Sunday, December 9, 2012

Long time between posts!

Argh - I've been really bad at posting recently. I've been super busy, with applying for jobs, then getting school reports done, and then just being busy with friends and going out and shopping and and and.... Yeah it's been busy. 

I cooked up a big roast dinner for some of the teachers from my school - that was a messy night! I discovered Madhur Jaffrey's method of cooking a whole chicken, Durban style and it's become my staple method of cooking a whole chook! I don't always slash it, or spice it, or take the skin off (so I totally change it really), but I end up with a juicy delicious chicken no matter what I do! Try it for yourself, it's so easy and awesome. I chucked 2 chickens in the oven with a leg of lamb and cooked them the same way (lamb was studded with garlic and rosemary) and they were both gorgeous. Teachers are hungry and they polished off most of the food (and the wine!).

Anyway, I'm back - for now! 

On the 21st S and I are headed off to Bali for 17 days! Being a teacher I get a lot of holidays, however it's not negotiable when I take them, so S and I don't often get time off together often. This year though, were packing up and heading to Bali - neither of us have been before! I'm really keen to avoid all the drunken, Bintang singlet wearing, obnoxious bogan Aussies that flock there, and so we're avoiding some areas and are heading around the island a little bit!

One of the things I'm really looking forward to, is Christmas dinner at Mozaic, Ubud. This restaurant headed up by Chris Salans has won a number of awards, including being listed #12 in the Miele Top Asian Restaurants in 2011/12, as well as the being in the top #50 of the San Pellegrino Best Restaurants in the World in 2009. Check out the Christmas menu HERE. Would love to hear from anyone who has been here before! 

We also got a tip to head to the Gili islands as well, and upon researching decided that we were definitely going! A bit of island paradise is definitely what we need after this hectic year!

Any Bali tips that we need to know about!? We're staying in Sanur, Ubud, Gili Trawangan, Padang Bai and Seminyak!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Healthy foods, Ottolenghi style

I haven't really been on much of a health kick recently, the exercise has really fallen by the wayside, mostly due to a case of bung legs. Turns out after a couple of expensive trips to the osteopath (including $120 parking fine - City of Perth better spend that well, wankers), it turns out my gluteal muscles aka arse muscles, are not firing {insert fart joke here}. This has caused all kinds of problems from achilles pain, tight and aching calves, and now my lower back is totally rooted. I went to school hopped up on codeine today, and let me tell you, my speech in front of the school about a sports carnival was just gushingly lovely, as was my health class afterwards. I talked. A lot. 

Anyway, without the exercise, I've turned into a bit of a apex predator - eating everything in sight with reckless abandon. This included bowling club priced booze and masses of cake at the Beaufort Bake and Bowls.

But all is not totally lost (the weight sure isn't anyway). I did cook SOME healthy things. I have more healthy things planned too. But not rabbit food, not look-how-alternative-I-can-be-with-my-weird-grains-that-taste-like-wet-cardboard kinda healthy.  

YUMMY healthy food.

Ottolenghi healthy. Plenty.


One night we had Mushroom Ragout with Yoghurt Flatbreads, which was fuggin amazing. Those flatbreads are soft, the dough is easy to make, even easier to work with and when cooked up, but the easiest thing is scooping up bits of tasty grilled mushroom and wine, with swirls of tangy yoghurt and fresh bursts of parsley. Leftover mushies were piled up on buttered toast in the morning and devoured - they kept me going all day (well, until about 10:30 when I went apex predator on some cake I forgot I had).


I also tried the herb stuffed tomatoes, which were Mediterranean in their flavours, salty olives, capers with a bite and surprisingly hearty from the breadcrumbs. I really enjoyed them, and would be great as a starter or as a side to something else - I used some local Gingin Beef mince and cooked it up very simply with basic seasoning and olives in the same pan I  made the stuffing in - it was gorgeous. The best mince I've ever had. 


The highlight though I think was the Quesadillas. These were awesome, and I am planning on making a bunch of these in advance when we go for a bbq, because once they're assembled, all you have to do is grill them. We added chicken to ours, but it's not really necessary. Next time I'm going to amp up the flavours in the beans, and maybe add a tangy, crunchy coleslaw for a bit of a tex mex vibe. Either way, we scoffed them. I made a toasty the next day with the leftovers, and they were still awesome.


You have to have a go at this book. If you're feeling like you're eating yourself outta house and home, the least you can do is eat healthier food. 

I will be eating more outta this book. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Chocolate Chilli Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Icing


Chocolate and chilli is a combination that people either love, or are really skeptical about. I am a lover of this combo, but am so often disappointed that you can't taste any chilli or get any heat. So when I decided to try this combination for myself, I made sure the flavours and heat were there!

