• Porridge and Quince and Coffee

    I love how the mornings are brighter in April. And while it is undeniably cold, being woken by the sun rather than my phone alarm is a treat. Every time I beat the beat it feels like a victory, the natural world championing over the modern. And I’ll smile to myself as I search for my socks.

    I love how when pouring our coffee, Ben leaves a small portion in the jug for me to savour after I’ve finished my never quite full enough first mug.

    I love how the quince I poached last week sit ever so splendidly atop my bowl of porridge, their soft flesh perfectly scoop-able. The flavours of oats and quince marry so well. It’s wholesome comfort, with toasted nuts and seeds and an extra glug of milk.

    Porridge and quince and coffee.


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    Happy Wednesday, friends. And do tell, what did you have for breakfast today?

    Heidi xo
  • Get lost in Singapore with Heritage Food

    Oh how I wish I could jump on a plane and visit Singapore right now. I’m pretty certain I would fly 8 hours just for one day. Yeah, I would, I totally would. If it meant I could have some more curry debal, beef rendang and kueh bengkah.

    Today I’m going to share some chef and Singaporea food love with you. And hopefully you’ll be left with an urge to visit Singapore or at the very least make yourself a darn good stew. Indeed there is a recipe for you at the end of this post. But first, let me introduce the chef du jour…

    Damian D’Silva is an incredibly talented chef who has studied all over the world, perfecting his skills and becoming a true master chef. Damian’s passion lies in celebrating the traditional food of Singapore, the dishes his grandparents made and shared with their children (and their children’s children). This humble heritage cuisine is what you will be served at Immigrants, Damian’s restaurant in Singapore. And it is what I was served recently during the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival, at a lunch hosted by the Singapore Tourism Board.

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    To start we had a selection of plates, including turmeric rice and some pickled vegetables. I adored the mackerel, which was soft and comforting and delicately spiced. The sweet potato leaves in coconut milk were outstanding, a real spicy surprise, and the Ayam bakar was wonderfully vibrant. Oh and there was this wonderful mousse-like seafood cake, which I’m now struggling to identify in terms beyond “mousse-like seafood cake”. I’m fairly certain I didn’t dream it up… Damian’s slow-cooked inky squid was a total dream, however, totally worth any awkward black teeth conversations. And that was just to start…

    The main dishes comprised of a stellar, rich rendang that I’m still thinking on fondly, as well as a dish of potatoes, meat and ham that was called debal, which was particularly ”punch me in the face” scrumptious. I just loved this dish, which I’m told is often served on Boxing Day, the leftover ingredients (ham, potatoes…) and flavours simmered to a spicy stew. How great is that? Damian’s sambal buah keluak was this rich, black paste-like stew made from a nut reminiscent of the cocoa bean. Indeed it tasted of pure, strong cacao, it was incredibly intense and like nothing I had ever encountered before. My experience was perhaps akin to foreigners tasting Vegemite for the first time…wow. Small amounts to start, folks.

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    And for dessert, the gentle and familiar flavours of sweet coconut cake called kueh bengkah (see recipe below) and warm, coconut-dressed and palm sugar-kissed tapioca pebbles. Oh, seriously.

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    Yes, we were rather spoilt. I adored hearing Damian speak of his inspiration and intention with cooking this heritage cuisine. He’s fairly unique in Singapore, I am told – sticking to the recipes passed down from generations. To be honest, I really would get on a plane for just one meal at Immigrants, I can’t get the food out of my mind. Thank goodness we have a couple of Damian’s recipes so we can tackle his creations ourselves. And if you fail to capture his heritage cuisine yourself, well, you can always get on that plane at visit Immigrants yourself. How far is too far to travel for food?…

    I thought so. Where’s my passport?

    Semur

    Beef stew. Serves 4 – 6.

    Ingredients

    Blended paste
    8 star anise
    1 whole nutmeg, crushed
    1 tbsp black peppercorns
    2 red onions, peeled and quartered
    100g old ginger, scraped and sliced

    Beef
    1kg beef brisket, cut into large cubes (use the pointed end)
    3 tbsp dark soya sauce
    4–6 tbsp oil
    2 red onions, peeled and quartered
    1l water for braising
    4 potatoes, peeled and halved
    3 carrots, peeled and cut into 5cm lengths
    4 tbsp vinegar
    Salt, to taste
    3 cream crackers, ground

    To serve
    White rice

    Garnish
    1 red chilli, seeded and sliced diagonally
    1 green chilli, seeded and sliced diagonally

    Method

    Blended paste
    Blend the star anise, nutmeg, peppercorns, onions and ginger to a fine paste. If your blender is unable to grind the spices, use a coffee grinder first or a pestle and mortar, then add them to the ground paste.

    Beef
    Mix the blended ingredients together with the brisket and dark soya sauce and leave to marinate for an hour.
    Heat oil in a deep saucepan on medium heat. When the oil is smoking add the quartered red onions and cook until soft, about 10–15 minutes.
    Add the brisket and fry together with the onions for 15 minutes.
    Add water, cover and let cook till three quarters done, about 45–60 minutes (test with a sharp point).
    Next add potatoes, carrots and vinegar. If the liquid is drying up you can add some more water (300ml).
    When the meat is tender, the potatoes should be cooked.
    Add salt to taste and continue cooking over a low fire till a thickish stew is obtained.
    If this is not achieved and the stew still has a significant amount of liquid, the cream crackers can be added at this point.

