Sunday, December 10, 2017

Splendiferous Hobart

Last week my partner and I visited Hobart, Tasmania. He attended a conference and I caught up with friends we hadn't seen for ages. It was fabulous!

Lunch at Midori

Lunch at Coal River Farm

Fashions from 150 years ago at Narryna

A glimpse of CSIRO's research vessel


Lunches and soft-scuplted fridge (!) at MONA

View from top of Mount Wellington / kunanyi

Floral delights on Mount Wellington / kunanyi

Local honey from Unpacked

... and some guerrilla knitting spotted at Salamanca Market!

We had a splendid time. In case you think it was all about food, my friend and I also walked, and walked, and walked ... totalling about 20 hours of walking over the six days. Phew ;-) Hobart is a lovely place to visit.

Friday, December 01, 2017

Walnut and vegemite sandwiches

While wandering around Victoria last month we bought one kilo of fresh walnuts. Yum! Today I resurrected a favourite lunch treat from when I was a kid: walnut and vegemite [or marmite] sandwiches. The first time I tried this combo was when I was about ten and headed for my first school camp. My family had recently stumbled across a walnut tree and were gorging on fresh nuts (have you tried them? so delicious!) and my mum recalled marmite and walnut sandwiches from her own childhood. A salty, crunchy delight.

Can't wait till lunch time ...

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Scottish shortbread goes a-roving

Lately I've become fascinated by chickpea [besan or gram] flour. It's a South Asian staple and I first tried using it in this recipe for besan laddu, finding it so delicious I started brainstorming what else I could make with it. Here is today's experiment ... Scottish shortbread meets Indian chickpea flour meets Peruvian cacao nibs.

200 g butter
3 heaped tbsp icing sugar
150 g wholemeal flour
100 g besan [chickpea] flour
0.5 cups ground rice or cornflour
cacao nibs (optional)

Cream butter and sugar, add dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Roll into balls and place on baking tray. Bake at 150 degrees C until a delicate brown (about 30 minutes in my ancient oven but your mileage may vary).

Makes about two dozen. Store in an airtight container.

Mmmmm, crunchy

Chickpea flour is gluten free and has a much stickier consistency, when wet, than some other gluten free flours such as rice flour. This could be a handy feature when baking for coeliac friends. More experimentation may be required!

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Around the world in many tea towels

As I've often ranted and raved here, I don't like accumulating stuff. I'm definitely in the Swedish death cleaning phase of my life and hope never to acquire anything I don't need or want again. That said, there are still some staples of daily life we do need and use. Like tea towels. Over the years I've bought tea towels from many places I've visited. It is fun to be reminded of past travels while doing mundane activities like drying dishes. I usually manage to squeeze many years of use out of them before they become thin and tattered; at that point they begin their next phase of use as bathroom cleaning cloths. Here are a few that put a smile on my face and remind me of past jaunts to exotic locales ...

New Zealand (Australians may recognise the bird New
Zealanders call 'Pukeko' as the 'Purple Swamphen'

Grumpy cats from Japan

Canberra (again)

 Canada (oh, Canada)


Tea towels also make great (reusable) gift wrapping. Why wrap a bottle of wine in something tacky and disposable when you can hand it over in a cow-print tea towel?!

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Asparagus, mushroom and blue cheese risotto

Asparagus season has arrived in Canberra! This recipe is a delicious celebration of asparagus. I made some risotto today to take to our friends' place for dinner tomorrow ...

4 tbsp olive oil
4 cloves of garlic
2 leeks, diced
2 cups arborio rice *
6 cups vegetable stock
400 g asparagus, cut in angled 2 cm slices
100 g oyster mushrooms, cut into strips **
2 cups white wine
100 g blue cheese, crumbled
black pepper, to taste
100 g grated parmesan cheese

Heat the oil in a large pan or wok, add garlic and leek, and cook until leek is translucent. Add rice, and stir thoroughly for 2 minutes until all rice grains are coated in oil. Add 1 cup stock. Bring to simmer, stirring frequently. When stock is almost absorbed, add another 1 cup stock. Repeat process, 1 cup at a time, until 4 cups absorbed. Add wine, mushrooms and asparagus. Once wine is absorbed, stir in remaining stock, one cup at a time. As you add the final cup of stock, add blue cheese and pepper. Stir until cheese melts and rice is tender but firm. Serve on a warm plate and top with a sprinkle of parmesan.

Serves four with leftovers. Green salad and crusty bread make good accompaniments.

*   actually, while I know it breaks with tradition, I usually use basmati rice as it has a lower glycemic index than arborio rice
** this time I used Shimeji mushrooms as my local organic shop didn't have oyster mushrooms. Aren't they cute?

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Try this salad!

My friend Jacqui recommended this recipe for a colourful corn salad. I tried making it yesterday and it was delicious! So good we ate it for both dinner on Saturday and lunch on Sunday. The only alteration I made was to replace the jicama with a finely-chopped green apple. (Why? Because I don't know where to buy jicama in Canberra. Suggestions welcome.)