I used the chocolate red wine cake recipe, which is an absolute winner, I use that ALL the time now, it's my go to recipe. It's so versatile - if you don't want the red wine in there, use full cream milk instead. You can add all kinds of flavourings to make this batter into whatever kind of cake you like. It works as a cake, or as cupcakes. This time I used mini cupcake tray, which gives me 24 cupcakes (the mix actually yields more than that, I also filled a 12 hole cupcake tray as well!). This is a great recipe for parties because you get so many cupcakes out of it!

Make sure you try the batter before you cook it - if you can get a hint of chilli, then it's perfect. When the cupcakes bake, the cayenne pepper becomes more pronounced - you can taste it, and it's hotter! Don't worry - the icing balances it out perfectly!



Ingredients
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
3/4 cup red wine
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 generous cup plain flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Method

1) Preheat the oven to 160°C, and non stick your tray/prepare patty pans.

2) In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar until it forms ribbons. Add the egg and yolk and beat well, then the red wine and vanilla. At this point, the cake will look a little split, but it's all good, it'll come together!

3) Sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and cayenne together, and add to the wet ingredients. Mix gently until combined, then use a teaspoon to fill the cupcake holes about 2/3 to the top.

4) Place the trays in the middle of the oven for 15 minutes (depends on the size of your trays though!) or until a skewer comes out clean. Allow to cool before icing.

Now, the cream cheese icing... This isn't a recipe. It's just a guideline. I often find cream cheese icing gets really runny. I decided not to follow a recipe and just wing it. It worked.

I used a whole packet of cream cheese, and used my KitchenAid to beat it with about a 2/3 cup of icing sugar until it was sweet enough for me, double cream to take the savoury tang off the cheese, and some full cream milk just to loosen it up a bit (because the double cream was REALLY thick!). I added a heaped tsp of cinnamon as well. Just add these ingredients until you get to a consistency you can work with, whether you're piping or just using a palette knife. Use your instinct. 

I experimented with how I wanted the piping to look, though I'm really not much of a piper. I found out that I pipe slightly to the left! I actually quite like the look of having the stars and swirls mixed up on the stand.


These little cupcakes are perfect for high tea as well, which is handy as that is this months Sweet Adventures Blog Hop theme! Have a look at Delicieux, the host blog for this month!


Sunday, October 7, 2012

Secret Cake Club Perth - Pumpkin cake

We had our last Clandestine Cake Club meeting on Saturday, but there is no need to be sad! Because while this is the end of Clandestine, we have branched out and created the Secret Cake Club Perth! We found that while there is nothing wrong with cake, people were starting to to want to bake more than just cake... as one of our members said, she got a new cookbook recently, and was flicking through it looking for something to bake for a meeting and page after page of gorgeous bakes she still had nothing, because it MUST be cake. Our members are fabulous bakers, and we wanted to give them the opportunity to show off their creativity, and bake the things they like! Coming into summer, having the oven on for 90 minutes does not suit us here in Perth, it's simply too hot. So being able to create other dishes, which require less oven time, or even having things set in the fridge instead is what will work for us! We have a nice new webpage (www.secretcakeclubperth.com), facebook page (www.facebook.com/secretcakeclubperth) AND twitter account (@SCCPerth). So come and have a look at the new thing in Perth!!

After the last meeting, which was retro/childhood cakes, we all needed the month between meetings to get over the sugar coma, which was made worse by the food colouring! The cakes looked amazing, but it's no surprise kids go nuts at parties! So this time we tried to even it out a bit, and we chose vegetables/savoury cakes as the theme! It was probably the best meeting we've had so far, there was such variety, and with the announcement of the NEW cake club, everyone was buzzing with excitement, it was such a social meeting.








I chose to make a pumpkin cake with a chai drizzle. I used the recipe from Delishhh, changed a few things, but not really enough to warrant the recipe being written out again, I just added more ginger and used treacle rather than molasses. I got a perfect looking cake, which was moist and really nice. I really liked it! I would definitely make it again!!



Tha chai drizzle was really easy - I just put a teaspoon of loose chai tea into about a cup of full cream milk, and warmed it up. I then added it slowly to a cup of icing sugar until I got a thick, pouring consistency. Poke some holes in your cake and drizzle it over!


If you'd like to come along to the Secret Cake Club Perth then check our website or Facebook page for the next meeting, or email me on secretcakeclubperth{at}gmail{dot}com, we'd love to have you!



Thursday, October 4, 2012

Barbacoa beef cheeks with green sauce and salsa

I wandered around Stirling Farmers Market on Sunday and headed over to the caravan which always has some great quality meat, and this day was no different. I picked up some chunky beef cheeks for $12, enough to feed quite a few, it was a bargain! I wasn't really that keen on making a stew, it's too wintery for this weather. What could I do with this tough, sinewy cut?

