Wednesday, June 27, 2012

in case you were wondering

The title of my blog is the title of one of my favourite Robert Frost poems, After Apple-picking. It appears in his collection North of Boston. I don't read it very often, because it makes me feel a particular kind of sadness. I wanted to remember that feeling the other day though, and so I read it. Poetry is a portal to both parallel worlds and the past. I love that.


MY long two-pointed ladder’s sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there’s a barrel that I didn’t fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn’t pick upon some bough.      
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass        
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,        
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.        
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound        
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,        
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap       
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it’s like his       
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

chocolate orange polenta cookies @ Honest Cooking

Hello there! Today my recipe for Chocolate Orange Polenta Cookies is up over at Honest Cooking.

I gotta say, they're pretty yummy.


Monday, June 18, 2012

link love

It's Sunday night and I just felt like I should write. But I haven't cooked anything. In fact, I've slipped into that place where you just kinda eat toast for every meal and your stomach lets you do it and you drink lots of tea. I've been unwell as well as busy this week, so I guess that's okay.

It's a cold, wet night but I'm feeling that Sunday evening optimism for the week ahead that pops up sometimes. I think it is at least partly because this is attached to my head:

A lovely friend bought me a vintage bonnet-style hair dryer last week, as I've just recently had my hair cut into a proper 1940s/1950s style. I think this hot air-filled hat is pretty much the best thing that has ever happened to me since I met Quincy. Not only because it dries my pin curl set while I watch the news or knit or edit my goddamnmofoofathesis, but because it warms my brain up real good, too, and makes me feel all sort of awesome and relaxed. Like how I imagine Quincy feels when she's grilling her paws under the column heater on the rug.

So I thought I'd share some excellent things I've read/cooked/seen/wanted recently. Spread the love, etc.

1. Tavi Gevinson's TED talk pretty much made my week. Watch it and send it to all the young women (especially teenagers!) that you know.

2. Lovely Miss Mimi who writes 1972: The Retro Weight Watchers Experiment is holding a retro Weight Watchers potluck, and guess who's bringing main dishes?! That's right, yours truly - along with my gelatin-molding pal Emily over at Dinner is Served 1972. You know my friends are just dying to be chosen to come eat the results with me. Stay tuned!

3. I discovered this blog and read it all afternoon while I was stuck in bed. It's a really great resource for wallet-friendly recipe ideas - but it also really got me thinking about food prices in Australia. Have a look and see what you think. Or just skip straight to this chocolate mug cake. Doesn't that look awesome?1? It almost makes me wish I had a microwave.

4. Shoes at Kate Spade. I die.

5. Twin Peaks-themed fabrics at Spoonflower. Let's Rock.

6. I love Bon Appetit's Friday afternoon cocktail series, The Happy Hour. This week, it's vodka, lime, mint, blueberries and St-Germain - that gorgeous elderflower liqueur - in a Blueberry Smash. Totally bookmarked for summer.

7. I've started running again. I'll explain why soon, but I came across Team Bangs on the Run's site this week and totally gobbled it all up. Start with the team mannifesto, check out how hot they all are and sign up for the newsletter for great tips.

8. I love links. I can't help it. I had my first hot dog from Snag Stand this week and I really, really enjoyed it. They had a vegetarian chorizo hot dog on the menu. I wanted that, also.

9. My kingdom for a horse. Or, to be able to write like this. I read this over an otherwise miserable lunch and it took my breath away.

10. Some people believe procrastination is a good and productive thing. I am one of them. LOOK WHAT I FOUND.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

homemade flour tortillas

One thing I love about working from home is getting little bits and pieces of things done between writing sessions. In all honesty, it doesn't always work; mostly I get too excited/distracted by the little bits and pieces and everything goes out of whack and the day is ruined. So I try to get into the office most days. But sometimes - once in a while - I stay home and everything just works. I get to hang out with Quincy, get some washing done, eat a better lunch and everything on my work list gets crossed off. Those days make me feel like I'm really winning at life.

Tragically, today is not one of those days. But that's okay. I've written a little, nursed my slightly swollen throat with constant sips of ginger tea like the hypochondriac I have become, and I've made flour tortillas.

Homemade flour tortillas are both really easy to cook and significantly more delicious than the store-bought we typically find in Australia. They're fluffy, supple and even taste good cold - which is more than I can say for those snowy white discs in the plastic packaging (home very very late one night I ate one straight out of the pack and decided, even in my jolly state, that next time I wanted to taste a cold commercially-made tortilla I could just mix some flour with water to a smooth paste in a teacup and drink it).

To achieve that really nice crepe-like texture, you need to include some kind of fat. I will happily admit that these ones are made with lard, just as those you typically find in Mexico are. That super-white, greasy fat definitely produces the finest tortillas with the best kind of bubbling and flakiness. But I understand that cooking with animal fat is not for everyone. The good news is that you can easily swap the lard for an equal amount of vegetable shortening and get a really similar result. And yes, you can make tortillas with olive oil and even butter; I have and they can also be very tasty, but you'll get a different result texturally and a less authentic flavour profile.

The other thing you can change up is the flour you use. Here I've used a combination of plain and atta flours and I really like the flavour this produces. The atta flour is also high in gluten and helps to produce a lovely smooth and elastic dough that is really easy to work with. So even if you're a homemade pastry or bread virgin, you can still make flour tortillas. It's kinda like getting to third base in the world of breadmaking: not as risky as a yeast-risen loaf (home-run), with an end result that's less reliant on experience - but still very, very sexy.*

And third base on a Tuesday afternoon is not too bad. There's days left yet to win at life.

*I do not necessarily agree with this analogy, but I don't have time to think it through.

Homemade flour tortillas
Makes 12

1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup hot water
1 3/4 cup of plain (all-purpose) flour
1 cup atta flour (or wholemeal, or more plain)
75 g lard, roughly chopped (or vegetable shortening)

1. Add hot water and salt to a small bowl and stir to dissolve salt. Set aside.

2. In a large bowl, gently whisk the plain and atta flours with a fork to combine. Add the lard or shortening and, using the tips of your fingers, rub the fat and flours together until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.

3. Add 3/4 of the salted water and use a fork to combine. Continue to add as much water as necessary to bring the mixture together in a stiff dough; different flours will have different absorbencies. Use your hands to draw the mixture together in a ball and knead lightly on the counter until the dough is uniform and smooth - 3 - 5 minutes. Cut dough into 12 equal pieces and cover with plastic wrap. Leave to rest 30 minutes. This will relax the gluten in the dough and make it easier to work with.

4. To roll tortillas, very lightly dust the counter top and rolling pin with flour. Roll each ball until about the thickness of poster paper, or just before it becomes translucent. Stack tortillas on top of one another while you continue to roll.

5. To cook, heat a heavy based frying pan to medium heat. When it is hot, add the tortillas one at a time, for around 30 seconds each side. They will bubble up and brown in parts. Don't leave them in the pan too long, as they can dry out and become crispy instead of pliable. As you cook, keep the stack of cooked tortillas covered with a clean tea towel, doubled over, to keep them warm and soft. When cool, they store well in the fridge for about a week when wrapped.

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