Culinary Reviews

That Arancini Guy

When I went to the Lara Food and Wine Festival earlier this year, I wasn’t expecting to be blown away by a food stall with a fun name – That Arancini Guy 🙂 But when I tasted those deep fried rice balls, served with Japanese mayonnaise, I was hooked. There were four choices but I could only try three as the Beef Ragu with Peas & Mozzarella Arancini contained tomato and other ingredients I am allergic/sensitive to. But three out of four ain’t bad – in fact they were delightful.

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My risotto balls containing Mushroom & Mozzarella, Pumpkin & Mozzarella and Spinach & Mozzarella were so delicious. One bite into the crunchy crust and I was rewarded with the taste of gooey, savoury rice. Each one was distinct and I had a hard time deciding on a favourite. The Japanese mayonnaise added a sharp and creamy note. I could have eaten a bowl of them, with or without mayonnaise.

I couldn’t wait to try making these moreish morsels at home. I went with a basic recipe but added my own unique twist – green tea. Instead of cooking the rice in stock, I thought it would be fun to use tea. I chose green but you could experiment with black teas. Next time I’m going to try Earl Grey 🙂

Green Tea Arancini

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Ingredients
for the tea
3 cups water
2 tablespoons green tea leaves

for the rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 cup jasmine rice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
6 baby bocconcini, drained and halved

for the crumbing
1/2 cup plain flour
2 eggs, beaten
1 + 1/4 cups panko crumbs
vegetable oil for frying

Instructions
Bring water to a boil in a saucepan. Remove from heat. Add tea leaves. Cover and steep for 5 minutes. Strain. Return tea to the saucepan and simmer until needed.
Heat oil and butter in a medium saucepan. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add garlic and cook until soft but not brown. Add rice and stir to coat. Stir in the salt. Add 1/2 a cup of the strained tea and cook until mostly evaporated. Add the remaining tea and bring to the boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until the rice is cooked and the liquid has been absorbed.
Pour rice into a baking dish and spread out thinly to cool. Add the parmesan cheese and parsley to the rice and stir through until combined. Divide into 12 portions.
Take 1/2 a portion of rice and flatten it in the palm of your hand. Place a halved piece of bocconcini in the centre, cover with remaining 1/2 portion of rice and shape into a ball. Repeat with the remaining rice and cheese.
Roll balls in flour, then dip in the beaten egg, then roll in the breadcrumbs. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 150C / 300F.
Heat oil in a large pan or deep fryer to 180C / 350F. Deep fry the arancini in batches for 4 – 5 minutes or until golden brown. Make sure the oil comes back to temperature between batches.
Keep warm by placing in the oven until all the arancini are cooked.
Place on paper towels and drain before serving.
Serve with your favourite mayonnaise.

A Day For Gin

World Gin Day is celebrated on the second Saturday in June. This is a day to enjoy all things gin. For some of us, World Gin Day is every day!

I’ve always loved gin. I love the aromatics and the infinite flavours you can play with. The only things gin needs in order to be called gin is distilled alcohol and juniper berries. After that you can add anything else and it’s still a gin. In fact the name gin is derived from juniperus, the Latin word for juniper.

One of the more interesting gins I have recently discovered is and Australian gin called Ink. It was the deep blue/purple colour that drew me to the bottle. I then discovered that this blue/purple colour changes to a light purple/pink when you add tonic water. I was entranced! I was also very happy that this gin was not just a gimmick, but a beautiful tasting one as well.

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Ink is infused with 14 different botanicals including butterfly pea flowers. It is these flowers that give the gin its bright colour as well as its colour changing properties. Butterfly pea flowers are considered an aphrodisiac as the flowers resemble female genitalia. Not surprisingly their scientific name is derived from the Latin for clitoris – Clitoria ternatea.

With that in mind I started thinking of a way of showcasing this delicious and unusual gin while adding a feminine touch 🙂 After much thought I really couldn’t go past a classic gin and tonic with the addition of strawberries. Strawberries are associated with Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love, after whom aphrodisiacs are named.

