Saturday 25 May 2019

Mount Portal Lookout

Mount Portal Lookout is part of the Blue Mountains National Park near Glenbrook.
The lookout is perched above the junction between Glenbrook Gorge and the Nepean River.
The 2-3 km drive into the park is through magnificent tree-lined roads.
It's wheelchair friendly and easy to access via a regular small car.

This post is part of Saturday Snapshot.

Sunday 21 April 2019

Spiced Nuts

Over the years I've tried a few different versions of Spiced Nuts, but the combination of ingredients in the recipe does the trick nicely every time. Just enough spice, with a hint of sweet to tempt everyone (who's not allergic that is!)

We recently had an election dinner catch-up with our old neighbours and this was one of my contributions to the gathering. It was a winner; although we're still debating the election outcome :-)

1 1/2 tablespoons honey 
2 tablespoons olive oil 
1 garlic clove, crushed 
1/4 teaspoon chilli powder 
1 tablespoon paprika smoked 
1 teaspoon salt flakes 
1 cup almond kernels 
1 cup unsalted cashew nuts 
1 cup unsalted macadamia nuts 
1 cup brazil nuts

Step 1 Preheat oven 180°C. Line a baking tray with non-stick baking paper. 
Step 2 Combine honey, olive oil, garlic, chilli powder, paprika and salt flakes in a small frying pan over low heat. Stir until honey has melted and the mixture is well combined. 
Step 3 Transfer the honey mixture to a large bowl. Add all the nuts and stir until they are evenly coated with spice mixture. 
Step 4 Spread nut mixture on the prepared baking tray. Bake for 15 minutes, turning occasionally. Remove and set aside to cool completely before serving.

Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking meme is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to link up anytime over the weekend.

Sunday 14 April 2019

Halloumi, Lime & Rocket Spaghetti

A couple of weeks ago I featured Annabel Crabb & Wendy Sharpe's book Special Guest. I mentioned there were three recipes I wanted to try. This is one of them.

The Recipe:

Serves 4

I know it’s shockingly predictable for a non-meat-eater to return so often to halloumi, but it really is such a useful cheese. It’s sort of like the vegetarian peacetime equivalent of pemmican: it keeps for ages and is both tasty and easy to use. This recipe was first made for me in Canberra by my friend Zoe, who used to host viewing sessions of The West Wing for a small group of political staffers (and Jeremy and me). The staffers all loved The West Wing, but did tend to roll their eyes a bit about how unrealistic it was. A decade later, when Aaron Sorkin made The Newsroom, I finally understood their frustration. In any event, this has – ever since – been my go-to weeknight pasta when I’m pushed for time, and a popular last-minute dish for drop-ins. It’s got heat, salt, acid and pepper and a good helping of greens to make you feel a bit less gluggy. Lord, it’s delicious. I feel like a bowl of it right now.

250 g halloumi, cut into 1.5 cm dice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons small salted capers, rinsed then drained well
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 medium or 2 small red chillies, thinly sliced
1 juicy lime
100 g wild rocket leaves
500 g dried spaghetti

First step: tip the halloumi, olive oil, capers, garlic and the chilli into a bowl and stir about. Using one of those zesters that takes off the zest in long thin strips, add the zest of the lime. (If you don’t have such a contraption, use a potato peeler to take the zest off and then cut it into thin strips, or alternatively you could do whatever you please and ignore my excessively controlling views on the subject.) Squeeze the lime and reserve the juice.

Arrange your rocket in a large serving bowl.

Cook the pasta according to its packet instructions.

Now you’re ready for the final assault. While the pasta is cooking, heat a heavy frying pan over medium heat and tip in the contents of your bowl: the halloumi will become golden, so turn the bits over regularly and keep a sharp eye on it. It’s done when all your halloumi is nicely browned. This should take about 5 minutes, so when it’s done you’ll be ready to drain your pasta. Dump the spaghetti into the pan and swirl it about to mop up every little bit of sauce. Working quickly, dress the rocket with the lime juice, then add the pasta to the bowl and give the whole lot a toss.

Serve straightaway!

My Journey with the Recipe:

I've included Crabb's entire blurb about the recipe so that you get an idea of her style and voice.

The main change I made was to skip the capers. Not a big fan of the caper; happy to eat 1 or 2, but two whole tablespoons full was more than I could cope with. I just added a little more lime (and salt & pepper) to the final dish to give it that zesty flavour.

The rest worked a treat and was a huge hit. I'll be making it again.
The meal also reheats well for lunch the next day, with a little more olive oil to moisten it.

Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking meme is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to link up anytime over the weekend.

Saturday 30 March 2019

Susannah Place Museum, The Rocks

During the week I had a fascinating trip back in time to Susannah Place in The Rocks.
Susannah Place was one of the original homes in the area that has now been preserved for historical purposes thanks to luck and timing. 

The original owners were obviously decent landlords who maintained the terraces over a long period time, including adding appropriate modern sanitation and lighting, which saved them from demolition during the bubonic plague of 1900, when hundreds of other homes around them (without proper sanitation) were pulled down to prevent the spread of the disease. 
They escaped the clearing that then occurred in the 1920's to build the Sydney Harbour Bridge. And they also escaped the NSW Governments plans to completely redevelop The Rocks in the 1970's thanks to one long-standing tenant who stayed on until 1990. By then, Sydney-siders had learnt to be proud their colonial, convict history and The Rocks had become a Sydney icon. The governments wholesale development plans met with lots of opposition which allowed for the preservation of small pockets of old Sydney.

From the website, we learn that Susannah Place is a
terrace of four houses built by Irish immigrants in 1844. For nearly 150 years these small houses with tiny backyards, basement kitchens and outside wash houses were home to more than 100 families. Against a backdrop of the working harbour and growing city, their everyday lives played out. Remarkably, Susannah Place survived largely unchanged through the slum clearances and redevelopments of the past century, and today tells the stories of the people and families who called this place and this neighbourhood home.
I highly recommend you visit the website, to read and listen to more of the stories about the families who lived here. And if you're ever in Sydney, especially if you stay at the nearby Youth Hostel, then plan to visit Susannah Place, as it is right behind The Big Dig...which is another story, for another day.

The one hour tour begins in the shop, where the old corner store once operated.
Grant was the entertaining, knowledgeable guide who led my small group.
For anyone who grew up watching The Sullivans (like I did), you would know that the corner shop was the hub of every small community. It's were the neighbours gathered to gossip, catch up on news and well as to buy their flour, tea and soap.

Unfortunately due to the decaying state of the internal wallpaper and walls, no photography is allowed inside any of the terraces. For now, the state of disrepair is part of the fascinating story of these homes. At some point though, a more active renovation will need to be considered, as the disrepair moves from being an interesting, documented historical record to unsafe for humans to walk through.

All the rooms have been refurnished differently to reflect the different eras and different families that lived there. I loved all the stories that our guide had to tell. It was a step back in time that also connected me to many of the stories that my mum and nan told me over the years about their early lives. Although they were in rural NSW, their homes and daily experiences were very similar to many of the ones I heard in Susannah Place.

As you can see, I loved the old buildings - their textures, colours and angles. I also loved the juxtaposition of the newer, modern buildings around them.

Naturally, this is but a very brief history of this pocket of land. 
Indigenous history goes back thousands of generations and it will always be a shame that these oral stories are now mostly lost to us all.

This post is part of Saturday Snapshot.

Saturday 23 March 2019

Jamie Oliver - Vegies

I'm trying to convince B21 that eating more vegetables is a good thing and not something to be feared. It has been a decade long battle of grating, shredding, mashing vegies in every way possible to hide them and disguise them in the meals that he liked to/was prepared to eat. As a young adult he is now branching out and trying different foods and ways of eating. He has become very proactive about this recently as he attempts to lose the scrawny teen physique inherited from his father, to a more mature buff adult frame. Protein meals are now high on the agenda and he has joined a home-delivered protein meal group and is eating all sorts of things for lunch he would never have allowed anywhere near him in bygone years.

However he still chooses to eat a LOT of meat (i.e. will cook and eat four chicken kievs, rather than cook and eat two kievs with vegies). So before he moves out (fast approaching, so he says) I want him to see and experience vegies in an interesting, tasty and fun way, beyond the roast veg we usually live on.

So instead of just throwing on some rice to have with a chicken satay last week, I turned to Jamie Oliver for some help.

Socca pancakes with broccoli & cheese (without the pancakes!)


