Entries Tagged 'Desserts and Sweet Things' ↓

Anthony on That Old Chestnut

I went for a drive through the central highlands of Victoria over the Easter and was struck by the many roadside offers of fresh chestnuts for sale. Reader, we drove by.

I had a memory that fresh chestnuts take some wrangling: scoring the base of each nut, roasting, then getting the skins off by rubbing with a tea towel and so on. I was obviously having a Shirley Conran-esque “life’s too short…” moment.

But another part of me was heralding chestnuts as the harbinger of winter. My first trip to Europe nearly twenty years ago took place over the northern hemisphere winter, and the smell of roasting chestnuts in Rome, Paris and Barcelona was a revelation. When a few years later roasted chestnut vendors appeared on the wintry streets of Melbourne’s CBD, initially the scent was a part evocation of those European cities.

By way of aside: because of Melbourne’s reliance on trams, not that many buses pass through the CBD. Occasionally I do get a whiff of diesel as buses pass down some streets, and I’m immediately transported to those metropolises that make greater use of buses: London, Sydney, Rome, Paris. Tragic, really, that the intake of diesel fumes can make me feel I’m on holiday. Now if only those roasted chestnut vendors set up
shop nest to Melbourne’s prime bus routes, my vicarious tourism would be complete.

Anyhoo, one aspect of the chestnut I now embrace is chestnut flour. Since I started to cook for myself, I’ve collected, borrowed and browsed Italian cookbooks, and many of them have a recipe for “castagnaccio” – a chestnut flour cake that hails from Tuscany. The recipes generally describe a cake made of chestnut flour, water, olive oil, rosemary and pine nuts. That’s it. Sometimes it’s sweetened with honey. It’s invariably described as “rustic”, which hardly begins to sum up the absolute peasant austerity of the recipe. And, strange as it may seem, on perusing these recipes, I was never ever tempted to bake a castagnaccio.

Until, until… I had the pleasure of working near Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne several years ago and a wonderful café that fronted onto Elizabeth Street with all sorts of delights offered “castagnaccio”: a lovely plump, honey-coloured slice which, when tasted, was the perfect mid-morning coffee accompaniment, the chestnut flour and honey combining to evoke the flavour of exotic spices, the rosemary adding an incredible floral yet savoury moment, the sultanas being bursts of fruity sweetness, whilst the pine nuts referenced a Neolithic past.

So this is what I had been missing out on?

I raced home, dug out my recipes for castagnaccio, whipped up this frugal concoction of chestnut flour, oil, water, rosemary, pine nuts and sultanas and… well, it tasted exactly like you would imagine such a concoction to taste: bleagh!

So my mission was to replicate this café castagnaccio. Them at the café gave nothing away, but eventually the fantastic Karen Martini published a recipe for “Chestnut, honey and rosemary cake with pine nuts” in the Sunday Age (it now appears in her second cookbook, Cooking at Home). This was what I was after: not the taste of Tuscan peasant winters with their frugal ingredients, but a lovely cake enriched with eggs, butter, sugar and milk.

So here is the Karen Martini recipe, which whilst a homage to “castagnaccio” she has the good grace not to call castagnaccio, but which I urge you all to bake

(Check the use-by on any chestnut flour you purchase: it doesn’t keep too long, and is milled in the northern hemisphere and so is out-of-season come our winter)

200g chestnut flour
100g self-raising flour
185g unsalted butter
160g brown sugar
185ml water
185ml milk
1 egg
1 egg yolk
4tbsp honey
80g sultanas
1 sprig of rosemary
50g pine nuts
2tbsp olive oil

Heat oven to 180C and grease and line a 20cm x 30cm tin
Combine flours and butter to form something resembling coarse breadcrumbs. Add sugar.
Combine bicarb of soda, water, milk, egg, egg yolk and honey and whisk well. Add sultanas and half the rosemary and stir.
Add the flour mixture and mix well, then pour batter into the tin. Scatter with pine nuts and remaining rosemary. Drizzle with olive oil and bake 35-45 minutes, or until cooked when tested with a skewer (natch).

