Thursday 28 February 2013

Putting condoms on light bulbs

Geez, I must be getting past it. Until this week, I had no idea that you could buy condoms for light bulbs.

I'm talking about fiddly little bulbs that light up your car dashboard and things like that. The last bulb in my instrument panel gave up the ghost recently, so it was time to replace the little suckers.

I did a bit of reading on line and figured that the best thing to do was to replace the old bulbs with LEDs - they supposedly last for much longer. Although given the way I am falling apart, a new set of old fashioned bulbs might well outlast me.

I bought a set of LEDs online, and they arrived from the UK within a few days. Hoorah - I could rip the dash out and once again see how fast I was going at night.

Just one small problem - in "modern" cars, the bulbs sit in a socket, and the socket screws into the instrument panel. It's been a long time since I pulled a car to bits, so this was all new to me. In the old days, you just screwed the bulb in and that was it. However, it looks like bulbs have shrunk quite a bit during the intervening years, so you need the socket to avoid smashing the tiny little bulb when installing it.

And guess what? The LED lights need a different socket to the old style bulbs - aaaarrrrrggghhh! That's an LED socket below by the way - it has a big fat dish in it to accept an LED.

Since I couldn't afford to wait for a set of sockets to arrive from overseas, I popped down to my nearest auto store and bought some bulbs. I made sure I pulled a socket out (and the bulb) before turning up with it, as I've discovered that manuals no longer tell you what part number to ask for. That really annoys me. When I had lights blow on older cars, I could front up at the parts shop and ask for a WY8904C-8 and they'd go and find some for me - and I knew what to ask for as the manual had a table of parts in there for these sorts of things. The bloke in the parts shop said it's a way of forcing you to get all your stuff via a dealer.

So I got my bulbs. But the old bulbs were green and the new ones were clear - what to make of that?

Thankfully, the old bloke in the shop didn't laugh out loud at my stupidity - he carefully lifted a bit of the green covering to show that it was a clear bulb covered in a green condom. Like the ones above.

Of course I should have bought some condoms as well, because when I pulled the blown lights out, I found that bits of the old condoms had welded to the lights over the years. I managed to refit two complete condoms and one partly torn one. I'm afraid some of the lighty bits are going to leak out and my speedo will get pregnant.

And how do you fit a bulb condom?

Funnily enough, exactly the same as a normal franger. Whilst I stuffed up getting them off, I managed to roll them on in a few seconds flat. And the bloody things are a damned sight smaller than the old fella. I've lost none of my touch.

All of this took a fair bit of stuffing around. The dash has been off and on four times this week. The first effort took me 90 minutes. The last effort took a bit over 15 - see, I can learn. I even remembered to test that the lights worked before screwing everything back together.

I now also have a packet of LEDs - unused. When these globes blow in 10 years time, I'll never be able to find them, and I'll have to go through all this crap again.

Tuesday 26 February 2013

More pain for Bruce

Where was I? Ah yes, devouring the delicious tea cake that I made for dessert tonight.

And so begins another cooking rant.

I have grown fonder of cakes as I have gotten older. I think I was put off them by some pretty dry and ordinary specimens that I was presented with at smoko when working in shearing sheds in my school and uni days. I know the CWA has created a reputational idea of farmer's wives being great cooks - but sadly, it wasn't always so. Some were fantastic cooks - they would have put many a chef to shame - but others made boarding school food look good.

If my kids had their way, all we'd eat around here would be chocolate cake. I don't mind a good chocky cake, but I do need some variety from time to time - hence the desire to make the odd tea cake every now and then.

The first thing you need to know about tea cake is that it does not contain tea. I presume it's meant to be eaten with a cup of tea, or for morning or afternoon tea. I am yet to read a recipe that explains the meaning behind the name. So stop worrying if you don't have any tea in the cupboard.

Every cake recipe requires you to cream butter and sugar together. Some even mention that the butter needs to be softened. Now here is my gripe - how soft is "soft"? For those of us that didn't go to catering school where chefs yelled at us all day about the different stages of butter softness, stating that it needs to be "soft" is a bit useless. Does it mean you can cut it with something slightly blunter than a cleaver, or does it mean that it's about to collapse into a puddle under its own weight?

