Sunday, 7 August 2016

What's In A Name?

Hubby and I took a break from our normal routine last Friday and enjoyed breakfast out. From the myriad of Canberran eateries to breakfast at, A Bite To Eat at the Chifley shops was our chosen destination. This is a gem of a space. Quirky, cosy, friendly and full of charm. The walls are adorned with posters, photos, poems, signs, creative craft pieces and literary snippets from customers. The light fittings are all different. The chairs don’t match, and the furniture looked right at home at Cusacks… from 1968.

Hubby chose a breakfast burger called the Vaquero. Full of braised bbq pork, gouda cheese, rocket, a fried egg and crispy onion rings. It was something different, and had a little heat to it. Lucky his thick caramel milkshake put out any lingering flames.

I on the other hand, had the Morty. A small clay dish jam packed with no less than three meatballs, a spicy roast tomato sauce, parmesan cheese, two perfectly poached eggs, crispy onion rings, and toast. Come hungry if you wish to tackle the Morty! I wondered about the name of the dish… why Morty? It stumped me all weekend, until I Googled ‘Morty’ and realised he was the name of the Camp Director of the 1979 movie, Meatballs. Could that be the connection? Morty >> Meatballs? I asked A Bite To Eat via their Facebook page and yep, I am right!!! The boss was waiting for someone to put the pieces together, and I did it! Whoot, go me!

A Bite To Eat is located at the Chifley Shops, Chifley Place.

Mon/Tue/Sat 8.00am to 4.00pm
Wed 8.00am to 9.30pm
Thu/Fri 8.00am to 10.00pm
Sun 8.30am to 8.00pm
Phone 6260 3703

Sunday, 24 July 2016

Indulge Coffee and Chocolate Expo

With so many delicious vendors exhibiting and selling their wares, it was hard to know where to start at the second Indulge Coffee and Chocolate Expo. As the crowds began to enter just past 10.00am, I went with the flow and let my nose direct me to the booths. From cold pressed coffee, to cocktails, to cupcakes, hot coffee, rhubarb chocolate, ice cream and pastry delights. The Canberra Convention Centre has never smelled better.

A cute little cocoa cupcake from Crafted 3. 

Team Frugii offering tastes of ice cream delights. 

Latorta demonstrating how to make flavoured chocolate bars, and gold dusted chocolate truffles.

Brownies galore, and a couple of delicious pies for a take home Saturday lunch (chicken and bacon, & beef and shiraz) from Morish Morsels.

Mr Scroll and his delectable range of flavoured scrolls. Wow, the line up was long!

The folks from Ricococo’s and their amazing chocolate tea. I bought a box which comes with DIY tea bags. Put in as little or as much as you like, and the tea is wonderfully chocolate tasting. Not too bitter or sweet just on its own.

Too early for a cocktail? Nah, Suke Suke has you sorted.

Tea Garden and their range of premium teas, as the expo is more than just coffee and chocolate.

Finally, a sign at the children’s Wonka zone, which made me chuckle.

I hope this expo is held at the Canberra Convention Centre again next year. Entry price for an online ticket purchased prior to the event was only $11, or $15 for a ticket bought at the door. Kids under 12 were free. 

Sunday, 17 July 2016

San Choy Bau Meatballs

When invited to a food bloggers potluck dinner the pressure is on deciding what to bring, as these folks can COOK! With an ‘Asia in July/Christmas’ theme I decided on a simple starter that was light but tasty. Introducing the San Choy Bau meatball. Traditional San Choy Bau is normally a loose mince mixture served in a lettuce cup that can sometimes be difficult to eat daintily when out and about. The meatball version is a little more compact, and easier to handle.

I took inspiration from Matteo Bruno’s book ‘Meatballs: TheUltimate Guide’ from his pork, peanut and water chestnut meatballs.

Ingredients (makes about 40 meatballs)

1 kilo of pork mince
4 garlic cloves, crushed
60g ginger, grated
120g water chestnuts, diced small
2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
100ml soy sauce
2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
1 brown onion, finely diced
Zest of 1 small lime
50g coriander leaves, chopped
½ cup of breadcrumbs
1 egg, whisked
Serve with bean sprouts, and limes wedges for drizzling

Mix all the ingredients, except the bean sprouts and lime wedges, in a large bowl. When mixed, allow the mix to sit in the fridge for at least an hour to let the flavours infuse.
Remove from the fridge, and mix into 50g balls.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and add a small dish of water in the back of the oven. This will help create moisture when finishing the meatballs.

While the oven is warming up, begin to cook batches of the meatballs in an oven-proof pan. Keep turning the balls over to get a nice brown colour on all sides. When all the balls are cooked, place them all back into the pan, and place into the oven for 8 minutes. This finishes the balls off, plus keeps them nice and moist.

Serve on lettuce leaves, top with bean sprouts and squeeze over lime. 

