Beet-ing the country into shape.

August 6, 2011 § 9 Comments

The times in life when I wished I had a camera:

  1. Watching a man on a stand-up paddle board be surrounded by dolphins at Bondi Beach, from the cliffs above.
  2. Many nights of laughter with friends, just to capture the moment.
  3. Seeing the sunset over Charlotte’s skyline from the middle of a traffic jam

And something I never thought I would see, a squirrel sitting in the middle of the road eating Bojangles!
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I kid you not,  a ballsy little squirrel was sitting in the street with both paws around a biscuit and a packet of Bojangles seasoned-fries. I had to give him a little toot in my car because he would would NOT move! Finally he upped and carried his lunch to the sidewalk, where he sat back down and resumed his munching.
What does this mean?
  1. I should never leave my house without a phone or camera.
  2. Michael Moore will release Fast Food Animal Nation in the fall of 2011.
  3. The next Man vs Wild will see Bear Grylls holding his own in a chain restaurant.

Following this experience it seemed only natural to watch Supersize Me & Food Inc. I was hoping to learn whether rodents prefer drive through or counter service.
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Instead I was bombarded with a distressing reality check. Kids as young as 4 and 5 are being diagnosed with diabetes. Chickens are being pumped so hard with steroids that their little legs can’t support their overgrown bodies. And poor Alexandra Jameison (vegan chef) had to sleep with a man who consumed nothing but McDonalds for 30 days…shudder.
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If everyone ate more vegetables the kids would be fit and carefree, Sunday lunch wouldn’t be the result of a science experiment, and Alexandra Jameison would have better sex.
There is this great raw food restaurant in Charlotte called Luna’s Living Kitchen. It is second-to-none. They have this one dish called Lunasagne, which is layers of raw zucchini ‘pasta’ with sundried tomatoes, cashew nut cheese and crimini mushrooms.
Check out the full menu here.
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I have had some beautiful zucchini from our vegetable garden recently so I thought I would turn my hand to a similar dish, using a filling of nuts and sundried tomatoes and topping it with a cashew-beetroot ‘cheese’.
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Now if I could just get some to that squirrel ….
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Raw ‘meaty lasagne’
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  • Slice 2 zucchini lengthways using a mandolin
  • Use the grating attachment in a food processor to grate 2 carrots. Set aside. 1 beetroot.
  • In a blender, mix a handful of walnuts, 2 tbl sundried tomatoes, the carrot and 1 tbl coconut oil until chunky. Set aside
  • Next process 1/2 cup cashews and enough water to make a smooth consistency. Add the grated beetroot.
  • In a glass square dish make a single layer of zucchini ‘pasta’. Add 1/2 nut topping and another layer off zucchini. Add remaining nut topping, final layer of zucchini and top with beetroot cheese and a sprinkle of chia seeds.
Serves 1-2.

Happy Cinco De Mayo

May 6, 2011 § 8 Comments

If you asked me last week, I had never heard of Cinco De Mayo.

Last night that changed, and I found myself surrounded by black beans, guacamole and cheese dip as my book club sat sipping coronas and discussing the days of prohibition and circus politics (we recognised the holiday  one night early to coincide with our literary meet).

As we drove to the apartment of our hostess, the lovely Morning Sun, I asked my fellow book lover and blogger for a quick history lesson. I can now tell you that FIRST & FOREMOST Cinco De Mayo is NOT Mexican Independence Day, as many people will try to tell you (rather September 16). After this is gets a little hazy.

The funny thing is, depending on whether you’re celebrating in America or in Mexico, the day will have a significantly different meaning.

In the United States Cinco De Mayo is a party, a fiesta and it proves to me that these Americans are perfectly happy to have a drink in celebration for a day that is not really their own. I used to think that St Patrick’s Day was a big deal in Sydney, that was before I realised the city of Charlotte would manage to extend the celebrations for over nine days, from bar-crawl to float parade! Perhaps I should get something going for Australia Day, next January 26?! Here, Cinco De Mayo is a day to honour Mexican culture and heritage, and to commemorate the cause of Mexican freedom and democracy during the early years of the civil war. Today you should expect to see people sipping margaritas and ordering nachos or huevos rancheros.

