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We all need a little more beans sometimes. These little superfoods have basically everything going for them. Most beans are full of all the good stuff, such as protein, iron, fibre and complex carbs. They’re also cheap and – when cooked with love – downright delicious. All in all, they make me happy.

I’ve been trying to create tasty baked beans for a while. Sadly, they have often turned out a little bland and barely preferable to the canned stuff.

But, this time I think I’ve cracked it. Here is my new favourite baked beans recipe. I predict that this dish is going to see me though many a cold Winter night in the coming few months…and probably a few frosty mornings and lunchtimes too…

Ingredients
600g dried beans (I used kidney and cannellini) (soaked overnight)
3 tbs olive oil
1 large brown onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped finely
1 chipotle chilli (substitute with normal chilli and smoked paprika)
1-2 carrots, diced
3 sticks celery, diced
2 cans tomatoes (400g each)
1 small red capsicum
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
3 bay leaves
2 cups stock (I used vegetable)
2 tbs maple syrup/honey/molasses/apple juice concentrate, to taste
2 tbs Worcestershire sauce, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste

To serve:
Sourdough bread, toasted
Olive oil
Feta
Fresh herbs of your choice

Method

You will need to begin this recipe a day ahead of planned eating time. Soak your chosen beans overnight – for at least 12 hours – in a non-reactive bowl. Rinse the beans a few times (this supposedly reduces the gassy effects of beans – their one negative effect).

Choose a large pot. Heat the olive oil over a low-medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and chipotle chilli and sauté for about 5 minutes. (If you can’t find chipotle chilli, you can replace it with normal chilli or chilli flakes, and add some smoked paprika at the end of cooking. Alternatively, if you’re not a chilli person, you can forgo the heat and just add the smoked paprika.) Add the carrots and celery and continue to sauté for about 5 more minutes.

Next, add the soaked beans, tomatoes, capsicum, rosemary, bay leaves and stock. Partly cover and simmer for at least 2 hours, until the sauce is lovely and rich, and the beans are soft. Remember to check and stir occasionally. Add a few tablespoons of maple syrup (or honey, molasses or apple juice concentrate) for sweetness, to taste. Add a few tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce for sharpness, to taste. Add salt and pepper to taste. Remove the bay leaves and rosemary sprigs.

(You could cook this in the oven for more authentic ‘baked’ beans, but I like the control that the stovetop gives me. Simply turn the oven on low, up the cooking time and reduce the liquid a little.)

To serve, toast the sourdough and drizzle it with some olive oil. Crumble feta and some fresh herbs over the top. (Scrambled eggs also go really well with this.) Any extra baked beans can be frozen and eaten later – this is important to add as this recipe is very generous!

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A few months ago, I found myself in Unawatuna on the teardrop-shaped island of Sri Lanka. Unawatuna is a beachside town that ticks all the boxes: sun, sand, surf, cheesy bars, and – of course – tasty food.

One day, some like minded food-loving friends and I decided to forgoe the beach and learn some of the local cuisine. We found a cooking school called Sonja’s Health Food Restaurant and booked in for a day-long class.

There were several vegetarians/vegans/pescatarians in our group, so everything we cooked was meat-free except one fish curry. We made pumpkin curry, red dhal curry, tuna curry, beetroot curry, devilled potatoes, dhal burgers and coconut roti with sambol. The food we prepared and ate that day was, without doubt, the best food that I ate in Sri Lanka.

Since I came home, I’ve been itching to recreate the beetroot curry in particular. It was pretty unusual but I remember it being delicious. I’ve adapted the recipe a little to suit Australian tastes and the ingredients I had in my pantry.

On remake, I’ve decided that this dish definitely needs its curry-friends all around it to make it a more satisfying and complete meal. By itself, it’s just too much of one flavour. I’ll try to cook a few more Sri Lankan dishes over the next few weeks to share with you.

Ingredients

1 Spanish onion, diced
1 tbs vegetable oil
4 medium beets, peeled and cut into sticks about half a centimetre thick
10 curry leaves
1 stick cinnamon
1 ½ tsp cumin seeds, pan-roasted and ground
1 ½ tsp coriander seeds, pan-roasted and ground
½ tsp turmeric, ground
1 tsp salt
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 ½ tsp black mustard seeds
400ml coconut cream (1 can)
1 tsp garam masala

Method

The first step is to prepare your ingredients. Dice the onion into pieces about 1 centimetre square. Peel the beets (you can use a sharp knife) and cut into french-fry size sticks. Measure out the spices. I like to sharpen up my spices by dry-frying them for a few minutes in a hot pan (before grinding). This just brings out the flavour a little and you can skip if you like.

