Easy Breakfast Frittata Recipe

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.” 
~ A.A. Milne

It’s suddenly Winter here at the farm. There’s frost in the river paddock and mist along the river and mornings are not encouraging for leaping out of bed onto bare floorboards.

On cold days a warm breakfast is a wonderful thing, and I love the ease of making a frittata. It’s like a big no-fuss omelette that never got folded or flipped. It’s essentially an egg dish with vegetables, and perhaps some cheese and/or meat. I often whip a frittata to start the day. They are equally good for lunch or dinner, and excellent served cold and cut into wedges as a lunchbox snack.

Once you get the hang of making them I encourage you to be brave and use the foundation egg mixture as a receptacle for all of the left-overs you’ve got in the fridge. Ben’s favourite is left-over roast vegetables and meat with some fresh herbs and whatever else is in the garden. Mine is garlicky mushrooms, capsicum, tomato, feta cheese and herbs. Mmmmm – heavenly!

Ingredients to serve Four (Or Two plus Leftovers!)

  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup of milk – or use soy, cream, almond milk or whatever is your thing
  • salt and pepper
  • knob of butter or a good slurp of olive oil

With One of These Fillings:

  1. 2 cups of fresh sliced vegetables such as tomato, corn, red onion, capsicum (bell pepper), onion and herbs of your choice plus 1/4 cup of your favourite tasty cheese; OR
  2. 2 cups of cold cooked diced potato or other roasted or cooked vegetables, 1/2 to 1 cup of sliced roast meat or other cooked protein such as chicken, sausage or fish, a big handful of fresh herbs or up to a teaspoon of dried herbs
  3. 2 cups of mushrooms sliced and cooked with 1 to 2 cloves of minced garlic and a tablespoon of butter, a cup of sliced tomato and capsicum, handful of grated cheese, handful of fresh herbs
  4. 1 cup of sauteed bacon pieces, 1 cup cherry tomatoes, 1 zucchini grated, 1/4 cup chopped parsley, 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  5. 2 cups of sliced cooked potato, some smoked or tinned salmon, 1/4 cup of fresh dill, 1/4 cup of feta cheese


  1. Cut up any vegetables, meat or herbs, and grate cheese or cut into small dice.
  2. Place a 10 to 12 inch ovenproof frypan on medium heat and add a knob of butter or a slurp of olive oil making sure that you grease the bottom and sides well.
  3. Crack the eggs into a large bowl and give a gentle whisk to break the yolks. Add the milk or your milk alternative, a pinch of salt and a good grind of pepper and then beat gently to incorporate. Don’t overbeat – just gently combine.
  4. Throw in a bit more butter.  If you are using bacon, add it now and cook off until soft.  Add in your sliced mushrooms and any vegetables that will take a little longer to cook.  Swoosh them round in the butter until they soften a little then spread them out so they cover the base of your pan. Lower the heat on your pan.
  5. Gently re-whisk your eggs and pour into the frypan, and then artfully drop the rest of your vegetables into the egg mixture.  Add in your cheese and any other meats if you are using them. Sprinkle your herbs over the top, add another grind or two of cracked pepper and then give the contents a little stir with a fork.
  6. Leave to cook until the top is set. This takes about ten minutes, depending on the size and depth of your pan. (The cooking time can be hastened by putting a large lid or a piece of aluminium foil over the top of the pan – but don’t raise the heat or you’ll overcook the eggs!).  You can also place the pan under your grill or in the oven to brown off the top at the end of cooking.

Serve on its own or with some good bread or hot buttered toast. Ben loves his with a dash of Worcestershire Sauce and I like mine with a spoonful of homemade tomato relish. A mug of tea or coffee also works well on a cold morning. Enjoy!

Love, Nicole xx

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potato Salad with Lime and Garlic Dressing #Vegan

“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?” 
~ A. A. Milne

It’s a known fact that historically Ben won’t eat two things – Brussels Sprouts and Cottage Pie (which he calls Poo Pie!) after bad experiences at boarding school back in the day.