In Mexico, on the other hand, it is about remembering the victory of the Mexican Army over French forces in the Battle of Puebla, on May 5th, 1862. The day is marked by noticeably less boozing, but instead a military fly over and stirring re-enactments take place. Unfortunately the battles are not all in the past:

“Like many things in Mexico these days, the celebration of the 149th anniversary of the battle swung quickly toward the current drug war. In remarks before laying a wreath to the fallen, Calderon spoke of Mexico’s new enemies, the criminals who rob, extort, kidnap and murder — the kind of opponents who beat 183 people to death and buried them in mass graves 90 miles south of Brownsville, Tex., last month”

William Booth, Washington Post

I’d love to see this day celebrated in its home country but this year I am in America and that means making delicious cheesy, chilli black beans. I hope that this recipe for black beans would not make a Mexican mother cringe, originating from my head as it has, but what can I say? It goes down well with a glass of sangria and that’s enough for me!

Black Beans with shredded cheese and jalapenos

2 cups dried black beans, soaked overnight,

1 large tin crushed tomatoes,

1/2 cup water,

1 cup red wine,

5 cloves garlic, crushed,

1/4 bunch coriander, stalks chopped finely and leaves picked,

2 tbl chilli flakes,

3/4 cup mexican cheese, grated or crumbled (queso blanco, queso fresco or panela),

1/4 cup jalapeno peppers.

Drain and rinse the black beans until the water runs clear and return to large saucepan. Add all the wet ingredients and the garlic and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to simmer and stir in coriander stalks and chilli flakes. Continue to simmer for 1 hour for semi-crunchy beans (I like to undercook my beans slightly so they retain some texture and don’t taste like mush!) or 1 and a half hours for soft beans. Remove from heat and stir through cheese and jalapenos. Serve with corn tortillas for wrapping and guacamole for topping.

Pesto Hummus

February 11, 2011 § 6 Comments

 

 

I still haven’t mastered hummus, I think it’s just one of those things that you need to be taught by a Lebanese mother. However, considering my lack of Lebanese-mother-friends at the moment I thought I would just have another crack at it myself, and I’m certain that we’ve made progress since the first attempt.

Yesterday was play day with the food processor, whenever I pull it out I tend to have a good blitz in one go. After breadcrumbing, ice cream making (stay tuned for that), health ball buzzing and mashed potato whipping I looked at the chickpeas in the fridge and decided – it’s you and me kid.

 

 

My rough helpings of ingredients might guide you, but don’t quote me on them! For about 2 cups of chickpeas (soaked overnight, drained and rinsed) I added 2 big tablespoons of unhulled tahini, the juice of 1 large lemon, 2 cloves crushed garlic and maybe 1/4 cup olive oil. Then it wasn’t pureeing as much as I would like but I think this had more to do with the wattage of my food processor than the quantity of ingredients, so I just kept feeding it homemade chicken stock (which I finally have down to an art form!) until it smoothed out a bit. Then I poured in the balsamic vinegar and oil from my deli olives and buzzed along a bit more.

 

 

In the end it was still quite grainy, and this is where we need the work, but the taste was nice and not too chickpea-ish.

I served the hummus with dinner last night, as an alternative to butter for nice chewy bread, and while I don’t think anyone else tried it I made a terrific discovery! When I was clearing the table I stirred the remaining pesto into the hummus bowl and wouldn’t you know it, the taste was awesome! I had hummus on toast for breakfast and can’t walk past the fridge without dipping in with my teaspoon.

Now to just work on the texture and I may declare hummus victory (but if you know a Lebanese mother please send her my way!)

