Yasamin's Black Lime Soup

The first time I saw this soup I was so excited because I’d never seen or smelt anything like it before!
It was thick and green and shiny and smelt sour and salty. The most surprising and exotic (for me) ingredient is the black lime. A hard, small, slightly squished dried lime that when added to dishes adds a beautifully soft sour taste to the dish. I was totally blown away by this meal!

Kissing Black Limes

In the telling, I understate my excitement of the first time Yasamin made her Black Lime Soup. Every dinner party since the first time black lime soup came into my life, I try not to show my panic when Yasamin mentions that she’s not making black lime soup. I tactfully stumble over my words, eye twitching with anticipation, coaxing her to make her crazy soup!

Like a wistful fairy, she flicks away my dreams describing the soup as simple, everyday, an easy apparition which any simpleton could make. *wide eyed emoji* I’m a simpleton!

One weekend, in her fabulousness, Yasmin jetsetted (interstate) and I was so desperate for her Black Lime Soup I just pretended to know what it was made of. Lentils. A black lime. Water. Vege stock. Seemed about right. That was all I could remember. So that’s what I made. Watery lentils that tasted sour. There is no word to describe them. They were… eatable.

More recently my cousin visited from Poland. Yasmin’s put on another fabulous dinner. Time to hone in on my negotiation skills and ask her to make her black lime soup. A summary of the interaction: ‘SOUP!! SOUP!! Yasmin are you making your BLACK LIME SOUP!?’. She screws up her face ‘Oh it’s so easy. I could make some if we don’t have enough.’ I look across at what she’s already made. There’s not enough room on the table for all the plates of food. ‘Yeah’ I say ‘We probably don’t have enough’. ‘Ok!’ Yasamin chirps! ‘I’ll make the soup and you can watch me so you learn’.
Blessed be my Yasmin, who teaches me to cook delicious ass black lime soup.

Needless to say none of this happened! I was late to dinner and missed watching Yas make it! I hounded her for the recipe, then and there! We devoured it at the dinner party but being active and fabulous adults writing anything down longer than 140 characters outside of work hours was impossible.

I repeated (out loud) the recipe Black Lime Soup as Yas prepped another dish. Using numeric devices I memorised it. JKS. Using psychotic repetition and intense eye contact I created a scenario that neither of us would soon forget, let alone the recipe!

I wanted to create a cool and fun little vid for you all but, yet again, Yasmin jetsetted (interstate) and my camerawoman, Sharyn, was too fabulous to be at home straight after work to film her roommate cook lentils. Life.

So this is how I remember the recipe:

  • 2 large onions (I had 3 medium onions)
  • 8-10 cloves of garlic
  • 1 large tablespoon of ground turmeric
  • 1 black lime – ground as fine as you can
  • Vegetable stock cubes (or powder) – to your taste!
  • 1 ½ cups of lentils (I used brown lentils but the ‘recipe’ calls for red lentils – brown lentil cook longer apparently and red lentils cook shorter. That’s information. Thanks Sharyn!)
  • Water! This beauty dictates the thickness of your soup! Use enough to cook the lentils then add as much as you like to create the desired thickness
  • Dry udon noodles – its important that they’re dry so they don’t fall apart into a mush when you cook them a little longer
  • Spinach or Kale – I used frozen but you could equally use fresh! Bout 300grams

Crushing a black lime

Slice the onions and press the garlic.

Fry these together with some oil in a soup pot. Its important to cook the onion and garlic till they are almost BLACK! ALMOST! This releases a wonderful flavour and aroma.

Add the turmeric, black lime some stock power. Mix around for a minute.

Add the dry lentils. Mix for a bit.

Add water to cover the lentils then a little more. Mmmmm. Cook for 30min. Taste the soup. Add some more stock powder as you go. Continually taste so its seasoned to your liking. I blitz the lentils a little bit to make it a little smoother but so it still has texture.

Break the udon noodles in half and add them to the lentils. Now is the time to keep an eye on things. These noodles will cook for bout 20-30 min but they can also stick to the bottom of the pot! So keep stirring when they go soft.

Add the spinach soon after you’ve added the noodles. Mix and taste. Add some more stock if necessary.

Finally. Yum. Just... Yum.

I have made this recipe thrice since writing this! Initially for this post (and Ania who wants to recreate it in Poland!).

The second time I decided that I needed more vegetables. However I did not change the proportions of the original soup, added more vegetables and cooked it in the same size pot. Needless say I burnt it so bad that there was a centimetre thick burn of lentils, veges and noodles at the bottom of the pot. I fussed about it. Huffed and stubbornly ate it, defying reality that it tasted like a fire. Aaand… *blush*… I ‘soaked’ the pot long enough for my roomie to get fed up at try to clean it for me - he had to use oven cleaner to clean the pot!!

