What We Ate This Week- Pasta, Melbourne, Tennis and More!

So you may want to grab a cup of tea before you start reading, while the East Coast of the US has been freezing under a blanket of snow, we’ve been eating.  In the last 10 days, we’ve been eating and drinking- A LOT- and it’s all been pretty amazing.  So make yourself comfortable, this is a longer than normal post.

We’ve been in Melbourne for the last few days watching tennis and trying out the local restaurant scene- and the food down there is amazing!  I can honestly say in the last week, I’ve had two of the best meals ever- one in Sydney and one in Melbourne.   It’s been a great food week! Continue reading


Winter is here…

It’s hard to be believe that we’re nearly halfway through 2015.  Yikes.  Where has the time gone….

The weather has been really changeable in Sydney the past few weeks, but I know winter has officially arrived because I’ve made chili.  I’m also writing this under my electric blanked with my ugg boots on- so…. yep, it’s Winter.

I’m sure I’ve written about this before but growing up Chili (or chili con carne as they call it here) was always a winter food growing up.  So I know it’s officially a cold winter’s day when I feel like a big warm bowl of chili.  That day came on Saturday when I turned to The Runner and announced that I felt like making Chili.

Unlike most things I cook, with chili I don’t really follow a recipe.  Well, I do- but I really don’t.

Years ago, probably 15+ years ago, I asked The Mom for her chili recipe.  At the time, I was expecting precise instructions and measurements and an easy to follow recipe passed down with love from mother to daughter.  This is not what my mother gave me.

The Mom gave me the same directions to make chili that you would give an unwanted guest to your house.

Example:  “So you go down that road until you get to the other road and then you turn rightish and go around the corner and stop at the tree and then you sort of go a bit further and a bit further and then you’re there.”

Ummmmm.  NO.  Those are basically directions to get lost.  If someone ever gives you those directions to a party, just stop.  They don’t want you there.  They probably didn’t even want you to know that they were having a party but you found out and they gave you a pity invite.  Sigh.  That is basically the recipe I was given by my mother.  I know, for those of you know what a wonderful mother I have, it’s hard to believe.  But it’s true….

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And there’s the proof.  Not one measurement, not one detail.  It almost asks more questions than it answers.  How many onions?  How much garlic?  What size can of tomatoes?  How many cans?  How much chili????  How long do you cook it for?   For a recipe with so little information, it actually makes the best chili in the world.  Not that I’ve ventured to try other recipes (why mess with perfection??)  Over time, I’ve added my own touches- this time I added a bit of beer and also a bit of chocolate and cinnamon because well, you can tweak perfection slightly.  But looking at the internet, none of the other recipes sound as good.

What got me started on this little research project was my colleague at work, let’s call her “Jen.”  Jen was planning to make chili for dinner after work today.  In my book, that’s a no.  Chili is not an after work dish.  Chili needs to simmer, mellow, develop over a few hours.  It is the perfect Sunday dish- you can leave it to cook while you read the paper, do the laundry and get ready for the week ahead.  “Jen” was planning to use the Hairy Bikers Chili recipe.   I read the recipe, and it’s a no from me.  They put red wine and flour in their chili.  Really????????/ NO!  I can’t condone that.  It’s chili con carne not spaghetti bolognese.  So then I started doing more research….

Food Network and Betty Crocker get two spicy chili covered thumbs up.  Yum!

BBC Good Food– for a non-American entry, you’re not half bad.

Epicurious– I like you, but I think you’re over complicating things.  It’s total time is 11 hours and 45 minutes.   Yes, you read that correctly- nearly half a day!  You also want me to chill it overnight and come back to it to skim the fat.  I’ll be honest, you lost me Epicurious.  Same thing Gourmet Traveller– 21 ingredients is pushing my chili friendship.

Taste– bacon in chili?  hmmmm…. the jury is out on you.  I love bacon and I love chili.  But I’m not sure….

Jamie Oliver– chickpeas in chili?  I. can’t.even.  Go home Jamie, your chili is drunk.  Get out of my sight.  In fact, I’m mad at myself for even including you in my chili roundup.

Ugh.  That put me off….  but I persisted and found some pretty cool recipes….

The Amateur Gourmet’s Best Chili Of Your Life– big call but I’m willing to try it

Chili Con Jamie– Dammit Jamie Oliver, I wanted to hate you for the one with chickpeas, but this one sounds pretty awesome– coffee and cinnamon sticks with chili made from brisket… my mouth says yes and my stomach says please.

Needless to say, I could go on…. there were options with chocolate, recipes for chocolate and beer, bloggers putting their twist on it- hello Nessa Family Kitchen and your spiced chocolate chip chili, pigpig’s corner’s chocolate stout and ancho chili con carne and Get In My Gob’s Coffee Chocolate Chili Con Carne.

I suppose at the end of the day, everyone has their own take on chili con carne. There’s not one right recipe.  You’ll never hear the judges on Masterchef arguing that a dish is not “technically” a chili con carne.  Without knowing it, that was the the gift that The Mom gave me when she gave me her recipe.  She gave me the basics but lets me choose my own adventure every time I make it!

Something Old, Something New…

Recently I dug out the first issue of Delicious Magazine that I ever bought.  The October 2002 edition.  I did this because I wanted to see how much has changed foodwise since I arrived in Australia nearly 13 years ago.  It might seem like quite a random thing to do but recently I received the 80th issue of Donna Hay Magazine and I thought it called for a stroll down memory lane.  And so off we go!

