Food glorious food!

Every so often I get together with two gal pals and cook up a storm and this year’s “MasterChef Southwest” was no exception. One of my friends gives the run down – with pictures! – on her blog:  http://twentyeightacres.typepad.com/blog/2013/06/masterchef-southwest.html. Such a fun time had by all!

Fabulous foodies
Recipes, love and laughter
Sweet southwest escape 

© Leah Dowsett 2013

 

 

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One for the foodies…

I’ve been spending the day doing one of my “whilst on holidays I will…” list items – going through old food magazines.

I wanted to do this so I can then throw the stash away and I have been putting my scissors to good use as I oohed and aahed over each issue. I say “stash” of magazines as I inherited some MasterChef editions from a friend moving overseas, plus have my own collections of Gourmet Traveller, Feast, Delicious, etc.  I have to do this type of clean out once in a while as I tend to keep them, and keep them, and keep them! I can’t help it – I love their drool-inducing photography, seemingly effortless meal ideas and the glamorous travel features.
(Although I love foodie mags “just because”, I’m not just a fly-by-night follower caught up in the television food revolution. I once studied hospitality and worked in the industry in both front and back of house areas for 12 years. So you could say my interest is more research-related than most…yeah, right!)

So, I’ve gone through about 14 mags (phew!!) and now have a neat stack of clipped recipes ready to be put in my recipe books/files. Am I the only one with such a collection of pages with sticky-taped cuttings? The only person with bulging clear plastic storage sleeves? It’s just that the recipes sound so good and look so pretty that I cannot resist collecting more – but please don’t ask me how often I actually refer to them! (Ha, ha!) That said, who wouldn’t want a perfect example of  “Salt and Pepper Squid”, “Lemon and Fetta Stuffed Chicken”, “Pea and Ricotta Gnocchi”, “Pineapple and Macadamia Crumbles”, and “Orange Poppyseed Chiffon Cake”. My mouth waters just thinking of future cooking adventures with these dishes, and so the clipping continues…

I did notice in my review today that a feature in one of the mags was an “interview a chef” page. It contained a few “what is your favourite…” details so, for a bit of fun, below is a list of mine.

  • Chefs: Emmanuel Mollois and Guillaume Brahimi. French men cooking French food, mm mm!
  • Comfort food: egg noodles slow cooked in chicken broth with cracked pepper.
  • Guilty pleasure: licking mixing bowl beaters, and french toast with maple syrup plus bacon.
  • Innocent pleasure: watching when someone takes a bite of something I’ve made and seeing the smile spread across their face.
  • Piece of equipment: my “ice”-coloured Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer. I got her for my 40th birthday and she is truly beautiful.
  • Gadget: a musical timer someone gave me to add to the water for boiling eggs. They come out perfect every time!
  • Childhood food memories: sitting on a stool in the kitchen helping Mum make cookies, and my Grandmother cooking me pancakes on our visits to the USA.
  • Adult food memories: an amazing multi-course meal at Commander’s Palace (New Orleans, USA) in the late 1990s, and pausing to enjoy the moment and listen to the sound of 12 whisks whisking at a macaron class at Le Cordon Bleu (Paris, France) in 2011.
  • Foodie Movies: Babette’s Feast, Big Night and Julie and Julia.
  • Next project: renovating my kitchen – I can’t wait!

What are your favourites?

Foodie magazines
Providing inspiration
A visual feast

Macaron magic
Flavours and textures melding
Bite-sized perfection

A laden table
Creating sweet memories
Of precious moments

© Leah Dowsett 2013

A day of treats

I’ve had one of those days that rates right up there with some of my great memories.

It involved the treat of taking a day off work to witness a fabulous French chef cooking a gateau. Sigh… Does it really get any better?!?!

The Frenchman in question was Emmanuel Mollois, owner of Choux Cafe and guest star on the occasional episode of Poh’s Kitchen. A 2010 Perth Now article about him has him pictured with my favourite French treats – macarons – for which he is also locally famous. He was very skilled, eager to share tips and tricks, had a beautiful accent and was quick to laugh. All wonderful qualities in a person.

I went along to sit with 23 other groupies and learn the secrets of making a Gâteau St Honoré. This involved him showing us how to make puff pastry, choux pastry, crème pâtissière, pate à crumble, caramel and crème légère! The result was truly amazing! Soft and crunchy textures coupled with light and sweet tastes…aahhh, I could go on and on!

He also showed us some sugar work as he is in training for the 2014 Meilleur Ouvrier de France (Best Craftsman in France) competition. (See the wikipedia explanation too.) I first heard about this award when I saw the documentary entitled “Kings of Pastry“. For the finalists it is a gruelling 3 day examination and not everyone is awarded an MOF at the end. Phew! Emmanuel said today that 500 people applied for the 2014 round and that group was cut to 20, of which he is one! The next cut for the final will be to 10 people. Go Emmanuel! :-)

So, it is now late in the day and I am still smiling. I am still remembering the sights, the sounds, the tips, the tastes, the fun and the french-ness… I am one happy girl!

