Kitchen

Spring Clean

Last modified on 2013-10-29 12:07:40 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

It’s officially spring- hail the gods!!

I am absolutely NOT a winter child. I was made to lie in the summer sun. I would love nothing more than to live somewhere tropical where there is only a wet and dry season- no cold!

In the meantime- I’m celebrating spring. The sun is shining, the flowers are blooming and the most beautiful of all- tiny bright green buds are forming on the perennial trees! So beautiful.

As the weather warms up we find ourselves opening the balcony doors and inviting the outdoors in. Taking a bit of extra care with the plants, firing up the BBQ and just sitting out on the cane setting with a cold G&T in the afternoon. Those beautiful rays of sunshine can also cast a spotlight on all of the dull and dusty items around the home that could do with a good refresh!

In the spirit of the time of year I’ve taken a few little projects around our apartment that are perfect for a spring refresh. Hopefully there is something that will inspire you not to chuck that sad-looking furniture and instead- give it a bit of a scrub, maybe a lick of paint, and have something good as new!

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This beautiful dress-makers model from an antiques store was a birthday present from my husband. It was sold in original condition- meaning it was filthy! I removed the screws, gently pried away the wooden parts from the canvas body and kept note of where every part originally lived!

I then gently sanded back and oiled all of the wooden parts and chucked the canvas body in to the bath to get soaped up and scrubbed down! I used shampoo and a scrubbing brush, rinsed with water and then washed down all over with a light vinegar wash to remove the last of the detergent (did you know that detergent remnants can attract dirt? Just a cup of vinegar in a litre of water will remove any residue).

The dressing table was originally my neighbour’s- covered in green paint and fair stickers, it was a sight! A few years ago I decided to rescue it- sand it all back and paint it with some left over white house paint. It didn’t stand the test of time, and after a few dusting sessions I started to notice marks and discolouration on the top.

So I sanded it back quite vigorously, with various grains to get a smooth finish, removed the handles and re-polished them and recoated the whole thing in interior acrylic shine white paint- just a sample pot was enough to do it!

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Another neighbourhood find was our hard wood dining table. It was discarded and had no sheen. I laboured for days sanding by hand (before my husband gifted me with a orbital sander!) but it was a labour of love. I used about 4 different grits of sandpaper, a stain and lacquer (a few coats- sanding between each) and finished with the same oil I used on the model above.

You wouldn’t need to go to this much effort to get similar results- just two grits of sandpaper, using an orbital sander, and a two-in-one stain and lacquer would do the job. But I must say, running my hands over the table and feeling the smooth rewards of my efforts is pretty fantastic!

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Finally, after a few weeks of watching seasons of Mad Men back-to-back I developed a bit of a penchant for a post-work martini! That started the idea of a bar area.

I purchased an Ikea adjustable bookshelf, washed and shined my glassware, and gave my orange Kitchenaid stand mixer and Breville blender pride of place in the in-set kitchen servery.

I re-furbed a council clean-up chair (the comfiest spot to have a drink!) and later added a French-Polynesian floor lamp (made from fabric from our Tahitian honeymoon) and a 1920’s tray drinks stand for making G&T’s.

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The blender and bar area was perfect for creating these ‘Mexican Night’ frozen margaritas- made from fresh tarragon leaves, chopped, coconut rum (instead of triple sec), tequila and lime juice, blended with ice, served in a salted-rimmed cocktail glass (sticking to the glass thanks to a rub of a lime wedge) with hot, crispy tacos- of course!

The perfect drink to cool down now that the weather is heating up! Hopefully you’ve found some inspiration to give a few things around the home a new lease of life- and let the sun shine proudly on your shiny ‘new’ things!

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Thanks for reading The Nookbook!

Pantry Makeover

Last modified on 2013-10-29 12:01:48 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

We are renting. I can’t wait for the day when we get to own our own home and play The Block and do every single detail in our own style.

Until then- we are learning a lot about getting creative! Our apartment has a lot of really handy storage spaces in the kitchen- but unfortunately every inch of each shelf was covered in horrible 70s lino! It was even listed in our condition report- meaning we couldn’t remove it.

It does serve a function- keeping any liquid or spills from passing through the shelves- but there had to be a better way! I happened to have a few rolls of left over wallpaper. A lightbulb moment later and I had the idea of covering the lino with the wallpaper!

I measured out each of the shelves and cut the wallpaper very precisely using a scalpel. Then I lined each side with super strong double-sided tape. This means when we leave our apartment some day we can just peel back the wallpaper covering and it’s good as new (or old as the case may be!)

How have you gotten tricky with home improvements while renting?

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Before:

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Measuring and slicing:

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After:

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Much better- don’t you think? And you can use any wallpaper pattern or style that you like! Wallpaper is also very easy to clean, making it perfect for lining pantry shelves :)

Thanks for reading The Nookbook!

Rainbow Soup

Last modified on 2013-07-16 06:11:39 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

During winter I get very down. All the rain, clouds and cold temps is enough to get me downright depressed! You can find me at any given hour dreaming of sunshine and white sand beaches- plotting my next getaway!

I’m the type of girl though that likes to play up the positives. I might not be made for the winter weather- but rather than wishing it away, I figure- embrace it! Winter heralds that time to get in the garden and prep for spring, hop in the car for day trips to our parents’ homes (which both happen to feature warm fires), plan luxurious, slow-cooked meals, long movies and snuggling up for brekkie in bed. If there is even a slither of a promise of sunshine I am planning ways to get outside for some Vitamin D!

I also love batch cooking in winter- and nothing brings me more joy than a hearty, nutritious, warming soup- and with a name like ‘Rainbow Soup’ how can you not see the silver lining?!

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One of the best wedding gifts we received was a super-practical set of glass Snapware. These containers are easy to store in the pantry because they are ‘nesting’- like a Babushka doll- and being glass don’t get stained or hold strange smells. They are incredibly easy to clean and I find there is always a perfect size on-hand for anything I need.

I like to cook up a big batch of my Rainbow soup, serve two bowls hot from the stove, and then decant the rest in to Snapware containers. I pop the lid on and allow them to cool on the bench- creating a bit of a vacuum effect. I put two in the fridge for that week and then stack the rest neatly in the freezer.

I don’t know about you, but I hate having the same thing over and over- this way I get the benefits of batch cooking and being able to use lots of different, fresh veggies- but I can wait a few weeks before dipping in to the frozen portions! I take a container to work, letting in thaw in the fridge over the morning, then heat it up in the microwave ready for a truly rewarding and super-easy lunch :)

Save some money, time, get healthy food in your belly and introduce a little brightness in to a dreary winter’s day!

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Ingredients:
2 brown onions, roughly sliced
Green tops of one leek, washed and roughly sliced in to 2 cm shreds
2 carrots, julienned
2 purple carrots, julienned
1 x can chick peas, drained and well washed
1 x can four-bean mix, drained and well washed
1 x can borlotti beans, drained and well washed
5 whole truss tomatoes, quartered
Half a punnet of cherry tomatoes, halved
30 button mushrooms, cut in half
1 cup concentrated veggie stock
4 sprigs of parsley

  1.  Brown onions in a large pot with a tablespoon of olive oil on medium high heat. Once becoming translucent add leek tops and cook on medium heat- stirring.
  2. Add carrots and mushrooms, stirring lightly. Cook for 5 minutes until ingredients soften a little.
  3. Add truss tomatoes and ‘smash’ with a spoon to break up. Pop in cherry tomatoes. Pour in stock and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.
  4. Throw in whole sticks of parsley and cover with 1 cup of water. Reduce heat and simmer, covered for half an hour.
  5. Remove parsley leaves from the sticks, add chick peas and beans and give it a good stir. Simmer, covered, for a further 15 minutes.
  6. Serve with a good pinch of parsley leaves and hot toast.

