Friday, November 13, 2015

Restaurant Review: A tour of Sydney CBD's muesli

As I've previously mentioned I travel a lot of work. Recent a lot has been every week. It is fairly exhausting and makes keeping up with regular meals and exercise difficult. I have a load of workouts on my laptop and try to do one each morning in my hotel room - which can be difficult on the days a hotel room is postage stamp sized. I also often try to find a nearby supermarket and buy something close to a normal breakfast. The only problem with this approach is that you end up camped out in your hotel room for too long and if you get in late and are only staying for one night finding the supermarket can be a challenge.

Over the last couple of months there have been a series of these days where I have instead found myself a nearby cafe for breakfast. When faced with a cafe menu there are many things I could order but at 7am the only thing my body wants is some form of cereal, preferably topped with yogurt and fruit - aka what I would have at home. Luckily muesli and granola are having their time in the sun. The cafe offerings are significantly more decadent than my low fat, untoasted, homemade version but they certainly satisfy my breakfast cravings.

So without further ado, here is my tour of the muesli offerings of the Sydney CBD.

Vanto @ QVB
Shop 44, Level 1, Queen Victoria Building, 455 George Street, Sydney CBD
Organic toasted granola with yoghurt, rhubarb compote, fresh strawberry and passion fruit $14.90
This has to be the most beautifully plated muesli - sorry granola - I've ever seen. A delicious toasted granola, topped with creamy yogurt, berry coulis and an array of fresh fruit. Yum, if slightly difficult to eat from the flat platter.

White Rabbit
Ground floor of 28-34 O’Connell Street (on corner of Hunter Street), Sydney CBD
Fire roasted granola - homemade granola, homemade poached fruits, passionfruit curd, natural yoghurt $13
Another delicious crunchy granola with beautiful creamy yoghurt, this dish was lifted by the decedent and yummy passionfruit curd. The combination of poached fruit, fresh berries and mint also made this a really fresh and and lively dish.

Pablo and Rusty
161 Castlereagh St, Sydney CBD
Burnt fig & almond granola, pomegranate & orange blossom sheep's yoghurt & strawberries $15
The addition of pomegranate in both seed form and as a drizzle of pomegranate molasses made this a much more tart breakfast than the others listed here but truly delicious. The orange blossom sheep's yoghurt was a great sweet counterbalance to the tart pomegranate and again it was a delicious crunchy granola. Pablo and Rusty also have the cutest tea pots - doesn't impact the flavour but I did enjoy my tea very much.

Doppio Espresso
284 Pitt St, Sydney CBD
Sonoma spelt maple and almond muesli with mixed berries, yoghurt and your choice of milk $12.50
This was probably the least fancy muesli. The Sonoma muesli itself was delicious but I'm pretty sure the berries were just frozen mixed berries that had been microwaved (something I do all the time in winter) and the yogurt was a little sweet for my tastes. But the service was fast and the coffee seems to have a loyal following judging from the number of people stopping in.

Silks Coffee Lounge
170 Phillip Street, Sydney CBD
Bircher muesli with berry compote and fresh strawberries $9.80
While they did have a granola on offer, this particular morning I chose to go for the bircher muesli. This was the cheapest of all my Sydney CBD breakfasts by far and also one of the most generous serves. The bircher was tasty with shredded apple and plump sultanas. The berry compote, fresh strawberries and blueberries were fresh and tasty and the slivered almonds added a nice texture.

Overall White Rabbit was my favourite but all of the cafes I visited offered a tasty, health alternative to the usual eggs for a cafe breakfast. So muesli lovers of Sydney rejoice, there are many great options for you within about a 5 block radius!

My travel for the year is pretty much over but no doubt there will be plenty of time spent in Sydney's CBD again next year. Have a missed a magnificent muesli? Feel free to let me know what I should be trying next.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Random Musings: Scent of Spring

I don’t know what spring has been like in your part of the world but it has been weird in mine. Much warmer and wetter than usual which has resulted in the most lush green look I’ve ever seen Canberra sport.

This last week has been a bit cooler with a lot of rain. Yesterday it truly poured down, areas around me were flooded and rooves caved in. But today the sun broke through the clouds to make for a warm, humid atmosphere, something we aren’t used to in the nation's capital.

I try to get out for a lunchtime work most days. Today was the first day I’d managed this week, but what a day to get out and about. The warm, humid air made the scent of nature around me truly profound. As I walked along I could smell the rich, dark earth, the fresh growing grass, the sweetness of honeysuckle.

We rely on our eyesight as our primary sense, sometimes to the detriment of the others. However, as I walked along today I was so aware of how the world smelt it was almost overwhelming. 

I paused for a moment, closing my eyes and drew in an even deeper breath to fill my head with the heady scent of spring. It was a small perfect moment in an otherwise unremarkable day. And sometimes that is all we need. One perfect moment to make a whole day a good one. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Book Review: I, Iago

They called me "honest Iago" from an early age,
but in Venice, this is not a compliment. It is rebuke.
One does not prosper by honesty.

