Tag Archives: food blog

Foogoo, Lane Cove

(August 2018) Lane Cove food is on the up.  There’s been a spate of new openings in the last twelve months, prompting even the likes of Terry Durack to venture to this side of the bridge.  Foogoo, a modern Chinese diner, is among them and we’re here to exchange some post Europe travel stories with some friends.  A rustic style clock with French text gives away the venue’s previous incarnation, and it’s simply but pleasantly decked out.

And as we marvel with our friends over the fact that we bumped into each other in the Vatican, where some 25,000 people set foot each day, we enjoy some very tasty Chinese.  The ingredients are very obviously fresh, the quality good, and the service quite pleasant.  And we love that it is BYO. Pricing was very reasonable, though the serves are on the smaller side and we could have ordered a couple more dishes for our bottomless pit Small People, but even then it’s a good value meal and you can eat here for $30 a head or less.

The crispy soft shell crab is exactly that and not at all oily as it often is at many restaurants.  The chilli and lemon salt give it a lovely flavour.

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And we were very happy with our soupy xialongbao.  There are plenty of dumplings on the menu if you’re in the mood for pure yum cha.

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Also on the menu:
Delicately steamed barramundi with ginger and shallot

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Kung pao chicken with a pleasant but not overpowering amount of heat

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Wok fried black pepper fillet with oyster mushrooms and blackbean – I loved this

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We all really liked the Shanghai style dry noodle with shallot oil, sweet soy and crispy shrimp

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And there was a good amount of tasty BBQ pork in the special fried rice.

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The steamed Asian greens were so fresh.

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It’s a good addition to the ‘hood, and we’ll be back to try the rest of the menu.

Foogoo, 94B Longueville Road Lane Cove, Ph (02) 7900 7081

Puglia, part 2

Something you’ll see a lot of in Puglia is olive trees.  Everywhere.  Some really young, and some, revealed by their oversized, gnarled,  and intricately twisted trunks, really really old.  The oldest ones, clocking up some 3,000 years, are deemed archaeological monuments.  We passed a sign saying “olivari monumentali” (monumental olives) – I guessed some of those ones were there.  Anyhow, it turns out that Puglia is Italy’s biggest olive oil producer, cranking out some forty percent of the nation’s production, explaining their dominance in the landscape.

Something you’ll also see as you drive around Puglia is a multitude of towns you want to stop at or unusual buildings. “Stop the car!” I’d yell at the marito, which sometimes got a positive result, and sometimes didn’t.  Oh for more time.  So many more places to go back and see.  This little town, from a distance, looked like some kind of Disney fortress holding a princess.  Not as much close up, but I want to see what is behind those walls next time.

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Once we checked out of Don Ferrante in Monopoli, we had a few hours before we were due at our masseria.  I thought it was the perfect opportunity to detour to Grottaglie, a town renowned for it’s ceramics.  The Fasano family, the best known studio, have been in operation since the 1700’s.  There was plenty to like as we wandered from studio to studio, a few little things we bought home and others we bookmarked with photos – they happily ship to Australia.  By the way they all shut down at 1pm for the afternoon siesta, so do come in the morning or after 5pm and stay for dinner.   After a wander we headed to Cutrofiano where our beautiful farmhouse awaited (post on that coming soon!).

The next morning we headed to Grotta Zinzalusa.  The photos here completely understate the magnificence of this rock formation.  You can go in the cave for a wander, or hire an umbrella and chair for a day, or just lay your town on rocks and some did and jump into the sea from there.

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But we were after a sandy beach and headed further to Baia dei Turchi (Bay of the Turks).  You park your car and then walk a few hundred meters through thickish foliage down a narrow path, eventually emerging to a large stretch of sandy beach with a bit of wave.  There are chairs and umbrellas for hire, but a large public stretch if you prefer not to.  Beautifully clean and very enjoyable.

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That night we headed to the nearby small town of Galatina.  Like almost every Italian town, there is a piazza of sorts.  This one has some pretty greenery and lots of benches, where armies of Nonnos were gathered for a post siesta chat.  I came here to try the pasticciotti at Pasticceria Ascalone, the supposed inventor of the treasured Puglian sweet, back in the 1700’s.  And the pasticceria has been owned by the same family all this time, handed down generation after generation.  And it was a damn fine pasticciotto, but my favourite was still the one at the Gran Forno Santa Caterina.

