ARZ Lebanese Cuisine, Dandenong (Melbourne) – a Review

ARZ was first recommended to me by a senior official at the Dandenong council. Knowing my extreme fondness for Middle Eastern cuisine, she suggested the place and wanted to know what I thought of the food. While this conversation took place almost a year ago, I somehow never managed to visit ARZ till 2 weeks ago.

ARZ has changed ownership recently (we had a great conversation with the head chef post dinner) so I cannot do any comparison between the old and new.

ARZ Lebanese Cuisine, Dandenong (Melbourne) – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

On arriving, we realized that there was a private party happening and since it was in the main dining area, we were not sure if the restaurant was open for public. Within seconds, the staff came out to greet us and informed that the restaurant was open to all as long as we don’t mind the extra bit of activity and music that was happening. She also suggested that we could sit outdoors if we felt that it was noisy inside.

We were quite glad to be seated outdoors because it was a beautiful evening and the weather was just perfect for an outside dining experience. Must say that the dining space inside the restaurant is beautiful with textured walls, low lighting and plush seating and outside, it’s rather basic with plastic chairs and tables but that did not deter us one bit.

Moreover my husband had also noticed that many people sitting outside were using the sheesha/shisha. And on enquiring, the staff said that the sheesha could only be used outdoors which reinforced our decision to sit outdoors.

ARZ Lebanese Cuisine, Dandenong (Melbourne) – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

ARZ has a really good menu to give you a glimpse into traditional Lebanese cuisine. Instead of a-la-carte, we decided to go for the banquet option so that we could have a taste of many dishes. The banquet we chose has no dessert options but a range of savoury dishes as outlined below;

The first to arrive at the table was the cold mezze which included a trio of dips – hummus, garlic tahini dip and beetroot dip along with bread and tabbouleh. Classics done well but that beetroot dip deserves extra mention because it was really delicious.

ARZ Lebanese Cuisine, Dandenong (Melbourne) – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

Soon arrived the hot mezze…Lebanese sausages grilled to perfection (really delicious), chicken livers cooked with onions and spices (another fabulous dish) and a platter of falafels, fried kibbeh, pickles, onions with sumac, all served on a bed of lettuce. While all the dishes were excellent, the sausages and falafels stood out to me personally as the most delicious.

ARZ Lebanese Cuisine, Dandenong (Melbourne) – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

ARZ Lebanese Cuisine, Dandenong (Melbourne) – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

ARZ Lebanese Cuisine, Dandenong (Melbourne) – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

To be pretty honest, we were quite full already and didn’t mind the fact that the next course took a while to come out. And while we were waiting, we decided to order for a Sheesha and chose the double green apple flavour…our first Sheesha experience in Melbourne. While I do not smoke or encourage smoking of any kind, the Sheesha was more of a fun experience than anything else.

ARZ Lebanese Cuisine, Dandenong (Melbourne) – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

And then it was time for the grilled meats to arrive…a platter laden with chips, chicken skewers, lamb seekh kebabs and beef skewers topped with more of the sumac spiced onions. The skewers were pretty similar to many others I have had at other Middle Eastern restaurants. The lamb kebabs were really good but the beef was not tender enough to be enjoyed. And while the chips have become standard fare in Australia, I would have preferred a salad instead.

ARZ Lebanese Cuisine, Dandenong (Melbourne) – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

Desserts are not a part of the banquet; would have been nice to have a traditional one included to complete the meal experience. But there are a few on the dessert menu that you could try out.

The hospitality and service at ARZ is commendable; the staff are attentive and make you really feel welcome. We also got the opportunity to have a good chat with the Chef and hear about his passion for the cuisine.

Will I go back? Yes, most definitely….

ARZ Lebanese Cuisine

Shop 2, 78 Cheltenham Road
Dandenong
Victoria 3175

Phone no: 03 8743 3929/03 9799  0999

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

ARZ Lebanese Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Disclaimer – Not a sponsored post!

Back to School with Smash Lunch Boxes + a Recipe for Easy Lunchbox Pasta Stir Fry

I think life has become a series of shopping lists, one after the other. Still getting over the effects of the Christmas list and it’s time already for the ‘back to school’ list. Sigh!

But in all fairness, life must go on and so does the shopping list. And one of the top spots in the back to school list is always reserved for a new lunch box.

Now we all agree that the lunch box is such an integral part of the school life. Apart from the fact that it is a source of nourishment and good health for our little ones, it is also an integral part of school memories. I can recollect so many fond memories when it comes to school lunches and so will all of you.

So presenting to you my favourite brand of lunch boxes from Smash. I discovered this brand two years back and haven’t looked back ever since. In fact, I even wrote a blog post about it last year; there is also another easy lunch box recipe so do check it out.

Back to school with Smash - thespiceadventuress.com

Smash is an Australian brand so that means they totally understand our needs and requirements better. All the products are BPA free and extremely durable and reliable. In fact, all the lunch boxes, drink bottles from last year are still in great condition and the only reason I would change is because I received these samples to test out. (The old ones will be donated to the local Red Cross, and I strongly urge you to do so too if your old ones are in reasonably good condition)

The new designs out this year are so bright and colourful making it real fun for the kids. Our favourite happens to be this one shown below…of course it has to be blue because Adi is in that phase where ‘pink is for girls’. I like how the compartments are divided in this model and also the fact that there is an outer insulated case (removable) which also has the new Blue IQ antibacterial lining. The wipe-clean formula helps to keep the case clean devoid of any sort of mould or mildew, smells fresh and also protects the life of the lunchbox.

