Breakfast in the clouds: Cumulus Inc

IMG_2578Remember when we went to Cumulus Inc.? Well, funny story the very next morning we went again! Jokes, that would be embarrassing. We waited a full day.

The menu is noteably more refined (read lighter) than the monster hash I had the day before, which was a good thing as having been in Melbourne for a full 24 hours I had pretty much not stopped eating.

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I have a lot of new friends from Melbourne, Canberra apparently meaning the “meeting place” for Melbournians and Sydney Siders to meet on neutral territory and whole heartedly agree that they both come from cosmopolitan cities compared to the large town they currently live in. As a result, I hear some fancy things, like 65/65 egg. Now I know about 65/65 egg – I’ve tried one before but they are still exciting. I mean firstly, how do you get water to stay AT 65degrees. That is CRAY! I can barely get my water to stay at 100 and I;m sure that’s meant to be easier. And secondly, you are a cooking AN EGG for 65 minutes. I mean eggs are the 60 second dinner you have in the fridge. You always end up waiting for the bloody toast to pop.

Anyway, obviously, when I saw that they had a 65/65 egg with my favourite ground produce – mushrooms on toast I was sold. I don’t think I realised there was anything else on the menu. Oh, and a Madeleine (that is why I came back so soon, I swear).

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Mum got house-made crumpets, which is another fancy amazing thing I get excited about. I mean how good are crumpets! But house/homemade ones are always super fluffy and delicious. And der, they were at Cumulus. Served with local honey and some butter it was the most refined breakfast I think I’ve ever had.

But then it went up a few notches. Because the Madelaine arrived. Cooked to order, this is apparently, one of the house specials, but I’m such a Melbourne novice I did not know that. The  are served for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Just go get one!Madelein

The warm soft little cake felt almost healthy with the tartness of the lemon curd. It was so delicate and precious on it’s plate, begging you to devour it with your hands, but teasing you because it’s totally worth taking out your knife and fork and savouring it.

IMG_2587I think, when I return to Melbourne, I’ll make a habit of having one of these whenever I can. It was the most unassuming, decadent and refined way to end what was really a pretty fantastic trip!

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Dinner in the clouds: Cumulus Inc

Little Lauren's Adventures_Cumulus Dinner_BarIt’s always interesting when you travel with your parents after you have done some solo travel. The difference between our standards in accommodation can only be described as a generational gap! Needless to say our accommodation left Mum less than impressed and my jibe about having to wear thongs in the shower was received with a panicked “I know, I thought so too but I didn’t bring any” rather than the haughty laugh I imagined. So to soothe the pain we NEEDED to do the fanciest thing Mum could think of. So, Mum and I mosied next door to Cumulus Inc. for a very swish dinner.Little Lauren's Adventures_Cumulus Dinner_Croquettes2

Like most dinner venues these days, you can’t book, but you can stand in a tiny corner and have a cocktail while you wait. While enjoying our cocktails we were also able to oogle all the food coming out of the kitchen – added bonus!

We started out with the Pig’s head croquettes with tartare sauce. I’ll level with you, these were the things we were oogling over our cocktail… so I was a bit hesitant when I came to order them, but I’m trying to get more into the “low waste” state of mind, so why not eat the WHOLE animal! It was totally worth it, the Croquettes were deliciously crisp and fatty with the tartare sauce doing a perfect job of cutting through the fat.

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By this point, I had realised we may have ordered too much, but the croquettes were followed by beans, nduja, salted ricotta and black garlic, cracked wheat and freekah salad with barberries and finally the peppered flank steak, anchovy, brussel sprouts and pickled chestnuts.
Little Lauren's Adventures_Cumulus Dinner_BeefLittle Lauren's Adventures_Cumulus Dinner_FreekahSalad

The food was simple and unsurprising, each of the ingredients listed on the menu was fairly show cased and the elements ALWAYS made a symphony in your mouth. I’ll admit to researching some of the more exotic ingredients before ordering and learning that nduja – is a spicy Italian sausage spread or Barberries are sour red berries rich in vitamin C… but in the end it didn’t really matter because everything was delicious.

Little Lauren's Adventures_Cumulus Dinner_BeanSaladWhile it may not seem like much, the dishes were all brilliant and rich, so I was defeated and although we cleaned up our plates we did have to shamefully bow out of dessert, using it as an excuse to return very, very, embarrassingly soon….
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Monster Hash and Coffee: Proud Mary

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I love Melbourne BUT….

