Travel Theme: Strong

IMG_1572The foundation stones of Il Torre di Pisa were laid in 1173 and despite its lean, the tower is still going strong. 
IMG_1582Its weight is estimated at 14,500 metric tons. and the thickness of the walls at the base is  2.44 metres.IMG_1586

You need to be strong to climb to the top, not only because of the 294 steps. Those suffering from vertigo aren’t able to find the courage to handle the height or the lean. The last time we were there, we sent young Mischa Bella up on her own but in the company of a handsome gentleman and his son, who we found in the queue!  You need to be 18 years old to attempt the climb da sola, and Mischa, who was only 14, was determined to reach the top.  Brava Mischa.

And brava also to Ailsa who has chosen STRONG as the travel theme this week.

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Outback Cuisine in Orange/Sunday Stills

I am currently surrounded by orange. The rock faces of the Flinders Ranges, South Australia are bathed in orange at different times of the day.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The road to Brachina Gorge is an orange drive all the way.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd I just cracked a large Kent Pumpkin. As we are camping off the grid and have limited cool storage, orange cuisine is on the agenda. Recipes will follow another time. Camp cooking is never dull. Thanks Ed from Sunday Stills for the suggestion.

Vegetable soup featuring pumpkin and carrot, parsnip, potato and found herbs.

Vegetable soup featuring pumpkin and carrot, parsnip, potato and found herbs.

Fire roasted pumpkin and beetroot salad with fetta and rugola.

Fire roasted pumpkin and beetroot salad with fetta and rugola.

Indian pumpkin fritter mix of grated pumpkin, shallot, besan flour and spices.

Indian pumpkin fritter mix of grated pumpkin, shallot, besan flour and spices.

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Trentham Estate Restaurant, Mildura

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMildura is situated on the banks of the slow winding Murray river in the far North-West corner of Victoria, Australia. It calls like a sunny siren from its distant post, attracting many travellers in winter and early spring, those who wish to experience big, blue skies and sunny days. The land is flat but very productive, given that 80% of Victoria’s wine grapes come from this area, along with crops of oranges, avocados, and other vegetables. The architecture is modern and bland, with a touch of Spanish Mission here and there. It is an odd town but still very appealing, with broad city streets lined with palm trees and ornamental vines, one famous hotel and some very good art galleries.

We have stopped here for the night on our journey to the outback. First stop is lunch at Trentham Estate winery, then an overnight camp along the banks of the Murray River, followed by a morning visit to the Sunraysia Farmers’ Market.

View from the outdoor tables on the verandah

View from the outdoor tables on the verandah

Lunch at Trentham Estate Restaurant.

I started with a leek and potato soup, which came with some surprising little extras on the side, a dollop of house made tapenade with a touch of lemon zest, some crisps, and small wedges of roasted zucchini. Small, but very satisfying, especially with the tapenade swirled through the soup.


Mr Tranquillo opted for a main course only, although I knew that he would devour half my dolce. A substantial fish pie, containing Murray Cod, smoked salmon, and prawns, this dish was well executed and I was extremely jealous. I scored a few forkfuls!


seafood pie, creamy and substantial.

seafood pie, creamy and substantial.

I opted for another entrée, this time a tart of roasted beetroot, creamy fetta and caramelised onion. The puff pastry overwhelmed this dish and I felt that the dish was too dry.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Next came a dessert of quince tarte tatin, served with ice cream and hazlenut. This little treat stole the show, and as predicted, Mr T developed a taste for half.


The other pleasure to be found at Trentham is the wine tasting room with its glorious view and pleasant staff. We purchased the Nebbiolo. This Italian variety is hard to find in Melbourne. Trentham’s vintage did not disappoint.

Wine tasting room at Trentham Estate.

Wine tasting room at Trentham Estate.


Sturt Highway
Trentham Cliffs
NSW 2738
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Travel Theme: Noise

We’re back in Lijiang, Yunnan Province, China. At night, the bars light up, with each bar employing a band or singer. The noise can be overwhelming, but the locals love to party.  I preferred wandering the streets of this ancient Chinese city in the day time, when the cobblestoned streets were quiet and empty.

You can find some more noisy shots at Ailsa’s travel photography site.  And I recommend my brother’s take on this theme too. Take a look at Mick’s Cogs.

Lijiang by night.

