A good friend of mine rang me a few months back in a dinner-time-funk. She didn’t know what to cook for dinner for her hungry husband and 3 girls and she came to me (flattered much? yes, I was flattered).
She wanted to know if I had any recipes on my blog for dishes using lentils or chickpeas, and ashamedly I had to say that no I didn’t.
And I eat A LOT of lentils and chickpeas. Oh the embarrassment!
I’m not strictly vegetarian, but I believe that for both our health, and the sake of the environment, that we should only really be eating meat one or two times per week. This is why I eat lots of lentils and chickpeas. And because I like them.
So, to finally help my friend out with a lentil recipe, I am posting one today that I recently made up for a wintery afternoon on the couch. Its comforting and tasty, and in wonderful contradiction to what I just said about meat consumption, it contains the oh-so-wonderful chorizo sausage.
It also utilises fresh garden greens in silverbeet, which is something I have growing in my garden all year round, and if you don’t want to use dried lentils, canned are fine, but just reduce the cooking time.
Lentil, Chorizo and Silverbeet Stew.
2 cups of puy lentils, rinsed.
1 chorizo sausage, sliced
2 stalks celery finely sliced
1 onion diced
2 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
5-6 leaves of washed silverbeet, shredded.
3 cups of veggie stock
Grab a saucepan and add your lentils and veggie stock and simmer on low for 20 minutes til lentils are tender but not mushy.
While this is happening, grab a fry pan and add a good lug of olive oil. Gently sautee your onion, bay leaf and celery, then add your garlic and chorizo sausage.
Once your lentils are cooked add them to your pan with the chorizo and onion mix. Toss through your shredded silverbeet til nicely wilted and season with freshly cracked pepper.
Serve in bowls as a main meal with crusty bread or as a side dish.
One of the things I am most passionate about is eating in season. In fact, it is the main reason I started this little blog.
For those that haven’t yet grasped the best things about eating in season, here is why it rocks!
Look, I’m no economist, but I understand the forces of supply and demand. When something is in abundance, the prices for said product come down. Hence why the cost of nectarines in summer can go as little as $1 a kilo, but when they are not in season, they can’t really be found, and when they can they have been kept in cold storage or imported from somewhere strange and are $12 a kilo! Eating with the seasons will slash your grocery or market shopping costs. Try it one week and see.
When a fruit or vegetable hasn’t had to travel thousands and thousands of miles to reach your plate, it is bound to be fresher. To me, this is the most important thing about eating seasonally and eating as locally as possible. Also, it is just crazy to import asparagus from Mexico! You don’t need to eat asparagus all year round people! It’s not that good of a vegetable (sorry Asparagus, I love you but you’re no tomato)
It Makes You More Creative in the Kitchen
After my most recent trip to my local produce swap, I had on my kitchen table to cook with: a zucchini, a spaghetti squash and some green tomatoes. I could have easily gone to the shops to buy whatever the hell I wanted, but wheres the challenge in that? Cue, weeknight meals of fried green tomatoes with salad, another weeknight meal of spaghetti squash with pasta sauce. It is making me try different things and that is a great thing! No boring steak and three veg in our house.
It Makes You Appreciate Your Food
You know that feeling of excitement when mango season rolls around again and you start to fantasise about greedily gobbling one up over the kitchen sink while the sweet juice runs down your arms? Well imagine experiencing that with all your other seasonal fruit and veg? Imagine doing that with the first season of summer tomatoes. Eating in season means eating food when its at its best. And that tastes amazing and makes you appreciate your food even more. Now thats living.
It Helps You Connect with the Seasons
When I lived in the city, I never really noticed the seasons. Of course I knew autumn was beautiful and meant the falling of leaves, but other than that, the seasons didn’t mean a lot to me. Now I know that November means the planting of tomatoes, the start of spring is the harvesting of broad beans and peas, and I know what is in season when. The best way to connect with the seasons is to eat seasonally. Have you too started a little veggie patch and discovered this?
It’s good for the Environment
Last but not certainly not least, eating seasonally is good for the environment. You are working with nature instead of against it, and as I said earlier, it means your food hasn’t travelled thousands of miles on a plane to reach your plate. The planet will thank you for it!
So what are your top reasons for eating in-season? Tell me in the comments below.
P.s If you have liked this post then please share it on social media with your friends and family! I will be running a giveaway of another cookbook very soon so the more shares means the more giveaway love to go around.
Since I moved to Bacchus Marsh almost three years ago, I went from knowing no one, to meeting lots of really lovely new people.
There’s Nat, my genius yoga teacher, who when we have time, we catch up for coffee and a chat. I have no idea where I would be both physically and emotionally if she hadn’t taken the leap of faith to open a yoga studio in Bacchus Marsh. Then there are all the fab people who go to the Bacchus Marsh produce swap once a month and teach me so much about growing veg, and finally theres Ange, the eccentric owner of Little Lucky cafe who this week, when I went in for my morning coffee, gave me a big bag of pears from the tree in her garden.
