Everything we talked about in 2018

21 December 2018

Hello! Are you on holidays too? Mine started today, and I've had the Christmas tree lights on all day :) This year has been a big one, with a new and more challenging job that's included a bit of travel and the chance to commission recipes (basically, my dream). I am so looking forward to some down time and will be taking a short break here too. I'm looking forward to closing my laptop, making mince pies, and sleeping til whenever.

Before I sign off for the year, I wanted to say thank you for being here. I am always on the hunt for recommendations, whether it's a new recipe to try or a different way to think about relationships or work, and hope that some of the things you've seen here have also inspired you to tune into a podcast episode or try something new.

Just in case you're online over the break and looking for things to do, here's a round up of some of my favourite posts from the year. But before we go there, here are a handful of recent links to share:

From the blog all things food and cooking:

Fun things to read, listen to and watch:

Travel notes for:

Things I worked out in 2018:

Have a happy Christmas and a relaxing break. Catch you in 2019 X

Christmas plans

16 December 2018

Are you travelling for Christmas or working through the holidays? I finish up for the year on Thursday and things are already feeling festive. Right now I'm snacking on some Christmas cake that I made in November. I finally cut it open over the weekend to divvy up between friends as gifts. And tonight we'll be putting up our mini Christmas tree!

Our plans for Christmas are pretty simple - we'll be staying in town and waiting for the rest of my family to join us. My brother and his wife will be coming round for a Christmas Eve dinner, all the way from London. I ordered a ham for the holidays and am thinking of serving it glazed and warm with soft buttered rolls and beer, inspired by my friend Danie :)

Christmas Day will be a lunch at my sister's place and I'll be bringing a Christmas cake to share, and some homemade mince pies too. I'm also really looking forward to Christmas brekkie at home, which is usually coffee, mangoes and panettone with Tony before we exchange presents.

We've also just marked three years in Canberra with a handful of end of year rituals. We brought these spice cookies to May and Sam's an annual Christmukkah party, which was a bagel brunch. And we ate the most delicious meal at Sarah and Mark's place for our annual Christmas dinner, this time with their daughter Zoe as a first time guest.

They made Samin Nosrat's buttermilk chicken, Annabel Crabb's glass potatoes (they're a revelation), and I made my first ever pavlova roll with raspberries and cream. It was the last recipe I had to test for the year and it was a triumph!

Finally, let's talk Christmas books! I secretly love the days after Christmas, where everyone's back in their own homes and it's time for naps, summer fruit and books. I'm planning to treat myself to Sally Rooney's Normal People and Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales.

Hello weekend

14 December 2018

We celebrated Tony's birthday last night, with a pasta feast he made for friends. So tonight, we'll be tucking into leftover pasta and red wine and finally watching BlacKkKlansman. I can't wait. And then tomorrow I'll be making a pavlova roll with raspberries to take to my friend Sarah's place for our annual Christmas gathering! Should be delicious. Some fun things to share:

Make your own after dinner mints (minus the foil packet!). 

Tony asks for the same birthday cake every year - an unbaked cheesecake. I normally make this one but decided to do something a little fancier this year and made mini cheesecakes with white chocolate, strawberries and rose water. They were a hit.

I really liked this interview with Osher Gunsberg about getting yourself out of a rut. Especially this line, "When it comes to work, the why morphs slightly from being the 'best' to being the most professional he can be."

If you're catching up on podcasts, I can recommend this episode of This is Love, featuring a snail love story. Also, a very inspiring interview from Without Fail.

And this week's ABC Life recipe is awesome! It's a salad salsa that could a fun starter - or you could just eat it with chips for dinner like we did on Monday night. Highly recommend.

Catch you next week!

Melbourne notes

13 December 2018

We had the nicest time in Melbourne, eating lots of great food and checking out a bunch of art galleries - our two favourite things. By the end of the week, I had ditched my watch and make up and was feeling extremely relaxed.

