Monday, 23 July 2012

When my kids are in the kitchen

Lots of people talk to me about how I include my kids in the kitchen.

What do they cook?

Do they make a mess?

When do you start to let them cook?

Do you help?

Do they all like cooking?

Do they eat what they cook?

I sometimes feel stumped by questions like this.  I have been thinking about why.

My thoughts are that I think people may get the wrong idea about the reality of what happens in my kitchen.

I'm worried that it is yet another thing we judge ourselves on as parents.

Another thing we feel we should be doing and that if we aren't then our children will be detrimentally affected.

Here is a little bit about what I  think about kids being in the kitchen.

I DO think it helps them have an awareness of food.  I DON'T think it is the only way.

I  DO include my kids in the cooking. I DON'T judge you if you don't.  I love cooking. I want to share what I love with my children. I get that it is not like that for everyone. I DON'T love going to the park. Do you judge me to be a better or worse parent because of that?  What I am trying to say here is that as parents we all have something to offer our children. The fact that we all have different things to offer is a good thing. The world would be a very boring place if we were all good at the same thing.

Just because I like to cook and like to share that with my children DOES NOT make me a better parent.

I DO let my kids choose what to cook.  I DON'T always like it but I think that to help a child love cooking it is important to let them take control.  And yes little kids will almost ALWAYS choose biscuits and cakes to start with. Is there anything wrong with that? NO.

I DO believe it is important for my children to understand where food comes from and to have an understanding of the nutritional elements of food.

My children DO make a mess in the kitchen. I DO make THEM clean it up.  The cleaning up part is an important part of learning how to cook.  Yep kids do spill a lot of flour & use a lot of utensils....but if we adjust our expectations and understandings of their abilities maybe we can take away some of our own stress to do with this.   Flour can be swept away, the dishwasher can clean the plates.  And I think the mess in between is worth it.

I DO let my kids join in if they want.  I DON'T make them.

DO I expect my children to be able to label ingredients and name flavours? NO. Cooking and eating is not a competition. My desire is for my children to have a healthy love of sharing. My desire is for them to have an appreciation of how eating together is a celebration of life & love.

DO I want them to love cooking? Of course I DO. But it really doesn't matter to me if they DON'T just as it it doesn't matter to me whether or not they play footy or whether they are good at drawing. What I  DO want is for my children to find what they LOVE to do and to be able to enjoy doing it.

I DO teach my kids the skills to be independent in the kitchen including using sharp knives but I DO take over for some of the more tricky steps. I encourage my kids to watch and learn.  As they get older they do more and more independently in the kitchen.  They started doing little steps as very young children and as they get older they do more on their own.  It is important as they get older to let them go a little bit.  Let them make mistakes.  Let them learn from them. That is how we all learnt.  My eldest 3 boys who are 9, 11 & 13 are ALL able to cook several dishes entirely independently now.

Is there anything wrong with your kids cooking the same thing over and over?  NO. We all like to feel good at something.  Being able to master a dish is no different. Kids like predictability. Venturing out & trying to cook other dishes will come as their confidence in the kitchen increases.

My kids sometimes DO eat what they cook.  They DON'T always.
Do I think they should? NO not always.  Cooking is in itself an act of love. To be involved in the process is a gift to me so I don't mind if they don't eat what they have made.  Although of course I am disappointed. My kids are young.  I want them to LOVE the process of cooking and I am a strong believer that the rest follows.  To me- what is on the plate is a VERY small part of the joy of food.
I invest a whole lot more interest in the sum of the parts. And for me the most important part is the act of SHARING.  
Food is nothing without that. 

Last week my eldest son asked if he could cook dinner.  It is tricky to accomodate this when your kids ask at 6pm!!
I try to teach my children about planning in the kitchen. Planning what you want to cook and being prepared with ingredients, how to manage your time etc.
So when my eldest asked at 6pm I immediately asked him what he thought he could manage to cook that would be ready by 7?  I can't remember exactly the answer but it was definitely not something manageable in that time.
We had a conversation about Pasta. How fantastic it is for quick and delicious meals.  ANd how great it is for using what is in the fridge. I asked him to have a look in the fridge at some ingredients and have a think.  He remembered eating Puttanesca with us the week  before and loving it. The he saw the bacon.  He has inherited my love for le Piggeh.
He wanted to make a sauce that involved using bacon & decided to do a dish inspired by Puttanesca but using the bacon too. He is not a fan of olives so they didn't make an appearance.
This is what he made. 
It was a delight to see him do it all on his own and it was truly DELICIOUS.
He proudly took the leftovers in a Thermos to school for lunch the following day & was keen for me to share it with you too.

