DIY-ing (and a cautionary tale)

I love doing things myself. It makes me feel capable and I get a real sense of satisfaction and achievement from it. When I was teaching Prep, many years ago, my classroom had electric blinds on the outside of the window. We had a recurring issue where one of the wires was loose and the switch for the blind stopped working. Each time it happened we had to get an electrician in. I became really tired of having to wait for the electrician to come, so when he turned up, I surreptitiously watched what he did from my desk. It was a very simple matter and it took about three seconds to correct the problem. So the next time it happened, I took off the switch plate and did what I saw the electrician do. The only difference between what he did and what I did was that I got a teeny tiny little electric shock. When I got myself back together, I put the plate back on and tested out my blinds. They worked. When it happened again, I told the principal and she called the electrician and the whole cycle began again. The moral of the story? DIY is good, but don’t DIY electrical work. That is dumb and you could die. Be patient and leave it to a professional.

Something that I feel great about doing myself (and that isn’t going to result in me getting electrocuted) is making my own food. I love to cook, and I love to make things from scratch. I’m learning to love growing my own vegetables and I’m trying hard to tolerate my chickens. I definitely don’t love my chickens. One of them attacked me when I went in to feed them yesterday and I am still dirty on her about it. They are a both a bit feral.

Today, after 20 days of fermentation, I transferred my Indian-style kimchi* into jars to go in the fridge.

I love this stuff. I have it with scrambled eggs and it makes the eggs so much more interesting. It’s great for the gut, super cheap and super easy to make. When I was working I used to buy it, but a jar like this will set you back anywhere from $7.95 to $13.95 in the shops. I made three and half jars and I think it cost me about $5 in total for the ingredients. I use this recipe and I use this fermenting crock that my awesome Dad gave me for Christmas.

I’ve also started making my own gluten free sourdough (using a recipe from the River Cottage Gluten Free Cookbook). The jars at the back are for Augie’s pumpkin, carrot and quinoa puree that was bubbling away on the stove when I took the photo.

So there you have it. Today’s food DIY, no electric shocks, only deliciousness. Money saving, health promoting and hugely satisfying.

What is your favourite food DIY?

*Now don’t get all mad about me calling it kimchi. I know it’s not legit Korean kimchi. That’s on the cards soon. I just don’t know what else to call it. Feel free to suggest an alternative name if you wish.

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On Making Gifts

The big changes in our life has led to the necessity of making big adjustments. One of these big adjustments is living to a budget, something we haven’t had to give a lot of thought to for a long time. We used to spend money with little consideration or planning, but going down to one income means that things have to change.

I have been working on a few ways to cut our spending, which I will go into more detail about another time, but one of the areas that we have to make cuts is in gift-giving. Rather than buying things, I am planning on making them. A handmade gift, a gift that someone has put thought and time and energy into feels a lot more meaningful than something picked up at Kmart on the way to a birthday party.

On that note, I’m proud to say that this is my first handmade gift! You can’t really tell from the picture but it is a lined library bag for our dear little friend Ella.

It took me a while to make, but I’m so happy with how well it came out, despite having to unpick the handles three times.I am trying not to buy things new, so the fabric is from the local op shop (a bargain at a dollar, enough for two good-sized library bags) and a pair of pants that no longer fit. Wrapping paper freaks me out (but that’s a another post for another day), so the bag is folded and tied with some rag twine I made. I hope she likes it!

Lined tote tutorial here

Rag twine tutorial here

How do you feel about handmade gifts? Any suggestions for my next project?

 

 

A Change In Direction

Like all good things, life here at Anarchy Road has changed since I last posted almost three years ago. Our values are the same but our circumstances are hugely different.

Our duo became a trio when we welcomed our son, August, to the world in February 2016. We have moved from Melbourne to Geelong, back to the original home of Anarchy Road, back to our vegetable garden and chickens.

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These life changes have also led to a change in direction for this blog. I am on leave from my job indefinitely, and the plan is for me to take the role of looking after our child and home while Tyson works. Anarchy Road is still about good food, but our focus has expanded to making a good home as well. And by good home, we don’t mean an Instagram home. We mean a home that is simple, clean and healthy, full of love and family and good times. We are taking inspiration from simple living advocates, our families, and our desire to live a simple, ethical and creative life.