Nicole Galland's novel provides a different perspective on the Shakespearean tale of Othello ... the villain's perspective. Narrated by Iago, the architect of Othello's downfall, the story cleverly weaves a background, his motivations for his actions, a different view on the circumstances.

The story behind the creation of the novel is that the author had been involved in putting on one hour versions of Shakespere's play only to discover when they went to do Othello that the actor to play Iago hadn't even read the play. She worked through the character with him but that raised more questions and ideas for her about Iago's motivations, his relationship with his wife, his actions when he was found out and the other character's responses.

The story starts with Iago growing up in Venice, joining the Venetian artillery, falling deeply in love with his wife Emilia and becoming Othello's ensign. But his jealousy of not being appointed lieutenant and over Othello's obsession with his beautiful wife Desdemona drive him to action that leads to disastrous results.

In this story Iago is a complex man. Dismissive of the Venetian class system, yet driven by a need to raise his status. Deeply loving of both Emilia and Othello yet he destroys them both as he himself is destroyed. Known for honesty but brought down by lies. It is a convincing story of a man's downfall.

I have to admit that I'm not that familiar with Othello the play. I knew the basics but I think I've only seen a television adaptation once so the twists and turns were a surprise but I think you would enjoy it as much if you were familiar with the play as if you had never seen it. Overall I really enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in Shakespere or even just a villain's perspective on his crimes.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Restaurant Review: Kinn Thai

A warm Friday night, some spicy Thai food and a tasty cocktail is pretty much my idea of bliss and I had the great pleasure to enjoy it at  Kinn Thai.

If you haven't come across it yet, it has replaced Wagamama between Sammy's Kitchen and Wood and Coal in the North Quarter of the Canberra Centre. Wagamama had languished, mostly empty for quite some time. Kinn Thai couldn't be more different. On the Friday night we visited it was packed and we watched the rapid change over of tables. I'm sure they did at least three seatings at most tables.

We had no booking but being just two us and quite early, about 6pm, we scored a table straight away. By the time we left at 7pm however there was a queue and I could see our table being snapped right up.

The menu offers lots of the usual favourites but one option I like is that for most types of dishes - eg stir fry - they offer a base and you choose your protein. Being our first visit we went with our benchmark Thai dish - pad thai which we had with chicken - plus an entree of duck pancakes and a second main dish of a crying tiger salad.

We also ordered cocktails. I ordered a Ho-Ra-Pa ($14) which is Don Julico Tequila, Thai Basil with a hint of raspberry and ginger ale. S ordered a caprioska ($12) made with cachaca, brown sugar and lime. Both were delicious, although we each liked the other's better and ended up swapping. My only comment was that the Ho-Ra-Pa came out in a glass like a mini fish bowl which was a bit difficult to drink from.

The pancakes came out incredibly quickly - they actually beat our cocktails to the table. The pancake itself was very tasty, quite different to the Chinese style ones I'm used to, more chewy and tasty. It was filled with generous chunks of duck, spring onions and cucumber and accompanied with hoisin sauce. At $10 for 2 pancakes it is on the expensive side for a small entree but we both loved them and would order them again.

Next dish out was the crying tiger salad ($23). It gets a 2 chili rating on the menu and deserved it, my first mouthful had a big chunk of chili which got me right in the back of the throat. But if you like chili I think you will love this dish. It was fresh and flavourful with the taste of the herbs and a generous amount of lemongrass. The beef was incredibly tender, you could cut it with a spoon and while this is quite a decent serve the two of us had no trouble finishing it.

Finally we had the pad thai. We had chosen chicken ($16.50) but it also comes in vegetarian, beef and prawn options. I would definitely rate this as a good and tasty pad thai. It was slightly heavy on the tomato for me and S would have liked more peanuts but that was really nitpicking. Again a very generous serve disappeared fast, although with so many other interesting things on the menu, I'm not sure I would order it again.

All up our meal came to $75 which given that it included two cocktails I thought was pretty good

Service was great. The food came out promptly and the wait staff were attentive if, it seemed, slightly inexperienced with the iPad ordering system.

Every dish we saw going past looked and smelled great. S who isn't big on going to the same place twice commented that he would be keen to return and try a few more dishes.

Overall we really enjoyed our dinner. I can't wait to go back with a crowd and try some of the seafood dishes (S doesn't eat seafood) as I've heard great reports about the crispy soft shell crab.

Kinn Thai Restaurant
125 Bunda Street
Canberra City

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Random Musings: Frocktober

It is that time of year again - Frocktober! The month where I wear frocks every day to raise funds for the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation.

The start of the month has been extremely busy. Last Saturday I held the "Spring High Tea" a fundraising high tea for Frocktober. I was lucky enough to be supported by a host of great Canberra businesses with items to raffle and auction and over 60 people attended the afternoon to enjoy delicious food and drink provided by the Canberra Institute of Technology and hear the lovely music of the Canberra Girls Grammar string ensemble.

It was a fabulous afternoon. The final bills aren't in but it looks to have made around $2,000 for the OCRF which is a complete thrill. You can read more about it here.

