Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Dinner Party

Jo the new PhD doing flowers in the afternoon:

Jo loves cooking and often comes out to help if I'm having a party. She always does flowers; she's rather more artistically talented than I am.

Here is the Japanese first course:

The platter in the middle has shitake mushrooms at one end, tonkatsu in the middle, and seaweed salad at the other end. The other two platters are identical; they have, from left to right, hamaguri-zushi, smoked salmon nigiri-zushi, seaweed salad, tamagoyaki, inari-zushi, and shitake mushrooms. The hamaguri-zushi has grapefruit fragments instead of salmon roe, which I couldn't find anywhere. Maki suggested either the red slivered ginger or grapefruit instead; I tested both, and the grapefruit was much nicer. The rice was made with umeboshi vinegar and that flavour was too similar to the ginger. There were no leftovers from this course.

Next up was the Malaysian salads and soups course:

From left to right there are four plates each of laksa; fish and herb salad; vegetables in a mild curry sauce; salad with pineapple, cucumber, beans, tomatoes etc. The laksa is not really laksa, as I decided not to put noodles in it. Too fiddly at the last minute, and people needed not to get too full yet!

The Indian course:

Left to right is pea and potato bhaji; beef vindaloo; spinach dhal; pepper chicken; pile of plates hiding the mint raita; butter chicken; coriander chutney (at the back, scrumptious); lamb kofta (in the front); chickpea curry; rice. Lots of leftovers, as planned. I made this course almost entirely from things that freeze well, and I think I now have about two weeks worth of dinners stashed.

On to the Thai desserts:

Left to right: bags of fresh fruit, a la Bangkok street stalls; hot coconut rice pudding with mango slices (yum); peridot crystal balls; golden haired rice. It was amazing how fast the golden haired rice got snapped up - by blokes when I said it wasn't vegetarian!

Various guests insisted on doing a bit of cleaning up, so I let them. By this time all I wanted to do was sit down - I'd been on my feet all day.

After most of the guests left (about midnight I think), the ones who were staying the night had a few quiet drinks. We got to bed about 2.30ish.

Absinthe is evil stuff. Some of us weren't feeling particularly healthy this morning.

Here is the wreckage:

Not too bad at all, considering. The house was back to normal by midday, thanks to Jo who slaved away in the kitchen while I did the clearing away, discarding of rubbish, sorting of recycling, vacuuming, and rearranging of furniture. The men slept.

I'll post recipes in a couple of weeks when I get back from Australia.

Friday, April 17, 2009

On target for dinner party

My kitchen at 7pm Friday (dodgy colour balance):

What a mess!

Then at 8.15pm (dodgy panorama stitching, my walls really aren't that crooked):

From left to right: chickpea curry, butter chicken, spinach dhal, pepper chicken, lamb kofta. This lot was all done by 8.15 …

… but then it took another two hours to make the tapioca balls. The bean and coconut insides were a breeze …

… but wrapping the green tapioca around them was soooo tedious. And sticky, and just plain difficult!

They're cooking now though; simmering in a very sweet syrup and looking rather gorgeous.

I've also cooked the potatoes for the bhaji, and the vindaloo ingredients are sitting in the slow cooker waiting to go. Good thing the nights are cold at present.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

…and again …

I've just been to the supermarket to get the last few bits and pieces for my dinner party - bean sprouts and cucumbers and suchlike things that don't keep super well. I can't find any salmon roe! The fresh stuff finished a couple of weeks ago, and I can't find frozen or bottled anywhere. What to do? I'll have to make some other sort of sushi instead of the hamaguri.

For lunch I'm still emptying the fridge of salad ingredients. I have the last piece of over-smoked salmon from the freezer too.

smoked salmon = 150 Cal
lettuce = 7 Cal
1 tomatoes = 10 Cal
cucumber =5 Cal
gherkins = 5 Cal
spring onion = 15 Cal
capsicum = 18 Cal
cottage cheese = 40 Cal
20 g feta = 65 Cal
"lite" dressing = 30 Cal

Total = 345 Cal

The shoes today are these elegant wee flats I bought in a sale at Hannah's just after Christmas.

