fridge where it has hopefully doubled in sized in the night. I hope you didn’t bother cleaning down the bench top, because you’ll be dumping it back onto the floured bench top and rolling it out into a very long rectangle, thus:

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Place in another bowl 125 grams of butter, a cup of brown sugar and three teaspoons of cinnamon. Mix it until it’s combined. You can continue mixing it until it goes creamy if you want it to be more spreadable, but it really doesn’t matter. Scrape it onto the rectangle, making sure it’s evenly distributed along the long axis. And here’s a picture.

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Roll it up so that you have one really long sausage. Have a couple of pans handy lined with baking paper. Start slicing off rolls about seven centimetres wide, but you can use your own judgement for this. Place them in the lined pans, not too close together.

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Leave these until they’ve expanded so that they’re all squished together. I had to put them in the oven with just the light on for this, it was unseasonably chill this morning. Bake at one hundred and eighty degrees for about twenty five minutes, or until brown on top.

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There’s an addendum to the recipe for a drizzled white icing to go over the top, but I feel that it’s excessive and have never made it. These are best warm, you can see in the above picture that some escaped shortly after leaving the oven. They’re good for about two days, then they go a bit hard and challenging. This is a big recipe, I often halve it.

It just occurs to me that I haven’t actually had any today. Too late now. If I have any more to eat I’ll slip into a coma, and then the kids will be playing Lego Lord of the Rings on the Wii all night and nobody will feed the dogs. Perhaps a carrot stick and a glass of water for dinner. They’ll still be there tomorrow if I get up early enough.

Entertaining

No, really, I do like entertaining. I know I have tendencies towards the antisocial (No! I hear you cry in shocked amazement), but I really like having friends over for a meal. I like planning what to feed them, I like them to bring kids over to play with mine and have them all end up in the pool, I like to compare notes on other ways of being mums and dads, wives and husbands, breadwinners.

Because it’s a joint effort, there’s a point in the entertainment where my dear husband has to put meat over a flame. Unfortunately our elderly barbecue caught fire a few weeks ago, and there was nothing we could do except push it into the middle of the verandah and wait for the conflagration to die down, then put the corpse out in the cleanup. That meant that some ingenuity was required to satisfy the primitive in my life’s companion while entertaining English friends today. We dug out the old Weber from under the house, filled it with bits of old fence and put the rack from my precious new oven over the glowing coals that resulted (who knows where the original grill got to). It actually did a reasonable job. We quite liked the idea of cooking on an old fashioned style barbecue, one that wasn’t plugged in to anything. We didn’t cook anything fancy, my man likes his meat straight. He will occasionally condescend to barbecue a prawn, but there was no way I was going near any fishmonger this time of the year.

A jolly afternoon was had by all, and after the debris was cleared away, I realized that if I was going to be providing dessert for our large family Christmas, I may want to add one or two things to the baked goods already prepared. So tonight I’ve done a pan of brownies (I’m pretty sure you’ll find that one on the blog), a custard tart that looks like it may have actually worked!! and am about to begin the first step of what I traditionally bring to Christmas – cinnamon rolls. I’m pretty sure cinnamon rolls will be blogged about tomorrow if I get a moment to steal away from the hordes of children.

So that’s how I spent Christmas Eve, doing two of my favourite things. Sharing a meal with friends and baking for the the people I love. That’s uncharacteristically sentimental of me, is it not? Although if anyone else pops up claiming to be bearing the TRUE meaning of Christmas I shall go so far as to gnash a tooth or two. Looks like it’s time to take that tart out of the oven, I can’t believe I’ve finally made one where the custard hasn’t been eaten by the pastry! What I’m not going to be doing tonight is cleaning up my kitchen, that can wait until Boxing Day. This is what it currently looks like.

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I have big plans for that pineapple. Something else to stay tuned for.

