December 02, 2014

food styling & photography

I received my very first camera in my early teens.  It was a gift from my late grandfather and one that brought me much excitement at being able to keep a picture record of life as I knew it.  My expectations of taking these amazing photos were a little unrealistic though and what resulted was a rather large and somewhat disappointing collection of blurred shots, shut-eyed portraits, flash flare or too dark pics and accidental back of the head and foot shots.  So bad was my photo taking back then, that I still have twenty odd films sitting in our fridge yet to be developed.

I was happy as Larry when I finally got my hands on a digital camera.  No longer was I going to be out of pocket for a film of dodgy photos that looked like they’d been shot by a two year old.  Nope, my little point and shoot gave me the ability to hit delete on any photo I was less than thrilled with, so trigger happy me began clicking away on auto mode like there was no tomorrow. 

While my skills as a novice photo-taker have vastly improved from those earlier days, I've been getting rather frustrated lately with not being able to achieve the results I want or with the lack of control I have over my camera and let’s face it, food bloggers win big brownie points with pin worthy images and I figure if I am to hold my own against the big boys, I need to play like the big boys.

So this weekend I pulled up my big girl britches and attended a Food Styling and Photography workshop at the uber hip The Mantle in Freo.  It was an opportunity for me to not only learn once and for all how to take my photography up a notch but to connect with likeminded individuals.  To say that I have come away inspired is an understatement!!  Peggy, an insanely talented self-taught photographer, had such an easy way of explaining the basics of shooting on manual that it actually clicked and I have had my camera attached to me like a fifth limb, shooting at every opportunity while stylist extraordinaire Bec has me itching to not only add to my prop collection but to cook and style just for the sake of taking photos.  My thighs and hips are going to hate me!  Ha! But at least I've taken the training wheels off.

October 30, 2014

favourites – October edition

indoor plants
So it’s been a little over three weeks since we arrived back from our trip to NZ and we are only now settling back in to this time zone.  A five hour time difference certainly knocks the wind out of ones sail!  Our trip was all kinds of wonderful and then some but as is always the case when I’ve been away, it is good to be back.
I returned home all inspired to inject a little greenery into our home after being reminded of the amazing variety of indoor plants that my mum has and to *ahem, tend to my rather bleak looking herb garden which is always a work in progress for this black thumbed wanna be gardener, ha!! 

Speaking of gardens…how fricken awesome is The Nursery Project?  Such a wonderful concept on so many levels!!
Great post!!
Feeding my buckwheat obsession with this parfait
A simple yet effective way to display plants
Awaiting the arrival of The Whole Pantry cookbook - love the philosophy behind The Whole Pantry and how inspiring Belle's story is
Majorly crushing on these boards

image – would love a similar display in our home

October 27, 2014

mango, banana and ginger smoothie

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We’ve been living in Australia for eight years in December.  Eight years!!!  It feels like a life time ago that we packed up our then family of six, with our meagre belongings stuffed into four suitcases, to embark on a new and exciting life.  We’d never travelled overseas before our move but we had itchy feet and were not overly daunted by such a drastic shift.  Yes we were sad at leaving behind loved ones, but excitement filled us at the adventures that lay ahead. The first two years were spent living in sunny Queensland but we still felt a little unsettled so after a bit of discussion we decided to hightail it over the country to Western Australia where we’ve been living somewhat blissfully, ever since.

Despite having lived here for so long I still haven’t gotten used to the heat.  Winter is only fleeting compared to my country of birth but summer…holy, you ain’t ever experienced summer until you have suffered through a Western Australian one, it’s a total scorcher! and every summer that follows seems to be getting hotter than the last.  I am already bracing myself for this year and we’re still in spring.  A day when the temperature is over the mid twenties sees me cringing…I am a total heat wuss which is ironic given where we live…so you can imagine how bad I am at summers height.

Speaking of heat, please tell me I am not the only one who struggles to eat when it’s so hot outdoors and in? (we have no air-con so there’s little relief) About the best I can do is slurp on a smoothie or eat ice cream like it’s going out of fashion.  The great thing about a smoothie is that they are a meal in themselves, unlike a heaving bowl of ice cream, and no rules apply as to what you can add.  Some of our better concoctions have been those that we’ve haphazardly thrown together.

