Secrets of living with blindness

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NyCwxaXdRX4&feature=youtu.be

Podcast: Cooking in a Tactile Kitchen ABC Radio Part 1 (14 mins)

https://maribelsteel.com/listen-to-cooking-blind-in-a-tactile-kitchen/

Podcast: Cooking in a Tactile Kitchen ABC Radio Part 2 (14 Mins)

https://maribelsteel.com/listen-to-cooking-blind-in-a-tactile-kitchen-part-2/

 

Penny

http://www.bakingblind.com

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First week in Australia

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:

https://www.enabledcooking.com/recipe-baked-fish-fillet-asian-style-en-papilotte-cooking-with-penny-from-baking-blind/

Middle eastern rack of lamb:

http://www.enabledcooking.com/recipe-oven-roasted-australian-lamb-rack-with-babahganoush-sheeps-milk-yogurt-and-pomegranate-cooking-with-penny-from-baking-blind/

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.

 

 

Smoking out the neighbours

An Iranian fire pit- see how simple it is https://youtu.be/qAxVKhKj_nU

if you have a pickaxe and shovel along with really understanding neighbours prepared to risk their fence.

I’d woken in the morning to the sound of nearby digging and whispered excitement.  It was the final cooking day of my time in the Australian seaside town of Kiama and I was due to help with an Iranian barbecue feast for the neighbours.

Eddie and his very pregnant wife were the hosts and chief cooks, next door to the home of Ken and Rosemary who had accommodated us.  We’d already visited to take in his home-made pizza oven and barbecue and were now ready to see both in action.  Meanwhile, Rosemary and friend Jill were back in her kitchen creating their salads.

But Eddie stole the day with his fire pit: dug just a couple of feet from the wooden fence between the two houses –as close together as anywhere we’d find in England.  He’d filled it with kindling, logs and even some broken wooden furniture before setting light to it all.  I think our cooking together was his excuse for all the smoke that drifted over the fence!  Once hot, he topped the pyre with a shoulder of lamb, wrapped in damp cloth, fig leaves and cooking foil before another layer of charcoal and a top-dressing of soil.  And there we left it for nearly six hours.

We prepared the kebabs.  But forget the prim bamboo sticks we might use in the UK.  Eddie had an armful of steel swords that were perfect for conducting the heat in to the heart of the thick cylinders of beef and pork we’d moulded on to the blades.

 

The smoky barbecued aubergines went off to become outstanding babaganush as the swords sizzled.

Meanwhile, Lebanese flat breads were cooking and slightly charring in the pizza oven crafted from an old oil drum and the salads and other neighbours arrived.  It was a damp and drizzling day but the weather certainly didn’t interfere with our jolly celebrations.

But I did have to make my excuses for a couple of hours to visit the local Silos Estate winery www.silosestate.com and sample their excellent products with owner, Raj.  All made rather more dramatic as the owner’s wife had been bitten by a tic and needed to get to hospital for it to be removed – a day of dramas!

Returning to the neighbours, it was clear that they too had been imbibing a little too and the jollity had increased.  It was time for the great unveiling as the lamb was carefully dug out of its fiery grave and ceremonially shared between the guests.  It was utterly delicious, succulent and moist – a great way to celebrate our last day before flying to Melbourne.

Carving with your eyes shut

I’ve avoided roasting joints of meat as they can be too difficult to carve elegantly without sight.  See  https://youtu.be/gJTOoOTXBPA

how, In Australia, I learned one way of getting around the problem.

I was in the Sydney home kitchen of chef and lecturer Martin who is also visually impaired and who shares his recipes, hints and tips through his website: www.enabledcooking.com.

We were making a straightforward rack of lamb with Middle eastern flavours: baba ghanoush, pomegranate seeds, slivers of toasted almonds, sheep’s yoghurt and mint.  We seared the meat to give it some colour and flavour.  Not the easiest task for two blind cooks.  Martin judged it by time: about a minute each side.  I relied more on hearing and touch: the hot oil in the pan sizzles madly when the raw meat  is first added but calms as water  is evaporated;  don’t move the meat in the pan until the sound has reduced; when you do turn the meat, the side that has just been seared will feel hot and much firmer, even a little crisp in places.

About 10-12 minutes in the oven and the same again resting and we were ready to carve.  The joint could have been designed for it: a “rack” describes the row of lamb or pork ribs before they are separated out in to individual chops.  You can run a finger down your side and feel your own rack of ribs.  Lamb racks are often “French trimmed”: the fat and sinew cleaned off the bones so that just the meaty part of the chops remain below the separated and shortened bones – they stick out like a row of soldiers.

And those bones are the answer to blind carving.  You can hold them to get a good grip of the joint without touching the bits that will be eaten.  Then a sharp knife just follows the line of the bone from top to bottom and the first serving is ready.  Simply repeat between each soldier and the job’s done!

Then Martin’s accompaniments add the taste of the Middle East.  Toasting almonds or any other nuts or seeds without sight depends mainly on your sense of smell when you can’t see.  I use a non-stick frying pan without oil and add the nuts or seeds while it is heating up.  After a few minutes, you can smell them becoming toasted, so it is time to give them a stir to cook the other side.  Seeds tend to be easier as you can also hear them start popping.  The trick is to take them off the heat early before they start burning.  If there’s any risk, pour the pan contents on to a cold plate to stop them cooking further.

Next time, Eddie’s Iranian barbecue brings more of those Middle Eastern flavours.

Good cooking!

Penny

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.

 

Meet the CWA and their scones   – https://youtu.be/I3M-tbtufog  down-under equivalents to our British WIs and their Victoria sponges.   I was learning from the very best in Kiama, Australia

Jo, one of the renowned champions of the Country Women’s Association was generous enough to share her amazing recipe for lemonade scones: just self-raising flour, cream and the fizzy drink of your choice.  She and others make over 50,000 for just one local show so I knew she was a top expert.

This was my first cooking session after landing in Australia following a long and day-late flight from China.  The warm Spring weather and the charm of this little seaside town nestled in the countryside was a complete change from the teeming metropolis of Chongqing.

It was a real privilege to start with a lesson from Jo, an award-winning cook who has turned her skill in to a thriving business (Sweetwood cakes).  We spent a sunny morning in the bright kitchen of Ken and Rosemary, long-term friends who were generously hosting me in their Kiama home.  Gemma, herself a professional pastry chef, and fellow CWA-member, Jennifer, were there too – making sure that my attempts wouldn’t utterly disgrace their exacting standards.

Cooking alongside Jo was a delight: her passion, knowledge and great sense of humour were just what I’d expect from a completely confident and super-competent cook.  We laughed all morning and invented new recipes on the spot: how about beer in place of lemonade to make scones for a ploughman’s lunch; perhaps even a cream tea would be more luxurious with a champagne scone? The variations could be as endless as there are carbonated drinks in the world!

When I got back to the UK, sparkling wine was the perfect alternative and I added horseradish sauce to half the mixture for savoury scones to serve with a smoked salmon mousse.    Definitely one for the recipe book!