Photo essay: an Italian family tradition – tomato sauce making day

There’s actually not all that much I want to write this morning; I’d rather the photos do the talking. Last weekend heralded our family’s annual tomato sauce making day at my grandparents’ house, something I’ve been meaning to capture on film for a few years now. As you may have notices from my blogging habit, recording memories is important to me, and I wanted to share some of the pictures I took to give others a bit of an insight into a centuries old Italian tradition that continues in the backyards of countless emigrants in Australia today…

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Photo essay: our Italian family Christmas Eve tradition… Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!! I hope everyone enjoyed the day with their loved ones and made it onto the “good” list and had a visit from the jolly man 😉

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Seeing as how Christmas is (to me, anyway) more about spending time with the people you love, and also as how this blog is in large part my digital time capsule, I wanted to share something a bit special this morning as we all rush off to open gifts and deliver trays of pavlova to the family lunch table. I wanted to share a few pictures of our most important and enduring family tradition; dinner with dad’s side of the family and his parents’ house. More commonly and affectionately known as “The Feast.”

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Traditionally, Italians don’t eat meat on Christmas Eve; instead, they indulge in seafood. And so every year, Nonno hits the Preston Market, sparing no expense for the freshest prawns, calamari and lobster he can get his hands on (and being a decades old customer, he gets some pretty good stuff).

The Feast happens Christmas Eve, every year, without fail. I’ve only missed one; last year, because we were in Chicago (eating Italian food at Eataly, because anything else on Christmas Eve would be sacreligious). International travel not-withstanding, it’s a given that we’re all there every year. Mum and dad, my auntie and uncle, us three girls plus our other halves, and my cousins. Nonna and Nonno host every year in their big, beautiful house, and whatever else has been going on is forgotten for the night. This year is the first year we’ve done it without mum and dad; it’s their turn to be overseas this year. So I thought I’d capture a bit of the fun for them so that they wouldn’t have to completely miss it 🙂

 

Tradition dictates the following:

– But first, wine. This year’s conversation between Nonno and I:
“Jessica. Wine?”
“Yeah, why not Nonno?! Just a little bit though, I’m driving.”
“No! Let’s get drunk!”

– Food. Calamari come first. If you arrive early enough, you make your way to the pizza room to “help” fry them (read: eat a few pieces before anyone else). Once served at the dinner table, fights to the death over the golden grilled pieces of deliciousness are not uncommon. My cousin has been known to eat more than the rest of us combined (that kind of behaviour has now been outlawed).

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– Then comes pasta. Because that’s what Nonno wants to eat. Every. Single. Day. There are also those two idiots who have as much freshly grated parmesan in the bowl as pasta – I’m one of them.

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– Next up: giant mutant prawns and lobster. They’re fresh and clean and absolutely enormous, served with lemon wedges, tartare sauce, and a simple salad dressed with olive oil, salt and vinegar. My uncle waits (sometimes) for everyone to take their share of the salad, then proceeds to eat his share straight from the big metal bowl, while laughing maniacally at whatever’s going on around him.

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– Also a few bowls of bocconcini. Nipple jokes are inevitable. They don’t make us giggle any less now that we’re all adults.

– And don’t forget the fruit platters, Lindt balls, coffees and Nonna and Zia’s zeppole – Italian sugar-coated donuts made from the lightest, fluffiest dough. Zia even made a few balls and filled them with Nutella; further proof that Italians are the original hipsters. We’ve been making this stuff for years!

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The only thing missing this year was mum and dad, who are currently enjoying a beautiful, cold Christmas in a little Italian town with mum’s extended family 🙂

So, from my family to yours, Merry Christmas and Buon Natale! I hope everyone had/has a great weekend 🙂

Read this: The Wind In The Reeds by Wendell Pierce

The Wind In The Reeds
by Wendell Pierce

“We make our stories. And our stories make us.” 