I decided that I would go down the Mexican route, and slow cook the meat, in a heady mix of spices until it was falling apart, and make tacos. Now if tacos aren't summery and vibrant then what is?

I chose this recipe from Food 52 for Barbacoa Beef Cheeks, but adapted it to suit what I have in the cupboard... Looking up Barbacoa, I found out that it's actually a way of cooking meat that originated in the Caribbean and Mexico, and it means to barbeque, usually in a coal pit. Pork cooked this way is called carnitas, which you'll see in many a Mexican restaurant. But interestingly, I found that a typical Mexican barbacoa cooks the meats without any sauces or spices, rather adds them once they're cooked. However there are variations, and the Arawak people, who lived in the Caribbean, are thought to be the first to use this method of cooking, and they add the sauces and spices before cooking as a means to preserve the meat, and this is the method the recipe calls for. It ends up saucy from the cooking juices, and richly spiced, which can be forked apart and piled onto a taco! The recipe includes a teaspoon of instant coffee, which gives the dish a richness and really works together with the smokey characters that the chipotle and smoked paprika give.


It's traditionally served with mole or salsa, and so I decided to have both!

I wanted a tasty, tangy sauce to counter the rich, unctuous (that's a wanky food word, but really, I can't think of another word for it!) meat, and so I threw together a bright green sauce of rocket, spring onions, garlic oil, cumin, chilli, tomato, vinegar and cayenne pepper into the blender. What came out was, to quote Nigel Slater, such a bright tasting sauce. I would have preferred to have lemon/lime instead of vinegar, and garlic instead of garlic oil but some days, you run out of things in the house! Today was one of those days. Room for improvement yes, but it was still great. Isn't that what cooking is about? An experiment here and there, finding out what works and making it better!


The salsa I served it with has got to be one of the simplest sides you can serve. It goes with any meat. Really. Roast beef, grilled fish, or slow roasted barbacoa beef! Slice up a couple of tomatoes, spring onions, and if you like, cucumber. Add a generous pinch of salt to draw out the moisture, and a shlug of white wine vinegar. That's it. It's delicious straight away, or after you let the juices develop into a tangy dressing - I make this aaaall the time! 

This whole meal requires very little effort, just a little forward planning! This cut of meat is cheap and all the ingredients are easy to find, you'll probably have them all already anyway! The chipotle we found at a specialist spice shop at Coventry Market. We served our meal with corn wraps - in hindsight, get something sturdier, like actual tortillas, you need something to hold onto the juicy contents without splitting!!



Barbacoa Beef Cheeks

Ingredients
1kg beef cheeks
4 cloves garlic
1 chipoltle chilli (soaked or zapped in water in the mincrowave)
1 tbsp honey
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 handful fresh rocket
1 tsp instant coffee
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
1 lemon/lime

Method
1) Place all the ingredients aside from the beef and the lemon/lime into a blender/mortar and pestle and mix until you get a loose paste.

2) Trim the beef cheeks of any excess fat and sinew, then marinate the beef, covered, in the paste overnight.

3) Place the beef in an ovenproof dish with all the marinade, and roast slowly  for 5-6 hours on 100C. Make sure you cover the meat up with foil or a lid, otherwise it will dry out. Turn the beef every now and again (not the end of the world though if you can't). You can also use a slow cooker, but I have not tried this.

4) When there is about an hour to go, turn the oven up to about 150C and cook until the meat is tender and the sauce has thickened.

5) Take the meat out and let it rest while you prepare the other sauces etc. When it has cooled slightly, use 2 forks to tear the meat apart and coat generously in the cooking juices. Squeeze the juice of a lemon (to taste) over the meat before serving.

6) Serve with tortillas, mole, salsa, avocado, and some greens.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Death by Chocolate - Clandestine Cake Club

WOW, our little cake club has grown! It started out as just 5 people who like to bake, and now look at it! We've been featured in a bunch of magazines, newspapers and websites, and our numbers are growing! We have some exciting new developments coming up as well, so keep your eyes peeled for announcements!


These were the kind of memories this theme evoked! Dress up party! I was a rockstar! But I look like a drag queen...

Our last meeting had a theme that everyone got excited about! Retro and childhood cakes had a lot of people reaching for the old Womans Weekly Birthday cookbook, myself included! We had some gorgeous cakes that so many people pointed at and shouted out "Hey I had that cake!!", it was so nice to bring back so many memories! I had quite a few cakes from that cook, the most memorable being for my 2nd birthday (though not sure HOW I remembered it, must be one of my earliest memories!) I had the train cake, with the coloured popcorn cargo! I loved it! My Mum went to so much effort for that cake... I was proud as punch, until Andrew Monk came and ripped the smoke stack off it and shoved it in his mouth! I cried, he got in trouble, and cried... I don't remember much past that though! Great party!



