I also made a sticky, sweet dark sauce to drizzle over. This sauce was a 'throw it together' mix made with absolutely no measuring. It contained soy sauce, brown sugar, Japanese 'katsu' barbecue sauce, Australian barbecue sauce, honey and hoisin sauce. Microwave the mix for about 1 minute to dissolve the sugar, and let sit as it will thicken on standing. 

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Leave It Up To Dave at Pistachio Dining

I've had yet another great dinner at Pistachio Dining, found tucked away at the Torrens shops. The ‘Leave it up to Dave’ dining option is the only one we select now. Not that their menu (read, their new Winter menu) isn’t full of tasty options, but not knowing what each dish will be is quite exciting!

Red wine braised lamb shank soup with vegetables and white beans. A delicious winter warmer starter.

Scallops with seared spring onions and pureed avocado.

Slow cooked lamb shoulder, soft polenta, asparagus and herb sauce.

Confit pork belly, Toulouse sausage, cabbage and seeded mustard mix, potato crisps, beetroot jus and parsnip puree. The beetroot jus was made by slow roasting red and white onion, and beetroot. Then further reducing. It must have taken Dave hours, but the result was amazing.

Pepper steak, with grilled onion and hand cut salty crunchy chips.

A dessert tasting plate… each.  Consisting of:
Vanilla brulee and almond & pistachio biscotti.
Chocolate and hazelnut blondie with dark chocolate mousse, Kahlua sauce and raspberries.
Cookies and crème mousse, macerated strawberries, vanilla ice cream, dried flowers and chocolate crumble, and
Lemon and lime curd tart, mascarpone, and ginger beer sorbet.

Dave spoiled us, by slipping in another course. Technically his ‘just feed me’ option is meant to be four courses, plus a starter. Dinner and couple of drinks was incredible value, as I used my Entertainment Book discount for a 25% saving. Total cost; only $54 each. With only one transaction, the savings are half what the Entertainment Card cost. It will pay for itself in no time!

Pistachio Dining
3A Torrens Place, Torrens
Dinner; Tuesday to Saturday
Ph 6286 2966

Sunday, 22 May 2016

Oven Baked Chicken Wings

A local butcher put out a request on Facebook (yep, he uses Social Media) to gather interest in a special on chicken wings. Who would be interested in wings at the low price of $1.99 a kilo? OK, I’m in. I’m in for four kilos, knowing that I had space in my freezer. When buying them I ran into my friend The Food Marshall, who guess what was buying them too! Nothing like a good special. Glad I ran into her to, as she mentioned that she does her wings the ‘Alton’ way.  Alton Brown that is.  Steam first > then dry off > bake in the oven > then coat in sauce. And that’s exactly what I did, and they turned out sooooo good. So good in fact that next time I have friends around, I’m doing wings.

So, chicken wings = purchased. Now onto making an awesome ranch dressing. It all starts with dried buttermilk powder. You can buy this in Australia at health food stores, look for the Lotus brand one. My recipe is ratio based, so you can make as little, or as much as you like.
Start with equal amounts of dried dill, dried chives, dried oregano, onion powder and garlic powder.  Two parts dried parsley, a sprinkle of both salt and pepper, and four parts buttermilk powder. Mix this together.  When you are ready to make a batch of ranch, add two heaped tablespoons of the mix to one cup of Greek yoghurt, and half a cup of sour cream. Thin out by adding a little milk.

Next, the sauce. I didn’t want a hot sauce (what Alton's recipe calls for), but something sweet and flavoursome. So this was an easy throw-it-together mix using the remnants of a jar of honey (about 1cm or so), three teaspoons of Dijon mustard, and squirt of minced garlic. This mix was quite thin, but worked well coating the chicken.

Chicken Wings
The wings I purchased were whole wings, and are made up of three pieces, the drumette, the wingette, and the tip. Remove the tip by cutting downward into the V join with the wing part. Save these tips for making stock later. Here is a photo courtesy of The Kitchn showing the anatomy of a chicken wing. 

Next, place a steamer basket into a saucepan filled with an inch of simmering water. I placed eight wings into the steamer and cooked for ten minutes. Repeat until all wings are steamed. When done, lay them out onto a metal baking tray, pat them dry to remove as much moisture as you can, then place into the fridge for twenty minutes. This helps to dry them out further and tighten the skin. 

Now you want to separate the drumette from the wingette at the joint. Next, place each piece onto a fresh tray, and bake in a 200 degrees fan forced oven for twenty minutes. Turn each of the pieces over, then cook for a further twenty minutes. They will come out a glorious colour, and will be crunchy to the touch, score! I tossed a few in a bowl with some of the honey mustard sauce. You will want to do this while they are hot so the flavours are absorbed. I kept some wings plain.

