The Abinett visit 2010/2011!

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By , January 4, 2011 10:07 pm

Karen Working Away

Well, well, well. We can’t keep them away – the Abinetts decided to descend on Sydney for Christmas/New Year and who were we to complain! Always a pleasure to have Colin and Karen to stay. I mean – now they’re gone I miss the exclamations of ‘Jeeepers!’ at anything slightly out of the ordinary (such as a warm day) and the amount of coffee Karen gets though (it really is unnatural!).

The holiday was almost a carbon copy of the Midgley’s trip last year, almost to the day. We also did a few things that we did with Mum and Dad M last year.

Camp Fires Ahoy!

The clan

First on the list was a long weekend trip to the Barrington Tops National Park to stay at a fantastic, fairly secluded place called Mudaridge. It is a great place to stay, several km’s down a dirt track, kangaroos hopping through the garden in the evening, plenty of space to spread out etc…. A cold snap came across NSW when we were there which meant cool days and cold nights (although not quite as bad as the rain we had with Mum and Dad M last year!) – but it was an excuse to spark up the camp fire most nights. Very nice indeed! Especially for ‘cub scout Graham’ who cannot resist playing with fire. Especially with a glass of wine in hand!

Mixin' with the winemaker

Of course, heading up to the Barrington Tops meant that we were pretty much driving past the Hunter Valley – a famous wine region in NSW – so it would of been rude of us not to call in and try a few… Nic and I are members of a wine club up there called Mount View which makes really, really nice wine. We get a case 4 times a year but delayed our last one so we could go and taste the wine with Colin and Karen and pick what we wanted. Luckily the winery was busy when we got there with a group of drunk backpackers on a tour from Sydney (!), which meant that (as they knew we were members) we got a free, impromptu tour of the winery and a private tasting session from the winemaker himself! This is the guy who decides when the grapes are ready for picking, what should be mixed with what, how long it should be in barrels for etc., etc. He was the main man – and very nice too!

Buster & Marrion

Christmas brought a trip to the fish markets to get, well, fish obviously. But we thought we’d try something new for Christmas Eve and get a live crab and lobster. Until we saw the price, then settled on crab and a Marron (kind of a small lobster). It was an interesting experience buying them – having never bought live stuff before we didn’t really know how to look after them etc. but the guys at the markets gave us some tips (we only needed to keep them alive for 24 hours after all!).

It nearly fits...

So the moment came to get the crab into the pot for dinner on Christmas Eve, a quick 15 mins in the freezer to put it to sleep and then into the pot with you! Except the pot wasn’t quick big enough… Woops! Back into the freezer with dozing crab and a bigger pot was ordered to be filled with boiling water ASAP!

Luckily ‘buster’ fitted in this time (just about – give or take a leg or two), swiftly followed by ‘Marrion’. That’s the Marron by the way. The meal was very nice, but we decided that it probably wasn’t worth the time, effort and expense to do again any time soon!

Chillaxin'

Christmas day was a mixture of a fantastic spread of food for lunch courtesy of Nic (who else?!) – including lots of lovely Asian nibbles, lots of time in the pool in the afternoon with lots of time for ‘keepy-upy-volleyball-type-thing’ with the blow-up ball! We also had decided to cook a whole suckling pig on the BBQ this year! Wooo! We borrowed a big spit from a friends Dad (who has lots of cooking stuff like that!), ordered the pig a few days before and got in lots and lots of charcoal for the big event. Nic had done her research and had a good recipe for the pig – so we boned it (rib cage, spine), stuffed it with a beautiful meaty, spicy, fruity stuffing, sewed it up (literally-much to the horror of the lady in Lincraft who sold us the needle), shoved a big metal stick through the length of it and roasted it over hot coals whilst we paddled in the pool with cold drinks! Ha!

Lookin' good!

After nearly burning the deck due to the heat from the coals, we got it under control and it was looking good! Really good!!! Once it was done we couldn’t wait to dig in – the meat was absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately the crackling wasn’t actually crackling. We later deduced that this was because the poor little blighter didn’t have any fat on him! More like tasty chicken skin that crackling – but good all the same. We will DEFINITELY be doing this one again – so nice!

Following Christmas we had a few lazy days in the pool, followed by a couple of days at Wiseman’s Ferry, an hour north of Sydney where some of our friends parents have a lovely house on the river. Literally, on the river. It was lovely spending some time there and getting a little tour of the locale in one of the neighbour’s boats!

We had a couple of lovely days at the beach – one at Palm Beam – AKA Summer Bay from Home and Away – and the other at Manly where we had a lovely breakfast and stroll round to Shelly Beach.

It's over there!

Sydney goes off!

New years eve was great! We did the same as last year – setting up camp at Mort Bay Park in Balmain (near where we used to live). We got the ferry round the corner into Circular Quay for a spot of lunch and to soak up the atmosphere in the sun. It was a warm day so we took it easy. Heading back to Balmian at a decent time so we could claim our spot on the front row and chill out for the rest of the evening!

