Tuesday, 26 August 2014

A Horse Riding Chicken


The other day I discovered one of our five hens had a bottle green foot. Crikey. I rang the vet. They quoted $65 for: consultation and three days of antibiotic injections in their hen hospital. I wanted to drive her round straight away. Get her treatment started. She was obviously in pain, sat there nibbling grass. 
 ‘Will she fully recover?’ I asked.
‘We have a pretty good response with egg bound hens,’ the receptionist replied.
A $65 vet bill for an $18 pullet, which may or may not continue to be a productive layer - didn’t stack up.
‘We could buy three new chickens for that price,’ said daughter, 14, matter-of-factly. She was right. 3.6 pullets to be precise. Or 2 pullets and a bag of layer mash.
I rubbed a liberal dollop of Savlon into my hen’s hot foot. It was a feeble gesture. Her jew claw was bloody. She must have been stomped on by one of our horses. Despite grazing in close proximity, to date, our horses have never stood on the small two legged members of their herd. Even during the more fool hardy game the hens play of - who can eat the most smelly hoof pickings, while the hooves are being picked - they have avoided mishap. Beats me why they like that fetid dirt. Although, I have seen them gobble dead mice and fight over a rotted possum head before.
This equine/ avian friendship is so relaxed, one time a hen flew aboard my horse’s rump. Then she casually started racking her claws through his malting winter coat. Said steed arched his back in enjoyment. For years the horses have poked their bums up to the hen house in bleak southerlies. And the hens employed equine umbrellas. More miraculously, the small herd has happily shared many a repast of meadow hay. 
I fessed up to the blacksmith the next day. We always have a chin wag about animal husbandry. ‘We had to kill one of our chooks. Its leg was totally green. One of the horses stood on it.’ I explained about the cost of the vet.
‘You could have chopped it off,’ he suggested.
Naturally, at first I believed him. ‘The leg? Just chopped it off? Not cauterized it?’ I asked.
‘Nah, you’d have to get the vet to do it,’ he said. ‘So you’d be in the same position. Expensive eggs, aren’t they? Nice though.’
The next day I read in our local rag about Paul the Wildlife Keeper. He talked about an ‘on-the-job incident to haunt him’ … It was about a falcon and a farmer who’d tried to perform surgery on it… he’d amputated the birds wing… it had got horribly infected…weeks later he’d dropped the (very sick) bird into the Park’s rehab unit. Apparently he thought he was doing the right thing. Crikey.
As I divided up our left over crispy salmon skin into four and put it in the chook bucket, I thought a pang of sadness for that faithful, horse loving hen. It may have been the heavily malting chook I’d nursed back to health in the winter; with gentle doses of apple cider vinegar. (They’re all red hybrids our hens. I can’t tell them apart). At least the end was quick. And I know who to call if it happens again.
Keeping hens in your city backyard seems to be a must-have at the moment. You’re allowed 6-12 under most council bylaws. But thankfully no roosters. Or horses. 

 ps. this was the first post I ever wrote, 83 posts and nearly 2 years ago. I wonder if my style has changed? Much.What do you think lovely readers? Jump to web and leave comments if you want. If you don't just eat chocolate. Always works for me. Happy days! Jane

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Say Chocolate, Say Chocolate Mousse

I am a self confessed chocolate freak. A guts. A hoarder. When in doubt I always eat chocolate (if my stash hasn't been raided). My children bought me a safe one Christmas to lock my lollies in. They wonder why I don't use it. It's too small. Mostly. Also I can't be bothered. I like my king size dark almond slipped under a manuscript in my desk drawer. Easy access. I also like my chocolate mousse unadulterated. This recipe is the traditional french one, all you need is good quality dark chocolate and fresh free range eggs. I'm lucky enough to have hens so my eggs are straight down the chute so to speak.

For French Chocolate Mousse

You will need

250grams50% Dark Chocolate (or up to 72% if you prefer)
6 - 8 Eggs

What you do

Melt chocolate in a glass bowl. Call me a heathen but I do this in the microwave, on 40 sec increments on high. Stir until smooth.
Separate Eggs
Add each yolk separately into the chocolate and mix well.
Beat egg whites with an electric beater until stiff snowy peaks form. Farm fresh eggs have the yellow-ist yolks and the most enormous whites, so with 8 eggs I ended up with enough pud for a dinner party of 12, when it was only my daughter and I at home.

Fold whites, a good dollop at a time with a metal spoon, into the chocolate mixture. Leave to set in the mixing bowl or decant into pretty tea cups or crystal glasses. Et voila a rich creamy dessert that believe it or not will be set in half an hour.




