Saturday 26 November 2016

Tweed Regional Art Gallery Dinner

Art galleries are like cathedrals to me.  I feel at peace, and at one with the world.  And naturally, since we love the Tweed region, we head down to the gallery there every few months.  Recently, we drove down for a dinner with Meg Stewart the writer, who gave a talk on Margaret Olley the painter.  Meg is the author of a biography of Margaret, whom she met up with regularly while writing the book. It was a fabulous night, and well worth the long drive there and back on a Saturday night.

cane sugar burning off in the fields

You drive through lots of sugar cane fields on the way, and they were doing the burning off in some of the fields that day.  As you drive past the sugar mill, you can see the clear white smoke coming out of the stacks, and smell the odd sweet scent of it.  

the smoke is actually pure white; and mostly steam 

Meg about to give her speech  

And there was dinner!  Delicious food prepared by a local restaurant - Mavis' Kitchen who also run the café attached to the Gallery.  

we had beef

Everyone at our table had pre-ordered the fish dish so we both had beef.  There were a number of lovely ladies at our table, one of them a Gallery guide, another Margaret.

the gorgeous Margaret, one of the Gallery guides 

an ever so pretty tiramisu   

and a pavlova nest


hubby and the lovely Ingrid who is the curator of the Margaret Olley Centre  

The Gallery really is a must if you are ever in the area.  It is such a beautiful region of Australia.  I know I have mentioned this place a few times but I am just so enamoured of it.  I'm sure anyone who visits would also love it.   

looking out to the hinterland from the Gallery   

Tuesday 22 November 2016

Nordic-Style Chocolate Potato Cake

I think the Nordic food rage is still raging, so I have tried another recipe from The New Nordic by Simon Bajada.  This one is a chocolate and potato cake; unlike my fave Belinda Jeffery version which only has 60g. of raw, grated potato, this one has 400g. of cooked and mashed veg.  Phew!  Talk about interesting. 

I have long been a fan of vegetables in cakes; witness my attempt at a choc/zucchini cake when I was a poor student living in a share house.  I didn't have a car, and the shops were not close, so I "borrowed" a cup of extra virgin olive oil from a house mate. Little did I know how expensive it was (for a poor student like him-or me), and how far he had ridden on his push-bike to get it.  Ooooh, he was not a happy camper.

Serves 6-8:


400g. of potatoes, unpeeled

2 very large eggs (I used 66g. eggs - jumbo)

70g. caster sugar

1 tsp baking powder

100g. butter, softened plus extra for greasing the cake tin

4 tbs good quality bitter cocoa powder

25g. breadcrumbs for the cake tin - I zapped some wholemeal bread

2 tbs icing sugar to decorate

200 mls whipping cream to decorate


Boil or steam the potatoes till tender (10-15 mins), then cool slightly, peel and mash, and put in the fridge to cool!

Place the eggs, caster sugar, baking powder and butter in a large mixing bowl

Whisk for 5 minutes - I used a whisk but you could try electric handbeaters I reckon

Add the cocoa powder and whisk for another minute

Now add the mashed potato and fold in very gently just till the potato disappears into the batter - careful not to overmix or it will get gluggy

Grease a 20 cm tin with butter then tip the breadcrumbs around, and discard the excess

Spoon the thick batter into the tin, and smooth over

Bake at 150C for 35 minutes till a skewer comes out of the middle clean

Let it sit for 10 mins. in the tin to cool

Serve with icing sugar and lots of whipped cream


Use a ricer to mash the potatoes if possible; you need this to be very smooth and lump-free

I would suggest adding more sugar than Simon says; perhaps 100-120g. rather than 70g.

Simon says to use unsalted butter but I like the saltiness it gives to the cake

Don't worry if the batter looks curdled after whisking; once the cocoa goes on, it comes together

I found the breadcrumbs gave the cake a slightly odd taste and texture; perhaps use almond meal or just flour after greasing

throw any leftover breadcrumbs in the freezer for next time

ingredients gathered

peel the cooked potatoes

whisk the ingredients together sans cocoa 

mash about to go into the chocolatey batter  

thick and gloopy batter but that's okay  

ready for baking @ 150C for 35 mins.  

