Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Cauliflower, Leek and Fennel Gratin

Once the seasons begin to change, it's the time we think about changing our menus. Not just because we are tempted with new seasonal fruit and vegetable but because the weather often dictates what we feel like eating. That beautiful Pumpkin Tagine we enjoyed only a couple of weeks ago now seems too heavy for a 30º day and our body longs for something lighter.

Adelaide summer has started early this year and we have already had some mid to high temperatures. Salads of some kind or another will play a huge role on my menus in the next few months but i am avoiding peaking too early!!!

I've been playing around with ingredients that combine well together in a dish that you wouldn't consider too heavy at this time of year. Something light yet satisfying and this is the combination I came up with. Team this with a green salad, some lightly cooked asparagus or a dish of green beans and you have a very quick and easy meal that will satisfy the taste buds as well as the wallet.

Cauliflower, Leek and Fennel Gratin


1 cup sour cream
2 small leeks finely sliced
2 cloves garlic minced
small bulb of fennel sliced using a mandolin
1/4 cauliflower, cut into florets
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
2 tbls  flat leaf parsley, chopped
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup white wine
1 tbls olive oil
1 tbls butter

This made 6 little gratins but you could make just one big one.

  • Combine the breadcrumbs with the chopped parsley and 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese and set aside.
  • In a large pan heat butter and oil, add fennel, garlic and leek and continue to cook on a low heat for 5 - 10  minutes until the leek starts to brown.
  • While the leeks are cooking, either steam or microwave the florets of cauliflower until they are barely cooked. 2- 3 minutes in a steamer/25 seconds microwave.
  • Add white wine and cauliflower to leeks  and cook for 5 minutes. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste. Take off the heat and mix in parsley, sour cream and remaining Parmesan.
  • Spoon this into greased dishes/pie plates and cover with a sprinkling of the reserved breadcrumbs and Parmesan mixture.
  • Cook in a preheated fan forced oven 180º/370º for approximately 25 - 30 minutes until the topping is golden. Serve immediately.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Yeast Fruit Scroll with Basil

Something in a recipe caught my eye; Basil in a yeasty fruit bun - no way!

But I tried it and something went horribly wrong with the recipe and what was suppose to be a soft yeast dough turned into cardboard. I followed the recipe exactly, or so I thought. The taste was pretty good, a little too sweet for my palette but the fruit combined with a hint of basil was fantastic.

I wanted this to turn out well, I had been longing for a very fruity yeast bun and it was not going to get the better of me.

A couple of days later, I decided to try again but this time I combined my own sweet dough recipe and a combination of fruit that I liked and just added the basil and sugar to the base of the dough.

My dough recipe allows you to make it and store it in the fridge for between 3 hrs - 3 days ahead of time and providing it is covered and refrigerated it is still very easy to use even after 3 days.

Oh my goodness, I am in heaven. Here is a doughy, fruity, sticky, basily (if there is such a word) bun you can eat by itself or with cream, ice cream or yoghurt. It won't last long once your friends or neighbours get a whiff of this, so get in first and help yourself to the biggest slice.
And yes, I did use a lot of flour and eggs and fruit, but it was well worth it because the second time around it worked a treat.
  1. Yeast Fruit Scroll with Basil
  1. Make the dough first because it needs to rest in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hours and this will give you time to prepare everything else.
For the  Sweet Dough

1/2 cup of milk
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
60g butter
1/4 cup warm water
1 tsp dried yeast
1 egg
2 cups plain flour, sifted

Scald the milk in a saucepan over a low flame ( Take the milk temperature to 82º C or 180º F) Take it off the heat and stir in the sugar, salt and butter. Cool to lukewarm.
Measure the warm water and put it into a large bowl which has been warmed. Add the yeast and stir until it is dissolved. Add the lukewarm milk mixture, the beaten egg and half the flour. Beat vigorously until the mixture is smooth and stir in the remaining flour. Add this stage the mixture looks a little ragged, but it should be the consistency of a thick batter. Cover with cling wrap and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours.
*Basil Sugar

1/2 cup caster sugar
6 basil leaves

In a pestle and mortar add the sugar and basil leaves, pounding until the leaves and the sugar are well combined and the sugar is green. Set aside.


zest of 1 lemon
2 tbls lemon juice
4 tbls soft butter
1 cup of fresh or frozen raspberries and blueberries combined
*Basil sugar

1 cup icing sugar
lemon juice extra

Combine 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, lemon zest and butter with the basil sugar and mix together.
Roll out the dough on a floured surface to measure a rectangle about 45 x 35 cms 18 x 14 inches.

Spread the basil sugar over the entire dough area evenly. Then sprinkle the fruit over the dough leaving a small edge clear all the way around. Once you have done this, start to roll up tightly from the long edge, like a swiss roll. Once you have done this pinch the seam to seal it.  Then place in the fridge for 15 minutes to firm it up.

