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.

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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.

ricotta fritters. and three years of blogging

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In six days, it’s going to be exactly three years since I sent my first post into the blogosphere. That’s thirty six months, or 1,095 days if you’re the analytic type.

It sounds more significant if I state that I’ve now spent one tenth of my life sporadically typing into a WordPress template. On average, I’ve generated one post every eight days (141 in total), which means that a sizeable chunk of each week has been dedicated to late night contemplation, recipe testing, dish washing and amateur photo editing. And eating, of course (arguably the best part).

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It’s been a long journey. Believe me, my enthusiasm has waxed, waned and wilted as each season has passed. Despite my unwavering passion for food, there have been moments of intense frustration when I’ve wondered what the hell I’m doing, donating my free time, finance and energy into something that’s essentially ‘just another food blog’ (there are hundreds in my home town of Perth alone).

After a lot of reflection, I can honestly state that my ‘staying power’ is attributable to two core elements:

  • a firm, quiet belief that this blog may someday lead to greater, more financially viable career options in the food industry, and
  • you guys. The readers. Incredible blogging friends, new passionate foodies and other genuine individuals who have somehow found an affinity with this overly reflective, food-obsessed, somewhat insecure and photo-phobic (yep, that’s why there are no head shots of me) girl from one of the most isolated capital cities on Earth. Despite my irregular posting, occasional absences and sleep-deprived drivel on work nights, you’re still here. Amazing. You continually humble, encourage and inspire me.

drained fritters

Anyway, back to the approaching third blogiversary of this little food journal. I’ve engaged in a lot of rumination over ‘dot point one’ over the past few weeks. Over many cups of tea, late night chats and scrawl-sessions in my list pad, I’ve realized that I’m desperate for my interest in food to be more than just a scattered hobby around full-time work and other responsibilities. I want to live and breathe food, for this blog to be more than it is and for this volume of words to overflow into reality.

I want my readers to feel excited about pending content, to be able to rely upon the Mess for new recipes with each coming week. I want people to taste my food with eager hands, licking sauce off their fingers and syrup from their teeth.

I want to cook. To cook with abandon, til my arms are sore and my brow is smeared with butter. To collapse into bed exhausted, but wholly content.

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Now, I realize that the above statements are somewhat idealized and that the reality of working in food isn’t all cinnamon-scented and delicious. Hospitality is a difficult industry to crack, and blogging is… well, blogging. I’m still a small fish in a river of glossy salmon.

Nevertheless, I have goals for my obsessive contemplation to translate into tangible activity over the next few months. My initial focus will be on cranking this blog into the next gear – as of this week, you can expect at least one post per week from the Mess, predominantly focusing on healthy, plant-based vegetarian wholefood cooking (we do eat some meat in our household, Aaron more than I, however as time has passed I’ve progressively transitioned to eating mostly plant-based sources of protein).

For those readers who live in my hometown of Perth, you will also be given some opportunities to eat my food over the next few months. I’m not going to give away too much detail whilst we remain in the planning stages, but keep an eye on my Instagram and Facebook for up-to-the-minute details as plans progress. What I can tell you is that I’m currently engaging in recipe writing, planning and testing, all of which is rather fun. There’s also been a hefty chunk of research regarding local councils, food venues and licensing (Aaron’s been managing the last part. He’s loving it, obviously).

lokinoseAnyway, aside from plans for the next few months – I wanted to share some deliciousness with you today.

Deliciousness in the form of a recipe for fat, chilli-flecked ricotta fritters with fresh zucchini, rocket leaves and a creamy yoghurt sauce. They’re perfect for breakfast, topped with a soft poached egg and crispy fried bacon or chorizo. Two or three fritters are also wonderful on their own as a light meal with some cherry tomatoes, piquant red wine vinegar and Spanish onion.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone x

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Zucchini Ricotta Fritters with Minted Yoghurt

Makes 8

  • 1 cup (250g) fresh ricotta cheese
  • 1 small zucchini, finely grated, excess liquid squeezed out* (about 1 cup/175g drained weight)
  • 1/4 cup finely grated smoked cheddar (or Parmesan)
  • 2 tbsp buckwheat flour plus extra, for dusting
  • 1/2 – 1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped (remove seeds for less heat) OR 1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes (to taste)
  • 1 free-range egg + 1 egg white, extra
  • sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • olive oil, for frying
  • rocket (arugula) leaves and extra virgin olive oil, to serve (optional)

*place the grated zucchini in a fine sieve, cover with a clean paper towel and push down with my palm or a broad spoon. Do not skip this step; squeezing the excess water out of the zucchini is important to ensure that your fritters don’t become waterlogged. Use the zucchini juice in your next green smoothie – it’s hydrating and full of goodness

Minted Yoghurt

  • 1/2 cup thick Greek or natural yoghurt
  • finely grated rind from one lemon (about 1 tsp)
  • handful of chopped fresh mint
  • sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Place the ricotta, smoked cheddar or Parmesan, flour, zucchini, egg and seasonings together in a bowl. Mix well to combine. Whisk the other egg white until form peaks form, then fold through the ricotta and zucchini mixture.

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Shape 1/4 cupfuls of the mixture into fritter shapes and dust with the extra flour (the mixture will be quite wet, but don’t worry – they’ll firm up in the pan). Heat some oil in a large, heavy-based pan over medium heat.

Drop the fritters into the hot oil (ensure there is enough space between them for easy turning). Cook in batches for 2-3 minutes on each side or until browned and crisp. Drain on a paper towel.

yoghurt1Mix together the yoghurt, mint and lemon zest in a small bowl, adding salt and pepper to taste.

Serve a couple of fritters per person with a large dollop of minted yoghurt, a handful of rocket and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

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bite

the best banana bread

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Like most learn-on-the-job bloggers with no formal photographic training, I’m excessively critical of everything I posted in the early days of Laura’s Mess (circa 2012).

