CONFESSIONS AND OBSESSIONS.

 

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We are so lucky to live in Melbourne. What other place in the world has little pockets of their city dedicated to different regions around the world, where you can go and quite confidently get a slice of authenticity almost every time? I say almost, because we’ve all had that one time where a hybrid cuisine of unknown countries has been dished up to us. Nonetheless, all this reminiscing and feelings of content got me thinking; what shall I report on next? I believe it appropriate to report on some sort of restaurant/café/pop up shop as I am supposed to be ‘Taste Testing Melbourne.’

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Now, I have a confession to make. Or perhaps I should say obsession. I am head over heels for a little place called Dee’s Kitchen, located in Dromana, on the Mornington Peninsula. You see, I may be biased as I like to call Dromana home, but boy oh boy does this place wow me every time. If you’ve never stumbled across the peninsula, I highly recommend making a weekend of it, with an array of activities to try – my favorites being strawberry picking, wine tasting and getting lost in the beautiful beach side.

I have to say, I’ve dragged every friend, family, stranger I know to Dees and not one person has been disappointed… well except for my dad, who thinks that if a place doesn’t offer white bread, eggs and bacon it’s not worth going to. So don’t take his opinion! Dee’s has a simple, minimalist layout and design, but manages to draw you in immediately with a display of sweet and savory dishes that get me salivating now while thinking about it!

According to the owners, Dee’s is‘where mid-East sophistication meets Mediterranean flair in the heart of the Mornington Peninsula’. The unique ingredients used in their menu, such as buckwheat toast, Chevre, and my personal favorite, harissa, give a new meaning to both breakfast and lunch. And if you weren’t already sold, their deli offers a range of salamis, chorizo, local cheese and my pick, Levito bread…mmm sourdough.

 So what can you actually eat there? Dee’s offers quite an unconventional breakfast menu that leaves you thinking, why don’t more places do this! The menu features a ‘Sweet Start’ section as well as a ‘Something Savoury’ section. Although I’m normally a sweet tooth, I usually find myself ordering something off the savoury list. A difficult decision at the best of times, the clear standouts for me are the ‘Delicately Smashed Rosemary Potato & Pumpkin served with poached eggs, crispy pancetta & pepperonata’, ‘The notoriously Warming Shakshouka- baked middle eastern salsa with spinach & chevre, topped with 2 poached eggs, served with the house pita’ and the ‘Avocado & Chevre’ Smash served w/toasted sourdough & roquettephoto 5

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Ummm, should I just stop now? Are you already on your way?

 The whole ambiance of Dees makes me giddy every time – as you can see I love it. The staff are great and always bubbly, the place is located a stones throw away from the beach, and the food…well I think I’ve done that justice. So really, what more are you waiting for – Why are you still reading? With the long weekend coming up, making a weekend out of it and head down, I promise both the Mornington Peninsula and Dee’s Kitchen will not disappoint!

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DOING THINGS THE NATVIA WAY

The craze for sugar free products is more prominent than ever! As companies like Natvia  provide ‘sweet’ alternatives for the weight conscious, diabetic and fructose intolerant, it is clear that this phenomenon is here to stay. To celebrate the release of the new ‘Icing and Baking’ range at Natvia, Felicity Curtain  and I were invited to a one off master class to learn how to use their product. The class was held in Melbourne Central at Sheryl’s beautiful cupcake haven, ‘ Cupcake Central’’. This very aptly named store offers a range of mind-blowing vegan, gluten free and dairy free cupcakes. I highly recommend going there… right now! Sheryl has pioneered the very first range of Natvia cupcakes on the market. Also present was Co-Founder of Natvia, Samuel Tow, who enjoyed assisting in the taste testing as much as the rest of us.

We were lucky enough to eat bake chocolate muffins with Natvia’s new products, ‘Natvia Baking’ and ‘Natvia Icing’. The muffins turned out exceptionally delicious and along the way, Sheryl made sure to teach us some tricks of the trade on how to cook with Natvia. For example, if you require your recipe to rise, 2-3 tablespoons of an acidic ingredient such as baking powder can help with the process.

