Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Recipe Wednesday - Coconut cream pie

making pie
Whenever I bake there are certain things I gather together, it is really quite ritualistic.

I like to have time and not be rushed. For me when I make pie I always take out my Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book, printed in 1950. I remember having to walk through my mother in-laws house after she'd passed away in the United States two years ago. It was as she'd left it, a book unfinished by her favourite chair her spectacles in the bathroom.

I had never been to this apartment before, I had visited her in a different house. Looking out her kitchen window I could see the cold winter sky she'd written about with the feeling of snow. I imagined the cookies and snikerdoodles she said she had baked. Her kitchen was tiny, but laid out well. I could see the words she would have had clear in her mind as they scrawled onto the Christmas card we had received only two months before.

We were here to divide her things I knew the most important things for me to cherish her memory would be cookbooks, utensils, linen, blankets. This cookbook was one of the things I took as well as a sifter, rolling pin, measuring cups and mixing bowls. I wanted to have these things to share with my children so they could touch the things her hands had touched hundreds of times before.
mum's stuff
We always talk about her when we bake, Eliza loves to sift the flour turning the little bead on the handle. She talks of Gramma the most, funny as she never had the chance to meet her. I think though that there is a very strong bond between them. Eliza was only 19 months old when we made our journey to see Aaron's mum, tried to let her see her smallest grandchild at least once. It was in vain though. I tell her how much Gramma wanted to see her to meet the little girl she'd spoken to and heard so much about. I have since had another baby girl and she too is getting up on the stool and wanting to mix and stir. I will tell her all about her Gramma too.

The recipe for the coconut custard filling comes from the Betty Crocker book mentioned above. The pastry recipe comes from the "Jamie does..." book. I use this as I find it to be just right and his directions are easy to follow.

Coconut cream pie
me oh my
For the pastry.
250g plain flour,plus extra for dusting
50g icing sugar
125g good quality unsalted cold butter,cut into cubes
1 large egg beaten
a splash of milk
oil to grease the pie dish

You can make your pastry by hand or with a food processor. From a height seive your flour and icing sugar into a large mixing bowl. Using your fingertips work the butter into the flour and icing sugar until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.Add the egg and milk and gently work it together using your hands till you have a ball.Don't overwork the pastry too much or it will become chewy and elastic. (if you have used a food processor, turn it off as soon as it just comes together. Take it out and then gently bring it all together.Sprinkle some flour on your work surface, and pat the ball into a thick flat round. Sprinkle with a little more flour, then wrap the pastry in clingfilm and pop into the fridge to rest for 30 minutes. Dust a clean surface and a rolling pin with flour, and carefully roll out your pastry, turning and dusting it every so often,until you've got a circle about 0.5cm thick. Roll the pastry over the rolling pin, then unroll it onto the greased pie dish, making sure you push it to the sides. Trim the excess pastry and use it to patch any holes, then prick the base of the case with a fork,cover with clingfilm and pop into the freezer for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180 deg.
Meanwhile make your coconut custard filling.

Coconut custard filling
Mix in a saucepan....................2/3  cup sugar
                                     1/2 tsp of salt
                                     2 1/2 tbsp cornflour
                                     1 tbsp plain flour

Stir in gradually....................3 cups of full cream milk. 

cook over a moderate
heat stirring constantly
until mixture thickens and boils.
Boil for 1 min. Remove from heat.
Slowly stir half the mixture
into.................................3 egg yolks lightly

Then blend into hot mixture into 
saucepan. boil for 1 min more, stir
constantly. Remove from heat and
blend in.............................1 tbsp butter
                                     1 1/2 tsp vanilla.

Now blend in ........................3/4 cup shredded coconut.

Allow to cool, drape a damp tea towel over the top to prevent a skin forming.

Back to the pie shell.   
....................................500ml of thickened cream
                                    2 tbsp caster sugar
                                    1/2 cup shredded coconut.

Take a large piece of baking paper and lay it into the uncooked pastry case. Take some uncooked rice, beans or baking beads if you are lucky enough to have them, fill the case right to the top.and blind bake for 10 min in your hot oven. Carefully remove the rice, beans or beads and the baking paper. Be very careful here I have dropped these before and they went everywhere, I am still finding beads.
The shell needs another 10min to cook,it needs to be firm and almost biscuit like. remove and allow to cool.