Here's what I'd like to see. It's easy to buy thermometers with probes these days. How about writing a recipe that says, "Allow the butter to soften to a point where the internal temperature of the slab is 12 degrees" - or whatever the appropriate temperature is. Alternatively, give us a table of softening times for a range of ambient temperatures. That is, if the temperature in your kitchen is 25 degrees, you need to take the butter out of the fridge 22 minutes before using it.

You know it makes sense. If recipes were written by blokes, they'd include useful technical information like this.

This cake is really bloody simple.

125gm butter - chopped
1/2 cup firmly packed sugar (don't ask me how much that weighs)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Throw the butter, vanilla and sugar in your mixer and mix it for 6-10 minutes on high speed. I find that is what it takes for it to become "light and fluffy". Again - a gripe. What the fripping heck is "light and fluffy"? It's ok if you've spent 4 years with a chef yelling at you that your mix is not yet "light and fluffy", but the rest of us need a bit more to go on. Hence my advice is to beat the living daylights out of it for at least 6 minutes. I set the timer on the microwave to make sure it gets beaten for long enough.

You've now got 6-10 minutes to do the following:

Hunt around in the cupboard and find a 20cm springform tin. I broke my 20cm tin, so I use a smaller one - it makes no difference. Grease the inside with margarine, slap a circle of baking paper on the bottom and strips of baking paper to the sides and put it down somewhere where you won't trip over it. It helps if you only grease the inside of the tin - it gets a bit slippery if you do the outside as well.

Turn the oven to 180 degrees and get your shelves in the right places. Nothing worse than having to rearrange stinking hot shelves when you need to toss the cake into the oven.

Find two apples and peel them. Quarter them, chop out the cores and then thinly slice the quarters. Remember - you'll be eating this cake with a spoon. You don't want slices so thick that you need a serrated knife to cut through them. Make the slices thin. Not paper thin - just thin. If you can't cut them with a spoon when cooked, they're too bloody thick - is that clear enough for you?

What sort of apples? The recipe says royal gala, but I love pink ladies. So I used pink ladies (that's all we had in the house). Does it matter what sort of apple you use? Dunno. I suspect the only reason some recipes tell you to use a certain apple is that is all the cook had to use when they first made the cake - and they stuck with that variety. If the recipe said that the acid content, sugar balance, cell structure and fruit density of a particular variety made it the best type for certain recipes, then I'd give it some credence. But I hate using one apple over another without an explanation why.

Hell, you're running out of time here. Grab your sliced apple, find the cake tin and either gently lay the apples slices in the bottom in a beautiful pattern, or toss the whole lot in and give it a shake until the bottom is evenly coated in two layers of apple slices. Whatever works for you. I am not the neat kind. I don't "do" decorating. I do cooking and eating.

Pour a few teaspoons of golden syrup over the apples. I used 3 generous teaspoons tonight. I could have used more. But 3 was a good start.

Find 2 eggs. If your sugar and butter have been beating for at least 6 minutes and now look "light and fluffy", crack an egg and toss it in to the mixer. Remember to take it out of the shell first. Let it beat for another minute or so, then chuck in the other egg. Give it at least another minute - it has to incorporate properly.

Last bits.

Turn off the mixer, remove the bowl and tip in the following through a sieve:

- 1 cup self raising flour
- 1/2 cup plain flour

Pour in 3/4 cup of milk.

Mix the whole lot up with a spatula or spoon until it's the consistency of wet cement. Don't over mix it and for heaven's sake, don't use the bloody mixmaster - that will kill it.

Tip the batter over the apples and bake for 35-40 minutes. It took closer to 55 in my crap oven. Stick a skewer in the middle to see if its cooked - if any cake sticks to the skewer, give it another 5 minutes.

When it's done, pull the tin out of the oven and let it stand for 10 minutes. Then remove the spring form side and baking paper and invert it onto a plate. Invert means "tip upside down". Remember to put the plate on top of the cake before you tip it upside down. The apple bits will then be on top. You can eat it once you've remembered to remove the last bit of baking paper.

