old fashioned porridge in the country

porridge

It’s been a long time since I last put metaphorical pen to paper in this food diary of sorts. Too long. I’d offer excuses, but I’m pretty sure you didn’t click on this post to read about my annus horribilis (if you did, well… I’ve written previously about my elevated work stress and injuries, blah blah. Ironically, I’ve also found myself unemployed this week – one week shy of Christmas. Life, huh? It keeps on giving).

On a more pleasant note, I began writing this post two weeks ago from the confines of Green Cottage, an original shearer’s cabin in country Western Australia. Located on an 80 acre farm property, it was rough logged and tin-clad, full of cracks, dust and rusted fixings.

It was perfect, in an imperfect kind of way. The kind of place you visit to escape from cell phones and schedules. We booked the farmstay as a creative family retreat: for Aaron to draw, me to write and for Loki to… well, connect with nature as only a city dog can. It was beautiful to watch him embrace paddocks, sheep and dry horse manure with bright eyes and tousled fur. He’s tucked in beside me as I write, his little body heavy with sleep and wild forest dreams.

lokipathhaus apples

One of the main reasons why Aaron and I booked this particular cabin was the presence of an old cast-iron stove. A ‘Homesteader’, I think they’re called, with compartments for hot coals and kindling.

After booking our accommodation, I began planning meals of hot smoked potatoes, herbed damper and roasted vegetables with saffron aioli (in fact, I packed ingredients for most of these things into our vehicle, excitedly unpacking them into a mini-fridge upon our arrival). On night two, I was determined to make it work.

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Fast forward to night four: I had set off the smoke detector three times, blackening my fingers and a depleting pile of kindling. Despite multiple attempts, the only by-product of my efforts were ash and disappointment.

I eventually abandoned the ‘Homesteader project’ for the hooded gas barbecue on the front porch, occasionally relieved by an ageing microwave. Both were effective in feeding us over the course of five nights, with reduced chances of carbon monoxide poisoning.

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By the end of the week, we created barbecued homemade pizzas with goats cheese, artichokes and pesto, various smoked barbecued root vegetables and a barbecued garlic ciabatta loaf. I also steamed beets and potatoes in the microwave, serving both with herbs and butter.

There were no further kitchen incidents, unless you count the unauthorised consumption of two pears, one banana and Aaron’s jam donut in the dead of night. We assume the culprit was a wily rodent, though any beady eyes escaped investigation (some sad evidence towards the end of this post).

My favourite cooking experience by far was also the simplest of our five nights in the south west. We collected kindling from the surrounding karri forest, stoked a fire in the front garden and drank wine whilst the larger logs caught aflame. As the sun descended in the sky, we prepared the most beautiful, basic dinner of barbecued local Italian sausages, rosemary fried onions and warmed, buttered Manjimup bread with mandatory condiments. Oh, and a little crumbled Cheddar because, cheese.

After eating our fill, we snuggled in plaid blankets with Loki at our feet. We sat, talked and laughed until our candle died and embers flickered in quiet, inky blackness. The best kind of country evening.

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Whilst the original intention of this post was to laud the greatness of a cast-iron stove, I now admit that I’m rather inept at keeping the home fires burning… or even lighting them to start with. Despite retaining my fascination for ‘old-school cookery’, I’m more comfortable with modern heat sources which can nevertheless yield some rather old school results. I’ve produced many smoky dishes, slow cooked meals and charred crusts with the aid of a ceramic stone, gas oven, modern cooktop and good quality cookware, so rather than focusing on Homesteader cookery in this blog post, I’m praising something very old-school that can be made in any modern home: traditional porridge.

Despite being consumed for hundreds (or perhaps thousands) of years by varying methodology, porridge (or oatmeal, if you’re American) can be easily recreated on a gas or electric cooktop, or even in the modern microwave. I’ve been eating it since I was tiny and despite experimenting with various commercial evolutions (such as packaged quick oats and flavoured concoctions) my traditional childhood bowl reigns supreme over all imitations: full cream, slow cooked, simply topped with honey (my mother) or blackberry jam (yep, that’s dad).

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We prepared porridge frequently during our few days in Green Cottage. Despite being summer, the weather was unpredictably cold and wet which provided perfect opportunities for warm breakfasts, scalding cups of Builder’s tea and evenings by the traditional pot belly wood burner.

The first porridge morning was Aaron’s idea, after he discovered a jar of oats in the cottage pantry. I was already crumbling some Weet-bix biscuits into my cereal bowl, so I left him to his own devices until waterlogged oats overflowed from the boiling pan. Being Aaron, he ate the oats anyway with a glug of milk and some banana. I spent a few minutes scrubbing dried oats off the cottage cooktop. The next morning dawned with a cool breeze and a request for some tips on perfect porridge. He’s been using these ever since.

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Despite being more of a ‘guideline’ than a recipe, I’ve included my default method for porridge below with suggested quantities. I’ve also listed a few porridge toppings that rock in our household, my favourite being nut butter (pure peanut or tahini) and sliced banana.

I’m quite aware that my method contradicts that of Scottish purists (who advocate for only salt, oats and water whilst cooking). Despite my Scottish surname, I’m going to come straight out and say that I use milk for the entirety of the cooking process which creates extra creamy, delicious oats. Do as you will, I say.

horses apple2Wishing you and yours a beautiful, peaceful Christmas and a blessed start to 2016. May there be plenty of porridge.

– Aaron, Loki and Laura x

My kind of Porridge

Serves 2

  • 1 cup wholegrain rolled or steel-cut oats
  • 1 1/2 cups full fat milk (either dairy or plant based, I like coconut or almond milk but Aaron prefers creamy cows milk)
  • 2/3 cup water
  • a pinch of sea salt

to serve: dairy/plant milk or cream, honey, coconut sugar or maple syrup to drizzle, ground cinnamon, fruit (sliced banana, blueberries, grated apple, sultanas, sliced figs, mango and toasted coconut), toasted nuts or seeds (I like toasted, crumbled walnuts or pumpkin seeds), nut butter (peanut butter with sliced banana is divine), cacao nibs, chia jam or French conserve

If you’re organised, add your oats to the milk and soak overnight in the refrigerator (in a covered bowl or airtight container). Transfer to a small, heavy based saucepan in the morning with a splash of water to loosen. If you’re pressed for time, place the oats directly in the saucepan and soak for 20-30 minutes to produce creamier porridge.

Crank your burner to medium heat until the mixture starts to bubble. Reduce heat to low, add a little more water to loosen and stir regularly, watching your porridge thicken and ensuring that no oats stick to the bottom of the pot. Keep adding water until the oats are soft, smooth and creamy (around 20 minutes).

