The big trip 2011- Naples

2012 February 1
by JT @ areyouhungary

You can’t say that we weren’t warned about Naples. In fact, as our overnight train pulled into the main Naples train station I had the voice of our dear friend, let’s call him Nigel, ringing in my ear. “You’ll probably be stabbed by gypsies when you get off the train, by the way the train station stinks of p*ss. *Pause* *More pausing* *A final pause for good measure* but I’m sure you’ll be fine.”

As I stepped off the train I held my little travel satchel tightly and tried to look relaxed, hoping that my huge backpack, travel sandals and the fact that I was of asian origin would go un-noticed and I would be taken for a local, therefore not getting stabbed or mugged.

As it turns out, given it was 7am on a monday mornings and Italians, from what I can gather are allergic to mornings and don’t surface before 10am. Without meaning to get involved in the whole debate about gypsies in europe, this is a food/self indulgent blog after all, there is no room for astute political discussion here I should also add that gypsies didn’t seem to wake up before 10am either as we didn’t get stabbed. The downside of this whole morning allergy phenomena is that having failed to print out/procure a map of our B&B it was almost impossible to find anyone to give us directions there.

A brief text message conversation with the B&B’s owner ended in me running out of credit and relying on his word, that he would “meet me on the street.” Despite the fact that I wasn’t sure where the street was, it appeared by way of my no credit silence, I had agreed to this course of action.

I’m pretty sure, in a city which is known for petty theft, ripping off of tourists and a general scruffiness around the edges, a taxi ride wouldn’t really be advisable. In fact, I felt the ire of the smart, prepared travellers as we walked towards the cabs, I maybe even heard them give a little chuckle as they used their already printed out walking directions to find their hotel easily and cheaply.  Why even having the address of the hotel written down would have been too much to ask of me that morning, all my travel smarts having fallen out the window of the train from Milan.

So, after months of a budget loving, cab free existence (in sydney as well as abroad!) we entered into a taxi. In Naples. It had a GPS. Good. We had the name of the B&B. Good. We could see the taxi driver finding the address of the B&B and punching it into the GPS. Good. We could watch, as the driver proceeded to ignore the GPS’ insistence that many of the streets which he was going down were in fact one way (the other way). Less good. We stopped abruptly in the middle of a tiny alley way and were bundled out of the cab, the fare was less than 10euros. Good.

A kind old man, looking at my bewildered and slightly disshevelled face, says “Jessica?” It appears I had arrived, on the street.

It was a good start to our stay at Paleopoli B&B, a great three room establishment right in the middle of the Centro Storico. Their website is here, I highly recommend staying there for the fun english/high school italian conversations you can have with Eddy, the owner’s father, freshly made breakfasts and huge rooms with comfy beds.

But you didn’t come here for hotel recommendations, you came here to read about the food.  Well, Naples, the home of the thinnest, most crispy crust pizza didn’t disappoint. We managed a brunch of pizza, a walk through the centro storico and then a siesta, arising late in the evening for dinner. Well, not so late, we ate at tourist time, about 8:30.

My early high school italian translated Antico Osteria Pisano into ancient kitcheny-homey-restaurant Pisano. I later found out that Pisano just meant of Pisa, clearly this is why I never followed up on my Italian speaking career. It is a homely type place, if your home is located fronting onto a square where mothers chat animatedly on a bench and children ride tricycles nosily along the cobblestones of the pavement and if your home serves up simple but delicious dishes, laying each one on your table with a smile and a flourish of the other hand as though to say (in Italian rather than French of course) “voila, this will be the greatest thing you have ever eaten.”

In fact, the hand flourish, as I will call it, isn’t too far from the truth at this little place. In fact the food was so good we came back the second night.

Pasta with calamari in a simple white wine sauce was such a highlight of the whole trip for the both of us, the calamari was tender, the pasta had a little bite back and it was seasoned to perfection. If only the serving was larger!