  • 400g pasta (my lad chose Spiralli)
  • 1 onion, diced finely
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 4-5 rashers of bacon, rind trimmed and chopped
  • 2 cans of tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon chilli flakes
  • 4-5 anchovies, diced finely (the anchovies add a lovely salty element to the dish and do not leave a fishy taste)
  • 1/2 bunch Italian parsley, chopped 
  • 3-4 tablespoons capers
  • EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
  • S & P
Chop the bacon.

Chop the onion, garlic, anchovies and the parsley.  Set half of the parsley aside for later.
Here he is chopping garlic 'Like a Boss' as he says...

Heat a non-stick frypan to medium and add a good glug of EVOO.  Add the bacon & onion and fry til the onion is translucent and the bacon is cooked.

Now add the anchovies, garlic & chilli flakes.  Fry for a minute or so or until the anchovies have melted.

Add half the parsley and the capers  & stir.

 Add the cans of tomatoes & reduce the heat to low. 

Simmer for half an hour or so or until you see the oil separate from the tomatoes.

Cook the pasta and add to the sauce for the last two minutes of cooking.   This allows the sauce to integrate into the pasta itself and makes a much tastier dish. Add the rest of the parsley and serve.

We were playing this LOUD in our kitchen yesterday at breakfast. Dare you not to MOOOOOVE. What a great clip it is too ~

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Who knows where the time goes?

Every year the time speeds up.

A silent and invisible foot is stepping heavily on life's accelerator.

Here we are again further than half way through the year.

Where did it go?

What have I done?

Even my eldest child has started to ask those questions.

I remember in the early years of childhood that time had no real significance & I love for my little kids it seems the same.

They are busy just living life.

Happy in the moment.

When is it that we start living life differently to that?

So busy that we lose the moment.

It is something I try very hard to grab at.   Aware that sometimes the best moments get missed if we stop noticing them.

But as a stay at home parent that is a dilemma non?

The seeming minutiae of the day to day of being a parent of small children can be so trying that it is easy to miss the little bits of magnificence that are right there before us.

The last month or so has been pretty hard going here.

I feel like I have done a lot of looking down.

Looking down at my feet, making sure one foot steps in front of the other.

And then things got a bit easier & I had a moment to look up at the sky.

There was a flock of birds flying in circles through pillowy clouds.

Such a simple thing really.

But my oh my.

So very very beautiful.

The battle to get through the day can be exactly what stops us seeing the beauty, the simplicity.

And then we find ourselves getting older and questioning the significance of what we have 'done with our lives'.

Have we made our lives so complicated that our expectations of what makes a successful life are beyond reach?

What sort of success is it that we are trying to reach for anyway?

For me I feel relieved that I don't measure the success of my life based on monetary assets,  or career (that bit is fortuitous seeing as I haven't had one!!!).

I try really really hard to measure my success on just being me.

And to be me doesn't really require me to look at a clock or a calendar.

Time is irrelevant.

I need to learn to let it go.

To stop looking at them.

And to look more at me.

I have said it MANY times before but I will keep banging the drum that really good food is often the very simplest.  
Have you caught onto the Quinoa craze?
It's everywhere.
We have and we are hooked!
I love the revival of grains in foods. All these wonderful and some ancient grains that are seeing a renaissance in food.
So good for you but SOOOO tasty! 
I made this soup really quickly last week on the weekend for lunch.
All of us loved it. The kids too.


  • 1 cup of Quinoa 
  • 3 potatoes, peeled and chopped into even dice.
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 litres of good quality Chicken (or Vegetable stock for a vego version)
  • 3 rashers of bacon (you can omit these if you want a Vego version)
  •  a splosh of EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
  • 6 leaves of Tuscan Kale, chopped
  • S & P
In a large saucepan heat the EVOO over a medium heat and fry the onion and garlic gently till the onion is translucent.

Add the bacon. Fry for a couple of minutes. 

Add the potatoes, quinoa and kale. Stir through for a minute or so.

Add stock and bring to the boil.

Reduce heat & simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Season well and serve.

Can't get this song outta my head today...... I LOVE Cat Power. The song seems perfect non? 