I have managed to win him over to a good Cottage Pie (which we are only allowed to call Savoury Mince Thing with Mashed Potato on Top) but have not been able to convince him of the deliciousness of Brussels Sprouts, until I invented this Salad.

This warm salad was born from the need for me to whip up something healthy and yummy for lunch but EASY because I am still unwell and lacking stamina so I wanted something nurturing that I could chuck together with minimum fuss. You can eat this as a main meal and proportions given will serve two, or four people as a tasty side.

Baking the Brussels Sprouts gives them a nutty flavour – super yum. Don’t be afraid – they really are delicious. The addition of apple gives a sweet note that contrasts well with the fresh tangy dressing. Enjoy!


  • two cups of cubed sweet potato
  • one green apple cut into cubes
  • two cups of Brussels Sprouts cut in half lengthways
  • a tablespoon of olive oil
  • cumin and smoked paprika to sprinkle on your roasting vegetables (or leave it off if you don’t have these spices at home)
  • 2 to 4 cups of fresh green spinach leaves
  • 1/4 cup of walnut halves
  • 1/2 an avocado cubed
  • Dressing: 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 to 2 cloves of garlic minced (use to your own taste – I love garlic!), 1 teaspoon of honey, 1 teaspoon of coconut aminos or Braggs or soy sauce or tamari sauce or a pinch of salt (use what you have to hand)


  1. Place cubed sweet potato, Brussels Sprouts and cubed apple onto baking tray and toss with one tablespoon of oil. Sprinkle some cumin and smoked paprika over and then roast in a moderate oven ( 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit ) for 30 minutes or until cooked and golden.
  2. Scatter spinach over the bottom of your serving bowl or plate.
  3. Make dressing by putting all ingredients in a jar and shaking well so that they emulsify and blend together. Taste dressing and adjust to your liking by adding
  4. Add baked vegetables to top of spinach. Scatter the avocado and walnuts over and then pour on the dressing.
  5. Serve on its own or as a side dish.

Things to be thankful for…

“Take time daily to reflect on how much you have. It may not be all that you want but remember someone somewhere is dreaming to have what you have.” ~Germany Kent

This morning I’m counting my Blessings. Such a simple thing to do, and it always makes me feel richer. I like to count them off on my fingers – a tangible act, and a way of really anchoring their truth in my life. Blessings to me are always the simple things in life, and often the things we take for granted.  Even on the worst of days we can find something to be grateful for.  Counting blessings gets my attention OFF the things I don’t want, and back on the things I do. It’s an instant mood lifter that keeps things in perspective for me. It never takes much to find something that’s a blessing.

Today I am grateful for:

1. The sound of wind in the trees as I go to sleep, and birdsong as I wake up.

2. The warmth of the fire, and the sweet smell of woodsmoke in the cold morning air. (I’m also grateful for my husband, who chops the wood and loads the wheelbarrow, and stokes the fire for me!)

3. Chai tea, enough for two, sipped from big bowls, with just a dusting of cinnamon.

4. My Meyer Lemon tree, and its abundance of luscious fruit. And the fresh Lemon Curd I can spread on my morning toast!

5. Farmers’ Markets, and the dedication of our local growers to grow or make the best seasonal fresh produce.

6. My Kindle, and being able to snuggle under the doona on a lazy morning, sipping chai and reading books.

7. My dogs, Rufous and Harry, for their love and companionship.

8. Writing. It is my greatest love, and the thing that wakes me up in the middle of the night, brimful of ideas.

9. Red Jasper which grounds and nurtures, and feels wonderful to have tucked up within my aura.

10. Trees. My little farmhouse is cradled by hundred-year-old trees who whisper their secrets, one to another, and add an incredible energy to this place and to me.

How about you? What do you have to be thankful for today? Go on – count them off on your fingers!

Wishing you many Blessings, Nicole  xx

Help Me Honour Mr Mac This ANZAC Day



Image of a British soldier in Changi via www.timbowden.com.au

“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.”
~ Marcus Aurelius


Today is ANZAC Day in Australia – a day where we stop to remember the fallen – the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps of the Great War –  and all of the service men and women who have served, and continue to serve our country with that same ANZAC spirit.