And who would dare to argue with deep fried eggplant and mozzarella? Only a fool when the cheese was at its melty gooey best and there was a satisfying “crunch” from the batter.
There was more though, tender baby octopus served with mussels and breadcrumbs, tossed with tomato.
And, because it’d been so long since I’d had a steak, when I saw bistecca on the menu, I just couldn’t refuse.
After dinner, I strolled back to our hotel, slightly full of vino rosso but having not yet being stabbed that day and feeling so at home, I loosened the grip on my satchel. Just a little.
Antico Osteria Pisano
Piazzetta Crocelle ai Mannesi 1
80138 Naples, Italy
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The big trip 2011- Jordan

2012 January 30
by JT @ areyouhungary

I’ve been beset by first world problems of late, or should that be #firstworldproblems?

High on the list of my problems of the first world variety is being constantly asked where my favourite holiday spot was. Answering the same question on an almost daily basis gets a little tiring, but it isn’t really worth complaining about. In any event, my main gripe with the question is that there is no real answer. I loved it all and my favourite places change every day.

This week though, our five day sojurn in Jordan has been high on my list of places to fondly reminisce about.

Wadi Rum, Jordan

Jordan was one of the places on the trip that we didn’t plan on visiting, but since we were in the ‘neighbourhood’ (i.e Turkey) we figured we were closer to it than we were going to be for a while and well, why not? As it turns out Jordan provided five of the best consecutive days of  the whole long honeymoon.

It’s pretty hard to find gastronomic diversity on a menu in Jordan, all the bread we encountered was unleavened, there was an excess of hummus, rice, boiled eggs, grilled meats, slowly cooked/stewed meats and combinations of all of the above but like many places with small menus, the food is done pretty well. But in a country with so much on offer, even I was willing to put food on the backburner for a few days and concentrate on some serious sightseeing.

The dead sea




Backgammon, this time with Jordanian rules

We began our trip by getting ourselves lost among the streets of Amman, the capital city. It was market day, my favourite day in any city, fresh fruit and vegetables were plentiful bringing out almost every inhabitant in the city.




The array of fresh fruit and vegetables was, as it is always, a welcome sight. The vendors were keen to let us try a bit of everything as well as pose for, even insist on being in, holiday happy snaps.

After wandering aimlessly for quite a while, and working up an appetite in the meantime, we stumbled into an alley (which is not hard to do in Amman) which to our surprise was filled with what seemed like three or four different stalls selling hummus, fool (a bean dip), deep fried felafels and salads. In fact each little nook was a different part of the same eatery, Hashem, which would provide my first and favourite meal for the whole of Jordan.

The crunchiest felafel I've ever tasted

Hashem provides little in the way of luxury and english speaking staff. It doesn’t really make any difference though as Hashem is loved by locals and tourists alike, the tourists doing much as we did – pointing to dishes (well there are only really three) smiling and then tucking in for a feed.

The pita bread in the background became our 'plates' for the meal - edible crockery?! Delicious!!

Another night afforded us the opportunity to eat with our hands, well at least at the beginning of the meal. I can’t even manage to eat rice with a fork and knife (white people, how do you do it?!) but struggled badly with my hands. Give me a spoon please!! The dish below is the national dish of Jordan, mansaf, lamb in a yoghurt sauce served on a bed of rice. Delicious!


What? You say? two dishes from a whole country? Yep, that’s all I’m going to give you food wise. Jordan saw me suffer my worst and pretty much only food poisoning of the trip, so while CMJ was mezze-ing it up like a pro I stuck to pita bread, canned tuna and corn chips. Sadly, but luckily for me, doritos exist everywhere. Also very luckily, I had sunsets rather like this one to look at every night, we even managed a cup of hot tea at this one.


Sunset over Kings Way

More tales from the road soon.



Al-Amir Mohammed St Downtown

Amman 11110, Jordan

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Home Sweetish Home

2012 January 24
by JT @ areyouhungary

Now that I’ve had both new year’s days for 2012, I’m back. Sunday saw the ringing in of the year of the dragon with my first tea ceremony as a married woman, which meant giving out the ang pow (red packets) rather than receiving them. Dang.

Yep, those aren't my hands doing the taking!

Also when I say I’m back, I mean not just back on the internet, but back in Sydney-town. Just before we set out on our trip CMJ and I had some family news that made us press “pause” on the overseas living button and settle for a few months overseas – tough gig eh? I don’t think I’ve eaten so much good food, ever. Every day was a culinary delight – well almost every day and the days that did not provide culinary highlights often provided ones on other fronts.

