Thursday, 15 May 2014

Japanese Breakfast, Hatago Ichinoyu, near Hakone, Japan

I'm currently staying at a beautiful ryokan in Japan. It is located in a valley near Mt Fuji and all around is lush, green bush land. It's my relaxing part of my holiday and just as well as it's raining outside.

As lovely as this place is, it is so confusing for an ignorant westerner like me! It is incredibly traditional - think tatami mat flooring, paper walls, yukata, no chairs/beds just cushions and a small mattress on the floor and an onsen. So far I've not known what shoes to wear (my own, the ones provided or socks) how to dress (yukata or own clothes) and most confusing of all - what to eat and how!

Here is this morning's breakfast... In pictures as I have no idea what I ate and if I did it appropriately!

As soon as I sat down, the lovely waiter brought me this tray. I am guessing this is what I ate (please enlighten me!)
Back top right: soup with tofu, mushrooms, spring onion
Clockwise on tray from back: cold ?river fish (impossible to dismantle and eat with chopsticks!), soft boiled egg (see below), natto, nori, Japanese coleslaw, shiitake mushroom and something else.
In the centre L-R: pickled plum and vegetable, no idea, no idea.

I had read about natto before arriving so was not so shocked when I peeled open the sticky, stringy container. It came with two sauces, mustard and ?light soy. I put it on some rice but I saw a man nearby eat it straight from the tub whilst another lady had it on rice then somehow , using chopsticks, wrapped nori around a mouthful and ate it daintily.
See the stringiness? Let's just saw it wasn't my favourite however it was nowhere near as fermented as I was expecting. It was somewhat bland without the condiments but the stringiness made it so hard to eat - cobwebs everywhere!!!

The other confusing part to this meal was the egg. To me it seemed like a 63 degree egg but how on earth do you eat that with chopsticks!?!? I contemplated putting it on some rice but in the end I just broke open the yolk, picked up the bowl and slurped it. It was delicious, especially with the dressing which tasted like the dressing you dip tempura in.

All in all it was a delicious breakfast and I get to have it again tomorrow! Still not sure how Japanese people stay so slim with all this food! 2 large meals per day is working quite well for me!

Sarah xx

Wednesday, 30 April 2014


Cooking for one is such a pain as eating the same thing night after night gets really boring. I'm always on the look out for a versatile recipe and the caponata definitely suits the bill. It is perfect as a side to fish, on bread, pasta, polenta or just eaten with a fork. It is equally good hot or cold. 

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Zucchini, Carrot & Corn Fritters

Fritters tend to be the thing I make towards the end of the week when i'm using up the dodge vegies at the back of the fridge. They are so easy and the combinations are endless. They freeze well and can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a snack. Serve plain, with tomato relish, salsa, smoked salmon and poached eggs, in a burger, as a vegetable side etc etc... so many options!

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Mexican Vegetable, Tempeh and Bean Soup

Mexican Soup
Winter is coming which means it's soup time! I love making soup. Not only is it simple to make, but it it makes a large quantity and is an easy way to get in the extra vegies. This soup is a complete meal in itself, with plenty of vegetables, beans, tempeh and dairy and healthy fats, you have all the main food groups covered.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Easter Macarons - Chicks, Eggs and Hot Cross Buns

Easter is coming! 

Last year I made chocolate bunny macarons which looked fairly horrific. Rather than trying again this year I decided to make some different Easter-themed macarons.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

GF Almond 'Paleo' Bread with 60 Degree Egg and Smoked Salmon

I was searching for a savoury recipe to use up my almond pulp from my almond milk and stumbled across this recipe by Sarah Wilson which seems to have a bit of a cult following. I was intrigued by this 'bread' as i'd never made anything quite like it. I wasn't quite sure how almond meal, arrowroot, eggs and leaveners could end up with bread.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Scones with Homemade Cultured Butter

I hate cream. Never liked the stuff so I am one of those weird people who much prefer butter on scones.  After eating some amazing cultured butter at The Royal Mail Hotel I thought i'd have a go at making it. When you make butter, you produce buttermilk, so scones followed.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Homemade Almond Milk

I've previously ranted about almond milk and my dislike of the misleading advertising comparing almond milk with cow's milk. Personally I dislike the flavour of the UHT almond milk, however I decided to have a go making fresh milk to see if there was a difference.