Smash lunchbox and outercase with Blue IQ antibacterial lining - thespiceadventuress.com

Smash has an extensive collection so there are plenty of choices for all sorts of lunch requirements. I love the add-on containers in various sizes, shapes and colours which mean that the food can be kept divided. The yoghurt container is so cool; it keeps it chilled and my son absolutely loves his during summer. The tube shaped box for wraps and rolls are so cool too.

Back to school with Smash lunch boxes - thespiceadventuress.com

Back to school with Smash lunch boxes - thespiceadventuress.com

Back to school with Smash lunchboxes - thespiceadventuress.com

Smash has a good collection for the grownups too especially taking into account the male/female preferences. I remember my hubby cribbing about the lack of ‘male’ colours till we started using Smash. Now he has his favourite blue and brown case which I must admit is really cool.

I also love the ‘Soup, Salad, Smoothie’ containers that were launched this year. Extremely thoughtful designs; for eg: the salad container has a separate portion for the dressing which means goodbye to soggy salads for lunch. I have been using these containers a lot while travelling too. Sturdy and great for road trips.

Smash products are available easily at many department stores and leading supermarkets like Coles, Woolworths, Officeworks, Target, Kmart and David Jones.

Smash office lunchbox collection - thespiceadventuress.com

Now that we have chosen the perfect lunch box, let’s go ahead with the perfect lunch too – a delicious easy to make Pasta stir fry with Mortadella and an assortment of vegetables.

For those who are new to Mortadella, it is basically an Italian sausage or luncheon meat that can be purchased from a deli. Often had as a cold cut like ham or salami in a sandwich, but I am going to lightly stir fry it for this recipe. If you do not have Mortadella, you can substitute it with ham, salami, sausages or any other kind of meat. Or even skip it all together if you want a vegetarian version. The only thing to remember while purchasing from a deli is to ask the staff to cut it into a thick chunk instead of thin slices.

Apart from the fact that this dish is ready in less than 30 minutes, I also like the fact that there is no sauce involved which makes it a great lunch box option; tastes great even when it has gone a bit cold. I usually prepare this pasta stir fry for dinner which doubles up for the next day’s lunch for all of us. One dish for everyone in the family…..

Pasta stir fry with Mortadella and an assortment of vegetables - thespiceadventuress.com

Pasta stir fry with Mortadella and an assortment of vegetables - thespiceadventuress.com

Ingredients:

  1. 300 gms pasta curls
  2. 3-4 tbsp olive oil
  3. 200 gms Mortadella (cut into a single thick chunk); diced
  4. 2-3 garlic cloves; chopped
  5. 1 large red onion; diced
  6. 1 cup mushrooms; diced
  7. 1 red bell pepper; diced
  8. 1 zucchini; diced
  9. 1 ½ tsp chilli flakes (adjust to preference)
  10. 1 tbsp mixed dried Italian herbs (a mix of oregano, thyme, rosemary)
  11. Salt, to season
  12. Freshly milled black pepper; to season

Method:

  1. Cook the pasta as per packet instructions in salted boiling water and keep aside; reserve a little pasta water too.
  2. Heat oil in a large pan and add the chopped garlic; sauté on low heat for a few seconds and then add the diced Mortadella; stir fry on high for a minute.
  3. Next add the onions and mushrooms; continue to stir fry for another 30 seconds. Finally add the zucchini and bell peppers; mix well to combine and season with salt, pepper, chilli flakes and Italian herbs. Reduce heat and cook for a few seconds.
  4. Add the cooked pasta with ½ cup past water and mix well to combine.
  5. Remove from heat and enjoy; or ensure it’s cooled well before packing into lunch boxes.

Pasta stir fry with Mortadella and an assortment of vegetables - thespiceadventuress.com

Disclaimer – This post has been brought to you in collaboration with Smash Enterprises but the opinions expressed and recipe are entirely mine.

Man Tong Kitchen (Crown Melbourne) – a Review

The first restaurant review of 2017!

The visit to Man Tong Kitchen was an impromptu and special one because it marked our 10th wedding anniversary. We were out in the CBD visiting friends and since our little fellow was getting bored, decided to stop at Crown for some gaming fun at the newly renovated Kingpin entertainment area.

Like many, I was only aware of the food court and the high end restaurants but not the mid priced ones located on Level I. A spot of shopping at the retail area landed us in this area and we were delighted to see the dining options. And thus we decided to indulge ourselves at Man Tong Kitchen as a little treat to ourselves.

Man Tong Kitchen (Crown Melbourne) – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

The first thing that strikes you on entering Man Tong is the Oriental opulence…..classic with a touch of indulgence which makes you feel that you have arrived at a special place and makes this restaurant ideal for a celebration. The décor is beautiful with warm red hues and plush seating, a beautifully set up bar area and plenty of Oriental influences to look around in the form of figurines, vases etc….

Man Tong Kitchen (Crown Melbourne) – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

Man Tong Kitchen (Crown Melbourne) – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

Man Tong Kitchen (Crown Melbourne) – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

In spite of arriving without any prior booking, we were lucky to get seated immediately. But I would strongly advise calling ahead especially if you are a large group.

