Arrrgh sleep!

May 27, 2009

Ugh! Do you ever feel that your body is unwittingly sabotaging you? I am 2 hours from the begining of my second night shift, and although I think I need sleep, and although I have been laying down in a darkened room (well as dark as a room can get in the middle of a sunny day) for the past 2 1/2 hours, I really don’t think I’ve achieved any more than a 15 minute light snooze. A cat nap is not enough to support the full night that draws out in front people! I even went for a walk and did something constructive, so I wouldn’t feel that me sleeping was a waste of time, and be put off by the guilt. Even so I couldn’t sleep. My dog jumping up and down all over the bed, and a visit from the neighbours, who stayed for a long chat didn’t help either.

And yes, my something constructive did happen to be baking…but it was all in a good cause. I shall be meeting my Heavily Pregnant friend Christine tomorrow at a local coffee shop (thank God, it looks like I’ll need it) and she really loves a good fudgy brownie. Christine’s due to go into hospital as soon as next week to have her second baby boy 🙂 I used to work with Chris, but since changing jobs, haven’t seen her that often to catch up. But seeing as she’s taking a year off for full time mum duties, I should see her a bit more. I’ll be able to tell her a bit about my work, seeing as last night we had a call to an 11 month old patient.

The little girl had had a bit of a drowning accident in the bath tub. It all ended well in that the little bub was breathing, then managed a few good cries and to start eyeballing me and giving a few reflex responses by the time we got to hospital. The mum only went to the toilet for a second, which although it’s not a good idea and I don’t have any of my own kid experience, I’m sure a lot have people have done, and nothings happened. Anyhow, it seemed to give everyone a good fright all round, so I’m sure it will be kid gloves for the kid from now on. Hopefully we won’t have any dramatics with kiddies tonight, thankfully serious peadiatric jobs are a bit fewer between than injuries and illness where adults are concerned, probably because adults are able to self inflict a lot of the conditons they find themselves in. Not always, but you’d be surprised how much people ignore advice and forewarning.

Well I’ll leave a pic of the brownies for you. They’re actually brownies and blondie, as I’d never tried blondies before, so I halved two recipes. The dark brownies aren’t as squigy as I’d liked them to have been, maybe due to my inadequate halving of the recipe? Who knows. Still chocolate, sugar and butter…can’t be all bad right 🙂

miffy ready to launch...will the brownie survive???

miffy ready to launch...will the brownie survive???


Daring Bakers Strudel!

May 27, 2009

finished layered strudels

finished layered strudels

Brandy honey banana, chilli and lime strudel

makings of strudel #1

makings of strudel #1

1 banana chopped

juice of a lime

1/4 dried red chilli, crumbled

1/4 cup brandy

2-3 tbsp honey

 Slice the banana and squeeze a quater of lime juice over it. Mix the honey, brandy, red chilli and rest of lime juice, and simmer in a saucepan till it reduces to a syrup. Add banana slices and simmer in the syrup for a few minutes, till banana softens, but still keeps it’s shape. Once cooled the banana mix is ready to fill the strudel dough. A handful of chopped walnuts can also be added for crunch. I regret not adding a pinch of cinnamon to the banana mix, as I think it would have made it a nicer, warmer spiced dish.

 

Poached pear in pimms and tamarillo syrup strudel

makings of strudel #2

makings of strudel #2

1.5 pears peeled and chopped

1/2-1 cup pimms liquer

1/2 c sugar

1/2 c water

1 tsp vanilla extract

pulp of 2 tamarillo’s

Cut pears into chunks. Put pimms, water and sugar in a sauce pan and bring to simmer. Add pear and simmer till just starting to turn tender (as it will cook more in the strudel). Remove the pear, and boil the pimms till it is a thicker syrup. Towards the end add tamarillo flesh, and mash it through the syrup. Add vanilla. Poor syrup back over pear, and this is ready to fill the rolled strudel dough.

The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

Strudel dough
from “Kaffeehaus – Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague” by Rick Rodgers

1 1/3 C plain flour

1/8 tsp salt

7 Tbsp water (I used the whey from making ricotta)

2 Tbsp vegie oil

1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar

1. Combine the flour and salt in a stand-mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix the water, oil and vinegar in a measuring cup. Add the water/oil mixture to the flour with the mixer on low speed. You will get a soft dough. Make sure it is not too dry, add a little more water if necessary.
Take the dough out of the mixer. Change to the dough hook. Put the dough ball back in the mixer. Let the dough knead on medium until you get a soft dough ball with a somewhat rough surface.