160 g gram (chickpea) flour
olive oil
2 onions
2 cloves of garlic
220 g broccoli
1 lemon
100 g goat’s cheese
50 g Parmesan cheese
1 bunch of fresh flat-leaf parsley

  1. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, 2 tablespoons of oil, 200ml of water and a pinch of sea salt. Set aside for at least 15 minutes.
  2. Peel and thinly slice the onions and garlic, keeping them separate. Trim the broccoli, then slice into 3cm pieces.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and fry for 10 minutes, or until beginning to brown.
  4. Add the broccoli and garlic and cook for 7 to 8 minutes, or until the veg is tender and the onion caramelises.
  5. Remove from the heat, add the lemon zest and juice and set aside.
  6. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium heat. Ladle in the batter for four pancakes (roughly 8-10cm each).
  7. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until bubbles appear, then flip and cook for 2 more minutes, or until golden. Repeat with the rest of the batter.
  8. Crumble the goat's cheese, shave the Parmesan, then pick and chop the parsley leaves.
  9. To serve, top the pancakes with the broccoli, goat’s cheese, parmesan and parsley.

My Journey with the Recipe:

No pancake - I just wanted the veg part to go with our chicken satay.
No goats cheese or onion  - I'm the only one who likes goat's cheese and we already had enough onion in the satay. 
I had a lime in the fridge, rather than a lemon. 
I prefer broccolini rather than broccoli.

It was very tasty and I will certainly squeeze lime or lemon over my broccolini more often.
B21 avoids greens like the plague but actually ate two small stalks to humour me and said it was 'okay', grudgingly.

Sweet Glazed Carrots


1 kg small carrots , heirloom if you can get them
50 g unsalted butter
1 tablespoon dripping or goose fat , (optional)
6 cloves of garlic
½ a bunch of fresh thyme
2 clementines
2 tablespoons runny honey or soft brown sugar

  1. Trim most of the leafy green stalks off the carrots, then peel them.
  2. Melt the butter and dripping or goose fat (if using) in a large frying pan over a medium heat. 
  3. Crush the unpeeled garlic with the flat side of your knife, then add to the pan turning after 1 minute.
  4. Pick and sprinkle in the thyme sprigs, squeeze over the clementine juice, then add the honey or sugar and a splash of water.
  5. Add the carrots in a single layer, season with sea salt and black pepper, the jiggle the pan to coat the carrots. Cover, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until tender.
  6. Remove the lid, then cook for a further 5 minutes, or until the glaze has reduced, and the carrots are sticky and caramelised, turning often. Serve straightaway, or reheat when needed

My Journey with the Recipe:

First I had to work out what a clementine was -
Mandarins are a class of oranges that are flatter on both ends, have a mild flavour and are very easy to peel. Tangerines and clementines are mandarins. Clementines are the smallest member of the mandarin family and are seedless. The peel is smooth, glossy and deep orange.
A clementine (Citrus × clementina) is a tangor, a hybrid between a willowleaf mandarin orange (C. × deliciosa) and a sweet orange (C. × sinensis), so named in 1902.

It's the wrong time of year for mandarins in Australia, so I settled for an orange.

And it was only at the end, as we started to eat, that I realised that I had forgotten to peel the carrots. We had all the natural goodness intact, but it made it harder for the honey glaze to be absorbed and the popped like over-cooked sausages!

Very simple and very tasty.
B21 approved.

Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking meme is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to link up anytime over the weekend.

Saturday 16 March 2019

Special Guest by Annabel Crabb and Wendy Sharpe

Now that the boys are young men, out more than in and in various stages of leaving the nest, Mr Seasons and are enjoying a renaissance in cooking and eating. Gone are the staples of pasta, burgers and roasts that dominated our life for the past decade. Back are the salads, seafood and spicy food that we love so much. And hopefully, soon, we will rediscover/reclaim our dining room table to host a dinner party once again.

I looked to Crabb and Sharpe's Special Guest: Recipes for the Happily Imperfect Host to shape these urges.

Anyone in Australia right now, would be hard put to not have seen or heard Crabb on TV, in podcasts or on the radio lately. She seems to be everywhere, cooking with politicians, going back in time, chatting about books, politics and food.

I confess that I am not one of those enamoured of her journalistic style. But I don't go out of my way to avoid her either. Hence my dip into her latest cook book.

Her voice is very distinctive and you can hear it as you read her introduction. I enjoyed her timely reminders about having fun whilst hosting and not sweating the disasters,
Cooking for people in your home isn't about showing off. It's about delighting the people you love, while also remembering to actually spend time with them, not weeping in the kitchen.

Sharpe picked up on these themes with,
The most essential ingredient for a meal with friends is not, paradoxically, the food, nor the perfect house to host in, but the sentiment that you convey to guests when you open your home and carve out some time to share with them

I'm not a perfectionist, but I don't live very far away from being one! Part of my lack of desire to host a dinner party in recent years, is the muddle that is our small, inner city home, full of four adult beings and their stuff. I've learnt to live with the muddle, but I don't feel like showing it off.

