Could someone fix it so all weekends are long weekends, they’re just better aren’t they? We just spent three nights beside the seaside at a friends beach house (friends with beach houses are amongst the best friends to have). It was one of those fantasy weekends made up of all the best bits of life; breakfasts were long and leisurely, newspapers were read properly (not just looking at the pictures), beaches were walked from start to finish, rock pools were inspected, phones were ignored, wineries were lightened of their load, friends turned up unannounced, G&T’s were made, Twister was played and films were watched from underneath a blanket; I would go as far as to say it felt relaxing, the relaxing I knew PTP (prior to parenting).
A first chance to explore our new surroundings, all explorers need a big stick.
My kind of house; had to show enormous restraint not to take full advantage, I did sniff the whisky but that’s okay
You can’t visit a winery Called Ten Minutes By Tractor and not take it for a spin
Entering a maze that at one point I wasn’t entirely certain we’d get out of
Normal rules go out of the window on holiday
Grocery shopping, country style.
Pretty sure I used to do the same thing; waves are there to be run from when you’re a child
I fell in love with this little veranda, listening to the waves and drinking G&T’s through a stained glass hue
Whale watching might get all of the plaudits but for those of you on a budget you could do worse than afternoon of tadpole spotting.
I hope you all had a lovely long weekend too.
March 10, 2014 | 5 Comments
Have you ever made gnocchi? When they’re good they’re the ultimate comfort food, all fluffy and soft like a good pillow. I made them once before, it was all going swimmingly until I dropped the little suckers in the water and they all turned to mush. If at first you don’t succeed (and if there’s nothing good on telly) try, try, try again. This time I did my research and made sure everything was just as Nonna used to make them.
It’s also a great meal to make with littlies with lots of squashing, squishing, rolling and slicing. One thing I’m realising is that Max is much more likely to eat his dinner if he’s played a part in making it or just the mess that accompanies it. Carrying on the tradition of cooking with him at least once a week we made Gnocchi together last weekend and do you know what, they turned out just fine. It’s not a quick fix, it’s a leisurely afternoon recipe with a bit of music and a glass of wine.
1kg starchy potatoes (Coliban, King Edward, Desiree)
350g plain flour
½ tsp fine salt
Pinch of nutmeg
2 small eggs, beaten
Preheat the oven to 190C and wash the potatoes. Bake the potatoes until completely cooked through. Once they’ve cooled a bit peel off the skin.
Add 250g of flour to a mixing bowl along with ½ tsp fine salt and a pinch of nutmeg. Using a masher and some hand squelching (or ideally a potato ricer) get the mash as lump free as possible, make a well in the centre and add the eggs. Mix together stopping as soon as it comes together into a soft dough (add more flour if necessary).
On a floured surface flatten the dough into a square about 1.5cm thick and divide into 1.5cm-wide strips and roll into sausage shapes.
Lay the ‘sausages’ side by side, and cut them into 1cm-wide segments. Bring a large pan of salt water to the boil, turn down to a simmer and tip in the gnocchi. Stir, then wait for them to rise to the surface and remove.
I served mine with a burnt butter sage and walnut sauce – whack a big chunk of butter (a quarter pack) in a saucepan and cook it until it begins turning brown, be very careful not to burn it. Then add the sage leaves, some crumbled walnuts and a squeeze of lemon and pour over the gnocchi once the sage leaves are crisp. Max opted for baked beans with his. Both worked in their own way.
March 8, 2014 | 4 Comments
When I started this blogging caper I distinctly remember telling Anna I’d be happy to have 100 Facebook likes because to me that meant that someone might read what I was writing, one out of a hundred surely isn’t too much to ask for? I’m delirious to have hit the big 2000, it feels big to me anyhow. I love to write and I’m completely honoured to grab a moment of your hectic lives from time to time. I jokingly promised liker number 2000 a poem in their honour and being a man of my word I’ve (mis)spent my morning trying to find things that rhyme with Alice and Richards because Alice Richards a lovely lady I’ve never actually met ticked that big box for me last night.
