Real Girl Wardrobes - Sophie Joyce

28 April 2015

In any given week Sophie Joyce travels back in time, pulling together picture perfect outfits from decades past. She does futurisitic too. The 23-year-old photographer, artist and part-time op shop assistant puts a lot of effort into how she looks, and what she wears is informed by her identity, her politics and never by practicality.

Emma's apple crumble

26 April 2015

Last year when I was living in Sydney for work and missing Tony who stayed behind in Wagga Wagga, my sister would have me round for dinner on a Friday night. She'd make my favourite foods - spaghetti bolognese followed by apple crumble for dessert - and it was the best.

As far as comfort food goes, apple crumble is right up there. It's quick to make and easy to eat in front of the telly, accompanied by  a melty blob of ice cream :)

This recipe comes from my sister-in-law Emma, who is famous for crumble on Tony's side of the family. She also managed to save a disaster crumble I made one Easter, which didn't brown and had tiny crumbs! I reckon this is the only apple crumble recipe you'll ever need.

Emma's apple crumble

You'll need:

5 green apples
1/4 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup water

For the crumble

3/4 self raising flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
80g butter
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

Here's how:

Peel and slice the apple, and place in a saucepan on medium heat with sugar and water. Cook until soft. To make the crumble, place the flour, sugar and cinnamon into a medium bowl, add the butter and rub it into the mix until it resembles rough breadcrumbs. Grease a baking dish (I skipped this step and it came out fine), add the apple and place the crumble on top. Bake for 20 minutes at 180 degrees celsius. 

And just a tip: 

Tony made some coconut ice cream from Diner to go with the crumble and it was delicious! His mum recommends adding crushed nuts to the crumble mix, macadamias are her favourite.

P.S - You might also like Jemma's chocolate birthday cake.

Weekend links

24 April 2015

If you liked Wild by Cheryl Strayed, I reckon you'll love this blog about a girl who has just started walking the Pacific Crest Trail. She posts most days and hopes to make it all the way to Canada.

A new favourite playlist for zoning out and dreaming up new projects.

Peanut butter with dulce de leche! I have the peanut butter and Nutella version and it's great.

Chloe Sevigny is 40 and not interested in Instagram.

Just in case you're like me and have a thing for Japanese pastas, I'm making this one tonight.

My podcast pick is Lee Tran Lam's interview with the guys behind MakMak macrons, it's such a fun listen. Also my uni degree was funded in part by my time as a counter girl at Adriano Zumbo :)

Have a good weekend!

A great book for toddlers

21 April 2015

I love buying books for my nieces and nephews, only sometimes it's hard to know what's good beyond the classics we grew up with, which they probably already own.

My friend Vanessa pointed out a board book that was given to her son and I flipped through it at his birthday party. The book is called Oh No, George! and it's a beautifully designed book about a dog who really wants to be good but has trouble resisting temptations - like an unattended cake.

It's simply written, funny and has a wonderful message for kids. It even has a philosophical quote on the back page for parents too. I found a copy at my favourite kid's shop in Summer Hill, Sydney and have since bought another two copies, which I'm saving for my nephew and a friend's first baby.

P.S - My favourite picture book as a child was There's a Hippoptomus On Our Roof Eating Cake and I'd love to buy this book for my niece when she's a little older.

Wedding people we loved

19 April 2015

A few friends have gotten engaged in the last few months, which is really exciting - I love engagement stories. I thought I'd share a list of the people we loved working with, which I've found myself emailing to anyone who asks for recommendations.

I relied on a few Australian blogs to plan our wedding (although looking at too many can be overwhelming - some brides sing and play the ukulele at their own receptions!) and especially loved tips from family and friends.

Louise was our celebrant. She was warm and genuine and kept the ceremony personal and bright. Louise married my brother and sister-in-law a few years ago and was the first person we booked.

My lovely friend Sophie runs Little Triffids and did all of our flowers. My bouquet had wattle from her parent's house and lambs ears from her garden, and I will never forget the pre-dawn flower raid we went on with her husband Tim, where I parked illegally and Sophie bought flowers like a boss.

