What does the last of the housewives do?

Month: March, 2013

Chilli Garlic Prawns – Kind of in the Thermomix

The joy of having a good friend and neighbour take you shopping because you’re on crutches is that you see products you’ve never considered before. I knew that the prawns you see at the fishmongers are all defrosted because the little so and sos are frozen as soon as they’re caught. I’m not sure if they’re also peeled at that point, but I’ll try not to think about it too hard. So it makes sense to buy a kilo bag of frozen prawns and have them on hand whenever you feel like making chilli prawns.

I don’t know about you, but I often burn the garlic. Not any more! With a Thermomix you put your flavours in the jug, so

In this case four cloves of garlic, three chillies from the garden, a couple of bunches of tired coriander and a slice of butter. I’m still experimenting with chop first, cook later or contrariwise. I tried cook first, chop later and I don’t think it’s quite right. I cooked it for two minutes at 100 degrees on speed three, then chopped it and got a lovely decoration of the jug walls.

The kit comes with a very well designed spatula, so I scraped down the walls and chopped a couple more times, and it all seemed OK. I added six of Frank’s locally grown tomatoes and cooked at 100 degrees on speed two for ten minutes, then added a pinch of salt and chopped to make a very fragrant sauce.

What you can then do is tip the sauce out, half fill the jug with water and cook the rice in the steam basket while cooking the prawns and bok choy on the Varona above the rice, then assemble at the end. I’m not going to do this. I have my prawns defrosting in the wok and have tipped the sauce over them.

The hungry husband isn’t due home from the Jedi’s soccer training until about ten minutes after seven thirty. So at about seven twenty five I will half fill the still saucy jug with water and cook the rice in the steamer basket for fourteen minutes. Meanwhile I will be stir frying the prawns in the sauce with chopped bok choy just for a couple of minutes and the sauce will reduce down a bit and flavour the prawns. Sometimes I stir the rice in so it absorbs the sauce, but it looks better served on top of the rice, so that’s what I’ll do tonight.

I might add another chilli. Of course, that will require it to be served with a cheeky Chardonnay, but it can’t be helped.


Thermomix – the Preliminary Review

There’s a lot of Thermocurious people out there. Wanting to know how I’m using my Thermomix. Is it any good? What does it actually do? And what they’re really asking is, if I bought one, would I use it?

It’s a tough question, and there are no right answers. I will let you know what my experience over a bit over a week of using the thing.

Firstly there’s a bit of a learning curve. You have to be prepared to have a go at things and be surprised at the results. You have to look at some of the pedestrian recipes in the accompanying cookbook and try out bits of them. Fairly soon you’ll get to know how long to cook things for, what speed to chop things on and what things you’d really rather do in the frying pan. Everybody will use it differently, but here’s what I’ve been up to with it.

It is a much better blender than the one that is currently brushing the sand off its towel and returning to me under warranty from Kitchenware Direct. That blender will be relegated to the job of milk shakes and slushies and I’m sure it will last a lot longer than two months this time. The Thermomix jug has a flat bottom and a wide and vicious looking blade that sweeps the bottom of the jug. It will pulverise a single clove of garlic (don’t do it on the highest speed or it will just fling it out the hole in the lid if you’ve neglected to put the little cover on). It will also deal with being filled up to the lid even with hard (chopped) vegetables or frozen fruit. It will create a very fine nut meal. You can make flour with it out of whatever grain you like. It does a great job of chopping Parmesan cheese into sprinklable particles. I have continued making frozen fruit iceblocks for the kids as I was in my holidaying blender and the kids report a much finer texture, not that they were complaining in the first place. In its blender capacity I have made almond meal, icing sugar, hazelnut meal, rice flour, salmon patties, tomato salsa, bread crumbs. It doesn’t automatically reduce everything to dust, there are a range of speeds. I’ve also kneaded a spelt bread dough with it, it has an interval setting. You can just set it for two minutes and every couple of seconds the dough will get a beating. I’m going to have to play with making bread in it quite a bit more, I feel. I’m also planning to make mayonnaise in it for a coleslaw, two things I’ve never made before.

