Thursday, March 31, 2011

Quince jelly and Quince paste

I got given two quince at the weekend by my friend Dave.  I confess I had no idea what to do with them, and did not actually recognise the jolly things.

The above pictures are of quince, apparently they are also called 'Golden Apples.'  I think that they look more like pears, actually.

Anyway, I was really excited to do something with them, and looked up quince jelly online.   The first recipe said something along the lines of 'just roughly cut up, don't peel or core and then strain.'  So I did this, then boiled up the beautiful pink syrup with jam sugar.  Beautiful.  Then I remembered Giffy explaining that you could use the pulp from making jam to make fruit paste.  My husband recently developed a bit of a pricey habit for fruit pastes, so I felt like making the most of the quince and having a go at making a paste.

There are heaps of different recipes, basically you add the same amount of sugar as fruit pulp, a bit of lemon and then cook it on the stovetop on medium until it gets all sticky and caramelly and delicious.   Then you pop it on a flat dish, and put it in the oven on low overnight.

So two quinces, about four cups of sugar all up, water and heat and I have a nice jar of quince jelly and a small jar of quince paste.  Yum!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Too many cornflakes, and no eggs. Afghan biscuits.

I have too many mini boxes of cornflakes.  My husband gets given a couple of little boxes everytime that he goes to work at a particular place for breakfast.  He isn't much of a breakfast eater, so brought them home for madam to try.  She hasn't shown much interest in them so we have rather stockpiled a little stash.  They take up way too much space in the cupboard so it is time to use them up.  I could just have cornflakes for breakfast in the morning but I'm not much for milk first thing in the morning.  Luckily, you can bake with cornflakes.

As a Kiwi, there is really only one kind of biscuit that I can get away with making: Afghans.  I decided to try and find out more about Afghan biscuits, and how they got their name.  Wikipedia was rather unhelpful, noting only that the recipe has been found in many editions of the Edmond's Cookbook.

If there are egg allergies in the family, Afghan biscuits contain no eggs.

I found an online link to the Edmond's recipe, as well as a delicious dessert recipe involving Afghan biscuits:
Delicious Afghan biscuits

As I come to the end of my post, I wonder if the name is a bit offensive or out of date these days (I'm particularly thinking of Eskimo lollies and the recent controversy over their name).  Has anyone else ever heard how Aghan biscuits got their name?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sticky Rice - no faffing about.

Sticky rice is probably my daughter's favourite food at yum cha.   I suspect part of the appeal is the fact that it typically comes wrapped in as a parcel in a leaf, which is then cut open.  That being said, sticky rice is full of lots of yummy things.

The reason I consider this a great recipe is that it is rather adaptable.  You can pretty much put whatever you like in it, as long as you think that it will go nicely in the dish.   You can freeze portions for later meals, which you can then either carefully microwave or steam.

I have not even once bothered trying to wrap this up in the correct leaf.  I don't think it would meet my 'make-do Mum' criteria.

This recipe does require thinking ahead (you can't make it successfully if you start two hours before you need it).  But there isn't all that much work involved, and it is pretty easy to start the night before.  I assume that you will have a rice cooker for this recipe, you are going to have to work out how to cook it yourself if you don't have one!

While searching for a picture of sticky rice for this recipe I found the following story:
Sticky rice wicked hard!  Apparently it was also an ancient construction material, and has properties to help it withstand earthquakes.  I never thought that I would have sticky rice and earthquakes in the same story but there goes!

Sticky rice

Two cups glutinous rice  (Pretty much only found in Asian grocers.  Another name I've used before is Thai sticky rice.  The rice continues to absorb moisture after cooking and after a day or so in the fridge can get a little slushy.   If you want to keep it in the fridge for a day or two after cooking I recommend swapping out some of the sticky rice for Jasmine rice).

One Chicken Thigh fillet or Pork fillet, diced.
One Chinese sausage (these can be found in either the fridge or shelves of Asian grocery stores)
Three Spring onions diced
Three or four mushrooms (Shiitake best, can use rehydrated dried mushrooms).  Cut in half length ways.

