Wednesday, March 30, 2011


I have a little folder on my desktop simply named 'Inspiration'. It's a place where I save images that really speak to me, for one reason or another. It's mostly interiors at the moment, with the occasional outfit thrown in here and there. I spend a lot of time daydreaming about my dream home...
Unfortunately, I don't have any credits for these images, as they are just saved away as as I find them. For this, I apologise profusely. To the people whose images these are, thank you; you are amazing; you inspire me.

I hope you enjoy these images as much as I do... :)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Tomato and Spinach Barley Risotto

Oh my goodness. I tried this recipe after seeing it reposted on the fabulous Angela's blog, and boy oh boy did it blow my mind! I modified it slightly (as I do with EVERYTHING, it seems) by adding spinach, using fresh tomatoes and herbs and swapping out the almond milk and nutritional yeast for regular milk and cheese, and it was the most delicious, nutty, chewy bowl of yum I had ever experienced! Paddy was a huge fan and my neighbour has already tried her hand at making it, last night. I ended up doubling the recipe, so we had leftovers for lunch, and at $1.19 for a bag of barley, this meal really is a bargain.

Really, you have to try this. Promise me you will? Good :)

Tomato and Barley Risotto (from Oh She Glows)

1 cup pearl barley (from bulk bin section in the supermarket or around with the dried soup mixes)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp fresh oregano (or 1/2 Tbsp dried)
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
2 cups fresh tomatoes, chopped (or 1 can chopped tomatoes)
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
1/2 Tbsp miso paste mixed into the water
1/4 cup grated cheese
Large handful of spinach, destemmed
1/4 cup fresh basil (or add 1/2 Tbsp dried with the oregano)
Salt and pepper to taste

Rinse the barley under running water and drain. Heat the oil in a large pot, add the barley and stir until well coated with oil. Add the oregano and garlic, and cook until the barley is sizzling. Reduce the heat and add the tomatoes, milk, water and miso. Stir to combine, then turn to a low heat, partially cover and cook until barley is soft but still chewy (about 30 minutes). Keep an eye on the pot that the liquid doesn't disappear. Once barley is cooked, add the cheese, spinach and basil, cook until the spinach has wilted and it is done! Serve hot topped with grated parmesan and fresh bread on the side. Dribble with food ecstasy.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Vietnamese Rice Paper Spring Rolls

Rice paper spring rolls are a summer favourite in my house. They are fresh, quick, fun and a great way to use up garden veges! I buy the rice paper wrappers from the Asian section of my supermarket; there are about a million per box, so they last forever. We usually have our spring rolls with pork mince, veges and a satay dipping sauce. But, they could just as easily be made with chicken mince or vegetarian. I am certain they would be equally as yummy! I always end up with tons of satay sauce leftover, so often make a simple noodle salad with diced veges for lunch the next day, and use the sauce as a dressing. Yum!

Satay Dipping Sauce

1 cup peanut butter
2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 tsp dark soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp fish sauce (optional; can add more soy sauce as substitute)
2 Tbsp lime juice
2 Tbsp sweet chilli sauce
1/2 tin coconut cream

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.

To make the pork mince, I fry the mince with finely diced red onion and garlic until browned. Then, I add the other half of the tin of coconut cream to the blender that is now emptied of the dipping sauce, but not cleaned, and blend. Then, pour this mixture over the browned mince and cook until the sauce has reduced right down. I add more of the sauce ingredients to taste e.g more lime if it needs more citrus or more sweet chilli if it is not spicy enough. This mince mixture is different every time, and I encourage you to play around. I have yet to make a bad batch so I think this is a pretty safe recommendation... :)

Assembling the Spring Rolls

These spring rolls vary every time and often seem to be a garden and fridge empty! This batch had:
  • raw carrot  
  • raw zucchini
  • raw beetroot
  • avocado
  • red capsicum
  • mint leaves
  • cos lettuce 
  • pork mince
  • satay sauce

To assemble:

1. Place the sheet of rice paper in a bowl of hot water for 30 seconds or until softened.

2. Lay rice paper on your plate and make a small pile of ingredients in the centre, as shown by the picture. Don't put too much in or it will explode! Paddy is an expert spring roll maker; I am still learning...

3. Fold the sides up. With the ingredients facing vertically, fold the top and bottom in, then, the left side, then, roll the bundle to catch the last remaining side, forming a parcel of amazingness.

4. Eat and enjoy!!

Sauce recipe from here.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Easy Dhal and Chapati

A great way to save money on food is to eat less meat. In my house, we only eat meat maybe 2-3 times per week, at the most. I like to buy the best meat I can (at least free-range, organic if possible) and am happy to sacrifice quality for quantity. After stocking up on dried goods due to the earthquake, I thought this week it was time to put the red lentils to use and give dhal a try. My old flatmate had made it once years ago, along with homemade chapati, and I still remember it as a delicious meal.

Dhal is extremely easy and ridiculously cheap. The most substantial ingredient in this whole recipe was the dried red lentils, and a 500 gram bag from the supermarket is around $2.50. Served over rice, I fed four people, plus lunch for Paddy and I, and I didn't even use the whole bag of lentils!

A very hungry Amy forgot to take photos of this yummy dinner, so please excuse my 'borrowed' photo.

Photo credit
Dhal recipe modified from here. Chapati recipe modified from here.

