Monday, 25 June 2018

Being Mindful about Eating

There is so much opposing information these days about diet and nutrition, it’s no wonder we end up being confused about what are the right foods to nourish our bodies. Nutritional guidelines have constantly changed over the decades, and advice seems to flip-flop about what foods are “good foods” and what foods are “bad foods”. We are constantly bombarded with this advice from magazines, television, the internet, the food manufacturers, the latest cookbooks… it seems everyone has something to say about food.

Yet today, with all our knowledge, technology and food abundance, we are becoming fatter. Almost 2 in 3 Australian adults (63%) were overweight or obese in 2014-15. One quarter (26%) of children and adolescents were overweight or obese in 2014-15.( 

This is due to a number of factors, but a big one is not restricting ourselves to sensible portion sizes, and as a result, overeating. The main reason for growing fatter can sometimes be as simple as having too many calories than what our bodies need to function. This excess gets stored, and if its not converted into energy, our fat stores increase. Go to any supermarket and look at a product packaging. Have you noticed how many recommended serves there are on the packet? Too often we eat more than what is advised. Now go to a café, or a restaurant. Is the meal based on an average serving size? Often its not, but we have a tendency to want to finish the plate, or eat the entire sandwich. We don’t like to see food wasted, and often taking food home is not allowed by many eateries. So what do we do?

Enter Michele Walton, aka the “Food Lovers Dietitian”. Michele is an accredited practising dietician, as well as a food and travel blogger, and has devised a program that educates participants with sensible eating advice, plus allows all the foods that you already love and enjoy to eat. Most often diet programs and weight loss strategies see the introduction of new and sometimes strange foods (as well as shakes and powders) which are often expensive to buy, hard to stomach, and as a result difficult to continue with long term. Michele recognises this and offers a program that allows you to still enjoy all the foods you really truly love, but also offers advice, hints, tips and tweaks to incorporate these foods along with a healthy eating regime.

Michele’s website ( already offers a plethora of good advice like tips on achieving a healthy weight, tips when eating out, and meal planning. She wraps all of this good advice into the three month (90 day) program called The Food Lovers Dietitian Coaching Program which extends with:

- Daily emails
- Weekly one-on-one communication
- A dedicated Facebook group for participants
- Menu inspiration ideas and recipes
- Meal planning guide and checklist; and
- Constant reinforcement and motivation.

She first starts with a firm grounding in basic nutrition which covers all the food groups – carbohydrates / proteins / fats / dairy / vegetables and fruits, so nothing is excluded. Vegetarians and vegans are catered for as well. Appropriate portion sizing and energy statistics are provided, to better understand how much energy is in everyday foods. Some food can seem small in volume (think cheese) but packs a wallop in the calorie department.

She then moves onto mindset, and understanding hunger. It is quite eye opening to stop for minute and actually listen to your body and what it’s trying to tell you. So often we confuse signals from our tummy for hunger, when in fact it might be thirst. Or are we really truly hungry… or just bored? or stressed? or think we should eat because the clock tells us to?

The program then moves onto hints, tips and tweaks to make better food choices, especially when dining away from home. Next time you are dining out, consider asking for calorie dense dressings on the side (or skip them entirely), or choose two smaller entrees for your meal instead of a one larger one. If dining with friends, consider sharing a meal, or splitting a dessert so you can both enjoy the flavours. Remember… the first bite will taste EXACTLY the same as the last bite, so choose how much of something you really want to have, especially if its gooey and sweet!

The main lessons that I have learnt on this Program are
- That no food is off limits
- I am more conscious of the food decisions that I make
- I decide if it is ‘calorie worthy’, and
- I am now equipped with a toolbox full of ideas and advice for healthy eating and weight loss strategies.

Don’t get me wrong, I will still indulge in a burger and beer now and then, plus I will have that slice of cheesecake (usually shared) but I am having more salads and lighter meals, eating more vegetables, and cutting down my portion sizes to more appropriate ones. Weight loss takes time, and I feel that I am now better equipped than ever before after participating in Michele’s Coaching Program. So far on the program, I have lost nearly 7 kilos, and have kept it off which is a major plus. The lessons I have learnt on this Program are easy to stick with, and incorporate into everyday life. 
Thank you Michele! 

