Two fun things to listen to in the kitchen (or anywhere)

28 April 2019

I've spent a lot of time in the kitchen these past few days. There was a double batch of mac and cheese with gruyere and caramelised onions - one for our freezer and another for friends. I also made a whole lemon lemonade with rosemary, more Anzac bikkies, and tortellini from scratch that had us dining at 10.30pm (!). Keeping me in the company in the kitchen...

The TASTE podcast, which I stumbled across while Googling podcast episodes with Ruth Reichl. It's an interview podcast which features some of my favourite cooks, from Smitten Kitchen's Deb Perelman to Christina Tosi, Alison Roman and Dorie Greenspan. I've loved hearing about their perspectives on food and cooking. It's not a new podcast - it's been running for about a year - but at the moment, it's my favourite thing to listen to while making a meal. I'm super keen to sample their daily podcast during the week.

And because sometimes it's nice to just zone out and listen to music, I've also had Anderson .Paak's new album Ventura on repeat. It's kind of old school and new at the same time and very sunny. My brother Derrick messaged me months ago to say I'd like his music - and this is my fave album of his so far.

Have a lovely week ahead. I am a tiny bit nervous about heading back to work after so many days off. I'll miss messing around the kitchen, going out for coffee, and crisp Autumn walks. All things that can be done during the working week, just not all on the same day :)

Hello weekend

26 April 2019

And just like that it's the weekend again :) On Saturday we'll be having Emiko Davies's tortellini with meat sauce for dinner. It's a two-day project that involves making the sauce and leaving it to rest so the flavours can develop. Tomorrow I'll make some fresh pasta and the tortellini filling. We'll also be celebrating my nephew's third birthday with cake (and a toy dinosaur), and meeting a friend's new puppy.

Four quick things to share this week, because the Internet's been down at our place and it's only just been fixed. Fun fact: It was my fault.

A five-minute chocolate pudding that makes me think of Yogo (but is probably healthier).

How beautiful does this mentorship between two bakers sound? It's also a lovely reminder of all the different ways we can check in with the people we love.

I had no idea that Jonathan Van Ness was learning to figure skate but loved the sentiment of this article about why it's so great to watch him learn a new skill, falls and all.

And I made these spiced potato wedges last night and served them with some pan-fried white fish and plenty of lemon. It was so very comforting.


Autumn notes

23 April 2019

Long weekends are lovely but having four-days off in a row is especially magical. There's time for everything, from sleep-ins and catch ups with friends, to tackling the last of the unpacking. I went back to work today and already miss lazy pyjama mornings and grazing on Easter eggs throughout the day. To keep the holiday vibes going, I wanted to share a few things I've been enjoying lately, from a classic podcast to surprise dates.

Two new cookbooks:
I bought a copy Nigella Lawson's 1998 book How To Eat right before Easter, after listening to so many stories about its 20 year anniversary. It is as excellent as everyone says it is, though I'm glad I'm reading it now after I've built some confidence and skills in the kitchen. I also loved this conversation between Nigella and Samin Nosrat that covered everything from cooking for yourself to being a TV personality who isn't skinny.

I also ordered Simple Cake by Odette Williams, who is an Australian living in Brooklyn. It's the loveliest book of cake recipes, with 10 cakes and 15 toppings, and lots of suggestions for when to make, eat and gift cake. I got so hungry while flipping through the book one night that I had to go and defrost some cake from the freezer before I could continue.

New recipes to share: 
Speaking of frozen baked goods, my freezer is full of them at the moment, leftover from recipe tests for work. First there was a chocolate olive oil cake with a super glossy ganache. I decorated mine with cacao nibs for crunch and sea salt too.

I also commissioned a special Anzac biscuit. Part of the recipe involves browning butter, and when you mix in the honey it smells like honey joys. I can also recommend Anzac biscuit ice cream sandwiches, which we wrap in foil and leave in the freezer to soften. The best.

