Monthly Archives

February 2014

Getting to know Mussels

February 28, 2014

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I didn’t always love mussels.

Early on in my eating career I made a few half-hearted attempts to enjoy these shelled wonders. But it was a fruitless pursuit, as I continued to ignore seafood pasta in favour of ragus or pesto.

It wasn’t until travelling Italy with Ben on our 7 month world adventure that I realised how incredibly delicious a plate of fresh mussels could be. Though on a backpacking budget, anything tastes delicious (and free bread at restaurants is a saviour). Nevertheless, I believe it was the skilled hands of Italian seafood chefs who taught me how divine fresh mussels and clams can be. Whether decorating strands of pasta or piled in a bowl alongside a hunk of bread, I now swoon for bivalve beauties.

In line with my desire to get to know my food, and consuming and eating mindfully and thoughtfully, I’ve been making an effort to consciously select where my seafood comes from. Boy, is this a learning process. I still have a long way to go and am relying on tips from others who know more than me, so please do leave comments if you have suggestions on buying sustainable seafood. I’m hungry for knowledge.

The Sustainable Seafood app on my iPhone has been serving me well as a reference on the best types of fish and canned tuna to purchase. This app has taught me to avoid flake if buying fish and chips due to overfishing of shark meat, to really cut down my purchase of canned yellowfin tuna even if it is incredibly delicious (see this guide for more information), and to look for more wild Australian salmon when purchasing fresh fish. You can always ask your fishmonger about their practices (and favour pole and line fishing methods), to help guide your selection ( just one of the many benefits from shopping at smaller specialty stores). This guide gives you some great quick tips on sustainable seafood and is worth a look.

And if you can do one better, visit the fisherman himself! That’s what we get to do when buying Harry’s Mussels in Flinders.

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How spoilt are we? These babies are outrageously good, they’re big and sweet and such a bargain at $10 a kg. And they’re a sustainable seafood choice. Mussels are filter feeders, meaning they rely on particles in the water for their food, and in consuming these nutrients they essentially clean the water. They’re also a good source of selenium, zinc and protein, amongst other nutrients. During the Summer months and up until June, Michael Harris is parked on weekends and public holidays at Flinders pier on the Mornington Peninsula, selling his locally farmed goodies (this article gives you some more details on Mr Harris, along with tips on cooking mussels). We’re just mad for them in our house.

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My favourite way to enjoy mussels is with spaghetti, a simple assembly of garlic and parsley relying on starchy pasta cooking water to bring it all together in a silky sauce. Yes, this dish is a throw back to our days of slurping al dente strands in Vernazza and Ortigia and knowing quite certainly that there is nothing better in life. Because there isn’t.

Here is our favourite version, which we enjoyed Tuesday for lunch for our 2 year Wedding anniversary. What a sweet day that was. I love our spaghetti-filled life… Mussels are just the icing on the cake.

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Spaghetti con le Cozze

Inspired by Silvia Colloca’s Spaghetti alle Vongole (her method is fabulous)

Serves 2

Ingredients
700g fresh, live Mussels, cleaned and debearded
200g Spaghetti (dried works best in this dish)
2 tablespoons Olive oil
1 clove Garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 a Red Chilli, finely chopped (seeds removed if you don’t like heat)
2 handfuls fresh Flat Leaf Parsley leaves, roughly chopped
3 Parsley Stalks, chopped
1/4 cup Dry White Wine
1 cup Starchy Pasta Cooking Water (you won’t use it all but do reserve 1 cup before draining your spaghetti)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil, freshly cracked Black Pepper and a squeeze of fresh Lemon Juice are optional extras when serving

Method
1. Boil heavily salted water in a large pot. Cook your spaghetti until it is 3/4 cooked (as Silvia instructs) – it is best to err on the side of undercooked, as the al dente texture of the pasta in this dish is paramount to it’s success (overcooked pasta is just so sad). Reserve 1 cup starchy pasta cooking water before draining.
2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large fry pan over medium heat. When hot, add the garlic, chilli and parsley stalks and cook for ~30 seconds before adding the white wine and letting the alcohol evaporate.
3. Add the mussels and half of the parsley leaves to the fry pan. Cover with a lid and allow to cook for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes, lift the lid and check to see if any mussels are slightly open. Remove any open mussels into a bowl and put the lid back on, checking every minute and removing the open mussels until all are out of the pan and in the bowl.
4. Once the mussels are open and removed, add the 3/4 cooked pasta to the fry pan along with a good dash of the starchy cooking water (which will help create a silky sauce) and allow the pasta to cook for a minute or so until almost al dente but still not quite ready (adding more pasta cooking water as required. The amount you use will depend on how much juice the mussels give, you don’t want it soupy, but the pan should not be dry).
5. When you’re one minute away from perfectly al dente pasta, add the mussels back to the pan with the remaining parsley and toss everything together (again, adding more pasta cooking water if required). Taste and add a little sea salt if required (as the mussel liquid is salty, it may not be necessary)
6. Serve in generous bowls, topped with a extras if desired such as a drizzle of extra virign olive oil, freshly cracked black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Heidi xo

 

Cacao Fudge Bites

February 26, 2014

When I was young I would go mad for the fudge stalls at markets. You know, those cute stands selling row upon row of  colourful, buttery sugar slabs with generous amounts of toothpick-able samples. I’d always go for the Baileys flavour and feel like a total adult/rebel.