My friend Alison is a make-up artist and the bubbliest person to be around. She was the first to arrive on the day and quickly made friends with my mum and bridesmaids. Everyone felt so confident and beautiful in their make up, and most importantly like themselves. I was so sad when I had to take mine off!

We had five wedding cakes in all - which sounds like a lot but in my mind they were deconstructed ;) Dell from Cake Salon is a friend's mother-in-law, and she made all my cake dreams come true. She even lent us her cake stands and there was enough cake for dessert and goodie bags.

Our friend Sabine handmade our rings (and my engagement ring too) and was very patient explaining all the different types of shapes and metals, as well as what would actually be comfortable to wear every day. She even mixed metals so Tony's ring would be really unique.

One of the last things we booked was a photographer because finding one that felt right was surprisingly hard. Thankfully, our friends Sophie and Blake had just started shooting weddings as a photographer and videographer duo and we felt really comfortable having them there on the day. If you're unsure about whether you need a video - we were - get one because they really capture the emotion of the day, and are lovely for friends who can't make it.

I am always so excited to see what other brides wear, it's one of my favourite parts of any wedding! My dress was from this designer, which I bought from the David Jones bridal suite. It was really comfortable and I felt excited the minute I tried it on, even before I looked in the mirror.

I changed into a Bowie Wong sample right before we left the reception, which I'd bought years before we were engaged :) The first house Tony and I lived in together was right across the road from his showroom, which was my excuse.

We were very practical with cars and went with this company, picking a black van and later a sedan as a getaway car. The drivers were punctual and helpful in unexpected ways too - reminding my Dad to lock the house (!) and pulling out a surprise packet of snakes for the pageboy on the way to the ceremony.

Two small things - we splurged on Rifle Paper Co. table numbers, having done our dash with DIY and they made the tables look great! We also bought three giant helium balloons that spelt YAY, which were the backdrop for the ceremony. Super simple and fun too :)

Photos by Wattle + Lace.

Weekend links

17 April 2015

Hope you've had a good week, mine's been slightly stressful so Friday hasn't come soon enough!

My in-laws are visiting this weekend for Tony's artist talk and I'm planning to make Angie's slow-cooked lamb shoulder and try out this friendly-looking apricot tray cake. Yum!

Speaking of food, I really enjoyed Garance Dore's 'What We Eat' interviews.

A brief history of how the Internet and texting have been depicted in films - nerdy but great.

Love this 70's inspired outfit.

I've been shopping for winter basics and like the look of these tops.

And I'm a way into my April book, which is The Ghost Estate.

See you next week :)

Jemma's chocolate birthday cake

14 April 2015

This month I'm sharing three special cakes, they're sentimental cakes that are simple to make and really delicious. First up is Jemma's famous chocolate birthday cake.

In my group of friends, whenever Jemma says she'll make the cake, we know it'll be her chocolate fudge cake with thick buttercream icing. It's the kind of cake I remember taking home in lolly bags, wrapped in a napkin.

This particular cake has a long history, my friend Marina remembers having it at Jemma's 16th birthday party and it's one that Jemma's mum Jenny made for her year after year as she grew up.

A few weeks ago, Jemma made a giant version of the cake for Irini and Marina, who were having a joint lunch to celebrate their 30th birthdays. The year before, she'd made the brightest version for Marina's son's first birthday.

I asked Jemma for the recipe and she sent me a photo of a handwritten recipe card, which she says might've come from the Dark Ages ;)

Jemma's chocolate birthday cake

You'll need:

2 1/4 cup self raising flour
1 3/4 cup caster sugar
1tsp bi-carb soda
2/3 cup cocoa
1 cup water
1tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
160g butter, softened

For the icing:

250g butter, softened
1 packet of icing mixture

Here's how:

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius and grease and line a large cake tin. Put the butter into a large mixing bowl and add all of the dry ingredients. Add the water and vanilla and beat on medium speed until the ingredients are creamed and well combined. Add the eggs and increase the speed. Pour into a greased cake tin and bake for 35-40 minutes until cooked.