Best eaten with a small silver spoon. Can add runny cream.
Happy eating chocolate lovers!
Tasty Tuesdays on HonestMum.com

Monday, 11 August 2014

Confessions of a Middle-aged 'Model'


I received an email last week. It was the catalyst for a move I should have made a while ago.  

I QUIT  

I might be 50. But I'm not a grandmother. And I’m not size 12. (Apologies to all those sexy size 12s out there. But I’m 5 ft 4). And small.

I typed a Dear John Letter, pressed send and lent back in sweet relief as my cat sunk his claws into my thighs and reminded me of a string of humiliations. 

My hometown, has been the scenic cinematic backdrop for many classic screen adaptions. Lengthy tales of short men with enormous hairy hands and feet, living in the side of green hills. Three about a stolen gold ring, and a bald fish eating acrobat, of epic proportions. Not that you’ll find my name in the credits of those, under stunt rider or anything. 

I’m more your prop-with-stomach me. The first job I booked was spent pumping a bumper-boat around and around in circles on a man-made lake for hours in the blinding sun without a hat. I did have my ‘screen partner’to chat to. But I get sea sick looking at a dinghy listing on its moorings on a calm day. Looking back, my day was as nauseating as the thought of Kim Khardashian publishing a book of selfies of her SELF called Selfish. 

I always did it for the money. Honest. $350 sounds quite good at the start of a ten hour day, but it’s never enough after agent fee and tax. And hours waiting. Sat in chairs admittedly, but all the while getting wind burnt, dehydrated and so bored - gnawing off your big toe starts to look inviting. Plus there’s the film-set hierarchy which must be adhered to when the all-you-can-eat alfresco buffet is ready. Talk about feeling like a turd again, watching the prefects get the crusty edge of the macaroni cheese.

Extras go last. After the lead male and female, cast, crew and van drivers have had their fill, we’re guided to the leftovers. The only sound we make is chewing. 

I’ve wanted to be a lot of things, bestselling children’s author, olympic jelly wrestler, smart quick-witted screenwriter, but I’ve never wanted to be an model/actor. I’m shy. I feel like a tit. A lot. I look scary when I’m actually scared. I forget stuff when I’m nervous. I had to READ out my typewritten speech at my sister’s wedding in LA, 6 months pregnant with my third child. Everyone else ad-libbed with hands gestures, I wiped my sweaty palms on my dress and sucked-in. Regularly playing the man servant in school plays* put me right off. Joseph in Wuthering Heights was a real grumpy old sod. I still have a fear of getting stuck on Bodmin Moor. 

I went along to the local talent agent to enroll my children, hoping to reap the benefits of their cuteness. Glean some dosh from their labours under hot lights and reflector boards. I’d put their mammoth earnings towards a university fund. I was going to be a stage mum. Instead.

‘You’re just what they looking for,’ said the agent.

‘But I’m old!’ I said. (And that was ten years ago.)

‘You’ll get work,’ said the agent. ‘I get heaps of bookings for over thirty fives.’

Sucked in badly. Soon after I signed up, I paid $65 for ‘professional photos’ and was instantly upgraded to MODEL. My only previous experience ‘modelling’ was wearing Speedos with my sister, holding a polystyrene surfboard aged 7 & 8, while a creepy bearded photographer captured that vision of 70’s surf culture and other summery outfits for an Auckland Star newspaper feature. 

The ‘jobs’ I booked were minimal verses the auditions I nervously turned up for. I’ve tried to convincingly: drive a manual car, power-walk, walk with my hypertensive partner, look sporty and look relaxed. Thank my lucky stars I was away when I received the ‘Tena’ txt. Not that I would have been the face advertising incontinence pads on the telly. No way.

Nevertheless, there have been a few associated highlights. Take the day, diminutive American actress, Holly Hunter, said in her soft southern drawl, ‘I’ve just been wondering how your legs got so muscular?’ She was staying next door with her family, while filming Jane Campion’s TV drama, ‘Top of the Lake’. I was taking her two handsome young sons for a pony ride. She was walking behind, me obviously checking ME out.

‘Thank you.’ I replied, not believing her. 

I was in ‘Top of the Lake’. By accident. I had to chaperone my daughter 12, on a night shoot for ‘the wake scene’. We shot it, over and over at different angles, as the temperature dropped, beside a mountain lake on a crisp April evening. I stuffed as many layers of merino I could, under my jacket without upsetting continuity. Too much. Despite the cold it was a real experience to be a part of a scene full of swearing and fisticuffs and raw exhausting grief, with the full cast.