    To serve
    Place into a serving bowl, add garnish and serve with white rice

     

    Kueh Bengkah

    Serves 10 – 12

    Ingredients

    1.8kg tapioca, centre core removed, skinned and finely grated, strained
    950ml coconut milk (remove 175ml and add to 355ml plain water)
    2 stalks pandan leaf (pandanusamary llifolius), tied into a knot
    850g caster sugar
    6 tsp cornstarch
    3 tbsp salted butter
    3 tsp salt
    9 whole eggs
    Baking tin 8″ square × 3″ high
    Banana leaf or baking parchment to line tins

    Method

    1. Heat oven to 200°C.
    2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, place water and coconut milk mixture together with the sugar and pandan leaf. Cook until the sugar has melted.
    3. Add a little water to the cornstarch, add to the heated mixture, followed by the butter and salt.
    4. Next add the tapioca and stir vigorously until well mixed.
    5. Add coconut milk and mix well.
    6. Remove from heat, and add the eggs mix until amalgamated.
    7. Place the mixture into the tins until about 2 ½” high and bake in a heated oven for 45-60 minutes.
    8. Reduce the temperature to 140°C and bake a further hour until golden brown.
    9. To check if cooked, pierce with a wooden skewer which should come out clean.
    10. Cool before cutting. This is best made one day in advance and reheated in a 200°C oven till the edges are crispy.

    …..

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    I’ve also included a few eating notes from Damian, as I always appreciate insider tips when travelling overseas:

    * Hill Street Tai Hwa Pork Noodle – for 77 years, this joint has been serving up minced pork noodles (bak chor met). A quick google of these noodles and I find myself with a crazy strong craving. I’m both happy to share this and displeased about my present lack of noodles.

    * Jalan Sultan Prawn Mee - another noodle dish to have in your life (the secret is in the stock, made with prawns, anchovies, pork bones, dried scallop, dried cuttlefish and crab!), another reason to get lost in Singapore…

    And lastly, my breakfast loving self couldn’t resist asking Damian what he grew up eating for breakfast, in particular if he had any heritage-style breakfast favourites….Damian’s response?

    “There’s just too many to list and I get different urges depending on the weather, mood and who I’m with. My all time favourite Heritage breakfast food is leftover curry eaten with baguette!”

    Well that sounds supremely delicious and comforting, now doesn’t it?

    …..

    I was treated to this lunch and was able to meet chef Damian D’Silva courtesy of the Singapore Tourism board and some truly lovely ladies. Thank you, Larissa, Michelle and Sharon. I cannot wait to get lost in Singapore, with an appetite for adventure, a hungry belly and an eagerness to try sambal buah keluak once more. Though I won’t spread it thickly on toast…that’s what kaya is for.

    Heidi xo

     

     

  • Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt Sourdough Toast

    Most evenings you’ll find me by the chocolate drawer, humming over my sweet stash and deciding how intensely I wish to venture into dark territory. Eventually I’ll select a block and peel back the wrapping…don’t you love that sound, the careful crinkling of foil? And then comes the heady snap as you break off a portion.

    One square will usually suffice. Sometimes half, maybe a little more. More often than not the cocoa solids of my chosen variety are in 80% territory, however occasionally I’ll desire a creamier style of the 70% locality. I must admit my favourite chocolate to be Lindt, in terms of both flavour and texture, but I also appreciate the shape and size of their perfectly portioned squares, which are just ideal for my intention…

    My cocoa treat plucked, I will prime and pimp it ever so slightly with a sprinkle of sea salt. I’ll eat this salty square curled up on the couch delighting in each melting moment with unabashed, guiltless glee.

    Yes, most evenings you’ll find me by the chocolate drawer.

    When I first visited Europe after finishing high school, my mum and I spent a week with some French friends. I am thankful for such an enthusiastic introduction into French culture, including their love and celebration of good food. I recall a morning visit to the local market with Charlette for fresh fish and I’m fairly certain a wicker basket was involved. Lunch comprised of said fish, cooked simply in a fry pan and served alongside a salad of mixed leaves with an olive oil and vinegar dressing. After meals we’d eat little pots of yoghurt or maybe some cheese, and there was always Champagne in the house. Crepe night on Sunday was a casual affair, the kitchen table adorned with piles of thin pancakes and open jars of preserves and Nutella. Come one and all, hungry hands fill your crepes and be on your way. It changed me.

    The revelations continued, as Charlette spoke of her ‘after school snack’ as a child… fresh baguette, lightly buttered and keenly filled with shards of chocolate. This information was entirely too much to handle and made me feel somewhat despondent towards our National bread filling, Vegemite. I think we got the raw end of the deal there, friends.

    One afternoon this past week I made myself a little snack combining my most recent food pleasure of sea salt decorated dark chocolate with the memory of Charlette’s childhood snack. And dare I say (with much greedy gratification), this might just become my own cherished ritual. Not for an after school snack, I’m long finished with school. But rather for whenever I feel like celebrating food the way the French do, and embracing my love of dark chocolate, sea salt, bread, butter and extra virgin olive oil…together. Yes, this snack will be on my plate more often than Vegemite, that’s for sure. Call me a traitor, I don’t mind. I’ll be in the corner with chocolate on my face.

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    Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt Sourdough Toast

    A few elements must come together to make this toast an elegant affair. First, you must have a quality sourdough on your hands (refer to this post if you require more instruction on the matter). Secondly, choose a good butter, such as Myrtleford. I find most quality butters, even when salted, are not too salty and can hence welcome an additional sprinkle of sea salt. Thirdly, select a chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa solids. This will ensure your snack is not sickly and furthermore that you’re gaining good health benefits from your chocolate and can hence justify consuming it with more keen regularity. If you go with 85%, I really like your style. Fourthly, be sure to drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, again for health benefits and flavour purity. And finally, invest in a quality salt for sprinkling. I use both course Malden flakes and fine Himalayan salt in my kitchen.

    Ingredients
    Sourdough Bread
    Dark Chocolate
    Quality Butter
    Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    Sea Salt

    Method
    Toast your sourdough to preference then spread immediately with butter so it melts (I ain’t gonna tell you how much to spread here, go with your flavour preference and your ability to judge how much butter you can handle in your diet) and then top with broken pieces of chocolate (again, amount to preference). Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Eat with a napkin nearby.

