The State of Snow

What a poor ski-season it’s been this year in Victoria. Admittedly, we went to Lake Mountain and not Mount Hotham, but this picture still gives you an idea of the state of things. It’s mid-August, and there should be enough snow to go tobogganing!

Perhaps this photo overstates things. Even though there were patches of rocks, grass and dirt, it was possible to steer between them, following a winding path of snow to the bottom. In fact, the fact that you needed to steer probably made it a little more fun than it would’ve been normally.

Baklava Recipe

The other weekend I baked a few little things for an afternoon tea, and I was asked for the recipe I used to make the baklava. I like baklava, and having it made it now, I’d probably buy it rather than bake it, as it is a bit time-consuming. However, the satisfaction of having done it yourself does add something to the flavour. This recipe is a modified version of the one from Donna Hay’s excellent Modern Classics Book 2.

Ingredients

36 sheets of filo pastry (one 375g pack of Pampas filo is sufficient)
125g melted butter (for pastry)
3 tablespoons oil
1 – 1.5 cups chopped walnuts (100-150g of walnuts)
1.5 cups chopped almonds (150g – blanched is good but not required)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (for filling)
1/3 cup brown sugar
45g softened butter (for filling)
1 cup water
2 cups white sugar
0.5 teaspoon ground cinnamon (for syrup)
2 cloves

Method

Heat oven to 160 degrees celcius. Defrost the filo pastry. Grease a shallow, rectangular tray about 20cm by 30cm (don’t line with foil or baking paper).

Make filling by finely chopping and combining all the nuts with cinnamon, sugar and butter.

Combine butter and oil. Place a single sheet of filo into tray, and moisten with butter-oil using pasty brush. If a single sheet doesn’t fit, just tear the pastry to size, or even cover with multiple pieces of sheets so that whole tray is covered. Put another sheet down and moisten again. Build up 12 layers of sheets this way.

Spread half of the spiced nut mixture evenly across the pastry. Cover with another 12 layers of pastry, as before. Then spread the remaining half of mixture on top. Finish with the remaining 12 layers of pastry in the same way.

Cut the tray of baklava into diamonds – one set of cuts parallel to the sides, and another at an angle. Should make about 28 pieces. Put it into the oven, and bake for 1 hour. But don’t stop yet, there’s the syrup to make.

Put the sugar, water, cinnamon and cloves in a saucepan and cook over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Simmer for a further six minutes until it forms a syrup, and then remove from heat. Take the cloves out.

After the baklava is cooked, remove and let sit for five minutes or so, then pour the syrup over. It’s tasty warm, or if you’ve got self-control, wait about a day, and it will be even better.

Kids who sing like Adults

I find them unnerving and really quite freaky. The Sound of Music was on TV last night and starred Julie Andrews, who was one such musical mutant. She had a five octave range and debuted on the West End at about the age of 12, according to Wikipedia.

As I was browsing YouTube recently, I came across a performance by Bianca Ryan, who is reputed to be 11. It’s very, very odd to be watching someone that young sing and perform like that.
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Effective Public Transport web site – shock!

I’ve been impressed at the web sites available for public transport, overseas. I’d given up on the hope that Melbourne would get some decent websites for its public transport system, and now I’ve come across two of them in a matter of weeks.

Firstly, there’s the Journey Planner that Metlink runs. It’s just like the one I came across in London, and liked a lot. It schedules train, bus, tram and walking between a flexible set of end points. Previously, looking up timetables on their site and figuring out what to catch when – well, it was a total nightmare. I expect I’ll be using this new one a lot.

And I’ve also come across the best map of Melbourne’s trains and trams I’ve ever seen. It has everything, all on one map. In colour. Print it in A3 and give it to everyone.

I have no idea why I’m so excited about public transport web pages. It’s really not the sort of thing I would normally care about. But these are so much better than what I’d expect that I can’t help but tell people.

I hope I get over it soon.