Thursday 29 October 2015

Eat Drink Blog - Canberra 2015

Canberra you were calling my name this month.  And so I heeded the call, along with about 75 other keen food and drink bloggers. We pulled on our best (loosest) clobber and made our way to the annual conference celebrating food, drink and blogging.  I enjoyed finally meeting some of the bloggers I have been following in virtual life.  And I was inspired by the plenitude of like-minded souls, all of us eager to throw ourselves into a food and blog frenzy.

the view from our lovely room at the QT Hotel    

Mr P. and I had driven from Sydney (after flying from Brisbane), and were very happy to get up to our room with a view (and the most fabulous bed).  Thank you QT for looking after all the bloggers staying here for the conference.

Friday night the beginning of our Canberra food journey started with a bang at The Hamlet in Braddon.  This is (and I quote) " a space for makers, foodies and local creatives".  Mm I don't know about that; I just know that there was masses of amazing food provided by the vans which have everything from Peruvian street food to milkshakes, hotdogs and pizza.  ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr welcomed us (briefly) to Canberra. 

so much scrumptious food here - thanks to all the sponsors  

We ate, we drank, we stumbled down the street to indulge again. My group toddled off to Frugii Dessert Laboratory, where we stuffed in more food and heard from John the owner.  He explained about the cacao pod, and how chocolate is made.  Who the heck first thought of roasting up a cocoa bean anyway?  

fantastic flavours: John waxing lyrical and the stunningly ugly cacao pods plus beans 

Next, we waddled along to Hopscotch Bar where we were served cocktails comprising ros√© with a G&T (or other flavours) icy pole stuck inside.  I have to tell you this was not really my thing. When I tell you I am a bourbon drinker, you will understand.  Also, the clientele was extremely hip, so I felt a teensy bit out of the demographic.  Phew, those bouncers were scary!  Thank you Hopscotch regardless:=)

what else do bloggers do except take a snap?   

There were a couple of other events after this - whiskey and food at Marble and Grain, plus drinks at Lucky's Speakeasy, but by this time I was knackered and went off to my oh so comfy bed. 

Next day was the meat of the conference sandwich.  First off we headed to the Farmers' Market, and a cooking demo by CIT.  Oh check out that croquembouche, people!  We were given a couple of gift cards to spend at the Market which I happily spent on olive oil and smoked garlic.  I loved the fresh produce in its beautiful piles.

those éclairs had me drooling

I was not the only delegate keen to hear Matthew Evans tell us about his life and times as a chef, food critic then Gourmet Farmer. He was followed by Wendy Johnson on restaurant reviews, which I found really useful.  Next came a talk by Todd Wright about SEO and social media; followed by Tess Godkin with food styling, and lastly smart phone photography and videography by Alice Lau.  

the speakers were full of enthusiasm and helpful hints  

What can I say about dinner?  We glammed up and came back for a sumptuous meal at A. Baker, the hip and happening eatery at New Acton.  What a brilliant evening this was.  Delectable food and wine, and a chance to get to know the other delegates and the speakers better.   

happy little delegates smiling for the camera  

(Thank goodness for those lanyards!  Lots of surreptitious peering went on during the weekend, so we could check out which lovely blogger's company we were in).    

I don't normally eat pork belly or lamb but here I ate both!  sooo good      

Sunday we were up early again, and off to Nishi Gallery for a panel discussion about full-time blogging.  Carly Jacobs wowed us with her enthusiasm and love of lists:=)  (Me too, me too).  She gave us lots of tips about how to get organised and fit blogging in with our busy lives.  The MerryMaker Sisters were vibrant and energetic, and gave us an insight into how to change your life, and how to self-publish your book.  Thank you Emma and Carla for the copy of your book!    

Merrymaker Sisters


We then split up to go to the various venues for lunch, (and sadly would not see each other again).  I jumped on the bus for Two before Ten in Aranda.  This is a cafe and coffee roasting house.  I am not sure what happened here, but they did not seem to be organised for our visit.  We sat around for a long while, then had a very hurried look at the roasting process.  A quick lunch was provided then it was on the bus again.  But thanks for the coffee beans!

before the roasting

some roasted beans; so much darker now   

What an exhilarating and exhausting weekend.  Thanks so much to the wonderful EDB committee and all the amazing sponsors.  

And just to end off and for no reason at all, here is a photo of Black Mountain Tower.

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Coffee, Walnut, Hazelnut Cake

can you ever have too much coffee?  

I have been hunting around for a really good coffee and walnut cake recipe, and I think I may have found it.  This one is by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers, the ladies of the River Cafe in London.  I love that this cake has a real coffee hit to it, unlike some wimpy versions you come across.  And it is full of walnuts and hazelnuts, so you have a bit of crunch as well.    

