Korean Adventure

Myeong-dong night market

5 nights and six days in Korea is a mini-adventure. It was my first trip to Asia, since one can hardly include stopovers in Hong Kong or Changi Airport as a trip.

This was a business trip, fraught with cultural and linguistic difficulty. We persuaded our Korean-born colleague to accompany us and without her we wouldn’t have achieved anything. Certainly we would have gone hungry or simply eaten our way through American food chains.

The hotels we stayed in were generally the standard business kind of hotel. Except for the one in Daejeon, a dour science and technology city. It’s as though the hotel wanted to make up for the dreariness of the city.

Korean country hotel

By far and away the very best parts of the trip were the meals eaten in side street cafes or tucked away nooks. Chi would take us in, chat to the owners about what was available (the menus were definitely neogtiable), and we sat down to Korean hotplate with deliciously grilled on the table meat, an array of side dishes, a little rice, kim chi and soybean paste with chili.

Inevitably, the owner would ask Chi at the end  of the meal ‘Did she like it?’ indicating the only Westerner to hit their restaurant that decade. Smiling and bowing vigorously, I backed up Chi’s assertion that I did. Oh yes, lots!

Of board games and yoghurt

We’ve pulled out the boardgames this summer – the lad and lass now old enough to enjoy playing more complex games. It was a quiet achievement for the lad to play Scrabble, undaunted by picking out words and spelling. Mind you, spelling ‘fart’ has never presented a problem for him, regardless of his dyslexia.

At the moment, the three of them are at a game of Chameleon which I haven’t played yet. But I did see how the lass beat the Bloke in her first game so I think some respect might be in order when I come up against her. I watched for five minutes and was told to leave the room or keep quiet. I can’t help myself – something like Tetris or Chameleon and I start shouting out where the player should go. Which means I get told where to go.

I’ve been pursuing my own passions since Christmas, kindly fuelled by gifts. The Bloke gave me Saraban, the latest cookbook by Greg and Lucy Malouf. Oh my, it’s beautiful. The food looks good too. I’ve already prepared a few meals and realised just how much yoghurt is used. This is not a bad thing but it would mean anywhere between $10-15 worth of yoghurt a week. What to do? Make your own.

First I tried the simple method that is recommended in the book which means using a tablespoon or two of a commercial yoghurt as your starter culture. This turned out fine but it was thinner than I prefer. So, just a few minutes noodling on the net and I found Green Living Australia who supply yoghurt cultures. What you see above is my first batch of Greek-style yoghurt!

It’s delicious with a full, lingering taste. I shall divide this 1 litre batch into three and try it flavoured with honey, salted and the last will be drained to make labneh, a soft yoghurt cheese.

It was so utterly simple to make that it seems ridiculous. The dried culture will make between 80-100 batches and cost about $12. No particular equipment is necessary, though I decided that I would buy a tightweave cheesecloth, calcium chloride (2-3 drops ensure a thicker set) and a set of mini measuring spoons.  Separately I bought a dedicated 1 litre thermos since I’m not keen on coffee-infused yoghurt.

All up, a $50 outlay means I’ll be able to make two litres of yoghurt for the rest of the year (for each alternate batch I’ll use four tablespoons of yoghurt as the starter rather than the dried culture).

And I’ve noticed that Green Living Australia have a feta making kit. Yum!

It’s Thursday, I’m in love

Here’s my new best friend:

Pressure Cooker

Isn’t she beautiful? An 8.5l Danish pressure cooker able to produce rich, luscious meals like this in 20 minutes:

Braised lamb with mash
I wrote earlier about listening to Suzanne Gibbs describe the joy of pressure cooking.  It’s not the convenience of a meal in 45 minutes or less that’s the real attraction. Let’s face it, a good stir fry will do that for you. It’s the flavour – rich and intense – without 3 hours of simmering.

I rarely have the time and the energy to do beautiful, long, slow cooking on the weekends. I enjoy that kind of cooking and the meals it can produce but it’s just not been happening for the last 12 months or more.

And the demand for food around here has gone up incredibly since a black hole took up residence in the lad’s stomach. We need to have on hand healthy, filling food that’s flavoursome and enjoyable. We already cook for six to take that into account and even that hasn’t been enough. Add to that our good intentions to take leftovers to work for lunch and we’re looking at serious amounts of food.

So now I can produce the volume of food we need in the limited amount of time that I have. And there’s the little extras that have fallen by the wayside – quinces poached in red wine with cinnamon. Well, I just took that off the stove 40 minutes after peeling the quinces.

All my new bestie needs now is a name.

Cameras, cookers and craft

I had hoped to include a few photos today but in an aimless kind of way, I can’t quite locate the memory stick with them on it. There will be pictures again, soon.

