The real reason I moved to Australia

Avocado on toasted sourdough with a squeeze of lime

Was it because the troika have taken over Ireland, and now you’re all poor?

Or maybe, because you’re allergic to rain?

Perhaps you just had enough of being called a culchie by all those Dublin jackeens?

Oh no, it was for love right? For the grá of your Australian Fella, the one you’re going to marry, it’s got to be for that, right?

WRONG!

Folks, the real reason I moved to the big red land down under had nothing to do with recession, rain for even love. Let’s be honest here; it was for avocados.

Yes. I said avocados.

Avocado on toasted sourdough with fresh cracked black pepper

When I was a child, my mother had a strict rule. Whenever any family member went abroad to warmer climates, they were warned not to bring home duty-free or Toblerone. Instead they were charged with smuggling ripe avocados into the country. My brother and I must have been the only children growing up in the north east of Ireland in the eighties who had avocado addictions. Hell, we must have been the only children for miles around who knew what avocados were! They weren’t spuds that much was for sure.

Things haven’t changed much since then. When I still lived in Ireland I would buy (imported) avocados in bulk and ripen them in the hot press. Yes, like a crazy lady. Now, I live on a much bigger island, one where ripe avocados are very commonplace; and they taste unreal! Gone are the days of waiting ages for an avocado to be ripe; now I can buy a luscious, nutty fruit in my local corner shop, open it up, and immediately spread it on my toast. I’ll repeat that for the folks back home, yes, I did say SPREAD. In Australia, the avocados are spreadable, like some kind of delicious, green butter. Are you beginning to understand my reasons for emigration?

You might all think that avocado on toast is pretty much a non-recipe, but I say, don’t dare knock it until you’ve tried it. I eat this about three times a week, for breakfast, brunch or even a midweek dinner.  And I can guarantee, if you can get quality avocados with super-fresh sourdough bread, you too will fall in love. Don’t take my word for it, try it for yourself!

Avocado on toasted sourdough

Avocado on toasted sourdough slice

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Upsidedown Paddy’s day tricolour salad

Irish flag Aussie salad

Well it’s that time of year again, when the entire world commandeers my nationality and dyes everything green. Lá Fhéile Pádraig!

Paddy’s day as an expat is a strange experience to say the least, although I’d say it would be worse for Irish people living in the States. It’s such a big deal, a day that everyone knows about, but no one is really sure what’s it for. According to the rest of the world St Patrick was some drunk bloke who wore oversized green top hats and said thirty-three and a third a lot.

This year I’m OK with it though, people can think what they want to as long as it makes them happy. And if they get a bit of craic out of it, sure all the better.

Leprechauns and mangos

The Fella thinks I’m an absolute disgrace to my country for posting this picture, he thinks I deserve to get my passport taken off me because of it. But I say, if the world wants leprechauns, why not give them leprechauns?

You can all blather on about corned beef (baffling and disgusting in equal measures), leprechauns (just plain lame) and pots of gold (I don’t know if any of you folks heard, but Ireland is currently owned by the IMF) as much as you like and I won’t bat an eyelid. But, I would really like to remind everyone that there are actually two other colours in the Irish flag. Yes folks, believe it or not there is some orange and white in there too! I know right? It just blows your mind.

I made this salad as an homage to the oft-forgotten tricolour, where mango represents the orange and macadamia the white. An Australian take on my national flag if you were, as mangos and macadamia nuts are a little harder to come by in county Louth.

I will be celebrating Paddy’s day in Sydney CBD with The Fella and his family and I’ve no doubt there won’t be a tractor or a bunch of shamrocks in sight, but it will be fun none the less. And I hope you have the craic too, wherever you are in the world and however you choose to celebrate; but I do ask this: as you’re tucking into your green beer, do save a thought for the tricolour, sure it’s a grand wee flag!

Upsidedown Paddy’s day tricolour salad – spinach, mango and macadamia

Tri colour salad

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Bread for your belly

Rosemary flecked focaccia

If you haven’t seen the film Anchorman, you should, right now. Stop reading this post and go rent it. I’m serious.

