Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Tim Tam Slam!!!

Finally! Writing about my other parcel!! Over at Chocolate & Zucchini, we've been having an international parcel exchange, and over two weeks ago (my oh my, time really does fly when you have to go into orbit every week...), mine arrived from New Zealand. It took only 6 days (thumbs up for the Kiwi post!!), and it was from the lovely Barbara, whose acquaintance I had already made, which pleased me enormously and added a particularly personal touch. Just look at those 15 multi-coloured parcels, with their beautiful bow of black satin, to make them look like licorice allsorts, which is of course, my avatar and name (Lakritz = licorice). How sweet is that???
And as much thought had gone into every item chosen, and there was a long letter to explain the unique regional choices.

Pineapple Lumps (going since 1935)
- the candy for Kiwis, and it's easy to see why: the chewy, juicy pineapple candy is encased in rich, dark chocolate... they're very addictive, no matter whether they've been in the fridge (recommended) or not... [-- ooops, all gone on day 1]
Whittakers Peanut Slab (going since 1896)
Apparently, the peanut slab is sold everywhere from service stations to supermarkets, preferab;ly placed by the check out... and yep, I can see why you just have to have one! They're delicious!!
[-- mmmm, gone by day 2/3]
Cairns Fudge (made by a company owned by Chris Cairns and his fatherLance Cairns, NZ cricketing icons)
Now, that would be of particular interest to my cricket obsessed son Ozzy who's so determined to step into Freddie Flintoff's shoes that I had to turn the garden into a cricket pitch - but did he get any of this?
[No prizes for the correct answer... ]
Chai Tea Spices (to be added to tea)
It actually says 'Masala Spice' on the pack, which of course makes this girls' ears prick up, does she not, after all, live in the very heart of Balti land, the land where garam masala and tikka masala rule?? And indeed, the spices are: ginger, cinnamon, clove, cardamom, nutmeg and black pepper -- sounds like a veritable Christmas spice mixture to me... [I haven't tried it yet as it requires proper tea leaves and the only ones I've got in are Earl Grey, and the bergamot would be overpowering...]
Flaky Salt
NZ version of Maldon salt; yum, yum... we should really cut down on salt, but find it very difficult indeed... , but, of course, this is quality salt...
Strawberry Huller
OMG, this made me want to go out and hunt down some out-of-season-strawberries immediately!!! Okay, so that hasn't actually happened yet, but I did promise Barbara that, come next Easter, I'd buy myself a Rumtopf in Germany and that I 'd start the 'pick your own' as soon as the season starts, and that I'd use that strawberry huller to the amazement of all my friends, and come next autumn, I'd be able to send her a jar of Rumtopf fruit in time for Christmas!
[--No comments, please!]
Of course! And very delicious it was, too!
[Well, yes, it's gone!How long do you think licorice can last in this house?!!]
Harris Coffee
Well, of course again -- it's Barbara's name. -- We'll keep that as our rescue pack when we find ourselves in desperate need of a strong, hot caffeine injection only to find we're unaccountably completely out of coffee... and instead of expletives, we'll be able to say, 'Thank God for Barbara!'
Home Made Vanilla Sugar
And that's without knowing that I clearly believe that one must never ever run out of vanilla sugar under any circumstances...
Hmm, olives and oil, adding that French touch, as did the
Zucchini Seeds
The Z-word had to be there!!! And while this made me smile, there were two things that made me laugh out loud:
a cake batter scraper, because I also included a spatula for such purposes to my parcel to Catherine, although a completely different model; and this absolutely cute mini quiche pan, which Barbara suggested for making mini quiches for Ozzy to take to school. Well, I might as well admit it now and get it over with: I do the earthmother look quite well and I do own an apron saying "Domestic Goddess", but I'm sure my mother-in-law meant this present ironically... I do like food and I do like cooking, but ever since falling in with the real, the true foodies, I've realized that I don't qualify at all... A proper meal prepared by me is more the exception than the rule, Tom cooks more often than I do, and my poor kids have to completely and utterly fend for themselves, because ever so often I'm still teaching at dinner time, and in the mornings, I'm either already out of the house, or, on the days I don't teach in the mornings, I don't even manage to be up early enough to make them breakfast... (no lectures on breakfast being the most important meal, etc, etc pp, please -- I know that! But knowing doesn't equal change... -- I'm weak; I get into ruts; I go to bed too late; I drink too much...)

Still, this cute little pan is certainly going to come in handy for little quiches or tartlets to take on our picnics which will undoubtedly be part of the 'pick your own' sessions next year!!

