Saturday, 22 February 2014

The French Breakfast Table

When I travel overseas, I don't generally pre book accommodation. I like the excitement (one could call it stress) of arriving in a town or city I don't know, dabbling in a language I barely know, and finding somewhere to stay. There are exceptions of course, depending on the arrival time and how long I plan to stay in one place.

My yearning to visit Monet's Garden in Giverny, France a couple of years ago, in peak season, meant that I should be very sensible and pre book some accommodation. But booking over the internet can be disastrous, promising the earth and delivering little. To date I must admit to have been pretty lucky.

So I searched for B & B's close to Giverny  and booked for 2 nights accommodation. The town, a short drive away from the garden, was little more than a one antique shop and school, village. I had fingers and toes crossed.

Claude Monet's famous water lily pond and house in the background

Boats on Monet's water lily Pond

Our accommodation was part of a typical renovated French farmhouse, with chickens, two dogs and a garden to die for. Patrick and Francoise who run La Clos Tanpere at Pressagny L'Orgueilleux , greeted us like friends.

Lounge and the breakfast nook at La Clos Tanpere

 Their house was adorned with antiques and  interesting pieces of art, which we were to learn later were all fashion illustrations done by Francoise. The interior was quirky, and deliciously homely and we were delighted by the experience.

But breakfast was a whole story in itself. There was a table laid for us in a nook in the lounge. This lovely antique table sported a pretty embroidered white table cloth and spotted china in the shape of hearts. Small sugar cubes in a silver bowl, embroidered napkins and red roses petals strewn over the table. I don't remember what we had to eat but the table setting has remained firmly implanted in my head and my heart. It was beautiful.
Arriving back in Australia, I decided to recreate what we now call the 'French Breakfast Table'.
On Sundays, my husband and I lay the table and we take it in turns to make breakfast, a leisurely affair with new recipes and surprises. The only rules are you can't make the same recipes two weeks in a row and there are no rose petals. I don't normally share this with others, but we had such a lovely breakfast on Sunday, that I thought you may enjoy it and it could also bring a little joy into your lives.

Blueberry Pancakes with Vanilla

I have made many a pancake in my life, but these just have to be the best ever! They make small fluffy, American style pancakes.

This made 8 pancakes

11/2 cups milk
1 punnet of blueberries, washed
3 tsps vanilla extract
2 cups of self raising flour
Butter melted
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 egg
1/4 cup caster sugar
Plain yoghurt for serving

  • Into a large bowl sift bicarbonate of soda and flour 
  • In a small bowl beat egg and 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract, stir in sugar.
  • Fold the egg and vanilla into the flour, adding the milk a little at a time until you have a lovely batter with no lumps.
  • Fold in the blueberries and the last teaspoon of vanilla extract.
  • Melt some butter in a small saucepan and use this to coat a non stick fry pan.
  • Using a large spoon, spoon some batter into the frypan and cook reasonably quickly turning once one side is brown.
  • The blueberries should be just starting to melt.
  • Serve with a dollop of plain yoghurt and a sprinkle of icing sugar

Saturday, 15 February 2014

One Potato, Two Potatoes!

There is something about the thought of tomatoes, potatoes and paprika together that makes my mouth water. Spanish potatoes or 'Patatas Bravas' are a mixture of smoked paprika, sweet roasted garlic and tomatoes. Whenever you see Tapas being served, you can guarantee that there will be a dish of these divine potatoes.  In Spain, the potatoes are deep fried, but I can get a really good dish by baking them in the oven. Much healthier because there is very little oil! Easy to make, easy to eat and never any left overs. How could I resist sharing my recipe? This is as authentic as I can get it without tempting a massive coronary!

Patatas Bravas

Ingredients - Oven temperature 200C Fan Forced 
Serves 4 - 6

6 potatoes peeled and diced
4 Cloves Garlic
3 tbls of tomato puree
3 tbls Olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 tsp smoked Paprika
Juice 1/2 lemon
  • Take 6 potatoes, peel and chop into bite size piece.
  • In a large mixing bowl add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, smokey paprika and tomato puree. Mix well then add the potatoes. Using a spoon or your hands, coat the potatoes evenly.
  • In a large baking dish add 1 tablespoon olive oil and spread the potatoes out in the dish so they crisp up. Add the garlic, whole with skin on, but squashed with the back of a spoon. Cook in a hot oven for approximately 35 minutes until they are crispy and delicious.
  • Just 5 minutes before they are cooked, sprinkle with juice of half a lemon and put them back in the oven.
  • You can feed 6 people if you are serving this as part of a Tapas spread.

