eating my way through Launceston

So now it’s been three weeks since I first set foot in Launceston, and here I am still trying to get through writing about everything I want to write about my visit… Life has been busy, but perhaps it’s also a good reflection on my holiday if I’m still in the process of drifting down from it.

One of the things I was weirdly excited about when I returned home was being able to eat Weet-Bix for breakfast again. I mean, I could have eaten Weet-Bix during my holiday – it would’ve been as simple as walking to a shop and buying some – but there was so much other food; and even when I was just staying at my uncle and aunty’s place, they always had toast for brekkie, so I went along with that to save them the inconvenience of keeping cereal they don’t eat.

That was actually a bit of an unexpected/unplanned tangent. Maybe that was coz of the conversation I had with my assistant/student on Saturday about how she was looking forward to eating Weet-Bix the next morning after finishing the 40-Hour Famine… Well, either way, I can’t remember what I was going to write originally, except that it was supposed to lead into this post about food I ate on my holiday… I guess that’ll do.

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possibly the best garlic bread I will ever eat

Have you ever gotten that feeling when you eat something so frickin’ delicious that you sort of melt inside, and you feel like your life is complete and you can die happy? Is that too big a call?

Let me put this in some context: When it comes to eating out, I like to try different places, and actually won’t return to the same restaurant very frequently even if I loved the food and the service was great. I suppose it’s similar to my approach to books: I have so many books that I want to read, so it’s hard to go back and re-read my favourites, knowing that I’ve got a huge backlog of other books to read. But I fully intend on re-reading those books at some point (maybe in several years’ time).

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bite size

Anyone who has ever had a meal with me will surely know that I am a slow eater. I know very few people who eat as slowly as I do (maybe only one other person? or two?) Recent conversations, over the last few weeks, have led me to wonder about the origins of this quirk, and to really analyse my penchant for slow eating.

Often I hear people say that eating slowly is a good thing because it gives yourself time to realise when you’re full, and hence not overeat. This might be well and true, but I don’t consciously eat slowly – it’s not a purposeful decision that I’ve made in order to attain some sort of benefit. In fact, I generally feel like I actually eat at a reasonable pace, and perhaps everyone else just eats too quickly, causing me to become an outlier on this bell-curve, and making it seem like I eat really slowly.

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baked pick-me-ups

I don’t follow many food blogs, but one that I do follow is Jane’s Patisserie – not only for the “food porn” aspect of it, but also because the recipes work, and she gives plenty of helpful tips. I also like that she does a bit of a preamble before each recipe, which adds a bit more of a personal touch.

In January, she posted this recipe for Nutella Brownies, and I jotted it down in my “recipes to try” folder because, come on, Nutella + brownies!! Since then, I’ve had it in the back of my mind, and I keep thinking that I need to go out and get some Nutella and make this because, damn, it sounds delicious. (And before you ask why I didn’t have any Nutella already at home, please know that the recipe requires an entire jar of the stuff (400g), and there’s no way a jar of Nutella is going to survive unopened/untouched in my house for very long.)

Sorry if I’m veering toward incomprehensible right now, but I swear I’m not on a sugar high.

What prompted me to finally make these brownies was kind of a combination of two things: first, a friend of mine had made another Nutella brownie recipe that hadn’t quite worked out as hoped; and, secondly, another friend had sent me some banana bread on Monday.

Now, the significance of this banana bread – or the gesture of sending it to me via our inter-store delivery – cannot be understated. Despite the joy inherent in a good colleague & friend of mine returning to work after a four-week holiday, I was feeling rather blegh on Sunday and Monday. (Yeah, there’s not really a better word for it than “blegh”. It’s kind of like a tiredness from not being able to get energy into your muscles – if that makes any sort of sense.)

I went for a run on Sunday arvo/evening, which kind of helped, but I was sore and tired on Monday. The unexpected gift of banana bread was just the right thing to lift my spirits and put a spring back in my step. The virtues of random acts of kindness, right?

Well, anyway, as a show of appreciation for this coincidentally kind gesture (I only say it was coincidental because this friend wouldn’t have known I was feeling a bit blegh), I decided to return the favour. And what better thing to send as a token of gratitude and appreciation (or of anything, really) than Nutella brownies! At last, after not feeling in the mood to bake anything for so long (I partly blame the heat/humidity), I finally got the desire to bake again! It’s an incredible feeling.

What I like about this recipe is that it is so easy and quick to make. And, of course, it’s frickin’ delicious (the verdict was unanimous on this one). The only variations I made to Jane’s original recipe were the omission of Ferrero Rocher (decoration), and the addition of roasted hazelnuts (chopped) and dark chocolate chips (half a cup of each). Honestly, the hardest part was roasting and chopping the hazelnuts, and I brought that upon myself.

My only additional advice, in regards to the recipe, is that, if you make them, you should double the quantities and make a second batch (unless you’re keeping them all for yourself, then one batch might be enough).

only three

I honestly did not think it was possible.

This is about one of those things you read on the internet – perhaps someone shared a link on Facebook; or you were browsing something else, and it was a “related article” – and you read it out of curiosity/intrigue … and it turns out to be so unbelievable that you question if any of it is real or even actually possible.

But this is not about gossip or rumours. This is not obscure trivia. And this is not some bizarre life-hack.

Well, actually, it could potentially be considered a life-hack in the sense that it has the potential to make life easier…

This is about a no-bake cookie recipe that I stumbled upon on Spoon University.

Yes, a cookie that does not require baking. I seriously did not believe it. I thought that maybe it wouldn’t hold together that well, or that it’d be messy to eat. I mean, I could see the potential, and thought there was a chance it’d work, but I also thought that there was no way a no-bake cookie could be anywhere near as good as a baked one.

So I gave the recipe a try, to test it out. The amount of faith I had in this can be gauged by the fact that I quartered the recipe, so that I’d have a much smaller batch in case it didn’t quite work.

I didn’t have chocolate chips to put in (shocking, I know. Why don’t I have choc chips at home?), so I just melted some chocolate and smeared it on top, but the other ratios were (approximately) as per the recipe, and I will say that I am impressed.

Well, I mean, it’s still not as good as an oven-baked cookie, but it held together well, it tasted good, and it’s arguably not unhealthy (I don’t know if I can call it “healthy” after all the chocolate I put on it, but considering it’s essentially just oats + banana + peanut butter, it can’t be that bad, right?)

The bonus, of course, was that it was so quick to prepare – there’s minimal washing up, and you don’t have to preheat your oven. Oh, but the best thing I got out of this is a recipe using over-ripe bananas that is not banana bread or muffins!

top pick

I have a super power.

Well, ok, it’s not really a super power. Maybe a skill/talent. Maybe just plain good luck. Maybe I’m just smart.

Let me explain:

Whenever I eat out – be it for breakfast, lunch or dinner, or even the in-between meals, brunch and afternoon tea – I have an incredibly high success rate when it comes to picking delicious menu items.

Even going to pretty average sort of places, I will, quite consistently, pick out the good dish. Other people, who order different things, may have certain issues with their meal, but, more often than not, I am very pleased with my choice.

Of course, this could also be (partly) because I’m not overly critical or harsh when it comes to judging the work of others, but if something is bland or out of balance or poor value or whatever, I’ll know it’s not a great dish. It just doesn’t happen that often.

I’ll admit, though, there are some tricks to what I do. Some things you can’t go wrong with (at least, I’ve never gone wrong with). For example, if we were to go to a restaurant and there’s a dish with scallops or lamb or pork (particularly if it’s slow-cooked), chances are I’m going to order that dish. Also, if there’s something on the menu that’s a bit unusual, like offal or bone marrow or just some unusual combination of flavours, I’m more inclined to order that item.

Sure, I eat a wide variety of food (and I love food in general) so I’m more likely to enjoy a dish than someone who’s more picky, but I feel like there’s got to be some logic behind these fail-safes.

Well, it’s no surprise why scallops and lamb work: my favourite seafood and favourite protein. (Pork comes in a close second to lamb.) As for the second group (I’m only thinking of this now, so I could be wrong), I reckon if the chef is game enough to put something a bit unusual on the menu, they’ve got to be very confident in the quality of it because it’ll probably only be the dedicated/adventurous foodies who give it a go. And they’ll post all over social media if the dish is phenomenally good or phenomenally bad.

(The assumption here is that dedicated foodies will pick a strange dish over a more traditional flavour combination. More people, in general, may choose the standard dishes, but a lot of these people won’t care enough to spread the word about it. Or, if they do, it’s not as important/critical because they’re not proper reviews…?)

I also like picking dishes that sound like they have a decent amount of vegetables, particularly if it’s for dinner. Now, I don’t need it to obey healthy eating guidelines about plate portions or whatever, but I will tend to avoid choosing dishes dominated by meat and carbs. Nothing wrong with meat and carbs (of the right variety) but I like to be a bit health-conscious.

Strangely enough, I find that I make the worst menu choices when I choose a dish because it sounds like it would be the healthiest option (or the least unhealthy). Ok, yeah, the nutritional value of a dish should be an important consideration, but if I’m eating out, it’s not going to be the main determining factor for this very reason.

To be fair, there are a lot of healthy foods that are delicious. However, I’m mostly talking about typical restaurant menus here – places that don’t have a strong health focus, just a taste/trend focus. Also, I don’t eat out very often. After all, it tends to be the weeks when I’ve been eating out too much that I start leaning more and more toward the “healthy” options.