Tag Archive: cooking


Eating Sleeping Breathing Soap

This is what happened when I learned to cook. I remember it. I was 19 years old and sharing a flat with my childhood friend. One day, on my day off, a chef I worked with came over and I cooked him baked beans on toast for lunch. On a day soon after that, he taught me how to make mushroom sauce for steak. I liked it but I decided that for my own taste, I wanted to tweak the recipe and so, the next time I cooked, that’s what I did. So began a lifetime of making food according to what I think tastes good, rather that following someone else’s recipes.

There were some disasters along the way but overall, the enthusiasm and feelings of creativity have meant that there have been more successes than failures. And I love it. It’s relaxing, therapeutic, colourful and calming. It’s also exciting and thrilling to take beautiful, fresh foods and assemble them into a cohesive, tastebud-tingling meal.

Speaking of food. At my dreaded weigh in last week, I had indeed put on rather than lost but it was less than I’d been afraid of. 1.5kg over a period of three weeks. There’s more to say about that but I’m not sure what it is yet, so I’ll come back to it.

The same sort of ‘awakening’ as happened with cooking has happened with soap making. It’s such a simply fulfilling, nurturing, creative thing to do. It speaks to nourishment of a different kind and at the end of it, there’s no danger of me eating the result πŸ™‚

I’ve been experimenting with natural colours and scents, shapes, sizes, recipes. I’ve included local honey and beeswax in some. Avocado oil or Macadamia oil in others. I’ve learned how to use a lye calculator and which oils will create which properties in my soaps. I’m just at the beginning of learning but I have three new recipes so far and each batch of those has different additions. Sometimes tea leaves, or cocoa, or indigo or salts, sometimes infused oils or clays. I have new box of beautiful essential oils and lots of silicone molds. I write a journal, detailing each soap; the recipe, what I added, how it turned out…and when it’s cured, I’ll go back to each and document the way they feel on my skin and on the skins of my family and the few friends I’ve given some to.

The corner of my kitchen, furthest from the space where I make food, is filled with ingredients for soap. Jars of oils being infused with calendula, rosemary, turmeric, thyme and other things, sit on my window sill, warmed during the day, by the gentle sunlight refracting from the glass. pots of clay, paper bags filled with dried flowers. In my study there are drying racks filled with beautiful bars of mildly scented soap and the haul from the second hand shops I visited today. It all feels so grounding.

I’m barely using moisturiser any more, despite it being winter. My skin is loving these moisture-rich soaps.

I hadn’t realised that commercial soap makers take the glycerin from their soap and sell it to cosmetics manufacturers. Essentially, this means that we wash our skin with detergent and then add the moisturisers later. That’s crazy! There’s something so….earthy and authentic and just….good about using something that only contains ingredients that I recognise.

As when I was learning to cook, there have been a few mishaps. Like the most recent salt soap, coloured a soft green with a teaspoon of indigo powder and swirled with clay. It should have been gorgeous and it is…but I left it too long before I cut it and it crumbled into pieces when I tried. The next few days will be ultra busy at work but as soon as I have the chance, I’m going to try that recipe again and make it work this time. πŸ™‚

 

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Burnt Quiche

Today had all the potential to be ‘one of those days’ and yet it wasn’t. It started with a sleep-in, which was pretty lovely, then Zac and I joined Andy and Sam, at a game in which Sam was playing. He got a goal, which was great and we were really proud. Picture us beaming.

I discovered that an old friend of mine was visiting in a town 45 minutes north of us (it was on FB you know) and arranged to drive up for a visit. I left my family and started driving, rounded a bend and realised two things at the same time. One, that I was over the speed limit and two, that there was a police car on the other side of the road, whose lights were now flashing.

I pulled over, took out my driving license and waited, stomach clenched, for him to come to my window. He was quite nice about it really but still, suddenly owing hundreds of dollars to the council was a less than auspicious beginning. He went back to his car, I put my seat belt on and prepared to drive away but the battery was dead…..

So I called Andy, who came immediately, kids in tow, to jump-start the car. In twenty minutes it was done and I kissed them all, thanked them and kept going. Incidentally, my friend’s response to me texting to say I’d be late, with a harried explanation, was an “okay, breathe”, which reminded me immediately of why I like her so much, despite not having seen much of her since we were kids.

I had joked about getting lost on the way, which turned out to be prophetic. Even with my trusty talking phone giving me directions, I ended up inexplicably describing a large circle through farmland, which wasn’t where I was aiming at all. I couldn’t be too upset about it though because…well, look….

 

Left

LeftΒ 

Right

Right

 

We did get to meet in the end though and it was good. It was an easy visit and I left feeling enriched by the conversation.

