No ‘celebrity chef’ mishmash, this is real advice

“Who’s too lazy to mash potatoes,” I was muttering, when a lovely old biddy – septuagenarian at least, with gnarled knuckles and hair in the little old ladies’ scarf – tapped my shoulder and gently said: “The best mashed potatoes I’ve ever had. I’ve been mashing spuds for 50 years and nothin’ beats this. Can you reach a packet for me, please?”

Well! No marketing money can buy this sort of endorsement. Forget so-called “celebrity chefs”, this is experience talking.

I’m sold …

Unsalted insulted

Who buys UNSALTED butter?

(Besides stupid me, not paying attention.) It makes the taste buds lazy.

That’s like decaf coffee, light beer, fat-free ice cream, vegan Four ‘N Twenty – an insult to the Universe and the natural order of things.

Now, where’s my Saxa salt …

Lunch is a Journey in St Kilda

It’s a new Winter, a new Covid strain, a new pie shape. Seemingly hidden on the wind swept, litter strewn Fitzroy Street – empty but for a homeless, toothless woman who is camped beween the two deserted kebab joints and is haranguing myself and the only other souls brave enough to walk by, being a stream of young-ish women in buttocks-tortioning “active wear” who power past on a portion of their permitted 2-hour daily exercise in Lockdown – is the promise of renewal. Which brings us back to the meat pie. Meat and bacon, to be pedantic, from the enduring “Aussie-French (Chinese/Filipino/Cambodian) Bakery”. The pies have a new shape and a new pastry crust (and new ingredients, I’m sure). It’s good! Out with the old quadrilateral shape – it’d become a bit square anyway – and in with a traditional oblong shape, reminiscent of the meat pies of old. See the (delicious) irony? Old is new. Again.

I like this new pie. This thinner crust facilitates access to the contents; you can easily get to the business end of proceedings. I also rescued two hash browns, which looked forlorn and abandoned, alone in the bakery’s lukewarm bain marie. Now, I take my hash browns seriously. I have breakfasted on hash browns and black pudding in almost every county of Ireland, both Northern and Republic. I’ve enjoyed – sometimes endured – hash browns from Buenos Aires to Bangkok to Brisbane to Beijing. (Disclosure: in Beijing they were the Japanese croquette, called “korokke”, being mashed potato with peas and corn, crumbed and fried. Delicious with soy sauce.) Korokke these are not. These are more your common Macca breakfast variety hash browns. They have been fried in a peculiar blend of oils, perhaps an emulsion amalgem combining both the 20th and 21st Centuries of the bakery’s history. I don’t know, I’m just postulating, because I find the exact source of that oil taste to be elusive and mysterious.

But wouldn’t life be boring, without hash browns, meat pies and little mysteries?

Scottish fish ‘n’ chips – at home

Lunch: steak of Scottish haddock with cheddar & leek melt, in a golden crumb, served with straight cut chips drizzled with Modena balsamic vinegar and a dusting of genuine Saxa seasoning.

(Aldi fish cake with frozen chips, and table salt, cooked in air fryer. If the local Aldi falls to Covid, I’ll give up and go see out my days in a bush cave at Wooragee …)

Crumbed Scottish haddock with cheddar and leek melt, and chips. Done in the air fryer.

Healthy Holiday Hack: try Lake Mac

Healthy Holiday Hack: you have to like the sound of that.

Sydney’s Lake Macquarie is a huge well of wellness. Publicist Georgia Cook guides us with some great travel options …

Wellness tourism is one of the fastest growing segments in travel and Lake Macquarie, a 90-minute drive from Sydney, is a popular for healthy holiday seekers of all types.

Not everyone’s idea of a wellness weekend is the same. Some travellers are soul searching, others are looking for adrenaline-fueled adventures, while many just want to escape to the wilderness. We have rounded up Lake Macquarie’s top spots for Yearning Yogis, Nature Ninjas and Wilderness Wanderers – the ultimate Healthy Holiday Hack.

Yearning Yogis

Do: Visit Redhead Wellness Sanctuary

Eat: The Yoga Place Cafe

Stay: In2thewild Tiny Houses

Yearning Yogis are a healthy bunch. Not only are they in tune with their inner self, they are known to be bit of a ‘health nut’, enjoying the very best in vegan and organic foods. They love sunrise yoga and hunting down the most secluded spots to stretch and breathe in the sounds of nature.

