Thursday, July 30, 2015

Classic Lemon Bars

I would love to have said that these luscious lemon bars were made from lemons that I lovingly picked from my own tree...but that would be lying. In fact, when I went to make these bars for the first time, it was the week that every bird in the neighbourhood flocked to take a bite out of every. single. lemon on my tree.

Oh, well. Store-bought lemons work just as well (as would limes, oranges, tangelos - oh the possibilities!)

I adapted my recipe from Joy The Baker, and can't wait to adapt even my own recipe to include other citrus - I'm thinking a double layered bar with lemon on the bottom and lime on top? Has anyone tried this before?

These bars are so so so perfect for a spring or summer's day, but I suppose the sudden bout of warm-ish winter weather here (which isn't supposed to last, apparently) got me in the mood for this classic homemade treat, which, have I mentioned, is perfectly simple and easy to make?

1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celcius, or 350F, and line an 8x8" tin with baking paper.

2. Cream 113g of butter with 1/2 cup of sugar using a stand-mixer (I used my beloved KitchenAid) for 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy. Add 1 cup of plain flour and a pinch of salt, and don't forget to scrape down the sides of the bowl when necessary!

3. Pour the crust mixture into the tin and press it down evenly over the base of the tin with your fingertips. To smooth it out, I used the back of a spoon and rubbed the crust.

4. Bake the crust for 15-18 minutes until browned. Make sure you back it in the top third of the oven, else it will take a lot longer for the base to bake (and consequently a lot longer before you get to eat it, and we can't have that, can we?)

5. Whilst the crust is baking, whisk 2 large eggs with 3/4 cup white sugar until the mixture gets slightly thicker. Add 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon zest (from your tree of otherwise, pesky birds!), and 3 tablespoons of plain flour, along with 1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice. Feel free to swap the lemon for any other citrus you fancy.

6. Take the crust from the oven once baked and pour your luscious and creamy lemon mixture on top.

7. Bake for a further 18-20 minutes until the top layer doesn't jiggle in the middle. Again, make sure the tray is in the top third of the oven!

8. Leave to cool completely whilst still in the tin. Then take the slab out of the tin and cut into squares, adorning it with a heavy dusting of icing sugar to combat the tartness.

These lemon bars are an easy picnic treat, or just a lovely homage to days of old xx

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Grounds, Alexandria

Sydney is a sprawled city, with little gems hidden in the most unlikely of places. You wouldn’t likely think to look for a hip garden-themed restaurant and café amidst industrial buildings near the airport – and yet, there’s The Grounds.

The Grounds is almost the theme park of cuisine, with delicate details cropping up each and every time I go, from a fire pit with complimentary sticks and marshmallows on a chilled winter’s night, to Kevin Bacon’s house (that’s the resident pig, who went missing a few years ago but was dutifully returned), and a magic mix of flowers, pastries and pumpkins on a pick-up truck.

But the real star is the food, which is spread across a restaurant (the Potting Shed), a café and a small ‘fast-food’ hut.

The Potting Shed opened last year, and so my good friend, Molly, and I sought out a table under the vines and nearest to the beautiful blue bird, which later clawed his way onto my arm and broke my bracelet! He was too adorable to be angry at though...

Whilst Molly opted for the pulled pork burger, I went for a medley salad of grilled haloumi, rocket and quinoa. Absolutely delicious...and a lighter meal so as to save room for dessert later of course!

Plus, we shared two rather adorable drinks – Molly with the fresh fruit juice, and me with a rose lemonade made on site. I was driving, but we still had a good ol’ chuckle and appreciation over the names of drinks on the cocktail list! A definite must-try next time I come.

For a quick respite (we, of course, were eager to get back to more eats!) we wandered around the pen contained Kevin Bacon, a horse we named Juniper, two goats, and a few clucky chickens. I seemed to have been the animal whisperer that day, as despite Juniper’s reluctance with everyone else, he came over for a (very) brief pat!