Eat with whipped cream or ice cream. And a pot of tea, if that takes your fancy. Or even coffee. See if I care.

My first pavlova

What can I say? Sorry Bruce - you'll just have to suck it up.

Pavlova is something that I ate a lot of as a kid, but it fell off the menu about 20 years ago and I've probably had one about every 3 years since. I had an auntie that was a wiz at making them - she lived on a small farm just outside the town I lived in as a little kid, and she kept chooks. And ducks. And geese. However, only the chook eggs went into the pavlova. I'm now wondering whether you can make pavlova from duck eggs? And no, I'm not going to try. That was just my brain meandering across the lupin paddocks of my childhood.

The chooks were certainly under pressure to produce eggs - as soon as they started faltering, I would be dispatched to the chook shed with an axe and we'd have chicken casserole for dinner. That made a change from rabbit casserole - although my uncle could never tell the difference if he'd spent a few too many hours at the pub. I was hopeless at beheading the chooks - I was paranoid about losing a few fingers in the process, so more than one half-headless chook had to be chased around by a 12 year old with an axe. And my bloody uncle was too lazy to sharpen his axes. I much preferred being sent to the office to collect the 10-.22 from the gun cupboard or to the barn to collect the rabbit traps and then being told to thin the rabbit population.

Why cook the rabbits and chooks in a casserole?

One - they were pretty tough and stringy when they went into the pot, so they really needed slow cooking. The "tough" cuts of meat that we get at the supermarket these days are nothing like the dry, stringy inedible cuts we had to put up with 35 years ago. It was genuine peasant food - bloody awful bits of meat cooked long and slow to make it palatable.

Two - the bits of lead that I didn't extract from the rabbit before it went into the pot would fall out and end up in the bottom of the casserole where they were easy to find.

Three - my uncle and auntie were pretty bloody lazy. They took the easiest option with everything in life, and one pot casseroles are wonderfully easy to do if you cooked them 5 times a week.

There's a thought - I had a great childhood because I spent a lot of time with my lazy relatives. Most branches of the family tree got the hard working genetics. One branch got stuff all. That meant I got to do lots of fun stuff that they couldn't be bothered doing. Paddock needs plowing? Send the kid out on the tractor. Dinner needs to be put on the table? Send the kid out with the rifle/fishing rod/yabby traps. Uncle needs collecting from the pub? Send the kid out in the ute. Trees need trimming? Find the kid the chainsaw. Blackberries need pruning? Send the kid out with a 5 litre drum of petrol, a pile of newspapers and a box of matches. I'd be running (or driving) around the farm at 14 years old shooting or setting fire to things whilst auntie would be napping on the couch in front of the cricket. With a glass of sherry or three. And then I'd have to drive to the pub to get uncle home for dinner. That would take a while as I'd have to stick around in the pub for a few beers as uncle liked a chat and was very hard to extract from the front bar.

Another good point about casseroles is that they are very forgiving of being overcooked. It didn't matter if it took me two beers or 6 to extract uncle from the pub - the casserole wasn't going to be burnt by the time we got home.

In case you are wondering about the dangers of drink driving as a kid, just remember that the current population of the "town" I am talking about is less than 60. Not 60,000. 60. I think it's grown a bit since I was last there.

Anyway - pavlova. Needless to say, I was also the one sent out to the chook shed to collect the eggs and to sort the rotten ones from the fresh. I should mention that uncle was pretty blase about collecting the eggs, so screening them was absolutely essential.

If there was a surfeit of eggs, auntie would whip up some enormous pavlovas. She had a huge oven, and for the time, a top of the line mixmaster. Looking back, I think she specialised in pavlova because it was so easy - separate eggs, whip whites with sugar for 10 minutes and then bake at 150 degrees. Any kids in the vicinity would then be given the job of whipping the cream, slicing the fruit and decorating it. At that point, auntie would retire to her favourite chair for another glass of sherry.

