March 27, 2012

chocolate nutella clouds

We have illness in our house this week.  Remember this?  This was the last time the boys were actually properly sick, and it was very coincidentally a year ago, just before Max's 1st birthday party.  With his 2nd birthday this weekend, it's a little unfortunate that we're back here again, but this time with dry, barking coughs and unrivalled fatigue and general lowness and fingers crossed, just about enough time to recover, unlike last year when we had to postpone the festivities.

That said, Ollie's coping with it ok.  He's tired, but he's not fighting the need to sleep which is good, and judging by the way he ate the chocolate cloud nutella cupcakes I made yesterday, his appetite seems to be ok, although I think he'd eat the icing off a cake any day of the week.

Here's the recipe for these intense little mamas, which I made under the ruse of practising for Max's party next weekend (any excuse).  Of course mine didn't turn out quite so cute, but they were pretty good nonetheless.  The frosting, whilst cloud like and pretty spectacular, was actually too much for me and Will, way to buttery and sweet but the cakes themselves... they were arguably the best chocolate cakes I've ever eaten.  And I'm not that big a fan of chocolate cake (a vanilla butter cake is my choice).

But the children loved the frosting, and not so much the cake, so I guess there's a symmetry there that's cute.  It was nice to see them enjoy the messiness of chocolate cupcakes when they were both feeling a little fragile and it was particularly nice to know I could make them feel that way with something so simple.  Yeah, they should have been eating chicken soup but you know as well as I do that was never going to happen.  In fact I did make chicken dumpling soup for dinner with last night's leftover chicken and broth (and predictably the boys didn't touch it) but Will and I loved it and felt great afterwards.  That has to count for something.

March 25, 2012


There is a place that Will and I go to when I need nourishment that can't be found in a sandwich, sushi roll or any other of my usual lunches.  It's a magical place in the middle of the Brisbane CBD, close to where Will's offices are and not that far away from mine (though far enough that I can't be tempted every day).  It's a place that we will meet at once a fortnight or so, to enjoy a bowl of what we know is good for us, each other's company and conversation about holidays we want to take, funny things the children have said and done, and how our days have been in anticipation of this meal to come.  But once our piping hot meals arrive in the mismatched crockery, we sit quite quietly, the only noises being those of appreciation for what's in front of us (the food and each other I suppose) before yet again announcing that Taro's make the best, the best, bowls of noodles we have ever tasted.  Ever.

March 22, 2012

vanilla custard

There is laundry to fold, people I need to write to and lists I need to make for Max's upcoming birthday party, but instead I'm going to write about custard.  Not of the cowardy cowardy kind, but that lovely home made pale yellow sweet velvety kind that I always thought was such a mission to make but now realise it's totally easy peasy.

This was the recipe, (I think, they are all much the same anyway). I didn't bother with any straining business and let my KitchenAid do the hard work, all that whisking of egg yolks and sugar, and then I slowly poured the warmed milk/cream into the mixer while it was still going, and then dumped the whole lot back into the pan and within minutes, there it was, the elixir to my puddings, home made vanilla custard (made with extract rather than a vanilla pod, which I didn't have at the time).

But since then, and speaking of vanilla, one of the most exciting parcels ever arrived this week.  18 natural java vanilla beans, sourced direct from the farmers themselves at a price of their choosing, and sold to me at a price that is positively bargainous.  From the most lovely people at Indrivanilla, I paid US$34 for 18 shrink wrapped beans, soft as you like and about 7-8" long each.  You're lucky here to get vanilla for less than $6 for a dried up shrivelly bean that's been sitting on a supermarket shelf for months, so the fact that I am writing this and able to smell the incredible aroma of this vanilla that I paid less than $2 a bean for (including express delivery from the US, that is), is somewhat exciting.

I'm going to put half the beans in brandy or bourbon, or maybe even vodka, so they keep forever and the rest I'm going to use in anything I possibly can.  Including custard, because now I know it's so dang easy to make.  Food.  It makes me so blummin' happy.

March 9, 2012


O: (blinking really fast) Mum, would you look at my eyes!  They're going mental with all the opening and closing!  Mum, did you hear me, I said, they're going MENTAL!

O: (playing with his Lego figures) You! You're a bad criminal.  You did a poo in your pants!  I'm going to drag you to jail.  Oh, you really impressed me, you did a poo on the toilet.  WELL DONE!

