Final step: The bread is baked in a hot oven for30 minutes and then taken out of the tins and placed back in the oven for 10-15 minutes more to make a very crunchy crust. I love it because each loaf looks beatuiful. A great golden colour, straked with remnants of flour or seeds; sometimes scored with a knife for that rustic look. Good bread is hard to find here. We can get Illawarra sourdough here which is great bread but it is delivered only once a week. I am happy to have my Saturdays saturated with the smell of baking bread and happy mouths to feed. Let me know if you want the full recipe. I have loads of extra starter if anyone is interested!

Sourdough Saturdays…continued

Step 2: Around midday on Saturday I mix the dough proper. Adding more flour, salt and a little olive oil. The dough is then kneaded for a bit – ahhh, the therapy of kneading dough is magic – and shaped. It is left to proove for 3-5 hours. So more patience!

Sourdough Saturdays

Actually, sourdough Saturdays start on Friday night, with the unveiling of the starter from the fridge. I have been making sourdough sporadically since our year in the UK. I found a good recipe from a book called Moro and it involves bunches of grapes, muslin cloths, flour, water and loads of time. Patience.

After several weeks of developing the starter I made my first batch last week and wow. It was perfect.

Here is step 1: Mixing a cup of starter mix with flour and water. It is covered and left overnight. It smells so amazingly yeasty – fermenting grapes and wine and all that is organic and growing.

Lunch box lottery

I have recently been musing about how to provide an interesting, healthy lunchbox for my children’s ever changing tastes. Number one, who loves all food has in recent months expressed a dislike for those foods he overdosed on as a baby – that is avocado, banana, oats. Not that I have bought bananas at $10 kilo.

A few mornings ago I made a quick batch of nori with egg or avocado fillings. Each nori was cut and wrapped and went into the lunchbox instead of the usual sandwich. The kids love nori – but I did wander would they become the victim of schoolyard taunts for having something other than cheese and vegemite (we don’t eat vegemite here!)?? I have heard story after story of adults in their 30s or 40s remembering what it was like coming to Australia as migrants and turning up to school with salami in bread or gherkins or pate, only to have kids snigger and tease. Sometimes this small country town we call home is a bit like that – in attitude anyway.

The reality is time is a BIG factor in packing lunches. What do I have time for??? And general supplies in the pantry dictate many choices. Last year when I was pregnant and sick with mouth no. 4 I did the one thing I vowed never to do. I made and froze several loaves worth of sandwiches. I thought this was reasonable as I could not look at, handle or smell lunctime food at breakfast. But the kids sheepishly explained that some days they were still frozen at lunch. HHHhhmm.

Well if you have good ideas about lunchtime food let me know.

"Chinese Feast"

My parents have had a weekend in the capital visiting friends and made a big stop at the Asian grocery store on the way home. Well – the booty has landed! They visited this afternoon with boxes of Asian treasures – dried bean curd, salted turnip, noodles and all kinds of sauces in larger than supermarket quantities. I was inspired to have what the kids call a”Chinese feast” which put simply is a number of different Chinese dishes served on the table at once – we all eat and share. My banquets are always modest. We had chicken and sweet corn soup, chicken and vegetables with cashew nuts, steamed meat ( a preserved and salted Chinese cabbage mixed with an egg and minced beef) and fried dace with black beans. And of course rice. Our rice cooker died months ago and I have gone back to steaming rice in the microwave – very simple and reliable.

I was thankful that “A” was around this evening because even though the menu was modest (compared to my Mum’s feasts!) I discovered it is hard to chop, stir fry and so on with a baby in hand. She is not quite old enough to be perched on the hip and tonight she was needing some loving!

I would love to cook more Asian food – part of the struggle is not having all of the fresh ingredients at hand and the other is simply not being in the habit. Hhhmmmm….I should make a pact here and now to do more Asian. Keep me accountable!

Saturday night…..

Thank you for all the encouraging emails and comments. I was unsure about sharing this bog with everyone as it is very embryotic, but it helps me reflect and keep a record of our lives too.

Life has been very busy with “A” finally coming up for air at lunchtime today.

He loves to cook and has become quite an expert now. Gone are the bachelor days/student days of a weeks supply of shepherd’s pie or that pasta sauce that keeps on going and going in the fridge. Last Easter we bought a Chiminea – a Mexican outdoor fire thingy- to roast the chestnuts. The urgency was we had a bumper crop of chestnuts and rather than waste them we decided to start our annual chestnut fetsival. We had some old and new friends for lunch and served a chestnut soup, roasted lamb and then a chocolate chestnut cake (Nigella Lawson – it is very good). But more recently we discovered that you can do more than roast chestnuts and warm your hands with a chiminea. We have done great grilled chicken with lemongrass – had a terrific smoky flavour. And tonight “A” is trying a big beef stew in a very old cast iron pot that we have borrowed from my parents. Mum used to cook with it when we camped and I think it has been under her house for more than 20 years.

I have been reading today about the crisis in the Middle East and am determined to read Robert Fisk’s book that “A” has devoured. Julia Baird’s comment on “Extreme parenting” was also very now – as I am in the midst of having a new babe, I do wander about all the conflicting parenting ideas out there. Many women do not trust themselves anymore and we no longer live close enough to mothers, sisters and aunts to see and trust them. More on the politics of parenting and motherhood another time…

Post natal memory loss

I am not sure what scientific evidence there is out there but I seriously have “gaps” in my memory of certain food preparation. I know I have made things because people remember. My gorgeous sister in law has made be accountable for two sweet delights now – strawberry shortcake and chocolate cupcakes. My problem is recipes…I love them and read them and “digest” them but rarely use them. So where I find them……I hope this blog might make me accountable and you and I will both have a record of good food.

Today, well in the next 24 hours I have to make dessert for a hoard of teenagers who are having a regressive dinner. Rather than go gourmet I have decided to make that retroish classic – chocolate ripple cake and trifle. The thought of all that cream is making me feel queasy already. But I know they will eat it and they will even like it.

A few weeks ago my number three and I made orange biscuits. We made a sweet pastry and added orange zest and rolled the dough out and made simple rounds. Each one was then iced with a very citrusy simple icing. A very child free cooking excercise but good enough to serve with grown ups tea!