The heating bit takes a bit more getting used to. I’ve got the sautéing onion and garlic in it down pretty well, you only have to cut the onion in half which is a bonus. It’s ideal for something like refried beans which I’ve just made for dinner tonight. You chop and cook the onion for two minutes. Add garlic and spices for another minute. Add the beans and a third of a cup of juice you drained off the tomato salsa you prepared earlier and cook for another fifteen minutes. Turn up the blender speed and it’s done. All in the one jug, just by pressing a few buttons. I’ve tried cooking rice in it, and that’s a keeper, as is steaming fish, but I’ll be doing mashed potatoes and pasta the conventional way.

One of the big things for a lot of people, including me, is how easy is it to clean? Very easy indeed. Most of the time I just wash it quickly in the sink with a squirt of detergent, hot water and the scrubbing brush that came with it. Or the squirt of detergent, the hot water, and set it on the machine (with lid on) and give a few bursts of the blender. It’s stainless steel, so doesn’t retain smells. It disassembles very easily indeed and goes in the dishwasher too, just make sure the electrical bit at the bottom is dry before putting it back on the machine.

There seems to be a big market for the Thermomix in the allergy and food intolerance communities because it does make it very easy to make things from scratch. If you are someone who makes things from scratch a lot, and I am, you will use it every day, which I think would make it worth while. You do need to make sure you use it for everything you possibly can for the first couple of weeks to get over your learning curve, I’m only just starting to think “that’d be easy to make in the Thermomix” rather than “am I going to be able to do that in the Thermomix, or am I just going to make a big mess?”.

The best thing to do is to go to a party, better still to go to more than one, by different demonstrators. There isn’t hard sell at the parties, they realise it’s an expensive piece of kit and you’re unlikely to impulse buy one. From the amount of interest I’ve had, I’m thinking of having two parties next term. You get lunch and everything. Enough blathering from me for the moment. I will keep blogging about stuff I’ve made in the Thermomix a couple of times a week, then gradually the novelty will wear off as it gets fully incorporated into my cooking. I do love a gadget, so how could you go wrong with a thoughtfully built multipurpose one like this?

A spot of Knitting

The Muffet has a school requirement that at the end of Lent she hand in to her school two knitted squares. These are known as Dorcas squares for some biblical reason and apparently will be sewn into a larger blanket that will be sent to a hot country with no need for extra heating and possibly set fire to. I have taken a short and non representative survey of girls in year seven, and apparently all squares submitted have been actually knitted by an older female relative, rather than the year seven girl. Of course I knitted the Muffet’s contribution, on condition that she actually attempt one herself. She did, but her ability to drop tens of stitches at a time made her effort a little bit too well ventilated for practical purposes. I should start her on her squares for next year now.

To encourage her to knit I went to one of the few remaining haberdashery shops in Sydney, in Turramurra actually, to buy some beautiful wool for her. I normally buy my wool at craft shows, at which this shop exhibits, but there wasn’t a lot of choice at the last show I went to. So now I have a stash or rather lovely wool, a merino/silk mix and an alpaca, and I wanted to knit something with it. I have enough scarves, it was time to try something a bit more adventurous.

The advantages of knitting a headband are numerous. It’s just a strip of knitting, so is fairly quick. You can try something a bit fancy without having to commit to a full garment. And one always needs headbands to keep one’s curly hair off one’s glasses.

I’m still too scared to try cable knitting, but I liked the look of Trinity Stitch. I knocked one up with purple wool and look, you can see where Jane rang me up to ask advice on pony camps.

There, up near the top of the needle. Yes, that is a nut at the top of the needle, the dog chewed off the end when he was going through that stage last year.

It was too narrow and looked like a trial piece. Now that I have the hang of it I’m doing a wider one. The way to do it is this. You cast on twenty four stitches. Do a row of purl. Then you knit then purl then knit all into the one stitch, wrapping the wool to the correct side each time. When you’ve got three stitches on the right from the one on the left, you pull off the left one. Then you gather the next three on the left onto your right needle and purl stitch. Repeat to the end of the row. Do another row of purl. The next row you start with the triple purl, then the knit purl knit into one stitch. The problem I had was numerous interruptions, meaning I could never remember if I was up to a row starting with knit or with purl. I’ve solved it by putting the knitting down either in the middle of a fancy row or at the end of one. Then I could see which one I had just done. When you get to the end of the fancy row you say out loud the last stitch in the row, then do your purl row, then start with the stitch you’ve said out loud, ignoring the derisive comments of your family members.