I am joining in with The Cookbook Guru Book Club, which this month is delving into The River Cafe Cookbook by the above mentioned ladies.  Sadly, Rose Gray died in 2010 so Ruth is at the helm solo.  It looks like there are many splendid recipes in this book, worth a good delving.:=)  


3 vanilla beans
240g. walnuts
240g. hazelnuts
5 tbs instant coffee + 2 tbs boiling water
380g. unsalted butter, softened at room temp.
380g. caster sugar - I used raw caster
5 large eggs - around 60g. each
100g. plain flour
1 tsp baking powder


Set your oven to 170C/325F

Grease a 25cm cake tin with butter and tip some plain flour around it to coat the tin (I only had a 23cm springform tin so I used that)

Shake out the excess flour; you may want to line the tin with baking paper but if using a springform tin, don't bother

Zap the vanilla beans in a small processor or chop finely

Zap the walnuts into small pieces (no need to clean the processor)

Roast the hazelnuts in the pre-heated oven for about 10 mins

Let them cool, then rub them to get rid of the skins (don't worry if you have some skin left on)

Now zap these in the processor to a fine meal/powder

Dissolve the coffee in the boiling water; stir and leave to cool

Grab a large mixing bowl, throw in the butter and sugar and beat till light and creamy

Fold in both nuts and the vanilla beans

Beat the eggs into the batter one at a time (or cheat and throw in 2 at a time)

Fold in the sifted flour and baking powder

Stir in the cooled coffee

Pour/spoon into the prepared tin

Bake for one and a quarter hours

Cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then onto a cake rack to cool right down

Sift on some icing sugar if you wish

Because this is a UK recipe, I used UK tablespoons which are 17.75mls according to Mr. Google, unlike Aussie ones of 20 mls. Well let's be honest, I got as close to that as I could without fussing around.  So basically I just chucked in a couple of extra teaspoons after using 15mls tablespoons which seem to be the only ones you can buy these days.  

ingredients ready to go  

just beat it, beat it  

luscious swirly coffee nutty batter   

yep I know - it looks a bit suss, like peanut butter or worse:=)   

   beaauuutiful nutty batter ready for the oven     

(Guess what my doodles are this time!)

Sunday 25 October 2015

My Sunday Photo 25 October 2015

a beautiful tulip in a public garden at Bowral, NSW 

Last week Mr P. and I flew to Sydney for a couple of days, then drove to Canberra for a food bloggers' conference.  Along the way we came across this beautiful little public garden in Bowral, New South Wales.  There were signs of a recent tulip festival, and happily for us, lots of tulips and other flowers were still in bloom. 

It would have been lovely to check out this delightful garden and town a bit more, but time was pressing and we had to hurry on to Canberra.  Which was in full bloom, with masses of gorgeous blossom everywhere.  Sad for the hayfever sufferers amongst us! Fortunately I am not one of them:=)


Wednesday 21 October 2015

Brisbane Open House October 2015

Phew!  My feet are still killing me after a weekend of volunteering and traipsing around town peeking into wonderful buildings.  Brisbane along with many other cities around the world opens up its historical, and/or just plain fabulous buildings, houses, churches and so on to the public for one weekend each year.  It is a great time of year for it, as it is not too hot yet, and the jacarandas are just starting to bloom as are all the other Spring flowers.  

For the last 3 years, I have volunteered for Brisbane Open House.  This year, I conducted guided tours for The Chambers -  the former National Australia Bank building built in 1885. (They are still tenants there).  Wow!  That was a bit scary, seeing that I have never done tours before.  But I made it through, and was very pleased with myself to have met a big challenge, and survived to tell the tale.

beautiful stairs in the Masonic Memorial Temple   

The Temple was built between 1928-30, in the Classical Revival style.  I especially love the marble stairs, the Corinthian columns and the bronze front door.      

looking across to the GPO from the balcony of The Chambers    

I love that tower on top of the GPO.  I want to live there:=)

ornate ceiling and lovely chandelier in the Board Room of The Chambers 

St. Stephen's Chapel    

This little church began life in 1850, and was the only Roman Catholic church in Brisbane till 1874.

interior of Wilson Architects in Spring Hill  

This is a really wonderful re-use of an old terrace house and an original Queenslander. You can see where they have joined the two buildings, leaving the old fire place in the cottage as evidence of a previous existence. 

glorious oleanders outside their office  

St. Brigid's, Red Hill  

This building has design features from the Gothic French cathedral Sainte-Cecile in Albi (check it out on Youtube).  St Brigid's sits on the top of a hill with amazing views over Brisbane.  We were lucky enough to hear the organ being played during our visit.

fabulous architectural features on the Roma Street Station Heritage Building  

This was the original Brisbane Terminal Station.  The facade has been beautifully restored, with the internal spaces still to be fully renovated.

lots do to on the inside! 

