RandomBacon & MargarineFlowers

Food, general thoughts, food…

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And we are back online….Hooray!

So, internet is down, life as I know it has ground to a halt. Can’t work, can’t play, can’t publish. Just washed the dishes for something to do. Decided to write this offline so that it has a chance of being published today, if our net comes back.

It is kind of interesting. What did we all do before the internet? I read the news online 28 times a day, check my face book a couple of times, blog less often than I should, sometimes I get sucked in to the weird portion of YouTube and realise I am watching things I can never again unsee. A lot of the time I play online games and of course I work a bit too. It all requires a server and an internet connection to keep me connected. Even my phone line is digital.

About the only hobby I have that is not entirely dependent on the web is cooking and even then my database of recipes is stored online and I often check recipe websites for new recipes and inspiration when I have particular ingredients to use up. So even then I am not completely disconnected.

Fact is that I enjoy the online environment and the connections that I have to it so I don’t suppose anything will change, just because I am currently experiencing some downtime. However, it is a good opportunity to wash the dishes and do all those odd jobs that I put off because playing on the internet would be much more fun. So here is a recipe from earlier in the week, its good, try it.

Prosciutto chicken drumsticks

8 chicken drumsticks
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tablespoon mustard powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
8 thin slices prosciutto

Use a small sharp knife to cut 2 slashes in the thickest part of each drumstick on both sides.
Place in a glass or ceramic dish.
Add the oil, garlic, mustard powder, cumin and coriander, and turn to coat.
Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes to develop the flavours.
Wrap a slice of prosciutto around the thickest part of each drumstick.
Place, seam-side down, in a roasting pan.
Drizzle with remaining marinade.
Roast in preheated oven for 20-25 minutes or until cooked through.


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An unhappy guest

I went to visit my Nan today, she also had another visitor while I was there. As I sat at the kitchen table reading the news on my mobile phone, she nipped outside to check if the bin man had been. Seconds later I heard a scratch, scratch noise from close to the front door, imagining that it was a sound from outside I kept on reading. When the noise was repeated a second later and plainly came from inside on the carpet, I got up to investigate. Imagine the surprise, for both of us, when I was confronted with a bob tailed goanna, inside the house!

As Nan left the front door she must have unknowingly stepped over this little home invader and having a fright, he bolted for the only opening he could see, the rapidly closing screen door. Once inside he was faced with an unfamiliar and problematic surface to negotiate, carpet, which he had never encountered before and had a nasty habit of grabbing and restraining his sharply clawed toes. Hence the scratch, scratch sound that caught my attention at the get go.

After a brief pause in which we both took stock of our options we simultaneously began to make our moves. I, with a lifetime of training at my Fathers knee, jumping out of cars and rescuing bob tails from becoming flattened road kill as they sunned themselves on the warm bitumen, lunged for the back of his neck. He, with a lifetime of experience dodging large things that have the potential to either eat him, squash him or chop him into a million pieces was more than up to the challenge of dodging an overweight, pedestrian couch potato and dashed underneath the dining table. As chairs began to move in a manner threatening to expose his hiding place, he made a dash for the lounge. That is when he miscalculated badly and instead of stopping under the lounge where I would have had trouble lifting the large and unwieldy furniture and grabbing him by the neck, he kept going and ended up bailed up in the hallway cornered by the bookshelf and the bedroom door.

Thanks to my superior knowledge of the house layout, if not my superior intelligence and/or fitness level, I managed to scramble myself into a position to rescue our clearly out of sorts guest and take him outside to a place more befitting to both his character and preference. Meanwhile he entertained ideas of eating me piecemeal and conveyed the ideas clearly through the use of some very colourful language which I am glad to say, lacking a universal translator, I did not understand. The idea came across clearly though and I think we were both considerably relieved once I found him a nice quiet spot in the garden and managed to deposit him without him twisting around and making good his threats.

I took a picture of him in his more comfortable surroundings to show my husband when I got home and thought I would share it with you. Visiting my Nan can be quite an adventure sometimes as she relives the past in our discussions that range across the years and leave me wondering if I will be as interesting to my grandchildren when I reach her age but they don’t normally include wildlife encounters inside the house. I am glad I was there, I am not sure either of them would have come out of the encounter intact if they had come to loggerheads. Hopefully the bobtail will think twice before dashing through doors in future but the number of them that I have rescued from warm roads in the past suggests that they don’t readily learn from their mistakes and that lessons that do take are almost universally fatal.