To be honest, my feet are still a little itchy. But for now, I’ve planted a vegetable patch so if that isn’t a sign of staying put, at least for a season or two, I don’t know what is. For those who aren’t travelling, at least that will put an end to any holiday-jealousy inducing photos for a while.

Instead of pretending that I am going to diligently blog all four months of the honeymoon, I’ll post, over the next couple of weeks, some of the highlights of our trip (how to choose?!) and then it will be back to regular programming. See you soon.


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Antalya Anniversary -Isiklar Hamsicisi, Antalya

2011 October 22
by JT @ areyouhungary

Turkey and I celebrated our two week anniversary with a meal which has shot to the top of both CMJ and my Turkey highlights list. Maybe it is just the honeymoon period but Turkey and I seem to be doing quite well so far, it’s given me plenty of fresh salads, kebabs with succulent meat cooked over hot coals and more cay (tea) than the Scots or the Brits could even dream of mustering.

One of many many similar views from our time on the Mediterranean coast to Turkey

Turkey has shared with me its east and south east coastlines, allowing me to laze on both pebble and sand beaches, jump off wooden boats into perfectly clear waters and to hike across mountain ridges down to places like the one above. Last night though, Turkey and I were in travel survival mode, or so I thought.

It was to be night in Antalya, a city of 1 million people so that we didn’t have to combine flights eastward with a long bus ride today. Antayla itself might not have much to see except for a few ruins (but so does pretty much everywhere in Turkey), its chaotic, has burger kings and shopping malls. Tourists cling for dear life to the old town, Kaleici, with cobbled streets, soft lighting at night and a plethora of B&B’s and restaurants with menus in English.

I’ve had plenty of good meals at restaurants with menus in English so far this trip, nay, even ones with pictures of the food on the menu but last night CMJ and I decided to ditch our B&B’s recommended eats, not even look at trip advisor (how I love/hate/mostly hate you) and head out of the quaint old town into the commercial district.

We passed about six shoe shops and I didn’t go in, a row of bridal boutiques and about four empty kebab shops. It wasn’t looking good on the food front. Then we spied, below street level, a small restaurant, brimming with people. We asked in our best international sign language to look at the menu and were waved inside to view fresh fish and an array of mezes, the Turkish share plates that arrive before every meal. “Is ok? Fish fresh” we were asked when the staff pointed to a dish of uncooked fish. “Fish, good, ok” we responded and sat down and waited.

We had no idea what was coming. Around us sat tables of turkish men, smoking and drinking raki, only grazing on the dishes of fish and dips before them. As our food arrived we adopted the approach of two people who have spent almost 3 months only in each other’s company, polite conversation disappeared and as the dishes arrived one by one, we ate. Greedily and quickly.

I was won over by the salad. Simply cabbage, scallions, tomato and some bitey vinegarette. Then dolma, rice wrapped in vine leaves but served warm in a tomato broth.

By this time, CMJ and I were buzzing. Perhaps it was the man sized beer in front of CMJ but the closest thing to alcohol I had was the salad dressing and I couldn’t keep my feet still under the table. If the mezes were this good, what would they bring us next? I scanned my neighbours tables for clues, some had what seemed to be pickled fish fillets, others rows of grilled fish. It was going to be good whatever it was.

Yes yes yes!!

And it was. Small bluefish (a popular fish here in Turkey), I think dusted lightly in breadcrumbs and then wrapped around rice, flavoured with spices so that it balanced on the fine line between sweet and savoury. Leaving the skins on the fish meant that it had a bit of the crunch factor, balancing the soft rice perfectly. CMJ and I were glad that we had learnt how to say “very good” in Turkish and repeated it enthusiastically at the staff.

Then, when we thought it could not get any better, we were brought cinekop, another type of blue fish, fresh from the Black Sea. Grilled and served with a simple salad, it was just great. The fish was tender and sweet and I thought I was enjoying myself until tapped on the shoulder by the owner who insisted that I down tools and eat them with my hands. Then I was really enjoying myself.

More yes.