Late Winter Vineyard lunching action

My dear friend Katie recently had the decency to move from Dangar Island to the same suburb I live in. We loved visiting them on Dangar, which is in the Hawkesbury river near Sydney and very beautiful, but it really is much more convenient to live around the corner and see each other several times a week.

It was her birthday recently, and she wanted a nice lunch out. Well, actually she wanted dinner but what with her and partner Aneal’s three year old, our children, two sets of babysitting arrangements and a desire to drink wine we ended up at lunch at Shaw vineyard’s Flint in the Vines in Murrumbateman, about a half hour drive out of Canberra. It’s being run by Grant Kells, one of the guys behind the swanky but by some reports over-promising and under-delivering Flint Dining Room and Bar in Canberra, and front of house is run by former Longrain sommelier Jai Dawson.

And don’t worry, I am not missing the irony of my first post in forever being a restaurant review, which I never do.

Aneal eats fish occasionally, but not meat or gluten, and Flint’s menu seemed pretty flexible. There’s a very decent kid’s menu and there were well behaved and charming children of all ages enjoying lunch in big family groups.

The wine list is very, very reasonable, particularly if you stick to the Shaw wines. We had some shampoo to start, the Shaw sparkling semillon for $26. I was enjoying the slightly sweet lemon-y and biscuit-y flavours until Owen said “lemon cheesecake!” We had the Isabella Riesling, $33, with mains and it had the same lemon myrtle kind of flavours – must be the house style, hunh?

It’s a comfortable but unponcy joint, a dining room with an open fire adjoining the vineyard’s cellar door tasting area.
We were planning to take our time, so all had entrees and mains and shared a couple of desserts.

Katie had “Pork Belly and Toasted Hazelnut Terrine, Red onion jam, toasted brioche”

The terrine was just past nicely crumbly and heading towards dry, but as you see it was tasty.

Aneal had Seared Yellow Fin Tuna Green asparagus, baby herb mix, white truffle dressing

I Do Not Approve of white truffle dressing in Canberra in August. For quite a few reasons. Or asparagus, really, but the tuna separated softly to the tooth and was quite delicious.

I had a special, tempura prawns with a something sauce and nori

I don’t know what’s happened to me, but I’m losing my tolerance for sweetness. I can remember thinking as I tasted it that I should have known from the menu description it would be too sweet; cloying. Lovely bouncy prawns, though.

The final entree was Owy’s Quick Fried Spiced Calamari, Blue cheese aioli, lemon.

This is one of those “Masterchef Aaron YumYuk” things. Horrible and wonderful at the same time, although I’m not sure it’s on purpose.

For mains, Katie and Owy had the Wood Fired Weekend Roast

It’s pretty cheap at $26, but even for that you don’t want the beef cooked beyond medium. The yorkshire puddings, on the other hand, were perfect.

Aneal had beautiful Wild Barramundi Meuniere , brown lemon butter, steamed Kipfler potatoes

and I had “Master Stock Braised Pork Belly, Sautéed king scallops, Ginger soy mirin glazed wild mushrooms

again, too sweet, and again, beautifully cooked lovely fresh seafood.

I’m over sweets, but I was really looking forward to some cheese – but they were out. Sniff. The desserts we shared aren’t on the current menu, so I’m struggling to remember how they were described. We had a pannacotta with a chocolate and hazlenut gelato

The other, much less successful, dish was a trio of chocolate desserts:

On the left was a chilli-chocolate mousse, which was fine. In the middle was a chocolate and banana brulee. There is no reason, however, to put banana in a chocolate brulee. Or any other kind of brulee. If I’m going to have a hot banana, I want it flaming in rum, goddamit. The final element was a large, crumbly dry cakey type arrangement that seemed liked it should have been served up by someone wearing a nosering and birkenstocks.

