Tuesday, December 22, 2009

End of Year Christmas Daze

I have to admit that I have been in a food coma for much of the last two weeks. I have been eating non-stop. Lots of party food, breakfasts, lunches and dinners out. I don't think I have had a proper home cooked meal in a week. I don't want to harp on about it, because I know you all know, but the end of the year is so tiring. The temp heats up, the food is overly abundant, the drinks flow every night of the week. To top this off I have been travelling with work both last week and the week before and so have had little time to blog.

Usually I seem to manage but there have been so many other things to worry about i.e having parties, going to parties, Christmas shopping, the 8 hour drive home to my family home, Christmas Day menu planning, party for tonight planning which still isn't complete. Which comes to why I have the time to blog now. Procrastination! Ah ha.... Tonight's party..... 20 people for a casual Christmas party in my family home- sounds like fun? Yep! But I am so disorganised it is not even funny!! Eek- had better get to work...

After I tell you about the fantastic Christmas Party my friends and I had in Brisbane. Knowing it is such a busy time of year, I wisely decided to outsource the cooking... GASP... I know, but seriously, being stuck in the kitchen is no fun.

Sally Lynch from Tastetrekkers (www.tastetrekkers.com.au) agreed to the task- 12 people @$40 per head. The other criteria was to be Christmassy without being too Christmassy and to take into consideration that some of the guests are more traditional eaters and some of the guests like extravagant food. Gee- complicated and contradictory much?! Oh.. I also wanted to have some stuff that could be served cold....

Sal provided me with a menu to choose from and then I decided on exactly what I wanted. She did a fantastic job of catering to my weird requests and we had enough food to feed at least 16-18 people!!! We got to talking and Sal has been in the food industry for a long time and her experience shows. The food was fantastic and although my photos will not do it justice, you will be able to get a good idea of what was on offer. The guests at the party repeatedly told me how much they loved the food and kept thanking me for organising, so really, this thanks and praise should be passed onto Sal. From the menu Sal gave me, I tried to incorporate traditional (for my family- so may be a little weird) elements of Christmas i.e. Duck, Chicken, Prawn and crab and then the rest of the choices were made because they looked so Yum!

The Menu:
Asian Style Duck Rice paper rolls with yellow bean sauce

Prawn & herb mayo mini po boys

Crispy crab and noodle balls with a lime chilli dipper

Crostini with wild mushrooms and Persian feta

Crispy Chicken Pieces with lime salt

Thai Beef salad with holy basil & green mango tartlets

Stuffed mini chorizo sausages with cheese & herbs with an apricot glaze.

Sorry- have no piccys of these babies but they were delicious. In fact I ate about 6 of them!~

Glazed and Baked Ham with assorted mustard and chutneys, salad and crusty breads.

The crostini with wild mushrooms and persian feta was the favourite of the day and the glaze on the ham was delicious. I can also tell you that nothing went to waste because everyone enjoyed the food so much. I particularly loved the lime salt, and we used the excess to rim the martini glasses. I actually have some ham frozen because we did not even get to eating it, but I did put it to good use in the few days after the party.

Sal had all the food labelled and packed in containers with instructions to heat if required. I was really happy and everything was so easy.

We also had some fab cocktail concoctions using vanilla vodka, lychee liqueur, vodka, bacardi, chamboard and a whole heap of mixers like cranberry, mint, passionfruit, lime, ginger. We even used the leftover lime salt to rim the martini glasses for some kick to the cocktails. Luckily we all lined our stomachs well with Sal's Chrissy feast.

Have you been in an end of year daze too? Do you do all your own catering for Christmas parties?? If not, who do you employ and have you been happy with them?

Now... time to get to planning Christmas Day Menu- eek Grocery Shopping is chaos this time of year. The next post may just have to wait for another week! Sigh...

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Safe New Year. Thanks for reading and I hope to hear from you all (via comments!) early in the new year. There will be some changes happening to this blog in the new year, so stay tuned for those too. What are you guys doing/eating/drinking for christmas?

So far I'm thinking of grilled whole prawns with garlic and coriander, scallops in the half shell (not sure what to dress then with yet, oysters with pickled ginger and lime, kung pao chicken and the rest is yet to come. Happy Holidays!