We finished up with the obligatory cay. This is probably a good time to explain that the Turkish love cay their tea is bitter and served black with two or three lumps of sugar on the side. Milk or honey would be tea heresy. Don’t even think about lemon and if you think you don’t need that extra sugar in your diet, think again, put it in, stir and vow to walk up more stairs to burn it off.

Tea? Cay not?

With our tea came one more surprise, findik ezmesi, a paste of hazelnuts, sugar and I think butter. Spread thinly on a plate and served with only forks, it was like nutella served in a form suitable for a dinner party.

Findik ezmesi

Over our chai we chatted to the chef, Dagistan and scribbled words in our respective languages down for each other then we were offered cigarettes (which I think meant we were now friends) . It was, in spite of the excellent food, my favourite part of the night, a reward for venturing past the safety of the kaleici.*

Isiklar Hamsicisi

Genclik Mah, Isiklar Cad 2

Gokhan Apt No 15/B


* The restaurant is only about 500m from one end of the Kaleici, near the stadium and the bus station (there are many in Antayla) on Ataturk Cadesi.

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Going Coastal

2011 October 13
by JT @ areyouhungary


You’d be forgiven for thinking I’d abandoned this blogging venture for good. Alas, no, I’m just in Turkey.

Armed with my love hate relationship with my lonely planet and some great eating recommendations it’s been a gastronomic highlight so far, and definitely an antidote for the arteries to France’s wine,cheese, white bread and pastries.

Tonight it was salad and a lamb sis in a pita roll (durum). All washed down with the obligatory cay (tea) of course! The salad was my favorite so far, fresh lettuce and sweet tomato chunks mixed with sliced chillies, onion and perhaps sumac. All for less than what it costs bus ride in London, the salad I should say.

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Playing to your strengths: Eating on the Dalmatian Coast, Croatia

2011 September 17
by JT @ areyouhungary

I live by many rules, too many some would say but one of them is play to your strengths. There are some things that I just was not born to do. Mathematics, baking, walking on uneven surfaces without difficulty and in a similar vein, walk in heels.
Of course though, there are things that I’d like to think I can do quite well quite easily. This list is not flattering but it is true, marinating, watching reality tv and/or cooking shows or reality cooking shows, putting together a travel itinerary, using headings.*

It’s a rule that I’d like all of my holiday destinations to adhere to as well, but alas, they don’t always. Croatia in summer though, adheres to my rule. We are getting along just fine.

Before we left for Croatia, a country visited by many of our friends before us, CMJ and I were told numerous times that it was ‘beautiful’ but that ‘the food wasn’t that great.’ So expecting heavy stews and substandard pizza we set off on an overnight ferry from Bari in Italy to Dubrovnik, I wasn’t looking forward to the fare about as much as I was already missing our pastas, light fluffy pizza bases in Naples and gelato every day. That’s right every day.

I know it's not Croatia but this was a highlight of Italy post last blog post!

Arriving in Dubrovnik at the same time as about 4 large cruise ships meant that Dubrovnik was heaving on that particular day. Crowds followed guides holding up paddles and umbrellas and giving guided tours through walkie talkie devices. It was hot, crowded and we were in no mood to explore the old town, but to make time for lying on beaches in the afternoon, we would. The sacrifices I know.

Unable to muster the strength to tell a good restaurant from a bad one, I pulled out our Lonely Planet guide and flicked straight to “our pick” for Dubrovnik. The Lonely Planet’s restaurant picks have let me down before (I think mostly they get too excited about the publicity and then once they are listed either hike up the prices or skimp on the quality) so I was not hopeful. What’s more the restaurant was right on the dock in the middle of the old town of Dubrovnik, tourist and cruise ship HQ.
But we sat, drank our sparkling mineral water (as we do in Europe) and then were treated to what was still, 7 days later, one of our stand out meals Croatia. More importantly we were reminded of the joy of grilled squid and grilled seafood more generally.

The first of many

We were, of course, on the coast.

It arrived, smothered in olive oil, lemon juices and perhaps a dash of oregano. Crunchy in parts and juicy and filled with flavour in others. It was perfect and provided the necessary energy for swimming in rocky city beaches with perfectly clear water. Croatia, well done on playing to your strengths which of course aren’t limited to grilling seafood, but that is one clear strength, put that on your list.