Anyway, there’s good instructions on the web, and you just sew the ends together when the headband is long enough to sit tightly around your fat head. Maybe when I be done a few I’ll be brave enough to try a pattern that has one of those codexes that look like the Rosetta Stone. Those grannies that can knit anything must have started somewhere.


Crutches for beginners

You need a day off hearing about the Thermomix and I have learned a lot about getting about on crutches in the last seven days and I feel I should share. When you’re given crutches, you get a lesson on how to hold them and how to get up and down a step and you’re on your way. Some people don’t even get that. There’s so much more to it than that.

Garb. You’re going to find yourself a little restricted in what you can wear. For me the ideal outfit is a long tunic with pockets. Fortunately I do have one of these and am wearing it a lot. Dresses in general are good, but not too short. A fibreglass cast has a lot of the characteristics of Velcro, so avoid the delicate fabrics and you may want to rethink the lacy undies. Tshirts are no good, they ride up a lot, and even though your abs are in better shape than they have been for years, no one really wants to see them. Tight singlets seem to stay put if you can find pants that will go over your cast. You will need a handbag that goes over your neck and one shoulder because you can’t carry anything at all in your hands and there’s only so much you can stuff into your bra and the waistband of your undies.

Stairs. Avoid them. I do have a step in our house and here’s the thing. If you’re on crutches, going down is hard, especially if there’s more than one, and up is easy. If you have to go down a set of stairs I would seriously consider throwing your crutches down them and going down on your bottom. Going up, you just need to do it slowly. If you’ve built up your left buttock and calf sufficiently to do a bit of hopping you should concentrate very hard when going up. You don’t want a broken wrist as well. Going down is much easier on the hop.

Doors. The best way to open a door while on crutches is to stand beside it and put on your sad face until someone comes along and opens it for you. This doesn’t work when you’re alone at home and trying to get out two doors at the front of the house while blocking egress to two small dogs. I’ve developed a technique that involves holding the crutches in one hand to fend off the dogs and doing the twist on my left foot with a backward hop. It takes a while.

Shopping. You can’t do it. I’ve tried, and I’ve failed. I had to be rescued by a kind lady called Janet who is a retired education lecturer and is now considering joining the Grad Choir. If you really must, you have to go somewhere they’ll pick and pack for you and only buy what you can fit in your handbag. You could try holding a shopping bag by your little finger while using your crutches but be warned, it will throw your balance right off. Get a shopping buddy, that way you don’t have to explain what version of Metamucil you get and where it is and you can choose your own alternatives to the cat’s kangaroo meat when they don’t have it in stock yet again. Anybody free to go shopping on Wednesdays?

Standing. You need to do it in the kitchen, and you need to do it while ironing. Yes, I know the kids should be doing it, but they’re already looking after the washing, garbage and dishwasher, so I’ll iron for them. You want something to rest your knee on so your body can pretend it’s standing properly to give your weight bearing leg a rest. While ironing I use the decaying corpse of a defunct computer, it’s just the right height. I’ve put a coffee table in the kitchen to kneel on which allows me a lot more upright time than I’d otherwise be able to manage. It also annoys everyone else, so they keep out.


Miscellaneous. These newfangled fibreglass casts are terrific and waterproof and everything, but after you’ve showered they take a little while to drain. These means that if you’re in a hurry and have decided to go with leggings today, they’ll get rather wet while you drag them on. Speaking of showering, you can shave your remaining leg in the shower, but you have to have excellent balance. Or not mind getting a bump on your head. Get yourself industrial strength deodorant because it’s really hard work getting about on crutches, you’ll sweat way more than normal. Don’t be afraid to use your crutches to sweep small boys out of your path or to poke children who are ignoring you. You have to get some fun out of this.

Also, you may want to give your muscles a bit of time to get used to your new mode of transport. If you go hard the first few days you will ache like you’ve been beaten about the shoulders and ribs for days. And try to work up to the hopping, it’s a good way to get around the kitchen while holding trays or boxes of ingredients, but it initially takes a toll. On the plus side I’m hardly snacking at all because it’s such an effort to move anywhere. Heigh ho, heigh ho, only five weeks to go.

Vegetable Soup, yes in the Thermomix

I’m supposed to be doing recipes from the Thermomix book for the first week. This is a book that has recipes for apricot chicken and beef stroganoff. It’s a very patchy publication. So I’m not in the mood. But I’m picking stuff up, like how to start off a soup.

