• Quartering a Chicken

    Earlier this year I put on my big girl pants and quartered a chicken. Ben and I did it together, for moral support. It was our first time, after all.

    It takes guts to quarter a chicken when you’re used to buying it all sectioned out into familiar packages. But that doesn’t fit into my new way of thinking, of wanting to use more of the animals I buy. Not wasting, but honouring and savouring. Whenever I can, I am insisting on purchasing organic and free-range so I know my food is the most nutritious and sustainably farmed. This relates to vegetables and also meat.

    I make the conscious decision to eat meat, and so it’s important to me that I make the most of these animal I eat. There is so much goodness to come from “scraps” of meat. Homemade stock, for one, from which you can make soup, pasta sauces, risotto, a bath for dumplings… I get excited just thinking of the possibilities. I also like to skim the fat off my cooled soup, and reserve this for sauteeing vegetables or coating potatoes, which will be baked (and beautifully so). I don’t use chicken fat every day, rather I favour olive oil (and extra virgin for drizzling). But I believe the fat from an organic, well-raised and well-nourished bird to be a source of goodness and as someone who consumes very little refined, highly processed or commercially fried foods I am just super cool with eating quality chicken fat.

    But back to quartering this bird…

    In January we had our friends, Pete and Sarah, over to stay. It was Australia Day. Ben and I decided on which recipe to cook, an Ottolenghi gem from Jerusalem involving chicken and rice and onion and spice. The ingredients called for “1 chicken, quartered”. It was time. We followed this instructional video and it was a huge success, far easier than I had anticipated. And since this day we have quartered a few birds, every time using the scraps to make beautiful stock and each time feeling more connected to our food. I’ve been favouring my local butcher for supplying organic free, range birds and I encourage you to use this guide to find links to farms or butchers in your area who stock chickens raised sustainably (Milawa Free Range Poultry is where I first started). The price is higher, yes, but in eating this way you’ll be encouraged to consume meat less frequently and more mindfully. You get many meals from this bird and the nutritional content and taste is supreme.

    Quartering a Chicken

    Now, I don’t profess to being a trained butcher. This is very much a learning process for me. But here’s what I did, using this video as a guide. I hope you find this post encouraging, in all its raw, graphic glory. We really should know how to handle a whole bird if we’re going to eat it, right? Right.

    1. Place the chicken with the breasts facing upwards.

    2. To remove the wishbone, cut a “v” along the top of the breast, just beneath the neck. Then, using your hands remove the wishbone.

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    3. I like to separate the wing and the tip from the drumette and save it for a stock.

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    4. Turn the chicken breast-side down on the chopping board, then score the back of the chook with a 0.5cm slit just above the thighs. This will help later on when separating the thighs from the breast pieces.

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    5. Turn the chicken on to one of its sides. Gently pull the drumstick so you can easily slice the skin between the leg and thigh of the chook, starting with the skin closest to the end of the drumstick. Continue slicing around the leg so the thigh and drumstick are closer to becoming a separate quarter. Using your hands, push the joint between the thigh and the backbone outwards so that it pops out. Then, cut the thigh quarter from the rest of the chook, guiding your blade along the backbone to ensure you keep as much of the meat on the thigh. Repeat this step on the other side and place the two thigh quarters aside.

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    6. Place the chook with the breasts facing upwards. Then, using your hands, break off and remove the lower portion of the back (you may need to use your knife).

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    7. We now want to remove the backbone. With the breasts still facing upwards, place your knife into the cavity and cut through the ribs as close to backbone as possible. Remove the backbone and set aside for stock.

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    8. Place the chook so its breasts are downward facing and gently score the cartilage that separates the two breasts. Using your hands, break open the rib cage and pull out the cartilage. You may need to make tiny incisions with your knife to help with this step. Set the cartilage aside for stock.

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    9. Slice down the middle of the two breasts to separate them. Then trim any excess skin or fat from the chook and add this to your container with the wings – save this goodness for stock!
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    And you’re done.

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    Chicken with Caramelised Onion and Cardamom Rice
     (recipe link)

    Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem is a book that continues to inspire, and this chicken and rice dish has fast become a favourite in our house. The caramelised onions are a sure thing. This dish is fragrant and textured, and you know how chicken thigh usually wins the game in terms of moist meat? Well, this recipe creates the most incredible, juicy breast, it’s outrageous. I recommend serving Ottolenghi’s baked chermoula eggplant alongside the spiced rice, with greek yoghurt and maybe some green beans.

    We felt kinda proud knowing we’d quartered the chicken ourselves.

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    Heidi xo

     

  • Almond Meal Cinnamon Buns

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    I just…I just don’t know what to say.

