Monthly Archives

April 2011

Easter Lunch in Red Hill

April 29, 2011

This year, my family and I celebrated Easter on Saturday. We’re not religious, we don’t go to Church, (in fact, my younger brother, Jackson, calls Easter Sunday “Chocolate Day”) but we always make sure to get together at Easter for some quality family time. It just so happened that Saturday lunch was most convenient, and so we celebrated a day early. That was fine by me, the sooner I can be with my family the better.

Friday Evening

Friday night Ben and I headed down to Red Hill for a weekend of food and cooking. We had a lovely fish dinner with mum and dad – barbequed red mullet with spicy salsa, and za’atar baked salmon. Lovely. We also sampled some of Dad’s latest icecream and gelati creations – a beautiful peach and a quince scoop.

But before we left for Red Hill, I planned an Easter egg hunt of our own at our little home for two.

I even left the Easter Bunny a carrot…

Our First Morning in Red Hill

Saturday morning I woke early and went for a refreshing run, the crisp air invigorating me just as much, if not more than, the endorphins from the run itself.

How lucky I am to have grown up in such a beautiful corner of the world. I think Red Hill is at it’s most stunning in Autumn, the ground is covered in blankets of orange leaves and the air is filled with the smell of overnight rain that has permeated the soil, encouraging even more vibrant greenery than usual. It really is something special.

When I bounced back through the front door, mum was already in the kitchen – always a good sign that we’re in for a delicious day. A fabulous morning of baking and cooking ensued.

I so love to cook with my mum and dad in the kitchen. It’s a really collaborative, lively process where we discuss the recipe and plan future cooking endeavours. This weekend surpassed all cooking expectations, it was challenging, delicious and completely and utterly blissful.

Jackson, arrived around 11am. My grandparents, Nanna and Roo, arrived at midday. We were all here…happy and hungry.

Time for Lunch

Dad made beautiful Olive Bread in our woodfired oven.

Mum had chosen Nigel Slater’s Spicy Slow-Roast Lamb recipe for lunch (recipe link here). The lamb was cooked at 160 degrees Celsius for 3 and a half hours… why yes, it was. I am sure you can imagine how wonderful it was.

The lamb was served with a simple salad and lemon vinaigrette, and a beautiful cannellini bean mash.

To make the gravy, mum reduced the pan juices down with some wine. It was phenomenally rich.

Everything was scrumptious. Clearly…

After lunch, mum served cake. Delia Smith’s Greek Orange and Honey Syrup Cake with Yoghurt and Pistachios (recipe link here).

This, my friends, is my new favourite cake. I am all about citrus and almond meal. This cake *deep breath* is utterly beautiful. The use of Greek yoghurt as icing is brilliant. As soon as I finished my slice, I requested it for my birthday cake…in September. I loved it that much.

And that was our lovely little Easter in Red Hill. Family, love, togetherness all served with a side of delicious. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

……….

Lastly, I am thrilled to announce the winner of my blog giveaway. In the end I had to opt for a randomly generated number, as all your comments were so lovely. As much as I thought I could choose my favourite, I couldn’t…

So, congratulations to comment #10, Laura from Heavenly Ingredients. I am so happy to send you a copy of Super Natural Every Day. I hope it brings you much joy and beautiful food.

Heidi xo

Carrot Muffins Spiked with Goodness

April 28, 2011

Good Friday afternoon…

We had only just enjoyed a lovely, yet light, lunch. While Ben and I were left mentally sated, physically we were not fuelled up enough to power through an afternoon of study (for Ben who is studying for his final CFA exam) and unpacking, following our recent move. Question: for how long can I call our move “recent” and thus feel no qualms about our home’s decided state of disorder?

Regardless of your answer to this question, one thing was for sure – we needed extra sustenance. And so I created these muffins. A recipe that is wholesome, with a touch of Easter festivity from the addition of carrots – the Easter Bunny eats carrots, you see – therein lies my logic.

I surveyed a few recipes for inspiration but none of them were quite how I pictured my muffins. And so I ventured into the kitchen, past the debri of boxes and bubble wrap, to create a recipe based on the flavours I enjoy, hoping they would turn out. And they did.

These muffins are moist and wholesome. The sweetness, which is subtle, comes from the dark agave nectar (a fabulous, low GI sweetener from the agave plant), light muscovado sugar, sultanas and carrots. If you omit the sultanas I fear these muffins may be a little bland, so look to add in an extra tablespoon of sugar. I find that olive oil lends a lovely flavour to baked goods, but be sure to use light olive oil. I used extra virgin in my batch (as I had no light olive oil and the shops were closed) and the flavour was a little too pronounced. Finally, I included almond meal in the recipe, as I adore both the flavour and the texture it provides baked goods.

