Curried Sausages

My Grandfather, Kyran "Keeny" Brennan, driving the driver in Colombo

This is my Grandfather - everyone called him Keeny because he loved Keen's Curry Powder. He always wore hats because he was embarrassed that he was balding. He liked taking exotic trips and used to meander down hawker's lanes to find any sort of ointment or lotion that might grow his hair back. I think I would have liked him! He died before I was born, but I feel like I know him from how much my Mum has told me about him. She named me Nerissa because it means 'from the sea', and he liked the ocean so much, so I have always felt kinda close to him somehow. 

Is that why I like curries?

Curried Sausages is what I make Mum make whenever I go home for a visit. Actually, I don't even have to request it anymore - after 34 years of being my Mum, she just knows to make it. It is like I can smell it when I get into hour 25- of my 32- hour flight home. It is soooo good! It never tastes as good when I make it... Guess I need to get some Keen's sent over.

Tonight I was so excited to make it and write about it here and then forgot to take a photo in all my haste to gobble it down!!! Piggy.

Here's the recipe anyway. Photo to follow soon!
Curried Sausages (or Chops or Steak)
1 apple
1 onion
3 Tbs plain flour
3 Tbs curry powder
3 tsp salt
6 tsp sugar
3 cups stock or water (750ml)
1 lb sausages, chops, steak
3 med potatoes
2 carrots
1 banana (optional)

~ mince apple and onion
~ fry apple and onion till brown
~ add flour, curry powder, salt and sugar - stir well
~ add stock or water and stir till boiling
~ add banana if used
~ add meat (except sausages) and simmer 1 ½ to 2 hours
~ add carrots and potatoes the last 30 minutes
~ skim off fat
~ serve on a hot plate with rice

if using sausages, cook them before-hand and cook everything at once for 30 minutes.

Shampoo, Conditioner & going au naturale

 Mum and her long hair

It's official! I am fully au naturale with my body products. My sister is calling me a hippy, and well, that's ok with me! (She is not far behind me, I think!!).

It started around this time last year, the going natural. And it started because of my skin. As a kid, I had the best skin - never a zit to be seen. At 21, I started getting zits. Big ones. Not just little things that would go away in a day or two, but big red sore things that would never do anything, except grow of course.

I completely stopped with dairy. I went on the Pill. Nothing. I tried natural & non- natural skin care. Nothing. A different Pill. Malaria Tablets (??). I was wearing so much make-up to hide these big blistery burn-like things, which made it worse. My doctor sent me to the dermatologist, who told me I had Cystic Acne, made me sign a waiver form saying I wouldn't get pregnant during the course of my antibiotics, and put me on a strong dose of (Ro)Accutane for 6 months. That stuff is awful. But my zits went away. After the medication had finished, I was a different person. Twenty-four, and finally clear skin. Three months later it was back.

I went back on Roaccutane. Did I mention I also got depression and nearly slammed my car into a tree? (Side Effects of that drug are depression, and I was the happiest chick you would know before that). Well, I got better, thankfully, but after a second dose of the drug-from-hell (people warned me!), I swore I would take it no more, even if my zits came back. Which, of course, they did. I tried out Proactive. Anyone use that? Stop using it. The Benzoyl Peroxide brought out the pigmentation on my skin in the form of Melasma - you know, that thing some PREGNANT women get? Only I had it for four years. I was sent off to the dermatologist again, and had done a little research on skin lightening products thinking I might try that, but read that Hydroquinone was banned in most countries except the US. Didn't want that, and told the doctor so. She assured me the stuff she was gonna give me didn't have any nasty ingredients in it, and in fact, used it herself. I looked it up when I got home - it contained Hydroquinone. I didn't go back to that "Specialist".

All this stuff is horrible for you. And it feels like you are fighting a losing battle. I never thought about my poor liver, until recently. I'm hoping it will love me again soon.

Last year, I had a bit of a breakdown about it. How could I be turning 34 and STILL have pimples? STILL have times where I wouldn't go out because I was embarrassed? How come I never had them as a teenager, and was getting them as an adult? What did I start doing that could have brought this on? I eat fairly healthily, I exercise most days, I drink water. You know, all of that.

These were the things I came up with that I started doing in my early 20's:
1) I started using sunscreen like it was my religion.  I had a friend who died when he was 24 from Skin Cancer, and I started paying attention to the ads everywhere about protecting yourself against the sun's harmful rays. We got / get that BIG TIME in Australia.
2) I started taking multi-vitamins, also very religiously. Swore by them.
3) I also started wearing make-up, using moisturiser, make-up remover, eye cream (yes, since I was 22!)
4) I dyed my hair and used lots of 'stuff' in it. 

You know, the things we do as adult women for grooming.