Ahhh childhood…those sweet, innocent days when I could eat a block of fudge and not feel ill. I must have been superhuman (maybe it was the Baileys?), because these days the thought of traditional fudge makes me feel sick. I’ve officially become one of those boring, old people who find certain foods too rich (chocolate self-saucing pudding does not count).

Recently I’ve been experimenting with fudge using raw cacao, the nutrient-rich powder I find to be particularly delicious and energising, and I’ve been terribly pleased with the results. These fast fudgey bites provide a decadent afternoon pick-me-up should I need one and Ben is mad for them.

Yesterday was our two year wedding anniversary. Two years since I vowed to watch more Van Damme movies. Two years since he sung My Girl to me in front of all our people. Two years since we said “salute!”  with Dad’s homemade limoncello. As my husband adores all things mint (it’s choc-mint flavoured choc-tops all the way for him), I thought I would make a peppermint pattie-style fudge bite for our afternoon treat. Predictably, he found them to be outrageously delicious. I hope you do too.

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Cacao Fudge Bites

Makes 4-8 serves, depending on the size of your little petit four cups

Ingredients
3 tablespoons Cold-Pressed Coconut Oil, melted in a pan until liquid
1/3 cup (heaped) Raw Cacao Powder
1/2 tablespoon Raw Honey
A small pinch of Sea Salt (a little goes a long way here)
1 teaspoon Peppermint or Vanilla Extract (more than this encourages a very prominent flavour, taste after 1 and add more as desired)

Method
1. If your coconut oil is cold and solid, melt it in a small pan over low heat until liquid, then place it in a small mixing bowl.
2. Add the cacao, honey, sea salt and extract and stir well to combine. Taste and adjust flavouring as desired.
3. Using a teaspoon, scoop the mixture into petit four cups, then place in the freezer until firm (it only takes ~10 minutes).

Heidi xo

PS. sorry there’s no Wednesday Breakfast Club post today, I’m up in the city for a bite. I hope you’re all having a splendid morning meal. Let me know what you’re having!

Bruny Island, Tasmania

February 24, 2014

After our visit to the Huon Valley, we packed onto a ferry and headed to Bruny Island. My second article for Tourism Tasmania‘s “Go Behind the Scenery” campaign focused on this quiet corner of Tasmania.

Bruny Island is unpretentious, despite being abundantly wealthy in Australian wildlife and history and seafood… Here we discovered incredible oysters and meditated amongst the moss and trees. We did some ardent cheese research, spoke with a few seals and left dreaming of fish soup. And I want to do it all again…

Day 1

Holidays are for relinquishing routine and making it your full-time job to delight in all the things you fancy. Before leaving the Huon Valley and heading to Bruny Island on our Tasmanian getaway, my husband and I thought it most appropriate to delight in croissants and coffee in our cozy bed at Woodbridge Hill Hideaway. The perfect way to start your day, don’t you think?

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The fact that one must catch a ferry to reach Bruny Island is both charming and paramount to keeping the Island special, untamed and uncluttered. Venture across the D’Entrecasteaux Channel and you begin to feel like you’re in a whole new world, an old world. There’s space here, space to breathe and wander and swim and snooze, all without seeing another soul. Well, you might come across a wallaby.

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My husband and I spent three glorious days on Bruny Island. And despite the spacious landscape there are many great spots to tour. Beyond the nature walks and swimming spots, which you may correctly assume are stunning, there’s an abundance of foodie destinations. Just down the road from the ferry terminal is Bruny Island Smokehouse, where you can taste creative, award-winning spreads, chutneys and smoked fish. I suggest you stock up on goods here for a picnic or eat in and enjoy a platter with a view.

We purposefully got lost on the way to our next destination and in doing so stumbled across some bees and their keepers from Tasiliquid Gold honey, as well as some hidden rocky coves. I encourage you to get lost once in a while, you’ll never know what gems you might find.

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The dedicated cheese master and team at Bruny Island Cheese churn out divine cheese to sample and purchase, as well as Leatherwood honey ice-cream, breads and preserves. My particular favourite was the raw milk C2 cheese, though we enjoyed debating this at leisure over our delicious platter. A word of warning, you might also like to share one of their super delicious woodfired sourdough pizzas. Trust me, if you see a neighbouring table receive theirs without ordering one yourself you’ll instinctively lunge at them to claim your pizza territory and things will end badly. Nobody likes a fight in a cheesery.

Full of calcium, we headed for a hike at Mount Mangana and had ourselves the most peaceful and invigorating afternoon, treading and talking amongst the leaves and moss.

