a winter’s end ft. maxwell + williams

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I’ve gotten really behind on this blog space. Like, months behind. Life has forged ahead in a barrage of late nights, early mornings, frozen dinners and lukewarm coffees consumed in a weak attempt to maintain sanity.

I’ve missed comments, questions and emails. I’ve been dismally sporadic on social media. Let’s just say that my time and energy for this space have recently dissipated (as have my normal working hours and pimple-free complexion) and I’m hoping that things will get better soon.

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Anyway, in the midst of the busyness (a couple of months ago) the kind folks at Maxwell & Williams sent me a few of their products to style in a winter shoot. Think: mulled wine, clustered candles, warm light and layered textiles with natural timber.

I was so excited. I bought a fruity Shiraz to mull with star anise, cloves and heady citrus. I started planning for colour contrasts against rich acacia wood. But despite the best of intentions, most of winter ran away from me (sans the energy required for a candlelit dinner party) and late June became mid-July. Eventually, grand ideas gave way and I improvised. Blogger life, right?

So, in absence of an official shoot, I’m sending images your way of these gorgeous products in a less formal manner. Instead of candles and rich spices, you’ve got sunlight and Mexican food. A little representative of the change of seasons, really.

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Heading up this post is the Little Jungle Terrarium Orbit (top, 13cm, $29.95). Something I never thought I’d feature in my kitchen (sooo #hipsterhome) but it’s rather adorable in its shiny roundness. I’ve filled mine with soft green herbs, mulch and organic earth (not a plastic deer in sight) and the concept has worked beautifully. I’m happy to say that three weeks on, the herbs are growing steadily in their glistening new home, with new tendrils of thyme curling towards the windowsill. Happiness*.

*click away if you’re after a more traditional DIY on how to fill the perfect terrarium

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sampleinstaSecond to be featured is the gorgeous Artisan Long Board (55 x 20.1 x 1.8cm, $49.95, above) which is begging to be used as a centrepiece for entertaining. I’ve used it as a backdrop for a casual Mexican flat-lay (or mis en place, if you will) but I’m already planning a dinner party where it will be laden with beet dip, spelt seeded crackers, leafy Dutch carrots and a wedge of piquant blue cheese.

The quality acacia wood adds instant warmth to a table setting. In a couple of months, I’m sure you’ll be able to play spot-the-long-board on this ‘ol blog. It’s already a firm favourite.

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So. Big thanks to Maxwell & Williams inspiring this post with warm timber, rope and glass. And, as always, thanks to those of you who read this blog and engage with content. I do hope that I’ll have some new recipes up for you soon.

In the meantime, you’ll find plenty of deliciousness (including the recipe for my black bean tacos, above) in my recipe index.

Disclaimer: the Little Jungle Terrarium Orbit and Artisan Long Board featured in this post were supplied by Maxwell & Williams. No monetary compensation was received and as always, all views expressed are my own. #yourstyleyourway

in my kitchen + april

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I can’t believe it’s already been a month since my last ‘In My Kitchen’ post (my very first contribution to this beautiful online kitchen community hosted by Maureen at Orgasmic Chef). It’s seemed like a very short few weeks, mostly due to the Easter break, family events and our quiet holiday down south.

It’s still autumn, slightly colder than last month but still warm enough for a t-shirt on sunny days. We’re spending evenings in blankets but daylight hours still regularly involve iced coffee (and shorts, as you can see!).

Anyway, back to this month in my tiny apartment kitchen. It’s been an enjoyable one, thanks to visiting friends and an armload of produce from the south west last week. Here are some photographic highlights:

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  1. sweet chestnuts

As I mentioned in this post, Aaron, Loki and I were lucky enough to spend most of last week rambling around the south west countryside. During a long walk in the forest (including Balingup’s spectacular Golden Valley Tree Park), we came across a rather stunning sweet chestnut tree full of clusters of spiky burrs. Not being a seasoned ‘chestnut forager’, I was unaware that the most of the mature nuts were actually on the ground rather than on the tree (darn it) but I did pick a couple of split pods (cupolas) that have since matured. I’ve removed the fruit (wearing a pair of rather inadequate oven gloves) and the skins have darkened to a familiar shiny brown. I’m looking forward to roasting them for a salad.

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2. beechworth ‘bee cause’ honey

I’ve been a loyal supporter of 100% Australian Beechworth Honey (a family owned honey business based in Corowa, Victoria) for many years now, alongside various other smaller Western Australian honey producers (such as Dean’s Bees honey, which I’ve posted about here). Although you’re probably aware that I’ve switched to maple syrup, coconut nectar and rice malt syrup for my weekly baking, we still use honey on occasion (usually atop porridge or Weetbix) and issues of colony collapse are constantly on my mind.

If you haven’t heard about colony collapse, it’s a loose term referring to the impact of ‘Colony Collapse Disorder’ (CCD) and a consequential worldwide decline in bee colonies. The reasons are complex and multifaceted, in part related to the global spread of bee diseases, reduced availability of nectar and pollen resources and use of agricultural chemicals that are harmful to bees (read more here). Australian honeybees currently remain unaffected, but there are concerns for global food security and ecosystems in general.

As a larger Australian honey producer, Beechworth established their ‘Bee Cause’ project a couple of years ago to fundraise for farming, education and research projects related to colony collapse. Though the tag was initially attached to their honey mead, it’s now expanded to include a range of premium Australian regional honeys such as the ‘coastal honey’ above, all of which are available via local grocers and supermarkets. Not only is the honey delicious (I drizzled it over my porridge below!) but Beechworth have committed money from every jar to the future of honeybees. See more here:

 

I am not in any way affiliated with Beechworth honey, nor have I been compensated for this post. I enjoy Beechworth products at my own expense and all of the above opinions are my own. 

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3. porridge, porridge, porridge

Porridge (or oatmeal) has been in high breakfast rotation over the past couple of weeks. During our holiday down south, the morning air was crisp and cold; perfect conditions for warm bowls of steaming oats. We’ve enjoyed our porridge in quite a few different ways, mostly as I’ve been trying to ‘mix things up’ for blog posts. Our favourites so far have been coconut cream oats (pictured above), traditional creamy porridge with poached quince (recipe here) and the creamiest banana cinnamon oats with fresh banana and coastal honey.

