Got out of the gym to the crushing realisation that I left my wallet at home, and there wasn’t enough time to get it. No cafe treats for me. Also my bike seat was covered in freshly splattered birdshit.
I got to work all faint from too much gym and a too-empty stomach and not enough coffee and/or pastry/muffin/egg/other treat. Nevermind, I had luckily packed a banana and there was still some cereal in the pantry.
Chocolate cake. Many layers. Chocolate custard icing. Hell yes.
Nothing to do at lunchtime - no wallet, no book. Luckily the sun was out: a run in the botans was just perfect. Ravenous afterwards, I found the rest of some baby cos and some feta in the fridge. Polished off both with a splash of balsamic, olive oil, salt and pepper. And more cake.
Ate some mini Moro bars that were meant for clients. But hey. It was a long day.
The dubiously-named “onion pasta” made by my flatmate. “You’re not selling it to me,” I told him. I ate it anyway: it was ready when I got home, and besides onion, contained bits of kalamata olive and chilli, and garlic, which I liked very much. Topped with Pecorino it was acceptable… oh, who am I kidding, it was delicious. I devoured it.
The rest of the strawberry ice cream I made the other day. It’s all that’s been on my mind lately. It’s also all gone now.
The upside of all this muesli at work for breakfast is that I have diligently been putting aside $4 or $8 at a time in my long-term savings, each transaction dutifully labelled “did not buy coffee” or “no scone and flat white”. Still, I am starting to think I should get a bit more creative.
Moroccan tomato soup at Parson’s - I wasn’t exactly too sure what was Moroccan about it; as far as I could tell it was just tomato soup with lentils, though good nonetheless - with buttered baguette. Read my book whilst eating and left feeling rather satisfied.
I had no idea what to do for dinner. I had been thinking about it all day and finally decided I could just get some green vegetables and make a healthy omelette. Because I had bussed to work (not keen to bike in downpour), I walked home, trying to take the shortest route possible, which led me past Commonsense. Plenty of green vegetables, but all bloody expensive. Who wants to pay $5 for a handful of leaves, even if they are organic? (Okay, ideally I would. But it would put my diligent squirrelling of coffee-money to waste.)
But then my eyes landed on something far more exciting, that I’d gladly fork out big money for. The very first artichokes. And not just your average prickly beasts: glorious, tiny, tender-looking baby globe artichokes. $1.89 for two. There were only four. Showed some restraint: only two became mine.
All thoughts of green-leafy-veg omelette flew out the window and I practically skipped home after that. It’s true asparagus is the vegetable I look forward to most in the year, with signs of obvious yearning like giddy-schoolgirl handclaps and squeals. But artichokes make my heart flutter on a whole different level: eyes widening when I first spot them, a hand tentatively extending to touch one, like it might disappear in a cloud of smoke if I reach and grab too quickly, too obviously. Looking around to see if anyone else has noticed them (at the asparagus bin, I’m shoulder-to-shoulder with other enthusiasts talking about when the price will come down, etc). With artichokes, it’s an almost-magical feeling. I like it.
But I still had no idea what to do for dinner, which led me into Plentifull where the very lovely proprietor gave me some ideas, like: how about a tart, with asparagus and smoked salmon, and here, some cherry tomatoes which I wasn’t selling but look-they’re-so-ripe, and so on. Tasted the smoked salmon and I was sold.
Transferred funds out of savings (so much for not having coffee!) but it was worth it.
And then I got home and it turns out dinner was ready: sweetcorn chowder, with plenty of cream and thyme. And I wasn’t going to argue with that. So I saved the spring-vegetable rush for another night and dug into the hot, creamy-sweet soup.
I had a request for chocolate-chip cookies. I wasn’t about to say no. Thought about it for a little bit, then went with this David Lebovitz recipe. Didn’t have salted butter, but I did add plenty of Maldon and some toasted cashews. Hey now. Never going to go back: salty-sweet cookies are the way forward (I mean, I knew this, but I know it now even more).
Ate too much dough (surprise, surprise) and felt ill afterward. Froze the rest of the dough.
Cookies themselves? All kinds of amazing. They all disappeared before dawn.
Banana and muesli at work, surprise surprise.
I had my first-ever migraine. It was morning tea time, I had been feeling funny, got up to pour myself a cup of tea but there was no tea left in the pot. Poured myself a cup of coffee but I was definitely still not feeling right. Off to the kitchen for a glass of water and there were men replacing our oven (!!! hooray, after the burnt-palmier incident) and I couldn’t sit down or get through. And then I was in the printing room, crying uncontrollably, first from the pain, then from the pain and the scary fact that I was in enough pain to reduce me to a blubbering mess. And the fear of not knowing what exactly was happening.