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Afterwards we headed to Alonnah and checked into Kestrel Studio, a modern, self-contained cottage. Abiding by the holiday loafing law, we spent the evening lazing on the deck drinking Tasmanian cider. Though we did manage to muster the energy to assemble a meal with goodies collected over the course of our travels, including Bruny Island Smokehouse pomegranate quail. Mid-way through dinner on the deck overlooking Daniel’s Bay, I turned to my husband and proclaimed that I wouldn’t be mad if the ferry workers took a break for a week. He agreed. We were quite happy on Bruny Island, thanks.

Day 2

The next day we woke with the sun for a morning date with a couple of oysters.

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Get Shucked is a Bruny Island business run young entrepreneur, Joe Bennett and his partner, Nicole. In the ten years since purchase, their oyster farm has grown from a humble roadside caravan to a thriving wholesale business. The newly opened oyster bar gives everyday folk the opportunity to taste their farm fresh oysters natural and dressed (or in wontons!). These guys are passionate about encouraging Australians to eat oysters, good oysters, and boy are these babies good. My husband and I felt very lucky to have the chance to participate in the morning oyster farming rounds for a sneak peek into the world of Get Shucked. Tasting oysters straight from the ocean was shucking unreal. We were “living the dream”, as Joe says.

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Our next stop was the Bruny Island Berry Farm, to pick some little beauties for snacking. I grew up with berry-stained fingers from our bush at home, so was tickled pink by their 13 different varieties. Though we couldn’t stay long on this raspberry-jam packed day – we were off on a Bruny Island Cruise!

What a fun way to spend a day, zooming around the bay, greeting cheeky seals and speedy dolphins and marveling at the phenomenal rock faces and caves, the colours and contours of which were overwhelmingly beautiful. I am thankful this corner of Tasmania is protected and celebrated. During the cruise our guides gave fascinating insights into the history and science of these natural wonders. They also handed out ginger tablets to keep nausea at bay and ended with celebratory Tim Tams. Bravo boys, we had a ball on our Bruny Island Cruise.

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All that boating excitement left us ravenous. The Hothouse Café was the perfect spot for lunch, satisfying our keen craving for vegetables and giving us the chance to linger on their picturesque lawn. The owners were warm and attentive, prioritising good service and homegrown produce. We adored our picnic platter with herb damper, and their fish soup was perfection in a bowl. They also serve eggs, killer banana bread and good coffee at breakfast, and are super popular come scone o’clock.

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Dinner was at Hotel Bruny. The cheerful and hardworking owner of this much-loved pub, has created an ace spot where diners can feast on local produce while taking in the view of the great bay. What sets these Tasmanian pubs apart is the opportunity for their chefs to play with supremely fresh, local produce. I mean, where else can you get a chicken parmigiana made from local free-range chicken and Bruny Island cheese? I’m so pleased to see how popular this pub is, to know the patrons are not only having a lovely meal and getting a real taste of Bruny Island, but that they’re also supporting local producers. That’s something to toast your glass of Tasmanian wine to. Cheers!

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Day 3

Not wanting to miss out on another beautiful Bruny morning, we woke early and headed to the northern tip of the island, Dennes Point. Strolling the pier and cove, chatting with a flock of local birds and playing ‘which holiday house would you buy? was a lovely way to ease into our last day on the island.

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Come 10 o’clock when the Jetty Café and General Store opened, we devoured a delicious breakfast of kale and tarragon pancakes with a fried egg, bacon, preserved lemon and dukkah. This café has a small menu but outstanding options, skillfully crafted with beautiful local produce. The prune and brandy brownie, which I begrudgingly shared with my husband, had me swooning. I am going on the record here to say that this is why chocolate wins the dessert game. Because of food like that brownie.

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If you only have time for one activity on Bruny Island, make sure you get out of your car and walk or climb stairs and hike to a high point and gaze at the mountains and water before you leave. Feel like an explorer and savour that moment, take it with you when you leave. You’ll find stellar views at both The Neck and Cape Bruny Lighthouse. Then, if you’re lucky and blessed with loud sunshine or if you’re ballsy and don’t care, go for a swim. Get dunked by waves and celebrate the fact that you’re here, in the ocean, at the very edge of the world. It’s a special place, Bruny Island.

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Dinner on our last night on Bruny was a celebration of Tasmanian produce. We baked Bruny Island ‘Otto’ cheese (wrapped in prosciutto) and served it with roadside plucked asparagus and nectarines grilled to sweetness, alongside a pile of toasted Summer Kitchen Bakery Bread from Ranelagh in the Huon Valley and washed down with Bruny Island wine, amid frequent sighs of appreciation. It was a meal replete with local flavour, the perfect way to celebrate our visit to this abundant region of Tasmania.

Holidays are for indulging, restoring your reserves and exploring the land before you. Tasmania ticks all those boxes and then passes you a cider.

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Recipe: Bruny Island Produce Platter.