    In terms of my personal ratios, I like my toast to be under toasted, a keen spread of butter, a modest amount of chocolate, a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a somewhat modest (Ben, don’t laugh) sprinkling of sea salt. This, to me, is perfection.

    Heidi xo

     

  • Oven Poached Quince

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    Let’s just throw ourselves right into Autumn, shall we?

    Quince are arguably my most favourite Autumn treat. Along with figs, they’re the deal sweetener, bargaining tools in accepting that extra layer of woollen warmth required during these sometimes biting April days.

    I had a recipe for poached quince on my blog from a few years ago, but I decided to revisit it. My tastes and appreciation of flavours has changed, and this recipe reflects that.

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    My pages of Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion at her recipe for poached quince are ruby sugar syrup splattered, and this pleases me to no end. It shows a much loved recipe. Indeed it is. Though why I keep referring to year after year at the beginnign of quince season escapes me, it is such a simple process, one that requires only a brief assembly before leaving the lovelies to poach in the oven for a generous six or so hours. Your house will be perfumed with the most dreamy quince fragrance, it is entirely intoxicating.

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    Today, for Wednesday Breakfast Club, I served a few wedges of my poached quince with Farmers Union Greek Yoghurtlocal raw honey and toasted almonds and brazil nuts. Just a few wedges, I want them to last. Hmmm, maybe I need to raid my mum’s tree with more greedy frequency…

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    Oven Poached Quince

    Adapted from Stephanie Alexander‘s Poached Quince recipe.

    A note on sugar syrup: I find regular sugar syrup far too intensely sweet. Hence, the ratio of sugar:water I use is far less than most recipes you’ll come across (though I find it to be perfectly satisfactory).

    Ingredients
    6 Quince (~1.4kg, weighed unpeeled)
    1.5 cups Sugar
    7 cups Water
    1-2 Star Anise (depending on your anise affection)
    1 Vanilla Bean, cut in half and split open
    1 Cinnamon Quill
    5 Green Cardamom Pods
    Optional: one eager piece of citrus peel (orange, lemon, lime)

    Method
    1. Preheat your oven to 150 Degrees Celsius.
    2. Peel and cut your quince into quarters or sixths. Cut out the cores, then place in a large baking dish with the star anise, vanilla bean, cinnamon and cardamom.
    3. Make your sugar syrup by gently heating the sugar and water in a heavy-based saucepan until the sugar dissolves. Pour the sugar syrup over the quince, then cover with a lid or tightly with foil.
    4. Place in the oven and gently poach for 4-8 hours – I find 7 hours to be my magic number. The longer your poach them, the more dreamy, ruby red and sweeter, more spiced they will become.
    5. Store in the fridge in the sugar syrup. Add to porridge or bowls of yoghurt, or serve alongside ice-cream or on a cheese platter. They’re also lovely diced and added to this apple cake. Keep the syrup once all your quince are gone, reduce it down over heat and drizzle over vanilla ice-cream.

    Store the poached quince in the fridge, covered in the sugar syrup. They will keep like this in an airtight container for about a week. A stronger sugar syrup will help to preserve them a bit longer.

    Heidi xo

     

     

  • Cardamom and Dark Chocolate Muesli Bars

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    I could lose myself for hours watching the afternoon light in my kitchen. It flickers gently through the window, delicately decorating whatever is in reach and commanding me to capture its dance. The light moves and I move. My cluttered bowl of onions and garlic, a bag of coffee beans or bottle of olive oil, dishes, even…dirty ones, I don’t care, it all looks like art in the afternoon light.

    Cardamom and dark chocolate muesli bars sound terribly fancy, but I assure you this is not an ornate recipe. Despite the somewhat exotic ingredients, these bars are humble in their sweetness. Though I do adore the occasional burst of bitter dark chocolate leaping over the cardamom. Upon first bite I thought they might need a little something extra, but the more I ate these muesli bars the more I appreciated their tone and so I kept them honest.

    My original attempt at this recipe came out of a desire to use up egg whites leftover from making pots de creme, which greedily requires only the yolk and which indeed I will be sharing with you soon. I had considered making Rosa’s Almond Biscotti (love) but felt this to be an awkward gift for my host that evening, Rosa. Instead I crafted a muesli bar (two different versions, in fact) for happy snacking. And while I wasn’t overly taken with these initial bars, I decided to roll with it and work on my cardamom concoction. I apologise to Rosa and her family, my parents and farm friends too, for the fact that they received this first draft and not the final version I am sharing with you today because, well, I think they’re rather wonderful.

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    These bars are excellent fuel for those days when you need to work through the afternoon but are not quite certain how you’re going to make it. If this sounds familiar, I encourage you to nibble on one of these cardamom dark chocolate muesli bars after a short walk outside in the fresh air and trust me, you’ll be set. If a cup of black coffee happens to appear alongside, well… let’s just cheers to productivity.

    I appreciate a muesli bar that isn’t too crumbly, and these lovelies hold together nicely. A few things are key to this, I feel. Be sure to not have a mixture that is neither too dry nor too wet – it should feel moist but not soggy. Once firmly packed into a baking tray, I like to let the bars sit in the fridge for 15 minutes or so to help things meld together. And do most certainly allow your bars to cool entirely before slicing. These are my tips for nicely firm muesli bars. If, however, yours turn out to be a crumbly mess, simply crush the mixture keenly with the intention of popping it back into the oven to allow for golden toasting and, sure enough, you will have yourself granola. The dark chocolate may make things a bit messy if you end up in granola town, though I doubt this would displease many.