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My healthy work desk- featuring Rainbow Soup, a litre of water and my Lorna Jane diary!

P.s. Word on the grapevine is that there is a new product fresh on the market from Snapware- with airtight fresh vacuum storage! The pieces actually suck out the excess air in the container- which we all know helps maintain freshness, AND come with a date dial- so you know when you popped them in the fridge! Genius… It might be time to extend my Snapware range ;)

Thanks for reading The Nookbook!

Winter Pies

Last modified on 2013-07-01 14:20:37 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

In winter I love nothing more than batch cooking- big, hearty soups, veggie lasagnes and comforting, home-baked pies.

I’ve decided to share with you two of my most-loved pie recipes. The spinach and feta pie is a tried and true staple in my kitchen and the apple and rhubarb pie was inspired by my late Nana who always cooked stewed apple and rhubarb for her granddaughters.

I swear by Jamie Oliver’s shortcrust pastry recipe. I keep it versatile by excluding sugar and make a batch in advance. You can just roll the ball up in cling wrap and keep it in the freezer until you need it! These two recipes use half of a ball each.

If you have leftover silverbeet leaves or stalks DON’T THROW THEM OUT! These work perfectly softened in a pesto, chicken, pine nut pasta. If you have extra pie filling leftover save it for a delicious vegetable lasagne base.

After learning about the health benefits of apple cider vinegar  from my sister, I keep a bottle of it next to my stove and find that I splash it on to all sorts of recipes- it’s really quite yummy and adds a bit of zing.

If you don’t do this already- absolutely every time you try a new recipe read the whole thing through; make sure you have the right tools and ingredients out- prepared the right way. Once you’ve made something a few times you can start to experiment with different flavours and techniques that work better for you. And let me know what you come up with! I’m always scratching my head trying to come up with new recipes for home- the husband has already requested a chicken and leek pie next- eeeek!

Recipes below. Enjoy :)

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Spinach and Feta Pie

Last modified on 2013-07-01 14:09:18 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

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Ingredients:
1 bunch silverbeet with stalks
50g baby spinach leaves
One brown onion, sliced
one leek (sliced thinly in rounds and washed)
2 eggs, lightly whisked
400g feta, cubed
Half ball of shortcrust pastry
2 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp apple cider vinegar
Dill and parsley, finely chopped, to taste (minimum 2 teaspoons but I usually use a cup- herbs are so vitamin and flavour packed!)
Salt and pepper to season

1. Preheat oven to 195C. Cut stalks out of silverbeet leaves. Slice silverbeet leaves into two halves vertically and shred into 3cm wide lengths- wash and drain (if preparing in advance store in fridge).

2. Cut ends off stalks and slice thinly- wash and drain (if preparing in advance store in fridge).

3. Sauté brown onion and leek with olive oil on high heat. Splash with apple cider vinegar and simmer until almost clear-reduce heat to medium.

4. Add 4 heaped cups of silverbeet stalks, increasing heat to medium high, for 5 mins (or until soften and transparent).

5. Roughly chop silverbeet leaves into small pieces. Pile 4 cups silverbeet leaves on top of onion mix and pop lid on. Cook for 5 minutes, then turn contents before cooking for 10 minutes more.

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6. Meanwhile- blind bake crust for 15 mins- I always forget to buy pie weights, so I have gotten by so far by placing a sheet of baking paper over crust and filling with nuts (warning- may also result in delicious toasted nuts).

7. Remove baking paper sheet and nuts and bake for another 5 mins. The crust should slide quite freely around the pie dish as if you could remove it- gently leverage the crust free around the edges with a butter knife if not.

8. Once silverbeet is wilted, remove from heat, and gently stir through baby spinach leaves, dill and parsley to taste, pinch of salt and generous pepper, eggs and feta.

9. Fill pie crust and bake in over for 30 mins. Serve hot with garden salad. Keeps and reheats very well.

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Rhubarb and Apple Pie

Last modified on 2013-07-01 13:58:31 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

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Ingredients:

Bunch of rhubarb, washed and chopped in to 3cm long pieces (discard tops and leaves as they are poisonous)
Half cup castor sugar
2 tbspn apple cider vinegar
2 Granny Smith apples, one cubed, the other cut in horizontal dissections straight through core (resulting in centre stars)
Half ball of shortcrust pastry
Honey water (1 tspn honey mixed with 2 tspns hot water)

1. Preheat oven to 195C. Stew rhubarb by putting pieces in to small pot at high heat. Sprinkle over sugar and cover with vinegar. If rhubarb is particularly dry you can add a tablespoon of water. Reduce heat to simmer for 10 minutes.

2. Add  chunks of 1 apple, cubed, and stir through to soften for another 5-10 minutes until rhubarb has reached paste. Move to another bowl to cool.

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3. Roll out pastry dough on a pastry mat dusted with self raising flour. Dust rolling pin and ball of dough. Roll dough disc over rolling pin to transfer dough to pie dish by rolling back out.

4. Blind bake crust for 15 mins- I always forget to buy pie weights, so I have gotten by so far by placing a sheet of baking paper over crust and filling with nuts (warning- may also result in delicious toasted nuts).

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5. Remove baking paper sheet and nuts and bake for another 5 mins. The crust should slide quite freely around the pie dish as if you could remove it- gently leverage the crust free around the edges with a butter knife if not.

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6. Layer with rhubarb filling, smoothing with the back of a metal tablespoon as you go. Top with apple slices, glaze with honey water. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until apple slices are softened. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or pouring cream.

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Makin’ whoopie pops for Easter ;)

Last modified on 2013-03-28 05:41:58 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

With Easter just around the corner, what better time to get creative with chocolate in the kitchen?

Now Easter eggs are divine, but something a bit more rustic and homemade definitely fits the bill for me. With the current baking trends of cake pops and whoopie pies fresh from the oven, I figured I’d give them a shot for Easter and style them up all cutely while I’m at it.

The recipes for these were both from one of my favourite food porn sites, taste.com.au

The whoopie pies were originally from Super Food Ideas (where I used to work). I altered the original chocolate whoopie pie recipe slightly to make the inside a sour cherry-choc ganache – recipe below.

I used a whoopie pie baking tin (semi-circular indents in the pan) rather than a flat baking tray as the recipe suggests, so my whoopie pies came out as ovals! I trimmed each one so that the base was flat.

When I found myself with left-over cake bits, and left-over ganache I thought ‘when life gives you lemons – make lemonade!’ So after checking this recipe for Christmas cake pops I decided I had everything I needed to give cake pops a shot – recipe below.

In another side mention, I just love cooking with my iPad. It’s so easy to search through websites looking for exactly what you need, and any time those pesky questions crop up (‘what exactly are grits?’ ‘how much is an ounce?’) you can give it a quick google and you’re sorted. A quick spruik for one of my recent professional projects – I worked on the Super Food Ideas iPad app, which has this magnificent creation called ‘Cook Mode’ where each recipe is split into steps and ingredients and videos are available for each section – pure genius in the kitchen.

Don’t they look just darling all wrapped up in an egg carton? They tasted AMAZING as well, if I don’t say so myself ;)

Have a fantastic Easter and check back in next week for another post.

Sour cherry-choc ganache filling for Chocolate whoopie pies:

50g milk chocolate bits
100g dark chocolate bits
1/3 cup natural vanilla yoghurt
1/3 cup chopped glacé cherries
*Note: use left-over ganache for cake pops

1. Place chocolate and yoghurt in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring constantly until smooth.
2. Refrigerate for 20 minutes or until thick and spreadable.
3. Beat with a fork to make fluffy. Sandwich 1-2 teaspoons of ganache between cakes. Set aside for 5 minutes to set. Dust cocoa over whoopie pies to serve.

