Pimp My Plate #33 – The Boatshed, Tea Gardens, NSW

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PMP is usually focused on brunch or lunches under $19 but we’re about flavour and value so we remain flexible.

Ducks, pelicans, local vibe = fabulous.

Snap! Sometimes a lazy lunch perched on a river is a much better bet than a citified Melbourne Cup lunch.

If you need convincing, consider a restaurant table overlooking a river, watching a duck family paddle past, while you’re served a complimentary glass of sparkling wine.  

Almost a moving meditation!

On the pier opposite, a large pelican basks lazily in the sun eyeing diners. Languid, but not crazy lazy, he is ready and alert to consume any food morsels that slip through the wooden decking into the water below.

Sometimes you want to slow the pace a little, because sometimes a lazy lunch can feel like a holiday in itself.

And sometimes you don’t even know you want to slow down until you do.

That’s the vibe you whole-heartedly and effortlessly embrace at Tea Gardens Boatshed. Why hurry paradise?

For me, Miles Davis’ ‘So What’ came to mind in an easy, ‘I’m where I want to be’ vibe.

Here there are boats, but no marina. Instead the river is fringed with mangroves and sea birds, not infrastructure.

The natural calm and serenity is punctuated by the pop of an occasional champagne cork, the clink of glasses, conversation, and easy laughs. Paradise, right? Are you relaxed yet?

The food at the Boatshed embraces this languid mood, but it’s not lazy, instead it glows with fresh goodness and attentiveness on the plate and the palate.

What brought me to Tea Gardens? I was travelling back from Tastings on the Hastings food festival and chose to stop over in Tea Gardens to break our trip back to Sydney. We had no set plans for Melbourne Cup Day or any expectations of fine dining.

We found both.

I’m a Sydneysider, and to see a poster advertising a Melbourne Cup lunch – the ‘race that stops a nation’ – for $60 a head felt a lot like finding an Eames chair for sale at a thrift store for $5. If only I had, ever.

So that was surprise #1.

Surprise #2 was that the Boatshed could accommodate our booking with only one day’s notice.

On Melbourne Cup Day, it seems that the locals in Tea Gardens are spoilt for choice between their own lounge rooms, their local RSL, and the local hotel. Perhaps locals consider it a bit ‘fancy’ to go to a restaurant, who knows.

The Boatshed isn’t ‘fancy’ it’s just simply fabulous. And it’s situated slap-bang on the river bank in a prime ‘embrace Nature’ position.

Which means we immediately felt any weight from city life instantly evaporate from our shoulders. Sun, wildlife, food. You get the picture.

We visited the Boatshed twice – once for the special occasion degustation Melbourne Cup lunch, and then again to eat on a regular work day.

I’ll start with The Cup lunch.

Canapes on arrival, a glass of sparkling wine, and then three courses of delicious food. We were ready.

The sun sparkled over the river as boats lolled about on the calm blue water, and sea birds stretched their wings in the sunshine.

We joined a small group of diners – a mix of locals, and Sydney expats.

You can’t fake “country hospitality” or its twin, “country congeniality”.

Where else would a restaurant come to a standstill as we demanded one of the diners don his inflatable horse and jockey garb – because we missed it first time around – while his wife held aloft a bucket of champagne because they won best costume of the day. They won for attitude and bravado, rather than celebrity. So much of that missing these days!

On this day, in this place, quality food, friendliness and inclusiveness surpassed any on-trend city hipster-ism.

Between courses, conversations swirled between local concerns like midges, art courses, dog-walking, and other local gossip. Temporarily, we felt like  adopted family. And that was even before one of the locals generously offered to buy everyone in the restaurant a drink. Name the last time that happened to you?

This Melbourne Cup lunch was the best I’ve ever experienced. And at $60 per head I kept kicking myself – is this real? It was. And it was really worth $160 per head.

So you can understand why we went back for lunch – and were similarly impressed.

The Boatshed serves great food – simple, full of flavour with, on special occasions, a flair that is easily comparable with Sydney bistros.