Granted, I was working against the odds with a small automatic camera and no formal knowledge of composition, food styling, lighting or photo editing. Most of what you’ll see my first few posts is well-practiced application of the ‘winging it‘ technique, supplemented with tips from my husband Aaron.

Most props were scrounged from the depths of my mother’s kitchen cupboard (with permission of course) and, uh, never returned (sorry mum).

I’ve come a long way since then.

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Not to say that I’m an expert or anything; heck no, I’m still essentially an amateur who now owns a better camera (and who, with much trial and error, is much better at composition and lighting). I’ve attended a couple of blogging conferences and amassed a sizable collection of vintage knives, bowls and platters, most of which still don’t get used on this blog (what was I saying about food styling again?).

I guess I’ve figured out what I like. The kind of shots that speak to my personal sense of style, my food ethos and (most importantly) my stomach.  I love natural light, blemishes, timber and well-loved crockery. Speckled eggs, dark rye and glossy fat aubergines. Food as the star that speaks for itself – with minimal props and clutter.

Beautiful simplicity.

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I don’t always get it right. More often than not, there’s something I dislike about my photographs. I never hold ‘shoots’ with stylized food; each and every morsel that you see on this blog goes into my mouth or someone else’s.  I have so much to learn.

But in saying that, I’m happier with my work these days. I do better justice to the stunning food that graces our table each day. Like this banana bread, for instance. I first posted it in 2012 after a long battle with sunlight and our automatic camera. The photographs are quite horrid, but I’ve left them there as a monument to the early days.

There was slow improvement, evidence found here and here. Let’s hope that next year’s hindsight will be similarly pleasing.

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The recipe below is for traditional banana bread, marked as ‘recipe one’ in my original blog post. It’s richly moist, fragrant and studded with plump walnuts and raisins.

For today’s loaf, I made one further modification from the original recipe: I substituted three quarters of the stated brown sugar for Billington’s natural molasses sugar. The latter provided a rich caramel flavour and a dense crumb that beautifully complimented the ripe banana and warm cinnamon. I’d recommend the switch, particularly if you have some hidden in your pantry (like I did).

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Serve this bread thickly sliced with a dollop of mascarpone, a handful of toasted coconut shavings and/or a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

It’s also wonderful toasted, adorned with butter and consumed with a mug of strong Builder’s tea (aka happiness).

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The Best Banana Bread

Loosely adapted from Marks & Spencer’s Good Home Baking cookbook (1983)

  • 225g self-raising flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • 100g soft unsalted butter, cubed
  • 175g brown sugar (or 135g molasses sugar and 40g brown sugar)
  • 50g raisins
  • 75g halved walnuts
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 very ripe medium bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 tbsp whole milk
  • 1 tbsp demerara sugar and crumbled walnuts, optional (for decoration)

Preheat your oven to 160 degrees C (325 degrees f). Line the bottom of a 1kg non-stick loaf pan with baking paper, then set aside. Place your flour and butter in a bowl, then rub it in until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

rubin

mix

Stir in your sugar, cinnamon, raisins and walnuts. Mix your mashed bananas with the vanilla extract and milk, then add to your mixture. Mix well.

Turn the mixture into your prepared, lined tin and smooth the top with the back of a spoon (I usually bang my tin on the bench a couple of times to expel any air bubbles).

unbaked

Sprinkle with demerara sugar or more walnuts if desired. Place your tin on a baking tray, then bake for 90 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes back with just a few moist crumbs attached.

Leave to cool in the tin for neater slices, or dig straight in with keen smiles and a butter knife. I understand if you choose the latter.

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and so this is (almost) christmas

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It’s just clocked past midnight on Tuesday, December 23, 2014. I’ve spent this evening buying groceries, wrapping presents, detangling my dog from a length of red-and-white string and… well, mostly just wondering where this year has gone.

It’s exactly two days until Christmas; nine until the dawn of two thousand and fifteen. Rather strange, considering that it’s now half-of-my-life-past-the-millennium. Man, I’m old (and my school uniform is still in one of mum’s cupboards. Oh dear. But I digress).

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CHRISTMAS. Ah, Christmas. As per many other blogging friends, I’ve spent most of the month intending to write more holiday-specific posts and accomplishing very little. I blame work, accumulated stress and residual lethargy from a persistent cold.

But mostly? It’s procrastination. Long summer nights lead to a very laid back attitude, sticky skin and consequential reluctance to turn on the hot gas oven.

“Maybe tomorrow night,” she says, whilst sipping water from an ice-filled glass. Tomorrow is inevitably hot. The pattern continues.

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pizzabl

Anyway, as you may be aware, this month hasn’t been entirely wasted. I’ve baked a beautiful glazed ham as well as some mince pies from a few years back (recipe here, please excuse the non-DSLR photos).

I’ve also eaten many homemade pizzas (and some AMAZING cheese-stuffed jalapeno poppers made by my friend Erin) and sipped beer by the glow of a hot barrel fire.

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I also spent part of sunday watching Jamie Oliver season his free-range turkey (the original Jamie’s Christmas is from 2005, what!) whilst eating seasonal fruit and drinking herbal G&T’s.

Oh summer, you are grand.

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But back to Christmas (dis)organization.

I’m sorry to admit that we still have no Christmas tree. I failed dismally on the ‘international Christmas card’ front, too (sorry everyone, I do love you) and my box of stamps is losing stickiness by the month. Good thing I can cook or I might have been scratched off some Christmas lists by now.

Buuuut… summer barbecues need salads and I’m kinda good at them (whoever said that you don’t make friends with salad was wrong. Just saying).

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loki

Anyway, this post wasn’t intended as a page-long whinge about my poor Christmas planning skills (or Christmas itself; I do love this time of year and the ability to appreciate our families and the immeasurable gift of our Lord Jesus Christ to the world).