Making almond milk is really simple. Soak 1 cup of raw almonds in water overnight then drain. Place in a Thermomix or high-powered blender with 3 cups water, 2 medjool dates and a splash of vanilla extract and blend for at least a minute or until smooth.

Pour into muslin or a chux (or something called a nut bag? Sounds rude) to strain out all the fibre. Squeeze out as much milk as possible and voila! Almond milk!

Almond pulp

This was a bit of a lightbulb moment - fresh almond milk tastes AMAZING! It's nutty and creamy and has a great mouthfeel. Now I understand what people are raving about. Don't be duped however, this is no cow's milk alternative as it doesn't contain the calcium or protein that cow's milk does but nonetheless it tastes great! The other bonus is that the leftover almond pulp can be used in baking, muesli and smoothies as it is almond meal. If you are going to use it as almond meal, you'll need to dry it out in a slow oven. If not using immediately, pop it in the freezer so it doesn't go rancid.

 Sarah xx

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Buckini Crumbed Fish with Kale Fritters

Buckini and macadamia crumbed flathead with kale fritters

I am slightly addicted to buckinis at the moment. Buckinis are activated buckwheat kernals ie buckwheat that has been dehydrated causing it to have a delicious crunchy texture and nutty taste. Despite its name, buckwheat is gluten free. The most common use for these little nuggets is in sweet dishes for example in muesli or crumbles, however I decided to go savoury this time.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

The BEST Cookie Recipe Ever!!! (and a bonus GF muesli biscuit)

Left: GF Muesli Biscuit
Back: Choc Chip & M&M Cookie
Right: Salted Peanut, Pretzel & Chocolate Cookie
Big call, I know but everyone who eats these cookies raves about them.  It is such a versatile recipe that you can add any flavours you fancy. Just as a bonus I've added a GF biscuit recipe at the end (yes, I know the ones on the plate above have now been contaminated with gluten.)

Monday, 10 March 2014

Baked Beetroot and Apple Soup

I love farmers markets! Driving through country Victoria I stumbled across a market and of course I had to stop and stock up on some fresh produce. Considering it is now Autumn, there were root vegies, brassicas,  apples, pears and the last of the stone fruit.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Pan-Fried Salmon with Textures of Beetroot (and why you should K.I.S.S.)

Too much food!
This is what happens when:
a) I visit a farmers market and get a little too excited by the produce
b) I visit a beautiful restaurant and get a little too inspired (i.e. overambitious) 

Friday, 7 March 2014

The Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld

The Royal Mail Hotel, Dunkeld
Time to spoil myself! Despite visiting Dunkeld multiple times a year, I've never indulged in The Royal Mail Hotel's degustation. The bar and bistro menus are both great (and fancy!)- but it was time to test what the chef can really do. Last year a new chef (Robin Wickens) took over from the acclaimed Dan Hunter who moved onto Brae at Birregurra and I was intrigued as to what would become of the Royal Mail Hotel. The Royal Mail Hotel prides itself on using fresh produce, predominately from their own kitchen gardens or sourced from local provedores. The menu is seasonal and the produce is the star.

First impression - service. The sommelier was friendly yet professional and was able to answer all my questions regarding food and wine. He also managed to make dining for one a less awkward experience! He gave me some fabulous recommendations regarding local wines - the Syrah from Engima near Dunkeld was beautiful! The wine list was an absolute tome - over 100 pages, so it was lovely to have someone to help!

There are two menu options at the restaurant, an omnivore degustation and a vegetarian degustation, either can be matched with wines and were able to be adapted for dietary requirements or preferences. I went with the 8 course vegetarian degustation.

Here is what followed over the next two and a half hours....

Amuse Bouche - Exploding Beetroot, Carraway and Vodka
Served warm, this bursting amuse bouche could have been a disaster weren't it for the Sommelier warning me to put the entire spoon in my mouth at once! I can just imagine a dainty eater nibbling the edge and having beetroot explode all over their clothes! Taste-wise it was fairly simple, but the theatre of eating it made up for the flavour.
Alphabet Soup

The drab photo of this consomme is the exact opposite of the flavour of this zingy little broth. It came out as a sheet of parmesan gel with piped basil letters in a bowl. The tomato consomme was then poured over resulting in a fun dish to eat/slurp. I wish I knew how to turn tomatoes into such a fantastic, umami-rich broth. The flavour was stunning!