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Snagged A Croc

While perusing the meat aisle of Coles supermarket at Tuggeranong recently, I discovered they sell Crocodile!  

They only had it in two forms, either raw pieces of tail meat, or in sausage form.  For $10, I decided to give the sausages a go, and will try the tail another time. 

So who has had Crocodile before?  

While the sausages were a nice introduction, they were flavoured with herbs and spices so I could not get to taste "true" crocodile flavour. I'll try that next time with the tail meat. 

The sausages were very pale in colour, which made it a little hard to gauge when they were cooked, but being small they cooked up fairly quickly. Every time I turned them over in the pan I had the song "Never smile at a Crocodile" going around and around in my head!!! 

They tasted very nice and had a slight peppery edge from the spices used. We had them as a quick breakfast with toast and tomato sauce.  

Would I have them again? Probably, but I might baulk at paying $10 for a package of 8 chipolata sized snags. 

Nutritionally they were high in protein for a 100g serve (about 3 sausages) , low in saturated fat, and pretty low in sodium. Not an everyday food, but a good one to experiment with for trying something new. 

Monday, 19 March 2018

The Sriracha Story

Sriracha is a spicy yet flavoursome hot sauce, consisting of ripe Jalapeno peppers (over 84%), sugar, salt, garlic, distilled vinegar, preservatives and a thickener.

In Thai, the word Sriracha is commonly said with three distinct syllables “See-rah-cha”, whereas the western adoption is more like “Sur-archer”.

It is claimed that the sauce was first made in the small Thai town of Si Racha. Origins are mixed, in that one claims Burmese sawmill workers first made the sauce up themselves, using ingredients from a shop run by a local grandmother, then the grandmother began making the sauce herself and bottling it for sale. Another origin claim is that in the 1930’s, a local housewife named Thanom Chakkapak began making the sauce herself.

However, familiar to most in Australia would be the iconic clear bottle with the green top, made by Huy Fong Foods in the United States. The story behind this brand is pretty amazing, and starts with the company founder, David Tran. 

David Tran, photo courtesy of
David lived in Vietnam where he made his own chilli sauce called Pepper Sa-te. He bottled it in recycled baby food jars and rode around on his bicycle delivering it to customers. David, who was a major in the South Vietnamese Army, left Vietnam in 1979, along with many of his fellow refugees, after the Vietnam War had ended a few years earlier. He missed the spicy tang of his hot sauce and went about creating hot sauces again in his new home of America. He founded the company Huy Fong Foods in 1980, which today produces three sauces, including his now famous Sriracha sauce. The company operates out of a 650,000 square foot manufacturing premises in Irwindale, California.

The main ingredient – Jalapeno chillies – used to be sourced from the Underwood Family Farms since 1988, however a contractual dispute with them in 2016 put an end to that arrangement. Jalapeno’s are still used, just from a different supplier.

Did you know…..
- Huy Fong Foods was named after the freighter that David boarded when leaving Vietnam to come to America. It was called the “Huey Fong”.

- Their iconic Sriracha bottle has a green top so the whole thing looks like a giant ripe Jalapeno pepper.

- It has a Rooster on the bottle because the Chinese zodiac sign of founder David Tran is the Rooster.

I love Sriracha especially on eggs, as it brings out a subtle heat that goes well with the softness of the egg.

What do you use Sriracha on? 

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Urban Foraging

It seems everybody is talking about foraging in Canberra at the moment.

Sarah Aylott, a garden educator at the National Botanic Gardens, recently spoke with Lish Fejer on ABC Radio Canberra about learning to forage for weeds safely. She advises to start in your own backyard first, and read up on which weeds are safe to ingest and which to avoid. Some weeds are in fact highly nutritious.

The Canberra Environment Centre recently held workshops in February about foraging and preserving wild food, hosted by well renowned Canberra forager and blogger Susan Hutchinson.

Local frugalista and forager Serina Bird recently wrote an article on blackberry foraging for the Riotact. 

While foraging weeds isn’t my thing, my husband and I opted for the sweeter option and went foraging for blackberries just after day break early on Saturday morning. We went at this time to firstly to beat the heat of the morning sun, and secondly hoping to get a nice haul to cook with during the weekend. We opted for a spot that was easy to drive to and not off the beaten track, so we chose a spot between the Tuggeranong Parkway, and Lady Denman Drive, just down from the  National Zoo & Aquarium.

