Tag Archives: chef

Weekend Coffee Share… 5th August, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week, I’m a year older and wiser, after celebrating my Birthday on Monday. I’m not going to get into the specifics. However, I can still claim to be in my 40’s, although I’m now hanging on by my fingertips!!!

My birthday was fairly low key. The kids went away skiing at Perisher with the Scouts, and my husband and I stayed home. From memory, we crashed out most of the time and slept. It’s still Winter here and I’m still inclined to hibernate. That said, we’re now starting to head into t-shirt weather by day, although it’s still pretty cold at night. Just to put you in the picture,  it was 9-19°C today.

Masterchef Australia 2018 Title Goes To Indian Origin Prison Guard Sashi Cheliah

Last Tuesday night, was the Finale of Masterchef Australia 2019. Have you ever watched Masterchef? You guys come from all over but the show seems to have something of a global audience. I’ve been a diehard, loyal fan since it first appeared 10 years ago when Julie Goodwin became Australia’s 1st Masterchef. Given how much I’ve always loved cooking, especially baking, it’s no wonder I love the show. However, I don’t just watch it as a cooking show. Rather, I’m lured right in, watching the highs and lows, the conquests and defeats of the human spirit. While I’m sure all these contestants are perfectionists by nature and extremely driven, making mistakes on the show is par for the course. The key, however, is not to have two bad cooks in a row, because that’s what sends you home. I made no secret at home, that 19 year old Jess Liemantara was my favourite, although as she faced pressure test after pressure test, it didn’t seem likely that she was going to last the distance. However, she eventually survived long enough to place fourth…a great achievement. The finale saw Ben and Sashi fight it out. While Sashi had been a strong contender throughout and an obvious winner, his form dropped back a bit in those last final cooks and I thought Ben had the title in the bag. However, it wasn’t meant to be, and Sashi romped home with the largest score in Masterchef history.

I’m not much of a TV watcher, but I’ve been left feeling a distinct void since Masterchef ended, even though it’s clearly time I caught up on my violin practice which has been an unfortunate casualty. I’m also waiting on the transcripts of the bigamy case I’ve mentioned a few times. My 3 x Great Grandfather, John Johnston was convicted of bigamy in New Zealand in 1864 and I’m waiting on them to arrive before I do more research on that front.

Asher Hart 1931 record Breaker

Instead, I’ve dug up my research on my grandfather’s second cousin, Asher Hart, who was a swimming champion during the 1930s. However, in 1932, he contracted polio and spent four months in Sydney Hospital in plaster. I didn’t expect Asher to rise from the horrors of polio and certainly not return to competitive swimming and being a lifesaver at Sydney’s Bondi Beach. However, slowly but surely he got back on his feet and into training and his father, Reg, massaged his legs every night for 18 months. He didn’t throw him back into competition either. Rather, he valued rest as much as training and instituted what seems to be a pretty level-headed training regime. I’m still nutting out all his various achievements. However, in 1938 a mini tsunami hit Bondi Beach and hundreds of people needed to be rescued. Moreover, most of them couldn’t swim. Five people drowned that day, but Asher Hart saved four lives. I am so proud of him. Not just because he’s family, but because I’ve also survived the horrors of debilitating illness and for him to be able to do all of that, blows me away. I’m in awe. Indeed, when I first put the pieces of his story together five years ago, my muscle disease had flared up and I had my own questions of whether I was going to get my own muscle strength back, along with very real concerns that my lungs were steadily turning into concrete. I needed a hero. Not any kind of hero, but someone who was where I was at and climbed out. I’ve recently found out that he didn’t recover full strength in his legs, but his arms and shoulders compensated. He was certainly an extraordinary man, and from what I’ve also read, his character was equally inspiring. I am yearning to find out more.

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Black Sunday Bondi, 1938. 

Speaking of which, I read a fantastic book this week: My Australian Story: Black Sunday by Evan McHugh. It recounts the story of “Nipper” a 12 year old Bondi lad who is desperate to become a lifesaver. However, it is 1938 and back then you needed to turn 16 and get your Bronze Medallion before you could join up. However, keen as mustard, Nipper starts training, swimming in the surf. The story goes off on many twists and turns and doesn’t just focus on Black Sunday itself, but provides more of an overview of what it was like to grow up and live in Bondi Beach at the time. It also places it within its historic context of the Great Depression, and the rise and rise of Adolf Hitler as the world steadily marches towards another world war. One of Nipper’s friends was a Jewish regugee from Germany.  I found it a gripping, easy read and couldn’t put it down. Read it in a day. Highly recommend it.

