The rest of my life

Thrift in the kitchen

IMG_4748(Note: you should read this post as if you are mimicking Nigella)

My enduring and long-standing passion for food and cooking has recently turned to improving our kitchen efficiency. This sounds awful and not about deliciousness, but it is. It is about reducing waste, using smart ways to cook more efficiently and most importantly turning left overs from worthy but not that satisfying meals to truly special dinners. Just because there are only a few of us, doesn’t mean we can’t make meals as if we were a huge family, I just need to be clever about it. It takes planning for a small family to cook well without wasting things. Sure I could just buy portions, rather than a whole chicken, and I could forgo food like slow roasted lamb shoulder, but I won’t. Essential to my recent efforts is the idea that I could do better. Cook better, plan more successfully and have routine dishes that follow on from one another. I am less successful with a strict menu planner with a week’s worth of recipes to shop for and cook. I need more spontaneity than that. I need to be able to see bargains at the markets, then plan around what I’ve sourced.

While I usually make everything from scratch, stock, tomato puree made by my indefatigable husband who processed hundreds of tomatoes over summer, home grown veg and herbs, with very few processed foods, I have improved on this lately by creating meals in a series. This works particularly well in cooler weather. I will be working harder in summer to continue this project. Let me give you an example. (Look away vegetarians).

Our family is small. Three people, one of whom may or may not eat dinner with his parents. A leg of lamb feeds 6 or 8 people. Lamb is expensive, you can reduce costs by buying from the farmer, which we do. What I really needed was a way to use the leftovers in a more sophisticated way. I hate cold lamb, hate it with a passion and will not eat lamb sandwiches. Introducing lamb pilaf – I started with recipes that were designed to use up leftovers, but a bit of research lead me to Azerbaijan’s national dish, delicious and fragrant with saffron. What I did then was modify the recipe. The roast lamb is already cooked, so I add it – scattered on the top of the cooking rice – only at the last moment, so it is warm but not more cooked. I also force myself to cut up the lamb straight away after dinner (or more frequently, ask my lovely husband to do it) and put it in the fridge ready to go. Planning, planning, planning. Roast lamb Saturday night. Pilaf Sunday night and lunch Monday. Tick. Tick. Tick. Thrifty and low effort.


Lemon and Curry Leaf Rice – Ottolenghi

Some of my more recent meal series are more elaborate. There is a rice recipe in Plenty More, Ottolenghi. I could eat it every single day of the year, I love it that much. It’s easy, a few ingredients, some of which can just live the freezer until it’s time. Then I discovered this chicken dish, Lebanese Chicken and Rice. This dish has similar flavourings to the Lemon and Curry Leaf rice. The Lebanese Chicken is made by poaching the chicken and the resultant stock is not all used in the final dish. Saturday night make the Lebanese Chicken, a family winner. Reserve the left over stock – measure it exactly for the rice recipe. Freeze. When it is time for Lemon and Curry Leaf rice, use the frozen stock as the base for the rice rather than water. It has an improved depth of flavour and takes no more time and makes full use of the chicken. No wastage.


Roast Lemon Chicken

Roast Lemon Chicken is another dish on high rotation in my kitchen. Without a chicken, the weekend is fine, but it just feels a bit off kilter. Roast a chicken. I like to use lemon and thyme, perhaps sage, or tarragon when I have some. I also like to roast chicken with a pool of white wine in the base of the casserole. Enjoy delicious chicken for dinner. Then straight after dinner, strip the remaining chicken from the bones and put in the fridge, then make stock from all the bones in the pot you cooked the vegetables in – be careful to remove all the herbs and lemon from the cavity or the stock will be bitter. Then leave the stock quietly simmering on the stove while you watch a movie or RockWiz or what ever it is people watch on Saturday night.


Left over roast chicken soup

Next night make this soup with noodles, some corn, coriander and chilli or indeed if you want the chicken to go even further make Chicken, lentil and kale soup. You have already cooked the chicken, you have made stock while you watched tv, and the lentils take a short time to cook. The left over chicken will make two dinners – or even soups for two grown up people and one small person’s chicken noddle soup – as well as two lunches.

