Winter in the Garden

It has been quite a cold winter in Sydney. We had a coldest july for 20 years with sub-7-degree C temperatures – the average temperature this month has been 7.2 degrees!


Pumpkin. The poor pumpkin plant managed to put out one pumpkin before it was killed off with all the frost.


Guavas. So many guavas. 2015 season was May – July. Three whole months!

Seedlings. Kale – Cavalo Nero. Kale – red curly. 1 x beetroot seedling. I bought a set of six from the markets, but I gave half of them to a friend.

I planted snow peas:

Snow peas

… which are starting to form flower heads. They seem quite sheltered from the frost that we have been getting at least twice a week for a month.

This year, rather than risking the garlic getting whipper snippered near the rose bush, I have planted the garlic cloves in a pot. This should also help with harvest.

What does the garden look like?


it’s forming a head! The secondary plant, behind, is also starting to form a head, but it seems to be a bit shaded by the one in front.

The banana plant

Banana plant

is not faring well at all. I have a 4m high frostbitten plant. The chill has reminded the banana that it is growing out of its normal area.

I was really inspired by the Vineyards in Santa Rosa, California. Rows and rows of grapes. I really want to put up a trellis/espallier for my grapevine in the front yard, as a sort of living fence. This sprouted from a neighbours’ grapevine, which has unfortunately had to be removed. I’d better do this soon, otherwise winter will be gone!

Preserved Guavas

.. or guavas in syrup.

My usual method of dealing with the guava crop gives you a giant zip lock bag of frozen guavas, and no easy way to use them. Because they haven’t been individually frozen, the only way to get at them is to kind of whack at the bag until bits fall off, and then use it in a fruit smoothie (which I don’t do).

I had such success with the guava pie, that I have also frozen rectangular takeaway containers of guava pieces, already dotted with butter, sugar and cinnamon. I had planned to premake pies, and freeze them for a later day baking, but it was too much effort and time consuming to do so, what with holding down a full time job, studying, and trying to have a life. I then thought that I could use lay out the guava slices in the rectangular takeaway containers, so that I could pick up individual pieces later for cake making and such. That turned out to be much too fiddly and time consuming – not doing that one again.

Then I discovered the Guava Producers’ Association website, and in particular their recipe corner.

Guavas, deseeded

I had already quartered and deseeded a bunch of the better looking fruit, with the vague idea that I would bottle/can it somehow. I guess guavas are a bit of a rare fruit, because it was really hard finding any information on what type of sugar syrup to pair with the guava. Is guava a more acidic fruit, so can I use a light sugar syrup? Or is it less acidic on the ph scale, so I have to use a heavier sugar syrup? At last here was a solution – 250g in 500ml water, to me is equivalent to a medium sugar syrup.

Here, instantly, was a recipe.

I actually ended up using apple juice (Do you know how HARD it is to find actual apple juice that has been produced in Australia at the supermarket?!!) which I had already purchased (10% sugar solution) – 7 cups of which I then added 1/2 cup of sugar. So that’s ~um ~ 15 % solution. Okay. So it ended up being a very light sugar syrup then. Probably not the best if you’re reusing pasta sauce jars for your preserving.

1 x 2 litre ice cream box of guava quarters
1750 mL apple juice (only 1000mL seems to have been used)
100 g sugar
= 4 small bottles of preserved guavas.

These were then hot packed into their jars, and boiled in a water bath.

Preserved Guava

I tried to leave enough headroom in the smaller jars for water bath processing, but the fruit is not fully covered with the syrup. I think that I’m going to have to open these jars, either remove some fruit/add extra sugar solution, and re-process. I’ve had some green tomato relish go nasty because there wasn’t enough liquid in the jar. Although, pickyourown – preserving peaches seems to indicate that not enough water is OK.

“If fruit is not covered by liquid it may darken during storage (but does not necessarily mean it is spoiled, as all fruits will darken somewhat).”

