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.


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


Catseye Beach from Passage Peak


Our last sunrise in paradise


Mission Beach in the morning


Dunk Island in the distance


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.

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.


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.

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!


Menu Next Door – please come to Australia soon!

Planning to eat

Ok, I’m a little bit food obsessed. But I’m speaking to a sympathetic crowd, right?

There are so many wonderfully delicious morsels of food that I have not yet had the opportunity to put in my mouth, and so few meal times left in which to do it. I mean, I might only have another 40 or 50 thousand good meals left in me.

There’s not a moment to spare! I can’t afford to waste a single day on crap, ‘it’s just a source of energy’ food. And that’s the REAL reason why I plan our weekly dinner menu with military precision. I pretend it’s so that we can write a shopping list and don’t waste either any time or any food. But we all know that’s just a ruse.

Although, to be fair, if we don’t have a weekly meal plan, 2 things happen.

  1. Mr Eleanor and I go the supermarket and wander endlessly up and down the aisles picking up random shit
  2. Each evening we assemble in the kitchen to prepare dinner and the conversation goes along the line of:

‘What do you want to eat?’
‘I don’t know, what do you want?’
‘I don’t know, what do you want?’
‘I don’t know, what do you want?’

Ad infinitum

And then we have cheese on toast.

cheese on toast

I once heard a statistic that said British families recycle the same 7 dinners over and over again, week in, week out. I can understand how for busy families that might happen, but I think I might lose my mind. And/or develop some type of malnutrition disease.

I like to think that we eat with variety and always eat something we’ve never had before, but that’s not to say that we don’t have a few rules.

  • Pilates night pasta
  • At least a couple of veggie/fish options for me
  • A night out or take away
  • Slow cook Sunday

So this week’s menu looks like this:

Monday: smoked trout* and courgette pesto / beef ragu pasta
Tuesday: hoki and scallop tacos with pineapple pepper salsa and chipotle slaw
Wednesday: grilled polenta with roasted ratatouille, fried egg and feta
Thursday: eating out
Friday: spicy pulled pork buns with pineapple slaw FRIDAY BONUS: elderflower martini
Saturday: lahmacun  and plenty of beer
Sunday: pomegranate and z’atar roasted chicken with cauli and quinoa cous cous, and tzatziki

I am looking forward to eating this week!



*Purchased at the weekend from Buxton Trout  – freakin’ delicious, wish I had bought some more.

Food for thought

What the hell are we doing? No, seriously, really what the fuck are we playing at?

There are so many things us humans are doing – to each other, to the planet and to its other inhabitants – that are so very wrong/immoral/cruel/selfish/just pure evil, I can’t bear to watch the news for fear of hearing what suffering we’ve inflicted today.

If you think that, as a single person, there’s nothing you can do to make the world a better place, you’re wrong.

You make informed decisions, and you do as much as YOU can – then the world is already a better place.

This is one person’s contribution to making us all better human beings by thinking about what we eat, and the implications of where it comes from, which made my heart warm a little:

food for thought vanessa kimbell
It’s just a bit of a shame (and more than a little ironic) that it’s not available as an ebook. However, you can use Look Inside to read the introduction (which is thought-provoking in itself) and if you press the Kindle tab at the top of the page, you can tell the publisher you’d like to read this as an ebook – that’s my contribution for this morning 🙂

Don’t disappoint me again

So food trucks are unbelievably popular at the moment. I guess they’re our answer to hawker food. They are cheap, you don’t have to book, there’s lots of ever-changing choice. There are even websites that track the trucks so that you can always find your favourite.

food truck

As far as I can make out there are 2 business models
1) Your truck is your entire business, your only place of food production
2) Your truck is a rolling advert for your restaurant

My issue is this: in either model, a business wants to be able to serve the best possible dishes to their customers. But it appears not to be a space in which that is possible.

We’ve been to several festivals over the summer, all of which were catered by a variety of food trucks. With the exception of one, none of the dishes we ate rated over a 4/10. They have all been underseasoned / underdressed / underconsidered / undercooked (select all that apply).

  • Pulled pork with so little sauce that it’s a bland mouthful of a meh that sticks in your throat
  • Fried chicken, unsalted and virtually cold, with dressingless, dried-out pieces of pre-cut coleslaw
  • Bland, flaccid arancini made from watery risotto

The list goes on but I’ve run out of adjectives.

Is this intentional? Does the ‘executive chef’ pair down every dish for the benefit of speed and costs? In cooking, as with fashion, accessorising is EVERYTHING. It’s the little extras, the attention to detail, that make or break a dish.

I’m not going to name and shame – the youngsters working their butts off in those sweaty, oily, tiny boxes do not need that from me – but I am going to stop buying food from trucks.

Although, as Mr Eleanor points out, perhaps it would be ok if they weren’t trying to feed 5,000 other people at the same time?