Spoon your porridge into two bowls, top with a splash of plant or dairy milk and any other toppings you desire. For more inspiration, I’d suggest that you head over to my dreamy, super-mum friend Heidi’s porridge archive on Apples Under my Bed (second to my parents, she is my porridge heroine).

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picnics and caramelised onion foccacia

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I’m a big fan of picnics. Particularly during the summer months when the warmth of the sun lingers long after her brightness has faded.

On the balmiest of nights, we can often be found on the shores of City Beach with a basket, Esky (the Australian word for cooler or ice box), swimmers and (on the odd occasion) a battered volleyball. Quite Australian indeed.

sunset picnic

In fact, amongst our friends (and many others) this tradition also occurs on most Australia Day holidays, usually accompanied by barbecued meat and the Triple J Hottest 100. We’ll possibly do the same this Monday (for overseas readers, Australia Day falls on the 26 January each year) or alternately, dunk ourselves in a swimming pool whilst sipping a cold beer. I can’t wait.

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For those of you planning an Australia Day feast, I’ve included a few recipe links below that are perfect for warm weather snacking, feasting and transporting. There’s also a quick recipe for what I’ve found to be a fail-proof olive oil focaccia.

We eat on its own (the herby, garlicky caramelised onion topping is delicious), with dips (hummus, olive oil, babaghanouj) and sliced lengthways for incredible grilled sandwiches. It’s so, so good.

Salads:

Dips:

Snacks/Antipasto:

Dessert/Sweets:

Drinks:

focaccia

Olive Oil Focaccia with Caramelised Onion Topping

Adapted from this recipe by Kerrie Sun

Makes one loaf

For the dough:

  • 450g (3 cups) strong bread flour
  • 310ml (1 1/4 cups) warm water
  • 2 tsp (7g/1 sachet) dried yeast
  • 2 tsp golden caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil + 2 tbsp extra for kneading + greasing pan
  • 2 tsp flaked sea salt

Topping:

  • 1 small red (Spanish) onion, finely sliced
  • small bunch rosemary and thyme sprigs, leaves picked
  • 1 large garlic clove, peeled and sliced
  • extra virgin olive oil + extra 1 tbsp to brush
  • flaked sea salt, to sprinkle

Combine the water, yeast and sugar in a small bowl. Set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 5 minutes or until frothy.

Place the flour and half of the sea salt into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the yeast mixture alongside 2 tbsp olive oil. Mix the wet yeast mixture into the flour using a fork or wooden spoon, then use your hands to bring the dough together.

Turn the dough onto a lightly oiled surface and knead for 5-10 minutes or until smooth, soft and elastic. Lightly oil a large bowl (I used the same mixing bowl, wiped clean) and transfer the dough in. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel, then leave to prove in a warm, draught-free place for 30-45 minutes or until doubled in size*.

Whilst your dough is rising, prepare your caramelised onion topping: in a medium pan, gently heat a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Add in the sliced onion, garlic and picked herbs, stirring gently over low heat until the onion is translucent (do NOT allow the garlic to brown or burn or the mixture will become bitter). Set aside.

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C (390 degrees f). Brush a 20 x 30 pan with remaining oil, then set aside.

Punch down the dough with your fist. Turn onto a lightly greased surface and knead for another two minutes or until the dough is elastic and has returned to original size. Press out into a rough rectangle and transfer into your prepared pan. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp tea towel and leave in a warm, draught-free place to prove for 20 minutes or until doubled in size.

When your dough has finished proving, uncover and use your fingers to press dimples into the surface. Distribute the caramelised onion topping over the surface, pressing some of the herb sprigs into the dough. Sprinkle with a little flaked sea salt.

Transfer into your preheated oven and bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden (the foccacia should sound hollow when tapped on the base). Brush with a little more olive oil to soften the crust, then leave to cool.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

*Dough can be refrigerated overnight at this point in the process, covered in plastic wrap. You may need to complete second proving in the oven to ensure a good rise (I turned the oven on, preheated it to 100 degrees then turned it off. Leave to cool slightly then transfer your pan of dough onto the centre rack), covered in a moist tea towel. Prove until the dough has doubled in size. 

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To all the Australian readers, happy Australia Day weekend. For my overseas friends, stay warm – I hope this post brings you a sliver of sunshine.

la bella italia

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It’s late on Tuesday afternoon in suburban Glasgow. I’m sitting in bed, swathed in a polka dot bedspread whilst a sniffling Aaron quietly reads. He’s recently contracted his fourth virus since we disembarked our first flight at Charles de Gaulle, Paris. As I had it last week, I feel wholly responsible (despite division of cutlery, plates, cups and general breathing space, the hated thing still spread. Argh. Don’t you hate that?!).

So, in light of coughs, colds and bone-weariness, we jointly decided that today would be our rest day. Perfect for quiet reading, watching videos, photo editing and general blog-time with some decent wifi. As I type, I’m eating a punnet of sticky, luscious figs that cost me (wait for it) £1 for four (AU$1.80). Food is such ridiculously good value over here in Scotland. I’m already preparing myself for a shock when we return to Australian prices (insert sad face here).

Anyway, in light of this afternoon’s productivity, I’ve finally got enough photographs together share some of our Italian adventure with you all (I say some as… well, I’m guessing that you don’t want to see six hundred photographs of Italian cobbled streets. And even if you do, it might just surpass your monthly internet download allowance). We started our trip in the northeastern city of Venice before taking the train to the stunning capital of the Tuscany region, Florence. From there, we rented a cherry red Fiat 500 (classic Italian style) to explore the historical vine-covered landscape including Arezzo, Siena, Chianti and the fortress-town of Monteriggioni.

The final leg of our Italian adventure was an ItaliaRail journey from Florence to the Roman capital. Despite the impressive architecture, history and artwork, it was ridiculously hot, humid and overwhelmed with crowds. As a couple of native Italians have advised, don’t go to Rome in August. Just don’t (but… well, we did. And it was still beautiful, despite the drawbacks).

As per Five Days in Paris, this Italian post is more of a photo diary than a comprehensive travel guide. To be honest, it’s really difficult to find inexpensive, beautiful food in Italy (well, it was for me anyway, despite comprehensive research) and restaurants or cafes that you locate on the internet can take hours to discover on foot (due to poor or absent signage, winding roads and reluctance of some businesses to attract tourists). I’ve added a few notes where I can, but regardless, I hope that you enjoy this mini tour of Italy through our eyes.

