Saturday, August 19, 2017

Weekend Cooking: Oooh la la!!

I mentioned a few weeks ago that I got a stand mixer for my birthday back in June. That was only part of my present though. The other part was a cooking lesson experience. Or more precisely, a French Dinner Party cooking lesson, and I finally got to do it on Wednesday night at Gourmet Kitchen Cooking School.

The dinner party is either available as the finale of a six weeks beginner course, or as a standalone lesson, so the group was a mixture of the people who had been doing the course or as a one off. I was one of two people who were only doing the dinner, but despite that we still felt welcomed by the rest of the group.

I had had a busy day at work so it was a bit of rush but I got to the cooking school just in time to start cooking. A quick wash of the hands, and it was time to start. Even just the sound of the menu was a bit intimidating but I guess this is why we do things like cooking find out what is and isn't achievable.

Below is the menu that we cooked. When I look at it, I do think 70's dinner party but someone who has been to France recently has confirmed that it is still very much on the menu now. Of course, I might need to go to France myself to prove it. You know, scientific research purposes.

Chicken Liver Pate
Twice Baked Cheese Souffle
Beef bourguignon
Creme Brulee

Of these, I would never have attempted to make pate or souffle. I have made easy versions of bourguignon, and my partner is making creme brulee on a regular basis in an effort to perfect it, so I knew that wasn't as difficult as it might seem.

Working together, the group all performed the necessary tasks to bring the dinner together. We started with the beef as it needed to be cooked the longest. The interesting thing was that the recipe included deli meats called speck and kaiserfleisch which are pork products with a smokey flavour and a thick layer of fat that rendered down as part of the cooking process. The other tip that I learned much later in the night was that you can use pureed steamed carrots to thicken a stew. You couldn't taste the carrots but it certainly seems like a better way to thicken than adding cornflour and water like a normally do.

While the cooking process for the bourguignon was quite lengthy, it was definitely worth the extra effort. Beef, red wine, shallot, celery, and mushroom combining perfectly with creamy mash potato (both in terms of texture and also the ingredients that went into the potato - there was no shortage of cream and butter all night).

Then we made the pate. I don't mind pate on occasion, but I don't think I would necessarily have thought about making it myself. I was surprised to see that it wasn't actually that difficult to make, with the most time consuming parts of the process being the cleaning up of the chicken livers and then making sure that they are completely cooked. It did taste delicious with toasted slices of baguette. One word I would probably use to describe it would be rustic. It wasn't chunky at all, but it was thicker and more solid than the pre-made pate that you buy in the shops.

Next, onto the twice baked cheese souffle - something that I would always have thought was far too difficult to make, but it really, really wasn't that difficult. Super cheesey and super delicious. I think this will be the first thing that I try to make at home.

One handy tip I learned was that when you are making any kind of bechamel sauce if you heat your milk up separately and then add it in slowly as normal it should speed up the thickening process. I am definitely going to try this next time I make any kind of white sauce.

When I first looked at the website to see what we were going to make, I was really, really hoping that it would be tarte tatin. A few years ago I but creme brulee was also good, and really not difficult to make. Beautifully creamy and its always fun to get the blow torch out and melt the sugar to make the crispy topping.

The teacher, Laura, was knowledgeable and patient, and I could definitely get used to having an Alex in the kitchen to clean up after us as we made each dish!! The atsmosphere was friendly. The only thing I guess I wasn't expecting is that we didn't end up eating until around 10pm which made it a late night after an already long day.

So I guess the test of how successful a cooking class was is to ask the question would I go back again and the answer is yes, I have had a look at the website and I am contemplating both of the patisserrie masterclasses, the Japanese class, the Thai masterclass or maybe just the macarons class. Or maybe all of them.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Weekend Cooking: Lime and Buttermilk cake

A few years ago now, I bought a cookbook which was written by regular finalist in the Country Womens Association of Australia baking competition. I have made a couple of recipes from it, but it has been a while since I tried anything new.

I do now have good reason to try new things though! I was very excited to get a stand mixer for my birthday, so now I have no reason not to try making all the things that I couldn't possibly make before. Now don't get too excited. It wasn't a KitchenAid or anything flash, just a run of the mill stand mixer but I love it. In fact, it does tend to come with me when I go to the boyfriend's house for the weekend whenever we have anything planned. He's even attempted freshly made bread rolls (so delicious!!).