Spend your money here. Feel the love and enjoy the flavours. Feel special. Support the locals. Meet the locals.

RATED: Oh so, pimped!  FOOD: 5/5   Feel special and eat well.
VALUE: 6/5   VENUE ATMOS: A holiday in each bite!   VIBE:  Punching way about their weight and winning.

TEA GARDENS BOATSHED – 110 Marine Drive, Tea Gardens, NSW

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Pimp My Plate #25 – Boston, MA

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This month PIMP MY PLATE visits the east coast of the USA to see if Boston could pimp my plate. With AUD$19 currently equivalent to USD$14.50 excluding tips and taxes I’ve scrapped the usual budget in my search for flavour.

‘Salty kisses from the sea…’

Saltie Girl Seafood Bar

Few words can stop me in my tracks like OYSTERS, as I walked down Dartmouth St in Boston in the middle of a heatwave. Seconds later I was up those stairs, pushing open the door, and gazing at unshucked oysters behind the counter.

I’d just eaten lunch, so my most pressing question was whether Saltie Girl was open for dinner that night. ‘We stay open, first in gets a table.’ Dinner sorted.

Oysters. There are lovers and haters. I’ve been a lover for most of my adult life. It was a hallelujah moment when I first realized that oysters were so much more than slimy, shapeless, greyish blobs … that they are in fact poetry. If you’re still lurking in the grey area of oyster appreciation, think of them as salty kisses from the sea, which they are. Each ocean fresh salty kiss has a transformative power to rewind your senses back to ocean swims and happy times you’ve spent at the beach.

And if oysters don’t excite you there is always lobster – for breakfast, entree, main, maybe even dessert.

Because when it comes to access to quality east coast seafood, Boston is surrounded by choice. From its home state of Massachusetts you can feast on produce from Cape Cod (SE of Boston), and from Martha’s Vineyard (south of Cape Cod).

Further north is the state of Maine, famous for its prized Maine Lobsters which are considered the most succulent in texture and flavour. Down south, seafood is sourced from the state of Connecticut, the waterways of Washington, and the fisheries of Long Island Sound, which stretches between Connecticut and Long Island.

To a seafood lover, the criss-cross of Boston streets can easily be reimagined as interlocking lines on a giant trawler net. Boston is brimming with a diverse choice of sea creatures, with a seafood restaurant on every block.

Back to Saltie Girl. It’s a niche bar-seafood-hideaway. There are several cosy booths or you can sit at the well-stocked bar beneath the gaze of two mermaids.

The wait staff are hipster cool and know their seafood. There’s a set menu of main meal options, and a cutesy tick the box with a pencil menu of fresh crustaceans.

We wanted to try as locavore as possible, so for oysters we ticked Martha’s Vineyard and for sentimental purposes, Long Island Sound. I’ve seen those long skinny Razor Clams at Sydney Fish Markets but never tried them so this was my opportunity. The oysters were ocean-fresh and didn’t need condiments. The Razor Clam was pre-cut and seasoned and I didn’t like the texture as much as my dinner partner did.

Maine Lobster. No way was I going to pass up the opportunity to try it.

I chose a  Gloucester Lobster Roll (USD$32 Market Price) the lobster meat originating from Gloucester, Mass. The next decision was whether to order it served either warm – broiled in butter – or cold.

As I spent precious seconds contemplating which option was the most delicious, our waiter quickly cut in, ‘Go cold!’ OK, then. Suspicions that this lobster roll would far exceed any I’d eaten in Sydney were instantly confirmed. The ‘roll’ was a toasted brioche bun, and it was chock-full of fresh lobster pieces with a subtle tasting aioli.

The savoury chips were a cross between potato slivers and crunchy water crackers.

Having written a soul food cookbook, and eaten various versions of chicken and waffles, there was also no way I could pass up the chance to try Fried Lobster and Waffles w sweet corn butter and spicy maple syrup (USD$32 Market Price). Verdict? Unbelievably good.

