Last Sunday's foodie adventure led us full circle on a 45 minute trip around Lower Manhattan, trying to find an address that did not exist.  It must have been fate though, that led us to finally park in Greenwich Village right outside Nicky Perry's fabulous little piece of Britain and mini food empire (well 'empire' certainly by NYC rent standards).  

So there we were at 5 o'clock; three friends, who after a fantastic day wandering the city (Chelsea and Meatpacking District) and sampling all that Manhattan has to offer, were reluctantly ready to head home to families, dinner dramas and chaos when we spotted Tea & Sympathy..."Oh I think I've heard about this place'...and 'be rude not to stop in and buy [British] husband a little something, not to mention stock up on some proper tea!'.
So it was that we discovered the lovely and forthright Nicky, who within minutes, was sharing her views on politics, rent ('crippling to many business owners') and the state of the Nation in Old Blighty ('rather depressing - wouldn't go back').

Nicky arrived in New York in the early eighties and after a succession of waitressing jobs, decided to open her own cafe, 'Tea & Sympathy' in 1990.  An adjoining grocers store, 'Carry On Tea & Sympathy' (selling British goods from beautifully sourced tea pots to HP Sauce)  followed some years later and after that, a fantastic 'chippie' or Fish and Chip Shop, 'A Salt and Battery', next door.

The House Rules  
The Tea & Sympathy philosophy is as egalitarian as it comes - no one gets special treatment (no matter how famous - and trust me this is a HUGE celeb haunt) and 'punters' (customers) MUST be kind to the wait staff - rudeness will not be tolerated!  

We love this philosophy and this little slice of Britannia in the city is surprisingly one of the few of it's kind, which probably accounts for it's huge popularity.  A sweet, unassuming place to grab afternoon tea or read 'The Times' over a plate of Shepherds Pie that The Queen herself would surely approve of!
The Interview

Communal Pantry (CP):  Nicky, tell us a bit about your humble beginnings- I read in your press that you'd once been a 'Tea Lady' at the London Stock Exchange?  Can you enlighten our American readers on this one?
Nicky:  Yes, it was one of my first jobs... Well basically you load up a trolley with tea and biscuits and then spend three hours in the morning serving tea from a large stainless steel urn with biscuits (assorted) and always Kit Kats (something about stockbrokers and Kit Kats?) and then you'd do it all again in the afternoon...

CP: Tea & Sympathy, Carry on Tea & Sympathy, A Salt and Battery a cookbook and now your own tea blends...you have been very successful at building up the business.  What are the challenges for you and any advice for someone thinking of following a dream of opening a cafe?
Nicky:  Sadly, our biggest challenge is rent and real estate taxes - they're huge and killing off a lot of the smaller businesses.  To survive in Manhattan you have to be a multi millionaire or else have someone like that backing you.  It's so hard now for independent places [not chains] to survive.  The rent here is astonomical and I would say it's just not do-able...

CP: Introducing the concept of a British Tea Shop/Cafe to Americans was a pretty risky move - so how DO you make the perfect cuppa?

Nicky:  It's all in the water.  It has to be fresh, boiling water...not water that's been sitting in a kettle and reboiled, but absolutely fresh water and then you bring it to a rolling boil before pouring over your tea.  Sounds simple, but it actually makes a real difference to the taste of your tea if you can do this.  Then, use good quality tea [so not the brand beginning with 'L'??]  'No' - I use my own blend.  [Nicky's lovely range of teas - English Breakfast, Earl Grey and the delightfully named 'Rosie Lee' (Cockney Rhyming slang for 'tea') are available from the store].  And finally there's the cup - it must be fine bone china [We then have a discussion for a few minutes about how much better tea tastes out of good cups - not mugs and the joys of vintage crockery...]
CP:  We've heard you have had a few famous faces
through the store and cafe over the years - who is your favourite celeb and why?
Nicky: Yes we've had so many...it's hard to say but Rupert Everett is just lovely - a God among men and he has been a regular for the last 20 years.  Sarah Jessica Parker [who lives in Greenwich Village] is the sweetest and very genuine!  She is kind and gentle and just the nicest person.  Cameron Diaz is lovely too and very generous, Kate Moss, lovely...and I loveEdward Hibbard- he'd have to be one of the favourites - very understated.

