Sunday, January 23, 2011

Baby, It's Cold Outside

In the last few days I have been registered and oriented at my university.
I would have taken some pictures of the grounds, because for the most part it's a beautiful campus full of old worldly charm, but firstly, I didn't really think of it and secondly, I would have had to have taken my hands out of my coat pocket and that would have been unpleasant.

I'm resolved not to be one of those people who perpetually states the obvious and moans "It's cold!"  so I've been putting on my best stoic face and responding to anybody who complains in my vicinity that the weather is fine provided you dress appropriately.
This dressing appropriately has seen me wearing 2 thermal tops and a t-shirt underneath a woolen jumper with a thick woolen coat over the top, thermal leggings and thick knee high socks under my jeans (which don't fit so well with the thermal leggings underneath - or possibly my thighs and stomach since eating ribs and discovering my love for American candy - gym opens this week, I'll be there), beanie and ear muffs (which don't fit well with my glasses meaning I have to sacrifice my vision for the sake of warm ears) and then my leather gloves.
In all that garb, it is still possible to be cold.
It's -19°C outside right now.

I get the feeling that in the warmer months this is going to be a great little town to get around.
I'd like to get a bicycle and just scoot about the place. At the moment however, this is one town where you need a car and being neither the owner of a car or a person legally entitled to be in control of a car, I'm a bit screwed.

I ran out of dinner type food yesterday and knew that would mean I had to walk to the supermarket or order in something greasy and the size of a steering wheel to be delivered.
You will be pleased to know that I chose the former.

Donning an additional thermal layer for safety, I headed out into the brisk air and as I was walking the 1.2 miles to the supermarket, it was crystalising in my head that I wanted something warm and stew like and quick to cook.
Once in the warmth of the supermarket, I saw these 
Mmm... Sausages.
Being Australia Day this week I have been thinking about sausages and the people I usually share them with on that day and it has been making me feel a bit sad.

So with my handy handheld scan as you go scanner I scanned them and popped them in my shopping bag.
A few aisles later and I came across legumes and I decided to make Sausages and Lentils.

One thing I have to show you, is how I bought my carrots.
I fear that these carrots might incur the wrath of my dear sister, who would disapprove of something so natural being so processed.
I'm sticking to them though because you cannot buy loose carrots in the supermarket so my options are these or a bag containing enough carrots for a family of 12.
And I like carrots (as you might be able to tell by the bag already being opened before getting home) but not enough to devote myself to an entirely carrot diet. Plus, whenever I go to the fridge, I tend to shove a few of these in my mouth which is healthy and fills me up and stops me eating more Reece's peanut butter cups. For at least 5 seconds.

Now that we've cleared that up, back to the Sausages and Lentils.
Sausages and Lentils is a dish we thought was dreamed up by our brother Nick until it appeared all fancified in the recipe book Apples for Jam but this could also just be a case of universal consciousness.
We were in disbelief that a recipe so simple could be so totally delicious.
The recipe is so simple in fact, that when your brain is partially frozen and you blank on some of the key ingredients and then you're distracted by taking photos of your cooking and miss a few steps, it still tastes delicious!

Lentils and Sausages

Good sausages
Olive oil
Tin of brown lentils (or cook 1-1 ½ cups green / brown lentils)
1 garlic clove
½ onion finely chopped
Tin chopped tomatoes
(optional) chopped carrot, celery
herbs of choice – parsley & oregano are favourites

That's the official ingredients list.
Here's what I ended up with in my addled state;

Good sausages
Olive oil
1-1 ½ cups of the only lentils in the supermarket. Look like puy.
0 garlic cloves (forgot to buy them)
3 spring onions - forgot to buy brown onions
What I thought was a tin of   chopped tomatoes but was actually stewed tomatoes so contained sugar and bell peppers and other stuff
chopped carrot and celery
herbs of choice – parsley & coriander were what was in the fridge

Step -1. Drain and rinse lentils, put in a pot with enough water to cover, bring to the boil then simmer 10-15 minutes until tender
Spring onion, not brown onion

    1. Fry off vegetables. 

    2. Separately cook sausages in a fry pan.

    3. Chop up all your herbs

    4. Throw them in the pan with the vegetables

    5. Throw the lentils in too

    6. And the tomatoes with a bit of stock or water

    7. Once the sausages are cooked, slice them up

    It was important for me to check the flavours at this stage (gobbling up pieces of sausage)

    8. And chuck them in with the veggies

    9. And then you eat it

    Don't know why I'm wasting my time studying writing when clearly my talents lie in food photography!

