Monthly Archives

March 2014

Around The Farm and a Gingerbread Skillet Cake

March 29, 2014

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

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

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

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

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Gingerbread Skillet Cake

From the Tassajara Bread Book

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

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

Wheatless Gingerbread Skillet Cake

Adapted from The Joy of Cooking

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

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

Heidi xo

Getting to know Flinders Sourdough

March 26, 2014

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

My present diet is distinctly lacking in bread.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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

…..

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

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

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What did you have for breakfast today?

Heidi xo

 

 

 

Lovely Lunching

March 24, 2014

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

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

Happy lovely lunching xo

Tuna and Cannellini Bean Salad

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

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Serves 1

Ingredients

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

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

Method

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

 

Snack Plate

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

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Serves 1

Ingredients

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

Method

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

Black Rice, Boiled Egg and Pesto Salad

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

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Serves 1

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

Method

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

* Carrot top, peptia and chilli pesto

Ingredients

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

Method

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

 

Roasted Beetroot Pasta Salad

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

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Serves 1

Ingredients

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

Dressing Ingredients

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

Method

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

 

Picnic Pies

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

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Serves 2

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

Ingredients

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

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

Heidi xo

 

 

 

 

 

On Traveling and Finding Home

March 21, 2014

camping as kids

I’m trying to recall when I first fell in love with traveling.

As a child, each year my family would drive to Queensland for a holiday. We’d stop just across the state border for breakfast at the same roadside café with speckled, bird-covered wallpaper. I’d order spaghetti on toast, always, then we’d journey further north for two weeks of September surf and sand.

A few days after Christmas we’d make another pilgrimage to Depot Beach on the New South Wales coast. Those camping days were long and smelt like morning Summer sun, wet leaves and rainforest. And Nutella. My brothers and I were each given a jar of that addictive cocoa spread to last the few weeks, a delicious lesson on self-regulation, moderation and the importance of properly cleaning chocolate-covered hands.

These trips were decorated with innocent joys that were felt sincerely and without caution. They fueled a desire to explore, to discover and describe. Yes, as soon as I could write I began to journal my holidays, keenly praying for those 4:00 A.M.-wake-up calls so we could do it all again. Do you remember that feeling? Piling into the car with your family, pillow on your lap and mum rationing the bag of Minties, watching the cars go by as you head off on some wild domestic adventure. I think the anticipation heightened my affection for those camping holidays. And I carried this love, this anticipation of adventure from childhood into young adulthood.

Throughout University I scrimped and saved, mooching all the canned food and homemade lentils off my parents I could manage, until I was financially free to jet off and once again, travel. To feed my then palpable need to explore and wander new rainforests, swim in new seas. To learn and grow and enjoy manufactured cocoa goods from various lands (I’m not entirely sure that my love of Italy doesn’t relate to their common love of Nutella). From Morocco to Moscow, from San Francisco to Sicily, I documented each and every step and crumb in my Moleskin journals. I was hungry for travel, always.

Such hunger encourages self-reflection. What culture speaks to me? Where is the place that feeds my soul? Where is home? Beyond “where was I born?” and “where do I live?”, where is truly home in my heart?

Last year, upon returning from the USA and settling into a little cottage by the beach, I found my home, and the desire to fill my backpack and get lost in exotic corners of the world quietened. For now, this particular hunger is sated. Instead, I feel a need to balance my desire for distance with real life. This home I’ve manifested and affirmed, this world in which I live day to day needs nurturing. And so I find myself dreaming not of 24 hour plane rides to Wales, but waking at 4:00 A.M. to ensure we can reach our camp sight in ample time. For now, at least, it’s about home. Australia.

Oh, and I’ve fallen for the most soul-nourishing corner of our homeland…Tasmania.

Tasmania smells like green and tastes like apple pie. The soil and the sea, the mountains and rainforests… such fertility and abundance. It stays with you, feeding your heart and your home long after you’ve left, fueling your desire for early morning adventures to the coast, for sandy toes and lungs full of rainforest air. For cheeky fingers in jars of Nutella…or whatever feeds you most.

Heidi xo

This post was written for Latitudes, Longitudes, and online travel magazine I contribute to. Visit for tales and photographs, it’s a beautiful and inspiring escape.

Just Another Porridge Morning

March 19, 2014

This oat meal involved my usual half steel-cut and half rolled oat blend, cooked with half milk and half water. On the side we have an suddenly obligatory cup of coffee, a darling little jug of almond milk (store-bought because it was on sale and I’m a sucker for almond milk in banana soft serve) and what is the of my jar of Deliciously Ella’s Nutritious Nutella.

