Monday, 25 July 2011

Cuddles, couches & Winnie the Pooh

Last night one of my children came out and said he had finished his last book and needed something else to read.

I LOVE that this happens.  It reminds me how much he LOVES to read.

I love that my love of reading has been embraced by all 5 of my boys.

I am ever so aware of what a gift a love of reading is.

It is one of the few activites that we can do alone.

It can provide both solace & relaxation.

It can provide advice or humour.

It provides an opportunity to slow down and think.

It allows us to think of things we may not otherwise.

My 11yo EATS books.  It is not uncommon for him to read 3 novels in a week.

How fabulous!

I am somewhat envious.  Envious that I don't allow myself the time to do the same.

My bedside pile of books is a little out of control.

And I can't resist picking up new ones that take my fancy when I see them for fear of forgetting and not having them there on the bookshelf to look at sometime down the track.

I love houses that have bookshelves.

I love what looking at peoples book collections can tell you about them.

I love the feel of books, I love the smell of them.  I love cover design.  I love different typeface. Most of all I love words.

Last night when Mr.11 came in he noticed a book that has been sitting on the couch for a bit.  I have been meaning to re-read it.

I was sitting on the couch reading and listening to music.

It was a copy of The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff. 

I was reading this very book when I met Hubster 24 years ago.

I loved it.

I have ALWAYS been a huge Winnie the Pooh fan.


And I am very interested in Eastern Philosophy.

He read it after me.

He loved it too.

And it just seemed serendipitous that it should have appeared before mr.11 yesterday.

I think it may well help him through his nightmare ordeal that I wrote about in my recent post here.

Here's a snippet of the foreward.

The little ones were already tucked into bed and were fast asleep.
Hubster offered to read it aloud to the big two (13 &11).

We sat snuggled on the couch as he read to us.

Magic moments.

And we will do this every night till the book is finished.

I hope the kids love it as much as we both did.

But I think both of us will love it more this time as we share it with our lovelies.


A pithivier is the French term for a pie made with 2 discs of puff pastry. This one is filled with frangipane and cherries!
I saw it on Rick Stein's French Odyssey the other night and thought it looked gorgeous. I am a HUGE fan of almond in pastry! This is my adaptation of his recipe.
Desserts are not my forte so I was apprehensive but it turned out beautifully.  I was very pleasantly surprised and will definitely make it again.
I served it to a friend visiting from Paris.  She told me it was better than the one she had there .....but she might have just been being polite!

  • 9 tablespoons unsalted butter (do buy good quality butter, it makes ALL the difference!)
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1 1/4 cups almond meal (I ground my own and did not remove the skin)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons flour
  • 2 tablespoons Kirsch
  • 1 1/2 cups cherries with pits removed (I used Morello Cherries)
  • 2 sheets of puff pastry

Preheat oven to 220C.

With one piece of puff pastry cut out a 25cm circle.

With the other make it 30cm (THE LARGER ONE IS THE TOP!).

Place in fridge while you make the filling.

To make the filling, mix together the sugar and butter until light & fluffy.

Beat in the egg and 1 of the egg yolks.

Stir in the ground almonds, flour and kirsch.

Now gently fold through the cherries.

Place the smaller puff circle on a baking sheet.

Mound the frangipane mix in the centre. DO NOT SPREAD IT AROUND.

Be sure to leave a 2 cm edge all around the edge.

Lay the larger disc on topand crimp the edges to seal.

Make a small hole in the centre to allow steam to be released.

You may decorate the top if you like.  I did- cause I wanted to make it look perdy!

I scored radiating arcs from the centre.  If you do this be careful not to strike right through the pastry.

Now brush the Pithivier with egg wash.

Bake for about 15 minutes and then lower the temp down to 175C for 35 minutes.

Be sure to check the cake as it may brown quickly.  If so cover lightly with foil to protect it.

Here's how it turned out:
Serve with good Vanilla bean icecream or whipped cream...or jsut as it comes! It is sooooo very delicious!

I was listening to this Bille track when Mr.11 came in last night.....perfect.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Running a hurdles race.....

Over the last 6 weeks there has been a whole lot of disturbed sleep at our place.

One of our children - who has just turned 11- was exposed to the movie trailers for what I understand to be the scariest movies ever made.

Needless to say we aren't into horror films here.

It is well known that My Neighbour Totoro (a Japanese anime film by Hayao Miyazaki- click here to take you to a trailer for it.) is our family favourite.  Too much Totoro is NEVER enough!  That's how we roll.......

A child his age thought it would be cool to take a look at the horror trailers and share it with a few others.

Actually buddy - not so cool!

Mine wasn't the only one who lost sleep.....