At least the two of them are now aware of each other. I am sure Nan will be putting out sliced apples for her new guest and regaling him with stories and friendly chatter if she happens to see him again.

There are worse ways to spend a warm spring day.

Here is a link if you want to know more about bobtails or blue tongue lizards as they are sometimes known.


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Berry Cobbler

Time for sweets! The kitchen was a mess from an earlier baking foray (by persons who shall remain nameless) when the need to bake hit me. Not particularly wanting to clean up trays to bake biscuits on before I even started, I opted for a dessert (then cleaned everything afterwards). I enjoyed this recipe; it was certainly different from the normal cobber recipes that I have tried previously. I will cook it again but try different fruits next time. Berries whilst lovely, can be a bit overpowering for me at times so I would like to experiment with different flavours, I am thinking apricot for a start.

We had this with cream or ice cream depending on preference. The syrup absorbed into the dish completely and as I noted below, I didn’t bother to sugar the top, it was sweet enough for my tastes as it was. The sugar on top would have given the top a caramel crunch which would have been a lovely but over the top edition to something already so sweet.

Berry Cobbler

1 cup butter, divided
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1/3 cup milk, room temperature
2 cups fresh or frozen berries
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons sugar

In a 25cm round or oval baking dish, melt 1/2 cup butter; set aside.
In a saucepan, heat sugar and water until sugar melts; set aside.
Place flour in a mixing bowl; cut in remaining butter until fine crumbs form.
Add milk, stirring with a fork until dough leaves sides of bowl.
Turn out onto a floured surface; knead three or four times.
Roll out to an 20x25cm rectangle 5mm thick.
Spread berries over dough; sprinkle with cinnamon.
Roll up, jelly-roll style. Cut into 5mm thick slices.
Carefully lay slices in baking dish over butter.
Pour sugar syrup around slices (syrup will be absorbed).
Bake at 180C for 45 minutes.
Sprinkle sugar over top and bake 15 minutes more. (I didn’t bother with this step)
Serve warm or cold.

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Bread Bun Chicken Pies

Here is a mushroom heavy work of art. Okay it may not be art (that is subjective) but it’s amazing all the same, cute presentation and fun to eat if you like that kind of thing. I do like that kind of thing, because I don’t do it every day so it’s good to get up close and personal with my food once in a while.

You could substitute any powdered soup mix you like or leave it out entirely and just add some powdered stock for flavour. I had a packet of cream of mushroom left over in the cupboard so that is what I used.

We used the bread excavated from the rolls to dip and soak up the mushroom gravy in the rolls and then enjoyed eating the crunchy roll itself with the inside soaked in gravy and tasty chicken pieces. This was a great meal with only a small amount of preparation and it ended up both tasting and looking really good.

Bread Bun Chicken Pies
Serves 4

4 medium, round bread rolls
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small brown onion, finely chopped
100g button mushrooms, thickly sliced
350g chicken thigh fillets, finely diced
45g packet cream of chicken soup mix
300mls light thickened cream
½ cup milk
½ cup parsley leaves, roughly chopped – optional

Preheat oven to 180ºC. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Slice the top off the bread rolls. Set aside.
Using a teaspoon or fingers, gently remove bread from the inside of the rolls, leaving a 2cm thick crust on base and sides.
Brush inside of rolls and underside of tops with 1 tablespoon of oil.
Place on prepared baking tray. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes or until crisp.
Heat remaining oil in a non stick frying pan over a medium heat.
Add onion and button mushrooms cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until soft.
Add chicken. Stir until well combined.
Cook for 4 minutes or until just cooked.
Sprinkle packet of soup mix over chicken and stir until well combined. Remove pan from heat.
Slowly add cream and milk, stirring constantly.
Return to heat and bring to the boil, stirring constantly.
Reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes or until sauce has thickened.
Stir through parsley if using.
Spoon chicken mixture into prepared bread rolls.
Bake for 5 minutes or until heated through.


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Garlic-Broiled Fish

I will preface this recipe by saying that I am not a cold fish person, nor am I generally a leftover fish person. I will eat fish, I actually enjoy it most of the time but if there is any left it either goes to the husband (whose general aversion to seafood does not extend to fish, thankfully) or to the cats whose love for fish is universal and all encompassing.