I threw some chocolate over the top as well as spreading Macabella paste under the cream     

To be brutally honest, I would not make this cake again.  Not without a lot of tweaks. Our guests - I will call them The Dudes Family - said it was "not bad".  The birthday dude said it needed heaps more sugar.  To me, it tasted like potatoey chocolate.  Mr P. said it was okay, and he couldn't taste the veg. part.  I think it needs less potato, more sugar and lots of chocolate ganache dripping over the side.  I did spread some Macabella over the top to add a more chocolate/sweet taste under that thick layer of cream.

This is not a bad cake; it just isn't a great cake and I wonder if the author had actually done much taste testing.  I think it is meant to be a bit savoury and a bit unusual; he says it is in the Nordic style rather than a true Nordic recipe.  Give it a go and see what you think.:=) 

my baby potato doodle  

Friday 18 November 2016

A - Z Guidebook - Piazza Navona, Rome

statues showing their rudey nudey bits off

This is Bernini's fountain in the Piazza Navona in Rome.  No qualms about showing off their manly bits here.  We spent a few days wandering around Rome some years ago, on our way to London.  We were amazed and confused and delighted by it all.  

We had a guidebook - well, actually pages of a guidebook that I had photocopied - which seemed to give the most irksome and ludicrous directions and instructions about seeing Rome.  For instance, we caught a bus to a church with a crypt to see the bodies, only to find that it was via the longest, most laborious, most labyrinthine route you can imagine.  There was in fact a main road with heaps of buses going back into town so we just hopped on one of those and got back way faster than the trip out.  

Every trip we took, every place we went ended with us walking for hours and/or taking lengthy bus and train trips.  I think it was Fodor's Guide, heaven help us.  I will never know if some crazy student/traveller was doing their research from the comfort of their own home or making it all up.  Anyway, we got to see lots of Rome that we probably wouldn't have otherwise.

Join up, join up global bloggers/travellers with Fiona from Tiffin Bite Sized Food Adventures, and show us your stuff.  This month we are getting stuck into the letter R.

TIFFIN - bite sized food adventures -

Monday 14 November 2016

Spiced Cannellini And Couscous Burgers

I think I have mentioned before that Mr P. and I were vegetarians for about 10 years till the love of bacon drew us back into the dark side.  I was also a vego in my teenage years, due to my BFF being one.  She became one due to her brother becoming one, and I think he became one due to his girlfriend being one.  Phew!  You get my drift.

As a crazy Uni. student back in the day, I lived with lots of weird types.  Mm hmm, did someone mention dope, drugs, nudity and lots of noisy, wild, monkey sex?  No, I didn't think so. Vegan food was all the rage in our student household, so we were always on the lookout for dairy-free, meat-free foodstuffs.  Let me tell you, these were not easy to come by except in really expensive Health Food stores.

This would have been perfect for those weird and wonderful days. Not a cow in sight!  Ah well, we do have one egg, but buy free-range or grow your own and you can feel completely virtuous about eating these.  This recipe is from Delicious magazine; date unknown. 

Serves 4-6:


1/2 cup (100g.) couscous

2 tbs olive oil (40mls)

1 small onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 red chilli, finely chopped - remove the seeds if you wish

1 tsp cummin seeds

1/2 tsp ground coriander

400g. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

2 tbs fresh coriander, roughly chopped

zest of 1 lemon

1 egg, beaten

bread rolls, salad leaves and relish to serve


Put the couscous in a bowl with 100mls. of boiling water

Cover and let it sit for 5 minutes then give it a good stir with a fork

Heat 1 tbs of the oil in a large frypan over medium heat

Add the onion, garlic and chilli and stir for 5 minutes

In go the cummin and ground coriander

Stir and cook for another minute and put aside

Mash the beans coarsely in a large bowl

Stir in the cooled onion mix, couscous, fresh coriander, zest and the egg

Season well

Shape the mixture into 4 - 6 patties, depending on how thick you like them

Chill for at least 30 minutes

Heat the other 1 tbs oil in the frypan and cook the patties on each side for 2 minutes

Place on a baking tray and into a 180C oven for 6-8 minutes

Serve each pattie on a bun, with the leaves and relish


fry the aromates for 5 minutes 

throw in the cummin and coriander  

mash those beans

add the other ingredients to the mashed beans 

patties ready for frying and baking

get frying

chop that salad

add a salad and some avocado purée 

my beany doodle

Thursday 10 November 2016

Nickel Kitchen & Bar - Review

Once upon a time there was a seedy inner suburb of Brisbane called Fortitude Valley.  It was named after a ship that turned up in 1849 full of hopeful migrants from Britain.  The Valley as it is known by locals was until recently full of ladies of the night, corrupt cops, criminals of all sorts and other tawdry types.  Some years ago, the government of the day (I'm talking the 80s folks) decided to clean up the corruption, which led to places like the Valley being cleaned up over time too.  

