End of an era…a very short one

So, Mel and I no longer work in the same office!

While it’s great to go on to other things, it’s still sad that we can’t do lunch during the week or make random tarte tatins in our lunch breaks…or have bake-offs!

But, that won’t stop us from talking food. In fact, just this morning we had a whole conversation via text about future cooking endeavours and sticky date pudding (and how much I wanted some). It’s like we’re still sort of in the same building.

We caught up for brunch at Seven South in Yeronga and we’re busy planning a potential Christmas in July….before I get married, cause I love a challenge.

Speaking of challenges,  I have other news to share (because not everyone knows yet) – I’m heading to the UK in September…to live. It could be one year, it could be two. I think James’ mum would be upset if I said it was any more than that, but you just can’t ever tell where the universe will send you.

That doesn’t mean this blog disappears, it just adds a whole new dimension. Living so close to so many countries means I’ll get to travel more and try more food. I mean, last time I checked it was $200AUD to travel from the UK to Italy. Leaving from here is significantly more, even with a good flight deal. I’m really excited and scared at the same time – living outside your comfort zone is a challenge and I think it just has to be done. Not to mention, the UK is just going from strength to strength in the food scene. Plus, I am totally going to River Cottage!!

Mel isn’t missing out though, she has her own travel plans and I’ve told her she needs to come and visit, so we can eat up a storm!

 

Where have we been?

Now, if you’ve been wondering why a blog that started up less than a year ago has already dropped off in terms of content, it’s because we’re both all over the shop! I work fulltime, I manage and do the marketing for an event that’s coming up next week actually (History Alive), I’m planning a wedding that’s coming up at the end of July, doing a few other things for various people and I’m trying to get some sleep. Mel also has her hands full, she started a uni degree this year on top of her fulltime job. We’re crazy because we knew all of this was coming up when we started this blog. It’s not going to disappear anytime soon though!

Please don’t give up on us, we’re still here!

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Pictured above: White chocolate mud cake, fresh raspberry buttercream layers, sourcream and whitechocolate ganache, topped with sourcream and milk/dark chocolate ganache, fresh raspberries and chocolated coated strawberries; condensed milk and raspberry brownies; cherry and chai tartlet.

Yassou! A Greek feast!

Have you ever been so full that you’re really uncomfortable, no matter how you’re sitting/standing/laying, but you just want to keep eating?

That was us a couple of weeks back. (Side note: Honestly, I started writing this post the day after we cooked up a huge Greek feast to celebrate Greek Orthodox Easter. Life has gotten in the way since and I’m just getting to this now.)

We’d been planning our Greek feast for a few weeks (in fact, I was using it as a procrastination source when I should have been doing other things – at home, not at work, don’t worry Caroline!). Mel is a Greek food fiend and after we’d done the Chinese New Year feast a while back, she decided we had to do a Greek Easter feast.

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We wanted to do the usual things – pita and dips, slow-cooked lamb, Greek salad (actually called a ‘village salad’ in Greece for obvious reasons), lemon potatoes and Mel’s all time favourite, Kourabiethes (you know those crescent shaped, icing sugar covered shortbread biscuits). We also wanted to do a few things we’d never made/eaten before, so aside from what I’ve already mentioned, we made Flaounes (Easter cheese pies), Kolokythokeftedes (zucchini and feta patties), rice-stuffed tomatoes, Galaktoboureko (a semolina custard ‘slice’) and Tsoureki (Easter bread).

Our colleague Maria lent us a cook book that was written by an Orthodox church group, in the eighties I would say. We had a couple of issues with correct amounts – on more than one occaison the amount of flour they suggested was either too much or WAY too little. Our top notch troubleshooting skills definitely came into play.

We made most things from scratch and some didn’t turn out quite the way I hoped they would. Actually thinking back on it, my projects were the ones that didn’t work out the most. I tried to make a Greek Easter bread (the Tsoureki). It was an odd way to make a bread for me, and I think I managed to kill the yeast in the process, which resulted in the dough not rising at all. Was pretty disappointing, but there was so much food no one noticed.