I decided not to do a cake from that book though, and do chocolate. That seems to be my forte - cakes never mess up when they're chocolate in my house! I remember my friend Jemma having sleepovers when we were a bit older, and she always had a death by chocolate cake from the local bakery. We thought it was just the height of over the top amazing cakes, and it was hands down the most delicious option for a cake, ever. Everyone kept peeking under the cardboard lid at it, wondering when we could have at it. This was the cake I would recreate!

I went with my old favourite, the chocolate red wine cake. I made 2, and sandwiched them together with Rachel Khoo's chocolate mousse. I then covered it in ganache, piped mousse, cream, and cocoa nibs. Death by chocolate indeed.

The recipe for the chocolate red wine cake can be found here.

The recipe for the chocolate mousse can be found here.

Here is what I ended up with! A little wonky with the piping, but a decent result!



We were really lucky to have the venue offered to us by Gregory Bruyer, who also happens to be a photographer! He took some gorgeous pics of all our cakes, including the one above.

Have a look at what our awesome bakers came up with!
*NOTE* The following photos are mine, not Gregory's - his are much better!












Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Project 12 - September plans = ACTIVE!

Ok so this month our plan is to do things that one or both of us haven't done before, and we're going to be doing things to keep active!

To start out with, we've signed up for Stampede in the Valley on the 30th September! This was a friends idea for her birthday, and as soon as I mentioned it to S, he was KEEN! Here is what we've gotten ourselves into!

"Stampede in the Valley is a 4km obstacle course style race, held in the Swan Valley, on 30th September 2012, at the picturesque Brookleigh Estate cross country field, competitors will be ‘at one with nature’ while fighting their way through muddy, dirty obstacles. This event is a fun run that is fun, and any average person can complete it! Unlike similar events, we don’t want to challenge just those hardcore tough guy types and exclude everyday people so we have different categories for the tough chics and guys and the ones doing it for fun– this event is all about doing things you haven’t done since primary school!

The event draws from military style obstacle courses, to create a manic, messy experience for competitors. The race begins with a jog through the beautiful countryside of the Swan Valley before reaching the first obstacle. There are thirty obstacles in total, with a distance of 4km across the whole course. There is no time limit on the course, enabling people of all ages and abilities to complete it at their own pace. This race is about enjoyment and having fun rather than breaking any land speed records!"

We've also teamed up with some friends to do the Rotary Ramble, an Amazing Race style event in Perth! It's in October, so doesn't fall within this month, but hey, we've signed up this month! There's nothing wrong with being active all the time! 

It's also been revealed that S has never been canoeing! So that is on the list too! I have canoed, but never in the Swan River, so by technicality, its something I haven't done either! S is also keen to try rock climbing, but we'll see if we can fit it in! This is a busy month!

A friend has also recently sent me info on the HBF Fitness sessions, which, if you're a member of HBF you get access to 48 outdoor fitness sessions, for free! I didn't know that they offered that, and so for me, it's a first! I have never been to group fitness sessions given to me for free by my health insurer lol. If you're not a member you can buy passes to sessions too. Tuesday is yoga, and S has never done it but always wondered what it's like, so he might head on over that session, since they're so close to his work (Langley Park).

On the 14-16th Carolanne and I are headed to Pemberton for the Equilibre Foragers Retreat. It's a weekend away put on by the company who are behind Fitness for Foodies, the best (and most reasonably priced!) outdoor group fitness sessions I've come across! We'll be hiking around Big Brook Dam, having early morning fitness sessions, getting our biological age assessed as well as having a cooking class, and seasonal spring meal cooked for us. It's going to be awesome, and I'm really looking forward to the balance of active/foodie activities that are on offer! 

Overall, this is looking like an ACTIVE month full of firsts! So excited to try out all these new activities!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Project 12

S and I have decided to spice up our lives a bit. Not that there is anything wrong with our lives at all, but we've noticed that on the weekends were at a bit of a loss for something to do, and tend to revert back to doing the same old thing. We eat out a fair bit, we play squash once or twice a week, I go out and play netball, he goes running, I organise the Perth Clandestine Cake Club with a friend... We're not bored, but we could do with something different.

So the other day S came home with a book called "Losing my virginity 52 times" by David Thieck, an Australian guy who decided to do something new, that he had never done before, each week of the year. His suggestion - lets do that! But adapt it, as one new thing a week is a lot! 

So we've decided to make a bit of a theme each month and do AT LEAST one new thing a month, that at least one of us hasn't done before, for a year! Hence the name, Project 12. I'm pretty excited about the possibilities!

