Saturday, July 27, 2013

Eggplant and Tomato Pasta Sauce Base

One of our favourite things to do on a Sunday is wander the local markets.  We skip lunch and instead snack from the many offerings out for tasting and stock up our pantry with handmade delights and super fresh produce.

It was on one of these trips that we tried the pasta sauce that inspired this recipe.  This eggplant and tomato pasta sauce is great on its own, but even better as a sauce base.  Perfect for hiding veggies if you have a fussy eater, it adds an amazing depth of flavour to any tomato based sauce.  It makes for a truly delicious bolognaise, a wonderful ratatouille, a fab lasagne - pretty much your imagination is the limit. An easy variation is just to add a handful of fresh herbs before serving.

And best of all it is super easy to make in bulk and store in the freezer to turn a quick meal into a super one.

Eggplant and Tomato Pasta Sauce Base
2 eggplant (aubergine)
1 large onion diced
2 cloves of garlic diced
1-2 680g jars passata (depending on how big your eggplant are and how runny you want your sauce)
1/2 cup red wine
Splash of red wine vinegar

Slice your eggplant lengthwise in half.  Lay them cut side up on a baking tray and spray or lightly brush with olive oil.  Bake at 150 degrees celcius for 1-2 hours until the skin is bubbled and leathery and the inside is soft.  The cut side will get a little brown but shouldn't get too dark.  The length of cooking will depend on the size of your eggplant.

When they are ready take them out of the oven and allow to cool for 10 or so minutes or until you can handle them.  Then scrape all the flesh out of the skin and discard the skin.

Meanwhile caramalise your diced onion in a heavy casserole.  You want it nice and golden.  Add the garlic and cook for a few minutes till fragrant.  Add in the eggplant, passata, red wine and vinegar, stir to combine.

Now blitz it with a stick blender.  You should end up with a very thick, creamy red sauce - ready to eat or add to your own pasta recipe.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Unexpected results

Some days do not turn out the way you expect.  Yesterday was one of those days.

I think it is clear from this blog that I love to dance.  I love to do it, teach it, talk about it, watch it.  The one aspect of dance I've never been that into however, is competitions.  I love to spectate, but competing has never been my thing.

I have my reasons. First and foremost, dance is my relaxation.  I can get to an almost meditative state on the dance floor.  If I had to put in hours of hard training, I feel that would eat into the relaxation. Second I've never had a permanent dance partner in my style of ceroc.  Yes S dances and is quite fantastic, but he doesn't dance ceroc AND he very much shares my first reason of dancing being about relaxing not training.  Finally and I think quite crucially, I'm just not very competitive by nature.  When you see those people who complete at an elite level they have a real drive to win.  I like to succeed in what I do, but that doesn't translate into a desire to win at all costs.

And so competitions have never formed a significant part of my dance story.

Then a couple of weeks ago I was asked to be judge at a local comp.  I was quite honoured, it is a hard job but one that after years of teaching and watching dancers I felt qualified to do so I said yes.  And yesterday I set out to spend several hours watching and judging dancing.  I was so set to be on the sidelines that I even left my dance shoes in the car.

But a couple of minutes after I arrived at the venue that all changed.  There was an advanced dancer from interstate desperately looking for a partner and for some crazy reason I said yes and bolted back to the car for my shoes.  It was quite a small competition, only 4 couples in the advanced category, but as you can imagine the other 3 couples would have been dancing together for weeks, more likely months or even years.  They had rehearsed moves, matched costumes, you get the drift.  My partner and I had a total of 1.5 dances before we hit the competition floor.

We danced, it was fun and a couple of people said nice things to me as I left the dance floor.  I judged the rest of the levels, did a quick dash home to glam up and pick up S for the ball at which the results would be announced.  We had great fun at the ball, there were only 4 people on our table which was set for 6 so the boys each had two entrees, two mains and two desserts.  S showed off his renowned ability to vacuum up food once again.  And then it was time for the results to be announced.

Somehow, my partner and I came third!  Now I know that there were only 4 couples but I'm still completely stoked.  Without any kind of planning or preparation, I now have a dance trophy.

If only every day could turn out like that!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Dressing Gowns and Slippers

Just a small sample of the collection

Australia is apparently having a love affair with the onesie at the moment and I don't just mean for babies.  Children, teenagers and adults around the country are embracing them with a passion.  While I don't quite get the fascination of the all in one fleecy suit, I do understand the passion for rather daggy but incredibly comfortable and warm clothing.  You see, S and I have something of an obsession with slippers and dressing gowns.

A quick mental count has revealed that between the two of us we own 7 pairs of slippers and 4 dressing gowns.  This may seem a little excessive, but given they are our clothing/shoe of choice at home we need a variety to cater for different levels of cold.  S can even layer some of his slippers although it isn't quite as necessary as it was when he lived in his freezing bachelor pad.

The minute we get home it is off with the regular shoes, on with the slippers.  And if we are going somewhere like my parents house (or even occasionally dance class) we do venture out of the house in them.  If I'm being brutally honest I must admit those pink ugg boots may even have been worn to the shops once or twice - oh the shame!

Sometimes I wonder if S and I are old beyond our years - or maybe just wise beyond our years.

So tell me, are we alone in our slipper obsession or do you share it and should we embrace the onesie?

Sunday, July 7, 2013

On Inspiration - Purple House

On my trip to the Northern Territory just over a week ago I saw a heap of great meeting and event sites but what made the biggest impression on me was some of the inspirational speakers we had a chance to listen to.

We are lucky to live in a country where our Governments provide a fantastic range of services.  But Governments are often incredibly risk adverse, so it is my experience that if you want to see real innovation and new thinking, you have to look at the community sector.  And that was born out by my visit to the "Purple House" dialysis centre in Alice Springs.

The people of the Western Desert were one of those groups terribly affected by some of the shocking policies that used to exist around Indigenous people in this country.  They had been removed from their homelands and shunted around various missions and stations, till they managed to get themselves back to their homelands in the early 80's.

This was all wonderful until kidney disease started to strike in the community and those affected needed dialysis.  The closest centre for dialysis was Alice Springs, some 300km away.  If you know anything about dialysis, you will know that each treatment takes many hours and must be done around 3 times a week.  Effectively this meant that people had to move to Alice Springs, another tribe's country, far away from their community.  Needing dialysis was essentially a sentance of exile till death.

As a result the community wanted to develop the capability to have dialysis in their own community.  They were told by governments that it could not be done but they were determined and through an aboriginal art auction they raised enough for the initial program to be undertaken.

Since then the Western Desert Nganampa Walytja Palyantjaku Tjutaku Aboriginal Corporation - referred to as the Purple House owing to the purple colour of the centre in Alice Springs - has established a number of dialysis units in remote communities and now has a truck that can travel around and do dialysis.

We were lucky enough to met Sarah Brown, the CEO of Purple House.  She was truly inspirational.  Full of enthusiasm, zeal and optimism. She is truly the kind of person who gets stuff done.  Sarah is definitely one of the reasons why Purple House is such a success and I find it really inspiring to meet someone who does so much for a community that is not hers by birth, but definitely is by adoption.

You can read more about Purple House and even make a donation at their website.