Bake your Bruny Island ‘Otto’ cheese (or alternatively find a nice soft, fudgy, pungent cheese and wrap it in prosciutto yourself) in a hot 200 degrees Celsius oven until oozing and bubbling (about 20 minutes). Meanwhile cook thin slices of nectarine in a bit of butter in a non-stick pan until golden and caramelised. Steam or grill your asparagus spears and toast thin slices of bread then plate it all up and dive in. Olives, fresh tomato, caramelized onions and Bruny Island Smokehouse hot smoked salmon would be splendid accompaniments.

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Bruny Island

What we sawMount Mangana (a fantastic hiking trail, 1.5 hrs and 571m elevation), Seals, dolphins, rocks & flora with Bruny Island Cruises, The Neck, Cape Bruny Lighthouse
Where we stayedKestrel Studio (a modern, self-contained cottage with a large private deck)
Where we ateBruny Island Smokehouse (fish chowder and pomegranate smoked quail), Bruny Island Cheese (cheese platter, including my favourite raw milk C2 cheese, and woodfired sourdough pizza), Get Shucked (fresh oysters with a mix of dressings, although their wontons are apparently brilliant too!), Bruny Island Berry Farm (freshly picked raspberries, blueberries and other delights), Hothouse Café (a picnic platter of local produce including cheese and smoke salmon with herb damper, fish soup, banana bread and a good old BLT), Hotel Bruny (local oysters kilpatrick, chicken parmigiana made from Nichols Free Range Tasmanian chicken and Bruny Island cheese, and lamb cooked in local ale with smashed pink eyes), Jetty Café and General Store (a delicious breakfast of kale and tarragon pancakes with a fried egg, bacon, preserved lemon and dukkah, and a homemade chocolate brownie).

Heidi xo

 

 

Huon Valley, Tasmania

February 21, 2014

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Last month I travelled to the Huon Valley and Bruny Island to discover and eat and write for Tourism Tasmania. It was such a pleasure. Dancing across South Eastern Tasmania, cider in hand and lungs full of fresh air, Ben and I had an absolute blast.

You can find my articles (one and two) on the Discover Tasmania website, as part of the “Go Behind The Scenery” campaign. These articles are a trip snapshot with recommendations for where to eat, visit and stay in the region. Some places were encouraged by the wonderful Tourism Tasmania team, quite a few from locals of the region, others from my own research and a number stumbled upon as we journeyed… It’s not hard to do, discovering your own tasty Tasmanian tale.

I’ll share more of my trip to Bruny Island in a future post. For now, let me pour you a cider and we’ll head to the Huon Valley.

Day 1

There’s a feeling you get when you step onto Tasmanian soil, disembarking from The Spirit or onto the tarmac. It’s a feeling of achievable serenity. You’ve arrived in a not so far away land that feels entirely far away. You’ve escaped, you’re here, and you’re going to have an incredible time.

My husband and I spent four nights in the Huon Valley, meandering over hills dotted with cows and sheep, having the merriest, cider-charged time. Driving from Hobart through the undulating valley was a pleasure. Within 30 minutes we were at the Huon Valley market admiring handcrafted capes, sampling vegan carrot cupcakes and deciding what homemade pie to purchase. We went with chicken curry, followed by a darling, Summer-sweet apricot bite. A German spiced apple cake also found its way to our table…

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Just down the road from the market we found The Cat’s Tongue Chocolatiers. How many spots encourage you to grab a stool and marvel at rows of delicately crafted chocolates while slurping down a delicious order of ‘Jewish Penicillin’, chicken soup with matzo balls? We chatted with the treat technician and all-round cheery guy, about his chocolates, their subtleties and balance of sweetness. Open only by appointment during the week, visit their café on weekends for all the smoked salmon with caper mayonnaise buns and hot chocolate you desire. The real decision is which cocoa delight you will purchase to take home? The limoncello truffle, the nougat or the peanut butter log? The correct answer is all of the above, plus the salted caramel.

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On we drove to Franklin, a small town on the Huon River known for their boat-building prowess. My eyes darted to Village Antiques of Franklin, located over the road from The Wooden Boat Centre. Here I wandered the rooms filled with olden-day gems and pondered the lives of the people who once owned them. Tempted by an antique school desk, though with neither the need nor the means to get it home, I left with two ornate plates and called it a day.

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Stopping for fruit at Franklin’s roadside stalls for farm fresh produce is a must. The smell and flavour of a perfectly ripe nectarine is something magical.

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On the road to Woodbridge Hill Hideaway I took advantage of the lush display around us and lost myself in the green, debating my favourite shade. The Tasmanian countryside is ever generous in its green decoration. From the soft, yellowing, sun-kissed, whispy grass to the deep, almost dirty greens adorning the tree tops. And of course the vibrancy of the paddocks after rainfall. You can breathe the green into your lungs and, even after one day in this land, feel revitalised. Though you’re going to want to linger in the Huon Valley for more than one day, especially when staying at Woodbridge Hill Hideaway…

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These self-contained cabins are soul-nurturing and indulgent. If you can get past the gasp-inducing view of Bruny Island and appreciate the stunning spa bath, kitchen, fireplace and reclining couch, you’ll find yourself so at peace you might never want to leave. Well, maybe just to sneak out for fish and chips from Bugsy’s Takeaway in nearby Margate…

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Day 2

On day two of our visit to the Huon Valley I awoke to the smell of Boks Bacon sizzling on the stove, which promptly went down in my notebook as my preferred wake-up call. We enjoyed breakfast on our balcony at Woodbridge Hill Hideaway, with a cup of Nespresso coffee and a good yarn with a friendly local bird, followed by a wander around the property.

