November Favourites + a Giveaway!

Guys, can you believe 2016 is almost coming to a close?? Gosh…where has all the time gone? I am an year older and none the wiser!

The festive mood has finally kicked in. The Christmas tree will go up this weekend, I have started planning for my Christmas party with friends and there is a lot of joy and cheer in the atmosphere. That’s what I love best about this season – the feeling of joy and of hope that we live in a beautiful world and our lives are all good, inspite of everything.

So on that joyous thought, let’s head into my favourites for the last month but first, the giveaway!

I had the opportunity to meet and interact with the brand, Little Innoscents, at last month’s Kids Bloggers Brunch.  I was pleasantly surprised and happy to see an organic baby skincare range because I have always been extremely careful about taking care of my son’s hair and skin.

Antonette (Director of Little Innoscents) was very kind to provide me with some samples so that I could use and test it out myself before making any sort of recommendation to you guys. I have been using their products for over a month now and completely pleased with it because it is effective, natural, plant based and free from all sorts of nasties.

Little Innoscents Organic Baby Skincare Range - Giveaway Hamper - thespiceadventuress.com

Little Innoscents has been very kind to sponsor one of their best selling hampers to one lucky reader of my blog; the hamper contains;

  • 1 pack Baby Wipes – Ultra soft wipes with plant based ingredients, Aloe Vera and Vitamin E
  • 1 Milky Whites Toothpaste – Fluoride Free and no Artificial Sweeteners. My son’s favourite!
  • 1 Sun Lotion SPF30 – UVA & UVB broad spectrum protection. No preservatives, with zinc oxide as the only active ingredient. Contains Vitamin E, organic Green Tea, Cucumber and Rosehip extract.
  • 1 Hair Fudge – Yet another favourite in our household. My son goes gaga over this as he gets to style his hair looking all dapper. Made with Sandalwood and Orange Infusions, this one is alcohol, SLS and Paraben free which means that there will be no icky residues left behind on the hair.
  • 1 Hair and Body Wash – A refreshing Spearmint & Orange wash which is ideal for sensitive skin and those suffering from eczema. My son smells so good after a bath with this which ensures that there are lots of cuddles afterwards!

Little Innoscents Organic Baby Skincare Range - Giveaway Hamper - thespiceadventuress.com

So if you would like to win a hamper for yourself or to gift to someone this Christmas, then the details are provided at the end of this post.

But before that it is time for my November Favourites:

99 Food Photography Tips; I am practicing each and every one of these and it’s been of incredible help.

A new year is just around the corner and if you need some inspiration, these are the quotes that will do the job.

The power of listening! I need more of that…..

I love makeup but I like to own only a few products, ones I swear by. And the one I am loving at the moment and an all time favourite are these Clinique chubby sticks.

How cute is this drink dispenser; on my wish list and fingers crossed!

And this hanging chair is on the list too! A girl can dream right….

This is Nacho dream come true!

I am not much of a bread lover but these challah buns get me drooling.

Get some pork on your fork!

The perfect Christmas wine but I am partial to this old fashioned too.

These truffles would make awesome Christmas gifts

For days you want deliciousness and nourishment in a bowl

And this chicken dish in on my menu for the weekend

Little Innoscents Giveaway

To be in the running for this giveaway, here’s what you must do;

  1. Subscribe to my blog using your email id.
  2. Like the Little Innoscents Facebook Page
  3. Leave a comment below stating that you have done both and also your email id so that I can get in touch with you if you have won the hamper.

Rules:

The competition runs from December 2, 2016 to December 9, 2016.

The winner will be chosen by a random draw and will be notified on my blog, social media channels and also via email. If the person does not revert back within 48 hours, a new winner will be drawn.

To enter, you have be 18+ years of age and an Australian resident (or you could gift it to any of your friends or family living here).

Chutney Shenanigans with Eat Me Chutneys

When you open a bottle of Eat me Chutneys, you not only open a bottle of deliciousness but also sustainability, fairtrade and social ethics.

Meet the Chopras – the tour de force behind this epic social project.

Jaya Chopra is Mom and the self-professed chutney queen who along with her husband (who is often dubbed the labelling machine but is actually the herb grower for the project and her son Ankit Chopra, the corporate world drop out turned Michelin trained chef.

Most of you who have been following my blog for a while know how much I appreciate and encourage small local businesses like these. So it’s not fair that only I get to enjoy these gorgeous chutneys; let me share their story with you folks too.

Eat Me Chutneys - thespiceadventuress.com

The logic behind Eat me Chutneys is a simple one. Rescue all those bruised, overly ripe or what-we-call-ugly fruits and veggies from local vendors and convert it into lip smacking chutneys and preserves. But in the process, they manage to do a whole lot of other things which is what makes this company rather unique.

Now you guys know that I will not make a recommendation without trying out the product. So I purchase two chutneys from the range – Tomato + Kaffir Lime and ofcourse, Tamarind + Fig Chutney.

Eat me Chutneys - thespiceadventuress.com

And yes, both of it appealed to the chutney lover in me but I must say I am bit partial towards the tomato one because that’s one of my favourite chutney flavours (can’t help it!). We enjoyed the chutneys in many different ways – with regular Indian meals, as a topping, sandwich spread, on the cheese board etc…

Delicious lamb burger with Tomato Kaffir Lime chutney, veggies and caramelized onions -thespiceadventuress.com

Delicious lamb burger with Tomato Kaffir Lime chutney, veggies and caramelized onions

After school Ham and Cheese Jaffles with Tamarind Fig Chutney - thespiceadventuress.com

After school Ham and Cheese Jaffles with Tamarind Fig Chutney

The story of Eat me Chutneys began when Ankit’s mom decided to kickstart her retirement plan of making and selling her signature Tamarind + Fig chutney. What started as basic research for procuring their raw produce eventually turned into a project for understanding where the ingredients were coming from and who were growing it. And eventually they made the switch to Fairtrade and organic – in fact, their tamarind chutney is Australia and New Zealand’s first and only fairtrade chutney!!

Impressive, isn’t it? Excerpts from my interview with Ankit……

Research for a project like this would have been immense; how did you go about it?

