What does the last of the housewives do?

Month: April, 2014


I may have lost the knack of whiling away a sunny day in the hammock with a book and chocolate nicked from the kids. I got into the trackies this morning, no problem. But the husband broke the hammock yesterday, aided and abetted by the larger children, and there is SO much washing to do.

Not only that, but there are jam jars to fill (lemon butter again) and a couple of little nieces coming to stay the night. I do have gingernuts, brownies, caramel icecream and an egg hunt planned for later in the afternoon, but I’ve been hanging out to have a crack at marshmallows. So after putting on a bleach wash full of paint stained shirts, sun hats and sports gear to prepare for the coming school term, I assembled the ingredients.

This recipe does actually require a bit of concentration, not to mention heavy machinery. You can’t do these with a whisk. I think the best order to do it in is this.
Put two tablespoons of powdered gelatine in a metal bowl containing 190 ml of water. Then put another 190 ml of water in a heavy saucepan with 500 grams white sugar and a tablespoon of liquid glucose and start heating it up. I’d use a sugar thermometer for this, due to the concentration needed on other things. Put two egg whites in the bowl of your KitchenAid and get that whisking at a fairly brisk pace. OK, got all that? Gelatine soaking, sugar coming to the boil, egg whites whipping.

You only want the sugar syrup to get to hard ball stage, about 125 degrees C, so when it’s approaching that sit the gelatine bowl in some hot water and gently stir it until it has dissolved, trying to ignore the ghostly whiff of departed horse it exudes. When the sugar has reached 125 degrees, tip in the gelatine and mix it in. Turn the heat off. By this stage your egg whites should have reached stiff peak stage. Keep the KitchenAid going while you pour the sugar solution steadily in, ignoring the wobbles that will develop in your elbow. Chuck in a teaspoon of vanilla essence, I make my own.

Saves a fortune, I go through a lot of it. Then you leave the whipping going for ages, about ten minutes.

Meanwhile mix together half a cup of cornflour with half a cup of icing sugar. Line a couple of baking trays with baking paper, then dust them with some of the cornflour mix. When your marshmallow mix is finally getting thick and glossy, pour it into the trays.

Then spend a couple of hours going about your business, doing more washing, finding what the ants are eating in the Horror’s room, trying to think of a good one hour activity to cover Planet Earth in the Stage 3 science curriculum, ignoring the Moose’s attempts to insert Axis of Awesome’s Skeleton Man into my brain in earworm form.

Sprinkle more cornflour mix onto your benchtop, turn the marshmallow out onto the counter and gently peel the baking paper off, quietly cursing yourself that you didn’t put more cornflour mix on it. Cut it into squares with a sharp knife and dip each square into the remaining cornflour mix.

Even if I do say so myself, they’re really good. Fluffy, not sticky. One could have dipped them in toasted coconut, a lá Darrel Lea, perhaps next time. Relatively labour intensive, but it does make a lot, and I wouldn’t mind going a bit crazy with the flavours, but they’d have to be in essence form. I could go lavender, rose and violet, the Paris effect hasn’t worn off yet. But I’d have to visit the Essential Ingredient first. The sacrifices I make.



Excursion to Paddy’s

Earlier in the week I had a day full of absolutely no children. So I thought I’d go on a little adventure. I wanted get some cheap fruit for the jammin’ stall I’ll be running at the school fete in a couple of weeks, but thought Flemington Markets sounded way too daunting. So I decided to go to Paddy’s Markets because I haven’t been there in years, AND you can get the freshly opened light rail right to the door.

The light rail is an odd transport link in that it really doesn’t go anywhere terribly useful. This is because they’ve used an old goods line that was routed to get stuff from various ports on the harbour to various factories further inland. Our suburb has a stop because the line happens to run along the local canal. Anyway, on this bright morning I hauled my old lady shopping trolley up the stairs to step straight on to a service full of prams and small children, all of whom were eating bananas. I have nothing against bananas as a form of nutrition, or as a base for a tasty cake, but when eaten in public they smell like death and should be banned.

