Food, glorious food.

From reading several blogs, and talking to neighbours and friends, there seems to be a common thread to everyone’s new status of ‘stay at home’ citizenship. We’re all cooking. Some are sticking with tried and true recipes, others are taking up new challenges from learning to bake scones, to boldly starting a sour dough culture from scratch.

The oven in our household is also getting a good work out as meals and snacks take a more prominent place in our schedules. Bone stock, normally reserved for the depth of the winter months has commenced earlier than usual this year. You’re all no doubt aware that chicken soup is genuinely good for colds and flus, not the canned or packet variety, but a good home made chicken soup. After a bit of research a few years ago on the benefits of home made chicken soup, it seems the health benefits come from the bone stock. The longer the bones are cooked the more they break done, and the more minerals are leached out into the stock. For mine I use 2 – 3 chicken frames, an onion, a large carrot, 2 stalks of celery including the leafy top, a good handful of salt, and a slug of cider vinegar. Firstly I brown everything on the stove top, then add the liquid and salt, and simmer slowly in the slow cooker for at least 36 hours. I have a sheltered position outside where I can leave it to simmer so as it’s not cluttering up my kitchen, and cooking it outside prevents my house from developing the permanent aroma of chicken soup. I’m not one for passing on exact recipes, mainly because I rarely use an exact recipe. If you want to give your own slow cooked stock a go, the guide I’ve provided may set you on your way, or if you like everything to be listed in precise detail, a google search will bring a good amount of recipes for you to choose from.

The bones almost completely break down, and when strained I end up with about 3 litres of a very cloudy, very tasty stock from my slow cooker. I store it in the fridge leaving the fat to settle on top which helps to preserve it. It lasts me for 4 – 5 days and gets used in gravies and soups, added to stews and casseroles, and I cook my rice in it. I started adding bone stock to our daily winter diet approximately two winters ago, and neither Paul nor I have had a cold since. We used to get at least one each winter. Maybe coincidence, maybe not, but I like to think it’s doing it’s job by giving our immune system a great boost. I figure starting on bone stock a little earlier this year with the Covid-19 pandemic raging through the world can’t do us any harm.

As we all know, one needs to eat a balanced diet for good health. Our diet is completely balanced with A good amount of protein, bone stock, our five serves of fruit and veg, grains, etc on one side of the scales, and all the naughty stuff on the other side of the scales. I don’t think that’s how the experts recommend the scales should be weighted, but that’s how it is in our household. One delightful addition to the naughty side of the scales recently has been a couple of batches of Cinnabon’s, a very special cinnamon bun. If you’ve had the pleasure of indulging in a treat from one of the Cinnabon shops throughout the world, you’ll understand me when I say that to eat one of those sweat, cinnamony, sticky, buns could easily be described as ‘food porn’. Anyone listening to all the oohs and aahs that that seem to come with every delicious mouthful would be forgiven for thinking something other than eating was going on.


We came across our first Cinnabon store In Dubai several years ago, and experienced one of the most memorable food experiences we’ve ever had. The sweet, yeasty scrolls are served warm with a sticky cream cheese icing, and they are, oh so delicious! A google search for a Cinnabon recipe will bring up countless choices. Having a thermomix, I chose a recipe that used my machine to do the kneading for me. When I make a batch, we give away a few, freeze some for later, and eat far more than we should on the day they’re baked. Last time I baked them I made two dozen and sent an email to the ladies from my walking group advising the ‘drive through’ bakery was open. Several ladies drove by to pick up one or two for their morning tea. In the days of social distancing it enabled us to have a brief face to face catch up, albeit through the car window. Just another novel way to catch up with friends without breaking the rules. I hope everyone else is managing to fit in some catch ups with friends while still sticking to the guidelines. Would the idea of a drive through bakery work for you and your friends?

My first ever Grazing Table

The feast

Firstly – I’m back. It’s been a long, long time between posts – way to long. It’s a new year now, and the plan for the new year is to be more diligent with my writing in 2019. Enough said – now onto our family Christmas feast, and my first ever Grazing Table.