Fabulous French chef
Custardy pastry gateau
Sweet, sweet memory

© Leah Dowsett 2012

Smiling just because…

This morning I am smiling just because…

  • I am on holidays,
  • I slept in until after 8am,
  • I had cookies for breakfast,
  • I got some snail mail yesterday and am still recalling my friend’s funny comments,
  • I can appreciate the beautiful sun streaming through my window,
  • I can hear my cat softly snoring as I type,
  • I am anticipating a delicious yum cha lunch with a gal pal,
  • I am enjoying looking at photos as I get ready to make up another photo book,
  • I have cleared out so much “stuff” during my break and feel freer for doing so,
  • I can have a nanna nap later this afternoon, and
  • I feel happy and loved.

What’s making you smile lately?

Daily adventures
Sunshine softly warms my skin
Blue sky overhead

© Leah Dowsett 2011

Aahh, Christmas

Another work week over which means we’re a few more days closer to Christmas – yay!

This is my favourite time of year – not just because my office shuts down during the two-week Christmas/New Year period and I get to visit the beach (!!) – but because of the meaning, the family time and the food!! (Warning: there may be a lot of  exclamation points in this post!!)

When I was little I loved the excitement of putting up the Christmas tree with my parents, having presents arrive from overseas from my American relatives and start to surround the base, singing along with the choir at midnight mass, and knowing that a big feast was planned for the 25th. Now I relish seeing the decorations on the streets and in the shops, humming along to a crooning Bing Crosby whilst trying to find just the right gift for everyone and pondering the true meaning of Christmas.

I’ve always been taught that to make something special you have to make an effort so for the Christmas day lunch we always use the linen, the crystal, the china and the silver. There are usually baubles and ribbon decorations as well and the table sparkles! It’s like all the love that goes into the preparation becomes tangible and really does “dwell amongst us”.

And, as a family-raised foodie, the menu is a key part of the day! (Prepare to salivate!) Each of us contributes something with our family (er, Mum…) cooking the American favourites of ham, dressing (like stuffing), pickled peaches and stuffed eggs. In more recent years I’ve taken on the role of cooking the turkey rolls in the kettle barbeque, making the gravy and a salad and bringing some bubbly. Our dear English friends that we celebrate with do the pre-meal snacks, the melon/prosciutto entree, mashed or roast potatoes and lots of sweet treats like melt-in your mouth mince pies, shortbread, rum balls (my favourite!!!) and the pièce de résistance: the steamed fruit pudding with custard and cream!! Yum!!

With all that said, I think I need to stop writing and get organised!!

So, whatever your Christmas holds, I wish you a truly wondrous season full of friends, family, food, fun and, most of all, love!

Feasting at Christmas
With friends that are family
Abundant blessings

© Leah Dowsett 2011

I am enough

So I’ve been wondering lately, for a variety of reasons, if I am enough.

When things get a little ‘ho hum’ in some areas of my life and it seems like the lives of others are far more exciting and ‘on track’, it is interesting how the negative thoughts begin to creep in. Am I enough to be a good daughter, a caring friend, a functional worker, a potential partner…? The list goes on. With all this contemplation my normally chirpy self begins to feel colourless, like the sun has disappeared behind a cloud leaving me bathed in shadow.

In times like this I find it helpful to search for a way out of the mental quagmire (don’t you just love that word?!) by talking to friends, reading my bible, or browsing through what’s online. In a recent web search I found some lovely discussions on the topic and I particularly resonated with this post by Jen Lemen (via Tracey Clark’s blog). It is amazing to discover too how many feel this way at one time or another – a very comforting thought!

So if you are, or have been, in a similar head space I want to encourage you, or as the Merriam-Webster dictionary puts it, “inspire [you] with courage, spirit and hope”! Read something that makes you smile, go for a walk in the park, watch a movie that makes you laugh, or hug a friend and truly feel them hug you back. In doing so you’ll be reminded that you are alive…and enough!

Voices in my head
Dispelled by friends, hugs and sun
Yes, I am enough

© Leah Dowsett 2011

My French family

The parents of a dear friend of mine are visiting my parents and I from France this weekend as part of an Australia-wide tour. My friend and I made our connection as foreign exchange students in the USA and have kept in touch and been able to visit each other several times over the past 13 years. (It is always “tough” for me to go back to Paris…ha, ha!)

In keeping up our friendship we have become friends with each others’ parents as well and in doing so we have formed surrogate family bonds across the world. I love having another set of parents who think of me as fondly as I do of them, and am glad that my friend is willing to share them with me! I know my parents enjoy the cross-continent friendship too.

We have shown them around a bit and I really enjoy seeing my city through their “tourist eyes” as it deepens my appreciation of how lucky I am to live where I do. We have had wonderful weather for their visit with lots of sunshine, bright blue skies and balmy nights. I wish they didn’t have to leave so soon!

Ma famille française
So full of laughter and love
A twice-loved daughter 

© Leah Dowsett 2011

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