Illustration Friday: Linked

Illustration Friday: Linked

A very small (smaller than shown here) watercolour on bristol board.

I hope to be able to post some more discarded thumbnails soon. In the meantime, I have been cooking! Aimee and Lisa were here for the weekend and a man came down the street selling boxes of fruit, so we had stewed apples and fresh oranges and a big bowl of red grapefruit pieces at breakfast. We had buckwheat pancakes and roast vegetables with sour cream and cornbread and gravy, and peaches and butter on cornbread, and sweet omelettes with hot jam, and butter and maple syrup on cornbread, and savoury omelettes with salsa and sour cream, and apple sauce on cornbread, and cornbread with peach slices baked onto it and cinnamon sugar sprinkled on top. We had stir fried thai-ish chicken with rice noodles which suffered from not being cornbread. We drank tea made in an actual teapot in old tea cups and talked, and read Connie Willis and Susannah Clarke out loud and lay around and played Victorian parlour games.

Illustration Friday: Dip

Illustration Friday: Dip

I’m getting back into scratchboard after a break (I do like it for birds). This is, as usual, smaller than it is shown here. The original is 7.5×4.5cm.

In other news

  • I have introduced my mother to A. E. Housman.
  • There may be a change in hair lengths in my illustrations – on the weekend my mother cut my hair off to collar length, which must be at least a foot shorter than it was.
  • My sister’s dog is, ungraciously, accepting me as a poor substitute in her absence.
  • Since no one else has to eat my cooking for the next few weeks, I am experimenting with cooking: macarons – perfect; roast miscellaneous vegetables – very good; Sayers-inspired omelettes (savoury and sweet) – I made an omelette that worked!!!; couscous in the office kitchenette – effective; boston baked kidney beans – intriguing; gluten free cornbread – dry, but has potential; rice-milk custard – unmitigated failure. I’m sure there’s a lesson to be learned in there somewhere. But the macarons really were very good.

Breads: Kind of tangentially Vanuatu related

I had all these interesting things to say, and pictures to illustrate them with, and then I started going to the orchestra and the movies and working late and slowed down with the uploading and – I apologise!

Aimee asked for the beer bread/damper recipe and since she visited on the weekend and I turned it into coconut bread and it is thus doubly (if indirectly) relevant, here it is:

Beer Bread

  • 1 can beer (375ml)  – this can be replaced with water, milk, Guiness, etc
  • 2 tablespoons sweetener (golden syrup for my preference – but sugar, honey etc will do)
  • 3 cups self raising flour

Mix. Bake at about 180degrees celsius for about 30 – 45 minutes. If the top gets too dark too quickly, cover with foil.

It’s a very flexible recipe. Swap things in and out. Add chopped up dried apricot (highly recommended!) or a handful of muesli. Cook in in muffin pans. Wrap it in foil and put it in a campfire. It doesn’t keep terribly wrong but that’s never been a problem. Tastes best hot with butter, but also good the next day toasted with butter. In Vanuatu I made it with Tusker beer and chopped up dried pawpaw which was amazing. If you can get dried pawpaw, it is even better than apricot. Serve it with soup or stew or cheese or avocado or (most especially) “cocky’s joy” (golden syrup).

For the Coconut Damper I added about half a cup of dessicated coconut and swapped the beer out for a can of coconut milk. I’d used some on my oatmeal the day before so I cut it with some regular cow milk and had to add a bit more because the coconut milk is thicker than beer or water. It took longer to cook through, as well, and was heavier and tasted very good, especially with a fruit salad of banana and red pawpaw (they do sell it here – I’d only every seen the regular yellow/orange kind). Aimee started the idea of putting pawpaw slices on top of the damper.

Next, I want to try the Coconut Pumpkin Bread from the Vanuatu Kwisin cookbook that was part of the thankyou present that  L&R  (SIL directors in Vanuatu) gave me. I seem to be being stalked by Wycliffe cookbooks. Or possibly just by Wycliffe. I’ve been trying to order some of the international cookbooks and while that was being set in place, I received an envelope of information and flyers and newsletters and another Wycliffe cookbook, and another envelope with another newsletter and people at church seem to have decided I am going to do the SIL course in Germany which… isn’t accurate.

But I did receive yet another newsletter, this one from L&R, about the dedication of the new NT translation in Tanna which M was baking banana bread for, and the newsletter had my picture of a Megavoice in it (the sketchbook uploads will get to this point eventually).

A Restaurant Review: Food as Set-Piece – Everyone’s Favourite Scottish Restaurant and the flavour of the Games

The restaurant is not spotless, but cleaner than its Milton Road branch. Its colourful and cosy interior create a comforting and welcoming atmosphere (the almost equally ubiquitous Kentucky chain has to its own misfortune chosen a predominantly blue scheme, which is chilly and unappetising). Although the restaurant is oddly empty for the time of evening (perhaps due to the downturn while people recover between bouts of State of Origin), the staff are friendly and helpful and when asked whether I would like a meal, I change my initial plans and say yes. This prompts me to muse on what makes a meal a meal, but that may be left for another time.

