Sunday, August 30, 2009

Very elegant new tights

Here are two views of me dressed up to go to Jo's party last night.

I finally had an excuse to wear those very elegant seamed tights. I bought them on the internet from England last year some time. I'm also wearing a new pair of very cheap black satin hidden platform pumps, and trying to do the whole Dita von Teese thing with my low-backed rose-y dress and little cropped red jacket. Not to mention make-up. I hardly ever wear any other than lipstick these days; it takes forever to put on because I can't see without my glasses, and it's very difficult to apply with glasses. This lot took about half an hour to do, and I still wasn't sure it was smooth and even. I ended up un-curling my hair after I took this photo too; I couldn't get it to look sufficiently 1950s-ish with the curling irons. It would only look middle-aged.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Cheese update

Firstly, see what's arrived in the back paddock!

I love lambs, they're so cute and have such sweet wee faces (not that you can see their faces here - too busy sucking Mum dry). It's just a pity they grow into stupid sheep! Mind you, at least I don't feel bad about eating them once they that big.

Today I made parmesan cheese, and, having read up all about the theory of cheese in my new book, devised a horizontal curd cutting tool so I could cut the curds nice and even and small. The tool consists of two steel knitting needles with some cheese-cutting wire tied to the handle ends so the ends are as far apart as the width of my cheese pot when the wire is held taut. I then just hold it at various depths in the pot and rotate the knitting needles around the edge of the pot.

It worked quite well, as you can see here:

Nice small curds.

The blue cheese is starting to go blue - you can see the bloom mostly because my fingerprints are in it! That means the P. roqueforti is still viable. Yay.

I made that little cradle today. It holds the cheese nicely on its side and I can give it its quarter turns without it rolling back again. It's just a couple of bits of board cut out and with holes drilled to hold three bits of dowel. I varnished the board because it's that composite stuff that will disintegrate after a while if it gets wet, but I left the dowel plain, because I don't want the cheese sitting on varnish.

The P. candidum is also alive and well - more so than I expected. I was generous in my dusting of it on the Neufchâtel, and there was quite a thick layer of mould in about half the time that it should have taken. The cheeses are therefore all wrapped up in their paper.

The cheddar is still sitting in its bandages. It hasn't gone mouldy, it hasn't gone rotten (that I can tell, anyway), so hopefully it is quite happily maturing.

Last week's gouda still looks the same as it did last week. It's still drying - seems to be taking a while, but the book did say it'd take two or three weeks before I could wax it.

Friday, August 28, 2009


The weather continues to be unseasonably warm, so the summer shoes are coming out.

These polka-dotted ones were from TradeMe, and about $10.

I need a nice 1950s sort of frock to wear with them - and a hat. Not sure what colour dress - has to be a plain colour I think (today I'm wearing the same plain black knit dress as yesterday), but do I want red? Or white? Or I wonder what they'd look like with the black-and-white dress I made last year? It's a similar type of canvas fabric, but with big (3 inch or so) black TV screen outline shapes on a white background.

Whew, I don't have a lot of work to do today, a bit like this:

It has quite big unstructured pleats at the front and back of the skirt to give fullness (my Adobe Illustrator skills aren't quite equal to drawing them- not quickly anyway) and is quite narrow around the bottom.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Bargain

I bought these Red or Dead shoes a little while ago on TradeMe. They were brand new, and cost $30 as far as I can remember. That's pretty good for shoes that retail at £70 in the UK (~NZ$170).

This is their first outing, and finding something to wear them with was a bit of a mission. It had to be something that suited the shoes, as well as being at least mildly suitable for work. If I worked somewhere different it would have been easier, but I work in a university, where jeans are perfectly acceptable and a posh frock gets questions about whether you are going to funerals or job interviews. As it was, the only thing I could find was a plain black knit just-above-the-knee-length dress that I used to wear out in the evenings sometimes.

I don't think these red soles would go down that well at a funeral:

The most exciting thing I did today though, was order Snow Leopard from the Apple Store. It might even get delivered tomorrow! I bit the bullet and got iLife '09 while I was at it too. More geeky toys to play with.

I almost hope they don't get delivered tomorrow though - I want to make some parmesan cheese at the weekend, I have a party to go to on Saturday night, and I promised I'd make a heap of cupcakes on Sunday for fundraising for the SPCA. New operating system will make me want to stay home and play.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Evil cont'd

This is the other pair of shoes I bought yesterday, the $50 pair:

Down from about $130 as I remember, and probably reduced so heavily because of the colour. I like it though; it matches a coral necklace I have perfectly, and is actually a lot less orange than it looks in this photo - more brick-coloured.