Confit Garlic Risotto
I must admit I was immediately disappointed when I saw risotto on the menu. BORING was my initial thought - the lazy restaurant dish to cater for all the gluten intolerant and vegetarians in the world. Thankfully, this was one of the best risottos i've eaten. Full of different elements of garlic culminating in a textural explosion of garlic! Confit, crumbed and fried, dehydrated, garlic chives, garlic flowers, it was an homage to garlic and it was absolutely delicious!
Beetroot and Horseradish with Pumpernickel Puree
The second beetroot dish of the night, luckily it is one of my favourite vegies! When a restaurant prides itself on using seasonal produce from the garden, you have to accept that some things will feature twice.  Similar to the garlic showcase that was the risotto, this was an ode to beetroot - raw, pickled, cooked, leaves and pureed. All brought together with a beautiful pumpernickel puree.

I loved the puree so much that I used the remnants of my bread to scrape every last bit! The breads presented were all made in house and numbered three - a potato bread, chive sourdough and a beautiful blackened raisin and fennel bread. All served with salty cultured butter.

Tomato, Basil, Pecorino, Gazpacho
Now this is what to make with the glut of tomatoes in the garden! So simple, yet delicious. A selection of raw heirloom tomatoes, with fresh green and purple basil leaves, pecorino shavings and a beautiful light gazpacho puree/mousse.

Brassicas, Cauliflower Egg, Wash Rind Cheese
The final savoury course - a showcase of brassica. This would get any kid to eat their vegies! The 'egg' was particularly cool - a soft creamy egg yolk encased in a caulflower and chive 'white'. It looked so realistic that I asked the waitress how the chef got the chives in the egg white, to which she responded it was cauliflower! Taste bud fail.
The tricky egg!

Onto the sweet stuff!

Plum and Creme Fraiche

Tangy and cleansing, this was a nice palate clenser. Cleverly presented with dots of the individual components of creamy creme fraiche, tangy plum puree and bitter eucalyptus gel, the flavours were then combined into a mousse and sorbet. Excellent combination of bitter, creamy, sweet and sour.
Zucchini Sponge, Angelica, Hazelnut, Buttermilk Ice-cream

The final dish - and surprisingly I wasn't overly full by this stage, perhaps due to the lack of protein. The zucchini sponge was fairly dry and the zucchini ribbon didn't really add much except to the presentation, however the hazelnut puree, buttermilk ice-cream and candied angelica were delicious. The hazelnut puree is what Nutella SHOULD taste like!

All in all it was a lovely dinner. I think the chef played it very safe as there was nothing mind blowing but perhaps this is simply his philosophy of using fresh, seasonal produce and letting the flavours shine.  It cannot be compared to Ultraviolet, but I think I need to resign myself to the fact I probably won't better that meal. I think Robin Wickens and the team at The Royal Mail Hotel have kept up the high standard that was previously set and I hope they continue as this establishment does wonders for a little town like Dunkeld.

If you're ever in Dunkeld, make sure you check out Cafe 109 opposite The Royal Mail and the Old Bakery which is two roads back from the main road - they have an old wood-fired oven and make the nicest bread and lunches.

Sarah xx

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Sunday, 2 March 2014

Cauliflower Pizza Base (Gluten Free)

Another sneaky recipe to get extra serves of vegies in per day, just like zucchetti and green smoothies. You won't even taste the cauliflower! The trick to this recipe is getting the base just right. It's a pizza after all, so it needs to be eaten with the hands, therefore no soggy bottoms!

Cauliflower Pizza
(Inspired by Not Quite Nigella, Taste and a gazillion magazine articles - versions of this recipe are everywhere!!!)
1 med-large cauliflower
1/3 cup almond meal (or gluten free/plain flour)
2 eggs
Salt & Pepper
Whichever pizza toppings you fancy

1. Pre-heat your oven to 220 degrees. In a food processor or Thermomix, pulse the cauliflower until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs (press turbo 3 times on a TMX)

2. Place cauliflower in a sealed microwave safe container and cook for 5 minutes.
3. Remove lid and let the steam escape and leave the cauliflower to cool down until able to handle.
4. Place cauliflower in a clean chux (or muslin) cloth and squeeze out all the water. The cauliflower will decrease in volume by about half.

