In recent months I have had a revelation, one that hovered around in my head since I was a teenager yet I couldn’t quite put my finger on it or put a label on it. Then I read an article by Kelly Exeter about introverts, and it instantly clicked. Even though I am sociable, and not in any way shy, I realised that a lot of the ways I act in a crowd or pull away from over stimulation brought about by social settings is down to the fact that I am an introvert. Surprising, yet not.
The idea of throwing myself in the middle of a room of 80-100 people that I have not yet met (bar one or two), one would think, would have been somewhat daunting. Yet when the gathering was a room full of food bloggers, food producers and food-passionates, this was not the case. I was excited for months leading up the Eat Drink Blog 2013 conference and despite my introverted ways couldn’t wait to spend the entire day with this like-minded group. And I wasn’t disappointed.
Eat Drink Blog is an annual food bloggers conference in Australia organised by volunteers on what I am told is no budget. And what an amazing job the organisers did. The day was perfectly planned with fabulous food by Jean Pierre Sancho, Brownes, West N Fresh, Littlesweet Baking, European Foods, Red Hot Spatula (and the nighttime event had even more!) and an endless supply of freshly brewed coffee from Five Senses. You may notice I often share my thoughts on gorgeous local products, and I am fully supportive of the small Perth food business getting its product out there. I noticed the food sponsors were all local producers, I suspect the careful selection wasn’t a coincidence. I like that.
Speakers included Emma Galloway of My Darling Lemon Thyme, Adam Roberts (who flew all the way from the US mind you) of The Amateur Gourmet, Max Brearley of Pub Diaries, Cynthia Chew akaThe Food Pornographer, Simon Park fromThe Heart of Foodand Ed Charles of Tomato, to name a few. Each panel offered invaluable tips and experiences that appeal to food bloggers on some level. All bloggers would agree that starting out can be very lonely, you’re entrenched in this online space you call your own with sometimes little or no interaction with others (aside from possibly your mum – HI MUM!). So to sit in a room full of food bloggers was enlightening and exciting to say the least.
Anyone that has sat with me over a meal will know I am, let’s just say, a little ‘greedy’. I may have told you before that I used to sneak the last chocolate biscuit as a kid when no one was looking, and get up in the middle of the night to sneak an ice cream while the rest of the house slept. I have little restraint when I am presented with food, rarely stopping myself from taking another handful of chocolate or another biscuit, and another (I know, it’s not a nice characteristic but it is what it is). So when I walked out at lunch time to see the vast spread of delightfully colourful food lined up on a long table my eyes, and stomach, quietly had a little celebration. I did however stand back and chat to other food bloggers and patiently waited my turn. Well the day was full of surprises.
Delicious offerings by European Foods included antipasto consisting of Greek olives, button mushrooms, chargrilled artichokes, peppers and feta, plus fresh salads, a huge selections of cheeses served with nuts and European fruit pastes and breads. I could go on, but it’s only going to make me hungry and you probably wish you’d been there. The Eat Drink Blog 4 committee did a fabulous job, I am positive arranging the day was a huge undertaking and not one detail jumped out as half-assed. It was a truly fabulous day, and even this introvert left after 9 hours wanting more. And not just the food.
The following day saw groups heading off to attend various workshops. I attended the Mastering French Pastries with Emmanuel Mollois. What a character! He can hold an audience captive not just by his baking skills but his sense of humour. A funny chap, he is liberal with sharing the secret to his success and offers wonderful tips to the non-professional baker. As I am a home cook with zero formal cooking qualifications, I took some great advice from Emmanuel but what struck out most was this – “The trick is to use great products and do simple things with them.” My ethos with my blog, and most aspects of my life, is quality in its absolute simplest form. I have absolutely no issue with spending money on great products but like to keep things simple. These words from Emmanuel hit home the most for me.
And of course, there were pastry treats. Say no more.
This was my first ever bloggers conference, I was chuffed it was held in my hometown. I will most definitely be putting my name down for next year’s event, and I suggest if you are a food blogger just starting out, you do too. Networking with other food bloggers is imperative not only for the fact we feel less alone online, but the information we can receive by interacting with like-minded others is something you can’t always find on google.
A huge and not so scary revelation for this introvert.