Strawberry Gin and Tonic

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Ingredients
60ml gin
1 strawberry, sliced lengthways
90ml tonic water

Instructions
Pour the gin into a glass.
Add the sliced strawberry.
Allow to marinate for 10 minutes.
Add the tonic water.
Enjoy!
Makes one mixed drink.

For more gin drinks, check out my recipes for Glow In The Dark Gin & Tonic, Gin Alexander and Sage Mulled Wine.

The Austen Tea Room

A Tale Of Two Valentines, my first post about Valentine’s Day, was about love and death and the history of the day. As we move toward another Valentine’s Day, the shadow of death moves with me.

Someone very dear to me passed away just after xmas. Although neither of us were Eastern Orthodox any more, we were both born into that religion and some of the traditions still have special significance for me. One such tradition is the ritual performed on or around the 40th day after a death.

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In Orthodox theology, the soul of the departed stays on earth for 40 days after death. The soul wanders around, visiting their home and places of personal importance. Many rituals are performed during this period to help the soul on its journey. On the 40th day, the soul leaves the earth. This final departure is celebrated with family and friends. Rituals are performed culminating in a meal, usually eaten at the grave or at the home of the departed. Traditional funeral foods and the favourite foods of the departed are served. It is a time of celebration and the ending of the official mourning period for most involved.

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As the 40th day approached, I wondered what I would to do to honour this ritual. A visit to her grave was a must. But what about food? It was an important part of our relationship. We loved going out to eat and we spent most of our visits together talking about food and recipes. I thought about making one of her favourite dishes and bringing it to the grave but it didn’t feel right. Then, while doing research for an unrelated event, I found the perfect solution – The Austen Tea Room – a tearoom honouring the late and great romantic writer Jane Austen. Located halfway between my home and the cemetery, it was the perfect place to have a a celebratory funeral meal.

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The Austen Tea Room brings us right back to Valentine’s Day. What could be more romantic than dining under the watchful gaze of the creator of Mr Darcy! I had a toasted cheese and ham sandwich with coffee followed by scones with jam and cream and a pot of tea. The surroundings in the cafe section were informal but the rooms where the high teas are served were incredible. I am definitely going back for high tea.

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I must admit that I have read only one of her books – Northanger Abbey – but I do love the television and movie versions of Pride and Prejudice – especially Pride, Prejudice and Zombies! I also own the Tarot of Jane Austen 🙂

The scone recipe below is not traditional, but you can serve it with traditional jam and cream. I wanted something different so I went with butter and maple syrup which works really well with sparkling wine.

Sparkling Scones

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Ingredients
2 + 1/2 cups self raising flour
200ml cream
200ml sparkling wine
butter for serving
pure maple syrup for serving

Method
Preheat oven to 225C / 440F.
Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Sift flour into a medium sized bowl. Add cream and sparkling wine. Mix together until just combined.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead into a 4cm thick square. Using a sharp knife, cut into squares.
Place scones so they are just touching on baking tray.
Bake for 12 – 15mins or until golden brown and cooked through.
Serve with butter and maple syrup or your choice of accompaniments.

 

Learning About Lammas

I had always assumed that Lammas, Halloween, Imbolc and Beltane were fixed date celebrations while the Solstices and Equinoxes were moveable dates. It’s a bit like Xmas being a fixed date and Easter being a moveable one. I thought it was the same for our eight witchy holidays – four are fixed and four are moveable. Well, that’s not quite the case.

Realising Lammas was upon me I googled to see what was happening for Aussie Lammas. That is when I got a surprise. Some were celebrating on the traditional date of February 2nd while others were celebrating on February 4th. Why the discrepancy? Lammas is meant to be the mid point between the Summer Solstice and the Autumn Equinox, but if the dates of the Solstices and Equinoxes change, then so too would the midpoint. It makes sense, but does it feel right? I’m not sure. It’s something I will think on. One thing I do know – I won’t be celebrating Halloween on May 5th. When it comes to Halloween I’m a traditionalist – I celebrate on April 30th and October 31st 🙂

Lammas, also known as Lughnasadh, is the first Autumn festival of the year. Lughnasadh is derived from the name of the Celtic God Lugh while Lammas is derived from an Old English term for “loaf mass.” While I am into Gods, I am way more into bread, so to celebrate Loaf Mass Day, or Lammas, I went to one of my favourite places for jaffles – Bad Frankie.