More than research, we’d like to refer to it as following our intuition and exploring things that make sense to us.  Looking for organic alternatives for sugar and spices was not because we wanted to craft organic chutney from the get go.  It was more to do with our belief that organic/biodynamic farming are better alternatives to conventional farming and ultimately better for the planet.  Similarly in other facets of the business, having a core value behind every decision makes us follow through with our research very easily in spite of the time it might take.  Everything just happened organically .

A Michelin-trained chef making chutneys is not the most common sight. Do you think the chef training has helped you in this journey?

The discipline, thought process and techniques that I learnt in the kitchens in Paris especially at the 3 starred Michelin restaurant I trained at is all somehow creeping into the chutney jars.  In addition, the work ethic of the chefs in France is crazy.  Whilst the world around us sees plenty of chefs jump onto book and TV deals some of the chefs I worked for, never left a single service.  Pure poetry!  However, something even more important is the work ethic that mum and dad have instilled in us – that wisdom passed down generations; those old school ways of doing things and the buy once and use it for a long time attitude.  These somehow round up what makes Eat Me Chutneys, the little adventure it is.

‘She is mum and she is the Chutney Queen’ – so how is it working with the queen bee?

In fact, I’ll extend the question to how is it like working with mum and dad, as co-founders of Eat Me Chutneys.  Of course with mum, I’m learning the art of handling spices with restrain.  She’s been passed down our heirloom recipes that I am lucky to learn.  As for Dad, he still grows herbs for our chutneys and so the appreciation for growing our own food comes from him.  These two things easily make it bloody exciting for me and at times downright entertaining.

Are all recipes developed by your mum or do you don the Chef’s hat from time to time?

Most chutney recipes are in development phase for weeks till we settle on something that we all think is epic.  We may start with a French technique for say 30kgs of quinces and end up using one or two spices to go in it.  Or we may start with a style of preservation that mum’s mum taught her and the French training in me will morph it to something quite funky.  It’s all a bit of everything and there is no set process either.  Happy days.

Eat me Chutneys - thespiceadventuress.com

Where do you source the ‘wonky’ yet gorgeous produce from?

We work with numerous farmers that provide all the gorgeous produce for the chutneys – without epic produce there will be no chutneys.  So really the heroes are the farmers.

Fairtrade is a term that we hear quite often these days. But most of us aren’t still aware of what it truly means or its significance in everyday life. Can you elaborate a bit and what makes Eat Me Chutneys a Fairtrade business?

Fairtrade is about stable prices, decent working conditions and the empowerment of farmers and workers in developing nations – it’s about supporting the development of thriving communities and protecting the environment in which they live and work.

Much the same way that we as manufacturers are required by Fairtrade certification system to hold up to complete transparency in our supply chain and annual audits, the Fairtrade farmer co-operatives that supply the ingredients are held to equally high standards of transparency.  This is what makes the Fairtrade movement thrive.

For our Tamarind chutneys since all ingredients were imported we spent nearly a year exploring where the ingredients were actually coming from, how the farmers behind these ingredients were being treated etc.  This research phase allowed us to switch to Fairtrade and organic equivalents and in the process made our Tamarind chutneys Fairtrade certified – only company in Australia/New Zealand with certified Fairtrade chutneys.

What were the challenges that you faced in this journey?

Like any other small business, we’ve had our fair share however one that is worth highlighting is when we started out we called our chutneys, rescued chutneys.  This took some dialogue and conversations with our customers to explain what we meant by rescued.  It’s been a glorious journey and more than challenges they’ve all been learning experiences.

While there are several stockists in Sydney, there are only a couple in Melbourne? Any particular reason for this?

Nope, just that we are a small team and it’s easier to reach out to folks in Sydney and go meet them personally.  We love meeting everyone that is ever involved with our jars of goodness.  We visit all farmers and meet all potential stockists to ensure we all care for similar things.  There’s School of Life, Craft and Co and The Epicurean folks that have our chutneys in their shops.  Yay!

Why is it small local businesses find it so hard to retail at mainstream stores or supermarkets?

Ah, this is a fun one.  Perhaps the big stores are not for everyone.  A company’s ethos will dictate where they might want to head and how.  Some companies are perfectly ok to stay niche and never go to the supermarkets.  Other than that, the sheer scale of fulfilling their orders and working on their terms can be daunting I’m sure .

There are so many unique flavours in your range. Which is your best selling one? And which is your family favourite?

Without missing a beat, it will have to be mum’s Tamarind + Fig chutney!

Eat me Chutneys - thespiceadventuress.com

Could you tell us a bit about your cooking classes and what is the best way to get more information about the same? Are these held only in Sydney?

Education plays a huge part in our tiny company.  Mum’s a primary school teacher by day and she also runs volunteer taste sessions at numerous primary schools whilst I run chutney demo classes with councils here in Sydney.  It allows us to show people how chutneys are one way of converting the season’s bounty (no matter how ripe or wonky it might be) into something delish, it lets people ask questions, debate and discuss the food system with us and even suggest a flavour combination or two.  Such fun!

What are the future plans? More products or expansion plans?

It’s all about food waste and how we can use business to tackle this – lots more chutneys and lots more classes and simply lots more fun.

Words of advice to new and upcoming small business entrepreneurs especially those choosing the sustainable route?

Good things take time and awesome even longer – it took us nearly a year of calling folks around the world, trying to translate from say Singhalese to English using Google translator to finally arrive at a point when we got the tamarind chutneys Fairtrade certified.  Nothing amazing is quick and overnight, ever.

Djinta Djinta Winery and deVine Restaurant (Kardella South, Victoria)

Did you check out my travel post to Phillip Island? If not you must, since this is what we were upto the second day of our travels.

Whenever I travel within Australia, I try and visit a local winery or restaurant in the region – a part of the holiday I incorporate to broaden my understanding of food and wines here. Though a lot of names came up while researching for wineries both in Phillip Island and along the Gippsland Highway, Djinta Djinta captured my interest as they had a restaurant on the property.

After leaving the San Remo Fisherman’s Co-op, we took a picturesque drive towards Kardella South to visit Djinta Djinta Winery and also to lunch at deVine Restaurant (on the property itself).

Djinta Djinta Winery, Victoria - thespiceadventuress.com

Djinta Djinta Winery, Victoria - thespiceadventuress.com

What a unique name, isn’t it? Djinta Djinta (gin-tah gin-tah) is actually a distinctive sound that is made by the indigenous Willy Wagtails. This winery is a 10.5 acre picturesque property located within the Strzelecki Ranges and lies between Korumburra and Leongatha, just off the South Gippsland Highway.

