Hello, my name is Sandy.

A little post before bed

partly-composed letter to a new penpal

I am slightly obsessed with paper things, at the moment. And penpalling, and planner stationery. I ordered my first Filofax and wonder if I should worry for my sanity. Maybe when it arrives, I can schedule and budget and plan for not turning into a crazy old lady.

It is way past my bedtime, yet I feel compelled to post. Like it will make me fall asleep quickly and have nice dreams. Who knows, maybe it will. So here are some things...

a little snail

Our worm farm seems to be doubling as a snailery lately. After seeing so many baby slugs and snails that don't look like the gargantuan horrible hungry things they grow up to be, I no longer feel these gastropods are a pest in our garden. They're still not allowed in the veggie bed, but like the worms, are treated as little pooping pets in our ecosystem.

pumpkin seedling

So far so good with my pumpkin seedling. I culled its twin sister, so we are feeding only one plant now. Slowly, the other plants - strawberries, silverbeet and rocket - are being harvested out of that bed, so the pumpkin can take over.

home-grown onion on a home-made pizza

We ate home-grown onion on a home-made pizza the other night. #baketober I have eaten a lot of onion this week, which doesn't generally agree with me. I've not been sleeping well, and my appetite's been average. I wonder if this could be a factor.

grilled barramundi from Village Bar

Was good today, though. For lunch, I ate this grilled barramundi from Village Bar, and it was pretty much amazing.

preparing to make a book box

Finally, to celebrate finishing my last horticulture assignment (for real this time), I'm going to try making a book box. More on that when my eyes aren't trying to close.

Hasta mañana, my friends. Good night.

Simple shakshouka in the oven

baked shakshouka

We usually make shakshouka in a fry pan, then eat with a greasy forehead. This time, since it's #baketober, we made it in the oven.

Cooking patterns here again - similar to the egg bakies, except instead of a solid tart, you eat this like a stew.

Bake at: 180°C

Bake in: Ceramic oven dish - or whatever you don't mind eating out of.

Bake how: Add bite-sized pieces of green capsicum and chorizo. Cover with enough tomato puree to just cover. Dust a layer of cumin and stir through. Crack eggs on top.

Bake for: 15 - 25 mins, depending on your oven and how you like your eggs.

With the chorizo, pick the dry-cured type that doesn't need to be cooked for ages. Feel free to add salty, sour cheese (white cheese, feta, etc.) before the egg, or at the end, once baking is done. We added shredded tasty cheese - not very authentic but it's the best we had.

The awesome flavour comes from the tomato and cumin, but you can add other spices for variety - paprika, mustard and the like. I'd consider coriander and lemon for a lighter flavour over summer, if we bake much at all with the summers here.

This was yummy. Between @niaalist and me, we ate one and a half chorizos, a whole capsicum, most of a bottle of passata and 5 eggs. While dessert was tea and a nibble of brownie. :D This is a well-fed month!

No-'sugar' no-flour brownies

slices of fruit brownie

Going on a caveman diet was more life-changing than expected. I've been asked a few times about it, so will write more later. We're not Primal any more, but learned heaps about food. Most pertinent here - ingredient substitution.

Purely Fruit Sweetened Brownies is the second recipe I've tried from Elana Amsterdam (the first being her cake-like gluten-free bread). We couldn't find unsweetened cooking chocolate, so this is kind of cheating - but the idea here is to combine the flavour of chocolate with the sweet stickiness of dates to get a choc-fudge kind of thing.

I don't know if I'd go as far as to call these healthy. There are a lot of dates, and sugar is still sugar - but if we're gonna gorge on brownie, we may as well do it this way.

They turned out tasting and texturing like proper brownies. :) In addition to the listed ingredients, I tossed in a handful of dried cranberries and topped with desiccated coconut.

desiccated coconut on chocolate brownie

This is an easy and straightforward recipe, but I have the cooking equivalent of not-a-green-thumb. It ended up taking me 2 hours to prep this cos I fucked up so much.

So, in the spirit of learning from mistakes:

  • If you smell burning while blending, it means sticky bits are getting lodged around the blades, causing the motor to work extra hard.
  • Use a sturdy chopstick for dislodging sticky bits from blender crevices.
  • Chop everything before blending. Chocolate and dates are worse than stodgy when they get together.
  • If you didn't chop before blending, keep a damp wiping cloth and a dry hand towel nearby, as chopping mid-blend makes a huge mess.

Finally, when you use a cake tin, you get something cake-shaped. Next time, I will use a proper brownie tray.

slices of brownie cake

#baketober has been great incentive to think about oven things. As soon as the house stops smelling of chocolate, I'll figure out what savoury snack we might try next.

Shepherd's pie soup

sloppy shepherd's pie

This was meant to be a shepherd's pie, but nooooo~

shepherd's pie landslide

If we'd been trying to make pie soup, we'd call this a roaring success.

Everything was too wet. The pie was pretty much layers of sloppy slops, but not from the meat - from the creamed potato. Perhaps leaving it in the oven longer, or cooking it at a higher temperature might have saved it.

TIL blendered potato isn't right for a pie top. Deb or hand mash only.

Luckily, we love slops, particularly when it's cold, rainy, or a night in, watching Alan Partridge.

Btw, if you're wondering why the potato is orange, it's cos we substituted one of the spuds for a sweet potato. Adds a lovely sweet potatoey flavour.

a serve of slops pie

This #baketober thing is pretty good. I had my doubts at first, but I've already found a new recipe from some random guy on twitter. Mm~

Egg bakies

baked egg with broccoli and white cheese, topped with tomato slice

Bake an egg - 12-15mins @ 180°C

I'm trying to commit this to memory. It seems cooking is pretty much simple patterns applied to different ingredients, and if you memorise just a few, you can off the cuff create so many things.

Like these egg bakies we had for dinner last night.

Bake at: 180°C

Bake in: Snack-sized ramekins (baking paper optional)

Bake how: Filling goes in first. Crack an egg on top. Put in oven. Add toppings when done.

Bake for: 12 - 15 mins, depending on your oven and how you like your eggs.

egg bakie

Lots of ingredients work with egg bakies - chopped chorizo, bacon, veggies and cheese, potato, pasta, leftover stew, bolognese, chilli con carne. Though with runny bases, you're better off going directly in the ramekin without baking paper.

For this one, we used broccoli + white cheese (beyaz penir) filling, topped with a slice of fresh tomato, salt + black pepper.

Tell me, what do you use when you make these? I must know all the yummy things. :)

two egg bakies, wrapped in baking paper

I'm joining the #baketober fun this month. You're supposed to bake something you've never baked before, but I'd like to use this opportunity to also get better at recipes I'm familiar with, and get used to our ruddy oven.

Yes, it is legitimate kitchen baking, though if enough of us do it, maybe we can amass 420 recipes. XD