In the 1970s when I was a little girl, my grandparents lived in a humble war service home in Brisbane. My Pa was a veteran from World War Two, and next door to him lived Mr Mac and Norma his wife, both also war veterans. The Macs had never been able to have children, so they doted upon my brother, sister and I.

Mac was a cook on a ship with the British Merchant Navy when Singapore was bombed. He was taken prisoner and ended up in Kanchanaburi – a Japanese-run prisoner of war camp – where he became one of the men who worked on the Thai-Burma railway. He was later transferred back to Changi Prison. When the Changi prisoners were finally released they were repatriated to Australia for treatment and recuperation. Norma was an army cook who met Mac as she nursed him back to health. Love blossomed, and they married at the war’s end.

Sadly, Mr Mac suffered from poor health for the rest of his life, due to his treatment and the many years of suffering and near-starvation during his time in the camps. He never cooked again, and food was always an issue for him. Looking back, I realise that Mac was deeply traumatised, and was never given any help for post-traumatic stress. Everyone else in the street (there were many war service homes) seemed to know and understand. They all looked out for Mac, and accepted his often eccentric ways.

When I stayed with Nana and Pa as a little girl I often heard Mr Mac crying out at night. Sometimes he would run into the yard, and Norma would go after him and bring him back inside. One moonlit night as I peered through the curtains to see Mr Mac hiding behind some banana trees in their back-yard I witnessed Norma physically pick her husband up, as though he was a child. I remember being so very embarrassed and ashamed to have eavesdropped on that very private moment.

Mr Mac was small, hunched and thin with the saddest face, and Norma was a very large lady with a perpetual smile and arms made strong through hard work.

Image of an unnamed Australian Soldier at a WW2 Japanese prisoner-of-war camp. Only five per cent of Australian soldiers survived the prison-of-war camps in Changi, Sandakan and Kuching. www.news.com.au

Image of an unnamed Australian Soldier at a WW2 Japanese prisoner-of-war camp. Only five per cent of Australian soldiers survived the prison-of-war camps in Changi, Sandakan and Kuching. www.news.com.au

I remember clearly the day that Mr Mac told me about his war experience. One school holidays when I was about ten, my siblings and I were sitting on the veranda of the Macs’ home eating afternoon tea while Nana walked up to the shops to get something for dinner and Pa mowed the lawn. Norma was feeding us her excellent banana cake and cordial, and Mr Mac was sitting quietly in the corner smoking rolly cigarettes and sipping cold black tea. I took him over a plate with some cake on it, but he wouldn’t eat it. Instead he showed me in his mouth (hardly any teeth!) and then told me that cake often made his guts crook. When I asked him if it was from the war Norma looked at me fiercely – the only time I ever saw her not smile – and I knew I’d said something wrong.

Mr Mac told me that when he was young he’d loved cake and steak and sweet milky tea. His mother had been a grand cook and had worked in a hotel, running the kitchen. She had taught him to cook at home, and then Mr Mac joined the navy and became a properly trained cook. He’d been famous for his roasts and puddings. But during the war there had never been enough food. While Mr Mac had been a prisoner-of-war all he’d dreamed about and talked about was food, and how he would cook for his friends and himself when they were free again.

Almost all of his friends died during that war, and by the time Mr Mac was freed he was almost dead too. After the war Mac was mostly only ever able to stomach boiled rice, plain fish or chicken, an egg or two, bananas, and black tea. He told me something that made me so sad that day, and I have never forgotten it. Mr Mac had tears running down his face as he told me that he felt guilty being able to eat, when so many of his mates had died hungry. His face was contorted with emotional pain. Mac took my hand in his weathered nicotine-stained hands that were not much bigger than mine, and looked me in the eye.

‘You eat that cake, love,’ he said. ‘And you enjoy it for all of us. Me mates who didn’t make it, and for me who can’t stomach it. I wish I’d paid attention when I had good food in front of me, back before the war. Someone needs to eat it and enjoy it, and it would make me happy if that was you.’