Hubby took the opportunity to adorn himself with his new bright blue overalls, whereas I opted for sturdy denim, a thick collared shirt and a handy set of secateurs. We each took a large container so we could divide and conquer. The patch was very large and rambling, and it was easy to see the trampled grass paths that previous foragers have forged in order to get to the edges of the patch. The patch was quite dense with very good fruit right in the middle but way out of reach… unless you had a tractor, or a small crane. We were still able to pick enough ripe and juicy fruit that was full of flavour. We only got a couple of scratches as we both took our time to reach in and around the thorny canes. All up, we picked just over a kilo of fruit, which would have cost us around $30 in the shops. Not bad!

A lot of friends have asked me if the government spray the blackberries. Well, yes they do spray some areas as blackberries are a noxious weed, however they sign the areas well. The patch we picked from was not signed, and the fruit and plants were quite healthy which is a tell-tale sign they haven’t been sprayed.

After washing the berries, so far I have used them to make:

A blackberry mousse, from a recipe by Serina. I can attest that this mousse is very easy to whip up, full of strong blackberry flavour and has the most stunning colour. It would certainly make for a showstopper dessert at a dinner party.

The leftover pulp (mash and pips) from the mousse recipe went into fluffy blackberry pancakes which we had for Sunday breakfast. I reserved a little of the pulp, added some whole berries, and made a quick microwaved ‘sauce’ rather than a true compote. The pancake recipe can be found on Rachel’s blog I Love My Disorganized Life. The recipe made 14 pancakes, so the remainder are now tucked away in the freezer for a speedy breakfast option.

I placed the remainder of the blackberries on a metal tray lined with baking paper and popped it into the freezer. This allows the berries to freeze individually, and then makes it easy to pop them into a zip lock bag. Otherwise they tend to freeze as a clump if bagged first. They are destined to be turned into smoothies, muffins and maybe a blackberry and chocolate cake. 

Have you ever foraged in your town? Drop me a line, I’d love to hear about it.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Tracking Your Expenditure

Hands up if you set yourself a budget and track your expenditure?  Great!

If you had asked me that question a month ago I would have said a resounding “no”, but circumstances of late (that’s a story for a whole other post!) have required me to take firm control of my finances, set myself a budget and track where my money is going.

Once I got into it, it was pretty easy to set up. A little trial and error with choosing the categories, but I’m happy with the layout for now. The trick is to then USE it frequently by updating your expenditure, and adjusting your budget figures when required.

I have used Microsoft Excel as my tracking tool. Yes it is pretty basic and there are probably heaps of programs out there (Quicken, Reckon, Pocketbook etc) not to mention apps which you can run on mobile devices, but as this is my first real foray into tracking my expenditure, Excel suits me just fine.

So step one. Deciding on the categories of expenditure.
I grouped mine first by high level categories, then drilled down into the types of actual items. For example:

Primary residence
  • Foxtel
  • Broadband
  • Internet Provider
  • Insurance
  • Rates
  • Water ... 

I actually have two spreadsheet lines per item, eg Foxtel / Foxtel actual.  The first line shows the budget amount each month, and the second line shows the actual spend each month. For something like Foxtel that’s easy as it’s a set amount and does not change. This method really comes in handy for food and groceries which can easily blow out if you are not watching costs.

Step two is deciding how long a period to cover
I have started with a 12 month period, starting with November 2017 and finishing in October 2018. No need to wait until January to start this endeavour, start now!

Step three is to then estimate how much for each item you spend per month.
Good sources of tracking down this information are:
  • Credit card statements especially good for recurring payments
  • Online banking history, tracking expenditure from savings accounts, and
  • Receipts and invoices

Step four is the really scary part… entering in all those estimates as your budget figures.
I also tallied up each of the budget figures per month, the actual figures per month, and tallied those over an annual period each. Aye carumba! This is both an eye opener and a sobering revelation as it really shows you how much it costs you to live.  Mind you, for now I have not counted in holidays, major health operations, household emergencies, or any other of life’s little challenges that can eat into your finances in a big way. For that, I have always had a buffer, or if you like a contingency fund, to handle situations like these.  My budget/expenditure tracker is for my more everyday expenses.