Jaffles are one of my favourites forms of toasted sandwich. Two pieces of bread filled with savoury or sweet ingredients, buttered on the outside and then cooked in a special sandwich maker known by a few names such as pie iron, toastie iron or jaffle iron. The key to a jaffle is that the bread is toasted while the filling is heated and sealed between the slices of bread. It’s the sealing that makes it different to a toasted sandwich.

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Round Jaffle Iron

Rather than give a recipe for a jaffle, I’m going to share some photos of the different jaffles I have enjoyed from Bad Frankie and my other favourite jaffle place, Windmills and Waffles – a great place to break your trip from Melbourne to Adelaide when visiting the pandas 🙂

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Bangers & Mash from Bad Frankie – pork sausage and onion jam sandwiched between one slice of bread and one layer of cheesy mashed potato! And served with gravy!!

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The Chook from Bad Frankie – poached chicken, celery and pine nuts. Served with mayonnaise. My favourite 🙂

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Classic Ham & Cheese from Windmills and Waffles – served with tomato sauce and pickles on the side.

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Lamington from Bad Frankie – sponge cake soaked in chocolate, rolled in coconut and filled with jam. Served with cream.

Feeling inspired?
Let me know what your favourite jaffle fillings and creations are 🙂

Mixing It With The Locals

My partner Paul and I were talking recently about the concept of a local bar. Growing up watching tv shows, “the local” was a place you could drop in after work, have a drink, catch up with friends and generally unwind before going home. Cheers is a perfect example. Not only does everyone know your name, but they also know your drink!

The closest either of us had come to a local bar was when we were at University. Our uni was the only one that had an actual bar on campus. I lived on campus, so it really was my local. I loved going there. No matter what time of day or night, I was bound to bump into someone I knew. I’d drop in for a beer before a lecture or pop in afterward for a couple of rounds. Lunchtime was great, as we all caught up around plates of chips and gravy. I later discovered that the Canadians have a similar dish – poutine. While the staff didn’t know our names or our drinks, it was still a great place to unwind before hitting the books for a long night of study.

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After leaving uni, we never really found a favourite place to drink. The closest we came recently was our local cafe, Corinthians. With great food and great coffee, combined with wonderful staff, it soon became our favourite coffee place. The staff are friendly, they know our names and, very importantly, they know how we take our coffee! But it’s not a local bar, and not just because it doesn’t sell alcohol. While the staff are great they are always on the run and don’t have time to sit down for for a chat. Nor are there other regular patrons there we know, so there is no communal catching up. It’s just Paul and me having a damn good coffee – and it is damn good coffee! Occasionally we may catch up with a friend or bump into one but that is not the norm.

And then it happened. Last year a craft beer bar opened just down the road from us. Could this be the local we so dearly desired?

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The moment we walked into Hopheads we loved it. From the graffiti style logo on the wall, to the 8 beers on tap, to the shelves stocked with interesting and tantalising libations, we knew we had found a gem. And we weren’t the only ones! Over the year, a steady group of regulars have come together to drink and catch up with each other. I never thought I would be as excited to see friends as I was to drink beer 🙂 But that’s what Hopheads is like – it’s not just the drinking, but the socialising.

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Part of what makes Hopheads so wonderful are the owners – Adrian & Wai Lee. We have never been made to feel so welcome in an establishment than we have here. We hit it off with them straight away and were delighted we shared similar views on politics and life in general. Many an afternoon and evening has been pleasantly spent drinking and engaging in riveting conversation. They not only welcomed us, but our dogs too 🙂

We didn’t know what to expect when Hopheads opened. We expected great beers and we got them (the beer is excellent). We hoped it would be a place where locals would congregate and have a good time and we got that too. We didn’t expect to meet people we genuinely care about and to form deep friendships, but we have. What we really didn’t expect was the depth of friendship that blossomed between the owners and us. Adrian and Wai Lee are more than just publicans who know our names and know what we drink. They are dear and cherished friends with whom we have shared a turbulent year. We look forward to sharing many more years of friendship – and many many more beers!

