Category Archives: Australia

Springtime in Australia

The wildflowers are out in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and our dwarf Meyer lemon tree looks like it is about to bloom.  Springtime here doesn’t come with quite the feeling of euphoric relief I used to get at a long, snowy winter’s end, but it’s pleasant all the same. I think I’m finally learning to enjoy Australia’s more subtle approach to the changing of seasons.

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Meyer lemon tart and a recipe in pictures

Meyer lemon tart

One of our first purchases for our new home in Sydney was a dwarf Meyer lemon tree. $50 and several months later, we picked our first three fragrant fruit. Not bad for a partially sunny balcony in Sydney’s Inner West, don’t you think?

Meyer lemons, a cross between lemons and mandarins, have a bewitching floral scent and a sweet, tart, juicy interior, so they make especially good additions to baked goods.  With this in mind, I decided to use the juice from two lemons to make a tart and the zest to make a Meyer lemon vodka. The tart lasts several days in the fridge, and the Meyer lemon vodka lends the fragrance of these beauties to everything from cocktails to cookies for months after the citrus season has come to an end.

With the last lemon, we made homemade Meyer lemon-lime bitters—a fitting way to celebrate our first citrus harvest.

Meyer lemon vodka – a recipe in pictures

Meyer lemon vodka essentials

1. Gather ingredients.  Excellent vodka isn’t essential for this; Smirnoff or something similar will do.

Zest

2. Peel off the zest of the Meyer lemons, carefully avoiding the pith.

Finished product

3. Drop the Meyer lemon zest into the vodka, and let the flavor of the zest infuse in the vodka for a few weeks. When the vodka is fragrant, it’s finished.

This vodka is delicious in any fruity mixed drink, and also works well in baked goods calling for orange liqueur.

Meyer lemon tart with cardamom and orange zest
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Filed under Australia, baking, dessert, drink, local, Meyer lemons, seasonal

Cold-brewed iced coffee

Thank goodness for ice cubes. It’s been in the 40s here (C, not F–oh, how I wish it were the other way around), with high humidity, and it’s made for a rough week.

Even Australians seem to be having a tough time with it.  I came in to work on Wednesday after yet another sleepless night and found that people either couldn’t sleep, or had the courage to move their entire family into the living room, where most people have the only air conditioner in the house.  At least we’re not suffering alone.

The only thing that’s getting me through is copious amounts of cold-brewed iced coffee.  It’s magic in two ingredients. Three if you count the milk.

Don’t forget the ice.

Cold-brewed iced coffee

This recipe is the equivalent of sun tea for coffee drinkers. The main benefit to making iced coffee this way is that the end product lacks the bitterness you usually get from hot-brewed and then chilled iced coffee.

You need a french press (plunger pot, I think they’re called here?) or a coffee filter+large jug, and decent coffee beans. I make this in bulk, because it just makes more sense.  This recipe is imprecise; you will need to vary the amount of ground coffee to taste.

First, find out how much water your jug or french press holds.  You want a ratio of coffee to water of about 1:5.  Add the appropriate amount of ground* coffee.

Fill the jug with coffee grounds up with water. Cover, refrigerate, and let sit overnight, or all day.  Make sure your ice cube tray is full of ice.

If you are using a french press, plunge down the grounds. If you are using a coffee filter, then it’s best to filter the grounds from the coffee on a cup-by-cup basis.

Serve over ice, black or with milk.

Variations:

  • Make simple syrup (recipe in the ingredients list here) and use that to sweeten your drink. You can even get fancy with this and make flavored simple syrup. Vanilla is a great thing to add, particularly if you want a creamy taste without the milk. Mint simple syrup is also a nice idea for summer.
  • Stir in sweetened condensed milk to taste. You have now successfully made a bastardized version of Thai iced coffee.

*I use the usual grind for my french press.

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A food-obsessed guide to Sydney’s Inner West

Let’s get one thing straight before corrections pile in and objections are made (as if I had the reader base): we are not experts on the Sydney food scene yet. In fact, we’ve only been here for two months, give or take a week, and while we do tend to plan every outing around some food destination or another, we have only just begun to discover the best bits of our own neighborhood. Sydney is a big place, and clearly has a fantastic, diverse, exciting food scene for those who like to try out new cuisines from around the world.  These are just our initial impressions.

The farmers’ market scene in Sydney is serious. There is a market in pretty much every suburb you can think of.  Near us, the Eveleigh (Carriageworks) market is probably the biggest, and it’s every Saturday, so we frequently end up buying our produce, bread, and meat there.  Most of the vendors give out samples, too, so you can taste before you buy.  If you go, check out the bread selection at the La Tartine bakery stand. It’s the cheapest and best of all the bakers at the market.

Saturday 8 am – 1 pm, 243 Wilson St. Eveleigh NSW

The Marrickville market is a bit more fun, and has a greater variety of (non-edible) goods. It’s a bit crunchier, but it’s a better lunch destination, and seems to have more variety in terms of produce.  As we’ve found, most Australian farmers market producers aren’t particularly adventurous with heirloom fruits and veg, which is a shame, really.  But that may just be a seasonal thing.

Sunday 8:30 am -3 pm, Addison Rd. Community Centre, 142 Addison Rd. Marrickville NSW

Campos coffee gets my vote for the best coffee in Sydney. I know people who make it a destination for the weekend, and there’s always a long line out the door if you want to actually sit in the tiny cafe.  The coffee rivals some of the Kona coffee I’ve tried, and is about as expensive as all the other beans in this city. Dark City is my favorite so far, but the Obama blend is pretty nice, too. Another plus? They roast the beans in our neighborhood, which means they’re always fresh.