We asked the lady behind the counter where we could head for a pizza, and she sent us to a place nearby called Goji.  I was a little dubious with a name like that, but it was great food with an even better ebullient owner who made us feel so welcome.  The Small People demolished everything.   There were also some expert dough throwing skills on display.

One night we went for a wander in the town of Nardo’, where we ate at a pleasant trattoria who’s name escapes me (and there was a great gelato shop and pasticceria nearby too).  Here I had to have orecchiette with cime di rapa (chicory), a signature dish of the region.  But this one came with some beautiful silky burrata which balanced out the bitterness.

We stopped by Santa Maria di Leuca, the very bottom tip of Puglia.  It’s a pretty little town too with some luxe day beds to spend the day if you like.

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But we were headed to Pescoluse, a lovely stretch of coastline.  It’s a large sandy beach where you can walk and walk quite far out, the water remaining shallow.  We relaxed here quite happily.

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That evening we headed to Otranto, another seaside town.  There is a huge castle and some lovely churches, but the laneways were very crowded and it was the one place I found rather touristy with an overload of gift and food shops and spruikers out the front.  I’m sure there are some good places to eat here but I think you need to do your homework beforehand.

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So we hopped back in the car and headed to the town of Maglie where we stopped at Il Fusticino.  The Small People happily devoured pizza daily, whereas my standard order was whatever fresh seafood pasta was available, not yet over the fact that I could get a pasta with a generous amount of seafood for 10-12 euro.   After dinner we popped in at the pasticceria next door (completing my daily pasticciotto fix) and handed over an embarrassingly small sum of money for four sweets.

I did really like Gallipoli (yes Italy has one too) a charming fishing village.   There was a seafood market here where the fish was so fresh that most of it was still alive.   Plenty of lanes and buildings to wander here, restaurants and cafes and market stalls. We stopped at a hole in the wall which was part deli and part bakery, where several locals were packed in buying stuff to take home for lunch.  We figured it had to be good and squeezed in to get some panzerotti.  So good.

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Lecce, often called “the Florence of the south” was also on our visit list.  Though our time here was shorter than we wanted with the GPS sending us around in dreadful circles.  Near the large piazza you’ll find some Roman style ruins, a castle or two (castles are du jour in Puglia, no town is complete without one), a lovely park, a good bit of shopping, and sweet shop after sweet shop!  The tools made from chocolate were very cool indeed.

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For dinner we went to Trattorie Le Zie.  This was one of those places where the simple appearance of the food totally belies it’s taste.   Absolutely delicious.    I finally ordered a “tiella” which is another local dish of baked mussels, rice and potatoes (I had tried to make thiss before our trip and failed miserably) which was just so flavoursome, I did email them and ask for the recipe but didn’t have any luck.  I must try and make this dish again.

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It was unfortunately at the end of our stay when we discovered the beautiful Melendugno coast.  The stretch here from Sant Andrea to San Foca is gorgeous, which beach after beach and stunning rock formations.   The area around Grotta della Poesia (Poetry Grotto) is particularly beautiful.

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Here you’ll see lots of mad Italians jumping off a cliff several stories high into the grottos (there is a smaller one for the less adventurous!).

More Puglia to come!

Focaccia Barese

All around Puglia in bakeries, takeaway holes in the wall and cafes, you see big delicious looking slabs of focaccia barese.  Traditionally, it’s covered with cherry tomatoes, and sometimes with olives.  We ate plenty of it.

During our time in Puglia we noticed a definite difference in the bread, pizza and other bakery goods – the taste, the texture and the lightness.  It was without a doubt the flour.  They are big users of semola rimacinata in the region, a twice milled, super fine flour.  The Bari Nonnas told us that is all they use for their orecchiette and cavatelli, whereas tipo 00 or other flours they were more likely to use for tagliatelle.

