A few days in my bonkers life.. food et al

Some days are just too much, Jennifer is in hospital getting some well deserved testing on a bad back, Arna just had her water break and she is sitting up in hospital awaiting the arrival of number two. I spent yesterday, totally discombobulated, unable to make decisions. Went home. Today, after a decent sleep, some good food and a glass of wine, apart from annoying real estate agents who will not fix the floor in the factory and have the temerity to moan because I won’t pay the OC fees until it’s done, I am coping, just!


Baking and cooking are the answer. And perhaps a cup of tea and a few teddy bear biscuits, but I didn’t say that! I am however demanding a corned beef sandwich for lunch, none of your modern stuff, not today, I need something to hold on to, something of the past. In the end I missed on the corned beef, tried a Sango from the mobile food van, ham cheese and pickle and the bloody bread was like some sort of soggy sponge and stuck to my teeth, two mouthfuls only and in the bin. Ended up with a few slivers of water melon and a cup of tea. And the waiting game continues.


I did hear that Jennifer had some more tests done, not without some argy bargy though, the ward staff forgot to order the tests and had she not become impatient, they would not have happened. Aran is still doing what mothers have done since time began, no news there. So I baked some bread.


There is some issues swirling in my baking, just don’t seem able to get it right, somehow conflicted between the sour dough versus yeast. Always been a yeast bloke, even like the taste of a good yeast, foodies from every side harass about the benefits of sour dough and I try. Frankly I have killed more that my fare share of sour dough starters, but why? I have done what for me seems crazy, killed off a spoon or two and replaced it with fresh flour and water, still seems like I am paying the price for my destruction, the bread of all sorts is simply not behaving.


Wholemeal has always been the go to for me, not about health, but about taste. Yet even that has shat on me. The wholemeal loaf I made earlier this week is undercooked, way too dense and horrid. I have a couple of thin slices with too much butter and vegemite for breakfast and it was a struggle. Todays loaf, as I turned my back on sour dough, having once again met with failure earlier in the week (I am too impatient I suspect, sour dough is not to be hurried and often takes twelve plus hours and I am never in the same place for twelve hours, carting fermenting dough around on a scooter seems a bit eccentric wouldn’t you say!) should be better.


Not bad, I have been struggling with salt, many recipes call for two heaped teaspoons to about 4 cups of flour, I think that’s a bit much, todays loaf was two, good texture, good colour, but I think excessive, salt is a yeast killer and I suspect was why I ended up with a sandwich loaf, not the domed beauty I was after. Tastes good, cuts well. I can’t complain too much.


And the world turns again, another reminder of life and death, the great wheel, Aran just gave birth and so a life begins. Such a thrill. Another boy in the family.


All sort of melted into some sort of miasma of self indulgent moaning after that. I had a hankering for a simple Brandy and Dry, only one on hand was cooking brandy and it is 60% proof… dying of alcohol poison is not fun, I watched my sister do it. The wine that I had open was average, the pie I made with a combo of left overs, including a large piece of chuck that had been long semi braised (I was going for a roast beef and gravy experience, so very little liquid… was not bad). Again I am reminded that domestic ‘cuisine Provera’ remains one of the great food styles along with the often maligned slow cooker. Just have to know how to drive it.


My slow cooker is not a high end machine, 5 litres only. Its not difficult to buy Chuck Steak, it’s a common cut that is usually sliced quite thick, has a band or two of fat and is richly flavoursome. Get a couple of decent slabs to feed four. I was trying to emulate a roast beef and gravy. Slice a couple of brown onions, make a cup of braising liquid (1 heaped teaspoon vegemite, 1 heaped teaspoon beef stock powder, 1 cup of hot water). In a pan on the gas, quickly brown the two chuck steaks either side, pan should be good and hot with a bit of butter. Lightly browned is OK. Remove to the bottom of the slow cooker, add the onion rings to the pan and add the 1 cup of braising liquid, allow to bubble and pour over the meat in the slow cooker on high. Lid on and leave it alone for about 4 to 5 hours.


Because I am so bloody Irish, potato can be had with every meal. Indeed I have been known to sit down to a large plate of potato, either mashed, steamed or boiled and then crushed, some decent bread and butter and a sprinkle of sea salt with black pepper. Satisfying, but not good for a Diabetic 2 person. Point is, I sliced up 2 or 3 potatoes, skin washed but on, bout 1 cm slice and roughly an hour before I was planning to eat, placed the potatoes on top of the meat and allowed them to steam.


Remove the steak to a warmed platter along with the potato, skim off some of the fat (my grandfather would have been scowling here, he would have licked the fat up with a thick slice of Tommy Digby’s bread) you can thicken the juices, this can be done with a Beurre Manie (equal parts of soft butter and plain flour mashed together) in the cooker, but be sure it is on high. If the heat is insufficient, pour the juices into the frying pan used for browning and place over heat.


The meat will be very tender, the juices rich and delicious, serve with some green peas. I did.


A similar dish can be done with pork neck, give it some Asian flavours and use onion, garlic and ginger, toss in a star anise or two. Make a braising sauce out of soy, fish sauce, dark sweet soy, sweet chilli and follow the same procedure as above, but, the cooking time will be longer. Pork can also dry out, so in order to prevent this scrunch up a bit of baking paper to sort of act as a cover for the meat. Don’t use foil, it is not suitable. I have been known to drape a piece of pork skin over the top to moisten and add flavour, you can justify this as pork neck is very low in fat, at the end of cooking time, remove the fat and place under a very hot grill, it will reward you with great crackling. Serve with rice.