Mrs Mac's delicious banana cake - recipe here

Mrs Mac’s delicious banana cake – recipe here

That was my first lesson in mindful eating. I went and sat back down and drank green cordial and a very grown-up mug (my little brother and sister weren’t allowed any) of sweet milky tea that I had asked for, on behalf of Mac. I ate my banana cake. I truly tasted and savoured everything, tears spilling down my face as my heart broke that Mr Mac couldn’t enjoy Norma’s good cooking and all of the food we had in a country as bountiful as Australia.

I then gave Mr Mac a blow-by-blow description of my afternoon tea, and what a great cook his wife was. Thankfully that made Norma smile again.

Before we went home I went and hugged Mr Mac and told him earnestly that I would keep enjoying and appreciating food for him.

‘That would mean a lot to me,’ he said. I knew he meant it. It felt like a big responsibility had been given to me.


Last night I related that story to my husband, as well as my memory from the night my Pa died. Pa died at home during the 6pm news one evening when I was sixteen. My Dad was away so Mum and I went over to be with Nana and wait for the coroner and the police.

Nana asked me to go next door to tell Mr and Mrs Mac about Pa.

The Macs were having dinner in their kitchen. The night was already surreal for me, and I seemed to notice and soak up every detail. I saw that Norma had set the kitchen table for two, and she was at the table eating a chop with mashed potato and pumpkin and green beans. At the place opposite her was Mr Mac’s dinner going cold. It was the same meal as hers.

Mr Mac was sitting on a tiny stool behind his place at the table, his back to the kitchen wall and his knees up near his chin. In his lap he held a chipped old enamel bowl from which he was eating plain boiled rice and mashed up banana with a spoon.

The kitchen was a sea of calm and love.

‘I’m sorry to interrupt your dinner,” I blurted out, awkward and upset. ‘Pa just died. Nana wanted me to come and tell you. She will talk to you tomorrow.’

I rushed from the room and back to Nana’s, not giving the Macs another thought.

‘That’s the same food he would have eaten in Changi,’ my husband observed last night. ‘Rice, fish, banana, a little chicken, maybe a few vegetables or a precious egg. Black tea.’

I’d grown up thinking it was because Mr Mac had a sore mouth and not very many teeth.

‘He felt safer with his back against the wall,’ my husband continued. ‘No-one could hit from behind when he sat like that. He could see anyone who was coming.’

The gravity of that, and of Mac and Norma’s life after the war really hit me then. This war that followed them all the way home to their tiny suburban kitchen and then never left.

So, today, on ANZAC Day, I’m going to ask you to do me a favour. When you eat your food, when you have a cold or a hot drink, when you are preparing your meal, think of Mac and Norma, and really savour and enjoy whatever it is that you get to eat today. Enjoy it for them, and for all of those affected by war who have also had to go without, or to make do.

Lest we forget.

POWs at Changi camp, Singapore, eating their rations of rice and fruit Picture: IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM

POWs at Changi camp, Singapore, eating their rations of rice and fruit



Tropical Pie Recipe

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“Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.”
~ Ruth Reichl


And so, the moment of truth…

Does the Tropical Pie of my childhood still measure up?

*Nicole laughs gleefully and claps her hands*

Darn tootin’ right it does!

The pie has a crunchy toasted coconut crust, and a creamy light filling, flavoured with lemon, orange and pineapple. Heaven in a bowl, really. It speaks of summer, and relaxed tropical nights.

I think this particular dessert is fancy enough to serve at a dinner party or a fancy gathering, but it will also be a welcome addition to a family barbeque or a casual weekend meal. It’s actually a much more sophisticated recipe than I’d realised, and the flavour nuances are just as I’d remembered them. Maybe better.

There are a few steps, so you’ll need to allocate a little time for each part of the preparation – this one’s not a simple throw-together dessert. But hey, sometimes that little extra effort really does pay off. I’d make this the day before or early in the morning of the evening you’ll need it.

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Crust: 2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut, 60g (2 ounces) melted butter plus extra butter for greasing pie tin

Filling: 1 x 440g (15 ounce) can of pineapple pieces (I used the pineapple in natural juice with no added sugar, but in the seventies it was sugar all the way!), 5 teaspoons gelatine, 1/2 cup castor sugar OR the equivalent of Natvia or your favourite sweetener, pinch of salt, 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 3 eggs, separated, 1 tablespoon rum, 1 tablespoon Cointreau or orange juice, 1 and 1/4 cups (1/2 pint) of cream

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Method for Base:

1. Grease a 9 inch/23 centimetre pie plate, or use baking paper to line a spring-form tin of the same dimensions.

2. Preheat oven to slow – 120C or 250F. If it’s a fan-forced oven knock the temperature back to 110C or 230F

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3. Add the coconut to the melted butter, mixing well. Press firmly into the base and up the sides of the pie dish. If you don’t press firmly, the base will not hold together. I like to use a cup or glass with a firm base and straight sides to really press that crust well.

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Yes, Soul Sanctuary girls, I am still wearing my Friendship Bracelet :D.2015-01-20 14.12.21

4. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Look how lovely that crust is! I am already dreaming up other fillings for it…

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Method for Filling:

1. Empty and save the juice from the can of pineapple, then add enough water to make 1 and 1/2 cups. Place juice in a small saucepan. Add the sugar, lemon juice and lemon zest, and then sprinkle the gelatine over the top. Place over moderate heat, and bring to boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

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2. Beat egg yolks until thick and foamy.

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3. Gently pour a small amount of the hot liquid into the yolks, whisking all the while. Continue whisking and add the hot liquid very slowly until it is all added. Then add in the rum and Cointreau.

4. Chill this mixture until it has the consistency of unbeaten egg white.

5. Beat the egg whites with the pinch of salt until stiff.

6. Beat the cream until thick.

7. Fold the drained pineapple and cream into the egg yolk mixture.

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8. Then gently fold in the beaten egg whites. Spoon into the pie crust and chill until well set.

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Serve on its own or with some cream or a good ice-cream.

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According to my husband, Tropical Pie also proves to be excellent breakfast food. 😉

I hope you enjoy this recipe from my childhood.

It really is as good as I remember!

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Easy Nutella Cheesecake Recipe

nutella cheesecake

“….I can dream away a half-hour on the immortal flavor of those cheese cakes we used to have on a Saturday night.”Mary Antin, ‘The Promised Land’ (1912)


This is probably the easiest cheesecake I have ever made. It only requires a few ingredients, and it is seriously yum. Not too sweet, not overpoweringly Nutella flavoured, and it makes the perfect end to a meal. It’s also the kind of cheesecake you can dress up or down, depending on the occasion.

I first ate this cheesecake at a friend’s place. My friend is a chef and when I asked about the recipe they were embarrassed. “You don’t want that. It’s so easy,” she said. “It’s barely even a recipe!” Turns out, her eleven-year-old son had made it all by himself from a recipe given to him from a friend’s mother after he’d eaten this cheesecake at their house.

All the better. If a child who doesn’t cook can manage this, anyone can!

I made this for Saturday night dinner, when our friends from the city came to stay. It took just a few minutes to whip up, and not much longer to devour.

Why don’t you try it, and you’ll see what I mean…



250 grams sweet plain biscuits (I used a packet of caramel pecan cookies and the caramel and pecans gave a lovely texture and flavour!), 75 grams (5 tablespoons) of butter, 1 x 400 gram jar of Nutella (which is a chocolate hazelnut spread in case you don’t know!), 500 grams of cream cheese, 75 grams (1/2 cup) of icing sugar (confectioners’ or powdered sugar)

I also used a punnet of fresh strawberries and an extra tablespoon of icing sugar for decoration.


Place the biscuits in the bowl of a food processor and whizz until they are crushed. Then add the butter and a tablespoon of Nutella. Whizz again until it begins to form clumps.

making the crust


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*Note – if you don’t have a food processor, place the biscuits into a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin. Tip into a bowl and add the butter and Nutella and mix well with a wooden spoon.

Tip the biscuit mixture into the bottom of a 23cm / 9 inch springform tin, pressing down firmly over the bottom and slightly up the sides of the tin. Place into the fridge to chill.

