Wednesday, 13 September 2017

A French Weekend in Melbourne

For a whole weekend, I felt I was back in France! And I was excited.

Day 1 - My long weekend started off with a delicious meal at a restaurant/Cafe in the CBD. Higher Ground is an open space of industrial beauty. Formerly a power station, the building has been transformed with arched windows, exposed brick and a host of greenery. The menu varied from Japanese Fish Soup to a medley of fennel, white beans and slow cooked carrots, very much like a Pistou Our waiter was unflappable, attentive and French! and the whole atmosphere was one of unhurried enjoyment.

Day 2  - Melbourne Writers Festival - Sheridan Jobbins, an Australian film maker has written her first book. 'Wish You Were Here' was launched by Amanda Keller, her friend and former colleague at Channel 10.  Nothing French here, but a remarkable girls' own adventure driving a car across America, alone, determined to find herself. The atmosphere at the launch and the whole vibe of Federation Square was uplifting.



Sheridan Left and Amanda Keller


















The House of Dior at National Gallery of Victoria. In celebration of its seventieth anniversary, this adorable exhibition is exclusive to Melbourne. The range of styles from 1947 - 2017 shows the immaculate workings of Haute Couture. I was pretty much blown away by the number of items on display. Hats, gloves, shoes, ball gowns, dresses of the most exquisite embroidery; beadwork, lacework and stunning fabrics. Two women, employees of Dior can be seen working away constructing garments by hand. Truly remarkable to see the way these are made with perfect hand stitching.
Exquisite bead work and gold thread on this gown - stunning.
A couple of little black dresses, Dior style









































































Just a small sample of the range of clothing on vie

On the way back to our hotel, Causeway 353 we stopped at the French Baguette Cafe, Richmond for afternoon tea. Eclairs, Blueberry Cheese cake and a Green Matcha cake - sorry we ate them so quickly I didn't have time to snap them. A celebration for daughter's birthday. 


Day 4 - Our last day in Melbourne saw us visiting family at Woodend. A lovely train ride up through the Macedon Ranges and there we are an hour later. It was a bitterly cold day and just as we were finishing lunch, down came the hail, which then turned into actual snow. It didn't settle luckily, and we headed back on the train to Melbourne, just in time to catch La Belle Miette, a French Patisserie in Collins Street.  



We couldn't resit buying a box of macarons, Lavender, Salted Caramel, Pistachio, Hazlenut, Strawberry and Blueberry. I must admit they were the best macarons I have ever eaten. We also sampled a couple of chocolates, so creamy yet not too sweet. 




Dinner with daughters at East, Little Collins Street, was delicious. The Salt and Pepper Tofu was scrumptious; soft, with a delicious crust.We ate steamed spinach dumplings, broccoli with garlic sauce, string beans and hot chilli sauce. OK so this wasn't French, but it was outstanding.

Such a terrific few days spent in great company, combined with fabulous food cooked by both of my daughters! Alas back to South Australia!

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Things I love - Zesty Cauliflower with Lentils


There are so many foods that I love to eat. They all have one thing in common; fresh food.

I've been thinking about all the different recipes I have tried over the last few weeks. Some absolutely superb, others not so. Now it might not be the recipe that has anything wrong with it, but not to my liking. And one of those recipes gave me the biggest bout of indigestion I have ever had, causing me undue belly pain for a large number of hours. Yes, I can laugh about it now, but when its happening, you think you are going to die.

I'm linking here to some of my favourite recipes on some other blog sites to give you a taste of what I like to eat.

Homespun Capers  is run by Liberty from Melbourne. One of my favourite dishes is Lentil and Leek Ragu. This is a hearty, flavoursome dish you can serve with rice, pasta or quinoa.

Cookie + Kate from Oklahoma, USA - Sweet Potato and Black Bean Taco - Yummy and spicy and very filling.


Amy from South Carolina hosts, She Wears Many Hats and has some interesting recipes, but this one is to die for - Grilled Cheese with Gouda, Roasted Mushrooms and Onions.  Scrumptious served with a bowl of soup for dinner or on its own for lunch. Yum!


I mentioned in my last blog post that I needed to find new ways using black lentils because I bought some interesting ones from Goodies and Grains at Adelaide Central Market. I was immediately drawn to the huge sack of black lentils, they were small, round and shiny, like black crystals. And the spoke to me, "buy me!"

These lentils are a variety called "Black Beluga Lentils' (named after the Beluga Caviar they resemble). They hold their shape really well and have at chewy, nutty, consistency. 


 And so I did buy them  and I have cooked them together with cauliflower rice to make this dish. You could use any black, green or brown lentil in this dish, so don't worry if you can't find the black ones. 

Cauliflowers are growing thick and fast in the veg plot so I needed to use them up too. The combination of cauliflower and lentils is deliciously creamy. It a quick recipe to prepare but it tastes as though you have been slaving over the cooker all day. Eaten straight away this dish really worked well, but eaten cold the following day, I was astounded at how good it tasted as a salad.  

Before you decide to try this recipe make sure you have a lime or too, because substituting lemons in this dish doesn't work so well. 




ZESTY CAULIFLOWER WITH LENTILS

INGREDIENTS

1/2 head of cauliflower (a whole one if it is small) 
1- 2  cups Black lentils if possible but green or brown are good substitutes,  cooked*
2 tablespoons Oil 
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2  a red capsicum, diced
1 onion, diced
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
a knob of fresh ginger, grated or finely chopped
1/2 cup frozen peas
salt and pepper
2 tablespoon soy sauce or Tamari
2 Spring onions, finely sliced
2 limes, zest and juice
salt and pepper

* To cook lentils quickly, place in a bowl, cover with boiling water and leave for 15 minutes. Drain the water. Put the lentils in a saucepan, cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 - 20 minutes. Drain and use.

You can either grate the cauliflower or pulse it in a food processor until it is the size of rice grains.

In a large frypan, heat the oil. Add onion, garlic, sesame seeds and ginger and cook, stirring frequently until the onion is a golden brown.

Add the cauliflower and cook for around 10 - 15 minutes until it has turned the colour of honey.

Stir in the lentils, peas, red pepper, soy sauce, salt and pepper and continue to cook until the peas are heated through.

Add the zest and juice of one lime and stir through.  Serve immediately garnished with spring onions and with a quarter of lime extra.

If you have any left over - serve as a cold salad. Or make it earlier in the day and keep covered in the fridge until ready to eat.

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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