Spending the weekend at home looking after a sick little puppy meant I had plenty of time to read (yay), so I thought it’d be good to start the week with a new book to add to your reading lists… This book was a beautiful read, but I’m truly struggling to know how to define it…

Written by New Orleanian Wendell Pierce, an acclaimed actor who was part of arguably one of the best television dramas of all time (The Wire) and probably my favourite series of all time (Treme), this book explores:
– African American history in the south
– his family’s specific history
– the importance of religion and education in African American families
– his path to becoming not just an actor, but a true artist
– the people who influenced both his life and career
– his role in bringing his city back together after the horrors that came with Hurricane KatrinaIt’s not a strict autobiography, in that Pierce tells so many more stories than just his own, and gives such a touching insight into the lives and trials of his family and community.

He wrote a lot about his family, and the enormous debt of gratitude he owed to his parents. He spoke of how hard they worked in a time where they were so oppressed, when segregation was as horrible as you could imagine, and he write with such dignity that you can’t help but feel so much towards their struggles. Reading about how his father worked two jobs so that Pierce and his brothers could have the education their parents both firmly believed they were entitled to was heart breaking and inspiring at the same time; Pierce also write about his father’s most prized possession, a letter framed and hung on the wall declaring his final mortgage payment and that he was in fact the sole owner of his own home. Something that I’ve never thought twice about, the ability to apply for a mortgage to own my own home – that was a battle for his parents.

He writes about his time spent filming both The Wire and Treme, and if you haven’t seen them, I’d recommend making that a priority. Both are the creations of producer David Simon, and Pierce write about how they were created not just as stories or entertainment, but as true documentaries of life on the streets of Baltimore and post-Katrina New Orleans, respectively. Pierce’s work on both shows was incredible, and reading about his experiences at the times he was filming gave a lot more insight.

Those passages really struck me for another reason; I like to think of my blog as my time capsule, my running documentary of what my life is right now. Pierce writes about the fact that with something like Treme, future generations will be able to watch it with their grandparents and understand that that was really what they lived through, without all of the Hollywood dramatisation. That’s truly a precious gift to pass on.

While I’m not a religious person myself, my parents are, and I could relate to a lot of what he wrote on this topic as well. While not a strict Sunday church-goer, his faith and love for God came because he so loved and respected his mother and father, and they in turn loved God. His faith, in a way, was through and in his parents; that made sense to me. While the majority of his family were very religious, there were a few who shunned it completely. His mother said that men are fallible, but that’s no reason to turn your back on your faith. He and his brothers were encouraged to question the views that the church presented – perhaps if I’d had that encouragement rather than strict instructions to follow blindly and dumbly, I’d still have a little faith.

The importance of family also shone through very strongly – how having someone to lean on when times are tough is a necessity, and how you are never truly alone. And it wasn’t just his immediate family; it was extended family and the community. When one struggled, the others picked up the slack. He took that concept all the way back to a traditional New Orleanian tradition of second lines and Mardi Gras crews, group and clubs. Learning more about the traditions of New Orleans from someone who lived there was fantastic, too, and what held my interest the most.

So as you can see, it’s a bit of a mish mash, but at the end of the day, it’s about empowerment and overcoming. It’s a truly beautiful read; grab a copy here  : )

 

“Hope is a memory that desires. If we can remember who we were and what we had, and can act in concert to reenact the rituals that defined us, we might find in that the hope to go on, despite the indifference of others to our fate.”

Sometimes you DO get to choose your family… Eat here: Ichi Ni Nana, Melbourne (Japanese)

Ichi Ni Nana
127 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
http://ichininana.com.au/

“Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs; the ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile & who love you no matter what.”

Last weekend I posted this quote on Instagram after a particularly fantastic night out. As I wrote a few days ago, I wasn’t real keen on “celebrating” my birthday this year, but I was convinced that dinner with my best friends wouldn’t be the worst idea in the world. I texted the four girls I consider to be my best friends, and three were available. I decided on Ichi Ni Nana, because I love Japanese food, I hadn’t been there yet, and it was in an area easy enough for everyone to get to after work. So last Friday night, I had dinner with my husband and the three girls – my family.

