A taste of Melbourne

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Chicken HeroChin ChinChicken Close Up

As an expat Aussie I love collecting souvenirs whenever I go home, but not the typical boomerangs and kangaroo scrotum money bags that the non-Australian tourists take away with them. I make a B-line for cook books from my favourite restaurants so I can taste the flavours of home when ever I miss them.

This time around I was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy of “Chin Chin. The Book.” It’s really hard to come by, you can only get it from their website, in person at the restaurant or from The Essential Ingredient in Prahran. International orders have to be specially requested via telephone which seems a bit too hard to me. So, to help all of you taste what it’s like to dine at the iconic Melbourne restaurant I’m going to publish the first meal I’ve cooked out of it. And, in keeping with my routine of doing some form of exercise every day, I went for a 45 minute jog before indulging. Not that I needed to work up an appetite, it tasted great.

Larb Gai
(Better known as Chicken Salad.)
10 white peppercorns
½ bunch coriander, roots washed, leaves picked
3-4 cloves garlic
2 scud chillies, plus extra chopped scuds to serve, optional
150g chicken or duck livers, optional (I left this out as offal is quite high in fat.)
2 tbsp rendered pork fat or vegetable oil (I just used a spray of Canola to keep the fat down.)
500g medium to coarse chicken mince. (They recommend having a high fat content but I went the opposite way and it still tasted great.)
juice of 2 limes
3-4 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp ground roast rice (Recipe to follow.)
1 stem lemongrass, pale part only, thinly sliced
½ tsp galangal powder (Recipe to follow. I used ground ginger as I couldn’t be bothered but, it’s there if you can be.)
2-3 shallots, thickly cut
2-3 apple eggplants, thickly cut, optional (As apple eggplants aren’t available in NZ, I used a regular eggplant and grilled it first.)
½ bunch mint, leaves picked
3-4 kaffir lime leaves, julienned

In a mortar and pestle, pound the peppercorns. Add the coriander root, garlic, scuds and a pinch of salt and pound together to a rough paste.

If you’re using the livers, trim them, put in a saucepan of cold salted water and bring to the boil to blanch quickly.

Heat the pork fat or oil in a hot wok, add the paste and fry until fragrant. Add the chicken mince and continue to cook. When the mince is almost done (about 2-3 minutes), add the liver, if using, and stir to combine.

Remove the wok from the heat, and put the cooked mince in a bowl. Season with lime juice, fish sauce and oyster sauce.

Add the ground roast rice, lemongrass and galangal powder and stir to combine thoroughly. Now add the shallots, apple eggplant, mint, coriander and lime leaves and toss to combine.

Transfer to a serving plate or bowl and garnish with the extra chopped scuds, if desired.

Serves 4

Ground Roast Rice
In pan, dry fry a cup of white glutinous rice with a couple of chopped kaffir lime leaves and some sliced lemongrass and shaved galangal. Keep stirring it the whole time so it doesn’t blacken on the bottom of the pan. When it starts to get a bit of colour and is nutty and fragrant, it’s done. Remove from heat and blitz to a powder in a food processor. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. This is a great addition to salad, stir-fries and dressings.

Galangal Powder
Roughly chop a whole galangal root (or two) and blitz in a food processor. Thinly spread the paste on a baking paper-lined baking tray. In a low 70°C oven, completely dry the galangal (about 5-6 hours). When it’s cool, blitz again. Store in an airtight jar.

One last look at 2013.

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My first post of 2014 is about my last run of 2013.

Over the break my partner Alex and I visited Hamilton Island in the Whitsunday Passage, Queensland. Initially we went there to take in the beauty beneath the water, of the Great Barrier Reef, but the views on land were just as inspiring. This view, from the top of One Tree Hill, is one of the most celebrated on the island however, after tackling the 82 meter elevation to get there my breath was already taken. But, thanks to the power of photography, I can enjoy it forever without having to go through that again. 🙂

Three workouts to get you through the holidays.

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Monday WorkoutWednesday WorkoutFriday Workout

My trainer has been putting us through our paces this week and has come up with 3 really good workouts to keep the Christmas kilos at bay. Hope you enjoy them as much as I have. Merry Christmas.

