Sunday, 31 August 2008

This is... my favourite fabric/craft supplies shop

Kim Anh Fabrics on a late, sunny Saturday afternoon

This is my all time favourite fabric and craft supplies shop: Kim Anh Fabrics, in Oakleigh. Why do I love it so much? They stock a great brilliant range of fabrics, mostly dress and suit making fabrics, but also many cotton fabrics for quilting, kids designs, flannelette, brocades, pure wool fabrics... but be warned, this place is full to the brim - almost overflowing - with fabrics of all types and sometimes you need to contort your body in strange ways to get around the shop.

They also stock tons of "handy things": twill tapes of all colours and widths, bobbins sold individually, zippers, braids, trims, ric rac of all sizes and colours, buckles, buttons...

And the best part is they are cheap but still great quality.

Kim Anh Fabrics
26a Portman St
Oakleigh VIC 3166
(03) 9568 7313
Open Monday - Saturday

View Larger Map

Thanks to handmaiden for a great topic and to Angela at Three Buttons for hosting This is... (go here to join in!)

Friday, 29 August 2008

To market, to market...

For anyone nearby, Holmesglen Tafe in Glen Waverley is hosting their third farmer's market tomorrow from 9am - 1pm (or until sold out). I went to the last one and there was so much delicious cheese, bread, olives, chutneys and beautiful fresh produce to buy... and taste! The markets are held every 5th Saturday of the month at Holmesglen TAFE, Waverley Road, Glen Waverley. I'll be there nice and early, can't wait!

Map of Holmsglen TAFE area

Vegie burger mission

Tonight I'm attending a BBQ for Gib's open water diving course graduation. A perfect opportunity to try out one of the vegie burger recipes recently featured in Epicure.

I decided to give the tofu burger a go. I have attempted many bean and lentil burgers in my time, but tofu burgers are a place I have never gone before. Probably because tofu is something I have generally disliked in the past, but it seems to be growing on me. Gib and I went for a wander along our local asian grocer strip (our most favourite one had a fire out the back of it a couple of evenings ago, so it was not open for obvious reasons) so I picked up some tofu, wakame and other bits and pieces.

I found the mixture to be quite bland when I tried it, so I made some additions.

Beth's new super tasty tofu burger recipe (that doesn't fall apart!)

2 sheets dried wakame, boiled for 3 mins, drained.
6 spring onions, finely chopped
300 g firm tofu, marinated in 5 spice
1/4 cup fresh breadcrumbs (made from the crusts of sprouted wheat bread)
2 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp lemon juice
2.5 cm piece ginger, finely diced
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp nanami togarashi (Japanese Seven Spice)
2 tbsp peanut oil
Some extra sesame seeds
  • Boil the wakame for 5 mins, until fully rehydrated. Dice into 1cm pieces (my food processor wasn't going to cope with it whole).
  • Put wakame and half the tofu into processor and process until crumbly. Transfer to a bowl.
  • Place bread into processor, process until breadcrumbs form. Add remaining tofu, let run until smooth.
  • Add to bowl with the tofu/wakame, sesame seeds, soy sauce, lemon juice, peanut oil, ginger, nanami togarashi and freshly ground pepper. Stir/mix with hands until well to combine (it formed a dough, so I used my hands, it was much easier). Form into 2-4 patties, depending on how big you like them. I find veggie patties very filling, so I made 4 small ones. Press the patties into a tray of sesame seeds to coat them, brush off any excess.
  • Cook 4-5 mins each side.
I let mine rest for about 30 mins: the time taken to drive to the BBQ and have the BBQ started. I don't have any photos because the camera was forgotten (d'oh!) however, I can say they looked exactly like the ones in the picture.

I was surprised at how meaty they tasted. I think it was the soy sauce/tofu/lemon combination, and even though I was despairing about the recipe at the start, I think my additions really lifted the flavour of the patties and I'd definitely make them again. Using tofu in the buger was really easy and it did bind everything exceptionally well. The patties were more structurally sound than any bean/lentil patties I have made previously. And they looked great!

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Whipping up some bibs...

Inspired by Curlypops' wonderful bib making, I decided to try making some of my own (instead of working on the apron for the swap - at least it's all cut out ready to go now). Here's my first attempt. The pattern is based on another bib I picked up cheaply. I need to attach something on the ends so they stick together... should I use velcro or a press stud? I really have no idea, since I don't have any small children myself and don't have much general small child experience! Any suggestions?

