Another Journey

I can definitely see my life in stages, where I’ve taken different directions, shuffled things around and changed the journey. Since moving back to Australia just over 3 years ago I started a new stage, a new journey. The one thing that as never changed is my passion for food. I love that there is so much to learn and it will never end.

My blog hasn’t always reflected that and it frustrates me. I will sit on posts for weeks because they are not as good as I want them to be, and in the end they don’t get posted. At this stage I can’t commit the time or money into making my blog what I want it to be, so I’ve decided to have a break until I can make that happen. Thank you to all of you who have visited my little blog over the years and made such lovely comments. I will still keep in touch on Twitter and Instagram. Hopefully I can get my act together and I’ll be back at the keyboard soon. VM x

My Seven Links: A Look Back and A Glimpse Forward

It’s been a year since I left London, to return to Australia. As I expected it has not been an easy ride. Thankfully Sydney is a beautiful city to come home to and the New Year has introduced itself with such gorgeous weather it’s hard not to be cheered up.

One of the people I met in London was Gourmet Chick. In fact her blog was one of the first I started to read. Her great blog grew into a well respected site for honest restaurant reviews, cookbook reviews, and great travel tips on where to sleep and eat. She has since moved back to Australia too (yeah!)

Some time ago she asked me to follow her in sharing my Seven Links outlined by the TripBaseblog. I’ve finally got around to it.

1. My Most Beautiful Post

Rhonda is a beautiful city, without a doubt. A gorge divides the old and new towns creating with it a stunning secret escape for entraped Spanish royalty. With Rhonda comes the famous Andulucian dish, gazpacho. The key to this dish is of course great tomatoes. In Australia the hot summer sun brings garden tomatoes to their glory. If your overwhelmed by endless tomatoes, try a gazpacho!
2. My Most Popular Post

My first attempt at a chiffon cake was a great success, not only with my work colleagues but surprisingly, it became my most popular post. Thanks to the wonderful book put together by the Monday Morning Cooking Club ladies, I managed to pull off a cake that defied gravity. I’ve graduated to slicing, filling, and lathering them with buttery frostings. Possibly this was not the intention for the airy, delicate cakes, but it tastes good.

3. My Most Controversial Post

I am normally quite democratic when I write a post about a restaurant. I don’t think The Harwood Arms was any exception. It’s all about one persons opinion, and I am no expert, but I try to write about my dining experience in an honest way. By the time I finally got to The Harwood Arms, after the post-Michelin star crowds, I thought it had lost it’s way a little. It was also pointed out by a few people that I had not ordered the scotch egg, which is raved about. It’s said to be amazing, but it’s only on the bar menu and I ate in the restaurant area. I don’t think an eating establishment should ride off the back of a scotch egg but then again, sadly, I didn’t have one.
4. My Most Helpful Post

I was so excited when I found this little gem in Annandale. Sitting on busy Parramatta Road it could be easily missed as you speed past on your way home. I really urge you to stop and pop in for a look. The owners run the shop, have reasonable prices and are very helpful. They will be getting a large shipment of mid-century furniture in, from the UK and Europe, in the next few months. Well worth a stop in I think.
5. The Post Whose Success Most Surprised me

A simple banana cake, nevertheless people seemed to think it looked good. It did taste good too. The addition of sour cream made it extra moist and slightly richer. Thanks Donna 🙂
6. A Post I Feel Didn’t Get The Attention It Deserved

I have alot of respect for Anna Hansen. I hope she sits back sometimes and takes the time to smile and think “I’ve made it, I did it “. Knowing a little of what she is like, that seems unlikely. She is a very hard working woman, working her way up from dishwasher to owning her own restaurant. A restaurant that pulls flavours from across the culinary world to create something interesting. To me the combinations may sometimes seem a bit ‘out-there’ but for Anna a natural combination to achieve what she wants. I just got her first cookbook and I’m looking forward to trying my hand a few things.
7. The Post I Am Most Proud Of

I love St John, I really do. I can’t believe I miss it so much. It was the place I could always rely on. I think you get the idea that I love the place, and their bone marrow and parsley salad, in this post. What makes this post even more memorable for me is that David Chang sat at the table across from me that day, as I sucked the fat off the toasted sourdough, and I didn’t even really care.