Whilst I would say that I am an average cook there were some things in this recipe that I have never done before. For example, I have never whipped egg whites separately before. And I was able to delegate things like zesting and juicing the limes to my assistant, and he does a great job of cleaning up too!

 I haven't got the texture quite right yet, but I will! It does taste delicious!

Lime and Buttermilk Cake

250g butter at room temp
1 cup white sugar
finely grated rind of 2 limes
3 eggs, separated
200ml buttermilk
2 tbsp lime juice
2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup icing sugar
1.5 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp water

1. Preheat oven to moderate (170 degrees C) and grease a 22cm (base measurement) round cake in tin and line the base with baking paper.

2. Use electric beaters to cream butter, sugar, lime rind until white and fluffy. Add egg yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition.

3. Add half the buttermilk, half the lime juice and half the flour and then fold through. Add the remaining buttermilk, lime juice and flour and then fold through. Use electric beaters to beat the egg whites into soft peaks, Fold into the cake mixture and spoon the mix into the tin. Use a knife to smooth the surface.

4. Bake for 50m or so or until springy to a gentle touch in the centre. Leave in tin for 5m and then turn out onto wire rack to cool.

5. Icing: Combine all ingredients until smooth and then spread over the cooled cake.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Weekend Cooking: A weekend in Sydney

This week's post could more accurately described as Weekend Eating or Weekend Away than Weekend Cooking, but let's go with this one for now!!

A couple of weeks ago now, my boyfriend and I went to Sydney for the weekend. Ostensibly we went to see the Escape from Pompeii exhibition that is on at the Australian National Maritime Museum. And that is what we did, but we also took the opportunity to do a couple of other things as well, including dinner at Koi Dessert Bar

It was an early start on the Saturday morning. We flew from Melbourne on a 6am flight so I was warned well in advance to expect grumpy BF to be on the plane with me, and that he was planning to be asleep again before the plane took off.

The exhibition was good without being great. I guess, given the title of the exhibition I was expecting it to be more about Pompeii, but it was more about the Roman navy in general with small parts focusing on the attempt to rescue people who were escaping from Pompeii.

What we really enjoyed were the other parts of the museum, particularly the replica of the Endeavour, Captain Cook's ship when he claimed Australia as British territory. We also clambered all through a decommissioned submarine.

One of the things I was really excited to see at the museum was Hartog's plate. I have long been interested in the earlier European explorations that took place, particularly on the west coast of Australia. Hartog was a Dutch sailor who in 1616 was blown off course and landed on some islands where he left a pewter plate. This is the earliest known European artifact in Australia. The original is normally housed in a museum in Holland but for a short time is on loan to Australia. Part of the reason why I am interested in this history goes back to going to visit the Western Australian maritime museum in Perth where they have preserved the shipwreck of a Dutch ship called the Batavia.

We had beautiful weather both days we were in Sydney which hopefully comes through in the photos. It was definitely much better than we had in Melbourne on the same weekend!!

 On the Saturday night we splashed out on dinner at Koi Dessert Bar. Koi is owned by former Masterchef participant Reynold Poernomo and his brothers. It obviously specialises in desserts given it's name but we opted for the 6 course set dinner menu for our visit. The desserts were pretty amazing it has to be said, but the mains were pretty good, although the service felt a bit rushed. For example, we had our first course before the drinks had even been brought out, and then in between one course, the waitress had taken away our cutlery and the next course arrived before she came back with the new cutlery. Also, the mains could have been a bit generous. We didn't walk out hungry, but we also weren't full.

Jerusalem artichoke and mushroom risotto - the bits on the side are dried or fried artichoke. Delicious

Beef Rib with soy potato, cipollini onion, galbi jus and green pear - Could have eaten 3 of these. The meat was so tender

Spanner crab meat with green curry, coconut tapioca risotto and green apple. This was the strongest flavoured dish

Blackberry mousse with freeze dried blackberry, shiso, beetroot gel, yogurt sorbet, and charcoal meringue - My favourite dish of the night. So delicious

I think this was tapioca cake with tonka bean ice cream and aerated chocolate. It was tasty but I preferred the other 2 desserts

Dulce with pear, ginger streusal, yuzu, ginger pear sorbet, pear compote and white chocolate

 I have to say going to a dessert bar with someone who doesn't like ice cream is both a bad and a good thing. (I know....shocking right). I felt bad that there was no ice cream free dessert for him, but then I did get to eat the ice cream that he didn't eat, so I guess I was the winner on the night. Don't feel too bad for him though. I have had to start keeping a supply of emergency cream in the house because he does love cream in any form!!

