Hot Cauliflower soup to warm the Winter chills.

Who doesn’t love a nice healthy soup on those Winter evenings? I love cauliflower. You just can’t go past a good old fashioned cauliflower bake with cheesy white sauce, or some roasted cauliflower and garlic. Many people are lowering their carbohydrate intake and cauliflower is also a great alternative to rice, especially if you have a thermomix. I cook fried cauliflower rice in the wok or serve it steamed with curry. My sister Andre and I are huge fans of the Cauliflower puree that is served at Movida Aqui in Melbourne alongside the Beef Cheeks in Pedro Ximenez.

I don’t often use a recipe for soup, but a few of my friends asked for the recipe when I shared this photo the other night so I thought I would revisit my kitchen and type up a recipe. Its easy to make and very tasty, especially served with a lovely sourdough (less carbs than white bread).

You can adapt the recipe by adding other vegetables or today I am making a Moroccan style cauliflower soup using Herbies Baharat added when sauteing. Its brassica season so make the most of some local produce.


  • 1 medium brown onion
  • A few cloves of fresh garlic
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1/2 a leek or a few sticks of celery
  • 1 cauliflower
  • butter or oil to saute
  • Approx 1.25 litres stock – vegetarian or chicken (home made is best)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Optional – a few potatoes/and or pumpkin
  • Comboyne Culture Bluembert to serve (optional)
  • Flat leaf parsley to serve


  • Chop onion, carrot and leek/celery to rough dice
  • Finely chop garlic
  • Roughly chop cauliflower
  • Chop potatoes and/or pumpkin into smallish dice
  • In a large pot add garlic and onion with butter or oil and saute gently on low heat
  • Add carrot, leek/celery and continue to saute until all is soft
  • Add cauliflower, potatoes/pumpkin with stock and salt &pepper – cover the vegetables
  • Cook on low heat until vegetables are soft
  • Blend with stick blender in pot or in food processor
  • Serve with chopped parsley and a few slices of cheese

Easy! Now sit in front of the fire and enjoy.

You can purchase Herbies Spices and Comboyne Culture cheeses at Bent on Food


Writing about nothing much

When the alarm went off at 5.15am this morning and I heard rain on the roof, I didn’t want to get up, but as I do every Thursday, I hopped out of bed, washed my face, got dressed and went to my pump class. I cant say I enjoyed it as much as boxing yesterday, but I felt a sense of achievement in having made the effort. Afterwards I had a quick coffee with my gym buddy and went to work. About an hour into being there, I remembered that this was my day off, the only one I have rostered off for the next two weeks while my trusty front of house supervisor is having a well deserved break. So I went home.

Then came the quandary; what do I do today? This is how every day off goes for me. My busy mind fights with my need to relax, and relaxing never wins. That is of course if we define relaxing as doing very little. I like to achieve something every day, and that doesn’t just mean making the bed, which is done every day in our house.

So what does relaxing mean for me? Painting some furniture, baking, writing and reading are all activities that I love and that I do not do enough of, except maybe baking as it is often a requirement of my job. I get to paint albeit not as often as I would like, but its been a very long time since I have written this blog, and even longer since I have read a novel.

So here I am, writing about nothing really, but at least I am writing, still thinking about dusting, but focusing on my computer. I know that today the rosters still need publishing and the dairy order needs to be posted, but for now, I will write.

How about boundaries? Do you turn your phone off or not take calls on your day off? If you have staff do you encourage them to text you or call you and let you know of their progress or do you have some boundaries around this? Do you over commit at the expense of time for you? There is just so much noise in this age of technology, I write as my messenger dings another time. We are so contactable that there is almost never a break. When I walked Base Camp in 1999 there was no contact with the rest of the world for 21 days, when I was walking on the Camino five years ago, we had mobile range for much of the walk.

Do others find it hard to wind down? How do you achieve a balance? Do you block out time for the things you enjoy? Writing is a spontaneous activity for me, probably because I am not a real writer with deadlines, so its not something I can just pop in the diary.

I would love to hear your views on my post about nothing, with some tips on how to relax that don’t involve partaking in a glass of wine. It is Dry July and I have made a commitment.

