Sydney Swelters

Passion fruit, lemon and mint and creamy cherry ice-lollies

This is the counterpoint to my post Sydney sparkles. It seems in the springtime Sydney sparkles; but by the time January rolls around, Sydney simply sweats.

Last week, all of Australia struggled through a massive heat-wave. Temperatures were literally off the charts with the Australian Bureau of Meteorology having to come up with new colour indicators on their forecast charts. Bush fires raged across Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales, but thankfully no one lost their lives. The weather in this country certainly is serious business.

Colourful fruit ice lollies

On Wednesday the mercury in Sydney reached over 41 C, which is just as uncomfortable as it sounds. When it was still 37 C at half eleven that night, I regretted my decision not to just sleep at the pool. So what do you do when you live in a country located – as Dylan aptly observed – three quarters of a mile from the surface of the sun, in a house with no air conditioning? You make ice-pops and eat them while sitting in the bath, isn’t it obvious?!

Don’t let the fact you’ve no ice-pop making accoutrements stop you, do what I did and make them in little shot glasses with straws instead of sticks. You can all judge me if you want, but I was hot and I wasn’t driving to the shops. Anyway, I think they look kind of cute in a DIY sort of way. They tasted good at least and they were cold, which was really all that mattered to me.

Lemon and mint, passion fruit and creamy cherry ice-lollies

Lemon and mint, passion fruit and creamy cherry ice-lollies

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Sunny blue swimmer crabs

New Year’s Eve in Sydney is something very special indeed. I would urge everyone, at some point in their lives, to try and spend it here. I mean, who doesn’t love fireworks? Or spectacular harbours? I’ve been watching some clips on the web, but none of them really do the experience justice.

Blue swimmer crab

However, perhaps I should mention that I don’t really have much else to compare it to. Like, I’ve never spent New Year’s Eve in Edinburgh, New York or even London. Up until the point I moved to Australia the majority of my New Year’s celebrations had been in smelly pubs, dodgy nightclubs and other equally glamorous venues throughout Ireland. One memorable year, my date and I were politely (not) asked to leave a county Louth nightclub in sub-zero temperatures because he had fallen asleep under a Christmas tree. Needless to say the relationship didn’t last. The last year The Fella spent at home was with friends, in what was almost certainly the coldest house in Ireland. The central heating broke just as it was beginning to snow outside; so we had to drink buckets of alcohol, purely to keep warm, obviously.

Hence spending New Years in the sunny, warm and party-soaked atmosphere of Sydney is a welcome change. There are no deputes on where to go (see venues described above), or what to wear (party clothes don’t tend to be that warm), or how you’re going to get home (taxis mysteriously disappear on NYE at home). Instead you grab a nice bottle of vino and picnic blanket and make your way to the nearest park, to lounge in the sun for the day and enjoy the midnight show.

This year, I treated myself to a very special lunch. Eating seafood in the sunshine with a crisp white wine isn’t a bad way to finish off the year, not too bad at all.

Roll on 2013; I can’t wait to see what it brings!

Happy New Year!

Steamed blue swimmer crabs with vermicelli noodles in a lemon soy dressing

Steamed blue swimmer crabs with vermicelli noodles in a lemon soy dressing

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Christmas stollen

Christmas Stollen Loaf

I am writing this while basking in the (relative) cool of the evening, which is quite a strange feeling on Christmas Eve. Where I’m from, we tend to bask in the warm glow of turf fires on the 24th, instead I’m battling with the cats for who gets to sit closest to the fan. The cats are winning; they use their cuteness against me, clever things.

It’s still 24 °C at 10 pm, which is not generally a temperature that makes me think of mulled wine and mince pies. Or stollen for that matter, but I’ve got to make some concessions to this festive season, right?

Dried fruit, glace cherries and Cointreau
Nothing screams Christmas better than dried fruit, glace cherries and booze!

I have to admit (and I’m sure it’s already clear), this year I’m finding the summer-time Christmas a little difficult. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve no problem sitting in the sun sipping many cool drinks (like this one), but let’s call a spade a spade here, it’s just not Christmas when it’s over 30 °C out. Today I’ve been pining for Grafton St and Grogans and going out with my girlies.

But who can’t resist marzipan fruit bread? Not me I tell you, doesn’t matter what the temperature is! So I rolled up my sleeves, whacked on my oven and set to work, and the results were worth it, oh so worth it…..

Nollaig shona daoibh!

Christmas stollen

Stollen with cherries and marzipan

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Chorizo, mixed bean and rocket salad

crispy and golden chorizo

Question: when is a salad not a salad?

Answer: when it’s got chorizo in it!! YUMO!

One thing I’ve learnt recently is that chorizo is apparently not a diet food. Who would have thunk it? Certainly not me. I’m one of these people who think once you stick the word ‘salad’ onto anything, it’s automatically super healthy and not at all bad for you. Oh why can’t that just be true?

So when I made this salad recently and brought it to a dinner at the house of two dieting friends I wasn’t met with lip smacking or smiles. Oh no, instead I was educated about kilojoules, fat and carb ratios and other exciting stuff like that; because that’s just what I need, another thing to worry over and feel guilty about.

Chorizo and mixed bean salad

“But it’s a salad…” I pleaded.

“No” I was told, “it’s got chorizo in it, so it doesn’t count”.

In fairness, our friends are doing great and look absolutely fab. Maybe taking some of their advice wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

Mixed beans

This recipe is from the Avoca Salads cookbook. Any Irish readers will be familiar with the Avoca shops and cafes and will already be drooling and deciding they need to eat this immediately. For all you lovely foreigners, Avoca is a chain of uber-yummie-mummie shops in Dublin and Wicklow. You have to be a yummie mummie to a) have the time to hang out at the cafes with other yummie-friends and b) afford many of the country-chic-organic-handmade foods stuffs, clothes and nick nacks.