October 2002 doesn’t seem like that long ago on one hand, but on the other hand it is a lifetime ago.  In October 2002, I had been in Australia for less than 4 months, I lived in Bondi, I didn’t work.   I had my days relatively free to study and cook.  I don’t think I did that much cooking back then, but to be honest, it’s hard to remember now.  What do people do when they don’t work—what did I do all day when I didn’t work?  I suppose it’s then that 2002 seems like a long, forgotten time ago.

Looking back at the magazine, 2002 really was ages ago.  First of all, the magazine was $4.95- it’s now $7.50.  There’s an ad for Jamie Oliver’s book, “The Return of the Naked Chef” and he looks like a child.  He’s thin, he’s young, he’s the Jamie Oliver that everyone loved before he discovered his soapbox.

The food itself is- well, it’s not too different but it’s clearly from a time before Masterchef.   The ingredients are all pretty straight forward, as are the techniques.  There’s a recipe for White Wine Spritzer and for Asparagus on sticks.  It’s approachable- unlike this month’s magazine where many recipes should be started a day in advance and the phrase “you will need a kitchen blowtorch” appears at least once (I’m looking at you mile high chocolate meringue pie and “Caramelised White chocolate ice cream and brownie sandwiches.)

The celebrity guest of the magazine is Ainsley Harriott- who according to his Wikipedia page, hasn’t done much recently but who you may remember from Ready Steady Cook in the UK.

Most interesting to me, was the section on Jelly (jell-o for the American readers!)  It was only just before the Mom left that we were talking about my grandmother making elaborate Jello moulds involving all sorts of ingredients and how you never see them anymore.   How fortuitous then, that I’ve happened across a 13 year old magazine with an article on jelly moulds.  It must mean that it’s time for a jelly (jell-o) revival!  The only question now is which will I choose- the somewhat tame Fresh Strawberry jelly?  Chocolate Jelly with Praline?  Mango and Vanilla Marble Jelly?  Honeycomb Jelly?  Gin & Tonic Jelly with Macerated Fruits?  Or the Tia Maria Jelly with Chocolate Cream?  My first choice would be the Tia Maria, however only one of us likes coffee in the house it looks like we’ll be going for the fresh strawberry jelly or the chocolate jelly with praline.

Unfortunately, the culinary delights of 2002 are a bit lacking and there aren’t too many things that I’m jumping out at me to cook this week so I’ve decided to fast forward back to this month’s Delicious to find a main course!  There actually is a lot to choose from, but for some reason the Pollo Tinto (Red Wine and Chocolate Chicken) stood out for Sunday dinner….I think it will pair nicely with the Chocolate Jelly and Praline!

To stay with the theme of old and new this week, I’ll also be making Oven Roasted Sriracha Pork Chops with Asian Greens from this month’s Donna Hay and Pan fried Veal with soft polenta and blue cheese from my earliest edition of the magazine—June 2007!

It’s sooooooo hot….

But that’s not what this post is about!  But, really, for those of you not in Sydney- it is hot- about 37 degrees Celsius (over 90 Fahrenheit) at 10:30pm.  HOT HOT HOT!  Especially for a city where not everyone (and not us) has air conditioning!

But who cares about that when there’s dinner to be made- which is really what this is about!

Now that we’re back to the grindstone and The Runner swims on Tuesday nights and I have my (pole) dance lessons which means that we’re not home until about 9.  So, I thought it would be a great idea to test out my new Jamie Oliver’s 15 Minute Meals cookbook.   It seems like a great idea, healthy, quick meals that I can whip up when we get home and have on the table ASAP, thus avoiding the problem of getting home late and eating late (normally because I’ve decided to make something that takes an hour).  

To be honest, it wasn’t too bad.  On paper and in practice it worked, I’m a semi-fan.  

SEMI, I said.  Firstly, the pork tacos were good, not amazing, but good.  Secondly, the meal did not take 15 minutes.  In fact, I’m not sure how it could be done in 15 minutes without a sous chef or helper.  I managed to complete the meal in just under 18 minutes from the time that the pork hit the frying pan BUT it was probably about 28 minutes all up.  Jamie definitely didn’t include the time it takes to find all the ingredients in the house and he definitely didn’t include going to three different stores to find black beans (in the end kidney beans were fine, although I’m still puzzled by where all the black beans have gone!)  Also, he kind of left out a few things like that you need to do, like put the taco shells in the oven and he wasn’t overly specific about a few things like how small to cut the spring onions.  Also he suggests grating the apple, which turned out to be a great way to make apple juice, rather than apple for a salad.  Not a major thing but figuring out the little things he left out added some time to the whole process and was a bit annoying.  The recipe worked but I also realised that deep down, I’m only a semi fan of Jamie Oliver.  He’s a bit annoying and I actually don’t like the way his cookbooks are written.   They’re just a bit unstructured and hyperactive.  I don’t follow cookbooks to the letter normally anyway, but, I don’t know, this one just annoyed me a bit.

I’m not going to abandon them completely- I like the idea of a yummy, clever 15-20 minute meal for Tuesday nights  – especially since there’s enough for lunch tomorrow.  You can’t really go wrong there!  Like I said, it was tasty, I just need to get Jamie Oliver’s voice out of my head now…. and find a way to cool off!!!



Also, we’ve picked a book for Sunday!   If you want in on dinner, let me know!