Tropics and desktops

I haven’t posted anything for ages. Sorry about that. It’s because we’ve just spent 2 week gallivanting down the north Queensland coast, and straight after that some bugger gave me a job.

Sunset on Hamilton Island

Sunset on Hamilton Island

 

Strawberry daiquiris

Life motto: always carry a bottle of rum on holiday and life will be good

Just because I haven’t been posting doesn’t mean I haven’t been cooking. I spent 2 weeks eating seafood and drinking rum so have come back with a renewed enthusiasm and I have embraced winter cooking for the last few weeks of the season’s pathetic, miserable life. (I’ve only worked 4 days and been drenched 3 times.)

Unfortunately I’ve got no photos of my latest culinary escapades because now whenever I’m in the house it’s dark. And I know you lot go for visual gratification so I can’t show you:

  • Roast chicken with blue cheese dressed green veg
  • Taragon chicken and mushroom barley risotto
  • Pan-fried salmon with cauli puree and cavolo nero with feta and almonds
  • Lentil and Quorn moussaka
  • Roast pork with crackling, celeriac puree, chilli’ed broccoli with feta

Instead you’ll just have to have some holiday photos and some recommendations for places to eat in tropical north QLD.

platypus

Proof we’re in Oz!

 

Eastern spinebill

Eastern spinebill

The Best (Eating) Bits

  • Salt House, Cairns – a view of the marina and a super-fresh seafood platter for one
  • Perrotta’s at the Gallery, Cairns – tropical fruit salad and gf toast for a lazy Sunday breakfast
  • The Ocea Bar, Mission Beach – great fresh seafood (we had grilled barra and chips, seafood platter) & gf lemon tart which made me ridiculously happy. The staff were clearly working hard but it all seemed a bit shambolic – bear with them though, it’s worth it.
  • Bibesia at Castaways, Mission Beach – so good we ate there twice in one day: gf squid, scallops, salmon with truffled risotto. The cocktails were also divine, eg coral sea storm: Sailor Jerry’s Spiced Rum, mint, coconut water, lime, ginger syrup and candied ginger
  • Piccolo’s at Mission Beach- sometimes you just need a pizza and these guys do a great gf version. (As does the Bridge Cafe at Mount Uncle Distillery – they make the base from green banana flour and it’s GREAT! This is also where we picked up our rum 🙂
  • The Clipper at Coral Sea Resort, Airlie Beach – after being nearly literally washed out of our accommodation at Eungella, we escaped to the beach and took dinner at the hotel – a very  sorely needed relaxing evening
  • Coca Chu, Hamilton Island – absolutely delicious food, but I wish we had ordered one course at a time. My favourites were lime-cured kingfish with lemongrass, green mango, mint & shiso leaf and aromatic curry of chicken w potato & cucumber chilli relish; not to mention the spiced pineapple mojito with black pepper and cinnamon
  • Bommie Deck Bar and Restaurant, Hamilton Island: just the perfect way to end a holiday. We watched the moon rise over the marina with cocktails in hand and then were doted upon in the restaurant, eating quail, kingfish, piccata of reef fish, black angus rump cap, with wines matched by the sommelier, followed by several gifts from the kitchen including these petit fours. All gluten free, of course!

bommie: gifts from the kitchen

 

 

And some random scenery from Hamilton Island and Mission Beach

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Catseye Beach from Passage Peak

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Our last sunrise in paradise

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Mission Beach in the morning

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Dunk Island in the distance

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The reef view from, you guessed it, the Reef View Hotel

What’s your death-row dinner?

So it was cocktail night on Friday. To be fair, every Friday is cocktail night. Elderflower martini, if you were wondering.

cocktail night

Moules et frites were on the menu, along with a little Antony Bourdain on the tv – we rock it HARD on a Friday. If you haven’t read Kitchen Confidential, you should. Assuming, of course, you never want to eat in a restaurant ever again.

Anyway, he was in the UK. Close to my heart. Slurping up bone marrow and claiming it to be his ‘current death row meal’. (Btw, I think this show was made in 2006.)

This comment prompted a conversation.

‘What would you have for your last meal, Mr Eleanor? Pizza, curry or steak?’

The answer was, of course, a curried steak pizza with chips on top. You can take the boy out of Slough, but …

Here, I fumbled. My mistake.

‘Ok, Mr Eleanor,’ I said, ‘what would *I* have for my last meal?
‘Er …. er …. lobster? Doughnuts? Cos, you know, it’s your last meal, and who cares?’

Lobster and doughntuts? Well, I suppose it has a certain je ne sais quoi. But, for reference, my last meal would be:

  • Salt and pepper calamari with papaya salad
  • Truffled mushroom risotto
  • Lemon tart with mascarpone

And then perhaps coffee liqueur with some mini doughnuts. I’ll give him that one.

