This Universe

January 24, 2015

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I’ve been thinking.

This Universe…it’s real. It’s uncompromising in its momentum. Time passes, things change (often suddenly) and perspective is thrust upon you. Clarity comes, and things that once seemed important are not… things that were perhaps less important are now all that matters. Clarity. So you stop, wait, regroup and then go on as normal. But you’re not normal, at least not in the way you were before…before things changed. You have a new normal now. It feels uncomfortable, ill-fitting and foreign. You might long for what was, what could have been, what should have been, but it’s wasted energy because this universe…it just does it’s thing. It keeps on changing and you keep on changing. And even if this change is painful it can be beautiful. Your heart becomes a richer shade of red.

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The new normal will feel ok and right, it will, after time. And while you wait, adjusting to this new normal and settling into the fact that, somehow, you’re not in control of all the events in the universe, be sure to do the following things. It will help.

Love generously

Live in colour

Jump

Get muddy

Don’t think so much

and sore. Or, at least, seesaw.

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There’s a bit to note in this photograph. Principally my grandpa’s excellent flares, my affection for overalls at a young age, and my brother casually wearing a cape in a forest.

Feelings. I have them. Thanks for letting me share in a sleep deprived, cryptic way. I feel I should assure you that there is nothing to worry about. After re-reading this post (which I wrote last Thursday and has been sitting in my drafts, waiting for a non-sleep-deprived Heidi to glance over), I see that it might come across as though something drastic has happened. But it hasn’t. It almost did, but it hasn’t. So, feelings. I have them.

Here, let’s eat.

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Chickpea Stirfry

This stirfry is not related to this post in any way other than when you’re eating it, you feel as though you’re living in colour. It is very loosely adapted from The Kitchn’s Tofu and Chickpea Stirfry. I felt it was time I shared the recipe.

Serves 2

Ingredients
Peanut Oil
1 can Chickpeas
1 small brown Onion, finely chopped
A dash of Shaoxing wine
1 heads Bok Choy, washed and individual stalks removed
1 small Red Capsicum, sliced into long strips
1 large clove Garlic, finely sliced
2 pinches of fresh Ginger, cut into very thin matchsticks
Cooked white or wild rice, for serving

Sauce Ingredients
1/4 cup hulled Tahini
1 teaspoon Miso Paste (optional)
1-2 teaspoons Tamari or Soy Sauce (note: if you don’t use miso, use more tamari or soy sauce)
1 tablespoon Mirin
2 teaspoons Honey
1 heaping teaspoon minced fresh Ginger
1/4 cup Water (depending on how liquid your tahini is you might use more. Mine is very runny so I need less water)

Method
1. Make your sauce my combining all ingredients in a bowl (with half the water) and whisk to combine. At this point the mixture should be starting to thicken. Add the remaining water and more if the sauce is too thick (you want it quite runny). Taste and adjust as desired. Every time I make this sauce I change something based on my mood. Also, be sure to start cooking your rice before you work the wok.
2. Drain and rinse the chickpeas, then dry as well as you can in a tea towel.
3. Prepare your vegetables and place into individual bowls.
4. Heat some peanut oil (a few teaspoons worth) in a wok over high heat. Add the chickpeas and fry, stirring constantly, until they begin to brown (a couple of minutes). Add one pinch of the ginger matchsticks and stirfry for a final minute, before removing everything in the wok into a bowl.
5. Now to cook your veg! Heat some more oil over high heat and add the onion. Stirfry for a minute before adding the capsicum and cooking for another minute before adding the shaoxing wine and letting it steam for a minute. Add the bok choy and stirfry everything together for a final minute or so, until almost cooked. Add the garlic and ginger and stirfry until fragrant. Add the chickpeas and heat through. At this point you can: a) add the sauce and heat it through with the stirfry goods. or b) simply pour the sauce on top of everything after serving, as I did on the day I photographed the dish. Serve atop cooked rice.

Heidi xo

Chocolate Chips in My Banana Bread

January 21, 2015

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Because sometimes chocolate chips trump walnuts.

Spelt and honey banana bread with chocolate chips – this recipe with about 1/3 cup milk chocolate chips added. I probably would have used dark if I had them but I didn’t and it was wonderful all the same. Also, I messed up and used to big a baking tin, so it’s slightly smaller and a little too brown on the edges. Still, outrageously good.

Green tea

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What did you have for breakfast today?

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Heidi xo

“Have this lettuce”, and other things my neighbour says

January 17, 2015

We’ve got a new neighbour.

