It was still dark when I drove over the cobblestoned road leading into Centennial Parklands. I could see the bright red flicker of reflective panels on the back of the bikes as they whizzed around the corner and through the avenue of old trees that had met in the middle of the road to create a dark tunnel. The cyclists rode in packs as serious cyclists do and took right away over the cars. Pedestrians that were barely visible edged along the side of the roadway. I crept along slowly in my car being sure not to run over them. I pulled into a side street and parked not far along the Avenue, the edges of which were framed by tall palm trees. Setting out on foot in the direction I had come from I turned the corner where it met the main road that circumnavigated the outside rim of the parklands. I was struck by the beauty and tranquility as a veil of white mist rose above the playing fields and swaddled around the trees. As it drifted up from the ground it looked ethereal and packed a punch far above its weightlessness. In the distance beyond the silhouette of dark trees the golden orange pleats of sunlight lit up the horizon and cast a warm hue over the morning sky. Meanwhile on the ground, the flurry of activity continued, the bright red taillights of the cyclists trailing away in the distance alongside the floating white fields that resembled lakes. Horses were at play in the fenced paddocks and ducks and geese glided along the tranquil ponds. Morning magic was at its shiny best and my cup was overflowing. By the time I’d circled the park the mist had burnt off into a beautiful autumn day.
Morning magic in Centennial Parklands
Returning to my car I joined the commute of early morning traffic and headed off along Crown Street, bouncing over the speed humps until I reached my next destination. Easter was fast approaching and I was on a quest to find the best Hot Cross Bun in Sydney. Today's adventure was taking me to a premium home style bakery in Woolloomooloo called Flour and Stone. When their underlying mission statement is ‘to bake the sweetness of life from the hearts of those who believe they are making the world a better place in doing so and then to serve it with generosity and abundance’ you already know that you are probably not going to be served up your average run of the mill hot cross bun. What brought me to the bakery today was the promise of an Italian Style Bun that would mimic the little Panderamerino buns you would find in bakeries all over Florence on the Thursday before Easter. The Flour and Stone version is a brioche style soft bun infused with rosemary and cardamom and studded with dry currants. The bun has a sugary crust glaze with hints of orange zest, rosemary and cinnamon. Mention the words rosemary or cardamom and I’ll be running. The rustic buns were in good company on the counter, however the aroma of the rosemary as the buns were still warm and fresh out of the oven had my senses primed and my tired eyes beaming with anticipation and joy. These were definitely no ordinary hot cross buns.
Florentine brioche style Hot Cross Bun from Flour and Stone, Woolloomooloo
A few days earlier I’d sampled a more traditional style hot cross bun from my local and favourite bakery, Flour Shop located in the quiet backstreets of Turramurra. These divine currant studded sourdough buns were glimmering with a sticky and fruity apricot-marmalade glaze. The cardamom and cinnamon crackled and popped in my mouth. Everything made at Flour Shop is crafted by hand and you can feel the energy and love in every bite. I’m blessed that they are my local, however I’d travel across highways to seek out their scrumptious creations. You really can’t go wrong with these delicious hot cross buns and they will appease the appetite of even the fussiest eaters. Bring on Easter, I can’t wait to indulge my culinary senses for another one or two.
Sourdough hot cross bun from Flour Shop, Turramurra
If you’ve ever tried the Portuguese pastel de nata from Sweet Belem Cake Boutique in Petersham you would know that one thing they always do well is pastries with custard. When I read about the Sweet Belem hot cross buns with their signature custard cross and port soaked raisins, I knew I would have to hop across town to Petersham and try them. This is one hot cross bun you won’t want to share. It’s soft and fluffy, not unlike a brioche bun, the creamy custard patisserie adds flavour and makes for a lovely moist hot cross bun. Be warned, you may not be able to stop at one.