The service was brisk enough, and the waiter responded very well when I replied to his question about how our mains were by holding up a long, curly blonde hair. We’d all thought it was unfortunate but no big deal, but as expected the cost of the dish was removed from the bill. If I was the owner, I would ask that in future he not carry it suspended from his hand, face aghast, all the way back to the passe and shout out “Chef! A hair!” quite so loudly. The other staff were an endearing mix of country girls with painstakingly dishevilled updos.

For a long enjoyable lunch and plenty of wine, the bill came to under $100 a head. If you’re going, I’d stick to the seafood and pick up a bottle of the sticky on the way home. It was a very nice lunch, and we all had a lovely time.

Emica goes in pursuit of lunch in Paris and Berlin

How glamorous. What air of intrigue. How totally European: to take the 20:15 night train from Paris to Berlin; alone. I feel like a character from a Tolstoy novel or perhaps a fugitive agitator, en route to foment revolution and bring about the downfall of the owning classes, delivering the means of production into the hands of the workers. Ahem. Apologies. Having had a starring role in books and films, as well as actual history, European train travel is so evocative that I get a bit carried away with the romance of the tracks. (If you’re doubtful, check this site out; I get a sudden urge to book long journeys to exotic destinations).

Air travel has become a tedious cattle market experience, so recently I took the overnight train from Paris to Berlin. While both cities have earnt a place at the table of world history, it can be tricky to get a bite to eat in either.

I’ve been to Paris a few times now and have done the major sights, so with just an afternoon in the city before my connecting train, I figured it would be best spent over a leisurely lunch. Unfortunately, I arrived in Paris at 2.30 and so missed my place at a bistro, as the dining hours are observed very strictly. Having reconciled myself to an afternoon without a creme caramel, the tricky thing about having over shot the lunch hour is that, in Feb it’s not as inviting to grab a baguette, some cheese and a slice of apricot tart and find a park bench. It’s a little chilly. But, the weather was mild and sunny- and hunger wins over cold- so a picnique was my best bet to eat.

You know those cheese and bacon slices that Brumby’s does? From memory, inch thick rubber cheese pocked with pellets of salted animal byproduct on pizza dough. Well, the cheese and bacon slice I got from the swank Parisian bakery was about as far from Brumby’s in a culinary sense as it is in geographic distance. Stinky gruyere with nuggets of speck on flaky butter pastry. One euro fifty slice of cheesey goodness. I also got an olive ficelle, which was almost 50/50 squashy kalamatas to chewy sourdough. And thank goodness I did because I didn’t really eat for nearly the next 24 hours, except to nibble a bit more of the unending ficelle.

Part of the reason I don’t manage to eat is I was too busy drinking, which won’t come as much of a surprise to many. A joy of travel is chance encounters and a party of two English couples celebrating a joint birthday take me under their wing in the bar carriage. We planned to test the urban myth that a train barman stays as long as his customers and I stumbled (well, it is a moving train!) into my couchette rather later than I’d planned, having not eaten the snacks I brought along as dinner. I’m not usually too pernickity, but in the morning I decide that it’s probably best not to breakfast on yesterday’s quiche, still wrapped in its greaseproof; eggs in a warm couchette for 12 hours doesn’t sound like a good idea. The ficelle tides me over.

Berlin is big. Compared to London, with its dense, higgledy, narrow streets and people under foot at every turn, Berlin is huge and wide and straight and empty and I feel a bit disoriented by the space. An interesting fact a colleague in economic development told me is that, when major cities across the western world were gaining population in the past 20 years, Berlin lost people.

An olive ficelle is not much to keep a girl going for a whole morning of sight seeing and so I headed towards a place recommended in my guide book that seemed to be only three blocks away. Except, three blocks in spacious Berlin seems to be about a kilometre and a half in distance and, in empty Berlin, didn’t offer many alternative eating options along the way either. I never found the well recommended restaurant due possibly to my confusion with street numbering or the great Saturday shut down, but instead found Lutter & Wegner, an entirely charming piece of European civilisation, with wine lined walls, floorboards and scrubbed wooden tables.