We did a team effort on the Galaktoboureko, but we left it until last. That was a terrible idea, because there just wasn’t enough time for it to set. It tasted great, but it looked like it hit a lot of branches on the ugly tree when he dished it up.

The zucchini and feta patties were delicious, but there wasn’t really much of a binding agent and unless the pan was hot enough the patties didn’t really stick together. There was a lot of really tasty zucchini and feta mush left over. Thankfully, I managed to make enough good looking ones for people to eat and assume I’d actually done a great job ;).

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We did three dips, tzatziki (of course), tirokaferi (a feta dip with a bit of chilli) and a skordalia (think garlic mashed potato). All three turned out very well and were eaten with homemade pita (made by Mel, not me!).

Of all the things we made, the Flaounes were the most surprising! I’ve never made anything like them and if I was choosing something to make from a Greek cook book, I’d probably have overlooked them.  They were essentially a bread square with a savoury filling – a kilo of haloumi mixed with sultanas, parmesan, semolina, sugar, fresh yeast, eggs and a few more things. Given neither of had had these before, it was really just the blind leading the blind. The recipe produced a absolutely ginormous batch and we made people go home with the many that didn’t get eaten (because there was so much other food). Maria said we did a pretty good job, but I did wonder if she was just being nice (haha)…

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Overall, we had a great night and we hope our guests did too! Thanks to Maria for her cook books and emotional support!

We’re thinking about a Spanish Feast next, any dish recommendations?

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Review: Asana by Pete Evans, Brisbane

My day to day diet is very healthy. I don’t follow a set diet, it’s more that I try to use a variety of ideas from various chefs and nutritionists to give me inspiration. The paleo and sugar free recipes are some that I use quite frequently, but I can never seem to say no to that sneaky chocolate or ice cream as a little treat!

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In saying that, I often find it difficult to find a guilt-free restaurant. It’s all well and good to have a splurge every now and then (I think it also helps with our sanity!) but sometimes its nice to have a meal out and not be tempted by the creamy heavy pasta or sugar laden desserts, and now I’ll introduce you to Asana.

Pete Evan’s restaurant, Asana, is completely Paleo. Its a modern restaurant with a relaxed feel. Surprisingly, it has quite an extensive menu, so even if you are a little anxious about the paleo concept there are plenty of options to choose from!

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We had grass-fed beef carpaccio with fermented daikon, bonito, and wasabi mayo to start – it was light and full of flavour , the wasabi gave it a little kick, and the fermented daikon cut through with some welcomed acidity. My only issue was there wasn’t enough!

For Main we shared a sweet potato gnocchi with wild mushrooms, smoked almonds, red vein sorrel and tarragon (devine!), confit belly of Borrowdale pork with vanilla braised parsnip, pimentos de padron and smoked candy apple, and spiced cauliflower, pomegranate and mint salad. The gnocchi was heavenly, just as they should be- pillowy clouds from heaven and the mushrooms and whole mustard seeds gave it a whole different- yet delicious flavour. The pork belly was perfectly cooked, and the accompaniments matched perfectly. Lastly, the cauliflower salad was fresh and tasty.

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We also had a kombucha cocktail each. It was made on tequila and was very refreshing!

After all that food we couldn’t fit in dessert, so we will have to come back again because it looked amazing!

All in all, my date and I agreed that the restaurant was great, the service was a little slow but we soon forgave them after tasting the food! Asana: We’ll be back!

The details

80 Albert Street, Brisbane QLD 4000
Toll-Free: 1800 110 800 (within Australia)
Phone: +61 7 3013 0088
Email: reservations.brisbane@capribyfraser.com

 

What’s your favourite healthy place to eat?