Part of posting your seven links is nominating others to follow.The lovely Miss Piggy has gladly taken up the challenge 🙂

A Ligurian Wedding Feast

It was a beautiful early September day in Genoa, I think it was nudging 30°. The suited gents were struggling but from the moment we arrived at ‘La Manuelina’ in Recco, for the wedding reception the anticipation of the feast to come seemed to calm the sweaty men. That along with the shedding of some jackets and a few ladies heels.

The terrace drinks bar, where the Prosecco flowed.

Local Recco speciality, Foccacia di Recco. Unlike the idea commonly associated with focaccia this is thin and crisp topped with alot of melted crescenza.The restaurant lays claim to have invented the dish over a century ago, although others say it dates back to the times of the Saracen raiders when people would hide in the mountains for safety.

At the BBQ in a suit, love it.

Little tomatoes filled with ricotta, herbs and topped with parmesean grilled to for a crispy crunchy topping.

Lightly battered and deep fried courgettes.

Crumbed and fried aubergine

Deep fried cheesy herb balls

The meal.

In Italy the entrance to the restaurant doesn’t contain art work or flowers but fruit of the season, figs and mushrooms.

Lobster and monkfish salad

The house white from the Ligurian region.

Strasse with scallops and leeks

Second pasta course. Pesto trofiette and pansotti in a walnut sauce.

One of the senior members of the family run restaurant serves up the fish course in the dining room.

The fish from the bay with potatoes, tomatoes and taggiasca olives.

The intense, dry and apple scented white

Liquid dessert, fluffy peach and citrus soft sorbet.

Back out on the terrace for sweets, speeches, wedding cake and more Prosecco.

After a long day, and a long lunch, I had to face the stairs home…. still in heels.

A Vietnamese Food Tour of Cabramatta

I’m relearning Sydney. Every weekend I have spare I spend exploring Sydney suburbs finding out the best picnic spots, the best bakeries,the best Italian, Polish and Spanish delis, the best local restaurants etc etc. Sometimes the easiest and best way to do this is if an expert Sydneysider just shows you. So that’s what I did. I booked myself on one of Jennifer Lams’ “I ate my way through” tours.

I feel so behind my other Aussie food enthusiasts who have been dining on dumplings, Pho, and Ramen for years. Never the less now is the time for me to catch up.

The first and more elusive cuisines I’m keen to learn is Vietnamese. After indulging my panache for all things French whilest living in London I knew it was time to take advantage of the large Asian community living in Sydney.

Our tour was very relaxed, meeting at lunch time in Cabramatta. I was early but I resisted the temptation to start buying food. Our group was small, 5 in all, which is always an advantage if you want to ask alot of questions and hear what is said. The tour is run by Jennifer Lam and Betty. In the summer period the groups can grow to up to 12 people. We were all presented with a lovely hessian “I ate my way through” bag, which contained a copy of Jennifers’ book about her trip through Vietnam, some notes about the tour and a few recipes so we could get started straight away.

Our tour began by walking around the shops in Cabramatta. There are alot of arcades filled with grocers, butchers, seafood shops, and bakeries. Jen and Betty pointed out a few typical Vietnamese ingredients and welcomed my strange questions. We also tried some very refreshing sugar cane juice.

Fresh Sugar Cane Juice

By this stage I was feeling comfortable, knowing my way around and where to get a good banh mi, crispy duck, those pandan waffles and the best Pho. You can imagine how hungry I was by now. The streets were lined with shops selling takeaway and the ‘Aunties’ who illegally sell their homemade goods on tiny crates in front of shops.

