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Archive for August, 2008

It is probably no surprise that I don’t love winter, given that  I grew up in a place famous for its sunsets and beaches.  Frankly, I am too lazy to dress for winter, prefering summer dresses and sandals to boots and sweaters.  I also love summer stone fruits (peaches, apricots, nectarines) and berries, and can’t eat enough of them when they’re in season.  The gloomy days and cold nights make me a bit lethargic and achy but the one thing that I DO love about winter is the amazing array of citrus that is ripe and on offer.  I honestly think that citrus fruits, packed with Vitamin C, are nature’s way of providing foods that will protect us from colds during the wet and nasty flu season.

In my kitchen right now are no less than seven types of citrus fruits and because I thought they were so beautiful, I had to take a photo of them together!

Huge home-grown lemons, Huge home-grown oranges, Tangerines, Navel Oranges, Ruby Pink grapefruit, White grapefruit, Seville Oranges

From L to R Clockwise: Huge home-grown lemons, Huge home-grown oranges, Tangerines, Navel Oranges, Ruby Pink grapefruit, White grapefruit, Seville Oranges

My good friends gave me huge bags of home-grown oranges and lemons. I LOVE Meyer lemons – so sweet you can almost eat them like an orange. These are so huge that they look like they’re on steroids, and will make a beautiful lemon curd (when I get around to it).  The Seville oranges in the middle foreground were purchased at my local Adelaide Showground Farmer’s Market.  Seville oranges are not as common in the markets here as they are in Europe but many marmalade enthusiasts only use Seville oranges to get that traditional bitter marmalade flavour.  My husband likes bitter marmalade and I prefer it less bitter so we decided on a happy medium – use Seville oranges but remove excess white pith to prevent it from being extra bitter.

Winter is a great time for making jam because a) it’s miserable and wet outside, b) cooking heats up the house.  We spent last Sunday peeling, slicing and simmering marmalade all day.  2 kilos of fruit didn’t look like much, but it made a lot more jars of jam than we realised and as usual, I started giving them away to friends.  Among my neighbours, we all make jams and preserves so my pantry is filled with homemade jars of goodies.

There are literally hundreds of recipes for making citrus marmalade (lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit, pomelo) and everyone will make it a different way which is why I will not post a recipe here, but this link is a good standard recipe.  My husband remembers his mother cooking the oranges whole before slicing them when making marmalade, while I like peeling and slicing the peel separately from the fruit. Instead of juicing the oranges, I like chopping the pulp up and cooking it down.  I don’t think any one way is the best way – as long as it turns out well in the end.  Do remember to keep the seeds (pips) and place them in a muslin (cheesecloth) bag and boil it together with the rest of the mixture to add pectin to help the jam set.

I do have something I’d like to share though – a knife designed for citrus that I bought it over a decade ago at Lakeland in the UK but I don’t see it in their catalog anymore.  What’s great is that the blade is both smooth and serrated and the other side can be used to score the skin to make it easier to peel.  I know that there are all kinds of gadgets that also score citrus fruit for ease of peeling but I still love this knife:

Love this knife!

Scoring the Orange

Scoring the Orange Peel

Removing a little of the bitterness

Removing excess pith to lessen the bitterness

Prepping the Oranges

Skimming the Scum Off

Skimming the Scum Off

The Marmalade is Almost Done

Just Before the Sugar was Added

The Finished Product in Various Jars

The Finished Product in Various Jars

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So in my first post on weird ads for hospitality jobs, I mentioned both a position catching chickens and being a “glassy” here.  What I found hilarious about the “glassy” job was that it required a resume and preferably previous “experience”.  I am not mocking the job at all as it is an integral part of running a bar smoothly but come on, it’s not exactly really hard nor technical.  The Aussie slang for a glass collector is what makes me laugh and requiring a resume blows my mind…really, who cares what schools you went to when all you do is collect empty glasses and clean them in a bar?

Anyway, I found yet another add for “glassies” but thank goodness this bar has simpler expectations – they just want applicants to ring the bar and better yet, no experience is necessary.  Maybe I should apply for this job just to see what a real “glassy” does.

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Last week, my acupuncturist Dina put me on a low-carb (NOT NO-carb) diet for two weeks and also told me to keep a food diary and write how I feel each day.  As soon I heard low-carb, I dreaded it partly due to my experience years ago with trying to do the Atkins diet which I failed miserably at.  I fantasized about pasta constantly and I felt like I was going crazy. 😦  After four or five days, it was over – I quit!!  BUT, although it hasn’t been the easiest thing to do this week (especially for a food lover) to cut down my carbs, I have done pretty well – with only one day that that I cheated a teeny bit (when I made homemade noodles to go with my Osso Bucco over the weekend).  This low-carb diet (no more than two pieces of fruit a day) is probably why I’m not banging out a post every couple of days – I don’t want to think too much about food at the moment.