When I came to naming these muffins I was at a loss. Naturally I felt that carrot was a noteworthy ingredient, as it gives the muffins a delightful orange tinge and is a somewhat unusual ingredient in baked goods. But where to go from there? Out of sultanas, agave, almond meal, olive oil and walnuts, which was the second most noteworthy ingredient? I decided that I could, in fact, not decide…and so I simply collated the remaining ingredients – “spiked with goodness”. Because these muffins really are.

Carrot Muffins Spiked with Goodness

makes six medium muffins

Ingredients

¾ cup Wholemeal Plain Flour
1 cup Almond Meal
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
½ teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
1 tablespoon Light Muscovado Sugar (or Brown Sugar)
2 pinches of Sea Salt
1 teaspoon Cinnamon (you could 1/2 a teaspoon more if you really like your spice)
½ teaspoon ground Ginger
¼ teaspoon freshly grated Nutmeg
2 eggs
1/3 cup Low-Fat Milk
1/3 cup Light Olive Oil
¼ cup Dark Agave Nectar (you could use light agave, but the flavour won’t be as intensely sweet. You could substitute with Maple syrup, however again, the flavour will be slightly different)
1 ½ cups (~220g) grated Carrot – you’ll need ~2 carrots, depending on their size. Don’t grate them at the start, grate them fresh when instructed in the method. Use good quality carrots, I find that organic ones tend to be sweeter.
¼ cup Sultanas
¼ cup Walnut pieces (really, I think you could add 1/3 cup for extra crunch)

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease your muffin tray holes (I use spray olive oil but you could use margarine or butter).

Sift the flour, almond meal, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and sugar into a large bowl. Add the salt and spices and stir to combine.

In a separate, smaller bowl, lightly whisk together the eggs, milk, oil and agave.

On a chopping board, grate the carrot.

Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and stir gently until just combined (don’t overmix). Add in the grated carrot, sultanas and walnuts, and give a final stir to incorporate the mixture.

Spoon the batter into the prepared muffin holes, filling it 2/3rds the way up and gently smoothing the surface. Pop the tray into the preheated oven and bake for ~20 minutes (they may take a few minutes longer depending on your oven and depending on the size of your muffin tray). They are cooked when a skewer inserted into the middle (more towards the bottom) comes out clean. Be sure not to overcook them – you want your muffins to be moist!

Let them cool for a couple of minutes, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool further.

……….

On Good Friday, I let our muffins cool for only a few minutes before we enjoyed them outside in our courtyard with a cup of English Breakfast tea. They would also be lovely with a tall glass of cold milk.

I have wrapped the other 4 muffins in glad wrap and frozen them for work-day snacks. They will be lovely at room temperature, but I have a sneaking suspicion that I will be searching for a microwave to warm mine up a little before eating. I like my baked goods warm. They taste more like love that way 🙂

Heidi xo

A Little Lunch for Two

April 26, 2011

Good Friday lunch in our household went a little like this…

Ben and I were home snuggled up inside. It was raining out. The memory of our warming breakfast was starting to fade. Our tummies were beginning to grow impatient as the little hand on the clock began to creep towards One… it was time for lunch. Something yummy and nourishing.

Ben was busy studying for his level 3 Chartered Financial Analyst exam in June. I knew I wanted to make him a special lunch, even more so than usual, as he’s been hitting the books tirelessly. But what was I to make?…

Recently we’ve been loving enoki mushrooms, adding them to risotto, pasta, and stirfried broccolini (we’ve got a bit of a whirlwind romance happening). So I thought, “why not extend a good thing?”

I decided to pair our beloved enoki mushrooms with eggs, as we had a whole carton to use up.

Some char-grilled asparagus would finish the meal perfectly. Yes. Lovely.

The power of a gentle squeeze of lemon and a dusting of parmesan should not be underestimated. They completed the picture. And what a pretty picture it was.