I have plenty more ideas for bibs and have so much awesome kids fabric to use. And most importantly, lots of babies to make bibs for!

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Veggie burger vexations

The Age’s Epicure has a feature on vegie burgers. I love them: so filling and tasty with a nice hot serve of home made potato wedges sprinkled with salt on the side (sweet potato wedges are great too!).

“VEGIE burgers are nothing new. But they have gone mainstream - and in the process, for the most part, they've become worse.”

It’s true!! A few years ago, whenever I’d order a veggie burger while I was out, they’d be really flavourful, lots of punch, hot and crispy on the outside and bursting with herbs, spices and bursting with little juicy bits of vegetable. But now you find them everywhere, and they’re bland, tasteless mush. I don’t think the people who make them ever eat them themselves. Or they must think that we enjoy them being like eating mud cakes in bread.

When I make them at home, they taste awesome, but I haven’t mastered how to make them without them falling apart. Perhaps it’s my dad’s enthusiasm for flipping everything 20 times on the BBQ that makes them fall apart, or maybe it’s their construction method. I have come to learn that they really do need to rest for 30 mins in the fridge before placing them in the pan. This article has solutions to my problems! As Mark Bittman explains:

“Vegetables, legumes and nuts don't have the connective tissue that helps hold meat patties together, so they require a little binder to create a cohesive mass that can be shaped and handled. The idea is to use ingredients that bridge the gap between liquids and solids by capturing the moisture.”
Egg, butter, potato or bread are great ways to help them bind.

The other tip was: “There are three secrets to a vegie burger with a crisp outer crust and a tender interior: be sure there is enough hot fat in the pan before cooking; let the patties cook on one side until they are nicely browned; and don't overcook - you want them hot but not dry.”

Ah-ha! Excellent. There are also three recipes included so you can choose from tofu, bean or nut burgers. Mmmm... can't wait to try them!

Image source: The Age - Epicure

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Pot holder attempt = success!

For the apron swap, I have to make a pot holder. I have never made one of these before and thought I'd try making some in advance: don't want to be caught at the last minute and . For the insulation, I used one layer of Insul-Bright heat resistant batting and one layer of wool. I followed the directions in Lotta Jansdotter's Simple Sewing book. It was very quick and simple to do! I think I'll attempt an oven mitt next.

Too easy!

Edit: Hoppo Bumpo asked about where to buy Insul-Bright insultated batting. This product was a pain to find, as was wool batting and any other non-flammable insulating products that would be suitable for making oven mitts, pot holders and the like. I have actually come to believe that such products do not exist in Melbourne - at all. What do all of the women in the CFA make their pot holders out of??! In the end I bought it online from Quilting Fabric Delights, but it looks like they no longer stock it either. Autumn threads was the only other place I looked for it as they were reasonably priced too.

This is... my favourite children's book

I adore kids books. In fact, I'm half way through re-reading the Narnia series. I love the simplicity and sheer fun of children's books. And I love the illustrations.

I loved Jim Henson, Sesame Street, the Muppets (I still do! Probably moreso now!). When I was in early primary school, my favourite books was definitely:

The climax in this book is what gets me every time! Our copy is one of those giant books and it's falling to bits from so much reading. I think it was passed down from a cousin originally. This book is all in the telling.

"Lovable, furry old Grover is distressed to learn that there's a monster at the end of this book! He begs readers not to turn the pages, but of course kids feel they just have to see this monster for themselves. Grover is astonished--and kids are delighted--to discover who is really the monster at the end of the book!"

It was followed closely by My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes. It goes something like "The cat from Spain flew and aeroplane; The cat from France liked to sing and dance; The cat from Berlin plays the violin... but my cat likes to hide in boxes!" My all time favourite page from this book was "The cat from Norway got stuck in the doorway". I thought that was hilarious.

However around middle primary school, my love for non fiction books was unearthed. My all time favourite children's book was "The body and how it works". (Nerdy, hey?)

I wasn't able to find my original copy to take a photo (it's somewhere in these bookshelves!), but mine was hardcover with a pink spine. This is a copy of the front of the 1998 reprint in paperback.

