Sunday, 17 November 2013

Picnic Basket 101

Embrace the moment...

"What are we going to do today?"

Life is full of many things that we have to do, but to get a moment to enjoy a day without obligations is rare. Picnics are one of those things that can have so many great memories;
"Remember when we had a picnic and watched the sun go down? Lazed around reading the paper, drinking wine, sunnies on and back to the ground?"

Don't be left wanting on your perfect day.. pack the perfect picnic basket, and here is what you need to go in it.  The basket itself is not only functional, but part of the aesthetics of the day, it can be open or closed, lined or not..use what you have, even if its a laundry basket, use your imagination and get going!

The quintessential requirements should be

  • Bread...unleash the inner foodie; lovely crusty rolls, warm Turkish bread, or a heavy country grain with pumpkin, sunflower & poppy seeds.
  • Fresh sliced ham off the bone, specialty salami. If you are feeding a few mouths, grab a BBQ hot chicken from the shop on the way.
  • Mixed antipasto; sun dried tomatoes, marinated eggplant, char-grilled capsicum as the basics.
  • A couple of nice cheese's, hard and soft; cheddar or Gouda, brie or triple cream.
  • Something reflecting a salad...simple rocket or spinach leaves..the more basic the better.
  • Your most tastiest relish or chutney.
  • A tub of strawberries, raspberries or blueberries, as your dessert, no mess, no fuss and great little sugar bombs.*on a hot day chocolate will just get messy..
  • Something to drink.. and water...don't forget the water!
  • plates/serviettes/cutlery/wine glasses
  • Chill pills...leave the stress at home.
Extra Extra specials....
  • A tub of gourmet stuffed olives, to snack on during the day
  • Smoked tomatoes...YUM!!
  • Smoked Waygu beef carparccio style
  • Cacciatore, Sremska or an extraordinary specialty sausage 
  • Feta or pesto stuffed bell peppers
  • A local wine picked up on your way, that way it will be nice and cold upon opening. Why not do a tasting?
  • Mini pastries for dessert or handmade shortbread
  • Beautiful blue cheese or an exotic washed rind..strong cheese for solid  memories!
  • Grape or fig paste to go with the cheese
  • Lavoche

Ok so now you have it, remember to pack a soft blanket and bring sunscreen and a big floppy hat.

Too much hassle? Based near Brisbane, here is a link that will take the fuss out of it. This place does lovely pre packed baskets.  DeliVino on Tamborine

Bon appetite!

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Sunday, 4 August 2013

#Pregnancy #No2. Should it really be Ho Hum?

Well....with one week to go, its all very close; any day...any second. I have a cesarean booked in, and get told by all concerned "don't go early". if I have a choice?

Its all been a very ho hum experience the second time around.  The first was full of information, prego books, diaries, blood tests, samples, appointments and unwanted tips and so forth from family and Miss Information......
"Don't put your hands up over your head, the cord could get tangled..."
"You are eating for two you know"
"Lets swing a gold ring above your stomach to check the gender"
"should you REALLY be doing that?"
"Should you REALLY be eating that?"
sigh....bugger off (in my head) I scream silently..
week 39
Last round I got cups of tea in bed with Vegemite toast, the washing hung out, and if I even dared to look up at something, MM would be right there to see what I needed to acquire. I didn't have to pick anything up ie; toys, random socks, bling, my little pony's, rocks, more rocks and shiny coloured things, tiny farm animals, mega blocks, gems, tiara's, pretty skirts, princess dresses, did I mention rocks??  The family rallied before the date and I had a house full of expectant grandparents, anticipating...waiting...watching....(Oh God, please....). It was very nice to come home to flowers, and a polished and amazingly clean house (thanks mum).

This time was to be different, I have exercised more from the start, watched what I eat, am fitter and looked forward to not putting on the stifling 22 kg as I did last time.  However after the listeria outbreak from one of my favourite cheesery I did sadly decide to refrain from soft cheese and mouthwatering smoked Wagyu beef.. I did pick up a mild habit for Gouda, also toasted raisin bread drizzled with truffle honey. I mean, if I cant have some gourmet, I can still have other gourmet- right? YES!!
Little goes a long way...

See how chalky this is??? ready for the eating..