Signing off. xx

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas time in the Sunshine @ Noosa

So, I am heading home to Gunnedah for Christmas this year, but C, my boyfriend is heading to either Noosa where his grandmother lives, or to his family property, so on the weekend I was in Noosa and sourced out some good Christmas goodies for him.

Noosa is a foodies paradise and literally has everything you could need for both the perfect traditional Christmas or a Modernised/Australianised version. I've put together a guide on where to get the best produce for those heading to the Sunshine Coast this summer.

1) Fresh seafood is always a staple at Christmas time and the Seafood Market at Noosa Junction has some of the BEST oysters I have EVER eaten. Not even exaggerating.

This could be because the oysters are shucked fresh daily and you can really tell.

The prawns are always superfresh and they also stock fresh crabs, lobsters and bugs and will clean them for you free of charge.

There is a good range of fresh whole and filleted fish which always conjures up some amazing possibilities, as well as frozen bits and bobs.

If you are feeling lazy or short on time, they have already prepared prawn rolls and other meal options like Lobster mornay.

I have been getting seafood from here nearly every weekend since they opened exclusively as a Seafood Market (they were previously a fish and chip shop- which is sorely missed.) The only thing is, their prices can be a little higher than what you would pay in Woolies/Coles but the quality is well worth it! May I reitereate they have consistently the best oysters I have ever eaten!! As a scallop fiend, I am also happy with the quality of scallop meat.

The market is self serve which really suits me because you can get exactly the fillets/fish/prawns/whatever you want without having to sound like a real pain by directing someone- "no not that one, the one two in front of it please!" (repeated 18 times -you get the idea.)

Seafood Market sell other seafood related stock from Black Pearl Epicure, Simon Johnson, Tetsuya's and Spirit House to name a few.

They also have house made sauces i.e seafood sauce, aiolis.

Get in early at Christmas time because the prawns, oysters and crabs/lobsters fly out the door- I'm not sure what the deal is with ordering but I would give them a call to suss it out.

So you can get an idea of pricing, I have added a list of the prices for popular Christmas items which were current at the time of visiting the store- these obviously could change.

Prawns - $36.99 per kilo
Oysters- $16.90 per dozen
Raw Spanner crabmeat packet- $24.99 each
Swordfish- $33.99 per kilo
flathead- $44.99 per kilo
assorted reef cod- $36.99 per kilo
gourmet marinara mix- $27.99 per kilo
baby octopus- $12.99 per kilo
squid tubes - $13.99 per kilo
rice paper prawn rolls - $2.99 each

Seafood Market
Cnr of Cooyar Street and Lanyana Way
Noosa Heads, QLD
ph: 075449 2655

2) The Cooking Company are well established in Noosa and have been around for about 10 years. It is tucked around the back of the street that the Fresh Seafood Market is on, -18 Lanyana Way. The Cooking Company has two shop fronts - one is the shop that has been around for ages selling cookware, cooking books etc etc and the other is the newish deli located just opposite on the other side of the lane (where Sweet Tempered Chocolateria is). The deli opened in February this year and is a cafe bar and specialises in fine foods. I have been into the deli a number of times looking for hard to find ingredients and I have usually been able to find what I am looking for.

They have some great christmassy items in.

* Flamigni Panettone- The Cooking Co stock a whole range of Flamigni including panettone. Apparently, according to my panettone obsessed Italian friend, Flamigni are THE best makers of the panettone. All Flamigni products are made in Italy and although I haven't tried the supremo cioccolato, it comes highly recommended. The Flamigni panettone retails for $59.95 and the prices rise from there for the more deluxe items in the range.

* Fresh duck eggs- Duck Eggs are harder to come by than one would think. I have not been able to find anyone at the Noosa Famer's Markets that sell duck eggs, but Cooking Co have solved the dilemma and have eggs available for $1 each that come from a local farm at Doonan. The same farm supplies to some of the local restaurants. The duck eggs are really fresh and could be the secret ingredient to making the perfect sponge cake this Christmas.

* I don't know about you, but Christmas time at my house is chaotic. I like to have a range of stuff on hand to serve people when they drop in for a Christmas hello and a few drinkies. Lotus and Ming stock a really cute range of gourmet asian goodies like shitake and leek or peking duck spring rolls, fresh pumpkin dumplings. They come with matching spicy plum and soy fusion dipping sauce and may just get you out of a pickle if you have unexpected guests. They are $14.95 for a pack of 8.