Less waste, more taste. Less work in the kitchen. My newest favourite idea which is gaining momentum is a pasta bake on Thursday nights. We shop at the markets on Saturday. By Thursday night, the fridge is often full of odds and ends, a few of this, a bit of cheese, a handful of this, handful of that. Most of that will go with pasta, particularly if it is then topped with left over bread made into crumbs and topped with parmesan or better yet other delicious melty cheeses. By Friday night I am aiming for a near empty fridge, ready for the next day. Last week it was a small amount of bolognese based sauce (one serve for small boy for dinner) with silverbeet and kale added to it and stirred through pasta elbows and topped with bread crumbs and cheese. I aim for a single two person serving. Use all leftover vege and other ends but not too much pasta or sauce so it fits neatly into a small pyrex baking dish. This week it was mushroom, kale and cheese sauce with tiny bit of left over bacon. Topped with primo sale – which is a fresh cheese that softens rather than melts. Left over stale bread turned into rough crumbs – I didn’t even bother to dry them first.

Pasta bake

Pasta bake now on for Thursday nights

This new addition to the routine gives me something to work towards for the end of the week. Soup of veges and lentils is also a good way to turn nothing into something, particularly if there is stock and pulses on hand, you can make anything. I am working to increase my base recipes made from what is to hand repertoire so I can use everything up. Feels satisfying, will make full use of costly protein and other nutrient dense foods, and is simpler that trying to think through options when I’m busy. I now have options for post roast meat dishes, I have ideas for Thursdays, I have lunches at the ready. While I love the idea of Nigella’s pantry, particularly that scene from the early series of her throwing open the enormous space full to the ceiling with glass jars and natty bits in snap lock bags, it is wasteful. It uses too much plastic for one thing and it encourages shopping for particular specific meals. This is fine for special celebrations but for every day more thrift is my new goal. Use what is on hand. It takes water to grow food. It takes effort to make a garden. I am working to make full use of my resources.



Scare tactics


Age spots waiting to happen

Yesterday I did my own head in. Since my own mind is susceptible like no other to my mental obfuscation, it is easy to put one over myself. It takes mental discipline to not allow it to happen. It is still singularly disappointing when my own mind turns on itself. In the long lead in time from referral to appointment for a skin check up, I had convinced myself that my failure to comprehensively comply with skin safe/sun smart/cancer avoiding routines, meant that I was harbouring multiple deadly skin lesions. My Celtic genetic pool has blessed me with the kind of freckly, pale and easily burnt skin that doesn’t belong in a country with no ozone layer. I haven’t been sunburned for a long, long time, but I still have some sun exposure in the garden, at the pool, in life in general. I am pretty good at wearing hats and sunscreen and I don’t seek out the sun. I have many freckles and significant ‘photo ageing’. Most of this damage is a result of my childhood exposure. The 70s were not great for Slip, Slop, Slap compliance. Aside from the childhood persecution that I received from the freckles, I am now more prone to age spots (excellent!) and other skin lesions. So far, so cheerful! Read More



New Year’s Day 2016


Swimming is rhythm and blues.

As a child I learned to swim. I spent a good deal of my childhood in the water. Endless somersaults underwater. Holding my breath for as long as I could. Hearing the rushing blood in my ears. When I was nine I had a pair of swimmers the colours of the Australian flag. I wore them until they fell apart. For a short time I swam in a swimming squad. I wasn’t very fast and remember it as endless laps. I was probably ten. I could dive and swim reasonably well. I could turn and I churned up and down. At home in our pool, I stayed under the water where the noise was less until the pressure built up in my lungs and forced me to the surface gasping.

For a while in my early thirties I swam at Victoria Park, where you can swim outside all year round. I used to go as the sun was going down and swim slow breaststroke for a kilometre. The moon would rise over the city and I could float on my back and watch the stars come out. For while I went regularly enough and swimming was rhythm and blues. Deep blue early autumn sky and bright blue water.

I swam a lot when I was pregnant as I tried to counteract the fatigue and my sedentary job. Then I didn’t swim much. Not much at all for the last five years. But every time I did, I’d feel better. Every time I went into the water, especially where I could see the sky, my heart would leap.

Now that Benedict has lessons every summer we have found ourselves pool side, watching a small be-googled sprite try to master floating and making forward progress in the water. I didn’t always go to the lessons, as we tried to fit more into our Saturday. Occasionally, I’d swim some laps.

This summer I decided to swim. On new year’s day I swam some laps. Then I enrolled in some stroke correction classes. A week’s worth. At 8am. My first swimming lesson since about 1984. I had swiftly talked myself into it. But into what exactly? What did I want to do? Swim better and more often, small aims. I was nervous. Then I met John who was in the class with me. He was significantly more nervous than me and less confident. John seemed to me to be a reformed smoker. He struggled for breath in a way that can only occur with serious impairment to your lungs. He was gentlemanly and full of self-doubt. The first class we just showed what we could already do. I fared reasonably well in the breaststroke test but my freestyle technique involves swimming frantically like you are being pursued by sharks. Lots of sharks.