For expenses relating to household items, my husband and I share the costs so I have calculated my share of those expenses. We each buy our own clothing, pay for our own cars, and hobbies. We’ve always done it that way. Some (most?) couples have a joint account, we tried it but it was too much of an overhead. Its easier to keep our accounts separate, and pool in for the shared items. It works for us.

Step five is the tracking part
Once you have entered in all of your budget amounts, it is now time to track your expenditure and record it. I tend to enter what I’ve spent every couple of days, especially if I’ve paid in cash as it can be easy to forget. I check my bank account and credit card statements once a week and enter in transactions from them. By entering every few days or weekly, you can really gauge how you are going against your budget amount for the month. It could make you realise that dinners have to be a little frugal for a week or so to stay under target, or takeaway coffee’s or lunches might be better substituted with homemade lunches to keep costs down. At least it gives you an indication of how you are going, and you can make adjustments if required.

Please comment below if you would like a copy of my tracking spreadsheet. I have created a template version using generic items. You can update the categories and items to suit your own circumstances. 

Please tell me readers, have you found these tips useful for tracking your expenditure? Comment below, as I’d love to hear what works for you.


Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Cleaning Tips Using Vinegar

I was thrilled to recently join Ms Frugal Ears on her Frugal Dare to Millionaire Facebook Group in doing a joint video post waxing all things lyrical about vinegar. Vinegar you ask? Well yes, this marvellous product is a very frugal and a very effective cleaner. Rather than reaching for a commercial chemical cleaning solution, have you considered using vinegar?

Vinegar (in particular, white vinegar as opposed to malt or other vinegars) is great at cutting through grease and grime, acts as a deodorizer and has disinfectant properties. A little sure goes a long way.

I recently had to replenish my vinegar stash and headed to Costco to check out their pricing. I was pleasantly surprised (well, a little shocked!) to spend just $2.79 for a 5 litre container. Five whole litres for under $3.00 is pretty amazing. At a mere $0.55 cents per litre, it's a great deal.

I use vinegar for the following household cleaning chores:

Cleaning windows – Spray windows with a mix of approx. 25% vinegar with 75% water from a spray bottle. I used paper towels to clean the windows, but Serina mentions that she uses newspapers. Both give a good result, but newspapers have the bonus of being recyclable.  (I have to ponder though, are used paper towels recyclable in the ACT?)

Deodorizing the fridge – using the same ratio of vinegar solution as the window cleaner, spray onto fridge shelves, door pockets and inside crispers.  My go-to fridge cleaner used to be Mclintocks Vanilla Fridge Spray, but I wonder if I add vanilla essence to my vinegar solution if I would achieve similar results?

Floor cleaner – I have Blackbutt wood flooring which has been sanded and sealed. I make up a slightly weaker solution than the above ratio for cleaning the floors, as I don’t want to harm the surface, and so far its given me great results. It especially works hard in the kitchen where spots from cooking and the sink sometimes end up on the floor.

Unclogging sinks – Partner vinegar with bi-carbonate of soda and you have two powerhouse cleaning products. Sprinkle a little bi-carb into the clogged sink drain, then pour in a good splash of vinegar. The two will bubble on contact which is where the magic happens. Let this settle for a few minutes, before pouring in hot (not boiling!) water and voila! The sink is unclogged.

Serina uses vinegar around the house, kitchen and in her beauty regime:

In the dishwasher – if you run out of dishwasher tablets, pop some dishwashing liquid into the tablet dispenser and some vinegar into the rinse aid dispenser.

Dishwasher rinse aid – Pop some in the rinse aid holder in the dishwasher instead of using brand name rinse aid.  It provides a great way to make glassware sparkle.

Washing dishes – When dishwashing liquid runs out, or to stretch it a little further, add some vinegar. Especially good for cleaning pots and pans, as it cuts through grease with ease.

Cleaning your hair – Mix vinegar and water and use as a rinse over your hair. This is really good at descaling, or cutting through shampoo and product build up, leaving your hair shiny and clean. Serina also adds a bay leaf to the solution to cut through any vinegary smell. 