This may be the most creepy introduction you’ve ever experienced Alice but here’s a poem just for you called “I’ve Been Waiting For You Alice”
I’ve been waiting for you Alice,
Urgh that sounds totes creepy – I mean you no malice.
I’ve been waiting for you Alice like a lion for its prey,
Or a crafter for the latest copy of Monthly Crochet
I’ve been waiting for you Alice like a prisoner for release,
Or a parent for the “why, why, why” questioning to cease.
I’ve been waiting for you Alice like ‘pregnants’ wait for life,
Or a husband for ‘affection’ from his headache suffering wife.
I’ve been waiting for you Alice like a comet in the sky,
Or a drunken footy fan for a microwave to heat their pie.
I’ve been waiting for you Alice like day waits for night,
Or a chain smoker searching their pockets for a light.
I‘ve been waiting for you Alice like a drought waits for rain,
Or a masochist waits for someone to inflict some pain.
If I could I’d paint you 2000 pictures,
But they’d all be shit so have a poem Alice Richards.
You’ll always be Ms two zero, zero, zero,
Stick around Alice, I’m a Good Fella like Robert De Niro
March 7, 2014 | 4 Comments
The premise is simple; using 1 key ingredient/style of cooking, we put our best dish forward in a blog post and you vote for your favourite.
1. The first rule of Bite Club is that recipes must come in under $20 and feed 4.
2. The second rule of Bite Club is that all recipes must be prepped and cooked in under 1 hour.
3. The third rule of Bite Club is that all recipes must be family friendly; simple, healthy(ish) and delicious.
The ingredient that received the most votes this month was that good old family staple, mince. I’m sure we’ve all had some bland, unappetising, over cooked run ins with mince but when it’s livened up and shown some love it’s delicious. After going through all the dishes that I suspect Max would have looked at with all the enthusiasm of someone who has just trod in dog pooh, I chose something that hopefully ticks the 3 Bite Club Rules.
Lamb Kofte with Fattoush Salad, Griddled Sweet Potato and Tzatziki
Kofte isn’t something I cook every week but when I do cook it I wonder why not; it’s quick, cheap and tasty. It worked perfectly with this simple salad, charred sweet potato and a yoghurt dip and every mouthful delivered a big whack of flavour. Some elements have been simplified or toned down, midweek family meals aren’t always perfect but they can be quick, tasty, healthy and affordable.
Prep and Cooking Time – 45mins
Cost – $19
Serves – 4
Lamb Kofte (serve with tortilla wraps)
1/2 bunch finely chopped parsley
500g lamb mince
50g crushed pistachios
1½ tsp ground cinnamon
1½ tsp ground allspice
½ tsp grated nutmeg
1½ tsp black pepper
1½ tsp salt
1/2 cucumber grated
200g natural yoghurt
1/4 bunch finely chopped parsley
Juice of half a lemon
3 tomatoes chopped
1/2 cucumber chopped
1 tortilla wrap
1/4 bunch parsley leaves
Griddled Sweet Potato
1 Large Sweet Potato
Preheat an oven to 190. Tip the yoghurt into a bowl, squeeze the juice out of the grated cucumber and add to the bowl with the parsley, lemon juice and salt. Start with the Kofte – grate the onions and squeeze out the liquid using your hands. Put in a large bowl with the parsley, lamb, 1/2 the pistachios, spices, salt and mix thoroughly. Mould them evenly around some skewers and bake on an oven tray.
Slice (1cm thick) lengths of sweet potato and boil them until they start to soften, drain and cool under cold water. Check the Koftes and turn once they look cooked on top. Season the sweet potatoes and mix with just enough olive to coat. Add them to a searingly hot griddle pan and turn after 2 minutes or when they look nicely charred.
Take the Koftes out of the oven once cooked and cover in foil. Put the tortilla wrap in the oven for the salad. Add the tomato, cucumber and parsley to a salad bowl and when the wrap is crisp break it over the top, dress with olive oil a squeeze of lemon juice and season.