Which gets me to Bruce. I whipped up some chocolate pots the other day that required more egg yolks than whites, so I made some mini-pavlovas with the left over egg whites. My first ever. Piece of cake. Baked them for 30 minutes at 150 degrees and they turned out beautifully. So beautifully, that most were gone soon after one of the kids opened the oven and discovered them cooling off. You should try it some time.

Saturday 16 February 2013

Another stupid recipe

I got a craving earlier this week for jelly cakes - something I haven't had since I was a kid. I remembered them as a cube of sponge cake dipped in red jelly and then rolled in shredded coconut. Sort of like a lamington, but with a jelly coating instead of chocolate.

I dug up a recipe and bought the ingredients to make some mango jelly cakes.

The recipe was a disaster as far as being easy to follow went. There are three parts to it:

- making the cakes
- making the jelly
- making mango cream to go into the finished product

I like to prioritise my cooking so that things are done in the most sensible order. To me, that order is:

- make the jelly (because it takes time to cool down enough before you can dip the cakes into it)
- make the cakes
- make the mango cream

It got the whole thing arse about, and instead of separating the ingredients for each step, it mashed them altogether into a confusing jumble.

Here's my easy way of doing it.

The jelly

But a tin of mango and a packet of mango jelly.

When you open the tin, it should contain 4 mango cheeks. Drain them and throw all four cheeks lot into a blender or food processor. You can keep the syrup if you like.

Boil 1.25 cups of water, pour it into a bowl and throw the mango jelly into it. Stir to dissolve the jelly. Put a sieve over the bowl and force HALF your blended mango through it. This will ensure you don't have any lumpy or stingy bits in the jelly. If you like sweet jelly, pour in some syrup. You will have left over jelly afterwards that you can set in the fridge. Mix your sieved mango and jelly together and stick it in the fridge.

You don't want the jelly to set hard - you want it to set slightly so that it's not all runny and liquidy, but just a bit thickened.

The cakes.

Turn your oven on and set to 180 degrees.

Go find a friand tray and grease the holes with butter. Don't use margarine - this batter sticks with margarine.

Stick 10gm of butter into a small bowl and pour 2 tablespoons of hot water in as well.

You can do this next part with an electric hand mixer or a food processor with beaters. I used a hand mixer.

Crack two eggs into a bowl. Beat them for 10 minutes with the hand mixer. Yes, that's a long time to stand around beating eggs - this is why you could use a food processor instead. I let one of the kids take over at the 5 minute mark and ended up with egg sprayed over half the kitchen.

After 10 minutes, slowly tip 1/3 cup of sugar into the eggs as you are beating them. Don't bung it all in at once - do it slowly. Continue beating until the sugar has dissolved.

Remove the beaters. Get a sifter and sift 1/2 cup of self raising flour and 2 teaspoons of cornflour into your egg/sugar mix. Fold that into the egg/sugar without beating the living daylights out of it.

Fold in the butter/water mix I told you about earlier. Don't beat the crap out of the batter! Be gentle and don't over mix.

Put a spoonful of the mix into each friand hole. The mix will rise, so don't fill the holes level with the tray or it will overflow a lot. Fill to below the lip.

Bake for 12 minutes. Or if you have a crap oven like me, back for 16 minutes.

When you put them in the oven, find a wire rack. Put a sheet of baking paper on top of it. Leave it on the benchtop.

After 12 or 16 minutes, pull your cakes out of the oven and immediately tip them onto the baking paper on the wire rack. Or, if you used margarine to grease the tray, use a knife to lever them out.

Dipping the cakes

If your fridge is like mine, and you were pretty quick at making the cakes, your jelly won't be quite ready yet. Check it anyway. Bugger off for a while and mow the lawn or something. Let the cakes cool and the jelly set. Just don't fall asleep on the couch. If the jelly sets, you're stuffed.

When you are ready, grab a flat bowl and put lots of shredded coconut in it. Give the cakes a good dipping in the jelly - if you let the jelly set too much like I did, they won't absorb enough jelly. But not too much dipping, or they will disintegrate.

Roll them in the coconut. I use my right hand to dip and put them in the bowl, and my left hand (which is dry and clean of jelly) to get more coconut out of the coconut container and sprinkle on the top side of the cakes - because you never put enough coconut in first time.