One of my favourite ways of cooking with beer is Beer Can Chicken. I’m allergic to chilli so I use a mild spice rub. You can make your own spice rub based on what you like. If you have room and want something sweet afterwards, you can make these Beer and Bacon Cupcakes!

Beer Can Chicken

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Ingredients
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 tablespoon freshly grated turmeric
1 tablespoon mixed dried herbs
1 free-range chicken
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 can of beer

Method
Preheat oven to 180C / 350F.
Position the oven rack low enough to accommodate the height of the chicken on the beer can.
In a small bowl mix together the salt, turmeric and mixed herbs. Set aside.
Remove any giblets from inside the chicken and pat dry with paper towels.
Rub the chicken all over with olive oil. Using the spice rub, season the inside cavity of the chicken, and the outside of the chicken, rubbing well into the skin.
Drink half the beer.
Place the beer can in the middle of the baking tray. Carefully place the chicken on the beer can so it is sitting upright and the can is inserted into the chicken. Position the chicken legs so they help stabilise the chicken on the can. You want the can to hold the majority of the weight and the legs to stop it from falling over.
Place the chicken in the oven and bake for approximately 20 minutes per 500g plus an extra 20 minutes. Check every 20 minutes and baste if there are any juices.
The best way to check if the chicken is cooked is by placing a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh or the breast without touching the bone. It should be approximately 82C / 180F.
Allow to rest for 10 minutes before removing from beer can.
To remove the chicken, hold the chicken upright with one hand and a pair of tongs then use your other hand to carefully wiggle the can free using another pair of tongs or by wearing a heat-proof glove. Work over a sink or in the baking tray being very careful of the hot liquid inside the can.

Drinks To Drive For

Gemelli, a great new food place, recently opened up near us. We’ve been there a few times trying out the menu. They have some great food but the standout favourites have to be their milkshakes. Four flavours range from Berry Cheesecake, Cara-Malt Popcorn, Chocolate – Chocolate – Chocolate to Vanilla Brulee. It took a while, but I tried them all 🙂 Choosing a favourite is difficult, as each has something unusual and delicious to tempt you.

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the wobbly jelly pieces in the Berry Cheesecake

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the caramel popcorn floating crunchily in the Cara-Malt Popcorn

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the chocolate filled wafers poking out of the Chocolate – Chocolate – Chocolate

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the bruleed marshmallow sitting in a mini ice cream cone, poking out of the Vanilla Brulee

I did not think there was a drink to match these in beauty and flavour but I was wrong. After conquering the milkshake challenge I turned to one of my favourite drinks – the Affogato.

What is not to love about cold ice cream served with a shot of hot coffee to pour over it? Affogato means “drowned” in Italian and refers to the ice cream being drowned by the coffee. When the hot coffee meets the cold ice cream a battle begins between the two. Will the heat of the coffee melt the ice cream or will the cold ice cream cool down the coffee? Both things actually happen. What you are left with is a warm, creamy, melting coffee flavoured ice cream which you both drink and eat with a spoon!

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Can it get any better? Yes! By the additional of alcohol. Affogato can be served with a shot of Amaretto, a sweet, almond flavoured liqueur. But the affogato here is served with Frangelico, a sublime hazelnut flavoured liqueur. It was a very pleasant surprise. While you are meant to pour both the coffee and the liqueur over the ice cream, I kept some Frangelico back for the end. Finishing my affogato with a final sip of warming Frangelico was the perfect end to a perfect drink.