Tyson and I have always considered the name Anarchy Road to be an overarching title for our joint projects, be they food, home or otherwise.  If you are new to the blog, welcome! You can check out our old posts for lots of stuff about food, particularly ancestral health related content. If you are a seasoned Anarchy Road reader, we hope you will continue to follow us on this journey.

 

 

 

How I Cook Steak pt2: Ageing and Dry Brining

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Ageing Steak intensifies the flavour and tenderises the meat.  For individual steaks at home I would generally leave them uncovered, on a plate and in the fridge, for about three days.  This is a nice balance of flavour and texture without loosing too much of the nutritional content. The oxidation evaporates the moisture (intensifying flavour) and breaks down the proteins (making it tender).  If you leave individual steaks too long, you’ll have to trim the outside (sometimes they get a hard crust or a bit mouldy) and you’ll lose too much meat.  When you see aged steak on a restaurant menu, say 40-60 days, the meat has been aged as a large cut then trimmed and portioned for minimal waste (it’s not practical to have a whole ribeye in your home fridge for 60 days).

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Dry brining is the most important step in the whole process.  After you’ve aged your steak, put it on a plate and season with salt on both sides (use quite a bit) and put it back in the fridge uncovered.  Do this on the morning you are going cook your steak.  The salt draws out any moisture left in the steak, it pools on top and eventually the salty liquid will seep back in. This seasons the meat on the inside.  Even if you have a crappy piece of meat with no age and are planning to cook the shit out of it on BBQ, this step will make it taste twice as good.

Fig and Lemon Balls

Today is a cooking kind of day.  It’s blustery, rainy and cool outside, I have the day off (because it is school holidays!) and there is not much I need to do. Perfect for firing up the oven and turning some ingredients into delicious meals and snacks.

So far I have made skinless sausages (pork, fennel and thyme), roasted cauliflower, lemon and fig balls and coffee-chocolate balls. Still going is the slow cooked beef and sweet potato stew (in the oven), roasted pumpkin and beef jerky. Up next is grain-free crackers and some pumpkin hommus.

I just wanted to quickly share the recipe for the fig and lemon balls because I just created it, and it is pretty good. I had an Emma and Tom’s Fig and Lemon bar a while ago, and it was ok …but I thought I could do better. So I did.

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Fig and Lemon Balls

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Ingredients

1/2 cup of almonds

6-8 whole dried figs, depending on consistency of the mix

The juice and zest of a small lemon

Method

Put the almonds into the food processor and process until they are in tiny, even chunks. Take the almonds out and put the figs, lemon juice and zest in. Process for a bit, then add in the almonds. Process until it is of an even consistency.

If it is too dry, add another fig and some more lemon juice. If it is too wet, add some extra almonds. You might need to tweak this according to the size of your lemons and figs, but it will taste good either way. The mix shouldn’t be too sticky, it should hold together and mold nicely when pressed.

Roll the mix into balls and store in a container or a jar in the refrigerator.

My mix made about 10 but it depends on the size you make your balls.

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And now to the worst part of having a fun time making a mess in the kitchen – cleaning up.

Herbs ARE the secret ingredient.

Thats all there is to it.

One of the common themes in the best restaurants I’ve worked in is the use of a lot of fresh herbs.

Get a few flavour combinations under your belt and it will give your food complexity and class.

I think the main reasons that most home cooks don’t use many herbs are that they are expensive, they don’t keep well and they’re time consuming to pick, wash and store.

The best solution is to grow your own. Invest in seeds, pick what you need and there’s no need to wash organic herbs that you’ve grown yourself unless your dog pees on the garden.   I’m no expert on gardening but I reckon now would be a good time to plant your herbs.

We have lemon thyme, Italian flat leaf parsley, rosemary and mint growing in the garden all year round.  We grow basil and chillies in summer and that’s about it.  These herbs are versatile and easy to grow, and we use them in our everyday cooking.

Occasionally I’ll buy some herbs from the shop, but only to let ours regenerate.

If you do buy herbs from the shop it’s a good idea to pick the leaves into a sink of cold water.  It regenerates and washes them at the same time.  Put them through the salad spinner then into a container with dry paper towel on the bottom and damp paper towel on top.  This keeps them fresh and crisp for a surprisingly long time. Make sure you give the leaves plenty of room in the container, if they’re packed too tight they will decompose sooner.