I’m going to post a few more porridge recipes before the cold season is out, so watch this space. I’m thinking roasted pears with rosemary, honey and cinnamon, maybe some chocolatey cacao oats… oh, and do you want the recipe for these coconut cream oats? I didn’t really write it down but, you know, I’m sure another breakfast trial can be arranged…

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 4. sourdough starter

As I’m sure you’re all aware, there are plenty of wonderful sourdough bakers among our friends in the blogosphere. One of these is Sandra (aka ‘Lady Redspecs’) from Please Pass the Recipe. I’ve drooled over all of Sandra’s sourdough posts, from her traditional spelt sourdough to this gorgeous Turkish pide, so after confessing my absolutely terrible history with sourdough in this post, Sandra offered to send me some of her own dried starter.

Another confession: I haven’t activated the starter yet, partly as we left for a holiday after I received it and… mostly as I’m scared of killing it. But as Sandra has said, many baking failures are due to lack of confidence (fear!) so next week, I’m going to rehydrate this little wonder. I’m pretty darn excited (and scared, but mostly excited!). Thanks Sandra x

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5. love, food podcast

I’m one of those people who always listens to something as I cook, either via Netflix (like Michael Pollan’s new documentary) or more recently, via internet podcasts. The most recent of these (thanks to the gorgeous Amy at Thoroughly Nourished Life) is a series called Love, Food by an American dietitian (RDN) named Julie Duffy Dillon. This series is wonderful – affirming, encouraging, balanced and real. It covers everything from internet dieting trends to negative self-perceptions (self loathing) and their impact upon our mental health and life choices.

I’ve also been listening to this series as I work out, which is a new thing for me (I normally listen to my workout playlist or comedy series, such as the Wilosophy iPhone podcast by Wil Anderson). I definitely recommend it, it puts any emphasis on weight (loss) and poor self image into a more healthy perspective.

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6. quince

I’m still eating my way through the last half of this batch of oven-poached quince (which I blogged about here). It’s absolutely stunning, ruby red and mellow, though I’m starting to think that I want to bake/create/cook with the remainder of the jar. My first thought is to make this quince crumble cake with crème fraîche from Australian Gourmet Traveller, however if you have any favourite recipes, send them my way! I love cooking tried and tested favourites from friends.

So, that pretty much sums up the last month in my kitchen as we transition further into Australian autumn. Thanks again to Maureen for hosting this monthly link-up – if you’d like to read about other contributing kitchens (or write a post yourself), head over to her post at Orgasmic Chef for details!

jamie oliver + ministry of food perth launch

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In culinary terms, I pretty much grew up with Jamie Oliver. My first memories of Jamie and his ‘brand’ were as a child of sixteen, when his first television show (The Naked Chef, circa 1999) appeared on Australian television screens. On first impressions, I thought he was rather young and… well, incessantly energetic. Too young to be teaching me culinary skills, anyway (I was raised on Rick Stein and no-nonsense ‘Saint‘ Delia).

However, despite his use of the word ‘pukka’ (which apparently he even finds annoying) I eventually came to like the lad from country Essex. His shaggy hair and honest approach to cooking was both warm and approachable and over time, he won both my heart and a great portion of my bookshelf.

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It seems I wasn’t the only one. Fast-forward to 2016 and it would be fair to say that Jamie Oliver is a global household name. His ‘brand’ adorns everything from basil pesto to Tefal frypans but somehow he’s managed to maintain both his ‘cheeky’ demeanour and a strong sense of personal integrity.

One could argue that the latter is inextricably linked to his ‘social activism’ which began in 2002 with the establishment of Jamie’s Kitchen (a chef apprenticeship program for disadvantaged youths which later transformed into the Fifteen Apprentice Program). Soon afterwards, he established the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation which now oversees (non-profit community programs) Jamie’s Ministry of Food, a Kitchen Garden Project and the accompanying Food Revolution Campaign. He was most recently seen in the media doing a spontaneous ‘sugar tax dance‘ after the British Government declared its levy on the soft drinks industry this Wednesday.

Cheeky, but authentic. It works. It’s very Jamie.

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So let’s talk about Jamie’s Ministry of Food. Since it’s inception in 2008 (in Rotherham, South Yorkshire) these community-led kitchen centres have attracted thousands of participants per year, all of whom have signed up for 7-10 weeks of practical food education, budgeting tips and Jamie’s own home-cooking shortcuts. Over the past eight years, the program has expanded to four locations across the United Kingdom and, since 2011, three centres in suburban Australia (under Jamie’s Ministry of Food Australia).

That brings me to the point of today’s post: the establishment of Jamie’s cooking school in my home state of Western Australia. Since the first Australian centre was established in Ipswich, Queensland, the program has expanded to include three more fixed-location cooking centres alongside fully-equipped mobile kitchens in Queensland and, as of last week, Western Australia.

It’s an exciting progression for a state in which 66.6% of adults are overweight or obese with only one in every ten Western Australian residents eating their recommended daily serves of fruit and vegetables. There has been recent media emphasis on the prediction that this generation of Australian teenagers may be the first to die at a younger age than their parents (Dr Lyn Roberts, National Heart Foundation of Australia). A frightening thought, indeed.

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The Western Australian mobile kitchen program is a partnership between Jamie’s Ministry of Food Australia,  The Good Foundation and Edith Cowan University (ECU) with sponsorship through Woolworths Australia and The Good Guys. I was privileged to attend the media launch last Wednesday with a recorded message from ‘the big man himself’ (watch it below) alongside introductions from Elise Bennetts (Acting Chief Executive Officer, Jamie’s Ministry of Food Australia and The Good Foundation) and Professor Steve Chapman (CBE, Vice-Chancellor of ECU).

The event was held in and around the working mobile kitchen, with canapés and drinks provided by the Ministry of Food’s qualified Food Trainers. In typical Jamie style, presentation was fresh, healthy and rustic, served off simple wooden boards with warm enthusiasm.

