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I’m not going to lie..tonight’s dinner came courtesy of a half jar of Volcom red curry paste. What can I say? Life is busy and short! Without a doubt, there is nothing quite like a fresh curry made from scratch, and that’s the kind of cooking I love to get into on the weekends. On weeknights though, after a busy day at work, I’m looking for things that are quick to make, satisfying and nutritious. I often use a jar or tin of curry paste and I find that most times just following the instructions on the jar will give you a delicious meal in a really short amount of time. Sometimes I like to mix it up though and will throw in a particular vegetable that’s been on my mind or some fish sauce and kaffir lime leaves. Tonight, I kept things simple and decided to just use onion, chicken, red curry paste, some tomato passata and natural yoghurt. I love the flavour of meat simmered in yoghurt and I couldn’t resist adding a little extra over the top as it helps to cut the sharp flavour of the curry. Coconut milk will work just as well – I just go with whatever takes my fancy (and whatever I have in the kitchen)!

The best part about cooking a meal like this? Leftovers! Added to that, next to no washing up after tomorrow night’s dinner..yet another kitchen shortcut ūüėČ Do you have any of your own? I would love to know them!

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As the festive season draws nearer I can sense that I am fast catching the baking bug, something which is somewhat of a challenge in my lilliputian kitchen! Nevertheless, for me there is always something therapeutic about baking, so long as I have the time and the right ingredients to hand. I’m not entirely sure why it is that I enjoy baking so much, but I think it might be that baking is a timeless tradition that goes down through the centuries. Although the instruments we use may change with the innovations of time, the overall process remains largely the same, as does the tradition of coming together to eat, celebrate, mourn or commemorate. Sometimes I dispense entirely with the trappings of a modern kitchen (I don’t yet own a food processor!) and simply blend/cream/chop/fold ingredients by hand. Although this extends the time taken to complete the task somewhat, I enjoy the prolonged process and the chance it gives me to retreat into my thoughts or to fully appreciate a good album, the company of others or even just the solitude of silence. I’ll never forget reading about Sadie in Mr Rosenblum’s List, who emigrates to Britain from Germany with her husband in 1937 and bakes layer upon layer of sadness and memories into a Baumtorte (a very tall German “Tree” cake with layers of almond pastry). Sadie’s loneliness is relieved somewhat when some women from the village smell her cake and invite her to the town meeting, to which she dutifully takes the Baumtorte:

The women ate, and it was the most remarkable cake they had ever tasted. It was sweet and perfectly moist with a hint of lemon but, as her mouth filled with deliciousness, each woman was overwhelmed with sadness. Each tasted Sadie’s memories, her loss and unhappiness and whilst they ate Sadie was, for once, not alone in her sorrow.¬†

I loved the way that in sharing the cake, the women were able to cross an emotional divide that helped them to understand one another better. On the one hand, Sadie was able to express her sorrow and the difference of her experience, while the women were able to see (and taste) another perspective that gave them an insight previously unseen of an outside and foreign member of their community.

Reflections aside, baking can also be really fun! As I have mentioned in a previous post, I am still in the midst of planning my European Odyssey next year. Given a significant bulk of my trip will be spent in Greece and the Greek Islands, I have all things Greek on my mind and decided to cook in theme with my future travels again. And what better way than with these delicious Greek Kourabiedes! It is a delicious almond shortbread made with a hint of brandy and orange rind which has a great texture and is perfect for a mid morning or afternoon treat. Also great for the gift giving season. Kal√≠ŐĪ sas √≥rexiŐĪ!

Kourabiedes (Greek Almond Shortbread)

250 g butter, softened

60 g icing sugar

1 tspn orange zest

1 egg yolk

1 tbspn brandy

100 g almond meal

310 g plain flour

1¬Ĺ tspn baking powder

60 g extra icing sugar, for dusting

Cream the butter, sugar and orange zest in a small bowl until pale and fluffy, then add the egg yolk and brandy and beat until thoroughly combined.¬†Use a metal spoon to fold in the almond meal, flour and baking powder, and mix until well combined.¬†Gather together and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1‚Äď2 hours, or until chilled.