Omelette with Enoki Mushrooms and Char-Grilled Asparagus

A little lunch for two

Ingredients

Spray Olive Oil
3 gloves Garlic, crushed (1-2 cloves if you’re not a huge garlic lover)
1/2 tablespoon Butter
100g (a big handful) Enoki Mushrooms (from Asian or Gourmet Grocers)
1 bunch of Asparagus
5 eggs
A dash of Milk (optional)
A handful of Spinach (optional but it’s delicious, pretty and healthy – so why not?)
1 lemon
Good Quality Parmesan Cheese (a scattering)
Sea Salt and freshly cracked Pepper, to taste
Fresh crusty bread, to serve – I imagine lightly brushing pieces with extra virgin olive oil and char-grilling them

Notes:
* Some prosciutto would be a lovely addition, but we were out and the shops were closed, being Good Friday and all. I would serve a couple of prosciutto slices on top of the omelette either fresh or quickly panfried so that they deliciously crisp up.

Method

1. First, cook your enoki mushrooms. Prepare your them by cutting the end off (if they’re joined) and discarding any clumpy bits. Heat a small heavy-based saucepan over medium heat and add a generous spray of olive oil. When hot, add the garlic and cook until fragrant and very lightly coloured. Add in your mushrooms, give a good stir and allow to cook for around a minute. Now add the butter and let it cook for another minute or so. Turn off the heat and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, crack the eggs and add the milk, then lightly whisk.

3. Turn your oven on to grill mode.

Now cook the asparagus and the omelette at the same time (i.e. start these next two steps (4 and 5) together)…

4. Heat a skillet over low-medium heat and add a generous spray of olive oil. When hot, add the asparagus. Allow them to cook and adopt a slightly charred appearance, turning the spears every minute or so, so that they cook evenly.

5. Heat a non-stick frypan over medium-high heat and add a spray of olive oil. When hot, add the egg mixture and give the pan a quick shake so that it spreads evenly. Turn the heat down to medium and leave the pan until the edges begin to cook (~2 minutes). Once the egg around the edge of the pan has set, place your pan under the grill to finish off the cooking process – be careful not to burn any plastic that may be on the handle! After around a minute of cooking pull the omelette out and scatter the mushrooms and the spinach leaves on top. Put the pan back under the grill and cook for another minute (or longer if the egg is still gooey).

6. Divide the omelette in two and serve on a plate with the asparagus on the side (and any extra spinach you may have). Add a generous squeeze of lemon juice over the asparagus. Scatter some freshly shaved parmesan over the asparagus and omelette. Season your omelette to taste.

Enjoy.

I would have served this dish with some char-grilled wholegrain sourdough bread, lightly brushed with extra virgin olive oil…but alas, on this day we found ourselves without a bite of bread. Hence the need for an afternoon treat not so long after this lovely lunch…all will be revealed in the next post!

Heidi xo

Baked Oatmeal

April 23, 2011

Heidi Swanson’s heavenly 101 Cookbooks was one of the first blogs I fell in love with. Her recipes are wholesome and inspired. They transcend beyond the familiar and incorporate a whole range of cooking techniques and methods that I have never attempted. She challenges me, yet at the same time brings me comfort. That’s a delicious skill. Plus she has a fabulous name.

Heidi’s new cookbook, Super Natural Every Day, recently reached #6 on the New York Times Best Sellers List. Naturally Heidi has been busy doing book signings and interviews, during which she generously offered a couple of recipes from her new book for hungry fans.

I cannot wait for my copy. It is currently in the post. As is a copy for one of you, my lovely readers. Leave a comment on this post and I shall choose a comment at random – or perhaps not so at random, I haven’t decided yet, you may have to woo me… just kidding. This lucky individual will receive a copy of Heidi’s beautiful book, Super Natural Every Day. I’ll choose a winner in one week.

Baked Oatmeal

Yesterday for breakfast I made Heidi Swanson’s Baked Oatmeal, a recipe she recently shared from Super Natural Every Day (recipe link here). I felt it would be the perfect way to start our long weekend (and to shake Ben back into the land of the functioning after a late night out).

Heidi claims this is now her favourite way to eat oatmeal, and I can see why. This is a lovely recipe, providing you with wholesome goodness that is decorated with berries and walnuts, and spiked with a little sugar and spice…and all things nice.

I halved the recipe for the two of us and I do have a small portion leftover, which I picture having over Greek Yoghurt another morning.

I used a 9cmx21.5cm loaf tin for baking, as that is what I had on hand. The recipe gives you the option of using natural cane sugar or maple syrup. I used maple as I was in a maple kind of mood. I also used a whole egg, even though I halved the recipe. I didn’t drizzle any extra butter at the end, nor did I add extra syrup – it was delightfully sweet already.

We ate our breakfast whilst sipping freshly brewed coffee and devouring the recent Gourmet Traveller – it’s the Italian issue, which always brings me great joy.