I started thinking (a little bit more seriously) about how our skin is our largest organ, and that everything I put on it, goes into my body. (Sorry, Mr Liver). I got grossed out by the ingredients that are so harmful, that we don't know what they even are, and yet we lather ourselves in them. I mean I haven't bought chicken or eggs that aren't free-range since I was the same age! And I just put whatever on my skin?

Whew, this post is long! Are you still with me?

I stopped using sunscreen. Stopped wearing make-up. Stopped putting zit cream on, even a topical blob. Stopped using anything but natural soap in the shower. Better. I started researching alternatives to skin care - olive oil face masks was something I tried out at first! My skin exploded! (They said it might, those internet forums!) I mean, seriously, it was an explosion on my face. For about 6 weeks. Then it started looking a little better day by day.

I stopped taking my multi-vitamins, and switched to natural eye cream. Better.

I started using natural shampoo & conditioner. Better still. (Except my hair was still super greasy, which was a recent & annoying development I was hoping would change).

I didn't wear make-up unless I really had to (still can't go make-up-less to gigs!! yet!)

And then, I started with the natural deodorant.

Oh, and I have been back practicing yoga on a try-to-daily basis (about three - four times / week).

The verdict? It is getting there. Really and truly is. The brown pigmentation is fading. When I do get a pimple, it is like a normal persons pimple that sorta comes and goes without too much hassle. It doesn't hurt. I see me in the mirror again, and think I am pretty. I am glad that I can acknowledge that before I get too much older! I know, beauty comes from the inside, and maybe it shouldn't have upset me so much. But when there is something going on and you don't know how it came to be and how to fix it, it is upsetting.

The hippy-tip factor has come with the hair. Really recently, like in the past couple of months, I have started making my own shampoo and conditioner from Baking Soda and Apple Cider Vinegar. My hair is so much lighter (in colour and volume!) and stays cleaner much longer. And it is so cheap!
Ok, it doesn't lather up like shampoo, but you will get a clean like your Great-Grandma had - thank Bessie Pearl (well, Mum really, she is the one who told me about it. She said I have to rinse with cold water as well though, but not going there just yet!). She has been telling me for years how bad shampoo and conditioner is (especially conditioner, in her opinion), and how her hair used to be so beautiful and thick, and how it is so thin now - nothing to do with age in her opinion). She's always finding articles, or shows on tv about it and telling me. I was kinda hoity-toity and told her that I DO use natural shampoo / conditioner now. But, she was right!

How come there aren't any regulations (like FDA or something!) about skin care & beauty products? It's not through your mouth, but it goes into your body. It's still ingested, right? I took a class in natural skin care a couple of months ago and a girl in the class was asking how you could just sell beauty products with no approval from the government or anything? She couldn't grasp at first how NONE of these products have to be approved, let alone the good, natural ones!! If there are good ones out there, let me know about them, - I will try them! (As long as they're 100%...).

So, the regimen now? I will tell you mine below if you are interested.

In the meantime, it's a recipe of sorts, and this is what Bessie Pearl did - Natural Shampoo and Conditioner.


1 Tbs Baking Soda in a cup
Add warm water and stir
I add a little Tea Tree Oil, as my hair has been super oily lately
Pour it on, massage your scalp, leave for a minute or so.

I added Peppermint Tea to my mix yesterday - it was lovely!


One capful of Apple Cider Vinegar (you can use more, but it smells too vinegar-y to me)
Add warm water and stir
I add a drop of Apricot Oil & a squirt of honey
Pour that on into your ends and leave on a minute or more

And that is it. How awesome! How cheap! My hair feels great! After you get out of the shower it sounds a little brittle, like cellophane or something, but after it's dry, it is amazing!

There are many other posts with other recipes that you can find online if you want to go down the rabbit-hole with me!

just after starting to use natural hair stuff (not making my own here yet!), and in amongst the bluebells of england to boot!

Natural soap (I use Corrynne's or Australian Scent. They are both super amazing. And I think my skin especially loves me for it, because it reminds it of home!! I truly believe that - you know like how people say if you have allergies you should eat local honey? I like that one too! I think my skin likes Australian ingredients!). I use it to wash my face with aswell. I also quite like some of the Burt's Bees stuff, but only buy the 100% natural stuff. I am sure there are so many more wonderful products out there...

Australian Scent Balm of Gilead at night, with a couple of drops of Apricot Oil, and St John's Wort Oil.

I use the Balm of Gilead in the morning as well, if it feels like my skin needs it.

Corynne's detox paste once a week, or longer.

Arm & Hammer deodorant. Or Corrynne's clay deodorant

I am starting to learn how to make my own stuff too. It is SO easy. We should all know how to do this - did they know all this in the Olden Days of Bessie Pearl?