To make the icing, gradually sift the icing sugar onto the butter. Beat until combined and delicious.

Real Girl Wardrobes - Angelina Chee

12 April 2015

Angie and I met in high school and we've been good friends ever since. Last year, we spent a few months living together in her Sydney apartment and I loved seeing her outfits each day.

Angelina works in the fashion industry, as the marketing manager and buyer of a French optical company that specialises in importing European eyewear and sunglasses, which means annual buying trips to Paris, Milan and Hong Kong. Today, the 30-year-old shares how her French friends dress and the item she only buys on sale.

Weekend links

10 April 2015

Do you read birth stories? My friend Sophie has written a beautiful one.

I want these silly sheep slippers for winter.

After hearing this podcast, I'm more determined than ever to read Jon Ronson's So You've Been Publicly Shamed.

Even if you don't care for raw food, this raw caramel slice is really good.

Louis C.K. on making it in New York.

There are lots of new emojis - and racial diversity in this latest update.

The final season of Mad Men is nearly here and The New York Times have chronicled its close relationship with pop culture, season by season.

Have a good weekend! I only have tiny plans - a walk along the river, a visit to the farmers markets, wrapping a few birthday presents ready to post and catching up on the Redfern Now telemovie.

A lovely observation about marriage

08 April 2015

Tony and I have been married for close to eight months and every now and then someone will ask whether our relationship has changed and what married life is like. Put on the spot, I never know what to say.

I've just finished reading Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking and while it is a book about her first year as a widow, it's also very much a book about married and family life.

I loved this line the most, 'Marriage is memory, marriage is time.'

I felt like it goes a way to explain why very small things can feel significant - like the purchase of a table and two chairs for our front porch, or plans to take a few weeks off in June to drive to another state as slowly as we can. It highlights the smaller moments that I'm sure will mean all the more later.

And here's a funny photo we took in Sydney a few days before our wedding - we both look so tired from all the last minute prep!

P.S Relationship advice from our wedding guests.

Interview + Recipe - Soon Lee Low

06 April 2015

Soon Lee Low is a 29-year-old chef from Melbourne who worked in multiple Michelin-starred restaurants before relocating to Wagga Wagga, in regional New South Wales, late last year.

His food is delicious and within a week of discovering his food in town, Tony and I had sampled everything from his Golden Gaytime-inspired lamb shanks to his meaty pork belly skewers that took us right back to our honeymoon in New York.

Despite my love of food, I’ve never interviewed a chef before, let alone one who has worked in internationally acclaimed restaurants. So I took the opportunity to ask Soon about how the industry works, where his inspiration comes from and what’s next for him in Wagga Wagga.

You recently moved to Wagga Wagga, what prompted the move?

I was based in London and then I got back to Melbourne after my 2 year visa expired. I did have the option to stay in London but Melbourne is always home. The reason I moved to Wagga Wagga is because of my girlfriend Audrey, she has a four year contract at the Department of Primary Industries, so here I am.

What were you doing in London? 

My career started in Melbourne, I did my apprenticeship in Melbourne, worked in a few good restaurants and I told myself that I needed to travel. My career kind of skyrocketed when I worked at Nobu, I just loved the flavours, the creativity of how the dishes are plated up - presentation is everything to me. I told myself London was a place to go because Gordon Ramsay is one of my favourite chefs - I adore him.

A friend of mine opened a restaurant in London called Wabi and I was called over to help him. I was with him for a year plus and during that time I got a job at a Japanese-Peruvian restaurant called Sushisamba as a sous chef. 

I don't know all that much about the roles in a kitchen, how does it work? 

When you first start to cook, actually before you enter the cooking scene and work in restaurants - there are two options. You can go straight in and be a prep cook or a dishwasher - and these sorts of people go from the bottom up. I've done that and have also been an apprentice, so I know both sides. 

One good thing about going into a good restaurant is that even if there are no positions, if you can show the chef that you are keen to do it, he will give you shit jobs to do. As long as you can hang on, prove to him, then eventually he'll put you in service. Once you finish dishwashing, if he does promote you, you are a line cook but you can only be a chef when you go to cookery school.