I’m on a bit of a ginger bender at the moment and throwing it in to everything I make.  It’s zing rounds out the sweetness of the mango and banana quite nicely here.

Mango, banana & ginger smoothie – serves 3-4

I ripe mango - preferably frozen
2 banana’s - preferably frozen
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
1 Tbsp flax meal
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 – 2 tsp grated ginger

chopped glace ginger – optional
toasted/raw desiccated coconut – optional

Place all the smoothie ingredients into a blender and blend till smooth.  You may have to scrap down the sides of the blender bowl a few times.  Serve topped with glace ginger and toasted coconut

- 1 tsp of ginger gives a subtle taste, for a bit more zing add another tsp or more
- I prefer to use frozen fruit in my smoothies for a thick cold mix, feel free to use unfrozen fruit in which case you may want to add a few ice cubes to thicken and chill
- I used home made coconut milk but any coconut/nut or dairy milk would work fine
- I don't tend to sweeten many of my smoothies unless the fruit is particularly tart, feel free to add it to your liking

October 25, 2014

monkey bread

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As a teenager I absolutely dreaded the mornings, preferring to sleep my day away if given half the chance but since becoming a mum, I have grown accustomed to rising early and have actually come to relish that time between dawn and when the kids eyelids finally flutter open.  It’s often the only solitude I will get on any given day before donning my mothers hat.  My little ritual used to include making a pot of tea and taking it outside to listen to the birds chorus while the sun rose, these days I’m hitting the gym at 5 am in a bid to get fit and healthy and lose the last of this ‘five pregnancy’ weight. 

The other advantage of rising with the birds is that it gives me ample time to make bread.  Such as this monkey bread that I threw together before I skedaddled to the gym on Saturday morning.  I’d not heard of monkey bread before last year some time and when I did my attention was piqued.  I really have no idea where the name originated but on biting into my first ball of sweet, cinnamony, donutty bread, I was sold!  After that very first initiation I think I made a dozen batches in so many weeks…hello hips!!!  These days I don’t make this bread as often, which suits me fine seeing as I can’t eat it, but when I do the smell is absolutely intoxicating and I kick myself at being gluten intolerant.

Monkey bread – serves at least 6
(recipe adapted slightly from The Tart Tart)

30 butter
1 cup milk
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup raw sugar
2 1/2 tsp yeast
1 tsp salt
3 1/4 cups flour
80 g melted butter
1 cup brown sugar
4 Tbsp cinnamon

Place the first measure of butter, milk, water and sugar into a small pot and heat gently over a low heat until the butter has melted and the liquids are luke warm.  Stir in the yeast and set aside 5 minutes till frothy.  Meanwhile, measure the flour into a large bowl and add the salt.

Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir with a knife/wooden spoon until it comes together like a dough.  Turn out onto a lightly floured bench and knead for 5 minutes until smooth and glossy.  Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with gladwrap and leave in a warm spot till it’s risen to double the size.

Once the dough has doubled in size, melt the second measure of butter and place in a small bowl.  In a separate bowl mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon till well combined.  Grease a loaf tin well making sure to get into the corners.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured bench and divide evenly into roughly 50 pieces.  Dip each dough ball into the melted butter then coat in the brown sugar mix and place into the loaf tin, layering as you go.

Cover the loaf tin with gladwrap and leave to rise for 30-40 minutes.  You want the bread to rise again slightly.  Preheat oven 170°.  Once the bread has risen bake for 40-50 minutes until golden.  Cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack.

- we are spice freaks so add lots of cinnamon, you can reduce the amount to suit your tastes
- bread is best eaten on the day it is made and definitely while still warm
- the original recipe calls for a glaze, we found this much too rich for our liking but feel free to add it to yours
- I’ve added chopped walnuts, raisins and some mixed spice to my flour mix before adding the wet ingredients…it takes this bread to a whole new level!!