Sticky rice sauce mix (this is the ubiquitous Chinese marinade.  Use it on everything)
3 TBSP Soy Sauce ( I rather shockingly use Japanese Kikkoman because it is sweeter, but you should use any chinese light soy sauce)
2 TBSP Oyster Sauce
2 TBSP Chinese rice wine (or Sherry if you have it)
2 TBSP Sugar
2 TBSP Water
1 tsp sesame oil (optional - it can be a strong taste)
1/2 tsp White pepper (or a little black pepper, but white pepper just tastes better)

  1. Soak the glutinous rice in water overnight, or at least eight hours.
  2. Marinade the meat in the sauce mixture for at least an hour
  3. Put the rice in the rice cooker and start. When the rice cooker says 'rice cooked' or whatever, dump over top the meat, veges, sauce mix.  Start the cooker again.
  4. Once the second cooking is finished leave to steam away for about ten minutes or so.
Now, when I compare this methodology with other recipes it is pretty different.  You are supposed to steam the rice for 45 mins, then put the meat and sauce in little bowls, put rice on the top then steam for another or so.  Feel free to try it if you have the time.  I've done it once.  It was way too much faffing about.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sewing for madam

Four year olds have very demanding tastes.  My daughter is into tutus at the moment.  This is OK on ballet day, but at home she pretty much wants to wear her signature green tutu every day.  The problem is that it is way to small for her.  I'll probably make her a new one soon, unless I can find another funky, non pink tutu somewhere.  Anyway, I was looking for the world's easiest sewing patterns and found this one online Easy skirt.  It is awesome, and so easy.  I think if you are good at sewing and have an iron turned on ready to go you could have the skirt finished in about 25mins.  It took me about two hours, but there was some unpicking and a lot of interruption from children!

I am currently raiding the rest of the material stash to make a couple more of these! 

While she deigned to model for the photo, she preferred her standard tutu for the rest of the day!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

More baby food! The constipation breaker! Pear, brocolli and pea

Lots of traditional baby foods (bananas, baby rice) can make babies constipated.  So a handy meal to balance this out is good to have.  I decided to use a fruit vege combo of the foods that would be most conducive to constipation relief!  Broccoli and peas work well with my daughter, and pears are also a classic!

I got some great free pears from my husband's workplace -  a huge gorgeous pear tree with heaps of ripe pears going to waste.  I peeled and cored them, then cooked them up with a little water (could use stock as well).  Once the pear was soft and easy to mash I added in the brocolli (messily chopped into little pieces) and the peas.  The ratio was about one cup of pear mash, half a cup of brocolli and a quarter a cup of peas.  I kept cooking until most of the liquid was gone and the peas and brocolli were also soft.  I used the stick mixer to make sure all the peas were chopped up (they don't mash well) and froze them in little ice cubes.  The pear smells delicious, and the peas give the food a great colour.  There is also a bonus of a good texture from all the different foods: smooth from the pear, lumpy dots of brocolli and tiny chunks of peas.

Glorious stock!

Giffy recommended that I write a post on stock.

Stock is pretty important in our household - we seem to go through litres of the stuff.  My husband was not brought up with stock cubes, so finds stock made with Oxo very suspicious.  The Oxo cubes are hidden behind some of the more random spices in our household for secret, mainly gravy making, purposes!

There are some great commercial stocks on the market, the Essential Cuisine ones are really good. However for everyday use we have stock in our freezer. 

There can be quite a pleasing smug feeling having your own stock in the freezer, "Oh look, I'll use my homemade stock." However for us it is a convenience thing as it is the most ridiculously easy thing to make, costs just about nothing and is the basis of some of my easiest meals.  Stock gets boiled up in one of my favourite Christmas presents from four years ago.  I remember my husband carefully buying a non-domestic present (which I've temporarily forgotten) to ensure that I didn't feel too much like a 1950's housewife.  Our stock pot is awesome, and we use it all the time.

One of the most satisfying things I do meal wise is to roast some meat on Sunday, freeze sliced layers of the meat and make stock from the bones.  Later in the week we use the meat and stock for soup.  Yum.

