Category Archives: Food

Victoria – a trip to Melbourne and Philip Island

Melbourne

Melbourne

With my mum visiting from Ireland my sister and I thought it was fitting to take her on a trip, somewhere where none of us had been before. So we decided on Victoria; Melbourne and Philip Island – or Penguin Island as my sister insisted on calling it – to be more specific.

Cowes Pier, Philip Island

Cowes jetty, Philip Island

Seeing the weather was good we decided to camp on Philip Island, something I hadn’t done in years. After a tedious but beautiful 10 hour drive through national parks and along the coast we finally arrived at the campsite which we were staying at just outside Cowes. Situated just behind the beach and a 10 minute walk from Cowes jetty and the village, it was ideally located.

Penguin Parade on Philip Island

Penguin Parade on Philip Island

Penguin Parade

Penguin Parade

Philip Island is renowned for it’s Fairy Penguins – or small penguins as they are now known due to someone taking offence to the name ‘fairy penguin’. They are between 6 and 12 inches tall and are too cute. They used to live all over the island but due to human interference there is only one part of the island that is conserved and where you can see them in their natural habitat. Every evening as the sun sets in the ocean the little penguins come ashore from their day of fishing. First one, then the next they wait till there is a good group on the shore before waddling up the beach, hopping up the rocks and into their nests for the night. This is known around the island as the Penguin Parade and one evening we went down to watch it, it was absolutely gorgeous. We saw hundreds of penguins come ashore. As no photography is allowed, these are not my own pictures but I just thought the penguins were too adorable not to post a few photos of them.

Sunset on Philip Island

Sunset on Philip Island

While there we visited a wild life park with lots of native animals. We got chased by emu’s, fed roos and wandered around, all of us enjoying it just as much as my 15 month old nephew. We sunbathed on the beach, built sandcastles, went go karting  on the islands famous Gran Prix  Circuit and go karting track and cooked on the campsite barbecue every evening, it was great.

Ca da Vin

Ca da Vin

Hopetoun Tea Rooms

Hopetoun Tea Rooms

After a few days of camping on the island we drove into Melbourne where we stayed for one night. It was 40 degrees when we arrived, pretty hot to be wandering around a city but it was nice to finally visit the city I’d heard so many good things about. True to what I’d been told it was very cultural and European in vibe, a foodie heaven with lots of quirky little cafes and restaurants down alleyways and

Paella

Paella

backstreets. We passed this gorgeous little tea room in the Block Arcade, the queue to which was too long so we just drooled from outside. For dinner we went to a lovely mediterranean restaurant, Ca di Vin tucked away on Postal Lane beside the GPO. The ambience was great and the food even better. We shared saganki and zucchini fritters as an entree and a gorgeous paella and pizza for mains. We let the waiter choose our dessert, which was a vanilla cheesecake with a pistachio base and basil dressing drizzled on top, it was very unusual and tasty.

All in all it was a throughly enjoyable few days away and we all had a really good time. We were back in Thredbo in time for Christmas and the festivities and copious amount of food that goes with it.

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End of the season and the snow

Thredbo

Thredbo

It’s funny to think the season is almost over here in Thredbo and I need to start exploring work and travel options outside of this little bubble that I’ve been living in for the past four months – only for a few months though as I’m planning on coming back for another season next year. That said I’m very much looking forward to spending some time at the beach and in the sunshine, getting a tan and living it up Aussie style.

As I’m on a work travel visa I also need to do a few months of rural work in order to get my second year visa extension, so that’s on my agenda to do next so I can get it out of the way. The clever Australian government has come up with a great way to get their fruit and veg picked, get travellers who want to stay a second year in the country to do it for them, ingenious really. And I’m going to join the ranks of people who sign up to do it every year.

