Combi

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A luxurious escape to many good things raw, organic, and somewhat vegetarian, Combi has no trouble attracting visitors. As welcoming as sunshine, this island hideaway is a few minutes from the Elwood canal.

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Cocktail-esque and exotically dressed, you’ll find it hard to resist smoothies like “velvet cacao”, “mango shack”, and “liquid passion”. Almond milk is also available in chocolate, espresso, and chai options.

IMG_4375Adding to a multitude of sensory pleasures, a raw pizza, chia seed ‘parfait’, and raw organic zucchini spaghetti are also on the menu.

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On this suburban oasis, fresh, raw, organic treats are so tasty it’s a delight to eat what’s good for you. As the menu items are raw, most will manage only a couple of items per visit, so be prepared take away.

Shop 1 / 140 Ormond Road, Elwood, Melbourne, VIC 3184

http://wearecombi.com.au/

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Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Cookies

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Many (good) gluten-free recipes require expensive almond meal, quality gluten-free flour, or a myriad of ingredients like brown rice flour, sorghum flour, xanthan gum, potato starch … not ingredients found in your average kitchen pantry!

So when the request came to make a gluten-free treat, I turned to this peanut butter cookie recipe from Joy the Baker’s blog. With my own addition of dark chocolate chunks, this recipe uses only six ingredients: peanut butter, brown sugar, white sugar, an egg, baking soda, and chocolate.

They taste delicious – and you can’t even tell they’re gluten-free!

Recipe: http://joythebaker.com/2009/04/flourless-peanut-butter-cookies/

 

Ginger hazelnut tarts with maple ricotta and banana

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Over the weekend I hosted my first crafternoon, with my version of a crafternoon being: making stuff (in this case dream catchers), hanging out with friends, and treats. Heaven in an afternoon.

Leading up to the weekend, I had a recipe in progress for the treats part … which turned out to be for heart-shaped banoffee tarts: as delicious as traditional banoffee pies, but subtle enough for seconds. I used low-fat ricotta instead of cream and maple syrup in place of a traditional caramel. To make things interesting and flavoursome I used ground hazelnuts and crushed Ginger Nuts biscuits in the bases.

Here’s the recipe:

Ginger hazelnut tarts with maple ricotta and banana

Tart shell

The Roaming Kitchen’s Nectarine Hazelnut Tart recipe (substituting the Digestive biscuits for Ginger Nuts).

Filling

500g low-fat ricotta

1/4 cup maple syrup

1-2 bananas (green at the tips)

Topping

30 walnuts

1/3 cup maple syrup

extra crushed Ginger Nuts to sprinkle

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Grease or line 12-14 tart moulds of your choosing. I used heart-shaped moulds, but you could just as easily use a standard muffin pan.
  2. Prepare the tart mix using the The Roaming Kitchen’s recipe above. Line the tart moulds with the mix and bake for about 10 minutes. If the tarts brown quickly, you can lower the heat or turn off the oven in the last minute to avoid burning. Cool completely.
  3. Toss the walnuts in maple syrup and toast under the grill until golden. Cool completely.
  4. When ready to serve, combine the ricotta and maple syrup. Pipe the ricotta mix into the tarts.
  5. Slice the bananas and top each tart with a banana slice.
  6. For each tart, prop two walnuts against each slice of banana.
  7. Sprinkle the tarts with the extra crushed Ginger Nuts.

Makes 12-14 tarts.

 

 

 

“Tacos, breads and Good Times in Fitzroy North”: El Chino

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I have a soft spot for El Chino. Cute and kitsch, it’s a Mexican cafe but also a bakery! A party of two worlds, customers can indulge in a slow-cooked pulled pork taco and an almond croissant in one visit. Food envy and FOMO vibes, be gone!

Over brunch and lunch, the menu offers a range of ‘just-enough’ and ‘manly’ meals. Nachos, tacos, quesadillas, burritos, and tostadas are available in drooling options such as slow-cooked pork, pan-fried prawns, and even sunny-side up eggs with avo and beans … Traditional horchata, mexican hot chocolate, and granita are also on offer. Bakery items to eat in or take away include a changing selection of home-tasting dense breads, doughnuts, and pastries.

The staff are also the loveliest, in a soft and open Northcote-kind-of-way. Good times indeed, in Fitzroy North.

214 St Georges Road, North Fitzroy, VIC 3068

https://www.facebook.com/elchinomexican

Easter: The Best Buns

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Of course my dad’s are the best, but while in Melbourne I’ve been following local Hot Cross Bun news. On Tuesday, The Age voted Tivoli Road Bakery as Melbourne’s number one hot cross bun baker for 2014. I promptly decided to make a field trip, only to find they had sold out – by 9am that morning!

I was advised to phone in advance to place a reservation. So this morning, I finally got to sample these winning buns. My verdict? Tastes quite a lot like “home” actually, dense sourdough buns, with enough fruit, orange peel, and spice.

Tivoli Road will be open over the Easter weekend for hot cross bun purchasing. (Pre-ordering, is of course advised). Their baked goods are also available at Fairfield Farmers Market, Abbotsford Convent Slowfood Market, and the Flour Market.

3 Tivoli Rd, South Yarra, VIC 3141

http://tivoliroad.com.au/

Labour of Love: Chocolate Caramel Cake

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So it was my friend Nicole’s birthday last weekend. And it was an honour to make her a cake. The requested flavour? Chocolate. And Caramel. “Intense” was my first thought. Nevertheless, I fossicked through a few different recipes – sans the ones with creamy fillings (I’m not really a fan), and looked for a cake robust enough to survive a few modes of public transport. (Is there a limit to love??). I finally settled on this recipe from Astoria in Lambton Quay, Wellington.

With three glorious layers (chocolate cake, caramel, and chocolate ganache) this cake is semi-high maintenance. Production requires good ingredients, time, and patience. There’s nothing instant about this cake (the only things store-bought are the raw ingredients).

However, if you use quality ingredients from the start, you’ll taste that quality in every bite of your final masterpiece. So of course the chocolate I used was 70 percent cocoa (not compound) and the eggs were free range.

The result is a rich cake that goes the distance. This cake served 10 guests, with a quarter remaining. The recipe says it serves 16, but I guess it depends on who you’ve invited to dinner …

La Cigale’s French Market

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On a recent trip back home we dropped into La Cigale’s French Market. It’s been a past favourite weekend rendezvous, so I was pleased to see business was going as well as ever. Yep, Auckland sure does hold its own.

My choice of morsel for the morning was a pomegranate and lemon curd éclair. Made with fresh pomegranate seeds, lemons, and pure New Zealand dairy. Divine!

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‘Window-shopping’ for the remainder of our visit, I noticed the tarts also looked particularly appealing: apple, calvados, and cider; tamarillo and crème; and rhubarb, pistachio, and raspberry. Tempting, but we had the rest of the weekend to eat through. Save some for later Augustus!
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69 St Georges Bay Road, Parnell, Auckland

http://www.lacigale.co.nz/