Book

 

I’ve also started reading Raphaelle Giordano’s: Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You Only Have One, which I spotted while on holidays at Blackheath but requested as a birthday gift from my mum when I returned home. I’m really enjoying it so far. I love a philosophical, reflective read and so far, this one shows promise. However, it didn’t get a very encouraging review from Sydney Morning Herald Reviewer, Cameron Woodhead, who could well be true to name:  “This awkwardly titled, though bestselling, French novel claims to have made 2 million readers happier. It didn’t make me happier. But then, I didn’t grow spiritually from reading Eat, Pray, Love. Raphaelle Giordano has created the kind of shallow feel-good novel that resembles a self-help book, with the same tiresome platitudes, the same hyper-focus on personal fulfilment.”

However, life hasn’t been all about reading during the last week and indulging in Masterchef. Today, we helped one of my support workers move house. Her situation was untenable and she needed to move in a hurry. I rang a friend from Church with a van and trailer and recruited my husband and son and off we went. It’s not easy to move in a hurry and while I kept myself pretty light when I was in share accommodation, she had the full kaboodle and was moving to a first floor flat with a narrow staircase. So, the guys hoisted the bed up over the balcony and my dear son proved himself a man and quite a rock helping without complaining and doing what needed to be done. Our team of men, and our friend’s son, showed how male strength can be used for good and make a difference. I was not only very proud of them. It touched my heart. I was really thrilled we pulled off the move because it’s not easy for me to help other people in practical ways with my health issues and just this once, we pulled it off. I was able to be the sort of person I admire and want to be…a helper and not a drowning soul myself. I have grown so much stronger.

In terms of what I’ve posted this week, I did my usual contribution for Friday Fictioneers. This week’s contribution was : Secret Shed Business. I also posted a newspaper clipping I came across of my grandmother, concert pianist, Eunice Gardiner. I’ve never seen this photo before, but it showed my grandmother carrying her first son in a backpack and talking about how she attaches the baby on the front to go to the shops. Meanwhile,all in the same breath, she talked about giving a Beethoven recital at the NSW Conservatorium of Music. The baby was three months old at this point. My grandmother was something of a superhuman, although she didn’t go it alone. She had considerable support, despite my grandfather being away with the Army. In was 1943. The Japanese had already knocked on Sydney Harbour. These were very difficult times and yet she played on.

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Lady with the pups when they first arrived a year ago. 

Lastly, I just thought I’d finish up with a  bit of a tribute to the dog. It seemed everywhere I turned last week, people were caught up in serious trouble and needed an ear. Indeed, I was starting to wonder if there was anybody who was feeling on top of the world. That life was good. By this point, my own gear had moved into neutral, the observer…it’s an easy place for a writer to sit and turn into something of a home.

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A simplistic interpretation…or is it?

Then, I looked up at my dogs…Lady, the Border collie x Cavalier and Rose and Zac our year old Border collie x Kelpies who are brother and sister from the same litter…our “twins”. Just the sound of the car pulling into the driveway, is ecstasy. Rosie is always there with her ball, stick, or fragments thereof, full of drive and enthusiasm. Zac is inclined to whimper when a door closes on him but he doesn’t forget how to wag his tail. It is no coinsidence that we have three dogs in our family and if we lived on acreage, there’d be a fourth…one each. They are simply the best!

Hope you’ve had a great week!

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

 

Welcome to My Birthday Coffee Share 30th July, 2017.

Welcome to My Birthday Coffee Share!

It’s my birthday today. So, come along and join me. We can grab a huge chunk of sludgy chocolate cake with our coffee and swing from the chandeleir, until the whole  darn thing rips out of the ceiling. I might just leave out the bit about us falling to our doom.

I cherish each and every birthday and am grateful to be getting older…most of the time. I’ve never looked in the mirror and seen the wrinkles. However, I must confess that I’m profoundly short-sighted and as time’s gone by, I’m near sighted as well. So, I’d be lucky to see a fault line on my face, let alone a wrinkle without my glasses.

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Birthday Breakfast.

Anyway, we’ve had a fantastic day. It started out with a sleep-in. Our daughter made me a cheese and salami omelette, which she cooked up in heart-shaped silicone moulds. It really touched my heart.

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Mother and Son.

Not to be outdone by his sister, our son made pancakes for lunch and effortlessly flipped it. The smile on his face from pulling this off was priceless. He was stoked. I spent much of the day in my PJs, which I feel is the perfect birthday attire, especially for the middle of Winter. Then, we were ferrying our daughter to and from a last dance class before her exam tomorrow. She was be sitting for the RAD Grade 4 Class Award.

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Next, we were off for dinner with my parents at theThe Coast Bar & Restaurant, located on the Gosford Waterfront. I ordered a Pina Colada by some other name and shared a seafood platter. I wasn’t too sure about whether I would like the oysters. I’ve never been a huge fan. However, your tastes mature. So I thought I’d give them a try. I loved them. My mother has always been a huge lover of oysters and she’s always said that they taste like the sea. This was the first time I’ve ever eaten oysters where I’ve got that. They had that flavour of the sea and then, it suddenly intensified. Boom! They also had some charcoal coated prawns which were very crunchy and yum. Oops! I almost forgot to mention the lobster mornay. unfortunately, there was so much to enjoy and limited capacity.