I later on found the Technical Manual of the FAO of the United Nations (whew, what a mouthful!):

“The packaging medium may be constituted by the juice of the guavas, obtained by squeezing the pulp that contained the seeds. Add sugar to the juice to obtain a certain Brix°, according to the final degree of sweetness desired (usually, the syrup should be of about 30-35 Brix°.”

but I had no idea what a brix was. It turns out that it is a fancy way of saying “percent”; so 30-35 brix means a 30-35% sugar solution.

Apparently a guava in syrup is a totally different beast to fresh guava. So I can’t wait to try it!

Pana Chocolate, Alexandria

After visiting Bread and Circus, I also stuck my head into Pana Chocolate, which is just down the hall in the same complex.

I love a good chocolate. Especially the fancy ones that are selected individually and then packed into a fancy pants box and tied up with a ribbon.

But I’m afraid that no matter how raw, organic and handmade your chocolates are; if your shop fit out has exposed metal, and your staff are cleaning the display cabinet with some kind of foul smelling shine-em so much so that I have to hold my breath whilst selecting my fancy pants chocolate – I’m afraid that I won’t be back.

My pana chocolate selection:
Pana Chocolate selection

-Grapefruit heart
-Pink Lemonade.
-Open sesame.
-Sticky Date.
-Chocolate Crackle.

Not too sweet. I like the variety of individual flavours available. I’m not sure how “lemonadey” the pink one was.

Worth a visit if you’re in the area, and the staff aren’t cleaning. See previous comments regarding the cleaning products.

You can also buy some of their chocolate bars at various hippy shops around the place – like whole foods house Waterloo, or IGA Glebe. The bar chocolate generally contains cocao, coconut oil, carob. The wild orange and fig one which I purchased at a later date was very tasty without a heavy hit of “coconut” flavour that coconut oil can sometimes produce.

Pana Chocolate
Street: 21 Fountain Street, Alexandria NSW 2015
Phone: 1300 717 488
M-F: 1000- 1700,
S-S: 1000-1600

Bread and Circus, Alexandria

The first time that I tried to visit Bread and Circus, the queue was 30 deep for a weekend lunchtime. I cut my losses, and went to Rosetta Stone instead. It was very nice indeed.

The second time that I tried to visit, I had given up trying to find a car parking space in the vicinity of Grounds of Alexandria. As it was, it was a weekday lunchtime, and the big green alcohol store across the road had installed a security guard to ensure that you weren’t just using their property as a parking lot, and you were a genuine shopper. One six pack later… Parking in this area is *awful*, just don’t drive.

The phrase ‘bread and circuses‘, according to wikipedia means to

“describe the generation of public approval, not through exemplary or excellent public service or public policy, but through diversion; distraction; or the mere satisfaction of the immediate, shallow requirements of a populace.”


It was so hard to decide what to get. There was soup… there was a multitude of fresh squeezed juices… there was salad… there were sandwich boxes.
You could even get Nepalese style coffee – coffee with a knob of butter in it (instead of soured yak’s butter).

Lemongrass and ginger chai ($4):

Bread and Circus Chai

This was in a big metal vat, with chai set to warm. It was kind of meh… and I forgot to ask if there was alternative to cow’s milk available. Presentation 0. Taste – very zingy and gingery. Slightly stewed.

Regular salad ($16):

Bread and Circus salad

The salad changes daily (weekly), depending on what’s in season. You can also get a side salad for $10, or a ginormous sharing salad for $25.