Not nearly as comfortable as yesterday's shoes, though almost exactly the same height.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Pure evil

I should be ashamed of myself. I've been eyeing up these shoes for the past year, waiting for them to get cheaper. They did get cheaper, but only by $50 - they started at $200. So I waited some more, hoping they'd get as cheap as their cream suede sisters, which have $100 off. I have even resisted going into the shop for the last six weeks or so, but today I weakened.

It sort of helped that I'd investigated them on, where I found that they are reduced from US$148.95 to US$127.70 and only available in brown. US$127.70 is the equivalent of NZ$186.50, so I started to think that $150 is actually quite a good deal.

Added to which, another pair of shoes I've had my eye on was down to $50, so I bought both, and figure that an average of $100/pair is pretty good for such cool shoes. Even if they are really high and I won't wear them a great deal. I justify my addiction by thinking my granddaughters will have a lot of fun with my shoes when they're older.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Neufchâtel, Caraway Gouda, and a piggy lunch.

This week I'm making some fresh Neufchâtel for my friend Jo's going away wine and cheese evening next weekend. The recipe makes quite a lot, so I'm testing my six-year-old Penicillium candidum and ageing some of it too. I'm also making some Gouda with caraway seeds in it.

The Neufchâtel takes three days, although you are not doing much, just letting nature take its course most of the time. You start by innoculating the milk and cream mix (4 litres of milk and 700ml cream) with starter culture and a very small amount of rennet, then leave it at warm room temperature overnight. It's winter here, so I took the pot of milk into my bedroom on Friday night, put it on the floor by the heater, stuck a couple of hot water bottles beside it, and wrapped it in a towel. In the morning it was thick and yoghurty as it was supposed to be, so I tipped it into a muslin lined colander and nearly lost the lot down the drain! The holes in the muslin were too big. Luckily I had a bit of fine lawn handy, so I quickly put it under the colander and saved 90% of my cheese mix.

Then I hung it up to drain all of Saturday:

After it had drained all day I took it down, tipped it out into a bowl, rinsed the fabric, and re-wrapped the cheese. I put it in a colander and weighted it down with a 2.5 kg weight and a 2 litre milk bottle full of brine - another 2 kg - and left it to drain more overnight.

While all this draining was going on, I got on with the caraway Gouda. I used 6 litres of milk, and the process is very similar to making cheddar, but you wash the curds by replacing some of the whey with hot water, and you don't cheddar it. The caraway seeds are boiled in water, which is added to the milk at the beginning of the process; the seeds are added just prior to moulding.

Here it is with its second lot of weights:

This is the final set of weights:

I had to use one of my 2.5kg dumbbell weights for the Neufchâtel, so I had to get out yet another heavy cast iron Dutch oven to balance on the cheese! What I have here is four 1.25kg weights directly on the cheese mould follower, then the big Lodge Dutch oven, with three 2.5kg weights piled up in it and four 0.5kg weights arranged around the sides. The smaller oval Dutch oven is balanced on the 2.5kg weights, and both oven lids are sitting on top.

This morning (Sunday) I unwrapped the Neufchâtel, mixed it thoroughly, and divided it into two portions. I divided the larger into three equal portions and moulded each of those into a heart shape in my new little heart mould. Then I sprinkled the outsides with a mixture of salt and aged, but hopefully still viable, P. candidum spores and put them in this box, with a little water in the bottom to provide humidity. They're going to sit in the pantry for a couple of weeks and hopefully get all white and fluffy.

I mixed salt into the smaller portion and moulded it into two hearts, which I wrapped in that special cheese paper and put in the fridge ready to give to Jo for her party. It's very similar to cream cheese when it's fresh, but with less fat. It'll be good as a spread for crackers, with maybe some pepper sprinkled on it or maybe in a pool of that old standby, Thai Sweet Chili Sauce!

I emptied the bottle of brine that was helping to squash the Neufchâtel into a bowl, and unmoulded the Gouda and put it in to soak.

And there it still sits, and will do until I take it out and dry it tonight. After that it needs to air dry for a while, then I'll wax it and age it until Christmas.

