How to read a recipe.

Read it through from start to finish.

Read it though from start to finish …no, that’s not a typo, I can always remember at college being given a test of some sort that said: Please read through the entire assignment before starting. Only to find that if you didn’t, you would have missed the bit that said, answer only questions 1 and 2, of a 12 question assignment.

Remember, a sharp knife makes preparation a great deal easier.

Ingredients – have you got all of them? make sure you locate each ingredient in your kitchen pantry and ensure that the cardamon is just that and not ground chilli. Is that spring form cake tin 8 inches or 12 inches?

Are there sub recipes where things are expected to be already made…as in the case of rubs for meat/chicken and or sauces such as bechamel and or tomato for pasta dishes like Mousaka and lasagna.

Common cooking terms – brush up on your knowledge. Saute, fold, cream, beat etc. They all have a very distinct purpose and will ultimately affect the outcome of the product you are cooking. So make sure you know what each means and how it is done. Cut, slice, dice, chop and some of the culinary terms too like Mirepoix for example or Boquet Garni which will open up a whole new world of cooking for you.

It is so important to read the recipe thoroughly, I cannot emphasise this enough and it’s also important to have the ‘tools of trade ‘ at hand. Measuring cups or spoons, a small set of scales and large mixing bowls. Measuring jugs, juicers, cake tins, muffin pans, the list can be as long or as short as you like. I made do with old wine bottles as a rolling pin for many years. Over the years you add to the utensils and gadgets to make cooking easier. Always have on hand, baking paper, bakers powder, herbs and spices … which means storage containers.

Never underestimate the value of completely reading and understanding a recipe. It’s imperative you understand what’s being asked of you to be successful in the kitchen. Much like a good shopping list it is your “plan” for your intention. The old rule of NEVER shop without a list and never shop whilst you are hungry. Yes …don’t do that.

Watercress and lemongrass soup with poached egg requires mise en place.

Chicken Thighs and Kitchen Knives – organising your kitchen pantry

My pandemic chores being ticked off the list.

When you want to eat and prepare healthy and nutritionally balanced foods you have to be set up to do it. Much like if you want to build a boat in your shed or a go-kart you need the right equipment to do the job. You need a plan and I am here to help you devise your plan.

The title for this blog came from a hilarious conversation I was having with my mum, and I have dragged this title around with me knowing it would find its home eventually.

Like any workspace it needs to be neat and tidy with your tools of trade placed in an easy to access location. When you are cooking you need to be organised. Even before mis en place your knives on a magnetic strip (I dislike knife blocks because they tend to take up valuable bench space) but most importantly, and the reason for this blog is your pantry. You need to have food basics labelled, in airtight and in some case lightproof containers. Items you use a lot up front and other items at the rear of the cupboard. I own a two door kitchen wardrobe and I am very handy with finding space for all sorts of food items. The same principles apply if you are lucky enough to have a butler or walk in pantry. Things you use daily need to be within reach and in a logical place grouped with other like minded items. See Michael McIntyres’ My Name is Five Spice! as a treat after you have finished the pantry, especially if you actually own Five Spice!

A super organised pantry is the Holy Grail of successful cooking.

Step 1 Take everything out of your pantry or if you are blessed to have a walk in pantry do it in sections. We need to categorise food sections within the pantry.

Step 2 Throw out any thing past its used by date – seems obvious but I have found Keens Mustard going back to the mid 1990’s and it does lose its taste after a while. So throw it out. Get a big garbage bag and throw everything in that is past its useable date, also with this are any biscuits (sweet) and chocolate and sugary drinks (Yes that includes Milo) and soft drink, cordials, cakes and cake mixes.

Step 3 Once you have done all the throwing out, donate it to a charity or empty the contents and recycle. Whatever you do, you don’t eat that stuff anymore so get it out of your kitchen.

Step 4 Wipe all the surfaces down in your pantry with bicarb-soda and vinegar and then sort through everything you have left. Here is where you will need some (preferably glass) containers with air tight lids. I like to use consistent storage containers particularly if you have a small pantry it helps with space and creates a tidy view of your food products. I tend to use glass containers they don’t hold smell and are easy to clean.

Step 5 You can purchase containers, labels some very useful blackboard stickers and chalk to write on your labels. I suggest you purchase these things before you start. If you have a lot of herbs and spices put them in containers that are airtight. I personally love the tins below which have a magnetic bottom to attach straight on to the fridge. Great for smaller units and apartments with limited pantry storage.

Great storage ideas and the stainless steel magnetic herb containers tick every box...
These herb and spice containers are great – I attach mine to the side of my fridge near my stove for easy access when cooking.

I always start with large oil cans at the bottom of the pantry, I buy the 4 litre tins of olive oil and fill a smaller glass bottle for use every day. The oils, cat/dog biscuits (also in big plastic tubs for easy handling and to keep mice out) I purchase in bulk where I can if its a good brand. Larger purchased items take up the floor or lower shelves of the pantry.

Next level is the flours, beans, nuts, pasta and every day items I use.

Dry Goods stay together including rice ( I have a variety including brown, long grain and aborio) Although I tend to eat brown rice more than the others. Next level up is tea, coffee herbs & spices stored in airtight tins. The remainder I keep on the side of my fridge in metal magnetic containers . Again these can be purchased from the shop online.