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The first thing you see when driving into Huon from Hobart is The Apple Shed, a refurbished barn deliciously devoted to the humble fruit, which has for years been the livelihood of the region.

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In recent times, Tasmanian apple orchardists have started making cider from their surplus fruit. Willie Smiths is Australia’s largest organic apple orchard. This family-run business has been growing apples in the Huon Valley since 1888 and now, along with their cider, they’ve created The Apple Shed, where visitors can learn the history of apple growing in the Huon Valley. There is, of course, Willie Smith’s Organic Apple Cider on tap to welcome you and your palate to the Huon Valley in the most spectacular fashion. Take your glass, sit in the outdoor area and relax for an afternoon. If you’re lucky you can snag a slice of the most scrumptious homemade apple pie you’re sure to ever find. There are also beautiful local cheese and meat boards to swoon over and cakes to delight.

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But let’s get back to the cider…

Willie Smith’s Organic Apple Cider is crafted in the traditional European style. It’s cloudy and only lightly carbonated. I’m not one to throw around tasting notes or use words such as ‘tannins’ with any real understanding of what they mean, but I am able to articulate some thoughts on Willie Smith’s cider. The head cider maker, has done a fantastic job in creating a brew that tastes the way apple cider should, only slightly and nicely sweet. It’s apple truth. My husband is now justifying regular glasses of this ‘adult apple juice’ because it’s organic and surely good for you. Well, it’s hard to argue after taking a sip of Willie Smith’s.

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Next on our food-touring list was Grandvewe Farm and Cheesery, where we sampled some of their famous sheep cheese. Do try the blue cheese at Grandvewe, it’s sure to convince any non-blue lover. And the Pinot paste? Divine. We left with two packs, as well as a wedge of manchego-style cheese and a newfound respect for mothers (and I don’t just mean sheep) after viewing the milking demonstration.

We also stopped by Meredith’s Orchard for fabulous local produce, including this award winning spelt flour, which I am itching to bake with.

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Oyster Cove Inn in Kettering has everything you could want in a pub, plus a side of local Tasmanian scallops. We had a great chat with the cheerful and helpful owner, and happily followed his recommendations for food, wine and local touring. Their fresh menu is sure to please, as our scallops and salmon did. This is good pub grub, pleasantly elevated in class by both the use of quality, local produce and a skilled, creative chef. The view of Oyster Cove doesn’t hurt, either.

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Day 3

Our third day in the Huon Valley began with a hike at Mount Misery Habitat Reserve. We chose a moderate, hour-long walk in the rainforest and found it to be completely restorative. It was grounding too, stepping outside of our bubble and for a short while listening only to the land and the tales of the trees.

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Lunch was at Home Hill Winery. World famous for their Pinot Noir, this vineyard, cellar door and restaurant is a sleek slice of heaven. We met the owner for a chat about the space, their fantastic wine and our superb lunch, which started with warm sourdough and local oysters with cuvée sorbet, then melted into confit duck with blackberry jus and truffle butter-kissed steak. Did I mention the goose fat potatoes? Forgive me, they certainly happened. It was all lovely and refined, yet relaxing.

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As the designated driver on this Pinot Noir scented day, I drove onward to meet the Franklin local working to renovate the old church hall (where she did Sunday school and recitals as a kid) into a museum celebrating Lady Franklin and a cellar door and café for visitors to enjoy Frank’s Cider. The mix of historical tales, old churches and family-run cider from local apples makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. And I’m certain that’s due to a blend of equal parts nostalgia and cider.

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Frank’s use golden delicious apples, left on the tree at their Franklin farm until they are exquisitely ripe; this is what makes Frank’s cider so special. They also brew pear cider and a cherry pear blend, which is quite unique and different from Pagan Cider’s cherry apple blend up the road. Both these modern style brewers are creating a fantastic product. Our loot of Franklin and Pagan ciders, intended as gifts, are now chilling in our fridge for our own enjoyment. If you’ve tasted their cider you will understand our cider selfishness.

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Dinner was at The Cove Kettering, where we were welcomed by the owners, a genuinely lovely couple who have been completely hands on in the creation of this gem. From falling in love with the stunning marina view and sourcing the property, to designing and building the structure (which includes three guest suites), to now catering to visitors eager to explore the Huon Valley and beyond. It’s no surprise people keep coming back to stay at The Cove Kettering. Along with handmade chocolate truffles, guests receive breakfast made from local produce and have the option of dining in. Oh, please choose to have dinner at the suites in the relaxing lounge. We are still dreaming of the slow-cooked pork and crackling with the Asian salad. Excuse me while I run off to make a booking. I’m thinking September…

Day 4

Our final day in the Huon Valley was a colourful one, starting with wholesome pies at Summer Kitchen Organic Bakery. These friendly folk use organic and wholemeal flours in their sourdough breads and pie crusts, appreciating the value of nutritious food, crafting it with love and then sprinkling it with pumpkin seeds.

