table talk | it’s all about the little stuff

Part 2 | For fear I might forget Part 1 of “a well-laid table” it seems pointless to wait.

Laying the foundation of your table setting is one thing, building it up can be great fun!


IMG_8797Photo | a well-laid table – from Part 1

I always start setting the table a day, and sometimes 2-3 days ahead of a dinner party. You might well ask why, and the answer is simple.  Starting early allows me time to gradually build the table setting as the mood takes me.  I can then focus on the food during the day and have fun at night.

In all honesty, I am still working on the having fun part, spending way too many hours in the kitchen.  I never know if it is my menopausal flush or the heat of the ovens, and yet I suspect both! 

Tip | invest a large net to cover your dining table. I purchased a white roll of mosquito net, 5000 x 2000 (or thereabouts) from Spotlight.  Even better still, it was only $50!  It works magic on a dining table, once set, keeping everything clean and free of dust (but hey who has dust in their house 😩).

My best investment has been the black food stands. I purchased these from Table Culture (my absolute favourite exclusive housewares store in Subiaco). I understand that they are now difficult to purchase, possibly because a number of my friends have them as well.  Ask anyway, Paddy can always put your name down.


img_8523.jpgPhoto | my stands come in 3 different heights 

You can also use bowls (refer to my home page photo…that table was built on an assortment of glass bowls). Whichever you select as your “special” make sure they are sturdy enough to accommodate your serving dishes. Could be an absolute nightmare if your dinner collapsed under the weight of the stand.   However, let’s be optimistic!!!

My stands play out on the table and our stone bench (the serving area). I love to layer in as many ways possible. Think about how much more interesting this is when the eye travels across space in many different directions.  The sensory load for the eyes are just as important as the mouth.

Invest in some great boards and serving bowls (including oversized) and use these to further elevate your food. 

IMG_1092Photo | serving bowls in white (and stands of course)!

IMG_5232Photo | bowls and stands in use on the stone bench (a different occasion)

On this occasion, I wanted to get away from flowers and do something a little more organic. I potted a mix of fresh herbs and small cacti. Each potted in different size glass bowls, adding large nuts to decorate the inside of the bowls,  adding walnuts and some dried limes which I purchased from the Iranian shop. The fresh earthy mint and coriander gave off a delicious aroma.  Better still, you can plant them after your dinner party and you have fresh herbs at the ready.


Surprisingly, I went to Ottolenghi style (my absolute favourite style) and served the main dishes to the table in a large round serving dishes.  In all, I used three large serving dishes (all the same because I like continuity) and ran them down the centre of the table on the black stands, (having removed the wooden boards post the antipasto entree).


Think of your table as a work of art. It can be minimalist or it can be extravagant, it doesn’t much matter. Just let it reflect you and your style.

IMG_8833Photo |table ready for the food (oh and guests of course)! 


Photo | the potted herbs worked well on the dining table after the dinner

To follow | I will share in my next blog, the Ottolenghi inspired menu for the evening. This might give you some ideas for your next social dinner with great friends.

table talk | a well laid table

Dressing a table for a dinner party or for that matter any special occasion doesn’t have to be boring…or even hard for that matter.

I prefer not to cover the entire table in a linen cloth.  I select my colour scheme and then pull from the linen cupboard all my linen and table accessories that work with that scheme. 

IMG_8789Photo | as painful as it is, don’t forget to iron your cloth.

Firstly, let me digress (the strange thing that). We went to dinner at a friend’s house over the weekend.  As expected dinner was just gorgeous and I went home so full I thought I might blow up in the middle of the night.  It was comforting to wake in the morning and find myself still in one piece.  Monty Python’s “just a little bit more” came to mind. But there again, I am digressing further from my point.  Her table was beautifully layered, simple and yet very elegant.  She covered the table with a white linen cloth and folded a black table cloth so that it ran down the centre of the table, as a wide and generous band. Added to this, she placed a more rustic casual dark chocolate oval placemat at each guest setting.  Given the Indian menu, she complimented the table with the inclusion of a gorgeous silver Indian antique, a family heirloom filled with colourful flowers (I adore those little treasures which just pop up in a setting…the ones which carry a story). Message to self | photograph it next time!

As for me, my dinner theme was bold and a little organic.  I dragged my bright orange linen cloth out, ironed out the creases (still just a little fatigued from the iron) and then folded it in half and placed it down on one side of the table (the long end).  Just go with the flow, you can’t go wrong!

img_8790.jpgphoto | Don’t fear the spots are wet from the iron!  Cloth folded down half the table.

I layered the cloth and table with long table runners across each place setting.  I  simply adore these runners as they are just so flexible. In addition, I added single matching placemats randomly around the table (and yet maintaining the balance), and threw in a few brightly coloured French linen tea towels (reserved for this purpose only).   I did have matching linen napkins, but the thought of washing and ironing them on this occasion was a little overwhelming.  My faithful paper ones worked just as well.

img_8794-e1502092424823.jpgphoto | Laying various complimentary linen tea towels (remember ones which are only used for this purpose, not washing up!