Cheese fondue

Cheese fondue

The snow is slowly melting, the runs and lifts are starting to close and spring is arriving with plenty of sunshine and. However, before it got

Raclette

Raclette

too warm we visited Candlelight Lodge – right next to my work – for a cheese tastic dinner of raclette and cheese fondue. It’s one of those meals you just have to eat in the snow! We started off with a glass of wine at the bar before ordering pumpkin arancini and raclette – something we used to make at home in the winter when my sister and I were

Chocolate fondue

Chocolate fondue

younger – and cheese fondue – another dish we used to make a lot at home. My dad used to bring a variety of fantastically smelly swiss cheese back with him every winter and we used to have amazing cheese fondue nights which stank up the house and all our clothes. We were delightfully full and cheesed up by the end of the meal but my sister wouldn’t hear of us leaving without ordering the chocolate fondue. We did our best to eat everything, however, there was still quite a bit of chocolate remaining by the time we were done. Dinner was nicely topped off with a baked apple schnapps, the only way to end any meal in Thredbo. Needless to say we were absolutely stuffed by the end of dinner but it was well worth the cheese overload.

It’s weird to think that back home it’s heading into Autumn and getting cooler while Down Under we are getting ready for the summer and lots of sunshine and heat. Once I’ve figured out my next move – somewhere on the beach and in the sun – I’ll write another post to make you all royally jealous but for now I’m going to sign off.

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My new, rather unwelcome diet

Nuts and dried berries

I’ve never been one for dieting and if it weren’t for medical purposes I certainly wouldn’t be doing this one; I love food too much! But as things are I’m on a wheat, yeast, dairy, sugar, caffeine, wine and beer free diet for the next few months. It turns out there are a lot of foods out there with yeast or sugar in them!

I’ve become one of those people I always hated when I worked as a waitress at university; the fussy ones who order a dish and request it with half of the ingredients removed. I cringe every time I order food these days and my supermarket trips have also doubled in length as I now spend half the time reading the back of packs to make sure there is no lactose injected in the sausages or wheat or sugar in the cereal. Whole Foods is a godsend for things like rice milk, soya yoghurt – both rather tasty – and wheat and sugar free cereal. However, as of next Tuesday I’ll be living in Australia and will need to suss out what sort of food is available Down Under.

The first few days I was permanently exhausted and had no energy at all, my body was craving carbs, sugar – I can’t even eat fruit – and caffeine to keep me going. But after the first week I had a lot more energy and I was getting used to eating lots of veg, hummus, pulses, nuts, dried berries and rice, and I was feeling a lot better. I have managed to find and create a few new recipes that are very tasty albeit the lack of cheese and carbs.

Spicy tomoato sauce with beans and hot dog

Spicy tomoato sauce with beans and hot dog

One of these dishes which I have made a few times now is spicy tomato sauce with kidney beans, chickpeas and boiled hot dogs or chorizo served with brown rice and garnished with coriander. I have to say it is delicious and it filled me up nicely. The hardest parts are probably the mid morning and afternoon snacking, when I could do with a chocolate bar or a biscuit and instead I’m stuck munching on celery and apple sticks and hummus or when I’m out for dinner and order a mint tea while the person I’m with has a dessert!

Jacket potato and beans

Jacket potato and beans

Another dish I have made – and this may be a no brainer but I’ve never managed to make it properly – is jacket potato and baked beans. You may ask how and why I’ve struggled with this and the answer is that my problem lies with the potatoes. You see microwaves and I have never made friends and I have a tendency to dry the potatoes out when I cook them – they take too long in the oven. That was until one of my friends gave me a tip, wrap the potato in kitchen towel and cook for five minutes on each side in the microwave. It works a treat. This dish turned out pretty good too. I fried onions, cherry tomatoes and peppers in a pan and added the baked beans and chilli once they were sauteed. Once everything was on the plate I added chopped chives both for appearance and taste, it wasn’t half bad.

Stir fry

Stir fry

And the final dish I have to report on so far is stir fry with either rice noodles or quinoa, which I tried today, more so as I’m trying to use up as much food in my cupboard as I can before I leave the country. You can never go wrong with stir fry, even if you have to make it without adding soya sauce – it contains wheat.

I was desperate to taste something akin to bread the other day that I ordered a gluten and cheese free pizza at Pizza Express. It was a sorry looking pizza but it tasted amazing to me! I have discovered that some sourdough breads are made without yeast and wheat, so I’m on a mission to hunt a baker down who does just that.