Crispy Chicken with tomato rice

Luckily we were headed to the restaurant well know for their crispy chicken, Tan Viet. The process is started the day before where the chicken is poached then the skin is dried and rubbed with spices before being fried the next day. The result is moist chicken and super crispy flavour filled skin.

The place was packed with a queue out the door. Jen had lined up a table for us with the manager earlier so thankfully we didn’t have to do the line. It was just enough to wet the palate as we moved onto the next feast.

Pork and rice noodles on prawn crackers

Guan au Bau Truong has the largest menu in Cabramatta, about 180 dishes on the menu. At any ordinary restaurant you would imagine the chaos this would cause in the kitchen and the produce that would be sitting around waiting to be ordered. The food that arrived at our table proved that’s certainly not the case here. The food was all very fresh and from what I could spy at other tables it was true everywhere.

Beef salad

Pork rice paper fried spring rolls

Fish paste cooked around sugar cane with rice noodles, peanuts, herbs (with rice paper to roll them in)

This place is definitely on the ‘come back to’ list. The service was fairly swift and dirty plates were quickly swapped with fresh ones as more dishes arrived. It was very reasonably priced too, actually it was cheap. We all left well fed for $10 each (not including drinks)!

The tour finished with a chance to do some shopping whilst having the expertise of Jen and Betty on hand.  We did some grocery shopping and then a spot of fresh food shopping. If your going to stock up on your asian ingredients I highly recommend you make a trip to Cabramatta. The prices for spices and fresh ingredients are very cheap here, definitely making the trip a worthwhile one. I’m sure you will be inspired while your walking the streets too.

The total cost of the tour was $57.62 (including on-line booking fee but not including food) and ran for about 3 hours.

Goodbye 2010

So much has happened in 2010, at times I could barely keep up, but I loved it.

I had been wanting to start a blog for such a long time but I was going about it the hard way with little techno knowledge, so I had put it on the back burner. Thanks to The Winesleuth I started my blog in June 2010. I had been on twitter for sometime chatting to the foodie world in London and beyond but the all the fun began once Vintage Macaroon really came to life.

After living in London for over 8 years I finally felt like I had found my place and my friends. Some special people really welcomed me into the London food scene. I was going to show favourtism and name them but you know who you all are. I miss you all very much.x

I have eaten at some fantastic places in 2010, The Fat Duck – on my birthday, Marcus Wareing, St John, Tudor Road, Fernandez and Leluu, Providores, Viajante,  an inspiring dinner party at The London Foodie‘s, La Fromagerie – for  a regular dinner of cheese and wine, Wapping Food – as a special leaving present, The Loft Project, summer lunch with Everythingbut, The Winesleuth, TheLondonFoodie and Eatlikeagirl ending in the infamous fall into Regents Canal, The Ledbury, Bob Bob Ricard and Shacklewell Nights – for my leaving dinner. Of course there were more but these are the ones where the memories are sweetest.

Leaving London was hard but in October I decided I would move back to Sydney. Time to be a part of a family again and settle down in sunny Sydney.

I have survived the first month. It has been like living in a foreign country, everything has changed so much since I left. Luckily I was home for Christmas and summer, I think this has helped the transition as I left a very cold snowy London. (although I do like snow :))

I have so many ideas that I hope will come to fruition in the New Year, and help begin my new life in Sydney.

So goodbye 2010 and London….hello 2011 and Sydney!

A Macaron Class with Edd Kimber

According to Edd Kimber, winner of The Great British Bake Off, all you need to know are a few little tricks and you can make your own macarons. Really? I needed to find out how to make these gorgeous little macarons and how to get it right.

It was coming up to my final week in London and I was going it hard. It seemed like I was always on my way to meet someone for more food or drinks, and sleep was not high on my list, as I didn’t want to waste a moment. I really had to break out the strong coffee to get the energy to get to the class but there was no way I was going to miss it! No way!!

