Leafy Cafe, Plant Strong Down Under!

We've had a last minute diversion and found ourselves on a trip to Australia and Indonesia! As a wildlife cameraman and filmmaker, David often gets work at the last minute and is dispatched to any point on the planet. As his lucky assistant, I often tag along, sometimes to work in any number of different capacities and sometimes just because I can. This time its a little of both. We have saved up our points for eons which enables me to fly with David to Australia, visit friends and check out the local produce offerings to see what I can concoct in the kitchens of curious friends then travel on to Indonesia for a stay with my sister and a chance to workout in the wellness center of Como Shambhala in Bali. All of this before I start my busy life in my new job as a Food For Life cooking instructor.

The Kitchen at Downderry
First stop, Melbourne Australia in the state of Victoria. Victoria is in the southern part of the continent and is just starting WINTER!! Can you believe it?? Oh well, we love our friends so much that we decided to brave winter again before heading to the tropical north of the continent which is where David's work is and more friends for us to visit. We stayed at Downderry with our beloved friends "Mac" &  Maryann. Australia is far to far away to have such dear friends you rarely see. We miss them and wish they were nearer.  Maryann is a fabulous cook (she calls herself a "country cook" but we know better) who prepares delicious everything but is especially good at preserves, chutneys and sauces made from the surplus of local produce, in season. Even in Winter, there is always something available. We are in town long after the Autumn harvest but there is no shortage of good eats.

Kumquats in the Garden
After a day of rest we hit the road to the Yarra Valley for a stop at Calulu Park winery, owned by their friend and excellent wine maker Joe ... We were treated to great house Pinot Noir & Chardonnay, as well as anything the garden had yet to offer. We left with armloads of silver beet, kale, leeks, raspberries, kumquats and yes, wine :-)

harvesting from Joe's cool weather garden

On another day we took a drive to one of David's fav spots, The "Black Spur"  We stopped at a roadside Hydroponic greenhouse for a look-see and picked up a few early winter veggies. We dined on salads of Roasted root vegetables and Rocket Lettuce, had dinner with Maryann's daughter Anna and her family for a fabulous feast and after a very short stay we were whisked back to the airport to make the trek up to Darwin and the Northern Territory. The NT is much like the last days of the Wild West where lawlessness and fierce independence are the rule(except without the guns). 

Dinner with Anna at her great new home!

Mac & Maryann in the Kitchen which is the heart of this great home!

I managed to teach cancer survivor Maryann something new in the kitchen, which is an amazing accomplishment given the fact that she along with Mac and Mac's son Nick (who is another fabulous chef) owned and operated successful Watson's Restaurant in the Yarra Valley for several years.   We made Kale Crisps, a healthy, low-fat DELICIOUS alternative snack. She loved them! I don't recall Maryann ever being excited by anything I've made for her in the past quite so much! Here is a "sort-of"  recipe but there are many ways to make these yummy crisps.

They taste much better than they look!

Kale Crisps

1 bunch Kale*
Vinegar of your choice
your choice of seasoning, go on, experiment, we did! We used Maldon Salt flakes,curry powder, cayenne pepper, sesame seed, (not necessarily together) and red wine or sherry vinegar.
1T. Olive Oil (optional)

Oven temp as low and it can go, my oven only goes to 300
1.    Wash and dry Kale if required.
2.    Remove the thicker stems from the kale and chop the leaves into sections approx. 2" in size. We saved the stems to roast with veggies or add to soups.
3.    Toss kale in vinegar and spice mixture, add oil if desired. It is definitely better to use your clean hands for the tossing to thoroughly mix. I have also used my leftover "cheesy" cheese-less sauce for coating the Kale which is another recipe all together. Mostly it contains silken tofu and nutritional yeast along with lemon and onion and Garlic powder but I would not make it special just for the Kale, unless you want to!
4.    In a fan driven oven, set the temp as low as you can, my oven only goes down to 300F but lucky for me, I have a food dehydrator so start my crisps out in the 300 degree oven for 8 minutes and finish them in the dehydrator until thoroughly dry. Eat them non-stop until all gone, that's what we did!

 * We used Cavolo Nero but any type would do nicely. For more on Kale click here


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