Aside from that I've been wrestling with the usual Frocktober challenges - having enough work appropriate frocks, battling wind and full skirts, figuring out how to accessorise for the weather. But it is a fun challenge and as always I'm enjoying it.

As always, Frocktober makes me think of the person whose diagnosis and death put me on this path to supporting the OCRF. It is 5 years now since Aunty Sue died and I'm still not used to the thought that she isn't here with us. It was her diagnosis that made me aware how difficult ovarian cancer is to identify and that without an early detection test we will continue to see a woman die every 10 hours from this hidden killer.

So while I may be spending the month having fun wearing frocks, it is for an amazing cause. Frocktober has already raised over $100,000 month for more research. If you want to donate, you can do so at:

To see all my frock efforts visit my Instagram page at:

And if you feel inspired, it isn't too late to join in. Head to to get all the details.

Happy Frocking!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Recipe: Flourless chocolate, hazelnut ricotta cake

If you have a food intolerance, life can get a bit boring food wise. It isn't just that you are limited in what you can have, it is that people get good at making one thing that meets your needs and you get to have it over and over and over.

I'm lucky enough not to have any real food issues but I seem to be surrounded by people with them. At a recent dinner 11 of the 14 people there had special dietary requirements. So while I can eat everything, I do spend quite a bit of time thinking about new and delicious things I can make for my friends who have limitations.

When it comes to gluten free baking I started, like everyone it seems, with a flourless orange and poppyseed cake. Now there is nothing wrong with orange and poppyseed cake, mine is actually pretty damn delicious, but I realised that more often that not it is the only gluten free option in cafes and so my friends had it a lot. Since then I've been experimenting with a range of flavours and particularly with different nuts to replace the seemingly ubiquitous almonds.

This cake is great. Rich, moist, packed with flavour. You certainly don't feel like you are missing out on anything with it and I'm yet to meet anyone who doesn't love it. It is best the day after it has been made after it has spent a night in the refrigerator really developing that dessert like texture.

I've got two options for toppings with this recipe because S and I can't decide which is best. Topping one involves sprinkling grated chocolate over the top of the cake as soon as it comes out of the oven. It melts and forms a super chocolate layer. However it isn't that aesthetically pleasing.

Topping two is a simple dusting of icing sugar before serving which looks great but doesn't add a lot to the flavour.

Tips: Place a bowl of hot water in the bottom of the oven to add some moisture. This helps prevent cracks, although mine does often crack a little. If you don't like orange you can leave the zest out but it does add a lovely complexity to the flavour. When you take it out of the oven it will slowly drop in size, but that is what creates the great texture so don't worry when it happens.


Flourless chocolate, hazelnut ricotta cake
120g butter
250g caster sugar (divided into 150g and 100g)
1 tsp vanilla paste
zest 1/2 an orange
4 eggs separated
45g cocoa
1/3 warm milk
240g hazelnut meal
300g ricotta
flaked almonds
either 20g grated dark chocolate or icing sugar to decorate

Preheat a fan forced oven to 160oC. Grease and line a 20cm baking tin.

Cream the butter, 150g of the sugar, vanilla and zest till light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl between additions.

In a small bowl, mix together the cocoa and milk to form a thick paste. Add to the butter mixture (note make sure your milk is only warm as it will help dissolve the cocoa but not too hot so that it melts the butter).

Add the hazelnut meal and mix well, then fold through the ricotta until all combined.

In a separate bowl beat the egg whites until soft peaks form, then beat in the remaining 100g of caster sugar until thick, glossy and hard peaks.

Fold the egg whites through the cake batter a third at a time. I do this by hand with a spatula carefully lifting and folding the mix so that you don't knock too much air out of the egg white.

Pour into the prepared tin, sprinkle the flaked almonds over the top and bake for 40-45 minutes until springy to touch. It may still look slightly wobbly in the tin but if the centre bounces back at the touch it is ready.

If you are using the chocolate, sprinkle over straight away so that it melts on the hot cake.

Allow to cool completely in its tin before transferring to a plate. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.

Serve cold from the fridge, dusted with icing sugar of using that option and with a good dollop of whipped cream.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Random Musings: Knowing (and respecting) your limits

Today is a glorious spring day. Warm with a light breeze - just the perfect day to get out and go crazy in the garden.

A few month ago, however, I had a car accident. It wasn't very serious, the car was fairly easily repaired and I didn't even think I'd hurt myself other than bumping my shoulder but it turned out that "bump" was a partial dislocation - and didn't I know it a week later when the pain kicked in. Anyone who has had a shoulder injury knows that they are slow to heal. It has been a long road of chiropractic visits, massage and rehab but I'm pretty much back to normal.

Lets just pause on the term "pretty much" for a second.

Right now I'm still doing my rehab exercises. Day to day activities are fine but for an office dweller like me, that doesn't involve much manual work. So much as I'm dying to spend the whole day overhauling the garden, I just can't. A couple of hours and the tired feeling kicks in and I have to stop. Not because I want to, but because I have to or I risk setting back my recovery.

It is awful that moment when what you mind wants you to do and your body can do, don't match.