Putting it all together.
Fill the pie shell with the cool or slightly warm custard. Refrigerate this with some clingfilm over the top, for 30 min. In the meantime whip up 500ml of thickened cream sweetened with 2 tbsp of sugar and a dash of vanilla.
In a warm oven 160 deg toast up 1/2 cup of shredded coconut.(From personal experience be careful here, it takes about 5 minutes. I made 3 lots before it was perfectly toasted. Nobody likes burnt coconut.)

Top the pie with the whipped cream and scatter the toasted coconut on top. If you can let it cool and set for an hour you will have a nicely set easy to cut pie.

Now put the kettle on for some tea, and enjoy your slice of pie.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

rhubarb, coconut, and linen

rhubarb flavoured tvp
I have been sleeping on linen pillowcases. 

I had always heard it was a lovely thing to have, linen pillowcases.  Now I know it's true. They've been through the wash once and feel soft and lovely, they will feel even better as they age. I made them sunflower yellow of course, yellow is still my current affair.  I had really wanted to do a tutorial on making pillowcases but am a little afraid to venture into that realm just yet.
After that I was in a pillowcase mood.  I picked through my bags (and bags, and bags!) of remnants and found this beautiful embroidered fabric with a touch of orange. It was so calling out to be teamed with natural linen and a fun sugar-and-spice dotty rusty orange cotton. I loved this mix, just divine, it made for a perfect cushion cover. I decided I want to make a dozen or so and just change them as I please. There is too much good fabric here to waste and too many cushions in my house.

This didn't come from nothing, though: I have been swooning over my recently purchased Linen, Wool, Cotton (a Japanese book which has been translated to English) by the same publisher who has just released Meet Me at Mike's in the UK. I am finding myself just buying metres and metres of linen without even a cause or specific project. I cannot resist this book makes everything look so simple and clean, granted the pictures make me think of a slower, more restful, existence.

When I have not been sewing I have actually been cooking more. The weather here has been very  temperamental, and if it's too humid or too rainy, either way it makes me want to cook. 

Today for example was just the perfect cold weather for Stewed rhubarb in orange and Agave syrup, mmmm. I also baked my favourite coconut cake from Women's weekly "Old Fashioned Favourites" book. We love this cake, I have made two twice this week that's how good it is. 
shine Ishine II
There are three things in this house we all love, rice, coconut and chocolate, anybody with kids will know that you all liking the same thing is a rarity. So Friday I also made coconut cream pie, my my me ohhh my, pie is so good. Why on earth do we leave it all to the yanks? Thankfully I am married to one and love the tradition of Pie of thanksgiving of Halloween even though that one is stolen.  (The holiday, not the pie.) 
my pie
Why do we not have pie cafes here, I mean there are so many incredibly delicious combinations. I am a wanna-be café owner, the café in my head has old glass cabinets with copper rims filled with pie on pastel cake stands. Just underneath this and at child height, big glass jars filled with sweets: coconut ice, honeycomb, honey joys, and sesame brittle. I would wear a patchwork apron, and always smell sweet and coco-nutty.

There are many cafes in my head, though.  If it ever come down to it, I would struggle to choose between selling pies and selling one-handed breakfast burrito for breast-feeding mothers.  I reckon that's an idea whose time has come!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I hereby declare Recipe Wednesday!

even more purple in real life

Sticky Balsamic beets with Greek basil and cottage cheese
3 large beetroot
3 tbsp balsamic vinegar(aged is all the better)
olive oil 1/4 cup
thyme sprigs
Greek basil small bunch washed and dried
zest of 1 lemon
cottage cheese
sea salt and pepper

Cut the beets into quarters or smaller, get yourself a good sheet of foil and lay it in baking dish.
Arrange beets, toss them in the olive oil add the few lugs of balsamic and thyme sprigs.
Fold over the foil like an envelope, making sure juices stay in.

During cooking check them and re-toss them adding more oil or balsamic if needed.
Roast for 1 and 1/4 hour on 190 deg c. or till beets are tender and beautiful.

Remove from foil saving all those yummy juices. Plate it onto your platter and when warm dollop over cottage cheese drizzled with more olive oil salt and pepper. Garnish with torn basil leaves and lemon zest.

