things

I took advantage of a Monday off work to try and pull myself together.

I made baked eggs from this recipe, and it was easy and delicious. It has spices! I want to get better at using spices because without onions and garlic, food gets boring very fast.

Raw:
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Slightly overcooked (which is how I prefer them really):
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These unsexy badly-lit pictures of my wardrobe? The result of extensive organisation and purging of what is habitually referred to as the Floordrobe. I’m proud, thus they are going on the blog.

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Polly is rather keen on the hairdye scene, and we picked up some coloured hair chalks on the weekend. She experimented with blue and purple as usual, and for fun, I picked up the red, pink, orange and yellow to make a little Flame Princess makeover. I thought it would have washed out after Bikram this morning, but it turns out, I still have teensy reddish highlights (if you can spot them). I quite like them, although I trust none of my clients noticed today at work.

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Speaking of Bikram and work: my backpack at 5:30am… again, boring picture for everyone else, but it holds: breakfast, lunch, two towels, my Bikram costume, my work shoes and clothes, my toiletries, and my water bottle. I was quite impressed with my packing and organisational skills. Onto the blog it goes.

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I came out of a particularly draining call conference to find a parcel from mummy on my desk, with a fancy magical butter dish and a tapestry kit from Erhman Tapestry. I’m itching to get started but I must finish the sashiko first!! I’ve only got about an hour’s work left to do so I must knuckle down.

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Work today was a 9 in terms of loathing. I shut myself away and cried in the training room at 9:30am, although things slowly improved over the course of the day. It’s nearly always the first day back that is the worst, I suppose I should not have long weekends…

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Spicy Eggplant

I was inspired by Szechuan Spicy Eggplant for this — a dish I used to be very suspicious of, when I first lived in Beijing, because the Mandarin name is “鱼香茄子“ — fish-smelling eggplant. However there is no fish-smell in it and it’s delicious, particularly when it’s cooked so the eggplant is melting and fragrant. Another linguistic anecdote is that for a very long time I thought I would never be able to say “eggplant” when I grew up calling them aubergines in both English and French. Yet here I am, saying eggplant. Eggplant eggplant eggplant.

Anyway here is my (vegan, not very Asian) version that I made up to satiate that craving, and which was surprisingly so good I had to write it up straight away. Sorry for the not terribly glam photo, but it’s night and I only have an iphone, and you know, brown food.
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Ingredients
1 medium European eggplant chopped into 1cm cubes (it will seem like a lot when it’s raw but it cooks down quite a bit)
2 red chillies, finely chopped
garlic-infused oil
sunflower oil
300g beef-style Quorn mince

Sauce
2/3 cup chicken-style broth (I use Massel’s 7s stock cubes which are not only vegan but also onion- and garlic-free)
4 Tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp sweet soy sauce
1 tsp worcester sauce
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp brown sugar

Directions:
Heat some sunflower oil in a wok and when it’s hot, throw in eggplant and chillies, then lace with garlic oil and toss till everything is nicely coated. Fry for about 5 minutes or until golden.

Push eggplant away from centre of the wok and add in Quorn, fry for a minute or so, then add in sauce and stir. Simmer until the eggplant is melting — about 5 minutes.

Fructose-friendly procrastination patties

After several years of struggles I’ve been diagnosed with fructose malabsorption and need to cut just about everything I normally would eat from my diet. This means I have to prepare all my meals and snacks as very few convenience foods are free of the dreaded fructose overload (think wheat, onions and garlic, apples and raisins…).

I am not a great cook, as several blog posts on here can testify. I guess it’s down to practice making perfect, and rather than practice, most nights I traditionally would satiate my hunger with hummus and crackers or wine and cheese, or order delivery food. However in order to get through my workdays and uni weeks, I have to pack a proper meal and some appropriate snacks, so suddenly I’m getting lots of practice in.

I have been scouring the internet for fructose-friendly meals and today I had a go at these as a form of procrastination as I am meant to be writing a treatment proposal for uni. I was amazed at how well they came out, and given there are a few tweaks to the original recipe, AND I “invented” a fructose-friendly dipping sauce, I decided to write them up for posterity and/or future reference. My main difference is I bulked these up with extra breadcrumbs as I am not so crazy about lots and lots of meat. They aren’t really a meal as such, but I will pack these as “second lunches” for the next couple of days, as I find I’m generally starving around 3pm and need a pick-me-up.

