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Fennel & Orange Roasted Chicken – Video Blog

31 Mar

The union of fennel with orange is one of my favourites. Thanks to Diego Bonetto’s foraging tour I learnt how to identify edible plants growing wild in my backyard including fennel.


Toasted Spiced Muesli – Video Blog

29 Mar

A delicious way to start the day and use up ingredients in the pantry.

Mushroom Foraging – Video Blog

18 Mar

Find out about my Mushroom Foraging adventure with Diego Bonetto from Weedy Connection.

Forest bus Forest Mushroom Mushrooms bag Mushroom large Chestnuts

Have You Seen My Chia Seeds?

29 Apr

When I first saw this video I couldn’t breathe because I was laughing so hard and today I had flash backs! I was searching through the cupboards for my chia seeds and was so frustrated that they were nowhere to be seen until I thought of the scenes in this video.

Of course the packet has just fallen to the back of the cupboard… so I continued to make a late Sunday breakfast with quinoa and chia seeds. I can hardly write the words chia seeds now without bursting into laughter!!!

1 cup of White Quinoa, uncooked

3 cups of Water

1 teaspoon of Coconut Sugar

1 teaspoon of Virgin Coconut Oil

1 teaspoon of Chia Seeds

Sprinkle of Himalayan Pink Salt

Sprinkle of Cinnamon Powder

Organic Milk

6 Whole Hazelnuts, roasted

Put the quinoa and water into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes with the lid on. Strain any excess liquid. Transfer about 4 heaped tablespoons of cooked quinoa to a breakfast bowl and mix in the salt, sugar, coconut oil, chia seeds, cinnamon and hazelnuts. Now add enough milk to suit your taste depending on whether you want a thick porridge like consistency or runnier.

I made up this recipe as I went along so you can simply adapt it to your taste. Try dried or poached fruit, slivered almonds, honey, shredded coconut, cocoa powder or nibs or freshly sliced banana – not necessarily all together!

I have a chia plant growing in the backyard and I’m looking forward to experimenting with more recipes soon.

Considering how much of my life revolves around passion for food, most people would be surprised to learn that I have a habit of skipping breakfast even when I wake up before dawn to do yoga. So I made a promise to myself last week that I would try to get back into a good routine. I used to make fresh juice every morning or have something healthy to start the day so I’ve taken on the challenge to get back to eating breakfast.

Anyway, I’m going to put some eyeshadow on my 3rd eye so until the next post… watch this and laugh.

Fruitful Eating

27 Dec

It’s so easy, especially during the Christmas and new year holiday period, to eat without putting much attention on the experience. I have often finished eating something and wondered why I ate so much or why I chose to eat something I didn’t really feel like in the first place. But when I make a conscious decision to slow down and engage my senses, the entire experience changes from a basic instinct to fuel and nourish my body, to an intriguing and sensual journey.

For example, I had some beautiful, ripe cherries yesterday and after eating a few, I stopped and put all my attention on the next cherry. I held the plump cherry by it’s stem and dangled it in front of my lips. I felt it’s cool, moist, smooth skin as it passed my teeth and landed on my tongue. I felt it’s weight as it rolled around in my mouth warming up to body temperature and as my teeth slowly pressed down, the crimson coloured skin burst open releasing a stream of sweet juice and flesh. Finally, I was left with the seed coated in a fine layer of fruit. It was the best cherry I’ve ever eaten!

I had a mango this morning and one of my favourite ways to savour this exotic fruit is to simply eat it out of the skin leaning over the sink as the juices run down my hands. It doesn’t taste the same cut into little cubes and served in a bowl with a fork. I bite into the juicy flesh and scrape every last bit of the cheeks off with my teeth and then make my way to the seed which always leaves fibres behind for flossing!