Another summer recipe, just to kick off my first Recipe Wednesday:

summer salad, outside

Summer pasta with Eggplant and pangritata

I have to share my most excellent pasta dish using my one home grown eggplant and my lovely neighbours gorgeous mortgage lifter tomato.( I hope that is correct, she will correct me if I am wrong)

I simply grilled the eggplant, then tossed it through pasta adding
 fresh tomato,
Kalamata olives
Basil leaves
shaved parmasan
cracked black pepper
Balsamic Vinegar*
olive oil

I also dressed the pasta with balsamic vinegar  and olive oil  *My tip* (look for 4 leaves on the bottle of vinegar and made in Modena, this is a  sweeter more syrupy grade of balsamic, and great with parmasan) 

*My tip* I love this one. I keep a day old roll in the freezer and take it out frozen and grate it, it's easy and I always have breadcrumbs on hand. Also it's frozen so it's easy to grate.

1 cup of fresh breadcrumbs*
3 tablespoons of olive oil 
4 garlic cloves
1/2 red chilli deseeded and finely chopped
several sprigs of thyme
(parsley would be great I didn't have any in the garden)
Grana padano parmasan cheese handful.

in a frying pan heat the oil, add the minced garlic, herbs and chilli, cook for 1 minute add the breadcrumbs coat well with all the oil. If you need more oil add it. The breadcrumbs need to be crispy. take off the heat add the parmasan.

*you could use anchovy as well just fry it off till melted in the first step.


Monday, February 14, 2011

The long brunch

We have a long-standing brunch tradition at my place, every Sunday morning. There was a time when people showed up every weekend, but of late we'd had mostly quiet ones. Today's began with some stewed garden plums mum had given me. When halved and stoned you can add what you like, we used Orange rind and the juice of one orange, Cointreau, cinnamon and raw sugar. Some natural yoghurt to go with. A friend had also bought along some stewed dried fruits these too were yummy.

stewed fruit II

Aaron had already made some lovely simple scrambled eggs on toast with avocado and fried cherry tomatoes for an earlier drop-in of a work colleague. Being a Sunday she'd already done an 8 km walk and was ravenous, she'd even rung ahead to warn us to have something laid out.  When she arrived  I started to fuss with dishes, but Aaron ordered us to take a seat and eat, so we both did.

plane eggs

Some homemade crumpets by more friends went over well. I had made up some banana bread with our glut of bananas.  We are in a panic here for the price of Bananas, we know they are set to rise dramatically when supplies run out, due to the recent cyclone.  So we're eating them with both hands while we can. Two cakes were slowly consumed whist sipping tea and coffee.  Some savoury muffins were also laid out, but I missed out on these so I cannot tell you what they were.

As the morning wore on groups arrived, the front yard a temporary parking place for bikes. It made me think for a moment I really love life right now. How nice to spend an afternoon this way, and to have been fortunate to do it outdoors today was so nice.


It is a well known fact amongst friends of ours that my man poaches a mean egg and, well, there was a little challenge placed upon me today. Thus the pained look on Aaron's face when I offered to go in to make the eggs, see I am an all round better cook than he however he still reigns supreme in the brunch department.

I was going to make some indonesian eggs, there are especially a hit if brunch has fallen into the "-unch" end. However the lack of rice in the house meant I needed an alternate plan. I thought a tortilla with creamy green onion scrambled eggs, bacon cooked with some fresh chilli, just picked garden tomato and avocado. Having everybody basking out in the sunshine in the backyard meant some quiet all to myself kitchen time. That was the real reason I accepted the challenge, not to prove I could make eggs!

I sprang into chef mode: Sandwich press on, two pans going, eggs being scrambled, bacon on, tomato salsa prep... all happening, no interruptions.

The filling was just perfect to wrap in the tortilla and toast till crispy. A squeeze of lime juice just to tickle the taste buds and a dash of sea salt that really bring it all together. It needed a little side salad of greens in lemon and olive oil, to just unashamedly use your fingers and stuff into the hot burrito as you ate and a little dollop of sour cream. There was even some tallying up of how many were had and who could have the last one, I guess that means they were good. I am sorry there are no photos, they were all gone before I could get a shot.

