Ten Things In The Last 2 Weeks…

Do you ever get the feeling that time has somehow slipped into overdrive and that each week is actually going even faster than the one before?   I do.  That’s the feeling I have right now.

I can’t believe how quickly time has passing and that it’s already April!

My plan to blog weekly with updates on what we’ve been cooking and eating, well frankly, it’s fallen a bit behind.   2 weeks behind to be exact.   We’ve had a lot of cooking adventures since then- but the time has passed in the blink of an eye!

I’ll try to summarise but so much tasty stuff has happened and I feel like I’ve conquered a few culinary mountains.

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What We Ate Last Week: Sweet Cheeses, Do you even KUNG PAO???- February 13th-20th

Well, it was Valentine’s Day week, and let me be brutally honest- I fell in love this week.  I have a new restaurant crush and I can’t wait to see it again.  I’ll explain

Saturday- Feb 13th– I met my crush.  I had read about a new restaurant during the week in Broadsheet and it sounded too good to be true.  A mythical place that played good music, served champagne with fried chicken, and sold limited edition sneakers…. What the?  You mean I can leave my house in comfy shoes and drink champagne?  Sign me up- do not pass go, do not phone a friend, I’m already on my way.  I mean, not that I ever would buy limited edition sneakers, but I love my Chuck Taylors and my Superstars.  But seriously, who cares about sneakers- Champagne and fried chicken. Continue reading

In praise of The French…

SO, sometimes the French get a bad rap, but I have to say, I am 100% pro-French.

Ok, maybe Paris wasn’t my favourite city in the whole world when I visited in 1999.  It was nice, but my trip to Paris was also my first experience staying in a hostel and travelling with a backpack.  I stayed at a hostel which was unfortunately named, the “Young and Happy Hostel”– trust me it was neither young, nor happy…it was gross, with a clogged shower, and 6 people in a room, and anyway, you get the point.  We stayed there for one night then upgraded ourselves to a hotel-type accommodation, there were three of us in one room and we shared a bathroom with the other people on our floor.  I’ve blocked out the name of the place but needless to say I would not have given it a 5 star review on TripAdvisor.  If you’re interested, the Young and Happy is on Trip Advisor, apparently it’s not the WORST place in Paris.  (I find that hard to believe but read for yourself.)

As I was saying, I am now official 100% Pro-France.  Amongst all of their amazing inventions- the stethoscope, tennis, the polo shirt (Rene Lacoste was WAY ahead of Ralph Lauren), antibiotics, the modern bikini, the French fry (well, maybe not but definitely the crepe which is tasty!), early cinema, ALL the cheese, Champagne and wine, the list goes on and on… but I am particularly pleased that the French invented Le Creuset Cookware.  It’s only a small thing but in the last 4 days since ours arrived, I’ve possibly made 5 dishes with it already.  Talk about a life changing kitchen item.  Wow.

For those of you who don’t know, Le Creuset is a line of cookware… although saying that is like saying that Coco Chanel made dresses.  It’s true, but entirely accurate as they are slightly better than your average pot.  Basically, they are famous for their colourful, enamel, cast iron French or Dutch Ovens—covered casseroles.  You can use them on the stove and in the oven and they make cooking a snap.  They can be used for browning meats, making stews, boiling, roasting, braising, risottos, everything.  And they have a bit of a cult following.  Celebrity chefs LOVE them, those in the Blogosphere discuss what colours are best and whether other brands are as good.  Not having grown up in an Le Creuset household (probably the only kitchen item The Mom didn’t have), I didn’t know how amazing they were firsthand.   I’d read all the reviews and seen them in action on TV, but didn’t know that it would be life changing.

The standard argument (summarised on the Culinary One website) in favour of Le Creuset is:

  • It is durable. It isn’t unusual for someone to be using 40 to 60 year old cookware
  • It heats perfectly and evenly. Food doesn’t burn easily
  • It cleans easily. The enameled coating keeps food from sticking to it
  • It is pretty! There are numerous colors available
  • It is consistently high quality
  • Can be used with gas, electric, induction, or ceramic ranges
  • Flat bottoms sit firmly on the surface of your cook top
  • Porcelain enamel coating won’t absorb odors or flavors
  • Lids seal in moisture and flavour
  • Knobs are heatproof up to 450 degrees F

And all of those are true.  Basically, it’s set and forget cookware.   It’s brilliant- you brown stuff on the stove, whack it in the oven, come back in an hour or two or three and it’s done, and juicy, and stays warm.  And it’s super easy to clean up.  (Part of my new found adulthood is handwashing things that I don’t want to be ruined.)  I haven’t cooked a bad dish in it yet!   Now I’m just looking for more things to cook in it!

Well played France, apparently being the home of pastry, art and fashion wasn’t enough, you had to go and invent the best kitchen item since the sink!

*In the spirit of full disclosure, I am not sponsored by Le Creuset but am TOTALLY open to the idea!

How was your weekend?

Well, Well, Well….. THAT was a weekend and a half!  I have to say, that was probably, if not definitely the best weekend of my life. 

A HUGE thank you to the staff at Qualia and Hamilton Island and Hamilton Island Sea Planes for making it such an amazing trip.  And what a trip it was.

