This weekend 80 of Australia’s most hungry bloggers descended on Canberra for three fun filled days of workshops, wine tastings, alcoholic popsicle licking, gastronomy gazing and lots and lots of…learning! Warning, this is a bumper blog and may spark creativity juices you’ve forgotten you had!
The first day of Eat Drink Blog was action packed. We were taken first thing to the Capital Region Farmers Market where we watched a cooking demonstration and were able to wander round and see all the local produce on offer. If there is one thing Canberra is passionate about it’s Canberra and this is evident as the stallholders live and breath their products. As you’ll know I love flowers and just had too pick up some of these poppies…
They are one of my favourites because they always remind me of my Nanny.
We transferred to Nishi Gallery where we were spoilt with knowledge from a few speakers throughout the day. Firstly we heard from Matthew Evans who took us through his long road to success, from “refreshing oysters’ (yuck!) to living on his own ‘Fat Pig Farm’. I loved what he had to say about organic and local produce and buying food when it is truly ripe and in season. It is so important to support your local growers, whereever you are in the world.
Matthew also believes that the best food in the world may not be served in restaurants but right in our own homes. Watch this space as i’ll be visiting his upcoming farm to table project opening in Tassy next year.
We then heard from Todd Wright, Director of Threesides Marketing who gave us a some incredible quick-fire pieces of advise on SEO for bloggers and social media. My brain is whirring with Google Anayltics, Keywords, Alt tags, widgets and the like!
After a morning of the technical and writing skills we moved onto learning about the design aspect of creativity where we learnt from Tess Godkin and Alice Lau.
Tess’ presentation left me itching to know more about photography. An amazingly talented photographer, Tess was able to assemble a pumpkin salad and take some stunning pictures in under ten minutes. We learnt the importance of natural light and picture composition. I havent stopped photographing things, anything, since! Needless to say… I need to keep practising.
I went back to my gorgeous hotel room at the QT Canberra, which you can read all about here, and got ready for dinner at A.Baker. Again I share my experience of this cool, recently renovated restaurant, home to dishes made entirely of local produce here.
Now it was time to hear from the author of the hugely successful blog Smaggle, Carly Jacobs. A girl after my own heart she is a self confessed organisational and list writing addict! One of her top tips was “Own it and don’t apologise for being a weirdo”! She really helped me refocus on my blog with her insight into how to build a blog when you are too damn busy, something I can definitely relate too.
I haver been incredibly fortunate during my time in Australia to work with some of the coolest people I have ever met, and Anna is no exception. My only qualm is that she lives so far away, in Adelaide. However, that gives me the perfect excuse to go down for a visit.
There’s nothing that Anna and like to do better than to drink wine so McLaren Vale seemed like the perfect choice.
First Anna showed me the sights of Adelaide and I was surprised by how cool and quirky the city is. The food market was my favourite place by far, filled with wine, meats and cheese and why i love it so much is admirably everything is local.
I could quite happily shop here every weekend but I’m afraid i wouldn’t get very far from this stand in particular.
With a rather impressive picnic bought and packed it was time to meet my other cool Adelaidean (yes that’s a word, I Googled it!) colleague, Simon who we roped in as desi. He also knows a immense amount about wine so doubled as impressive our guide. Funny how some things just fall into place, isn’t it.
With endless laughs supplied by Anna, endless factoids coming from Simon and the weather really turning it on for us we headed for the hills.
Over the course of the day we hit a total of three wineries, just enough.This was my favourite, set on the top of a hill set in a garden of English flowers, I could have stayed for a week. Look how pretty…
We stopped for a picnic in the gardens of Samuel’s Gorge, with a rather lovely Tempranillo that Simon expertly picked.
We rounded the afternoon off nicely quenching our thirst with a refreshing gin and tonic, just what was needed after all those tannins.
Afternoon turned into evening as I sampled Adelaide’s great nightlife. We were fortunate enough to head to an awesome, nautical themed, bar called Hains & Co on ‘World Pirate Day’. I will save you from the photos but trust me it was a night full of rum, dancing and “ee argh mateys”, definitely one to be remembered.
