Food Friday: Rosemary Farro with Roast Carrot & Creminis


Every now and then, I make a meal which is exactly right for that particular moment. Then I eat far too much of it and spend the rest of the evening watching television and groaning, incapable of moving at all.

I made one of those meals last night. It was good the first time a few months ago, and even better last night. I’d been aiming for an earthy flavour and a meal that wasn’t too heavy and this delivered perfectly – until I ate two full portions of it. Oops.

Anyway, if you haven’t tried farro before, you really should. David’s not usually a huge fan of my experimentations with various grains and seeds (he tends to turn up his nose at quinoa and just doesn’t see the point in chia seeds) but we both love the nutty flavour and slightly chewy texture of farro. It’s really quite a lot like barley, but sort of like a brown arborio rice, but not…just try it. Trust me.

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{Ingredients}

3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped into large chunks

10 medium cremini mushrooms, rinsed and chopped into chunks

2 large leaves dinosaur kale, roughly chopped with stems removed (or equivalent of any other leafy green like baby spinach, chard, curly leafed kale)

3 small cloves garlic, crushed

1 large sprig rosemary

1 1/2 cups farro, cooked according to the packet

2 tbsp olive oil

crumbled feta to serve

{Preparation}

Lightly oil a baking pan with 1 tbsp of the olive oil and roast carrots at 450F until they are lightly browned around the edges and softened. Set aside.

In the meantime, cook farro to the directions on the packet. I recommend using a mix of vegetable stock and water – you want the extra flavour of the stock, but you don’t want the stock to overpower everything else.

While the farro cooks, add the other tbsp of olive oil to a fry pan. Heat the oil, then add the garlic and mushrooms, stirring frequently to avoid burning. Once the mushrooms start to soften, add the rosemary and the kale and saute until the kale is thoroughly wilted. Add the roast carrots to the fry pan and stir through. Once the farro is cooked, add to the pan as well. Stir thoroughly, making sure that the farro is evenly distributed through the vegetables.

Serve with a liberal sprinkling of crumbled feta.

{Serves 4 (or 2 ridiculously hungry folk)}

 

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Food Friday: Cinnamon Fruit Bread with Seeds


It has been the most stunningly gorgeous day in Central Texas. Inspired by the sunshine, I  reverted to my domestic goddess type – opening all the windows, stewing apples and being chased around the kitchen by an inquisitive bee (or five) that found its way inside. I also decided to make bread.

I’ve made bread before, following an excellent recipe in my favourite Stephanie Alexander cookbook, which, due to weighing in at about 5kg, is safely stowed in a storage unit in Sydney. I managed to find a similar recipe online though, and adapted it today to create a delicious, hearty fruit loaf full of cinnamon, apricots, sultanas and sunflower seeds.

Adapted from this basic bread recipe. IMPORTANT NOTE: Far be it from me to argue with Stephanie Alexander. The woman is a kitchen queen and deservedly so. That said, I found that the amount of flour and water she’d recommended did not work for me and I had to add in around another 150g or so of flour to achieve the recommended consistency. This might have been a problem at my end, but I’d recommend having more flour than you need on hand, just in case. If your mix isn’t thickening as it should, shake in additional flour gradually, mixing very thoroughly until you get the desired “sticky ball” consistency (if you can avoid this though, do – it will weigh down the bread a little).

{Ingredients} 

500g white whole wheat flour

7g sachet of dry yeast

1 tsp salt

500 mL warm water

1 tbsp honey

1 tbsp cinnamon

1/2 cup sultanas

1/2 cup chopped dried apricots

1/4 cup sunflower seeds

The basics

The basics

{Preparation}

Tip all the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the salt and yeast. Stir once or twice with the wooden spoon. In a measuring cup, mix together the honey and warm water. 

Using the wooden spoon, push the flour away from the centre of the large bowl to make a well in the middle. Pour in the warm water and honey mixture. Mix in the flour gradually. Once combined, add the sultanas, apricots, sunflower seeds and cinnamon. Stir the mixture vigorously until you end up with a sticky ball of dough. If your ‘sticky ball’ seems determined to stay more of a ‘runny mess’, add a little more flour, bit by bit and stirring constantly.

Sprinkle your work surface liberally with flour. Sprinkle a little extra flour on your hands and the dough mix too. Tip the dough onto the floured surface and pat all the pieces into a pile. Squash it all into one lump. Knead constantly for about 3 minutes.

Lightly grease a bowl. Place dough ball into bowl and cover with a clean tea towel. Leave in a warm place for at least 30 minutes. The dough should roughly double in size.

After 30 minutes, re-flour your re-cleaned work surface. Take the dough ball and knock out all of the air (trust me, this is the most satisfying part of all). Knead the dough again, this time for 1-2 minutes. Return to the greased bowl, cover with the tea towel and leave for another 20-30 minutes.

While the dough is sitting, preheat the oven to 200°C or about 390-400°F and lightly grease a baking tray. When the 20 minutes has passed, transfer the dough to the baking tray and bake for around 4 minutes, or until bread sounds hollow.

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The bread should be fragrant and slightly chewy. It’s even better toasted with a little butter.

Food Friday: Lemon Cake


I don’t bake often. I do love a good cake, but I find that baking can be frustratingly precise. My style of cooking is much more stream-of-consciousness than how-to manual – I get ideas for colours and flavours and add a dash of this, a pinch of that and voila! It’s like a very tasty kind of abstract art. Baking though, takes a lot more precision. Too much of one thing, too little of another and you suddenly have one giant wonky cookie instead of the twelve neat ones that had gone into the oven (I still don’t know what went wrong. It tasted good, but it was a long way from pretty).

So far though, this cake has been pretty-much failsafe. I was taught it almost 10 years ago now, by a lovely ex-boyfriend who was an absolute kitchen wizard. Luckily, it was a very amicable break-up and we’re still occasionally in touch, so I can still eat this cake without any feelings of resentment.

For this recipe, you will definitely need a set of kitchen scales. You’ll also need a love of lemony, sweet-tart goodness and very rich cake.

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{Ingredients}

3 eggs (room temperature)

The exact same weight of the eggs in:

  • plain flour
  • butter (room temperature)
  • sugar

2 medium sized lemons (zest and juice)

Pinch of baking soda

Icing sugar

{Preparation}

Weigh the eggs and note down their weight. Measure out exactly the same weight of sugar, flour and butter. Gently grate the zest of both lemons, either with one of those lovely lemon zesting tools or a standard grater.

In a bowl, beat together butter, sugar and lemon zest until well combined. Add lightly beaten eggs and mix until combined and slightly fluffy.

In another bowl, mix together the flour and baking soda.

Add the flour and baking soda to the butter/sugar/eggs and beat until the mixture is smooth.

Pour mixture into a well-greased cake tin and bake at 350F for 30 minutes (due to oven problems I had to cook mine for 45 minutes, with the last 15 covered by foil. It really didn’t do the cake any favours and I got a bit of sinkage in the middle). At this point, you can also lick the spoon, if that’s your thing.

Test whether cake is cooked with a knife or fork. Once this comes out clean, the cake is cooked and you can remove it from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

{For the Icing}

Squeeze the juice of 1 1/2 of the lemons into a bowl, saving the remaining half for emergencies. Gradually add icing sugar to the lemon juice, stirring steadily. Once the icing is becoming difficult to stir, but is still slightly runny (depending how juicy your lemons are, probably this will take 1-1 1/2 cups icing sugar), you’re ready to ice!

Spread icing thickly onto the cake, allowing it to run down the sides.

Slice and enjoy!

NB: I only had whole wheat flour on hand and I would not recommend this. I’d really suggest you use the plainest, whitest flour you can find. Your cake should look much more yellow and much less orange as a result.

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Food Friday: Sweet Potato Tacos with Chipotles in Adobo


If there’s one thing I can tell you about Austinites and food, it’s that they really like their tacos. Breakfast, lunch or dinner is irrelevant – there’s a taco for every time of day and every occasion. Luckily, I love tacos. They’re filling, super cheap and easy to make and very versatile – you can put just about anything on a fresh tortilla and have it taste delicious. So, that’s exactly what I’ve been doing – experimenting in the kitchen with a variety of taco fillings. It’s been a lot of fun.

This is one of our favourites so far. Sweet potatoes are right in season at the moment, so they’re cheap and plentiful and tasty. Their sweetness combines well with the savoury starchiness of the beans and the smokey bite of the chipotle. Which reminds me, there’s a definite kick to the chipotles in adobo, so if you don’t like your food with a bit of heat, I’d recommend halving the quantity in this (or even quartering if you’re just not that into spicy food).

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Sweet Potato Tacos with Chipotles in Adobo

{Ingredients}

1 medium-large sweet potato, chopped into small chunks

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

1 200g can chipotles in adobo sauce

1 400g can corn kernels

1 400g can beans (black beans, kidney beans etc)

1 800g can diced tomatoes

fresh tortillas

1 medium avocado

feta cheese to taste

salt and pepper to taste

{Preparation}

Lightly coat sweet potatoes with oil. Roast at 400F (about 200 Celsius) for about 30 minutes or until soft (sorry I can’t be more specific here – my oven has a busted door at the moment that lets all the nice warm air out, so it’s hard to judge. The downside of renting? Having to wait for other people to fix things!).

While the sweet potato is roasting, sauté onion in a fry pan with a little olive oil until soft and transparent. Add chipotles in adobo and stir through, breaking up the chillies into smaller pieces with the spoon. Add the can of tomatoes and leave to simmer on low heat. Drain the corn and the beans and then add them to the frypan as well. Leave to simmer until the sweet potato is done, stirring occasionally. The longer it simmers, the less ‘wet’ the tacos will be.

Once the sweet potato is soft and slightly roasted around the edges, add to the frypan. Stir through, adding a little salt and pepper to taste.

Serve the mix on fresh tortillas, sprinkled with feta cheese and sliced avocados. Enjoy!

{Serves 6}

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*NB: Please, please excuse my awful food photography. I’m working on it, I promise, but these skills take time! In the meantime, please be assured that these meals taste much better than they look!

Have you seen the muffin blogger?


She’s been missing in action…again.  I’ve been a terrible blogger this year.

I shouldn’t make excuses again.  I was extremely sick with pneumonia and asthma though, so I’m going to cheat and throw that out there.  I’ve also just been a bit slack.

As an apology, I’m going to share a pretty-damn-tasty and super easy muffin recipe.  I made these yesterday and they were delicious and dense and filling and avoided any of the nasty things in most store-bought muffins or pre-packaged mixes.

They were so good, Gogol wanted to eat them before I even made them:

Blueberry and Walnut Oaty Muffins (closely adapted from this recipe)

Ingredients

1 1/4 cups wholemeal flour

1 1/2 cups rolled oats

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (if you’re using frozen, don’t defrost before adding to the mix)

3/4 cup of roughly chopped walnuts

2 large oranges

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup olive oil

2 heaped teaspoons of cinnamon

1 egg (lightly beaten)

1/2 cup boiling water

Method

1. Zest one of the oranges.  Juice both, for around 1 cup juice (I ended up with a bit less and it was fine).

2. Mix all of the dry ingredients together.

3. Mix in the blueberries and the orange zest

4. Mix in everything else, adding the boiling water last.  Hint: Don’t pour the boiling water onto the egg – you’ll cook it!

5. Leave to sit for around 15 minutes (i.e. enough time to wipe down the unholy mess of flour, honey and walnut dust you’ve got all over the bench.  Just me?  Ok.)