I promise, this isn't the only dish we order!


*I know, I don’t use them here, but trust me, they appear in lots of my other written work. See emails. One day I’ll be able to use them in tweets.


Antica Osteria Pisano

Piazzetta Crocelle ai Mannesi 1, 
corner of Via Duomo & Spaccanapoli

Napoli, Italy

Lokanda Peskarija

Na Ponti bb, Dubrovnik 20000


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The journey begins…

2011 September 8
by JT @ areyouhungary

Internet, I’ve missed you. There are two very distinct types of internet in my world, the one which provides access to online banking, to the work computer system from home, the one that delivers bills via email. When I turn it on, I give a slight huff and puff, knowing that there could be far more fun things to do with the internet. It is the equivalent of a carrot and celery juice with a wheatgrass shot in comparison to an apple, pineapple, watermelon and beetroot juice, with a sprig of mint thrown in for good measure (or, if you would prefer, your cocktail of choice.)

The internet I’ve missed is the latter, the one which is full of tweets, blogs, food reviews and frivolous emails. It’s been organisational emails, bills, budgets and bookings for months now. Not today world. Today I update my blog, I visit my few favourite blogs all the while giving mental props to their authors for their ability to post regularly.

Look, it hasn’t been all bad.

The last two months or so have entailed this:

 And I have moved on to the honeymoon part of the wedding palaver which has involved some serious hits on the gastronomic adventures scale and some misses. We’ve gone from London to Scotland to Italy and are off to Croatia in a day or two. One overnight train, two bloody marys (and a corresponding nap later) here’s a quick rundown of what I’ve learnt so far.

  • The best food is not often  found next to the best views, but sadly despite the knowledge of this rule I’ve failed to adhere to it at times and thrown good euro after bad food, or to be fair mediocre food.
  • Even if you have woken up at 3am to catch a cheap flight, then caught three different trains, it’s probably worth spending 5 minutes considering restaurant choice. Eating reheated frozen pasta overlooking the Cinque Terre at a clifftop bar kind of ruins the first meal in Italy (see first point).
  • Fish soup. I love you, especially when you are full of rich sweet tomato flavours and fresh seafood. This one was at Manarola, Cinque Terre. Go.

  • Getting to London’s various airports costs more than getting from them to other European destinations.
  • I miss cooking. Italy has done a great job of providing home style fresh and often super affordable food, but sometimes when there’s fresh pesto on offer at the local deli, whipping up some pasta is irresistible. Especially with a view out the window like this one.

And with that I’ll log off for a few more days, I’ve two more nights in Italy, five meals to be exact. Now to spend them wisely. Recommendations for the Amalfi Coast, Croatia and Turkey are all welcome as I have them all in my sights.  I’m online more often via twitter @are_you_hungary, so send them that-a-way!




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10 to go

2011 July 20
by JT @ areyouhungary

I’d kind of like to say that I’m sorry that it’s been such a while since my last post, but I’m not really that sorry. It is just ten days until my our wedding and twenty days until I pack up and head off overseas for a seven month adventure. So suffice to say there has been a lot on.

I’ve still been eating, don’t worry, and more often than usual tweeting photos of particularly interesting food finds, so if you miss me (which I am kind of presuming you do by the mere fact of this sentence) then follow me on twitter. That way I won’t feel like I’m only followed by group buying companies and food websites from overseas and you would, in a kind of dull yet voyeuristic way, see things that I would never, ever post on facebook or in long form here, mostly because the photos are terrible and taken on my old iphone.

But anyway, ten days out from the culmination of about five or six different spreadsheets the only really decent thing I have to show you is what we’ll be eating on the day. I love my caterer already. If you have to get married, or have a big party, or have a small party and would like to speak to someone who will give your dream supper hot potato bar (and save you one, or at least she promises to) or suggest that pork belly is an appropriate wedding food then Hattie is for you.

To break up the photos of what we’re going to be eating I might provide you with one thing for each day before the wedding (other than aforementioned pork belly and hot potato bar) that I am looking forward to about the wedding…in no particular order:

Speaking of crappy iphone photos..but really lamb and pomegranate, it’s a winner already


1.Being able to wear cowboy boots with my dress.

