Sunday, 19 August 2012

Jamie Oliver's 30 Minute Meals... against the clock!

We are big Jamie Oliver fans, and have watched and re-watched so many of his cookery shows together over the years. Tom has recreated many a recipe, and I have watched.

Albeit slightly behind the times, we have just purchased Jamie Oliver's 30 Minute Meals, and tonight was the first recipe challenge. I have assumed that the main reason for purchasing this book is that you actually intend to time yourself cooking the recipe, but if my competitive streak is taking over here, then please forgive me.

With Tom working at the last Bulldogs game of the season, I took it upon myself to attempt the 'Spring Lamb' recipe. Given that my kitchen skills are not advanced, I took a little bit of a shortcut and omitted the pudding dish from my 30 minute window. In fact, I omitted it totally, because as much as I want to eat chocolate fondue, the scales won't thank me for it.

So, in 30 minutes I attempted to cook... spring rack of lamb, a vegetable platter, mint sauce and gravy. I've googled it so that you can view the recipe here. Having looked at the image on that page I'm now quite disappointed, because I didn't pour all the nice juices from the pan onto the dish like Jamie is doing. Dammit. That's what happens when you rush.

So, just like Jamie says on the TV show, I started by 'getting my 30 minute meals head on'! This meant boiling the kettle, preheating the oven and some pans, and getting all my ingredients assembled.

So here is most of what is needed to cook this dish - dumped on the worktop a-la Ready Steady Cook. Sorry, wrong show. In fact definitely wrong show because even the 'Gourmet Bag' editions of Ready Steady Cook would not fund this bag of shopping. After a quick tot of my till receipt, I spent a whopping $43.59 on the ingredients that weren't already in my store cupboard. For the Brits out there, that's about £29, or the same price as dinner for two at the Chinese restaurant across the road.

Hmmm. So the ingredients list was extensive. It also took at least 5 minutes to get out of the cupboards/fridge. Lucky I had both red wine vinegar and white wine vinegar in stock, but I did draw the line at using olive oil for parts of the recipe and extra virgin olive oil for other parts. Come on Jamie! We know you love olive oil.... in fact that remind me about how Tom and I always joke that every recipe has lashings of olive oil and chilli, but this must be the ONLY one that doesn't use any chilli at all!


First up, season the lamb and get it in the pan. (ooh that rhymes, shall we turn this into a rap? No? Ok). Next, chop lots of herbs and smush them around with a pestle and mortar. Oh dear, I had not factored equipment finding time into my 30 minutes, so I think I lost crucial seconds searching in the back of the cupboard for this!

Next, chop veg and potatoes and throw them into another pan with mint stalks. Turn the lamb. I'm making great time at this point. Maybe time to pour myself a glass of wine?

Then, seal the ends of the lamb, pop them in a pan with cherry tomatoes and the smush from the pestle and mortar. 11 minutes have elapsed already!

Mint sauce comes next. Yes, REAL mint sauce. Tom was surprised!

Here comes the gravy. Chop bacon, add rosemary into the lamb pan. Stir. Then add wine and some veg water. Then add flour and watch the lumps form and ruin your hard work. Sieve. (I had to add that part, another few crucial seconds lost.)

The kitchen looks like carnage now, but it's time to take the lamb out and drain the vegetables.

STOP THE CLOCK! I'm fully plated up at... 39 minutes 21 seconds.

So what is the verdict? Well it tasted delicious, Tom was a very happy camper and despite leaving out the pud, I was pretty pleased with my score of 39 minutes. That time would be worth a bronze medal at least, plus I took extra tine to photograph the whole thing.

I'll leave you with an inspirational (?!) shot of the mess I left behind in the kitchen, and if you have had any great success stories from this recipe book, please let me know!

Saturday, 18 August 2012

365: Sunday 5th August 2012

Sunday roast.

365: Wednesday 8th August 2012

30th birthday!

365: Thursday 9th August 2012

Sliding at SEEK

365: Friday 10th August 2012

Birthday flowers from the uni girls!

365: Saturday 11th August 2012

Shopping in Fitzroy

365: Tuesday 14th August 2012

Pressies from home!

