Cook this: Fig & walnut jam

Nonna and Nonno have an enormous garden, full of fruit trees and vegetable plots, all lovingly tended to every day. I grew up surrounded by overgrown zucchinis and their flowers which mum and Nonna would stuff and fry, the sweetest mulberries that I ate by the (very literal) bucketload that I’d pluck from the lower braches of the tree myself, and my favourite,  figs.

Sweet, sticky, brightly coloured and impossibly delicious, figs are one of the most vivid tastes of my childhood. I’ve tried the odd few from a supermarket or fresh food market, but they’re just not the same as Nonno’s.  Now, every year when the figs come in, Nonno gets on the phone to let me know, and off I go to collect. I was pretty stoked last weekend to get the call up and find a kilo of figs waiting for me instead of the usual handful!

With my fructose intolerance,  I can’t stomach as many as I used to, but there was no way I was letting them go to waste, so I decided to eat a few, keep a few for the next few days, and turn the rest into jam! If you’re lucky enough to be able to get your hands on a kilo of fresh, sticky figs, this is a pretty easy way to keep them around for a little longer…

Ingredients:
– 1kg fresh figs (stems removed, roughly chopped)
– ½ cup caster sugar
– 1 tbsp vanilla extract
– juice of 1 medium lemon
– ½ cup toasted, crushed walnuts

 

Method:
1. Combine the figs, sugar, vanilla and lemon juice with ⅔ cup of water in a large pot. Set it over high heat and bring to the boil.

2. Once boiling, lower the heat and simmer for around 45 minutes, until it thickens up to a more jammy consistency.

3. Stir in the walnuts ans pour the jam into clean jars and cool to room temperature before screwing the lids on and refrigerating (will keep for 3-4 weeks). Easy!

 

This jam works really well on fruit toast, as a cake filling, and especially well on my date and sesame scones (smothered in jam above), which, if you have a spare $9.99 laying about, you can find in my cookbook 🙂

10 Delicious Things To Eat In Thailand

I wrote this article last week for Outlet Magazine, and enjoyed writing it so much (it brought back so many great memories!) that I thought I’d share it here, too 🙂 Thailand has been relatively quiet in the world news since the Shutdown Bangkok movement of January 2014 that we somehow managed to get caught up in; that is, until the bombings in the country’s capital last week. For a country that makes a great portion of its living from tourism, this is a huge blow to the already struggling economy, which actually really upset me; for the most part, they’re good people who are working hard to make better lives for themselves. To be attacked like that is just cruel, it’s really really hard to hear about, especially when it’s Bangkok – the city gets a shitty wrap, but it’s still one of my favourite places! But, like I said when I wrote about the Shutdown thing, there are still so many great reasons to visit Thailand! Think cheap cocktails and beer, endless shopping, bustling markets and (best of all) some of the best food in the world. When things settle down and we’re all ready to head over to spend up on handbags and food, here are ten of the best things to eat.

 