Soon the tea was bought out along with the refreshing towels; and the menus followed close behind.

The drinks menu at Man Tong is extensive for wines but heavily leans towards Penfolds; clearly a brand association there. But there are also great options for other Australian wines. The rest of the list is pretty average but there are some really expensive bottles of whiskey if you have the cash to burn. I would have loved to see some Asian inspired cocktails on the menu but unfortunately there aren’t any great choices.

So we stuck to the wine and went for a bottle of 2014 Yering Station ‘Village’ Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley. A classic Pinot with plenty of red and black cherry notes, earthy undertones and subtle hints of spice; paired beautifully with our choice of dishes for the day.

Man Tong Kitchen (Crown Melbourne) – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

2014 Yering Station ‘Village’ Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley

The menu is quite extensive so I would suggest to take your time and go through or perhaps ask for recommendations. As for me, I love to ponder over the menu and picking out our favourite dishes to try.

It is almost impossible for us to eat at a Chinese restaurant without ordering dumplings; that’s the gold standard dish for us. So we ordered the steamed Wontons with Szechuan Chilli Oil…..and boy, we were mighty pleased. Beautifully cooked wontons in a flavourful chilli oil dressing that had the perfect balance. Not overly spicy but with a perfectly balanced spice kick that even our 7 year old could enjoy. And that wine matched perfectly!

Man Tong Kitchen (Crown Melbourne) – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

Wontons with Szechuan Chilli Oil

The next on the list was the Sizzling Curry Prawns. I must admit that the term ‘curry’ did intrigue me and one of the reasons why I wanted to try out the dish. Perfectly cooked tiger prawns tossed with bell peppers and onions in a mildly spiced curry sauce. Do not think of a spicy Indian curry but instead this had milder flavours but definitely with a kick of curry powder. Highly recommended…

Man Tong Kitchen (Crown Melbourne) – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

Sizzling Curry Prawns

Given our fondness for spices, we continued on the Szechuan trail with the Szechuan style Fish Fillets in Chilli Oil. A humungous pot of perfectly cooked and succulent fish fillets swimming in chilli oil with Szechuan peppercorns. Again not too spicy that you cannot enjoy it but take care not to bite into too many of the peppercorns. Brilliant flavours done well…

Man Tong Kitchen (Crown Melbourne) – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

Szechuan style Fish Fillets in Chilli Oil

To go with it, we also got the Hokkien style Fried Rice with Seafood. A very different fried rice style to what we have had so far; this one had perfectly cooked seafood bites tossed through a flavourful sauce which was spooned over the rice itself. Not spicy at all so perfectly balanced out with the fish.

Man Tong Kitchen (Crown Melbourne) – a Review - thespiceadventuress.com

Hokkien style Fried Rice with Seafood

And as always we had feasted too much to take a look at the dessert menu but I did notice there were a few Chinese traditional desserts on offer.

In a nutshell, Man Tong Kitchen is a good place to indulge in classic Oriental flavours. The price is slightly higher but the quantity is good and the ambience more than makes up for it.

Man Tong Kitchen

Level 1, West End
Crown Entertainment Complex
Corner of Clarendon Street and
Crown Riverwalk
Southbank

Phone no: +61 3 9686 9888

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

Timings:

Lunch: Monday to Sunday 11:30am – 3:00pm

Dinner: Sunday to Thursday 5:30pm – 11:00pm
Friday to Saturday 5:30pm – 2:00am

 

Man Tong Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The ‘Green’ Mojito

Green coriander seeds! I cannot tell you the joy and excitement at seeing these for the very first time in my life…..

Green coriander seeds - food photography - thespiceadventuress.com

Growing up with parents who were passionate about gardening, I must admit that a bit of the ‘green thumb’ has rubbed off on me too. I have a very basic garden at the moment, mainly herbs and succulents, but I definitely do intend to expand it in the coming months.

One of the first herbs to get planted in my garden was coriander, simply because I use it almost every day and realised that growing it is not only super easy but also an affordable option when you are a food photographer. I highly recommend growing coriander if you are starting out with the whole gardening experience. Quite a sturdy, all season herb that grows easily (giving you that much needed confidence when you are a novice) and works well in a tiny apartment space too.

I have always mentioned how social media helps bridge distances and is a source of positivity and encouragement if you use it in the right manner. When I posted a glimpse of my tiny herb garden, a very kind gentleman Mr. D got in touch saying he would like to send me some seeds that he grows in his garden. He lives in Perth and has an amazing garden filled with all sorts of fruits and vegetables, some of the varieties bought specially from India. And he got my address and send me the seeds of quite a few vegetables including some native greens, carrots, radish and coriander. I thoroughly appreciate your gesture Mr. D and I will forever be indebted.

While the carrots and radish were not a success in my apartment terrace, the coriander grew and blossomed much to my delight. But there was one problem….I didn’t know how to collect the seeds for the next growth cycle. My ‘duh’ moment!

So back to Mr. D, social media and YouTube it was, to understand how to collect the seeds. Until then, I would always snip away the flowers to encourage growth of new leaves and I realized that if I needed to get the seeds, I needed to let the plant flower. The flowers turn to seeds…..can’t believe I forgot my basic botany lessons from school!!

