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 cafĂ© 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! 

Monday, 12 June 2017

Frugal Baked Onions

The despair of seeing how much food is wasted every day on this planet is enough to make you cry. I too am guilty of tossing away food that spoiled before I had a chance to use it. I think sometimes my lack of meal planning, my ‘virtuous good intentions’ with particular vegetables, and occasional blasĂ© approach to meal preparation has led to this. I have so much food in my freezers (yep, we have two fridge/freezers) that I could be mistaken for a prepper!

My aim is to use up what I have… before buying more.

To that end, I had leftover cream in the fridge and a bag of onions in the pantry to use up. Both of which were bought to use only a little in a recipe, with no plans for the remainder. Until I saw a post from the blogger Phoodie come up in my Facebook feed; Baked Onions with cream, cheese and thyme.

Onions? Check.

Cream? Check.

Let’s get to work! 

Good thing today (Monday 12 June) is the Queen’s Birthday public holiday, which allowed me time to potter about in the kitchen. The first cooking step of these baked onions is to bake them for 1.5 hours, so plan ahead so they are ready by meal time.

I adapted Phoodie’s post (which is actually a Donna Hay recipe) here and there a tad. I didn’t have Gruyere cheese, and wanted to use all tasty cheese. Next time I think I’ll work in some Parmesan for some sharpness, and reduce the tasty cheese. I also added the thyme at the time the onions first went into the oven, to boost the flavours when roasting, and reduced the amount called for.  

Ingredients (adapted)

6 x brown onions, peeled and halved (cut from top down)
1 tablespoon EVOO
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
1 cup (250ml) cream
3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
70g grated tasty cheese

Step 1: Place the onions cut side up in a large baking dish. Sprinkle over the thyme, salt & pepper, then drizzle over the olive oil.  Cover with aluminium foil, and bake in a 180 degree oven for 1.5 hours.

Step 2: After 1.5 hours, check that the onions have softened. If so, remove the foil and let bake for 15 minutes to slightly brown the tops.

Step 3: In a small bowl, mix the cream, mustard and cheese, then pour over the onions making sure to dollop cheese particles on each of the onion halves.

Step 4: Bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the dish becomes a nice golden colour and the cheese begins to brown.

I served this side dish alongside a pasta/chicken/bacon/sun-dried tomato dish. Probably not the best choice, but I had taken out some frozen chicken earlier in the day, and had bacon in the fridge to use up.

These baked onions would pair brilliantly with a roasted joint of meat, like a lamb shoulder, or beef brisket.

The cost of this dish is really economical, and would make a tasty ‘pot luck’ offering when feeding a large group.

Costs (excluding salt, pepper and EVOO as they are staples in my pantry)

Onions (Woolies)- $0.60
Thyme leaves (Hoyts) - $0.17
Cream (Bulla) - $1.60
Dijon mustard (Maille) - $0.40
Tasty cheese (Homebrand) - $0.50

TOTAL:  $3.27

Tell me reader, what are your strategies for reducing food? 

Sunday, 4 June 2017

In My Kitchen - June 2017

Hello readers! It seems like forever since I've done an IMK (In My Kitchen) post, so here goes....

In my kitchen (and freezer) this month is a whole lotta sourdough bread. I did a three part sourdough bread making workshop at Foodish, at the Belconnen Markets. David Damour, the Master Baker at Bean & Grain Fyshwick was our teacher, and guided is in making the most delightful breads. More about the course to appear on the blog soon.

To adorn future loaves are these beautiful poppy seeds. Up close they resemble jewelled dimpled pebbles.

I recently learned that Gewurzhaus Spices are opening a Canberra store towards the end of the year, yay! No more trips to Sydney, or online shopping to gather their fine wares, including this heady little number, Easter Bun Tea. It is pungent with orange aromas and heady spices, and is the perfect cuppa on cold wintry days.

