Many of you know that my day job is totally unrelated to food. I am a vet, and this means a career of long hours, late nights and a roller-coaster of emotional highs and lows. Attaining a work life balance has always been a battle for me and the Boy plays a huge role in making me see the bigger picture. Whilst I would never neglect to care for a patient that needs me, to be at my best I need to stay fit and well rested otherwise, like many of my colleagues, I face burn out.
Depression is rife among veterinarians, in our profession we are four times more likely to attempt suicide than the average person. A frightening fact, yet, one that most people in our industry have had to face one way or another.
Having been together for nearly seventeen years, the Boy and I know each other too well and he can sniff out the beginnings of me getting close to my breaking point from miles out. As I reached the end of working nine consecutive long days he suggested we take time out from our weekend chores and plan a weekend long lunch.
Normally I am the one that will select where we eat out due to the ever hungry thirst for content this blog can create. Conversely, the Boy is not interested in hitting the hot spots but would rather take any opportunity for a drive into the countryside. He proposed we head back to the Bickley Valley so I promptly booked us a table at the Vineyard Kitchen located at Brookside Winery.
I recall visiting this beautiful winery during the Bickley Valley Harvest Festival however on that day they were fully booked and so we only got to taste and purchase their wines. Over a year had passed and I was very keen to return.
We started off at the cellar door where we were warmly greeted by the owners Peter and Fay Fels. Their smiles were so infectious that before we knew it we were working our way through tasting all of their wines. Our favourites were the 2012 Methode Champenoise and the 2012 ‘One Acre Reserve’ Cabernet Sauvignon.
There are a number of gluten free and vegetarian options on the restaurant menu with a strong focus on local produce some of which is grown on their property themselves. I started with the roast beetroot and goats cheese brulée.
A whole roasted beetroot had been cored in the centre, filled with goats cheese and served warm. There was a thin layer of crackable toffee over the top but it wasn’t overpoweringly sweet. It was an interesting dish and totally worked as a creative but hearty vegetarian entrée.
The Boy ordered the pan-fried sardines which were crumbed and served with a light salad. A random choice for him as although I love sardines, I cannot say I ever would have considered him to be a fan. Regardless of this he still enjoyed them but admitted it wasn’t really his thing.
For my main dish I ordered the twice cooked duck leg. The duck meat slithered of the bone without any encouragement and was served on a generous bed of creamy porcini and mascarpone risotto. The skin had a thin crispiness to it such that I temporarily cast away all my recent concerns about weight gain and ate the lot. You only live once right?
On our recent trip to Esperance the Boy fell in love with things wrapped in filo, sampling baked Camembert cheese and a fish and prawn curry both wrapped in this flaky treat. Upon seeing the slow cooked lamb shoulder parcel on the menu he caved into a rare moment of meat eating.
Unlike me, the Boy is a man of few words, and my best way at measuring a dish’s awesomeness factor is by the amount of head nods and moans. The lamb shoulder scored high in both of these important measurements!
As we ordered dessert I was told by our jovial waiter that the gluten free mixed berry clafoutis would be a twenty minute wait. This was actually a small blessing in disguise as I was nearly bursting at the seams with all the food we had eaten so far.
Clafoutis is one of those French desserts that makes me feel a little nostalgic for my ancestry and upbringing. Traditionally made with cherries, this dish works well with any slightly zingy, juicy fruit.
The Vineyard Kitchen’s clafoutis was worth the wait. The balance of tart and sweet flavours was executed perfectly with plump berries embedded in the thick, slightly wobbly baked almond batter. I get so excited when my gluten free dessert is interesting!
The Boy ordered the dark chocolate peanut butter pie with vanilla ice cream, presumably in part because it came with ice cream. Whilst the two of us have an enormous amount of compatibilities, one of our few differences is our palate for desserts. He can really take or leave them and will always be satisfied with a simple bowl of ice cream.