Monday, 16 July 2012

Childhood is never long enough.

And just like that it is quiet.

I have returned home from the first school drop off in two weeks.

The two week hiatus from being woken by an alarm is over.

Back to making lunches.

In the blink of an eye a strange calm has veiled my house.

The first week we were still in flu recovery here.

The second week was a mix of playground and home.

Nothing special.

No big holiday anywhere.

Just lots of time together.

Sometimes with extras.

Sometimes not.

My kids are happy to just be together, they don't hassle me for stuff or to go places.

They are just content to be.

To be kids together.




Long may it last.

Childhood is never long enough.......

Either are the holidays.

BLACK TURTLE BEAN & CORN SALSA (recipe adapted from Thomasina Miers book : Mexican Food Made simple ):
I love cooking (and eating) all types of cuisines.
We have been experimenting a little with Mexican food lately.
I mentioned on my facebook page about my family watching Thomasina Miers together.
My sister and her husband lived in Mexico for a while and I guess I have always had an interest in the culture and food since she lived there.
On the weekend my eldest lad (13yo) wanted to cook a Mexican fiesta.
He planned the menu.
He wanted it to be fish based. He is a big fan of Ceviche.  You will find my recipe for ceviche in Pip Lincolne's Good stuff Holiday Guide.
His menu was~ Crispy Panko fish, ceviche, chunky  guacamole & black bean & corn salsa. He served it all with mini tortillas so everyone could jsut pop whatever they wanted in Tortillas. 
Needless to say it was DELICIOUS!
I especially loved the salsa- I made fritters for breakfast the next day with the leftovers by adding 1/2 a cup of SR flour and an egg (I also added some green chilli). 
NB: the dressing for this Salsa will be on lots of other food I serve- it is da BOMB!!!!)
This salsa would be gorgeous served with anything in my opinion.  Or just on it's own.
My 12yo has asked for it as a school lunch this week. YUM.

(for the dressing)

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 5 slices of Japaleno chillies (we used the ones in jar)
  • a generous pinch of sea salt
  • a heaped teaspoon of ground cumin
  • juice of a lime
  • 2 tblspoons EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
  • lots of freshly ground black pepper

(for the salsa)

  • 1 corn on the cob
  • 100g cooked Black Turtle beans (we found them at a local Asian grocer- they are used in some dessert dishes in Asia, but if you live in Melbourne you will find them at Casa Iberica too)
  • 4 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 3 tomatoes, chopped into small dice
  • more jalapenos if desired (we didn't put anymore in as we were feeding littler kids with less chilli tolerance)
  • 1/2 bunch of fresh coriander, chopped roughly
Pop the garlic, jalapenos, salt & cumin into a Mortar & pestle and grind to a paste. Savour the amazing perfume!

Wouldn't the world be less of an amazing place without Cumin?! - i really believe that. I LOVE it soooo much!

Now add the lime, ground pepper & EVOO. 

Simmer the corn for about 5 minutes in salted water & then slice the kernels off the cob.

Add them into a large bowl.
Add Black Turtle beans, spring onions & tomatoes & pour dressing over. 
Add fresh Coriander & combine well.


Howe Gelb is one of my absolute favourite musicians.  Prolific. And every new album a surprise. Often collaborating with new musicians. He has so much magnificent music in him. May he continue to share it so beautifully with us.
Here is a gorgeous little doco about him and his collab with some Flamenco musicians:

Friday, 13 July 2012

In Real Life Friends and the Internet

A few years ago I had NO idea about Blog world and all that it had to offer.

I knew NADA enchilada.



It was only when a friend of mine suggested it as a medium to share my food knowledge that I started to have a look around.

Blog world is a bit like going into bookshops.

Some bookshops are inviting and beautiful.

Some not so much.

Same with blogs.

Some just get it right.

They feel effortless but anyone who has created one knows that this is anything but the truth.

It takes hard work, lots of thought & effort.

When entering a nice bookshop a warm ambience envelops you as you enter.

They are lit beautifully, not too overwhelming but bright enough to be able to read easily.

There is music playing.

Music that is carefully chosen- not too loud but stimulating in it's gentleness.

They feel cosy.

The aesthetics are well considered.

Time slips away.......

Nice blogs are like that for me.

Places I go because I like the aesthetic AND the words.

Because they resonate with me.

One of the very first blogs that I found was Hugo & Elsa.