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Kinsale – the foodie capital of Ireland

If you have been following us on Instagram, you will have noticed that I was recently Europe (though, it feels like a lifetime ago). Each country I travelled to opened up a new window of food opportunities to explore. Now, if I were to ever win the lottery, I would eat my way around the world in an absolute heartbeat! This trip cemented the idea, and lets hope one day I can actually make it a reality!

One of the most surprising foodie finds on my trip was Ireland. For those who know me, know I lived there for a year many moons ago, and I was quite familiar with the few traditional meals they have; potato, colcannon, potato, irish stew, potato, boxty pancakes, potato, soda bread, and more potato. Seriously, the Irish love their potatoes so much that I had it 5 ways on a plate one night as part of a Sunday roast!

Before I depart for any trip (even if its only a weekend away), I do my standard food research, and it was no different for Ireland. We were planning a few days in Cork, and one of the suggested ideas was to drive a further 30 minutes south to a small town called Kinsale. What a delight it was!Untitled design (11)

Kinsale is a historic port and fishing town, about 25km south of Cork. It is a beautiful, quaint town, and looked like a postcard with all brightly coloured buildings. Kinsale is known as the ‘foodie’ capital of Ireland, because of the beautiful fresh seafood that comes into port daily.

So what do you think we did? We went to a pub of course!

When travelling in Ireland, most of the food comes from a pub. For breakfast, lunch and dinner, you will find different styles of pubs, but rarely will you find restaurants or cafes like you would here in Australia (more so in the big cities). I always look forward to eating at a pub for a hearty, comforting and enjoyable experience!

So, for lunch on our day trip to Kinsale, we went to the Blue Haven Hotel, which claimed to have the best seafood chowder in Ireland! I may or may not have already eaten four bowls of seafood chowder in four days…so from my expert knowledge, I agree, this chowder was tops! My friends also had excellent meals; a chicken and mushroom pie (to die for!), scotch eggs with crispy potato skins, and a wonderfully fresh toastie.Untitled design (10)

If I haven’t sold you on Kinsale already, you absolutely must go for the chocolate. Koko Kinsale handmade Irish chocolates are decadent and, sorry I have to say, to die for! We only stopped in to get the driver a coffee before we drove home, and we all bought a few chocolates for the road! There was such an extensive selection of chocolates and truffles, and I would love to tell you all about the flavours, but as soon as I tasted their salted caramel chocolate I soon forgot all the others. I do not say this often, but golly that was some of the best chocolate I’ve tasted. So much so, my sister and I went back into the shop to purchase more because the two salted caramels we purchased weren’t enough! If only his chocolates could be shipped to Australia!

I so loved my little journey to Kinsale, it has definitely gone into the bank of memories, and added to the list of hidden gems!

Where have you been and fallen in love with the food? Where is your hidden gem?

Mel Sign Off-01-01

Review: Salt Meats Cheese, Surfers Paradise

Who doesn’t love a little weekend away? A random couple of days relaxing, eating, drinking and catching some sun.

Only problem is deciding WHERE to do all of the above. Hashtag first world problems.

salt meats cheese smallWe decided on Surfers Paradise, and on the recommendation of some friends, chose Salt Meats Cheese for dinner for one of the nights we were away. Now, as previously mentioned, I’m quite fussy about pizza. However, as I always do, I went with an open mind and wasn’t disappointed.

It was a pretty simple meal – we had some arancini to start and shared two pizzas between three of us.

Sadly, I was disappointed with the arancini because they weren’t seasoned well and I honestly could barely tell the difference between the three different flavours on the plate. Also, it came as a serving of five, which is kind of annoying.

However, the wood-fired pizza was delish. It took me a while to choose (somehow I always end up being the one to order everything, wonder why that is?) because everything sounded really good. We ended up with a Prosciutto (tomato, fior di latte, prosciutto, rocket and shaved parmigiano reggiano) and a Caramelised (tomato, fior di latte, caramelised spanish onions and fennel salame). Simple combinations, but so tasty. The bases were clearly fresh – soft, chewy, a little charred – and the toppings were just enough. If there was less, it would have been disappointing and if there was more, they would have been sloppy and unimpressive. As an added bonus, the seasoning was good!