I have always found it enormously difficult to navigate. I don’t mean the streets, I get it, it’s a grid, very helpful much more straightforward than Sydney’s roads etc etc but the advertising campaign makes out like wherever you go you will fall into a wonderful lunch or a glorious arcade or an amazing dress. This has never happened in my trips to Melbourne.

Often I spend one day wandering the city hoping to fall into this magical place that is depicted in the ads and end up in a tourist trap or you know, the only place in Melbourne that has bad coffee. The next day I am then so obsessed with googling everything I forget the charm of the city.

This trip I was spoiled. I went with my Mum, who, it turns out is very proficient in what’s hot in Melbourne. She’s a cool mum.

Despite some shenanigans that result in having a “Cool Mum” (for instance we arrived with matching haircuts – EMBARASSIIING) there were some amazing feeds! Some we did just fall upon  like an amazing Pork Belly roll but we also had a go at the some of Melbourne’s institutions, like Cumulus Inc (for breakfast AND dinner).IMG_2539

This trip showed me a different side of Melbourne, I’m not sure if I couldn’t find before or couldn’t afford before #studentlyf.

One of our successes was Proud Mary’s with an enormous breakfast that inspired/drove us to walk 17km in 4 hours.

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Proud Mary prides itself on coffee, and disappointingly for you I don’t drink that. But my mum assures me, the coffee was very good, two cups for breakfast good. So claps to Proud Mary because alongside this diving coffee you made the make one monster potato hash! The biggest potato hash I’ve ever seen (and I lived in America).

While the coffee is the show stopper at Proud Mary, their food menu isn’t shy. After assessing the options (and there are a fair few) I settled on ordering the Potato Hash – with charred kale, double smoked bacon, poached egg and bagna carta (anchovy, garlic and cream sauce) and Mum got the Avocado – with house chilli ricotta, quinoa tabouleh on seed and sprout toast with a side poached egg  – typically more healthy than anything I would try.

I was apprehensive about anchovies for breakfast, so got that sauce on the side.

Mum’s came out and was all green and healthy and filled with Avocado. But oh, Proud Mary , you glorious café, I was rewarded with one monster potato hash! The biggest potato hash I’ve ever seen (and I lived in America). That sauce I was scared off, I wanted to wash down like water and all topped with the rich runny yolk of a perfectly poached egg. It was A-Mazing and I pretty much spent then next four hours walking it off. Of course we stopped for a pot of tea.

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In the land of breakfast, cafes fall into 3 categories, greasy, great and super cheap 2. Brilliant, inventive and fairly priced 3. You are a café I refuse to pay $7 for banana bread.

Proud Mary would fall into category 2, the places you go for a brunch and pay lunch like prices of around $20-27 a meal. Bonus is it’s secretly two meals!

So for both their coffee and for that monster hash, Proud Mary gets the tick of an all round Melbourne experience.

Proud Mary on Urbanspoon

NB: While remarkably similar, the photos of the potato hash are slightly different, but both capture the glory of the monster hash.

  

Carb loading: $10 Bread Salad

IMG_2649Traditional Panzanella or as I like to call it, bread salad, is a very Italian affair. My take on it is a little more of a cross cultural pantry dump, but the premise is the same. Bread salad is perfect recipe for when you’ve recently moved out of home or when the budget is a little slim. The base of the recipe is after all stale bread and trust you me, you will definitely have an abundance of that if you are cooking for a party of one or two all the time.

This recipe is simple, quick, and filling bonus points for being quite healthy too a very scarce combination to find.

This serves one main or two side salads:

What you need:

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2 small to medium tomatoes roughly chopped into bite-size chunks.
A quarter loaf of any bread roughly torn into bite-size chunks
Half cup of basil leaves (torn if desired)
Two tablespoons of Zatar
Two Teaspoons of Fennel Seeds
1 small clove of garlic crushed
teaspoon of capers (drained)
2 anchovies
Olive oil and vinegar to dress

Optional:

A cup of baby spinach leaves (for a more traditional green salad vibe)
Chorizo (bumps up the price a little but adds a nice spice)IMG_2647

 

Let’s do this!

