Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Last night was our first proper snow fall for the 2011/2012 winter! Temperatures are meant to be quite mild for the rest of the week so it will probably melt before too long, but what a lovely surprise to wake up to!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Is this a joke?

We saw this a couple of months ago in the Guy-Concordia area and were left wondering whether it was real or not, or whether it was part of a clue in a scavenger hunt or something similar.

If it is real, I would love to know when this poor person bought their encyclopaedia, why they think it is still worth $1900, and whether they ever received any calls of interest as a result of this sign. I guess *I* could just call the number on the sign.....

Sunday, September 4, 2011

That which I had to leave behind

 I recently moved house and whilst it was a happy move there were two special things I knew I would miss about my apartment. The first is this wall decal that I installed on the wide, white expanse of hallway. I don't really have much of a knack for decorating but this suited the space perfectly and visitors would always comment on it. I loved being able to see the world every day

Luckily, the new tenant loved the decal as much as I do, and asked me to leave it on the wall. The world goes on.......

And the second thing?

 My beautiful black and white checked kitchen floors, And, come to think of it, the huge kitchen window that would allow me to sit inside, even on the coldest Montreal afternoon, and enjoy the sunshine!

Friday, September 2, 2011

Foccacia (or, adventures in using yeast for the first time!)

 I love to bake, however, I usually bake sweet treats. Montreal has so many amazing bakeries (Boulangerie Guillaume is my current favourite) that it seems hard to justify sweating over a mountain of dough when you can pick up the best olive fougasse you have ever tasted for $2.95, just down the street! And, let's face it, I think most of us are a little wary of working with yeast - or is it just me? But whilst French style breads are well covered, I have yet to find somewhere that makes a trule awesome focaccia. I was browsing for some inspiration for a recent dinner party and this lemon and sea salt focaccia caught my eye, so I decided to suck it up, buy some yeast, and cross my fingers that the extreme heat and humidity would help, not hinder, the proving process.




And, the finished product! 

It was incredibly delicious and I was thankful I had guests coming around - possibly the only thing that kept  me from eating a whole slab. The lemon, sea salt and rosemary combination is a classic and it works well here too, especially with the olive oil. Ok, so I might have been a bit heavy-handed with the Sel Gris de Guérande (one of the few souvenirs I brought back from Paris) and next time I would amp up the rosemary, but what struck me about this recipe is how adaptable it is. Want a different herb combination - go ahead! Want to try a grape and chocolate studded focaccia - easy!

If you are afraid of yeast, don't be. Try this over the long weekend and let me know how it goes!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Coral cactus, or Euphorbia lactea cristata

 I have a backlog of interesting photos that I have had saved as drafts for a while now. This is from September last year and I am sorry to say that I could not have taken these photos now, because this quirky little cactus did not last long in my hands. I guess I overwatered it, given the manner of its demise (it seemed to rot from within; I will refrain from posting photos of the carcass!)

This was a special present from M, made all the more special because M doesn't usually give presents, but had remembered that I was enamoured with this little guy after spotting it in the window of a local florist. I had never seen a cactus like it (and you never will in nature - it is a propagated variety) but I was drawn to the beautiful colouring and shape. It occupied pride of place on my dining table for as long as it lasted! Unfortunately, I haven't seen any in the florist's window since......

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Chocolate Raspberry Pudding Cake

This cake is absolutely delicious.

The recipe is here and it is pretty simple, provided you have an electric beater capable of whipping stiff peaks in your egg whites (luckily I do) However, though simple, my cake turned out with a few structural flaws - a crust developed on top, with a large layer of air underneath. In the end, as the cake was cooling, I just peeled the crust off. It was actually quite delicious - like a chocolate meringue, so I served it with the fudgy, pudding-like cake, for textural contrast. Paired with fresh raspberries and a thick chocolate ganache, this might not be the prettiest chocolate-raspberry creation, but it might just be the tastiest!

Friday, July 15, 2011

A neat gimmick from the new Harry Potter movie

Harry's signature glasses - now optimised for 3D movie viewing!

 Yes, I went to the midnight screening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 2 and yes, it was fantastic! (Save for the epilogue, of course, which I think we can all agree we could live without. I found so much of the movie so beautiful and solemn and moving that the cheesiness of the epilogue was quite jarring.)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Laksa! In Montreal!!

My favourite laksa in the world comes from Dickson Asian Noodle House in Canberra, in Australia. It is an absolute monster, stuffed full of delicious morsels of chicken, duck, seafood, pork and tofu, with rice and Hokkein noodles in that famous coconut curry broth. Yum.

Alas, when I moved to Montreal, I quickly discovered that laksa was pretty much non-existant in the city. Sure, Nonya, Montreal's only Indonesian restaurant, makes a small, starter soup version, but laksa is not meant to be eaten daintily, as something to whet your appetite. Laksa is the dish that you crave on a cold winter night, when you want warmth and comfort in your belly, and you want to roll out of the restaurant, oblivious to the chill.

And behold, laksa has arrived in Montreal! The new outdoor eating and seating area at the Atwater market is now home to the Satay Brothers, a Singaporean Hawker-style hut serving laksa lemak! Whilst it doesn't quite recreate the joys of DANH's jumbo laksa, this is a delicious version, with exceptionally high quality ingredients. It is evident, from the moment you order at the counter, that a lot of care and thought has gone into putting together the store, and creating the menu. The laksa can be ordered at varying levels of heat - we went with 2X (the hottest being 3X). You can see the homemade chilli paste resting in the spoon in the picture. It was fantastic and had my lips tingling within seconds. However, I did find that the spiciness masked the flavour of the broth, so I would recommend that if you are new to laksa, try a more mildy spiced version to begin with. Underneath the heat of the chilli, the curry coconut broth tasted just as I remembered it, lip-smackingly savoury and well-balacned. The laksa is served with rice noodles, bean sprouts, shrimp, quail egg, tofu puffs and fish cake ($8). There is an option to add chicken for $2, however, the chicken wasn't available when we visited.

The menu also includes satays, steamed buns, papaya salad and a variety of Singaporean/Malaysian style desserts. Real Singaporean satay..... mmm, I already have my second visit planned! I have a feeling Satay Brothers are going to be a big hit on the Montreal food scene this summer - and deservedly so! Montreal is ready for laksa!
(Their website is still under construction but they have a Facebook page with information and pictures)
@ the new outdoor section at the North end of the Atwater Market
Opening times: Monday 10:30-18:00, Thursday-Friday 10:30-20:00, Saturday-Sunday 10:30-17:00

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spring doesn't just bring snow in Montreal....

it also marks the re-opening of the ice-cream shops!
We had some milder weather last week, when temperatures were hovering above zero, but this week has cooled again, and the nights are still cold (-7C, down to -13C with the windchill). Not exactly walking-around-holding-an-ice-cream weather.....but I assure you, the next sunny day that hits, say, 8C, there will be people lining up, ready and waiting for their first ice-cream of the season!

The phenomenon of seasonal ice-cream shops is not that strange, of course, but it amazing how these little things signal that Winter is nearly over and the Spring, and Summer  (!!!!), are just around the corner......

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Can't stop listening to...

Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) by Arcade Fire (from their album The Suburbs)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

What it's like in the Northern Hemisphere

The image comes from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) and is used without permission. It was compiled from satellite images taken earlier this month, when massive winter storm made its way across North America.

From the Daily Mail via Marginal Revolution

Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Whilst Australia is just waking up to the first light of 2011, those of us on the other side of the world are starting to gear up for our New Year's Eve celebrations! This is only my second New Year's in the snow and it seems that it is going to be quite a...drippy one! The temperature is just above zero, thanks to a storm system working its way across North America and the ice and snow are starting to melt, just a bit. It is quite nice for it to be so warm outside - you can easily go without gloves and I saw some people braving shorts and skirts (which is a little too optimistic I think, but good for them!)

Tonight we are keeping it simple - a party at A's house, to ring in the New Year with friends and good cheer. On the menu:

something sweet (triple chocolate brownies, always the most requested!)

 and something bubbly!

(Another difference between an Australian and Montreal NYE - in Australia we would probably be drinking Australian sparkling wine - here, I have a selection of Italian, French and Luxembourgian bubbly! And yes, I am skeptical about that last one too!)

So, as the old year comes to a close, I will take this opportunity to wish everyone who is reading this - whether you are a far flung friend, a recent blogging friend, or someone who has randomly stumbled upon this site - a very happy and safe 2011. See you on the other side!

Saturday, November 20, 2010


I love to make soup when the weather turns cold! I don't really enjoy them that much for dinner, as I usually need something a little more substantial, but I love taking them for lunches all week long. My regular soup last winter was a mix of carrot, onion and celery, with minced turkey for some protein, crushed tomatoes and a healthy dose of rosemary. I would never blend it But this year for some reason, blended, "cream of" soups are calling my name - here are some that I have made recently!

Honeyed carrot soup from the BBC Good Food website
 (thanks to H for getting me onto this website, it is fantastic!)

This soup is so delectable, easy and cheap, you should make it this weekend! The honey adds a lovely sweetness, that reminds me of the honeyed carrot side dish my Mum would often make. I made this fairly thick and actually had to thin it with a little water when I heated it at work, but this actually works well for transporting the soup - less sloshiness and risk of spilling!

Green pea soup with lime
(modified from this recipe)

Quite different from the recipe, but it was my inspiration. Using frozen peas makes this soup super quick and super cheap. I thought it needed a little something towards the end, so I added a couple of squeezes of lime. It brightened the flavour (though seemingly dulled the colour) and really made it different (as compared to perhaps the usual pea soup with mint, or the even more usual pea and ham flavour combination)

And un-photographed

Smitten Kitchen's Cream of Tomato soup

One word - wow. I could be wrong, but I don't think Australians really eat a lot of the tomato soup and grilled cheese combo which is quite popular with Americans and reminiscent of childhood rainy day lunches. I could be completely converted though - this tomato soup is amazing (even though I skipped a couple of steps and cut corners to make it faster).

I am thinking, thinking now about what else I can make as single vegetable soups - the idea of a cream of onion soup is intriguing, as is trying to make a fruit based, winter-appropriate warm soup (cream of apple?)

Any suggestions?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Roadtrip to Burlington, VT, USA

G and I took a little road trip to the USA a couple of weeks ago. We stayed in Burlington, which is 160km south of Montreal and lies on the eastern side of Lake Champlain.

Such beautiful blue skies! The weather on our first day was amazing - cold, but brilliant sunshine. We wandered around the downtown area, and along the foreshore, stopping to sit awhile in one of the swinging park benches that line the boardwalk. The great thing about going outside of peak season - everyone had a bench!

The top picture is looking out over Lake Champlain - you can see the Adirondack mountains on the other side of the lake. I will have to visit in the summer and see how busy this area is! The bottom picture is a random, municipal building in Burlington, which was so vivid against the sky and the burnished red of the autumn leaves.

A late lunch at American Flatbread in downtown Burlington. This place was recommended on a number of websites - a big draw being their looong list of house and locally brewed beers. I enjoyed a Cornucopia Spiced Butternut Squash Harvest Ale - it hit the spot after a morning of driving and border crossing negotiations! We shared their house salad, with goat's cheese, and two of their signature pizza-style flatbreads. They were good, although not as good as the raves would suggest - a little dry and the toppings were a bit sparse. Still, they tasted pretty great and the ingredients that were fresh and high quality.

Breakfast at Penny Cluse Cafe, also in downtown Burlington. I decided to embrace the Americana and had the southern-style biscuits smothered in herb cream gravy, with eggs and a fruit plate. The fruit plate was actually the highlight - there was about 11 different fruits on it, including pomegranate, fresh fig and a melon which I couldn't even recognise!