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Glasses? This might come as a surprise to you, but I always wear glasses but almost always take them off for photos. This is how I see myself. However, Geoff and the kids see me like this and think I look weird without them. Geoff actually likes to catch me with the glasses on. My shameful secret. 

For dessert, I had the cheese cake with salted caramel and chocolate ganache. That was so smooth and the presentation was incredibly artistic with a wave of caramel poised in suspended animation just asking to be photographed. Naturally, we had my camera there and that was more fun capturing those priceless memories of the family, and exploring some creative, photographic options.

Rewinding now to the rest of the week…

Yesterday, I went to an all-day drug and alcohol seminar at the local community centre. While this was geared towards people caring for someone living with drug and alcohol addiction (which I am not), it was also providing information on drugs and I thought my husband and I need to be more clued up. However, I not only learned so much about drug addiction, but I also learned some new strategies for getting through traumatic and conflicted family situations. So, it was really worthwhile.

During the week, my parenting skills were sorely challenged yet again when I caught our dog skyping the Queensland Governor’s do, Gavel from MY laptop at 2.00 AM. She gave me a bit of a woman-to-woman glance and crooned: “There’s nothing like a dog in uniform!” Turns out Gavel was training to become a Police dog. However, after being snubbed for being  “too friendly”, the Governor kept him on and he’s now been recruited as the Vice-Regal Dog. Well, thinking of herself as a real blue-blood, Lady’s fallen deep for Gavel. Or, was it all that bling on his coat and connections with the Royal Corgis.

Of course, I  snatched back my laptop and it’s now being stored in our room overnight.

However, my close friend who also has the rabbits and chickens which were of great interest to Lady, will be driving to Queensland this week. With a carload of kids all running helter skelter, I can just picture this sneaky little black dog who’s colouring enables to move with great stealth. She can’t chase a ball, but she can hunt AND she can hide.

You can read about Lady’s love life here: Love Is A Dog In Uniform. 

Rowena Backpacking

I also took part in Friday Fictioneers again this week. This week’s effort was inspired by my trip to Europe in 1992. A week after I’d left, I’d had wallet stolen, I’d lost my passport and I was missing a love interest back home in Australia, and I burst into tears as I was locking my backpack in a locker and wanted to go home. I found a telephone booth and phoned the bloke back home. I still remember standing there feeding that handful of coins into the phone with such desperation. I’d fallen apart on the other side of the world, where I knew nobody and nobody knew me. That thought didn’t hit me at the time. However, in hindsight it does. That utter dislocation from everyone and everything you know. Back then, it wasn’t like now where you can leave home without leaving home and Skype people. You also have email, Facebook. Travel just isn’t travel anymore. You’re still attached to the umbillical cord. Not doing it tough. You can read my flash Here

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Well, that just about covers it. Can’t remember the rest. So, it must’ve been good.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana over at Part-Time Monster Blog.

I hope you’ve had a wonderful weekend.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Masterchef 2017 Finale…Three Minutes To Go.

Tonight, I wanted to share the magic, pressure and suspense of the Masterchef 2017 Grand Finale with you from the comfort of my loungeroom, which may not be so cosy with all of us in it.

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Fake Bilbo watching Masterchef with the family.

As much as I love Masterchef, it does terrible things to your nerves and loyalties. I had no idea who was going to win this year and the producers were very sneaky. They built up all these other characters and we pinned our dreams onto them, only to watch them fall like dominoes as their hope and dreams were dashed, along with our own.

There’s been much discussion, at least in our house, about who was going to take out this year’s title. It wasn’t who we thought. Indeed, you could say this year’s winner fell under the radar, but in aiming for the thrilling twist at the end, I presume the producers kept her fairly low key throughout. Yet, she was incredibly consistent, had the inner stillness  you need to overcome all these uber-stressful challenges, and she plated up with such flair. Of course, I obviously can’t comment on the taste. Indeed,  watching Masterchef makes the perfect case for taste-TV.

Obviously, in the time it’s taken me to write this post, my three minutes has well and truly expired. The show is over and tonight is almost gone as well.

I know who won.

However, we’re just going to reverse back a bit and go back to the start of tonight’s show. Back to where I was poised in front of the TV set with only three minutes to go.

….

Tonight, we’re parked in front of the TV watching the finale of Masterchef Australia 2017, where Diana Chang and Ben Ungermann are fighting it out. We have watched every single episode at least once. Well, at least I have. I’m hooked.

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It seems it takes more than divine intervention to win Masterchef. It really looks like I caught Ben in prayer in this snapshot.