Uses for stock:

  • Mix half a cup with cornflour and put through a stirfry to make the veges take on that glossy sheen that takeaways from the shop have.
  • Add in some sliced meat, a handful of brocolli, some spring onions and quick cook noodles (like udon) and you have a really easy and cheap meal.
  • Freeze in ice cubes and use when you need to add some flavoursome liquid to cooking. 
  • Great to use as the liquid when making baby food purees
  • Risottos
  • Making your freezer work efficiently!  Freezers work best when they are full, and our freezer must be very efficient as it is always full of containers of stock!
Making stock: the Wong-Ming recipe.

First of all you need to gather the ingrediants.  You can go and buy the ingrediants for stock if you want, but it is less work to use scraps/ by-products of other meals.  We make two kinds of stock, light and dark.  Light is from bones from poultry (and often pork for flavour).  Dark is mainly from beef, and sometimes pork bones are added for flavour.  Bones with cartilage still on them work best.

Everytime we have a roast or some kind of meat with bones in we consider if the bones can be kept for stock.  We put these bones in clear seal bags or plastic containers in the freezer.  We also keep and freeze vege scraps.  Awesome scraps for stock include: tops of carrots, celery ends, those little peels from mushrooms, ends of courgette, spring onions.  Vege scraps that might be a bit too flavoursome (but use if you want) include brocolli and asparagus.  I've used potato peelings, but don't like too use too much potato because it can break down with the long cooking time and infiltrate the stock too much.

Once you have a good collection it is stock making time.  Some recipes for stock advise roasting the bones before turning them into stock.  The reason for this is improved colour and (often stated) improved flavour.  I can't tell the difference in taste, but have noticed a colour difference.  My make-do philosophy means no extra work without great benefit so I don't roast the bones.  You can also add the following for extra flavour if you want: a knob of ginger, three or four whole black peppercorns and a clove of garlic (not too much).

I fill up the stockpot with water and add the bones and vege scraps.  You can also use a crockpot or a lidded container in the oven.  If putting in a stockpot you want to set the temperature as hot as possible without boiling (I realise this is a rather infuriating instruction).  You want to avoid the stock boiling.  Simmer for ages, at least two hours. 

To drain I tend to use a slotted spoon to remove the vege scraps and bones and leave to cool.  If you want crystal clear stock then you need to either clarify it or strain it really well.  You can strain through a clean chux cloth or muslin.  There are cool techniques to clarify the stock involving whisking with egg whites.  I have never in my life done this, and can't envision a situation when I would need crystal clear stock.

If I'm in a hurry to freeze it then I throw in some ice cubes (a large stock pot load can take a couple of hours to cool down).  I freeze it in lots of different sized containers (whatever will fit).

  • Use pig trotters or oxtail bones.  These will produce a rather fatty stock, and one that will set when cold.  This is the gelatine.  I remove the layer of fat that hardens on cooling and then have a delicious stock.
  • My ramen post links to a delicious ramen stock.  Essentially, I made stock with heaps of pig trotters, chicken frames and added caramalised garlic, ginger and onions.  The stock smelled fragrant, and had a nice pale brown colour.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Laundry: the cultural divide between families with children and without!

A rollicking good conversation took place today at madam's gym class.  While the children jumped, bounced and swung around the parents had one of those excellently random conversations spanning the Christchurch earthquake, the Japanese Tsunami, crawling, teething and finally got around to laundry.  Laundry can come up pretty frequently in parenting conversations as it is as constant as death and taxes.

Today we had a lovely family day out at the swimming pools.  Vincent and madam went ahead on the bus, while I waited for the baby to wake up.  I folded laundry while waiting, hung some out, and put on another load.  Two loads in one day is pretty much the standard around here.  Unfortunatly while sorting the laundry I committed a great laundry blunder, and put something on the edge of the sink that made its way down to the bottom of the sink.  This blocked the plug hole, and there was a big flood.  It took ten towels to clean up. Because I had to leave (and the wash continued) I put down the towels to mop up and left.  On my return I hung out the load in the washing machine, and started the first of two towel loads.  There is also another load leftover from swimming and gym class today.  At the moment it is dinner time, the dining table is covered in folded laundry, the drying rack is full, and the last load of towels is washing.  I even (ashamed to mention) have the first load of towels in the dryer.  I just have to get it done!