I couldn’t quite decide: so yes, I got them all.
From left to right:
– Cinnamon roasted baby carrot and fennel with biodynamic yoghurt garlic basil and fresh lemon;
– Capsicum stuffed cherry tomato and goats feta with chilli flakes garlic torn basil salt and pepper ( my fave),
– Green papaya cucumber and torn mint with lime chilli and crushed almond(kinda meh),
– Fresh cabbage kale sprouts and shiso with yuzu and pomegranate (also meh),
– Charred yellow bean cherry tomato and haloumi with mint basil oil wild rocket and parsley. The haloumi tasted more like tofu

Based on the descriptions alone, I would have chosen salads 1,4,5. Surprisingly, I much preferred salad 2 ~ which from the description I would’ve thought sounded a bit ordinary. Perhaps I really just like goats cheese, but this was really nice: halved pieces of roast cherry tomato, dabs of goats cheese marinated in oil, tucked into a 1/4 vertical slice of capsicum for each ‘serve’. I found that salads 3,4,5 were a bit plain, and didn’t have a strong outstanding flavour or dressing. I guess the point was lots of colours and textures in your food.

A side of six hour grass fed lamb farro kale & carrot soup ($8):

Lamb and Farro soup

Strong lamb-y mutton-y taste. Almost goat like! The kale I thought was silverbeet, it almost had a dehydrated pak choy type of taste, which you sometimes find in chinese style soups. Six hour cooking process maybe. I think that this was my first encounter with farro! I may try and replicate a similar style of soup, but with pearl barley as it is easier to find than farro.

So, overall?

It was a bit… Meh. Although this was probably the first time I have seen two guys order salad and a green drink. If I was in the area and there wasn’t a queue – maybe. Perhaps if I liked the look of something on their menu (and it certainly is an inspiring and varied one), I would pre-order via phone or email (orders by 10am). It’s a tad on the expensive side I thought. But I also thought that about kitchen by mike.

Bread and Circus Wholefoods Canteen
street: 21 Fountain Street Alexandria
S-S: 0700-1600
M-F: 0700-1500
Phone: +61 418 214 425
Last food orders 40 minutes before closing.

Megan Pie

When I was visiting the USA, I had a friend make an apple pie from scratch. I was so keen to go and taste it, I kept chanting MeganPie MeganPie MeganPie. The pie was very good indeed. Homemade pie crust, slices of apple dotted with butter, sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. Any good pie now is deemed a MeganPie.

So when I returned home to find that the guava season was still in full swing, I made my very own MeganPie.

I had a pie tin souvenired from a lovely pie restaurant in the Berkeley area.

The pie tin

Shortcrust recipe was from the Italian cookbook The Silver Spoon*.

It was quite simple – By weight, One measure flour, half measure sugar, half measure butter. Zest from a lemon.

This made a crumble like breadcrumbs. The recipe omits cold water, of which you add tiny droplets just until the breadcrumbs combine into dough, but not too far such that it becomes sticky and that you need to add flour to compensate in the other direction. I think that it actually uses less butter than the shortcrust I made using The Cook’s Companion (yes – 50g less).

Shortcrust pastry

Here are my ingredients that go into making the pie. I forgot to add the butter in the photo, but it is there.

Pie ingredients

For the filling, I just used sliced deseeded guava, dot with butter, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon, repeat.

Guava pie

The lid was made up of several bits of crust that I had rolled out, but was not able to make into one large piece. Amazingly, when I cooked this, it looked like I had done this on purpose to give the lid texture and make more crispy bits.
My slackness with the pie crust meant that there were steam release holes designed in.

I baked this at 180 degrees for 30 minutes, as per Stephanie Alexander directions for a rhubarb pie.

It filled the kitchen with a wonderful lemon smell whilst baking.

The pie was so very good when eating just after baking, the crust retained its crunch even the next day. My neighbour rated it 10 out of 10. My mum said that it was “nice”.

I then saw a recipe in the newspaper for apple pie with tahini filling and cardamon crust. The timing was perfect – I would use cardamon in my next pie crust, but not the additional fiddly filling – I want to make sure that the guava flavour is prominent in the pie, without being masked by other flavours.

The cardamon didn’t smell as good as the lemon shortcrust whilst baking, however, it added a nice contrast to the guava filling.

I think that this year’s guava crop stars in the Year of the Pie. I’ll definitely be making this one again. Perhaps a lemon and cardamon crust?