As we sipped and swooned, we planned which recipes we wish to make over this blissful five day holiday we have here in Australia. Maltagliato di pane con calamari; braised duck, Valoplicella, tomato and rosemary with polenta; and spaghetti con polpette were the ones that sent our hearts most aflutter – how lustful do they sound?

I really enjoyed my breakfast, it was a great way to start my Good Friday and I will definitely be making this Baked Oatmeal again. While Ben appreciated it’s beauty, it wasn’t his favourite. Blame the alcohol and late night McDonalds run for his assessment (while I was home alone watching movies and reading Gourmet Traveller, and was sound asleep at 10pm, thank you!…nerd)

This really is a lovely recipe. I would favour it for a special breakfast, when you want to stay wholesome but are after something a little bit more elegant than your regular oatmeal. Do give it a try, and do enter my giveaway. I so wish to share the beauty of Heidi’s recipes with others. Are all Heidi’s this fabulous? It seems so…

Heidi xo

BBQ Street Food in Hanoi

April 21, 2011

After a Whirlwind Day in Ho Chi Minh City and a lovely five days in pretty, peaceful Hoi An, Ben and I set forth to the north of Vietnam. We arrived in Hanoi at around 7pm after a long day of travelling, which left us rather tired and hungry. A good feed was in order, but bed was also beckoning. Hence we resolved to not venture far from our hotel in search of food.

Folks, the foodie Gods were shining down upon us that night. For we only had to walk three minutes before stumbling upon a street-side delight, the smell of grilling meat enticing us to pull up a tiny plastic stool.

As soon as we sat down we were presented with our very own portable grill and plates of food – beef and pork, vegetables, tomato and pineapple – a real bounty!

Salt, lime juice and chilli makes an exciting dipping sauce.

This Korean BBQ style meal, where you grill your own food on a convex hot plate, was a lot of fun. I am always a fan of interactive food! The smell coming off the grill was enough to make us jump up and do a little dance. But we didn’t – we were already standing out enough as it was.

I think the meat had been marinating in oil, garlic, salt and pepper, and the beef was just delicious, so tender. The pork was a bit fatty, so I left most of those pieces. It was all about the beef! And when the onions started to caramelise in the meat juices and get all crispy….oooooooo it was spectacular.

If you’re ever in Hanoi and up for some street food, I recommend you visit 48 Hàng Tre for street food BBQ delight.

Replenished, we headed back to our hotel and slept very soundly indeed. We stayed at The Jasmine Hotel, and were thrilled with their location and service. The next day we were up bright and early to explore charming Hanoi. What a gem this beautiful city is. More stories and adventures to come…

Heidi xo

A Family Dinner at Chester White

April 19, 2011

When I was younger, I eagerly looked forward to Sunday Movie Night at home with my family. We would all snuggle up on the couch to watch a video (no dvd’s yet) with some of mum’s apple crumble or maybe a block of chocolate. Cadbury Snack chocolate was my pick – how good was that stuff back in the day? Pineapple was my favourite flavour, I’d always make a beeline for it. I’ve tried it recently and it is a little gross. Don’t go there, savour the childhood memory instead.

Nowadays we’re all grown up (how can that be, my little brother is still six, right?) and our evenings together are a little different. Instead of movie nights we look forward to a lively family dinner at home or, on special occasions, at a nice restaurant.

A Special Family Dinner

One Friday night a couple of weeks ago, my family and I visited Chester White, a sparkling new restaurant in Hawthorn. Ben and I treated my brother and parents to dinner, as a thank you for their generosity in helping us move home. It was one of those perfect nights when you’re all so happy, buzzing and chatting, and the fabulous food and wine keep on coming. Although I did accidentally spill said fabulous wine all over my brother at one point. Red wine too. Sorry, Jackson.

I have been incredibly excited to visit Chester White. John, a good friend of mine, is Front of House and has been super busy helping to get it up and running, working on the aesthetics of the restaurant. Bravo team, you’ve done an amazing job…

A Drink to Start

We started off with a drink in the outdoor area. A lovely Pinot Noir for me. What better way to wind down on a Friday night? I’m not sure of the variety, I let John choose it for me – that always works a treat.

Jackson and Ben had already arrived and were enjoying a beer outside on the deck…one beer? Really?

They also tried the House Marinated Olives, which were apparently delicious (they gobbled them up without leaving any for us to try – typical, but a good sign). There were many were like-minded individuals present, enjoying a drink and some appetisers out on the deck. I can imagine this will be even lovelier in Summer, catching up with friends over a glass of Sav Blanc and some pizzas.