I recently caught up with an old colleague and somehow our conversation turned to exactly this topic. She told me that recently she had been at the gym doing intervals after a huge and exhausting week. Her mind was saying "go, go , go" and her body was valiantly trying but couldn't keep up and she found herself in tears. She said it was like the dichotomy between what her mind wanted to be able to do and what her body was capable of just broke her soul for that moment. She wasn't upset, or even really distressed but the tears were just the way her body was trying to tell her that she had to stop.

I know precisely what she meant. I've found myself in tears for exactly this reason - most mortifyingly in the middle of a dance class - on a number of occasions. I have to ask myself, is finishing the garden, doing that extra set of intervals, taking that extra dance class worth it when our bodies are clearly saying no?

I don't think that we give rest the importance it deserves. In our busy world there is always something else we could be doing and taking time to let our bodies recover seems to go missing in that equation. So I'm doing my best to buck the trend. I'm listening to my body when it says it is time to go to bed, even if it means I miss the end of a TV show. I'm recognising the evenings when I just need to stay home on the couch. And I'm stopping work in the garden, even when there is more to do.

Because there is always tomorrow and isn't tomorrow better when you feel well enough to enjoy it?

Do you know your limits? And more importantly do you respect them?

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Random Musings: Spring

It is spring. 

The sun is shining. 

I'm wearing a t-shirt. 

Flowers are everywhere.

The world is good!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Book Review: The Empress of Icecream

Her body belonged to a king.
But who would melt her heart?

I'm just going to say this - if you are going to read a book centered on ice-cream, do it in summer. Reading a book filled with lush descriptions of various frozen desserts, sorbets, sherbets and of course ice-cream while the weather is of a temperature similar to that of a freezer makes for a chilly atmosphere. But that isn't to say I didn't really enjoy it.

Anthony Capella's books all centre on food so it is probably of little surprise to anyone that I'm drawn to them. However I also enjoy how for all bar "The Food of Love" he has set them in detailed, yet not well know (at least to me) historical contexts.

I particularly love a book that has me reaching for Wikipedia to find out more about the real people behind the fictional characters and his latest book "The Empress of Icecream" certainly had that. It is centered around Louise de Keroualle, the famous French mistress of Charles II and a fictional, but based on real people, character of the royal ice-cream maker.

Real historical events are cleverly interwoven with a fiction to make a tale that is not only a great read but an insight into a smart, savvy and highly influential woman who had an amazing impact on the English court. My library categorised it as a romance and love stories to wend their way throughout the book, but I think it has a lot more to offer than just a simple love story. I enjoyed the history, the lessons about ice-cream and England in the time of the Restoration.

I have to say, I think that this is a perfect summer holiday book. Light enough to read while on holiday but with enough substance to keep you engrossed. And of course all those delicious descriptions of ice confections that may just send you visiting the freezer.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

The Australian Women's Weekly High Tea Tour

My showbag contents and flowers from the event
Today I had the great privilege to speak in my role as Ambassador for the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation at a high tea hosted by The Australian Women's Weekly and sponsored by L'Oréal, Dilmah Tea and AAP Tours. They have been hosting them around the country raising money and awareness for the OCRF.

It was a fantastic event. We learned about how we should be drinking tea - black - and how to make it into cocktails! We got some amazing insights into the Australian Women's Weekly from Helen McCabe and we all left with fabulous showbags full of L'Oréal and Dilmah products.

The following is my speech from the event. I hope it gives you an insight into the day.

Thank you. It is a real honour to be asked to speak today, not only because it gives me an opportunity to talk about the great work of the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation but also because the Australian Women’s Weekly has always been a part of my life. We are one of those families that are probably terrible for the circulation figures because one copy gets shared around the lot of us. It has kept us up to date with the latest celebrity news and fashion trends. It taught us how to put on makeup, and particularly importantly how to cook.

My Mum is a great cook. Her mother was not such a great cook and was generally limited to quite old fashioned recipes from her German background. So Mum taught herself to cook from the Australian Women’s Weekly and their fantastic triple tested cookbooks. Mum passed that love of cooking onto me, along with a whole shelf of the cookbooks and the kitchen is most definitely the centre of my home. And in the centre of my kitchen, in pride of place, is a beautiful grey and white marble rolling pin. It is a lovely object, with wooden handles and its own wooden cradle to rest in. And it is as useful as it is beautiful because making pastry is one of my favourite things to do, so it is a cherished possession.

But as much as it is cherished, I wish I did not own it. If there was anything in my life I could return its owner would be that rolling pin. You see, the reason I own it is that it was passed to me following the death of our beloved family friend Aunty Sue from ovarian cancer.

Before Sue’s diagnosis I didn’t know much about ovarian cancer, but since then I’ve become all too aware that while it may not be the most common cancer in women, it remains the leading cause of death of all the gynaecological cancers with a lower survival rate than both breast and cervical cancer. In fact, every 10 hours a woman dies from ovarian cancer in Australia.