IMG_8796Photo | Don’t forget to let the tabletop peek through regardless of what you lay.  I love white on just about any coloured table.



Just have fun!  This is your chance to pull out all those hidden treasures!

next blog | a well-layered table (all about adding items to the tablescape and adding a little height).  Example pic below…


it’s all about the food | freeze dried rose petals

I usually don’t blog more than once a week, but I needed to share with you a fabulous find … and recipe!  My Ottolenghi’s Meringue Roulade with Rose & Morello Cherries was calling out for sugar-coated (pesticide-free) red rose petals.

If you haven’t already made this recipe, you have the weekend to try it out. Trust me, you will love me for sharing it with you!

I struggled to find pesticide-free petals!!!  Frustrated, yet again, that I was unable to find something I was looking for, until (thankfully your google) I fell across a family run business located in Victoria that produces freeze-dried edible rose petals Simply Rose Petals Family Farm.

IMG_8820Photo | Yotam Edible Red Rose Petals

In a total exciting frenzy, I ordered online and the delivery arrived at my front door the next day (just in time for our dinner party).  They come in just every colour and petals are all they do!  Great for those upcoming weddings!

I don’t think they have much taste, and besides, it was more about the look than the actual taste for me (no less, I did not want to poison our guests).  I did, however, coat a large handful in egg white followed by sugar and roast in a low oven for about 30 minutes.  These did taste amazing (another little sugar rush).

I also purchased a small jar of Freeze-Dried Edible Pansies (see photo below).  While each is freeze-dried, the size and colours remain large and vibrant.

IMG_8851Photo | My Kitchenaid beats egg whites like nothing else

IMG_8856Photo | Morello Cherries (drained and dried off)

IMG_8858Photo | Single Meringue before the cream and roll 

IMG_8860Photo | I love that the double cream has sour cream added! It cuts through the sweetness.  The roll is easier than it appears. You use a sheet of baking paper and gently roll the meringue over into a log

IMG_8884Photo | Sugar Coated Edible Red Rose Petals

IMG_8882Photo | Ottolenghi’s Meringue with Rose & Morello Cherries (2 back to back on a large wooden serving board – serves 12-14 people).  The taste was more about the meringue and the cream than the fruit, which was a refreshing change.

IMG_8822Photo | Freeze Dried Edible Pansies in a Jar – also from Simply Rose Petals Family Farm, Victoria

recipe of the week | celeriac soup with fresh truffle & cream

Can you imagine spending 2 fabulous hours in a kitchen with an awesome Chef?

Well lucky me … I got to do this recently with five other ladies!

We were participating in a Master Class with the very successful Chef and Restaurateur, Chris Taylor, at the iconic Fraser’s Kings Park.


Photo | One of the gorgeous dishes cooked for us in the Chef’s kitchen!

Chris shared quite a few tricks of the kitchen, one of these being how to shuck and serve natural oysters. I am allergic to seafood, which meant that for a while I stood sadly alone on the other side of the kitchen bench, watching the other ladies immerse themselves in the art of oyster shucking. Interestingly, Chef had also demonstrated how to lay the oysters onto a massive bed of ice, and yet a few of the women were more interested in laying the oysters straight into their mouths (hence the oyster didn’t even come close to making it anywhere near the bed of ice. I am not one to name names so one, in particular, will remain nameless (and yet thankfully I do have photographic evidence).


Photo | Evidence 

The lovely young man in the kitchen who was in training saw the look of total starvation on my face (or possibly the dribble running down my chin) and made sure that I got to enjoy a massive serving of the Celeriac Soup finished off with crème and fresh truffle. I am still salivating just thinking about this dish.

I just have to share it with you (and Chef said it was OK):


Photo | Chef Chris Taylor


Celeriac, peeled and diced 2cm cubes

2 litres of milk

2 peeled potatoes

2 sprigs of thyme

2 garlic cloves, finely sliced

1 onion finely diced


-Sweat the onion and garlic in a little olive oil, and add the thyme

-Add the celeriac and potato

-Cover with the milk and simmer with a cartouche for approximately 30 minutes

-Strain keeping the liquid

-Blend adding the liquid bit by bit, until smooth and silky consistency

To Serve:

-Serve with a chunky pesto alongside (however we went for the second option of topping it with cream and fresh truffle), and trust me nothing beats cream and truffle.


Did you know? Cartouche | (I had never heard of this before) means a circle of greaseproof parchment paper that is used to cover a dish while poaching or simmering.

So check out some of these gorgeous photos. I can still smell the delicate hint of the truffle, which was not overpowering, simply melts in your mouth.


Photo | The Real Thing … Celeriac

Once you have made this gorgeous soup (ideally from fresh celeriac), which Chef suggested could also be enhanced with potato or just about any other suitable vegetable (which makes the celeriac go a little further), grab your bowl filled with some whipped cream and then pull out your little bit of heaven, the fresh truffle.

The chef suggested that $10 of truffles would possibly be adequate for a dinner party. I am sure you know just how expensive truffles can be, so it was helpful to obtain this guide.


He keeps his little piece of heaven in an airtight container, packed in greaseproof paper and the fridge.

