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The Mysteries of Vegemite

Vegemite

I was doing a final read-through for Snow Moon Dragon, my next release, and I realized I had my characters eating toast and vegemite for breakfast. In fact, quite a few of my characters like vegemite.

Here is the excerpt:

Aware of Nyree’s impatience, he drank his coffee and ate the last mouthful of toast covered with something black called vegemite. It was salty and bore an interesting flavor, although he’d liked the peanut butter better. He stood. “Should I do the dishes?”

I grew up with Vegemite as a kid, as did many other children from New Zealand and Australia. I still eat vegemite on my toast.

So what exactly is vegemite?

Vegemite is a dark spread (blackish-brown in color) made from yeast extract leftover from beer production. It’s flavored with spices and vegetables and was developed in Melbourne, Australia, in 1922 by a chemist called Dr. Cyril Callister. Vegemite is rich in niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, and folate. It doesn’t contain sugar but does contain salt and gluten.

Most Australians and New Zealanders use vegemite as a breakfast spread. One of my favorite edible delights is toast with vegemite and avocado. Yum!

As children, my mother used to make us Mousetraps for an after-school snack. This consists of slices of bread, spread with vegemite and covered with grated cheese. These are then put under the grill and toasted until the cheese melts. Also delicious!

Vegemite is an acquired taste. It’s salty, and it’s best to add it sparingly to toast rather than liberally, something some of my American friends have learned the hard way. * grin*

If you’re interested in trying vegemite, you can order it from Amazon.

Spreading the iconic Australian spread vegemite on to a slice of fresh bread.

Shelley’s note: This is way too much vegemite for my liking. I prefer about half this amount.

The Famous Fairlie Pie, New Zealand #travel

Last weekend, hubby and I set off on a three-day adventure and flew south to Christchurch. I was very excited to learn we’d drive through the small town of Fairlie on the way to our final destination of Tekapo. Excited, because Fairlie has a famous bakery that produces excellent and delicious, award-winning pies.

Fairlie Bakehouse, New Zealand

I said to hubby, “We must visit.”

And being the perfect husband he said, “All right.”

According to our local news, the queues have been out the door all summer since now tourists, as well as locals, are in on the secret. We climbed from our rental car prepared to wait for our turn to order.

The line wasn’t too bad, but then came the first stumbling block.

They didn’t have any vegetarian pies.

“Never mind,” I said. “You have a pie.” I scanned the other offerings. Nothing vegetarian and I didn’t feel like a cake, even though they looked delicious.

You know how it is when you set your mind on something and only that will do? That was my mind set. I wanted a pie.

Hubby chose a pork and apple pie. He ate it with relish and proceeded to tell me how delicious it tasted.

Fairlie Pork Pie

I drank my coffee. Very good coffee, but not a pie!

Hubby said, “We’ll visit on the way back. The girl said they’d most likely have vegetarian pies then.”

Fast forward to Monday…

We drove through Fairlie, parked and joined the line.

The next stumbling block. No vegetarian pies on the menu today either.

“I’ll have coffee,” I said. Talk about disappointed…

Hubby chose the Venison and Cranberry pie this time.

Fairlie Second Pie

We dined in this time. Hubby cutting his pie.

Fairlie Venison Pie

The venison and cranberry filling revealed…

Fairlie Happy

And this…this is a Fairlie Happy Pie Face.

I think I must be the only person in New Zealand who hasn’t worn this face.

Me…I’m not so impressed with Fairlie pies and the Fairlie Bakehouse, although they do have great coffee.

Dining at the Plaka, Athens

Athens_Dining

The Plaka is the neighborhood below the base of the Acropolis. It’s full of houses, shops and restaurants and is a fun place to wander and explore. We’ve dined in this restaurant before – it’s a family run restaurant and they come out with a tray of different seasonal dishes. You pick the ones you want then enjoy the meal. The food was delicious, and we sat on the deck above the Plaka watching everyone who walked past. It was the perfect way to rest after our morning of sightseeing.

Here is the link to my last visit and for a tzatziki recipe.

Five Great Reasons to Visit Singapore

Singapore is a small island country with a big heart and presence. Around 45 km west to east and 25 km from north to south, the population is densely packed. I’ve visited Singapore three times now, usually on the way to another final destination since Singapore is around ten hours flight from New Zealand and makes a great stopover.

But those people who don’t spend time in Singapore are short-changing themselves because it’s a great holiday destination in its own right.

Five Reasons to Visit Singapore

1. It’s a safe, clean and friendly place to visit. Definitely easy to get around on your own.

2. The food is delicious! Dine on Chinese, Indian, Malay or stick to something more familiar. Dining out is a treat for the taste buds.

3. Retail therapy. No matter what you want to buy you’ll find goods ranging from designer to bargains in the older market areas.

4. The international airport – Changi Airport is one of the nicest and most interesting airports to visit. Save some shopping time for the airport too.

