Milk Baked Onions

In typical spring fashion, after a few days of bright warm weather, the wind and rain are again rattling the windows. A good day to spend an hour or so curled up on the couch with a book. Today it’s The Kitchen Diaries: A Year in the Kitchen with Nigel Slater. I tend to borrow it from the library once or twice a year, but I think it might be time for my own copy. Flicking through the pages, I was brought to a halt by a gloriously warm and tempting photograph of his Baked Onions with Parmesan and Cream.

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Cheese and cream are off the menu for us, so this is my adaption. The milk will help cut through the onions’ sharpness, and sweeten them as they bake, but feel free to leave it out – they’ll still be lovely and sweet from their long slow cooking time – and use 300 ml of vegetable stock instead. Be careful if it’s salted though. The liquid will cook down and be very concentrated.

Milk Baked Onions

4 medium to large onions
150 ml milk
150 ml vegetable stock
1 Tbsp fresh oregano (or 1 tsp dried leaves – not powdered)
Olive oil

Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Peel onions, but leave them whole. Simmer for 25 minutes. Let cool slightly, then slice in half and nestle them, cut side down, into a baking dish. Sprinkle oregano over the onions, then pour over stock and milk, and drizzle with a little olive oil. Bake in a pre heated over at 180°C (160°C fan forced) for around half an hour, or until golden and sizzling.

We have a good friend coming to stay tonight, so I’ll be making these baked onions along with slow roasted salmon with herbs, grilled eggplant and zucchini ribbons on shredded silverbeet (chard), and a quinoa salad with toasted nuts and seeds. And a generous glass of shiraz to ward off the spring chills.

Nori Seasoning

I have just spent a wonderful day with a very good friend from my university days. We only live 30 minutes away from each other but don’t catch up nearly as often as we’d like. But today! We lunched, and tried on clothes (not a favourite pastime for either of us – changing rooms make us twitchy, but we still had a ball. And I bought TWO things – very rare for me – including my new very favourite dress) and walked around my small town like tourists, and poured over books, and wandered our garden, and drank wine, and swapped recipes. Lovely.
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The day left me feeling warm and sparkly, and a little hungry, so I made this lovely seasoning, which reflects exactly how I feel right now. You can use it to add flavour instead of salt, or sprinkle it on (home made sourdough) toast like I just did.

Nori Seasoning

3 nori sheets (for sushi wrapping)
1 tsp white sesame seeds
1 tsp black sesame seeds
A pinch of red chilli flakes
A tiny pinch of salt

Whizz all ingredients in a food processor until fine and flaky, and store in a cool dry cupboard.

Spring has Sprung

The spring weather might be patchy in our corner of the world, but the blossoms are showering down from the trees, leaf buds are pushing their way out of bare branches and the insect life is buzzing. It’s time to get out into the garden! We neglected our vegetable patch last year, for a variety of reasons, and I’m excited to get back to a level of relative self-sustainability. We’ve cut down a weedy (but enormous!) plum tree that was shadowing our best growing patch, which has given us another couple metres stretch for planting. I’ve dug out as much oxalis as I can, and we’re part way through building a weld mesh fence around the perimeter. One: to keep out the dog, and Two: to support the beans and peas. My hope is that this green fence will also create a cooling environment for the rest of plants in the height of summer.

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All that time digging out tree stumps has made us hungry, and this slice is a perfect energy boost. With just four ingredients, it’s easy to whip up too. While it’s far from fat-free, it’s full of the good stuff, and none of the bad – all nuts and seeds, and a bit of sweetening honey.

Sesame Nut Slice

1 cup mixed nuts (I used cashews and almonds)
1 cup sesame seeds
1 cup honey
1 cup tahini

Mix all ingredients, and scraped into a baking paper lined square cake tin. Bake at 160°C for 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool in pan, then slice into squares.

SesameNutSliceSmall

Victoria Beckham: New York Fashion Week

https://www.facebook.com/victoriabeckham

Victoria reviews her show

It’s a Monday, and Monday for me means actual work (not fun work), HOWEVER I just HAD TO STOP and bring you this. In the wee hours of this morning (Aussie time), Victoria Beckham’s SS14 collection sauntered down the runway at New York Fashion Week (NYFW). And it was amazing!

According to a little statement that the gorgeous Beckham posted on Instagram herself:

www.facebook.com/victoriabeckham

The program

And what followed was brilliant.

