Monday, December 13, 2010

i try to control a boat full of pirates

Oh, I do love a good theme party. Particularly when they are as committed to decorating as the crew at Bartenderz Boutique Events are. And the team at WA Mechanical Services spared no expense with costuming. Truth is, when 88 pirates ransack your boat you can't control them. That's far too many plastic swords. In mother nature got her pirate on, producing a fiery sunset as the MV Moonlight Express prepared set off...
88 swashbuckling pirates walked on board our boat on Saturday night. The boat was transformed into the ultimate pirate ship. Pirate flag hanging at the back. Cannon on the bow. Ropes and nets covered the ceilings and the walls. There were treasure chests brimming with coins (some chocolate, some plastic - we worked it out pretty quickly). Skeletons and lanterns were scattered throughout. Four large barrels and some planks of wood made up the bars. I was a little disappoint there wasn't a single drop of rum in any of the barrels.
There were guns and parrots and plastic swords a-plenty. A layer of smoke lingered eerily over the floor. Pirates tunes filled the air thanks to the very committed DJ, Luke. The walls were plastered with friendly reminders of pirate law and treasure maps. Nothing like reading about the rules of Parlay while on the dunny. Peter Pan also made an appearance. And, up on the flybridge Pirate/Chef Bonny and his sidekick, from Bonstar, were whipping up traditional Paella to feed the hungry pirates. I didn't know pirates liked Paella. It must've had rum in it, or something, cos it was cleaned up in no time at all.


Special mention must go to the dude who dressed up as a parrot and also to the guy who walked around carrying a plank all night.

MV Moonlight Express: http://www.moonlightexpress.com.au/

Bartenderz Boutique Events: http://www.bartenderz.com.au/

Bonstar Catering: 0414 793 383

Sunday, December 5, 2010

i try looping a rope around a post

Ah, yes. Easy in theory. Even when the situation is slightly complicated by the fact that the ends of the rope need to be attached to a 76 foot boat (the idea being that the rope looped around the post will stop the boat drifting back into the $3 million Sunseeker on the post behind you), it's still pretty easy...

It was easy. I chucked the rope around the post, gave it as much slack as I could, and tied it off on the boat. I was happy. The skipper (we'll call him Brian) was happy. The big boss (the owner) probably didn't really care either way. And I can't speak for everyone on board but I'm pretty sure, if they cared, they would've been happy with loop/post job I had done too. The charter continued on in a very jovial manner for the next hour or so.

I went inside to do stuff and generally be productive. I felt a slight jolt run through the boat. It was a little odd. I went onto the bow to investigate. The people on the bow were chatting away merrily. But something wasn't right. The post we were supposed to be attached to was now much further away and we had just drifted back into the post that the $3 million Sunseeker behind us was attached to.

My knots were still in place. The rope wasn't broken. The loop was still there. It just wasn't around the post. See? It's harder than you think. All I had to do was put a loop round a post and somehow I managed to screw it up.

We started the boat up and reapproached the post. This time I wasn't taking any chances. My rope was going to loop around the post and, Goddamnit, it was going to stay there! Or at least one of them was. Always good to have a backup.



Wednesday, December 1, 2010

i try gooseberries

When Mum told me she'd bought a Gooseberry Bush I laughed. She didn't. So I knew she was serious. Gooseberry? Is that a lickable wallpaper flavour in Willy Wonka? Turns out they look as weird as their name suggests.
And, inside the little fury cocoon-like things is a little yellow berry. After some Googling we came to the conclusion that if we ate them we probably wouldn't die. So far so good. I'm not dead. They taste like a tomato crossed with a pineapple. They are actually quite yum. Our bush doesn't really have enough berries on it to start attempting to cook with them. But when it does...gooseberry jam, gooseberry pie, gooseberry crumble, gooseberry wine, stewed gooseberries...oh, the possiblilities.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

i try to find a needle in a haystack

So, how do you find a needle in a haystack? It is quite difficult. Particularly when that needle is a $350 watch and that haystack is the Swan River. There is nothing quite like watching something you love sink to the bottom of the river knowing you can do nothing but watch. But you can do something. Where there is a will there is a way.

