One of the other things I enjoyed about yesterday was having a little excursion to a part of Sydney I’d never seen before. Yep, I’m a born and raised Sydney girl, and I’d never been to Ashfield before in my life. After the Schoolwise graduation ceremony, my mother-in-law Katie and I went to Petersham for lunch. It’s a Brazilian/Portuguese quarter, full of Portuguese chicken joints and enticing Portuguese bakeries, with a few Brazilian cafes thrown in just because they speak the same language. It was actually tricky deciding where to plant ourselves for lunch, but the word ’empanada’ eventually got Casa Brasil over the line (98-106 Audley St, Petersham, 02 9560 9595). We placed our order with one lady whilst behind her two other generations of women (one older, one younger) rolled pastry for a variety of what she simply called ‘savoury snacks,’ little morsels shaped like pudgy fingers with different fillings including prawn and minced beef. There’s just something magical about food preparation. I absolutely never tire of the ceremony, the humble ritual of pressing and rolling and shaping food into being. And what could be better than doing it with people you love?
We sat outside and watched the passing parade. Chef Matt Moran was up the street with a film crew, so what I discovered for the first time yesterday is hardly breaking news… once the film crews arrive you know you’re stuffed. Our empanadas arrived steaming with heat with a tasty dressed salad to the side. It’s fair to say Katie and I inhaled everything on the plate in about two seconds flat. I usually eat like I require professional assistance – so slow whole empires rise and fall in the time it takes me to empty a plate – but not yesterday. Yesterday I scoffed everything in sight in what can only be described as a Personal Best. Off the top of my head, I really only know one word in Portuguese, but it’s a good one: obrigada (thank you). After we’d both practically licked our plates clean, I said it several times, with feeling.
I do confess to a bit of regret. They had a coconut, yoghurt, and something else, incedibly moist, incredibly delicious-looking cake at Casa Brasil, and Katie and I eyed it off with deep intent as we were ordering our coffee and empanadas. But when the time came, we demurred, not, I hasten to add, due to any concern for our waistlines (stand aside, scales, I see baked goods!), but because we’d earlier been left drooling with anticipation at the thought of those sweet little pastry perfections, the one, the only, the supreme Portuguese custard tart.
So we tore ourselves away from that fine looking cake (and I can tell I have food regret, because I keep thinking about it and wondering how I might go about getting a slice from over here on the other side of Sydney), casting longing looks over our shoulders as we all but ran back up the street to the bakery strip. Agreement was reached immediately and we tumbled excitedly through the door of Sweet Belem (35B and 35C New Canterbury Rd, Petersham, 02 9572 6685). We pointed at everything and oohed and cooed and then our eyes came to rest on what we came for: those luscious tarts. Since Katie had insisted on buying lunch, I insisted on buying dessert, and we ordered four, one apiece and one each for Llew and Peter, Llew’s dad. But then I realised this would leave us empty-handed – shock horror – if we were to each hold out until separately sharing the discs of delectability later on with our boys. No, no, this wouldn’t do at all. I said to Katie, “I think we need two for the road, and we shall never speak of this.” (obviously on that count I flatly lied).
So we ordered two more, got out on to the footpath, paused to clink tarts (“Cheers!”), and then shoved those little treats into our faces faster than anyone could ever prove we did it.