Bircher Porridge with Berry Compote

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In the land of Westeros ‘winter is coming’, but here in Sydney it appears that winter has well and truly arrived. The rain has been tumbling down for over a week now and the temperature has dropped. It’s time to get the jeans and coats back out of the cupboard as it looks like they’re going to be on high rotation for the next few months. While, I’m a summer baby and love nothing more than spending the entire day soaking up the rays at the beach I have to admit there is something rather nice about being inside and cozy, and being able to watch the rain trickle (or cascade) down outside. The only trouble with cold weather is that it makes it that much harder to get out of bed. But with the promise of something warm and sweet, such as this bircher porridge, beckoning you from your snug bed, it might not be quite as hard. This breakfast is simple, quick, but most of all – comforting!

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Bircher Porridge with Berry Compote 

Serves 1

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup bircher muesli
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon honey or rice malt syrup
  • 4 strawberries, chopped
  • handful raspberries
  • handful blueberries
  • handful flaked coconut
  • small handful natural walnuts

Method:

  1. Place the bircher muesli, almond milk and half the honey in saucepan and place over a medium-high heat. Stir occasionally until it comes to the boil. Once it comes to the bowl, continue to stir continuously until the porridge reaches your desired consistency and take off heat.
  2. At the same time you are making the porridge place the berries and ½ cup water in a saucepan over a high eat. Stir occasionally, allowing the berries to disintegrate and form a sauce with the water. Keep stirring until the berry sauce starts to thicken.
  3. Pour porridge into a bowl, top with berry compote. Sprinkle with coconut and walnuts and drizzle with remaining honey and serve immediately.

Poached Chicken Sambal and Coconut Salad

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I’m a bit obsessed with sambal oelek at the moment. The spicy yet still slightly sweet sauce seems to go with a multitude of dishes, with this simple fresh chicken salad being one of them. The combination of chilli, shrimp paste, fish sauce, garlic, ginger, sugar, lime juice amongst others gives this dish the punchy kick it needs to make it a recipe you’ll want to add to weekly repertoire.

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Poached Chicken Sambal and Coconut Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cooked brown rice
  • ½ yellow capsicum, diced
  • 2 sprigs shallot, chopped
  • ¾ cup coconut flakes
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • ½ cup mint, chopped
  • ½ cup parsley, chopped
  • 400g chicken breast
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 2-3 tbs sambal oelek (adjust to your preference)

Method:

  1. Pour chicken stock into a medium sized saucepan over a high heat. Bring to the boil. Place chicken into saucepan and reduce hit to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes. Remove chicken from poaching liquid and allow to cool.
  2. Use your hands to shred the chicken. Place shredded chicken into a bowl and stir through the sambal oelek. Add the remaining ingredients and mix together. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.

 

Israeli Couscous Tabbouleh

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When Sunday night comes around the last thing you want to do is be faced with the thought of cooking a big dinner, because honestly who wants to wash up endless dishes the night before the working week starts again. All you want to do is relax with a glass of red and some easy-watching television. Maybe that’s just me, but I think Sunday night calls for a tasty, easy, crowd pleaser. And tabbouleh is just that. It’s zingy and fresh and the perfect accompaniment to grilled lamb or chicken.

It’s also nice to use pearl couscous in place of traditional burghul (cracked wheat) that is most commonly used in tabbouleh. This variety of grain is larger than regular couscous with a round, plump shape. Because of its slightly bigger size the texture is slightly more chewy and it has a gently, nutty flavour. Like most whole grains Israeli couscous is a little bland on it’s own but its enlivened with zingy citrus and punchy fresh herbs. This salad is so simple that you can whip it up in fifteen minutes, which makes it perfect for those moments when you can’t be bothered to cook but don’t want to scrimp on flavour or resort to the takeaway menu. And it also works a treat for lunch the next day. Win.

Israeli Couscous Tabbouleh

Serves 6 as a side

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Israeli couscous (pearl couscous)
  • 4 sprigs spring onion, diced
  • 1 ½ punnet heirloom cherry tomatoes, finely diced
  • 1 ½ bunches flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 bunch mint, chopped
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt

 Method:

  1. Cook couscous according to packet directions. Drain and rinse with cold water to avoid the couscous from becoming sticky and overcooking.
  2. Place couscous in a large bowl and add the spring onion, cherry tomatoes, parsley, mint, lemon juice and olive oil.  Season with sea salt and serve.

Farro and Roast Cauliflower Salad

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I know I’m a little late to jump the farro bandwagon but I’ve just discovered this delicious little grain and I’m hooked. For those who (like me a few weeks ago) have not cooked with farro, it can best be described as an ancient strain of wheat; an heirloom version of spelt. While it is cooked in water it does not become gluggy like some grains can; instead it achieves a crunchy, chewy texture that is ideal for salads. I’ve become a bit obsessed with this pint-sized, nutty delight and have gone into salad making overdrive. I’ve read that it’s also a great grain to make with risotto with if you are feeling like a change from arborio.

