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

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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

Pea and avo pasta with fennel

This might be my new pasta obsession – I always have to have one on the go. I would cheerfully lick the blades of the food processor to get at the smears of sauce hiding from my persistent spatula.

pea and avo pasta with fennel

Pasta with pea, avocado and goats cheese sauce, with caramelised fennel and Parmesan and almonds

The avocado sauce so smooth and has a really good bite of raw garlic; the caramelised fennel gives a great sweet balance to it, with the Parmesan providing the salty umami flavour.

This is easily adapted for all sorts of food intolerance without losing much:

  • GF – use GF pasta
  • LF – use lactose free cream instead of goats
  • Vegetarian – use a vegetarian hard cheese instead of Parmesan
  • Vegan – omit cheese
  • Nut free – omit almonds

I’m REALLY glad I outgrew my childhood avocado allergy though!

If you wanna make it, the recipe’s here.

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Gourmet nights #3: Demuths

There was a small delay in the execution of Gourmet Nights #3. It was supposed to be last week but rather shockingly we had a social life and I couldn’t fit it in! Don’t worry – no such impediment this week.

There are a load of reasons why people are vegetarian – concern for the environment, love of animals, health, the taste or texture of meat. The list goes on.

I’m unlikely to ever become fully veggo – cutting another food group out of my diet is just not a good idea, but I have reduced it to the bare minimum. But if I did it would just be because I LOVE VEGETARIAN FOOD! I JUST LOVE IT!

Spinach and potato koftas

Easy to make and contained lots of great spices but the gram flour batter went soft within a few minutes which was a shame – I assume it was because the filling is quite moist. Tasty nonetheless. As a bonus they are vegan and gluten free.

spinach koftas

spinach and potato koftas with mango chutney

Souffle topped mushrooms with panzanella

Delicious! The souffle and mushrooms were deeply savoury – I don’t think meat eaters would even notice they’d gone veggie. The panzanella was super garlicky. Which I LOVED at the time, but not so much the next morning … The dressing includes red wine which gave the dish an amazing depth of flavour. Croutons were essential to offer a change in texture and taste from the rich salad and souffle.

souffle topped mushroom

stilton topped mushrooms with panzanella and spicy croutons

Plum frangipane tart

Oh my! There’s not very much of this left. I think that speaks for itself. Yum, yum, yum!

plum frangipane tart

red plum frangipane tart

Admissions of deviation from the recipe

Koftas: I forgot to buy more spinach so they were a little light on the green stuff! And since we already had homemade mango chutney, I didn’t make the tomato and mango one that was suggested

Souffle and panzanella: These days Oz make some pretty good cheese, so I went with a local Jindi Blue rather than insisting my cheese travel 10,500 miles. For the sake of calories, I put the croutons on the barbie and served them with a drizzle of oil instead of frying them. Also, I didn’t have red grape juice and wasn’t go to buy some for the tiny amount required so I used cranberry

Plum frangipane tart: I used spelt flour for the pastry – always a great substitute for pastry

 

pão de queijo

I promised Roxanne at The Lemon and Jar I would make them and I did.

The technique was easy – a bit like making choux pastry but, good grief tapioca flour is an odd fish! Gummy is a massive understatement. I thought I’d completely screwed it up. But, lo and behold, they turned out like this!

pao de queijo

 

cheesy puffsThey were yum! Mr Eleanor and I decided they would be even better with jalapeno cream cheese and a beer, enjoying Melbourne summer’s very last hurrah out on the deck. And today it’s raining like the ark needs another outing.

 

These will definitely go on the menu for Friday night snacks and beer.

Next time, I think I might try cheddar instead of Parmesan because I think it gets a bit bitter when baked – it will also give me the option to make them truly vegetarian. And I will definitely beat the mix in the food processor to ensure a better texture – some of the balls were hollow and I think that’s cos I didn’t beat it enough. My arms were getting tired!

Gluten free cous cous

I realise that I’m a bit late joining this particular band-wagon but – cauliflower cous cous? Delicious or what???cauliflower

  • Take a cauliflower
  • Blitz it to a crumb in the food processor
  • Stir fry, or steam in the microwave, to cook it
  • Duh nah! Cauliflower cous cous… or rice … whatever you want to call it

Had this pomegranate and chickpea cauli cous cous with barbecued lamb, tzatziki and fresh sweetcorn last night – DELICIOUS! It would also be great just with a little feta crumbled on the top

cauliflower cous cous

It’s gluten free, high in vitamin C and is low GI. It’s a great option for keeping down the calories/carbs at dinner time.

Although I don’t recommend you stay up too late.

You might find you start to get a bit hungry.

And accidentally eat a piece of Christmas cake that you realised was still in the back of the cupboard.

I’m just guessing here …

Mango chutney gets fresh

We always have mango chutney with curry. Is that a British thing? It’s also great with ham and cheese, barbecued lamb and in sandwiches.

The stuff that you buy in the shops is sticky and quite, well, jammy! If you make it yourself it’s incredibly sweet and fresh. Plus it’s a doddle so why wouldn’t you?

mangoes

This is a fresh chutney so won’t store in the pantry. In the fridge, it will keep in sterilised jars for up to a month; otherwise put into small pots and store in the freezer for use over the winter.

In Australia, mango season runs November to April so if you want to make some, you’d better get going!

Gluten free bread or gluten free polystyrene?

A quick update on gf breads in Oz

The Other Bread & Milk

UPDATED

I recently bought a loaf of gluten free bread that was so utterly revolting (like eating crumbly polysterene) that I immediately put the whole thing in the bin. I know! That smarted … a LOT. I should have turned it into breadcrumbs but I was having a tantrum.

Luckily for them I can’t remember which brand it was. But that also means that I might make the same mistake again. So I thought I’d do a quick round up of the gf breads available in Coles and Woolies. I know we all like to think we only shop at local, sustainable farmers’ markets but, admit it, that just ain’t true all of the time. Sometimes you just need to buy a loaf of bread in a hurry.

Coles Simply gluten free bread Coles Simply gluten free bread

There are loads of gf breads on the market these days – these are the main culprits

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Green World

Scouring my vegetarian cook book collection this week I’ve bumped into some of those veggie dishes that once were my favourites. You know the sort: you eat them once a week without fail. And you couldn’t ever imagine not doing so. But they fell by the wayside when new and exciting dishes came along.

A lot like shoes. Or boyfriends.

Green World Cookbook by Rachel Demuth has got a tonne of such gems: green haloumi stir fry, cheddar and squash rissoles, the list goes on and on. But imagine my delight when I realised I had leftover rice in the fridge. And eggs, and smoked cheese. Vedgeree for my lunch? Oh, yes, please.

vedgeree

The recipe calls for an absolutely delicious tomato and papaya chutney but all I had to hand was homemade mango chutney. I also think this would be great with some sprouted lentils.

The author of this book used to run Demuths, a vegetarian restaurant in Bath. She gave it up a few years ago to focus on her cookery school (I will get there one day!) In its place stands a very reasonable substitute in Acorn.

But I miss going to Demuths. So, as a little nod to sentiment, Gourmet Nights will be Demuths for the night – menu to follow 🙂