Archive | March, 2011

Nix’s Pear & Raspberry Bread…

30 Mar

 

I love cooking. I love the transformation of separate ingredients into a finished whole. More than that, I love eating good food. So cooking to me is a win, win situation. A creative outlet that only delivers (fingers crossed) something tasty! Many believe its science. I believe cooking is an art that rests on an element of creative magic.

I cook like an Asian. I can’t follow a recipe to save my life. I literally cook, by taste and gut feeling. I use my vibe to decide what/how much of everything I put in…it doesn’t always work….but when it does, the satisfaction I feel, cant be described in words!

A few days ago, I rescued some sad looking pears in our fruit bowl and transformed them into an amazing (in my opinion) pear and raspberry bread…

Here is an ESTIMATED recipe…I take no responsibility for any disasters. I meant it when I say I don’t follow recipes. It’s a serious flaw. It probably links back to my general inability to follow instructions. Intuition. It works every time.

 

Nix’s Pear and Raspberry Bread

125g butter

1 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

2 eggs

1 cup self-raising flour

½ cup plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon maple syrup

½ cup unprocessed bran

2 pears, cored, peeled and chopped

1 cup frozen raspberries

Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and line a loaf tin with baking paper. Cream the butter, brown sugar and vanilla until mixture lightens in colour. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Sift flours, baking powder and cinnamon and add to mixture with bran. Fold in gently until combined.

Add chopped pears, folding through followed by raspberries – make sure to fold gently to try and keep raspberries intact. Spoon into prepared loaf tin and cook in preheated oven for 1 hour or until browned and cook through. Leave in tin for 10 minutes, remove and cool, then slice thickly.

Serve toasted with a smidge of butter.  TRY IT!!! DELISH!

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Roar n Snore

24 Mar

 

 

Lions. Tigers and Bears. Oh My.

I love animals …but I don’t think I am an ‘animal person’.

Don’t get me wrong, I adore my doggies (but not anyone else’s) and think elephants are very cute.

Last night I spent the night at Taronga Zoo, participating in their ‘Roar n Snore’ program. No…..get your mind out of the gutter.  It was a magical night. It was the animals that roared.  Yes, Jai may have snored. The experience involved drinking wine, a lovely meal, a night tour of the zoo followed by an early 6am morning ‘behind-the scenes’ tour.

Our tour guide Leon Burchill, lived up to our expectations. He was a part time zoo keeper, part time botanical garden guide….. but his main endeavour was his acting career. You may have seen him in Australian film’s such as ‘Samson & Delila, Stone Brothers or My Place’  ads such as ‘Bundaberg Rum” or many outback documentaries (see pic above).  He was very, very friendly but I just couldn’t help laughing (admittedly, at one stage out loud) at how he epitomised all respective stereotypes. Some key quotes “I just love flora and fauna- its my life”, “I miss the Giraffes & I know when I’m gone they miss me too” (ummm….Sorry Leon, harsh reality, but I don’t think they do), “The giraffe is so gentle, I can even stick my tongue in its mouth” (He didn’t…luckily)!

I couldn’t stop thinking about how much our Roar N Snore guides just absolutely love animals.  They literally lived and breathed ‘animals’.  They mimicked animal ‘chuffing noises’ and fed them dead mice foetuses. They spoke about them with such passion and referred to the animals with such affection  – even when they were fugly.  A great example of this was the Pygamy Hippo called Henni – it was this slimy, oily, massive hippo that sprayed faeces and urine over the walls to mark its territory each day. Kaz the Zoo keeper said “Yes, cleaning faeces off the wall (and my self) is a little dirty, but at the end of the day she is beautiful & I love her” . What the hell?!  These people were just ‘animal people’

I did a subject in university called Animals & Culture. For 13 weeks we explored the ways in which humans and animals interact.

Walking through the zoo, things I had learnt began to suface….

–       As humans, we visit the zoo to watch the animals, but are they too also watching us.
– We ‘wait’ at their exhibits to ‘do’ something. We want them to perform for us. If they don’t we get bored and walk away.

–       We judge them. Normally in one word. Chimp = clever, Fennick Fox = shift, Giraffe = tall.

–       The guides kept referring to behavioural enrichment (ie. Placing ‘bloodsicles’  (blood iceblocks ) on a high ledge, so the Lion would spend all day trying to reach it…only after 12 hrs would they lower it). To me this just reeked of human interference & reinforcement of human superiority.

–       Animals are smart. Just because they don’t have the gift of human language doesn’t mean they don’t ‘talk’. They communicate in their own ways. We sometimes forget that.

 

I’m by no means an animal activist or am I anti-zoo’s. I believe they do great work in animal conservation & research. Above all they are passionate animal people. I rare and unique breed in our society….but one that is very much needed.

All in all it was an amazing experience and I recommend it to anyone. It really opened up my eyes and made me appreciate the ‘flora and fauna’ around me.

Now please excuse me, I must go practice my Kookburra noises.

 

A colourful mother

21 Mar

Are you going to follow your mother’s footsteps? Do you like to ‘create ‘ ? Do you have the artistic gene? Clearly these people did not know that I had to repeat Year 1 due to my inability to paint inside the lines – to this day, I argue that I was attempting ‘abstract art’ – only, I know the truth.

Growing up with a mother who is an abstract artist was …… interesting

Whilst other mothers baked cookies and booked hair appointments, my mum would be running around with a paint stuck to her fringe and sneaking into building sites to obtain pieces of corrugated iron or wood planks….

I believe the moment I realised that my mum was a little ‘different’ was on a family holiday to the USA in 1996. Every tourist, pointed their camera at the grand canyon… but not my mum. She was lying on her stomach, in the dirt, pointing the camera at a rock; “Girls, look at the way the light is falling on this rock”.  I was mortified.