Cake pops:

1. Cut whoopie pie bases to sit flat and crumble left-over cake. Stir through 1/2 cup icing sugar with cake crumbs.
2. Combine cake mix with left-over ganache (about 1/3-2 cups) by kneading with your hands (like dough). You should be able to roll the mixture into balls that keep their shape but are still sticky.
3. Place these small, Easter egg-shaped balls on a baking tray. Cover tray well I glad wrap and sit in freezer for 4 hours.
4. Melt one cup of chocolate bits and stir through one teaspoon of olive oil. *Note: you could use milk, dark or white chocolate. Try using different types of chocolate or white chocolate with a drop of food colouring for fun effects.
5. Dip the end of one stick with chocolate and skewer cake balls with lollipop sticks. Stand sticks in styrofoam or an upside-down egg carton to set for 5 minutes in the freezer.
6. Reheat melted chocolate and dip skewer cake balls in chocolate, turning gently in melted chocolate to coat thoroughly. Roll in sprinkles or curls or paint designs on with alternate melted chocolate and return to stand to set in the freezer. Tie bunches of three together with ribbon in a bow and stack with whoopie pies in an Easter carton for super cute packaging.

Enjoy!

Easter egg!

Last modified on 2013-03-28 05:43:59 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Coming up to Easter Sunday, I thought you might like me to share my favourite DIY Easter gift idea.

As you may well know, I work for a food magazine. I am constantly tempted by treats and for us, Easter was about three months ago! Having put our Easter issue to bed, I always forget to get excited about the actual event! It happened at Christmas, and this time I was running behind on my usual Easter cooking as well.

So Easter Friday I spent the day cooking in anticipation of a weekend away down at my boyfriend’s family’s property in the Southern Highlands.

I’ve been saving egg shells and cartons for the past few weeks and after dying them, used them for presenting my Easter treats. I make little egg-shaped truffles, but potentially you could do cookies, slice, or any other little treats that you can pop into cartons.

I made espresso fudge from the Super 10 feature of the
Super Food Ideas
Christmas issue and also chocolate ganache truffles from a recipe I found online (it wasn’t very good so I won’t link to it).

After letting the treats set in the freezer, I finished them off by rolling them into little eggs and rolling them in sprinkles, coffee powder, almonds and pistachios.

Mise en place:

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Fudge all ready to pop in the freezer to set.

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While the fudge was setting, I got started on dying the eggs.

This website is great for learning about different techniques, but what I usually do is fill jars or tins three quarters full with boiling water, add a teaspoon of vinegar, and enough food colouring until I get to the desired hue.

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Then I dip the egg shells into the jars to let the dye set in.

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Now that I have a good base colour, I start with the marbling over the top. I mix about a tablespoon of vegetable oil in with the dye and dip the egg shells in.

This creates a really funky marbled effect over the top of the base colour. I leave some plain just for some contrast and variety.

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Now that the egg shells are done I can get the fudge out of the freezer. I also made ganache but I’ll just show the step shots for the fudge.20110423-082659.jpg

I pulled a section of the fudge, about a teaspoon full.

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I dusted my hands in a coffee and icing sugar mixture and rolled the fudge into a ball. I find this works best when I move my hands in opposite circles and then backwards and forwards to get a elongated egg shape.

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I used the same technique with Easter-themed sprinkles, toasted almonds and chopped pistachios (soaked in Galliano ;).

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And voilá! Pop them in the half egg-shells then into cartons and you have a super cute Easter gift :D

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I was rushed out of the house by the boyfriend so I had to finish off my presentation in the car :p

If I had had more time on my hands, I would’ve made the little balls and frozen them for about 10 minutes before dipping them in melted milk chocolate.Then I would have rolled them in toppings or drawn cute swirls and lines over the top in white or dark chocolate.

Because they were so soft and I was going to be in the car for a while, I kept them in their cartons and put an ice brick between the two.

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I don’t have children, but I’m sure if I did this would be a great Easter activity: dying eggs, rolling balls, dipping them in coatings, doing quality control taste tests ;) and finally presenting them to Nan and Granddad.

Happy Easter everyone! Enjoy the chocolate, foraging and family fun times.

Thanks for reading The Nookbook.

Bridesmaids’ dinner

Last modified on 2012-08-29 14:39:21 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

When I came home from New York, engaged and over-joyed, I literally could not wait to start planning.

I’m really not the sort of girl who has dreamed of this day my whole life- agonising over every little detail. I was dreaming of a wonderful, fulfilling relationship with a gorgeous man- and here he is!

Still, I am a true crafter-at-heart, and the concept of having a whole, beautiful, love-filled day, all of my own design and styling, was just far too exciting!

I flew out of New York a few days after becoming engaged on New Year’s Eve and left my amazing fiancé behind to enjoy the ski slopes. Alone, and beaming from ear to ear, in JFK, I picked up the latest copy of Martha Stewart Weddings- this was a real moment for me. I could now legitimately pick up a wedding magazine!

My fiancé was holidaying in the USA for a few weeks, which gave me plenty of time to pour over bridal magazines and websites, coming up with reception and ceremony ideas.

To me however, this wedding is all about celebrating our relationship and the amazing friends and family that we have had supporting us in our journey to this point. As first order of service I called together my nearest and dearest friends (including my big sister) for a ‘bridesmaid’s dinner‘.

I wanted a menu and theme to the night that told my friends how thankful I am for their support and how important friendship is to me, now and always.

I think a bridesmaids get-together to share the loveis a must-do for any wedding- well before the activities start! If you have any questions, or pics of your own wedding or celebrations, comment below or shoot them to me at info@thenookbook.com.au

P.s. I will post links at the bottom of this post to the recipes listed in the menu.

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Each friend received a bundle at their place-setting including a name card, menu, personalised thank you card and luscious lips choc-pop.

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I tore the sides of the menu card with a metal ruler to give them a more rustic feel.

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The food was just delicious and we had such a fun night.

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My thank you cards featured memories of amazing times we have shared.

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You can find all the recipes for the Bridesmaids Dinner Menu here.

Thanks for reading The Nookbook.

Bridesmaid’s dinner menu

Last modified on 2012-08-29 14:42:06 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Aperitif

    Ladies’ Sparkle

Place half 300g packet frozen raspberries at the bottom of glass jug. Add handful of torn, fresh mint, the inside of one scooped-out passionfruit and muddle gently. Toss in remaining raspberries. Pour in 500ml lemonade and carefully top-up with 500ml dry sparkling wine.

The fruit will float to the top so provide a large wooden spoon with the jug to hold back, or scoop out, the fruit. Serve in wide-rimmed glasses. Serves 4.

Entree

    Open Hearts

Slice bocconcini and vine-ripened tomato into 1cm thick (aprox) rounds. Cut fresh watermelon into 2cm thick wedges. Place wedge on cutting board and use heart-shaped cookie cutter to make watermelon hearts. Start layering with a slice of tomato, then bocconcini and a whole, fresh basil leaf. Repeat. Top with an artichoke wedge and the watermelon heart.

These are great to prepare ahead and simply assemble once you have put the pasta on. Assemble on the serving platter and minimise transference where possible- use an egg flip to dish out. If you have to leave them for a little bit before serving, that’s fine- simply use toothpicks to secure and remove just before serving. Serves 4.

Main course

    Pollo y Verde

Meaning chicken and greens in Spanish, this dish really is quite simple! Start by pre-heating the oven to 180C and putting a large saucepan of water on the boil ready for the fettuccini. Use a peeler to cut 2-3 zucchinis into ribbons and a knife to slice half a pumpkin into ribbons- slightly thicker than the zucchini. Place in the oven with as little overlap as possible, drizzled in olive oil and leave to roast until slightly browned – you may have to flip to avoid having a ‘soggy side’ (you should put the beetroots into oven now- see salad recipe below).

