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Ginger & Coriander Mussels

Without a doubt my favourite thing about Melbourne in the summer time is daylight savings. As someone whose winter sunshine consists entirely of office fluorescent lights and the brightness of my computer screen, I use daylight savings to catch up on some much needed Vitamin D.

The Brooding Architect and I like to make the most of the extra sunshine by swapping takeaway in front of the TV for a simple, no fuss home cooked dinner the balcony. This very easy, one pot dish of Ginger & Coriander Mussels fits the bill perfectly, especially when washed down with a cold beer or refreshing G&T.

Ginger & Coriander Mussels

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Kumo Izakaya, East Brunswick

A few Friday nights ago, The Brooding Architect organised a double date with one of our favorite couples – The Botox Babe (to clarify, she injects it and does not receive it) and The Artistic Pharmacist. Because we were so disorganised, we could only get a booking for the fashionably late dinner sitting of 9.30pm. Having said this a 9.30pm is better than nothing, as at least you can settle in across the road at Atticus Finch for a relaxed round of pre-drinks, rather than queuing around the block for hours (I am looking at you Mamasita and Chin Chin).

Navigating our way through the extensive menu.

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Blueberry Crumble Cake

As long time readers will know, The Brooding Architect is my harshest food critic – particularly in  respect to my baking. He comes from a long line of ‘baking purists’ and gets very anxious about my somewhat relaxed attitude towards baking, alleging that my unauthorised recipe modifications often result in ‘rock cakes’.

This month’s Delicious Magazine had a recipe for a very impressive looking blueberry crumble cake. Under strict instructions from The Brooding Architect I followed the recipe to the letter – no modifications, substitutes or shortcuts – and ended up with the your worst baking nightmare, a dry (rock) cake!

In an effort to redeem myself (and prove The Brooding Architect wrong), I broke all of the baking rules and modified the original recipe; resulting in a deliciously moist, spicy and citrus-y Blueberry Crumble Cake. Perfect for afternoon tea, or after dinner with a cup of fancy tea.

Blueberry Crumble Cake

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Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad)

Despite being the end of October, Melbourne is still only teasing us with the prospect of summer. One tantalizing day of 30 degrees and sunshine, followed by yet another cold, grey rainy day, is certainly testing my patience for winter. Fortunately, like 90% of all Melbourne office workers, I am taking a self-declared ‘Extra Long Weekend’ next weekend in celebration of the Melbourne Cup and will be heading up to the Sunshine Coast for some much needed Vitamin D.

In the meantime, a food that always reminds me of hot, tropical weather is Som Tam  (Green Papaya Salad).

Som Tam (Green Papaya Salad)

The Brooding Architect and I learned how to make Som Tam at the Thai Farm Cooking School in Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand. The day started with market tour, followed by a walking tour of the organic farm at the Cooking School (all of the fruit, vegetables and herbs used in the classes are all grown on site) and a full day of cooking. Well worth the $30 (1000 Thai Baht) investment, if you ever happen to find yourself in that part of the world with a free day on your hands.

Personally I like to leave the dried shrimp out of my Som Tam recipe, as the instructor at the Cooking School explained that these dried shrimp are full of chock full of chemicals and preservatives – hence their often fluorescent pink colour. If you like to live (deliciously) dangerously though, pound up half a dozen dried shrimp in a mortar and pestle and add this into your salad dressing. {read the rest of this entry}

Normandy: The Cider Route, Châteaus & Oysters

During our travels, The Brooding Architect and I were lucky enough to spend a week eating our way around the coast and countryside of Normandy (in northern France). The highlights included, but were not limited to: drinking far too much apple themed booze – cider, pommeau and calvados – along the cider route, ‘almost-better-than-sex’ truffle infused Camembert and ridiculously cheap oysters.

The Cider Route

Being a cider fan, the Cider Route was on my ‘Must Do List’ while in France. The Cider Route is a clearly signed route, approximately 40km long, that passes through the producers of the traditional AOC Pays d’Auge cider. If you happen to get lost, just keep your eyes out for these signs marked ‘Route du Cidre’. 

Apple trees along The Cider Route

The route takes you through, narrow, apple tree lined country lanes in some of Normandy’s most beautiful villages. Best of all you can see how cider is made, taste it and buy it.
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Paris – The Top 10

I am going to try really hard not to bore you with too many details of our recent holidays – but will instead let the photos speak for themselves. Here, in true lawyer-style, numbered list form, are my Top 10 food highlights of Paris:

1. Sunset Picnic under the Eiffel Tower. Fantastic French food and even more Fantastic French company.  

On our first evening in Paris, our newly wedded friends – The French Dentist and The Australian in Paris – organised a wonderful sunset picnic under the Eiffel Tower for us.

Sunset at the Eiffel Tower

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Jet lag, laundry and other “life adminstration” tasks

The Brooding Architect and I landed back in Melbourne last Sunday after a month of travels around France and Croatia. The holiday was outrageously good. Highlights included:

  • Drinking ‘ridicloulsy cheap but good’ rosé with every second meal;
  • Eating our body weight in unpasteurised cheese; 
  • Dancing and eating crepes until 4.00am at a real life ‘Big Fat French Wedding’;  
  • Dining on a dozen freshly shucked oysters for less than $10; and
  • Celebrating The Brooding Architect’s birthday in style – snorkeling in the crystal blue waters of the Adriatic Sea.  

It has taken me about a week to get back on Australian time, catch-up on work emails and do a month’s worth of laundry. However, with my “life administration” tasks now complete, I know have enough free time to bombard you with an obscene amount of travel snaps. Don’t complain that I did not warn you!

Beef Bourguignon

Is anyone else completely addicted to French Food Safari? In the lead up to my trip to France I cannot get enough of this show. By the end of each episode my mouth is watering and I have scribbled down a long list of dishes and places I just have to try while on holiday.  Plus, there is something mesmerizing in watching Guillaume’s bear like paws churn out delicate raspberry tarts and souffles. It is très fantastique.

Feeling inspired, last weekend The Brooding Architect and I hosted a French themed soiree. We kicked off the night with mix champagne, cidre and charcuterie before moving onto the main event – Beef Bourguignon.

Beef Bourguignon - Très fantastique.

Beef Bourguignon is an excellent dish for a winter dinner party. It is hearty, warming and (most importantly) easy to prepare in advance so that you can relax with your guests. My recipe is based Guillaume’s Beef Bourguignon recipe from the Food Safari Cookbook.

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100s & 1000s Bicsuits

Apart from food, one of my other addictions in life is frocks. New (preferably Leona),  vintage, subtle black or clashing colour prints – I can’t get enough! Much to The Brooding Architect’s dismay, my collection of dresses is always increasing.  It has got to the point that he has had to impose a (poorly enforced) house rule that for every new addition to the collection, an old dress needs to be donated to charity.

So, as you can imagine, when a dear childhood friend of mine told me about her gorgeous online vintage store, Wild Hearts Vintage, I jumped at the chance to host a very Ladylike Afternoon Tea and browse her wares.

I somehow managed to squeeze about 16 ladies into my tiny apartment for an afternoon of feasting and shopping. We spent a civilized afternoon together trying on faux fur vintage coats, drinking lots of T2 French Earl Grey and eating a ridiculous amount of baked treats. We may have also drank a couple of litres of (alcoholic) punch. Despite the influence of the punch, I  managed to limit myself to buying only one frock. Plus a handbag. Plus a cape.

One of the most popular baked treats were my 100s and 1000s biscuits – literally a jazzed up version of good old fashioned fairy bread. My recipe is based on a recipe from  ‘The Big Book of Beautiful Biscuits’,  published by The Australian Women’s Weekly in 1986 – a cookbook I ‘borrowed’ from The Mother when I first left home over 11 years ago.

100s & 1000s Biscuits

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HuTong Dumpling Bar, Melbourne CBD

I have said it before, but this blog is not at all cutting edge. For years, lots and lots of more qualified people* than me have raved and ranted about Hu Tong Dumpling Bar. This would ordinarily stop me from adding yet another review to an already overcrowded space.

(*In particular there are some great reviews by Tummy RumblesMEL: HOT OR NOT and, especially for vegetarians, Where’s The Beef).

However, after many (far too many in fact)  late night dumpling sessions, I think I have identified the perfect order for a 4 person dinner at HuTong and feel compelled to share my discovery.

First and foremost, you simply must order the steamed Xiao Long Bao (AKA: The Soup Filled Dumplings). The smooth white dumpling skin, hides an amazing soup filled centre – which bursts and creates a flavour explosion in your mouth on the first bite. The Xiao Long Bao come served with a side of very finely julienned ginger, which cuts through the richness of the pork flavored soup and adds some lovely freshness and texture to this dish.

Xiao Long Bao

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