5. A wide range of attractions to visit and things to do for all age groups. Ride on the Singapore Flyer. Visit the renowned Singapore zoo or Jurong Bird Park. Have a Singapore sling at Raffles Hotel. Take a walking tour around the old parts of the city or laze away the day on Sentosa Island. The choice is endless.

View from Singapore Flyer

View of the City from the top of the Singapore Flyer

Tai Chi Botanic Gardens

Morning Tai Chi at the botanical gardens

Singapore River

Singapore River, lined with restaurants and pubs

Mosque and Market

Sultan Mosque and surrounding market stalls

Singapore really is an exciting and vibrant place to visit, and I’m looking forward to the next time we can fit it into our travel itinerary.

Have you or would you like to visit Singapore? Does it appeal to you as a destination?

The Chef’s Table

Thursday Thirteen

During our recent cruise we were lucky enough to dine at the Chef’s Table. My husband has always wanted to attend a chef’s table and was really excited when we were able to book our places.

Our dining experience started when we met the rest of the guests and donned white coats for our trip the ship’s galley. After washing our hands (they take hygiene very seriously) we were introduced to the Head chef and given glasses of French Champagne, which went nicely with our canapés.

After a quick galley visit we were escorted to our dining table and enjoyed lots of delicious food and wine.

Chefs Table_Chef

This is the chef and a shot of our table and fellow diners.

Thirteen Things on Our Chef’s Table Menu

1. Canapés: Ceviche of Chilean Sea Bass and Ginger

2. Foie Gras Terrine on Brioche, Stone Fruit Jam

3. Bistro Mini Quiche Provencale

4. Steamed New Potatoes with Sour Cream and Caviar

5. Entree: Porcini Mushroom Risotto

6. Strawberry and Cracked Pepper Sorbet

7. Main course: “Double Impact” Surf and Turf

8. Lobster Tail, Diver Scallops, Beef Filet Mignon and Lamb Rib Chops

Chefs Table_Main

Chefs Table_Shelleys Meal

This is my dinner since I don’t eat meat. I had this huge fish steak. Very yummy!

9. Rosemary Juice, Lemon Butter Fondue, Mustard Hollandaise Sauce

10. Market Fresh Vegetables, Roasted Chateau Potato

11. Cheese: Potted Stilton with Port Wine and Walnut Bread

12. Dessert: White Chocolate Mousse with Mix Berries

Chefs Table_Dessert

13. Coffee or Tea with Homemade Amaretti and Biscotti

The dinner was delicious and hubby and I went for a walk afterwards!

Have you ever been to a chef’s table or a degustation dinner?

Review: A History of Food in 100 Recipes

AHistoryofFood

Back Cover Copy:

A riveting narrative history of food as seen through 100 recipes, from ancient Egyptian bread to modernist cuisine.

We all love to eat, and most people have a favorite ingredient or dish. But how many of us know where our much-loved recipes come from, who invented them, and how they were originally cooked? In A HISTORY OF FOOD IN 100 RECIPES, culinary expert and BBC television personality William Sitwell explores the fascinating history of cuisine from the first cookbook to the first cupcake, from the invention of the sandwich to the rise of food television. A book you can read straight through and also use in the kitchen, A HISTORY OF FOOD IN 100 RECIPES is a perfect gift for any food lover who has ever wondered about the origins of the methods and recipes we now take for granted.

 

Review:

A History of Food in 100 Recipes by William Sitwell

I’m a sucker for any book on the history of food since I love to cook and the origin of the recipes fascinates me.

The recipes in this book range from ancient ones for bread to more modern offerings like Asian salads, Steamed salmon with couscous and Fairy cakes. The earlier recipes are not recipes as we know them, and I wouldn’t recommend trying them even if you could source the ingredients, but they’re interesting none the less. Mr. Sitwell tells us stories of the past and the people who influenced food and wrote recipe books. We learn of the first known use of the recipes, the available equipment, and the interesting social details that give us a clear picture of the past. The book is written in a chatty manner with dry humor. It’s a book meant to be taken in small bites rather than read in one or two long gulps.

I enjoyed reading A History of Food very much and know I will refer to it often. The more modern recipes are ones I will make—in fact I’ve tried a couple already. I found this book interesting and learned lots of things I hadn’t previously known. A History of Food is the perfect book to give to a keen foodie as a birthday, Christmas or surprise gift. Highly recommended.

I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase A History of Food in 100 Recipes

Thirteen Factoids About Eighteenth Century Food

Thursday Thirteen

I picked up a copy of A History of English Food by Clarissa Dickson Wright from the library last week. The history of food fascinates me, and I enjoyed the way this author told an interesting story instead of throwing facts at me.

Here are thirteen things I found interesting:

1. The Georgians had a huge impact on food, the way it was cooked, served and consumed. They even influenced the times of dining.

2. Advances in the fireplace and accessories made cooking less laborious. Roasting and baking became much easier due to new designs of ovens and flues.

