WORLD BAKING DAY

 

See me https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWTJYx7jGA3xaR4830wJSRg

cook breads in San Francisco and Virginia beach, cakes in Costa Rica and Chongqing, scones in Kiama , éclairs in Melbourne and even cooking over an open fire in Malawi.  I know just how wonderful it is to share good food with people world-wide.  Making new friends, swapping know-how and laughter is the perfect recipe for  building new friendships – barriers of language, culture, disability and more just disappear!

I wonder who decides what we celebrate and why?  But who cares if today is an excuse to make a delicious cake, a brilliant biscuit or beguiling bread? 

One of my best baking days was with John for Comic Relief https://youtu.be/6SaB88MiUu4

We made flapjacks, pecan pie and much more in an indulgence of calories .  Clearly, World Baking Day needs to be followed by weeks of World Diet Days.

 

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Top tips from a professional blind chef

Sydney’s professional Blind chef, Martin, gave me an expert lesson with fish – so straightforward that anyone can do it as you can see at https://youtu.be/R-JqsTefRf0

Already a highly experienced chef, Martin had lost his sight in his middle years but still has a very successful career teaching his skills to aspiring cooks and chefs at a local college in Sydney.  He goes further: keen to encourage anyone with limited sight or other difficulties to keep on cooking.  His website (www.enabledcooking.com) is a treasure trove of recipes, hints and tips – anyone can find great dishes and new ideas.

He welcomed me in to his own home kitchen where we made fish to be baked in a paper parcel (en papilotte if you want the posh French version).  With many stunning Asian flavours, this is perfect for entertaining: just make up the parcels earlier in the day and whack them in to the oven when your guests are arriving.  Just slide the cooked parcels on to plates so that everyone can open their own to experience the wonderful fragrances – and easy on the washing-up too!

Martin’s dish was a lesson in the organisational care that makes a good professional chef: everything ready beforehand so that adding each ingredient is easy and fast.  I’ve learned   that it works for visually impaired cooks too.  In the past, there have been too many times when I’ve wandered around the kitchen part-way through a recipe, hunting for an ingredient and leaving a sticky, messy trail behind me.  Getting every ingredeient and utensil out first seems a chore at the time but saves on clearing up later.

 

Our ever-supportive hosts, Ken and rosemary, had driven us the two hours from their seaside home in sleepy  Kiama to the thrusting energy of Sydney and threw in a short tour so Toby could catch some of those familiar skylines.  Even if I couldn’t see them, the distinctive image of the Opera House lives on in my head.

 

Famous chocolate cake comes to Baking Blind

Famous chocolate cake comes to Baking Blind: Jo and her cake are so renowned that they appear on the cover of the telephone book!  She was festooned with all her Country Women’s Association badges and awards when we cooked it together in Kiama, New South Wales, Australia https://youtu.be/6gjS2qauKQY

She is a very special baker: hugely knowledgeable, practical and great fun.  And, like any cook, generous in sharing her recipes too.  This cake is very straightforward to make: melt most of the ingredients together and then mix in the eggs and flour.  The result is incredibly liquid: more like a sauce than a familiar cake mix.    Pouring it in to the baking tin was even trickier for me without sight but we managed it.

Jo’s tip for an award-winning cake is to turn it out on to a cooling rack covered with a tea cloth.  This keeps the top flat and smooth, rather than trellised by the rack.  Just that extra care that separates the home cooks like me from the prize-winners like her.  No wonder she’s running a successful cake business.

The result is a cake that can be dressed up as much as you like: Jo’s cover cake was sandwiched around chocolate ganache and decorated with a chocolate flower.  She also uses this mix to make cup cakes and “cake pops” (rounds of cake impaled on a lolly stick, covered in more chocolate and dipped in sprinkles).

Its testimony to her skill and achievements that every home across the area has a picture of her and her cake on their telephone book.

Next time, meet professional blind chef, Martin, in Sydney.

 

Forces finalist

Here’s a short interview to read, hear and see about being a finalist in the Ex-Military in Business awards:

https://www.forces.net/military-life/veterans/british-ex-forces-business-penny-melville-brown

I’m in the “most inspirational” category which is probably where they put all of us who don’t fit in elsewhere – the story of my life!  There are nine other excellent contenders so I strongly suspect that   I won’t get pulled out of the hat next week.