 

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Heat up the oil in a large pan on a low heat. Chuck in the onions and let them soften.

After a few minutes, add all the spices except for the mustard seeds and garam masala. Continue to saute until the onions are very soft. This will take between five and ten minutes.

Turn up the heat to medium. Add the mustard seeds and continue to cook for about 30 seconds, until the mustard seeds begin to pop.

Add the coconut cream and beetroot sticks.

Cook for about 15 minutes over a medium heat, until most of the coconut cream has evaporated or absorbed.

Serve with rice and a few other curries. Dream of Sri Lanka.

 

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Anzac update: success!

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Last year Saskia blogged about her failed attempts at her grandmother’s Anzac biscuits. Said failure was largely due to the imprecise nature of the recipe and some missteps with the ingredients (I maintain that Saskia forgot the flour in the first batch).

On Twitter Kate from Eating Melbourne gave an Anzac recipe from taste her tick of approval. At the time, I was sitting on the couch with all Anzac ingredients sitting in my cupboard. In about 10 minutes I had made 20 odd biscuits and they were happily cooking in the oven. And they were delicious.

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Some differences to our previous Anzac failures – 1) they contained coconut 2) the ratio of oat to flour was the same by volume and 3) brown sugar rather than white sugar. Another difference was that I sprinkled them with sea salt before baking – the salt is wonderful with the caramelly flavour of these!

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Anzac biscuits that work

From the taste website. Note that I made these successfully with spelt flour, quantities below. I also recommend adding a little sprinkling of sea salt to the cookies, it takes the edge off the sweetness.
Makes about 24 (mine made less, but we ate a lot of the dough before baking it)

125g butter
2 tbs golden syrup
2 tbs water
150g plain flour (or 180g spelt flour)
90g rolled oats
85g desiccated coconut
155g brown sugar
1 tsp bicarb soda
Sea salt for sprinkling (optional)

  • Pre-heat the oven to 160C.
  • Place the butter, golden syrup and water in a small saucepan and put on low heat.
  • While the butter mixture is melting, sift the flour into a large bowl, then stir in the oats, coconut and sugar.
  • Once the butter mixture has melted, add the bicarb (it will foam up). Pour the butter mixture into the dry mixture and stir to combine.
  • Take a flat tablespoon of mixture and roll it into a ball. Place on a lined baking tray with about 5cm between each ball (the cookies will spread). Flatten with a fork. Sprinkle with a little sea salt.
  • Bake for about 10 minutes until golden, cool on the tray then transfer to a cooling rack.
  • Enjoy!
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A while ago, Saskia posted a recipe for gobi dhal from a favourite family cookbook, Indian Cooking by Khalid Aziz (circa 1983). As Saskia mentioned, the book isn’t fancy but it certainly contains some fantastic recipes.

This vegetable curry is based on a recipe from the same book, though I tend to take a very loose interpretation to the ingredients. Basically, I follow the recipe as far as the spices go, but otherwise substitute whatever vegetables are lying around the house. For some reason, Mr M and I always end up with a surplus of vegetables to get through towards the end of the week, and this is a perfect way to use them up.

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Coriander, tumeric and mustard seeds are a winning combination in my book. Topped with some garam masala and the acidity of a squeeze of lemon at the end, and this is pretty much perfect. Plus, look at all those vegetables? You can definitely feel virtous while you tuck into this…

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Mixed vegetable curry

Adapted from Indian Cooking by Khalid Aziz (circa 1983)

This is a very flexible recipe, feel free to add and subtract vegetables so you can use what you have. Also, I used shredded coconut in the photos as that is what I had on hand. Desiccated coconut is much better.