This week has been quieter and a little easier for those smaller moments of joy to sneak in. I have tried new recipes or ones that we haven’t had in a long time. Some were successful, others less so, and pleasantly surprised by the ones which were eaten by the (slightly) smaller folk without fuss. I may have lied once when I robustly told them that they had eaten this meal before. Prior experience seems to make a difference if they face a plate with some suspicion.

I’ve decided to purchase a pressure cooker after hearing this interview with Suzanne Gibbs. She’s just published a book for pressure cookers – good, contemporary recipes by the sound of it. I was pretty much convinced when the host described the chicken tagine with a 15 minute prep time and 15 cooking time and I was sold when she said it cooked risotto in 6 minutes. I don’t care if that’s blasphemy but I love risotto and if a pressure cooker means I can have homemade risotto with homemade stock in the middle of the week, then a pressure cooker I shall have.

Plus it means its less disheartening when kids get fussy over a meal that took a great deal of preparation; or that it’s easier to put together an extra casserole so we can fill up the black hole that is the lad’s nearly ten year old stomach.

The camera went for a bit of a walk over the weekend – I was trying to figure out where to go and decided just to walk around our backyard. Some good shots, some not so great, but interesting and I learned that our camera has a magnification function. Just have to work it out, is all.

In craft studio news, I sorted my fabric AND put it away in the dresser cupboard. I’ve gone for two major categories: new, dress fabrics and vintage/remnant fabric. The dress fabrics are sorted by colour because that’s how I choose something for a project. Then I’ll figure out if it’s the right type of fabric and if it isn’t, damn it, I’ll have to buy some. I have large scraps sorted by colour into small boxes. I’ll do the books. patterns and notions this weekend and try and get a start on the decorative stuff. I moved my cutting table from under the house into the studio and it is bliss. It makes layout, cutting and sorting a dream.

All in all, I’m getting into a less hassled pace and enjoying it. Now to settle back for a weekend of Eurovision action.

Finding Joy

I read a post a few days ago by six and a half stitches about a group project called ‘finding joy’. After an overful April, I liked the reminder to pause long enough to find what is joyful. I’ve thought of three things to linger over and rediscover the joy and the simple pleasure they give. One was food: mindfully stepping out of the rut at least 2 or 3 times during the week to try something new. The other was photography: remembering to take my camera for a walk around different places and give myself time to stop and look. The last was my studio – a crude little hut, really – that is still ‘going to be’ organised. I was down there last weekend, picking, cutting and arranging fabric and remembered how joyful it is to touch and look and discover again. So, more organising for the delight of rediscovering the possibilities.

And already I’ve found myself pausing to enjoy what was happening right now. I took the lad to a cross country run and drove him back to school. I’d cheered, chatted and knitted while the lad ran, cheered, and chatted. We were sharing a companionable trip back when I pulled in at a wayside milk bar. It surprised the lad and I just smiled and said, you must be starving, how about something to eat? It was just couple of (yummy) hot potato cakes that we munched but it was about us sharing a little time together.

Last night was a quiet no-TV night so we pulled out books or knitting and settled ourselves around the couch and cushion. The lass was very weary after her swimming lesson and just lay on my lap, watching me knit, stroking my arm or belly, following the wool, all like a drowsy little kitten. She fell asleep curled up as she must have been in my belly – all tucked up with her thumb in her mouth (we have the ultrasound to show off at her 21st). It was quiet and still and good.

Addendum: the recipe for corn soup

I’m having trouble making the document upload, so I’ve written out the recipe in full. Once I figure out how to upload a document, the recipe will be available as a pdf. Enjoy!

Corn Soup
Ingredients
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large potato, finely diced (optional)
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1 tin (420g) corn kernels, drained
1 tin (420g) creamed corn
500ml chicken stock
300ml water

Method
Sauté onion in olive oil for three minutes. Add garlic and potato, and continue to sauté for another three minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in smoked paprika and cinnamon and allow to infuse for 30 seconds.
Add corn kernels and creamed corn, mixing the ingredients thoroughly. Stir through chicken stock and water. Slowly bring to the boil and then allow to simmer for 12-15 minutes or until potato is cooked. Season with salt.
Serves 4 adults as a light lunch. Or two adults and a starving 9 year old, with just a bit left over for lunch the next day.

Flavour substitutions
Rather than smoked paprika and cinnamon, you can use more traditional combinations such as bacon and thyme. Sauté two rashers of chopped bacon with the potato and add a handful of fresh thyme or a teaspoon of dried thyme with the chicken stock. Season with salt and black pepper

Chocolate mug-cakes

They’re not cupcakes. They’re very definitely mugcakes. And they’re good. Thanks to angry chicken for sharing the link.

A study in concentration

A study in concentration

Cracking

Cracking

Entertainment for all the family

Entertainment for all the family

Mugcake

Mugcake
All gone

All gone

With thanks to Miss Tadpole for the first two photos.

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