A newly-retired friend also took up the challenge and volunteered for Open House this year.  It is exhausting and exhilarating; so much fun and so much to see and learn.  Put it in your calendar for next year.  You will get a whole new perspective on your city.

Tuesday 20 October 2015

Mr P.'s Balinese Chicken

Hubby has long been the official rice and pasta maker in the Pickings' household.  His repertoire also includes curries and stir-fries, along with Spanish eggs for breakfast, and cheese toasties stuffed with ham for dinner.  And let's not forget his take on a Charmaine Solomon dish called Balinese Beef Strips.  If you don't know of her, she is a well-known and loved Aussie chef of Sri Lankan extraction.  

Mr P. makes this dish with chicken, and let me tell you, it is a triumph.  He has adapted Charmaine's recipe over time to suit our tastes. And we find it delectable!  (The capsicum was all his idea). You had better like capsicum (red peppers) and tamarind folks, otherwise it may not please your palate. Our copy of The Complete Asian Cookbook is old and tattered and stained, and falling apart.  I think every cookbook in your kitchen should be like that, don't you?

This recipe will feed 6, or 4 with leftovers for the next day


2-3 tbs olive oil or peanut oil
3 onions, diced
3 small red chillies, finely diced (or throw into the processor)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 bunch of fresh coriander, including stalks, finely chopped
8 cms of fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 large red capsicums (peppers), thinly sliced
1.25 kg diced chicken breast
3 tbs ground coriander
1 tbs ground cummin seeds
3-4 tbs dark soy sauce
1 x 400 mls can of coconut milk
1 x 200 mls can of coconut cream
200 mls water
2 heaped tsp tamarind paste
one portion (85g.) of instant noodles for each person - or use rice or whatever sort of noodle you like
Yoghurt and chutney to serve


Pour the oil into a large wok or frypan on a medium heat
Tip in the onion and stir while it starts to get soft and translucent
Blitz the chillies, garlic, fresh coriander and ginger in a food processor  (or finely chop them all)
Spoon in the chilli, gingery mix to the onion 
Keep stirring while it softens
Add the sliced capsicums and stir some more
In goes the chicken, and stir!
Add the coriander and cummin and stir them in well
Keep an eye on it, and stir regularly
When the chicken is looking opaque and nearly cooked, add the soy sauce, coconut milk, coconut cream and water
Stir in the tamarind paste
Check for seasoning and add more soy sauce or tamarind if needed
Let it simmer on a very low heat for at least an hour; 2 is better!
When ready to serve, boil the noodles as per the packet
Serve with yoghurt and chutney

these look so luscious it's sinful:=)

stirring the onions in the oil  

blitz your aromates 

slice the capsicums 

stir in the chicken   

add the sliced capsicum  

pour in the coconut milk, cream and water 

serve with yoghurt and chutney 

a happy customer:=) 

and another one!

Mr P. suggests I advise that rice just doesn't give the same mouth feel and delicious slippy texture to the dish.  There is something about the instant wheat noodles which goes superbly with the chicken.  So have rice if you must, but you have been warned:=)

(And thanks to Lord N. and Lady J. for being our charming guests, and allowing their shining faces to add a food-happy glow to this post).  

Sunday 18 October 2015

My Sunday Photo 18 October 2015

this was kind of spooky!  

This was part of an Indigenous exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra.  I am not sure what it is meant to represent, but it certainly brings to mind the Klu Klux Klan.  I guess it is meant to make you think of fear and racism, juxtaposed with the beauty and elegance of the textiles.      


Thursday 15 October 2015

A -Z Guidebook - Eltham Valley NSW

the entrance to Eltham Valley Pantry, Eltham NSW 

As anyone who knows me (either virtually or in real life) can tell you, I adore the Northern Rivers region of NSW.  Mr P. and I visit often, to catch up with friends and have a great time, including eating all the amazing produce down there.  We recently went down for the Sample Food Festival, and tried to have lunch here at Eltham Pantry but to no avail.  Sadly they were booked out that day.  Ah well, next time!

It is beautiful countryside, with stunning scenery, and lots of interesting and arty people, who have a keen interest in an alternative way of life.  The area packs a huge punch, and way above its weight.  (not sure if my metaphors are the right ones, but you know what I mean folks!)