Ripped jeans from ASOS, ballet flats from Tony Bianco

But we all know why we came here...the food. So, we made a quick look through the florist and the pastry carts, and settled in for some good catching up over tea and a chocolate tart, with an almondine and blueberry slice to match. And suddenly, we had spent four hours at The Grounds! xx

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Pairs of Products: Sukin

I’ve been lucky enough all my 19 years to have fairly clear skin, and that led me astray into thinking that because I had no spots or discolouration, I didn’t need to properly moisturise and clean my face. I was a slave to makeup remover wipes (which are incredibly drying and leave my skin feeling dull and hurt), and never moisturised other than a tinted moisturiser during the day.

2015, however, was my year to change up my skin care routine, and take responsibility for the skin I’m in.

And then I found Sukin – an Australian ‘natural skincare’ brand, which catered for my sensitive skin and was free from a range of nasties and bad practices that a lot of cosmetic brands are involved in (think: animal testing and harmful chemicals). The Sukin range boasts no EDTA, no parabens, no artificial colours, and above all is 100% vegan, 100% carbon neutral, and does not take part in animal testing.

For the moment I’ve stuck to their Cleansing Gel to remove my makeup and cleanse my face, and pair that with their Facial Moisturiser in order to restore my skin’s glow and take care of it. I love both products. I think that they do the job well, they’re better for the environment than any product I was using beforehand, and I haven’t experienced any reactions or bad results. Plus, the slender bottle is pretty cute too, and I found these products easily at Priceline.

Overall, would I recommend Sukin’s facial cleansing and moisturising range? Absolutely xx

Note that Sukin has not endorsed me for this post – I want to write about and recommend the products I’ve been loving recently, and think that they will help you too! Let me know what you lovely readers use as your cleanser - I'm always open to ideas! 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Oodles of Zoodles

Anyone who knows me knows that for the past four years or so I've been very *into* health and exercise and healthy eating, but I'm human and I know that during winter time it's incredibly easy to slip into the habit of making pasta and heavy meals.

I'm all for pasta. I love it! But not every week (even though I'd love to).

I have good news! And yes, I'm probably very late on the bandwagon, but I still think these zucchini 'noodles' are too amazing not to share with everyone!

All you need is a spiralizer - I found mine at a homewares shop for less than $5...crazy investment, I know ;)

Spiralize a few zucchinis (I was cooking for two so used about 3 zucchinis) and pop them in a bowl whilst you boil some water.

I'll be honest with you - the first time I tried these zoodles out, I wasn't a huge fan. I made them completely raw, and while I loved the taste, it did not taste anything at all like spaghetti. It wasn't going to replace my need for real pasta. So! I changed it up a bit, and quickly blanch the zoodle strands in boiling water for 2-3 minutes and voila! They really do have the taste and texture of spaghetti!

Whilst it's all boiling, I decided to go al Italiano and stray from my usual tomato paste sauce.

Tear some rocket leaves, cut up some mini bocconcini balls, and slice through some cherry tomatoes. Making an Italian flag on your board with the ingredients is optional, but advised.

And finally, to finish the dish up, either make your own, or (as I did) pop open a jar of pesto and spoon some into your delightfully curled zoodles, before adding the rest of the fresh ingredients xx

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Melbourne Masterpost

There’s an undeniable charm that seems to descend over Melbourne in the wintertime. It’s all style and sophistication among the chills, while dear old Sydney is a lot more...relaxed. I love Sydney don’t get me wrong – I could never imagine leaving it for good. But it is lovely to spend a few days in Melbourne, soaking up the hip laneway life and the buzz that surrounds all those beautiful old buildings.

Just before this bout of ‘arctic vortex’ cold greeted Australia, my good friend, P, and I took a girly three days off in Melbourne, shopping, eating, exploring. It was the perfect quick mid-year pick-me-up, and boy did we do a lot of shopping! We spent hours scouring Spencer St outlets and DFO Southwharf. But this post is about the in-between-shopping-breaks...Enjoy!

Food: P and I did not have one bad meal during our adventures in cloudy Melbourne (though the first place – a little laneway café that I have completely forgotten the name of – took 40 minutes to make eggs!)

Do not skip Lygon St – the aroma of wood fired pizzas and the sound of fluent (and not so fluent) Italian reigns supreme here. Total comfort food...the kind Nona would make me, if I had one, that is.