Sue’s story is typical of so many women affected by ovarian cancer. She dismissed her symptoms as stress, gaining weight, menopause, the aches and pains that come with being the primary carer to someone in a wheelchair. Like so many women, she just soldiered on. I don’t think that I knew it was possible to have a terminal illness and not know before Sue’s diagnosis.

So let me tell you a little about the wonderful woman who was my Aunty Sue. Sue Gane was one of those genuinely lovely people. She was a volunteer in her local community. She worked with children with disabilities. She was a passionate quilter. For me, Sue was my Mum’s best friend, but she was as much an Aunt to me as my blood relations and she was there for every major life milestone. It was following one of those milestones, my sister’s wedding, that Sue was diagnosed.

Sue didn’t have children of her own so she was as excited about the wedding as any of us. She spent about twice as much on her outfit as my Mum did on her mother of the bride one. She got ready with all of us, having her hair and makeup done and she sat in the front pew, holding my Mum’s hand as Dad walked my sister down the aisle.  

One of my absolute lasting memories of Sue will be her burning up the dance floor at the reception long after us young ones had grown tired.

Fast forward couple of weeks and Mum and Sue had a girls week away at the coast to recover from all the wedding excitement. It was then that Mum discovered Sue was having some abdominal pain and when she had a massage the masseuse suggested she get her ovaries checked out. It didn’t seem right, so Mum insisted Sue go to the doctor.

Doctor’s appointments followed. On the 6th of July Sue had a scan which showed metastatic masses in both ovaries. By 13 July we found out that she had tumours on her liver and in her stomach. On the 2nd of August she was admitted to hospital for surgery. She never went home, she never ate another meal. After several weeks in the hospital and some very difficult decisions about what treatment to have or not have, Sue was moved to the hospice Claire Holland House.

Sue died on the 17th of September 2010. Just two months after she was diagnosed.  She was laid to rest in the dress that she had worn to my sister’s wedding and danced the night away in without a care in the world just four months earlier.

The fact that Sue died just 2 months after she was diagnosed wasn’t because the cancer spread rapidly it was just that with symptoms like back pain and weight gain, Sue literally didn’t know she was dying until it was too late. And this is the story of ovarian cancer.

There is no early detection test for ovarian cancer. Contrary to popular belief a pap smear does not detect it. If detected and treated early, 80-100% of women will survive beyond 5 years compared with only 20-30% when diagnosed at a late stage which is the majority of women.

The Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation is Australia’s leading independent body dedicated to national ovarian cancer research. The ultimate aim of the foundation is to develop a test that is non-invasive and cost effective so that it becomes a habitual part of every woman’s regular health check-up regime along with mammograms and pap smears.

The OCRF receives no government funding and relies on the financial support of corporate Australia and the broader community. Everyone in this room today is supporting the OCRF and I would encourage you all to continue to find ways to support their important research. 

The next major fundraiser coming up is Frocktober, where all October you will be able to be sponsored for wearing a frock. I wear a frock every day of the month, but you could have a frock party, wear frocks on Fridays, really it is up to you and all the details will be on the website very shortly. I will also be hosting another high tea in October if today has got you interested so see me after for the details.

It has been 5 years since Sue’s death and it still seems completely surreal that she is not here with us. Recently I was looking for family photos and my first thought was the Sue would have some great ones, I just can’t get used to the idea that she isn’t here with us. Each time I speak about her, I know that I keep her memory alive and if her memory can help raise the awareness of ovarian cancer  and funds that will find an early detection test for it, then she will continue to be the positive influence on the community that she was in life.

Ovarian cancer affects women of all ages. It could be your mother, wife, sister, aunt, friend or even your daughter. You don’t have to be scientist to make a difference, all of us have the opportunity to support the work of the ovarian cancer research foundation and find that early detection test which will keep wonderful women like Sue, here among us.

Thank you.

If you would like to know more about ovarian cancer, the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation or want to make a donation visit:

And if you wish you had been there, I'm hosting a high tea for the OCRF in October! All the details are at:

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Restaurant Review: High Tea at the Burbury Terrace

The current popularity of high tea is something I whole heartedly endorse. For me it is an ideal indulgence. A meal that isn't necessary. Is comprised of tiny portions of a multitude of items. Must be enjoyed with at least one other person. And, that can be enjoyed at your leisure mid-afternoon. Really what could be more delightfully unnecessary and completely indulgent?

Our latest venture into the world of high teas took us to The Burbury Hotel. Each weekend they host high tea at the Terrace, their 7th floor restaurant from 1pm - 4pm. I would definitely say it is the high tea with the best view we have tried. The Terrace has sweeping views across central Canberra from its elegant and paired back dining room.

We arrived just after 1pm at the start of the service. Only a few other tables of people had arrived and we were promptly seated. We chose the Traditional High Tea for $45 instead of the Champagne High Tea for $55 as neither of us are particular fans of the bubbles. However if you do like them, it is a very nice glass of NVG Mumm that you will be enjoying.

S decided to further buck the high tea trend and ordered a cappuccino to accompany his food, I chose the Napoleon tea from the TWG tea menu. One of my bug bears with high teas is when you only get a single drink included to accompany what is actually quite a large meal, however The Burbury High Tea comes with unlimited tea and coffee which is fantastic.