* Some of my friends are scared to cook. I'm not sure why, but they seem to think that it is too hard. These same friends however, are happy to buy packet cake mixes because they seem easier as they are already prepared. I'm not sure why it is easier, but if it gets them baking then surely that is a good thing. The Cooking Co stock a range of Donna Hay Cupcake kits for $13.95. They come in either chocolate or vanilla, and you can also buy molten chocolate brownie or cranberry and triple choc cookies. The Donna Hay range is really cutely presented and is the perfect gift for someone who is a little bit scared to bake up a storm.

*I love Bacco's crispbread. Kristy and Luigi Papagni own and run an artisan bakery in the little village of Murrurundi in NSW which isn't far from my home town. Every time we went to Sydney, we used to pull up and fill the car to the brim with crispbread galore. I was glad to find the bread available in Noosa - made me feel a little less homesick!! These crispbreads are a nice treat and great to keep in the cupboard over the Christmas period. I would also love to find a packet of fennel seed or chilli twiggies in my santa sack.

* Tabletop grapes- If you up for making your own panettone then these Tabletop Grapes will come in handy. The Cooking Co stocks the whole range and these are the grapes my Gran used so they don't come any more highly recommended than that!

* You can order Christmas hampers for any money value and any style, and they will be able to help you out if you don't have much idea about what you want to go into the hamper.

Aside from all the Chrissy gear, they also have a lot of other hard to find products, as well as some beautiful cheeses and a good charcuterie range.

18 Lanyana Way
Noosa Heads QLD 4567
ph. 07 5412 2750

3) Noosa Farmer's Markets
Noosa Farmers Markets are my alltime fave farmer's markets and there is plenty of Christmas stock available there. I picked up a Pudding Lane pudding and loved the fresh sweet crab meat on offer from the Spanner Crabs Noosa Stand. There are plenty of other great fresh producers there too- like the Bendele Farms Stall which have all organic poultry. Yum Yum.

What are your favourite products to have on-hand for those unexpected visitors over the Christmas season?

Pudding Lane distributors
Pete and Allison
073803 4319

Spanner Crabs Noosa
Unit 2 / 15 Production St
Noosaville, Qld, 4567
Mob. 0427 766 778

Bendele Farms
470 Bular Road
Kilkivan QLD
07 5484 7157

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Sweet Tempered Chocolateria- Noosa Junction

I used to be a chocolate fiend. In my teen years whole missing boxes of Ferrero Rocher's could be (rightly) attributed, solely, to me. Easter Bunny was always very generous but whilst my sister's could stockpile my takings were usually gone within the first three days. And I was not without tactics to secure more. By this time, after eating chocolate for three meals on Easter Sunday, and watching me devour the rest of my takings, the siblings were usually sick at the sight of anything looking like or smelling like choc. So then, I would sweep in take the leftovers, which was usually enough chocolate to last me for another week or so.

And don't be fooled into thinking that this choc-maniac could be fuelled from just the Easter petrol. Through out the year, I ate chocolate every day- even if it was just a little bit, and it was usually a lot more than a little bit. In year ten at school, I ate to many mint patties, my friends and I covered an outdoor picnic table in the stickers within a couple of months. I'm not sure how I didn't grow exponentially in this time, but I guess being 16 helped with that side of things.

Even better, my family was already accustomed to this kind of behaviour because my Aunt is probably clinically addicted to chocolate, so compared to her, everyone thought I had just a minor issue! It's funny how things can seem so normal because you have seen it all before.

As time went on, chocolate became less and less of a focus. The need for the daily hit subsided and I found myself more able to go to the markets/woolies/a newsagent without coming out with bags full of choc. I stopped finding chocolate hidden around the house (hiding it from myself!- not a great idea) and slowly developed what seemed like a much more normal relationship with chocolate.

Like any addiction, there are times of relapse but I feel that I am more in control now... until I spotted the Sweet Tempered Chocolateria in a little lane way in the Lanyana Arcade at Noosa Junction- JACKPOT!!!

So... I stalked around for a while, wondering if I should go it alone, or if I should compromise my new normal chocolate lifestyle with the temptation of going in...