 

 

 

Govinda’s: Darlinghurst

January 6, 2011 § 11 Comments

I’ve just left a 90 minute massage and am floating on a cloud of orange oil and rosemary essence bliss. Obviously I can’t be expected to do anything productive this afternoon, so instead I have opened a coconut and am going to tell you about Govinda’s (112 Darlinghurst Rd, Darlinghurst NSW 2010).

If you read my last post you would know that NB and I are on a mission. A mission to finally visit the little locals we’ve talked about for months. Govinda’s has long been on the mission list, which is somewhat silly as NB lives right across the road, and now I’ll put on my Tom Cruise sunglasses when I say MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.

If you’re not familiar with Govinda’s it is a movie theatre and vegetarian Indian restaurant in one. For $30 you go and enjoy the all you can eat buffet and then head upstairs to catch either the 7:30 or 9:30 movie session, where you lie down on cushions and lengthen yourself out like a resting cat.

It was a cold Tuesday night when we booked in and we shook our heads in astonishment that we had to wear jumpers in the last week of December. Oh well, the weather made it a perfect night for an aromatic curry and a snuggley movie-seat.

We were greeted by a pretty Norwegian girl in a field green sari and shown to our seat around the back corner of the room where the lights were dim enough for ambience but light enough for a good view of the food. She explained to us that you may return to the buffet as many times as you want, but take a new plate each time. All the food is vegetarian and some is vegan.

We started with bowls of yellow split-lentil dhal, a warming mix with a smooth flavour and not too much chilli. Then back to the buffet for plates of curry – a cheesy tasting cauliflower and potato, tomato based beans and fried tofu and some sort of tempeh meat balls (which I think could have fooled even the hardest carnivore). There was white rice, brown rice, and a couscous, chickpea and  vegetable pilaf, as well as chutneys and raitas, pappadams, seeds and kernals and even pasta bake, potato wedges and iceberg lettuce leaves for those less adventurous.

We spied the table next to us as they received their desserts. Less Indian than Dairy Queen I think, chocolate mousse with canned- whip cream, banana splits and cake hidden with ice cream and topping. Mmmmm maybe not! Instead NB ordered a delicious mango lassi while I sipped on a big pot of steaming hot English Breakfast tea.

Very full, we struggled upstairs, happy to lie down on one of the day beds and watch the 9:30 screening of Winter’s Bone. The only problem now is trying to keep yourself awake, full, comfortable and oh so content!

An Early Christmas

December 19, 2010 § 5 Comments

Have I ever told you how much I love menu planning? I don’t think I have, but I REALLY love it!  At any given moment I’m likely to pull out a notepad and pen and start jotting down ideas, incase I was to be called upon to cater for a baby shower or a Lebanese wedding. I was sitting on the train the other day doing exactly this when an elderly Italian man came over to ask what I was was studying. When I told him I was planning a menu he smiled and asked which country I was from. Australia, I replied. He shook his head and asked again. No really, Australia. He laughed and said I was a rare breed – a 22 year-old Australian planning menus on public transport – he probably thought that was something only done by the Nonna’s back home. Anyway, this time of year is perfect to fulfill all my menu desires, from the sexy dinners and friendly brunches to elaborate dress-up party canapes! YES!

This week, NB and I also celebrated Christmas together before I fly home to be with The Duck on the 22nd. It was midweek and we knew we had a full-on party weekend ahead so I kept everything simple and fun with some grilled meatballs, spinach and ricotta stuffed zucchini flowers, chicken fillo pastry parcels and this broad bean/asparagus salad. For dessert we went stress-free and festive with a bowl of set ice cream that had been mashed up with m&ms, berries and almonds. Add a chilled bottle of white and serve everything on the outside table to ‘help yourself’ – now that’s an Aussie Christmas!

Tell me Blushers, what’s your dream menu event?

An early Aussie Christmas



 

 

Asparagus, Broadbean and Cherry Tomato Salad

Serves 2

Remove the woody ends from one bunch asparagus and saute in a pan with olive oil. Add a splash of balsamic vinegar and 1 clove crushed garlic and toss to combine. Blanch 1 cup frozen broadbeans in boiling water and refresh. In a large bowl, add broadbeans, asparagus and 1/2 punnet of halved cherry tomatoes. Toss with torn basil leaves and another drizzle of balsamic and olive oil. Optionally also add some torn bocconcini.

