Myrtle & Mae

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I visited Lynda Shepherd, owner of the magical little travelling cafe Myrtle & Mae - Travelling Refreshment at her house in Lobethal overlooking the farm of the iconic SA Tweedvale Milk, which is so close she could walk to pick up her milk. She took me out to her vintage 1950’s styled caravan for a tour and of course, coffee.

As Lynda poured me a cup of coffee, she asked if I would like sugar. When I responded “no”, she jokingly replied that she was going to judge me if I said yes. Cheekily, I said, “I only take sugar if the coffee isn’t good, so we will see.” After my first sip, I was convinced she had been trained well and was using great coffee beans.

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We got to talking about this truly unique and charming caravan; a reproduction vintage 1950’s van, with its beautiful wooden bench-tops, paneled windows and the functional yet stylish bi-fold doors. The creator of this little beauty, Shane from Woody Caravans, ensured everything was made in an authentic 1950’s style. Lynda could barely contain her praise for Shane, who even went so far as to beg the grandson of the contractor who originally made the trademark scooped windows for the 1950’s vans in Australia, to make the windows for Myrtle. Shane absolutely loves his work and names every caravan he makes. He gave Lynda’s van the name Myrtle after his Grandma. Lynda wanted to keep the name the van was christened with, but also stamp her own mark on it, and so added Mae to the name, after her grandmother.

Myrtle & Mae is the amalgamation of Lynda’s love of Food, Coffee, Events, Vintage, and Markets. Lynda has a great appreciation of old things and their story, “its history and beauty”, which permeates through every decision she makes. Like Ron Burgundy, Lynda also wants to “keep it classy”. She’s not just a coffee van, it’s much more than that. It is a travelling cafe in which “people should feel like they’re getting special treatment when they visit”. Lynda wants people to be able to take pride in Myrtle & Mae. “It’s not just a quick coffee, it’s about care and it’s about service”.

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Lynda has a commitment to Myrtle being ethical, local & sustainable. That means the coffee beans, tea, and everything for sale will follow these guidelines. Organic food isn’t as much of a priority but more often than not it goes hand in hand. When questioned on this, Lynda explains that many smaller local business can’t afford to get and maintain the certification, and supporting local businesses is paramount to Lynda’s philosophy.

Lynda has such an obvious flair and passion for what she does, it made me wonder what her background was. Lynda is a trained nurse, after studying nursing for three years and practicing as a nurse for 18 months she realised that it really wasn’t for her and had, as she explains, a “mid 20’s crisis” which lead to her deciding to follow her true passion in life. She decided to buy a caravan and start her own business, and she was off.

Besides nursing, Lynda also worked for a catering company that predominately catered weddings, for places like Bird in Hand and Longview Winery. For a time, she was the hostess at Sticky Rice Cooking School, and has also cooked for Ruby’s Cafe, where she later managed the front of house team. All of which has set Lynda up to make Myrtle & Mae a success.

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During this time, Lynda’s husband was literally off being a rockstar. It’s now Lynda’s turn to be creative and have her turn in the spotlight. With the help of some very encouraging and supportive friends and family, Myrtle & Mae was born.

While undoubtedly a talented cook, Lynda chooses to cook some of the goodies herself, and to source the remainder locally. “The philosophy behind Myrtle & Mae is based around using local produce and supporting local family businesses”. One of Lynda’s concerns is that SA produce doesn’t get the attention it deserves. “I want to profile the great SA produce, it’s something I’m very passionate about”. Lynda tracked down some of the best that South Australia has to offer which includes Rustic Gourmet, The Coffee Barun, Scullery Made, and Tweedvale.

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Myrtle & Mae can be found at specialty markets, designer expos, and pop up events around Adelaide or you can book her for private functions and weddings. Myrtle has become a very popular addition to have at weddings because of her unique 1950’s look and vintage style. You can hire Myrtle & Mae simply as a coffee and drinks bar, or add canapés, or even to manage the “Big Day” so that the bride and groom can enjoy themselves.

A smart and down to earth business woman, Lynda’s passion for life and what she does is infectious, and makes you want to follow your dreams, or in the very least, follow around her delightful Myrtle. You can keep up to date with all things Myrtle on her Facebook page.

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Heston Blumenthal vs Tradition - Scrambled Eggs

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Scrambled eggs is one of those topics that for some reason I am very picky about. There are many methods to make scrambled eggs but for me there is but one way.