I feel really lucky to live here. The town certainly is not perfect, but it is a town that has managed to grow with new estates (as every outer area of Melbourne now is) and still retain its country charm and community atmosphere. If you’re from Victoria and have never taken the drive down the Avenue of Honour into my fair town then I highly recommend it.
I am so passionate about throwing some light on this little town that I have decided to do a new series of posts on great food to eat in the Moorabool shire. Stay tuned for these eating tips over the coming months.
But in the meantime I have spent this rainy Anzac Day looking at my big bag of pears from Ange and wondering what to do with them.
To me, rainy weather = cake and cups of tea under blankets on the couch, so I decided to turn these pears into a comforting dessert to share with my bloke while catching up on new episodes of Downton Abbey. Nana much?
Upside down Pear and Hazelnut Cake
I have been trying many recipes for upside down cakes of late and so far I think this version from The Guardian is the best. I have substituted the almond meal for hazelnut meal in this version and added chopped hazelnuts on top. Give it a try and let me know what you think.
175g butter at room temperature
200g soft brown sugar, plus 2 tbsp
4 pears peeled, core removed and quartered
1 tsp vanilla essence
3 eggs, separated
125g self-raising flour
100g ground hazelnuts
1 tsp baking powder
Handful of roughly chopped hazelnuts
1 Preheat the oven to 180C. In a small pan, melt 50g of the butter and mix with 2 tbsp of the soft brown sugar.
2 Line a 22cm cake tin with baking parchment. Pour the butter mix into the base of the tin and make sure it is well-covered.
3 Arrange the pears in the bottom of the tin in a circular shape working your way into the centre. Sprinkle your chopped nuts in between the gaps in pear. Cream together the rest of the soft butter with the remaining sugar and vanilla essence until pale and fluffy. Separate the eggs, set the whites to one side and add the yolks one at a time to the creamed mix, beating well after each addition.
4 In a bowl, sift the flour into the remaining dry ingredients. Add this to the wet mix a third at a time, folding through with a little milk at each addition. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites just until they are soft peaks. Add a third of the whites to the cake mix, stirring through, before tipping in the rest and folding in gently. The cake mix should fall off a spoon easily.
5 Spoon the mix over the pears and bake for 50 minutes, or until the top is firm to the touch or an inserted knife comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave for about 10 minutes before turning out on to a plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.
This is the first summer that I have tried my luck at growing corn. And I’m thrilled to announce that it has gone pretty well. I put them in garden roughly 12 weeks ago and now they are ready.
And you know what? Its kinda hard to tell when corn is ready so I’m going to give you some hints that I learned from a local corn grower who came to our community produce swap recently. He came with kilos and kilos of his organic, homegrown corn to share with us so I knew I was dealing with a real cornpert (corn expert).
At first I thought that if the hairs on my corn had gone brown and dry and that the ear of corn was starting to lean away from the main plant then that meant it was ready. Unfortunately, based on this method I picked my first ear two weeks ago and greedily ripped it open to see a ear full of white kernels. Totes not fit for eating. Totes not ready.
So, on top of these above hints, I would suggest that you give your corn a good feel up. Thats right, feel the top of your ear of corn, and if it feels square shaped at the top, rather than pointed, chances are its ready. You can also peel back the top of the skin and have a peek if you must, and when you do this, stick a finger nail into a kernel and if the liquid comes out milky-white, she’s good to go. If she’s not ready when you do this, twist the skin of the corn tightly and leave it for a few more days. I haven’t had any problems with ants or bugs getting to them when this has happened either.
And what to make with this bounty of summer corn I hear you ask? Well, you could make my Zucchini and Corn fritters from last summers blogging efforts, or why not try your hand at the American classic, corn succotash. Its delish.
I ate corn succotash for the first time on my trip to the USA last year. A friend of ours in New York said he was taking us to Red Rooster for dinner and I was so disappointed! If I wanted crappy Australian take-away I would have never got on that 15 hour plane trip. Turns out Red Rooster is a fabulous restaurant in Harlem and I had the best blackened catfish, succotash and fried okra of my life there. I’ll never forget it. This is based on the Harlem restaurant’s version.
3 ears of corn, kernels removed
1/2 cup olive oil
1 red capsicum
1 cup of fresh or frozen broad beans
1 brown onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
1/2 fresh or pickled jalapeño pepper, finely diced
1/2 cup cream
Start by boiling the corn kernels in a saucepan of salted water for ten minutes. Once cooked, remove kernels from water with a slotted spoon and set aside. Place broad beans in water and boil for 5 minutes. Once boiled remove grey skins to reveal the bright green broad bean.