My child was frozen in terror, unable to move, unable to follow his instinct to get away.

He looks back and gives himself a hard time about staying & looking but given the circumstances I reckon I understand that he didn't.

He was physically ill that night.

He spent the entire night cradled over a bucket.

And has struggled to sleep since.

Six weeks is a long time to be suffering from sleep deprivation for anyone!

He can no longer stay in a room without others being with him.

He is unable to have doors shut for fear of being trapped.

His oldest brother is worried for him and isn't sleeping the best either.

It will pass.

I know that.

I am sad however that a piece of his innocence was taken from him that day.

He doesn't feel safe anymore and that breaks my heart.

He is getting better slowly through lots of talking & just because he is one heck of a courageous little fella.

And also because he is incredibly intuitive in his attitude to people and life.

One of the things he said during one of our many many talks over all this was profound.

Truly profound.

We were talking about life and how there are hard parts and parts that are easier.

And that this was one of the really hard parts.

His response was: "Yeah, you know I reckon life is like running a really really long hurdles race".

That would give you an idea into this little one's incredible insight for a child of 11!

It's so true though isn't it.

Just when we get over one hurdle there is another one and then another.

What I hope for him as he is leaping over this RIDICULOUSLY high one is that the next one is a long long way off.

We could all do with a bit of a break here.

And I am cooking simple dinners like this one:

This is a great pasta dish that most of us have ingredients for in the pantry.
Play with the ingredient amounts as you cook it to find how you like it best.

  • 400G spaghetti
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 red chilli chopped finely (deseeded if you don't want too much heat)
  • 3-4 anchovies
  • good handful rocket, chopped
  • good handful of Italian parsley chopped roughly
  • 1 lemon (using both the rind & juice)
  • 3 tablespoons good quality EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)

In a large pot boil plenty of salted water and cook pasta.  Remove 2 minutes before it is done.

Heat a separate pan to a medium heat (make sure it is big enough to hold all pasta later)- I use my Colombian black ceramic pot so I can serve ti straight to the table.
Add EVOO, chilli, anchovies & garlic.
Stir until anchovies melt and garlic is fragrant.  Turn off heat.

Remove pasta 2 minutes before done and transfer to pan with oil.
Add a ladleful of salted pasta water, lemon rind, parsley, rocket & juice of lemon.
Stir through for 2 minutes so pasta absorbs all the goodness of the flavours.

Serve immediately with good bread.

I hope it becomes a quick fave at your place as much as it is here! x

Music has been helping my Mr.11 recover.  Music is important to all of our family & I am thrilled that music is one of the things he has said is helping him through this tough time.  This is one the tracks he has been playing on high rotation. Check the video too! Has one of our family's favourite pong!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Ups and downs and out of control.

A lot happens in a week doesn't it.

We have had a rollercoaster type couple of them.....bit exhausting really.

Two weeks ago we got a new puppy to join our 3yo Basset- Polly Jean.
Polly Jean
He is a rescue puppy-a black lab cross. Judging from his size at 20 weeks he is crossed with a dinosaur. He is H U G E!!!!
 But sooooo unbelievably gentle and divine.

If any of you are familiar with the Story of Ferdinand- well Leon is the Ferdinand of the canine variety.

It has taken PJ a little getting used to. But we can see already they are good friends. 

Which is what we hoped for.  We all need a special friend.

All was going well and then Polly Jean got sick- sick with a ghastly and very scary illness.

My reaction took me by surprise.

I didn't cope very well.

We have had a tough year and I just didn't have the strength to deal with it.

But happily I have excellent vet care and beautiful support from my gorgeous family and Polly was looked after well in doggy hospital and is now home with her new best friend as if nothing ever happened.

Pets are so good for us.

And we become soooo attached.
Two of my handsome fellas.
It broke my heart to think something bad was happening to my lovely hound.

But like everything in my life at the moment I am learning to cope with the ups, the downs & the out of control.

It's not easy.

In fact it's R E A L L Y hard.

But I am lucky that around me I have some fine people with big hearts who are happy to share and give support.

We are still on holidays and it's still cold and a bit miserable.

We have been enjoying having hot lunches.

Today's was Spanakopita- Greek Spinach & Feta pie.


This pie is really simple- the layering of the filo is the most fiddly.  As long as you keep it moist you should be ok.  You do this by placing a damp teatowel over the laid out filo while you assemble.
When buying it- try to buy it from the fridge section as it will be easier to manage than if frozen.

I like to make my last layer a kind of zhoozhy organza looking mess just for fun- i'm not really into perfection- in life or in cooking!  And I reckon it looks really pretty too.
I do this just by scrunching up pieces of filo and placing them in clumps on the top. 