CP: Changing direction slightly,which foodie  figure do you admire and why?  
Who are your influences?
Nicky:  I LOVE Nigel Slater [British Ubechef]...absolutely spectacular...nobody does it better than him.  People here probably won't know him but they should Google him!  In fact, I think there was actually a movie done about him...[the autobiographical 'Toast' 2010].

CP:  What's your poison (drink)?
Nicky:  I'm not much of a drinker but I do like a good Cosmo [Oh good - Our Martha would approve!]

CP:  Okay, desert island food - you can pick 3 things only - what do you take?
Nicky:  Ohhh that's a hard one...oh I can't decide...but would have to say, definitely chocolate - good chocolate.  And brussel sprouts...I can't get enough of them...[CP: Really? How do you cook them?] I like to boil mine til they're JUST slightly underdone and serve with just a little salt and pepper...
Two hours later, Nicky rang back to say she'd thought of her 3rd item...coffee?!  I know it's a little strange - someone who spends all day around tea, taking coffee to a desert island but believe me, you wouldn't want to be on an isalnd with me without my morning coffee!  I make my own, in an Italian coffee pot on the stove using Bustelo coffee - half decaf, half regular and a level teaspoon of sugar.

CP : And the worst thing you've ever eaten?
Nicky:  The two things that immediately come to mind are this Chinese meal I had with a group of Chinese friends...yes, it was the chicken feet with a soup or dipping saucy thing made from horns of something or rather...it was gooey and slimy and smelt like mouldy clams...the second was at a restaurant where I'd eaten a fantastic, spectacular meal previously...but this time I was talked into ordering the homemade tofu...it arrived and was gun metal gray and repulsive...I never went back!

CP:  Right, back to GOOD food...it's your last ever meal - what do you order?
Nicky:  Ohhhh that is so hard...can't answer that one...well if I had to choose I'd probably say roast chicken - my roast with mash and gravy and the trimmings.

CP:  And for dessert??
Nicky:  Oh no - don't ask me that...I guess it'd have to be a good old rhubarb crumble and custard...or with rhubarb with strawberries - that's a great combination!

Nicky - thank you so much for taking the time today and for the truly divine recipe below!  We LOVE you and will definitely be back to see you soon! 
- Nikki

Sticky Toffee Pudding(SERVES 6-8) 
This pudding is much less sugary and sweet than it sounds. The real sweetness comes from the warm toffee sauce that is poured on top just before you serve it. The cake itself is not heavy and the dates give it a rich fruity flavour. It is best served warm with a dollop of whipped cream or warm custard.

Pantry MUST haves
1 cup chopped dates

1 ¼ cups water
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons strong brewed espresso coffee
1 teaspoon baking soda
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) butter
¾ cup sugar
3 eggs
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, sifted
½ teaspoon baking powder
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F
  2.  Simmer the dates in the water for 10 minutes, or until the dates are tender. Add the vanilla and espresso and then the baking soda; let cool.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then add the eggs, one at a time. Sift in the flour and baking powder. Add the cold date mixture and mix well.
  4.  Turn the batter into a 10-inch buttered Bundt pan and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until a knife or skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
  5. Place a plate upside down over the Bundt pan and turn out the pudding onto the plate.
Toffee Sauce

2 cups heavy cream
¼ cup Tate & Lyle golden syrup
1 cup dark brown sugar

Combine all the ingredients in a pan and boil gently for 10 minutes.
Spoon over pudding before serving.
Greetings, Ladies Who Lunch!  

As the person charged with copy-editing the nearly illiterate blog posts of my sweet but simpleminded sister, Anna – this is a woman who thinks “voila” is spelled “wallah” and has never mastered the difference between “then” and “than” – I have decided to take keyboard in hand today to share with you one of my favorite recipes.
I prepare and bake this dish once a week, usually on Sundays. As a confirmed bachelor living alone, I find it provides me with a delicious and ridiculously fast breakfast for every morning of an entire work week. But it would also make for a splendid brunch dish for a gathering of family or friends, or even a late-night snack.