Preheat the oven to 160¬įC and line two large baking trays with baking paper. Shape ¬Ĺ tablespoons of the mixture into crescents, using lightly floured hands. Place on the prepared baking trays. Bake for 12‚Äď15 minutes, or until pale golden. Cool on the trays for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. While still warm, dust with the sifted icing sugar. The Kourabiedes can be stored in an airtight container for weeks..if it lasts that long ūüėČ

*Mr Rosenblum’s List¬†is the first novel of Natasha Solomons, published by Sceptre in 2010.

 

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If you know me, you may know that I am planning my very own European Odyssey next year. I must admit that my destinations of choice have very much centred around my favourite cuisines, and in anticipation of the culinary journey ahead I have been inspired to try my hand at some of the authentic¬†dishes I hope to try when I finally make it to Europe. Tonight’s inspiration: Spain! Where I hope to spend five days of wonder and admiration come July next year,¬†if all goes according to plan.

These Spanish Albóndigas are served with a spicy tomato sauce and would be great for tapas if entertaining, or as a main meal, as I had here tonight with a fresh garden salad and some crunchy white toast. I always find great recipes in Gourmet Traveller, where I found this recipe.

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One of the easiest meals I’ve cooked in a while, this baby octopus was bought pre-marinated at my local seafood store. I had intended to make a sicilian calamari salad I found on Gourmet Traveller¬†, but as with many of my kitchen ambitions, I ended up cooking this octopus in the quickest and simplest way I could. Thankfully, the seafood vendor where I bought my octopus gave me some great advice on how to cook it, which worked so well that I thought I’d share it here with you. He told me that if I was going to cook it in a wok or frypan, I should cook it once over a high heat for 1-2 minutes, then turn the heat off and let the octopus sit in its juices for about five minutes, before draining and reheating the pan and cooking the octopus over a high heat again for 1-2 mins. This was a great tip, as it ensured that the octopus was fully cooked and tender, but with a crispy outer firmness that you couldn’t get without the high heat of a barbecue or commercial cooktop. All I had to do was add a little lemon juice and a side of salted tomatoes, and I was done. Well, almost..I couldn’t resist some crusty white bread with a little oil and vinegar to soak up all those juices.

If you’re lucky like me and can get fresh octopus marinated from your local seafood shop, then I highly recommend this method. On the other hand, the¬†sicilian calamari salad looks so enticing that I might just have to try it next time.

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Cities Are Good For You: The Genius of the Metropolis, Leo Hollis (Bloomsbury:London), 2013.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Leo Hollis is an urban enthusiast, as the title of his latest book suggests. In this book, Hollis embarks on a global city hop to investigate urban projects in sustainability, transport, agriculture, community development and more.¬†Critics have suggested¬†that Hollis presents a partisan and overly idealistic argument in favour of city living, and although this may be true I don’t think it takes away from the worth of the research. Hollis demonstrates that cities are best transformed from the inside out and provides an interesting perspective on what could be possible if everyday citizens took more responsibility for their environment and community. I don’t think that this book will revolutionise the world, nor was intended to. If it goes some small way to inspiring a few however, the benefits could be felt by many.

 

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The New Front Page: New Media and the Rise of the Audience, Tim Dunlop (Scribe:Melbourne), 2013.

Tim Dunlop’s The New Front Page is a thought provoking book about the changing face of journalism in Australia. ¬†In this book, Dunlop uses his experience as a political blogger to begin a discussion about the need for mainstream media to better adapt to the rise of new-media and increasing levels of audience participation. As a newcomer to world of blogging, I found it a great insight into the broad scope of possibilities that blogging can create, as well as some of its limitations. Reading the book, I came to the conclusion that if you want news and analysis of a high quality, then you should be prepared to pay for it. I was also convinced that media agencies should also offer more flexible and user-friendly paywalls and subscription services. A proponent of new-media websites such as New Matilda and Crikey, Dunlop demonstrates that professional journalism could learn a lot by listening to and interacting with its audiences and adapting in inventive ways in order to keep the industry alive, relevant and vital to a healthy democracy.