What I absolutely hate is when I recieve and broken up omlette served as scramble eggs. Scrambled eggs should be wet, creamy and have the consistency of porridge, they should never be fully cooked. Previously I have used the Gordon Ramsey’s method for scrambled eggs which is to cook the eggs over a high heat, putting the pan on and off the heat and fold the egg mix with a spatula. This method is designed for industry use so as to ensure eggs are cooked quickly but still have the desired texture and consistency.

Hestons Method requires a lot more time and patience but the end results are amazing. The decision making behind Heston’s method is that eggs should always be cooked over a low heat. This is because the proteins in eggs tend to become more rubbery when applied with direct heat. For Heston’s method you cook the eggs in a bain marie. This is something I’ve never seen done before!

For me Heston’s method is great but takes way to long. Instead I have come up with a compromise between Ramsey’s and Heston’s methods. I cook my eggs starting in a cold pan over a low heat stirring consistently to prevent the egg catching. This method still takes extra time but not as long as Heston’s. As the egg mix starts to cook you will see it start to thicken, you will get a few lumps which is fine. In the beggining you don’t have to be to vigilant with stirring, but as the pan heats up you will need to keep the egg mix constantly on the move. The important part is to make sure you take the eggs off the heat before the eggs are fully cooked and dry.

When cooking eggs I never season prior to cooking, always after as salt can have a tendency to breakdown the proteins and can leave your eggs a little watery.

I do love the finishing touches Heston applies to his eggs, first being the Beurre Noisette (hazelnut butter) which adds a great flavour to the eggs. By drizzling it over the top at the end instead of adding it to the egg when cooking you keep the eggs looking clean. The second tip is to buy a good quality shiraz vinegar to drizzle over the eggs. The acidity cuts through the richness of the eggs whilst adding flavour.

For Heston Blumenthal’s Scrambled Eggs recipe see www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/heston-blumenthals-scrambled-eggs

For the How To Cook Like Heston - Eggs episode check out www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gbgSCV9hbM

Hey Woolies, enough with the palm oil!

As a chef, I know that the act of choosing ingredients is a very deliberate thing. I suppose this is why it amazes me that leading Australian companies are still managing to make some pretty rubbish choices.

With all the public concern that KFC endured over their use of palm oil, and there eventual switch to canola oil you would think companies would learn, that we as the consumer demand for better.

Somehow Woolworth’s missed the memo and are still using palm oil in their hot cross buns and other products.

All across social media last year Woolworth’s were blasted for there use of palm oil but it hasn’t seemed to make a difference. This year is the same, why stick to something that you know we don’t like?

Woolworth’s have switched to a “sustainable palm oil” in their hot cross buns and will use only sustainable palm oil in Woolworths branded products by 2015. This is a step in the right direction, but it’s just that a step. We are passed the point where a step is enough. There is debate over how sustainable these plantations are, as they are planted on formerly logged palm forests. There are many who would argue that this is still not good enough, and that we should be replacing these deforested areas not using them.

On the positive side at least this does reduce the destruction of the Orangutans habitat, but really shouldn’t we be fixing the problem we have created.

I do commend Woolworths for labelling their use of palm oil as an ingredient in their products, which still isn’t mandatory in Australia. By doing so at least, we the consumer can make an informed decision.

I have singled out Woolworths here, and I know most companies are doing the same. I have called out Woolworths because of all the companies using palm oil I believe they are ready to hear the call. What I say to Woolworths is this, be the first major supermarket to remove any form of palm oil from your shelves. Make a stand, and make up for all the destruction and death that has been caused in the past through the use of palm oil. Don’t just do better, be different, be innovative, and make real a difference.

Heston Blumenthal vs Tradition - Poached Eggs

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In this series of posts I will be putting Heston Blumenthal’s methods of cookery up against the traditional methods to see how they fare up. I will be testing to see whether Heston’s methods really are better, and giving you tips and lessons I’ve learnt throughout the process.

Today I tested Heston Blumenthal’s Poached Eggs against the traditional methods of cookery taught at trade school. The traditional method tells you to bring water and vinegar to the simmer and then gently drop in the eggs. Some people swear by making a whirlpool in the water but this does nothing for the cooking, it can improve presentation but limits the number of eggs you can poach at once. Heston’s method is a little more precise, it calls for water to be brought up to 82 degrees celsius and requires you to place a plate or similar on the bottom of the pot to keep the eggs off the direct heat. You then strain the eggs through a slotted spoon to remove the watery part of the egg whites (it is essential that your eggs are fresh or this won’t work properly). The majority of the egg white and all the yolk will hold together. This is then placed into the hot water.