Festive Ice Cream Bowl

I got this idea from the December issue of delicious. magazine, the front cover recipe is ice cream towers that they had shaped in champagne flutes. After this didn’t quite work out for me, I decided to mashe extra pieces of deliciousness into the ice cream and set it in a large round bowl. I used one round piece of baking paper on the base to prevent sticking and remember to chill the serving plate to stop the ice cream melting too fast.

  • 300g good quality vanilla icecream (I’ll always be a Blue Ribbon girl at heart)
  • Whatever would take your fancy in a Cold Rock world – I used m&ms, raw almonds and berries…some caramel topping could be fudgingly good as well!

Mash bits through slightly softened ice cream, scoop into prepared bowl or glasses and set for 3+ hours. Transfer to chilled plate, top with fresh berries and a big spoon.

Staying Lean For the Holidays & An Awesome Salad!

December 14, 2010 § 8 Comments

It’s that time of year again when gym sessions become victim to Christmas parties and healthy eating becomes victim to Christmas parties and Christmas parties become victim to Christmas parties (whatever that means!) But you know what I’m talking about?? December is the one month when we say, oh just one cocktail (when we normally don’t drink during the week), just one blini, just one mini meat-pie. But suddenly you found that ‘just one’ is happening Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, (fortunately I work Mondays) and then one day you wake up with a food hangover and roll over to see that you’re lying next to some overweight, greasy, ash-faced rager – oh wait, that’s just the mirror! This is when you remember that in the last week you have probably consumed two family meat pies, 1kg of creme fraiche and enough vodka to knock out Lindsay Lohan.

You might not want to hear this (I certainly didn’t) but it’s my duty to play the grinch.

The average slice of bacon and leek quiche is 30% fat

Each party-sized sausage roll is over 120 calories (please ignore this if you are coming to my Christmas party on Saturday where I intend to serve homemade party sized sausage rolls!)

A single spring roll has 103 calories – and let’s be honest, not that much flavour

Vegetable samosas might be moreish but at 377 calories per serve…

Just 10 potato chips is 111 calories or 30 minutes of fast walking

 

Pretty dreadful stuff huh?!!?! And then we get in an alcohol haze that creates a magnetic pull between our mouths and the chocolate fondue fountain, not to mention the caloric-density of alcohol itself (1 glass of champagne – 107 calories, 1 Cosmopolitan – 146 calories, an average 170 calories in beer…)

But I’m not suggesting you be a dieting bore! There are just a few tips to help you out, like the Elves help Santa:

Say no to the first round of hors d’oeuvres, they nearly always come around again

Check out what’s on offer first. If you would normally never order a spring roll but love your cheese then treat yourself with the latter instead of acting like a kid in a candy store and taking one of everything.

Share a dessert with someone

Have a healthy snack before heading off to these functions as chances are there won’t be any real sense of dinner so you will get confused about your state of hunger and continue to graze all night.

 

On this last point, you’ll often read suggestions about a protein rich bite before a canape party, for example snacking on some turkey or having a hard boiled egg…riiiight, sounds delicious! So yeah, if I did this i would be eating a meaty, eggy snack FOLLOWED by delicious party food! Woops! Instead, I find that a small meal, which I can sit down and enjoy, works a treat. A cup of vegetable soup for example (I like to have single serve portions in the freezer) or this yummy Barley & Roast Vegetable Salad. And if all else fails, stick your toothbrush in your bag and when you become tempted with seconds duck into the bathroom for a peppermint dessert.

Happy Festive Eating Blushers!!!

 

Barley and Roast Vegetable Salad

Serves 2

Preheat oven to 200°C. Cut 200g pumpkin into generous chunks (it’s Christmas after all, not the time of year to be stingy). Toss pumpkin with olive oil, pepper and a sprinkle of dried chilli flakes. Transfer to roasting tray with 1/4 bunch of basil and roast for 10-15 minutes. When pumpkin is 2/3 cooked, add 1 large chopped zucchini and 1 large lebanese (finger) eggplant and return to oven for 8-10 minutes, or until vegetables are cooked.

Meanwhile, bring 1 cup of stock to the boil, add 1/2 cup barley and reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes or until cooked. Drain and set aside.

Finely slice 1/4 red cabbage and 1/2 spanish onion. Steam in a saucepan with a lid, with a dash of white wine vinegar and a pinch of brown sugar. Towards the end of cooking toss in a large handful of spinach/rocket mix.

In a large bowl combine barley, cabbage mixture and roast vegetables. Drizzle with one tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (or to taste). Serve with crumbled fetta, a sprinkling of salt and pepper and freshly chopped basil and chives – or whatever Italian style herbs you may have on hand.

 

 

 


Finding the calm part one: Bruschetta

November 15, 2010 § 2 Comments

Whenever I’m stressed out or feeling a bit down there are three things that will make me perk up. One is getting outside for a walk. Two is nourishing my body with fresh produce. Three is cooking (duh!) When these things come together it’s simply a recipe for feeling great.

Sydney has been blessed with some divine weather recently so last Friday I thought to take advantage of the summery morning to check out the  Sculpture By The Sea at Tamarama and head home via Belgrave St to  finally buy a loaf of bread from Iggy’s Bakery.


 

When I say finally it’s no exaggeration, I have lived within three kilometres of Iggy’s for more than two years and have never bought so much as a bread roll! The thing is, unless I am jogging past in the morning I always forget that it’s there! So one day I took action and made myself a big note:

BUY BREAD FROM THE BAKERY TOWARDS BRONTE BEACH

(I didn’t know the name at the time!)

If you live in the Eastern Suburbs I would suggest lacing up your running shoes, sticking a $10 note in your sock and letting your nose act as GPS…you can’t miss the delicious aroma of freshly baked sourdough.

The family of bakers started off in Cambridge (Massachusetts USA) and headed Down Under to spice up the life of the local surfers (or that’s why I think they came anyway!) And thank goodness they did.

I think I shocked the boys a little when I rocked up early in the morning looking rather sweaty and very excited…a situation I made more awkward by digging around in my sock for money…

Such happy happy bakers!

A full country sourdough is ENORMOUS and only $8.50! I would recommend grabbing six friends, one loaf, a blue vein and an aged cheddar, a bottle or two of sparkling and making your way down to Bronte park for a civilised Sunday brunch. Wait a minute, that’s a great idea! I need to get on board! However, if you’re only planning on feeding one or two it might be wise to stick to a half loaf or a quarter (only $3.00).

I remain impressed with myself that I managed to make it all the way home with a freshly quartered, still warm and steaming loaf in my brown paper bag and I didn’t even take a nibble. Is that self-control or what?!

…Later that evening….

Bruschetta

The most important thing to remember with bruschetta is that it has to be simple. This means don’t mess with the recipe and buy the BEST quality ingredients you can get your hands on. Best bread. Best tomatoes. Best olive oil.

You should also grill, rather than toast, the bread and by the end you should be licking the topping from your fingers.

Indulge!

Serves one:

1 large, properly ripe roma tomato

generous sprinkling of salt

freshly milled black pepper

2 basil leaves

1 tbs extra-virgin olive oil

2 fat hand-cut slices of sourdough

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Cut the tomato into dice, about 7mm across.

Sprinkle with salt, add some pepper, tear in the basil leaves and toss well. Mix in the olive oil and leave to stand for half an hour (If you don’t do this you won’t be getting the best result).

When ready to eat, you need your bread abrustolito, which means somewhat charred (use a ridged pan, barbecue or flat cast iron pan). Brush the bread with olive oil and press onto the hot plate, take it off just before it goes black.

Spoon the mixture generously over the bread and eat warm or at room temperature.

 

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