I’ve been thinking about those pizzas since my dinner there. I think that’s a good sign!

The details
Salt Meats Cheese Surfers Paradise
10 Beach Road, Surfers ParadiseMonday-Friday: 9am – late
www.saltmeatscheese.com.au

 

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Chocolate earl grey cake

Chatting to one of my colleagues the Friday before Valentine’s Day, he asked what was up to over the weekend. Remembering that it was Valentine’s Day, I quipped that I was “probably going to make something heart-shaped for the blog”. He laughed at me.

I was only off by a bit though. I ended up experimenting by making a triple batch of chocolate earl grey cake with sour cream white ganache (my favourite kind), so I also made some cupcakes. To make it ‘Valentinesie’, I drew some red chocolate hearts for decoration.

I may have applied for The Great Australian Bake Off, so in my head it was practice just in case!

Cake ingredients:

  • 125 grams butter (softened)
  • 140g sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • Vanilla
  • 1/3 cup milk (I used sour cream instead of milk*)
  • 190g flour

Cake method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 150* degrees.
  2. Prepare two 15cm cake tins (greaseproof paper with some oil to make sure it sticks).
  3. Cream butter and sugar.
  4. Add vanilla (I used 2 teaspoons, but I really like vanilla).
  5. As you’re mixing, add eggs one at a time.
  6. Add small amounts of milk and flour alternately as you’re mixing.
  7. This should result in a thick batter.
  8. Put the batter evenly in each tin and bake until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Ganache ingredients:

  • 90g sour cream
  • 300g white chocolate

Ganache method:

  1. Melt white chocolate. I used the microwave in this case, 10 second intervals.
  2. Add sour cream and mix.
  3. This should result in a thick mixture, I let mine cool in the fridge for a bit before using on the cake.

 

chocolate earl grey heart cake

 

Some notes:
*My cake was 2 of the above recipe and the ganache I used was 1.5 of the above recipe.
*Sour cream tends to keep the cake lovely and moist for longer.
*150 degrees seems low, but a professional I know told me that on 150 degrees, the cake cooks slower and there isn’t a giant hump in the middle of the cake when it’s done!

April cook book club – Moorish

As I write, I’m still full from lunch!

This month, we all cooked recipes (in some cases, each of us cooked more than one) from Moorish by Greg and Lucy Malouf. And what a feast we had:

  • Green split-pea dip with black olives and goat’s cheese with fresh homemade pita
  • Chicken tagine with green herb couscous
  • Chicken roasted with forty cloves of garlic and merguez sausages
  • Tabbouleh with roasted walnuts
  • Rabbit paella with chorizo and Hungarian peppers
  • French onion pizza with Turkish sausage
  • Shredded carrot salad
  • Medjool date ice cream
  • Alaju (honey slice)
  • Orange cardamom sour cream cake
  • Middle Eastern tiramisu
  • Chocolate macaroons

cook book - chicken tagine and haloumi

Because the cook book covers everything from North Africa, Spain, the eastern Mediterranean, and the Middle East, there are a huge range of flavours and plenty of meaty and non-meaty dishes to choose from. Actually, there were so many choices it was hard to choose a dish to cook in the first place!

cook book club - french onion and chorizo pizza + rabbit and chorizo paella

We also had a range of sauces, including hilbeh (spiced fenugreek dip), harissa and tahini-yoghurt, and a homemade haloumi all thanks to my friend David de Groot (a top notch cook, photographer and so much more!).

cook book club - tabouli + chicken cooked with 40 cloves of galic and merguez

I cooked the green split-pea dip with black olives and goat’s cheese and decided late last night to make some pita bread too. I also cooked the chicken roasted with forty cloves of garlic and merguez – it brought back a lot of memories because I’ve been eating merguez since I was a small child and the potatoes from the dish reminded me of potatoes my grandmother makes.

cook book club - chocolate macarons + orange and cardamom sour cream cake

It was an amazing spread of food and it was so hard to pick stand out dishes, because they were all so damn good! The recipes are a mix of beginner and upwards, so there is something in there for all levels of skill. However, some of the ingredients were a bit difficult to come by (Turkish sausage and proper orange blossom water for example), but that’s ok, it’s always the case with food not part of our everyday diets.

cook book club - middle easter tiramisu + medjool date ice cream

We’re now thinking of the next book to cook from, so if you have any ideas and want to come along next time please let us know!

