food for thought

by michelle

salmon in Canada

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You can’t avoid salmon if you travel to Canada, especially in a coastal community like Gibson’s in British Columbia where we spent 2 fabulous weeks. 

There are six varieties of Pacific salmon – Pink, Sockeye, Coho, Chum, Chinook and Steelhead. While in Gibson’s we visited a salmon hatchery and learnt about the salmon life cycle. This is the time of year that the salmon run and we hoped to see some running but we were a little late for the Pinks and a little early for the Coho’s. It’s just possible we ate every variety, though! Here are a few examples:

Salmon and spinach in a flaky pastry parcel;

lime and pepper candied salmon;

salmon burger;

and wild sockeye salmon…..

barbecued on a cedar plank with a miso and maple glaze.


Written by michelle picker

October 16, 2018 at 1:12 pm


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While in Pittsburgh  I took part in a cooking and baking day. We all cooked food that we had grown up with which resulted in a delicious array of savoury and sweet dishes from Australia and the US. The final dish was the star – a blueberry pie made by Jon. Pie is the quintessential American dessert. If you go into any diner you’ll find iconic pies such as apple, pumpkin, cherry, lemon meringue and many more. Coming from Australia where sweet pies are just not as common, I’d never really understood the appeal. So much pastry just didn’t seem worth the calories – until I tasted this blueberry pie. Jon had watched his mother make it many times and although he professed never to have made it before, his pastry work was meticulous and the result was truly impressive.

Written by michelle picker

October 9, 2018 at 2:30 pm


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Still travelling – this time in Pittsburgh. Here’s a little taste of some of the food.

Amazingly delicious ribs from Fine Smoke at the 2018 Heinz Field RibFest;

Tacos with grilled shrimp, rice and beans, guacamole, pineapple and black beans on the side from Bea Taco Town;

KFC (Korean fried chicken) with a wasabi and honey dipping sauce, salad and a side of kimchi from Bae Bae’s Kitchen;

and a fabulous fish sandwich made with steelhead trout from Gaucho Parrilla Argentina. Serve-yourself house sauces were Chimmichurri, Smoky chipolte, garlic aioli and mushroom.

Written by michelle picker

October 2, 2018 at 6:53 pm


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New York’s second-largest Chinatown in Flushing, Queens, is worth a visit. It really feels like you’ve been transported to China. We headed for the Golden Shopping Mall, home of Xi’an Famous Foods, where we intended to try Xi’an noodles. But the call of dumplings was too strong and I have to say they were some of the best I’ve ever eaten!

We ate excellent pan-fried dumplings with chilli oil and vinegar…..

….but the steamed dumplings in spicy chilli sauce were truly amazing. They were served with chilli oil and sesame paste and topped with choy sum and spring onions. The casing was super thin and the filling was a wonderfully tasty mix of pork and chives.

I forgot to take a photo of the pan-fried dumplings, so the one above is modified from an image by Ken Marshall licensed under CC BY 2.0


Written by michelle picker

September 26, 2018 at 11:10 pm

travelling and eating

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I love to travel the world and one of the pleasures or travelling is new food experiences. Amanda (who shares the same name as the head chef) recommended Dirt Candy, an innovative restaurant in New York serving tasting menus made entirely with vegetables. Beginning with a dirty corn martini we launched into the 10-course menu – an amazing experience. Many of the courses consisted of more than one dish and we could hardly fit in the savoury courses before the 3 desserts arrived. But there’s always room somewhere for dessert! The dishes included a tower of amuse-bouches (lettuce gazpacho; elderflower salad with black bean hummus; caramelised red onion over onion cream; popcorn on corn and avocado salsa and vegetable pops); spinach monkey bread with garlic butter; Korean fried broccoli; bagna càuda; tomato tart; portobello mushroom mousse served with truffle toast; long beans with almonds, Spanish smoked cheese and fermented yoghurt; a carrot slider in a cute little box; corn ravioli in a corn broth with corn harissa nuts; kohlrabi dumplings in broth with various brassicas; vegetarian Peking duck with pea tofu and tofu skin; cauliflower confetti cake; a coffee chocolate mushroom with mushroom cream; and finally, eggplant foster with basil anglais and eggplant chips.


Written by michelle picker

September 19, 2018 at 9:31 am

sultana yoghurt cake

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Just part of a wonderful lunch with friends, Caroline baked this cake from Turquoise: A Chef’s Travels in Turkey by Greg and Lucy Malouf. Dotted with plump sultanas, the texture was somewhere between custard and cheesecake with a subtle not-too-sweet yoghurt flavour.

Preheat your oven to 180ºC (350ºF) and grease and line a 20cm (8″) springform cake tin. Roughly chop ¼ of a cup of sultanas and place them in a small bowl. Cover with muscat or sherry and allow to steep for 10 minutes then drain and set aside. Beat 5 egg yolks with 80g (2¾ oz) of caster sugar and 2 tablespoons of honey until thick and creamy. Mix in 80g (2¾ oz) of sifted plain flour followed by the drained sultanas, 500g (1.65 lbs) of natural yoghurt, the zest and juice of 1 lemon and 1 tablespoon of olive oil and mix to combine well. In a clean dry bowl whisk 5 eggs whites until stiff. Add a spoonful of the egg whites into the yoghurt mixture to loosen it then gently fold in the rest. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 50-60 minutes until the cake puffs up like a soufflé. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin until the cake begins to shrink away from the sides. Make sure to loosen the cake from the sides of the tin before opening the cake tin. Allow to cool before serving.

Written by michelle picker

September 12, 2018 at 12:23 am

soda bread

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What to do when you’ve run out of bread and can’t get to the shops? Soda bread is an excellent quick bread which doesn’t require any special bread flour or yeast. Traditional Irish soda bread has only 4 ingredients: plain flour, bicarbonate of soda (the raising agent), salt and buttermilk. These days we don’t churn our own butter so buttermilk isn’t typically in the fridge either. I found myself without and made a mixture of plain yoghurt and milk which worked perfectly!

Preheat your oven o 190ºC (375ºF). Line a baking sheet with baking paper and have a lightly floured work surface ready. Sift 400g (14 oz) of plain flour with 2 teaspoons of bi-carb soda into a mixing bowl. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and mix it through. Now you will need 400ml (14 fl oz) of buttermilk or make a mixture of milk and plain yoghurt in equal proportions. Mix the wetand dry mixtures until you have a moist almost sticky dough. Turn it onto he floured surface and bring it together into a flat circular shape. Soda bread should never be too thick or it won’t cook through. With a serrated knife cut a deep cross into the top of the bread and bake for 40-45 minutes. The loaf should sound hollow when tapped underneath. Allow the bead to cool uncovered for a super crunchy crust or cover with a tea towel for a softer crust. Delicious served warm.

* recipe adapted from here

Written by michelle picker

September 5, 2018 at 12:31 am