  1. Generously coat the bread in olive oil, adding the dry Zatar mix and fennel seeds  and toss together. Then add the crushed garlic and toss again.
  2. Bake the bread in the oven on 180 for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown (mix the bread once while cooking to ensure maximum crisp and spice coating)
  3. While the bread is baking, mince the capers and anchovies together and place in the serving plater
  4. Cut the tomatoes into bite size chunks and toss them in the caper/anchovy mix before adding the basil (and optional spinach and caramelised chorizo)
  5. Once the bread is done place half in the salad and mix (watch your hands! the bread is still pretty hot, maybe use salad tossers)
  6. Sprinkle a little more olive oil on top and vinegar to taste, don’t forget to season with salt and pepper too!
  7. Finally add the other half of the crunchy bread to the top for some texture

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If you want to get a little funky go to your local baker and grab a special loaf to share with a friend and use the rest in your salad later in the week. I have used chorizo, olive, and cardamom bread in my salad and each taste pretty great and adds variety if you fall back on this recipe twice in one week! Depending on the brand of vinegar you use this salad could be quite sweet or sour so be sure to taste the vinegar before you go pouring it over the salad.

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This delicious salad is super addictive and a fun break from your mid-week green salads!

NB: not work appropriate due to anchovies and garlic – eek!

Join the Club: Buffalo Dining Club

IMG_2207 I’m very late to this party, but happy to report that Buffalo Dining Club is still a swinging hot spot.

I had initially chosen Buffalo as my birthday dinner venue, pretty much a year ago. But when we arrived we had just missed the rush and wouldn’t be able to eat until 9.30 *mouth drops* BE WARNED THIS STILL HAPPENS.

Luckily my eager beaver friends got there at 6 so we only had to wait 45 minutes haha such an early dinner. I had to do a little bit of my newly learned yoga to eat with the low table and stools but it’s a pretty casual dining venue so no one cares if you sit your bowl on your lap!

I’ll be honest the whole aura of Buffalo makes it both super appealing and somewhat confusing . These guys, like myself, are into their meats and cheese (obvs), but they actually know stuff about meat and cheese. We decided the best way not to miss out was to ask the friendly staff to surprise us with many wonderful delights. We weren’t disappointed.

IMG_2166The cheeses were of course phenomenal, and one thing Sydney has that I have yet to find in Canberra is some good deli meats. I have to admit I was not sold with the pan-fried mortadella – Mortadella just has huge throwback memories to my mortadella and chip sandwiches of yesteryear, no thanks.

The snacks were fruitful with tempura cauliflower, honey baked carrots and pumpkin coquettes. The real winner of the night was the pasta (which I was kind of surprised by).IMG_2171Of course we ordered the obligatory Pecorino Wheel pasta and the tired server carried out his 10kg wheel of cheese and tossed pasta while simultaneously posing for photos – such a nice guy!

BUT GUYS, the gnocchi was like clouds of heaven coated in a really rich and soul hugging ragout. I mean is there anything better? Actually there is one thing, having the fluffy potato clouds with a nice sour salad to curb your binging, so their house Italian Cold Slaw is perfect in combination with the pastas.

IMG_2168My fraaaaaands then ordered a tiramisu but I’m still not a huge fan of coffee so all I can say is the cream was nice!

For a cheese and wine night or a full on pasta binge Buffalo Dining pretty much suits all your moods.

With a bottle of wine and a full on three-course meal the bill worked out to be about $70 a head, but being a member of this uber cool dining club – priceless

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Operation Lunch Box: Israeli Cous Cous Curtis Salad

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I used to live in a perfect world where my family would have dinner and then there would be left overs.

Then I cooked for myself and I’d have dinner and so many left overs I would have lunch for a week!

In this house there is no such thing as leftovers. NO MATTER HOW MUCH I COOK. So lunch has become a bit of a problem because now I have to think about it…

After eating a ham, cheese and pickle toastie for the past month, I think it’s time to up my game.

This salad is a delicious side with any BBQ dinner but also filling enough as a meal itself. I call it the Curtis salad as my lovely friends the Curtis’ first made this for me and I’ve since butchered it ahem, I mean adjusted to make a bit more filling.

What you need:

1 cup of Israeli Cous Cous
1 cup of baby spinach or other salad mix
1 bunch of parley roughly chopped
3 pieces of chopped pancetta or copper (you can use bacon or another fatty meat just adjust the quantity)1 Lebanese cucumber diced
1 tomato diced
Danish Feta or marinated Persian Feta
Olive oil, salt and pepper for dressing.

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Let’s Do this:

  1. Cook the Israel Cous Cous as per packet instructions.
  2. While this is bubbling away gently fry the meat until crisp and set aside on a paper towel.
  3. Also now is a good time to prepare the other elements of the dish (all that dicing and chopping) if you haven’t already
  4. Once the cous cous has cooked glug in a little oil and stir to prevent it from sticking and scoop out into your serving vessel. Sometimes when making it for lunch I just keep it in the pan before putting it directly in a lunch box.
  5. In no particular order add all other ingredients. If you are making just one serve I would recommend using half a square of danish feta and crumbling it through.
  6. Mix well.
  7. You can add the spinach separately if you desire for more greens but I tend to just do without and bulk up on the herbs.