This spread turned out rather chunky, on behalf of my perfunctorily pulverised hazelnuts and dates, but it’s scrumptious all the same. Especially when eased into spreadability with some macadamia nut oil. It’s been a splendid topping for porridge and rye crispbreads and pieces of fruit.

Speaking of fruit, look at those lovely quince my mum gifted me from her garden. My home is so sweetly perfumed at present, I’m holding off poached them. Perhaps this weekend…

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Today I have clients, a few meetings and I’m visiting my grandmother. It’s looking to be lovely. Happy Wednesday, folks.
What did you have for breakfast today?

Heidi xo

Homemade Pasta with Classic Basil Pesto

March 16, 2014

I must say, until recently I didn’t really “get” homemade pasta. It’s chewy, sure, and hugs a ragu like a true, attentive Italian lover. But to get that al dente bite I so adore I have always favoured dried pasta, notably my favourite brand, Giuseppe. For my beloved spaghetti with mussels dried pasta is obligatory, and so it’s easy to see how I leaned towards the quick, dried variety.

It wasn’t until a dinner party with my girlfriends where I devoured fresh linguini in a mushroom sauce that I truly appreciated fresh pasta. My friend had cooked the strands wonderfully al dente, so it had the benefit of being fresh AND toothsome. I mean, just come on! The meal was trememdesouly delicious, completely swoon worthy and downright sensual. The following night Ben and I dusted off our pasta machine (a wedding gift from my brother) and got rolling…

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True to form, we made enough dough for a party of fifteen, and so decided to freeze two thirds of the dough before the rolling step. For our first batch we made ravioli, which was lovely but, let’s be real, the best part was the butter sage sauce with crispy prosciutto and pinenuts. And I was frankly tired after all the steps of mixing and chilling and cutting and rolling and cutting and filling… I needed a stiff aperitif, not a bowl of pasta.

When our fresh pasta craving arrived a second time, we simply had to defrost a portion of excess dough and get rolling (note, the dough was on the tacky side prior to freezing and I believe this may have influenced the stellar result. Please also note, however, that I have absolutely no authority on this matter).

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This time, the whole fresh pasta experience was a pleasure, far less overwhelming without all those steps that come when preparing the entire dough from scratch. We simply rolled it out and whimsically decided upon the linguini attachment to make our desired strands just so.

To fold through our silky fresh pasta I whizzed up a classic pesto using farm-fresh basil and we had ourselves the most splendid meal, crafted so very lovingly and expertly that dare I say no Italian lover could compete. Two generous glasses of red wine diluted our evening and hence may or may not have influenced my affection towards our meal, I’m not entirely certain. But really, what’s not to love…

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Homemade Pasta Dough

We followed Jamie Oliver’s recipe from his fantastic instructional book, Cook (recipe link).

Classic Basil Pesto

Ingredients
3 & 1/2 cups Fresh Basil Leaves
1/2 cup lightly toasted Pinenuts
1 small clove Garlic
1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 cup Parmesan, grated (I find Grana Padano works just fine in pesto)
Fresh Lemon Juice, to taste

Method
1. Place the basil, pinenuts, garlic and 1/2 the oil in a food processor. Whizz until it starts to form a paste.
2. Stop and scrape the sides down, then add the cheese and blend again, drizzling in the remaining oil until it reaches your desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Add some lemon juice if you like.
3. Scoop into a jar and cover with more olive oil. Store in the fridge and keep topping with more oil when you take some, to ensure the pesto remains covered. I keep mine for a long time in the fridge. Freezing will keep it fresh and, as my friend Robin encourages, will allow for lovely pesto days even in the middle of Winter. Indeed.

To assemble your meal, I serve a portion of pasta and then top with a spoonful of pesto (as little or as much depending on your preference). I’ll add a little reserved starchy cooking water and incorporate the pesto with the silky strands. End with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, some freshly cracked black pepper and additional parmesan if you desire. Chopped cherry tomatoes are a welcome addition.

Heidi xo

 

Latitudes and Longitudes and thinking on Sicily…

March 13, 2014

Instagram land is a funny place.