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In contrast to previously established Ministry of Food centres, the Western Australian program will operate alongside ECU’s School of Health Science (nutrition and dietetics) with internship and research opportunities for students and staff. The kitchen classroom will initially be situated at ECU’s Joondalup campus (for the next fourteen weeks) before shifting to other ECU campuses in Mount Lawley and Western Australia’s South West (additional locations to be announced).

With adequate consultation, there also plans for specific work with rural Aboriginal communities, focusing on diet-related disease and improved health outcomes.

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kitchen

From Tuesday 29th March 2016, the Western Australian Mobile Kitchen program is set to run two series of seven week cooking courses, comprising of one 90-minute cooking class per week. Each class can take up to 12 participants aged over 12 years (the oldest participant so far being a ’96 year old widower’ from Eastern Australia).

Program coordinator Marie Fitzpatrick states that each class will focus on using Jamie’s own recipes and techniques, with emphasis on ‘simplicity’ and ‘transferable skills to take back home’. As per other suburban centres, the Western Australian program will incorporate emphasis on specific community demographics, family budgets and entrenched ‘fears’ of cooking from scratch.  Basic principles will be covered (such as ‘how to boil an egg’) using everyday, cheap ingredients (eggs, chicken, rice and tinned beans) and common kitchen implements (domestic-sized pots, ovens and kitchen prep areas). All classes aim to incorporate simple skills and food knowledge that will ’empower’ individuals and local communities.

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According to comprehensive studies by Deakin University and the University of Melbourne, Jamie’s Ministry of Food Australia has already made a positive impact in Eastern Australia. Participant evaluations report strong evidence of increased confidence in key skill areas required for cooking and daily food preparation, with increased cooking confidence and daily vegetable consumption (increase by 0.52 serves).

Behavioural changes were sustained for at least six months after conclusion of the cooking course, with flow-on benefits such as increased frequency of communal eating (families eating together) and reduction in takeaway meal consumption.

Pretty good for a ‘cheeky’ Chef and his team, methinks.

paperNow, I’ve read a fair amount of critique surrounding the Ministry of Food, most of which labels Jamie a ‘hypocrite‘ who doesn’t understand poverty. Whilst I’m the first to admit that Jamie Oliver’s cooking school can’t solve every nutritional or social problem (but heck, what can?) he’s started a practical community dialogue about cooking and general health, and that’s got to be a good thing.

Furthermore, even academics concede that Jamie’s ‘brand identity’ has in itself provided an ‘edge’ to his social projects that most other food and nutrition programs don’t have: corporate sponsorship, public accountability and actual community enthusiasm (the last point being of utmost importance). He seems genuinely committed (to the point of personal exhaustion), his manifesto rings true and his local team in Perth appear both impassioned and aware of local issues.

So that said, I’m excited to see the impact of Jamie’s Ministry of Food in Western Australian communities, families and suburban kitchens. It’ll be pukka, you’ll see.

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Jamie’s Ministry of Food Mobile Kitchen

The Western Australian Mobile Kitchen will be running two initial seven week courses which include one 90-minute class per week. Classes will run six days per week, including weeknights.

First release: Tuesday 29th March – Monday 16th May 2016

Second release: Tuesday 17th May –  Monday 4th July 2016.

Location: Edith Cowan University – Joondalup Campus
Car park 14, between building 21 & 22
Access from Deakin Rd via Lakeside Drive
Joondalup, WA 6027

Book here.

in my kitchen + autumn

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I’ve been wanting to participate in the ‘In My Kitchen’ series for… months? Probably years, by now. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, I believe the series was started by the lovely Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial back in 2010 as a way to chronicle the seasonal happenings in her own Sydney kitchen.

After roughly twelve months, she sent out a call for other bloggers to join the series and (fast forwarding to February, 2016) there are now dozens of participants each month from all over the world. Maureen at Orgasmic Chef has joined Celia as the present host of each month’s ‘In My Kitchen’ series (not a small feat, at all) and in turn, her blog has become the single ‘hub’ for both readers and participants to click through each month of kitchen features. Good idea, huh? So. Much. Fun.

As for me? Well, I’ve been quietly following the series for at least eighteen months, maybe more. I’ve occasionally commented, but I’ve mostly been reading, learning and admiring the incredible cooking talent that occupies domestic kitchens worldwide. There has been much intention to join the series; in fact, I have a couple of draft posts from six-or-so months ago that remain unfinished. But as per usual, my temperamental, inconsistent blogging qualities won over and my desire to participate never translated to actual engagement.

Until now.

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So, it’s March. The first month of Australian autumn, characterised by gradually decreasing temperatures, russet leaves and hot cross buns (nah, we don’t really do pumpkin spice in this country). As per this writer from the Huffington Post, it’s really not cold yet in Australia so… well, I’m still wearing shorts and t-shirts (evidence here) but cooler nights are providing greater enthusiasm for roasted vegetables and spicy Shiraz.

Despite the continuation of balmy weather, there are a few other things happening in my kitchen this month, mostly dictated by gifts from family and friends. So (following the general template of these posts) here’s a short update of what’s happening in my kitchen:

  1. Recipe Books.

As per my header photograph, I’ve been gifted with a few new volumes recently which are proudly adorning my timber coffee table. They all generously lean towards my obsession with plant based whole foods, sustainability and seasonal eating, so I’m reading a few recipes each night and taking notes on what to cook as the season changes. So far, I’ve made a few deliciously ‘cheezy’ cashew things from The Unbakery by Megan May (a gift from my friend Lucy, thanks lovely) whilst adapting a couple of apple-y autumn salads from Seasons by Donna Hay (a gorgeous hand-me-down from my friend Elissa, who knows me all too well). I’m fuelling my Mexican bent with The Thug Kitchen (whilst attempting not to corrupt my angelic mind, isn’t that right Vicky (thanks lovely) and Graz?) and learning about dehydrating and flat breads from Amy Chaplin (this one was a gift to myself, I am totally enamoured).

