Rise and shine at The Anchorage in Port Stephens!

Our package includes breakfast and the Anchorage’s is famous for its bottomless sparkling wine breakfast. Pre-COVID19 it would be served buffet style, with an offering of continental breakfast and a few hot options. These days, while all options are available it is table service only. Mr T is encouraging me to start the day with a wine, but I am not in the mood or the condition for it. As it is, I am still full with last night’s dinner so I stick to the continental breakfast. It is quite sizeable already, coming with an assortment of danishes and croissants, yoghurt, fruit salad and juice.

Mr T loves a hot breakfast and can’t go past the fried eggs on toast, home made baked beans and double smoked bacon. 

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Needing an escape from Covid19-induced cabin fever? Take a 3h drive to Port Stephens.

This is not our first trip to the area, but this time, it is just Mr T and I. With a couple of free nights and an urge to go the road less travelled, we set off north and decide to drive a new route, Putty Road. 

Well known by motorbike riders for its windy sections, bends and twists the road takes you on the western edge of the Hawkesbury river for 160km and north to the Hunter Valley…it is supposed to be very busy in weekends, but on a Tuesday morning, there is hardly any traffic. Admittedly it is raining quite heavily ( the east coast low is hovering ) and being the middle of winter, who in their right mind would want to take up a scenic drive? To reach the scenic Putty Road drive, we have to deal with heavy traffic in western Sydney for about 1 hour, but once on the scenic road proper,  all cars disappear and it is pretty much us and the odd council truck. The road winds its way thru bush that obviously burnt last summer. Never I have seen so many cremated trees before, though most have regrowth on the trunks. Nature obviously will recover. On the other hand, there are lots of burnt out cars around, how many from the bush fires, I don’t know.

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kumquat tea cakes

 

Here is a variation on the almond and orange cake I posted about a few weeks ago.

It came about after receiving my fortnightly veggie box. There is always some new and unusual produce included, and last week’s surprise was a handful of kumquats.

I must admit, I have never bought kumquats before, let alone cooked with them. I took a bite of one of these little egg-shaped citrus, expecting it to be sweet like a mandarin, and nearly spat it out: it was so tart, nearly bitter, like eating a whole lemon! So they sat on the kitchen bench for a while, while I figured out what to do with them. I knew they needed to be cooked to dial down the puckering tanginess, and also had to be made into something sweet. Marmalade was suggested, but I didn’t have enough of them. Instead, I revisited the concept of pairing orange and almonds, this time going for little cakes to match my little kumquats. 

These mini-muffin size tea cakes are very much inspired by financiers, these small French almond cakes, flavoured with beurre noisette, and usually baked in a small rectangular mould. Like a traditional financier, they contain egg whites, almond flour, plain flour and a lot of vanilla bean brown butter. 

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Mr T: “ There is a 3 day weather window this week. Let’s take the boat out somewhere. “

Me: “ Great, how about we go into Sydney Harbour ? It’s months since I have seen the city”

Mr T: “ Nahhhh…I want to see something different. Pittwater and the Hawkesbury River?” 

And this is how we find ourselves on this cold winter morning, motoring off Sydney Heads up north to Broken Bay for a 3-days cruise exploring the Hawkesbury River, NSW.

Motoring past Coogee beach

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Half a pumpkin, two beetroots and a few broccoli stems. That was the extent of our supplies one Monday night. 

To be fair, we did have some meat in the fridge, but after a heavy Sunday roast,  the whole family felt like a light vegetarian dinner. 

With my vegetable box due in the next 48 hours, I didn’t want to shop for extra and actually was keen to see if we could end up with a meal big enough to feed the four of us.

Truth be told, it was quite a fun challenge, reminding me of cooking on the boat. While cruising, it’s always been an exercise to come up with delicious and nutritious meals using whatever is available. I would read recipes of classic dishes and end up dreaming up ways to use the local produce, mixing up flavours and textures. Far from seeing myself as a recipe developer, it was more about making do with what was on hand and experimenting.   

Over the years, I have learnt a lot from locals showing me the ropes, reading tons of cookbooks and of course cooking. Drawing on this knowledge, and to this day, I mostly start cooking by focusing on one ingredient and building the meal around it. 

So I present you with our latest meatless Monday feast:

Roasted pumpkin with  garlic cream sauce

Puy lentils and broccoli stems salad

Warm salad of beetroot and red onions

A typical no-waste kind of meaI, I  am pleased to say that there was plenty to eat, thanks to a deep forage into the pantry and the crisper. A little imagination helps too. 

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