Wednesday, 13 September 2017

A French Weekend in Melbourne

For a whole weekend, I felt I was back in France! And I was excited.

Day 1 - My long weekend started off with a delicious meal at a restaurant/Cafe in the CBD. Higher Ground is an open space of industrial beauty. Formerly a power station, the building has been transformed with arched windows, exposed brick and a host of greenery. The menu varied from Japanese Fish Soup to a medley of fennel, white beans and slow cooked carrots, very much like a Pistou Our waiter was unflappable, attentive and French! and the whole atmosphere was one of unhurried enjoyment.

Day 2  - Melbourne Writers Festival - Sheridan Jobbins, an Australian film maker has written her first book. 'Wish You Were Here' was launched by Amanda Keller, her friend and former colleague at Channel 10.  Nothing French here, but a remarkable girls' own adventure driving a car across America, alone, determined to find herself. The atmosphere at the launch and the whole vibe of Federation Square was uplifting.

Sheridan Left and Amanda Keller

The House of Dior at National Gallery of Victoria. In celebration of its seventieth anniversary, this adorable exhibition is exclusive to Melbourne. The range of styles from 1947 - 2017 shows the immaculate workings of Haute Couture. I was pretty much blown away by the number of items on display. Hats, gloves, shoes, ball gowns, dresses of the most exquisite embroidery; beadwork, lacework and stunning fabrics. Two women, employees of Dior can be seen working away constructing garments by hand. Truly remarkable to see the way these are made with perfect hand stitching.
Exquisite bead work and gold thread on this gown - stunning.
A couple of little black dresses, Dior style

Just a small sample of the range of clothing on vie

On the way back to our hotel, Causeway 353 we stopped at the French Baguette Cafe, Richmond for afternoon tea. Eclairs, Blueberry Cheese cake and a Green Matcha cake - sorry we ate them so quickly I didn't have time to snap them. A celebration for daughter's birthday. 

Day 4 - Our last day in Melbourne saw us visiting family at Woodend. A lovely train ride up through the Macedon Ranges and there we are an hour later. It was a bitterly cold day and just as we were finishing lunch, down came the hail, which then turned into actual snow. It didn't settle luckily, and we headed back on the train to Melbourne, just in time to catch La Belle Miette, a French Patisserie in Collins Street.  

We couldn't resit buying a box of macarons, Lavender, Salted Caramel, Pistachio, Hazlenut, Strawberry and Blueberry. I must admit they were the best macarons I have ever eaten. We also sampled a couple of chocolates, so creamy yet not too sweet. 

Dinner with daughters at East, Little Collins Street, was delicious. The Salt and Pepper Tofu was scrumptious; soft, with a delicious crust.We ate steamed spinach dumplings, broccoli with garlic sauce, string beans and hot chilli sauce. OK so this wasn't French, but it was outstanding.

Such a terrific few days spent in great company, combined with fabulous food cooked by both of my daughters! Alas back to South Australia!

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Things I love - Zesty Cauliflower with Lentils

There are so many foods that I love to eat. They all have one thing in common; fresh food.

I've been thinking about all the different recipes I have tried over the last few weeks. Some absolutely superb, others not so. Now it might not be the recipe that has anything wrong with it, but not to my liking. And one of those recipes gave me the biggest bout of indigestion I have ever had, causing me undue belly pain for a large number of hours. Yes, I can laugh about it now, but when its happening, you think you are going to die.

I'm linking here to some of my favourite recipes on some other blog sites to give you a taste of what I like to eat.

Homespun Capers  is run by Liberty from Melbourne. One of my favourite dishes is Lentil and Leek Ragu. This is a hearty, flavoursome dish you can serve with rice, pasta or quinoa.

Cookie + Kate from Oklahoma, USA - Sweet Potato and Black Bean Taco - Yummy and spicy and very filling.

Amy from South Carolina hosts, She Wears Many Hats and has some interesting recipes, but this one is to die for - Grilled Cheese with Gouda, Roasted Mushrooms and Onions.  Scrumptious served with a bowl of soup for dinner or on its own for lunch. Yum!

I mentioned in my last blog post that I needed to find new ways using black lentils because I bought some interesting ones from Goodies and Grains at Adelaide Central Market. I was immediately drawn to the huge sack of black lentils, they were small, round and shiny, like black crystals. And the spoke to me, "buy me!"

