Archives for posts with tag: Balmain

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With so many cafes and restaurants on offer on Darling Street, Balmain, it’s easy to miss a good one – especially when you find a cafe or two that you can’t seem to go past on account of their high standards of food and service. Ciao Thyme has been one such cafe for me, just that little bit further from the main cluster of shops and restaurants so handy to my own front door. Yet this weekend I was rewarded by my efforts to go the extra (half) mile and have found another brunch hot spot to add to my treasury of favourites.

A small but airy and inviting corner cafe, Ciao Thyme has an italian inspired selection of deli foods including quiches, sandwiches, pastries and salads as well as a blackboard list of breakfast menu items cooked to order with most of the usual suspects on offer. It’s quiet when we go but clear that it’s a well run and efficient business with attentive staff and fresh food well done, without pretence.

Although I could easily have chosen any of the deli items presented with today, I settled on the smoked trout, rocket and eggplant quiche, beautifully made, with a flaky buttery pastry that didn’t buckle under its filling. To accompany said quiche, I chose a sweet potato salad with chickpea, feta, olives and parsley, which delivered a satisfying combination of flavours and textures, and inspired me to become a little more adventurous with my own salads. My sister’s toasted chorizo focaccia might have provoked some envious sidelong glances had I not been so distracted by the deliciousness of my own lunch. All such feelings were avoided at the dessert stage as we made an amicable decision to share a raspberry and almond slice with coffee that, both agreed, was the best we’ve tried in Balmain to date.

Ciao Thyme is everything you want your local cafe to be – casual but distinctive in character, with a regular rotation of seasonal dishes (which I know because I walk past here most days of the week) and high quality produce. Now to make up for the many months it’s taken me to discover it!

Ciao Thyme, 212 Darling Street, Balmain, NSW 2041 (02) 9555 5455

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One of my recent food discoveries has been the humble, but delicious, Lima Bean. I came across a recipe for pork sausages with white beans in Jane Price’s Dinner With Friends, which has some very fine recipes that bring restaurant fare to the home life and are relatively easy to make. It was the beans in the photograph that caught my eye, and so I decided to get some from my local wholefoods supplier, The Source, and give them a try. The beans require soaking for about 8 hours so a little advance planning is required, but they are well worth the effort. I was surprised by the delicate flavour and buttery texture of the beans, which married perfectly with the pork sausage. To add to their appeal, lima beans are an excellent source of iron and protein, and also have cholesterol lowering properties and the ability to stabilise blood sugar levels. I’m already thinking of other ways to use them, so stay tuned for more where these little gems come from.

Pork Sausages with Lima Beans + Thyme

350g dried white lima beans

6-8 pork sausages

1 white onion, finely chopped

1 bay leaf

1 green capsicum, finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon chilli flakes

1 teaspoon paprika

3/4 cup tomato passata

1/2 cup water

1 teaspoon cider vinegar

Soak the beans in cold water ahead of time for 8 hours or so. Drain and rinse, before placing them in a large saucepan with enough water to cover them by a couple of inches. Add the bay leaf, bring to the boil and then reduce the heat slightly and let them cook for 30 minutes or until they are soft. They should still retain a little bit of firmness, as you don’t want them to be too mushy. When cooked, drain the beans and remove the bay leaf.

Meanwhile, prick the sausages 5 or 6 times and lay in a separate pan. Add enough water to the pan to reach halfway up the sides of the sausages, then cook over a high heat until the water is reduced. At this point, let the sausages brown a little in the pan, then remove and set aside. Add the onion, capsicum and chilli flakes to the pan and cook over a low-medium heat for a few minutes until the onions are translucent and the capsicum has softened. Stir in the paprika, followed by the passata, cider vinegar and water. If you prefer the sauce to be a little thicker, just add less water. Bring the mixture to the boil, then reduce the heat and season to taste with salt and pepper. Slice the sausage and return to the pan with the other ingredients to heat for a minute or two.

To serve, divide the beans among your plates and place the sausage mixture over the top with a little fresh thyme and cracked pepper.

*Serves 4

(Adapted from Jane Price’s Pork Sausage with White Beans, in Dinner With Friends)

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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 😉

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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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Over the weekend I took the chance to have a long and leisurely Saturday lunch at The Cottage Bar & Kitchen in Balmain, something I’ve been meaning to do since moving here but not had the time to do so. This place has a lot of rustic charm and a leafy outdoor setting that was perfect for a sunny Saturday afternoon catch up with an old friend. We sat on the terrace overlooking the front garden dining area which gave us the chance to check out what the diners below us were ordering and take a few mental notes for our next visits. There are plenty of leafy trees out front which makes for a great barrier against the sun and a cool and pleasant dining experience. It was also great to have a direct view of the live band Bad Pony, who were playing an acoustic set of indie/rock covers and (I think) some original songs, which added a pleasant and relaxed mellowness to the occasion overall.

We decided to order three share plates which ended up being the perfect amount for 2 and left us suitably satisfied but not bursting at the seams. The first to reach the table was the field mushrooms stuffed with haloumi and prawns and an accompanying spicy dipping sauce, a delicious dish that was simple and understated and one I will definitely be ordering again. We also had the four cheese cauliflower with candied walnuts, also delicious and perfect for a winter Saturday. The cheese sauce was silky but suitably subtle and not too rich, with no chance of overshadowing the cauliflower which can often be the case. Our most hearty dish of the day was the lamb shoulder with baba ghanoush, lentil salad and pomegranate..definitely a winner. Tender and crispy, the lamb shoulder was cooked to perfection and the accompaniments made for an interesting but delicious combination of flavours and textures. The lentil salad is definitely something I’d like to try at home and would definitely recommend this dish as it was flavoursome and, simply put, good looking!! I’m a sucker for aesthetics, but this one tasted great as well. The service here was friendly and the staff were approachable and helpful. I found the Tim Adams Reisling to be the perfect accompaniment to the lunch and my companion’s Vinaceous Shiraz had amazing colour and was reportedly delicious.

All in all it was a great lunch and I loved the friendly vibe of The Cottage. I was reminded of some of the places I visited with my sister in New York and I’d definitely like to head back there and check out the scene at night..and the pizzas, which looked great!

I’m officially a fan and looking forward to my next visit,

Trini xo

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@rozelle markets