Those of you that have will no doubt remember Ron Burgundy singing at his scotch:

I love scotch.
Scotchy scotch scotch.
Here it goes down, down into my belly…….

And so on.

Well today I am here to confess that I feel much the same way about bread. It’s sad really, scotch and bread don’t really have a lot in common, one takes 18 years to mature, is smooth and effortlessly cool and the other is, well, just bread. But the heart (and by heart I of course mean belly) wants what it wants.

If someone told me in the morning I could never eat bread again I think I might consider slapping them; at the very least I’d shout at them, loudly. I always feel sorry for those women in glossy magazines who profess the benefits of a carb-free diet. I mean, they may be skinny, rich and successful, but could they really be happy? I doubt it. But then again, the less bread they eat, the more there is for me, whoop!

The magic of yeast

Magic stuff, that yeast!

Making your own bread is a lot less effort than you’d think and the results are oh so worth it. You just need time and a little elbow grease. The recipe I’m sharing today is one I’ve adapted from Maureen Tatlow’s The Back to Basics Cookbook. I’ve tweaked it a bit to suit my tastes and I just love it.

There are just two things to point out with it, if you don’t put in the requisite kneading time your bread will be heavy and dense; but hand-kneading for 10 minutes is a kind of exercise and so in a way makes up for the delicious carb overload that’s coming. The second thing is, this bread doesn’t keep well, you really need to eat it on the day it’s made, although it does toast really well on the day after. So adjusting the quantities to suit your hunger levels ain’t a bad idea.

Rosemary flecked focaccia

Rosemary focaccia

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Wonky heirloom Caprese salad

heirloom & cherry tomatoes

There’s a building right at the edge of North Sydney with a giant digital time and temperature display that I’m kind of obsessed with.

Every morning, as I drive past, I mentally take note of the temperature. Without fail. It’s kind of a morning ritual for me, like coffee and newspapers. I think it might be an Irish thing; as a nationality, we do tend to be unreasonably fascinated by temperature.

Take your annual summer holiday for instance; sure you couldn’t be expected to have a good foreign holiday until the mercury reaches at least 30 °C. You see, you just wouldn’t be getting your money’s worth. Sure what would be the point of leaving the country if you didn’t get pure roasted alive?!

caprese salad with heirloom & cherry tomatoes

Likewise, hot days at home are monitored with fascination – jaysus, the winky weatherman said it’s going to be 23 °C tomorrow! Oh holy god! I may dig out the shorts, let’s bring the kids to the beach, and ring the neighbors, we’re going to have a barbeque, god it’ll be great to get a bit of tan! – would be the typical thought process of many an Irish person on the annual day of summer.

Neither would a Skype conversation with anyone from home be complete without an enquiry about the temperature. It’s one hot topic!

So, true to my race, I check the temperature on my drive to work every morning, and think about what a mental country Australia is. Last Friday it was 19 °C at 7.03 am. I kid you not.

caprese salad with heirloom & cherry tomatoes

Let me just put that into context for you: at seven in the morning, in the spring, it was as warm as it sometimes ever gets in the middle of the day in Ireland in summer.

I think that means summer is officially on it’s way. Australian summer, obviously.   

To celebrate, I made a wonky heirloom Caprese salad, because nothing tastes more like sunshine than tomatoes and basil. I used some juicy heirloom tomatoes and chopped everything up so roughly, you’d swear I don’t even own a knife. Then, I sat in the back garden, soaked up some rays and enjoyed it.

Wonky heirloom Caprese salad

caprese salad with heirloom & cherry tomatoes

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Baba-ga-what-now?

One of the things I love about Sydney is the sheer amount and variety of restaurants there are. It’s astounding! In this town, you could eat out every night of the year and never get bored. In my small corner of the city alone there are several Thai, Indian, tapas, Mexican, Italian, Vietnamese, modern Australian, Japanese, vegetarian and Turkish places. There is also a French restaurant, a Polish place, a Brazilian barbeque joint, a Himalayan and a Chinese restaurant. And this is all just in my immediate neighbourhood!