  • 5 organic eggs
  • 500g fetta
  • a bunch of silverbeet (or about a kilo of spinach)
  • 1/2 cup of Grana Padano or Parmesan
  • a packet of filo
  • 2 brown onions
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 bunch dill, chopped roughly
  • white pepper
  • nutmeg
  • EVOO
  • 100g unsalted butter (melted to baste pastry)
  • sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 175C.

Cut onions into dice. Chop garlic finely.

Take stalks of silverbeet, wash and drain.

In a pan add a tablespoon of EVOO and fry onions and garlic until translucent.

While this is frying off you can assemble the other ingredients.

In a large bowl add eggs and stir till amalgamated. Crumble the fetta & grated grana padano into this mix.  Grind a generous amount of white pepper (you could use black but I think white is best for eggy things) and also a liberal amount of nutmeg. I am not shy with either of these.  I don't add salt as the fetta has enough to season the pie.

Once the onion and garlic is translucent add the silverbeet and fry for a minute or so.  Then turn off heat and allow to wilt in the steam for about 5 minutes or so.

Now add the eggy mix to the silverbeet and add the dill.  Stir through so mixture looks something like this:

Grease a large rectangular dish with butter.

Open your filo pastry and unfold.

Place the first piece of filo onto oven dish and brush with melted butter. It is not necessary to completely cover the filo. Just a dob here and there will do. (Kids love this job as it is like painting!)

Repeat this with 10 sheets of filo.

Now place all of the silverbeet & eggy mix on top.  Smooth it out across the dish.

Now repeat the filo layers until you have about 5 left.  I scrunch these ones into the chiffon puffs.
Brush with butter and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Place in oven to bake for 45 minutes.

If top is getting brown too quickly place some alfoil on top to protect it from burning.

It is delicious served warm but also fantastical as a cold dish.  It is great for school lunches too!

I love it served with a salad of cos lettuce, cucumber, loads of fresh dill and a zingy vinaigrette.

This week in my dramatic state I have been listening to lots of Opera.  Did you know I loved Opera?  Well now you do........and I may have been shedding a tear to this:

Friday, 8 July 2011

School holidays at home

I have written about our school holidays before.

About how we keep it simple.

Much like the rest of our goings on.

No scheduled activities.

No school holiday programmes.

No early wake-ups to dash off to anything.

Just taking it real real slow.

Catching our breath.

Just lazy days spent in jammies.

Playing Ping Pong.  Lots of it.  In fact too much Ping Pong is never enough in our house.

Or maybe a game of make-believe Thunderbirds.
Or a jump on the trampoline.

Today a movie beckons as we snuggle on the couch.  'Herbie rides again' is the movie of choice!

And the kids have put out a call for my spicy wedges.  It's been really really cold. My 10 yo asked if he could make them.

Of course I said "YES!!!!" So he did and they are gorgeous.

Did you know how easy they are?  I have memories of supping on them as I drank too many ales. Good beer soaking material! 

And they only take about 10 minutes prep and the rest is waiting as the lovely aroma fills your kitchen before you take them out of the oven & tuck in too soon and risk burning your mouth. 


Every time I make these the spice mix is a little different. Play around a little and find a fave mix or stick to what you love.
My 10 yo chose todays mix. 
And as it cooks it smells MAGNIFICENT! I think he is on to a winner- Simple is best!
The basic method will remain the same no matter what spice mix you decide on.

  • 1kg potatoes (desirees work brilliantly) cut into wedges
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • EVOO (extra virgin olive oil)
  • 3/4 cup cornflour
  • 1 heaped teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
  • 1 heaped teaspoon ground cumin
  • ground white pepper
  • salt

Place all wedges into a microwave proof bowl.  Pour enough EVOO to cover wedges.
Crush garlic cloves over potatoes and stir through so spuds are coated with garlic & oil.

Cover bowl with cling wrap and microwave on high for 3-4 minutes.

Remove from microwave.

Mix together cornflour &  spices.

Transfer to an oven proof dish- preferably so all wedges lay flat.

Dust spiced cornflour over potatoes evenly.

Grind a good amount of salt over spuds and place in 200C oven for 25 minutes or until spuds look brown and crispy.

Remove from oven and serve with sweet chilli sauce and sour cream- or just as they come.

My kids love them as a side dish to accompany roast meats,  steak, ratatouille.....or just as they come!

Today I doused some chicken wings with the same mix and baked them alongside the spuds.  The chook comes out a little like fried chicken without the fried part.....crunchy and yumolicious.

Chicken & chips! YUM!!
And I am attaching a great little doco about one of my fave bands. We have been playing their music on high rotation this week. A jazz group from London-  Portico Quartet. Very talented young musicians......