Redhead Wellness Sanctuary’s 9am Flow Yoga Class held every Saturday is a favourite among local yogis.

Once you have flowed through the morning, head to The Yoga Place Café at Blacksmiths for some of Lake Macquarie’s most nourishing vegan-friendly brunch bites. Their coffee that is fully traceable back to its farmers.

When the day is over, get off the grid and escape to one of In2thewild’s tiny houses – think emerald forests, foraging fauna, campfire clearings, plenty of privacy and unique eco builds. Do not be fooled by the term tiny, because these luxurious, modern cabins are set with everything you need.

Nature Ninjas

Do: Out and About Adventures in Watagans National Park

Eat: 8 at Trinity

Stay: Gap Creek Campground, Bangalow Campground or Wangi Point Holiday Park

Nature Ninjas are adventure-packed and adrenaline-fuelled. Hit “start” on your smartwatch heart monitor and listen up, because Lake Macquarie is about to hijack your heartrate and push you to the red zone.

Head to the Watagans Mountains for the ultimate winter challenge, out of your comfort zone. Try abseiling the spectacular sandstone cliffs at Gap Creek Falls with Out and About Adventures’ sequenced programs beginning with small cliffs and progressing over a series of descents.

It’s a treat to find a holiday park that’s campfire-friendly, hidden deep in the Watagans Mountains: Gap Creek and Bangalow campgrounds, where Nature Ninjas light up a campfire as the sun sets behind the wall of forest trees.

Wangi Point Holiday Park, on the edge of Lake Macquarie, has Villas, Cabins and both powered and unpowered campsites.

Kickstart your morning at 8 with Trinity’s breakfast menu including Green Pea Pancakes topped with poached eggs, fetta, tomato relish, zucchini, and mint salad, and the longest, loose-leaf tea menu in Lake Macquarie.

Wilderness Wanderers

Do: Visit Belmont Wetlands State Park

Eat: Table 1 Espresso

Stay: Bluebell Retreat

Wilderness Wanderers can be into either strenuous treks or serene strolls.

Home to a rich and varied natural environment, Belmont Wetlands State Park has naturally diverse wetlands, tranquil native bushlands and impressive sand dune systems.

When hunger strike: Warners Bay Table 1 Espresso will test your willpower to keep your healthy holiday on track, with their delicious, decadent desserts. However, the superbowls, salads and Atlantic salmon specials, will re-energise your wholesome health vibes.

As night falls, replace step counting with sheep counting at cosy Bluebell Retreat, at Murrays Beach with stunning views of the lake and next to Wallarah National Park, another great Wilderness Wanderer destination for stunning beachside bushwalks.

Lake Mac is a Healthy Holiday Hack. with  32km of pristine coastline, majestic mountains, untouched bushland. Tick all the boxes for wellness tourism.



Lake Macquarie is a huge well of wellness

Sausages assuages

Arrive at Bunnings Warehouse, Port Melbourne, to find it’s not open until 1pm (because of Anzac Day public holiday).

Angst and sorrow tho assuaged with a free sausage.

Amazing how a little mustard, tomato sauce and onions can lift one’s spirits …

Corned beef air fried

Something different: corned beef not boiled but roasted in the air fryer oven.

Rinsed under the tap then cooked 20 mins on high, 30 mins on low.

Crusty surface, tender, moist, salty and very, very tasty. Hot or cold.

Also, it doesn’t shrink like a normal roast.

Bon appetit …

Happiness is two hash browns

Easter Monday Morning. A grey, sullen sky and a chill in the wind as if Winter’s icy fingertips are creeping around the corner.

Shake off the gloom, grab the hat and saunter down to Fitzroy Street, St Kilda, in search of a sign life …  and here it is, The Grocery Bar where breakfast is big and the warm smile is free.

Two hash browns, baby spinach hiding under scrambled eggs, smashed avo, and owner Georgia’s home-made tomato relish. $16.90.

This is the way to greet the day.

The Sun is even poking through the clouds …