On Sunday we started with a sleep in and a leisurely stroll before we took advantage of the beautiful weather and walked from under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, around to the Opera House and then kept walking around the edge of the harbour, through the Botanical Gardens and back again, until it was time to jump on the train back to the airport and home again.

Not a bad view from the hotel room

 We are already talking about what we might do next time we are in Sydney so I'd say it was a successful weekend.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Weekend Cooking: Sally's Scones

 A couple of years ago (or more like 3) I posted a scone recipe here as part of Weekend Cooking.

In the comments my friend Sally gave me an alternative recipe that she calls her best ever scone recipe. This is one that she serves to the shearers that come to her sheep farm in New Zealand (no sheep jokes allowed).

Since then I have made this recipe several times, and it is very easy, and definitely the scones turn out to be very light and very fluffy, just as she promised.
Now I am posting it here so that I can find it more easily, and share it with you all of course.

Sally's Scones

4 Cups Self Raising Flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Cup of cream (300ml is ok) and it is better if the cream is sour or old
1 and a 1/4 Cups of lemonade.

Mix together until the dough comes together without working it too much. Role out to about 1 to 1 and 1/2 centimetres and then cut out using a scone cutter (although i don't have one of those so I use a glass as my scone cutter).

Bake in a hot oven (around 220C) until golden- or just starting to go brown on top. They are always light and fluffy. Serve with butter and jam, or whipped cream and jam- or even jam and cheese when cool (at least this is Sally's suggestion. I am a traditionalist and go for jam and then whipped cream on top.

Recently I hosted a morning tea with a few friends and this is the spread that we came up with, featuring still warm scones!

I know I said no sheep jokes but I can't resist sharing some of the photos from when I went to visit Sally a couple of years ago

Meet  Baaarnaby and Baaarbara 

And Ewe-nice

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Weekend Cooking: Double choc zucchini bread

I'm not sure how you use your blog when it comes to sharing recipes Some times I use it to post recipes that I want to try, or food experiences I have had, but most of the time I use it to post recipes that I have tried and liked and want to make again, so want a place I can go where I can easily find the recipe that I am looking for.

A couple of weeks ago we had a morning tea, That wasn't all that unusual because if there is one thing we do in our department is eat well. Afterwards though, we were talking about recipes and I mentioned making chocolate zucchini bread and then came here to find the recipe and .....nada. It wasn't here. It didn't take me long to remember who had posted the recipe. It was the gracious and inspiring host, Beth Fish Reads, so here, with her permission is that recipe, this time saved on my blog so that I can find it again when I want to make it again in the, hopefully, near future.

I will say that I don't use the pecans because of the nut allergy we have in our house.

Double Choc Zucchini Bread

1 medium zucchini
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup cocoa (Dutch process is best)
½ teaspoon espresso powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 9-inch loaf pan.

Grate or shred the zucchini; you should have a generous cup of squash. By hand, squeeze the squash to get out the excess liquid. (No need to go crazy here, it shouldn't be completely dry.)

Whisk the buttermilk, oil, vanilla, and eggs in a medium bowl. Add the zucchini. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, sugar, cocoa , espresso powder, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry, stirring just until incorporated; do not over mix. Fold in the chocolate chips and about ¾ cup of the nuts.

Scrape the batter into the loaf pan and top with the remaining nuts. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the centre comes out clean, 55 to 60 minutes.

Let cool on a wire rack for about 30 minutes. Then remove from the pan and let cool completely before slicing.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Weekend Cooking: Apfelkuchen

I think I mentioned a couple of months ago that I have been watching a lot of UK chef Rick Stein's TV shows at the moment. I first bought one of his cook books back in the 1990s when I lived in the UK, so I guess I have been a fan for a while, but I have been particularly enjoying the combination of travel, culture, history and food that have been features of his most recent series.

One of those recent series has been the Long Weekends series, where he has visiting cities that are within a short flying distance from the UK, and not necessarily some of the better known places like Paris or Rome. Instead he has visiting places like Reykjavik, Vienna and Bordeaux.  In fact, the visit to Vienna had me craving really good weiner schnitzel for weeks, a craving I only just satisfied this week with an Italian version which was delicious.