1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
2 tbs olive oil
225g green beans
225g carrot
1 zucchini
1 head of broccoli
1 green capsicum
100g desiccated coconut
300ml hot water
1 x 5cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped into strips
1 tsp mustard seeds
3 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
4 tsp garam masala
Squeeze of lemon
Salt & pepper
Fresh coriander (to serve)

  • Peel the onion and garlic and slice thinly. Gently fry in olive oil until soft.
  • While the onion and garlic are cooking, chop the veggies into bite sized pieces. Set aside.
  • Put the desiccated coconut into a blender and add the hot water. Blend until smooth (note: you could use coconut milk here), then set aside.
  • Once the onion and garlic are cooked, add in the fresh ginger, then the mustard seeds, coriander, turmeric and chilli flakes.
  • Tip in the vegetables and stir until coated. Pour in the coconut water.
  • Increase the heat to bring the mixture to the boil, then cover and simmer until the vegetables are cooked through (about 25 minutes, but will depend on which veggies you used).
  • Once the vegetables are cooked, take the curry off the heat and stir through the garam masala & salt and pepper. I also like to add a squeeze of lemon.
  • Serve with rice, topped with chopped coriander and maybe a little natural yoghurt.
  • Enjoy!

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My brother L lives overseas (you can read about last time he visited here). This time, he arrived at 6.30am on a Saturday morning for a one week visit. Mum & dad offered to do the airport pick up and while I wasn’t really up for a 6am start, I offered to host a quick breakfast at my place. As we were low on time, I decided that eggs were unnecessary but wanted something delicious to offer the weary traveller. A muffin with a crumble-like topping has been in my mind for a while, so Saskia and I got together to do a little experimenting.

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These are inspired by Smitten Kitchen’s whole wheat apple muffins, but with some amendments. We swapped in some oat flour and spelt flour, used pears rather than apples and added the crunchy top for some added deliciousness.

These were really, really tasty and the crunchy top was a definite winner. Give them a try!

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Crunchy topped pear & cinnamon muffins

Inspired by Smitten Kitchen’s whole wheat apple muffins with some changes and those crunchy tops added in! This would obviously work very well with apple as well. Also, if you want lots of crunch, you could probably double the crunchy oat mixture for the tops of the muffins – I’ll be trying this next time!
Made about 20.

For the muffins

170g plain flour (or 205g spelt flour)
50g oat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarb soda
pinch of salt
1 tbs cinnamon
100g unsalted butter, at room temperature
100g caster sugar
100g brown sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
200g plain yoghurt
75ml water
350g pear, cut into small cubes (about 3 small pears)

For the crunchy tops

30g butter
60g rolled oats
30g brown sugar
rind of 1 small lemon
1/2 tsp cinnamon

  • Pre-heat the oven to 230C/450F.
  • Grease your muffin tin, or put cupcake papers into the tin.
  • Mix the flour, oat flour, baking powder, bicarb soda, salt and cinnamon together in a medium bowl. Set aside.
  • Cream the butter and sugars in an electric mixer until fluffy. Beat in the egg. Gently mix in the yoghurt and water.
  • Stir in the dry ingredients, but don’t over mix. Fold in the apple chunks.
  • Divide the mixture between the tins.
  • Make the mix for the top – melt the butter, then stir in the oats, sugar, lemon rind and cinnamon. Spoon the mix on to the tops of the uncooked muffins.
  • Bake for about 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 200C/400F and bake for another 5-10 minutes, until cooked through. Cool slightly before serving (they are really yummy warm).
  • Enjoy!

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Roast tomato soupy sauce

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I was lazying around last week flipping through some television channels and I came across the cooking show, The Delicious Miss Dahl. I got all transfixed by the soft-focus world of pastel Kitchen Aid mixers and enamel bakeware. Miss Dahl made a lovely roast tomato soup and I was inspired to try making one of  my own. I think this would be ideal for anyone with some end of season tomatoes.

I’ve decided, however, that this is not a soup at all. For one thing, my 10 lovely tomatoes and two onions resulted in only two measly cups of soup. Also, this tastes too damn good to be a dreary old soup. The flavour is super rich and multi-layered. I think my ‘soup’ will end up being a sauce. I’ll simmer it down and serve it with some sort of white fish. Probably snapper.

If anyone has any other genius ideas about what to do with this, please leave a comment!

Ingredients

10 tomatoes, quartered and cored
2 Spanish onions, quartered
5 garlic cloves, unpeeled
Several sprigs of thyme or marjoram or any tomato-friendly herb
About 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar or other red vinegar
Olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

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Method

Preheat the oven to 150°C. Spread the tomatoes, onions and garlic over a roasting tray. Scatter with herb leaves. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar. Sprinkle with salt. Place in the oven for about 40 minutes, or until the tomatoes are well cooked and begin to melt.

Take the tray out of the oven and remove the garlic from their skins. Remove any overly-burnt bits of vegetable. (Purists would also remove the tomato skins to reduce bitterness, but I’m no purist!)