The menu tended towards proper main courses and the tables around me had plates of serious looking food, but the terrine I ordered was exactly what I felt like eating. They were very generous with the bread basket of very good bread (caraway!) so with that and a glass of reisling, I was very pleased with myself. I was even more pleased when my dessert arrived – curd cheese cake with sour cherries and nougat icecream with a huge twirl of wafer. Alright!

The lovely English people from the train had invited me to join them for dinner and so I had a second thoroughly enjoyable night drinking too much with strangers – which sounds a lot more salacious than it was. It struck me that this was the kind of European food I almost never eat – ordinarily I cook more in the mediterranean-middle eastern palette and, post Friday work pints, continue the theme with a kebab on the way home. Chic, refined European cooking isn’t something I often do, but I may make it more of a habit because my lobster soup was delicious: smooth, velvety and fishy, and the pork with leek risotto to follow was excellent. I’m a little hazy on what my new found friends had because of the reisling – I think the fellas may have had lobster at some point, tuna carpaccio was mentioned and due to the heavy meat element in the menu the waiter was at pains to help the one vegetarian get a full meal.

Prenzlauer Berg, an inner north area of former East Berlin, is now a very hip quarter, with lots of cafes, bars, hipsters on bikes and, oddly, babies. I’ve never seen so many Bugaboos! After the last couple of days wearing out my shoe leather in pursuit of food, I’d started feeling cursed to wander, seeking sustenance but forever denied. In Prenzlauer Berg however, the fault was all mine. It wasn’t for lack of choice – the main street is dominated by various cafes, including a bar on the ground floor of a squat – but my pickiness about the kinds of signifiers I look for in somewhere to eat. And my choosiness can mean very long walks to see what’s round the next corner. So after some legwork on Kastanienallee, I lucked upon a super cool cafe on Oderberger Strase. So cool that I can’t remember it’s name written in German in neon on the front. This cafe served only crepes (which should be due a comeback in the English speaking world I think) and, riffing on a retro theme, was entirely decorated with raids from some stylish nanna’s living room.

In a country that invented the last word in cake related indulgence – schwarzwelderkirschtorte [black forest cake]- my last food adventure was kafee und kuchen at Anna Blume, a cafe and florist rolled into one with a very sexy painting of a Demeter-type figure in Art Noveau style on one wall and a glass cabinet of cakes. Mmmm sachertorter…

And just one final thought – train stations featured quite prominently during the weekend and this chain of croissant and pretzel shops was always found somewhere near the platforms. It just sounds vaguely rude, doesn’t it?!

Pammy Faye finds over 120 varieties of home-made bliss

There is a man called Keith who lives in Huskisson on the NSW south coast. Keith loves jam and relish. In fact, he loves jam and relish so much that he has dedicated that last 17 years of his retired life to the business of making and selling over 120 varieties of the stuff.

It’s a rough and ready operation, a back yard job turned semi-professional but nevertheless one that appears to be carefully observant of food safety and handling regulations (all his bottles are labelled with a ‘best before’ date but I didn’t ask how he sterilises the jars). He uses recycled jars and his niece makes the labels for him on her home computer. On his business card Keith describes himself as a “Maker of Quality & Fancy Jams & Pickles for Australian & Continental Tastes”, and I would not disagree. They are indeed quality, and many are really rather fancy.

I discovered Keith’s jams during a three-week writing retreat I organised for myself late last year. Every day after my early morning ocean swim in Jervis Bay, I’d make myself a strong cup of coffee and a plate of toast with lashings of jam, and sit quietly in contemplation of the words ahead. Under conditions of self-imposed social isolation, this ritual of morning toast and jam was incredibly comforting, so much so that it quickly became habit. And Keith, god bless him, was my dealer.

Hundreds of jars of jams and pickles line the walls of Keith’s modest weatherboard home. He’s got your tried and tested traditional sorts: plum, strawberry, raspberry, apricot, and smooth and creamy lemon butter with just the right amount of zest. He’s also runs a line of offbeat moderns and fusions: tomato and pineapple jam, chilli jam, mango jelly, rhubarb and apple jam, onion jam, and banana jam. He makes over fourteen varieties of marmalade including cumquat, ruby grapefruit, melon and lemon, bush lemon and tangelo.

