Monday, January 19, 2015

Jen's mum's muesli slice

This recipe comes from a former colleague named Jen. (Thanks, Jen!) It is a nut-free muesli bar that's easy to make and delicious. The first time I tried the recipe I omitted the sugar, but that made the mixture very crumbly so I've added it back. Further experimentation may be required ...

50 grams butter
0.5 cup raw sugar
0.25 cup honey
200 grams pepitas
0.5 cup rolled oats
1 crushed Weet-Bix
0.5 cup self-raising flour
0.5 cup sultanas or currants

Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Line a 20 cm square tray with non-stick baking paper. Combine butter, sugar and honey in a saucepan. Cook until dissolved, stirring regularly. Combine all the other ingredients in a bowl and add the butter mixture, stirring till well combined. Press the mixture into the baking tray with a hand in a plastic bag (it is very sticky). Bake for about 30 minutes. Cool thoroughly before cutting into squares or bars.

I'm taking these to work tomorrow
to celebrate a colleague's birthday

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Dinner @ Lilotang

Last night we had a unique experience. (Yes, I know the word unique is often misused. But this really did feel like a once-in-a-lifetime gig.) As fellow Canberrans will know, this town practically shuts down for a month over summer. People go to the beach or wherever, and many venues are closed. A friend celebrated her birthday this weekend and when her husband tried to book a table at her favourite restaurant for a birthday dinner he discovered it was still closed. However ... he discovered the owners were in the process of opening a new restaurant, and was offered a table there instead.

So ... Lilotang. The latest venture by the people who run three other iconic Canberra eateries (The Chairman and Yip, the Lanterne Rooms, and Malamay), Lilotang is in the Burbury Hotel in Barton, and offers a modern twist on traditional Japanese cuisine. As some of the earliest guests we were treated to a very personal experience: a degustation dinner comprising about twelve artistically-arranged courses, each explained by the very charming chef. I didn't take photos of all of the courses, but here are a few to whet your appetite:

Umami-jime snapper with white peach and heirloom tomatoes

Sashimi tuna and avocado with wasabi okra soy

Roast umami vegetables with orange miso in orange pot

Chargrilled Wagyu sirloin marinated in Japanese herb miso

Sticky mochi-mochi tofu with brown syrup and green tea ice cream

Houji tea smooth pudding with sweet potato

The décor was cute too. Rather than our usual red wine  which could have drowned the flavours – we tried several different sakes. There are plenty to choose from.

One of our fellow diners described the meal as edible art. It was indeed a most memorable and delicious evening. We hope Lilotang does well!

 Lilotang Japanese on Urbanspoon

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Pumpkin bread

0.25 cup olive oil
50 ml water
1.5 cups wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
0.5 cup chopped nuts (e.g. pistachios or pecans)
2 eggs
0.5 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon baking powder
0.5 teaspoon baking soda
0.25 teaspoon salt
2 cups grated raw pumpkin

Beat oil, eggs, water and vanilla together. Add to sifted dry ingredients, nuts and pumpkin. Bake in a greased loaf tin for 1 to 1.5 hours in a moderate oven (about 180 degrees Celsius).

This freezes well and is easy to transport, so great for weekday lunches!

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Bombay toast comes to Canberra

I'm reading a wonderful novel set in Sri Lanka in the 1950s, The Sweet and Simple Kind by Yasmine Gooneratne. The book mentioned 'Bombay toast' and I just had to experiment! As regular readers (approximately two) of this blog will know, my partner is a big fan of French toast. It turns out that Bombay toast is a spicy, savoury version of French toast. There are a bunch of recipes on the web, but for this version I combined eggs, milk, spring onions [eschallots or scallions], chillies and cumin seeds. I then soaked slices of multigrain bread in the mixture till it was all soaked up, and fried them. It was surprising how well the mixture stuck to the bread ... I'd expected it to become detached!

Anyway, YUM. Give it a go.

We liked it

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Summery salad for lunch

Lettuce, avocado, mango, blue cheese and toasted pecan nuts. Mmmmm!

Merry (almost) New Year, y'all ...

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

I'm dreaming of a stuff-free Christmas

Isn't it funny how we spend the early part of our life trying to amass belongings, then later years saying 'please, no more stuff!' (Or is it just me?) As a kid I'd count down till birthdays and Christmas, hoping to receive whatever I needed at that time. As an adult I just cross my fingers that no more stuff comes my way!