Using a sharp serrated knife cut it into about 10 even pieces and place in a small pie dish or sandwich tin which has been greased. At this point, it may feel a little strange cutting up the dough and if the filling seems to be seeping out, don't worry because it will leave a lovely jammy kind of crust.

Bake in a preheated oven, 180º  fan forced / 375º and bake for 20 - 25 minutes

Leave it in the tin to cool and then add the icing.

Mix the icing sugar and lemon juice until it is creamy and runny and drizzle on the cool scroll.

Then, take out a slice for yourself before anyone else gets the hint that you have made it. Prepare for the rush of people wanting to taste it.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Vegetable Biryani with Dahl

At the last Census in India in 2011, the population was assessed to be over 1.2 billion people. That is one hell of a lot of mouths to feed. You can understand then why the staple food is rice. A commodity which grows very well under Indian conditions, which has been helped by development in seed types that allows for multiple cropping periods. Rice is easy to cook. It takes up the many spicy flavours of cardamom, turmeric, ginger and coriander beautifully and gives rich deep flavours and piquant aromas.

There is some dispute over how a Biryani came to be in Indian cuisine, whether the name was originally from Persia and the style of cooking was brought to India or if the dish originated in the southern Indian states. Either way, thank goodness it has made its way into our lives and this Biryani is something worth taking your time to make.

One of the great things about cooking any kind of Indian food is the fantastic aroma it gives to the kitchen and of course yellow hands from turmeric and saffron : )

My good friend Gene, queen of Indian Cuisine, has recommended adding pumpkin (butternut squash) to my Dhal because it add another dimension, so that is what I have been doing recently. She is right of course, it does add an extra something.

I have used tinned chick peas to make this a faster recipe but if you have time you could use natural chickpeas soaked in water overnight, drained and used.

Vegetable Biryani

olive or vegetable oil
400g tin of chick peas drained
2 tblsp 
1 carrot chopped
a handful of green beans  trimmed and halved
2 large tomatoes chopped
1 potato peeled and chopped
200g basmati rice
1/4 cup sultanas/currants or raisons
Fresh coriander leaves for serving
3 cardamom pods, crushed
3 cloves garlic crushed
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp cumin seed
1 onion finely chopped
3 whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbls grated fresh ginger
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper
pinch of saffron soaked in 1/4 cup water

  • In a large pan heat oil, then add onions and cook slowly until they are a nice golden colour.
  • Add all spices, except for saffron and bay leaves and cook on low for about 1 minute adding a tablespoon of water if they are starting to stick.
  • Add bay leaves and saffron, all the vegetables and 3/4 cup of water. Cover and cook over a low heat for around 15 minutes. If the water evaporates quickly then add extra water. When the vegetables are just about cooked add the rice, chick peas, sultanas and salt and pepper. Add 11/2 cups of boiling water. 
  • Mix well and cover and cook on a low heat for 20 minutes. Check to see how well the rice is cooking. Keeping the lid on tightly, turn off the heat and let it sit for another 10 -15 minutes. 
  • Fluff up suing a fork.
Serve with Dahl and Yoghurt. This serves 4 - 6 people


2 tbls oil
1 large onion finely chopped
3 cloves garlic minced
300g prepared pumpkin or butternut squash(peeled and chopped)
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp chilli powder
2 tomatoes chopped
1/2 cup red or orange lentils washed
350ml water
juice from 1/2 lemon

  • Take a large pan and heat oil. Add onion and cook on low heat until soft. Add garlic and all the spices. Cook 1 minute, adding a tablespoon or two of water if it starts to stick.
  • Add chopped tomatoes and pumpkin and mix well so the spices coat the vegetables. Stir over low heat for 2 minutes. Add the lentils and water. Bring to the boil, cover and on a low heat cook until the pumpkin is cooked. Add more water if it starts to evaporate too quickly. It should take around 25 minutes.
  • Add salt to taste and lemon juice. 
  • You can leave the pumpkin in pieces or mash it into the lentils, whichever you prefer.
Serves 4 - 6 people  Cost in total $4.50

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Orange Ice Cream with a hint of Cardamom

Summer is on it's way already and the predictions are that it will be yet another dry hot summer. Beach, swimming, eating on the terrace and a variety of scrumptious ice cream.

We are well into a very nice spring. A little rain and a lot of sun. The vegetable garden is planted, there's blossom on every tree and the world is beginning to look a whole lot rosier.

The bees have moved into the garden to gather pollen from this lovely Crab Apple
I was having a chat to a neighbour last week and they offered me some Tangelos from their very full tree. Tangelos are not my favourite citrus but I knew my husband would love these to make marmalade. I decided to take a little fruit and try making some Tangelo Sorbet. While the quantity was small, the taste gave a pretty good hit. Spurred on, i  found many other citrus sorbets. In fact I was surprised to find so many different recipes in my books.