If you start heading over to other suburbs the list just keeps getting longer and longer and loooonger. And, no doubt the pounds will begin to pile.

I guess this multicultural mish-mash is thanks to years of immigration. It’s strange that all these interesting and exotic people never thought to move to the sunny emerald isle and share their tasty treats with us, isn’t it?! In fairness we could have done with a bit of variation over the years, potatoes are yum, but even they can get a bit boring after a bit.

Or maybe it would have all be a bit too unusual for us? If they had thought to move to Ireland, perhaps all these new tastes would have just blown our little mind-holes. Like, I’m pretty sure if I mentioned baba ganoush to some folks I know back home, they would look at me with vacant faces and say baba-ga-what-now?

It’s aubergine (or eggplant) barbequed and all smushed up into pure deliciousness. Just in case you didn’t already know.

I saw this beautiful recipe in a recent issue of SBS Feast magazine and I am so excited to share it. Not only is it absolutely stunning and pure exotic, it’s also quick, easy and super delicious. Perfect for impressing people or for exploring a new cuisine; only if there are no spuds left in the fridge of course.

Haloumi with baba ganoush and pomegranate

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Rabbit food anyone?

What do you think of when you hear the word: lentil?

Let’s be honest here, lentils don’t have a very good reputation do they?  One that’s not actually very fair.

If you hear the word and immediately think of greeny environmental types with dreadlocks and hemp clothes; who only eat grass, soy and hard-as-old-boots rye bread, then you seriously need to think again. And pronto, rabbit food they ain’t. In fact, these miniature pulses are so super yum it almost beggers belief.

When I was little, my Mam did cook lentils a lot. I remember eating them smothered in butter and lemon juice and really enjoying them. But for some reason as I got older, they fell off my radar, only recently to reappear. And to be honest, I can’t believe I’ve wasted so many lentil-free years. They would have been an absolute god send in my student years:  cheap AND nutritious AND filling AND tasty, how come nobody reminded me about them?

As it has been slightly chillier than normal here in Sydney these past few weeks, I’ve been eating them with lots of yummie winter veggies, making some frugal but filling and oh-so-tasty mid-week suppers.  I put this dish together myself, basically because I thought the flavours would go well together: the sweetness of the roast squash and red onion is perfectly balanced with the saltiness of the feta, the rocket gives a peppery twist and the lentils are nutty, rich and wintery.

If you’re out to change your opinion of these nutty little guys, give this dish a try. It’s best enjoyed on a cold, dark evening with a nice glass of red. Hemp scarves and hats are optional.

Puy lentils with roast squash, caramelised red onion, rocket and feta

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Hey Pesto!

There are currently four things growing in my back garden: an abundance of nondescript weeds, a deranged passion-fruit vine, a pretty hardy rosemary bush and more oregano than a small Mediterranean nation could eat in a year.

I am an atrocious gardener, but this is not for lack of trying. I frequently plant all kinds of interesting and edible things, only to watch them wilt and die before my very eyes. I have absolutely no idea why these four plants manage to thrive where all else fails.

So what do you do when you’ve a garden full of oregano and you don’t fancy eating roast lamb non-stop for the next year? You make pesto, yummo!

I love love LOVE pesto, although this love is not shared my all members of my family. I think it can be used to dress up absolutely anything from pasta to sandwiches to veggies to dressings; it’s pretty much an all-round genius sauce, and oregano pesto is no exception.

Pesto purists beware; for this recipe I totally parted with tradition and just used what I had to hand: oregano from the garden (obviously), Pecorino I found on special in Harris Farm Markets and macadamia nuts (to make it a bit more ‘Stralian!). And I was more than happy with the delicious results.

