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








Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Best Ever Apple Pie





Sadly, I don't have memories of the smell of apple pie coming from my grand mother's kitchen. I have very little memory of my paternal grandmother. I know she had a blue budgerigar in a cage because I remember it biting my finger. Unfortunately my grandmother did not have good health and became blind in her eighties.   

But I do have great memories of my next door neighbour's fantastic apple trees.

My sister and I weren't allowed to hop over the fence and pinch the apples because the neighbours had a mad dog called Bryn. We were terrified of that dog and would never venture into their garden. 

But when our neighbour kindly gave us a few of the fallen apples, I knew it was time for mum to make an apple pie. And I watched as she made the pastry, peeled the apples, added sugar and turned that mountain of lush fruit into the most amazing dessert.


As a kid you don't really care if the pastry is bit rustic, in fact the more rustic the more mouth watering you know it will be and once that golden pastry was lifted from the oven, you couldn't wait until dinner time when you knew you would get a slice of that perfect pie, topped with ice cream or cream.

My favourite dessert as a kid was apple pie and rice pudding - oh that beautiful, slightly burnt, brown skin on the top of the rice and a hint of nutmeg and butter. 

Rhubarb and apple figured highly because dad grew heaps of rhubarb, so often Sunday roast was followed by rhubarb and custard. What was your favourite dessert?


There are so many delicious recipes on the web for rhubarb; spiced, roasted, devilled, tarts and I think you will find a couple on my blog, so there's plenty to choose from.


I don't make pies that often, but when I look over at the bowl of Granny Smith apples that I have just bought, I know it's time to recreate a little magic in my kitchen. Just like my mum did. 



APPLE PIE

Ingredients

700g prepared Granny Smith apples
250g plain flour
125g unsalted butter
1 teaspoon icing sugar
2 tablespoons iced water
1 cinnamon stick
pinch of cloves
2 tablespoons water
zest of a lemon
1 tablespoon milk

Prepare a pie plate by rubbing with melted butter, then place in fridge until ready to use.

Make the pastry by sifting flour, icing sugar and then rubbing the butter into the flour, either by hand or food processor. I prefer to do it by hand. Add enough water to bring it all together in a soft dough. Now cover in plastic and let rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

While the pastry is resting peel, core and chop apples, add to a saucepan with a little water, lemon zest, cinnamon stick and a pinch of cloves. Cook for around 10 minutes until they are slightly softened. No need to add any sugar. Remove from the pan and cool. 

While the apple is cooling , take pastry from fridge, divide in half and roll out to fit your prepared pie plate. Line your pie plate with one half of the pastry and add the apples, removing the cinnamon stick first.

Pile the apples in so you have a nice high pie. Wet the rim of the pastry edge with milk, ready to stick the top down.

Add the pastry lid and seal the edges by pressing them together. Cut off excess pastry. Brush the top of the pie with milk, making a couple of tiny cuts in the top of the pastry for the steam to escape.

Place in a pre heated moderate oven 180º/350F for around 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown.

Serve with cream, ice cream or just by itself.


















Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Bakewell Tart Slice



Sugar free is fine most of the time but occasionally I get the urge to have something sweet. I try fruit but it just doesn't do it, know what I mean?

Family members are getting restless, they haven't seen me rummaging in the cupboard for a cake tin and they keep checking the pantry to see if anything has been hidden.

I got the message! I thought a nice little slice sounded perfect. A Bakewell tart usually consists of a pastry base, lots of raspberry jam and a frangipane topping.




 I used a jar of Beerenberg Raspberry and Violet Jam, a gift from a friend and it is perfect for the jam layer. The violet just provides something a little more fragrant and a lovely vibrant colour. Technically you could use any jam you like but hey, I'm going with tradition today.


The sun is out and I've served these, fresh from the oven, on the deck in the sun! What a great way to enjoy a public holiday.


Bakewell Tart is traditionally English and as Southern Australia celebrates Queen Elizabeth's birthday this week, (actually it's pretty crazy because it isn't really her birthday) it is a rather fitting recipe to mark this occasion.



