Sunday 28 June 2015

Friday 26 June 2015

Polish Pearl Barley Soup - aka Krupnik!

Pearl barley soup brings back happy memories for me of cold, wintry Sunday nights in our childhood home, a big pot of soup bubbling away on the stove, full of carrots and celery and shreds of beef. Mum had to feed 4 hungry children on not much money so this thick, chunky soup went a long way with some bread or scones.  I smiled when I saw this recipe in 'Sugared Oranges' by Beata Zatorska for a Polish version of mum's soup.  It is actually pretty much the same as mum's except for the dill and parsley, and the substitution of chicken for beef, or should that be beef for chicken?  I am never sure which way that should go.

Anyway, be grateful I am not sharing Russian barley soup with you - Rassolnik, made with pickled cucumbers, barley and kidneys!   That is a step too far for me.  Nah, I would give it a go if someone cooked it for me.  I believe in eating whatever someone is kind enough to make for you, even if not your fave dish.  My sis-in-law's sis-in-law made us spaghetti with tomato sauce one night for dinner and as regular readers may know, for me this does not compute!  Eek to packet pasta and eek to (tasteless) tomato sauce!  But yes I ate as much as I could stomach, and then went home to have some dinner:)

Righto, enough whingeing.  On to the soup.  Oh, and mum's did not have dried porcini mushroom flavouring it either. Dad was a meat and 3 veg man so nothing 'foreign' for him.  If you have time, rinse and soak the barley for a few hours before making the soup.  I left it late so only soaked it for 2 hours, though 6-8 hours is better, says Beata.


1 red onion, diced
2 large carrots, chopped - I like my carrots chunky
1-2 stalks of celery, sliced up
1 parsnip, diced - I used an extra half carrot and skipped the parsnip
3 chicken thigh cutlets (with bones in)
4 dried porcini mushrooms
200g. pearl barley (soaked for a few hours in cold water)
2 tsp chicken stock powder
2.7 litres of water (my soup pan wouldn't hold the 3 litres called for in the recipe!)
1 tbs lightly dried parsley
1 tbs dill paste (from a tube)
1 large potato, peeled and diced into 2cm pieces
salt and pepper to taste


Place the peeled and chopped onion, carrots, celery, parsnip and chicken cutlets into a large saucepan
Add in the porcini, barley, stock powder and water and half of the parsley and dill
Bring to the boil and simmer away for an hour till tender and beautiful
Throw in the diced potato and add salt and pepper to taste (I found it needed quite a lot)
Stir in the other half of the parsley and dill
Simmer for another 15 minutes
Pull the chicken meat off the bones, discard the bones and plop the meat back into the soup
Serve with crusty bread, in large bowls

Why not fresh herbs you may well ask?  Because seeing how it is winter, the fresh herbs looked very sad and sorry and not worth the money.  If you do find decent quality herbs, by all means use them and double the quantities given here. There was no need to saute the veggies first as I would normally have done (the recipe does not suggest this, and truly I found the soup delicious without doing it).  Normally I would soak the dried porcini first, but the recipe said to just chuck 'em in, so I did!  It also had only 2 chicken wings as part of the soup, which are removed at the end of cooking, but I felt there would be more flavour, and nicer to have a bit of flesh in the soup so I added the cutlets.


chopped veggies in the pan    

barley soaked and drained; potato ready for dicing  

adding chicken thigh cutlets  

ready for boiling!

diced potato about to be plopped in  

ready to eat 

even better the next day for lunch!  

Did I mention how much I enjoyed the book this came from?  The author is a doctor in Sydney, but travels often back to Poland, her home-country.  This book, and her earlier one Rose Petal Jam are both full of delightful photos taken by her husband Simon; stories about her childhood, and the delicious foods her grandmother made for the family.  Her writing is a little over the top for me, a tad too sentimental, but I understand that her heart is still in Poland in many ways.  It is a beautiful book with many lovely photos, and you can happily find yourself "lost in Poland." And the recipes are interesting too!

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church in Karkonosze Mountains Poland (image public domain) 

Beata spent her childhood summers at her grandmother's cottage in these mountains.

