stir it up

We are on our last jar of jerk seasoning, and I’ve promised a friend a taste of the Caribbean. It has to be home made.

It’s handy when you’ve posted the recipe yourself! I check my blog in the greengrocer’s for the recipe, and pick up a batch of habañero and cassette chillis, just to mix things up.

Lemon thyme is on sale so I choose that over regular thyme.


I’m not cooking with onion much these days so I pick up a bunch of Chinese leek flowers and some celery instead of the usual spring onions or scallions as we call them in Ireland.


This is going to be the quickest batch ever, I tell myself. At home, I pull out the Allspice and nutmeg from the back of the cupboard and pulverise the little black peppers in my pestle and mortar.


I get to chopping and soon I have the blender on the go.

I find some sage in the freezer and throw that in as well. Lemon thyme? Why not. We’re in Australia.

As usual, I use a mix of white vinegar and water to loosen things up when the blender struggles. I poke around with a chopstick in between times, and throw in a few spoonfuls of salt and brown sugar.


The result is pretty pungent stuff, but even now I can smell the aromas mixing. It’s going to be a good batch, I hope.

Lastly, I squeeze a fresh lime into the mixture and stir it in. I like to leave the lime till last, as I find the blender changes the flavour.

That’ll sit in the fridge now for a day or so to settle, then I will pour into sterilised glass jars to keep for longer.

We’re in business!




big boy bbq

31 Hardware Lane, Melbourne 3000

I’m not a fan of Hardware Lane. It’s the city version of the tourist end of Lygon Street: all pushy door staff and so-so food. But we like Golden Monkey, a rum bar at the top of Hardware Lane that hosts the Melbourne Rum Club, and we also love a good rack of ribs.

And so we found ourselves on Hardware Lane on a busy Saturday night waiting for a table at Big Boy BBQ, “Melbourne’s first dedicated ‘low and slow’ smoked meat experience” in their own words. It’s a smallish place, wih seating for maybe 40 inside and another dozen outside. You order at the counter, your food comes out quickly with no fancy presentation, and drinks options are limited to a small fridge by the check-out. But boy is it worth a visit.


Big Boy offer sandwiches, ribs and barbeque meat all slow-cooked on the premises and served in generous portions. Sides are all-American diner fare, from deep-fried onion strings and coleslaw to the best smoked beef chilli in Melbourne – maybe even Australia. The platters are favourite though. The Little Girl and Little Boy serve 1-3 (they say), whilst the Big Girl and Big Boy serve up to six. All I can say is everything looked BIG.

We played it safe with a ribs and wings combo: four decent-sized chicken wings and a half-rack of ribs (lamb or pork) with two sides, all sat on a few slices of white bread to soak up excess juices. The wings weren’t bad: we do really good wings at home so we rarely order them when we’re out. These ones were fairly well cooked and seasoned, with a trickle of Big Boy BBQ sauce to keep them moist. I wouldn’t bother with them again, though – in the end they just took up valuable stomach space.

The onion strings were a tasty alternative to fries with the meal, picked up with fingers and dropped into our mouths like noodles. The smoked beef chilli was just the best chilli I have tasted in years, possibly ever: slow-cooked beef with brisket burnt ends, and plenty of bortlotti and kidney beans thrown in. Next time I’ll be super-sizing this particular side order.


The ribs alone are worth the visit. We chose a half rack of Kansas City style dry rubbed pork, not too wet. There were about a dozen ribs, meat falling off the bone, a little bit spicy but not too hot. Finger-lickin’ good.

Like I said, drinks are limited to a few cans, a few beers and one choice of white wine (750ml bottle) from the fridge, but BYO is welcomed at a dollar a head. Bottomless soft drinks cost $3.40.

Desserts are limited but there’s always pie available.

Big Boy call themselves “slow food, served fast” and it’s true – this is not a place to hang out and make an evening of the dining experience. But if you crave good old American barbecue, this is the place to be. You can always head on over to Golden Monkey afterwards and fill up on Hemingway Daiquiris and Wong Island Iced Teas.

Bring your friends, and your own choice of beer or wine. Call ahead – they will take bookings occasionally. Get down there and feast. You won’t be sorry.

Big Boy BBQ on Urbanspoon

Bodalla Dairy Shed

It was just a flying visit to the Bodalla Dairy Shed, on my way to the airport. We had met owners Robert and Sandra at the Whale Motor Inn on Friday night, and Sandra had been so enthusiastic about their place I had to stop by.

It’s a working dairy and cheese factory as well as being a lovely retro milk bar and cafe. Locals buy a proper glass bottle  of fresh, un-homogenised milk with a $2 deposit on the bottle, which they return and swap for a new bottle as they go.

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561 Barkly St, West Footscray
0432 637 822

Jellybread used to be a tiny little cafe in West Footscray that served really good coffee and a tiny bread-based menu. It had three or four tables inside and two or three outside on the Barkly Street pavement. I never could figure out how the young couple made a living out of this little place.

A few months ago, they extended into the old chemist shop next door, and made the back yard part of the cafe too. The old chemist part still has some of the old shelving which is littered with out-of-date Encyclopaedia Britannicas, vintage mags for the grown-ups and plenty of children’s books for the little ones. Unashamedly child-friendly, this place is run by young parents and it shows.

That’s not to say that the food isn’t good, the coffee isn’t well-brewed and it’s not for a grown-ups-only table. I recently spent a long lunchtime down there, generous helping of avocado, tomatoes and feta on sourdough toast and a nice pot of tea, laptop on the go as I downloaded the contents of my brain into a detailed operational procedure. It was a quiet day and I felt no need to rush, no distraction from little ones. Instead I spread out across a big old kitchen table, listened to some rare funk tunes on the old-school turntable and had a most productive hour or two.

The menu is simple and mostly bread-based: things on bread or between two pieces of bread. Fillings and options are simple. The hot drinks list is also short but the coffee is pretty damn good and they know how to serve a good pot of tea.

My grapevine tells me the backyard space “JellyBread Park” is a favourite amongst coffee-morning mums’ groups and their offspring. That might be a deterrent for me, but as a weekday morning coffee or lunchtime haunt, it’s firmly on my shortlist.

Jellybread on Urbanspoon

easy basic gluten free white bread

Another one of Vicki’s wonderful gluten-free creations.


3 cups gluten free plain flour

1½ teaspoons salt

2 tsp white sugar

1 cup hot water

1½ cups milk

14g yeast (often 2 sachets dried yeast required)

Glaze – spray oil


1. Heat oven to 180 celsius.

2. Grease a large loaf pan and line with baking paper (6cm deep, 13x23cm).

3. Sift flour, salt and sugar into a bowl and mix well together. Make a well in the centre.

4. Mix the hot water and milk together and test with a finger to ensure lukewarm. If not, set aside until lukewarm.

5. When lukewarm, sprinkle over the yeast and mix.

6. Pour into the well in the flour and mix well.

7. Spread the batter in the loaf pan and smooth the top.

8. Cover with a tea towel and sit somewhere warm to rise for 30 to 35 minutes.

9. Glaze and bake for 45 to 60 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

10. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes and then cool on a rack.



  • This can also make bread rolls. Spread batter in a muffin tin or muffin patty cases, rise for 20 minutes and cook for about 20 minutes.
  • Can be flavoured – Cheese and Herb for example – ½ cup finely grated tasty cheese and 1 heaped tblsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley and chives.
  • As it has no preservatives, the bread is best refrigerated or frozen. Recommend slicing first before freezing and warm by toasting or heating in the oven.