Oregano, Pecorino and macadamia nut pesto

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Birthday banana and buttermilk pancakes with raspberries and honey

Question: should pancakes be fat or thin?

In my world, pancakes are large, round and oh-so-very thin. The best ones are eaten with a just sprinkling of caster sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice; or maybe a bucketful of Nutella; depending on your mood. My basic rule is that you shouldn’t need a knife and fork to eat them, just roll and go.

The Fella however has different views. Being Australian (and despite being the product of two Irish emigrants), he thinks pancakes should be small and thick. This means we have had a few, rather heated, pancake-related debates in our house.

I guess there are just Old World pancakes (thin) and New World pancakes (fat); which is the best compromise The Fella and I can come to. It was his birthday this weekend, so just to be nice (yes, I can be nice), I surprised him with a big batch of banana and buttermilk pancakes for breakfast. And I have to admit, they may have been fat and I did need a knife and fork to eat them, but they weren’t half bad at all.

Maybe living in the New World is starting to get to me…

Birthday banana and buttermilk pancakes with raspberries and honey

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Dippage dips

Like most Irish people my age, I went to a Catholic school, and as such got loads of exposure to all the bible stories. One in particular always stood out in my mind: the story of the last supper. The reason being, that I could never understand how wine and bread could constitute a meal. As an eight year old, this was probably the detail that bothered me the most, which suggests I may have slightly missed the point.

Fast forward 17 or so years to a Friday night in one of the brilliant Italian restaurants on Millennium Walk in Dublin and I had an epiphany (most probably helped along by at least half a bottle of Chianti and this fantastic mural).Of course wine and bread could make up a dinner! How had I been so stupid all these years? All you need is to add a little balsamic vinegar, some extra virgin olive oil, maybe a few marinated olives and hey presto – you have the best dinner in the world!

And the word for this new dining sensation? Dippage. Yumo, delicious, dippage.

Ask any of my friends – they will concur that I am a dippage fanatic. I think it’s totally acceptable to serve some olives, maybe some char-grilled veggies, an array of dips, balsamic oil and vinegar with crusty bread and call it dinner.

One of my favourite dippage dips is hummus, it’s all kinds of yum and apparently it’s good for you too. Brilliant.

Roasted red-pepper hummus

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Potato and egg salad with fennel and lemon

I’m all about dinner salads; love them I do. It’s great to pile loads of tasty and (sometimes) healthy food onto a plate and call it dinner. Add a dash of dressing, crusty bread for some dippage and you have a great mid-week supper.

Although, perhaps this dinner salad lark is just another way for me to delude myself into thinking I’m healthy.

This recipe is absolutely wonderful; I’ve adapted it from Epicurious and I cannot recommend it highly enough. It takes minutes to prepare and has a beautiful array of flavours and textures. Boring oul egg salad it ain’t! Let it brighten up a midweek dinner table near you, and soon.

Potato and egg salad with fennel and lemon

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Creamy, basily, mushroomy pasta

The Fella and I spent this weekend in Melbourne, where we had a frickin’ deadly time. We were visiting with some of my good friends and had a very enjoyable night out with them on Saturday. Needless to say we were feeling a tincy wincy bit delicate yesterday morning. So in the name of recovery, we all sat around in our jim-jams, drinking coffee, eating sweets and watching reality TV. It was possibly a perfect Sunday morning.

I’m a bit of a closet reality TV fan; my favourites include Four Weddings, Come Dine with Me and One Born Every Minute. But reality TV in Australia takes things to a whole new level; it’s all just so damn dramatic. For example, yesterday we watched a number of episodes of My Kitchen Rules. The premise is very similar to Come Dine with Me; however the contestants not only cook for each other, but also for two professional chefs, who then rate the meal. However unlike CDWM, it was all so very very super SERIOUS. There was minus craic, but plenty of dramatic music and lingering looks. Not so many ridiculous drunken antics but more food snobbery than you could shake a stick at. It was just not enjoyable.