And this spring, I let that happen and soon the tiny pretty white coriander flowers had blossomed into vibrant green coriander seeds. The ‘spice adventuress’ in me was intrigued on how these seeds could be used in cooking as it had the most intense delicious coriander flavour….I would describe it as a cross between the leaves and dried seeds. I did dry one batch of the seeds for the next season but I also got plenty of green seeds for my flavour experiments.

There isn’t much info available on using green coriander seeds but a bit of research and speaking to friends who go gaga over spices and herbs like I do resulted in today’s drink which I fondly call, the ‘Green’ Mojito.

The 'Green' Mojito - a vibrant, summery cocktail with green coriander seeds - thespiceadventuress.com

Now it is almost impossible to buy green coriander seeds so the only way you can enjoy this drink is to grow some yourself or get some from your gardening enthusiastic friends. The seeds can be crushed and infused in vodka or you could infuse it into the sugar syrup like I did. The sugar syrup keeps well in an airtight container for upto 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

So there you go…..a very summery, vibrant and delicious Mojito with green coriander seeds!

Sugar syrup infused with green coriander seeds - thespiceadventuress.com

The 'Green' Mojito - a vibrant, summery cocktail with green coriander seeds - thespiceadventuress.com

The 'Green' Mojito - a vibrant, summery cocktail with green coriander seeds - thespiceadventuress.com

The 'Green' Mojito - a vibrant, summery cocktail with green coriander seeds - thespiceadventuress.com

The 'Green' Mojito - a vibrant, summery cocktail with green coriander seeds - thespiceadventuress.com

The 'Green' Mojito - a vibrant, summery cocktail with green coriander seeds - thespiceadventuress.com

Ingredients:

  1. 30 ml sugar syrup (infused with green coriander seeds)
  2. 30 ml lime juice
  3. 45 ml white rum
  4. Sparkling water/soda
  5. ½ tsp green coriander seeds
  6. Lime slices; for garnish
  7. Coriander flowers; for garnish (optional)
  8. Ice cubes; crushed

Sugar syrup:

  1. 1 cup raw sugar
  2. 1 cup water
  3. 2 tbsp green coriander seeds

Method:

To prepare sugar syrup:

  • Crush the green coriander seeds lightly
  • Add the sugar, water and coriander seeds to a pan and place on low heat. Stir occasionally till the sugar has completely melted.
  • Cool well and keep the seeds in for at least an hour to further infuse the flavour.
  • Strain and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

To make the mojito:

  • In a tall glass, muddle the green coriander seeds along with the sugar syrup and ¾ ths of the lime juice.
  • Add the white rum and crushed ice cubes. Stir well to combine and top the glass with sparkling water.
  • Taste and add the remaining lime juice if necessary.
  • Garnish with lime slices and coriander flowers.

Note: If you do not like the seeds to remain in the drink, strain after muddling with the sugar syrup and lime juice.

The 'Green' Mojito - a vibrant, summery cocktail with green coriander seeds - thespiceadventuress.com

The 'Green' Mojito - a vibrant, summery cocktail with green coriander seeds - thespiceadventuress.com

 

 

 

My Favourite Recipes of 2016

What a spectacular year it has been!

So many highs personally and professionally, 2016 has been a memorable year for me. And as we draw to a close, I wanted to share some of my favourite recipes with all of you. While I have enjoyed cooking and writing about every recipe here, there are definitely some favourites. Some of these are personal success stories in terms of a technique or ingredient while others tell personal stories. So sit back and enjoy a pictorial tribute to my top recipes from 2016.

And wishing each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year….Cheers!

The ‘Indian’ Cosmopolitan – a Rooh Afza Cocktail

The ‘Indian’ Cosmopolitan – a Rooh Afza Cocktail! - thespiceadventuress.com

Breaking all rules with this cocktail……my tribute to Rooh Afza, an extremely popular fruit concentrate in many parts of Asia. The beautiful vibrant colour and the refreshing headiness this drink offers make it perfect for our long summer days.

Mushroom & Sundried Tomato Hummus Toasties

Mushroom & Sundried Tomato Hummus Toasties - a delightful vegetarian canape for the festive season - thespiceadventuress.com

This was the surprise recipe of the year. An experiment with flavours which worked magic on the tastebuds, these toasties are super quick and make the perfect canapé for any party.

Spiced Kangaroo Triangles

Spiced Kangaroo Triangles - a delicious party snack with roo mince - thespiceadventuress.com

Kangaroo meat remains a judgemental topic but I am of the opinion that if sustainably sourced, it has an apt place on the dinner table, especially in Australia. But yes, sustainably sourced is a phrase I would stress on. And if you share my beliefs, then these spiced kangaroo triangles are simply delicious and one I enjoyed creating.

Vietnamese Prawn Spring Rolls (with Sweet n’ Spicy Dipping Sauce)

Vietnamese Prawns Spring Rolls - The ultimate party snack for kids and adults alike - thespiceadventuress.com

Baked Oysters with Garlic, Curry Leaf and Kashmiri Chilli

Baked Oysters with Garlic, Curry Leaf and Kashmiri Chilli - Soft, plump and juicy oysters are oven baked with a garlic and curry leaf butter emulsion, coriander leaves and Kashmiri chilli powder - thespiceadventuress.com

An attempt at showcasing the subtlety of Indian flavours. There is a myth that Indian food means robust flavours but these oysters will tell you otherwise. A must have this festive season.

