Just Bent

Once again I have put aside my blogging for far too long. I really enjoy sitting down and putting pen to paper, or fingers to keyboard, but something else always needs doing and the blog goes down to the the bottom of the the very long list. Today is different; my wonderful staff gave me the day off and I decided to enjoy a spot of baking and a spot of cleaning, and before you say anything, I actually enjoy cleaning, sad but true. I love to play music really loud and sing while I clean, but mostly I love the finished product, a clean house.  And finally before a glass of wine and some left over restaurant food, I am going to write my blog.

I thought I would start with a yummy recipe which has been adapted from AWW, this is the moistest gluten free cake that I have ever made and it is incredibly tasty. I made this yesterday at home and added orange blossom water to make it a little more Mediterranean,  changed the sugar to brown,  also adding baking powder to make it a little lighter. You can add ginger or dates, I sometimes add organic ginger syrup. I enjoy cooking at home, even if my kitchen is a little small. Home is where I find peace and serenity, a happy little haven in the bush complete with my pets and the native animals.

Gluten free pistachio and almond cake

125g pistachio kernels
3 cups almond meal
1 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
5 eggs
1 teaspoon orange blossom water
250g butter melted, cooled
3/4 raw sugar
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup water
1 teaspoon baking powder (gluten free)
Oil for brushing pan

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C or 160 degrees fan forced.
Brush cake tin around 250mm x 150mm in size.
Grind pistachios (keep around 30 to place on top of cake)
Using a whisk combine ground pistachios, almond meal, baking powder, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in large bowl.
Beat eggs lightly, melt butter and combine.
Pour into almond mixture and stir to combine.
Pour batter into greased pan.
Place pistachios on top of batter.
Cook for around 35 minutes. 
Meanwhile place raw sugar, honey and water in saucepan and heat until sugar is dissolved. Bring to boil, uncovered for about 2 minutes.
Pierce cake with toothpick and pour hot syrup on to cake.

Just Bent

I have decided to change the name of my blog from Bent on Food to “Just Bent” as I want it to reflect the many things that make up the “bent” brand and concept.  There are some exciting new products and initiatives coming up as we celebrate 10 years in business in 2014 and I want to be able to blog  about both my businesses along with anything else that may make its way to the “bent” stable. I also believe that values and beliefs are very important when creating and delivering a brand and I would like to share some of the values that make up “bent”. I will be blogging about life and the lives of those who cross my path. We will talk food, wine, music, sustainability, travel, home decorating, business, coffee, lifestyle and anything that pops up. I will also share some of my favourite blogs, I hope you can follow my journey.


Cooking with kids is cool

I have found a new love, it is one that I am quite suprised about considering I am the most impatient person I know, but I really do enjoy teaching kids to cook. I love how excited they get when they watch their pizza dough rising in the oven, I love how the kitchen allows them to lick their fingers and get flour all over their clothes. I can even cope with the mess they make because they are enjoying themselves so it just doesn’t matter.

Kids are cool, especially as they haven’t got that attitude yet that comes with teenage years, innocence is bliss and simplicity is king. I always remember when my little brother was around 5 years old, he had toys galore but he preferred to hang out in a washing machine box that my sisters and I painted in bright colours with $1.50 worth of paint. Its the same with cooking, a few eggs, some flour, and an oven makes them happy.

Kids love to cook and it is not just a fun pastime, it is a life skill. I am always thrilled when I bring some produce from my property and the children are excited that I actually grew it. Some of the children have their own chooks and a vegetable garden, others are from the city and love to hear about the farms that their new friends live on. The most amazing thing is that they all love to cook.

We will be teaching a range of classes in the school holidays, and most recently we have begun to run kids parties, where kids can get their friends together for a birthday party and even get to make their very own cake. We also love to run paddock to plate classes where they get to collect their own eggs to make pasta with. The options are endless.

For information about Bent on Kids cooking classes and paddock to plate tours, call Donna on 
0419 490 312 or email donna@bentonfood.com.au

A Taste of Vietnam

A few months ago I was fortunate to fulfill at least one of my many dreams and travel to Vietnam.  Last year when Karenne from Travelworld Taree suggested I take a cooking tour, I was just a bit more than interested. I wanted a trip where I could get amongst it, where it would be all about the food and the culture with some relaxation time thrown in. Mostly I wanted to learn to cook like the Vietnamese do. My goal was to take a bunch of foodies on a trip that would teach them to cook a great Vietnamese meal and showcase the food of the region.What I wasn’t aware of was that some of the group didn’t think they would be cooking at all, instead they had planned to relax while their partners cooked. I was thrilled that after the first class in Ha Noi everybody cooked their way through Vietnam with great gusto, 

Eugenie, Adrian, Kath, Robert, Chris, Janet, Donna, Penny, Bill and Zung

We were extremely fortunate that our guide for the 2 weeks was as passionate about this country as we were excited to be there, Zung stayed with us for the entire trip, taking us to some of his more local restaurants and showing us behind the scenes. Zung will be our guide next year and I look forward to meeting with him again.