You chuck in a halved small onion. A smashed clove of garlic. Zap for ten seconds on speed seven. It won’t pulverise them, it will chop them up fairly severely. Put in a slice of butter. Mix for two minutes on hundred degrees on speed one. It just gets them to translucent. We need a verb for “put in Thermomix and add some settings”. I’ll ponder that for a bit.

Put in two tomatoes, cut in half. Cut in half four zucchinis that some kind person bought for you in the mistaken belief that they were cucumbers. Add them to the pot. Zap for ten seconds on speed seven. Add in a cup of frozen chicken stock and a tablespoon of that ultra salty Thermomix vegetable stock. I can’t bring myself to throw it out, so I may as well use tiny bits of it here and there. It can’t go in the compost, it would kill it. I was going to put in cauliflower, but I forgot. You could put in any vegetables really. Cook for twenty minutes at 100 degrees on speed one, which just moves it around. I put the steamer basket over the hole in the lid because I thought it could do with being reduced a bit.

It sounds cringingly healthy, but it was surprisingly tasty and satisfying. I didn’t even put cheese in it. It had a bit of body to it.

It made enough for two, so I’ll have it with toast for lunch tomorrow. I may have to follow it up with a chocolate bar, but at least I’m getting my lycopenes.

Deconstructed Sushi – in the Thermomix

I have used the Thermomix for all kinds of things in the five days I’ve had it. Not for dinner though. Tonight was the night. I’ve blogged about deconstructed sushi for dinner. It was the perfect proof of concept.

Normally this dinner involves cooking salmon wrapped in foil in the oven. Rice in the rice cooker. Omelette in the frying pan. And the rest is raw, so lets not bother with that. Here’s how you do it in the Thermomix.

Put the steamer basket in the Thermomix bowl. Press the scale button. Weigh three hundred grams of rice into the basket. Take the basket out. Weigh eight hundred grams of water into the bowl. Put the basket back over the water.

Place the lid on the bowl. Place the Varona basket over the lid. Put two slabs of salmon in the basket.

If you were cooking for anyone mildly adventurous, you could have whipped up some ginger, shallots and garlic prior to filling up the bowl with water, then rubbed it over the salmon. However. There’s a steamer plate for the Varona that goes over the basket. Line that with baking paper. Pour over a couple of eggs beaten with a bit of soy sauce and sugar. Curse a little as they drip over the edge of the paper because you’ve been a bit frugal with it. Bend the paper into more of a bowl shape.

Bung on the lid. Cook the lot for fifteen minutes at Varoma temperature on speed four.

Well, it all worked. Not sure how much I like the look of a steamed omelette, but it tastes fine. The salmon and rice were cooked properly. It sounds like a bit of palaver, but it’s just a stack of steamers, all of which go in the dishwasher, so hurrah from my washing up team who can have the night off.

Preparation time was about five minutes, cooking time fifteen, which I spent cutting up the raw veggies, so that could be the quickest dinner I’ve ever prepared. The machine is a little noisy for what it’s doing, which is just heating up and sloshing around water. And I don’t like the name Varoma. It doesn’t really reflect what the thing is, and sounds a bit like a feminine hygiene product. I guess it needs a name. Steamer? That’s almost as bad. OK, marketing is difficult. Minor quibbles really. This is definitely my preferred rice and fish preparation method from now on. Might stick to doing omelette in the frying pan, just for textural reasons. Yes, yes, I am having fun.


Tempted though I am, I’m not going to subject you to my whining about being disabled. I’m saving that for later in the week. Instead, I bring to you my children’s complaint for the weekend. “How come you’ve been baking all weekend and there’s nothing for us?”.

As I mentioned last week, I made five lots of morning tea for my husband to take to his week of meetings. Two items were requested from the last set of meetings, hazelnut biscotti and raspberry slice, both of which can be found in my collected works. No, I’m not putting in a link, go find it yourself. I also sent along brownies, which I mixed in the Thermomix, ginger nuts and hazelnut meringue biscuits, which I may share with your at a later date. I did make panettone too, but we kind of went to a friend’s place for an impromptu barbeque, so I sacrificed the panettone to the gods of hospitality, who ate it all up.