Dob a generous serving of cream on top of the soup and then shave (using a very fine grater) the fresh truffle directly on top of the cream.

Trust me this one will not disappoint!

Following is a list of the iconic and impressive venues owned and managed by Chris Taylor and his wonderful team. I must confess I am a massive fan of the burgers at The Old Brewery. I am a sucker for a great burger (did I also say fries).






sprinkle cake | mayhem & hell

In my earlier married life, I experienced some massive failures in the kitchen. I suspect we lost a few friends as a result of a few bad dinner parties. Fortunately, things do get better.

I read this great blog titled “The Cake Blog”. Sadly I read Carrie Sellman’s very descriptive and detailed instructions on how to bake a Rainbow Sprinkle Cake, just a little too late.

Her blog is packed with great tips and tricks to save you time and heartache…while also advocating that this is the ultimate treat for the sprinkle cake lover. The tips and tricks are designed to avoid the spilled sprinkle mayhem! Her version of this cake is exactly what I imagined a cake should look like.

So when I was asked to make a sprinkle cake for my God Daughter’s Sprinkle Baby Shower, it was hard to refuse. I think back and wish she had asked me to make the finger sandwiches (and I suspect if there is another time, she might well do that).

I embarked on my sprinkle cake journey without gathering any sensible or helpful information (mistake number 1). To start with my heart was definitely in it, but no sooner did my sprinkle mayhem quickly turn to sprinkle hell.


The Leaning Tower of Pisa | The best part of the day was sharing time with so many lovely yummy mummies’, and yet I did everything I could to avoid looking across at the sprinkle table, only to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa staring back at me! Saved by the Mimosa bar!

So back to the sprinkle cake, which on the face of it looks pretty easy to make and yet there is nothing easy about this cake. It was an absolute fail! Something that should have been easy became utterly horrendous. I could see a scene from Game of Thrones unfolding on my kitchen bench.

I am never great at operating outside my comfort zone and this was one of those occasions, and yet, I thought I can paint so how hard is it to paint a much smaller cake (much harder!!!).


Photo | Ignore the jar of jam. It was a nice idea, but the layers need a solid icing to hold everything together … well almost anyway!

I have never made a sponge before and I have never iced a cake of any great significance. So I decided, let’s cheat and go buy 4 layers of sponge cake from Woolworths. Seriously you have to ask yourself how hard can that be!

Layers of pink and blue | We don’t know if my God Daughter is having a boy or a girl (for the record I think it is a girl) so I made a butter icing in both blue and pink layers.  Surprisingly the icing was quite delicious and yet one further mouthful and I felt as if I had just poured a full cup of sugar down my throat. I could feel my hips expanding just as I stood there.


It was when I started to apply the soft icing to the outside of the cake that I started to make an absolute mess. I look back on The Cake Blog and it appears that I followed the steps reasonably well (without having had the luxury of watching the tutorial until after the massacre). The only problem was that every time I added more icing, I created massive a hole in the cake. So I commenced plugging up the holes with more icing (and more sugar).

Try picturing this nightmare unfolding in my kitchen. The sponge is starting to fall away, I am plugging the holes, the stack of sponges has started to go on a lean and the sprinkles now appear to be smothering the stone bench, not the cake.

Can it get any worse | my blob just continued to become an even bigger blob. So I rolled the cake on its side, gathering the thousands of sprinkles sprawled across my bench (I am certain that I read this tip on some other less helpful blog).

Eventually, I take a final distraught look at the war-torn Leaning Tower of Pisa and the lean does my head in. I start to have visions of the cake falling sideways on the dessert buffet and the embarrassment I feel as a result of this.

Finally, my brain fog clears and I think why not gently turn the cake on its side and cut across the bottom so that it is no longer lopsided (surely you get some credit for this). It worked a treat; until I put it back upright and found that I had cut too much off the other side (argh)! I wasn’t going to be beaten by some rotten sprinkle cake. I grabbed handfuls of sponges that I had just cut off the bottom and commenced stuffing them under the other side. Bingo! Finally, the cake stood straight. I must say I did take just a little pride in this resurrection.

Oh dear me, seriously how can you go from a left-handed lean to a right-handed one?

By this stage, I am so totally over the sprinkle cake and I have no idea whatsoever why anyone would ever want to eat a sprinkle cake let alone make one!

A few of the yummy mummies ate the cake (out of pity I am certain) and I suspect each of them threw up afterwards.

Then of all the people, the Queen of Cakes herself arrived. She was still saying hello and I was already in full flight excusing my sprinkle cake. As always she was gracious, looked across at the mounted cake and told me that it wasn’t at all that bad. I love that gracious expression “not that bad” which means, what a shocker and I are thankful for the support of other women.


Photo | I cannot even bring myself to show you a photo of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

On a more positive note, they had a tarot card reader there (what a great idea). I got my 10 minutes of glory with this gorgeous young tarot reader. Much to my surprise, the 10 minutes was all about my blog. Somewhat relieved it was not about my sprinkled cake!!! How amazing was this … my blog! She told me that I needed to engage more with the heart of what I am writing. She told me that I have so much to share on a far deeper level (so beware ladies the dark might well follow). She said that anytime I spend quality time with my friends who inspire me, I need to sit down and share exactly what comes to mind. What is coming to mind for me right now is, oh great more coffee and cake and I cannot wait.


