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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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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Creamy, sundried surprise

So it’s time for another pasta surprise; because everyone loves pasta and surprises, hoo-raa!

Pasta surprise is all kinds of super and as yumbolicious regulars will know, it’s one of my favourite things to make.

It’s great because you get to clear out the contents of your fridge; while avoiding the supermarket (always good on a midweek evening) and all in under the guise of experimentation. And the big plus? Well it’s pretty hard to go wrong, but if you ever do, you can nearly always do an emergency rescue job with some cheese and a good grill!

This pasta surprise is veering dangerously towards poshness, but I swear it was a fridge clearing exercise that went exceptionally well. So well in fact, that I committed it to memory and made it again and again and again. And you should too.

Creamy, sundried tomato and chicken rigatoni

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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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Pad thai challenge

Near where The Fella and I live in Sydney, there is a tiny little place that sells chicken pad thai noodles for $5 a pop. Five dollars? I hear you all shout. Yes my friends, just five, small, shiny little dollars

Needless to say, my frugal Fella thinks this place is the bees knees.

While I don’t mind the noodles from Glebe’s $5 Pad Thai, they’re not outstanding; but then for five bucks you wouldn’t expect them to be. A few weeks back I made the mistake of expressing this opinion to The Fella, who immediately issued me with a challenge. The general gist of which was: well little-miss-food-blogger, if you’re so smart you should make better pad thai for less than five dollars. I accepted the challenge, with gusto.

I’m not going to count this one as a fail. I might not have managed to stick to the ridiculous budget, but I maintain that my noodles taste far better, and that’s what really counts, right?

Chicken pad thai noodles

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