Homemade pasta has also made a reappearance at our house, partly because we're more settled but also because we're rewatching The Trip to Italy, the TV series this time instead of the movie. Over the long weekend, I also made Alison Roman's olive oil roasted tomato sauce for the freezer, so we can have this tomato and anchovy bucatini down the track.

Surprise dates:
Surprise dates are still going strong in our house :) They started about a year ago, inspired by a Japanese reality show. Basically one of us will invite the other out for a mystery outing, with the asker organising and shouting. In the beginning, the dates were quite fancy and involved dinners at favourite restaurants usually reserved for special occasions. 

Lately they've been a bit more low key. Last Sunday Tony took me to a ramen pop-up and then for hot cross bun gelato, which I loved. Next on my list... a lasagne and movie night at home, two of Tony's favourite things. I'm just waiting for the movie he missed at the cinema to come out on iTunes.

A favourite podcast: 
The first podcast I ever listened to was This American Life. My friend Vanessa told me about it, shortly after I moved from Sydney to Wagga Wagga. I spent a lot of time driving when I lived there, mainly to different country towns and back again, sometimes spending 5 hours on the road in a day. The TAL back catalogue kept me entertained on those long solo drives but I switched to shorter podcasts when I moved to Canberra, to match my new commute.

I've started listening again - this time during long stints in the kitchen, usually when Tony's at the studio painting. I've really missed this kind of surprising and emotional storytelling. Some episodes (old and new) that I've especially loved - No Fair!, Left Behind, Unconditional Love, Anything Can Be Anything.

Something nerdy - this is one of my favourite stories from This American Life. It's only five minutes but so very visual.  


Ready for Easter!

18 April 2019

I love spending Easter at home. By this time of year, I'm often ready for a break and a lazy one at that. This one also has more days off than usual, and I've taken the Friday off after Anzac Day to make two long weekends in a row :)

Over the extra long Easter weekend, we're planning to cycle round Lake Burley Griffin with a picnic (I'm making these pressed mozzarella sambos and will pack some lunch dessert too!), host an Easter egg hunt for my niece and nephew, and have some friends from Wagga Wagga around for soup. I also want to see the giant candle sculpture at the NGA - its head fell off the other day!

I'm also planning to spend a good chunk of time curled up on the couch, reading my fave magazine which arrived from America just in time! I'm also enjoying Ruth Reichl's memoir about her time as a NY Times food critic and Michel Lewis's podcast, Against The Rules, I've recommended the first episode to at least four separate people this week.

Two more things: this heartfelt ep of Death, Sex and Money (the maternity leave line up to fill in for Anna Sale is really lovely), and a creamy cauliflower pasta from Alison Roman.

Finally, a little tradition for Easters at home, I've just picked up a pretty bunch of Autumnal flowers for our place.

Have a lovely and relaxing Easter.


Hello weekend

11 April 2019

I spent a good chunk of this week adjusting to both Australian time and daylight savings. It was the best reminder to be kind to myself as I settled back into work/non-holiday life. I've been on the move too, and have just come back from a trip to Sydney where I had dinner with one of my closest friends and gave a (slightly nerve wracking) presentation at work. As always, I am excited for the weekend! We'll be having ragu with friends and Tony's planned a surprise date for Sunday night, which I suspect will be a ramen date :) To share:

I had to choose a iron-free outfit for work recently because I got distracted by this episode of Style Out There from Refinery 29, that's all about Calabasas style.

Another excellent and heartbreaking episode of The Daily that tells the story of one family's story of loss and survival in the Christchurch mosque attacks.

Also from the NY Times - is human contact now a luxury? Made me think about just how much time I spend on my phone.

Erin Lee Carr has just published a memoir about the death of her father, NY Times reporter David Carr. This excerpt details the night he died.

Would love to try this baked apple oatmeal.