They're not ideal for walking in; the soles are very thin and you can feel the hardness of the footpath through them.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Salad again

I'm going to Australia on Monday, so I'm pretty much eating what's left in the fridge this week. I also achieved my (primary) target weight of 66 kg over Easter, so my salad today has a bit of proper cheese in it. This morning I was 65.5 kg, and I would really like to be about 63 I think. 66 is supposed to be "ideal" for my height and age, but that assumes I am a normal female with fat on her arse and thighs. I don't have any - I keep all my extra weight around my tummy. This is not a healthy place to keep it, so I'd like to get rid of it and be a bit lighter than 66 kg.

"Tuscan" smoked chicken = 150 Cal
1/2 avocado = 80 Cal
lettuce = 7 Cal
2 tomatoes = 20 Cal
cucumber =5 Cal
gherkins = 5 Cal
bean sprouts = 15 Cal
spring onion = 15 Cal
capsicum = 18 Cal
cottage cheese = 40 Cal
20 g feta = 65 Cal
"lite" dressing = 30 Cal

Total = 450 Cal

That's OK! I was expecting it to be quite high.

Today's shoes are geta, and were an internet purchase from J-List.

They're very cool, but I think Japanese ladies in kimonos don't go for long walks where there is gravel - I had to get the rubber on the soles replaced after the first time I wore these. The soles they come with are very soft, almost like foam, and stones just sink into it. The wood is soft too, so particularly large bits of gravel go through the rubber and on into the wood. I got the rubber replaced with strong stuff, and it cost more than the geta did to start with.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter Sunday

Sunset over my back fence.
A perfect Autumn evening.

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Friday, April 10, 2009

Dinner party timeline

It's about time I started seriously thinking what has to be done for next week's dinner party. Catering for a lot of people in an ordinary kitchen and an ordinary house requires a bit of juggling with cutlery and plates. Many years ago I bought six identical four-place dinner sets ridiculously cheaply (about $100 all up I think), so I can serve everyone in matching plates, but only one course at a time. I need to use dessert plates for some of the Malaysian course and also for the dessert course, so they'll need to be washed in between. I think I'll use saucers for the Japanese course so I don't need to wash the side plates for the Malasian salads. Chopsticks for the Japanese course solves part of the cutlery problem, but I'll have to wash spoons between Malaysian and dessert, and forks between each of the last three courses.

I also have to fit packing for my Australian holiday in the gaps, and I'm playing bridge on Thursday evening!

To do
Saturday 11th April

Make shitake mushrooms.
Rearrange furniture in living room and hall. Vacuum, clean floors, wash big dinner set and cutlery.

Construct shopping list. Check pantry for supplies.
Do grocery shopping.

Make tonkatsu and freeze.
6pm onwards
Make soup part of laksa, and soupy part of vege curry
Soak chickpeas
6pm onwards
Make pepper chicken, butter chicken, lamb kofta. Make chickpea curry, spinach dhal. Cook potatoes for bhaji. Make tapioca dessert. Tonkatsu out of freezer. Ingredients for beef vindaloo into slow cooker. Make oshi-zushi.
Turn slow cooker on. Make black rice dessert and custard. Cut up fresh fruit. Soak white glutinous rice. Cut up veges for laksa, and mild curry. Prep both salads. Set table with plates for Japanese course, small tongs, and chopsticks.

Make sushi rice, egg skins for hamaguri-zushi, and tamagoyaki. Cut oshi-zushi.

Make raita and chutney. Pick and grate wasabi.

Prepare sushi, shred cabbage for tonkatsu, slice mushrooms, arrange on serving platters.

Plate out desserts. Put in laundry, covered. Prep mangoes. Coconut cream and sugar mixed. Glutinous rice into steamer, ready to go. Cook basmati rice.

Laksa soup in pot ready to heat. Prawns etc ready to add. Ditto mild vege curry. Prepare spices for bhaji in wok.

Butter chicken, lamb kofta, and pepper chicken into oven to warm up. Have shower, get dressed. Plates for Malaysian course on bench. Veges in laksa plates.