Hot cross buns with custard cross from Sweet Belem Cakes, Petersham
Towards the end of the week we jumped into the car and headed north first along the M1 motorway before diverting onto the New England highway towards Tamworth, the town where my significant other's family lived. The roads rose up above a blanket of fog that covered the valleys on either side. The car glided along as if it were a spaceship rising into the clouds. By the time we reached the village of Willow Tree it was time to stretch our legs and refuel. We pulled in alongside The Plains Pantry, a little country style general store which stocked a range of local products, house made pies, coffee, fresh produce, gourmet groceries, pickles and condiments. Whilst my significant other beamed himself up on a freshly brewed shot of coffee, I couldn’t resist a packet of the Impact Meat traditional grass fed beef jerky which I’d readily consumed before we had even hopped back into the car. It was so good.
We arrived in Tamworth mid morning and headed to the retirement village where my father-in-law lived. He looked remarkably well for a man that was knocking on the door of ninety and still living independently. His wife lived across the road from the village in an aged care home and had recently recovered from a bout of Covid. She also looked remarkably well and had embraced nursing home life with a positive outlook. In the evening we retired to a comfy bed at The Powerhouse Motel, which had become a home away from home for us when we visited the Tamworth folks, and was also a place where we could rely on getting nourishing fresh food. Our breakfast of greens and farm fresh eggs sustained us well until we had arrived back in Sydney later that evening.
It was to be a quiet week ahead, the highlight being a nourishing lunch at Eden Gardens where I caught up with a dear friend who had recently become a Gigi to a dear little granddaughter named Gisele. Whilst Gisele had burst onto the scene early at only twenty seven weeks, it was comforting to hear that after five weeks of care in a neonatal unit at the Royal Women’s Hospital in Brisbane she had now surpassed one kilogram in weight and was progressing well.
On Saint Patrick's Day I planted the sweet pea seeds that I had harvested from the previous year's crop and repotted some of my hydrangea cuttings. I’d figured that with all the incessant rain that we had been getting that they would either flourish or drown. Hopefully the luck of the Irish would prevail and my garden would look colourful come Springtime.
I finished reading Chai Time at Cinnamon Gardens, a story that commands one's full attention to navigate. It was a multifaceted story about many things, from a wonderfully nuanced history lesson about the civil war in Sri Lanka and its effects on the Tamil community of Jaffna, contrasted with the lives of the predominantly Tamil residents living in the Cinnamon Gardens Nursing home in Westgrove, Sydney and the very real experiences of racism and violence that a lot of immigrants face in Australia.
The Happiest Man on Earth is a book that should be read by everyone. It is an inspiring story about survival, the value of kindness and the importance of hope. Eddie Jaku is a beautiful soul, a holocaust survivor who, despite all the horrible atrocities he endured was able to appreciate the precious moments and use those to find the will to go on. I don’t know anyone that wouldn’t be moved by Eddie’s story.
I finished watching the dark and comedic mystery Search Party which kept me gripped until the end with more twists and turns than a cheap garden hose, as a group of self obsessed millennials go in search of enlightenment. I highly recommend this series.
I thoroughly enjoyed The Shape of Water, a stunning movie on Disney Plus about a mute woman who falls in love with an Amphibian Man. Throw a terrific performance by Sally Hawkins into the mix and you have a magical piece of cinema.
Some recipes I saved from the Interweb this week include
Berry Breakfast Oat Bake @sarah_di_lorenzo
Super Health Salmon Dip @sarah_di_lorenzo
Mushroom with Red Quinoa Soup @leesupercharged
Risi e bisi @sbsfood
Baked ricotta @piagavacooks
Chicken with Calvados and creme fraiche traybake @locallovely
Chermoula chicken thighs with pea purée @womensweeklyfood
Smoked Salmon and Goats cheese sausage rolls @caremepastry
Butterfly cakes @kitchen_to_table
Tomato Relish by Mark Le Broy @thermomixaus
Until next time may your days be both serendipitous and enjoyable.