Monthly Archives: May 2010

If the All Blacks do not win the 2011 Rugby World Cup…

If the All Blacks do not win the 2011 Rugby World Cup, it will be this man’s fault.

The Road to Redemption

I particularly urge you to check out his manifesto, where he explains exactly why he is to blame.

The Road Manifesto

Chocolate self-saucing pudding

It’s cold and wet in Adelaide. After an extended warm autumn that seemed to last until well through May, at last winter has arrived. In my house, winter means fires and soups and stews and pudding. Extra food to keep our bodies going in the cold, and extra comfort for the dreary days.

My girls love chocolate self-saucing pudding. So do I, because it’s very, very easy to make, and the ingredients can be assembled a little ahead of time, then quickly mixed together and the pudding put into the oven just before I start doing the last minute prep for the meal and getting the girls to set the table. 45 minutes later, the pudding is cooked and ready to eat, usually a few minutes after we have finished eating and clearing the first course.

First, assemble two sets of ingredients. In one bowl, mix together 2/3 cup of brown sugar, and 1/4 cup of cocoa powder. It’s a good idea to sift the cocoa powder. to get any lumps out of it. This mix of brown sugar and cocoa powder will become the sauce. Sometimes I add a pinch of salt, to round out the flavour of the sauce. Set the sugar and cocoa mix aside.

In another, larger bowl, mix together 1 cup of plain flour, 1 teaspoon of baking powder (substitute 1 cup of self-raising flour for the plain flour and baking powder if you like), 1/2 cup of brown sugar, and 2 tablespoons full of cocoa powder. Again, it’s a good idea to sift the cocoa powder and the flour and baking powder. Set the flour and cocoa and sugar mix aside.

Melt 60 grams of butter, and set it aside.

Beat together one egg and 1/2 cup of milk and set aside. I usually just use a fork to beat the egg and milk mix: the idea is to beat it until the egg is broken up and thoroughly mixed through the milk, not to get it light and fluffy as you would for a sponge cake. Again, set the mix aside.

And last of all, grease your baking dish. I use a 2-litre (about 3.5 pints) pyrex casserole dish, with high sides.

All these ingredients can sit on your kitchen bench for a while. All day would not be sensible, given the milk and egg, but they should be fine for up to an hour or so, ‘though you may want to put the milk and egg mix in the fridge if you do this.

Make sure you start your oven warming so that you have it at 170 degrees Celsius when the pudding goes in (that’s about 350 Fahrenheit). When you are ready to start assembling the pudding, put the kettle on, because you will need 1 and 1/4 cups of boiling water. Then, stir the milk and egg, and the melted butter into the flour, cocoa and sugar mix. When the batter is smooth, pour it into the casserole dish. Don’t try to spread it to the edges: you want it to sit in the middle of the baking dish, leaving space for the sauce around the side. Sprinkle the cocoa and sugar mix over the top, reasonably evenly, and then carefully pour 1 and 1/4 cups of boiling water over the whole thing. Don’t just slosh the water in – try to pour it slowly and evenly, so all of the cocoa and sugar mix gets wet.

Into the oven it goes, for about 40 to 45 minutes, or maybe a little longer, depending. If you are using a small baking dish, it may be worth putting a baking slide under the dish, to catch any drips. The pudding is ready when it feels firm and cakey, and there is a rich chocolate sauce bubbling at the side. Be careful if you test the pudding’s readiness with your finger: the sauce burns!

I let it sit for a few minutes, so that the sauce thickens up, and the pudding cools a little. Then I dust it with icing sugar, and serve it with thickened cream. It’s delicious. My girls usually lick their bowls clean.

This recipe makes enough for all five of us to have a good sized serving, and there’s still enough left for the first person up the next morning to have the leftovers for breakfast. You could serve up to eight people, especially if you added icecream on the side. If you are only cooking for a couple of people, then the recipe can be halved quite successfully. However it’s a little difficult to get half an egg. I use a whole egg – the smallest one I have on hand – and 3 tablespoons (45ml) of milk.

Puddings spell comfort to me. I have fond memories of a glorious steamed pudding that friends made one night when I was staying with them in Canberra, served with runny custard and cream. I had two helpings. My mother used to make us “Children’s Favourite Syrup Pudding” and hot fruit sponges, to warm us up in cold and wet Taranaki winters. The food of love.

What puddings do you make and love?

Cross posted

Friday Feminist – Mohja Kahf

Cross posted

No Such Thing as a “Muslim Woman”

This variety is why there really is no such creature as “a Muslim woman” – it’s an overly general category. There are Afghani Muslim women from impoverished, refugee camps, aristocratic Iranian Muslim women Shakespearean scholars, American Muslim women soccer moms, Klingon Muslim women aboard the Starship Enterprise, and so on. I myself am a Klingon.