He’s 63. I know this because we’ve become friendly since we started sharing a driveway three months ago. I also know he likes legumes, appreciates a slice of cake for breakfast and his birth date is precisely five days before my husband’s. Upon discovering this connection, he felt we were to be great neighbours…friends. And indeed we are.

Our neighbour is a generous gifter of homegrown silverbeet. His family makes grappa, which he shares keenly, along with his vegetable soup. I feel I am lagging in the sharing department, though I did make him brownies and brought him homemade stock. And over the Melbourne Cup long-weekend he borrowed our spit roaster to compliment his smaller spit. A truly mean feast was cooked that day, featuring (amongst countless dishes) a whole pig and a delightful, tomatoey, giant bean preparation. In the days following the party he’d knock on our door gifting leftovers to say thank you, from cake to a tub of his sister’s tzaziki, none of which lingered in our fridge very long. We now have a large container of his lamb spice mix for future cook-ups, which makes me feel ok about the fact that I just finished the leftover lamb from his New Year party in early January. His roasted meat is beyond delicious… like, it’s not even funny.

I feel very grateful we have such an open-hearted neighbour. He has taught me a lot in the few months we’ve known each other. Sometimes I catch myself wanting to duck into the house undetected, but I am always happy when I get over myself and have a chat by the fence. More often than not he’s trying to hand me some lettuce. I’ve decided that hearing the story his voyage to Australia when he was 17 is worth the sugar high from that second slice of cake he forces me to eat. I just hope that one day he’ll tell me the story of how to make his sister’s spinach pie.

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heidi produce
A few weekends ago the three of us went out for coffee. Over espressos, our neighbour spoke of his mission to find the best, most fresh, local fish. So later that day, Ben and I introduced him to our way of buying fish, via Peninsula Fresh Seafood, a delivery truck established by Dromana Bay Mussels that parks itself on the Safety Beach foreshore during set times over the weekend, selling (mostly) locally sourced seafood. On Saturdays and Sundays we get a text announcing the catch of the day! And then we scurry to beat other locals and holidaymakers to the truck, each of us dreaming up what we’ll cook for dinner while waiting in line.

We love this system, it’s incredibly convenient and helps us support local fishermen, plus we find it to be fairly reasonably priced (though some of it is a bit $$$). On this day we arrived hungry for scallops and calamari (mum also receives the texts and my dad had instructed us to purchase the goods for our family dinner). Our neighbour joined us, keen to check this truck business out. He was…dubious, insisting he could get better seafood and for half the price. Indeed recently he gifted us some frozen whiting that was superb…and if his fish sources turn out to be half as life-changing as that spit roasted meat (which he gets from some farm out of Melbourne) I will happily support my neighbour’s inherent need to share and connect. But in the mean time, we’ll enjoy the convenience of Peninsula Fresh Seafood.

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Summer in Australia means seafood – fish and chips, spaghetti alle vongole, garlicky prawns, fish tacos with avocado and tomato salsa, and big bowls of mussels with bread. There’s nothing quite like fresh seafood, cooked with garlic, a little chilli and finished with lime juice. That’s what Ben and Dad did that Saturday night with these scallops and calamari.

Bread too, of course.

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Note: a lot of fish in supermarkets is flown in from overseas, which makes little sense to me when we have such good seafood here. As a dietitian I encourage clients to eat fish for the beneficial nutrients (and general deliciouness), but we need to be careful what we recommend from a sustainability point of view. Our oceans are overfished and we’re depleting our resources, and I’m certainly not confident in the farmed fish method from an ethical and nutritional point of view. So my idea is to select seafood that is naturally more sustainable, like mussels, sardines and anchovies. Smaller fish and filter feeders are always a good idea. Plus they are outrageously high in certain good nutrients we tend to lack, from zinc to omega-3 fatty acids. My sources tell me to expect sardines soon! Meanwhile, there are other fish varieties on offer at the seafood truck to play with – from garfish to red mullet. I must say I don’t know where to start with these new-to-me beauties, and whether they’re a good choice sustainability-wise. Let me know if you have any thoughts or tips! I’m open…

Heidi xo

 

Wednesday Things

January 14, 2015

Just a little post today. Some Wednesday things and thoughts.

This week I was particularly efficient in scheduling clients, only leaving the home on Monday and tomorrow, Thursday. Yesterday and today are home days, involving with some recipe development work for a client and a lot of laundry. I plan on wearing my pyjamas for longer than appropriate…until bedtime. The rain yesterday and last night was particularly delicious, and I want to keep the cozy going.