Aaron was short on inspiration for sweets, so he passed parts of the library around and asked for suggestions.

set up

There was a collective shutting of cookbooks when I announced "I think I'll make Brownies." I hadn't realised it but they were deciding on a dessert to end the afternoon on. Brownie and vanilla ice cream it was, much to Eliza and Circe's delight. What a pleasant afternoon we had, I need more of these. I am already thinking next weekend.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

old is the new new

regimented, from photos by various brennemans.

I actually gave up my sleep-in this week to get to Camberwell market this Sunday gone by, this place is such a visual feast. I love the fact that you can find all manner of wonderful things there. I picked up an old sunshine biscuit tin painted yellow, my new favourite happy colour.

I bought a few other things in between mad dashes for cover under the awnings to escape the heavy rain. It's always a little intimate it seems when this sought of thing happens, perfect strangers strike up conversations about the "this mad weather were having" or the entertainment stay put in the rain and begin joyfully choral-ling "rain rain go away, come again another day", and we all clap and cheer when it does in fact stop. Then we all go back about our business, like it never happened.

My main reason for the outing to this wonderful outdoor market was to play with my new Canon 60D. Now I really need to actually have a few lessons on using this baby as there are so many settings and things have advanced greatly since using my old SLR. I did manage some ok shots. I wasn't quite sure if there was an etiquette thing related to carrying a tool like this. All my past photographs in public have been of buildings never before of people's things, so it seemed polite to ask if it was ok to take some pictures if they were around. I was on the tram last week where I happened to be near a guy with a camera, I wondered what he'd taken pictures of when out of the blue he took a picture of a girl in the set of seats ahead of us. It was obvious he was taking random shots not meaning to take her in particular, but I did think that took some courage on his part.

So my first attempt was at my favourite stall for the day they stocked the best assortment of buttons and thread. I just love this sort of thing en mass. I have been playing a little with the theme of multicolour. So this place was just fantastic for me. The gentleman was really nice and was really quite flattered that I wanted to take some shots.
$3 reelpush buttonno warning label

My son and I actually bought some film this week, he was desperate to use my old camera. He had taken it down several times playing with the lens and pretending to take shots. He proclaimed after wearing it around his neck that he finally knew what he wanted to be: "a photographer." I thought to myself wow imagine if we really became who we wanted to be at seven.

I am still trying to find what I want to be at almost forty. I wish someone had shown me how to do really practical things at his age. I loved telling him all about how to focus how to read the light reading. He was fascinated by the fact that each shot will be an actual photo that will get printed. He was also quite blown away by the fact that you cannot delete shots as a result he is taking about one picture a week. He is normally so impatient so this is a great exercise in slowness.

It's also nice to show him the way we used to take pictures, so much has changed in the time I've had children, at the rate in which devices are being replaced and upgraded, I had been thinking that I was afraid for the printed word. Then, funnily enough and without any warning, when my husband left his job this week he was given a Kindle as a going-away present. They knew how much he loved books and that the new place was over an hour on the train each way.

I knew little about this product and just didn't like the sound of an "e book." Now Aaron is not shy about not opening a gift if he doesn't like it. Back to the shop it goes, straight to the exchange desk. Sometimes he's not even discreet about the not-opening: "Go on, take it out of the package!" "No, it's fine."

So when I was prying open the Kindle box yesterday I expected to hear 'don't touch that, I was going to take it back.' I mean he returned the cake decorating set he got at his last job, I expected the same here, especially how much he scorns "toys." He doesn't even have a phone.

But I was wrong. He is an avid reader and will be writer some day, so I trust his judgement on things like this: He loves it. He has already used it on his long train rides to and from work today. I am keen to see what this thing actually does, but he won't let me touch it.

Technology is just moving too fast, and damn they make these things look so sexy too. It is such specky marketing, all the more reason to not have one.

In the same vein I bought an old fashion typewriter last year, actually at the exact market mentioned above. I remember the delight and fascination this little typewriter bought to the kids, "It's so heavy" they all commented and "what are these letters" and "what's this tape thing?" I loved hearing them tapping away loudly. Almost daily someone will use it to write a story or make a diary entry, or Circe loves to get the keys all muddled together.
ner d

To me it's worth having these things in our lives, to value the way things were and to exercise a little simplicity, to tap away at old keys to have to focus your own photo to write a letter on paper.

I think this is why I also love sewing, there is something noble about these simple crafts which should not be lost.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

cranky pants

I felt my motherhood mojo slipping away from me today. Forty degree heat for two days in a row is too much. And any night where the temperature does not dip below thirty is just awful.