My first instinct was to jump straight in. But with the depth sounder reading over 10m and no mask and no snorkel and no fins I figured my chances were pretty grim.
You need a different approach. Firstly, you find yourself some fellas who are willing to throw themselves into the river and go look for it.You will also need a boat and a rough idea of where the needle was dropped into the haystack. In my case I dropped it right next to a mooring. Handy! Then they dive down and have a look around while you guard the boat. There is no specific time for how long they should be down there. I feel it should be at least long enough to make a goggle mark round their face.

Time ticks by and your optimism starts to wane. Then, a circle water a few meters from the boat starts to fizz. Your scuba heroes emerge with...
...nothing! With a depth of 15.5m and a seabed like liquid dust you must resign yourself to the fact that your watch is gone. Accept that these things happen. Don't be mad at your scuba heroes because they didn't find it. Don't be mad at yourself for taking it off your wrist and putting it in your top pocket. Finding a needle in a haystack is hard. Let it go. It was just a watch. There's plenty more fish in the sea.

Friday, October 29, 2010

i try making brown rice sushi



I've never made sushi before. I've eaten a lot of it. And I've heard many a myth of how tricky it can be to make your own. Until I discovered Peko Peko sushi in Doubleview, Western Australia, I didn't think brown rice sushi was possible. I was resigned to the fact that it was against the laws of sushi. Not so my friend. I have both seen and sampled brown rice sushi at Peko Peko. In a burst of inspiration I decided to try my own!
You can put whatever filling you want in sushi but here's what I did this time around. I also meant to add Japanese mayo but we didn't have any in the house.

3 roasted nori sheets
1 cup brown rice (preferably short-medium
grain)
1tbs seasoned rice vinegar
300g fresh sashimi grade salmon,
trimmed and cut into strips
1/2 continental cucumber, cut into batons
1 carrot, cut into batons and steamed (I just used the
microwave)
1/4 avocado, cut into strips
1 spring onion, diagonally
slicedSoy sauce, pickled ginger and wasabi, to serve
*You will also need a sushi mat and a bowl of water.
Cook rice according to packet instructions. Allow to cool. Combine rice vinegar and rice. Place one sheet of roasted nori, shiny side down, onto the sushi mat. Wet hands in bowl of water. Spread a handful of rice over the nori sheet, forming a layer about 1-1.5cm thick, and leaving 2cm of nori at the end furthest from you free. The rice doesn't need to be too dense. You should still be able to see some of the nori through the rice.

Working at the end closest to you, layer a strips of salmon, horizontally, starting about 3cm from the edge. Add a couple batons each of cucumber, carrot and avocado. Lift up the sushi mat at the end closest to you and begin to tightly roll the sushi up*. Just before you reach the end, wet the free edge with water to seal it. Remove sushi mat. Repeat with remaining nori sheets. Use a wet knife to slice sushi roll into 2cm slices. Serve with soy sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger.

*I don't mean to insult you intelligence, but, obviously the mat doesn't get rolled up. It is used as a guide and helps to get the sushi nice and tight without piercing the nori sheets.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