While they had to get through three challenges tonight, the first two are a prelude to the dessert challenge. I swear the judges must travel the globe to find the trickiest, bastard of a dessert on earth. I’m not even sure that a word exists to describe their dessert challenge which was terror stacked on terror.

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Trust me. This is the dessert they had to recreate and not real fruit.

Tonight this involved tackling a dessert by “Queen of Chocolate”  Kirsten Tibballs  When they lifted the cloche to reveal their challenge, there was platter of fruit sitting there and I was thinking…where is it? Where’s the dessert? Well, those fruits were the desserts. If you think recreating the outside is tricky, the interior was worse. As beautiful as it looked and surely tasted, it was pure hell in terms of complexity and technique, with layer upon layer of scrumptiousness. Well, it would’ve been if I’d been there to actually taste this thing, instead of watching the whole thing from my lounge chair at home, feeling like I was on the set of Gogglebox

 

 

Just to share a bit of the action. I took some screen shots with my camera (definitely NOT my phone. Get real!!) and you can see rows of my prized tea cup collection on the shelf above the TV. So, you can feel right at home, even though there are no photos of me. My SLR doesn’t do selfies. That’s justification enough for me!!

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You can get some “interesting” effects photographing things on TV.

So, as it turned out, Diana won Masterchef 2017. Congratulations! Well done and well deserved.

However, I couldn’t help feel sorry for Ben who came in at number 2 and Karlie at number 3. So close and yet, too far.

Of course, this leaves me with the terrible realization that everybody on Masterchef 2017 has gone home, including the judges, and there will be a huge void in my TV wtahcing. Well, at least until The Batchelor starts on Wednesday night. This year’s Batchelor is Matty J, who was the runner up in the Bachelorette last year, so we’re old mates. Not that I watch a lot of TV. However, I do find these TV competititons the ultimate in people watching. They fascinate me. Well, the ones where the contestants are nice to each other do. I switch the rest off. There’s enough bitchiness and hate in this world without adding to it or becoming part of the audience.

Indeed, I’d much rather watch Friends. That’s what the Masterchef contestants were for 2017, and I think for every other year too. Despite the huge stakes, there’s such a supportive and enouraging vibe and I truly love it. So much  so, that I’ll be playing it again Sam. Watching re-runs on catch up TV without shame.

Who knows, one day I might even throw my hat into the ring with Rowena’s Vegemite Toast. 

Something tells me, I might need to reinvent that dish just a little…

Have you ever watched Masterchef and what sort of cook are you? Do you have a speciality dish? Mine would be pavlova.

xx Rowena

The Masterchef & the Rabbit.

Rabbits are usually the target, and not the decoy. However, this was no ordinary Rabbit.

This was Rabbit as in “Rabbit & Julie Goodwin” Star FM’s breakfast radio hosts. A few weeks ago, I was contacted by our local radio station. I was simply told that I’d won a prize and Rabbit would be at my house on Monday morning. Mia on the phone didn’t say much and was very adept at evading questions.

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Naturally, I had to do something for Rabbit’s visit. Create a bit of theatre. On Sunday night, I finally came up with the idea of Mad Hatters Tea Party…an Alice in Wonderland theme. After all, where is White Rabbit? I have quite a lot of Alice in Wonderland paraphernalia and it all came together very well….especially with some home-made, gluten free cupcakes which our daughter decorated. I also tied a scarf to the massive Norfolk Pine Tree in our front yard so they could find our house (as if they couldn‘t spot the crowd in the front yard and the tea party and don’t have GPS.) Well, my daughter and her friend were feeling “bored” and nabbed armfuls of my scarves and tied them to the tree. It looked fantastic, but very out there.

Suddenly, Rabbit and Mia arrived…along with a cameraman. Now, I should warn you that Rabbit knows how to keep a straight face and tell pure porky pies without flinching. Rabbit apologises that Julie couldn’t be there and presents me with a signed cookbook…Julie Goodwin: The Essential Cookbook.

As much as I appreciated the cookbook, I sensed there was more. That something else was up his sleeve. After all, they could’ve posted the book. AND, a radio station wouldn’t film someone who isn’t the author, presenting a book.

Then…  a dashing white mini convertible with “COOKING” on the number plate, pulls into our driveway and out steps Julie Goodwin, Australia’s first Masterchef. She’d arrived at our place with a meal…butter chicken, rice with saffron and we were off to the kitchen to prepare the salad together…and for the cameras.

OMG!!! Obviously, I’ve never been the mild-mannered reporter type, but I was uber-excited. I was so happy, that I all but burst into song. Julie was here!

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Well, you might ask why Julie Goodwin came here. After all, our place is hardly Masterchef Central.

Well, that’s a long story.

As I said, I received a message from the radio station a few weeks ago saying I’d won a prize. I suspected this was in response to a post I’d written after Rabbit and Julie Goodwin hosted the breakfast show on Star FM at our daughter’s school. I’ve been a mad Julie Goodwin fan ever since I first saw her battling it out on Masterchef eight years ago.