Rather, I wanted to wish you (my amazing followers, collaborators, family, friends and readers – most of you are combinations of these!) a wonderful festive season and a peaceful start to the new year.

Thanks for sticking with me through the ups and downs of travel, homesickness, sporadic recipe posting and commenting for another year. Your friendship, critique, humour and encouragement means more than you’ll ever know.

I’m praying for blessings, peace, creative inspiration and strength as one year ends and another begins.

MERRY CHRISTMAS + a HAPPY NEW YEAR! – Laura, Aaron and Loki x

barbecued chilli con carne with beer

Chilli Con Carne-2074

In case you missed my last post, Aaron and I are now three days into a European adventure which began in Paris on Wednesday 9th July, 2014. To keep the blog running during my absence, a few wonderful blogger friends have offered to contribute guest recipe posts for your reading (and cooking) pleasure over the next few months (yes, the blogger network is amazing).

First off the block is my talented friend Matt, a mutual Mexican food and beer lover who blogs over at Inspired Food. As he mentions below, we met last year at the Eat Drink Blog conference hosted by Perth City Farm and ever since, we’ve maintained a passionate dialogue about everything food and beer related (yeah, you could say that the post below perfectly encapsulates our foodie friendship!).

I’ll be posting a travel update soonish (with plenty of photographs of golden croissants, warm brioche, soft white cheese and wild strawberries… don’t hate me) but for now, it’s over-and-out as I hand over to Matt! Enjoy!


It’s mid afternoon. The sun is hidden behind an army of clouds, occasionally peeking its head through the cracks. The wind has a cold sting as it brushes past my face and I take comfort in the warmth radiating from the charcoal barbecue. Smoke fills the air as a cast iron pot simmers away, filling my soul with joy about what’s to come…

You see, I’ve been sitting here for over three hours watching the barbecue and tending to that cast iron pot of goodness (ensuring I don’t burn down the backyard!). Thankfully I’m sitting with good company and an Esky full of cold beer (I’m sure Laura would agree that it is never too cold for beer, especially when there is a barbecue involved! Yes, Laura does!).

That is all it takes: a little time, a little fire, a little beer and some of your favourite people.

Chilli Con Carne-2007

Hi, my name is Matt. For those of you who haven’t noticed me stalking this page, I too run a little recipe blog over at Inspired Food. Laura and I have known each other for quite some time now, initially coming across each others blogs in cyberspace and eventually meeting up at the Eat Drink Blog conference in 2013. Since then, there have been a number of awesome dinners (The Moroccan Table and The Spanish Table) with Laura and her husband Aaron, Jemima (from Feed your Soul, Perth) and her sister Lexi, Alyssa (my beautiful girlfriend) and of course myself. I’m sure there will be many more to come.

When Laura asked for contributions from guest bloggers while she travels the northern hemisphere, I jumped straight in and volunteered to spend some of my time rambling. This was more of a natural instinct to help a friend out and I hadn’t actually given much thought as to what I would post about. After many late nights trawling the internet, searching through my cookbooks and watching reruns of Jamie Oliver (ok, yes that is just a regular occurrence but shhh!) I finally came up with the perfect post.

Chilli Con Carne-1994

You see, Laura and I share some common interests: we both love beer, we both love Mexican food and we both love Jamie Oliver’s style of cooking. Naturally, once I realized this, all I had to do was combine these three things and I’d be onto a winner.

Combining beer, Mexican and a ‘Jamie approach’ to cooking was really easy once I came to that conclusion. I had just watched episode two of Jamie’s American Road Trip (you know, the one where he hangs out with the cowboys and makes his cowboy chilli?) and that was my inspiration for this post. I wanted to feel the heat from the barbecue, drink beer and cook something amazing.

Chilli Con Carne-2005

I have always wanted to cook something with beef brisket but it’s quite difficult to find here in Australia. Supermarkets tend to favour corned Silverside. I’d suggest you give your butcher a call a few days before to make sure they carry it (and if they don’t they will have time to get it in). Brisket is the perfect cut of beef for slow cooking; granted there is a little preparation involved but it is well worth it. The beer adds a lot of body to the chilli and depending on the type of beer you choose, the options are endless.

Below you will find my recipe for a Tex-Mex style ‘Beer Chilli Con Carne’. Inspired (of course) by Jamie Oliver’s cowboy chilli (‘Chilli Con Jamie‘).

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Barbecued Chilli Con Carne with Beer (of course)

Serves 6-8 hungry people

What you’ll need:

  • 2kg beef brisket, cut into 3 cm cubes
  • 2 red onions, sliced
  • 5 gloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 fresh long red chillies, chopped
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tsp chilli powder (add more if you like it hot)
  • 1 bottle of beer (pick your favourite, I used about 500ml of India Pale Ale)
  • 4x 400g tins of tomatoes 
  • 1 square of dark chocolate
  • 400g tin of red kidney beans (or your favourite bean) 
  • 2 capsicums (bell peppers), sliced
  • a handful of chopped coriander (cilantro) roots
  • sour cream, to serve
  • coriander (cilantro) leaves, to garnish 
  • rice and flat bread to serve

Now What?

This couldn’t be easier to make, simply get your barbecue started, add a splash of oil, add the onions and chillies and cook for 3-4 minutes until softened.

Chilli Con Carne-2015

Add the spices and cook for another 2 minutes.

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Then add the beer and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes.

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Add the tomatoes, mashing up any whole ones with the back of the spoon. Add the chocolate, coriander (cilantro) roots and meat.

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Mix well, cover and cook for 3 hours or until the meat pulls apart with a couple of forks.

Add the beans and capsicums (and more chilli if your game). Then cook for a further 30 minutes.

Remove the lid, add the sour cream, coriander and start eating. This is best served with rice and flat bread (like warm tortillas) with plenty of cold beers. 