Hashbrown Muffins with Ham, Cheese and Sundried Tomatoes

Hashbrown Muffins with Ham, Cheese and Sundried Tomatoes - a savoury kid friendly snack perfect for lunch boxes and parties alike - thespiceadventuress.com

A recipe that got me featured for the second time in Bank of Melbourne’s #socialfeeds cookbook 2016! These savoury muffins are so easy to make and works magic on a brunch table or for a children’s party or perhaps simply as an afternoon treat. Don’t miss to give it a try…

Potato, Cauliflower and Leek Soup with Crispy Bacon and Shallots

Potato, Cauliflower and Leek Soup with Crispy Bacon and Shallots - Comfort in a bowl - thespiceadventuress.com

This one’s ideal for the harsh winters that will be here in the blink of an eye. Creamy, lush and delicious especially with those crispy bits of bacon and shallots. Heaven in a bowl!

Kashmiri Rista…..Sandwiched!

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

This recipe was all about showcasing traditional Indian flavours in a global style. Rista is an extremely popular meatball recipe from Kashmir, a delicacy that is held in much reverence. But instead of the curry format, I have used it to create a submarine sandwich proving how sturdy yet flexible Indian flavours are.

Mexican Prawn Tacos with Mango Salsa

Mexican Prawn Tacos with Mango Salsa - easy and delicious - thespiceadventuress.com

We are huge on tacos; little morsels of deliciousness that are so utterly satisfying. And these Mexican prawn tacos are one of the best you will ever have, if I may say so myself.

Grilled Chicken Skewers with Fresh Herbs and Chillies

Herby and delicious - Grilled Chicken Skewers (with Fresh Herbs and Chillies) - thespiceadventuress.com

A hailstorm followed by loads of fresh herbs is what led to this recipe. But it turned out so damn delicious that I am secretly grateful to the storm for wrecking my urban herb garden.

Filipino style Grilled Barramundi

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

Fish with eggs was not a flavour combination I thought would work till I tried out my version of a Filipino classic. Amazing is the verdict!

Massaman Curry

Massaman Curry - a sweet, spicy and highly aromatic curry from Thailand - thespiceadventuress.com

This one takes a bit of time to get to the table but the effort is so worth it. The famous ‘Chin Chin’ recipe that will give you much delicious comfort during the colder months.

Cambodian (Khmer) Chicken Samlâ Curry

Cambodian (Khmer) Chicken Samla Curry - deliciously creamy, highly aromatic and fragrant chicken curry - thespiceadventuress.com

This is the first time I tried out a Khmer dish and what a delicious experience it was. This creamy, lush and flavourful chicken curry didn’t take too long to become one of our favourite curries ever.

Vegetable Stir fry with Gochujang

Vegetable Stir Fry with Gochujang (Korean Chilli Paste) - thespiceadventuress.com

And my biggest discovery of 2016….gochujang! Love at first taste folks; if you haven’t tried out this magic condiment, then please make it your resolution for 2017.

Tim Tam Vanilla Icecream Cake

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

Developing this recipe was an eye opener too regarding palm oil and its salient presence in our foods. Do spare a moment to read the article if you haven’t already and a delicious summery icecream cake is the bonus.

Chocolate Fudge Cake with Milk Chocolate Buttercream and Fresh Strawberries

Chocolate Fudge Cake with Milk Chocolate and Fresh Strawberries - the most delicious way to say 'I love you' this Valentine's Day - thespiceadventuress.com

This one’s from Valentine’s Day, a dedication to my love story and to all the beautiful readers of my blog. Lush and decadent, this chocolate fudge cake also got featured on Bon Appétit.

 

 

Christmas Gift Guide for the Food Lovers + a Food Hamper Giveaway

I know it’s late for a gift guide but hey, I am sure there are plenty of last minute shoppers out there. And I really wanted to do this for all the food lovers out there who are looking for something unique yet simple and affordable for their food loving friends. And in Australia, we are indeed spoilt for choice.

So without much chit chatting, let’s get onto the task. And remember, there is an amazing food hamper waiting for you at the end of the post; you don’t want to miss out on this one.

The Spice People (Spices & Blends)

Based out of Melbourne, Liz Edgecombe is a passionate spice evangelist and my go to spice expert. We can talk for hours about spices, blends and flavour combinations. I have been personally using their spices and blends for more than 2 years now and vouch for the quality and freshness. In fact, 90% of all the whole spices I use are bought from The Spice People and I also buy many of their unique blends like French Vadouvan Curry, Greek Gyros etc….  So do check out their online store for some great deals and spice up your lives this festive season.

(The Spice People have also kindly sponsored 3 spice packs for the food hamper which you can check out below)

The Spice People (Spices & Blends) - product photography - thespiceadventuress.com

Eat me Chutneys (Chutneys & Preserves)

Most of you would have read my recent post about Eat me Chutneys. An epic social project for rescuing the bruised and unwanted fruits and veggies thereby tackling food wastage. Organic, fairtrade and sustainable, a jar of Eat me Chutneys is a perfect gift for any food lover. Currently, they are even offering complimentary shipping so don’t waste your time!

Eat me Chutneys - thespiceadventuress.com

Smoke and Roast (Flavoured Salts)

Are you a fan of smoked and flavoured salts? Then this is a great choice not just as a gift but also to use during this festive season. My favourite is the curry flavoured salt (of course!) which can transform your steaks, lamb ribs or seafood into something magical. Absolutely recommended for the barbeque season. Do check out this recipe that I did using the curry flavoured smoked salt.