The next day was the opposite of the last - rain that turned into icy pellets that turned into snow, yuck! Luckily we had decided to play tourist and visit the local (indoor) attractions! We went wine tasting at Shelburne Vineyard (see above, they grow special vines which have been cultivated to withstand the extremes in temperature), chocolate tasting at Lake Champlain Chocolates (try their Five Star bar if you get a chance!) and ice-cream tasting at the Ben and Jerry Factory (I know, ice-cream tasting when it is snowing outside? Let me tell you, totally worth it!)


On our way back, just before the border, we needed fuel for the rental car (it is cheaper in the USA) and fuel for the border crossing. A quick stop at a McDonalds and look, our visit happened to coincide with the limited edition run of McRib. I think we had these in Australia way back when, but I can't remember them tasting this good! Not sure if they will make it to Canada....

Anyway, it was a great little trip - I can't wait to visit again in the summer!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Balcony gardening - indoors!

The first snow meant one thing - it was time to bring the garden inside for the winter! Last year I was a little tardy and I ended up losing some plants but this year I was on the ball, and just in time! I've chopped the basil back (I am not sure if it will continue to grow now, or if it will be dormant for the winter) and tidied up the mint. The geraniums, whilst not my favourite flower, are going strong and are hardy enough to survive. I am a little concerned about the lavendar, in the white pot, as it is just starting out. Does anyone have any suggestions for helping them survive the winter inside?

However I am not just concerned about survival, but where am I going to put them all? They are living in the kitchen now, as it is the room with the most natural light (no curtains help) but I kind of miss my expanse of checkerboard floor! I wonder if a small shelving unit would be strong enough to support all that soil.....

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Scenes from Verdun

Not everyone goes all out with fall and Halloween decorations, but there a couple of houses around me that always put in the effort

See, those big, orange plastic bags? They are multi-functional - they are full of leaves (if you have a tree on your property, you do a lot of raking in the fall) but they are sold with spooky Halloween images printed on the sides, so they can be decorative as they await pick up by the garbage man!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Adventures in pumpkin carving!

As we don't celebrate Halloween in Australia, this is just my third Halloween ever! Whilst I have dressed up in previous years (a zombie geisha in 2008, a crazed butcher in 2009) this year was decidedly low key. But, there was pumpkin carving......

Excavating the pumpkin insides! Special, very costly (26 cents at the Jean Coutu) pumpkin carving implements were used.

If I had been more prepared I would have washed, dried and roasted those pumpkin seeds, but as it was, we carved in the late afternoon, with fading light and rapidly decreasing temperatures. My "pumpkin scooping" hand was numb..... and orange.

Et voila, it is a...... well, it's obvious right? Ok, so this was a free form carve - no stencil, no pencil even! I was going for a cat, in honour of Pistache and all the other cats that congregate around M's house.

(so much for a geeky image, though we both did think of trying to carve Tyler from MR)

It's alive!

Or, at least, alight!

(And one minute after this photo was taken, the wind whipped through the mouth and extinguished the candle)

Ahh, the aftermath. M snapped this photo of the (ever growing, he is surely ready for winter by now) resident squirrel snacking on kitty pumpkin.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

First snow!

It snowed last night! Just a couple of centimetres, and it wasn't cold enough for any to stick - this is what was left this morning and it was melting fast! No more snow is forecast for awhile and it should still be another month or so before our first big snowstorm (which hit December 7th last year, the day before I was due to fly out to Australia) Still, the snow is a big reminder that winter is on its way!

(It is Halloween today and you can see our little pumpkin sitting there, waiting to be carved this afternoon! I don't think we have decided on a design yet, but I am guessing it will be something appropriately geeky! More details and pictures to follow!)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

This is not going to end well

for the mouse.

Yes, the little grey mouse that just ran across my kitchen floor. Actually it is running across my floor as I write......

Poor mouse.
It chose the wrong house.
It does not know what I do for a living.

No pictures because it is moving too quickly....