Nerdy gastronome

Winter holidays

What a mad last two months. Trust me to decide to take up blogging right before what turns out to the busiest period at uni yet. As I discover that one can only go so far before you simply run out of time, time management is definitely something I’ve had to start practicing. This little perfectionist isn’t liking it one bit. But in the kitchen, it means I’ve been looking into how I can translate theory into realistic, time efficient practices – and beat the habits that creep in when we’re stressed (Like fat and sugar consumption…). Think sneaky veggies at breakfast (yep, I gave in and tried green smoothies), dressing up the humble oat, urban foraging, and the beginnings of a cooking circle. More on all of this when, ah, I’m not so stressed! Most probably next month.

But in the mean time, I’ll be posting some snaps and scribbles from the last couple of months: current fads and inspirations, things I’ve been trying my hand at, and challenges that have set me a ruminating. First up: my last ever month-long winter holiday, the uni student’s luxury.

Straight away, I got my roast on. Can’t believe I just wrote that. But it doesn’t matter how foolish that sounded, because you must try roasting fruit. I implore you. Pop wedges of your favourite fruits (plum and pear being some of mine), and strew with spices (ginger, cinnamon and allspice anyone?), and a little butter and brown sugar (hmm, should really try a vegetable oil and a sweetener like honey or maple syrup next). Roast at 180 degrees Celsius – or thereabouts – to bronze, squishy perfection. Eat with yoghurt macerated in brown sugar, after a roast chicken Sunday dinner for double the roastiness (Oh wow, I’m on a roll today).

Sunday roast
The flavour of winter...

A tea party with macarons and T2 tea was had.
Tea party
Tea party
Biscuits and tea: the essentials

T2 keeps on bringing new twists on chai tea – but my absolute favourite so far is their ‘Spi Chai’ blend.
Chai tea

Then I rediscovered dumplings. My childhood experience of dumplings involved batter simmered in golden syrup, and the classic chicken casserole with savoury dumplings. Both rather rich dishes. Years later, I wanted something a bit lighter. The Market Basket’s Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Ricotta and Olive Dumplings was just the ticket. Gooey dumplings floating in soup. Bliss. Poured over some baby spinach. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Roast capsicum
Ricotta and olive dumplings
Roast capsicum soup with dumplings

I also managed to sneak in a good mushroom fix while staying with family. One evening, I popped large mushrooms atop thick pieces of bread; drizzled the lot in garlic, melted butter and parsley; and then finished it in the oven. Both a trip down memory lane for me – and beautiful comfort food in its own right. The next day, I did my take on a fry up inspired by Stephanie Alexander: chunky pasta with sautéed mushrooms, spinach, herbs, loooots of nutmeg and an eggy carbonara finish. Earthy and good – very good.

Kitchen table
Carbonara meets winter vegetable fry up

With all this spare time, I also had the chance to jazz up the family’s breakfast routine. More protein and veg! Namely, eggs and green smoothies – thanks to a little electric egg cooker and a new family blender. The website is a great introduction. I’ve seen lots of exotic looking recipes that call for fruit and ‘extras’ sourced from outside of WA. But in the interest of sustainability and economy, we’re honing recipes that use produce from local orchards and farms; apples, pears, citrus, spinach, broccoli (go easy on this stuff if it’s raw though…it’s an acquired taste raw, and steaming it actually improves its digestibility), and homegrown cavolo nero and mint have been making pretty regular appearances at breakfast. More on all of this in summer!

Green smoothie

Steamed sweet potato makes for a curiously filling and creamy smoothie, we discovered. Might try pumpkin next.
Sweet potato green smoothie

Cavolo nero from the veggie patch:
Cavolo nero


Towards the end of my holidays, I was pretty busy with uni stuff – but I managed to scope out a few food places in Perth that I’d been longing to visit. My favourites were…

1) Bivouac Canteen and Bar, Northbridge. I dropped in at about 5pm, when the place was nigh on empty, and enjoyed a leisurely meal with cheery and attentive service as the shadows lengthened and gave way to nightfall. Prices were definitely typical of your typical ‘trendy’ cafe in Perth though. My haloumi salad with pomegranate, barberries and hazelnut was suitably festive and moreish – definitely the highlight of the meal. The pea risotto with dukkah that followed was pleasant, but I think even my own risotto attempts have resulted in better texture. I would have gladly stayed for dessert though, and will definitely return for a meal with friends soon.
Haloumi salad with pomegranate, barberries & hazelnut

2) Little Willy’s, Northbridge. I only had time to stop by for afternoon tea; but the coffee and rhubarb friand were very good indeed. And given the reasonable prices compared to other cafes of this ilk, I look forward to returning for a breakfast burrito or a bagel with childish excitement.
Rhubarb friand

Finally, I had a crack at making bread with quinoa, chia seeds and… not much else. I’d dabbled with quinoa in salads before, but had been avoiding chia seeds (probably because of the hype surrounding them). The recipe came from a site and Facebook page I stumbled upon just recently: ‘Sugar Free Mum’ . I loved how ‘doable’ most of the recipes were, and gave in at the simplicity of this recipe (That, and the family happened to have some hastily purchased quinoa and chia seeds). The verdict: not my cup of tea. I think I prefer traditional grains like spelt and rye in my bread, simply because the quinoa was a little too strong. We ended up slathering it in butter and my grandma’s strawberry jam. This defeated the purpose I guess, but it made for a more nutritious dessert than some of the alternatives. It wasn’t bad toasted and served with soup though. And given the popularity of chia and quinoa at the moment, I think I’ll be doing some research into the nutrition, cost and sustainability in comparison to local equivalents.

But that’s enough gas bagging for now. Assignments call, and I’ve talked too long. Fictitious reader; have a lovely week, and I look forward to talking your ear off again soon.

This entry was published on October 17, 2013 at 12:08 am. It’s filed under Eating for health, Eating out, In the kitchen and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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