September 30, 2014

favourites – September edition

the Bay
I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to be seeing out the end of September in my homeland.  It’s been far too long in between visits and I didn’t realise how empty my tank was until being surrounded once again by my whanau (family) and kiwi friends.  While I’m luxuriating in all this love and attention feel free to check out this months current favourites…..

Mooncakes? Hello!!

It would be my dream to start a community like this

Our grandmothers certainly had the right idea

Ceramic LOVE!

Yum and yum

A nifty gift idea

image (how awesome to find a photo on the internet of my childhood stomping ground)

September 22, 2014

date & almond balls

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I’ve been feeling a little unsettled lately, actually I’ve been feeling this way for a while now.  That pull to be closer to family is really tugging on my heart at present and the fact that we’ll be travelling home for two weeks tonight has me so excited that I can barely contain myself let alone concentrate on anything.  It will be a time of firsts for our youngest three…first time back in seven years*, first time meeting cousins who have been born in the eight years we have been away, first time seeing the changes that have occurred in the place of their birth, first time being back since the passing of loved ones.  So much has changed in the time we have been away, goodness knows I am not the same person I was when I left, but despite all of that we will finally be on home soil, albeit briefly, surrounded by family, and that fact alone makes me giddy just thinking about it.

In preparation for our trip, which will be 13 hours from woe to go, I’ve been busy making portable snacks to keep us sustained.  I know I am not alone in thinking that airline food is pretty dismal and the options for me are even more limited now that I know I have food intolerances.  Gluten free muffins, chia pudding (oh my goodness guys, the roasted strawberry miso chia pudding that I came up with is to die for!!) and these date and almond balls were just the ticket.  Simple to throw together, easy to transport and nutritiously filling!

Date & almond balls – 24-28 balls

1 1/2 cups whole almonds
1 cup medjool dates – pitted
3 Tbsp cocoa
2 Tbsp water
1 Tbsp coconut oil – melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Place the almonds in the bowl of a food processor and blitz till roughly chopped.  Add the remaining ingredients and blitz again until well combined and the consistency you want.  Using moist hand, roll tablespoon amounts of mixture into balls and place on a plate.  Refrigerate until firm.

- chocolate ganache or salted caramel sauce can be added for a more decadent ball, just omit the water and oil
- a nip of baileys or kahlua is perfect for the festive season
- maca or mesquite powder is a lovely earthy addition
- any type of nut can be used as can an assortment of nuts
- can be kept in the fridge for up to a week (if they last that long) and in the freezer for 4 weeks

* lets not delve into how guilty that makes me feel

September 17, 2014

roasted kumara, beet and quinoa salad with an orange-tahini dressing

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Things have been a little hectic this week as I prepare to leave for New Zealand next Tuesday.  In between the end of term school events/birthday parties/play dates and shopping for supplies for my men-folk who’ll be staying back, I’ve been trying to squeeze in the odd cuppa with friends, complete some sewing orders and prepare a few freezer meals on top of spring cleaning our home and of course pack.  It’s daft to be trying to do so much before I leave but I seem to work better under pressure and to be honest, I could do with the distraction.  It’s been a few years since I’ve travelled home and even longer since our youngest three were there so you can well imagine the excitement that is building.

When I know I have a busy schedule ahead of me I opt to keep our meals fairly light and simple and prepare what I can ahead of time.  This allows me to throw a salad, such as this one, together in mere minutes.  The thing I love about a salad like this is that it is a great base for other flavours and ingredients depending on what you have on hand.  Don’t be afraid to play around and make it your own.

