Cook this: fig & walnut jam

Nonna and Nonno have an enormous garden, full of fruit trees and vegetable plots, all lovingly tended to every day. I grew up surrounded by overgrown zucchinis and their flowers which mum and Nonna would stuff and fry, the sweetest mulberries that I ate by the (very literal) bucketload that I’d pluck from the lower braches of the tree myself, and my favourite,  figs.

Sweet, sticky, brightly coloured and impossibly delicious, figs are one of the most vivid tastes of my childhood. I’ve tried the odd few from a supermarket or fresh food market, but they’re just not the same as Nonno’s.  Now, every year when the figs come in, Nonno gets on the phone to let me know, and off I go to collect. I was pretty stoked last weekend to get the call up and find a kilo of figs waiting for me instead of the usual handful!

With my fructose intolerance,  I can’t stomach as many as I used to, but there was no way I was letting them go to waste, so I decided to eat a few, keep a few for the next few days, and turn the rest into jam! If you’re lucky enough to be able to get your hands on a kilo of fresh, sticky figs, this is a pretty easy way to keep them around for a little longer…

Ingredients:
– 1kg fresh figs (stems removed, roughly chopped)
– ½ cup caster sugar
– 1 tbsp vanilla extract
– juice of 1 medium lemon
– ½ cup toasted, crushed walnuts

 

Method:
1. Combine the figs, sugar, vanilla and lemon juice with ⅔ cup of water in a large pot. Set it over high heat and bring to the boil.

2. Once boiling, lower the heat and simmer for around 45 minutes, until it thickens up to a more jammy consistency.

3. Stir in the walnuts ans pour the jam into clean jars and cool to room temperature before screwing the lids on and refrigerating (will keep for 3-4 weeks). Easy!

 

This jam works really well on fruit toast, as a cake filling, and especially well on my date and sesame scones (smothered in jam above), which, if you have a spare $9.99 laying about, you can find in my cookbook 🙂

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Eat here: Gabriel’s On The Bay, Port Arthur, Tasmania

Gabriel’s On The Bay
6955 Arthur Hwy, Port Arthur, Tasmania
http://stewartsbaylodge.com.au

My mum, auntie and grandfather took a little trip to Tasmania this week, so I thought I’d take a quick trip back this morning,  too – I’m revisiting one of the best seafood meals I’ve ever had at Gabriel’s On The Bay.

Located within Stewarts Bay Lodge, itself nestled between a beach and forest, you’d never know it was there unless you were looking for it. But wind your way through the holiday cabins, and you end up at a beautiful little restaurant set just on the water with a stunning view, especially at sunset.

Wanting to treat ourselves to some of the seafood the area is so well known for, we started with the pan fried Tasmanian scallops with chilli, crispy pancetta & garlic, served on house made squid ink linguini. Easily one of the best things either of us have ever eaten – al dente linguini, and buttery scallops.. so much wow.


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For mains, husband had a hankering for some proper fish and chips, and went with the beer battered fish with chips, salad & wasabi mayo. Super white and tender fish, super crispy batter, and golden fried chips. Winner.


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I went with a special, the salmon, sitting on a green salad and topped with a delicious cucumber and pineapple salsa. It was fresh and delicious, and not to sound repetitive, but that fish was AMAZING.

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You know you’re dealing with seriously fresh and good quality seafood when you can’t smell anything remotely fishy coming from your plates, and we didn’t. It wasn’t a particularly cheap meal, but the food, the view and the service combined to make it a brilliant experince – watching a band of adorable little wallabies come out at dusk to collect leftovers out the front didn’t hurt, either 🙂

Eat & drink here: Buck Mulligan’s, Melbourne (whiskey & bar food)

Buck Mulligan’s
217 High St, Northcote
http://www.buckmulligans.com.au/

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!! I thought today might be a good day to let you know about a special little place that’s managed to stay under the radar for the past few months. When we walked past Buck Mulligan’s a few weeks ago, we had a pretty strong inkling that it was going to be our new favourite place – whiskey bar AND bookshop? Why yes, I think so!

Following an afternoon movie at Westgarth (and a large bucket of popcorn ), we made our way up High Street to Buck’s, and immediately fell completely in love. Exposed brick fireplace, wooden bookshelves, comfy couches and dusk light pouring in through the windows, we knew this was our place.

