Tag Archives: family

Perfect Pumpkin

So it is winter … officially on Friday if you date Northern Hemisphere style, but weatherwise here in the southern half, the cold has struck. Oh, you may laugh at me as I rug up as if I am heading off on an Arctic expedition, when temperatures are still in the positives, but it is all relative you know 😊. I’ll remind you of that dear readers when I am toasting at 40 degrees C …

And as a consequence of the fweeeeeeezing conditions, we are on the soup bandwagon again. Five weeks of different soups and already one is leaping ahead as the favourite. It is even on repeat request this week, so it must be a magic mix indeed. Just as well its main preparation time is chopping, and not much more until blitzing time. Quite manageable really, which is nice.

So, as my title hints today, the cheerful soup on the menu this week is Pumpkin. As with many things, the title is a bit misleading, because, in actual fact, pumpkin is maybe only a third of the quantity. But as the ingredient list is too lengthy for a soup name, “Pumpkin” it is.

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I’m one for simplicity and rough estimates for amounts, so here’s the approximate quantities …

Serves approx 8

1/2 a butternut pumpkin (not your Hallowe’en variety – sorry!)
2-3 carrots
2 potatoes
1 large sweet potato
1 or 2 red capsicums
vegetable stock (about 3 or 4 cups)
turmeric, ground coriander seed, paprika in generous quantities

chop veggies, add stock and spices.

cook until soft then blitz in batches until smooth

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Serve with a bit of cream and some parsley to make it look all Master Chef-y 😊 like so:

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A thieving little magpie

I have a confession to make.

I steal recipes.

Well, not really. I am more a collector. A collector of recipes – of those which invoke memories, which are tied up with food and joyful occasions, of smells and tastes and feelings, of experiences and emotions.

Over time I have been able to gather together some recipes that bring back those memories in our own kitchen. It’s quite amazing.

There are, of course, some cooking smells or tastes that are best left forgotten. I’m left bewildered at the 70s taste buds that thought peas set in lime jelly or carrots in orange jelly would be a gourmet dish – or olives. Green olives, green jelly. I can clearly see the connection. Only one small step better than Spam, I suppose, or anything set in aspic.

Here’s a link to cause you to wonder how anyone actually survived this era … (by the way, I am a survivor!) Unbelievable recipes!!

These are definitely not the recipes that I have accumulated!! (Although my very aged copy of the Complete Women’s Weekly cookbook may have some within, accompanied by a tasteful colour picture, or two.)

It was the smell of the freshly baked bread that got me thinking, along with the essential oils that diffuse through our house at night-time. It reminded me how when I even see certain foods, they transport me to another time or place.

Here’s a classic example – give me a fresh buttered brezel and instantly I am in an open subway station in Munich, 2004, making my way in the cold to language school, Not just any old station, but specifically this one:
Karlsplatz Stachus MunichKarlsplatz (Stachus), not in its all fancy bright lights and renovated state, but all concrete-y and looking like something out of the Communist Era (and I know, before you say, that this did not include Munich, but this subway …)


I have yet to try my hand at brezeln making – but I do have a recipe somewhere …

In my mind, when I make falafels, I’m finding my way through the streets of old Jerusalem, I smell naan bread and roasted spices and I’m wandering down the streets of Birmingham’s Balti Triangle, in its heyday, with a Balti restaurant on every corner. Hot custard takes me right back to Grandma’s kitchen, sitting at her red laminate table, looking at the plastic fruit.

I tried a new falafel recipe the other week, inspired by the combination of the efforts of an old school friend and co-incidentally a recipe appearing in the local supermarket magazine. Unlike other attempts, they did not disintegrate into tiny, impossible-to-eat segments in the oil. Not only that, they were declared a ‘keeper’, which is always a good thing, especially since we’d only eaten half of the mix!

I don’t even have a photo of them, which is really sad for a foodie, blogging type person, but as I commented to another old school friend, they were hardly photogenic, although very tasty. It’s not all about looks, you know!

There’s a name for this smell/memory thing – olfactory memory – and there are some interesting studies on it, which include how the brain responds to smell. There appear to be fewer studies on the compulsive desire to have lots of recipes with lots of pictures to drool over, which are never recreated.

It is an interesting thing, considering the brain injury experience in our home, to learn about the sense of smell. Did you know it is the only sense which makes its way directly to the brain, rather than via a series of nerve endings? We have also learnt it is often triggered as a pre-symptom to a seizure, which is helpful for being prepared.