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Next stop was the Cygnet Folk Festival, the annual event drawing talented folk performers from all over the globe. We met with the committee’s president for a chat before getting lost in the happy, relaxed, tie-dye clad crowd. Hours later I emerged with a feather braided into my hair and a cup of soy chai in my hand, while my husband had bought three organic goat milk soaps and hugged a hippy masseuse. We had a swell time. A highlight was sitting in the Town Hall listening to The London Kelzmer Quartet and their Eastern European tunes. It was at this point we realized that we might just be folk festival people after all.

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Upon encouragement from Huon Valley locals we visited The Lotus Eaters Café for lunch, and soon appreciated what all the fuss was about. These ladies serve scrumptious, healthy, soul-fulfilling food. We got our vegetable curries and coffees to go, as well as the most divine rugalech pastry swirled with Tasmanian walnuts and sultanas. I am contemplating returning to the Huon Valley solely for the purpose of buying 10 more of their rugalech.

After dancing under the Cygnet sun to Maharaja’s Choice, we were in the mood for some luxurious indulgence. Luckily we were due to check into Villa Howden. I was sold as soon as I laid eyes upon this Tuscan-style castle. The glass of bubbly upon arrival kind of sealed the deal, too. Villa Howden’s lovely staff can advise should you wish to stroll along the beach at nearby Tinderbox, however I would not judge if you chose to hibernate in their stunning rooms or laze on a day bed in the lounge with a magazine and another glass of bubbly (hey, it’s your holiday!).

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The restaurant at Villa Howden excels in terms of both food quality and menu creativity, not to mention value for money. The saffron broth with local seafood springs to mind, so does the lavender butter to go with their homemade dinner rolls, the entrée of confit abalone and, oh, the lime and coconut chiboust with banana sorbet, candied macadamia and kiwifruit puree for dessert. Incredible.
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Eggs for breakfast in their bright dining hall was the perfect way to refuel after a morning swim in Villa Howden’s stylish indoor pool. Though we had plans to continue exploring the Apple Isle, I quite fancied staying for High Tea. Scones, anyone? I wonder if they are served with that dreamy lavender butter?…

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Huon Valley

What we saw: The Apple Shed Museum and Willie Smiths, Village Antiques of Franklin, roadside fruit stalls in Franklin, Frank’s Cider, Pagan Cider, Hiking Mount Misery, Huon Valley market, Cygnet Folk Festival, Meredith’s Orchard produce shop, Grandvewe Cheesery.
Where we stayed: Woodbridge Hill Hideaway and Villa Howden. Cove Kettering Suites is a great option, too.
Where we ate: The Apple Shed Museum and Willie Smiths (charcuterie board, cider and apple pie – pure produce bliss), The Cat’s Tongue Chocolatiers (incredible chocolates and comforting brunch food like chicken matzo ball soup), Oyster Cove Inn (great pub food – scallops!), Cove Kettering Suites (dinner is offered to their guests and I am still dreaming of Bronwyn’s slow-cooked pork, crackling and asian slaw), Bugsy’s Fish & Chips (classic takeaway joint), Home Hill Vineyard (delicious and elegant dining), The Lotus Eaters Café (soy chai, curries and pastries), Summer Kitchen Organic Bakery (organic and amazing) and Villa Howden‘s restaurant (just divine).

Heidi xo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quark for Breakfast

February 19, 2014

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A few months ago, whilst trawling my instagram feed (which largely consists of pictures from English farmers and Nordic fellow breakfast lovers), I came across an unfamiliar food. It looked like a dairy product, a yoghurt of sorts, with a comical name that made me think of ducks…Quark.

This name stuck with me, though I didn’t actively pursue it. I’m only mildly fond of duck (unless it’s confit duck, come on…) and I suppose that influenced my nonchalance. This is how my brain works. Though last week, while shopping for cheese, I came across a tub of Shulz’s Organic Quark and quite literally quacked with delight.

Have you tried quark before? I mentioned my discovery to my Dietitian friends and they assured me they had indeed heard of this mysterious, European product, so perhaps I was simply out of the loop. Either way, my first bite was an exciting adventure into a land of thick and smooth milk mounds, which was certainly not sweet but only slightly tart.

My initial reaction was to drizzle the quark generously with local honey and top with rough, toasted almonds and sliced sweet Summer plums. And that’s just what I did this morning for Wednesday Breakfast Club.

 

What did you have for breakfast today?

 

Heidi xo

 

 

 

Lunch with Yasmeen

February 17, 2014

Last week I visited my friend Yasmeen for lunch. It’s always a treat spending time with this lady. She is intelligent and funny and kind, and her food brain inspires. Because of Yas I make labneh with confidence and crave comforting spices.