Another time, Peter Nolet walked out of the wardrobe bus when I was dressed in age-appropriate-apricot. Waiting. A silver fox now, he worked for Armani, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein and Versace for ten years alongside Naomi Campbell. He was chatty. Charming. Not at all looking at me like - how the hell did YOU get here you wrinkly old lady person. I almost started to wonder if they’d been a big mistake and he was going to be my screen husband. Hardly. 

So thanks for the opportunities. I’ve hung up my beige bra and undies. I will not go in front of the camera again. 

Not unless the lens is smeared in Vaseline, the film is black and white and the soundtrack mute.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

How to Eat an Afghan


(please note this is a bowl of chocolate mousse, not an Afghan)
The first time I offered my American brother in law an Afghan he nearly choked on his cup of Joe. Perhaps not the most PC biscuit name – AFGHAN. Nevertheless, they’re a kiwi classic, just like barbecued lambs tails at a docking after match.

The humble kiwi Afghan is a buttery chocolate and cornflake biscuit, held together with chocolate icing and crowned with half a walnut. My mum’s friend Sue, was the Afghan baking champion of Ashley Clinton. Bags babysit my sister and I would shout if the offer arose; knowing full well her biscuit tins would runneth over with palm sized crumbly chocolate morsels. Twas a sad day when Sue joined Weight Watchers (not that she needed to) and went on a baking hiatus…

Forever on the path of self-improvement, when I came across, Better-for-you-Afghans in the May issue of Taste magazine, I made them. Then never one to do as I’m told I decided to make them again and make them even BETTER for me. So I replaced the naughty dairy fat butter*** with the most-healthy-fat-du-jour coconut oil**. And my Afghans were delicious and gone in 24 hours.

For Better-Better-For-You-Afghans you will need:

185g coconut oil (dig out of jar and mash into a ¼ cup/60ml & a ½ cup/125ml and that’ll do ya)
½ cup unrefined sugar
¼ cup raw cacao powder
1 ½ cup white spelt flower
½ cup brown rice flour
1/3 cup cacao nibs
1 cup cornflakes
  • Preheat oven to 180 C/350 F. Grease and line a baking tray.
  • Beat together slightly softened coconut oil and sugar (yes this will look odd)
  • Sift in cacao powder, spelt flour and rice flour and combine.
  • Stir through cacao nibs and cornflakes gently so’s you don’t smash em up completely.
  • Grab a spoon and roll, as best you can, golf ball sized balls, plop onto tray and press ever so lightly with a fork.
  • Bake for 15 minutes. The biscuits at this point will be soft but will firm up once on a cooling rack.
  • Throw your walnut halves into they oven to toast until golden. I kept my boys nut free on this occasion.
Le Icing:
  • 50g coconut oil
  • Good quality dark chocolate (I used the pour and cross your fingers technique for this, but 100g should do it. Alternatively, enough Dutch cocoa to make a dark icing works mixed with coconut oil).
  • Warm coconut oil and chocolate together over a double boiler or in the microwave, cool, then slap a big blob on each biscuit and plonk a walnut on top if you choose and allow to set.
Voila the edible Afghan. And possibly the worst food styling pic seen on a blog this year.
FYI
** Coconut Oil – Fat per 100g Total: 100g, of which 88g is saturated

***Butter – Fat per 100g: Total: 81.4g,of which 49.1g is saturated

Just like cutting salt from your diet 20 years ago was the cure all, Coconut Oil is the current day equivalent it seems. Testimonials claiming it will tidy up poor immune function, obesity and even cancer seem to be only that, back up scientific evidence is lacking.

However, Miranda Kerr eats a teaspoon on her toast every morning and rocks an enviable thigh gap. And if you don't want to eat it, you can use your Coconut Oil as a moisturizer and an exfloliant. A Mumsnetter recently purported Coconut oil to be a plaque reducing mouthwash. It took me a few days to pluck up the courage to try it. Tell the truth I thought I’d gag swilling warm oil around in my mouth even if I was dreaming of being on a tropical island at the same time. End results: my teeth felt smooth but the basin was jolly OILY. Would not do again.

If you want to read more about the benefits and non-benefits of consuming Coconut Oil you can read this stuff written by people with PhD after their names.

Jump over to honestmum.com for her Healthy Quick & Simple Oat & Coconut cookies. 

Happy Baking!
Tasty Tuesdays on HonestMum.com

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