Tuesday, 26 March 2013

giveaway! shiraz & pinot gris, from taylors wines
*winner announced*

Come one, come all, wine-sipping Australians!

I'm happy to be offering a little giveaway today, thanks to Taylors Wines. One lucky reader will win two bottles of wine - the juicy, multi-award winning Taylors Estate Shiraz 2010 and a fresh, elegant Taylors Estate Pinot Gris 2011.


There is a lot to feel good about when drinking a glass of wine produced by the Taylor family. These guys are clearly dedicated to their wine - three generations so far and still going strong. Their philosophy of "bringing great wines to life" is based on the imperative of "respect the fruit" - the fruit being, of course, those luscious grapes grown in the beautiful Clare Valley of South Australia. Just as importantly, they are committed to environmentally-friendly and socially-responsible sustainability practices.

So if you'd like to win a couple bottles of wine from Taylors, one red, one white, both sure to bring a lovely warm glow to your day, then here's your chance!

Giveaway details:

This giveaway is open to those with an Australian address only. Winner must be of legal drinking age and provide proof of age upon request.

For a chance to win, please leave a comment telling me what dish you would cook, or order, to go with a bottle of shiraz or pinot gris - or, alternatively, what dish you would create with those wines. I'm looking forward to some scrumptious ideas!

Please ensure that there is some way I can reach you (e-mail address, twitter account, blog URL etc) if you win. The deadline is the 31st of March, 2013 - I'll be going by the time stamp on this blog, which is based in Melbourne, Australia. I'll announce the winner on the 2nd of April by updating this blog post, or you can also keep an eye out on Twitter or Facebook for an announcement.

I will then contact the winner to organise the shipping of the prize.

Thank you Taylors Wines for making this happen!

- - - - - - - - - - - -

*Winner announced!*

Big thanks to all those who left a comment! And the winner is...

msihua!

Thank you for your creative entry, I'll be contacting you to arrange the delivery of your prize. :)


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Thursday, 21 March 2013

early autumn in the garden, and my parents in melbourne
(and a bonus mango fig basil smoothie recipe)

For the past couple of weeks my parents have been visiting in Melbourne.

Most of the time, they've been staying with my uncle and aunt, further out in the suburbs, but for a few days they squeezed into my little apartment, all three of us sharing one bedroom.

Was it crowded? Yes. Was it cosy? Wonderfully so.

They have now moved on to their next destination, Sydney, to visit another uncle and aunt, and already I miss them. I look around and see how gleaming clean and neat as a pin my apartment is now, thanks to their hard work and magical touch. My fridge is filled with delicious food. My bedroom is totally spruced up. But it also feels a little empty now. You see, for the past few days I've been getting back to my apartment from work to be greeted with smiles and chatter and home-cooked meals. We would eat together, the three of us, and then hang out in my room, chatting about all sorts of things until it's time for bed...

Gah, I'm getting all sentimental. Let's move on to the pictorial part of this post. While they were staying with my uncle and aunt, I visited and had some really lovely times there, too, and I took quite a few pictures. I've blogged about my uncle and aunt's awesome edible garden before so here's more of that. I guess this is sort of an early autumn edition, though the weather has been rather warm this March so you can definitely still see traces of summer.

So, figs are in season...

freshly picked figs.

And the sweet basil is thriving.

sweet basil / italian basil.

Naturally, this prompted me to make a mango-fig-basil smoothie. I used mangoes from the markets and yoghurt from the shops, and, of course, the figs and basil are courtesy of the garden. Whiz it all with some water and ice, and we're good to go.

(Quick recipe! 1 small-to-medium mango's flesh + 4 figs + 1/4 cup yoghurt + 20 sweet basil leaves + drizzle of honey {optional} + 1 cup water + 6 ice cubes, blend and serve.)

a delicious and refreshing mango fig basil smoothie.

The tomatoes are juicy and sweet.

vibrant cherry tomatoes.

Also, purple French beans are pretty. Tasty, too.

pretty purple beans.

Last but not least, I absolutely adore their cat to bits. He would follow me all around the garden as I did my sight-seeing and herb-picking.

Other times, he just sits on the deck chair, like a boss.

cat awesomeness.

So that's pretty much my month of March so far, in a nutshell.

I hope yours has been just as excellent... feel free to leave a comment letting me know about it!

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Thursday, 14 March 2013

mix 'n' match summer ceviche

A summer ceviche, made with odds and ends from the kitchen.