No perfumes!

(Grumpy) Bacon & Egg Pie

My Aunty Pam (never a grump!) with Roger the Dog

Who else gets grumpy? Drops their bottom lip and won't even sulkily pick it up off the ground? I don't think it happens very often to me, but I admit, it does happen - and I am feeling it right now! Everything is annoying me at the moment - the subway especially. I went for a ride this morning, and it took me 2-and-a-half hours to run a ten minute errand. And I seemed to have one of those experiences that included someone cutting their fingernails,  someone spitting orange pips and peel on the subway floor, someone throwing their trash out the door when it opened, people hogging two seats when the train is so packed that I am about to pass out. And of course, as usual, the louder than necessary walkmans, er, ipods! Usually I am ok with it (I have to be!), but today, no.

I sound like a pain in the ass. And today, I am. I should probably not even write today, - but I feel like we all feel a little like this sometimes, and why keep that to yourself? Why not make a joke of yourself on a blog?! (Laughing at yourself - my best advice for anyone, anytime, for anything!)

When I was a little girl, my Grandma took my sister and I shopping for Care Bears. Remember them?! My sister went straight for Wish Bear, - it was so cheery and happy, with a rainbow & a star on its belly. But I couldn't help picking up Grumpy Bear. After all, who would love Grumpy Bear? Who would actively choose a grump over Wish - , Cheer - , Funshine - or  Friend - Bear, I wondered? Does he get left out just because he is grumpy? Do the other kids pick up Grumpy, and say, I want to have a Grumpy Bear Care Bear? I doubted it. And I felt bad for him. So, Grumpy came home with me, and I would look at him sometimes and think, I know how you feel Grumpy. When it does happen, I am horrible to be around, I'm sure. 

Like, when I promise I will make Bacon & Egg Pies for breakfast, and can't be bothered making my own pastry (because I am in a grump & feel like I am crap at it anyway), and use some left over phyllo pastry, which of course there's not enough left of for the pie LIDS, which annoys me even more, and then I have to serve up weirdo bacon & egg pies that I didn't put much love & patience into. I am surprised we didn't spit it out! But, they were actually quite yummy. 

So, here you go, -  I am going to post you the Grumpy Bacon & Egg Pies!

They will be made again another day with love, - when I wake up on a much nicer side of the bed. And they will be awesome!

Bacon & Egg Pie

1 potato

pastry - make your own, or you can use phyllo pastry. 
5" individual pie tins

~ Pre-heat the oven to 350F.
~ Boil the potato until it's soft, cut it into slices.
~ Fry the bacon & onions (separately)
~ Layer potato, bacon and onion in pie crust bottom
~ Sprinkle cheese on
~ Crack 1 or 2 eggs into the pie
~ Put on Pie Lid, & brush with egg or milk. Pierce top to let out steam. (Maybe I should do that to myself?)
~ Bake for 12 minutes
~ Delicious with Tomato Sauce (Ketchup)

 Sunday April 17th update

What's that saying about tomorrow always being fresh with no mistakes?

Hello, better side of the bed, how are you today? Me? Much better, thank you! *Smile*! (Thank you to my husband for being so nice to me when I am a grump! And my Mum & Sis, who also wrote to me, you made me feel so much better!)

I tried the bacon & egg pies (sans grumpy) again this morning. This blog is making me feel fat!

Pastry for savoury pie

1 1/4 cup flour
8 TBS butter
a little water
a little salt

YES! I actually made the pastry this morning. God, these were good! (Don't know why I insist upon being scared of pastry!)

Lamington Cake ala Nerissa

from l to r: my Grandma, Phyllis, her mother, (Bessie) Pearl, and her grandmother, Maryanne Truscott (in Boulder, Western Australia)

I cannot express to you all how much enjoyment I get from these old photographs - I LOVE this one of three generations of women in my family! It is so interesting to me, - yes, because they are my family and ancestors, but also because what IS Maryanne wearing? Maryanne, what ARE you wearing on your head there? Why are you dressed in such a hot-looking coat? Don't you know that you live in the Goldfields? That's the outback, - it's HOT!! The red-dirt and hot sun are not going to bode well for you in that outfit! They all look a little too.... warm for me! I know it does get kinda cold out there in the Goldfields, sometimes, but it doesn't look particularly cold in this picture!! I wonder what they were doing?

I also get a little obsessed looking for traces of myself in the photos. Does anyone else do that? I am always searching for some sort of ancestral throw-back, something to show me I belong to them. Hmmm, the beautiful dark hair, brown eyes, olive complexion.... I don't have any of it! I have green eyes, blondy-brown hair and am pretty white. And their stately CHESTS!! Wow! Nope, I don't see much resemblance at all - which makes me feel sorta left out considering my Mum inherited the same lovely looks, and my sister too. OK, I am tall - that may be the one thing!

