Monthly Archives

September 2010

Round Up the Troops!

September 30, 2010

I have always, luckily, had a very good immune system. This may have something to do with the fact that I apparently liked to eat dirt when I was young. A bit of dirt eating is natural when you make mud pies, isn’t it?! Anyway, I believe that getting my hands (and mouth) dirty probably built up my immune system nicely.

Besides a nasty bout of Salmonella when I was 18months old, which presumably came about due to eating said mud pies, I was rarely unwell as a child. In fact, I actually relished sick days when I could stay home from school and cuddle up on the couch watching movies. It so rarely happened, that any sickness I may have felt was offset by my excitement at being able to stay in my pyjamas, raid my Disney collection and escape to faraway lands under the sea or on a magic carpet. Confession: I had a huge crush on Robin Hood as a child. And yes, I am talking about the Disney version, where he is a fox. And not as in “he’s a real fox”…I mean an actual fox. He was so charming! Am I alone? Ok, let’s not dwell on that any further.

Recently I have found myself getting sick easily. I fought an annoying sinus infection from July-August. I won in the end, with the help of an old friend, Doxycycline. I first met Doxy, as I have come to call him, when I was in Thailand at Baan Dada. We became friendly due to his anti-malaria powers. Although he is helpful in some situations, I don’t like to get too close to Doxy or his pals. Most of the time, I stubbornly resist popping pills for as long as I can. I try to will my body to pull through and fix itself. So, when I woke up sick nearly two weeks ago, I looked to my other, more natural friends to join me in this incessant battle.

Water is a natural ally on the battlefield. You must stay well hydrated otherwise you stand no chance. I also try to get fruit on my side, for both a dose of vitamins and a general mood boost. Being a happy warrior improves your chances of winning, and fruit always keeps me bright 🙂 These two allies give me a little support when fighting off a pesky cold. When I know that I am really sick, however, I bring out the big guns…Chicken Soup.

Captain Chicken Soup is my go-to guy when I know that I am in deep and cannot win the battle alone. He has the ability to warm your soul and fight off any ailment with his natural, earthly healing powers. For centuries, people have used chicken soup as a remedy for colds. Some studies have highlighted similarities between the properties in chicken soup and modern-day drugs. It is also suggested that chicken soup has an anti-inflammatory effect, and hence helps the body when in a cold and flu battle.

I read an article in Marie Claire a while ago, featuring a small collection of women and their sacred family chicken soup recipe. These women were from Greek, Italian, Chinese and Isreali backgrounds – such different cultures and food styles. Yet despite these differences, they all spoke of their love for the same dish, chicken soup. What resonated me was that for each family and culture, the soup was made when an individual needed comfort – both if they were physically sick, or if they needed to be soothed emotionally. Homemade soup means love, and it is the ultimate comfort food.

When Ben picked me up at the airport on Friday night, sniffling, coughing and without a voice, I immediately knew what I needed. “Pho?” I croaked, beseechingly. And so we drove to Springvale, which is decidedly not on the way home, for some medicine – so that I could get a little bit of help in this apparently ongoing battle. Round up the troops!

The cavalry marched on in, in the form of thinly sliced beef (I love how the beef cooks in the broth), slippery rice noodles, crunchy bean shoots, fragrant basil, a squeeze of lemon juice, fresh chilli (as well as extra chilli in oil) and last but certainly not least, a warming, full-bodied beef broth. I don’t desire to know the full ingredients list in making this broth. I have heard they take the approach of ‘the more body parts of the animal added, the better’. This may be true, but ‘ignorance is bliss’ is also very true, and probably necessary if I wish to keep Pho as my ally. I don’t need to do a full background check on my troops. If they’re on my side (and they taste good!), they’re all right by me.

I love this chilli oil

Voila! Pho with all the trimmings

I also had some coconut juice. I’m pretty sure they add a lot of sugar before they add the coconut water, but I don’t really mind as it tastes so good. Young coconut water is fairly low in energy and contains some minerals and electrolytes, and is hence a very popular new product (although it has long been consumed in South East Asian and Pacific Island regions). I won’t go into the details of coconut water in this post, all I will say is that I find it extremely refreshing and on this particular evening, I was craving one.