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Makes 12-15 patties (3 serves)

Patties
500g chicken mince (regular rather than lean, so that there is some vestige of flavour in there)
1.5 cups of fresh GF breadcrumbs
2 eggs, beaten
2 small red chillies, chopped
4 spring onions — green part only, chopped
1 Tbsp fish sauce
handful of coriander, chopped
1 Tbsp Massaman curry paste (mine does have shallots and garlic in it, but in such minute quantities given the volume of the other ingredients that it should not affect anyone too much)
1.5 tsp of salt
generous grinding of pepper

to roll
1.5 cups of dry GF breadcrumbs (just pulverise some GF bread and then pop it under the grill to toast, rather than spend $6 on special GF breadcrumbs. The added advantage of this is when you realise you don’t have enough, you can easily make some more)
to fry
sunflower oil

Sauce (1 serve)
1 large tomato, roughly chopped
handful of fresh mint, minced
1 small red chilli, minced
1 tsp lemon juice
dash of fish sauce
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp of brown sugar

Mix all the ingredients for the patties together. If you are me, you will have stupidly mis-read the quantities and already put portioned and put away most of your chicken mince in cute little baggies. Pull the pink goop out of the baggies and curse your misfortune.

Once everything is combined, form into patties and roll in the dry toasty breadcrumbs. I made mine in varying sizes between a chicken mcnugget and two chicken mcnuggets. I haven’t eaten them since I saw THAT video, and I hadn’t realised how much I missed them. These are very chicken-nuggety.

Place your crumbed patties in the fridge for half an hour to chill, so they will hold their shape nicely for the next step. Heat oven to 170 C.

Once your patty-nuggets have chilled, heat some sunflower oil in a frying pan and brown the patties in batches for a couple of minutes on each side, until they are nice and golden. Drain on kitchen paper to absorb some of the oil, then pop on a baking tray and place in the oven for 10 minutes. They will come out nice and crispy and golden and — if you’re like me — not falling apart in the slightest. I’m really happy with the texture of these.

To make the sauce, blend all the ingredients very briefly, taste, and adjust seasonings to taste before whizzing again. It will make a sort of pink mousse which isn’t particularly fancy, but it will make a decent substitute for all the forbidden relish, sweet chilli sauce, BBQ sauce, ketchup, or that awesome soy mayonnaise I love but which is made with honey and therefore I can’t have.

august

A conspicuous absence of updates in the past few months. I am not a fan of winter and even less so in the Southern Hemisphere, because July and August should be full of long, glorious sunny warm days, and instead here in Melbourne it has been ridiculously cold.

This doesn’t mean I have not done anything, fortunately!

I’ve made this a photo-based update rather than the other way around. This tends to work better for summarising an entire month. But this makes it very photo-heavy, so brace yourselves. What am I saying! I am showing my age… Back in the day it was common courtesy to warn before dumping pictures but now… who’d even notice?

Sooo backing up a bit to July:

I went to see the last performance of Mikelangelo and the Tin Stars, aka the only band I’ve ever truly enjoyed watching live.
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I got a haircut, hoping my curls could be coaxed back, but they seem to have been the exclusive domaine of my twenties and I am resigning myself to not having curly hair anymore.
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I bought some expensive cycling shorts and before I’d even worn them once, managed to cut a hole in them whilst removing annoying tags:
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My cold morning runs were dark dark dark but I kept running until the sun came up:
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I invested in a lot of merino from Icebreaker — it keeps me warm as toast, and it’s like having a hug from James as he is the one who got me into Icebreaker in the first place.
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More love from James came in the form of 3 kilos of birthday Kitkats, delivered anonymously to my desk at work.
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I had a lovely night out catching up with my friends Magnus, Thomas and Alastair. This sculpture hangs in the kitchen of Tom’s warehouse.
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More pics taken when out running — I do so love living so close to Merri Creek. It may be less dark…
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…palm trees may sway against a backdrop of brilliant blue skies…
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…but trust me it’s just as cold as the pre-dawn runs.
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Preparing vast amounts of caramelised onion for my birthday high tea. In the end I made around 4 times too much and I’ve still got about a kilo of it in the fridge.
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I also roast my first chicken for said tea party (to make adorable mini-sandwiches). Fiona came home in time to egg me into eating roast chicken skin for the first and last time in years — I don’t think I’ve eaten it since I was a child! It tasted simultaneously delicious, decadent, and nauseatingly rich. No regrets.
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Making Pimm’s cake from Siobhan’s recipe!
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Here I am in my party frock, with friends in the background hard at work.
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The dress is a gorgeous brocade shot through with gold thread – hard to photograph, so you will have to trust me!
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My 30th birthday high tea was lovely, but I failed to take any proper pictures. Here are a few I salvaged off other people!