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Review – Sin Vida

It’s always a challenge when you need to find a venue for a function that ticks all the boxes. Some of the requirements include; is the food good? Is it easy to find? Is there parking available? Can they cater for large groups? Are they flexible? Is it going to be fun?

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Well, Sin Vida delivered the goods!

Firstly, the booking process was a cinch. I went to their website online (and drooled over the menu) and made my request through the online booking system. Shortly after, I was greeted (which sounds so much sexier in Spanish ‘hola amigo’) by a very helpful team member, Ed, who went above and beyond to make this function a hit.

Ed suggested since there was a large group of us, to have a set menu, or what they call ‘La Fiesta’. We got a selection of their favourite dishes, and it meant everyone got to try a bit of everything.

I can’t believe I haven’t yet mentioned the Sangria! Anyone who knows me, knows I love Sangria, I even pride myself on my own recipe. I may have to have words with the barman, because his is better!Sin Vida 2

SO what did we eat?

– Guacamole and Sin Vida Corn Chips (corn chips were outta this world!)
– Quesadilla de Chorizo
– Quesadilla de Papa
– Chicken Wings
– Lamb Tostada
– Seven Chilli Goat
– Sides of Tortillas

I cannot wait to go back, because their tacos also sound to die for!sin vida 1

The details
Sin Vida
Address: 12/100 McLachlan St, Fortitude Valley QLD 4006
Phone: (07) 3625 0298
Email: bookings@sinvida.com.au

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Mel makes a cake

Once upon another life, I used to be a keen baker. Now, I find myself trying to find ways to make healthy food delicious, so it’s very rare that you see me bake something comforting and not so healthy, like a cake.

Or like a chocolate and red wine cake with raspberry buttercream.

Decadent? Yes. Rich? Yes! Do I have any regrets? Absolutely not!

So you must think I’m crazy to add red wine to a perfectly good cake, or some would say I’d be crazy for using the wine on such thing! But it really REALLY works. The wine gives it such a silky, luxurious and moist texture you just can’t beat, (well, you can…with beaters!). The inspiration came from the friend I made this for, whose favourite thing in the world is red wine, and when I was thinking about which kind of cake to make I just kept coming back to ways I could incorporate red wine!

The original recipe I based this on suggested raspberry buttercream on the inside, and chocolate buttercream on the outside, which you can absolutely do. I felt as though this made a lot of raspberry buttercream, and was enough to cover the entire cake. If you want to do the chocolate buttercream on the outside I would definitely halve the raspberry buttercream ingredients (then again, it depends on how much you like in between each layer of cake!).

Ingredients:Untitled design (8)

  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 2 cups castor sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup (240ml) buttermilk
  • 1 cup (240ml) vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup (240ml) sweet red wine
  • 200g salted butter
  • 2 1/2 cups icing sugar
  • 1/4 cup (120ml) raspberry puree (from about 1/2 cup of raspberries pureed in a food processor)

Directions:

1. Prepare three 8 inch cake pans with parchment paper circles in the bottom, and grease the sides. Preheat oven to 160 degrees.

2. Add all dry ingredients to a large bowl and combine.

3. Add eggs, buttermilk, vegetable oil and vanilla to the dry ingredients and mix well.

4. Slowly add wine. Mix well.

5. Divide batter evenly between cake pans and bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out with a few crumbs.