Doing the grocery shopping tonight was a nightmare with all the tempting foods just screaming at me (like pretty cupcakes).  But really, it’s noodles that I crave and think about all the time.  I nearly had soba today but I stopped myself and returned it to the pantry with merely a sniff.

Do I feel better?  I am not sure yet but I think so, the aches and pains in my back are better and feel less inflamed.  Quinoa has been my best friend this week (it is a good substitute to brown rice) and so has cabbage, cauliflower and cucumber (to fill me up).

So, tell me what restrictive diets have you been on and what you craved the most?

Here is a photo of my first dinner on the low-carb diet – it was weird but tasted good:

Tofu (lots of it) with minced pork and lamb on top and a huge side of shredded raw cabbage

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Starbucks Rundle Mall

Starbucks Rundle Mall

I decided to have a cup of their signature hot chocolate...

I decided to have a cup of their signature hot chocolate...

The Adelaide metropolitan area only opened three Starbucks stores, with its first one opening in March 2006 and there was very little hype when they came to town, except made by the ex-pats.  In fact, I had been in there only once before yesterday, its closing day, because we have better local coffee chains such as CIBO, Bean Bar and the Italian Illy cafés.  Although being on the major shopping street in the city, it failed to do very well here.  Their prices are really overpriced for coffee that isn’t that great.  But me and my friend Jen both wanted an Adelaide mug (just because) but it was too late, the store was wiped clean.

In the mid-1990s, I worked at a café that was affiliated with Starbucks in San Francisco.  Back then, there were official Starbucks barista trainers that used to fly in from Seattle to train every barista how to make coffee drinks Starbucks style – complete with illustrations of the drinks.  I was in awe of Starbucks back then and thought that they were so cool.  Starbucks was even known as a great company to work for, treating their employees well and offering great benefits for even their part-time employees.  I knew that Starbucks were expanding too quickly when I went to Vancouver and saw a Starbucks on just about every corner!  After years of studying Chaucer’s works, the pièce de résistance was when I finally made it to Canterbury cathedral in England and was shocked when I saw a Starbucks at the entrance to the beautiful and historical cathedral!  It really ruined the facade to the entrance of the cathedral!  What ruined my experience even more was that there were a few Starbucks employees handing out samples of muffins and cakes – it just seemed wrong.  See pictures below:

Canterbury Cathedral Gate

Canterbury Cathedral Gate

See the Starbucks?

Fast forward to 2005 when I moved to Adelaide and was surprised that there was no Starbucks in sight.  I thought, “wow, a city that Starbucks still hadn’t penetrated.”  I got used to the coffee terms and culture here very quickly.  People in Australia take their coffee very seriously and there are plenty of places that will teach you to be a bona fide barista.  The one thing that I love about a proper coffee made in Australia is that really good baristas can foam the milk so finely that it has the texture of marshmallows floating on top of the espresso.  That type of finely made espresso drink is hard to find in the states – perhaps it’s because America is much more of a drip-coffee country.  Order a drip coffee in Australia and you will be met with a lot of confusion…don’t even ask for “cream” with your coffee, you’ll be met with even more confusion – ask for milk.

I recently went back to the states to a Starbucks and the coffee was, to plainly put it, shit.  I asked for a latte and it tasted burnt and I got barely any foam.  I went back to tell the barista that I would like some foam and he said, “oh, it’s just that a lot people here feel cheated if they get too much foam.”  That’s fine if people don’t want foam but I didn’t ask for no foam.  Sigh…  It’s sad because I used to be such a Starbucks fan but now their quality has gone down and their prices inflated.  Don’t get me wrong, I still like Starbucks as a company.  I do really hope that with all these closings, they will re-train their employees and bring back the quality of their drinks back to what it was before the mega-expansion of over 16,000 worldwide stores.

Here are a few links to news stories on the closure of hundreds of Starbucks:

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,24099400-5013404,00.html

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=92151783

**Coffee language tips for people coming to Australia:

Flat White – espresso shot with hot milk and very little/no foam (like a latte w/less foam)

Short Black – one shot espresso with hot water

Long Black – double-shot espresso with hot water (like an Americano)

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