Maybe one day I will have the accompanying children and salary to justify my Avoca obsession, although it’s not going to be one day soon. In the mean-time I’ll just continue to buy their cookbooks and delude myself about the health benefits of certain salads.

Chorizo, mixed bean and rocket salad

Chorizo & mixed bean salad

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The desert your dentist will love to hate on

Every kid loves Roald Dahl’s dark, twisted and hilariously grotesque stories, right? Or was that just me? I love that he got right to the crux of what kids really like, there’s no pink fluff or fairy godmothers in his stories, no sir. Instead there are disappearing twits, shrinking grandmothers, squish-able aunts and other villains coming to raucous, violent and; let’s be honest; hilariously funny ends.

One of my very favourite characters is Violet Beauregarde, maybe because I can relate to poor ‘oul Violet a little more than I’d care to admit. For those of you who don’t know, Violet, a serial gum-chewer, won a golden ticket to visit Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.  But poor Violet comes to a colourful end when she insists on trying a prototype gum that doubles as a three course meal. Long story short, she sweals up, turns into a blueberry and has to be rolled away…. to be juiced.

I love the idea that you could eat so much of something, you could turn into it. I’m pretty sure it can’t actually happen, at least, I haven’t turned into a lump of chocolate just yet; although I do have a friend who insists her skin once started to turn orange after she over dosed on carrot juice.

Well, eating tonnes of this yummie desert won’t turn you into a blueberry, but it will turn your teeth and tongue a jaunty shade of purple. Hence why your dentist won’t like it, but I bet your friends will find it hilarious.

I threw this together after The Fella’s mother gifted me a whole bucketful of blueberries (yes, I am a very lucky girl). It’s like a cross between a fool and a fruit crumble, mainly because I couldn’t quite decide on what to make, but it doesn’t matter what it’s called because it is deeeelicious. I think it would work with any summer berry, especially raspberries, so if you’re not lucky enough to be gifted a pile of blueberries in the morning, feel free to mix it up, your teeth can take it.

Little pots of blue

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Sydney Sparkles

When it comes to weather, us Irish like to think we’re pretty hardy.  We just love to hate it, almost as much as we love to talk about it; and I did think we had it pretty tough, until I moved to Australia. The weather in this poor country is pure mental.

MENTAL I tell you.

When I first moved here and was house hunting, I amused quite a few real estate agents asking in-depth questions about central heating. At that stage I was such a FOB (Fresh Off the Boat) I didn’t realise the buzz phrase in Sydney is ‘reverse-cycle air conditioning’, doh! One actually guy laughed in my face. Well what can I say? I love to keep people entertained.

So, last week, when the reverse-cycle air conditioning in my office gave up the ghost, it wasn’t a good day. The system was kaput, defunct, dead. And it got hot. Oh so very hot. I started to glow, then to glisten and then to sweat profusely; all over my keyboard. As this was happening I also got progressively more stressed and stupid. Apparently my mental faculties are inversely proportional to the temperature of my immediate environment; which means if I ever move to Finland or Antarctica or someplace, I would probably be SO smart.

When I got home I needed alcohol, cold alcohol.

So I made this, and it was yum. I got the idea when browsing Heidi Swanson’s pop-up shop, QUITOKEETO. Heidi made hers with a straightforward thyme-infused syrup, but I decided to take things a step further and use lemon thyme instead of the regular variety. Lemon thyme is wonderful and I would urge everyone to get a pot, just for the beautiful smell if nothing else.

This cocktail is so very yummie. It’s lemoney and herby, aromatic and sweet, I love it; and I usually like my gin so bitter it makes my face turn inside out. So if you’re not a gin drinker, this might be the perfect introduction.

They fixed the air-conditioning, by the way; but the next day there was a hail storm, so it was a bit redundant really. See, I told you: mental.

Lemon-thyme gin sparkler

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Totally tropical fool

It was Australia Day last Thursday; I’m not quite sure how it’s taken me a whole four days to get around to posting this. It seems I am the world’s biggest faffer.

I’ve said before how excited I get visiting the greengrocers in Australia, it’s always full of such yummie-looking, exotic goodies, begging to be bought. But the fun doesn’t end there, oh no, I am the proud owner of a passion fruit vine. Yes, I am now, totally tropical.

Said passion fruit vine, has to date, only produced three super-tangy fruit. But that doesn’t matter to me. I still get a kick out of just looking at it, knowing that it’s there, slowly taking over the back garden, being all exotic and unfamiliar.

So to celebrate Australia Day I decided to make a fool from my two favourite Australian fruits: mango and passion fruit. Served with Australia Day semolina shortbread cookies for a bit of crunch and kitsch.

Totally tropical mango and passion fruit fool

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Summery tart

This week spring well and truly descended onto Sydney, and it got HOT. It has been lovely and bright in the mornings and when I leave the office each evening. We’ve started sleeping with the windows open every night.

So, I started what I feel may become a springtime ritual in Australia: I worried about how many bugs we’re going to have come summer (which was sparked by finding a baby huntsman spider in my kitchen, eek); and I fretted about by my poor très-burnable Irish skin.

But I also hit the interwebs in search of light, bright, summery, yummery food to cook. I’ve resolved to eat no more stodge until May. During my search I found this beautiful tart on one of my favourite websites: Delicious. And it was oh so colourful, simple and delicious. I served it with a crisp green salad it really hit the spot. Plus it gave The Fella ample opportunities to make super hilarious innuendos about all kinds of tarts, like, who doesn’t love a good tart on a hot day? But maybe the less said about that the better….

Tomato, chive and Brie tart

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