The view is spectacular and we were blessed with a bright sunny day to walk around and enjoy the property. A stunning location for events especially weddings; I even told the husband that maybe we should renew our vows here.

Djinta Djinta Winery, Victoria - thespiceadventuress.com

Unfortunately the cellar door, ‘Wines of Armour Room’ was closed due to an event so we couldn’t do any tastings. Please do call up ahead and confirm about availability if you are interested in tastings. That was a miss for us as we were looking forward to this eagerly.

But the experience at deVine more than made up for this.

The restaurant is situated at the upper level of the main house and a beautiful barrel shaped door greets you at its entrance. The ambience at deVine is traditional and infused with a lot of warmth and comfort. All the wood paneling, rich colours and a well laid out space gives you a homely and welcoming feeling.

deVine Restaurant, Djinta Djinta Winery, Victoria - thespiceadventuress.com

deVine Restaurant, Djinta Djinta Winery, Victoria - thespiceadventuress.com

deVine Restaurant, Djinta Djinta Winery, Victoria - thespiceadventuress.com

After a warm greeting by Eleonor who is part owner at Djinta Djinta, we were seated at a table overlooking the vineyard, a sight so spectacular that you could gaze at it for hours. A seasonal a-la-carte menu is available and there is also a special children’s menu, vegetarian and vegan menu.

Since we couldn’t enjoy the tastings, we got two bottles of wine based on recommendations Eleanor gave us after understanding our taste preferences and also our meal order.

The first was a bottle of 2014 Djinta Djinta Pinot Noir which had a strong, velvety and lengthy flavourful palate with hints of cherry, plum and cassis.

2014 Djinta Djinta Pinot Noir - thespiceadventuress.com

2014 Djinta Djinta Pinot Noir

2014 Djinta Djinta Pinot Noir - thespiceadventuress.com

2014 Djinta Djinta Pinot Noir

And the second was a bottle of 2013 Sweet Melody; a sweet, aromatic and refreshing white with floral and musk flavours. Hands down, the wine of the day and especially recommended for those who are fond of sweeter whites than the crisp dry ones. Loved it so much that we bought home an extra bottle for the festive season.

2013 Sweet Melody - thespiceadventuress.com

2013 Sweet Melody

The luncheon menu had options for 2 and 3 course and with four of us, there were quite a few dishes we sampled.

The first entrée was Housemade Hungarian Pork Sausage on Caramelized Onion drizzled with Romesco Sauce.  Delicious was the verdict especially with the quality of the sausages really shining through. A great entrée which is not only flavourful but showcased the quality of ingredients.

Housemade Hungarian Pork Sausage on Caramelized Onion drizzled with Romesco Sauce - deVine Restaurant - thespiceadventuress.com

Housemade Hungarian Pork Sausage on Caramelized Onion drizzled with Romesco Sauce – deVine Restaurant – thespiceadventuress.com

The next entrée was Beetroot, Feta and Toasted Cashew Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette and Housemade SourDough Crisps. I ordered this salad because it was a unique combination of flavours, one that I had never tried before. A stunning option for those who want to start off with something light and highly recommended if you are a vegetarian too.

Beetroot, Feta and Toasted Cashew Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette and Housemade SourDough Crisps - deVine Restaurant - thespiceadventuress.com

Beetroot, Feta and Toasted Cashew Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette and Housemade SourDough Crisps

The third entrée was Pumpkin and Chickpea Fritters with Chilli Dressing and served with a Mixed Lettuce Salad. Yet another delicious vegetarian option, the fritters were so full of flavour with the chilli dressing complimenting the sweetness from the pumpkin.

Pumpkin and Chickpea Fritters with Chilli Dressing and served with a Mixed Lettuce Salad - deVine Restaurant - thespiceadventuress.com

Pumpkin and Chickpea Fritters with Chilli Dressing and served with a Mixed Lettuce Salad.

Time for the mains; we ordered two of the Pan Seared Meditteranean Salmon Fillet on Roasted Tomato, Eggplant, Zucchini, Onion and Olives topped with Tangy Lemon Salsa Verde. Cooked to perfection, moist and succulent salmon paired deliciously with the roast vegetables and tangy herby dressing. While it was perfect, I would have liked more of the salsa verde on the plate.

Pan Seared Meditteranean Salmon Fillet on Roasted Tomato, Eggplant, Zucchini, Onion and Olives topped with Tangy Lemon Salsa Verde - deVine Restaurant - thespiceadventuress.com

Pan Seared Meditteranean Salmon Fillet on Roasted Tomato, Eggplant, Zucchini, Onion and Olives topped with Tangy Lemon Salsa Verde

The next main dish to arrive was the Marinated Roast Duck Leg in Sweet Spiced Pinot Gris with Plum Jus and Seasonal Vegetables. The duck was cooked perfectly and I loved that sweet spicy jus which went really well with the duck.

Marinated Roast Duck Leg in Sweet Spiced Pinot Gris with Plum Jus and Seasonal Vegetables - deVine Restaurant - thespiceadventuress.com

Marinated Roast Duck Leg in Sweet Spiced Pinot Gris with Plum Jus and Seasonal Vegetables

The vegetarian mains ordered was a Thai Coconut Vegetable Curry on Jasmine Rice. While it might not be an authentic Thai curry, it was definitely full of flavour especially that coconut broth; refreshing and delicious.

Thai Coconut Vegetable Curry on Jasmine Rice - deVine Restaurant - thespiceadventuress.com

Thai Coconut Vegetable Curry on Jasmine Rice

My little fellow chose the Gourmet Pizza with Ham, Cheese, Pineapple, Chicken and Olives. So happy to see that the children’s menu gets the same attention as the adults. He was extremely happy and so were we; I even managed to sneak in a slice.

Gourmet Pizza with Ham, Cheese, Pineapple, Chicken and Olives - deVine Restaurant - thespiceadventuress.com

Gourmet Pizza with Ham, Cheese, Pineapple, Chicken and Olives

For desserts, the first one ordered was a French Fudge Chocolate Mousse in a White Chocolate Cup, Chocolate Shavings and Almond Tuille.

French Fudge Chocolate Mousse in a White Chocolate Cup, Chocolate Shavings and Almond Tuille - deVine Restaurant - thespiceadventuress.com

The second choice was the Nashi Pear and Blueberry Cobbler served with Vanilla Icecream.

