Cook this: Olive bread

Husband never used to like olives. Until he tried them again a while ago. And he discovered he actually did like them, a lot. He noticed a handsome looking olive loaf last weekend at a bakery we stopped for tea and coffee at, and requested I make a loaf; far be it for me to say no, so I threw together a quick easy loaf, and it turned out pretty darn good. Pretty easy to make, as well…

Ingredients (makes 1 loaf):
– 500g plain flour
– ½ tbsp salt
– ½ tbsp dried yeast
– 1 heaped tbsp dried rosemary
– 475ml warm water
– 1 cup pitted olives of choice – I used kalamata

 

Method:
1. Combine the flour, salt, yeast and rosemary in a large mixing bowl, then stir in the warm water. Once combined, mix in the olives.

2. Cover the mixing bowl in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

3. When you’re ready to bake, take the dough out of the fridge and bring it to room temperature.

4. Preheat the oven to 220ºC, grease a loaf tin and place the dough into it (alternatively, line an oven tray with baking paper and shape the dough into a free form loaf). Bake for 45 – 50 minutes, or until baked through; the easiest way to test it while it’s still in the tin is to tap the bread – if it has a hollow sound, it should be baked through.


I’d highly recommend serving it fresh out of the oven, topped with prosciutto and fior di latte cheese. Amazing!

Tea time: Trà Viêt Tea, Vietnam

Trà Viêt Tea
http://www.traviet.com/en/

I’m usually pretty consistent with my Monday morning blog posts, so big apologies for missing yesterday – unfortunately, being knocked out with a migraine most of Sunday wasn’t real conductive to blogging time! It did make for a good excuse to rest and drink tea, though, so I thought that’s what I’d post about this morning – my favourite green tea purchased from Vietnam :) Someone asked me after I got back from Vietnam if I did much shopping and what I bought over there. When I told them I’d pretty much just bought a whole lot of tea, they looked a little perplexed; what they didn’t know was that tea has been my souvenir of choice for a few years now.

It’s incredible how making and sipping on a pot of tea you’ve made with tea leaves you bought in a market in Chicago or on the side of a street in Hoi An or at a cute little café in New York can bring all of those good holiday memories and feels flooding right back :) So, when I spotted the little Trà Viêt tea stall set up on the street in Hoi An, I was like a moth to the flame.

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This lovely lady kindly let me choose a variety of tea to try, and took us through a little tea ceremony, demonstrating exactly how to brew the tea I’d chosen – a pandan ginseng green tea. Turns out that the best way to brew this particular one is to add the leaves into the pot, and fill with water at around 80°C (or, roughly 1 part cold water to 4 parts boiling). Pour the water out immediately, and refill the pot again, steeping the leaves for no more than a minute.

You get an utterly delicious green tea with that distinct pandan flavour (which I absolutely LOVE!) – it’s the perfect morning pot of tea, and I do try to make time most weekends to slow down and enjoy a pot (or two) before I get going – you can easily get two or three infusions from these leaves, too, which makes them even more perfect for me :)

Trà Viêt is quite popular in Vietnam, and sold all around the country; I’ve been trying to source a website that sells it online, too, and the closest I’ve been able to find is here, although they don’t ship everywhere… I plan to email Trà Viêt directly when I’m close to running out and checking if they can post me some more! Otherwise, another trip to Vietnam wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing… If you have a visit coming up, though, I’d recommend a tea stop with them – they have a pretty big range, and you can always ask for a demonstration so you can learn the proper way to brew your tea

Cook this: Orange, rosemary & olive oil cake

As a general rule, I’m not a fan of social media. I got off Facebook… wow, it was so long ago now I can’t even remember when. I don’t get the point of Twitter. I really don’t get Snapchat. I don’t have time for that crap in my life. But Instagram, I actually really love. I find it a happy, safe(r) sharing space. It’s where I go for travel inspiration and food inspiration and just generally finding amazing people who are living their dreams, which give me that little extra push to live mine.

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One of the accounts I’ve started following relatively recently is @dear_franny, which most people who know me would find kinda weird. Rachel posts mostly photos of her adorable little girl, and I’m not really an “awww look how cute the baby is” kinda gal. But she also bakes. And her baking shots always look amazing. One of her latest really caught my eye – a citrus rosemary olive oil cake. I’m a fan of olive oil in a cake for something a bit different, and I love the combination of citrus and rosemary, so I thought I’d take a peek. Rachel uses the rosemary just in the frosting, but I wanted a plain, simple cake sans-frosting, so I made it a bit more “me.” Here’s my version…

Ingredients:
– ¾ cup caster sugar
– finely grated zest of 1 medium orange
– 1 cup plain flour
– pinch of salt
– ½ tsp baking soda
– 1 tbsp dried rosemary
– ⅔ cup extra virgin olive oil
– ½ cup milk, at room temperature
– 2 medium eggs, at room temperature
– juice of half a medium orange

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Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 175ºC and grease a medium sized round cake tin.

2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the sugar and orange zest, rubbing them together with your fingers, which releases more of the oils from the zest (great tip, Rachel, thanks!).