She did add that I needed to use that inspiration of what comes from this togetherness, sit down, write from the heart and stop overthinking what I am writing.

Sister4sister comes to mind | I always knew when I started my blog that it was never intended to only ever be about entertaining and food (albeit what a great idea), it was also intended to be about women supporting women. It was intended to be a way of reminding each of us just how important friendship is and the older we get the more we need our friends. We have shared so much in this life together, the good the bad and the ugly. We need to stay in touch with each other, be there for each other and above all, support each other to be the best we can be.

Some people arrive and make such a beautiful impact on our lives, you can barely remember what life was like without them.

Source -Your tango

So expect from time to time the sister4sister blogs will find a home on my blog site. We need to constantly remind ourselves, to show empathy and compassion to one another. Be there for each other!

A message from my God Daughter | Just as I was about to finish off this blog, I received a text message from my God Daughter in response to the photo I took of her at her Sprinkle Shower. Her message was hilarious, she said;

Oh dear, I think I look huge! Not so yummy! And it’s my fault, I just polished off a MASSIVE slice of your cake, it’s honestly soooooo yummy, that is my fave type of cake, sponge and icing! Xoxo

So while I am so totally over the sprinkle cake, maybe at least you can please your gracious God Daughter who will eat it regardless of the way it looks.

Sending you love and lots of sugar!

Tip:    If you are mad enough to want to try your hand at this popular Rainbow Sprinkle Cake, do not do anything I did.  Instead, visit You will love the detail and the professionalism.



entertaining made easy | grazing board

“Best friends are the people you can do anything and nothing with and still have the best time”.


If entertaining was made easier, I am certain we would do more of it! Back on my mother’s day, they always went to a party with a plate in hand. What happened to that tradition of sharing food and sharing the load?

We appear to have become slaves in our kitchen. It has become a reasonable excuse as to why we rarely entertain. For fear of repeating myself (which hasn’t stopped me in the past), sharing up the cooking not only lightens the load (and hopefully you get to stay awake until the end of the night), but it also makes for a more shared environment. I have found some of these shared occasions to be some of our most enjoyable.

Recently, a few ladies caught up for a mid-week lunch at our house. The sun was shining and the laughter was abundant. We didn’t need an excuse to get together, we just did! It was a refreshing change from meeting at some restaurant or café.

I set the table, prepared aboard for the centre of the table and we all contributed to the grazing board by bringing something savoury or sweet. I love the chatter surrounding the arrival of each lady and her dish. As always, the conversation quickly turned to food!

Photo|a simple table with stands, a wooden grazing board and napkins




All eight of us sat around the table, oops nine of us – let’s not forget Lucinda, who blew in with grandmother and was just a little treasure (who said iPhones don’t amuse small children) all chatted, laughed and enjoyed the food around us.

Feeling Overwhelmed Entertaining | Why not consider making it a little easier on yourself? Invite a small group of close friends to your house and suggest that you all share the food. It is that easy!

All you need to do is set the table, provide the drinks (and don’t forget the coffee and tea) and arrange some nibbles on arrival and something for the grazing board.   It sounds pretty easy, doesn’t it? It is!

On arrival | I put together a few healthy dips for arrival and set up the table with a long wooden board. I was thrilled that I got to use one of the two wooden boards I picked up a short while beforehand, and on sale (show me a woman who does not love a bargain!).

Photo | arrival tasting board



I used my food stands to elevate the food. I always like to use varying heights, not all the same. If you don’t have food stands, you can use just about anything. Maybe you could try a mix of round and square glass bowls turned upside down. If you want to be truly creative, place a smaller glass bowl in the base and fill it with a single flower. If you are looking for a more rustic look, you can use wooden serving bowls, wrapped boxes for a particular theme, garden pots and the like (ideas here are endless). Just make sure that the base is stable. You don’t want your serving dishes tipping up on the table.

I cannot believe that I overlooked photographing the dessert, and I am disappointed that I don’t have anything to share with you here. I can however confirm that the lime tart and homemade hazelnut chocolates were both delicious.

Menu Ideas | A few grazing board ideas (remembering lunch and women command something a little lighter and healthier… so that we get to eat all the sugar we want afterwards):


IMG_7312 2
Hummus dip
Beetroot dip
Spicy red capsicum dip
Homemade seeded biscuits
Grazing Board:
Salad | figs, feta, prosciutto
Salad | tomato, bocconcini, basil leaves, olive oil and balsamic vinegar
Meat | shaved honey ham
Olives | green, stuffed green & black olives
Quiche | Roast tomatoes, parmesan and ham
Antipasto | marinated mushrooms, roasted red peppers, marinated artichokes
Fresh vegetables | radishes, carrots, asparagus and shaved parmesan
Fresh fruit | green grapes and strawberries
Filo Triangles | curry beef
Dried fruits & nuts | mango and candied walnuts


French baguettes with garlic butter, wholemeal loaf and dry biscuits

Dessert | Tasting Plate:

Lime tart, clotted cream and rich vanilla ice cream

Homemade chocolates with hazelnuts

Tea and Coffee

So no more excuses! Go offer your house as the next venue and get your friends to help out. Nothing is more loving than sharing delicious food and stories with great friends.
Tip | share up the leftover food! Keep a stock of take-home plastic food containers for this purpose.  It could well make for a nice pre-dinner tasting if nothing else.

little pleasures | for our little treasures

“Hot chocolate is like a hug from the inside”

Food is the perfect icebreaker | There is no greater joy than the joy of seeing a small child’s face light up at something you have prepared, something, especially for them. Warm their tummy and you warm their heart.

