Back in March, we made the quick decision to leave on a road trip to South Australia. 

With the State borders reopening, we figured we’d make the most of it before COVID forced border closures again.

Our initial 2 weeks escapade turned into a 41 days journey, taking us thru outback NSW, the bottom half of South Australia and a stint in regional Victoria. It was a fantastic trip, discovering little known corners of Australia and revisiting spots last seen 30 years ago.

Provision wise, I thought I would not load up the truck  too much, expecting to stop along the way and sample some of the local produce. Indeed, we ate very well, dining out in small restaurants, historic pubs, and roadhouses… Regional Australia has so much to offer to the travelling foodie! So much so that by the end of our trip, we had hardly made a dent in our food supplies, in fact we were coming home with more food that we left with!

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It’s been over 30 years since our last visit to the Fairmont Resort in Leura, Blue Mountains. 

Originally designed as a north American style mountain lodge, it first opened in 1988, after a few years of controversy ( when economic development clashed with environmental concerns ). Only two hours drive from Sydney, it was the first 5-star hotel to be built in the area for decades, and quickly became THE place to go for a weekend in the mountains, especially in winter to enjoy Christmas in July. 

We took the girls there in the early 1990’s, for a couple of extended weekends. They loved the pool, the tennis court, the games rooms and roasting marshmallows on the big fireplace in the sunken lounge where Terry and I would sit warmly. Lavish buffets would be the rewards at the end of brisk and busy days spent bike riding and sight seeing ( young Shelley and Tania were not into hiking back then )

Fun in the spa , back in 1991!

Then, as we moved on in life and overseas, we stopped going. We heard the resort fell on hard time and changed hands a couple of times, to eventually fall into receivership in 2010. Subsequently bought by an Australian hotel group and management taken over by the French Accor group, it has been known as the Fairmont Resort & Spa Blue Mountains MGallery Sofitel for the past 10 years or so. 

Room with a view

We returned last weekend with Marc and Anne, for what is probably the only occasion we will be holidaying together this year ( both of them are now uni students holding part-time jobs, meaning they have a life of their own…). Keen to show them a part of our past lives, I was curious to see how much the 2022 Fairmont would compare to the 1991 version.  

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Salads. That’s what is on our menus in January. Because summer weather calls for lighter eating, the fridge is full with leftovers begging to be accommodated or if we’re lucky enough to be away, there’s a bounty of fresh produce to play with.

Mr T and I took an impromptu road trip to the mid-north coast earlier this month. It was a last minute decision, with not much time to check what provisions were in the truck. I grabbed a few fresh items from the house, knowing that I’d find them out of date on my return otherwise, and crossed my fingers that there was enough in the truck pantry to whip up easy meals along the road. Well, there was enough of everything except for olive oil to make salad dressing. Not wanting to make a special provisioning stop, I decided to go without and improvise. So here are 3 salads we enjoyed, using favourite pantry items for flavour packed dressings.

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Gallivanting 3 ways in 2021

Like 2020, 2021 has been a confusing and challenging year for sure! One with so many ups and down, filled with moments of worry and relief, sadness and joy, I am glad to see the end of it. Let’s say that this is a year when I have felt on a constant state of “dodging a bullet”. But unlike last year, we’ve managed to keep the anxiety at bay ( somewhat ) by staying positive and make the most of the “situation”.

While I know many people have been affected by COVID-19, financially thru loss of jobs, mentally due to lack of social interaction, I am glad no one in our circle of family and friends has actually been infected. We’ve all stayed healthy, which is probably what matters the most. 

Social distancing has been a blessing for our resident introvert, Mr T, who’s never been a fan of crowded spaces anyway. I can’t say the same about our grown up kids, who unfortunately are missing out on milestones like high school graduation, formals, schoolies, uni interaction and other festive activities young ones do, but I am impressed how they seem to navigate these troubled waters with aplomb and grace.

To the risk of stating the obvious, this blog has been the object of neglect this year. Not for lack of content, but rather absence of motivation ( commitment, some would say ).  Procrastination has been my nemesis, often replaced by laziness, when short on time, I have resorted to the easier and faster weekly Instagram and Facebook post. To those of you who follow me on these social media  platforms, I express my thanks for your interest in my food world.  To these readers of the blog, I am grateful for your perseverance which prompts me to write this one last post for the year.  No, it’s not about our 2021 Christmas ( the usual food marathon with the full Steen contingent ).

Instead, I’d like to talk about how 2021 has seen me cooking out of 3 different kitchens, mostly for our family of four, but also just for 2.

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When I sent the invite for this year’s Halloween party in mid-september, it felt like I was jumping the gun. I am by nature a pretty optimistic person, and when the powers-to-be predicted the easing of lockdown restrictions in Sydney  for October 23, I swung into planning mode for our annual Halloween dinner. All my guests must have been living on the same hope as I did, because everyone accepted the invite pretty much immediately.  Since the party was to be at our house, it led to an anxious wait as to how many people could actually visit. For a while, I stressed about having to tell half my guests they could not come anymore ( how do you pick? ) until thankfully, numbers were increased days before the party and we were allowed to have 20 visitors in our home! 

Not wanting to deal with extra stress, I picked the Mexican Day of the Dead theme, purely because it was easy, everyone loves the food and I figured that I could recycle the decorations and costume from last year.

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