It covered everything from digestion and the nervous system, to pregnancy and fetal development and I couldn't get enough of it. I used to read it all the time, from cover to cover, or sometimes just flick through it. My favourite pages in the whole book detailed the nervous system. There was this funny picture of a man with his lips and eyes and hands all exaggerated, demonstrating which parts of the body receive the most sensory information. My fascination with the nervous system pages was very telling about my future career path! It's amazing how my passion for my field of research started so young... (and then grew consistently with age!).

Thanks Potty Mouth Mama for a great topic! and also to Three Buttons who is the lovely host of This is ...

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Leaf printing: testing part 1

Gib is away doing an open water diving course and although I'll miss his company, it means I get to totally overrun the study with my crafting and sewing for the entire weekend. I'll be updating this post as I go so please comment and provide suggestions as I've never done anything like this before and it's quite likely that I'm doing it all wrong!

Already I'm learning about how much to load up each leaf with paint, how much pressure to apply etc. There's a definite knack and it's a good I have lots of scraps on hand to practice with! The best leaves I have used so far have been from our lemon geranium and a fern. They're a bit heavy in spots, but I don't think it's such a bad thing. The black ones smudged a little because I rolled the roller over the leaves twice. Learning.

This is actually quite a lot of fun. Reminds me of kindergarten and watching episodes of Playschool where they did painting and all of those awesome things that I "grew out of".

I got bored of printing (because, like in my kindergarten days, I have the attention span of a fly) so I decided to whip up a pin cushion using some one of the leaf prints.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Colcannon comfort

It's Friday and time to use up some leftovers before the weekend. I had half a savoy cabbage in the fridge, some leftover spring onion that had been chopped but not used, a head of broccoli and some potatoes. That means one thing: colcannon. I cooked it up this morning so I could store it in the freezer for later.

I should note that until about a year ago, I hated cabbage. I could not think of a more vile vegetable. I think it was because when I was growing up, a prerequisite for having an Australian BBQ was coleslaw. Raw cabbage and Praise Mayonnaise -- or worse, the pre-packaged stuff you pick up from Woolies. I'm shuddering at the thought of it now (maybe it has improved since I was a child... I'm open to new coleslaw recipes!). Then I discovered okonomiyaki and was blown away at how good a cabbage pancake could taste (finely shredded is the key). I had heard of colcannon, but it's only something that has recently become a favourite. Cheap, easy, warm and comforting in winter.

I based this recipe mostly on Maggie and Simon's recipe for ingredients and method, but I also borrowed from Moosewood's recipe as well, which includes broccoli and a sprinkling of cheese. So here is my adaptation:

Beth's cosy colcannon creation

Serves 4-6
Can be frozen for up to 6 weeks.

1/3 savoy cabbage, finely shredded
600 g pontiac potatoes, peeled (low GI!)
1 head of broccoli, chopped into small florets
100 ml low fat milk
60g butter
2 spring onions, finely sliced
1/2 cup low fat tasty cheese
Salt and pepper

  • Boil (or microwave) potatoes until tender but not falling apart. If boiling, drain, then allow to rest in the open to dry.
  • Steam cabbage for 3 minutes, until soft, but not totally soggy
  • Steam broccoli for 4-5 mins until soft, but not soggy, colorless and flavourless (which was my mother's way of cooking them!)
  • Warm butter and milk in a pan or on a low setting in the microwave. Set aside.
  • Combine potato, cabbage, broccoli, butter, milk and S&P in a large bowl.
  • Transfer to a rectangular baking dish, smooth out. Sprinkle with spring onion and cheese. Grill until the cheese is bubbly and golden.

I usually serve this as a side dish with other chunky roasted vegetables (carrot, pumpkin etc), however it makes an excellent accompaniment for meat or sausages.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Keeping the door open

At work they have this thing about turning the air con right up. I often find myself sitting at my desk in a tshirt when it's about 12°C outside, which I can't really complain about (although I do think that their energy consumption is excessive, and especially since the institute I work for is trying to "stay green", but that's another story). But the real "problem" is that the air blows so hard that my door closes. It makes me look entirely anti social, like I enjoy sitting in a stark white office with no windows and fluoro lights and want to be left to read research papers all day without distraction.