The weather said anything but chocolate today. Spring has finally sprung upon Sydney with 26 degree heat, and how did we celebrate? With the Smooth Festival of Chocolate of course.
Hundreds of people descended on Circular Quay eager for the taste of the new and exciting chocolate creations from the city’s chocolatiers.
Anna Polyviou, Sydney’s very own Willy Wonka, teamed up with N2 (most famously known for their nitrogen made ‘extreme’ gelato) for experimental and molecular creations, so daring the staff were required to take precautions when serving…
Serendipity really turned up this weekend serving some seriously impressive milkshakes topped with ice cream cups.
I don’t think I had it in me to battle the crowds to even getting close to The Vogue Cafe stand. This in turn allowed me time to peruse stands of never heard of. Just like Kim Sutherland’s Poetry. Entirely hand made and self-packaged Kim’s choc fudge was dangerously addictive.
Now me personally, I am a purist and a fan of dark chocolate. I tried my first taste of 85% fair trade chocolate from Bolivia. Packaged in easily bio-degradable paper, Origin and Zokoko were real delights.
ChocoLAB showed off some cool new flavours created by their customers. I definitely recommend the s’mores flavour. All made with natural ingredients.
Of course there were mountains of cronuts, macarons, chocolate covered strawberries and multi-flavoured scrolls as far as the eye could see…
Before leaving, not feeling quite full enough, I headed over the Temptation Tent. True to its name this naughty little palace of indulgence was sponsored by Tim Tam. They offered the hoards the chance to sample their new flavours. Peanut butter, double dark, dark choc and raspberry, red velvet, coconut cream and salted caramel are just some of the amaze-balls flavours coming in the near future.
Bakedown Cakery were my absolute highlight of the day and I was immediately struck with bakenvy. Jen was there to show off some of her awe-inspiring cake designs to illustrate her take on Tim Tam’s new flavours.
That’s enough indulgence for one weekend, I’ll be booking my diabetes check as soon as I get into the office!
With just four stages and three ingredients this is the easiest, yet most impressive, lamb dish that will leave your friends thinking you are the next Raymond Blanc.
The most artistic chefs in the world consider the theatre of presentation in their creations. This dish will leave you feeling more plasterer than Picasso, but it serves as an exciting centre piece none-the-less!
The salt casing ensures the lamb bakes as opposed to roasts, leaving blushing-pink and mouth-wateringly tender meat. I definitely love the result you get when cooking this way.
We conjured up a feast fit for at least 8-10 people with this size of joint.
You will need:
3kg leg of lamb (on the bone)
1.5kg table salt
5 egg whites
Firstly, take your lamb out of the fridge at least three hours before starting, to reach room temperature – you want the fibres of the meat to be as relaxed as possible to achieve a tender result. Preheat your oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
In a heavy bottomed pan over a high heat, seal the meat for two minutes on each side in a little vegetable oil. Allow to rest for 15 minutes. Again, this is to relax the meat’s fibres.
Meanwhile, whisk together the salt and egg whites until you achieve a fluffy salty meringue.
On a flat baking tray spread about a quarter of the meringue into the shape of the joint, a cm thick. Place the meat on top and cover with the rest of the mixture. This is where you’ll feel like a plasterer! Make sure it’s well covered with no air holes – to ensure it bakes, you don’t want any hot air to escape.
After 50 minutes (yes, just 50 minutes!!) the meringue would of turned golden brown and be rock hard! Cover with a cloth and leave the rest again for 30 minutes. This rest time is essential as the meat carries on cooking.
When your time is up carve out the lamb from its case, slice and serve. You might want to show off to your guests and do this at the table – beware, it is a little messy!
Voila, there you have it, I told you it was easy. We served ours with sweet and white potatoes, roasted with thyme and rosemary, minted peas and sprouts with pancetta. Oh and a lovely Shiraz, it is a Sunday after all. Enjoy!