Principally, I see these online arenas as a way to document and share my love of food (and eating and cooking and travel and pretty things)…a space to talk it all out with like minded people. I’ve always journaled, you see, and these spaces are just a continuation of this practice. It’s my diary, for real. I also draw intentional inspiration from the pictures and recipes I see on blogs and instagram accounts from all over the globe. One lady particularly inspires, with her cups of tea, quiet book moments and cozy scarfs. Something about Ann Whittaker‘s work, seeing the world through her eyes, makes me feel pleasantly content and warm, despite the snow she’s been tumbling through of late (which you can see on her blog Age Old Tree).

One of Ann’s latest ventures is the most beautiful online magazine, Latitudes and Longitudes. “A field guide for the artful explorer”, it’s a space to read tales of travel, musings on the lessons you learn and experiences you gain when stepping out of your bubble and into new lands. It’s a place to dream. And the breathtaking photographs will surely move you to “do”.  I’ve had the most glorious time losing myself in the pages of this website, devouring cottage meals in Ireland, escaping to Lake Como and spending weekends in upstate New York. I was lucky enough to be asked to contribute, and am thrilled to be a regular contributor at the site.

Of all my travel tales, what did I write about first? Sicily, of course.

Here are my first two posts on this gorgeous land I perpetually long to re-visit. Surely it’s no shock to hear I am planning a month-long jaunt in Sicily for my thirtieth birthday in 18months time. Working via Skype during this spaghetti con le sarde-filled visit will hopefully enable this dream to become a reality. I am quite intent on making it happen…and I shall resume my gelato job with true diligence.

Learning to live in Sicily

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The days were simple in structure. We’d wake and walk, shop and eat, maybe drive a little and look, meet and greet the locals. And then we’d eat some more and do it all again the next day. Our honeymoon driving across Sicily was not one of grand adventure, rather a lesson in simplicity. We found beauty in the every day, the little mundane tasks that make up our days. And because of this lesson we are richer, our days are sweeter, decorated with capers and baci, we celebrate the joy of living. Thank you, Sicily.

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In Palermo we learnt how to hustle. To survive this city you must awaken your morning senses with strong espresso from a corner Bar Pasticceria, before holding on tight to your steering wheel/faith and negotiating the grungy streets with sure intention (that is, the intention of staying alive). Make your way to Balloro market to marvel at fresh seafood and pots of organ meat, soon to be slopped into snacking rolls. Battle a few Nonnas out on their daily shop for vendor attention, and order a slab of ricotta arrabiata, a bag of fresh, warmed-by-the-sun figs and a serve of panelle (fried chickpea fritters). That’s breakfast, and it’s a revelation.

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Spend “A Day Cooking with The Duchess” and enjoy a guided tour of Capo market before creating and eating traditional Sicilian recipes in the 18th century Palazzo, home to The Duke and Duchess of Palma. Their elegant yet warm home is a fabulous spot to stay. And please do cook with The Duchess. Nicoletta’s food is soul-enriching, her delicious swordfish involtini with potato caper salad continue to nourish my family back home in Australia.

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But there’s more to Palermo than market mayhem and roudy espresso dates. Wandering the quieter streets you’re likely to stumble across an historic corner or place of worship, a spot to sit and breath and ponder. Find cool respite in The Teatre Massimo and appreciate the acoustics of this grand Opera House, before emerging ravenous for a midday plate at Ristorante Amato on nearby Via Favara. Pasta con le sarde is a regional and resplendent choice.

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Idle your way home for a nap then rise to The Ambasciatori Hotel’s rooftop bar for a Campari. See the sunset across Palermo, this enigmatic city where fresh and fried food live side by side (more harmoniously than its’ tenants), and know that even after one day you’ve fallen for its’ brusk beauty.

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Celebrate your affection with fresh sea urchin and walnut-crusted swordfish steaks at Kursaal Kahlesa, washed down with a bottle of Nero d’Avola that tastes all the more fabulous because you’re here, in Sicily, living and breathing and loving with ricotta-filled intensity and citrus-scented certainty. Just as the Sicilians do.

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and post number two…

 

Our gelato job

Would you scold me if I told you I ate gelato for lunch with gleeful regularity while in Sicily? Every day a new flavour combination: pistachio and bitter dark chocolate, lemon and creamy yoghurt, cinnamon and Marsala. These decisions sat casually atop our Honeymoon “to-do” list, and we took to our gelato job with delicious diligence.

We relied on our mood to dictate a preference for fruity or creamy. Not a day went by without a visit to the local gelateria. We dove into cones topped with scoops of watermelon pink in Palermo and in Ortigia, cups of speckled cinnamon or smooth mandorla (almond). Catania gave us brioche buns filled with gelato, the ultimate greedy breakfast. For a different iced delight, there was the famous Colicchia Francesco in Trapani, and their supremely refreshing coffee and pistachio granita.