Keep heading to the end of the post, you will see that I'm also trusting you with my favourite Greek Lemon Potato recipe. I've served this at least a squillion times and I haven't yet met anyone that hasn't loved them.

                                          Greek Lemon Potatoes
Ingredients  Oven temperature 200C Fan Forced

6 potatoes, scrubbed clean  (Dutch Creams if possible)
1 large lemon
2 tbls Olive oil
Sprigs of Fresh Rosemary
Sprigs of fresh thyme

Dutch Cream potatoes are one of my favourites. They have a fabulous yellow flesh, perfect for this dish and they always seem to brown up well.
  •  Chop the scrubbed potatoes into 8 ths, a bit larger than ones in the previous recipe above. 
  • Grate the rind of a lemon and add this to the olive oil in a small bowl. Now squeeze all the lemon juice into the bowl with the oil and mix well.
  • Take a large baking dish and add the chopped potatoes and smother them with the lemon and olive oil mixture. Get your hands dirty and  make sure you really cover the whole of the potatoes with the lemon and oil.
  • Select a few Rosemary and thyme sprigs and place them under and over the potatoes. This will give them a lovely flavour.
  • Bake the potatoes in a pre heated fan forced oven, temperature 200 for approximately 35 minutes or until they are beautifully brown. 
  • At the half way mark, take them out and check to see if they need turning.
  • When they are cooked, drain them on kitchen paper, give a sprinkle of salt and eat.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

A Needy Sweetner

This has been a very strange week for me. I will explain!
Firstly the long and exceptionally hot weather has almost put paid to my super vegetable garden. In the last couple of days I have had to say goodbye to tomatoes, lettuce, rocket, sweet corn, strawberries and beetroot! All that seems to be alive now are chillies, capsicum, black kale, eggplant and a few sad looking zucchinis. Thankfully, most of my herbs are fine! 

On Friday my beloved Husqvana Sewing Machine, let out a long, loud, squeal, a few puffs of smoke and stopped working! Damn, right in the middle of a big sewing project.

Yesterday, I had a narrow escape with a saucepan of lentils which almost set my house on fire. Thankfully, the Country Fire Service was available to divert this disaster.

So perhaps you can understand why this week needs a sweetener!

I found this recipe in my 'Simply Heaven, Volume 2", a book put out by Kraft Food in 2010. It features 75 recipes using Philadelphia Cream Cheese. For me this recipe has way too much sugar and butter, so I have cut them both down and they worked perfectly.

This Frangipane Tart looks lovely and tastes wonderful, but the calorie count is quite high. However, If you have a small amount on a special occasion, it isn't going to over concern you. I did an hour of Pilates today so I am feeling pretty smug! Enjoy!

Raspberry Frangipane Tart
My Ingredients
Shortcrust Pastry

11/2 cups plain flour
1 tbls caster sugar
80g butter
2 tblsp cold water


100g butter softened
125g Philadelphia Light Cream Cheese softened
1/4 cup caster sugar
2 tsps vanilla extract
2 eggs
11/2 cups ground almonds
1 cup fresh or frozen raspberries
1/4 cup flaked almonds
Dash of Icing sugar for serving

  • To make the pastry, combine flour, sugar and butter in a food processor and process until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add water and pulse to combine. Gently knead, wrap and chill for 30 minutes.
  • Roll out pastry to fit a fluted tart pan with a removable base - I  used one that measured 130 cms x 340 cm. Prick the base and cook for 12 minutes on 180 degrees, until it is just starting to brown. Take it out of the oven.
  • Lower the oven temperature to 150 degrees.
  • While this is cooking, mix the filling.
  • Beat butter, cream cheese, vanilla with an electric beater. Add eggs and beat well. Fold in the ground almonds and pour this into the base. Sprinkle the raspberries onto the filling, slightly pushing them down into the filling.
  • Sprinkle with flakes almonds and cook for 50 minutes, until it is set. Cool in tin. 
  • Dust with icing sugar and serve. 
The recipe will serve 10 people. So invite your friends or neighbours to share. 