Before ordering, I asked about the waffles – were they sweet? I was told they were Belgian waffles, cooked on the premises, and not too sweet. They didn’t lie. There is something about this combination that defies logic, but with each bite, your taste buds concur that this dish is nothing less than an amazing concept. Crisp tender lobster, with springy soft waffles, with a trickle of corn butter, doused with maple syrup – it’s not incongruous, it’s a flavour sensation.

Take your dollars and your plastic as this is not a cheap dining destination, but it’s worth every bite.

RATED: Pimped and pumped!  FOOD: 5/5
VALUE: 4/5   ATMOS: 4.5/5   VIBE:  Atlantis 
SALTIE GIRL SEAFOOD BAR– 281 Dartmouth St, Boston, MA 02116

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Pimp My Plate #24 – Naremburn, NSW

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PIMP MY PLATE is my weekly series of reviews of cafés and restaurants in city and regional areas. My food challenge to have my lunch-or-brunch plate pimped for $19 or less.

‘Maca my day’

Sprout Wholefood Café

Naremburn is a small mostly residential suburb, squeezed between Crows Nest and Artarmon. It’s a pretty suburb with a small, eclectic shopping strip.

SPROUT joins a community of shopfronts that includes a local government Member’s office, a small bar, a picture framing business, a bottleshop, and a pizza restaurant that opened in 1972 and still serves great pizza.

The café occupies the space that was previously tenanted by a privately-owned hardware store of the old style that sold boxes of galvanized nails, brass screws, and cut and drilled timber for you on the spot. They were trusted and their DIY expert advice was as solid as the layer of dust carpeting the shelves.

It is fitting then, that ‘new’ tenant SPROUT also provides holistic components, in this case wholefoods.

It was lunchtime and I was in a hurry, and hurried people need to eat good, wholesome food to keep them happy as they hurry.

I saw lots of healthful bowls on the menu, and that’s great, but I prefer to only eat soup, porridge, cereal, or dessert out of a bowl, and preferably with a spoon.

I scanned hungrily past those delicious-sounding-but-not-for-me bowls of Tabouli Bowl, and Green Goddess Bowl (both $17.95), or Miso Trout Bowl, and other Protein Bowls (each $21.95).

Yumm… Sprout Fritters ($17.95), made from a mixture of feta, kale, chilli, and mint caught my imagination.

I had the option to add avocado, grilled chicken, bacon, or poached egg, for an extra charge but I wanted to see how these fritters would stand up to a taste test by themselves.

They did so splendidly. The two large fritters on my plate were springy and light, and a joy to munch through. And they were gluten free, which prompted me to ask what type of flour held this fairy-light mixture together – Brown Rice Flour.

With a long haul international flight on my horizon, I chose the Anti-inflammatory Super Smoothie – banana, turmeric, cinnamon, maca, goji berries, and coconut milk.

Like me, you might be wondering what maca is? Maca is native to the Andes Mountains and is part of the broccoli, radish, and watercress family. It’s touted as a wonder food with a long list of benefits: an energy enhancer that aids stamina, athletic performance, and memory. Whether that’s true or not, its earthy flavour is a complementary addition to the smoothie I’m sipping.

I am happy to report that any of those potential health benefits come second to flavour. The smoothie has an earthy, refreshing taste, and the coconut milk flavour didn’t overpower the other flavours. In fact the flavour combination of banana, turmeric, and cinnamon made my tastebuds dance a tango.  Maybe this concoction could be renamed Flight Fit and made available pre-flight at every airport – just a thought.

Other drinks served at SPROUT include tonics, teas, lattes and macha, hot chocolate and coffees (with nut milk and coconut milk), super smoothies including a Gut Guardian (I so love that name), wellbeing juices, and the curious sounding Reishi Coffee ($5.50), which is ‘enriched with reishi mushrooms’. As a mushroom lover I wished I’d noticed it on the menu earlier. This certainly requires me to do a return visit for a taste-test.

SPROUT have a range of pretty vegan cakes on display if you’d like to reward your healthy eating with a sweet treat, to eat in, or take out.