But it will be good to show all the employers present that people with disabilities  have lots of workplace potential.  Its certainly time that more of them  recognised that just having a health condition doesn’t fry our brains or make us incapable of doing a good job.

 

 

Near Death

 

We’d had a magical morning with aboriginal bushtucker expert, Fred.  He’d introduced me to his wilderness “supermarket” where nature can provide nearly everything for survival.

There was lamandra: a type of grass that has rhubarb-like thick succulent bases to the stems that you can eat.  The seeds can be dried and ground for flour to mix with a little water and bake on a stone for basic flatbread.  And the long grass-like stems themselves are fibrous and strong – perfect for weaving in to baskets or plaiting for a little bush bracelet.

The banksia tree has enormous flowers and equally big seed heads that are packed full of natural oils.  Fred explained that one of these seed heads, pre-heated in a fire, could be carried in your lamandra basket to another camp to start the next fire.  Useful in times without matches and when there are no handy boy scouts to rub together.

He had some invaluable tips for testing which bushtucker is safe to eat: usually, anything red is worth avoiding.  But, if the birds are eating red berries, they are probably safe.  You can double check by rubbing a little of the berry juice on the soft skin inside your wrist.  If it doesn’t react, you can try the next test: rubbing a little on the inside of your lip.  Again, if your mouth doesn’t swell or go numb, its probably safe.  On the other hand, you might prefer to be safe rather than sorry and rely on an expert like Fred.

And minutes later, the risks of nature really came home to me.  When we had finished filming, Toby and a friend went off for a swim.  As I arrived to join them, there was the squealing wheels of police cars and officers asking who had called for help.  I could only guess!

Toby and our friend were about 300 metres out in the sea where they had been swept by a rip current.  There was no way that they could get back to the beach and they were getting cold and tired trying to stay afloat in the choppy water.

Four police cars, two paramedic units, two rescue surfers and two helicopters arrived within minutes – plus the local television reporter.  The first surfer to arrive went straight out with his   board to give them help, closely followed by the second with a special rescue board equipped with handgrips and  straps.

One by one, they were brought ashore on the boards with the helicopters’ downdraft blowing them along.  It really had been touch and go – a few minutes more and they would have drowned.  The paramedics stepped in to check vital signs, wrap them in towels and foil survival “space blankets”.  On their shaky thin white legs, they looked like a couple of oven-ready chickens!

All my hard work to promote the Baking Blind adventure went for nothing – they made the national news that night while I languished on the side-lines!  But the relief was enormous.  I’d felt completely useless standing alone on the beach walkway.  A blind person staggering around on the sand would have just distracted the rescue team so I could do nothing but worry and wait.  My lasting thanks to a man from Cumbria who came to talk to me: he could explain what was going on and reassure me that he could still see two heads out in the sea.       It was a desperate feeling to be completely unable to help in anyway

Fish – Aboriginal style

Meet the fabulous Fred – bush tucker cook and expert forager as he showed me how to make this superb and simple dish near Seven Mile Beach in Australia  https://youtu.be/40kJYIzyNw4

This was one of the most memorable days during the whole of my time cooking around the world – entirely due to Fred, his knowledge, humour and great food.  His whole sense of place and history brought all those generations of the indigenous people of Australia alive for us info@fredsbushtucker.com.au.  He even had a perfect way of catching fish with leaves from the wattle tree.

But, being modern folk, we’d come equipped with a fresh snapper fish from just an ordinary supermarket while Fred had brought the rest of the ingredients and his barbecue to a local wildlife area.  He too has some disability – along term back injury – but he used his bushcraft to find and make his own walking cane.

This was nearly the same as cooking en papilotte (in a paper parcel) and even his bush equivalent had a similar name.  He’d gathered the paper bark from trees near the Wolagong steel works so they came impregnated with their own Smokey flavour.

The bark was thoroughly soaked while we filled the fish cavity with river mint and lemon myrtle gathered fresh from the wild.

The fish was wrapped in the bark with a knot that would embarrass any Boy Scout. Paper bark is very waterproof so it has many uses from thatching to being aboriginal greaseproof paper for us.  The final touch was to enclose the whole parcel within two huge lily leaves.  They are enormous, thick and succulent  with the perfect shape to enclose a whole fish.  They needed trimming with an axe – I did the chopping while he kept his fingers clear.  The whole plant-made package went straight on to the barbecue for about half an hour and the end result was succulent soft fish scented with the herbs – delicious.