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    Dark Chocolate and Cardamom Muesli Bars

    Makes 12-14 bars, depending on how conservatively you slice them. Inspired by Oh She Glows’ Soft and Chew Granola Bars. Note: these bars are not too sweet. If you prefer a less subtly sweet bite, add another tablespoon of honey to the mix.

    Ingredients
    2 cups Rolled Oats
    1 cup Almonds (unsalted)
    1/3 cup Walnuts (unsalted)
    1/3 cup Cashews (unsalted)
    2 tablespoons Sunflower Seeds
    1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt
    75g Dark Chocolate, >70% cocoa (I used 85% Lindt dark chocolate)
    1/3 cup Honey
    2 tablespoons Unhulled Tahini (you can use hulled tahini but I find it too bitter for my tastes)
    1 & 1/2 teaspoon freshly Ground Cardamom (green cardamom pods, bashed with a mortar & pestle until you have a powder of freshly ground cardamom at the bottom. Pick out the pod skins and discard).
    1 tablespoon Light Olive Oil
    3 Egg Whites
    1 tablespoon Water


    Method
    1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line a 15x25cm baking pan with baking paper.
    2. In a food processor, blitz 1 and 1/2 cups of the oats until they are fine, then place the oat flour in a mixing bowl.
    3. Add the almonds, walnuts and cashews to the food processor and blitz/pulse until roughly chopped (a mix of fine and chunky pieces is great). Add this to the bowl with the salt.
    4. Warm the honey, tahini, ground cardamom and olive oil in a small saucepan, whisking until smooth. Pour onto the oat/nut mixture.
    5. Add the egg whites and stir to combine. Check for wetness here and add 1 tablespoon of water or so if required (you want the mixture to be moist but not soggy).
    5. Blitz/pulse the dark chocolate in the food processor until you have a mix of fine and chunky pieces. Fold the chocolate through the oat mixture.
    6. Pour into the lined baking tray, pressing down with the back of a spoon (tip: moisten the back of the spoon with water) to ensure firm packing and a smooth, even surface. Bake for 20-25 minutes until lightly golden and the surface feels firm to touch. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then remove from the baking tray by lifting the baking paper and allow to cool on a wire rack. Slice when completely cool into bars and then store in an airtight container or wrap individually in plastic wrap and store in the freezer. I like to keep mine in the freezer for freshness sake.

     

    Heidi xo

     

     

  • Pea and Parmesan Soup

    I’m at a stage in my life when I’ve got babies on my brain.

    It’s funny, when I was younger I assumed I would already have kids at this age. I had a vague (and in retrospect, hilarious) notion of when I would give birth to my children (with a vaginal, natural, barefoot labour and they’d be easily breastfed and it’d all just be magic) – my first when I was, oh, around 24 years old, another at 26 and then my last at 29…hmm.

    I turn 29 in September.

    I’m not freaked out by my upcoming birthday, in fact I’m freakin loving this age. My early twenties were studiously spent at University and trialling a few different jobs, figuring out who I was and what I wanted from life. I also lost my brother and boy did that shake things up. Perhaps entirely because of this loss, after my final year of Dietetics Ben and I traveled the world for a glorious nutella crepe-filled year, getting skinny on a backpackers budget and learning to live with each other 24/7. Yes, my twenties have been full and I’ve really learnt to rock this life of mine. I adore my job, working with clients to improve their diet, health and wellness, and I love our home. I love our creative, intentional and fortunate life. I miss my brother more and more each day (as I let these feelings (finally) in, I realise that while it becomes easier to say his name it doesn’t change the fact that I don’t get to see his face). But things are pretty great the way they are.

    I’m surprised by my nonchalance about immediately starting a family. I thought I’d be all babies babies babies by now but I’m more cooking eating living and I think, I know, this nonchalance comes from the fact that I’m afraid that I won’t be able to merge the two. I don’t want things to change. And so I’m focussing most of my thoughts on how best to fill and roll cinnamon buns. I suppose I had always just assumed I would be able to get pregnant easily, but that is a priviledge I should not take for granted. So now I feel like Carrie in Sex And The City sitting with Charlotte in the park eating that black and white cookie having the same conversation. Well, not quite.

    I wouldn’t mind that cookie, though…

    At any rate, the distinct lack of babies in our home has been on my mind and, as I know this is indeed something Ben and I want to have, a family of little humans, I have been getting things in order with my body. I talk about this topic in my daily life with everyone and anyone so why not put it out here too? Ladies beware, it can take a long time to get your period back after being on the pill. No, really, a long time. I’ve been having some acupuncture to try and get my lady hormones flowing again (after initial blood tests and an ultrasound). All is fine, my body has just become lazy. Fabulous. And so I’m presently choking down morning and evening cups of Chinese herbs, whilst glaring at my half Chinese husband, somehow justifying a small portion of blame for this funky brew on his heritage. By golly, they’re awful.

    This pea soup is far more pleasing.

    I created this recipe one grey Sunday after a recent craving for plump peas. We ate our bowls alongside toasted dark rye sourdough with butter, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and freshly and keenly cracked black pepper, feeling very thankful and happy to be cooking, eating, living. But also hoping that one day little ones will request mum’s pea soup.

    Ok, I just cried.