Just a few doors down the street is specialty coffee store Forsyth Coffee House so if you prefer your coffee with dairy milk, head there for a coffee. They also serve specialty teas.

Before you do head out, be sure to check out SPROUT’s adjacent grocery section where you can buy organic fruit and vegetables, and a number of wholesome gourmet ingredients to create healthy meals in your own kitchen.

This is a feel good space to grab a quick, healthy bite, meet up with friends, or drop in for a cup of Mt Kenya-grown Gabriel brand coffee and a pretty cake.

RATED: Wholly pimped!  FOOD: 4.5/5
VALUE: 4/5   ATMOS: 3/5   VIBE:  Busy, buzzy, healthy
SPROUT WHOLEFOOD CAFÉ & GROCER – 272-274 Willoughby Rd, Naremburn

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Pimp My Plate #21 – Parramatta CBD, NSW

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PIMP MY PLATE is my weekly series of reviews of cafés and restaurants in city and regional areas. My food challenge to have my lunch-or-brunch plate pimped for $19 or less.

‘Winter consolation in a mug and a bowl…’

CIRCA ESPRESSO Café 

The busy area around Parramatta Station feels consumed by the cavernous Westfield shopping centre, so it’s easy to miss this little café tucked around the corner in Wentworth Street.

But if you walk down Wentworth Street, you can’t miss CIRCA’s trademark mural of a giant pug dog wearing gold bling and sunglasses.

In the higgledy-piggledy garden out front, foliage growing out of vintage suitcases catches your eye. And the aroma of coffee beans draws you inside.

I’ve made a quick coffee-stop at this café before, but today’s visit is to try their lunch menu.

Everyone asks to sit in the narrow, dimly lit space inside, where the walls feature a quirky design feast of mirrors, frames, and frescoes.

There’s outdoor dining on the pavement, and on the terrace balcony, but indoors is more atmospheric – and closer to the barista station.

Sydney’s cold snap just hit, and the air felt like holding a bag of frozen peas to your face. Perfect weather for hot chocolate!

The African Red Chocolate ($5.50) is rich and sweet. It has a fruity chocolate taste that comes from the robust, earthy flavours of Forastero cocoa beans, mixed with aromatic Trinatario beans. You can almost taste the photograph I posted with your eyes.

At the tables around me, the most popular lunch order was pan-fried Barramundi fillet ($20) with charred cauliflower florets, pine nuts, sesame seeds, glazed carrots, and it looked as delightful as its description.

At $19, CIRCA’s Chicken Salad with chermoula dressing did match PMP’s budget, but Lamb Shanks are a warming winter meal and I needed to pimp my body heat as well as my budget.

I ordered the Baharat Lamb Shank ($20), cooked in an ‘aromatic tomato and chickpea broth with yoghurt and zaatar crisps’.

Zaatar is a Lebanese spice mixture made with thyme, sumac, and sesame seeds.

Eating zaatar is supposed to ‘give strength and clear the mind.’ Did I mention it was cold? Seated outdoors without a coat, I felt I needed both.

My lamb shank arrived, resting in a puddle of reddish-brown broth with plump chickpeas. The zaatar crisps sat on a dollop of thick deliciously sour yoghurt.

I peeled off my woollen gloves to be able to navigate my cutlery.

The zaatar crisps have the crunch and texture of pappadums – a nice contrast to the tender fall-off-the-bone meat. A good broth is winter’s consolation in a bowl, and these flavours were an antidote to the cold.

CIRCA is really popular – people queue to eat in or takeout coffee, or seemingly just to ponder Life itself, so when a table became available indoors, I moved inside.

The drinks menu at CIRCA offers craft teas and tisanes, spiced latte, masala chai, and seriously good coffee. My coffee today was 10/10. There’s a daily selection of cakes on display, and I spied several glossy brown croissants of rubenesque proportions. Or better described as torture on a tray.