Husband wanted to sample some whiskey, and they have a great list to choose from – including a huge selection of Irish whiskeys. Husband went with the Teeling Flight, a selection of whiskeys from the first new distillery in Dublin in over 125 years: Small Batch, Single Grain, and Single Malt. They all got glowing reviews, and there’s a very good chance we may be visiting them in Dublin when we’re there in November…

They have wine and beer and cocktails, too, if whiskey isn’t your jam. And food – when you gorge on popcorn, you only need a light dinner, so we picked a few plates from their menu of nibbles:
– Clonakilty Bites (black pudding, fennel bread and relish), $6
– Traditional Ploughman’s for one (ham, cheese, pickled onions and relish, with Irish brown bread), $14
– Continental Ploughman’s for one (cold meats, cheese, olives mix with white crusty white bread), $15


Perfect. Simple, quality food is all you need, and this is it. The black pudding isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but we love it if it’s done right, and this was. We were also super impressed by the serving sizes – for $15 and the quality of ingredients,  they were VERY good value for money.

And don’t forget thr books – a great selection of new and used books by Irish authors, a few from local writers and small publishers, and regular book reading and launch events. We’re already planning on spending many more hours tucked away at Buck’s,  sipping on whiskey and reading books… you might want to drop in, too 🙂

Eat here: Healesville Hotel, Victoria (Modern Australian)

Healesville Hotel
256 Maroondah Hwy, Healesville
http://www.yarravalleyharvest.com.au/index.php

Know what’s fun to do on a long weekend? Take a quick road trip. For those of us Melbournians with Monday off (hooray for Labour Day!), might I suggest a quick trip out to the Yarra Valley? You can even make it a day trip if you don’t have the time to spend a night out there; the views are stunning and the food is great!

Last weekend involved a road trip out to the Yarra Valley for a friend’s wedding, and we decided to make the most of it but heading to Healesville early for some lunch before the late afternoon ceremony. We were in the mood for nibbles, and saw some great options on the menu of the Healesville Hotel, so out of the hot midday sun and into the air conditioned and wooden floored hotel we went.

Sitting conveniently close to Kitchen & Butcher and Sanctuary Harvest (it’s actually an amazing little group of food-and-drinkeries), the produce available is amazing. K&B in particular is a favourite of mine – in their own words, think country butcher meets deli meets bakery meets charcuterie. Those are a few of my favourite things.

We went with the K&B Charcuterie Board with assorted meats and pickles, and the coal baked sweet potato, cashew & chili dip with grilled flatbread. And a beer for the husband and an Aperol Spritz for me. At $70.00, it was not a cheap feed, but it was a damn good one. It seems we’ve been saving non-stop for one trip after the other for the past several years, so we don’t often treat ourselves like this. But sitting there with this spread, it was really nice to indulge a little, appreciate the amazing quality of produce we have in Australia, and forget about budgets and saving for a little while 🙂

The Harvest next door is one of my favourite spots in Healesville, too – the most incredible pastries and cakes, and the best place to stop for a cup of coffee or pot of tea! And if you need a few other ideas on what to do with your time in Healesville, this might be helpful 🙂

Healesville Hotel Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cook this: quick & healthy – everything-but-the-kitchen-sink omelette

This isn’t so much a “recipe” as your friendly Monday morning reminder that healthy food doesn’t have to be expensive, complicated, or time consuming. By Monday morning, most of us have probably enjoyed a bit of weekend indulgence (I know I did, after attending a gorgeous wedding with amazing food!), and we’d like to get back to eating something a bit healthier and lighter. But the thought of eating a boring salad sends most of us back to the heavier food we’d indulged in to start off with; it’s a vicious cycle.

This is one of my go-to recipes when…
a) I’m craving something healthy and lots of veggies but I don’t want a salad
b) I’ve got leftover veggies and rice that are at the end of their lifespan in the fridge and want to use them up rather than wasting them (and more money on more food)
c) I’ve got other delicious odds and ends in the fridge or pantry that I want to use but can’t think of another dish to tie them all together
d) I can’t really be bothered working too hard to get a healthy meal on the table

Eggs are also a pretty great source of protein, and it’s not a bad idea to give your gut a break from digesting meat all the time. With my food intolerances, beans and legumes are sadly off the table for me now, so eggs are the perfect back up option (they’re also pretty cheap compared to meat). Aaaaand if you double to recipe, you’ve got dinner for 2 and leftovers for lunch!

Ingredients:
– 2 large eggs
– cooking spray oil
– salt & pepper & your favourite dried herbs
– whatever else you want to throw in! I used (for this omelette) a cup of (cooked) brown rice, leftover roast red capsicum and zucchini, a few cherry tomatoes, a handful of baby spinach leaves and a few Kalamata olives. I’ve also used everything from leftover roast vegetables, antipasto mixes and cheese left behind from weekend platters, even leftover stir fried vegetables and noodles in an Asian style omelette!

Method:
1. Preheat your grill to high and leave it waiting.

2. Whisk the eggs together, season with a little salt, pepper and dried (or fresh, if you have them) herbs, and stir in everything else you want in there.

3. Heat a large, non-stick fry pan over medium heat and spray with cooking oil, making sure to coat it well (otherwise you’ll leave half the omelette behind in the pan).