Friday, 7 February 2014

The Humble Spud, Spanish Style

Do you know how many calories there are in a potato? Does it depend on the variety or are they all the same? Here are some surprising facts!

A potato has about 77 calories per 100 grams and a banana has 89 calories per 100 grams. Providing you don't lather potatoes in butter they are actually pretty OK to eat. Like bananas, potatoes contain over 400mg of potassium (including the potato skin) which our body needs to build protein, build muscle, control the electrical activity of the heart and more. So the humble spud is a pretty good vegetable to eat, even when you need to count calories. For more information go to this web site.

History has it that it was the Spanish that introduced the potato to the rest of Europe! And in Spanish cooking the potato is definately the hero! 

My Spanish omelettes used to be made with a few eggs beaten and an onion fried, some mashed potatoes thrown in with a few tomatoes at the last minute. But after my visit to Spain and finding out how to cook them properly, that all changed! 

Because a Spanish Omelette is nothing like a French Omelette it is more like a Potato dish with an egg. To prove this to you, here is my recipe. Once you have tried it, decide for yourself! But if you feel inclined, leave me a comment. Because it is always nice to know what you are thinking!
Tortilla de Patata or Spanish Omelette

Ingredients for 4 people

6 Eggs 
1 white sweet onion
3 potatoes
1/2 Sweet potato
Salt and pepper
Few sprigs of Rosemary
3 tbls Olive oil
2 tbls Parsley, chopped

  • I used a mandolin to slice the potatoes and onion. It was the second setting so not too thin. 
  • You can slice the potatoes by hand but try to get them all the same thickness so they cook at the same rate. If they are a bit thicker, it doesn't matter, they just take longer to cook.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large frypan with a lid. Add the onions, potatoes and rosemary. cook semi covered for around 30 minutes. This will depend on the thickness of the potatoes. If you can pierce them with the tip of a knife then they are cooked. 
  • Keep the heat down pretty low so the onions do not burn. No need to stir them.

  • Beat eggs, add salt and pepper.
  • When the potatoes are cooked, strain the oil off them, retaining the oil to cook the omelette and remove the sprigs of rosemary. 
  • Mix the potatoes and onions into the eggs, reheat the oil and put the whole lot into a pan adding the parsley.
  • Keep the heat low and let the egg cook and solidify a little so you are able to invert with a plate. This takes around 10 -15 minutes. 
  •  Once inverted, slide back into the pan and cook side two. 
  • When this is cooked, slide onto a plate and leave to cool for about 5 minutes before cutting and serving.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Spanish Paella for Vegetarians

It probably seems odd to some vegetarians that a dish of Paella looks so mouthwatering. It is the flavours, spices and the rich golden colour that draws me to it, but alas it is the seafood and meat that stops me eating it.

A few years ago when I was in Barcelona, I would stand outside restaurants, nose pressed against the windows watching waiters delivering huge platters of Paella to their waiting patrons. I would search every menu to find one I could eat, but it didn't happen and I was left with a real feeling of disappointment.

Not surprising then to see my version of a vegetarian Paella here. This dish will give you the same experience flavour wise, but without the fish and meat. The original recipe that got me started was from a magazine, (unfortunately I can't reference it because I have no idea where it came from). It did included sausages and chicken but somehow the spices together sounded as though they would meld together well, so I adapted it to make it vegetarian. I love this recipe, it is so easy to make, yet it provides the full flavour of a Paella that I want.

Thank you, whoever you are, that inspired me to make this! Also, to all the Spanish people who may be offended because this is not a true Paella and think I am making a mockery out of their national dish, 'Apenado! (Gosh, I hope that's the right word).

