Friday, 24 May 2013


Finally, finally, I acknowledge that autumn is here. And don't tell me that winter is technically a week away! With the long run of warm days, the temperature arcing into the mid-twenties, it has been quite possible to cling to the dream of an endless summer.

But looking at this week's Bureau of Meteorology forecast sends me hurtling back into reality. That, and being on the Market floor. Watching pallets of fruit and vegetables unloaded in the early morning, there are the distinct signs that the seasons are a'changing. Late stone fruit lingers, Imperial mandarins arrive, as do quince and pomegranate, but we're not simply living off silverbeet and sweet potato just yet.

The wild mushrooms begin to surface. This year, due to the lack of rain and warmer weather, there have been slim pickings. A couple of baskets of pine mushrooms here, a crate of Slippery Jacks there. But the determined will always seek them out, knowing there is nothing more glorious than a handful of mixed sauteed mushrooms, atop a slice of thick walnut toast or a bowl of polenta.

Slow cookers are pulled from the cupboard, as are the footy scarves. Salsa takes a backseat to sausage rolls and light, warm soups start to make their way to workplaces, tucked away in thermos flasks.

And the nuts! This really is the moment to savour them as the local nut harvests see chestnuts, hazelnuts and walnuts arrive at the Market in droves, in shell. Not all of us are into "chestnuts roasting on an open fire" but if you do not like hazelnuts, lightly toasted in a cast iron pan, then I do not know what is wrong with you.

And pears - Beurre Bosc, Packham and Red Sensation. Ripe the Organic Grocer and Paddlewheel often have heritage varieties of apple as well, Cox Orange Pippin and Braeburn, old orchard names you will not find on a supermarket shelf.

It's not only a time of change for fruit and vegetables, pheasant and guinea fowl have arrived at John Cesters Poultry. Guinea fowl have a short season, from April to July and unsurprisingly, this game bird goes beautifully with wild mushrooms.

Hmmn. Look at that! I've talked myself into liking autumn after all ... 

Friday, 17 May 2013


The best baklava in Melbourne. That is a serious, serious thing. You don't go throwing titles like that around lightly.

 Which is why Jacques Abd El Nour and Hazim Hazim from Abla's Patisserie were so delighted to win first and second place in the inagurual Baklava Bake Off (Professional Category) held last month in Federation Square. The Baklava Bake Off was organised by the Australian Multicultural Foundation and judged by Greg Malouf and PM24's Head Pastry Chef C├ęcile Veyrat. The competition asked members of the community to help find "Victoria’s best baklava, as a way of celebrating our community’s diversity and love of a common sweet". 

Popping in a for a chat with Michael at Abla's Patisserie, he tells me that "We use premium nuts and that makes all the difference". The pastries are made by hand, layers of filo pastry draped over the gigantic metal trays. Then they are filled with cashews, hazelnuts or pistachios and then soaked in rosewater and orange blossom syrup.

At Abla's, people come in for a fresh lemon, ginger and mint tea. Michael says their coffee "has a subtle chocolate note. Everyone has their favourite pastry and they enjoy being able to choose a Bird's Nest or Lady Finger to enjoy with a drink." Only Jonesy's Milk is used for coffees, continuing a theme of fresh, local products.

These Abla's Patisserie gift boxes are popular for entertaining and as a small, thoughtful present when dining in someone else's home. It is not an unusual sight to see someone dashing in from Commercial Road, just before the Market closes on Saturday, to grab a selection to take out that night instead of the usual bottle of wine.

So whether a sticky sweet is your thing or strong black coffee or a tower of Turkish delight, come by Abla's and choose your own prize-winning treat from the trays!

Abla's Patisserie
Shop 815
Prahran Market
163 Commercial Road
03 9827 5881

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Mother's Day and Market Days

It's May and that means Mother's Day at the Market. If you were to believe the avalance of catalogues that have been shoved through my letterbox since April, Mother's Day is a riot of commercialism, and if your mater does not receive at least one pair of slippers, a chunky bestselling novel AND a miniature vacuum cleaning device of some sort, you have failed and are that ingrate, the thankless child (cue reading from King Lear, serpent's tooth etc, etc).

As always, here at the Market, I believe in giving appropriately. And from the heart (I will get to duty gifts later). Let's not think about what you'd like your mother to use - Hallo Mother, here is a copy of Momofuku and I'll be around for some pork buns with pickled cucumber in 24 hours - but what she would actually, truly like to receive.

Samantha Robinson cups at Market Lane

Is she a coffee fanatic? How about a membership to Market Lane's Coffee Club or one of these beautiful Samantha Robinson cups?

If she's a gardener, then stop by Prahran Garden Centre and peruse the many options - orchids, perennials, small decorative trees and herb planters. Donnally's Party Supplies are stocked with cards and naturally our three florists will be bursting to capacity with beautiful bunches of flowers.