But in the meantime, with my new stove (which, I assure you, was a very welcome change to the kitchen), I am inspired to hit the pile of saved up papers and see what sorts of (nice) smells I can conjure up, to create some new memories to stack away.

My feature photo today is of some preparation for just that. I’m going to launch a balti on my poor unsuspecting husband, so I’ve been cooking up spices and sauces, turning the kitchen a turmeric shade of yellow. I’ll let you know how it all ends up (only if successful of course! 🙂 )

And just for fun, I came across this photo taken by Philipp Kester, which is kept in the Münchner Stadtmuseum … titled “Breznverkäuferin im Hofbräuhaus”, which goes to show I am not alone in my liking of Brez’n 🙂

15_kester_breznverkaeuferin-hofbraeuhaus richard wagner & louis ii

Cheap and Cheerful soup

This blog is called “Cheap & Cheerful Life” because it links up with a couple of (neglected) social media platforms I have. I set up these about 6 years ago when, for a short time, we were on a single income. We were living on the cheap, but I was trying very hard to be cheerful. I’m not sure how well I was doing – maybe others can judge that better – but since then, I have been competing with my local supermarket to dish up healthy meals that are on a reasonable budget.

I made a bold statement the other day to someone where I proclaimed I could feed four people for about $2.50 a serve. Although this is probably true of a number of dishes I cook, I decided to do a costing of the lunch I was going home to prepare … just to see.

While I pondered the cost of an average onion, I recalled an article someone had drawn to my attention recently. It was a discussion about why people below the poverty line buy take-away food. The conclusion was that the initial outlay of cooking utensils was prohibitive. People who are living week to week aren’t going to invest hundreds of dollars on a high-end set of saucepans, or an exotic set of European knives. For this recipe, I’m glad to say it only requires a sharp knife, peeler, chopping board, wooden spoon and a saucepan. It also makes me glad because the fewer utensils, the less washing up I have to do!

Just out of interest, based on these thoughts, I had a look at my local Ikea website to see what a 2018 costing would be for utensils. I only picked Ikea because it is global, unlike a lot of our cheap department stores where these items could also be found, and possibly cheaper. I discovered for about $AUD55, I could purchase two pots and a frying pan, two chopping boards, three sharp knives, a peeler and wooden spoon. This is marginally less than two McDonalds Family McFavourites boxes.

Interesting.

So, what was my super-cheap meal?

‘Minestrone’ soup
(only in quotes, because I’m sure it’s not exactly the traditional variety)

3 strips rindless shortcut bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
400g tinned diced tomatoes
400g tinned kidney beans, drained
250ml vegetable stock
More water, if you want
Pinch or two of salt

In the saucepan, cook up the bacon, garlic and onion. When mostly cooked, add carrots and celery to soften slightly. Add tomatoes, beans, stock, extra water, salt and allow to simmer for a bit.  Serve up and eat 🙂

So … how does this cost up?

At my local supermarket, my costings came in as follows:

Bacon                                       $10/500g …$1.90
Onion                                       $2.00/kg …  $0.30
Carrots                                    $1.50/kg …  $0.30
Celery                                      $3/celery … $0.30
400g tinned tomatoes          $0.80
400g tinned kidney beans  $1.50
Garlic                                           )
250ml vegetable stock      ) $1.00 (generous approximation)
More water, if you want   )
Pinch or two of salt             )

Additional two slices of toast  $3.50/loaf … $0.50 (including a bit of butter)

Now for four people … $6.10 + $2.00 for toast = $2.03 per serve.

Well, if that ain’t cheap and cheerful, I don’t know what is! 🙂

Guten Appetit!

PS I would have given you a photo of a bowl of steaming, hot soup, except for a couple of reasons: a) we ate the soup before I thought about writing about it; and b) I don’t know when I’m making it next, as the weather has suddenly jumped up to the high twenties (Celsius), so we’ve hit the salads!

PPS And a few days later, right on cue, the spring weather goes cold and so soup is back on the menu 🙂

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A father or two …

Last weekend was Fathers’ day. This has become a bittersweet day for me. My own father passed away almost eleven years ago and left quite a big gap in my life – as a sounding board, as my chief champion and as part of the ‘always been there, no matter what’ brigade.