Anyway, as the parents were talking at gym class it struck me that laundry was not a topic of conversation when I had no children (although I do remember hearing that it once took someone three days to dry their jeans in the middle of a Dunedin winter).  Also, I did a lot less washing.  Like once a week.  In a small washing machine.  Today I have done five loads. Five!

How do children make so much laundry?  They are pretty small.  I decided to review Wednesday to see if I could work it out.

Baby: Two complete changes of clothes, three bibs, five washcloths, two teatowels (and I had to change my top after one feed)
Madam: Two complete changes of clothes (creche day) and then I didn't realise that the paint on her was still wet prior to ballet class so her blue speckled pink tutu and tights got some treatment.  One teatowel.  Three towels for her bath (one for here, two to clean up the splashing).
Me: Wash pyjamas (still a bit leaky from breastfeeding), first outfit soiled by baby, changed into smarter outfit to go and see former colleagues, got blue paint on it later on so into the wash.  Two towels from shower.
Vincent: I can't remember!  I presume he went through one outfit!

A fair amount of the time when my house is messy it relates to laundry.  There is no hiding a serious laundry backlog.  This is why I hate the people living on one side of me. The two men next door flatting do one load of laundry each.  A week.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Crabapple Jelly

Although it is partially against my general 'good enough is good enough' philosophy I have a terrific weakness for crabapple jelly (or crapapple jelly as I keep trying to write it). The first time I had it was at Everett Road Christian Holiday Camp as a child.  The camp was supported by a local church, and the baking and provisions were always hearty.  I was intrigued by the pale pink jam and it quickly became a favourite. I'm sure I nagged my parents for it, and would have learned that it is not a supermarket staple.  Decades (ouch) later it is still a mainstay of markets and home cooks.  You still can't get it at the supermarket, so if you want it then making your own seems to be the best bet.

Today's jam is nearly two years in the making.  Two years ago I had a terrible year, lost a daughter in the second trimester and then had two more early miscarriages.  While I had purchased some New Zealand natives to plant commemerating Joanna, I wanted something for the other miscarriages.  Idle, grief laden wandering around the plant centre found me in front of the apple trees.  We do not have a lot of space, so purchasing a fruit tree was always going to be a once only thing. Crabapples are not eating apples, they are pretty much just decorative, or for jamming.  There were some apples on the tree, already red.

At home I planted out the tree and pretty soon lost my few apples to the birds - too slow.  The tree grew steadily, fed often with 'worm tea' from our worm farm and lots of zoo-doo! There were no blooms last year, but a lot of growth.  This year my Mum was visiting and noticed tiny apples forming.   They have been steadily growing and look healthy and delicious!

With the help of a few extra crabapples from a friend's tree I decided to make the jelly today.   There are any number of good recipes to follow - the Edmond's cookbook has a good one.

I have a few beautiful pale pink jars of jelly sitting on my windowsill, and enough crabapple jelly to last long enough to get sick of it!

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Ramen mission

If you have been to Japan then you have probably had ramen. Ramen is quite simply the most delicious noodle soup known to man.  It was the first meal my parents had in Japan, and on my first trip to Japan I had it probably every second day, totalling twenty times!  What I didn't appreciate at the time, was how ramen dishes changed depending on the region.  I did though develop a generic favourite, tonkatsu (pork) ramen.

Making a good dish of tonkatsu ramen in New Zealand is not quite as easy as other Japanese dishes.  Basically, it is almost impossible to buy decent ramen noodles by themselves.  Other noodles are just not the same.  I have however found someone in the US who decided to try and learn how to make them, and I'm going to have a go - the link is here.

Homemade ramen noodles

I also found on the above blog a rather delicious stock recipe so at the moment our house smells unbelievable.  I'm basically boiling up pig's trotters and chicken frames with some caramelised ginger, garlic and onions.  Tomorrow I'll buy some char siu pork and have a go at making some ramen with the (imitation) noodles I brought from the Asian Supermarket.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

So sad about Japan/ Sukiyaki

My very first favourite Japanese food was sukiyaki.  On the first night that I was in Japan Yoshie made this for me.  Just super delicious, but very hard to replicate with the ingredients available in Timaru in 1995.