When I heard that Julie and Rabbit were going to be at my daughter’s school, I drove the 45 minutes up the freeway along with her cookbook and my heart was almost palpitating. Once I saw her on air, I was absolutely transfixed and I found it so hard to pull myself back and harder still to watch her leave… “Julie! Julie!”

Pathetic, I know! Yet, there was just something about Julie, which made me feel home. There was something about her which calmed a raging sea I didn’t understand. I was having a wonderful day and yet something inside me was drowning. The waves were crashing overhead and yet there were blue skies and things were the best they’d been in a long time. Indeed, I’d even become a believer in miracles.

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My daughter and I with Rabbit and Julie at her school.

Anyway,  when I wrote about meeting Julie, I made a tongue-in-cheek remark about how Julie’s never dropped around here with a meal. Of course, I’d never expected that, but around the time season one of Masterchef went to air, I’d been diagnosed with a life-threatening acute auto-immune disease called dermatomyositis, where your muscles attack themselves causing debilitating weakness. Although I’d improved, I wasn’t out of the woods. Our kids were aged 5 and 3 at the time and with Mummy being an endangered species, it wasn’t uncommon for Church or friends to drop in a meal. It’s what you do.

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Dinner with Julie (she’s the cookbook at the end of the table).

Now, I’ve not only received a meal from Julie. I also have another of her cookbooks and it’s time for me to share the love. Pass it forward…at least to my own family.

Bon Appetit!

xx Rowena

PS You might also enjoy reading Bilbo’s account of events. I must admit he did write quite a lot about himself: The Queen of the Kitchen.

Tasmanian Cheese Temptation.

“I can resist everything except temptation.”

– Oscar Wilde

There’s an unwritten code at free tastings. It’s understood that “a taste”, does NOT equate to a free feast. Yet, who hasn’t gone back for more? Seconds? Thirds? No one’s watching. Or, are they???!!!

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After all, is that mirror really a mirror? Or,  is it actually a two-way, and they’ve employed the ultimate in nerdy bean counters to count how many pieces you’ve snaffled? That’s right. They could be paying someone to sit in a back room all day, every day, counting how many “tastes” we’ve each had.
I had my doubts. Yet, was I prepared to take a chance?
As you might recall, the family and I are on a three week holiday in Tasmania. Last night, at least as far as the blog is concerned, we drove back “home” from Port Arthur to Devonport. Now, we’re heading off to Ashgrove Cheese, conveniently located on the Bass Highway at Elizabeth Town (this is the road between Devonport and Launceston).

It is an unfortunate truth that the majority of you will never make it to Tasmania and won’t have the opportunity to visit Ashgrove Cheese for themselves. For this reason, I’m only going to touch on the variety of cheeses available and focus more on the universal cheese tasting experience itself. This is something you can hopefully experience closer to home. Ashgrove Cheese is also available in supermarkets on the Australian mainland, although there’s a much greater variety available in Tasmania and through their store and online.

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I’m hoping some of that cow happiness rubs off on me. Bring it on!

Anyway, getting back to the tasting…
With our usual bull-in-a-china shop enthusiasm, we headed for the tasting table. Of course, I should remember which cheeses were out for tasting. However, I was too busy eating and dreaming of cheese, to take in such details. Of course, I remembered the Wild Wasabi Cheese, because we usually have it at home. There was also the Lavender Cheese, which was my favourite, until the kids found the Havarti Cheese with Bacon flavouring. There was also an Ashgrove Smoked Cheddar, Rubicon Red (a red Leicester type of cheese), Mr Bennett’s Blue, Bush Pepper and a Chilli cheese.
This was when I ran into trouble. Make that TROUBLE!!
Obviously, a taste wasn’t enough. I wanted: “MORE!” (remember infamous Oliver Twist!!)
Being powerless to resist temptation, I started to wonder  whether anyone would notice if I just happened to sneak a second piece of Lavender Cheese.
By this point, my taste buds had gone into overdrive and any sense of manners, etiquette or even the sacred Golden Rule,  had gone out the window. All I could hear was that primeval cry straight from the 80’s: “greed is good”. That, and a little wee voice, which could well have been the devil himself, saying: “No one will notice if you take another piece.”

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However, I’m not so sure. Although I’m a foreigner “from the Mainland”, there’s still that persistent fear of getting caught and I’m not sure what they do to people who eat more than their share at tastings.

Do you know if these places have video surveillance? As I mentioned before, I did wonder whether they kept some poor sod out the back who has to count how many pieces of cheese we’ve eaten. Then, anyone who goes back for more is immediately exterminated.

Despite all my moral principles, I could see myself guzzling the entire platter of luscious lavender cheese, when red lights start flashing. Sirens blaring, an announcement now comes over the PA: “Lady, you’ve had 17 pieces of cheese. Please leave the building.”

