Marvellous meals in May

On Friday it was Ian’s birthday and we had planned to go to Guillaume at Bennelong for dinner.

Unfortunately, the night before his birthday, Ian had to work until crazy o’clock.  Then on his actual birthday, the poor boy had a horridly stressful day. By mid afternoon he was exhausted and didn’t really feeling like going anywhere but to our couch. Normally, the idea of swapping dinner at the Opera House for Friday Night Football would be less than appealing. But we’ve had so many marvellous meals lately.  It seemed quite sensible to save Guillaume and his two hats for a month where there’d be less culinary competition.

May has been a very, very good food month. Here’s a little shout out to the places where I’ve nibbled (ok, gobbled) this month:

Strangers with Candy, East Redfern

Dinner with Andrew and Alissa is always fun. There is usually lengthy discussions about sci fi/fantasy/post apocolyptic stuff as well as a bit of technology talk. Ian and the A team usually do the talking and I nod and pretend to understand what they are saying.

Strangers with Candy was a recommendation from Alissa’s boss and it was a good one. It’s a cute little terrace with wooden floors, a fabulous Maitre d’ and fresh, fresh, FRESH food. My handmade ravioli was stuffed with parmesan and ricotta, then lashed with burnt sage butter. Scrumpdiddlyumptios! As for dessert, well I pretty much died and went to chocolate fudge cake heaven. Think orange toffee sauce, chantilly cream and you’ll understand my bliss.

Chocolate fudge cake bliss

The Hungry Duck, Berry

Lovely Leigh took me to dinner at The Hungry Duck as part of my Berry Birthday Extravaganza present from her and David.  The head chef is David Campbell who used to work at Billy Kwong and who also owns The Book Kitchen in Surry Hills. With this in mind, I had high expectations which were met the instant the first course of our banquet arrived. Poached chicken and banana blossom salad with coconut oil & chilli was delicious, delightful, delectable! Our four other tasting plates were crab ravioli with a seaweed salad and soy vinaigrette, steamed pork buns, a RICH red duck curry and then kaffir and tahitian lime tart.

Hungry Duck is also a green eatery. They have an organic kitchen garden at the back of the shop where they grow their own vegetables and herbs. They also sell only fair trade coffee and use organic meats and local seafood. Well done David Campbell and good choice David and Leigh Chapman!

Inside The Hungry Duck

a’Tavola, Darlinghurst

Dinner club with Mr & Mrs Williams is fast becoming one of the highlights of my month. May was Melly’s turn to chose where we broke bread and she picked a’tavola in Darlinghurst. This place has a huge table (tavola) through the middle of the restaurant and home made pasta hangs like curtains between the kitchen and the dining room. I had a scrummy meal of baked olives, beef cheek ravioli  and a super indulgent bombe alaska for dessert.

Apart from the fantastic food and the fabulous conversation with Mel & Jay, I also thoroughly enjoyed the ginormous family fight going on next to us at the table. Highly entertaining!

Bombe Alaska - oh yeah!

Bondi Trattoria

Oh what a lovely lunch at the Tratt with my Sydney Water friends. Such great views of Bondi Beach and such an awesome cocktail menu! It didn’t feel like it was a rainy Sunday while I was drinking a limoncello mint spritzer. My main was pappardelle with a veal shin ragu. Fabuloso! Dessert was the most luscious chocolate creme brulee I have ever had with  poached cherries & coconut sorbet.

I love the food in May.

And finally, in a tiramisu tie – I had my favourite dessert twice this month. Leigh made it for our Mothers Day lunch and Mel made it last Saturday night. Both were prepared to perfection. I’m still blissed out!

Confessions of a dumpling fanatic

Is there anything more satisfying than a well made Asian dumpling? I don’t really think so.

Yesterday, to both my delight and dismay, I discovered the existence of the perfect dumpling cookbook. 

I was delighted because on the one hand it means that my quest for the perfect book is now over. Within five days, it will be delivered to my door courtesy of

However I also feel dismayed because I myself had planned to fill the void in the dumpling cook book market by writing the perfect book myself. 

Some people dream of producing a novel that wins the Nobel Prize for Literature. I on the other hand had been dreaming that my dumpling cook book would sell millions of copies and be used by dumpling chefs worldwide.

I had even planned to co author the book with Ian and give him a whole section (at the back) where he could put the recipes for his nausea invoking Australian dumplings.

But Andrea Nguyen beat me to it.  And it helps that she’s Asian. Kind of gives her credibility in the dumpling world.

While I’ve certainly chased down my fair share of dumpling trolleys, Andrea spent her childhood actually making hundreds of dumplings rather than growing up simply eating hundreds of dumplings.

So I guess for now I’m just going to enjoy the fact that I have FINALLY found someone, who like me, also lives in fear of dumpling scarcity and therefore needs to become an expert in making their own.

Look forward to dumpling party invitations soon!


Ah…I shall never tire of these delightful morsels!

 “Dumplings make people smile. At their core, they are fun, uncomplicated, wonderfully satisfying foods that can be enjoyed with a crowd or savoured in solitude. They’re reminders of good times – preparing them for family, noshing on them with friends or queuing up for them with great anticipation. They never fail to please the palate.” Andrea Nguyen

The arrival of delicious

A couple of years ago our fabulous friends Juanita and Tim bought us a subscription to delicious magazine, which they have since renewed.

Ian isn’t remotely interested in the magazine itself but he definitely likes it when the ingredients have been bought, the recipes have been followed and the food is served to him.