“Family isn’t always blood.” No, it isn’t. My family is rocky at the best of times, which has necessitated the finding of other “family” over the years. I’ve had friends come and go, as we all do, but I think it’s been particularly devastating to me when “friends” have cut ties with me because of how important they’ve always been to me. During the times my blood family weren’t there for me and couldn’t/didn’t have my back, my friendship family did. These girls are that family to me.

One I’ve known since year 7, and we have truly been there for each other through the most horrendous times of our lives. Where a lot of people might shirk that friendship in later years through embarrassment of what the other knows, it’s only made us closer. We’ve seen each others’ rock bottom and we’re still here for and because of each other.

Another two of those ladies I’ve been friends with for a good 6 or 7 years, although it feels like a lot longer. We worked together and became life long friends. One of them has been not only my best friend, but sister, mother, soul mate, counselor, shoulder to cry on, drinking buddy, partner in crime, and MC at my wedding. She’s one of those remarkable souls that I know I’ll be infinitely connected to and who’s mere presence will assure me that everything will be ok.

The other is the rare type of friend that you don’t have to be constantly seeing or texting or calling to know she’s there. She respects the need for isolation during the shitty times, and is ready to pick right back up where you left off when you’re ready to face the world again, no questions asked.

And the fourth horseman is one I worked with a few years ago in the travel industry; we initially bonded over a mutual love of travel, burgers, donuts and a shared hatred of stupid people, and now it feels like we’ve been friends for a million years. We share an intolerance for fructose and lactose, a lot of personality traits, and the understanding that sometimes all each other needs is a shoulder to cry on and then a cake to share. She’s one of the few people I can turn off my filter and just be 100% myself around.

And then, finally, my husband. We’ve been through a lot together, which elevates him to best friend status, and not just husband. Us girls don’t talk fake tans and new shoes around him (or ever, to be honest), and we’re not a lovey-dovey annoying couple around them (or, once again, ever). These are the people I wanted to be with to enjoy good food and a good night, and so (with one missing), I did 🙂

So now that you’ve “met” my “family,” let me introduce you to some amazing food…
Ichi Ni Nana (Japanese for numbers one two seven) opened only a few weeks ago in the cavernous space that was Old Colonial Inn. Paul Adamo and Vince Sofo (the guys behind The Espy, among other ventures) have spent the last few years prettying up the old space and transforming it into a multi level bar and eatery. And it’s gorgeous inside – with hand-made wooden detailing, dim lighting and beautiful lanterns, it’s the Fitzroy take on a classic izakaya. The menu is enormous, and made to share, so here’s a look at some of the food we got stuck into…

Drinks first – I went with the Jasmine Sake-Tea-Ni ($17.00) – sake, jasmine, tea, fresh grapefruit and a little sugar syrup. Perfect.

Sashimi salad ($20.00) – a beautiful little plate of salmon, tuna, white fish, crab and fish roe, served with wasabi that’ll knock your socks off, soy and herbs. Fresh, clean, flawless.

Pork bao ($14.00) – fried rice bun with BBQ pork – I’ve never had bao in fried buns before, but this is something that needs to be happening more often. Being fried meant they kept their shape and didn’t fall into a mushy heap with the sauces, but they were still soft and pillowy inside. And that pork…

Wagyu sliders ($14.00) – juicy, tender wagyu beef and wasabi slaw in a really eye-catching black bun, with the most delicious pickle I’ve ever eaten on the side. Really great addition to the table, and they were pretty popular all round.

Salmon teriyaki mayo hako sushi ($20.00) – seared salmon block pressed sushi seasoned with Japanese mayo and teriyaki (best combination of sauces ever, FYI) and topped with roe and spring onion. I loved this – the salmon was buttery soft, there was just enough sauce, and the roe on top was the perfect salty addition.

 

Other items ordered and enjoyed included:
– fried eggplant with sweet miso sauce
– scallop 5 ways
– vegetable gyoza

 

And then, dessert. Two of the girls ordered the chocolate mousse ($12.00) – star anise-infused chocolate mousse with yuzu cream, chocolate soil and charcoal waffle. I tried it, I liked it, that yuzu cream was delicious!

