Breakfast Tel Aviv style

If you want a full on sensory experience, head to Tel Aviv! I was there with Little B and my amazing mum visiting my sister a few months ago. This is not the first time I’ve been to Israel and so I knew what a treat I was in for, and my taste buds and my soul couldn’t wait.

If I could use two words to describe my time there, it would be NOURISHING CHAOS. Nourishing for my body and soul.

My soul was replenished by spending quality time with my sister and seeing her and Little B bond so beautifully. Also, just being in Israel uplifts me – there is something magical about the energy and the authenticity of that place and its people.

My body was of course nourished (more literally) by all the delicious food, the sun on my shoulders and Mediterranean salty air. However, travelling with an almost 2 year old, who has the will of a stubborn teenager, in a city that doesn’t know the meaning of the word “quiet”…. it was not what you would call relaxing.

IMG_8148 IMG_8125

IMG_8103
Dinner at the “authentic” The Old Man and the Sea in Jaffa

One of the quintessential meals of Israel is the huge buffet breakfast. It apparently originated when the farmers on the kibbutzim (collective communities established in the 1930’s)  would all come back after a morning of work in the fields and enjoy a communal feast of all the produce of the kibbutz. Meat wasn’t traditionally farmed and so dairy and eggs became the main form of protein which were eaten along with all the fresh fruit and vegetables. We also have this to thank for the creation of the delicious spicy breakfast feast – shakshuka! Everyone sits around a big table and digs in, often using bread as their main utensil for moping up all the deliciousness.

IMG_8214
My brother-in-law’s shakshuka with feta and herbs (the best in the world!)

It was this amazing breakfast tradition that I wanted to recreate at home with my friends and the kids. The chaos of Tel Aviv: the noise, the hustle and bustle and never standing still for a minute was the precise energy that I wanted to bring to my breakfast. And lets just say that with 8 chatty adults and 5 busy kids under 2.5, this was definitely achieved!

Smell: When my guests walked into the house, they were greeted with the unmistakable rich smokey aroma of middle eastern cooking – cumin, coriander, paprika and za’atar spices, eggplant roasting over an open flame and freshly chopped mint and parsley. I also lit a fragrant “High Tea” Glasshouse candle, whose exotic perfumes of cardamom and black tea added depth to the aroma of the room.

One of my girlfriends walked in and said that she could smell Israel from outside our front gate – the first mark of a successful breakfast 🙂

IMG_8385
fresh herbs and vibrant radishes ready for chopping

 

IMG_8386
eggplants roasting for babganoush

Sound: I deliberately didn’t have any music playing because I knew it would be drowned out with all the chatter, demanding toddlers and their noisy toys. The sound of people laughing and talking loudly with the occasional child’s cry was the exact backdrop that I wanted for my Tel Aviv breakfast.

Sight: A table full of fresh bread, soft creamy cheeses, and colourful dips, alongside roughly chopped salad, seasonal fruit and cooked eggs – this is what an Israeli breakfast looks like.

IMG_8435
three cheeses and dips
IMG_8458
Spiced chickpea & fresh vegetable salad (Jerusalem, Ottolenghi)
IMG_8437.jpg
Mud Australia bowls

The decor and servingware was a mixture of colours and styles, selected to reflect the disorder of life in Israel – nothing is too perfect but it somehow just works. I used different textures – wood, ceramic, glass and metals, as well as lots of bright colours to achieve this. The main colour scheme was that of the Mediterranean – aqua, green and turquoise MUD plates and coloured glasses, with some gorgeous brights thrown in too, as I was so inspired by the colour of the alleys and boulevards of Tel Aviv.

IMG_8112

IMG_8145

IMG_8193

IMG_8252

Touch: How something feels always influences how it tastes – maybe that’s why the soft, warm bread used to scoop up the shakshuka and homemade dips tasted so good. The combination of textures was amazing, with the creamy cheeses and hummus, the slightly grainy roast beetroot dip and and the chunky babaganoush, together with the crunchy bread crust and doughy insides. I explored another aspect of “touch” by combining different temperatures – warm eggs, bread and pastries juxtaposed the cool dips, and fresh salad and fruit.

