Monthly Archives: January 2015

Australia Day Mate!

Image-1Australia Day is the national holiday of the Australian people. The day marks the anniversary of the first British ships arriving to Australia in 1788 and landing at Port Jackson in New South Wales, and has been celebrated since the early 1800’s.

Today, Australia Day is a celebration of all things Australian, including the diverse people and landscape that this country is so proud of. The public holiday is marked by gatherings and parties everywhere, where traditional dishes along with some new and modern takes on old classics are consumed en masse.

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For my first ever Australia Day, I have been invited to a fellow Pom’s house for an all-day party/barbeque and thought this was a fabulous opportunity to showcase my cooking skills with my versions of popular Australian dishes.

The Cob was first introduced to me when I was in Australia as a child and my aunt made a cob dip for a barbeque we were having. The cob is a round rustic loaf, filled with a dip or soup, generally served at parties. We loved it so much that my mum got the recipe from her and we’d managed to wow many friends at different English barbeques we went to, who had never really seen cobs before. For my first Christmas in Australia, Erin’s mum made the most delicious cob with spinach and water chestnuts which Erin and I pretty much took on single-handedly. At a party just after New Year’s Eve, another cob appeared, this time, with a very creamy consistency, but I was unable to try it as it had bacon in it. Since then, I have been desperate to try making my own cob.

P1000772For my Australia Day Cob, you will need…

1 reasonably large cob loaf
500 g cream cheese (Woollies own brand is particularly good)
4 Spring onions, diced
80 g grated Tasty cheese (or Cheddar, if you’re not Australian)
30 g chopped fresh mozzarella
Tbsp fresh basil, chopped
salt and pepper to taste

  1. It is best to prepare the dip the day before the party to allow it to mature in the fridge overnight. Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix with a metal spoon. If you would like a thicker dip, leave it as it is, but if you’d like it to be creamier, add 50 ml of milk and mix in well.P1000770
  2. Place the bowl in the fridge overnight.
  3. Carefully cut the top off the cob and set aside. Hollow out the cob with your hands and shred the insides into small pieces. These pieces can either be set aside and served fresh with the dip, or they can be crisped up in the oven.
  4. Add the dip to the hollowed out cob, place the top on and wrap in tin foil. Bake at 200°C for 2 hours.
  5. Remove from oven and serve on a chopping board. As the dip goes down and the bread from the middle runs out, guests can begin to rip the sides from the cob, therefore meaning very little washing up.

Vegemite is something all Australian children seem to be brought up on, along with Weetbix and Milo (whatever that is). I got the idea for my next creation from some of the bakeries over here which produce a sort of Chelsea bun type roll, but with Vegemite and cheese instead. However, I always think these look so huge that you couldn’t consume them at a party as you’d be full almost instantly. I had made pinwheels using puff pastry in the past, but making bread dough is much less time-consuming than making puff pastry, so I used this as my base.

P1000782Tastymite Pinwheels

400 g strong white flour
2 sachets of dry fast action yeast
3 tsp sugar
60 g vegetable oil
240 ml warm water
½ tsp salt
50 – 70 g Vegemite
250 g Tasty cheese (or Cheddar)

  1. Place flour, yeast, sugar and vegetable oil into a bowl. Using your hands, rub the flour and oil together to make breadcrumbs. Add the salt and mix with a spoon.
  2. Add the warm water – I tend to use about half, mix and then add the other half. Begin mixing using a wooden spoon and then your hands. Once all of the dough is combined, tip out onto a floured surface and knead the dough for about 8 minutes until smooth and elastic. Leave to rise until doubled in size.
  3. Cut the risen dough in half and form two rectangular shapes. Roll each out into oblongs, about 6 mm thick. Spread each oblong with Vegemite (depending on the thickness you want it), then sprinkle evenly with cheese.P1000774
  4. Roll the oblong from the longest side, so that it becomes a long, thin sausage shape. Wrap in cling film and place in the freezer. Do the same with the second oblong. Do not forget about your tastymite sausages as they will be rock solid when you eventually remember them. The reason for putting them in the freezer is to firm them up so that they stay in a coin shape when they are cut. Cut each coin about a centimetre wide and lay on baking paper, on a baking tray.
  5. Spray or brush with olive oil. Bake at 190°C for 10-15 minutes. Keep an eye on them and take them out of the oven as soon as they begin to go brown. Leave to cool and then peel off the parchment.P1000781

Both of these recipes turned out very well and I’m sure they’ll be a hit at the party. Let me know in the comments if you decide to give them a go. Each recipe takes less than an hour to make and couldn’t be easier. They’re also cheap – all of the ingredients for both recipes together cost less than $25.