The wine gelato from Gelato DiVini in Ragusa is a dream. Passito, Moscato and Rose, oh my! I will never forget the flavour of those soft, sweet scoops of fermented grape gelato, devoured not quite fast enough under the Sicilian sun.

Yes, gelato-dressed hands are appropriate attire in Italy, a reminder of your attempt to salvage every last drop of luscious craftmanship. But chill, it’s ok. When you leave Sicily you can purchase an ice-cream maker and apply the same diligence with which you sampled gelato to recreate your holiday indulgence. It won’t be the same, no, it will lack the authentic, almond-kissed flavour of Sicily. And you won’t be sitting on the Church steps as you eat, watching the young play Soccer and the old gossip. But it will be gelato. You’ll just have to return to Sicily for the rest…

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Heidi xo

Roast Dinner, our way.

March 10, 2014

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Everyone has their roast memories.

My home wasn’t a strict roast household. Come Sunday it wasn’t an obligatory meal of lamb, potatoes, peas…but a roast graced our hungry plates often enough for it to be a familiar and comforting dish. I remember generous portions of roasted pumpkin and my onion loving mother always made way for a few roasted bulbs. I recall a lean towards roasted lamb however this could be my imagination. I do have strong memories of mint sauce on the table, most certainly because of discussions over its merit. You either love this stuff or hate it, am I right? It’s not my thing.

My husband holds strong feelings of nostalgia when it comes to roast dinners. His Aunty Val’s potatoes are legendary, and he always adored his mother’s version. Though he is ever keen to pronounce when things aren’t up to scratch. Yes, he’s a bit of a roast potato snob. I can’t blame him though…a perfectly roast potato is an accomplishment indeed, a thing of true, crisp, golden beauty.

Though I adore the nationalistic roasted lamb, I just cannot go past a roast chicken. There’s nothing quite like it, with a generous, herbed body and deliriously crispy skin. Our local butcher stocks organic and free range chickens, so I favour those birds instead of other roasted meats. Plus I love to use the bones to make stock, simmered for hours on the stove…oh it makes the most divine broth for soups and cooking grains. But back to the roast dinner itself…

Our method for roasting chicken and potatoes and other vegetables has changed over the years. I am a huge fan of Valli Little’s chicken with 40 cloves of garlic. And for an everyday roasted vegetable assembly, I’ll simply chop then toss them in the oven, seasoned with olives oil, sea salt and pepper. Maybe some herbs or spices. But recently we’ve been churning out roasted chicken and potatoes in a particular way and just swooning over the results. I thought I’d share this with you today.

Roast dinner, our way. Creating memories and new rituals in this little home of ours. Without mint sauce…


Roast dinner, our way.

Inspired by Barbara Kafka’s roasted chicken and Jamie Oliver’s roasted potatoes.

Ensure you have a large roasting pan that can go in the oven and on the stove top.

Serves 4

Roasted Chicken
1 organic, free range Chicken
1 unwaxed lemon
4 cloves Garlic
5 sprigs fresh Thyme
2 big fresh Sage Leaves
4 tablespoons Unsalted Butter, melted
Olive Oil
Sea Salt and freshly cracked Black Pepper

~ 1/3 cup Dry White Wine (for the pan and gravy)

Roasted Potatoes
4-6 medium Russet Potatoes, depending on potato size and hunger level (or other high starch potato, i.e. Dutch Creams)
Olive Oil
Sea Salt and freshly cracked Black Pepper

Roasted Carrots
1 bunch Dutch Carrots (so you have 1-2 carrots each)
Olive Oil
Sea Salt and freshly cracked Black Pepper

Peas
1 & 1/2 cups Peas (frozen – and you can use less but we are a pea loving house)
Option: add some fresh mint leaves and a dash of red wine vinegar for a vibrant something something.


Method

Let’s chicken:
1. Pre-heat your oven to 220 degrees Celsius and bring your bird to room temperature (to allow for more even cooking).
2. Wash your chicken thoroughly (both the outside and the cavity). Cut off the wings and save these for stock. Pat your chicken dry with paper towel, then place in a large roasting pan. Season your chicken generously with salt and pepper (always add more then you think you’ll need!!) and a little olive oil to keep things happy. Massage this seasoning into both sides of the chicken, all over it.
3. Peel your garlic cloves but keep them whole, and cut your lemon in half. Add half the lemon and some garlic to the cavity, then some thyme and 2 tablespoons of the butter. Season then add the remaining lemon, garlic, thyme and 1 more tablespoon of butter. Season again.
4. Lift the skin above the breast gently and insert a sage leaf over each breast, then keenly pour the last tablespoon of butter in here too. Leave the chicken breast side up. It is now ready for roasting.