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Salt and Vinegar Potatoes

January 9, 2015

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When I was in primary school the number one chip flavour was Light & Tangy. Everyone was mad for it. We’d crumple the packet and eat tiny, severely seasoned chip flakes by the handful, usually chasing it all with a swig of a Torquay soft drink. It was awesome. And, on reflection, awful.

Come high school I went for a more classic chip, favouring plain or lightly salted, which I’d invariably stuff into a plain, soft, buttered roll. Try it and thank me later. If not eating chip rolls, my friends and I would engage in a truly odd activity, for which I have no explanation other than we were teenagers and liked to live on the edge (?? perhaps??)…we’d buy salt and vinegar popcorn from the Tuck Shop, shake the bag, bring it to our mouths and inhale sharply. Vinegar pains, straight to the lungs. Why? Who knows. For kicks. Kind of like that classic sleepover dare of eating a spoonful of cinnamon (which I do NOT encourage you to try)… but slightly more odd because what was the point? To laugh and cry and laugh and eat popcorn, I suppose. These days I still favour plain or lightly salted chips, passing on the vinegar inhalation and eating them like a regular person.

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Cacao and Orange Fudge Slice

January 5, 2015

It was a Thursday afternoon and I had a craving for something rich and in the chocolate realm. That’s how this slice came about. Lunch was a salad with grated carrots, quinoa and other good, roasted things… and I recall that Ben wasn’t to be home until around 8:30pm. It was mid-December, a busy time of year, and dinners were late, which felt very European. I was going to make an omelette, with prosciutto and provolone. I remember this because it was just after Ben’s birthday and our fridge was full of cured meat and cheese, party food. That omelette was good. But first, there was a snack…

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Raw cacao met a few other ingredients in the food processor. We had a bounty of oranges leftover from Jackson’s cocktail show, so they went in too in the form of zest and juice. I formed a sweet slab and threw it in the freezer, telling myself I could enjoy some in half an hour after doing the laundry and invoicing. Bribing oneself with chocolate is a cliched move but a brilliant one. And it always works. I was surprised by how tasty this cool, nutrient-packed fudge was, so I grabbed my camera and took a few quick photographs (without even bothering to clean up the fudge from under my nails) before finishing the rest, leaving, oh, just a slither for Ben. Real life, all of it.

Though I use dates here, I distinctly remember feeling tired of nuts (too much chewing, perhaps?). Usually the two go hand in hand when talking “raw/vegan desserts”, aka expensive, high calorie deliciousness. I’m so into it. But on this day, I couldn’t be bothered with chunky nuts, so opted for a simpler line-up of ingredients that included some conveniently pre-ground almonds, sticky medjool dates, raw cacao, orange and salt. The bitterness of the cacao balances the sweetness of the dates rather splendidly, and the orange flavour really shines through, brightening the whole situation.

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Please and Thank You

January 1, 2015

Our niece and nephew live in a different country, and therefore we don’t see them all that often. Aged six and a half and three and a half (those halves really matter), they change a lot between visits and I never feel like I can keep up. Just as I’m learning all the names of trains in an effort to impress a certain small, impossibly cute gentleman, he moves onto something else. They’re always teaching us things, from Chinese phrases and songs, to how to make the best mango smoothie (“you really need vanilla extra but you can use yoghurt instead of ice-cream if you don’t have any”). They’re also showing us how much our hearts can grow and that we had better be prepared to move and dance and discover the world with unaffected and curious eyes…because they’re not stopping or waiting. And we don’t want to miss it.

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Christmas This Year, 2014

December 27, 2014

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Christmas this year was really rich.

We spent the morning at Mum and Dad’s, as we do every year, gifting and opening presents and eating fruit salad. Ben and I drove up to Red Hill after a morning walk and promptly woke my brother, handing him a 3kg tub of Nutella. Merry Christmas, Jackson. Santa gave me a vegetable spiralizer that I have already used and already love.