Service is prompt. Although I take my own drink and side to the table, the waitstaff deliver the burger within minutes. The orange juice is somewhat too sweet and warm, the insipidity of a recent refill, but it is consistent with previous experiences. The fries are unfortunately somewhat limp. Though acceptable and even surpassing other restaurants’ forays into this field, they are not the slender threads of saffron crispness that I am fond of and have come to expect, and I can enjoy them only as counterpoints to that memory, as symbols of potential.

But it is the centrepiece of the meal that must command attention, for it is the newest offering of this venerable establishment – veritably debutante – and like the mayfly, short-lived. In a fortnight it will be gone, and I confess I am surprised that curious gourmands have not beaten a path to the automatic doors and fluorescent-lit cashier to savour it on this, its opening night.

Grandly christened “The McEurope” (in a coy reference to recent accusations of the owner’s cultural imperialist tendencies), it is proudly presented in a themed wrapping – a cheap gimmick perhaps, but one which does not antagonise by being difficult to negotiate. It is hinged on ancient principles and, indeed, may be considered a nod to the paper wrappings used to steam foods in many cuisines and increasingly popular in fusion styles, a nice nod to the internationality of the event it is created to honour. Inside, the burger rests in a cushioning of shredded lettuce.

I cannot pretend to justify the title of “The McEurope” except to the extent that America itself may be held up as the defining characteristic of “The West”. Those influences not native to the common or garden burger seem to be drawn primarily from the Mediterranean region and what are popularly considered to be the keynote flavours of Italy. The signature meat is chicken, crisply crumbed and fried, but this is topped with napolitana sauce and parmesan. Pleasingly, the parmesan is shaved, not shredded or powdered, though it lacks some of the piquancy of true and truly fresh parmesan. The chef has chosen a stereotypical napolitana sauce, perhaps to avoid detracting from the desired impression with flights of culinary fancy. It is, perhaps, a little too stereotypical however, as it is less reminiscent of Italia than of bottled supermarket sauces.

The lettuce, I confess, puzzles me, particularly in such a “limited edition” dish as this where, untrammelled by the restrictions inherent in dishes which form the backbone of the menu (consistent and sustainable), I might have thought the chef would risk using the somewhat more diner-friendly leaf lettuce. I do not think it would have made the dish too divergent from the balance of the menu. Oddly, the lettuce was not mentioned on the menu itself. Ordinarily this would not surprise me, but as all the other ingredients were listed, it seems this too should have been included, for although frequently included in burgers lettuce is arguably not essential to their make-up in the way bread is.

Ultimately, the dish doesn’t quite gel for me. The individual ingredients – perhaps further hampered by the sheer quantity of shredded iceberg lettuce – never become a single “McEurope” but remain isolated in flavour, as listed on the menu, an ensemble performance of capable and solid (if uninspired) actors whose director fails to bring them together into a whole greater than the sum of its parts.

Nevertheless, I am intrigued by the experiment and will return with some curiousity for the next fornight’s instalment in this serial drama of food not as sustenance or flavour or even convenience, but as novelty, gimmick and idea.

When I Own a Coffee Shop

I resolve that: Continue reading

Comparing myself favourably to Sandra Bullock

Or: Good grief, that photographer was good:

Woman's World article

This is the photoshoot I was not being embarassed about, and the article is in this week’s issue of Woman’s World.

It loses me all cred in certain circles, but I can defend everything I said which is not, incidentally, what is written here. I’ll post what I actually said later, because I was a very good little interviewee and gave many answers and don’t think they should be wasted : )

Also, congratulations to Reinhard on his book deal and publication!

And if you’re wondering why I appear to be cooking with mango and tomatoes, I understand that is referred to as artistic licence.

It’s Official

The fact checker thought I might be a lawyer from Sydney.

The magazine has decided I am a writer from Brisbane.

And that, children, is called overcorrecting.

Hehehe; or, mortification and misquotes

I’m in a magazine.

More later.

Lentil chicken and couscous

I really, really enjoyed my dinner tonight.

It’s a very quick and easy dish which has its roots in chilli con carne (chilli con pollo?) and trying to stay in budget. I made it again for Deb on Saturday.

  • part of a roast chicken (usually 1/2 or 1/4 when on sale at the end of the night).
  • can of lentils.
  • can of red kidney beans.
  • can of diced (or otherwise tortured) tomatoes.
  • some salsa, and assorted spices: chilli and anything else that smells appealing.*

Heat the pan with a bit of oil and herbs. Chop up the roast chicken, put it in, stir it around, add the beans and tomatoes and some salsa and let simmer. That’s about it.

I served it on cous-cous, mixed in the bowls, with a dollop of plain yoghurt.

It reheats well and cous-cous is easier to make up at work than two minute noodles. But the best way to eat it is in a tortilla with some crumbled tasty cheese (can’t find the grater) and a glass of cold milk.

Man that was good.


*You could add onion and garlic, but we’d just had the Great February Onion Cull, and I couldn’t be bothered crushing garlic.