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Road Trip: Day 2

Our day started nice and early courtesy to two little people. I adored having the kids around and after a night of sleep, the kids were bright as buttons and happy giggling souls. The 10 month old baby Eleanor reached for my hand and in doing so, took her very first ever unassisted steps. She took three steps and as if to prove how easy it was, she did it again a few minutes later. This little action would be a highlight for my trip.

After a delicious breakfast of pancakes provided by our hosts, we started to make our way north. The Festival is about an hour north of Brisbane and we decided to travel in normal clothes, opting to dress in the car park on arrival. It seemed to be a popular choice as we were not the only people tugging dresses and amour on in the car park.

Dressed and ready to go; Joe (left) Brittany (right) and me (centre)

We timed it perfectly and arrived before the gates opened. Having prepaid our tickets, we were in the express lane for when the gates opened. Or so we thought. There was some technical issue with the scanners which saw the prepaid entering later than the cash people. Nevertheless, we only had to wait about 40 minutes before we were inside.

First Joust for the day!

First on our agenda was the joust. Tickets for the joust sells out early and we were lucky enough to see the first of the three jousts. While we queued for the joust arena to open, Joe decided to pose for a photo. It was funny to see people crowding in when he got down on his bended knee. I think they expected a proposal.

Joe on bended knee

While we were standing in line, I noticed this gorgeous creature and had to go take a look.

A tame owl checks me out while I check it out.

The joust was fast and exciting. The rider in green is the good lady Sasha and I cheered loudest for her.

Sir Justyn (red) defeats Lady Sasha, despite my screams of encouragement

After the joust, we were free to explore. Really, it should be done over two days and the weather hampered our adventuring. Nevertheless, we did find so many things of interest.

Pork Sausages braised and stewed with apples and onions in a cider based gravy. Look for this recipe in coming weeks!

A whole pig is roasted on a spit over hot coals, turned by hand by this fair maiden.

Roasting meats was common through the different troupes and re-enactment groups. The scent of roasting meats hung in the air and as the day progressed, the smells teased us. The fires over which they roasted were warm and inviting after each down pour and rain shower.

This medieval sample kitchen was complete with fox kits, small wild fowl and fresh herbs.

One of the many feasts for participants. This feast was provided by a medieval troupe that featured the fresh produce that would be fairly common for the era.

I am not sure though if this antipasto would be common back in the day.

Kitchen and feast displays were common amongst the troupes that tried to display sample living for their own demonstration eras. Some seemed obvious while other displays asked questions.

Not to be outdone by the neighbours, this dark age troupe put a lamb on the spit.

This dark age troupe had a brilliant display but I was fascinated by this venison jerky and salami, fresh herbs and drying washing!

This table demonstrates regular dark ages feasts. Fresh and dried fruits and vegetables, duck and chicken eggs, dried fish and meats, raw honey, salt and berries. Pine needle tea was common as was heavy unleavened breads.

Brittany finds herself a husband in the form of this Templar (right)

Brittany had a ball. So many handsome men in shiny, shiny suits!

Amongst all the steel suits was this amazing leather amour.

And Brittany finds a steed…

The Dark Ages Troupe demonstrated bread and cheese making, baking both in this clay oven.

We were grateful to find an undercover chair to sit in while we had our photos taken at the head of the grand table.

It’s a shame my humble camera couldn’t handle the low light of the evenings festivities. We got to witness a gorgeous gypsy wedding, a brilliant fire display and some outstanding trick horse riding.

We were exhausted, cold and wet by the end of the day thanks to the unpredictable weather. It was fantastic though, and we will definitely be back next year.

Tomorrow, the final day of our road trip.

 
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Posted by on July 13, 2012 in Road Trip

 

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Road Trip: Day 1

Road Trip: Day 1

Each year, a Medieval Renaissance Fair is held about 350kms from home. Last year, Brittany and I adventured north to experience the awesome that is Abbey Medieval Festival. This year, Joe took the weekend off and we made a mini holiday out of it. We were gone for three days and did a lot of exploring and adventuring which I will bring to you over the next three days.