So for September, were getting active! We're already reasonably active anyway but it's doing pretty run of the mill stuff. Our aim is to find active things to do in Perth that we've never done before, for all of September!

Any suggestions!?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Citrus cake with marmalade


Some days just call for cake. I don't even eat a lot of cake but I needed to make some anyway. Especially when I see a recipe where I already have everything I need! This was the case with Rachel Khoo's Quatre-quarts aux agrumes, or citrus fruit cake. I had everything except the orange zest. In place of that I had a jar of Maggies Place thick cut 4 fruits marmalade, that I got from my Urban Locavore box. 

This can become something. I think.

It totally did.



A buttery, sweet cake, covered in the contrasting marmalade, which has a touch of sweetness finished off with a kick of bitter orange and a citrus tang! This is a very adult bake, as it is not completely sweet, but sweet enough to know it's cake. To keep it sweet, make a sugar syrup with lemon and rosemary and drown the cake in that instead of the marmalade. Heaven.



I took this to Carolanne's Kitchens 2nd birthday celebrations (I kinda cake crashed! Who brings cake to a birthday party!?) and was happy to see most of it gone! 

Recipe inspired by Rachel Khoo's Quatre-quarts aux agrumes.

Ingredients
4 eggs
250g golden caster sugar
250g plain flour
a pinch of salt
finely grated zest of a lemon + juice
1 tsp baking powder
250g butter, melted and cooled
1 jar of Maggies Place thick cut 4 fruit marmalade (or any brand that is your fave!)

Method
1) Preheat oven to 180C, and prepare your baking tin (original recipe calls for a loaf tin but I used a bundt).

2) Seperate the eggs and in one bowl beat the whites with half the sugar to form soft peaks, in the other bowl, beat the egg yolks with the other half of the sugar, until thick and pale.

3) Gently combine the flour, salt, zest, juice and baking powder with the egg yolk mix and then slowly add the melted butter.

4) Add the egg whites carefully, folding them into the mix until combined.
5) Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

6) Leave the cake to cool in the tin, when it has cooled enough to take it out of the tin, heat your marmalade gently on the stove until it has become pouring consistency. 

7) Prick holes all over the top of your cake, then pour over the marmalade. 

NB The original recipe says the cake cooks in 35-40 minutes, however mine was not NEARLY done by then, and it needed an additional 25-30 minutes. You'll have to use your judgement here, and just keep checking your cake after its been in the oven 40 minutes.



Saturday, August 18, 2012

Savoury cake - Rachel Khoo

My darling bf recently returned from a 2 week trip to England for some family weddings, and tucked away in his bag was a couple of bits and pieces for me! England is SO MUCH cheaper than Australia, and so I managed to snag some great workout clothes, an awesome union jack cushion for the couch and most importantly, Little Paris Kitchen, by Rachel Khoo. What a man! How is this... he knew I didn't have many French cookbooks and so he thought it would make my collection more complete - he also remembered me watching her episodes on YouTube, and knew I liked her. I have found a keeper here ladies!!



Flicking through the book, I loved it. Bookmarking recipes, well, there are A LOT I plan on making. In fact this week is pretty much only recipes from her book - some are involved and fiddly, for a Sunday bake up when you have the time (and will) to potter in the kitchen. Others are so easy they're perfect for a week night meal, which are the ones I'll use this week. Will write more about this book as I use it, as I'm sure I'll use it a fair bit!

So the recipe that popped out for me was the cured sausage, pistachio and prune cake. It's a really unique combination of flavours and it sounded delicious - however I don't have prunes or pistachios in the house, but I do have a jumbo smoked chorizo sausage from Mondos that I got in my Urban Locavore box. Perfect. Rachel mentions that the combo that goes into these savoury cakes can be whatever takes your fancy, or whatever is in your fridge! Serve them with a lightly dressed salad or take them on a picnic. Super versatile.



Heres the recipe - adapted from Rachel Khoo's Little Paris Kitchen.

Smoked chorizo, fetta, and spring onion cake

Ingredients

2 cups plain flour 
15g baking powder
1 smoked chorizo (Mondos was delicious!), diced into rounds and quartered
2 or 3 fat spring onions,  chopped roughly
100g fetta (about half the block, I used danish fetta)
4 eggs
100ml milk
150ml olive oil
3 tbsp plain yoghurt
pinch of salt to taste 
pepper

Method

1) Preheat the oven to 180C and line a square brownie tray with baking paper (a few drops of oil will help the paper stick).

2) In a bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, sausage, and spring onions.

3) In a seperate bowl, whisk the eggs until they are thick and pale in colour.