Before I finally come to the explanation of this post's title, I'll have to mention two more items, the New Zealand Listener (the glimpse of which made me cringe with guilt -- how did Barbara know that I desperately need to go on a diet?),
and dried persimmon snacks, both of which deserve their own entry, as they spurred happy hours of research (otherwise known as procrastination periods...), and sharing the findings makes them seem less like wasted time but more like worthwile tasks. Of course, those times (and others devised to escape urgently beckoning duties) were responsible for not getting down to doing this write up. (In conjunction with my inability to make it snappy, and a very laborious method of typing...).
So, without further ado, what is the Tim Tam Slam?

Well, first of all you need
Tim Tams - Australia's favourite chocolate biscuit. (Barbara is an Australian living in New Zealand, just in case you were getting confused now...) They look like Penguins (the ones produced by McVities, not the animal), and do indeed taste similar (more up-market was Franks verdict), but their chocolate has a slight hint of caramel, and the cream filling has a vanilla-chocolate flavouring. You also need a hot drink. Then you nibble both ends off the biscuit and brace yourself for the most disgustingly gooey and yummy taste experience you've ever had in 5 seconds flat: you use the biscuit as a straw for your drink and quickly slam it into your mouth before it disintegrates into your tea or coffee!
The Tim Tam Slam is also known as the Tim Tam Suck or the Tim Tam Bomb.

Thank you soooo much, Barbara, for all the phantastic gifts, for all the thought and work that went into preparing this wonderful parcel!!! And last not least for providing us with this most unique taste experience!!!

Monday, October 10, 2005

EBBP 2: "The Making"

Glazed Salmon Kebabs with Udon Noodles:
I adapted this recipe from Ainsley Harriot's "low fat meals in minutes"; he uses monkfish.

prep: 15 mins
cooking time: 10mins
Serves 4

500g cubed salmon
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp tomato puree
juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp vinegar
1 tbsp clear honey
1/2 teasp Thai fish sauce (nam pla)
1/2 teasp chilli oil
1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
250g udon noodles (thick Japanese rice noodles)
green cabbage, roughly chopped (I had pointy cabbage; Ainsley used pak choy; I think other greens, even spinach, would also work well)

1. Prepare the marinade and drop the salmon pieces into it; marinate for at least 20 minutes (Ainsley doesn't actually do this -- so if you're in a hurry, you can proceed to point 2 -- but I always feel that marinating works really well, the longer the better)
2. Thread the fish onto 8 skewers. If you use wooden ones, remember to soak them for 20 minutes before using them.
3. Cook the skewers over hot coals or under a pre-heated hot grill for about 6-8 minutes, turning frequently, until the fish is cooked through and a little charred.
4. Meanwhile, run the noodles under hot water to separate out, then steam over apan of boiling water with the cabbage for 3-4 minutes. Serve the fish skewers piled on top of the udon noodles.

Four out of four test eaters really liked this dish, particularly the salmon, which was succulent, mildly spiced, with the charred bits being particularly tasty. As for the noodles: they taste just like other rice noodles but they look spectacular. I'd certainly use them again as a stylish variation .

We also tried the Japanese iced tea. Both boys love iced tea, so at least we didn't get the usual moaning and whining beforehand (let alone the writhing and choking and pretend vomiting noises). But - you'd better not read on, Talia - it did not go down too well. In fact, Frank described it thus: as if someone had smoked a cigarette and then exhaled the taste into water. And I have to say, he's got a point, it is a rather smoky taste, but even our ex-smoker (nearly one year without nicotine!) who might still crave the taste of cold ashtrays, was not impressed. I drank all mine, but then again, I drink all sorts of herbal tea... The only one I won't finish is that stinging nettle one I bought at the farmers' market, the one which prompted Ozzy to declare, "Mum's buying dope", which in turn prompted me - highly alarmed, if not to say agitated - to start a thorough investigation into what exactly made him think that... Apparently, school had seen it fit to have an anti-drugs lesson complete with illustrative material...

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Into Orbit

Well, bicarbonate of soda will not exactly send you into orbit - as some taste experiences apparently do if some food bloggers are to be believed - the photograph is only here because I referred to the 3 1/2 pence mystery ingredient at the back of my cupboard in an earlier post. I think even the design betrays its belonging to a bygone era..., and I reckon it was one of those items that my mother-in-law likes to pass on regularly after one of her clear-outs, with the ominous words, "I think you're more likely to use this up than I am..."

Anyway, not what this post is about, not at all. This post is not food-related, it's about my first week back at Uni.

Monday did not start well inasmuch as the Head of German phoned me to ask whether I could teach a level 7 course that night when I had been planning on finally getting stuck into my preparations for the first year teaching... But of course, even though I hivered and hovered, eventually, in the end, I agreed. The fun really started when I got an e-mail informing me that my Wednesday morning class was to take place in one of the Physics buildings ( Orlitt 2), with the added note, 'I'm sorry, but I know you are one of the tutors least likely to be fazed by having to find a room previously unknown . . . you know, "to boldly go where no tutor has gone before" and all that. We've not been allocated this room before, but you never know, it might turn out to be a gem!'