While the veggies roast away, take out a griddle pan and heat up to a sizzle. Drop packet of pasta into boiling water. Cook 500g chicken breasts in lots until cooked through and then slice into strips. Drain pasta, stir through veggies, chicken and one jar pesto. Put a packet of pinenuts on a pan in the hot oven to toast lightly. Toss these over the pasta with 150g crumbled feta.

Salad

    Waldorf Crunch

Earlier, you will have wrapped 2 large beetroots in foil and placed in the oven to bake. Scatter a packet of rocket into a large salad bowl. Take the beetroot out of the foil (careful- it’ll be hot!) and cut into small wedges- place on top of rocket. Cut 2-3 handfuls of sweet peas in half and slice two green apples into 1cm thick wedges. Toss over the top with 2-3 handfuls of walnuts, hand-crunched, 2 handfuls of fresh, torn mint and 100g crumbled feta.

Dessert

    Beetroot Betty

You should prepare as much of this as you can beforehand, such as juicing or grating the beetroot. You can start baking this at the beginning of the night so that it is warm when you are ready to eat it- time it so that it is going in to the oven when the main course is being prepared.

You can find the recipe for Chocolate and beetroot cake with cardamon frosting on taste.com.au

Delicious! </strong>Don’t forget to prep as much as you can beforehand- ribboning the veggies, cutting the tomato and bocconcini slices- you want to enjoy the company of your guests as much as you can!

Pumpkin Meringue Pie

Last modified on 2011-12-18 12:34:12 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Over Thanksgiving I found this gorgeous deep-dish pumpkin meringue pie recipe in Martha Stewart Living magazine. It looked so decadent and impressive, I just knew that I had to give it a shot.

I borrowed a blow torch from my neighbour and for the first time, tried my hand at what I think will be the start of a life-long love affair with torching desserts! On purpose of course!

I had such a fun time making this recipe. I didn’t have a deep-dish unfortunately, so I made one normal sized pie and several smaller ones, reducing the cooking time slightly so as to not over-cook them. As is to be expected from the genius that is Martha Stewart, the recipe worked absolutely perfectly and tasted magnificent.

There were a few cultural differences, for example we don’t have canned pumpkin in Australia, but nothing that would have changed the results too much. I would highly recommend this recipe for a magnificent New Year’s Eve dinner or any celebration over the holiday season. I must also mention that men seem to really love this recipe! I think it’s the swavoury-ness that gets them every time :)

Enjoy! May your New Year bring you so much joy, happiness and inspiration.

Thanks for reading The Nookbook.

Christmas Cupcakes

Last modified on 2011-12-18 12:08:08 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Every year my mother and I delight in staying up late baking delicious Christmas treats…or the lead up to Christmas at least ;p

This year we made cute-as-a-button chocolate spiders, as always, but we also had a crack at something new. As mum had picked up some cute and kitsch Christmas-themed patty pans, we had to come up with a use for them, which is when I stumbled across these Christmas Cupcakes.

It’s a fantastic recipe and comes highly recommended from myself and my friends. The only thing I would say is that, like most recipes using mixed dried fruit, it could be a bit hard on young or older arms, folding the thick mixture thoroughly.

The thing that truly captivated me with this was the fun to be had with fondant! Kneading, rolling, dying and cutting it into perfect little rounds and leaves. The cupcakes were complete with delicate grooves etched ever so lightly on the leaves with just a touch of silver cake decorating paint and a red smartie for the holly– just magical!

I hope you have a very Merry Christmas and enjoy this wonderful time celebrating with loved ones :)

*I also LOVE this idea – Christmas pud cupcakes made from upside-down cupcakes and some very clever styling! Definitely giving this a shot next year.

Thanks for reading The Nookbook.

Christmas cornbread

Last modified on 2013-04-30 08:25:28 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

This is my delish cornbread recipe. I’m not American, but I have celebrated Thanksgiving since I was a little girl thanks to our American neighbours. This heart-warming dish would be perfect for the Christmas table.

This is not the recipe that we have every year, I just kind of went along and made something that I like, so by no means is this authentic American fare, this is my interpretation using the flavours that make me happy :)

The recipe’s below. Enjoy!

Spiced Christmas Cornbread:

Serves 8

Ingredients:

Olive oil spray, to grease baking dish

Plain flour, to dust baking dish

1 cup corn flour

3 1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 cup polenta

1/4 caster sugar

1 cup milk

1/4 vegetable oil

1 egg, whisked

1-2 tsp chilli flakes (to taste)

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp nutmeg powder

Method:

1. Preheat oven to 200°C. Spray a 22 x 22cm baking dish lightly with olive oil. Lightly dust with flour and shake off excess.

2. Sift flour, baking powder and salt into bowl. Add polenta, sugar, milk, oil and egg, stirring until well combined. Stir through chilli flakes, paprika and nutmeg until well dispersed.

3. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly before slicing and serving with softened butter. Yum!

*After eating my body weight’s worth of tamales when visiting LA, I would love to introduce some of these flavours – perhaps char-grilled capsicum and jalapeno cornbread is next on the list?

Thanks for reading The Nookbook.

Cappuccino Cupcakes

Last modified on 2011-12-13 02:55:18 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Last weekend I decided to make some delicious cappuccino cupcakes to take to my friend’s birthday lunch.

Walking the supermarket isles coffee in hand, and contemplating another, the bolt of inspiration struck meCappuccino Cupcakes!

I must say, they really did go down a treat with an afternoon tea. But for my sweet tooth I would probably alter the sugar amount next time around.

Enjoy!

Cappuccino Cupcakes:

Makes 12

Ingredients:

Cupcakes:

2 1/4 cups self-raising flour

1/4 cup instant cappuccino mix (you could substitute this with 1/2 cup instant coffee 1/2 cup skim milk powder)

1/2 cup caster sugar (3/4 cup if you have a sweet tooth)

1 1/4 cups milk

1 egg, lightly beaten

90g butter, softened

Icing:

2 cups icing sugar

50g butter, cubed and softened

1 tbsp milk

1 bag miniature pre-made meringues

Cocoa powder

Method:

1. Pre-heat oven to 150°C/300°F. Lightly grease or lay out patty pans in 2 X 6-hole capacity muffin tray.

2. Sift flour into a large bowl. Add caster sugar and cappuccino mix, stir to combine.

3. Add milk, egg and butter. Use a wooden spoon to mix until just combined.

4. Spoon mixture into patty pans until 3/4 full. Bake for 25 minutes or until a skewer inserted into centre comes out clean. Allow to cool completely in patty pans.

5. Sift half of the icing sugar into a small bowl. Add half of the butter and stir vigorously with a large fork. Gradually add the rest of the icing sugar and butter in lots. Add a teaspoon of milk to reach a thick, glossy consistency. Dollop icing evenly over cupcakes and spread with the back of a teaspoon. Top with each with one miniature pre-made meringue and dust the tops of cupcakes lightly with cocoa powder. Serve.

Thanks for reading The Nookbook.

 

New York Food Experience

Last modified on 2011-07-15 06:24:44 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Take a bite out of the Big Apple (love clichés :)

Here are a few snapshots of the amazing food and eye-opening experiences I had in New York City.

Lots more to come from the West side! San Fran and LA were just wonderful. Check back in in a couple of days :)

Thanks for reading The Nookbook.


When I first arrived in NYC I looked out on the notoriously gritty and ‘alternative’ Tompkin’s Square Park from the window where I was staying and I thought “This is horrible!”

