cauliflower and roast almond soup

cauliflower and almond soup

½ head cauliflower, florets
1 leek, white, chopped
1-2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
½ tbsp butter and/or 1 tbsp oil
about 700 ml water
1 tsp vegetable stock (use a light one or less than usual, you don’t want it to over power)
1 cup blanched almonds, dry roasted
salt and pepper, to taste

Dry roast almonds in the oven for about 10 mins at about 180c or until just turning golden brown.

In a soup pot, add the chopped leek and saute with butter and/or oil.
Add cauliflower florets, potatoes, stock, almonds and water.
Simmer for about 25 mins or until cauliflower and potatoes are soft, then (carefully, if hot and transferring liquids to a blender) blend to smooth.

Portion into approx. 250 ml capacity containers and freeze ready for work lunches.
At lunchtime, reheat in the office microwave.

Thermomix:
Add chunks of leek to bowl, chop on speed 5/5 sec. Scrape down sides, add butter/oil and saute 3 mins/speed 1/100c. Add cauliflower florets, potatoes, stock, roast almonds and water.
Set to 20 mins/speed 1/100c. Check cauliflower is soft buy pressing a floret against the side of the bowl (cook for 10 more mins if needed to ensure potatoes are soft), then puree on speed 6, gradually moving to speed 9, for about 40 sec or until smooth.

almond pulp: chocolate fudge

You won’t believe this is healthy sweet treat – it’s so yummy. These chewy chocolate fudge balls are a great use of left over almond pulp.

healthy fudge balls

2 cups almond pulp (leftover from making milk)
1/2 cup cashews
1 cup dates (fresh), pitted
4 tbsp cocoa powder
3 tbsp shredded coconut
2 tbsp honey
pinch salt (omit if you are using salted cashews)
1/2 tbsp coconut oil

Place cashews, almond pulp, dates, cocoa, salt, coconut and coconut oil in your food processor to combine. Thermomix: speed 8/20 sec. The texture will be like a moist, reasonably fine crumble.
Add honey and process to combine until the mixture sticks together turning a dark chocolatey brown. Stop processing before it gets too fine and buttery. Thermomix: speed 2/15 sec scrape down and speed 2/15 sec. 
Line a freezer-proof small dish or baking pan with baking paper.
Press the mixture into dish with a spatula then freeze overnight.
Cut the block into small treat sized slices or roll into fudge balls.
Store in a ziplock freezer bag  and eat without defrosting.

nut fudge

scallop, apple and radish salad

scallop salad

This is a lovely little starter to a candlelight night dinner in with your loveliest friend. It’s light and fresh and oh so tasty. He’ll think you’re a closet kitchen dynamo… as opposed to a kitchen closet dynamo which I’m sure would be a hand vacuum.

12 scallops (roe removed if you prefer)
2 tbsp butter
1 green apple, sliced very thinly (or julienned as pictured)
2 tbsp lemon juice (squeeze the lemon juice on the sliced apple to keep it looking fresh and stop it browning)
2-4 radishes, julienned (if not serving immediately, place in an ice bath to keep crisp)
4 chives, snipped or torn
chive flowers (if you happen to have them in your kitchen garden)

dressing:
3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

Mix the dressing ingredients in a small bowl.
Prepare the julienned apple and radishes.
In a hot pan, fry the scallops in butter. Scallops don’t take long to cook – about 4 minutes each side.
Arrange the apple and radish on small plates, top with scallops, chives and a drizzle of dressing.

wild rice with pecan and orange

wild rice with chicken

A long time favorite in our house is this wild rice side dish. We love that its a little bit spicy, a little bit nutty, a little bit fruity and a little bit crunchy. More recently I’ve learnt that wild rice is also high in fibre, high in protein and a good source of B vitamins. Double whammy!