Shortly after our drinks arrived, our three tier high tea stand was presented to the table. In traditional format, the lower tier comprised sandwiches, the middle tier scones plus a creme brulee and the top tier cakes and sweets.

Being a stickler for tradition, I started with the sandwiches. They were: tomato, basil and gruyère on sourdough, Tasmanian smoked salmon and herb slider and cucumber and cream cheese on white bread. The fillings were all lovely but the bread for the first and last sandwiches tasted like standard supermarket pre-sliced loaves and the brioche slider was just a little sweet for the salmon.

I wasn't impressed on first glance at the scones as they looked rather flat which I thought might make them too dense. However they were probably the best scones we have had at a high tea. Tasty with a good crumb. The accompanying preserve was quite runny but that just meant it sank into the scone beautifully and had a rich delicious flavour. We probably could have done with a little more cream but that is because S is a cream lover and can eat vast amounts of it. The only disappointment was that while the menu promised two varieties of scone, strawberry and vanilla, all of our scones (there are 2 per person) were plain which I guess meant vanilla. That said, they were so good we didn't really mind.

Finishing off the second tier was the white chocolate and passion fruit crème brûlée. It had a beautiful crunchy layer of toffee on top but was a little too creamy and sweet for me. S quite happily finished mine but said that he didn't think the passionfruit worked as well as it could have and found the seeds a distracting texture in the otherwise creamy dessert.

After a short pause to get a second coffee for S and a pot of the silver moon tea for me we attacked the final tier.

It was a beautiful array of tiny cakes and sweets. However the first two we tried, the pistachio financier with rum pineapple and what appeared to be a friand topped with a blueberry that wasn't on the menu were our least favourite. The texture of both was a bit glutenous and they were just too sweet.

Next up was the bittersweet brownie topped with praline gânache and caramelised salted popcorn. This morsel was truly delicious, almost fudge like in texture and with a rich but bittersweet flavour. The dark chocolate had coffee undertones and was really well matched with the toffee like toppings. It was a great break in the sweet course and a good balance for the palate.

Next up was the buttermilk pana cotta, strawberry and basil gelée. The pana cotta was fantastic but the strawberry sauce was overly sweet. We would have preferred it if it was a simple strawberry puree so that the acid in the strawberry could be a counterpoint to the creamy pana cotta. And the same comment applied to the lemon curd and meringue tartelette we tried next. Again this was delicious, but we both agreed the curd could have used some more acid from the lemon to balance out the sweetness.

By this stage we were both flagging. High tea is a pretty full on meal and despite the fact that we had minimal breakfasts, we were getting full. However we were not to be defeated.

The second last item was the macaron. Although advertised as nutella flavour, it appeared to be raspberry and caramel. To be honest, very few macarons in Australia do anything much for me. They don't have the melt in the mouth quality that we fell in love with in France as the shells tend to have a chewy quality. This was a good Australian macaron, it just didn't have that French amazingness.

The final item was a profiterole filled with expresso cream. I don't like coffee but I had a bite to try it before handing the rest to S. It was excellent. Beautiful choux pastry, silky flavourful cream only let down by not fantastic chocolate decorating the top.

Overall the service was good, although we did notice that most people arrived at about 2pm and it got a bit chaotic at that point. We tried to leave and pay at about 2.30pm which was probably the moment of peak activity so paying the bill took some time. I would certainly recommend booking either a bit earlier or later than 2 to avoid the rush.

Bookings are essential as they often book out up to 3 weeks in advance, particularly for large tables and we saw a couple of disappointed people being turned away.

We really enjoyed our high tea. The venue is gorgeous (although S remarked that once it was full of women - and there were literally only 5 men in the place - it did get quite noisy), the view spectacular and the food on the whole, delicious. It gets a big tick from me for the continuous tea and coffee, the attentive service and the quality and quantity of food.

High Tea at The Burbury Terrace
1pm-4pm Saturday and Sunday
Burbury Close

And if you love high tea as much as I do, set 10 October aside as I will be hosting a fundraising high tea for the Ovarian Cancer Research Foundation at the Canberra Institute of Technology. You can find the details and book tickets here:

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Recipe: Winter salad with roast garlic dressing

My stomach (or my mouth really) can be a contrary thing, always craving what is not in the house or is out of season, so it was no surprise really that in the middle of a cold winter day, my contrary stomach decided it really wanted salad. Not really winter food but much as I love soup, stews, curries and other comfort food, there comes a time when you just need a salad. I'm pretty sure the last couple of weeks of indulgent eating may have had something to do with the need for greens.

However, winter does not make for the best salad ingredients and despite the salad craving I still wanted something warm, so a roast veggie salad seemed the way to go and I topped it with some chicken for a protein hit but this would be equally good minus the chicken as a side for a steak or even a roast.

A warm salad is a great dinner. Warming, filling but healthy. And while winter may not be a great time for salad veggies like tomato, many lettuces like it. My backyard rocket patch has gone crazy allowing for a great green base.