2. Having pretty much all my favourite people in the same room.

The best pork belly I've eaten for a long time...and with this fried chicken ban, pork belly is a worthy indulgence!

3. Dancing, lots of it, and a Cooper family singalong.

4. Yam Seng-ing with my cousins from Malaysia and Singapore.

5. Moscato (singular, damn light-weightness)

Cream of artichoke heart soup and salt and pepper squid

6. Seeing CMJ for the first time (well not, ever, obviously).

7. Family photos (am I the only sucker who actually enjoys this?)

8. Polaroids.

9. Lemon Curd and Turkish Delight cupcakes thanks to the home pro bakers.

10. A day full of warm fuzzies.



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Biting off more than you can chew – Big Bite Pizza, Greenacre

2011 May 22
by JT @ areyouhungary

I am steadily getting the feeling that being a bride-to-be (69 days to the big day and counting!) is not helping my fun levels…added to the fact that Call Me Jose and I are in the midst of packing up our apartment and planning a somewhat extended honeymoon. The next two weeks/weekends will be wedding planning central – we’re having Call me Jose’s parents and sibilings over for a pre-wedding sydney good times fest, including a belated engagement lunch here. Then it’s off to Murrurundi (4 hours north west of sydney) to view our venue for the second time, scour for photo locations, pit marquee providers off against each other in a battle to the death and if time permits, sit down with a quiet cup of tea.

Needless to say, my days which include a new job are filled with ticking things off both the ‘wedding’ and ‘honeymoon’ lists as well as trying my level best not to balloon out into a mega bride. I’ve heard lot of people say that being busy means a steady weight loss as there’s no time for eat, but being in a constant state of frantic organisation for me equates to extra eating to prevent hunger at critical times! Not an ideal pre- wedding preparation I know.

So cooking at home has been fast and furious and recipes are never noted. Old favourites are relied upon heavily for quick and easy meals – they never get photographed. Assume that far too much pasta arribiatta, instant noodles and similar non-bride friendly foods have been consumed of late….you can see the blisters on my feet for reference, running to remove them from my hips.

Newcomers to the block included an eggplant and fetta pasta which helped to use up the ridiculously ambitious amount of eggplant purchased on an excited trip to paddy’s market.

one of my favourite weeknight meals of late...

A pea, fennel and spinach soup which provided a few self righteous diet lunches at work and freed up a lot of freezer space. I’m loving the idea of cooking vegetables, adding stock, whizzing and calling it a soup. Unfortunately, soup is in fact not a meal and any self righteous grinning that I enjoy after eating one is often followed by a slightly guilty smirk as the meal that follows is invariably a little larger than necessary. This one is an adaptation of this recipe.

surely parmesan improves everything...

Since learning to poach eggs and finding out how much our honeymoon/wedding is going to cost, breakfasts out at cafe’s have become a rarity, indeed they’ve almost become extinct in Call me Jose and my home. The exception was yesterday morning. We woke at the crack of dawn (well isn’t that 7am on a saturday) to head about 45 minutes west of our home to do errands. Wedding errands. Don’t ask, you’ll die of boredom hearing about them.

Something strange happened though, through my cries of  ”I’m hungreeeeeeee” which filled the car, Call me Jose managed to navigate us to a favourite spot of his colleagues and his. Big Bite Bakery, Greenacre – the home of Friday Morning Mankoushes at Call me Jose’s workplace. I expected a lot, and was not disappointed. Families lined up early in the morning …well it was 9:30 by this time….for a mankoushe.

sorry about the fairly mediocre image, what can I say, it was early and I was hungry...