2. Take the dough out of the mixer and continue kneading by hand on an unfloured work surface. Knead for about 2 minutes. Pick up the dough and throw it down hard onto your working surface occasionally.
Shape the dough into a ball and transfer it to a plate. Oil the top of the dough ball lightly. Cover the ball tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to stand for 30-90 minutes (longer is better).

3. It would be best if you have a work area that you can walk around on all sides like a 36 inch (90 cm) round table or a work surface of 23 x 38 inches (60 x 100 cm). Cover your working area with table cloth, dust it with flour and rub it into the fabric. Put your dough ball in the middle and roll it out as much as you can.
Pick the dough up by holding it by an edge. This way the weight of the dough and gravity can help stretching it as it hangs. Using the back of your hands to gently stretch and pull the dough. You can use your forearms to support it.

4. The dough will become too large to hold. Put it on your work surface. Leave the thicker edge of the dough to hang over the edge of the table. Place your hands underneath the dough and stretch and pull the dough thinner using the backs of your hands. Stretch and pull the dough until it’s about 2 feet (60 cm) wide and 3 feet (90 cm) long, it will be tissue-thin by this time. Cut away the thick dough around the edges with scissors. The dough is now ready to be filled.

baked strudels

baked strudels

Mmmm ice creamed and ready to eat...

Mmmm ice creamed and ready to eat...

The strudels were lovely to eat, I even had plenty left over to freeze, which has been a yummy treat getting home from a long day at work, now our nights are feeling more wintery. I prefered the pear to the banana. I love the caramely banana flavour, but there’s something nice about the way the pear held it’s shape baking. The nuts in the banana strudel however, were a nice addition that made up for the lack of bite in the pieces of fruit. I was really happy with how both the strudels layered and had flakiness with air between the layers of pastry, I think I must have been able to roll it thin enough, even though I used an improvised, floured cloth, that was a bit slippy and slidy. I just wish I had more people at home to share the strudel with. If you try it out, I hope you enjoy yours 🙂


One of those nights

May 19, 2009

Guess how I spent my time at work last night? It started off with an early call = no dinner for us. From then we were out most of the night till 3:30am. Were we out on the streets, busy busy busy, being of service to the community, and dealing with interesting cases, grabbing a bite to eat as we went?

No….and why…???? Well that would be because we were ramped at hospital, with our patient, and 4 other patients and crews….for FOUR HOURS….FOUR HOURS????? The longest I’d been ramped with a patient before then is 2, and that felt like forever. So we wer stuck with no dinner, disgruntled patients on our stretchers, waiting for someone to leave ED to make room for one of our incoming. And what is with there being no milo in the tea room? There is only so many cups of coffee you can reasonably stand in a night shift, especially if you hope to get any down time at all, not to mention the quazi-food role that milo plays for many of us up late on the job at night.

So I am going to spend a decent lot of today sleeping, after being kept away very long, while doing mostly nothing!

Night


Super healthy, Super green

May 17, 2009

Back at work for another week, it’s always a dilemma what to plan for lunch. Will I be back at base to eat my packed lunch anyway? Or will I be having a greasy drive thru, or a chocolatey, quite unapologetically unhealthy servo special? Take away coffees on the job I like…take away heart attack in a bag??? not so much.

corn muffin and super healthy soup

corn muffin and super healthy soup

Last night I made this soup to have as a tiny cup of soup entree with our prawn burrito’s (yum 🙂 ). I made it from a recipe adapted from The Wednesday Chef, mainly due to the fact I couldn’t find young garlic, and used some very old garlic (really, it was turning grey and thick skinned, I’m ashamed to have used it) and some sliced spring onions instead. I also used up all the whey that was produced from making ricotta, in place of the stock. The only other ingredient really is english spinach. So I thought…hey, that’s got to be incredibly healthy for me. I expected it to have some flavour, but be more on the boring bland healthy side. Not true at all. This was a lovely lively and exciting shade of green soup, and whether it was the ricotta whey or just the flavours of the garlic and spinach, it was lovely, slightly earthy (but I swear I washed all the grit off the spinach) and warming. It wasn’t overly powerful in the garlic, like I kind of expected, it didn’t even have that too fresh taste. It was still a bright green, even thought it was heated to a comforting steamy warm bowl the next day.