After watching Eat Pray Love (for the sixth time) a few days ago, the scene where Liz is indulging in a plate of spaghetti, stirred memories. I remember eating a plate of spaghetti in Rome a few years ago with my mum and it was one of the best meals of our lives. It was a simple dish and if I ate it now there would probably be many meals I could recall as being far more attractive and flavourful. The reason it was so amazing was because we were in Italy after dreaming about it for years and we were sharing the moment together.

Have you ever taken time out to slow down and really experience the smell, taste, textures, sounds, colours, temperatures and shapes of your food? Do you know what a blueberry looks like inside? Try peeling off the skin or delicately biting it in half to see what it looks like up close. Does it taste different after spending time up close and personal? Have you noticed how a cashew nut turns from hard and crunchy to creamy with eat bite? How about the difference between a tomato that has been in cold storage at a supermarket to one that was grown without pesticides and picked straight from the plant?

(These tomatoes and chillies have been freshly picked from mum’s garden)

Now try a tomato with a sprinkle of sea salt or a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Do you have a new appreciation for these simple seasonings that are often taken for granted? 

If you’re a chilli lover like me, have you noticed the sensations in your mouth as the burning spreads across your tongue from mild to intense depending on how hot the seeds are? Is your face heating up as well. Is it painful or pleasurable or a combination of both? Does it make you feel excited and alive? Do you have an urge to push yourself further and try something even more intense with your next meal? Can you detect any flavour from the chillies you’re eating or are they so hot that your senses are overwhelmed?

(I drew a few sketches of chillies, mango and cherries for this post)

I invite you to take just a few minutes to really be with your food and notice if your relationship with it changes. The aim is not to label anything as positive or negative, simply open up to being curious and see where it takes you.

Buon appetito, bon appétit, buen provecho!

The Dining Table Is The Centre Of Life

29 Nov

When I lived on my own for a few years I often ate dinner while sitting on the lounge in front of the tv and while it seemed like a good way to unwind, it was just a useless distraction. Turning on the tv for background noise during dinner is a bad habit in many households. I’m not against the occasional dinner and a movie at home but eating in front of the tv every night is absurd. I’m going to sound like a grandmother or mother right now and I’m proud of that because they know what they’re talking about!

These days we (and I can say this because I do it myself) spend so much time using technology to communicate and it’s important to dedicate time to personal interactions with others and ourselves. Meal times are the ideal way to come together and discuss what’s on our minds and spend time with our loved ones. We all need to eat everyday so that’s already one step in the right direction. It can be hard to coordinate meal times around individual work and social schedules so sharing dinner every night may not be realistic. In that case you can select nights when everyone makes the commitment to show up for dinner on time.

While I was living with a long term boyfriend, I noticed that we fell into a routine of eating while watching tv and it frustrated me. Not only did I find it impersonal but after a while we had to find time to discuss important topics because we didn’t make a small effort on a daily basis. I shared my dissatisfaction about our meal time routine with my partner and tried to make it more interesting for both of us. I bought shiny new cutlery, set the table, lit candles, put on background music and we shared cooking and cleaning up so we had more time together to talk about our day and anything else that was on our mind.

It can take a lot of hard work to set the scene for meal times whether you’re single, married, a family with children or in any relationship but the table is where life happens. The act of eating is not a habit to be taken lightly. When we eat, we need to be conscious that we only get out what we put in so the ingredients in the meals are equally as important as eating. Eating is a way of nourishing our bodies to enable us to live, love, work and exist so the quality of the food is vital. Take the time to think about your food, really smell it, take a bite and really taste it. Don’t just chew and swallow as a means of getting food into your stomach.

Everything on earth is made up of energy including food. The energy in the food we eat is contributing to our physical, mental and spiritual state of being so is it any wonder why we feel so lethargic after gorging on an entire greasy pizza or sugary chocolate? When we eat foods that provide our bodies with little nutrition it takes a lot of energy to eliminate the toxins and leaves us feeling tired, irritable and unsatisfied. Always cook with love and your energy will inspire loving connections and conversations at the table.