WELL..., this booking into Orlitt 2 might just as well have been into Orbit 2 (to stay with physics metaphors, as it happens to be The Year of Physics, apparently!!). It doesn't seem to be on any map of the campus, even students doing physics had never heard of it, and when a frazzled secretary (having been pestered by desperate students all morning ...) finally phoned room allocation, THEY didn't even know where it was!!

But of course, spot on, I wasn't going to give faze a chance, I took appropriate precautions: I arrived at the University for 8 am, so that I'd have enough time to find the room. Well, it was very unlikely to be a gem, and it isn't. Behind all the other physics buildings, nearly off the campus (but very close to the Barber Institute of Fine Art, where I intend to go straight after those exhausting 2 hours of beginners' teaching), there are two hut-like buildings, both helpfully called Orlitt 1 (though one of them also carries the immensely useful further clarification: "104"). Luckily, on the day in question, another early bird member of staff noticed me looking puzzled beyond description, and volunteered the information that teaching room 2 should be the one on the left, and should he unlock it for me? (Ah, I thought, another little obstacle to make my Wednesday mornings "interesting"...). The one-story building - the words 'pre-fab' and 'temporary' come to mind - seems almost deserted and a bit spooky (one room contained, apart from some other festering items, an empty fridge, with the door wide open), and there is definitely no toilet around for miles. The room itself is passable enough, with newish chairs, unlike others I've encountered, where the filling is dying to burst out into the open or which have raw metal poking out where a side-rest should have been - a sight that greeted (and almost injured) me on my first day at work! -- It is not an ideal room, as there is hardly room to manoeuvre (which is what we have to do quite a bit in Modern Languages!!!), but hey, no room ever is! (Except for the ones in the School of Education, which - believe it or not - we can only use if we pay for them.)

As for the students, they turned up one by one, all 15 of them, in the end, and the Head of German and I were pondering whether we could use this little IQ test as an indicator for future exam success... (Mind you, the first student was simply lucky, he was able to just tag along with me...).

All in all, it made for quite an entertaining morning, with plenty of opportunity to bond with my students, especially the girl who studies "Disaster Management", who has clearly come to the right place for immediate application of new insights and skills! I had to suppress the question whether she does home visits, although I'm sure a stint at my house would classify as a
field trip!!!

I have a feeling that the lovely collegue who arranged this room for me simply wanted to provide me with a foil for one of my "things that happened to me this week" stories!

Yes, yes, still to come:
- EBBP2: the making
- my recent cultural exploits
- the whole backlog of recipes from the Childhood meme
- AND another parcel to report on!!! This time from New Zealand! From the lovely Barbara over at winos and foodies

Oh, and of course, how about the fact that Andrew must be aware (but has kept stumm!) that there is another blogger, someone who's also been part of EBBP2, who lives so close to me that the first part of our postcode must be virtually identical... Just how exciting is THAT?

Monday, October 03, 2005

EBBP 2: The "Tasting"

The Cake
(scroll down for the recipe)

Now, if you're thinking, 'Ah, for once, a decent photo on Zabeena's blog' , I have to tell you that I've nicked it from Talia's, but I'm sure she won't mind, as it is depicting the Choccolate & Zucchini Cake she sent me as part of the parcel in the current EBBP 2 event. I had to 'borrow' hers as my picture simply did not do it justice (see below: Cheese, Cloves and Cake). (In the same way as my attempt at 'This is the way the cookie crumbles' photographs of Moira's American Cookies did not -- in fact, my kids forbade me to put them on the blog!! So if you want a peep and the recipe, go to Who Wants Seconds?)

As you can see, this cake looks absolutely scrumptious, and I'm telling you IT IS !!! If you like your cake as richly chocolatey and as moist and sumptious as possible, without the sickly sweet addition of icing and/or buttercream, this is the one for you! And if you simply love the subtle hints of luscious spices to set off and enhance the chocolate, look no further!! -- Even Frank (who is, as I've said before, the self-declared connoisseur of bakeware in this family) raved about the texture and taste! And when he likened it to the very best carrot cake (his favourite!), I let him in on the secret ingredient... The latter had been a discussion point between the boys: I didn't want to say what it was because they both HATE courgettes, so they had taken it upon themselves to guess what 'zucchini' might be... The closeness to German 'Zucker' had led them to believe that it was nothing more sinister or disgusting than sugar. (Clearly, their reasoning didn't stretch far enough to notice that sugar wouldn't exactly constitute a very 'secret' ingredient in a cake... )
Anyway, this cake is really sensationally good!
If there is only one cake you're going to make this autumn/winter, this has got to be the one!!

