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Musings of a Chronic Accumulator

I'm an accumulator. I accumulate things. Every so often, I go through the pile of things I've accumulated and clear out the excess. And every time I do this, I think "I should be more organised".

Today, as part of my standard thirty minutes of household chores, I cleared out the backlogged accumulation of glass jars in one of the kitchen cupboards. I pulled out about a half-dozen largeish glass jars with lids that I know I can find a use for, as well as all the small spice jars and the little dark glass ones that my medication used to come packaged in, and I put those into a plastic storage box. That about filled the box. Then I went through and started taking out all the other jars (and lids) and dropping them into our "items for the recycling" box. Once the "recycling" box was full, I emptied it into the recycling bin. I wound up making two trips to clear the backlog. Now, I have the storage box shoved into one corner of the shelf, and about a half-a-cupboard's worth of vacant space.

My next project is probably going to be the plastic stuff. Like everyone else who has any plastic storage stuff in their cupboards, my plastics store is a mess. So I'm going to have to do the standard sort through, find all the stuff, find all the matching lids, and figure out what I'm going to keep and what can be thrown out. I have a suspicion our recycling bin is going to be a tad on the over-full side next fortnight. My next project after that is likely to be the pantry.

Why am I doing this? Well, part of it is sheer irritation crystalised by the joys of having a rent inspection yesterday. Another part of it is realising that, to be honest, I can't find things in our kitchen. I know me. I know the way I work. If I can't find something when I want it, I get frustrated. If I'm frustrated, I get angry, and getting angry gets me depressed. So somewhere along the line, I have to take a step back and deal with the source of the frustration. At the moment, one of the sources of frustration is clutter.

I know why I have the clutter, too. I have the clutter because I'm coming out of a period of enforced poverty, where my instinctive reaction is to clutch onto everything that comes into the house with both hands, and attempt to save money wherever I can. I hoard things, and I'll buy up bulk and try to "save money" by attempting to reuse and recycle as much as possible. But the problem is, this hoarding is actually counter-intuitive, because I hoard so much stuff that I can't find anything. And if I can't find it, I can't use it. So how much money have I saved, really?

Something I need to keep in mind: if I keep something hanging around, but never use it, no matter what it is, it isn't cheap. It's expensive. It's taking up space, both physical and mental (the mental space is in the justification for why I'm keeping hold of it). If I buy food on special and wind up throwing it out because it passed its best-by date without being eaten, it was a waste of money. If I store something, and wind up buying three more of them because I can't find the original, again, it's a waste of money. Things are only economical if they're actually being used for a purpose. Otherwise, again, they're a waste of time, money, and brainspace.

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Current Mood: contemplative contemplative
Stove-top "Oven Bake" Biriyani

This is my adaptation of the method for the Patak's Oven Bake Biriyani sauce. I love biriyani in general because it's a one-pot meal which doesn't require me to be constantly watching over it, or fussing about it, plus it comes in a hot and spicy variant, and is therefore my kind of curry. I adapted the recipe for the stovetop because it cuts the amount of washing up I have to do by at least two items (casserole dish and lid).

What you'll need:

* A large saucepan, preferably heavy-based, with a tight fitting lid.
* At least two burners free on the stove (particularly if you're using an electric stove).
* 1 jar Pataks Oven Bake Biriyani curry sauce (look in the "Indian foods" section of the supermarket)
* 3/4 - 1 cup basmati rice
* Water as per instructions on the jar
* Meat of your choice sliced thinly.

Optional extras:

* 1 coarsely chopped onion
* Veges to taste or preference, chopped (there are two broad groupings here to consider. The first is the vegetables which can be chopped up and fried up with the onion; the second is green leafy vegetables which don't require long cooking and can be added in later. I've not tried adding root vegetables, mostly because I don't know whether they'd work properly)
* 2 teaspoons sambal olek (I add this because I prefer my curries very hot - even the "hot and spicy" recipe can be a bit mild for me).
* Extra water, if necessary (if you're adding extra rice compared to the recipe, you'll need extra water).
* 1 tablespoon chopped coriander leaves (cilantro, for folks in the US) - this is *very* optional, and can easily be left out. However, I've found it does work well with the flavour of the biriyani sauce.