Appetisers

Jackson had somewhere to be later on, so we didn’t linger outside long before heading in to our table.

As we sat down we were brought a plate of Warm, Grainy Sourdough. I have a thing about bread at restaurants. It has to be good. Otherwise, why waste stomach space? This was worthy of multiple pieces, and so I obliged. Beautiful bread dipped in fragrant olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt – there are few things in the world that bring me more pleasure.

The menu is sizeable but not overwhelming, and it changes slightly every couple of weeks.

We started with the Fried Padrón Peppers, with sea salt, sherry vinegar and aïoli. Wow. I am in love with this dish. It’s the perfect appetiser.

John informed us that one in ten of the peppers are really hot – it’s like Russian Roulette. I like it. Poor mum grabbed a hot one first up, which I swiftly snagged off her and shoved in my mouth before Jackson could beat me to it – I grew up with two hungry brothers, you learn to be quick 🙂 We actually had a few hot peppers in our serve, lucky us! The peppers were light and bursting with flavour, and dipped in the aïoli…pause for appreciation… they were just beautiful. I will definitely be ordering this dish again.

We enjoyed a lovely red wine with our meal, the details of which I cannot recall. I really tend to leave the wine ordering up to Dad and John.

I may have spilt wine all over Jackson, but perhaps it was karma for him initially spilling aïoli down dad’s wine glass?

Entrées

For entrée Ben tried the Seared Scallops, which were beautiful. I have come to realise that I absolutely adore scallops that are cooked well. These babies invited my adoration.

Jackson was rapt with the Smoked Tomato in his delicious, light Spanner Crab Salad. Points for presentation too!

Poor Dad, we were all digging into his entrée – the House Made Chorizo with Lima Beans. This chorizo was G.O.O.D. One of the best I have had, the flavour was out of this world! Hence why we all kept stealing his food.

Mum and I, being the rather petite females we are, knew we had to watch our stomach space *sigh*, and so we opted to share an appetiser for our entrée. We went with the Gorgonzola Stuffed Dates with Prosciutto. A fairly popular, nay, tired dish in many restaurants, these were far better than your average cheese stuffed, proscuitto wrapped date. Quality ingredients, my friends, lends itself to exceptional flavour.

Mains

For our mains we each ordered something different – snap, more to try!

Ben went for the Free-Range Milawa Chicken, which was wonderfully succulent and came with a really yummy sauce.

Jackson opted for the Chargrilled Steak, medium-rare, which was cooked absolutely perfectly – great job, Chef. He paired it with the Rosemary and Anchovy Butter, which isn’t really my thing, so I can’t comment on the flavour, but Jackson adored it. I’m fairly certain he proclaimed undying love for said butter at the table.

Dad chose the dish that all the critics are favourably highlighting, the Pork Belly with Quince Aïoli with Spiced Apple and Celeriac Slaw. This was the most tender pork belly I have ever eaten. I have only ever tried pork belly Asian style, and have always found it too fatty to enjoy. This dish, with it’s more Spanish influence, was superb, well deserving of praise. It’s a bit of a show-stopper.

Mum ordered the Escalope of Veal with Mozzarella, Cherry Tomatoes and Capers. This was such a beautiful piece of meat. The crumbing was light and delightful, while the roasted cherry tomatoes were incredibly pleasing, both aesthetically and to taste. Mum was loving it and I kept wanting to steal bites.

As soon as I saw this next dish on the menu, I knew I would have to order it. House Made Wholemeal Bigoli Pasta with Wild Mushroom Ragoût and Shaved Parmesan. It was wonderful. The ragu was oh so dreamy, rich and meaty. And the pasta had a nice bite to it, bigoli being a thicker tube style (perfect for a ragu). Naturally I welcomed the sharpness of the parmesan scattered liberally but not too enthusiastically over the top of the dish. Everyone was helping themselves to my pasta, it as a real hit with the table.

Dessert

After our mains, Jackson had to dash back to the city. Poor guy… he missed dessert.

Ben and mum both went for the Chocolate and Hazelnut Marquise with Baci Ice Cream. It was all of our first time trying a Marquise, which we learnt is a beautiful, rich chocolate mousse/cake style creation. This dish was chocolatey heaven, the Baci ice cream was divine. If you’re in need of a chocolate hit, this positively will not let you down.

Dad and I both ordered the Baked Custard and Nutmeg Tart with Honeyed Figs. Need I say more? Ok I will, I can’t help myself…

Ooooooh this was good. I loved every morsel of this dish, even though I was getting verrrrrrry full at this point. The custard’s flavour was on the subtle side, not too sweet, which was lovely. Paired with the figs it was was absolutely beautiful. Just my kind of dessert.

Happy

The staff were attentive, friendly and competent, and made their tough job appear easy. Everything looked to run very smoothly, and despite the fact that the room was packed, not once did I feel suffocated by or overwhelmed with the volume of patrons. It’s a really good space. Clean, proud and polished, yet relaxed and down-to-earth.

Looking back on our selection, most of our meals were homely dishes. Food you want to eat. Although, let’s be honest, food we can’t really cook as well ourselves. So we come to a place like this. Without the pretence of a city restaurant but still unabashedly and confidently delivering really good food. Hawthorn, I’m jealous.

Heidi xo

Ricotta and Ginger Pancakes with Finger Lime Caviar

April 17, 2011

Our first breakfast in our gorgeous new unit…I knew this was going to be special.

As I am sure you are all now very aware, I adore breakfast. Sweet or savoury, one thing that truly makes me happy is planning a beautiful morning meal. Let’s be honest though, I do tend to gravitate more towards the sweeter options. This tendency has brought me much joy and made my tummy very happy, which is why I felt it prudent to honour the sweeter things in life at this very special meal.

And so I made pancakes – pancakes that represent where I’m at in my life. They’re sweet and light, with a touch of spice and a little zing – just how my life is right now.

Ricotta and Ginger Pancakes with Finger Lime Caviar

Makes 6 large pancakes

When making this dish, I took inspiration from these two lovely recipes: Greedy Gourmand‘s Ginger, Coconut and Ricotta Pancakes and Kim Meredith’s Ricotta and Lime Pancakes.

Ingredients

1/2 cup Regular Plain Flour
1/2 cup Wholemeal Plain Flour
1.5 teaspoons Baking Powder
2 tablespoons Caster Sugar
1 teaspoon Ground Ginger
2 Egg Yolks
200g Ricotta (I used low-fat ricotta and it worked beautifully)
1/2 cup low-fat Milk
Zest of 1 Lime
2 Egg Whites
2 Finger Limes* (optional but very pretty and delicious)
Pure Maple Syrup to serve
Extra Ricotta to serve

Method

Cut the finger limes lengthways down the centre and open them up to reveal the little lime crystals. Scoop them out and set aside.

Sift the flours and baking powder in a large bowl. Stir in the ground ginger and sugar.

In a separate, smaller bowl whisk together the egg yolks, ricotta, milk and lime zest until well combined.

Make a well in the flour bowl and add in the ricotta mixture. Whisk gently until the batter is smooth.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until peaks form (an excellent arm workout). Fold gently into the batter.

Heat a frying pan over low heat (I like to heat two and have them both on the go at once, it’s quicker this way). Grease the pans with some butter (I use light dairy spread). Check whether the pan is hot enough – flick a little water onto the pan and if it dances, it’s hot enough. Add a small ladle of batter onto the pan (~1/3 cup). Cook until small bubbles appear, then flip the pancakes and cook them on the other side until golden and cooked through. Transfer the cooked pancakes to a plate and cover with foil. Repeat this process with the remaining batter until you have 6 beautiful pancakes (or more if you’re going for smaller cakes).

Stack three pancakes on each plate. Top the stacks with a spoon of ricotta each, add a drizzle of maple syrup and then place the finger lime crystals on top of the the ricotta scoops (if not using finger limes, add a squeeze of lime juice or a scattering of zest).

Eat, savour and enjoy the sweet zing of life.

* Finger Limes are a delightful fruit that come from rare native trees. They have a fantastic flavour – the little round lime crystals inside the fruit give a burst a fresh flavour as they pop in your mouth. Besides these pancakes, I’m picturing they’d be lovely in a Thai beef salad or seared scallops.

My Finger Limes were given to me by my mum’s friend, Pauline Miceli. Pauline and her husband own Miceli Winery in Arthurs Seat, where along with their wine, they grow Finger Limes. Thank you, Pauline, for the bounty of finger limes! I loved playing around with this delightful fruit.

Heidi xo

My Weekend Pasta

April 15, 2011

I don’t quite know what it is about a plate of pasta, but it is my most loved weekend lunch. Twirling my spaghettoni strands as the sun peeks through the window is, to me, a true picture of romance.

