Thursday, November 29, 2012

Nut Roasters

When I was pregnant with our second child, my partner and I looked around as our 16 month old wrought havoc on the midfloor, two bedroom flat we had purchased scarcely more than16 months before and realised our days of living there were numbered. That Marrickville flat was our first foray into home ownership (ie, major debt), precipitated by my first pregnancy and a desire to stay geographically accessible to our circle of friends. We crunched the numbers and realised that we could (just) afford to buy a modestly-priced house if we (sharp intake of breath) doubled our mortgage and looked further afield. A few months and several house viewings later, we found ourselves buying a 3-4 bedroom, free-standing home on a tidy block on a quiet, cul-de-sac street in an unfamiliar suburb about a 10 minute drive from where we used to live: Belmore.

Not long after we moved in, one of our lovely new neighbours (an elderly Greek lady) told us about a shop a short walk away where she buys her olives and cheese. Keen to explore, I went to investigate. That it was love at first sight seems inadequate to the experience; it was more of a spiritual awakening. Nut Roasters in Roselands was the first food-related discovery that made me feel excited about our new neighbourhood. This family-owned business has been hand-roasting nuts in copper barrels for over thirty years. Apart from the wide range of delicious nuts, Nut Roasters sells a vast array of foods including olives, dried fruits, cheeses, legumes, grains, seeds, spices and Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and other specialty foods.

A mere glance at my kitchen reveals my reliance on Nut Roasters as purveyor of my family's dietary staples. In my pantry are numerous bags of their lentils (red, brown and French), beans (glossy, deep red kidney; shiny, purple-black turtle; pretty, speckled borlotti; pristine white and plump, blonde chickpeas), dried fruit (raisins, apricots, apples and currants), cous cous and pearl barley. There is a large flagon of extra virgin olive oil that has served us well for months, as well as tins of Italian tomatoes, Spanish artichokes and Lebanese dips, a bottle of pomegranate molasses and generous bags of various fresh spices. My refrigerator boasts a Nut Roasters bounty of nuts (pine nuts - they have several varieties, hazelnuts, peanuts, almonds and walnuts), seeds (chia, sesame, pepitas, sunflower and nigella), quinoa (white and tri-colour), haloumi, feta and free-range eggs. I also have jars of tahini, mustard, relishes (including the novel and delicious Bomb Serres and a fiery brand of harissa, both pictured), sundried tomato and the plumpest, juiciest Kalmatta olives I have ever encountered. My family had a long-standing obsession with Susu's Bircher Muesli (pictured; they also make natural and toasted varieties); now I make my own blend using their dried apricots, golden raisins, dried apples, pepitas and sunflower kernels. Other less frequent purchases I make at Nut Roasters include Belgian chocolate, fruit and nut squares and various snack foods to help cater for parties and festive occasions.

Clearly, I could go on. Shopping at Nut Roasters remains one of my favourite domestic activities. I highly recommend you go there and, like the locals, get right into it!

Nut Roasters is open 8am to 5:30pm Monday to Friday, 8am to 4:30pm on Saturdays and 8am to 1pm on Sundays.

79-81 Chapel Street  Roselands NSW 2196,  (02) 9759 1206.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


Bloodwood on Urbanspoon For my birthday this year I received a great gift from good friends of mine - vouchers to dine at Bloodwood, in Newtown. Things being as they are when you have young kids and limited access to babysitting it took until my partner's birthday (3 months later) before we got there. We had been pre-warned about lengthy waits due to Bloodwood's popularity and policy of not taking reservations for parties of less than 8. It being Wednesday, we were reasonably confident this would not be an issue. As it turned out, shortly after arriving we were seated at a table for two in close quarters with our like-numbered co-diners. The few vacant tables there were filled within the next hour. 

Bloodwood is industrial, yet intimate, with interesting recycled glass, wood and metal suspended from the ceiling and comfortable cushions and soft lighting closer to the floor. With plates designed for sharing, a substantial portion of the menu is vegetarian. We began with rum cocktails (their list is exciting and extensive) and wonderfully tangy luxe light rye sour dough bread ($3). Following the insistence of friends who had dined there previously (and a work colleague who happened to be there that night), we ordered the polenta chips with gorgonzola sauce ($9). They were everything a good chip should be - chunky, salty, crispy on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside. As a fan of fromage but not so much the blue variety, I was initially hesitant about dipping into the gorgonzola sauce. I was quickly converted, enjoying its creamy piquancy against the chips.

Next, my partner tucked into some swordfish carpaccio ($18) while I enjoyed the lion's share of the socca - chickpea pancake, spiced pumpkin, quinoa, persian fetta, fresh herbs ($18). Its unassuming presentation as a nicely constructed pumpkin pizza belied its complexity. It was assertive in musky, spiced flavour and interesting in texture, thanks to the besan in the crust and the feathery, fresh dill. Our last savoury dish was the baked mushrooms served in paper with red wine, garlic, cream and farro ($18), a rich combination of exotic mushrooms, creamy, garlic wine sauce and a sprinkle of chewy grains. They were simply outstanding, but we sorely needed something to soak up the glorious sauce (the sour dough would have done nicely, but I made do with the spoon).

To complete our celebration, we needed dessert. Once again, a recommendation from a work colleague (my parter's this time - is there anyone who hasn't been here and loved something?) dictated ordering the Bloodwood trifle ($14), comprised of poor man's orange, pound cake, port wine jelly, champagne anglaise, yoghurt mascarpone. Our first choice, however, was immediately obvious to both of us - chocolate, caramel peanut torte with banana mousse ($14). Foolishly, we tasted the torte first and then greed got the better of us and we inhaled it in its entirety. It was rich, sweet, bitter and luscious with dark chocolate, savoury, crunchy and salty with peanuts, smoky and fragrant with caramel and banana...the poor trifle didn't stand a chance. It was nice, and probably would have garnered more appreciation had we eaten it before its decadent companion, but as things played out, it was no match.

Overall, we were very happy with our dining experience. Apart from the high standards reached by the food, the service was exemplary - polite, attentive (our water glasses never fell below a quarter full) yet unobtrusive.

Bloodwood is located at 416 king st. newtown 2042 - (+61 2) 9557 7699.  It is open 5pm onwards on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Mondays and from midday onwards onwards on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays (closing at 10pm on Sundays). It is closed Tuesdays.