I kept trying to pull myself together but there were no tissues in the printing room, just A4 paper and folders and notebooks and none of those are good for tears or headaches so I went to the bathroom (in bare feet, and without my key) thinking some cold water on my face would set me right but I couldn’t do even that, just leaned against the wall racked by waves of nausea and blinding pain, covering my eyes and face, until eventually Kirsty came in to use the toilet: “you’re having a migraine,” she said.
So this is what it feels like, I thought, and remembered something about a Joan Didion piece I read years ago about migraines and thought, I get it now. Got a ride home and some drugs from some very helpful girls and then it was bed, shades drawn, cold compress on forehead, lying very, very still and flat, until 8 or 9 pm when I finally felt confident enough to get up.
No appetite at all, until it was all over. So no lunch, snack, etc.
Thai takeaways, chicken green curry. It was so welcome after going so long without being hungry. Thank goodness for helpful people delivering me food.
So bleary-eyed this morning: far too little sleep for my own good. So I broke my streak of non-cafe-breakfasts and headed to Deluxe.
The usual Deluxe weekday breakfast: flat white and an oatie, scoffed while I read a couple pages of my book. Oatie today was pear, with a thick layer of poppy seeds and plenty of tart, verging-on-sour yoghurt on the side. Decided that pear is one of my favourite of the Deluxe oaties, after black doris plum and also blueberry.
At work there’s always a plea for healthier morning teas. Sometimes, someone comes through: today there appeared on the morning tea table: crackers with avocado and tomato (some with vegemite, which I avoided), celery sticks, hummus. Had an avo-tom combo, felt that healthy glow that comes from eating vegetables before noon.
Then there was chocolate.
Leftover stir-fry from yesterday, eaten on the couch in the kitchen at work while I read my book and chatted with workmates.
4pm sugar rush
Realised I had to volunteer after work, so it would be a few more hours still until dinner. Hungry, I rummaged through the kitchen. Found half a banana from yesterday, my peanut butter (that someone’s been eating!), a sheet of puff pastry and some cinnamon sugar left over from the palmier disaster… and what was born?
A cinnamon-banana peanut butter pastry pillow. Yes, silly name and I couldn’t help but giggle when I said it out loud. But it was SO good and elicited sighs of envy from my workmates (some of whom rushed to the kitchen to make their own). I have come across a good thing. And to think I was just going to have peanut butter and banana on toast… it almost hurts.
I remembered I had some soba noodles at home. I wanted to make a simple soba noodle soup with nori and daikon-oroshi but neither supermarket in town had any daikon, Moore’s was closed, and I didn’t make it to an Asian shop in time.
Change of plan: despite the cold, I’m still on a spring-green-and-salad kick, so turned to Plenty and this soba noodle & wakame salad. Simple to make: cooked soba, soaked wakame, toasted sesame seeds. A sauce of lime juice and rice vinegar, palm sugar and sesame oil. Chillies, garlic, ginger, coriander, mint. I added spring onions and substituted bean sprouts for the cucumber.
It was lovely: slurpy and savoury and sweet and hot. I added crisp-fried shallots for crunch (why not?) and sriracha for some extra heat and boy was it good. Plus there are plenty of leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch:
The rest of that pie, eaten standing up. The crust had gone all half-stale and super-buttery tasting, which somehow was even better than just-baked. Hey now.
Muesli, milk, half a banana, at work again.
Lunch was at a cafe I was reviewing, with some girls from work. Had a open sandwich with chickpea patty which could have been better in many ways, but the ginger crunch was a winner (oaty base! pistachio!) and the apple crumble slice had its merits. Flat white helped ease the inevitable sleepiness of a full stomach, and then it was back to work in the rain.
Rode home in the pouring rain. I was happy to see the half-bowl of leftover noodle broth was left over. Heated it up and tossed in a couple coriander leaves. Fighting the attack of grumpiness that can so often strike at this time of day.
Stir-fry chicken and mushrooms, with Thai flavours. The recipe came from The Kitchen Diaries. Nigel Slater is a genius. Lemongrass, garlic, ginger, (and I used shallots), gently fried, removed from pan. Chicken, sauteed. Mushrooms (and I added spring onion here, sliced in 2-inch segments), added to the mix, fragrant stuff chucked back in, stir-fried. A mixture of lime juice, palm sugar and nam pla added at the end to bubble away. Looooovely.
