23 December 2009

Adventures in Perth and Margaret River

Lovely Perth

Welcome to Western Australia, a place - up until late 2009 - that neither Geoff nor I had ever visited. I meant to post this last year, but better late than never in this case. We have just returned from Europe and will be posting new recipes very soon.

We started our adventure in Perth where we stayed with Geoff's lovely sister and her husband for a few days.

On the first night we went out for a delicious meal in Fremantle at the Left Bank, where I had Moroccan lamb with couscous and Geoff had salmon of some sort...

A view from outside the Left Bank restaurant

One of the first things I noticed about WA - even in Perth - was that wild flowers were growing everywhere! Even as we drove along the highway, bushes of pink and purple flowers in every shade imaginable lined the road.

Some beautiful wild flowers

We visited the Swan Valley - Western Australia's oldest wine region - on our second day.

We did very little wine tasting for some odd reason, and rather turned our sights to the Margaret River Chocolate Company - which despite being a very ugly building indeed, housed some very very delicious chocolate. Geoff and I bought a selection of little chocolates and when we returned a few days later to their shop in Margaret River, I bought quite a bit more of their cookies and cream chocolate which was ridiculously delicious and very soon disappeared...

We then headed off to Mondo Nougat where I tried the macadamia and honey nougat (yum!) and where we spotted this very cute car (a classic Fiat 500!) inside.

Outside its newer relative lived with a number plate along the lines of ItalnStal1on. Speaking of which, WA seems to be the home of personalised number plates... I have never seen so many in my life!

So after a very delicious tour of Perth we were of to Rottnest Island, where we spent the day exploring the island by bus and on foot, but sadly did not spot a quokka.

The lighthouse at Rottnest Island

View of the ocean from Rottnest Island

The next day we explored Perth a little and had lunch at the Little Creatures brewery.

View from the brewery

We had a lovely tapas style lunch at the eccentric brewery and Geoff enjoyed a beer. I think whoever owns this brewery must have quite a good sense of humor or a little joie de vivre - at least that is the feeling I got!

A little creatures beer

After a day or two of doing very little (ok ok, a day or two of me taking over Geoff's iPhone to play Civilisations - a short lived addiction, thankfully) Geoff and I hired a car and drove down to Margaret River, which is a lovely areas filled with a very small river, vineyards and great surf beaches.

We decided to stay at the very cute Bridgefield guest house as it came highly recommended by Geoff's sister and mum.

One of our first stops was Voyager Wines, where apparently the owner does not drink at all... hmmm...

Voyager Wines

Geoff and I decided to throw caution to the wind and actually try a little wine at a winery - we are very adventurous like that. In the end however we ended up following in the footsteps of the owner and only buying non-alcoholic sparkling grape juice, which is a lot more tasty and exciting than it might sound!

Some very cute Western Australian cows (and look how green the grass is for us drought stricken east coast Australians)

The Margaret River Providore was our next stop, and it was simply heaven on earth!

The Margaret River Providore

As you can see in the picture they grown their own organic produce locally to use in their cafe and products. The shop had a very very long tabled lined with products to taste and everything I tried was delicious. Geoff and I ended up spending a small fortune there, buying products such as raspberry coulis and mango coulis (both of which have gone very well on crepes and also ice cream), salad dressing and much more. Later I was told that they also fly in dough from France and bake fresh bread each day at the store.

It is a pity their website does not list their products actually...

In Margaret River we dined at Must Bistro and the food was incredible. A wonderful multi-course meal with wine expertly pair with our orders. The menu is wonderful with the daily specials adding in a range of exciting options. Geoff had a tasting plate of a beef cheek pie and a Wagu steak on the side. Dessert melted in our mouths.

The rest of our time in WA was spent driving hours to go to a berry farm for what turned out to be very very average pancakes, visiting Dome cafe which had some yummy coffee, walking around Perth and lots of relaxing!

We also stumbled across a truffle farm on our way back. The place itself isn't anything too spectacular, but the combination of their truffle oil with some Dukkah from the Providore is simply heaven!

I am very glad now to have seen a small slice of Western Australia and I am looking forward to going back and seeing more in the future. Rumours are we will have an excuse in May 2010.

5 December 2009

Gingerbread Christmas Tree

gingerbread christmas tree

Hello everyone. We are back again after a little break in which Geoff has been overseas quite a bit for work, and I have handed in my thesis (yay!).

Today we spent a lovely day at the Scandinavian Christmas Festival at the Swedish Church in Melbourne. We had some lovely open sandwiches with Swedish meatballs, julmust, cream cakes with strawberries and some Danish æbleskiver.

I promised to post up a gingerbread recipe, so here is a very cute one using gingerbread stars made into Christmas trees with royal icing and some icing sugar and edible glitter sprinkled over the top. If you have any stars left over you can cover them in icing and eat them later (or while you are making your tree...). I used the left over dough to make some snowflake gingerbread biscuits which I intended to post here, however they have since been eaten...

I was inspired by the gingerbread Christmas tree in the latest issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller, however I have used a different gingerbread recipe.

Geoff and I are off to Paris in one week and then to Vienna for Christmas and Berlin for New Years. I am hoping to post up a recipe for gingerbread cheese cake before we leave though. But if I don't get a chance to post before then, have a merry Christmas and a happy new year and thank you for reading our blog this year!

We'll post up some pictures when we get back of the Christmas markets and so on.

So on with the recipe...

You will need:

  • 1/2 cups of brown sugar
  • 130 g unsalted butter
  • 1/2 golden syrup (or treacle)
  • 1 egg, separated
  • 3 cups of plain flour
  • 1 1/2 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tbsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp bicarb soda
  • 200 g icing sugar
  • Edible glitter (if you like!)
  • Star cookie cutters (6 different sizes)
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Combine your butter and sugar in a mixing bowl and when smooth separate your egg and add the yoke into the mix and combine. Combine in the golden syrup.

Sift in the flour, bi carb soda and spices and combine with the rest of the mixture.

Knead into a smooth ball and wrap in cling wrap and then place in the fridge for at least an hour, but I would recommend a couple of days so the spicy flavours thoroughly infuse the dough.

After at least an hour, take the dough from the fridge and lightly dust a clean surface with some plain flour and well as lightly dusting your rolling pin with flour as well.

Take a little of your dough and roll it until it is fairly thin, no more that about 4 mm high. I started with quite thin stars, but I think it looks a bit better if they are about 4 mm thick. Cut six or so of each sized star (about 12 if you plan to make two ... and you will have enough dough for two) and put them on trays covered in baking paper and place them in the oven for about 10 minutes until they are golden brown.

Repeat for the remaining dough.

For the icing put your left over egg white to good use by using an electric mixer to mix it until it forms fairly stiff peaks and then sift in the icing sugar and combine. If adding in food colouring makes you happy, add some now, however I chose to stick with white.

Once your gingerbread stars have cooled, place the largest on a plate and pipe some of the royal icing onto it and then place another star on top of that. Repeat until you have created an incredibly cute Christmas tree. Then dust a little icing sugar over the whole thing to make it look like snow and add a little edible glitter over that.

Eat and enjoy!
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