Roasted kumara, beet and quinoa salad with an orange-tahini dressing – serves 2-3 as a main or 4-6 as a side

Ingredients: (salad)
1 cup quinoa
2 beetroot – peeled and chopped into cubes
1 medium kumara (sweet potato) peeled and chopped into cubes
1 Tbsp olive oil
handful parsley – chopped finely
toasted walnuts – chopped roughly
1/2 cup of orange-tahini dressing

Ingredients: (dressing) – makes 3/4 cup
juice and zest of 1 orange (1/2 cup juice/2 tsp zest)
3 Tbsp tahini
1 Tbsp sweetener of choice
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 180°.  Toss the cubed kumara and beets in oil and place on a baking tray.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and tender.
In a pot bring 2 cups of water to the boil.  Rinse the quinoa in a sieve under running water and leave to drain.  Once the water is boiling, add the quinoa to the pot, cover and reduce the heat to a simmer.  Cook the quinoa for approximately 12 minutes.  (Quinoa is cooked when it has swelled, becomes translucent and has a little tail sprout on the end of it)  Once cooked fluff up with a fork and set aside to cool.
Shake the dressing ingredients together in a jar until well combined and creamy.
Add the quinoa to a bowl with roasted veggies, chopped parsley, nuts and the dressing and toss gently to combine.

- left over dressing is delicious drizzled over porridge or a fresh fruit salad or stirred through greek yoghurt (if tolerated*)
- any roasted vegetables work well in a salad like this. zucchini, tomatoes and eggplant are particular favourites
- use whatever fresh herbs you have on hand.  mint and coriander are a wonderful addition
- crumbed feta* rounds out the flavours beautifully
- substitute lemon for the orange for a more zesty dressing
- freshly grated ginger and chopped garlic give a lovely zing to the dressing as does ground cumin - use in 1 tsp amounts
- any lightly toasted nuts and seeds go well with salads like this
- serve on a bed of mixed salad leaves or wilted spinach/kale for a more substantial meal
- great side to bbq/grilled/roasted meat or salmon

September 08, 2014

bread and butter pudding

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Nothing says winter more than comfort food so as an ode to the last few days of winter, which is still lingering by the way, I made a brioche bread & butter pudding which was inspired by Unna’s brioche french toast that she recently shared on Instagram.  Bread and butter pudding is the epitome of comfort food (in dessert form) to my family and is up there with good old fashioned rice pudding.  The best thing about puddings like this is that they are even better the next day for breakfast.  Go on be a little reckless, I dare you *wink

Bread and butter pudding with crème anglaise – serves 6+

Ingredients: (pudding)
a day old loaf of bread – thickly sliced
100g butter – softened
2/3 cup dried fruit
2 cups milk
1 cup cream
1 tsp pure vanilla
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 cup brown sugar
5 eggs
generous pinch salt

Ingredients: (crème anglaise – custard sauce)
1 cup cream
1 cup milk
1 tsp pure vanilla
pinch of salt
1/4 cup sugar
4 yolks

Method: (pudding)

Lightly grease a square pudding dish.  Butter both sides of the sliced bread and place in the dish, layering as you go.  Sprinkle the dried fruit on and around your bread as you go.
Preheat your oven 180° then whisk the eggs with the cream, milk, salt and spices until well combined and pour over the top of the bread.  Leave to absorb for 15-20 minutes.  Bake for 35-45 minutes until golden on top and set in the middle.

Method: (crème anglaise – custard sauce)

Gently heat the cream and milk in a small pan over a low heat until it just starts to simmer.  In a bowl beat the yolks with the sugar until it is thick and pale in colour.  While beating the yolks pour in a small amount of the milk/cream (approx. 1/4 cup) then add the yolk mixture to your pot and continue to stir over a very low heat until it is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Do not allow this mixture to boil!  Stir in the vanilla and salt then strain through a sieve into a small jug, place cling wrap directly over the sauces surface and allow to cool before storing in the fridge.

- the crème anglaise can be made up to 3 days in advance
- I used cranberries and raisins here but have also used dried diced apricots and sultanas
- roughly chopped walnuts or pecans are a nice addition as are slivered almonds
- use a bread of your choice.  fruit loaf is particularly decadent
- a dollop of ice cream doesn’t go astray
- the zest of a lemon/orange and a sprinkling of dark chocolate chips makes for a nice variation

September 02, 2014


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I kind of put my foot in it last week.  I was bragging about how amazing a brioche loaf would be in a request for bread and butter pudding without even knowing how to make brioche.  I’m certainly not new to bread making, I used to make bread by hand on a regular basis until I found out I am gluten intolerant and it lost it's appeal, so I thought to myself ‘how hard can it be?’  Have you ever made brioche?  Well let me tell you that it would be a piece of cake if you have a mixer of some sort but to make it by hand takes         c o m m i t t m e n t !    It’s messy, time consuming and somewhat tiring!!  Don’t be put off by the messy hard work though, the rhythmic kneading action is kind of therapeutic and the mix does eventually come together into a soft, smooth, pliable dough.  I'm also told that the effort I went to was well worth it *wink 
This brioche was used to make the most luxurious bread and butter pudding – recipe coming soon, and I think it would make an equally delectable french toast.