Yasmeen laid out simple plates of fresh garden goodies, which we dined on with her homemade hummus and some smoked salmon. It was a colourful and completely nourishing lunch.

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We spoke and ate and spoke some more, of life and loves and ideas, always bouncing ideas off each other. Yas is a good friend. And she makes a killer cake, so, yeah, she’s a really good friend…

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This peach and ginger cake was so dreamy. Perfectly sweet and delicately spiced, dense but not heavy and deliciously decorated with sticky stone fruit and boisterous candied ginger. Oh, it was a treat. Especially when served with her homamde plum butter. Yas, ever the generous gal, sent us home with a decent chunk. Cake for breakfast may have happened.

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Thanks for sharing your recipe, lovely lady. And happy 3 years to your divine blog, Wandering Spice.

Yasmeen’s Peach and Ginger Cake

Prep Time: 15 minutes. Cook Time: 1 hour. Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes. Yield: One 9\” cake

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 1/2 cup light olive oil
  • 1/2 cup sour cream (or yogurt, or buttermilk)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 cup raw sugar
  • 1 heaped tsp dried ginger (powder)
  • 2 large peaches, pitted and sliced into 1/2″ wedges
  • 1/4 cup diced candied ginger
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180C /350F. Line a 9″ deep dish pie pan (or, springform tin) with baking paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, sour cream and vanilla until smooth.
  3. Fold in the flour, baking powder, raw sugar and dried ginger until just combined. Pour into the pan. Arrange the peach slices in a pattern on top, then sprinkle evenly with the dried ginger and brown sugar.
  4. Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Notes: This cake freezes well for up to 6 weeks. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place in an airtight bag before freezing.

 

Heidi xo

 

 

 

Vegan Brownie Love Puddings

February 14, 2014

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Just a little love for this Valentines Day.

Despite the fact that these cacao puddings are vegan, my beloved adored this baked gift. Though I shouldn’t be surprised, he’s developed a preference for nut-based flours instead of the white stuff, regularly requesting my chocolate beetroot quinoa cake and happily chowing down on coconut flour pancakes. We both love classic goods, don’t get me wrong, and I have a stellar buttermilk pancake recipe coming your way made with copious amounts of wheat flour and butter and happiness. But we tend to agree that delighting in more wholesome treats made with dates instead of sugar, almonds instead of flour and raw cacao instead of highly processed chocolate makes us feel lighter, more energetic and more loved. So this Valentines Day, I made us some vegan brownie love puddings.

Astute readers will note that I did not, in fact, make these puddings today. I am at the farm all day before heading to a dinner party with friends – it’s Italian themed and I am super excited for tomatoes and cheese and pasta and tiramisu. And wine, of course. Yes, I made these puddings for afternoon tea yesterday, on the 13th (I do so love the number 13)…

We had ourselves a lovely, sweet date. I gave a speech (what’s new?) on how much I adore Ben and how happy pudding he makes me, and then we dove into these vegan brownie love puddings, topped with blood plums and a side of coconut whipped cream. I cannot decide whether I prefer them baked or raw (I made both for comparison’s sake), so I encourage you to go with your mood and perhaps climate. Ben preferred both. And I love that about him.

Happy Valentines Day, sweet readers.

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Vegan Brownie Love Puddings

Serves 2

* Note: you can serve these cooked or raw. In the above picture the cooked pudding is on the left, it’s slightly risen and lighter in colour, with a nice fudgey brownie-like texture. The raw pudding tastes like brownie batter and is more of a mousse consistency. For the raw version, leave out the baking powder and serve in whatever sized dish you desire.

Ingredients
1/2 cup raw, unsalted Almonds
5 pitted Medjool Dates (~90g pitted weight)
2 tablespoons Coconut Oil
2 tablespoons Almond or Coconut Milk (or cow’s milk, which would make this non-vegan)
2 heaped tablespoons Raw Cacao Powder
1/4 teaspoon Baking Powder (you can skip this if eating the pudding raw)
A pinch of Sea Salt

To serve: coconut whipped cream and sliced blood plums or berries

Method
1. Preheat your oven to 180degrees Celsius.
2. Blitz the almonds in a food processor until fine (some lumps are fine, this will just mean a more textured bite).
3. Add the dates to the food processor and blitz until very finely chopped.
4. Add the liquid coconut oil (warm it in a pan if it’s solid), milk, cacao, baking powder and salt, then blitz until mixed.
5. Grease your ramekins (10.5cm in diameter) with a little coconut oil and then scoop the pudding mixture into them. Smooth the surface with the back of a spoon that is slightly moist, then pop into the oven and bake for 15-20minutes until warm and slightly risen and cooked to you liking (you can undercook it and have a more gooey pudding).
6. Serve with your toppings and enjoy!

Heidi xo

 

 

Flourless Banana Pancakes

February 12, 2014

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Do you realise how difficult it was for me to let these bananas sit on my bench and not in my freezer? Yes, I’m a bit banana soft-serve mad.

