To be surrounded by misty mountain ridges and opulent towering gums. Lyrebird calls, fields of green grass and dairy cows. Wombat burrows and beaches of white, white sand. That's what it's like to be home.
It's been two years since leaving for the States, and two years since stepping foot on the beautiful south coast of New South Wales. And it is magic, this Australia. This home. Back in the ute, accents flowing fierce, those red and yellow beach flags and marsupials - everywhere. Fires that smell of eucalypt. Macadamia nuts and budding wattle seeds. Shortened lingo - spare the names of local towns full of double letters and native tongue. Cambewarra. Tapitallee. That's where we've nestled in.
It's been a tricky time. Adjustment. Change. All a challenge, all predictable. A world of leaving behind and accepting the mundane. The mundane turned novel. It's been a search for a revived comfort space and stomping ground. An international move will do that to you, I suppose. And we miss it all. What we’ve seen. What we’ve had. What we left behind. But this country and all that we missed on the other end, has greeted us and treated us well. It feels good to be back on home turf. We are lucky to have this, this Australia. And so happy to be home.
Not long had I landed when I took the short trip over the mountain to see artist, stylist and my dear, dear friend, Lisa Madigan, and her home - The Cottage, Kangaroo Valley. It had been too long. Some context here: Lisa’s cottage is like a dream - all white and otherworldly and delicious like. A dream I’d very much like to live in. The cottage has had a beautiful history. It was built in the 1880’s, housed the local newspaper press and for the past 8 years has been home to Lisa, Rob and her two Dalmatian pups. Lisa and Rob lovingly transformed the cottage into the most charming curated space. Stunningly styled and true a reflection of all things Lisa - Luxurious. Rustic. Uplifting. Inspired.
Now, as time shifts and people move on, the cottage is about to embark on an equally beautiful future. Lisa and Rob have decided to share their little piece of the valley with others, turning their cottage into boutique accommodation and a space for special, intimate events (more about the cottage and booking enquiries here). Today, this celebration, was the launch of their exciting news.
It was the perfect day to pop over, as the cottage was dressed and flowing with celebration. There were new friends to meet and old friends to catch up with – a somewhat surreal but pleasant feeling to be in the company of Australians again. We dined on a nectarous lunch, lovingly prepared by Lisa. There were local oysters and cheese platters to start us off (Lisa nails this, every time) and for the main course at the long harvest table, we shared slow braised local lamb shoulder in marsala, roasted root veggies with red onion and goats fetta and a lemony green tossed salad. A feast embellished with Indian summer, shared cottage stories, change, and all the excitement that this brings. It was a simply lovely afternoon. We finished off in the garden, with a whipped sweet treat - chocolate mousse with toasted hazelnut praline + mint. And did I mention there was champagne? Lots of champagne.
Aaaand, the champagne has continued flowing here in our mountain ridge, wombat burrowed gum tree lined home! We were greeted with the most wonderful news over the weekend - that lean + meadow has been nominated for this year’s Saveur Blog Awards in the best designed blog category! I screamed when I first read it. Then proceeded to cry. Happy tears. Truly happy - couldn’t believe it but felt immense gratitude - tears. Words aren’t enough. I am humbled and grateful and so thankful for this. Being nominated is beyond all expectation. The biggest heartfelt thankyou to those of you nominated me and who put in a good word. Voting is now open until April 30th and if you like, you can vote for me here. And if not, then at least vote for one of the other brilliant people nominated. SO much talent here. So honoured to be in the same category as them all.
Now that it’s Easter weekend, we have the perfect excuse to keep celebrating and to indulge in a little too many hot cross buns (I’m onto baking my third batch) and always, lots of chocolate… To help with the indulgence and celebration, here is Lisa’s chocolate mousse recipe from the Cottage launch. An Easter treat from us to you.
May you have a lovely long weekend. Happy Easter.
Lisa’s Chocolate Mousse with Toasted Hazelnut + Mint Praline
For the Mousse
400g dark chocolate, chopped
6 free range eggs, separated
2tbs caster sugar
Pouring cream (use only a small amount of pouring cream if you like the chocolate to remain rich, more if you prefer overall creaminess)
For the Praline
150 g hazelnuts
2 cups caster sugar
Fresh mint, chopped
slices of fresh, seasonal fruit e.g fresh figs for garnishing
Melt the butter & chocolate in a saucepan over a low heat until smooth.
Separate the eggs. Stir egg yolks through chocolate & butter mixture & set aside.
Whisk egg whites until soft peaks form.
Slowly add the sugar (less if sweet isn't your thing) & beat on high until silky stiff peaks form.
Gently fold through chocolate mixture & silky egg whites, then add the pouring cream to taste.
Find some gorgeous vessels to serve your mousse in, pour & refrigerate to set.
Pre-heat the oven to 180°C/ 350°F and line a baking tray with baking paper.
Toast your hazelnuts or chosen nuts in a pan or in the oven for 6-8 minutes. They should become lovely and fragrant.
Once toasted, pound them up in a mortar & pestle to desired size (I like to keep them quite rough & varied in shape & size).
Place caster sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Give the pan a quick swirl to allow sugar to dissolve, but do not stir (this will make the sugar crystalise).
Allow the sugar mixture to cook until it becomes a rich and delicious caramel colour. Be careful to not let it burn.
Remove from the heat and take care as it becomes incredibly hot.
Pour out thinly over the baking paper & sprinkle quickly with the nuts & chopped mint.
Once the mousse and praline has set, break the praline up into shards and add them to each mousse vessel. I always find it nice to break up the chocolatey richness with a little fruit, so this time I've used slices of fresh figs as they're in season.