When thinking of a dressing to accompany the richness of all those roast veggies, a garlic vinaigrette came to mind but to complement the roast taste, I roasted the garlic. The soft, delicately roasted garlic pretty much dissolves when you shake it like crazy with the rest of your dressing ingredients. Just be sure to not add any leftover chunks of garlic to the final salad.

This amount makes a great dinner for 2, or a side for 4.

Winter salad with roast garlic dressing
2 potatoes peeled and chopped into 3cm cubes
2 carrots chopped in half lengthwise, then into 2cm lengths
1 medium eggplant chopped into 4cm cubes
1/4 pumpkin chopped into cubes
1 capsicum cut into 3cm squares
1 leek thinly sliced
a chicken breast
a couple of handfuls of rocket leaves
2 garlic cloves unpeeled
olive oil
maldon (or other flaky) sea salt
dried garlic
red wine vinegar
maple syrup

Preheat your oven with a non-stick baking tray in it to 200 degrees.

In a large bowl, toss the potatoes, carrots, eggplant, pumpkin and capsicum with enough olive oil to lightly cover the veggies, a couple of pinches of salt, a few shakes of oregano and dried garlic. Pour onto the pre-heated tray and arrange in a single layer.

Bake for 30-40 minutes till everything is golden and well roasted.

Meanwhile, gently fry the leek in a little olive oil until caramalised and golden.

Butterfly the chicken breast so it is an even thickness. Dust with paprika, dried garlic and oregano then fry in a little olive oil until both sides are golden brown and the chicken is cooked through.

To make the dressing, pop the whole unpeeled garlic cloves on top of the other veg and roast for 10-15 minutes until just starting to ooze. Take them out of the oven and squeeze the garlic out of their cases into a jar. Top with 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar and a teaspoon of maple syrup. Screw the top of the jar tightly and shake like crazy. The garlic should disintegrate and make a lovely creamy dressing.

To serve, in a large bowl add the rocket, roast vegetables straight from the oven, leek and enough dressing to lightly dress the salad. Toss together, then top with slices of the chicken breast.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Random Musings: Being a foodie

I identify myself as a foodie. How could I not? I love to cook it, talk about it, read about it and of course eat it. Any time I travel one of the first places I check out is the local markets. The magazines on my coffee table are a food related. I spend hours browsing the food section of Pinterest.

But how do you define someone as a foodie? Recently I had a conversation with some colleagues that came up with a simple criteria - can you name the best meal you have ever eaten? Not your favourite dish or restaurant, a single whole meal that you would classify as the best you have ever had.

I have a list of best meals in order and with a group of family and friends who are similarly food obsessed, it had never occurred to me that some people wouldn't be able to name a single meal that was the best one they had ever had. But as it turned out, that was exactly the case. Most of the people in that conversation had never thought enough about it to be able to name their best meal.

The best meal I've ever eaten was at a dinner which was my 25th birthday present. The present was that my parent's took me to Tetsuyas. To this day, dishes from that amazing 16 course (yes that number is correct) meal linger in my memory. But I can also tell you about an amazing meal I had in Cambodia (fairy floss pork, an amazing steak, lemongrass panacotta, brilliant cocktails), a fantastic soup we had in Paris, the best fish and chips I've had, great burgers, meals my Mum has cooked.

The people in the conversation could say what food they liked but they couldn't describe an actual meal. To say I was surprised is an understatement. It is one of those things I just assumed everyone did. But as with the case with just about any assumption, I was wrong.

So there we have it, a very simple test about how much of a foodie you are. Tell me, are you a foodie and can you name the best meal you have ever eaten?

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Recipe: Beef and barley soup

It is mid-winter and I'm truly in nesting mode. It is the season for slow cooked braises and soups. The kind of things that bubble away on the stove all day, filling the house with rich, warm, delicious scents.

Soup has been a staple in our house for the last few months. But as the winter gets deeper and the days colder I want something with a bit more substance to keep me going. Warm and hearty is what I'm after and I just don't think that you can beat beef and barley soup for that.

There is nothing particularly revolutionary about my recipe, it is a collation of ideas with chili added but I love it and I thought you might too. This makes a reasonably large amount, but this soup freezes extremely well so it is a great one to make a big batch of for those cold days when you don't want to venture outside or to keep you going all week.

I don't own a slow cooker, so I do this recipe in my cast iron Le Creuset pot on the cook top. If you do have a slow cooker you could do everything from the point where you add the spices and stock in it, however the browning of the meat and veggies at the start is really important as that is where a lot of the flavour comes from. You will note there is quite a range of time frames.

This soup is best the longer you can cook it for but not every day allows for 8 hours of cooking, so you just cook it for as long as you can.

Beef and Barley Soup

800g-1kg chuck steak diced into 2cm cubes
Worcestershire sauce
3 stalks of celery diced
2 carrots diced
1 brown onion diced
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of rosemary
2 dried chillies
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
approx 1 tsp thyme leaves
approx 2 tsp ground black pepper
1 litre beef stock
3/4 cup of pearl barley, rinsed and picked through
1 1/2 cups hot water
1/2 bunch kale shredded
2 tbsp chopped parsley

Heat a dutch oven or heavy based saucepan till hot. Add a couple of tablespoons of canola oil and a knob of butter and allow to melt and sizzle. Brown the steak in batches.