So I've decided to make a door stop. It will not only brighten my office but will also create an inflow of sociability and welcome distraction into my dull space (times when I have wedged my recycling paper bin in front of the door have shown this!).

There's a nifty pattern in Lotta Jansdotter's Simple Sewing book, which looks ace, but I think it might be a little big. I could scale the pattern down though.

Photo from supergail - isn't that fabric adorable?!

I have also just found this tutorial for a cute little pyramid shaped door stop. It's a little smaller and I like the shape, but I could go either way. Both seem like excellent projects to start using some of my stashed fabrics on. Tonight I finally have a night off to myself and I hope to spend it practicing some printing and sewing.

Pyramid door stop by all it took was one stitch


So this evening I did actually get time to do some sewing. I decided to go with Lotta's pattern, but I reduced the size by one third and the whole project took me about 2 hours to make (adjusting/making the pattern, sewing and finishing). I chose the fabric to match the blue/green colour of the carpet in my office. Unfortunately the lighting all around here is terrible, but hopefully I'll be able to get an "action shot" at work.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Let's learn so I can learn more!

I have just ordered:

To go with this book that I already own:

So that I can hopefully read and learn to make cool things like:

...these adorable little characters from Fairy Tale Small Stitch Pattern Book from Kitty Craft

...Lotta's Handmade Project book which I have oggled for ages

Have I ever mentioned how much I love cotton and linen? This is cool.

...this bag, featured in Cotton and Paint

...and this awesome kid's play cube, featured on Angry Chicken a while back. Although I think I could adapt it to make a terrific foot stool for me instead.

I started learning a while back however my teacher got a better job other than teaching me. But Gib also wants to learn now too, so I have a buddy to practice with. I've already stuck the Hiragana and Katakana charts on the back of the toilet door.

Sunday, 17 August 2008

This I like to spend my weekend

For me, weekends are the time when I get to catch up on all of my "girly" stuff. Gib is usually working on weekends til mid afternoon, so I get most of the day to:
  • Go shopping with my mum
  • Visit markets
  • Catch up with friends for brunch
  • Do some crafting/sewing/baking
  • Hanging out in the garden weeding, drinking cups of tea
If Gib happens not to be working, we'll potter in the garden, go for a drive, explore the local Asian grocers, or go for a walk around our neighbourhood. Walking around our neighbourhood is one of our favourite activities, day or night. Not only is it fun to check out everyone's gardens and feel connected to the community, but it's the time when we discuss anything and everything, big things and little things.

A cool star shaped pod that Gib and I found on one of our walks. No idea what it is.

Three or four times a year I get the opportunity to attend weekend training sessions, or gasshuku, with some amazing karate practitioners. This weekend happened to be one of those occasions. The weekends aren't tough in a "let's do a gazillion push ups!" sort of way (it's never about that), but rather the visiting instructor will often take some simple things and present them in a different way, so the struggle is mostly in breaking old habits and being receptive to a different ways thinking. These sound simple but you'd be surprised at how many people attend these things and just do what they've always done and don't want to learn. I always come home exhausted, aching and bruised all over with my mind overflowing with new thoughts and ideas. The bruises are often a consequence of poor technique, or trying to out-muscle the big guys (I can be like a chihuahua sometimes: I think I'm a big German shepherd and can play like the big guys, when really I shouldn't)

This weekend we had Kancho Roni Kluger visit. He is a relatively small man, in his mid-50s, very warm hearted and he moves and sticks to his opponents so beautifully. I wish I could move -- and also teach -- like he does! I am now going to have a nice long, hot bath and unwind...

Kancho Roni Kluger

Edit: Oopsies, in my fatigued state last night I forgot to add: Thanks to The Bird Bath for this week's theme! And also Angela at Three Buttons for hosting This is ... !

Friday, 15 August 2008

Morning baking: Rhubarb and Walnut loaf

Not much sewing and crafting been happening around here of late. There are some ideas happening, some sketches, but not much cutting of fabric, stitching up etc. Give me a week and I'll have some of that.

This morning I had a little bit of time on my hands so I decided to whip up a loaf of Rhubarb Nut Bread. Of course, because I simply can't help myself and because I couldn't be bothered going down to the shops to pick up the actual ingredients, I made some modifications to the recipe. The original recipe is for two loaves, so I halved the recipe to limit the amount of cake in the house (don't want to tempt any diabetics in the household!).