3. Once combined, add the flour, salt, baking soda and rosemary, and mix to combine. Set aside.

4. In another mixing bowl, whisk together the oil, milk, eggs and orange juice until completely combined.

5. Pour the wet mixture into the dry, bit by bit, folding it in with a spatula as you go. Once completely combined, pour the batter into a cake tin and bake for 40 – 45 minutes, or until it passes the skewer test.

6. Cool in the tin until cool enough to handle, then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling. You can ice it, if you want – I like just a bit of icing sugar dusted over the top. Keep in an air-tight container up to 4 days.

My favourite New Orleans eats

Our New Orleans themed Christmas tree is up again this year. One if my lovely work colleagues has just come back from New Orleans, regaling me with tales of snow white beignets and bowls of gumbo. AND one of my best friends (@jessicavee, fellow food lover and adventurer) has just let me know that she’ll be making her way to that same magical city in a few months. I promised her a highlights reel of food to eat, so Jess, this post is for you!
1. Central Grocery
The food: a quarter of a muffuletta
The memory: our first feed in New Orleans was at Central Grocery, a beautiful, old deli that brought me right back to the days of visiting old Italian delis with Nonna. No frills, no fuss, no nonsense, just a damn good sandwich. We ordered half a muffuletta, but a quarter between us would have sufficed; they’re the size of hubcaps!
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2. Cafe du Monde
The food: beignets!!!
The memory: this place is open 24/7, so you be damn sure we took advantage of that. They were afternoon tea the day we arrived. They were delivered in a paper bag by my husband who snuck out early one morning so he could get them back in time for me to wake up to and enjoy breakfast in bed. They were a midnight snack the night before we flew out, that last bag of beignets I’d have for God only knows how long (I even have a photo of me clutching that bag like the crown jewels). They’re the taste of New Orleans. Just don’t wear black when you eat them…
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3. Coop’s Place
The food: fried chicken and gumbo
The memory: the strongest memory was feeling so at home in Coop’s. It wasn’t because I regularly hang out in dive bar-like restaurants, or because I eat lots of fried chicken at home. It was just a fun, relaxed place where no one gave a crap that you were a tourist. Just sit down, shut up, order and eat! And eat we did!
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4. Domilise’s
The food: fried shrimp po-boy (the roast beef was pretty good, too)
The memory: it was a long walk (via donuts, which I would do all over again) and more than worth it. Domilise’s is a city stalwart and for damn good reason. Their po-boys are some of the best in New Orleans, and so is the establishment – it felt just like sitting in your favourite aunt’s kitchen, being well looked after :)
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5. The Joint
The food: combo platter with brisket, pulled pork & ribs
The memory: another long walk from the French Quarter through some questionable back streets at dusk. May not have been the smartest idea to go on foot, but the food was totally worth it! Sitting out in the courtyard at The Joint with music pumping, drinks flowing, and good times rolling, it was a real good night in New Orleans!
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6. Johnny’s Po-Boys
The food: surf & turf po-boy
The memory: we’d seen on a few “what are the best po-boys in New Orleans?” Google searches that Johnny’s were the best option within the French Quarter. We squished in, on two counter seats, and demolished an incredible surf and turf po-boy, on perfectly soft bread, smothered in gravy…
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Eat here: Hoa Anh Dao Sakura Restaurant, Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoa Anh Dao Sakura Restaurant
119-121 Nguyễn Thái Học, Minh An, tp. Hội An
http://www.hoiansakura.com/

Back to Vietnam this morning, to one of the most brilliant restaurant experiences I’ve ever had. On the banks of Hoi An’s Thu Bon River stands a beautiful, golden building. It’s clearly been there for a while, with the peeling and faded yellow paint and those little signs of decay that make buildings like this look so perfect. I would have thought a building like this would house a crappy, touristy restaurant, with a Vietnamese-by-numbers menu and overpriced seafood, but the sight of that little terrace overlooking the river and street below was too much, and we decided to treat ourselves to a “fancy” dinner one night.

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Long story short, great decision. The service was amazing from the moment we stepped up past the entry threshold – the Vietnamese are so friendly and genuine, you never feel like an imposition or that they’re only being nice because they’re employed to do so. Seated up on the terrace, we had the perfect view. And the menu was phenomenal… We over-ordered, obviously, but really couldn’t help ourselves!

White rose dumplings topped with fried shallots and dipping sauce.
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Mixed appetizer platter.
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DIY rice paper rolls with grilled pork skewers, bahn cuon, and salad. We thankfully got a quick crash course in the proper way to layer and wrap these, and they were great!
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Duck salad. This was amazing! So fresh, perfect mid-meal palate cleanser, but it would have made a perfect meal on its own, too.
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Husband’s choice – beef noodles with veggies. He loved it.
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And my choice – prawns cooked in coconut milk. This was magic, pure and simple. The best seafood dish I have ever eaten, my goodness it was good!
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Plus a few beers for husband, and a few coconut waters for me, I think we paid around AUD$60.00 for all of that… we couldn’t believe it! The prices was ridiculously cheap for the amount and quality of the food we had, the view was the best in the city, the service was wonderful, and it was the perfect dinner experience. Don’t let appearances deceive you – add it to the list of places to eat at in Hoi An. And ask for a terrace table!