Well, I had a fair amount of whey from all that cheesemaking, so I made ricotta again. Not so successfully this time - it didn't want to curdle and I had to add twice as much vinegar as usual. Even then the curds didn't mat, it took forever to drain, and the yield was low. But it was very very smooth, so I made a scrummy mixture with it, some brown sugar, some lemon zest, and some Cointreau, for filling crêpes with.

Then I had to make crêpes for my lunch so I could try it out:

See my cool little crêpe spreader? You can buy them in America for a reasonable amount of money. I ran downstairs a couple of weeks ago and made mine out of a bit of dowel and some wood I cut out using my scroll saw.

Here's the finished dish:

I sprinkled icing sugar over the filled and rolled crêpes then squeezed lemon juice over them.

And because the very last crêpe was more of a pancake (I had too much mixture left for one crêpe but not enough for two) I made a savoury pancake as well:

With fried up Mexican chorizo, grated cheese from the freezer, a bit of left over roast kumara, and some cherry tomatoes. And yes, I did roll it up before I ate it.

It really was a deliciously piggy lunch.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Cool new tights

I hate photos of myself, but I had to post these new tights, and they look silly without the rest of me.

Grey fronts and black backs. As close as I'll ever get to the Chanel two-toned tights which I adore, but would never dream of paying for even if I could find them. US$200+!!!! For tights! ridiculous. These NZ$23 ones will do me fine, though I do wish they had them in cream and black.

I'm not really that fat either - the jersey and dress are baggy.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Science Fair

I spent most of yesterday judging entries by year 7 students (~12 years old) at the Otago School Science Fair. I thought I'd share some with you.

This one was by a girl who is "mostly interested in drama and art and stuff", which I interpreted to mean "hates science", and is just wonderful:

She put a lot of work into gathering data on what her friends and classmates felt was important in a person being popular. Turns out that owning "stuff" (iPods, cellphones, money, etc etc) is important to a fair few boys but not so much to girls, whereas being fashionable is more important to girls. Personality is very important to girls, but not very important to boys at all. Different aspects of personality type, though, are important to different people - some like quiet people, some like rowdy ones, etc etc. Surprise, surprise, looks are important to everyone. She had 5 main popularity markers; looks, talent, personality, fashion, and "stuff". But each of these had 5 - 14 subsections, and she analysed it all on boy/girl lines as well. I was very impressed.

This wee girl decided to find out if eggs were really necessary in muffins:

Her hypothesis was that the muffins would be all crumbly and dry without eggs, so she made two batches of muffins, one with eggs and one without, and tested them out on her classmates. She asked the classmates to identify the eggless muffin, and then asked which muffin they preferred. She also inspected the muffins and noted any differences. The project was very well done, and only experience that a 12 year old just doesn't have would have told her that banana muffins were probably not the best sort for this experiment! The moistness of the bananas seems to have disguised the lack of egg to a large extent, and many of her test subjects couldn't tell which were the eggless muffins! They did rise less than the others though.

Another food-related entry was this one on the effects of different chook food on eggs:

The girl's family has three hens, and she separated them and gave them different diets for three weeks. One hen got wheat, one got mash, and the other got kitchen scraps and was allowed to forage in the garden. Her hypothesis was that the free range hen should have had the nicer eggs, and she collected them all up and took them to school and cooked them for her class to eat at the end of each week! Unfortunately, she forgot to take into account the variability between hens and didn't swap diets around so each hen got one week of each diet, so we can't really rely on her results (the wheat-eating hen had much nicer eggs, but was a less reliable layer), but she recognised this failing and will do better next time.

A new phenomenon has appeared this year - a frighteningly large number of children, when asked "And where did you get this information from?" answered "From Google", and seemed to have no conception of Google being a tool and not a place! And an unfailingly correct place at that. However, we provide feedback to the teachers, so hopefully some effort will be expended to correct this.

And yes, there were boys exhibiting in the fair, and some of them did very well indeed. It just so happened that of the exhibits I judged, most of them were by girls.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Bento prep

I used up a bunch of macaroni and my ricotta today. I pretty much just threw things together, without a proper plan. The ricotta became two things, one of them was little citrus custards like last week (except different) and the other was this pasta thing.

In the bowl is a mixture of ricotta, cooked macaroni tossed in a little butter and parsley, grated cheddar, and egg. The brown stuff is potted meat I made ages ago and froze. I'm having a bit of a clean out - trying to eat what's in the freezer. Anyway, I crumbled the potted meat (the texture changes when you freeze it) and layered it with the cheese-pasta mixture, then baked it.