Then I ventured out to Bryant Park, right near the landmark ‘People’s Palace’ (New York Public Library on 5th Avenue) to soak myself in the luxurious sunshine. They even have publicly available seats and tables!




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A wonderful initiative– the Bryant Park reading room! Magazines, books and newspapers available for anyone and everyone to borrow for a quick lunch-time read or leisurely educational afternoon.

The Reading Room began in 1935 as a recourse for those down and out of work-ers of the depression era.

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I began to notice the castles that sit jauntily atop New York City skyscrapers. It made me wonder– are some of these penthouse apartments mansions on stilts?

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I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit a friend who used to work at Super Food Ideas in Sydney and has since relocated to New York and managed to nab a position for herself at legendary middle-American magazine Woman’s Day.

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I’ve made no secret of the fact that I love Halloween. I always have. I have seen family trick-or-treat excursions graduate to wicked university house parties (dry ice and all!) and eventually, decadent and ghoulish dinner parties.

SO imagine my excitement when I realised that the team were recipe developing for their Halloween feature– amazing!

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Forget the Halloween booty for a second (if you can!) and check out this gorgeous view! The studio was just perfection, and the kitchen a recipe developer’s dream.

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I find the American approach to food very extreme. Food seems to be either rich, fatty, artery-clogging and served in giant portions, or organic, sustainable, super-healthy, vegan wholefood.

In Australia it’s all in one place. Restaurants offer organic salads and deep-fried ice-cream. Supermarkets offer healthy muesli and sugar-free, sustainable sourced chocolate, just an isle over junk food and sugar laden, artificially coloured cereals. There’s no sense of shame.

In America, if you want cheap, unhealthy food, you go to Walmart. You want healthy, purely organic food you go to Wholefoods or Trader Joes. There seems to be no cross-over! I don’t think I could live like that– I have a healthy lifestyle but I have my vices!

It did excite me to see this though– un-died wakame salad (did you know they die it bright green?!) and vegetable gyoza (to my dismay they seem to always contain pork!).

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I couldn’t let a NYC trip pass without guzzling down an over-sized New York slice 10 minutes before watching Priscilla Queen of the Dessert on Broadway (it was FABULOUS by the way– the slice and the show ;)

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It’s not really foodie related, but I just loved the painted garage doors of the NYC fire departments. This one was beautiful, powerful and moving.

I may have been swept up in the imminent Independence Day fever, or may be because I’m a Leo, but I would love to commission something like this for an outdoor room in my forever home.

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The number one thing on my NYC to-do list was to have a smoked salmon, cream cheese and pickled cucumber bagel in Central Park. It’s the whole reason I planned a trip in Spring! The flowers were out, the food was fresh and we even dozed off in the sunshine for a minute or two.

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The Lindt chocolate store on Madison Avenue is not only gorgeous but boasts one of the most comprehensive range of stock I have encountered yet (bar the Lindt Museum in Köln Germany that I visited just over a year ago).

Two years ago when I visited New York I picked up some chili and paw paw chocolate– YUM! What was my booty this time? Caramel and sea salt, black currant, orange and pistachio, almond brittle and swiss bittersweet.

AND to cap it off? My friend Jenny and I managed to get last-minute tix to the Yankees. Is there anything better than a Bud Light and some garlic fries in the nose-bleed section of the bleachers?

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#Whimsim: Day 2 and Night 3

Last modified on 2011-05-16 01:31:20 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Can you believe it?

I had actually convinced myself that nothing much happened in our last 24 hours in Melbourne for our girly weekend away.

So it’s ok for me to have not posted about it…right?

Wrong. How quickly the mind forgets!

In a moment of long sighted nostalgia, I began flipping through my pictures of Melbourne and realised just how many gems I hadn’t shared with you!

So here we are! Starting bright and early Sunday morning :)

We made our way in to town to see a Melbourne International Comedy Festival show There’s a ghost in my cupcake (which just happens to feature some of our talented uni friends, @shamonlee).

 
 
 
 
 
 

We took a stroll around town to find some delicious back-street breakfast in Degraves Street— then possibly more shopping… :/ (and I wonder where my money goes?!)

Just to give some context to this apparent shopping splurge, I have literally been searching for boots like this for over a year, since I was living in the UK. No really! My mum will attest to that!

So you see I really did have to get these wedge ankle boots. They’re my third pair of Tony Bianco shoes (I’m in love).

This stationery store, Il Papiro, on Degraves, has some beautiful items, including hand decorated paper prints done using traditional Tuscan techniques.

Il Papiro was founded in 1976 in Firenze and this store is the only one in the Southern Hemisphere. That’s pretty special ;)

Being yet another strange and beautiful yet sun showering day in Melbourne, we decided to make hay while the sun shone and jump on a train to St Kilda.

At the end of another big day in Melbourne, five very sleepy girls shlep back to their hostel, eyes glazing over in anticipation of a rejuvenating cat nap before one last night on the town.

We head to The Toff in Townfor our last hurrah. A night of ethereal, soul-reaching music by the likes of Emma Davis, WIM and Grace Woodroofe.

Ok! So that was Melbourne. Yes I spent about a month’s worth of spending money, but who couldn’t in a place like Melbourne?

I absolutely love Sydney, but it definitely has a very different style; born from architectural and city planning difference.

Sydney is clean, neat, grass and trees, sparkling and upbeat. Melbourne is grungy, grass roots, back-lane, beat down, mystery and madness.

I can’t wait until I can go again! If you have any tips for cool places I should’ve visited (something tells me there is no shortage!) then let me know.

Hopefully next time I’ll see even more and if you’re reading this and planning a trip to Melbourne, I will have done some of the legwork for you :)

Thanks for reading The Nookbook.

Easter egg!

Last modified on 2013-03-28 05:43:59 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Coming up to Easter Sunday, I thought you might like me to share my favourite DIY Easter gift idea.

As you may well know, I work for a food magazine. I am constantly tempted by treats and for us, Easter was about three months ago! Having put our Easter issue to bed, I always forget to get excited about the actual event! It happened at Christmas, and this time I was running behind on my usual Easter cooking as well.

So Easter Friday I spent the day cooking in anticipation of a weekend away down at my boyfriend’s family’s property in the Southern Highlands.

I’ve been saving egg shells and cartons for the past few weeks and after dying them, used them for presenting my Easter treats. I make little egg-shaped truffles, but potentially you could do cookies, slice, or any other little treats that you can pop into cartons.

I made espresso fudge from the Super 10 feature of the
Super Food Ideas
Christmas issue and also chocolate ganache truffles from a recipe I found online (it wasn’t very good so I won’t link to it).

After letting the treats set in the freezer, I finished them off by rolling them into little eggs and rolling them in sprinkles, coffee powder, almonds and pistachios.

Mise en place:

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Fudge all ready to pop in the freezer to set.

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While the fudge was setting, I got started on dying the eggs.

This website is great for learning about different techniques, but what I usually do is fill jars or tins three quarters full with boiling water, add a teaspoon of vinegar, and enough food colouring until I get to the desired hue.

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Then I dip the egg shells into the jars to let the dye set in.

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Now that I have a good base colour, I start with the marbling over the top. I mix about a tablespoon of vegetable oil in with the dye and dip the egg shells in.

This creates a really funky marbled effect over the top of the base colour. I leave some plain just for some contrast and variety.

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Now that the egg shells are done I can get the fudge out of the freezer. I also made ganache but I’ll just show the step shots for the fudge.20110423-082659.jpg

I pulled a section of the fudge, about a teaspoon full.

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I dusted my hands in a coffee and icing sugar mixture and rolled the fudge into a ball. I find this works best when I move my hands in opposite circles and then backwards and forwards to get a elongated egg shape.