Mr P. and I have been visiting this region for quite some years now. I have vivid memories of driving down at the crack of dawn one Sunday morning to go to the Channon market.  This was before the new bits of highway and tunnels were put in, so it used to take hours to get there!  I bought a glass paperweight from a hippie dude who was wearing just shorts with no underwear.  He was sitting there legs akimbo.  Let me tell you, it was all hanging out!  And not a pretty sight:=)

Join in with Fiona from tiffinbitesized, in this monthly get-together where bloggers share their travel photos and stories.  This month we are delving into the letter E. 

TIFFIN - bite sized food adventures -

Thursday 8 October 2015

Jamie's Italian Brisbane - Restaurant Review

Once upon a time there was a little arcade in ye olde Brisbane Town, called Rowes Arcade.  And there were boutique shops, and lots of foot traffic through it, and the people were happy.  Then Jamie the Giant Chef came along and shoved in a restaurant bearing his Giant name.  And the people were extra happy!  

Hubby and I toodled along to Jamie's Italian last week to finally get a look at the largest Jamie's in Australia.  And we were happy.  We enjoyed our well-priced, and tasty lunch with friendly staff and a welcoming atmosphere.  It may have been a co-incidence, but the music was pounding as we came in; hubby mentioned to me that we could ask to have it turned down, and lo and behold, before we sat down, the music was at a reasonable level (and we hadn't even asked yet).  

I love this chandelier!  And you can buy Jamie napkins etc. rather than stealing them as used to happen when he first opened in London

Our waitress Mikki explained that she was training our waiter Jannes (fresh from Germany), who seemed like a nice young lad.  I think he found our English a bit hard to understand as we had to explain and point at a few things on the menu.  But they do say Aussies have thick accents:=)

lunchtime drinks Rossini $9.90 and house white $8.00   

Mikki told us the wine list was in the process of being changed so not everything was available.  She steered me in the direction of sparkling with strawberry puree, which was delicious.  Later I followed that up with a glass of House White, or Jamie's Bianco as it is known on the list.  Mr P. had his usual chinotto.


This was new to us both; we had never seen it in a can before, and with a foil lid!  I was a wee bit surprised that the waiter hadn't opened and poured it for Mr P.  Same with the bottle of sparkling water ($8) which we had to pour ourselves.  

Clearly, we had to try the famous polenta chips.  These were piping hot and utterly moreish.  We both scoffed them down with gusto.  I thought we should try a few different things, so while hubby chose a main, I ordered several things to share.

polenta chips $9

So delicious you can't stop at one.  I will definitely have to go back for more of these little beauties.  

pasta special linguine w/- pancetta, peas, and fetta  $25    

Mr P. really enjoyed this dish; he said the flavours were really superb and a great combination.  He loved the mouth feel of the pasta itself but he felt that it was just a tad undercooked, even if you were going for al dente.  I tried a piece of the pasta and had to agree that it could have done with a fraction more time in the pan (and I am a fan of al dente - I even like crunchy potatoes). 

ricotta bruschetta $12 

crab bruschetta $12

We started our lunch with these, which were fresh and delicious.  I was given a steak knife for mine, which I really needed.  (Oh, and my fork was all bent out of shape.  They gave me another and that was weirdly bent too.  Had an ironman been practising out the back?)  The bread was really hard to get through, which took the enjoyment off just a little for me.  Perhaps a slightly softer crust could be used? Mr P. said his was fine, as he just "chomped right through it".  He IS a huge bread fan it must be said.  I loved the flavours and freshness regardless.

prosciutto w/- melon and buffalo mozzarella  $12.95

This was refreshing and tasty, and just what I needed on a sunny Brisbane afternoon.  Such cheering colours too!  The only tiny note of disharmony was that the pesto was incredibly basil-y.  "Of course you idiot", you are going to say.  "What the heck do you think pesto is made of?"  Yep I get that but it really left a taste of basil in my mouth. 'Nuff said.    

mushroom arancini $13  

The arancini had a strong mushroom flavour which came from the porcini, which I loved.  The sage leaves were a bit soggy and could happily have been left off the plate, I felt.  The one sad note here was that these tasty balls were a wee bit overcooked; just a tad too long in the fryer:=)  I have noticed this as a recent phenomenon around the traps.  Please chefs - don't let your balls turn too brown!

After this, Mr P. and I walked up the hill to the train station, having feasted and stuffed our faces joyfully.  We both felt we had had a fun and tasty lunch.  And I can't wait to go back for more polenta chips.  

I love lights!  and these were fab.  

me, Mikki and Mr P.

237 Edward St., Brisbane
Ph: 07 3144 3000

Jamie's Italian Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato