Monthly Archives

December 2011

Ticking Off That List

December 31, 2011

I’m a list girl. This is true. I just love the make them (preferably using a brand new, fresh, pretty pad and pen – are you with me?) and I love the pleasure that comes with ticking things off. Or crossing them off….either way. But let’s go with ticking. I find ticking to be that little bit more satisfying. Tick! Done. See?

Ok, so do you remember my post from the start of the year – the one where I ever so loudly proclaimed, without too much trepidation, that 2011 would be the year that I conquered some of my food fears? Here is the link, if you need a refresher.

Who would have thought that cupcakes and pastry were scary? Well, they were to me. And, my friends, I can proudly say that I did it. It has been done. Tick!

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As I looked back on my little list last month, I found that all of the items (except one) had I ticked off quite naturally, without a lot of planning nor reference to said list. Well how do you like that? I had actually used these ingredients or made these dishes that for so long eluded my dining table. Marvellous.

Pastry was made early in the year, when I made a Rhubarb and Ricotta Tarttick! And then it was made again. And again and again, during my pie phase. I am still a little obsessed with pies. Blueberry, blackberry, apple and chocolate cream, with spelt crusts or sour cream dough – it’s an incredibly romantic notion to me. And in all honesty I don’t see myself falling out of love with pies any time soon. And I’m fine with that. Give me a pretty apron and a rolling pin and I’m a happy lady.

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Valentines Day was the perfect occasion for a romantic meal involving Clams and Musselstick! Spaghetti Vongole is truly one of my favourite meals, Ben’s too, so I thought it would be the perfect Valentines surprise. And it was. Although I did learn that next time I would purchase pre-cleaned mussels (gah). We’ve cooked with clams and mussels in this similar, rustic Italian style quite a few times this year, and I’m getting better with each go. However I am yet to make that bouillabaisse. Maybe next year…

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Come Easter I put my serious, big girl apron on and used Yeast for the first time – tick! I made Cinnamon Buns, and it was one of the happiest kitchen experiences I can recall. I feel slightly perturbed by the fact that I have not used yeast since, as I truly adored this baking process. I do wish to become even more acquainted with yeast in the future. I’m sure we’ll be great pals.

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Roast Chickentick! One of my main issues with roasting foods was that previously, my oven was….shit. Yet since moving apartments I have been blessed with a beautiful new oven, one that cooks roast potatoes to perfection. And chickens too, it would seem. I took Maggie Beer‘s tip of ensuring that you have a room temperature bird, so that it cooks more evenly, and it worked so well. And yes, it seems that every roast chicken I shall make will be showered with garlic. What?

I do recognise that I need to experiment more with cooking whole birds and large pieces of meat, and I shall endeavour to do so in the future. I must say though, Valli Little’s Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic still rocks my socks as the most delicious, moist and (importantly) easy Roast Chicken recipe. I’ve made it numerous times again this year.

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So what does that leave?…..Oh yes, Cupcakes. Sweet, dear little cupcakes. Who ever would have thought that out of the above foods, cupcakes would be the one that I leave off my list and never once think to bake this past year. In all honesty I have never been much fussed with cupcakes. I appreciate mini ones from quality stores, yet I never yearned to bake them myself. I prefered canelés or macarons for my sweet treat (neither of which I have made myself, either, but let’s move on…).

If I’m honest, I believe I thought I was above the cupcake craze of late. How elitist of me. Yet to ensure I completed my list I realised that even if I never made cupcakes again, I would have to make them at least once this year. And so I did – tick! Gingerbread Cupcakes with Salted Caramel Buttercream.

And then something amazing happened…

I fell in love with cupcakes. Or maybe it was the buttercream? Either way, I’m now completely in love with the idea of these darling, little cakes – deciding on a flavour, combining the ingredients, popping them in the oven, creaming the butter and then having fun decorating. Oh, and the eating part too, of course.

Who would have thought it? I was certainly shocked. I suppose it’s a little similar to way we can feel about children. They’re all very lovely, but until you bake your own (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) you don’t fully appreciate them. And then you think that yours are simply divine, clearly better than anyone else’s. Don’t get me wrong, I love kids, but it’s not until you have your own that you really understand that beautiful parent-child (baker-cupcake) connection. Well, I imagine this is the case, anyway. It certainly resonates with me and my newfound feelings towards cupcakes. But maybe we’ll just leave it at that…

*note: for this recipe I added 1.5 times the amount of nutmeg and doubled the quantity of ginger. I recommend doing so if you enjoy a prominent spiced cake.

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And there you have it. My List. All ticked off. Done.

What does next year hold? Perhaps another list…I’ll see. I find comfort in the fact that I completed most of my list rather naturally, without much fuss at all. This may mean that I am quite driven and ambitious in my cooking desires, or perhaps that I pick my aspirations wisely so as to not set myself up for failure. Or maybe both. Either way, I’m happy. I made pastry and pies and cinnamon buns and spaghetti vongole. And I surprised myself by falling in love with cupcakes. And Buttercream – less of a surprise there.

Life has been particularly delicious this past year. I’m quite certain that next year will be scrumptious also.

Heidi xo

Christmas in Red Hill

December 28, 2011

We started with Christmas Eve Lunch

…before moseying onto Christmas Eve Dinner. Dad used his wok to make Tea-Smoked Salmon, which we served with a simple Salad, a Guacamole of sorts (simply to used up some avocado) and more of his homemade Ciabatta.

Ben and I bought some Moet and the four of us (Jackson was working) enjoyed a lovely light meal in the hours before Santa comes. It was light, fresh and truly delicious. A new favourite way to cook salmon? I think so. Keep up the great wo(r)k, Dad!

After such a satisfying dinner, Ben and I settled in the tv room, wrapping presents and catching a little of Carols by Candlelight. We then went to bed, popped Love Actually on the computer and fell asleep to this favourite festive movie. I adore Love Actually’s score, by Craig Armstrong. It can make me cry like that *snaps fingers together*.

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Waking up to the smell of overnight pork in the oven…I like to park myself on the kitchen floor, inhale the heavenly, intoxicating aroma and picture the deliciousness that awaits. It’s quite certainly too much to bare.

Before opening presents, and before the boys were up, mum handed me some pretty plates and I assembled our traditional Christmas Morning Fruit Salad. This year it involved strawberries, pineapple, cantaloupe, oranges, blueberries and mint.

Coffee was also had.

And then it was time for presents. Mum (I mean, Santa) still spoils us, with things that are really wonderful and useful, things we truly covet. Santamother was particularly brilliant this year, with gifts of vintage bottles, spoons, stamps and gloves, and a gorgeous vintage French baby’s feeding bowl (someone’s excited for grandchildren!…I’m not pregnant). She also gave me a gorgeous set of plates and cups and a copy of Larousse Gastronomique from the op shop!

My parents really surprised each other this year. Amongst other things, Mum was given an ipad (awesome) and Dad was given a pasta drying rack, which was very necessary after a quite haphazard drying expedition a couple of weeks ago…They’re truly beautiful. It’s so nice to see them together, having as much fun as they did when they were first married.

Oh, and remember that ‘$20 present limit plus one creative gift‘ thing I was going on about in this post? Well, I bought Ben a model plane, breaking the budget slightly by $4.95. Ben on the other hand, smashed the budget out of the ballpark and bought me a gorgeous dress from Veronika Maine. It’s a stunning raspberry colour with a thin black belt around the waist – completely Mad Men style. And I love it and he’s so sneaky but that’s ok because now I have a beautiful dress.

Lastly, in terms of edible gifts…the best Peanut Butter…best. Santamother found it at Mornington Main Street market.

After all the giving gaiety we dispersed to do our own activities. I went for a run – I’m a firm believer in exercising well throughout December, including before meals of indulgence like Christmas. It helps negate some of the damage and, importantly, it revs up my metabolism so that I have the appetite to take advantage of the wonderful food! I take this last point very seriously – throughout December I feel like I’m in training for Christmas lunch.

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It was a small Christmas this year, just my parents, my brother, my Ben and then my grandparents and great uncle. As they arrived we headed outside to enjoy a beverage.

Red Hill Beer from Santamother for the boys.

Christmas Lunch. Love.

Our menu was very similar to last year – we wouldn’t dare let mum change it! So I shall link to that post (here!), and also include links to any recipes as I type out the delights. And it was all delightful. Particularly so this year for some reason. Mum is phenomenally talented.

In the large dish we have Jamie Oliver’s Overnight Pork. You need to make this pork. Like, yesterday. But don’t worry if you didn’t, today will suffice. Tomorrow would also be fine, I guess, but that’s really a stretch…

Carrots, peas, potatoes, pumpkin and parsnip. We forgot the onions, though – oops! But there were no tears… he he he.

Stuffing. After years and years of not understanding it’s appeal, it is now a true love of mine. I rate it almost as highly as the pork. Almost.

Our de-boned Turkey was wrapped in Prosciutto, which kept it incredibly moist and also allowed for a plate of prosciutto scrumptiousness. Snap.

Crackling. Not a true love of mine. I greatly dislike it, which greatly pleases everyone else (more for them).

Ok, the Gravy……………sorry, I just had a little moment there. We had two kinds: one that mum had made by cooking chicken wings with vegetables, plus wine and stock (recipe link). Ooooooh. And we also had the gravy from the overnight pork.

And lastly, just in case we needed more pork products, we have some beautiful Maryborough Ham, sliced off the bone. Dad bought it from Peter Watson in Collingwood. A somewhat modest amount in comparison to last year’s 9kg worth of pork purchases, which he somehow rationalised.

Sparkling Shiraz, as always at Christmas.

It was all perfect. Perfect.

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After lunch we retired to the chairs outside and Ben worked on the model plane I bought him.

Come fly with me

Success.

It was then Pudding O’Clock, my favourite time.

Mum’s Plum Pudding with Booooooooozy Sauce. I made a double batch of Boozy Sauce. It’s necessary.

It was truly a beautiful Christmas in Red Hill.

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I tried to sleep in on boxing day, I honestly tried. But come 7:30 I was awake, and so I nestled into my parent’s couch, as Dad made soda water using the SodasStream we bought them – refreshing! Then with a cup of lemon water I started more honeymoon research – we’ll be off to Europe in July next year, and my current project is renting a Parisian apartment in the Marais district. Tough gig, I know.

My boxing day breakfast was decidedly modest in size, due to, well, all of the eating above. I found comfort in a small bowl of leftover Fruit Salad and a Rosemary Butter Cookie, which mum made a couple of days ago. They were absolutely delicious. Mum sprinkled Malden Sea Salt flakes over the top and that delicate little movement really made them. They could even do with a touch more rosemary. I think it’ll be a great recipe to play around with. It’s heavy on the butter, but great for special occasions.

We then headed to our friend’s house for a Boxing Day lunch. This has become a new tradition, and one I am very fond of. And I ended the night at a girlfriend’s house, sipping wine and nibbling on salads and turkey and pudding.

I feel very lucky to have so much love in my life. It all becomes quite apparent around this time of year. I hope you feel just as lucky and thankful and loved as I do. There are a lot of distractions in life, and you can easily find yourself dragged further and further away from what really matters. Christmas encourages us to reflect on what is important to us, personally. To centre us a little. Life is short. Do what makes you happy and be who you really want to be. And make this pork.

Merry Christmas, love

Heidi xo

Christmas Eve Lunch

December 24, 2011

To my dear, lovely readers,

I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas.

Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, I hope it involves good food, warmth, laughter and love. I will absolutely be sharing all our Christmas fun with you in the coming week. There will be lots of wonderful eats to report back on, you can count on that. Starting with mum putting the pork shoulder in the oven overnight….oh yes. I can hardly wait.

But for now, a nice introduction to a weekend of family fun and festive eats. It began with a lunch of Dad’s homemade woodfired Ciabatta, Pizza, Wine and Macaroons.

Dad’s Ciabatta was just superb. His best bread creation yet, absolute perfection.

Especially when drizzled with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and sprinkled with Rosemary and Smoked Sea Salt.

Pizza Love.

A simple Potato and Zucchini with Parmesan and Rosemary.

Into the oven!

And another of Goat Curd, Asparagus, Crushed Walnut, Truffle Oil and Egg.

To finish: David Lebovitz’s Coconut, Chocolate Macaroons (recipe link). I’m not a macaroon fan, but could appreciate these as very good macaroons!

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Merry Christmas, lovelies. Love from Walter, the birdie, and me.

Heidi xo

The Deal with Biscuits

December 22, 2011

When I first heard about people from the USA eating biscuits with chicken, I thought that it was just one of those weird American things.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not hating on America. They’ve got some great culinary badges – Cornbread and Gumbo spring to mind. But to me, biscuits are sweet little things, like Tim Tams or Teddy Bear Biscuits.

And let’s be honest, some of America’s food is a little…strange. Case in point, the Thanksgiving favourite, Sweet Potato and Marshmallow Casserole. And too, or so I believed, biscuits and chicken.

But you see, the deal with biscuits is that they’re actually…delicious. Kind of like a savoury scone, when done well they’re absolutely fantastic. And indeed very welcome with chicken stew, soup, scrambled eggs and more. They absorb flavours beautifully and provide a nice change from sometimes boring, occasionally bland toast. As it turns out, biscuits: not so strange after all.

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While in the States this past August, I tried three types of biscuits:

1) The first was at Brooklyn’s Smorgasburg. Sometimes a biscuit needs to be quiet, like this one. This biscuits was really light and subtle in flavour, serving perfectly as a vehicle for the confidently delicious fried chicken, salty bacon and creamy ranch dressing. Quietly confident.

Other times a biscuit likes to stand alongside the other ingredients, vying for your attention. Sometimes this works, other times it doesn’t…

2) The second biscuit was served alongside scrambled eggs and bacon during brunch one Sunday. As a side note, this was the day I first had grits (!!!).

This biscuit was certainly confident, but it really needn’t have been so assured. Ouch, way to shoot a biscuit down. Despite being wonderfully flaky, it was a little stodgy overall. Stodgy and meh. It just didn’t wow me. It could have done well to stand back a little and improve itself – work on it’s posture, or something.

But the third biscuit…that was beautiful.

3) It too liked to stand alongside the other delicious bites on the plate, positioning itself super straight, unabashedly attempting to be that much taller than the other meal components. But this time it’s confidence was warranted. It really shone. And without arrogance too. Well, maybe just a little…it so knew it was hot stuff.

Vicki and I visited Cookshop for breakfast on our very last day in New York City. We loved it so much the first time, when we had ooooh so delicious pancakes and Summer fruit, so we knew it would be the perfect place to enjoy our last breakfast in this incredible city.

I ordered The Cookshop Scramblescrambled eggs with caramelised onions, creme fraiche and chives (love), with a buttemilk biscuit (love) and Applewood smoked bacon (love). Love.

Oh yum.

This biscuit was, as I mentioned, made with buttermilk. And in my very very limited biscuit eating experience, I’ve decided that buttermilk is the key to a good biscuit. Perhaps I shall start baking my own so that I can say such statements with some actual credibility. But for now I can happily recall my three biscuit experiences, and delight in my delicious learning curve and development of true biscuit appreciation.

Yep. True biscuit appreciation.

Especially buttermilk biscuits.

Heidi xo

Eataly

December 19, 2011

One of my favourite places when I visited New York City this past August was Eataly. What is Eataly? A place where you can Eat….in Italy? If you’re anything like me, this is what I was first thinking, and hence I was excited, hungry and confused all at once.

Many people were speaking highly of Eataly before I left for NYC, imploring me to visit. Some mentioned a restaurant, other mentioned a market. All raved. It wasn’t until I visited myself that I realised it was indeed a restaurant and a market. On a grand scale. It’s pretty much Heaven. Of course it is, it’s the work of Mario Batali.

Welcome to food, food and more food! Beautiful produce, cured meats, cheeses, chocolates and more.

Yep, I told you…Heaven.

See this post (link) by Emma Stirling, fellow NYC obsessed Dietitian, for information on what a Vegetable Butcher is. It’s a great concept!

In terms of eating at Eataly, an activity I highly recommend, you go about it as follows:

1. Select a station – would you like to eat vegetables, gelato, pizza, seafood, antipasti, pasta? Too much choice? I know. Here’s a tip, close your eyes and go wherever your heart desires most. But open your eyes before you walk.

2. Wait to be seated – they don’t like you to take your own seats (this was the case everywhere in New York, it would seem). Just FYI. Neglectful and slightly resentful service may ensue if you dare take a seat yourself.

3. Order away! This is the hard part, as it all sounds so divine. It’s a trouble I’d love to be burdened with more often though. It would be my pleasure.

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On my first Eataly visit with the girls, we ate at the vegetable station – Le Verdure.

Oh here we go…the best bread I tasted while in The States. Pure Bliss. Heaven.

Along with beautiful Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Balsamic.

We selected a Caprese Salad (our favourite!)…

…and Fritto Misto. These fried seasonal vegetables were incredible. The batter was very light, peppery and just gorgeous.

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My second visit to Eataly was a solo affair. Peta was about to board her flight home, Vicki was seeing a matinee of Wicked, Bhey was napping at home and I had just braved the rain to visit Moma. Afterwards I sought refuge from the downpour in Eataly. On this day I was in the mood for some seafood, and so I placed my soggy little umbrella at my feet, perched on a stool at Il Pesce and settled in to enjoy my lunch – a Frutti Di Mare Salad with Sautéed Summer Squash. In other words, Heaven. Simple seafood like this is undoubtedly one of my most favourite dishes in the world. If not served atop an al dente twirl of pasta, I will settle for beautiful bread to soak up the juices. But preferably both.

See? Heaven.

Heidi xo

Christmas Muesli

December 17, 2011

It’s Christmas time!!! Just in case you didn’t already know.

I absolutely love to give presents at Christmas. I think I get that from my mum. She still does the full Christmas morning, with stockings and presents and “Santa was here!!”…even though us kids are all grown up. But I love that. We all knew Ben was officially part of the family when mum got him his very own Christmas stocking.

This year, as Ben and I are busy saving for our Wedding in (wow) 2 months, we’re looking for thrifty ways to spoil our loved ones at Christmas. For our gifts to each other, we’ve set a $20 limit and a requirement that something has to be made. Nothing says love more than a homemade gift. Ben is a fabulous drawer and writer, so I have no doubt I’ll be receiving some sort of short story. Usually his stories involve talking vegetables. I assure you it’s both hilarious and adorable. Me? I think I’ll have to get crafty soon…

I won’t be handing out drawings or songs to friends and family, however. Somehow I don’t think they’d be as psyched and supportive of my lame efforts as Ben. Instead, I’ll be giving them a batch of my Christmas Muesli.

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I developed this recipe in the hope of creating something that was a) delicious, b) light (as this time of the year can be overloaded with cookies and chocolates and pudding) and c) not too expensive. While I heart granola, it’s not as healthy nor cheap to make as it’s untoasted counterpart, muesli. And so I went with muesli. Lovely.

To add a little of that sweet, toasty, crunchy granola goodness, I toasted the almonds and pepitas before coating them in maple syrup and cinnamon. You’ll be surprised how much deliciousness this adds! I tried to find dried cherries to include in this recipe, as this is a Christmas Muesli after all and in Australia, Christmas time is when cherries are at their best. Alas, my search was fruitless – pun very much intended. And so I went with craisins instead – a happy fallback. Lastly, please ensure you don’t settle for a bran that tastes like cardboard. Choosing a delicious bran as I do (and I promise it does exist) will make such a difference.

Christmas Muesli

Ingredients

½ cup Slivered Almonds
½ cup Pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
4 teaspoons Pure Maple Syrup
2/3 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
2 ½ cups Rolled Oats
1 ¼ cups Vogel’s Ultra Bran (Soy and Linseed) – you can use other brans, but I love this one as it’s delicious. Be sure to pick a yummy bran/bran flakes!
½ cup Craisins (sweetened dried cranberries)
3 tablespoons Dark Chocolate Chips

Method

1. Toast the almond slivers in a large non-stick pan over low heat for 3-4 minutes, shaking the pan to ensure even toasting.
2. Add the pepitas and toast for an extra ~3 minutes until the almond slivers are lightly browned and fragrant.
3. Turn off the heat then add the maple syrup and cinnamon to the pan, stirring the almonds and pepitas to ensure they are evenly coated in syrup and spice. It will sizzle a little, that’s just part of the fun. Set aside and allow to cool.
4. In a large bowl, add the oats, bran, craisins and dark chocolate chips.
5. Once the almonds and pepitas are cooled, use your hands to break up any pieces that are stuck together and add these to the bowl.
6. Mix everything together and then transfer to a jar or airtight container. Enjoy with milk and some fresh, sliced banana if you wish.

This recipe makes a big batch but trust me, you’ll want it all! It could serve as one generous gift or two smaller ones. I hope my friends and family enjoy their Christmas Muesli. Ben is already requesting more. I have a feeling that this recipe won’t be restricted to Christmas time in our house.

Heidi xo

Ben’s Birthday Lunch at Red Hill

December 14, 2011

Last weekend we carried on Ben’s Birthday celebrations with a beautiful little party for four at my parent’s house. It was perfect. We spent a casual lazy five hours in Red Hill, watching my parents cook food and pretending to help. As it was the day after Ben’s work Christmas party, I was most definitely lacking in sparkle. Tracksuit pants and the couch helped me along. As did a beautiful meal, Christmas Tree decorating, plum pudding prep and cocktail sampling (hey, the hair of the dog!).

Oh Christmas Tree…

Although Christmas is a hard time for our family (we lost my brother 4 years ago, 3 days before Christmas), we all still cherish this time of year. Being together. It’s all that matters.

Mum always makes sure that I’m there to help with decorating the Christmas Tree. I love that she saves it for me.

My favourite decoration, my Plum Pudding.

Although when I made it at school I had no idea what it was supposed to be… and so I added eyes and a nose and made a face. Naturally. He’s kind of adorable.

Mandatory dancing with tinsel to Christmas Carols. Yep, I’m one of those people who absolutely love Christmas Carols. My favourite this year? She and Him.

Time for food? I thought so…

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The Eats

May I present, my Dad’s homemade fetta. That’s right. He’s been to Cheese School (cute!) and now makes his own cheese. Who knew it was possible for him to be even cooler?

For entree we delighted in Toasted Grainy Bread topped with Smashed Homegrown Broadbeans and Dad’s Fetta. This was so so so delicious. Favourite.

And for the main event?…Rabbit Ragu with Homemade Pasta (recipe link). Mum and Dad really outdid themselves. This ragu was cooked for 6 hours. Mum added a mirepoix (onions, carrots, celery) to the base, and cooked it in oil and a little butter until soft. She felt this added a real depth to the base, and I agree. It. Was. Beautiful. Truly beautiful.

A simple Salad made festive with fresh red currants off their bush.

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Hey there, Puddin’

Each year I eagerly anticipate Mum’s Plum Pudding. Last year I documented her making it (see the post here), and this year I watched her again. Perhaps next year I’ll be more hands on, but honestly, I love sitting back and watching Mum do her thing. The recipe was passed down to mum from her Aunty Daphne, who was given the recipe from her Great Aunt in England. Special. This year we made the pudding a little late, but mum compensated by soaking the fruit in alcohol for longer. Bring on Christmas Day, when we’ll combine this perky pudding with Boozy Sauce. Favourite.

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Woks, Mulberries, Cocktails and Cake

For Dad’s birthday in November we bought him a wok plus some cooking accessories. He’s keen to smoke, stirfry and steam! Ben helped him with seasoning the wok following this video (link).

Later on we sampled some Cocktail Creations. We’re searching for a second cocktail for the wedding. I didn’t fancy the Old Fashioned as much as I’d hoped. Any suggestions for a great, old school, non-fruity cocktail? I’d love to hear some.

Freshly picked Mulberries. Favourite.

To end our day? A Birthday Brownie. A leftover Salted Fudge Brownie to be precise.

Thanks for a gorgeous day, Mum and Dad. You spoil us so much, every time. You just can’t help it. But we hope you never stop. Being spoilt by good food, family togetherness, homework in the form of cheese, laughter, bad carol singing and dancing and long lazy lunches is the epitome of happiness to me.

Heidi xo

Mushroom and Corn Quinoa Salad with Sweet and Spicy Sunflower Seeds

December 12, 2011

Mushrooms are always such a treat. Although they’re not the prettiest morsel out there, they’re undoubtedly scrumptious (and nutritious to boot!). I find myself constantly surprised by the humble shroom; stirred into a risotto with wine, pecorino and stock, they are pure and light; grilled on a barbecue, they provide an earthy balance to meat and salad; and when simply sautéed with garlic and thyme, oh they make me weak at the knees.

As a Dietitian, I am all about the veggie love. Vegetables are an incredible source of a wide range of micronutrients. They’re high in fibre and non-starchy vegetable are super low in kilojoules. So they’re all-round marvellous, really. Including a wide range of colourful vegetables in your daily diet is a golden health tip, and most people simply do not eat enough. The recommendations for adults are 5 serves of vegetables a day, with one serve being ½ cup cooked vegetables or legumes, or 1 cup salad vegetables.

So, with all this in mind, when I was approached to create a Summer Mushroom recipe for Australian Mushroom Growers and their Summer Mushrooms Campaign, naturally I jumped at the opportunity to summon my shroom love and get creative in the kitchen. Anything I can do to inspire people to eat well, including eating and enjoying vegetables is fabulous.

I am really pleased with this salad – it’s tasty, it’s healthy and it’s exciting! I am quite in love with the way the creaminess of the goats cheese balances the kick of the sweet and spiced sunflower seeds (and they are spicy!). Then you have the supremely nutritious quinoa (which is such a favourite of mine) and mouthfuls of delightful, bursting sweet corn kernels. And it’s all finished off with smooth, sautéed mushrooms. Perfectly smooth shrooms. Ain’t that grand.

Mushroom and Corn Quinoa Salad with Sweet and Spicy Sunflower Seeds

Serves 2 as a main
or
Serves 4 as a side dish, alongside some lean grilled lamb or other meat.

Ingredients

For the Mushroom, Corn and Quinoa Salad:4 teaspoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 cloves Garlic
1 Red Chilli (½ is required for the recipe, or more if you wish)
220g Button Mushrooms
2 medium Corn Cobs (~200g Corn Kernels)
½ cup dry Quinoa (I used black quinoa in this recipe, but you can use white or red if you wish).
½ cup Water
½ cup Chicken Stock (you can use vegetable stock if you wish, or replace the stock with extra water. The stock adds more flavour, so you may wish to add a pinch of salt to the quinoa when cooking if just using water.)
2 handfuls Spinach Leaves
2 tablespoons Goats Cheese (I love Meredith Goats Cheese with all my heart, try this brand found at grocers and gourmet food shops. I always have at least one jar in my fridge to jazz up salads, omelettes, pasta dishes).
1 juicy Lemon, for juice and 1/3 teaspoon rind (see Sunflower Seeds below)
4 teaspoons Garlic-Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I use Cobram Estate garlic-infused oil (found at Woolworths among other places). If you do not have access to garlic-infused oil, a) you should, and b) simply mix 1 clove of garlic with regular extra virgin olive oil).

For the Sunflower Seeds:1 tablespoon Sunflower Seeds
2 teaspoons Brown Sugar
½ teaspoon Dried Chilli Flakes (reduce to ¼ teaspoon if you dislike spice)
½ teaspoon Smoked Paprika
½ teaspoon Ground Cumin
¼ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
¼ teaspoon Salt
1/3 teaspoon Lemon Rind

Method

Cook the Quinoa: 1. Rinse the dry quinoa under cold water using a fine sieve, then put it in a pot with the stock and water. Bring to the boil then let it simmer down for ~15 minutes, adding more water if required. You will know it is cooked when the grain starts to separate and the water is mostly absorbed. Turn off the heat, pop the lid on and let it absorb any remaining water for ~10 minutes. Fluff the cooked quinoa with a fork, set aside and allow to cool.

Cook the Sunflower Seeds:

2. In a small non-stick pan, toast the sunflower seeds over low heat for 3-4 minutes, until lightly toasty and golden. Add the sugar, spices and salt and stir until the sugar melts and the sunflower seeds are well coated in sugar and spice (~1 minute). Transfer the sunflower seeds to a sheet of baking paper and separate the seeds as best you can. Add the lemon zest over the top and leave to cool.

Cook the Mushrooms and Corn:

3. Slice the mushrooms around half a centimetre thick (i.e. not too fine, not too thick). Place in a bowl and set aside.
4. Remove the husks and hairs from your corn cobs and rinse under water. Place your corn cob on a chopping board, standing up vertically. Using a sharp knife, carefully shave down to remove the corn kernels from the cob. Repeat with the remaining corn cobs, then place the kernels in another bowl and set aside.
5. Thinly slice your chilli until you have the required portion – ½ tablespoon for moderate spice, more or less as you desire.
6. In a large non-stick pan, heat 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil over low-medium heat. Add the mushrooms and sauté for ~3 minutes until soft. Transfer them to a bowl and set aside.
7. In the same pan add another 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil, then add the chilli and corn kernels and cook for 2-3 minutes until the corn turns a vibrant yellow colour. Add the garlic and stir through, then add the mushrooms and cook for a further 2 minutes, stirring to ensure the garlic coats the mushrooms and that the corn and mushrooms are well cooked.

Assemble your Salad:

8. Place your quinoa and spinach leaves in a bowl – one large serving bowl or separate bowls per person, whatever you desire (assign ½ – ¾ cup cooked quinoa per person, depending on appetite).
9. Squeeze the lemon juice and drizzle the garlic-infused oil evenly over the top of the bowl(s) and toss to combine.
10. Top with the mushroom and corn mixture and the goats cheese, then finish by sprinkling the sweet and spiced sunflower seeds over the top.
11. Serve, eat and be merry.

Heidi xo

Salted Fudge Brownies for Ben’s Birthday

December 10, 2011

This past year I’ve totally jumped on the salted sweets bandwagon. I’m quite happy to be a sheep and follow the hungry flock if the flock is onto something good. It turns out they were some crafty sheep. Sweet + Salt = Ingenious.

There is just something supremely sublime about a smooth, rich saccharine base plus a sprinkle of sharp saltiness… combining, contrasting and ultimately vivaciously dancing the jive together as you take a bite. It’s a glorious thing.

Glorious it may be, nevertheless it’s a demonstrably foreign notion to me practically, as a cook. Lately I’ve been itching to change this fact. Last Thursday was Ben’s Birthday, which I deemed the perfect occasion to try out a salted sweet recipe I’ve been lusting after. Salted Fudge Brownies (recipe link). Oh yes I did.

Do you know Lindt Dark Chocolate with Sea Salt? (if you don’t you should). Well these brownies are like that but intensified. They’re really very dreamy…rich, incredibly fudgey and perfectly poised to make you get up and jive. The zing of the salt against the deep cocoa fudge will do that to you. Just beware of this fact, in case you eat them in public.

* Note: I cooked my brownies for 25 minutes, not the 35 minutes recommended. I suggest you test them early if your oven is efficient like mine. Overcooked brownies are a crime.

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We celebrated Ben’s Birthday with a group of friends, enjoying a casual dinner at Rock Kung – a Classic Chinese Restaurant located in Glen Waverley (Ben’s hometown). Ben and his family would frequent this place when he was growing up, so it was an easy, nostalgic choice of venue. My favourites were the Steamed Fish with Soy, Shallots and Coriander and the Garlic Snow Pea Sprouts. Clean, fresh, favourite. And for dessert…Salted Fudge Brownies, cut into bite sized pieces. Salted sweet love.

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Happy Birthday, gorgeous. You’re the sweetness to my saltiness. Hang on…. that’s not right. Correct sentiment, let’s try that again…

Dear Ben, Happy Birthday. I love you and I love our life, filled with adventure, excitement, comfort, love and importantly: Salted Fudge Brownie happiness-induced dancing.

Heidi xo

Egg-Free Egg Salad

December 8, 2011

Egg-Free Egg Salad.

Those of you who eat eggs are probably thinking, “…yes, but why”. Trust me, there’s totally a place for this recipe.

Us egg-eating individuals often forget that there are people out there who can’t eat eggs, for reason of personal preference but also due to allergies. Allergies and intolerances can be frustrating, especially when first learning how to deal with them. A favourite blogger of mine, Rebecca from InTolerant Chef inspired me to create this recipe. Her blog is incredibly warm and her knowledge of cooking for individuals with food intolerances is superb.

When I was handed a jar of Melrose’s Organic Egg-Free Sunflower Mayonnaise, I initially just could not stop thinking of eggs – go figure. And then this little nugget of an idea popped into my head. An egg-free egg salad. Yes.

And so it was done.

Tofu and Butter Beans provide the textural replacement for eggs, and nutritionally they’re giving you a protein hit (which you need if excluding eggs from the recipe!). The Corn I included because visually I wanted to have something yellow in there to replace the egg yolk. And the rest is just what you’d want in any old Egg Salad. Add Curry Powder to suit your preference. Personally, I love it! It reminds me of my Mum and Grandpa, cooking up Curried Baked Beans on toast or Kedgeree. Egg Salad falls into that same nostalgic food category for me.

I hope you like this recipe, and enjoy it as a change from your regular Egg Salad or perhaps make it for someone who doesn’t eat eggs. They should most definitely not be excluded from any Egg Salad fun.

Egg-Free ‘Egg’ Salad

* This recipe was created as part of my work with Melrose

Ingredients

Serves 1

40g (1 heaped tablespoon) Butter Beans (canned and rinsed)
50g firm Tofu (just be sure that it is not super hard or super soft)
½ tablespoon Red Onion, finely diced
1/3 teaspoon Keen’s Curry Powder (or less if you’re not keen on the flavour of Curry Powder)
½ tablespoon Melrose Organic Sunflower Mayonnaise
20g (1 tablespoon) Corn Kernels
½ tablespoon Chives, chopped
Sea Salt and Freshly Cracked Pepper

Method

1. Add the butter beans to a small mixing bowl and mash roughly with a fork.
2. Add the tofu and roughly break it into chunks (being careful not to mash it, you still want some chunky texture).
3. Next add the diced red onion, curry powder and mayonnaise to the bowl, and gently stir with a dessert or tablespoon to combine.
4. Add the corn and chives and gently stir once more.
5. Season with sea salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
6. Serve and enjoy!

Heidi xo