Nashi Pear and Blueberry Cobbler served with Vanilla Icecream - deVine Restaurant - thespiceadventuress.com

And the third was a Cacao Pudding served with Raspberry Coulis and Fresh Strawberries.

Cacao Pudding served with Raspberry Coulis and Fresh Strawberries - deVine Restaurant - thespiceadventuress.com

There was utter silence at the table after the desserts arrived; in fact everyone was impatient for me to finish my photography so that they could tuck in. Unanimously, the dessert course was acknowledged as the best course of the day (not by me, I am a savoury girl). And every single plate went back polished off. It would be hard to pick a favourite as all of them were delicious but I thoroughly enjoyed the Nashi pear crumble which was so warm, fresh, not too sweet and dancing on your tastebuds with that cold icecream. Highly recommend all three.

So happily fed, we thanked Eleonor for a wonderful time and then strolled around the winery a bit. While everyone else settled in the shade for a bit of rest, I decided to explore where the vines grew and spotted these baby grape bunches. My first ever experience!

Djinta Djinta Winery - thespiceadventuress.com

I strongly encourage all of you to visit Djinta Djinta; it could be a day’s journey in itself or as part of the South Gippsland wine trail or perhaps clubbed with your Phillip Island trip. Djinta Djinta also hosts different types of food events at the restaurant like the Friday Tapas nights.

Djinta Djinta Winery & deVine Restaurant

10 Stevens Rd
Kardella South VIC 395

Phone no: (03) 5658 1163

Website: http://www.djintadjinta.com.au/

Email: info@djintadjinta.com.au

Djinta Djinta Winery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Phillip Island – Penguins, Farms and Shades of Blue

(Grab a cuppa and read along what me and my family were upto on our short holiday to Phillip Island)

Located about 140km away from Melbourne CBD, Phillip Island is one of the most popular islands of Victoria, Australia.

With about 97kms of coastline, the island offers stunning panoramic views which make it a very popular destination among the locals and tourists alike. In spite of having lived in Melbourne for the past 3+ years, we have never visited the island (I know!) and so when an opportunity presented in the form of friends visiting us from India, we were quick to jump at it.

Philip Island - thespiceadventuress.com

In spite of having lots to offer, Phillip Island is often viewed as a one day trip and most people would want to tell you that there isn’t much beyond the famous Penguin Parade. Nothing can be far from the truth….this island has so much more to offer for those who look out for experiences beyond the obvious. This is also because most travellers and holiday goers view Phillip Island as a destination to get to and forget the journey that perhaps offers lots more.

We planned a 2 day trip and used Airbnb to book our stay at Blue Poles Holiday House on Thompson Avenue, Cowes. I would highly recommend this house; the location was perfect and it was a beautiful home with all the amenities and a warm, cozy ambience. Quite affordable too.

Since we were travelling with children, our first stop was at the Maru Koala Park, an award winning family run business located on the Bass Highway, Grantville en route to Phillip Island. The farm is home to koalas, kangaroos, dingoes and many other Australian native animals.

Maru Koala Park, Philip Island, Victoria - thespiceadventuress.com

The park also has a Pirate themed mini golf area, a bit hit with the children and adults alike. This was my first time getting all close up and personal with the kangaroos and joeys. Make sure to pick up a feed box at the counter and have the joeys eating out of your hand. Highly recommended and so much fun with kids.

Maru Koala Park, Philip Island, Victoria - thespiceadventuress.com

Maru Koala Park, Philip Island, Victoria - thespiceadventuress.com

Maru Koala Park also offers close encounters with the koalas, joeys, dingoes, reptiles etc… for an extra cost in addition to the general entry. These run daily at specified times so make sure you check before hand on the website before making the ticket purchase.

We opted for the close encounters with koala and joey. What you get is an extra bit of one on one time with the animals along with the keepers. Loads of cuddling, photo opportunities; the staff also click photographs (included in your ticket price) which can be collected at the counter at the end of your visit.

Koala close encounter, Maru Koala Park, Philip Island - thespiceadventuress.com

Joey close encounter, Maru koala park, Philip Island - thespiceadventuress.com

The centre also has a café for those who are planning on spending a considerable time at the park. The food was nothing much to write about, standard fare so give it a miss if you are not too hungry. The options are much better once you reach Phillip Island which is only about 15-20 minutes away.

Maru Koala Park, Philip Island, Victoria - thespiceadventuress.com

On our way out, we visited the gift shop to bring back some souvenirs…we love collecting fridge magnets from our travels. Overall a great experience, but a tad bit expensive. It would be great if the centre could introduce a package rate for those who want many experiences instead of having to pay full price for each. Having said that, an experience children will love.

The next stop was The Nobbies at Phillip Island, that boardwalk stretch that offers you the most panoramic and spectacular views of the coast. Savour the walk along this stretch taking in the expanse of blue that seems to change shades every few steps. If you walk the stretch in a hurry just clicking photographs and selfies, you have totally missed the point. Spend a few minutes absorbing the beauty in front of you and these visual memories are what will stay with you forever unlike the photographs.

The Nobbies, Philip Island, Victoria - thespiceadventuress.com

The Nobbies, Philip Island, Victoria - thespiceadventuress.com

The Nobbies, Philip Island, Victoria - thespiceadventuress.com

As you walk along the boardwalk, do keep an eye out for silver gulls, chicks and sometimes even little penguins. We were lucky to spot two and I even managed to photograph one….

With the Seal Rocks nearby, you can take a cruise to visit Australia’s largest fur seal colony but we had to give it a miss since we had a toddler accompanying us. Also the cruise runs only on specific days and fixed timings so make sure you have a plan and make bookings ahead.

The Nobbies, Philip Island, Victoria - thespiceadventuress.com

Philip Island - thespiceadventuress.com

And then it was time for the quintessential Penguin Parade, which perhaps put Phillip Island on the tourism map in the first place.

This is definitely once-in-a-lifetime experience. Nothing short of magic to watch hundreds and perhaps thousands of little penguins returning home at sunset to their colonies. A wildlife experience that’s indeed a surreal experience and one that is beyond words.

Have a walk inside the main centre where you can learn and gather lots of information about penguins. There are two souvenir shops for a spot of shopping; I bought home a banksia essential oil infuser and ofcourse fridge magnets.