As for all my talk of moving to Australia, I’m departing on Sunday to do a ski season Down Under to start with and then we’ll see where life takes me. So my next post will be from the Snowy Mountains. Moving to the other side of the world is quite stressful as it turns out and packing is a nightmare, but I’m almost there.

I’ve already warned my sister, who I will be staying with to start with, about my new dietary requirements and she’s far from impressed and I quote, “but I thought only old people got IBS,” thanks sis!

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Amsterdam; one of my favourite cities in Europe

Amsterdam

Amsterdam

As promised a post on my latest travels, this time I was in Amsterdam for a long weekend. I usually try and go back once a year to visit family and friends but I hadn’t been back in two years, so I was well overdue a visit and thoroughly enjoyed myself. From visiting family and friends, traipsing around Amsterdam and Marken and eating all my favourite Dutch foods, it was once again, a busy weekend.

Uitsmijter with ham and cheese

Uitsmijter with ham and cheese

Friday morning saw me taking another early flight, from Gatwick this time, with Easyjet. I was picked up by my uncle and aunt in Schiphol and after dropping my bag off we wandered to the Albert Cuyp market for a spot of lunch. I had an Uitsmijter – which literally means bouncer, – which is a traditional Dutch breakfast/lunch consisting of two or three fried eggs, sunny side up served on bread with ham and cheese, it was divine. I may have mentioned my partiality to Dutch cheese before, so much so that I even brought a great big slab of Gouda back to London with me.

I amsterdam

I amsterdam (city marketing)

Dam Square

Dam Square

Friday afternoon was spent wandering around Amsterdam, retracing the steps of many a previous wander through the city from when I lived there. I was surprised at how much I remembered and I didn’t get lost once. From Centraal, through Dam Square, the Kalverstraat, the Bloemenmarkt

Rijksmuseum

Rijksmuseum

(flower market), Leidseplein, the Vondelpark, Museumplein and the Albert Cuyp, we did a lot of walking around the city over the weekend. My uncle and I also went through the entrance of the newly re-opened Rijksmuseum, which had been closed for renovations for the past 10 years, it looked pretty impressive and very different. Next time I visit, I’ll be sure to pop in to see what the whole museum looks like now.

Marken

Marken

Marken lighthouse

Marken lighthouse

My friend picked me up on Saturday morning and we went to her and her boyfriends new house in the beautiful traditional, almost museum like peninsula town of Marken just outside Amsterdam. Marken is very pretty and quaint and their house is beautiful, they are in the process of doing it up spectacularly with lots of wood. The village gets a lot of tourists on

Marken

Marken

a daily basis, sometimes it feels like you are in the middle of an outdoor museum with crowds of people traipsing past and taking pictures of the houses. On Sunday morning before leaving we walked through the beautiful Dutch countryside along the dykes to the Marken lighthouse. It was a beautiful but windy morning, a great way to build up an appetite.

Applegebak

Appelgebak

The Dutch, among other things, are known for their great apple cakes, or

Vlaamse Frites

Vlaamse Frites

Appelgebak as it’s called in Dutch. Filled with flavours and spices, they really know how to make apple cake and yes I did indulge in one with a cappuccino on Sunday afternoon in a lovely little cafe on the Van Baerlestraat. But before the apple cake, and earlier in the day, I had a massive craving for Vlaamse Frites with mayonnaise, another traditional Dutch snack. Indulgent and carb heavy they were exactly how I remembered them!

As you can see it was another food heavy weekend, my uncle cooked my favourite dishes from when I lived with them, my friend had  baked a cake and made tasty snacks for her birthday drinks and I was determined to eat as much cheese as I possibly could. Unsurprisingly it’s a healthy diet for me for the next few weeks and a couple of weeks of quite before my next trip, this time it’s somewhat bigger but more about that at a later stage.

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Ireland; a nostalgic weekend with lots of new food finds

Gorse

Last weekend I took my annual trip to Ireland to visit my mum. As I hadn’t seen a lot of friends in years I decided that this time round I would also try and see as many people as I could. So between catching up with friends, sampling a lot of Irish fish and food, revisiting old haunts and driving – literally from one side of the country to the other – it was a pretty busy weekend.