First of all, there’s a reason Qualia won the Conde Nast Award for Best Resort in the World, it absolutely is.  It’s by far the nicest resort I’ve been to and truly a delight to all of the senses.  From the second you arrive, to the moment they drop you at the airport, you feel like you’re in a different world, even on a different planet.  One that looks, smells and sounds like heaven.  I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to have a few days of serenity, peace, good food, and champagne!  (Charles Heidsieck is what the pour and it is delish!)  Even without the perfect proposal and engagement, any time spent at Qualia will be special and unforgettable!  I really can’t say enough great things about the resort or the staff…. of course the $38 sandwich and $42 burger may have been a bit much but when you’re sitting in a perfect location with a nice tropical breeze you can almost forgive it (until your next trip to the ATM).  

Aside from the resort itself being perfect, our seaplane ride to Whitehaven beach (the site of The Question from The Runner) was amazing.  

First of all, I’ve always wanted to ride in a seaplane.  I think being a child of the 1980s, I’ve had a weird fascination with seaplanes for a while now.  I’m not sure if it was Tattoo from Fantasy Island  or George Michael’s Careless Whisper video (go to the 3:00- 3:30 mark) that did it, but to me, there’s something enchanting about seaplanes.  The Runner knows this because the last four years I’ve been bugging him to go on a seaplane.  Bugging him…..Unlike other places,well most, normal non-tropical island cities, Sydney actually has quite a few Seaplanes hanging around.  So, I’m sure it was quite annoying for The Runner to have me mimic Tattoo every time one passed over.  Well, finally he can breathe a sigh of relief.  We’ve had our seaplane ride and it was soooooooooo cool!  It’s quite surreal taking off and landing on the water, it’s like being on a flying speedboat.  Very cool, and the Great Barrier Reef, super cool from the air (especially if you hate fish and swimming and oceans like me!) It was my first trip to the Whitsundays but it won’t be my last.  What a gorgeous part of the world!  Whitehaven Beach is perfection!  It’s one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever been to and yes, the sand really is that white!

I’ll spare you all the full story, but the trip to Whitehaven was quite memorable and special.   

The whole weekend really was quite amazing and enjoyable.  A huge thank you to everyone involved in every minute of it.  It was fantastic and memorable and wonderful and special.  I can’t say enough good things about Hamilton Island and the Whitsundays and Qualia.  So in short, my weekend was perfect and this morning I had a very sparkly answer to the Monday morning question, “How was your weekend?”

Nigella Lawson’s Prosecco and Pomegranate Gelatin

So, even for an event I’m not cooking for, I’m still cooking.  Tomorrow we’re having a Seafood Feast- Seared Tuna with Wasabi, Beer Marinated BBQ prawns, oysters, Barbecue Virgin Scallops– don’t ask, it’s a Luke Mangan recipe from last Sunday’s paper…. and of course salads- Nigella’s Red Salad, a Green Salad with Mandarin and Pomegranate, and a Potato Salad- because my Mom always says to eat your veggies.  So, I have to do a little bit of prep and cooking today to make sure it all comes off tomorrow.  

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So, I’m starting with Nigella’s Prosecco and Pomegranate Gelatin.  When I was home and made the Ginger Ale Salad, again out of Spoonbread and Strawberry Wine, I was reminded of how good Jell-o is…. I mean, it’s practically perfect for summer desserts.  It’s served cold, is low in calories, you can make it in different colours, and you can add alcohol to it..  How have I not jumped back on this bandwagon in my adult life?   

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Well today, I’m putting on my boots and hopping on the Jell-o Train!  

First, I had to buy a Jell-o mould, and sadly it’s not the fun tupperware one of my childhood (I know you had one too, with the flower, star, christmas tree, interchangeable top).  Ok, if you didn’t have one, you seriously missed out, because it was awesome!  Oh well, until my next Tupperware party, I’ll have to make do with the Red one I bought the other day.  Functional and boring!

Anyway, I start by following the directions from Nigella and that came with it to brush a light coating of vegetable oil onto the walls of the mould…. obviously if both directions say it, I should DEFINITELY do it…..

First step is clearly my favourite….Pop open a bottle of Prosecco!  Hurray!!!!!  Stop. Remember it’s only 10:30am and not only do I have to drive later but I have lots to do and haven’t had breakfast yet.  Tell myself to resist the urge to swig it from the bottle (it is warm after all) and pour it all into a saucepan.

I add 1 1/2 cups of sugar and stir until it dissolves, then I turn on the stove and bring it to a boil.  Then I take 4 teaspoons of gelatin and put them into 1 cup of water and let it sit for 5 minutes.  Because I’m going to deviate from Nigella slightly on this one and add fruit to my gelatin (strawberries, a few blueberries and nectarines) this is where I stop to cut them up and also to hope that the recipe still works…. maybe 1 more teaspoon of gelatin would be in order???

The prosecco and sugar needs to boil for 1 minute and then you add vanilla extract and boil for another minute.  I then, according to Nigella, ladle 1 cup of hot prosecco into the same jug as the gelatin and stir it until it’s dissolved.  

Now, here’s where reading ahead would have helped.  Apparently, I’m supposed to pour the jug back into the saucepan and then back into the jug and then into the mould.  Really Nigella????  Really?  Did someone forget to tell me that I needed to use a BIG jug, not just a 2-cup measuring cup??? HONESTLY!  Well, since I don’t have my own cookbook or cooking show, I’m just going to wing it…after a bit of pouring and spooning, I put the unsanctioned fruit into the mould and pour the prosecco on top.  

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Everything is going ok, until I realise the stupid top of the stupid mould is leaking……  argh!!!!!!!!!!  Obviously, this would not happen with Tupperware but there’s not a lot that I can do about it now….. into the fridge with crossed fingers and hopes for the best it goes!