The Cheese

First of all, you need to know that I'm mad about cheese. Cheese would be a lot harder to give up than chocolate. Oh yes!! And this goat's and sheep's milk cheese is totally to die for!!! Unlike most goat's and/or sheep's milk cheese, this one is a hardcheese, processed like Gouda and matured. It is light in colour, crumbly in texture, and rich, salty and acidic in taste. It melts on your tongue in the way slivers of Parmesan do. now, I ate cheeses in France this summer as if there was no tomorrow (and as if there were no calories, in fact, as if I were not prone to obesity...), and I loved a lot of them, but none of them left me longing, hankering, pining as this one will, once I've finished it! This cheese has immediately climbed into my top ten of best cheeses of all time, and next time I go over to Germany, I will have to send my brother over the border into Holland to procure a piece of this cheese for me, or else!!

The Sausage

Think 'best charcuterie', think 'Continental smoked sausages', think 'air-dried', think 'cured'. Then add the pungent taste of cloves. Now, I love cloves, adore cloves, and I think of them as quintessentially autumnal. So, needless to say, I loved this sausage, too.

The Jam

Ah! This is just soooo special! First of all, I had never heard of dune berries before, so, my golly, what an experience this lovely woman is providing! And secondly, totally unbeknown to her, of course, dunes and berries in Holland, conjure up very specific holidays for me...

It must have been 1994, because I was pregnant with Ozzy, and in order to combine the 'obligatory' visit in Germany with a holiday, we had opted for a week in Zandvoort. Frank and I had gone to Germany first, and then drove over to Holland and met OH (oh for Heaven's sake, let's give him a name, let's call him Thomas - Tom thereafter - as Th. Hardy is one of his favourites) at Amsterdam airport. Busy executives like him sometimes only manage a week of holidays, and as fate would have it, most of those 7 days were spent in hospital!!! BUT -- this way, Frank, who was 5 at the time, gained a completely child-oriented holiday, which involved going into the dunes, flying a kite, and gathering the most delicious berries. (They were like blackberries, only infinitely more gorgeous, blacker and sweeter and bigger and juicier and all the rest of it, in short, the stuff that myths are made of .) -- It was only this year that Ozzy and I came across the scrap book of that holiday, and he -- Ozzy -- was very jealous, and demanded a similar holiday in Holland straight away...which wasn't an option, but as luck would have it, just a couple of weeks after finding the scrap book, completely out of the blue, I received a phone-call from the lovely lady we stayed with then, and I think we will soon be making plans for a visit.

But no, we did not, on that occasion, encounter orange dune berries. I don't know what they are, but they are certainly special. The consistency of the jam is rather like one of my own, more soupy than set. The colour is, wow, most autumnal, the most marvellous orange brown, full of sun rays and specks of orange. The taste is a very sweet pumpkin combined with a very tart redcurrant, and there are traces of ripe gooseberries, sweet chestnuts, rosehips and plump sultanas, soaked in rich wild honey.

Absolutely marvellous, absolutely unique. (And as an aside to Andrew: it goes spiffingly well with the Ernest & Julio Gallo Sierrra Valley 2004 Californian Chardonnay, which I happen to have at hand, right now...)

What an absolute treat!

So thank you ever so much, Talia, for providing me with such entirely new and exquisite taste sensations!!!

And thank you, Andrew, for organising it all and presenting the results so well !!!

For news of what I've done with the noodles and the tea, please return in a few days time.

In the meantime, here's the recipe for the most luxurious Chocolate & Zucchini Cake, as adapted by Talia from Elise of 'Simply Recipes'.

The Recipe:

2 1/2 cups regular all-purpose flour, unsifted1/2 cup cocoa (this make for a chocolaty but not over kill flavor, next time around, I might add a bit more, say another ¼ cup)2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda1 teaspoon salt1 teaspoon cinnamon3/4 cup soft butter2 cups sugar3 eggs2 teaspoons vanilla2 teaspoons grated orange peel2 cups coarsely shredded zucchini (I added an extra ½ cup, could easily take another 1 cup)1/2 cup milk1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans (add many many more walnuts)

Glaze (directions follow)

Preheat the oven to 350°F.1 Combine the flour, cocoa, baking powder, soda, salt, and cinnamon; set aside.2 With a mixer, beat together the butter and the sugar until they are smoothly blended. Add the eggs to the butter and sugar mixture one at a time, beating well after each addition. With a spoon, stir in the vanilla, orange peel, and zucchini.3 Alternately stir the dry ingredients and the milk into the zucchini mixture, including the nuts with the last addition.4 Pour the batter into a greased and flour-dusted 10-inch tube pan or bundt pan. Bake in the oven for about 50 minutes (test at 45 minutes!) or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes; turn out on wire rack to cool thoroughly. 5 Drizzle glaze over cake. Glaze: Mix together 2 cups powdered sugar, 3 Tablespoons milk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Beat until smooth.