Easter Feasting

I know I'm running rather late with this here Easter post, and I apologise for my tardiness dear readers, but honestly... I have good reason for holding off: I ate so much over the long weekend that I think I might still be digesting it all now, almost three weeks on. To call my long weekend 'Easter Feasting' is an understatement. 'Easter Gorging' comes close. 'Easter Food Coma' is perhaps the most appropriate descriptor for my April long weekend, but it doesn't have quite the same ring to it as my happy, rhyming title so feasting it is.

Truth be told, my Easter Feasting began about a week before Jesus' worst-day-ever, with amazing Italian food prepared by my amazing Italian friend (and, I hope, future contributor to this here blog) Luisa. In just four days Luisa managed to revolutionise the way that I make passata (love, you will be pleased to know that the tomato paste has been ceremoniously thrown away!) she blew my mind with fresh piadina, and endeared herself to my housemates with her simply wonderful home made gnocchi. I promise to beg her for recipes some time soon, but in the meantime photographs must suffice:

Frankly I'm surprised that my gnocchi lasted long enough for me to snap a photo. It really was delicious. ("Pillowy" is an adjective that I've heard thrown around in the Masterchef kitchen this year. Well, these babies were so pillowy they almost made me cry with food-delight.) After a weekend of Italian bliss, the crazy non-stop eating more or less continued all week and into the long weekend. Here are just a few of the highlights:

Hot buttery porridge, breakfast on Good friday

Jamie's steak & guinness pie, dinner Saturday night

To my mind, Easter has always been about food and family. Aside from being vaguely terrified by the bloody three-day-death of Jesus that I learnt about in school, religion has never really entered into my festivities. This year, I broke with Easter tradition in more ways than one. Not only did I ignore my local church in favour of the kitchen, but I also challenged myself with a completely unfamiliar recipe- Rabbit Pot Roast. I'd be lying if I didn't receive a few disgusted looks when my rabbit idea was suggested, and as I watched my favourite Queen Vic butcher section the bunny that was to be my meal I came close to baulking myself, but I'm glad I didn't. While far from perfect, the rabbit was tasty indeed. For those of you who would like to feast on something a little unusual, I share the recipe here.

Rabbit Pot Roast
Adapted from some recipe in some book that I can no longer remember nor locate...

What You Will Need

-A Rabbit, cut into six pieces (hind legs, front legs and mid-section split in two - ask your butcher to do this for you. Also ask him to remove the kidneys, something which I neglected to mention. Be warned: removing them was positively horrid)
- 4 large carrots, sliced into chunks
- 1 large brown onion, roughly sliced up
- 200g pine nuts
- Butter - lots of butter
- 1 bunch lemon thyme
- 1 litre of good quality chicken or vegetable stock
- White wine, for cookin' and drinkin'
- Polenta, and more fresh thyme to serve.

What You Will Need To Do

- First, heat a very large oven proof pot over a medium heat. Preheat your oven to around 200c. Melt a generous tablespoon of butter and simmer until it begins to brown, then add the pine nuts, brown those too, and remove the lot and set aside.
- Heat a little more butter, brown the onion, and then carefully seal each section of rabbit - it will begin to look like cooked chicken. Once this is done, lower the heat and pour over a cup of white wine.
- Once the wine has all but cooked off, throw in carrots, two handfuls of lemon thyme, the pine nuts, and finally pour over the stock. Cover your pot and roast in the oven for around thirty minutes.
- While your rabbit is cooking, prepare polenta as per packet instructions. I suggest substituting some of the required water for stock, it just adds a little more flavour.
- Once the rabbit is done, serve over a bed of soft polenta with plenty of fresh thyme on top. Lovely.

M rabbit was enjoyed by all, and it's certainly not as gamy as I was led to believe it would be. Quite the unusual Easter Sunday, don't you think?

Everyday is a party in my tummy

Oh. My. Word. Best show ever? This actually makes me want to have kids. So we can watch this together, eat green beans, and then dance.

I don't even like green beans. Or kids.


Dear Weekend

We had some good times, didn't we? I'm sorry that it ended so soon. But I will always think fondly of our time together.

Like the Farmer’s Market’s (or…Farkets) on Saturday morning. Buying purple mystery turnips and visiting the Mushroom Man from Mittagong. Discovering that there are still delicious, ripe plums being sold. Perusing the amusingly shaped pumpkins. Buying 3.4 kilos of fruit. And having eaten most of it already.