Also ordered were a few serves of the chocolate harumaki ($12.00) – chocolate filled spring rolls with vanilla ice cream, salted caramel, toasted almonds and a little mascarpone cheese. These were a big hit – crispy golden pastry filled with warm chocolate and a pile of ice cream to dip them in – what’s not to love?!

The final dessert was the one I wanted most – a scoop of green tea & biscuit ice cream ($10.00) probably the best ice cream I’ve ever had outside of Messina, which is a big call for a place that doesn’t specialise in ice cream! Smooth, creamy, amazing green tea flavour – hands down the best thing to finish on! I’d go back just for that and some sushi in summer!  

One of my favourite new arrivals to Melbourne’s summer dining scene – while it isn’t super cheap (but what is in Melbourne?!), the quality and variety make it well worth a visit, particularly for a special occasion 🙂
Ichi Ni Nana Izakaya Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Blessed: how a Melbourne girl finally acknowledges her birthday

I’m writing this post from the comfort of my couch, the latest episode of The Vampire Diaries on in the background, and my fur baby curled up by my side. It’s Sunday afternoon, and I’m pretty tired; it’s been a massive weekend. And the next few weeks aren’t going to be any quieter – Christmas parties, birthdays, weddings, dinners with friends… and tomorrow, another birthday for me.

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I’ve been pretty determined to ignore this birthday. It’s one of those big, ugly ones. Thirty. Blehh. It’s not so much the age that disturbs me – I neither look nor act my age (although I really hate that feeling I’ve been getting more and more frequently that the best years of my life are flying by and I’m not making the most of them…). It’s not the fact that I don’t have a big, fancy career title. Or that I’m childless. All things considered, I’m actually pretty happy with my choices and path in life. But that nasty depression/anxiety/disordered eating cocktail, some bumpy family ties, and my eternal predisposition to  instinctively go through life unnoticed has meant that I really didn’t want any acknowledgement or fanfare this year. No parties, no cakes, no gifts.

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I reluctantly agreed to a small lunch on the Saturday with just my family and in-laws to mark the occasion, on the proviso that there’d be no cake or singing or any of that crap. Seeing as we’d be out for lunch and had no big celebratory plans for the night, I decided to book a hotel room in the city for husband and I – getting lost in a busy city always relaxes me.

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A few weeks after that was all organised, I hesitantly, at my patient husband’s suggestion, texted my my four best friends to see if they’d maybe want to have dinner with me on Friday night – I felt like SUCH a twat asking them to mark my birthday with a dinner, because I really don’t feel worthy of celebration. But the girls were all excited, so I started to get a little excited, too..

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Just before last weekend, I started getting a little anxious about it all. With more going on than I’d care to admit, I knew it was time to take the advice I always tried so hard to ignore, and just slow down and take a breath. I applied for a day of annual leave from work so I could mark this birthday on my own, privately, in a way that I could only do alone and that would make sense only to me. So, on Thursday morning, I got up and enjoyed a cup of tea and a little bit of muesli. Then, I made my way to a tram stop and caught a tram to my favourite part of Melbourne (Fitzroy and Collingwood), where I did something very uncharacteristic of me; I indulged in some of my favourite things, slowly and deliberately. I ordered myself a pastry for morning tea, without a panic attack, even though I hadn’t worked out at 5.45am that morning. I sat and enjoyed it with a pot of tea while I spent some time on my favourite hobby – writing.