Talking about kitchens you have dishwashers, kitchen hands - that's the lowest. Then you have apprentices, the commis chef, then the chef de partie, junior sous chef, sous chef, head chef, chef de cuisine and executive head chef.

How would you describe the food you make?

The food I make is pretty much the food I would like to eat and also flavours from where I’ve worked throughout the years. I just like to fuse two different cuisines together. The dishes you had at my pop-up, it's mostly more towards Korean, Japanese flavours but sometimes there's also French influences and sometimes there's also Mexican and Spanish because I just love to play with food.

Is your food also influenced by your childhood in any way?

I grew up in Malaysia, in Kuala Lumpur and I love my Malaysian flavours. It's salty, it's sweet, it's sour. It's like Assam Laksa - it's punch-in-the-face flavour. That's awesome but you can't eat too much of it because it's too heavy. I tend to get those kinds of flavours, tone it down a bit and add my own creativity into it and hence, create my kind of dish.

What’s been the most popular dish you’ve created in Wagga Wagga?

My most popular dish that I did at my pop-up is spicy lamb ribs with tomato chutney. That dish is actually one of my recipes, I was in the kitchen thinking about what works well - thinking about summer, tomatoes - and I just created that dish and it was amazing. When I create the recipe myself that's when I have a sense of satisfaction.

I would say that the lamb shanks [that you can buy at Thorne Street General Store] is also my recipe. It was inspired by Golden Gaytime ice cream because I love Golden Gaytimes. I went to Knights Meats and then I saw this new flavour - green and gold. I actually bought the whole lamb shank and I didn’t know what to do with it. I was eating the ice cream and thought - Ah! Okay! Let's do a gremolata.

Your pop-up at The Birdhouse will finish up soon, where will people in Wagga Wagga be able to find you next?

I'm going to do catering soon so when the pop-up ends there's a new thing. I will be doing it on my own probably in two months or in April, trying to cater for people for three days a week, something like Lite-n-Easy.

I’ll also be working with a charity called Dad’s Care 4 Kids, teaching dads how to cook simple meals that are also interesting and tasty enough for kids to eat. I want to educate them on umami flavours, which is basically not using excessive salt or sugar and using natural ingredients like soy sauce or  mustard where all the flavours are already there. I just want to give that mentality to them, it cuts down cholesterol and it's also healthier in a way because you are using natural flavouring agents.

I want to help them out because they told me that usually when parents separate, it affects the kids a lot. When my mum and dad separated, I was separated from my dad for six years - he was living in Malaysia and I was here in Australia. I'm just giving these dads an opportunity to reconnect with their kids using cooking as an approach. 

And a set course menu will replace the pop-up restaurant?

In Autumn and Winter I won't be having a pop-up but I've discussed with The Birdhouse and we're going to do a set course, a three course meal and you have to book to enter. We're going to have a movie night, so it's like a gold class cinema and I'll do a three course meal. It should be in two months time hopefully. In April I'll still be doing a pop-up and then the set course will be every Wednesday or Thursday.

What recipe have you decided to share and where does it come from?

The dish I’m going to share with you today is pork belly, which is cooked for 12 hours and served with apple salsa and a tamarind glaze. The process of how the pork belly is cooked I learned in London, at Caxton Grill. The way they cure their meats and how they cook their meats is how I do my meats here. I love cooking meats and I've worked in meat sections all my life because prepping meats is very relaxing. 

Does that make it hard to do vegetarian dishes?

I love vegetarian food, I have tons of vegetarian dishes but the reason I tend not to put them on my menu is because of people don't buy it. The first pop up menu I came up with I was doing 20 open sushi rolls a day, it would take me an hour and a half to do it and I would sell two to three a day. It’s just the market in Wagga.