 

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Burial Rites, Hannah Kent (Picador:Sydney), 2013.

This is an impressive debut novel by Hannah Kent about a woman on death row in Iceland in 1829. It is a moving and compelling tale made even more poignant by the fact that it is based on true events. The writing is highly evocative and reading the book I felt more that I was watching events unfold before my eyes rather than hunched over the page with a furrowed brow. In a world in which only 51% of United Nations member states have completely abolished the use of capital punishment I think that this book is highly relevant to present-day society as it highlights some important issues of crime and punishment that continue to have currency today. I think this book will translate nicely to cinema, and the guardian reports that plans are currently underway for a movie adaptation, with Jennifer Lawrence to play the role of the protagonist Agnes¬†Magn√ļsd√≥ttir. Great Choice!

 

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Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, Anthony Bourdain (Bloomsbury:London), 2000.

I really loved this book. It’s written in 6 parts, covering a five course meal with a coffee and cigarette afterwards, and is the tale of Bourdain’s journey from a not-so-humble dishwasher to world-renowned chef, writer and traveller. It is a revealing tell-all about the kitchen underworld of restaurants in New York, Tokyo, Paris and beyond, and although I suspect that Anthony Bourdain is a great story teller, I get the sense that he really hasn’t embellished the story all that much. Bourdain depicts a world that is gritty, male dominated, competitive, character-building and fascinating all at once. I really grew to like Anthony Bourdain as I was reading the book, and he strikes me as someone who is down to earth, highly discerning and open to the world in a way that has helped him steer the highs and lows of his successful career.

 

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Capital, John Lancaster (Faber and Faber:London), 2012.

Set on the cusp of the global financial crisis in 2008, John Lancaster’s¬†Capital¬†is an intriguing, insightful and thoughtful novel centred around the everyday lives of the ordinary citizens of Pepys Road, London. Each of the street’s occupants receive a card in the post in December 2007 with a simple message ‘We Want What You Have’. As events unfold, you realise that there’s more to this novel than meets the eye, and it’s one of those books that touches on a multitude of issues in a subtle and thought provoking way. Lancaster points to the ways in which money, power and greed affect the lives of everyday people in varying degrees and with varying outcomes. A great read.

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This week I went to the Night Noodle Markets in Hyde Park, a Sydney Morning Herald Good Food month event taking place throughout October. As you can see, this is a popular event and it’s definitely a good idea to get in early if you want to avoid the long queues. Situated in the heart of Sydney’s CBD, it’s a great opportunity to catch up with friends after work but also well worth visiting even if you don’t work or study in the city. The market is a hub of activity and a foodie’s oasis. On the night we visited, it was a perfect Spring evening and a great opportunity to sit back and soak up the atmosphere and see the sun set over a busy city. Offering mostly modern asian street foods, there is plenty on offer to suit most tastes and the dishes are cheap enough to allow for sampling of various dishes. The best way to do the market is to get in early and with a group. This way you can find a table or a patch of grass (a picnic rug ¬†will come in handy), split up and meet back at your spot. I sampled two dishes from the Longrain stall, a chicken, turmeric, coconut + basil noodle bowl, and a hot + sour pork noodle bowl, both of which were delicious. My noodle market trip has inspired me to try making San Choy Bau, and I think this is definitely going to become a staple in my kitchen..it’s easy, healthy and most importantly, delicious! The best thing about it is you can use the basic recipe below and be creative with variations of your own. I bought some water chestnuts to put in mine but discovered that I don’t own a can opener so used mushrooms instead and was quite happy with the result. How I have managed to get away with not even realising I don’t own a can opener until now, beats me!