6. Spoon the mix into a muffin tray.  Bake at about 180 deg. Celsius for anywhere between 15-20 minutes, depending on your oven oomph.  When a fork comes out clean, they’re done.

(Note: I didn’t use baking soda because I like my muffins to be really dense.  If that’s not your thing, about 1 1/2 tsp of baking soda should do the trick)

Tada!

Food Friday: Spicy Roast Pumpkin Soup


I hadn’t posted any Food Friday recipes for a few weeks, so I did feel that it was about time. As such, one of my favourite experiments of the last couple of weeks…

Spicy Roast Pumpkin Soup

About a week ago, David came home with an entire Jap Pumpkin. Apparently this was the only size that our tiny local grocer had. We’ve been slowly chipping away at it, but with half a pumpkin at risk of getting mouldy and manky in our fridge, it was time for soup.

Ingredients

1/2 medium Jap Pumpkin (butternut pumpkin would work just as well)
3 small carrots (these were also a bit close to the edge)
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 400g can cannellini beans
2 tbsp Cajun spice OR a pinch each of cumin, ground chili, salt, pepper and oregano.

Cook It

Grease a baking dish with olive oil. Remove seeds of the pumpkin, chop into chunks (smaller is better if you’re in a hurry, as it will cook faster). Peel and chop carrots. Throw the lot into the baking dish and lightly coat in the oil. Roast at 180 degrees for about 30 minutes (this will depend on the size you chopped your pumpkin and carrots).

Meanwhile, add a touch of oil to a large saucepan and sauté the onion on low heat with the spices. Set aside.

Once your veggies are nice and roasted, add them to the pan. Rinse and drain the beans, then add them too. Mix thoroughly.

In batches, process the mix until it is smooth. It will have a fairly thick consistency.

I felt the need to share this photo of our awesomely retro blender. It's a hand-me-down from David's parents and I'm fairly sure it's got about 10 years on me.

Spoon into bowls and serve with bread (which I completely forgot!) and/or any other vegetables of your choice.

*I was super lazy and left the skin on.  I’d probably suggest being less lazy and removing this, as it did add an unusual (not bad, but slightly odd) undertaste.

**You could also add the spices to the roast instead of the onion mix.  I don’t know that it would ultimately change the flavour though.

Going local!


I am super excited about today’s post!

You see, we are trialling Foodconnect at the moment and we picked up our first box on Wednesday.  Squee!

So far, I’ve been really impressed with the contents.  One of the tastiest rockmelons I’ve had in years.  Tomatoes that taste like tomatoes.  Lettuce, kale, pumpkin, zucchini, spring onions, carrots, onions and peaches.

I even made kale chips!

We started trying Foodconnect on a recommendation from my lovely work friend, Bree.  I had been looking to ‘go local’ with my fruit and vegetables for quite some time, but wasn’t entirely sure where to start.  There is a weekly “farmers market” held about 30 minutes walk from where we live, but it tends to be very overpriced with very ordinary produce.  It’s also not necessarily organic, which Foodconnect generally is (although they do source some food from chemical free suppliers who don’t have organic status yet).

So, we signed for four boxes with Foodconnect.  The average food mileage per box is 250km (although some would be a lot less, while others slightly more).  I’m really looking forward to getting a better understanding of  seasonal foods (the boxes are based on what’s available right now and aren’t even scheduled until the week before) and having fresher, tastier fruits and vegetables.  I’m also looking forward to trying new things . Believe it or not, I’d only had kale once before yesterday! There should be a lot of opportunity for experimentation which will be interesting and challenging.

I’ll keep you posted on how it all goes and what we decide at the end of the four weeks.

Kale Chips

So, the picture isn’t real pretty, but these were amazingly delicious and simple.

You’ll need:

Kale

1 tbsp olive oil

Salt (probably less than I used -David described it at 10% less than the lethal dose.  Kale also has a really unique and delicious flavour that you’ll want to keep on show)*

Do:

Preheat the over to about 140 degrees celsius.  Remove stalks, rinse and dry the kale thoroughly, then slice into potato-chip-sized pieces.