Richmond has many good Pho options, however Ben and I tend to gravitate towards Springvale. We frequent Dakao Hoang (Shop 6,17 Balmoral Ave) in particular, as we have a personal connection with the owners and because we love their Pho. I’m keen for more Pho recommendations, though! If you’re a Sydneysider, check out Foodwink’s piece on Sydney Pho. If you’re a Pho virgin, I think it is about time you get your Pho on.

There is nothing like a good Pho, especially when you are unwell. The broth both nourishes you and tastes incredible. Adding chilli helps to clear a stuffy nose too. We have had Pho three times since I have been unwell. Although I still have a cough and some sniffles, I am feeling a lot better. I won’t be relying on my comrades for any more help in this battle – I feel that I can now go it alone. I am confident that I will emerge the victorious winner. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like to visit my friends whenever I get the chance. After all, a good friend doesn’t just show up when they are in trouble and need a helping hand. So, I guess it is my duty to have Pho as much as I can. What can I say?…I’m a good friend 🙂

Heidi xo

Packaged with Love makes it Extra Sweet

September 28, 2010

I cannot resist little old ladies selling their jam at markets or fundraisers. Their honest, affectionate smiles and coiffed silver curls lure me in, and I am lucky if I don’t emerge with a whole car-full of homemade goodies.

Breakfast on this fine Tuesday morning featured two recent purchases, which were made when I most recently fell (willing)victim to some sweet, heavily rose-fragranced nannas.

I appreciate how our nannas always take pride in their appearance. They even make the effort to dress their jams in such fine, attractive hats! It is always important to present yourself well 🙂

Let me present…Wholemeal English Muffins with Raspberry and Apricot Jam, and a Mango Strawberry Smoothie

A warm and sweet nanna hug combined with a kiss of summer fruit sunshine…and I’m ready to start my day. I hope you all have a sweet Tuesday.

Heidi xo

Who wears short shorts?

September 26, 2010

“Who wears short shorts? dadadadadadada”

Today, it was I who wore short shorts. This is a big deal. I have pined for the days when the air is warm and richly scented of blooms and fresh grass and…sun!

On this glorious Sunday, that day finally arrived. It truly felt like Spring. It seemed that all of Melbourne was as ecstatic as I that the chill had subsided. Every man and his dog was out and about. Some prime puppy spotting was had, as we walked along Brighton beach towards Elwood.

Breakfast was first: stewed apples on greek yoghurt with granola clusters and fresh blueberries.

Instantly energised and inspired to capture some golden rays, we bounded outside for a bit of frisbee fun in the park. This was followed by grilled fish wraps in Port Melbourne. I must apologise – my hunger got the better of me and I inhaled the wrap before I remembered to photograph it 🙂

Later on in the afternoon, we saw ‘The Arrival’, a show based on the book by Shaun Tan and produced by some amazingly talented individuals. It was playing in the Melbourne Fringe Festival, and it was such a great show. The young cast (which included my little brother) were brilliant. It was an incredibly topical show too, as it told the tale of immigrants coming to Australia. All proceeds went to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, which is really fantastic. Great work, guys!

After the show, a sudden craving for Beef Rendang led us on a Malaysian Mission. We drove to Syndal and ate at Danny’s Kopitiam, upon Ben’s recommendation. Ben used to live in this area, and sometimes we get cravings for authentic, cheap Asian food that the Bayside area just cannot fulfil. The décor is that which you would expect of a no-fuss Asian restaurant – casual canteen ambiance. The owner is lovely and friendly, the serves generous and the prices fairly cheap.

Green tea for me, lemon ice tea for him.

For the eats, we shared a Beef Rendang ($16) with Roti ($3), and the Curry Laksa ($10).

Honestly, the Laska was a bit lack-luster. The fish balls were lovely, yet I found the soup to lack that certain kick, which I am so fond of in other Laksas. I am by no means a Laksa expert, but I was a bit disappointed with this dish.

The Beef Rending, however, more than made up for any Laksa let-down. Large, tender cubes of oh-so-succulent beef, nestled in a bath of thick, rich, intricately spiced sauce. This dish is pure heaven. Over dinner discussions, Ben and I agreed that this is our favourite curry style dish. Apparently it is not actually a curry, but you get my drift. I love the depth of flavour, and how it is ever so rich, yet never heavy. We had Roti alongside the beef, which was lovely and moist with a delightful crunch to the top layer. So fun to mop up the sauce with. Amazing.