6. Remove cakes from oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes, then remove to racks to cool completely.

While cakes cool, make icing/s.

7. To make the raspberry buttercream, beat the butter until smooth.

8. Add 2 cups of icing sugar and beat until smooth.

9. Add raspberry puree and beat until smooth.

10. Add remaining powdered sugar and beat until smooth.

15. When the cakes are cool, put the cake together. Remove the tops of the cakes with a large serrated knife so they are flat.

16. Place the first layer of cake on cake stand. Top with half of the raspberry buttercream and spread into an even layer.

17. Add second layer of cake and remaining raspberry buttercream and smooth into a smooth layer.

18. Top cake with remaining cake layer.

What’s the most indulgent cake you have made?

Mel Sign Off-01-01

Sunshine Coast eats

One of my favourite places in the world is the Sunshine Coast. It may be because it has the perfect temperature all year round, is absolutely beautiful to visit, or because all my family live there! So you can imagine I spend a fair bit of time there.

As the Sunshine Coast is only an hour away from Brisbane, its the perfect distance for a day trip or a weekend away. Not only is there plenty of amazing beaches, but the food scene is everchanging, and I have recently found a couple of absolute gems that I want to share with you!

 

The Shak Organic Cafe & Wine Bar – Buderim
An all round excellent venue. This small eatery is located on the main street of Buderim, and brings a different vibe to the otherwise buzzing cafe scene of Burnett Street. All the food is locally sourced and organic. They cater for all food needs as well. The coffee is excellent and they have an extensive juice/smoothie list, which I plan to work my way through. Last time I visited I had the smoothie bowl with granola and seasonal fruit. I have never had a smoothie bowl before so I was pleasantly surprised, even though I did imagine the smoothie to be much thicker. My breakfast date had a ‘dude breakfast burger’ which looked as impressive as it tasted. The jus from the succulent pulled pork was divine!

 

Greenhouse Cafe – Caloundra
One of my favourite cafes I’ve been to yet! If you follow us on Instagram you’ll notice that I frequently visit this cafe. Once again, all the food is locally sourced, organic and hands down awesome. Most of their menu is vegan, dairy and gluten free for that guilt free treat. They also have their own Kombucha brew on tap. I ordered the vegan nachos, they were light and full of flavour! I would never have thought of not only substituting sour cream and cheese with cashew cheese, but adding fresh grated beetroot and carrot as well as coriander. It surprisingly still had a lovely Mexican feel to it. Once again I left completely satisfied and I’m already planning my next trip back!

 

Harvest Breads Cafe – Cotton Tree
Harvest is the kind of place you just end up going to on a Sunday morning. Their breakfast and lunch menu is extensive and they can always cater for any needs. They do food and coffee extremely well without trying ‘too hard’. They are known as a bakery cafe and if you want to get your hands on one of their extremely tasty loaves of bread you must get in quick. They tend to sell out early.

My mum and step-dad come to this place a lot, so I have had the pleasure of trying a few items on the menu. If fritters are your thing, this cafe is for you! Whether you are in a rush and need a quick meal on the go, or you would like to take in the lush scenery that is Cotton Tree, I’d recommend this café in a heartbeat.

 

Rick’s Garage – Palmwoods
Ok, so this one doesn’t really make the healthy list, but it’s too good not to include. Tucked away in Palmwoods, a 15 minute drive from the coast, you’ll find this 50s inspired, rockabilly burger diner. Live music and entertainment are things you’ll find here regularly, but the reason you’ll come back is the burgers. The menu isn’t extensive – nor need it be – simple burgers done well make a happy Mel. Do you know what makes this place even better? Hot chips. I kid you not, these have to be the best hot chips on the whole coast. I’m not the only one who agrees! Listening to a local radio station they had a poll about where the best hot chips are and it was unanimous that Rick’s Garage took out that award! Go on, give it a go, you won’t regret it!

What’s your favourite cafe/restaurant on the Sunshine Coast? – I’d love to try it!

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