1 cup wild rice, cooked
1 cup brown rice, cooked
2 tablespoons orange zest
½ orange, juiced
½ teaspoon ground cloves
2 tbsp olive oil
pinch salt
½ cup currants/raisins
½ cup pecans, coarsely chopped
4 tablespoons fresh coriander (or parsley), finely chopped

Combine orange rind, orange juice, clove, salt and olive oil in a large mixing bowl to make the dressing.
When the rice is cooked, add remaining ingredients (minus the pecans) to the bowl of dressing and gently combine to dress.
Top with pecans and serve as a side dish.

wild rice salad

Some ideas to serve with this walk on the wild rice side include:
– tofu steak, marinated in soy, lemon zest and garlic, then grilled
– chicken, marinated in lemon juice, thyme, pepper and olive oil, then grilled*
– white fish, grilled or poached with lemon wedges
– duck breast a l’orange and steamed green beans

*Serve with 1 tbsp soy mayo, 2 tbsp water, 1 tbsp lemon juice, whisked to combine and used to drizzled over the plate as chicken breast tends to be a bit drier.

roasted tomato and red lentil soup

roast tomato soup detail

I like to call this Roasted Red Soup. For obvious reasons.

½ cup red lentils, cooked in 3 cups water
1 tsp vegetable stock powder
about a litre of water, boiled in the kettle

In a roasting tray:
roma tomatoes, quartered
1 red onion, quartered
1 red capsicum, chopped coarsely
olive oil, just a nice slosh
1 tsp sugar
salt and pepper

Essentially all that needs to happen here is that you add cooked lentils to roasted tomatoes and capsicum in a pot with some stock, boil and blend, but a more detailed description can be seen below:

Toss the tomatoes, capsicum, onion with oil, sugar, salt and pepper in a baking tray and bake at 160c for about 30 mins. Your aiming for the tomatoes to be soft, and slight darkening on the edges of the capsicum.

Meanwhile, in the soup pot, cook 1 cup red lentils in 3 cups of water, simmer for about 15 mins. Drain out the water from the lentils in a colander (use fresh water from the kettle for the soup but don’t bother washing the pot between).

By now, your tomatoes are looking nicely roasted by not dried out. Add the roasted tomatoes, capsicum and onion to the soup pot with the drained lentils. Add any juices that are in the roasting tray (you should find it quite wet).

Add the boiled water and stock. Simmer for 10 minutes then blend to smooth.

Note: If you feel motivated to do it, peeling the tomatoes after roasting (and leaving them to cool for a bit) will make a nicer textured soup.

Served here with a dollop of greek yoghurt and parsley leaf (crusty bread not pictured).

roast tomato lentil soup

colourful caesar salad

Caesar salad is one of those things that usually sounds better when read off the menu than when served. Too often I’ve received a bowl of dressing with a smattering of dried-up parmesan shards, fat-crusted bacon bits recycled from the breakfast plates of yesterday morning, and croutons that leave an oil slick on my conscience. Well I say, no more!

cos lettuce, chopped coarsely
bbq chicken, meat removed and chopped coarsely
avocado, chunks
2-4 eggs, boiled (or poached), soft to hard depending on preference, quartered
100g prosciutto, grilled to just crispy on a tray lined with baking paper, then crumbled/torn
2 slices toast, cubed
parmesan, shaved
chive flowers (or just chopped chives)

dressing:
½ lemon, juiced
2 tbsp mayonnaise (I used soy mayonnaise)
a dash of water

Add the salad ingredients to a big bowl in the order listed.
Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small jug to be added as desired.
Serves 4

colourful caesar salad

squid pumpkin popcorn pomegranate salad

This salad is a rough imitation of a dish served at Perotta’s at the Gallery in Cairns, Northern Queensland. If you happen be in the area, go and try the real thing. But, if like me, you can only dream of this taste sensation, you can always make my version. Which is not too shabby.salt and chilli squid salad

Rocket leaves, a handful per person
Popcorn, popped (yes, popcorn, in salad, for dinner!), a handful per person
¼ pumpkin, cubed and roasted at 180c for about 20 mins/until golden
½ pomegranate, seeded

Dressing:
1 lime, juiced
½ – 1 tsp palm sugar
1 tsp caster sugar
¼ tsp salt
1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp peanut oil

Squid:
2 – 4 squid tubes, cut into 2cm squares (about one per person is a good gauge)
⅓ cup rice flour
2 tbsp salt
1 – 2 tbsp chilli flakes
oil for frying