Vegetarian Paella


1 tbls olive oil
1  small onion finely chopped
1 cup basmati rice - don't use any other rice
1 tsp ground turmeric
425g tin chopped tomatoes
1/2 large red capsicum, chopped
2 cloves garlic crushed
1 small red chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped
2 cups vegetable stock
1 tin chick peas, drained
1  kumara (sweet potato) peeled and grated
100g chopped mushrooms
pinch saffron threads
100g french green beans, topped and blanched for 5 minutes
1 tsp smoked paprika
Salt and pepper
chopped coriander
1 lemon cut into wedges for serving

  • Add olive oil to a large frypan with lid, saute onion, and garlic until soft. Add turmeric and rice and cook stirring for 2 minutes. 
  • Add saffron threads to the stock and stir. 
  • Add tomatoes, capsicum, chilli, mushrooms, paprika and kumara and all of the stock. 
  • Bring  to the boil and then turn the heat down low, cover and cook stirring occasionally for 15 minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed. 
  • Add chick peas, smoked paprika (you can add some of the liquid from the chick peas if you need more stock) and green beans, adjust seasoning by adding salt and pepper to taste. 
  • Heat through, stirring for 3 more minutes and it is ready to serve with  chopped coriander and wedges of lemon!

Sunday, 2 February 2014

More Cucumbers

So my cucumber challenge continues for today and then it will be time to tempt you with other flavoursome dishes.

Again, Adelaide is facing some really hot weather, back up into the 40's C.  
So, these recipes are just what you need for stinky hot days. Sometimes it is so hot that I feel sure my brain is melting and it is hard to concentrate even on the simplest task. I think it has already been recorded as the hottest summer on record and yet there are still people who don't believe in climate change!

I found a recipe for Cucumber Sorbet and I thought it would team well in with the Basil Ice Cream I made a while ago, but alas after a few attempts I could not get a consistency that I was happy with. I have changed tack now,  I think hot and I think BBQ and I think quick, and I have come back to salads. 

The first salad to tempt you is one to complement a Tofu Burger with Wasabi Dressing (recipe included). Both the salad and burger are easy to prepare and ideal for this time of year. Secondly, a sweet salad teeming strawberries with cucumbers and an unusual dressing.

So get out your BBQ and you can cook the burgers outside so your kitchen stays cool, unless of course you are in the Northern Hemisphere when the heat from the cooker will help defrost your feet.

 Asian Marinated Cucumber Salad

1 continental cucumber, peeled
30g sesame seeds (toasted in a dry frypan)
1/2 red onion very finely sliced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tbls rice wine vinegar

This is best made with a mandolin for slicing the onion and cucumber. Once sliced place in a small bowl with salt, sugar, rice wine vinegar and sesame seeds. Mix all together and set aside for at least 1 hour before using.
Keep in the fridge until ready to use.

                               Tofu Burger with Wasabi Dressing

Burger Ingredients

2 cloves garlic
1 red onion, finely chopped
375g packet firm tofu
200g small firm mushrooms, chopped
1/2 bunch coriander
3 cups breadcrumbs made from 3 slices of bread
2 tbls tomato paste
2 tbls hot chilli sauce
2 tbls balsamic vinegar
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tbls olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
300g sesame seeds toasted

For this recipe I used a firm, organic tofu. It really doesn't work so well with the soft variety.
In a small frypan, add olive oil and cook the onion until soft. Add mushrooms and continue cooking for 5 minutes. Cool.
In a food processor add 250g of the hard tofu chopped, garlic, coriander and process under it looks pretty smooth.  Transfer to a bowl and grate the remaining tofu into the same bowl and mix together. Add the onion and mushroom mixture . Add chilli sauce, vinegar, salt and pepper and juice from 1/2 lemon. 
Add 2 cups of breadcrumbs and mix well. Shape into  8 patties and cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Take out of the fridge and use the remaining 1 cup of breadcrumbs to coat the outside of the patties before cooking on your BBQ. Remember to add a little oil to the BBQ before cooking to avoid them sticking. Alternatively, you can toast some sesame seeds and use these to coat the burgers instead of the breadcrumbs, or do both.

Wasabi Dressing

2 tbls Wasabi
1/2 cup mayonnaise
squeeze of lemon juice

If you haven't used Wasabi before, take care because it is extremely hot.

Mix the mayonnaise, Wasabi  and lemon juice together to make a nice runny consistency. Taste it before adding to your burger so you don't end up getting a nose bleed.

Cucumber and Strawberry Salad

1 continental cucumber
250g strawberries
3 tablespoons honey
10 mint leaves
5 tbls Buderim Refresher Ginger Cordial  or similar

Slice the cucumbers and strawberries and place in a serving bowl.
Chop the mint leaves very finely. Mix the ginger cordial, honey and mint together and dress the strawberries and cucumber. Simple and sensational. Great flavours that go so well together.