The kids have been asking me to make panettone for a while now. They weren’t easily fobbed off by my initial reaction, which was “you don’t make panettone. You wait until Easter or Christmas, then you go into any shop in our suburb and pull one out of the walls of panettone that magically appear at that time. You then exchange it for one belonging to your neighbour, stick it in the back of the pantry, wait five years then throw it out.” It turns out that flattery works remarkably well on me, so I made one this weekend. And, because of its rapid disappearance into our kind hosts of last night, again today.

You can really make it with a wooden spoon, but if you have a KitchenAid it is dead easy. First you gather your materials. I’ll bet you don’t have orange essence in your pantry. Or glycerine. Apparently you can leave out the glycerine and use lemon zest instead of the essence, but the way I did tastes just like a bought one, only not redolent of dust and moths.

Place in your KitchenAid bowl 200 grams of water, fifteen grams of fresh yeast (or a seven gram sachet of dried yeast), 25 grams of caster sugar and 25 grams of for flour. Whisk them all together. Add six egg yolks and beat them in. Save the whites for fun stuff like hazelnut meringue biscuits, Thermomix macarons (can’t wait to try that recipe), or today it was lime and poppyseed friands. Beat in three teaspoons of glycerine, three teaspoons of vanilla essence and two teaspoons of orange essence. Melt together, carefully, 50 grams of butter and 50 grams of white chocolate. I’m still working on this in the Thermomix, when I have it fail safe I’ll let you know. We got there in the end. Beat that into the mix. Mix in 400 grams of flour and a teaspoon of salt if your butter was unsalted. The recipe says just mix it in with the wooden spoon, but because I had the KitchenAid running, and it was a yeast thing I thought I’d let it mix for a few minutes. It did start getting all stretchy and satisfactory looking, so I’m keeping that step.

Let it rest for five minutes, then fold in 150 grams of bits of your choice. Or not. I’m going with golden raisins this time, I’ve got a bit of a thing for them lately. They’re nicer than bog standard sultanas.

Then you choose your pan or pans. The mix is very wet, not like bread dough at all, and really sticky. So if it rises out of the pan it will droop sadly down the sides and be a bit of a bugger to get off. I’m using a small loaf pan and a little square tin. Line them with baking paper, make sure the paper goes all the way up to the top. Only fill the tins a third of the way up. Leave them somewhere warm until they’ve almost tripled in height. You can gently brush a sugar syrup on them, or sugar beaten with egg white. Or not. Bake them at 180 degrees for about half an hour. More if you actually have a panettone tin and a baking the lot as one loaf.

This produces a very light sweet loaf that looks like it will toast well if we manage to keep it for more than a day. It has that hint of orange without having peel in it (hardly anyone likes peel, it’s very sad). Have a go at it. I could do it standing on one leg.


And I Thought the Boot was Bad

You thought you’d be reading more about the Thermomix today didn’t you. I did make a very exciting breakfast in it, but the rush and swirl of my life means that that is yesterday’s news. My friends, capricious Fate, or rather an apologetic young doctor, has put me in plaster from my fuschia toenails to my knobbly knee. Yes, it’s the skiing injury still. Apparently my foot has decided to cope with its ongoing inflammation by putting a great deal of pressure on the bone at the top of my arch, resulting in the precursor to a stress fracture. The only treatment is to immobilise the foot completely and it isn’t even allowed to touch the ground. Which means I’m on crutches for six weeks.

I can drive. It’s a waterproof cast, so I can shower standing on one leg, and I can swim. That will be interesting, but it’s the only exercise option left to me apart from lifting weights. Although having been on crutches now for three hours, the no exercise might not be such a problem, it’s quite exhausting using crutches, even more so if you decide bugger it, I’m hopping. I’m going to end up with a giant left buttock. I can feel it developing already.

The first crushing realisation was that I’m not going to be able to get a takeaway coffee for six weeks, because I won’t have any hands free. I suppose being forced to sit at a cafe isn’t so bad. Then, how am I going to hang out the washing? The girls at the cafe helpfully pointed out that I could put the wet washing in a bag and sling it over my back, so that’s sorted. Shopping will be problematic. I’m pretty sure if I can find a park up on Ramsay Street, Frank will take my fruit to the car, and perhaps I can wait until the kids get home to unload it. I am not not not going to use Coles Online because they suck more than I can bear to think about. I used to use them when the Horror was little and not fit for public consumption, and they’d always bring me stuff that was close to or at expiry, and the order was never complete.