Mohja Kahf, “Muslim Women Rule and Other Little-Known Facts” in Fawzia Afzal-Khan (ed), Shattering the Stereotypes: Muslim Women Speak Out, Moreton-in-Marsh: Arris Books, 2005

A brief Twitter-splat

Feeling ridiculously proud of my eldest daughter, who gave her first debating speech ever at 3rd negative, and was magnificent! [1/2] #

I coach her team, and they won! That makes it two from two, for kids who have just started debating this year. [2/2] #

Also, am I wrong to be smug that our scrubby public school has taken down two private schools so far, both of whom were very put out.[3/2] #

Our school isn’t really scubby at all – it’s excellent – but you’d think we had a peculiar smell given the looks we have gotten. [4/2] #

I can’t count. Or maybe I don’t plan very well. Whatever. [5/2] #

Educating Rosie

Head on over to Giovanni’s place, and check out his fascinating post that starts with Rosie the Riveter, and ends up with… well, that would be ruining the punchline, wouldn’t it. Just go read it.

Educating Rosie, at Bat, Bean, Beam – a weblog on memory and technology

The market as judge: good for baked beans, not so good for childcare

Cross posted

As has been widely discussed, New Zealand’s National government decided that one of the best places to save a bit of money was in Early Childhood Education. Childcare centres would no longer be required to 100% qualified staff (with grandparenting provisions for existing staff who were working towards their degrees); instead, only 80% qualified staff would be required, and centres would be funded at that level.

It’s a downgrade. And it’s a downgrade that means that parents will have less assurance about the quality of care and education that their children are receiving. We all know that good quality early childhood education is critical for children, and all the more so for children who don’t come from privileged middle class homes. There are plenty of children who turn up for their first day of primary school, having never held a book in their hands, having never had a book read to them, not even knowing that in European writing systems, we read the left hand page, and then the right, and then turn the right page over. One way to give these kids at least half a chance, to ensure that in our supposedly egalitarian society there is a minimal semblance of equality of opportunity, is to ensure that they get good quality early childhood care. We need to make sure everyone has a chance, that everyone can get a good education, if we want the children who are in childcare right now, to grow up to become citizens, people who are part of our society, people who have a stake in it, people who want to make a contribution, instead of forever feeling that the bosses and the big important people just don’t give a damn.

As a society, we should be deeply concerned about the quality and availability of early childhood education. We rely on having expert and well-qualified teachers and carers in our childcare centres and preschools, because we are concerned about the future of our society. On top of that, most parents want to be sure that their children are in good care. So they rely on having expert and well-qualified teachers in childcare centres and preschools.

But the National government has decided that early childhood education just doesn’t matter all that much, so that’s where “savings” can be made. As for quality assurance, well, Granny Herald has got a solution.

The market will provide!

It is easy to insist little children deserve nothing but the best. And working parents who place their infants in childcare want to be assured on that score. But “the best” at this level might not require professional training. The best could include people with an aptitude for caring but not for academic study and tests. Checks on their performance can be reliably left to a competitive industry that must constantly satisfy observant parents.

Editorial: Preschool Budget cuts right move

Oh good grief! Early childhood education, indeed, any education, is not like a can of baked beans. For starters, it’s not as though there is a whole shelf full of childcare centres, from which you can pick one. The supply is limited, especially if you are constrained by other factors, such as needing childcare near your home, or your work, so that you don’t spend hours every days commuting between one place and another, with tired children in the back seat. But more importantly, it can take time to work out that a child is not thriving, time to work out that for all its glossy brochures a childcare centre doesn’t really have the resources to care for your child, time to work out that some of the staff who looked so lovely don’t in fact know how to manage children, and have only taken the job because there is nothing else they can do. One of the great guarantees that comes along with demanding degree qualified staff is that you know they are genuinely committed to early childhood education, committed enough to slog their way through a degree, because this is where they want to be.

But the time you have been able to work this out, your child is six months older. Six months is not such a long time for an adult to endure a poor job, but it could 10% or 20% of your child’s life. Time enough for a child to lose out, to slip behind developmental guidelines, to miss out on critical early learning experiences. You buy one can of baked beans and it turns out to be not so good? Well, you can always go buy another brand the very next day. But “buy” the wrong type of childcare, and the consequences could be much more severe than a meal that isn’t quite as good as you would like it to be.

I know some fabulous women and men who have worked in childcare – my mother, a cousin who is doing her degree, a former male student who was a qualified nanny, the wonderful, gorgeous, Jackie Clark. What distinguishes these people is their commitment to children, exemplified by the qualifications they have worked hard to get. Those are the kind of people I want to see in early childhood education.

I would like to see the National government think a little harder about what it wants to achieve in education, and why, and how, instead of simply thinking that it can be trimmed and cut without anyone much noticing the difference.

As for where the money is going to come from? I hear there’s a cycleway that isn’t being built. Perhaps that might be a good thing to trim.

Friday Feminist – Christine de Pizan (5)

Cross posted

But recall, nevertheless, dear friend, how it seems that God has deliberately wished to show men that even if women do not possess the great strength and physical daring which men usually have, they should not say nor should they believe that this is because strength and physical daring are excluded from the feminine sex: this is obvious, because in many women God has made manifest enormous courage, strength, and boldness to undertake and execute all kinds of hard tasks, just like those great men – solemn and valorous conquerors – have accomplished…

Christine de Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies, 1405