More often than not, it is the little things, which will turn their head; therefore every small effort you make will come with some great reward.

A designer lolly bag | At my Chanel inspired afternoon tea, I made up little Chanel inspired lolly bags (their parents didn’t think they were so small) and yet the little ones loved them! I warn, however, that this did not prevent some of them from poking their sticky little fingers into as many cakes as they possibly could in the least amount of time.

Message to self: Make sure I set the table higher than a 3-year-old’s little arms can reach.

As a small child, my son always judged a person’s house by what was in their pantry. This was so embarrassing and yet fortunately he was young enough at the time for most of my friends to find it just a little bit cute. That said I tend to spend a lot of time with my head in the pantry, so maybe he is his Mother’s Son after all, or as they say “the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree”.

The start of something special | I never liked the sound of a step-grandparent, and yet that is what I am. It always conjured up in my head, pictures of a woman dressed in black (well I fit that description at least), with a long nose and flying around on a broomstick. So we start on the back foot with step-grandchildren because they never really understand where you fit into the picture. For a while there they thought I was their Grand Father’s Daughter, which I was more than happy to grab and run with … sadly they grew up and knew better!

The middle one of the three, started very shy with me until we found hot chocolate and let’s not forget the marshmallows. I found that through something as simple as finding what truly pressed his buttons you can become great mates.

It was then that our relationship with hot chocolate began. So now I look for great chocolates and marshmallows in the hope that I can please him with something new and exciting, watching his gorgeous and sometimes mischievous face light up with delight at the mere sound of hot chocolate.

Serve it up | The hot chocolate always seems to appeal to most young kids and it is always more than just hot milk with chocolate sprinkled on the top, you are also judged by how you serve it up.


Like the Grandchildren, Scarlett loves her hot chocolate. As she is arriving at our house she can be heard telling her Mum exactly how she would like for me to make the milk and put the chocolate sprinkles on the side (I recently found out that I did not make this 3-year-olds hot chocolate the same way the coffee shop does…she is such an “I” snob. It shouldn’t surprise you that she only likes pink marshmallows! She also loves our Alessi’s heart-shaped spoons, which sit on the side and I am thrilled her snobby coffee shop does not provide this same spoon.


Photo:  Scarlett is just a little bit happy with herself!

No sooner has she filled the entire cup with the chocolate sprinkles than the chocolate ends up all over her face, down her sleeve and closely followed by the entire kitchen bench.  She then commenced putting her gooey fingers straight back into the can of chocolate (and I remind myself again to throw the can out afterwards).


Photo:  Mila is another story | always unable to break through with Mila because she has only had eyes for her Grand Father (my Brother).  So I arrived with a babyccino in hand (and marshmallow) and not only did she talk to me, she wanted to come home with me!  I am not sure why it took me almost three years to work this out!fullsizeoutput_1a38

Photo:  Jake is still too young to enjoy hot chocolate and lollies and yet it does not stop him from eating the Alessi lolly jar lid (I am thinking germs, germs, germs as I write).

Find out what kids like and make it for them. It is the parent’s job to provide balanced meals, not ours. We just want to make friends and if that means they go home with a little more sugar in their belly so be it. They will go home having had a good time and you spare those constant remarks like “can we go home now Mummy?”


Special kid’s food ideas |a few good ideas include:

-sweet or salty homemade popcorn (even better if you grab all the ingredients and make it together)

-lolly bags (and something healthy to keep the parents at least a little happy)

-a chocolate fountain with strawberries and homemade marshmallow

-cheese toasties

-rose coloured water with fresh strawberries

-mini cheesy pizzas (see easy cheat recipe below)

-homemade fruit muffins (it is all about the icing)

-sausage hot dogs

-Oh and please let’s not forget hot chocolate and marshmallow.

Another great fallback for those unexpected visits is a beautiful lolly jar filled with a wonderful assortment of colourful lollies.  I might need to see if I can superglue the lid … so that they last longer than a few nights … then again that kind of defeats the purpose.




Photo:  Mini pizzas are always a hit with the kids!  Another cheat idea is to buy the 2 pack pizza base from Coles (I am fast becoming a fan of Coles) and top with your favourite topping.  Then using a cookie cutter cut out the mini pizzas and cook them in the oven. So simple and seriously tasty!

A note | Make sure you have a packet of gluten-free chips or others in the cupboard on standby.  I had a child visit recently with her mother and she was gluten-free. Oh dear me, the bench was filled with everything but anything gluten. She was asking her Mother when they could go home! How tragic was that!