Turn on your gas hob and grab a pair of metal tongs. Place whole capsicum on gas hob and turn until the skin is completely blackened. Once blackened place in a bowl, cover with cling wrap and leave to sit for 5 minutes until the skins can easily be removed. Dice capsicum and set aside.
Grab a fry plan and fry onion and garlic until translucent in your olive oil. Add your corn and sauté all together for roughly 15 minutes til corn is soft. Add broad beans, jalapeños, capsicum and stir. Add cream towards the end and let it absorb slightly. Season generously and serve on its own or with a yummy pepper steak for dinner like I did.
Do you grow corn? What do you make with it? Let me know in the comments below. Harvesting corn and a delicious recipe for corn succotash
Well its almost the end of the year which means tomorrow I find the last ounce of my energy for hitting what is for some, a dreaded night of the year:
The Work Christmas Party.
I’m quite looking forward to it though. We will turn our work car park into a mini festival space complete with marquees, fairy lights and music, and we will gorge ourself on food and booze and generally be merry.
It also marks the end of a tough year for me both professionally and personally, so I’m more than ready to say sayonara to 2014 with a bit of a shindig!
And my boss recently gave me a big bag of oranges from her tree so I thought I would use them to make a cake to take to the party tomorrow.
Eating this cake with a glass of bubbly in hand under twinkly fairy lights on a balmy summer evening…can you imagine anything better?
Orange and Semolina Cake with Cardamon Syrup
This is my take on a Neil Perry Recipe. Its lovely the way it is but I like the combination of orange and cardamon so couldn’t resist adding cardamon to the syrup
115g castor sugar
65ml olive or vegetable oil
finely grated zest of 1 orange
40ml orange flower water (or just orange juice of you don’t have any)
225g fine semolina
3 tsp baking powder
115g ground almonds
For orange syrup
285g castor sugar
4 pieces of orange peel
juice of 1 orange
juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp orange flower water
6 cardamon pods crushed in a mortar and pestle
To make the syrup, put the castor sugar, water, cardamon and orange peel in a small saucepan. Set over a low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Turn up the heat and allow it to bubble for 15 minutes to make a sticky syrup. Strain syrup over a jug and set aside. Add the juices and orange flower water. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 190ºC and line a 20cm x 30cm rectangular baking tin with baking paper.
To make the cake, whisk the sugar, oil and orange zest together in an electric mixer. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking after each, until thick and foamy. Mix in the milk and orange flower water.
Mix together the semolina and baking powder. Beat into the cake mixture, then add the ground almonds. Pour into the baking tin, making sure mixture is level.
Place tin in the centre of the oven and bake for 20 minutes, until it is golden and just cooked.
Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes. Using a skewer, prick holes in the top and slowly pour over 1 1/2 cups of syrup. When cool, slice and serve with remaining syrup.
When I first got into this blogging business I started to read up on tips and tricks from food bloggers I admired or who had seemed to reach a level of following and success I could only hope for.
Ive always been into taking photos of my food, mainly because I get so damn excited when a cake comes out perfect, or an asian noodle stir fry looks so sexy, that well, I could eat it! In fact, part of the reason I started this blog is because my friends were getting sick of seeing my food pics on my personal Facebook page.
Then one day I stumbled across an article on how to take better food photos, and decided to have a little lookie. Some good tips there about lighting etc, but then I read:
“You should never style and take photos of your food when you’re hungry because you will rush it and not get a perfect shot”
And I was like “huh?!”.
I cook because I am hungry or because its a meal time for me and my partner. I’m usually quite peckish at this point because if I wasn’t then well, I wouldn’t be cooking.
And I get it, I do. The food industry is about perfectly styled food, and unfortunately this can mean making food when no one is hungry and no one is probably going to eat it.
But this isn’t for me. I cook because I love to eat, and I hate waste so I will never cook a dish for a blog post if I’m not about to eat it ASAP.
So for readers of this blog, let me tell you what my food styling consists of:
– A nice plate or chopping board to serve it off
– Good light
Then I hoe in.
Lila at Mama Nourish wrote on this topic recently in her post “The Un-Propped Life” and said it much better than I probably have.
That is, that it is the food and the way that food nourishes you and your family that is most important to her.
It’s the same for me.
Sure backdrops are pretty, and ice cream and spices and whatever else splashed all over a bench look cool, but what is most important to me is that I encourage people to think about where their food comes, get them interested in eating seasonal produce, and even better, encourage one family somewhere to rip up a bit of their lawn and plant a small veggie patch instead.
So, Mama Nourish and I got talking and decided to come up with a fun, little backlash to the over-styled food we see on Pinterest and Instagram every day that makes us think “why doesn’t my food look like this?!” with our hashtag #toohungrytostyle
If you would like to play along we’d love to have you!