I loved the affogato so much I decided to make my own version with vanilla and raspberry ice cream, served with a shot of hot coffee and a shot of Turkish Delight liqueur. The raspberry ice cream almost overpowered the coffee, but the coffee bravely fought back. The raspberry and Turkish Delight liqueur complemented each other beautifully and I was left with an intriguing mix of flavours which I liked.

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If you are happy to stray from the traditional flavours of an affogato, you can have heaps of fun experimenting. I’m wondering what coconut ice cream and coffee would taste like and what liqueur to pair them with and … I could go on but it’s time to have a coffee – without ice cream! 🙂

An Unexpected Delight

On the weekend, I went to one of my favourite places to buy gin – Nicks Wine Merchants. The staff are very knowledgable, friendly and helpful. As I wandered excitedly down the aisles perusing the offerings, a beautifully painted bottle caught my eye. Then I saw the name – Turkish Delight. Intrigued, I read the label. It was made in Tamborine Mountain, Queensland, Australia. I recognised the place immediately! A few years ago my partner and I went to Tambourine Mountain in search of this distillery and much to our disappointment discovered that it was closed on Sundays. I had really wanted to try their Turkish Delight liqueur. Well now I could 🙂 I grabbed the bottle and made my way quickly to the counter, almost forgetting about my gin. But as I passed the gin section I stopped, lured by the promise of piquant juniper libations. The staff were happy to help me choose a very unusual gin, which I’ll be sharing with you soon.

When I got home I didn’t know what to drink first. After much consideration I went for the Turkish Delight liqueur.

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It is a really grown-up liqueur, not sickly sweet, very fragrant and tasty, with a good kick of alcohol. Its light rose colour matches the sophistication of the drink. To accompany it I thought I would whip up a batch of my Turkish Delight Truffles – a fragrant blend of milk chocolate, cream and rose water.

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Ingredients
200g milk chocolate, broken into small pieces
1/4 cup double cream
1 teaspoon rose water (or to taste)
cocoa for rolling

Instructions
Fill a saucepan about one-third full with water and bring to a gentle simmer. Set a heatproof-bowl over the saucepan, making sure the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl. Add the chocolate and cream to the bowl. Occasionally stir with a metal spoon until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.
Remove from heat and stir in the rose water.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm enough to roll into balls.
Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Place some cocoa into a small bowl.
Use a melon-baller to scoop chocolate into a rough ball and, working with one ball at a time, roll ball in the cocoa until covered then place onto prepared tray.
Continue until all the chocolate is rolled, topping up with cocoa as needed.
Refrigerate until firm.
Bring to room temperature before serving.

Saline Solution

Next in my exploration of the five taste sensations through drinks is the realm of salt. When we think of salty drinks we think of soups and broths. Cocktails that may come to mind are ones that have salt encrusted rims such as salty dogs and margaritas. A favourite of mine growing up was the tequila shot – lick your hand between your thumb and forefinger, sprinkle with salt, knock back your tequila shot then bite on a slice of lemon or lime – we always used lemon. This classic shot has been the subject of much debate. One theory suggests that you salt a slice of lemon or lime, pop it in your mouth and chew on it, then drink down a shot of tequila. I haven’t tried this version  – yet 🙂

Synchronistically, my local bar Hopheads has tapped a couple of salted beers recently. I tried one and was really surprised. Even though beer is not usually sweet, the overt taste of salt takes you back at first. After a few sips I began to enjoy it but it’s definitely not a favourite. They also had a cucumber and mint soft drink seasoned with salt and black pepper. With salty drinks on my mind I knew I had to try it. My first sip sent waves of disappointment through me as I thought “it’s horrible!” but a few sips in and I began to really appreciate its flavours. It actually reminded me of the doogh I made for the sour drinks blog. I began to wonder what it would be like with a spoonful of yoghurt or a few shots of gin.

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For the recipe below I explored the world of salted teas. I have always wanted to make Tibetan butter tea as it combines some of my favourite flavours – tea, butter and salt. Sadly, the one I made was awful. I don’t know if it was me or the recipe but I really didn’t like it. Neither did my partner. Unperturbed I experimented with a different salty tea called Noon Chai – I just loved the name and happily the flavour! Noon Chai, also called Pink Tea, is a salted and spiced Kashmir tea with a surprise ingredient – bicarbonate of soda (baking soda). You can garnish it with chopped nuts like pistachios or almonds if you like.