RESULTS: The egg cooked in the traditional method had a hard rubbery egg white caused by the higher heat and the vinegar. The end result is also less consistent in appearance. Whereas with Heston’s method the egg white was soft and wonderful and the yolk had thickened slightly but was completely runny. The end product is consistently the same but looks more like the shape of a fried egg rather then a traditional round poached egg. Heston’s method does however take a lot more effort but in my opinion is by far the best, for me there is no comparison.

What I learnt: I found that putting a cake rack at the bottom of the pot and then placing a metal pizza tray on top worked really well, instead of using a plate. This way you have a completely flat surface to poach your eggs on. Using a thermometer with a clip on it like the ones used by barista’s are excellent as you can leave it clipped onto the side of the pot, and therefore you can monitor the temperature continuously.

If you don’t have the time or patience to use Heston’s method then here’s my tips for the tradition method of poaching an egg. Buy yourself a deep pot at least 40-45 cm deep, the deeper the better, and bring the water and vinegar to a rapid boil. The reason for the deep pot is to give the outer layer of the egg white enough time to cook before it reaches the base. By doing so you will end up with a beautiful tear shape that looks great when you serve it. As per Heston’s method, strain the runny egg white through a slotted spoon and place the eggs into small individual containers and drop the eggs into the pot where the water is breaking on the surface. By doing so, there will be a shorter time between the first and last egg entering the water and thus a more consistent poached egg. If you’re cooking for a big group make sure you cook your eggs in batches.

When cooking for a big group and you want to serve everyone at the same time cook each batch of eggs for three minutes and put them straight into an ice bath, once cooled put them on a tray and refrigerate till needed. When you are ready to serve put the eggs back into the boiling water for approximately 1.5 to 2 minutes.

Try out both methods and tell me what you think?

For Heston Blumenthal’s Poached Eggs recipe see www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/heston-blumenthals-poached-eggs

For the How To Cook Like Heston - Eggs episode check out www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gbgSCV9hbM

Double Shot! Coffee Fiesta

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Sunday marked the last day of the fringe and for me that meant one last fringe event. What better way to finish off the fringe then with Double Shot! Coffee Fiesta. A full day exploring, tasting and experiencing all things coffee. I am the first to admit I have become a bit of a coffee snob so for me this was heaven.

Double Shot might just be one of my favourite events of the year so far. There was coffee from Bar 9, Combi Coffee, Veneziano and The Coffee Barun just to name a few. And sweet treats to enjoy with your cup of joe from Eggless Desserts Pop Up, By Blackbird and Boulangerie 113. I stayed away from the treats this time and went straight for the coffee. I was first tempted by the Ethiopian Nekisse pour over from the Coffee Baron which was rich and full bodied especially for a filter style coffee. Then it was onto Carnevale Coffee Roasters for a cold drip coffee. Again I was very happy, not sure if it was because of the coffee buzz I was now getting on or because the coffee was good, I think the later.

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We checked out the salsa band while we waited for the in-laws to meet us. The salsa band really made the event so special. The music was intoxicating, as lame as it sounds it was just like in the movies, the salsa music comes on and everyone can’t help but dance. People we’re dancing and grooving everywhere. It was so great to watch the crowd enjoying the music and having a great time.

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When the in-laws found us we scoped out all the funky/hipster furniture that had been scattered around the lawns. There was massive 3x3 meter cushions to sit on, logs of wood with the top painted in an assortment of colours, old school red stools (very nostalgic for me), small tables made from cardboard, and bales of hay with coffee bean sacks draped over the top.

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My favourite though was the kids tables which were constructed from two palettes stacked on top of each other painted white with a blackboard as the tabletop. They had chalk in big metal coffee cups for the kids to draw with and there were white coffee cups with whiteboard markers so the kids could draw on them too. The other great idea for the kids was the huge connect four game that was set up near the tables. The kids looked like they were having as much fun, if not more fun then there parents.

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We finished the day with a coffee from Bar 9. Unfortunately the filter coffee had run out, they told me it was good though. I begged them “please don’t tell me it was good” to which they responded “oh no it was terrible, so bad that we had to throw it out”. This led to many more jokes. It was a great experience, even though I wasn’t able to have what I wanted I left feeling happy. For me its customer service like this that makes me want to go back to a place, I now have a connection with the Bar 9 crew. I ended up with a flat white which was good but the blend was a bit on the mild side for me more of the crowd pleaser type coffee, nice but I like my coffee to be a bit more complex in flavour.