The last month has completely undone me.  The weight is a huge issue (literally). I just don't feel like walking in the fog at 0 degrees. Its just not pleasant.  I do already have a 4 year old who keeps me fairly active. I constantly pick up stuff, which is particularly annoying and exhausting bending over a hard oversize basket ball at least 50 times a day.  I watch incredulously as MM steps over such things and continues on his way, I carefully but tirelessly train LMM to place her belongings on the bed or table to help limit the bending drama. She does display empathy, puts her hand out to help me up off the floor, and I concede that she is still only 4 and allowed to be a kid.   I squat SO much that in my next life I am going to be a frog, the waddling has taken place and my thighs haven't said hello to each other in a couple of weeks. I roll like a rotisserie in bed surrounded by pillows, and only have a good night when MM is working a night shift- YAH.

Great...? Just got off the phone with the hospital and they are bringing all 'bookings' forward 2 days...I instantly go into meltdown as I was really relying on those extra 2 days to get a my thoughts together (like I haven't had 9 months). It was all so ho hum to the midwife on the phone.."OK?" she says.. well again, as if I have a choice..
Ho hum is what I am calling my parents decision, who have been travelling for the last 4 months out in the desert, loving life, the freedom, the silence, the distance, who are now on their way down the coast, but NO...cant stay within phone reception reach, because they might have to rally to get here just those few days earlier than it was planned. Sorry to put you out, but now you are going to be about a week late...and I cant get hold of you. Fantastic, just what every daughter wants.

Jeez...cranky just doesn't sum it up huh? Actually, its more quiet irony - apart from this rather public whinge. I am not here to demand or to ask, but rather to expect what I believe are to be basics.

I do realize how thankful I am; I am healthy, I have a wonderful husband and daughter, who are healthy, we are together as family, a roof over our heads, our properties sold and mortgages released, no credit card debt and rates and taxes to pay.
mmm brie....
So what am I whinging for?? Because I can, and in a few days, I wont have an excuse. So until the night feeding makes for sleep deprivation and I end up pouring rice bubbles into the sink instead of a bowl...will keep you posted..after I get the washing in..

#7months feeling great

Links for really great info & excellent real life perspective;
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Monday, 29 July 2013

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Truth...way too many snobs out there. Some 'experts' need to pull their heads in.  All in all we need people to support the wine industry in what ever capacity.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Don't bring your children; the worst whine ever...The Sicilian....

Sicilian Restaurant – Parramatta

292 Church Street, Parramatta

Why they are still in business is beyond me....

With all great intentions that afternoon I booked a footpath booth for 3+2 children for 6 pm. Assured by staff there were heaters to ward off any chill it seemed to be a perfect spot to meet my fantastic Italian friend who travelled from PnG with her two small children.  The 4-6 seat booth was perfect for us and suitable for a little lie down for the kids if needed.

Upon arrival I informed waiter that we were minus 1 person, it was in fact a little colder than expected and asked if we could swap for an inside booth..the waiter walked off a little put out, and said there were no inside booths available. The little tackers were travel worn and at the thin edge of the evening (fair enough!)


Wanting to get the kids settled we opted to go back, to the outside booth where there were overhead heaters and, yes, they did drop the canopy for us. However, the upright heater was not offered at the time and then it was given to someone else. We were seated at a 12 person booth (there were 4 of us) while there were 2 of the other lovely half moon booths empty. They weren't booked because they got two walk ins who were promptly seated there.  We then got ignored while all the wait staff walked back and forward to the other outside tables, some looking at us, and some not.  Even the waiter who seated us, who was now on the door and was directly opposite us completely looked through us. I managed to 'hail' down a waiter for some drinks and some 40 min after being seated FINALLY got something to drink (bear in mind we had 2 small children). It took 3 waiters just to bring a bottle of water..... Unbelievable...

While the other booths got service, drinks and meals, we attempted to 'hail' more staff to order a pizza for the kids; a simple ham and olive pizza..."sorry we cannot do that" came the reply...YOU WHAT??!?!?!?!

***it was at this point that we should have been offered the children's menu....pretty bloody obvious with 2 small children huh????

So we suggested swapping the pineapple for olives on a 'Hawaiian' the waiter seemed satisfied and we then quickly ordered the calamari and warmed olives for us, as the offers of service was few and far between (from here and the moon).

The hungry kids demolished the pizza and the entree calamari, while our olives were as salty as the Dead Sea and therefore were returned.
***if you have read any of my blogs you will know that I am 8 months prego- enough said??

We then ordered the pumpkin & Persian feta ravioli...why oh why did we do that??? It arrived, we both took one bite to find the under cooked Ravioli pasty, claggy and stuck to the palate, I had to scrape mine off the roof of my mouth. It was dull and unseasoned, unpalatable and instantly unimpressive, with two small pieces of feta on top as a garnish.  Before I could blink my Italian friend, (a foremost authority) snapped a waiter to send them back to the kitchen. If anyone knows about Ravioli, its in her I trust!!