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Venice

One of the most beautiful, almost-surreal places I’ve ever been to. How this city-on-the-water has survived for hundreds of years is quite remarkable. We stayed at a hostel called Ai Boteri which was value for money whilst still being clean, spacious and very convenient for most central attractions. There’s an unexpected city tax (which from memory was €2 per person per night) but it’s unavoidable when staying in Italian cities (Florence and Rome were the same).

One thing about Venice: there are mosquitoes EVERYWHERE during the Summertime. They attack you as you sleep (or don’t sleep, in our case. I had about 40 mosquito bites from the first night). Bring heaps of mosquito repellent or, even better, a mosquito net.

We also skipped on the classic Venetian gondola ride due to an 80-100 price tag (and lack of romanticism) though admittedly, the skilled gondoliers are quite impressive. We sat at the edge of the canal and watched them for about half an hour and, despite restricted amounts of space, shallow areas and boat congestion, there were no collisions. Very cool (just like me whilst selecting stone fruit. Ah, yep).

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We also managed to find an amazing tucked-away bar (it had no signage so I have no idea what the name was) that served 6 mojitos every night of the week. Needless to say, we were happy to provide regular patronage, despite the tiny interior necessitating that we sit on the sidewalk. I’d definitely recommend getting ‘lost in Venice’ as there are so many tiny, beautiful venues (with cheap booze and delicious cicchetti, Italian bar snacks) outside of the main tourist areas.

mojitosign nikesDisclaimer: I take no responsibility if you thereafter fail to negotiate the Venetian maze of streets back to your accommodation. Your happy, cheap-ass mojito-drinking self won’t care. You’ll just do a ‘weird dance’ (as Aaron calls it) like me. I’m quite impressed that I was standing in one leg (I’m sure that you will be too Graz!). Oh, and mum, that wasn’t my cigarette butt.mojitoweirddance

Florence

In terms of the trio of Italian cities that we visited, Florence was definitely my favourite. The Renaissance architecture, great wine (gluts of Chianti Classico from the nearby wine region), gelato (La Carraia was our absolute favourite) and public art were present in abundance. The city was also big enough to thankfully diffuse the clusters of iPad tourists (I mean, seriously people! You’re seeing your holiday on a screen!).

We stayed at a B&B called Redenza Martin which was spacious, clean and centrally located. The lovely couple who run the accommodation were also very approachable in terms of travel tips and recommendations (factor in city tax which was about €2-3 per person per night).

florenceviewA tip when staying in Florence: definitely buy fresh provisions from Mercato Centrale. There’s a beautiful daytime fresh food market downstairs (with everything from cured meats and vegetables to fresh pasta and spices) and some great ready-to-eat bites upstairs in the evenings. I’ve included a few snaps below:

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In terms of eating out in Florence? Well, let’s just say that non-touristy places aren’t very consumer-friendly. I did a lot of research prior to arriving in the city and half of the venues we wanted to visit were closed (on normal trading days, with no signage advising of a reason for the closure or when the restaurant might be re-opening). So, in want of a better option, we ended up eating at some very touristy pizza and pasta spots. The food was still good, but menus were in English and the produce wasn’t as authentic as we may have liked.

One successful venture did lead us to Da Vinattieri, a tiny hole-in-the-wall sandwich (panini) shop specializing in fresh Tuscan bread and porchetta.

outside

Unfortunately, there was a lot of inconsistency between our sandwiches and the bread of my panino was dry and hard (between me, Aaron and our friend Paul, we couldn’t bite through it. I actually hurt a tooth). Paul’s was brilliant though, with thin crusty bread and thickly sliced, fresh-roasted porchetta.

sandwichshop It’s worth a visit but don’t let your hopes skyrocket from TripAdvisor reviews (like mine did, *sob*. Half of my sandwich ended up in the bin… but I do hope you have better luck).pannini

Tuscany

If you’re planning a trip to Tuscany, hire a car. Non-negotiable. Apparently there are buses than run sporadically around the area but with the amount of ground you want to cover, you’ll spend half of your time at bus stops.

We stayed at an amazing Tuscan villa in an Arezzo vineyard and olive grove owned by the Messina family (who were happy to produce some amazing samples of their extra virgin olive oil and delicious Chianti DOCG wine). We attempted to visit the cellar door during our days in Tuscany but… well, after a few bottles of wine we got lost on the winding roads. Tuscany does that to you (definitely visit if you can, the wine is beautiful).

Over a few blissful days, we travelled from Arezzo to Siena, stopping in Lucca and most of the Chianti wine region before dropping our rental car back in Florence.

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The countryside, people, wine and cuisine are incredible throughout the Tuscan region. Simplicity is definitely central to food in Tuscany, and some of our favourite meals simply involved a quick visit to some local stores to pick up thickly-sliced porchetta, Florentine salami (gloriously fatty, rich and delicious), fresh ciabatta, marinated vegetables, olives and Italian cheese.

Paired with deep red Chianti wine and peppery local first-press extra virgin olive oil, we were in absolute foodie heaven.

tuscanydinner meatIf you’re interested in wine tasting, there are quite a few Chianti Classico tours that run throughout the Summer months. We preferred to be ‘free agents’ (definition: roaming around the countryside until we drove past a cellar door) but still managed to gain quite a lot of knowledge about different types of Tuscan wines and regional differences.

Personally, traditional Chianti (pure Sangiovese) was by far my favourite wine from the region; rich and dark with subtle tannins. In contrast, the increasingly popular ‘Super Tuscans’ (Sangiovese mixed with a ‘Bordeaux Blend’ of grapes or various quantities of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, occasionally Shiraz) were quite unpredictable from one vineyard to the next. Worth trying but not quite as ‘specific’ to region.

I also fell in love with the gloriously sweet, sticky and syrupy Vin Santo, a dessert wine often served with almond biscuits (cantucci, similar to biscotti) for dessert. The process of dipping, crunching and sipping is a gloriously light way to end a meal.

Tuscan life truly makes one understand the term ‘la dolce vita‘.

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meatceilingOn a side note: perhaps of interest to some (Stefano, I’m thinking of you!) is the rising popularity of synthetic corks (alternative wine closure) in Italian wine production. I actually hadn’t come across one until we set foot in the Tuscan region and I’m undecided on whether I like them or not.

I understand that some technical merits exist but… what’s the fun in uncorking a piece of plastic from a quality bottle of wine? Hm.  rubbercorkP.S. In Tuscany, there seem to be untended tomato plants growing all over the place, on roadside verges, in fields and other random locations in the countryside (far from fixed dwellings; don’t worry I didn’t raid anyone’s garden). Some have rusted stakes, others just sprawl over the nearby ground.

I like to think that an elderly nonna planted them there, long ago before the roads were built. Now they belong to everyone…tomatoes

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Rome

We ended our Italian adventure with two days in the Italian capital, Rome. Many photographs were taken (mostly of the Colosseum and other such things) but as aforementioned, the hot, sticky, touristy aspect of the city was rather overwhelming.

We ate pizzas in abundance whilst sipping on Peroni beer. We trekked to the Vatican City before deciding against spending four hours in a queue to enter the Sistine Chapel. The beauty, history and architecture of Rome is truly stunning but… well, Luigi, you were right. Don’t visit in August. You live and you learn.

rome pizzaSo that’s it. The end of another chapter of our massive European sojourn. I’m signing off from our now-darkened Glasgow bedroom before venturing to the kitchen for some leftover homemade chilli con carne (thank goodness for available kitchens, despite an absence of sharp knives).

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If you’d like to see more snaps of our visit to Italy (and the rest of our Eurotrip), click over to my Instagram account. Thanks, as always, for being interested in this Aussie girl, her food obsession and present wanderlust x

big, beautiful berlin

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It’s quite a daunting prospect to write a singular blog post on the rich, diverse food culture of Berlin. After staying in the city for almost two weeks, I still felt like I had only scratched the surface of what it means to be a ‘Berliner’, both in past and present sense.

As you may be aware, Berlin has a significant and dark history that was arguably punctuated by the construction and eventual dismantling of the Berlin Wall. The division between East and West Berlin has resulted in discernible differences across the city in terms of landscape, affluence, culture and population. As one could expect, this has also had impact upon the food.

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As a newbie to this big, beautiful city, I was fortunate to have some help from a blogging friend to begin exploring some of the local hot spots including Neukölln, Mitte and Kreuzberg. The lovely Claudia from Food with a View spent one morning and one evening with Aaron and I (the second occasion with her partner Arne and our friend Paul) initially at Barcomi’s Deli and secondly at Prinzessinnengärten, an urban garden and café near Moritzplatz. Both experiences were beautiful opportunities to get to know one another whilst enjoying quality coffee, snacks and incredible homemade truffles from Claudia’s kitchen.

Claudia also gifted me with some stunning Amarena cherry and Amaretto liqueur preserve which I’m taking it home to Australia with me (thankfully Claudia has posted the recipe for when my jewel-like jar of deliciousness runs out!).

Thanks again Claudia for your generosity and kindness during our time in Berlin; it’s a blessing to count you as a true friend. If you haven’t yet discovered Food with a View, please head over to Claudia’s blog for beautiful photographs and drool-worthy vegetarian recipes in both Deutsch and English.

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Prior to arriving in Berlin, Claudia emailed me a comprehensive list of notes, links and tips that proved invaluable when trying to unearth the real foodie culture of Berlin. I’ve included some of the websites below, plus a few others that Aaron and I found useful (which I’d recommend browsing if you are planning your own Berlin trip in the future):

Berlin blogs (in English language or with an English option):

Exberliner

Where Berlin

Berlin Food Guide

CeeCee Berlin Newsletter

What Should I Eat for Breakfast Today – Eat Berlin

Now, on to my own personal notes: below you will find some of our favourite places for food and cuture, most of which were frequented more than once over our two weeks in Berlin. Please note, I’ve divided the notes by ‘geographical area’ (i.e. boroughs of Berlin) so that you can plan your future trip(s) accordingly.

Strap in and enjoy a ‘virtual visit’ to what has become one of my favourite cities in the world: big, beautiful Berlin.

A kindly warning before you start: this post is word and picture heavy. Sorry, we had about three million photographs and… well, I loved them all. **Note: associated pictures are BEFORE the name of each establishment.

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Neukölln

During our time in Berlin, Aaron and I continued to gravitate back to Neukölln despite visiting many other local destinations. The combination of grittiness, grunge and flourishing street art was a ‘perfect fit’ for our personalities. Neukölln has one of the highest percentages of immigrants in the city of Berlin and it shows in the vibrant food and street culture. Here are some of our favourite spots:

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Roamers Cafe and Booze – Pannierstraße 64 (near Hermanplatz station)

This lovely little café has a friendliness that was unmatched by many other destinations in Neukölln. It’s a great spot for good coffee, avocado toast (my favourite breakfast) and fresh juices (including melon and rosemary). They also serve booze which is, well, awesome, if you’re a bit like me. It’s an excuse to stay at this gem-of-a-place for hours on end.

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Berlin Burger International – Pannierstraße 5, open from 12pm to midnight

If you’re a fan of doorstopper burgers and beer, you will immediately fall in love with Berlin Burger International. This place is constantly busy for a very good reason. We visited twice during our two weeks in Berlin, initially for Chilli Cheese and Chicken burgers and secondly for Halloumi (a vegetarian option) and Four Cheese. Each burger was better than the last, piled high with fresh salads, bacon and sauce. Go there. You won’t regret it (I haven’t even mentioned the chips… oh my).

Café Myxa – Lenaustraße 22

This place rocks. It’s open til about 1am most nights for booze, breakfast, salads, quiches, great coffee… and free wifi, which always helps. We ventured to Myxa both for breakfast and late-night drinks; both occasions were met with great service and food. They’re also great supporters of local art and music, so check their website for occasional exhibitions and dreamy acoustic sets in the evenings.

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Art und Weise – Leinenstraße 48

This small bar is quite difficult to identify from the street (as it has no signage) however the venture is definitely worth it. Quality cocktails in an eclectic setting. As per Myxa, this place is a huge supporter of local artists so there’s usually an exhibition going on.

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Sowieso – Weisestraße 24

Our favourite Berlin bar (yes, I’m calling it). We returned to Sowieso three times within two weeks for quality cocktails (the cheapest on the street), board games, rocking music and… well, just to mix with the locals. It’s definitely not a touristy establishment. You can also sleep in the bath (if you so desire. No further information; you’ll just have to go there to see what I’m talking about!).

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Klunker Kranich – Karl Marx Straße 66, Neukölln Arcaden (rooftop bar, level 6 carpark)

This open air bar is a bit of a hidden gem. Located in the rooftop carpark of Neukölln’s biggest shopping mall, Klunker Kranich serve giant glasses of wine, quality cocktails and delicious local beers in an ‘urban garden’ setting with woodfired pizzas and couches a-plenty. There’s even a sandpit for the kids (or adults, depending upon what you fancy).

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KR/23 Liquor Company – Weserstraße 53

Also worth mentioning is the tiny shoebox office of the LQR Company. This group of passionate young Germans have long been known as importers of fine whisky and gin but, more recently, they’ve started making their own small-batch kräuterliquör (herb liqueur; think to Jägermeister but MUCH nicer) under the brand KR/23. As per the title, KR/23 contains 23 unique herbs, spices and botanicals, all of which are left to macerate in vodka for approximately 6 weeks before being filtered and bottled. It’s dangerously delicious… but unfortunately, they’re not presently taking online orders. You’ll just have to visit Florian (hello Florian!) yourself for a chat, sample and (yes, it’ll happen) purchase.

Freidrichshain-Kreuzberg

This neighbouring borough to Neukölln has a similar vibe and became our second-favourite part of Berlin city. Freiderichshain was a free-standing borough to Kreuzberg prior to 2001; it was formerly part of East Berlin and has become known for its ‘trendy’ restaurants and bars. Kreuzberg on the other hand has become known for its punk rock culture and large proportion of Turkish immigrants (which in turn has led to the availability of some incredibly authentic Turkish food). We loved everything.

Kaffebar – Graefestraße 8, Kreuzberg

This little café has hands-down the best panini’s in Berlin (that I tried, anyway). They make their own pesto and a great Eggs Benedict. Their coffee was my second favourite in the city (read on for my favourite below), creamy and delicious with just the right amount of bitterness. There are many delicious options for vegans, too.

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Bonanza Coffee Heroes – Oderbergerstraße 35, Kreuzberg

Best coffee in Berlin (according to me, anyway). This café has a very limited range of food or other beverages but the coffee alone is worth the hike.

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Markthalle Neun – Eisenbahnstraße 42/43, Kreuzberg

This place is amazing. It’s a varied venue but we visited purely for the Thursday 7pm food market which beats with incredible food, booze, eclectic people and general energy. Get there before 10pm for pulled pork sandwiches, Asian char siew rolls, handmade pies, delicious ice cream cookies, black bean, guacamole and jalapeno arepas with charred chorizo… need I say more? We went twice in two weeks. That’s testament enough.

Gipfeltreffen – Gorlitzerstraße 68, Kreuzberg

This beautiful cafe cum restaurant is right near the green expanse of Gorlitzer park. We visited on a sunny Summer day and sat outside in the balmy evening breeze; though in saying that, this little place provides delicious breakfast options that are worth the slightly higher price (than many other cafes in Kreuzberg). Pretty decent coffee, too.

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Prinzessinengärten – Prinzessenstraße (Moritzplatz), Kreuzberg

Prinzessinengärten started as a pilot project in the summer of 2009 at Moritzplatz in Berlin Kreuzberg, a site which had been a wasteland for over half a century. A group of dedicated volunteers cleared away rubbish, built transportable organic vegetable plots and reaped the first fruits of their labour. it’s now become a community garden (where people can participate in growing and harvesting processes) with a bar and organic cafe. Go along to meet some of the dedicated individuals who run the urban garden whilst eating beautiful, moist apple cake.

Aunt Benny Café (the Antlered Bunny) – Oderstraße 7, Freiderichshain

This cafe is a little off the Kreuzberg beaten track but the hike is worth it for incredible bagels and to-order mixes of cream cheese. They also serve stunning cakes, juices and great coffee. Do it.

market marketdoor lemonaid

Neue Heimat – Revaler Straße 99, Freiderichshain

Neue Heimat is an awesome market space that offers a range of bars, food, music, art and design, brac-a-brac… everything you could hope for in a thumping event. We attended the Summer Market launch at the beginning of August… unfortunately this season ends on 27/08/2014 but I’d recommend checking their facebook page for events that pop up throughout the year.

Mitte

Mitte (translating to ‘middle’ or ‘centre’ in German) is Claudia’s favourite area in Berlin and I can definitely understand why. It’s vastly different to the gritty area of Neukölln, with clean, calm streets that are distinctly more quiet in the late hours. Mitte is the historical heart of Berlin, containing the Reichstag, Brandenburg Gate and Berlin Wall Memorial. There are also many quality cafes, shopping areas and (most outstandingly) glorious sandwiches. Read on.

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Barcomi’s – Sophie Gips-Höfe, Sophienstraße 21 (near Weinmeisterstraße station)

This lovely New York Style deli has become a Berlin icon due to the fame of its creator, Cynthia Barcomi, who has now written several cookbooks. Aaron and I visited with Claudia (in part due to the fact that its hidden courtyard entry is quite difficult to find for a non-local) and sat in the beautiful outdoor courtyard whilst munching on bagels and a vegetarian plate (with dips, salads, cheeses and fruit salad). Barcomi’s also offers a range of New York style cheesecakes and slices that won’t disappoint.

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Mogg and Melzer – Auguststraße 11-13

This eatery has reached internet fame for a very good reason. Located inside a former Jewish school for girls, Mogg and Melzer specialize in New York style pastrami sandwiches, pulled pork and to-die for Reubens. Each sandwich is served with a pickled gherkin and a side of coleslaw. So, so good. I would travel back to Berlin just for the Reuben (seriously).

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Another couple of interesting (to me, anyway) facts about Berlin:

wasp waspcatcher

1. Wasps. Throughout the warmer months, Berlin has a bit of a wasp problem. They’ll be crawling under the glass on pastry counters, they’ll plague you as you eat (particularly sweet things) and they’ll often crawl into sugar dispensers with spouts that are left on outside tables. As Claudia advised me, “Berlin wasps are easily provoked”, so… just accept it. Tips from the locals: 1) always check your beer bottle for wasps before taking a sip, 2) bang any sugar dispensers horizontally on a table to ensure any wasps fly out before directing it towards your coffee, 3) if they keep coming near your face, gently guide them away with a napkin or piece of paper. Most restaurants have anti-wasp devices (aka jars of honey or nectar, see below) near outside areas to distract wasps from their customers. Interesting.

smoking

2. Smoking. For an Australian used to strict anti-smoking rules in public areas, Berlin’s acceptance of smoking is rather overwhelming. Whether it be shisha pipe, cigar or cigarette, you’ll probably find someone smoking within five metres of your person. I ended up getting headaches from passive smoking after a few hours… not very good. But it’s unavoidable. roamers pizza

3. There’s so much good food that you’ll forget where you ate it all. Like the pizza above; crisp speck with creme fraiche, chives and Spanish onion. So good. From a beer garden somewhere. SO GOOD. breadmantonsteinegarten

So that’s it. My little foodie tour of Berlin, written whilst sitting on the floor of my Uncle’s apartment in (currently dreary) Surrey, England. If you’re heading to Berlin sometime soon, I do hope that you’ll track down some of the delicious haunts that I’m already missing. At the very least, please have a beer for me. Okay?

Prost!

beer

kanelbullar (swedish cinnamon buns)

outoftheoven2

With each day that passes, I feel more and more blessed to be in Malmö, Sweden. Each morning, Aaron and I have woken to dappled light through curtains and the gentle sound of waves against the nearby pier.

Upon entering the kitchen, we’ve been met with a heaving table full of rye bread, cold cuts, various cheeses, jordgubbe marmelad (strawberry jam), fruit, butter and hot tea. The generosity of this spread has only been surpassed by the warmth of my Uncle and Aunt’s hospitality; they are truly the most beautiful of people and I feel blessed to call them family.

lauraharbor

Despite suffering from a persistent cold over the past week, I’ve seen quite a lot of the Southern part of Sweden (Skåne). We’ve eaten fried herring and gravadlax (cured salmon) by the seaside, climbed the rocks of Ales Stenar in Kåseberga and toured the town of Ystad (of Henning Mankell’s Wallander fame). We’ve also taken multiple trips down to Malmö harbor to sit, breathe and watch the sun set. 

Last week, we also become acquainted with a Swedish specialty, Kalles Kaviar and uh… the video series below pretty much reflects my tasting experience. Let’s just call it ‘Swedish Vegemite‘.

 

However, despite the negative Kalles experience, there are many Swedish foods that I’ve actually loved. Surprisingly, one is Mimosa Sallad (a mixture of fruit and mayonnaise, to be eaten with cold cuts and bread) which I’ve pretty much eaten every morning since I arrived. Yes, I dislike mayonnaise, but… it’s good. Go figure.

mix

Last Sunday, my Uncle and Aunt also treated me to a day of Swedish cooking lessons, beginning with Kanelbullar (Swedish cinnamon buns) and ending with Köttbullar (Swedish meatballs).

After an afternoon of kneading, mixing, frying, chatting and drooling in a cinnamon-scented cloud, the entire family came over for a traditional Swedish dinner: piles of köttbullar, boiled potatoes, peas, brown gravy and lingon sylt (lingonberry jam) followed by hot coffee and warm kanelbullar.

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Aaron and I were in Swedish food heaven. So were the rest of the family, judging from the contented sounds and expressions around the table. By the end of the night, our table of seven adults and two children had devoured around thirty kanelbullar. It’s not our fault, they were baked whilst the köttbullar were frying, so… uh, we ate a few as an entree. And a few more with hot milk before going to bed.

Warm cinnamon buns can do that to you.

My Uncle and Aunt were both kind enough to share their recipes with me so that both you and I could reproduce traditional Swedish fare at home. Today I’m sharing my Uncle’s recipe for kanelbullar (which was passed to him from his friend Annette) so get ready to enter your own cinnamon scented cloud of sweet content…

outoftheoven

Kanelbullar (Swedish Cinnamon Buns)

Makes 40

Please note: I had a little bit of trouble with metric conversions (as Swedish cooks tend to use ‘litres’ and ‘decilitres’ for measurement of dry ingredients) but hopefully the quantities below are correct; please let me know if you have any difficulties.

Dough:

  • 50g fresh yeast
  • 150g salted butter or margarine
  • 500ml milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 175g white caster sugar
  • 1.5kg plain flour

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Add the milk, salt and sugar into the butter, then heat until ‘finger warm’ (lukewarm). Transfer into a large bowl and crumble in the fresh yeast. Stir until completely dissolved.

flourbowlf

At this point you can either use your hands (old-fashioned kneading) or use a mixer with a dough hook attachment. If using a mixer, gradually add in the flour until the mixture forms a ball (there should be no visible flour left in the bowl). The dough should be smooth and non-sticky to touch. Cover with a clean tea-towel and leave in a warm, draught-free place to rest for 30 minutes.

If hand-kneading, turn the mixture out onto a clean, floured surface when the flour is thoroughly combined. Knead until the dough is smooth and non-sticky (my Finnish/Swedish aunty said that her mother used to ‘throw the dough on the table for the yeast to activate’). Return to the bowl, cover with a clean tea-towel and leave in a warm, draught-free place for 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

dough

Whilst the dough is resting, make your filling as follows.

ingredients

Filling:

  • 120g salted butter or margarine, softened
  • 1 1/2 tbsp vanilla sugar*
  • 100g white caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 tbsp powdered cinnamon
  • to glaze: 1 free-range egg, lightly whisked

Add all ingredients to a bowl and whisk by hand or with a whisk attachment until smooth, thick and creamy.

* If you can’t find vanilla sugar, just add in an extra tablespoon of caster sugar and about 1/2 tsp vanilla bean paste.

filling

Set aside in a cool place (not the fridge, as it’ll be too difficult to spread later) until the dough is thoroughly rested.

To assemble:

Set out two flat oven trays. Place 20 paper patty pan cases onto each, then set aside.

Prepare the kanelbullar: after 30 minutes, your dough should have doubled in size. Turn it onto a floured surface and punch out the air. Cut the dough into four pieces for easy rolling, then roll the first piece into a large rectangle (about 5mm thick).

preparingdough1 fillingspread

Evenly spread 1/4 of the cinnamon filling over the dough with a butter knife or spatula.

Roll the dough away from you into a tight cylinder.

roll cut

Cut into ten pieces (about 3cm for each), then place each piece into a patty pan case (cut side up).

buns

Repeat with the rest of the dough and filling.

Cover each tray of kanelbullar with a clean tea-towel and leave in a warm, draught-free place for another 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

Half way through the second resting time, pre-heat your oven to 225 degrees C (435 degrees f). When the kanelbullar have rested, use a pastry brush to glaze each bun with beaten egg.

glaze1 glaze2

Bake each tray for 8-10 minutes or until risen and light golden brown.

These buns are best eaten warm, straight out of the oven with a hot cup of coffee. They definitely won’t last long (the picture below is annoyingly out of focus as little fingers were moving too fast… but I love it anyway. My cousin’s five year old daughter managed to eat five kanelbullar on her own, with keen fingers and an excited grin. Impressive!).

aliciabullar

If you don’t consume these buns within two days, freeze them in an airtight container or bag for up to one month (just microwave each bun for a few seconds until warm and soft again).

läcker!

five days in paris

galerielafayetteroofIt’s just past seven in the evening in sunny Malmö, Sweden. I’m sitting on my Uncle and Aunt’s balcony, nursing a can of Brygg (Swedish beer) as the sun slowly dips over the Öresund sound.

It’s very peaceful here. Peaceful and restorative, which is wonderful in consideration of my recently-acquired head cold. I spent the majority of a sunny Tuesday in bed, cursing the result of five wet days in the Parisian rain. As our Air bnb host (Luc Perrin) sympathised, “…vous êtes très malchanceux!” (‘you are very unlucky!’). But regardless, we enjoyed every minute.

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aaronmapNow, I should probably write a forewarning on this post: it’s very picture heavy. Aaron and I were kind of (or a lot) overwhelmed by the sheer beauty of the city itself, never mind the abundance of food.

I’m not going to attempt to produce any sort of ‘city guide’ in this post as we were only in Paris for five poorly-researched rainy days (Aaron actually called me a ‘bad foodie’ as I had no idea where to eat; uh, guilty as charged). However, if you’d like some more extensive (and well-researched) notes on food stalls, attractions and restaurants, I’d encourage you to head over to Erika’s blog The Pancake Princess for her Europe travel update or Erin’s blog The Law Student’s Wife for a beautiful recap of her and Ben’s recent trip to Paris and other regions of France. Both blogs are guaranteed to pull you into the rich and delicious tapestry of French cuisine and culture.

So, without further ado: here’s our Paris scrapbook. I hope that you enjoy the visual journey.

fruitAll of the berries.

I was squealing over these plump little beauties like a child in a candy store. They put Australian berries to shame with their smooth, glossy skins and juicy, sweet flesh. I bought every type I could see and devoured them exuberantly, with keen fingers, stained teeth and juice running down my chin.

berries cherries

Markets.

Oh, the markets. Near our accommodation in Montmartre, each and every street was blessed with small shops selling everything from fromage (cheese) to fruits de mer (seafood). I wanted to buy everything from every boulangerie (bakery) and all of the beurre (butter) I could see.

I would fly to France just for the butter.

butcher rotisserie salami seafoodshop seafood yoghurt2

Stohrer.

This shop deserves its own category. Established in 1730 by King Louis XV’s pastry chef Nicolas Stohrer, the oldest pastry shop in Paris continues to produce wonderfully intricate delights for the general public 7 days per week. Stohrer – Patissier Traiteur – 51 Rue Montorgueil 75002, Paris.

stohrersaladbar stohrer stohrerpies stohrersaladHappy hour.

Usually from about 17:00 to 21:00 (5pm to 9pm) in almost every Parisian bar and bistro. Cheap pints and cocktails. Do eeeeet.

pub tableartStreet art.

Aaron and I are suckers for all sorts of meaningful graffiti and well-placed street embellishments. There are many wonderful pieces to see all over Paris. These are just a few of our snaps.

girlguy santa artIMG_0742
People in places.

And lots of pigeons.

pigeonfeeding people chezmarianne windowBaguettes.

Even on magnets, apparently. I ate half a baguette almost every morning, slathered with French butter and confiture (jam). After two days I started copying the local Parisians by dipping my folded baguette into hot coffee. So delicious.

magnetsbread

Oh, and buttery, flaky croissants. Yes.

croissantsThe greenest jardins (gardens).

Most of these photographs were taken at Le Jardin des Plantes. They’ve hardly been edited; the stunning shades of green seemed other-worldly for this Australian who struggles to keep pot plants alive.

jardindesplantes trees flowers applesSights.

Almost every building, bridge and road you see in Paris contains ridiculous beauty and cultural significance. We have about three hundred photographs in tribute to this. Here’s 1%.

louvre tube locksSo that’s the end of chapter one of our European sojourn. Stay tuned for sweet stories of meatballs, lingonsylt, gravadlax, Swedish rye bread and time spent with family in Malmö. Very soon.

summer to autumn

silhouette

It’s late on Thursday evening. Six past eleven, to be exact. The world seems quiet; inky black except for the occasional headlight beam from the highway. The skyline, once illuminated by clouds of rich crimson, has become embedded in a dense cloud of onyx. The air is heavy, thick with the scent of grass and scorched eucalyptus.

Despite being thirteen days into autumn, it was hot today. Yesterday was even hotter, a humid 37 degrees Celsius, or 98 degrees Fahrenheit (if you’re from the northern hemisphere). Even now, I can hear garden cicadas droning a final ode to the sweet heat of Australian summer. They’re working in well with the ice-cube percussion from my depleting water glass.

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Despite our recent uncharacteristically warm autumn weather, I’ve dedicated this particular post to the ‘official’ last days of summer that occurred two weeks ago. We spent four days at the seaside village of Gracetown (above) enjoying warm sunsets, cooked breakfasts, wine tasting and dips in the pristine blue sea.

If you’re a regular reader of The Mess, you might remember some previous posts about Gracetown, Margaret River and the south west region over the past twelve months. You could say that I’m a little bit in love with the rolling fields, artisan produce, deep red wines and friendly country folk. The rest of this post simply contains photographs and notes from our end-of-summer trip; however, if you’d like a bit more background to the region itself, click on the three links below:

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Any south west adventure always starts with a visit to Yallingup Woodfired Bread, a traditional wood-fired bakery that creates certified biodynamic sourdough, rye and fruit loaves. Owner Gotthard Baue is a truly passionate man who takes pride in his work (take a look at this video for an introduction to Gotthard and the bread process itself).

During this trip, we bought two loaves of sourdough and a dense and sticky rye ‘rock’ loaf that was divine with cheese. Some of the best bread on the planet, I’m certain.

wave1

Upon arriving at our house in Gracetown, we happened upon this little guy:

spidey

He’s an Australian wolf spider. After relocating him from the bathroom wall to the garden, we took some photographs like the one above. I think he’s cute.

Overseas friends: wolf spider bites are non-lethal despite often resulting in a mild case of nausea, headaches and localised pain. Don’t let stories of spiders scare you off visiting Australia and/or the south west region. morries

The restaurant above is Morries Anytime, where we stopped twice for coffee, cake and morning eats.

Manager-cum-barista Alex Brooks makes arguably the best flat white in the Margaret River region whilst head chef Rosie Griffiths serves up nourishing, creative cuisine that showcases the best of the south west’s fresh produce. Love this place.

morries2

Right near Morries is the Margaret River Fudge Factory with its spinning wheel of chocolate goodness. Beware the taste test boxes. You may never leave.

choc

beef

Pictured above is the Margaret River Farmers’ Market, a beautiful one-stop location for fresh, organic local produce, artisan cheeses, biodynamic meats and a range of other wares in the heart of the town centre. Open every Saturday from 8am – 12pm, this market has fast become a fresh produce hub for locals and tourists alike.