This trip to Melbourne was a tiny bit different because I went with a few pages of recommendations from my new workmates who live there. Just in case you're heading there soon, here's what I loved:

Yum cha + NGV + Carlton

Our first day in Melbourne was pretty perfect. We rolled our bags into Chinatown for yum cha at Dragon Boat, which came highly recommended. It was such a great yum cha spot, and also a good place to fuel up and catch our breath before heading back into the city.

There are two great shows at the National Gallery of Victoria at the moment, and they're both free! My favourite was Julian Opie, which featured bright and colourful video portraits of characters doing very everyday things like walking. The details made the show magical, with the artist capturing everything from the gait of individuals, to the intricate pattern of their lace dress or tattoos. Check out the kids space if you can, even if you don't have any of your own. Trust me, it's super cute (and filled with adults!).

We also both really loved Australian photographer Polly Borland's exhibition at the Fed Square gallery space. It's playful and kind of odd too.

Then it was onto Heart Attack & Vine, which is one of my workmate's all-time favourite bars. It's a really cute space with incredible snacks constantly being made at the counter. We ordered drinks and a selection of mini snacks and had a great time.

For dinner, we went to a new favourite, DOC pizza for the best margherita (they specialise in mozzarella!) and a greens salad which was almost as good. Afterwards we wandered over to Pidapipo for gelato cones with warm nutella, and they were so good we made sure we went again before we went home.

And no visit to Carlton is complete without a stop at Readings, which is my favourite book shop.

Cult places for pastries + chiffon cake + pasta 

Holidaying midweek was especially handy when it came to visiting a hyped up eateries :) We went to Lune Croissanterie one morning and sat at the counter, watching a small army of croissant makers do their thing while nibbling on their handiwork.

The croissants are pretty amazing, somehow sweet and savoury at the same time with just the right amount of flakiness. A little bit of planning went into our visit because my Dad (whose favourite foods include croissants and ice cream) went on a day when the cafe was only doing takeaways. Plus I'd read that sometimes there's an hour-long queue, and assumed it'd be wise to avoid the weekend.

I also made it to Beatrix, a tiny bakery that I've been obsessing over ever since I stumbled across them on Instagram. Especially because they seem to have an insane number of cakes on offer each day. I ordered a giant slice of pillowy orange chiffon cake that came with a tangy icing and some mince pies to take away. Beatrix is in north Melbourne, and a short tram ride from the city (that's if you get off at the right stop!). There's only a handful of seats but they're set up for takeaway, with lovely hard-to-squash cake boxes.

We also had dinner at Tip00, which was the first place I booked after we'd sorted our flights and accommodation. I felt like a nerd, getting in super early but we almost missed out! Apparently Fridays and Saturdays are usually booked out three months in advance, so we went for a late sitting on a Thursday night and had no regrets. Everything from the focaccia bread course to the deconstructed tiramisu was unreal.

Brunswick + Collingwood

Finally, Saturday lunch at Good Days in Brunswick was a shared highlight. Tony ordered the chicken rice and I had the famous noodle salad with lemongrass chicken skewers (you can also get it with spring rolls on top!).

And I also went to Cibi for lunch with my friend Danie, where we both ordered the Japanese breakfast special. The Cibi shop was especially beautiful, stocking everything from ceramics to fancy panko crumbs and different types of seaweed.

So that's it for our 2018 Melbourne trip! I thought my flying days were done for the year but I'll be making a day trip to Sydney on Monday, and then counting down the days til I can pick up my Christmas ham. We're close!

Hello weekend

06 December 2018

Hello from Melbourne, where I'm slowly nailing the tram situation and eating a lot of delicious food :) How has your week been? I've been here since Tuesday for a little holiday, accompanying Tony who's down for a conference. We're going out for pasta tonight (finally got a booking here), and I've been stocking up on American cookbooks and checking out as many bakeries as I can (current count: four in three days!). Some fun things to share:

Anna Jones's vegetarian top 10, just in time for end of year entertaining.

Speaking of, I learnt a lot editing this piece about cooking for vegans from Hetty McKinnon. Biggest takeaway? Vegan food is everyday food - especially when it comes to staples like pasta, legumes, and olive oil. Need a dish for this Christmas? She shared a vegan potato salad recipe and it's yum!