This recipe comes from the episode where he visited Berlin. As soon as I saw this I knew that I wanted to try it. I should also have known that my son was not going to want to try it no matter how delicious it was, and that was confirmed in due course. I was, however, a little surprised when the reason why he wouldn't try it was because you shouldn't put fruit in cake. Since when? Guess my work mates are going to get a big chunk of cake tomorrow. Luckily, they are generally an appreciative audience!

So what is Apfelkuchen? It sounds so much more exotic than apple cake, but that is pretty much what it is! I definitely would make it again, but it won't be just for home because otherwise I will end up having to eat it all myself. I could easily do that, but I probably shouldn't!

Apfelkuchen (German Apple Cake)

2 dessert apples, peeled, cored and sliced into thin wedges
1 tbsp lemon juice
125g/4½oz butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
140g/5oz golden caster sugar
3 free-range eggs, at room temperature, beaten
225g/8oz plain flour
2 level tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
5 tbsp full-fat milk

For the topping

1½ tbsp demerara sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon


Preheat the oven to 170C/150C Fan/Gas 3. Butter and line a 23cm/9in round cake tin.

Coat the apple wedges in the lemon juice and set aside.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugar, using an electric hand mixer, until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat until smooth. Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt and mix well. Slowly add the milk, mixing well after each addition, until you have a smooth batter.

Transfer the batter to the cake tin. Arrange the apple slices, flat-side down, on the batter in a spiral pattern.

For the topping, mix together the demerara sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle over the batter.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 40–45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean and the top is golden-brown. Leave to cool for 15 minutes in the tin. Run a knife around the edges of the cake and turn it out of the tin onto a wire rack.

Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

David Hockney: Current

I'm not really much of an art aficionado. I often don't get what makes popular art popular, especially when it comes to contemporary art. Having said that, I am always interested in learning more and expanding the limited knowledge I do have.

I am very lucky to live in a city where large exhibitions happen on a regular basis, whether it be in art galleries or museums, so I do try to take advantage of those with the hope that I will find something I like and may be learn something along the way.

A couple of weeks ago I headed into the National Gallery of Victoria to see the David Hockney: Current exhibition which focuses on the British artist's works from the last 10 years. I guess I wasn't really sure what to expect but I was very pleasantly surprised because I thoroughly enjoyed this exhibition.

I particularly enjoy seeing the way that the artist uses technology. A lot of his work is done on iPads or iPhones, and in a lot of cases he has recorded the artistic processes so that you can  sit and watch the art being created from initial strokes, to redesign, to completion.

One of the series is called 82 Portraits and a Still Life because, well, there are 82 portraits and a still life. I liked that the people being featured in the portraits varied from famous friends to his hairdresser. I

I came out of the exhibition feeling like I had enjoyed it rather than having to still try and work out exactly what the heck was going on in a lot of the pieces. I would definitely go and see another exhibition by this artist, without hesitation.

The exhibition finishes this weekend, ready to make way for the next big exhibition, which I am sure I will visit at some point

And of course, no visit to the NGV is complete without the obligatory feast of scones and jam and cream.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

White Night 2017

A couple of years ago I went to White Night for the first time and really loved it but when I went last year it wasn't such a great experience. Now I could say that was because the displays weren't that great, but I think that the reality is that I was in the middle of a gall bladder attack and so it wouldn't have mattered how spectacular the displays were.

This year, though, was back to an amazing experience. We changed our strategy this year. Instead of going in just after dark, we didn't actually go in until around 11.30pm. I have to say I'm a bit old for this going out at 11.30 at night. And that's despite the fact that I had a nana nap before we went into the city. At least I'm still calling it a nana nap, but I am pretty sure that the fact that I laid down in bed with every intention of going to sleep and slept for a good 2 hours means that it was more a sleep than a nap. Not sure where that line is technically. I then didn't get home until 4.30. That would have been fine except I was going out the next morning too! More about that later maybe.

Last year they didn't have any projections on the facade of Flinders Street train station or on the buildings near the Forum so I was very glad to see that they were back this year. On the train station there was a projection with an indigenous theme talking about the fact that there are many nations within indigenous culture.

The next buildings we saw were on a stretch near the Forum building, one of my favourite building facades in the city. These buildings have a fairy tale theme which reminded me in many ways of the Fables series by Bill Willingham.