When the steak is all browned, add it all back to the pot along with any juices and a good helping of Worcestershire sauce. I use a couple of tablespoons worth but it is a strong flavour so you can start with less. It will all bubble up, cook over the high heat until all the liquid is gone, stirring to keep from sticking. At the end the meat should be dark brown and fragrant.

Add in the celery, carrots and onion and wilt down. Again you want to cook it until there is no liquid left from the veggies - approx 10-15 minutes.

Add in the bay leaves, rosemary, chillies, garlic, thyme and pepper and stir to combine before adding the stock. Bring to the boil, then cover and cook on a low heat for 3-5 hours.

Remove the chillies, bay leaves and rosemary stalks (the leaves will have fallen off), along with any large chunks of garlic left and add in the barley and water. Cover and continue to cook on a low heat for another 2-3 hours.

10 minutes before serving, turn the heat up to medium high and stir in the shredded kale and parsley. Allow to wilt and enjoy a big warm bowl with a crusty loaf of bread.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Restaurant Review: Sushi Hotaru

A misreading of directions and settling for "well we are here now" a year or so ago let me find one of my go-to spots in Melbourne, Sushi Hotaru. It is a sushi train place, but with a difference.

Sushi Hotaru is located in the MidCity Arcade. You head up the escalator, past a very lovely looking Japanese restaurant that I will probably never go to now, past Japan Nails, a lingerie shop, another shop that seems to specialise in Hello Kitty to find Sushi Hotaru right in the middle of the arcade. If you go around lunch or dinner time there will be a bunch of people standing around outside. Stick your head in the door, give the number of people in your party and you will be given a number.

The wait is rarely long before your number is yelled and you are herded inside. The atmosphere is fast and buzzing, with wait staff bustling around. You sit at a long oval bar (there are a few booths too) watching the train go past, but in the centre of the oval, 5-6 people are constantly churning out the sushi.

It is fabulous to watch. Sure the fish has been pre-cut for them, but I love watching them deftly form the rice, top it with the various ingredients including all sorts of interesting sauces. There is definitely quite a bit of non-traditional sushi creativity going on here.

In addition to the ever varying sushi train, each pair of seats has a screen in front of it where you can order specials, from hand rolls to soups, drinks, hot food and more. Pretty much everything costs $3 a plate, even the special orders. The only exception is the gold plates of sashimi which cost $7.90.

On my latest visit I was hungry. I had three plates of sushi comprising some very delicious seared salmon around an avocado and I think cheese (?) filling, the same filling but topped with BBQ eel and the most sweet and delicious scallop topped sushi. Next up, I ordered a couple of specials, the soft shell crab hand roll and some crumbed prawns. The crab was delicious, perfectly tempura and wrapped in fresh, slightly crunchy seaweed. The prawns were sweet and served with a great mayo but I probably wouldn't go out of my way to order them again. I finished up with a plate of sashimi because I can never resist it. All up it cost the grand total of $22.90 - you can see why this place is so busy.

If you are after a quiet, relaxed dinner, where you linger over food and conversation, this is not the place for you. But if you want a fresh, tasty meal that is fast and well priced Sushi Hotaru is what you are after. Taking my time I think I'm only ever there 15 or so minutes.

I've never not seen this place busy. The freshness and quality of the food, the great prices, the innovative interpretations of sushi make it a great place to eat. There is absolutely no doubt that I'll be back!

Sushi Hotaru
Shop 118, Level 1, MidCity Arcade
200 Bourke Street, Melbourne

Sushi Hotaru is also located in Sydney at:
Level 1, The Galleries
500 George Street, Sydney


125-129 Bathurst Street

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Random Musings: Keeping Cozy

In news to no-one who lives in Canberra or the east coast of Australia, it is a COLD winter. Ok, winter in this town is always cold but I've really been feeling it the last few weeks and when the snow starts falling in Queensland you know it is a bit out of the ordinary.

So even if it isn't the start of a mini ice age (if you missed that amusing news last week just google it), it is pretty cold and  I'm just craving all the traditional forms of coziness. I can't tell you how many times I've said to S that our next house will have an open fire.

While we may not have an open fire, we have been indulging in all the other traditional forms of winter warmth. I'm blogging while wearing ugg boots and my snuggly dressing gown. There is a pot of potato and leek soup on the stove and I have a steaming cup of tea by my side.

Soup has been the mainstay in the house. I cook up big pots each weekend to keep us fueled for our lunches during the week. My recent foray into bread making also means that each Saturday we have the bonus of oven heat and there is something about the smell of freshly baked bread that just screams cosy.

Our house is strewn with doonas, blankets and cushions, from our deliciously warm bed, to the couch where we snuggle up in front of the telly. And speaking of the telly, the cold weather lends itself perfectly to snug evenings of binge watching all the great shows that are on.

So while I may not love the cold, I do adore this season of cosy. How are you keeping warm this winter?