May 8, 2011 § 2 Comments
Check out these strawberries on My Little Expat Kitchen. A coffee, a croissant and a bowl of berries would put me in Sunday morning heaven.
(As it happens I just quickly ate leftover Thai Green Curry, standing infront of the open fridge door as I prepare to head to work Mother’s Day Brunch at the restaurant. Alas, a Blusher can always dream!)
February 22, 2011 § 5 Comments
Have you ever imagined a place, only to arrive and realise it’s nothing like you had expected?
This happened last weekend when NB and I went to Charleston, SC. The Charleston of my mind was a low populated town of plantations, massive colonial homesteads and not much else. So slap my cheeks and call me Charlie when we arrive in this quaint city of magnificent architecture and gastronomical treasures. The lack of three-tiered, verandah wrapped homesteads surrounded by acres of field has made me acknowledge that I must stop referencing the entire South solely from Gone With The Wind (until I travel to Georgia that is, and I’ll expect Rhett Butler to be every man on the street!).
Charleston is South Carolina’s oldest city and you can jump into a horse and buggy for an historic tour, or simply walk down the main street to the French Quarter to see the eclectic design of the homes that are a tribute to the past three centuries.
NB and I were in town for Sunday brunch, which is a magnificent occasion in this part of the world as most shops are closed and, after church, the day is to be spent eating and drinking with family and friends. I like that.
We had made our reservation at High Cotton a few days before and I’m glad that we had because all the tables in the big, sunny dining room had been filled and ‘walk-ins’ were seated in the darker bar area.
We started with mimosa’s while a table of elderly women next to us thirstily sipped Bloody Mary’s, Pimm’s Cups and Classic Bellini’s – brunch isn’t brunch around these parts without a juicy cocktail!
I spied that every table had a basket of cornbread on their tables and I was like an excited puppy when our waiter brought a serve for us. I had never tried cornbread before, and I think this recipe was the sweetened one because it tasted like cake, delicious, yellow, breakfast cake…drool.
When I had devoured the cornbread, and felt too sheepish to ask for more, we ordered our meals. It was a tough decision because the menu was divine, what would you choose between BBQ Duck Hash, Crab Cakes Benedict, Huevos Rancheros or the Farmer’s Market Omelette? I know! In the end I went the way of the egg and ordered a delicious vegetarian omelette with goats cheese and a side of home fries AND a side of grits! No holding back ladies! The eggs were a rich yellow and the goats cheese had gone gooey and mellow, similar to the way I am after watching The Notebook (my favourite movie of all time AND filmed in South Carolina).
NB went with Huevos Rancheros and it was very brave of him to steer away from Eggs Benedict, we fear he has an addiction. I stole some beans and salsa when he wasn’t looking and they were delicious. I’ve been addicted to beans since Bottega
We left just enough room in our belly’s to walk around the corner and devour a brownie sundae with three scoops of icecream at Kaminsky’s.
I think we might have just started a tradition!
Tell me Blushers, where is your favourite weekend away and do the breakfasts make you smile?
Blush. Eat. Sigh. Love.
January 15, 2011 § 13 Comments
I have a secret for you! But please don’t tell too many people, it’s already a struggle to find a seat after 10am. My secret is called Bottega.
‘Bottega’ means atelier, shop, artists workroom, and this little cafe/deli in the heart of New England is certainly a space for stylish tastes.
Established 3 years ago by Phil and Donella Tutt (who you might remember from the Elephant Bean cafe in Katoomba or at Solitary Kiosk in Leura), Bottega brought to the town of Armidale the ‘casual eatery’, showcasing regional produce and local flair. While the eatery was sold in early December 2010, it hasn’t skipped a beat. From the kitchen you can still expect simple and elegant meals based around regional produce, with honey from Tenterfield, organic Pasture Perfect Pork from Ashford, and lamb and beef from the properties just outside town. When rainbow trout is on the menu it will have been sourced from nearby Arc-en-Ciel at Hanging Rock. At Bottega, the dream of Paddock-To-Plate is coming true.
I’ve come back home to Armidale for a few days, to catch up with the family before NB and I choof-off to America. The area has always been known for good land, which means good meat, cheese, potatoes, berries and fantastic cool-climate wines, but seeing it all exhibited together on the one menu – well I was both impressed and proud of my little town!