Brioche – makes one large or two small loaves
(recipe from Gourmet Traveller but the method is my own)

160ml warm milk
1 1/2 tsp yeast
5 egg yolks – lightly beaten
375g flour, plus extra for dusting
30g sugar
150g butter – cubed
1 egg – egg wash

Sprinkle the yeast over half of the milk and mix gently.  Set aside till frothy, approximately 5 minutes.  Whisk egg yolks into the remaining milk and set aside.
Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl then pour in both the yeast and yolk mixtures and mix till well combined and dough like.  Tip out onto a lightly floured bench and knead for approximately 10 mins.  Once you have a nice dough, flatten out and place half of the cubed butter on one side of the dough then fold the remaining dough over the top of the butter.  This gets messy but you need to work the butter into the dough.  Knead the dough, working the butter in, till it is well combined and then repeat with the remaining butter.  Trust me, it does come together but requires a good 15-20 mins of vigorous kneading.
Once you have a nice smooth dough place it into a butter bowl, cover and leave to rise until doubled in size.  Once doubled, gently fold the dough over on itself a few times then cling wrap and place in the fridge overnight.
In the morning remove the dough from the fridge and allow to come to room temperature before placing into a lined loaf tin (this is where you can divide the dough to make two loaves).  Leave the dough to rise for a second time.  Preheat oven 180° and brush the loaf/loaves with the egg wash.  Bake for 45-50 minutes until golden brown and hollow sounding when tapped.  Cool briefly in the tin before turning out onto a wire rack.

August 28, 2014

favourites – August edition

Can you believe we are three-quarters of the way through the year already?  I know it’s cliche, but where on earth has the time gone?!!  I had big plans for this year, especially with blogging, but as so often happens life just got a little too busy and I found some days just did not have enough hours for all that I wanted to achieve.  Oh well, it’s never too late to improve on my time management skills and while I contemplate that feel free to check out some of my current favourites....

Major instagram crush

Serious ceramic LOVE

Cleverest DIY I have seen in a while

Bookmarking this, this and this for when the temperature soars

Strawberry and basil jam?…Um YES!


August 26, 2014

lemon & thyme panna cotta with a lemon infused strawberry & mango salsa and honeyed walnut crumbs

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Guys can we just take a moment to appreciate these photos?  I’m not normally one to blow my own trumpet but I must say I am rather impressed with how well they turned out! *blush  I’m one of those people who spend more time than I care to admit ogling over the food photography in magazines, cookbooks and on the net and will admit to feeling more than a little intimidated at the high calibre set by other food bloggers but I gotta say, I think I may have brought my game…….finally, fingers crossed!

Anyway, moving right along.  This dessert came about from having a jar of coconut milk, a lone lemon that had seen better days and some wilting thyme that needing using up and the ever so slight obsession I have developed for lemon, honey and thyme in a sweet dish.  A few months ago I made Emm’s scrumptious ‘lemon, honey and thyme curd’ shortcakes (recipe in her cookbook) and was smitten with the sweet, earthy, zesty tang of these ingredients combined and have used every chance since to replicate the taste in various dishes.  I’ve tested them in cake and biscuit form, in drink form – tea and smoothies and now dessert.  The cake needs more work but I’ve been pretty happy with the other attempts. 
Panna cotta is a rather decadent dessert that looks complicated but is really very simple and forgiving in nature.  It’s a hard dessert to get wrong and the flavour combinations are only limited by your imagination.