By the way, the feature picture is of our dog Ben, he loves to relax. Be like Ben!


Melbourne I love you

Sometimes it all gets a bit much; work takes over my life, I am craving a good Mamasita corn cob, and I need a week with my sister.

This is when I take my annual trip to Melbourne. Since my first visit to Melbourne 32 years ago, I was hooked. I lived in and loved Sydney for 18 years, I love the harbour, my friends and many aspects of Sydney, but there is just something special about Melbourne.

Our annual trip came late this year, we were just so busy, my sister has a new job and my work seems to be never ending, especially playing catch up after my trip to the UK in January. We were so excited to be going that my super organised sister had her bags packed 2 weeks before we flew out.

Brunswick Street

We decided to revisit our accommodation at the Mantra on Little Bourke Street, this was our Melbourne home for a few years running until we tried the Citadene last year. We prefer the Mantra because the rooms are big, it is in a great position and it is next to Movida Aqui, one of our favourite restaurants. There is no rave factor about this hotel, it just feels like home. The problem is, the very reason we moved away was still a huge issue for me. It may seem like a first world problem, but each time I stay there, I can hardly walk for a week due to the combination of hard mattress and soft pillow. We even asked for harder pillows, to be told they were not available because they are not at the level of providing a choice of pillows? But we were staying 6 nights.

Hosier Lane

Our first meal out was at Movida Aqui, where we always enjoy fantastic service and choose to be seated at the bar to be amongst it. Being a Friday night, the place was pumping but meals were delivered quickly and we were never without a glass of wine. We were happy travellers that’s for sure. Don’t you just love that first night of a holiday, full of excitement and planning all the experiences you want to take in, quietly realising that there are only 24 hours in one day?
We always order Carrillera De Buey – Slowly Braised Beef Cheek in Pedro Ximenez on Cauliflower Puree. It is just divine with the cauliflower so smooth and tasty and the beef cheeks that melt in your mouth.  I always try to emulate it in the kitchen when I return home. The beef cheek is one of those cuts that has found popularity as it is wonderful when cooked slowly. I am not going to go through everything we ate but it was great start to our trip. We finished the evening with a very traditional Churros Con Chocolate – Spanish doughnuts with rich drinking chocolate, reminding me of Spain. I love how food takes you away, its like a journey through your plate.

Van Gogh

We have a favourite rooftop bar in Melbourne, its on Bourke Street and it’s called Madame Brussels. You walk into this dreary looking building, catch a rickety lift and arrive in this magic place, a rather fancy terrace that is all pink and fluffy complete with garden chaises, sun lounges and beautiful smiling staff wearing little vintage tennis outfits. The bar’s catchy name pays tribute to the Madame herself – a 19th century city brothel owner and entrepreneur famed for her sensational attitude and unconventional lifestyle. Disco music plays on the stereo and the sparking wine comes in vintage coupe glasses.  But wait till you see their jugs! When we get hungry we like to partake in a snack of “Mother of pearls gay sausage rolls with dead ‘orse”. It is a feast for the eyes and no trip to Melbourne is complete without a trip to Madame’s!

Brunswick Street

Another thing I love about Melbourne are the exhibitions, last year we were fortunate to be in Melbourne for the fabulous Versace exhibition and this year we went to see Van Gogh and the Seasons. We made the mistake of going on a Sunday, a bit silly when we had all those weekdays in Melbourne. We stood in line for quite some time but it was well worth it. I knew a bit about the artist, I knew he cut his own ear off, and that he was artistically brilliant, sometimes dark and sometimes light, but it was really interesting to listen to all of his letters to his brother and to get to know this brilliant artist and the tumultuous life he led. The seasons had profound meaning for Vincent Van Gogh representing the circle of life. He was a brilliant artist, it was somewhat sad that he had such a short life and died so tragically.