Plate up the kofte on top of a tortilla wrap, dollop with tzatziki (I like things spicy so I added chillis and sweet chilli sauce which worked a treat) and sprinkle over the remaining pistachios. Serve with the salad, a wedge of lemon and the sweet potato.
Overall it seemed to go down well – Anna has made enquiries as to whether Koftes might become a weekly go to. Max was sold a sausage and chips lie which worked for him, although he did suggest at one point it was a “pooh sausage”, which is a difficult charge to deny – Koftes wouldn’t win any prizes for their good looks. And I got to live out my TV cooking contestant fantasy, I honestly felt like Matt Preston might walk in at any moment and start poking my Kofte.
Over to you now, the judges. Pop over and have a peak at what Beth made and vote for the dish that you would be most likely to sit down and enjoy with your family. We’ll be back next month for Round 2 of Bite Club.
March 5, 2014 | 28 Comments
I love buying books. I love how leisurely book shopping is, the pace of life slows down as soon as you enter a book shop. I love nodding at the hipster staff behind the counter, as if to say “I’m one of you”. I love the act of investing in something that is just for me, something that will be my companion for a few weeks (I like to take my time).
I love looking at the ‘staff picks’ in the hope that one day someone might put 50 Shades of Grey as their pick. I love that my local book shop adheres to the ruling that books must be served in a brown paper bag, them’s the rules. I love bumping into someone I know whilst parading my brown paper package, it makes me feel more intellectual than I actually am.
I love the smell of a crisp book and will fan my face with the flicked pages several times for a full aroma. I love discovering the author’s style and tone in those early pages. I love placing the book neatly on my bedside table in anticipation of an early night with my new bestie
Then my love slowly and predictably starts to unravel. What if it’s shit? What if I don’t share the same taste as the member of staff, who was hiding behind his beard, who recommended the book? I’m on page one and have already had to look up a word in the dictionary, surely not a good sign? What if I’m missing an episode of QI with my favourite panel (David Mitchell, Bill Bailey and Rob Brydon)? How will I fair with 600 pages of teeny tiny font, I find some of Max’s picture books fairly epic in length?
Not all experiences pan out this way, some books grab me and insist I read them hard and fast. The lucky few are usually books that have been recommended by a credible source. I loved the juiciness of The Slap, the tension of Jesper Jones and the exotic nature of the White Tiger. I’m not great at going too far back in time, I like a bit of realism to my fiction and I struggle with slow burners.
And so I turn to you, trusted, beautiful, cultured readers; what have you read recently that was un-putdownable? Which authors bring ‘it’ every time?
March 4, 2014 | 16 Comments
I took Max to a park today that backs onto a secondary school playing field. We were playing one of those games that children are quite adept at inventing; Max plays the role a sleeping dinosaur guarding his egg (a soccer ball) which I’m trying to steal. I’ll make off with the egg and then he chases me, tackles me to the ground and carries out a fairly savage attack, even by dinosaur standards.
“What are they doing Daddy?” I looked up and saw a huddle of excitable schoolboys all cheering as two of their peers fought in the middle. I can’t abide fighting, I’ve always hated it and I’ve never been in a position that I’ve needed to fight. The scene was familiar though, I remember the same circles of excitable boys when I was at school and I’m sure they’ve been making circles for centuries.
There was one big difference though, every boy watching and goading was filming the fight on their smart phone. It’s one thing suffering the indignity of a bloody nose and a few sniggers but it must be quite devastating to know that footage and the indignity gets shared far and wide. As was always the case a tipped off teacher came running over blowing his whistle and shouting indecipherable things at the top of his voice that saw the circle rapidly become a random scattering.
Secondary schools have always been intimidating places to navigate for boys and girls but throwing in a bit of technology and a willingness to use it must make them genuinely frightening. Whilst boys were always gauged on their ability to punch another boy in the face, girls were put through the ringer for any incidents that may or may not have occurred round the back of the bike sheds. I would hazard a guess that both scenarios are still alive and well and presumably shared on a much larger scale.