Chilli Con Carne-2074

Thanks again Matt for an incredible guest post… I am definitely trying this recipe as soon as I get home! For more inspiration from Matt, please check out his blog (Inspired Food) and associated facebook, Instagram and twitter!

Chilli Con Carne-1998

raw cacao mint truffles

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The following recipe was created for my beautiful friend Stephie’s blog, Eat Your Heart Out, as part of her ‘Friends First‘ series for April. I’m re-posting it here primarily for organizational reasons.

I initially stumbled across Stephie’s blog in September last year. I can’t quite remember how (I initially thought it was through her mother, Julie, an equally kind and humorous reader of this blog. In hindsight, I think that she found me through Stephie) but after reading this post I was hooked by Stephie’s down-to-earth warmth, positivity and heartfelt honesty.

I’ve since been a loyal follower of Stephie’s blog (in part because of her incredible baked goods) whilst progressively discovering her feeds on facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And you know what? She’s an amazing inspiration.

Even if she doesn’t like chocolate (yeah… I don’t get it either).

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So, onto the recipe. I shared this method for raw cacao mint truffles with Stephie’s readers for two reasons; 1) Stephie hadn’t posted a similar recipe before, and 2) I figured that northern hemisphere readers might appreciate a ‘healthy sweet treat’ in the lead up to summer’s swimsuit months.

The biggest selling point is the fact that they’re no-cook, a.k.a ridiculously easy to prepare. In ten minutes, you’ve got something deliciously satisfying that’s also healthy. It’s a sweet treat to satisfy any chocolate craving.

So without further ado, scroll down for my raw cacao mint truffle recipe. Each bite is packed with both goodness and flavour, so your heart and your body will thank you.

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Raw Cacao Mint Truffles

Makes approximately 20 balls

  • 1 cup (100g) raw almond meal (ground almonds)
  • 1/2 cup (60g) raw cacao powder (substitute Dutch process cocoa)
  • 1-2 tsp cacao nibs
  • 4 Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp (15-30ml) raw honey*, maple syrup or agave, to sweeten
  • 1 tbsp (15ml) water
  • 2 tbsp (30ml) coconut oil
  • 1-2 drops peppermint oil, to taste
  • Cacao powder, cocoa or desiccated coconut, to roll

Place the almond meal, cacao, dates, water and coconut oil into the bowl of a food processor. Process until the mixture starts to come together. Taste and add some honey, maple syrup or agave to sweeten if required (I used 2 tbsp of honey, however if you’ve used cocoa instead of cacao powder you’ll probably require a little less). Process again and tip into a medium sized bowl.

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Add the cacao nibs and a drop of peppermint oil. Mix together, using your hands or a metal spoon. Taste again and add a little more peppermint oil if desired.

With clean hands, roll the mixture into balls (I used ½ tablespoon of mix per ball). Roll each ball into some cocoa powder or desiccated coconut before placing them onto a lined baking tray. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to serve*.

*Use maple syrup or agave as a vegan alternative to honey. Do not keep these balls at room temperature or they will become very soft.

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the moroccan table

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Blogging is a funny thing. When I first began Laura’s Mess back in May 2012, it was predominantly intended as a personal record of my scribbled recipes, photographs and stories. Twenty months later, I’ve produced eighty six posts, learned how to use photo editing programs and formed friendships all around the world that are predominantly based on a mutual passion for home cooking, writing, local produce and nourishing those we love.

In recent months, one of the most precious benefits of blogging has been the formation of new friendships with a group of talented Perth bloggers, most of whom I met at the Eat Drink Blog conference in November 2013. To name just a few, there’s Laura (Laura Moseley), Bryton (Food in Literature), Whitney (Dine Whit Me), Matt (Abstract Gourmet) and Ai-Ling (Food Endeavours of the Blue Apocalypse).

However, among the crowd of eighty-odd people, there were two bloggers that I instantly hit it off with: Matt (Inspired Food) and Jemima (Feed Your Soul, Perth). Since the conference, we’ve kept up a continued foodie dialogue whilst also meeting on occasions for good eats and company.

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APPLEMINT

I expect it’s something to do with our youthful enthusiasm, a mutual love of food (evidence below) and our growing cookbook collections. Whatever it is, I feel blessed and inspired to be part of it.

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Where there’s food, there’s us.

A few weeks ago, Matt, Jem and I decided that it was time to hold a joint dinner party for our favourite long-suffering taste testers: Matt’s girlfriend Alyssa, Jem’s sister Lexi and my Aaron. After some initial brainstorming, we decided on a loose Moroccan theme packed with spices, nuts and grains.

The date was set for Sunday, 19th January 2014. Matt and Jem chose mains whilst I volunteered for appetizers and dessert. The excitement grew. And we waited.

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The day finally arrived in a flurry of heat, sweat and activity. Matt and I completed most of the food preparation at our respective homes before arriving with Alyssa and Aaron at Jem and Lexi’s in the late afternoon. The evening was warm, sticky and bright. We sipped on apple and gin cocktails, waiting for the sun to set whilst chatting about our dishes, food blogging and life in general.

Aaron, Lexi and Alyssa chatted too; mostly about the shared pains of living with a food blogger (and the benefits, thank goodness!).

pome2 pomegranate

As the night continued, we cooked, laughed and consumed a beautiful array of dishes ranging from spiced chicken tagine to delicate orange salad. Jem and Lexi’s home smelt like a Middle Eastern market, rich with cinnamon, vine fruits and orange blossom.

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It was a privilege to see my friends ‘in action’, cooking and styling their dishes for service and photographic presentation. After cooking together, I’ve been even more inspired by their natural talent, culinary knowledge and genuine love of food.