Or at least, that’s what it would be today. Tomorrow? Your guess is as good as mine. I’ve already realised I missed out pork belly – my menu nemesis. The ONE thing I can’t go past …

So, what would your last meal be? The last thing you’d ever get to taste? Go on. Tell me.

Happy birthday, TheO!

The Other Bread & Milk (aka TheO) is one year old.

happy birthday

It makes me both proud, and a little sad. It means my self-imposed year of literary debauchery and frivolous unemployment is at an end. I have to go and find a job. Dammit.

Unfortunately I love staying at home writing all day. Much more so than traipsing into the city, spending all day imprisoned in an airless office devoid of all natural light, negotiating ridiculous/selfish/impractical personal agendas and office politics, doing a job I’m not sure makes any difference to a single person in the whole world.

See my problem?

Seriously considering moving us all into a tiny house and eating only Coles’ baked beans so I can carrying on writing. And I don’t even like baked beans.

Never more than 6 months ’til Christmas

Now that was a proper Christmas Day – most of the way down a bottle wine by 12pm; a few hands of cribbage; a Christmas film. I even managed a bracing walk … whilst Mr Eleanor took one for the team and made sure the nap on the sofa after lunch was not neglected. He’s a good sort.

Collages3

And of course we also squeezed in a few calories 🙂 The menu worked out an absolute treat. We’ll definitely be doing more hot smoking after this.

unchristmas dinner

Roll on Christmas!

Happy unChristmas

It’s only a week until the winter solstice. Actually it’s on Tuesday, 21 June 2016 at 8:34 AM AEST. Not that I’m counting or anything. And with the winter solstice comes CHRRRIIISSTMAAAASSSS! Oh no, wait! That’s the other side of the planet, isn’t it? Well, that never has and never will stop me having a hearty winter’s Christmas dinner

There is some celebration of the winter festival here – but it’s all ‘Christmas in July’* which I just can’t be doing with. It’s the mid-winter festival, for goodness sake. It should be in mid-winter. So we’ll be having this Christmas dinner on 25 June and this is what we’ll be eating.

unchristmas dinner
*My understanding of Christmas in July is that it’s a US construct and arose out of the American summer camps that parents send their children to when they just can’t bear the sight of them any more.

Melbourne Good Food & Wine Show

Do you ever go out to shows, markets, fairs with your other half? And feel niggled that there’s someone looking bored and uncomfortable at your heels whilst you are trying to snatch a piece of chocolate, or talk to the maker about their wares? And then you leave before you really want to?

And that’s why I went to the Good Food & Wine Show last Friday by myself. Best. Move. Ever. (Sorry, Mr Eleanor.) I was wonderfully free to roam about at my will, answerable to no one, sliding an arm in between groups pressed together around stands to pilfer a morsel of cheese, chocolate, olives and more and then disappearing to the next stall.

2016-06 June

Eating with your eyes – Sweets for Tilly

Food envy - maybe one day they'll make a gf version

Consumed by terrible food envy – maybe one day they’ll make a gf version

Cheese Alley

Many a happy hour in Cheese Alley

Matt Moran

Matt Moran in the Good Food Theatre

Wine

Don’t forget there’s food too

This is a tiny selection of the things that went in my mouth:

  • Fix & Fogg – peanut butter makers out of NZ with great ethical credentials, producing real, stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth peanut butter with no ‘dead orangutan’ (ie palm) oil. Get your hands on the Smoke and Fire flavour
  • Grandvewe – this is real cheese, this is what cheese should be. A piece of beautiful soft, wash-rinded Brebichon is awaiting my attention in the fridge.
  • Kez’s Kitchen – I had a disappointing experience with a gf florentine from these folks once, but the gf Vienna eclairs and melting moments are crumbly, buttery-tasting and just delicious
  • Macaron de Paris – the first thing I ate when I arrived was a butterscotch and macadamia macaron. Since the commercialisation of the macaron, innumerable disappointing versions have started to appeared in cafes and delis. So don’t risk it; eat these ones instead – crisp and then soft, intensely flavoured and big enough to make you feel a little bit naughty
  • Nick’s Beef Jerky – I’m allergic to beef but Mr Eleanor was very happy with the 10 flavours sampler bag
  • Smelly Cheese Shop – I can’t stay away from these people. They are the reason I came back with so much cheese which is now stinking out the fridge. With artisan cheeses from all around the world, what’s not to love?
  • Sticky Balsamic – syrupy balsamic vinegar in a variety of fruit-infused flavours which are crying out to be poured over ice cream, but are also fabulous in more conventional glazes and dressings. I wish now that I’d picked up a bottle of the fig flavour, but my arms were dropping off by this point.
  • Hartshorn Distillery – the world’s first vodka made with leftover sheep whey from Grandvewe. Sounds odd. Ok, it sounds a bit yuck, but if it puts you off then good; that’s more for the rest of us. It is smooth and clean with vanilla notes. A really impressive product.
  • Josef Chromy – with both modern, easy drinking and more complex French styles of sparkling wine, a taste took me straight back to the beautiful Tamar Valley and our Tasmanian road-trip
  • Melbourne Martini – it’s an espresso martini in a jar. Only in Melbourne 🙂
  • Gin Fever masterclass  with Four Pillars, a local distillery with a tasting room in Healesville which has been on my list of things to do for a few weeks. We were treated to their Rare Dry, Navy, Spiced Negroni and new Bloody Shiraz gins. These are distinctly modern styles to my traditional English palate, being smoother and a little sweeter. Yes. That’s just what I need. Gin that’s even easier to drink.