In my kitchen this month, I tried my hand at the internet sensation that is the cloud egg.

In my backyard are plenty of lemons and limes. The cold weather has hit and we’ve had a couple of frosts but shhhhhh don’t mention that to the fruit trees, as they are still covered in fruit and blossoms.

In my kitchen plastics drawer is my container of choice: Lock & Lock. Sturdy plastic with clip lock lids, in a variety of sizes. Aldi this week had nested containers on special, so a couple of these ‘Babushka-like’ square nested sets have joined the family. What is your plastic container of choice? 

Head on over to Sherry’s Pickings as Sherry is the current host of the IMK series. What has been happening in your kitchen this month?

Sunday, 28 May 2017

Swine and Wine

Head Chef and owner of Pistachio Dining, Dave Keeley tells us it has been a few years since they have held an event such as this; a degustation menu paired with local wines. Saturday night saw Dave host a five course event utilising ‘nose to tail’ of a pig, paired with Long Rail Gully wines. It was titled the “Swine & Wine” event.

The restaurant was packed, and the bookings were all made within a week of Dave posting this event on social media and on his website. He and the staff were very excited to present the event, and we as customers were only too eager to receive. (One of Dave's staffers drew this picture of the pig, isn't it great!)

The canape starter was pig trotter and potato ballontine with black truffle oil, smoked bacon, crispy sage, crouton and dehydrated crackle.
Wine:  Long Rail Gully 2016 Riesling – light citrus and fresh

First course was a croquette made from the flesh of the pig’s head, celeriac, a couple of drops of hot sriracha, kewpie mayonnaise, BBQ sauce, panko breadcrumbs and katsuobushi.
Wine:  Long Rail Gully 2016 Pinot Gris – more intense fruit flavours

Second course saw a seared scallop, with a pork neck & chive gyoza, parsley puree, sesame, crispy pigs ear, roasted capsicum sauce, sumac and micro herbs.
Wine:  Long Rail Gully 2016 Pinot Noir – incredible claret colouring and we got an education lesson about the thinning out of Pinot vines

Third course was braised pork belly, an enormous butter poached king prawn, black barley, zucchini, local black garlic, Jerusalem artichoke and herb oil.
Wine:  Long Rail Gully 2015 Shiraz – deeply coloured, rich with fruit and spice

The fourth course was like a mini roast plate consisting of pressed pork leg, pepper crusted loin, smoked potato (so good!) baby beetroot, cabbage dumpling, carrot (that cut like butter) seeded mustard sauce and caramelised onion.
Wine:  Long Rail Gully 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon – soft and well rounded with berry flavours shining through

The dessert offering was similar to one of Dave’s menu tasting plates, but tonight it contained; chocolate and chestnut pudding, black sesame macaron, maple bacon ice cream (unreal!) condensed milk, pear, botrytis, and velvety smooth dark chocolate mousse.
Wine:  Long Rail Gully SSC (Shiraz Shrivelled in Crates) – perfectly sweet but not cloying or lingering, very (very) drinkable

The cost was only $110 per head for all this deliciousness, which was great value. My friends and I were paying guests.
Pistachio Dining is open for dinner Tuesday to Saturday.
3A Torrens Place, Torrens
Ph: 6286 2966

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Frugal take on takeaway chips

We have a takeaway in the nearby suburb called “Billy Banks”. They are the quintessential local Aussie takeaway, with pizzas, burgers, fish, dim sims and chips the staple menu items.  

We first met them days after we moved into our new home, and made the mistake of ordering a burger each, plus chips. Whoooo-weeee, the burgers are LARGE and we were hard pressed making a dent in the pillow that was the chips. Mind you, it was a minimum order of chips, so great value of money for our $5.  

Times have moved on, we are much wiser in the burger department, but the serve of chips has not changed in size, nor in price. $5 still buys you a pillow of chips which is enough to feed a small army (well, at least half an under 7’s soccer team).