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The class was a really great way of learning a bit more about Natvia and how they came about. I especially liked the fact that Samuel Tow was first inspired to make Natvia when his wife was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. It was also interesting to learn how Natvia is made. Samuel explained that the product uses a combination of the young part of the stevia plant and ErythrItol (a sugar alcohol) to create a sweet characteristic similar to that of sugar, but without the bitter after taste that many artificial sweeteners have. This is actually a great point to make! Natvia is one of the only sweeteners I have come across that resembles and tastes very similar to sugar.

As Natvia uses erythritol, it has a minimal effect on blood glucose levels, which can be helpful for people with diabetes. However beware, eating too much Erythritol can potentially result in a laxative effect. So remember not to overdo it!

I was really impressed by the professionalism of the whole event. From the honest and openness of Samuel Tow to the great cooking advice provided by Sheryl, it was a very enjoyable experience.

Although Natvia is a great alternative to sugar, I am not necessarily suggesting that sugar should be neglected altogether. Sugar is an important ingredient in a number of recipes and instead should be consumed in moderation to maintain a balanced and healthy diet. However, products like Natvia can play an extremely beneficial role in particular situations. For people looking to lose weight, suffering from one or more diet related diseases such as diabetes, or for those who require a fructose friendly alternative, Natvia is worth giving a try.

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Mastering the Art of Granola-ing

This week I made granola and I am very happy with how it turned out. I could easily go on about the trials of my granola wars for hours, it is so difficult to find one that is not loaded with sugar and nasties that just don’t belong! Alas, I went on a search to make my own minus all the rift raft that comes with it! It is fair to say that I am officially obsessed with this oaty combination. Not only do oats have an amazing flavour, they also have a nutrient profile that gives any foodie a great big grin. 

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At heart, I am quite old fashioned with my oats, but lately I have been trying to push the boundaries with different mixes and blends. Currently, I am loving baked oats. That half crunchy, half oozy mix of oaty goodness gets me every time and I’ll be sure to post on that some day very soon. But for today, we’re talking granola.

Now, before I go into the recipe (which I will, I promise), I want to give oats their time to shine, simply because they deserve it. Firstly, oats help contribute a significant amount of fibre to your diet. Fibre is responsible for helping to lower blood cholesterol levels as well as keep our digestive system nice and healthy. Dietary fibre can also help make you feel full faster and for longer. This can help with any cravings or overeating tendencies and can also help reduce weight gain or maintain weight. Oats also contain an abundance of antioxidants, which form vitamin E and Tocopherols, helping to lower blood cholesterol levels.

A recommended serve of oats, according to the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating is 1/3 a cup. Pair this with a piece of fruit and some low fat milk or yoghurt and you will be flying through the morning with one happy stomach!

Now to the recipe! This recipe draws on inspiration from a number of trials (and errors) to find the perfect granola. I hope you like it as much as I do. This is my fail proof granola recipe. I promise you will never look back.

Cinnamon and Coffee Granola.

3 cups oats

6 mejooled dates, roughly chopped

1/3 cup sunflower/poppy/pumpkin seed mix

3 tablespoons sultanas

1 espresso shot (if using instant, use 1 teaspoon of instant and 30mls water)

1/3 cup honey

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 egg white

1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 tsp sea salt

Preheat oven to 180C.

Line a large baking tray with baking paper.

In a large bowl place oats, chopped dates, seed mix and sultanas. Mix until well combined.

Poor the espresso shot into the dry ingredients. If using instant poor over until the mix is lightly covered. Add the honey, oil and egg white and mix until all of the dry mixture is damp from the wet ingredients.

Add the cinnamon and salt and give the mixture one last mix and making sure all ingredients are nice and wet.

Place the mixture onto the baking tray, make sure to separate the oats so they make a nice, thin layer.

Put the mixture into the oven and let the amazing smell take over the whole house. Cook for 20-25 minutes. 

Once you take the mixture out of the oven let it rest for 5 minutes and then you are free to serve! I like putting mine with caramelized banana, figs and yoghurt! Or even better I gave some to a friend this morning an

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The South Melbourne Market is Calling

I am obsessed with markets. I love the atmosphere, the colours and smells and the passion that comes from the vendors selling the food/homemade morsels and goodies. Most of all though, I love the food itself. It is usually fresh, local and delicious, what more could you want? My favourite market of all time you ask? The South Melbourne Market.

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After my friend moved to South Melbourne at the start of the year, she was quick to discover this market and even quicker to pass on the word. So, as you may imagine after one visit with her, I was hooked and in love. The charming smells of paella, the greengrocers’ competing voices and the samples, oh the samples. Everyone will tell you I am a sucker for samples and if there is one market where you can try before you buy it’s here.

Many visits later, I feel the need to share this market and entice those who have not yet experienced it.

In general, I try to go to one new restaurant, market, and food experience per week. One friend in particular loves hearing about all my new endeavours and joining in on all these adventures. So, when I started raving about the South Melbourne Market, I had her hooked immediately. This is what brought about my latest trip.

We began at the obvious starting place, coffee. This is not just any coffee shop. In fact, I would not even call it a ‘shop’, rather a small nook in the wall with the sweetest of sweet treats and coffee, glorious coffee. Located at stall 89, on Cecil St, Clement Coffee, fits right in with the carnival like atmosphere of the market. For those coffee aficionados, think St Ali slash Proud Mary, which makes sense as barista and roaster Kris Wood worked at both. Two blends were available, Pony blend and Boa Vista. I was advised that the pony blend was best to be enjoyed with iced coffees and promptly I followed this instruction. My friends chose to have a flat white, also with Pony blend, and the other a long black with Boa Vista on the advice of the barista. Bringing a bittery, sweet taste into our mouths, we were amazed and buzzed with caffeine, ready to attack all the market had to offer. Apart from the coffee, Clement also offers a small selection of sweet treats. This visit featured donuts with peanut butter and cherry glaze (there was no way we were saying no to that) but we chose to save it for later, as I advised the girls to save their stomachs for all the fresh foods, baked goods and samples.

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My first piece of advice is to choose your foods wisely, otherwise you are sure to get full straight away, and start in the fresh and baked goods sections, just in case vendors are feeling extra generous (and trust me they will be).

In the fresh and baked goods section you will find a lot of diverse seed and muesli mixes, fresh pasta, homemade treats such as biscuits, slices and my personal favourite, chocolate! In this section we tried the fresh pumpkin gnocchi, which is always a special treat, however my sweet tooth got the better of me with the Anzac biscuit from the stall next door, which was so chewy and delicious! We also made an essential stop at Rita’s Coffee and Nut Shop. You’ll find everything here from seeds and nuts (obviously) to exotic coffee blends and gourmet chocolate or pre-mixed muesli combo’s to die for! If you are a serious foodie, you need to come here stat!

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All these samples and sweet temptations were making us hungry for a sit down meal. In terms of larger meals there is a lot on offer, including paella, sushi, seafood and the famous South Melbourne dim sims. This time we were eyeing off the Gozleme’s from Koy, a Turkish style tapas bar on the Cecil St side. We chose to share a spinach and cheese gozleme, but they also offer a number of other fillings such as chicken and mushroom. Personally I hate to play favourites, but the spinach and cheese is the best.

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As my friend had never been here and many know South Melbourne market for the dim sims I had to make her try one (or three?) I suggested giving both steamed and fried a go and although the nutritionist in me hates saying this, the fried won hands down.

After all this savoury goodness we needed to wash it down with water chocolate, and Pana Chocolate was calling from Discount Health Foods. Firsty, if you haven’t had Pana Chocolate, what are you doing still reading this? Go and get some. Secondly, Discount Health Foods is great, I am talking Carman’s in bulk for under $15 and Cocao Powder for under $10. Shall I keep going? It was difficult to just buy a bar of Pana chocolate but I did make up for it because I bought three bars of Pana, my addiction had been officially fed!

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Now, I could go on for days about all that is the South Melbourne Market but you’ll get too hungry and actually so will I! So just go out there and try it for yourself! There are just a few more tips I’ll give you before giving the market a go.

1. Get there early, as parking is a nightmare, especially on a weekend! So for those of you who like to sleep in maybe skip the trip until you’re 100% committed to the early venture.

2. Bring plenty of green bags. The vendors hate dislike giving you plastic bags. So be nice to the environment and bring some green bags, and lots of them too!

3. Have a light breakfast, you don’t want to arrive here on a full stomach, you’ll regret the weetbix straight away once you start salivating over all the potential degustation you have in front of you.

4. Leave plenty of time, I mean it. At least 2 hours.

5. Go eat!