Stagger Lees

We enjoy heading down Brunswick Street for a bit of retro shopping and a meal at Stagger Lees. We love this place with it’s fabulous coffee and interesting menu that rarely disappoints. The head chefs name is actually Chris Hamburger! Surely he has changed his name to this? My very favourite is Smashing pumpkins – roasted butternut pumpkin, poached egg, crispy kale, romesco, smoked almonds and pomegranate, I love to add trout. It is so tasty. Every place in Melbourne seems to tell a story, like the bar across the road called Naked for Satan because apparently the original owner would brew naked, get a bit drunk and run around with no clothes on. Stagger Lees was named after a pimp from St. Louis. He infamously shot a cell mate in the 1900s for stealing his red stetson hat and since then over 400 musicians and artists have retold the story of Stagger Lee; the ultimate bad-ass.

You cant go past Mamasitas on Collins Street for the most amazing Mexican food, a favourite being paprika corn on the cob. They do the best popcorn icecream and it has a fabulous vibe. You may have to line up for an hour to get in, we were so lucky this time and managed to snag a table straight away, but the line is often long.

Hardware Societie

We always go to another one of our favourite little cafes, Hardware Societie and this time we met with my lovely previous staff members Bella and Maitlan. This place does funky food and fabulous coffee, with a pretty little fitout, complete with butterfly wallpaper.  I tried the fabulous Duck rillette eggs benedict which was divine, and according to Bella, the French toast was pretty good too. You line up here too as you do with all the popular Melbourne restaurants, once you get in, the meals arrive quickly.

Hosier Lane

Melbourne is particularly famous for its murals, there is one up just about every lane, but International visitors flock to Hosier Lane to be photographed in front of one of the many murals that are part of a youth project. I find them fascinating and they add so much to an already cultural city.

One day, we took a trip down to Gisborne to see one of my fellow Chalk Paint™ by Annie Sloan stockists at her beautiful shop Gisborne French Provincials.  Joolz and I became great friends during our training trip to Oxford, it was great to catch up with her, and only an hour or so by train from the city. Day tripping is easy in Melbourne and so cheap. 

We decided to leave Chin Chin until our last meal, as it is really special. The Executive Chef, Benjamin Cooper is from Taree. The food is brilliant. we waited 2 hours for a table which is normal for this popular place, but it was well worth it. Chin Chin is modelled on the dining halls of South East Asia. Caramelised sticky pork with sour herb salad & chilli vinegar, Crispy skinned duck with bok choy, lup cheong, shitake stir fry & ginger soy and Corn and coriander fritters with iceberg lettuce & chilli jam are just a few of our favourite dishes. This time we went with the “Feed me” menus, so glorious food just kept coming out to our table. This place is a work of art, seating around 200 customers, with every staff member on the ball. I especially love listening to the banter from the kitchen, with Chef Benjamin on the pass. It is music to my ears.

The loveliest part of my trip is being able to spend this valuable time with my beautiful sister Andre. We really enjoy our trip, we love the dining experiences, the cultural experience and a spot of shopping. I look forward to next years trip, time to start saving!


My visit with Annie Sloan – A story written for Manning Community News with intro by Di Morrissey

Wingham businesswoman, Donna Carrier, runs a cafe and small art studio using Chalk Paint created by Annie Sloan to transform furniture.  Here Donna shares her trip to England to study with Annie Sloan in Oxford.

Chalk Paint™ is a decorative paint developed by Annie Sloan 25 years ago. It very rarely requires any preparation, such as sanding or priming, and can be used indoors or outside, on just about any surface. It can revitalise old furniture, walls, ceilings and floors with ease. It’s easy, fun and makes amazing results accessible to everyone.
Annie trained as a fine artist and turned to decorative work after university in the mid 1970s, while being commissioned to paint murals in houses. By 1987, Annie had written the phenomenally successful book The Complete Book of Decorative Paint Techniques, which is considered to be the industry bible on the subject. Unable to find the paints that she wished to work with, Annie used her knowledge of colour, paint, pigments and art history to develop Chalk Paint(r) in 1990. In 2000, Annie set up a shop in Oxford to showcase Chalk Paint(r), run courses, and offer interior design services.
Born in Australia to a Scottish father and a Fijian mother, Annie moved to England to a farming life in Kent when she was ten years old. With spells in Southern Africa and connections to France, Cuba and the US, Annie has lived in Oxford for the last twenty five years.
Here Donna recounts her trip to Annie Sloan in Oxford.