    Maybe my hormones are back…

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    Pea and Parmesan Soup

    Serves 2 (for now)

    Ingredients
    1/2 small brown onion, finely diced
    1 clove garlic, crushed
    1/2 tbsp olive oil
    15g unsalted butter
    3 cups homemade chicken broth (or, 2 cups quality commercial stock & 1 cup water – choose a really nice one for best results, it’s a worthy splurge!)
    3.5 cups frozen peas
    1 parmesan rind
    Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
    2 dessert spoons creme fraiche
    1 handful fresh basil leaves
    Dark Rye Sourdough toast and extra virgin olive oil, to serve

    Method
    1. In a medium, heavy-based saucepan, heat the oil and butter over medium heat. Gently sautee the onion for 5 minutes until soft, salting lightly immediately and turning down the heat if required to avoid overbrowning. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute, until fragrant.
    2. Add the stock, parmesan rind and 1/2 cup of the peas and turn the heat up to bring to a boil.
    3. Turn the heat down and simmer for ~15 minutes to help develop the parmesan-pea flavour.
    4. Add the remaining 3 cups of peas, turn the heat up and cook for ~5 minutes until the peas are nice and tender, but not overcooked. Be careful not to overcook them as you will end up with mushy, dull-coloured peas.
    5. Remove from the heat and, using an immersion blender, carefully puree the soup mixture until it reaches your desired consistency. I like the majority to be smooth, but with some lumps.
    6. Serve into bowls and top with a dollop of creme fraiche, fresh basil and season to taste with freshly cracked black pepper. Dark rye toast is a great accompaniment.

    Heidi xo
  • My Favourite Tiramisu

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    Tiramisu is a dessert I frequently desire yet rarely devour.

    I find my craving for this dish, for the drunken soaked biscuits lounging amongst layers of whipped mascarpone, comes on strong (as the espresso should be) yet too fast to satisfy. Tiramisu is not a recipe that can be hastened. I find this dessert requires at least a few hours of fridge time so the flavours can settle and marry, to really get to know each other. And so, ever impatient my tiramisu cravings are, I often fall short in my preparation.

    But not on this day.

    Last month I insisted on scheduling a pizza day at my parents’ house. We were long overdue for a family Sunday lunch, where the only thing on our agenda involved cheese and dough. It was on this day I knew I would satisfy (at least for a short while) my tiramisu cravings that had been building up, as I keenly nominated myself to be in charge of dessert. But first, pizza…

    I so love the process of rolling out dough. My pizzas are imperfect, terribly misshapen and with the occasional hole. I call it character. I learnt that from my dad.

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    I sent Dad, chief pizza maker and eager mise en place assembler, an email outlining which toppings I desired. This may sound bossy but my dad appreciates strict instruction when it comes to pizza preferences, and I am only too happy to oblige. Especially when we’re talking about caramelised red onion, anchovies and ricotta. And boy, did he come through with the goods.

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    These are the recipes I sent dad, which he merged and altered a little. The end results were fairly outrageous in the scrumptious stakes. My favourite was the broccoli and balsamic caramelised red onion pizza (see above). No, wait, the anchovy one…

    Broccoli Rabe, Potato and Rosemary Pizza

    Caramelised Red Onion and Anchovy Pizza with Black Olives

    Balsamic Caramelised Onion and Blue Cheese Pizza

    Classic Margherita

    All these toppings were sitting pretty on his homemade pizza dough. All were delicious. All were devoured.

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    For dessert, my favourite tiramisu.

    Ben is quite skilled in the dessert department, so he lent a helpful (one) hand and together we assembled this mascarpone masterpiece the morning of our lunch.

    This recipe is completely and selfishly suited to our own tiramisu inclinations. It requires a full bodied espresso bath (spiked) into which savoiardi biscuits are generous dunked (though not  too eager as to encourage soggy biscuits) and a light (also spiked) cloud cover of mascarpone cream. There must be at least two layers of biscuits and cream and I wouldn’t be mad should you insist on three layers. You should also finish with dark chocolate shavings, freshly decorated to serve. On recipe reflection, I suppose I am kind of bossy…

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    Despite poor dessert planning in my every day, I’ve done a decent amount of tiramisu eating and assembling in my lifetime. This is how I like it best.

    My Favourite Tiramisu

    Inspired by Nigella’s Tiramisini and Guy Mirabella’s Tiramisu.

    Serves 10, using a 20cm pie dish (a 20cm diameter and 6cm high pie dish is what I used, and it was perfectly full)

    Ingredients

    ~30 Savoiardi Biscuits
    500ml freshly brewed, strong Espresso Coffee
    3 tablespoons Illy Coffee Liqueur
    6 Egg Whites
    500g Mascarpone
    2 heaped tablespoons Caster Sugar
    2 tablespoons Marsala
    Topping: dark chocolate, freshly shaved

    Method
    1. Brew the coffee, then allow to cool. Place the cooled coffee in a wide bowl and add 2 tablespoons liqueur. Taste and add more liqueur if you desire. I always do.
    2. While the coffee is cooling, assemble your cream. Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl until soft peaks form (using a mixer or hand whisk, I use a mixer for ease), then transfer to another clean bowl and set aside.
    3. Place the mascarpone and sugar in the mixing bowl and beat until smooth. Drizzle in the marsala and beat again until smooth. Fold in the egg whites, a third at a time, then set this cream mixture aside. It’s time to assemble your tiramisu.
    4. Dip the biscuits in the coffee mixture, allowing a generous dunk so that the coffee and liqueur seeps into the biscuits but not too generous that it falls apart. You can always drizzle more on later. Arrange the biscuits in a single layer in your desired dish (breaking some biscuits in half or thirds to fill in any gaps in the dish). Generously dollop the cream mixture on top, spreading it out evenly (be sure to save a little more than half for another layer). Dunk and assemble another layer of biscuits on top of the cream, then top those biscuits with the remaining cream. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least three hours (ideally five hours).
    5. Shave dark chocolate over the tiramisu just before serving.

    Heidi xo

     

     

  • Around The Farm and a Gingerbread Skillet Cake

    Lately, it’s been feeling a lot more like Autumn on Transition Farm. The air, the soil, the need for a jumper in the morning before we start harvesting…

    Summer abundance is lingering a little longer, as the cucumbers and beans continue to greet us. And though the melons are waving goodbye (what a thrill they were to pick and taste), I’m terribly excited about the pumpkins and onions that are stumbling into our CSA boxes. I’m saving the onions for special occasions, savouring their sweetness and giving thanks for this food, so tenderly grown and gathered. Indeed, my salad-loving self feels just fine about the prospect of stews and curries and roasted vegetable warmth in the coming months.