As a general guide, eat lighter herbs (such as coriander, parsley, basil and mint) fresh, in salads or salsas and cook the heaver herbs (such as rosemary, thyme and bay leaves) with meats or roast vegetables.

Put combinations of mint, parsley, dill, coriander and tarragon into your mixed leaves.  Season with salt, lemon juice and olive oil.  Cook meats with butter, thyme or rosemary.  It will add a whole new dimension to your cooking, and is sure to impress.

 

Hayley’s Whole30

I’m doing a Whole30 for the month of September! I’m super excited about it, looking forward to getting back to basics and having a bit of a detox. My last Whole30 was in August last year, and I really got a lot out of it.

For those who aren’t familiar with what a Whole30 is, it is basically a 30 day nutrition program that eliminates all foods that may be having a negative psychological or physiological effect on how you look, feel and live. This includes grains, legumes, dairy and sugar.

I didn’t want to jam up the Anarchy Road blog with my own Whole30 stuff, so if you are interested in seeing what I’m up to this September, you can check it out over here.

Happy September, everyone! Enjoy the sunshine!

How I Cook Steak Part 1: Choosing a Steak

Steak is about flavour and nutrition. My goal is to balance both.  In this series of posts I’d like to share my method of cooking steak and tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the years. 
 
For the majority of 2012, I worked at the Ancaster Mill in Canada. It was a fantastic experience, working with some of Canada’s top young chefs.
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Hayley and Bryan Gibson (head chef), hanging out and eating steak.

 

I think Hayley and I will always remember this night.  Hayley had come to Ancaster to pick me up. The kitchen crew invited her in and we soon started talking meat and wine.  Chef Bryan explained the process of dry aging and told us everything he knew about beef. He grabbed out a slab of dry-aged strip loin (porterhouse), heated up a cast-iron pan and cooked it then and there on the stove top with butter and salt.  While it was resting Maria, the maitre d of the restaurant, brought in a bottle of British Columbia wine she was particularly proud of sourcing, and poured a glass each. Bryan sliced up the steak and we stood around eating it with our fingers. We got to eat the best produce Canada had to offer, chosen by experts in their field, as simple as it gets. Absolutely perfect. Words really can’t explain the generosity and warmth Hayley and I received while at the Mill. They put up with my relentless questions, inane and never-ending conversations about Crossfit / Paleo / food in general and my flighty work schedule.  I learned a lot, and in exchange I let the guys have my old jokes.
 
Part 1: Choosing a Steak.  
My favourite cut of beef is the rib eye (scotch fillet).  It can be purchased whole or as an individual steak, bone on or off.  I think it’s best to buy individual streaks with the bone on, the bone adds flavour and it looks like something out of the Flintstones (which is cool).  Buying individual steaks for a group of people is more work, but the caramelised exterior of a cooked steak is the best part, everyone will thank you for it.   The photo on the right is a 500gm Cape Grim rib eye (notice the marbling), taken while I was working at Backstreet Eating earlier this year.
Generally speaking, the rib eye has more fat within the steak than most other cuts (that’s why I like it). The fat melts and keeps the steak moist while cooking and adds beefy flavour. Regardless of the cut you like, look for nice fat marbling (threads of fat within the meat) and a light cherry colour, not too dark nor too pale. The better quality ingredients you have the less work you need to do to make it taste good.
I don’t know what cut of meat is in the first photo and I don’t know what I was doing.  I do know it looks amazing. The second photo is a striploin (porterhouse) being prepared for service at the Mill.  Thirdly is a nice pare of Canadian eye fillet steaks.  These three photos show the marbling and colour that you are looking for when choosing steak.
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Of course, it is best to eat organic grass fed beef opposed to grain fed. Dave Aspery from Bulletproof Exec writes: ‘Steers (castrated bulls) can’t make nutritious meat if they aren’t fed the proper ingredients.  If a steer isn’t fed nutritious food, it won’t become nutritious food.  There is no magical transformation from stale gummy bears (part of the feedlot diet) into vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats.  Feeding cattle junk food turns them into junk food.’  You can find the article this quote was taken from here – its well worth a read, actually, anything Dave Aspery writes is worth a read.

Once you choose your steak and take it home, I recommend giving it some age. Part 2 in the How I Cook Steak series: Ageing Beef.