Best of all, it’s extremely low-carb. (I am a devotee of Atkins, and I stick to foods that are high in protein and low in carbs, regardless of calories or fat content. I’m about to turn 41, and you should see my ass.)

With that said, here’s what you need:

Adam's Crustless Quiche

6 large eggs

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1 medium yellow onion

1 cup mushrooms

8 slices of bacon or turkey bacon

1 cup heavy cream. (Yup – suck it.)

Dash of thick teriyaki sauce (I like Kikoman Baste & Glaze. This is the only time I cheat on Atkins.)

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 pat of butter

Salt, pepper, paprika, basil to taste

Start by cooking the bacon. I make mine in the microwave using this awesome thing I bought on Amazon.com. (You have to buy the lid separately.) Cook until very crispy and set aside.
Dice mushrooms and onions, and add to a large skillet at medium-high heat over oil and melted butter. Sauté for several minutes until onions just start to brown. Crumble bacon into the skillet, add teriyaki sauce and mix well.

Spoon mixture into a nine-inch round, greased cake pan. (I use disposable ones bought at the 99-cent store. Not environmentally correct, but so easy.) Using a spatula, press the mixture into a firm “crust,” covering the bottom evenly. Shake one cup of the cheddar cheese on top of this, and press that down as well.

In a large bowl, combine eggs, cream, spices and remaining cheese, and beat well. Pour egg mixture slowly and evenly over the “crust” and cheese layers. Place in a 350-degree oven uncovered.

Cooking time varies according to oven.  I have an ancient NYC gas stove that’s probably killing me softly, and it takes a good hour for the quiche to become completely baked. If I notice any movement in the eggs, I’ll turn the heat off but leave the quiche in the oven for another 20 minutes or so. (As I’m sure you know, eggs continue to cook as long as they’re in a warm environment.)

You can either serve it hot or, if you’re like me, cover and refrigerate. Then, each morning, cut yourself a little wedge, pop it into a microwave-safe bowl, cover, and nuke it for two minutes. 

Voila, and Bon Appétit!

Best wishes,

Adam Sank

The term 'tuck', meaning 'Food' is slang and probably originates from the phrase 'to tuck into a meal'... 
A tuck shop is a small food-selling retailer, generally managed by volunteers from the community and is usually found in a school/club...
Where I'm from, the tuck shop menu traditionally consisted of sausage rolls, sandwiches, meat pies, Big M's (flavoured milk) and chips (of course!).  Nowadays the tuck shop has adopted a healthier approach to eating. Orders are often outsourced to a local sandwich shop daily, who produce and deliver the food items back to the school in time for lunch (No mass produced lunches for our kids - we shop locally!). Although some schools have managed to hold on to the traditional Tuck Shop.  A true labour of love, as dedicated volunteer parents prepare and serve lunch to hungry students (feeding time at the Zoo)...
Growing up, the Tuck Shop was an end of week special treat. The night before, we would ponder over the [limited] menu, write our name and request onto a brown paper bag and empty Mum's coin purse (wallet).  Then, once at school we would place the bag into the 'Tuck Shop basket' [such trust!].  Just before the lunch bell went, smells of delicious warm lunches would make their way down the hallways and into our classrooms...

No cosy cafeterias for us Aussie kids. We'd inhale our lunch from the brown paper bag in 15 minutes, while sitting at our desks and then scream, as we run outside...FREEDOM! 
Time for Lunch

So as you can imagine, stumbling across the Tuck Shop in  NYC's Chelsea Market recently, brought back many fond memories..But where's the BIG M?

Click here for locations and menu...They cater!
Impressed and curious, I managed to track down the owners of the Tuck Shop; Lincoln Davies, a Melbourne boy whose prior job was on Broadway ('Penis Puppetry. An Aussie grown classic), teamed up with Niall Grant a lad from Dublin,Ireland who meet Lincoln while working at The Spotted Pig in NYC. They opened the first Tuck Shop at 68 East 1st Street, NY 10003 in 2005. After a few years the popularity of the first Tuck Shop grew and they then ventured into a second store on St Mark's Place in 2009. Then Chelsea Market came knocking in 2010 and the rest is history.