Are you with me? Do you love it as much as I do? I just adore the cleanliness of these clothes. They’re elegant, beautiful works of art. And those handbags!! Just amazing. And what about VB’s adorable front row star?

Adorable Harper (and her handsome daddy and Anna Wintour from Vogue) www.facebook.com/victoriabeckham

Adorable Harper (and her handsome daddy and Anna Wintour from Vogue)
http://www.facebook.com/victoriabeckham

And of course, I couldn’t leave without posting the absolute star of the show, the extraordinarily talented Victoria Beckham herself.

Congratulations Victoria x

You can view all the pictures from the show on Victoria’s Facebook page.

 

 

Five things that make me think SPRING!

I was cold. Frozen to the bone even though the heating was set to “Oodnadatta” (Google it).  And I was procrastinating. So of course I came up with the brilliant idea to bring you:

FIVE THINGS I WANT THIS SPRING.

And since I have procrastinated enough already today, let’s get to it, shall we?

ONE: A SCARF

B O R I N G I hear you moan. But wait; let me show you this little piece of deliciousness. Behold, the Alexander McQueen skull scarf.

Alexander McQueen scarf at net-a-porter.com

Available is so many different colour ways there is SURE to be one for you.

Alexander McQueen

I know, it’s more money than you could possibly bring yourself to spend on a square of silk, but … IT HAS SKULLS ON IT. Sold.

If you cannot afford that, then check out this fabulous little offering from our friends at Jeanswest. New for spring this Alexandra Stripe Scarf screams fabulous and at $24.99 is a steal.

Jeanswest scarf

TWO: A CLUTCH BAG

Look at what I found today whilst I was procrastinating working.

Victoria Beckham clutch at net-a-porter.com

This Victoria Beckham clutch is made from leather and calf hair! And it’s RED.

Victoria Beckham clutch at net-a-porter.com

Trust me when I tell you that this style is going to be HUGE this spring/summer. Forget your tote or shoulder bag; it’s going to be all about the clutch. Which frankly sucks if you have any offspring. Anyone with a mini me knows you need all the hands you’ve got.

Can’t afford Victoria Beckham? Then how about this one from Sportsgirl?

Sportsgirl clutch

At $39.95 you can have a little slice of faux hair and faux leather and still be on trend.

THREE: ANKLE BOOTS

Isabel Marant makes these delectable ankle boots  and every day I head over to net-a-porter to see if they have magically become $20 overnight.

Isabel Marant boots at net-a-porter.com

Alas, they haven’t and so I continue to dream a dream of McQueen scarves and Isabel Marant boots …

Like me and love these but can’t afford them? Aha (there’s a pattern emerging here…) you can have these Tony Bianco Sabina boots for the BARGAIN price of $80!!

Tony Bianco boots

They are on sale though, so you would have to act quickly, but it just goes to show you that a little bit of research can yield results!

FOUR: DISTRESSED JEANS

I wore a pair of distressed rag & bone beauties the other day on an outing with my Mum and Dad. Dad turned to Mum and said, “it’s sad that she can’t afford new jeans” … little did he know that I paid good money for those strategically placed holes. Distressed denim is EVERYWHERE at the moment. So I say, don’t fight it embrace it!

I love these rag & bone distressed skinny leg jeans.

rag & bone jeans at net-a-porter.com

They’re holey, but not falling apart. There’s room there for your own personalisation.

And of course, if you’re on the high street, these jeans from Jeanswest at $89.99 are perfect.

Jeanswest jeans

I’m a regular jeans shopper at Jeanswest. They have all the latest looks at unbeatable prices, plus as a big chain store there’s often a sale around the corner where you can pick up your denim for even less. This is particularly handy when buying seasonal denim, as you haven’t made such a huge investment on something that may be off trend in a season.

As a side note, boyfriend jeans are back again this season. I’m not a fan of them, so I won’t be endorsing them, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get out there and try a pair on. I’m just not going to …

FIVE: SHORTS

Oh. Em. Gee. I love shorts. I’m going to jump straight in and show you this pair that I bought last week.

Sportsgirl shorts

You’ll have to excuse me, but whilst collating the information for this post I just discovered that these Sportsgirl shorts come in red and emerald too (I bought them in black)!!! I absolutely cannot wait to bring these puppies out. Team them with a pair of ankle boots and a t-shirt and blazer and BOOM. Instant street appeal.