If you're a fan of the NY Times column Modern Love, may I introduce you to Tiny Love Stories, sent in by readers. I loved the one about the baby outfit!

Grace Lee, an Australian illustrator with an eye for joy, has a collection with Uniqlo!!! It was one of my first stops in Melbourne, I bought this shirt and can't wait to wear it to meetings :p

I experienced insane hayfever today so retreated to the aircon of our Airbnb after lunch and watched the Gaga doco on Netflix and loved it. 

Two kind of Christmasy things... an alternative festive playlist made up of songs from Woody Allen films. And my friend Angie put me onto the show Travel Man, and this episode in Hong Kong made me laugh! It co starts Jon Hamm.

And we went to a Christmas/Hanukkah party last Sunday, where there were bagels, jam doughnuts and twin babies to cuddle! I came away obsessed with latkes and want to try this recipe, recommended by Leslie. Our friends served theirs with a dijon mayo. I would eat them with basically anything!

Have a wonderful weekend and catch you soon, with a few Melbourne notes.

Catch you soon (and a kick ass dessert)

30 November 2018

Just a quick note to say I'm about to head off on holidays and will be back here in a week or so! It is my first proper holiday of the year (!!!), with the exception of a few long weekends here and there, so I'm making an effort to zone out completely.

In the meantime, please enjoy this easy summer cherry dessert. It's magically light and creamy at the same time!

Thanks always for reading, and speak soon.


The perfect Sunday dinner

28 November 2018

Every now and then I want to roast a chicken on a Sunday night. It's usually a sign that things have been busier than usual, and that comfort food is needed. This salt and pepper roast chicken is super easy and delicious. It comes from The New York Times and food blogger Molly Yeh described it as a magical recipe on Radio Cherry Bombe because all you do is season the chicken the night before and then roast it.

I happened to make mine right after watching the Heat episode of Salt, Fat, Acid Heat. So I took the chicken out of the fridge an hour or so before cooking, to let it come to room temperature, and cooked it with the drumsticks facing the back and it came out super tender, with extra-crispy skin. Success!

It accidentally became an awesome dinner because I also needed to make Hetty McKinnon's roast caprese salad before the weekend was up. I'd commissioned the recipe for ABC Life, and always try them before they're published, because it helps with the editing process.

While the meal feels fancy, I made the salad in the afternoon, as part of my regular Sunday lunch prep for the week and then  assembled it at the last minute, while the chicken was cooling. Buying mozzarella always makes me cringe (it costs a bomb!) but it made the salad hearty enough that we could just eat it with the chicken, no potatoes needed.

Finally, dessert. Crumble is one of my all time favourite comfort foods and this one is extra special. I am lucky enough to work with Thalia Ho, who writes a beautiful baking blog Butter & Brioche. She writes a monthly baking column for ABC Life.

When we were brainstorming recipes earlier this year, I mentioned an amazing summer crumble I had on the last night of a south coast holiday. It couldn't remember exactly what was in it, only the fruit was lighter than usual and that it was floral.

Thalia came up with this pear and blueberry crumble with earl grey tea leaves and lemon zest mixed into the topping. I thought my sister-in-law's apple crumble was the only recipe I'd ever need in that department, but this one is crazy good. The pear goes super soft, and the filling goes a deep purple colour as the blueberries cook. It was also a good excuse to buy some take away vanilla ice cream from the gelato shop in town.

We've just figured out that Christmas will be spent in Canberra this year, with my whole family visiting! Every now and then I think about what we might eat, and this whole dinner is an option in my mind. Maybe with Christmas cake at the end instead of crumble. In any case, I highly recommend all three dishes individually - and eaten together, you'll probably go to bed very happy.

Hello weekend

23 November 2018

It's positively wintry in Canberra right now, with freezing winds and grey skies. And it's perfect for a cosy weekend at home! I'm planning to make this one-pan chicken, olive and couscous dish for dinner on Saturday night with a baked cherry dessert. I may or may not pretend I'm part of Thanksgiving celebrations, with the cold weather and delicious food. A few favourite things from this week:

Mariah Carey has a new album (!) and it's catchy and fun. My brother Derrick sent it my way (which made me smile cos he hosts a music show on an indie radio station in London!).