After reading Special Guest, I'm a little closer to letting this go.

But what about the recipes, I hear you ask?

Crabb and Sharpe have included mostly vegetarian meals with some seafood dishes. They're conscious of food inclusivity and discuss vegan, gluten-free and halal options. Many of their meals could easily include meat on the side for the omnivores in your life.

One of their handy tips was about having a few signature home made items that quickly and easily add a special touch to any meal - things like home made pesto, harissa paste, hummus or lemon infused oil.

Sadly, though, I only found three dishes, in the entire book, that I wanted to try - Halloumi, Lime & Rocket Spaghetti, Roast Mushroom Cannelloni and Glass Potatoes.

Browsing through the other options only reinforced my dislike of the big breakfast - anything more than toasted muesli, fruit and yoghurt is too much for me - and confirmed that I am happy enough to eat sweets, desserts and cakes if provided by someone else, but they are simply not things I will seek out or make myself. I'm also not a huge fan of pies, tarts or pastries, all of which featured quite heavily throughout the book.

I once heard that most people will only ever actually make 2-3 recipes out of any cook book, so with that in mind, Special Guest, is a success!

Special Guest has been longlisted for this year's Australian Book Industry Book Awards (ABIA) and the Indie Book Awards for Best Illustrated Non-fiction Book.

Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking meme is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to link up anytime over the weekend.

Sunday 10 March 2019

Pan-Fried Leatherjacket with Tapenade, Tomato and Basil

With the hot summer weather lingering well into March, it has been difficult to feel inspired to cook anything at all. However, seafood has proven to be a good option this year, now that B18 has gone away to uni (he doesn't like seafood, so we haven't cooked it very often in the past).

The latest offering comes from Mark Best in the Sydney Seafood School Cookbook.
Sydney Seafood School was opened in November 1989....Almost all of Australia's leading chefs have taught at the Seafood School.

The book is full of recipes from various well-known Aussie chefs; some of the recipes are easier than others, but they're all packed with tasty, sustainable ingredients.

Our Journey with the Recipe:

We substituted the leatherjacket with snapper (as suggested by Best in his alternative species box at the bottom of the recipe) but I didn't add the tapenade to the top of the cooked fish (couldn't be bothered to make it to be honest with you!)

The tomato salsa was very strong thanks to the scallions overpowering the rest of the ingredients.

I also blanched some bok choy leaves we had leftover in the fridge to act as a bed for the fish.

We still haven't mastered our cooking times when grilling/frying fish, so the fleshy bits where lovely, but the thinner sections were too dry *sigh*.

Looking back over the photos, I may not have used enough tomato to scallions in the salsa...there's always next time!

Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking meme is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to link up anytime over the weekend.

Saturday 9 March 2019

Wendy Whiteley's (not so) Secret Garden

Tucked away in the curve of Lavender Bay, is a little green oasis, created by Wendy Whiteley the wife of artist Brett Whiteley. They moved to the area in 1970, when I suspect the area, was far more working class and undesirable to live in, but cheap and quiet and perfect for creative pursuits.

The area below their house was an unkempt, weed-filled railway yard dump.
After Brett's death in 1992, Wendy's grief sent her outside looking for hard, physical work, something she could actually control and a mess that she could clean up.

Wendy hurled herself into the forlorn site, hacking away at lantana, blackberry vines and privet, clearing up dumped bottles, rusty refrigerators, rotting mattresses, labouring till she was too exhausted to think or feel, then collapsing into sleep each night. Then doing the same, the next day and the next. Wendy never asked any authorities for permission, and no one told her to stop, so she kept going.

From this hard work, has sprung a lovely garden full of meandering paths, with oodles of nooks and crannies for solo meditations, quiet catch-ups with friends and larger areas for casual picnics. Oh, and a view of the harbour that might look familiar to those who know Brett's work.

For the full story about Wendy and her garden, please visit the dedicated website here.

Wendy's Garden is also included in the Circular Quay to Lavender Bay walk in Sydney's Best Harbour and Coastal Walks by Katrina O'Brien.

This post is part of Saturday Snapshot.

Saturday 23 February 2019

Buttered Prawns With Tomato, Olives and Arak

During the week, I felt the need to explore another Ottolenghi recipe. I wanted something light and tasty and Buttered Prawns With Tomato, Olives and Arak from Ottolenghi: The Cookbook was the ultimate winner!