7pmGuests arrive. Do drinks - delegate to some bloke - Wil or Richard. Or both. Delegate some sober driving person to be on coffee duty later. Show them how.

When everyone is here 7.30?
Heat tonkatsu in panini press. Heat laksa. Put veges in mild curry and start cooking. Slice tonkatsu, arrange on cabbage, sauce it. Japanese course on table. Remember shoyu and wasabi.

All finished eating
Collect crockery and chopsticks. Into dishwasher. Put spoons and forks on table. Prawns in laksa. Noodles. Plate Malaysian salads.

+ 30 mins?
Dish up laksa and mild curry. Put these and salad plates on table. Dhal and chickpea curry on to heat.

when eaten
Collect plates. Into dishwasher second drawer. Empty first drawer. Heat big plates, put them and knives and forks on table. Put raita and chutney on table.

Put glutinous rice on to steam. Nuke basmati to heat. Make pea and potato bhaji. When that's ready and everything else is hot put vindaloo, bhaji, dhal, chickpeas, rice, into serving plates. Take all food into table.

When ready
Remove Indian course debris. Do the rice and coconut milk thing. Plate it with mangoes. All desserts to table - remember spoons, and plates for fruit.

Someone else will now take over for coffee and cake.

Clean up everything and get ready to go to Australia on Monday morning.

Writing it all out like this is very helpful - I'll probably be running back to add bits I forgot every ten minutes though.

Good Friday

I'm not in the least religious, but I'm a total traditionalist. I eat Hot Cross buns on Good Friday only, and expect kids to be given Easter eggs only on Easter Sunday. There are a few exceptions to the eggs bit - I do dish out small Easter eggs to people at work and any visiting kids for the whole week before Easter as none of us is there on Easter Sunday, naturally enough.

So one of my Maundy Thursday evening habits is to prepare Hot Cross buns so they can rise overnight and I can bake them first thing in the morning. Normally I'd make a dozen or so, and they would be my entire food intake for Good Friday - I do love them! When you add in the butter that goes on them though, it adds up to quite a few calories. This year I only made three - from my one cup of flour weekly bread allowance. Here they are:

All gone now too. They were breakfast.

And, for the very first time, I made a Simnel Cake. It's a very small Simnel Cake - I have a round cake tin that's only 16 cm (6 1/2 inches) across so I halved the recipe here. The Apostles are closer to full size though. Mmmmmm marzipan.

I'm not quite sure what to do with it! It looks too nice to cut. Perhaps I'll save it for next Saturday when I have my big dinner party - it won't go with the Asian theme, but it'll be nice with the coffee afterwards.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


I had to open a box of chicken stock last night, but only needed to use half of it. I thought I might just be piggy and make myself some risotto from what was left. I just made a basic risotto, but added a lot of kabocha squash at the end, to pad it out with a bit more fibre and make it a little less fattening. I have 1/3 of the leftovers in today's lunch, along with some hot-smoked salmon from the freezer and a very plain salad.

1/6 cup of rice = 107 Cal
chicken stock = 10 Cal?
squash = 100 Cal
parmesan = ~40 Cal

salmon = 150 Cal
lettuce = 7 Cal
capsicum = 18 Cal
cottage cheese = 40 Cal
dressing = 28 Cal

Total = 500 Cal

Right at my top limit.

Yesterday it was miserable and I got icy cold wet feet on my walk because I didn't wear the right shoes. Today I have boots.

I bought them online from in America when our exchange rate was favourable, and had to get the delivered to a friend's brother for the friend to collect when he was at a conference. People are so kind.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Leftover Indian

Today's lunch is leftovers from last night, nuked in the work microwave. I made some saag paneer just because I love it (and it's a good way to use up milk that's getting to its use by date), and some kabocha and bean curry to add a bit of variety. It's a miserable day, so a hot lunch was lovely.

paneer = less than 175 Cal
spinach = 23 Cal
squash = 100 Cal
beans = 20 Cal
yoghurt = 80 Cal
oil = 50 Cal

total =448 Cal


Heat 2 litres milk until almost boiling. Add 2 tablespoons natural low fat yoghurt and the juice of 2 lemons. Stir and allow to curdle. The whey should become transparent and a bit yellowish, if it remains white add a bit more lemon juice. Leave it for 5 minutes or so, then pour it into some muslin in a colander. Let it drain for a while, give it a squeeze, and leave it in the fridge overnight to drain some more.