Soon's pork belly with roasted cauliflower, green apple salsa and tamarind glaze

Serves 4

You'll need:

1kg pork belly, skinless

For the marinade: 

300g brown sugar
50g Maldon sea salt
50g cayenne pepper
50g smoked paprika
The zest of 2 oranges

For the tamarind sauce:

200g shaved palm sugar
100ml water
120ml tamarind water, use tamarind pulp if possible and avoid tamarind paste. To make it, mix and strain 75g tamarind pulp with 120ml water.
Fish sauce to taste 

For the green apple salsa:

100ml green sriracha
50ml rice vinegar
50ml mirin
2 green apples
1tsp wholegrain mustard 
1tsp sugar

To finish: 

Half a cauliflower
1 red onion
Spring onions, finely sliced

Here's how:

Cooking the meat:

Combine all the ingredients for the marinade and leave the meat in the fridge to marinate for an hour. 

Vacuum pack the pork belly at 85 degrees for 12 hours - sous vide cooking. The other method is to leave the skin on and score it before marinating the meat. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees celsius and roast it for 30 minutes, then turn down the temperature to 170 degrees and cook for a further 2 hours until the skin is crispy. Let the meat rest for 25 minutes before slicing :)

The meat will have a different texture once cooked if you use this method rather than sous vide. If you were to follow the sous vide method, pan fry or grill the pork belly to caramalise the fat so you get the smoky flavour and slightly crisp texture. 

To make the tamarind sauce:

Make a caramel with the palm sugar and water. Then add tamarind water and bring up to boil before cooling it down. Once at room temperature add fish sauce to thin out the sauce and to taste. There needs to be a balance of sweet and sour.

To make the green apple salsa: 

Chopped 1 apple and then blitz all ingredients in a blender. Brunoise (fine diced) half an apple and add into the mix for texture. 

To finish: 

Roast half a cauliflower and cut into florets. To assemble - tamarind glaze, pork belly, apple salsa and then toppings - roasted cauliflower, red onion and spring onion.

Thank you Soon! Follow him on Instagram, or get in touch via The Birdhouse.

Photos by Soon Lee.

Happy Easter!

03 April 2015

I hope you're having a lovely long weekend. We've had some friends stay the night on their way to Melbourne and spent the rest of the day relaxing - finishing books, catching up on sleep and eating leftovers at 3pm :)

This weekend I'm planning to catch up on Peter Greste's address to the National Press Club following the journalist's release from an Egyptian jail.

This radio documentary about what happens to a relationship after one partner begins transitioning from a woman into a man also sounds fascinating. 

If you're in Sydney, delicious Five Dock gelato shop Cremeria de Luca has a pop-up in The Strand Arcade. Please have a hot cross bun gelato burger for me.

Recipes in 50 words or less - Kitchen Ghosts - GIF-driven recipes via my friend Sophie.

And just in time for the long weekend, the latest season of Girls is finally on iTunes.

Grown-up chocolate biscuits

02 April 2015

My friend Vanessa has a knack for finding great things - great books, articles, radio docos and most recently - online recipes. One of her latest finds is this chocolate biscuit recipe, which she's adapted. Her version is really good and I may have spent a good part of a day at work looking forward to going home to my chocolate biscuits.

Chocolate and almond biscuits

You'll need:

220 grams butter, softened
70 grams caster sugar
150 grams self-raising flour (I've used plain flour too and it turned out fine)
70 grams almond meal
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup flaked almonds, plus extra for sprinkling

Here's how:

Preheat then oven to 190 celsius and line two baking trays. Cream the butter and the sugar until soft and pale - I use a mixer but you can do it by hand as well. Then sift in the flour and cocoa powder, add the almond meal and mix well. Add your flaked almonds and mix gently until combined. The cookie dough will be moist and sticky.

Using floured hands, roll the dough into balls. I used a tablespoon and made around 18 cookies, you could use half a tablespoon if you wanted smaller cookies. Place the balls onto your trays and press gently. Sprinkle each cookie with extra flaked almonds. Bake for 11 minutes for the medium sized cookies, around 7 minutes for the smaller ones.

Transfer to a cooling rack after the cookies have cooled slightly, around 15 minutes.

And just a tip:

These bikkies are pretty quick to make if you've left your butter out to soften. They'll be a bit crumbly if you eat them warm (the best time to eat them) but they firm up the next day.