Lemon & thyme panna cotta with lemon infused strawberry & mango salsa and honeyed walnut crumbs – serves 4

Ingredients: (panna cotta)
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup cream
4 sprigs of thyme
zest of one lemon
2 Tbsp honey
2 tsp gelatine
1/4 cup warm water

Ingredients: (lemon infused strawberry and mango salsa)
1/2 a small punnet of strawberries
1/2 medium mango
juice of one lemon
2 Tbsp sugar

Ingredients: (honeyed walnut crumbs)
1/2 cup walnut pieces – roughly chopped
1 Tbsp honey

For the panna cotta, place the warm water into a small dish and sprinkle over the gelatine.  Mix gently then set aside for 5 minutes to absorb.  Place the coconut milk, cream, thyme, zest and honey into a medium pot over low to medium heat.  Stir while heating to dissolve the honey and then heat gently, about ten minutes just under a simmer, to allow the flavours of the lemon and thyme to infuse the milk/cream.  Add the gelatine and whisk well to combine.  Remove from the heat and strain into a bowl then divide between 4 x 1/2 cup ramekins/glasses.  Refrigerate until set, around 5 hours or overnight.
For the salsa, place the lemon juice and sugar into a small pot and heat gently, stirring, to dissolve the sugar.  Chop the strawberries and mango into small pieces and place in a bowl.  Pour over the sweetened lemon juice and mix well to combine.  Refrigerate until required but best prepared within an hour of eating.
For the walnut crumbs, place the walnuts and honey into a small fry pan and heat gently, stirring until the honey has dissolved and the walnuts are lightly toasted.  Beware, this mix can burn easily.  Once the walnuts are toasted place them onto a piece of baking paper or plate to cool.  Once cool they can be stored in an airtight jar in the fridge.
To serve, unmold the panna cotta by dipping the ramekins in hot water and inverting onto a serving plate.  If they are a little stuck simply run a knife around the edge.   Spoon over the salsa then sprinkle over the walnut crumbs.  Enjoy!

- this could easily be made dairy free by using all coconut milk and/or cream (I did both versions on this particular occasion)
- I find panna cotta best made a day ahead
- if you prefer a sweeter dessert add another Tbsp of honey
- I used coconut sugar for the lemon syrup but any sugar will suffice
- infuse with whatever flavours tickle your fancy

August 04, 2014

coconut jaffa bliss balls

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Afternoon tea used to consist of fresh baked scones with jam and cream or hot pikelets straight from the pan.  It wasn’t unusual for the kids to come home from school with the smell of fresh baked items in the air, their friends trailing in behind them eager to join them at the table.
These days however, even though life is no busier than it was ten years ago, I seem to be lacking in both time and energy to bake before school pick up so have been playing around with different versions of the popular bliss ball/truffle that I can keep on hand in the fridge/freezer.  The thing I love about these wee treats is that they are super fast to prepare.  You literally throw whatever ingredients you want into the food processor, blitz for a minute or so then roll into balls.  It’s really as simple as that.

These coconut jaffa balls are my kids current favourite. They hit the spot rather nicely, especially for a chocoholic like myself.

Coconut Jaffa bliss balls - approx. 25-30 balls

2 cups desiccated coconut
1/2 cup almond meal
1/4 cup cocoa
1/4 cup melted coconut oil/butter
1/4 cup rice malt syrup
a scant 1/2 cap of orange oil

Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend for 30-60 seconds until the mixture comes together.  Using moist hands, roll teaspoon amounts into balls and put onto a plate.  Place into the fridge to firm up.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. 
- best eaten within five days if kept in the fridge
- will keep well in the freezer for a few weeks (if they aren’t demolished sooner)
- allow to thaw slightly before eating if kept in the freezer
- orange zest or orange essence would add a subtler flavour but can be substituted for the orange oil

July 31, 2014

favourites – July edition

warm and cosy

I usually adore the winter months but find myself struggling with the cold this year.  Spring cannot come soon enough for this usually cold season loving girl.  That being said, we are still eating belly warming comfort food on a nightly basis despite the slight increase in mercury and I am still drinking copious cups of tea which I will miss once summer hits us full force!  So I will grin and bare it for a little while longer…what choice do I have?
Here are some current favourites….