This dish is dangerously addictive and filling so a pretty rough combination but perfect for lunch!

If you have any handy lunch suggestions please share! We can recipe swap xx

Sydney Seafood School

IMG_9016I have a somewhat obvious confession to make, despite all my talk of food, I am still and probably always will be a a cook in training.

While living at home I was able to experiment with expensive ingredients, fry, flambé and finesse without having to worry too much about consequences because I would only cook once a week.

Now, however, I’m constantly searching for variety, for alternatives to pasta and for inexpensive ingredients but every now and then it’s nice to treat yourself, so I booked myself into a class at Sydney Seafood School.

I’ve been to a handful of cooking demonstrations before and even once cooked one of the recipes when I got home but Sydney Seafood School was a much more interactive and ultimately fun course! Of course I’m sure your course will depend in part to the Chef du jour, we lucked out with Andy Evans of Spice Temple.

The recipes provided were, intentionally and oddly, spice free (apparently he had some complaints after the a previous class).

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We watched Andy prepare two dishes, a pipis dish and a prawn stir-fry, quickly and effortlessly before moving into the kitchens and trying it ourselves. This was actually super exciting – not only were we forced to try the recipes but all the ingredients were laid out like a cooking show and Mr Evans was able to provide helpful tips and pointers while you cooked!

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My Auntie and I were in charge of the pipis. There was no prep so less room for stress and you got to bond with other members of the class through the shared experience. At the end of a carefully prepared meal we got to sit down and enjoy our meal accompanied by a nice glass of wine.

The whole thing was really unexpectedly brilliant, very different from your average cooking demonstration. Having cooked it once during the class I was far less intimidated picking it up again when I got home… As you see we went a bit nuts!IMG_0774

Since moving to Canberra, seafood is understandably more expensive so I’ve taken to cooking Mr Evan’s pipi dish with Mussels. I’ve even got it to a fine art – 500g of Mussels per person plus a few loaves of crusty bread – AMAZING! The whole thing usually works out to be about $6 a head for a fresh and fabulous dinner and has even inspired me to make my own Spicy tomato mussels – which I will share with you shortly.
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** this is not a sponsored post – I just really liked my visit and wanted to share it with you**

Močan and Green Grout

IMG_8913Eating brunch on some Saturday mornings is like being in the Hunger Games. After surrendering to the fact we wouldn’t get a table at one hip city eatery we wandered a little further down the road to Močan and Green Grout. Surprisingly we didn’t have to enter any duels to obtain one of their coveted outdoor tables but it was ridiculously early for a Sunday.

Močan and Green Grout was the first ever place I went to in Canberra*. It is my comfort place, I am quite attached to the cafe, we have quite the history. Since my first visit, I have shamelessly walked around incorrectly pronouncing its name “mock-an” before learning it is indeed pronounced “moch-an”, I have sat both inside in the cozy wood-paneled room and on occasion chanced upon an outdoor table, I have devoured a number of their A Baker pastries washing them all down with a soy chai latte. But until recently I had never actually ordered from the menu. I can’t decide whether that is shameful or laughable. Either way, I can now officially say, I have eaten at Mocan. Even better, I dined with my parents, so I got to try a number of their dishes!

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My Mum ordered the Savoury Granola, Avocado and Toast with a side of poached eggs. I was not pleased. I tried to talk her out of it. I’m no fan of granola most of the time anyway but this one just seemed a little weird. I was imagining, you know, muesli – with an egg. But no, she thought it was interesting. There was definite encouragement from the wait staff who explained it to be toasted mix grains. I still had suspicions.

Turns out it was delightful. The nice runny egg (not standard with the dish)and avocado were some subtle texture provided by the “granola” was very complimentary. Obviously I was too quick to judge.

I ordered the smashed eggs, mushroom, goat’s curd and black garlic and loved every second of it AND did not share.

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The menu was diverse but carried a middle-eastern flavour throughout with the use of raddish and zatar for seasoning. It was a fresh and inventive while still being comfortable so I’m very happy to keep Močan as my local.

After such a great breakfast I’m looking forward to trialing their dinner menu in the near future!

Mocan & Green Grout on Urbanspoon
*I have had many a trip to Canberra in my childhood but it was the first place I went to in my new 2014+ incarnation in Canberra