After several brief and random encounters with this delicious cuisine, I see many more Malaysian Missions in the future. The Beef Rendang alone would justify the 30 minute trip to Danny’s Kopitiam. As I am quite inexperienced with Malaysian cuisine, I ask whether you know of any dishes, restaurants or cooking tips that I simply must try? I would love to hear your suggestions.

And in terms of Spring sunshine…lets hope that the air stays warm so that my shorts can stay short, and I can keep humming that tune whilst puppy-spotting in the park and enjoying Frisbee fun 🙂

Heidi xo

Birthday Brunch and Spontaneous Saturdays

September 25, 2010

As I type this, Ben has proclaimed that his heart is racing. Mine is also, but for a decidedly different reason. You see, Ben is a Collingwood supporter. Not one of those Collingwood supporters, but a supporter nonetheless. There are three minutes left in the 4th quarter, and the score is super close. The fact that I am typing this post during these remaining few minutes shows just how excited I am about the grand final.

My heart is a flutter, as I sit here reminiscing all the glorious eats I have had today. It pleased me so very much that in my lovely birthday messages, my friends referenced the delicious food that they expected I would be indulging in…and they were right 🙂

This morning I met friends for brunch at Las Chicas on Carlise Street. They were lovely enough to sit all eleven of us at one table. We were outside, which was really nice as we were graced with some welcome sunshine and blue skies.

I had pancakes with cinnamon sugar, lemon and mascarpone. Just lovely! Although as I am sick, my taste buds could not delight in them as much as I would have hoped.

Ben had the breakfast burrito, which he loved!

My friends and family spoiled me with some lovely gifts. They all have such good taste, lucky me!

One of my good friends, George, has a birthday three days earlier than mine. It is always nice to be able to celebrate together. My dad brought two candles, and stuck them on a coin so that we could sing happy birthday. That is so my dad – quirky and sweet 🙂

As we left the café, we were drawn to a nearby florist, the soft fragrance of double jonquils luring us in. We emerged with a bunch…

Then Ben came up with the wonderful idea of visiting the Rippon Lea Estate. I love spontaneous fun! I so cherish days like this, when you have the freedom and creativity to explore and frolick. That we did (well, I frolicked).

Our friendly and informative volunteer guide, Robert, took us around the beautiful Rippon Lea Mansion. As a history buff, I so love to be transported back in time and enter historical spaces like this. I felt like I was back at Versaille (although this was somewhat less grand and opulent). I love picturing how people lived in another time, seeing their trinkets and standing where they stood.

We saw inside the Mansion, including the children’s room.

Really old, well preserved little booties!

We also saw the old servants’ quarters, and the old kitchen.

An old crockpot!

Please excuse the poor quality of this photo (no flash allowed in a dark room), I simply had to share with you this ‘dinner gong’, which the servants used to announce dinner.

I wanted to steal these chairs…

Gorgeous old cars

which I also wanted to take as my own…

The gardens were lovely and lush.

After all this exploring, we headed to Batch Espresso (again on Carlisle Street) to fill our tummies. I love this place, it is so cozy and cool, with a Kiwi twist! These photos were taken on my iphone, as my camera’s battery decided it needed a sleep.

We shared a delicious roasted beetroot, goats curd and candied walnut salad, which was definitely of the Epic variety. This was incredibly delicious. We inquired as to what goats curd they used, and it was Calendar cheese.

Ben had an iced coffee

I enjoyed a latte

And we shared a slice of Lemon Polenta cake. So moist! With a superb, full lemon flavour. The grainy texture of polenta cakes always pleases me – something different and refreshing. I really enjoyed this.

Ben has just suggested we make our own pesto for dinner. Genius! Full creativity points for him today 🙂 Last time we made pesto we were in Ortygia, Sicily, and gee it was fun. We are looking up old, classic movies to watch too. Ben is leaning towards “Double Indemnity” or “The Big Sleep”. Lots of basil and Bogart ahead of me.

