Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry with Coconut





I could smell spring in the air last week! The first sign is budding on the almond tree, but then we had a day or two of high winds and torrential rain. Damn! And its's cold, so cold my bones ache.

Just as I was preparing for some warmer weather and getting my head into some salads, the rain came back. What a sluggish winter I've had - ugg boots, blankets and scarves and that's inside! Ha ha! So with that spring smell, that first bud, maybe that first blossom, its time to shake off the winter blues and set myself some monthly challenges. Here goes!

August Challenges: - 

Food - Finding new ways with black lentils. Develop new salad combinations topped with a Tahini dressing.

Fitness - Renew my fitness  regime - 10 gym sessions, 40  kms walking or hiking.

Diet - No desserts, chocolate or cakes. (Oops I had a beautiful Chocolate Brownie for my birthday yesterday - so counting from today) 

Am I up for this challenge - hell yes. What's your next challenge?

And because the winter chills are still with us I am starting off August with a favourite. Cauliflower is so versatile and I have found myself using it a lot for roasting and curries and salads. I just can't seem to get enough of it. 

Add another of my favourites, chick peas and this dish is calling my name. You can add as much or as little chilli to this recipe as you like. Depending on the strength of your chilli powder, you may start with a little and add more as it cooks. 

I also prefer to use fresh turmeric root but if you don't have that available then turmeric powder is fine.

Ok, here's the recipe.




CAULIFLOWER, LENTIL AND COCONUT CURRY

1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
1 teaspoon ground turmeric or 11/2 teaspoons turmeric root, grated
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2  teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 - 1 teaspoon chilli flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 400g can chick peas, drained
1 400g diced tomatoes
1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
2 tablespoon coconut oil
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup water
handful of fresh spinach leaves, chopped
1 400g can coconut milk

Add coconut oil to a large pan then add onion, garlic and ginger and cook until the onion is transparent. Add turmeric and rest of the spices and heat until the spices are aromatic. If they start to stick add a tablespoon of water.

Next add cauliflower florets and coat it with the spices. Add coconut milk, water and can of tomatoes and simmer covered for 15 minutes. Check seasoning, add salt and pepper and more chilli if required.

Rinse chick peas and add to the curry. If the curry is too thick add a little more water and cook until the cauliflower is just tender.

Add the chopped spinach leaves and cook until just wilted.

Serve with popadoms, rice of your choice and plenty of chutney.














Thursday, 27 July 2017

Pasta with Lentils




Haul me over the coals for being a slack blogger, because this last month has been a nightmare for me. Cold and flu and back problems aside, the time has just flown by with family issues.

Tardiness on my part has been due to a number of things; a few family health issues - can't be avoided. Trying to make a decision like 'holiday or kitchen renovation', doing my sums, looking at pros and cons for both. The holiday has won out and I will be heading to New Zealand for the first time in 2018 plus a few side trips this year to get in a little kayaking on the Murray River and to see my amazing daughters in Melbourne.

Added to this I have been furniture hunting and finally - big excuse - I have been painting my family room. Yes OK I hear you!  That's not enough to slow me down. I'm fully hand smacked! I'm raring to go now so I'm trying to keep up the weekly blog posts.

So let's do it!

There are a lot of people I know that avoid eating pasta because of the carbs. But  how can you say no to pasta totally?? Put pasta and lentils together and you have double love. Let me tell you a little story about this recipe.

A few years ago I started, with the help of many volunteers,  a 'Book Shed' in a country town in South Australia. People donated books, they were resold and the profits went to a community organisation. It was a great way for locals to get new books for a little outlay and a terrific fundraiser. 

A friend who was having a clean out gave me a pile of cookbooks for the book shed and told me to take any book for myself I would like. Amongst them was an Italian pasta cook book that caught my eye but investigating I found many of the recipes had meat in them. Lentils with pasta caught my eye and I realised I could make something with that.

I've taken the basic recipe and rejigged it to take it from an OK recipe to what I think is a great winter dish without meat. I hope you agree. I truly love this dish because it is fast to cook, comforting on a cold winter's night and tastes really, really good.


PASTA WITH LENTILS

Ingredients

250g Pasta - Rigatoni, Penne or Macaroni
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup dried brown/green lentils
1 long red hot chilli, cut in half
2 -3 small potatoes, peeled and cubed
2 cups of water or stock, or half and half
1/2 bunch spinach/chard/silver beet, washed and chopped
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
grated parmesan

In a heat proof container add lentils and enough boiling water to cover. Set aside for half an hour. You can do this the day before if you are short of time.

Heat oil in fry pan and add onion and garlic. cook for a few minutes until the onion is transparent. Add the potatoes and mix until coated in oil. 
Now add enough water 1 cup at least to cover the potatoes by 5 cms. Now bring to the boil and cook for 5 mins uncovered.

Next, add the drained lentils, chilli, salt and pepper and cook for a couple of minutes.

Add the pasta and 1 cup of water, salt and pepper, half the parsley. Cook until the pasta, potatoes and lentils are soft. If the mixture looks too dry, add a little more water.
At the last minute add the spinach and allow it to wilt. If you are using silver beet, you may need to cook it a little longer.  Check seasoning and adjust to taste. Take out the chilli and discard.

Serve in a bowl with grated parmesan cheese and a sprinkling of parsley.






Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Mulled Wine



Winter! It has its own beauty. Foggy mornings, rain to refresh the garden after the summer heat and a rare sun to warm that spot on your back. 

It has it's downfalls too. Dark, stormy clouds, unremitting rain and cold and the proverbial runny noses and high fevers. 

We can cook soups and stews to head off the winter chills and warm our bodies and spirits but nothing will clean the head like a glass of mulled wine. 

Close your eyes; Can you smell the fragrance of the cinnamon, the musky pungence of cloves and star anise. A burst of citrus and the sweet smooth taste of syrup. What does it conjure up for you?


Oh England, my England it brings back memories of Christmas and family and home.

Oranges and tangerines were scarce and only ever came to our tables at Christmas. They were a fabulous treat to find in your Christmas stocking along with peanuts and chocolate bars. And the joy of peeling that first orange, stains on the hand and orange lips. The fruity smell of tangy, sweet goodness.

And of cinnamon sticks and star anise - my first encounter when I was in my twenties. Now a staple in my pantry.

As the years slowly pass, I am thankful for the abundance of what I have. A wine growing region on my doorstep, orange and lemon trees in my garden and spices, the best antidote for winter blues and home sickness.

MULLED WINE (GLUHWEIN)

Juice and zest of 1 orange - I used a blood orange
zest of 1 lemon
60g caster sugar
500ml red wine - (I used Yardstick Fleurieu Cabernet Merlot 2015)
1 cinnamon stick
1 star anise
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
2 cloves
fresh ginger
Couple of slices of orange for decoration

Nothing could be easy than making mulled wine. Just remember not to boil it unless you want to remove the alcohol!!

In a small saucepan, add the cinnamon stick, star anise, nutmeg, cloves, juice, zest, sugar, a small grate of fresh ginger and 50 mls wine. 

Place on a low heat and simmer for 4 - 5 minutes stirring all the time until sugar dissolves. Once the mixture becomes syrupy, take off the heat and add the rest of the wine. Stir quickly to incorporate the wine and the syrup then over a very gentle heat warm the wine until it just starts to steam.

Strain the mixture and tip into glasses. Decorate with slices of orange and serve immediately.



This makes 4 glasses. But if you want to serve more, increase the sugar content at the beginning and add more wine.

Fleurieu Cabernet Merlot 2015 was used for the mulled wine