Serve with sticks of carrot and celery (for added crunch and colour), and the ranch dressing for dipping.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Canberras Only Red Cross Op Shop

‘Op shop’ or, opportunity shop is a great place to find a bargain, a treasure, or just that something a little different, and provide much needed funds for charities. Over the years I have donated countless items to many op shops around town, and have shopped in many as well. 

One new op shop I discovered recently was right under my nose in Woden! The Red Cross’ only Canberra op shop has been open for nearly 6 months but I was totally unaware. You see, it is tucked on the outside of Westfield Woden, just near the bus interchange. The renovations going at the interchange mean this shop is a little off the main path, but is well worth a visit. 

The store is very well laid out, with racks and racks of colour coordinated clothing, lots of handbags (some brand new), oodles of jewellery pieces, kitchenware and a kids corner filled with lots and lots of books and games.

Come, check them out!

20 Bradley Street, Woden
Ph 02 6282 9978
Monday to Friday 10am-6pm
Saturdays 10am-3pm
Sundays 11am-3pm 

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Weekend Escape to the Hunter Valley

A long weekend escape to the Hunter Valley was just what was needed, after several months of craziness at work. How crazy was it? Like being on autopilot, going in day after day, battling tasks, deadlines and problems. Some days I thought ‘did I put on deodorant today??’… see, that kind of crazy.

We have been to the Hunter before, a few years back with family from overseas. That trip, we did a gourmet food and wine tour, so got to see a number of the larger wineries. This trip, it was just the two of us and we stayed at different accommodation, and did our own thing as we wanted to explore more of the boutique wineries.

We arrived at around 11am on the Friday, having endured a relaxing (!!!) drive through Sydney. Half freeways, half surface roads. Thanks GPS, but we’ll just stick to the M7 on the way back.

So Friday was a day of exploring antique wares, wineries, lunching, smoke houses, chocolate factories, cheese factories, and honey sellers. Phew! 

We checked in to our accommodation, the Tuscany Wine Estate Resort, and snapped a picture of the gorgeous vine filled view from our room. 

You know you are in wine country when there are picture postcard vineyards at every turn, and the main road is called Wine Country Drive.

Dinner that night was at the Matilda Bay Brewhouse, just a 2 minute walk from where we were staying, and included beer tasting from a paddle. Some great beers to be had, including one called I.G.P. (itchy green pants) which I will now try and seek out. It was light and refreshing with great flavour.

Saturday morning was a VERY early start. Try 4am! The reason for our early wake up call was there was a larger than life hot air balloon waiting for us. Have you ever seen a basket this big?? The balloon ride was amazing. Such a fantastic way to explore the Hunter, and meet a ton of friendly people. Plus there was a champagne breakfast waiting for us at the end of the ride.

The rest of Saturday saw more wineries, a distillery, gourmet cafes, jam sellers, a local markets (where I bought the best pesto), and yep… more wineries. We dined that night at the bar at the Tuscany Wine Estate, and enjoyed two of the best pizzas in ages.

Sunday saw the loading of the boot of the car. Really a game of tetris, which included finding cosy storage for our bottled babies. Our haul included reds, whites and some local sparkling. Plus some other tasty morsels. 

Tastings (and purchases) of note included a sweet Shiraz from Irongate Estate, the Super Tusker Sangiovese from Piggs Peake, basil pesto from Pure Greed, and a goats cheese with herbs from Binnorie Dairy.

Have you been to the Hunter?  

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Broccoli Tots

Hands up who has seen those ‘Tasty’ and ‘Proper Tasty’ foodie videos in their social media feed? You know the ones with the catchy soundtrack, the ones that are like a blip-vert recipe and they are over within about a minute? Plus they always finish with the obligatory “ohhh oh YES!”.  Did you know they are the product of the folk behind BuzzFeed?

One struck my fancy – Broccoli Tots. It looked so quick, so easy and got me up off the couch and into the kitchen in a flash. I knew I had a bunch of broccoli and a bag of green beans hiding in the fridge from my last trip to the Southside Farmer’s Market, bought the week before. It’s been a hectic week of late nights at work and sadly my best laid plans involving fresh vegetables did not eventuate.

This ‘Tasty’ recipe calls for scallions (spring onions) which I didn’t have, and hot sauce which I didn’t want. I did add in the beans to bulk out the veg.

So my recipe adaptation used:

1 head of broccoli, cut into florets
12 green beans, topped and tailed and cut into 3cm pieces
1/3 cup of breadcrumbs
1 beaten egg
1 handful of grated pizza cheese
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

  1. Cook the broccoli and the beans in boiling salted water for 2 minutes.
  2. Drain off and lay out onto a chopping board. Using a knife, or a mezzaluna, chop the veg until very small dice (don’t make it too mushy).
  3. Place in a bowl, and add in the breadcrumbs, the beaten egg, the cheese and the garlic.
  4. Pop the bowl into the fridge, for about 20 minutes to chill.
  5. Remove from fridge, and work the mixture into small rounds, flatten slightly.
  6. Lay on a tray lined with baking paper and bake in a 200 degree (180 degree fan forced) oven for 18 minutes, turning halfway through.

