Pimp My Plate #36 – GIRDLERS, Dee Why, NSW

Breakfast, brunch, or lunch reviews where the main plate is $20 or less.

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You say heatwave? I say it’s another excuse for a beach café review…

As I sit opposite the bold blue sky meets ocean horizon of Dee Why beach, the words laid-back and lucky best describe the ambience of GIRDLERS cafe.

The mood is laid-back and no fuss – customers wear bikinis, shorts, or loose summery garments. Dee Why, located on Sydney’s northern beaches, is more a local hangout than a tourist spot like Manly or Bondi. There’s a community vibe and because it’s school summer holidays, lots of young tanned bodies are wearing as little as possible.

GIRDLERS sits on a prime corner location facing the beach, so you can watch the waves and visually crowd-surf a parade of beachgoers from your table.

Their vision is SIMPLE. HONEST. FOOD. Because it’s a heatwave outside of 38°C/100.4°F that is exactly the kind of food I feel like.

I read the menu and GIRDLERS’ vision: ‘There’s a spot at the South end of Dee Why we like to call our own. It’s a place where the people are real, where you can kick back and take your time, a place where you can always count on a great coffee, a clear view of the ocean and the smell of good things cooking.’

Every workplace should have this view – magic.

Tables are scrubbed-back distressed wood, enamelware plates, and the brick wall features a hippy-lace decal, and an interesting vintage photo I forgot to ask about. There’s an easy ambience, and a faded-summer-sun softness to the decor.

As I said it’s REALLY HOT. I claim the table directly under the furiously rotating ceiling fan because it IS THAT HOT.

I choose pancakes for lunch, but first I order a Sweet Cheeks ($9) – a mix of watermelon, apple, cucumber, lime and raspberry juice. It’s cold and super-refreshing. There’s also Kombucha on tap and Kombucha Spritz, fresh juices, super smoothies, and milkshakes.

My plate of gluten and dairy free Pancake Revolution ($19) arrives – coconut and banana pancakes with seasonal berries, homemade Goodtella (a Nutella substitute), vanilla coconut yoghurt, and a generous sprinkle of crushed pistachio nuts. And organic maple syrup. Yum!

It’s incredibly filling and perfect for a not-too-heavy but satisfying lunch.

Another menu temptation is Goat On the Orchard ($16) – organic rye sourdough toast with Danish goat’s feta, fresh peaches, raspberries, and organic activated nut spread, drizzled with Hinterland Honey.

There are egg dishes, and Glow Bowls ($18) based around tofu or haloumi cheese, with kale, quinoa, roasted field mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, and cauliflower sauce. Another reason to go back.

GIRDLERS is a space to kick-back and inhale beach air, smell the coffee, and ponder whether afterwards to sit in the shade of the pine trees with a book, take a long walk along the beach, swim, or wander down to the rock pools and explore. So many choices and all of them designed by Nature to kiss your spirits and extend that state of relaxation.

If you’re wondering about the name – GIRDLERS is so close to the word Grinders, isn’t it?  –  the café is named after local and ex-football player Ryan Girdler and his wife, Katja.

Once a run-down juice bar, husband and wife team Ryan and Katja and their friend Sebastian have created a café with a mindset committed to healthy deliciousness. Before or after the beach, this is the place to park your beach bum.

RATED: Pimped by pancakes!  FOOD: 4/5
VALUE: 4/5   VENUE ATMOS: 100% Laid back
VIBE:  Beachside
GIRDLERS – 7-8 The Strand, Dee Why, NSW
7 days. M-S: 6.30am-5pm SUN: 7am-5pm

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Pimp My Plate #35 – Fika Swedish Kitchen, Manly, NSW

Breakfast, brunch, or lunch reviews where the main plate is $20 or less

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Swedish meatballs would be the obvious choice wouldn’t it?

FIKA serves breakfast and lunch, but when I arrived at 12 noon with a sizeable appetite it wasn’t me who ordered the meatballs, but the Swedish family at the next table. 

Fika is a Swedish word that translates as ‘taking a break for coffee and a bite to eat’ but FIKA SWEDISH KITCHEN offers more, both in food quality and ambience.

With the temperature pushing above 37° celcius I was very thirsty, so the first menu items to catch my eye were the drink illustrations for an ODD GLEN, a CORNELIUS, and a PAPPA JOJJE – $10 each.

I chose the CORNELIUS: gin, elderflower, and cucumber, and I was rewarded. Almost as cool and hydrating as eating a whole cucumber while standing under a cool shower, but of course it tasted far superior and I could sit down.