I’ve also dug out an older literary gift from my friend Trixie, A Change of Appetite by Diana Henry. Mostly as I miss her (Trix, not Diana, obviously) and her tiny dog Clem, who in my opinion is Loki’s long-lost soulmate. See, this is Loki’s face when I mention Clemmie*:

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*possibly a bit of creative license. I was actually telling him to get out of the way as I wanted to photograph my cookbooks on the bed (you can spy some binding in the upper right hand corner).

You can look forward to seeing the influence of this reading upon my cooking over the next few months (I might even share a recipe or two, with appropriate credit).

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2. Argentine Brioche Buns

Aaron and I have been eating our way through a bag of sweet buns over the past week. They were part of a thank you gift from the beautiful mother of some friends of ours who hail from Argentina; as far as I can tell they’re made from brioche dough with a soft, sweet jammy centre. Lucy (who made the buns) advised that the jam is actually quince paste, or dulce de membrillo, a popular confection in South America.

They’re absolutely delicious, buttery and rich, perfect with strong coffee for afternoon tea (there are a couple left over that I’m thinking of turning into breakfast grilled cheese… would that be a travesty? Sweet quince, melty rich cheese, sweet brioche dough… yum. Watch this space).

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3. Condiments. And lots of hot sauce. 

As I mentioned in this post, I had the privilege of catching up with Graz and his wife Jennee a couple of weeks ago during their recent trip to Western Australia. What I didn’t mention is that after our dinner outing, Graz gifted us (meaning Aaron and I) a bag of homemade condiments including South Carolina mustard sauce, house BBQ sauce and tomato sauce alongside a generous jar of ‘Big Red Rub‘ (smoky barbecue dry rub).

Oh my golly. These condiments are good. I’ve had them on the table twice this week, accompanying crisp barbecued chicken, smoky baked potatoes and homemade apple coleslaw. I also made a soft boiled egg, beet and lettuce salad (old school styles) dressed with homemade dill, caper and lemon ‘proper mayonnaise’ and for some reason the mustard sauce suited that too.

I can’t wait to try the rub with some free-range pork ribs on the weekend (hopefully from Plantagenet) braised for a few hours under foil. I’ll serve the juicy pork with some soft white rolls, salted butter, corn and hot sauce, perhaps some fat dill pickles for good measure. It will be ridiculously good. I’m calling it. Oh, and there will be beer.

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4. Tea cups by Patricia Fernandes

Some time ago, my friend Lucy gave me four pastel-coloured embossed tea cups made by a local Western Australian ceramic artist, Patricia Fernandes. They’re from FOUND at the Fremantle Arts Centre (the most amazing store, ever) and I loved them instantly, so much that they went straight onto my ‘special objects’ shelf.

Ha. Do any of you have one of those? A place for beautiful objects that really should be used, but aren’t… in my case, because I’m afraid I might ruin them. Other key items from that shelf include a stunning salad bowl from Gorman Home Time by Connie Lichti, a handmade salt dish from Gewürzhaus, some ceramics that I found in a tiny store in Italy and a Hofbräuhaus beer stein from in Munich, all of which have never been used (except on the odd occasion for food styling, go figure).

Anyway, yesterday I decided that enough is enough. Squirrelling objects away for the winter (or the dust bunnies) doesn’t benefit anyone. So this afternoon, I gave the cups a gentle rinse, dried them and removed the labels. I’m in the process of brewing a nice big pot of steamed green tea with lemon and I intend to drink each sip quite thoughtfully from the cup in periwinkle blue. Next time Lucy comes around, I’ll make a batch of these and rinse the cups again, refreshing them with a pot of steaming spiced soy Chai (or maybe these homemade mallows and hot chocolate).

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5. Pana chocolate

This raw, organic chocolate is an absolute favourite of mine. Partly as it feels virtuous (despite being decidedly chocolatey) but mostly because, in all honesty, it’s just so darn delicious. Think of the deepest, richest bitter cacao combined with smooth, creamy cacao butter and hints of sweet coconut nectar. That is Pana, with whatever mix-ins you fancy.

Talking mix-ins: I have a particular love for the mint bar, seconded by the fig and wild orange bar with chunks of moist dried fig (bar pictured above). I’m also desperate to try the hemp and nib version, because… well, ‘body scrub’ (follow the link and explanation regarding Australian laws. Yep, I like living life on the edge).

Despite my infatuation, Pana doesn’t regularly feature in my kitchen as it’s a teensy bit pricy (as most organic small-batch products justifiably are). Instead, I ‘make do’ with slightly cheaper homemade treats such as these sticky salted tahini date caramel bars (which are wonderful to keep in the refrigerator for mid-afternoon energy lapses), energy balls and Medjool dates. Until the recurrent impulse strikes and I squirrel a bar of Pana home from the health food store, like this one. They’re sooo good (and no, I have no affiliation with Pana chocolate, I just like their products).

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6. Apples, apples, apples

I got another text from my mama today. She’s harvested the last of the apples from her tree (excluding the extra-high ones that she can’t reach) and they’re currently sitting in a basket on her kitchen table. The remaining apple count in my refrigerator sits at three (the extra teeny tiny ones that were too cute to eat) so I’m keen to collect a few to make this gorgeous apple caramel cake (Jen, you goddess you) and Amy’s kale, apple and wild rice salad (with crunchy pecans and sweet cranberries).

I also intend to revisit my spiced apple and buttermilk cake as there’s leftover buttermilk in the freezer… or maybe I’ll just turn it into pancakes with caramelised apples. Ain’t no harm in that.

So that’s it. This month’s kitchen round up, thanks to inspiration from Celia, Maureen, Jen, Anne and other friends I’m yet to meet.  Here’s hoping it’ll become a beautiful monthly ritual!

the mexican table

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A couple of Sundays ago, Aaron and I got together with Matt from Inspired Food and Jemima from Feed Your Soul, Perth for the continuation of our ‘Table’ series, i.e. a sequence of themed long-table dinners with several dishes per course prepared by each blogger (and in this case, some talented family and friends).

As per our Moroccan and Spanish Table posts, you’ll find my recipes from the dinner below, alongside links for recipes prepared by Jemima, Matt, Lexi and Jamie (Lexi being Jemima’s sister and Jamie being a friend of the group who also happens to cook at Co-op dining).