Then there are his relishes and chutneys, many of which give expression to his love of all things spicy: mexican tomato chutney, choko chilli garlic chutney, plum and chilli bbq sauce, and cauli chilli relish. For the curious, a chutney is a form of relish, specifically indian relish, derived from Hindu word chatni. A relish is a form of pickle served as a condiment. and we all know a pickle is something that is difficult to get out of. And for those of you are aware of my passion for all things beetroot, you can only imagine how excited I was when I discovered both beetroot chutney and spiced baby pickled beetroot.

One could spend a lifetime tasting them all. What a pity I’ve only got a few days over Christmas and limited luggage space in the Troopy .

Keith grew up on a farm in the nearby district of Tomerong. The farm had over twenty different fruit trees, all of which were at various times in glut and therefore preserved and shelved in his mother’s walk-in pantry. Keith didn’t lay eyes on a commercially produced tin of jam or relish until he was married; in fact he reckons he didn’t even know they existed. Keith went on to spend his professional life working in kitchens, and when he retired just kept on cooking, preserving whatever local produce he could get his hands on. He makes his LillyPilly jam, a delicate little jewel which might be compared to a good sparkling from the fruit of the LillyPilly trees [insert link to LillyPilly info page on net] he planted in his front yard.

Keith and I both agree that his fig and ginger jam constitutes his masterwork. I didn’t ask him which was his favourite pickle, but his recommendation of green tomato and chilli mustard relish to accompany our Christmas day ham this year was genius and did not disappoint. As you can see, it hasn’t taken us long to put a rather large dent in it. Home made bliss indeed.

Emica’s Northern Christmas: a few of my favourite things

Although I am risking not being let back in the country, I have to admit (just quietly) that I do prefer the cold northern Christmas to the rather warmer celebrations in Aus. Don’t get me wrong, I love my family’s traditions, which have evolved to deal with the fact that it’s usually 39 degrees by 7am with an easterly blowing that could strip paint, but roast turkey and a steamed pud just don’t make sense at the edge of the desert. We cook everything the day before and serve a cold buffet of the glazed ham and turkey with lots of salads, so that the oven’s not adding to the oven-like temperature of the house already and, depending on whose house we’re at, we head to the beach for a Christmas morning post-stocking, pre-tree pressie swim and fruit salad. Come to think of it, we’ve made the salad selection “traditional” with some, like mum’s carrot, cashew and coriander salad only getting a run on that one day.

But Christmas is a car crash of northern hemispherical merry-making history, with the celebration of the birth of Christ piled on top of older Pagan habits, and the traditions make more sense on their home turf than transplanted Down Under. Herewith a few of my favourite northern Christmas things.

One of my totally favourite things about a London Christmas is the twinkly lights. People go mad for them and because it’s dark early, you get to appreciate their starry magic from, oh, about 3.30pm. There’s a bit of totally OTT flashing neon Santa-action, but mostly there seems to be some unwritten rule that you deliberately leave your front room curtains open to let passers by admire your tastefully twinkly Christmas tree which has been strategically placed in the front window (nb: I do live next to [not in!] super-chic Barnsbury. Might not be quite so tasteful on the local estates).

Another is Christmas wreaths. Oh how I love them! I have a real – yes real- holly wreath on my front door with berries and everything. I have had it up there since December 1; the earliest day I could get away with, but I’d already scoped the wreath situation the week previous and picked one up from the farmer’s market for a fiver. I L.O.V.E it. Wreathing it up seems to be a genuine tradition, with the vast majority of doors decked with trad ones- involving evergreen, holly berries, ribbons and cinnamon sticks- or silver sprayed modernist confections dusted with glitter.