Our teacher asked us what we wanted to achieve. I replied that I just wanted to swim smoothly and easily and to work on turns. John looked pale, he just wanted to make it to the other end of the pool. We agreed to work on a few strokes and turns. By day three the teacher had clearly decided that I was selling my not terrible skills short and she asked me if I wanted to dive. Lucky for John he had to leave a bit early that day. I cautiously threw myself into the pool off the side and didn’t smack into the water in that way that can happen if your hands don’t go in first. Go off the blocks, said Rose. You can do it. So I did. And survived. Then I did a few more and some tumble turns and breaststroke turns, and backstroke turns then some breaststroke starts because hey why not? We stopped short of butterfly and my freestyle started to actually look slightly less ungainly after the fourth day. Then I had to remember to glide in the breaststroke. I had to remember to resist the urge to do anything but glide underwater in a streamlined (more or less) shape. The glide is when you are moving smoothly and is when you can move faster through the water. The strokes propel you forward but the glide takes you further. You must resist moving your limbs to glide.

At the end of day three, my legs were screaming. I went to Pilates class begging for mercy. I could hardly move the next day and after the lesson came home for a six-hour lie down. For five days it felt too much and I could hardly do anything else. On Saturday, the last lesson, I just wanted to swim forever.

It reminded me of the last major physical challenge I had set myself eons ago now. Yoga intensives starting at 6am with Peter Thomson.

Early morning after early morning,’getting the numbers up’ as Peter called it. Rhythm and repeated practice. Repetition. The first is the same as the next, and the tenth, and the hundredth. Precision and consistency are important.

Over and over and over. When you cried with frustration and exhaustion Peter would know that you were then ‘ready to practice’. Before that point, you were only getting the numbers up and preparing to begin. The experience of repetition and the emphasis on consistency, the first is the same as the next and the tenth is a lesson I learned from Peter. It’s the same now. The first lap is the same as the sixth and the tenth and the twentieth. That’s when you are consistent and rhythmical.

After the week of lessons were over, I was ready to start. Now all I have to do is get the numbers up.

See you in the pool. I’ll be the one remembering to glide.

It’s like 1773 … only worse

Make no mistake, beverages are extremely important to me. More important than most other comestibles. Since I was nine years old and I discovered on a life changing trip to Canada, that people drank things other than water. Hot chocolate. Every afternoon. Just because it is nice! I was hooked from that moment. Read More

Everything you know about me is wrong

I shared an office once with an extremely clever and truly good person. One day while I was acting rashly and threatening retaliation against a perceived academic slight, she turned her face to mine and said: ‘Don’t lose your credibility. Without that you have nothing.’

What I couldn’t see so close to the moment was that the retaliation I wanted to wreak was going to do me significant damage. Its intended recipient was going to brush it off like a leaf fallen from a tree and it would have has as much impact. To me though, it was going to cruel my chances altogether. Read More

Top ten reasons I am over the 2013 election

I am often moved to shout at the telly these days. I like politics. I consider myself reasonably well informed. I live in Canberra – I am sometimes close to the political action. I usually love elections. This time round I despair. For the first time in my voting life, I am over it before the voting even starts!

I am seriously over what passes for commentary in most quarters. I am tired of the reductive three word slogans. I am totally over the demonising of people seeking asylum to this country.

What to do? I can spend time hiding under a rock. I can turn off the tv. I can block my ears. But none of these are my style. Without further ado, here then are the top ten reasons I am over the 2013 election … before it even happens. Read More

Ultimate book Q&A … on it goes

Lovely Michelle who writes a beautiful blog, Book to The Future has tagged me in a lovely Ultimate Book Q&A.

Here are the Ultimate Book Q&A Rules

1. Post these rules
2. Post a photo of your favourite book cover
3. Answer the questions below
4. Tag a few people to answer them too
5. Go to their blog/twitter and tell them you’ve tagged them
6. Make sure you tell the person who tagged you that you’ve taken part!

Read More

Kindness of strangers


A woman I don’t know gave me a gift. She thought she was giving me a night’s accommodation and the chance to have a night away. What she actually gave me was the opportunity to briefly be without responsibility, without a role.

Read More

Hottest 100 – 20 years of paths I didn’t take

This weekend there was a return to the good times. The anticipation. The radios blaring all over the suburbs. A return to old times, when radio was a lifeline for lovers of music. A return to a time when waiting and anticipation was all part of the game. No instant anything. No internet, no SMS voting, no Spotify. Just vinyl and tapes. And the radio.