This morning’s brunch was in the delightful company of The Duck and Major General CFC – Saturday morning regulars of the cafe. We took a seat at the back of the room, which is light and airy thanks to two walls of windows facing the tree lined street. Within moments Major General CFC had conducted a nifty eyebrow conversation with our friendly barista Steve, which basically said we’ll have the usual (extra extra extra hot lattes with extra hot milk on the side). Impressive, I know! The three of us like to think of ourselves as the EXTRA HOT LATTE Muskateers, yet rarely do our journeys end in really hot milk. I didn’t believe The Duck when she said that Steve is a magician on the machine, but oh oh oh was she right! The milk was hot, not burnt! The grind was strong, not bitter! The crema was rich, not frothy! I am considering offering this man a space in my suitcase!!
After our cafe au lait we ordered breakfast. The menu is succinct but quality, with options for sweet or savory tastebuds. Perhaps you’ll order scrambled eggs with fresh basil, tomato and prosciutto, sourdough with mushrooms and sauteed spinach or rich fruit toast with ricotta and Hanks Jam. Lunch is a number of different toasted paninos as well as a tempting daily blackboard special. The Duck and Major both stayed true to form with poached eggs, prosciutto and toast, while I savoured the most delicious slow baked borlotti beans that I have ever eaten, must I really share?!?!
The Major and I both have a sweet tooth that is hard to tame so we couldn’t help but order one of the giant homemade chocolate brownies ($7), with two scoops of icecream! If chocolate at 10am is too intense you might like to try the polenta, lemon and almond cake, a slice of apple and pear torte or a piece of the baklava ($4.50).
On your way out, pick up some goodies to take home from the selection of relishes and jams, Doodles Creek dressing, vinegars, cheeses, cured meats, Morpeth sourdough and pannetone, just to mention a few.
So tell me Blushers, what’s your local secret?!
October 1, 2010 § 6 Comments
NOW while we all know that NB is American, what you might not know is that Americans are rather fanatical about their cereal, even more so than here at the Strawberry Patch. It’s somewhat of a boasting point you might say.
While NB has been thrilled with the discovery of Weet Bix during his Aussie adventures the basic understanding is that Australian cereal is both inadequate in range and incomparable in taste. This is why we have started having our Cheerios shipped from the US.
However, it wasn’t until this morning when I was reading the Wayfaring Chocolate Blog that my mind connected muesli and America. To me, US cereals had to be in a brightly coloured boxes labelled with the word pop or krispies and sporting an overly cheerful looking animal. But to an American, muesli isn’t muesli, it’s granola – that sugar-laden, buttered, toasted, should be dessert and is too delicious for its own good ‘muesli’ (probably in a brightly coloured box with a sickeningly cute bumble-bee).
Granola is a breakfast food and snack food consisting of rolled oats, nuts, honey and sometimes rice that is baked until crispy.
You may notice that this Wikipedia definition made no mention of sesame seeds, pepitas, rice bran, goji berries, LSA, almonds, millet or buckwheat. And this is why NB really really dislikes my most recent ‘bird-seed-muesli’ addiction.
What NB also hates is Vegemite. And beetroot (there’s a whole other post right there), but what he LOVES is peanut butter. And according to Hannah at Wayfaring Chocolate so do a lot of Americans, which was the impetus behind her recipe for peanut butter granola - a deliciously wicked, dangerously addictive, mind-boggling guilty creation. As I happened to be in the kitchen baking a batch of The Divine Biscuit I thought it made sense to toss some granola in the oven at the same time. I shouldn’t have. But I’m so glad I did…..now let’s just wait to see if there’s any left before NB gets home!
Peanut Butter Granola
Adapted From Wayfaring Chocolate I didn’t have all the ingredients on hand but if you have oats, PB and honey you’re pretty much set!
Preheat oven to 160°C, and line a baking tray or pizza pan with baking paper. In a medium bowl, stir together 1 1/2 cups rolled oats, 1/4 almond meal, and 1/4 cup rice bran.
In a microwaveable bowl melt 1/4-1/3 cup peanut butter and 3+ tablespoons honey or agave nectar or golden syrup (note: watch this, 30 secs should do and and 1 minute will leave you with a boiled, sticky mess!) Add 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and 1/2 tsp cinnamon (or to taste).