If you’re dining on your own, set a romantic scene just as you would for a partner or intimate dinner party and reflect on your own thoughts and dreams as you enjoy your meal. I used to think meditation could only be performed by sitting cross-legged on a yoga mat with my eyes closed but it’s not true. I have received clarity while taking a short nap, driving in silence, taking a refreshing shower, laying on the grass in the sun and eating in solitude.

Make a promise to yourself and your loved ones to transform meals into a time you look forward to. Some of the best memories in life are created around a dining table mixed with everyone’s opinions, laughter, arguments and of course food.  Next time you have the urge to say something, refrain from sending a text, making a call, sending an email, posting on Facebook or Tweeting; turn off the tv, set the scene and meet at the table.


Some Eat To Live & Some Live To Eat

31 Oct

I took this photo in Granada, Spain and it reminded me of a topic close to my heart that I’d like to share with you.

I’ve always been moved by seeing people sleeping and begging in the streets and wondered what their story was. How did they get to this place? Do they have a family? What do they dream about? Do their minds wander back to lost loves, missed opportunities and regrets or are their concerns primarily basic human survival; where and when will I get my next meal? There’s a storm approaching, where can I find shelter?

I’ve never had the guts to walk up and ask someone these questions because I thought what makes me think that they want to share their story with me? Just because they’re on the street, does this mean they have nothing better to do than indulge my curiosity?

My family was raised to share and treat all people as equal so it always broke my heart to walk by someone on the street who looked hungry, needed a shower or even a hug and some encouragement. We’ve all had dark times in our lives and it’s our loved ones support amongst other things that helps us get through and eventually feel stronger than before.

On a Saturday morning about 2 years ago, I was walking down deserted George St lined with buildings like a fortress. I was heading towards Pitt St Mall to shop for a dress to wear to a wedding and I saw some homeless men sitting on the sidewalk. This time I felt the urge to do something about my sadness and diverted into the first convenience store I could see. I bought a sandwich, an apple and a bottle of water and walked up to the man outside the door.

The man said “I can’t eat apples” and proceeded to lift his top lip to show me that his mouth was completely toothless! He told me that he also has food allergies so he needs to buy groceries himself so he can read the ingredients on the labels. At first I was taken aback by this mans reaction and then I offered to give him the food anyway so he can share it with a friend.

This was a real eye-opener for me. I hadn’t thought about the fact that just because this man was asking for help doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have specific needs just like you and me. He wasn’t acting desperate, he was simply asking for financial assistance from anyone who was willing to help. I am in no position to pass judgement. I left the food with the man and he said “it’s not that I don’t appreciate it” and I walked away with more questions than before and tears streaming down my face.

I felt like I wanted to do more but then I started to ask myself why I was so affected. Was this my ego wanting to show off to the pedestrians passing by that I was such a ‘good samaritan’? Was it because I couldn’t stand the thought of a person not enjoying one of life’s greatest pleasures, food? Or was it because my dad and his family left behind poverty in India to make a better life in Australia and the thought of this cuts me deep inside? Whatever the reason was I felt grateful that I trusted my intuition and offered this man a small gesture of kindness.

I had lunch with my dad yesterday for his birthday and we chatted about the dishes his dad would cook for the family. My grandfather, Kingsley Fernandez, passed away on 25th Jan 1981 just before my parents met and I found a photo of my dad next to his headstone while I was going through some old photo albums at his home yesterday. My dad told me that meat was very expensive so they would make dishes using offal (animal organs) and turn it into some of the tastiest meals he ever had.

Dad recalled a dish using goat head. He said the meat would be minced up and combined with typical Indian spices resulting in an amazing flavour. They also ate duck, rabbit, liver, kidney, lambs brains, cows tongue and hearts.