Monday 22 June 2015

Hard Coffee Cafe - Review

Mr P. and I are not huge beach fans, nor fond of high-rise buildings so we rarely head down to the Gold Coast even though it is only an hour's drive away.  We usually head down just to visit my family, or to pass through on the way to northern New South Wales to our fave getaway spots, and to visit friends.  We did recently go down to the Gold Coast City Art Gallery, and chanced upon the launch of their latest art exhibition called 'Gold and Greenstone'.  This is a look at 6 Maori artists either living on the Gold Coast, or with family connections there.  We were lucky enough to arrive just in time for the launch, which included a smoke ceremony welcoming everyone, and also Maori and Aboriginal dancers opening the exhibition.  We couldn't believe how quickly they started the fire!

fire making for the welcoming ceremony-did they have secret hidden matches?:)  

bush-stone curlew just outside the Art Gallery-you would never guess how long their legs are from this photo!  

But before we headed to the Gallery, our rumbling tummies cried out "lunch"!  I wanted somewhere quiet (well, as quiet as you can find on the Coast), so we scouted around and found Tedder Avenue, a rather swanky and rather quiet tree-lined street hidden away from the hustle and bustle, though the high-rises were in touching distance.  We did a quick eeny, meeny, miny moe and picked Hard Coffee Cafe.

these are the type of cars you find in trendy Tedder Ave.  

and what do you see in real estate agents' windows?  luxury boats!  

We wandered down the street till we came across Hard Coffee, next to a boutique that had incredibly expensive hats, shoes etc.  I was pining after the Phryne Fisher-type hat!

love that hat! see the high rises reflected in the glass?   

It was actually a bit nippy sitting in the shade so I opted for a hot mocha while Mr P. had his usual strawberry milkshake.  My drink was delicious!  So warming and chocolatey while still being coffee.

hot mocha $4.30

Mr P's milkshake already half gone:) $5.50

I am a sucker for a club sandwich so I went for that with grilled chicken breast.  It looked really cute, and was a hearty sandwich with lots of avocado, bacon and lettuce.  Oh, and tomato but I usually hand that over to Mr P. as I don't like tomato all that much. (It's a family thing; my sister doesn't like it either).

really fresh and tasty $15.40

Mr P. went with the daily burger special $12.50  

great value daily specials 

the lovely ladies of Hard Coffee  

Hard Coffee is open daily from 6am to 4pm.  It has daily specials, plus gluten-free options.  Usual suspects are smoothies, milkshakes, deluxe sandwiches, salads and juices.  On the Pickings scale, I give it 3.8 out of 5.

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(image Wikimedia Author C. hahn)  

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Thursday 18 June 2015

Lemon Rice Pudding - 2 ways

Rice pudding is so comforting, especially on a cold, wet evening.  My mum was more inclined to make her own bread and butter pudding, but spoon the rice pudding out of a tin.  I guess it was an easy-peasy, quick way to feed her family of 6.  She made it go further by adding tinned peaches or pears to our bowls.  Each child had their own bowl with a particular colour, so there was no squawking about whose was whose.  Mine was blue, of course!

These days I make my own pudding, and add lots of lemon to it for a citrus twist.  Then the next day with the leftovers you can make another version of tangy rice pudding.  It is delicious when served warm out of the oven when first made, but it does tend to go a bit gluggy the next day.  You can re-heat it, but I think it is better if you fancy it up a bit.

So let's start with the original recipe for lemon rice pudding which comes from a Cuisine NZ magazine, based on a Jane Grigson recipe:

Serves 4-6


100g. short grain rice - I used Arborio
500mls. cream
500mls. milk
2 tbs butter
4 tbs caster sugar
zest of 1 lemon
pinch of salt
juice of 1 lemon


