Tuesday, September 8, 2009

pea soup

On Saturday night I made pea soup from Orangette, adapted from Nigella Lawson. It's made with green peas, not split peas, and it tastes like a bowl full of spring.

I just had to take a picture of that beautiful colour. The recipe is incredibly simple, just frozen peas, garlic, stock and spring onions (the recipe confused me by calling them scallions, which is a much more sophisticated name). The only bit that was difficult was buying Parmesan rind to simmer in the soup; I had to buy a hunk of Parmesan to get it. On the up side, I now have a hunk of Parmesan. I bet Nigella just bats her eyelids at her cheesemonger and gets all the rind she wants.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

sunday morning

On Thursday night, doing our week's shopping, we bought a new kind of fruit toast for the weekend's breakfasts. Unfortunately, when we tried it on Saturday, I wasn't impressed. It was very sweet, with lots of dates and raisins, and it had a dense, chewy texture I wasn't crazy about. So on Sunday morning, I decided to make French toast with it.

This is one of those foods that you wonder why you don't make more often. It's so fast, takes so little effort, and produces such a spectacular result. Okay, it's not the healthiest breakfast, but you can tweak it to reduce the damage. I dip the bread in a mixture that is more low-fat milk than egg (about 1.5 parts to 1 part), and it works beautifully. This morning I planned to caramelise some bananas (first step: learn how to caramelise bananas) to put on top but I didn't have time, so I decided to leave it till next time. I don't think I'll bother, though, because I tried fresh bananas on top and it was absolutely perfect. The combination of fruit toast, cinnamon, banana and maple syrup was incredible.

Saturday, September 5, 2009


My current obsession is food. I'm still making other things; I'm working on a cross-stitch that is taking forever (the hug design by Emily Peacock) and I've started a new drawing project, A Month of Girls. But all I really want to talk about is food.

I think it started with a BBC series, 'The Supersizers'. Each episode Giles and Sue live for a week in a different period of British history, focusing on the food that was eaten in that period. It's funny and clever and surprising and addictive. We watched all the episodes in quick succession, and I found myself thinking of food quite a lot.

Then I read Michael Pollan's book In Defense of Food. I don't want to sound like a glassy-eyed convert, but that book really did change my life-- or at least, how I think about the things I eat. Since then I've been obsessed. All I want to do is read food books (at the moment I'm reading The Hive by Bee Wilson and I'm excited about What Einstein Told His Cook, which is next), collect recipes and cook new things.

Anyway, I realised last night that since this is a blog about making things, I could quite legitimately bang on about food in here. I don't want to start a food blog because a) this poor thing is so neglected and b) I don't have any really interesting or original insights, I just want to waffle on a bit. I thought it might make it a bit more interesting if I added drawings, and luckily for me, the first thing I want to talk about is eggs. Ha!

One of the odd habits that this obsession has developed in me is that of reading cookbooks like novels, reading recipes which I have no intention of making. This only works, of course, with a really well-written book. Miriam Ungerer's Good Cheap Food was passed down to me by my mother, and although a lot of the recipes are a bit heavier and fattier than modern tastes (the book is from 1971), Ungerer's writing is so funny and acerbic that it's just a pleasure to read. And in fact her wisdom is rubbing off! Last night I made one of our favourite Friday-night dinners, which we call Breakfast for Dinner. It's scrambled eggs, wholemeal toast, pan-fried tomatoes and mushrooms, wilted spinach and roasted red capsicums. It sounds like a lot of work but it's really very quick and easy. We both love big breakfasts but it's quite expensive to eat out, and there's no way I have the presence of mind and energy to make this first thing in the morning. I need to have breakfast before I can cook this breakfast.

The point is, last night I made the best scrambled eggs I have ever made. As well as a little lactose-free milk, I added some fresh parsley from the garden and a tiny bit of Parmesan, which I grated off the block. Then, instead of pushing the eggs around the pan with a big spatula, I used Ungerer's method:
Put a generous amount of butter into the cold skillet (or lightly butter a Teflon pan) and set over medium heat. When the butter is hot and frothing (not browning or smoking), pour the eggs all at once into the centre of the pan. Stir lazily in a circular motion with a fork until the eggs are semi-set but still moist.
I have a horror of uncooked bits of egg white, so I have tended to over-cook my scambled eggs. This makes them rubbery and flavourless. Using a fork, I was able to get a much more even cooking process, and the eggs were tender and flavourful.

All that just for this little tip! Oh well. I find that tips like that are more useful than any one recipe, anyway. Do you have any good egg advice?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

screenprinting: Pinns!

The results of a screenprinting session last weekend. This is Pinn, the elf character from my last comic (which will be featured on Top Shelf 2.0 soon). I spent Sunday afternoon eating cake, drinking tea, gossiping and sewing these up into softies. It's definitely the nicest way to work.