Put the finished cakes on a tray and put them in the fridge for half an hour. DON'T START EATING THEM NOW. They'll be better in half an hour. Be patient. Stick the left over mango jelly in the fridge to set properly.

The cream

Clean your beaters, find another bowl and whip 300ml of cream. Find the other half of the mango you pulverised and stir it through the cream. You can also finely chop half the mango instead of blending it if you want a chunkier cream. The mango cream is delicious. DO NOT EAT ALL THE CREAM BEFORE THE CAKES ARE READY.

Finishing them off

Chop the cakes in half, bung some mango cream in the middle and put the two halves back together. Then scoff.  I find chopping them in half to be really difficult - mine just don't want to cut cleanly. You can always just spread a dollop of cream on top and eat them that way. When you run out of cakes, eat the left over mango jelly. With mango cream on top if you like.


Ride 132 miles to work all that off.

Green fatcats want to grind the faces of the Spanish poor

Thanks to Bishop Hill for the link:

Foreign investors in renewable energy projects in Spain have hired lawyers to prepare potential international legal action against the Spanish government over new rules they say break their contracts.
It is unclear how much claims might be worth, but international funds have more than 13 billion euros ($17 billion) of renewable energy assets in Spain and say that the government has reneged on the terms of their investment.
The Spanish Parliament approved a law on Thursday that cuts subsidies for alternative energy technologies, backtracking on its push for green power.

The clanger for me in the source article is this:

The problem was that the cost of the subsidies were not passed on fully to consumers because that would have pushed prices to unprecedented highs.

Imagine that - solar and wind subsidies push up electricity prices to unaffordable levels.

Great literature hits the shelves

Che! The Lost Diaries is now available in a dead tree edition.

As I have given up buying dead tree books for Lent, I'll have to wait for the Kindle edition to hit the intertubes. But if you are still buying bits of paper glued together, get your hands on a copy now.

Thursday 14 February 2013

Another day, another trio of retards

Being an equal opportunity kind of guy, I'm happy to heap abuse on stupid people no matter where they are or what they are doing.

Stupid person 1 - the cyclist who blasted through all the red traffic lights in Pyrmont this morning. I watched him do 1-2-3-4 in succession, amazed that he wasn't collected by a car as he shot through each intersection without so much as a sideways glance. When he reached the Pyrmont Bridge, he proceeded to fang it across the bridge, ducking and weaving through the small number of pedestrians on the bridge at that time of day.

You might be wondering how I saw all this. Simple. The lights went green not long after he shot through the first three, and because I am reasonably quick, I managed to keep him in sight all the way to the bridge. If someone had taken him out, I would have ridden over to him lying on the ground and given him a mouthful.

Stupid person 2 - I'm riding along and I notice that there's a big tailback of cars from an intersection where I've never seen more than 5 or 6 cars queued at peak hour. The lights go green way up ahead and the traffic hardly moves. I've got no idea what's going on, so when the lights go red and the traffic stops moving, I filter up to the front.

There's a broken down car in the left hand lane, right on the stop line. A sorry looking teenage girl is behind the wheel. She's done the right thing - hazards are on and she's calling a tow truck. The lights go green and off I go - and the moron behind her starts honking at her. Talk about clueless and stupid.

Captain moron of the week - I'm blasting down a hill at 60km/h. At the bottom, there's a big lane of green paint to show motorists bikes are coming through, and a stop sign to prevent cars from taking out high speed cyclists.

Ute approaches the stop sign, and just rolls right through it right in front of 4 of us. Brake levers are grabbed, tyres start smoking and we manage to slip and slide around the ute. The ute pulls over. I do a U turn and go back and give the driver a VERY LOUD assessment of her driving ability (using lots of words I never use in front of the kids).

She's on the phone. She doesn't remove the phone from her ear during my diatribe. She cares not a whit that she just put the lives of others in danger - she's on a very important call to someone or other. She doesn't care that she drove through a stop sign, or that she was driving whilst yapping on her mobile. As a final insult, she winds up her window on me.