I bought Michelle Obama's book as an audio book and love it - it's so affirming and I love going for walks with her :)

Something else that's making me happy - I found Molly Yeh's US cooking show online. For fellow Molly fans, she's having a baby next year!

This could be the ultimate Christmas cookie, which combines the festive flavours of fruit cake with chocolate chip cookies. Trust me, it works. My boss made them and I ate at least three.

Speaking of work, this week's ABC Life recipe is one of my faves, I'll be making it again soon! It's a spicy-ish chicken burrito with a crunchy kale and corn slaw and cheese. When I first saw the photos, I assumed it'd be hard, but it's not! It's not a quick meal but you can make the slaw while the chicken cooks and it fed us three times over.

Have the nicest weekend!


Life lately

18 November 2018

Hello! I'm gearing up for my final trip to Sydney for the year, and then the countdown til the end of the year begins. We have a week in Melbourne in early December, followed by Tony's birthday, and then it'll be Christmas, so this week's trip really feels like the last big thing before things start to wind down. But I'm getting ahead of myself, here are a few notes from the past month, from a stand out book to getting a start on Christmas baking...

Eating and cooking:
Lots of berries, eggs and veggies lately, because I've been shopping at the farmers markets again, now that it's spring. My favourite market is on Sunday morning - it's an outdoor market held at a high school, and it has such a lovely vibe (and a weekly Scottie dog meet-up!). After trying out a bunch of different stalls over the last year or so, I've finally worked out which are the best, and especially love the ones that specialise in just one thing, whether it's apples, asparagus or mushrooms.

I borrowed a copy of The Zero Fucks Cookbook by Yumi Stynes from the library, and am really enjoying it. I'm making the spiced cauliflower tonight and want to try the carrot cake with cream cheese icing too. Here are a couple of recipes from the book if you're curious, everything's super quick and doable, and I'm thinking of asking Tony for her summer cookbook for Christmas. 

I'm still testing about a recipe a week for work, and it's something I really enjoy. On Friday night we had chicken burritos with kale and corn slaw, which we bundled up in foil so we could eat them on the balcony and it was such a nice way to end the week. They became a TV dinner for the next night.

Commissioning and testing recipes has taught me so much about cooking, especially the way that flavours and textures go together, as well as how to put a meal or simple menu together. In the next few weeks I'll be testing a raspberry pavlova roll that's been described as marshmallowy in texture (can't wait!) and a roast cherry dessert with Anzac crumble.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I am into the most basic of things at the moment, like dry roasted nuts, toasted pepitas, bread from this Canberra bakery (the rye and seeded loaves especially), and super crunchy peanut butter. 

For our Melbourne trip in early December! I have a huge list of recommendations from my workmates based there, which cover everything from brunch to gelato and the best sourdough. Tony will be at a conference most of the time, and I'm looking forward to food shopping and cooking in our Airbnb, inspired by Julia. As soon as we'd booked our flights, I made a dinner reservation at Tip00, because pasta is our favourite food, and I'm also planning to do a candle lit Yin class at this beautiful yoga studio.

I've also been doing a tiny bit of planning for Christmas. I ordered a ham this week from the local smokehouse, which I'm super excited about. I'm trying to track down the recipe Tony used years ago when he glazed a ham for the two of us! I have a feeling it could be this Donna Hay one with whiskey and marmalade, but also think it may have had earl grey in there too. 

I've also made three Christmas cakes, which are wrapped in foil and waiting for December. There's one for my family and Tony's, and a third that I'll split between friends. I used a recipe from The Cook and Baker (based on the fact that their hot cross bun recipe is top-notch) but we won't know if it's worked until... it's too late. Side note: I bought my first mince tarts this weekend just past - I really love this time of year.