Having wanted to visit the Vineyard Kitchen for such a long time there was a risk that it wouldn’t live up to the hype I created in my mind. But despite the long wait to return back for lunch, it was impossible not to fall in love with this place. The quaint gardens, the warm welcome at the cellar door, the prompt and relaxed service and most importantly the award-winning wines accompanied with sumptuous food were all key ingredients in teleporting me from a state of frazzled burn out to total relaxation.
Disclaimer: Chompchomp was an invited guest of her husband, otherwise know as “The Boy” and was lucky enough to also score a case of wine from him to continue to drink once she arrived home. Vineyard Kitchen 5 Loaring Road, Bickley WA 6076 | (08) 6162 2070 | www.thevineyardkitchen.net.au
The Swan Valley have recently been awarded the accolade of becoming Australia’s first Humane Food Region. Earlier last month I attended their launch party held at Sandalford Winery where I learnt all about this RSPCA driven initiative.
The Humane Food movement is aimed giving recognition to businesses that are dedicated to improving the lives of food production animals to allow them to live a more natural and a happy life. To become involved businesses must undergo an accreditation process and those that meet the high standards set by the RSPCA are identified on the Choose Wisely website.
Entwined in the Valley was the first official public event hosted in the Valley since it was declared a Humane Food Region. It was an elaborate evening of seven stunning courses matched with individually selected wines held on the grounds of Houghton Winery.
The indulgent degustation was prepared by Masterchef judge George Calombaris and one of my favourite Perth-based chefs Kiren Mainwaring. The world-famous Ch’ng Poh Tiong was our smiling sommelier for the evening. With Anna Gare as the MC, she successfully managed to maintain lively banter with the chefs and sommelier on stage and kept the feel of the night humorous and light hearted.
Lucky for me the majority of the dishes were already gluten free and therefore required minimal if any adaptations. Our evening started with canapés to share around the table; some Mt Barker humane farmed chicken liver parfait served on a crisp onion skin with pickled celery, and West Australian wild prawn crackers topped with fresh prawn meat and fennel.
Our first entrée was a decadently soft slab of bark smoked West Australian Rainbow Trout with wattle seed and the tiniest shavings of white chocolate. White chocolate with trout you say? Well, as strange as the combination sounds it definitely worked. The chocolate particles were so small that they dissolved on contact with my tongue leaving a subtlety sweet after-taste. I MAY have run my finger across my empty plate a couple of times to smear up the last chocolate fragments but there is no proof I actually did this at such a premium event.
For those of you familiar with Kiren’s amazing repertoire of dishes, you will know his slow cooked eggs are out of this world. The second entrée reminded me of one of his creations that we loved at the Farmer’s Long Table lunch at Truffle Kerfuffle.
A silky smooth cylinder of slow cooked hen’s yolk was served with shards of savoury meringue, cauliflower purée, green olive and shaved Moorish pistachios.
The first main dish was George’s dish. A buttery soft confit duck leg topped with germinated lentils and drizzled with a spiced plum purée. A single sake compressed cucumber added some Japanese styled acidity and tang to the dish. The germinated lentils gave an interesting crunchy element without being too bitter. The sprouting process also has the added benefit of raising the nutrient level of these legumes making this dish somewhat healthy! 😉
The second main course was a slow cooked kangaroo tail with Jerusalem artichoke crisps and purée, fresh apple and crisp salt bush. I was a bit nervous to eat this dish as I have a history of reacting to kangaroo where the back of my throat becomes puffy and swollen almost like a mild anaphylactic reaction. Last time I ate kangaroo was over ten years ago and long before I was diagnosed with my all my food intolerances. I have avoided eating it since reacting three times in a row. I have always wondered whether it was something else in the dish each time or I was actually allergic to just the roo itself.
The Boy suggested I try a small mouthful and wait ten minutes or so to see if I still had a problem with it. I bravely tried a mouthful and within minutes developed only a slight scratching at the back of my throat. Nowhere near the severe reaction that I had many moons ago. I cautiously ate a few more mouthfuls before surrendering my plate to the Boy to finish it off.