Lijiang by night.

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Travel Themes: Merchandise

Scarves and wraps re essential at night.

Scarves and wraps re essential at night.

Merchandise in the old towns of Dali and Lijiang, in Yunann Province, China,  is colourful and tempting. Lijiang is a Unesco World Heritage site with an altitude of 2,500 meteres above sea level. It can get cold at night, even in summer. Both towns are popular with young Chinese travellers, particularly on the weekends, when they come to party and shop. The cobblestoned streets are closed to traffic, making the evening promenade a pleasant experience.  An appealing travel challenge from Ailsa this week.

All the tea in China.

All the tea in China.

A basket of combs for sale!

A basket of combs for sale!

Young girls shop for strawberries.

Young women shop for strawberries.

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In My Kitchen, September 2014.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn My Kitchen this month I am listening to the music of  Jiang Yang Zhuo Ma.  I can’t start the day without her deep voiced Tibetan ballads stirring my spirit. With a cup of tea in hand, the first of many, I drift away and travel back through Szechuan Province in China. Then the kitchen business day begins.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn keeping with the Chinese theme, we have some very good Chinese tea, gifts from our dear friends in Chengdu. It tastes of Spring and flowers. The tea shops in China are surprisingly beautiful. Some teas cost a fortune.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn our road trip through the north of Szechuan Province, we visited a Szechuan pepper oil factory.  Back in Melbourne, I immediately sourced a bottle ( sadly not from the same factory). Used like sesame oil, it provides a deep, peppery finish to MaPo Dofu or drizzled over stir fried wongbok cabbage, for example.

Sechuan Pepper oil

Szechuan Pepper oil

I have a slight obsession with these vintage floral tin plates from China. Produced during the period of the Cultural revolution ( 1970s), they have become quite rare. I use them as prep plates, or as trays to cart things outside, or to collect, then wash, greens from the garden.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I also have a big pile of these Chinese fish patterned bowls as I am sure many others do. They are economical and handy for one bowl meals.


I found this Chinese thermos in Labuan Bajo, Flores, Indonesia in the hardware store for $6.00. I had to buy it, even though it meant lugging it back to Sanur, Bali, before heading home to Australia. I fill it up in the morning and drink tea the Chinese way, topping up the same leaves.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMr Tranquillo likes a beer after work and this is his current drop of choice, Tsingtao of course.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI always keep a kitchen Buddha nearby to help with the day.  My Chinese kitchen sits very comfortably within my Australian kitchen, alongside the Italian cuisine, when I’m not cooking Turkish. Thanks to Celia from Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting the ‘In My Kitchen’ monthly, thus allowing me to expose my love of China. Visit Celia’s site and open the many links to worldwide kitchens.



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Garden Monthly. September 2014

This month my garden news is not good.  I am recording a few disasters.

Heavy frosts have continued to damage the citrus trees, especially the limes. The top leaves are badly burnt. It is too soon to prune these back as more frosts could be on the way.

frost bitten citrus

frost bitten citrus

The next cause of damage is the white cockatoo. This bird is the most annoying visitor to my garden. Cockies are vandals, hoodlums from the sky, descending on the garden in mobs, swooping down and causing havoc.

Not cute, annoying!

Not cute, annoying!

They don’t eat the vegetables, they cut them in half- just for fun! This particularly applies to tall-growing vegetables such as garlic, cavolo nero, and silverbeet. In the front garden, they took a particular dislike to the succulents this year, pulling them all out, leaf by leaf, as if to say ‘ we don’t like you, wrong colour, odd shape’.

garlic patch smashed by cockatoos.

garlic patch smashed by cockatoos.

The next annoyance-  the rabbits. Its seems we have a few gaps in our fencing and so these little devils have heavily pruned my parsley and radicchio. They breed in the nearby gullies and are a continual problem.

Harvest. Cavolo nero ( black kale) is now picked from one side of the plant (cockies stripped the other side) to make my favourite pasta dish. Silverbeet, coriander, and herbs are abundant. The broad beans are coming along nicely.


On the bright side, these two calves, Dougie and O’Dannyboy were born in the last fortnight, adding a touch of Spring joy to our paddocks. They, and their mothers, provide our garden with manure.

O'Dannyboy and Dougie, the Dexters.

O’Dannyboy and Dougie, the Dexters.