Our first experience with Vietnam was flying into Ho Chi Min City with fabulous views of the Mekong Delta, amazing snakelike waterways weaving their way around the tapestry of rice paddies and crops. We flew straight to Ha Noi to get some rest before our cooking lesson and tour of the Hom Cho (markets) the next day.  

Our teacher for the day was Miss Mo and she took us to the local markets where we were introduced to a vast array of seafood, meats and exotic fruit, along with many motorbikes tearing through the bustling market place threatening to knock us over. We survived the first of many of these experiences and I grew to enjoy the craziness. Ha Noi is a bustling city but it has a less hassled feel than other Asian cities I have visited. 

Being in the food industry, I was a little unsure of the meat that sat all day on tables without any refrigeration, collecting dust from the road. I secretly hoped that we were not going to be cooking this meat. I had a giggle to myself as I thought of what Josh, the local health inspector would make if it. 

Our first day of cooking was held at Hoa Sua Vocational Training School where economically disadvantaged youth learn to be chefs and hospitality workers. The kitchen where we spent the day was alongside the commercial kitchen and the students were quite interested in what we were doing there. Our menu was to deep fried Vietnamese spring rolls, sweetcorn soup, rice noodles with grilled pork and for dessert we made mung beans in syrup. It was a most enjoyable day and we were all extremely thrilled with our first day of cooking


A while between blogs

Here we are in November, the weather has warmed up, the race that stops a nation is done and dusted for another year so its time to think about Christmas. At Bent, we have been thinking about it for a while with beautiful gifts in Bent on Life just waiting for you to come and find them. We are working on our gourmet hampers for 2011 and busily printing up gift vouchers for the cookery school, the café and Bent on Life. Christmas party bookings are coming in and we even have a few corporate cooking classes booked. Cooking is a great team building exercise and afterwards you get to sit down together and eat the fruits of your labours with a nice glass of wine.
This month we say farewell to our chef Greg Puglisi who is moving to Far North Queensland for a change of career and we welcome Michael James. Michael is well known in the area as he operated the Bunker restaurant at Tallwoods. We are looking forward to working with Michael and we are excited to have his skills in our team at Bent on Food. A new, exciting menu will be launched soon. Michael begins work with us on Wednesday 9th November.

Mid North Coast Hinterland Experience

Andrew and Therese with guests at Near River

Our first Mid North Coast Gourmet Hinterland Experience in conjunction with the Crave Sydney International Food Festival was held on the 29th and 30th October. The guests travelled to Near River, a sustainable farm growing biodynamic rhubarb, garlic and a vast number of seasonal crops, learnt about composting and biodynamic practices,  and enjoyed banana bread with Hastings Valley yoghurt and Near River rhubarb, lime and ginger compote (available at Bent on Food) in the garden.

Linga Longa

Rhonda and Stephen

We then travelled down to Bago Vineyards where we tasted some wine and spoke to Alistair and Kate from Black Duck Brewery, a few beers were sampled before we headed back to  Linga Longa at Wingham to find out why happy cattle produce better beef.  Here we met the chooks and had more delicious  food with Lauren and Greg. 
Garlic at Near River
Then it was back to check on the suckling pig for dinner. In the evening, 30 people gathered at the cookery school at a long white table to savour 4 courses of local food and Cassegrain wine all from within a 100 mile radius. Greg cooked up a storm, with local oysters, cheeses, produce, beef and pork all on the menu. To see the menu, click here. The following day we enjoyed a 100 mile cooking class conducted by chef Eric Robinson with free range eggs, asparagus and baby spinach all from Near River and locally smoked bacon from Mentges Meats in Taree. Eric showed us how to make the perfect hollandaise and we enjoyed local strawberries and Marrook Farm Quark with The Other Chef Toffee Apple Syrup for a brunchy dessert.

Greg and Lauren with guests at Linga Longa

Mmm this little piggy is looking divine
Check – table is set
Stone Oysters 3 ways with Cassegrain Edition Chardonnay Pinot
Linga Longa Beef Carpaccio with Marrook Farm Brinawa and Wilmaria  EVOO
Lis and Vern Harvey

Grahame and Greg with the suckling pig

Hastings Pannacotta with Near River Rhubarb, Lime and Ginger compote


Eric showing us how to make the perfect hollandaise

Brunch cookery class with  Eric Robinson

Brunch is local strawberries, white mulberries, Marrook Farm
Quark with The Other Chef Toffee Apple Syrup


Eric and class