Monday, 24 October 2016

Rare and Unusual Plant Fair

Gardeners can be an intrepid lot and as the weather this weekend clearly showed, prepared to brave the elements in pursuit of their passion. Always on the lookout for something new for the garden. The Rare and Unusual Plant Fair was held at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne. 

My friend Helena and I volunteered to spend some time in the Open Gardens booth promoting the activities of the organisation.

It was not all work and we were determined to make the most of what was on offer.

Like these excellent donuts and coffee for morning tea, absolutely necessary to give us stamina for the day ahead

And an exhibition

Many interesting sculptures and 

plants, so many unusual and interesting plants

A very late lunch at EntrecĂ´te, 

And something to bring home - worm juice, a gift for the man who has it all!

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Famous Faces - The Archibalds

I pretty much go to the Archibalds every year. Some years, like the past two in Ballarat, are easier to get to and make for a pleasant day out. The Archibald Prize is for portraiture with a diversity of subjects, styles and techniques. Here are a few of the many 'famous faces'.

George Calombaris by Betina Fauvel-Ogden

Annie Smithers by Daniel Butterworth. The portrait (left), photograph (top right) and a section of her book cover (bottom right)

Barry Humphries by Louise Hearman

Garry McDonald by Kirsty Neilson

Lucy Culliton (self portrait, Lucy and fans)

Bernie Teague by Lewis Miller

Shower (Athena Bellas) by Prudence Flint

Easton Pearson by Monica Rohan

This very clever painting called The Usurpers (self portrait) by Michael McWilliams was my pick for Viewers Choice.

 and just for fun - Yours Truly (selfie) taken at the photograph yourself station. 

Monday, 17 October 2016

Risotto Balls

It wasn't my plan to have leftover risotto, however, my last minute change of plans meant that what was going to be reheated for dinner would not enough for dinner for six. Not one to waste I decided that there would be enough to convert into risotto balls for pre dinner snacks.

Served with  some 'garlicky' aioli and dinner was off to a good start. A quick blend of good quality commercial mayonnaise, chopped parsley and a little crushed garlic.

I used pea and prosciutto risotto but any variety providing the the flavourings were in small pieces would work. The mixture needs to be rolled into balls so large bits of pumpkin or big chunks of mushroom would need to be cut up in order to make a smooth rounded ball. Risotto tends to thicken when cold. An egg yolk should be added and the mixture may need some additional rice flour or flour to bind and make it firm enough to roll into balls.

For an extra treat add a small cube or piece of tasty cheese in the middle of each ball. Roll the risotto balls in flour, egg wash and breadcrumbs. Deep fry the risotto balls or blanch the balls in hot oil until just starting to colour, remove and drain on paper towel and then continue cooking in a hot oven. The risotto balls can be sprayed with cooking spray and baked rather than fried.

If you do not have leftover risotto or need a recipe you can use this recipe to make the risotto base, parmesan can be substituted for the blue cheese.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Almond Delights

I like to experiment with recipes and find my knitting group to be a good testing ground. Supper time rolled around and the ladies seemed to be enjoying them so when asked if they were on my blog and what were they called I had to confess to the experimental nature. I have since made and tested the recipe. My friend Emma, who is as keen on almond flavour and marzipan as me, declared them delicious and delightful and named them.

When slightly undercooked and with more rather than less almond essence they have a texture and flavour that is reminiscent of marzipan. The golden syrup adds to the colour and flavour, however it can be left out and the flour reduced by a quarter of a cup. The dough should be soft and just slightly sticky.

I like them them to be slightly soft and chewy so I do not flatten them as much as I would for a thinner crisper biscuit.

Almond Delights

125 g butter
2 tablespoons golden syrup
1 tablespoons water
½ teaspoon bicarbonate soda
1 teaspoon almond essence or a little more

1 egg
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups almond meal/ground almonds

To decorate
whole almonds, natural or blanched

Put butter, golden syrup and water in a large saucepan and put on low heat to melt. Allow to cool slightly

Add bicarbonate of soda and almond essence, stir thoroughly.

Add egg and mix well

Add sugar, almond meal and flour, Mix well.

Roll mixture into small balls and place onto greased tray or use baking paper. Allow a little room for the biscuits to spread.

Press an almond into each ball, flattening slightly as you do this.

Bake 160 deg C for approx 15 minutes or until golden brown. If you like the biscuits to be chewy rather than hard remove a little sooner.

Monday, 10 October 2016

World Porridge Day

World Porridge Day - Who knew that there could be such a thing. There seems to be a national day for just about everything but how joyous to celebrate something that I eat nearly everyday of the week and not necessarily just for breakfast.

I can happily eat it plain but it is even more delicious topped with fresh fruit, stewed fruit, yoghurt and for something special a generous sprinkle of my breakfast crunch.

I like it thick and creamy and cook it in a saucepan so that the stirring process releases the starch into the cooking liquid. Place the oats in a saucepan and barely cover with water, leave to soak overnight. The next morning add some milk and cook over low heat, stirring until the oats boil and thicken. The consistency can be adjusted to your liking by adding more milk. 

I often cook two or three serves at a time, refrigerate the remaining serves and reheat in the microwave. 

Add a dollop of cream and have it for dessert.

Friday, 7 October 2016

Esme is Finished

Remember Esme? She was started in this workshop months ago. There have been many distractions and projects in between but she is finally finished.

Not sure which is her best side. Repurposed vintage embroidered doilies were cut up and stitched onto the fabric skin, lots of simple straight 'overstitching' to blend the doily patches.

Just like prison mug shots

Some more close ups

During construction

and  before the doily and embroidery treatment

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Chicken Filo Parcels

These were always a favourite with my son and very popular with my students. This is one of those meal ideas that do not need a recipe and good for those times when you need to extend the chicken to serve more people. 

I usually keep packet of Filo pastry in the fridge and always have cheese on hand. The ingredients can be varied but I like the combination of chicken, mushroom, tasty cheese and spring onion add a little garlic and some freshly ground black pepper.  Sun dried tomatoes, zucchini, olives and chopped oregano can be added for a more Italian styled parcel. The parcels can be made in advance and refrigerated until you need to cook them.

Chicken Filo Parcels

This is a guide to the amounts needed per person

2 sheets filo pastry
Diced chicken (Allow up to 1 chicken thigh or half a breast)
1/4 cup grated tasty cheese
1/2 - 1 spring onion, finely sliced
1 - 2 mushrooms, thinly sliced
A little crushed garlic and pepper to taste.
Sesame seeds to garnish
Cooking spray

Combine the filling ingredients and mix well.

Lay the two sheets of filo pastry on top of each other. Add a generous pile of the filling, leaving 2-3 cm from the edge.

Fold the bottom up so that the filling is enclosed

Then fold in the sides. The parcel needs to be firm, continue to roll the parcel up.

Place the parcel on a tray lined with baking parchment making sure that the end is on the bottom of the tray to prevent it from curling or unrolling. 

Spray lightly with cooking spray and  sprinkle with sesame seeds. 

Bake in a hot oven (200 deg C) for ten minutes then reduce heat and cook a further 15 minutes until the pastry is golden. 

Allow to sit on the tray for a few minutes and then carefully remove with a large spatula.