    This gingerbread cake is a much-adored morning tea treat for the workers, baked with love by Robin, who always makes the time to prepare thoughtful and nourishing food for her family and farm friends. Robin has shared two recipes with us today, a wheat-free version and her standard cake.

    Yes, lately on the farm it’s been feeling an awful lot like Autumn. And it’s just beautiful.

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    Gingerbread Skillet Cake

    From the Tassajara Bread Book

    Ingredients
    2 & 1/2 cups Sifted Unbleached Flour
    1 & 1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
    1/2 teaspoon Salt
    1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda
    1/2 teaspoon ground Cloves
    1 teaspoon powdered Mustard
    1 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
    1 teaspoon ground Ginger
    1/2 cup Butter, unsalted
    1 cup Molasses
    1 large Egg
    1 cup Hot Water

    Method
    1.  Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
    2. Blend the soda and spices into the butter.
    3. Gradually blend the molasses, followed by the egg.
    4. Add the flour mixture with the hot water, alternating, beginning and ending with the flour and mixing thoroughly after each addition.
    5. Turn into a buttered and floured 9-inch square pan, loaf pan or skillet and bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
    6. Serve with whipped cream and stewed apples or peach slices.

    Wheatless Gingerbread Skillet Cake

    Adapted from The Joy of Cooking

    Ingredients
    1 & 1/4 cups Brown Rice Flour
    1 & 1/4 cups Corn Flour
    1/2 teaspoon Salt
    2 teaspoon Baking Soda
    1/2 teaspoon ground Cloves
    1 teaspoon powdered Mustard
    1 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
    1 teaspoon ground Ginger
    1/2 cup Sugar
    1/2 cup softened Butter
    1 cup Molasses
    1 cup Hot Water
    2 well beaten Eggs

    Method
    1. Preheat oven to 170 degrees Celsius. Sift together the flours, baking soda, salt and spices – 6 times.
    2. Mix together the sugar, molasses, softened butter and hot water.
    3. Combine the flour, wet mixture and eggs and beat until well mixed.
    4. Turn into a buttered and floured 9-inch square pan, loaf pan or skillet and bake at 170 degrees Celsius for 60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
    6. Serve with whipped cream and stewed apples or peach slives.

    Heidi xo

  • Getting to know Flinders Sourdough

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    I was looking over photographs on my computer the other day, searching for a dish I made 12 months ago when living with my mum and dad. Even as a keen cook it’s easy to forget what comes out of your kitchen, which particular dishes excite and beg another visit. Photographing and writing allows for some helpful and tasty reflection, and while I never did find that picture, something noteworthy came to my attention…

    My present diet is distinctly lacking in bread.

    Bread, something so basic and wholesome, has always been a source of both nourishment and joy. An eager Vegemite toast and chicken salad sandwich consumer from a young age, bread was frequently the backbone of our meals. From breakfasts, lunches, dinners or snacks…dessert, even. A loaf is a life necessity.

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    Taste and nutrition are equally important to me when it comes to bread. They must exist in delicious harmony. And so, continuing with my getting to know your food posts (highlighting one producer a month), it’s time to talk about bread. Flinders Sourdough are my favourite bakers, as they honour the art of breadmaking with unbleached, organic, stone-ground flour and hand formed loaves that have enjoyed a lovely, long ferment. Oh, and out of their 1930s scotch oven comes the most beautiful loaves.

    David and Margaret, the winemakers turned bakers behind Flinders Sourdough, are clearly very fond of the fermentation process. And you can tell there is something special about their bread as soon as you bite into their Vienna, dark rye sourdough or wholegrain spelt loaves. Their slices energise and nourish, they’re easily digested yet keep you strong and satisfied for hours.

    Though it happens less often than I’d like, it’s a real treat to collect a loaf on my way home from Transition Farm, or perhaps on the weekend after stocking up on Flinders Mussels (Flinders really has the goods). Often I go for the olive or dark rye sourdough, but I do adore their fruit loaf with organic dried fruit (including figs!), which, unlike common raisin bread, is nicely modest in its sweetness. Oh and their beach buns, too. You can follow Flinders Sourdough on facebook and twitter to see where they’re at, local farmers markets and what not. I’m kind of spoilt for bread now…no other will do.

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    Many Supermarket breads claim to be sourdough but they are not the real deal. Just look at the ingredients list, a true sourdough should only contain a handful of ingredients – flour, water, salt. The bacteria “starter” culture (which arrives after your flour and water have been hanging out together on the bench), does it’s job, you just need to care for it and create the right conditions to produce lovely loaves.  If you’re keen to get baking at home, good on you! My dad is a fantastic baker, I cannot get enough of his creations. This article gives a nice introduction to the initially daunting task.

    David and Margaret from Flinders Sourdough were lovely enough to answer some of my sourdough questions, so I’ll let them do the talking…

    1. What is true sourdough and why is it different from other bread & “sourdough” on the market?

    True sourdough is the unhurried natural fermentation of bread dough using wild organisms found abundantly in nature. This unhurried approach to baking delivers many health and sensory benefits, these include: 

    • A  large reduction in gluten is achieved as a result of the bonded proteins that form when gluten is cleaved.
    • A lowering in the Glycemic index of the loaf after natural sugars are degraded
    • Increased nutrient absorption due to the production of phytase in sourdough cultures. Phytic acid occurs naturally in grains and seeds and acts as a nutrient thief inhibiting the absorption of vital elements like iron calcium and zinc the lactobacillus bacteria in sourdough cultures provide the enzyme phytase that helps to reduce this problem.