On Friday morning I took the first flight out of Stansted to Cork, which meant a 2.30am start, something that never goes down well with me but has to be done on occasion  I have to say I always forget just how beautiful and green Ireland is in the spring and summer, especially when the sun shines which it did – I even got a bit burnt over the weekend. It was so lovely to be back.

English Market, Cork

English Market, Cork

My friend picked me up from Cork airport and we went for breakfast in the Farmgate Cafe in the English Market, somewhere we used to frequent on a regular basis for coffee and scones when I lived in Cork. And that’s exactly what we did. I had a delicious homemade brown

Brown scone and coffee

Brown scone and coffee

scone with rhubarb jam and a cappuccino, it was like old times and we chatted for hours. Situated in the hear of Cork city, the English Market is one of the oldest covered markets in Ireland and has been trading since 1788. It’s a really great place to visit and the cafe upstairs and market stalls are all really lovely.

UCC Quad

UCC Quad

The whole day and evening in Cork was rather nostalgic. I met another friend for lunch. On my request we stopped off in the local garage/grocery shop – Centra – where I got a hot chicken roll with spicy chicken, mayo, cheese and lettuce. It was my University hangover lunch and I’d had such an

UCC

UCC

irrational craving for it since I arrived that it just had to be done. It was carby and totally worth every bite. We spent the afternoon wandering around Cork and through the UCC campus where we both went to University. It was strange, I almost thought I’d see my younger self walking through campus on the way to a lecture with my girl friends.

Sea-bass

Sea-bass

In the late afternoon I met another old University friend for a pint – he loves his Beamish – so we went for a drink in another old haunt in Cork, The Oval. After which my friend who I was staying with and I took a trip to the new Oysters restaurant in the Clarion Hotel. The food was completely and utterly out of this world. We shared rock oysters to start with they were served with lemon juice and a shallot vinaigrette dressing, and were so fresh and delicious. I followed this with a chargrilled sea-bass served with orange and fennel stuffing, figs, potatoes and a delectable and very flavoursome vanilla sauce.  Honestly it was like I’d gone to food heaven, it was truly outstanding. The food was washed down in suitable style with a bottle of Prosecco and followed by a raspberry and lavender creme brulee and an espresso to top the dinner off. It was 11.30pm by the time we left, that’s how much we enjoyed it.

Bray Head boulevard

Bray Head sea front

Saturday morning saw me taking my old route back home on the Aircoach, however, this time I went all the way to Dublin. It was a stunning three hour coach journey through the heart of the Irish countryside which was in full bloom and at it’s greenest, it brought back so many memories. I met a few friends for lunch in Bewley’s on Grafton Street, another renowned Irish landmark. I hadn’t seen my friends for a few years and while they had developed a Dublin accent – all of them having lived in Cork before – I was told that mine had become somewhat posh, a jumble of English and Irish! I won’t say anything further on the subject.

Fried calamari

Fried calamari

I met my mum in the afternoon and before going to the theater in the evening, we stopped off for dinner in La Maison just off Grafton Street. Formerly a little French cafe which served divine cakes and pastries, the place has been turned into a Michelin starred restaurant, the current food being equally

Duck

Duck

on par with the pastries of yore. Sticking to what had become the theme for the weekend, fish, my mum and I both ordered the fried calamari for starters and I opted for the duck as a main, which was served with baked potatoes and gravy, it was delicious and very tender.  As we were indulging we decided to order a plum tart between the two of us to share for dessert. All I will say to that is the French really know how to make pastries!

Bray Head walk

Bray Head walk

Sunday was spent walking along the coast and enjoying the sunshine and on Monday we drove down to Holywood, stopping off in Belfast for dinner on our way back. Neither my mum nor I had been in Belfast in years, actually I’m not sure I’ve ever been into the city before. We used to drive to the north a lot to visit family when my sister and I were younger but that’s when they still stopped and checked every car at the border, both sides of the road were lined with gun carrying military and Belfast was a no go area. The city was a lot more pleasant than either of us expected it to be but it was rather quite and empty.

