Cook like you’re in a war zone

April 30th, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

The kitchen is my war zone, I like to think that I know what’s happening at every corner. Whenever my partner enters the kitchen he insists that it’s unsafe practice to leave kitchen towels on top of the stove, just in case one of the elements was on. I agree, it’s a fire hazard but I’m like a cocky arrogant Napoleon Bonaparte. I would know if the stove was left on, I would sense it.

Danger comes with the kitchen, baby.

Kim from Cupcakes and Mace blogged on how she burnt her hand to test the stove element. I can relate. Kitchen scars = battle scars. I wave my hand over the stove to check if it’s hot enough. I always put my hands too far into the oven and my arms have got those parallel baking tray scars to prove it. To me, it’s part of the territory. If I’m completely honest, I’m a little bit proud of the little dinks in my fingers.

The way I figure it, if you’re in a place where you’re playing with knives and heat, you’re bound to get hurt. But I agree with Kim, testing the stove element with your bare palm is never a good idea. But she was tired and stressed, these things happen.

Maybe we should all be like Tom Hanks in the Castaway. Whenever we turn the stove on we should scream “Fire! I made fire!”. It could keep us awake and remind us that fire is something that is kinda, a big deal.

Tom Hanks, castaway

Joyce Tenneson

April 28th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

“My subjects reveal themselves because I reveal myself. By sharing my story, they share theirs.”

joyce tenneson selfportraitJoyce Tenneson has an interesting life, one that she has deliberately carved out for herself. Tenneson started out making self-portraits while raising her son. After her son had grown up and her marriage had ended, she sold her house and moved to New York to make it in the big smoke.

Her unique portrait style requires her sitters to remove their every day clothes. Tenneson believes this “strips the persona encouraged by clothes”. By swathing people in shapeless material, “it gives timelessness”.

“What is deeply personal is most universal”

Tenneson was rejected for assingment work for nine months. No recession, no lack of jobs, it just took nine months of hard work. During that time she would travel to her hometown D.C every weekend to do portrait works. And then she started getting hired.

“Every day heightens my awareness of a completion of a circle.”

Once, when she was assigned to take a portrait with the King and Queen of Jordon, their assistant said the royals wouldn’t have the time to see her. She said that’s fine, booked a hotel and called again, 9:05am, 12:05pm and 5:05pm. On the fourth day, she got a brief time period and took the shots she needed.

When she was doing assingments, she created her own photography books. Eventually she created a market for her unique style. Tenneson’s persistence made her the creative photographer she is today.

“Every time I had a new show, I really forced myself to deliver in a new output, a new experimentation.”

birdwoman joyce tenneson

Make way for the ANZAC bikkies

April 27th, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

ANZAC day is today in the States and was celebrated yesterday in Australia. Traditionally it’s a public holiday to remember the Australian and New Zealand troops that fought in World War I. There are two things you can count on in Australia this weekend. The first is a BBQ with beer, the second is a serving of ANZAC biscuits.

The bikkies were originally made so that they could survive the long sea trip over to the Australian and New Zealand troops without going stale but don’t assume they’ll be dry and tasteless because of it. Sweetened coconut and crunchy oats keep this biscuit alive and the flavour of butter tickles the tastebuds. For all the rebels out there, you could sultanas (raisins).

© Tash Keuneman

Gather for your soldiers:

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup porridge (rolled oats) uncooked
  • 1 cup desiccated coconut (if you can only find sweetend, like I could in my local D.C store, only use 3/4 cup of sugar in the mix)
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 2 tbs golden syrup (ok, honey will do)
  • 1 tsp bicarb soda (baking soda)
  • 2 tb boiling water, straight from the kettle
  • Pinch of salt
  1. Grease a baking tray and preheat your oven to 180 C / 350 F.
  2. Sift the flour into a medium bowl, add the porridge, coconut and sugar and mix well with a wooden spoon.
  3. Melt the butter and honey in a small saucepan over low hear.
  4. Mix the bicarb soda with the hot water. Watch it fizzle. Add to the butter and honey. The quicker you mix, the more bubbles you’ll see, which is always cool.
  5. Pour the warm liquid into the dry ingredients and mix until everything is combined. Don’t stress if it looks really dry and isn’t forming a dough. Add sultanas or anything else you want in there.
  6. Using your hands, make little compact balls with the dough, about the size of a tablespoon and press them onto the tray, leaving 4 cm gaps between the biscuits.
  7. Bake on the top shelf of your oven for 10 minutes. Check at 8 minutes, your oven might be hotter or cooler and I don’t want it to burn.
  8. When they’re slightly brown, take them out of the oven and carefully transfer onto a wire rack. They’re going to be crumbly and delicate so be gentle.
  9. Store in an airtight container. Serve with a glass of milk, or if you want to be really Aussie, a cold hard beer.