Other key points on growing up with a mother who is an artist;

1. My mother has never followed a recipe. She cooks with colour. Statements such as “This pizza, needs a shade of dark green” or “ This curry needs to look more like the colour of the Sahara desert ” are commonly heard.

2. We could never have a black or grey car. We need to be ‘colourful’. Currently, we drive around a canary (I repeat it is not Mustard) yellow Honda Jazz (I have become immune to bystanders playing ‘spotto’ when seeing my car)

3. Things have a magical way of becoming ‘multi-coloured’ in our house’ . The countless times, I have brushed up against a ‘wet painting’ and gone out with a ‘colourful’ butt or picked up the cordless phone and got paint over my face is innumerable.  Even my dogs get caught in the crossfire – yellow noses, hot pink ‘Mohawks’, purple paws –  not a rarity.

4. Kitchen appliances often go missing. Only to be found in her art shed. (Yes, mum we know that the wok didn’t ‘break’ but you are using it to heat hot wax to pour on your canvases)

Yes, we can laugh at her idiosyncratic artistic tendencies, but growing up with an ‘artist mum’ was fun – drawing on the walls was actively encouraged & spilling food on the table was seen as channelling Pro Hart.

More than that,  I  am constantly inspired by the way my mum lives & breathes her passion…she may be a little ‘different’ but I can honestly say she is damn good at what she does!

Watch out Jaws…I’m coming in.

9 Mar

Last weekend I faced one of my top 5 fears.  (Other fears include; indefinite solitary isolation & being trapped in a room full of pigeons – unlikely I’ll come face those fears in the near future)

Spending a night cruising on the backwaters in Kerala = fine. Watching the waves crash onto the shore whilst eating fish and chips = fine. Being submerged in the ocean amongst 320 other people = not fine.

I love the ocean. The vast, endless and seamlessly  facade it presents. Actually, let me be more specific…I love the ocean, depending on where I am in relation to it. On top of it, Looking at it, a casual dip in it…all good. Swimming…not so good.

I am an Indian. Excuse the massive generalisation, but we are not built for swimming. Cricket, yes. Weight-lifting (Light weight category), maybe. Swimming, no. We lack buoyancy. Our chicken legs, twiggy arms, excessive hair and odd shaped noses do not help us. When submerged in water we literally live out a ‘butter chicken’ dish; we look like chicken pieces bobbing up and down in a thick curry….straggling for the top, but ultimately submerged by the buttery goodness.

Swimming for me, is irrevocably tied to unpleasant memories; accidently doing breastroke in the freestyle race at my school carnival (I thought the cheers were because I was coming first…nup – it was the crowds screaming “Nikita…freestyle, freestyle”) and forgetting my undies in Yr 3 after a morning swim session – No, it was not my intepretation of going ‘commando’!

Back to the story –  last weekend, I participated in the 20/20 challenge. I was given 1 week’s notice. I awoke at 5:30am and squeezed into my sexy one-piece. Upon reaching the beach, I was blinded by the sight of big shoulders, a flurry of warm up ‘windmill arms’ & size 11 feet. Without intending to be racist, I looked a flimsy licorice stick amongst rows of strong milky bars.

I was scared the race administrators would mistake me for a refugee swimming to shore. I kept thinking; if the Titanic sunk….what chance did a lanky Indian girl have?.

The race gun went off, I ran towards the water. That’s when the waves anxiety engulfed me. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. Arms and legs whipped me in the face. At one stage, I think I grabbed onto a man’s speedo’s. No, it was not an underwater-seductive pass, I honestly thought I was going to die. It was not long until the 310 swimmers swam past me. It was just me vs the ocean. That is when I realised… it was all in my head. I did a small prayer and started some positive self-talk. I also may have started humming Destiny’s Child ‘Survivor’ in my head. I could do this. Slowly began to get into a rhythm. After x2 500m laps around the buoys, I had made it. I had done 1km.

There was a lot of fist pumping and self high-fiving. It felt good.

Then came the sea lice bites, ear-ache and the cut foot from the coral…but that’s another story.

Rebirth of a Photo.

2 Mar

 

 

 

 

I viewed the Annie Leibovitz exhibition today.  Three words to sum up my experience of her work; intimate, perceptive and involved.

Upon exiting the exhibition, one of Leibotvitz’s statements continued to resonate within my mind. Leibovitz  commented on the way photos take on a new meaning, once a person within it passes away.

I don’t know why, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the truth that was embedded within this statement.

Photos do take on a new meaning in the face of death. Photos are essentially the physical manifestation of the immaterial love, laughter and memories. Once the subject is no longer physically present. We are left with photos.

Once a loved one passes away, a photo that could have been tucked in a dusty album unseen for years, suddenly transforms into a precious object.  However, once the subject is no longer physically present, photos become invaluable.

Transformation. Transcendence.

Within days of my grandmother passing away, I found myself rummaging through my box of photos. My eyes hungrily scanning my photos – all in search of her face.

As I grieved, I spent days de-constructing and re-constructing photos of her. Playing out scenes in my head. Her wrinkles, her smile, her expression. I searched for hours.  Only problem was, I didn’t know what I was searching for.

Only moments before, these photos were a part of a forgotten-bundle in my bottom draw, now they were precious. Irreplaceable. I placed some of them in frames. I placed some of them in an ugly wooden box she had given me for my 12th birthday (no all of a sudden the box was not ugly, but interesting!)

The photo’s above are of both my Nani (my maternal grandmother) and my Aaji (my paternal grandmother). I do not love the photo. It is ultimately a material object; a scene captured & printed on paper.

Instead, I love the genuine emotion of love, which they have captured.