Day 1 begun quite early. Before we left home, we tidied the house and did a general clean up after having left the house in disarray from packing. Even with doing such tasks on a day of leisure, we were on the road by 10am.

First stop for us was about an hour up the highway. I stopped in to see some wonderful dear friends whom I don’t get to see very often. Brittany had baked a coconut cake the day before to share with our friends Genevieve and Georgia for morning tea. I do love spending time with friends, and this visit made me realise I just don’t see my friends anywhere near enough.

Coconut cake made by Brittany and enjoyed by us all.

We left the girls early afternoon and decided to find some lunch. There were two must do’s for this trip – Sushi Train and yum cha. These are both luxuries we don’t get to experience at home. Although I do make similar foods, it’s never quite the same. Lucky for us, Sushi Train was quite nearby.

All aboard the Sushi Train! Next stop; flavour central!

The Sushi Train gets its name from the conveyor type system that runs around the stores main island delivering large quantities and varieties of sushi to its guests. The centre of the island is where the sushi chefs work their magic.

Oh happy day. Tamago and Inari on one plate!

My Sushi Train experience often starts and ends the same. Tamago (right) is a sweet omelette which is a delicious way to start the feast. Inari (right) is a soy pocket filled with rice, honey and sesame seeds. It makes a convincing dessert.

Panstickers aka five fold dumplings are one of my all time favourites.

I do make Panstickers on occasions but nothing compares to these beauties in terms of cooking perfection and presentation.

Potato and Tuna Croquettes

I never really get the fried foods at Sushi Train, but we were curious when we saw this dish for the first time. The filling is a potato and tuna mixture with a crispy crunchy outside. The best way to describe this would be to say it was a croquette.

Chicken Caesar Sushi

This style of food / flavour has just started to pop up everywhere lately and it seems sushi is not immune. This is a Chicken Caesar Sushi. Inside the roll is chicken that is topped with lettuce, smothered in mayo and topped with bacon bits and cheese. The flavour was very much as you would expect.

Asparagus Tempura (back), Pumpkin and Carrot Tempura (left) and Kakiage Nigiri (right)

And finally, my favourite. I always order these hot when I sit down, and they are generally one of the last things I eat because of the time it takes for them to be made. At the top we have Asparagus Tempura smothered with a rich teriaki style sauce. Bottom left is my second favourite sushi; Pumpkin and carrot tempura. To the right is my all time favourite; Kakiage Nigiri which is a grated vegetable tempura.

After saying farewell to the Sushi Train, we finally made our way to Brisbane. I had placed an order the night before with Allsop and England Butchers. They were the suppliers of the goat we recently stewed and I decided to take the opportunity to buy direct and in bulk. I ordered a few kilos of their delicious organic goat, a kilo of their organic free range pork and lamb and a sample of their pork belly and bacon. All in all, I am sure it was money well spent and you should see it featured in some delicious recipes over the next few weeks!

We arrived at our final destination for the day at around 5pm. Our gorgeous hosts were Renee from The Accidental Hippy, her husband Steve and two beautiful daughters Claire and Eleanor. We had a barbecue for dinner that featured some wonderful goat sausages I got from the Butchers to sample and I must say, they were divine! I also made a potato salad that tasted good after travelling 300kms in the icy esky.

As you can imagine, we were pretty exhausted after our big trip and sleep was not an issue. And we would need it… tomorrow is Abbey Medieval Festival day!

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2012 in Road Trip

 

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Chicken Cacciatore

Friday nights are chicken nights, and we all love chicken! This week, we bought a brand new six piece Baccarat cookware set, and I’ve been itching to use the stove to oven sauté pan since I got it. I decided to do my spin on Chicken Cacciatore and take advantage of this one pot cooking style that I have been dreaming of. The results were mouth watering delicious, but had a very painful twist.

Ingredients (serves 4)

Chicken

1kg free ranged chicken pieces
1 red capcicum
1 zuchinii
1 large onion
1 can tomatoes
¾ cup white wine
6- 10 olives
½ cup flour
3-4 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon tumeric
1 tablespoon thyme
1 tablespoon parsley
3 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
Splash of olive oil

Polenta

2 cups water
½ cup polenta
2 tablespoons butter
salt to taste

Method

1. Preheat oven to 220°C. Chop all the vegetables into large bite size pieces and set aside. Remove any excess fat from the chicken before giving it a good season with salt, pepper and a little tumeric. Coat the seasoned chicken into flour (Photo 1).