Tip the contents of the roasting tray into a food processor and blend. Taste for salt, pepper and vinegar and adjust accordingly. If you decide, like me, that this dish should be a sauce, place the tomato blend in a saucepan and simmer down to your desired consistency.

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As we come to the end of the season for tomatoes in Australia, I thought that this recipe from Ottolenghi’s Plenty
would be a lovely way to show them off.

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This salad also ticked a few more boxes, including Saskia’s beloved theory of ‘combining for protein‘. It was also a nice, substantial salad which we served (along with a couple of other things) to vegetarian friends when they came over to dinner.

The recipe is simple, just bake some gorgeous tomatoes with thyme, balsamic and olive oil:

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Cook some lentils, then toss the cooled tomatoes through, along with spanish onion, herbs and gorgonzola.

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Absolutely delicious! I recommend you try this recipe without delay!

Lentils with tomatoes and gorgonzola

Adapted from Plenty: Vibrant Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi.
Note, the original recipe called for Castelluccio lentils, but I substituted for puy lentils which are more widely available in Australia. I also altered the herbs slightly, the original recipe included dill, which I am not a huge fan of!

250g puy lentils
1/2 small red onion, very thinly sliced
1 tbs red wine vinegar
Sea salt
3 tbs olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
3 tbs chopped parsley
2 tbs chopped chives
3 tbs chopped coriander
100g mild gorgonzola, in small chunks

400g tomatoes
8 thyme sprigs
1 tbs olive oil
2 tbs balsamic vinegar

  • Make the tomatoes. Pre-heat the oven to 130C. Line a baking tray with baking paper, quarter the tomatoes and place in the tray, skin side down. Place the thyme sprigs on top, then drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Scatter a few pinches of sea salt on top.

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  • Roast for 1.5 hours, until the tomatoes are semi-dried. Transfer to a plate to cool and discard the thyme sprigs. Allow to cool.

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  • Cook the lentils in plenty of boiling water until tender – about 20 minutes or so.
  • While the lentils are cooking, place the red onion in a medium bowl and cover with the red wine vinegar and a pinch of salt.
  • Drain the lentils, and while they are still warm, mix with the red onion. Add the olive oil and garlic.
  • Once the lentils have cooled, add in the herbs and the tomatoes. Sprinkle the gorgonzola on top. Drizzle the cooking juices from the tomatoes over the top.
  • Enjoy!

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Kanteen is located on a bend of the yarra river and it’s a pretty stunning place to sit and enjoy a coffee or a meal.  Late last year, Saskia, Mr M and I visited Kanteen for a quick refuel.

Kanteen offers a breakfast and lunch menu that overlap – with breakfast served until 3pm and lunch served from 11am. Breakfast fare ranges from rye melts ($8), a range of eggs ($11-$16.50), porridge ($9.5), muesli ($9.5) and breakfast pides ($10). Lunch items include a range of pides (peppered chicken, pastrami, tuna or mediterranean vegetable, $12.50) as well as a couple of salads ($18.50), a curry ($18.50) and a soup of the day ($14).

Continue Reading Kanteen South Yarra: the jury is out…

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As an Aussie, I’m quite fascinated by some of the uniquely North American baked goods. There seems to be loads of different sweet treats out there that are well known to our North American friends but are completely unheard of here. On the list are things like whoopie pies, red velvet cake, nanaimo bars, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, angel food cake, s’mores, snickerdoodles and king cake.

Devil’s food cake (and cupcakes for that matter), also joined that list. I understood that it was like a light chocolate cake but the distinction between devil’s food cake, red velvet cake and regular chocolate cake was lost on me. Wikipedia explained that devil’s food cake is “generally more moist and airy than other chocolate cakes”. Not all that definitive. After making my own (delicious) red velvet cupcakes a while back, and knowing my way around a chocolate cake, I thought it was time to give the devil’s food cake a whirl.

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Continue Reading Devil’s food cupcakes with vanilla frosting…

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Sandwiches can be the best of things and the worst of things. For me, the word ‘sandwich’ still conjures up an image of tomato slices and Kraft singles stuck between soggy Tip Top slices. I would have had one of those pretty much every day of my school life. Bleugh!

It doesn’t have to be that way. For a friend’s recent party, I was asked to make the “vegetarian option” sandwich. I came up with this little filling, which I am extremely pleased with. It was inspired by the zucchini pizza on the cover of February’s Gourmet Traveller magazine.

Continue Reading Zucchini and cream cheese: my latest and greatest bagel filling…

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