Why not step it up a level and get some distressed denim shorts like these from rag & bone?

rag & bone shorts at net-a-porter.com

Or do what I am going to do, and take to an old pair of bootleg jeans with scissors and rip them up yourself! You can even find tutorials on YouTube for this.

Now I am going to warm up some homemade cauliflower soup (Lorena would be so proud of me – she’d be even prouder if I made the bread to go with it though …) and read all the delightful September issue glossies I have bought this week and dream of warmer days.

Heroes – Victoria Beckham

I never was a Spice Girl fan. Many of my friends fawned over them and screamed in delight whenever their songs came on the radio, but to me they were always just a little bit, meh.

I am, however, a HUGE Victoria Beckham fan. So much so that it almost pains me to make a reference to her as a Spice Girl because to me, Victoria Beckham the designer, businesswoman, wife and mother makes her so very much more than being a Spice Girl ever did.

I remember being somewhat suspicious of Beckham when she launched her own fashion house, as I’m sure many of you are when you see her name beside the word hero. As the years have passed I’ve grown to admire and indeed love and covet her creations with each passing season. Recently I saw an interview with British Vogue and the deal was sealed. Victoria Beckham hit my hero list.

At 45 minutes long, it is not the shortest clip on YouTube, but I assure you that it is worth it. Any preconceived ideas you have about Beckham may fall by the wayside. At one point, after being referred to as a control freak, Beckham exclaims, “I’m nice! I am nice! Everyone thinks I’m going to be such a cow, they really do. I get it – because I think the same when I see the pictures.” It’s so true, never judge a book by its cover.

Victoria Beckham has worked hard to rise to where she is today. Sure, being married to a very wealthy football star has certainly helped no doubt, but did you know that the Victoria Beckham label was self-funded? No, neither did I. Each step of the way, each time her clothing line has grown, it’s been her own money used in production.

Victoria Beckham’s elegant and clean lines do not come cheap, and I am in no way endorsing her brand as an everyday addition to your wardrobe, but as a person who views a lot of couture as art, I have on my wish list a Victoria Beckham handbag – maybe for my 40th (subtle hint, dear husband).

The Victoria leather tote

The Victoria leather tote
http://www.net-a-porter.com

Her clothes are designed to make a woman feel confident and beautiful. As she says herself, she wants “someone to feel good from a 360 degree angle.” Words reminiscent of Lee Alexander McQueen who said he designed from the side, “that way I get a cut and proportion and silhouette that works all the way round the body”. Smart. And as her main line is all hand made in London, you can appreciate that it’s going to be more expensive. We face the same challenges here in Australia. To buy locally made, you need to understand that it’s going to cost more. And be prepared to pay for it. I’m a huge fan of and believer in shopping locally.

As a working mother Beckham is no stranger to that delightful “mother guilt” that comes the moment you deliver your baby and stays with you no doubt for your entire life. You can tell that she strives to find a balance and admits to it being difficult. As her son Brooklyn watches on at one point she chides him affectionately for being, “a fourteen year old who refuses to go to bed, Brooklyn…” She’s delightful to listen to.

But apart from her obvious brilliance when it comes to styling, designing and running a successful business whilst still maintaining a long and happy marriage and four children, the thing that I love the most about Beckham was revealed right at the end of the interview. And whilst I still urge you to find 45 minutes to watch it, I’ll let you in on it – Victoria Beckham loves women. When asked who her fashion role models were growing up, Victoria’s was (as is my own) her mother. She credits her for being not only stylish, but for having a long marriage and for raising three children. She then went on to say: “I really love women. I want to make women feel good about themselves. I want them to feel empowered and confident and beautiful”. Later she reveals something that I have thought for a very long time (and cemented my girl crush forever):

“I think there needs to be more women supporting women”.

Amen.

Victoria Beckham wearing Victoria Beckham https://www.facebook.com/victoriabeckham

Victoria Beckham wearing Victoria Beckham
https://www.facebook.com/victoriabeckham

Lastly, Beckham leaves us with her advice for anyone wanting to get into the fashion world. Start from the bottom and work your way up. Work long hours and work hard. And most of all be passionate about what you do. Honest words from an honest to goodness woman.

Thank you Victoria Beckham.

Home Made Goat Cheese: a Cheat’s Guide

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I tried to make goat milk feta once upon a time, and it failed miserably. Dry, chalky and lacking in flavour, it put me off trying again for a long time. I adore chèvre, a soft goat cheese, and am happy to buy it regularly – see my obsessions post on goat cheese. However I do often think how much I would like to try making it again.