Every now and then I remember that I'm happiest when I have a book on the go. It keeps me off my phone and out of my head. After whizzing through a bunch of novels, I took a little break, read bits of a few things but nothing that really captivated me until I picked up To Obama With Love, Joy, Hate and Despair by Jeanne Marie Laskas.

It grew out of a feature that I loved last year from The NY Times, which told the story of the Obama administration's mail room, the people who worked there and the thousands of letters they received every day. The book contains letters grouped in two or three year blocks that tell the story of different periods of the presidency, as well as interviews with people who wrote to the president and received a reply. It's a fascinating look at America during the Obama years, and one of my favourite books of the year.

Speaking of, I can't decide whether to read Michelle Obama's book or listen to it as an audiobook (she reads it herself!). I'm leaning towards the latter. In the meantime, I loved Oprah's interview with Michelle Obama about the book (via Cup of Jo).

This lovely last month of spring, where the weather is sunny but still mild, and everything still feels chill (and not Christmas-crazy). It's such a lovely time for cycling, sitting on the balcony for meals and drinks outside. Our favourite summer bar has just reopened - they do the cutest snacks - making their own sausage rolls one week, pizza pockets the next.

I'm also enjoying any time off I get - weekends, and long weekends. I made the small mistake of taking all of my leave in December and January, which has made parts of this year seem quite long. Next year, I'll be spacing it out a whole lot more! In the meantime, the odd self-made long weekend does wonders.

I've also been making the most of downtime in Sydney, when I'm there for work. I visited at the end of October, and tried out the Paramount Recreation Club for morning yoga (I loved it - the classes are small and the instructors are great). It's such a beautiful space, it's a rooftop gym with the cutest kiosk and really beautiful showers! The Paramount Coffee Project is also downstairs, so on one of the mornings, instead of rushing back through the city to my hotel, I ordered a raspberry porridge and sat in the front window to people watch and catch up on blogs

Food-wise, I made it to Gogyo in Surry Hills for a ramen dinner with friends and can't wait to go back. The ramen was one of the best I've ever had, and we also feasted on king prawn guacamole, and a buckwheat ice cream for dessert, which tasted like a lighter version of black sesame.

Two of my workmates also made the trek from the office to Sando Bar, for chicken katsu sandwiches. It was an intense sandwich, with pickles, mayo and hot, crunchy chicken. I'm so glad I got to try it out, and it kept me going til I landed home later that night.

Monthly recaps inspired by Heidi and Pip :) 

Hello weekend

16 November 2018

Happy weekend to you! Tony wrapped up teaching for the year today, so we'll be celebrating with homemade burritos and beers (I'm really into sour beers atm!). Hope you have some fun things planned. We have a kid's birthday party, and a visit to a whiskey bar with some friends. My picks for this week:

Really loved this episode of the BBC's Women's Hour - Is motherhood for you? A life coach weighs in.

Do you have Ottolenghi's latest cookbook Simple? Here are 16 recipes to try - I'm interested in the honey and yoghurt cheesecake, the lamb and pistachio patties, and the harissa and olive pappardelle!

Also on my to-make list, this salmon and brown rice bowl from Julia of Ostro fame.

One of my favourite podcasts is back with a new season, This is Love is always surprising.

And I've been thinking about this banana and coffee cake that my friend Sarah made for a poolside picnic last weekend. That's it there in the photo above. It was so good, I went home and looked up the recipe :)

Catch you soon!


A just-for-fun Christmas list

14 November 2018

I love gift giving, especially at Christmas. But for the first time in a very long time, I haven't gone overboard shopping for it, and don't plan too. My family will be in Canberra for Christmas this year - including my brother and his wife all the way from London. Because we haven't all spent the holiday together for years (at least three!), we're just excited to be in the same city and country.

But just for fun, here's my annual wish list of things big and small that'd be fun to open on Christmas Day. Starting with these snacking containers for summer picnics, or a stainless steel bento with built in dividers!

A pair of high-rise yoga leggings from Girlfriend Collective, which come in the best colours. A couple of girls at my yoga studio have them and really rate them. A tie-up shirt would be lovely for practice (and weekends) too.