I woke this morning feeling the way my husband looks every morning, bedraggled. He is a night owl, and often doesn't get to bed till two a.m. I feel like that that is his choice to some extent, his own fault if he's tired when the kids wake us. I, on the other hand, had good excuses for the way I felt. I've been getting to bed after midnight just to have some time to write to sew, to facebook, to blog.

The older kids have been getting to sleep as late as 9.00 or 9.30 these last few weeks, during school holidays. My ten-year-old lingers, trying to stretch it out, asking questions, wanting to talk. Now I love you honey but I am sorry, I don't want to see you at night. I have seen her enough all day. Does that make me a bad person? I mean aren't I entitled to be me, someone other than a mother, at night at least? If I went to bed when they did then I just wouldn't have any time to do the things I want to do.

This morning after Aaron left for work I wondered how long could I lay here, under the sheet? Would I move when I heard a chair drag across the terracotta floors in my kitchen, or the tinkle sound of plates being shuffled in the cupboard? Would that be too long, of course it would, but gee I wanted someone else to be me this morning: Someone else to take the baby off the chair for the fiftieth time, someone else to then take that chair and place it up on the table, someone else to turn to see her find another chair moments later.

My husband and I used to do the bargaining thing where we'd mumble from under the pillow "You go. I got up to give such and such medicine," or "No, you go, I was stuck in Eliza's tiny Ikea bed till five a.m. and couldn't stretch my legs out."

But that was then. Things have changed a little. Eliza, she's had a star chart for sleeping all night in her own bed, several weeks full of those now. In a rare streak none of the kids have been ill for a while. The husband snores happily. But I've had Circe teething, and I am still feeding her most nights, I am even sometimes going to Eliza when she calls out.

Then I am waking most mornings to them all, whilst Aaron sleeps an extra thirty minutes. On weekdays he even keeps the sleep face on while walking to the station in order to continue to sleep on the train, no fair.

I am mad, I know. I think I have reason to be and I hear you all nodding.

We have one designated sleep in day each his is Saturday mine is Sunday. He can sleep through anything. I can't. He gets two hours. I get less. He even gets in after me on a Sunday for another sleep! I am insane, I have been being really rather courteous. I am not too sure why when I am not getting eight hours yet in one chunk.

This morning I woke at five a.m. to feed Circe and then was back in there at six to give her another little cuddle. I'd also gone and given Eliza some comfort after she cried out at two a.m., only to be told that she didn't want me she "wanted Dad."

By ten a.m. when Circe began to look tired, worn out, irritable. Just like me. I wasn't the one on the floor whining, crying and intermittently sucking my thumb, not yet. I wanted to join her, but I knew we'd need to push on. I was looking after two other children today, and I knew she really only actually has one sleep these days. A quick mental calculation while dishing out the waffles showed that she if she slept then would be up at twelve if I was lucky and then be up for seven hours. The way I felt today a seven hour stretch of crying just seemed unimaginable. Her crying, me doing it seemed about even odds.

The last week or so she has gone from being relatively easy to being a lot of work. Ohhh the crying the second she's put down. I get afraid to let her see me when there is a period of quiet. When I can hear her in the other room with the others and they are rolling around and she is giggling I just want that to last, just till I finish these dishes.

I have been being a little selfish of late I think after almost sixteen months I can begin to be, actually on the whole after ten years I think I ought to be. I try to sew whist she naps, It's really hard to stop when she wakes from a nap, I want her to just play by my feet with some dominoes till I just hem up this dress.

I think the internet is a curse. One of my favourite bloggers, Soule Mamma, is always knitting with a child nestled to her bosom, he is not teary and crying or pulling thread from the machine like my little pitiful monkey who just wants Mum to look away from the sewing and give her all of her attention.

I can't even talk on the phone.

I know the time will come when the two of us can each do our thing, she some colouring and pasting me some sewing or just some dinner and some dishes so the house doesn't look like a bomb site. I know that she will someday move away from me, that like Eliza who is eager and ready to go off and be left alone at kindergarten on Friday this week. My last and smallest baby will let go of my apron strings and go off into the big wide world of friends, teachers kinder and school. I will then have all the time in the world and will probably pine these days of being needed and wanted.