As I sipped my coffee I people-watched, and re-read the menu. Breakfast at CIRCA sounds rather good – Brown Rice Coconut Porridge; Winter bowls of pumpkin and veg; Ottoman Eggs; the decadent Croque Monsieur; or perhaps French Toast with banana brûlée and caramelized passionfruit. I’m intrigued by the caramelized passionfruit, so a return visit is a must. Or maybe I’ll order one of those croissants, or both – it’s truly a dilemma of the best possible kind.

With its quirky character and good food CIRCA offers diners a welcome alternative to eating in the busy retail arcades around the corner.

At CIRCA the baristas are serious, the food is pretty and pretty delicious. Warm up with their winter comfort food – or as I call it, winter consolation food. And on chilly days, don’t forget to ask for a blanket.

RATED: Pimped!  FOOD: 4.5/5
VALUE: 5/5  ATMOS: 5/5  VIBE: Quirky meets quality
CIRCA ESPRESSO – 21 Wentworth St, Parramatta,  NSW

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Guilt-free ‘nutella’ recipe #2

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Here’s the follow up to my previous ‘alternative nutella’ post – Recipe #2.
And my personal favourite!

The original recipes were created and posted online by Natasha Longo, a certified fitness and nutritional counsellor, in response to an article …http://www.realfarmacy.com/need-know-nutella/ …which outlines undesirable chemical additives, and commercial practices involved in producing the current version of Nutella hazelnut spread.

I wanted to test-drive these recipes and see how they shape up as a substitute.

This recipe uses dates and cacao instead of hazelnuts.

If like me you are tired of coconut oil being used in everything and overpowering other flavours, you might prefer my version using virgin olive instead.

I’ve halved the amount of maple syrup, making the recipes even lower in sugar. And for simplicity I’ve replaced the Almond Butter in Natasha’s original recipe, with a commercial Almond Spread.

RAW CHOC-DATE ‘nutella’ – Recipe #2

(Makes about 1.5 cups)

Taste: has a definite chocolate taste – my favourite of the two – I rate it 9/10
Texture: dense, sticky texture, like a firm paste – use a little more oil and/or maple syrup for a smoother texture.

10 dried, pitted dates (3 oz.)
1/2 cup almond spread (or almond butter)
2T maple syrup
1/3 cup cacao powder
1 tspn extra virgin olive oil

Rehydrate the dates in hot water for about 10 minutes (or 2 hours in cold water).
Combine all ingredients in a food processor. Use a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl as needed to make sure the spread is smooth.

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At the end add a little olive oil. Spread over waffles, hot-buttered toast, croissants.

Note: Because this recipe contains no preservatives, keep in air-tight container and refrigerate. Treat as you would fresh foods, and use within a few days.

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If you find the texture too stiff to spread, simple heat the required amount for 10 sec in the microwave before serving.

‘Have a DELiCiOUS day’

Visit me on facebook at Awia’s Kitchen or Pimp My Plate   or tweet me @pimpmyplate  @awiaskitchen

Guilt-free ‘nutella’ recipe #1

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This recipe was created and posted online by Natasha Longo, a certified fitness and nutritional counsellor, in response to an article: http://www.realfarmacy.com/need-know-nutella/   which outlines undesirable chemical additives, and commercial practices involved in producing the current commercial version of Nutella hazelnut spread.

I wanted to test-drive this recipe and see how it shapes up as a substitute.

Using Natasha’s recipe as a base, I’ve adjusted by either reducing the quantities of the some ingredients, or omitting them completely. ** denotes an ingredient in Natasha’s original recipe, that I’ve left out.

This recipe uses hazelnuts.

Raw Hazelnut-Choc-Coconut ‘nutella’    

(makes about 1 cup)

Taste: pleasant flavour with a definite coconut taste – I rate it 7/10
Texture: a soft paste with light-medium texture and body

1 cup hazelnuts, soaked for 10 hours
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tspn vanilla extract **  
1/4 tspn sea salt **  
1/4 cup raw cacao powder
2-4 T coconut milk

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Drain and rinse hazelnuts and place in food processor or high-powered blender. Blend until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. I didn’t want to wear out the motor on my food processor by processing for the suggested 10-15 minutes, so I just blended for 5 mins until the nut consistency was more like breadcrumbs than butter. If you have a commercial blender you could go the distance and create more of a buttery consistency.