I left the Coffee Fiesta in such a good mood, again could be because of the coffee high, but I don’t think so. I think it was because the event was put together so well it was hard not to enjoy yourself. I take my hat off to the organisers and I’m already looking forward to next years Fiesta.

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Mmmm… Carrot Cake!

Delicious delicious carrot cake!

Awhile ago I was on the search for a good carrot cake recipe, so I put the call out on facebook and in no time I got a hit. The power of online social networks. I gave the recipe a go and the result was fantastic. The key to this recipe is the moist yet dense carrot cake, the full flavour hit of the walnuts, pineapple and of course carrot and the amazing zingy cream cheese icing. I’ve been asked to make this little beauty a number of times since and it’s always a winner. This is a must try recipe for any cake lover and definately deserves a place in your recipe collection. For the recipe see the link below:

www.exclusivelyfood.com.au/2006/07/carrot-cake-recipe.html

(Source: )

The White House - Restaurant Review

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[At the time this review was written I was not working for The White House, I have since taken a job at this restaurant as the Sous Chef]

The White House would have to be one of my favourite restaurants in the Adelaide Hills. I had been to the White House a few times for breakfast not long after they first opened and was very impressed, but had not been back since the renovation and new menu, so I was excited to check it out again. The menu boasts an origin in classic french cooking, with plenty of butter and full flavour, and with clear inspiration from the region in their use of local produce, which they integrate seamlessly with a relaxed sophistication. Breakfast was going to be good!

The whole restaurant in fact has a relaxed feel, with charming additions such as the old bikes out the front and chess board for those that feel so inclined, as soon as you walk in you feel at ease and as if you belong. The waiting staff are exceptional as well, and have the same welcoming and relaxed attitude. We got in just before breakfast was due to finish, and were just starting to feel a little worried that they wouldn’t be happy to serve us. But that concern was immediately put at ease by the waitress who showed us to our table and gave us all the time in the world to order. No rushing to get our order into the kitchen and cooked so they could pack up. How refreshing!

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The breakfast menu is simple, giving the impression each item is done well, yet still with enough variation to suit everyone. The waitress’s recommendation was to try the Caramelised Mushroom and Avocado Fougasse Bread, a type of traditional french flatbread similar to focaccia, but we couldn’t look past the Bacon and Eggs ($16.50) and a Crepes Suzette ($13.50) to finish. 

The Bacon and Eggs were delicious. Our poached eggs, which were visibly free range, were cooked to perfection, the white set and the yolk thickened slightly but still runny. I ask you, is there anything better in this world than a perfectly cooked poached egg?! Such a beautiful thing, and these were no exception. Happiness on a plate! The local Kanmantoo bacon was rich and smoky, and it was clear that everything was cooked and plated with care.

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The hands down winner though was the Crepes Suzette. Beautifully thin layered crepes with the freshness of the macerated orange segments, a perfectly balanced Cointreau sauce and the sweet but sour creme fraiche. Every aspect complemented each other and no element overpowered the other, and the presentation speaks for itself. From a technical standpoint, the crepes had too much colour. Traditionally speaking crepes are served with little to no colour, however I believe that tradition doesn’t always make it right. Personally I think the extra colour in these crepes actually lift the whole dish; I think it creates additional texture and taste, and the contrast in colour adds interest as well. Food is such a personal thing though, if I were French I’d be saying “off with their head”! Each to their own.

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All in all a well rounded meal, that left us not only satisfied, but wanting more! Can’t wait to explore the rest of the menu, and it seems that neither can anyone else. If you’re thinking of making the scenic trip up the hills then make sure to book a table, as the word about this cute little hills hideaway is well and truly out. Earlier in the year, The White House was nominated in the 2012 Restaurant & Catering Awards for Excellence in several categories… for Best Breakfast, Best Cafe, Best Chef: Simon Bratt, and Best Employer: owner Sophie Zervas, with Sophie taking out the Best Employer title, not that there’s any surprise there, given our experiences with the staff.

I’m really excited to see what this fantastic Adelaide Hills restaurant has to offer in the way of its lunch and dinner menu, and if it’s anything like the breakfast menu then all of our taste buds are in for a good time.

My Rating

Food                       4.5/5

Customer Service    4.5/5

Price vs Quality          5/5

Decore                       4/5

Overall                  4.5/5

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