Like many Aussie's, Lincoln learned to  bake at his mother's knee and still uses her secret pastry recipe (which is fabulous and buttery- and I want it!) for the meat pies. The beef is sourced from the happy, hormone/antibiotic free, cows at Creekstone Farm via Pat LaFrieda.  The pies are handmade and baked in small batches throughout the day to guarantee that 'just baked' pie flavor and to ensure that the drifting smell of fresh pies baking fills the hallway as you enter the Chelsea Market...

Australia Day is Jan 26th (TODAY) and as you can imagine this is a busy day for our MATES at the Tuck Shop. So, if you're in need of a pie with sauce or just curious, you too can join the madness on Thursday.  I heard that St Marks Pl and Chelsea Market are the locations to go to, for your must-have Australia Day pie. Otherwise pop in on another day and savour that first meat pie moment - although personally I'm a huge fan of their sausage rolls (hold the sauce).

They'll even pack it into a brown paper bag for you, now that's (as you Americans would say) 'AWESOME.' All that's missing is the BIG M and the jam donut, but who needs the extra calories??
Tuck Shop - we're huge fans and we hope that NJ is on the cards xo

THE Three P’s for Yoga friendly & healthy 
holiday recipes


Power to the pomegranate! This gorgeous fruit is one of the richest sources of antioxidants around. You can indulge in the pomegranate's benefits by simply buying a bottle of its juice to add to your favorite recipe, or sprinkling the seeds over a salad.


This veggie is packed with heart-healthy fiber and vitamin A. Plus, because pumpkin is very moist, you don't have to add lots of unhealthy ingredients to make it taste flavorful yet still be low-fat.  Keep the tradition of having pumpkin at the holiday table, but substitute Grandma’s pumpkin pie recipe for pumpkin soup.


Instead of plunging into a heap of high-fat pie, try sprinkling this star nut over salads, add it to your stuffing, or snack on a few as a precursor to the meal. Pecans are a great source of vitamin E and magnesium, which supports muscle strength. Plus, they're packed with protein, fiber, and the same "good" fats as olive oil.

DoodlebugZ- Madison. 53-55 Main St, Madison,NJ

What's hiding around the corner? An email from a friend and a new discovery - DOODLEBUGZ

I love a messy play activity and DoodlebugZ has it all sorted for your crafty Kids!  The store owners are Trish Wilson and Jacquie Dinsmore, sisters and both Madison residents, they opened  the wonderfully unique Doodlebugz in April 2011.  Part toy store, part gift store part creative workshop.  Towards the back of the store is a fabulous and spacious craft room, with willing and happy staff to help your children create a masterpiece or two...

For the holidays, Trish and Jacquie had a festive brainwave and transformed the craft studio into "Santa's Workshop" where kids can walk-in and make-their-own gifts for themselves, or relatives.  Crafts include tree ornaments, frames, mugs, trays, earrings and more!  

PS Doddlebugz also has a big Party Room nextdoor...'The superheroes convention is my personal favourite, or maybe POPstar- ROCKstar or PJ-DJ, is more your thing'... DoodlebugZ has some truly exciting adventures for your next party!!

Friday afternoon: five mums and our crazy kids (numbering ten!) headed to DoodlebugZ for some organised crafty madness...Christmas balls, made from glass (thankfully we only broke one), filled with drips of paint, swirled and twirled to create a beautiful ball for the tree.  Wooden frames painted and stamped, and glitter lips tattoos  " Mummy you don't need to kiss me, I have a kiss forever..." 

All fun things must come to end - A little Doodle advice; this isn't a quick 'pop-in' store - this is a mischief makers heaven, which may result in a protest when it's time to go!  If you're looking for that extra special something for Granny and Grandpa this Christmas, head to Doodlebugz for a little creative sanity and messy play that you don't have to clean up!