What do you think about the way everything on the internet now is over-styled? From pretty houses and food to even children, are you yearning for a little less styling and a little more real? If so I’d love to hear from you.
After another too-long hiatus from this blog I am back (baby!) with a new post about my love for the broad bean and a recipe for a very simple broad bean bruschetta.
And I am sorry for the lack of posting lately. I’ve been going through some internal blog turmoil along the lines of “oh no one reads this blog anyway, and you’ve got too much on at the moment, maybe its time to give it up” and then “C’mon Emma, you love this stuff, you love being part of the blog community so get off your bum and get to it”.
So here I am with a story about how back in June I got some dried broad beans and simply pushed them into the soil. Thats how easy this growing veg caper is. Three and a bit months later they were going gang busters, reaching for the heavens and giving me these meaty little beans that I had never tried until I started veg growing.
Put simply, they’re a great winter crop and one you shouldn’t go without. They’re very versatile in the kitchen and they are good for your garden too.
Once picked you can break down the plants and dig them into the soil for extra nitrogen, and this then makes them the perfect spot in your garden to grow your summer tomatoes. How good is nature?!
And you know those nights when you get home after a long day at work and your partner is out doing god-knows-what and its looking like a romantic dinner for one on the couch? Well this broad bean bruschetta recipe is super quick and will hit the spot.
Broad Bean Bruschetta with Cumin, Preserved Lemon and Goats Cheese
2-3 slices (depending how hungry you are) of good quality sour dough or casalinga bread
2 cups of shelled broad beans
1sp of ground cumin
1 piece preserved lemon, finely sliced
1/2 garlic clove finely sliced
Freshly ground salt and pepper
Good quality goats cheese to serve
Boil your broad beans in lightly salted water for approx 5 mins. Drain and tip into a food processor.
Add cumin, preserved lemon, garlic and cumin to food processor with a splash of olive oil. Blitz until broad beans are broken up but don’t blitz too much as you don’t want mush/baby food for dinner
Grab a griddle pan and toast your bread slices until chargrilled or lightly toasted. Top with your broad bean mixture and finish off with goats cheese and a very light drizzle of olive oil.
Serve with a nice glass of riesling and your favourite trashy tv show because you’re home alone and can do what you like.
So whats the verdict on bloggers writing posts when they’re dead tired and feel like they have nothing to say except:
Is that bad? Do you even want to keep reading?
The only reason I think you should is because this recipe is both comforting and has a shit-load of broccoli in it so must also be healthy.
And the reason I’m dead tired? Oh the usual: busy weekend with family visiting from New Zealand, work is working the hell out of me and now I’ve come down with the dreaded lurgy.
Hence broccoli. Broccoli will make it aaaaalll better.
I tried growing a different type in the garden this winter and I’m really happy I did. Purple Sprouting broccoli is gorgeous, I haven’t had the same problem with it bolting to seed early like I did with other varieties last year, and again, the purpleness is pretty. I’m always going on about pretty veg it seems, but I DON’T CARE.
So these were planted out from seedlings about, hmmm, maybe 12 weeks ago, and true to form it has gone gang busters and is now ready to eat. And with sprouting broccoli varieties if you pick it as it grows, more will come back. Good times.
So on the weekend I wanted pasta (who am I kidding, I want pasta every day) and so I cut some broccoli outta the garden, and combined with some pancetta I had in the fridge, it made a healthy/naughty* pasta dish. Here’s the recipe:
Broccoli ‘Carbonara’ with Pancetta and Almond
1 head of broccoli cut into small florets
4-6 slices of pancetta finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 egg yolks
approx 1/2 cup grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
splosh of cream (this is where I now go into ‘unauthentic carbonara’ territory)
1 packet of dried fettuccine pasta
Handful of slivered almonds or other tasty nut
Get a big old pot of water on the stove and once boiling, add a couple of teaspoons of salt and drop your broccoli florets in. Allow to cook for two minutes only and then quickly remove from water with a slotted spoon and drain. Set aside.
In the same water you cooked your broccoli, add your pasta and cook until al dente. Make sure with fettuccine you get some tongs and separate the pasta as soon as it goes in the water as you don’t want the strands to stick together. This will not be good for ANYBODY.
In a fry pan saute your pancetta til crispy then add broccoli and ‘stir-fry’ for one minute. Add garlic and give it another minute. Turn off and set aside.
In a small bowl, mix together your egg yolks, cream and cheese. Add cracked pepper at this stage if you like.
Once the pasta is cooked, drain it and reserve 50ml of the cooking water. Add to your pan with broccoli and pancetta and then stir through your yolk/cheese/cream mixture. Check for seasoning.
In a small fry pan toast a handful of slivered almonds or any nuts you have. Pine nuts would also work.
