About Me
I'm a Melbourne boy, hailing from St Kilda with one ex, one current wife and four kids. Love the outdoors and making new discoveries. I cook a lot at home (cheers from wife) and do some preserving, mostly jams, pickles and fruit liqueurs. This is the diary of a cooking journey.

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Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Help Wanted
My daughter P. called the other week to tell me that she wanted to do a party for her mum's birthday.

"Hi Dad, guess what? I'm going to do a party for mum."

"That's great, what are you going to cook?"

"Dunno yet, I've got a couple of recipies."

"How many are coming?"

"About twenty."

P. has never cooked for more than her family before. After a flurry of telephone calls and emails to me about the catering, I'm starting to get a feeling that my daughter is secretly asking for my help on the day, so I talk to my wife to ask if it's okay with her, which it is. Rang P. and offered my services, which were accepted faster than the speed of light.

We all hear the horror stories of friends and relations and their ex's. If it was late at night and after a few bottles of wine, I might tell you mine, but mostly I'm on John Lennon's side ~ Give Peace A Chance. When you have kids, it's crucial to decide what's more important: the reasons you broke up, or the kids. I know what's more important and have the scars on my tongue to prove it. What I've earned over the years is friendly relations with my ex. and well adjusted kids.

So down to business. Talk to P. about the number of guests, menu planning and budget. P. tells me she has budgeted $100 for twenty guests, to include snack food, lunch, birthday cake and desserts. As gently as I can, suggest it may not be enough. Between the two of us, we work out the details; all the ideas are P's. with some guidance from me.

Come the morning of the party, I turn up at 10.30; the guests arrive at 2.00pm, so I figure two hours should knock it over. How wrong I was, P. waited for me before starting anything ~ 3 1/2 hours to do the lot. We better work fast. Son N. had elected for barbecue duties, so wasn't up yet, son A. was given tabouli duties. First, sharpen all the knives on my nifty little machine, then we all get stuck in.

Peeling, dicing, chopping and cooking, we really moved. Their mum chimed in with a couple of dips of her own, hoummus and baba ganoush, which she gave me a taste of ~ the baba ganoush was seriously eggplanty.

"Did you put in the tahini?"

"No" she laughed, "and I just bought some this morning too."

Just as the doorbell rang, signalling the arrival of the first guests, just as we had pretty much finished the menu, P. brought out of the fridge some large mushroom caps.

"Dad, can we stuff these?"

Looked around and saw some black and green olives - some were stuffed with capsicum - and some fetta cheese. Crumbled the cheese, sliced the olives and mixed together. Filled the caps with this mixture, sprinkled with breadcrumbs and a lick of olive oil. If there were pine nuts and fresh rosemary to hand, they would have gone in, along with some crushed garlic. Baked in the oven at 200c (400f) for twenty minutes.

My job was done.
  posted at 10:16 am

At 1:30 pm, Blogger Carol said...

Sounds like it was fun, and delicious. Thanks for the column title ideas, I'll throw them in the melting pot that is my mind and see what I come up with. BTW, is there a recipe out there for jam without sugar? Is that even possible? I'm trying to cut out white sugar from our diets but love a bit of jam on my toast.

At 6:28 am, Blogger Angela said...

How sweet of P. to want cook for her mother's birthday....and how very sweet of you to help! You have pleased the gods of well adjusted children......just by being civil with your ex, you have given your children a true testament of your love for them. Oh, how they will appreciate you.....if they don't already. The mushrooms sound delicious... I will have to try that out!

At 7:18 pm, Blogger neil said...

Hi Carol,

As far as I know you can't make jam without sugar. It's the reaction between the sugar, pectin and fruit acid that causes the jam to gel. The sugar, because it is in a high concentration, also acts as a preservative. There are jams on the market that claim to be low in sugar, but when you check the label, you often find fruit juice concentrate listed ~ which is just another form of sugar. Maybe you could make fruit pastes, they would be less in sugar, but because they are cooked longer, they lose fruit freshness. If you make your own jams, you can certainly use less sugar than recommended, just remember that mould will grow on it more easily, store opened jars in the fridge and when you are bottling, be scrupulous about cleanliness.
Of course, a little bought jam now and again, is no bad thing,

Hi Angela,

It's secret appreciation society, haha, just kidding. I'll have to try the mushrooms too, didn't stick around to try them, but my daughter tells me only two were left over, always a good sign.


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