To do list:

  • I think the time has come to build a netted cage over the whole veggie patch. Out damn cockies, out.
  • Build some shelters or breaks to protect citrus before next winter.
  • Sow plots of lettuce, spring onion, rugola.
  • Prepare and enrich other beds for the big planting which will take place in early October.
  • Collect more manure from the Dexter paddocks.

This post is also added to Lizzie’s monthly ‘Garden Share Collective’,  a group of international bloggers who grow their own food and fruit.

  • TheGardenShareCollective300pix
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Travel Theme: Edge

2012 417Behold the edge! A trip down the Great Ocean Road is a rewarding experience with glorious views of the edge of Victoria, Australia, all the way from Lorne to Port Campbell. It is a roller coaster ride and the best road trip to do if you are visiting this state.

2012 392

The edge of Victoria looks gnawed by the sea at the 12 Apostles, near Port Campbell. These stacks, arches, caves and stumps look dramatic at any time of the year and slowly change over time. One day an arch, the next day two stumps.  2012 397Visit Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Edge this week at Where’s My Backpack.

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Sourdough with Rye and Wholemeal. A Family Loaf.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARecently I found a Romertopf baking dish at an op shop (thrift store) for the princely sum of $4.00. These turn up frequently in second-hand stores. They have become obsolete in many households due to the popularity of electric slow cookers.  But not for the bread maker. Snap them up!

Celia, of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, inspired me to purchase one. The Romertopf baker enables a high rise, moist loaf, to be made with a fairly hydrated sourdough mix. Don’t ask me about the level of hydration here- I am not that technical, yet.

The dough
Starter, 300g , bubbly and ripe,  (read Celia’s starter notes)
bakers white flour 500g
wholemeal flour 200g
rye flour 100g
water 610 g
salt 18g

Total flour weight 800g

The Method

  1. Place the starter in a large mixing bowl, add the other dry ingredients, then add the water bit by bit, mixing by hand until there is a sticky dough and all the dry has been incorporated into the wet. You could also use a wooden spoon.
  2. Let this sticky dough rest in a large bowl for 30 minutes or so.
  3. Attempt to lift, stretch and fold the dough in the bowl. As it was  fairly wet and this was a bit tricky, I tipped the lot into a stand mixer and gave it a slow knead with the dough hook for 3 minutes. The dough was wet but silky.
  4. It then proved in a large oiled bowl, initially for 4 hours ( winter evening). As it wasn’t ready for late evening baking, I put it in the fridge overnight to slowly prove (7 more hours).
  5. The dough was ready at 6 Am.  I then shaped the loaf on a floured board for a final prove, around 1 hour.
  6. As it was growing sideways, and looking ridiculous, I tipped the lot into a Romertopf earthenware baking dish. This had been pre- soaked in warm water, then lined with baking paper. The top was slashed, the lid went on.
  7. The loaf started in a cold oven turned to 220c , for 25 minutes, then 20 minutes with the lid off, then 10 minutes at 175c. The fan was on throughout.

    Slashed and laid in the Romertopf

    Slashed and laid in the Romertopf. Wet and unpromising.

Result. One huge family style loaf, good for sandwiches and general purpose eating. Everyone loves it- it’s disappearing quickly. The Romertopf method gives the crust a golden glow.


  • very moist loaf, open crumb, golden crust, not as sour as I would like it, though sour notes improved on second day. Will do this again, and increase the rye, or introduce spelt.
  • A great family loaf, huge in size and a good keeper. Next time, I won’t use the mixer. In summer, I might attempt the whole rise in the fridge over a longer period.
  • In a discussion with a gifted baker, Craig, I seem to recall his comments about slow proving and that modern bread may be causing digestion problems due to over yeasting and fast proving. I must explore slow proving further.

    Golden crusted loaf

    Golden crusted loaf

Grazie Mille to Celia for introducing me to the Romertopf  method.

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Sunday Stills: Alcohol. Sanur, Bali

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEd, from Sunday Stills, has nominated Alcohol as the photographic challenge of the week. Although I am not usually partial to beer, I enjoy an icy cold Bintang Beer when staying in Bali.

Walking around the back streets of Sanur, these red Bintang boxes caught my eye.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Satu Bintang Besar, terima kasih.

( One large Bintang, please – a very handy phrase)

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