We stumbled across a gem of a restaurant near City Hall, believe it or not, it was a seafood restaurant, Mourne Seafood Bar. We just had really good luck with fish that weekend, the food was really awesome, I had a delicious fresh cod with a lobster sauce. Needless to say I’m fished out for now, but in a good way.

It was a lovely weekend on many levels; seeing everyone again, being back in Ireland and also finding out that Ireland has become a really amazing foodie place with loads of great places to eat out, it’s definitely a strong contender to bear in mind when considering a foodie holiday.

It will be a while before I’m back in the Emerald Isle but I had my fill for now, literally, and it was great. I’m off for another long weekend this week so watch this space for my next travelling food post!

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La vita è bella in Italia

Florence

Florence

San Gimignano

San Gimignano

As promised, a post on la bella Italia. Having not been in Italy since I was there on Erasmus almost five years ago, it was just so nice being back. I’d forgotten how much I liked the country, the people, scenery, food, language, everything really. My Italian was a bit rusty I will admit but not as bad as my driving, both of which started to improve – somewhat in the case of my driving – after a few days.

Thanks to Ryanair’s delayed flight both my mum and I arrived pretty much at

Tuscan countryside

Tuscan countryside

the same time at Pisa airport; me from Stansted and her from Dublin. We proceeded to pick up our little hired Fiat and on my insistence my mum drove the first leg of the journey to Rignano sull’Arno, where we were staying in the heart of Tuscany. Part of wanting her to drive was that I’ve never driven on the other side of the road before, the other being the fact that I hadn’t driven in two and a half years and was worried I would be a bit out of practice. My concern proved to be well founded seeing I did end up driving on the wrong side of the road one morning – although I’m still blaming that one on the lack of coffee before leaving. And more worryingly for my mum, the afternoon I got the car stuck on the side of the road while trying to park. Luckily we were rescued by a car full of young Italian’s who thought it was hilarious. One of them had to lift the front of the car up while I reversed back onto the road. Luckily for us Fiat’s are nifty little cars!

Green pea risotto

Green pea gnocchi

We stopped off for lunch en route and I have to say I’d forgotten just how amazing the Italian food is. The mozzarella in the caprese salad we had was so unbelievably fresh and tasty, none of that mass produced supermarket cheese you get in the UK. I ordered green pea gnocchi for mains and my mum a seafood Ravioli with a pumpkin sauce. As

Seafood ravioli with pumpkin sauce

Seafood ravioli with pumpkin sauce

per usual with us we shared our mains; it’s the best way of eating out, that way we both get to try more than one dish. It was a lovely lunch and to top it off we sat outside in the sunshine, a first for this year. Our rather extravagant – for us at least – lunch was finished with an espresso – or cafe as the Italians call it – for myself and my mum broke the Italian coffee drinking code by ordering a cappuccino after 11am, a big no no in Italy. But she enjoyed it nevertheless.

Poggia Tre Lune

Villa Poggio Tre Lune

After lunch I drove – after practicing in an empty car park –  the last few kilometers, without incident I should add, to Villa Poggia Tre Lune,  were we were staying with my mum’s friend and her

View from Poggio Tre  Lune

View from Poggio Tre Lune

family. Situated on a hilltop – hence the name poggio meaning hilltop –  the villa has a stunning view over the Tuscan countryside. Not only do they rent out apartments in the villa but they also have a biodynamic farm where they have a vineyard and olive grove from which they make and sell their own wine and olive oil. They also grow their own grain and make pasta, all of which we sampled during our sojourn there. We were very warmly welcomed and almost every evening we had a hearty Tuscan dinner with our hosts and their family; drinking home-made wine and eating everything from pasta to pizza, lasagne, gorgeous rustic Italian lentil and bread soup, and various other local delicacies. 