I think I didn’t have enough chicken though, and too much sauce… it did taste pretty intense. Must remember to reduce quantities next time.
I served it with steamed bok choy and rice. I burnt the rice somehow. Ate it anyway… it was only the bottom that was burnt. But if I wasn’t so hungry I’d have done it over properly.
More leftover strawberry-rhubarb pie.
Awoke with a headache. No surprise there. Back to sleep it was, through dream after dream (ice-skating! sushi! adventures!) until it was safe to view the dim, grey world with my own two eyes.
Or rather, until my hangover belly dictated I get out of bed. I missed the “yum cha!” text, I missed the “hey are you awake yet” text, I missed everything except my rumbling stomach at 11:30 am. Okay, alright, I thought, I’ll leave the house now. Eventually.
Showered and whatnot. I wanted a breakfast burrito and spiced tomato juice (aka Virgin Mary) but was tired of the regular old Sweet Mother’s routine.
So, off to Duke’s. “Just so you know, there’s a 35 minute wait for food” said the waitress. It was more like 45. But she was nice, so I forgave her. And the minutes seemed to melt away into newspaper and occasional conversation and also a lot of staring at the assorted portraits on the wall and pondering hairstyles of the 16th to 18th centuries. Also I had a spiced tomato juice so it was all good.
Duke’s breakfast burrito wasn’t the same as Sweet Mother’s. I mean, I knew it was going to be different, more sophisticated, not all cheesy-beany and fat like the SMK burrito. And it was good: house-made chorizo and eggs and the avocado salsa it came with was just perfect. But I missed the beans and silky-scrambled eggs and the gooey cheese of the SMK version. Today’s hangover felt a little bit of regret.
the perfect spring pie
I bought this pie dish about a week ago from the Salvation Army for $4 and have been so in love with it.
It needed to be filled with a pie, pronto. A spring pie. I was too hungover and late to get to the markets in the morning, but Moore’s had rhubarb for reasonably cheap (not a dollar fifty cheap, but $3.95 is better than nothing).
And I finally dug out the strawberries I froze at the peak of summer, threatening to over-ripen and turn to mush if I didn’t do something with them. Freezing them was a good move. I gave myself a pat on the back for the foresight. Defrosted, they were a brilliant hue of red and smelled of jam and picnics.
The resulting pie:
Flatmates and family (flatmates’, not mine) turned up right after I pulled this pie from the oven. Good timing: everyone likes a freshly baked pie. This was half gone in no time, finished off the last of the Hokey Pokey ice cream while we were at it. Productive. And so good: tart-sweet filling, impossibly buttery crust, crisp crumble topping.
A filling breakfast and pie at dinnertime meant I wanted something fairly light for dinner. And the warm spring rain signalled something refreshing and soothing all at once.
Thought about pho for a little while. Thought about all the recipes I’d been reading in the cookbook room at Moore’s when I was unable to think about what I wanted and instead turned to saturating my brain with recipes. Thought about the chicken stock simmering away on the stove.
So: chicken stock, simmered with star anise and cinnamon and lemongrass and ginger and chilli, flavoured with nam pla and a bit of salt, poured over thin rice noodles topped with shredded chicken and steamed bok choy and crisp-fried shallots and raw sliced shallots and plenty of mint and coriander and chilli paste. Eye-poppingly delicious. Exactly what I wanted. Triumph.
Hooray for the advent of October! The sun was (sort of) shining, it was still warm enough for bare legs, I brought my coral-pink sundress out of hiding. That thing gets no wear in winter.
Perhaps overly optimistically (but it did put me in a super cheerful mood), I spent the morning lounging around in said coral pink sundress. Bare legs, arms, shoulders, you name it. I ate a bowl of cereal as the sun streamed through the lounge windows. Life, you beautiful thing.
Had to put on a merino top and cardigan over the dress to brave the wind, but still. It was glorious. Headed to Kreuzberg Cafe where I ate a halloumi and onion burger in the sun. It’s changed a bit since 2010 but the basics are still there: halloumi, beautiful beautiful caramel-soft onions, green bits, mayo and relish and damn good bread. Hello. And $10. I have a feeling this burger and I are going to be good, good friends this summer…
Because with the (sad) departure of Grow From Here from that space, Kreuzberg has again changed its layout… and now occupies a smaller area, fenced off a bit. The feel is a bit different, smaller, but still lovely and outdoors and full of sun. And, importantly, that new fence is the perfect barrier against the prevailing northwesterly…
Which meant, for a brief five- to ten-minute window, I was warm enough to shed my woollen layers and expose my bare shoulders and arms to the one o’clock sunshine. Victory! It didn’t last too long, though. I prefer cosiness to shivering.