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Add the maple syrup, vanilla, salt, and cacao powder and blend until smooth. Slowly add the coconut milk until desired consistency. I used about 2 Tablespoons of coconut milk.

Serve on crumpets, or hot-buttered toast.

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Note: Because this recipe contains no preservatives, keep in air-tight container and refridgerate. Treat as you would fresh foods, and use within a few days.

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‘Have a DELiCiOUS day’

Visit me on facebook at Awia’s Kitchen or Pimp My Plate   or tweet me @pimpmyplate  @awiaskitchen

Rose Petal Ice Cream

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(Yields: approx. 3 cups / 600 ml)

Serve ice cream with a panna cotta, waffles, pancakes, or similar neutral flavoured dessert.

I like to leave the petals in the ice cream, as they don’t get caught in your teeth, but you can strain them out if you like.

Flavour: a definite rose flavour with honey undertones that lingers on the back of your tongue.

INGREDIENTS:

8 oz. (200 ml) full cream milk
1T dried rose petals (available from delicatessens or Persian food stores)
2.5 oz. (62 ml) cold full cream milk
1 tsp. rose water
1T pomegranate juice (optional)
Red or Pink Americolor food colouring gel
3 egg yolks
100g coconut sugar
1T thin honey
7 oz. (175 ml) thick pouring cream

RECIPE:

Pour 8 oz. milk into a small saucepan, add the rose petals, and put on a very low heat. Heat the milk very gently, stirring continuously for 4-5 mins. Don’t let the milk come to a simmer or a boil. Keep the milk warm – with a little steam rising – but not hot.

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Pour the warm milk into a jug or bowl, add the remaining cold milk and put into the fridge to cool off, approx. 15 mins.

In a large bowl, beat the egg yolks, sugar, and honey until well mixed and fluffy.

Take the milk mixture out of the fridge, and add the rose water. [At this stage you can strain out the rose petals, but I leave them in for texture and appearance.]

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Add the pomegranate juice and mix through. Then add a few drops of red or pink food colour and stir thoroughly to mix through.

Originally I was going for a very soft delicate pink, but I decided the ice cream colour needed a little more attitude to match the flavour, more of a statement. So … I’ve gone for a more intense shade of ‘strawberry milk’.

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Add the milk to the egg and sugar mixture, whisking constantly.

In another medium size bowl, whip the cream until stiff peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the egg mixture, and whisk until well mixed.

Switch on your ice cream machine and add the mixture and start churning, to the manufacturer’s instructions (approx. 40 mins).

ENJOY! And have a delicious day…

 

 

 

 

Pimp My Plate #19 – Burrawang, NSW

PIMP MY PLATE is my weekly series of reviews of cafés and restaurants in city and regional areas. My food challenge to have my lunch-or-brunch plate pimped for $19 or less.

‘Come on baby, light my fire’

Burrawang General Store Cafe

Burrawang is a small village in the Southern Highlands popular with day trippers and weekenders. A city getaway, it oozes with charm – pretty cottages, large trees, and rolling hills dotted with dairy cattle.

It truly is a breath of fresh country air. Breathe deeply and you’ll recalibrate your senses.

Depending on which route you take it’s less than a 2 hr drive from Sydney, mostly by freeway. Take some of the back roads though, and you’ll drive past farmhouses with sprawling acreage dotted with dairy cattle, and the occasional slumbering grey donkey.

It’s likely you’ll drive through the town of Robertson enroute to Burrawang. With its rich volcanic soil this is potato growing country, and Robertson is still famous for its potatoes. And if you had any doubts, look out for the iconic giant potato photo stop on the main street.

On my last visit to the Southern Highlands I stopped at a roadside stall to buy paper bags full of spuds – Purple Sapphires, Dutch Crème, and Kestrels.