There are different types of penguin viewing platforms and all that information can be found here. We chose the ‘Underground Viewing’, a world first facility that allows you a bird’s eye view of the penguins returning home.  Some of the little fellas returning home get so curious that they walk right up to the viewing glass.

Penguin Parade, Philip Island - thespiceadventuress.com

You have the advantage of being indoors which is great if you have little ones along. Louise, our ranger for the evening, was such a warm and friendly person who not only provided us with lots of penguin information but also patiently answered my curious 7 year old’s doubts (hard task).

Penguin Parade, Philip Island - thespiceadventuress.com

Seating is limited to 70 people so make sure you book ahead and if you hold a RACV membership, make sure to put the discount to good use.

There are also several eco friendly tours that operate so make sure to check out the website for the details.

Photography is not allowed at the Penguin Parade respecting the natural habitat of these little ones. But I will leave you with this photograph that I managed to click at the Nobbies.

Little Penguin, Nobbies, Phillip Island - thespiceadventuress.com

(I found a lot of people violating the ‘no photography’ clause sneakily getting clicks using mobile phones. Please guys, it is important to remember that we are in their natural environment and what we do can affect and threaten the little penguins)

We had a late start the 2nd day and the first place we visited was the Fisherman’s Co-operative at San Remo.

Fisherman's Co-op, San Remo - thespiceadventuress.com

Yet another region with spectacular views, the Co-op is also the place to stock up on fresh seafood or perhaps indulge in some fishing. Also a great place to relax in the sun; the children have access to clean sand and small pockets of water – a mini beach like experience.

At San Remo, Philip Island - thespiceadventuress.com

Every day at 12.00pm, there is a Pelican Feeding program which we actually missed because we arrived a tad bit late. A walk along the San Remo jetty is highly recommended to enjoy the view and also spot interestingly named fishing boats.

San Remo Jetty, Philip Island, Victoria - thespiceadventuress.com

I bought back some super fresh duck fish fillets from the shop, a variety I have never tasted before. You could also sit down for a seafood indulgent lunch at the restaurant with this brilliant view as a backdrop.

Back on the road, our next stop was the Djinta Djinta Winery but then that’s another story in itself. Stay tuned!

Chicken Fajita Tacos with Minty Cucumber Yoghurt

What a newsworthy month it has been! And while the headlines continue to shock and stir us, the social media is filling up with delicious treats that promise us much joy and hope this festival season.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have no plans whatsoever for Christmas or New Year; in fact we haven’t thought or discussed about it as a family. There will be some sort of celebration and most likely a quiet one with just a couple of close friends….that’s our style of entertaining.

I have always been picky and choosy about my friends. And while during my teens, that was seen as a disadvantage (my parents used to get a tad bit worried that I walked around lonely with a book in hand most of the time), it eventually turned out to be the biggest strength of my life. My ability to choose just a handful of good people as friends ensured that I was always surrounded by positivity.

And luckily I am married to a person who shares that idealogy though it took him a while to get that. He had a zillion friends only to discover that when life dealt him a series of blows, there was hardly anyone to turn to. So now we have our chosen few, friends who are non-judgemental, accept us the way we are and shares a common thread of mutual respect and understanding not confined by social norms. And I know, plan or not, we will celebrate this holiday season with a couple of them.

While I am getting busy developing, testing and photographing new recipes leading to the festive season, the reality of everyday dinners is always on the horizon. So when Maraya, who is one of the super moms behind the popular blog ‘Stuff Mums Like’ reached out to me for a guest collaboration, I was thrilled.

While there were a zillion ideas buzzing in my head, I zeroed in on tacos….I mean, who doesn’t like tacos. I am sure it’s a fave at every home. And this recipe is bound to be a big hit with the kiddos; my 7 year old adores it. And if there are any leftovers, you can convert it into a wrap or add it to the salad bowl for a delicious lunch the next day.

Chicken Fajita Tacos with Minty Cucumber Yoghurt - simple, easy to make and feeds a crowd - thespiceadventuress.com

Chicken Fajita Tacos with Minty Cucumber Yoghurt - simple, easy to make and feeds a crowd - thespiceadventuress.com

Also, don’t forget to make an extra batch of the fajita seasoning; a very handy blend in your spice cupboard.

Fajita Seasoning - food photography - thespiceadventuress.com

Ingredients:

  1. Mini wheat tortillas
  2. 500gms skinless chicken thighs; cut into thin strips
  3. 1 orange bell pepper; cut into strips

This is a guest post in collaboration with Stuff Mums Like, so kindly head over to their website for the full recipe.

Chicken Fajita Tacos with Minty Cucumber Yoghurt - simple, easy to make and feeds a crowd - thespiceadventuress.com

Chicken Fajita Tacos with Minty Cucumber Yoghurt - simple, easy to make and feeds a crowd - thespiceadventuress.com

Kashmiri Rista……Sandwiched!

If you have travelled through Kashmir or have been lucky enough to eat at a Kashmiri wedding, then you would have definitely come across Rista.

Rista is a famous meatball preparation that holds a prestigious place in the Kashmiri wazwan. For those who don’t know what a wazwan is, it is the elaborate traditional feast of Kashmiri cuisine. A multi course, non-vegetarian meal that has become symbolic of the culture of this magnificent region.

Always made using lamb/goat, Rista is a delicious, aromatic and rich meatball curry with a classic deep red colour from the Kashmiri chillies and saffron – two ingredients that are available everywhere these days yet, must be an integral part of your shopping list when visiting Kashmir.

Rista is a traditional dish and involves a bit of prep work like most traditional dishes. The key components of this dish are the lamb mince itself (though in Kashmir, it is most likely to be goat mince, especially from the leg part), chilli water and shallot paste; it is the unique combination of these ingredients that makes this dish special. The mince is traditionally beaten with a wooden pallet to attain the soft, melt-in-your-mouth texture but that might not really work out in our modern kitchens where a food processor would ‘almost’ do the job.

Though traditionally this dish would be in a curry format i.e. with semi thick gravy, I decided to give it my own spin.

Kashmiri Meatball Sub with Baby Spinach, Pickled Shallots and Jalapenos – yes, that’s how I transformed the Kashmiri Rista.