Here the fruits of today's labours:

In the cupcake cases there are: ricotta citrus custards; macaroni mixed with sautéed Mexican chorizo (also from the freezer) and cheese, then baked; macaroni mixed with some roast kumara and egg and cheese, then baked with a little pesto on top. In the large containers there are roast veges; one has roast kumara and kabocha; the other has roast carrot, parsnip, and beetroot, with pesto mixed in. At the bottom is the potted meat/macaroni/ricotta thing, and beside it there is a small container with some slices of this …

… which I am taking to work tomorrow for people to try. It is my first attempt at prosciutto and I started curing it a year ago. Parts of it are really dried out - I think the pig needed to be a bit fatter - but most of it seems fine! You can see the dried out end on the right.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Blue cheese and new furoshiki

I made some new furoshiki(s? what is the plural?) today. I've been wanting to get a gift for my friend Yoshio's mother, who very kindly forwards shopping on to me from Japan on occasion. I wanted to give her something she'd actually like, rather than something just for the sake of giving a gift, and finally hit on the idea of a New Zealand themed furoshiki. I went off to the quilting shop intending to choose one fabric, but of course I couldn't decide which, so I bought a few small pieces and one large. Here they are, all made up:

The small ones have, left to right, pohutukawa flowers, various native ferns and palms, pukekos, and the Victorian villas that are so common here in Dunedin. The big one (~1 metre square) has Little Blue Penguins on it.

I have decided to give Yoshio's Mum the large one, because I think she'll get more use out of it.

This is today's cheese, just after it'd been put in its mould:

This one is not pressed, but it will compact a fair bit under its own weight. Hopefully, in a few weeks, it will be all blue and mouldy. That's because it has this in it:

The last time I had a bash at cheesemaking you couldn't buy cultures. I received this lot from a place in Auckland that supplies the dairy industry - I emailed them to ask if they could sell a small amount to a hobbyist and the lovely people sent me two free samples - each of which being sufficient for 10,000 litres of milk!

I made ricotta again with the whey, and this time I took the photos I forgot to take last time! BTW, the P. roqueforti won't harm the ricotta - ricotta needs to be eaten well before the mould would have a chance to grow.

This is my cunning gadget for holding the thermometer in the whey as it heats:

Wooden utensils have a multitude of uses.

Here are the curds floating on top of the whey after the vinegar has been added:

And here they are after I scooped them off and into some muslin:

Last week I made spiced citrus custard thingies out of it - they were nice, but I think I'll try to make something different this week. Any suggestions gratefully received! Bento-friendly suggestions even more so.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Caramelised red cabbage and an ape

Ape first.

It's the OUSA's Art Week and there are installations dotted around the campus. This one is particularly striking, as it's right on State Highway 1 - the main road that stretches the length of New Zealand.

Here's a closeup of the ape:

He appears to have been made from the interior parts of the car on which he sits! I rather like him, and hope he finds a permanent home somewhere on campus.

My bridge partner and I went out for dinner before bridge a couple of weeks ago - his wife was away and he couldn't be bothered cooking for himself; typical male. Anyway, we went to a wee café called Café Rue and had a lovely meal. With my starter paté there was a delicious caramellised red cabbage, and the chef was kind enough to give us the recipe when we asked what was in it.

I made a batch at the weekend - it's great stuff, it keeps pretty much forever.

Into a pot went half a red cabbage and an onion (supposed to be red but I only had yellow), a teaspoon of chopped garlic, half a teaspoon of chopped chili, 1/3 cup of cider vinegar, 1/3 cup raw sugar, 1/3 cup ginger wine, and a bit of salt.

I cooked it for a while, cursing myself for not using a bigger pot. Then I put it in my wok and finished cooking it.

I stirred in a 1/2 cup of apple and murtilla jelly (supposed to be redcurrant) and cooked it down until it was toffee-ish.

That's it - it's now in a container in the fridge, and a bit is making its way into my bento box and onto my plate with some regularity.