365: Saturday 18th August 2012

Lunch on Chapel St

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

365: Tuesday 14th August 2012

Soap and Glory birthday haul - thank you Lucy and Dora! X

Saturday, 11 August 2012

30th Birthday

I thought I'd write a blog about my 30th birthday. I'm writing this less for you, my reader, and more for me really, but please read on if you chose to. This blog has become a wonderful personal record of good memories and life events. I have on more than one occasion read through old stories and click through old images, only to find myself transported back to the fun times themselves. Given that my 30th birthday is only going to happen once, I thought it was worth documenting in the same way.

Before I get into the details, it's worth setting the scene for this birthday. There is no doubt that 30 is a big milestone. My biggest birthday milestone since 18, and the last one worth marking until the big 4-0 (scary thought, will leave that there). It has fallen however less than 12 months after our totally unforgettable wedding, and right bang slap in the middle of the London 2012 Olympics. Plus, it's busy season. The potential for this birthday being overshadowed is huge. Everyone else's mind is elsewhere, and my focus is on anything but party planning.

So I was all set for a low-key birthday and very happy with that plan. What emerged from nothing however was a wonderful day of surprises, good wishes, cake and happiness! I will always remember my 30th for the love and attention I received from those around me. I just goes to show you don't need a big party to have a great time...

It all started at 8am when I rocked up to the office for an early conference call. One of my colleagues presented me with a shocking pink 'birthday girl' badge, before I proceeded to receive my first 'happy birthday' of the day in full song from 15 or so accountants via conference call!

Next up was a visit to my first client of the day. Receiving chocolates from the receptionist was somewhat of a surprise for me (how did she know?!), but all became clear when an hour later a dozen roses were delivered to me there, from Tom! It turned out he had called the previous day to arrange the delivery, had a long chat with the receptionist and she had decided to get in on the gift giving!

After lunch I heard much whispering and shuffling outside my little cubical.. I knew something was up. Then around the corner appeared my audit team and client finance team with cake and candles and another verse of 'Happy Birthday'!

Freshly stuffed with chocolate cake, off I went to client number two, roses in tow. Here came more cakes, a card, and some of the funniest office banter I've had for a long time!

I left on time, my birthday treat being a night off work. Waiting on my car was a lovely present from Port Philip City Council.. a parking ticket!

Arriving home I knocked on the apartment door. Tom's head popped around as he opened the door only a few inches. I knew something was up! Inside he had set the dining table full of gifts, wine, candles, streamers and my favourite foods. He had made a lasagne, mozzarella and tomato salad, margarita pizza.. basically it was cheese and tomato in a million different formats!!! I was in heaven. Of course there was rice krispie cake too!

We ate, drank and opened gifts. Then the messages started flooding in as the UK woke up. Flowers arrived from my uni girls back home, I skyped with my parents and three year old Dora sang me the final and most heartwarming 'Happy Birthday' of the day via Skype :-)

Thank you to everyone who shared good wishes with me, on what was a very happy and memorable day. Here's to the next decade...

Christmas in July - 2012

Now a recurring theme on this blog, we celebrated Christmas in July for the third consecutive year down under. This year involved a weekend away to Mount Martha, about 90 minutes south-east along the Mornington Peninsula.

Thirteen adults and four under-fours spent a very relaxing 48 hours recreating the festivities of Christmas, with wintery weather included.

Memorable highlights...
- Tom and I waking up at 5.30am on the first morning to watch the Olympics opening ceremony live from London!
- Sam realising that as Tom and I were awake to watch the Olympics we might as well look after little ones Ben and Anna and let him sleep in to a more sociable hour!
- Gorgeous breakfasts cooked by Maggie, visiting US friend of Kevin and Jordan. - Hours spent in the kitchen, cooking and then washing up, to make Christmas dinner for 13.
- Forgetting the red cabbage until everyone had finished their meal. It wouldn't be Christmas without forgetting either part of the meal or a present!
- Having the guts to 'steal' a Secret Santa gift (after having my gift stolen last year).. only then to have it stolen from me at a later point in the game!
- The girls team winning 'minute to win it', proving that flexibility, strategy and teamwork can beat the speed, enthusiasm and strength of the men's team.
- The beautiful children (great photography subjects!) - Ben, Anna, Bonn and Isla.

Here's a few photos:

 Minute to Win It:

 Bonn and Anna - best friends!