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Sue, from LondonFoodFinds, generously opens her kitchen for Edd to bake in from time to time when he is in London. Lucky for us she opened her house for all of us: The London Foodie, Libbie, Kavey, Rachel, SlowFloodKitchen, Memalee, FussFreeflavours.

Edd talked about the basics of macarons and where people usually go wrong. Edd currently uses Pierre Hermé’s macaron recipe, because he has found it to be the best. You can find the recipe for these delicious salted caramel macarons here on his blog.

Edd is a very gentle teacher, and he gives simple explanations as he goes. He made it look so easy, giving us tips on how to get the results you want from a home kitchen.

Edd first made the salted caramel filling, so it would have time to cool. This is what gives flavour to the macarons as the colour of the shells is just that, colouring.

Edd travels to Paris to source alot of his ingredients and prefers to use mainly powdered colouring as it doesn’t add extra moisture to the macarons like a paste does. What a purist. We learnt how to look for the glossy ribbon-like wave that you need to achieve before piping, easy tips for filling a piping bag and how to pipe. He showed us how to make a reusable template for piping the macarons and how to rest them until the shell is dry to the touch before baking.

I like Edd’s precise way of baking, I guess that’s the way of a pâtissier and not a home cook like me. He gave me faith in myself and my own abilities that I too could make these little macarons. I have eaten alot of macarons in my time and Edd’s are good, really, really good.

Watch out for Edd in the New year, he is working on alot of exciting things. He will also be sharing his macaron making skills with classes in Central London. If your interested I highly recommend you email Edd  (edwardkimuk@googlemail.com) with macaron classes in the subject, for more details.

Thank you to Edd Kimber for volunteering his own time to teach us how to make macarons.

The photo of me practicing my piping was kindly provided by Edd’s brother, photographer Simon Kimber

Bompas and Parr – Artisanal Chewing Gum Factory

I don’t think I have many child-like urges left, except when it comes to Bompas and Parr. I was the first in my group to jump into the endo-stomach inspired jumping castle at the Courvoisier History of Food Installation,…..I loved it! It was the highlight of my experience. Bompas and Parr just create fun things!

When I heard rumours they were planning a pop-up in Whiteley’s shopping centre, I started making plans to go.

Upon arrival you head into the Flavour Library where there are a myriad of little jars filled with liquid scented flavours. Some of them conventional, strawberry, mint, peach, vanilla etc, others not so conventional, fresh garlic, green pepper, bacon, and ripe tomato, to name a few. The atmosphere in the  mood lit room is enhanced by the ethereal hypnotic music. It does create a feeling of building excitement. 

After choosing the flavour you fancy, or a combination of two, from the 200 choices, you then head to the factory where you can make your very own chewing gum! Your flavours are mixed and brought to you in tiny test tubes. Then the xanthan gum mix is presented to you before being taken away to be microwave zapped to a bubbling boiling slime. It took three years for Bompas and Parr to get their hands on even a small amount of the usually commercially enormous quantities of xanthan gum required for the chewing gum recipe. 

Tip your flavour in, along with the colouring of your choice, citric acid, glycerine, and mix away. Add loads of icing sugar and ‘knead’ (I say that in the loosest term). It’s messy to say the least, it’s really a kids paradise.

Roll into moderate chewing gum size balls and pop them into your Bompas and Parr Artisanal Chewing Gum Box. My very own box of chewing gum, such a feeling of accomplishment, until I tasted it.

Yes, I thought I would be smart and didn’t feel like wasting time with my nose in hundreds of flavour jars, I chose two of the first I smelt, quince and green pepper.  Well it worked when I made quince and pink peppercorn jelly but not as chewing gum…

Still, that was all my own choice and I think the point is it’s fun, not that you will come out with some amazing tasting gum. It is only open from 25-31 October, so you had better get in quick it you want to get your hands sticky with Bompas and Parr.