Okay, so I know it's not really summer in Australia anymore... but this is a nice, simple little ceviche that I made some weeks ago that I didn't get around to posting earlier. The main ingredients for creating a tasty ceviche, as far as I'm concerned, are the fish, lime, red onion and chilli components, and all other fruits and vegetables I'd say are negotiable, making this quite a versatile recipe. So feel free to experiment with what's in season, whatever fruits and vegetables you have begging to be used - those that your instincts tell you may go well in this tangy seafood dish. The mix-and-match method was how this ceviche came about for me, after all!

mix 'n' match versatile summer ceviche recipe
(serves 2 as a main, up to 6 as an appetizer)

300g / 2/3lb fresh, mild white fish (e.g. rockling, snapper), skin removed, cut into cubes
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 small red chilli, thinly sliced
1/3 - 1/2 cup lime juice (approximately 4 - 5 limes) - enough to generously marinate all above ingredients
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 small stalk celery*, chopped
1 nectarine*, cut into cubes
a bit of chopped mint or coriander/cilantro, if you have it (I didn't... )

Additional: coconut cream, to serve.

*Instead of celery, you may also consider cucumber, fennel, radish, and avocado, to name a few. 
*Instead of nectarine, you may also consider other stone fruit e.g. peach, apricot, plum; or melon fruit e.g. honeydew, rockmelon/cantaloupe, watermelon; and how about grapes, strawberries, or corn?

Thoroughly mix fish, red onion, chilli, lime juice and salt together in a glass bowl. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.
Just before serving, toss through the celery and nectarine or other vegetable/fruit, and the herbs if using. Season with more salt if desired.
Add a dollop of coconut cream on top, if you like, for a smooth creaminess to help balance out the acidity.
Enjoy!

A mix 'n' match, odds 'n' ends ceviche!

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Thursday, 7 March 2013

cookbook review: ripe

Let's get excited about fruits and vegetables today. Yes!

Late last year, I was lucky enough to win a giveaway at Zo's lovely blog, Two Spoons, the prize being a copy of the vibrantly presented Ripe, a collaborative cookbook by food writer Cheryl Sternman Rule and photographer Paulette Phlipot, which promises "a fresh, colorful approach to fruits and vegetables".

It delivered.

Ripe, a collaborative cookbook by Cheryl Sternman Rule and Paulette Phlipot.

Ripe is an interesting cookbook, with chapters based around colour groupings of fruits and vegetables: red, orange, yellow, green, purple & blue, white. The pages are flush with vivacious hues and wholesome recipes, all vegetarian, a fact that did not cross my mind until much later, so taken in I was by the tome's dazzling good looks.

Cheryl has a charming, conversational style, and I enjoyed reading her notes on each fruit and vegetable, as well as her tips on how to choose or store them. The recipes are all pretty accessible, with some slightly more involved than others, but none are truly terrifyingly complicated.

This is a book for those who are open to adventure. Each fruit and vegetable comes with only one full recipe, which may be a minus for some, but if you take it as an invitation to work your way through as many different fruits and vegetables as possible, it's a positive, which I think is the intention here. Moreover, Cheryl also garnishes each headnote page with a "Simple Uses" passage, giving an additional three recipe ideas - which are basically just ingredient combinations - for the produce. For those who require explicit instructions, this may be a little daunting, but if you're fairly comfortable in the kitchen, it proffers some lovely inspiration.

the introductory page for green beans.

I ended up picking two very simple recipes from the book to try.

The first one was the Green Beans with Smoky Pistachio Dust. It's no secret that I am rather hopelessly in love with smoked paprika. So when I saw the superbly easy recipe for green beans, vegan and gluten-free to boot, I knew it was mine to devour, and devour it I did. It was just as fabulous as I imagined - al dente green beans, just slightly silky with olive oil, encrusted with crumbled-up, smoky paprika-infused pistachio.

I wrote to Cheryl asking for permission to reproduce one of her recipes here, if I may, and she gave me her blessings. Aren't you lucky? I'll just make it a quick one here, with modified quantities and in my own words:

Prepping the green beans:
Boil 300g / 2/3lb green beans in a pot of salted water for a couple minutes or until al dente, drain. Rinse or drench quickly in cold water, then drain again. Transfer to a bowl and drizzle with 1/2 tablespoon olive oil.

Conjuring the smoky pistachio dust, and assembling it all together:
Combine 1/3 cup toasted pistachios, 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika, plus a pinch of salt and pepper. Process or grind into a fine-grained mixture. Adjust seasonings to taste, then scatter and toss through the green beans. Enjoy.

By the way, this smoky pistachio dust is not only fabulous but also versatile - see this post in Cheryl's blog for more ideas.

my very own green beans with smoky pistachio dust!

The recipe for Smashed Cherries, Amaretti and Ricotta also caught my eye with its straightforward simplicity. I had trouble thwacking them as instructed, but pitted and halved them as I usually do and breezily moved on to the other steps. It turned out well - the amaretti cookies, cacao nibs and sweetened ricotta gave tasty contrast to the fresh and juicy cherries. Also? This is totally the kind of dessert I could happily eat for breakfast without guilt.

my very own smashed cherries, amaretti and ricotta!

In conclusion? I think Ripe is a gorgeous, engaging cookbook that would suit someone with an interest in embarking upon a series of fruit and vegetable encounters. And if the recipes I've trialled so far are any indication, those encounters will be very, very delicious indeed.

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