Saag paneer
Cut the paneer into 2cm cubes.
Steam 500g of spinach.
Grate or finely chop some (about a 2cm cube, or whatever you like) root ginger, chop half an onion, a couple of green chillies, and 2 or 3 big cloves of garlic. Then put them in the blender and reduce them to a paste - you might need to add a bit of oil or water so it doesn't all stick to the side of the blender.
Put the onion etc. paste into a pan with a little oil and fry until most of the watery juice has evaporated - by which time it's cooked. Add a cup or so of natural low fat yoghurt, a teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 a cup of water, transfer it to the food processor with the spinach, and whizz the whole lot until it's as smooth as it'll get.
Return it to the pan, add the paneer cubes and heat it up gently. Taste it and add more salt if necessary.

This gives four portions, each of which has about 250 Cal. I've frozen it quite successfully, but you need to be careful when you reheat it because the paneer tends to melt - I quite like it like that though.

Kabocha and bean curry
Steam 1/4 of a kabocha (buttercup) squash until it's only just cooked. Peel it and cut it into 3 cm chunks. You can use any sort of squash or sweet potato, but you want to end up with about 3 cups of chunks.
In as small an amount of oil as you can manage, sautée a teaspoon of black mustard seeds, a teaspoon of cumin seeds, a teaspoon of ground coriander, and a teaspoon of grated ginger. Add a cup of 2 cm chunks of green beans and continue to cook for a few minutes. Then add the chunks of squash and cook a little longer. Add about 1/2 a cup of natural low fat yoghurt and salt to taste. Heat through.

This gives two portions of about 170 Cal. Haven't tried freezing it; I just made it up last night.

Boring shoes today - these are my comfy walking shoes that cost about $20 maybe six years ago. Cool tights though.

I wish I'd bought six pairs of these shoes.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Another salad

Yesterday I bought a short dated "Tuscan" flavoured smoked chicken breast at the supermarket. I cut it into 3 x 100g pieces, froze two of them, and have the other in today's salad lunch.

100 g chicken = 150 Cal
lettuce = 7 Cal
4 cherry tomatoes = 12 Cal
cottage cheese = 40 Cal
1/4 small avocado = 40 Cal
spring onion = 15 Cal
bean sprouts = 15 Cal
1/2 capsicum = 18 Cal
dried fruit = 40 Cal
1 Tbsp Lite Thousand Island dressing = 28 Cal

Total = 365 Cal

Today's supermarket visit took me past the Museum Reserve - Autumn is definitely here.

But I had to wear the walking shoes I brought to work in a bag - these ones I'm wearing at work have four inch heels. Terribly elegant though.

They're my newest shoes, that I bought from Wild Pair's sale a couple of weeks ago. I'd been checking them out every now and then, but $235 was a bit much to pay for shoes that won't get worn often. Then they were reduced to $120 and I couldn't resist.

I have my eyes on some red and black shoes in a new shop that's just opened up. A funny shop - all of the shoes are $125 per pair, or $200 for two. If there was one other lust-after-able shoe in there I'd be tempted.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Salad days

The couple of hundred grams I lost after my big weekend away went back on with interest the week after. The loss was probably from dehydration! Too much beer. Anyway, I lost 800 g (a bit less than 2 lb) in the last week, so the damage wasn't permanent.

Today I have nice healthy slimming salad with hot-smoked salmon.

50 g salmon = 110 Cal
lettuce = 7 Cal
3 cherry tomatoes = 9Cal
1 egg = 88 Cal
1/2 small avocado = 80 Cal
spring onion = 15 Cal
small cucumber = 10 Cal
1/2 capsicum = 18 Cal
1 Tbsp Lite Thousand Island dressing = 28 Cal

Total = 365 Cal

This is the last time I'll be able to wear these shoes I think. I noticed, once I got to work and it was too late to change them, that the rubber is perishing quite badly. They're allowed to though - they're older than I am.