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Rebecca made these fabulous mini-pavlovas
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My actual 30th birthday was a Monday and the first day of school. I ate a delicious leftover cupcake for breakfast (actually I ate mostly cake for the entire week, as there were a lot of cupcakes and cake leftover).
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There were relatively few events during school that I could photograph, as it was Preventive Conservation (which I think is going to Be My Thing, career-wise) and so the exciting stuff was mostly confidential site visits. I took a lot of pictures anyway, and am sharing just a couple of tantalising shots below, but I can’t tell you where they are of course…

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We did a few interested lab sessions, one about salvaging paper after floods:
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Another was on cleaning mould:
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We had a go at preparing Oddy tests too (which were difficult to photograph as we were in a hurry, hence the blurriness and someone’s fluffy sleeve:
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Some fun times outside of school: finding the cat in my backpack…
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And being greeted with this fantastic scene on a morning run (it’s the Orthodox Greek Cathedral, which I often run past, but which really glows when the sun hits it right!):
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Running has unsurprisingly resulted in shin splints again, so I am taking a break and giving kinesiotherapy tape a go. I do feel like it works pretty well in relieving the pain, if not in solving the problem.
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I got an amazing book of bike rides around Melbourne from my beloved Rebecca as a birthday gift. I decided to go check out Port Phillip Bay.
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Brace yourselves for many pictures of the sea!
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This bit of road was flooding, which made riding through it extra fun!
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Picnic on the pier!
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On my way home I passed these lovely Scottish deerhounds which mummy will appreciate:
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Ok that’s all the photos I have! I have not been photodocumenting things much in the past week — I was too wrapped up in my work situation. But now we have waded through all of this: I have accepted a new job with a cultural study tour company, and will start in October. I will be researching and designing cultural tours all around the world, and I’m really excited and glad that I’ve made the leap. It was a big decision to quit my current job but now it’s finalised I realise it’s the best choice I could have made!

i.o.u.

I owe you a post about this weekend at Unawatuna and another about Galle. I swear I’m going to write them up and they will be full of lush tropical beaches and quaint, weather-beaten Portuguese* UNESCO-protected monuments.

But in a bid to get back on the wagon, I was going to write you a crappy post about my crappy cooking. But cooking really isn’t my strongest point. You know what my strongest point is? Stories about how nuts I am.

This Sunday night I got back from my weekend at the beach, and immediately adopted my favourite position: sprawled over the couch with my laptop. I noticed I was being bitten by some pesky insect, but that’s what happens outside of Siberia; winged exoskeletal life-forms hunt you down and suck your blood.

Monday the bites were invisible, but itchy. Monday evening I went to see the quite excellent latest Batman film, and it mostly distracted me from how itchy all these bites were. Monday night I woke up at 3am after a couple of hours of sleep, consumed with how itchy my entire body had become, despite there not being a single visible mark on me (other than where my nails had scratched me). At this point, I spiraled into a cycle of insanity, convinced that those pigeons on the balcony had filled my air-conditioning unit with birdmites and that my house was now infected and I would never, ever sleep again.

I covered myself in: Voltaren Gel (anti-inflammatory!) – Advantan (steroid cream!) – CK free aftershave (alcohol!) – Burt’s Bug Relief (duh). I took a sleeping pill (because of the following association: sleeping pills make you sleep and so does diphenhydramine hydrochloride and that’s an antihistamine so maybe this random sleeping pill will also make me stop itching and not make me crazier at all!). Then I got paranoid that I was imagining things because there still wasn’t a single mark on me, so I got out an eyeliner and circled all the places that itched.

When I go mental it gets messy

Around 4am I read some more about birdmites on the internets, and began to really lose my shit. I got up. I stripped the bed. I did FOUR. LOADS. OF. LAUNDRY, which I then tied up, damp, in plastic bags, because if I put anything out to dry OMG THE BIRDMITES WILL GET IN THERE. I started tossing bleach around willy-nilly.

At 6am I texted my boss some feverish appeal for protection against these evil pigeons and he advised me to get to a doctor ASAP. He didn’t actually say a psychiatric doctor, but it’s probably what he was thinking. I texted back begging him to get someone to TAKE OUT THE PIGEONS THEY ARE KILLING ME. Bless him, he did.

At 8am I realised I wasn’t going anywhere in a hurry thanks to that pill and lack of sleep kicking in. I found a clean sheet in my cupboard, and wrapped myself in it before huddling on the bare mattress like the loony I am.

Eventually around 2pm someone turned up with a clipboard and two barefooted boys, to deal with the pigeons. I was hoping they would come armed with at least some form of extermination device, but they just poked the pigeons with a broom and then swept up the mess from my balcony. I watched from the safety of my couch, gesticulating wildly whenever they tried to bring anything into the house. NO, NO, NO PIGEON-MATTER IN MY PRECIOUS HOUSE IT WILL KILL ME. I’m sure they thought I was totally normal.

Then I went to the dermatologist as recommended by my friend Vijay. The dermatologist told me it was an allergy, and prescribed me lots of pills and lotions and sent me on my way. I still am pretty itchy actually, but knowing it’s an allergy has made it a little easier. I suspect the couch is a culprit. Maybe the pigeons sit on it when I’m not around.

