Oh you have a dietary requirement – how interesting….

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“How do you know if a person is vegan? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.” Funny joke, but it really does ring true. And not just being a vegan, but most dietary requirements.

I have first hand knowledge of this, having worked in the hospitality industry for 10 years. From the local down the road to the very best restaurant in Sydney, when waiters walk to your table and ask, “Are there any dietary requirements I need to be made aware of?” don’t think they aren’t judging you. Do not think for a minute that they aren’t thinking, “Yeah right, you say you are vegan, gluten intolerant and have a sulphite allergy? Ooh how interesting you must be – do tell me more!” Don’t think that when they arrive in the kitchen to tell the chef that the lady on Table 21 has a ridiculous amount of allergies that the chef will nod and appreciate it. No, instead expect something more like “what the fuck, are you fucking kidding? Why even eat out?!”

As a reservationist for many of the top restaurants in Sydney (including one that happen to have a dessert on the finale of Masterchef, may have mentioned it), I was presented with an exorbitant amount of requests for food allergies. One in fact was an A4 page of what she can and can’t have. In that case, we had a week before their booking and had to ask the chefs if we could even accommodate her. She was very gracious about her predicament however I do not think that all people who have allergies or food intolerances are.

In fact, I think there’s a fair few “intolerances” that are just wolves in sheep’s clothing. You can’t eat gluten because it bloats you? No, you’re just vain. You say you’re a vegan but will eat red meat on special occasions – fraud. Can’t have potatoes? Well maybe you shouldn’t drink the vodka in your hand. You say you can only have organic artisan bacon made from monks in the hills of France because it is free of sulphites, which you are highly allergic to – no mate, you’re just fucking difficult.

And that’s where my problem lies. People who “choose” to have an intolerance or allergy or whatever, make the people who have an actual food intolerance look like a bunch of difficult, petty jerks. I know this, because I have lactose intolerance – for real. When I’m at dinner parties and the topic comes up, I see the empathy on your face as you exclaim “Me too! Don’t you just love Bonsoy?!” I will nod politely, but don’t think for a minute we are somehow comrades in arms, crusading against oppression – we are not. Don’t think for a minute I care that you can’t get a decent soy green tea latte down the road – I don’t. And I don’t want to hear about the great raw vegan recipe for cheesecake you have – no one does!

As I mentioned I was in hospitality for 10 years, I know what is said behind the pass about those with intolerances – I use to do it myself. And for the most part, they are legitimate and workable. Particularly gluten and lactose intolerances, there are numerous alternatives that make life so much easier. However when you mention that you can’t have gluten but then order a beer, maybe you have an intolerance to a hangover than an actual allergy.

Those who have an actual intolerance know what to order in a restaurant, don’t like to make fuss and know exactly what they can and can’t have. They will politely decline cake but will not shout it from the rooftop. They will ask for a cup of black tea save for explaining that they can’t have cow’s milk at a friend’s place. If you are going to have an “allergy,” perhaps do some research on what you can and can’t have before ordering the exact thing that you can’t have. We get it, you are highly allergic to milk but can have chocolate – ooooh yeah, tell me more about it!

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How to Cook for Lots of People

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It’s been an eventful few weeks at TTGK. We have celebrated birthdays, ventured up the dusty tracks of Northern Australia and sweated – my god have we sweated! Build Up has hit the Territory and I am so thankful for our pool.

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Beer o'clock yeah! 🌴🌞🍻

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Making the most of the Territory whilst we are here, The Irish Sailor and myself headed out to the outback to spend a night camping for his birthday. Now mind you, although The Irish Sailor spent 16 years in the Navy, don’t think for a minute he didn’t want flushing toilets, access to a BBQ and a shower for a wash. After scouting various locations and chatting to the locals, we settled on Douglas Daly River. We were told of a great detour that takes us off the Stuart Highway along to Anniversary Falls. Although it was great to get off the barrenness and flatness onto a windier road, the detour was not as great as it trumped up to be and the word “Falls” was used deceptively.

Douglas Daly is beautiful and pristine with a stunning river… that we couldn’t swim in as advertised. Crocodiles – always the crocodiles that have to come in and ruin everything! We overcame that and headed to the Douglas Daly Hot Springs. Amazing – well worth the visit! We took a beautiful bottle of Delamere Sparkling from Tamar Valley in Tasmania all the way to the remote Northern Australia, sat in the currents with the surprisingly warm water flooding over us.