In a symbiotic relationship with twinkly lights and wreath hanging, for the entire Advent season it becomes not just permissible but practically required to stroll and sticky beak into other people’s houses. Indeed, me and The Man went for a long walk this afternoon, making the most of freezing (it’s really properly freezing- we have icicles) but crisply clear day which offered prime noseying opportunities. And on each of my three London Christmases, we have had a post-lunch pre-pud walk, wrapped up and with a glass of something warming in hand. Last year I had to be prised away from the railings of one particularly fine Georgian townhouse, my nose pressed up against the window admiring their gold-and-red themed tree and Christmas table set in the window, silverware and crystal glasses glinting, waiting either for the residents to return for lunch or for the stylists from Vogue Entertaining to turn up.

doors

But my favourite thing is the food. For my first Christmas here, my parents and sister visited and mum did a proper roast turkey with goose fat roast spuds and I think little chipolatas. I did the brussels sprouts (having only just found out they’re traditional) and we made cranberry sauce because we’d never been able to get fresh cranberries before. Last weekend I made Nigella’s apple and cranberry chutney; almost equal parts cranberry and apple, those little red sour bombs are so amazing, like northern lillipillies! A toast to that fine meal was made and mum cried and took pictures because it looked so darn picturesque and story book, all of us gathered round a laden table and it so dark and cold outside.

This year it’s just me and The Man, so I’m not doing a whole turkey, which I have in the past and which cause a bit of, um, blue language on the day of the birth of Our Lord because of my dodgy, diddly little oven. Turned out great though, and I even made the gravy to go with it while trying to make sure the visiting vegetarians had enough to eat. This year I’m doing a stuffed, rolled turkey breast from the posh butchers. I’m also doing hot glazed ham. I know! Hot ham, who would of thought eh? Sprouts are a given because a) they’re easy but especially b) I love them.

Another favourite thing is the big shut down. We were caught out for our first Christmas, never expecting all public transport to shut down on Christmas day and for much of Boxing Day as well. Yes, a darn nuisance if you don’t know and also a cash cow for all the non-Christian mini cab drivers, but it does mean you actually can’t go anywhere. Gosh, such a relief. Last year I spent all day in front of the fire, with snack breaks, reading my new present – Nigella’s Christmas. This is apropos of telling you that this year I will be experimenting with red cabbage from her Christmas lunch menu. I’ve never done it before, but I reackon it’s time to give it a whirl. Also, at a time of year when all I do is leak money, cabbage is so good and yet so cheap.

So, to the finale: sweet treats and pudding. I have just spent more than is wise on The Best Christmas cake but it’s The Best so what can I do? I’ve also just swooped on Carluccio’s for soft Italian almond biscuits, as well as smallgoods for The Man. I’m slightly nervous to admit this and incur the wrath of Dr Sister Outlaw following her sterling instructions on Christmas puddings, but this year it’ll be bought. It’ll be a posh one, but it’s still bought. And bought custard. I don’t think Christmas is the time for a novice custard maker to start meddling with curdled eggs.

But most of all, it’ll be eaten piping hot, after a brisk, crisp walk to make a corner of room in our overstuffed bellies for yet more wintery, festive, seasonal goodies. Merry Christmas.

xmas lunch

My name is Dr Sister Outlaw and I admit I am a pudding addict

There has been a fair bit of twittering and emailing going on between those of us who have made Christmas puddings this year using my tried and tested recipe.

There has also been more than a little fiddling. My Brother Outlaw added cumquats to his, and Zoe has added port and figs and various other things. I could, if I was that way inclined, get annoyed at the traducing of the recipe, and suffer a fit of pique at the failure of my friends and family to, you know, fall into line and follow my directions. But a brief survey of my relationship history would reveal that I am not myself the sort of girl who likes to do the same old thing year in and year out and, in any case, I am outrageously competitive.

Which brings me to another point. In the Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Living mag this week there was a story about some chick called Kirsty who invites all these women around to make puddings, according to her recipe. Apparently she’s been doing it for years and years. Obviously she is much better at getting her friends and family to fall into line and maybe serving them alcohol helps, but probably she associates with timid wilting types who would never experiment with a recipe and are happy to be told what to do. Like sheep, or members of the NSW ALP Right Caucus.