It's at times like these, I wish I was carrying a pair of sidecutters with me. I'd simply walk around the car and snip the valve off all four tyres - that would make her day.

I curse myself for not grabbing her phone or car keys and hurling them into the bay.

About an hour later, I started to wonder if she was very pissed or totally stoned - she was way too calm and out of it. Definitely should have tossed her keys into six feet of murky water.

Saturday 9 February 2013

The inaccuracy - it burns

"Standing stock still, her finger suspended over the trigger, she stares through the sight of her Dragunov rifle". So says the SMH today.

Let's have a closer look at the "Dragunov".

Hmm. Looks awfully like the FN L1A1 SLR that I carried many years ago.

Here's a Dragunov by comparison.

This simple inaccuracy makes me question the whole story.

By the way, sticking a scope on an SLR no more makes it a sniper rifle than sticking fat tyres on a taxi makes it a race car.

Mise en place - more

Since the body is not up to riding this morning, there is only one solution - bake a chocolate cake!

I'm not going to provide the recipe. Instead, I'm going to write about prep.

Junior keeps talking about moving out of home at the end of the year. Before he goes, I'm trying to show him a few things so that his new flatmates won't boot him out after two months. One of those is keeping the kitchen in a usable state.

See, he has this habit of getting hungry around midnight, and his favourite stomach filling night time snack is mee-goreng with bacon and fried egg on top. Whatever. For all I know, that could be a culinary masterpiece that's about to sweep the planet.

I can deal with his weird selection of food. What I can't deal with is walking into the kitchen at 0600hrs to find grease encrusted frying pans and plates and pots filling the sink. It drives me nuts, because I discovered long ago that cooking a meal is so much easier if you've cleaned up the kitchen before you start. I can't get over how many people try and cook something without first clearing away any mess in the sink and on the bench tops. Failing to do so is just a recipe for frustration, chaos and disaster. He still hasn't worked out the connection between him making a mess at midnight and me kicking him out of bed 6 hours later to clean it up. He thinks it's very unfair.

So before I do anything these days, I do a quick clean up first.

- empty the worm bin into the worm farm. No point in trying to stuff more food scraps into an already full worm bin. Start with an empty bin, not a full one.
- empty the kitchen bin into the big outside bin. Nothing worse than trying to cram a few empty foam meat trays into an overflowing kitchen bin - and then watching the compacted rubbish slowly expand and the meat trays popping out to land on the floor. Start with an empty rubbish bin
- wash, dry and put away anything left around the kitchen. When I finish prep, I don't want to be looking at a stack of dirty dishes and wondering where I'm going to put my dirty prep stuff. Start with clean bench tops and an empty sink

The cake is now in the oven. As soon as it went in, I cleaned everything up. So now the next person to go into the kitchen will be able to make a meal using a clean slate.

He's a teenager, so of course it will take him 20 years to learn these things for himself.


When I went to bed last night, I was thinking hard about riding this morning.

The body told me otherwise this morning. I couldn't even lift my legs up to get my feet into a pair of shorts. I had to sit on the edge of the bed to get dressed.

Me thinks I pushed it a little too hard a few times this week.

What apps do the fast guys use?

I finally relented last week and installed an app on my phone which tracks me when I go for a ride. The only reason I did it was to get some data on how much climbing I am doing (it's cheaper than buying a GPS) - but after a week of data collecting, I found that it can't tell that the Anzac Bridge goes up and over a body of water. Instead, it thinks I ride on water.

Ah well.

The day after I started using it, emails started appearing from the software maker telling me how good I went the day before. Nifty. It's a daily encouragement to exercise more - the same as having a personal trainer nag you each day to get out and do some sit ups (now there's a thought).

The email also tells you how you did in comparison to everyone else that has recorded their times along particular sections of the route you took. I was stunned when it told me I was in the top 1% on a number of sections, including the hilly bits. When you're as old and big as me, you don't climb anywhere near as well as the skinny young blokes. However, there was the email telling me otherwise.

What gives?

I can think of a few reasons.

