Oh do you know the muffin man?? 

Do you ever have a craving for something relatively specific and you just can’t find it anywhere? I have been craving a muffin for two weeks now. Not just any muffin, I wanted a chocolate chunk, wholemeal muffin. Now I realise that’s rather specific so I would’ve settled for a Choc chip one. I first discovered this delicious type of muffin at my local bakery where they sold absolutely giant, golden brown muffins with a crispy top and mammoth chocolate chunks scattered through out a moist a nutty centre. They called it ‘high fiber’ which I liked because it sounds super healthy but it really really wasn’t. 

Unfortunately they stop selling it late last year and I haven’t been able to find a suitable replacement. On Wednesday, I couldn’t take it anymore. I was suffering from major Hump Dayitis and needed a sugar hit. I went for a meander through all my local cafes, hunting the elusive muffin and I couldn’t find one anywhere. I found mixed berry, carrot and walnuts, orange and poppyseed and just plain old chocolate. I think the Choc chip muffin maybe dead. 


I was so sad. I thought I may never have my wonderful muffin again. Then I realised that the only way I was going to get one, was to make one. 


So began my search for the perfect recipe and I found that even most cookbooks don’t have recipes for choc chip muffins. Berry muffins, yes. Choc chip cookies, yes. Choc chip muffins no. Sad face. I didn’t want to just amend and existing recipe as I knew that the proportion of liquid ingredients to dry ingredients was important and I wasn’t confident enough to make it up. 

I finally found what I was looking for on a food blog for ‘healthy mums’, I’m not sure what this says about me…. I amended it a bit in terms of the type of chocolate used and the baking time but in the end, it resulted in a wholemeal chocolate chunk muffin. Maybe not quite as yummy and decedent as the bakery one I loved and lost but a tasty and relatively healthy morsel that hit the spot. 

Recipe below adapted from healthy mummy.com. 

Long live the choc chip muffin!!!

Ingredients 

* cooking oil spray

* 2 cups wholemeal self raising flour 240 grams

* 1/2 cup milk chocolate cut into chunks 100 grams

* 2 free-range eggs 100 grams

* 1 cup reduced-fat milk of choice 250 mls

* 1/4 cup olive oil 62.5 mls

* 1/4 cup honey 62.5 mls

* 1 tsp vanilla extract 5 mls

Instructions 

1. Preheat oven to 180C and lightly spray 12 holes of a muffin tin tray with cooking oil spray or line with muffin cases.

2. Sift flour into a large mixing bowl and combine with the chocolate bits.

3. Whisk eggs and combine with milk, olive oil, honey and vanilla.

4. Make a well in the flour mix and add all the liquids, stir to combine well.

6. Divide batter between each muffin tin hole and bake for 10-12 minutes until a skewer comes out clean when inserted in the centre.

7. Store leftovers in an airtight container for 2-3 days or freeze to defrost as needed.

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Tasting Tasmania

I love travelling overseas, but living in Australia, it can be a very timely and costly exercise. Sometimes, when all you’ve got is a few days and you’re just desperate for an escape, it’s better just to go interstate.

With lovely summer days gone and winter setting in, I was heading for a little bit of a lull and wanted to mix things up. As one of my friends recently made Hobart her home for the next 12 months, I thought the time was right for a trip down down under.  I got a group together and we went adventuring and boy did we find some tasty Tasmanian treats!

Below are a few photos of some of the best our largest island has to offer. Chocolate, cheese and salmon galore!!

Smoked trout pate – Wicked Cheese Company


Toasted cheese from Bruny island cheese company


Bruny Island oysters


Salmon dish from Mexican restaurant Pancho Villa


Tasmanian apples


Grilled fish salad at Battery Point

Bonding by Baking 

Food and family go hand in hand and one of my favourite things to do is bake with my dad. I think I got my love of cooking from my papa bear as although my parents are both excellent cooks, my dad’s the one who really loves it. 
On a beautiful but cold Autumn afternoon, he and I bonded the best way we know how, by baking a pear and almond flan. This was truely a family affair as the recipe we used came from my brother’s father in law (aka Shnukums) who is also an excellent cook. 