4. Pour in the omelette mix, and cook over medium heat for a few minutes, until you start to see the egg getting whiter rather than translucent. At that point, you can flip it, but I prefer putting it under the grill to slowing cook through from the top and forming a nice golden crust. This is also a good time to sprinkle some cheese on top, if you’re that way inclined.

5. Once cooked through, let it cool for a few minutes before removing from the pan, slicing up and serving – a little sauce on top is always a good touch, and we use everything from mayonnaise to mustard to hoi sin sauce to chili paste; anything goes!

Eat here: Gontran Cherrier, Melbourne (pastry)

Gontran Cherrier
140-144 Smith St, Collingwood
http://www.gontrancherrier.com.au/

Around 7 months ago, renowned French patisserie king Gontran Cherrier brought his buttery operation to Melbourne. The bloggers and foodies flocked in droves; I personally couldn’t justify waiting in a line for half an hour to get an over-priced croissant. I finally visited for the first time a few weeks ago, and upon tucking into a golden delicious almond croissant, I finally understood what the fuss was about.

Eager to try more of the beauties in the display window, we made our way back last weekend for breaky. Rolling in for a late breakfast (for us) just before 10am on a Sunday morning, it was pleasantly quiet, with only a few tables occupied – muuuuuch better than the initial rush when they opened!

We ordered a few bits and pieces; husband chose the a quiche Lorraine studded with bacon and Gruyère cheese; I didn’t take a photos of it, but for $8.00, it was a little on the small side. Which was a shame because it was one of the nicest quiches either of us have ever tasted! We also went with a Croque Monsieur – again, not the cheapest toastie at $12.00, but, again, probably the best toasted ham and cheese sandwich I’ve ever had. Buttery and golden, crispy crusts and super soft bread, and that ham and cheese were magic.

I also spied a beautiful long piece of bread spread with Lescure butter and covered in some very pretty, colourful tomatoes. I added that to the order on a whim, not really expecting the husband to be too into it, but turned out he loved it, too. There’s something incredible about a simple bread, butter and tomato dish, when they’re all of the freshest and highest quality.

Those three dishes and a coffee for the husband set us back around $40 – not bad for a Melbourne breakfast, ridiculously over-priced for most other cities, but no regrets here; good food is worth paying more for, in our opinion.

 

We also couldn’t go past a sweet, and took a chocolate croissant home with us to tuck into with some tea and coffee. Nowhere near enough chocolate, but my goodness that pastry is something else. We’ve had the almond croissants there, too (we have a tendency to order an almond croissant whenever possible), and that was pretty spectacular.

We were a little sad that there weren’t any almond croissants left by the time we were leaving… the chocolate one wasn’t a bad back up option, though. Now that the crowds have died down, it’s probably time to head back a bit more often – it’s the perfect spot for a Sunday morning breakfast or coffee session; maybe not every weekend, but definitely those weekend you feel like being a little bit fancy and treating yourself 🙂


Gontran Cherrier Boulangerie Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Eat here: Sookie La La, Melbourne V.2 (diner)

Sookie La La
593 High St, Northcote
http://www.sookielaladiner.com.au/

It’s hard to believe it was September 2015 when I first visited and blogged about this place… since then, it’s become our favourite Sunday breakfast nook and feels like a second home 🙂

Almost 18 months since that first visit, nothing about Sookie La La is slipping. The service is wonderful, prompt, and most importantly, welcoming and friendly. The booths are perfect – your own private little breakfast nooks. And the standard of the food is still top notch – it’s simple, homely, comforting food that makes you feel like you’re in a favourite aunt’s home.

Husband’s new favourite thing in the world is their fried chicken on waffles. You can probably see why. But tasting it is another story – the waffles are soft and fluffy, and the chicken is perfectly white and tender on the inside, with the perfect crunch on the outside. We’ve eaten a bit of fried chicken, but Sookie La La’s is both of our favourite.

I went with the reuben sandwich, the towering king of bread and corned beef and sauerkraut and pickles and cheese and Russian dressing. This is a proper sandwich. For breakfast or lunch, it’s just magic.

After a long week, when we roll up to their glass front door on a Sunday morning and slide into one of the beautiful wooden booths, it really feels like home. We both seem to sigh in relief as we sit down to a hot pot of strong tea for me and a chocolatey coffee for the husband, always brought over by the ever-smiling lady of the house, and we know that no matter what we order, it’s going to be delicious. We’ve spent many hours planning our #👫WorldTour there. Talking about our weeks at work. Mulling over problems that need solving. Discussing our plans for the future and remembering all of the good and bad from the past. We eventually look out at the street through the shuttered windows with the Sunday morning light streaming in, and reluctantly slide out of our booth to get on with the day. Always knowing we’ll be back soon 🙂

Sookie La La Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato