I love the fact that I couldn’t explain to an outsider what exactly the building blocks of ‘your typical Aussie Christmas dinner’ are. It is, by and large, flexible. In fact, it may not even be a dinner, it may be lunch. It could be on boxing day rather than Christmas, and there may not even be a table at all; it could be on a beach, or in a park, or at a pub.

Every year in my family, we fling together something a little different from the year before. And every person I talk to has their different family traditions, dishes and recipes; some that stay the same year in year out, some that evolve, and some that they’d rather forget. I like to think that, as a group (cue massive generalisation), we Aussies are a laid-back, casual lot, and the variety of meals we share over the silly season reflects this flexible, adventurous way of looking at food, and recognises our diversity as a nation.

In a couple of weeks, I’ll be hosting a pre-Christmas recipe swap at the Glebe Library with the City of Sydney. We want people to bring in their Christmas recipes; the ones they love, the ones they hate, the ones they just made up yesterday. You can even bring samples to share, and we’ll eat and talk cooking and eating and Christmas. Huzzah!

If you can make it, here are the details
The Christmas Recipe Swap
Friday, 6 December 2013 from 1:00pm to 3:00pm
Glebe Library, 186 Glebe Point Rd, Glebe NSW 2037

What do I need to do?

  • RSVP here
  • If you have a recipe you’d like to share and need us to print, email it to lau@corridorkitchen.com by Thursday, 5 December 2013.

Hope to see you there, chums!

This week I had the nerve racking but ultimately rewarding experience of presenting a talk (twice) on The $35 Food Challenge as part of the City of Sydney Library’s ‘Lunches with Bite’. It would be an understatement to say it was a fantastic experience. Once I started talking I found I just couldn’t shut my mouth. And the reason is this.

It is estimated that 2.2 million Australians live in poverty. That’s 11% of us, and that percentage has been increasing over the years. Well may we say that Australia, as a whole, has weathered the global financial crisis and its aftershocks. Well may we say that as a population, we are objectively materially better off than at any time in our history, and yet convinced we’re all hard done by. But for that 11% of us for whom something like meeting a friend for coffee, going to a restaurant, catching a bus, ordering a pizza, recharging their mobile phone credit or even using their heating in winter is something they really have to weigh up, that kind of information brings little comfort, if any.

In fact, it is a slap in the face to every person living in poverty, because if we are so well off, why are those people not being taken care of? Why are Australians in poverty not being given to opportunities the rest of us have? In fact, why is there ONE SINGLE AUSTRALIAN LIVING IN POVERTY AT ALL? Why is there any one of us for whom a visit to the doctor, or the dentist, or an interstate relative is a complete financial impossibility? And WHY the FUCK are there children in this country, IN THIS CITY who don’t have access to the coloured pencils they need to do their homework, or enough food for their school lunch? AND WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO ABOUT IT??

*Ahem*. You can consider that rant as bonus content. They certainly didn’t get that at lunches with bite.

I can’t thank Ellen Lowry and the rest of the folks at the library enough for having me, I really appreciate having an opportunity to speak on this subject. A huge thank you also to everyone who came out to hear about the Challenge, especially those of you who asked questions, made comments and generally got angry about poverty in Australia and creative about how to navigate your way through the process of going without. When this was just a kernel of an idea, I never imagined it would get anywhere near the kind of attention and uptake it has so far, and it is only growing.

Resources
And on the subject of thank yous, did I tell you there’s a $35 Food Challenge Food Spending Tracking App? You can find it at spending.the35dollarchallenge.com, it is free (you just need a name and password to use it). The app was designed, completely unprompted and at no cost whatsoever, by Jacky Lo of the blog Food Rules, who had the idea, emailed me to ask if it was ok (to which I replied OH MY GOD YES THAT WOULD BE AMAZING SORRY TO YELL AT YOU IN CAPS, or words to that effect) and the rest is history.

I also had a few requests for the powerpoint slides I used, you can download them here. The reports I referred to in the presentation are here and here, however ACOSS (The Australian Council of Social Services) will release their most comprehensive survey of poverty in Australia to date tomorrow, to mark the beginning of Anti-Poverty Week. You should also check out Four Corners’ ‘Growing up poor’ if you get a chance.

*Phew*. So, The $35 Food Challenge starts tomorrow. Are you ready?

It’s not too late to support The $35 Challenge. During Anti-Poverty Week, from October 14-20, you have $5 a day to spend on food. By experiencing poverty for just 7 days, we come to a better understanding of the realities and stresses of living in poverty. By blogging or tweeting this experience, we can raise awareness of an issue so often swept under the rug. And by donating the remainder of the money we would usually spend on food to Foodbank, we can make a real difference. For more info, click here.

So its full steam ahead with The Potluck Club as we’ve been compiling and proofing recipes, chasing up submissions and sorting through ph

discount cialis

otos. 24 bloggers have submitted a total of about 35 original recipes and as many photos. A huge thank you to everyone who has submitted their work to help raise money for Foodbank, in conjuction with The $35 Challenge.

This October, as part of the the City of Sydney Libraries’ ‘Lunches with bite’ series, I will be presenting a couple of talks on The $35 Challenge – one on Tuesday October 9th at the King’s Cross Library and one on Friday 12th of October at Custom’s House Library. The talks are on the week before the challenge, to get you ready-slash-psyched. Both talks are free but places are limited, so if you’re interested, follow the links to register.

I’ll also be hosting a recipe swap at the Glebe Library in November. We’re encouraging everyone to bring their favourite home recipes, cookbooks and food blog links – we’re calling it an ‘old-fashioned-meets-social-media recipe swap’. I’m both excited and phenomenally terrified, so come on down. If nothing else, it’ll be good for a laugh.

Since its been all about the e-cookbook lately, I thought it a good idea to post an actual recipe. I’ve been eating roasted cauliflower all winter as a side dish, but it also makes a fab ‘share plate’, as the kids say. Serve it with crusty bread and mediterranean dips, or maybe as a side to roast chicken or a comforting casserole.

Roasted Cauliflower Shareplate with Red Capsicum and Goat’s Cheese

  • 1 large red capsicum (you will only need half of what you roast)
  • 1 small head of cauliflower (about 900g), sliced into pieces of about 2cm thickness
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • a very generous slosh of extra virgin olive oil, to coat the cauliflower
  • 1 tsp baharat or, failing that, ground cumin
  • freshly cracked salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 50g goat’s cheese
  • chopped continental parsley, to garnish

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees c. Roast the capsicum in a large baking dish, turning every 10 minutes or so, until soft and slightly blackened. Put to one side in a bowl and when no longer hot but still warm, cover with cling wrap to sweat.

Toss the remaining ingredients together (except cheese and parsley) in a large bowl to coat the cauliflower. Pour onto the tray used to bake the capsicum. Turn the oven down to 175 degrees c and bake for 30 minutes. Then turn over the cauliflower and bake a further 15-30 minutes until soft and slightly brown.

Meanwhile, skin the almost-cool capsicum, discarding the stem and seeds. Slice finely.

Arrange the cauliflower on a plate, draping the capsicum and dolloping the goat’s cheese as desired. Share with friends.

“To find our newest Campos Coffee espresso bar, head to the Sydney Opera House, go to the top of the stairs, and at the box office, and turn left.” So the Campos crew wrote a few days ago, and by gum I was there to check it out.

When I arrive around 4:30pm in their soft opening week, there’s not a customer in sight, but I can see they’ve been busy that day. I order my macch, take a seat and its there in a flash. It’s a true Campos macch, creamy and frothy the way I like it, and I linger over it in the mostly empty cafe.

The space is small and cave-like, but there’s not much you can do about the concrete interior of this part of the iconic Sydney landmark. Campos branding is scarce, which I find interesting; I was expecting the solid wood furniture and smattering of coffee paraphernalia of their sister stores. No matter, I enjoy my ‘Roy’s special’ as the boys call it and they let me happily snap away as they talk cafe processes and procedures in hushed tones. I think it was working in coffee shops that made me realise the extent of my process-driven pedantry.

For a brand of such success, Campos has opened precious few stores in its short lifetime; by my count this will be their fifth store. But these guys have always understood that the key to coffee is consistency: quality control = branding.

Putting a store in the Sydney Opera House makes sense from every possible angle, its too perfect. The new store started trading on September 5th from 10:00am – 6:00pm, but from next Monday (September 10th) they will be trading 8:00am to 6:00pm, 7 days a week.

Campos Coffee Sydney Opera House
Sydney Opera House (near the box office)
Bennelong Point
Sydney, NSW 2000

Campos Sydney Opera House on Urbanspoon

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Coffee kindred spirit John over at he needs food sent me this recommendation a while back and it’s taken me this long to get to it, but this week I finally made it to York Lane, a new-ish laneway café/bar located, funnily enough, on York Lane. It’s right by Wynyard station (convenient) and was one of the recipients of the City of Sydney grants to spruce up our dingy laneways. It’s definitely done that.

Senhor R and I arrived to find York Lane littered with just the right amount of milk crates. It’s a cosy place with recycled floorboards, pops of colour in the form of red stools and milk crate shelving, menus scrawled on walls and windows with whiteboard pen and upcycled everything else. It definitely had the look, but there’s more to a good café than thoughtful, trendy aesthetics. And I don’t just mean great food or coffee.

Let me digress. Lately I’ve been thinking about what we mean by hospitality and, more to the point, what we mean by good hospitality. The hospitality industry is a strange space where you sell goods like food and drinks, but also more intangible things like experiences, ambiance and making people feel welcome. This is tricky territory to navigate; you’re selling something that’s difficult to quantify and usually comes for free, thus making transactions highly emotionally charged. I think this is why when we have negative experiences in bars or cafés, we take it so personally. On the other hand, getting it right can win you glowing praise and loyal customers for years to come.

It seems like York Lane gets it right, being on trend, yet friendly. The two guys running the place were chatty but genuine. They got a fair bit of custom, mostly takeaways, and most of them seemed to be regular customers, which is a good sign. We felt comfortable and welcome, not distracted or intimidated by the decor, music or excessive sprinkling of micro herbs. No one used the phrase ‘it’s a Melbourne thing’. Not once did someone sneer at me or feel the need to wax their moustache. The guys behind the counter even exchanged a bit of banter with us, and I for one am not much for banter with strangers.

$3.50 for a teensy coffee is a tad steep in my books, but I’m a cheapskate through and through. The coffee was good- mild, dark and fullbodied without a lingering aftertaste…a one dimensional but rich flavour. I would’ve like a tad less milk in my macch. Is this a trend now? picchiatos? Then again I didn’t say so and we ordered a second round. I will be back for sure to try their ‘tapas style’ offerings and have a few drinks.

York Lane
Sydney, NSW 2000
02 9299 1676
http://www.yorklane.com/
Monday to Wednesday 6:00am – 10:00pm
Thursday to Friday 6:00am – midnight
Saturday 6:00pm – midnight
Closed Sundays

York Lane on Urbanspoon

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