Now it is full of bright and beautiful young things going about their business in the tiniest of shorts and the highest of heels from nightclub to nightclub on any given night of the week. Sometimes it's hard to remember these half-naked young things are not the afore-mentioned ladies of the night.  Just kidding - maybe.  

shiny chandelier made of upturned glasses

These days it is full of trendy bars, clubs and restaurants, pulsing with action. One of our many nieces decided she would like to have her birthday dinner down here, so Nickel Kitchen & Bar it was. (Just a quick aside: Brissie folk seem to always say we are going down to the Valley, no matter where we are coming from).  

looking into the bar area   

Nickel Kitchen has a 1920s, Art Deco vibe.  It is quite dark inside; with dark panelling and that glassy chandelier above us.  There is plenty of room on our table, and lots of space around us.  The staff are all happy little campers, and our French? waiter is very helpful. What else could I start with but a glass of champagne?  

Cloudy Bay Pelorus Brut $13   

Okay this was lovely but pretty expensive considering the tiny size of the glass.  I guess it was meant to be evoking the feel of the 20s. Mr P. had his usual ginger beer, while the others indulged in cider and wine.  The niece had an Aperol Spritz which was $18. Crumbs, cocktails are not cheap, are they?

the amuse-bouche - sorry I forget what it was:) but delish I can tell you    

These were little tartlets, perhaps of mushroom?  A delicious mouthful anyway.

spanner crab cakes with Old Bay aioli $22   

Silly me, I had no idea this entrée was so huge.  That little wire basket just went on and on!  This was a lovely starter; full of crab, a soft filling, with a crisp coating.  The aioli was intense, smoky and delicious.  Really this was enough for me for the whole night. Not that it stopped me having a main, you silly people.

1/2 doz. oysters Kilpatrick $18 

The niece enjoyed the oysters for her entrée.  These were good value and tasty too by all accounts. 

sizzling Bay prawns with chilli and garlic $22

The nephew had the prawns for starters.  No complaints from his corner.  They sizzled, and they had a lot of flavour with the garlicky sauce.

French onion soup $16 

Mr P. had the soup for his entrée.  It had one huge slice of bread across the top of the bowl which he said was quite difficult to manoeuvre.  What do you do with it?  Cut it with your spoon? Shovel it into your mouth in one go?  Apart from that slight inconvenience, he said it was thick and very tasty.  I think he was a bit surprised as to the thickness of the soup, but he still really enjoyed the oniony goodness.

wild mushroom tagliatelle $35 

Hubby and the niece's friend chose this dish.  It seems a wee bit expensive to me for what it was.  Basically you can't get anything much cheaper than a bit of pasta, so I am not sure why this was such a high price.  The wild mushrooms I guess?  Yes sure, and the bit of truffle/oil?  They both really liked it, so that's what counts. Plenty of mushroom flavour, and that slow-cooked runny egg on top to set it off.  Oh yes and the parmesan. Not that you can see it, so maybe it was part of the sauce.

herb crusted rack of lamb $45

This didn't look pretty from my angle; all a bit caveman-like to me. The report on the lamb was that it was very pink and tender. It came with a candied cherry tomato which had everyone intrigued and curious as to what it was.  It apparently tasted like a fresh chutney.  These went down a treat with the nephew. 

grilled Moreton Bay bugs w/- garlic rice and wilted spinach $45

Sis-in-law had this dish, partly due to the fact that it is gluten-free. (she genuinely can't eat wheat etc, not like those pseudo-coeliacs). As outer spacey alien as they look, they tasted delicious.  The green and herby sauce on top added to the pleasure.

Barossa Valley chicken Kiev $36

Oddly my plate was pretty in pink, unlike everyone else's which were white.  No idea why, but I felt really special :=).  Not as happy with my chicken.  It was okay, but I wasn't over the moon.  I could detect no garlic butter in this dish at all.  One of the joys for me of this dish should be lots of buttery, garlicky juices.  The chicken was tender in its weird little rolls; the veggies were so hard I nearly shot them off the plate trying to cut them. Sorry to say but this dish was sadly underwhelming.

confit duck leg à l'orange $38  (awful night shot-sorry!)  

