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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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!

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

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.

Fakin’ filo

On a wheat-free diet there are now very few foods which are just totally irreplaceable. There’s always some means, some kind of flour that will just about pass for whatever cooking need you have. The foods that we’ve been unable to imitate are the ones which rely heavily on the structure that wheat gluten provides.

The one that stands out for me is filo pastry.

Spanokopita …. baklava … samosas … chicken pastilla … strudel …. and any number of food combinations, sweet or savoury, wrapped into a filo cigar. Crispy, buttery goodness. Godammit. I miss filo.

But have you heard of Mountain Bread? It’s an Aussie flatbread, not unlike a sheet of cooked filo. Sort of. Obviously they don’t have quite the pliable nature of uncooked filo – since I found out that there is an entirely spelt* version of the product, that is not going to stop me!

filo veggie tart

Spelt ‘filo’ cheese and vegetable tart

Sometimes you’re gonna spring a leak but as long as you’re careful, it works – here’s how I did it. I’ve also made chicken and mushroom parcels, fruit mince cigars, and a spectactular pear and berry frangipane strudel. Samosas next.

Happy baking!

 

*(I realise this doesn’t help out coeliacs, and for that I am sorry – perhaps one day Mountain Bread will perfect a gluten free formula.)

The biscuit tin needs a refill

I’ve really enjoyed having a tin of homemade Anzac biscuits winking at me from the kitchen this week. As a kid, my mum always had some freshly made delights waiting for us when we got home from school but as I didn’t drink tea or coffee until I was over 30 (I know! And I call myself British!) I never got into the whole ‘tea and biscuits’ scene.

Cake’s good, but there’s something rewarding about the crisp snap of a biscuit, or the way it yields to the warmth of a cuppa.biscotti

So I thought I might make some crisp, versatile biscotti. These are another type of biscuit that were made to travel. Traditional recipes do not call for any butter or oil, thus they are

  • naturally lactose free
  • low fat
  • keep for weeks

If you wanna make them a little more decadent, dip one end in dark chocolate and almond nibs.

There seem to be several techniques to make them, but Paul Hollywood’s method is a cinch – no processor or arm power required, and Martha Stewart’s uses polenta (cornmeal) – and as always I’m drawn to recipes that use ingredients other than wheat.

So this recipe is a combination of the two. Next time I might reduce the amount of sugar, and switch out for some almond meal. And there will be a next time!