Its not that I want to become a sprucer for Slow Cookers, but… for the price they represent very good value for money. Most cookers are under $100 and perform well. Confession… I was a unbeliever, I thought it was a silly confection dreamed up by the marketing arm of an electrical company. God those marketing dudes/etches of all electrical and electronic companies must be so under the thumb… how do car manufacturers get to do new models each year? And keep selling them? Clogging our streets and roads.


Well, 7th Grandchild just became Oscar, he’s a cutie too and the absolute pride and joy of his Mum, Dad, brother Charlie and I suspect, to be much loved by his crazy extended family. Welcome Oscar.


Now where was I! And Yes, last night I got a brandy and dry, simple drink, but with a reasonable brandy, quite satisfying.


Slow cookers. You do need to keep a good eye on things. Bought some corned beef and pickled pork from a local purveyor, in the past it has been average, it is long past that any butcher in the city will salt and brine his own beef or pork, in the country it is still done and much in demand, Cucina Povera is alive, many prefer a well brined piece of pork for a celebration, in light of some of the god awful tasteless ham I have been asked to endure, I am inclined to be with them. At least you can cook the pork with some great flavour additions, bay leaves, carrot, celery, onion, peppercorns and a clove or two, do it slowly and you will be rewarded with a stunning piece of meat. Personally not keen on it hot, but cooled absolutely. It was the go to pink meat on my mother’s  celebration table and I loved slabs of it with the turkey, gravy and mum’s own apple sauce. Delicious memories.


Back to the corned beef… it was a smallish piece and I over cooked it. Put it in the slow cooker, water, bay leaves, sugar, drop or two of vinegar, peppercorns and bay leaves. On low for eight hours, it was too long, should have programmed it for six hours, I need a refresher course. To make myself feel better I decided to run up a mustard sauce, that too was awful. Mustard sauce is simple, melt some butter, add some flour to make a roux, use some of the cooking liquid to make a sauce, add some mustard, sugar and a splash of malt vinegar. I played with it and it was vile. The two or three salads we had to go with it sort of made up. I should add that I am not up for ‘pulled’ anything, I find it has no mouth appeal and the tendency to make me gag.


Jennifer just got the results from the doctor/s… they say that there is a small fracture in the 11th (what ever that is) and needs to be cured with time. Bloody prednisolone, that is one heinous drug, Jen took it for some relief from a zesty form of rheumatism and her normal doctor didn’t tell her it can attack the bones. Nothing to do with getting old, all about over medication and lack of information. Having just said that, Jennifer is now home and has, if you can believe it, been told to take Prednisolone again, just 5 mg but it is scary.


No more news on the cracked floor nor on the damaged cooler system. Frankly, the sooner I get out of this factory the better. The games these real estate agent play are silly, You don’t pay GST on rates and in fact on most outgoings, my lot claim that they are OBLIGATED to charge GST under some sort of spurious law. I am diligently pursuing that one. We pay rates, council offers it as a monthly thing, for us much better, but for some reason they are unable to facilitate us.


In light of the above, the factory has just been sold, right out of the blue, definitely did not see it coming. I am told, but not yet confirmed, it has been bought by the next door neighbours and further, suggested that they want to occupy. Got a seven year lease, someone is going to have to buy me out. For the moment, business is so abysmal, I am just able to hang on and not even think of major moves and expenditures. Yet, in moments of positive lucidity, I think a move to the country could be a very good thing. Await further developments.


Meanwhile, couple of foodie things. Easter Buddhist Buns turned out to be ripper, it was Mary Berry’s recipe


and it is good, even the tip of ‘glazing’ with golden syrup is ripper. Three left over and I am debating their fate, could be Easter Bun Pudding with a silky baked custard, but since I seem to have lost my desire for sweetness, this seems unlikely. And on that point, I was deeply disturbed by Dr Mosely and his expose on sweeteners, the final upshot, they are very bad for you and actually make you fat… see, I knew it was not me over eating! Threw the lot out.


In the endless quest for Pork satisfaction I had a pork belly, I had some white bread that was a bit stale, I cut it into 2 cm chunks times three, laid those on the base of the pan, topped then with some finely sliced onion, fresh sage leaves (think bread seasoning) and the pork on top of that. Baked high then slow for four hours. Resulted I in the bread being crisp and filled with the cooking juices from the meat. The meat was cartable, the skin crispy and the bread, gorgeous. I was even able to make a gravy.


You cannot begin to know what is around the corner, a family member on the other side of eighty, has come down with shingles and becoming a little toilet challenged. Good grief. The price of lamb has become insane, not so many years ago they were euthanasing whole flocks of sheep because they could not even be given away. I think I will buy some lambs for the country estate… sounds like a very uncertain investment.


I suspect that we must look in the area of corporate greed, individual greed, government ineptitude for allowing way too much freedom and self regulation. It has been an experiment that has just not worked, look at the dairy industry, look at the pig industry, look what the beef and chicken industries have done to the tastebuds of a nation. Celebrity Chefs are trying to persuade us to cook ever more complex foods, while turning their backs on foods that are healthy and sustaining (think a damn fine lamb shank soup with pearl barley). Mind you it was compelling news that a couple of TV Chefs have been underpaying and over working their staff. You have to watch thrones that are too high. A return to simplicity would seem an option.


Last night because I could and because I find them a challenge, I made fritters. Pumpkin and Zucchini, some Haloumi, grated onion and garlic, a few spices. I used the newly unearthed ice-cream scoop (circa 1950, wooden handle) scooped into the pan of sizzling oil, flattened them a little, turned down the heat and cooked them through. Meanwhile opened a can of chic peas, a can of cherry tomatoes, into the pan after cooking the fritters, added some Berbere spice mix, returned the fritters to the tomato bath and warmed them through. I think vegetarian food is alright! Just not to be compared to a leg of Lamb roasted and some rich brown gravy.

~ by peterwatson on April 20, 2017.

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