Stir into dry mix, if it’s too stiff add more heated honey with a touch of melted butter. Scrunch some bits together into clumps of goodness.
Spread out onto baking tray and bake for 15 or so minutes, stirring halfway so the outside bits don’t burn.
Hannah’s last suggestion:
“Try not to eat the entire batch straight off the tray as it cools. Though no judgement from my end if you do. In fact, I’ll probably respect you more…”
Blushing Strawberries also recommends not leaving your granola under a tea-towel all day because when you get home and any last vestige of will-power has shriveled-up-and-died you will find yourself in the kitchen and shaking your head in wonder that you are having a bowl of peanut butter granola at 6pm before dinner.
I think those American’s are on to something after all!
September 10, 2010 § 8 Comments
I’m not a fashionista by any stretch of the imagination, I don’t swoon at the thought of a Chanel bag and I’m not lining up to purchase the new Gucci Guilty fragrance, but stick me in the aisle of Norton St Grocer, at the counter of Bondi Rd’s Russian deli, in the herb section of my local nursery, or even in a hardware store (random but true) and beware the reality of my inner consumer!
Perhaps herbs, verjuice and screwdrivers aren’t the normal purchasing habits of a 22 year old Eastern-suburbs female resident, but I think it has a lot to do with my upbringing. Dad has always refused to buy homebrand in the supermarket, even when things get tight financially it is never a waste to spend on good food. Mum, simply put, will always choose the butcher over Burberry.
So while my brother used to spend his lawn-mowing money buying dvds, I would trawl the supermarket aisles for sesame crackers, prosciutto & king island dairy…growing up in a small town it wasn’t long before I was recognised as the odd-ball 9 year old with tastes too old for her shoe size.
So what’s all this about? While my mum is a sucker for anything ‘mini’ – travel deodorants, mini cheesecake, mini champagne, single serve sauce sachets, I’m a bit mad for the idea of ‘make-your-own’. I love blending my own nut butter at Wild Food in the Bondi Junction Westfield, picking apples or berries from a farm and taking them home for pies and smoothies…hell even sandwich bars get me a little excited…control freak much?! Anyway, it was only natural that as soon as I read about the company Muesli Mixer in the latest issue of delicious. mag I had to check it out!
And what fun!
The brains behind the operation are a couple from Germany, Claudia and Florian, who love muesli (why are we not best friends already?) and decided to start a little business to supply a delicious breakfast to their friends. The cereal was a hit and they expanded through Facebook and into the homes of breakfast lovers around Australia.
It’s as simple as choosing your oats and grains – toasted, not toasted, rye, gluten free, honey…
Adding nuts, seeds and fruit…
Possibly including a few extras like amaranth or buckwheat…
Choosing a name (yes your muesli will be personalised!)
And paying for your order.
It’s almost too fun and too easy and I could have gone a little overboard! The Blushing Strawberries mix was Three Grains (Barley, Triticale and Wheat), Gojiberries, Buckwheat, Pepitas, Coconut, Pecan Nuts, Sesame Seeds and Sunflower Seeds. For $450g, plus the delivery fee ($5) it cost around $17, and it really does take the time out of buying a zillion different ingredients to make your own. When my muesli arrived within two days, I was so excited that I had to have a bowl right then and there. It was just so healthy and so good. And yes, I say ‘was’ – it’s already all gone!
Guess that means it’s time to get mixing!
July 9, 2010 § Leave a Comment
If I had a mini empire I would want it to be like Bill Grangers – 3 x 20-minute-wait-list Sydney restaurants, overseas offshoots, beautifully shot cookbooks (plus a couple of sweet looking kids, a wife, probably a few waterview houses with stunning kitchen…all that jazz!) I’ve owned the Sydney Food and Bills Kitchen for a couple of years now, some of my favourite Sunday afternoon perusings, but have only cooked two or three (?!) recipes from them in that whole time.
Last Sunday morning – my first day in the Veggie Patch – NB & I wanted to check out bills Darlinghurst, but as it was nearing 10:30am I was pessimistic about our chances of getting a seat. As we meandered down Liverpool St – our feet making the decision while my mind was still thinking of plan B – the Food Goddess (Nigella?!) must have heard our prayers and within 5 minutes of arriving we were seated at the large square communal table in the main room.