Every time I go to my child’s school canteen I reminisce. Choc milk, cheese toasties, and my all time favourite, sausage roll and sauce. I think aside from seeing my friends, canteen lunches were (surprise, surprise) my favourite part of school. There was something about handing over coin to get my hands on a flaky sausage roll and then smothering it in tomato sauce. I smothered EVERYTHING in tomato sauce as a kid, much to my Mum’s disdain. She’d make a fabulous Finnish casserole and out comes the sauce bottle. Macaroni bake – covered in sauce. Cabbage bake – covered in sauce. Scrambled eggs – covered in sauce. Seriously, everything.
One thing I wasn’t overly keen on as a kid was the good old meat pie. I think there was too much meat and not enough pastry, the meat to pastry ratio was all wrong for this pastry-loving kid. Once I’d get past that first bite, there just seemed to be way too much filling and I lost interest fast. As an adult, I have been weary of the store-bought pie as I just can’t get past the idea that I really don’t know what is in that filling; is it meat, is it off-cuts, is it gristle? Who knows. Homemade pie however, yes please.
I have made this pie a few times and each time I added Roza’s Gourmet Sauces’ Sweet Mustard with Apricots and Macadamia Nuts. If you haven’t tried this mustard, I suggest you get your food-loving self down to your local gourmet store and get your hands on some. If they don’t stock it, tell them to. Or you can order it online from Roza’s Gourmet Sauces’ site. It is simply delicious, no two ways about it. I am crazy about mustard, but this one is perfection with the addition of macadamia nuts that give it a nutty crunch combined with a sweet flavour all rolled up in a tangy mustard taste. Genius really.
1 heaped tablespoon Roza’s Sweet Mustard with Apricots and Macadamia Nuts
Sea salt and pepper
1 sheet shortcrust pastry
1 sheet puff pastry
1 egg, lightly beaten
Preheat oven to 200C. Grease pie dish.
Bring stock to boil in a saucepan, add chicken and return to the boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes until chicken is cooked. Remove from heat, remove chicken from pan and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
Dice chicken coarsely. Set stock aside.
Heat butter in frying pan, sauté leek for 3-5 minutes until softened. Add potatoes and 1/2 cup of the reserved stock, cook for 10 minutes.
Increase heat and add flour, remainder of the stock, cream and mustard; stir until mixture thickens. Add chicken and combine well, season with sea salt and pepper. Take off heat and allow to cool slightly.
Line base of pie dish with sheet of shortcrust pastry. Trim edges and prick base with a fork. Cover with sheet of parchment paper and rice or baking weights, blind bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove rice and paper, bake for a further 8 minutes or until pastry is golden.
Spoon chicken mixture into pie dish. Place puff pastry on top of mixture, trim and press edges with fork. Brush pastry with egg. Make two cuts in the top of pastry to release steam, and bake in preheated oven at 200C for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Did you love the school canteen as a kid? What was your favourite food purchase?
Disclaimer: Roza’s Gourmet Sauces gifted me with a package of sauces to sample.
There’s this girl named Megan. She bakes delicious cupcakes and slices and other sweet treats and delivers them to the sweet toothed folks of Perth via various cafes and markets. She has a friendly little community that can’t get enough of her baking. And due to this growing popularity, the demand for her baked goods is hot stuff right now.
I had the pleasure of meeting Megan and have been watching her closely since. She is one of those people who oozes adorable-ness, yet underneath that smile is sharp wit and humour that makes you like her even more. And then there are these.
Megan makes her own Belgian Chocolate Brownie Mix and an Old School Chocolate Cake Mix and shares them with the grateful folks of Perth. For the record, I can’t remember the last time I made a ‘packet mix’ cake pre Littlesweet Baking, in fact I don’t usually consider using them as I enjoy baking cakes from scratch myself. However when I was first aware of these mixes after tasting many of Megan’s cakes, I was keen to try them out. Less ‘packet mix’ and more ‘Megan’s cake ready for your oven’. Seriously, why wouldn’t you.
The beauty of this brownie mix (aside from the brownies it makes) is you only need three additional ingredients – eggs, butter and vanilla extract. I also added 1/4 cup macadamia nuts and did consider adding raspberries, so you can add your own touch. I have made the brownies before without adding anything and they are delicious as is. When I think of brownies I think of a dense, heavy crumb, but these brownies are surprisingly light. And rich, oh so deliciously rich! Megan didn’t muck around by adding Belgian chocolate.
The mixes also come with a sweet little instructional.