Luckily though it is now 2011 and I live in Wellington.  There are three or four places within a ten minute walk of my house where I can get all the ingredients for sukiyaki.  When I returned to Japan in 2009 Yoshie cooked it for my whole family one night.  There were eight adults and two eighteen month olds.  It was a great dinner for picking at, and I loved the bento box takeaway Yoshie made up for me to take back to the hotel that night.  It was the most relaxed night of our trip, and probably one of my favourite memories.

Incidentally, apart from 'Meri-san no hitsuji (Mary had a little lamb)' the Sukiyaki song is the only Japanese song I know Acoustic version of Sukiyaki song

Sukiyaki is an awesome meal to make when you have heaps of people over and want a nice social meal.  It is typically cooked at the table, an electric frying pan is a good choice.  I can't be bothered with my electric fry pan, so tend to cook it in my le creuset large pan, then bring the whole thing over to the table. You can mess with the quantities depending on the preferences and number of people eating.  The jelly noodles are the most popular item in my house, so we tend to have a lot of those.  Leftovers are fought over!


500g Thinly sliced beef (often found in the freezer sections at Asian grocery stores - you want it to be paper thin)
One packet tofu (firm tofu holds up better for dicing)
One or two packets of jelly noodles, well rinsed (these are cool, they are called shirataki noodles, sometimes konnyaku).  They come in a bag of liquid so are delightfully squishy.  If you can't get them, use some kind of cellophane noodle.
Handful of mushrooms (shitake or enoki are the ususal choice)
One diced leek (save the green tops for making katsudon)
Half a diced chinese cabbage
Sukiyaki sauce (you can quite easily find this in the Japanese section at supermarkets or Asian grocers).  Otherwise google a recipe for making up the quantities.
Four eggs
Knob of butter

Cut up all the ingredients into roughly equal sizes then place on a chopping board ready for cooking.  Put knob of butter in the pan and fry the beef until nicely coloured.  Add in the tofu and swish around.  Add the sukiyaki sauce (you may need to add extra water if there isn't enough liquid once the remainder of the ingredients are added).  You want enough liquid that the food is cooking, not frying, and not poaching.  Maybe half a centimetre across the surface of your pan.  Bring the liquid to the boil and add all other ingredients except the eggs.  Everything cooks very quickly, so just help yourself.

What do you do with the eggs?

Break an egg into a little bowl and mix up.  You dip the cooked sukiyaki into the egg then eat.  The sukiyaki slightly cooks the egg, but it is a little raw, and does freak some people out.

I like to serve this with a small bowl of egg, and a larger bowl filled with Japanese rice, onto which I put the dipped sukiyaki.  The rice then gets deliciously flavoured.

The leftovers for this also make delicious rice balls/ sushi for the next day.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Rose hip jam and beads (thats right, beads)!

I was looking for recipes for rose hip jam today when I learnt about rose hip beads.  If you still have a lot of rose petals you can try and make these:
Rose petal beads

Apparently, while not that much to look at, they continue to leach a rosy smell!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Baby food - puree heaven

When my elder daughter reached puree stage I enthusiastically prepared homemade purees for a couple of weeks then found myself often buying the cans for convenience.  This time round I decided to try and make as much as possible, reserving the canned stuff for when we go out. I'm not much on quantities with my style of cooking so I will approximate.

New favourite purees.

Lentil, courgette and steak.

1 cup red lentils (don't need soaking - turn yellow on cooking).
1 courgette, peeled and sliced
1 piece of well cooked steak (I cut a piece of my own steak - just a piece around 3x1 inches). Finely sliced.

Cook lentils, steak and courgette in two cups of water until very soft.  Puree or mash depending on your baby's age.

Nutient-dense, low mess meal.

Half a banana
A cooked egg yolk*
1 tsp baby rice 

Roughly chop up the banana and microwave until squidgy and quite liquidy.  Mash in egg yolk and baby rice.  The meal will look quite dry, but it is a good texture for them to explore!  The dry aspect of it means that it doesn't make all that much mess.
* Follow the egg eating guidelines applicable to your baby.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Just what is it that parents do all day?

I've had a lot of non-parent friends ask just what it is that I do all day.  Often the enquiry made is in politer terms than that, but the meaning is just the same.