Short story | I purchased a small domestic fairy floss machine with all the coloured sugar to go with it. I thought this was an amazing idea to have on hand. Not only do kids get to eat the fairy floss, but they also get to make it with you. Only problem being, that it blew up on my first trial. Sticky fairy floss sugar is something you want to try and avoid. I still think the idea is a great one, however maybe next time I might purchase from a more reputable supplier.

Can you see their little faces  … just as we think about these ideas?

If you can do it … do it together | nothing beats spending quality time with kids making food and sometimes eating it together.  Tip:  Avoid watching what the kids do with their fingers when making food.  It will make it way more enjoyable when it comes to eating it!

recipe of the week | cheat’s delicious hummus

This recipe feeds 8-12 people as a pre-dinner appetiser/starter.

I took this dip to a friend’s house this week, as a starter for the dinner.  I promised her the recipe and I am sure she will be amazed at just how easy it is to make!

A great cook would suggest that hummus should be made from scratch with fresh chickpeas (how thoroughly tiresome). I have tried my hand at this method a few times and generally, I find the consistency to be a little too chewy in texture for my liking (which might say more about the Cook than the method). I have also made many a hummus using the canned organic chickpea version and combining that method with my foolproof Thermomix, I can generally pull off a reasonably well-textured hummus (emphasis on reasonably).

Hummus | a Middle Eastern creation is another one of my favourites and works very well as a starter for any dinner party or simply that go-to item, which can be kept in the fridge for a quick snack.

I prefer a smoother texture, topped with anything that adds colour and texture to an otherwise bland beige canvas. So imagine my delight when I found the 1-litre tub of hummus purchased from Coles! Better still it only costs around $6 for a tub and trusts me it beats any hummus I ever slaved over.  BTW … ignore the bland coloured photo, as I forgot to take a final photograph once the flat parsley leaves had been added (plus the smoked paprika adds some life to the otherwise dull hummus).

Yumi’s Traditional Middle Eastern Hommus Dip| (dairy-free and gluten-free). So some call it Hummus, others call it Hommus and others say Houmous. For me,  it is Hummus.


Let’s cheat together | Now that we have the perfect smooth hummus base, add your special touches to disguise the fact that you did not make your hummus-like all the other great cooks.


My added disguise, is the roasted cauliflower, lemon and spiced chickpea hummus. I have modified this from a recipe I once made from scratch and have since refined it to something truly tangy, tasty and even better, dead easy.

Easy Hummus Recipe | Ingredients:

1-litre tub of Yumi’s Hommus

1 lemon

1 tin of organic chickpeas

1 large cauliflower

2 tsp. of smoked paprika

1 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. ground coriander

100 ml virgin olive oil

Flat-leaf parsley or coriander

Salt & pepper to taste

Yoghurt flatbreads | Ingredients:

1 cup of wholemeal flour

1 cup of plain flour

1 tsp. of baking powder

1 tsp. of dried yeast

200 gm. thick plain yoghurt (don’t use Greek yoghurt)

Virgin olive oil

100 ml of hot water

Cut the cauliflower into small florets and toss gently in 100 ml of virgin olive oil. Place on a baking tray and grate the rind of 1 lemon over the florets. Add salt flakes and ground pepper.


Cut the lemon in half and add to the centre of the baking tray (the lemon juice will run onto the baking paper and be absorbed by the cauliflower). Place in the oven at 220 for about 30 minutes or until the florets are lovely and dark brown.

Remove from the oven, squeeze the remaining roasted lemon halves over the cooked cauliflower (I love my hummus to be very tangy) and let rest.


Drain the chickpeas and toss in enough virgin olive oil to coat and then add the combined spices (smoked paprika, coriander and cumin) and toss together.

Place the chickpeas on a sheet of baking paper and roast until chickpeas are crisp and golden. Remember to toss from time to time.


Combine 2/3 of the lemony cauliflower florets with Yumi’s Hummus and stir gently adding flakes of salt and ground pepper to taste.

Pour a generous swirl of a good virgin olive oil on the top (great olive oil can make all the difference to the final taste), and add a generous sprinkle of smoked paprika across the top of the hummus and ground pepper. Heap the roasted chickpeas on the top of the hummus (remembering that the bland beige is no longer) and pile the remaining cauliflower florets in the centre of the chickpeas.

Finish with a generous handful of lightly torn coriander leaves or flat-leaf parsley. Both work equally well.

Yoghurt Flatbreads

I found this recipe sitting in some waiting room. I photographed the recipe and did not manage to capture the source. However, given that it was a waiting room I suspect the magazine was well out of date.

To cheat or not to cheat | If you prefer your hummus could be served with a good quality flatbread (and yet I often find it difficult to find a great flatbread).  Making your flatbread is easy; it just takes a little time.

Combine both the plain and wholemeal flour in a bowl and add the baking powder and dried yeast.

Whisk the plain yoghurt and 100 ml of hot water together and add to the well the dried ingredients. Mix all ingredients until dough forms.

Put the dough on a lightly floured board and kneed for a good 5 minutes or more (until your arms drop).