My friends moved to the Southern Highlands from Sydney for more space and a different pace. They suggested we eat at the Burrawang Village Hotel but the kitchen had closed early for a special event. The beer garden behind the hotel has sweeping views of the countryside, but today it was too cold to sit outdoors. A more popular spot was a bar stool next to the open fireplace. Primal and sensible!

Further up the street we noticed the green roof, and red and yellow façade of the Burrawang General Store Café, nestled inside an 1860’s heritage building. The stone steps leading up to the front door are original, and well-trodden.

It was nice to step out of the chilly air into a cosy, busy space, with a glowing fireplace.

The tables were full of food and chatter and above our heads, the vaulted wooden ceiling looked like an enormous upturned boat, varnished the colour of hot buttered toast.

It was a public holiday weekend so I decided to stretch the Pimp My Plate budget to $29.

On such a wintery day our appetites screamed ‘soul food!’ We ordered Three-way Meatloaf (a mixture of pork, beef, lamb) served with charred broccoli + potato mash; Lobster Macaroni Cheese and one of the Specials – Lamb Shank Shepherd’s Pie.  So special there were barely two plates of it left.

The Southern Highlands is dotted with boutique wineries, and the café menu includes several local selections.

We scrutinised the dessert menu before we would let the waiter leave our table …. Red Velvet Brownie, Homemade Scones with butter (without the jam, curd, and cream on offer), and the oh-so-naughty-but-who-cares-order-it-anyway Eton Mess. Yes!

The meals were hearty winter fare – warming and satisfying. It being ‘potato country’ I expected more potato on my Shepherd’s Pie – maybe even too much – but that’s a minor glitch, and more about my eyeing the potato mash on my friend’s plate of meatloaf.

The standout dessert – notice how I rushed ahead (?) – was the Red Velvet Brownie served with ice cream. There is an exponential curve in relation to increased cold weather and increased sugar consumption, at least at our table.

Now I know there are two camps when it comes to ‘team brownie’. One group likes them fudgy and gooey, the other group (me) prefers them dense and cake-like. This dark red-brown version ticked all my boxes – if only I hadn’t agreed to ‘share’.

Burrawang General Store Café has the rustic charm of an old general store, with shelves of bric-a-brac, and vintage games like Pirates Push Puppets, and dominoes, and even packs of family card games, as well as essential oils and botannicals.

On a grey rainy day I can easily imagine spending quite a few hours here, shuffling through ‘family’ card games, chatting, and sipping mugs of hot chocolate or a glass of the local vintage.

It’s June, so take a day trip up here soon before it gets really cold, and be sure visit some of the wineries and produce stalls.

I bought my potatoes at a roadside but Highland Gourmet Potatoes sells a huge variety: http://highlandgourmetpotatoes.com.au/varieties/

RATED: PIMPED!  FOOD: 4/5
VALUE: 3.5/5   ATMOS: 5/5   VIBE: A cosy winter oasis, do we really have to leave?
BURRAWANG GENERAL STORE – 11 Hoddle St, Burrawang, NSW (02 4886 4496)

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Pimp My Plate #17 – Broadway, Sydney

PIMP MY PLATE is my weekly series of reviews of cafés and restaurants in city and regional areas. My food challenge to have my lunch-or-brunch plate pimped for $18 or less.

‘Meet you on Broadway’

The Black Groodle – Street food. 

Autumn leaves are falling like stars along Broadway on this rainy morning.

Rain puddles dot the wet pavement like stepping stones that stretch down Mountain Street and straight to The Black Groodle.

A groodle is the name of a very cute type of curly haired dog. It’s also the name of a café offering me shelter from the storm.

The menu hints of Middle Eastern flavours as I gaze at the items scribbled in blue texta on the tiled wall behind the service counter. I can’t decide between Beirut Eggs or the Kafta Lamb Scrambled Eggs so I engage in a minor interrogation with the staff.

For me it’s brunch, or to be honest second breakfast, so I order the Kafta Lamb Scrambled Eggs and take a seat up the back. As I sip my coffee I can overhear a media marketing deal being done at the table nearby me, and I secretly wish I had the equivalent budget to toss around.