I prettied it up for the photo with some greek yogurt that I tinted purple with some slow roasted and mashed beetroot, yummo, and then added some crumbled feta also, but really it is best on it’s own, and lovely at that. Just have a nice little corn muffin on hand to dip into the soup.

spinach with beetroot blobs

spinach with beetroot blobs

Oh, just one tip, The Wednesday Chef warned of blending the soup, to not overfill the blender or it will explode…well I didn’t, and it did…all over the kitchen walls, bench and floor, which I had just cleaned and mopped! (if you knew how infrequently this was done, you would be very sympathetic right now) So I suggest using a stick mixer instead, unless you want a new paint job.

Young garlic and spinach soup (adapted from The Wednesday Chef)

1 bunch spring onions

1 tbsp butter 1 tbsp olive oil

3-4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1 bunch fresh english spinach

1 litre vegie stock

salt and pepper

Saute garlic and spring onions in butter and oil in a saucepan big enough to hold the finished soup. Saute until translucent and soft. Clean and rinse the spinach, and trim leaves from stems (or this will tangle rough your blender/mixer at the end). Add stock to the garlic mix, bring to the boil, then lower heat and simmer 10 minutes. Add spinach and stir once, turn off the heat and cover for 5 minutes. Remove from saucepan and blend in batches until smooth and green. Season with salt and pepper and rewarm to serve. Mmm MMmmm 🙂


Home made ricotta = Gnocchi

May 14, 2009
Gnocchi with braised white wine leeks and lemon butter thyme sauce

Gnocchi with braised white wine leeks and lemon butter thyme sauce

This month was the inaugral for the Daring Cooks challange, hurray! We were asked to make ricotta gnocchi, from The Zuni Cafe Cookbook. Like most of the first crop of us daring cooks, I chose to make the ricotta from scratch. I used 1 litre of full cream fresh dairy milk, and one cup of buttermilk to make the ricotta. This involved heating the milk and ricotta in a saucepan till steaming, at which point the curds begin to form and can be skimmed off, into a colander or seive lined with cheese cloth.

I didn’t have cheese cloth, and was too lazy to buy any, so I lined a sieve with some calico and then a folded chux cloth on top of that.  Despite the urging of so many recipes to use ultra fine cheese cloth, or risk loosing the curds, the calico and chux worked really well. I only wish I’d taken a photo of the finished ricotta. It formed perfectly. But I think I will be making it again, so I will see it again.

To make the gnocchi I salted the ricotta, added some eggs and mixed in some grated parmesan and thyme, or oregano, I’m not sure,…whatever it was, I hope that it was edible…, plucked fresh from my garden. The ricotta had to be well drained over night in the fridge for this step, or the mix would be too wet to form.

Next I quinelled teaspoons of gnocchi and dropped them into a bowl of flour to coat them. After shaking off the excess and shaping, I placed them on parchment paper on a tray and put them in the freezer to keep till I was ready with the sauce.

light and sqeaky gnocchi, cloud-like

light and sqeaky gnocchi, cloud-like

From looking at all the other Daring Cooks work, lemon butter sounded like a simple sauce to let the gnocchi be the star of the dish. So despite my aversion to the calorie load in the butter sauce, I made one up. I also used some leeks I brought young and fresh from the growers market. Cutting the leeks in half, and cleaning well, I braised them, cut side down in a saucepan with a mix of butter and olive oil, till the cut sides were caramelised. Then I flipped them over, seasoned with salt, pepper, more fresh oregano, plenty of lemon juice, and add white wine to almost cover the leeks. Simmer gently till tender and sauce has reduced. There was not a lot of sauce at the end once I removed the leeks, so I thought, there’s so much butter in there, a little more won’t hurt, so I added more butter and lemon juice. Once the gnocchi were boiled, I finished them off in the warm saucepan with the butter lemon sauce. The gnocchi were lovely, and so was the tangy lemon sauce, perfect with the ricotta, but I’d love to try it with a more meaty and robust tomato sauce next time. The only weird thing with using ricotta as opposed to potato for the gnocchi, was that I got the squeakiness of the cheese against my teeth eating it, which was just a bit funny to get squeaky teeth while your eating. Nothing wrong with that of course, just weird, and it took my attention away from the meal a little bit. I guess I’ll just have to experiment with more ricotta and sauces to make up for it 🙂

lemon ricotta gnocchi

lemon ricotta gnocchi


Semi-successful Macarons

May 6, 2009

I baked my first batch of macarons ever today…and lucky for me I had three trays worth to bake, or I’d have ended up with a whole lot of half baked macarons with a crunchy top cap, and a sticky, falling out, uncooked bottom 😦