Finally seeing The Last Unicorn. And it exceeded expectations. From Mummy Fortuna and the three breasted harpy, to the soundtrack by America, to the way it always felt like it was just on the verge of becoming Jem and the Holograms. Prettiest. Unicorn. Ever. Working on my minestrone recipe. Although the barley and the pasta turned out nicely, sadly it was not to be a good batch. Slightly overcooked green beans. Slightly undercooked cabbage. Forgetting to add tomatoes. Weekend, it was just not meant to be.

This apple tart however, was a triumph. Despite making a very sticky pastry dough, and not refrigerating it for long enough, it pulled through, all flaky and buttery and delicious. Recipe and photo from Smitten Kitchen.

Listening to Heartland by the former Mr Final Fantasy, Owen Pallett. It's wonderful - dark and earnest, dense with sound and story. Listen to these tracks here, and buy it here.
Oh Weekend, I miss you already.

I'm Still Blushing...

Several excellent things happened tonight: The first episode of Masterchef Season Two aired on channel ten. I was treated to the sight of ten failed pavlovas (delicious and disastrous!) being torn apart on national television. A sixty seven year old Austrian lady confused pork and lamb in her first attempt at a Masterchef challenge (if SHE can win a spot in the top fifty, so can I!) Also, this:


That's right kids, Matt Preston tweeted me. I know, I know... it's a little weird that I know his cravats by name... and I know he's not exactly Alexander Skarsgard, but he's smart, smartly dressed, and oddly alluring, amiright? I love him and his weird fetish for an archaic men's fashion item. He tweeted me, people. I will die a happy Fangirl.


Working full time often brings the full time work blues with it. I find this manifests in several different ways. An unhealthy attachment to the stationary catalogue. Borderline abusive relationships with excel spreadsheets. And occasionally hypothesising a new pokemon based on office supplies.

I've found several ways to combat the crazy. The first is pretending I work on a film set and dressing appropriately. Today I am a secretary in the 50's. Tomorrow, I will be a secretary in the 80's. Next week? I will be an administrative assistant from the future.

The other - making everyone hella jealous of your packed lunch. You know what works every time? Toasting your homemade bread in the staff kitchen. Nothing smells better.

Remember when I told you to go out and make bread? If you didn't you should really try this recipe. A method to save you from the mid-week malaise is at hand. Slightly adapted from this marvelous recipe.

For this recipe you

Do not need to knead anything
Do not need a bread maker
Do need to be able to leave this sucker overnight. It takes about two minutes to mix, 12 - 18 hours to rise, two minutes to mix again, and another hour or so to rise for a second time. Planning is sometimes required!

What you will need
  • 3 cups baker's flour.
Baker's flour is not ordinary plain flour, and it is not breadmaker mix. It will be marked as "baker's" or "strong" or for bread and pizza dough. There should be some at your local supermarket or health food store. Don't get anything with yeast already added!
  • 1 cup wholemeal flour
  • 1/8 tsp instant yeast
Not interchangeable with "active" yeast. Instant yeast you can add to the dry mix, active you have to add to water and let froth. We're going for super easy instant here.
  • 2 cups lukewarm water
  • 2 tbsp white or caster sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tbs vegetable oil, or 3 tbs melted butter, plus a bit extra.

What you will need to do:

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. The dough is going to double in size, so make sure it's large enough.

If you're me, you probably think 1/8 of a tsp of yeast isn't enough and add a bit more just to make sure things happen. Control yourselves! 1/8 is plenty, I promise.

Add the oil or melted butter to the lukewarm water, just to make things a bit easier, and then mix the wet ingredients with the dry. There's no art here, just whack them all together, make sure all the dry stuff gets wet.

Drizzle a bit of oil or butter over the top of the mix, spread to cover. This is to make sure the surface doesn't dry out while the dough is rising.

Cover with clingwrap and leave for 12 - 18 hours. Make sure you don't leave it somewhere too cold or too hot. I leave it in the laundry in summer and the kitchen in winter.

12 - 18 hours later it should have risen. Deflate by stirring well with a wooden spoon.

Grease a loaf tin, and turn the dough out into it. Make sure it's relatively evenly distributed, not just sitting in a lump in the middle. This will take some scientific pushing and prodding.

Dust the top with a bit of flour. Leave in a warmish place to rise again.

When the dough has risen to about 1/4 inch above the loaf tin (probably a minimum 40 minutes, and definitely a maximum 2 hours before it starts to look like the blob), preheat your oven to 200 degrees celsius.

Put the tin in carefully - we don't want it to deflate this time.