From my table I can see the inner workings of the café – cooking, cleaning, and prepping.

Large tagine bottoms without lids are being piled high with salads for lunch service – sweet potato and pearl couscous, chickpeas, and green bean salads.

The coffee is good, which why people queue each morning.

My Kafta Lamb Scrambled eggs with chutney ($13) arrive and I ask for chilli flakes, which arrive without fuss. It’s good. Although a little more spice in the chutney and I’d have added a little less chilli.

In modern times, the right plate and plating can take you on a metaphoric magic carpet ride to the home of the cuisine you are eating. On this drizzly grey Sydney morning, the pretty plate pattern – which looked Turkish to me – did just that.

As I ruminated over my scrambled Kafta Lamb, this Kafka quote come to mind: ‘So long as you have food in your mouth, you have solved all questions for the time being.’ Franz Kafka. I hear you, the food is Middle Eastern and Kafka is Czech, but Kafka is always relevant.

So by the time I finished eating brunch and ears dropping on my table-neighbours’ marketing plan, I noticed the text pen Brunch menu had been replaced by the Lunch menu. If only I could fast forward my appetite.

Lunch goodies on the menu that I didn’t get to try included: Spinach Stew ($14) served with Lebanese rise; Minestrone Soup ($10); Hummus and Beans ($10); Lamb Kafka, and Beef Shawarma.

I’ve heard The Black Groodle also serves a Ginger Turkish delight, and Kanef later in the week, so I’ll be back to try those soon.

RATED: Pimped my eggs  FOOD: 3.5/5
VALUE: 5/5  ATMOS: 3.5/5  VIBE: Magic carpet plate
The Black Groodle – 55 Mountain Street, Broadway, Sydney NSW (7am-4pm M-F)

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Lemon Syrup and Clove mini Cakes

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The tang of fresh lemon flavour is best served with thickened cream. Serve these as a dessert or breakfast!

Delicately spiced with cloves, these lemon cakes taste best eaten straight after you cook them, but you can make these ahead of time and store in an airtight container in the fridge – they will keep up to 2 days. Remove from fridge, pour over some of the syrup then microwave for 25 seconds.

 

Tools – 12 muffin baking tray; skewer or fork; pastry brush; wooden spoon; electric mixer;

Cake ingredients
(Makes 12)

1½ cups almond flour or almond meal
½ cup semolina flour
¾ tspn baking powder
½ tspn salt
1 level tspn ground cloves
Pinch of dried turmeric
¾ cup unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into small cubes
1 cup caster sugar
4 heaped tspn coconut sugar (optional)
Finely grated zest from 1 lemon
3 large eggs, beaten to blend
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Syrup ingredients

Finely grated zest from 1 lemon
6 T fresh lemon juice
⅓ cup caster sugar

 

Making the cakes

Preheat oven to 175°C (350°F). Generously grease muffin tin with butter. Mix together almond flour, semolina flour, baking powder, salt, turmeric, and cloves, in a medium bowl.

In a separate large bowl beat together butter, sugar, and lemon zest until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. If the butter isn’t really soft, start mixing the butter into the sugar with a wooden spoon.

Then, using an electric mixer on high speed, gradually add eggs and beat until glossy, about 1 minute. Then add dry ingredients and lemon juice and beat to combine for 1-2 minutes.

Divide the batter into the muffin cups and bake cakes until they are golden brown – about 25 minutes. Test with a skewer inserted into the centre of the cakes. If it comes out clean the cakes are ready.

Making the Lemon Syrup

Make the syrup while the cakes are baking. In a small saucepan, bring lemon zest, lemon juice, and sugar to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat, constantly stirring to dissolve the sugar. Let the syrup come to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat.

As soon as cakes come out of the oven, use a skewer to 4 or 5 poke holes into the top of the cakes. Brush the syrup over top of the cakes using about 2/3 of the syrup.

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Set tray aside to cool down completely before removing cakes. Serve with clotted cream and drizzle a little more syrup over the cake.

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Enjoy!