i try gardening

Dear Dad,

We both knew. We knew from the start it wasn't a good idea. But you said you had no choice. You left me in charge of your garden while you were away for three months.
There were some casualties along the way. You may notice a plant missing at the base of the pawpaw tree. One of its fronds was dead. My inner gardener told me to remove it. I tried to pull off the dead foliage and subsequently pulled up the whole plant. I'm sure that sort of thing happens to Jamie Durie all the time.
Also, the plant next to the mandarin tree seems to have died. I'm pretty sure it was due to die anyway.
On the plus side your number one child, the pawpaw plant, is thriving. I was very careful to keep it alive. I know how proud of it you are because you grew it from the seeds of a pawpaw you bought from the supermarket.
"Now the pawpaw," you said sternly before you departed, "don't kill the pawpaw. It needs loads of water, ok? Heaps of water." I wasn't sure if "loads" refers to a specific amount in horticulture, or how it converted into litres. Rest assured, I gave it loads. If you didn't have a swimming pool in your backyard before...well, you do now.
Also Dad, there was a bit of a storm while you were away. The palm tree seems to have vomited up all its dead branches. I didn't know what to do with them so I made a delightful pile near the washing line. I may have broken the washing line in the process.
That plant with the weird yellow flowers has taken over the garden. It seems to have strangled the cherry tomatoes which, by the way, are looking a little sad.
I did remember to put snail bait on the basil...the first time. I'm pretty sure basil season is over anyway.
I'm not sure what happened to the water fountain. The top bit has kind of...ahem...broken off. I blame the storm. I performed emergency surgery and I think it will be ok. It's teetering on top at the moment and if anyone sneezes it will fall. But, you wouldn't ever know just by looking at it.
I took the liberty of sweeping the paved area. I assumed anything growing through the bricks was a weed and pulled it out. Sincere apologies if you were growing herbs through the pavement.
I couldn't remember if you said it was ok to pick the chillies. I do recall you saying something about 'ornamental'...or was that 'oriental'? I used them anyway. The stir-fry was delicious.
Just one more thing...the whole situation out the front with the sand an everything...um...Oh, did I mention the pawpaw is thriving?
Love always, your favourite daughter,
Miranda
PS please see attached picture for evidence of the pawpaw's good health!

Monday, October 18, 2010

i try making mulberry cheesecake


My dad loves a good cheesecake. He's tried a lot of cheesecakes in his time. As thanks for helping me pick mulberries I promised him a mulberry cheesecake. I've made one cheesecake in my short baking career. This recipe is adapted from one I already had. I tweaked it a little. Just a little.

1 and 1/4 cup of shredded wheatmeal/granita biscuit crumbs
75g butter, melted
500g block Philadelphia cream cheese, softened
375g can condensed milk
juice of 1 lemon
1 (generous) tbs gelatine
270g fresh mulberries, stalks cut off
extra mulberries for garnish

Grease and line a 20cm round spring-form pan. Combine butter and biscuit crumbs. Press into base of prepared pan and chill in the fridge.
Beat cream cheese until smooth (see note). Add condensed milk and lemon juice and beat until smooth. Dissolve gelatine in 1/4 cup of freshly boiled water. Fold the mulberries and gelatine mix through the cream cheese mixture. Pour into prepared base and chill for 3 hours or until set.
To serve, sprinkle with extra mulberries and drizzle with mulberry coulis (see note).

Note: Beating the cream cheese can be quite tough at first but perservere! It will soften!
To make mulberry coulis just put fresh mulberries, lemon juice and sugar in a pot. Simmer until it it reaches a chunky sauce consistency or to your liking.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

i try picking mulberries

In the middle of Bayswater industrial area, surrounded by panel beaters and car wreckers, is a mulberry tree. This forgotten tree produces the biggest, juiciest, sweetest mulberries I have ever eaten. So every year, around October, I drag my Dad down to the tree to pick mulberries. There is something I love about this mulberry tree. It presses against a rusty barbed-wire fence. Old tyres and car parts, a broken solar heater and other random pieces of rubbish littered round its trunk. A white ceramic dog keeps watch underneath the canopy. A string of fake pearls sits regally around its neck. An old Mercedes van gets lost beneath cobwebs and rust. Each year I return I feel like I'm visiting an old friend. Just popping in to say hi, you know, see how its going. And each year it brings more fruit than the last. Even though my clothes and shoes and hands turn purple...and despite sometimes fighting with the odd snail...and getting covered in dust and cobwebs from clambering over old wheelbarrows and bits of wood to get to the best berries...I will still come back next year.

We got a big haul this year. And for his help I promised my Dad a Mulberry Cheesecake. So stay tuned because a Mulberry Cheescake recipe aint far away!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

i try meeka

A cold, cold wind was a-blowing. My two dining companions (let us call them Thelma and Louise) and I showed ourselves in through the ornate wooden doors of Meeka. There are a few gems up the less hectic end of Rokeby Road, in Subiaco, and Meeka is certainly one of them.
We were promptly and cheerfully shown a table despite not having a booking. Meeka is one of those places that you feel welcome in as soon as you enter. This was certainly accentuated by Faye, our cheery waitress, who happily explained certain menu items and answered all our questions (most of which were being fired off from my direction), no matter how inane. What's Baharat? What's roulade again? Wait. Sumac. That's a spice right?