Cheese and Olive Rusks

I’m over thinking it. Just because I’ll be bringing a plate tonight to some drinks with the mates doesn’t mean I have to bring anything fancy. There’s no expectation from those who read my blog that I’ll be bringing anything other than a box of Jatz. Good. Now that we’ve sorted that out, here’s a little something I’m whipping up in between shouting at the Horror and Muffet who likes to wear her cranky pants when she has friends over.

It’s along the same lines as biscotti, only with completely different ingredients. You can make it any flavour, really, you use a cup of assorted cheeses and three quarters of a cup of some other excitingly savoury ingredient. Like bacon. Or in this case, olives.

Beat together 125 grams of butter (yes, I’m using the salted Pepe Saya again) with a cup of cheese. The recipe I’m using, from The Good Cookie, suggests half a cup of feta and half a cup of Parmesan. I’m using a cup of Pizza Cheese, which I think is Parmesan, cheddar and mozzarella. Beat in, one at a time, two large eggs. You can only really get large eggs these days, I don’t know what they’re doing to the chickens but they’re getting larger every year. Mix in a quarter of a cup of milk, one and three quarter cups of flour, one teaspoon of baking powder, some pepper and three quarters of a cup of finely chopped olives. I thought I had a jar of pitted black olives in the fridge, but what I actually had was a jar of olive pickling liquid with a teaspoon in it. Fortunately right down the back I found a jar of green olives stuffed with pimentos. They’ll do nicely.

Knead it all together until it’s well mixed, then separate it into two halves. Shape each half into a log and place it onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper. It will be a very sticky mixture at this point. Bake for about thirty five minutes or until they just start to brown. Remove from the oven and cool for a bit while you peel some potatoes for dinner and turn the television down. Slice the logs as thinly or as rustically as you’d like and place the slices back on the baking sheet. You might need another one. Bake for a further twenty minutes or so with the oven at around 150 degrees or until they are looking dry and a bit coloured around the edges.

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This recipe makes quite a lot of little tasty rusks, so it should carry me through a few Bring a Plate sessions. I’ve made them before, and I’m really looking forward to nibbling some with some champagne. They smell delicious, or as the kids would say “Errr, we’re not having that for dinner, are we?”

Golden Lemon Tarts

There are many motivations for baking. You’re hungry, the kids are hungry, you’ve found a new recipe, you want to use up some coconut, you want to try out an exciting new butter. I wanted to make this recipe because of the little introduction printed above it.

I have two Pillsbury cookbooks from the late fifties, given to me by my Nanna when she couldn’t be bothered baking any more. I’ve flicked through them partly for amusement value, goodness those American housewives served up some odd stuff! But they certainly loved trying new things and using lots of flavours in their baking. The cookbook I’m referring to today is a thousand recipes from the Pillsbury Best of the Bakeoff collection, with coloured photos on the inside of the covers of hundreds of jolly housewives in aprons baking at rows of stoves while men in suits walk up and down tasting their food. I’m guessing that this was one of the Bakeoffs in question. Most recipes in this book have cute little descriptions between the heading and the baking instructions. Like “Here is a refreshing pie . . . the filling boasts fresh lime juice and crushed pineapple and calls for no cooking at all!”. Or “Plenty o’ apricots between crumb base and topping. Yummy with whipped cream”. Here’s the descriptor for the recipe that caught my eye.

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How could I not make it. Of course, I also wanted to give the Pepe Saya butter a go in pastry. I should point out that it isn’t strictly a fair experiment, usually when I make pastry I’m fairly slapdash about it, with results that are invariably disappointing. Today I made the Lattice Pastry as directed, and now I don’t know if it was because I was being obedient or if it was the butter, but it is hands down the best pastry I’ve ever made.