You can find Littlesweet Baking mixes at The Black Truffle in North Fremantle, Chalkys Espresso Bar in Fremantle, Urban Locavore in Myre Fremantle, Solomon’s Merchants in Albany and for home delivery from The Lettuce Shop or at their Saturday morning Weekend Warehouse. The mixes will also be available this week at Piccos Kitchen in Maylands. You can also pop down to Perth Upmarket and say hello to Megan, get your mitts on her gorgeous treats and thank me later. You can keep up-to-date with what’s going down with Littlesweet Baking via Megan’s Facebook page.
See what I mean, hot stuff!
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post however I did gently harass Megan for a sample of her mixes and then hunt her down at the Palmyra Western Farmers Market. And as you know, I just love sharing the good stuff. Opinions are, as always, my own. I mean, who else’s would they be.
Summer, people either love it or hate it. And especially Perth’s summer. There’s no in between or mild relief from the heat once it sets in. It’s sticky, we have weeks of non-stop 40 degree heat and millions of flies. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I have loved summer for as long as I can remember. As a kid my best friend and I would spend hours and hours at the local swimming pool. Come school holidays, we’d be there from early morning until sunset eating sausage rolls and icy-poles and redskins, and riding the tubes without a care in the world. Back then we didn’t wear sunscreen, we were ignorant to the sun warnings summer brings with it today. Halfway through summer the skin on my nose would be wrinkled and grey and I’d spend more time in my bathers than anything else.
Summer brings with it fond memories of my childhood, in fact all my early memories revolve around this time of year. Riding my bicycle around with new summer sandals (or no shoes at all), my blonde hair green from all the time spent swimming, and Mum’s delicious summer culinary treats. I haven’t baked any Finnish food lately, and with the warmer weather approaching I am reminded of all the fun stuff she would bake in time for Christmas. A huge part of my summer memory is her baking.
This peach delight has nothing to do with Finnish baking but it does remind me of summer. My first attempt at baking a galette brought about a couple of pleasant surprises, firstly how amazingly easy it is to make and secondly just how delicious they taste. The smell of peaches and homemade pastry baking in the oven is sublime, and throw in a hint of lime and you’ve got a summer winner in my opinion. This took me no time at all to prepare, I imagine you could prepare it an hour before guests arrive and wow them with the delicious aroma wafting out from the oven while you’re brewing coffee.
My Mum and I both absolutely love the crusty edges of oven-baked tarts, and if she was standing in my kitchen as I pulled this thing out of the oven she would’ve promptly elbowed me out the way to cut the crust and chow it down straight from the tin. I took great delight in shoving the first corner into my mouth without a fear of the elbow, and boy was it good! This pastry takes mere minutes to make. It’s deliciously buttery and flaky yet holds together enough so the galette doesn’t fall apart. You just can’t beat homemade pastry, and if you’re put off by the need to knead, don’t be with this one. No kneading necessary. I insist you make the pastry rather than use store-bought stuff, you won’t be disappointed.
For the crust:
1½ cups plain flour
½ tsp sugar
¼ tsp salt
125g unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
1 egg combined with 1 tsbp cold water
Combine flour, sugar and salt in a food processor. Scatter cubes of butter over the top of the flour and pulse a few times until you have little butter balls about the size of blueberries.
With processor running, stream in egg and cold water and pulse until mixture starts to come together. Pour out onto bench, use your hand to bring dough together into a ball. If it doesn’t come together add another tablespoon of cold water, and more if you need to until it starts to form a ball. I only needed to add the first tablespoon of water and the dough formed beautifully.
Flatten dough into a flat disc, cover with cling wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
*Dough can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
5 medium sized peaches, halved, pitted and sliced
¼ cup sugar
½ lime, juice and zest
1 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp muscovado sugar for sprinkling on top
1 tbsp milk or cream
Preheat oven to 200C. Remove dough from refrigerator to allow to stand for 10 minutes.
Place sugar, lime juice and cornflour into a bowl and whisk to combine. Add peaches and coat well using hands. Set aside.
Roll dough out on a floured surface to desired shape at 5mm thickness. You can make your galette round or rectangular, whatever takes your fancy.
Move dough onto parchment paper on a baking tray prior to filling.
Lay peach slices over the pastry in a decorative pattern (or just pour them in and let them land as they may) leaving a space of about 2” around the edge without filling. Fold the edges of the dough up and over the outside of the peaches while crimping the dough to encase the fruit. Brush top with milk or cream, sprinkle muscovado sugar all over and sprinkle lime zest on top.