Perhaps I’m wrong, but I think most people just like easy to cook and eat simple and delicious food? Surely food snobbery just alienates people and makes the kitchen seem even scarier than it should? With that thought in mind I decided to share with you all my quickest, most yumbo pasta-surprise recipe. Haute cuisine it ain’t but it sure tastes goooood.

Creamy, basily, mushroomy pasta

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Roast baby squash with mozzarella and celery leaves

Since moving to Australia, one of my very favorite things is the abundance of interesting and seemingly exotic fresh fruit and vegetables. I know that sounds silly, and I don’t mean to diss fresh Irish produce in any way what so ever. Absolutely not. I firmly believe Ireland produces some of the finest fruit and veg in the world. All I’m saying is that, wonderful as our food may be, visiting the green grocers in Australian can be a tad more exciting and baffling in equal measures.

Take the recipe below for instance, I will eat my own shoes and call them delicious if any of of the folks back home can honestly say they frequently find baby squash in the local Dunnes Stores. Perhaps pre-recession; but now? Doubtful.

When I was in Dublin, I’d have had to visit the always yumbo Fallon & Byrne (or the Temple Bar food market). And while I probably would have found them, I could pay through the nose for the diminutive gourds; and the taste of middle-class, carbon-footprinted guilt would have been hard to wash away; no matter how much wine I drank with dinner.

Not so in Australia my friends. The same sun that likes to mock my stupid Irish skin does wonderful things to mangos, pineapples, bananas, papaya, passion fruit, macadamia nuts, custard apples, and endless more exotic (and not so exotic) bundles of yumness. And I am busy reaping the rewards.

 Roast baby squash with mozzarella and celery leaves

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Spring green salad

I’ve been a bit hard on myself these past few weeks. Like that dude, Bear Grylls, I’ve been putting myself through a mad-hard endurance test. Except, I haven’t been scaling mountains or eating bugs. No, my fortitude has been tested in a far more boring manner: I’ve been working a lot, not sleeping much and drinking far too much alcohol than should even be allowed. Which is pretty much the same as the entire working world in the run up to Christmas.

Anyways, after a few weeks of this abuse, my immune system has finally given me the finger, packed up and gone on strike. And within seconds, my old friend herpes simplex seized his chance and erected a tribute to an erupting Mount Vesuvius on my bottom lip. Very attractive.

Apparently I need vitamins. Stat!

Isn’t it funny though, when your body really needs healthy nourishment; all you want to eat is beans on toast? Which are pretty vitamin deficient I think. But this salad saved me, and more importantly, it got my immune system and me into peace talks. It’s totally healthy but it doesn’t feel like you’re eating rabbit food. Oh no, instead you get all the lovely, herby goodness, nicely balanced with the salty feta and finished off with the crunchy toasted pitas; satisfying the demands of both taste buds and immune system in one go. Nice one!

Broad bean fattoush

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Pretty potato salad

Look at how pretty spuds can be! So pretty in fact, I will have to revert to their proper title and start to call them potatoes. How fancy.

I had never intended to post this; it was simply going to be a random Thursday dinner. I had green beans that I needed to use. I had some spuds, I spotted some juicy baby roma tomatoes in the corner shop, and that was going to be it. But once it was all on a plate, it all looked so gosh darned pretty, that I just had to take a snap and share it with you all.

Just goes to show, all you need for a yummy dinner is super fresh ingredients and zilch all else.

Pretty potato salad

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Haloumi salad

Is there anything in this world better than fried cheese? Really? I’m pretty sure it’s virtually impossible to beat, even with a super-long-great-big stick.

I actually wonder what was going through Mr Haloumi’s mind when he was inventing it? I like to think the thought process went something like this:

Mmmmmm, cheese really is some kind of super food, totally healthy and not at all packed with fat. No, no, no. So how could I make it appeal to the non-healthy eating market? … conundrum … I know, let’s FRY IT! Whoop!

Genius.