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I used the same technique with Easter-themed sprinkles, toasted almonds and chopped pistachios (soaked in Galliano ;).

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And voilá! Pop them in the half egg-shells then into cartons and you have a super cute Easter gift :D

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I was rushed out of the house by the boyfriend so I had to finish off my presentation in the car :p

If I had had more time on my hands, I would’ve made the little balls and frozen them for about 10 minutes before dipping them in melted milk chocolate.Then I would have rolled them in toppings or drawn cute swirls and lines over the top in white or dark chocolate.

Because they were so soft and I was going to be in the car for a while, I kept them in their cartons and put an ice brick between the two.

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I don’t have children, but I’m sure if I did this would be a great Easter activity: dying eggs, rolling balls, dipping them in coatings, doing quality control taste tests ;) and finally presenting them to Nan and Granddad.

Happy Easter everyone! Enjoy the chocolate, foraging and family fun times.

Thanks for reading The Nookbook.

#Whimsim: Night 2

Last modified on 2011-04-23 00:40:35 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Part two comes a fair bit later than part one (sorry!).

Also I must apologise for the length of my last post. I may have gotten a bit carried away with all of the Melbourne frivolities and seem to have lost my editing skills!

So here are a few choice shots of our fantastically fun second night in Melbourne. A Saturday night made for drinking, dumplings and dark alleys ;)
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Trying to get some yummy dumplings we found this strange but wonderful Chinese restaurant, with wall to wall dedications to Chairman Mao.

We had a toast to Maobourne, but that’s about it. The food was interesting, the service left a bit to be desired, and with my belly swelling up to that of a 6 months pregnant woman after only a bowl of chicken soup, I’m pretty sure our food was laden with tonnes of MSG :/

It was worth it for the hilarious pictures, wide swipes of red and interesting incarnations of Mao.

Luckily just down the road was The Croft Institute at 21 Croft Alley in Chinatown. We get there by negotiating a rabbit warren of dark and dingy alleys in true Melbourne style. The location description on their website is enough to explain how uneasy you feel by the time you actually make it.

A funky place with amazing cocktails and tunes, yes, but also a bar after my own heart. Styled to the hilt, this place is dark and creepy. With glass scientific instruments lining the wall cabinets, suspended wheelchairs, shots served as, well, shots, and a hospital bed in the bathroom, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d been shipped off to the mental institute!

Kicking it on the 2nd floor gymnasium, open on Saturday nights and complete with real turf on the bar!

Next we trotted down to 59-63 Bourke Street and hopped in an elevator. The mystery and madness continues as we hop out at level 3 to the garden party that is Madame Brussels. A funky bar with ‘special’ ice tea pitchers ;) and garden table settings on the balcony, we huddled up with the rugs put out for patrons and purchased our birthday girl a cupcake from behind the bar for midnight birthday wishes.

I will be putting together a third and final post about our second day and third night in Melbourne very soon, but first a post on my favourite DIY Easter treats!

Thanks for reading The Nookbook.

#Whimsim: Night and Day 1

Last modified on 2011-04-15 10:47:15 GMT. 1 comment. Top.

So as you may have read in my earlier blog post, last weekend I went down to Melbourne for a girly weekend away with four of my university girlfriends at the request of the birthday girl.

It was AH-MAZING! There was shopping, eating, comedy shows, music gigs, more shopping, drinking and more than a few lovely Melbourne finds.

You shall be warned that one of said girlfriends introduced me to an iPhone App called istagram. It is not only the funnest way to play with filters on your iPhone pics, it also conveniently re-sizes my pictures to be wordpress ready! I think I will be using this feature a lot more in the future ;)

There was so much activity packed into our weekend, and so many gorgeous and fun photos taken, that I have decided that it will be easier to split up the weekend. So this is #Whimsim: Night and Day 1.

#Whimsim being of course the hashtag we used to plan our getaway on Twitter (What Happens In Melbourne Stays In Melbourne…or on The Nookbook at least ;)

Three of the girls arrived early to make the most of the weekend. My friend and I got the same Tiger Airways flight down Friday night. My work being located so close to the airport, I had time for a quick swim, before catching the train one stop to the airport. Having checked-in online, I sauntered straight to the departure gate where I met up with my friend.

From the airport we managed to navigate ourselves through Tiger Airways ‘Terminal 3′ (aka converted bus terminal :p) to the departure area of the city Sky Bus which took us to Southern Cross Station in Melbourne CBD within 20 minutes. From there we got the free hotel shuttle further into town and closer to
The Nunnery, where we were staying.

The Nunnery is an old convent located at 116 Nicholson Street Fitzroy, just opposite Carlton Gardens, Melbourne Museum and the Exhibition Centre.

Nicholson Street, and the whole Fitzroy area, really appealed to my architectural design sensibilities. There is a wide range of old to modern houses, with every shade of grey in between. Below is Crantown House, a delightfully gothic style house located at number 82.

When my friend and I arrived at the hostel, our three other girlfriends were tucked up in bed! What?! This is meant to be our big weekend away!

We dragged the birthday girl out of bed, had a quick squiz around the hostel, and skuttled down to the closest bar to kick-start the weekend. The other two ‘sickies’ were busy being pikers staying in bed ;)

As you may or may not have noted I have a bit of a fetish for maps. These were some beautiful items framed and mounted on the staircase wall.

After a drink and a bit of a gossip, we tucked ourselves into bed quite early for the anticipated big Saturday.

So here starts the real Day 1. We had a brief sleep-in and tottered off to Campos Coffee at 144 Elgin Street
Carlton. Coooooffffeeee sweet cooooofffffeeee :D

I loved the idea of this plant box in the Campos bathrooms. It was absolutely packed with beautiful glistening greenery and I would love one in the bathroom of my future dream home.

After our coffee break we were ready to hit Brunswick Street for some serious shopping. Luckily it was a gorgeous day in Melbourne and the rainclouds did not so much as rear their ugly heads for the whole day.

In a strange and wonderful 50s and 60s themed store we saw these strange and wonderful fragrances. Gin & Tonic? Dirt? Surprisingly these scents were not only delightful, they were spot-on!

I spied this whimsical light in a high-end fashion store. The sort of store that has such a lack of affordable clothes that you start looking up to avoid spying price-tags at eye-level. Does anyone know who the designer is?

It reminds me of the amazing sky-dive formations I saw when I did the big jump with my boyfriend in Queenstown New Zealand.

This shop was eclectic without being messy. I LOVED their stuf! Unfortunately, after taking this ‘window’ shot and the shot below of my friend, I was asked to ‘Please stop taking photos of the store’. I’m not really sure what this was about, but it’s certainly not a reception I’ve ever seen in Sydney. Perhaps the shop keeper thought I was going to ‘steal’ the stores ideas? Calm down missy. It’s cute, but not really that original.

Shopping on your own is quite a feat, but shopping with four girls? It feels like you’ve done a marathon and it’s not even lunch yet! I had to stop for a quick sugar pick-me-up.

So glad I did too with delicious flavours and a fun artwork (that might look a bit scarily like me?) at Trampoline Gelato 381 Brunswick Street.

Just across the road I stumbled across Fitzroy Nursery. I guess the thing that caught my eye about this place, was that in such an urban, busy area of town, there was still space for a bit of greenery to nudge its way in-between the clothing stores and trendy cafes.

I had an idea a while ago to create a similar space in Sydney. I had just moved into Newtown and was looking for some urban courtyard varieties of plants for my garden and planter boxes. There was nowhere around! So I thought: “Wouldn’t it be great to have a nursery that specialised in simple urban varieties and had a nice place in the shade to sip on a coffee or two?”.