Other beverages include bottles of Julmust ($10). Julmust is a Swedish soft drink that’s described as tasting somewhere between a root beer and a coke.

Julmust was invented by Swede Harry Roberts as a non-alcoholic alternative to drinking beer around Christmas, which is when it’s most commonly available in stores. Its name translates to Christmas (Jul) and Juice (must) which is what you call the not yet fermented juice from fruit meant for wine or cider production.

What’s the difference between Swedish meatballs and Italian meatballs? Swedish meatballs are served with a creamy gravy sauce, graybee daybee, made from cream or sour cream. It does depend on who you ask, as to whether the inclusion of allspice in the meat mixture is essential or not.

Although both styles of meatballs can include a beef and pork mixture, Italian meatballs often contain parmesan cheese. The sauce is tomato-based, and flavoured with black pepper and garlic.

FIKA serves theirs in a creamy sauce with lingonberry jam (also known as mountain cranberries) with pickled cucumbers and potato mash. The Swedish speaking trio sitting at the next table ordered them and they seemed happy.

I quickly noticed that about a quarter of the cafe patrons were either speaking Swedish, or speaking English with Swedish accents. As did most of the staff.

I chose the pan-fried Rainbow Trout ($18) served w crunchy cauliflower florets, beetroot, cauliflower puree, green peas and dusted w fennel pollen and dill.

It would be accurate to say I’ve never heard of fennel pollen – bee pollen yes – is it a thing? It’s all about sex, because by definition, pollen are the male sex cells in plants. In flowering plants, pollen is produced in thin filaments in the flower called stamens which is then blown through the air. So there you have it.

Served in a bowl, my rainbow trout was cooked beautifully, with a thin and crispy skin, and the fish tender and moist. I could cut through both with my butter knife. Fresh, clean, flavours that were especially hydrating on such a hot day.

Just reading the word trifle makes my mouth water, so even though my meal of trout was satisfying and sufficient, I had to order the one on the menu. Whether you call it research, or call it piggish, is your call.

My Ragnar’s Trife ($9) consisted of sweet layers of custard, raspberry and rhubarb compote, and birch water and elderflower jelly, with crumbled gingerbread.

Wickedly sweet, crunchy, and delicious. I’ve tried birch water before – it comes from the birch tree and it’s a very naturally refreshing drink. As a jelly it’s even more delicious.

My flat white coffee had good body and flavour. I could have happily sat there all day, attempting to learn Swedish from the children’s books on offer, and sipping another CORNELIUS or three. FIKA seats approximately 25+ people, and there was now a queue of people waiting so I left and took a walk along Manly beachfront instead.

I’d like to go back to FIKA for breakfast and try their ÅLANDSPANNKAKA – semolina pancake, traditional recipe from our friends on the Åland islands served w cream and homemade jam.

A Swedish breakfast, then hit the beach – fantastisk!

RATED: My plate was pimped!  FOOD: 4.5/5   Fresh, friendly, and attention to detail
VALUE: 5/5   VENUE ATMOS: Swedish fellow diners adds äkthet (authenticity)
VIBE:  Friendly, shelves stock Swedish produce
FIKA SWEDISH KITCHEN – Shop 5B, Market Lane, Manly, NSW
Open everyday 7am-5pm (Lunch from 12 noon-4pm)

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Baked Lemon Icebox Pie – bake and chill

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After spending a day trying to escape Sydney’s heatwave, pull open your freezer drawer to this sweet and delicious ice cold pie.

Make the pie the day before you want to serve it, as it needs to cool down for an hour after baking, then it needs to freeze for at least 4 hours in your icebox or freezer. 

Recipe for Baked Lemon Icebox Pie:

You’ll need a 25 cm (9 1/2”) pie dish

18 Digestive Wholemeal biscuits (Australia), or Graham Crackers (USA)
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (60g) of unsalted butter, melted
2 x 395g (14 oz) cans of sweetened condensed milk
1 level dessertspoon of finely grated lemon zest from two lemons
3/4 cup (3 lemons) freshly squeezed lemon juice
8 large eggs, yolks only

Preheat your oven to 160°C (325°F).Rinse lemons and grate off the yellow zest.

In a food processor, pulse the biscuits/crackers until coarsely ground, but not a fine powder. Crumble any large pieces between your fingers.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan and use a fork to mix it through the biscuit crumb mixture. Add batches to a food processor and pulse for 30 seconds or less, just to mix the butter through.