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Now cut the cream cheese into cubes and add to the bowl of the food processor with the icing sugar. Whizz until it softens and combines. (Can you spy a few biscuit crumbs on my cream cheese? Yes, that’s right. I didn’t bother to wash out the food processor bowl before I used it again. I promise it won’t matter.)

cream cheese and sugar

Spoon the rest of the jar of Nutella into the bowl, and process again until smooth and completely mixed together. (Can’t see those crumbs now, can you?)

nutella mix

Remove pie crust from fridge and carefully spoon the cheesecake mix over the base, smoothing the top. Place back into the refrigerator to set. This will take four to six hours, but it will be even better if you can leave it overnight.

smooth cheesecake into tinIn emergencies, the freezer will help chill things down quickly too. I understand – sometimes you need to make and eat that cheesecake FAST!

Carefully unmold the cheesecake from the springform tin, removing the sides first and then easing the cake from the bottom tray using a knife and a spatula or egg slide. Removing the cheesecake from the springform base stops you cutting through the non-stick coating with a knife when you slice pieces of cake and helps your pan last much longer.

nutella cheesecake 2

To Serve:

It’s perfectly good served plain. But I like to garnish my cheesecake with sweet fresh strawberries and a little dusting of icing sugar. It’s also super yummy with the following variations:

  • whipped cream and a drizzle of salted caramel
  • whipped cream and fresh berries
  • whipped cream and mandarin or orange segments
  • lashings of shaved or grated chocolate
  • tiny chocolate truffles and chocolate sauce

You might also like to make individual cheesecakes, or even put your mixture into teacups or cocktail glasses for something a little fancier.

However, in the end, what matters is the eating. Our visiting campers, Hannah and Mitchell, gave this dish their stamp of approval.


happy faces

Remembering Hot Chocolate

Image from Elite Decorative Arts

Image of Vintage Porcelain Cups from Elite Decorative Arts

“There’s something liberating about not pretending. Dare to embarrass yourself. Risk.”
~ Drew Barrymore


My early childhood was spent in a far-flung suburban estate in Brisbane, a place not noted for its cultural diversity let alone culinary delights.

And yet, one of my strongest food memories comes from this time.

One street over from our house was a block of low-set flats, a very unusual thing in a housing estate full of brick boxes with big back yards that served as family homes. It was an oddity, and few people spoke favourably about it. Because it was in the next street, it was out of bounds. My mother was very strict about safety. No talking to strangers. No wandering out of the cul-de-sac.

As I walked home from school with my small brother and sister one afternoon, we took the long way home, past the flats. My father worked in the city, and my mother had started a new job a few suburbs away. Mum wasn’t home before five at the earliest, and Dad walked home from the bus, arriving just before the six o’clock news.

It was my job to collect my siblings from the waiting area at our primary school, bring them home, lock ourselves into the house, supervise homework, and take the washing off the line. I was ten. Virtually a grown up!

To my surprise, Julie, a shy blonde girl from my class and new at our school that year, was standing inside the door of one of the much-frowned-on flats when we walked past, an old stout woman dressed in black by her side. She waved frantically, and out of politeness I made my brother and sister wait on the sidewalk while I went to the front door to say hello. Julie was staying with her grandmother, who stood behind the little girl, not uttering a word. This was Nonna, she said, indicating her grandmother.

Weirdly, I curtsied. Nerves I guess. “Good afternoon, Nonna,” I said politely.

Did I want to come for afternoon tea? Julie’s request had a pleading quality to it. Yes, I said. Thank you. I would love to. I will come back soon, I assured them. After which I felt ill. I had said yes because I was too shy to be rude and say no, and now I had broken one of Mum’s cardinal rules.

What a dilemma. This was rule-breaking at its most serious. I hurried my siblings home,  rushed them to change out of their uniforms and have an early bath, made afternoon tea for them, brought in the clean clothes, and then, as a bribe, let my brother and sister watch cartoons on television. Something else strictly forbidden. As soon as they were settled, I raced back to Julie’s grandmother’s hoping that none of the neighbours would see me. It was only a distance of about eight houses, but for me it felt like a mile.