    Thursday, January 13, 2011

    An Australian making Italian food with Canadian bacon in an American kitchen while listening to Britpop

    As all my roommates have been absent until today, I've had 3 lovely, lazy, relaxing days in New Paltz which are welcome after the hustle bustle madness of NYC.

    One of the things I was hankering to do but knew I needed to do on a solo mission was seriously check out the supermarket. Despite having delicious pizza from a place around the corner called Grimaldi's I am determined not to start eating take out for every other meal as seems to be so commonplace in this country. For this to be I needed to know what resources I have at my disposal.
    So I hiked down to the local Stop&Shop, which despite sounding like a convenience store you might just Stop in & Shop for something you'd forgotten, like milk, it is actually a gigantic mega emporium of groceries with a complete pharmacy and florist inside. 

    I had nothing to do with the rest of the day and a shopping list of 3 items; sage, Lady Grey tea and chicken stock so I double knotted my laces and set off into the fray.

    It was mental! I had to stop every few minutes and stare at the lining of my handbag to stop myself from hyperventilating. There was just so much food!!! Food we just don't know about in Australia! Food like Texas Toast and cheese in a can and albacore and chocolate coated pretzels! 

    And not only is there so much more food, there is also so much more choice of food. If you want to get soup, you have a good 12 shelves to scan. I decided it would be quicker to make my own!

    So homeward bound with a few more things than planned in my bag
    How did they get in my basket? And then my bag? And then my mouth?
    and I set about making my first ever pot of minestrone in the US.
    Two things the supermarket did not have; 1) Convincing Tim Tams

    Not even close! Everyone know Tim Tams come in brown packages.
    and 2) bacon hocks. 
    I had learnt from my first cooking adventure in the US; fettucine carbonara in Queens (story and recipe maybe to follow, we'll see, we'll see) that American bacon is a bit flimsy for cooking purposes so I used Canadian bacon which is thicker.

    I make this minestrone when I’m feeling happy or when I’m feeling sad or when I’m feeling sick or if I have a big assignment due or when someone has had a baby or because it’s a day ending in ‘y’. Any excuse really.
    You can make whatever adjustments to this that you like. Use peas instead of beans, leave out the barley, use normal bacon or pancetta instead of bacon hocks if you're in the US and that's all that's available. 

    This however is my deluxe edition best ever minestrone recipe which I love, love, love for the rest of my life. 


    1 tbsp butter
    1 onion
    3 cloves garlic
    2 bacon hocks
    2 celery stalks
    2 carrots
    1 potato
    1 tbsp tomato paste
    400g tin chopped tomato
    400g tin borlotti beans
    3/4 cup pearled barley
    3 litres of stock
    green beans
    1 zucchini
    ½ cup small pasta

    1.      Melt butter over a low heat, add a dash of olive oil and then add onion, garlic and sage
    2.      Fry until soft. Add bacon hocks, celery, carrot and potatoes. Cook 5 minutes

    3.      Add tomato paste and tomatoes, 

    Dried basil. OK by me.
    borlotti beans and barley. Season
    I hazarded a guess that Roman beans were the same as borlotti beans. I was correct.

    4.      Add stock. Bring to the boil and then simmer 1-2 hours

    5.      Add zucchini, green beans and pasta

    6.      Cook until pasta is al dente
    7.      Remove bacon hock from pot and remove any meat that falls away from the bone. Chop finely and stir through soup.

    And no, sorry, there are no more pictures because by the time it was almost ready I was hopping from foot to foot and starving hungry so I gobbled it up.
    All that remains!

    Monday, January 10, 2011

    In search of... what?

    First blog from the Big Apple.
    A morning of feeling frustrated by the cold and deprived of coffee and I decided to head in from Queens where I've been staying these past few days (another story - perhaps not fit to publish on the internet) and find Culture Espresso which is apparently a Melbourne-style espresso coffee joint.

    Upon entering, I was overjoyed to see the words 'flat' and 'white' strung together on the blackboard menu.
    The joy turned to disappointment upon delivery of said flat white. Watery and with scalded milk; the resemblance it bore in appearance to a flat white made it all the more distasteful.

    Consulting my trusty iPhone I searched the New York city map for something in the surrounding streets that might interest me and get me out of the cold and that is how I find myself here, right now in the New York Public Library.
    Like everything else I've encountered in New York, it seems overgrown and confusing to navigate.
    And of course the hardest thing is, I don't even know what I'm looking for. If I knew that there was a reading room or a particular book here that I wanted to find, then I would be able to concentrate my efforts on finding that particular thing. But until classes start on the 24th, I'm really just a lost soul, wandering the streets of New York or the halls of this library.

