Wednesday, 19 March 2014

spanish omelette

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Do you have a meal you cook when the cupboard is bare. This Tortilla or Spanish Omelette has been that pantry meal for me for the longest time.

This is also one of the simplest dinner meals on our regular rota and a great vegetarian staple for our meat free week.

My recipe was originally taken from an old Delia Smith book though I've adapted it quite a lot over the years. I love Delia for good basic recipes and I see she now has an online site with lots of how to videos for cooking techniques. Her current Tortilla recipe, slightly different than the one I have, is here.

All you need is an onion, some potatoes and some eggs, salt and pepper and we like to add a bit of sour cream and milk. 

To make a Spanish Omelette I cut up about four large potatoes into small cubes. I'm cooking for five big eaters, but this makes a great cold dish too so its good to make a big one. Its not a strict recipe with exact quantities either as you can just add more eggs to cover the amount of potatoes you have. Once you'd made it a few times you'll get a feel for the right balance.

You want the mixture to fill the pan to an inch or two height so choose a deep pan.

Delia cuts her potatoes in slices but I find these awkward to turn and they always break into mush on the edges for me.

I cut cubes and find they stay together, so they're easier to cook and they look cute in cross section!

Cut an onion up into small pieces.

Pour some olive oil into a heavy based saucepan which can handle going under the grill. Fry onion off till translucent and then add potatoes. Cook slowly till they are soft.

Try to stir the potatoes regularly, especially at first so they don't stick. Keep cooking on low until they are golden on the outside and soft on the inside. I use a lid over the potatoes to keep the moisture in and make them cook through inside.

In a large bowl break 4 or 5 eggs. Add a couple of tablespoons of sour cream and a sploosh of milk (1/3 cup?). Mix together thoroughly. Most people only use eggs and you can do that, but I like to thin the egginess a bit. Salt and pepper to taste.

Take the potato mix and add it to the egg mix. Mix through well. You want the egg mix to cover and coat the potatoes well.

Put another slurp of olive oil in the pan and bring to sizzling. Add the potato/egg mix. Cook on medium heat until the egg is nearly cooked through, you can see the egg solidify and bubbles start to show on the top.

You want to cook the bottom of the omelette through and then finish the top off under the grill.

Turn the grill on high and brown the top. Don't walk away as that way lies burnt tortilla!

I like to serve it with a homemade Aioli - garlic mayonnaise. Its great eaten with a green salad, and the best leftover lunch the next day.

For the Aioli I use this Taste recipe but I substitute vegetable oil for olive (I find the olive too strongly flavoured) and dijon mustard for grain. If you don't have lemons use vinegar. Make a batch and put it in a jar and keep in the fridge. It goes with everything!

p.s. not our usual egg brand but free range at least.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

meat free week

meat freespanish omelette

From the ages of 18 to 36 I didn't eat red meat or chicken.

I found the hardest place to be a vegetarian was in Europe. And the easiest place was Asia!

I not only survived but thrived on my vegetarian diet. I produced three large, healthy babies (including twins) with only minimal iron supplement in my late pregnancies.

After I had children I found it harder to avoid meat. I didn't want to restrict the kids' diets, and their Dad occasionally cooked and ate meat. I started to feel like I was missing out, that I couldn't cook and eat all the wonderful dishes of the world and share them with my family.

I missed ham and mustard, bacon and eggs, beef in black bean and roast chicken. The foodie in me railed against my self imposed restrictions. So I gradually allowed meat back into my diet. I'm still not a meatie eater, but I do love the fact that these days I can go anywhere and eat anything.

These days as a family we are committed to eating well sourced, humanely raised meat in moderation. We only buy free range chicken and eggs and pork and pasture raised beef and lamb. We don't eat veal. Luckily those decisions become easier every day with mainstream suppliers catching up with a groundswell of consumer feeling, but we still have ways to go. It makes my heart ache to think of the conditions some animals endure in the name of food production.

Sometimes the amount of meat we eat creeps up, and so the year before last we had a healthy week and gave up meat to try and reset ourselves. Last year about the same time we tried the 5:2 diet and ate mostly vegetarian low calorie dinners twice a week for six weeks. I do think a mainly vegetable based diet is healthiest.

This year our healthy week coincides with an organised meat free week which starts next Monday.

I think this is such a great idea. Not only does this inclusive movement support eating less meat for health and sustainability reasons, it's about animal welfare. Its about ending factory farming and working towards more ethical food production. Something we can all embrace whatever our personal diet. Read their guide to Ethical Meat choices here. And if you haven't got the sustainable seafood app on your phone its a great help at the supermarket or fish shop.

At our house we are going to cut out meat (and alcohol) and also cut down on sugar and electronics for the week. The website has some great recipes to go with our old favourites.