Place all the ingredients except the lemon juice into a baking dish (mine is enamel, about 24cm x 28cm)
Give it a really good stir and put the dish into an oven heated to 150C
Bake for 1.5 hours, giving it a stir after each half hour
After the first half hour, you will swear it won't work, but after an hour, you can see the golden crust forming and the rice breaking down
Take out of the oven when the 1.5 hours is up
Now stir in the lemon juice
Serve with stewed or fresh fruit if you wish


into the baking dish

pour in the cream and milk 

give it a good stir and place in a 150C oven for 1.5 hours     

baked and golden 

pour in the lemon juice and stir      

ready for eating  

This is a lovely, creamy dessert and tastes best warm from the oven.  So here's where we head to dessert no. 2, using the leftovers, if there are any.  Mr P. and I had some for supper, and as there was about 2/3 left, I made this cold version the next day.  Obviously, the amounts of other ingredients will depend on how much you have left from the warm pudding.  But here's what I did.


leftover rice pudding
150mls cream, whipped into soft peaks
40g. toasted and chopped hazelnuts
6 glace cherries, chopped
zest of 1 orange
90g. pineapple pieces (yes, I happily confess to using tinned)
2 tbs orange juice
1/2 tsp natural orange essence
a few dashes of ground cinnamon


this is oh so easy.  Gently fold everything together, and you are done.  I suggest stirring a big spoonful of the cream into the rice first to loosen it, then add the rest of the cream and fold that in.


ready for folding in 

juicing the orange 

gently fold everything together

creamy and delicious   

Tuesday 16 June 2015

A - Z Guidebook - Aotearoa - New Zealand that is!

Gollum of course! 

You may wonder why Gollum is here as part of a travel link-up?  The inaugural link-up where bloggers put up a photo relating to their travels, thus starting with the letter A this month.  He doesn't start with A you may say.  True, but he is most probably associated with New Zealand (aka Aotearoa) these days, and the Weta Workshop in Wellington.  A few years ago, Mr P., myself and a few other family members met in Wellington for the WOW Festival -  the World of Wearable Art.  This is a fantastic festival and you absolutely must get there to see it before you die.  Bucket list?  oh yeah baby as Austin Powers would say.

We also went out to Miramar, a tiny little town in the middle of nowhere (at that time) where you can find the Weta Workshop.  The winner of WOW that year was a lovely young lady who worked at Weta.  We very luckily ran into her there, and took some photos with her.  There was an exhibition up of characters from Lord of the Rings, as well as others that Weta had made for various films and TV shows.  We had a blast, and the youngest niece was super impressed.

Mr P. and I really love New Zealand, and I suggest you hurry along if you haven't been there yet. Nope, nobody paid me to say that!  And get yourself to WOW sometime.  This trip will stay in my memory forever, as it was full of fun and family.  Oh, and food.  Who can forget those lip-smacking fresh fruit icecreams, or the crayfish pulled out of the water nearby, or the beautiful honey products from the local hives, or the wines, and the local olive oils - yep you get the idea! Happy days!

Feel free to join in with other bloggers in this enticing travel link-up, kindly sorted by Fiona on her blog

TIFFIN - bite sized food adventures -

Sunday 14 June 2015

My Sunday Photo 14 June 2015

I think this is Captain Cook, surrounded by tiny little security guards on the wall..  

This is part of an exhibition by NZ artist Michael Parekowhai; full of strange and wondrous sculptures and installations.


Thursday 11 June 2015

Aria Brisbane - Review

Nessun Dorma? Lakme? Or even -  I am the Very Model (of a Modern Major-General)?  Nope we are not talking opera here folks, but rather the fine dining restaurant run by well-known Sydney chef Matt Moran.  He sensibly decided he needed a riverside outpost here in Brisbane.  The restaurant is located on Eagle Street Pier overlooking the Brisbane River, with wonderful night-time views towards the Story Bridge.

splendid glass frontage at the entrance  

you can just make out the sparkly Story Bridge all a-glow
 (the old paddle wheeler looks ghost-like, doesn't it?)         

My Melburnian cousin (and her mum) was up on business, and suggested we check out Aria.  She has been to the Sydney version, so wanted to compare them.  (Brisbane came out on top she said - of course).  It was Monday night so we were a bit worried that it may not have been open but success! -  Aria is open 7 nights a week.  I booked for 6.30 p.m. (none of us like late nights and it was a "school" night).