My original photos were so dark and glum that I decided to remake it this morning. In the original form. I used one chilli in this batch because my first one was too salty and I find that a small amount of chilli acts like an appropriate amount of salt in a dish. Needless to say, victory! Its the bees knees! I’m sure Yas will teach me how to make it ‘properly’ one day - but the key to the flavour is in the almost burnt onions and garlic and obviously, the notorious Black Lime.

Sharyn trying a teeny cup of Black Lime Soup - appreciating the less salty, slightly spicy flavour of the third attempt! (Sharyn has been privy to all 3 soup attempts!)

Love Helena

My First Spring Rolls - Guest Post From Poland

We are beyond ecstatic to give you a post written and photographed by my cousin Ania. You may remember her from such travel posts as A Day Around Apollo Bay. I'll shhh-hy now... Ania's post...

My husband and I were charmed by Australia and the variety of food available, particulary around Melbourne. Coming home to Poland I decided to experiment and make the easiest of Asian dishes. Spring rolls.

In Poland, there is no culture for eating Asian food. Yes, we do have places where we can eat Asian food, but the general impression is that they are cheap, dirty, unhealthy and not fresh. Unfortunately, in many cases this is true. Another problem in Poland is that people don’t have an awareness that Asian food can be incredibly tasty and healthy, as I discovered in Melbourne. Even still, in my opinion, Asian food may be a little too exotic to be popular in Poland. Hopefully this recipe helps change that!

When I caught up with my friends back home for a viewing party of all my photos from Australia, I prepared my first ever spring rolls. I was surprised at how happy they were to eat my culinary experiment!

What you'll need:

  • rice paper
  • Chinese noodles (cooked), about 50 g or more
  • soy sauce
  • 350 g of mushrooms
  • 1/2 of large carrot
  • 3 leaves of lettuce or more
  • salt and pepper

To prepare the filling:
  1. Mushrooms cut into small pieces and stir fry until softened. Add grated carrots. Sauté a few minutes.
  2. Add the Chinese noodles.
  3. Season by adding 3 teaspoons of soy sauce, salt and pepper.
  4. Add the chopped lettuce and mix everything well.

Prepare the rice paper according to the directions on the packaging. 

Put the rice paper on wooden board until they soften. Put 1 large teaspoon of filling on the rice paper. 

Gently wrap the rice paper around the filling and quickly fry the finished rolls in very hot oil.

I hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I did making it!!

Love Ania

5 Things Travelling Has Taught Me

Sometimes the true value of travel only sinks in when I get home. After the anticipation and excitement of travelling ends, I return home and resume life as I know it. But reflecting on those visually and culturally stimulating adventures, I understand what the world has to offer, what has to teach me.

1. The power of nature.

(Bariloche Argentina) 

Nature has the power to lift us up emotionally, spiritually and physically. Whether it's looking out over a lake or standing in awe of a majestic waterfall, our being naturally responds the beauty of nature.

(El Chalten Chile) 

Little things, like walking barefoot in the sand, reduce stress hormones in our brains. It's not even a kooky hippy concept anymore, walking barefoot is also known as 'earthing' and it's scientifically backed to do all sorts of good stuff like reducing inflammation, increasing antioxidants and improving sleep. For more info Mind Body Green has a great article on all the benefits of walking barefoot.

(Camiguin Philippines) 

2. The beauty of simplicity. 

Simple food. Simple days. Reading a good book. Sleeping in. Admiring local fauna.

(Iguazu Brazil) 
Cloud watching.

(Camiguin Philippines

(Uluru Australia) 

3. Who your with is just as important that where you are. 

Even a 12 hour layover can be fun if your with the right person (and good wifi). It doesn't matter where you're going, it's who you have beside you. Nothing tests the fibres of a relationship like travelling with someone.

And nothing tests the fibres of your strength like travelling on your own. It's exhilarating and at times kinda scary but travelling solo is an experience that strengthens your character (it also gives you way better stories to tell at parties). It's wise to listen to well wishers advice telling you to be careful (you'll get a lot of that especially if you're female) but at the same time don't let fear make decisions for you. Nothing ventured nothing gained.

(Boracay Philippines)

4. There are no calories in foreign foods. 

Ok, theres a chance that might not be true. But with travelling you are inherently walking around and exploring so calories don't seem to count the same way they do back home.

I think you need to taste a culture in order to understand it, breathe in its flavours and savour it with all your senses.

(Brussels Belgium) 

5. The journey is just as important than the destination. 

Maybe more so.

I know, I know, it might not seem that way, especially when your stuck on a plane for 15 hours.

Next to a baby.

But hear me out.

While trekking Machu Picchu was amazing, it was crossing this rickety old bridge on a four day trek to get there that I remember most. Probably because it seemed likely that this feat of engineering could not sustain a single human body let alone our whole tour group!

So what does that all mean? Sometimes the doing is often as important as the outcome.