Sift one and half cups of flour into a bowl with half a teaspoon of salt. Actually, I didn’t do that, I just dumped it in. Cut in half a cup of shortening (in the olden days they might used suet, but I went with 125 grams of Pepe Saya unsalted butter). You should use a pastry cutter for this, or extremely long fingernails. The idea is to not warm up the butter. I took a deep sigh and cut it in with a knife, a fairly time consuming job. Next time I’m up at the shops I’m getting a pastry cutter. When the average size of the butter bits is close to that of a pea, start sprinkling over tablespoons of cold water while tossing the flour with a fork. It was suggested that five would be sufficient, but I used six. Gather it together in a ball of crumbly dough and plonk it on your flour covered bench top. Flatten it down with your hands, then roll with a rolling pin until it’s about half a centimetre thick. Mine always crumbles around the edge, it’s never a nice circle like in the illustrations. Am I doing something wrong, or are they just cheating? I found that rolling into the centre makes in less crumbly. I’m going to put this lot into those little fluted tart tins with removable bottoms, so I pick a circle cutter with a slightly larger diameter than the tins. Cut out circles of pastry and very gently press them into the tins. Squash up remaining dough and reroll until you fill all of your tins. If you have the patience, you should blind bake these for ten minutes at 220 degrees, then uncovered for another five. I didn’t, so mine are a bit puffy.

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You’re now going to fill these with lemon curd. You can buy quite nice lemon curd, but I’m sure you’d like to know how the Scottish lady in the concentration camp did it.

In the top of a double boiler place eighty grams of butter, one cup of caster sugar (actually, next time I’m going with three quarters of a cup, it was a bit sweet), the grated zest of a lemon, one third of a cup of lemon juice and a pinch of salt. Wait until the butter has melted, then gradually stir in four egg yolks. Continue stirring fairly continuously, only pausing to take phone calls pertaining to your daughter’s social life, for about ten minutes. The curd will still be fairly runny, but form slow moving drips when you hold up your whisk instead of falling straight off. Here’s my double boiler setup.

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I’d wait a bit for the curd to cool down and thicken up before ladling it into the tart cases. I probably wouldn’t serve them with whipped cream, as suggested, but possibly a quenelle of King Island double cream would complement it nicely.

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Or not.

Fake Fajitas

The evenings are long and balmy and the family want to eat dinner on the back verandah. Their appetites are very variable at the moment, what with different levels of activity and various growth spurts going on. All we’ll need is a grab it yourself dinner and about fifteen mozzie coils, the anopheles are particularly frisky this year.

Our fajitas are more a homage to Mexican than the real thing. We had the real thing when we went to San Diego a couple of years ago, the kids still speak longingly of Nortes, next to our hotel, where we ate all manner of combinations of meat and corn by the outside fire. The Muffet loved tortillas at Nortes, but hates them here, I have to admit they’re a flabby imitation of the real thing and I’m not quite up to making them myself. We use Lebanese bread.

Set out a plate of Lebanese bread, a bowl of grated cheese, various bits of cut up salad, we use avocado, capsicum, lettuce, carrot and cucumber. Also wedges of lime, possibly some sour cream, a bowl of salsa and one of refried beans, which I’ll get to in a minute. At the last minute, bring out a plate of stir fried beef. You may want to bring it in a heated bowl, it goes cold quickly. You assemble the ingredients of your choice on the bread, wrap it up and eat it, then argue about who’s going to get the last bit of lettuce.

You can buy the salsa and beans anywhere you like, but I find it a little bland and unsatisfying and, in the case of the beans, slightly revolting. You guessed it, you can make your own! The salsa is particularly easy, particularly when Frank has in stock locally grown Roma tomatoes. A month ago you couldn’t get tomatoes anywhere, now you can get a bucketload for what you can find in the bottom of your handbag. You should make this about lunchtime, or the day before, the flavours develop. Cut up three tomatoes and deseed them, which is slightly annoying, but results in a lot less wet salsa. Resist the urge to add olive oil, bocconcini, basil, olives and balsamic vinegar, there’s something in the air in this suburb. And half a clove of finely minced garlic, the juice of half a lime, and one plantful of chopped up coriander. I also put in a teaspoon of sambal oelek and a couple of grinds of salt, taste it as you go. I don’t think I’ll stick in the fridge, it’s hard enough putting together a warm fajita.