But, onto the ledger..... I haven't written much lately, sorry! Life got sorta busy with the onset of Spring. Things have started blooming and my winter blues have evaporated, meaning I have been outside a lot enjoying the sunshine. The thought of being inside and cooking is not very inspiring! But, I whipped up some sponge cake yesterday and today we went and ate Lamingtons in the park. Recently, my husband & I moved from Brooklyn, where we'd lived for 8 - 9 years, to Harlem. It's a long way from the borough we know & love! But, we have been having so much fun exploring our new neighbourhood - lots of parks around us, the Hudson River is just down the road (awesome for a water-loving Aussie like me, even if I can't swim in there),  great neighbours, beautiful old buildings and .... cheap!! Great for a musician & writer!

I was inspired when looking for something to make by a couple of things. I wanted to make some Lamingtons, but then saw a filling for sponge cake that looked delicious and wanted to make that too. Then I imagined all the tastes together and thought it would be a good experiment, - so now we have citrus-filling Lamingtons ala Nerissa (with the help of the ledger!)...

PS. I especially love the Wikipedia entry about Lamingtons - who were named after a Queensland Governor who didn't much like the dessert and called them, "those bloody poofy woolly biscuits".

Citrus Lamingtons (& Lamington Cake)

Sponge Cake

1 cup sugar
3 eggs
2 TBS of water
1 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt

add the water last thing before baking

~ pre-heat oven to 350 f
~ grease a 9 x 9" cake tin
~ bake for 25 - 30 minutes

Sponge Filling

Grate the rind of 1 lemon & 2 oranges
Add the juice of the same
with 1 cup of sugar &
1 cup of water &
1 tsp cornflour (I used arrowroot)

~ boil until smooth (and sorta gelatinous - I added one more tsp arrowroot)

Chocolate Icing 

4 cups icing sugar (I only used 3, but that's me!)
1/3 cup cocoa powder
3 Tbs butter
1/2 cup milk

Lamingons ala Nerissa

~ cut sponge cake in half
~ spread filling on one layer and put the other half back on top (this is the non-traditional part. Some Lamingtons do have a jam or cream filling, but I have never seen one with a citrus filling. But, I am sure I am not the first to think of it!).
~ cut into squares
~ cover with chocolate icing & roll in coconut (I can't find desicated coconut in the States, so the taste is already a little different from traditional Lamingtons, regardless of the filling - they also don't look quite as nice as the Australian version. They taste delicious though)

I made one half of the sponge into a Lamington Cake, it isn't as rich, which I like because I like a good sponge cake!

Who knew making cakes from scratch was so easy? Not me! I am a product of the cake - packet generation. Er, but no more though!

Lamington Cake & Lamingtons in Riverside Park - yum!

Melon Pickles for Mum

My Mum, Karyn, with her mad-hatters hat (is that right, Mum?)
- She loves to tell you about the Beatles and her crush on Paul whenever she looks at this photo!

 This post is for my Mum. We just got off the phone from each other - we talked for nearly two hours, and I promised her that I would post the infamous-in-our-family Melon Pickle recipe, and she promised me she would make it. And post the pictures of it! I will definitely try it, - I know that I nearly didn't get the ledger just because of this Melon Pickles recipe. I had to swear that I wouldn't lose that one in particular (the ledger is fairly falling apart!). I couldn't find it a while back and I think Mum nearly had heart failure. So, here you go Mum - the Melon Pickles recipe, safe & sound, transcribed as is from the ledger.... we all can't wait to hear from you! Tell us how to make it properly! I love you!

I'll be back soon to tell you all about the lamington cake that I ..... altered... hello yum!

Melon Pickles
Cut 3 lb of melon, let stand all night covered with 2 bottles of vinegar
Add 2 lbs of onions sliced
2 cups of sugar
1/2 tspn cayenne pepper
3 dessert spoons salt
(2 dessert spoons of allspice & 2 of cloves) tied in a muslin bag
Boil 2 hours
then thicken with 1 TBS mustard & 1 of flour & 1 of tumeric
Then boil a little longer

Bottle when cold

Karyn's Update - April 12th 2010 

"Thanks for the Melon Pickle recipe. I made them today & the awesome smell permeated through the whole house & reminded me so much of when Mum used to cook them. I had to substitute aubergines for melons, so have renamed it "Bessie Pearl's Pickles", but apart from that I followed the recipe faithfully & they taste exactly as I remember them. Wished you could taste them too! Have sent you some photos of the prep, cooking & the finished product for you to post. Lots of luv, Ma xx"