Totally blown away by the concept of a waste-free supermarket

Counting down the days till our trip home…seven weeks and counting

Crushing over these patterns and crocheting some winter warmers for said trip

Intrigued by the idea of these gluten-free buns

More determined than ever this year


June 19, 2014

sautéed cos salad with an avocado dressing

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Have you ever tried cooked lettuce?  The first time I saw a recipe for grilled lettuce I rolled my eyes and thought to myself ‘that is just nuts…what on earth would you want to go and cook lettuce for?’ Then a few more such recipes came onto my radar and I started to become intrigued with the idea of cooking an ingredient that I had only ever eaten raw.  What is that saying ‘don’t dis something until you try it’.  Well that totally applies to grilled/cooked lettuce, I eat my words! and urge you to try it if you haven’t already.

This salad was a cinch to throw together given that I had pre-cooked chicken and sweet potato on hand and even though it only has a few ingredients it really packs a flavour punch! 

Sautéed cos salad with an avocado dressing – serves 1 but easily doubled/tripled
Inspired by I am a food blog and the year in food

Ingredients: (salad)
1 small cos lettuce – halved
1 tsp ghee/coconut oil
100g cooked chicken – diced
small serve roasted sweet potato

Ingredients: (dressing)
1 avocado
handful each of basil and parsley
I small clove garlic
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup mild tasting olive oil
1 tsp apple cider vinegar

If you need to cook your chicken and sweet potato start with that first.  Sauté both in separate pans using a little ghee or coconut oil until cooked then place on a plate. 
Place the dressing ingredients into a blender/processor and blitz till smooth and creamy.  This makes a little over a cup worth of dressing but keeps well in a jar in the fridge for a few days.
Heat ghee over medium heat in a pan and add the halved cos cut side down.  Allow to cook a few minutes until the edges are starting to brown then flip over and cook the other side.
Place cos onto a plate, top with the chicken and sweet potato then drizzle with the avocado dressing before seasoning well.

- I kept things very simple with this salad wanting each ingredient to play a key role
- adapt the ingredients to suit your tastes and what you have available to you
- bacon or prosciutto would be a lovely addition as would a decent sprinkle of grated parmesan
- grilled haloumi or baked diced eggplant would be equally wonderful for a vegetarian salad

June 10, 2014

‘banoffee’ buckwheat porridge

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Winter has arrived with a scattering of rain but judging by the warmth of the last week you’d be forgiven for thinking otherwise. The seasons are rather strange here in Western Australia.  The warmer months, which are excessively hot, seem to drag on f.o.r.e.v.e.r and a day while the cooler months that are over in the blink of an eye have ‘chill factor zero’ days that are somewhat few and far between.  Talk about being ripped off!  Give me hail and a bit of snow…..please?   I want to hibernate for a week at least.

Despite what the mercury shows, porridge is on pretty high rotation in these parts.  It’s only been in the last six months or so that I have started venturing away from traditional oat porridge in favour of other nutritious grains and while I enjoyed a bowl of porridge before I am well and truly head over heels for it now!

This banoffee buckwheat porridge, because who doesn’t love a dessert inspired breakfast, was inspired by Kelly’s creamy spiced version that we had a few weeks ago and fills the gap quite nicely with it’s nutty, creamy texture and subtly sweet fruity taste.  Buckwheat does require a little forethought with soaking the groats overnight but the end result is so satisfying that it is well worth the effort. 
Banoffee buckwheat porridge – serves 3-4

Ingredients: (porridge)
1 cup buckwheat groats – soaked in water with a Tbsp of apple cider vinegar overnight
1 cup coconut milk/cream
1/4 cup water
2 tsp coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla
2-4 fresh dates – depending on sweet preference, chopped finely
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch salt
2 bananas – one mashed, one sliced
small handful of chopped walnuts/nuts of choice

Ingredients: (caramel sauce)
1/4 cup coconut milk/cream
2 Tbsp rice syrup/honey
1 Tbsp coconut oil

Rinse off the buckwheat groats and place them into a pot with the remaining porridge ingredients (except the banana and nuts) and simmer gently over a medium heat for approximately 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Once all the liquid has been absorbed, stir through the mashed banana and heat another minute or two.

