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

Jalapeño spiced rump steak

IMG_1992This rump steak will make burritos your new fancy show-off dish. Burritos you ask? Really? Yes. 100% this is the best steak burrito ever.

Put down the pre-mixed taco flavouring and step away from the mince, this is the answer to all the questions you didn’t know you were asking.

Spicy, fresh and zingy!

What you need:

Rump steak
Jar of Jalapeños
lemon
1 clove of garlic
olive oil

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Let’s do this:

  1. Place the meat in a marinade tray aka any large bowl or plate big enough to hold it.
  2. Mince the garlic and pop it on top of the steak
  3. Add the juice of one lemon and a table spoon of olive oil
  4. Pour in half a jar of jalapeños – spicy juice/pickling brine and all.
  5. Let the rum rest in the marinade for at least 30 minutes during which time you can prepare some salsa .
  6. Once the meat has sat for a short time you will notice the colour changes – this is not a problem, this is normal.
  7. If you can handle the heat and this is pretty extreme, scrape the jalapeños off and pan fry the marinade separately to make a spicy chutney.
  8. Cook the steak on a BBQ or if you are without a stove-top griddle to your liking (may I suggest medium rare)

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This is best served as a part of a shared Mexican feast with all the trimmings – Salsa, cheese, guacamole and some spiced chickpeas (probably not a Mexican trimming).

Drooling already.

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Enjoy xx

Poachers Pantry

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Somewhere in an idyllic area of the country conveniently located just a 30 minute drive from Canberra. If you turn off the highway, follow a tree-lined road you eventually happen upon Poacher’s Pantry.

A traditional smokehouse, Poacher’s Pantry also boasts a wine label, cafe and restaurant and weddings.

I was lucky enough to visit Poacher’s twice, once on a frolic of my own and last weekend as a super lucky wedding guest.

Both experiences were wonderful and I have now trialed a good amount from both their savoury and sweet selections.

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On our first visit, not wanting to fill up before dessert a bit of strategic ordering happened. It was agreed as a table we would order a share Farmhouse charcuterie board as well an entrée and dessert each. All dishes were exceptionally presented with even the macaroons adorned with gorgeous edible flowers. Feast your eyes on this: crunchy kipfler potatoes, duck “pancake” with a crisp omelette” and my favourite strawberry Eaton mess.

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Being among nature Poacher’s Pantry has a seasonal menu. So while, these little beauties are no longer available you will always get a treat. I know because at the wedding I got to taste some of their current menu items, including the tomato foam, buffalo mozzarella, asparagus, basil leaves, oven dried tomatoes 
and black dressing and the grilled eggplant, capsicum and haloumi Venetian lasagne, smoked tomatoes, basil and walnuts. Considering how good these were at a 100 person wedding, I can imagine they are even better as an individual serve.

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As well as serving a great lunch, Poacher’s Pantry has some great smoked products, including their more unusual lamb or kangaroo prosciuttos! So if you ever at a loss of what to do on a weekend in Canberra or you just don’t believe the capital has much to offer take yourself on a short road trip to Poacher’s Pantry.

Poachers Pantry on Urbanspoon

Fresh Summer Salsa

Fresh Summer Salsa_top_littlelaurensadventuresAs we soak up the last of the summer rays in “Autumn” there is nothing better than winding down in the sun with a nice cold drink and some dip. This fresh and simple salsa is that perfect dip. With chunky tomato, fresh coriander and lemon juice this is an easy foolproof recipe but exciting enough to take along to any BBQ.Fresh Summer Salsa_Ingredients_littlelaurensadventures

What you need:     

3 tomatoes
1/2 lemon1/2 bunch of coriander
1 tsp of cumin powder
1 clove of garlic
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to season

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Let’s do this:

  1. Dice the tomatoes and place them in a bowl – make sure the bowl is not over filled as you need some mixing room.
  2. Mince the garlic, as this garlic will only be cooked in lemon juice you may wish to reduce this to a half clove or leave it out all together.
  3. Roughly chop the coriander adding some finely chopped stem to the mix for more intense flavours

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  1. Put in the cumin powder and squeeze the lemon over the salsa- removing seeds
  2. Add a glug of olive oil – roughly 2 tsp – and combine all ingredients so there is an even distribution
  3. Season to taste.

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As a stand alone wind down snack with corn chips or a fresh alternative to jarred salsa on your burrito this salsa really is a slice of summer you can have all year round.

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Enlighten Festival 2015

Image by ACT Government

It’s Christmas in February/March in Canberra at the moment! Straight off the back of the Multicultural and Fringe festival weekend comes Enlighten – crudely described as Canberra’s Vivid. 

Tonight, the parliamentary triangle will light up, literally and the doors of most venues swing open with some tiwghlight events.

This year Enlighten gets even bigger joining forces with The Canberra Times Good Food Month and the inaugural Night Noodle Markets. The full program for all Enlighten-ing events is available online.

Kicking off tonight you can come find me and the rest of Canberra basking in the glow of the lit up galleries and chomping down some noodles!

Monday Musings

(null)It’s a very satisfying feeling when you set yourself a goal and one week later it has been achieved.

Behold my lovely trunk herb garden. I’m in love.

It inspired me into a whole other realm of Pinterest DIYs!

For instance when you have moved and you need a coffee table, a BBQ stand and a kitchen island what do you do?! Scavenge around your neighbourhood for disposed pallets and voila all your problems are solved!

Pallet Coffee Table

Well… that’s what Pinterest had me believe. The reality, when you spend one afternoon on a pallet project it tends to end up still being a bit pallet-ey.

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But I’ve been assured that with a fourth trip to the hardware store things will be looking more glamorous in no time, whatever that may mean.

My search for the DIY wonder drug continues.

AKIBA

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I have this list, a literal list of places to eat. Obvs. I start one every year but this year feels like a good year. For one thing, I have a job, which always makes eating out easier.

First one crossed off is AKIBA, a newish Japanese fusion restaurant in Canberra. I love Japanese food and have missed terribly my old local Japanese eatery, so I was very keen to try Akiba out.

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As I do with all exciting events in my life, I had planned this and my outfit (which I am oddly proud of) out so long in advance that it was all organised two weeks before the actual dinner date. I was a bit surprised by the size of the restaurant, it is HUGE. The large space avoids being cavernous by the division of areas with warm wood walls and big neon lights. It was a very pleasant atmosphere, slightly dimmed by the fact we were seated looking out over a service lane… Regardless it’s all about the company and the food.

The very relaxed and friendly staff explained the kitchen was made up of a number of stations for each cooking type, so there is a fry station, a raw station etc etc. As a result the food comes out in an ad hoc nature. Naturally, we ordered dishes from each of the stations.

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The first dish to arrive and the best was the pork belly bun, char sui, asian slaw. Little pork/duck pancake/buns are very popular at the moment and can be a bit hit and miss as a result. This was fortunately not the case at Akiba, these were so deliciously good I almost stole some from the Birthday Boy. Seriously. It was like my favourite pork belly in chilli jam from Spice I Am with my favourite pickles in a bun. The pickled cucumber and cabbage cut through the richness of the chilli jam crunchy pork belly. I would recommend you go and get this now! As a snack. Any day. Every day.

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This was followed by the Supercharged Japanese Fried Chicken that proved parmesan and Sriracha go with absolutely everything. Karaage aka JFC aka Japanese Fried Chicken is like many other Japanese fried foods, they somehow shake off all the oil and make it seem like you are eating something that is actually quite healthy – it’s a great trick. The supercharge is drenching the JFC with kewpie mayonnaise, Sriracha and parmesan and my only complaint is there were some sad little bits in the middle of the pile that missed out on the toppings. MORE SRIRACHA ALWAYS.


The dishes was of a consistently high quality and then after I’d stuffed my face into oblivion a little trolley came by with fresh little prawns waiting to be cooked in front of you with a blow torch. But. I. Just. Could. Not. Eat. Any…. more.

There was a small issue with one of the dishes tasting more South American and not complimenting the Japanese palette so maybe just run your order by your waiter if you are worried.

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Akiba has a relaxed atmosphere and really I would probably go back and just order double pork belly bun and JFC and live like a Queen. All up we got 4 dishes and 2 cocktails and the bill was $90, which is worryingly affordable. Incidentally they were just won a spot on Australia’s Top Restaurants list – so congrats!

So moral of the story is – Akiba tomorrow night?

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Akiba on Urbanspoon

Monday Musing

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I’m currently distracted with unpacking and being caught resting while “unpacking”. But while I dawdle around my new place, please indulge me with my new wishlisht:

1. Take the 5 mismatched rugs I have around the house AND USE TWO IN ONE ROOM! What the hell – who is this genius?!

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2. Turn the metal trunk I picked up off the side of the road into a herb garden!

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3. Collect All the jars!!!

XX