Along those lines... how do you cook your porridge? I used this BBC recipe for years, but have switched to soaking my oats the night before. The quest for perfect porridge is seemingly endless.

Been listening to a lot of Without Fail episodes recently, this one about the hunt for the Golden State Killer is especially good.

And I can 100% vouch for this cheesy mushroom tart that's made from six key ingredients. It's quick to make and will leave you with two tarts - one for now and one for later.

Have the best weekend!


Hong Kong holiday

07 April 2019

Hello! We've just come back from a week in Hong Kong and I have about a thousand photos to share :) This trip reminded of our New York honeymoon in so many ways. We spent our days eating delicious food, breaking it up with trips to art galleries and wandering the city.

It was a big and busy trip, and one that left an impression on both of us. Here are some highlights, from Michelin starred snacks that cost less than $10 to the touristy activities I secretly adored.

The biggest surprise for me was how familiar the city felt. I'd never visited before but so many things reminded me of my childhood - from the smell of dried herbs and ginseng on the streets that made me think of excursions to Chinatown, to the very particular flavours of the food that took me right back to my grandparent's dining table.

I don't always feel Chinese, especially since I left Sydney and moved away my extended family. But in Hong Kong, the majority of people spoke to me in Cantonese. Although I don't speak the language, I was able to remember a handful of words and phrases, mostly in my late grandfather's voice. Unfortunately I wasn't so great at repeating them, and frequently mixed up Cantonese and Mandarin when trying to say something simple like thank you. Also, so many of the older men dressed exactly like my grandfather, which boggled my mind but also made me smile.

We rented a studio apartment in Sheung Wan, on Hong Kong island. We were a few minutes walk from a train station, and walked by shops specialising in dried herbs, fresh fruit and incense every day. If we were venturing into the neighbourhood for coffee or dinner we'd often pass coffin makers too!

Hong Kong is such a vertical city (some of the buildings were impossible to comprehend) and we spent a lot of time climbing stairs. Some would open up between streets, which always felt a little magical. It took me a little while to get my head around the different districts and the layout of the city. My main references were the Hong Kong episode of Travel Man (so fun!) and this illustrated travel journal that Lena sent me. I'd often flick through it at night to read up on places we'd visited, or to plan the next day.

I loved some of the more touristy activities, like a trip to The Peak which overlooks the city. My uncle suggested we avoid the crowds by taking a mini bus from Central, which wound around the mountain and gave us a different view of the city (most of the time we got around on the train or on foot).

One night we ordered xiao long bao (soupy dumplings) at the Din Tai Fung in Tsim Sha Tsui, before walking down to the pier to catch the Star Ferry across the harbour back to Central. Our ferry was called the Morning Star, and it was super fun to see the city lights and their reflections from the water.

I also wanted to ride the Central to mid-levels escalators, because I'd heard they were the longest in the world and I'm a dag. Tony's friend Anton lives in Hong Kong, and met us for lunch before taking us to the escalators. We didn't ride the whole way up (they go through different suburbs) but hopped off at Tai Kwun, a grand colonial style building for Chinese tea. The city can feel really busy, so it was nice to spend some time in the quieter parts. Anton also took us to two places we loved...

The PMQ building in Sheung Wan where we stopped for cookies and cake at Levain bakery before wandering through the building, checking out the craft and gift shops on each level. There was also an entire floor that was dedicated to cooking classes!

Tony's favourite place in the area was easily Craftissimo, a low-key craft beer shop with streetside seats, which suited us a lot more than some of the high end bars in the city.

I left for Hong Kong with a nine-page document full of food recommendations that I'd pulled together from my friend Alkira, our Airbnb host, Hetty, and Heidi's blog.

I printed it out and kept it in my backpack, ready to reference whenever we were hungry and in a new location. My favourite meal was at Forbidden Duck in Causeway Bay, where we went specifically to eat char siu, which is barbecued pork that's sticky and sweet. As a kid, this frequently made an appearance as a takeaway dinner, in the same way a charcoal chicken might. This version was nostalgic and new all at once, which very much summed up my Hong Kong experience. We ate it with garlicky gai larn, big bowls of jasmine rice and pesto chicken spring rolls (Tony's pick!).

