Thursday, 30 April 2015

NaBloPoMo Day 1

I've been excited for this all week! NaBloPoMo starts today!

Day 1 Writing Prompt - Do you like taking selfies? Why or why not?
Nope! Every time I take a selfie, it makes me think of that incredibly narcissistic song, #SELFIE. Plenty of my friends take them with me featuring, too, so I figure that there are enough of me floating around without needing to take more!

Day 1 Photo Prompt - You

Received moments of happiness journal
Me, in my new saree, at Sri Lankan New Year celebrations with the Khocolateman's family this year. I'll write a post about that another time, but this is one of the few times a selfie seemed appropriate. Some of the food in the background I helped to make.

What are your thoughts on selfies? Do you take them? Why/why not?

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

A Review of Heston Blumenthal's The Fat Duck, Melbourne

Oh my God. We actually made it in. We won a table for six in the ballot for Heston Blumenthal's pop-up restaurant at Crown Casino - The Fat Duck. Don't get me wrong, we didn't actually win the meal (we still had to pay the $525 per head, plus extra for drinks), but the cost was well worth it for a once in a lifetime experience (though I'd be lying if I said I didn't have secret aspirations to visit the restaurant in the UK after its renovations are complete!).

After being seated, we were presented with a tome the size of an encyclopaedia - The Fat Duck wine list. Auntie Spanx and I chose a bottle of premium cuvee from Piper's River, Tasmania (quite sweet for a sparkling) and the Khocolateman and Nish selected the 12 year old Lagavulin single-malt whiskey.

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Yup... 17 courses (not all shown), five hours of eating and drinking all The Fat Duck (and our budgets) had to offer. We were given quite a lot of time between courses to discuss each dish, so we had some firm favourites by the end of the afternoon. The aerated beetroot, with its consistency similar to a light macaroon and flavour balanced with its filling of horseradish, was definitely up there. Similarly, the savoury lollies were a hit, with the fresh salmon rolled in delicate pipings of avocado and cream cheese being the pick of the three by most at the table.

One of my personal favourites was the 'Not So Full English Breakfast', where egg was cooked with liquid nitrogen and placed atop a piece of candied pancetta and a square of perfectly done French Toast. I love anything breakfast, so this was a hit with me. Visually, the egg resembled scrambled eggs, but texture and taste-wise it was closer to ice cream. Mmm!

My other favourite would have to be the 'Mock Turtle Soup' which was accompanied by finger 'toast' sandwiches (a little like a very fancy mini club sandwich with toasted bread as the middle slice). Being a huge Alice in Wonderland and High Tea fan, the Mock Turtle soup hit the spot with its taste and presentation. The Mad Hatter's 'watch' turned out to be stock wrapped in gold leaf, which dissolved as the waitstaff poured water over it in individual glass teapots. It was then poured over a beautiful arrangement in a glass bowl, so you could sea everything combine to make a broth-based soup to accompany the finger sandwiches.

Upon review, presentation really was key. The food was amazing, but The Fat Duck staff also knew the menu inside out, and for the dishes prepared at the table they explained each stage of the process as they were carrying it out, as well as giving us some history to the conceptualisation of each course.

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Heston Blumenthal's The Fat Duck Melbourne. Once in a lifetime (maybe!). Totally worth every cent. Food today doesn't taste the same as food did before yesterday.

Click to add a blog post for Fat Duck on Zomato

Monday, 27 April 2015

Operation Yummy Mummy: Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail.

Mini Mission Meal Prep is go!

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Jar salad is by far my favourite meal prep entity. I make five for each week - one for each day at school - and by and large, it stops me from snacking on things I shouldn't, or resorting to Subway for lunch (the only shop open on my way to school if I don't prepare in advance). Jar salads last well, because they're air-tight, and they're easy to transport, AND the containers are easy to clean (and cheap to acquire!).

My favourite Jar Salad recipe has balsamic vinegar on the bottom, diced button mushrooms, chick peas, beans, corn kernels, cubed feta cheese, and baby spinach in that order.* I've also experimented with substituting baby beetroot instead of beans, tomatoes (fresh diced, chopped cherry, or canned diced) instead of corn kernels, chopped boiled egg or antipasto mix instead of feta, and home grown butter lettuce or cos lettuce instead of baby spinach. It doesn't matter which combination I've used, they look amazing, taste great, are healthy, and everyone knows which is my lunch in the staff room fridge!

*It's really important that certain jar salad ingredients don't marinate in the balsamic vinegar. So far, I've found that boiled eggs and tomato pieces go rubbery, and the leafy greens seem to go slimy faster. It's important that you eat the jar salad within the week, too, or else you'll find that when you open it you hear a pop or a hissing noise. That's gas escaping, and you need to throw the salad out if you hear this, as it's definitely past its best.

This recipe from the Two Bite Club has a great diagram to show you some other ingredients which definitely should not mix! Visit my Food and Plonk Pinterest board and to see my collection of other jar salad recipes!

Sunday, 26 April 2015

How to Stuff Your Mailbox in Three Easy Steps!

Allow me to introduce you to one of my favourite websites.

Meet Swap-Bot. Swap-Bot is a website where people get together to do mail swaps. It incorporates a much-loved widget that automatically assigns partners once a swap has been set up and people have had a chance to register their interest, as well as hosting forums, a blog, and - of course - mail and email swaps galore!

I've swapped hand-made journals, photo projects, website links, email surveys, gifts, writing prompts, artist trading cards, inchies, all sorts of things! The strangest thing I ever received was an eerily realistic Amelie Poulain doll, and the best would have to be a 'travelling gnome' journal about Winnie the Guinea Pig. The photos above are of journals I've sent and received already this year (clockwise from top left: my 100 Days of Journalling journal, a Moments of Happiness journal I received on Friday, and pages out of two 'travelling gnome' journals I've made this year after trips into the city, to Sydney, and to Canberra). Journals, despite the amount of work they take, are my favourite crafted objects to make and receive!

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So how can you, too, feed your hungry mail box? It's simple!

Step One: Visit Swap-Bot and create your profile.
Many swaps open to newbies will ask for a 'fully filled out profile'. This means filling in ALL the sections, and maybe even adding one or two more! It is important that you choose carefully what you post there as everyone in the community can see it, and some people will read it very thoroughly to make sure they've chosen to send you something that is just for you! If your interests change, don't forget to update it.

Step Two: Search and sign up for swaps you like the look of.
You are limited to ten swaps at a time. Make sure you look at the send-by date, and think about whether you can complete the swap on time. Also, it's a good idea to check whether it is an international swap or not. This may cost a little more than a domestic swap as you may have to post your package overseas.

Step Three: Make and send your swaps!
Stick to the send-by date! This is really important. After you've sent your swap, you'll need to jump on the swap page and click on the linky to say you've sent it. It will record the date you clicked 'sent' for the swap co-ordinator to see. After that, sit back and wait for your postie to deliver your packages!

The last step, which happens after you've stuffed your mailbox by virtue of SwapBot karma, is to rate your partner. You can rate them a one, three, five, five with a heart, or a star. 1 goes to someone who never sends the package. A 3 gets assigned to any partner who doesn't send what they were meant to. A 5 goes to anyone who sent what they were meant to, with a heart added for a package that goes above and beyond expectations. Last of all, you can award a star to any swap host who has done a great job co-ordinating their swap. Ratings can be seen on a swapper's profile, with the aim being to maintain a 5.0000 rating and collect as many stars and hearts as possible.

Don't be a flaker! Flakers are those who don't send what they're supposed to. Flakers usually have low ratings, and are reviled by all who used Swap-Bot. You can 'angel' someone by sending something a flaker has neglected to send, without expecting anything in return. It brings its own reward of good swap karma in the long run!

I've made some great friends through swapping and I'd totally recommend it to anyone whose mailbox is feeling a bit hungry. Hope to see you on there soon!