    Initially, I was more than a little dubious about this recipe. Almond meal cinnamon buns? Come on…

    I’m not easily offended by healthy makeovers of traditional recipes (I’m thinking my vegan brownie love puddings vs chocolate pudding – I’m cool with that), but sometimes times I just need the type of recipe my great grandmother, Nana Brown, would recognise, in all its floured, sugared, yeasted glory. And I expected these almond meal cinnamon buns to offend such sensibilities. Classic cinnamon buns are an art form – warm, soft and goey dough, lavished with melting and sweet cinnamon. They are quite literally the stuff dreams are made of.

    However the yeasting and rising time required to produce these beauties means I do not make them frequently. Perhaps if I did, they might lose some of their scrolling, swirling charm…perhaps. Regardless, my brunch brain generally does not kick into gear early enough to allow for pull-apart cinnamon buns of a morning. Hence my eagerness to try this rather instant cinnamon bun version. What did I have to lose? I had a bag of almond meal, a few dates and a craving for sweet buns. I was keen. So I did it.

    And I just…I just don’t know what to say.

    They’re freakin’ awesome, that’s what I’ll say. These darling, slightly ugly little buns are surprisingly doughy and satisfying. They’re light, they’re gentle, they’re lovely. The filling is bonkers scrumptious, I made sure to save some for a porridge topping during the week. I also made a little condensed coconut milk to drizzle on top of the buns, and though this addition is not necessary, we found it to be outrageously yummy. I shall be making it again. I shall be making both of these recipes again. And I even think Nana Brown would approve.

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    Ben and I were decidedly ungracious when it came to deciding who got the last one.

    We split it. I gave myself the bigger half.

    I just…

    Almond Meal Cinnamon Buns

    Recipe only slightly adapted from the super smart George Eats’ Almond Meal Cinnamon Buns

    Makes 5 buns

    Bun Ingredients
    1 & 1/4 cup Almond Meal
    1/4 cup Spelt Flour
    1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder
    1 Egg, lightly whisked
    2 & 1/2 tablespoons Coconut Oil (it its liquid state)
    1 tablespoon Pure Maple Syrup
    A pinch of Sea Salt

    Filling Ingredients
    80g pitted fresh Medjool Dates (~5 dates)
    1/2 cup Coconut Milk
    1/2 cup crushed Walnuts
    1 tablespoon Honey
    1/2 tablespoon ground Cinnamon (add more (yes, even more!) if you desire a stronger cinnamon flavour)
    1/2 teaspoon ground green Cardamom


    Method
    1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
    2. Add the almond meal, spelt flour, baking powder and salt to a mixing bowl. In a small bowl, whisk the egg with the coconut oil and maple syrup. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix to combine with a wooden spoon. Shape into a ball and then place in a bowl covered with plastic wrap, then leave to chill in the fridge for 15 minutes.
    3. Boil your kettle then pour some water over the dates in a small bowl (just enough to cover). Leave for a couple of minutes until soft, then drain. Add the soaked, drained dates to a food processor along with the coconut milk, then blitz until it turns into a paste. Pour into a bowl then stir through the honey, cinnamon and cardamom.
    4. Place the chilled bun dough between two sheets of baking paper. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough into a rough rectangle (mine was ~40cm x 20cm, not paper thin but not too thick – just know that you’re going to have to roll it up!). You can use your fingers here to patch up any uneven bits.
    5. Remove the top piece of baking paper and spread the filling evenly across the dough (reserve some if you feel there’s enough, as I did. Save it for a porridge topping). Sprinkle the crushed walnuts evenly over the base, then get ready to roll!
    6. Starting at the shorter end of the dough and using a pastry scraper to help you lift the base, gently roll the dough over itself. Once you have a long log, cut it using a sharp knife into 5 little rolls, then place them on baking tray lined with baking paper (with the filling facing up).
    7. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes until golden and cooked but still moist. Allow to cool for 10 minutes (an important step!), then drizzle with condensed coconut milk (see recipe below) or eat them plain. Fight over leftovers.

     

    To serve, to spoon, to generally devour: Blisssedout‘s Condensed Coconut Milk
    1 can full fat Coconut Milk
    1/4 cup Honey – or sweetener of choice, i.e. maple syrup, agave… (use less if you don’t want such a sweet blend)
    Method: in a small sauce pan, let your coconut milk simmer. Once you see the fat dissolving, add your sweetener and bring to a gentle boil. Let it reduce by a third, watch and stir occasionally. To test if it’s done, stick a spoon in and if it coats the back evenly, you can turn off your burner and let your mixture cool before setting more in the fridge. Store in a jar.

    Happy Easter, friends. I hope your weekend is filled with joy. And perhaps these cinnamon buns.

    Heidi xo

     

  • 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