Kashmiri Rista - a traditional meatball preparation from Kashmir in a new format - thespiceadventuress.com

I haven’t touched or altered the recipe of making the Rista in any manner and I want to preserve its originality. Only the sauce gets simmered down till it just about coats the meatballs. Shallots are a vital ingredient of Kashmiri cuisine and hence being used in a pickled form to add the sour, salty punch and to cut through the richness. Fresh spinach, tomatoes and cucumbers add a healthy, vibrant freshness and texture to the sandwich…and of course, the jalapenos for that extra kick of heat.

If you do not fancy a subway, you can still follow the recipe and enjoy a delicious and authentic version of Kashmiri Rista. But for those who don’t mind a bit of experimentation in the kitchen, try out my version of the Kashmiri Meatball Sub with Baby Spinach, Pickled Shallots and Jalapenos.

Kashmiri Rista - a traditional meatball preparation from Kashmir in a new format - thespiceadventuress.com

And once again thanks to an amazing friend, Supriya (my expert on Kashmiri cuisine) for teaching me yet another classic from the region. I also learnt the Tabakh Maaz (Kashmiri style Lamb Ribs) and the classic Mutton Roganjosh from her, both of which you need to check out.

Ingredients:

For the Rista:

(Yields 12-13 meatballs)

  1. 500gm lamb mince (with at least 25%fat content)
  2. 1 whole egg
  3. 4 cups water
  4. Salt, to season
  5. 1 tsp turmeric powder
  6. 5-6 tsp kashmiri chilli water
  7. ½ tsp garam masala
  8. 1 ½ tsp shallot paste
  9. 2 tsp saffron water
  10. 2 tsp ghee/clarified butter
  11. ½ tsp shahi jeera/caraway seeds

For the sandwich:

  1. Crusty bread rolls (3 meatballs per sub which makes around 4 subs)
  2. A handful of baby spinach
  3. 2 semi-ripe tomatoes, cut into even discs
  4. 1 cucumber, sliced finely
  5. 1 cup pickled shallots
  6. 2 fresh jalapenos, sliced finely into discs

Notes:

To make Kashmiri chilli water, soak 10-12 dried Kashmiri chillies (stems and seeds removed) in warm water for at least 30 minutes. Grind well with water and sieve to get the vibrant red chilli water. Can be refrigerated upto 2 weeks or store frozen as cubes for upto an year.

To make shallot paste, roast 10 – 12 shallots in a pan with a tbsp of oil till light brown. Grind to a paste with as little water as possible. Excess can be refrigerated and stored for upto a week or frozen and used upto a month.

Method:

  1. To make pickled shallots, slice the onions, add 1 tbsp salt, a pinch of sugar and 1 tbsp vinegar. Keep for at least 10 minutes; mix the shallots by hand and then squeeze out all the liquid from the onions.
  2. To prepare the meatballs, add the lamb mince along with one egg to a food processor (If you are adding fat separately, make sure it is added cold). Season lightly with salt and blend for a minute or two. Wet your hands and remove the mince mixture onto a plate.
  3. Place a pan with 4 cups of water on the stove to boil. Begin to roll the meatballs as the water starts to heat up.
  4. Wet your hands lightly to roll the meatballs easily; add each meatball into the water as soon as you roll it.
  5. As the meatballs begin to cook, you will notice the fat begins to leach out into the water which turns it cloudy (this is an important step). Move the meatballs around in the pan to ensure that it cooks evenly on all sides.
  6. Once the meatballs are looking springy or have begun to rise to the surface (this should happen in 5-6 minutes), add the turmeric powder.
  7. Then add the chilli water (do not get worried about the quantity as this does make the dish spicy) and garam masala.
  8. Next, add the shallot paste followed by saffron water. Taste and season with salt; cook for another 1 minute.
  9. Remove the meatballs carefully into a bowl and continue to cook the sauce to reduce and thicken the consistency. You need just enough sauce to coat the meatballs and also to drizzle a bit in the sandwich. Once this consistency has reached, return the meatballs to the pan, mix and remove from heat.
  10. In another pan, heat ghee and add to the meatballs; cover immediately and keep for 5 minutes.
  11. Meanwhile, assemble the other components of the sandwich.
  12. Place all the different vegetables and meatballs in separate bowls so that each person can make his own sub – a fun way to bring family and friends together.

Even though it might look like a whole lot of steps, this is an easy to make recipe once you have all the ingredients at hand.

Bon Appétit!

Kashmiri Rista - a traditional meatball preparation from Kashmir in a new format - thespiceadventuress.com

Filipino style Grilled Barramundi

An Indian interpretation of a traditional Filipino dish known as Fish Sarciado.

When I first came across this recipe, I found it a bit strange as it mentioned the use of eggs. Now I have never paired fish and eggs or eaten a similar combination before so it all sounded weird. But still the flavours struck a chord because it reminded me of this tomato egg chutney.

Not being one to turn down a challenge, I decided to give it a go but with my own tweaks because the original recipe sounded a bit bland to my bolder tastebuds. So out came my spice jars and a few experiments later, I had a winner on my plate.

Traditionally whole fried fish is used, often as a way of giving leftovers a new life. But I decided to grill the fish as it is a healthier choice. You also have the option to grill it on the stovetop, use an oven or a barbie….more choices.

Barramundi - food photography - thespiceadventuress.com

Filipino style Grilled Barramundi - an Indian interpretation of a traditional Filipino dish - thespiceadventuress.com

Marinating the fish with a spice paste definitely adds more flavour especially when you are using a whole barramundi. At the same time, I didn’t want it to be overpowering to take away from the main flavours either. So a simple marinade using Kashmir chilli powder (more colour, less heat), pepper and cumin mixed in oil was used to coat the fish.

If you are preparing this dish for a party or get together, I would suggest marinating the fish the day you buy it and then refrigerate or freeze depending on when you will be using it. This allows time for the flavours to penetrate well especially for a fleshy fish like barramundi.

The rest of the dish comes together very easily and is best done just before serving as it tastes best when served warm. I love whole fish preparations when feeding a crowd and it always creates quite a drama when presented as the centre piece at the table. Gets everyone talking and reaching out for their favourite bits; the communal feeling that is best experienced over food.

Filipino style Grilled Barramundi - an Indian interpretation of a traditional Filipino dish - thespiceadventuress.com

Don’t be put off by the fish and eggs pairing, do try it out and let your tastebuds make the decision.