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As per usual, it was a pretty epic afternoon filled with incredible food, abundant beverages (lots of beer and Mexican cola) and the best of company. A big thanks goes out to Matt and his partner Alyssa for hosting this year’s Table dinner at their gorgeous new(ish) home alongside their hero puppy Max (who has recovered from some massive medical complications over the past twelve months. So good to see him running around again).

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Props also go out to Aaron aka ‘the dog whisperer’ who managed to both create art and keep Max and Loki occupied whilst the rest of us prepared tostadas, guacamole and street corn. Serious skills right there.

Just look at these little faces:

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Without further ado, here was our menu for the day:

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We did learn slightly from our last feast (emphasis on slightly) and created less dishes per person, however after hours of snacking on leftover guacamole, we were rather stuffed by the time dessert appeared.

But with something as epic as this masterpiece by Jamie (below, containing layers of brownie pieces, lime curd, pureed avocado, chocolate mousse, chocolate soil, candied and fresh finger lime and candied chilli; no I am not joking) we all took to the last course with gusto.

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The only one to scrape the glass clean was Aaron, who had paced himself through the main courses due to an erroneous belief that we had ‘about five more things to come’ (after his Spanish Table experience). Maybe I should try and do the same next time.

I hear we’re cooking Indian.

chillies sauce

Salsa de Chile Rojo

Makes 1.75 cups

  • 3ox (85g) dried chillies – I used a combination of 70% smoky chipotle and 30% mixed arbol, ancho and pasilla (be aware that the combination of chillies you use directly affects the heat level of this sauce. I went a little overboard – as in mindblowingly hot but incredibly delicious – you might want to ‘up’ the ancho and pasilla content to 50%)
  • 1.5 cups hot water
  • 1/8 cup (2 tbsp) tomato sauce
  • 1/8 cup (2 tbsp) olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp crushed sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/8 tsp cumin seeds

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees f). Spread the dried chillies in a single layer over a heavy baking tray, then transfer to the hot oven. Toast for 3-4 minutes, turning if necessary, until fragrant (do NOT allow your chillies to blacken or burn as they’ll become incredibly bitter). Allow to cool.

With a sharp knife, remove the stems, seeds and membranes/pith from the chillies.

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Discard. Place the remaining chilli flesh into a large bowl and cover with the hot water (add a little extra if they are not completely submerged). Soak until softened (about 45-60 minutes).

Process the soaked chillies in a food processor or blender until smooth. Transfer into a medium saucepan with the garlic, oil, remaining water, salt, oregano and cumin.

Simmer, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Use straight away or transfer into a sterilised jar or bottle for later use.

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Esquites (Mexican Street Corn Salad)

Based on this recipe from Serious Eats with reference to Sam Ward’s Esquites recipe published in Recipes and Ramblings Volume II (Beaufort St Network)

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 ears fresh corn, shucked
  • 2 tbsp whole-egg mayonnaise + 1 tbsp to serve
  • 1/3 cup (100g) feta or cotija cheese, finely crumbled
  • 1/2 cup finely sliced spring onions
  • 1/2 cup fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, finely chopped
  • 1-2 jalapeño peppers (to taste), seeded and stemmed, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • zest and juice from 2 limes + extra lime wedges, to serve
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • 1 tsp arbol chilli powder

Heat a char-grill or barbecue to high heat. Ensure all strands of husk are removed from the corn, then grill on each side until you achieve a ratio of about 30% very dark to 70% lightly charred corn (if you don’t have a barbecue, feel free to do this over a gas flame. Just be very careful!). Allow the corn to cool completely, then remove the kernels with a sharp knife.

Place a large heavy based frypan or pot over medium heat and add the oil. Sweat the the spring onions, jalapenos and garlic until translucent. Add the corn, lime juice and a good splash of water (about 1/2 cup) then bring to a simmer.

Cook for about 10 minutes or until the corn is cooked and the mixture is fragrant. Add in the lime zest, mayonnaise, cheese, coriander (reserve a little to serve), about half the arbol chilli powder and a good dash of salt and pepper (to taste). Mix well and transfer to a large bowl.

Dollop over the reserved tablespoon of mayo, garnish with coriander and dust with the remaining arbol chilli powder. Crack over some black pepper and serve with lime wedges on the side.

prep

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Until next time, keep track of Matt (aka Inspired Food) via Instagram, Facebook or Twitter and say hello to Jemima (aka Feed Your Soul, Perth) right here: Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

boozy cucumber, lime and chilli paletas

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Well, it’s Friday. The first Friday in June, to be exact. By now you’d be aware that my confessed intention to post on a weekly basis has gone less-than-swimmingly over the past three weeks. My last post has taunted me proudly as my free time has dissolved into a mess of work overtime, fatigue and a frightening ocular migraine that consumed most of last Monday.

Yes, an ocular migraine. On a public holiday, when my regular General Practitioner was probably enjoying a WA Day barbecue. Who knew that migraines could be painless and cause temporary loss of vision? I thought I was having a stroke… most probably a TIA, or at the very least my retina was detaching (yes, I have a touch of hypochondria which appears to be familial; thanks Dad).

But a few hours and $135 later, I found out that I was mostly fine; just tired and moderately stressed. Sorry, body. I should take better care of you.

limes loki

Anyway, enough about the negatives of the past two weeks. There have been some gloriously shiny positives, from productive side-project coffee date meetings with Aaron (SO EXCITED) to healthy gym days and a giant Mexican feast held with this blogging crew from last year.