Christmas day was a quiet affair with just Paul, myself and Mr Tilley. The family arrived for our family get together on the 27th. Having noticed that Grazing Tables are gaining in popularity, I thought I’d give one a go. Here’s how it played out…….

First came the shopping with a trip to the Bunbury Farmer’s Market. I must tell you all about the Bunbury Farmer’s Market one day – it’s an awesome place, and my ‘go to place’ for food shopping for any special occasion.

Next I laid out a rough plan of my 120cm round table with the placement of all the components. For height I chose a round thermos pot in the centre topped with a perforated place mat which supported a cake stand. I froze big discs of ice for the thermos pot to keep the cake stand of charcuterie cool and fresh. I also froze two pyrex dishes with ice which I placed under a large oval plate of seafood. Large ice discs last hours longer than small cubes of ice.

Hessian table covering, plates laid out, and a selection of crackers waiting to be opened

I purchased some hessian to cover the table which I secured to the table with random pleats folded into it. The idea was to create a rustic look. A big bucket of gum leaves was sitting in the laundry tub ready for garnishing. The plan was to completely fill the table with colourful food and garnishes.

Then came putting together the components.

For the cheese board I chose one each of a blue, white, orange and a green cheese (the Farmer’s market has a lovely green sage cheese), and I garnished this with black and green grapes, fig cake, fresh figs, and strawberries.

Cheeses with fresh fruits

For the seafood platter I kept it very simple with a cream cheese and smoked oyster roulade topped with black lumpfish caviar and thinly sliced lemon (a dish that never fails to wow and literally takes around five minutes to make). On one side of the roulade I placed boiled egg halves topped with red lumpfish caviar, and the other side I filled with smoked salmon slices. Cucumber slices and crackers completed this dish.

simple seafood garnished with eggs and cucumber

The charcuterie was packets of sliced leg ham, mixed salamis etc on the top tier, and smaller chorizo slices on the lower level.

Charcuterie took centre stage

With the main players sorted next came all the supporting dishes, these were:

A big wooden fruit bowl lined with lettuce leaves and topped with whole baby cucumbers, a mix of different coloured cherry tomatoes, snow peas, and fresh blanched asparagus.

A small dish of hard boiled eggs in mayonnaise.

A platter with some more blanched asparagus, sliced melon and slices of proscuitto.

A dip

Green and black olives

Parfait glasses with celery sticks, spring onions, and cheese straws

Baguettes, whole grain sour dough, and a walnut loaf.

Several different types of crackers, pork crackle and even a tube of pringles.

Garnishes included gum leaves, whole pears, whole capsicums, and halves of oranges, kiwi fruits, and pomegranates. Then all the remaining gaps were filled with dried apricots, walnuts in their shells, as well as piles of shelled mixed nuts.

Completed with gum leaves and all the garnishes

The ice lasted for several hours and managed to keep everything cool, and with a light table cloth used to cover everything between the several trips everyone made to replenish plates, I was satisfied there was no danger of anything being less than fresh.

A dessert grazing platter followed (apologies – we forgot to take photos). The platter consisted of jam jars with individual trifles, a pile of meringue nests, a bowl of mixed berries and a bowl of whipped cream. All the gaps on the platter were then filled with broken up bars of white, dark and milk chocolate, chocolate covered almonds and fruits, white coconut covered chocolates, fresh cherries, strawberries and blueberries, and then some mixed jelly sweets for additional colour of green, red, orange and yellow. It was a huge, spectacular platter which I thought was completely over the top. Was I ever surprised though when we nibbled our way through more than half of it throughout the evening.

It was all a huge success.

I think I’ve found my hostessing niche, but be warned it’s not cheap to completely fill a table. and the table does need to be full. The idea of a Grazing Table is to mimic a medieval feast with a table brimming with food and colour. We were careful to clear the table before anything started to deteriorate so as to maximise left overs.  The grand children were happy to go home with a big hamper of goodies to go towards their New Year’s Eve celebrations, and we will have cold meats, chocolates and crackers to last us for many weeks to come.

This was my first ever Grazing Table. I can’t wait for another excuse…….