Bake for 50-60 minutes. If crust starts to darken too much before the peaches are bubbling and caramelising, turn oven down to 175C.
Once crust is golden and puffy and peaches are deliciously golden and bubbling, remove galette from oven and allow to cool completely before slicing that baby up and devouring. You can obviously add a dollop of cream or ice cream, but I don’t really think you need to.
As much as I love my sweet treats and don’t generally follow an overly strict diet, I am often inspired to live a healthier lifestyle by others. One such ‘other’ is Tatum fromEat.Move.Explore. Tatum strives to maintain a healthy lifestyle with good eating habits and regular exercise, she is passionate about these very things and it shows in her every movement. When Tatum took up sponsorship with cake crumbs & beach sand I got very excited, she is a good influence to be around and one I am happy to have here in our community.
I asked Tatum a few questions that I was curious about, namely how she maintains her healthy lifestyle and what inspires her.
What inspired you to start up Eat.Move.Explore? How long ago?
I have been blogging for nearly 7 years now about a variety of different things. Mid 2012 I decided that I had finally found my ‘niche’ and after attending BlogHer12 I started planningEat.Move.Explore.I launched it in January this year. It is still very much a work in progress in terms of where I want to take it but I am happy with how it is evolving. I want to help people to enjoy a healthy lifestyle for themselves and their families and show them that it doesn’t take a whole lot of time or fussy ingredients to do it.
What are the main factors that keep you motivated to maintain a healthy diet and fitness regime?
After being there for my family and close friends maintaining a healthy diet and sticking to my training are the things that I don’t like to compromise on. To make sure that those things happen planning is my key.
I love fresh food, I get very animated when I am passionate about something, you should see all the arm waving that goes on when I am talking about food. My food philosophy is centred around fresh and whole foods, it makes me excited to work with local ingredients. I don’t bother eating things that don’t taste good and make me feel good. I watch my portion sizes and plan my days using the traditional food pyramid as my guide.
For me being physically fit goes a long way to ensuring that I am mentally fit. I like having goals or events that I am working towards, there are plenty of those out there for runners which makes it easy to find the next one. I have some really great friends who are runners too and we bounce of each other which really helps to keep the motivation there.
Where do you find inspiration for your recipes?
I have piles of cookbooks and cooking magazines and I turn to them for inspiration when I want to try something new or find something specific but I rarely cook directly from them. I am more inclined to adapt them to suit myself.
Mostly I am inspired by fresh veggies and fruit. What we eat is actually quite repetitive but by mixing flavours and combinations of ingredients I regularly come up with new things. I am pretty confident about what works well with what and will often work from an idea in my head.
From time to time I am inspired by a dish I have eaten in a restaurant, I slow cook meat most weeks now after a particularly memorable meal of American Barbecue in Brooklyn, NY last year! We can’t get enough.
Despite having a very healthy diet, I notice you also like to indulge a little on chocolate now and again. Why do you think it is sensible to occasionally indulge in sweet treats?
Life is too short to live inside some rigid diet all the time. I think it makes life too complicated and I love food too much to even try.
Chocolate (amongst other things) are there to be savoured so why wouldn’t you? I would rather indulge on something amazing from time to time than eat something of lower quality regularly. For example I make mashed potatoes only a couple of times a year these days but I make them using in season top quality spuds, with butter and truffle oil to just take them over the top.
Most of what I eat (and consequently my family eats) is really good, healthy stuff so it just makes the experience of tucking into something decadent even more fabulous. As far as educating my kids I don’t talk about good and bad foods, when we are talking about food we discuss what tastes better and makes them feel good inside. It’s not a matter of ‘brainwashing’ them into thinking a certain way, I hope that my approach is more one of allowing them to apply their own logic to their decisions.
Tatum is proactive in her healthy lifestyle approach and is consistently looking at ways to keep things moving in a healthy direction. And the bonus is, she is willing to share her knowledge with us. She has recently started a weekly newsletter whereby she formulates a week’s worth of meal ideas with links to all the recipes. Talk about making life easier for us all! The newsletter is a clickable pictogram and aside from being pretty to look at it is extremely useful and functional. Tatum will be adding a shopping list component to it in future too. Head over and get subscribed, it has to be a good thing!