What a perfect place to perch on a cold Sunday morning! The room is bound by two wall-sized windows and the open plan kitchen – offering warmth from all around. Sitting on the corner of the table you are close enough to each other to whisper sweet-nothings and quietly comment on your neighbour’s choice of food, but far enough away from other people that you don’t feel the need to offer a stranger a bite of your ricotta hotcakes.
bills. is famous for eggs -primarily scrambled and then poached…I don’t think a fried egg lives on the menu?! So obviously these yolks had to be put to the test and it was NB who took it upon himself to order scrambled eggs on sourdough toast with a side of chipolatas, mushrooms, roast tomato and ricotta. NB gets frustrated with the time I spend choosing from a menu – this sounds good, oh but so does this. Do you think I could get this without this but with an extra side of this…So wonder of wonders when I immediately knew that the sweet corn fritters with roast tomato were for me (and just convenient that the bacon it was served with would have to be for him!
The waitstaff are attentive to a tee, even apologising when I asked for a refill of water – it’s not their fault that I drink like a sheep-dog at a creekbed – and their uniforms are very smart. They contributed to the feeling of sophistication at bills that isn’t marred by the pretension of some Eastern Suburbs eateries.
Sipping my extra hot, extra weak, skim latte (are YOU annoyed with me?!) I notice a girl opposite with a glass of champagne! What?!! I could have ordered champagne?! Major oversight! Champagne, Mimosa’s, Bloody Mary’s…next time (and there will be a next time) it will be a mimosa with fritters…Sunday morning perfection for Blushing Strawberries!
Last night I pulled out the ‘ol Sydney Food book and recreated some delicious crunchy fritters to have with vegetable soup. Have a go and tell me what you think!
Sweet corn fritters with roast tomato (and bacon)
Sift 1 cup plain flour, 1/4 tsp salt, 1 tsp baking powder and 1/4 tsp paprika into a large bowl, stir in 1 tbl sugar and make a well in the centre. In a separate bowl combine 2 eggs and 1/2 cup milk. Gradually add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk until you have a smooth, lump free batter.
Place 2 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from the cob), 1/2 cup diced red capsicum, 1/2 cup sliced spring onions and 1/4 cup chopped coriander and parsley (combined) and add just enough batter to lightly bind them (about 3/4 cup). Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a non stick frypan on medium heat, then drop in 2 tbs batter per fritter – cook 4 fritters at a time. Cook for 2 minutes, or until the underside is golden. Turn over and cook on the other side. Transfer to a plate and keep warm while cooking the remaining fritters.
Serve with roast tomato, a small handful of rocket and a rasher of grilled bacon.
Or do as I did and serve it as a side to soup or a roast.
June 27, 2010 § Leave a Comment
Another Monday morning and I’m sitting here under a mountain of blankets and bed socks, watching the sun roll and tumble with the clouds in their endless winter battle of blue skies. I think this Sydney winter is the coldest to be felt since I moved here ove two years ago, and we’re still not in July! If the sky isn’t opening for a two-week downpour then a bitter wind is sweeping from the beach through to the eclectic cafe scene that is the streets of Darlinghurst. I sometimes challenge the weather with my outfit. In theory I believe that if I dress for summer then Mother Nature will accommodate. Success? I’m afraid not.
I feel wicked complaining as the inland town of my childhood is waking up to minus 8°c most mornings now, but while they spend nights infront of crackling open fires my flatmate’s and I find ourselves huddled up like penguins, trying to stay warm in our unheated, uninsulated Bondi apartment.
But the good thing about the chill is the enjoyment found in cooking, eating, drinking. With winter in full swing we are able to enjoy an abundance of root vegetables, baking and braising, slow pot roasts and casseroles, curries and homemade pasta. A Sunday afternoon spent with a recipe journal, scissors and glue, a steaming mug of tea with honey, and perhaps a corner or more of a homemade brownie (A corner?! Who am I kidding?!). Bliss!
This week my favourite discovery, my winter morning treat, has been buckwheat bread, which was a birthday gift from one of my girlfriends after she took me to lunch at The Suveran. If you can visualise yourself feasting on a warm piece of cake for breakfast then spread a piece of this loaf with jam/almond butter/ cheese/ hummus… and eat the goodness into your morning.