Goanna Cafe and Gallery

On the last Wednesday of the month my walking group celebrate any birthdays from the month over lunch. The choice of venue is made by the birthday girls. It was my choice in May, so I chose the Goanna Cafe and Gallery, a regular choice with the ladies, and one that never fails to please.

Two tables this month

The second table sharing a joke

Located in Quindalup, towards the northern end of the Margaret River wine region the licensed Goanna Cafe is best described as quirky, unpretentious and relaxed. Their menu showcases the best and freshest of locally sourced ingredients in a choice of simple, understated dishes that taste superb.

House Lasagna of pumpkin, cauliflower, parmesan with sage and walnut beurre noisette, charred broccolini and mixed leaves

Sunja’s Korean Bibimbap, mixed rice with Asian vegetables, marinated beef mince, fried egg, kimchi with soy sauce & Korean hot sauce on the side

I choose the Korean Bibimbap – it was delicious. There were of course lots of other choices on the menu but I’ve only mentioned the ones I took photos of. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed their meals, and followed with coffees and sweets chosen from the cake cabinet.

Mmmm – what to choose. I chose the home made rocky road, it hit the spot perfectly

A small gallery on the premises carries an evolving range of local artwork, jewellery, scarves, homewares, and produce, with a focus on handcrafted and quality pieces. The cafe predominantly gives space to emerging artists allowing them an opportunity to develop their work in a supportive environment.

I love scarves, but resisted on this visit

More items in the gift shop

The cafe is very popular on weekends, so it’s wise to book. There’s a normal playground for the ankle biters, as well as an adventure playground. Dogs are welcome too in the outside eating area with plenty of undercover tables to choose from.

Adventure playground to keep the young ones entertained

It’s situated in a lovely bush setting, which has been taken advantage of by the addition of a Sculpture Walk.

One of several sculptures

It’s not the first time the Walkers who Lunch have dined here.  As always there were no complaints, so it certainly won’t be the last.  Goanna Cafe, as usual, was a real pleasure.

Vasse Felix

What a busy time we’ve been having lately. Sunday 27th May, my birthday, commenced a busy week of wining and dining, and wow – did we commence it in style.

Paul took me to Vasse Felix winery and restaurant for lunch.

We arrived just on time so didn’t have time to take advantage of the wine tasting. Walking upstairs to the restaurant the first thing you see in the huge, and tastefully rustic dining room, is the suspended fire – I want one!

A warm welcome

We were shown to our table, and our waitress for the day introduced herself, and explained the menu. It’s a small menu, exactly how I like a menu to be. When it’s small there’s a much better chance of everything being fresh. The menu changes daily according to seasonal produce. With things listed like, Straciatella, Betel leaves, Bigoli, and Duck Yolk it definitely needed some explanation. I hadn’t heard of most of them, and even if I had, I’d never tried them.

Explanations given, we made our choices. Firstly a glass of bubbles for me, and a half glass of Cab Sav for Paul to have with our starters of sourdough with whipped burnt butter to share, marinated olives for Paul, and Marron, orange, chilli, and rice in a betel leaf for me.

The marron came as a shelled tail with the other ingredients in a betel leaf, served on a small hot rock. I was told that I was to roll the leaf around the marron tail and eat in from my fingers, much like a small taco.

The verdict on the starters: The marron – very different, and yummy. The bread delicious, the burnt butter – so good I’ve tried to replicate at home (the waitress told me how), the olives – ok.

Next came our shared entree of Duck parfait, stout and  chicken skin, served with Lees crisp-breads. The Duck parfait was a sort of whipped pate, very light, and I gather the stout was an ingredient in the parfait. I believe the crispy crumb sprinkled over the dish was the chicken skin. The Lees crisp-breads are made from the left over yeast sediment from the bottom of the chardonnay barrels.

The verdict on the shared entree: Wow, Wow, Wow!!! I have never, ever tasted food so good before. I moaned in ecstasy trying to savour every bite, but at the same time trying not to cram it in quickly so as to get more than my share. I hope I didn’t sound like Sally in that famous scene in, When Harry meets Sally.