Some exercise demos for you:
Medicine Ball Sit Up Throws (Sit further away than these people are so you get a good throw in). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAL99HxaZrw
Russian Twist http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgSnIib9s5Y
Iron Cross http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jiVbKEkWbI8
Med Ball Squat Throw http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6aC2o7204s
Medicine Ball Bridge with Leg Lift (About 2.14 seconds in to the video.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2mxYyMjfxY
Repeaters http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HnSzwCMXTSg
Mountain Climbers http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzmKjlbbHzs
Medicine Ball Squats http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUbY2prXt-k
Medicine Ball Slam https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWghPf9dso0
Burpees http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burpee_%28exercise%29
DB Squats http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9O7EOXVIKY
Alternating Lunges http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zo1pFV8HMic
Squat Thrusters http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=87xtinde5y4
Knee to Pike Sit Up (Hold a weight in your hands and alternate one pike sit up with one crunch.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=02b2QxcazOM
Thrusters http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7ljnk8OS3M
Sumo Squat https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9kiXid7pm6I
Hover http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRXKg21pE-4
Rope Pull http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGHmgqJeSu0
Box Jumps http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxldG9FX4j4
Medicine Ball Squat Toss http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4C0z1_uNHU0
Medicine Ball Crunches http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zb-kh42M-60
Chin Up http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FWqNXEWl34
Dead Lift http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Q_GnXm7LbI

Summer’s here.

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It’s quite early in the season to go for a swim in New Zealand, but on Sunday that’s just what we did. It was only nippy for the first few minutes and then the water took on a beautiful warmth. Very uncharacteristic for the Kiwi summer where we usually have to wait until after Christmas to enjoy water as warm. After a great afternoon in the ocean, we spent the evening eating fish, chicken and salad while the sun set. #perfectweekend

 

Another punishing workout from my trainer in the lead up to Christmas.

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Another punishing workout from my trainer in the lead up to Christmas.

When even the hard-ass girls I train with have a little grumble, you know it’s a tough workout. I was really enjoying this up ’til the third round of exercises with the burpees. Still, I have a Christmas party to go to tomorrow and after today, I feel like I’ve earned it.

Don’t forget to stretch afterwards and try to eat within half an hour of finishing. The girls in my group are huge fans of a 2 egg spinach omelette with a piece of whole grain toast.

If you’d like some demonstrations for the exercises click the links below.
Alternating Forward Lunges https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRh6_4rq-b8
Burpees https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWQrT6E3XX4
TRX Alternating T and Y https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iz-6mGus5jk
Medicine Ball Slams http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huBClepn-jY
Sumo Squat https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9kiXid7pm6I
TRX Squat Row https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7Z062Xmr9w
DB Push-Up Row https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vpB-ad8ezFE
TRX Backward / Reverse Lunges http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tn68JwtRWzQ
Iron Cross http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jiVbKEkWbI8
TRX Chest Press http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vPgHzuRI7I

 

People say the strangest things when they’re in a vegan restaurant.

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People say the strangest things.

For lunch today I rewarded my hard work at the gym with a trip to the Little Bird Unbakery, a raw vegan café in Ponsonby.

I ordered the Dosa (cooked), a fermented dahl and rice pancake served with fresh mango, coconut and ginger chutney and a sprouted chickpea and cucumber salad. I also had an Imperial Yunnan silver needle tea which was pretty fantastic as well.

Being a solo luncher, I sat at the large communal table where a number of people were busily chatting. It’s strange how some things take on added meaning when you hear them in a very angelic, vegan environment.

For example:
“My Dad is a hunter and for Christmas this year he gave me a card with a huge wild boar on it.”

“I’d really love to have some chickens.”

“They say it’s made with cacao not coco. Apparently they’re different but I’m not sure what the difference is.”

I also heard people nonchalantly throw healthy statements into their conversations.

“I’ve stopped eating red meat but you’re still eating mince aren’t you?

“I grow my own wheatgrass… And I have a juicer.”

“All I’ve been eating for the last few days is organic. But you have to wash everything really vigorously. Oh, and some kale.”

I’m not usually one to eavesdrop, but when it makes you smile and the people are sitting right next to you, what can you do?

Work off your Christmas Party with this.

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Work off your Christmas Party with this.

My trainer Maree can be brutal at times. Today, 8 girls innocently turned up to their Friday workout, unaware of what lay ahead. The 100 Club.

It’s a club she makes us all join and consists of having to do 100 reps of 10 different exercises. Sometimes we’re allowed to do 5 sets of 20 reps of each exercise, but no such luck today. If we wanted a break/recovery at any stage we were allowed to do a shuttle run. I did a couple of shuttle runs during the thrusters, iron cross and burpees sets, though it was more like a shuttle stagger by the end.

Maree said she hoped it would make up for any sins we’d committed that week. I don’t see how it couldn’t, we were too exhausted to even speak to each other by the end of it.