Use a pastry brush to lightly coat the pie dish with butter, then tap-and-press the biscuit mix firmly into the base of the pie dish. I use a pestle or the handle of a knife to gently tap it flat. Then use your fingers to firmly press the crumb mixture up the sides of the pie dish, making them at least 3 cm (1 1/4”) high.

In a medium size bowl whisk together the condensed milk and lemon juice. Separate the eggs and place the egg yolks into a large bowl.

You won’t need the egg whites for this dish, so reserve them to use for another recipe, like meringues. Add the lemon zest to the egg yolks, and beat together until egg yolks look pale and frothy.

Use a spatula to combine the condensed milk mixture with the egg mixture, then mix thoroughly using an electric handheld mixer.

Pour the mixture into the cracker-biscuit shell. Bake for 25 minutes or until the middle of the pie filling is springy. Let the pie stand for an hour, then loosely cover with plastic cling wrap and place in the freezer for a minimum of 3 hours.

When cool, place the cooled pie into a cake tin or plastic box, and wrap the top with foil, piercing several air holes into the foil to stop moisture condensation dripping onto the pie.

Remove from freezer an hour before serving so pie is cold but not frozen.

Serve with cream, ice-cream, or frozen yoghurt.

Recipe from my cookbook SOULICIOUS

 

Chicken and Groundnut Stew

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It’s already the first week of 2017, and as I didn’t get to eat any black eyed peas or collard greens at New Year I’ll have to make my own luck.

This week – recipe-wise – I’m taking a swing by Jamaica, via West Africa.

For this recipe post I’m ‘cooking the book’ and adapting a recipe from the cookbook ‘Jamaican cooking: 140 roadside and homestyle recipes’ (1997) by Lucinda Scala Quinn.

If you have a peanut allergy of any type then sadly this recipe isn’t for you.

Groundnut stew is common in much of West Africa. It originates from the Mandinka and Bambara people of Mali. In Wolof it’s called Maafe.

Recipes for the stew vary, but can include chicken, tomato, onion, garlic, cabbage, and leaf or root vegetables. Other versions include okra, corn, carrots, cinnamon, hot peppers, paprika, black pepper, turmeric, cumin, and other spices. Maafe is traditionally served with white rice, fonio or millet porridge in Mali, couscous, or fufu and sweet potatoes.

The African continent is the home of many ingredients now widely available in the African diaspora — from peanuts to yam, corn and pumpkin.

The use of peanuts in Jamaican cooking comes from a West African tradition. Most Jamaicans are familiar with the word pinda from a line in a children’s game, “Pop-si kai-si go pinda (peanut) shell.” 

You can add diced sweet potato instead of green beans to this recipe while the stew is cooking, or serve the chicken with a side of mixed greens, salad, and/or rice.

Although this recipe uses supermarket products – peanut butter and ketchup – those flavours blend together beautifully into a rich, semi-sweet sauce.

If you like you can use a whole chicken and cut it into 8 pieces yourself, but I’ve chosen to to adapt the original recipe and make the meal prep faster so I used pre-cut chicken thigh fillets and I’ve simplified the cooking style.

Chicken and Groundnut (Peanut) Stew

Makes 4 servings

6 chicken thigh fillets, skinless, each cut in half
1 small white onion, peeled, and diced
1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped finely
2 1/2 cups water
2 T peanut oil
3/4 cup tomato sauce (ketchup)
2/3 cup crunchy peanut butter 
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or preferably, 1/2 a Scotch bonnet chilli seeded and minced – I couldn’t locate any scotch bonnet chillies, which add a sweet smokey heat, so I instead I used half a red habanero chilli. Be careful using fresh hot chillis and don’t touch your eyes!
A good handful of green beans, cut into pieces 

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the thigh fillet pieces (keep them loosely rolled up) and cook until lightly browned on each side.

Add the chopped onion, and ginger, and stirring, for about 3 minutes. Add tomato sauce and cook 3 mins more. Blend in the peanut butter, and stir in the water, salt and chilli pieces (or cayenne pepper).

Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, and cook uncovered until the chicken for 15-20 mins, or until the chicken pieces are tender and cooked through.

If using green beans, add them half way through the cooking time.

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Serve your Groundnut stew with a side of steamed rice, vegetables, or salad.

This stew can be cooked in advance and gently reheated with a little water.

Recipe adapted from ‘Jamaican cooking: 140 roadside and homestyle recipes’ (1997) by Lucinda Scala Quinn.

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