* healthy/naughty is totally a thing and usually involves me adding cream to something that was previously very healthy
I have had such a long hiatus from the blog it feels both weird and good to be writing this post today. But ultimately I’m back in the swing of spending my weekends in the garden and in the kitchen cooking, so I thought it was about time to jump back on the writing horse too.
You see its quite a horrible and wretched story as to why I havent done a post in almost 6 weeks. I’ve been travelling around the States (woe is me!) and then when I got back to work a week ago, things were so crazy I haven’t really had time to do cooking and blogging.
So its back into it today with a post about eating nettles (if you have them growing in your backyard or if you know a place where they grow wild) and then what to make with them.
Nettles are so great. Well, after you’ve cooked them that is. And they’re stupidly good for you.
Because they really do sting pre-cooking, its INCREDIBLY important to wear gloves when picking them (one time I went to the back clothes line to hang some washing out and brushed my bare ankle across a patch of stinging nettles and boy was it stingy and itchy! Yowch).
As I said, nettles are so good for you and have so many uses. This isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing website but if you want to learn more about nettles I suggest you go here. There’s also a link to a permaculture discussion group that suggests some other nettle recipes if you don’t fancy making the recipe I’ve shared below.
This is a delicious nettle and cheese pie. As nettle can be used as a substitute for spinach this greek style pie works perfectly.
You can also substitute the nettle for silverbeet or kale as well.
400g ricotta cheese (the type that has been strained through a basket and is crumbly)
150g fetta cheese
3 spring onions finely chopped
1 egg, whisked
grated rind of one lemon
1 clove garlic, crushed
handful of finely chopped parsley
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
approx 500g of fresh nettles washed and blanched in hot water for 1 minute, then finely chopped.
1 375g packet of filo pastry
2 tbls butter, melted
1 tbl roughly of sesame seeds
Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees celcius.
To start with, tip your ricotta cheese into a big bowl and add crumbled fetta cheese.
Add all the other ingredients except nettles, pastry, butter and sesame seeds and use your hands to combine.
Once nettles have been washed and blanched you can chop them up to add to your cheese mixture. Let them cool down a little first, and make sure you squeeze the hell out of them before you add them to cheese mix to get rid of excess water. Stir to combine.
Having your melted butter and a pastry brush ready, open up your packet of filo pastry and on a tray lined with baking paper, layer pastry, brushing with butter every second layer. One finished layering, fill your pastry with cheese mix and them fold over sides to create a rustic looking pie. Brush pastry all over again with butter and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Put in pre-heated oven and bake for approx 30 minutes or until golden brown.
Serve with a simple tomato and cucumber salad for lunch and dinner.
Did you know that before I started going to my local community produce swap that I had never tasted a feijoa before?
That’s bloody outrageous I say.
I don’t know where I’d be without my local community produce swap. Well, that’s a lie. I know I would be overrun with lemons in winter, zucchini in summer, and chicken eggs almost all year round. Tragic.
I also know I would have been without new friends to say hello to down the street when I first moved here and I wouldn’t know a great group of people who share their skills and knowledge about organic gardening with me. Even more tragic.
So I thought I’d do a post today about starting a community produce swap for your fair town/suburb/city in case you don’t have one and like the sound of what its all about.
And I’ve done a quick interview with Sarah, the lovely lady who started the Bacchus Marsh Produce Swap almost 3 years ago. Read on to find out how she went about starting it, pitfalls along the way and what we swap and learn from each other!
Why did you think that Bacchus Marsh needed a produce swap?
Well I don’t know about Bacchus Marsh but I needed a produce swap! I was overrun with zucchini’s one summer and no one in my family liked them! I tried giving them to my neighbours and then they got sick of eating them too. I thought there must be other people out there in the same situation as me so I decided to start one up.
And how did you get it off the ground?
I started the ball rolling by going to a local meeting called ‘community unlimited’ at the fire station one day. I had my idea and wanted to present it to them. There were great people at that meeting who really supported my idea and it kinda went from there.
Then the first swap actually happened at a community event called ‘That’s Not Art’ in a local park.They added my produce swap to their flyers in the lead up to the event and I just went down with some of my things to swap and waited to see what happened. 5 people came to the first swap and more people put their name on the mailing list and it just went from there.
I have also done all the normal things too like promote it on social media, in local newspapers and made flyers to put around local businesses.
How does it work?
Its pretty simple really. Everyone who has excess produce comes to the same spot on the same day and takes home someone else’s produce. We used to meet out the front of a local cafe who was very supportive of the idea, but now we meet at a local community art garden.
We don’t assign a value to anything, we just all put what we have on the table and then take home someone else’s stuff at the end of the one hour swap. There’s no bartering, no haggling. Its very friendly, very easy and it works.
What do you swap?
Just about everything! Obviously we swap homegrown fruit and veg. But then there’s chicken, duck and quail eggs. Lots of herbs. Compost and worm castings, coffee grinds, egg boxes, seedlings etc. Anything that would be of use to an organic gardener is welcome to be put on the table.