Now that we have settled well and truly into Darwin, we invited some people that had met in the last three months over for a BBQ and a swim. The Irish Sailor has the gift of the gab and makes friends very easily and so with 20 people heading over, some serious organising was needed.

So whilst I sent The Irish Sailor to entertain the masses, I set about to prep some grub – the menu below is fantastic for a large group. Buying a whole chook for the Jerk Chicken and jointing it instead of pieces of chicken works much better and can be marinated ahead of time.

The best by far was the Bloody Mary Burgers – so good. These are great because you can also use the same recipe to make Bloody Mary Spag Bol – what a winner!

Menu
Fennel, hazelnut and blood orange salad
Bloody Mary Burgers
Green Salad
Jamaican Jerk Chicken
Cider and Pork Sausages
Apple Chutney
Bread rolls

Bloody Mary Burgers

500g Beef Mince
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon celery leaves, chopped
4 to 8 dashes tabasco
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Mix the mince and all ingredients in a bowl with hands, squelching and squeezing the ingredients into the mince. Will come out looking a little red which is what you want.

Roll them into balls and pop onto a plate into the fridge until you need them. When it comes to BBQ’ing them, simply pop them onto the grill and flatten. Serve with some horseradish cream. So tasty!

When Aphids Attack – Update

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I previously spoke of the assault attacked that was levied at a family of aphids in my vege patch and how to exterminate the little buggers. I come from a family of avid gardeners and taking up on the aphid killing spree, my sister Michelle also lended some helpful advice on how to be rid of these plant sucking insects below. Thank you for the advice Shell!

More Aphid Exterminators

Further to last week’s blog giving good advice on how to organically control an outbreak of aphids, I wanted to share some ideas I have come across over the years to eradicate garden pests without the use of chemicals.

Whatever concoction you choose, last week’s advice is correct, vigilance is the key.

 Rhubarb Spray
Rhubarb leaves should never be eaten as they are highly poisonous but can be used to make a spray to suffocate the aphid. This spray is excellent for controlling aphids on roses who are susceptible to such attacks, as well as fruit, vegetables and herbs.

To Make

  • Boil 1kg of rhubarb leaves in 2 litres of water for 30 minutes
  • Strain and add 125 g biodegradable washing powder
  • Mix until powder is dissolved
  • Pour into a spray bottle for application
  • Wait two weeks before picking garden produce
  • Wash food thoroughly before eating

White Flour

Who would have thought a product that is cheap and readily available would be an effective bug deterrent? This tip of using white flour to deter garden pests came from an experienced gardener who is a wealth of knowledge in the tried and tested. This is also a pet-friendly recipe and an easy alternative to chemical applications. Aphids and other insects don’t like the flour sticking to their bodies.

To Make

  • Place plain white flour into a jar with small holes punched into the lid (or use a cappuccino chocolate sprinkler)
  • Liberally sprinkle over affected plants
  • Spray with water after about 15 minutes to ensure no gluey residue is left behind

OR

  • Mix the flour with water and leave on the plant
  • The mixture will dry and the insects are left encrusted in flour, shrivel and die

Let us know if any of these recipes work for you. Happy gardening!

Humidity – how can we be lovers if we can’t be friends?

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What a classic song. We have entered “Build Up” in Darwin – the temperature stays at 32 degrees, the sun shines as always however the humidity has increased. No longer can my hair remain smooth and straight at will, instead the weather is determined to return my tresses to the frizzy curls that I was gratefully bestowed with.

And so I come to resemble a sweaty troll doll as of late – the sunshine and heat is fine but humidity and I have a difficult relationship. We’ve been on and off so many times, that only Michael Bolton would be able to sum it up best. Humidity, you can’t sit with us.

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Love a #darwin sunset #ntaustralia

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Cooking in the humidity is something new. Food orders are flying in and it is understandable – who wants to have their oven on for three hours, turning a house into an enormous furnace? And so the smart people of Darwin have been putting their orders in for the comfort food that’s too hot to cook.