I have never made citrus ice cream before, so after talking with some friends and researching ideas, I came up with a lovely orange ice cream. I was due to photograph oranges for another project this week and it made sense to use the fruit up while it was still fresh.

The difference in the recipes I consulted called for orange juice or orange zest, orange peel or making an orange syrup. I chose a mixture of juice and zest and included some lemon zest and juice too.

A found a Belinda Jeffrey recipe that contained Cardamom, so I combined this with another recipe that I had pulled out of a magazine 15 years ago and never used. There's a first time for everything. I also investigated recipes from a lovely book I have had for a long time, Ices, the Definitive Guide. This book is a collection of over 200 ices; from Gin and Tonic Sorbet to Stilton Cheese Ice Cream. Not sure the latter would suit my palette.

This recipe does contain cream, not the perfect healthy recipe. But if you only have a little ice cream occasionally, teamed with a normal healthy diet, it wont do you any harm. Besides orange juice contains, vitamin B6, Vitamin C,  folate and Potassium - so this is my justification!



500 ml freshly squeezed orange juice
125 ml freshly squeezed lemon juice
250g caster sugar
2 whole eggs
3 egg yolks
grated zest of 2 oranges
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon orange blossom water (available from health food shops)
600ml of whipping cream
1 teaspoon ground cardamom

  • Combine the eggs, egg yolks, sugar in a bowl and whisk together until they are light and fluffy. 
  • Take the freshly squeezed juices and put them through a sieve to get rid of any pulp and then add them to the egg mixture. Place this into a medium saucepan over a low heat, stirring constantly. Do not allow it to boil. Use a sugar thermometer to check that it does not go above 90 degrees. The mixture will thicken slightly until you have the consistency of runny custard.
  • Remove from the heat, strain and cool slightly. Add the grated lemon and orange zest, cover and place in the fridge until completely cold.
  • Stir in the orange blossom water.
  • Lightly whip cream.
  • Once the mixture has cooled , add the cream and mix thoroughly. Turn this all into your ice cream maker and churn according to manufactures recommendations. Store in the freezer in an airtight container.
  • Leave overnight before serving allowing the ice cream to harden off and for the flavour to develop. 
  •  If you do not have an ice cream maker, then you can use your freezer. When you add the cream, freezer until semi frozen, take out and whip up again and re freeze. This should work just as well.
This is one of the nicest ice creams I have made for a long time! I am now investigating Lemon Sorbet and Chocolate Gelati!

Here's my taste tester Katie! She seems to be really enjoying the ice cream.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Roasted Almonds

Before I get stuck in to this week post, let me just say that I have been so busy trying out new recipes that I have not had time to update my blog. I will be more diligent in the next few weeks because I have heaps to share with you.

Settle down to watch a DVD, grab a beer or two and a few handfuls of these nuts and you are in seventh heaven. If you are inviting friends over, you can make these well in advance and have them out on your coffee table with drinks, before they arrive. Be warned you will have to make a lot otherwise you will eat them all yourself before your guests arrive.

I hate to remind you in October, that Christmas is just around the corner and this would be a great little nutty present you could make and hand out to friends. I know that most people appreciate this kind of home made gift and you will be content that they will be eaten and not taken to a Charity Shop in the New Year.

Here are two super little nutty recipes that will get you some great compliments and a tick of approval from nut lovers everywhere.

For both of these recipes you will need to use natural un-roasted, unsalted nuts.

Roasted Almonds with Black Sesame Seeds

I tasted these at a function the other day and I so loved them that I decided to try my hand at recreating them. They turned out pretty well.

400g natural unsalted almonds
1/2 cup of cashew nuts
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
2 tablespoons honey
1/2 cup maple syrup

Except for the nuts, mix all other ingredients together in a large bowl.
Then add the nuts and coats them all really well with the mixture. Either use your hands or a spoon.

Lay some baking paper onto a baking sheet and spread the almonds into a single layer.
Bake in a pre heated oven 160c degrees/325F/3 for 15 - 20 mins. Watch the timing carefully because they can burn very easily. Allow to cool, then separate any almonds that are stuck together and place in an airtight container until ready to use.

 Roasted Nuts with Herbs

11/2 cups almonds
2 small egg whites whisked
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon of garlic powder or 2 cloves of fresh minced garlic
3 tablespoons lemon zest
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
11/2 tablespoons sugar
sea salt
1/2 cup parmesan cheese + a little extra
Few sprigs of fresh thyme

Whisk egg whites until light and frothy. Add nuts and mix. Add spices, herbs and sugar and mix well. Add 1/4 cup of finely grated parmesan cheese.

Using a baking sheet lines with baking paper, spread out the almonds in a single layer. Sprinkle with the rest of the cheese. Add a good sprinkle of sea salt and cook 15 - 20 minutes in a preheated oven. 

Again be very careful to watch the timing of these because they will burn really quickly.

While they are still hot, add another little sprinkling of extra Parmesan cheese and leave until completely cold before packing them into air tight containers.