4) Gradually whisk in the oil, milk, and yoghurt, then add the salt and pepper.

5) Add the crumbled fetta, and fold the mixture together gently, bit by bit. Don't over mix, better to undermix it (you don't want to develop the gluten like you would in a bread recipe, you want a light cake, not a tough one!).

6) Pour the batter into the prepared tin and cook for 25-30minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Leave in the tin to cool.

NB; If you'd rather use a loaf tin (as Rachael's recipe calls for), then bake for 30-40 minutes.



Check out Eating Those Words for another delicious looking take on this recipe!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Recipes I MUST try!

This is a list as much for you readers to see some new recipes, as it is for me, to remember the recipes that have caught my eye and that I want to make! Feel free to add some of your own in the comments section!

There will be more to come!

Recipes
Chocolate self saucing pudding
GUILTY pleasure that its made in about 10 minutes AND cooked in the microwave! Good lord.

Zebra cake
Looks so impressive for so little effort!

Eggless marble cake
A good friend of mine is allergic to eggs, and so she often misses out on cakes! This is unacceptable. I will make this one for her!

Friday, August 10, 2012

You can run!

Even in my days of being in the state basketball squad (not necessarily because I was skilled - not many people tried out, I got in by default), where I was playing sport and swimming almost every day of the week, I have never been a runner. Ever. I struggle to run even a minute or 2. I can play a game of netball without a problem, because I can stop and start all the time, I get a break after a sprint! But tell me just to run as long as I can without stopping - blink and you'll miss it. But I've always WANTED to be able to go running, and like it. Never happened so far though.
I still am not a fabulous runner. However I discovered a program that has really helped me improve my ability to run for longer periods of time, and to cover a respectable distance in a respectable time. For me anyway.
Couch to 5km program/app is what has done it for me. The thing is, you're not expected to run that long. The program works in intervals, you run for 60 seconds and then walk for  90 seconds, and you repeat that for 20 minutes, including a 5 minute walking warm up/cool down. It even SOUNDS less taxing than saying "I'm going for a 3.5km run". Once you've done that 3 times (technically you should do them in a week), you go up a level, and run for a bit longer. Each week the length of time you run increases a bit, and eventually, the walking recovery will decrease.

Why does this work?

For me, it's all mental. If I were to just go out and run, I would feel defeated very quickly. I just can't run that far, and it becomes painfully obvious when you go out that you're just not good at this. C25K tells you to stop and walk. It's not cos you can't do it, this is what the program says. It's challenging, but it's not TOO challenging. You're left feeling like this is a totally achievable amount to run, and it's all over in 30 minutes.

I started to look forward to my runs, and I felt totally energised the following day! Me? A runner? Not yet, but I'm getting there!

The app is free on iPhone and Android - with a paid upgrade to the pro version.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Running away from gazelles.

In another post I have admitted my inability to be a good runner. You may have seen the picture online somewhere outlining what you feel like when you're running, and what you actually look like. That is me.


I'm sure most people will agree that this is funny, and unfortunatley probably true for most people. We feel like a gazelle, but really look more like a shuffling, wobbly, mouthbreather. For a long time this actually bothered me a bit, thinking that the gazelles running past me would be judging me. I often run at Lake Monger and I used to dread running past the part that was parallel with the road because people would see me running, and judge harshly. But then I got over it. I thought to myself, that if anyone actually IS judging me for how I look when I run then that is a much worse reflection on them than me, and who really cares what someone so shallow thinks anyway? They don't matter. But they're really unlikely to be worried about you at all anyway. I also then thought that if they DID think anything, they SHOULD be thinking "good on you" for getting out and running and doing something positive for yourself. And if they're not thinking that, then YOU certainly should be.

I recently went running with a friend who had the same  negative thoughts, and while I totally related to her, I realised how sad it sounded. This wasn't me judging her either, as I have had the exact same thoughts myself. It just sounded different coming from someone else. It sounded sad because you're letting other people you don't even know affect how you feel about yourself. You're letting yourself get stuck in the cycle of caring what strangers think about how you look when you run, which then stops you putting 100% into doing something positive for your health, which then perpetuates the negative feelings because you're not doing anything about how you look, which you're sensitive about.


It's not just you who struggles with the idea of going for a run - it's often the gazelles as well. There are always times when going out for a run is low on the list of things you WANT to do. But the gazelles who look so graceful while they're running have been where you are too. Taking the first step out of the house is sometimes the hardest thing, especially if you're already sensitive about how you  look. You feel like people are going to look at you and think all manner of negative things.

They aren't.

What you think is the most important thing - being proud of yourself for taking the first step, and motivated to make plans to continue taking steps are whats important.