I hope you’re all having a lovely Saturday! Go the pies! And by pies I mean apple pie…I love that you have come to expect nothing less from me 🙂

Heidi xo

Epic Salads

September 22, 2010

I love salads, I truly do. They are my ideal lunch, and even if they weren’t good for me I would eat them every day. I should point out that I am referring to ‘Epic Salads’. Yes, there is a difference (and yes, capital letters are necessary).

A good, Epic Salad is like a colourful Broadway show. What is playing, and the star of the show, changes with each performance. One show may feature Liza and Mr Jackman (read: lentils and pecans) while the next may feature Carol Woods, Nathan Lane and Chita Rivera (read: spinach leaves, goats cheese and asparagus). If ‘The Boy From Oz’ were on then naturally beetroot would feature, it would be all about rice noodles with ‘Miss Saigon’, and fresh coconut would be sprinkled over ‘South Pacific’. After an Epic Show (read: Salad) you always leave the theatre (read: table) feeling invigorated, energised and full of song and dance.

I am known amongst my family for my Epic Salads. I really pride myself on being able to make a salad a fulfilling meal. There are so many incredible flavour combinations to choose from, so a salad should never be plain or lack-luster. It should be vibrant and inspired! It should be Epic – each fresh mouthful a scrumptious surprise, with different ingredients working together to present new (high)kicks of exciting flavours.

Unfortunately, many individuals remain unaware of the beauty and power of the Epic Salad. With good intentions, many will try to like salads. They will pack them in a snap-lock container and take to work for lunch. This is often done in an honest yet futile attempt to be healthy, which is foiled immediately after begrudgingly choking down plain lettuce leafs, with lifeless tomato and other predictable ingredients that encourage as much excitement as watching Cats (and by that I mean watching actual cats…sleeping).

The problem is, generic and empty salads leave you feeling unsatisfied, unfulfilled and lusting after something yummy and interesting. More often than not, this manifests as a ‘junk food’ craving, and some chocolate or a greasy spring roll is inhaled to literally and psychologically fill the hole in your stomach. Fail. Epic fail.

We need to shake off the ‘boring’, ‘healthy’ and ‘rabbit food’ labels that so often plague this wonderful meal. ‘Open Your Eyes to the Epic Salad’ should be plastered on streets in Neon lights, to allow people to realise the possibilities of brilliant flavour combinations and delicious ingredients. To show them how fabulous, filling, exciting and down-right yummy salads can be. There would be no more resentful groans when “what did you bring for lunch today?” is asked by a colleague. Rather, this question will invite a Glee-ful song and dance response, and summon envy from those around with monotonous lunches or boring, decidedly non-Epic salads.

I should note, that whilst I encourage everyone to free their salads from the shameful shackles of ‘boring health food’, I do not see much point in loosing the ‘health‘ aspect. Why douse a perfectly nutritious meal in creamy dressings, oily croutons and greasy bacon? You are suffocating all those delightful nutrients in a heavy blanket of saturated fat. I am all about lean meats, fresh and seasonal vegetables, lighter dressings and exercising appropriate portion control with those more indulgent ingredients such as cheese, extra virgin olive oil and nuts. A tablespoon of olive oil, a small handful of nuts, ¼ an avocado, ~30g of cheese – include some of these ingredients and you are on your way to Epic-ville.

For a salad to truly deserve the title of ‘Epic’, it should not only be delicious, but also keep you from reaching for a sugary pick-me up mid afternoon. To do this, make sure you include some good quality, complex carbohydrates either within or alongside your salad. I’m thinking brown rice, some pasta, quinoa or other grain, or perhaps some wholegrain crackers on the side. You should also include some protein, which could be in the form of lentils or chickpeas (or other legumes), boiled eggs, lean meats, seafood or nuts.

Are you inspired yet? If your salads are not already ‘All That Jazz’y, I hope you try and Epic them up a little. Give them a real chance to sing. They have so much potential 🙂

Here is an example of one of my Epic Salads. It consisted of my beloved sirena tuna in oil (added note when revising this post: Safcol is a more sustainable brand of tinned fish), avocado, legumes, quinoa, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, spring onions, spinach leaves, lots of freshly cracked pepper and a lemon juice/extra virgin olive oil dressing. How pretty is it?! Can you hear the chorus?