I’ve included the full menu from our night below. As the appetizer and dessert recipes were mine, you’ll find them attached at the base of this post. For main dish recipes (and to say hello to Jemima and Matt) please click on the hyperlinks below.

cocktailpour

Drink:

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Appetizer:

  • Split pea bessara dip with smoked paprika
  • Burnt eggplant with tahini and pomegranate
  • Moroccan flat bread (khobz) with za’atar

meatballs

Mains:

icecream

Dessert:

  • Pistachio and rose ice cream
  • Cardamom and orange blossom ice cream
  • Almond pistachio shortbread cookies

As you’ve probably guessed by now, this is one of the longest posts I’ve ever written, containing five recipes in detail. However, after reading through and following the hyperlinks, I assure you that you’ll have everything you need to throw a Moroccan-themed dinner party just like we did.

I do hope you enjoy our recipe link-up as you join us around our virtual shared ‘Moroccan Table’. Thanks again to Matt, Alyssa, Jemima, Lexi and Aaron for the beautiful company, conversation, foodie inspiration and wonderful, fragrant dishes that entice the senses.

breaddips

Split Pea Bessara Dip

Adapted from a recipe by Hassan M’Souli

  • 125 ml (1/3 cup) extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 250g dried green peas, rinsed
  • 45g harissa (Moroccan chili paste)
  • 1/4 tsp sweet paprika
  • sea salt

Place a large saucepan over medium heat. Add in the olive oil and crushed garlic, cooking for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add in the peas and cumin; cook, stirring regularly, for 3 minutes. Pour in 2 cups (500ml) of water and bring to the boil.

Cook for 10 minutes or until the mixture starts looking dry and the peas have absorbed most of the water. Add in another 2 cups (500ml) of water and cook for a further 30 minutes or until the peas are soft and easily pressed between your fingers.

Remove from the heat and allow to stand for 15 minutes. At this stage, you can puree the dip if you’d like it smooth. Otherwise, return the pan to medium heat and simmer for 10 minutes or until the peas start to split and completely soft. Stir in the harissa, then season to taste.

Cool slightly before serving, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with smoked paprika.

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Burnt Aubergine with Tahini and Pomegranate

This recipe was made exactly from Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s Jerusalem cookbook. I’m not going to rewrite it here, however many other bloggers have including Brian Samuels (see link here). It’s a beautiful, bold and piquant dip. If you’d like a tutorial for something similar, see my baba ghanouj post.

Moroccan flatbread (Khobz)

This is a slightly bastardized version, seeing as I’ve never been to Morocco. It’s been adapted from several recipes around the web, including this one.

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 7g envelope active dry yeast
  • 1 tbsp raw honey
  • 4 cups bread flour flour
  • 2-3 tsp flaked sea salt, to taste
  • 1 tbsp caraway seeds, toasted and crushed in a mortar and pestle
  • 1/4 cup light olive oil
  • optional: 1 free-range egg + 1 tbsp water, to brush
  • optional: 1 tbsp za’atar, to sprinkle

In a small bowl, stir together 1/2 cup of the warm water and the raw honey. Sprinkle the yeast over the top and let the mixture stand for about 10 minutes, or until foamy.

Place the flour into a large bowl and stir in the salt and caraway seeds. Make a well in the center and pour in the oil and yeast mixture.

mix

Start mixing the dough together, adding small amounts of the remaining water until you have a smooth, soft dough that can be easily handled (I had about 1/4 cup water left over).

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 5-10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Return the flour to a clean, oiled bowl before covering with a wet tea towel. Place in a warm, draught-free position and let rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

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Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (356 degrees f) and heat two flat, heavy-based oven trays. Deflate the risen dough before dividing it into two equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, then flatten into an oval that is about 2cm thick. Use a butter knife to draw three slashes upon the top of each loaf.

If glazing your loaves, quickly beat together the egg and water in a small bowl. Brush each loaf with the mixture and sprinkle with za’atar.

Splash each hot tray with a little oil, then carefully transfer your loaves onto the trays. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the loaves are shiny and golden brown. Serve warm with the above dips or some good-quality olive oil for dipping.

baked

Pistachio and Almond Shortbread

Makes about 16 cookies

  • 115g butter, room temperature
  • 110g icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar)
  • 1 pinch flaked sea salt
  • 165g plain flour, sifted
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup toasted mixed pistachios and almonds, crushed coarsely

Place the plain flour into a bowl with the icing sugar, cinnamon and salt. Rub in the butter until you have a firm dough. Mix through the toasted nuts.

dough2

Shape the dough into one long log (about 8 inches long) and tightly wrap in plastic. Freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (365 degrees f). Line a heavy-based baking tray or cookie sheet. Cut the dough into 1cm thick slices and transfer each slice to the lined tray.

cut

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until set and slightly golden at the edges. Cool on wire racks before serving, sprinkled with a little extra cinnamon if desired.

Pistachio and Rosewater Ice Cream

Adapted from this recipe by The Food Network

Makes about 1 litre

  • 150g shelled, toasted pistachios, crushed finely
  • 450ml whole (full fat) milk
  • 300ml double cream
  • 150g sugar, divided into two
  • Pinch of flaked sea salt
  • 1 tbsp rosewater
  • 4 free-range egg yolks

Place the pistachios, milk, cream, half the sugar and salt into a large saucepan and set over medium heat. Bring to the boil. Allow to boil for 1 minute before removing the pot from the heat and covering it with a lid. Allow the mixture to infuse for 30-60 minutes, or until the milk clearly tastes like pistachio nuts.

Pour the mixture through a fine strainer and discard the nut pulp.

drain2

Place the milk mixture back into the pan over medium heat. Bring to the boil. Meanwhile, place the egg yolks into a medium bowl with the sugar and whisk until pale and thick.

When the milk starts to boil, take it off the heat and slowly add about half of it to your egg mixture, whisking continuously. Add the egg and milk mixture back into the rest of the milk in the saucepan, whisking well until combined. Return the pan to the heat, continually whisking until thickened slightly (the mix should coat the back of a spoon). Allow to cool, then add in the rosewater.

Chill well (preferably overnight) before processing the custard in your ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Serve topped with some more crushed, toasted pistachios and crumbled dried rose petals.

tub

Cardamom and Orange Blossom Fleur de Lait Ice Cream

Adapted from this recipe by Food 52. ‘Fleur de Lait’ is ice cream with custard that is made from cornflour instead of egg yolks.

Makes about 1 litre

  • 2 cups (500ml) heavy cream
  • 1 cup (250ml) whole (full fat) milk
  • 2/3 cup raw honey
  • 1 pinch sea salt flakes
  • 3-4 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed (or 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom)
  • 2 tbsp cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 1 tbsp orange blossom water
  • 1 tbsp Cointreau, Grand Marnier or another triple sec (substitute another tbsp of orange blossom water)

Combine the cream over medium heat with the honey, salt and cardamom pods.

honey
Whisk the cornflour into the milk until well dissolved, then add to the warmed cream. Heat, stirring constantly until the mixture comes to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, until the mixture thickens to coat the back of a spoon. Strain into a bowl and leave to cool. Add the orange blossom water, then chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour or preferably overnight.When adequately cooled, process in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If using alcohol, add the triple sec to the mixture just as the ice cream begins to freeze.

Store in the freezer or serve immediately (be aware that this ice cream melts much quicker than those made with egg yolk custard. Don’t leave it out for too long).

scoop2

EAT. DRINK. BLOG. conference, perth 2013

edbsign

Last weekend, I was privileged to attend the fourth annual Eat Drink Blog conference at Perth City Farm in East Perth, Western Australia. Spanning an entire Saturday and half of Sunday, the conference included nine learning modules, a fully sponsored Saturday night pop-up dinner and three half-day elective masterclasses, all of which required huge amounts of pre-event organisation.

So, before I write about anything else, I want to say a huge thank you to the dedicated, ever-smiling committee who organised this generous event for Australian bloggers. None of this would have happened without you.

bags

Saturday 09/11/2013: EAT DRINK BLOG Conference

Perth City Farm is a lush, green oasis situated by the scattered grey landscape of Health Department buildings on Royal Street in East Perth. Built on the remnants of a former scrap metal yard, it now incorporates a sprawling community garden, urban farm and organic cafe, the latter of which stocks organic artisan bread from Loafers.

On Saturday mornings from 8am – 12 noon, the Farm plays host to a market full of small-batch cheeses, organic fruit and vegetables, free range eggs, biodynamic meats, homemade soaps and unrefined honey. Keen crowds mingle with passionate growers and producers in a happy dance, often to live bands or acoustic guitar.

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Upon arriving at the Farm, I immediately felt lifted by the smell of fresh apples and citrus bathed in soft morning sun. As I wove my way through groups of sticky children to the rear function room (a.k.a timber shed), I spotted a few people snapping photos of crusty bread with DSLR cameras. Bloggers? Quite possibly.

No, probably.

sign

The shed entrance was bordered by smiling fruit vendors who seemed slightly amused by the trickle of camera-wielding food bloggers who soon disappeared within. As I descended the stairs to register, I was greeted by the smile of an amiable volunteer. Lanyard, check. Program, check. My feet gravitated towards the steam rising from the 5 Senses coffee machine.

The first two meters of conference space were cluttered with slightly apprehensive, disquieted individuals who were assumedly attending a blogging conference for the first time. Their expressions mimicked the butterfly ramming the wall of my gut – excited, in a trapped kind of way.

As a fledgling blogger of eighteen months, I was completely unaccustomed to seeing groups of food bloggers (and their cameras) in a single confined space. Glazed pastries from Jean Pierre Sancho, Australian pears and ice-packed yoghurt from West n’Fresh were surrounded by a wall of bloggers searching for the best camera angles. I took some quick snaps before continuing my quest for coffee.

yoghurt pears

My coffee order was scrawled onto a paper cup by one of the deluged-but-smiling baristas at the 5 Senses coffee area. The air in the shed was hot due to external humidity and incessant sunshine, only slighty offset by oscillating fans.

I waited in the crowd, checking each appearing cup for the inked version of my name. Thankfully, the order was completed just before the official conference ‘welcome’ began. I squirreled myself, coffee cup in hand, into a nearby seat between Andrea from Noshbites and Jamie from Gourmet Male.

I sat, sipping thoughtfully as the beautiful Ai-Ling from Blue Apocalypse introduced the program for the day. Unfortunately, I remember very little apart from the toasty, rich, delicately floral coffee in that paper cup. Coffee can do that to you (thank goodness for paper programs).

coffee

The rest of the day was a haze of learning modules, panel discussions, food breaks and practical demonstrations including an interactive coffee workshop from Charles Stewart and Jeremy Hulsdunk (barista and customer services manager at 5 Senses Coffee/Perth Australian Barista Academy) and a breakdown on mobile blogging and social networking issues by Thang Ngo (blogger and food writer at Noodlies, see his presentation and the results of his conference survey here).