There is now a similar nursery down the south end of King Street, but still no nice place in the shade to rest your weary gardener’s knees.

This little guy reminded me that Easter is just around the corner! This week I will be posting a blog about cute DIY Easter gift ideas, so check back in in a couple of days. I know you will love my idea, it’s so cute!

One of my friends had continued wandering while I was busy eating gelato ;) She found the best second-hand shop we stepped into by far, Sheila Vintage at 382.

I found this amazing pencil skirt for work on the $25 rack! It’s a write-off purchase because I’ll wear it at work…right?

All of my friends from uni are in the media industry. We organised our whole weekend via Twitter, a little over Facebook for those ideas that just cannot be expressed in 140 characters or less. Does it show? :p

I wizzed into T2 to grab some sample tea. My desk at work is covered in T2 varieties to suit my mood; Early Grey to wake me up, English Brekafast (with a dash of milk) for a rainy afternoon, China Jasmine for the mornings or White Rose to make me feel clear-headed.

I love their range of tea accessories almost as much as I love their tea. How decadent to place this tea-light fueled glass teapot on the table at the end of a wonderful dinner party. I’m thinking a Turkish-inspired blend?

We stopped into this gorgeous store Harem at 248 Brunswick Street.

Another reminder of Easter came from these fluffy little guys! Wouldn’t they look just gorgeous out on the grass for an easter-egg hunt?

Trotting along from Harem some of the girls disappeared into a designer outlet store to try on jeans. It wasn’t really doing it for me, so when I spotted super classic furniture and styling store Wilkins and Kent, Brunswick Street lost me to
number 230.

This was a cute, but slightly over-priced clothing and accessories store Kinki Gerlinki, at 209 Sydney Road Brunswick. I absolutely adored their modern vs Chanel plastic bow elastic belts and thermal carriers.

When my paternal grandmother passed away my father discovered rolls of beautiful old Masonic and Army certificates of recognition belonging to the men of my family.

My father had them in a cardboard slip under his bed in an attempt to protect them, so my sister and I decided to look into more beautiful, and chemically appropriate, archiving options. I tell you, apart from framing each individual one, there were not many options! This is where the amazing Zetta Florence stepped in.

Zetta Florence is a beautiful archival and signature stationery store based in Melbourne, but they post far and wide. I will post photos one day of the gorgeous teal coloured archival box that they put together for us, but there is a photo of a similar one below.

Their flagship store is located at 197 Brunswick Street, and I had to have a quick browse while my friends were grabbing us a table at the Little Creatures Dining Hall, just across the road at 222.

Luckily for me, there was a seat, ordered tapas, a pot (or perhaps a pint…) of Little Creatures Pipsqueak cider and four gorgeous friends waiting for me when I had finished my shopping spree.

Julia bought this gorgeous little bird hairpiece from Harem.

Alongside maps I have a love of all things Alice. I don’t know why, but I love everything to do with Alice in Wonderland. I think I identified with the confused and magical little girl in the book, and loved to dream of crazy, far-away places where unexplainable things are the norm.

At 159 Brunswick Street, Alice & Co. is a store devoted to orginal and near-perfect reproductions of unique Alice in Wonderland prints. When I was living in the UK I bought a gorgeous 1920s print of Alice, the mock turtle and the griffin at Portobello markets, and from the looks of this display window, I knew I wouldn’t be leaving this shop empty-handed.

Finally we made it down to Blackbird market, located in The Worker’s Club on the corner of Brunswick and Gertrude Streets.

I saw these quirky jewelry designs by Grandma’s Florals and decided to get a scrabble ring; ‘A’ after my boyfriend :)

After all that walking, we shuffled into a Mexican-themed furniture and decoration store that was closing down. The birthday girl spied these surprisingly comfortable rubber-tubing chairs. They were just what we needed for a quick break.

When we started to drift-off we decided that a whole day of shopping was enough to warrant a focused bee-line back to the hostel quick nap before dinner. But at over $400 per chair I don’t think any of us could afford to be taking one away with us :/

This is one for my boyfriend. I can see this taking pride of place on the mantelpiece of our future dream home :D

Tune back in: #Whimsim: Night 2 and #Whimsim: Day 2 and Night 3 COMING SOON!

Thanks for reading The Nookbook.

Sexy dinner ;)

Last modified on 2011-03-21 12:53:20 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Last week I went to dinner party at my friend’s new house.

Her and her partner have just moved into a place with another couple near Newtown. The week beforehand we had met up for a life drawing class at the Arthouse Hotel. $4 entry with two models and a bit of a cheeky drink with friends, it was the perfect outing for a group of creative Sydney-siders.

Some of us there had only just met that night, but in very non-Sydney fashion we decided that we might like to catch up again. So a week later, we find ourselves trotting down to my girlfriends new pad to have a very civilised dinner. The dinner may have happened to have been ‘sexy’ themed. Every dish having some sort of sexy story ;)

I made spaghetti alla puttanesca. I started with Nigella Lawson’s Slut’s spaghetti as a base but then instead of the anchovies I used canned tuna and I also used squished fresh tomatoes instead of canned tomatoes. That’s just my style ;)

They say the translation from Italian is ‘whore’s spaghetti’. So called because good women get their ingredients fresh from the food market, and this recipes uses all canned and preserved food. Suits me just fine, but I guess I can’t be all bad because I just had to throw a little bit of fresh produce in there!

We had all sorts of exotic and delicious dishes, due to the background of the guests. South African Boboti, made with kangaroo meat for an Aussie twist, cous-cous stuffed capsicums, Eton mess, chocolate coated strawberries, the list goes on. They all had a sexual reference, of which I will refrain from here :)

The food was enticing, but the house itself was a major rental market win. The other tenants obviously have an eye for style true to my heart, and I found the design and floor-plan of the house very fitting too. Here’s some pics of the details I liked. Apologies for the photographic quality. The iPhone 4 leaves a little to be desired and I may have had a glass or two of wine ;)

Thanks for reading The Nookbook

Booby prize!

Last modified on 2011-03-03 04:53:00 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

That’s right, your eyes do not deceive you, I’ve baked booby cakes!

It’s my friend’s birthday today and I thought what better way to celebrate than with two giant, vanilla rose flavoured breasts?!

I often get calls at Super Food Ideas magazine enquiring about our special Party Times cakebook that came with the September 2010 issue. The cakes are reminiscent of those Women’s Weekly cake books that I used to trawl through as a child, selecting the most complicated and original of the novelty cakes to top last year’s effort.

Our sub-editor at work actually recently put up a blog post about a farmyard cake she made for a friend from the same book. What is it about a good novelty cake? It tastes the same, but it’s the joy it brings the receiver to see the artistic direction (and love) that has gone into it.

So, why a set of large, pink breasts, I hear you ask? Well, why the hell not?! I received a Baker’s Secret mega cupcake pan that makes the base and rounded top of the cupcake in two separate molds. The idea of booby cake came to me like a flash of genius when I saw that the top looked like a boob!

Thus the booby cake was born. I decided to use the recipe for Rose petal cake in the SFI cakebook. Vanilla-rose for booby cake? What a good fit!

You can look on Taste for the Homemade buttercake recipe I used. I used two quantities, and one quantity of fluffy meringue icing.

For a similar recipe we turn to Martha, as usual. At the point where she adds vanilla, I added rosewater essence and three drops of pink food colouring.

Basic step shots are below as well as the final product, which (luckily for me) happened to have leftovers enough for an extra cake and some meringues!

Enjoy some true food porn ;)

And finally, just like in the Wizard of Oz, the best parts are in colour!

Thanks for reading The Nookbook

Festive fun!

Last modified on 2011-03-03 05:06:05 GMT. 5 comments. Top.