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Pork San Choy Bau

350g minced pork

1 clove crushed garlic

2 tsp fresh grated ginger

1/2 long red chilli, fresh and finely chopped

1 tbsp sunflower oil

1 tbsp fish sauce

2 tbsp oyster sauce

1/4 cup spring onions, finely sliced

100g button mushrooms, finely chopped

1/4 cup fresh coriander, finely chopped

8-10 iceberg lettuce leaves, rinsed and patted dry

Sliced lemon pieces, to serve

Fry the garlic, chilli and ginger in the sunflower oil for 1-2 minutes. Add the pork mince and stir until cooked, then add in the mushrooms, spring onions and coriander. Stir for about 1-2 mins, then add in the fish sauce and oyster sauce and stir until heated through the mixture. Remove from the heat and rest for a minute or so, then scoop portions of the mixture into your lettuce cups, as shown above. Serve with fresh lemon slices and enjoy, no eating utensils required! Simply fold the lettuce leaves around the mixture and you have a delicious parcel of goodness ready to devour. It might help to keep a few lettuce leaves on hand so you can double wrap the parcels for extra strength and to keep the insides in.

*Serves 4 as an entree, 2 as a main

 

 

 

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This weekend I went for a morning swim at Sydney’s beautiful Manly Beach. It seems that the water is getting warmer every week, as I managed to stay in for at least ten minutes this time! It was a beautiful Spring day and perfect for the walk from Queenscliff at the north end of Manly beach all the way up to Shelley Beach, about an hour’s leisurely walk there and back. Had I more time to spare (and by that I mean more money in the parking metre!) I would have loved to have done the Manly to Spit Bridge walk, a 10km walk which takes you up over North Head and through the Sydney Harbour National Park to the Spit Bridge in Seaforth. Next time I think I’ll take the ferry and do just that.

What I love about Manly¬†is the fun loving vibe along the beach. There’s always so much going on in Manly and the beach is big enough to cater a crowd without feeling crowded. From the surf schools to the beach volley ball courts and surf life saving clubs, the beach is a hub of activity for locals and tourists alike, and has a great promenade for running/walking/cycling/rollerblading/pram pushing, as well as plenty of grass and shade. I also love the walk around to Shelley Beach because of its Mediterranean feel and the serenity of the beach itself, tucked away from the wind and one of Sydney’s best spots for snorkelling.

On the Corso, there are plenty of shops and restaurants and on Saturdays and Sundays you can visit the Manly Market Place, a smallish market but good enough that if money were no object I could have found something to buy at every stall. Home of the Manly Jazz Festival and the Manly Food, Wine & Sustainability Festival, there are plenty of reasons to visit Manly if not just for the sun, surf and sand alone.

A few quick facts¬†I learned about Manly: The town area was the traditional home of the Kay-ye-my and Cannalgal clans. When Captain Arthur Phillip Jackson sailed into what we now know as Manly Cove in 1788, he wrote that the natives of the land had waded into the water unarmed and that their ‘confidence and manly behaviour’ made him give the name of Manly Cove to the area. An initially amicable relationship turned sour when it became clear that the visitors would outstay their welcome and also introduce a wave of smallpox disease, kidnappings, theft and shootings that would wipe out almost the entire existing community. It is a sad fact that the beautiful surroundings and fun loving Manly we enjoy today comes at the cost of such a dark chapter in our nation’s history.

All in all, it was a great day to explore and learn a little about one of Sydney’s most treasured spots, and I can’t wait to visit again. The council does a great job of keeping the town clean and it’s clear that this is a corner of Sydney that the locals take a lot of pride in. I’d recommend taking the bus or ferry if you can, as it’s only about 30 minutes either way from the city, and then you don’t have to worry about paying for or finding a park.

After a big walk and a refreshing swim I had a big appetite for these zucchini fritters, which I had been meaning to try after coming across the recipe on one of my favourite blogs, Smitten Kitchen.This recipe is fail safe, and the result was delicious! I highly recommend.

Until next time,

Trini xo

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I couldn’t go past the fantastic colour combination of this gluten free spinach and beetroot pasta when I last visited The Source in Balmain. It’s made from quinoa and rice and after eating it I had all the satisfaction of a carb-laden pasta dish but none of the (literally) bloated feelings of regret and self-admonition that usually accompany a heavy plate of pasta*.

Not having much in the way of food supplies in the Balmain Kitchen tonight I went for something simple but still great tasting. All I’ve done here is mix up some cherry tomatoes, spanish onion, basil, kalamata olives, olive oil, white wine vinegar, my cooked pasta, and some salt and pepper. Delicious, and righteous.