Smoke and Roast (Flavoured Salts) - food photography - thespiceadventuress.com

Bondi Chai (Chai Latte)

Got a chai latte lover at home? Then a pack of the Bondi Chai is the best gift you can give this Christmas. It is Australia’s most awarded chai latte and comes in two delicious flavours – Club Cinnamon (my favourite) and Vanilla Honey. With very less sugar and naturally sweetened with Australian honey, the Bondi Chai is also gluten free and Halal certified. While the hubby enjoys this as a traditional chai latte, I enjoy it in my smoothies like this apple pear chai latte smoothie with a touch of cinnamon.

(Bondi Chai has kindly offered 2 packets of their chai lattes to be part of the giveaway hamper)

Bondi Chai (Chai Latte) - food photography - thespiceadventuress.com

Picky  Picky Peanuts

There is no way you will have a party without featuring the nuts (unless you have an allergy). So this festive season, let’s binge on some delicious Australian peanuts from Picky Picky. Such a cool name! Available in 5 different flavours – savoury honey roasted, tangy Mexican salsa, sweet chilli & lime, classic sea salt and sea salt & pepper. Delicious and locally made, these make excellent gifts and also great to serve at parties.

(And one lucky person will get to enjoy all the five flavours as part of the food hamper giveaway)

Picky Picky Peanuts - food photography - thespiceadventuress.com

Red Rock Olives (Artisan Olive Products)

Situated near the Grampians National Park, Red Rock Olives produces award winning premium quality extra virgin olive oil, artisan vinegars, olives and olive salts. I especially loved the flavour of the olive salts which come in two flavours – classic and chilli infused. A unique hand crafted Australian product that would make a great gift for any food lover. There are also special limited edition gift packages available for the season.

(Red Rock Olives has kindly sponsored one bottle of olive salt as part of the food hamper giveaway)

Red Rock Olives (Artisan Olive Products) - product photography - thespiceadventuress.com

Mork (Specialty Hot Chocolate)

What’s Christmas without hot chocolate? Agreed we have a summery Christmas, but hey there is no specific season for chocolate and we can enjoy it chilled too. Mork needs no introduction; a handcrafted product from the cacao artisans designed for pure sensory pleasure. Check out their range and also special gift packs for the season.

Mork (Specialty Hot Chocolate) - food photography - thespiceadventuress.com

Cookbooks

Cookbooks are an excellent gift option for food lovers. While there is no dearth to good cookbooks these days, my favourite picks would be these three;

  1. The Bangala Table (Flavours and Recipes from Chettinad) b y Sumeet Nair, Meenakshi Meyyappan with Jill Donenfeld
  2. Mourad: New Moroccan by Mourad Lahlou
  3. Recipes from My Mother’s Kitchen by Guy Grossi

Cookbooks - photography - thespiceadventuress.com

The Craft & Co

The Craft & Co. is not a product but a unique space incorporating all facets of food and drinks. A one stop shop located in Collingwood, this place is a haven for local food producers. I could happily get lost here and never want to go back home. An eatery, bar, brewery, deli, distillery, winery, food store etc….. this is the place to go shopping this Christmas. I was there recently for the Christmas market (and have been bombarding all of you with pictures) and came home with so much delicious stuff for my party and unique edible gifts. So if online shopping is not your thing, just head over to Craft & Co to make the most delicious purchases this season.

The Craft & Co. Collingwood - thespiceadventuress.com

One of my best purchases of the day was the Craft & Co. Limoncello made in house in collaboration with the Gypsy Brewing Co. Handcrafted in small batches, each bottle is unique and adapted from a Chef Dom Marzano’s family recipe. A delicious tipple that is best served on ice after a meal or as a cocktail infused with lemon and mint for a summer party.

Craft & Co. Limoncello - food photography - thespiceadventuress.com

And the folks at Craft & Co. have also generously offered one bottle of their Nero D’Avola, Heathcote 2015 towards the food hamper that will soon go to one lucky subscriber. This particular wine is slightly different to other Nero D’Avolas because of its unique lightness and smoothness on the palate. A pale beautiful red, it is medium bodied with hints of fresh red berries, plums, savoury spices and baked earth. Pairs well with blue cheese, antipasto and red meat.

Nero D’Avola, Heathcote 2015 - food photography - thespiceadventuress.com

Artemis Gin

Artemis is not the average bottle of gin that you would pick up in a random liquor store. It is a true artisan product handcrafted in small batches by Derv and Seb in collaboration with The Craft & Co.

In Derv’s and Seb’s words…….. “Artemis Distilled Australian Gin is juniper forward, classic London dry style, complimented by a few local botanicals and our namesake, Artemisia.  It is spicy, savoury, with a kick of citrus and a long finish with clove, nutmeg and ginger.  It is bottled at 44% alcohol, a little above the usual strength, to give the botanicals a little extra punch.  Artemis Gin is perfect in a G&T, sings when combined with Vermouth, which also gets its name from Artemisia, in a Dry Martini or Negroni, and the spices shine when paired with citrus in cocktails like the White Lady or Southside’

This gin was a revelation to my spice loving tastebuds……an explosion  of flavour that can only be truly described by experience. If you decide to buy just one thing this season, let it be a bottle of Artemis.

