Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Trip prep

Just when I was starting to feel settled in, it's time to uproot myself and head off again - only briefly this time, though. It's time for my yearly jaunt to my .org's annual meeting, which this year is in Auckland, New Zealand. (Some of my coworkers suspect my multiple international moves are an elaborate ploy to put myself in easy reach of the next annual meeting venue.) Seven days of meetings, workshops, and wall-to-wall gabbing await.

I've got just under 24 hours until the taxi arrives to take me to the airport, and about 20 things left on my pre-departure To Do list. I am cheerfully (not to say delusionally) optimistic that this is doable without staying up all night.

Perhaps not surprisingly for me, at least one-third of those 20 items involve food - prepping food to leave behind for DP and Miss B; packing homemade goodies to bring as gifts; prepping lunch to take with me on my journey tomorrow; and checking my travel cooking kit for use in our Auckland self-catering accommodation (TUK NZ style!).

So, more to come from across the ditch! If you've got any must-see, must-do, or must-eat recommendations for in or around Auckland, please share them - it's my third visit, but I know I've barely scratched the surface as yet.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Small batch

As soon as I found my stockpot, canning rack, and jars, I plunged back into canning after a more than three-month hiatus. I watched everyone in the northern hemisphere reveling in summer’s bounty while I tried to keep my feet warm through a Canberra winter and tried to manage everyday cooking in the TUK. I really missed my whole domestic routine, of which canning has become an integral part since early last year.

Well, Saturday was the official first day of spring in the southern hemisphere; my kitchen is nearly back to being fully stocked; and there are already fantastic strawberries available at equally fantastic prices at the farmers’ market. So I’m back to my regular schedule of small-batch canning. I’ve been on the receiving end of a few incredulous responses of the “What are you, Superwoman?” variety from recipients of my first jars, but I’m so in the routine of it now that it doesn’t seem like a big deal to me. I decided to document this week’s session as representative of my usual commitment of time and effort.

Small-batch strawberry jam, Friday 21 September
I often do canning projects on Friday afternoons - if time and work commitments permit -  when I’m ready to wind down after a week of work, school, and running around. (Yes, if I have enough time and if they’re not overwhelmingly big, I do find canning projects relaxing.) Plus, it’s a good way to make room in the fridge before my Saturday-morning trip to the farmers’ market.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

4 | 400

American section of the RL cookbook collection, Canberra Sep 2012

This post is a double milestone for me: my 400th post here, on the
4th birthday of Roving Lemon’s Big Adventure.

I don’t think I would have believed it if someone had told me, when I started this blog in an LA hotel room in September 2008, that four years later I’d be commemorating this anniversary in Canberra – newly returned from a 2.5-year stint on the Kansas/Missouri border. Three intercontinental moves in four years! And through it all this blog, and the way that it continues to shape (and shift) my perceptions, has remained one of the constants, no matter what else is in upheaval around me. It has provided challenge, learning, and satisfaction, and helped me to enjoy the journey much more than I might have otherwise – whatever the direction or destination.

I wonder what the next year will bring? (Possibly best not to know in advance?) Whatever it may be, thanks to all of you who’ve come along for any (or all) portions of the journey so far; your company and contributions have been among the best parts.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Sushi Day

Miss B’s American elementary school had a full-service cafeteria, run by paid school employees and with enough tables and benches to accommodate about half the school in one seating. Her Australian primary school has a canteen, run entirely by parent volunteers out of a space not much bigger than a regular-sized kitchen, with no seats whatsoever. Most days, the kids eat outside on the playground; when bad weather occasionally interferes, they eat in their classrooms.

When Miss B went back to school to start Term 3 in late July, I signed on to be a canteen volunteer. Once a week, usually on Thursday morning, I go in and spend a couple of hours cooking, cleaning, assembling, working the counter – whatever needs to be done to fill that day’s lunch orders, and provide a variety of freshly made snacks to sell at morning tea and lunch. The canteen offers a full menu of meals, snacks, drinks, and treats for sale to the student body, and as a new member of the school community, it’s a great way to get to know parents, children, and teachers.

Learning a foreign language is part of the ACT primary school curriculum, and each primary school teaches one of the group of languages offered. Miss B’s school teaches Japanese, and so activities that focus on Japanese culture are a big part of the school community. As part of this, about once every term one of the canteen mothers runs Sushi Day. And so this past week, in addition to making up trays of pizza bread (sliced bread spread with tomato paste and shredded cheese, then baked in the oven) and batches of muffins and all the other things I normally do on canteen duty, I also learned how to assemble sushi rolls. We made two kinds of filling: carrot and cucumber with egg, and tuna with lettuce, and then I got to try my hand at spreading sushi rice on nori, loading it with the right amount of filling, rolling it up with the sushi mat so that it would stay together, and cutting it into pieces to make up lunch orders or sell at the counter.

I don’t think I’ll be qualifying as a master sushi chef any time soon, but I had a lot of fun learning a new kitchen skill. Almost as much fun as watching the excitement of the students (and teachers!) crowding up to the counter at morning tea. And Miss B is agitating to try it at home, which will give me the opportunity to try out – and document – the whole process from start to finish. So stay tuned on the sushi front…there may be more to come.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Keeping up

One of my blogging acquaintances has also just undertaken a major move; she posted the other day that she got everything in their house unpacked and put away in two days.

::crickets chirping::

Sitting here on Delivery Day +5, with boxes all around, I can confidently promise you that that will not be happening at casa Roving Lemon. I haven’t even found the cutting boards yet. Thus, I’m essentially still in a TUK – although it gets a little bit better stocked with each passing day. But until the cupboards and pantry are full, I’m still in the market for recipes that require a minimum of equipment and ingredients.

Chocolate drizzled cinder toffee
adapted from Nigella Express
I made this to bring as a hostess gift during my weekend of displacement activitycooking a couple of weeks ago. Also known as hokey pokey or honeycomb, this is what you find on the inside of Crunchie or Violet Crumble bars, and is like a science experiment you can eat.

100 g/3 oz sugar
4 Tbsp/60 g/2 oz maple syrup
2 tsp/10 g bicarbonate of soda/baking soda
100 g/3 oz dark chocolate

Line a baking tray with parchment paper and put to one side.

Put the sugar and syrup in a saucepan, and stir to mix. According to Nigella, don’t stir it once you’ve put it on the stove (over medium-low heat for those of us who fear caramel).

Keep an eye on the mixture as it melts, then turn to “goo” (again, according to Nigella), then starts bubbling. This should take about 3 minutes in all, and you're supposed to look for it to turn the color of maple syrup. Since mine started out that color, I just kept an eye on the time and the activity in the pan.

Take the pan off the heat and whisk in the bicarb/baking soda. The mixture will immediately lighten in color and become puffy. Pour out of the pan onto the lined baking tray and spread out to an even thickness.

Leave to set in a cool place for at least 30 minutes before applying chocolate.

When ready to top with chocolate, melt chocolate using your preferred method. (I put mine in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until it was smooth and shiny.)

Dip a fork in the melted chocolate and then drizzle all over the toffee until coated to your satisfaction. Put aside to cool and set again before chopping or breaking into bite-sized pieces.

Makes enough for 5-6 people to nibble on extensively with coffee after a meal.
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