This cake proved to be exceptionally quick to make in terms of preparing the batter. The result was very pleasing: it's a moist cake with a rich honey flavour and the different textures of rhubarb and walnut work well together.

Beth's rhubarb and walnut loaf recipe

3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup of vegetable oil
1 egg
1/2 cup soy milk
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup plain flour
1/2 cup wholemeal flour
3/4 cup diced frozen rhubarb, thawed, drained
1/4 cup walnuts
60 ml honey
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 tsp dairy-free margarine, melted

Preheat oven to 175ÂșC. Combine milk and lemon juice, set aside for 10 mins.
In a food processor, combine brown sugar, oil and egg. Add the milk, bicarbonate of soda and vanilla to the mix, process until combined.
Add the flour, one third at a time, until well combined.
Stir through the rhubarb and walnuts. Pour mixture into a greased loaf pan.
Combine the honey, cinnamon and margarine. Drizzle over the top of the cake mixture.
Bake for 45-50 mins.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Too much cute

I've been a little pressed for time of late. You know, busy but with nothing to show for it. No time to download photos from my camera even. So I'll present you with some things that I have been oggling over and drawing creative inspiration from when I should have been working.

There is one thing that makes me go weak at the knees: cute food accessories. And no one knows how to do that better than the Japanese. Oh, these make me melt!

Bento lunch box from sugar charms

Bento lunch box from sugar charms

Apple coasters that I purchased from Daiso

Monkey mayonnaise containers, with banana scoop! From sugar charms

Little animal sauce bottles available from ebay

Adorable mushroom bento lunch boxes

Animal clips by Denise Cortez

Decole animal face jugs by SmileOvni

Decole ketchup by cutesypoo

Decole mushroom tea pot by glumpire

Sunday, 10 August 2008

This is... a work in progress

This weekend I've completed some works-in-progress, so they're not really works in progress any more... I'll post more about them later.

But my biggest work in progress right now is the apron I need to make for the Autumn Sassy Apron Swap. It's not even a work in progress yet, more like a concept in progress. I have a pattern for the apron, but it's just the fabric I'm struggling with. I have to make a pot holder too, but that will be easy peasy once I get the fabric problem sorted. I have both a Lincraft and a Spotlight within spitting distance of me but their fabrics are just totally uninspiring. No nice colours. Dull. Boring. Poor quality.

With my new book on hand, I've even contemplated printing my own autumn designs onto fabric.

How pretty! A leaf print from Onegirl

A leaf-shaped potato print by subbloke

Or stenciling.

Way too complicated for what I'm doing, but still inspirational. By Jen Spragia.

Or even embroidering (something which I haven't practiced for about 5 years)!

Tree embroidery by apple apple

Maybe I need another trip to Patchwork on Central Park. Or I could make my own fabric. I had the idea of playing with those make-your-own iron-on transfers.

But I'm getting a little desperate. I have two weeks to find fabric/design inspiration! I think I might be spending the next couple of weeks doing little test runs of things, playing with ideas. Always fun to pass the time (what little of it I have right now!).

Thank you to Kept in a Jar for this week's 'This is' theme and to Angela for hosting This is!

Friday, 8 August 2008

Oh, cup of tea? Yes please!

It's been quite a long week this week, so I'm glad to be sitting at home sipping on a cosy cup of tea... from my new teapot! I think my tea consumption has gone up quite a bit since buying it just because I love it so much. As if I didn't drink enough tea already! I went op shopping last weekend with my mum and picked it up from one of my favourite local Salvos stores. After bringing it home and cleaning it up a little bit, I noticed that the lid was a little bit smaller than what it should be. I think the lid must have been from a matching sugar bowl at some stage. It still works fine. What I loved about it was its cute little spout and, of course, the colour.

The milk jug I picked up a few weeks ago at the Melbourne Design Market and I am totally in love with it. It makes me smile whenever I look at it for some reason. I just like the shape of it and the surface texture. It's so simple and neat.