Or worse still, they might call the cops. Then, I’ll be leaving in handcuffs before being unceremoniously thrown into the paddy wagon…or even in the stocks!
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I was concerned this could be my fate if I kept “tasting” the cheese. You’ll find out more about the reference to “Crackpot” soon.

Yet, as much as I want to keep eating my way through that scrumptious stash of Lavender cheese and move onto the Wasabi with all the stealth of a cunning mouse, I’m restraining myself. There’s still this unwritten code holding me back: “Thou shalt only take one piece.” It might not be one of the Ten Commandments, but going for seconds has got people into a lot of trouble. You just ask some of those poor convicts who’d been transported out to Tasmania when it was still Van Dieman’s Land! Greed isn’t always good after all!

Fortunately, you can buy your own stash of Ashgrove Cheese at the factory and have a serious feast back home. I also bought a few extras as well…coconut ice and caramel fudge, which have nothing to do with cheese and we also had a round of Ashgrove Ice Creams, which is more than worth flying down to Tassie for. They were so yum and when it’s made by “the happiest cows on the planet”, you couldn’t ask for more!

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Nothing like having an ice cream for each hand. Yet, this photo warrants close inspection. My daughter is pretending to be me. She put on my glasses and is “taking photos”. You could say this is a different type of “selfie”!

However, our day of indulgent food tastings didn’t end there.Nor did my battles with temptation!

After leaving Ashgrove Farms, we headed over to Anvers Chocolates at La Trobe. That deserves a write up all of its own. So, stay tuned.

Meanwhile, I’m heading off to convince my cousin that she should re-think her wedding cake. Why have fruit cake, when you could be having a scrumptious Ashgrove Cheese Tower, instead? Besides, cheese is gluten free!!

However, the prospect of a lonely little Cheese Tower, leads me to a whole new level of TROUBLE and I’m now wondering how much time I’d get for stealing a cheese tower? Who knows? I might actually be able to finish writing my book in solitary confinement!

Do you have any cheese confessions to share? I’d love to hear them and I promise I won’t ring the Police!

xx Rowena

Ashgrove Cheese  is located at 6173 Bass Highway, Elizabeth Town, Tasmania 7304.

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I told you they have the happiest cows on earth!

My Affair With A Chocolate Mookie.

Yesterday, I met my chocolate Adonais and fell deeply in love. Indeed, staring doe-eyed at his lush sensual exquisiteness, it was love at first sight. I was swooning.

Of course, I couldn’t dream of taking a bite and spoiling such untouched perfection straight away. Or, heaven forbid, brutally stab it with my fork.

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Meeting My Mookie.

Oh no! I had to wait.Soak it all up with my eyes.

A flawlessly smooth, dark chocolate dome with a purple pansy on top and a smattering of magic gold dust, I was in love. Not Tim Tam love, which I experience almost every night with my evening cup of decaf tea. No, this was something inter-galactic. A wild, unrestrained passion, which sent all of my senses into overdrive.

Indeed, my passion was so strong, that I even started to question myself. Blown away by feelings so far beyond lust, attraction and soul mates created in the same forge, I felt such a strong vibe between us. Yet, I am a married woman…a married woman with two kids, two dogs and a home. I had a lot at stake.

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So, naturally I had to wonder whether my love for this luscious chocolate creation called a “Mookie”, equated to a betrayal of my sacred marriage vows. Had I committed the ultimate, unforgivable sin? Me who puts such weight on the importance of good character and holds the Golden Rule as my personal holy grail? Would I now be going direct to hell, without so much as a stop at Go to collect my $200?

It was starting to look that way.

Yet, as I said, I still hadn’t taken a bite. I hadn’t actually crossed that line.

Then, my cappuccino arrived.

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It’s a sign….love on a cappuccino.   Photo: Rowena Newton.

That’s when I knew it was love. Not lust, fancy or a momentary lapse of reason but the real thing. There was a heart etched in the foam. It was a sign! We were going to be together forever and ever living happily ever after.

However, if our relationship was really going to kick off, I couldn’t keep sitting there goggle-eyed. I had to make a move, even if it ultimately meant my lover’s death, as we fused together becoming one flesh.

I wasn’t disappointed. Indeed, I could feel myself diving through his lush chocolate sweetness in the same way I’d paddled through that chocolate river as a kid watching Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. It was an out of body experience.

Adonais, who in real life goes by the name Mookie, could well be described as “a work of art”. However, paint never tasted this good. I savoured each delicate mouthful and then, as I’d long suspected, Mookie had a heart…a heart of rich, red tangy raspberry gel.

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Mookie’s Beautiful heart.   Photo: Rowena Newton.

What more could a woman want?