While the porridge is cooking place the caramel sauce ingredients into a small pot and over a low heat simmer gently for 3-4 minutes, stirring often.

Place porridge into bowls, drizzle with caramel sauce then top with sliced banana and chopped nuts.

- be adventurous and use this recipe as a starting point for other flavour combinations
- store any remaining caramel sauce in a small jar in the fridge for a few days, heating through before using


June 02, 2014

a simple eggplant and capsicum curry

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In her younger days, my mum was never very adventurous when it came to cooking.  Yes, she cooked everything from scratch but tended to stick to a handful of tried and trusted meals which we had on high rotation.  I think trying to satisfy the fussy needs of her six children put her off extending her recipe repertoire.  Curry wasn’t something we had very often and when we did it was good old curry sausages or eggs made in a white curry sauce (white sauce and curry powder) *yuk!  I should add that as a child I disliked both eggs and sausages so those meal times were a test of my mothers patience and my will power.

As us kids grew older mum did start expanding on her culinary efforts, she makes a mean thai chilli chicken dish, but the running joke when we now come together as a family is just how bad her cooking was.  Unlike my mum I tend to follow in my fathers footsteps when it comes to cooking and am not afraid to experiment and push the boundaries.  That said, I do know what it’s like to cook for a fuss pot or two so can empathise with what my mum had to deal with but by the same token, I always encourage our children to try something at least once before they turn their noses up at it and I don't allow their fussy tendencies, which change on any given day, to dictate what I cook - bad mother!

Gone are the days of a white sauce based curry, I left that behind with my childhood.  These days I’m all about a homemade curry paste that allows me the flexibility to tweak the flavours to suit whatever ingredients I have on hand.  The beauty of a curry dish is that it is versatile, hearty and a one pot meal that is super simple and fast to make…win/win in my books. 

Eggplant and capsicum curry – serves 2-3

Ingredients: (curry)
1 small eggplant – diced
1 choko – peeled and diced
1/2 each of a red, yellow and green capsicum – diced
1.5 cups coconut milk/cream
1 tsp coconut oil/ghee
2 Tbsp curry paste – recipe below
cauliflower rice/rice of choice/quinoa to accompany

Ingredients: (curry paste)
2 Tbsp coriander seeds
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp peppercorns
1 tsp Himalayan/rock salt
1-2 fresh chillies  – chopped - can use 1-2 tsp chilli flakes
3 cloves garlic – crushed
1/2 onion – finely diced
1 cm piece each of grated tumeric and ginger - can use 1 tsp each of ground
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar

For the paste, place the seeds and peppercorns into a dry frypan and toast gently, swirling the pan often, over medium heat until fragrant and starting to brown.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool a few minutes.  Add the seeds to a mortar and pestle with the salt and grind till fine.  Add the remaining paste ingredients to the mortar and pestle and continue to grind until you have a somewhat smooth paste.
For the curry, heat the coconut oil/ghee over medium heat.  Add the curry paste and cook, stirring, for a minute or so.  Pour in the coconut milk/cream and the vegetables and turn down to a gentle simmer.  Cover and simmer for 10-12 minutes until the vegetables are tender then serve in bowls with quinoa or rice of choice.

- diced or tinned tomato can be used as a base instead of coconut milk/cream
- use whatever vegetables you have on hand, sweet potato and spinach is a particular favourite
- beans or chickpeas are a nice addition as is finely sliced cooked beef or chicken strips
- I tend to use the whole amount of curry paste above if I am cooking for my entire family of ten and up the vegetables and liquid accordingly but if I am making enough for 2-3 serves, I generally put any remaining paste into a small glass jar and cover with a thin layer of olive oil before lidding and refridgerating for up to a week
- use more or less chillies depending on the amount of heat you can tolerate
- serve alongside naan and greek yoghurt for a more substantial meal
- don't let the amount of ingredients in the paste intimidate you, it's well worth the effort of making your own paste