It's taken a long time to (ahem) train the people in my life not to buy me tangible objects but it works pretty well these days. Instead of exchanging clutter we buy experiences (haircuts, tickets to a concert or play), consumables (such as food or wine, where the product will be consumed and the packaging recycled) or charitable donations (anyone for a goat or two?) This year my partner bought me a Kindle voucher (yaaay! ebooks) and I bought him a catering pack of his favourite chai tea bags. My sister and I shouted each other a hairstyle. I gave my mother a trip to the ballet and she contributed to a charity on my behalf.

I'll be delighted if the rest of the week proceeds in a similarly unstuffy manner ...

Monday, December 22, 2014

Let's call it ... Vanuatu Salad

One of the many highlights of our recent trip to Vanuatu was the food. It was fresh, local, organic, and delicious. Several times the buffet featured a very simple salad that appeared to consist of cubes of cooked kumara (sweet potato), sliced bananas, and coconut cream.

Seriously yummy! So I tried making it at home tonight.

Mmmmm. I served it alongside a vegetarian curry and rice

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Ruwenzori Retreat

After returning from Vanuatu we took another short journey, to somewhere completely different yet delightful in its own way. Ruwenzori  is a secluded bush retreat not far from Mudgee in central New South Wales. It consists of several 100 year old train carriages, restored to provide self-contained accommodation. We've travelled on several sleeper trains over the years (such as the Ocean in Canada, the Ghan and the Sunlander in Australia, and the Eastern and Oriental Express in Asia) and it was good fun to stay on a stationary train!

Scene from the state carriage

The dining car

The well-equipped kitchen

Kids would love the bunk beds

The site also offers great bush walks. A wombat hole ...

... and more signs of wombats!

We can also recommend the local region. Gulgong has a huge and fascinating museum, while Mudgee has wineries and plenty of delicious local food.

Lunch platter at Outside the Square Cafe, Mudgee. Yum!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Ratua Island, Vanuatu

2014 has been one of my most stressful years yet. I spent about eight months working on a huge, complicated, demanding task (no, not my beloved editing) that stole my sleep and nibbled away at my sanity. I needed an incentive to continue, something to look forward to, so planned a trip to Vanuatu for after the project was completed.

It was delightful.

My partner and I spent five nights on Ratua Island (Ile Ratoua), which is to the south-east of Espiritu Santo. We snorkelled, canoed, cycled, walked, ate, read and relaxed. The island is tiny  it has just 13 villas  and provides very personalised service. The food was spectacular (if perhaps too generous ... we ate too much) and the staff lovely. We also had the opportunity to learn a little about Ni-Vanuatu culture and to visit a village on a neighbouring island.

I won't waffle on. Just wanted to share some of our photos.

What a gorgeous place. The perfect antidote to a stressful year.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A chocolate cake with a fruity twist

It is stone fruit season here in Canberra. The shops (and markets, and roadside stalls) are full of cherries, apricots, nectarines and peaches. Yum. My friend Hermine introduced me to this recipe. She calls it '160 cake' as most of the ingredients come in lots of 160 grams:

160 grams eggs (i.e. 3 to 4 eggs), separated
160 grams sugar
160 grams dark chocolate, melted
160 grams butter
160 grams flour
0.5 teaspoon baking powder

Cream butter and sugar together, then beat in egg yolks, then melted chocolate. Beat egg whites till stiff. Combine flour and baking powder, then fold all ingredients gently together. Pour into buttered and floured baking pan and (optionally) stud with halved stone fruit. Bake for 50 minutes at 160 degrees C (it may need a little longer  test with skewer).

I made it with apricots this time

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Ice cream base

'Tis the season (in Canberra, at least) to be enjoying ice cream. Happy summer to y'all!

600 ml cream
1 tin sweetened condensed milk

Whip the cream till thick then mix in the condensed milk. Add flavourings and freeze …


Liqueurs and nuts (e.g. Kahlua and macadamias, or Baileys and walnuts … or anything you like)
Fruit (fresh or defrosted berries work well, as does dried fruit and nuts soaked in brandy)
Japanese green tea powder
Whatever you like, really ...

