Christmas Traditions – A Mother’s Legacy

It is with sadness that I write this post, but I feel compelled to do so in the spirit of sharing and Christmas. My dear mum passed away last week after a lengthy illness and won’t be here to join us this year for our family get-togethers. However the traditions she started will be with us for many years to come. Mum loved Christmas and would prepare weeks ahead by cooking port wine jellies for gifts, soaking the fruit for the Christmas cakes, decorating the tree on the 1st December and making these little morsels of sheer deliciousness and richness…..Rum Balls!

 

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Mum has been making these rum balls at Christmas for approx 40 years and was very seceretive about the recipe and its origins. She has hand written the recipe in my childhood recipe book under threat if I was ever to reveal it to strangers! I will cherish it always but feel the need to share it with you all now, in mum’s honour. Besides, its a simple little recipe that we can all make very quickly and have any little helpers assist. The original recipe came from a lady named Judy Orr, who was the mother of my best friend at the time, Jenny. Judy happily parted with the recipe, not realising the tradition she would create. They have been called Judy Orr’s rum balls ever since!

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They are my preferred rum ball in that they are more truffle like and do not have the cakey consistency and texture of other rum balls. By sheer accident, they are therefore gluten free! The recipe is easily doubled, with the base recipe making approx 20 teaspoon size balls. My neice Phoebe ( a budding little chef herself) and I made a batch the day before Mum’s funeral and decided that the recipe is due for an overhaul and that we need to experiment with other flavours including a mint essence. The rum flavoured ones keep well though and make terrific gifts.

So Merry Christmas everyone. I hope you can all be with the ones you love and share some of your traditions this year. If not start your own and be prepared to hand them down to future generations. To my own Mum I say thank you for all the love you provided me and our family. For teaching me all about food and for sharing your kitchen with me as I grew. Standing side by side with you, I learnt how to prepare and cook food, discover flavours and tastes not known and to provide a meal to my own family. Christmas will always be a special time for me despite your passing, because you made it special with all your traditions.

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In terms of the Rum balls, I don’t think Judy would mind, but I’m renaming them Mum’s rum balls….

Peace and love to all this Christmas….TBH XX

 

 

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Calm before the Storm…quick eats in Noosa

The food techy and I have just returned from a few days in Noosa sampling the delights on offer. Our timing was impeccable with Cyclone Marcia bearing down but providing some excellent swell for the surfing food techy and brilliant sunshine pre the strong winds and rain. Our thoughts are with the locals of the Sunshine Coast and Central Queensland as they wait out this extreme weather. We hope all are well and will be safe from harm.

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Noosa has been a favourite of ours throughout our marriage. It was the destination of choice when I was pregnant with the beloved son and we have had a wonderful holiday there with “Finger on the Pulse of Sydney – Fiona” and her lovely family from the UK. Noosa itself has been through many transformations, often dependent on the financial climate of the economy and always at the behest of mother nature. This trip we found her in good form, thronging with tourists of all nations and buzzing with excellent food, and so many surfers off the point that one could have walked on water across their boards (quote from the food techy).

So where did we eat? My sole purpose for choosing Noosa for our quick getaway was to finally treat ourselves to the wonderful food of Peter Kuruvita. He has taken control of the Sheraton kitchens and named his latest adventure the Noosa Beach House. And she is a beauty! There were 4 of us and we had the choice of a wonderful degustation menu, the special menu celebrating Chinese New Year or the a’la carte. We chose the latter and were very happy with our decision. The Seafood tapas plate and the signature Seared Yellow Fin Tuna, Ruby Grapefruit, Sweet Pork, and Crackling were our shared entrees accompanied by a cold glass of Ros Ritchie Pinot Gris 2013. Both dishes were amazing in their taste as well as visual appeal. Mains included Kuruvita’s other signature dish of Sri Lankan Snapper Curry, a deconstructed dish of beautifully cooked fish with the most delicious curry sauce on the side. Sri Lankan curries are very different to their sub continent cousins in Indian, providing a lovely delicate balance of spice, flavour and heat. I had food envy though with both the Spiced Duck with oat crumble, medjool date, cavalo nero and dehydrated grapes, and the food techy’s choice of Tajima Wagyu Sirloin with smoked potato, beetroot, horseradish, slow cooked short rib . The short rib meat literally melted in your mouth (yes I pinched a bit). Desserts were scrumptious and consisted of the playfully named Sri Lankan Love Cake with peach, coconut, palm treacle and freeze-dried raspberries and the Mexican Vanilla Bean Pannacotta with hibiscus, honeycomb and pistachio.

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Our other treat for the night was Mr Kuruvita’s presence. We were told that he was eating at the restaurant that night and were delighted that he came to our table for a chat and to answer our concerns regarding his freeze dried raspberries and the recent Hepatitis A outbreak. He had a charming sense of humour and spent time with us explaining the intricacies of Sri Lankan Palm Treacle – known as Kitul. The food techy and he also got political over the regulations surrounding raw milk production and supply. PK would love to have access to buffalo curd to accompany his Kitul! The food techy was looking into how we could supply that for him….stay tuned for pictures of buffalo grazing under my Hills hoist! Mr Kuruvita (Peter to his staff) is a generous man and one who is obviously enjoying this new venture and the relaxed atmosphere it provides both him, his family and his customers.  A memorable night thank you Noosa Beach House and considerably reasonable in price coming in at $85 per head including 2 bottles of wine. Yes we will definitely be back!

Other eats around the area included breakfast at Corb-ns at Maroochydore on our way to Noosa. Good coffee and a decent breakfast menu with all the usuals. I did enjoy the smashed avocado with some goats cheese mixed through as a small change to the norm. If you are an Op Shopper like moi, Maroochydore has a whole strip “Vegas style” of charity shops to browse. Head south on Aerodrome Rd and you’ll find them. A quick bite to eat and the obligatory mango smoothie was had at Canteen. A great lunch stop whilst browsing the beachy stores of Noosa junction. Make sure you browse the wonderful wines at XO Cellars  next door to Coles for an eclectic but great array of drinking. Their sister restaurant Embassy XO at Sunshine Beach is out of this world (we ate there last visit with the aforementioned Fiona and clan).

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If you are after good coffee head to Belmondos where Clandestino Roasters are hiding and will provide you with a decent brew. Belmondos is chock full of organic paleo type things that does my head in, but it is worth a browse and a look out for the day old sourdough basket with reduced price loaves! Other great coffee can be found in Noosa via Streets of Harlem. A hole in the wall right at the end of Hastings st serving strong and flavoursome macchiato.

Our final eatery was a sneaky indulgent lunch at Thomas Corner Noosaville before heading back to Brisbane Airport. Here the food techy and I shared some delicious sardines on sourdough with an eshallot paste and the sourdough sandwich with leg ham and melted comte cheese.(I was obviously missing my own sourgdough by this stage). An interesting dry ginger beer from Keith and Sons was consumed as we sat catching a cool breeze off the Noosa River. We finished off with an apple tart tartin with prune and brandy icecream….a treat for the trip home.

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Thank you Noosa for another restful break. We’ll be booking our next trip north shortly! Stay safe Queenslanders…. TBHx

The Bountiful Hunter on holiday to…..Scotts Head

I’ve just returned from a wonderful relaxing beach holiday at Scotts Head. Accompanying the food techy and I were our 17 year old son, Panforte Cate, her hubby “the Legend”, and their two beautiful girls (one being my Favourite Redhead in the whole world and the other my cherished and adored goddaughter). Scotts Head is situated on the land of the Gumbaynggirr people, in the Nambucca shire of the Mid North Coast of NSW. Thankfully it remains a reasonably undeveloped coastal town with little infrastructure apart from a bakery, take away shop, pharmacy and the ubiquitous bowling club. The beaches are what brings people here as they are good for swimming and if the swell is working off the point a longboard surf is assured (much to the delight of the food techy).

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We spent our days swimming and boogie boarding, walking the stretches of beach, eating sausage rolls from the bakery with a follow up of icecreams for afternoon tea, catching up on books which were meant to be read last year and drinking icy cold Heineken from the kegs bought at Aldi the week before.

A few of the days were less ideal for beaching, so we decided to explore the region whilst the weather was cooler. The Fav Redhead and I spent a morning op shopping in Macksville and Nambucca. The pick of these would be the Lifeline at Nambucca plaza with plenty of true retro donations on offer. Whilst visiting the Vinnies in Macksville, we stumbled across a little gem of a cafe for morning tea. Harriets Gourmet Provisions is located in Wallace st, directly opposite Vinnies. Coffee is supplied by the delightful Mr Manfredi and comes as ordered with good strength and flavour. The Fav Redhead ordered an ice chocolate that had fresh cream piled so high that she wasn’t sure when the chocolate started,  and was giddy with excitement when she realised her freshly baked choc raspberry brownie was being gently warmed for her.

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The brownie was a winner and completely sold out whilst we were there requiring the chef to make another batch. This was a blessing as Panforte Cate had requested a take away piece to bring home. Harriets also provides a “book swap”, where books can be exchanged for another based on an honesty system. I love this sort of thing! Adding to the querkiness of this place, was a bottle of handcream on each table for the ladies to apply after recaffeinating! As many of the north coast towns of NSW are now being bypassed, Harriets makes for a fab rest stop to fill up on good coffee and homemade treats.

Another day was spent with all the girls taking a day trip 45 mins up the road to the beautiful Bellingen Valley. This happens to be my spiritual birthplace as both my mother and maternal grandmother were born here. I always feel I have arrived home when I visit and have the fondest of childhood memories playing with my brother and cousins on my great grandmothers farm at nearby Urunga. Ironically it is also where Cate spent much of her childhood visiting the infamous “Brigalow caravan park” on her family’s annual pilgrimage north. It would be many years later that we discovered this connection.  We are kindred spirits indeed.

Bellingen is a beautiful historic little town that has several delightful stores ready to be browsed. It also sports the fabulous Hearth Fire Bakery, tucked down a little alley off Hyde st where a burgeoning macadamia fruit loaf and a lump of good crusty (real) sourdough were purchased in readiness for a brekky the following day. A recent addition to the main st is Bellingen Green Grocers, a store packed with beautiful fruit and veg, nuts, self serve honey, organic local goods including yoghurts and cheese, all manner of flours, grains and legumes, and not a plastic bag in sight. We picked up some cheap delicious mangoes and a bag of the tiniest home grown cherry tomatoes that the goddaughter devoured all by herself the following day.

Worth a look is the historic Hammond and Wheatley emporium, if not for the buildings facade and original staircase. Prices are for the upper end of the market, but lovely for a browse. The girls all fared better at a delightful double fronted store called Vivid, where the sales racks beckoned and we happily relieved them of their burden.

Other finds on this trip included the humorous yet delicious local open range hens eggs called Rock and Rollin. The carton proclaims that the hens are given the opportunity of listening to all sorts of music during their laying times. My carton was labelled classic rock and judging by the colour of the yolks, some Aussie classic acts must have been playing. They are available at all the local farmers markets, but ours were found at the Scotts Head supermarket! They were delicious scrambled! Thanks again to Mr Manfredi who had alerted me to them via twitter. His eggs had listed to reggae…

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In terms of eating out in the local area, Scotts Head itself is limited except for the fabulous Taverna Six restaurant located in the small strip of shops across from the caravan park. Locals advised it was closing soon due to high rents so be quick. We ate there last year, and although the menu was fantastic for the adults, it lacked in providing for the kids. Not a criticism by any means, but be aware. There is of course the bowling club and this will meet your needs in the schnitzel and trivia nights department, but nothing flash otherwise. We opted to take the 12km trip back into Macksville to eat at the infamous Star Hotel. Regular pub meals at good prices were served, but their specials board held more interest for us. The kids were well catered for here too. The local Nambucca oysters were beautiful and reasonably priced.

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All in all a restful and rejuvenating week that was much needed after a hectic 2014. We have booked again for 2016! TBH xx