BAKEWELL TART SLICE

You will need a slice tray approximately 30 x 23cm or 12 x 9 in, lined with baking paper.

For the pastry layer
170g plain flour
75g butter, softened
100g caster sugar
iced water


For the frangipane layer
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
175 g self raising flour
100g caster sugar
1/2 cup almond meal

1/2 - 1 cup of raspberry jam
1 handful of flaked almonds


To make the pastry, combine sugar, softened butter and plain flour in a food processor. Add iced water, approx 1 - 2 tablespoons mixing to make a soft dough.
Press the dough into the bottom of the lined tray and bake in a moderate oven 180º/ 160 fan forced,  for 15 - 20 minutes until lightly golden. Remove from the oven and cool slightly.

In a large bowl beat eggs and caster sugar until light and fluffy. Fold in flour, baking powder, almond meal, mixing to a medium batter.

On top of the pastry, spread the jam - be generous.

Now top with the frangipane mixture.

Sprinkle the top with flaked almonds and bake for a further 20 - 25 minutes until golden brown.

Remove from the oven and cool in the tin.

Once cool, cut into slices and serve. This is lovely served with cream or custard. Yum!




Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Greek Cheese Pastries - (I Quit Sugar - well nearly )



Got more than I bargained for when I decided to try and take sugar completely out of my diet. Massive headaches, migraines, blurred vision and nausea - but that was a long time ago. My doctor at the time told me I was too crazy; "get some fruit into your body and the pains will stop", he told me - and he was right of course.

But now there are new ways to quit sugar and I've realised that if I do it slowly and readjust some of my recipes, it may not be THAT bad. But I've got to thinking what drives us to eat such sweet meats? From what I've read it appears that once you start eating something sweet, the high you get from that tells your brain to eat more, so you get onto that vicious cycle - the more you eat, the more you want.

So I'm trying to do it bit by bit - yes I still have the occasional craving for a sweet treat and sorry Sarah Wilson I will continue to eat the odd fresh date, but I am trying to rid myself of the cakes, biscuits, ice cream, chocolate and hidden sugars in any packaged foods. I'll just have to go back to my kitchen and try out new ways of cooking without sugar or honey.  I hope you will stay with me for the journey.

So when I long for a piece of cake - I just dip into the Hummus instead! Bwahhhh!

Now these incredibly tasty pastries have no sugar, so I am happy to start with these. I've served them with a fresh Greek Salad (minus the Feta) and I think they make a delicious meal. Hope you enjoy them.

Anyone got cake recipes without sugar or honey???



GREEK CHEESE PASTRIES

Ingredients - Makes enough for 4 people

2 tablespoons of butter, melted
1 lemon, zested
1 tablespoon lemon juice
5 sheets filo pastry
200g feta cheese
250g cottage cheese
1/2 cup plain yoghurt
1 egg beaten
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbls plain flour
grated nutmeg
1 tsp sesame seeds (optional)
2 tbls finely chopped coriander
Vegetable oil


Mix together feta and cottage cheese, yoghurt, egg, garlic, flour, grated nutmeg, lemon zest, juice and coriander. Keep a little coriander for serving.

Take 5 sheets of filo pastry and brush with melted butter.

Divide the mixture between the sheets of filo, spreading it on the long side of the rectangle of pastry. Leave enough at the ends to roll up, tucking in the sides.


Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

In a non stick fry pan heat oil and fry each pastry until nice and brown, turning over once. This will only take a few minutes. Now cut each one into 2 pieces and serve with a wedge of lemon and a sprinkling of chopped coriander.

  









Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Plum Cake






Thanks a lot weather for turning cold on me. Just because it is autumn doesn't mean it has to be wet and cold. Okay so we have had a few sunny days and I have to admit that I've been away to Melbourne and then spent an entire 2 weeks in my garden doing a big renovation project. 

I'm dreaming of some fab warm sunny days, sipping tea on the verandah and watching the glorious leaves changing colour. So damn and blast I just have to make a cake, even though I 'm trying to give up sugar.