The Hardware Societie was without a doubt the BEST breakfast we had. P is a little fussier with food than I am, so went for a baguette with caramel spreading sauce (decadent to say the least!) while I opted for my favourite at-home brekkie – porridge. Not just any porridge, though: this one had honey-laced mascarpone, with banana puree and dates swimming throughout it. And just the right consistency, too! None of that too-thick-or-too-watery in this here bowl! Definitely a winner, and absolutely a place for the weekdays. Don’t even try to get a table after 7:30am on a Saturday or’s just too darn popular.

Now, having started off our last day with that porridge, I had decided that nothing we ate after it would even compare – until P forced me through the doors of Perkup Expresso Barin Degraves Street near Flinders Street Station. I say forced because from the outside it looks...well...dingy. Or ordinary. Certainly not the kind of place I had envisioned for our last meal before that interminable bus ride to the airport. However, it is safe to say that I raved on about this veggie burger for HOURS after the plane had landed back in Sydney. And the sweet potato fries. Oh my, the fries!

Drinks: Not being big on drinking, P and I didn’t imagine our nights to involve a tipple, but after a bit of pushing by friends who had gone to Melbourne a few months before us, we just had to make our way to Madame Brussels. It was a gloriously ethereal rooftop cocktail bar, with a stunning view of the Melbourne city, and dainty umbrellas and a pink and green theme just begging for people to call this place a fairytale land. I had a Prussian Iced Tea (think: tequila, peaches, earl grey tea) while P stuck to a cider, and we chatted about our dreams and life and uni until it got too cold up there on the roof! I’d love to go back on a spring or summer Sunday and wile away the afternoon. One tip though: stay away from the elevator and take the stairs. I felt sure it was going to get stuck on us any second (the ‘if this elevator gets stuck’ sign wasn’t reassuring either.)

Day-to-Day: Apart from the obvious shopping that you need to do whilst in Melbourne, the most exciting things P and I got up to included a bit of transport. For $14, you can get a Myki (kind of like a Sydney Opal card or the London Oyster card) and a full day’s unlimited transport, with an $8 a day top up after that. Melbourne’s infamous trams took us to St. Kilda, the beautiful but incredibly chilly seaside suburb, boasting a row of cafes and incredible bakeries, as well as Luna Park, the St. Kilda pier, and...penguins!

While we didn’t get a chance to see the penguins this time, I have gone to Melbourne in April and just as the sun sets, the little penguins can be seen dotted around the rocks under the pier. They’re gorgeous, and a must-see if you’ve got the time to spare.

The other day trip we took was via train to Brighton beach, where a short 20 minute walk from the station landed us with a spectacularly bizarre view – a row of wonderfully colourful and themed beach huts, that stretched and got even more creative (think comical crabs, and Japanese paintings) as they went on. Amazing sight, and quite a beautiful stop if you want to get out of Melbourne city for a while.

Closer to the city, though (in fact, right in the centre) is a long lane of colourful expression and art in the form of graffiti. P and I overheard a tour guide telling his group that all the neighbours at one point or another have agreed to having Hosier Lane covered with beautiful and eerie art. It's a wonderful escape from the business of the city just outside the walls of this lane, and an absolute unmissable walk-through.

One last adventure we had was walking 40 minutes through the rain (yes, we are troupers...or maybe just crazy) to I-Scream-Nails, a tiny little studio in a very ordinary looking building, which screamed fun and passion. For $35, P and I both got 4 nails all dolled up with nail art (mine are the milk bottle and the pineapple), and while I do think that that is quite expensive for a half hour appointment, it was a fun thing to do. One of my nails have even stayed non-chipped – and I’m writing this a good two weeks after having gone to Melbourne! Sydney is also 'cool' enough to have one - try Newtown for the same company!

I love Melbourne. I love the architecture, the weather, the style, the wonderfully organised layout of the city (think: Collins St parallel to Little Collins St, Bourke St parallel to Little Bourke etc.), and apart from Queen Victoria Markets which I didn’t really enjoy, I loved every second of my trip, and thoroughly encourage that if you are ever in this old-worldly city, you enjoy some of the places I’ve mentioned xx