One thing I do make at least once a week is yogurt, and I often drain some of it to make labna. If I’m organised (rarely) I then roll it into little balls and marinate it in olive oil with rosemary and garlic. Not long ago I was fishing a cube of delicious Meridith goat cheese out of the jar (certainly not with the intention of eating it off the fork) where it was marinating in olive oil, thyme and peppercorns…. and I bet you can guess where this is going…

This is obviously not a true cheese, and I hesitate to call it that, but the process of making yoghurt and cheese are similar. Cheese is made by separating the fats and proteins of milk from the whey with an acid, while coagulating it with (good!) bacterial culture. Yogurt uses culture to coagulate, or set, the milk, then in the case of labna, the whey is drained off later. So, close enough I say.

This version will of course taste a little different to ‘real’ cheese – it has a yoghurty tang rather than a cheesy saltiness, but it is creamy, thick, and most importantly, has that special goaty taste.

First make your yoghurt. For years I’ve used a commercial yoghurt maker that uses hot water and thermal mass to bring cold milk to temperature and keep it there. I found it wasn’t terribly reliable, often yielded thin yoghurt, and was often plagued with contamination and a plastic taste. Watching a friend make yoghurt the traditional way recently, inspired me to buckle down and do it properly again. But if you have a preferred yoghurt making method, go for it. Or, skip this step and buy some goat milk yogurt at the shop. I won’t tell.

Goat Milk Yoghurt

1 litre goat milk
1/4 cup real Greek yoghurt

Heat your milk in a saucepan or microwave until nearly simmering. It needs to reach this high temperature to kill off the existing bacteria in the milk, so that the yoghurt bacteria can get in and do their good work. If you don’t ramp up the heat enough, the yoghurt bacteria will have to battle it out for space, and you’ll end up with thin yoghurt. Let the milk cool to between 41 and 48 degrees Celcius. Or, just warmer than skin temperature. It should feel pleasurably warm if you dip a finger in, neither hot or insipid. Scoop out a cup of milk, mix with the yoghurt, and return it to the bowl. Keep at a steady temperature, again between 41 and 48 degrees Celcius, for 6-8 hours. I use my oven set to its lowest temperature, with a thermometer on the rack to avoid accidental overheating. You could also tuck it under a wood stove, or in an esky partly filled with warm water – you made need to replace the water a few times. Or use a yoghurt warmer if you have one!

Goat Milk ‘Cheese”, or Labna

This is the easy bit! Line a colander with four layers of cheesecloth. Goat yoghurt is naturally thinner than the greek yoghurt I usually use, and you only want the whey to escape through the mesh. Carefully scoop the yoghurt into the lined colander. Bring the corners of the cheesecloth up and tie a knot, ‘sealing’ the yoghurt inside. You can then either leave it in the colander or hang into over a bowl or pot to drain for a few hours (up to 24 if you’re really patient!), or until it stops dripping. Remember, the longer it drains, the firmer it will be. Give it a very gentle squeeze now and then to feel how it’s going. Once your cheese has reached your desired consistancy, roll it carefully out of the cloth and into a bowl.

GoatYoghurtCheese2

Here are a few ideas of what you can do next:

  • Eat it now, just as it is.
  • Scatter with fresh chopped herbs and serve with crackers, etc.
  • Roll into small balls and drop them into a jar with olive oil. Flavour with rosemary, thyme, peppercorns, garlic… Just make sure you add the cheese to the oil. if you put the cheese into the jar first, they’ll stick together.

Chocolate Spread

The food posts have been pretty healthy around here lately. It’s time to balance the scales. Or, tip them…

My daughters love that ubiquitous chocolate hazelnut spread (you know what I’m talking about), and see it as a small tragedy that, on the odd occasion that I buy it for them, they’re not allowed to eat it in their school lunches due to nut restrictions. So, consider their elation on returning from school to find a jar of the following sitting on the kitchen bench, along with a freshly baked loaf of bread. It’s almost like the real thing: sweet and chocolaty, but without any of that pesky nutritional content!

ChocSpread

Chocolate Spread

1 cup full cream milk powder
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 Tbs vegetable oil (I use rice bran oil)
1/4 cup water 

Whisk dry ingredients together, add wet ingredients, and stir til well mixed. The mixture will firm up over the next hour or so, so feel free to add a little more water if it gets crumbly and hard to spread.