I can’t end without mentioning the halva cake – I think my favourite dish of the day! Moist buttery cake, layered with slightly chalky but melt-in-your-mouth halva, contrasted by rich crunchy cinnamon walnuts – a texture party in your mouth.

IMG_8454
Walnut and halva cake (Plenty More, Ottolenghi)
IMG_8432
Autumn red fruits

Taste:
On arrival: 

Tahini, date and cinnamon smoothie – gulped up by both adults and kids!

IMG_8426.jpg
(The Middle Eastern Vegetarian Cookbook, Salma Hage)

Cold:
Homemade dips: hummus, babaganoush, roasted beetroot, cumin and goats curd dip and tuna dip (again store bought – cant beat Pasta Pantry), and fresh homemade zhoug, a fragrant green, firery sauce, with a pesto-like texture
Cheese: homemade Labne, goats cheese, marinated feta
Spiced chickpeas and fresh vegetable salad
Boiled eggs
Spiced maple, pecan and walnut granola served with plain yoghurt and silan (Israeli date honey)
Fresh red fruit salad – Daddy Rich did an amazing job of cutting this up, he even knew to add the garnish of mint!)
Walnut and Halva Cake – after getting somewhat overlooked during the main meal, I brought this onto the dining table when tea was served and it was devoured!

IMG_8444

IMG_8380
Spiced maple, pecan and walnut granola (adapted from Middle Eastern Vegetarian Cookbook, Salma Hage)

Hot:
Breads: rosemary and sea salt focaccia, parmesan and garlic focaccia and seeded , all from BakeBar (no, I’m not superwoman who makes my own bread on a day like this, but I did warm them in the oven)
Labne and za’atar mini pastries garnished with rose petals – even fussy Little B loved these
Shakshuka – I made two to accommodate those that love chilli, and those unfortunate people who don’t!

IMG_8457.JPG
Shakshuka (Falafel for Breakfast, Kepos Street Kitchen) 

To end:
Nana tea (Fresh mint tea) – we debated whether the drink is served with the teabag in or out. True to Tel Aviv tradition, it was served on the side!

Honest Outcome:
Good: everyone commented on how authentic the meal was – this is the best compliment I could have received!
They also suggested I go into business making and selling my dips and condiments – while I may not be quite ready for this, it felt really good to know their taste buds and tummies were happy 🙂

Not so good: I didn’t get the timing quite right so by the time the guests arrived, and we actually sat down to eat, the shakshuka was slightly overcooked! Lesson learned: prepare everything before but only put the pan on the heat once the guests have arrived

Please let me know (leave a comment) any other recipes that you would love to try xx

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Hentley Farm: A True 5 Senses Experience

Four years of marriage – seems like such a short portion of our lives and yet so much has happened! Rich and I celebrated our anniversary with a weekend in South Australia’s Barossa Valley and we wanted to do something special to mark the occasion. And what we found did not disappoint! Hentley Farm is a very special place – a small winery in Seppeltsfield with the most incredible on site restaurant. You can choose from a 4 course or 7 course meal, with or without matching wines (or the half pour option for people like us on antibiotics, cold and flu meds and having to drive home afterwards!).

IMG_8492
personalised menu

I can’t exactly call it a set menu – I gave them our detailed dietary requirements and they adjusted the menu to suit, not leaving either of us feeling let down because of our restrictions.

When we were initially seated, Rich commented that he felt like something was lacking in the decor/set up – we were seated in a small square shaped room with glass walls, seemingly perched on top of a hill, and surrounded by the greenery of the property. With very few tables in the room, nothing on them except our glasses, knives and forks (resting on a thick wooden branch), there was a lot of empty space – both visual and actual.

My response was that this was not only intentional, but very special.

