Archives for the month of: April, 2015

dinosaur

The Dedes have a day off today, so I take the chance to introduce this little monster. I know, it has nothing in common with my creations, except being a puppet. Unlike my Dedes, Mama Dinosaur is cute, soft and cuddly. I met her in class today. My students are currently working on a comic strip and it looks like one of them is following in my footsteps. She is hand stitching a series of animal characters to subsequently take photographs and invent a story of their adventure. I am certainly looking forward to the story!

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advocate cracker

Devil’s Advocate is currently reading through the recipe collection for the Artist’s Survival cookbook. He held his hand up for the task as he couldn’t contribute a recipe, despite his love for food. He just doesn’t cook. Mouse was delighted to have found another pair of eyes to look over the work. It is a well-known fact, that you can’t see mistakes, when you are too close to the project. So she gratefully gave him the pile of paper and left him to it. He started at the beginning, as one does. You might remember, we did cracker recipes right at the start, as they don’t require many ingredients just flour and water and maybe a little oil or butter. After all the book is to show how many yummy staples you can make from very basic ingredients. Devil’s Advocate loves crackers. He normally devours an entire packet when he watches TV.  So he was amazed when he read how easy they are to make and as it was Sunday, he was keen to have a go himself.

But gee was he disappointed with the result. The crackers didn’t hit his taste buds at all. They reminded him more of crispbread, rather than the crackers he favours. His favourite ones are a tad richer and sort of friable. But on the upside the crackers weren’t difficult to make and had hardly any ingredients. The attempt made him realise how much money he would save, if he could make his favourite food himself. He asked Mouse if she has another recipe that might be more like what he was after. Mouse didn’t need much time to think and said: “Just add more butter and less water and maybe you want to add a leavening agent to make them more airy.” Devil’s Advocate looked blankly at her. “You have to be more precise” he said “I am an absolute novice!”

“Okay then” replied Mouse, “here is another cracker recipe. It might be a little bit too rich and it has more ingredients. That’s why I call them the rich man’s crackers.” She then explained to Devil’s Advocate, that you basically can use any combination of flour, water and butter/oil to create crackers. The baking soda and yoghurt in the following recipe is not really necessary, but it fluffs the crackers up a little. Keep track of any changes you make to the recipe, so you can repeat it when you get the the combination that hits the right spot on your taste buds.

Ingredients

1 cup of flour, ½ teaspoon of baking soda, 1 teaspoon of salt, 4 tablespoons of butter, 1 tablespoon of plain yoghurt, 4 to 5 tablespoons of cold water

Method

Mix flour, baking soda and salt together. Add the butter and rub with your fingertips into the flour until it is well distributed and the mixutre resembles semolina. Add the yoghurt and also distribute well. Last add the water. Add one tablespoon at the time and knead into the dough. Add only as much as is needed that the dough sticks together well. Let rest in the frigde while the oven preheats to 2100C.

Roll out the dough thinly. It will rise a little during baking. Cut in squares or other shapes and place on a baking tray. The dough contains so much butter, that it is not necessary to butter the tray. Brush the surface of each shape with water and prick with a fork a couple of times.

Bake in the oven for 10 mins or until slightly brown.

Let cool on a wire rack.

 

fairy naan

Last weekend Fairy Godmother had a fit, because Punch Drunk had offered shortbread as a snack during the photoshoot. It is a far too unhealthy option for her taste. The Dedes were waiting all week for her to make something more suitable. As you can imagine a fairy godmother is pretty busy and nothing was produced.  Whenever she bumped into one of the Dedes she was asked, when she is going to make something. After the 50 oddth time she finally surrendered and made some naan bread to go with a soup last night.

Naan is usually made with yeast. Of course this method needs a bit of time as the dough has to rise. Fairy Godmother of course can’t be bothered to wait around and makes her naan with baking powder. Mouse was very curious as she couldn’t imagine that it would work, but was surprised when she tried the result. Now she is very happy to include this recipe, as the book contains a lot of yeast breads already.

Ingredients

2 cups of flour, ½ teaspoon of salt, ½ teaspoon of baking powder and ½ teaspoon baking soda, ¼ cup of milk, 2 teaspoons of oil.

