21 Sept 2014

eating my greens

Reading about healthy eating is one of my favourite things. I’m always lugging home the latest library books on wholefoods, superfoods and supergrains; if a magazine about healthy living lands in the tearoom at work, I quickly snaffle it up.

I was deep in the latest testimonial about the powers of kale when — pow! — it hit me: there’s a real disconnect between what I share with you here and how I actually eat and cook.

Lately all I’ve served you is cake and pudding and boozy brownies. If you only knew me through Dig In, you might deduce that I am a sugar-hazed cake obsessive, buzzing my way from one sweet morsel to the next. But these treats are really only a small portion of what’s happening on my dinner plate and in my lunch box.

Okay, I have cake very day (sometimes twice a day). But I also have endless serves of oats, walnuts and almonds; broccoli, sweet potato and silverbeet; apples, bananas and tangelos; brown rice, quinoa and chickpeas; peas, beans and a whole rainbow of other fresh wholesome things (put like that, it sounds like I’m constantly foraging and must surely be the size of a house. I’m not).

During these cooler months, I’ve been enjoying the vibrant tomato and beetroot sauces I roasted and froze over the summertime. I’ve simmered a fabulous version of my pasta sauce, made winter-hearty with the addition of earthy lentils and deep red wine instead of white. Hmmm, so rich and chunky, so perfect atop a bowl of rigatoni and garlanded with ribbons of dark silverbeet.

My favourite new recipe this season has been Hugh F-W’s north African vegie stew. Over various iterations, it has morphed into a Spanish root vegie version, with chilli and smoked paprika (my favourite savoury spice), capsicum and sweet potato and parsnip — instead of Hugh’s cinnamon and turmeric (ugh, my least favourite), butternut and pasta. But I did keep the chickpeas and red lentils. Many years ago I used to think chickpeas were weird — something eaten joyfully (or maybe not) only by some of the scruffier, sandalwood-scented people of my uni days — but now I love these nutty little balls of goodness, especially in a stew like this.

And of course, super-chunky vegie slices appear regularly in my lunchbox, all year round:

Mmm, that was a good one.

So why am I not writing about all this? If my diet is more brown rice than brownies, why such an unbalanced chronicle?

Well, photo taking is not my greatest skill. It's a bit hit and miss, especially in cold winter light.

Or of pasta sauces, apparently:

So that holds me back from sharing some of those delicious meals with you (they were delicious, believe me, despite looking like prison slop).

Mostly I eat simple, straightforward (but never dull, not to my tastebuds) meals. Cabbage and purple sprouting broccoli are featuring heavily recently; mum and dad have a couple of old PSB plants that are having a revival and going crackers —you can stand there and watch them pop up new florets (that’s them in the first pic). That’s fine by me, especially as my veg garden is minimal right now. I love broccoli for its flavour and its antioxidants, and I love homegrown stuff even more.

But I’m certain no one needs a new stir fry recipe. But maybe — light bulb moment! — I don’t need to give you a recipe. Some of my favourite bloggers’ posts talk about food without a recipe at all (like this recent post by the Food Sage), yet I still feel satisfied by the experience and interaction.

Heck, we have our own piles of recipe books or pages torn from magazines; we don’t need to add another to the list. And I’ve said it before: I don’t necessarily want you to make my lemon delicious pudding, but be inspired to hunt out your grandmother’s favourite that’s been handed down, and make that again.

So please be assured, I do eat my greens — and sometimes it feels like I’m eating everyone else’s as well — even if I don’t tell you about it. Maybe I’ll make a better effort to. Or maybe, just like sharing a good cuppa and a crisp biscuit with a friend, it’s lovelier to tell you about the sweet treats in life.

7 Sept 2014

my pantry

And when she got there, the cupboard was …

Perfectly neat and organised.

What can I say – I’m an editor, you know; I like order and logic in my pantry (and cutlery drawer and linen press) just as I do at work in the structure of an annual report or new website hierarchy.

It’s an affliction that at times (like 9.30 at night when I should be in bed but I’m struck by the urge to sort out the laundry supplies) I know is a bit silly, but mostly it creates calm and control for me. As in: I may not have any say in the cost of petrol or mortgage rates, but I can make sure my tea towels are all folded and facing the same way.

I like to regularly take stock of the pantry (and cutlery drawer and linen press), usually after I’ve done a big grocery shop or purchased something new, and I have to find a space for it. I don’t have a large pantry — beyond what you see here, there’s only a drawer of tinned beans, cooking chocolate, breakfast stuff like oats, and onions and potatoes (in my next life, I am having one of those separate pantry rooms. My goodness – imagine the scope for organising a whole pantry room!). So it makes sense to only keep what I’m currently into right in front of me, and banish anything else to the upper cupboards that I need a step ladder to reach.

For example, you’ll see a lone vase of spaghetti on the carbs shelf (yes, that’s called the carb shelf). Right now, I’m only having pasta once a week, so I don’t need multiple containers of rigatoni and orecchiette and caserecce and risoni taking up valuable real estate. If I want them, I know where they are.

Instead, there is wholemeal couscous, quinoa, brown rice and what prompted the latest deck-chair re-shuffle, packets of brown rice ready-combined with quinoa or lentils (an aside: I am fully aware I could combine the brown rice, quinoa and lentil I already have in my pantry instead of shelling out four times the price for the convenience, but … it was a moment of supermarket weakness. I’ll do it myself next time, mum).

I serve brown rice with everything lately – I’m borderline-obsessed with its nutty, chewy healthiness - and am also keen to expand my repertoire of grains and legumes (all that superfoody goodness). So what you don’t see here are the bags of adzuki beans and black eyed beans I bought recently (and for the first time) from the local health food shop. As pretty as they are, I handed them straight to mum for her to cook in her pressure-cooker and divvy them up into 1-cup portions for me. Thanks mum! They’ll go into the freezer, the organisation of which is a complete other post.

Notice all the matching spice jars? I am also a marketer’s dream, buying those neat glass jars for the serenity their uniformity promised. I’ve been decanting the loose-bagged stuff into them ever since.

And finally, take a look at the baking shelf. No expensive brand names for me, dear reader — I store my flours, sugars and other dry goods in recycled coffee jars from mum, and tall oats containers from a neighbour of hers.

Really, I need a couple of baking shelves (don’t we all?), but what I’ve done is put everything onto baking sheets, so I can slide them in and out to reach the less-used ingredients (cornflour, custard powder) jammed darkly at the back. But even though they are out of sight, they are still uniformly contained like the front-of-house stuff. Just because.

Recently I did an early spring-clean through my kitchen, seriously assessing how often I used certain gadgets and containers and cookware and bowls. I didn’t toss anything out – I gave it back to mum, who had given the lion’s share of it to me in the first place (does anyone else pass stuff back and forth between their mother?). It’s a bit of a safe ‘out’, doing that: I can’t stand chucking anything good and useful – even if I’m not actually using it – so I pass that burden onto someone else. Which is probably how and why mum gave it to me in the first place.

And since then, I feel a lot calmer and lighter when I’m in the kitchen. I only need one set of tongs, not three; I don’t need cheap plastic containers (usually missing a lid) falling on my head whenever I open the upper cupboards; I want to get to the couscous without having to scrabble past the basmati. As much as I am driven by consumerist desires as the next woman (see spice jars, ready-combined brown rice and quinoa), I also find it peaceful to have Just What I Need.

So next time a bag of sugar falls on you as you open your pantry doors, think of me. Better still, call me up and invite me over! What fun I’d have sorting it out. I’m an editor, you know. It’s not just a job; it’s a way of life.