Have there been any issues along the way?
To start with it looked like insurance was going to be an issue but I have had many supportive groups (like the Moorabool Environment Group) lend me their insurance when the swap has been held at public events.
But as long as you set up your swap the right way this shouldn’t be an issue.
In order to be able to swap jams, honey and preserves and not worry about food handling or labeling laws, no money can change hands. So as long as your swap is set up in a way that means you are giving something away as a gift you are safe. So we donate or “gift” our produce to the table, we do not sell it for cash or barter for something else and then we don’t need to worry about these kinds of things.
So that’s it folks! A little story about our humble little community produce swap to get you a little bit excited about swapping something (anything!) of what you’re growing with your community. We also donate any excess produce (as sometimes happens) to our local neighbourhood house who provide food to those in need.
It’s not hard but very rewarding! Are you involved in a produce swap? Maybe you do it online via Ripe Near Me or now you’ve read this you want to start one for yourself?
In case you didn’t know, its winter here in Australia, and where I live down south it has been FREEZING of late. Like, it has been snowing only 20 minutes from where I live. Yikes.
Thank heavens I am skipping off to spend almost 4 weeks in the sunny US of A in one weeks time. Boasting officially over*
Also, thank heavens for kale.
Kale is sooooo good for you! I’m convinced it helps keep the winter lurgies away. And it grows so well in the garden I can cut some off when I need it, then add it to just about anything I want.
Kale is cool like that. Kale doesn’t mind at all.
So today I have been craving dumplings, and had some mushrooms in the fridge I wanted to use, and so I decided to give making vegetarian dumplings a crack.
And there’s this dumpling place in Melbourne I used to go to when I was a poor student and they made the best vegetarian dumplings. So much so that this meat-eater chose them over the meat ones almost every time.
So with those in mind I made up this recipe for veggie dumplings using kale and THEY WORKED! They actually taste similar to the ones I remember from years ago.
*may not have actually finished boasting about my trip to the States
Emma’s Kale, Mushroom and Tofu Dumplings
1 bunch of kale, washed and stalks trimmed, then finely sliced
3 spring onions finely sliced
approx 6-8 mushrooms finely chopped into roughly 1/2cm squares
fresh tofu (I used Blue Lotus brand) finely chopped into small squares, small size squares
1 cm knob of ginger finely grated
2 cloves garlic crushed
1 tbl soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
finely diced chilli, chinese black vinegar and soy sauce to serve
Put your chopped up mushrooms and kale together in a bowl and toss to combine. Heat a large fry pan with a little bit of oil (I used peanut) and add mushrooms and tofu. Stir til they start to wilt and then add your soy sauce and sesame oil. Cook for another minute and then remove from heat and tip back into bowl.
Add your grated ginger and crushed garlic to bowl along with spring onions and tofu. Mix to combine.
Grab a small bowl and half fill with cold water. Seat aside.
Grab your dumpling skins and with a dessert spoon, fill your dumpling skins with roughly 1 dessert spoon of mixture. Dip your finger in cold water and then run around the edge of one side of your dumpling skins. Press together to seal (the use of the water kinda glues the dry side and the wet side together). Make sure there are no gaps, especially if you plan on boiling them rather than steaming them!
Grab a saucepan and a chinese bamboo steamer. Heat some water in your saucepan and place steamer on top.
Steam dumplings for ten minutes and then serve with your fav chinese condiments.
And if you’re anything like me, you don’t like gardening in gale force winds and spit-in-your-face rain, and winter gardening in general is just a bit uninspiring.
Everything takes twice as long than in summer to grow, and the bugs are just as fervent in winter as in summer.
Except! I love winter veggies. I love broccoli and broad beans, and I think that kale and silverbeet are the bomb. Winter veg seem to be the veg that is the healthiest for you, and you can make some damn hearty dishes out of them.
So in my winter garden right now are: lettuce, broad beans, silverbeet, kale, broccolli, coriander, dill, parsley, lemons and CAULIFLOWER.
And hello-boys one cauliflower is ready to eat! Yay!
Now I’m going to say something bold here: cauliflower is not worth its weight unless you get some colour on it. Yes. Get it brown, get it crispy with little burned bits and you’re in for a real treat. And thats how I cooked it this weekend, to put with my version of Ottolenghi’s freekah pilaf for a comforting saturday afternoon lunch in front of the box.
Roast Cauliflower Freekah Pilaf with Pomegranate and Soft Herbs
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 tbls butter
1 tbls olive oil
1 cup freekah
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp allspice
1 1/4 cup good quality vegetable stock, reduced (I used homemade)
1 whole cauliflower cut into florets
1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley
handful fresh pomegranate seeds
salt and pepper
half a lemon
Heat oven to 220 degrees celcius.
