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