So basically a long way of me saying: lunch was good, I sat around in the (sheltered) sun for a long time, reading my book. It was blissful.
lunch (part two)
Because lunch (part one) was more of a brunch, and because breakfast was so early, and because I really wanted to eat something healthy and springlike: lunch, part two.
It didn’t feel unnatural at all. I picked up some salmon at Moore Wilson’s, fed some of it to the cat, then coated it in a bit of sour cream mixed with chopped chives and lemon juice (a variation of a dill-sour cream recipe in Nigel Slater’s Real Fast Food). Sliced some radish, blanched some asparagus. The result? This:
Yes, that’s a knob of butter staying afloat atop the slippery, hot asparagus. Despite all the butter it felt like a virtuous meal, one that screamed SPRING!!! at the top of its lungs. Just look at all those colours.
I licked the plate afterwards. Buttery, sour-creamy, chive-y. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
Lots of gin and vodka and tonic and soda. And dumplings, lovingly handmade by friends: prawn and water chestnut, spinach, blue cheese & cashew. I contributed the mixers, the drink-making, and the dipping sauce: an addictive concoction of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, chilli, lemongrass, ginger. Holla.
We ate them sitting on the floor, in front of the fire, washed down with plenty of gin. A lovely spring evening.
The downside of a boozy night in? No takeaways to bring home and devour.
My route home from Point A (Mt Vic) to Point B (also Mt Vic) passed by no kebab shops, no Chow Mein Cube or even Noodle Canteen. No pork buns from Cha, no beer-battered fries from Burger Fuel. Just quiet suburban streets, dark houses, a cat or two.
And when I got home, any thoughts of whipping up some pasta or cheese on toast were quickly extinguished by the sleeping guests in our lounge. So I tiptoed in the dark, grabbed a bowl, poured some milk into it, then retreated with a box of cereal to the safety of my room where I could pour out some muesli and flakes without fear of waking anyone up.
Not sure the milk + gin was a good idea, but anyhow.
Ate some muesli at work. Kept it simple… because…
Morning tea was, again, massive. Gelato (four flavours, my favourite was cinnamon) and the most massive cheese and date scones from the Marsden cafe. The cheese scones are ridiculously cheesy and when heated in the oven take an almost-pao de queijo quality. Awesome. The date scones are spiced and contain citrus peel, which I think turns some people off: more for me. Tried not to overindulge because I had lunch plans. Failed a little bit.
Lunch was a picnic in the gardens with a friend and some lovely girls from work. For me: edamame and onigiri. And plenty of sunshine and flowering trees and tulips and it was all kinds of lovely.
I didn’t actually drink anything this time. But I did partake in the chips and crackers and dip: this peri peri dip which reminded me a bit of sweet chilli philly but waaaaay better.
watching the rugby
No dinner at home. Had some Cock & Bull German Pilsner before heading off to the Cambridge with the American girls to watch the South Africa-Samoa game. The beer selection was pitiful, forgot about that. However, when at the Cambridge. Had a mainstream beer and some chips: a heaping bowl, piping hot, and I was pleasantly surprised
back home again
Cooked a simple pot of mac n cheese, just plain but good: assorted pasta (the last of different shapes, added at different times. Really, I need to buy more pasta), plenty of butter, chopped parsley, aged cheddar and colby. This time the cheese didn’t glob up or do anything silly, and instead melted with the butter to coat each piece of pasta. A beautiful thing.
Grabbed a date, orange and vanilla scone (the BEST) from Deluxe, and a flat white which I sucked down before getting on my bus. The scone I heated up at work. It was as good as ever.
Do we ever not have food at morning tea? Sometimes it feels like it. This time we had some chocolate and white chocolate pralines that a workmate brought back from Australia.
Catch-up lunch with a friend, on the waterfront. I had a mix of salads from Rahzoo. I was more excited about the sun on my bare legs (2nd day in a row!) than about the salads, but they were good.
A big-ass pile of health. Accompanied by a Townshend Sutton Hoo. The details are here.
out and about
First stop, Hashigo Zake for a Jamieson Beast IPA. Holy. It packed some good flavour. Had some chilli macadamias with it: they were plenty spicy. Awesome.
Next stop, waterfront for a free Phoenix Foundation gig. Nice! Had a beer at Mac’s and some chips. Can’t complain.