Me:  Ollie, it's almost time for a sleep
O:  But I don't want to go to sleep, I want to keep playing
Me:  Well alright, you can play for another couple of minutes, but then we'll read a story and go to bed
O:  But I want to play for THIS MANY minutes, for LOTS of minutes
Me: OK.  How many minutes do you want to play for?
O: (pauses...) Four

O:  I want to hug the baby
Me:  OK
O:  (hugging my growing belly and patting it gently)  The baby has to grow a lot before we can meet him.  (...pause...) Hello baby, what are you doing? and then the baby says "I'm moving around... I'm moving towards mama's mouth because I have to pop out one day" (!!)

O: (to Max, as they were playing rather nicely together and with their big garbage truck) Excuse me... excuse me, MY DEAR!

Me: (after watching Ollie finish every bit of his mustard and tarragon chicken dinner) Well done, Ollie, you ate a good meal there.
O:  (somewhat confused by the mustard in his dinner)  Now I can have my crumble and mustard (he meant crumble and custard)

Will: (reading to the boys) "And then he climbed all the way to the top of the tallest of trees!"
O:  I'd like to do that
Will:  Really?  You'd climb to the top of the tallest of trees?
O:  (pause) I'd climb to a smaller one.

Me:  OK Ollie, it's time to go inside soon, just another 10 minutes of playing in the garden and we'll go inside for a nap
O:  I want to play for FIVE minutes!

Me:  Ollie, do you need to use the toilet?
O:  No
Me:  Then please stop fiddling with your underpants
O:  But I'm just trying to sort out my wing-wang, it's going mental!

Me:  (while Ollie was playing with his Lego at the dinner table rather than eating his dinner) Some of us at the table are eating our dinner, Ollie.
O:  Not me!

Me:  Night night Max.  Can you say 'night night'?
M: Na na
Me:  I love you, buddy.  Can you say 'I love you'?
M:  Na na
Me:  But can you say 'I love you'?

March 6, 2012

new love

Sigh.  This is our latest love.  This is what has been making me so very tired, occasionally sick, deliriously happy, joyously hopeful...  We are just over half way through this journey of growth that's so short in comparison with the adventure to come after his/her expected arrival in early July.  It may be hormonal, but every time I think about this new life, or any other, it immediately replaces any feeling of inability to cope with an overwhelming desire to nurse and nurture, the feeling of anxiety becomes a feeling of nervous excitement for the future.  Which is a good thing, because raising our boys is a challenge for which I quite often need that reminder, that when all is said and done, this hard work is totally worth it.

This... is our latest love.

prizes and presents

I always thought it was funny that Will called them 'prizes' when I call them presents, and I thought it was an Australian thing.  I don't think so though, I think it's a Will thing.  Still, prize or present, I love to find inexpensive but pretty paper to wrap them with, and it seems my children love to give them.  Which is a good thing, because we do it a lot.

March 3, 2012


In an effort to justify my upcoming purchase of a new freezer (it really will make life much easier), I've been emptying the contents of the little freezer we already have.  This week it was the leftover chunk of Christmas ham, which I defrosted overnight in the fridge before shredding and adding to leeks, mushrooms, chicken stock (also from the freezer) and a couple of dollops of sour cream and encasing in puff pastry. 

The result was a flaky golden ham, leek and potato pie, with a flavoursome, savoury, Christmassy filling that totally tasted like I should have made it on Boxing Day.  Served with steamed broccoli and peas.  Enjoyed by everyone.

This is the recipe, adapted from this one.

2 tbsp butter
2 leeks, finely sliced
2 medium potatoes, cut into small cubes
2 large handfuls of mushrooms, sliced
2 bay leaves
a few sprigs of thyme
1 tbsp plain flour
300ml chicken stock
2 tbsp sour cream
2 tsp wholegrain mustard
200g cooked ham, shredded
puff pastry - enough to line and cover your pie tin
a beaten egg with a little milk, to glaze

Cook the leeks over a low heat in the butter for about 5 minutes, until they are soft.  
Add the potatoes and cook for a further 10 minutes or so.  I added a few splashes of water here and there and covered the dish to steam the potatoes and really soften the leeks so they are sweet.
Add the mushrooms, thyme and bay and continue frying until the vegetables are soft and the potatoes cooked.  
Stir in the flour, cook for a moment before adding the stock and allowing the sauce to thicken a little. 
Stir in the cream, mustard, ham and season.
Allow to cool before putting mixture into a puff pastry lined pie tin (mine's about 7"diameter) and topping with more puff pastry.
Brush with beaten egg mixture and bake at 180c for about 30 minutes.
Serve with plenty of fresh, steamed, greens.
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