To get the colour on your cauli, heat a non stick saucepan on high heat with some olive oil in it. Add half your florets and cook on high heat for approx 2 mins til they start to turn a golden brown. Transfer to roasting pan. Repeat process with the rest of your cauliflower and then put all together in a roasting pan and roast for 20 minutes shaking the pan and checking on your cauliflower every now and then.
Go back to your saucepan and add olive oil and butter. Gently saute your onions for 20 mins until soft and brown. Soak your freekah in cold water for 5 minutes and then drain and rinse under a sieve.
Add freekah, cinnamon, allspice, S&P, and stock to your pot with onions and allow to boil. Once boiling turn down heat as low as possible until your freekah is just simmering. Allow to simmer for 15 minutes.
Once cooked set aside for 5 minutes to rest.
Let your freekah cool down a bit before adding chopped parsley and your roasted cauliflower. Serve in a bowl with scatterings of pomegranate seed and squeeze before serving with half a fresh lemon.
Makes a delicious lunch or dinner on its own, but can also be served alongside your favourite grilled meat.
I’m not much of a sweet tooth. So when I see recipes of cakes and muffins that pile chocolate on chocolate on chocolate, I think “boy that looks pretty” and then I gag a little.
So for me the perfect baking session will consist of making something tart, that is balanced with just a bit of sweetness. This is why I tend to bake with fruit a lot (see previous posts).
I love that fruit is full of natural sweetness, and then with winter fruits like those in the citrus family, you get the tartness as well. Enter from stage right, the little citrus fruit that packs a big punch: kumquats.
I swapped some of my chook eggs and fresh herbs for some kumquats at last months produce swap, and fancied making some muffins to take to work the next day. I’d never made (or eaten!) kumquat muffins but I figured I could make it work.
Now if you bite into a kumquat you’ll notice it’s the opposite to most citrus fruit: the skin is sweet and the flesh and juice is SO SOUR. Like, sour warheads sour (remember those from your childhood?).
So before they went into my standard muffin mixture I made a little kumquat compote (or jam) out of them first. And the little seeds in kumquats provide for natural pectin (jam setting agent) so leave them in and you’ll get a jammy like consistency which is nice for plopping into muffins.
KUMQUAT AND WHITE CHOCOLATE MUFFINS
Compote* start the compote the day before so it has time to set a bit and cool down in the fridge
600g kumquats, skin on and sliced
1 cup white, fine sugar
Juice of one lemon
2 cups self raising flour
¾ cup brown sugar
½ cup white chocolate chips
1 egg, lightly beaten
¾ cup buttermilk
½ cup vegetable oil (or any other flavor neutral oil)
To make the compote, place all of your ingredients into a heavy based saucepan and bring to a simmering point. Keeping an eye on your mixture, keep stiring until kumquats have broken down a little and you have a thick consistency. Takes roughly 20 minutes. Set aside to cool. I usually make this the day before and keep it in the fridge until I need it. This mixture also goes great with yoghurt, on porridge, anything really!
To make the muffins, grease a medium size muffin tin and set aside. Place dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix well. Add egg, buttermilk and oil and stir to combine. Add white chocolate, and finally, approximately half of your compote mixture from the day before. Stir well.
Fill muffin tins ¾ fill as they will rise. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees celcius for 30 minutes. To test if ready, insert a fine skewer into centre of muffin. If it comes out clean, you’re ready to roll!
Tip out onto cooling racks and dust with icing sugar. Enjoy with a hot cuppa tea!
Matt needed lemons. Sarah and Emma needed feijoas*.
A phone call was made, a text here and there and before you knew it, an unofficial swap was on.
On the night of the trade it was dark and gloomy…Sarah looked up and down the abandoned alleyway for the cops…she thought to herself “where IS he?!”
Ok now I’m making it sound like a drug deal so I’ll stop. Gosh I like to embellish my stories with a bit of drama!
Ok so as you’ve gathered, it wasn’t the official swapping day in Bacchus Marsh but this is how it happens now, we’ve all gotten together enough, swapped numbers, swapped stories and we have a real little community of growers and swappers, ready to help each other out whenever needed!
And gosh I love feijoas so I’m so excited when they’re in season. And I only tasted my first one last year thanks to Matt who brought them along to the swap. They are AMAZING.
They are also known as pineapple guavas, which I think gives you a better idea of what taste you’re in for when you try them. Think tropical (don’t think Tom Cruise in Cocktail, not that type of tropical), fresh, perfumy flavours, that also happen to go incredibly well with APPLES.
Enter Emma’s Mums Apple Crumble Recipe with Feijoa!
Now who doesn’t like apple crumble right? You’d have to be from Mars not to. But let me tell you, apples and feijoas were MADE to go together. I urge you to try them in your crumble just once and I don’t think you’ll regret it.
