As years pass me by, I find myself gravitating more and more toward people with two of my common interests; cats and food. Aside from my family and loved ones, these are the two things in my life that really rock my world. I recently whizzed over to Melbourne for the weekend on official cat vet business and caught up with three other like-minded crazy cat people. After a long day of meetings, we were all very keen for a bite to eat and moved out of the board room and onto dinner. In preparation for hungry appetites, one of my colleagues had already organised a reservation at Saint Crispin in Collingwood. Run by a couple of Melbourne chefs Scott Pickett and Joe Grbac, these guys trained at the same Michelin starred London restaurant called The Square where they were inspired to create a menu that followed the seasons.
Accommodating for people with coeliac disease must feel like a daunting task for many chefs. The need to be aware of every single ingredient in every single dish is simply just not enough. Chefs must also be mindful of other difficult aspects like cross contamination. All cutlery, chopping boards and other cooking utensils must be cleaned carefully before preparing a gluten free meal. For some sufferers it can take only one microscopic grain of gluten to send them to the bathroom for the evening.
That is why I am so appreciative when a chef takes this challenge on board as I realise how much effort it requires. On our recent trip to Margaret River, we found such a restaurant named Piari & Co. Situated in Dunsborough and run by a husband and wife team, these guys have a dedicated gluten free menu making selecting dishes as easy as it gets.
You don’t have to be a regular reader of this blog to know that I love my mushrooms. Back in 2012, my passion for this versatile fungi led to me being selected as one of the two official Mushroom Mania bloggers for WA alongside Cynthia from The Food Pornographer. I was only just a newbie blogger at the time and it was one of my first sponsored gigs. I threw my heart and soul into it to ensure that it was worthwhile for both me and the Australian Mushroom Growers Association. Since then I have continued to participate in Mushroom Mania on an annual basis with this year being my third year. For 2014, the AGMA went with a much less structured format than in previous years simply giving me a wad of prepaid VISA cards to use at my leisure provided that I ordered and photographed food with mushrooms.
Chocolate is an addiction of mine that I’m certain I can blame on my genetics. Both Mum and Dad love their chocolate and I have been coerced into a number of chocolate binges with Mum over the years. I figure that there is no point fighting nature and assure myself that chocolate IS a nourishing super food after all. In fact, I am actually doing my body a favour giving it a daily dose. The best type of chocolate, in my humble opinion, is raw chocolate. sumptuous and silky, it has a melt in your mouth texture that will certainly have you going back for more.
Unlike me, the Boy is lucky enough to have his parents living in the same city as we do. This is a luxury I have missed out enjoying on since my late teens and I cannot deny I am a little bit jealous. While I know both Mum and Dad are a quick phone call away, it would be wonderful to be able to just drop in and say hi, or pop out for a casual lunch together. The Boy doesn’t tend to organise regular catch ups with his family and sometimes it takes a special occasion to be able to bring us all together. With his parents celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary this year, we all agreed to meet in the Swan Valley for lunch. As per usual the booking was left up to me so I chose RiverBank Estate in Caversham.
Being a veterinarian makes me the only scientist in my direct family; my mother is a retired Jazz singer, my father is a fashion designer and even my sister will oil paint in her spare time. Whilst I do enjoy the freedom and creativity of the arts, my strongest loyalties will always lie with my furry patients and their owners.
This isn’t to say I don’t love and cherish my blog too and with Chompchomp turning three this month it has been so exciting to watch my readership steadily grow each year. I find it so touching to know that through my writing I can help others with food intolerances find the courage to dine out while still providing some entertainment to those who are not restricted in their diet. These days I find my inbox filling up with invitations and product trials at an alarmingly fast rate. Because of my long shifts and late hours, there are many events that I have to knock back and I need to ensure to only choose the ones that I think are relevant to me and my readers.
Since leaving the East coast as a fresh faced teenager to pursue a career in veterinary science, I quickly learnt to depend on only myself. While I already had an innate level of independence at that age, being separated from my parents by thousands of kilometres had a way of perfecting this skill. Nearly two decades have passed since then and I’m now at a point in my life now where I realise being fiercely self reliant isn’t always a good thing. Recognising that I need and am needed by my close family members seems much more relevant, especially given the distance that separates some of us. I haven’t lived in the same city as either of my parents since I departed long ago and can sometimes go for over twelve months before I cast eyes on their lovable faces. As we all get older, I am realising that I need to make more effort to spend quality time with each of them individually.
For as long as I can remember, I have always felt like I never have enough time. I struggle to relax and seem to thrive on fast paced hyperactivity. It wasn’t until I hit my thirties that this lifestyle started to take its toll prompting me to seek medical advice when I could no longer even run without collapsing on the couch. As a direct result I was diagnosed with iron deficiency anaemia which then led onto discovering my gluten and fructose issues.
I stick to my gluten free diet religiously and find this is easy to do as there are life threatening risks for me if I don’t. Coeilacs who eat gluten raise their risks of intestinal cancer significantly along with risking developing a bunch of other horrible diseases. In contrast, I find following my fructose friendly diet much, much more difficult to adhere to. Whilst eating fructose does cause some unpleasant effects, it doesn’t causing any permanent damage to my body. I consequently wax and wane from being vigilantly fructose friendly to chancing the risk of a gut ache for something tasty to eat.
If you live in Perth and have attended any food festivals or hawkers markets, you will probably will have heard of Red Hot Spatula. Lead by Yvonne Bleach with additional help from her family members, they have become one of my guaranteed sources of a gluten free dish when at a food festival as often, unfortunately, this can be a little lacking from other stall holders.