Crunchy Blueberry Muffins

April 23rd, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

If you know someone who doesn’t like overtly sweet baked goods, this is the thing to make them. Mixing the sugar in at the last minute ensures that the muffins have a crunchy, crisp outside with a cinnamon scented scone inside.


© Tash Keuneman

This is a very slip slop mix it all together kind of batter until the last five minutes. But once you add the blueberries you have to treat this with love otherwise the whole batter turns blue and not that many people will eat it.

Once baked, this is on the verge of savoury, I’ve been eating them with unsalted butter.

  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 & 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 2 extra large eggs, slightly beaten with a fork
  • 225 gm unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • Diced strawberries or raspberries if you like them.
  1. Preheat oven to 190 C/375 F. Line a 12 holes muffin tray with paper liners.
  2. Put the butter in a medium bowl and blast in the microwave until melted.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and baking soda together in a fairly large bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon to combine.
  4. Mix the milk and eggs with the melted butter. Make a well in the middle of the dry mixture and pour the wet mixture in.
  5. Stir until just combined. Lumps are all good. Add the sugar until it’s well mixes.
  6. Add the berries and fold them in very gently. Don’t over mix unless you want to look like Violet from Willy Wonka.
  7. Spoon the batter into the muffin liners and bake for 20 – 25 minutes. Check with a skewer to make sure it’s cooked all the way through. If it comes out clean, you’re good to take the muffins out and let them cool.

This is adapted from the wonderful Ina Garten’s cookbook, barefoot contessa at home.

“Quality photography? That’s for coffee table books.”

April 20th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

As the quality of journalism depreciates and citizen journalism rises to take it’s place, we prefer quickness over quality.

“From editors to consumers, everyone wants their images faster and cheaper. Quality photography? That’s for coffee table books.” said Bill Green on a professional photography blog. While this is cynical, it’s also realistic. A grainy photo taken during a bomb explosion speaks louder and gets more play time than a beautifully constructed photo of the aftermath.

But what causes this shift in what we want? Our lowered expectations are the result of three things.

Firstly, we expect everything instantly and we’ll take something small and fast over extensive quality. Cases in point: Twitter, mass-produced fast food, CNN’s breaking news. The media has adapted to our shortened patience with 24-hour news channels but this isn’t enough when we have a computer on our laps. We type keywords into a search engine to get the “full” story. In the quest for facts, we don’t discriminate the source, Twitter is just as reliable as media conglomerates when it comes to break neck speed news.

Interestingly, “keyword news” falls apart when something unexpected happens. When Steve Irwin died in 2006, the ABC, Australia’s version of BBC, had their biggest rise in the number of hits to their website. Nobody in the country believed that Irwin had died and went to a source that they trusted for it’s truthful and balanced reports. I like Twit‘s idea of making all media non-profit so we, as an audience, would place more trust in their voice.

Secondly, the quality of what we expect from photography/video has been lowered by the advent of phone cameras and small point and films. I’m not worried about these growing pains, technology is bound to evolve so your phone has the same capabilities as the Canon 5D Mark II, it’s just a matter of time before everyone has the same quality of media as the journalists that make the news.

Thirdly, the media industry has made drastic budget cuts. Journalists that were once expected to stick to their beat and get 800 words out by the end of the day are expected to shoot video and photos of the people they interviewed, have to write three daily blog posts and work overtime to keep up with all the staff cuts.

When you overwork someone, they will make more mistakes, when you’re mistakes are getting broadcast/read by thousands of people, that’s no good for you or for your company’s reputation.

The essence of journalism is the eye-witness report. And a lot more eye witnesses are talking. I predict that the news is eventually going to be a distillation process for all these voices, the best rise to the top of the media heap and the rest are heard in page 2 and onwards on Google Search. What do you think?

If you liked this, you might get something out of What I learnt from photojournalism and why I chose creative writing.

Media should be judged, not Susan Boyle

April 17th, 2009 § 3 comments § permalink

Susan Boyle on Britains Got Talent 2009!! Incredible Voice!! @ Yahoo! Video
Susan Boyle is the feel-good internet sensation at the moment, never judge a book by it’s cover, blah blah blah. Frankly, I’m not buying into this crap. Britain’s Got Talent manipulated this situation and it worked.

