Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Monday, April 27, 2009

Vegetarian Cooking Class

I went to a Vegetarian Cooking Class at Hainault Vineyard yesterday. Hainault, by the way, is one of my family's favourite places for lazy (and delicious) Sunday lunches.

The Chef was Kurma. I had done one of his classes a couple of years back and thoroughly enjoyed it. At that class he had us making Panir, and I've made it a few times since. So when I received an email from Lyn at Hainault saying that they were running a class with him I booked in immediately.

There were 14 students, Lyn, her husband Michael and Kurma in the kitchen. I was a bit apprehensive at first as to how we would all fit in the area but it was arranged perfectly.

We met at 3.15pm and after a brief "meet and greet" and a walk-through of the recipes we would be doing things got underway.

There were 10 different recipes - including Panier. The one I was most looking forward to was Hot & Sweet Eggplant Pickles. I love eggplant but tend to avoid cooking it as I never seem to get it right.

I read through the recipe (during the "meet & greet") and was perplexed at the line which said "Wash and dry the eggplants. Cut them into wedges, ensuring each wedge has some skin on it.", as I couldn't figure out how you can cut large eggplants small enough for pickles but leave skin on each bit.

Luckily, Kurma nominated me for the eggplant chopping task and I learnt how to chop large eggplants to achieve this. Oh, you want to know??? ... umm, it's really hard to explain ... if you really, really, really want to know, leave a note in comments and I'll see if I can do a demo in a later blog.

Here's the recipe for the Eggplant:

Hot & Sweet Eggplant Pickles

This tender and delicious pickle from Maharastra is simultaneously hot sweet and sour. Select firm fresh eggplants for best results. Makes 3 cups.

450g eggplants, about 3 medium
½ cup peanut oil
2 teaspoons finely minced ginger
1 teaspoon yellow asafetida powder
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
½ cup apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons ground roasted cumin seeds

Wash and dry the eggplants. Cut them into wedges, ensuring each wedge has some skin on it.

Heat the oil over moderate heat in a wok until fairly hot. Drop in the ginger and saute for 1 minute, or until aromatic. Sprinkle in the yellow asafetida powder, saute momentarily then add the eggplant, salt and cayenne. Stir-fry the eggplants constantly for about 10 minutes, or until the eggplants are soft enough to pierce with a knife.

Add the vinegar or lemon juice, and the sugar. Reduce the heat and cook for another 10 minutes, or until the eggplants are very tender. Sprinkle in the ground cumin seeds, and remove the pickle from the heat. Allow to cool then serve.

That recipe is from his website - we used raw sugar when we did it yesterday.

As far as I can work out the Nutritional Information for this recipe (using the quantities above) is:
Cals....kJ.....Fat....Sat. Fat....Prot....Carb....Sugar...Fibre....Sodium

The class was conducted in a fun and humerous way. Kurma gave as many people as were interested an opportunity to do the different things and apart from the circuit breaker blowing every time the electric wok was turned on, there were no major hiccups.

Anyway, after about four hours of cooking we trekked all the food onto a large table and sat down to a feast ... we started with a dal soup (this wasn't a favourite of mine - if I was to make it again, I would make it thicker and a bit spicier); BBQed asparagus with macadamia nut pesto (YUMMY); rocket salad served with sweet potato mash and the panier steaks (Panier pan fried with a splash of soy & sweet chilli sauces); roasted cauliflower with snow peas, cashews and sour cream and, of course, the eggplant pickles. There were puri (a fried Indian bread) and for dessert .... fennel flavoured donuts served with fresh berry yogurt.

The roasted cauliflower was divine. I tend to generally eat cauliflower (and most vegetables) raw, but I am definitely going to roast cauliflower in the future - and maybe do the whole recipe if I have time.

To accompany the meal, there were two Hainault wines provided - Forrest Fruits, which is a sweetish wine and a 2006 Semillon. I decided that the Semillon would go best and it was a good choice.

Discussions raged around the table, it was interesting to note that none of the students were vegetarian. Most had decided to come to the class as they loved cooking and loved food (or their spouses did). Two of the guys said that they had signed up for the class before realising it was vegatarian. I don't think anyone actually missed having meat at the meal, I certainly didn't. It was one guy's first ever evening meal without meat (and he was in his 50s at least) and he said that he enjoyed it.