With the oven cranking and the humidity rising, early mornings are a must. One of the more popular dishes this week has been slow cooked beef in soy, chilli and ginger. Originally adapted from Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall’s cracker recipe, I’ve made a few adjustments based on what is readily available in the tropics. Have a crack at it whilst I go and dowse myself with some water…

 beef-shin-stew

Slow Cooked Beef with Chilli, Ginger and Soy

Olive Oil for browning off meat in pan
Beef Shin or Brisket
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 thumb-sized pieces of root ginger or galangal, peeled and sliced as thick as 10 cent coins
4 thai chillis, split and the seeds removed
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 tbsp boysenberry or blueberry jam
2 tbsp cider vinegar
about 500ml unsweetened apple juice
150ml soy sauce

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat. Season the beef well, then brown it well all over in the frying pan (working in batches so you don’t overcrowd the pan, and adding a little more oil if you need to). Transfer the browned meat to a casserole dish.

Reduce the heat under the frying pan. Add a little more oil if you need to, and add the ginger, chilli and garlic. Fry gently until softened but not coloured, then add the jam, cider vinegar, apple juice and soy sauce. Stir to dissolve the jam, then let the liquid bubble up while you scrape the base of the pan with a spatula, releasing any bits of caramelised meat. Pour the contents of the pan over the meat in the casserole, add a good grinding of black pepper, then enough water to almost cover the meat. You can do this on the stove or in the oven at 120C for about 3-4 hrs. Check the seasoning, then serve the stew with steamed greens, such as baby chard and boiled rice noodles.

What is eating my mint?

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It seems something has some minty fresh breath this morning. Quite a shock considering down south, bugs just aren’t interested in eating mint. In fact, it has been said that nothing kills mint. It’s so robust, such a weed, such an unbreakable plant that it is warned not to put into a garden for fear that it will take over. But here in the tropics, the bugs are high in population particularly coming into build up. 

There it was in plain view. My mint had been decimated – leaves stripped back to their spindly branches. Some bug had come in overnight and decided to have a bit of a party, using my mint leaves for many mojitos and mint juleps. Some upon further inspection, I thought to see what enjoys mint so much. 

First culprit – Flea Beetle
Flea Beetle Control: Remove garden trash and plow or roto-till under weeds to reduce overwintering sites. Floating row covers are extremely effective when placed on seedlings and left in place until plants are old enough to tolerate beetle damage. Place yellow sticky traps throughout garden rows every 15 to 30 feet to capture adults. Beneficial nematodes applied to the soil will destroy the larval stage, reducing root feeding and helping to prevent the next generation of adults from emerging. Diatomaceous earth can be dusted over plants to control the number of feeding adults. If pest populations become intolerable, spot treat with botanical insecticides as a last resort. 

How to treat flea beetles
Back in the day, people thought tomatoes were poisonous, so they avoided them. Flea beetles do too. Here is the recipe for flea killing spray: 
2 cups tomato leaves, chopped 
½ tsp of any brand dish soap 
1 cup of water 

Put the leaves in water in a pan and bring to a simmer. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool. Strain out the leaves; pour into a hand-held sprayer and spray your plants from top to bottom. This will also repel whiteflies, asparagus beetles, and cabbageworms. Reapply this bug tonic after each rain. 

Second culprit – Spider Mites
Spider mites that attack mint plants are usually twospotted spider mites. These diminutive pests measure roughly 1/50 inch long and have a greenish, brown or reddish color. These pests lay their eggs on the undersides of mint leaves where they hatch within four to five days. Spider mites that attack mint plants produce several generations of mites per year and have an average lifespan of 14 to 16 days. These pests are most common during hot, dry weather in mid to late summer.

How to treat Spider Mites
Making sure your mint plants are properly watered during dry periods helps reduce damage from these bugs. You can use clarified neem oil extract to prevent these pests from spreading and breeding in your mint. These pests feed on mint leaves and severe infestations can cause leaves to drop from your plant.

Time to put an end to this party – off to spray me some bugs. Have a great day! 

 

The Hunt for the Jack of Fruits

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Life in the tropics has presented a few challenges – my vegemite melting in the cupboard for one. But that is the trade off from moving away from the madness of Sydney to a much more relaxing and quieter lifestyle. When the Irish Sailor and myself decided we had enough of the parking tickets and spending an hour to drive anywhere, we knew that things would be different. And how exciting that prospect was! I for one was most excited about the tropical fruits and one in particular was Jackfruit.