5. Place in a bowl and stir through beaten eggs, meal/flour and salt and pepper.
6. Line a pizza stone or tray with baking paper and spread cauliflower mixture into a circle. It's much easier to use your hands for this part.
7. Place in the oven and cook for 15 minutes until golden.
8. Place a second piece of baking paper over the cooked base and flip over. Remove the top sheet of baking paper so the previous underside of the base is now exposed. Place back into the oven for 5-10 minutes until it starts to colour. (I forgot to take a photo...oops!)
9. Top with your favourite pizza toppings (I used tomato, cheese, mushrooms and olives) and bake for another 10 minutes until cooked.


Sarah xx

Friday, 28 February 2014

Orange and Pistachio Cake

Orange and Pistachio Cake
The baking ban is over thanks to being on cake duty at work for this month's birthdays. Unfortunately I didn't have the time to bake something spectacular, but it was a blessing in disguise as this cake is wonderful! It is deliciously moist, however remains light unlike other flour-less cakes. 

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Zucchetti (Zucchini Spaghetti) with Tuna, Olive and Tomato Sauce

I'm a little bit in love with my Zyliss julienne peeler due to its versatility. I use it for salads, rice paper rolls and now, pasta! Given the glut of zucchini around at the moment, I decided to give zucchetti a shot. It is super easy, incredibly quick to cook, and tastes great! What an easy way to get a serve or two of extra veggies in per day, not to mention the extra nutrients and fibre. A much better alternative to slim pasta any day ( and much cheaper!)

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Homemade Coconut Yoghurt

A few months ago I jumped onboard the coconut yoghurt bandwagon to see what all the fuss was about. Coconut yoghurt fills a void for those with dairy and soy allergies in addition to the coconut fanatics out there. However, I was absolutely gobsmacked by the price! Given how cheap coconut cream/milk is, I don't understand why the commercial coconut yoghurts cost upwards of $10 for a 400g tub.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Spaghetti & Meatballs Cake

Ahhh novelty cakes! So much fun to make. If only I had children. Luckily my friends and brother are all big kids so they don't mind a bit of novelty factor for their birthday cakes.

This was my brother's cake.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Macaron Madness!

It's no secret I love macarons. I love their versatility and endless flavour combinations. I also love the fact that so many people are afraid of making them so I get lots of requests!

Here are some of the better ones over the last year...

L-R Plum pudding, gingerbread, candy cane, pistachio
200 of these babies later and I was sorted for Christmas gifts and dessert!
Plum Pudding
So simple to make - buttercream, a jar of fruit mince and spices.
The wilton sugar decos make all the difference! Recipe thanks to Mr Zumbo. Absolutely delicious!
L-R Salted caramel, fruit tingle
My new favourite technique - stripes! So easy to do, all you need is a paintbrush and gel dye. Simply grab your piping back and draw stripes of dye from the nozzle to the end of the bag. Place your uncoloured macaron mix in the piping bag and voila! Stripy macarons!
Chocolate, Hot Cross Bun
The bunnies need a bit more practice this year!
Strawberry Cheesecake Macarons
Gobbled down in an instant at work!
Strawberry Cheesecake filling

Lemon curd buttercream with raspberry gel
Tasted better than they look!

Stay tuned for more macaron fun this year!

Sarah xx

Friday, 14 February 2014

Mushroom San Choy Bau

1 large serve!
Unlike some families, san choy bau wasn't a dish that was on rotation in our household. I've probably only ever had it once or twice in my life. As it seemed like a nice summery dish and I could eat it with my hands, I thought it was worth a shot.

I couldn't quite find a recipe that suited my liking so I modified a few and this is what I came up with.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Refreshing Green Smoothie

Everything tastes better with an umbrella straw!

I've jumped on the green smoothie bandwagon. I already eat plenty of vegetables but if I can sneak another serve or two in at breakfast all the better! I much prefer smoothies over juice as they are more filling and more nutritious due to the added fibre content. Juice has much too much sugar for my liking!

Due to Melbourne's excessive heat lately, I've been having smoothies post workout because I find them to be a more nourishing and satisfying breakfast especially with a some protein powder added. I've lately been using Sunwarrior which not only tastes delicious, but isn't so gritty. The best thing with this one is that it serves two, so you've got breakfast already prepared for the following day!