The Exhibition building is always a highlight and this year was no exception, although a little bit surprisingly, it wasn't may favourite thing this year. More on that at the end. The building really lends itself to projections. It is a beautiful building itself at the best of times, but when done well, it really is a spectacular canvas on which to paint a picture with light and sound.

One of my favourite places in Melbourne is the Reading Room at the State Library of Victoria. Normally it is a place where it is quiet, with stately green lamps filling the desk spaces but come White Night it is transformed into a canvas. This year we found ourselves under the waters of Port Philip Bay in the Sea Dragons Lair.

My highlight this year though was definitely the Pyrophone Juggernaut. We originally arrived just as a show ended so we had to wait over an hour for the next show, but it was totally worth the wait.

The juggernaut is a fire organ, where the percussionists use gas and flames to play organ pipes. That is such a meagre explanation for the experience - amazing performances of percussion on unusual instruments, drama and spectacle. Amazing!

Not everything was a hit. There were a couple of things that we saw that I was underwhelmed by and then reading through some of the news I realised that there was lots of good stuff that we just didn't see. I'm not sure that I have quite figured out how to see everything in any one night. We do tend to go to the Exhibition building and the Library. May need to be brave and venture into new parts of the city. Next year, which I am already looking forward to!

Now to work on the definition of nana nap vs sleep.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

What if you don't really do popcorn?

The last time I posted about going to the movies I called the post Pass the Popcorn Please, but the reality is that I don't really do popcorn. I don't dislike it. It's more that the giant buckets of popcorn you get at the movies are a) too expensive and b) too big!  I do like a choc top icecream but I have usually finished eating it way before the movie starts to that hardly counts does it.

Anyway, I've been to see a few movies since my last post. Here are my thoughts on them.

I went to see this because it's set in WWII and I was also looking for a movie that would appeal to both me and a male of the species, and I think it hit the spot. Even though I had seen the trailer, it didn't really play out the way I thought it would which I guess is a good thing unless you don't actually up with satisfaction. It is interesting because there are some war related scenes in there, but it wasn't really all war, all the time. Marion Cotillard is gorgeous and some of her costumes were very nice, and Brad Pitt is, well, Brad Pitt so it was easy on the eye. I've never really got the  Brad Pitt thing, or the Ryan Gosling thing either I guess come to think of it, but he was good in this.

A couple of weekends ago I went on a road trip to Canberra with a couple of friends. We did lots of very cool stuff, exhibitions, art galleries, food and sight seeing, and on one night we headed to the movies to see this. When I first saw the trailer for this I was trying to place who the Australian actor was in the lead role, so I was very surprised when it turned out that the main actor was Dev Patel. He totally nailed the Aussie accent, and lets face it, there have been some great names who have tried and failed in that regard (Meryl Streep as Lindy Chamberlain anyone?)

One of the good things about going to the movies while on holidays is that I didn't have to drive and so I thought I would be totally decadent and have a glass of wine during the movie. Great plan....until I knocked it over when it was still 3/4 full.

So what about the film you ask? I enjoyed it a lot. It was a very moving story about a young Indian boy who gets separated from his family and ends up being adopted by an Australian family and then needs to go back and find his home. This one is based on a true story, and any film based on a true story is instantly a degree better than it would have been if it was just made up. And I'm not sure that you could necessarily believe the story if it was made up. It was very moving, and the final scenes were very emotional

Last night this was our choice to go and see, mainly because it was the main move that we both had some interest in seeing. I was hoping to see Live by Night but it looks like we may have missed it unfortunately I am just getting to know my movie watching companion and so it felt like it could be a movie that had them not necessarily enjoying it, but I think he did.

It was once again a very moving story, and Casey Affleck's performance was stellar.  As the story unfurled to the point that we learned why Lee was so reluctant to return to his home town under any circumstances, no matter how much his nephew wanted to stay, you couldn't help but feel for Lee, to understand why he was so melancholy and angry all at once.

I was surprised by how humourous the film was, particularly in it's observations about life with a teenage boy who is dealing with unexpected loss the best way he could.

It was slow in parts, but I can totally see why the movie and the performances of the cast are receiving so many accolades during prize season.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The movie list

I mentioned making a list of the movies I wanted to see over the next few months and so here it is!

Coming out soon

Loving - Feels like I have been waiting for this film to be released for months.

A Monster Calls - Bring the tissues!

Beauty and the Beast - I think I might do this one in Gold Class.

Hidden Figures - Story sounds fascinating

Moonlight - Was interested in seeing this after the Golden Globes where it did so well.