For the topping some sort of seeds (eg poppy seeds or sesame seeds) or chopped garlic and corriander

1 tablespoon of butter or oil to brush the surface of the bread before serving

Method

Mix the dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda) together in one bowl and make a well in the middle. In a separate bowl mix wet ingredients (milk and oil).

Pour the liquid mixture into the well. Then work everything into a smooth soft dough by gradually adding the flour from the edges into the liquid. Knead well for 8-10 minutes, adding a little flour if the dough is too sticky.

Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with a damp tea-towel and let stand for 10 minutes. Make five or six balls from the dough.

Preheat the grill to medium and place a tray on the upper shelf under the grill to heat up.

Roll the dough balls out quite thinly, sprinkle with the desired topping. Wet your fingertips with water and press into the surface of the dough. (This creates the blisters in the naan). Place the pieces onto the hot baking tray and grill for just 1-2 minutes, or until lightly browned. Brush with butter or oil and serve hot.

short bread copy

As you know, last weekend the Dedes worked overtime to get their pictures taken for the Artist’s Survival Cookbook. Even though they worked late, they didn’t quite finish and will have to continue in their spare time. It didn’t help that they had a heated discussion for a while, which kept them from working for some time.

Punch Drunk got the munchies while waiting his turn and he thought that while he waits he might as well whip up a treat for everyone to keep them going. The fridge was rather empty. They simply forgot to go to the shops to get food as they were so engrossed in the photoshoot. Anyway, he found some butter and sugar, and flour is of course  always in the pantry. So he decided to throw together some shortbread. He thought it was a good idea and that the treat would go down well.

Fairy Godmother shrieked in disgust when she saw him placing a plate with his baking on the table. She grabbed the piece of shortbread Punch Drunk held in his hand and shouted “That stuff is pure poison! It is made of butter and sugar only! Can you think of anything more unhealthy?”  The studio fell silent and everyone looked at her. Punch Drunk ducked, obviously fearing Fairy Godmother would hurl the cookie at him. But she didn’t. She just glared at him disapprovingly.

“I’ll have one” said Devil, who has a sweet tooth and helped himself confidently. “Me too” L’Artiste followed suit. He was running the show and had not realised how hungry he was. “Are you crazy?” said Fairy Godmother. She wanted to confiscate the plate but Devil held on to it. “It is a little treat to share around. At least when one reads the recipe one is fully aware of what’s in it” he said. “Get over it.” Fairy Godmother continued to point out out all the negative effects of sugar and fat. Of course some of the other Dedes sided with her.

In the meantime,  L’Artiste gulped down three more pieces and said: “You don’t have to eat it! But I can go for another hour now. Let’s get back to work. Chop, chop!”

Mouse grabbed Punch Drunk by the arm and said “I think for the sake of completeness, we should put the recipe in the book.” Punch Drunk looked at her gratefully and handed over the recipe.

Ingredients

4 tablespoons of butter, ¼ cup of sugar, 1 cup of flour

Method

Beat the butter and the sugar together until smooth. Stir in flour to get a smooth paste. (If the dough is too crumbly and doesn’t’ stick together, wet your hands with water and work into the dough until it holds together.) Heat the oven to 1900C While the oven is heating up, let the paste rest in the fridge. Then put it on a work surface and gently roll out until the paste is about 1 cm thick. Cut into fingers and place on a baking tray.  As the dough contains a lot of butter, there is no need to butter the tray. Prick each piece with a fork a couple of times. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until pale golden-brown. Set aside to cool on a wire rack.

DedeRecipeBook.indd

This is a really busy weekend for the Dedes. They all lined up in the studio to get their pictures taken for the Artist’s Survival Cookbook. For a while they’ve been discussing with L’Artiste how to do the imagery in the book. The pics on the blog were only quick snapshots taken on the day when their recipe was baked. Mouse baulked at the idea of re-making everything just to get better shots. She is really annoyed that nobody listened to her when she said, “Do it once and do it right!” Why should she spend more time now, she asked, when she can use her time so much better for the design of the book.

“But don’t you want to have the best possible book?” asked Detail.

“Leave her alone” said Devil. “I can understand, she’s the one who does all the work! There is always a way around it.”