Rub the ball of dough in olive oil, place in a clean bowl and cover with cling wrap.

The dough should rise to about double its size in 45 minutes. Knockback the dough and break it into 8-10 even size balls. Roll out each ball to a nice thin consistency and then cook in a heavy very hot pan.  Flatbread should be cooked one at a time until parts take on a charred look. When you take flatbreads out of the pan, drizzle some good quality virgin oil over and add a sprinkle of salt flakes to each.


These are truly delicious and nothing beats hummus and great flatbread.

Hint |The dough will last in the fridge for days if well wrapped in glad paper.

Happy eating!




OMG …did you seriously give that!

There are so many more glorious gift ideas, way better than the good old faithful and sometimes convenient bunch of flowers, or the fake red carnation in a cylinder (that OMG moment, did they seriously give me that) gift!

There is nothing more loving than putting a little thought into the gift you give to the Hostess.

It’s not all about the Wine | A bottle of wine is still a must, whereas the hostess is also given a small gift as a gesture of your appreciation. The bottle of wine you take on the night may not be opened on the night because this is always at the discretion of your host and the same applies to any food you might give as a gift.

Gifts should not be elaborate or expensive as this can make the Hostess embarrassed and it can also make other guests feel uncomfortable that their gifts look less significant. Keep it affordable and keep it thoughtful.

So when is too much? That is difficult, because the traditional gift of a bottle of wine or champagne still exists, as does a small gift. Just remember that it is always less about the value of the gift and more about the thought behind the gift.  Just never go empty-handed.

The perfect gift is when you stop and think what an amazing gesture and you realise that your guest gets you. What a massive compliment!

The Power of Flowers | Flowers are always a safe option and yet not always the best option. If you are buying flowers on the way to the dinner party, it will often look as if the flowers have been purchased as a last-minute thought. Flowers that have a look of love about them can never go wrong. Consider putting a bunch of flowers into a glass bowl or ceramic pot for a point of difference. A vase demonstrates just that little bit more thought.  Better to make the bunch of flowers smaller and add a container. An orchid plant is always an absolute showstopper!


An alternative to a bunch of flowers could be a potted plant, cacti or pot of herbs, which are all very in at the moment. Keep your container neutral in colour and style, not patterned. You want your gift to fit easily into any home style.




Wrapping Up | Wrapping the gift also adds weight to your gift and makes it look a little more loved. Attach a ribbon to your gift or place it in a gift bag filled with cellophane or tissue paper. And of course, ribbons, ribbons, ribbons.


Attach a Tag | Add a gift tag to your gift (this is again me suggesting you do as I say not do as I do). How often have we hosted a dinner party and in the flurry of tight deadlines and in the middle of a series of back to back hot flushes, we find that we paid little attention to the gifts given on arrival only to later find that we cannot remember who gave what (difficult to type with one hand in the air)?

Sweeten up the Night | Chocolates are always guaranteed to please. There are also many gorgeous sweet alternatives you could consider such as decadent peanut brittle (one of my favourites), delicious rocky road (another of my favourites) and the likes.



Empty a box of Baci (oh dear another of my favourites) into a lovely glass jar and tie a ribbon around the neck of the jar. This looks gorgeous and again it makes for something a little less predictable than the commercial box of chocolates.

The Unexpected | Something a little unexpected and equally appreciated would be a delicious jar of jam, a tin of herbal tea, a tin of hot salted caramel chocolate, flavoured oil of sorts or a basket filled with Ottolenghi style herbs.



Make it and Take | If you have the time and the talent, then nothing beats a homemade condiment of sorts, such as spiced oil, jam, chilli, biscuits or meringues. Whatever the item place it in a lovely jar, basket or gift box and finish it off with clear cellophane paper and a ribbon. I keep a box filled with beautiful ribbons in many colours for exactly this purpose and the purpose of gifts. Handwritten labels on jars can make your gift more personal.

I have shared stories about Ottolenghi and I have spoken about his pistachio and rosewater meringues. Bake some and give them away. Again, don’t expect them to be eaten at the night, they are a gift. Wrap them in cellophane paper, fill the bag with dried rose petals and tie it all together with a gorgeous big bow (better still let the Hostess know what you are bringing so that she can rely on them on the night).


Queen of Hearts | Now let’s get different and thoughtful. If they play cards, how about a beautiful set of designer cards (so special) what amazing thought.  These Christian Lacroix are of a beautiful set of cards and seriously who would be unhappy to receive these!



For those of you who love linen napkins, then there are sets of affordable linen serviettes on the market right now. Maybe consider a set of 4 linen napkins in a neutral colour, which will work for any casual setting or a linen tea towel (which is perfect for an afternoon tea or high tea gift).  Simply roll them and tie them in a ribbon.

A scented candle always wins in my house. I love burning scented candles and I love giving them as a gift. Add to this list a lovely jar of hand cream, hand towel, and soap on tap, (I adore Aesop’s mandarin and orange soap).

Short story | I gave my brother-in-law a get-well candle a short while back. A black container with white writing, so contemporary and so masculine. The words read, “From someone who cares … and that someone isn’t me”. Fortunately, we have that kind of relationship and he loved the thought and the candle … and me of course!