"VEAL ANITA"Serves 4-6

12 Veal scallops (about 2 pounds)
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups bread crumbs
Egg Batter
1 Cup Olive Oil (more as needed)
1 bunch Italian flat leaf parsley
8 cloves garlic
1 can tomato paste
3 cups chicken broth 
Salt and Pepper to Taste

1. Drench each veal scallop in flour,then dip in egg batter. Allow excess batter to drip off.  Drench veal in bread crumbs. Lay each piece aside.
2.  Heat olive oil in large frying pan. Carefully place veal scallops in pan and brown on each side. Drain on paper towels. Set aside.
3. Clean and dry approximately 2 cups of flat leaf parsley. Place parsley and peeled garlic cloves in food processor. Add teaspoon of olive oil and chop finely.
4. Place parsley, garlic and olive oil paste in large sauce pan. Brown slightly.  Add half a can of tomato paste and chicken broth to mixture.  Stir until blended. Season with salt and pepper to sauce.
5. Place half of veal scallops in backing dish. Pour half of sauce over. Place remaining scallops on top. Pour remaining sauce over.
6. Heat in 350 oven for one hour. 
7. Place veal on large serving platter. Spoon sauce over meat.Serve.This recipe is often made with the addition of mushrooms. If choosing to add mushrooms, simply place in sauce mixture with garlic, parsley and olive oil. 
Gain confidence and have fun. A New Jersey local and Culinary graduate Suzanne Michaud teaches you how to plan, prep and cook delicious meals. Learn tricks of the trade to improve your craft. Pick up time-saving tips that will help you prepare quick, tasty meals to dazzle friends and family alike. Perfect for novices or home cooks eager to hone their skills.
My entire extended family is coming for Thanksgiving this year!  So I’m cooking for about 20 people, which is why I’m smiling and my cheeks are so flushed!

I have had a request for my secret to a moist turkey, so I’m stepping out of the kitchen for a minute to post for you my Herb Butter and Gravy!  The herb butter provides moisture to the turkey and unbelievable flavor to the gravy.

Herb Butter (enough for a 12-lb turkey)

8 tablespoons (one stick) softened unsalted butter
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon chopped shallot
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped chives
1 tablespoon chopped sage
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
1 teaspoon chopped tarragon

Place all the ingredients for the herb butter in a food processor and blend. Transfer to a small pastry bag or bowl, and set aside.

Slide a small rubber spatula (or your hand) gently between the skin and the breast meat to separate them. Pipe half of the herb butter under the skin of both breasts from the cavity opening, spreading the butter evenly over the whole breast area with the fingertips. If you don’t have a pastry bag, you can just take a spoonful and do the same.  Rub the remaining herb butter all over the outside of the bird.  Sprinkle kosher salt and crushed black pepper on outside of turkey.

In the roasting pan place the following:

1 onion, sliced
4 stalks celery, sliced
2 carrots, sliced
Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
4 to 5 cups turkey stock (or low-sodium chicken stock)
1 cup dry white wine (sauvignon blanc works well)

When you turkey is finished, remove from roasting pan and tent loosely with foil.  Meanwhile, remove vegetables from pan (set them aside in a bowl) and pour meat juices into a pitcher and let sit until fat rises to top (you can also put this in fridge to speed up process).  Remove fat from juice.  Place vegetables back in roasting pan and sprinkle with 3 tbs flour and mix.  Turn heat to medium high and gradually add in either turkey stock made from giblets, or low-sodium chicken stock, whisking the mixture.  Let simmer for 5-10 minutes until gravy is  a rich brown color.  Strain contents of roasting pan through a fine sieve and adjust seasoning.  Keep warm for service.

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!

In desperate need for a little Halloween spirit, a little sanity and some entertainment for the kids, we packed the minivan full of kids (and neighbours kids) and headed to Montclair, NJ.  First stop - much needed coffee and some fabulous french fries - with burgers and hot dogs for the kids - and beer battered fish for the mummies.  Now we might just add that Fish & Chips is a rare commodity in these parts, extremely difficult to find and often badly prepared - if you do find it.  We should know, as where we come from there is no shortage of great fish and chip shops (a bit like the New Jersey Nail Bar - one on every corner)... but Raymond's version has the British and Antipodean stamp of approval.

Raymond's is a bit of an institution and is known for it's scrumptious brunches.   I am a huge fan of the Breakfast Burrito.  Open all day, there is just a constant stream of hungry locals and people from further afield. 

Coffee, first order of the day and luckily the kids were kept quiet with colouring in and watching the array of wait staff in Halloween costumes which then inspired some placemat paper hat making...The specials caught our eye - Spicy Mexican Hot Chocolate with homemade marshmallows.  Awesome!!  And lucky for you, we got the recipe - yay!