Oh, the feast we had. It’s probably fortuitous that it takes us between twelve and eighteen months to organise each catch-up, as we definitely don’t skimp on courses or calories (chocolate-mousse-avocado -ream-lime-curd-crumbled-brownie-candied-lime-and-chilli-chocolate-soil-layered dessert, anyone?). We did scale down slightly from our elaborate Spanish feast, but I’m still bringing takeaway boxes to the next one (which might be an Indian night; anyone have a spare tandoori oven?).

tequila

As per our previous posts, we’ve got a deliciously photo-heavy series of joint posts in the pipeline, full of recipe links and styling details. But for now? Here’s a tequila-soaked taster for you Northern Hemisphere people who are heading into summer’s warm embrace.

cukes

pop

Boozy Cucumber, Lime and Chilli Paletas

Makes 8

You will need: 8 x 3oz ice pop molds, 8 wooden popsicle sticks

  • 4 medium cucumbers, peeled, de-seeded and chopped
  • 1/3 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 2.5 tbsp caster sugar
  • 3 tbsp Tequila
  • chilli flakes, optional

cukesprepared

Place the chopped cucumbers into the bowl of a food processor. Process for 2 minutes or until the mixture resembles a fine pulp.

Strain the pulp through a fine sieve to extract all of the liquid (push down on the cucumber flesh with the back of your hand to ensure you get all of the juice).

cucumberjuice

Add the caster sugar and cayenne, then stir until all of the sugar is dissolved (you should no longer hear sugar granules scraping at the bottom of the bowl). Add the Tequila and stir thoroughly.

juice mix

Distribute the mixture between 8 clean paleta (popsicle) molds. Sprinkle in a few whole chilli flakes for decoration (optional). Carefully transfer into the freezer, ensuring the molds remain upright. Freeze for at least 1 hour before placing a wooden popsicle stick into the centre of each paleta (if you have an ice pop maker with a lid that holds the sticks in place, feel free to place the sticks in straight away).

Allow to freeze for at least 12 hours, or preferably overnight (the alcohol in these paletas significantly slows the freezing process. Don’t be tempted to unmold these paletas before they’ve had a good amount of freezing time, or you’ll be left with a cucumber and lime slushy).

To serve, run the paleta molds briefly under hot water. Firmly pull each paleta out by the wooden stick (yeah, I probably didn’t need to tell you that, but anyway…).

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spring pea, asparagus and strawberry salad

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For those of us heralding the arrival of autumn, today’s post might seem a little out of season. But trust me, there’s method to my madness: I’m guest-posting over at my friend Erin’s blog, The Speckled Palate, whilst she and her husband Winston enjoy precious time with their new baby girl!

Erin and Winston reside in Dallas, Texas, hence my reference to the pending arrival of spring (in technical terms, anyway… this forecast might say otherwise!). I can’t quite remember when we first struck up a friendship but over the last year or so, I’ve come to consider Erin as a dear blogging friend across-the-seas. She’s wonderfully creative, kind and nurturing and I know that she’s going to be the most incredible mother to ‘Lady Baby’ (as she’s known for now!).

Such exciting times.

strawberriesI’m including my original recipe below as part of the blog archive, but I’d encourage you to jump over to Erin’s blog post for a printable version (and more talk of how this Aussie blogger became friends with a big-hearted Texan photographer!).

You can also read more about Erin and her journey towards motherhood here and here.

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Back to peas and carrots strawberries.

The salad recipe below is more of a concept than an absolute instructional. Feel free to experiment with flavours and textures, harnessing the best fruit and vegetables that you can find. Add a little avocado for creamy goodness or some pea shoots if you can find nice ones at the market.

Swap the strawberries for juicy chunks of ripe peach, or add sauteed leeks or sweet onions as a beautiful accompaniment to the goats cheese.

goatscheese

As per my notes, feel free to bulk out this recipe with some cooked and cooled quinoa for a more substantial dish. I’ve also added the almonds as an ‘option’ as… well, I’d like to say I was catering for nut-free people but to be honest, I just forgot about them (honestly, I can’t even blame baby brain!). If you do add the nuts, they’ll provide a gorgeously satisfying crunch.

Thanks Erin, for giving me the opportunity to share one of my favourite recipes with your readers. I’m sending you, Winston and (fur kid and big sister) Lucy lots of love from my apartment across the seas!

Oh, and talking about fur kids? I think we’ve got ourselves a little strawberry thief…

Lokiberry1Lokiberryedited

Spring Pea, Asparagus and Strawberry Salad

Serves 2-4 as a side dish

  • 100g edamame beans, shelled (50g shelled weight)
  • 1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed
  • 50g sugar snap peas, stringed
  • large handful of fresh greens (I used baby spinach and rainbow chard, however watercress or rocket would be lovely)
  • 100 – 150g strawberries, washed, trimmed and halved (leave a few small ones whole for garnish)
  • 100g fresh goats cheese (substitute feta), broken into chunks
  • 1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest (from lemon below)
  • small handful of mint, washed and chopped (reserve a few leaves for garnish)
  • 50g slivered almonds, optional

For the dressing (combine all in a screw-top jar and shake*):

  • 2 tbsp cold-pressed sweet almond oil
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • juice from half a lemon
  • drizzle of honey or rice malt syrup, to taste
  • sea salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper

If using, scatter the slivered almonds over an oven tray and toast them at 180 degrees C (350 degrees f) for 8 minutes or until golden brown. Set aside to cool.

Blanch the asparagus spears in hot water for 2 minutes or until bright green. Refresh under cold water, drain and set aside.

ice

Slice the sugar snap peas into thin slivers on a diagonal. Place into a medium bowl with the shelled edamame and sliced strawberries. Pour over enough dressing to coat, then toss and adjust seasoning to taste.

Scatter the leafy greens over a serving platter. Lay the asparagus spears over the top and spoon over the pea and strawberry mix. Combine the goats cheese with the chopped mint, lemon zest and a little extra dressing. Gently mix, then spoon over the plated salad.

Scatter over the whole strawberries, remaining mint leaves and slivered almonds if desired.

side

This salad is wonderful with seasoned grilled chicken, fish or pork on a warm spring day. You can also bulk it out with 1 cup of cooked quinoa and some flaxseeds for a wholesome vegetarian meal.

Notes: I mixed my salad dressing with just a tiny bit of honey to retain a ‘tangy contrast’ to the sweet, juicy strawberries. Don’t overdo the sweetness or you’ll throw out the balance of your salad. The ingredients listed above make more than enough dressing for this salad. Add just enough to coat the strawberry and pea mix with a little extra for the goats cheese and leaves. Don’t be tempted to pour over the remainder of the jar unless you’re adding cooked quinoa as suggested above (save it for another salad!).