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After that, I did something even more out of character – I got a manicure and pedicure. It took me the best part of the pamper session to actually relax and enjoy it. I didn’t force myself to eat because it was “lunch time;” I walked around, slowly and aimlessly, and waited until I was actually hungry. I wrote a little more over lunch. I decided to get some new tattoos. Then, I eventually made my way to another cafe for another pot of tea. I ordered a chocolate chip cookie, too, because it was exactly what I felt like. I couldn’t tell you the last time I had a pastry and a cookie on the same day, let alone on a day when I hadn’t worked out for at least at hour…

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That last stop was the one I needed most that day. I sat down with a hot pot of tea, that chocolate chip cookie, and a notebook that’s been sitting on my little desk at home for the last few months, with the words “THE RECOVERY DIARIES” scrawled up its spine. It’s the little notebook I write notes in that might help me along my path to be happier and healthier. Notes from books like “The Happiness Handbook” by Dr Timothy Sharp, snippets of information and quotes from Brene Brown, points from Nia Shanks’ latest e-book, notes from the Girlspo+ workbook, and other random bits and pieces. Anyway, on Thursday afternoon with my tea and cookie, I started to think about where I’m at and where I want to be, and I started writing; my birthday gift to myself (other than the new shoes, hotel night, tattoos and matcha cronut) was actually investing the time to give myself a bit more direction for the weeks and months leading up to my next birthday.

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I’m a great planner, but my low confidence and self-esteem means that I’m not always great at following through (certainly not always, but undeniably more and more often, I’m inclined to just give up when I think I’m not good enough to actually achieve something). I’m an efficient organiser, but I struggle to focus (instead of having the confidence to develop one or two main passions, I tend to try everything in the hopes that maybe I’ll be good enough at one of them). Everything’s hunky dory in theory, but in practice, anxiety often gets the best of me and I never get the chance to put my step by step plans into place. So Thursday afternoon was the time I’d finally set aside to start working on a realistic game plan.

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I realised a few other things things year in the lead up to the birthday:
— I’m only human. There is only so much I can do. And that’s ok.
— My mother is also only human. We are really, truly, undeniably polar opposites, and that’s ok, too. Circumstances and situations over many years that are more complicated than any standard therapist’s pay grade dictate that our relationship will never be less than complicated, and that is ok.
— I’ll always feel like I need to be strong around my dad, who I absolutely love to bits. I will always feel like it’s my job to assure him that I’m ok, even when I’m not. And I know I’m not fooling him, but he also respects me enough to allow me the dignity to carry on working things out myself without interruption.
— I cannot wear every single hat every single day. I need to learn when to let shit go. Just because I was a black belt martial artist and a dancer and a pianist and a personal trainer and a blogger and tried to be a runner and took up yoga and wanted to learn to cook from 15 different cook books at one point or another in my life, does not mean I still need to do everything. My passions and goals are allowed to evolve and change.
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— It’s ok to say no to people I just don’t connect with, events I don’t feel comfortable attending, things I don’t want to do.
— I also need to make more of an effort to find my tribe and attend events that I really do want to be at, even through anxiety. Because why should anyone else make an effort with me if I don’t put any effort in myself?
— I’ve got a long way to go before I have this disordered eating business under control. But even one step forward and two steps back is a type of progress.
— Marrying my best friend was the best thing I could have possibly done. Whether we make it to our fiftieth wedding anniversary or end up divorced in a few years, I wouldn’t change what we’ve had for anything. He’s had my back from day one (God only knows why), and we’ve experienced the highest highs and lowest lows together. We’ve both had lofty dreams which we’d never have achieved without each others’ support. He can handle me at my worst, and can bring out my best.
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— I might not have a massive group of friends anymore, but the ones I do have are some of the strongest, most beautiful women in the world. They’re girls with balls, with goals, with dreams, with more to talk about than a spray tan appointments and the new heels they’re breaking in. These are women that have been there for me and have allowed me the honour of being there for them. A soul mate isn’t necessarily a spouse – while my husband is my best friend and one of my soul mates, the small group of women I have the privilege to call my friends are my soul mates, too 🙂
— At the end of the day, when my time is up, no one else is gonna give a shit about what I did. No one is going to congratulate me for either working non stop or taking lots of time off to travel the world. No one is going to high 5 me for either having three children or deciding to stay childless and pursue my own dreams. So I need to stop giving a shit about what everyone thinks now, because none of them are going to be there at the end of it all.
– Does it make you happy? Do it more. Does it make you sad? Stop doing it. Simple.