Due to unforeseen circumstances that made the consumption of this dish immediately upon cooking impossible I was left with limited choices. My husband wasn’t hungry and I was not really comfortable giving an entire meal to the cats especially considering the garlic component and their natural aversion to things that are particularly pungent, lemony or herby.

I ended up eating a small amount of this fish hot with some rice (also leftovers) and the rest I flaked up and mixed in with the pan juices (lemony, garlicky and herby) and had it cold on hot buttered toast. How good was that? Amazing!

At first I had to overcome my aversion to the idea of what I was eating (all in my head but still difficult to budge), it made it hard to enjoy the first bite or two (the power of your mind to make things unpalatable just because you are unused to them amazes me but it can, thankfully, be overcome). After convincing my brain to shut up and just go with it, it began to realise that this was indeed a fabulous meal, tasty and wholesome, not to mention easy and plentiful. The fact was that it might as well give in because I was going to eat it no matter what.

This became my favourite breakfast/snack/lunch for as long as it lasted in the fridge, I finished the last of it yesterday and was extraordinarily sad to see it go. I am still amazed at how hard it was to get those first few bites down and how much I enjoyed it after I got over my natural(?) aversion to something I would normally not eat. It just goes to show you how strongly your food culture affects you and what you choose to eat. This meal was not even a huge leap into the unknown, not a wild aberration from my normal diet and it was still hard to accept at first. Now almost nothing in my refrigerator is out of question now when it comes to leftover snacking (although I still hate cold sausages).

Time to buy something new to try…

Garlic-Broiled Fish
Serves 4

3 Tbls lemon juice
3 Tbls olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 tsp Tabasco sauce
2 tsp chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup white wine
750g fish fillets

Preheat the oven to 180C
Combine the lemon juice, olive oil and seasonings in a bowl. Marinate the fish in this mixture for at least 30 minutes, or for as long as 6 hours.
Place the fish, skin side down, in a baking pan. Pour the marinade around the fillet.
Pour in wine until the liquid comes 2/3 of the way up the fish.
Cook the fish until done.



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Spice for Rice

Here is a picture, taken at a weird angle, of yet another wonderful South African thing introduced to me by my husband. I am in love with this little spice jar (which is actually a normal shape not as top heavy as it looks here) and the way it takes a pot of plain boiled rice and makes it into an instant side dish with a wonderful flavour.

The knob of butter that I throw in with it probably doesn’t hurt but the ‘Spice for Rice’ is definitely something I will keep in my spice cupboard and replace once it gets low. Something I haven’t tried myself (my husband isn’t a seafood lover) but I think it would go wonderfully with seafood, particularly prawns, mixed into the rice (hence the picture on the front probably)

I love to try new herbs and spices and have an enormous collection in my cupboard. The spice isle in a supermarket is my favourite place to visit while I am there. There is always something new to try and little international grocery stores are my favourite thing of all time to visit and browse the shelves. I love new ingredients and spices are an amazing way to bring new flavours into your cooking. I want to go shopping now just because I am writing about it 🙂

Anyway, today is a good day to try new things, I recommend ‘Robertsons Spice for Rice’ but if you can’t get it where you are, just give something new a go. Take recommendations from people close to you and take a chance. Who knows? You might find a new favourite!

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Fairy Biscuits

Named after a traditional children’s party snack, fairy bread (for those not in the know, white bread, buttered and covered in sprinkles or hundreds and thousands) these were festive and fun for the kids (who had been hounding me all week to cook something sweet). These biscuits were easy to make and quick to cook. They are also easy to eat as evidenced by the fact that they lasted approximately 10 hours and that was only because I crazily insisted that they sleep in between scoffing sessions (it was the school holidays and apparently sleep is optional).

I enjoyed making these, not too sweet and more soft than crunchy; they ended up being brightly coloured and cheerful and quite a nice biscuit.

Fairy Biscuits

250 g butter, softened
1 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
2 tablespoons vanilla essence
3 cups self-raising flour
2 cups hundreds and thousands (I used sprinkles because I had them)

Preheat fan forced oven to 190°C.
Beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
Add eggs and vanilla and mix until combined.
Add flour and mix to form a dough.
Put the hundreds and thousands into a bowl.
Roll mixture into balls and flatten slightly.
Drop one side of the biscuit into sprinkles and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper.
Bake for 15 minutes or until slightly brown on the outside.