Take a bow…

Heidi xo

Morning Muffins

September 20, 2010

Freshly baked muffins straight from the oven for breakfast…still warm. This is a true delight. I so look forward to the rare morning when I wake up with an urge to bake first thing.

 

On Sunday morning, the sweet smell of brown sugar, toasty nuts and cooked raspberries filled our apartment, intoxicating me and leaving me positively weak at the knees. The only cure was, of course, to fill my tummy with wholesome muffin goodness.

I did just that…

It worked a treat 😉

I followed Stephanie Alexander’s recipe for blueberry muffins, which you can find in the bible. I altered the ingredients according to what Ben and I felt like. The result was a half batch of strawberry, walnut and dark chocolate muffins (Ben’s craving), and a half batch of banana, cinnamon and raspberry muffins (my creation). They were really yummy – very moist and light. Yet I know that I have far to go on my journey towards the perfect muffin. I am yet to find my ideal recipe.

I am after a perfect mix of flavour and nutrition. Many recipes call for far too much sugar to pass it off as a healthy breakfast or snack. I like my muffins to offer up a decent serve of good nutrients, by including ingredients such as nuts or seeds (or both!). I also, unsurprisingly, love to add oats in the mix. An oaty, brown sugar topping is divine – sweetly nutritious. The possibilities are endless, and I find myself a little overwhelmed by them. I do so wish to find that perfect recipe.

I am also after a giant muffin tray, which will allow me to create my fantasy breakfast: a BIG wholemeal berry muffin with a generous, crunchy top (with or without some nuts – I can go either way). Served alongside some delicious natural or vanilla yoghurt in a glass jar, European style, and a cup of English breakfast tea. Can’t you just picture it? mmmmmm. I seem to be weak at the knees again…

Heidi xo

Childlike Cakes from the Pan

September 18, 2010

Pancakes for breakfast…what could be more fun and childlike on a Saturday morning? After a much welcomed sleep in, I posed my favourite weekend question to Ben…what did he feel like for breakfast? I was silently willing him to shun his usual craving for eggs and share in my desire for little golden cakes from the pan… and he did.

Weekend breakfasts are really special for me. I cherish being able to cook and eat together, as during the week our morning schedules don’t align. I also revel in the fact that I have the time to play with recipes, whether it be a new endeavour or an old favourite. Those precious and glorious few morning hours on Saturday and Sunday encourage me to make something that may require a little more preparation and effort. To me, weekend breakfasts mean food made with love and anticipation, and dishes that are luxurious and indulgent, yet wholesome. Pancakes perfectly epitomise this ideal.

Upon realising that both our tummies were lusting after the same flavours, I gleefully jumped out of bed, threw on some comfy weekend attire, and bounded to the shops for my missing ingredients. I then popped on some music and danced around my kitchen; sifting and whisking, pouring and folding. Making pancakes as an adult is such fun. You get to experience the best of both worlds – creating a childhood favourite of cute, circular, fluffy delights, which you then flip in your Kitchen Aid non-stick pan 😉

The perfect pancake should be just that – fluffy and delightful. There is nothing worse than lead-like pancakes that sit heavy in your tummy for the rest of the morning. You should feel uplifted and inspired after eating pancakes. Each perfectly golden morsel should fill you with joy, and provide you energy to run and skip and jump, as it did when you were a child.

My favourite pancake recipe belongs to another Heidi. Her name is Heidi Swanson, of 101 cookbooks, and she is a goddess. Her recipes are wholesome, inspired, vibrant and luxurious. Her photos are real and tender. I adore her site. I tried her ‘Favourite Pancake Recipe’ about 6months ago, and have never looked back. The use of buttermilk makes for a lovely, velvety texture. In my experience, using buttermilk always creates a great pancake – whether oatmeal pancakes or the regular kind. I appreciate the opportunity to use wholemeal flavour, to allow for a more nutritious breakfast.

Heidi also provides a recipe for her Blueberry Maple Syrup, which she serves alongside her pancakes. I have made the syrup twice, and while it produces a beautifully rich and intensely blueberry flavoured sauce, it is really very sweet. So, I tend to stick to a fresher accompaniment. I love to use fresh berries and finish with a drizzle of pure maple syrup. Some natural yoghurt also adds a nice freshness.