We spent a bit of time in local diners, and especially loved the Sang Kee Congee shop in Sheung Wan, which was a last minute recommendation from Hazel. We ate big bowls of beef congee, which arrived with lava-like bubbles forming in the middle of the bowls. We also lined up for a late-night second dinner at Kau Kee, which specialises in beef brisket and also serves Ovaltine.

Early on in our trip, we had lunch at Maxim's Palace, a beautiful yum cha restaurant in City Hall that overlooks the harbour. There were chandeliers in the dining room, an English-style tea setting, and the food arrives on carts. It was the nicest way to ease ourselves into the city.

My friend Laura took me to Dim Dim Sum in Wan Chai, which is casual and excellent. I am still dreaming of the rice noodle rolls and custardy pig buns - I only wish I'd been hungrier that day! In the same area we loved Cheung Hing Kee (there are also shops in TST) for pan-fried soupy dumplings and Kam's Roast Goose. Both have been awarded a Michelin star recently. We joined the line too late to eat dinner inside Kam's and ended up getting takeaway, which included a small bottle of goose gravy which was insanely good.

We mainly ate savoury food but I tried a Hong Kong egg waffle and loved it. We stuck to the Mammy pancake chain (some of the locations have been awarded Michelin stars) and the most popular order - egg waffle with banana and choc chips. The fillings are baked into the waffle, and they make each one to order. They became a favourite afternoon snack.

Finally, we took a few breaks from local food. I have a soft spot for Shake Shack, and was super excited to find it in Hong Kong. There are two shops but the one in the IFC mall also comes with an incredible view of the city. For coffee, we often found ourselves at NOC Coffee, The Cupping Room and Barista Jam (with lots of expats!).

We timed our trip to coincide with Art Basel, an international art fair, but by the time we arrived in Hong Kong the event was sold out. Feeling more than a little crushed, we quickly bought tickets to Art Central, the alternative art fair to make the most of the art scene. By the end of the day, we'd been given a VIP pass for Art Basel, and were pinching ourselves.

We raced back to the convention centre for the night viewing, and one of the first pieces I saw was a Takashi Murakami flower sculpture, which I adored. We returned the next day, and I watched Tony nerd out as he saw the works of some of his favourite artists - often for the first time beyond a picture in a book.

Outside of the art fairs, we both really enjoyed the Pedder building. It houses a handful of contemporary art galleries, including Gagosian, and you can walk up and down the stairs between them. We also visited Pace and White Cube galleries nearby, and saw a James Turrell installation at Asia Society Hong Kong Center.

We hardly did any shopping while we were away but my favourite souvenir from our trip are easily these polaroids, where we attempted to recreate an Erwin Wurm sculpture!

I loved how colourful the streets were in Hong Kong - from the brightly coloured buildings in pinks, purples and pale greens to the neon signs. It was also surprisingly green, from pot plants lining the streets, to orchids spied in other apartments from our Airbnb. I'd love to add a bright purple orchid to our apartment as a little reminder of our trip.

I'm so glad we could make trip, it's something we've been talking about for some time. It was the perfect city for both of us and affordable too. While our days were packed, there were things we didn't get to do this time round - mainly hiking and trips beyond the city to the sea side village of Stanley but we feel like it's a place we'll visit again.

P.S - If you're planning a trip, one of the most practical tips we were given was to pick up an Octopus card for public transport at the airport. You can return it when you leave and get a refund for the cost of the card and any credit left on it. We found public transport to be so easy to use and inexpensive. Also - there's an in town check in service at Hong Kong station! It meant we could check in our bags in the city in the morning, and explore the city unencumbered before our evening flight.