Artemis Gin - food photography - thespiceadventuress.com

Melbourne Hot Sauce

The undisputed leader of hot sauces in Australia! There’s a flavour for every taste bud from mild to fiery and when I say fiery, I mean it with flavours like Bhut Jolakia, Spicy Sanchez and Streets of Rage. While I did taste and enjoy the fiery ones, I wasn’t sure of my guests so came home with the milder Chipotle BBQ which has a beautiful sweet n’ spicy smoky flavour great as a dip or as a marinade. Special gift packs are on offer so do check it out.

Melbourne Hot Sauce - food photography - thespiceadventuress.com

Rum Diary (Spiced Rum)

There’s no way this gift guide will be complete without a mention of this season’s favourite find – the Spiced Rum from Rum Diary. Yet another revelation to my spice loving taste buds, this drink is handcrafted from the finest Caribbean rum and infused with local and native Australian spices. Also launched the pre-batch cocktails in 3 different flavours – Spiced negroni, Spiced old-fashioned and Spiced peach tea spritz. Highly recommended!

That brings us to the end of the gift guide; I agree it was a long one but I wanted to write a bit about each product as these are unique and produced by people who are passionate and take great pride in the work they do.

Rum Diary (Spiced Rum) - food photography - thespiceadventuress.com

Now onto the food hamper giveaway….

Food hamper giveaway - thespiceadventuress.com

So I have curated one food hamper to give away to one lucky subscriber of mine. The hamper valued at $150 contains some of my favourites (a few were featured above);

  1. The Spice People
  • Dried lemon myrtle leaves (1 pack)
  • French Vadouvan Curry (1 pack)
  • Persian dried rose buds (1 pack)
  1. Bondi Chai
  • Club Cinnamon (200gm)
  • Vanilla Honey (200gm)
  1. Picky Picky Peanuts
  • SeaSalt & Pepper (1 pack)
  • Sweet Chilli & Lime (1 pack)
  • Savoury Honey Roasted (1 pack)
  • Tangy Mexican Salsa (1 pack)
  • Classic Sea Salt (1 pack)
  1. Red Rock Olive salt
  2. Grampians Olive Co. Toscana Organic Extra virgin Olive Oil
  3. T2 Lemongrass & Ginger
  4. Caffe trombetta dal 1890 ORO coffee blend (Italian)
  5. The Alice Tea Co. Spicy Chocolate loose leaf tea
  6. Craft & Co. Nero D’Avola, Heathcote 2015 (1 bottle)
  7. Annabel Trends tea towel

To enter, all that you need to do is;

  1. Subscribe to my blog using your email id
  2. Leave a comment below on what are your plans for this festive season and also your email id to get in touch if you are the lucky one.
  3. Spread the cheer!

Terms & Conditions:

  • You must be 18+ years of age and an Australian resident.
  • The giveaway will be open till Monday 19th, December 2016 midnight and a lucky winner will be chosen and notified on Tuesday morning. The winner must respond within 24 hours or a new winner will be chosen.
  • The winner will be picked by random draw.

This giveaway is now closed and a winner has been chosen.

Chilli Prawn Fried Rice

My love for markets is legendary, especially the local one in my suburb (Dandenong) which I would have mentioned on my blog at least a million times.

Looking back, I think it’s destiny that bought us to this suburb. Amidst all the confusion, loneliness and that strange feeling of newness in a foreign country, it was the local market here that was my refuge. The smell, sights and sounds always reminded me of home because I would get every single ingredient that I needed for my style of cooking which means a lot when you are so far from home. And it’s true that food opens doors where none exists. And for me that door was this blog…..

These days, I don’t visit the market as often as I used to but I am still there at least once every fortnight. It’s my space to get inspired and to re-ignite the creativity and passion I have for food. All the beautiful, fresh produce gives me such a buzz and there are so many ideas that pop into my mind after a trip like this.

And with Christmas almost here, markets are just brimming with such amazing produce and I simply couldn’t go past the seafood section. I had to come back with some fresh Australian raw prawns; don’t waste your hard earned money buying prawns from other countries when you can get some amazingly fresh and delicious prawns caught right here in Australia. Believe me, it’s totally worth those few extra dollars.

After all the shopping, I was only in the mind for a one pot dish and nothing elaborate. And this delicious Indo Chinese style prawn fried rice is what came to mind.

Chilli Prawn Fried Rice - a simple and delicious one pot Indo Chinese style fried rice - thespiceadventuress.com

The Indo Chinese style fried rice is quite different from the traditional Chinese version. It’s a lot more fried where the grains of rice are separate unlike the sticky original version. I wanted a bit of a spice kick and used long dry red chillies for smoky hot undertones.

To get the flavour from the dry red chillies, add it to the cold oil and then heat on low flame. Toss in the prawns with a handful of different vegetables along with perfectly cooked rice and finish off with a dash of soy and tomato chilli sauce.

Chilli Prawn Fried Rice - a simple and delicious one pot Indo Chinese style fried rice - thespiceadventuress.com

Chilli Prawn Fried Rice - a simple and delicious one pot Indo Chinese style fried rice - thespiceadventuress.com

Ingredients:

  1. 400gms long grained rice
  2. 500gms medium sized prawns; deshelled and deveined
  3. 1 large carrot; julienned

This post is bought to you in association with Supreme Seafood so the complete recipe can be found here.