The answer?

I make meals and clean.

Quite simple really. Except, how is that this takes all day?

7am: Daughters awake.  DD2 breastfed for 10-15mins.  DD1 cereal and milk for breakfast.  Make her lunch for creche.  Make my breakfast.  Feed DD2 solids (takes about 5-10mins).

Clean up: Bib, possible change of clothes and dirty muslins from cleaning up high chair.
Get girls in the car, take DD1 to creche. On return breastfeed baby.

9am: DD2 down for morning nap.  Unload/ stack dishwasher. Tidy up kitchen.  Put washing on.  Get on computer to see what other mothers are up to. Try to sneak in shower.  Open curtains and windows upstairs.

9.45-10.30. DD2 wakes up.  Breastfeed for ten minutes.  Many parents have coffee groups.  What do we talk about?  How sick and tired we are of cleaning and making meals.   Chore time: supermarket shopping, returning library books, plunket appointments etc.

11.30:  DD2 solids feed for about ten-fifteen minutes. Produces bib, muslins and sometimes a change of clothes needed.  Hang out laundry, but if baby being clingy then playing with baby.  Breastfeed baby before nap.

12pm:  Baby back to bed.  Lunchtime for me.  Hang out laundry, sort out dinner for the evening (need lots of time when there are 2-3 meals to be made.  Other cleaning (often folding laundry, cleaning up toys etc).

12.45-1.30pm:  Baby up, needs more milk.  Snack time for baby - often a very messy rusk or cracker (produces laundry).  Playing etc.  Breastfeed before creche pickup.

3.30pm: Pick up from creche then on to afternoon activities like playdates, gym and ballet.

4.30pm: DD2's dinner time: solids.  Takes about ten minutes.  Cooking dinner for four year old.   Give dinner to four year old.  Put DD2 down for dinner time sleep.  Clean up: muslins and bibs from the baby, and muslins from the four year old clean up.  Put dishwasher on.

5.45pm: Baby up.  Four year old playing (creating mess but having fun). 

6.20pm:  Final breastfeed for Baby. 

6.30pm: Vincent home from work, says goodnight to the baby.  Eats dinner (which is often the same as the four year olds, but can be different).   If four year old massively messy from creche then shower time.

7pm: Four year old goes to bed in elaborate twenty minute teeth brushing, reading and singing extravaganza.  Four year old has terribly messy clothes by the end of the day, always need washing.  She often brings home a wet/ dirty set of clothes from creche.

7.30pm:  If I haven't eaten then I have it now.  Tidy up kitchen (takes about thirty minutes).  Deal to laundry again.

10.30pm:  Dreamfeed for the baby (thirty minutes).

I haven't mentioned changing nappies, tidying up toys, extra spills, stripping beds, dirty fingerprint wipe downs, the interminable seatbelt process, the amount of crap that needs to be carried around to meet all these needs and then all the one off things.  We have a giant seven litre washing machine and tend to do at least one load a day, frequently two.  The dishwasher goes at least twice a day, and often three (five is the record).  On the days that the oldest isn't at creche there is of course a lot more housework, but then a lot less time to do it. 

It is relentless.  With one child it can be hard enough, but when you have one infant they can't spread as much mess as a crawling baby, or a walking toddler.  When you finally collapse into bed you know that you have to do it all again tomorrow.  I read recently that it is perfectly normal to love your children, love being a mother but hate the work of motherhood.  There are many aspects of the experience of motherhood that are fantastic, but I have not yet come across one mother (yes I'm generalising but the numbers are on my side here) that has enjoyed the relentless, mind numbing chore that is cleaning up after children.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Katsudon - Japanese pork schnitzel with egg and onion over rice.

This is one of my make-do mum classics, as it fufills criteria of asian influenced, delicious and cheap.  It is also a great one for when you do not have a lot of fresh veges, as there is usual at least an onion sitting around somewhere.  Do not make the mistake that I did tonight and mix up mirin and Japanese rice vinegar.  The bottles might look similiar but boy do they taste different.  I still have a vaguely fresh and vinegary taste in my mouth.  When made correctly this is just delicious, even cold in a lunchbox.