In the end they decided to take new pictures in the studio and present the existing ones as selfies. They asked Mouse to quickly mock a page up to show everyone. She acted coyly at first, as she doesn’t want to show work in progress. She has a long list of things she still has to solve. But the others were adament that the readers need to know they are still working on the book. In the end she succumbed.

 

cool cat hot cross bun

Originally Pavlova wanted to make hot cross buns today.  The buns are a tradition in England as well as in Australia and New Zealand. Having settled in a new country Pavlova is overzealous in her attempts to perfectly fit in and has been talking for weeks about making the buns though she has never made them before. She has also been complaining that you have been able to buy them in the shops almost from Christmas. It came to a head today when Harvey gleefully told her the buns are actually eaten on Good Friday rather than Easter Sunday.  Pavlova doesn’t get facts wrong often. When she does, she is most upset and mopes for weeks. So it didn’t come as a surprise that she left in a huff after Harvey had enlightened her, leaving the other Dedes annoyed that they didn’t get their promised treat. Of course they could have bought them from the shop, but not today. Today is one of only three days in the year when all the shops are closed.

Fortunately Cool Cat stepped forward and said she could make the spicy buns. Like Harvey’s yeast plait, they don’t fit the ingredients list exactly, but because it is such a tradition Mouse turned a blind eye. Apart from raisins you also need cinnamon.

Ingredients for 18 buns:

7 cups of flour (2 cups of whole meal and 5 cups of white flour), 1.5 cups warm milk, 1 teaspoon of sugar, 2 teaspoons yeast, 100 grams butter, 3/4 cup of sugar, 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, 1/4 cup of raisins (or other dried fruit eg cranberries)

Cross: 1/2 cup of flour and 6 tablespoons of water

Glazing: 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 tablespoon water

Method

In a big bowl mix the two types of flour together with a fork. Make a well in the middle. In a pot heat up the milk a little then pour into the well and add the teaspoons of sugar and yeast. Let sit for a 10 mins until the yeast is foamy. Melt the butter in a pot then add sugar and cinnamon.  Then add this mixture to the yeast and flour. Mix to a dough. Transfer to a flat surface and knead well for 5 minutes. Put the dough back into the bowl. Cover with a clean tea towel and let rise for an hour or so.

When it has doubled in size, add the raisins/dried fruit to the dough and knead again until the fruit is well distributed through the dough. Form 18 balls and place them on a baking tray dusted with flour, leaving a little gap between the balls.  Preheat oven to 2000C. Let the buns rise again while the oven is heating up.

For the cross, mix the flour and water and carefully draw a cross with the side of a teaspoon on each of the balls.

Bake in the oven for 20 mins.

Just before they are done, mix the sugar and water for the glazing. Brush on as soon as the buns come out of the oven while they are still piping hot.

harvey easter plaid

Harvey, the rabbit, knew all along that his time to contribute to the Artist’s Survival cookbook will come at Easter. For months he had told the Dedes he is going to make a yeast plait. His mum made one every year, as it was traditionally eaten where his ancestors came from. Where exactly that is, he doesn’t know. “Somewhere in the East” his mum would say. ‘East of what?’, he still wonders, as every place is East of somewhere else.

“You live in New Zealand now” said his partner Pavlova snobbishly. “You should make Hot Cross Buns as it is the custom here”. Pavlova is obviously not from around here either but is very keen to fit in. Harvey choose to ignore her, as he has done more and more often lately. They have been together for a little over a year now and it is so sad watching Harvey slip back into his old habits. But that aside.

Last night when everybody had gone to bed he set out to do his job. He even organised a few raisins to add, an ingredient that is usually not on the list, but they are important for a hint of sweetness. It is Easter after all. As the dough is a yeast dough it needs time to rise. This wasn’t a problem as Harvey could use the down time to hide the Easter eggs around the house. Still, he only finished in the wee hours. And as a result he slept in this morning. Oh, what a surprise when he came into the kitchen …half the plait was gone.

“Please don’t get angry” said Mouse.” We were all so curious and couldn’t wait any longer.”

“And,” Harvey asked nervously,” is it good enough to be included in the book?”

“Of course it is!” said Mouse. “Where is the recipe?”

“In my memory!”

