Made up baking and two good books

31 July 2020

I love to follow recipes exactly, maybe because there's so much to learn about good cooking. But lately I feel totally fine winging it in the kitchen, which is how we ended up with this apple galette one Sunday night. I found some leftover shortcrust pastry in the freezer (maybe from this summer pie), had half a jar of butterscotch sauce and we always have apples (and lately, ice cream).

We're trying a weekly produce box again, in an attempt to go to the shops less and eat what's in season. It's been the best excuse to consult my cookbooks and make some meals that aren't work related! I've also learnt that this is potato and pumpkin season. I have so many potatoes and am going to make gnocchi tomorrow night.

Normally I try to read books on my Kindle or get them from the library to save money and shelf space but this period (pandemic + job stress) seemed like the very best time to buy Kevin Kwan's new book Sex & Vanity. I remember reading the Crazy Rich Asians trilogy during periods of disruption. I listened to the first book while driving between Wagga Wagga and Canberra when Tony was doing an artist residency here and I was waiting out a restructure at work. I carried the final book of the series, Rich People Problems, to solo dinners in Adelaide, while travelling for work. It kept me company all the way home from Darwin to Canberra. 

I managed to make his latest book last a little over a week and loved how escapist and funny it was. I really hope to watch it as a movie one day. I'm now reading Big Friendship by Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman, who also host the Call Your Girlfriend podcast. I've never wanted to hold books more than I do in this mostly stay at home time, when it feels like there's very little time spent off screens.

Today has been especially nice because I took the day off work. It still feels strange to take a day off when there's no where to go but I'm really glad I did. This past month has been intense and I needed a day to decompress and not be accountable to anyone. So I slept in, made my own teriyaki sauce (I'm suddenly addicted to Adam Liaw videos and highly recommend this chicken and egg oyakodon) and listened to Michelle Obama's new podcast

A couple of other things to share:

We loved watching Indian Matchmaker on Netflix and maybe got through it too quickly.

Julia Ostro's Italian-inspired sausage tray bake is so comforting. Slightly spicy sausages bake on top of potatoes and a lemony tomato sauce. Here's a video of me demo-ing the recipe

I've been listening to Coronacast most days, it's a 10 minute podcast from the ABC that helps me understand the latest coronavirus news. After listening to a few episodes about masks, I reckon these look good because they have three layers, including one water resistant one. 

We rented Greed last weekend, which stars Steve Coogan and Isla Fisher. It's funny and a bit dark. 

John Lewis wrote this beautiful essay before he died and it was published in the NY Times on the day of his funeral. "Though I am gone, I urge you to answer the highest calling of your heart and stand up for what you truly believe."

Also in US politics, AOC's notes that shaped her viral speech this week. "What is there to say to a man who isn't listening?" Her caption on being accountable to herself (and for yourself) stayed with me. 

Have a lovely weekend.


Pretty light

21 July 2020

How are you going this week? I am getting back into work after a few disruptive weeks and it's such a relief to be focussed on making things again. I filmed a food video today, which meant spending most of the morning in our sunny living room and kitchen. It was a small shift from my usual work day routine but a welcome one. I am also ordering face masks, just in case (these are three-layer and not too $$), and going for long evening walks with Tony. It's fresh out there but worth all the layers to be outside and breathe the cold air. I've been saving some things to share:

Jade Zoe's winter playlist for Liminal is poppy and fun. I've been listening to the Japanese cover of Say So on repeat.

One of my favourite columns, Single Women and The Spaces, is back with a lovely tour of a Brooklyn apartment with excellent light and the best plants.

Also in Brooklyn, a little wedding at home.

We recently watched Athlete A on Netflix, a doco about the gymnasts who were abused by Dr Larry Nassar and the reporters who uncovered the story. I hesitated to watch it, knowing it would be chilling, but am very glad I did.

I made my own version of this grain bowl for a weekday lunch. The salad dressing with gochujang, kewpie mayo and soy is genius!

I'm taking a break from sour beers and drinking these smokey colas on weekends instead. Turns out, some nights I just want something fizzy. If you're in Canberra, you can find them at The Essential Ingredient and Blackhearts & Sparrows.

ICYMI: "Please scream inside your heart."

And some excellent ABC Life recipes to share, starting with a vegetarian mushroom miso carbonara. I also love the big flavours of this chicken and cauliflower tray bake that's easy enough for weeknights and fancy enough to serve to friends and family.

Hope you're taking good care.


Rainy days and daytime candles

15 July 2020

I loved the drizzly, cold weather of last Saturday. I put on a piano playlist my brother made and baked a Dutch baby pancake for breakfast. Later, when Tony left to teach a drawing workshop, I lit a daytime candle (such a simple novelty), made banana bread to take to a friend's place, and curled up on the couch to watch a documentary.