It was at this point of no return that we were flabbergasted. The poor waitress that came to take control of her section was put in the worst position by her peers. She attempted to amend the situation, and I give her credit for that but it was really too far gone.  The inexperienced manageress was pushed out the door (like a lamb to the slaughter) with a mouthful of apologies but nothing more, stating in fact that she likes the olives......hmm.

We had to order something (out of pure hunger), so we opted for a pizza which was fairly ordinary as well, but by this point we were so beyond it. It came out quickly; our new and permanent waitress must have put a rush on it.

It was at THIS point, wanting to be helpful, that she offered colouring-in sheets for the kids....she said it was part of the children's menu.....THE WHAATT?????? So, for $12.90 there was meal, drink & dessert for kids....OMG. The calamari was part of this menu (which we paid $14.90 for alone).Even our waitress was embarrassed that we hadn't been offered the children's menu. We wanted to scream....

In all fairness, the restaurant removed the Ravioli off the docket but..left the olives on, which we insisted that they remove, which they did.  We still ended up paying $88 for absolute rubbish food and no service. At least we both got a cocktail and a mocktail, which were the tastiest items on our bill.

All in all we shouldn't have stayed, but unwilling to unsettle the kids we opted to stay put. Simply put, it is the worst place I have dined at in the last 10 years. I have worked, managed and owned a business in the restaurant industry. True leadership comes from the top, and it flows down through the levels. There was no leadership evident here, no passion, no interest. Instead there seemed to be internal sabotage. Enough said??


I wont dine at any of these owned by the group;

Our Venues

Other Reviews on the Sicilian;

True Local

Sicilian on Urbanspoon This has to be the most memorable restaurant for all the wrong reasons...

Monday, 8 July 2013

A family event @ #Scenic Rim #Eat Local Week, WTF??

Now in its third year running, the Scenic Rim (40 min out into the foothills of the Gold Coast Queensland Australia) has just wrapped up its week long 'oorah' of local produce for 2013.

Featuring produce only sourced within 100 km of the Rim, there was found to be an abundance of all food pyramid sections.  Restaurants, vineyards & wineries, cafes, community centres & deli's showcased special events and long table paddock to plate community brunches

Participants indulged in veggie fritters with roast tomato and crispy pancetta, custard tarts with Mt Tamborine rhubarb ice cream, beetroot & chocolate muffins and more  Other activities for foodies included the Beechmont Zest Fest community markets stalls & product tasting opportunities, cooking demonstrations hosted by local Mt Tamborine Cooking School, Bush Tukka demonstrations at Binna Burra Lodge, Towri Sheep Cheese hosted farm tours and tastings, and DeliVino on Tamborine offered a complete 3 course menu designed around core local products as well as a tasting table of local products including local Rathlogan Olives, while barrel tastings & vineyards tours were available at Queensland Wine Centre & Normanby Wines

Local Rathlogan Olives
Organic produce farms were open for tours, & Mt Barney Lodge hosted eco activities making 'wild pizzas' (handpicked foraged native foods) cooked over hot coals and lemon myrtle tea whilst enjoying the camp fire; and what teenager doesn't enjoy playing with fire?? For the younger minded there were cooking classes,  Health Sense-sations Factory Tour & Tastings; a commercial kitchen specializing in vegetarian & gluten free foods. The Scenic Rim Robotic Dairythe first in Qld where cows are milked by robots, kicked off its official launch and Oliva di Tabragalba Olive Grove hosted tours & tastings for beautifully plump kalamata's & finest pure extra virgin olive oil.
Tasting Table of Local Products @ Delivino on Tamborine
The week of local foodie extravagance culminated in the Winter Harvest Festival; an authentic food festival that served up the Scenic Rim on a plate.The farmers were out with a sparkle in their eyes; you could wrap your lips around the food at many food stalls & buy their fresh produce.
A great Sunday family day out featuring tasting plates of cheese, antipastos & meats, live music, cooking demonstrations, kids’ activities, market stalls selling fresh local produce, Scenic Rim wine, milk, olives, cheese, jams, relishes and much more.

So to sum it up, for young and old, foodie or not there was something for every discerning palate.
Local Deli Relish
Links & Contacts

Cooking Schools & Food Kitchens;
Wild Lime Cooking School; Worendo, 97 Cedar Glen Rd, Darlington, Tel 1800 503 475
Tamborine Cooking School; 609 Main Western Rd, Mount Tamborine, Tel 07) 5545 4564/ 0421 087 901
Health Sense-sations; 3/3 Welge Street, Kalbar, Tel 07) 5463 9200

Local Wine Tastings & Tours
DeliVino on Tamborine 12 Main Western Road, North Tamborine, Tel 07) 5545 3343
Normanby Wines; 178 Dunns Avenue, Harrisville,  Tel 07) 5467 1214 / 0458 647 204
Queensland Wine Centre 104-144 Hartley Road, North Tamborine, Tel 07) 5545 1666

Kid Friendly Family Farm Stays
Lillydale Farmstay; 821 Upper Logan Rd, Mt Barney, Tel 07 5544 3131
Mt Barney Lodge; 1093 Upper Logan Rd, Mt Barney, Tel 07 5544 3233

Organic Produce
Poppi's Pantry/ Organic Shed; 64 High St, Boonah,
Oliva di Tabragalba; Biddaddaba Creek Road, Biddaddaba, Tel 5543 0547
Kalfresh Carrot Field; Cunningham Highway, Kalbar,
The Organic Shed; (Waywillanwy Farm) Cnr Milford & Boonah Rathdowney Rd, Boonah

Tasting & Tour Opportunities & Participating Restaurants
DeliVino on Tamborine 12 Main Western Road, North Tamborine, Tel 07) 5545 3343
Towri Sheep Cheese 206 Saville Road, Allenview,  Tel (07) 5543 1260
Oliva di Tabragalba 173 Biddaddaba Creek Road, Biddaddaba, 4275 Tel 0421337750
Scenic Rim Robotic Dairy 9023 Mount Lindesay Highway, Tamrookum, Tel: 1300 673 780
Rathlogan Grove  4 Upper Logan Road, Rathdowney, Tel 07 55441024

Monday, 10 June 2013

Kids in the kitchen, big and small!

Its raining, its pouring....... 

10 June 2013
Pic Courtesy of

Bugger..there goes the idea of a picnic by the lake, flying the kite, flopping around on the picnic blanket whilst laying out a spread of fresh baguette, luxury mayo, calabrese salami, Jarlsberg cheese & rocket.....sigh....... OK  so with a little tweaking we have decided to picnic inside, with all the soft toys we can muster, the tea party gear and freshly made Jumble Bumbles....

MM (mr morsel) is home for the public holiday, and deciding to be a family event, we all had our own part of the biscuit recipe to follow. Keeping in mind that LML ('lil miss morsel) is 4 yrs, and quite handy in the kitchen (apart from touching everything, wanting to lick every spoon, vessel and finger). Now us big kids have done our fair share of cooking together, we ran our own boutique bakery for 5 years and worked along side each other making slices, biscuits, bread, pies cakes and whatever else you find within a bakery cabinet, long hours and challenges; life was never dull. (this story is for another time and place)

We worked hard, proudly produced a heap of variety along with a mixer full of stress running a 24/7 business. So I find it amazing to be a part of an argument over how to soften the butter to cream together with sugar...even LML said "daddy...mummy's right y'know" (God love her). A self admitted control freak is he, however in the kitchen its MY RULES or get I did...LOL 

There obviously comes a time when you have to choose your battles, know when to make an acceptable exit from an obvious 'too many cooks' syndrome. That's fine, because he rarely gets the opportunity to see how well LML measures, sifts and mixes, cracks eggs and gets involved (besides from washing her hands in the flour) and me being 7 months ready to hatch it really is FINE to sit back and quietly observe without any fuss. Deciding on boy & girl cookie cutter shapes the mixing, rolling out cutting and baking is now done. (just with a few mishaps from not reading the recipe..) Now its time to ice the Jumbles complete with pink and blue dusting sand..oh what fun to watch from a camera distance...heheeh.
boys n girls cooling off
Face Painting & baking on a rainy day

Patience is a virtue when baking with little people, you have to have eyes in the back, sides and front of your head and predict every possible situation that may arise out of simply asking to pass the flour... Let them shine, let them make mistakes and have some fun, don't scare them off because they cracked the egg on the floor instead of in the bowl, look the other way when mixture goes in the mouth instead of on the tray. Develop & enrich their sense of achievement and see how proud they are to have made cookies ("all by myself..").
From the silence in the kitchen apart from the crunch crunch sound, it is all looking good, I just have to remember to keep out of the way until its all done (including cleaned up and put away)

See? Along with choosing your battles comes the spoils of; not having to clean my/ their mess up, having broken bits of freshly made cookie ferried over for sampling and seeing my favourite people have some fun in the kitchen.

Time for that coffee I so richly deserve from keeping my distance and keeping my mouth shut except however to sample fresh made jumble bumbles.

Recipe Link

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

The in's and out's of tomato preparation

"The best results come from careful preparation, and peeling a tomato is no different." 

I can hear you now.." as if I need to know this...." One day, you will want this info, mark my words...first up, a bit of background on the infatuation with tomatoes.

For a long as I can remember I loved hanging out with my beautiful nana every Sunday (and days in between) I was able to soak up the best of her knowledge from time honored recipes. I use to stand on a foot stool at the bench with her behind me helping me stir the ingredients, use the electric beater...breaking the eggs and sift the flour, she always knew when I had my fingers in the bowl, but usually chose to look the other way and smile. I loved my Nana. 

So often we used to have big BBQ's, with the whole family. The picnic basket would be packed and down into the huge garden we would go, abundant with apricot trees, loganberries, greengages, baby apples, gooseberries, peach & nectarine trees. Some of these many people have never heard of. How lucky I am. 
The best memory was enjoying my lamb chop with nana's home made relish. YUM. So much that I had to start making my own relish, to re-kindle the memory of freedom, fun, family. I started with a few jars, quickly consumed them, made some more (lots more) gave some away to friends...then as time went on due to popular demand starting my own small business; The Deli Relish Co. so now I know and would like to share some tips about how to prepare tomatoes.

beautiful truss tomatoes
 1) You don't need premium A grade tomatoes. These are for restaurants looking for 'ala perfect' examples and will pay top $$ for them. They can sometimes get up to $70 a box (10 kg)...ouch! They believe that to cut the blemish out costs too much in wages... You will pay way too much for 'ala perfect' tomatoes that you just cut up anyway.  Go for the ones that are put aside for 'sauces', 2nd's; being a little spoilt or soft. 

2) Make sure you get the BIG ones...don't EVER go and buy the little ones, (especially not the cherry's they are all skin) or get talked into it by the shop keeper. Not small, not medium but BIG only.What is perfectly good for the everyday family, is going to take you FOREVER to process, time, effort, power, ice, all costs that you don't need to facilitate. 

3) It doesn't matter if they are the ordinary variety or roma tomatoes, if they are not quite ripe enough, leave them in the box for a couple of days, lid on, in a cool spot. 

4) Wash your tomatoes in cold water. Fill the sink and give them a bath, you don't know where or what they have travelled in, so do your preparations carefully, don't cut corners

5) Make a cross on the bottom of each tomato, (that is opposite to the end where the stalk connects) with a sharp paring knife. This will allow the boiling water to penetrate more easily and split the skins. 

6) Fill a large pot 3/4 full, and boil. There is no need to salt the water. 

7) Get a large bowl and half fill with ice and top up with cold water. This is called an ice bath. This prevents your tomato from continuing to 'cook'. You will need to refresh your ice bath several times as the hot tomatoes will soon heat the water up. 

8) You will also need a bowl for the skins and tops. 

9) Lower very carefully 5 tomatoes at a time into the boiling water. The skins will start to split open after about 1 minute. When they are significantly split, scoop them up using a slotted spoon and pop them into the ice bath. 

10) With not much effort at all the skins should come away from the tomato and they are then ready to be chopped into large pieces and put into a food processor; this is called concasse (con-cas-say). 

Tips and secrets..

The big tomatoes will split very quickly so don't get distracted; answer the phone or make a sandwich....the medium tomatoes take forever to split, so long that once I bought 12 kg of them and it took me 3 hours.....arggggg sore feet, wasted time and so frustrated by the end of it that I didn't do the last 2 kg (they were so cheap, it was way too tempting). 
***Remember to remove the top, where it connect to the plant or that will spoil the look of your finished product, a lovely puree mix will have dark flecks throughout it. 
Now its up to you what you need to use them for; there are many applications from pasata (Italian tomato sauce), just add grated carrots & herbs, freeze for a ready to use base for pasta, lasagne, tomato juice (love Bloody Mary's), homemade tomato soup base.. Freeze into manageable portions, and your food will taste amazing, full of life and you will want to use this method over and over, the results are worth the work.

Useful Links;  (just when you think you know it all; great tomato based recipes)
Tomato Info
Ricardoes (the best tomatoes on the east coast of Australia)
Better Homes & Gardens (how to grow)

The Deli Relish Co. end results