The menu is limited, cheese, oregano, oregano and cheese, cheese, meat, cheese and meat and so on and so forth but something tells me that there is nothing stopping you from designing your own mankoushe. It’s not a place to dwell, but there’s a lovely grassed area just outside which would make an ideal mankoushe picnic spot with views of the back of the shop and the surrounding houses. It’s a meal for those on the go.

oregano and cheese

We opted for the very popular cheese and oregano and, just at the last second made an impulse order of an additional meat mankoushe even though one would clearly have been sufficient but for $6 for the two we weren’t really complaining. Minutes later we were provided with fluffy crunchy bases  topped with oregano and sumac perhaps and mixed with melted cheese…or topped with a sweet  mince mixed with fresh tomato pieces that glisten in the morning sun.

watch that beef and tomato glisten...this would be improved by the addition of cheese

Unlike pides, some bad pizza and other bread and cheese combinations which sometimes overwhelm me with dough and oil, these were surprisingly light. I avoided any post mince at breakfast regret as it all sat very happily in my belly and we headed off for our errands….more from wedding central soon…if I make it out from under my excel spreadsheets…



Big Bite Bakery

4/130a Waterloo Road,

Greenacre, NSW, 2190


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Miso and Vodka Mussels

2011 April 26
by JT @ areyouhungary

As far as I can remember, most Easter holidays have involved fair to large amounts of rain. Once I went to Coffs Harbour (a coastal town about 5 hours north of Sydney) with my family, it was going to be our big trip for the year. Dad was going to do things like relax and turn his then, very new, mobile phone off. Things like long walks on the beach and lazing around by the pool were slated, shorts and thongs were packed and the house locked up for a weekend at the beach.

We were greeted then, by rain, rain and more rain. Puddles formed on the pathway between our villa and the rest of the hotel. It got chilly and we wished we had packed more warmly. We visited the local cinema, multiple times, until all the family friendly movies were exhausted. Oh boy, did it rain.

Many a year later, but still only really willing to watch family friendly movies, I found myself looking for an Easter destination. Exhausted from a demanding job and not willing to make the trek up the coast, I booked Call me Jose and I into a little apartment at Berowra Waters. Again, optimistic clothing was packed. Shorts, terry towelling hats and even some swimming gear. Alas, it rained and rained and rained. It rained when we were in the tinny trying to fish, it rained while we were watching DVD’s in the apartment and it rained while I tried my hand at deep frying whitebait.

This year though, after a whirlwind last couple of months or so, I was not prepared to risk the rain. So Easter was spent at home. I was hoping for glorious sunny days, so that I could be proven wrong about the Easter rain and again head up or down the coast, for a little respite and rest….but I’m not holding my breath.  The best thing about staying home over a holiday break is that it can be spent cooking without packing the boot full of cooking appliances, condiments and ingredients you’re just not sure will be available in the sleepy beachside town you’ve chosen.

This year, I was joined with one of my favourite eating partners, for a long lunch, some old school scrabble and a glass of vino while we feasted on these pretties. Mussels are great for entertaining because you really don’t need to spend much time away from your guests and everyone has a little fun getting their hands dirty and slurping the juices out of their bowls.

The recipe is inspired by the one in David Chang’s Momofuku cookbook; but realising that I didn’t have about half the ingredients the resembelance now comes down to the method rather than the taste.

Really Good Friday Mussels

You Need

4 cloves garlic, smashed and roughly chopped

1 x 3 cm knob of ginger, grated

4 tbsp scallions, sliced thinly

2 tsp miso paste

2 tbs mirin

2 tbs sushi vinegar

1 tsp black bean and garlic paste (available at Asian grocery stores)

2 tbsp rice bran oil

generous splash vodka (maybe about 1/4 cup)

1 1/2 kilos mussels, washed and bearded


You Need To

Prepare the garlic, ginger and scallions. Place in a bowl with the miso, mirin, sushi vinegar and black bean and garlic paste. Set aside until needed.

Wash the mussels and making sure you get as many of the beards out of them as possible.

Set a large pot or pan (with lid) on a high heat and add the rice bran oil. Once the oil heats up, add the mussels and cover for 1-1/2 minutes.


Just before adding the vodka..

Open quickly, add the vodka and close again for another minute.

Tip the pot to one side, so that the mussels all gather together at one end, where there is now space in the pot add the miso mixture and mix with the pan juices. Toss everything together and cover for another minute or so, making sure that all the mussels open.

Discard any mussels that remain closed.


If only every weekend was celebrated this way!

Despite the Asian flavours in this dish, I serve it with a fresh baguette, fluffier, whiter and more absorbent the better- no need for fancy bread here.


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