What is a Christmas list without a cookbook? I have my eye on Alison Roman's Dining In. She's formerly of Bon Appetit magazine, and now writes for the NY Times. I'm also all about eating in! Annabel Crabb's latest looks good too. I love this description, "Hosting your friends is not about showing off; it is about delighting others."

Abbi Jacobson's book looks like the perfect summer read, Lily Allen's too. I would also like a copy of Ta-Nehisi Coate's book of essays that cover the Obama presidency. I borrowed a copy from the library earlier this year, and while it wasn't an easy read, I learnt a lot from it.

And something fancy - vineyard glamping, complete with a basket of pastries for breakfast the next morning. Just not while the snakes are out!

P.S - one of the best Christmas gifts I ever received was a box of mangoes from my uncle Mark. There must've been 20 mangoes in there, just for Tony and I, and they were right at their peak.

Hello weekend

09 November 2018

I am settling in for a long weekend... one that I made myself :) It'll be a little holiday at home. I'm hoping to make it to a Sunday night yin class (my new obsessions), try this mushroom carbonara (it has no pasta but still looks great!), and have plans to go swimming with friends. For your weekend: 

My new girl crush is Alison Roman. And I haven't even made her famous cookies yet!

"I'm 34 and at a point where instead of thinking of what I have done I often, unfortunately, think about the things I haven't done yet." Curious to read Abbi Jacobson's new book.

This mini episode of Hurry Slowly was the best way to start my Thursday. I'm actually planning to re-listen to it soon. It's all about being kinder to yourself, and not always having a plan.

Plus, an easy frittata with peas, eggs and cheese. I've made this for dinner and for work lunches, which means I just need to try it out for breakfast. Might do it tomorrow morning :) 

Have the best weekend!


Emergency snack - tuna crackers with pickles and cheese

05 November 2018

I get hungry very quickly. During the week, I'm limited to the fruit and nuts I take to work but on weekends and just before dinner, I love being able to fix a snack with more ingredients at my disposal.

On high rotation at the moment, greek yoghurt with mangoes and golden syrup (hooray for mango season!), and a tuna cracker with cottage cheese, pickled onions and pepper, which always tides me over til the next meal. On toast, it makes a decent lunch or late night dinner. And the pickled onions make it seem fancy enough to serve as a starter to guests.

Tuna cracker with pickles and cheese

You'll need:

Crackers, any kind will do or a thick slice of bread.
Cottage cheese or ricotta
Tuna in olive oil, drained
Pickled red onion, I use this recipe

Here's how:

Spread cottage cheese over your cracker or slice of toast and then crumble some tuna on top. Top with pickled onions and freshly cracked pepper and enjoy.

Hello weekend

02 November 2018

Hello! I am freshly back from Sydney where I was lucky enough to see friends for dinner, sample a rooftop yoga studio, eat an amazing matcha ice cream sandwich... and go to work! On my final day in the office, there was a surprise Q&A with Rukmini Callimachi from the Caliphate podcast. I loved hearing about the making of the podcast, and of course, her voice IRL.

As always, after a few nights away, I'm stoked to be home in time for the weekend. I'll be going to the markets, cooking something from scratch and reading. To share for your weekend:

This Canberra Instagrammer, who is responsible for my current obsession with this wilderness hotel.

The Layers style podcast is back!

Keen to try these mini chocolate pavlovas.

Trail mix cookies with some sweet thoughts on making your own magic.

Do you read birth stories? I'll always have a read if it's written by a woman I follow online. It's such a privilege to read their accounts and experiences. This week I read this story from Heidi, about the birth of her son Walt. I admire her intuition and trust in her own body.

We had our first properly hot day in Canberra on Thursday. So it could be time to have a go at homemade ice magic!

And because we've finished watching Salt Fat Acid Heat and I miss it, I've been eagerly consuming lots of Samin Nosrat content! This beauty interview was especially nice, and I love the photo from the trolley scene at the very end. I'm also listening to Lee Tran Lam's interview with her, which is pretty delightful.

Chat soon!