So to counteract it’s many health benefits, I’ve paired the Haloumi with super fresh, calorie-free veggies in a yummie salad of my own inventing (that sounds so way better then admitting these ingredients were all I could find in the fridge).

I know there are the Haloumi haters out there, who think it’s too chewy and salty and just plain weird. Well I just say bah to them, the less they eat, the more there is for me, right? But I did cook my Haloumi with a squeeze of lemon juice, just to cut through that saltiness, then paired it with a little lemon dressing and Bob’s your Uncle, you have yumness on a plate.

Haloumi salad

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Pasta with feta, spinach and pine nuts

It’s actually a bit bizarre that in the few months I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve never posted any pasta dishes. The Fella and I eat a LOT of pasta, mainly because it’s cheap (his thumbs up) and quick (my thumbs up). Because don’t you hate it when you’ve had a long day at work and you’re faced with the stupid what to make for dinner dilemma? I don’t know about the rest of you, but sometimes I find weekday evenings frustratingly short. Some evenings I just want something quick and easy and I don’t like only sitting down to my dinner at 9 o’clock at night. For one thing, that’s when all the good shows start. Hence, pasta it is.

You would not believe the number of “pasta surprise” recipes we have, The Fella is especially good at these. Basically they consist of whatever we have in the fridge, and thus they are great for avoiding a condition called postworksupermarketrage. This dreadful disorder is particularly prevalent among 20 and 30 something childless professionals, who use their weekends for getting drunk and other irresponsible frivolities and neglect to do basic household tasks, such as shopping. Tut tut tut.

This is a wee step up from pasta surprise, and it is a little beaut of a recipe. I found it in Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen, and I guarantee you can get this on the table in 20 minutes flat. Beat that Jamie Oliver!

Pasta with feta, spinach and pine nuts

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Epic (fail) eggs

Ahh, Sunday morning.

Lovely sunny morning, maybe we could go out for breakfast? Maybe someplace by the water, that would be nice.

On second thoughts, why should I leave my nice comfortable house on a Sunday morning? That would require hair brushing and the like. Seems like effort, pants to that. I’m a food blogger, aren’t I? I can make Eggs Florentine; it can’t be that hard, surely.

Surely?

Well, it appears Eggs Florentine are a wee tiny incy bit more effort than I had initially thought. Full epic fail instructions are as follows:

  1. Clatter about in pots and pans cupboard, making as much noise as possible. Wake boyfriend and possibly neighbours; if you’re up they can’t need much more sleep.
  2. Put toast under grill and promptly forget about it.
  3. Perfectly poach the eggs (gold star!) and feel immensely proud. So proud that electric kettle is inadvertently placed on the hot stove ring (which has obviously been left on. Obviously).
  4. Vaguely smell burning toast, ignore.
  5. Melt butter for the hollandaise sauce.
  6. Realise that toast has been charred, curse loudly and put fresh bread under the grill. Resolve to pay much more attention in future.
  7. Think the burning toast smell has a funny plastic tinge to it. Must be imagining things.
  8. Scramble the eggs making the first batch of hollandaise, damn it. Stomp about a bit in frustration.
  9. Remember to check the toast (hooray!).
  10. Suddenly realise electric kettle is melting rapidly, filling kitchen with noxious kettle fumes.
  11. Curse. A lot. Very loudly. In multiple languages.
  12. Run out into garden with melted kettle and flail about for a bit, not knowing what exactly to do with it.
  13. Open all windows and doors.
  14. Snap at emerging boyfriend enquiring about burning kitchen. He should be grateful that breakfast is being made for him.
  15. Stand back, take one large (kettle filled breath) and start again

Eggs Florentine

The second time around I faired much better. However, this dish does require good timing and quick thinking and so maybe it’s not ideal for first thing on a Sunday morning.

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Yumbo feta and chickpea salad

Salads: Love them? Hate them? Nothing them?

Mmmmm? This is a difficult one.