I’m not entirely sure where all those kids were going, possibly to what’s left of Darling Harbour, but they’d all trickled off by the time I got to the markets. I fought my way through the fug of cheap plastic to the back where the fruit is and did find myself some cheap apples (apple sauce, and for my children to eat) and tomatoes (roasted tomato paste, see a previous post). Of course if you add on the transport fare they’re not so cheap, but I’m planning to put that in my entertainment budget instead.

I found the rest of the market to be deeply depressing. Cheap garbage being bought by bogans dragging unwilling children through the dimly lit aisles. Tshirts with horribly misogynist slogans, acres of identical i-cases that would fall apart if you looked at them too hard, knock off handbags, plastic plastic plastic.

But then I saw a stall selling Vietnamese clothes, possibly made by three year olds sheltering under a water buffalo, that were just lovely. The stall keeper recognised a sucker and dragged me in, handed me an armful of tops, allowed me to try on one, then started stripping it off and buttoning me into the next one. Admittedly those knot buttons are a little tricky, but dear reader, can you imagine it. Perhaps from the shock of being manhandled by a woman twice my age and half my size, I bought three. They were really cheap! And perfect work tops for this tricky trans-seasonal moment we’re having. I’ve been looking for work tops for ages, why are so many of them see through? I love my Victoria’s Secret collection, but I don’t want people to see it. And I don’t want to have to wear a shirt underneath my shirt, that’s madness.

I wore the purple one yesterday to work and it was just right. Comfortable, breathable, I hate to think what will happen when I wash it. I might soak it in a vinegar solution first. I’m certainly not handwashing it, I’m not that kind of housewife.

Sweet Georgiou’s

No, really, I had to go there for work. I’m giving a lecture next week and solids and liquids will feature a fair bit. Kool Mints actually make a fairly good analogue of particles crystallizing.

The amount you get in the standard sized packet of Kool Mints (which I swear has decreased markedly) isn’t enough to crystallize in a glass casserole dish. So I could buy a few packets. Or I could go to Georgiou’s.

You want to do lolly bags for an entire kindergarten class, you have twelve grandchildren you want to organise an Easter Egg hunt for, you want to give your conference attendees something to do with their hands other than tweet about how bored they are, you have to come to Georgiou’s. It’s a little unassuming from the streetfront, on New Canterbury Road in Petersham.

Walk in and if you breathe in too deeply you’ll get sugar diabetes, as my grandma calls it. As you walk in on the right is the American “food” that you’ve seen on TV, Junior Mints, JuJy Fruits, all the M&M flavours, those large boxes of confectionary masquerading as breakfast cereal.

And Clamato is real! I thought Homer Simpson made it up!

Described as a tomato cocktail, the description proudly announces it contains the equivalent of two pounds of shrimp and clams. The website suggests that it’s excellent mixed with beer. And have a Captain Cook at the item on the right of this shot

I originally took it because of the hot sauce of death, which I wouldn’t have thought was a selling point, and only noticed the caffeine laced maple syrup after. Crikey.

Anyway, the main part of the warehouse is bulk lollies and chocolates. You can get small packets;

Or big ones;

They had a whole aisle of cellophane and wicker bulking up Easter packs. But you could get cheap packs of deceased chocolate bunnies in pieces. Not sure what you’d do with that. Spread it on the garden, perhaps.

I had to go around the whole place four or five times to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. I was a little sad not to see those Austrian rectangular fruit sweets wrapped in waxed paper, Cinnamon Mentos or Callebaut cooking chocolate, but you can’t have everything, and anyway I just would have bought them and eaten them. I got my kilo pack of Kool Mints, some mint sticks that should do for a liquid crystal demonstration, some Mint Imperials because I like them and can’t make them, some non-caffeinated maple syrup because we’re having a maple syrup moment in our house and some Belcolade cooking chocolate because supplies are low. I didn’t want this much, and I don’t know the brand, and considering the dust, nobody else does either.

Now all I have to do is finish writing my lecture and not eat the Kool Mints before the end of next week. I wonder if they’d be tax deductible?