Half the time was spent baking, the other half deciphering the steps we needed to take next. I’d never made a tart with pieces of whole fruit in it but it was so delicious when Shnukums served it to us at a dinner party a few weeks back that I knew I was up for the challenge. 


We questioned the consistency of the pastry base, we questioned the quantity of the almond, egg and butter filling and then watched nervously for the golden colour to appear while baking but in the end it was worth it. The finished product was pretty as a picture and even better, it tasted awesome too!


Bonding by baking – there’s nothing more fun (or fattening) then that!!

Little Evie 

Sometimes my reason for taking myself out for a meal is sheer laziness. I want some extravagant concoction but I’m too bone tired to construct it myself. So, what do I do? I do what everyone else in my generation does – outsource it. while I am capable of creating the gourmet (when things go to plan), I’m also capable of extreme lethargy!

Towards the end of last year I achieved an extreme physical feat. I and a team of my friends completed tough mudder. An 18km obstacle course filled with – you guessed it – mud! Although I was proud, by Sunday morning I was also exhausted and incapable of the feat of feeding myself. As a girl has gotta eat, that morning I took myself off to a cafe that I’ve walked passed many times but never ventured in – little Evie.


Located on Bourke street a block back from Cleveland street, Little Evie is an open, minimalist style cafe which has taken up residence in a location previously occupied by a cafe that can only be described as average. The teal, grey and golden timber tones give off a feeling of calm – a total contrast to the lightening fast speed of service. I’ve been here three times now and on each occasion the time between ordering and food arrival has been around 10 minutes. 

And the dishes….. delicious! Tasty and fresh ingredients, well cooked and piled generously on to large plates. On my first visit, I created my own one of a kind meal, using the optional sides to turn poached eggs on toast into a protein feast – adding roast chicken and mushrooms. And the roast chook isn’t the only unusual breakfast side available – they offer lamb too for those who like a meaty start to their morning. 


The next two occasions I ordered the same thing- the breakfast salad with a side of the chicken (#chickenforbreakfastisntwierd). This vege salad is exactly the kind of dish you want on a morning that promises a hot summer day ahead. Cool, refreshing and wholesome. It’s a massive plate but chock full of greens- you know it must be good for you!

I’ve spoken to the owxzner a few times now – he’s generally behind the cash register – in he always cares if I have enjoyed my meal. This place has become a staple in my cafe collection and I can’t wait for it to become a favourite of all my friends too! 

Lamingtons for Australia Day

Australia Day just isn’t Australia Day without pavlova or lamingtons. This being a universally understood truth, I decided to make some. Unfortunately my meringue was an epic fail! The egg whites could not be formed into ‘stiff peaks’ no matter how long I beat them for and although they rose when in the oven, by the time the slow cooking and cooling processes had finished, I was left with some sad, cracked, wafer thin looking thing not capable of holding together let alone supporting any fruit or cream.

With one not working, I pinned all my hopes and patriotic dreams on the other. Thankfully my lamingtons turned out perfectly! They were most, spongy and had the perfect proportion of coating to cake. Funnily enough I got the recipe a few years ago from a post on an American food blog trying to explain Australia Day and our traditional foods to Americans. 

And here it is… the secret to any awesome Australia Day gathering.

Ingredients

For the sponge

  • 110g softened butter
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup self-raising flour
  • 1 tbsp cornflour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • pinch of salt

For the icing

  • 45g softened butter
  • 75g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 tbsp cocoa
  • 2 cups dessicated or shredded coconut

Method

Preheat oven to 180C (170C fan forced, 350F, gas mark 4). Line a square 20cm cake tin with baking paper and grease any uncovered sides.

To make the cake, sift flours and baking powder into a medium mixing bowl. Add all remaining cake ingredients and beat using an electric mixer on medium high for about 5 minutes. The mixture will become pale and light. Transfer into the tin and bake for 30-35 minutes or until just golden on the top and cooked through.

Allow cake to cool before placing it in the fridge for about 20 minutes and cutting into fingers or squares. I like to remove the side crusts too, it makes the lamingtons even more meltingly soft.

To make the icing, place all ingredients into a mixing bowl and mix while adding a tablespoon of boiling water at a time. The icing should have the consistency of a slightly runny gravy.