My stepmother bought them in the early 1950s and wore them on board ship when she was travelling from New Zealand back to Scotland. The red bit is a sort of towelling fabric. You can just imagine Ingrid Bergman or some other screen goddess in them can't you? Mum gave them to me in the early 70s, when they were very desirable, being vintage hippie wear. They are now fashionable again - the 1950s version of the gladiator sandal!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Dinner party planning

I've invited 20 people for dinner on the 18th April to celebrate my friend Jo getting her PhD. And I'm going to Australia on the 20th, first thing in the morning. It all requires a bit of forethought and planning.

I'm having four courses and decided to have a sort of Asian tour - the first course will be Japanese nibbles, the second will be Malaysian soups and salads, the main will be Indian curries, and the desserts will be Thai. There will be at least one vegetarian, and another guest who has had a quintuple bypass (despite being thin and fit - bad genes) and eats virtually no saturated fat. And is also allergic to shellfish, now that I think about it.

I can't seat that many people, so it's going to be a buffet. Unless eight of them can't come, in which case we'll sit at the table. Or rather tables - two pushed together.

Most of the food I choose needs to be able to be made ahead and reheated, and I need to keep in mind the number of elements I can use, and the number of pots and pans I have.

My tentative menu goes like this:

Japanese nibblestonkatsu, inari-zushi, tamagoyaki with nori, hamaguri-zushi, oshi-zushi, fukumé-ni (shitake mushrooms, slow cooked in shoyu)
Malaysian soups and saladsprawn laksa, mixed vegetable salad, fish and herb salad, vegetables in mild curry
Indian curriesbutter chicken (love it, must have), lamb kofta, South Indian pepper chicken, beef vindaloo, chickpea curry, spinach dhal, pea and potato bhaji, basmati rice, coriander chutney, mint raita.
Thai dessertsperidot crystal balls, golden haired rice, fresh fruit chunks (melon, pineapple, papaya), mango and coconut rice pudding

The things that need to be made at the last minute are: the coconut rice pudding, the prawn part of the laksa, cooking the veges in the mild curry, the pea & potato bhaji.

Things that can be made well in advance (maybe even frozen) then heated up are: the pepper chicken; beef vindaloo (can be made in slow cooker even); butter chicken; lamb kofta; chickpea curry; spinach dhal; soup part of laksa, and prepping the prawns and veges; mild vege curry sauce; tonkatsu (which I can reheat in the panini press).

The fukumé-ni can be prepared days in advance - it keeps for a couple of weeks apparently.

The basmati rice can be made in the afternoon and reheated in the microwave. Apart from the coconut rice pudding, the desserts are served cold and can be made the night before at least. The sushi things and the shredded cabbage for the tonkatsu need to be prepared lateish in the afternoon.

As far as serving dishes go, the Japanese course will be served on big white plastic trays I bought for a party once, and people can help themselves onto saucers I think - I could use the small plates but then some of them would need washing before the next course. The Malaysian course will be plated in the kitchen and people can choose which dish they want, and share if they want to. It'll be using two big pots and two bowls. The dessert will be done likewise, and will be stored in plastic apart from the medium pot and steamer for the rice. The Indian course will be a help-yourself one, and will need my three white casserole dishes for heating and serving the butter chicken, the lamb kofta, and the pepper chicken. The vindaloo will be in the slow cooker so I'll just need a serving bowl for it - or I could use the slow cooker bowl I suppose, although it won't match. The pea & potato bhaji can be cooked in a wok, while the chickpea curry and spinach dhal are reheating in the pots vacated by the Malaysian course. I have enough non-oven-proof serving dishes for all of these. The rice can be nuked in my big pyrex dish and then served in a wide white bowl.

That's my thinking so far anyway.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Slightly more decorative today

In an attempt to make my lunch look a little more attractive I've sprinkled my lentil salad and poached chicken with tomato quarters and basil leaves. Basil goes really well with lentil salad anyway - I often include it. It got a bit squashed in transit, but it doesn't look too bad I suppose. I chopped the kiwiberry in half so you can see its innards (and to make it fit the box), and I also have the last bit of okonomiyaki and some baked falafels from the freezer.

falafels = 60 Cal
lentil salad = 110 Cal
chicken = 80 Cal
tomatoes = 6 Cal
okonomiyaki = 200 Cal
kiwiberry = 20 Cal

Total = 476 Cal

Getting up there. Yummy though, so worth it.