Caramelised red cabbage and onion

1/2 red cabbage, sliced finely
1 red onion, sliced finely
1 tsp garlic, chopped finely
1/2 tsp fresh chili, chopped finely
1/3 cup raw sugar
1/3 cup cider (or red wine) vinegar
1/3 cup ginger wine
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup redcurrant jelly

Put first eight ingredients into a big pot and cook for 20 mins or so, stirring often.
Add the redcurrant jelly and continue to cook until all the liquid has reduced to a toffee-ish consistency.
Store in fridge. You can use it cold or heat it up. Use it as a condiment or garnish rather than as a vegetable.

It's good with these little things:

Which are somewhere between a meatloaf and a meat patty. In my bentos I slice them and call them loaf.

Tamarillos are ripening in the glasshouse!

And sheep are ripening in the paddock over the back fence:

They were shorn on Saturday, which means lambing is imminent.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Lamb with bulghur pilaf and peach sauce

Paper Chef time again. This time it was peaches, fresh chilis, rosemary, and cous cous. I'm substituting bulghur for the cous cous, as I'm trying to eat a high fibre diet and cous cous, though delicious, is one of my no-nos.

I was a little concerned about combining peaches, chilis and rosemary! They just didn't go together in my head. Much mulling over went on. I finally decided on something with lamb. It goes well with each of the problem ingredients, so I thought that'd be my best bet. I also wanted to make something that would be nice cold in a bento.

I bought a nice wee "mini lamb roast", which is a lamb rump, I'm pretty sure. Ridiculously expensive, anyway, at $30/kg. My little roast was only $6 worth though, and that's not too bad for dinner and lunch.

I started off with the sauce. Peaches are not in season here, so I bought a few dried ones. Also ridiculously expensive; they worked out at about $1 per half! I chopped three peach halves, a small onion, a clove of garlic, and a small red deseeded chili from the freezer into small dice. They went into a pot with 1/2 cup of cider vinegar, 1/2 cup water, 1 heaped tablespoon of brown sugar, and a pinch of salt.

I cooked them for ages, until everything was very soft, adding more water as needed when it started getting dryish, ending up with this:

There's quite a lot of it too. I'll use the leftovers on some pork patties I think.

Here's my wee roast with a stalk of rosemary from the garden:

I salted the meat, and rubbed in a wee bit of finely chopped rosemary - about 1/10 of that stalk. Then I seared the outside of it and put it in a hot oven (~200˚C) for 10 minutes.

It came out looking like this:

I left it to rest.

While the lamb was in the oven I started on a bulghur pilaf.

I fried some sliced onion, a bit more chopped rosemary, and a couple of chopped zucchinis, then added 1/2 cup of coarse bulghur wheat, which I stirred around in the oil a la risotto before adding a cup of vege stock.

Some chopped spinach went on top once it was simmering, and I covered it up and left it to cook.

When it was cooked it was still a bit wet, so I removed the lid and simmered it to evaporate the excess stock, then added salt to taste.

I sliced the lamb and arranged it on top of the pilaf, then put some sauce on top of the lamb.

And did the same in a bento box for tomorrow's lunch - with some extra roast veges from the fridge.

The rosemary is quite subtle, as is the chili. They do seem to work OK together, funnily enough.

Lamb with bulghur pilaf and peach sauce

Serves two dieters, or one normal person


3 dried peach halves
1 small onion (pickling size) finely chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
1 fat red chili, deseeded and chopped finely
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 good tbsp brown sugar
pinch salt
1/2 cup water

200g lamb rump
one small sprig rosemary, finely chopped

olive oil
1 small onion (pickling size) finely sliced
one small sprig rosemary, finely chopped
2 zucchinis, sliced
200g spinach, chopped coarsely
1 cup vege stock
1/2 cup coarse bulghur wheat


Heat the oven to 200˚C

Put all ingredients in a small pot and simmer until well mushed, about an hour. Add more water as needed.

Sweat zucchini, onion, and rosemary in about a tablespoon of olive oil. Add wheat and stir to coat with the oil. Add vege stock and bring to boil, lay spinach on top, cover with lid, turn down heat. Leave to simmer for 10 mins or so until cooked. If all of the stock has not been absorbed, take the lid off and simmer until it has mostly evaporated. Salt to taste.

Salt the outside generously, and rub in the rosemary. Sear all sides in a little oil in a hot frypan. Put in an oven proof dish and place in the hot oven for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave it to reast while you finish the pilaf.

To serve:
Divide the pilaf between two plates. Slice the lamb and arrange on top of the pilaf, then spoon some sauce over the lamb.