Our latest venture saw us split a burger, and again order the minimum chips. After we had had our fill of the chippies I swore I would turn the remaining chips into something tasty. To the internet I went to get inspired. I saw many a recipe for leftover mashed potato, and thought the chips (well, they are cooked potato) could lend themselves to that. Hence the ‘baked mashed potato cups’ were born.

I must have had around half the chips left, which still equated to a cardboard box full. Load that into a food processor and blitz until the chips are pleasantly crumbled.

Tip this into a bowl, and add in a heaped spoonful of flour, a level spoonful of garlic powder, quarter of a small white onion; chopped, a beaten egg, a handful of grated tasty cheese, about ½ cup milk, and 40g (or so) of melted butter. Mix this together, then spoon into a greased cupcake pan. I smoothed the tops of each cup and sprinkled a little more cheese on top.  Cook them for 30 minutes, or until tops are golden brown, in a 170 degree fan forced oven.

I would say that next time I make these I would add in a little more liquid, probably in the form of more butter and milk, to make them a little more indulgent. But having said that, they were darn tasty, easy to whip up, and certainly made the most of our takeaway chips. I really hate to waste food so was quite happy with how these turned out.

Tell me reader, what tips do you have for re-purposing leftover food? 

Sunday, 26 March 2017

A World of Dumplings

There are as many types of dumplings served around the world as there are grains of sand in the desert.  Well, not quite, but you get the idea there are LOT of varieties of dumplings.

What yum cha wouldn’t be complete without dumplings? Wonton wrappers in a variety of colours enveloping a wide variety of fillings. Meats, seafood, and vegetarian abound in all manner of crimped parcel shapes and crescents, either boiled or steamed. Dipped in soy based or spicy sauces, or served in a fragrant broth.  

Potstickers are a form of Asian dumpling, usually boiled in water in a shallow fry pan until the water evaporates, which allows them to then fry against the hot pan turning a golden brown and becoming crispy. Similar to the Japanese gyoza, but gyoza generally have thinner casings and are a little smaller in size.

Russia has the pelmeni. A thin dough, encasing a usually raw meat/onion based filling. Served with loads of sour cream and fresh dill. Pelmeni literally means ‘ear bread’ due the ear like shape of the folded dumpling and they are usually boiled in water or beef stock. These pelmeni pictured below were purchased from a Russian Easter Bazaar and I can only hazard a guess how many 1000’s they made for this weekend event!

The pierogi is from Poland, and is similar to the varenyky of Russia/Belarus/Ukraine. Fillings for these are either savoury or sweet, and are circles of dough folded into a semi-circle, or crescent shape. Boiled, then fried.

The Italians have the ravioli, tortellini, agnolotti, the cappelletti… to name just few. Various shapes of flour/egg pasta abound, and the fillings range from meats, to cheeses, or vegetable based. Served with a sauce, or in a broth.

How about gnocchi? Something as simple as potato, flour and egg come together to create clouds of grooved boiled deliciousness. The grooves help the sauce adhere, and sauces are usually tomato or cream based.

Indian cuisine is peppered with a large variety of dough filled foods. From crispy fried savoury samosas filled with meats and vegetables, to modak a sweet dumpling filled with coconut and sugar and encased in usually a rice flour based shell.

The Brits can relate to flour based dumplings, cooked on top of a casserole or stew. Flour, milk, butter and herbs are staple ingredients. 

South America is home to flaky pastry crescents called empanadas which are usually flour or corn based pastry stuffed with meats and vegetables. Baked or fried to a crispy golden colour they pair well with spicy sauces.

What is your favourite dumpling? 