Noon Chai

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Ingredients
1 teaspoon green tea leaves
1 cup water
1/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup milk

Method
Place the tea leaves and half the water into a saucepan on medium heat. Bring to a simmer. Add the bicarbonate of soda and whisk until combined. Add the remaining water, cinnamon, cardamom and salt. Whisk until combined. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add the milk and bring to a simmer.
Strain and serve.

A Taste For Gin

I’ve been drinking gin since I was 15 years old. Something about the heady aromatics of
juniper berries grabbed me and held on tight. I love the different botanicals in different gins. When I discovered sloe gin I was blown away.

In my younger days I mixed my gin with lemonade or lemon squash. Now I shudder at the thought. Being older and wiser I go for the more traditional gin and tonic with a slice of lemon, lime or cucumber.

A while ago I saw that The Bass and Flinders Distillery in Melbourne’s Mornington Peninsula was offering a Gin Masterclass. I couldn’t wait to enrol in their two hour workshop and quickly booked a place.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I arrived and was a little nervous. All I knew was that it was a workshop where I would be creating a bottle of gin for myself! I shouldn’t have worried. As soon I walked in the door, I was offered a gin and tonic with a choice of gin. That’s a good start! They make a few different gins here so there was quite a choice. I chose the Monsoon, which is a blend of 8 botanicals featuring coriander, ginger and lemon grass. It was delicious.

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I sat down at a little table and was confronted with an array of small glasses filled with liquid alcoholic botanicals. It was like being in a laboratory. I had a mixing glass in which I poured the juniper berry base. Coriander was added as the balancing element. Now all I had to do was decide which other flavours I wanted for my personal blend of gin!

The botanicals came from three regions – Asia, Australia and Europe and ranged from dry to aromatic. I decided to try and taste all the botanicals but after a few sips I was getting confused. So I just launched in and starting mixing flavours – keeping written notes so I could remember my final blend. I was doing really well until I added lemon myrtle, one of my favourite Australian herbs. Sadly it completely destroyed my gin and turned it into a lemon cough syrup. No amount of coriander could balance out that taste and I was devastated.
Luckily there was a second round.

I decided to punish and banish all the Australian botanicals from the next round and went for a blend I like to think of as The European Panda 🙂 There were only a few European botanicals so I decided to use them all and mixed them with a few Asian botanicals to come up with a very delicious gin. My final concoction was a heady blend of juniper, coriander, barberry, dill, elderberry and cardamon. My job was done!

All I had to do was decide what I wanted on my label and then wait for my very personal bottle of gin to arrive in the mail. The first part was easy as I’d already made up my mind. The second part, not so much. Patience is not my strong point. As the weeks passed I kept checking the mail, getting more and more anxious. Would the gin be as good as I remembered? How long was the process going to take? Had they forgotten me? Where is MY GIN?? were justIMG_0414 some of the thoughts that ran through my mind.

Finally my package arrived. I cracked it open and took a much anticipated drink. It was better than I remembered. It was so good straight that it didn’t need any mixers.

I smiled when I looked at the label. There, draped between two women, were the words – Vintage Vladic Aged 50 Years. This was a 50th birthday present to myself. I couldn’t think of anything more appropriate for an ancient gin drinker 🙂

Gin Alexander
Another one of my favourite drinks growing up was Brandy Alexander. It wasn’t the brandy I liked, but the cream and the chocolate. Naturally I had to try it with gin.

1 part gin
1 part creme de cacao
1 part thin cream
ice cubes
grated dark chocolate for sprinkling

Place all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake well.
Pour into a chilled cocktail glass.
Sprinkle with grated dark chocolate.