Mouse looked at him and wanted to say something, but she kept her mouth shut. She has an inkling that Harvey is dyslexic. She has never seen anything in his handwriting. Though he claims he writes regularly to his sponsor Mr XL, Mr XL  complains bitterly that he hardly hears from his buddy. Mouse doesn’t quite know who to believe.

“Well” commented Pavlova with a snide untertone, “that thing is not too different from Hot Cross Buns. So what’s the big deal?”

Harvey threw his arms in the air. “Leave it out then!” he shouted and left.

Mouse looked at Pavlova. Why do some have to make their lives miserable when they fall out of love? she asked herself and said to Pavlova “I will get his recipe and it goes into the book.”

“No need for me to make Hot Cross Buns today then?”

 

This week another unexpected story emerged! It looks like the disgraced EIW is on the way to snapchat stardom. I have to tell you the story:

Midweek she moved to my friend’s office. For the first day she was just sitting around idly. What’s new, I thought, good riddance lazy sod! The next day, though, my friend reported excitedly, that everything changed as soon as Sammy Salsa entered the room. As if EIW had been waiting for Sammy all her life. Sammy is a stylist and EIW is into fashion big time (you can tell by her silly hair thingummy). At last she found someone to talk to and she virtually latched onto him. She was just waiting for her big chance, and did she jump on it or what? She begged him on her knees to make a snapchat film with her. Surprisingly his snapchat friends loved her as well and asked for more.  And here we are. I added the three little films they’ve made so far together. I particularly like the last one, where she is praying. As if she thanks the higher being to have escaped the Dede household. Does she really say “Quick” in the end? Is she worried she has to come back.? No, no, I am happy for her and her new life.

I also noticed, Sammy refers to her as he. It never occurred to me that she might be a fa’afafine. Of course Sammy, who is from Samoa, would immediately recognise one. Sometimes I am really oblivious to what’s going on. But, say, doesn’t she look lively in his hands.

 

td muzzleI am really in a pickle now. Flip’s Top Dog Training Centre has come forward to rescue the abandoned Dede Top Dog, who had been sent – for good reasons I might add – to Beach Haven Siberia (which is my windy and wet backyard). Pavlova, the lab rat, and I were keen to study his demise. So far we have only observed his resistance, his strong will not to give in to our harsh treatment. On the bus home from work I realised how bizarre the whole situation is. One could even claim the story has a blasphemic undertone. I apologise profoundly, it certainly was not intended. In the picture yesterday, Top Dog indeed looks crucified and coincidentally it is the week of Easter. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Mea culpa.

Anyway, to make it clear, a week or so ago I decided to cut Top Dog loose as he is permanently interfering with the hard work the other Dedes do. As the Dedes want to move forward, Top Dog definitely has to go. He is simply incapable of  co-existing peacefully with the rest of the team. Since I always wanted to know how long the Dedes could brave the elements without breaking down (I want to enter a semi-permanent Dede sculpture in an outdoor art exhibition) this seemed to be a good opportunity, and the perfect job, for Top Dog. I did not reckon with how brutal it must appear to my readers, who of course only know half the story and have to make up the rest!

Anyway, while on the bus, I decided my weather experiment can safely come to a conclusion. I know enough. After five days of really heavy rain showers alternating with sunshine, Top Dog is still as hard as a rock and smiling. This gives me the confidence that any Dede sculpture should survive two weeks of outdoor exhibition. Happy with what I found out, I sent a text to the Dedes to take Top Dog down and get him back into the house. At first they were very relieved and commended me for my change of heart and leniency. Funnily enough, by the time I arrived home Top Dog was sitting in the corner, wearing a dog leash and a muzzle. Pavolva reported he was so full of himself again and couldn’t stop boasting about his toughness. The Dedes were exhausted and had heard enough.

It occured to me that mabye it is us who make Top Dog play up. Maybe we make him feel inadequate and he has to constantly re-assure himself of his greatness. The comments on the blog proved he has indeed real friends who like him. Just not us! All of us here are convinced a bit of dog training wouldn’t go amiss. So, if Flip’s Top Dog Training Centre is still prepared to take him on, he is ready to move on to a good home.  Han de Vere might enjoy a companion, but don’t blame me if it goes haywire, you were warned! Top Dog is very big headed, he is twice the size of Han. So watch out! But then you are the professionals.