 

For some reason, maybe I didn’t leave them to rest long enough, maybe my dicky oven without temperature gauge was actually too cold, whichever, my second (successful) batch too ages to cook, and I mean the cooking time blew out from 15-20 to about 45-60! I have no idea why, but I went back half a dozen times, checking on the macarons, yep baked on top, tentatively lifting them from their edge, but damn, still sticky and raw on the bottom, so back in they went, and as I was determined to actually have some macaron looking macarons to fill and try, I kept putting them back and back in till they were cooked. Hopefully I can get some advice. It didn’t seem to affect the macarons much…that I can tell, apart from being a little darker that I’d have thought, but I would like to know if the ones I made taste like actually macarons. Who can tell, hopefully I’ll have better luck next time!

 

I used the recipie from the ultimate knowledge queen when it comes to macarons, Tartlette! She has made countless variations on mararons in the past, and seems to know the trick to cook them perfect, with the little puffy bit at the bottom, every time. She made some strawberry ones recently, and that’s where I took the recipe from, but I flavoured mine some of my new hobbie, crystalised flowers. I used some very fragrant purple rose petals that I crystalised the night before. I had intended to use these pineapple sage flowers, but it turned out they weren’t as strongly flavoured as I’d have liked. So I added the crushed rose instead. I filled them with vanilla, rose butter cream, also from tartlette (so lovely an fluffy and delicious!).

Pre-crystalised pineapple sage...purrty

Pre-crystalised pineapple sage...purrty

Rose and vanilla buttercream macarons (from tartlette)

3 egg whites

30g sugar

200g icing sugar

110g almonds (blanched)

powdered crystalised rose petals and purple colour powder

Whip egg whites till foamy, then gradually beat in the sugar until you get a glossy meringue. Don’t overbeat or it will get grainy and dry. Put the almonds and icing sugar in a food processor and process till finely ground. Mix this with the powdered rose and colouring and fold into the meringue. Try to limit yourself to fifty strokes, so you don’t knock out too much air. When you test a dollop on a plate, tartlette says it should flatten out by itself, not leaving a peak. If there’s a peak, fold a little more.

Use a pastry bag to pipe some small 20 cent coin sized macarons onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Heat the oven to 140c. Allow the macarons to rest for 30-60 minutes to harden before cooking (I skipped this with the first tray, but not the second, successful one). Cook for 15-20 minutes (note, mine took somewhere between 45 mins to 1hr!) and cook. They should lift of easily from the parchment. They can be kept in an airtight container, or filled with buttercream and gobbled! 🙂 hehe

Natural sugary sugary goodness: new pet project-crystalised flowers

Natural sugary sugary goodness: new pet project-crystalised flowers

Rose vanilla buttercream

1 egg white

1/4c sugar

80g unsalted butter, room temp

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 Tbsp crushed crystalised rose

Whisk the egg white and sugar over a pan of simmering water till the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and beat till white and fluffy (5mins). Add butter a bit at a time and beat to encorporate. Beat in flavorings.

Sit down in a quite spot after all the hot bother, and enjoy 🙂

PS, I think I’m getting better at food photography too, Woo hoo! 🙂

Mmm Mmm Macarons

Mmm Mmm Macarons


Fancy ear gear

May 4, 2009

Ah, there’s nothing like finishing a nightshift and knowing you have four days of freedom ahead of you. If it weren’t for the drunks of Perth I would have had a solid nights sleep as well 🙂

So over the past few day’s I’ve been working, the nurses round some of the hospitals have been sporting these groovy looking stethoscopes. Sort of like a flattened snow dome, but without the snow. The one I eyeballed had a pic of a watermelon on it and green tubing. So I got the web details and had a look at some of the designs on line. I really was hoping for more designs to choose from, but I’m quite liking the Rainbow:

rainbow

manatee

manatee1

pig

pig1

They’re a bit expensive, but I think I might like to buy myself one as a treat, and also one of the perks of being an ambo is that your equipment purchase is tax deductable 🙂 Now I’ll have to think about some shopping for dinner tonight, and a walk for my dog miffy, if she’s not being too much of a minger.

Check out the steths at: http://www.ultrascope.com