Well, I’d like to remind readers that here at PDP we value free speech, free expression, and opportunities to spread pudding goodness far and wide. We’ve had our very own virtual and real life pudding competitions. The results were inconclusive, but the eating was very good indeed (as was the drinking and company).

And so, in that spirit, I launch this open thread, where we can share pudding tips and recipes (it really isn’t too late to make one, trust me), and share our thoughts as to the results. I know that, as I type this, Zoe is cooking hers. I cooked mine this week as well. Traditionally, I add 900 grammes of fruit, which is mostly currants and raisins (360g each) plus a mixture of peel/ginger/glace cherries (adding up to 180g). I also add some hazelnuts. This year I did 300g currants, 300g figs and a combo of dates, cranberries, ginger and peel (to get up to 900g). Kind of Middle East meets Northern Europe, and, as I add brandy and hazelnuts (Central Europe) and Vodka (Eastern Europe), my pud is gonna be totally Continental.

What have you done? (And Zoe, what’s in yours?)

(Zoe adds – if you’d like to include an image in your comment, post a link to an online version or email a jpg about 380 wide and we’ll magic it up.)

Kirsty Presents: High-Tea Princesses

This time last week I was in the throes of preparing to cater for my niece’s 7th birthday party. Last week, right about now, in fact, I was studying the shelves at Woolworth’s Indooroopilly, hesitating between the standard packet of Dollar Sprinkles and the fairy-themed one. At that point I hadn’t fully decided on how I was going to manage to decorate the requested princess cake. I knew I was going to attempt to fashion a semblance of a princess atop a coconut cake using icing and my cheap cake decoration piping set, but as to the details of the glitter and sparkles, well, I was making those up in the supermarket.

I had offered to host my niece’s birthday party a month ago, after my family had celebrated my sister’s birthday at a garden centre cafe. While the garden centre’s cafe was perfectly fine, as we discussed Hannah’s forthcoming birthday, most of us still had memories of the over-priced outing that was my mother’s birthday a few months earlier: $45 for an average high-tea amongst some very pretty decor. The decor, while lovely, certainly wasn’t worth $15 dollars more than the usual price of a high-tea in these parts.

I’m not certain why my family has this high-tea obsession. Something to do with coming from England and wanting to play at being the Ladies we’re not, I suppose. Or perhaps it’s an excuse to eat way too many cakes, the sandwiches merely being a face-saving preliminary. Yes, the latter is more likely. Anyway, it seems the older members of this family have had a corrupting influence on the youngest member, since Hannah now associates all birthday celebrations with fancy, miniature cakes, delicate sandwiches and champagne-flutes of sparkling apple juice. When I volunteered to host her family party–her mother’s side of her family, anyway–Hannah put her own twist on the occasion and requested tiaras and sparkles. And since I’m a total push-over when it comes to my niece, I was determined to throw the best princess-themed party I could.

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Kirsty Presents: Short and Sweet

Unlike Zoe, I don’t know if I can attribute my lack of participation in blogging lately to my daily use of Twitter. I was a fairly early user of the short message medium that has recently taken the mainstream media by storm, and for at least two of those years I managed to continue to blog with enthusiasm.

I think the source of my exhaustion arises rather from the fact that for much of the university teaching year thus far I’ve been reading and marking 50 blogs per week, all written by students enrolled in subjects to do with new media.  If Twitter is to bear any responsibility for my failure to blog in any substantial way either here, at Sarsaparilla Lite, or at my own blog, then it’s because one of the other pieces of assessment that I’ve spent the semester  drowning in has been the Twitter workshops I’ve co-ordinated in lieu of the usual face-to-face tutorials. All of these pieces of assessment have rendered me barely capable of reading, never mind making a comment on those blogs by people who like to write and engage in discussions for the sake of it.

Anyway, you’re not really interested in my work-a-day woes are you?  It’s all about food here at  the Progressive Dinner Party. And no doubt you’ll be pleased to know that it’s because of food that I bothered to mention Twitter at all in this context.  It’s due to Twitter that I came to know of my most recent food obsession, when one of the people I follow declared that she was going to make 5 minute ice-cream for which she posted a link.

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