Kefir is a fermenting organism that you probably can’t buy. You can discover it with Dani and me https://youtu.be/RutzBskV9hY in Melbourne, Australia.
Not only is she a published food writer and author www.danivalent.com specialising in recipes with the Thermamix, Dani seeks out the food specialities of the diverse multi-cultural inhabitants of Melbourne.
She described kefir grains to me as like “little pieces of cauliflower”. They are added to milk to create those fermented drinks that are so popular now. Dani, of course, went one better and fermented cream which, with her ubiquitous machine, was churned in to butter to serve with her homemade bread and fig jam.
She told me tales of how the grains are brought in to the country by migrants and refugees so that they can continue their food cultures and heritage – often secretly fermenting under beds or sinks. Rather than money changing hands, getting hold of this precious ingredient may depend more on seeking out and befriending someone who counts kefir as part of their culinary identity. And it probably helps to have an equally precious ingredient or cooking secret to share in return.
If you like cooking, have you heard of Thermamix? I made bread https://youtu.be/n01siF8Lp9o with one of these machines in Melbourne, Australia, with food writer and author, Dani Valent www.danivalent.com.
Thermamix machines combine weighing scales, food processing, heating etc –like a soup-maker on steroids. They are pricey large pieces of electrical kitchen kit that many people in Australia and world-wide swear by.
Dani invited me to use either the sleek modern digital plastic version with carrying handle, touch-screen and more or the old metal TM31 with tactile buttons, knobs and dials. No choice: the new version is wholly inaccessible for a blind cook whereas I learned the trusty and satisfyingly sturdy old one in a matter of minutes. All the TM31 needs is an audio chip to speak the digital display and it would be the perfect cooking aid for anyone with visual impairment. Meanwhile, those smug designers have excluded us from the market and consigned us to find second-hand old TM31s.
But how did it make the bread? Just excellent: two minutes stirring and warming the yeast before the flour was added for a 2 minute knead. Then the dough was out of the machine, shaped and baked in under 20 minutes! No excuse for running out of bread ever again. The rolls were perfectly fluffy and light with a crisp crust – no wonder people like this machine so much!
Next time, Dani is talking about her Thermamix cook book and an ingredient that you can’t even buy!
Where else is there a public holiday for a horse race but Australia? Good food https://youtu.be/3XAAJec4WDg is a key part of the celebrations that start days earlier and carry on for more.
I was visiting the renowned local catering college, Holmesglen https://www.holmesglen.edu.aus
as they were preparing a special meal for the “ladies who lunch” festivities of Oaks Day. The event gives the ladies a chance to slip in to their finery and celebrate away from the racetrack – without their stilettos sinking in to the grass!
Students from all stages of their training were creating a menu of suitably elegant sophistication: ceviche of snapper and salmon followed by wafer-thin smoked beef with cured egg yolk. The kitchens were so awash with the noise of determined chefs that I ended up doing an interview in a store cupboard.
But the main reason that my host, fellow former Royal Navy Commander Colin, had arranged the college visit was to see the hospitality and catering training undertaken by members of the Australian Defence Forces. It all fitted with the Navy theme of the Holman prize and my own military background. Security was tight so we didn’t film the students but I was invited to give them a short talk about my own time in uniform – heaven knows what all those young people thought about this old blind woman. I must have seemed a totally alien being to them!
Next time, back to a home kitchen and I learn about the legendary Thermamix – and whether this ultimate kitchen gadget can work for a blind person.
Maribel from Melbourne down-under shares her survival tips https://youtu.be/cX8dvHsuamE. But her ideas go way beyond blindness and can be used by anyone facing a life-changing event – not just a disability.
Her secrets are:
Acceptance. Accepting whatever it is you have to cope with – not avoiding, hiding or denying the situation, tough as that sounds.
Collaboration. Letting other people help you.
Courage. You do have to be brave to face life again.
Organisation. Vital for blindness but key too for other major life changes.
Sense of humour. Being able to laugh at yourself and with other people re-builds relationships.
Sense of intuition. Trust your instincts about what is right for you.
Use all your senses. Vital for a visually impaired person but equally important for everyone: it’s a richer life when you experience every sensation and live in the moment.
I can recognise all of Maribel’s secrets and and recommend them to anyone facing a life crisis. It might not be possible to tackle every one of these at once but they do provide a pathway for the future.
Since Maribel and I met, she has gone from strength to strength: publishing her memoire and getting her new guide dog, Dindi. She’s also spreading her ideas wider afield on Australian breakfast TV and through her podcasts:
Cooking ‘Blind’ on Sydney TV
Podcast: Cooking in a Tactile Kitchen ABC Radio Part 1 (14 mins)
Podcast: Cooking in a Tactile Kitchen ABC Radio Part 2 (14 Mins)
Maribel is another great blind cook: see us making her mother’s classic Spanish dish of eggs à la flamencohttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9OnaZzQTkI&feature=youtu.be in her sunny Melbourne home.
Maribel maribelsteel.com was a driving force behind my baking Blind trip to Australia, and we had a fabulous time cooking together, sharing laughs and songs plus our ideas about living with blindness.
Not only a great cook and singer, Maribel is already a published author, speaker, blogger and general all-round entrepreneurial woman who is unstinting in sharing her own experiences. We talked about why people who can’t see still want to choose the colour of their clothes. On that day, quite by chance, we were both wearing red and she had even chosen crockery to match! My coordinated luggage definitely came up second-best. But, since then, I’ve tried to go one better and now have a red cane too – who wants a boring white one?
I hope that this little video gives an insight into life with a disability. There were just two women having fun together, totally unfazed by their blindness, completely competent and capable.
The dish would make a perfect brunch: simple ingredients of garlic, onion, peppers, tomatoes and chorizo sausage gently sautéed before sharing between individual dishes that were each topped with a fresh egg before oven-baking. You don’t really need a recipe for something so straightforward.
We ended the morning on her sunny balcony, enjoying the sounds and smells of the city. Maribel and her partner, Harry, broke into a song that summed up our thinking: “Everything’s going to be alright!”
Trying to write with an Australian accent doesn’t really work! While I was in Melbourne https://youtu.be/jvVX4GwFQVA, I kept forgetting to pronounce the name correctly so all the locals knew that I was a pom.
But they did give me stunning cooking experiences in this city that has more restaurants and bars than any other place in the world. No wonder they include such excellent chefs and cooks – who were generous enough to give me some time and share their knowledge.
Next time: meet Melbourne’s blind cook, Maribel, who is already gaining a strong following.
Catch up with the drama of my first week in Australia https://youtu.be/BbhhANADhm8
There were the thrills of the life-and-near-death sea rescue; a fire-pit barbecue that nearly smoked out the neighbours; cooking aboriginal-style and more.
Cooking with blind professional chef Martin and with award-winning Jo was a breeze in comparison.
You can look back at the other seven videos that try to capture the excitement of that memorable week.
You can see Martin and I cooking fish and lamb in his kitchen in Sydney, Australia on my Baking Blind YouTube channel.
Martin also has his Enabled Cooking website and has shared his recipes with us:
Asian-style baked fish:
Middle eastern rack of lamb:
Next time, Melbourne where Maribel has some great tips on living with blindness, I learn how good a Thermomix used to be and lots more.