    In a bar I went to on New Years Eve, I met a guy who asked me what it was I had come to New York to find. I was stumped by this one. I think that the focus of my studies had led me to consider 'going to New York' to be an activity to undertake, like a project.

    But perhaps deep down I held a belief that this really was a magical city where I might find something I've always wanted, but couldn't dream of finding in the mundane environment of home; true love, outrageous success, the key to my eternal happiness.
    I remember as my plane flew in over Long Beach to JFK airport, I was looking down at the streetlights which are orangey-yellow here, not the white I'm used to back home. The weaving path of jewelled streetlights sparkled and I thought to myself that maybe the streets here really are paved in gold.

    Perhaps what I'm searching for is an answer to what I want to find in my life.
    In an environment such as I'm in now, where everything is unfamiliar - every street corner, every logo and package in the supermarket, I will be forced to examine what's around me more carefully. I will have to think about what I really want and try to seek that out.
    So wish me luck on this extraordinary game of seek.

    And of course, I miss you too dear sister.
    So much so that sometimes my chest feels like it will burst.

    Thursday, January 6, 2011

    Welcome summer

    Yesterday was a day I missed my sister.  And even though in good company throughout the day, there was a gap.  We flew kites and took the balance bike for it's first ride, and picnicked on the grass in Central Park (Malvern).  It made me think of the "real" Central Park and what you might be looking at (snow mostly).  Later in the day while dancing our sillies out the Rainbow Connection came onto the iPod and I was taken back to a car sing-along in Margaret River, WA while on holiday 18 months ago and we were driving towards a rainbow (Owen's first).  There may've been a welling.  Mum told me you got a cell-phone number.  I felt jealous she knew.  Was then frozen by choice when I wanted to contact you - would a text work? Should I facebook? Email? Call?

    But today has been a good day. 
    Sunshine, 30 degrees, slight breeze.  People were smiling.
    A tram ride into the city with running commentary from Owen, Gus happily making eyes at the other passengers and lulled to sleep by the rickety rocking. The tram driver even left his seat to help lift up the pram!
    A dumplings lunch at Camy. A game of making the alphabet with the chopsticks while we waited. $7 for 3 people, thanks for coming.
    A 10-minute shopping expedition for bathers as my 6-year old faded saggy workhorse pair didn't survive their last wash. I ended up with a black & white spotted tankini in deference to my saggy tummy which didn't survive last pregnancy.
    Onwards for an afternoon swim in the sunshine with our brother & nephew.  We saw Owen get over his (shared with me) tendency not to try anything unless sure he'll be successful.  He swam with a noodle.  He went under water.  He splashed. He leapt. He clung to Andy's neck and stayed in until his lips were blue and teeth chattering.  He looked more like Monty Burns than humanly possible.  Gus had his first swim and as expected this waterbaby loved it. ALOT.
    Omlette and sandwiches for dinner at 5pm infront of Shrek 3  to keep someone awake (yep, still not returned, must be a gazillion $ in fines).  Ice-cream and black fruit salad (of blackberries, cherries, black grapes, currants, raspberries and blueberries) and a slab of the most delicious muesli bar in the world with a cup of Roobios tea while blogging. (And I just found a facebook album full of your photos- hurrah!)
    This muesli bar would be awesome for kinder next week, were it not for the peanut butter ... thinking of trying tahini as a substitute ... will report back.  But do try this recipe ....
    (and still no photos, no camera, universe are you listening?!)

    Chewy Seedy Oat and Apricot Bars

    300 g (3 ½ cups) rolled oats
    100 g pumpkin or sunflower seeds (or a mix)
    50 g desiccated coconut
    50g (1/3 cup) plain flour
    200g butter, chopped
    200g golden syrup
    150g (1 cup) brown sugar
    150g dried apricots, chopped
    125g (1/2 cup) crunchy peanut butter
    1 tsp vanilla extract

    1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees C.
    2. Line a slice pan with baking paper (recipe calls for 18cm x 28 cm, but does anyone really measure / check theirs? I used a roasting tray).
    3. Mix oats, seeds, coconut and flour in large bowl.
    4. Melt butter and golden syrup together in saucepan over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, and then mix in sugar, apricots, peanut butter and vanilla.
    5. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix.
    6. Press into pan and bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until golden and slightly firm.
    7. Cool in tin, remove still on paper and slice into bars / squares.
    8. Store in airtight container for up to a week, or freeze (apparently they freeze well, but uh we ate ours).