The official program is available here, incorporating relevant topics such as working with media and Public Relations, ‘sponsored posts’, ethical and legal issues within the world of copyright, blogging and photography. The speakers were dynamic, varied and utterly enthusiastic (despite the heat and huge amounts of sleep-inducing food) including:

  • Adam Roberts – cookbook author, food writer and United States blogger at Amateur Gourmet
  • Ed Charles – internet consultant, journalist and blogger at Tomato
  • Jeremy Hulsdank – above mentioned barista and customer services manager at 5 Senses Coffee/Perth Australian Barista Academy
  • Russell Blaikie – head chef and manager of MUST Wine Bar in Mount Lawley and Muster bar and grill in Margaret River
  • Michael Tucak – arts lawyer from Creative Legal
  • Cynthia Chew – food writer and blogger from The Food Pornographer
  • Phil Lees – social media manager and food writer from The Last Appetite
  • Max Brearley – freelance journalist and blogger at Pub Diaries
  • Emma Galloway – cookbook author, ex-chef and blogger at My Darling Lemon Thyme
  • Sophie Budd – chef at Taste Budds caterers and cooking school
  • Anthony Georgeoff – editor of Spice magazine, blogger at Manthatcooks
  • Simon Park – photographer and blogger at The Heart of Food
  • Thang Ngo – above mentioned food writer, commentator and blogger at Noodlies
  • Paul Kilmurray – founder of Urban Locavore (project involving WA artisan producers, delivering fresh produce to your door)
  • Kiren Mainwaring – head chef from the incredible Co-Op Dining restaurant in East Perth

If you’d like to peruse some of the very worthy write-ups from other attendees of the event, please follow the media link here. There are also some incredible photo diaries such as Rachi’s snapshots on Le Bon Vivant.

I’d also like to echo the common thanks expressed by attendees to the incredibly generous food sponsors including the team at European Foods (the primary event sponsors) who created an incredible continental lunch spread with freshly-shaved jamon, Scotch eggs with truffle aioli, cheeses, antipasti, Baci chocolates and San Pellegrino drinks. Brownes dairy sponsored the venue whilst also providing creamy milk for coffees throughout the day (thanks again to the tireless baristas at 5 Senses coffee). Morning and afternoon tea cakes, tarts and other treats were provided by Littlesweet baking and Red Hot Spatula catering. We were well and truly spoiled.

littlesweetAfter the conclusion of the official program, we had just under two hours for drinks at the nearby Royal on the Waterfront before heading back to the venue for a Pop-up Twilight Market dinner. Thanks to Matt at Inspired Food, Jemima from Feed Your Soul, Perth, Jamie at Gourmet Male and Dianne at Travelletto for the ciders, laughs and perfect company. Two hours has never gone so quickly.

buttys

Saturday 09/11/2013: POP-UP Dinner

The air had cooled considerably by the time we made our way back to the urban farmstead. Shadows fell on the pavement in dappled forms as dry leaves crackled underfoot.

We wove our way through the front gates into the main courtyard of the farm, where food bloggers congregated around plastic tables. They sipped from mint-tinged cups of Jax Coco and crunched on crisp-fried empanadas from Marcelita’s Colombian foods. Music hummed in the background, setting a merry rhythm as vendors assembled their wares.

galafrey hall Matt, Jemima and I decided to share plates in an effort to sample everything in one giant hit (we were slightly unrealistic, as we were still defeated by Butty’s burger van).

Our first stop was Jax Coco for incredible coconut water cocktails followed by a glass of 2010 Tempranillo Shiraz from Mount Barker-based Galafrey wines. The latter was delicious; peppery and fruit driven, a perfect accompaniment to chewy, hand-stretched Old Lira pizza and succulent pork and potato empanadas from Marcelitas.

empanadasAfter crunching our way through an empanada each, we visited Bangkok Jump Street for crispy pork crackling salad and Pad Thai. The combination of flavours and textures in the salad was incredible; soft herbs and dressed greens with crunchy crackling and cubes of tender pork. Great food made even better by the friendly vendors serving it.

jumpstreetIn reflection, my very favourite food truck was the Jumplings dumpling van. Juicy, soft Japanese-style duck dumplings in ponzu sauce with chilli and coriander? My version of dumpling heaven. I’d encourage you to check their facebook page often so that you can stalk them every day of the week. On hot days, they also wear Chux wipes as sweatbands. I like.

jumplings

I failed to get a picture of the Delish Ice artisan ice-pops van, but I can assure you that those girls know how to make a delicious popsicle. I tried their wonderful passionfruit, mint and lime (as they had run out of the very unique basil and elderflower with gin syrup).

The popsicle was ice-cold, tropical and refreshing, like the best parts of a fruity mojito on a hot summer’s day, as was an ice-cold gin and tonic with West Winds uniquely Australian Sabre gin (unfortunately they had run out of Cutlass, instilled with coriander and bush tomato… I’m on the hunt to buy myself a bottle).

By the end of the evening, we were full of heart, mind and stomach, ready for sleep before the next day’s elective adventures began. Thanks again to the Eat Drink Blog Committee and all of the sponsors for an unforgettable foodie experience. I can’t wait for next year.

*Click here for my experience at Sunday 10/11/2013: Cocktail and Cuisine Masterclass at The Classroom

happy blogiversary to me

blogiversary

It’s hard to believe that it’s been one year and three days since I published my first recipe post on WordPress.com. On 21st May 2012, my recipe for Frangipane Tart with Rhubarb Pomegranate Compote and Pistachio Crumble was launched into cyberspace with photography (including editing) by my husband, Aaron and food styling, recipe prep and text by yours truly. It attracted six comments; 50% were responses from me and 30% were from friends and family. The last comment arrived much later, written by Azita from Fig and Quince. I believe we were discussing uses for pomegranates after Azita posted a delicious recipe series on this unique fruit, including instructions to make homemade Roe’beh Anâr (Pomegranate molasses). And that was it. We were blogging friends… which later turned into blogging sisters. I love how the medium of blogging crosses cultural boundaries, language barriers, distances and time zones seamlessly. In the past year, I’ve enjoyed the privilege of communicating with amazing cooks, writers and photographers around the world. I’ve learned much, shared much and enjoyed every minute.