When I was a small child, I don’t remember ever having salad. Then at some point in the latter half of the eighties, Ireland must have discovered iceberg lettuce. And thus began the many crimes against salad that my poor home country is so guilty of. Wet. Limp. Tasteless. Familiar to anyone?

“Eat your salad, it’s good for you” my mam would growl across the dinner table; leaving my brother and me with the firm belief that anything good for you couldn’t, and probably shouldn’t, taste nice.

Then the nineties rolled around and with them the Celtic tiger. We were suddenly awash with such foreign goodies as sun-blush tomatoes and balsamic vinegar. Things in the salad department were suddenly starting to look up. And in fairness, we’ve come a long way since then: like Iarnród Éireann, we’re not there yet, but we’re getting there.

These Australians on the other hand, they have this whole salad-making lark down. They know their stuff and they are not afraid to flaunt it. This recipe was given to me by The Fella’s sister; she’s a great cook and always willing to share her secrets. I think this salad actually started out as a way to serve feta from Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros. But, it has now morphed almost beyond all recognition into a hearty dinner salad (yes, a salad can be hearty!). Just serve with a crispy bread roll on the side and you’ve a super tasty meal for two.

I know some of you will be tempted to skimp on the garlic, but don’t be afraid of it! It totally makes this salad. You’d do it an injustice by skimping, and salads have been done enough injustice already.

Yumbo feta and chickpea salad

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Pumpkin predicaments

If I say the word ‘pumpkin’ to you, what do you immediately think of? If it’s Hallowe’en, then you were probably born in the northern hemisphere.

This week I was given a present of a pumpkin. It was beautiful: green with orange speckles, home-grown and organic. It could not have been any cuter. But all I could think was: it’s May, who the hell grows pumpkins in May?? The answer: Australians.

Figuring out the seasons is one of the stranger adjustments I have had to make since moving here. At home, on the fair emerald isle, we all know Australians celebrate Christmas during the summer. We giggle at their stupidity for not knowing Christmas revolves around frost, mulled wine, fairy lights and a whole lot of hearty winter fare; all the while secretly wondering what it would be like to spend it on a sunny beach. This is all well known, so when Christmas rolled around I was prepared for the strangeness of it. It has been other things that have caught me off guard, such as eating hot-cross buns as the leaves are changing colour, sunshine on St. Patrick’s Day and now being given pumpkins in May. Where will it end?!

If Australia is the opposite to Ireland, then May is pretty much like October, right?

So once I had recovered from the shock of all this, I had to figure out what I was going to do with this May pumpkin. And I’m afraid I was very unoriginal, I opted for risotto and pumpkin pie. And here is my rational: pumpkin risotto is all kinds of yum, so that’s pretty much a no brainer; and I’ve never actually tasted pumpkin pie before, so while it might seem unoriginal to some, it’s totally left of field for me.

So that was the menu planned, all that was left to do was crack open the gourd and a bottle of red, cook and enjoy on a (very warm) Sydney autumn evening.

Pumpkin and rosemary risotto

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Little miss figgy

I love figs. Yummie, sticky, foreign bundles of goodness. The operative word there being: foreign. Growing up on the oh-so-tropical island of Ireland figs weren’t exactly ten a penny. Unless of course you count the dried or fig-rolled varieties, which don’t really taste the same. Instead, these were slightly strange looking yokes found only on Mediterranean summer holidays and in racy short stories by Enda O’Brien.

So a few days ago when I was walking past my (now) local fruit shop in Sydney and spotted a whole tray of these little parcels of yum, I just had to get some. Once I got them home though I will admit, I was a little stumped about what to actually do with them. Enter the Avoca Salads book and an idea was born (or borrowed).

As ever, I didn’t quite stick to the recipe. I tried to grill the figs to caramelise them and make them that little bit sweeter. I had this idea that they would get lovely griddle pan scorch marks on them and look really cool. They didn’t. But they did caramelise slightly and I served them still a little warm. I think it worked, The Fella certainly didn’t complain.

Fig, goat’s cheese and pine nuts salad

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