By the way, while I’m delving into Mookie’s anatomical details, I should also mention that he sits on a biscuit base, known as a chocolate sable (I cheated and had to ask. When it comes to food writing, I am very much a novice and could well have described it as a “whatsy-me-call-it” or “thinga-me-gig”). If you have ever watched Masterchef, then you’ll know that a sensational dessert has to have sweetness, creaminess, tang to cut through as well as that all important “crunch”. So, the biscuit provided the crunch, although I thought I also detected a subtle touch of crunch in the mouse but couldn’t be sure.

Naturally, when you fall so deeply in love, you want to spend the rest of your life together. Say “I do”. Walk down the aisle and head off together on the ultimate chocolate honeymoon.

However, I’m a married woman and there’s the added complication of my kids. How could I possibly run away from home? Leave Geoff and the kids, not to mention the two dogs, behind? Trade all of that in for a Mookie? Or, to to be precise, a succession of Mookies. After all, one Mookie could never be enough.

That was when reality threw quite a spanner in the works and I had to wake up.

So, that was it. I had to leave Mookie behind. Be responsible and call it quits. Of course, our final adieu was filled with such anguish but I took a deep breath and made the break. Toughened up.

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Delectable Delights!         Photo: Rowena Newton.

However, before heading home, I had to atone for my sins. Sorry, Mookie. I didn’t take you with me. Wanting to try more of the selection, I bought a Mango Yuzu (a mango mouse) and a Tiramisu for the family (which, of course, included me!)

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Heaven on Earth.

After all, the family would have killed me once I confessed to going to Koi, a dessert bar in Sydney’s urban Chippendale, not far from Central Station, and didn’t bring anything home.

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                Reynold Poernomo                                                  Photo: Rowena Newton

While you could wonder how my kids know anything about a dessert bar in urban Sydney, Koi is owned by the family of Reynold Poernomo who we all fell in love with on Masterchef 2015. Reynold made the most exquisite desserts, which totally tantalized my tastebuds. Indeed, I found out about Koi when Reynold returned to the show last week and the contestants had to make his dessert: “Moss”.

Indeed, as much as I LOVE watching Masterchef, it can be incredibly cruel watching all those scrumptious dishes on TV and you can’t taste a thing. It’s particularly hard, too, when you’re there eating leftovers and the hero of your dish is a limp carrot, which somehow responded to CPR when it should have been “retired” to the worm farm.

“Such is life”, Australian bushranger, Ned Kelly, said before being hanged at the gallows.

I know what he meant.

So, that is what took me to Koi while I was down in Sydney heading to a medical appointment on the other side of Sydney Harbour. It was to fulfil all of my unadulterated chocolate fantasies and I wasn’t disappointed.

Indeed, I know I’ll be back.

However, before I leave, I have one last wish.

I wish I could be a kid again and lick the plate. While it’s not a good look for a 40 something mother of two (that’s how similar acts of insanity are routinely reported in the news), leaving even those few last remaining crumbs, is such a waste!

I’m sure you’d agree!

xx Rowena

PS I will admit that after I finished my Mookie, I did consider buying a second dessert. I was there alone without anyone watching, pointing the finger or calling me a glutton. I could do whatever I liked. Moreover, it was lunch time and surely God isn’t going to strike me down if I have two desserts for lunch just this once…even if I do have a Vegemite sandwich from home stashed away in my bag. It wouldn’t be the first time that a sandwich has arrived home untouched… Thanks kids!! However, I behaved but only because I know I’ll be back!

Koi is located at 46 Kensington Street, Chippendale, Sydney.

Phone 02 9212-1230.

Laugh or Cry: Overcoming Birthday Caketastrophes!

Tomorrow, is our son’s 11th Birthday and of course, it’s going to be bigger than Ben Hur.

Surprise! Surprise! I decided to bake a Chocolate Cake and I’m jazzing it up with a caramel and whipped cream filling and smothering the lot with lashings of Milk Chocolate Ganache and a sprinkling of M & Ms. I know that sounds really indulgent,even decadent, but you only have a birthday once a year!

Chocolate cake…You can’t go wrong with chocolate cake.

The meaning of life can be found in Mummy's bowl.

The meaning of life can be found in Mummy’s bowl.

However, you obviously haven’t heard about my luck with making birthday cakes. It’s so bad that I’ve dubbed it: “The Great Birthday Cake Curse”!! For some strange reason, every single birthday cake I’ve ever made has been cursed, doomed, even double-doomed, as all sorts of dreadful complications set in.

Yet, with the precision of a surgeon, I painstakingly restore the cake and save the day.

Hey, who am I kidding?

There’s nothing precise about me in the kitchen. Rather, I’m very “slap dash”, whacking on the icing to camouflage near-fatal, structural craters, which are so deep that you could hide a semi-trailer inside…even an entire road train!!

Yet, despite these devastating catastrophes, I overcame the hurdles and had that cake out on the plate, candles alight with everybody singing “Happy Birthday”.