So, as this post commemorates the one-year-mark of my blogging career (if you can call it that!), I’m going to share a few growth points that have happened in the home (and brain) of Laura over the past twelve months. Here goes:

  • I’ve learned how to use Photoshop. Believe it or not, I had absolutely no idea about this miraculous program when my first post was launched one year ago. I never had any use for it (as I’m normally quite happy with my photographs) and to be honest, I only knew it existed through media reports of celebrity photos being ‘airbrushed’. However, in order to format, adjust and montage shots for publication, I had to learn. My teacher? The very patient, talented and loving Aaron (I think I learned fast). Since about post three, I’ve been photographing, editing and layering all of my own shots for every post. I’m pretty happy with my progress!
  • I’ve bought more kitchenware. Not sure if this is a positive or not, but I’ve become a little obsessed with obtaining small ramekins, vintage knives, shiny plates and bottles for food styling purposes. I’ve visited more charity stores (‘op-shops’ or ‘thrift stores’, depending upon where you’re from) in the past year than the previous ten years combined. It’s been huge amounts of fun.
  • I’ve absorbed about 2% of the world’s knowledge of HTML. HyperText Markup Language is freaking hard. Thank goodness WordPress does most of the hard work for us. With the assistance of HTML Dog and WordPress tutorials, I have learned a tiny bit though. A miniscule drop in the huge, complex HTML ocean. I’m hoping to learn more with time and persistence so that I can actually revamp this site and make it a little more customized. But, for now… I’ll refrain from further torturing my brain (ah, poetry!).
  • I’ve increased my nutritional knowledge. Through researching information for each post, I’ve actually learned a lot more about the nutritional qualities of many ingredients, including alternative flours, fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds. It’s been hugely beneficial to our dietary intake; we now eat about 80% fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds (with the remaining 20% including meat, dairy, sugar and other carbohydrates). I can read your thoughts. Yes, I bake a lot of sweet goods! I do eat some of it, but the rest is gratefully shared… either at work, home or elsewhere.

lgrassdrinkmont

  • I’m gifted with superfluous garden and fridge products wherever I go. I mentioned this in my post for Indian Lime Pickle, but one of the benefits (and drawbacks) of being a food blogger is that people give you perishables. Lots of perishables. So far I’ve received homegrown limes, lemons, tomatoes, apples, a few red peppers, guavas, chillies, courgettes and bags of herbs. All fantastic (I actually get excited when I receive gifts like these; the ‘recipe development section’ of my brain goes haywire). I’ve also received half-finished bags of spinach, jars of half-finished pickles, limp supermarket herbs, Kraft String Cheese (Cheestiks, for Australians) that expired in 1996 (actually, this was really cool. They’d turned completely black and hard, and smelt like feet) and leftover bits of cheese. Sometimes cool, sometimes, uh… not. But, in saying this: any representatives of corporations or companies, if you want to give me stuff, I say YES. Especially if you work for the Hendricks gin factory. Please.
  • I feel like I have so much more to learn. The world of blogging is rich, multifaceted, humbling and inspiring. I read (or see, in terms of photography or art) so many people’s work and feel humbled at the level of skill, work and passion that’s gone into each and every post. I love the fact that I can learn pretty much anything I want to by clicking through to a particular blogger’s site. It’s amazing. It inspires me to become a better version of myself, both personally and in terms of blogging itself.

I intended to include my response to some recent awards I’ve been blessed with as part of this post, but… well, my verbal diarrhoea has flared up again. I’ll leave the awards post til next time.

I’m also working on a soon-to-be-completed recipe for sourdough, but you know what? My lovingly fed sourdough starter-baby (I named it ‘Glop’) died in the first Winter cold snap a couple of weeks ago. It now resembles a sad, thick jar of grey goop with a layer of liquid floating on the top. I mourned the loss of my starter with the beautiful Brydie from Cityhippyfarmgirl (my original sourdough teacher) and she’s offered to send me a carefully-packed portion of hers on Monday. I am certain that the bloggers are some of the best, most beautiful and generous people in the world. All of you remind me of that. Every single day.

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To end this post: a little story about last night’s dinner experience.

A few days ago, I purchased a large handful of chestnuts from my local farmer’s market. I’ve been eating chestnuts since I was a little girl; usually roasted at Christmastime, on an open fire at my grandparent’s house near the river Thames (in England). The smell, the crackle of the splitting skins, the beautiful, warm fragrant meat… every part of eating chestnuts revisits the six-year-old me. A time of fun, presents and minimal responsibility.

So, anyway; I squirreled this bag of chestnuts home, my breath fogging the cold air with puffs of excitement. They were stored in the fridge for two days before I fired up my oven to ‘roast’ them, in absence of an open fireplace. While the chestnuts roasted, I prepared a roast beetroot, fresh mint, goats cheese and walnut salad with lemon-infused oil. I heard a sound like gunfire… a clear, loud bang… and a rattle on the side of our old gas oven. Uh oh.

The oven door opened. The chestnuts were sizzling and fragrant, their shells cracking in the wafting heat. Tiny bits of exploded chestnut clung to the interior surface of the oven like soft white shrapnel. I lifted the tray out of the oven carefully and placed it on the cool hob.

Bang. I screamed. My face, hair and the tiled splash-back were peppered with tiny pieces of hot white chestnut. What an idiot. I placed a tea towel over the tray of chestnuts, annoyed at myself, before turning around. Another nut exploded behind me. It wasn’t restrained by the limp tea towel and sent more chestnut meat flying around the kitchen. I looked at my poor beetroot salad, which was now dusted with a fine white powder. No, not cocaine. Exploded chestnut.

About two minutes later, the chestnuts stopped sizzling and I breathed a sigh of relief. I went to the bathroom and started removing exploded chestnut from my hair, eyelashes, skin, cleavage (sorry to the male readers, but it’s true!) and nostrils. There’s a lot of meat in one tiny chestnut. I then cleaned the fine film of exploded chestnut off every surface in my kitchen. It covered a radius of about three metres. Once dry, exploded chestnut is quite hard to scrub off tiles.

I am now officially scared of roasted chestnuts. But, they were exceedingly tasty.

By the way, treatment for PCED (post-chestnut explosion disorder) included watching this video. It helped (watch it, amigos).

The end.

laurasun*thanks for sharing this blogging year with me!

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