 

Happy Australia Day!

Breakfast

photo 1 (5)One of my favourite things to do in Melbourne is to go for breakfast. This is not only because it provides a great social aspect to start my day, but also due to the incredible standard of breakfast food in this city. There are Instagram accounts devoted to how good breakfast in Melbourne is; accounts which get hundreds of likes on each photo they post because the breakfast quite literally looks that good. I am becoming a breakfast-picture-blogger.

photo 1 (4)Avocado smash is something that is incredibly popular – or just avocados in general. It’s essentially just smashed up avocados with feta, and each Melbourne restaurant seems to have its own little twist on it. When I first arrived in Melbourne and was still living in Camberwell, Erin and I went to a sweet little café called Collective Espresso, and there I had my first introduction to Avocado smash. The café itself is, like all Melbourne cafes, giving off that ‘we don’t care, but really do’ rustic vibe. The flowers are kept in old jars, and the water is served to you in old Hendricks Gin bottles. I must say, the food was pretty good; well-presented and very tasty. The menu could cater a little better to vegetarians, and the food could have been served faster, but we were there at brunch time on a Sunday, so it made sense that it was slow. I’d rate them at a 7/10.

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When I moved to Darling, we discovered a café called Little Chloe, about a stone’s throw away from my house, which I took Dayna and Stef to in order to cure our hangovers. It was back when we barely knew each other, but had spent the previous day day-drinking copious amounts of wine. Little Chloe’s provided the perfect hangover remedy. The menu caters for everyone, and you can request for extras to be added to or taken away from your food so that it’s exactly how you want it. By the looks of our food, we each made good choices. I picked the buttermilk pancake stack with lemon curd with passion fruit, pears and pumpkin seeds. I’m usually a fan of savoury breakfasts but this was a fantastic choice.

On my second visit to Little Chloe, I sampled the smoked salmon on potato rosti with mango and green tea chutney, smashed avocado, pomegranate and poached egg. This meal was so good that I had it on my third visit too. I would happily recommend anything from this menu and am only sad now to be moving away from Darling as I will no longer be able to visit the quaint little café without undertaking a 30 minute train journey. 9/10 for both food and atmosphere.

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I was introduced to A Thousand Blessings Organic Café in Richmond by my new housemate, Lauren who took me there the morning after one of our late night work finishes. She said that I absolutely had to try ‘Love’s Feast’, which is Tasty Cheese on sour dough toast with avocado smash and poached eggs (see, I told you avocado smash was big in Melbourne!). The dish is also normally served with bacon, but as I can’t eat meat I opted for it without. I think the dish would probably be much better with the bacon as it seemed just a little bit bland without it.

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The second time I went there, I had smoked salmon scrambled eggs with goats cheese on grain toast. This dish was pretty good and quite unusual as all of the ingredients (other than the bread) were scrambled together in a pan and then dumped artfully on the toast, sprinkled with the signature micro herbs. I can thoroughly recommend the fresh juices made on site, which can revitalise in the mornings or just refresh you on muggy Melbourne day. The café is always busy, which shows just how good it is, and the atmosphere is comfortable and friendly. 8/10 for food, 9/10 for service and atmosphere.

Another place Lauren has introduced me to is the Kettle Black, in South Melbourne. This was probably my favourite atmosphere out of all the places I’ve mentioned as it was light and airy, using lots of white and green in its décor with light brown wooden furniture and making great use of the huge windows, making the whole place full of light. The clean pallet with plants and herbs hanging off the walls and potted on shelves makes for a relaxing and calming environment in which to eat breakfast.

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I ordered what is quite possibly the most beautiful dish on the menu; ricotta hotcake with blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, double cream, mixed seeds and micro-herbs. I thought there was a misprint on the menu when I read ‘hotcake’ singular; surely they must mean ‘hotcakes’. But no, this was a bowl filled with a delicious light and fluffy hotcake covered in colour and texture; a feast for the eyes. It was, in short, delicious and the presentation was beautiful. I accompanied it with a green juice which, cut through the sweetness of the berries beautifully. There is also the regular selection of coffees and pressed juices. The Kettle Black is a 10/10 and a must if you’re in Melbourne either permanently or just for a few days.

There are so many breakfast places in Melbourne that I am yet to discover, but I’m hoping I can fit some more in. In the meantime, I’m sure my Instagram feed will continue to be filled with images from these beautiful places and I can have food-envy until I am able to visit again. If you have any Melbourne breakfast spots you think I should visit, let me know in the comments below!