¾ cup Brown sugar
¾ cup rolled oats
½ cup flour (plain or self raising, no biggie)
½ cup of softened butter
½ tsp each of grated nutmeg and cinnamon
1 kg granny smith apples, peeled, cored and diced
300-500g (or whatever you can get your hands on really) of feijoas. Peeled and cut in half. Can also be cut in half and flesh scooped out, similar to kiwi fruit
Put all your dry ingredients in a bowl and mix together. Add your butter and with your fingers (c’mon, lets get dirty people!) rub with butter into your mixture until you have small pea shapes or a crumble like consistency. Set aside.
Put your apples into a saucepan and just cover with water. If you want to add some flavor while your apples are lightly stewing, I recommend plonking a cinnamon stick in the water along with some sugar. Stew your fruit until just soft. Don’t let them go beyond this as they will cook further in the oven.
Spoon apple and feijoas into individual ramekin dishes or one large pie dish. Top with crumble mix and bake in a 180 degree pre-heated oven for 35-40 minutes. Serve with cream or ice cream.
Have you tried feijoas before? Do you LOVE them? How do you eat them? Pllllleeeease lets talk about feijoas all day long in the comments section below!
*need was more of a want. But who are you to judge!?
So its right at the end of the fig season, I know, but there are still SOME left on trees and there are still SOME at an affordable price in Melbourne’s local markets so seasonal cookers and eaters can still get into today’s post!
Now I dont have a fig tree (yet), but I do know where there is a massive one hanging over a back alley in my sweet little town, and I know where ANOTHER one is growing on the side of a quiet country road, a short drive away.
And in true Emma’s Garden Grows style, if you can’t grow them or swap something you’ve grown for them, then go and find them.
But if you’re picking wild mushrooms, or fruit thats in a public space, the rule is always the same: only take what you need. Otherwise it all gets a bit mean and sad now doesnt it?
So this weekend I went a walking, and found just enough figs to be able to make my entry into the Mamamia Food Blogger Idol competition. The deal is you have to create your own recipe using this new brand of yoghurt (Rachels Yoghurt, and its pretty nice! And no they are not paying me to say that!) and if you win they will PAY YOU to write about food. Hells yeah! I’m excited.
Here’s the recipe I submitted, its easy to make, is super pretty and will impress anyone you plate it up in front of for dessert!
Emma’s Yoghurt Panna Cotta with Honey Grilled Figs and Pistachio Crumb
1 cup cream
1 cup Rachel’s Black Plum and Roasted Fig Yoghurt
1/4 cup caster sugar
4 gelatin leaves, soaked in cold water
1 vanilla bean pod, seeds scraped
5 fresh figs
2 tbls honey
1/4 cup pistachio nuts
Grab that tasty tub of Rachel’s yoghurt outta the fridge and rip open the lid and foil packaging. Take a big sniff of the delightful product you’re about to cook with.
Grab a bowl and fill with cold water. Soak gelatin leaves in water until pliable (this can be done while you do the next few steps)
Pour your cream into a heavy bottomed saucepan and gently heat on a low flame
Add your sugar and stir on low until sugar is dissolved. Slice your vanilla bean in half length ways and scrape your vanilla seeds into cream and sugar
Take your cream and sugar mix off the heat and whisk in your Rachel’s Black Plum and Roasted Fig yoghurt until all combined.
Add back on a gentle heat until mixture is just getting warm. Squeeze your gelatin leaves out of all its water and add to your cream/yoghurt mix. Whisk until all gelatine is dissolved.
Grab a large bowl and place a sieve over it. Strain mixture to remove any lumps or bits of fig from the yoghurt that will stop you from achieving a sexy-smooth panna cotta consistency
Gather your panna cotta moulds and pour mixture in til ¾ full. You can also serve this in delightful little dessert glasses if you have them.
Place panna cottas in the fridge for a minimum of 3 hours (but overnight is best!)
Once panna cottas are set, gather your fresh figs and slice in half length-ways. Drizzle with honey and place on a small baking tray. Grill figs under the grill for approx 7 minutes onhigh. You want them to go a bit warm and soft but not to lose their bright and freshness entirely.
Dry roast pistachio nuts for 4 minutes on a medium heat. Remove and tip into a small food processor and blitz until you have a crumble like consistency. Small and big bits of nuts are good for texture and crunch! Set aside.
To serve, boil the kettle and put boiling water into a bowl deep enough to fit your panna cotta moulds. Fill with hot water til it reaches ¾ up the side of your moulds. Allow the moulds to sit in the hot water for 30 seconds or so to dislodge your panna cottas. Tip upside down onto a plate to serve. You may need to tap the moulds on the plate.
Serve your panna cottas with grilled figs and a sprinkling of pistachio nuts.
Consume greedily with a wild look in your eye at anyone who dares come near your panna cotta.