I first met Yvonne a couple of years ago at Perth’s famous Cake Club. Since then we have become great friends and will often cross paths at the various food events we both attend. In addition to feeding the market-loving masses, Red Hot Spatula also provides a catering service in addition to running a variety of cooking classes in their commercial kitchen located in Middle Swan. Topics of these classes range from Asian cuisines such as Chinese Dim Sum and Malaysian, to Spanish Tapas and making pasta.
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.
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.
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.
There has been much buzz around the recent opening of the new restaurant St Michael 6003 in Highgate. Scott O’Sullivan from Red Cabbage and Todd Stuart from Petite Mort have paired together to open this suave new joint located in Jackson’s old digs on Beaufort Street. Former Red Cabbage sous chef Adam Sayles has taken the reins to produce something intriguingly refined, modern and creative. This individuality has not gone unnoticed by high-profile foodies with St Michael recently starring in the weekly Hot Plates feature on the Gourmet Traveller website.
Last year for the Mushroom Mania campaign, one of my sponsored meals was a mushroom degustation at Red Cabbage and this year I was hopeful that their brand new sister restaurant would be willing to do something similar. I was very appreciative that Chef Adam was happy to come on board and create a couple of mushroom dishes for us to enjoy.
The Boy and I were struck down with the killer Flu of the Year this month and it completely knocked the stuffing out of us. Everything became a huge effort and suffice to say life wasn’t much fun. At the tail end of our sickness we decided to cheer ourselves up and head out to the Avon Valley for the Toodyay Food Festival. Toodyay is roughly an hour’s drive from our house and when we got about half way both of us became overwhelmingly tired and nauseous.
It took about five minutes of us whingeing to each other before we realised the insanity of what we were trying to do. Walking around a food festival when I could barely stand up followed by another hours drive home sounded more like torture than enjoyment. We agreed this idea was a little ambitious and turned the car back around. As we headed home I realised we had nothing in the fridge because I had originally anticipated we would be stuffing our faces at the festival. We took a detour through Belmont and landed at Sapore Espresso.
Last year I ran a weekly series for six weeks inspired by the Meatless Monday movement. At that point in time the Boy wasn’t a vegetarian and I wanted to show him that this lifestyle change didn’t have to mean just eating boring lettuce and tomato salads. Since then we have both changed a lot about our eating habits; eating mostly local produce, organic where we can and definitely with a much lower focus on meat.
I was recently approached by Belmont Forum to help them create a couple of recipe cards to put in their new Fresh Food Mall in the centre. After visiting the centre to check out what was on offer, I was impressed with the amount of gluten free and organic food available in their health food store and was inspired to recreate this zucchini noodle dish from my Meatless Monday series. It is so easy to make, surprisingly satisfying and full of nutrients.
I have never been one to listen to mainstream commercial radio stations. Since my teens I have always preferred to listen to either Triple J or more locally based community stations such as RTRFM. This in part comes from my dislike of commercial music and advertisements but also because I have a desire to hear new, interesting music that hasn’t already been played on the radio a hundred times over.
RTRFM is one of Perth’s most popular community radio stations and they are well-known for their individuality and progressive broadcasting. In April this year RTR’s weekday show Drivetime launched a segment called The Food Alternative. It is aired every Tuesday night and brings a range of guests onto the show including bloggers, chefs and culinary experts. They have covered topics such as wine in the Swan Valley, artisan raw chocolate and how to find the hidden gems to eat in Chinatown.
Following a gluten free diet has become second nature to me. Ingesting just a tiny crumb of gluten has such a profound effect that there is simply no point me risking a reaction. Our whole household is gluten free to avoid any contamination and the Boy is more than happy to eat a gluten free diet with me.
In contrast, my sensitivity to eating dairy products is not so black and white and I can tolerate small amounts. Being able to eat a little bit now and then leads me into a false sense of confidence as it isn’t something I have to avoid totally like gluten, I just try to minimise my intake. I have never been good at minimisation and generally prefer to take the all-or-nothing approach with most things in life, especially food. Progressive day to day carelessness in restricting my dairy intake is generally brought to a grinding halt after one of my hedonistic cheese binges. These joyous cheesy evenings always result in my skin becoming so inflamed and sore that I can barely stretch my fingers fully open. Consequently I have learnt to try to only eat dairy on special occasions.
Geographical separation has never had any impact on the bond I have with my best friend, Kate. Through the course of our fifteen years of Bestie-hood we have only lived in the same city for about half this time. We are not that good at regularly calling each other on the phone, in fact we are both shockers, yet within seconds of hearing each other’s voice we immediately lapse into our crazy way of talking that no one else on this Earth can ever seem to replicate. It’s actually like our own language. We have a way of bringing out the best in each other and I know that if anyone can turn my frown upside-down it will most definitely be Kate.
When I find something I love, I complete submerge myself into a level of addiction that often needs to be controlled by an external party, usually the Boy. Or sometimes it is controlled by the increasing numbers on my bathroom scales. Nevertheless, over the years I have come to accept that this is part of my personality and provided I have someone to check me into line when I get too carried away, it is a quick way to brighten up my day. Some of my obsessions are long lasting and others come and go like fashion so I thought I would share with you my top five gluten free indulgences for Winter 2014.
Back in March I attended a two-day feline veterinary conference in Kuala Lumpur. The Boy joined me at the end of the conference where we stayed on for an extra day to explore the city together before flying onto Vietnam for our anniversary holiday. As I’m not accustomed to sitting still for long periods, by the time the Boy arrived after my two conference days had finished I was full of energy like crazed, caged animal. We had only allocated one day for KL so to cover as much ground as possible I planned a busy schedule of eating with some sight-seeing and shopping thrown in for good measure.