Place coconut on a dessert plate. Dip each cake in the icing turning quickly then drop into the coconut, making sure it sticks and covers the cake well. Repeat with the rest. Keep lamingtons in the fridge until serving time.

Tagines, Pastillas & Bread oh my!

This past Christmas/ New Years break, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel overseas. I love spending my annual leave exploring new places – preferably in regions I’ve never been to before. This time I decided to hit the continent of Africa, visiting the beautiful country of Morocco.

In addition to being the most spectacularly scenic country, the food is delicious!!! What they lack in range of local cuisine, they make up for in flavour, portion size, freshness and healthiness. Excluding breakfast which is a carb-palooza of bread, pastry, crepes and, well, more bread (say hello to the French influence), the Moroccans have quite a balanced diet. They eat lots of fruit and vegetables, good cuts of red and white meat – slow cooked to keep flavour, and  healthy plant based fats. Just don’t drink the tea – that stuff is pure sugar!!

Here is a smorgasbord of some of my favourite meals:

Almond pastries from Tangier

Breakfast buffet – carb central!

Moroccan salad

Lemon chicken Tagine – incredible form of cooking!

Dried fruit and nuts sold by weight

Meat options at a local BBQ house

Pasilla- chicken or fish ‘pie’ coated with sugar and almond meal (chicken) or cheese (fish)

Berber omelette- aka egg Tagine

Hearty beef and vegetable Tagine


A Christmas Miracle 

Ever since I read Not Quite Nigella’s blog post on making an edible Hogwarts I’ve wanted to make a gingerbread house. The problem is, construction isn’t my forte. I’m not particularly patient or detail oriented and even when I am taking care, I tend to make mistakes – owing to the fact that my spatial awareness and 3D visualisation skills seemed to have been lost at birth. 

Nevertheless I was undeterred and given that Christmas is looming, I decided the time was ripe to give it a raring hot go. To increase my chances of success, I decided to use the easiest recipe I could find – one intended for a cooking project with kids -and had my engineering sister on standby. 

The result- success!! It’s not as pretty as I’d like and there are a couple of unintended ventilation ports …but it is structurally sound, four walls and a roof standing unaided – A true Christmas miracle. Check out my progress photos below (I needed evidence). 


Ps: if you are looking for reasonably priced accomodation, this baby is available for 12 smarties a week or 4 freckles a month. First in, best dressed 😉



Pablo & Rusty’s, Sydney CBD

I have often worried that as I have gotten older, I have become less social. I have no scheduled dinner parties, no nights out clubbing – in fact very few evening activities at all. As someone who thrives off social activity, it makes me wonder – am I spending too much time alone? Then I realised, no – I’m still a social butterfly, it’s just that the time that I like to socialise has changed. The new prime real estate in my calendar is now the week day breakfast and working in the city as I have for the pass year gives me easy access to some great week day only breakfast spots.

One such place is Pablo & Rusty’s. Located on Castlereagh Street, this place is a little oasis of strong coffee, delicious pastries and friendly service. When the rest of the world appears to still be asleep, this place is buzzing.

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I’ve hit up Pablo’s twice in the last six weeks and both times have been wonderful. Although I was in the door before 7.30am on both occasions, I found myself still having to wait for a table.  It wasn’t terrible though. The staff are on the ball and with the quick breakfast service, within five minutes I was seated and ready to order. While you are at a table, they don’t rush you which is so nice. They seem to have hit that perfect balance between efficiency and courtesy – something that is really hard to do.

And the food is beautiful, pretty as a picture – and I did take a picture. If you can tear yourself away from the drool worth display case of muffins, tarts, croissants and danishes, the menu items are so worth it. From toast piled high with eggs, greens, mushrooms and other goodies to creamy porridge and muesli chock full of nuts and fruit, there is not a disappointing item on the menu.  You won’t experience FOMO no matter what you order – something I often suffer from.

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If you’re in a rush, or feeling greedy, most items are available take away. That way you can have your eggs, and your cake… and eat it too. I’ve never been for lunch but I’ve heard it’s pretty spectacular. If the breakfasts are anything to go by, I can well believe it.

After several happy catch ups here, my friend and I have decided the Pablo’s is now our special place and there is nothing better than basking in the glow of an awesome friendship while filling your tummy with awesome food.