We’ll Always Have Stokers

While I presume Stokers isn’t named after my beloved Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, I still can’t help enjoying this quaint little eatery. Dark wood trestle-like tables and bench seating are complemented by dim lighting and eerie old time music. An ancient piano adds to the scenery as does the open fire in the centre of the room. In winter, this lit open fire warms both body and soul as staff gently stoke the fire; hence the name Stokers?

The food is delicious. Soup, salad and ice cream sundaes are on offer but the stars are the crepes. Two rolled and filled crepes are presented on a piping hot plate. Savoury fillings include bolognese, camembert with cranberry sauce and chicken mornay. Sweet fillings include traditional lemon and sugar, passionfruit and chocolate peach. A bevy of hot and cold drinks, including steaming hot Bonox, completes the menu. 

In fact, you can pop in just for a drink. I know I have spent many a long summer night in Stokers, escaping from oppressive 40 degree temperatures by sipping on their refreshing and cooling pineapple crush. And as the night wears on I find I can’t resist a crepe or two.

I wrote this review in 2006 for a food writing course. Stokers had become one of my favourite places to eat since first walking in there in the late 1980s. The name reeled me in and the fact it only opened at night stoked my vampiric fires. The decor and atmosphere were more old world than gothic but the freaky clock on the wall blew me away. When you first looked at it you knew something was wrong and then it would click – it was running anti-clockwise. After a late night of studying, indulging in crepes and drinking, that clock could do strange things to your mind.

It wasn’t until I trained as a Wiccan – or as I like to say – went to “Witch School” – that I learned that clocks went clockwise because they were modelled on Northern Hemisphere sundials and therefore travelled sunwise. If clocks were modelled on Southern Hemisphere sundials they would turn anticlockwise which for us is sunwise 🙂

Sadly Stokers closed a few years ago and my partner and I were devastated. Stokers was one of the first places we went to as a couple. Every year we would try and celebrate Bram Stoker’s Birthday and Deathiversary and Northern and Southern Hemisphere Halloween there. But like a vampire in a horror film, Stokers has risen again!!

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Trevor, one of my best friends, gave me a book of vouchers to use as he was going on holiday. Ironically, one of the places he will be visiting is Whitby – the place where Dracula  lands in England. I was supposed to be going on that trip for my 50th birthday but sadly that wasn’t to be. But all is not lost, not only has Trevor bought me a birthday present from Whitby, his book of vouchers has reunited me with a lost love. As I scanned the food vouchers there was one for Stokers Cafe! Stokers has relocated!! Was this Bram Stoker’s way of letting me know “his” cafe was resurrected? Was this a birthday present from Bram to me from beyond the grave? Probably not – but a vamp girl can dream 🙂

Have I gone to Stokers and used my voucher? Yes! It was with great excitement and happiness that Paul and I went out for dinner at the new Stokers. We weren’t sure what to expect but happily we weren’t disappointed. The new owners have kept some of the old world charm of the original Stokers but sadly the anticlockwise clock didn’t make it. There is a fireplace which will be warm and cosy in winter and the lighting is just dark enough to echo the original.

The menu changes were also intriguing. Some of the old favourites were there but the menu has been “revamped” to fit in with its new inner city location. They now have burgers and cold drip coffee. They also have Pancake Chips which are deep fried pieces of pancakes served with a dipping sauce. Naturally we had to try them. I couldn’t decide which sauce to choose. Wasabi Mayonnaise sounded great and so did the Black Pepper Mayonnaise and The Garlic Parsley Mayonnaise. In the end I couldn’t resist choosing the Vegemite Mayonnaise. I’m glad I did 🙂

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For dessert Paul chose the Pancake Suzette which was set alight on our table.

I chose the Hot Jam Donut Pancakes which lived up to their name. They even cut little holes in the pancakes to mimic donuts. Luckily they served the holes with the pancakes!

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By the end of the evening I was so happily full, I couldn’t fit in a coffee. Luckily they sell the cold drip coffee in little bottles that you can take home. I had mine the next day my favourite way – equal parts cold coffee and cold cream.

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I can’t wait to return to Stokers – maybe I’ll unwrap my present from Whitby over hot crepes and cold drip coffee. 🙂