3. Some of the poorer families didn’t own ovens and sent their pies, stamped with their initials, to their local baker.

4. The English started making porcelain from which to drink tea.

5. Tea became a very common drink for all classes. Tea was drunk weak and sweetened without milk. It’s assumed that they drank their tea black because the milk was often sour, had nasty additives or was thinned down.

6. The introduction of more lighting was one of the reasons meals became later and taken at times more familiar to us in 2011. In Medieval times people would go to bed when it became dark, but now people stayed up much later.

7. Seating was done according to station, although gradually this changed to alternative seating with men and women. They say behavior improved on the introduction of this new seating method. The women obviously kept the men in line!

8. Turtle soup wasn’t actually a soup but more a stew. It contained chunky bits of turtle. Turtle soup was so popular that people who couldn’t afford turtles made mock turtle soup out of calves’ heads. Personally, I say yuck!

9. It was deemed vulgar to sniff the meat on your fork or plate because the activity implies the meat was tainted. People didn’t take their own cutlery with them any longer. Instead the host provided it.

10. The ice house was another new innovation. A small stone outbuilding containing a deep pit for ice helped keep food fresh. Blocks of ice were sawn from rivers to provide the necessary ice.

11. In 1762 John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich sent for two slices of bread and some meat, inventing the sandwich. Job well done since I like sandwiches for lunch.

12. Viscount Townshend, known as Turnip Townshend, introduced a system of four-field crop rotation. This involved a strict order of plantings and improved the fertility of soil and crop production.

13. The staples of the English diet – meat, bread, and vegetables were readily available and affordable during the first half of the century. Toward the end of the century with the industrial revolution taking hold and growing populations, the laboring classes started to suffer.

It’s interesting to note that around this time England started sending convicts to Australia. One of my ancestors was sentenced for receiving stolen goods in 1801 and sent to Australia. His wife and two children went with him.

Really Easy Quiche

This recipe is taken from one of Jo Seagar’s cookbooks called Jo Seagar Cooks and as the title states, the quiche is very easy to make. It’s the perfect thing for a summer picnic, unexpected guests or a quick weekend dinner.

Photobucket

4 eggs
1 1/2 cups grated tasty cheese
1 small onion peeled and chopped
6 rashers of rindless bacon chopped
1/2 cup self-raising flour
1 1/2 cups of milk
1/4 cup of chopped parsley
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 cups of your choice of vegetables (chopped mushrooms, peppers, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, corn, peas, beans, grated pumpkin etc) – your imagination is the limit when it comes to vegetables.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Spray a medium – to large size lasagne dish with no stick baking spray. Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Pour into the prepared dish and bake for 40 – 45 minutes until set and golden brown. If your oven is a fan one reduce the cooking time accordingly. It takes around 30 -35 minutes in a fan oven. Serves 6 people.

Note – if you prefer a vegetarian option just leave out the bacon. That’s what I do.

What is your favorite food to take on a picnic?

Can’t Catch Me…I’m A Gingerbread Man!

I’ve always wanted to make gingerbread men and finally got around to it this weekend. They were surprisingly easy to make and, once the dough is made, children of all ages would have fun rolling out the dough and cutting out the gingerbread men. The perfect activity for a spring break.

Gingerbread Men

Ingredients
3 tablespoons golden syrup
75g caster sugar (about 3 oz)
1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 1/2 teaspoon ginger
75g butter (about 3/4 of a stick)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
225g plain flour (8 oz)

Method
Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F) Gently melt syrups, sugar, water an spices in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil, stirring well. Remove from heat, add butter and baking soda. Add enough sifted flour to make a firm dough. Sit aside to cool. Roll out dough and cut into shapes with cookie cutters. Decorate with currants or chocolate bits as desired and bake for about 12 minutes or until golden and crisp

Source: www.foodlovers.co.nz

Shelley’s notes: The recipe made nine gingerbread men, although if I hadn’t kept nibbling at the dough, it would have probably made ten. I cooked mine for ten minutes, but if I made them again I think I’d cook them for eight minutes because my oven cooks fast. The final result was yummy, but I need more practice with my piping. Use raisins, currants, M & Ms or plain icing for decoration. You could even use something like dried cranberries. Your imagination is the only limit!

Have you made gingerbread men before?

Playing the Odds

Author Adrienne Kress has an interesting post called It’s Not About the Odds. She talks about the luck required in getting a publishing contract and how you can slant those odds in your favor by doing a great query letter.

Rebecca at Dirty Sexy Books has a tongue in cheek post about urban fantasy stories. If you’re not really sure what an urban fantasy is read the Ten Commandments of Urban Fantasy.

Margie Lawson has a guest post at Routines for Writers. It’s all about writing body language and verbal cues–an important thing in good characterization.

And finally, You Are What You Eat, Foods That Improve Your Sex Drive is an article by Elizabeth Black that makes for very interesting reading. Stay about from fried foods and rich cream sauces – that’s all I’m saying! :grin:

I’m reading a book called The Wolf Almanac by Robert H Busch. It’s research for a new idea I have, and you might have guessed from the title that my story will feature wolves.

What are you reading at the moment?



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