Perhaps I am so in love with this ritual as it makes me feel incredibly Italian. My family is well aware of my desire to live in Sicily, I adore it and am utterly enamoured with their food culture. Alas, for now I will have to settle for winsome, sunny meals like this. I suppose that isn’t so bad…

My Weekend Pasta

Serves two

Ingredients

200g Spaghettoni (or another long, dreamy, twirly pasta. No offence to penne or the like. I just like to twirl. Barilla is my favourite brand)
1 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 cloves Garlic, crushed
400g tin diced Tomatoes (I like the flavour of La Gina diced tomatoes best. Or you could use 2-3 diced vine-ripened tomatoes)
1/2 a 700g bottle of Bertolli Provvista Sugo Classica (I say this brand in particular as I am yet to find another passata that surpasses it’s beautiful flavour and plump consistency)
1 big handful fresh Basil, ~10 large leaves (I like my basil)
A pinch of Sea Salt
Freshly Cracked Pepper to taste
Freshly shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano to serve (or as good quality Parmesan you can find)

Method

In a heavy-based saucepan, heat the olive oil over low-medium heat. Add the crushed garlic and sauté until fragrant and ever so lightly coloured – don’t burn it! Add in the diced tomatoes and Bertolli sugo, along with the fresh basil, sea salt and freshly cracked pepper.

Turn up the heat to medium-high and cook until the sauce is bubbling, then turn it down to a gentle simmer. You are likely to have leftover sauce, and I like to use it during the week for another pasta meal or perhaps for breakfast atop toasted bread with poached eggs.

Cook your pasta in boiling salted water according to packet instructions until al dente. Overcooking your pasta is one of the worst mistakes you can make. Al dente pasta is absolutely one of the best things in the world, it totally transforms you pasta dish, so pay attention!

Divide the pasta onto two plates (or bowls) and top with the tomato, basil sauce. Finish the dish with a scattering of parmesan and more fresh basil.

…..

With a fork and spoon in your hands, close your eyes and picture you’re sitting in a sunny, golden tinged, fruit-tree filled courtyard in Ortygia, the smell of the salty sea lingering in the air. Now twirl and enjoy this weekend delight. Happiness.

Buon Appetito!

Heidi xo

Polenta, Almond & Honey Loaf

April 13, 2011

Last Thursday I was surprised to find myself with a free afternoon. Don’t you just love that?

As we have recently moved apartments, I knew I did indeed have lots of tidying tasks to fill these few complimentary hours. Our bedroom is all in order and my wardrobe is delightfully organised (let’s hope this newfound neatness lasts), yet the living room, study and kitchen are all in dire need of some love and attention. Naturally I have made enough room in my kitchen to cook and bake to my hearts content. Did I mention I have a new oven? Well, I do. And it roasts kipfler potatoes like it’s nobody’s business. It’s an Arc, and I am absolutely smitten.

But back to my suddenly free afternoon… Yes, I knew I needed to get stuck into some unpacking, but to do this one must be adequately nourished. I had a sudden craving for a some sort of polenta-based treat, and so I searched through my cookbooks and bookmarked blog recipes, whilst taking into consideration the ingredients I had on hand. After a little hungry research, I came up with this polenta, almond and honey loaf. And I now find myself rather fond of this recipe.

When my early afternoon polenta craving struck, I had originally imagined I would make a polenta cake, which I planned on serving with the poached quinces I made early in the week. But I couldn’t bake a cake. Confession time: I, *gasp*, don’t own a cake tin. Hear me out…in all my 7 years of living out of home I have never been blessed with an oven quite capable of cooking a cake all the way through. Hence, I never saw a need for a cake tin (unless I were to use it to taunt myself at my inability to bake a darn cake, but where’s the fun in that?) Never fear, I explained my dilemma to my beautiful mother, and she has kindly offered for me to raid her cooking cupboard. Fabulous. Soon I will have a lovely tin in my hands and all will be right again in the world.

Actually, in all honesty I found myself rather pleased with my predicament. You see, as it was going to be a loaf I found myself free to play around with ingredients in a refreshing way, including keeping the sugar content down. This loaf is spiked with honey which, as it baked, gave off an incredibly enticing, dreamy aroma. Every time I reheated this loaf under the grill and inhaled a soft honey waft I was sent floating, delicatley, into a sweet, harmonious day-dream. Too much? Well it’s true…

I found this loaf to have a nice balance of flavours and textures, including the sandy feel that polenta offers (I so love that). Remember it is not a cake, it is very much a loaf. So if you like a sweeter slice, play around with the toppings. A citrus syrup would be a beautiful overcoat, perhaps also dressed with a dollop of unsweetened Greek yoghurt.