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asparagus and cheese tarts

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It’s Monday night, blackened quiet, a few hours away from the pale dawn of Tuesday. I’m sitting on the couch, right hand nursing a glass of wine as my left taps on plastic keys.

The wine seemed like a good idea three hours ago because… well, I like wine. But as sleep envelops my senses, I’m starting to regret the decision. This blog has been long-neglected since I returned from Europe, buried under work and fatigue. So, as I’ve found a quiet evening, I’m determined to pump out a post before my brain retires. Hear that, red wine? Good.

asparagus

buttercheese

A few nights ago, Aaron and I picnicked at King’s Park with two of our very best friends. As night slowly swallowed the blush of day, we spread blankets upon dewy grass and ate smooth cultured butter upon chewy sourdough.

Glasses were clinked and stories were swapped beneath plaid woollen blankets. Our feet grew cold and our hearts warmed as we feasted on fresh mango, olive and zucchini salad, beef meatballs with nectarine chutney, soft cheese, asparagus tarts and cured salami.

Oh, it was good.

mix

By late evening, we were laughing into empty plates as brown ducks battled over the leftovers. My half-eaten asparagus tarts (the product of a glut of new-season asparagus at the market) were swiftly packed away from prying beaks and feet.

By 10:00pm, the canopy of cloud started weeping on the darkened landscape. We shuffled towards the car, lugging baskets, lanterns and blankets, packing them away before officially calling the night’s end.

pans

These asparagus and cheese tarts are still a bit of work in progress. The first taste-testers proclaimed them to be a ‘cross between sweet and savoury’ due to the creamy mascarpone and lemon zest.

Despite liking the original tarts, I’ve amped up the flavour in the recipe below with extra cheese and peppery Dijon mustard. The finished product is a shallow, pale-golden savoury tart with streaks of crunchy asparagus, fragrant lemon zest, salty cheese and soft egg custard. The crisp cheese pastry adds both flavour and transportability. Chipotle sauce is optional (unless you’re, me, of course).

thyme

side

These little tarts are begging to be brought to your next barbecue or family gathering. Their cheesy asparagus flavour is perfect for what’s left of the Australian Spring asparagus season*.

Get amongst it.

*Northern Hemisphere friends, don’t let winter stop you. Thin batons of raw zucchini, halved cherry tomatoes or bits of finely diced broccoli would be a perfect substitute for asparagus during the off-season.

presented

Asparagus and Cheese Tarts

Makes eight 12cm diameter x 2cm height tarts

Pastry:

  • 100g plain flour
  • 40g wholemeal spelt flour (or just add another 40g plain flour)
  • 85g butter
  • 85g cheese (mixture of cheddar and Parmesan)

Filling:

  • 6 free-range eggs
  • 100g cheese (cheddar and/or Parmesan)
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 tsp freshly grated lemon rind
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 tbsp mascarpone cheese
  • 2 bunches (400g) fresh asparagus spears, trimmed and halved (do NOT use canned asparagus. Substitute raw zucchini batons or halved cherry tomatoes if desired)
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 50g blue cheese, crumbled (such as Roquefort or Stilton, optional)

For the pastry: Butter eight loose-bottomed tart tins, place onto a sturdy oven tray and set aside in a cool place (put them in the refrigerator if your apartment or house is hot). Put the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the butter to the flour and rub it in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add in the grated cheese and mix. Add 3 tbsp cold water and mix until the pastry forms a ball. Wrap in cling film and chill for 5 minutes whilst you prepare your filling.

pastry pastry2

When pastry is sufficiently chilled, roll it into a log and cut it into eight even portions.

pastrycutPress one portion into a rough circle and flatten using the ball of your hand. Carefully lay it into a buttered tart case. Press to fit with your fingers (don’t worry if the pastry seems very thin, it’s supposed to be like that). Line each case with baking paper and baking beads. Blind bake at 180 degrees C (360 degrees f) for 10 minutes or until light golden.

For the filling: whilst the cases are blind baking, combine eggs, herbs, cheese, lemon zest, salt and pepper, Dijon mustard and mascarpone into a large bowl. Whisk together well.

Wash, trim and halve your asparagus spears. After removing the tart cases from oven, gently distribute the egg mix between the cases, then top with sliced asparagus, salt and pepper. Dot with crumbled blue cheese (optional).

baked

Bake uncovered for 15 minutes or until egg mix is set (do not allow to brown). Enjoy warm or cold with chutney, bread and/or some dressed rocket leaves.

aerial

 

writing process blog tour

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In exactly one week’s time, I will be dragging a suitcase through the cobbled streets of Montmarte, Paris. I will be basking in French sunshine, buttering chunks of crisp baguette and selecting macarons from the hallowed halls of Laduree. Granted, I will also be suffering from jetlag but… hey, I won’t care. I’ll officially be on holidays (insert grin here).

Despite recklessly embracing a holiday mindset, my aim is for this blog to continue to produce quality content throughout the entirety of my European sojourn. Yes, there will be a few travel updates here and there, but I’m aiming for the bulk of posts to contain recipes – both of my own creation and that of some incredibly talented blogging friends.

First up this month will be Matt from Inspired Food with a delicious recipe for a slow-cooked barbecue feast (how he managed to create, write and photograph it in the middle of house building and puppy buying, I have no idea, but I’m glad he did!). I’ve also got Alice from Hip Foodie Mom and Ali from Milk & Cereal waiting in the wings, so get ready for some drool-worthy recipe content over the next couple of months!

Anyway, back to today’s post: the Writing Process Blog Tour. If you haven’t heard of the concept yet, the ‘tour’ is basically a nominated chain of posts from bloggers who write about… well, writing. As you will see below, you receive four designated questions that explore individual writing projects and technique. I have no idea where the chain originated but if you simply Google ‘Writing Process Blog Tour’ you’ll see that there have been lots of posts. Lots. A cool 20 million or so.