The refried beans are pretty simple too, but not even fried once, which confuses me. The onion is, fry a finely chopped onion in a little olive oil over low heat until it’s soft. Add two cloves of finely minced garlic, one teaspoon of ground coriander and three of cumin. Stir it around for a few seconds, then dump in a can of red kidney beans. Most recipes suggest about a third of a cup of water should be added here, but one goes with beer, so that’s what I add. Continue cooking it over low heat for about ten minutes, then start mashing it with a potato masher. It will thicken up considerably when it cools, so don’t reduce it too much. Add salt to taste, don’t go overboard. You can make this ahead of time too, either heat it back up in the frying pan or zap it in the microwave.

Of course the kids are not going to have the salsa, beans or avocado, but that’s more for us. I should have got some tequila while I was out, I’m seriously going to start wearing a foil hat while shopping to prevent my brain being erased all the time.

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Shortbread with Pepe Saya butter

If I’m going to the trouble of making something from scratch then, as you may have gathered by now, I like to use the best ingredients I can reasonably lay my hands on.  I’ve been fairly happily using Harmonie butter in my baking for some time now, but the distance that little yellow block of joy has to travel to end up taking pride of place in my fruitcake bothers me.  I want to buy local.  I do occasionally see dairy stalls at markets when I manage to escape my family for half an hour, but if you think I’m the type that can wander up and ask for a sample then you are very very wide of the mark.  So I’ve been taking recommendations.  And what I keep hearing is Pepe Saya.

The first thing is locating it.  Go to the factory in Tempe, advises my hairdresser.  Ah, but the school holidays have started and I’m trying to minimise time in the car with my darling children, especially the Horror who still lacks an inside voice.  The website is very spartan and I’m tempted to send them a list of improvements, for example a list of vendors of their product.  Or opening hours for their shopfront.  Or if they have a shopfront.  As it turns out, Harris Farm carries it and I’ve been walking past it for ages because, for reasons best known to themselves, they package it like it’s a cheese.  Round, in a shiny foil like substance, and they also have a picture on it of someone looking down their nose which I also find to be a questionable marketing technique.

OK, I’ve got some, and I’ve prevented the Muffet from getting a surprise when she wanted a wedge of it on a cracker.  I want a recipe that showcases the butter, and what can be simpler than shortbread?  I don’t need the internet for this one, I have plenty of shortbread recipes in my less loony cookbooks and I’m going for the classic Women’s Weekly one.  Although I am tempted by the one in the Good Cookie that involves infusing the butter with tea leaves.  Hmm.  I’ll bet that’d also work with lavender.  Another time.

Unwrap the butter and load 185 grams of it into a bowl.  I don’t usually use cultured butter, basically because it’s not what I’m used to.  It’s a much more complex flavour, with slightly yoghurty overtones that I’m a bit concerned about for my recipe.  Sift in two cups of plain flour, a quarter of a cup of icing sugar and a tablespoon of ground rice.  I ground the rice in my extremely handy coffee grinder that has been getting a hell of a workout since I killed my stick mixer.  I’m also adding a half a teaspoon of vanilla for a bit of fragrance.  Knead it all together, then dump it onto a floured work bench.  I don’t get it to form a smooth ball, but I roll it out anyway.  This is one that looks lovely with fancy cutter shapes because it doesn’t spread out.  I’m almost tempted to use my set of heart shapes, but in the end I use a four leaf clover shape.  I want the boys to eat them too.  You can place them very close on your baking sheet because of the lack of spreading out.

I baked mine at 180 degrees for about twenty minutes, and you can see from the photo that this was too high a temperature.  I have a fan forced oven, so next time I’ll go with 160 degrees and will keep an eye on them.  You don’t really want them to brown.  My fears about the tang were completely unfounded, I’ve got a subtle flavoured, beautifully textured biscuit that will reward contemplation over a cup of tea.  Pity I don’t drink tea.  Also a pity that the dripping wet little boys that rushed past and inhaled a few didn’t bother contemplating the subtle flavours.  They did say “YUMM!!”.

Shortbread

Lucky that worked out so well, because I bought quite a lot of the butter.  Christmas baking coming up, after all.