    Modern baking practices (such as commercial homogenous bakers yeast and oxidative enzymes) are used to speed up bread production allowing for increased capacity. However like most things in life, increased production results in decreased quality and with sourdough this means a decreased taste and nutrition quality.


    2. What type of flour do you use & where do you get it from?


    All of our flours used are unbleached and certified organic and our millers still employ traditional stone-ground techniques maintaining the nutrient value of whole grains by avoiding the high temperatures reached in modern high volume milling.

    3. Any advice for city bread lovers, or any other bakers you love or recommend? & any tips for home bakers?

    It can be a challenge when looking for a local sourdough baker and a healthy degree of scepticism may help, as there are currently no laws protecting the use of the term “sourdough”. 

    Be sure to ask if no commercial yeast is used in the bread as many breads labelled as sourdough are made by adding commercial yeast and souring agents eg. vinegar, yogurt and as a result lack the increased nutritional and sensory qualities.

    For those in Melbourne we highly recommend Firebrand bakery in Ripponlea that has been an unwavering producer of organic sourdough for decades. In country Vic we suggest Red Beard bakery in Trentham and Fruition Bakery available throughout the Yarra Valley. These bakeries are of the rare few that do not use commercial yeast in their entire bakeries thus ensuring the purity of their sourdough culture. 


    Thank you, David and Margaret. You guys are just the coolest, I so appreciate you!

    …..

    Yes, bread truly is the foundation of a good meal. Finding a good baker you can trust to nourish you and your family is a jolly good move, allowing you to be confident in your breaking of bread (and slathering of ricotta and honey or extra virgin olive oil and sea salt…) Please excuse me while I carve my loaf for Wednesday Breakfast Club this morning.

    Toasted Flinders Sourdough dark rye. Two slices. One with nut butter and grilled plums. One with avocado, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Is there anything better? Some days, most days, there isn’t.

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    What did you have for breakfast today?

    Heidi xo

     

     

     

  • Lovely Lunching

    Lunch is an exciting time, don’t you think? You get to break from the rush of your day, slow down for a few moments and unpack a box of tasty goodies. It’s a time to nourish yourself, to get back in touch your body and refresh.

    I recently worked on a post for Tucker, scribing a few of my favourite lunch recipes and dreaming up some daytime deliciousness. You can read my post and more deliciousness from the Tucker crew on their website (link). I’m also including the recipes for you here today as I’m a sucker for a good salad (and have an inkling you are too). I’m particularly fond of the roasted beetroot pasta salad.

    Happy lovely lunching xo

    Tuna and Cannellini Bean Salad

    You can’t go past tinned fish for convenience and nutrition, but there’s a few things to consider when assembling the popular “tuna salad” that graces so many bored lunch boxes. I prefer my fish to be packed in olive oil for flavour and nutrition. I also insist on a carbohydrate with my salad to ensure sustained energy. This may be a cooked grain, leftover roasted sweet potato or, as in the case here, legumes. Mix things up with fun and zingy ingredients such as capers or olives and your salad will never be boring or unsatisfying.

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    Serves 1

    Ingredients

    1 handful Salad Leaves
    ½ cup chopped Cucumber
    1/3 cup chopped Capsicum
    1/3 cup Cannellini Beans (canned and rinsed or cooked from dried)
    ½ tablespoon chopped Spring or Red Onion
    1 x 95g tinned Fish in oil, drained (I like Safcol tuna for their sustainability goodness)
    1 tablespoon toasted Pinenuts
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh Herbs (basil, parsley, coriander or chives)

    Dressing Ingredients
    1 heaped teaspoons Capers (rinsed)
    ½ tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    A good squeeze of a juicy Lemon
    Freshly cracked Black Pepper

    Method

    1. Place your salad leaves and vegetables in a bowl, including the beans.
    2. Mix your salad dressing ingredients in a small cup and whisk with a small spoon or fork. Taste and season as desired, then drizzle over your salad.
    3. Add the tuna and scatter the pinenuts and herbs. Serve.

     

    Snack Plate

    When in doubt, grab a few simple and nourishing staples and assemble yourself a snack plate for lunch. Wholegrain crackers are key to keeping this lunch well balanced, I always have a box of Ryvita, Finn Crisps or Kavli rye crispbreads in my cupboard. And the healthy fats and protein in the avocado and cheese will help keep you satiated. Boiled eggs, tinned fish and pickled vegetables would make excellent additions should you not have cheese or avocado on hand, or are extra hungry.

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    Serves 1

    Ingredients

    4 Ryvita or Crispbreads
    ½ a small Avocado
    25g Cheese (cheddar or Swiss or pecorino or ricotta or feta, whatever you desire)
    1 Cucumber
    1 Tomato
    Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    Sea Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

    Method

    1. Slice and assemble ingredients on a plate as you desire.
    2. Drizzle the vegetables with extra virgin olive oil and season to taste.

    Black Rice, Boiled Egg and Pesto Salad

    This salad is loaded with goodness, including fibre-full and antioxidant-rich black rice and greens. Boiled eggs add an excellent dose of nutrition, including protein and healthy fats. The pesto adds a flavour and nutrient-rich punch, however if you don’t have any pesto you can substitute with goats cheese or feta. Make my carrot top, peptia and chilli pesto if you’re keen on vibrant heat, it’s lovely with this salad.