  1. Anything on a stick
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    Chances are if it’s edible meat of any description, you’ll find it in Thailand threaded onto a skewer and grilled. Chicken, beef, pork, seafood, whatever – it’s all fair game, and it’s always delicious. Extra delicious if you can find honey marinated grilled pork skewers, those are the best.
  1. Noodles with wontons
    Photograph © Jess Carey 2014
    There’s a pretty noticeable Chinese influence in Thailand, and you can see it in a lot of the food. Fresh noodles with BBQ pork and wontons are one of those dishes that allows the Chinese influence to sneak in, but it’s so good no one seems to mind.
  1. Satay chicken skewers
    Photograph © Jess Carey 2014
    This is a simple dish, but a huge street food favourite. Grilled chicken on a stick with flavourful, delicious satay sauce. Really good option on the way home from a big night on Bangla Road.
  1. Freshly grilled seafood
    Thai food 4
    Find a decent seafood restaurant (look for somewhere super busy), pick out your dinner from the monster crustaceans displayed on ice out the front, ask to have them grilled and go with a simple butter garlic sauce on the side. Amazing!
  1. Pork fried rice
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    Another dish with a Chinese influence, fried rice is always a classic. It’s a great one to order from the street food vendors at night, particularly if you’re looking for something a bit more comforting and familiar.
  1. Nutella crepes
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    Every bit as good as the Parisian stuff. Actually, they’re better here, because more often than not, your Nutella and strawberry stuffed crepe will be doused in condensed milk before it’s served up to you. If that sounds unappealing to you, it’s only because you haven’t had one after a few cheap cocktails at 1am. You should try it.
  1. Pad Thai
    Thai food 7
    Duh – can’t well go to Thailand without eating Pad Thai!! Skip the tacky Westernised restaurants and head straight to the street food vendors; that’s where the best stuff comes from. Grab a fresh coconut to drink from while you’re at it – absolute winning combination.
  1. Fresh fruit smoothies
    Thai food 8
    These little stalls are set up absolutely everywhere and are the best way to feel better about your holiday food intake. Fresh mangos, strawberries, watermelon and pineapples all blended with ice into a cool, thick cup of healthy deliciousness. They also double up as great happy hour options if you buy your own liqueur at one of the infinite 7/11s floating around 😉
  1. Coconut sticky rice with fresh mango
    Photograph © Jess Carey 2014
    Another Thai classic – thick, sticky, coconut rice topped with sweet, fresh mango. It’s one of those dishes you don’t even need to be hungry to eat – it’s just soooo good!
  1. Coconut ice cream
    Thai food 10
    Yeah, they like their coconut over there. And when it’s so delicious and fresh, you can’t blame them for coming up with so many ways to use it. Freshly churned coconut ice cream at the end of a hot day is complete perfection. And because it’s technically made from fruit, you can eat as much as you like without feeling guilty! Everyone wins!

Eat here: Lady Bower Kitchen, Melbourne

Lady Bower Kitchen, Reservoir,  Melbourne
www.facebook.com/ladybower

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Sunday mornings are the best. We seem to have falling into a routine now which I really love. It goes something like this:
– Wake up around 7.30 (we’re early risers by nature)
– Walk 5 or 6km
– Find a cafe to eat breaky, relax, discuss future travel plans
– Walk 5 or 6km back home or to where ever we’ve left the car
– Get on with the rest of the day

One of my favourite breakfast nooks is the Breakfast Club (see more of them here and here), but this time, given that it was a surprisingly beautiful, sunny winter morning, I decided on a different spot, where I knew we’d be able to get a seat outdoor in the sunshine, and therefore bring the furry child along as well, who is always keen for both a walk and breakfast.

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Welcome to Lady Bower Kitchen! It’s a bit cute, a bit kitsch, a bit hipster, and as yet, probably a bit underrated. It’s in a quiet area that you wouldn’t be able to easily stumble upon if you don’t actually live in the area, so you really need to know what you’re looking for. If you’re not from the northern suburbs, it’s well worth the trip. I’m quite surprised to see some reviews that reflect some customers’ disappointment in the limited menu (personally, I’d rather a limited menu that’s done well than a million options that are all mediocre) and the “poor, inattentive service” (we’ve been here numerous times and have always had very friendly and attentive service, regardless of the day or time we’ve turned up).

Someone (though it wasn’t me or Marley) was still recovering from a big Saturday night out so he went with the seeded toast and spreads & a fruit punch (in the jar you can see in the very top photo). Luckily for me, someone wasn’t particularly hungry so I got some bread to try the spreads with. Feijoa jam, quince jelly and lemon curd. All amazing. Marley also shared the toast, and he thoroughly enjoyed it, being his mother’s furry son; carbs with fat and sugar are always appreciated.

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I went with the apple, rhubarb & raspberry bircher muesli. Oh my goodness, that’s a seriously delicious bowl of breakfast goodness. The rhubarb and raspberry compote was incredible, just sweet and tart enough all at the same time, and the muesli itself was really creamy. The apples were super crisp – it all just worked perfectly. I rarely order this sort of stuff for breaky because I can do a pretty solid porridge or overnight oats myself. I’m not sure what made me order this, but I’m glad I did, and I’ll absolutely be back for another serve again soon!

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It was a pity I wasn’t super hungry, because there was the most magnificent display of cakes and biscuits sitting on the front counter just begging me to try them all, so it might be a pot of tea and cake for breakfast next time! I know when most of us Melbournites think of great breakfast spots, we usually migrate to Brunswick, Fitzroy, those parts. But with great food and seriously amazing service, it’s worth the trip out to Reservoir to visit Lady Bower for your breakfast or brunch next weekend!

 

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