The show in Melbourne is done for another year but if you want to go, it’s doing the rounds and will be in Perth, Sydney and Brisbane over the next few months.
But for goodness sake, go by yourself.

All of the pleasure, none of the pain

It’s properly cold now. I mean it’s only getting up to 16°C during the day. Well, OK, but it has been 1°C overnight. And the Aussies have NO IDEA about insulation, double glazing, or appropriate heating for their houses. I fear I may lose some fingers.

Now can I get some sympathy?

For me, as well as for my poor cats, the only answer is to stuff in the calories like they’re going out of fashion. It’s a dangerous game and is the reason Bertie has turned into a little dumpling in a few short weeks.

theboys

But I still need to eat, so I thought I’d roll out the fun-free cake again, this time in a different incarnation.

apple and date cake

Apple and date cake

This time I replaced a third of the dried fruit with diced apple and sliced the remaining apple to line in the bottom of the tin, along with a little spray oil, before baking. I also added 1 tsp cinnamon. Goddamn, it was delicious!

For interest’s sake, I thought I’d do a little calorie counting. Each 70g slice (1/12th) contains:*

  • 15g dried fruit, 30g fresh fruit and 20ml fruit juice
  • 8g of almonds
  • 3g protein
  • 2g fibre
  • 140 kcals (600kJ) (vs 275kcals (1170kJ) for shop-bought lemon drizzle)

But … that’s nearly half the calories.

So I had two pieces. With some Baileys ice cream.

I am my own worst enemy.

 

*I am not a nutritionist and all the maths is my own. You’ve been warned.

Waffley versatile!

My guilty pleasure is Guilty Pleasures – you know, the show on the Food Network where chefs et al ‘fess up about what they eat when no one’s looking.

They had some on the other day who was talking about macaroni cheese waffles – no, not waffles with mac cheese ON them, waffles actually made out of mac cheese. You can get them here next time you’re in Vegas: Andiron Steak & Sea

So then I started day dreaming about what else you could put between the waffle plates – doughnut batter, zucchini slice mix, bread dough, Yorkshire pudding batter, mashed potato, cornbread batter, muffin batter, cookie dough

We were having risotto for dinner the other night. You can see where this one is going already, can’t you? May I present, spicy tomato risotto waffles with homemade haloumi* and crispy prosciutto

tomato risotto waffles

To the left over risotto I added an egg for its structural properties when cooked and some extra cheese because … I don’t need a reason for extra cheese. They cooked for about 15 minutes in the press on a medium-high heat.

You’re welcome.

 

*That’s a story for another day

Want to invite yourself over to your neighbours’ for dinner?

Sorry TheO’s been so quiet. I’ve become totally obsessed with a new book I started writing – I’ve written half of it in a month! Yes, it’s got food in it 🙂

I did have a moment to share this from delicious. magazine with you though. When I read it, my jaw dropped. I NEED this in my life:

a) because I dream about inviting myself into my neighbours’ houses for dinner when I pass by and smell what they are cooking

b) so I can cook even more every day!

menunextdoor

Menu Next Door – please come to Australia soon!

Food and nostalgia

Smell in one of the strongest trigger for memories that there is.

In fact, behavioural studies have shown the smell triggers more vivid emotional memories than images do.

And what is more evocative than the smell of your childhood kitchen?

  • Garlic roast chicken on a Sunday afternoon
  • Richly savoury bolognese bubbling way on the heat for hours at a time
  • Spicy cinnamon and cloves in every part of the house from the 4 hours the Christmas cake spent in the oven
  • And what about jam and chutney season?

That’s probably the reason family recipes live on. They connect us to our past, to our families, some of whom have departed.

It’s 2 years since both Mr Eleanor and I lost our last grandparents, just 3 days apart. And tomorrow is Mr Eleanor’s birthday. So it’s time for a little food nostalgia with this sentimental nod for his birthday cake.

Nan Ruth's fruit cake

I hope I’ve done it justice. I guess we’ll find out tomorrow!

Nan Ruth’s Fruit Cake

Mum Fruit Cake receipe 001

*SR flour replaced with white spelt flour and 1.5 tsp baking powder; milk was lactose free