We sat on the couch, coffee in hand and wrapping paper on the ground. Our dog, Matilda, passed away a while ago, but we miss her that little bit more more on Christmas morning, as ruffling in the present aftermath was her most favourite pastime. Soon after we got to preparing our lunch. Every year mum hosts a small group of our family and this year I felt particularly joyful, the five of us hanging out in the kitchen, chopping, stirring and stealing scraps of slow-cooked pork. My grandparents arrived around midday, followed by Ben’s parents, and around 1pm we sat down to eat. The menu was similar to last year and the year before that, though we added some bourdon apples (which we won’t do again) and a brussels sprout, chestnut and bacon dish (which we may do again). Around the table we cracked bonbons, praised the pork and passed bottles sparkling shiraz and boats of gravy up and down the table. We finished with plum pudding and boozy sauce, and then went to Ben’s parents’ house to open presents with our niece and nephew.

And now we’re enjoying the fact that our family is over from Hong Kong and we are working from home the next week or so, with little more on our agenda than visiting the beach, playing lego with kids, eating leftovers and making fruit pie. It’s Summer and we’re rich.

Here are some photographs from Christmas this year, 2014.

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and now it’s Christmas

December 22, 2014

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So, what’s been happening, peeps?

This month has been FULL on my end. Wonderful, even. Here are some snaps and words from my December brain to yours.

I hope you’re set for a Happy Christmas (if you celebrate). For us it’s an excuse to stop our regular routine, hang out at my parents’ house and eat pudding. We keep it pretty low key and local, gathering with our immediate family and a few close friends. It’s the opposite of overwhelming, it’s familiar and easy and for that I am thankful. On Christmas morning we still open presents together, from the same stockings as when we were kids. I make fruit salad, dad makes coffee and we all drag Jackson out of bed. Mum is always thoughtful and indulges us just the right amount, dad always gets socks, about which he is more than appropriately thrilled. Tradition warms my heart, I am comforted by it, it is what makes Christmas special, as every year you anticipate joy… and that is a grand feeling. It’s the same every year, but every year is different, as we bring twelve months worth of colours and experiences, all wrapped up in our older, wiser selves. Another year lived. How special is that?

And there I go again, rambling on. Back to the snippets of my world at present. I think I’ll number them to keep me on track…

1. Last Sunday we spent the day at mum and dad’s house with friends we have known since forever. Us kids grew up together, spending school holidays camping and composing inappropriate, though catchy, songs. Dad made pizza and we ate Monika’s stollen and raided the raspberry bush. It was nice to be together on the anniversary my brother’s death. 7 years on and more then ever I wish he was here, because now I feel like we’re all finally living again and he’s missing it.

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All the things we love

December 19, 2014

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My husband is a unique man. At least that’s what we’re told, I don’t really know any different and he obviously doesn’t. Ben just is who he is, and who he is is someone who wants to spend their thirtieth birthday cooking with our friend, Rosa, and her Sicilian-born mother.

Rosa runs cooking demonstrations, you see, which Ben adores attending. And he has long expressed a desire for a private session so I arranged just that, with the help of lovely, generous Rosa. On the morning of Ben’s birthday we arrived at Rosa’s parents’ home where we were greeted with hugs, espresso and aprons. Here are some photographs from that day, some of which were taken by Rosa and my mum, who joined us for lunch.

Rosa and her mother, Pina, taught us how to prepare beloved family dishes and shared the stories behind these recipes, as well as tales from when Pina first arrived in Australia in the 1950s. This narration, through a Sicilian-accent, gave the food a context and depth that was very special and touching. With each cooking step and taste of sugo (which we sampled from tea cups!), our appetites were further encouraged, and by the time we sat down to our meal inspired by the land of citrus, swordfish, tomatoes and olive oil we could hardly contain our excitement.

To start we ate pasta alla norma, followed by chicken pizzaiola and then our favourite sfinci doughnuts. It was perfect because it was love. For Rosa’s family and ours, food and the act of eating with loved ones is an expression and celebration of love. This is a language we all understand. If you’d like to learn how to make these recipes yourself be sure to attend one of Rosa’s cooking demonstrations (read my posts here and here). It’s a lovely thing to do with friends, but also as a treat for yourself #treatyoself.

Ben and I spent some time foraging in Rosa’s parents’ garden, marvelling at the variety of plum trees and an old wine press, and laughing with the prickly pears. Have you tried prickly pear fruit before? The red one is the best, Rosa said, and as kids her siblings would all fight over who got to eat the coveted fruit. Throughout the day Ben would pause, look around and say to me, “this is the type of home I want to have. One day we’ll have land like this…”

I know we will, sweets. We’ll make sugo the way Pina did on your birthday and we’ll add the baking powder to the batter for the sfinci, the way Rosa reminded us, and we’ll keep living and loving the way they do, generously.

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