Ok, so having been on holidays the past couple of weeks, I have stock-piled all sorts of interesting things from the festive season.

Before Christmas came Thanksgiving. Now, I am not American, but I grew up celebrating with my jolly American neighbours. They have since moved away, but a big group of us still celebrate Thanksgiving every year.

I look forward to seeing everyone again, but I also look forward to the amazing food! Everyone brings their signature dish meaning everything is cooked with love and you know what to look forward to for next year :D

Nothing beats pumpkin pie!

After Thanksgiving came Christmas. I have shown you how I made some gingerbread stars for my boyfriend’s family. The first batch of these burned terribly…what to do with burned gingerbread cookies? Make them into cute gift tags of course!

I just coated them with spray lacquer, let them dry, skewered holes to thread string through, painted them with bright red and green and decorated with glitter paint and Christmas themed confetti. Very Merry! They looked gorgeous with my simple Christmas gift-wrap.

On Christmas day there were a few beautiful things that I felt the need to capture. I was inspired to make this natural wreath from a feature in the Christmas issue of Inside Out magazine.

I used a metal coat-hanger pushed into a circle as a base. Then I wrapped two dry palm fronds around the edge, securing with thin wire and plaiting as I went. When the base was complete, I chose succulents, cumquats and bright flowers to dot along the wreath. Just gorgeous!

We decorated our table in a red and silver theme this year. I thought it looked too lovely not to capture. I was in charge of the drink this year, so rather than a plain old punch I made delicious sangria! I also put together a punch wreath. I layered thins of lemon, lime, orange, apple and glace cherry around a round bundt tin.

Then I poured in pineapple juice, brown sugar and water mix and froze it. Just before I served the punch I placed the bundt tin in a little bit of tepid water to free the frozen wreath from the tin. It kept our sangria nice and cold. Festive and functional!

Last but not least, just a little snapshot from the way I celebrated the New Year. The Whitsundays were simply stunning.

2011, you look good to me!

Thanks for reading The Nookbook

Xmas Cheer!

Last modified on 2011-03-03 05:06:26 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

I am SO excited, Christmas is just around the corner!

For the first time in years my whole family will be together for Christmas. I think my favourite memories of Christmas are waking up at the crack of dawn with my sister and cousins, excited to open our presents, and the large extravagant lunch with all our traditional family recipes.

The sparkle of Christmas does seem to fade when you grow up. Nowadays I am less excited by receiving presents as I am by giving them and although I am still looking forward to the food, I am much more interested cooking it and thinking up creative presentation ideas.

I work for Super Food Ideas magazine and Christmas was over months ago for us when we sent our Christmas issue off to print. I got back into the spirit the other day by flipping through the mag with mum and deciding on our Christmas menu.

My boyfriend has three sisters and a ‘good-as-sister’ cousin. Money is tight this year, but I love to give some sort of a token of my appreciation for their friendship for the year. I decided this year to use a recipe for Gingerbread men from our mag for gifts (p. 40 of the reverse side Christmas Special Super Food Ideas).

I only had a star cookie cutter, so I made up the gingerbread mixture, cut out the stars and baked them. I made some simple, but thick, icing mixture to affix sprinkles and silver cachous to decorate the stars.

I love to present things beautifully, so I found some similar jars, Christmas themed cellophane and ribbon to wrap them up. I wrapped the cookies in the cellophane first, like a pudding, and then lowered them into the jars, screwing the lid on over the top. They work out to be a pretty cheap gift, but have a very personal and authentic touch.

Merry Christmas everyone! Happy baking!

Photography: Katrina Woodman

Styling: Ingrid Lamb and Jane Hamilton

Food Preparation: Ingrid Lamb

Thanks for reading The Nookbook

Red Hot Chilli…Flakes!

Last modified on 2011-03-03 05:09:33 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Last year my mum and I decided to put a chilli plant in our garden. We figured it was a great idea because we use chilli a lot in cooking, but we completely underestimated the growth rate of chilli!

Finding ourselves with a surplus of chillies that were dying off fast I decided to come up with some creative things to do with them.  Picking each one off the plant and stringing them up to dry in the sun, I watched them carefully over two weeks until I thought they were ready.

Chilli flakes add a great flavour to cooking. With their slightly smokey, sun-dried flavour, these Chilli flakes are great to keep in the fridge to add to stir fries, soups…whatever you like! Have fun!

Thanks for reading The Nookbook

Vintage STEAL!

Last modified on 2011-03-03 05:09:57 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

I really do love nice, plain, classic furniture. No honestly! There is nothing better to frame accents of truly unique vintage pieces.

I aspire to one day be able to nab many wonderful (aka expensive) antiques whilst on my adventures. But until then I am happy to be a discerning second hand buyer.

I managed to rustle up these fantastic finds at my local Vinnies. Vinnies has only just recently graced the main drag of Caringbah with its presence and so the great buys are coming thick and fast.

This delicate blown glass set of Port Sippers are mature and whimsical at the same time. They remind me of cute little mice, with their feet and windy tail-like straws. And only $2 for such an interesting set. I can’t wait to use these with a decanter full of ice cold Limoncello. Bring on summer!


I also found this great coffee serving set. I love its 70s colour palette with burnt orange and streams of chocolate brown. I think I have found my perfect colour combo! This set, with coffee pot, milk jug and sugar pot was only $7. It matches perfectly with the baking dish and serving dish I recently inherited from my Nanna.

A little bit of Vintage intrigue never went astray in my homewares!

Thanks for reading The Nookbook

Sunshine in a Pot!

Last modified on 2011-02-28 04:23:01 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Warm up in the kitchen with slow-cooked, fast-eaten Chicken Stew!

You’re having a bunch of friends over for dinner.
What do you serve? Everyone is cold, missing the sun and looking for comfort food.

This stew recipe is so delicious and healthy. And avoids awkward end of night clean-ups using just one pot!

For Chicken Stew add:

  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 500g diced chicken thighs
  • 500ml white wine
  1. trim ends off celery and roughly chop sticks
  2. peel and roughly chop onions
  3. peel carrots, slice lengthways and roughly chop
  4. put a casserole pot on a medium heat
  5. put all the veggies and thyme into the pan with two big lugs of olive oil; fry for 10 minutes
  6. add chicken and flour
  7. pour in the grog and tinned tomatoes
  8. give it a good stir, then season with a teaspoon of salt and a few grinds of pepper
  9. bring to the boil
  10. reduce the heat to a simmer, put the lid on, and forget about it for an hour!
  11. remove the lid for the last half hour of simmering to reduce
  12. remember to remove herb stalks before serving!!

As far as I’m concerned, there are very few upsides to winter… but gorging on heavy food is definitely one of them! So I hope that this recipe will give you a little burst of sunshine :) .

This recipe is from my treasured copy of Jamie’s Ministry of Food by inspirational chef Jamie Oliver. The concept of the book is simple; healthy food that can be passed on to friends and family, so I’m passing it on to you!

This stew literally never goes wrong and can also be done with beef + ale, pork + cider or lamb + red wine. I don’t eat those meats so if you try one out let me know how it goes!

To fill up the boys you could add some lovely,
fluffy dumplings
to make this a real hit!


You will need:

  • 25og self-rasing flour
  • 125g frozen butter
  • freshly ground sea salt and black pepper
  1. put flour into a large mixing ball
  2. grate frozen butter into the flour until it looks like bread crumbs
  3. add splash of cold water to help bind into a sticky dough
  4. sprinkle flour over hands to stop sticking and divide dough into roughly 12 pieces
  5. roll each into a round dumpling and place on top of your fully cooked stew
  6. press down lightly so that each dumpling is half submerged and cook with the lid on for 30 mins

Thanks for reading The Nookbook