Raymond's Mexican Hot Chocolate
(Serves about 6-8 troops)

1 Qrt milk
1 Qrt water
1 cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
3 star anise
2 whole ancho chillies
2 whole cardomom pods
2 Tbsp honey
1 cup dark chocolate
1 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 to 1 tsp cayenne pepper

Mix milk, water, sugar and honey into pot large enough to hold all of the ingredients. Add cinnamon, anise, chilies and cardomom pods and bring to a boil over a medium heat.  Let simmer for 10 minutes.  

Mix in cocoa, cayenne pepper and chocolate and whisk until chocolate dissolves.  Cover and let steep for 30 minutes for flavour to develop.  Strain and reheat.   
PS To cancel out the fat content of the fish and chips, one of us did order an unbelievably good vege burger that came with a delicious Greek salad.  You'll always leave Raymond's wishing that there was one in your town - we did, but we'll definitely be back soon!
Meet Steve Crane, the owner of Crane's Deli and Cheese Shoppe, in Maplewood.  Which, by the way, is a very cool town and our favourite secret coffee spot!

Coffee is a new thing for me...I still love a good cup of tea but now, good or bad I've joined the millions of Americans and their need for a morning coffee hit...  Since my move from the coffee capital of Australia, Melbourne in 07, I've been on a quest to find the greatest coffee.  Yes, they serve it large (sometimes in small buckets)here but is it any good?  I usually order small in fear of an overdose of caffeine, resulting in the shakes.

A trip to Crane's decided on without any hesitation, we order large, to ensure that the coffee moment lasts as long as possible, after all we've driven 15 minutes for this taste sensation.

Ok yes, fabulous coffee needs a snack...The best bacon and egg sandwich, according to my 10 year old... Unbelievable oversized, walnut and maple cookies and voluptuous Homemade Bourbon Bread Pudding was on today's last minute Baby Shower Coffee Morning menu (our pregnant friend at 40 weeks and still remarkably in one piece!)...

Pop in and say hi to Steve:  175 Maplewood Ave Maplewood, NJ 

Check out what Steve kindly gave us;

Crane's Homemade Bourbon Bread Pudding (A secret little recipe)

[WARNING this will feed an army, you may need to adjust quantities depending on the number of your troops...]


1 large aluminum pan full of bread cubes (soft rolls and hero rolls)

Mix in bowl:

2 dozen eggs
2 quarts of milk and half&half
1/2 quart of sugar
Shake of dried cloves
Shake of dried coriander
2 Shakes of Cinnamon
Good squeeze of Vanilla

Add bread to liquid, soak thoroughly BAKE at 345F

Bourbon Glaze

On the STOVE
1 stick of melted butter (1/4)
Bourbon (no measurements, depends on the day and the troops)

2 cups of confectionary sugar
Whisk together, off the stove...
Pour onto pudding... 

Our newest guest blogger Lizzie, is a New Zealander with Canadian parentage who has lived all around the globe - from Europe to Asia, with stints Down Under.  A writer, Lizzie currently resides in France with her darling French husband and 2 children.  Presently rewriting her latest novel, Lizzie has taken time out (procrastinating?) to give us the lowdown on the real French cooking.

I've always told myself I'm a terrible cook and so living in Paris now for over 11 years has been a source of torture for me with my culinary hangups.  Growing up as 1 of 7 kids, I inherited mum's set of simple recipes that got her through raising the pack of us (and we really were a pack, as in, wolf-like, feral creatures). Mum cooked bootcamp style, not fancy, not tricky: meatloaf, spaghetti Bolognaise, chicken à l'orange (juice), chicken with asparagus, roast chicken, tuna & mushroom on rice, stirfry, always salads. We had a Chatelaine's Encyclopaedia of Recipes - it was about 1,001 pages thick and I secretly hung out with it hoping I'd somehow learn true cooking from reading its advice on roasting lamb legs and mastering choux pastry. The only section I got comfortable with was the dessert pages - I baked siblings' birthday cakes from the age of 10. 