ANYWAY. Today I was well domestic and decided to use my kitchen for something other than toast.

Nicest kitchen I’ve had in a long time

I was inspired by the recipe on the back of a bag of rice, but couldn’t get hold of all ANY of the spices it listed. I made do with a “biryani masala” spice mix instead. I don’t think I did a great job of it, it started out looking a bit… meh…

and ended up tasting very bland. The only saving factor was the curd mixed in with it. Curd tastes a teensy bit like crème fraîche. Or maybe plain yoghurt. Or maybe mine was a bit off. Dunno — it definitely improved the taste of this dull, dull food I made. There’s seconds and thirds left over if that appeals to anyone… But hey. I did something other than work and waste time on the internet today!

*Yes, Portuguese. They follow me to every island I visit.

I love lists

Today I woke up at 7:45 to do lots of useful and important things. Then realised that I didn’t really have anything urgent to do as I am still on holiday, and so I read my book until I fell back asleep, hypnotised by the rain drumming outside my window.

When I woke up again, it was nearly 2pm and after ascertaining that the library won’t be open again till tomorrow morning, realised nothing would get done without some form of motivation and so I composed a list, and I’m pleased to say it’s pretty much all been crossed off:

First: cook a couple of high-protein veggie recipes to keep in the fridge and freezer.

Recipe Uno was sweet potato and tuna cakes. These taste delicious. I ate three and it has been hard ignoring the rest.

2 cups of sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 tin of tuna in spring water or brine, drained
2 eggs, lightly whisked
half a cup of breadcrumbs
salt and pepper to season
(makes 8 cakes)

I boiled and mashed the sweet potato, mixed in the other ingredients, and then gently fried them in a drop of olive oil. I slightly burnt the second batch (remember Rosie’s rule of cooking?) but as I am a freak who likes burnt carbs (overdone toast, blackened pizza, brown and crispy bubble-and-squeak… carcinogenic LOVE), whilst they don’t look so pretty, as far as I’m concerned the taste is even better. I’m going to keep them in the fridge and hope that they heat up ok, to eat with a 7-11 bagged salad and a boiled egg. I don’t eat enough fish but this was pretty awesome so I’ll definitely make it again.

Second recipe was Sweet Potato, Spinach and Lentil Curry. I panic-purchased a lot of sweet potatoes in the run-up to Chinese New Year, so I had to use them up! I made the curry in my usual very unimaginative fashion, ie. sweat onions in oil, curry powder and cumin powder; throw in the veg and lentils plus boiling water; simmer until everything is melting and delicious. The spinach wasn’t exactly spinach, I think — it was the last, soggy-looking bag of greens left in the supermarket, but it’s not like wilted greens ever taste particularly spectacular, so I chucked them in for extra nutrients. I am full from the tuna cakes, so I just had a taste and decided it was good. Into the freezer it goes!

Second and third item on the list: tidy room and sort clothes. Done. This is fairly huge for me. Everything is on hangers! Nothing is on the floor! Even my underwear is sorted! Everything is clean!

Four: Nike Training Club workout. Done. I chose just a 30min workout hoping that it won’t leave me wrecked for three days like last time, but judging how my legs are shaking after all those squats… Still, I’m hoping I will feel good enough for a tiny little 4km run tomorrow.

Five: prepare characters for lesson 7. I haven’t finished this yet, but am getting into it now.

Six: Download ALL the podcasts. I actually did this first, as it was essential to achieving the other items. I listened to lots of Answer Me This and The Infinite Monkey Cage today.

Lists. Best thing ever.

yellow

This week I have had a couple of delicious vegetarian meals — Indian in Ximen with Catherine on Wednesday, and a very Melbournesque lunch with Kurt today at KGB (the K stands for Kiwi and the B for Burgers, I guess the G is for Great!). Tonight I am supposed to be at the Hash Bash, but the thought of Taiwanese food and Taiwanese beer really isn’t doing it for me. So whilst I tried to make up my mind to go or not… I made a curry (I’m still on the fence though…).

I haven’t cooked much since I got to Taiwan, which is a shame because it’s the best way to get good vegan and vegetarian food. Tonight I made a sweet potato and cauliflower curry, with millet on the side. It was my first time making millet, and it was not great; I don’t know if I need to prepare it differently — I liked the texture but it tasted chemical and soapy. However the curry was really tasty! I love how easy sweet potatoes are to cook; they reach that melting stage far quicker than normal potatoes and then stay that way without disintegrating too fast. Not to mention the fact they taste heavenly.

No pictures because yellow sweet potato + cauliflower in yellow curry powder served over yellow millet just does not look good. I didn’t even try.