Beer, wine, books and take-out fish and chips was the order of the day. However we were sat next to a group of young back-packers who clearly had no idea where they were (I’m pretty sure they knew they were in Sydney and it was New Years Eve, but apart from that they didn’t know much!) which provided much chuckling to ourselves – especially Nic who couldn’t get into her book because she was ear-wigging too much!

The fireworks were spectacular as always, and the weather was lovely and warm – a perfect way to see in the new year! New Year’s day was a stinker – high 30’s centigrade and definitely a pool day with a few drinks and lovely food.

Good time all round – till next time Abinetts!!

Make sure you check out the gallery for some more pics!

King of Quick Pasta

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By , January 4, 2011 1:31 pm

I snuck in an extra day off work today to recover from the last 3 1/2 weeks with the parents, but rather than a relaxing day off I’ve ended up clearing out the fridge and freezer. Not exactly what I had in mind for my day off, but it was pretty productive.  Apart from the large number of jars of chutney that will plague my fridge for the next twelve months, I also found numerous half finished jars of stuff that were all years out of date, and 32 egg whites waiting to be made into something other than meringue! Suggestions on a postcard to…

Spaghetti

All this activity meant that the morning disappeared very quickly and early afternoon was upon me without any food passing my lips! So instead of rushing to the mall for take-out sushi I remembered the joys of Jamie Oliver’s quick pasta dishes.  We discovered the joy of the quick pasta not long after we were married, they are perfect for a post work dinner, and are often quicker to prepare than getting a take-out!  The quick pasta became a regular fix in our house, with favourite recipes depending on the season, and the best bit is they all take as long as it takes to boil the pasta.  First there was cabbage, pancetta and mozarella; then there was the real carbonarra; and one I don’t do very often now due to difficulties getting hold of decent ingredients – parsnip and pancetta.

The beauty of the Nic and Jamie project is I’m now on book two, where Jamie first introduces the joy of  the quick pasta, and unbelievably there are many I haven’t tried. So today was the perfect opportunity to try one. Spaghetti with olive oil, garlic, chilli and parsley (p125). This is probably one of the most simple pasta recipes I’ve tried, which is probably why I’ve overlooked it in the past. It was definitely quick, and fairly tasty, but definitely a dish for a very quick lunch on the run, and not something I would serve up to my starving husband after a long day at work!

Off to a good start…

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By , January 3, 2011 8:58 pm

Before I launch into the next book good a proper I thought I’d set out some more ground rules. I’ve had a quick flick through book two, and disappointingly noted that some of the recipes have been copied word for word into the second book, so I can tell you now I will be ticking them off and not repeating them, as I think there is little point. So that gives me a head start on a least 7 recipes! I’ll have this booked nailed by the end of the month!!!

I-Thai Tortellini

So I actually managed to get a couple of recipes done before the start of the new year. The I-Thai Tortellini (p122) made a fantastic nibble as part of of the Asian inspired Christmas lunch spread. Sounds like a strange idea but chicken as a tortellini filling is delicious and frying them gives a great crispy edge, making it more Asian than Italian (the coriander and water chestnuts also help!).

Tomato Salad

The tomato salad (p58) was an excellent way of using up some of the excess tomatoes we have from our bulging cherry tomato plants, and when Jamie said “use as much basil as you can afford” I don’t think he appreciated how well basil grows in the garden in Sydney!!! I can see that this is another recipe that will be cooked over and over again when the tomatoes are in season.

I also found a recipe to use up my glut of zucchini that had seen better days, and probably weren’t fresh enough to be served up as a vegetable dish but were definitely god enough to be made into smashed courgette paste (p43) along with the olive tapenade for one of our public BBQ picnics (we were being photographed by the pommie tourists up in Palm Beach, AKA Summer Bay!!!)

And finally there was the fennel, thyme and garlic rub for the pork chop that I threw on the barbie tonight. It made a simple piece of meat very tasty. I look forward to trying some of the other rubs and marinades as similar to the salad dressings, they are another thing I often make up and you either get stuck in a rut, or don’t quite use the right quantities.

So I’m now eagerly reading the book and working out dinners for the next few weeks!

Nic and Jamie

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By , January 3, 2011 4:20 pm

Start of a new year, start of a new book. Time to lay the Naked Chef to rest and embark on the next book!

Well you may not have seen the film or read the book, but Julie and Julia is a true story based on the online memoir of Julie Powell…

Ephron’s screenplay is adapted from two books: My Life in France, Child’s autobiography, written with Alex Prud’homme, and a memoir by Julie Powell. In August 2002, Powell started documenting online her daily experiences cooking each of the 524 recipes in Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and she later began reworking that blog, The Julie/Julia Project.

Nichola saw this film on one of the long flights en-route for a surprise visit to the UK and really liked it. And it got her thinking…. “maybe I should cook every single Jamie Oliver recipe – EVER!”.

So this is the start of that project, starting with book 1 – ‘The Naked Chef’ – and in time moving on to the others.

This is good news for Graham, who just has to sit back and reap the rewards of having a wife who just LOVES to cook!!

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