Arrange the kale on an oven tray.  Drizzle lightly with the olive oil and sprinkle on the salt.

Bake for approx 10-15 minutes until the edges are almost starting to brown and the kale is slightly crisped.

Eat!

* I think these would work really well with some Cajun seasoning too

A recipe


So, with food becoming an increasing focus of my life and this blog, I thought I’d start sharing some of the creations that I come up with on my Vege Adventures.

Going vegetarian has been a surprisingly steep learning curve in terms of the way we’ve cooked.  It’s continued to be one because at the end of last year, we got lazy and ate a lot of take away. As I’ve mentioned before, we have excellent Mexican, Thai, pizza and Middle Eastern foods right on our doorstep, so the temptation to just not bother with cooking is pretty high.

As such, we’ve been fumbling in the dark a little with the whole balanced-vegetarian-dinner fandango.  We’ve been cooking a lot of the things we used to make and just removing the meat – probably not that nutritious and definitely not that satisfying.  Finding good food that is inherently vegetarian seems to be the way forward.

So, here is the first of my adventures.  Please remember though, I am not a food blogger and I am most definitely not a food photographer.  I’m not going to guarantee that my meals look pretty.  I also cook in a pretty ad-hoc manner, so feel free to tweak anything you try!  I make absolutely NO promises!  These are just things that I have tried that have tasted good to us.

Firstly, acknowledgement – this is heavily based on this recipe from allrecipes.com.

Ingredients

A decent sized splash of olive oil – about 2 tbsp in total

1 large onion or 2 small onions, roughly chopped

Lots of garlic – I used about 4 or 5 cloves.  That said, I adore garlic so you could definitely play with the quantity a bit!

1 cup/250g quinoa

1 1/2 to 2 cups vegetable stock

1 can black beans (rinse them off – they tend to be weirdly goo-covered)

1 red capsicum, roughly chopped

1 cup frozen peas

1 cup frozen or canned corn

Any other veges that take your fancy, also roughly chopped

Lashings of Cajun Spices (I use a pre-mixed one which is basically Cayenne Pepper, Sweet Paprika, Cumin, Onion Powder, Black Pepper, Garlic Powder, Oregano and Salt.  I have all of these spices as well, but I know that the quantities in the pre-mixed one are accurate!)

Put about a tablespoon of the olive oil into a heavy bottomed pan.  Throw in garlic and onion, cook until soft.  Remove from heat (burnt garlic is not that tasty folks).  Add quinoa to the pan, rattle it around in the oil for a bit until it’s lightly coated.  Add vege stock, return to heat and simmer for about 15-20 minutes.  It won’t look very pretty at this point (also, apparently my ability to cook and take iPhone photos at the same time sort of sucks – at least you’re getting pictures though!).  Make sure to gently stir the quinoa every few minutes so that it doesn’t stick to the pot.

In another pan, heat up the other tablespoon of olive oil.  Add capsicum, black beans and your truckload of Cajun Spice, followed by the peas and frozen corn.  There didn’t end up being any corn in our meal the other night – apparently the corn had suffered a little too much in the move between house freezers and had died a rather frosty death.  You really can add just about any vegetables you like to this meal though – it’d also be good with mushrooms I think.

Keep stirring your vegies and quinoa until the beans and peas are heated through and the capsicum is cooked to your liking.  Take the vegies off the heat if the quinoa is taking longer than anticipated to cook – soggy capsicum is a no no!

Once the quinoa is cooked through, mix in your Cajun-ified vegetables.  Put in bowl, realise it looks sort of ugly.  Serve.  Enjoy!  It’s super tasty!

If anyone has any other good veg recipes they’d like to share, they’d be gratefully received and experimented with.  Just be warned though – David is a little afraid of tofu and lentils…