I can cook, so that’s a relief. I had already organised my baking corner so that almost everything is to hand and if I hop over and open the oven first, getting a baking tray in there only requires one hop. I have the oven door open right now letting some biscotti cool down before I attempt to hop anywhere with it. My husband had put in an order for five days worth of morning tea, because he’ll be away all next week reorganising the Army, and the Army vastly prefer my baking to the officially endorsed Arnotts Assorted Creams. I’d hate to let down the Army.

Yes, that’s right, I’m on my own all next week. That means my dear children will have to make themselves very useful indeed or risk getting poked with the crutches. By the time the husband gets back I should have developed some upper back and buttock musculature, some coping mechanisms that don’t involve too much alcohol and should be complaining less so it’s probably best for our marriage that he’s away.

Of course the hardest thing will be accepting help. I had to start almost before the plaster was dry, because my car was parked down a set of stairs from my doctor. A very kind lady offered to take my handbag and crutches while I swung myself down the stairs by the banisters and it really was a lot quicker than doing it myself. My first instinct is to bark “I’m fine!”, but I’m not. Hopefully I will be soon, the plaster is due to come off the Friday before the Verdi at the Town Hall, of which more later, and hopefully all my bits will be behaving themselves and will be allowed to be free.

And look! It’s denim blue! I have a bit of an urge to bedazzle it.

Eek, Thermomix

Not sure how to put this, so I’ll just come out and say it. I have a Thermomix. I didn’t buy it! My dear parents, avid readers of this blog, read between the lines and thought that despite all my protestations I might really like a Thermomix. So they bought me one, aided and abetted by my sister who has actually become a Thermomix consultant in the last few months. If you’re in Brisbane and Thermocurious, get in touch with Erin Williams.

A Thermomix doesn’t just arrive in a box, it is hand delivered by your local consultant. She sets it up, gives you a very thorough lesson in how to use it and in the process you make a vegetable stock concentrate. Let me tell you, Thermomix, it is too salty. Too salty. I don’t care if it prolongs the shelf life, I have a freezer. I’m going to make it again with maybe a third the salt. Apart from that, I had a very enjoyable morning indeed, tinged with a little guilt that she wasn’t the demonstrator for the original party that started me off. My demonstrator was very knowledgeable and interested in cooking herself, so we exchanged tips and stories and generally had quite the excellent time.

I am again astounded at what I won’t be needing in my kitchen any more. Scales. That metal steamer I do broccoli in. The rice cooker, which was on its last legs anyway. The coffee grinder. The milk foamer that goes with the Nespresso machine. I’m definitely going to keep using the KitchenAid for baking, but I won’t have to get the extra bowl I was planning to fork out for, a Thermomix can deal with egg whites like nobody’s business. I will probably keep making bread by hand, because I think it’s different every time and I like kneading. I will also keep using the blender if it ever comes back from holidays for Boost Juice purposes because I’ll allow the kids to use it, but they won’t be getting their sticky fingers on my Thermomix. I could probably cut down on my metal bowl collection and won’t need all three saucepans, but they’re a set and I’m pretty sure my parents bought me those too, about fifteen years ago.

So why am I not cooking things in it right now this very minute? Well, that is because I’m hanging out with the neighbour’s new puppy, Peppa, who was going to have to have a day all by herself if I didn’t come over. She is helping me out by chewing on the recipe book I’m flicking through.

You can make your own Nutella! I also rather like the look of the Chinese drinking porridge, very healthful. I am totally going to steam fish in the steamer thing that sits on the top. Sadly I think the first thing I’ll be cooking in it is pasta from the pasta shop for the kids dinner tonight, I’ll be going to parent teacher night with the Muffet, the Moose had tennis squads and the husband is playing soccer until late this evening. It’s tough to find a meal that will cater to all those needs. Actually, I could pulverise the Parmesan first, but you need to cut it up into chunks. Easier than hand grating it, I would imagine. No, locals, I don’t like the Parmesan from the IGA, I prefer the Kraft MilLel, it’s tangier, but you do have to grate it yourself.