Rules Don't Apply - Not sure why but it looks good.

Manchester by the Sea -

Jasper Jones - Film of the book by Aussie author Craig Silvey

Fences - Don/t need to say anything more than Denzel Washington

Tulip Fever - Read the book a few years ago so interested to hear that it

Already out and I still need to see

Lion - Nothing to do with the movie, but Dev Patel's Aussie accent sounds very good

Rosalie Blum - We keep on saying we are going to go and see some foreign films but never quite get around to it.

Saw yesterday 


Movies I definitely don't want to see

50 Shades Darker

What are you looking forward to seeing soon?

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Pass the popcorn please

So, here's a thought that I should have considered a year ago. While I am slowly getting back to reading (I think), I do go to the movies quite regularly, so I could, you know, talk about the movies I have seen. I have already been lucky enough to see 3 very enjoyable movies so far this year, and there are so many films coming out that I want to see. So many. Maybe I need to create a list to keep track.

Firstly, I saw LaLa Land. I know that it is getting mixed reviews from my amongst my friends, but I enjoyed it. I loved the homage to the magic of jazz, musicals, and Hollywood. I loved the way that the movie was shot, the colour and movement. I must confess I was a little surprised that it is a current setting. I think I was expecting that it was set in the 1950s or 60s but no. There was a particularly fun little section in the film which featured some 80s music which was amusing and enjoyable.

At first, I wasn't keen on the ending  of the . The friend I went with and I both agreed that we were left feeling a little bit melancholy at the end of it, but maybe it had the effect of leaving you with something to think about rather than walking out of the cinema and just forgetting about it. Or maybe the ending didn't quite work. Maybe one day I will decide, after watching it again.

The next film I saw as A United Kingdom.

I am part of a group that meets up once a month to watch movies. It's kind of like book club, but for movies instead. Part of the reason we meet on a Monday is that the cinema we go to is super cheap on that day, but is also central for us all. One of the good things is that we all take turns to choose the movie. This means that we have on occasion seen movies that we didn't like, or that we did like despite the fact that we possibly wouldn't have chosen to see it ordinarily, some Australian films, some mainstream films, some foreign films, some documentaries. Basically, it's help broaden all of our horizons.

I really enjoyed this choice. It is the story of the last king of Bechuanaland (modern day Botswana) who fell in love with an ordinary English white girl in London just after the end of World War II. It covers the opposition that they faced both in the UK and in Africa when they decided to marry, but also the constitutional crisis that it prompted in the Commonwealth, particularly in respect to the fact that neighbouring South Africa was introducing the policy of apartheid at the time.

One of the things that I didn't make the connection to until very late in the film was that it was about Botswana, but as soon as I did make that connection it made me think of the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books. The main character in that book often talked about the beloved president of Botswana and it was this man that she was talking about.

One of the movies I am looking forward to seeing when it comes out here is Loving, which is another film about mixed race relationships. I think I am attracted to these stories because my ex is African, or maybe I just love a good story where love overcomes the odds, and if it's based on true life...even better.

The third movie I have seen this year is Jackie, which stars Natalie Portman, and tells the story of what happened in the immediate aftermath of the assassination of her husband, President Kennedy.

Given the subject matter, it is quite a heavy movie, but it is so well done that it didn't feel overwhelmingly heavy. Natalie Portman was excellent in her portrayal of a woman facing the loss of her husband, and to a degree her identity as the first lady.

One of the things that was a bit odd about going to see this movie was a bit of a drama around allocated seating. I know that it is pretty much normal now for cinemas to have allocated seating but I really don't get why it has to be this way. That is especially the case when the ticketing system breaks down and they still insist on manually allocating the seating. Whhhyyy. Once we got inside there were all sorts of issues as people were complaining that people were in their seats etc etc, It's not like there weren't any empty seats because there were, but they wanted their exact seats, to the point where one woman refused to move one seat over to help resolve the issues because she had paid for THIS seat. I'm pretty sure you paid for a seat, not that exact one, but never mind. One of the bonuses with all this dramas was that the movies were all running late, so they chopped out all the ads and the previews. It's not uncommon for those to go for 15 minutes or more these days, so that was a welcome omission for me.