Today I made banana pancakes, by pressing thin slices of banana into one side of the pancake whilst it is cooking. Upon flipping the pancake and allowing the fruit to greet the hot pan, the banana begins to caramelise. I love to do this with blueberries also. The batter is meant to be quite lumpy, so don’t overmix.

We enjoyed these pancakes more than I can attempt to convey. Our taste buds danced as we devoured these light, heavenly, golden cakes with sweet, caramelised banana and fresh, plump strawberries. We also cherished the time spent together preparing and cooking these little joyful creations – trying to flip them juuuuuust right, like when we were kids. Then there was that first bite, after eager anticipation and countless tummy grumbles as we waited for all the pancakes to cook…so satisfying, so savoured, so special.

Do you have a favourite special, weekend breakfast? Although I do adore pancakes, I love to try new things. And no matter how delightful they may be, I cannot always persuade Ben in the direction of little golden cakes from the pan.

Heidi xo

Tuna, Chilli and Lemon Pasta. My Comfort Food.

September 16, 2010

As I mentioned in my last post, I am working interstate this week. For the past five days, I have been hanging out in a fairly remote town, north of Canberra. While it is really pleasant, and oozes that typical country town charm, I do miss home. I long for my own bed. I do not enjoy layering heavy blankets and enclosing myself in a woollen jumper cocoon to stay warm at night. And I pine for internet access that doesn’t demand you jump from corner to corner to gain a signal.

I also miss my food…

I like to think that I am fairly flexible, and can make the most out of whatever situation I’m in – from all perspectives, not just in a culinary sense. However, it is getting a little frustrating not being able to make myself a nice bowl of hot porridge in the morning, or take my pick of toast topping from my ever expanding nut butter line-up, or mix up a smoothie in the afternoon.

On my first night here, some take-out noodle soup was fun. But it is now day five, and the novelty has officially worn off. I miss my kitchen. I miss my food. I’m itching to exercise my culinary skills. I want to slice and dice. I need to simmer and stir. I simply must season, sip and slurp.

Now I may seem a little dramatic, and it wouldn’t be the first time 😉 Yet I have only just been asked to return to this friendly little town next week, and so this yearning for home comforts is magnified – especially since it is my birthday next week. I don’t particularly fancy turning 25 whilst having a party for one, singing “happy birthday to me” and blowing out my candles all on my lonesome (aha! my dramatic streak resurfaces…)

This weekend, my aim is to soak up a bit of TLC at home before returning interstate. In all honestly, it is nice working with the people in this town and spending time with some gorgeous elderly lovelies.

The first thing I want to do upon my return tomorrow night, is enter my kitchen and cook. I want to make some hardcore comfort food. I am craving food that makes me feel warm and loved, that leaves me glowing from the inside out. Food that will soothe my soul after a hectic week. Each slice of onion will cut through my concerns. Any worries I may have will be washed away with those obligatory, cutting onion induced tears.

And I know exactly what I want to cook…

I have fond memories of this meal. I created it shortly before Ben and I moved in together. During those 18months living in our first apartment, we would make this dish at least every fortnight. It involves so many of our most beloved ingredients. These days Ben or I will get a craving around once a month, and out it comes again. The sweetness of the onions, combined with the kick of chilli and lemon, along with the meaty tuna chunks and freshness of the spinach. Yum!

Cooking and eating this dish always leaves us feeling contented and cozy. This is our comfort food. I can’t wait for it to work it’s magic on me tomorrow night…

tuna chilli lemon pasta

Tuna, Chilli and Lemon Pasta

Serves two.

220g dried Spaghetti*
185g tin Sirena** Tuna in Oil, drained of half of it’s oil
1 brown onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoons dried chilli flakes***
2 big handfuls spinach, rocket or other easily wilted dark leafy green
2 juicy unwaxed Lemons
1 handful fresh flatleaf Parsley leaves
Sea salt and freshly cracked Black Pepper

* I feel like long, thin strands work best in this dish. it’s to do with the twirling.
** As a rule, I try to use safcol, a more sustainably favourable brand than Sirena, but gosh darnit when I make this dish I treat myself to my favourite (flavour and texture wise) Sirena tuna in oil.
*** Or as much/little as you can tolerate.
**** Meyer lemons are incomparable, grab them if you can.