Funnily enough my kids aren't big meat eaters, and they are always keen for healthy week. We try to make it fun and they particularly love the fruit and nut plate for dessert and the different healthy unprocessed options in their lunchboxes.

And the best thing is the effects roll on to see us eating healthier and eating less meaty for weeks after.

I'm going to post some different recipe ideas starting tomorrow to help inspire anyone who wants to join us on our meat free time. I'm going to post some old and new favourites and I'd love to hear yours!

Thursday, 13 March 2014

learn to sew - draft and sew a tshirt


For a while now I've wanted to have a go at sewing stretchy fabrics. Like many people though I have an illogical fear of them, but I was determined this year I was finally going to have a go. It became one of my resolutions.

Last week by coincidence I was on the CreativeBug website, keen to watch a ceramics video by wonderful claymaker Diana Fayt. Creativebug is a subscription site where you pay for access to creative and making video series on a range of topics.

They have an offer where you can get a month's access free so I signed up straight away to watch my ceramics tutorial and then started looking around for other interesting content. The role call of instructors on this site is fabulous, it includes Anna Maria Horner, Lisa Congdon, Heather Bailey, Molly Hatch and Leisl Gibson.

This isn't a sponsored post at all, but just something I've found that I wanted to share.

While browsing I found two videos by Cal Patch - 'Pattern Drafting a TShirt' and 'Sewing a TShirt'. Here was a chance to play a bit with pattern making and stretch sewing all in one project.

I love Cal's presentation style, so calm and easy to follow. Following her instructions I soon drafted up a pattern last Saturday. The next day I was keen to try it out and found some jersey in my stash. I cut out my pattern and sewed this tshirt.

I wish I could tell you it was trouble free. I wish I could tell you it was a perfect fit. In truth there was a fair bit of unpicking, there might have been some bad language, there was a tiny bit of despair.

But rather than throw it on the bedroom floor and be done with it I have perservered and unpicked and resewn and tried to resolve the things I didn't like. And in the process I have learned to sew stretch and not fear it, hoorah!!

Please accept Mr Flowerpress' photo of me wearing my muslin t shirt as proof. Not the most flattering shot but well, I'm a bit averse to selfies at the best of times!

I talked in my wrap up of last year about learning a bit more about adapting patterns to my shape and I learnt lots of things about pattern making from this very simple pattern that Cal helps you draft. It is a great place to start and the wonderful thing about stretch is how forgiving it is shapewise.

The bad things about sewing stretch are trying to hem the bugger in a straight and unpuckered line. After some googling around the interwebs though I found a hint to solve this, you use your handy walking foot. What a difference.

Where I went wrong.
1. I used the wrong, overstretchy fabric, but I was determined to have a no cost project from materials I already had. In future I will buy a simple cotton jersey.
2. I went for elbow length sleeves and had to take them in a lot at the elbow. I think I should have drafted the pattern for long sleeves and worked back.
3. The major problem which I couldn't resolve - I cut the neckline too deep. While there's no real cure for that I will know next time to alter the pattern. I also took in the sides an inch. This might be because of the extra stretchy fabric, but I think I will adapt the pattern when I make the neckline smaller, and move the shoulder seams in a bit while I"m at it.
4. This fabric is a bit uninspired but sewing a muslin from the stash felt good.

Now I do have an overlocker/serger too, I think that helps a lot. I used it on the shoulder and side seams and then the normal machine for the rest. Cal's videos though use an ordinary machine throughout.

If you have been putting off sewing with stretch this is a great place to start.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014



If you follow me on instagram you will know that last week I accidentally bought a secondhand pottery wheel.

I was browsing on Ebay one day, looking up wheels and how much they cost when I found a Venco wheel like the ones I've been using at my ceramics classes. This one stood out because it was a couple of hundred dollars cheaper than all the others. It got me daydreaming about how nice it would be to have access to a wheel at home to practice on!

I watched that listing for a few days and when the price didn't go up I thought I would try to bid on it. There was a slight problem in that it was in Wollongong, but I thought I'd work that out if and when I bought it!

Well luckily at the last bid I missed out on that Wollongong wheel, it went for $225, still cheap but over my self imposed limit.

Suddenly fate stepped in, as the screen refreshed Ebay suggested another Venco wheel listing for me. This wheel and drying block had only been online for two hours, was in Sydney and had a buy it now price of $117.

So I accidentally bought a wheel.

Ceramics is a hands on skill that builds up from time on the wheel, making simple shapes over and over until your hands learn what to do. I love the idea that I can now work on it whenever I want, that I can practice things at my own pace. And if my love affair with clay dies out I can sell the wheel on to someone else.

A quick trip in the rain to the Pottery Supplies shop (candy store) and I had the basic tools to start. I came home and with my gang standing around asking questions and cheering me on threw some pots. My new wheel, which I found out was born in May 1981, works beautifully.