And actually...don't worry about the popcorn. I will have a couple of pieces if someone else has some but other than that I am not particularly fussed about it.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Sylvester by Georgette Heyer

When Sylvester, the Duke of Salford, first meets Phoebe Marlow, he finds her dull and insipid. She finds him insufferably arrogant. But when a series of unforeseen events leads them to be stranded together in a lonely country inn, they are both forced to reassess their hastily formed opinions, and begin a new-found liking and respect for each other. Sylvester calls to mind the satirical genius of a Jane Austen novel and is adored for its wit and a fast-paced plot that ranges across a myriad of settings

I first listened to this book just under 3 years ago, but I never did post anything about it, which was remiss of me but I think not really unexpected. After I finished The Passage and then another audio book, I was trying to decide what to read next. I do have a few books that I have already purchased but not yet listened to, as well as a list of books I'd like to get to someday, but none of them really tickled my fancy. And then I hit on the idea of listening again to a Georgette Heyer novel as narrated by Richard Armitage, mainly because it is my idea of aural bliss to listen to him read anything, but he does seem to be particularly suited to narrating Heyer novels.

He has the right tone in his voice that lends itself to upper class accents and his characterisation is so good that it doesn't matter whether the character is old or young, or female or male, each character is individual and recognisable.

Now, I should mention up front that this is an abridged audiobook, but it is a well done abridgement. I don't think I have missed anything through the story so it might be interesting to read in full one time to see what was cut out. That's not always the case. Years ago I listened to a novel where the abridgement wasn't quite so good. At one point the main character was regretting having kissed someone other than her husband and I was like wait...what.

What about the book itself. It is Heyer, so it is all Regency ballrooms and dukes abound, but it is a fun read. I don't want to recap the plot as such because I don't want too start to feel like I should write a full review, rather than just commentary. I will see that I did find myself wondering how much of the language that Heyer used was made up. I am sure that I heard somewhere that she did.

I fully expect to listen to more of the Heyer books Richard Armitage has narrated. It is a totally enjoyable treat.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Weekend Cooking: Triple Berry Jellies

You wouldn't think so if you so me chowing down on dumplings last night, but I am still trying to eat a bit healthier. That also means that I have gone back to doing the things I was doing when I lost all that weight before I stopped doing all those things and put it a lot if it back on.

So, what are the things that I was doing, stopped and now I am doing again.

On the food front, it is to watch what I eat (so make better food choices), how much (portion sizes) and, in theory, move more (exercise), although I am not doing so great on that one.  For the other aspects, I have gone back to keeping a food diary, studying (yes, studying) food magazines and diet related cookbooks. The most important aspect is planning and preparation, having some idea of what food we are going to be eating for lunches and dinners rather than having takeaway several nights a week.

Sttudying food magazines mean getting ideas for snacks and new recipes. Sometimes it is the simplest of ideas that strikes a cord. For instance, because I was a bit slack and didn't get to the shops in time, I ended up just having egg, ricotta, spinach and tomato on toast for dinner. Simple, but tasty. And something I saw in a magazine as a breakfast suggestion. Breakfast for dinner. Yes please.

This is definitely a simple idea, and one that really should have occurred to me before. I mean, when we were kids it was a treat to have canned fruit set into jelly, but because the boy doesn't really like jelly I don't make it very often. This time instead of making a giant bowl of jelly and fruit I have made the individual serves as suggested and I am hoping that will mean that,  for this week at least, if I fancy something sweet I can just grab one of these and maybe have some yoghurt with it. Or ice cream maybe.

Oh, and expect to hear more about dumplings because I had two of the best dumplings I ever ate last night and I am so going to go on a quest to eat more egg custard dumplings. You have been warned. Not part of the plan but oh, so good.

This recipe came from the January/February 2017 issue of Diabetic Living.

Triple Berry Jellies

125g punnet blueberries
125g punnet raspberries
125g punnet blackberries
4 strawberries, cut into thin wedges
9g sachet raspberry diet jelly crystals
250ml (1 cup) boiling water
250ml (1 cup) cold water
2 Tbspn strawberry liqueur (optional)
500g extra berries, to serve
Mint leaves, to serve (optional)

Divide berries evenly between 4 185ml (3/4 cup) capacity glasses.

Put jelly crystals in a heatproof jug. Pour over boiling water, stirring until jelly crystals dissolve. Stir in cold water and strawberry liqueur, if using. 

Pour jelly evenly over berries. Put glasses on a tray and refrigerate for 4 hours or until set.

Serve topped with extra berries and mint leaves, if using.

Weekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. For more information, see the welcome post.


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