Siena

Siena

During the day we went on various excursions, taking turns driving along the beautifully scenic but rather windy Tuscan roads. We visited Siena, wandering through the stunning Duomo and it’s surrounding historic sites, we ate another scrumptious lunch and had gelato in Piazza del Campo where the Palio di Siena takes place every August. We visited Florence on a rather rainy day. As both of us had been before we selected a few places to visit, including Cappella de Medici and San

Siena Duomo

Siena Duomo

Marco which is full of beautiful frescoes. After traipsing around in the rain for a few hours we stopped in a delightful little bar, Enoteca Bevo Vino on Via di San Niccolò on the other side of the river to the Duomo, for a well deserved glass of vino rosso.

Our travels also took us to the the beautiful walled medieval hilltop town of San Gimignano, where we enjoyed the bank holiday Monday with half of Italy, wandering the streets of the town and munching on Panforte, a delicious  traditional dessert made from fruit and nuts. En route back to Rignano we made a short coffee stop off in the tiny walled town of Monteriggioni, which is just outside Siena. It’s absolutely tiny but very picturesque.

Antipasto

Antipasto

Pizza with prosciutto, rucola and parmesan

Pizza with prosciutto, rucola and parmesan

I know I touched on the food already, but it was just amazing. I don’t remember the last time I ate so heartily – and I’ve been swimming all week to make up for it. From antipasto to pizza, risotto, ravioli, gnocchi, lasagna, gorgeous bread, mozzarella and lots of gelato and coffee, we really did eat royally.

And then on our last day we drove to Pisa in the morning, parked the car and

Pisa

Pisa

wondered through the city in search of the leaning tower, which we had both seen years ago but didn’t remember very well, aside from the fact that it was very crooked. And I have to say it was a lot more off kilter than I remembered it being. After wandering around a bit we sat down outside in the sunshine for a final indulgent lunch before flying back to our respective countries of residence.

It was a fantastic trip. There is still so much of Italy that I need to see and it will take plenty more trips before I’ve seen my fill of this stunning country – if ever. If the Italian economic and political situation weren’t so bad I’d most definitely consider living there again.

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Easter; Hefezopf, chocolate and painted eggs

Painted eggs on branch

Painted eggs on a branch

As a child I used to adore Easter. In the beautiful Irish countryside Spring had arrived – not this year though – daffodils were blooming, the trees were beginning to shimmer green and blossom, the wildlife were coming out of hibernation and the sun was starting to shine. It also meant painting Easter eggs, eating lots of chocolate and baking Hefezopf.

The weekends leading up to Easter were filled with blowing out eggs – I used to get so dizzy doing that – and then painting them, competing with my sister for the best decorated egg, which she always won. Baking, lots and lots of baking, mainly Hefezopf, a plaited slightly sweet German yeast bread.

Hefezopf

Hefezopf

Every year, either my grandmother – when she visited over Easter -, mother or sister used to bake Hefezopf for Easter Sunday breakfast. The yeast bread is easy to make and quite simply delicious, especially fresh from the oven with butter and jam, mmm. I baked it over the weekend. It is very simple to make with flour, sugar, butter, eggs and lukewarm milk. As with most yeast dough it needs to be left in a warm place to rise for about half an hour before plaiting and popping in the oven for about 40 minutes to bake. My family were very good at celebrating all the Christian festivals, not so much for the religious reasons, but rather as a festival to enjoy, eat specific foods and spend time together.

Cherry blossoms

Cherry blossoms

We used to get up early on Easter Sunday morning to watch the sunrise, followed by a hearty breakfast with Hefezopf, boiled and chocolate eggs and lots of coffee. After breakfast was the Easter egg hunt in the garden, which was always lots of fun. We inevitably manged to fill our baskets with plenty of chocolate eggs which were consumed with gusto over the next few days.

Another of my favourite Easter foods is Hot Cross Buns, which I have yet to bake from scratch. This year I will be spending Easter in Italy with my mum where I’m sure we’ll be eating all sorts of traditional Italian Easter dishes such as lamb, Colomba  – dove shaped bread – artichoke, asparagus and of course chocolate. Like most festivals, the Italian’s celebrate Easter in style with all the family together and lots of food.

In light of that my next post will unsurprisingly  be about Italy, the places we visited and the amazing food we ate, so be prepared for some serious food envy!

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