  • Pork schnitzel (comes in smaller pieces than beef schnitzel, you do not want a strip of fat on the edge)
  • Japanese panko crumbs (readily available in the Asian section at supermarkets, taste so much better than plain breadcrumbs)
  • Mirin (again, look in the Asian section) (1/4 cup)
  • Soy sauce (1/2cup)
  • Brown sugar (1tsp)
  • Eggs (one or two, whisked)
  • Leeks (the top green bit, finely sliced)
  • Onion (finely sliced)
  • Spring onions (finely sliced)
  • Japanese rice (otherwise known as sushi rice)
Dredge the schnitzel in flour, then the beaten egg and finally the panko crumbs.  Fry in hot oil until cooked.  Dry on paper towel.  Put the mirin, soy sauce and sugar in a saucepan.  You can add a bit of water if you feel you need a bit more liquid volume in the saucepan (I like a slightly lighter onion and milder taste so tend to use an equal part of water to sauce).  Put in the leek and onions and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Once the onion is translucent throw in the spring onions and then the leftover egg from the crumbing process.  Do not mix.  When the egg has set, assemble the dish.

Put cooked rice in a bowl.  Cut the schnitzel into strips and place on top.  Carefully scoop over a section of the egg and onions.  Spoon over a tiny bit of the cooking liquid.

We often add extra veges to this dish, my husband likes mushrooms with it.  I've added brocolli.

If you have leftovers I make 'rice bears' which are kind of like rice balls/ kid's sushi.  I have a wicked cute Japanese mould for this purpose.  Put a tiny drop of mirin or rice vinegar on a small amount of leftover rice.  Make the first half of the sushi ball with a space in the middle for some of the pork, egg and onion.  Cover with rice and form a ball (or make proper sushi if you like).

Make-do mum meals

The essence of being a make-do mum can be demonstrated through meal production.  I'm the SAHM, with my husband not generally getting home until 6.30, thirty minutes before bedtime.  The children tend to eat around 4.30-5.30pm so it is firmly on me to get meals.  Lets review the meal expectations of my family and society:
  • Healthy 
  • Varied
  • Curly fries (that is pretty much DD1's meal requirement)
  • Asian influenced
  • European influenced
  • Delicious
  • On budget
  • On time/ quick to prepare.
  • And then of course there is the usual considerations of the quality of the food ingrediants such as local or not, fresh or canned, and all the other food politics that I can't be bothered with.
So while my great big shopping experience for the week is going to the supermarket (yay) it is fraught with meeting the above expectations.  There is normally a couple of days between the shopping being completed and the total cost being revealed.

So what do I do?  I am always on the hunt for recipes that meet the above criteria.  I also really like meals that have awesome leftovers that create a subsequent meal.

These are those meals, and I'll post the recipes slowly over time.  I'd love to know any other completely tried and true meals, particularly if they meet the above criteria!

The great make-do mum meal list.
  • Katsudon: Japanese pork schnitzel with egg and onion over rice.
  • Anything and instant flavoured couscous with veges chopped up (this is my most desperate meal before sandwiches and takeout).   It takes approx one minute to chop up some brocolli and capsicum and throw them in the bowl with couscous and boiling water.  Commonly served with roast chicken, premarinated nibbles etc.
  • Soup.  We tend to roast something once a week, and I slice the leftover meat and freeze it before anyone can pick at it.  Stock is a must have ingrediant, whether home made or in cartons and so we just heat up some stock, throw in some noodles, a handful of veges and the sliced meat.  Great with frozen dumplings if you have no meat.
  • Frozen dumplings (again).  Steamed or fried for dinner in ten minutes.

Sewing baby clothes

Now, the philosophy of a 'make-do' Mum naturally lends itself to buying baby clothes, but I felt like a new hobby and we had a sewing machine.  I tend to be about the destination, rather than the journey so have mostly avoided actually learning any techniques, and seek out only easy patterns with free internet templates.  I lie, I have learnt one technique, french seams.

I continue to be amazed at the talent of Mums all around the world.  They come up with these patterns, create tutorials and post them on their blogs.

I will not be coming up with tutorials.  I will though link to some cool ones.