Here are some demos if you’d like to join the club.
Shuttle Run http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B_u2eqjgdwk
High 5 with a friend https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RllVGQOiSLg
Squats http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmI9x_5aFdc
Dead Lift http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Q_GnXm7LbI
Box Jumps http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxldG9FX4j4
Medicine Ball Slams http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huBClepn-jY
Full Sit Up http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWAhptFi_ns
Thrusters http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7ljnk8OS3M
Iron Cross http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jiVbKEkWbI8/watch?v=WJR3JTtmPTw
Alternating Lunges https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCpu8IhLvBg
Burpees http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burpee_%28exercise%29

Today’s Workout

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Wednesday Workout

This was really fun this morning. Nice to use the Swiss balls and TRX for a change.

Here are some demos if you’d like them.
Med Ball Throw to a Friend http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6aC2o7204s
Med Ball Slams http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huBClepn-jY
Swiss Ball Back Extensions http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWRM3eC2GT0
TRX Row http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p8d2pFLDkEs
Swiss Ball Jack Knife http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2y03dkaK1O0
TRX Chest Press http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vPgHzuRI7I
Swiss Ball Hamstring Curl http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czf-1snzG2c
TRX Backward / Reverse Lunges http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tn68JwtRWzQ
Swiss Ball Roll Outs http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbZs_zjTbRw
TRX Squat Jump with Row http://www.youtube.com
Ice Skaters http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XnZtEoYNs1A
Russian Twist http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgSnIib9s5Y
Toe Taps http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N5i2rHaHTXA
Box Jumps http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxldG9FX4j4
Med Ball Crunches http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zb-kh42M-60
Bunny Hops http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HQ4x1B-Iod4

Love thy neighbour… and thy neighbour’s garden.

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A couple of weeks ago I visited a few open gardens as part of the Auckland Garden Design Festival. All were inspiring but the last two were especially so and not just for visual reasons. The owners of these neighbouring gardens were able to work together to utilise their joint resources and create the backyards of their dreams.

As with many blocks in Auckland these two rest on the side of a hill. The upper needed to get rid of soil and the lower needed to add some. It can be an expensive process moving soil in and out but these two avoided that by moving soil from the upper garden to the lower and sharing the cost between them. They also used the same landscape designer and, considering their good relationship, left a little pathway through some of the larger plantings so they can pop next door whenever they like.

When so many neighbours don’t speak or get along, it was lovely to see two that were able to create spaces more beautiful than if they’d worked alone. They managed to keep their own individual style but create a harmonious environment that reflected their good relationship. It was by far the most inspiring thing I saw that day and that’s really saying something.

Dippy, but not hippy.

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Spinach Yoghurt Dip 1Spinach Dip Side On

I’ve often thought the key to maintaining a healthy weight is to find snacks that won’t pile on the pounds. Things like humus, olives, dark chocolate, cheese and crusty bread all taste great but are way too calorie intensive. So, after trying Karen Martini’s low-fat beetroot dip last week, I couldn’t wait to get into her silverbeet, spinach, yoghurt and pinenut one. Again, it was really easy to create a low fat version and a guilt free way of getting a few more greens.

I also really like her formula of combining equal quantities of 1% fat prebiotic yoghurt with your favourite combination of pureed vegetables, herbs and spices. It’s opened up a whole new world on the type of dips I can create. Next time I might try rocket, spinach, basil, mint and parsley together with a bit of lemon juice and garlic. Or, if I’m feeling a bit more adventurous, roasted carrot with onion, garlic, cumin, coriander and a squeeze of lemon. Here’s Karen’s recipe if you’d like to try.

Ingredients
80ml extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra
(I just used a spray of olive oil in the pan. If it gets too dry add a little water.)
5 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 leek, finely sliced
1 bunch silverbeet, trimmed of ¾ of the stalk and finely chopped
3 handfuls baby spinach
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
250g thick plain yoghurt (I used 1% fat probiotic Greek.)
80g pinenuts, toasted briefly in a dry frypan
(I omitted these from the dip and just scattered a few on top.)
1 lemon

Method
In a wide-based pot, add 80ml of oil and cook the garlic until fragrant. Add the leek and cook for five minutes. Add the silverbeet and cook for another 10 minutes over low heat with the lid on, stirring through every now and then.
Add the spinach, cumin and paprika and, if the pot is too dry, a splash of water. Cook for another five minutes, season and set aside to cool.
If the greens are quite wet, drain off a little liquid, then puree with the yoghurt and half the pinenuts until you have a smooth paste. Spread on to your serving plate, squeeze over some lemon, scatter over the remaining pinenuts, dress with a little oil and serve with flatbread.