IMG_8475
awesome cutlery on raw wood

SIGHT: This part of the experience was simple – glass walls enabling us to see outside, and feel like we were sitting amongst the natural beauty of our surroundings. The one solid stone wall and the wood tables, further gave us the feeling of being out in nature. The uncluttered table worked to highlight the artistic skills of the chef – each dish was a magnificent work of art. The simple, organic looking plates provided an uncomplicated backdrop to each dish, allowing the colours and textures of the different elements of each dish to pop. Another component of the visual experience was the vivid colours – both in the produce as well as the wine. The rosé was the most gorgeous raspberry colour and the sparkling Blanc de Noir, like watermelon.

IMG_8480
kingfish, asparagus, verjuice and puffed wild rice, with roasted almonds and the 2016 Rose

SMELL: The wine not only looked like the colour of gemstones, but the perfume of each one was more beautiful and complex than the next. The 2016 Rose in particular took me back to my childhood smelling just like raspberry cordial! The ingredients of each dish are sourced locally, and are completely seasonal so the freshness of the herbs allowed for the pungent aromas to really come through and enhance each bite. The most amazing smell of all was the rosemary smoke billowing out of the oyster entree. I learnt a very cool technique for creating smoke as the dish was brought to life at the table when the waitress poured hot water over the bed of fresh rosemary and dry ice.

IMG_8552
oyster with fresh passionfruit in rosemary smoke, quinoa cracker, quail eggs with curry spice and lemon, potato crisp with tuna and peppers

SOUND: The atmosphere was very sophisticated yet relaxed. There wasn’t any music playing but what we could hear were people chatting and laughing, as well as gasps of wonderment as each dish came out. Even though I can see where they were coming from with this minimalist approach to sound, I couldn’t help but feel that some quiet modern instrumental or classical music could have warmed the atmosphere.

IMG_8481
kangaroo, wild fennel, swede and broccoli

TOUCH: For me, what really made the experience stand out was the use of texture in the food. How the food feels in your mouth is equally, if not more important than how everything feels in your hands. The combinations of hot and cold, creamy and crunchy, rough and smooth were perfectly curated. From the bed of crunchy fresh asparagus under the delicate kingfish, to the earthy poppy seeds juxtaposing the silky passionfruit sour cream, and the warm gooey marshmallow on a stick to finish, it was a full on texture adventure.

IMG_8482
‘egg’ sour cream, passionfruit and poppy seeds
IMG_8488
wine roasted marshmallow

TASTE: Not only were the texture combinations sublime, but so was the taste of every single dish. The matched wines were beautiful and really enhanced the flavour of each dish – well worth the additional cost. We got a good taste of what Barossa food is all about with the local produce and wild native flora.

I have to mention one dish in particular that blew me away with its unique flavour combination – the dessert of frozen yoghurt, sesame crisp and liquorice cream, drizzled with dill oil. Yes, dill oil. Seriously, who knew that liquorice and dill were such a match made in heaven.

IMG_8484
yoghurt, sesame and liquorice with dill oil

Our experience was completed by a visit to the cellar door, in an old stone house, glowing with crystal light fittings, where we sat in luxurious traditional leather chairs in front of a warm open fire. We left with full tummies, a few bottles of Hentley Farm wine and some magnificent memories.

Click to visit Hentley Farm

Disclaimer: I am in no way associated with Hentley Farm, I just had a really good 5 senses dining experience and wanted to tell you about it!

Follow me to the land of milk and honey

After some long and pretty uncomfortable flights, a whirlwind 48 hours in Johannesburg, and VERY little sleep, Little B, my gorgeous mum and I, have arrived in the vibrant land of milk and honey – I’m in Israel! We’re here to spend time with my beautiful sister and her husband, and to have a real holiday – eight days of sun, family lovin and a whole lot of sensory stimulation.

I can’t wait for the authentic Israeli culinary delights, from the best falafel in the world, soft, doughy breads and delectable pastries, to all the amazing dairy. Then there’s the sounds of organised chaos, the smells of the ocean, the food and everything in between, the sights of the melting pot of cultures and religions, and the tactile experiences that are so a part of everyday living. Full on sensory overload and I love it!

So for the next 8 days, I’ll be consumed with everything that is Tel Aviv and getting heaps of inspiration for a future meal at home. Follow me on Instagram @sense_of_entertaining to see my daily snaps of what inspires me and uplifts my soul.

 

Recipes!