This dish was had as an entrée and a main ($22 for the entrée).  It was by all accounts delicious.  It came with fennel and asparagus, and a baby carrot by the look of it. Funny how restaurants can give you tiny vegetables, and tell you they are heirloom so you pay heaps more.


We had brought in a birthday cake to the restaurant, and were charged cakeage of $6.50 each.  Fair enough; I realise they have to serve it and clean up after, but it did seem a teensy bit steep.  I would love to try some of the desserts on their menu: chocolate whisky tart with blood orange sorbet sounds sublime, and the bombe alaska is brilliant apparently.

The restaurant is on the ground floor of a multi-storey building, with big glass panels looking into the foyer with the lifts.  A bit strangely I felt, they had pulled the curtains open and tied them back so we were looking into a bright space with lots of people coming and going all night.  Perhaps it is meant to be the entertainment?

Oh, I forgot to mention the toilets.  Sis-in-law said she was personally escorted to the Ladies!  Lucky her; they didn't escort us both the next time.  Funny thing is, there are no locks on the doors of the cubicles.  Do they fear they will have to drag people out kicking and screaming?  Or what?!  Just a reminder that you can get discounted parking nearby either by booking online or using a promo code.

Ground Floor, 757 Ann St.,
Fortitude Valley 4006
Ph: 07 3252 5100

Nickel Kitchen & Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Sunday 6 November 2016

Chicken And Lemon Bolognese

Here is where you find out how freaky I am - I don't like tomatoes! There, I've said it.  I do eat them, especially when they are disguised but I prefer tomato-free foods where possible. So this creamy pasta sauce is a beauty in my opinion.  It has chicken, it has lemon, it has cream; sounds delicious already, don't you think?

This recipe from a Cuisine NZ magazine has been lurking in my kitchen for a while now. I wanted to make something fairly simple for dinner with friends, so this was calling out to be made. Have I mentioned my horror story about going to a friend's for dinner, and being served thick spaghetti with a completely plain and completely unappetising tomato sauce?  It gives me shudders down my spine just to think of it.  Well, this recipe will not disappoint, I promise you.  This is the polar opposite of plain and unappetising.     

creamy, lemony chicken pasta sauce 

Serves 6:


4 tbs olive oil

2 medium onions, chopped

1 carrot, finely chopped

2 stalks of celery, finely chopped

4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1/2 cup parsley (or a palmful), roughly chopped

1 tbs fresh thyme or 1 dessertspoon of dried thyme

1 kg. chicken mince

200 mls of dry white wine

500 mls milk

250 mls chicken stock

zest of 3 lemons and juice of 2

500g. pasta of your choice - the original recipe says to use orecchiette, but I used Angel Hair 'cos I like it thin

200 mls cream

150g. baby spinach leaves

grated parmesan to serve


Put 3 tbs of the oil into a large saucepan over a medium-low heat

Tip the onions, carrot and celery into the heated oil and sauté for 12 minutes until soft but not brown

Add the garlic and parsley and sauté for another few minutes

Set the veg. mix aside while you grab a large frypan and add the other tbs of olive oil

Turn up the heat to medium high and cook the mince for 10 minutes till just browned

Pour in the white wine, bring to the boil and cook till the wine is mostly evaporated

Then add the milk, stock and lemon zest (not the juice)

Add the vegetable mix into the frypan too

Bring it to a low simmer and cook uncovered for about 1 hour, till most of the liquid is evaporated

Now cook up your pasta; I guess I don't need to tell you how to do that

Just before the pasta is ready, throw in the lemon juice, cream and spinach to the chicken and veg. mix

Let it heat thru for a few minutes

Serve the pasta topped with the sauce and strew as much parmesan as you like over your tasty plateful


The original recipe says to tip the veggie mixture out of the pan and use the same pan to cook up the mince.  Great idea; less washing-up, but I felt it was just as easy to grab another pan


I had some home-made chicken stock in the freezer, which had bits of chicken in it if you are wondering why it looks so chunky.

ingredients chopped and ready to fly

in goes the garlic

and in goes the parsley  

add the chicken mince to another pan

milk, chicken stock and lemon zest added   

simmer for an hour

add the lemon juice, cream and spinach near the end  

serve with grated parmesan   

my celery doodle