There is no greater joie de vivre than stumbling upon a French festival. This particular Sunday, Circular Quay was its usual bustling hive of activity but with an added air of sophistication.
To my delight, rows and rows of market stalls were selling the best of the best of French culture adorned in red white and blue as the French population of Sydney (and its admirers) came out to celebrate the fete de le revolucion; Bastille Day.
I have never lived in France, but I feel I have a strange emotional connection to the country. The excited pitter-patter of fluent speech is comforting to me, as well as the affinity I have with French food; coq au vin, duck confit, beef bourguignon (“bor-gee-nyawn”), world famous pastries and sweet treats are just the tip of the iceberg of other carb-loaded heavenly plates of comfort. This is enough to make me while away the afternoon daydreaming without even having mentioned the countryside of France, which is some of the most stunning scenery you will ever see.
I instantly felt more at home than I have done so far on (what I am calling) my ‘Australian adventure’. I weaved my way through the crowds, a smile from ear to ear. Ever seen a girl wondering along, on her own, smiling insanely!? – “Bonjour”.
The sweet smell of cooking onions and stock engulfed me as I walked through a French Onion cloud, just as the chef was serving the soup in a bread roll to a salivating customer. This was enough to awaken my hunger pangs. I knew what I wanted, and it wasn’t long before I found it…
I was met by a crowd of, what must of been 30 people, all forming an orderly queue for the delicious, freshly made, buckwheat crêpe. I went for smoked salmon, crème fraîche, spinach and a sprinkling of lemon juice.
After my lunch time snack (when eating French, one lunch is never enough) I went looking for my next morsel.
I passed delicate and artistic petit fours and colourful macaroons piled high. I went for a mille foie and chocolat chaud.
Then onto the pièce de résistance of French produce; cheese! I managed to follow my nose to a perfect little racelette stand.
As soon as I was completely satisfied with my food intake (couldn’t fit another mouthful in) I moved along the market seeing what else there was on offer.
There were cookery classes…
…a good old game of boules…
…as well as furniture and home wares.
It certainly has wet my appetite for France and you will be pleased to know a trip to Vallée de la Loire has been arranged for shortly after my return.
I recently found myself on the receiving end of an extremely cutting remark. I was having brunch when all of a sudden I heard some nonsense about “needing to learn portion control” aimed in my direction. Here is my response…
Stupidly enough I let this get to me for nearly three days until I came to my senses. I won’t divulge my size because it doesn’t matter in the slightest. With all the criticism and scrutiny every person on this planet is under nowadays it just showed that I am so much healthier in my emotional and psychological body image….and that makes me feel pretty smug actually!
So, you know what we should do in the face of our critics?…eat cake! Not just any cake, the most effective metaphorical two-fingers-up cake I could think of. And there is only one that immediately springs to mind. Bruce Bogtrotter’s cake.
My sweat and blood went into this cake, and you will not leave this blog until you have consumed the entire confection!
For the cake, you will need:
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups granulated sugar
¾ cup cocoa
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup water
1 cup milk
1 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the grenache icing:
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Firstly, preheat oven to 180°C.
Mix dry items together. Add wet items slowly. Use a mixer until well blended.
Licking the bowl clean at this point is mandatory…
Grease a 9-inch round baking pan and pour in batter. Bake 30-35 minutes (until a toothpick comes out clean). Leave to cool for 10 minutes before frosting. To make the grenache icing: melt the chocolate in heavy cream on a saucepan, stirring until fully melted. Remove from heat and let cool. To frost I like to pour over the cake and then smooth using a spatula to help spread it evenly.
It doesn’t have to be perfectly neat, it’s the taste that matters.
Now, I want you to join me in waltzing passed that gym bag on the floor and tossing your trainers to one side with a smile. You don’t have to eat the whole cake like Bruce was forced to, although that is not my idea of punishment. Head to the kitchen and cut off a large portion of chocolaty heaven, grab a cup of tea and a Roald Dahl book (of course) and indulge yourself – “You can do it Brucey”