Make the dressing by mixing to combine. Adjust the acid vs sweet to your liking.
Combine the flour, salt and chilli flakes in a bowl or bag to make the squid dusting flour. Toss the squid pieces in the flour mix to coat then fry them in oil. I used about half a cup of oil in a fry pan to shallow fry them, turning them over halfway through. They only need about 2 minutes in the hot oil. Set aside on paper towel once golden.
Toss the rocket leaves with some dressing to coat.
Either toss the remaining salad ingredients (minus the popcorn as you don’t want it soggy) with the rocket and dressing, OR, plate the items individually and sprinkle some dressing over at the end. (I do the latter because the pumpkin can fall apart easily)
Top with squid and some extra pomegranate seeds.

salt and chilli squid

deconstructing the 70’s: the prawn cocktail

Some nights you just want a light dinner – a little bit of protein and a lot of fresh taste. And you want it in 5 minutes from now. Enter the prawn cocktail – but not all fiddle-fussy like you know it. This is the prawn cocktail 2010’s style. Deconstructed. Chunky. Real.

prawn cocktail dinner

On each plate, place:
A wedge of lettuce (either iceberg or ½ a baby cos)
Avocado, sliced chunky
Prawns, peeled, with tails on
a sprinkle of chives

Dressing*:
2 tbsp whole egg mayonnaise
½ lemon, juiced
pinch of caster sugar

Whisk dressing to combine and drizzle over the above.

* For a more traditional dressing, add ½ tbsp tomato sauce.

fattoush inspired salad with spiced fish kebabs

Fattoush is a lovely fresh Arabic salad made with toasted pita bread, salad and vegetables – which makes a colourful meal with great crunch! My version makes for a quick, easy and healthy weeknight dinner, with or without the bread.

fattoush and fish kebab salad1 lebanese cucumber, peeled, chopped
1 celery stick, chopped
punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
1 large fennel bulb ‘leaf’, thinly sliced
5 small radishes, thinly sliced
1 yellow (or red) capsicum, diced
½ red onion, thinly sliced
bunch mint, chopped
½ lemon, juiced
olive oil, a decent dash
salt, pinch
sumac, pinch or 2

1 salmon fillet, cubed
1 ling fillet, cubed (Ling is a firm white fish)
spice mix: smokey paprika, chilli, garlic, salt and pepper
olive oil, drizzle
skewers

sides:
greek yoghurt, a good dollop
lebanese flat bread, grilled to crisp, sprinkled with zaatar and olive oil

method salad:
Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl an give it a mix.

method fish kebab:
Preheat the oven to 200c
Thread alternate pieces of white fish cubes with salmon cubes onto a skewer.
Combine the spices or use a prepared mix (for example, Harissa, or just use smoked paprika) and sprinkle over the skewers.
On a baking tray lined with a sheet of baking paper (to save some elbow grease later), place the skewers and drizzle with some olive oil.
Bake for 10 mins or until the fish is cooked and the top looks golden.

Tip: If you prefer your salmon towards medium-rare, make the salmon cubes a bit bigger than the ling cubes. 

homemade toasted muesli

muesli raspberries detailI don’t like a sweet muesli, I’d rather add fresh fruit than include dried. So here’s a very simple and healthy toasted muesli recipe that you can use as is, or jazz up with your favourite flavours. This will make a big batch of toasted muesli. Keep it in an airtight container for up to a month (some say 2 months but ours is eaten before that).

1 kg rolled or quick oats
500 g shredded coconut
500 g almonds (I like to use a combination of slivered and whole)
200 g sunflower seeds

Set the oven to 170c
Divide the above over 2 deep baking dishes and give it a mix.
Bake for 15 mins then stir (you’ll notice that the stuff on top and edges is going golden but the bottom isn’t, so mix it up every few mins as outlined)
Bake for 10 mins then stir.
Bake for 5 mins then stir.
Bake for 5 mins more, stir… essentially I’m saying, keep an eye on it. Once it starts toasting it seems to brown quickly.
Remove from the oven. At this point it should all be a light golden brown.
Leave it to cool completely before you put it in an airtight container.

I like my toasted muesli with plain yoghurt and fresh or stewed fruit.

Optional additions: pepitas/pumpkin seeds, nuts (walnut, macadamia, hazelnut, brazil), dried fruits (apricot, sultana, papaya, apple), bran, honey (if you use honey I believe you need to add some oil as a carrying agent… I just add honey in the bowl).

golden toasted muesli