I say it's been a long week, but it really has been quite fun and not a bad at all. It just feels like a long week (possibly because I have lots of ideas that I want to get started on over the weekend!). I had a meeting with my supervisor yesterday and everything on the PhD front seems to be on track and so I kind of lost momentum to go into work today. It's funny that - I get told I'm doing ok and instead of it spurring me on it makes me slack of the next day! But the weather was just so nice outside: how could I possibly spend the entire day in a dull office with weather like this? So I spent the afternoon weeding the garden in the sunshine.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Recipe Box Swap: Garden fresh lemon curd!

The theme for this month's Recipe Box Swap is "Garden fresh: "If you can pick it from the garden, buy it at the farmer's market or get it from the produce section of the grocery store, tell us how to prepare it!". It was a tough choice as nearly all of my meals are from the garden, market or produce section (well, rather, delivered fresh to my door). Deciding was all too much, so I decided to really stick to the theme and go with stuff that I get from my garden. It's not quite Thursday in the US, so you still have time to join in too!

My garden has lots of herbs: sage, basil, a giant rosemary bush that's threatening to overrun our bbq, oregano, mint (kept in a pot, as that has been known to overrun the garden in the past too). But the thing that brings me most pleasure is our lemon tree. I adore lemons. So I decided to post my recipe for lemon curd. I generally use it to fill sponge cakes or to go with fruit salads and Gib loves to have it spread on toast. I've also been known to eat it straight out of the pot with a spoon (not too much though, it's not the healthiest thing ever!). Lemon curd is just so versatile.

Lemon curd:

  • 3 home grown lemons, juiced and strained (about 125 ml). Zest one of the lemons.
  • 200g sugar (you can also use "smart" sugar or other diabetic substitute)
  • 3 free-range eggs at room temperature, lightly beaten and passed through a strainer (helps prevent curdling). I strongly recommend free range for this, not only to keep with the theme and because the hens they come from are more ethically treated (speak to Jamie Oliver for more on that), but also simply because eggs are a key ingredient in the flavour and consistency of your curd. Good quality lemon curd is dependent on good quality eggs.
  • 100g butter cut into cubes (dairy-free margarines also work)
  1. Use a double boiler, or a heatproof bowl that fits neatly into a medium sized saucepan. Make sure it wont touch the water in the bottom. Fill the saucepan 1/4 or 1/3 with water and bring to just boiling (medium to high heat).
  2. With the bowl not sitting in the saucepan, combine the lemon and sugar in the heatproof bowl. Add eggs and lemon rind to the lemon and sugar mixture, mix until combined.
  3. Place the bowl into the saucepan and reduce the heat so the water is at a simmer. Stir the mixture constantly for about 20 minutes -- don't leave it or it will curdle! (Oh yes, I've curdled my curd before). It will have thickened and be of a smooth consistency.
  4. Remove the top part of your double boiler or your bowl from the pan and add the butter to your mixture, a few pieces at a time, making sure each is dissolved before the next addition. Sometimes I need to add up to 1 tsp cornflour if the mixture is too runny, or if I want it thicker as a filling for sponge cake.
Lemon curd can be stored in sterilised jars in the fridge for up to a month.

Lemon curd by Patricia Scarpin

Monday, 4 August 2008

Vegetarian gyoza - YUM!

My Japanese friend, Erika, taught me how to make gyoza. In restaurants around here, gyoza are horribly oily and greasy and flavourless (apart from the mountains of oil). But when Erika and her mother made them for us, they were one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted. They were filled with fresh ingredients, loads of garlic and fresh chives, cooked lightly on the bottom and then steamed to finish them off. Very healthy, filling and wholesome. They make for a great side or, if you make a few different types, a dinner that sits lightly in your tummy (unlike those stodgy horrid things in restaurants). Another inspiration in my gyoza experimentation was Confessions of a Food Nazi who is also an advocate of the delicious, healthy gyoza -- she also has some very useful tips!

I think of all the meals I've made recently, this has certainly been the most satisfying. Oh my gosh, for something so healthy they are just so incredibly delicious and moreish. A little bit crunchy on the bottom and all soft and almost velvety on top, and the smell of fresh crushed garlic is just divine.

Erika and her mum's wonderful gyoza. Look at a all of that beautiful fresh chive!