Twenty years of the JJJ Hottest 100. The music of the past twenty years – songs released between 1 January, 1993 and 31 December, 2012. The Hottest 100 poll, which started on JJJ in 1989, has changed a bit. The first time I was able to listen to the countdown was the first year I was in Sydney as an adult, 1991. The next year’s broadcast on Australia Day 1992, I was ready. And I made these.

Hottest 100 precious artifacts from 1992

Hottest 100 precious artifacts from 1992

I have carried them around for twenty one years. Through at least eight moves. That is now more than half my life. The top 15 songs contain 8 of my favourite songs of all time. I don’t have anything to play these tapes on any more. All the tape decks, all the walkmans, none of them are here any more. Lost over the years and broken and abandoned as CDs and then digital everything took over.

Now I wouldn’t need to laboriously record the music and then transcribe the playlists in minute writing, in four different colours. I’d just log on. I know there are golden moments on those tapes. The back announcing of songs, the sleepy (ok, drug addled) voices of artists doing interviews down the phone from the other side of the world. Those fleeting, ephemeral moments are trapped forever on magnetic tapes. Probably now unplayable.

The nostalgia created by the Hottest 100 this weekend lead me to reflect on all the lucky escapes I have had.

The missed opportunities, the chances not taken, the decisions which closed off a certain path. In 1992 I did not transfer into Arts/Law. Nor did I do well enough in first year uni to swap into Mass Comm – then as now, hard to get into and desirable. (I blame History 101 for that – a bastard C grade for that course wrecked that chance.) I didn’t stay in Potts Point. I didn’t do a lot of things. I did decided that I would study philosophy. I did only the minimum of other subjects that year. That set a path which turned into a doctorate, moving to Canberra the first time and a missed opportunity to marry someone with three passports and thanks to his baggage handler father, 10% fares on Qantas forever.

The ten years of songs, 1992 to 2002, reflect thousands of these moments. Heartache, young romance, parties, tragedies, mistakes. This year’s Hottest 100 countdown, is the soundtrack to every decision good and bad I have made for half my life. It is the musical accompaniment to all my joys and fears. All the sorrow and excitements.

The ten years after that from Are You Going Be My Girl to Spectrum (Say My Name) were among the most tumultuous of my whole life. They produced a PhD, another move, new jobs, a man and a baby. Massive changes.

When in the early days it was so difficult to record, archive, save and catalogue, now it is so simple. It’s fast but some of the fun has gone. It took me two minutes to mine the archive for the lists from the past 20 years and beyond to 1991. In 1992 it took me days to finish those tapes and I had to wait until Drum Media published the full list of the tracks as I didn’t know all the song titles and artists. Some of them I had heard for the first time, that Australia Day 1992. These track lists are now filed on Triple J’s website under archive – history. I have a special home in mind for those tapes. They really ought to be displayed as the cultural artifacts they are. They deserve a special place.

Only one question remains? What’s my favourite song from the 1991 list?

That was too hard. So I made a list. It’s here on Spotify – with the cool kids.

And here is the list with one of the most disappointing No 1 tracks ever

Thanks for the memories Triple J and here’s to paths not taken.

Letting it all hang out

Words and pictures

What’s one martini?

It is easy to see where downing several martinis at a birthday party might lead. There are tantalising possibilities in that thought. This story is not about any of them. This story is about how drinking martinis lead me to my first every dance class and how I remembered that the important thing in life is to keep expanding your horizons. Particularly with your partner.

Read More

I sold chooks on Twitter


Silver Laced Wyandottes

There are times when you just need to call your mother.

She’s the only one who will understand and make it right. Straight away. Right now.

And then sometimes, she will laugh so hard she’ll drop the phone.

Like Sunday. I rang my mother, from the front door of the chook palace. The conversation went something like this.


I know it’s your birthday tomorrow, and that’s great but I have something funny to tell you. I accidentally bought full sized chooks and the bantams have gone nuts. What do you think will happen?

Cue: Hysterical laughter. Then some more. Then this.

I’m sorry darling, I know I shouldn’t laugh, but it just so funny. Read More

The Weekend

Today would be a good day to write and write and write. It’s warm, my head is full of ideas. There are few plans for other things.

But I won’t. I will shop and cook and organise. I will exhaust myself with the dashing to and fro gathering all the supplies to survive another week. I will waste the precious time with talk to myself about how my family needs me and that I be happier if I rearranged the furniture.

This is a waste.