*Let’s just say things are complicated between pasta and me..I love him, he causes me pain.. I leave him, I miss him, I keep coming back to him, I’ll never learn ūüėČ

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This weekend I spent a lazy Saturday morning at the Dawn Fraser Baths at Elkington Park in Balmain. It seems that this little pocket of the inner west is a treasure trove of hidden gems like this spot. Built in the early 1880s, the baths is Australia’s oldest pool and home to Australia’s oldest swimming club. The first game of water polo was also played here in 1888 and it continues to host the International Water Polo games. It’s the old school vibe of the baths that makes it so special, and as it’s (thankfully) on the heritage list of the National Trust it looks as though it’s a Sydney institution that is here to stay. When I went down it was the first open day of the season, as the baths are only open from October through to April. Although it was only the first day of the season, it seems that there were many like me who were keen to get down there and soak up the sunshine before a dip in the pool. The soaking up of the sunshine took up the majority of my visit though as the water was pretty chilly, although not as cold as the water at Bondi last week. The baths is a great place to go on an outing with family and friends, as there is a huge expanse of decking and plenty of shaded seating, not to mention a great view of the harbour. It was fairly entertaining watching people work up the nerve to jump in and then swim furiously for a lap or so to adjust to the chilly temperature. It seemed that every time somebody jumped or waded in everybody stopped to look on and gauge their reaction (and their own readiness to brave the water!).¬†There are lanes for lap swimmers and also a large area with a sandy beach which is great for kids. Standing in the shallows I saw heaps of jelly fish and other schools of tiny fish as well as some not-so-tiny fish! The baths is lifeguarded and the water quality is tested by Harbourwatch. It’s the perfect place to head with a group of friends or the family, or even just by yourself with a book – something I intend to do a lot of this Spring and Summer! The baths also runs yoga classes every Wednesday at 9.30 am and every Sunday at 8.00 am during Summer.

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All this warm weather we’ve been having in Sydney has me particularly excited about spring and summer flavours – fresh herbs and tomatoes especially! Here’s my recipe for a delicious and healthy thai beef salad.

Simple Thai Beef Salad

300g rump or fillet steak

1 clove garlic, finely sliced

1/3 cup soy sauce

1 tbsp fish sauce

80g salad mix

12 cherry tomates, halved

1 cucumber, sliced,

1/2 carrot, julienned

1/4 spanish onion, finely sliced

1 small handful of mint leaves

For the dressing:

1/3 cup lime juice

1 tbsp fish sauce

2 tsp brown sugar

Marinate the steaks in the soy sauce, 1 tbsp fish sauce and the garlic for 1-2 hours. When ready to cook, sear the beef fillet in a hot pan on both sides for 3 mins, or until cooked to your liking. Leave to rest for 10 minutes while you prepare the rest of the salad.

To prepare the salad, simply combine the salad ingredients. To prepare the dressing, combine the lime juice, fish sauce and sugar and adjust the amount of sugar to your taste. When ready to serve, slice the beef thinly across the grain and add to your salad. Bon appétit!

Serves 2

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We’ve been so lucky to have weekend after weekend of spectacularly sunny days in Sydney. Here’s a few pics I took over the weekend at Bondi. The Bondi-Bronte walk is one of my favourite places in Sydney. I’m looking forward to the sculpture by the sea¬†¬†exhibition held along the coastline from Bondi to Tamarama every year. This year it starts on 24 October.

I often run out of inspiration for weekday lunches, but this week I decided to roast some sweet potato, pumpkin and potato for something a little different. It’s a delicious and healthy option that is easy on the budget and requires minimal fuss.

All you have to do is chop approximately 2 cups of your favourite vegetables and drizzle them with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with sea salt and cracked pepper and roast at 200¬įC for 30 minutes, or until done (I use a knife to make sure the veg are cooked through). A little fresh rosemary goes a long way too, if you have it on hand. If the vegetables are still a little oily, you can drain them on some paper towel. I had my veg on a wrap with some lettuce mix, but there’s plenty of other things you could do. Eat them as they are or mix through some cous cous or quinoa for a more substantial salad.

Until next time,

Trini xo