  • Store bought gyoza wrappers (from the local Asian grocer, these are ridiculously cheap)
  • Cabbage (which will be about half of your filling)
  • Mushrooms, marinated tofu or ground pork, as the "feature" ingredient
  • Garlic (another key ingredient in gyoza)
  • Leek or spring onions
  • Ginger
  • Sake
  • Mirin
  • Tamari soy sauce
  • Sesame oil
I followed the preparation instructions from this website, given that Erika wasn't by my side to guide me. I made two types: one with shimeji and shiitaki mushrooms, the other with marinated tofu (I think I preferred the fresh mushroom one though). I'm leaving the ingredients list kind of open because it's totally your own preference. You really don't need to make much filling, only a small bowl full will make about 30 gyoza as you only put about a teaspoon of filling in each.

1. Place a small amount of the mixture in the palm of your hand. Wet around the edges.

2. Fold in half

3. Pleat (this is surprisingly quick and easy but looks really cool!)

I coated a large fry pan in spray oil, placed the gyoza in and cooked until the bases of them were brown. Approximately 5 mins. You can either place the gyoza on their sides or have them sitting upright (like in the photo below): Erika tells me that it really doesn't matter.

I covered the top of the fry pan with aluminium foil (if it had a lid I would have used that), and added about 1/2 cup water to the pan, then let it steam for another 5-10 mins until cooked through. I served the gyoza straight from the pan. The dipping sauce was a simple mixture of tamari soy sauce and mirin, however there are many varieties of dipping sauce inspiration on the net.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

This is... my trade secret

Here is my trade secret: sharp utensils. They don't have to be the most expensive brands out there, but it does mean keeping your cutting utensils cleaned, maintained and put away after use and only using them for their intended purpose. But apart from that, having sharp utensils makes everything easier and less frustrating.

In the kitchen: Sharp knives

I know I've mentioned these before, but honestly, cooking is just so much more enjoyable with a good sharp set of knives.
  • You don't mash/hack your food up (i.e. tomatoes, pastry)
  • It makes chopping quicker
  • It makes chopping and slicing effortless (slicing carrots is a dream and pumpkin is a breeze)
  • Your shoulders, hands and forearms don't get sore because your knives do all of the work

In the sewing room: Sharp scissors

It wasn't until I bought a pair of "good" scissors myself that I understood what my mum meant by "Don't use the good scissors!". I found that after using my sharp scissors on everything, they quickly became blunt and then I had to fork out for getting them sharpened. Lesson learned: only use them for their indended purpose (oh, and I guess "listen to my mother" is another lesson there too! Heehee).

  • You don't hack up or drag threads on your fabric
  • You take the load off your hands and forearms
  • When you cut your sewing threads, the end is cut cleanly and makes it easier to thread needles

In the garden: Sharp secateurs, hacksaws

  • You can prune your plants cleanly. If the branches are "hacked" and end up with frayed bits, it increases the chances of infection.
  • Saves you buckets of time
  • It makes pruning even more fun!
Thank you to Angela at Three Buttons for hosting 'This is' and also to Amelia for picking this week's theme! Looking forward to reading everyone else's little gems...!

Tree of Happiness Award

The fantabulous Jen from August Street has bestowed upon me the Tree of Happiness Award! Here is a list of 6 things that make me happy right now:
  • I have just received one of the most beautiful emails ever, it even brought tears to my eyes. One of those messages that lets you know that you're on the right path even though you can't quite see where you're headed.
  • Watching my two little furry rats bound all over the place in excitement over some pieces of freshly cut apple.
  • Thinking of the sponge Gib and I will bake this afternoon for his mum's birthday. It will have a lemon curd filling, which I have never made before. I love being able to share food with other people and have a whole lot of fun making it at the same time.
  • Looking out the window to a mass of eucalypts, hearing the currawongs and Eastern spinebills singing and the sunshine pouring through my window.
  • Dancing in my PJs: going out dancing is fun, but who can beat the awesome music that you get to choose and the comfort of pyjama pants.
  • Gib: There's nothing more fun hanging out with your best buddy, is there? You can't even begin to measure the happiness that real, solid friendship brings. It outlasts everything else.

So I'm going to pass the Tree of Happiness onto: Katie, Hoppo Bumpo, Gina, Leah, Jodie and Alex, who all have terrific blogs (quick - go check 'em out!) and who have all left kind words for me recently.

I hereby bestow the 'Tree of Happiness' award upon you and hope you will accept by listing six things that you are happy about right now... and passing the honour on to six other bloggers!