I picture this loaf being served at breakfast time, warm from the oven, alongside an array of jams and honey. Brunch perfection…

Polenta, Almond and Honey Loaf

Inspired by Joy the Baker’s Honey Cranberry Cornmeal Quick Bread.

This recipe is for a small loaf. By all means, double the recipe and use a bigger tin.

Ingredients

½ cup polenta
½ cup almond meal
½ cup wholemeal plain flour
2/3 teaspoon baking powder
2 pinches of sea salt
1.5 tablespoons light muscovado sugar (you could use brown sugar)
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon butter, melted
½ cup low-fat milk

Method

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Grease a 12.5cm (length) x 6.5cm (width) x 5.5cm (height) loaf tin with light dairy spread and lightly flour it.

Sift the flour (and almond meal if it is lumpy) along with the baking powder into a large bowl. Add the polenta, salt and sugar, and whisk to combine.

In a separate, smaller bowl, whisk together the egg, vanilla, honey, melted light dairy spread and milk. Add this to the flour mixture and stir until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf tin, smoothing the surface. Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Cool the loaf on a wire rack for ~10 minutes, then turn out. Slice and serve warm with poached fruit, honey, jam or butter.

Store the loaf in an air-tight container. It will keep for 3-5 days but really, it shouldn’t last that long 😉 Popping a slice under the grill to lightly toast it before serving is recommended for optimum deliciousness.

For afternoon tea last Thursday, I enjoyed a slice warm from the oven alongside a poached quince. It was utterly delightful. I ate happily sitting outside in my new courtyard with the afternoon sun shining approvingly down upon me and my loaf. And I was more than adequately nourished.

Heidi xo

An Early City Breakfast at Cumulus Inc.

April 11, 2011

A couple of Fridays ago, I had a Professional Development day at the Royal Children’s Hospital in the city. As Ben works right in the CBD, my mind immediately shot to the possibility of an early city breakfast date.

Cumulus Inc. was the first place that came to my mind. I have visited this casual yet classy restaurant before for a quick breakfast. One morning about a year ago I sat solo at the bar and enjoyed a delicious bowl of bircher muesli before hitting the streets for a big day of shopping (you gotta be sure to fuel correctly for such demanding days). I always knew I wanted to revisit this gem, as there seemed to be so many delectable breakfast dishes on offer.

An so, on this particular Friday morning, Ben and I caught the 6:38am train to Parliament station and arrived just after opening time.

We started with coffees, skim lattes. While the blend of coffee they use is delicious, the froth was not silky smooth, which is always something I like in my coffee.

Ben also ordered an apple juice which was lovely.

I had a really tough time with the menu, clearly. Ben snapped this picture of me as I was deeply struggling to decide between savoury and sweet.

I was smitten with the idea of the Cumulus Inc. Breakfast, which involved a boiled egg, toast, an array of preserves, and a bowl of yoghurt along with tea or coffee. How cute is that? Here are the preserves ready to go.

In the end, though, it really came down to two dishes…the pain d’epices with poached quince and prunes with sheeps milk yoghurt (I die…) and the house smoked sardines with parsley salad and a slow-cooked egg. In the end the sardines one out, as I was craving an Omega 3 hit. But I am already planning another trip back so I can devour that pain d’epices.

The sardines were absolutely delicious, with a beautiful, measured smokiness to them. The parsley salad was refreshing and the sourdough lovely.

The egg was just ridiculous, look at that gooey yolk. Incredible.

I really enjoyed this dish. Five years ago I would have looked at my present-day self and asked “who are you??”… but oh yes indeed, I lustfully ate sardines at 7:30 in the morning. I’m so hardcore now.

The night before, I perused blogs to see if there were any well revered, ‘must try’ dishes – I tend to do that. The baked eggs frequently came up as a favourite, and this was the dish that Ben ended up ordering. I believe the menu changes slightly every now and then, so on this day Ben’s baked eggs were a lovely Shakshouka, with roasted peppers and a rich tomato flavour. They were topped with fetta and parsley. While this is a dish I safely feel like I could make at home, as opposed to the sardines, it was really yummy – hearty and nourishing, it was really lovely.

We left Cumulus Inc. with a delightful sense of satisfaction and nourishment, yet we were still hungry… hungry for a future visit, that is 😉 Oh pain d’epices, I have my eye on you.

Heidi xo