Sometimes choosing from a menu is difficult. I found choosing from Meeka's menu exceptionally hard. I wasn't alone. Thelma admitted she too was having an inner-conflict over what to order. It features a range of modern Australian Cuisine with a Middle Eastern Twist. In the end I ordered two entrees because I just couldn't go passed the Spiced Carrot Apricot Fritters with Cacik ($11). To back it up I also ordered Za'atar Whiting, Saffron Preserved Lemon Aioli, Roasted Yellow Peppers, Tomato and Sumac Salad (pictured below, $20).
The Whiting was simple (as fish should be). Za'atar is a Middle Eastern spice mix. Recipes vary but often consists of thyme, oregano, marjoram, sumac and sesame seeds. The mix was flavoursome but subtle enough to allow the flavour of the fish to come through. The salad of tomato and peppers, along with the homemade aioli and a generous sprinkling of micro herbs, proves that simple things done well are always a winner.
Initially, I thought I might struggle to get through the fritters. However, after one bite I knew I'd be fine. They were crispy on the outside and soft and juicy, with big chunks of apricot, on the inside. The spices were perfectly balanced and oh, I could've eaten them all night long.

Thelma and Louise both ordered a tajine of Moroccan Braised 3 Beans, Chickpeas, Sauteed Spinach, Toasted Pinenuts, Saffron Feta (pictured, $27). All tajines are served with Labne and Israeli Couscous. They were beautifully presented in traditional conical-shaped tajine pots, with the lid being removed at the table. It's hard to make stews look appetizing. But the rich tajine...the bright green of the spinach...the sprinkle of pinenuts...the smell...oh the smell... I snuck a spoonful of Thelma's tajine and...yum. That's all I can say. Yum. Really, really yum! Beautifully spiced, a thick sauce but surprisingly light. Both Thelma and Louise agreed it was delicious. We also ordered Roasted Baby Beets, Grilled Halloumi, Toasted Pinenuts, Mint and White Balsamic ($15) and Sauteed Green Vegetables, Saffron Garlic Butter ($11). Both dishes were further proof that chef Leah Clarke has perfected the art of using quality ingredients and treating them with respect. While it seemed we had ordered a lot we were safe in the knowledge that Meeka will happily put what you can't finish into a takeaway container. Happy days!

All three of us had already eyed off the dessert menu. We may not know what Cacik is but we know our desserts. We elected to each get a different scoop of homemade gelato/sorbet ($4 per scoop) and share the Middle Eastern Chocolate Fondue, Home Made Turkish Delight, Candied Nut Balls, Wild Figs, Mint Coconut Marshmallows ($15). We really didn't need the fondue. Our gelato scoops (blood orange for Louise, pistachio for Thelma and donatello for me) were very generous. But, like the soldiers we are, we powered through. It was tough having to eat such delicious icecream. I must admit, I think Louise made the right choice with the blood orange sorbet. It was the perfect palate cleanser.


It was fun sampling the delights on the fondue board. I love a little bit of this and a little bit of that so it definitely appealed to me. Thelma confessed she preferred it without the chocolate. And we agreed. The homemade confectionary was nice enough to stand on its on two feet.

Meeka was delightful. It's a place I will definitely return to. It's a wonderful thing going to a restaurant in Perth where the quality of the food is impeccable, everything is homemade and the service is friendly and attentative without being overbearing or pushy. I was full when we left. But, in all honesty, if another scoop of icecream or another carrot fritter had appeared I would've definitely been able to fit it in!

Meeka Restaurant
361 Rokeby Road, Subiaco, WA
Ph: (08) 9381 1800
Dinner: Tuesday - Saturday 6pm til late
Lunch: Wednesday - Friday 12pm til 2pm




Meeka on Urbanspoon

i try mints

Fresh breath. Minty minty fresh. The mint-making companies have instilled in us the fear of god. Heaven forbid we should have bad breath! The options for fending of bad breath or just a bad after taste are plentiful. This is part one of The Mint Review.