We finished the evening with coffee before rolling down the stairs and home :)

Just a note: Kurma is now based in Sydney, he conducts cooking classes there, in Melbourne and occasionally in Adelaide. If you ever get the chance to do one, it is really worth it.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


Today was a good day with the trainees.

There were only 4 of them so it was a pretty light load. We started by having them set up a range and then shooting that range. The range we used was a challenge because there is a metal bunker door in the right range butt - so when setting up targets it's important to make sure the bunker door isn't in the line of fire.

After we had set up the range - including building the walls, placing the starting box, placing the targets, working out the safety aspects etc - the trainees shot the course. Then Les (the Training Officer) gave them some tips on how to shoot the course intelligently, and then they shot it again. Their times dramatically improved when they actually thought about how to shoot the stage. I also notice that the first time they shot the course none of them planned their reloads - it was more a case of, "oh, there's no more bullets what do I do now?" situations. I mentioned this to them before their second shoot and they did much better on that score too.

After shooting this range, we moved onto the ranges that the squads were shooting and ended up shooting three of those stages. We worked on different starting positions in each of the shoots. One stage had swinging targets which the trainees found challenging. I Range Officered all of the shooting (certainly got a good workout!), had to remind a few people about "finger on trigger" and muzzle direction, but nothing too serious. One thing I noticed also, two of the guys were shooting Tanfoglios (most of the trainee guns are Glocks), and they weren't putting their safeties on after loading (prior to holstering), so I had to remind them about that.

I enjoyed doing the Range Officering job - I'm getting better at focusing on the gun rather than anything else.

Once the training course had finished, I let one of the trainees have a shot with my gun - he had been asking about it in previous weeks. Also the husband of one of the trainees had come to watch what his wife was up to ... so I gave him a shoot also. Then I shot off a couple of mags just for the practice.

I'm not shooting tomorrow, I'm off doing an Orienteering event in the morning and then a Vegetarian Cooking class in the afternoon.

Monday here is a public holiday for Anzac Day and I'll need to do some study. Anzac Day was actually today - but Western Australia is having the Monday as the Public Holiday (it's the only State in Australia that is).

Monday, April 20, 2009

Range Report, Newbies & Trainees

Busy weekend gun wise … I worked with the Training Officer and the trainees again on Saturday. This time there were only 7 of them, one of whom was a complete newbie. Actually she's one of the girls I mentioned in this post as being "extremely nervous about the whole thing".

She said that she really enjoyed it and is looking forward to next Saturday, so that's a good thing.

The training course went well and I don't even think I had to remind anyone (more than once) to keep their finger off the trigger.

On Sunday I shot in our monthly trophy shoot. My gun has had some work done on it since the last time I shot including a mag well (makes reloading much easier) and the trigger has been lightened. I was pretty nervous through the first two stages (it was a 5 stage shoot) as I hadn't shot for awhile and the gun felt quite different. After the second stage we had a long wait for the next range to be free so I went to an unused range and shot off two mags worth. After that I was much more confident with the gun.

My shooting was okay – accuracy was down a bit, but I was making a determined effort to try and shoot the second shot faster, so times were a bit better. I can really tell that I need more practice, so I think I'll have to shoot off a couple of mags after the training course on Saturdays just for that additional practice time.

The stages that were set up were challenging and fun to shoot. One stage had two swingers which you activated from a window by shooting a popper and then you had to go to another window to shoot the swinging target. I was pleased to get two shots on each of these two targets.

Another stage had four disappearing targets on it. Three were activated by the use of a foot plate. The first target took a bit of time to come up, then fell, raising the second target, which fell raising the third one. All of these targets were partially covered with no-shoots. Target one was slow, but two and three were very fast (in my opinion anyway). Again I was pleased to land two shots on each and avoid the no-shoot zone!

I did however get "chatted" for gun direction – on two ranges my reloads had the gun heading for the 90! Really need to practice these especially when moving right to left.

The shoot took over 2 hours to complete. We start at 9am and I didn't get off the range until after 11.40! I had arranged to meet some people at a nearby park for lunch and then some of them were going to come shooting too.

The lunch was nice, but less people than expected actually showed so when it came to shooting we just had a family of 4.

I took them back up the range (along with someone who was just going to have a quick look see – and "there's no way I'm touching a gun" – she ended up pulling the trigger on my .22 Ruger - and enjoying it ).