Within 30 seconds, BGT has pieced together the following information for their viewers:
  • Susan Boyle is a 47 year old woman
  • She’s unemployed
  • Never been married (oh the horror!)
  • She lives by herself
  • She has a cat
  • Some clips show the not-so-flattering footage of her eating a sandwich.
The facts that they’ve given us paint her as a stereotypical old crazy woman. As an audience, we subconsciously associate her with all of those scary stories of a spinster in an empty house with her cats, talking to herself and chasing children down the street for kicks.

BGT could have focused on her support network or what she used to do before she was unemployed but omission is a powerful tool. In journalism school, one brilliant lecturer said that every thing, every article, every movie, every song draws on a myth, an archetype, a story that everyone is familar with. If that’s the case, BGT milked this bad archetype for all it’s got.

As this shy woman from Bathgate, U.K, goes beyond 20 million YouTube hits in under five days and dodges silly questions asked by some interviewers the question on my lips is; if she wasn’t single, middle-adged and had a cat, would everyone have been as astounded with her voice?

Play the clip again from when she’s singing, except this time imagine someone you find attractive singing the same song. Do you feel the same way, or do you expect a voice like that from someone more “typically beautiful”?

Is the world a sucker for a story like this or does her story fill you up with hope? I’d love to hear some opinions.

Jamie’s Easy Bread

April 13th, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

Bread is an amazing thing to make; the magic of mixing flour and water, the anticipation waiting for the yeast to rise and the wonderful smell that fills the home as it cooks in the oven. Some things are just as good as running the heater after a cold walk. Here’s five easy to follow steps and a chance to punch the shit out of something inanimate, twice.

  • 500 grams bread flour
  • 315 mls warm water
  • 10g yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons fine salt
  • extra flour and water
  1. Pile the flour onto a clean surface. I just give my tabletop a quick wipe down, dry it off and then plonk everything down. If you want to be a neat freak you can put some baking paper down first. Add half of the water then add the yeast, sugar and salt on top and slowly mix it in with a fork. Make a very deep well in the flour and ensure the walls of the well are strong, otherwise, like me, water will leak everywhere and drip onto the floor. I’m all class.
  2. When it looks like porridge, add the rest of the water and when it’s mixed in well, start pushing and pulling the sticky dough with your hands. If it’s a bit dry, add a splash of water and keep on kneading. If it’s too wet, add a touch of flour. Put your whole body into it. Play some loud, fast music and knead. Sing along and head bang a little. When the dough comes away from your hands, you know it’s perfect.
  3. Sprinkle with flour, put it in a glass bowl and cover with cling wrap. Put it on top of the fridge for 40 minutes if it’s cold and dry. If it’s warm, it’ll be ready in half an hour. Don’t clean up, relish the mess you’re making.
  4. Take the bowl off the fridge and out turn it onto your floured surface. Punch that dough down like there’s no tomorrow for 30 seconds. Again, loud music helps. Place the dough onto the flour-dusted container or tray you want to cook your bread in/on. Wait until it’s doubled it’s size again, the air that’s making it’s way into the dough will make the bread soft and light later on. Be patient. Use this time to clean up the mess you made and to preheat your oven to 230 Celsius/445 Fahrenheit.
  5. Gently place your dough onto the middle rack of your oven and close the door very, very slowly so you don’t add any more cold air than is necessary. Check in 25 minutes and if it looks ok, tap the bottom of the bread. If it sounds hollow then it’s cooked. If not, put it back in and check in eight minute intervals. Once done, place on a wire rack and leave it to cool for 30 minutes.

This recipe is adapted from the wonderful Jamie Oliver.

The Grand Canyon Adventure

April 11th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

This is my first video, in the history of Tash-kind. It chronicles the four day trip through the Grand Canyon and Las Vegas in early March 09.

Las Vegas and Grand Canyon fun-ness from Tash Jayasinghe on Vimeo.

I used a Mino HD, it’s so small and compact that my hand shook easily and I didn’t realise this until I was reviewing. Give me something heavy and cumbersome any day. In fact, the video camera was so small that it got stolen in San Francisco, after I had taken some lovely footage of the city’s dangerous hills and humourous people. We’re waiting until there’s a new, better version of the Mino before buying another one so there might be a bit of a delay until my next video.

I’m using vimeo. I’d love to know what you use for video and if it works or not.