Ripe_jackfruit

I first came across Jackfruit when I was working at Quay Restaurant in Sydney (have I mentioned that I worked at Quay…). Masterchef had just aired the Snow Egg for its finale and it was all the rage. And it is definitely worth the hype, taking the chefs much longer to make than they present on the tele. The Snow Egg is made in different flavours, depending on the season.

snow_egg_news

 

So when I walked into the kitchen for breakfast one morning and saw this ungainly fruit bigger than my head, I asked the Pastry Chef quite blantantly “what’s that?” I was told it was Jackfruit and it was being broken down for the Snow Egg and that it’s grown in the tropics in Darwin for only a short time of the year.

So with this in mind when we ventured up North, I was determined to track down and eat lots of Jackfruit. I really didn’t have to venture far – the clever folk at the Rapid Creek markets have it ready done and packed for convenience. Phew! It’s not the most pleasant of fruits to extract goodness from.

A few fun facts about Jackfruit:

  • It’s the largest tree-bourne fruit in the entire world. They generally weigh between 1 and 15kg, and are oval in shape.
  • It’s a member of the mulberry family
  • Once ripe the flesh becomes creamy yellow, with a juicy, banana/pineapple-like flavour.
  • The jackfruit contains lots of large white seeds – these can be roasted and eaten like nuts or can be boiled and eaten like yams.
  • It’s a real pain to remove the fruit from the aforementioned “large white seeds,” like really painfully tedious
  • Available between April and July, jackfruit are used in soups, main dishes, desserts, drinks and ice-creams, or enjoyed fresh on their own.
  • Often mistaken for the awfully smelly durian (gross)

With my lovely container of Jackfruit and being all sentimental about Quay, I thought I would make some Jackfruit Granita. Here’s roughly how I did it:

Jackfruit Granita

700g Jackfruit
1 cup caster sugar
1 cup water

Put the water and sugar into a saucepan on a simmer to make a simple sugar syrup – should only take about 5 mins. Once done, put into the fridge to cool down

Process the jackfruit in a juicer. With the jackfruit being so fibrous, it’s not especially juicy and it is recommended that it be passed through a fine sieve to remove the fiber – but ain’t nobody got time for that (snap!). So I was lazy and combined the pulp and juice with the sugar syrup together.

Place into a shallow metal tray uncovered and chuck into the freezer for a few hours.

Once it starts to freeze around the outside, take a fork and scrap from the outside to the middle so everything is remixed and then chuck back into the freezer to set again. This is the break the ice crystals up and make it fluffy.

Now most recipes also call for the granita to be scrapped with a fork every 30 mins for 8 hrs. This seemed like a massive commitment, so I did it a few times every 30 mins before serving it.

Once it’s ready, just scrap it back and serve in some pretty glasses like this one (so classy!)

Aphids – vigilance in the face of the enemy

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Vigilance is key during conflicts and in the case of an aphid attack, this was no different. When the enemy is on your doorstep, you must take action.

Living in the tropics means that all matter of vegetables can grown all year. Despite it being winter in Darwin, my garden is flourishing with tomatoes, chillis, zucchini and Asian greens. These vegetables could only be grown down south in temperate climates in summer – yay for the tropics!

Being able to grow all year round also means that there is bug attacks all year round. My garden welcomed the recent addition of some lovely choy sum and when I awoke to inspect my little seedlings one morning, I noticed the enemy had set up their camp. The enemy had advanced overnight, making strategic attacks on the leaves. Not to leave my territory vulnerable, I set out my offensive.


Organic is best for pest control – without an army of ladybugs and the crop being too new to put in a companion plant of daisies, my option was organic chemical warfare. Scrapping some Sunlight soap into a bowl and mixing it with some water and a healthy dose of garlic should keep the little buggers away.


In the early awakenings of dawn, the enemy was neutralized in a surprise attack. The enemy was sprayed from the air with a soapy and garlicky solution that doesn’t harm my territory. The enemy scattered across the field, so spraying adjoining held territories of tomatoes and chillis was necessary to prevent future attacks.

So with the enemy in retreat for now, the fruits of my labour can be enjoyed.

Aphid Attack Spray

Sunlight Soap
Garlic
Water
Spray Bottle

Take a cake of Sunlight soap and scrap with a butter knife flakes of the soap into a small bowl. Take a clove of garlic and crush into the bowl with some water. Steep for an hour or so and mix with some more water and decant into a spray bottle. Take the solution and spray liberally onto the front and back of the affected leaves. Attack!!