When you are out shopping and you see a gift and think of a particular person, grab it, store it and wait for that special occasion when you can give it.


Staying over the Weekend | Does anyone do that anymore, unless they are your grown adult kids trying to save money? If they do, then absolutely a gift is appropriate. Friends came to stay at our beach house a short while back and bought with them a bottle of red wine and a hamper filled with beautiful cheeses, biscuits and jams. Delicious, so kind and so perfect!

As for me | I am off to eat a little peanut brittle, or maybe some rocky road or maybe a Baci or maybe a little of each! Next time you will find me just a little bit sweeter.

Tip | Stockpile some lovely small gift cards/tags, gift bags, ribbon, cellophane and tissue paper so that they are sitting waiting in the ready for your next Hostess gift.


going sweet on ottolenghi


I have all of Ottolenghi’s cookbooks. We have shared so many nights with Ottolenghi, albeit his food, not Yotam himself. After having just finished watching Yotam on Master Chef for the past two nights, I realise that all this time I have been pronouncing his name incorrectly, Yoth…am instead it is Yot…am! Oh dear me!


Guess Who is Coming to Dinner | My sister once asked me whom I most admired in this world. Knowing all too well that for her it was Oprah (and just a little disappointed that she didn’t pick me). It made me think to myself that if I had a “guess who is coming to dinner” kind of moment, who would I want to sit with me at the table.  I would have liked to sit at the table with Nelson Mandella, Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi, Angela Jolie, Aung San Suu Kyi and the likes and yet I have never been one of those people who would clamber to get an autograph of some famous person (certainly not sportsmen because generally, I have no idea who they are anyway).

Be an Inspiration | Look at the fabulous legacy left by Coco Chanel. Her exquisite style and grace are legendary and she has made a massive impact on the world of fashion. She encouraged women to dress for themselves and be themselves. She encouraged women to be confident. So do I want to be like Coco Chanel?  Not.  However, Coco Chanel truly inspires me on just about every level.

It is not only famous people who inspire me in life. If we open our eyes we can see the beauty in the actions of many people who surround us each day and who are often silently inspiring us. Sometimes their inspiration can be felt in a small way and sometimes in ways that truly matter and make a difference in our lives.

I am digressing (the strange thing that … and I am starting to sound a little like Anne of Green Gables with my rambling, just a little less articulate).

I am inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi (pronounced Yot … am), his cookbooks, his restaurants and the passionate relationship he has with food (I even love his personal story)! When I first fell across his cookbooks I developed an absolute love of the way he talked so passionately about food and ingredients. He introduced me to so many new spices, which I did not even know existed (Ras-Ei-Hanout has become my second best friend). Over the past five years, I have cooked a lot of his recipes and while they are not always the easiest of dishes to cook they are ever so flavoursome. His food is filled with heart!



It has never been Yotam Ottolenghi that I crave to meet or sit with at my dinner table, but his recipes and his love of food and spices continue to inspire me on every level.

Ottolenghi Relaunched | So imagine my delight when I yet again visited his website, trawling for a new recipe, to find that there has been a new cookbook released. They have just relaunched a special edition of the cookbook titled Ottolenghi and the cover is printed in a vibrant red. How fabulous! I send a message to myself that I must order this online before they sell out.  I just know how fabulous this vibrant red will look sitting on top of my existing collection of Otto cookbooks.

Can you imagine my double excitement when I also found out that they are releasing a brand new cookbook titled Sweet? So for all those Otto diehards like me, go online and order your copy now from their online store.

I have copied details about his new recipe book because I adore his desserts. His rosewater and pistachio meringues are one of my favourites and you need to have a great set of beaters to master this one. Luckily I have a Kitchenaid and it beats the perfect meringue and pavlova.


My take on Ottolenghi’s rosewater and pistachio meringue!


Order via:

Following blurb taken directly from Ottolenghi’s website.

Pre-order your signed copy now: Ships for publication date September 7*

In his stunning new baking and desserts cookbook, Yotam Ottolenghi and his long-time collaborator Helen Goh bring the Ottolenghi hallmarks of fresh, evocative ingredients, exotic spices and complex flavourings – including fig, rose petal, saffron, aniseed, orange blossom, pistachio and cardamom – to indulgent cakes, biscuits, tarts, puddings, cheesecakes and ice cream.

Sweet includes over 110 innovative recipes, from Blackberry and Star Anise Friands, Tahini and Halva Brownies, Persian Love Cakes, Middle Eastern Millionaire’s Shortbread, and Saffron, Orange and Honey Madeleines to Flourless Chocolate Layer Cake with Coffee, Walnut and Rosewater and Cinnamon Pavlova with Praline Cream and Fresh Figs.

There is something here to delight everyone – from simple mini-cakes and cookies that parents can make with their children to showstopping layer cakes and roulades that will reignite the imaginations of accomplished bakers.

*Please note: This item is available for pre-order only.

I so want the walnut, rosewater and cinnamon pavlova recipe (a fresh challenge for my husband at Christmas).