2. Bring a sauté pan up to a hot temperature and warm the oil. Add the chicken and brown off. Remove from pan and set aside (Photo 2 above)

3. Using the left over chicken juices and oil, begin to sauté the onions with the garlic, thyme, parsley and left over turmeric. Once onions are opaque, add the remaining vegetables, and ensure they are coated in the juice and herb mixture (Photo 3 above). Add the wine and cook at a high simmer for 2 minutes.

4. Add the tomatoes, olives and bay leaves to the pan before returning the chicken. Don’t worry about submerging the chicken all the way into the vegetable and liquid mixture as the crispy tops add a lovely texture to the dish (Photo 4  below). Place pan lid on into the oven and cook at 220°C for 20 minutes.

5. Check that the liquid hasn’t reduced too much, and top up with warm water if needed (Photo 5). Reduce heat to 150°C and cook for a further half hour until sauce is reduced and vegetables are cooked (Photo 6 above). This will allow the flavours to develop. For those who enjoy a richer sauce, remove the meat and vegetables from the pan and reduce the sauce into a thicker gravy.

6. To make the polenta, bring the salted water to boil in a small saucepan. Reduce heat to lowest setting and slowly pour the polenta into the water in a slow steady stream. Whisk constantly to ensure the polenta grain is distributed evenly and totally absorbed into the water. Add the butter and stir until it melts. Bring to a slow simmer and allow to cook for 20 minutes, stirring frequently (photo below). Serve when grain texture is smooth and tender.

Observations

  • This meal is a hearty delicious meal that tastes of heaven. I really enjoy it when ever I make it. I add different vegetables at different times for a slightly different feel, but the tomatoes, olives and capsicums are a must! Traditionally, mushrooms would be used instead of the zuchini but I am allergic to mushies so this is my substitute.
  • I am not sure that the polenta is traditionally served with a meal like this, but I adore the texture of it as it firms up. The salty sweet taste of if adds something magical to this dish.
  • Diabetic Note: For diabetics, I am unable to give you a good indicator as to how my BGL’s reacted to this as my BGL’s were sky high due to the burn (below). Ahh shock and stress… how you played havoc on my bloods last night. Anyway, carb content for the chicken portion of the meal is very low. I added the polenta to boost it a little for my insulin intake. Polenta is quite high in carbohydrates so don’t overdo the serves; less is better. Also, because the chicken is cooked skin on, there are a fair amount of fats in this dish, so keep the oil to a minimum when browning off the chicken / sautéing the veggies.
  • I have a cautionary tale to tell, dear readers. When I removed the sauté pan from the oven half way through the cooking time to check the contents, I forgot to put my oven mitt back on when putting the pan back into the oven. The metal was exceedingly hot, and I received some exceptionally nasty burns to my hand for my trouble. It is probably my inexperience showing as I am so use to the one pot cooking style. At any rate, my error hurt quite a bit. Thank you to Brittany for helping finish off the dinner, making the polenta, plating up and taking all the pictures.

Post note:

I really didn’t get to enjoy my dinner because of my burnt hand, but I sure did enjoy the left over sauce with toast the next day for lunch, and I think it tasted even better than it did the night before! nom nom nom

Its a few days later now and my hand is fine thanks to some tender loving care from Joe.

 

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Happy Birthday!

Today is my birthday, and I will be 41. To celebrate, the day was spent in happy occupation with my family and friends. I awoke early to go for a walk with Joe. Its the first time we have had opportunity to go for our daily walk in weeks; weather, morning sickness and then baby loss all conspired to ensure we turned into couch potatoes over the summer. Nevertheless, today was a wonderfully sunny day, and the walk was enjoyable. When we returned home, I had a very yummy breaky treat waiting for me. Brittany had made us a short stack of pancakes with mango, ice cream and maple syrup! I am fairly sure, though, that my diabetes educator and dietician would not approve, but oh my!! They were good!