If you want to make the green tea variant, make sure you use matcha green tea powder. This is sold in tiny tins in Asian grocery shops; it is quite expensive but goes a long way. Just mix about a tablespoon of green tea powder with boiling water, cool, then mix this into the ice cream base, and freeze. (You can also use the green tea powder to flavour other stuff like crème brulée, or to make any pale-coloured dessert a pretty green colour ;-)

Strawberry ice cream

Yet another ice cream recipe you can make without a fancy ice cream maker!

250 grams fresh strawberries
1 tablespoon gelatine (or 1 gelatine 'leaf') *
1.5 cups cream
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons water

Slice strawberries and sprinkle with sugar. Place in the fridge for one hour or until the juice runs from the strawberries. Soak the gelatine in cold water and drain the strawberry juice into this. Stand bowl over hot water and stir until gelatine dissolved. Add strawberries. Chill until starting to set. Whip cream, fold strawberry mixture into cream, and freeze until firm. Allow to soften for a few minutes before eating.

* gelatine [gelatin] is an animal product so not suitable for vegetarians. I'd prefer not to use it but have yet to find a suitable alternative. I've heard that agar-agar has similar properties but haven't found any for sale in Canberra. If you know a source, please leave a comment ...

Avocado, lime and ginger ice cream

Don't be deterred by the idea of avocado ice cream. This is delicious.

1 avocado (or two if they're small)
juice and pulp of 2 fresh limes
125 g glacé ginger, chopped finely
0.5 cup caster sugar
1 cup cream

Purée avocado with lime juice and pulp. Fold in ginger and sugar. Very lightly whip cream. Fold all together. Put in freezer. Take out 15 minutes before serving.

P.S. if you're in the northern hemisphere and ice cream sounds far too cold to you right now, there's an easy chocolate mud cake here you may prefer to make ...

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Brekkie @ Little Oink

If you're a vegetarian (or have religious objections to eating pork) please avert your eyes now. This cafe is not for you. The name might be a bit of a clue ...

Little Oink is in the shopping centre at Cook, in Belconnen, Canberra. Somebody recommended it recently on the Canberra blog The RiotACT so we decided to give it a go! Someone there has a sense of humour  and a taste for word play  as there are some great dish names on the menu, for example 'Don't go bacon my heart', 'Chorizo your own adventure', and 'Salmon to watch over me'. Cute.

He had:

'Parlez-vous francais ... toast': brioche French toast
with bacon and maple syrup, plus a long black

while she had:

'Get in my pork belly': sticky pork belly, poached
eggs and potato rosti, plus a flat white

We enjoyed our meals and will have to go back again as there were a bunch of other things that sounded good too. The shop was delightfully rustic, with giant murals and décor that might have escaped from a different decade. Nice ...

Little Oink on Urbanspoon

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Brekkie @ Frankies at Forde

The suburb of Forde in Gungahlin (Canberra) is named after Frank Forde, who served as Australia's Prime Minister for just eight days in 1945. So it seems fitting that a cafe in Forde should be called Frankies! We tried out the breakfast menu at Frankies this morning and were not disappointed.

He had:

Frankies BIG brekky  eggs and bacon with mushrooms, chipolatas,
beans, spinach and a housemade potato rosti, and a long black

while she had:

Salmon eggs benedict with freshly made
Hollandaise served on rostis, and a flat white

YUMMO!! The food was delicious, portion sizes were good, and we both really enjoyed the potato rosti. Crispy, crunchy goodness. The rest of the brekkie menu is here.

Frankies has a different vibe to the usual places we go as Gungahlin has a younger population than the rest of Canberra so it was full of parents with kids. We are early risers and arrived just after 8 am, which was good as by 9 am the place was packed. We'll be back ... I suspect I'll crave the wonderful potato rosti between visits!

Frankies at Forde on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 01, 2014

When cuisine bridges cultures

I feel privileged to have had many culinary cross-cultural exchanges over the past few years. Some of them have been documented on this blog, for example when Tomer from Israel taught me to make shakshuka (which I'd never heard of back then, but has now appeared on several cafe menus around Canberra) and when Sergio from Spain introduced me to Spanish omelettes. I've been a volunteer English language tutor for several years and a couple of my students have returned the favour by teaching me how to cook dishes from their countries: Hermine from Austria showed me a fabulous potato goulash and and delectable creamy mushrooms, while Yan from China gave me a delightful lesson in making Chinese dumplings. Lucky, lucky me. All of these dishes have become favourites in our household.