We were welcomed warmly and led to a table which had fabulous views over the river.  Our waitress quickly provided us with sparkling water, which was kept filled all night.  My cousin and aunt were having plain water; the staff cleverly did not forget for one minute which was which.  Gorgeous little wooden rounds were soon on our table, displaying the amuse-bouche. Sadly, I have forgotten what it was exactly, but there was a squid-ink element to the crispy prawn cracker base (?), and I can just say it was delicious!

delicious if mysterious squid-ink amuse-bouche with a creamy dollop of unknown nature:)   

Well, we wolfed that down and waited in anticipation for the dinner to come.  My cousin and I had a glass of Sauvignon Blanc from the Yarra Valley ($14).  My aunt and Mr P. stuck to water (the Coke he ordered never came).

sour dough and butter were very tasty

I chose oysters naked and juicy $4.50 each      

buffalo milk haloumi with date, witlof and and lime salad $33        

Mr P. and the Cuz both had this, and found it "bloody good", quoting Mr P.  He said the haloumi was smooth and flavoursome, and probably the best he had ever had.  (I am quoting here).

hand cut chips $9-of course delicious!

roast duck breast with greens and toasted buckwheat $52 

Delicious duck with a crispy skin, and flesh just a teeny bit too well-done for me but still fabulous.

smoked Wagyu short rib $54 

Sauces for the beef came along separately in small dishes; the diner chooses which one (s) they want. The Cuz and aunt enjoyed the tender and perfectly cooked beef.  My aunt was very happy that there were no quibbles about her wanting it well-done.  I was informed very nicely that the duck came out medium-rare which is my preferred option anyway.  It was a leetle overdone for me, as I often find when restaurants insist on a certain way, ironically:)

Mr P. had King Salmon with broccoli, and rye puree $53  

I had a small taste and found it a bit dry, but Mr P. liked it.  He said the  presentation was beautiful, but he felt there wasn't quite enough on the plate.  The fish itself was tender according to Mr P., and the flavour spoke for itself - i.e. - like salmon, which he enjoyed.

steamed greens with sherry vinegar and Chinese sausage $12 

I didn't get around to trying the greens but I assume they were tasty as I didn't hear otherwise. Another time I would love to try the truffle mash; it sounds decadent.  We even managed to squeeze in dessert; well, it was our duty really:)

I had the Hazelnut dessert-with caramel and popcorn ganache and hazelnut ice cream $23  

I was a little uncertain of my dessert; I am not a big fan of popcorn, and felt that it did not really fit in with the dish.  I was not super-keen on the ganache either; it was a bit gummy, and surprisingly not very flavourful.

Valrhona chocolate pave w/- banana and choc sorbet, and salted caramel peanuts $25

The Cuz liked her dessert, and clearly had none of the reservations that I had.  I think it looks more tantalising than mine; my own fault really for picking a popcorn dish.

what do you call the amuse-bouche at the end?  Anyway it was so delish that I had to snaffle hubby's piece of sweet crispy thing!

The crisp was flavoured with peanuts, and I think black sesame seeds (or Nigella seeds?).  I instantly thought I had to try making it at home, so you may see it in a later post.

this cute box with tiny macarons was given to each of us at the end of the night

They made a fabulous breakfast bite the next day!  We all thought this was a lovely touch to finish off our night.  Service was very friendly and impeccable (except for the missing Coke); the food was flavoursome and well cooked, and overall we had a really enjoyable evening.  We wrapped ourselves in coats and scarves (can you believe there was a cold wind blowing down the street in sunny Brisbane?) and headed out into the night, well fed and content.

Aria has an award-winning wine list, changes their menu regularly according to the seasons, and also offers a tasting menu at $125 for 4 courses and $165 for seven.  There was a function in the private dining room on the night we were there, which we were sitting very close to, but there was no extraneous noise or bother at all.  In fact, the whole restaurant was beautifully peaceful and quiet, thanks partly to the carpeted floor.  How lovely not to have to yell at each other as you often do these days in the hard, concreted spaces so many cafes and restaurants inhabit.  You can book online very easily, and you can even buy Matt's books at the restaurant.  I have read some reviews which suggest that Matt plays it safe with his menu, but who said that is a bad thing!

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