I received two invitations to take part from bloggers whom I admire greatly, Susan at The Wimpy Vegetarian and Wendy from Chez Chloe. Despite some initial reluctance on my part (if you’ve been reading this blog for a while you’ll realize that I very rarely participate in chain activities) I decided that it would be a useful exercise for me to reflect upon why I do what I do. That is, how and why do I blog?

So, below you will find my responses to the Writing Process Blog Tour. I’ve decided against nominating any particular bloggers to continue the chain; however if you’re interested in taking part, let me know in the comments section below (you would be most welcome!).

The four questions:

1. What am I working on?

This is a big question. To answer succinctly (but rather ambiguously) I’d probably just say ‘lots of things’ but to break it down a bit further: I’m in the middle of writing a recipe for cinnamon apple cheesecake for this blog, I’ve got a half-finished novel on my laptop, I’m still attempting to update my second (much neglected) blog, Second-Hand Stories, I’m writing a recipe column for the Challenge newspaper, I’m editing a photographic shoot for a client and I’m developing recipes and doing some writing for a cookbook (no other information to be disclosed as yet!). Oh, and I also work full-time. It’s rather busy… but fun.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I don’t really know if my blog differs from others of its genre; you (the reader) would probably be a better judge of that. However, if I was pressed for an answer I’d probably respond by saying that Laura’s Mess is a little less styled and more narrative-based than other food blogs. I like engaging in big, fat, juicy prose. I can be overly wordy on occasion. Rather frequently, my photographs are more of food or ingredients in their natural state than a styled finished product. I’m fascinated by tiny details. I never post a recipe unless I’m happy with the narrative that comes before it. I like to feel what I’m writing. I also despise obligations to post competitively in the over-saturated realm of food blogging, so… well, I doubt that I’ll ever become one of those ultra-successful people with lots of paid advertising, sponsors and a million submissions to Foodgawker. But that’s okay with me.

3. Why do I write what I do?

This is an easy one. I love food. I love eating it, creating it, writing about it and discovering its origins. I love sitting back with my eyes closed, thinking of rich descriptives and onomatopoeia. I love playing with colours, creating patterns and discovering new flavour profiles. I love making food from my past that rekindles positive associations. I also adore the aesthetic of food… textures, colours, dappled light and splatters of sticky sauce. That makes the photography aspect come easily. It would be truthful to say that I’ve always written about food. Last year, my husband and I discovered a ‘travel diary’ from the USA and Europe that I had written as a ten year old child. Underneath the battered cover were pages and pages of scribbled paragraphs and drawings of… you guessed it, food. At least you can describe me as ‘consistent’!

4. How does my writing process work?

My favourite place to write is on the three-seater couch by our tiny balcony. There’s a lot of natural light and a skyline for when my eyes get tired. On weekend mornings, my ritual is to make a cup of tea (usually Rooibos, occasionally Earl Grey or Chai with soy milk and honey) before sitting down with my notes and the laptop for a couple of hours. On weeknights, I wait until after dinner (when Aaron retreats to his study) before sitting with the computer and a Hendricks with tonic, ice and muddled rosemary… or a glass of red wine. I prefer silence when I write. It allows me to become lost in my own thoughts, recollections and senses. However, despite saying that I will occasionally sit and write at a nearby cafe or my local wine bar (with some good bread and labne) if I want to escape the house.

So that’s it. Profound? Uh, don’t answer that. Now, as previously mentioned, I’m supposed to end this post by passing the metaphorical baton onto three other bloggers who may want to share their own responses as part of the Writing Process Blog Tour. Are you keen? Let me know in the comments below!

life lately (and blogiversary number two)

eleanorblog2It’s been a busy week. Or rather, a ridiculous fortnight. Long work days, high stress, lots of autumn rain and late night milk runs in the dark. However, in the midst of all that, this little blog passed its second blogiversary on 21st May, 2014. Yes, number two.

Two years. That’s twenty four months of recipe notes, hastily snapped photographs, butter-smeared camera lenses and foodie dialogue with those whom I’m now privileged to call friends. I can hardly believe it, but yes… this blog survived its infancy. And the journey has been rather good.

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So. I guess it’s customary for the blogiversary celebrant to write a bit of an update on the blog’s evolution and other ‘happenings’ over the past twelve months. I wrote a rather extended post last year, loaded with growth points and facts about my humble (and somewhat ignorant) beginnings.

Well, this year will be a little different. In my ‘old age’, sunny enthusiasm for extended explanations has somewhat waned (I do now have a toddler blog, after all. Exhaustion is unavoidable). However, I do want to say a couple of thank-you’s and share some dot points about what will be happening for myself and Aaron as we travel into the tail end of 2014. Read on, amigos.

A huge thanks to:

  • All of you who have been following this blog since its first humble incarnation. Your comments, kind words and tips on the blog and via social media (facebook, instagram and twitter) make all of the late nights and frustrations seem worthwhile.
  • My family and friends for putting up with my food styling, photo snapping and fussing around meal times. I love you hugely.
  • The (rather large) handful of bloggers who have become beautiful friends whom I’m yet to meet. Your notes and internet hugs are always treasured.

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A few snippets of news:

  • I now have a second blog, Second-Hand Stories, which has been well-intended but woefully neglected over the past few months. It’s got nothing to do with food (very far from it!) but if you’re interested, click here to read about the contents. I’m hoping to devote more time to it over the next six months.
  • In approximately five weeks, Aaron and I will be jetting off to the Northern Hemisphere for a few months (partly for work reasons and wholly for adventures). I’m uncertain as to the availability of internet access in different places, so please understand if the frequency of my posts and other commenting seems to drop.
  • Leading on from the previous dot point, if any of you are interested in guest posting on the Mess between July and possibly November 2014, let me know via private message on facebook or twitter. Depending upon the volume of willing guest posters (ha! Or lack thereof…) I may not require every offer but I would love hear from you.

Facts and Stats:

IMG_0083

So, that’s it. Another blogging year completed! I cannot wait to see what the next year holds… a huge thanks to all of you for being on the journey with me.

Laura xo

*Thanks to my gorgeous friends Em and Pete for letting me use the above picture of their daughter in the opening shot. I love it. All other shots are from my Instagram account.

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