But I’m so pleased I refrained from feeding my freezer obsession, as this morning I had myself a pancake party. Pancakes mid-week feel like your birthday has come early. And I don’t mind that at all. We’re all about living life right here, so why not flip a cake in your pan for Wednesday Breakfast Club?

Thanks for the recipe inspiration, Tracy! I cannot wait to try this pumpkin version.

In other news, Ben recently fractured his pinkie finger trying to wrestle our fridge. I’m still in denial it’s happened. Though watching his awkward computer typing makes it quite clear his productivity has declined. And it’s only slightly kind of funny watching him attempt to function normally… until I realise all the extra dish washing I’m in store for. Though the dude did manage to make himself tomato tuna sauce the other day. And he helped me roll out pasta dough for ravioli. Now I feel bad for laughing when he tried to put his tshirt on.

Yep, the poor fellow is in store for comfort food. These pancakes are a great place to start. Happy Wednesday, friends. Don’t fight with your fridge, ok?

What did you eat for breakfast today?

Flourless Banana Pancakes

Recipe adapted from Tracy Shutterbean’s Flourless Pumpkin Spice Pancakes. Makes 5 pancakes. Serves one person, or two people if you serve with extras like yoghurt.

Ingredients
1 large (or 2 small) very ripe Banana, mashed (~200g)
2 Eggs
Pinch of Cinnamon
Pinch of Sea Salt
Coconut Oil or Butter to grease the pan

Toppings: Greek Yoghurt, Pure Maple Syrup, toasted Nuts and Berries. Or Nut Butter or whatever floats your boat. Bacon would be outrageous.

Method
1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl, beating with a fork until combined.
2. Heat a pan over low-medium heat and melt a little coconut oil or butter. When you flick water onto the pan and it dances, the pan is ready. The key is to have the pan hot enough so the mixture sets and doesn’t run. Scoop 1/3 cup worth of mixture onto the pan and cook for a few minutes on each side until the pancake is set and ready. Serve with your desired topping.

Heidi xo

Ginger Spider

February 10, 2014

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I was never a fan of spiders growing up.

I don’t mean the leggy creature, either, I mean those precarious, bubbling drinks of soda and ice-cream. Milkshakes, sure, hand me a super cold chocolate one with extra topping, please. But spiders? No deal.

Ughhh, making them at a café I worked at one Summer was a nightmare. Spider craftsmanship requires accuracy of timing I just did not posses. You see, if you add the ice-cream before the soda, the drink can explode and you’ve got a sticky spider stream everywhere. Instead, you must ever so delicately drop a creamy scoop into the already three-quarter full glass of soda, encouraging it to fizz only slightly and certainly not extravagantly.

Oh man, I feel stressed just typing that.

During our present heat wave, my grandparents informed me they’ve been counting on spiders made with ginger cordial to keep them refreshed. How wonderfully innocent, I thought. And so, one stinking hot Sunday, they made us the Davis family spider.

It was Summer in a glass.

might be coming around to spiders. Just maybe. Or, as my grandpa says, “how about a fly?”…

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The Davis Ginger Spider

Ingredients
Buderim Ginger Cordial
Soda Water
Vanilla Ice-Cream

Method
1. Make up the cordial with soda water to your desired sweetness, ensuring to fill the glass no more than ¾ full.
2. Carefully place a scoop of ice-cream in the glass.
3. Serve with a long spoon and feel like a kid.

 

Heidi xo

 

 

Spinach and Ricotta Soufflés

February 7, 2014

Ben and I made these spinach and ricotta soufflés one Friday night for my parents.

It was our first time venturing into the soufflé world, and we were thrilled with the result. All you need is a clear mind to follow the steps and you have yourself a simple and nourishing meal. You might even like to bake these the day before and reheat in the oven when serving. How easy is that?

Soufflés feel like a science experiment, don’t you think? It’s that rise…you put all your eggs in one basket bowl and hope the elements come together and all is executed successfully. Edible experiments are the best kind. My father, the science geek, was surely proud of me for our kitchen success. Though he was too busy scraping the anchovy sauce bowl to articulate this specifically. Well, perhaps that’s the best praise of all…

There’s mounds of spinach in my refrigerator right now, fresh from the farm. You’re sure to find the same green decoration at Farmers’ Markets and green grocers. I quite think these spinach and ricotta soufflés make the most lovely dinner party dish, don’t you agree?

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Yes, my family thoroughly enjoyed these spinach and ricotta soufflés (recipe link), which we served with roasted carrots. Ours were scooped into ramekins slightly too big, and so their rise was somewhat muted. But they were still lovely and light, as soufflés should be. The anchovy sauce is more than a supporting act, it’s a key feature in this recipe. With homemade coffee ice-cream for dessert, it was a belly warming meal for a mild Summer’s night.

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On this evening I served our first batch of coffee ice-cream, the same recipe provided when I spoke on loving eggs. To this day, after all my ice-cream adventures, it remains a favourite. Do give it a try. Served with a dainty pile of Anna’s ginger cookies, it was a simple and satiating end to our evening of spinach and science.

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Heidi xo