Don't even concern yourself with the gazelles. Lions eat them anyway.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Creamy chicken and cashew curry

My cousin LOVES butter chicken. In fact, as part of my payment plan for her giving me her Kings of Leon tickets, butter chicken and lasagne are the accepted currency. I made her a huge lasagne for when she had some friends coming over, which I'm told she LOVED. She also passed it off as her own, so it was lucky that the friends coming over were her boyfriends, not hers - they would have seen straight through that lie!

This time though my sister organised for us to have a pot luck -  she would being entree, I would make the mains and my cousin would bring dessert. So I decided it had better be butter chicken, as she'd been asking for it for a while, and I still hadn't made it. I used a recipe from taste.com.au and while the recipe was easy, using accessable ingredients and really tasty - a butter chicken it was not. That's why I've not labelled this post as butter chicken, it just didn't taste like it, as good as it was!

This was a delicious, mild curry, I liked the inclusion of ground cashews to thicken the sauce, which is the traditional thickening agent used in butter chicken. It's creamy and rich, and it's easy to increase portions to feed a crowd. I didn't add any chilli to this one, as my family are chilli-phobes, but it would be great with a hit of heat to warm the richness of the sauce.

Next time I think I will change this recipe. The way it is now is great for a quick meal to serve a family or friends when you haven't got loads of time (unless you follow the recipe which tells you to marinate the chicken overnight!). I think this sauce would benefit from being cooked with chicken frames to give them flavour - but grilling the marinated chicken and adding it towards the end of cooking to give more depth of flavour.

Don't be put off by the long list of ingredients - if you already cook curries, you should have most of this in the cupboard anyway!



Creamy chicken and cashew curry
Serves 4 with leftovers

Ingredients
1/2 cup natural yoghurt
1 tbs lemon juice
2 tsp turmeric
3 tsp garam masala
1 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp grated fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1.5kg chicken thigh fillets, chopped
125g cashews, roasted
60g unsalted butter
1 tbs sunflower oil
1 onion, finely chopped/blitzed
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
2 tsp sweet paprika
425g can tomato puree*
3/4 cup chicken stock
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup thickened cream

Serve with Turban Chopsticks Royal Festival Biriyani and naan breads.

Method

1) Combine yoghurt, lemon juice, turmeric, garam masala, chilli, cumin, ginger and garlic in a bowl. Add chicken and stir well. Cover and refrigerate overnight (This is optional, the curry is fine if you do it as far in advance as possible - I marinated it for about 30mins).

2) Place cashews in a food processor. Process until finely ground, and set aside. Since you have the FP out, blitz the onions too.

3) Heat the butter and oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the onion, cardamom, cinnamon and bay leaves and cook until the onion starts to soften. Reduce heat to low, then add chicken and marinade, paprika, tomato puree, tomato paste, half the cashew powder and stock. Simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in cream and cook for a further 10 minutes. Check the sauce, and if it is too runny add more of the cashew powder, and reduce it down a little further.

4) Garnish with whole cashews, chopped coriander (if you don't hate it like I do!) and serve with Turban Chopsticks biriyani.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Awards!





I've been slowly plodding along with my blog for a couple of years now, changing direction, doing my thing and just doing it for myself really - I've also used it to help fundraise for the Cancer Council, and organise events. So even though I've only ever really done this for myself and have my own creative outlet, it's still nice when someone else recognises your work, which is what fellow blogger Michelle from Jarrah Jungle has done by awarding myself and 4 other blogs with the Leibster Blog award!

Liebster is German for "dearest." The purpose of the Liebster Award is to help "newbie" blogs with less that 200 followers get noticed with a sort of sweet "Shout Out" of attention, and likewise, a sort of "Pay It Forward" is included, to help other blogs get due notice and attention.


How it works:

(1)Make a Post about your win putting the award button in your post.
(2)Link back to (& follow)the blogger who nominated you for the award.
(3)Pick five blogs with less than 200 followers that you feel deserving of the Liebster Award, and leave them a comment on their blog to let them know you've nominated them.
(4) Tell the 5 blogs you've chosen to 'Pay It Forward' and 'Share some Blog Love' by following the instructions for 5 more newbie blogs.
(5) Share five random facts about ourselves.



Ok, so here are the 5 random facts about me!


1) I hate coriander. HATE IT! The smell, the taste, both so pungent and nostril invading. It's awful. It's not my fault though, according to science, it's genetic. Ground coriander is delicious. Fresh coriander is the DEVIL!


2) I only have 1 kidney. I was diagnosed with Wilms tumour when I was a new born baby, and my parents were faced with the decision to either remove it, or have me undergo chemo to save it and allow me a life with 2 kidneys. They chose to get rid of it - and I have never had a problem with it! My lone kidney is a ripper, and I reckon it must be huge by now! Life is no different with one kidney, you just have to make sure you play no contact sports because if you get a knock to the kidney and damage it, you have no back up. So far so good, fingers crossed!