As soon as I arrived, I explained that I could only stay until four-thirty. One hour. I said it very clearly, hoping that they would understand the seriousness of needing to be home on time. Julie relayed this to her grandmother in strange-sounding words, and I was fascinated to learn that my school-friend could speak another language! Yes, yes, Julie and the old lady agreed, home at four-thirty.

While I was gone, Julie’s grandmother had set the table in her tiny flat with a fine lace tablecloth. There were tiny cups and saucers, and plates of the most unusual biscuits I had ever seen, as well as slices of some dark spicy cake.

My eyes feasted on the old cuckoo clock, the pretty wooden dolls, the religious icons and the vases of silk flowers. It was the most exotic place I had ever been, and it was just a few doors down from my own home!

“Do you like hot chocolate?” Julie asked me.

“Oh yes,” I assured her. My own Nana made me cocoa all the time.

But what Nonna made for us bore no resemblance to any hot chocolate I had ever tried. In a saucepan on the stove she heated milk, and then broke real chocolate, milk and dark into the pot, stirring carefully. To this she added a tiny pinch of salt, and a pinch of ground cinnamon. The thick mixture was poured into a pretty china pot decorated all over with painted flowers.

“A coffee pot!” I said, trying to sound worldly.

“Caffé? No, no, shock-oh-lat!” Nonna said, shaking her head as if I was the silliest girl in Australia, and perhaps I was.

Nonna seated us at the table, and poured the thick, fragrant chocolate for us. She then spooned a little whipped cream into the top of the tiny cups.

I was disappointed that the cups were so small, until I tasted my hot chocolate. Julie showed me how to use the special little spoon to scoop the thick liquid up and drink it like soup. A cup any bigger would have been way too much. I almost swooned from the taste. It was, perhaps, my first truly sensual experience. So rich, so velvety smooth, not super sweet, but oh! Even now I find myself without adequate words to describe the experience.

We sat and ate our spicy gingerbread cake, and our almond biscuits and jam drops, and slowly, slowly savoured the hot chocolate until it was all gone. I had one eye on the clock the whole time, sick with guilt but unable to tear myself away. Nonna didn’t say much. She just smiled and urged more food on us, and when it was time to go home, she insisted on giving me a little parcel of left-overs to take to my mother.

My sister and brother were still in front of the cartoons. They didn’t even look up when I walked into the room.

I cut up an orange for them, and then tidied things away.

When Mum came home from work she was cranky, and I knew that I would cop the wooden spoon or the end of Dad’s belt from her if I even breathed a word. I gave her the little parcel, and told her just that Julie’s grandmother had made them.

“That’s nice,” Mum said looking vaguely taken aback.

“Can Julie come round to play on Saturday, Mum?” I asked, hopeful that she’d look favourably upon my request.

“No, you know I don’t allow friends home from school.”

And that was that. I never went to Nonna’s flat again, and Julie was so slighted that I never asked her to my own home that she would no longer be my friend.

I forgot all about that afternoon until 2010, when I went to Italy for the first time. In a little hilltop town called Gubbio I stopped to write in my journal and gaze out over the view. There I was served a hot chocolate that took me straight back to my childhood, and Julie’s Nonna.

All those years later I still felt the sting of being unable to reciprocate their kindness, even as I felt the magic of being transported through time by something as simple as a hot beverage.


On that cold morning in Gubbio, the chocolate was thick and rich, not too sweet, with a delicious dollop of whipped cream on top. It was heavenly.

The staff at the little cafe were kind enough to share the recipe with me, and I’ve made it often since then. I’ll post it for you tomorrow!

Much love, and a really big hug, Nicole xx

Saturday Breakfast

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“A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” 
~ Elbert Hubbard

I’ll keep this morning’s blog short because I have to dash! I’m meeting my lovely friend Carly for breakfast at one of our favourite inner-city haunts, a cafe attached to a shop full of organic produce and delectable goodies.

Of course, I still have one eye on my cell phone, waiting for a text. Carls and I are both members of the unreliable club. For various reasons, usually health, one of us might pike at the last moment. This morning I’m good to go – I can drive myself (I’m revelling in the freedom of being able to drive again!), I have no eye patch, no nausea, no migraine or other lyme-y issue. Fingers crossed Carly is travelling well today too.