You can find a simple recipe for buckwheat bread here, although if you want the amazing depth of flavour and texture of The Suveran’s (they sprout their own seeds in house and add them to the loaf) I think the recipe here might be closer – I haven’t yet tried either.
I also love to have this after a night teaching at the gym, topped with ricotta, tomato and a handful of rocket leaves, drizzled with olive oil and cracked pepper. Mmmmmm. Just be warned that if you cook it in a toaster it will take twice as long as regular bread and has a tendency to break up when you try to remove it – if you have a grill to use it would work a treat.
So this week, I suggest you wander down to your local organic store and treat yourself to a loaf of deliciousness.
June 18, 2010 § Leave a Comment
Tomorrow I will wake up gluten free, how refreshing! I will start phase two of my journey with a bowl of homemade gluten free muesli. The base of my cereal was a recipe from the Golden Door cookbook, and then I mixed and matched with what was available in my supermarket and what I was in the mood for. Last week I bought a box of pre-packaged GF muesli (Freedom Foods), it was about $6 for 500g but mainly consisted of sultanas and puffed rice and was a little underwhelming. I sampled a few other brands, some were delicious but super expensive and others were too boring.
So I decided to make my own, and I warn you that this is one homemade alternative that is not cheaper, I ended up spending $17.50 for 1kg of cereal, but it’s well worth it. Later this week I will trawl the wholefoods stores to find where I can buy ingredients in bulk and then do a price check. As I say, stay tuned!
Here’s what I used:
- 500g rice bran
- 325g rice flakes
- 100g puffed millet
- 50g amaranth
- 5 Tbl pepitas
- Handful each sultanas, almonds, dried cranberries, banana chips
Last night I made larb gai with mint and basil – a thai inspired chicken mince salad, to keep it gluten free serve with either rice or rice vermicelli noodles. I am a thai salad aficionado, I love the fresh hits of lime, chilli, ginger and that the dish lets the ingredients speak for themselves – my favourite is the chicken, banana prawn and papaya salad at Longrain – but this is actually the first time I tried one at home. To be honest the recipe fell just short of satisfying, like a gutter ball right before the pins, the texture was there but the flavour was missing. I’m going to make it again with double quantities of sauce, and I might grate the ginger instead of slicing it.
Here is the original recipe:
Heat 150 ml chicken stock in a wok or large frypan over medium-high heat, then add 500g minced chicken or pork, 1/4 cup fish sauce and 5cm piece ginger, cut into matchsticks. Cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon, for 5 minutes or until the meat has browned and cooked through. Add 1 long red chilli, deseeded and cut into matchsticks and 1tsp sugar and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes, then transfer to a large bowl. Add 2tbs lime juice and 1 cup mint leaves, 1 cup basil leaves, 1/2 cup coriander to the warm mince mixture, then gently fold through allowing herbs to wilt. Taste and adjust lime juice, fish sauce and salt.
Serve on a bed of sliced cucumber and butter lettuce leaves, sprinkle with 2 tbs cashews, extra herbs and lime wedges.
A similar dish that ticks every box is from an issue of Donna Hay Magazine a few months ago. I was always hesitant to make chilli pork and peanut stir fry because NB doesn’t like coriander, but I’m so glad I ended up giving it a go, and he ate (and enjoyed it) without even noticing the herb!
First you make fresh chilli sauce:
Mix 4 long red chillies, chopped; 3 garlic cloves, peeled; 1 cup coriander (cilantro); 1/2 cup grated palm sugar (I used brown sugar instead); 1/3 cup fish sauce, 1 cup lime juice (about 4 limes); 5 cm piece ginger, peeled and sliced in a food processor until well combined. Makes 2 cups, store in fridge for up to one week.
Then you make the stirfry:
Cover 200g thick flat rice noodles with boiling water until softened, drain and rinse under cold water.
Heat 1 tsp sesame oil in wok over high heat. Add 500g pork fillet, thinly sliced, and cook for 2-3 minutes until browned. Add 200g sliced green beans, 1 bunch sliced broccolini, and 3 cups chopped wombok (I used red cabbage because it was in the crisper) and cook for 3-4 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add the noodles and chilli sauce and cook for 1 minute. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup roughly chopped peanuts* and 1 cup coriander to serve.
(*use cashews instead of peanuts if you have a peanut allergy, alternatively omit the nuts completely and sprinkle the dish with some fried sage leaves or shallots).