Jila Mints

Packaging: These little balls come in a delightful little cardboard box, complete with fliptop lid, and covered with plastic wrap. The good people at Ferndale Confectionary have gone with a sophisticated, unintimidating navy/gold/white colour scheme (perhaps targeting an older market?). Allegedly, Jila mints are made "the traditional way", whatever that is. The pack also features a little speel about how Jila mints are all natural and actually uses the phrase "hard to the core". At the top it says "smoother, stronger, longer". Oh the innuendo...

Taste: These little balls may look tiny and cute. Don't be fooled. They are hard and they might break your teeth. They have a good mint strength (mint factor 7) and a pleasant aftertaste. But don't try to chew them. They are stronger than you. They are not a toy. Although, they would be perfect for replacing lost balls in your Hungry Hungry Hippos game.

Price: 4x 27g packets for $3.63

Tic Tacs

Packaging: "Freshness in 2 calories". What? One of these tiny little tablets is two whole calories? Wow. Turns out Tic Tac packets are quite informative unless, of course, you want to know what's actually in them. Still, the packet does double as an excellent maracca! Enough said.

Taste: The problem with Tic Tacs is they are so bloody small you need half the packet in order to get a decent hit of minty goodness. Apparently the peeps at Tic Tac have realised this and come up with a solution: The Tic Tac Big Box. The share-ability factor is high because there is so many of them. Tic Tacs have a flavour that can only be called Tic Tac flavour. There is peppermint there but there is something else too. I have know idea what it is though because there is no ingredients list on the packet. Mint factor: 6.5.

Price: $1.66 for 24g



Eclipse

Packaging: These little tablets come in a modern, shiny metal tin with a nifty flip top lid. "POWERFUL FRESH BREATH" is stamped across the packet in front of a fancy graphic of what I can only assume is an eclipse. I like shiny things. So I give this one a thumbs up based on that alone. And it's recyclable! Happy days!

Taste: The thing about these mints is they are quite small. So I was muching on about six at a time. While they are small they do have quite a powerful minty taste. Oh yes, this packet aint lying. Six at a time pushes the mint factor up to a mighty 9. Trouble is they are easy to chew. One crunch and you are already loading up the next round of six in your hand (which is a problem given the packet also says, "excess consumption may have a laxative effect").
Price: $2.44 for 50 mints




Mentos

Packaging: Ah, the Freshmaker. The mentos packet is a handy size, it's easy to access and is quite pleasent to look at. However, the fact that it opens at both ends (sometimes without warning) is serious design flaw. And what the hell is a "dragee"?!?

Taste: The mentos chew factor is high. But we shouldn't be too surprised given it says "chewy dragee" on the packet. The mint factor is also quite high along with the sugar factor. The mintiness is diluted by the sugar. But, I'm not complaining. I'm going to be honest here. If I buy a packet of mentos it's always the fruit ones. They are the same as the mint ones. They both come from China, they both have the same amount of sugar and they both feature the same warning about how eating too many might give you the runs. The fruit ones just have a different flavour. Lolly flavour. Better flavour.

Price: $1.18 for 37.5g

XXX

Packaging: Looking at this packet I'm expecting these to be really strong. So strong that they almost shouldn't be legal. XXX. They sound like black market mints. The packet is in the same vein as mentos (foil covered in paper), although they don't have the problem of mints coming out the bottom as well as the top.

Taste: They call themselves "The Extra Strong Mint". Lies. All lies. A more truthful name would be "The Moderately Strong Mint". Mint factor: 3. The crunch factor is high. They have this weird powdery texture that is not entirely distasteful. But, they seem to disintegrate in seconds. These ones are made at our neighbour's place over in NZ (a nice change from all the other mints that have travelled from Shanghai).

Price: $1.24 for 45g

Minties

Packaging: Minties aren't exactly travel friendly. The plastic bag is pretty massive. Although, the share factor is very high given each mint is individually wrapped. Handy, yes, but Al Gore would not approve. The little pictures on the individual wrappers aren't exactly works of art. They're certainly not the reason you buy Minties. Everyone knows the reason you buy Minties is to see who can tear their little wrapper into the longest thread.