With the family, my friend Steve did the show & tell bit and then we went out on the range. The boys shot a short stock .22 rifle first, mum and dad then tried my lever action Winchester .22 rifle. We moved onto the .22 Ruger (all four shot this), then my 9mm Springfield (the boys got one bullet each on this one). After this they shot another friend's revolver, Steve's Edge and Open Gun and then the over / under shotgun and the pump action shotty. I also got a turn with the pump action (yippee). We wound the day up with the boys shooting off another mag each on the short stock .22.

Here's a collage of photos from the day:

Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and mum and dad are planning to come back up the range on a competition day (without the boys).

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Introduction to Orienteering

I had been thinking about getting involved in Orienteering during the winter months but didn't really feel confident to just turn up at a meet so when the Guides advertised an Orienteering Course I thought it would be a good way to find out what it was all about.

So at 8.30 this morning a group of seven of us met the Instructor out at Fred Jacoby park in Mundaring. It was quite cool - guess who didn't have a jumper? However, it didn't take long to get warm once we got moving.

The first part of the course was spent looking at sample maps and learning to recognise various symbols and understand contours. We then moved onto using compasses and then we did a little relay game. My girls had come up the park and were hanging out with Dad while I was doing the course, but they joined in on this game.

After morning tea we were given a map to the main challenge of the day. The Instructer said that the course wasn't suitable for children, but I decided to take my eldest with me (I had a radio so I could call my husband to come and get her if it was too much). We were given the option of doing the whole course or only 2/3rds of it if we were running short of time. However, when we got to the 2/3rds marker we still had quite a lot of time remaining so decided to do the rest. My daughter did the whole thing with me, I was very proud of her as there wasn't a single word of complaint the whole time.

The course was very steep in places, we basically caught up with most of the other participants at one checkpoint because none of us could find it. We worked in a group from there on in. After we eventually found that checkpoint and then the next one we ended up on a embankment - most of us decided that going down on our bums was the most effective method of proceeding.

There were a few slips and slides, most of the route was pea gravel, pine needles or dust (especially in the area that the dirt / mountain bikes used). My daughter was nearly taken out by a mountain bike - I managed to drag her out of the way just in time. But all in all it was a challenging and fun event.

The major challenge took just on 2hrs and I burnt around 1300cals - so a great workout too.

I've now got the program for the various orienteering events around Perth over the winter as my eldest and myself are both pretty keen to do more of this. Unfortunately they run on Sunday mornings, so it is a choice between shooting or orienteering.

I also realised that having limited vision in my right eye (due to this virus) meant that my depth perception was affected, which increased the challenge in places! I think I'll wait until my eye is fully recovered before doing another course.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Range Report - Working with Trainees

Today I went up the range to help the Training Officer with the trainees.

I got there at 1pm, the trainees started to arrive soon afterwards. The training sessions start at 2pm but Les (the Training Officer) likes them there by 1.30pm to get them all kitted out and organised.

My gun club runs the training courses continually with participants able to start at any time. The course is nominally twelve weeks. Therefore, in any class you have a range of skills and experience. Today we had two newbies and two guys who will be doing their "safety test" in a couple of weeks. There were 11 trainees in total (one of whom was female).

I basically stood around and helped patch targets, told trainees to keep their finger off the trigger, or tuck in the their t-shirts or similar.

The two guys who will be doing their safety course in a couple of weeks were learning range commands today and doing the RO work. So apart from ROing one of them I didn't even have to do that. Basically, I was just a backup for them and Les.

We work with the trainees on one of the back ranges for most of the time and then once the "normal" squads finish shooting the courses of fire we take the trainees out there and run them through a stage or two.

The first stage we went to was quite a complex one - with two disappearing targets. I was surprised by the number of trainees who managed to get hits on both targets. There were a few "fingers on triggers" and barrel direction issues, but nothing too serious.

The second stage we shot was in a small range and with lots of walls. It was quite tight in places and they had built some of the rooms with roofs - which didn't suit the taller guys at all (one banged their head when trying to patch a target - much to everyones' amusement), he managed to shoot the course without injuring himself further. We did have one trainee turn completely up-range while doing a reload. The RO and Les were onto him pretty quickly.

At the end the guys shot off the rest of their ammo (in a line) and one of the guys (a newbie) got a hot case down his top ... I had to grab the gun as he was more concerned about getting the brass out than controlling his barrel direction.

Unfortunately, I can't help next weekend, but I'll be back the weekend after as I really enjoyed myself today.