I decided that I was an adult and I should be able to handle myself when going into a chocolate shop, but the moment I stepped in and the sweet cocoa wafted my way, all restraint was gone.

Sweet Tempered Chocolateria is the brainchild of Dylan and Kate Tasker. They recognised that Noosa lacked a little choccy shop and decided to fill the void. Dylan worked in the Margaret River for a chocolate company and so had the experience and know how to seal the deal whilst Kate had a background as a barista and so brings the coffee aspect to the table.

The shop has a really cute brown and white striped theme and feels a bit like a french candy shop. The florist opposite means that the area is just too cute to boot! Mirror with lipstick writing adorns the walls and lets customers know of the specials, as do the cute blackboards outside. There is also, of course, an alluring cabinet filled with a myriad of different handmade chocolates.

(sorry about me in the reflection!)

Aside from chocolate, Sweet tempered do cappuccinos (which Dylan assures me are 'the best in Noosa- although I cannot verify as I don't drink coffee!), tea and coffee, light lunches and lots of chocolate based sauces, etc. But lets face it. I was there for the choccies.. Yum

I knew I needed to exhibit some form of self control, and so resolved to only spend as much money as was in my wallet- a $20. At the chocolates being $1.50 each, this meant that I could choose a decent selection of the handmade delights whilst still remaining in control.

Usually I would go for the passionfruit creams or the dark chocolate with ginger which just so happen to be the best sellers, but I was in the mood for a couple of zesty chocolates so chose the lemon sphere and chilli truffle and something traditional- vanilla, strawberry and peppermint cream.

I had them put in a little take-away bag and brought them home with the intention to share with C. It's the intention that counts right??~!

So I was most curious about the chilli truffle. Sometimes chilli chocolate can be overwhelming or underwhelming but I feel that this one was just right. The dark chocolate ganache was smooth and the chilli had just enough bite to make itself known. I did give C a little bite of this, and he quite enjoyed it.

I moved onto the lemon sphere, which was something I have never tried before. Perhaps not my favourite of the day, but it did have some zing from the lemon which melded nicely with the intensity of the dark chocolate.

The vanilla creme was beautiful- definitely my favourite. The centre was soft and fluffy, just like a pillow but not too rich. My only complaint is that it should have been bigger to allow for more injection of extra vanilla!

The peppermint cream was a little disappointing for me. I am a peppermint lover and would have liked the flavour to be more apparent. However, coming from the opposite side of the fence, C insisted that it was great because the taste was so subtle. This was true of the strawberry cream too- the chocolate was nice and full and the cream was subtlety strawberry which is a lot nicer than biting into some of the strawberry creams which are so artificial and too sickly sweet to enjoy.

I'm lucky I only bought 5 chocolates because they were consumed in the five minutes after I arrived home. The chocolates were delicate and subtle which was a really nice touch. The chocolates were reasonably priced and the Sweet Tempered Chocolateria has lots on offer- the perfect haven for any chocolate lover.

Take it from a former chocolate addict- less is sometimes more. I'm actually proud that my dignity remained in-tact whilst visiting the Sweet Tempered Chocolateria but if you are worried, perhaps you should take back-ups/body guards to stop you getting out of control when you pop down to Lanyana Way next time you are on the Sunshine Coast.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

My terrible photos

Well, As one reader has rather (un)diplomatically pointed out- my photos are of terrible quality. Yep, it's true- I am the first to admit it.

The reason my photos are do dodgy is because at this stage, I use my iphone to take quick snaps of the food and then, I tuck in. My PIES (partners in eating) even at this stage, find it annoying that I have to snap the food first before it is placed in front of them! Usually the lighting in restaurants in less than desirable and when I take my photos outside, if it is takeaway, I leave them in the takeaway containers because I want to take the photos before I get home and before the salad has wilted. I use the iphone because it takes 2 seconds to upload and my life is pretty hectic at the moment so it's easy but I know the terrible quality does lessen the quality of the blog. So you see, there is method in my madness.

Thankyou for bringing this up with me - I really know I need to get cracking on better quality photos -In the new year I am planning to take a photography course and better the quality of photos so you will have more beautiful photos of the food I review/cook. If you can bare with me until then, I'd be very grateful, If not- check back in the new year and hopefully you will see some new and improved shots appearing!
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