(Machu Picchu Peru)

Travel opens you up to all the beauty that is around you. It can challenge you, lead to surprises, force you to be adaptive, even creative. It requires bravely to step outside your comfort zone and get a taste of what it's like to be an outsider.

So be brave and take some risks because nothing opens you up like experiences.

Now, book a ticket and get exploring.

Love Jess

Simply Sweet Banana Coconut Crunch

I'm going to write this post in as long as it took me to make this desert. No time at all!
It's a beauty of a desert, with just four ingredients! This has quickly become a family favourite! I first made this when we went to Apollo Bay and just tonight for my mum.
*disclaimer: please excuse the darkness of the photos, I had some... technical difficulties

All you need is:
  • a banana (per person)
  • almonds (as many as you desire)
  • coconut cream (as much as you like! I use 3-5 tablespoons per person)
  • maple syrup (go with your gut! Or 3 tablespoons per person)

First, the almonds. I toast raw almonds in the fry pan - so quick!
However, you can be as fancy or as straight forward with this as you want! You could keep the almonds raw, activate them or oven roast them. The power is yours!
I take the almonds off the heat to cool before I chop them up. I chop them super rough but you can chop them however you like!

Secondly, fry up the bananas.
I use a little lubricant sometimes- nuttlex or olive oil. Or you could use nothing and keep the bananas fresh and beautiful, up to you! 

Thirdly, add all the elements together in one bowl.
Put the coconut cream at the bottom of the bowl, add the bananas, sprinkle with toasted almonds and top with maple syrup. 

And your done! Eat this up! It's delicious!

Love Helena 

A Day Around Apollo Bay

The whole day, I regretted not wearing my Vans. I had driven most of the Great Ocean Road in them yesterday and had considered not bringing any other shoes with me on the trip. Just my Vans.
Tom (my cousins husband), Ania (my cousin) and me (in my Vans), driving down the Great Ocean Road
 Ania taking pics
 Beauchamp Waterfalls, carnivorous black snail only found in the Otways

We were meant to be walking the Otway treetop walk today  - a path I could only imagine would be muddy and wet. So I wore my heavily reduced, bright blue runners. I looked ridiculous. Cute top, tights, cozy jumper, snood, tailored coat and bright blue runners.

Given my company (my family) I managed to sufficiently ignore my strange ensemble – I’d seen them wear worse combinations. My dad often matches bright pink socks with his work gear (he’s a tradie of sorts). He was the first to comment.

My remorse deepened when I realised that we were not in fact going to the Otway treetop walk today but to Cape Otway Lightstation and the Twelve Apostles. I could’ve worn my Vans.

I bounced around Cape Otway Lightstation, peppered with questions from my cousin, who is Poland born and raised. She asked about traveling around Australia, our beautiful natural sights and when was the last time I was in Apollo Bay.
Cape Otway Lightstation, view from the top

I went to Apollo Bay recently enough for a fun run but didn’t actually visit the sites. Before that I hadn’t been to Apollo bay in close to 10 years. I remember the last time I was there, in parts; travelling with a close friend and her family, filling the spa with bubble bath which consumed the whole bathroom in bubbles and walking the Otway tree top walk. And I remember that it was cold.

It was cold this time around too. There’s a cafĂ© at most tourist destinations to warm up after long walks through the Otway’s and on the beach.
Apollo Bay beach with Tom and Ania

We drove to the Twelve Apostles and managed to get split up at the first opportunity. Mum and I wandered to the beach, down the Gibson steps. Dad, with my cousin Ania and her husband Tom, searched for an imaginary lookout – they had been fooled by a promising path.

It was late in the afternoon and the ‘real’ attraction was yet to be seen. As we drove to it, we read aloud each sign directing us to the Twelve Apostles, as though they themselves were the attraction.

As my nature, I had prepared for the cold, the bite of the wind. However wishful for a Stutterheim, I took pleasure in feeling the wind pierce against my exposed nose and cheeks. My fingertips intermittently snug in my recently discovered coat pockets. The wind went surprisingly unnoticed to my feet. My socks successfully filled the air holes of my bright blue runners.

The view of the Twelve Apostles was calming amidst the clicking of cameras and the hum of many voices in many languages.
Mum, Tom, Ania and Dad walking to the Twelve Apostles
 The Twelve Apostles

Returning home to Apollo Bay, we wove our way down the Great Ocean Road. Watching the sun setting behind us. What a shame it was that we we’re in the car and not on the beach. The beach! It took little convincing and many voices for my dad to pull back into Gibson steps. It was well worth the stop. All the elements drew together to create a spectacle of light and dark. The sky opened up through the greying clouds. We saw each other in a different light, if only for a moment.

View from Gibson steps

I wandered through the sand, consumed by the moment, taking pictures of my family. A wave caught me out and soaked my feet. My bright blue runners were completely submerged. All I could think about was luckily, this time, I didn’t wear my Vans.

Love Helena