Silly shoes today. Bought them years ago and never wore them. They have 2 inch shiny gold spike heels and little metal and glass snakes attached to the fronts. Somehow or other they only seemed appropriate with clothes I'd want to wear pantihose with, and of course I can't because of the toe thong bit. They seem to go OK with today's hippie dress though.

I'm hoping the weather stays reasonable; if I want to wear different shoes each day for the next three months or so I'm going to have to get moving with the summery sandals. Mind you, I'm off to Adelaide in a couple of weeks, it should be warmer there - but on the other hand I don't want to be carting a gazzilion pairs of shoes with me.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Fried tofu and a kiwiberry

The other night I had a go at frying my own aburaage. Gathering clues from Maki and Wikipedia, I sliced some firm tofu with my cheese slicer and deep fried it twice - once in 120˚C oil, then again in 200˚C oil. No luck, the hot oil just bubbled through the tiny spaces in the tofu slices, so it didn't puff up. I'm going to try again with silken tofu that I'll slice, then press to turn into firm tofu, then fry. The pressing will make a sort of skin on the outside of each slice, which should keep steam in when it's being fried in the hot oil. I think.

Anyway, I had a bunch of deep fried tofu slices, so I thought I may as well make them edible. I treated them exactly as though they had worked - blanched them to get rid of some oil, then simmered them in seasonings. Today I have one of those slices, which I've further sliced into strips, on top of my lentil salad. I also have some of the vege croquettes I had yesterday; some poached chicken out of the freezer; a cherry tomato; and a kiwiberry. Kiwiberries look like small, hairless, green kiwifruit, and taste like a cross between a kiwifruit and a feijoa.

lentil salad = 110 Cal
tofu = 80 Cal
chicken = 80 Cal
croquettes = 60 Cal
tomato = 3 Cal
kiwiberry = 20 Cal? I'm guessing.

Total = 353 Cal

It's considerably colder today than the weather forecasters predicted, so I'm not really dressed for going for a walk. Hopefully it'll warm up later on.

Here are today's shoes:

About six years old and never worn! And they're actually reasonably comfortable considering that they have a 3 1/2 inch, very narrow, heel. You can just see the bottom of the dressing on my exhaust pipe burn. It's still oozing gunk, but is getting better.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The very last beans, and some croquettes

I think I forgot to post about the croquettes I made the other week. Inspired by this post on the Just Bento forum, I decided to experiment. I quite often make little mini-quiches-without-pastry from whatever veges I have bound with egg and baked in silicone cupcake cases, and I wanted to see what I could do in the way of a croquette. All I did was add some rehydrated (cooked) bulghur wheat to the mashed cooked vegetables (one lot of kabocha and one of carrot and parsnip together), seasoning, and egg, making a stiffer mix that could be formed into croquette shapes. Then I baked them in the oven on a silicon mat until they were set and slightly browned. (Deep frying them would be delicious, but far too fattening of course.) Then I put them in the freezer and forgot about them until last night.

So I have in today's lunch two kabocha and one carrot/parsnip croquettes; lentil salad; the very last beans from the garden; and some salmon I smoked at the weekend which got a bit overdone because I forgot about it while I was doing my housework. It's been in the freezer, and is sort of fluffy. Still yummy, but fluffy is the only way I can describe the texture.

lentil salad = 110 Cal
70 g salmon = 150 Cal
vege croquettes = 45 Cal
beans = 15 Cal

Total = 320 Cal

The shoes for today are grey suede with 3 1/2 inch woodgrain heels and peep toes. This is the third time I've worn them, and I hunted out some extremely aged clothes to go with them - a grey pinstripe skirt and these tights, which are each about 15 - 20 years old.

It says a lot for the efficacy of bento lunches for weight control that I can fit the skirt again.