Guava pie

*I think this makes a grand total of three recipes that I have made from this book so far. Grilled Whiting, Cauliflower with green sauce, and now shortcrust pastry. A search of my blog says I’m telling furphies, and I also used the book for the chestnut and rosemary cake. That’s a 0.2% recipes used so far.

Vivid Sydney 2015

I only saw a snippet of the Vivid 2015 light festival in Sydney this year.

I caught the train to Circular Quay, saw the lights from the Cahill Expressway. Watched the light show projected on Customs House. Whilst waiting ferry to Darling Harbour, I also saw the light show projections on the Museum of Contemporary Art building and the Opera House. Finally, there I saw a bit of the light and music show in the water at Darling Harbour. That one reminded me a bit of the light show at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, except the music was turned all the way up to eleven and was WAY TOO LOUD. Eh? Wazzat? I can’t hear you.

My favourite?

Customs House:

Vivid 2015

Unlike may others in the crowd, I didn’t take simultaneous video and still photos of the show. Apparently it was called Enchanted Sydney, designed by the Spinifex Group. I just know it had an explanatory sign on it for number 12. Plus there was a bee flitting around some of the early botanical scenes.

I liked it because it told a story. The projected shows on the MCA and the operahouse were just pretty patterns. It reminded me a bit of the 2014 Christmas light show on the Melbourne Town Hall – created by the Electric Canvas.

The Stinking Bishops, Enmore

You must have the cheese toastie.

That was the recommendation. So a year after it opened, I finally made it to the Stinking Bishops.

Mushroom Mr Crispy ($15):

Mr Crispy

It was indeed very crispy. And Tasty. There were at least two different kinds of mushrooms – enoki and your standard button mushroom. It was moreish, and now since I’m talking about it, I want another one.

The accompanying salad was autumn themed – with radish, radiccio and a light lemony dressing.

As I was paying for my toasted sandwich, I spied some pickled eggs in a big vat behind the counter. So I had to have one to try and compare to my own pickled quail effort several years ago.

Pickled Egg ($2.5):

Pub pickled egg

It had the bottom sliced off so that it could be served in a warm ramekin, sprinkled with salt. But the egg was still cold. It was creamy and mouth puckeringly sour. It turns seems that my attempt at pickled eggs was genuine article, I just didn’t know it at the time. Whoopx, such a shame I’ve already thrown out my pickled eggs.

Smoked Anchovy Bruschetta ($5):

Smoked Anchovy bruschetta

Spiced crème fraiche, cucumber, pickled eschalot, dill

This does not taste like an anchovy that I am used to, tastes. I couldn’t really pick up any smokey element, it was more a sardine fresh out of the sea. The dukkah sprinkled on top was fresh and crispy.

Pork and black pudding terrine ($18):

Pork and Black Pudding Terrine

Yes. I got this because of the presence of black pudding. Yum. Gobble, gobble, gobble. The terrine was quite meaty yet fresh. The jelly holding it all together wasn’t too cold. I really liked the freshness of the accompanying salad with the apple and halved grapes. The dressing wasn’t too acidic either. I should have the patience to make terrine, but I never do.

Towards the end of my visit, I asked what the white mould cheese in the shape of a ring was. It turns out that it was a goat’s cheese from Castlemaine (VIC), and reminded me a lot of the Willowbrae Bowen Mountain cheese.

“Why can’t they source a cheese more local than Victoria?”, I wondered, but when I talked to David from Willowbrae, he said that they were pretty flat out just supplying the markets, so let’s keep their existence a secret between you and I.

Toasties available only at lunchtimes.

The Stinking Bishops
street: Unit 5, 63-71 Enmore Rd, Enmore, NSW 2042
Phone: +61-2-9007-7754
M: Closed
Tue-Wed: 1700-2200.
Thu-Fri: 1100-2200.
Sat: 1100-1700, closed 1630-1730
Sun 1100-1800
There is a very complicated reservation availability online, generally Tue-Thu dinner, Sundays; or lunch Thu-Sat. Or you could walk in.
Web and :


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