Bent on Food is 12

This week Bent on Food turns 12. When I look back I find it difficult to believe that the years have flown by so fast. On 18th December 2004 we opened the doors as a regional food store, selling coffee and cake. I had a water skiing accident the day before opening and spent the first 6 weeks of trading in a brace, often wondering why I left my desk job. But hospitality was in my blood as I had spent most of my working life around food and wine, so I knew deep down that this was what I wanted to do.

We started in a small premises on Bent Street, hence the name, and we were popular from the beginning,  helped along by a very early article in the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide (my bible) written by John Saxby, who rated our smoked ham baguette very highly.

I was aware that there were already a number of cafes in the town, including Convivia which was a favourite amongst the locals, so I set about bringing a new market to town. Previous marketing and public relations experience gave me the skills I needed to attract tourists to the region, which I believed would grow the business community and lift the profile of our area.   I sent media releases and pretty soon we were featured alongside the cookery school in Country Style Magazine. I entered Tourism awards and won the Regional and State awards in 2006, after just over one year of trading. In 2007 we moved down to the main street and in 2011 we purchased the cookery school. I totally enjoy the children’s cookery classes and have loved working with visiting chefs including Stefano Manfredi, Kurma Dasa and cheesemaking wizard Carole Willman. In 2009 we were fortunate to win the Qantas Australian Tourism Award for the category of Restaurant and Catering Excellence. With the help of Eric and Monica Robinson at The Other Chef we created our produce line that grew into at least 12 products.  My dear Graphic Designer friend Peter Metro developed all of our logos and to this day he has never asked for a cent.

I worked with my staff on building a business that the locals would be proud of and that could contribute back to the community, not just through employment, but through donations and sponsorship of events. Bent on Food has supported local and visiting musicians and many customers have enjoyed a great music night at the cafe. Early on I  joined my local chamber and soon became president. I have always believed that you must give back to the community where you derive your income from. This is the way I do business, and although it does not necessarily deliver direct results, it makes me sleep at night.

To date, Bent on Food has won 31 Gold awards, 7 silver and 5 bronze in regional, State and National awards programmes. This has lead to a huge amount of publicity for us and for the region. Even though we are very proud of our awards, it is  not about a trophy sitting in a cabinet gathering dust; these accolades give staff a real sense of pride and they force me to plan ahead and set true objectives. We are proud to be the most awarded restaurant in the history of the region and we know that our customers are also proud. We have been featured on Clayton Donovan’s Wild Kitchen, Sydney Weekender, Kai Time on the Road, Kochies Business Builders, Basic Banana’s and for a few years I was on a radio program with Robbie Buck on ABC702 which lead to a live broadcast of the radio show from Wingham during the floods. Bent on Food has been featured in the Good Food Guide and Lonely Planet, all of this contributing to the profile of the region.

Many of our favourite customers have moved away, sadly some have passed away. Many have married and we have been fortunate to cater for some beautiful weddings, and later meet their babies.  Some have moved on to other cafes, unfortunately never to visit again. I still have fond memories of the chats over the counter as I made their coffees for many years, or chatted with their children, and I often hope that they will pop by some time to say hi.

We have supported local producers from the beginning, with a true dedication to locally grown, seasonal food. The Restaurant and Catering awards are judged by restaurant professionals and we are proud that this year we won the major award of Best Regional Cafe NSW at these awards. This means that the food and the service was rated very highly, so I thank my producers and my staff for the wonderful job they do at preparing and serving quality produce.

Over the years I have been lucky to employ lots of lovely staff, many who have moved on to wonderful careers, and for this I am very proud. My staff and I sincerely thank our loyal customers for standing by us, for letting us know how we can improve, for sharing your memories with us and for allowing us to become an integral part of your day for the past 12 years.

Cheers and a Merry Christmas to all my wonderful customers and suppliers, musicians and staff, family and friends.
Donna x