Wandering into the local supermarkets, I saw a huge array of types of flour.  Tipo 00 I use in several recipes, but I had never heard of Tipo 0 or Tipo 1, nor had I ever seen them in Australia.   They are very particular in this part of Italy about which should be used for certain recipes.  Next time I’d love to have some lessons from the nonnas and learn more.

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Once back home I went to Skorin Deli in Concord, who stock quite a good range of specialty flours, and got some semola rimacinata, keen to have a go at making some focaccia. This will make a medium size focaccia. You’ll need a tray with a bit of depth, not a flat pizza tray.

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Ingredients
125g of tipo 00 flour
125g of semola rimacinata
125g of mashed potato, cooled
3.5g of dried yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
200g cherry tomatoes
Dried oregano to taste
1 teaspoon salt
Salt, extra
Olive oil

Making it

In a bowl, combine the flour, semola, salt and potato and mix with your hands until completely combined.

In a separate bowl, combine 120ml of tepid water, add the yeast and sugar and combine well and let sit for five minutes. Add to the flour and potato mixture and combine, then add another 30mls or so of water and knead till you have a soft sticky dough.

Grease a tray with olive oil (I used a 30cm round tray), place the dough on it gently spreading out with your hands, leaving a 1cm space around the tray, which will fill as the dough rises. Cover and allow to rise for at least an hour.

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Halve the cherry tomatoes and gently press them into the dough. Turn on the oven to 180 degrees fan forced and let the dough continue to rise while the oven is heating.

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Sprinkle the focaccia with the oregano, salt and drizzle generously with olive oil, and cook for 25-30 minutes until golden. Yum!
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London

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Did I ever mention that I’m a bit of a rewards points junkie? I accumulate points every chance I can, hoarding them specifically for long haul travel every few years. And here we are, leaving the single digit Sydney winter morning temperatures behind, stepping into an unusual stretch of glorious twenty eight degree blue sky days in central London. “A heat wave” the UK press was calling it.

I hadn’t been to London for some years, and previous trips had been work related. I’d forgotten what the crowds are like. People think Sydney is getting crowded, we have nothing on these throngs. A friend I caught up with who had moved here from Sydney nine months earlier said that the crowds and congestion was one of the most difficult things to get used to.

With such lovely days we mostly walked rather than doing the underground, clocking up some 65km in four days. We saw, we shopped, we ate. But if you’re like The Marito and I, and need to start your day with a coffee, be prepared for some sticker shock. Coffee pricing was a bit of an anomaly. Our morning flat white was typically £4.50 (almost $9 Australian). Whereas you could get a pastry at Selfridges for £2, a takeaway sandwich at Marks and Spencer for as little at £1.30, a tasty ham and cheese baguette for £3.30 or two eggs on toast at a café for £6.50.

Sights and things to do

Tate Modern
One of the wonderful things about London is all the free museums, with a voluntary donation. Only special exhibitions require a paid ticket. I was really looking forward to the Tate Modern (there is also the Tate Britain) and with just cause. Walking around and seeing Dali, Warhol, Picasso, Magritte, Kandinsky and the like was a real privilege. We all loved it.

As is often the case with modern art, it can be controversial and prone to a few WTF moments. The Marito saw a white triangle hanging on the wall and thought it looked like something our builder had cut out at the reno site. And the smear of plaster looked courtesy of our gyprocker. A display on the floor of what looked like a series of poo perhaps was – when I read the description it said it was a reflection of “organic matter”.

It’s a fabulous art museum, don’t miss it.

The British Museum
This was hands down one of the most impressive history museums I have ever been to. Again, free entry. I had organised a “treasure hunt” through THAT Muse (Treasure Hunt At The Museum). The lovely Daisy met us at the entry and gave us a great museum overview and introduction, and then gave us the treasure hunt we had selected and the rules. It was really good fun finding the pieces on our hunt – we paired up in twos, and if there is another family on the hunt at the same time you can compete with them. It was an entertaining way to see the museum. They also do hunts at the V&A and the Louvre.

Hamleys
It’s sad that the iconic FAO Schwartz in New York closed down. Hamleys is the London version and great entertainment – multiple floors of fun, live product demos and cool displays. They have a lot of their own unique branded products as well as major brands. One of the Small People walked away with a giant BB8, who we hauled with us on the rest of our trip. He’s now safely esconced in Australia.

Kensington Gardens
We had a wander through the expansive Kensington Gardens, amused that many Brits not coping with the “heat wave” were lying in the park on towels with half their gear off. You pass all the cottages where the various royals and staff live before getting to Kensington Palace, where you can buy tickets to see a few rooms. On the day we were there it was Princess Diana’s birthday, and people had started putting flowers and tributes.

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Changing of the guard

It is one to tick off in London but it does move rather slowly and if you haven’t read up on how it works you have no idea what’s going on. We went up to the Victoria Monument to see it, which gave us freedom to move around and see the various troupes coming from various directions. I would have loved to have done a Buckingham Palace tour but it is only open for certain weeks of the year.

And here’s London’s nicest (camera shy) policeman – so incredibly polite, and also patient with the hoards of people that were asking him for directions.

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Borough Market
What a wonderful market! There’s a great variety of bread, pastries, fruit, meals to go, and lots of taste testing on offer. You could definitely come for breakfast our lunch. Some days of the week are only a “half market” so do try and catch the full market if you can.

I was really keen to go to Westminster Abbey, but the line was enormous.  If there is a “skip the line” ticket option, go that route.  We also wandered over to Big Ben but that was scaffolded for work, and Trafalgar Square was largely closed off too.  We had also planned a wander to Covent Garden but ran out of time.

The food halls
All the big department stores have food halls, usually in the basement or ground floor, where you can buy groceries but also sandwiches, salads, rotisserie items and ready meals. At the more “everyday” end is Marks and Spencer which we popped into quite a bit at lunch. The Small People, going through a teenage growth spurt, currently have hollow legs. They have almost reverted to newborn status, needing feeding every 2-3 hours, and we would regularly stop in for food on our walkabouts.

The next level up is Selfridges, who’s bakery and chocolate halls are impressive.

But the Harrods food hall is another level entirely, with luxe and incredible displays. At the caviar bar, where not a single seat was free, a quick menu scan showed prices starting at £44 and going up to £790.

Shopping
Oxford Street is a huge shopping strip, a good few kilometres on both sides to occupy you, same with Regent Street. You can also veer off into bits like Molton Lane which has some nice stores. There are all the big name brands you’d expect as well as some great British brands I’m partial to. Shops are generally open from 10am and close at 9pm, except for Sundays where it is more like 12pm to 6pm.

Breakfasts

Duck and Waffle
If you can’t be bothered queuing up for the London Eye, Duck and Waffle on level 40 of the Heron Tower in Bishopgate gives some sweeping views of London. Open 24/7 there is a pretty cool bar and a sit down restaurant, which we tried for breakfast. I had their signature duck & waffle dish and the confit of duck was delicious and indulgent. The Small People’s eggs were very good too, and they said that their first taste of “British sausage” hit the mark. It is a pricey breakfast with the view but also something different. Service was good.

45 Jermyn St
Next to Fortnum and Mason, I loved the interiors of this stylish bar and bistro and think it would be a fun dinner venue. The breakfast, while tasty, was very small and a bit frugal. My wild mushroom omelette was delicious, but came with no toast, and the small people got one small slice of bread each with their scrambled and fried eggs.

Dalloway Terrace
A stone’s throw from the British Museum, where we were headed that morning, Dalloway Terrace which I had heard good things about seemed like the ideal venue. We had a mixed bag experience. Service was all over the place and rather hopeless, but it was probably the best coffee we had. My shakshuka was incredibly delicious and I want to try and replicate it, but the Big Breakfast that the Small People ordered was dry and extremely unappealing, and not really that big for £16.

Daisy Green
Daisy Green is run by Aussies, as the Bondi Breakfast on the menu gives away. Daisy has a few siblings in other parts of London including Scarlett, Timmy and Darcey . It was a tasty and generous breakfast with some good creativity, we all really enjoyed it and certainly would have come back if it wasn’t our last day. We also had our first coffee under £4. Friendly staff.

Dinners

Unintentionally, we seemed to end up in the Soho area every night for dinner. I looked up various places before our trip and saw where I wanted to go, and they all just happened to be in the same area. Like New York’s Soho, there are plenty of choices clustered together.

Pastaio, Soho
I knew we’d be having plenty of pasta in Italy but I’d heard great things about Pastaio. And Steve Parle’s silky handmade strands certainly delivered, with a lovely simplicity that any nonna would approve of. There are also some great prosecco slushies, and my lemon one was very refreshing. It’s in a really fun laneway area, joining Kingly Lane where people were spilled onto sidewalks with a beer and lots of other venues to choose from. There are no bookings here.

Rosa’s Thai, Soho
A relatively cheap and cheerful Thai chain, there are a handful of Rosa’s across parts of London. The marinated pork skewers and the stir fried egglant dish were particularly delicious.

Yuautcha, Soho
This modern Chinese diner with a splash of blue rather than traditional red ticked a lot of boxes. Truly excellent service and really tasty food. We loved every dish.

They also have a very pretty pastry counter which you can eat in or takeaway.

NOPI, Soho
I had to try and Ottolenghi restaurant while I was in London, and booked NOPI sometime in advance since it was a weekend. Loved the fit out of this place with all the brass, and checkout the “hall of mirrors” style bathrooms. The food was delicious, I would love to get my hands on that eggplant recipe which The Marito and I particularly liked. And the twice cooked roast chicken. The only dish we didn’t enjoy was the chickpeas, as the spice overpowered and drowned the ingredients.

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Baked chocolate ganache, plum soil Malt barley ice cream, date fudge and chocolate soil

Accommodation
I had a whole bunch of Hyatt points (refer paragraph 1) from years of staying at Hyatt hotels for work and cashed them in for a few nights at Hyatt Regency The Churchill (otherwise this place is pretty pricey). Fantastic location, a stone’s throw from Selfridges and the Oxford St shopping strip, and the Marble Arch tube station around the corner. Decent sized rooms for central London but tiny bathrooms, if one of us was in there it was already crowded.

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Thanks for having us London! A few shots from around town.  Next up, Puglia.

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Quick “Pantry Brownies”

These are so called because the ingredients are ones I pretty much always have in the pantry.  So I can whip them up at a moment’s notice – and do very frequently – when I need a quick and easy treat for the Small People and their friends, or for a school bake sale or an unexpected visitor.  One pot, one baking tray and a whisk makes it all even easier.   They would probably keep for a few days in an airtight container but they never ever last that long.  Using a rectangular baking tray of approximately 23x33cm, I cut these into 24 brownies. You could probably jazz them up with nuts of your choice or chocolate chunks if you have them on hand.  Try and use good quality Dutch process cocoa.

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Ingredients
300g unsalted butter, cubed
500g caster sugar
150g Dutch process cocoa
Pinch of salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
6 eggs, lightly beaten
150g plain flour
Icing sugar, for dusting

Making them

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees fan forced.

In a pot on medium heat, place the butter, sugar and cocoa, and whisk gently until butter is all melted and it is well combined. Remove from the heat, add the vanilla and salt and combine. Add the eggs and combine well. Finally add the flower and whisk until the mixture is smooth and glossy.

Line your tray with baking paper and tip the mixture into the tray, giving it a gentle shake so that it is evenly spread.

Bake until just set (check after about 15 minutes).

Remove from oven and using the baking paper lift onto a wire rack to cool. Cut using a serrated knife to desired size and dust with icing sugar.

Orecchiette with chickpeas, capers and olives

My friend Francesca over at Almost Italian (my “blog Mother”) has been doing a lovely  “Pasta della settimana” series – pasta of the week – so I thought I’d get in on the action and give her one to try.

This particular pasta dish was actually inspired by Ottolenghi, who does a spiced up North African influenced version where the chickpeas are fried off in cumin and caraway.  I ditched both and “Italianafied” the concept.  I really liked the end result – you have the smokiness of the paprika, the sweetness of the tomatoes, the saltiness of the capers, the zing of the touch of lemon and the freshness of the herbs.  If you don’t like smoked paprika you could use standard ground or sweet, or if it came to it, omit it entirely. They can be harder to find, but I much prefer capers in salt than vinegar, so that’s what I have used here (Italian Zuccato brand, but I think Sandhurst also does them now if you want to go local), and I’m a fan of Sandhurst’s green olives too. I used Molisana orecchiette which were great, it has become one of my favourite dried pasta brands.  Serves 4.

orecchiette

Ingredients
50ml extra virgin olive oil
1 medium brown onion, diced
250g cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tbsp. tomato paste
2 tsp smoked paprika
3 tbsp. capers, well rinsed and coarsely chopped
2 tsp lemon zest
1/3 cup coarsely chopped pitted green Sicilian olives
500ml hot chicken or vegetable stock
400g orecchiette
1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup coarsely chopped basil
1/2 cup coarsely chopped continental parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Making it

In a large deep frying pan on medium heat, add the oil and onion with a pinch of salt and fry off until the onion softens. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and stir occasionally gently, until the tomatoes just begin to soften. Add the paprika, lemon, capers, olives and combine and then add the stock and bring to a simmer.

Add the orecchiette and two cups of water as needed (you’ll need to regulate the amount of water and add a little as the pasta cooks if it is looking too dry) and simmer gently until the pasta is cooked to your taste. When the orecchiette are almost cooked, add the chickpeas and simmer for another couple of minutes. Season as desired. Finally stir through the basil and most of the parsley, reserving a little parsley to sprinkle on top for serving. Delicious.

In My Kitchen, May 2018

A new month has rolled around and with it a new edition of the IMK global monthly link up, currently hosted by Sherry’s Pickings.   Here’s what has been happening in the Napoli kitchen the last few weeks.

In my kitchen is a new – and very appropriate – sign above the pantry.  The Small People have no sooner finished a meal when they are sticking their head in the pantry or fridge looking for “a little snack”.  Having been premmie twins, they have always literally been very skinny Small People and friends and family are left agog when they see the staggering quantities of food they are currently putting in those tiny frames.  A growth spurt is due methinks.

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A darling friend who is Greek Orthodox recently bought me over a batch of her koulourakia, Greek Easter biscuits.   They were absolutely delicious, I’ve asked her to translate the recipe for me.

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In my kitchen is a fresh yuzu!  Yuzu is a Japanese citrus often used in sauces, dressings and desserts, which is now starting to be cultivated locally (usually it’s just imported from Japan in concentrate form).  A lovely friend has a gorgeous farm in the Blue Mountains where she is growing them.  Her harvest is eagerly sought after by Tetsuya, Rockpool and Sake (“our Yuzu Lady is here”, cry the Japanese chefs). But with very little rain this year, it has unfortunately not been a great crop, so I felt very special when she gave me one! It’s incredibly fragrant.  I made a little Japanese style dressing for a salad.

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Also on the Japan theme, I love a lot of the little Japanese gadgets at Daiso.  It’s been a very handy place over the years to find stuff for many of the Small People’s school projects, craft, special theme days and for their stationery.  But they have a lot of great kitchen gadgets too.  I saw this mini mandolin and thought I’d give it a whirl.  If I need consistent very thin slices for just one onion or one cucumber, this little version is great and much handier than getting out my large full scale mandolin, as well as quicker and easier to clean. For $2.80, it’s a win.

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A #kitchenfail (which we don’t often share on IMK!).  I’m a bit obsessed with Puglia at the moment, and I thought I’d try to make one of the region’s popular dishes called a Tiella Barese.  It’s basically onion, tomato, aborio rice and mussels baked in the oven.  I was wondering how the rice would cook with the small quantity of liquid suggested, and I was right it didn’t.  So I probably did something wrong.  It did look and smell awesome so it’s a real shame it didn’t work out!

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In some sad news, one of our chooks, Lily, passed away recently.  The girls were scratching around the yard and some kind of disagreement went on between them and Lily was knocked over.  I scooped her up and held her but she was clearly stressed and breathing heavily and not long after I think her little heart gave out.  The Small People took it badly.  It’s strange going to the coop every day and only seeing five of the girls, it will take some getting used to; they were very quiet in the days that followed. You were a good little chicken Lily.

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I hope you are having a lovely autumn, or spring for my northern hemisphere readers. And wishing a Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there.