Various locations. Mine is 132 Missenden Rd. Newtown, NSW.

Mamak is closer to the CBD than Newtown, but I’m including it because it’s one of those places that you line up for without regret.  They make the best fresh rotis in town, and rival even the Deep South (USA, folks) for their fried chicken. Their curries are pretty tasty, too. Their prices and late night hours on Friday and Saturday (2 am closing time) demand repeat visits.  Even better, they are BYO, with a $2 corking fee, so the absence of a wine list really isn’t an issue.

15 Goulburn St. Haymarket, Sydney NSW.

Other places to check out:

Dae Jang Kum Korean BBQ Restaurant, 35 Goulburn St. Haymarket. Excellent and affordable Korean BBQ. Bring friends.

Doythao Thai, 343-345 King St. Newtown. Try their Massamann curry or spicy noodles. Order less rice than you think you’ll need.

Istanbul on King, 159 King St. Newtown. Excellent pide, and a funky little dining area (past the flouro takeout counter in front) featuring Turkish music videos and intricate carpets.

Pho 236, 236 King St. Newtown. Excellent pho for cheap, BYO. This place is always packed, despite a less than charming atmosphere.

Happy Chef Chinese, 264 King St. Newtown. Cheap, delicious, and not necessarily greasy.  Order noodle soups with veggies — they always taste fresh and are properly cooked.

(Brasserie Bread’s soy and linseed loaf)

Sydney has a decent selection of artisan bakeries. None of them make the crackly, almost burnt crust you crave after a trip to Paris, but they do seem to do a decent job with sourdough loaves. Brasserie Bread makes a good soy and linseed loaf, but is otherwise not really worth the price. Sonoma bakery has some decent whole grain loaves, as well. Bourke St. Bakery (633 Bourke St.) is the best for the price, and often has interesting loaves (fig and barberry was one of my favorites, with big, juicy figs throughout the loaf for just $4.50). There’s a line there, too. La Tartine is also similarly price, and has the best loaves across the board. I get their bread at the Eveleigh Markets (see above).  Other notables are Le Pain Quotidien (yes, it’s a chain, but it’s an excellent one) and the Paris Patisserie Francaise (no bread, but their tarts are decadent; 91 Bondi Rd. Bondi). There’s also one across the street from the Kings Cross Farmers market whose name escapes me, but they make the most heavenly almond croissants I’ve ever tasted.

Finally, this is our awesome spice rack, made of a “Victorian whatnot” from Mitchell Rd. Auctions (one of our favorite places in Sydney), spice jars left over from our wedding decorations, and spices from random places around Sydney. Which reminds me: if you’re ever in need of 5 kg of smoked paprika, or any other spice, flour, or grain, visit Fiji Market (591 King St.). If you only need a pinch, try the Alfalfa House Organic Food Co-op at 113 Enmore Rd, Enmore. Join for a 10% discount, and bring your own containers. Yes, we are members, and yes, we have purchased everything from cacao butter to spinach pasta from this particular bulk food paradise.

That’s all for now… I’ll try and keep you posted on our current discoveries, but am in the midst of a new, exciting project that’s eating up some of my time. More on that soon!

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Filed under Australia, Beginnings, travel

More pretty pictures

Thought I’d share a few pictures from today’s adventures… This one’s from the harbor (or harbour?) right around sunset, just after the rain finally ceased.

This is just fantastic:

An antique post box, still in use!

There are more here, if you feel like having a look. Just check the last few– I was lazy and grouped them all with old trip photos.

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New neighborhood

We’ve moved in! Ok, this isn’t our house — our house is actually an apartment in an impersonal modern monstrosity of a complex — but this is in our neighborhood in the Inner West. I love it here so far. There are farmers markets and community gardens and funky auction houses full of a jumbled mix of total crap and rare finds going for pennies. All sorts of things going on within walking distance, and despite a long commute (yes, I need a car), I’m really glad we’re here.  And that is all for now…

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Sunrise

This is a picture of sunrise from the balcony of the apartments in Cronulla we’re temporarily calling home. So far, it’s my favorite part of our stay here – and something I never appreciated before, given that 6 am was once an ungodly hour, a time no civilized person should have to experience. Student life is luxurious, no? But I like my new discovery, and my newly set schedule, free of night shifts and weekend calls and all that my last job entailed.

Moving is still stressful, and our lack of any luck in the apartment hunt has prolonged this stress and made us wonder if we could possibly have a decent job and credit history and still end up homeless. This is probably an exaggeration, and I suspect it’ll only be a matter of time and application, but it has made it difficult to find out much about our new home beyond the sheer volume of legalese involved in renting anything in this country. I have NEVER read so much paperwork in my life, and I find it hilarious that I need more references to apply for an apartment lease than I needed to get a job here, or obtain a visa. You can get in, but you will struggle to establish yourself as a real person with a house and a car and 100 points of identification.

Some of the good things: I really like the Inner West of Sydney, with its eclectic neighborhoods and sheer diversity. This doesn’t exist in the suburb we’re currently staying in – Cronulla is more of a tiny beach town that got engulfed by suburban sprawl. I love that good, cheap Indian food is everywhere, that the beach is every bit as good as you would imagine from all the touristy advertisements for Australia, and that work colleagues and friendly and laid back and not afraid of poking fun at each other. And I’m excited about the possibility of making a home here. I only wish it would happen a bit faster.  I guess this is a good way to learn to be patient.

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