Let’s potato:
5. Wash your potatoes then cut them into halves. Put them in a pot of cold water, just to cover them, then bring to the boil. Cook at a simmer for ~4-7 minutes (depending on the size of your potatoes – you want them to only slightly cooked and still firm on the inside), then drain them. Put them back into the pan with the lid on, then shake them to make the surface “smushed” and fluffy. This helps them to get extra crispy. Set aside then add them to the pan (face down!) with the chicken when you’re ready to pop it into the oven. Drizzle olive oil in the pan (place the potatoes on top of that oil) and season with a little salt and pepper.

6. Place the chicken and potatoes into the oven for 20 minutes (chicken breast side up and potatoes face down). Now prep your carrots.

Let’s carrot:
7. Wash your carrots, season with olive oil, a little salt and pepper, and set aside to place in the oven after 20 minutes (if you have very big carrots you can pop these in at the same time as the potatoes. Medium-sized carrots will take ~40 minutes to roast nicely).

After 20 minutes…
8. Remove the roasting pan from the oven. Carefully flip the chicken so the breast is now facing down. Flip the potatoes so the face is up, then smush gently with a potato masher. Add the seasoned carrots to the pan, then pop it all back into the oven for another 20 minutes. If needed, add a dash of wine to the pan.

After another 20 minutes
9. Remove the roasting pan from the oven. Carefully flip the chicken so the breast is back facing up. Flip the potatoes so the face is back down and rotate the carrots. If needed, add a dash of wine to the pan. Pop it all back into the oven for another 10-15 minutes, depending on the side of your bird. You’ll know it is cooked when a skewer inserted into the thigh releases clear juices. Turn the oven off.

When the chicken is done
10. Remove the chicken from the pan and place on a board lined with a big piece of foil. You have two choices here: to prioritise crispy skin, place the chicken breast side up. To prioritise super moist breast, place the chicken breast side down. On this night we rested the chicken breast side up. Cover with foil and leave for 10 minutes while you prepare your peas and gravy. Remove the potatoes and carrots from the pan, place in a smaller oven-proof dish and spoon some juices over the top to help keep it moist. Place the potatoes and carrots back into the off (but still warm) oven to keep them warm.

Pea and gravy time:
11. Place the peas in a small saucepan and cover with water, bring to a boil then cook for a few minutes until cooked, then drain. Alternatively, steam them. Add the mint and red wine vinegar if using.
12. Add ~1/3 cup white wine to the roasting pan and place over medium heat on the stove. Simmer it for ~10 minutes until it’s thick and gravy like.

Serve it up:
13. Plate up your favourite piece of chicken meat with the peas and carrots, then fight over the crispiest potatoes. Drizzle with gravy and voila!

 

Heidi xo 

Diner Pancakes with Blueberry Maple Syrup

March 7, 2014

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I have a friend named Denita.

Denita lives in Utah with her husband. Last year while traveling the USA, Ben and I stayed with them for a week. We hiked up mountains, wandered American supermarket aisles and ate Mexican food – good Mexican like carnitas, fish tacos, chipotle and mole. I miss that week.

De and I share an appreciation for food. This includes wholesome recipes and vegetable-centric cooking, with nuts and grains and all things delicious. It also includes appreciation/shock for all things crazy American. Australia is most certainly not saintly when it comes to food and health, don’t get me wrong. And yes, there is incredible food in the USA, much tender and thoughtfully crafted cooking that inspires me daily. But there is also outrageous food in the USA. I’m talking Paula Deen’s “Lady’s Brunch Burger“, as well their desire to deep-fry anything and preferably everything.

My friend and I will often send each other links for these horrifying recipes, just to keep the “oh dear Lord” dialogue going. There was a suggestion I watch some food travel shows, where a rotund host journeys to different parts of the country in search of “the best sandwich/doughnut/pizza…” And so, for a bit of entertainment whilst engaging in my most hated chore, dusting, I watched a show on America’s best diners. PS. dusting is the worst.

Along with the 12 egg omelette (that’s a single serve, people) and the granola crusted deep fried brioche french toast slathered in caramel sauce and whipped cream, there was a diner in Georgia that served pancakes. Big, fluffy, farmhouse-style buttermilk pancakes. And I developed the most intense craving for pancakes of my life!