Cleaning whites in the laundry – used as an alternative to bleach, add vinegar to the wash when doing white clothing, or when wanting to brighten any yellowing or dull material like sheets and linens.

Cleaning your microwave – In a glass bowl use ¼ cup of vinegar to 1 cup water and let this heat in the microwave for about 3 minutes. Leave the door closed afterwards for around 5 minutes to help the steam/vinegar mix soften and loosen any baked on food inside the microwave. After 5 minutes, open the door and gently wipe down the interior of the microware. For any really stubborn areas, dip a cloth into the vinegar/water solution and give it a good scrub.

So reader, do you use vinegar for cleaning? What are you tips? 

Monday, 2 October 2017

Favourite buys from Costco and Aldi

This post is written with inspiration from local Canberran and frugalista Serina Huang (aka Ms Frugal Ears) who has really got me more aware of how I spend my food shopping dollars. She has created a Facebook group called Frugal Dare to Millionaire, which encourages people to participate in Serina’s frugal challenges “aimed at helping all of us save money and become mega affluent!”. So far the energy challenge has been a real eye opener for me, as it made me really scrutinise how much power we consume and our true cost per day. Several group participants have already achieved very good savings from their energy providers, so hat’s off to you Serina for empowering us to make a difference! 

Her current challenge is all about saving money on groceries - The $50 grocery challenge – which aims to reduce one’s weekly food shopping costs to just $50. She recently posted about her go-to buys at both Aldi and Costco.

As a household, we obtained our Costco membership months before the Canberra store opened. I remember the day we signed up, standing inside a very cold shipping container on the soon-to-be Costco site, on a winter’s day and getting our photos taken and our membership cards printed. A few weeks later we were down in Melbourne for a weekend getaway, and guess what… we shopped at the Docklands Costco because we could!  OMG is all we could say as it was our first experience of a Costco store. It was UUUUGGGEEE. The carts were UUUUGGGEEERRRR.  We couldn’t wait for the Canberra store to open, and its been a regular haunt of ours for a couple of years now.

Aldi on the other hand has been a staple supermarket for us for years. My stepson even worked at Aldi for a number of years while studying at uni. They are a great employer.  We are very lucky to have a store just down the road at our local shops.  Many a Saturday morning has been spent in line outside the store awaiting the doors to open to get a special buy. It’s great to talk to the fellow shoppers when at the door, everyone chatting politely asking “so what are you buying today”? Its all very civilised and very orderly once the doors open. I’ve heard other stores have frenzies when they open the doors, as much sought after items are in short supply and there’s not enough of the desired special buy to go around. I last lined up for Lock & Lock plastic container sets (I know, plasticware!!) but they are my go-to brand and the price was incredible.

My go-to favourite buys from Costco are:

Water – cases of Nu brand lightly sparkling water are a staple in our house.

Beef mince – usually around $7.00/kg but the downside is they are packed in 2.5kg-3.0kg packs. Great to portion out and freeze off. For freezing, you will need plenty of….

Glad Wrap – while the catering size pack of 300 metres may not fit neatly in a drawer it does sit nicely on a pantry shelf.

Glad Bake – baking paper in a huge 120 metre roll that lines everything from baking tins to oven trays.

Philadelphia cream cheese tubs – yes, you do have to buy a 3 x pack, but the use-by date is always good. Especially good for putting on…..

Bagels – true, you have to buy two packs (each containing 6 bagels) but you can mix up the flavours (plain, sesame, blueberry, cinnamon) and they freeze exceedingly well.  

Cheese – grated mozzarella cheese, which comes in a 2 x 1kg pack, is always on hand to meet cheese emergencies.

Mixed leaf lettuce – while we have only bought this the once (for a massive BBQ party) it was exceptional value for a huge tub. After feeding nearly 40 people we still had leftover lettuce which we donated to the RSPCA to feed to the bunnies. The leaves are packed down very well, so they fit a LOT in the container.

White Vinegar – a measly $2.79 for a massive 5 litre container, used for mainly cleaning as I really don’t like the smell in cooking.

Tinned vegetables – tinned chopped tomatoes, Heinz baked beans, chick peas and corn kernels can be purchased in packs of 12 x 400g tins and the savings are amazing compared to buying just a can on its own here and there from the other supermarkets.