Kevin was an intelligent man who dreamed of having a daughter named Rosemary and a daughter with long hair. I’m not sure if the two were meant to be one and the same, but it turned out that they were. He later had a dream of his daughters becoming engineers, but that one didn’t come to fruition!

Apart from the fact he couldn’t really sing in tune, he was a great dad. He was there for us, which sadly many fathers aren’t. He drove us to ballet lessons, helped with homework (in a very frustrating way … asking me questions to try to get to the answer) and tried to pass on his incredible and varied knowledge.

I learnt some valuable things from dad. One was that having a good general knowledge is really helpful. Not just to win Trivial Pursuit, or be really good at crosswords, but rather to be able to communicate well with people, whether the topic is personally interesting or not. He tried to teach me about engines too, but didn’t do so well on that front. I feel that this may have been more a problem with the student, rather than the teacher.

He did have some not so great habits though. One was a slight lack of punctuality! (Ha ha! My auto-correct tried to suggest ‘punctuation’ … now that was a thing he was pedantic about!) Now, where was I? Yes, punctuality … the man was even late to his own funeral! Although as a spoiler to a good story, it was really due to having a last minute change to the chapel at the cemetery, because such a large number came to pay their respects.

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Fourteen months later I met another tall, dark, handsome man. I always say he got me when I was vulnerable, but the truth is he had me at hello.

With him came a new dad. It’s nice to have a father figure back in my life again. There aren’t loads of similarities between my father-in-law and my dad. They’re both males, and they both love me unconditionally, which makes most other comparisons not really worth bothering about. And it gives me the chance to learn from life experience again too.

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We spent a really nice day picnicking at our favourite Mt Lofty Botanical Gardens with family for Fathers’ Day. It was a new place for my father-in-law, and I suspect he loves it as much as we do. It certainly is on the agenda for when he visits again.

In the end, despite all the blah about fathers needing new lawn-mowers, and who knows what else for days like this, it really is about showing appreciation for what our fathers have done for us, taking the opportunity to spend some quality time together and making a treasured memory. And that we did 🙂

Lest we forget

I’ve been exploring around the Word Press website and it amazes me to think there cannot be a topic on this globe that isn’t covered by one (or many) blogs.

One blog I read said that new writers should write every day for the first month. Hmmm, I think I missed that boat. Also, I should have a consistent theme, or direction. Somehow, that isn’t quite happening yet either. But I promise when TAFE (study) is finished, and this year of upheaval is over, I will resume my life of supreme calm, and provide thoughtful, logical and similarly themed blog posts.

In the meantime, my thoughts go to the events of the past week. Wednesday 25 April, to be exact. This is a day full of poignancy for both Australia and New Zealand. I’m not so familiar with NZ history, but when the First World War broke out, Australia had only just joined its penal colonies and colonial-settled states as a federated nation in 1900. Fifteen years later, they joined the British Imperial Forces to fight her battles in Turkey and then along the Western Front of France and Belgium.

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Horrific losses of life occurred during this war to end all wars. The world would never be the same and by 1918, Europe’s land lay battered and destroyed.

The ANZAC spirit of mateship and facing adversity was defined in this war – where the Australian and NZ soldiers were shot down as they landed on the beaches of Gallipoli at the foot of steep cliffs. Now the Turks and Australians are friends, showing that on occasions, time can eventually heal some wounds.

Two years later – to the day – the Australian soldiers fought to save a little town in France called Villers-Bretonneux. As a result, the French (particularly in that area) remember Australians with a great deal of gratitude.

Back home, military and civilian alike rise up in the darkness, to make their way to dawn services, to stop to remember – not to glorify – but to show their thanks. It is not just for the soldiers who fought then, but also those who have fought since to protect our nation.

Many of us go to remember. Why? Because those thousands of names listed on war memorials in France, Belgium and towns and cities throughout Australia, as well as those who came home, scarred and damaged, are family.

I am not alone in this. In WW1, one of my great-great-great uncles fell on the way to Passchendaele. My great-grandfather served in the Field Ambulance on the Western Front – something I am especially proud of – that he helped those in need, rather than being part of the cause of losses in other families His son went to El Alemein in WW2 and lost his life there. My grandmother never really got over the loss of her brother … so much so that in the last few months of her life, it was him she spoke most often of calling her.

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In my travels I didn’t make it to these places. One day I might. I would like to see these places of historical significance – both personal and global, and to pay my respects to those who laid down their lives for others.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
(John McCrae)

Lest we forget.