Having survived my re-entry into the kangaroo eating world without the need to reach for an Epipen, I was very excited to tuck into the selection of artisan cheese from the Cheese Barrel complete with gluten free crackers for me to enjoy.
The final dish was one of Kiren’s dessert masterpieces, once again gluten free and as always totally addictive. A moist thick cut slice of chocolate and beetroot cake was literally engulfed in a sour cream mousse with some chocolate sorbet hidden inside the mousse. Thin slivers of fresh beetroot that I nearly mistook for rose petals decorated the dish with a splash of bright colour.
As I nearly slipped into a food coma, I had to remind myself that I had a full day of work the next day and wished I hadn’t enjoyed quite so much of the free flowing wine! Lucky for me I can survive for a short time on little sleep and whilst I cannot say the next day was easy I can guarantee it was all worth it! If Entwined in the Valley is anything to go by, I look forward to the next Humane Region food event!Chompchomp was a guest of the City of Swan at Entwined in the Valley. As paid tickets to this event were very popular there was no offer of a plus one so Chomp was happy to fork out her dosh for another ticket so that the Boy could accompany her. Houghton Winery (note the food for this meal was not prepared by Houghton’s) 148 Dale Road, Middle Swan, WA 6056 | (08) 9274 9543 | www.houghton-wines.com.au/our-cafe Dear Friends and Co op Dining 2/11 Regal Place, East Perth WA 6004 | (08) 9221 0404 | www.co-opdining.com.au
Despite knowing that the menu at Ace Pizza is devoid of gluten free pizza options, this has been a venue that has remained on my wish list for some time. Don’t be fooled by their name, whilst I’m told Ace’s pizzas are far from shabby it’s their share plates that I was keen to try. Being paid monthly means when we hit the end of the month we are scratching for a cheap place to eat out without compromising on our needs for quality or flavour. I was hoping Ace Pizza would fulfil this basic need.
Dishes are certainly cheap, reasonably sized and served with lickity split, no fuss speed. Perhaps too much so as within about ten minutes of placing our order all of our dishes had made their way to our table. There were a number of gluten free and vegetarian options to suit both our needs however as is often the case, we ordered far too much food.
The grilled corn was a refreshing way to start with each of the juicy cobs lavishly drizzled in thick chilli mayo and balsamic.
The beet salad came with crunchy walnuts and dollops of whipped salted ricotta. The ricotta had the texture of soft serve giving a great play in textures with the remaining ingredients.
I was in a rare mood for a morsel of red meat and ordered the chop chop beef without the bread. There was sadly no gluten free replacement for the bread which would have been a nice touch. I confess that after having eaten the steak tartare a bunch of times at Rockpool I am yet to find a match of that calibre elsewhere in Perth. Whilst Ace’s chop chop beef was enjoyable it lacked the smooth finesse and fresh aftertaste of Perry’s signature version. I reminded myself that it was also half the price.
The squid was my favourite dish of the evening with the surprising element of super crunchy deep fried chickpeas mixed with rings of squid all drizzled in generous lashings of chilli aioli. I love it when you don’t have to ask for more aioli! The Boy and I have a bad habit of eating quickly and before we gave our stomachs a chance to register what we had already eaten, we jumped ahead to ordering another dish; the crispy potatoes with Nduja mayo.
Nduja is a spicy spreadable type of Italian pork sausage typically made using the shoulder, belly and jowls along with the stomach lining (tripe). I wasn’t sure how this would work in a mayo. Basically it turns the mayo into some sort of strange meat sauce. The Boy was horrified at the mere sound of this yet once the dish was brought to our table he couldn’t resist a taste. The spuds were perfectly crispy with soft velvety centres and the “meat sauce” was in no way overwhelming. I decided I was certain there would be no room for any more food after this.
Exploding at the seams we paid our super cheap bill and with some spare change in our pockets we agreed to waddle up the street to Enrique’s School for to Bullfighting for a night cap. On Sundays, Enrique’s serves their signature sangria for $5 per person – a total bargain. It is served with a cute little jar of sherbet for an added element of zing.