First, people aren't riding flat out on my route - it's not a race (even though when you pass a lot of blokes, they turn it into a race). I ride hard - but not "race" hard, which is where you get to the end and fall sideways off your bike because you don't have the energy left to unclip your legs. I don't feel like arriving at the car park at work and then collapsing on the concrete in a gibbering mess. I'm giving it up to 90% rather than 100%, and I reckon a lot of cyclists are content to commute at no more than 70-80% of their potential - it means less sweat to wash off when you get to work.

Second, the really fit and serious guys probably don't bother recording their commutes as they aren't "proper" training rides.

Third, who can be bothered recording their commute every day? Are people that anal about it that they record even the boring and mundane rides?

Fourth, I don't think the pros are using this particular app. Strava seems to be the favourite app for the really serious cyclist.

In other words, it's telling me that I'm a really fast hubbard. Which is like saying you own the best looking Ford.

Sunday 3 February 2013

Mise en place

Mise en place - frog for "everything in its place" - a particularly important concept when working in the kitchen.

It's always used in terms of prepping to cook. However, it struck me the other day that whilst lots of emphasis is put on getting ready to cook, no effort appears to be put into minimising the amount of washing up that any given meal produces.

The catalyst was getting up at 0600 and finding that Junior had cooked himself a midnight snack of bacon and mee goreng. The evidence was all over the kitchen - splattered fat on the cook tops, dirty dishes, pots and pans in the sink and a slab of uncooked bacon left sitting on the bench top. He'd managed to feed himself, but the effort of putting away the unused food and cleaning up was clearly beyond him. Poor petal. I was so caring and considerate of his weakened physical state that I waited until 0700 before booting him out of bed and putting him to work at the sink.

I'm not a big fan of washing up, so I do my best to generate the minimum amount when producing anything to eat. When I cook something, after I've done it the first time, I think about how I can do it then next time with less washing up. Can I order the way I prepare and cook the dish to ensure there isn't a sink full of muck at the end?

This stuff is never covered in any cookery books that I've ever read. It's like the people writing recipes have never done any time and motion studies into how to make them more effectively. I need to minimise the amount of dirty stuff I produce because we've got a small kitchen - we simply don't have space to pile up masses of used pots. It's a bit like cooking in a submarine galley.

Here's a simple example. I made semi-fredo not long ago. The recipe tells you to separate eggs, whip the yolks with sugar over a double boiler then whip the cream, then whip the whites and then fold the whole lot in together. It such a simple thing, but if you whip the whites first, you don't have to wash the beaters before moving onto the next items. The whites won't whip as well if the beaters and contaminated with egg yolk or cream, so if you do them last, you have to wash them. If you do the whites first, it doesn't matter if a bit of egg white ends up in the cream etc etc. That simple change in steps saves a bit of time and means you don't have to stick your hands in the sink during preparation.

I do this with all my recipes, trying to save a dirty bowl or two for each dish in a meal. If you're putting something together that involves multiple dishes, it can save a lot of washing up. I think some people say they dislike cooking not because they dislike the cooking part, but because they dislike the cleaning up afterwards part. To me, it makes a lot of sense for recipe book writers to reconstruct their recipes in a way that creates less muck and havoc.

Saturday 2 February 2013


It's summer down here. And it's cold. How cold?

I downloaded the Bureau of Meteorology stats for daily max and min temps for Sydney.

Today is the 4th coldest 2nd of Feb on record - since 1859. Here's the other stats:

1899 - 13.7 degrees
1919 - 13.9 degrees
1933 - 13.9 degrees
2013 - 14.1 degrees

These stats were taken from the Observatory Hill station, which these days is surrounded by concreted and tarmac roads - which is only of interest if you think the urban heat island effect has any impact on recorded temperatures.

The max temp for today was 21.3 degrees - the 14th lowest on record since 1859. The lowest maximum for Feb 2 was 17.5 degrees in 1909.

It was the 4th wettest Feb 2nd also with 48.6mm so far - and the day still has 4 hours to run.

1868 - 83.8mm
1934 - 54.9mm
1980 - 54.8mm
2013 - 48.6mm

Interestingly, the BOM says we got 0mm of rainfall yesterday, even though I almost drowned on the way home it was raining so hard.