As a protective parent that will one day pack his boy off to school I wonder if schools should ban phones during school hours, perhaps some do? Presumably they serve no purpose in a school day? Do you have children at secondary school? Are they allowed to take their phones to school? Would you rather they were banned from school? Or maybe it is just the reality of schools today?
March 3, 2014 | 24 Comments
I’ve started cooking with Max once a week. “Daddy can we cook something” has become his catch phrase and he really enjoys it. Cracking eggs, stirring, rolling, squishing, cutting and of course spoon licking are all fair game for the toddler in your life. He loves it and I love that he loves it and someone else will probably love him for it down the track.
Cooking with kids does not look like it does on Pinterest; it’s messier, more chaotic and perhaps less ‘perfect looking’. Surrender any obsessive compulsive inclinations you might have and go with their flow, its okay if the cupcakes aren’t all identical, ignore the shards of eggshell that find their way into the batter, acknowledge that a child covered in flour is quite comical and don’t worry if you’re scones turn out not to be show worthy.
Speaking of scones, last week Max and I whipped up a batch of Sweet Buttermilk Scones that might just have taken out a rosette at a toddler baking show (I’m sure they exist somewhere). Max got all heavy handed with the rolling pin so they were somewhere between a scone and a biscuit, a Scoscuit. They tasted superb fresh from the oven and didn’t actually have much sugar or butter in them until I smeared them with a liberal serving of butter and jam.
This recipe comes from Dan Lepard, a most excellent Australian baker whose recipes always seem to rise to the occasion.
250g plain flour
3 tbsp caster sugar
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
75g buttermilk (or yogurt)
Extra buttermilk and sugar for the top of the scones
Heat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. In a bowl mix the flour, sugar, baking powder and butter, and with your fingertips rub it together so it turns cream-coloured and crumbly.
In a small jug, beat the egg with the buttermilk (or yogurt), then stir this into the flour mixture. Combine until you have a firm ball of dough, then knead lightly for 10 seconds.
Flour a clean surface and the dough and roll out until it is 2cm thick. Use a cutter to get as many scones as you can manage.
Place the scones on a tray lined with baking paper, spacing them a few cm’s apart, brush the tops with extra buttermilk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 15-20 minutes until risen and lightly coloured.
Do you cook with your kids? What tips would you give others to make the experience work enjoyable? What recipes have worked best for you? If you have a picture I’d love to see the end result, either attach in the comments using the landscape icon or #kidsinthekitchenddu and share on your preferred social media.
March 1, 2014 | 11 Comments
So far #HappyHourDDU has been all about the classic cocktails, the tried and tested. This week I thought I’d try one of the new kids on the block. The Melbourne Food and Wine Festival hits town today and plays host to the best cocktail bartenders Australia has to offer. This thirst quenching concoction comes from Sydney’s Bulletin Place and hits just the right spot.
This drink works on so many levels, the Tequila with the salt and lime (sound familiar?), the watermelon and mint and a bitter sweet dash of colour from the Aperol. After making the Margarita and the Aperol Spritz (not to mention a bit of watermelon pilfered form Max’s lunch box) I had everything I needed so it would have been rude not to.
If you only ever take one thing from this blog, let this be it.
30ml Blanco Tequila (substitute for gin, vodka or white rum if tequila doesn’t float your boat)
30ml fresh watermelon juice (just whizz the fruit in a blender)
15ml lime juice
One teaspoon castor sugar
One tablespoon saltwater
Shake all ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker and serve in a tumbler. Garnish with a mint sprig.
If you’re having a little Happy Hour all of your own, I’d love to see what’s in your glass. Take a pic and share on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with #happyhourddu and we can all get merry together. What’s your favourite cocktail? Happy Happy Hour!
February 28, 2014 | 4 Comments