Heinz ketchup – the ONLY tomato sauce in our house. Comes in a two pack, so we always have a spare in the cupboard.

Cream – 1 litre of thickened cream is under $4.00 and a little goes a long way when whipped up. Think strawberries and cream, or Devonshire teas.

Boston Bun – sometimes as low as $6.00, this is a large-scale deliciously soft pull-apart fruit studded yeasted bread, with a soft marshmallowy icing covered in coconut. What’s not to love?  Great to buy for a work morning tea, as it’s a danger to the waistline to leave lying around the house.

Christmas wrapping paper – we are still using the massive roll we purchased when Costco opened in Canberra. The paper is super thick, easily covering details of the item being wrapped AND it’s double sided with a non-Christmas pattern so it performs double duty throughout the year.

Electronics – we’ve purchased a few electronic items at very good prices and like anything purchased at Costco, comes with a lifetime warranty.  We have exchanged a faulty laptop for a brand new one, with no hassles, no issues, and very good customer service.

Petrol – we couldn’t wait until the Gasoline station opened at the Canberra Store, as we save nearly $0.20/litre which doesn’t sound like much, but with two turbo powered cars both running 98 octane petrol, that’s around a $20 saving for each combined fill up.

Hot Dog + drink – for the cheap price of $1.99 gets you a hot dog and a refillable drink from the Café. Hubby’s go-to lunch if we shop on a weekend. 

My favourite buys from Aldi are:

Muesli – they have three flavours from the one brand, and we often buy all three and combine them.

Meat – Aldi has a very good range of pork, bacon, beef and chicken cuts and the pricing is very good. The pork remains especially juicy when cooked. Frequent specials often mean large packets, but meat freezes well.

Chocolate – while a ‘sometimes’ buy, the dark chocolate and marzipan is very good and comes in a handy pack of 5 x small packets which is good for portion control! Their larger blocks are also very good, in particular the coffee/chocolate is very creamy, which my colleagues can attest to.

Pasta sauce - $1.59 buys a huge 500g jar, and I’ve always bought the ‘blue top’ Romano brand one (tomato, onion and garlic) for spaghetti Bolognese and savoury mince dishes. Recently I lashed out and bought the Bolognese flavoured one that I am yet to try (hey, you only live once!)

Coconut milk – a huge 400ml can is less than $1.00, and is a must when cooking curries, coconut rice, making smoothies or used in baking for cakes and muffins.

Aldi ‘special buys’ – while these are an eclectic bunch of specials that change every Wednesday and Saturday, there has been some stand out buys that have stocked our kitchen, garage and shed.  Stand out buys include; Lock & Lock plastic food containers, pump action spray containers (used for weed spraying), and a high pressure water cleaner used for pressure washing the driveway, and cleaning the car. Don’t worry, we run off our 90,000 (!) litre water tank, so water usage for us is free as its rainwater.

Don’t get me wrong, we do also shop at Woolworths and Coles, as well as the Fyshwick Markets and farmer’s markets too. I regularly keep an eye on my local butcher, M & K Meats, who has some incredible buys (like today’s $6.99/kg chicken breasts!).

There could soon be a new player on the Australian supermarket scene with the arrival of LIDL. They are a German discount supermarket with over 10,000 stores across Europe. Is Australia ready for yet another no-frills, discount supermarket?  

So reader, where do you shop? And what are your go-to items? 

Monday, 25 September 2017

Hannara Korean BBQ Buffet

Hands up who loves a good buffet?
Hands up who loves Korean food?

The four of us hungry meat eating humans opted for Hannara Korean BBQ last Saturday night, to try their increasingly popular BBQ buffet. One had been before, so it was new to three of us but great to have a ‘guide’ to assist us through the process. 

In the middle of each of the tables is a cooking station powered by a butane gas can, like a camping stove. A fresh metal cooking plate is lowered above the flame and the server turned on the gas. Let’s get this party started!