So you will be hearing a little bit, from time to time, about Thermomix from me. If that doesn’t interest you, talk among yourselves until I get a sewing project going or go on holidays or something. The consultant almost had me convinced that I also need the Thermomix insulated bowl that you keep rice warm in, or make yoghurt in. Maybe I do need one. The catch is that they won’t just sell you one. You have to have a party. I don’t suppose any of you want to come to a Thermomix party? I’m thinking a Friday morning. You get lunch. And they really don’t hard sell, but they do plant a seed that lodges in your brain and starts burrowing, burrowing…

Vaguely Asian Stock and What I plan to Do With It

I’ve been flicking through Adam Liaw’s Masterchef prize, Two Asian Kitchens, and what a pleasure it is. Completely unlike Gordon Ramsay’s cookbook whose only point seems to be “I’ve got blue eyes!”. Adam’s cookbook is thorough, not too fussily photographed and accessible, which is really saying something as he doesn’t dumb down those Asian classics at all. You really feel like you could whip up Gong Bao chicken, if only you’d bought Chianking vinegar at the Asian grocery shop you were last at rather than Zhen Jiang. Pea brain.

I’d been paying particular attention to the stock discussion. I’ve been a bit bored with the chicken stock I usually produce, I feel like the flavours aren’t right for an Asian dish. Adam discusses two stocks, a general purpose one and a master stock. I first heard of master stocks on the the first season of Masterchef, but they never really went in to what they were. What they are is just a stock that you reuse. Back in the olden days you’d have a pot on the fire all the time which you’d keep topped up with water and you’d chuck stuff in, vegetables and herbs and bits of meat, and you’d fish stuff out and you’d never empty the pot. That’s the principle of a master stock, but in this age of Dettol everyone finds that idea a bit erky, not to mention perky. There are modern ways of doing it, but that’s not what I was planning to chat about.

Adam’s everyday stock was based on chicken bones, which I had, and pork bones which I happened to spot at the local IGA. There was also those little dried fish in the recipe, but I couldn’t come at that, so I left them out. I also didn’t bother with kombu. You put the pork bones in a large stock pot. You cover them with plenty of cold water. You bring it to the boil. You forget about it briefly because the dog has his foot caught in his ear again. You are a bit horrified at the amount of brown scum bubbling on the surface, so you tip the water and scum into the sink, retrieve the pork bones and give the pot a bit of a rinse. Put the bones back in the pot. Add the chicken bones (they’d already been cooked), two thick slices of ginger, five unpeeled cloves of garlic, six chopped green onions, a small, unpeeled brown onion. I also put in a whole lot of celery tops, because I happened to have them and I like the flavour of celery in stock. Cover with water, this is going to make a lot of stock.

Adam says you have to watch it so it never boils, just gently simmers, otherwise it will become cloudy. Well, I can live with cloudy, so it may have come to the boil a few times for the couple of hours I had it going for. Let it cool a bit while you go and pick up the Moose from debating, then strain it into your most giant metal bowl. You don’t want to put that straight in the fridge, it will heat everything up, so gently place it in the sink and surround it with some cool water. It will drop to tepid in less than the time it takes a Horror from Outer Space to perform his choir warmup song for you, with repeats. Put it in the fridge.

Next day you can scoop off the fat on the surface with a slotted spoon, or, in my case, a perforated pasta strainer. The stock has more of a meaty flavour than my usual chicken stock but is a lot more neutral. The first thing I’m planning to do with it is to flavour a couple of cups with black rice vinegar and five spice, maybe some dark soy sauce and boil some rice noodles in it for dinner tonight. They’ll be served topped with some Chinese BBQ pork I picked up today from Burwood and some choy sum and fresh shiitake mushrooms stir fried with chillies and maybe some sesame oil. Obviously a non kid dinner. I am going to make them sample the BBQ pork, one of the great joys of life.

Of the remaining stock, I’ll freeze some as it is, and some I’ll reduce down for a concentrate. I wonder if that will work. That will be to flavour dishes, rather than to make a soup or stew. I have vague thoughts of making a master stock with some of it, but I can’t see myself using it much until the kids are a bit more adventurous with their eating. I do like the sound of the aromatics he suggests putting in the master stock, cinnamon quills, star anise, Sichuan peppers, fennel, cloves, so I may just make that and call it flavoursome stock rather than master stock and only use it once. Nobody need ever know.