Plums are on their last legs and we will just have to be content with apples and pears and citrus fruit until the whole darn weather recycles itself and comes back to spring.

Fabulous time of year (if it stops peeing with rain). I've done a quick scout of my neighbourhood and I've brought you the best of the autumn show.




Here are some Fabulous Facts about Deciduous Trees.

 - Leaves fall off trees in winter because a layer of cork grows across the leaf stalk gradually cutting off its water supply.

-  Physiological changes in the leaf produce outstanding autumn colours.  Short, warm days and cool nights produce pigments which develop into the wonderful autumn colours. Carotenoid pigment gives yellow, orange and brown and bright reds and purples are from anthocyanin pigments. 

Red and purple leaves are actually caused by the presence of sugars from sap that is trapped inside of the leaves.

- If you live very close to the Equator, you will not experience autumnal colours.

- Plums are an autumnal fruit and you should find the last of them in the shops now.

So dash out and buy a few because this may be your last chance this season to make this cake.






PLUM CAKE


Ingredients


1/4 cup (60g) caster sugar
115g butter
1 cup (125g) plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 eggs
4 plums, pitted and quartered
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons Rice Malt Syrup
pinch salt
1 - 2 teaspoons caster sugar

Preheat oven to 170º fan forced.

Beat sugar and butter together until nice and creamy.


Beat in eggs one at a time until combined.


Mix flour, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl and gently incorporate into the creamed mixture.


Pour batter into a greased springform cake tin, approx 20 cms in size.


Place the quartered plums, cut side up into the batter, pressing down slightly.
Sprinkle  the plums with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.


Bake in a preheated oven for 40 - 50 minutes.

Cool for 5 to 10 minutes then take out of the tin and cool completely on a cake rack or serve warm with yoghurt.

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Monday, 10 April 2017

Vanilla Plums, Rice, Sugar and Olive Oil


Things I have learned this week!


1. Rice contains arsenic! I am gobsmacked! Maybe you knew this already. If you are a not a big rice eater then eating small amounts of rice should be fine. However, to make it safer, soak rice in water overnight, drain the water and discard it and then use fresh water to cook the rice. Arsenic will be drawn out of the rice and into the water  you are discarding making it much safer.


2. Never use olive oil in non stick pans. Use grape seed oil, avocado oil or bran oil. This will enable your non stick pan to stay pristine for ever. Olive oil will burn on your non stick pan rendering it useless. Thank you George! ( I read this on the box of my new George Colombaris pan) How come I didn't know this?


3. Quitting sugar is like giving up smoking. The thought of it is way more difficult than actually doing it. I am on day 6 of a sugarless diet! But, I did buy a jar of Rice Malt Syrup which contains no fructose and I tried it in my coffee. It tasted OK but it wasn't sweet.

4. Sweet cooked fruit in season does not need added sugar. If you add sugar out of habit to your food, stop and think 'do I really need this'.

5. Volunteering for something takes less time that you think and is a great way to meet new people and learn about your local environment.

6. Plums are one of my favourite fruits.

So I had better let you have my favourite plum recipe that is so simple you wonder why you have never tried it before. (Ssh, it contains no sugar either)


VANILLA PLUMS





Ingredients

1 kg ripe plums, any kind will do
1 vanilla pod
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup water

I feel a bit of a fake posting this recipe - if you can even call it that! 

1. Wash and cut the fruit into quarters removing the seed.

2. Add to a large pan with water, cinnamon stick and the seeds from the vanilla pod.

3. On a low heat cook plums until they are soft and thick, about 15 - 20 minutes. 

4. Take off the heat and cool. Remove the cinnamon stick. 

5. Serve warm or cold with ice cream, custard, yoghurt or by themselves.

See I told you it was really easy.


Did you know? The plum is related to the almond, peach and nectarine.Plums are called 'drupes' something with a hard stone at the centre, from the Latin word 'druppa' meaning 'over ripe olive'. (I think this must be because the olive has a hard stone in the centre). If you are a linguist and know more about this, can you leave a comment please.