A giftbox of delicious goodies from the Brownie Bar or Abla's Patisserie may be just the thing to fill your mother's face with delight. Or one of our cheeseboards covered with a selection of ripe, rich cheeses. And for the adventurous, spice-loving parent, perhaps a beautiful tin of Sohan Koosha, Iranian toffee, from 53 Degrees East.

The Essential Ingredient is a wonderland of gifts for the foodie mother - from KitchenAid mixers and copper roasting pans to signed cookbooks and salt bricks.

Accompany this gift with a box of macarons from Health Bowl Cafe

For the homemade gift, check out Tad Lombardo's easy chocolate recipes for Chocolate Dipped Candied Orange Peel, Fudge or Sage Truffles. You can also swing by and choose your own selection box from Tad's stall at the Artisan Market on Saturday or Heritage Chocolates.

A surefire recomendation for anyone who loves to cook and shop locally is Kathy Tsaple's book Sweet Greek, available from Kathy's own hands, after Wednesday's launch. It is a truly lovely volume, entwining food and family together in a way just perfect for Mother's Day.

But if you are going through the motions in order to avoid a barrage of phone calls and a pointed reminder in the annual Christmas letter, let me suggest a Prahran Market Gift Voucher or a Hidden Gems Market Tour. For $50, your mother and a friend will spend an hour or so guided through the Market, learning its history, meeting some of our Traders, tasting, talking, trying unusual and interesting produce. A gift that brings your mother closer to food, cooking and us. Now you can't get much better than that, can you?

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Our Sweet Greek

Kathy Tsaples is the proprietor of Sweet Greek in the Deli Arcade at the Market. Sweet Greek offers homemade classic pastries and ready-to-eat Greek cuisine. Everything is made freshly on the premises with produce from our Fruit and Vegetable traders. On weekends there are special offerings such as Loukoumades (honey doughnuts) or Avgolemono (traditional egg-lemon chicken soup).

Kathy learned to cook at home from her mother but didn't start her career in food for many years, heading into financial services instead. "I spent my days doing market research and analysis. When my sons were studying for VCE I took some time off to be at home with them. It was during this time that I pursued my passion for cooking and perfecting my Greek recipes."

"Not satisfied with just the home cooking, I approached a friend who ran a very succesful gourmet deli. I worked there for 7 years and became manager of the store. There I learnt about retailing, food products, suppliers and cheese management skills.

I always held the dream that one day I would have my own store where I could display and sell the food that is so close to my heart and my heritage."

Kathy was the manager of Sweet Greek when it opened at the Market in January 2011 and later became the owner. She says "This is the ideal home for myself and my food. I love to make delicious Greek sweets and savoury dishes such as mousaka, pastitsio and Greek soups."

Traditional Kataifi pastries at Sweet Greek

Kathy also started importing products directly from Greece that she considered vital for any pantry.

"I wanted to create a store that became a necessary stopoff for customers. I want to awake the senses and make people feel good, through food. We have a core menu but naturally, changes occur to reflect the seasons."

Spinach and feta pastries at Sweet Greek

Another of Kathy's dreams came true recently, when she held in her hands a copy of her first book Sweet Greek: Simple Food & Sumptuous Feasts. Her book is a beautiful collection of Kathy's favourite recipes, bound together with the story of her life, her family and challenges, including overcoming a diagnosis of stage 3 breast cancer during Easter 2009. 

The book is published by Melbourne Books, with photographs that will have you desperate to try these dishes. You can either follow Kathy's recipes and tips or pop in and taste her cooking for yourself. Kathy was interviewed by Rafael Epstein on 774 ABC Melbourne recently and this link provides details of four of her Easter recipes, including Slow Roasted Shoulder of Lamb, Cauliflower Salad, Dolmades and Red Dyed Easter Eggs.

Kathy Tsaples of Sweet Greek with her namesake book

From Thursday to Sunday this week, Sweet Greek will host a feast of traditional Greek Easter delicacies, including Mairitsa (Greek Easter Lamb Soup) and Thiples, which are a pastry made for Greek festive days. There will be Tsoureki (Greek Easter bread) and dyes and stickers for decorating white eggs.

These Australian-made candles celebrate Greek Easter at Sweet Greek

And the most beautiful candles. "We light the candles at  midnight mass on Saturday, it's a symbol that Christ has now risen and we carry that flame home to light our own candles."

Kathy's book and store, are in a sense, her own flame. She shares her warmth and her story, through her food and her words. Sweet Greek will be released on 8 May 2013 and will be available at all good bookstores and of course, Sweet Greek itself.

Sweet Greek
Shop 702
Prahran Market
163 Commercial Road
South Yarra VIC 3141
Phone: 03 9826 0608
Website link