The next morning I woke in the hour of six without an alarm. My body must have known this was the perfect hour for pancake preparation. I listened and promptly walked to the shops for buttermilk.

It. Was. On.

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This classic American recipe is honest goodness, with old-fashioned pancake staples like flour and buttermilk and sugar and butter. There’s a time and a place for coconut flour pancakes, ones with seeds or Greek yoghurt and even flourless pancakes. But sometimes, you just need a fluffy diner pancake recipe. This is that.

The blueberry maple syrup comes highly recommended by myself, a seasoned pancake seasoner. It involves simmering defrosted (or fresh) blueberries in pure maple syrup with a squeeze of lemon juice, which (along with a side of tart yoghurt) helps to cut through the sweetness.

You win this round, America.

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Diner Pancakes with Blueberry Maple Syrup

Loosely adapted from Adrianna‘s Best Buttermilk Pancakes recipe.

Serves 2. Freeze any uneaten pancakes individually in plastic wrap (and then just unwrap and pop into the toaster!)

Ingredients
1 cup Spelt Flour (or regular plain flour, or 3/4 cup plain and 1/4 cup wholemeal flour)
1 heaped tablespoon Sugar
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 teaspoon Sea Salt
1 tablespoon Unsalted Butter, melted and cooled (plus extra for the pan)
1 & 1/4 cup Buttermilk
1 Egg
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Blueberry Syrup Ingredients
1 cup Blueberries (defrosted from frozen, or fresh)
1/3 cup Pure Maple Syrup
1-2 tablespoons fresh Lemon Juice, to taste

To serve: unsweetened Greek or Natural yoghurt

Method
1. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder and soda and sea salt together in a large mixing bowl.
2. Whisk the egg and add the butter, buttermilk and vanilla in a small mixing bowl.
3. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and fold in the egg mixture gently. Do not overmix the batter! Some flour flecks and lumps are normal.
4. Heat a non-stick pan (or use two pans and cook two at a time) over low-medium heat and add a generous knob of butter. When you flick some water on the pan and it dances, the pan is hot and ready. Scoop 1/3 cup mixture onto the pan and form a large, flat-ish pancake (more or less depending on your desired size. I wanted large pancakes so made them big! Beware this makes for more difficult flipping). Cook for ~2 minutes until bubbles start forming and then flip your pancake and cook for a further minute or so, until your pancake is golden. Keep warm on a plate covered with foil and cook your remaining pancakes, adding more butter every second pancake if desired.
5. Make your blueberry syrup while the pancakes are cooking by placing the blueberries and maple syrup in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook over low heat, the mixture bubbling gently, until you’re ready. Add the lemon juice and taste, adjust for more juice/syrup as desired and serve warm over the pancakes with tart yoghurt.

Pancakes, book, Saturday, happy. Miss and love you, De x

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Heidi xo

 

Book Club Porridge

March 5, 2014

Hi folks! Happy Wednesday.

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On the weekend I hosted the first book club my girlfriends and I have started. 2014 shall be full of books, I say. We read Michael Pollan‘s In Defense of Food, which generated much discussion about our food choices as consumers, what we recommend to clients as Dietitians and any diet changes we personally would like to make. The whole event was terribly fun and I am just itching to dive into more books and topics! I’d better find my library card, dust it off and get cracking on our next book, The Rosie Project.

The benefit of gathering your girlfriends (besides purposeful book chatter) is that you get to eat together. As it was a brunch date I decided to make a simple pot of porridge elevated by a few fancy embellishments.

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We had toasted almonds, macadamias and sunflower seeds, as well as caramelised bananas and honey cinnamon figs. The green smoothie on the side was made with baby spinach, medjool dates, frozen banana, water and milk went down a treat. As did coffee (quite a few cups for me…)

This morning I took some of the leftover porridge I made to my grandparents’ house for breakfast (they stuck to their raisin toast – love). It was a mix of rolled and steel-cut oats and I topped this with toasted almonds and honey warmed with cinnamon. I was a most happy porridge camper.

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Today we are getting air-conditioning installed at the clinic (yay!), and in between work I get to visit with my grandparents and skype a friend in the USA. Ben has an appointment with the hand surgeon on Thursday and will hopefully get a bit more freedom in movement, and then I have my very first acupuncture appointment, which is super exciting. And Friday I’m back to the farm before a date with Emma for the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival! It’s looking to be a swell first week of March.

What did you have for breakfast today?

Heidi xo