If you are like most people you end up with open bags of the same food product, so try to minimalise open packets that encourage moths or weevils. Rolled oats is a great one for attracting weevil, so airtight is the way to go.

My baking products all go together, baking powder, icing sugar, caster sugar, vanilla essence and custard powders. I also group my Asian food products in a very large click lock and air tight container. This normally includes: Dried fish, Kelp, chilli (dried) Miso items with a strong pungent smell, so it does not end up tainting other products.

So that is a very quick guide to starting to get your pantry sorted. Once you have your basics sorted and easily at hand, it makes cooking and recipe protocol that much simpler. You will have a productive day and a proud moment when it’s done. You can thank me later.

I have arrived …but not before I …

The weeks and months leading up to departing Australian shores were a list riddled whirlwind. Event management is one of my stronger skills and all of those came into play with this my most important event to date; travelling.

First to move out of my home and find suitable accommodation for Squid and Rocket (cats) this was probably the hardest and wrenching decision to be made. In the end I built a cat enclosure at a friends house a South Australian company called Sekureacat – they are brilliant) and re homed them 3 doors up from my place stocked them with food and the occasional treat of lemon grass. They love my friend and I felt in the end it was the best and only decision. They can return to me later – although they seem to love it at Marks!

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L-R Rocket and Squiddles

Storage was the next issue, I had two small garden sheds on the property of my unit. I sold everything that had not been used in years, including tents, bikes, ice skates, furniture. Sheds cleaned and were weather proofed with sheets of plastic – staple gunned internally, one shed for all the outdoor and garden equipment, the other packed to the gunnels with everything else not left for tenant use.

I built raisers with old packing crates and any other wood I could find to keep packed cardboard boxes off the ground. Then the slow process of packing and storing on site. I didn’t want to put things in paid storage as my budget was tight for a 12 month sabbatical. Thankfully the family home took my personal papers, clothes and items I needed for my last remaining weeks in Adelaide.

I rented my unit for 12 months furnished.  I used an agent I know (Martin Realty) and Roslyn worked with me to find the ideal tenants. I decided not to try and do it myself, there’s enough to do without worrying about things at home once you are on the road.

Allowing ample time to find tenants was crucial, I moved in with mum for the last two months. Special time with my beautiful mum and caring for her after a heart operation.

There is a plethora of paper work and activity to leave a country. Utilities, internet, mobile phone plans, what to do with your car (thanks Max and Wobs) how to pack for a tropical climate when you’re in the depths of a very cold Australian winter. Will your bank account and online apps work once you leave Australia. Keeping your mobile phone number you have had for 30 years (Amaysim) – the list goes on. Flight bookings,  travel insurance, Visas, luggage, laptops – accessories – this nomad life with some way of earning a living.

Leaving a full-time job and ensuring that you have a rock solid budget is vital. I wanted to ensure that I had all the bases covered in Australia whilst I was away. Renting out my unit afforded me the income to cover my mortgage, landlord insurance, strata rates, council fees, emergency levy, water with a bit left over each month – I did an excel spreadsheet for the full financial year with all income and outgoings. I did this to ensure I had paperwork all up to date as I travelled, and the inevitable accountant request at the  end of the next financial year. Of course I saved too, went without, changed brands, and managed to save enough to keep me afloat for 12 months if I was careful.

What luggage to take also became a daily issue. Light enough, big enough and knowing I would be lugging that thing to all sorts of places. I ended up picking one of up at a half price sale in a department store. Four wheels and light weight fabric with an international lock mechanism. I took that (30 kgs) and one cabin luggage bag that contained my laptop, camera, iPad and accessories. I tend to use Paklite and over the years it’s served me well.

Saying goodbye to friends and family also tough, I had a birthday thrown in for good measure and in the end I decided to do a few one on ones with the special people in my life. The hardest was saying good-bye to mum. We had lived under the same roof for 2 and a bit months after 30 years. So with a good friend picking me up on the final morning we said farewell in the driveway – my sister, mum and best friend. Easy. Not. x

Packing for a motorbike trip. Simple.

mid trip
Yoga headband used everyday – multi purpose and kept me warm too 

12 days on the back of a bike with little experience other than the odd camping trip. Although that experience allowed for “some” creature comforts including snacks, and a pure merino light weight woollen top and a yoga head band that doubled as fume and dust face protector.

Packing for a motorbike trip (12 days)

3 pairs of underwear – quick drying lightweight

2 bras

One lightweight woollen merino jumper

Gortex jacket (courtesy of my sister)

Sturdy hiking shoes

Light weight Kroten Walking shoes

Rubber thongs

Bandana

Gloves – wind chill resistance ( I used my bicycle gloves) purchased another pair enroute

Light weight stretch jumper

2 x Long quick drying hiking pants

Light cotton bali pants

Socks – 3

Singlet tops x 2

T shirt – x2

Dark sunglasses – glare !

Snacks – sugar free date and nut – bag of Robern Menz Fruchocs

Toiletries – moisturizer, sunblock, soap, dedorant, mascara, lipstick (1)

First Aid kit – Panadol, antiseptic, mossie repellant,  Travellan, hand sanitizer, Betadine