I had planned to make roast beef for dinner but by the time I got home, it was too late for that, so I decided to use the last of the cream from last night’s dessert and make a Quiche Lorraine instead. I had some nice bacon and some fresh free-range eggs, a couple of sheets of pre-made short-crust frozen pastry, an onion and some cheddar, a little garlic. Easy. I had visions of a puffy, tremblingly custardy quiche, dotted with crispy bacon pieces and some chopped spinach and parsely. It was going to be fabulous.

I pottered about the kitchen, looking up now and then at my family, engaged in various leisure activities, warm and comfortable. It was a nice evening. Then, quiche in the oven, I sat down to talk with Zac and got completely engrossed. So much that I didn’t quite realise how much time had gone by, and the gloriousness of the quiche was reduced to a flattish-looking, brown pancake-y thing.

This isn't what it was supposed to look like at all!

This isn’t what it was supposed to look like at all!

 

Still, it tasted okay and Andy and the boys wolfed it down like starving things, so I wasn’t too upset after all. πŸ™‚

Later, the guinea pigs got out, to Zac’s great distress and there was a huge amount of running around, trying to collect them up without scaring them to death. They were caught in the end, and put safely back in their play area, with a chopped carrot to help them feel better but by then, Zac, who has never had hayfever as far as I remember, had spots and swollen eyes and the sneezes.

So he had to be hustled to the shower, still crying, then given anti-histamine to make him comfortable again. The upside is that, as I write this, he is snuggled, sleeping, next to me and all feels right with the world after all.

Good night πŸ™‚

Legs Like a Lamb

Have you ever seen a newborn lamb? Or maybe a calf? Come to think of it, any of those newborn creatures that lift themselves delicately to their feet so early and totter, fall, stand again. Determined but oh so tender and wobbly?

 

Like this....

Like this….

That was me today, after yesterday’s walk and this morning’s gym workout. Oh it felt wonderful at first but half an hour after leaving the gym, I sat down. Standing, for the rest of the day, became one of those faintly farcical manoeuvres, done carefully and with much thought, until my muscles warmed sufficiently to get me to the next place.

I know it’s just a function of exercise and I drank water and stretched and all those good things but I still made those little noises every time I stood up. Somehow, it mitigates the pain. I don’t know, don’t ask. πŸ™‚

Anyway…. at the gym today, they were doing sign-ups for a challenge and before I even knew what it was about, I signed up. Nothing like throwing myself in at the deep end for getting me going again… Turns out, it’s a month long challenge, weigh-ins every week, the aim of which is to lose 5 kilos. I forget what the prize is, nothing very full on but there was a buzz in the gym and it added to the general air of fun and positivity. While I was doing the circuit, I found myself working just that little bit harder than usual, which of course is the point.

And so to tonight’s dinner. Another simple dish tonight. Chicken breast fillet, butterflied, or whatever that cut is where you slice it as though you’re opening an envelope. Served with steamed broccoli, carrot and potato and a tomato sauce. I used garlic salt and a little olive oil to cook the chicken and it was savoury and gooood.

 

 

Day 2 Chicken and veg

Day 2 Chicken and veg

 

 

 

 

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Travelling and eating

Two of my favourite things πŸ™‚

This time to a sports event, which will take us out of town for a few days and this time, Zac and I will be foraging for ourselves. I’m also giving my love of cooking free reign as I make things for Andy to eat while we’re not here.

Dishes I won’t make when I’m going to be eating too, or just delicious, aromatic things that satisfy an urge when they’re sizzling, or stewing, or crisping. Getting lost in flavours and textures, smells and the visual pleasures of working with food.

So far there’s a soft, salty, sharply cheesy Bacon and Chicken Pasta, packed into a container for the fridge. Then a thick, rich tomatoe-y Moroccan Lamb, redolent with spices, to be served with a portion of soft buttery couscous.

What else? Oh, next will come a silky peanut-y Thai Chicken Satay, savoury with just a hint of chilli and sweetness, topped with fresh Thai basil and served with rice.

 

Peanut Satay Chicken with Thai basil

Peanut Satay Chicken with Thai basil

Then finally, a simple all in one Roast, ready to pop into the oven, with pre-marinated chicken thighs and pieces of potato, red onion, pumpkin, parsnip and carrot. All sprinkled with fresh rosemary and lovingly daubed with crushed garlic.

Just Mmmmmmm!

Who knows what Zac and I will be eating on our adventure, while Sam billets with his team. I’ll be taking my ubiquitous porridge and we’ll buy fruit for the motel room but beyond that, we’ll be exploring!

(I’ll research before we go of course, and there’ll be plenty of opportunity to walk :-))

 

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