Theses types of peasant or working class dishes from around the world have made a comeback and are now commonly featured on fine dining menus. Being exposed to these foods as a child has definitely influenced my willingness to try new flavours. I tried sweet breads a few months ago for the first time at the hatted French restaurant in Haberfield, Bistro Ortolan. If you can get past thinking about what organ you are eating you can really enjoy offal if it is cooked well. After all it’s just another form of protein.

I am grateful for the strong influence my dad had and still has on my food habits. Dad hates waste. His father worked hard on the railways to provide food for my dad and his 8 siblings so nothing was taken for granted. If my sisters and I didn’t like eating something or didn’t finish our meal, dad would tell us stories of how children in India starve and cry for food. Sometimes to get the message across in a different way, dad would tell us the story of how the peas were separated from their families so we could eat them and that’s why we shouldn’t waste anything on our plates.

We’re truly blessed with abundance and variety of food in Australia and when I watched Slum Dog Millionaire I cried for the entire 120 minutes.

I’m planning to visit India next year with my dad and sisters to celebrate dad’s 60th birthday. Amid the celebration, feasting and site seeing I’m sure the blatant poverty will be a sobering and confronting experience.

Woman On Top

27 Oct

This movie is about how the burn of love can be painful yet pleasurable just like the heat of a chilli. It’s a fun, light hearted story with a great cast starring Penelope Cruz and I can watch it over and over!

Cooking Class with Giovanni Pilu & Andrea Corsi

26 Oct

Last Monday I had the privilege of attending a cooking class by Giovanni Pilu (Pilu at Freshwater) and Andrea Corsi (Cavallino Ristorante) at CIRA. CIRA stands for The Council of Italian Restaurants in Australia and Giovanni expressed his passion for educating the public on the regional differences in Italian cuisine. Giovanni would like to hear restaurant goers say “I’m going to a Sardinian restaurant tonight” rather than “I’m going to an Italian restaurant” which is a very broad statement. Each region of Italy has their signature dishes which showcase the local produce and we were given a taste of Sardinian cuisine by Giovanni and Tuscan cuisine by Andrea.

Including myself, there were 17 people in the class and we sat at 2 separate communal tables with crisp white table cloths, sparkling dinnerware and a platter of olives, cheese and lavosh. When the demonstration began we were invited to leave our seats and stand around the kitchen counter to get a birds eye view of the preparations.

In order of how the meals were served, we began with Culurzones; a pasta filled with potato, pecorino and mint; shaped into a head of wheat. This pasta was traditionally made to celebrate the wheat harvest and when I asked about varying the filling I was told “it is NEVER changed!”. I love it!! Why try to improve on perfection?

The pasta was finished in glistening brown butter, crispy sage leaves and sprinkled with the perfect measure of parmesan cheese. I looked around when I realised my eyes were rolling back and I was moaning but I wasn’t the only one!

The next course was Coniglio al Sugo con Polenta Mantecata e Cavolo Nero; a beautiful braised rabbit dish with creamy polenta that takes dedication and over one hour of stirring to cook; and twice cooked cavolo nero sautéed with garlic and the deep emerald, chlorophyll laden leaves shined with olive oil.

And yes, then there was dessert! Zuppa Inglese di mia Nonna Vittoria. Layers of sponge as light and fluffy as a cloud were enveloped in pastry cream, Alkermes, Vin Santo, cherries in liqueur, chopped chocolate and petite meringue peaks. As my spoon plummeted through each element of the dish I was excited to see what treasures were hidden below!
Alkermes is a red Italian liqueur infused with sugar, vanilla, herbs, spices including nutmeg, cinnamon and clove and other flavour enhancing ingredients. The red colour in the original recipe was derived from insects called Kermes hence the name Alkermes. These days the red colour is achieved using synthetic colouring which is more appealing to customers.

The evening was fun, educational and scrumptious. Thanks Giovanni and Andrea, I look forward to learning more and tasting other Sicilian and Tuscan dishes soon!

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