I fell in LOVE.

It was like stumbling into my dream life.

But it felt like real life at the same time.

I felt as though I had walked into one of those lovely bookshops & picked up a book that would be one of those favourite books on the bookshelf at home that is well thumbed and revisited often.

One of those rare and wonderful books that makes you laugh, cry and nod your head in agreement. 

The words were carefully considered, the photographs elegant and beautiful.

Michelle's  blog helped me to start my own.

Michelle's blog helped me trust that I could share my story and show it as I wanted to.

Michelle probably doesn't even know this.  I am not sure I have ever told her.

We have been friends on the Interweb for a couple of years now.

Conversing on Twitter regularly.

Michelle and her crew came and had breakfast & coffee at our place last Christmas holidays fresh off the boat on their way to the mountains.

It was the best...but way too short!

We needed days.

Over time we have discovered more and more commonalities.

When we were booking our trip to Tasmania for our Tomato Sauce making I was looking for a property big enough to house our large family and it needed to be close to Cygnet where we were making sauce.

It is not easy to find a property that fits seven people.

But we did.

I rung Michelle and let her know that we had booked accommodation that I thought was very near to her and was looking forward to catching up.

It was *very* near indeed.

Like NEXT door near.

A walk down the country lane.

It could not have been a better outcome.


When we weren't out and about or making our Sauce, we were at Michelle's greeted by her gorgeous warmth and good humour, her divine family that we all loved and of course her stunning cooking from the magnificent Rayburn.

There was music.

There was coffee.

There may have been wine.

Just maybe.

There certainly was lots of talking and lots of sharing and lots of laughing.

Especially with the kids and husbands about our online life and our IRL (In Real Life) friendship.

There was a feeling of knowing each other for a lifetime.

A feeling that as we all sat in her house that we had been there a hundred times before.

The kids were instant besties.

It was so sad to leave.

We really didn't want to.

But I know we will be back.........

And in the meantime we drink lots of coffee & Gin & even eat some of our fave dinners together over the Interweb while we dream of our next IRL meeting.

If you want to join us for dinner or  drinks or both you can do so over on INSTAGRAM .

I am GourmetGirlfriend and Michelle is hugoandelsa.

Michelle and I are both Noodle lovers. 
We share lots of 'favourite' foods.
And more broadly we share a talent of making this statement when we see a dish posted on Interwebs "That is my absolute fave"....even though we say it about a hundred different dishes!
Do you do that too? Or is it just us?
I LOVE to dollop lots of Chilli oil on all manner of things- eggs, noodles, name it I find an excuse to put it on.
I LOVE this on Char Kway Teow- one of mine and Michelle's 'faves'!
I don't know WHY it has taken me sooooo long to try make this for myself as I go through jars of it like no mans business.
And it is RIDUNKULOUSLY easy!!!
I have been slathering it on my Acovado toast and loving it!!
This recipe makes  2 cups of chilli oil.
  • 2 cups Rice bran oil (or other heat tolerant and unflavoured oil)
  • 1 cup chilli flakes
  • 1 tablespoon Sesame oil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 slices of ginger
  • 1 heaped tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns


Sterilise a large lidded jar. 

Slice ginger.
Peel cloves of garlic and squash with the back of a knife.

Place chilli flakes in a small saucepan and pour over the Sesame oil.

In another small saucepan place the garlic, ginger and szechuan peppercorns.
Pour Rice bran oil over the top.

Place on a medium heat and heat till the ginger begins to sizzle- about 3-4 minutes.  Let it sizzle for another minute or so or until the garlic is just starting to brown.

Remove from heat immediately and strain this oil into the other pan with the chilli flakes and Sesame oil. 
Do not put on the stove!

Now stir  through and let cool.

Pour into jar et VOILA- there you have it, a jar of the most beautiful fragrant Ruby red chilli oil!
L: Garlic Chilli oil  R: Chiu Chow style Chilli Oil

(Now....because I LOVE LOVE LOVE Chiu Chow chilli oil the MOST...I was keen to replicate the flavour of that.

If you want to do that too it is as simple as popping some of your chilli oil into another smaller jar -mine was about 1/2cup size-and adding about a tablespoon of Light soy sauce to it and shaking very well. Let settle and there you have it! So easy, so good!)

I chose this song especially for Michelle as I think she will LOVE it & the Yarn-bombed Piano as much as I do.