Today I've made a cute little crossover smock for DD2 Crossover smock for a six month old  

It was pretty straightforward and I got to use some leftover denim and chop up an old pillowcase which felt very thrifty.  Unfortunately when it came time to use the buttonhole device I'm sure I did something incredibly wrong as I managed to dramatically bend the needle.  Oh dear.  I considered using domes but then decided to persist with the $%&%**@##$ device.

Edited to add a photo:

Newtown Fair

We have lived in Newtown for six years now and a real highlight has been the annual Newtown Fair.   I remember pushing the pram with DD1 around when she was four months old.  I remember when she was eighteen months old and we had her facing out in the pram looking at all the people.  It was very sad as it was a week after we lost Joanna so the fair was a blur that year.  Last year I was pregnant, it was scorching hot and we used the opportunity to buy DD1 and her best friend matching pink hats.  This year, DD1 was four and finally ready to explore the delights of the newtown fair.

Sadly it was raining and cold, the first cold day we have had in months.   We got to the first intersection (just past the portaloo truck) and stopped.  There were rides.  Vincent and I had an unspoken agreement to let her go nuts.  While waiting for the little ride on cars to finish we went to the spin art booth.  Remember spin art?  A classic of the school gala, usually fashioned out of a broken down washing machine.  Paint everywhere.  It was my favourite, and my pocket money would invariably be spent on this.  Nowadays I'm afraid it is safe.  It was a purpose built machine, with a plastic cover over the top and little holes to drip the paint through.  Some of the charm is gone.  They framed it and gave it to DD1 who held it for three seconds then put it in my bag (still wet, but such is the burden of mums).  On the ride, (very tame, not the adrenaline rush she was after) then off the supermarket where Vincent had retreated to read magazines.

We marched on grimly, ice rain on her faces, DD1's curly hair peaking out of her rain hood.  I held her up to watch the fair donuts being made (one of my favourite things to watch as a child).  We shared a bag, with the lion's share disappearing down DD1's throat.   It became less fun after this.  We had to avoid a thousand stalls of stuff that DD1 wanted, and the novelty of walking along the middle of the road was negated by having to hold my hand.

DD1 started crying and there was lots of 'I don't like lots of walking.'  We resorted to the standard parenting  tricks of chocolate milk, distraction and then giving her a lollipop.  They got us back to the house.

There were quite a few gaps, and not as many goods stalls as previous years.  It was hard to tell if the weather had put people off (but there were a ridiculous amount of poorly attended shaved ice stands), but there was definitetly less area covered with stalls.  We had hoped to buy new hats, but no luck.  There were a lot of fantastic homemade craft stalls.  It made me feel all crafty and I came home and got on with a couple of sewing projects.  DD1 had a very long nap, and returned to her lollipop.

Newtown Fair today
Raincoat clad four year old girl
Green tongue, lots of fun.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Autumn treats - plum heaven

Last year while I was pregnant another pregnant friend put me on to omega plums.  They are delicious.  In my greed I purchased way too many from Pak'n'Sav so needed to either gorge myself or process them somehow.  At the same time I have been determined to learn how to make 'Peach, Apricot and Semolina' - the only tinned baby food that I would eat myself.

Semolina is either an old fashioned or new fad ingredient, depending on who you are talking to.  It is used in bread and pasta making, and in the middle east/ greece/ italy it is also found in desserts.

Two minutes of internet research and I had a few base recipes to play with.  Both of these are just delicious.  The version with milk is for older babies, after eight months.

Boil up some fruit.  I used five plums and four apples.  Be generous with the liquid.  Puree or mash, depending on the age of your baby.  Add half a cup of the puree/ mash to the recipe below. 

Semolina base

200ml milk or juice (I used the cooking liquid from the fruit)
3TBSP semolina (ask at the bakery of your supermarket if hard to find - they may sell you some of theirs)
2TBSP extra juice

Bring the liquid to the boil then rapidly whisk in the semolina.  You may need to whisk for four or five minutes, and I took the pot off the element while doing this.  Add the extra juice.  You may need to add extra liquid if the mixture is very thick. 

* NB I added a teeny tiny bit of butter (1/2 tsp) to the juice only version to assist with dissolving the semolina.  This is optional.