Month: June 2011 (page 1 of 5)

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How to Talk to Little Girls

How to Talk to Little Girls. Great little article. Some folks at MetaFilter were kinda down on it, but I think it’s a valid concern. I think both my nieces are cute as a button, but I also want them to think that it’s even more important to be smart and brave and kind and healthy. I’d hate for them to think that being pretty was all anybody cared about.

I even call out the Snook when he compliments my looks instead of my brains. I know this booty is all that and a bag of chips, baby, but I gots more to offer the world!

Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals #20: Chicken Pie

Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals #20: Chicken Pie
This is our 20th cooking/blogging experiment from Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals. Woohoo! We’re 40% of the way through! For this one we chose “Chicken Pie, French-Style Peas, Sweet Carrot Smash, Berries, Shortbread & Chantilly Cream.” You may recall that I actually tried this recipe already back in January, before we started this project. We wanted to document it properly though, so the Snook stepped up to cook this one. We also rewatched the episode to refresh our minds. This was also the first time we’ve ever had an audience: our friend Sharon from Flavour Crusader was here! I think the extra spectator may have unnerved the Snook a bit, as his time was uncharacteristically slow: 39:56. Still, that’s 5+ minutes faster than I managed it back in January…

Chicken Pie

Substitutions: We used plain cream instead of creme fraiche for the pie filling. We had one large lettuce instead of two small ones for the peas. And the Snook assembled the dessert into a trifle (with some lemon curd) rather than leaving it as constituent parts, as you can see above. Other than that, everything was as written in the recipe.

Quick verdict: The perfect winter meal! Very tasty and filling. The chicken in the pie was a bit chewy, but I suppose that’s to be expected when using breast. (Jamie never seems to use thighs?) We overcooked the peas a bit, but they were still good. The Snook’s improvised trifle for dessert was beautiful, the perfect cap to the meal. Overall we both rated this one 8.5 out of 10, but I think there’s still a little room for improvement next time we make it. Read on for a photo essay of the preparation!Pre-start prep: We got out all the necessary ingredients, tools, and cooking vessels. The kitchen was clean (well, as clean as it gets) and everything wiped down and ready to go. The food processor was prepped with the slicing disc. The kettle was boiled and the oven turned to 200C. We had a big roasting tray for the pie (which was a mistake), a small saucepan for the carrots, and a bigger saucepan for the peas.

First up are the ingredients for the pie: chicken breasts, butter, spring onions, button mushrooms, flour, English mustard, cream, chicken stock, thyme, nutmeg, puff pastry, and an egg. Oh, and Sharon hiding in the background!

Pie ingredients

Next are the ingredients for the side dishes: carrots and thyme for the smashed carrots; and lettuce, butter, flour, chicken stock, mint, frozen peas, and lemon for the French-style peas.

Side dish ingredients

Lastly, the bits for the dessert: strawberries, elderflower cordial, lemon, mint, shortbread biscuits, cream, vanilla, and icing sugar.

Dessert ingredients

Pots and pans, ready to go! Roasting tray for the pie (again, more on that mistake in a minute), big saucepan for peas, little saucepan for carrots.

Pots and pans

Food processor with slicing disc.

Food processor

Here we go! The first step was to cut up the chicken breasts. Dr. Amy Jones decided this was the perfect time to beg for a bit of chicken fat. (Could you resist that little pink nose? No way.)

Cutting the chicken

Next the Snook got the chicken cooking in some olive oil and butter in the roasting tray.

Cooking the chicken

Next is the veg. He first cleaned and trimmed the green onions…

Trimming green onions

…before feeding them into the food processor along with the mushrooms. (You’ll recall that this was a major nightmare for me on our first attempt at this dish, as we had our old crappy food processor then. This time it worked PERFECTLY. Three cheers for decent appliances!)

Slicing the veg

He then dumped the veg in with the chicken to cook.

Adding the veg

Next he added flour, mustard, cream, and chicken stock to make the sauce.

Adding stock

Lastly, he seasoned the pie filling with salt and pepper before grating over a bit of nutmeg.

Grating nutmeg

The next job was the carrots. He cleaned and trimmed them…

Trimming carrots

…before chucking them in the food processor. WHIZZ!

Slicing carrots

He put the carrots into the small saucepan with some olive oil, salt and pepper, thyme, and water. Then he covered it and left it to cook.


Here’s where you can see the problem with the roasting tray. It just didn’t heat evenly on our induction stove, and the mix was starting to “catch” in the middle. So the Snook made the snap decision to transfer the mix to a Pyrex casserole for baking. (On the episode, Jamie does it all in the one tray. The recipe actually recommends you use two separate pans though. We’d have saved time if we’d done it that way from the start!)

Transferring the pie mix

Now for the puff pastry crust. Rather than worry about rolling it out to the right size, the Snook just cut a bit off a second sheet and seamed them together to make a big enough lid.

Puff pastry

Next he carefully placed the pastry on top of the pie, folding and tucking the edges as needed.

Topping the pie

He also lightly scored the top of the pie as instructed.

Scoring the pie

After a quick egg wash, it went into the oven!

Into the oven

The carrots were still bubbling away.


Onto the peas. He started by slicing up our cos lettuce.

Slicing lettuce

In the large saucepan, he cooked butter and flower together to make a roux.


Then he added chicken stock and whisked to make a thickened sauce.

Whisking the sauce

He then dumped in a bag of frozen peas, the sliced lettuce, and a handful of mint leaves. He seasoned it with lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and left it to cook.

Peas and lettuce

Time to prep the dessert! He cleaned and trimmed the strawberries…


…before tossing them with mint leaves and elderflower cordial.

Tearing over mint

Next he used the electric whisk to beat cream, icing sugar, and vanilla until it was thick.

Beating the cream


Chantilly cream

The carrots were finished, so he drained off the liquid and used a potato masher to smash them up.

Mashing carrots

And finally the pie came out of the oven, golden and beautiful!

Finished pie

The finished meal of chicken pie, French-style peas, and carrot smash.

Finished meal

And the finished dessert! He created a trifle by layering crumbled shortbreads, lemon curd, the strawberries, and the chantilly cream in a glass.

Finished dessert

Tasting notes: This is one of the best meals in the book in terms of the way the various elements work together. The pie on its own might be a little boring, but the vibrant carrots and savoury peas complement it perfectly. We overcooked the peas a bit, but there was still a bit of crunch to the lettuce and it tasted fine. The chicken breast was fairly chewy, but that was to be expected given the type of meat and the short cooking time. The dessert was the real highlight, and I think the Snook’s change to a trifle was a big improvement on the original. That little bit of lemon curd in the bottom just made it so special and lovely! We’ll definitely remember that trick in the future. I figure we can still cut another five minutes off this one if we manage to cook the pie filling in the right pan from the get-go. Overall an 8.5 out of 10, and an excellent dish to warm up a cold winter’s night…

Stay tuned for another recipe from Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals!

Star Wars Burlesque

Star Wars Burlesque
A couple of months ago, a friend on Facebook shared a link to an upcoming event at the Vanguard in Newtown: Star Wars Burlesque. I told the Snook, “We HAVE to go!” And this past Saturday night, we did!

My only exposure to burlesque is the musical Gypsy, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I was pretty sure nobody was gonna get naked, but I figured we’d see some scantily dressed dancers. We’d booked in for the “show + dinner” option, and when we arrived we were seated right next to the foot of the thrust stage. Excitement! We had drinks and ordered our dinner, and over the next couple of hours we enjoyed ourselves as the place filled up. The food was excellent, as were the cocktails. We all got restless though, especially the non-eaters up in the balcony who’d arrived early to get good seats. After many hours, the curtain finally raised… on the Mos Eisley Cantina Band! These three guys went through a rockin’ overture of the Cantina Song, Luke’s theme, and Vader’s theme. The crowd loved it.

Cantina Band

The host for the evening was a smooth-talking guy, and he entertained us between acts with nerd patter and Star Wars trivia. To kill time during setup, he brought on a “Go-Go dancer dressed as Princess Leia.” She bopped around on stage for like 15 minutes while everybody played with their iPhones and looked bored. Finally, the host came out to announce the first dancer – “from the tundras of Tattooine, the Tusken Raider!” I GASPED. I’d joked to the Snook that I hoped they’d do some of the less obvious characters, and a pole dancing Tusken Raider had been our private joke. Well, here she was! Minus the pole. Standing on stage in the alien mask and robes before a pile of dirt. Rhythmic music kicked in and she began to dance. It was MESMERISING. Seriously, she was the best of the night. She eventually stripped down to underpants and some strips of cloth across her breasts, but she never removed the Tusken Raider head. It was so weird. People went nuts when her act finished.

We saw many more acts over the course of the evening: a sexy C3PO emerging from a pile of junk; a Twilek bounty hunter limbering up for a job; a trio of Wookiee hunters; a rather gymnastic Boba Fett; a light saber wielding Jedi; Storm Troopers; and many more. The first act ended with “Slave Leia” of course, whose chain was connected to the ceiling above our table. To our surprise, she actually SWUNG ON IT out over us! It was amazing. And the big finale was Darth Vader herself, dressed all in black latex. She was awesome too.

So yeah, a fun night watching some talented ladies dance in a big giant Nerd Fest. Highly recommended!

Slave Leia


Darth Vader

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As Mary-Helen is being harrassed at her workplace and accused of stalking, I’ve removed my own post about the same person. I don’t need that kind of crazy.

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