Last time we met at this cafe, I could barely see, and Carly had to lead me round like a human guide dog up the stairs and between all the tables, and cut up my breakfast. Not today. Today I’m happy to be back at a place of independence and feeling good.

So hopefully we’ll catch up, drink insane amounts of tea, share the latest news, laugh a lot, cry a bit at some of the sad things going on in our lives, and leave the cafe content, buoyed up by each other’s company and ready to face the weekend.

How about you? What plans do you have? Is there any nurture and heart time planned for you?

Sending you all my love and a cup of virtual chai tea, Nicole xx

Bert, who is banned from cafes due to bad behaviour, but who insists on coming along for the ride...

Bert, who is banned from cafes due to bad behaviour, but who insists on coming along for the ride…

It’s Friday – You’ll find me at the Mullum Markets

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“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”

“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”

“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.” 
~ A.A. Milne


It’s Friday. I look forward to Friday all week. Why? I get to have breakfast at the Mullumbimby Farmers Markets.

As I fed out hay to my cows this morning my own thoughts were filled with breakfast…

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There’s this delicious Thai sticky rice roll, filled with spiced sweet potato. Oh it’s fabulous.  All chewy and warm and good. It’s a breakfast favourite.

Or maybe something from the Sicilian Nomad’s kitchen – a fry up of fresh seasonal fare. Or miso and some freshly made sushi hand rolls. Something from the French Patisserie?

And chai, or a good local coffee.

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Today we’ll eat our breakfast and chat to whoever’s sitting at our communal table, we’ll say hello to friends, have a lovely social time, and then we’ll fill our baskets with herbs and vegetables, fresh baked sourdough bread, good local ladyfinger bananas, eggs, and whatever else looks good.

I think I’ll buy myself a bunch of flowers too.

We’ll have all of that done and be home again mid morning, and I’ll have the rest of the day to write and work, to nap, and to dig in the garden when it gets a little cooler in the late afternoon.

Oh, I love Fridays!

Sending all my love to you. Or maybe, I’ll see you at the Mullum Markets too! 🙂


Fairy Bread Recipe – An easy party treat!

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“You take away all the other luxuries in life, and if you can make someone smile and laugh, you have given the most special gift: happiness.”~ Brad Garrett

I try to blog a recipe each week, but being a one-eyed pirate in the remote Outback has certainly proved a challenge on that front. However, I feel quite triumphant! I have managed to make Fairy Bread for a birthday afternoon tea while visiting at a friend’s cattle station, after being faced with limited ingredients at the local store.

Fairy Bread was always one of my childhood favourites. Children love it, and I hasten to add that most adults do too! It combines the soft chewy texture of white bread with creamy butter and a good sprinkling of crunchy sweet hundreds and thousands (coloured nonpareils). I also made some with chocolate hail – a kind of sweet chocolate sprinkle that is equally delicious.

It’s definitely not a health food, but as an occasional treat I highly recommend Fairy Bread – why, even the name is cute!


Sliced soft white bread, soft spreadable butter, hundreds and thousands, chocolate hail or similar if desired. Some cookie or bread cutters if you have them.


If you have cookie cutters, leave the crusts on your bread, and stamp some shapes from the middle of each piece of bread, trying not to get any of the crust.

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If you don’t have cookie cutters simply cut the crusts off each slice of bread, and then cut your bread into squares or triangles.

Tip your hundreds and thousands or any other toppings into shallow wide bowls.

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Butter the bread thickly. Then turn it butter side down and press into a bowl of topping.

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Thank you to my friend, Carly-Jay Metcalfe, for this artful demonstration of technique!

Arrange decoratively on a large plate. Feel free to ask children to assist. Older kids love stamping the bread shapes and even littlies can dip the buttered slices to feel like they are helping. Just make sure SOME of the fairy bread makes it to the plate.

Serve with lemonade or a glass of milk for the kids. Adults might like to pair this with a good cup of tea or a glass of pink champagne!

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