I, on the other hand, wait with enormous anticipation for the arrival of each month’s magazine.  Sometimes my fellow foodie Sheela, who is also a subscriber, will tip me off if she gets to her mail box before I get to mine. On those occasions I almost break into a run when I get off the train so that I can get to the mail box as fast as possible.

I have an entire process in place that allows me to savour the first night I have delicious with me each month.

First, possible interruptions must be eliminated. The phone is taken off the hook. The husband is safely tucked away in front of his computer.

Then the spine gets folded back and the first look through begins. The first look through must always be done page by page from start to finish. There can be no flicking forward or looking at the last page first. No.

The second look through is done with a note pad in my lap. I make a list of all the recipes that MUST BE MADE and then a list of all the maybes.

Once, in the early days of my relationship with delicious, I would post it note all the recipes I liked on the second look through. However, by the time I’d stickerised everything I wanted to make, the entire magazine looked highly bastardised.

So now I just make a list of things I want to cook and then I message Sheela with a summary of my MUST MAKES. She usually messages back her MUST MAKES and I like comparing our lists.

Of course we never get through the lists before the arrival of the next edition.

So little time, so much to cook.

Top o’ the mornin’ to ya

I was once a morning person. Until I wasn’t. I think the change had something to do with becoming a lemming (translation – commuter).

On weekdays, from the minute I wake up until the minute I sit at my desk, it’s all rush, rush, rush with lots of quick glances at the time to check everything is going to schedule. When you’re a lemming, just one extra minute spent here or there can mean getting to work up to half an hour late.

Amongst all the frenetic getting ready activity, there are four wonderful moments each morning that bring joy to my day. These are; an adorable sleeping husband, 4 crazy Peruvians, a random whiteboard and a teenage mutant ninja turtle.

From when the alarm goes off until 8.00am  – The adorable sleeping husband

As soon as I get out of bed in the morning, Ian instantly moves over to my side. Without even waking up, he moves himself over, arranges my pillows to his liking and then completely cocoons himself in the doona. In fact he covers himself up so snug and tight that frankly I’m not actually sure how he breathes.

Even though I’m rushing about getting ready, I stop every now and then and just look at his cute little head sticking out of the covers. It warms the cockerels of my heart. It’s also particularly amusing if he wakes up because every single time he does, he looks confused about why he’s not over on his side. Adorable.

8.50am – The Peruvians

I get my morning coffee from Pie Face. The smell of all the pastry makes me a bit nauseous but it’s a pleasure to exchange my first words of each day with the four crazy Peruvians that work there. Every few days they tell me something new about Peru and every single day they joke and smile and sing with their customers. Sometimes they give me a free cookie to ‘keep me sweet’.

Last week they kicked someone out of their shop for being grumpy.

I look forward to seeing them even more than I look forward to the coffee. Which for me is massive. 

8.57am – The whiteboard

Next to our building is a cute little florist that has been around for more than twenty years. Each morning they write a random message or poem on the board hanging in the window. I love reading it.

Once I made the owner mad because I forgot to pick up a white rose I’d ordered for Ian. Not only did I get a severe talking to but the next day they changed the message to a passively aggressive  ‘Roses are red, violets are blue, White roses are available SO DON’T FORGET TO PICK UP YOURS TOO’.

The guy in the shop scares me but I love his whiteboard.

8.58am – The teenage mutant ninja turtle

The same flower shop mentioned above does a spectacular flower arrangement for our foyer each week. I mentally rate each one out of ten and they rarely score below 7.5. My favourite thing about the flower display is the ninja turtle figurine that the girl on the concierge desk adds to the display each morning. It’s Michelangelo and she hangs him from the flowers or positions him so he looks like he is kicking the berries or hiding under the bark. Each night she packs him away in her drawer and then she repositions him the next day.

It’s like looking for Where’s Wally every morning.

I’ve spoken to my colleagues about this and no one else seems to have seen him. Which means that either:

– I imagine a ninja turtle on a daily basis that that doesn’t actually exist

– No one else is as good at finding him.

I hope it’s the latter.

First page dread

This morning on the train, I sat down next to a girl who was staring intently at the notebook in her lap. The notebook caught my eye because:

1) I have an intense love for beautiful notebooks

2) I particularly adore anything leather bound

3) It was red. And I love anything red. 

Out of the corner of my eye, I watched her open it and I could see that she hadn’t written anything in it yet.

All the way from Town Hall to Strathfield, she caressed the cover, she sniffed the pages, she stared lovingly at it. I started to think I was sitting next to my new soul mate.  This is exactly what I do with any new book.

I kept watching as she took out her pen, reopened to the first page and stared.

And stared. And stared.

And then I realised that what I was observing was First Page Dread. 

Just like me when I have a brand new notebook, the random train girl also felt she needed to write something special on that first page. Something important. Something profound. But she didn’t know what that should be.

The first entry in a new blog is kind of the same as the first entry in a new note book.

Weeks ago I set up my masthead, thought of a name….and then stared at the page, wondering what to write about. The first entry feels like it needs to be about profound things. But then again, this blog is called The Random Musings of Neen, not The Profound Musings of Neen.

Sometimes you just have to get on with it. Mark the page. Start using the book. There’s no point in having a gorgeous new notebook if you never plan to write anything at all. Same with a blog.

So here we are. I’ve marked the first page and written my first random musing. Now I can continue with all the other pages which I’m sure won’t bring the same level of dread.

Hopefully that random train girl has marked her first page now too.