Recipe adapted from apronandsneakers.com

Filipino style Grilled Barramundi

Ingredients:

  1. 1 whole barramundi (approx 800gms); cleaned, descaled and gutted
  2. Marinade for fish
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ tbsp Kashmiri chilli powder
  • 1 tsp roasted cumin powder

This post is bought to you in collaboration with Supreme Seafood so find the full recipe here.

Filipino style Grilled Barramundi - an Indian interpretation of a traditional Filipino dish - thespiceadventuress.com

October Favourites

What a month it has been! October will definitely be a highlight of 2016 for me, an overwhelmingly exciting one that will be a part of my memory forever and one that I will perhaps talk about proudly to my grandchildren some day.

Two weeks ago, I received a Certificate of Merit as part of Victorian Multicultural Commission’s Excellence Awards 2016 in the Media category. An absolute honour is all I can say. This was in recognition of the reporting work I do with Indian Link, Australia’s leading and most awarded Indian community magazine.

If you would like to know more about my work with Indian Link, this is a beautiful article penned by my editor.

VMC Excellence Awards 2016 (Media) - Certificate of Merit - thespiceadventuress.com

VMC Excellence Awards 2016 (Media) - Certificate of Merit - thespiceadventuress.com

This month also saw me conducting my first cooking class ‘The Spice Trail’ in association with Food Social. Hosted at the NEFF Market Kitchen in South Melbourne Market, the class was all about spices and the interesting ways to use it in both traditional and contemporary Indian cooking.

To say it was an amazing experience would be an understatement. It was sheer exhilaration with a whole lot of nerves at the same time but in the end, totally worth it. Check out more pictures from the event here.

The Spice Trail cooking class - thespiceadventuress.com

The Spice Trail cooking class - thespiceadventuress.com

My favourite quote for the month……because I strongly believe that our realities are the same but it’s our attitude and perspective towards life that makes us winners and losers!

Quote - photography - thespiceadventuress.com

This photograph was taken in my spring garden.

And now it’s time to share with all of you my favourite picks for this month….grab a coffee/tea/wine and enjoy the read.

An Indian cuisine food blog I totally admire and I have been drooling big time over this deliciously healthy black pea curry.

Diwali might be over but these dry fruit samosas are going to come up during my summer entertaining soirees.

Need some barbeque inspiration? Look no further than this….

Naan Pizzas! I know that there are plenty around but this one’s pretty amazing and easy.

I love classic recipes and I think you should never mess with them like this drool drool drool Steak Diane!

With summer promising to be here soon, it’s time to get creative in the drinks department. And when I say creative, I mean this prickly pear margarita!!!

Also this blood orange thyme spritz and this super green turmeric Bloody Mary.

Barware is high on my shopping list this summer and I am totally drooling over this collection.

The best way to get the choicest seafood and meat cuts is to befriend your local fishmonger or butcher. Here are the right questions to ask your butcher; very informative.

Life, Relationships, Travel and Food – all through Anthony Bourdain’s eyes. This man knows it all…..

A Siberian Autumn love story! This lady is one of the most travelled I know and she is such a dear friend.

Women, who we are and what we feel. Guys, this one is for you.

Lusting over this signature Pandora necklace.

How cool is this clutch?

Ciao folks for another month.

Spicy Tuna Croquettes

Eat, drink and make merry! The season of festivals, summer barbeques, potlucks and parties are upon us. I even know a few of my friends who are already preparing lists and planning for Christmas and New Year.

I am not doing anything of that sort because the maximum I can plan ahead is for a week. So I tend to go with the flow figuring out things as and when it happens. And this weekend, I get to enjoy the liberty of ‘being fed’ rather than cooking and feeding others which I am doing all the time. The break is much anticipated….

So keeping in mind the mood of the upcoming season, I am planning on adding recipes that are perfect for entertaining. Most of these are dishes that feature highly every time I entertain at home; simple, delicious and can be prepped ahead. And I am starting the series with these delicious Spicy Tuna Croquettes.

Spicy Tuna Croquettes - perfect for the party season - thespiceadventuress.com

There is nothing novel about tuna croquettes; it is one of the most common seafood snacks that you are likely to find across the globe. The flavours are often different depending on the cuisine and almost always made using canned tuna.

But today, we have some deliciously spicy tuna croquettes that have been made from fresh tuna fillets. The texture is different to what you would get with canned tuna; I find these croquettes lighter and melt in the mouth.

I learnt to make these from my mom and all those who hail from Kerala (especially if you have lived in Middle East) would identify with this. Nothing’s changed except that I used fresh tuna which actually makes a bit of a difference. If Panko breadcrumbs are available, do use it instead of regular breadcrumbs; you get a much crunchier coating.

Fresh Tuna fillet - food photography - thespiceadventuress.com

Spicy Tuna Croquettes - perfect for the party season - thespiceadventuress.com

The croquettes can be prepped ahead and frozen if you are making a large batch. Make sure to roll in breadcrumbs and then freeze to avoid it from sticking to each other. You could also use the same mixture to make tuna burgers; just make patties instead of croquettes. In fact I do this all the time; reserve one half of the mixture for patties which makes delicious lunch boxes the next day.

And the perfect accompaniment for these crunchy delights is some pickled red onions and mint coriander chutney.

Do try it out and hope you enjoy it as much as we do. And if you make it, please do tag me on your social media posts #thespiceadventuress so that I could see it too.

Ingredients:

(Makes approximately 30 croquettes)

  1. 500gm fresh tuna fillet
  2. 1 large potato (approximately 300gm)
  3. 1 medium red onion; finely chopped

This post is bought to you in collaboration with Supreme Seafood, so please do check out the full recipe here.

Spicy Tuna Croquettes - perfect for the party season - thespiceadventuress.com

Spicy Tuna Croquettes - perfect for the party season - thespiceadventuress.com

Good Palm Oil vs. Bad Palm Oil + a Recipe for Tim Tam Vanilla Icecream Cake

Today, we are going to have an important conversation regarding palm oil. And even though the recipe might sound like a more interesting read, I would encourage all of you to spend a few minutes and read through this post.

Do you use palm oil? I bet most of you would answer ‘no’ to that.