Method

1. Bring a pot of water to the boil, then salt it generously. Cook your pasta according to packet instructions. Now, depending on how long your pasta takes (some brands take 8 minutes, others 10-15!), time your cooking accordingly. I like to start cooking my onions before the water reaches a boil and ideally have them cooked and resting before adding the pasta.
2. While waiting for the water to boil, heat a non-stick pan over low-medium heat with the olive oil. Add the onion and a generous sprinkle of sea salt and stir (adding the salt will help ensure the onions don’t burn). Cook slowly and gently (turn own the heat as required) until they begin to soften and caramelise (~12 minutes). It can takes a while, but the longer you cook, the better the taste. This is why I like to start this way before adding the pasta, so you don’t rush the onion cooking process. If the pan gets a bit dry, add some of the oil from the tin of tuna or a dash of water.
3. When the onions are cooked, add the pasta to the pot of salted boiling water and cook for the required time until al dente (I always cook mine for a minute or two less than instructed as I like more bite and we cook it further in the pan later on). Be sure to reserve a cup of starchy pasta cooking water before draining.
4. While the pasta is cooking, add the garlic and chilli flakes to the pan and cook for a minute or so until fragrant. Add the tuna (with half of the oil) and turn the heat up to medium, letting it to brown in the oniony, oily mixture for a minute or so. Add the greens and the juice of one lemon (add some lemon zest too, if you’re super into lemon! I am, so I do) and cover with a big lid for a minute or so until the leaves are wilted.
5. Add the cooked, drained pasta to the pan, along with the parsley and a little drizzle of the starchy cooking water (work in 1/4 cups when adding the pasta cooking water to the pan so you don’t add too much and make it soupy). Turn the heat up and use tongs to incorporate everything together, the pasta and the sauce, for about 30 seconds. Taste a pasta strand to ensure it’s not undercooked (but also don’t over cook it!) and add more lemon juice if you wish and season as desired. Serve up from the pan into bowls and enjoy! Add extra chilli flakes, lemon juice and a drizzle of etxra virgin olive oil if you wish.

 

Heidi xo

Dairy Queen

September 14, 2010

“Hand me the yoghurt!”

“I want some cheese.”

“Where is my smoothie?”

These are thoughts that now enter my mind on a daily basis. For I am the Dairy Queen…

I am happy to say that I have become accustomed to eating three serves of dairy a day. I really feel like I have developed a healthy dairy habit. These days we tend to think of habits in a negative sense – giving up bad habits like smoking, or creating bad habits like skipping workouts. Not this time.

A little over two weeks ago, I challenged myself to eat more dairy and reach my recommended dietary intake (RDI) for calcium every day for two weeks. You can read about my journey here, links 1, 2 and 3. I completed my two weeks on Friday 10th September, and have found it really easy to maintain my new habit.

Over the course of my Calcium Quest, I fell short of my RDI on two days. I don’t think that is bad at all, if I do say so myself. Having a healthy diet is all about consistency. If the bulk of your diet is full of wholesome, natural, healthy food, then you are doing really well. Every now and then having a hot fudge sunday or some pizza is completely fine…and delicious…ok, now I want a sundae 😉

Back to my Calcium Quest, I really do enjoy including three dairy serves each day. I find myself craving dairy if I have not had some by mid-morning. This week I have had to travel interstate for work. What was the first thing I bought to stock up the fridge in my accommodation?…some vaalia yoghurt and cheese slices! I have turned into a Dairy Queen! And I wear my crown with pride…

Being away from home this week has meant, however, that I find myself without my beloved blender. I am pretty sure that my body is going through smoothie withdrawals as I type. So, please excuse me as I indulge in a bit of smoothie nostalgia. On Friday, I made myself a smoothie for breakfast. I simply had to share it with you, as it was the most darling, pastel shade of baby pink.

Raspberry and Banana Smoothie

Made with 1/2 a banana, 1/2 cup frozen raspberries, 200g vanilla yoghurt and 1/2 cup milk.