Tiny things are changing here. My baby cos lettuce plants have grown their hearts and it cheers me to catch a glimpse of their leaves from the couch.

I stayed up late on Sunday, partly because I started making sourdough late in the day but also because I expected to find out more about my job and whether I'd be keeping it on Monday. Delaying sleep was one way of staying in the in between space where it could still go either way, and when my team was together still. One of my work mates called it a reverse Christmas Eve. So we put on a funny movie from the '80s (highly recommend it) and made this easy butterscotch sauce for our ice cream.

On Monday I found out that I'll very likely keep my job and while it's a huge relief, it's been hard to stand by as good people were told otherwise. I think that's why I don't feel totally settled just yet. I've been hyper alert and distracted in the same afternoon, not too jazzed about food (so weird for me) and waking up some nights at 3am. Still I know I am lucky. I'm doing all of the things to take care of myself - yoga, lunch outside the apartment, walks wherever possible, and I feel a bit better every day. 

My friend Sophie sent me this enormous bouquet of flowers earlier in the week. At first I felt totally undeserving but it's really cheered me up.  It smells of roses and honey and is making our lounge room an even nicer place to be. I noticed this white flower right away, because it looks like it's been made of crepe paper. Sophie says it's a pincushion flower or scabiosa. 

After work today, I lit a candle, cleaned the dishes from breakfast and readied a present for the post. And did a tiny bit of my tax. It felt normal and nice and I'm hoping for more of those days ahead.


Fun stuff!

07 July 2020

Just this week I remembered that morning yoga, a walk (no matter how long/short or what time of day), plus limited time on social media is a recipe for a really nice day. Or a more manageable one at the very least. I've also been reading more, journaling again and planning some upcoming gifts (my most favourite thing).

Despite everything that's going on, I've felt extremely lucky of late. Today I received a parcel from my mum with homemade biscuits and a cute blanket (which happens to be a poncho!). Over the weekend, a thoughtfully chosen audio book popped into my inbox as a gift and my brother sent my favourite burgers round for dinner one night. Life can be very good even when it is a little uncertain. That being said, I am thinking of everyone in Melbourne as lockdown starts again and hope some of the things below can make a challenging time a little more bearable.

To share:

Banana bread just got even better. Julia Ostro did a version for ABC Life with spices, chocolate chunks and a crispy tahini and sugar top. It's going to be my go-to banana bread recipe.

Spike Lee's first film She's Gotta Have It is on Netflix! It was my fave discovery of last week and a really fun watch.

There's a new season of Esther Perel's podcast Where Should We Begin?

Dating Around is back and I've already blitzed my way through the new season. If you've never watched it, it's a Netflix dating show where one person goes on 5 blind dates and gets to choose one 'winner' for a second date. It's extra fun and fast because you don't watch the dates in full - they all take place at the same restaurant so the episode cuts between them.

This is me on a Zoom call.

Alison Roman has restarted her newsletter and it's great. I'm also a fan of Nisha's Internet Tote Bag, which comes out on a Monday and is a very nice way to start the week.

Please keep taking care!


Fresh air and friends

02 July 2020

Our friends Angie and Dave visited us in Canberra at the end of a very emotional week. The afternoon they arrived had been a bit of a cry fest, brought on by exhaustion, shock and the kindness of the people around me.  By the end of their visit I felt a lot calmer and happy too. I am very lucky to have these three in my life (Tony has been endlessly patient and supportive and kind 😭).

We drove out to Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve with bags full of bakery goods and went for a couple of different walks, spotting a bettong and a bandicoot in our travels. Winter days in Canberra can be clear and lovely when the sun is out. It helped to be outside with all of its sights and smells after three days of non-stop video meetings and phone calls.

I was a bit nervous about hanging out when things felt so out of control. But I shouldn't have been - I was people I love and trust and was in desperate need of distraction and perspective. Angie and Dave visit us every single year no matter whether we're living in Wagga Wagga (a good 6 hour drive from Sydney) or Canberra. They even let me move in with them once for a job stint in Sydney!

I really wanted to make something slow-cooked for dinner like a leg of lamb but instead we decided to make something low-key so we didn't feel like we had to be home at a particular time to prep. I made a Julia Ostro inspired cheese and prosciutto plate and Tony made fresh pasta for dinner.

At the start of the season I wrote a winter bucket list, inspired by Joy, and baking a lemon delicious was at the top of the list. It's such a sunny dessert and self-saucing :) I used a Ruth Reichl recipe and also recommend a Stephanie Alexander version, which my sister must've introduced me to. It was so lovely and warming.

Angie and Dave's parting gift was a black truffle which totally blew my mind because it's something I never would've bought for myself. We've been infusing eggs and plan to make a truffle pasta this weekend. Luckily, friends and food haven't been cancelled in 2020.