I have shepherd’s pie in the oven, a clean kitchen (after cleaning up for the second time today and the 5th time in the last 48 hours!), a sleeping hubby and toddler and I’m sitting down doing something for myself (and for any of you who are interested in reading this). I’m only mentioning this as it is such a rare occasion and it’s pretty awesome, and I’ve been trying to be more grateful for the small things in my every day life.

Ok, back on track – I have been asked by a few people for some of the recipes from my recent blog posts.
I certainly can’t take credit for coming up with most of the recipes, but I’m very happy to share some of my favourites with you and give you my tips and any modifications that I used to better suit my needs and available ingredients.

The Donna Hay Feb/March 2016 issue became my best friend when planning my Winery by the Sea menu. Most of the main course and the delectable dessert were from there.

Honey wood smoked salmon with quick pickled tomato 
Honey_wood_smoked_salmon_with_quick_pickled_tomato
As I mentioned in the last blog post, Daddy Rich was in charge of this one and he did an exceptional job of following the recipe exactly. After two trips to the hardware store, he eventually settled on the Samba seafood smoking chips, which is a bIMG_7918lend of mesquite and alder wood. I used two individual pieces of salmon instead of a whole salmon, as there were only two of us.
click for link to recipe

 

IMG_7919Roasted peach and blueberry ice-cream sandwich 
I replaced the vanilla ice cream with vanilla bean frozen yoghurt which gave the dish a tartness that contrasted the sweet roasted fruit beautifully. I didn’t beat the yoghurt to soften it – instead, I just left it to melt slightly, then gave it a good stir with a wooden spoon before adding the fruit to it. That worked well – just be careful to not over mix it, otherwise you lose the crisp white colour of the ice cream and it becomes purple and the gorgeous combination of colours disappears.
click for recipe

Grilled Avo with Seared Tuna “Salsa” IMG_7681
I took inspiration from a few different recipes for this one. I combined and changed them to suit my menu. It was an experiment, but I was very happy with the result. The quantities in the recipe are based on my personal preference, so please taste and adjust as you go – there is no right or wrong.
click for recipe

I hope these recipes give you as much pleasure as I got from cooking and devouring the products. Please let me know how you go if you do make anything and also if there are any others recipes that you would like.

Happy cooking!

 

hello

I want to introduce myself.
I’m new to this whole blogging world, and in fact, I don’t read that many blogs myself (although I’m not sure I should be admitting that here, but I am in the process of rectifying it!).
This blog is not a blog for blogging sake. It’s an outlet for me to express myself and to have an excuse to make “special” meals for my family and friends. And best of all, it gives me an excuse to obsess about how to put together an awesome dining experience and actually bring it to life! You see, I LOVE FOOD! I love eating it, looking at it, working out what’s in it and experiencing it in a way that truly engages my whole being – through my 5 senses.

I am a mum to a gorgeous and highly energetic 21 month old little man, who unfortunately, does not appreciate food as much as I do (unless its plain cheese, grapes or vegemite toast!). Since the arrival of Little B, my darling husband, Daddy Rich, has more often than not, been the recipient of my frustration in the kitchen and therefore the meals that I have prepared (read: bought ready made) have not exactly been evident of my usual standard of food prep!

Before Little B came into our lives, I had started dabbling in the creative world of event planning, and I was loving it! But having a new born/toddler is just not conducive to a career change away from physio and into events. This has left my creative side slightly frustrated and so, “the time has come, the time is now, for me to GO GO GO, I don’t care how!” into the unknown world of food blogs!

For me, food is definitely not just about eating, and filling your belly. It’s about having an experience that transports you to another place – somewhere that inspires mindful eating and creates or conjures up beautiful memories. This is why I believe that any “special” dining experience should involve all 5 senses, to truly give you the best chance of being entertained.

My intention is to cook for my family and friends and transport them to some place or moment in time that I want to share with them. This blog is a space for me to explain how, using all 5 senses, I entertain the people I love sharing my life with.

I hope you enjoy reading about it as much as I love doing it, and I hope that I can inspire you to understand the true Sense Of Entertaining!

Lara