 

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The Roadtrip Part Three

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We survived the night in the koala-infested outback – all of us kept our limbs too which was great news. The rest of the group continued to embrace the great outdoors while I yearned for a bit of civilisation. The weather, however, made it worthwhile as we ate our breakfast in the sun and prepared our picnic lunch.

The plan for the day was to dip our toes into South Australia by driving up to Mount Gambier on the border, where we would also be able to view the Blue Lakes. This was another place Erin and I had checked off on our roadtrip in January but I was looking forward to seeing them from a different angle.

The Blue Lakes earn their name by the colour of the water that resides in huge craters just above the town of Mount Gambier. Formed over centuries, the pools are fed minerals from volcanic matter that then causes the surface of the lake to be a vivid blue colour. During the summer months, the lakes turn from a turquoise colour to a bright blue, almost reflecting the blueness of the sky. While we were there in October, the pool was yet to change colour, but was still a pretty impressive prospect.

For any Geo-Cachers out there, this is also a good spot to make a discovery.

From Mount Gambier, we made our way to the Grampians and on the journey we were rewarded with stunning scenery. Some of the way, we drove along dirt tracks and long straight roads. The heat of the day was getting to us and we were desperate to get to our destination so that we could partake in some form of ice-cream. We had also been promised a waterfall with a pool beneath it which we could cool ourselves in.

After around three hours of driving, we reached Halls Gap, were the Grampians National Park tourist centre is located. We stopped off to see if we could find a map and more of an idea where we were going, and saw that the area had been recently devastated by bush fires.  The visitors centre at Halls Gap is dedicated to conservation, educating visitors to the area and providing advice and information to those who are looking to explore the surrounding ranges.

We hopped back into our van and drove up to MacKenzie Falls. On the drive we saw the extent of the bush fires in the blackened bushes and trees which covered the sides of the road. Other than the devastation, there were actually some beautiful views down the valley and to the surrounding flat countryside.

There is a gentle walk down to the bP1000645 2ottom of the falls which encompasses sights of the smaller falls that lead to the bigger falls. As with Erskine Falls, we met hikers coming up from the bottom of the falls warning us about the climb. They looked even more exhausted than those we’d met at Erskine and after our climb down, we saw why. It took around ten minutes to reach the bottom, but we were rewarded with a vast and picturesque fall. There was a pool at the bottoms of the fall which discouraged swimming. We did, however, take a dip into the pool to cool down from the long climb.

P1000645 3We were lucky enough that the sun started shining as soon as we had made it to the bottom of the falls and we were therefore able to stay there for a few hours, paddling and sunbathing. The walk back to the top was just as difficult as we had been told. Stef and I powered on, convinced we wouldn’t get to the top unless we got there as quickly as possible. It was a blessing to get back into the air conditioned van.

Back to Halls Gap, and to a popular Halls Gap institution, Coolas Ice Creamery. There are 24 flavours of ice cream to choose from, and I thoroughly recommend their home made waffle cone. While ice cream is perfect for a sunny Australian afternoon, it was actually pouring down with rain when we went to get our ice creams. It didn’t diminish the experience though.

We jumped back on the WikiCamps app and found a couple of possible sites to make camp for the evening. There first site we drove to, completely off the beaten track, was like something from the Blair Witch Project. The general consensus was that we didn’t want to stay there and instead we drove for another fifteen minutes to a rather more civilised looking campsite. We parked up and walked around to discover what the campsite offered and found a few long drops littered around the site along with bucket showers. Once again, I was unenthusiastic about the facilities but we made do.

P1000646After our final night in our van-top tent, we awoke to a glorious morning in the Grampians and prepared for our journey back to Melbourne. We packed up the tent, took care of breakfast and used the tap we had parked next to, to wash our hair, with the help of a plastic bowl. The day could have been incredibly boring compared to the past few days but we managed to pick up a puncture on the way back to Halls Gap. Luckily, some very kind men came over and help us change the tyre and directed us to a good tyre place in nearby Stawell where we could buy a new tyre and get it replace.P1000648

Using our feminine wiles (which was actually all down to Dayna and her ability to Highland fling), we managed to only pay $20 for the new tyre and the labour to get it replaced on the van.

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Our return to Melbourne was slightly against the clock as our puncture had thrown us off schedule, but we got back just in time and handed our van back over to the guys at Wicked Campers.

I would recommend that anyone who is visiting Melbourne should take the time to visit the Great Ocean Road. The places you visit whilst there and the things you see will stay with you for a long time after you leave. I enjoyed it enough to do it twice, in two very different ways; whether you travel the whole road in one day, or take your time, you are sure to have some excellent adventures.

 

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