The Wolf Wine Bar, Sydney

As I’m sure I have mentioned before, I love a bargain. I have registered to all the local deal sites and I happen to own a copy of the Entertainment Book. Some people might assume that the restaurants, cafes and experiences featured in these sorts of things must be terrible– why otherwise would they have to promote themselves like this? I’m here to tell you that this is not so! Some of them are gems.

I went to one such gem for an early morning, pre-work breakky in the city with a friend who was up from Melbourne. Given that she comes from the land of awesome cafes, I wanted something special and The Wolf Wine Bar on Hunter Street fit the bill. She also happens to love a discount so was instantly sold on sighting my entertainment book voucher.

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It was a lovely experience! On a freezing cold morning, everything was warm – from the cafe atmosphere to the welcome we received. It was enough to thaw my fingers and toes, body parts I haven’t been able to feel since the middle of June.

To top it all off, when I asked for a giant long black, I got a giant long black – served by a lovely lady who sympathised with the state of my extremities and exclaimed that she was also ‘not a penguin’.

This place has everything I love – a feeling of cosiness and warmth, sweet and friendly staff and an extensive menu. It even features an avocado section where you can have your avo on toast in five different ways on a choice of six different types of bread.

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My friend, a smashed avo lover, immediately picked one of the avocado options – goats cheese, harrisa and avocado on Turkish toast which she proclaimed to be spicy and lovely.

My sister, who was suffering from a head cold, went for the quinoa porridge with coconut milk, banana and dates. She found it to be tasty, warming and comforting.

Since I have been craving corn fritters of late, I jumped at the chance to order them and my wait was worth it. They were crispy, sweet, chock full of corn kernels, and super tasty – even without the bacon that they were meant to come with (I wasn’t in the mood).  The side of roast tomatoes were also awesome – smoky and delicious.

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I always love breakfast but on a chilly, work filled Wednesday, it was the highlight of my day! I can’t wait to give The Wolf a go at lunchtime or dinner – and snag another awesome deal!

 

 

 

Foodcraft Espresso & Bakery

Like everyone I suppose I go through phases where I try and follow a specific type of diet. This makes eating out hard. I therefore find great joy when I discover a place serving a variety of dishes with a least one that fits my needs. Most recently, that place has been Foodcraft Espresso and Bakery in Erskineville.

Although much has been written about their tella balls – they have achieved widespread fame for these, not much has been said about their regular breakfast and lunch dishes which I personally feel are even more noteworthy.
When the tella balls first became famous, photos surfaced online of queues wrapping around the block. Though I think this craziness has now passed, these images have scarred me and I have since been convinced that the only way to get into try this place was to go midweek or super early.

That’s why one Sunday, when my sister and I were up at 6.30am and both shaking our heads at our stupid body clocks for getting us out of our nice warm beds ridiculously early, I suggested we hit up foodcraft for breakky. See everything has a silver lining!
The place was practically deserted and after snagging a prime parking spot, we settled ourselves at a lovely window-side table and took a gander at the menu.


As I was on a health kick, I was immediately drawn to the egg white scramble with poached chicken, mushroom, avocado, spinach and toast ($21). To my surprise, my sister who never orders muesli out (it’s her weekday staple) went for the granola with berry compote and coconut yoghurt ($12).
Sometimes when you choose the healthy option you feel like you’re missing out. Not in this case. All I can say is yum yum yum YUM!!!! This had to be one of the best breakfasts we’ve both had in ages. We were talking about if for days and we’ve been discussing going back ever since.


What made it so great? The scramble was light and fluffy and the juices from the mushrooms and chicken soaked into the bread making it the tastiest thing ever. The granola was well balanced in flavour, not too sweet and my sister was super impressed that it came with a small jug of milk and not just the yoghurt – she’s a big believer of milky muesli and hates it when she is forced into a yoghurt “mush” situation. Plus the staff were both efficient and friendly. It was all round an awesome experience.


Though neither of us are keen for another super early wake up, especially in the dead of winter, we can’t wait to return. Maybe next time we’ll do lunch. I hear a 12 hour, slow cooked lamb sandwich calling my name…