We didn’t look at any other food choices apart from the buffet options, of which we could select from one of three buffets. The choices are Premium Wagyu & Seafood Buffet $69, Wagyu BBQ Buffet $59, Standard BBQ Buffet $49. We chose the Wagyu BBQ Buffet, as it came with a set platter of mixed beef which saved ordering all the individual cuts of meat. There are a number of dishes available in each buffet, and you can keep ordering as much as you like… but there IS a catch. You only have 90 minutes to order dishes, and the clock starts the moment the first food arrives. There is a penalty if leftover food remains. While the menu didn’t spell out what the penalty actually is, I think its there as more of a deterrent. Note that a couple of stray grains of rice is fine to leave behind. 

In addition to the meat platter, we ordered the:

Pork Belly – Six slices of thickly sliced raw pork belly complete with fat layer. Once cooked the fat didn’t render down completely but was easily removed. The pork meat was sweet and tender.

Original flavoured Korean Fried Chicken – This was a stand out. Four large pieces of deep fried chicken that was hot, crispy, moist and very tasty. Tip for next time, as soon as your chicken arrives…. order a second plate. 

Japchae (a Sweet Potato noodle dish) which was a really interesting dish both in terms of colour and texture. Slippery thin noodles that looked like dark gelatinous pasta. Don’t let this description or photo put you off as it was very tasty. We should have ordered another portion of this, as it was only a small dish to share among four.

Corn cheese – a bubbling comforting concoction of corn kernels, cheese and spices that arrived in a cast iron pan. It was deliciously hot and very moreish. Sort of like a macaroni cheese dish in terms of comfort level, but fresh with the pops of corn.

Vegetarian spring rolls – standard spring rolls, two in a serve.

Vegetarian dumplings – three in a serve, and they had been pan fried so were very similar to potstickers.

Dipping sauces – we got three of the sauces, the first a soy based sauce, the second a sweeter chilli based one with only a smidge of heat, and the third was a close cousin of Gochujang so right up there on the heat scale.

Dessert - ice cream is the only dessert option and that is fine as you don't want something really heavy afterwards. A single large scoop of ice cream drizzled with chocolate sauce. 

It was a busy Saturday night, with many diners arriving just after 6pm. Tables started filling up, but the food was coming out at a reasonable rate. Having the rice and the entire meat platter arrive early meant that we were pretty self-sufficient. Each table is equipped with a caddy of metal chopsticks, metal spoons and napkins. The table is also supplied with a set of tongs for moving around meat pieces on the cooking plate, and a large pair of scissors to chop the meat into bite size pieces. There is also a buzzer at the end of the table and is pressed when you wish to order more food. At one point we noticed that our meat was taking a long time to cook and no wonder, the flames had gone out! A quick switch out of the gas can with a fresh one, and we were back in business.

In addition to the food, two of us shared a bottle of Citrus flavoured Soju which is a clear Korean liquor (unfortunately they were out of grapefruit) $16, a pineapple based Soju cocktail $9, and a can of soft drink. Tap water is also provided for the table.

The night was a fun one and very hands on. The act of cooking together and taking turns in flipping and dishing out the meat was very enjoyable.

Hannara can be found on Facebook - and they are located in the old Civic Pide House premises at 16 Moore Street, Civic.
Open 6 nights a week from 5:00pm to 10:00pm, closed Sundays.
Ph (02) 6193 3016

Monday, 18 September 2017

World's Greatest Vanilla Slice

While researching the itinerary for our recent Tasmanian trip, I came across the small town of Ross in Tasmania, which is just south of Launceston.  What alerted me to this town was their bakery’s claim to fame of having the World’s Greatest Vanilla Slice. Now that alone meant it HAD to be included in our travels as hubby and I love a good vanilla slice, and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try the World’s Greatest!

Talk about good planning, as we arrived only days after the bakery had reopened after their winter break.

So before I get to the vanilla slice… I finally now know the OTHER reason why so many tourists, in particular Japanese tourists, flock to this bakery.  Did you know… there is a tiny room upstairs that has been made to resemble a room from a famous Japanese anime film? A 1989 anime film titled “Kiki’s Delivery Service”, which is an adaptation of a book with the same name, features a young girl witch named Kiki who lives above a bakery. The Ross Village Bakery decided to decorate an upstairs loft room to look like the one Kiki used in the movie. Hundreds of anime fans flock to see the little room, the bakery, and leave messages in the guest book. It’s somewhat of a pilgrimage. Little did we know ANY of this before we went to the bakery… but it might explain the three young Japanese girls sharing the downstairs café room and log fire with us. They were busy on their phones… we were busy eating vanilla slice. (Read more from this ABC news article). 