The truth is that most of us still remain largely unaware of the fact that palm oil is an integral part of our daily lives. Often labelled as ‘vegetable oil’, it is a main ingredient in almost 50% of our supermarket goods ranging from biscuits, cookies, chocolates, margarine, sauces, condiments etc… The raw materials derived from palm oil are also a main component of more than 70% of the cosmetics and household detergents we use.

Surprised? I sure was but what was even more surprising or rather shocking was the fact that many of the everyday products that I purchase for my household was made from ‘bad palm oil’.

Does your cookies have good or bad palm oil - thespiceadventuress.com

Does your icecream have good or bad palm oil - thespiceadventuress.com

Good vs. Bad Palm Oil is not about health; it is more about sustainability and protecting our forests and ecosystems.

And it is my own lack of awareness that made me want to collaborate with RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) and take part in the #GoodBadPalmOil campaign.

This global campaign which was launched on 23rd Sept in Australia aims to raise awareness around good and bad palm oil and why it is important for each one of us to make an informed choice everytime we reach out for our favourite lipstick or biscuit.

To quote, ‘at RSPO, we believe that achieving 100% certified sustainable palm oil (CSPO) is not only a realistic ambition but a vital one too. The production of ‘bad’ palm oil is rapidly destroying virgin rainforests and ecosystems causing air pollution to rise and putting many species at the risk of extinction. If grown sustainably, ‘good’ palm oil can benefit local communities with fair working conditions and help protect valuable species and forests.’

Good vs. Bad Palm Oil - thespiceadventuress.com

I was happy to read that there are a lot of companies, both Australian and global, who have pledged to use sustainable aka good palm oil. They are certified RSPO producers and the products carry the trademark so that ordinary customers like you and me can make the right choice. But these numbers are not enough; more work needs to be done and there has to be higher visibility and transparency. And this can come only through our informed choices. It is the consumer’s voice that eventually leads to change, albeit one small change at a time!

Read more about the #GoodBadPalmOil campaign here and also watch Jessica Dance’s knitted food videos which spread this valuable message.

I did spend a lot of time looking through this list of Australian companies to understand more about who are certified and also to find out if my favourite products are indeed doing their bit. There were a few nasty surprises but there was good news too.

And when it was time to create a recipe for today, I chose Arnott’s; incredibly happy that one of our favourite brands believes in sustainability and also exhibits a strong social responsibility. Arnott’s ANZ is not only a member of RSPO but also works with a third party NGO so that they can trace their supply back to the mill. All the palm oil used in their products are sourced from Peninsular Malaysia, regions that are meant for agricultural cultivation and does not result in deforestation, peat destruction or exploitation of workers. You can read more about the company’s corporate and social responsibility here.

And when we think of Arnott’s, we think of Tim Tams – the Aussie icon! And what a delicious icon it is!

Mango flavoured Tim Tams - thespiceadventuress.com

Tim Tams are much loved in our household (I am sure it’s the same for you). Even a non-biscuit lover like me is extremely fond of this chocolicious delight. And now I am relieved that I do not have to feel too guilty about eating these.

So I decided to create a summer treat using these and packed the hubby off to the nearest Coles to get me a few packets. My mind was torn between the dark chocolate and chewy caramel but imagine the surprise to find the new mango flavoured ones. I am guessing these are limited edition for the season so grab a few packets before they disappear from the shelves.

And a few experiments later…..here we have a delicious frozen treat to beat the sunny days!

Mango flavoured Tim Tams with a no churn Vanilla Icecream Cake!

Tim Tam Vanilla Icecream Cake - a super simple and delicious summer dessert - thespiceadventuress.com

Drawing inspiration from the cheesecakes, I blitzed the Tim tams and used it as the bottom layer. And though icecreams are traditionally made using eggs, I used a simple eggless version so that a lot more people can enjoy making this. The texture of this is somewhere between a traditional icecream and a semifreddo.

This is an extremely versatile recipe and just about any Tim Tam flavour can be used. Can’t find Tim Tams where you live, buy your favourite pack of biscuits (just make sure it is RSPO certified). You could also add other ingredients to the icecream for eg: some fresh berries for a more fruity flavour especially if you are using a chocolate flavour base.

Mango flavoured TIm Tams - thespiceadventuress.com

Tim Tam Vanilla Icecream Cake - a super simple and delicious summer dessert - thespiceadventuress.com

Tim Tam Vanilla Icecream Cake - a super simple and delicious summer dessert - thespiceadventuress.com

Tim Tam Vanilla Icecream Cake - a super simple and delicious summer dessert - thespiceadventuress.com

An easy peasy summer dessert which is a sure hit with children too; you can get them to help you make this infact. Comes together in no time at all especially for this party season. A very light and delicious ending to any kind of meal.

Ingredients:

  1. 1 pack mango flavoured Tim Tams (use any flavour you wish to)
  2. 400ml full cream milk
  3. 400ml condensed milk
  4. A pinch of salt
  5. 250ml double/thick cream (chilled)
  6. ½ tsp good quality vanilla essence

To decorate:

  1. ½ pack mango flavoured Tim Tams
  2. Dark chocolate shavings
  3. Cake Sprinkles

Method:

  • Line the bottom of a round springform cake tin (20cm) with baking paper.
  • Crumble the Tim Tams in a food processor and add this to the cake tin. Press down well using a spoon or ladle to form a tight base. Refrigerate.
  • Add the milk, condensed milk and salt to a pot; bring to boil and then simmer gently till you get the consistency of a thin custard. Make sure you keep a close eye stirring often or else the mixture can bubble over. Remove from heat and allow to cool down completely and then refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  • Beat the chilled cream to get soft peaks. Add the vanilla essence and then gently fold in the chilled condensed milk mixture till combined well.
  • Pour this over the Tim Tam mixture in the baking tin and freeze for at least 4 hours or till completely set. Remove from the cake tin onto a serving stand.
  • To decorate, I lined the edges of the icecream cake with chocolate shavings. Added 2 Tim Tams to the top and a handful of sprinkles. Just let your creative juice flowing and decorate it however you wish to.

Tim Tam Vanilla Icecream Cake - a super simple and delicious summer dessert - thespiceadventuress.com

Tim Tam Vanilla Icecream Cake - a super simple and delicious summer dessert - thespiceadventuress.com

Disclaimer – This post has been bought to you in collaboration with RSPO. But all the opinions, recipe, photographs and the decision to use Arnott’s biscuits is entirely mine. 

 

 

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