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So, I’m gonna call it a night now guys, counting my blessings for this amazing weekend and one of the best birthdays I’ve actually had in a while, despite all of my protesting… And throughout the week, I’m going to have some suggestions on places to visit in your own Melbourne backyard, places to enjoy a meal at with your friends, and some ways to treat yourself if you’re feeling a bit flat and in need of a pre-holiday season perk up – because you shouldn’t wait until your birthday to make yourself a priority 🙂 xo

Music in my life… And on the streets of New Orleans

IMG_6716When we moved into our current house, we decided to take my childhood piano with us; for various reasons, I didn’t feel like I could keep it here anymore, and so my sister took it with her this weekend as she and her boyfriend moved into their new home. It was a little strange to see it roll out of my life once again; I knew it couldn’t stay, but it still hurt a little to see it leave…

Music has always been a big part of my life. I remember my mum and grand mothers singing to me as a child. I cant tell you why I remember this, but I vividly remember mum singing “Under The Boardwalk” to me as a teeny tiny kidling (probably one of my earliest memories of life, actually), and her mum singing in Italian to me, “farfallina, bella bianca, vola vola, mai si stanca…” (Butterfly, beautifully white, flying flying, never tiring…).

Music was in dad’s blood, too – he played guitar, exceptionally well, and I grew up listening to his records-  Queen, The Beatles, Neil Diamond (and yes, we had an actual record player in our house). And his father loves music almost as much as he loves pasta (anyone who knows my Nonno and knows that he eats pasta pretty much daily, will know what a big deal that is). Despite being well into his 80s, he’s the first one on the dance floor, dragging my giggling Nonna along with him, at any family wedding, party, what have you. The look on his face, eyes closed and smiling serenely when he listens to his favourite music, will be forever ingrained in my mind, for which I am so grateful.

I grew up playing the piano and singing a little, but rarely for an audience; I was a painfully shy child who did her best to go through life appearing as mediocre as possible, so as not to ever risk standing out in a crowd. I was talented, learning mostly by ear and memory, and usually only using the expensive sheet music my parents bought me on the first play or two while learning a new piece, and then discarding it and playing by ear (much to mum’s chagrin), but I was so damn shy; the day the school choir director finally plucked up enough courage to tell me she wanted me to sing the solo at the next big school assembly, I promptly burst into tears and ran out of the school chapel where we practiced, effectively quitting on the spot. But music is still in my blood, I’ve always loved it. It’s always been there. To this day, the three things I can’t leave the house without are a book to read, a notebook to write in, and my iPod; I need to have music. I can’t work in silence at my desk for 8 hours each day – when everyone else is working away like pantomimes, I have one ear bud in, listening to something, anything, to keep me sane. I can feel music in a way I can’t actually explain or describe… Without realising, as I listen, my fingers often start playing away on my thighs, as if playing along on a piano keyboard.

That was another reason why New Orleans felt like home to me; music is everywhere. It’s on the streets and in the bars, it lives within the concrete footpaths and the bones of the locals. It is everywhere. And it is GOOD. I don’t actually know why I have any other music on my iPod at the moment – I have a play list that consists of a few Rebirth Brass Band records, a few Trombone Shorty records, and the first and second Treme soundtracks; I’ve been listening to that same playlist for around 9 hours a day, 5 days a week, for the 3 or 4 months last year leading up to our trip to America, and ever since we got back in January. Almost the only time anything else is played is when I’m at the gym running on the treadmill (entitled “Move, Bitch!” plays then. 5 points to anyone who knows gets the song reference there).