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    Serves 1

    Ingredients
    2 heaped tablespoons cooked Black Rice
    2 Eggs at room temperature
    1 handful Greens – mixed leaves, baby spinach, rocket or other lettuce
    1 handful Bush Beans
    ½ cup chopped Cucumber
    ½ Celery Stalk, chopped
    1 tablespoon Pesto*
    1 tablespoon chopped Red Onion
    1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    Sea Salt and Freshly Cracked Black Pepper

    Method

    1. Cook your black rice. I always make extra to have on hand in the fridge for quick and healthy meals, so use 1 cup uncooked rice. It’s a good idea to soak your black rice if you can, so do so a few hours before cooking by rinsing then covering the rise with water in a pot. Drain and rinse the rice again, then cook your rice in 4 cups water by bringing it to the boil on the stove and then simmering for ~30 minutes until tender (be careful not to burn it, add more water if required). Take off the heat, drain any remaining water and then cover with a lid for 10 minutes.
    2. Meanwhile, boil your eggs by placing your room temperature eggs in a small pot then cover with cold water. Bring to the boil on the stove then turn off the heat and cover with a lid. Leave it for 10 minutes then drain and rinse with cold water, then leaving it to sit in cold water until completely cooled before peeling.
    3. Assemble your greens and vegetables in a bowl, then add the rice and the halved boiled eggs. Top with a scoop of pesto, scattered onion, then drizzle extra virgin olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper.

    * Carrot top, peptia and chilli pesto

    Ingredients

    1/3 cup Pepitas, lightly toasted
    100g Carrot tops and stems (the green part of your bunch of carrots), rinsed well to ensure no dirt remains
    30g Coriander leaves
    1 clove Garlic
    ½ a small chilli, seeds removed (more or less depending on your preference for heat)
    1 heaped teaspoon Miso Paste
    1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    Freshly cracked Black Pepper

    Method

    1. In a food processor, blend the pepitas, carrot tops, coriander, garlic, chilli and miso until incorporated.
    2. Drizzle the oil slowly in as you continue to blend until a smooth paste (add more or less to achieve your desired consistency).
    3. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Store in an airtight container with a layer of olive oil. This pesto is best eaten in a few days in salads, sandwiches or as a dip.

     

    Roasted Beetroot Pasta Salad

    I’m quite certain there are few things more delicious than earthy cubes of roasted beetroot. If you manage to have some leftover, toss them with cooked pasta (or other grain, quinoa is lovely), extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar for a resplendent lunch. Increase the protein content of your meal by adding cooked or canned lentils, or being rather heavy handed with the nuts and anchovies. I won’t discourage that.

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    Serves 1

    Ingredients

    ½ cup Roasted Beetroot chunks
    1 cup cooked Pasta (orecchiette works really well here)
    1/3 cup Peas (frozen and thawed under hot water, or fresh)
    1 heaped tablespoon crumbled Goats Cheese
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh Parsley or Basil

    Dressing Ingredients

    1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
    ½ tablespoon Red Wine Vinegar
    1-2 Anchovy fillets canned in oil, finely chopped
    Sea Salt and freshly cracked Black Pepper, to taste

    Method

    1. Place your beetroot, cooked pasta and peas in a bowl.
    2. Mix your salad dressing ingredients in a small cup and whisk with a small spoon or fork. Taste and season as desired, then drizzle over your salad.
    3. Scatter the goats cheese and herbs (and add another drizzle of extra virgin olive oil here if you wish). Serve.

     

    Picnic Pies

    Once you’ve got the hang of this pie process and feel confident playing with filo, this recipe (adapted from Jamie Oliver’s spinach and feta pie) is a sinch. Prepare these friendly pies ahead of time and take to the park for a surprise picnic lunch date. Alternatively serve them warm from the oven and have a picnic on your living room floor. They’d even be lovely eaten cold at work for a filo-fun-Friday. Whatever floats your pie boat.

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    Serves 2

    This recipes requires 2 ramekins 11cm in diameter (or a larger skillet if making it as one pie) that can go on the stove and in the oven, as well as baking paper.

    Ingredients

    1 small-medium Zucchini (250g), chopped into 2cm cubes2 Spring Onions, chopped
    1 clove Garlic, crushed
    1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil (plus more for drizzling)
    150g Spinach Leaves
    3 Eggs
    Dash of Milk
    30g Goats Cheese, crumbled
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh Basil (or 1 teaspoon dried Oregano)
    2 tablespoon Toasted Pinenuts
    4 large sheets Filo Pasty
    Sea Salt and freshly cracked Black Pepper
    Optional: Cayenne Pepper

    Method
    1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
    2. In a fry pan, sautee the zucchini in the olive oil over medium heat for ~2 minutes until slightly soft. Then add the spring onions and garlic and cook for a further minute. Remove into a bowl.
    3. To the same pan, add the spinach and a sprinkle of sea salt and cook over medium heat until wilted.
    4. Whisk the eggs with the milk in a large mixing bowl. Add the goats cheese and herbs, then season with a little sea salt and a lot of black pepper. Stir through the zucchini and spinach, then set aside.
    5. Lightly oil a sheet of baking paper big enough to sit over the ramekin with overhang, scrunch it up then lay out flat. Remove the filo pastry from the freezer and layer the equivalent of one square big enough to cover the ramekin with overhang over the baking paper (I say the equivalent because filo can break easily and you may need to assemble a sheet with broken pieces. This is fine, just ensure they overlap so no gaps in the base are present). Drizzle extra virgin olive oil lightly over the filo, season and add a small pinch of cayenne pepper if desired. Layer another filo layer and repeat the seasoning. Lift the baking paper edges over the ramekin and lightly push the paper and filo into the dish. Spoon the egg vegetable mixture into the ramekin and scatter with the pinenuts before roughly folding the edges of the filo over the pie (leaving an opening in the middle). Drizzle with a little more extra virgin olive oil. Repeat with the other ramekin.
    6. When your ramekins are filled, place them on the stove for 3-4 minutes over low-medium heat to help crisp the base up (make sure no pieces of baking paper catch on fire! You might need to scrunch it up and hold it away from the flame).
    7. Transfer the ramekins to the oven and bake for ~25 minutes until golden. Lift the pies out of the ramekins using the baking paper edges and serve alongside a simple salad or chopped vegetables.

    Heidi xo