A happy, crunchy, summery dish. Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Wattalapam ... and other cardamom-scented delights

I first posted this recipe almost seven years ago and it quickly became the most frequently visited page on the blog. Guess wattalapam is something a lot of people search for ...

Wattalapam is a Sri Lankan dessert, a little reminiscent of a spicy, coconut-based crème brulée. As usual, I've freelanced a bit since obtaining the recipe, by significantly reducing the quantity of sugar. I like the not-so-sweet version better, but you could double or triple the sugar if you like.

15 to 20 g dark palm sugar (jaggery), grated
125 ml coconut cream
2 eggs
ground cardamom
6 cashews, roasted and halved

Dissolve jaggery in warmed coconut cream. Whisk eggs and mix with the coconut cream, jaggery and cardamom. Pour the mixture into two ramekins, top with cashews and bake in a water bath for 30 to 40 minutes at 175 degrees C. The wattalapam should be firm; try not to overcook or you'll get bubbles in the mixture. Serves two.

If you, like me, are a fan of cardamom you may also like to make firni (a spicy rice pudding), coffee and cardamom ice cream, or besan laddu (chickpea flour fudge). Mmmmmm!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Hermine's magic mushrooms

No, they're not hallucinogenic! But they are delicious. About ten years ago, I did some informal English tutoring with Hermine, who was visiting from Austria. I helped with her English and she taught me some Austrian recipes. Here's one of them. It's still a favourite.

Button mushrooms (enough for two people), cleaned and sliced
1 small onion
2 tbsp sour cream
1 tbsp flour
olive oil
pepper and salt

Dice the onion finely. Cook it with a little olive oil in a saucepan, till soft and golden. Add the mushrooms and cook until the juice runs from them. Combine the sour cream, flour and about half a cup of warm water in a separate bowl. Add this mixture to the mushrooms and onions, and cook, stirring often, until it all thickens. Add pepper and salt to taste, and a little chopped parsley near the end of cooking. Serve on toast or (as I did last night) with home made garlic bread. Yum.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Full of the joys of spring (eating)

One of my favourite food blogs, the Canada-based Bite-Sized Kitchen, recently featured a post on fall [autumn] dinner staples. Looking through this week's menu, I realised that, being in the southern hemisphere and having greeted spring this month, our eating has morphed to reflect the change of seasons. The shops and markets are brimming with gorgeous fresh fruit and vegetables, and suddenly our meals are bursting with extra colour, flavour and vitamins. What's on the menu for the next couple of weeks?

Chunky avocado salsa wraps
Haloumi, rocket and avocado salad
BLT wraps
Potato salad
Tomato and basil pizza
Cauliflower, sweet potato, coconut and curry soup
Creamy mushrooms on toast
Pulled pork burgers
Rice paper rolls and other noodle-y things
Chinese dumplings
Leek, potato, bacon, bean and cream soup
Cheese soufflé

Oh, and for dessert? Home made ice cream with fresh berries. This year I'm buying the berries; I'm hoping that by next year some or all of the raspberry, blueberry, gooseberry and passion fruit bushes I've planted will bear fruit. Fingers crossed ...

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Tasting the Barossa Valley

Today we took a bus tour to the Barossa Valley to taste the local food and wines. It was a fun day out!

Lunch was at Peter Lehmann wines in Tanunda

Brekkie @ Biga Cafe

While in Adelaide we took a walk down Hutt Street, on the eastern side of the city, and found heaps of gorgeous-looking eateries. It was a tough decision but we settled on Biga Cafe for brekkie yesterday. Yum!

She had:

Salmon eggs benny

while he had:

French toast with twice-cooked brioche and heaps of fruit

So artistically arranged! The coffee was great too.

Update: Monday 25 September 2017

We went back again today! There were so many delicious-sounding things on the menu we wanted to try a couple more before leaving town this afternoon.

He had:

Smashed avocado with feta, beetroot, poached egg and a side of bacon

while she had:

Mushroom ragu on rye toast with rocket and bacon

If we'd been staying longer it would have been good to try the smoothie bowls, or the corn fritters, or the chilli-spiced eggs. Ah well. Farewell, Adelaide!

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Penfolds experience

We're spending this weekend in and around Adelaide. A Canberra friend (formerly of Adelaide) suggested we go to Penfolds Magill Estate to enjoy a winery tour and brunch. Why not? It's a good idea to book in advance, and there's a small charge ($20) for the tour and tastings ... though I quite like wineries with a tasting fee as that way you don't feel obliged to buy wine if you don't want to. Anyway, it's just a short bus ride from Adelaide city and was a lovely day out.

The brunch menu changes daily.

He had:

Baked eggs, haloumi and roast peppers, with a side of bacon

while she had:

Duck hash waffle (yes, there's shredded duck in that waffle)

The setting is beautiful ...

... the tour was interesting and the wines were delicious. We bought a fabulous bottle of tempranillo to take home to Canberra.