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*For some reason I just had to take a picture of this ink-scrawled face.

face

One of my favourite stalls was that of the Margaret River Bakery. I’m in love with their danish pastries, baguettes and cakes. They also have a fixed location at 89 Bussell Highway where you can sample their wonderful cooked breakfasts, snacks and coffee. Go there. Your stomach will thank you.

bakerystall

It’s tempting to end with a cliché by saying that ‘all good things must come to an end’. But instead, I’ll just finish with a photograph of Gracetown as the sun dipped below the horizon.

We returned to Perth late on Monday evening after a stop-off for dinner with Elissa in Bunbury. A great end to a beautiful weekend.

harborGoodbye, Australian summer. Until we meet again.

south west rambling

sheep!

A couple of weeks ago, my husband booked a surprise trip to the tiny town of Quinninup to celebrate my thirtieth birthday. We stayed in an old raised timber cottage surrounded by karri forest on the banks of the aptly-named Karri River.

It was beautiful; the kind of place that provides an immediate sense of calm. Mismatched furniture sat proudly upon floorboards and a handmade woven rug in the tiny living room. As the sun was absorbed by inky blackness, Aaron set to work placing rough-cut logs, kindling and newspaper into an old pot belly stove. Flames became fire, fire became warmth. Perfect remedy to the encroaching south west chill.

cottage cows

Despite it being springtime, the nights were cold and quiet throughout the entirety of our stay. Perfect for red wine, warm blankets and filling meals eaten fireside. We spent lazy days in the small towns of the south west, exploring vineyards, caves, abandoned logging trains and open patches of forest. It was blissful, in every sense of the word (*the cow second to the right has the best cowlick I’ve ever seen).

farm

rail rustThough I’m not intending this post to be another Mess Guide (like my previous Margaret River and Melbourne posts) I thought I’d include a few snapshots, links and travel tips from our stay; mostly for those who are interested in exploring more of Western Australia’s south west.

Despite dozens of trips over the years, it’s still one of my favourite places to go for a holiday. I mean that; wine country, fresh air, organic food and plenty of open space to walk, breathe, stop and… just exist. When I think of recuperation, I think of the south west. I’m blessed that it’s only three hours from my hometown.  trainbitgreendoorOn our second day in Quinninup, we took a drive to the nearby town of Pemberton. In a patch of karri forest, we discovered winding pathways, tiny creatures and hand-etched trees.

Approximately 500 metres from the road, there was also a timber hut constructed from fallen tree bark, branches and vines. It looked reasonably old, but remarkably intact. An adjacent fallen tree propped up half of the hut with its momentous stability. The whole structure conveyed a sense of history, creativity and ‘story’ that will forever be unknown to us; a sharp contrast to the growing scrawls of history on this karri tree:lovetree

aaronontreehouse

Our journey brought us to a winding unsealed road in search of organic sourdough from Yallingup Woodfired Bread. Aaron had visited this bakery during a previous trip to the south west but largely forgot where it was; after some navigational adjustments, our car pulled up beside a hand-painted concrete sign:

bakerysign

The bakery uses an honor system for payment: choose your bread and drop your pennies in an earthenware bowl. It’s trust and simplicity, country style. The way life used to be.

breadhonorbakery breadeditedThat evening, we ate bread by the fireplace, each chunk dipped into local Mount of Olives extra virgin olive oil and toasty Providore dukkah. Each mouthful was washed down with a new favourite wine from Stella Bella vineyard, the 2009 Serie Luminosa Cabernet Sauvignon: deep, dark vine-ripened fruits, mellow oak and fine tannins with a lingering finish.

Snuggled under blankets, we watched three episodes of the largely unappreciated Firefly (which we’d brought from home; I’d still barrack for a continuation of this series) before drifting off to sleep. twigs

Our second day in the south west was mostly spent touring vineyards and caves, with a breakfast stop at the Margaret River Bakery (regular readers will know that I adore that place).

As the sun dropped in the sky, we stopped in at the ‘Pemby Pub’, also known as the Best Western Pemberton Hotel. We drank beer by the open fire before feasting on gnocchi, calamari, chips and coleslaw with tinned baby beetroot.

The timber furniture and emerald carpet oozed old-style country hospitality, accentuated by a request from the bar staff that we ‘chuck another log on the fire’. I loved everything, even their unidentifiable red sauce (Aaron’s guess was barbecue, mine was sweet chilli mixed with plum). Everything tastes better in the country air.

stools pubpembypub

The last two days of our trip were spent in a beach shack in Augusta where we were joined by our good friend Paul. We took a road trip to Dunsborough beach and spent an hour exploring the sand dunes, rocks and sea foam.

The south west has some of the most beautiful, unadulterated beaches in the world. No fancy cafes, water fountains or throngs of sun-baking teens. Just air, sea, sand and windswept grass with an occasional fisherman by the coastline.

sandsunset landlubbers grassscene gorgeous grassy

Our remaining time was spent seeking out boutique vineyards, jetties and cafes that Paul hadn’t tried yet. We also took advantage of our beach shack’s positioning by the Hardy Inlet, where moss covered jetties gave way to sea bird nests, tranquil lookouts and pelicans on rocks.

jetty timberrrr pelicans

With Paul’s help, we found Pierro vineyard, nestled in an idyllic patch of lush garden. The boys tasted premium Chardonnay whilst I explored an old country farmhouse, a rambling vegetable garden and knobbly vines. I’m a little obsessed with ochre, rust and crumbling aged timber.

vinebalcony

pierrodoor

fruit

We also stopped in at the Berry Farm Cottage Cafe for boysenberry pie, scones and bird watching. This was my first sighting of an Western Australian blue wren. Fascinatingly delicate and vibrant.

berryfarmstudy boysenberrypie2 boysenberrypie bluewren

Our last night in the south west was spent at Russell Blaikie’s Muster Bar and Grill. We dined on snapper, eye fillet, dukkah-baked pumpkin and pork belly with two bottles of earthy Shiraz.

It was a beautiful celebration of the week-that-was; a week of little responsibility, ambrosial calm, luscious greenery, perfect simplicity. Sometimes I wonder why we city dwellers have made life so unnecessarily complicated. I’ve renewed my wish for a house in the country someday, surrounded by an organic vegetable garden, dairy cows and scratching chickens.

In the meantime, it’s back to the hamster wheel. I’m due at work in thirty minutes and I’m still in my pyjamas. Until next time.

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