I paired mine with a side of spring onion dip. You could also use tzatziki, hummus or even tomato sauce (as suggested in the Tasty video).

A great way to sneak in a little more veg into your diet.

Here is the 'Tasty' video: 

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Chicken Pizza Scrolls

What is not to like about a savoury scroll, just screaming (well, asking assertively) to be included in upcoming work day lunches.

This delightful scroll is filled with cooked chicken pieces, pizza essence, and packs a punch on the flavour scale.

The dough recipe is super easy, I suppose that’s why it can be found in the Super Food Ideas (SFI) magazine, the Jan-Feb 2016 issue. The article I found this recipe in is aimed at back to school and back to work ideas. Lunch ideas for young and old.

Many a variation can be made on this basic dough recipe, so put your thinking caps on.  To assist you, how about ham and pineapple? Chicken and pesto? Cheese and Vegemite? These scrolls used up some leftover chicken breast, and a couple of other ingredients knocking about in the fridge and pantry. 

2 cups (325g) self-raising flour
80g cold butter, cubed
20g caster sugar
2/3 cup (167ml) milk
250g cooked cubed chicken breast
Sprinkle of dried oregano
1 sachet tomato paste
Squirt of tomato sauce
6-8 pieces of sundried tomato, chopped
6 pieces of chargrilled capsicum, chopped
50g grated cheese

  1. Turn oven on to 160 degrees (fan forced).
  2. In a food processor, blitz the flour, butter and sugar until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  3. Tip mix into a bowl and add the milk. Bring together into a soft dough.
  4. Knead the dough on countertop for a minute or so.
  5. Roll out to approximately 30cm x 40cm
  6. Spread the dough with a blend of the tomato paste and tomato sauce.
  7. Top with chopped chicken, sundried tomato pieces, chargrilled capsicum pieces, oregano and half of the grated cheese.
  8. Begin rolling up the dough from the long side. Once rolled up, with seam down, cut into one inch pieces, and place cut side up into greased cupcake holes in cupcake pan. Sprinkle over the remaining cheese. 
  9. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until browned to your liking. 
The total cost for this batch of 12 scrolls was just over $6. Less if you kept it to less ingredients like just ham and pineapple. (Possibly a contender for Ms Frugal Ears $5 Friday challenge?) A great little recipe to keep on hand when the crowds arrive, or if a work morning tea is on the cards.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Thirty Tomato Sauce

I feel like I have neglected my vegetable garden in the last few weeks. Enduring a hectic work schedule with early starts and late finishes, my garden has sat unloved, unwatered and unappreciated. I have glanced at it from the kitchen window, but that’s been about it. Today I ventured out to see what state it was in and lo and behold, the tomato population had exploded. I have been picking many a tomato over the last few months, mostly the smaller varieties, but today all the larger ones were sitting plump, red and juicy on the vines. 

I had to go back inside and get a bigger bowl.

So, what to do with a tonne of ripe, large tomatoes? Sauce, of course!

I didn’t want to try my hand at ketchup, so went for a tasty tomato sauce that could be frozen in pouches, and pulled out at a moment’s notice. Destined for quick pasta and bacon dishes, or to jazz up an on-the-spot spaghetti bolognese.

I took a quick peek at the pasta sauce jars in the cupboard, to get an idea of their ingredients, then set about making my own concoction with some other tasty spices and flavours which I had on hand.

This recipe is pretty rough, in that it’s a ‘little of this’ and a ‘little of that’.
In a LARGE pot, I glugged in a splash of roasted onion flavoured olive oil. (It is such a nice oil). To that I added two chopped onions, and a handful of roughly chopped garlic cloves. Let that cook off for about 6-8 minutes until the onion becomes translucent. 

Next up, I added in the chopped tomatoes, seeds, skin and all. I would estimate I used around 30 large tomatoes (hence the name of the recipe). I then added a sachet of tomato paste, two large dessert spoonfuls of brown sugar, a generous shake of smoked paprika, a single dessert spoonful of molasses and two pinches of Tasmanian sea salt flakes. (As I said, it’s a very rough recipe).

Cook this on medium heat, covered, for about 40 minutes. After then, the tomatoes were nice and soft, so I took the lid off, turned the heat down to low and let the sauce reduce. 

After around 2 hours, it had reduced enough that I could blitz it with a hand mixer. Don't over blitz, as you still want it to be a little thick. Once blitzed, I continued to cook it down on a low heat until it thickened. When it was cool, I distributed the sauce into 4 zip lock bags, destined for the freezer and quick after work dishes.