Now for the low down on the vanilla slice.

First up, it was terrific. 

It was a large serving so we decided to have it cut in two. It was cut skilfully by the bakery staff on the diagonal, and none of the filling spilled out in the cutting action. I think they’ve probably done that a few times before.

The pastry was beautifully cooked and was crunchy. Not too thick, but enough to hold the filling in its place.

The top was dusted in icing sugar. Not enough to inhale and get “icing sugar throat” (true, it’s a thing!) but enough to give it a pleasant dusting.

The custard filling was not overly sweet (as some can be), and was pillowy soft and yielding to the fork. The taste was of prominent vanilla, but was not overwhelming. It was beautifully rich, and not at all gluggy or gelatine-y. 

We’d rate it right up there as far as good vanilla slices go, but can’t attest to it being the World’s Greatest, simply because we’ve not tried them all!!!

Tell me reader, what makes a good vanilla slice?

Are you on the custard/pastry team? Or of the vanilla pudding/lattice biscuit persuasion? 

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Putting Fyshwick on the Map

What do a book seller, a gourmet providore, a Christmas fancier, a conservator and an antique furniture aficionado all have in common? 

Well they are all on “the map” …. the #BoutiqueFyshwick map that is.

The brain child behind this map is Dawn Sculthorpe Hayter, the conveyor of Urban Providore. Dawn’s vision is to promote a range of unique and boutique Fyshwick retailers that share a like-minded approach to quality, and a love of providing a great customer connection.  

A little about each of the businesses….

Canty’s Bookshop
Luke and Laura run this treasure trove of a second hand bookshop. Packed to the rafters with a wide assortment of books crossing every genre and subject under the sun, the shelving measures a little over a kilometre.  A kilometre, wow! My go to section is the cookbooks on the far wall. There is a handy stepladder nearby to peruse the titles on the upper shelves, and a comfy chair in a sunny corner to dive into one’s stash. Canty’s books are reasonably priced, and the staff are exceptionally knowledgeable about their inventory and writers in general.

Urban Providore
Welcome to a foodies paradise! The ever energetic and passionate Dawn has filled UrbanProvidore with quality Australian made gourmet foodstuffs, and has a particular focus on local region produce. Think gourmet spice blends, exotic balsamic vinegars, handmade artisan butters, creative fudges, jams, pasta sauces, gift hampers, gourmet salts, crisp linens and many more.  Soon to be added to the range will be fresh fruits and vegetables, and take home meals. The shop also offers a 24x7 online store.

Christmas Emporium
The only all-year Christmas store in Canberra, Mike Welch and his team are gripped by the spirit of Christmas every day. Mike strives for unique pieces that provide something different for the discerning Canberran and interstate visitor, and he is ensuring that his emporium will become a go-to destination. The launch of the Emporium this year coincided with Christmas in July, and the winter chill in the air only added to the Christmassy feel. Be prepared to find one-off German windmills powered by tea-lights, hand-blown glass ornaments and collectable baubles that will become precious keepsakes.  

Endangered Heritage
The term endangered immediately conjures up animals, but the focus of EndangeredHeritage is the preservation and conservation of valuable objects be they wedding dresses, works of art, precious coins, books, textiles and photographs. They also sell a range of tools and supplies like acid free tissue papers, archival boxes and anti-corrosion materials. Run by trained conservators Victoria and Andrew Pearce, they are assisted by a crack team of conservation specialists, who never know what sort of fascinating job is going to walk in the door.

Humble House Gallery
Roger Carter’s Humble House Gallery is truly a hidden gem. Tucked away at 93 Wollongong Street is a captivating space that has to be seen to be believed. A multi floored space encompassing a showroom of Oriental antique furniture, a Museum of pieces that you would expect to find in overseas institutions, contemporary ceramic pieces, a wealth of handmade table lamps and an art gallery to rival the best. There are so many nooks and crannies to explore you could easily while away an hour or two taking it all in. The driving principles are quality and unique pieces that would make a statement in any home.

Stay tuned for more businesses to join the #BoutiqueFyshwick map!