Easy Dhal

2 cups dried red lentils, rinsed
6 cups water
2 tomatoes, chopped
3 Tbsp oil
1 large onion, finely diced
5-10 cloves garlic, minced (I used 10, it was perfectly garlicky for my taste buds)
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
3/4 tsp turmeric
Pinch of cayenne
1 Tbsp tomato paste
Juice of one lemon
Large handful of spinach leaves, stems removed
Chopped fresh coriander
Salt to taste

Place lentils, tomato and water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until lentils are tender and have lost their shape, about 40 minutes. Keep an eye on the pot as you want to water to reduce and the lentils to become mushy but you don't want to burn the bottom!

In a separate pot, heat the oil until quite hot and fry the onion and garlic until browned. Add the spices and sizzle until aromatic. Add the spice and onion mix to the cooked lentils, then add the tomato paste and lemon and cook for a few minutes. Season to taste. Add the spinach and fold in until wilted and combined. Add the coriander just before serving and mix until combined.

Serve over rice, with chapati, yoghurt and chutney on the side.


3 cups wholemeal flour
1 Tbsp butter or oil
1 cup warm water
Salt to taste

Put flour, salt and butter or oil into a mixing bowl. Add the water and mix until combined. Place dough on floured surface and knead until smooth. Cover and leave to sit in a warm place for 30 minutes. Cut dough into ten pieces and shape into balls. Roll balls out on floured surface until they are about 0.5cm thick. Heat a dry pan to very hot and quickly fry chapati until brown, flip over and repeat on the other side. Keep in a warm oven until all are cooked.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Retro Cabinet Makeover

Paddy and I both had a few weeks off work due to the earthquake (which I will post about eventually, but I'm still not ready at the moment) and trying to keep ourselves busy was a top priority. A walk down to the local Salvation Army shop last week led to the discovery of this little beauty:

I love a good retro cabinet; we already have a similar one in our lounge. The low height and slimness of this one really appealed to me and I thought it would be a great piece to have near the dining room table, for plates, glassware etc. Especially as we are looking at installing a dishwasher in our kitchen and will likely lose the cupboard currently dedicated to those items. But, we already have a lot of wood in our house and as I'm trying to avoid the log-cabin look, I thought it would be fun to give this one a makeover! Originally I thought distressed white would look good, but then my lovely and wise neighbour (who has the most dreamy shabby chic house ever, it's adorable) pointed out that distressed isn't really the look that is developing in our wee house. So, the internet was consulted for inspiration and here is the final product:

What do you think? I'm in love! Clearly the wine collection is coming along well, but now I just need to expand on my mismatched plate and glassware collection and the look will be complete. Luckily, my neighbour has an awesome eye for all vintage treasures and is on the lookout for me. In fact, almost everything on and in the cabinet (bar the liquor) currently is due to her keen eye and regular trips to the Sallies around the corner from our houses!

So how did we do it? Well, to be honest, Paddy did almost all of the work, and I supplied the vision. First the cabinet was scrubbed down with sugar soap, and then wiped with meths, to prepare the surface. Then, all the hinges and glass/mirror were removed, and all the edges were taped to help avoid getting paint on any mirrors that could not be removed. It was primed with a coat of B.I.N primer and then two coats each of the white and the turquoise went on. To seal the paint, as we went cheap and used test pots, two coats of satin finish clear varnish was applied. Extra spots were touched up and the tape was removed. Some painted that leaked under the tape needed to be scraped off the mirror, and after a good clean, it was done!

I'm loving the retro funky feel it adds to our house! Have you ever refurbished old furniture before? How did it turn out? I would love to see other before and after photos!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Tomato Challenge - The Final Weigh In

I don't feel like talking about the earthquake at the moment; maybe I never will. I don't really feel like talking at all, actually. So in the meantime, I have a few posts saved up that I feel like I would like to publish. Trying to find normality in the chaos and devastation is important here at the moment, so this is my way of doing that. Hope you are all well. Much love to you and your families xxx

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Well, here it is. My final weigh-in for the tomato-growing challenge Clare, Ella and I decided on months ago. My competition plant was an abysmal embarrassment and only managed to grow me a pitiful crop, compared to previous years. But oh well, I gave it a go!

If my maths is right, which it often isn't, I managed a total of 1.5 kgs. Not my best effort but still, the pride and delight in growing my own food is yet unsurpassed, and you can bet these tasted better than anything I could have bought from the supermarket :)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Homemade Yoghurt

I don't feel like talking about the earthquake at the moment; maybe I never will. But in the meantime, I have a few posts saved up that I feel like I would like to publish. Trying to find normality in the chaos and devastation is important here at the moment, so this is my way of doing that. Hope you are all well. Much love to you and your families xxx

* * * * *

Yoghurt is one of those staples I always have in the fridge. I love it on porridge or muesli, in smoothies, as a base for tzatziki, or as a topping for dessert. I used to buy a pottle of organic yoghurt every week, but now I know how simple it is to make my own, I don't need to anymore! I use organic, full fat, unpasteurised milk for this, and it gives a delicious, creamy taste and texture, very similar to the bought stuff. Raw milk makes a slightly runnier yoghurt, so if you want it to be really thick and creamy, be sure to use pasteurised milk.

Homemade Yoghurt
1 litre fresh milk
2 tsp live, cultured yoghurt (as your starter)

Slowly warm the milk until it is about 45 degrees (until the base of the pot is just tolerable to touch). Whisk the yoghurt starter into the warm milk and then pour into a clean jar. Place jar in a yoghurt maker (like an Easiyo) that has been filled with hot water and leave for 10 to 12 hours to do it's thing. Cool in the fridge and enjoy!

Milk and culture, on it's way to becoming yoghurt
If you don't have a yoghurt maker (they are pretty cheap to buy though), you can wrap the jar in a towel and place in a chilly bin with a hot water bottle.Remember to leave some yoghurt at the end of your jar to make the next batch!

See? Super easy right!?