Phenols are also found in plums and prunes (dried plums); they function as antioxidants - plus they aid in helping the body to absorb iron. And finally they are high in vitamin C. What a clever thing nature is.










Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Lentil, Mushroom and Brussel Sprout Strudel


My mother had no formal training as a chef yet she cooked for a large number of people for a long time. She became 'famous' locally for her steak and kidney pies, Yorkshire puddings and roast meats.

As a child we always had plenty of food on the table, vegetables my father grew; beans, peas, cabbages, potatoes and with butchers in the family even during hard times we ate well. Our neighbour handed over bruised apples from his tree and with my rhubarb (found on an old allotment and brought home for dad to plant) we ate fabulous crumbles with custard for dessert.

But my mum was a lousy vegetable cook; Over cooking was something she was accustomed to from her childhood. Carrots with a little bite were 'under done', runner beans with a 'squeak', were 'not cooked properly'. So for me to become vegetarian from a relatively young age, seemed somewhat odd.

I have memories of sprouts cooked in boiling water for ever, until they were just a load of mush and served proudly with Sunday roast and lashings of gravy. If you have similar memories then I know what you are thinking! Brussel Sprout Strudel - no way!

Although my childhood sprouts weren't OK,  I haven't been discouraged from eating them but I cook them very differently to my mum and I love experimenting with sprout recipes. My love of sprouts and lentils gave me the inspiration for this recipe. Add mushrooms and it makes perfect sense, to me anyway. 

The lentils are strong and firm and with the butteriness (if indeed that is a word) of the sprouts, they just melt in your mouth.

I am pretty sure that most people who like to cook have some recipes where the ingredients are just completely absurd. And I bet that once you tell people what's in the dish, they seem surprised that they go together so well. 

This is that kind of recipe. Don't be scared now, just give it a go and you might surprise yourself. 



  LENTIL, MUSHROOM AND BRUSSEL SPROUT STRUDEL


Serves 4 people

225g Brussel sprouts
1 x 425g can lentils
200g can/jar of roasted red peppers
125g mushrooms, chopped
1 brown onion, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
20g butter
50g Parmesan cheese finely grated
3 tablespoons breadcrumbs
Filo pastry about 12 sheets
salt and pepper
20g extra butter for the filo pastry

Sauce

1 cup white wine
1 - 2 tablespoons flour
1 knob of butter
1 cup stock or a stock cube and water


Steam/ cook  Brussel sprouts until almost tender. Remove and set aside.

In a large frypan add olive oil and 20g butter and cook onions and garlic on low until they are soft and just starting to brown. This will take around 15 minutes.
Add mushrooms, brown for a few minutes then add roasted pepper. Cook uncovered, stirring often for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. 

Chop the sprouts in half and ad these to the pan and cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring and seasoning as you go.

Remove from the heat and place them in a bowl and set aside.

Using the same pan, make the sauce. Add the butter, flour to make a rue then add cup of white wine and stock and cook, stirring until the sauce thickens.

Cook the sauce for a couple of minutes then return the vegetables to the pan and mix until they are well coated. Now take them off the heat and allow to cool before making up the strudel.

Once the vegetables have cooled, it's time to make the strudel. 




Melt the extra butter in a microwave container. Take one piece of filo pastry and using a pastry brush, brush butter over the surface. Don't take too long or the pastry will dry out. Now sprinkle over a little cheese and breadcrumbs and add another layer. Repeat until you have 4 pieces of filo on top of each other.

Take half the mixture and place it in a line along the long side of the pastry, leaving a little pastry free at the ends to tuck in. Now fold the ends over the mixture and roll up like a big sausage roll.

Repeat this with 4 more sheets of filo and mixture. You should make 2 strudels out of this mixture. Lastly brush the tops of the strudels with any remaining butter. Place them on a baking tray lines with baking paper and bake in a preheated oven 190º/375º for 20 - 30 minutes until the pastry is nice and brown.

 Serve with a salad or two or your favourite vegetables and a dollop of chutney or pickle.