I also made wholegrain sourdough toast, with natural peanut butter and the other half of the banana. I love this combination, and it was delicious, as always. Together with the smoothie, it made for an incredibly scrumptious and nutritious breakfast.

I am really embracing my new title of Dairy Queen, and endeavour to reign over my smoothie subjects with gusto and consistency. Now, hand me my yoghurt…

Heidi xo

Retreating to Red Hill for Father’s Day Festivities

September 11, 2010

Late last Saturday night, Ben and I enthusiastically packed our overnight bags and journeyed down to Red Hill. We wanted to be able to wake up Sunday morning and spend the whole day with family. I feel so lucky to be able to, at the drop of a hat, escape the hustle and bustle and head down to a place that feels so far removed and untouched. To me, home means being surrounded by tall, luscious trees, humble apple and cherry orchids, and picturesque rolling hills with rows and rows of vineyards. When I inhale that unique, crisp Red Hill air, with familiar and refreshing notes of pine and fresh rain, I know I am home.

Even after a quick visit, my batteries are recharged and I can head back to my little apartment, which is noticeably devoid of any backyard or balcony, and embrace all the fabulous aspects of city life. However after a couple of weeks in this environment, I begin to feel drained, longing for those rolling hills and lush, natural beauty. So, I jump into my car and make the hour-long trip to this stunning little corner of the world. I inhale and again, I am energised…

As it was Father’s Day on Sunday, we had grand plans for a lovely, long family lunch. Jamie Oliver’s Overnight Slow-Roasted Pork was on the menu (recipe link ), from his book, Cook with Jamie. Oooooh this dish is divine. We usually cook this at Christmas, however Mum had the brilliant idea of bringing out this much loved recipe a bit earlier. She sourced some lovely, local, organic pork.

Mum set her alarm and popped the pork into the oven at 2am. 30 minutes later she woke again to change the temperature, as per the recipe instructions. True dedication! At 6am, however, Mother Nature had a bit of a tantrum, resulting in a power outage (which lasted for 36 hours!). Luckily mum heard Mother Nature’s wailing, and woke up to remove the pork from the oven to their covered BBQ. No harm done.

This stormy curve-ball did, however, leave us unable to bake the cake which we had planned for dessert. We came up with a sunny substitute, which honestly was favourably refreshing and light, after a fairly heavy meal.

Oh my, I have been carried away reflecting on our glorious lunch and forgot to mention our delicious start to this splendid Sunday. At Dad’s request, we had porridge for breakfast. It may seem like an odd request for a special, weekend breakfast – plain old oats. However, you may recall my previous proclamation of my love for oats, which explained that I think oats are anything but boring. Nevertheless, I do know how to jazz them up for those special occasions. My favourite such porridge recipe is Bill Granger’s Banana Maple Porridge with Buttered Apples. It is from his book, Sydney Food, and it is good. Really good. It is quite sweet, but I do so love to make wholesome food ever so slightly indulgent every now and then.

Voila!

Presents were given…

We attempted to soak up all that Red Hill goodness. We explored the garden, picking herbs and teasing our senses as we went.

And a little later on…Lunch. Starting with a refreshing cocktail, of course. Dad made us a ‘Suez Canal’, made with Strega and San Pellegrino Pomelo.

Then came the pork…

Normally I’m not a huge fan of this meat, other than mince pork in Asian cooking. However this recipe offers you to-die-for, melt-in-your-mouth, heaven on earth, succulent pieces of pure pork delight. I do not exaggerate. Try it yourself and revel in the genius that is Mr Oliver.

Greens…

We finished with a modest serve of vanilla ice-cream and berries in these adorable little cups. Perfection.

A quick tip: I love Peter’s Light French Vanilla Ice-Cream. It is a really delicious, creamy, rich, reduced fat option.

We had a lovely day, filled with incredible food, fantastic conversation, lots of jokes, fun, love and warmth – despite the distinctly chilly weather 😉 It was a really nice way to spend Father’s Day, and show Dad how much we love him. He is such a kind, funny, smart, goofy oddball 🙂 Conversation is never boring with him, and I love his passion for food and the process of cooking. I love you, Dad.

Heidi xo