Monday, 6 February 2017

Vegan Yum Cha at Bodhi

When I recently put the call out to the Canberra Food Bloggers brains trust seeking a great place for a vegetarian lunch when in Sydney, I got back a ton of excellent ideas for a venue. From various eating options in Customs House, to the Sydney Cove Oyster Bar. I’ll need a few trips to Sydney to explore all of the above eats!  We did decide on a location which made our vegetarian very happy indeed… vegan yum cha at Bodhi Restaurant and Bar. For the vegetarians out there, it’s not often that you can have everything (repeat … everything) on the menu, without having to scrutinise the details of what’s in the sauce, or what ingredients have been used.  

Bodhi is a lovely venue, nestled between Hyde Park and the Cook & Phillip Park. Most of the tables are outside but sheltered under large weather-proof umbrellas.  On a very sultry Sydney day, we opted to sit inside, just in reach of the cool air blowing from a large wall mounted fan. Ahhhhh.

Bodhi is a vegan restaurant that does yum cha for lunch, and has an al a carte menu for dinner. Dishes on the extensive yum cha menu are mostly in three portion serves, but some serve two and others four, so between the four of us we had the following:

- Green tea and choysum dumplings
- Sweet Japanese pumpkin dumplings
- Cream corn and ‘chicken’ dumplings
- Vietnamese rice paper salad wrap
- Blanched fresh vegetables
- Chinese cabbage and ‘chicken’ buns
- Rice paper sesame seed ‘prawn’ pillow
- Red bean puff
- Coconut agar jelly
- Apple pies
- Mango and vegan ‘cream cheese’ pancake
- Mango, rambutan and Asian citrus sago

Although we could have had far more of the delicious dumplings and hot crunchy dishes, we held back to make room for dessert. On a very warm day, the cool desserts were magic to end with.  

Costs were around $37 per head, which included soft drinks. 

Bodhi is open for lunch from 11:00am – 4:00pm, 7 days a week, and dinner is from 5:00pm to 10:00pm Tue-Sun. Ph 02 9360 2523, or email a reservation to

Address: 2-4 College Street, Sydney, NSW, 2000

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Pistachio Dining January 2017

Dave Keeley is the owner and chef at Pistachio Dining in Torrens. He’s adventurous with food, innovative, passionate, lovely to chat with, and he’s only in his 30s. He is European culinary trained, and has worked in iconic restaurants such as Aubergine, Courgette and Sabayon. 2017 will see a new direction for Dave at Pistachio, seeing him pair back a little on his offerings in order to let the fresh produce shine.

I introduced my bestie to Pistachio nearly two years ago, and it has been her regular eatery ever since. To the point she has been there nearly forty times!  I have joined her on several of these occasions and to this day, we have only ever ordered the “just feed me Dave” menu option. This consists of a canape, plus four courses for only $65.  Matching Canberra district wines is an option for only a further $20, which is stunning value. The anticipation of not knowing what you are going to be fed is exciting. Who doesn’t like a degustation menu anyway!  

Dave was being extra generous tonight (or maybe as we were frequent diners) as he squeezed in an extra course.

We started with the beetroot gazpacho soup, with cubed roasted beetroot, cucumber, school prawns and croutons.

Course one was the tender-as beef tenderloin with salsa verde and crispy potatoes.

Course two was a light and very summery offering of scallops, with part of a Peking Duck rice paper roll.

Course three presented chicken two ways; Szechuan crusted chicken, and a sous vide chicken breast flash pan fried to crisp up the skin, with spinach and a confit cherry tomato.

Course four (the sneaky extra course) was Dave’s pork tenderloin with garlic and shallots, French lentils, smoked potato puree and heirloom carrots.

Course five (aka the final course) is a tasting plate sampling four of the desserts. We received the lemon tart with black sesame meringue and mascarpone mousse / a chocolate macadamia brownie and vanilla ice cream / a large cube of hazelnut cheesecake with a crunchy topped jelly, and pistachio (of course!) biscotti / and finally a single folded vanilla crepe with vanilla ice cream.

PistachioDining is located at the Torrens Shops, and is open for Dinner only from Tuesday to Saturday. Ph 6286 2966.