Joe has been a busy beaver, squirrelling money away and has totally spoiled and surprised me with a new computer chair. Oh wow – such luxury!! Leather, gas lift, padded, roller luxury! So much comfort. I feel very lucky. Brittany also was exceptionally generous with her birthday love, and bought me the most gorgeous dinner set ever. The eight place dinner set consists of an entrée plate, dinner plate, and deep bowls. It also has two serving platters that are just so sexy. I am SO very happy with this dinner set and cant wait to bring you lots of photos of divine food on it! 🙂

I was lucky to catch up with a friend for lunch at a the Henry Rous Tavern here in town. I had a chicken burger with mint garlic yoghurt sauce that was sublime. Really an awesome selection of flavours that although simple, really worked wonderfully. I may have had an apple cider or two with lunch which just went down so well on such a hot day. Later, the heat got the best of us and we ventured to a local beach for some fun in the surf. I thorougly enjoyed spending quality time with Joe as the huge waves pushed and pulled us every which direction.

I share my birthday with quite a few friends, and as is our custom the last several years, we go out for dinner at a mutually convenient time to celebrate Matt’s & my birthday (6th) and Joe’s birthday (13th). This year that day falls on a Wednesday, and we are going to a local Mexican restaurant. The choice of nights left me kinda free to enjoy something quick, easy and yummy at home tonight. Our shopping day isn’t for another day or two, and our fresh vegetable delivery isn’t until tomorrow so the cupboard is a little bare. Traditionally, we would have a vegetarian dish on Monday’s, but as there was some things defrosted in the fridge that didn’t get cooked last night, we decided this week meat free will be Tuesday. That left us to enjoy an old fashion fry up (another common dish that we rarely have due to my diabetes). Tonight’s dinner featured pork sausages with apple, sage and rosemary, onions, tomatoes and eggs. Such simple things that everyone thoroughly enjoyed.

Dessert was a little bit of cheating, as it was something I made last week for the murder mystery party (our actual birthday party) but have decided not to serve now, as they are a little fiddly to eat. Even given the difficulties in eating them and the messy fingers, they are delicious! The recipe for these frozen choc covered bananas is below.

Ingredients

½ cup cooking chocolate

½ cup smooth peanut butter

3 bananas cut into bite size pieces

desecrated coconut

toothpicks

Methods

  1. Create a double boiler by placing a metal bowl over a pot filled with boiling water. Keep the water on a slow simmer and melt the chocolate and peanut butter in the bowl until melted and running.
  2. Using a skewer to secure the banana, drizzle the chocolate mixture evenly over the banana pieces. Place it upright on a baking paper covered tray. Once all bananas are coated, you can sprinkle with coconut, insert a toothpick for easy handling later and freeze.

Observations

  • Be very very careful not to over heat the chocolate mixture, as the burnt taste will ruin your dish.
  • Try not to dip your banana directly into the chocolate, as it will make the banana difficult to handle.
  • As an experiment, I mixed the coconut into the chocolate for one batch. The one on the left is of that batch, while the one on the right is of the standard directions above. I think I actually like the coconut in the chocolate better!
  • It makes it a LOT easier if you use slightly under ripe bananas. Once they get ripe, they are softer, and much more difficult to work with.
 
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Posted by on February 6, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Baked Gnocci

Brittany is back from Melbourne, and as a welcome home treat dinner, I decided to make one of her favourite dishes – Baked Gnocchi. I will admit right up front that I use a lot of pre packaged ingredients, but even having said that, its pretty delicious!

I used:

1 packet of gnocchi

1 jar of Dolmio cabonara sauce

1 good handful of diced bacon / ham

1/2 – 1 cup of bread crumbs

1 cup of cheese.

Cook the gnocchi as directed on the packet. Drain and place into a suitable oven proof dish. Add the jar of sauce, the bacon and about 2/3’s of the cheese. Mix well. Top with the breadcrumbs and sprinkle the left over cheese on top. Bake in a moderate oven for 20 – 30 minutes until the top is crusty. Serve and devour!

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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