My husband’s uncle, who was a builder, always used to say that the difference between an amateur and a professional is being able to cover up their mistakes. Looking at how I’ve patched up my cakes, I can’t help wondering how many houses down in NE Tasmania are being held together by lumps of icing? It’s one of the world’s greatest gap fillers!!

Despite my birthday caketastrophes, I’m renowned for my scrumptious pavlovas and choc-chip cookies. Indeed,  when I took my choc chip cookies to scouts recently, I was quite the pied piper attracting throngs of little admirers. Indeed, after seeing the cookies in action, I decided to throw out my copy of How To Win Friends & Influence People and simply hand out cookies instead.

This only compounds my confusion. What’s the deal with the birthday cakes? Why do I have so much trouble? Who knows? It remains one of life’s great mysteries!

No doubt being more practical than yours truly, I can hear you wondering why I don’t just buy a cake instead? Why do I keep torturing myself birthday cake after agonising birthday cake? Talk about a masochist!

Well, if you have ever made a birthday cake for someone you love, you’ll know precisely why I have to make these @#$% birthday cakes myself. That’s right. I add that magic ingredient…my love. You can’t buy, manufacture or even fake that and it’s not something you can buy off the supermarket shelf!

So here I am the night before Mister’s big 11th birthday expecting a tribe of friends at his party. The cakes have been baked without incident.  Everything is proceeding exceptionally well.

That was until it came to whipping the cream . A relatively simple task but that’s what turned the tide. Actually, make that whipping the low-fat lactose-free cream. Mister and other family members are lactose intolerant. I was concerned that being low-fat might be a problem but I’m ever the optimist.

I’d been beating the absolute crap out of the cream and it was still sploshing around like milk in the bowl when it should have been resembling butter, if not cheese. It had also splattered  absolutely all over the bench, anything parked on it and all down my shirt. That was when I dug out my magnifying glass and had a closer look at the label. My eyesight isn’t what it used to be.  Oh my goodness! There it was. “Not suitable for whipping”. The cake was doomed. The party was doomed.Disaster!!!

It was 11.00PM. The shops were shut and I had two cakes which desperately needed to be sandwiched together. In my desperation, I thought the caramel might just be enough. Being my usual Einstein self, I thought that if I scooped the thicker layer of cream off the “milk” and mixed it with the caramel, to put it good old colloquial Australian lingo: “she’ll be right, mate”.

However…

Instead of bulking up the caramel, the cream almost turned it liquid.  My only hope was that it would fill up the bubbles in the cake before it ran off the edge and onto the plate. Taking a chance, I hoisted up the second layer of cake and prayed it would stay put, despite slipping and sliding around on roller skates. My only hope now was that the chocolate ganache would hold the cake together against all odds.

Not to be deterred by my humble prayers, catastrophe followed catastrophe and if I hadn’t developed resilience from all my previous birthday cake disasters, there would have been tears, loud wailing and unceasing sobs  as I cried and cried and cried….the world’s biggest loser of a Mum!

It might not be my party, but I’ll cry if I want to!! You would cry too if this had happened to you!

I'm not the only one who gets stressed out by birthday parties!

I’m not the only one who gets stressed out by birthday parties!

It’s My Party: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCPqaG8sVDE

 

Then and I guess you can see it coming, the @#$% cream stuffed up the ganache, which was sploshing like a chocolate milkshake. Desperate, I added cup after cup of icing sugar, trying to thicken it up. I’d poured in half the bag and it was still looking sloppy but at least, it was holding some shape. I poured the “ganache” over the cake and I looking like a human pretzel, I crossed everything I had to boost my luck.

But no! The ganache flowed over the top of the cake and kept going creating a moat around the poor, drowning cake. The river was so deep, you could literally kayak through it. Definitely not the look I was looking for so I started bailing the ganache out with a ladle and not unsurprisingly, it sploshed all over the bench and that’s when I found the dog not unsurprisingly underfoot.

This is where the birthday cake curse worked in my favour. Not being my first salvage operation, I had a few  tricks up my sleeve. In this instance, the answer had to be M & Ms. They cover up a multitude of sin. Although thanks to that wretched low fat lactose free “cream”, even they mucked up and were sliding down the cake. @#$%!!!

However, just when you think you’ve hit rock bottom, there’s salvation.

All's well that ends well.

All’s well that ends well.

I could have hugged one of my son’s friends. As he takes his first mouthful, he speaks up like a true Masterchef:

“I know what this is. It’s chocolate mouse!”

I’ve never been so thrilled. The chocolate ganache monster had a name and it was good.

Guess, it goes to show that you can’t go wrong with a chocolate cake after all!

By the way, here’s a past post about Birthday Cakes: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=5947&action=edit&message=6&postpost=v2

Do you have any funny birthday stories to share? I’d love to hear them!!

xx Rowena