These lentils are a variety called "Black Beluga Lentils' (named after the Beluga Caviar they resemble). They hold their shape really well and have at chewy, nutty, consistency. 

 And so I did buy them  and I have cooked them together with cauliflower rice to make this dish. You could use any black, green or brown lentil in this dish, so don't worry if you can't find the black ones. 

Cauliflowers are growing thick and fast in the veg plot so I needed to use them up too. The combination of cauliflower and lentils is deliciously creamy. It a quick recipe to prepare but it tastes as though you have been slaving over the cooker all day. Eaten straight away this dish really worked well, but eaten cold the following day, I was astounded at how good it tasted as a salad.  

Before you decide to try this recipe make sure you have a lime or too, because substituting lemons in this dish doesn't work so well. 



1/2 head of cauliflower (a whole one if it is small) 
1- 2  cups Black lentils if possible but green or brown are good substitutes,  cooked*
2 tablespoons Oil 
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2  a red capsicum, diced
1 onion, diced
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
a knob of fresh ginger, grated or finely chopped
1/2 cup frozen peas
salt and pepper
2 tablespoon soy sauce or Tamari
2 Spring onions, finely sliced
2 limes, zest and juice
salt and pepper

* To cook lentils quickly, place in a bowl, cover with boiling water and leave for 15 minutes. Drain the water. Put the lentils in a saucepan, cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 - 20 minutes. Drain and use.

You can either grate the cauliflower or pulse it in a food processor until it is the size of rice grains.

In a large frypan, heat the oil. Add onion, garlic, sesame seeds and ginger and cook, stirring frequently until the onion is a golden brown.

Add the cauliflower and cook for around 10 - 15 minutes until it has turned the colour of honey.

Stir in the lentils, peas, red pepper, soy sauce, salt and pepper and continue to cook until the peas are heated through.

Add the zest and juice of one lime and stir through.  Serve immediately garnished with spring onions and with a quarter of lime extra.

If you have any left over - serve as a cold salad. Or make it earlier in the day and keep covered in the fridge until ready to eat.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry with Coconut

I could smell spring in the air last week! The first sign is budding on the almond tree, but then we had a day or two of high winds and torrential rain. Damn! And its's cold, so cold my bones ache.

Just as I was preparing for some warmer weather and getting my head into some salads, the rain came back. What a sluggish winter I've had - ugg boots, blankets and scarves and that's inside! Ha ha! So with that spring smell, that first bud, maybe that first blossom, its time to shake off the winter blues and set myself some monthly challenges. Here goes!

August Challenges: - 

Food - Finding new ways with black lentils. Develop new salad combinations topped with a Tahini dressing.

Fitness - Renew my fitness  regime - 10 gym sessions, 40  kms walking or hiking.

Diet - No desserts, chocolate or cakes. (Oops I had a beautiful Chocolate Brownie for my birthday yesterday - so counting from today) 

Am I up for this challenge - hell yes. What's your next challenge?

And because the winter chills are still with us I am starting off August with a favourite. Cauliflower is so versatile and I have found myself using it a lot for roasting and curries and salads. I just can't seem to get enough of it. 

Add another of my favourites, chick peas and this dish is calling my name. You can add as much or as little chilli to this recipe as you like. Depending on the strength of your chilli powder, you may start with a little and add more as it cooks. 

I also prefer to use fresh turmeric root but if you don't have that available then turmeric powder is fine.

Ok, here's the recipe.


1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1 teaspoon ground turmeric or 11/2 teaspoons turmeric root, grated
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2  teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 - 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 400g can chick peas, drained
1 400g diced tomatoes
1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
2 tablespoon coconut oil
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup water
handful of fresh spinach leaves, chopped
1 400g can coconut milk

Add coconut oil to a large pan then add onion, garlic and ginger and cook until the onion is transparent. Add turmeric and rest of the spices and heat until the spices are aromatic. If they start to stick add a tablespoon of water.

Next add cauliflower florets and coat it with the spices. Add coconut milk, water and can of tomatoes and simmer covered for 15 minutes. Check seasoning, add salt and pepper and more chilli if required.

Rinse chick peas and add to the curry. If the curry is too thick add a little more water and cook until the cauliflower is just tender.

Add the chopped spinach leaves and cook until just wilted.

Serve with popadoms, rice of your choice and plenty of chutney.