After a round of drinks I became aware that I did indeed have a teeny bit more room to end our night of cheap gluttony. Neither of us could agree on whether we ordered sweet or savoury so to avoid a squabble we ordered one of each. The Boy’s choice was a hard goats cheese; Queso de cabra Pedro Ximenez. This is a smooth semi-soft cheese that is bathed in Pedro Ximenez wine for four months. It was quite a dense almost elastic cheese with a slightly sweet flavour.
My choice was the gluten free dessert option. Hardly surprising really, I mean, shouldn’t I make use of that second stomach of mine? 😉 The gluten free dessert option was a Pannacotta served with honeycomb, salted caramel ice cream and chocolate soil. I was initially confused by our first waiter who told me that the chocolate soil wasn’t gluten free. Thus when it was served to us with the soil I humbly asked for it to be sent back to the kitchen. I hate being a pain in restaurants but it’s not like I can just eat around the gluten on the plate!
Returning from the kitchen our second waiter had double checked with the chef and thankfully assured me that the whole dish was actually gluten free. I nervously ate it hopeful that I was given the right advice, whilst grateful that I could eat it as it was the bomb! I had absolutely no ill effect that evening and have since contacted management who confirmed that this is correct, the dish is completely gluten free. Bit of a mix up but it was all good in the end.
Ace and Enrique’s are both affordable places to hit up for a decent meal when you’re on a bit of a budget but want more than just fast food. The music is pumped up loud, the lights are dimmed and the service is quick and friendly.Chompchomp dined at Ace and Enrique on her meagre end of month budget with an equal contribution from the Boy. Ace Pizza 448 Beaufort Street, Highgate WA 6003 | 0499 448 000 | www.acepizza.com.au Price $$ Share plates $6-32, Pizzas $15-26 (no GF pizza available)
Enrique’s School for to Bullfighting 484 Beaufort Street, Highgate WA 6003 | 0438 248 414 | Facebook
One of my most popular recipes on the blog is my coconut flour banana bread. It is one of our staples at home and whenever we have browning bananas in the fruit bowl I will get a request from the Boy to bake it. Since I first published the recipe in early 2013, I have progressively made some tweaks to improve it whilst not taking away from its purpose of being somewhat healthy.
I found that by adding in chia seeds to my original recipe along with beefing it up with a few more eggs, the end result is banana bread with much improved texture without any of its predecessors crumbliness. This banana bread toasts beautifully and with the increased fibre content of the coconut flour it can be quite filling.
I was recently approach by Belmont Forum to provide recipes for publication on recipe cards to be displayed in their centre and I knew this paleo banana bread would be a total hit. Better still, it is very allergy friendly as it is grain free, gluten free, dairy free and fructose friendly.
- Makes 1 loaf
- 400 g ripe bananas
- 6 free range organic eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
- ¼ cup (50 grams) coconut oil
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons gluten free baking powder
- ¼ cup (65 grams) pure maple syrup
- ½ cup (55 grams) coconut flour
- ¼ cup (35 grams) chia seed
- Extra banana and shredded coconut to decorate
- Preheat your oven to 150 Celsius (fan forced) or 170 C (no fan).
- Combine banana, oil, cinnamon, vanilla, eggs, maple syrup and baking powder into a blender or food processor and blend until creamy and combined. For those with a Thermomix blend for 2-3 mins | Speed 5. or until smooth and creamy. Alternatively you can do this by hand in a large bowl.
- Add the coconut flour and chia seeds and mix through. (Thermomix 2 min | Speed 2)
- Rest for 10-15 minutes to allow the chia and coconut flour to expand.
- Lightly oil one loaf tin and then line with baking paper.
- Spoon batter into the tin, at this stage you can decorate the bread with flaked coconut and sliced banana before baking.
- Bake for 55 – 60 minutes depending on your oven (a skewer inserted into the centre should come out dry). Cover the top with foil if over-browning.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool before turning out the loaf.