You could also add some flavours (peppermint essence, or some chilli powder), roll the mixture into balls, firm it up in the fridge, then dip in melted chocolate and allow to set.

ChocSpread2

ChocSpread3

The Onesie.

Remember those trends that you religiously followed even though you knew they were ridiculous? If you’re a child of the 80’s you’ll remember acid wash jeans, in fluoro colours too if you were out there (I was, I had fluoro pink acid wash denim shorts…). In the 90’s remember HyperColour tees? T-shirts that changed colour as you got hotter. My boyfriend at the time had one. He wore it in summer a lot. Needless to say – GROSS. Underarm hypercolour sweat patches anyone? My point is this – some trends once you’ve lived them, you’ll never repeat.

When I was a baby, I wore Onesies. My babies wore onesies too.

Me and my Sophie. She’s wearing a onesie. She looks so cute! Because she’s, you know, a BABY.

They are so so so so cute. On a baby. I’ve been there once; I never need to repeat that particular fashion choice again. BUT. It appears there is a whole new world of people that are embracing this trend, making themselves look utterly ridiculous in the process.

Yep.

Just your average Friday night at the local Chippie.

As you know, I am a firm believer in choosing what suits you and wearing what makes you feel awesome. Can you honestly say to me, that that rabbit themed onesies you are wearing to buy your loaf of bread is making you feel awesome? Or how about this trio I snapped at my local chippie one Friday night. I’m not sure they realize how utterly ridiculous they looked dressed as giraffes and dogs on their skateboards. Or maybe that’s just it. They’re embracing ridiculousness and taking it to a whole new level.

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You too can own a Onesie.
http://www.theiconic.com.au

So what about fashion onesies? Check out any high street labels right now and I guarantee there’s a onesie somewhere in their repertoire. I’m not loving this sleepwear as daywear trend, and unless you look like Giselle, Heidi or Miranda chances are you won’t look that epic in a onesie. In five years time, when you look back at a picture of yourself wearing a onesie you’ll be all kinds of headdesk. Trust me – I saw a picture of myself wearing acid wash cut off denim shorts with a black tee and a waistcoat, complete with slicked back hair with a freaky flat fringe dealy happening – it wasn’t pretty.

So tell me – the onesie. Love it or hate it? And if you love it, and you own one, I’d love to see a picture of you embracing it!

 

Quick and Dirty Kimchi

I’m a bit late to get on board the Kimchi bandwagon, but better late than never I say. I call this a quick and dirty version because it takes no more than ten minutes work all up (though it does take a bit of waiting between steps), and it’s far from authentic – using a blend of chilli powder, flakes and paprika in an attempt to come close to the sweet and smoky depth of flavour of traditional korean chilli powder (guchugaru).

Kimchi1

Kimchi

1 wombok (aka napa cabbage, chinese cabbage)
1 cup water
1/4 cup salt

4 spring onions
1 small red onion

Spice paste:
2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
2 Tbs fish sauce
1 Tbs sugar
2 Tbs chilli powder
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/2 tsp smoked paprika

Peel the outer leaves from the wombok, then split lengthwise.  Cut each half into four long wedges (lengthwise still) then cut across into ‘square’ pieces. Mix together the water and salt, then toss with the cabbage in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. Leave, covered for at least a few hours, until the cabbage is looking wilted. I left mine overnight. Rinse well and drain. You might want to taste for saltiness and rinse again, or even soak in some clean water for a few minutes, especially if you’ve left it for a long time like I did. You want the cabbage somewhat salty, but not so much that it shrivels your tongue like a raisin.

While the cabbage is draining, mix together the spice paste. Return cabbage to the rinsed out bowl, add the spice paste, then mix thoroughly. If you don’t mind smelling of garlic and fish sauce for the rest of the day, get your hands in and rub the paste into the cabbage. Transfer to glass jars, and leave on the kitchen bench for up to 48 hours to begin the fermentation process. You can eat your kimchi now, or store in the fridge for a few months. It will keep fermenting slowly over time, and the flavour will develop and deepen. And, to be honest, I started nibbling as soon as the kimchi was mixed and in jars, and it was delicious then too.

Kimchi2

I first made this batch without the chilli flakes and paprika. The flavours are lovely and bright, and still spicy. I saved a small jar and added the extras to the rest of the batch. Including the paprika gives it a little more depth – feel free to try both and play with proportions. You know your tastebuds best.