In a city where everyone has more talent in one finger than most of us have in our entire bodies, you see musicians everywhere, and every single one of them, from the kids to the grown ups, manage to create magic…

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Baby shower baking like a boss :) Cook this: orange blueberry tart

As a general rule, I don’t have a maternal bone in my body. I’m closing in on 30 and still feel no urge to procreate – I don’t think I have that “internal clock” so many women my age freak out about when they hear ticking. I’m not much at all into babies or kids, and don’t really enjoy spending time with them – don’t even think about asking me if I want to hold one. The only exceptions at the current time are my two nieces, who are deliciously cute, and pretty cool little monkeys, thanks in large part to their amazing mum/my sister-in-law. You know how some women just have it? Like, they’ve just got the whole mothering thing down pat, they make it look almost fun, even on the crappy days, and they somehow handle those crappy days with dignity and grace? She’s one of those mums, one of those freaky magical unicorns who you don’t think can actually exist in real life. What a star.

Anyway, my other sister-in-law is also pregnant, which I predicted would happen when I booked my trip to Japan, and we’re going to have another little lady joining the family soon!

Side note: How was I able to predict a baby with travel? Simple; every time I whip out my passport and book a trip overseas, someone in the family has a baby. Niece #1 was born on our honeymoon. Niece #2 was born a few days before we went to Egypt/Europe. Cousin’s baby was born a few days before America. So when I booked Japan, it was pretty obvious someone was going to be getting knocked up, and true to form, niece #3 is due the day before I’m due to fly back to Melbourne. So, sisters and sisters-in-law, upcoming trips I’m planning include one either October-ish or Christmas time-ish 2016, and another one around the same time in 2017. One or more  of you will be having babies over the next 2 years. Consider yourselves warned.

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But back to my lovely sister-in-law currently carrying the newest addition to the family – she’s going to be just as amazing a mum as her older sister. Again, calm beyond belief, so very level-headed, and very drama free, she’s a totally amazing woman; I couldn’t be happier for her 🙂 And, despite my dislike of baby related things and gatherings, I was stoked to be asked to do some baby shower baking for the day, which went off beautifully yesterday, hosted by my mum-in-law and with my sister-in-law surrounded by a whole lot of happy, supportive friends and a few pink balloons!


I arrived armed with freshly baked mini lemon meringue tarts, raspberry pistachio blondies, chocolate fudge cupcakes and a blueberry orange tart (can’t even tell you how exhausted I was after baking all that between 6pm Thursday night and 3pm Friday afternoon)…

While I’m generally a chocoholic, I surprisingly really love the blueberry orange tart, a super quick and easy recipe I found months ago in one of those freebie supermarket recipe magazines that sit at the check out. Actually, that’s a lie – the recipe I found was for a lemon blueberry tart, but I like orange blueberry better, so (as usual), I made some changes. Anyway, it’s a delicious one that’s pretty easy to throw together, especially if you need something relatively last minute, got heaps of flavour (the orange zest always comes through so well), and you can play around with it a little, using other berry/citrus combinations – I’m thinking of trying raspberry and lemon, or maybe strawberry and lime next…

Ingredients:
– 2 sheets of frozen shortcrust pastry, or 2 serves of this homemade stuff
– 2 eggs, at room temperature
– ⅔ cup caster sugar
– finely grated rind of one orange
– ½ cup plain flour
– ⅓ cup milk
– freshly squeezed juice of half an orange
– 2 tsp vanilla extract
– 1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
– icing sugar to dust (optional)

 

Method:
1. If you’re going to make the pastry from scratch, follow the link above and make that first. Once it’s rested for half an hour in the fridge, pre-heat the oven to 180°C and roll out the pastry. Then, carefully lay the freshly made or pre-made frozen pastry into a large greased pie, tart or rectangular cake tin.

2. Place a sheet of non-stick baking paper over the pastry and throw in some pie weights or rice, and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the baking paper and weight, and bake for another 10 minutes.

3. While the tart shell is baking, make the filling – whisk the eggs, sugar and orange rind together, then sift in the flour and whisk in until completely combined.

4. Whisk in the milk, orange juice, and vanilla. Then, once the pastry is baked, pour the mixture in, sprinkle the blueberries over the batter and bake for 20 – 25 minutes, until golden and just set.

5. Let the tart cool enough to handle before removing from it’s baking tin to cool on a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar to serve, if that tickles your fancy.