Taste: It's ironic that Minties feature little pictures of socially awkward situations given that's exactly what they create. You put a minty in your mouth. You're expecting it to be soft. But it's not. It's kinda hard. And kinda stretchy. It's sticking to your teeth and gum, and pretty much taking over your mouth like some wild, out of control, mutant lolly. You screw up your nose, cock your head to the side and wince as you try to combat the little beast. Then you realise someone has been trying to ask you a question for the last five minutes. You mumble through the minty and make lots of hand gestures in an effort to explain you're going to need another five minutes to finish your minty. But, it's too late. They've already walked away. Mint factor: 8. Chew factor: through the roof.


Price: $2.97 for 200g

Sunday, October 10, 2010

i try rollarskating part 1

Inspired by my good friend, Miss Bmac, I decided to dust off my rollarskates. I suspect this is going to be a post of confession.


Confession #1: I own a pair of rollarskates. Oh. Yes. They are black and yellow. And if that's not cool enough they also say "hang ten" on the sides. These skates take cool to a whole new level.


Confession #2: As a child I was a rollarblader (that's "blader" not "skater"). I have done neither for a long long time. But, I figure if blading is "like riding a bike" and skating is like blading then I'll be a skating genius in under 10 minutes.


Confession #3: Back in the day I was pretty good at rollarblading. Like any true child of the nineties my blades were fused to my feet. My little brother and I bladed everywhere. Everywhere. We would put them on in the morning as you would put on shoes. Dad would give our wheels a little spray with WD-40 and we'd be on our way. We were little eight-wheel-tear-aways. Unlike The Mighty Ducks we were hardcore. There were never any wrist pads, knee pads or helmets involved. It was just us and our blades ripping up the concrete.


I decided the world wasn't quite ready for my rolarskating skills so I confined myself to my back garden. After 10 minutes of rollarskating I was not the rollarskating genius I had hoped to be. I found I was far more talented at snoozing in the sunshine. Turns out there are a few fundamental differences between rollarblading and rollarskating (memo to self: the brakes on rollarskates are at the front).

Upon awakening from my nap I was reinspired. So there will be a next time. And I will (eventually) be like Gene Kelly in It's Always Fair Weather. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

i try origami



I'm no origami expert. However, it turns out I have a bit of a knack for making origami paper cranes. I went through a bit of a phase yesterday that lasted all of 15 minutes. The result of my labour:


Having mastered the crane I decided it was time to up the anti. My attempt at an origami rose was somewhat less successful:



If you too have a random urge to make paper cranes you can learn how by watching this absolutely ridiculously exciting video:

video

Or check out some instructions at http://monkey.org/~aidan/origami/crane/


Fun times had by all.




Sunday, September 26, 2010

i try baking biscotti


Now I'm not a master chef. I probably never will be. But I can certainly try!

I love biscotti. I eat it like chips. Considering it has very basic ingredients and a relatively straightforward method it is quite expensive to buy. In terms of biscuit it is relatively good for you because it has no butter.
I've been known to stray from recipes. Sometimes intentionally (add a little more of that, replace this with that) and sometimes unintentionally (oh, it said 1 teaspoon of baking powder). Here I've adapted a recipe from Super Food Ideas Magazine. And the great thing is you can substitute the apricots for any dried fruit (figs, cranberries, strawberries, raisins, dates, etc) and you can use whatever nut you prefer!

1 cup caster sugar
2 eggs
1 and 2/3 cup wholemeal plain flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking powder, sifted
3/4 cup almonds, (coarsley chop 1/3)
3/4 cup dried apricots, chopped
Preheat oven to 180 degrees/160 degrees fan-forced. Line two trays with baking paper.
Whisk eggs and sugar together. Add all remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Knead on a lightly floured surface till smooth.
Shape dough into two 30cm logs, flatten slightly. Place on trays and bake for 30 minutes or until golden. Cool on trays for 20 minutes.
Reduce oven temperature to 140 degrees/120 degrees fan-forced. Using a serrated bread knife slice logs diagonally into 5-10mm thick slices. Ticker or thinner if you prefer. Lay on trays in single layer and bake for 5-10 minutes each side or until crisp.
Cool on wire rack.
Warning: totally addictive!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Welcome welcome

Well, I try a lot of things. Sometimes I am successful but sometimes I fail spectacularly. This blog chronicles all my tryings!