Next our mains. Paul chose a fillet steak with Davidson plum, beetroot and hay (not sure what the hay was,  it wasn’t hay that a horse would eat). I chose the Pork, eel, eggplant and miso. We had a side of broccolini, romesco, lardo and almond with it. I had a half glass of the cab sav with mine. I’m happy with only a few sips of any wine, so Paul had to finish it for me (no hardship for sure).

The verdict on the mains: Paul declared his delicious. Mine was tasty but nothing memorable (perhaps that was because I was still in seventh taste heaven after having the parfait).

Then onto deserts: I chose the Mandarin, honeycomb, milk. Paul opted for Cropwell Bishop Shropshire cheese served with blackcurrant gel and lavish crisp breads (plus an additional portion of the Lees crisp-breads that we had with our parfait)

The verdict on the deserts: Paul thoroughly enjoyed his cheese and said the blackcurrant went perfectly with it. The Mandarin desert, which was a sort of a mandarin mouse with a mandarin sponge topping – well if I hadn’t just had the best food I’d ever eaten by way of the Duck parfait, I may well have been declaring the Mandarin desert the best food ever. It was light, and creamy, and absolutely delectable.

We spent nearly three hours over lunch. That length of time for two people can sometimes indicate the service was slow and the courses dragged out. Not so – everything including the timely service of the drinks and each course was absolutely perfect. Needless to say, Vasse Felix has jumped to the top of our list for special dining in the south west. It’s in front of anything else we’ve tried by a county mile.

And now before I close off this post, I’ll give you a bit of photographic tour around the public part of the winery.

Vines in all their autumn glory

Underground cellar in the distance, a bit like a hobbit home built into the hillside

A granite sculpture outside the cellar

A good selection of wines in the cellar (so I’m told – I wouldn’t know a good wine from a bad wine)

The wine that first saw Vasse Felix hit the world market in 1972

There’s lots of big sculptures, here’s another one

And there you have a bit of a summary of Vasse Felix winery, located on the corner of Caves Road and Tom Cullity Drive, Margaret River. A dining pleasure!



Walkers who lunch – celebrating the royal wedding

We couldn’t let the wedding of Meghan Markle to Prince Harry go past without our own event to help them celebrate. Jill, one of the, ‘walkers who lunch’ opened her house for a ‘ladies only’ gala event.

The royal couple

The invitations to our party included a dress code – recycled wedding attire. It could be your own wedding dress, your own mother of the bride outfit, your own bridesmaids gown, or a recycled retro wedding outfit, including of course any posh wedding guests garments. I love an excuse to play dress up for a party. It builds the anticipation for the actual event over how ever long it takes to find and get one’s outfit ready. In my case for this event, that took several weeks.

The build up to the wedding had most of us either trying on things from our own wardrobes or trunks, seeing what we could borrow, or hunting through charity shops, or retro recycling shops for something suitable to wear.

12 September 1982

I chose the charity shops, and was lucky enough to find a wedding dress that had some elements similar to my own wedding dress from 1982, (I haven’t still got my original dress, nor would it fit me anyway). The charity shop dress was made of the same butter cream satin (used as a lining in my original dress), and the bodice was adorned with pearl beading, as was mine. Importantly, it wasn’t size 10. In fact it was probably around a size 20. I could have worn it as is, and said I’d lost weight – that would have been fun, or alter it to fit. I chose the later.

From the outside it passed (just). The inside would have had the original owner mortified with the lining ripped out, and seams taken in with 5 inch seams, not cut, not neatened – just whizzed in on the machine. Taking the heavily beaded bodice in on the machine wasn’t feasible, so that was roughly tacked in. With the help of a couple of safety pins it held together.

I’d enlisted Paul to play to Chauffeur for myself a few others. Our event was to kick at 5.30pm, two hours prior to Meghan and Harry’s. Linda and Dianne were dropped off at our place at 4.30pm for a quick glass of champagne and a couple of photos prior to leaving to pick up Beth.

Linda still fits her blue wedding dress from 1982, Dianne chose a bridal negligee from a charity shop

After picking up Beth, we drove by Brian and Kayes so as we could travel in convoy. Brian and Kaye will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary next year. Can you believe it – she still fits into her wedding gown (and didn’t have let out the seams).

Kaye – still as gorgeous and petite as she was almost 50 years ago

Then on to the party.

Jill, our gorgeous hostess chose a hired, retro outfit – fit for a queen

A group photo of the early arrivals

Sadly, Paul left before the rest of women arrived – so apologies to the ladies who missed out being included in this group photo. I’m disappointed not to have slipped my own little camera in so as to have been able to take a bigger group photo once all the guests arrived.

We watched the wedding whilst sipping champagne, kindly poured by Jill’s partner John who appeared at intervals from an adjoining area, dressed suitably to play butler to us for the evening. Canapes` were passed around, followed by smoked salmon, and Coronation Chicken (a royal dish first created for the Queens coronation) with an asparagus salad.

We watched the wedding live on TV.  Those poor wedding guests who had to contain their looks of boredom, annoyance or amusement as the infamous sermon was delivered by American preacher, Michael Bruce Curry, the 27th Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the world watching them all. Who will ever forget that speech – to say it stole the show is an understatement…… I just wish it was in a nice way. Anyway it was certainly memorable. Hellalujah!

Elton Johns face captured by the cameras says it all

At first we laughed, then we jeered, and finally we yelled at him (on the TV) to get off – and still he went on, and on, and on…… I’m sure if we’d had some rotten tomatoes we may have flung a few his way, as I’m sure would some of the actual wedding guests (at least in our minds anyway).

Finally he finished, the ceremony finished, and we finished off our own royal dinner with the most delicious cakes, home made chocolates, and tea served in fine bone china regency cups.

It was a wonderful evening, full of love and laughter. It was a pleasure to celebrate the wedding of Meghan Markle to Prince Harry in our little corner of the world, with our gorgeous hostess, Jill, and with the ‘the walkers who lunch’.

Lot 80

When we arrived to live in Busselton approximately 18mths ago our neighbours to be, Kaye and Brian, introduced themselves. I’m so pleased they did. Not only have they both become great friends, Kaye also introduced me to a women’s walking group, and through the walking group I’ve made some fantastic friends and acquaintances.

We meet in the car park of a local beach cafe two mornings a week, walk for an hour along the beach path, and follow up with a coffee. There’s usually at least eight women, but sometimes the numbers can be up around 20. Everyone walks at their own pace, so there’s never any pressure to keep up with the leaders. We walk, we chat, we coffee – and chat some more. It usually takes about an hour around the coffee table before we’ve put the world to rights and can head on home to get about our daily business.

Putting the world to rights after our morning walk

Once a month we lunch together, with the people having birthdays that month choosing the place. Being at the head of the Margaret River wine region, there’s no shortage of cafes and wineries to choose from. The choice for April was, Lot 80.

Lunching at Lot 80

Lot 80 is located north of Dunsborough at Eagle Bay (54 Sheens Road). Turn left onto Sheens Road off the Meelup Beach Road. There’s a small section of dirt road, but definitely ok for two wheel drive. They are open from 11am – 5pm Wednesdays and Thursdays, and Friday – Sunday from 11am – 7.30pm.

They have a good wine list, and a selection of tap beers and ciders. However, I believe they’re really making a name for themselves with their selection of gins. They have a whole room dedicated to, ‘Gin Master classes’ and gin tastings, with close to 200 gins to choose from. As well as gins from all around the globe, they have around 15 tonics to select from. The gin tastings cost $25 per person, with five Australian gins, and four international gins to sample.

My favourite – Sangria was on the specials board

The food menu was just the right size. I get nervous if menus are to large – not only do I have trouble choosing, but I also wonder how a restaurant can keep the ingredients of an extensive menu fresh and still keep the prices within reason.  Everyone seemed happy with their selection, and most tried to chose small meals or entrees to save room for desert.

The fish ‘n chips looked pretty good

I chose the trio of Vegan dips – Peas, mint and crispy lychee; almond & vanilla sweet potato; and spiced hummus; served with Turkish bread ($18). Both the hummus and the sweet potato dips were good, but that green minty pea dip – well that was really good! And the Turkish bread – I would have thought Turkish bread was pretty much the same everywhere, but this was extra special. Soft and fluffy on the inside with a crispy, salted, lightly oiled crust served nice and warm and toasted. I know I said we tried to order small,  but with six big pieces of Turkish bread, there was no way I was going to have room for desert if I finished my meal. Much as I hate to waste food, I had heard the deserts couldn’t be forfeited. So, what was I to do……Gee we waste a lot of food in the Western world!

The sticky date pudding was worth saving room for (but isn’t it almost always). I wished I’d taken a photo of it as it had a rather unique shape as far as sticky date puddings go, causing a few giggles from the ladies nearby. I’ll leave you to imagine the shape, I don’t think you’ll need me to describe it further……

I was very happy with this months choice of restaurant. Good food and good company – what a pleasure!


Mr Tilly’s first big day out

Yippee, Tilly’s now fully vaccinated, and we can take him further afield without fear of him contacting the deadly Parvo Virus.

He started puppy training last week, and the comment was that we have a very intelligent dog on our hands. The comment came with a bit of an implied warning – beware, if you’re not firm he’ll run rings around you both! And don’t we just know it….. But so far we’re very happy with his progress, and his training.

We’re aware he needs lots of stimulation, so with spare time on a fine day last week it seemed the perfect opportunity to take him out and about. We started by attaching his lead, which usually means a walk to our beach – and didn’t he just let us know we weren’t living up to his expectations when instead of heading in the direction of the beach, we attached him to his tether on the back seat of the car. We ignored his complaints, and within a minute or two he had settled back to enjoy the ride.

First stop, Gracetown. Gracetown’s a gorgeous little surfing town near to Margaret River. The township’s small, with virtually no commercial facilities, but with some very expensive real estate. The surrounding location is gorgeous.

The 135 km Cape to Cape walking track has a section that follows the shore-line on the edge of the town. Most of the Cape to Cape walk meanders through National Parks, but the section on the edge of Gracetown is Dog Friendly.
We had only followed the track a short distance when we came across steps (lots of steps) leading down to an interesting rock beach. Tilly wasn’t sure at first how to tackle the steps, but one flight down and he had found his rhythm and would have made short work of the remainder had he not been on his lead. As it’s the first of the warm weather we have to be very snake aware as they start moving about, finding warm spots to sun bake in. So, even if he had fully learned ‘recall’ yet, he still wouldn’t be walking freely at this time of the year in bush areas.

Returning to the car, the next stop was directly above the surfers. The surf was good, but not fearsome by their standards. Believe me, it can get fearsome in that area. You’ll notice in some of the photos the surfers wear helmets for protection. The rides they get are good and long – but if dumped, the power of the water above, and the reef beneath can have dire consequences.

Note the crash helmet

The power of the waves as they crash into a rock

One more beach stop at Prevelly Point, Margaret River’s world famous competition surfing spot. There’s been a lot of work done on the foreshore since I was last there. What an awesome spot to sit and watch awesome waves, and the awesome folk who are brave enough to surf them.

Brave people

By this stage Mr Tilly was getting a bit tired, and we were getting a bit hungry. We headed inland to a place where Paul had been promising himself a sample of their ale – Cowaramup Brewing company. They have a lawned area where dogs are welcome, so Tilly and I settled down under the shade of umbrella while Paul headed inside to fetch some beers. A pint of IPA for Paul, and 1/2 pint for myself, and they provided us with a large bowl of water for Tilly. We ordered one serve of beer battered fish, chips and salad which we shared. It was easily enough for the two of us. The batter was crisp and delicious, but the fish was a bit tasteless and let it down a bit. The chips were perfect, and the salad small, but adequate. There were lots of choices on the menu, and we had trouble deciding on what would have. So, with the fish letting this meal down a bit, but everything else being absolutely perfect for a day out with our fur ball – we’ll definitely be making a return trip to sample one of their other menu delights.

Lunch over with we wandered around the grounds with Tilly’s leash extended so as he could romp around a bit. We don’t have any lawn, so the grassed area was something he hasn’t seen since he left his birth home.  He clearly loved it, jumping around happy as a pig as mud – or should I say, a pup in grass……

‘Are you looking at me’!

Grass – happy as a pig in mud

or ‘a pup in the grass’

He slept all the way home. He’s such a little treasure, a real pleasure!