How to do it:

* In your large saucepan, fry up your onion and fry-able vegetables (if you're using them) along with the meat, until the meat is sealed. This takes about five minutes maximum, at a high heat.
* Add in the rice, the Biriyani sauce, and the water (I use the water to rinse out the inside of the jar of biriyani sauce). If you're adding extra spices, such as sambal olek, add them now.
* Stir to combine.
* Bring to the boil and boil for approximately 1 - 3 minutes, stirring constantly. The aim is to get the process of cooking the rice off to a very strong start.
* Now, put on the lid, reduce the heat to the absolute bare minimum, and leave it alone for at least 20 minutes. You're cooking using the absorption method here - the lid needs to stay on, and the heat needs to be as low as you can get it without turning the stove off. I actually change burners on my (gas) stove, doing the initial cooking up on a fairly large burner, and then moving to the smallest burner of the four at the lowest heat it can manage for the rest of the cooking.
* After 20 minutes, turn the heat off, remove the lid, and stir your biriyani. Try to get the stuff which has stuck to the bottom of the pan off the bottom of the pan, but don't be too worried about it if you can't. Now is the time to add green leafy vegetables, and the coriander, if you're using it.
* Put the lid back on, leave the pan off the heat, and stand for another 10 minutes.
* Stir once more, serve and enjoy.


* As far as the meat goes, I've tried this using beef, chicken, seafood salad extender (the sort of red and white mock crab stuff you can buy frozen at supermarkets), and pork rashers. The key is that the meat needs to be able to be fried up quickly, and then able to handle the long cooking time of the rice without falling to bits.
* The oven-bake version is pretty consistent with this, except that once you've boiled everything up, you transfer it all to a casserole (with a tight-fitting lid) and bake it in a moderate oven for about 30 minutes before stirring, adding any leafy green ingredients, and leaving to sit for 10 minutes.
* The curry sauce itself comes in three different variants, depending on what sort of curry you prefer - there's mild and fruity, hot and spicy, and a medium variant. I love the hot and spicy, and I haven't really tried any of the others.
* If you're finding the flavours to be too bland, add a bit of salt with the rice and sauce.

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On My 40th Birthday I...

Washed up the dishes (and cleared the backlog of dirty dishes, yay!)
Collected the junk mail delivery from the driveway, read it, and dumped it all in the recyling box
Thought about making a chocolate mud cake (and decided to put it off for a bit)
Told the local JWs I wasn't interested in a copy of the Watchtower (or whichever publication God is pressing them to sell at present)
Brought in the washing from the clothesline
Added a few more cookbooks worth of data to my ongoing list of "recipes I'd like to try".
Noodled around on the internet a little
Answered a phone call

(really glamorous way to spend the day, huh?)

This entry was originally posted at Please comment there using OpenID.

Current Mood: pensive pensive
Holy Crap! I Found My Desk...

And the kitchen table. And the receipt for the new printer and the expansion drive which didn't work. And a whole heap of paperwork from the past three years.

The thing which triggered all of this was installing a new printer (well, all-in-one device really - it scans and it prints and it photocopies and although it doesn't fax things, it's connected to a computer with an internet connection, so it can perform the equivalent of faxing too) and discovering that the only place I had where the printer would actually fit on my desk was (at that point) covered with an ever-increasing stack of paperwork. So, I got the printer installed (and working very nicely, thank you) and then realised I really had to do something about the piles and piles and piles of stuff which had been occupying the space on my desk where the printer had been. Mostly because it was now occupying the space on the kitchen table where the eating spaces had been, and I really did want to sit down and enjoy a proper dinner at some point in the next couple of days.

So, I decided to get started by clearing a bit of space to put down my little hand-crank shredder (handles 2 pages at a time, and is also capable of chewing through credit cards and CDs) and started shredding all the obvious crap as it all came to hand. End result (before I got bored) was two plastic bags of hamster bedding. Then I pulled out the ring binder/portfolio I'd been using to store all my corro and stuff from a couple of years ago - it was a system which had worked for me right up to the point where I stopped being dilligent about it, at which point the backlog took over and it disappeared under the mess. So, pull out everything for the past couple of years from that, and grab three envelope-style folders from the storage cupboard - one for 2009, one for 2010, and one for 2011. The 2009 and 2010 stuff just got dumped into the folders, and the folders go into the filing cabinet for further action later. The 2011 stuff got put into the appropriate categories in the portfolio binder (and I wrote up a new index for this binder, so I can find what I'm looking for).

Meanwhile, I looked at a couple of file trays I had on top of the filing cabinet, and decided they could be re-used in a more constructive manner. One now has a pile of stuff in it which needs to be shredded - and a label saying "to shred". The other is currently empty, but there's a (smaller) pile of stuff to sort on top of the filing cabinet, and I figure I may as well use the capabilities of my nice new scanner to scan those things which I want to keep, but which I can't figure out a decent "away" for. So it has a label saying "to scan". My eventual aim is to get to and scan all the hundreds of recipe leaflets I've collected over the years, so I'll have a permanent record of them, and then I don't have to bloody well keep the silly things! Yay! More storage space!

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Current Music: Best of Queen (now on the HDD).
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