3) I have a VERY low tolerance to constant whingers and victims. I very much believe that you must BE the change you want to see, and those who stand around and complain that things aren't as they'd like, but do nothing, give me the shits. Accept who you are, flaws and all - only then can you really take steps toward self improvement.


4) I speak Dutch - I lived in the Netherlands for 2 years as a nanny, and while I was there I learned the language fairly well. It got to a stage where someone knew I had a weird accent but couldn't put their finger on where I was from - they guessed Belgium, where they are native Flemish speakers, a dialect of Dutch. I was stoked they thought I was a native speaker! I love speaking it, it's quite a musical language and they often sound like they're about to laugh mid sentence. Would LOVE to go back, I only left because my visa expired and I couldn't stay, and I was totally gutted - I was in love with the place!


5) I love going home to visit my parents, even though I don't go that often. Aside from going home to see the olds and my dog, Mum and Dad always make me cook dinner, which is awesome, because they give me their wallet and tell me to go shopping. AWESOME! I can make what I want. Mum n Dad love it because they don't have to cook, and I love it because I can cook with a bigger budget than what I'm used to. Bonus!






Here are my 5 fave smaller blogs!


1) Lifes Shiny Pretty Things by Anna Ogilvie. A cute blog about life, goals, travel, love and la dolce vita!


2) Eat Meets West by Bri Whitton. LOVE this blog. Recipes and posts about how good it is to live in Perth. Writes with a voice that is totally hers and it always makes me smile. She also cooks delicious things, I know, I've tried them!


3) Col Panna by Liv Bambola. Recipes that are totally replicable at home, and some fab cakes! Most recipes have step by step instructions, you cannot go wrong! A gorgeous gal with a lovely fella, and a cute dog!


4) Musings of a happy life by Kirstie Fitzgerald. Does pretty much what it says on the box. She writes about stuff she loves, what shes up to, and extra bits and bobs. Its a new find, even though I've been following her on Twitter for a while! Def worth a read!


5) Food Endeavours of the Blue Apocalypse by Ai-Ling Truong. I don't know if she has less than 200 followers or not, I doubt it, she would have more - but she's worth the inclusion. I love this blog because you learn something in every post, they're all really well researched and cover aspects of whatever topic she's writing about that you never thought of. Mostly foodie posts but a few other ones about music and events going on in Perth too! I also think her random facts about herself will be interesting!


So now you guys have to "pay it forward" and follow the 5 steps that I did. Though of course, "have to" is a strong word. I just want to read your random facts :D

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Herbed Lamb with Almond Olive Couscous

This is another recipe that has been inspired by Donna Hay and her book Fast, Fresh, Simple. To be honest, it's not a book that I flick through and find much inspiration from. There are A LOT of recipes in there, they're all really short and it seems a bit impersonal. However when I used Eat Your Books, a website that catalogues your cookbooks and allows you to search for recipes by book/ingredient etc) there were a lot of recipes from the book that appealed to me, and as such I have cooked quite a bit from it! This is another recipe, but I tweaked it a bit as it was a bit TOO simple for me!


Sorry about the phone pic, I had just been for a run and was STARVING!

This is a great post workout meal, as you've got a big hunk of protein sitting on top of a bed of carbs! It's also a great lunch, it'll keep you going for hours! This is so fast, delicious and will leave you feeling satisfied afterwards! You can sub in quinoa or any other similar grain/carb that can soak up flavours.


The quantities will be a bit free n easy - it's really up to you to add as much or as little as you like! You should end up with some couscous leftover for lunch the next day!


Ingredients
2 portions of lamb (whichever you prefer to eat)
3 tbsp oregano or marjoram (dried or fresh - I used dried)
1 cup couscous
Hot stock (enough to cover your couscous about 1-1.5 cups - I used chicken that I made earlier)
Handful of almonds
Handful of green olives (chopped)
Handful of fresh spinach
Lemon wedge
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper


Method
1) Lightly oil your lamb and sprinkle 2 tbsp of your herb over the lamb, and grill them over a high heat to your preferred "doneness".
2) Pour your couscous into a large bowl with the rest of the herbs, and pour over the hot stock. Cover and leave until you are ready to serve.
3) Chop your almonds and olives roughly. When the lamb is done, take it off the heat to rest until everything else is done.
4) Fluff up the couscous with a fork (if you use a spoon it clumps) and add your almonds, olives, and spinach and mix to combine. Add a generous squeeze of lemon, a glug of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
5) Slice up your lamb, pile the couscous onto your plate and place the lamb on top. EAT!