Chilli Prawn Fried Rice - a simple and delicious one pot Indo Chinese style fried rice - thespiceadventuress.com

Chilli Prawn Fried Rice - a simple and delicious one pot Indo Chinese style fried rice - thespiceadventuress.com

Mushroom & Sundried Tomato Hummus Toasties

On a slightly chilly evening, about two months ago, I sat down with my pen and diary to plan out the blog posts leading up to Christmas. There was so much I wanted to cook and post, especially traditional dishes like roasts, cakes, cookies etc…..

And somehow I just never did any of those which I had planned so meticulously. Instead I found myself cooking whatever my heart fancies based on a spur-of-the-moment idea or ingredient. In short, bid goodbye to my best laid plans.

If this had happened a year back, I would have become super stressed about the whole thing and worried about blog stats, traffic etc… etc…. But 2016 taught me the biggest lesson of all; to enjoy what I do above all else and the rest will fall into place. I found my unique voice in terms of food and photography, a space I am very comfortable in. No more comparisons with what others are doing anymore. I learnt to say no to the zillions of emails that have nothing to do with my vision for the blog and learnt to embrace the differences that make me stand different in the crowd. Inner peace and clarity….at last!

Moving onto my recipe for the day; I was actually looking for inspiration to create a vegetarian canapé for my Christmas party, something I could prep ahead of time and just assemble on the day of the party. Browsing through Pinterest, I found quite a few versions of the avo toasties which sort of got me thinking along those lines and ta da……the idea for these delicious Mushroom and Hummus toasties took shape.

Mushroom & Sundried Tomato Hummus Toasties - a delightful vegetarian canape for the festive season - thespiceadventuress.com

I loved how these toasties turned out and the minute I got the approval from the boys, I knew it had to go on the blog. So here you go guys…..a very delicious vegetarian starter that can be enjoyed in any season.

P.S.: The sun dried tomato hummus makes an excellent dip…in fact, I am planning on making an extra batch of the hummus for the party which will go on the cheese board. And my little boy loves it slathered in his pita roll.

Sun dried Tomato Hummus - a delicious dip for the festive season - thespiceadventuress.com

Mushroom & Sundried Tomato Hummus Toasties - a delightful vegetarian canape for the festive season - thespiceadventuress.com

Ingredients:

(Makes about 20 toasties depending on the length of the baguette)

For the hummus:

  1. 1 cup chickpeas (soaked overnight)
  2. ¼ cup sun dried tomatoes (with the preserved oil)
  3. 2-3 tbsp tahina (sesame seed paste)
  4. 3 medium garlic cloves
  5. 1 lemon
  6. Salt, to season
  7. 3-4 tbsp Extra virgin olive oil

For the toasties:

  1. 1 baguette (I used the sesame seed crusted one for extra flavour); thinly sliced
  2. Olive oil
  3. 200gms white mushrooms; sliced
  4. 200gms brown mushrooms; sliced
  5. ½ inch ginger
  6. 1 tsp paprika
  7. Juice of ½ lime
  8. ½ tsp dried thyme
  9. Salt, to season
  10. 2-3 sprigs fresh coriander leaves; finely chopped
  11. 1 cup sun dried tomato hummus

Method:

To prepare the hummus:

  1. Boil the chickpeas with a bit of salt till well done and lightly mushy. Drain and keep aside.
  2. Add the garlic cloves and the juice of ½ lemon to a food processor or blender and whizz.
  3. Then add the sundried tomatoes along with the preserved oil and 2 tbsp tahina. Blend well for at least 2 minutes.
  4. Next add the boiled chickpeas with a pinch of salt and blend well till smooth and creamy. Taste and adjust with lemon juice, salt and tahina if necessary.
  5. Remove to a bowl, create little depressions with the back of your spoon and add the olive oil on top.

Note – The texture of the hummus is better when preparing the chickpeas from scratch as opposed to using tinned ones. But if you are pressed for time, you may use the tinned chickpeas too.

If using the hummus as a dip, add more olive oil and garnish with black olives and a pinch of paprika.

To prepare the toasties:

  1. Preheat the oven (fan forced) to 180°C
  2. Line a baking tray with oven proof paper and place the baguette slices; drizzle with olive oil lightly and bake till light golden brown. Takes about 8 minutes depending on the oven. Remember that the slices only need to crisp up.
  3. Remove and keep aside.
  4. To prepare the mushrooms, heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a pan and add the mushrooms. Cook on high heat for a minute and then add the grated ginger. Continue to cook for another minute and then reduce heat. Add the paprika, dried thyme, juice of ½ lemon and season with salt. Remove and keep aside.
  5. To assemble the toasties, spread a little bit of the hummus over a baguette slice and spoon some mushrooms on top. Do this for all the slices.
  6. Arrange on a platter and garnish the toasties with chopped coriander leaves and a touch of paprika.

Mushroom & Sundried Tomato Hummus Toasties - a delightful vegetarian canape for the festive season - thespiceadventuress.com

Mushroom & Sundried Tomato Hummus Toasties - a delightful vegetarian canape for the festive season - thespiceadventuress.com

Mushroom & Sundried Tomato Hummus Toasties - a delightful vegetarian canape for the festive season - thespiceadventuress.com

Mushroom & Sundried Tomato Hummus Toasties - a delightful vegetarian canape for the festive season - thespiceadventuress.com

 

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).

 

This giveaway is now closed and a winner has been drawn.

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.

%d bloggers like this: