Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Today's adventures in Thermiland

There wasn't much opportunity for cooking yesterday.  A morning of playing with databases, afternoon with plumber and hot tub repairer, choir practice in the evening so no dinner.

But I did make porridge for breakfast.  A cold rainy morning seems to call for oatmeal!  So I did my usual careful measuring.  Hold the container under the tap and count fairly slowly to four.  Then add four heaping dessertspoons of rolled oats.  Uncle Toby's, of course.  Then I turned it onto Heat 100, Reverse stir on 2 (I think) for 7 minutes.  Delicious, hot, creamy.  Did that again this morning, only for two.  Count to eight slowly, then 8 soupspoons of oats.  Strict quantities are not my thing!

Today was shopping day so I shopped with Thermie in mind.  When we got home, I went to work.

First was a carrot and celery smoothie.  One carrot, some celery stalks, a handful of ice cubes, and a small chunk of ginger.  It needed a bit of diluting as it was quite thick, but awfully good.  There was quite a bit left after I had my fill, so I moved on to a tomato passata.  I thought I might have time to make this before I went off to my singing lesson, and I was right.  In went an onion and a garlic clove.  Chop chop.  Then in went all the tomatoes, which had been chopped into about three pieces each.   Some basil leaves.  A spoonful of the veggie stock my consultant had made as a demo.  Chop chop for a few seconds.  I added the remainder of the carrot/celery juice, and cooked for 30 minutes on Speed 1 at 100 degrees.



Looks pretty good, huh?  It will form the basis of a bolognaise sauce soon.

Off to singing, then to visit Mum.  Got home around 5, and thought I might have time to make a couple of things.  I had half a packet of frozen cherries and a punnet of strawberries so thought they would make a good sorbet.  I didn't have a kilo of ice cubes but I didn't think that would matter.  I had two ice-cube trays, about 400 grams.  In went the sugar, and I turned that into icing sugar.  In went the strawberries and the cherries, and an egg white.  Whip whip on 10 for a minute or so, and the sorbet is utterly delicious.   I had to have several spoonfuls to test whether it really is good enough.  It is.   It has gone into the freezer, and will be dessert.  Might blitz and re-freeze, because that's what the books suggest to keep it soft and sorbet-like. Did I put in a cube of frozen passionfruit pulp?  I think I did.

I am partial to herring, so I bought a jar of Bismarck herrings and a tub of crème fraiche.  There was half a red onion in the fridge, and half a red capsicum.  The onion, capsicum and fresh dill went in first to get the chop.  Then I roughly chopped in three of the herring fillets.  Finally in went the tub of crème fraiche and I stirred that in reverse for a few seconds.  Oh yum.  A bit runny, perhaps cream cheese would be a good addition next time, but it will probably firm up in the fridge.  If it lasts that long.

Then I washed up!  Only one chopping board and knife, plus thermie.  For all that preparation!  It is marvellous.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Thermomix Day 1

It arrived today.  Krissy brought it over at 1.30 and plugged it in, showed me how it worked. She also brought some veggies with which to make the veggie stock paste. Carrots, celery, parsley, onion and more went in, along with salt.  Blitz blitz, cook cook, and I have a jar full of delicious-looking stock paste.

Michael came home and so this was my opportunity to try out something for us. Watermelon chunks, pineapple chunks, a little chunk of ginger, and a tray of ice cubes. (Maybe I am going to wish I had a fridge that makes a lot of ice.). All in together, blitz blitz for a minute and a half, and it was delicious. Yum yum!  

Then time to try out bread. This was more problematic. I happened to have whole wheat grains. I like to soak these and cook them in the slow cooker as porridge for breakfast. It reminds me of growing up when we had 44 gallon drums full of wheat to feed the chickens - Dad loved his chooks!  Mum used to soak the wheat and cook it overnight on the slow-combustion stove.   We used to love running our hands through the dry grains. So there you have my life story as explanation of why I have whole wheat grains in the cupboard. 

They all went in, and were milled into flour, and set aside. So far so good, I am impressed with the milling.   Next went in a sachet of dry yeast and some water. Stir and heat to 37 degrees. No trouble. Then weigh the extra flour - 400-450 grams of bread flour. I had some, but not that much. I added some ordinary white flour - still not enough by weight, so in went a little rice flour. Then the milled whole wheat. All on top of the water and yeast. It looked alarmingly full. Did I weigh correctly? It didn't look right at all, but I got the lid on, and blitzed for 6 seconds on 6, then kneaded for two minutes.  I did add the olive oil,  but forgot the salt.  I had to really push it all down and I mixed and kneaded again as it really wasn't mixed enough, it didn't look like bread dough at all yet.  I felt it was too full to mix properly,  so  I tipped it into my trusty Kitchen Aid with the dough hook and let it knead for a while longer, until it did look like bread dough. 

Covered it and let it rise. Punched it down again with the dough hook (and added some belated salt) on the Kitchen Aid, and divided it into two tins. It was way too much for one loaf. I suspect I did something wrong in the weighing, but pressed on regardless. Let it rise again, then baked it. 

Here are the results.  Two loaves of crusty bread, delicious.  They have risen unevenly as you can see, and are maybe a little doughy, but not bad at all.  I shall try other recipes. I shall probably do the same thing tipping it into the Kitchen Aid for longer kneading. I shall weigh and weigh again, perhaps with my own scales as well as the Thermomix scales. I shall eat the bread!  




Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Knit tat pug thermomix

Yes, I have joined the Thermomix clan.  One of my Facebook friends posted a while ago that his 20 year old food processor had finally died.  "Buy a Thermomix!" shouted many more friends.  I wondered what a Thermomix was.  I'd thought about a Vitamix for the making of smoothies and more, and was confused about why I would buy one rather than the other.  I posted the question on my own Facebook page.  "Thermomix or Vitamix?"  There were comments, pros and cons, and I spent quite a bit of time researching websites and asking friends.

What sold me on the Thermie was that it not only whizzed things up, it also stirred them, and cooked them.  It also weighed them.

Another FB friend had been thinking about having a Thermie party - rather like a Tupperware party.  I immediately put up my hand and asked if I could come.  Thank you Rachel!

The day came.  In fact, I rang up the Thermie lady the day before and ordered one, so on the day I was looking forward to seeing whether I had made the right decision.

The first dish prepared was a strawberry lime sorbet.  How easy and how delicious!  I could do that!  Then the bread was prepared and put into the oven.  Again, how easy.  A coleslaw with Thermie mayonnaise.  Yum.  A dish of steamed chicken with potato and leek soup underneath, and ribbons of steamed veggies.  Pretty darned good.  Finally, a lemon custard.  A little too much cornflour perhaps, but pretty delicious.   My decision was a good one.

Once I had started thinking about how I would use it for stirring and cooking, as well as milling and whizzing, I thought about all the things I would make.  Porridge for breakfast.  Hominy grits.  Polenta.  Risotto.  Gumbo.  Ice cream.  Custard.  Hot chocolate.   The list went on.  I can see I am getting into this.

I can hardly wait for it to be delivered.  As we cook in our pathetic Thermie-less fashion I can see how many ways it could be used.  This blog will chart our adventures in Thermie-land.   I will post my recipes, and I will also see whether it really does replace any of our existing kitchen gizmos.  Do I really need a juicer?  A food processor?  A Kitchen Aid? (yes).  What about a saucepan?

We shall wait and see.


Friday, July 04, 2014

Let us not forget the manhole covers

Amsterdam was a bit disappointing in the manhole cover department. Prague pretty good.

I know, not a manhole cover, but hey.
And maybe this should have gone under the footpaths post

 

 

The footpaths of Prague

It is hard not to notice the beautiful variety of patterns made by the cobblestones on the footpaths. Red, black, white and grey are the common ones. We see crews with special machines tamping in the blocks when they pop out. We wonder how girls in high heels manage, but I notice there are more wedges than stilettos.

 

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Oops! What day is it?

This post deals with Tuesday 1st July, in Prague.

We pulled into Prague Station and were met on the platform by the very affable Charles, who picked up our luggage, put it in his Skodq, and drove us to our hotel. Hotel Hoffmeister is at the bottom of the Castle hill, and very convenient to the city. Alas, our room was not ready so we sat in the lovely garden and had some coffee, and the concierge sat with us and advised us what we could do during our stay, gave us maps and brochures.

One of those options was a SIX-HOUR walking tour which started at 1.00. It was only 10.30 or so, so we decided to mosey around a bit. Up the hill to the Castle, a bit of a look around, and down the steps again. That was quite a walk, but more was to come.

We were picked up by the tour van at 1.00 to be taken back up the hill. Thankfully the tour started from the top and went downhill from there. Our tour guide, Jiří, or George, was a history teacher who guided tours as a summer job. He was terrific. We learned such a lot from him, our heads are spinning. I have too many pictures to put here, you will just have to watch our DVD when we return.

Jiří With the orange umbrella

The tour continued across the Charles Bridge and onto a boat. This gave us a very welcome lemonade and an ice cream. It was now about 3 pm and we hadn't eaten anything since our small box breakfast on the train at 6.30.

A few nice boat pictures.

Off the boat and through the streets of the old city, and to lunch! Pork with dumplings and red and white cabbage. Delicious. This was a medieval restaurant, very much like a dungeon. Going to the bathroom was down stairs two levels - even more like a dungeon.

After lunch was more of the old town. The Jewish quarter, with the oldest active synagogue, having been built in 1270. Hard to comprehend.

 

We creaked back to the hotel at around 7.00 and thankfully our room was ready. As in Amsterdam our room number is 702. As in Amsterdam we are not in the main hotel, but a small building across the street. It is apartment style, with a kitchenette. It has two sitting rooms, and two of the most amazing bathrooms. The walls are hewn right out of the rock. Both have spa baths. I got into one and luxuriated. I do not have any romantic notions about backpacker hotels. This is better.

A sum total of 15,687 steps, or 11.1 km

 

 

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Wednesday 2nd July. Prague

Sunday was a rest day, so we hung around our lovely sunny apartment and knitted, blogged, read. We went out to the Concertgebouw that evening, taking a tram both ways. This is included in the price of the ticket - how civilised. We heard Schubert's Unfinished, and Mahler's 4th. We also heard the roars of the crowd as Netherlands won their World Cup game, there was a huge crowd of orange people and enormous screens in the park there, and a very festive air. The air inside the Concertgebouw was rather more refined.

Monday was travel day from Amsterdam. I like trains, so we have a sleeper booked from Amsterdam to Prague at 7pm. We arose at the crack of eight and finished what we had in the refrigerator. Michael cooked our one measly asparagus spear between us. It was the whopper in the photo so there was ample. I sliced up the rest of the strawberries which have been fabulous, and had them with the last of the yoghurt. That comes in a carton and is pourable, rather than spoonable tubs. We had the last two boxes of Chocomel (I'd bought a six-pack) and Michael now knows why I like them. I knitted for while, and have now finished both the fingerless mittens. Yay! Too warm to wear them now though. On to the perpetual tatting.

To fill in time we decided to fit in one last museum. The Palace. It was so beautiful. French empire style, and grand, but some of the bedrooms we saw looked quite liveable. If you are a princess.

We had the audio guide, those ubiquitous podcatchers. We listened to four or five locations, and they are really full of information. Alas, we are now too full of information and both of us have reached saturation. We were lucky that upstairs the two war rooms had opened about ten days ago, for the first time in 200 years. There were grand portraits of militia men around the walls, including a copy of the Night Watch. Unavoidable Art. There were more interactive display panels of each of the paintings where you could poke a militiaman in the face and read further information about him. In English, if you wish. These panels are quite large, so the circled heads would be about my eye height.

After this museum we went and had a sit-down at one of Michael's sacred sites, when he was in the Netherlands in 1983. It didn't serve food, otherwise we might have had lunch there. Instead we wandered off and found Kapitein Zeppos, which was just the place to sit and have a pleasant lunch and while away some of the afternoon. There was a table of young Australian lads outside getting stuck into the grog and the dope but they weren't rowdy yet.

Speaking of which, that was another thing we didn't do - smoke any marijuana. The reek of it is everywhere, reminding me of my misspent youth, but it holds no attraction for me now. A friend tells me you can buy starter kits in the flower market, but when you can buy it so readily why would you bother growing it?

I decided that I should have a Delft Pandora bead, and that the Delft Experience would have one. (You don't have shops any more, you have Experiences, or go to Concept Stores.). Off we went. I was tempted by the full size Delft cow, but the beads are more packable. Yes, I was successful.

By now it was time to go pick up our bags from the hotel and go to the train station. All done. As Lien pointed out in one of her posts recently, the one failure of the European train system is that although you know your carriage and berth number, you don't know where that carriage is going to be on the very long platform. You also don't know where to look for your carriage number. Our train pulled in. I eventually spied the carriage numbers, but couldn't find ours. At the last carriage we decided to just get on before the train left without us, and sort it out from the inside. Many others had the same thought so there was this period of mayhem as we went one way with our bags through the tiny corridors of two carriages and others went the oppsite way. What fun. We found our compartment, and it was obvious that I was going to sleep on the top bunk and Michael on the bottom. No way was he going up that ladder! Just as well I am flexible, spry and nimble. We watched the view for a whole, explored the facilities, then I tucked up and went to sleep. I slept very well. Nobody woke us to check our passports, although I dreamed they did. My UP tells me I had 4 hours and 28 minutes of deep sleep, for seven and a half total. Ah, the quantified life.

Woke at 6.45 and ate a boxed breakfast with rather good coffee. We watched the view go by and then we were in Prague for a new day. And a new blog post.