Bake for about 35 - 50 minutes, or until it is browned and crisp on the outside. People say you can tell bread is done if you knock on it and it sounds hollow. This has never, ever worked for me. It should definitely be crisp enough for you to knock on it though, and then feel free to disregard whatever noise it makes.

This is the really hard part: let it cool. Don't cut into this baby for at least 3 or 4 hours.

And then? Then you get to go to town. Or work! And make that hole-punching pokemon jealous. It's especially good toasted with soup or stew. Or pasta sauce, or curry. Or pretty much anything! Enjoy while listening to the following workaday ditties:

Frankly Mr Shankly - The Smiths
Expectations - Belle and Sebastian
Middle of the Road Class War - G.A. Richards and the Dark Satanic Mills Bros.

Vietbodia, Pt 1: Ho Chi Minh City

When people ask me about my South East Asia trip I usually say, “It was really good. When it wasn’t hilariously bad.” It was pretty much the tagline of our whole adventure. Between the scams (which ranged from harmless price hiking from cheerful coconut vendors, to outright credit card fraud) and the food (from amazing seven course meals to poisonous salad sandwiches), we managed to experience the highs, lows and everything in between.

To start with the bad? I didn’t get my passport back in time from the Vietnamese Embassy and couldn’t fly out with the other girls. A last minute Thai Airways flight, and a very kind father, meant that I met them three days late in Ho Chi Minh City.

It certainly was a surreal way to start the trip. 6 hours on my own in Melbourne Airport, followed by an overnight flight in which I dreamt that I was on an overnight flight. Except that we were all in fancy dress, and I won a prize. I was dressed as sleeping beauty. I made friends with the middle aged lady sitting next to me: “Did you have a good rest?” she asked when I woke up. I said yes, and apologised if I'd been snoring.“Oh not at all!” she said smiled kindly, “I think you had a good sleep.” I began to think of her as Aeroplane Mum after that. She and her husband were travelling to India.

Bangkok airport. The first shop I see is selling life size porceline dogs in bonnets. 10 kilometres of high end shops follow. Areoplane Mum and I keep running into each other on the way to our next gate. “Isn’t it all so fancy!” she says.

One more flight, passing wordlessly through militaristic airport security, and finally, finally, I meet up with my girls in Ho Chi Minh City. In the taxi from the airport the city seemed huge and nonsensical. The traffic was extraordinary; crossing the street was like stepping into a river.

Our hostel was tucked down an alley that reminded me of Melbourne; tiny shopfronts, bicycles, balcony gardens. It was also five metres away from the cheapest, and best, Indian food I’ve ever eaten, and fifteen metres away from an amazing french bakery.

Yes, that is a dragon and a horse in the background. My first great Vietnam food monent - and the first meal I ate in Vietnam - was pond week. Pond weed, or Morning Glory, or Water Spinach, Ong Choy, Kangkung, Pak Boong, as it's variously known, fried with garlic and served with sticky rice. Absolutely delicious. I got more than halfway through before I remembered to take a photo.

It inspired me to go searching through my local asian grocers to see if I could find any. Happily, I live just across the road from the Dickson shops in Canberra, home to at least 7 asian grocers, two of which are Vietnamese. I went and got promptly distracted by herbs and rice paper. So today I have a fresh rice paper roll recipe for you, and a promise to keep you updated on the search for Morning Glory.

Rice Paper Rolls

These guys are seriously easy, healthy and delicious. This is a very basic recipe; feel free to play around with fillings, sauces, marinades - try them with some prawns and avocado, maybe! There's no limit, just think of them like sandwiches.

What You Will Need

A lovely Asian Grocer with a good selection of fresh greens.

Vermicelli Noodles
Your favourite firm tofu - I love Soyco's Japanese Tofu.
Rice paper
Sesame oil
Vietnamese Mint

What you need to do:

Julienne the vegetables and the tofu to the length of the radius of the rice paper
Soak the vermicelli, drain, and toss in about a tsp of sesame oil
Soak a rice paper sheet
Lay on a clean tea towel
Place noodles, vegetables, tofu and mint in a row closer to one side than the middle

Fold over the right side; than the top and bottom; and then roll to close. The rice paper will adhere to itself.

Serve with soy sauce, sweet chili sauce, or any manner of dipping sauce. I like peanut soy, which is roughly: some peanut butter, half as much soy sauce, a squeeze of lime, a shake of chili seeds, a tsp grated fresh ginger, and a couple of minced garlic cloves.

An easy, delicious, and healthy dinner. Or, pack some for lunch, and enjoy the envy of your co-workers. Goodness, all that and I'm only one day in. More of Vietbodia to come...