I needed:
4 plum tomatoes
12 tiger or king prawns
3½ tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¹⁄3 cup kalamata olives, pitted
4 teaspoons arak or Pernod
3 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Coarse sea salt


  1. Start by preparing the tomatoes. Make a tiny shallow cross with a sharp knife at the bottom of each one and put them in boiling water for 30 seconds.
  2. Remove, refresh under plenty of cold water, then drain. Now peel the skin away and cut each tomato into 4 to 6 wedges. Set aside.
  3. To prepare the prawns, peel the shells away from the bodies, keeping the tail segment of the shell on.
  4. Cut a shallow slit along the back of each prawn and use the tip of a small knife to remove the dark vein.
  5. Place a frying pan over high heat. When very hot, add 1½ tablespoons of the butter and sauté the prawns quickly for 2 minutes, shaking the pan as you go.
  6. Add the tomatoes, pepper flakes and olives and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, until the prawns are nearly cooked through.
  7. Add the arak carefully (it tends to catch fire).
  8. Let the alcohol evaporate for a minute before quickly adding the remaining 2 tablespoons butter along with the garlic, parsley and some salt. Toss for a second for everything to come together in a runny sauce, then serve immediately.

Note: Arak is a Middle Eastern liquor made from aniseed and distilled grapes.

Our Journey with the Recipe:
Everything was easy to source or substitute at short notice, except for the arak. We decided, given the other ingredients, and our previous history with other prawn and tomato dishes, that a splash of white wine would suffice for this time.

Curiously fresh parsley was not to be seen anywhere either. Perhaps the long, hot summer and drought conditions have affected the herb market this year? A pack of 'lightly dried' parsley had to make do. I also prefer fresh chilli to red pepper flakes.

The other problem turned out to be the prawns. All the green prawns were gone by the time I was heading home after work. I had to use cooked prawns instead.

Normally I would be reluctant to use so much butter in a tomato based sauce, but it was divine.

Because I was using cooked prawns, we tossed them into the pan right at the end of the cooking process instead at point 5.

Ottolenghi says that all their "recipes evolve and develop" over time but
there are certain threads – or combinations of ingredients – holding things together. Prawns, tomatoes and Arak are one of these combinations. New ingredients share the stage – chunks of feta, the addition of more fish, bringing in a new herb or a different vegetable – but the trilogy still holds tight. This – the simplest and quickest version – remains the classic, the template against which all others are measured. It needs to be eaten as soon as it’s made, served as a starter, with fresh crusty bread to mop up the juices.

Given this holy trinity of ingredients, next time I will wait until I can source some arak, although it tasted just fine the way it was!

Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking meme is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to link up anytime over the weekend.

Sunday 17 February 2019

Weekend Cooking - Ottolenghi

One child has flown the coop (to uni) and the other is planning on moving out in the next few months. Mr Seasons and I will soon be empty nesters. A stage we've been looking forward to for years, but already, we're finding it more of a bittersweet experience. One of the good points though is having some space in our lives (and our home) and not having to cater for the very basic eating habits of the youngest any longer (he took his pizza tray with him to uni, which I suspect he will eat from morning, noon and night!)

Part of my post-children-living-at-home plan is to cook more interesting food. Food with spice and zing and taste!

I have a slew of Ottolenghi cookbooks that I have only ever prepared a few meals from in total. A very sad state of affairs! I'm hoping to change that this year.

My book club's summer picnic night gave me my first opportunity this week. I was working and only had an hour to whip something up that had to be 'shareable' and of the finger food variety.

Simple by Ottolenghi was the obvious choice for this. This cook book categorises each recipe into 6 main areas:

S – short on time: less than 30 minutes
I – 10 ingredients or less
M – make ahead
P – pantry
L – lazy
E – easier than you think

I wanted something light and summery with a little bit of zing!
Beef Carpaccio with Spring Onion & Ginger Salsa (pg 29) was the choice. It was categorised as:
S - short on time
I - 10 ingredients or less
M - make ahead

Because I only decided in the morning over breakfast, which recipe I was going to use, the make ahead part didn't apply this time around, but I now have some leftover spring onion & ginger salsa in the fridge for more zingy tomato snacks this week.

It was super easy to make. The longest part was crushing the ginger into a paste in my mortar and pestle, but I love any excuse to use my mortar and pestle, so it's never a chore.

I also love it when your finished dish looks exactly like the one in the book!

I served it with some Greek cream cheese and ciabatta. It was delicious and a big hit at the picnic.

Beth Fish Reads Weekend Cooking meme is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to link up anytime over the weekend.