Even though I don't think I can cook, I do love throwing dinner parties and love travel and living in other countries. Now that I'm a wife to a Frenchman with 2 half-French filles I realise that I really ought to have become a proper good cook by now, but I'm still not. I do enjoy shocking my in-laws with crazy, exotic ingredients such as tofu and ginger. I do enjoy some baking and my own random set of dishes that I'm comfortable with. I don't think I'm adventurous enough (I recently was a complete wus about being offered stewed rabbit and put my paw down that I would not eat it!) but maybe contributing to this blog will help me become La Cordon Bleue! And if not, my humble observations may at least dispel some nutso myths that everyone in France eats foie gras and pain au chocolat for breakfast. Believe me, what people in France really eat is very different from the perception.


As Summit locals, often in need of unique gifts to send home to Australia, Catchware has become our 'one- stop- shop...' A smile, a chat, a gift, wrapped with love and then straight to the post office... 
This is what I call convenient shopping!

This Mung Bean recipe comes from our Mates at Catchware, in Summit NJ

Their story.  In 1998 a vibrant woven tote commonly carried throughout mexico and latin america set the stage for what would later become Catchware. By way of nyc street fairs and flea markets a brand was slowly built. baskets. containers. bags. mexican. african. american. and... decorative utility was and is the driving force behind the catchware brand. Catchware opened its door in summit nj in november 2004... 

When it comes to comfort food i believe in two very distinct categories, the sinfully delicious and the sacred. when seasons change or I'm feeling run down, or having overdone it on the sinful stuff, I crave the sacred.
Perfect for right now is mung beans & brown basmati rice. It is easy to prepare, nourishing, incredibly satisfying, and gentle and healing on the digestive system and really delicious. This dish is also, gluten free, lactose free & vegetarian.
You can easily tweak this recipe to taste: you can leave out the tomato, use less (or no) chilies, substitute a sweeter pepper and if you don't have coriander, no worries. cilantro may be substituted with parsley, and a buttery olive oil instead of ghee, tho' I highly recommend the ghee!
Brown basmati rice is my favorite with this preparation, tho you can use plain brown rice, or white basmati. 

Mung Beans
1 cup of whole dry mung beans
3 cups of water
1/4 of ghee or oil, or a combination of butter and sesame oil
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 - 2 teaspoons of turmeric
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne
1/2 tablespoon of ground coriander
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1 medium onion, finely sliced
1 inch piece of ginger, grated or finely chopped
3 - 4 jalapenos or hot chilies, finely chopped
1 medium-large tomato, finely diced
1 - 2 teaspoons of sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup of finely chopped fresh cilantro

Soak the mung beans in the water overnight

Heat the ghee or oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds, and stir and fry for a minute or two. Next, add the ground spices, stir for about 15 seconds, and then add the onion, ginger and hot chillies to the pan. Fry until the onion wilts and begins to brown. 

Add the mung beans and their soaking liquid to the pot. Bring to a boil, immediately reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered until the beans are just tender - about 20 - 35 minutes. Add more water if necessary just to keep the bean covered. 

Now add the chopped tomato to the beans, along with the salt and pepper. Simmer for another 15 - 20 minutes, or until the beans are tender and the liquid is mostly absorbed. Stir in the parsley near the end of the cooking time.

I've been cooking brown rice for years, only recently have I fallen on the surest, quickest cooking method. The result is a slightly chewy rice. For softer rice add 1/4c. more water per cup of rice.

1. Wash rice until water runs clear and nothing floats to the top.

2.Put brown rice and water together in a pot with a lid.  Use the ratio of 1.5 cups water to 1 cup rice.  3c rice with 4.5c water for a single batch. makes a nice batch.
3. Set the heat to maximum, and bring the rice/water to a boil uncovered.  Then put the lid on the pot, and reduce the heat to low/simmer.  If your lid has a steam valve, keep it closed.  Let the rice simmer for 20 minutes.
4.Turn off the heat, and let the rice sit in the covered pot for another 10 minutes.  It’s OK if you let the rice sit longer than 10 minutes (20 or 30 minutes is fine too), but don’t let it go any less. 

I like to make extra, it keeps for a few days. 
The best way to re-heat, place in fine strainer over boiling water, steam till heated through.