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Out of the numerous salads I’ve made with farro, this recipe is my favourite. I think the combination of roasted vegetables with pesto and crunchy grains is a winner. Dutch carrots or baby carrots are one of my favourite root vegetables simply because there is so much flavour already jam-packed into them that they require little meddling with. They are sweet and crunchy, and once baked with a  little olive oil and salt they take on a slightly caramelized flavour. Paired with roasted cauliflower that has started to brown on top giving it that softly charred flavour makes for a simple and tasty salad. The addition of softened onion, garlic and celery adds a subtle extra dimension to the dish and lifts the flavours, while the basil pesto gives it a nice little punch.

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And this salad is perfect to take to work the next day. Just pop it in a container and you’re good to go. It will taste the same, if not better the next day. No need for sad, soggy bread sandwiches thank you!

Farro and Roast Cauliflower Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 clove chopped garlic
  • 2 tsp coconut oil
  • 2 bunches baby carrots, washed
  • ½ head cauliflower, chopped into medium sized pieces
  • Olive oil
  • 1 cup farro
  • 1 ½ tbs good quality store-bought basil pesto
  • Salt and pepper
  • Basil leaves to garnish

Method:

Preaheat oven to 220ºC. Place some baking paper onto a baking tray and put the carrots and cauliflower into the tray. Drizzle generously with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Use your hands and move the vegetables around the tray so that they are evenly coated in the oil.  Place in the oven and bake for 35 minutes, until carrots look crisp and cauliflower looks slightly charred on the edges.

While the vegetables are in the oven, cook 1 cup of farro according to packets instructions. Once cooked drain and place into a large bowl.

Meanwhile, heat a shallow frypan with 2 tsp coconut oil over a meadium heat. Add the onion, celery and garlic and cook until the onion and celery soften and start to appear more translucent in colour. Remove from heat and add to the farro.

Remove vegetables from oven, add to farro and onion mixture and add the pesto. Mix together until the pesto evenly coats everything. Transfer to salad dish, garnish with torn basil leaves and serve.

Lemon Polenta Cake with Mascarpone Icing

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Lemon polenta cake sounds like the sort of cake you would have in the oven in case someone popped in for afternoon tea. People don’t seem to drop by anymore though. Our society isn’t very conducive to this type of lifestyle. We are all so rushed and frantic trying to fit everything into our busy schedules that the thought of just popping over to a friends unannounced seems bizarre, as does the thought that said friend would just be waiting and available at home.

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In my grandmother’s day having a friend over for afternoon tea was the done thing and she still does it with her friends nowadays. And I think it’s lovely. It’s a time to enjoy something sweet, sip on tea and catch up. It makes me a little sad to think this tradition is being lost. It’s such a nice way to enjoy someone’s company – so quaint and charming. Slices, biscuits, fruit breads and teacakes are recipes from a different era but still no less delicious.

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This cake is an amalgam of Italian and English desserts. The polenta lends it it’s Italian heritage while the syrup saves it from being too dry, as while I love Italian food their cakes do err on the side of dryness. This dessert is a sweet yet sharp cake with a sticky syrup that highlights it English heritage. The cakes sweetness is not sickly-so, thanks to the sour nature of the mascarpone and lemon. The slightly gritty texture of the polenta paired with the nutty, fragrant almonds provides a lovely change from a simple flour cake. While there may be a fear that polenta in a dessert would make it stodgy, this fear is unwarranted thanks to the syrup, which brings a lovely wetness to this perfect afternoon treat. So why not whip this up next time you have a minute to spare, call up a friend and spend the afternoon catching up like we used to, not over a rushed coffee on the way to somewhere else.

Lemon Polenta Cake with Mascarpone Icing

Cake:

  • 3 eggs
  • 200g butter, softened and diced
  • ¾ cup caster sugar
  • Zest of two lemons + juice of one
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 1½ cups almond meal
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

 Syrup:

  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup lemon juice

Mascarpone Icing:

  • 250 mascarpone
  • ½ cup icing sugar
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • Zest of ½ lemon

Method:

  1. Cake: Preheat oven to 160°C
  2. Grease and line 20cm springform cake tin.
  3. In a medium sized bowl beat together butter and sugar with electric mixers until pale and creamy.
  4. Add lemon rind and vanilla and beat well.
  5. Add the eggs one at a time beating well after each addition. Don’t be alarmed if the mixture looks a little curdled and lumpy, once the polenta and almond meal are added it will regain a smoother appearance.
  6. Add lemon juice, almond meal, polenta and baking powder. Using a wooden spoon stir until mixture is smooth.
  7. Bake for an hour. Cake will be ready when an inserted knife comes out clean. If the cake looks to be browning too much while it’s cooking cover it with a layer of foil.
  8. Syrup: Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and place on stove over a low heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, and let it come to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off heat.
  9. Icing: Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until smooth.
  10. Assembly: Make indentations over the cake using a skewer or fork. Gently pour syrup over cake letting it run into the holes. Leave the cake in tin to cool. Once cool, remove from tin and spread with icing. Garnish as desired.

Zucchini, Mint and Chilli Fritters with Avocado Salsa and Poached Eggs

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Opening the fridge to discover that there barely seems to be any food in there is a rather upsetting state to find yourself in. However, there is always a way to make something with whatever you have handy. Fritters are one of my favourite ways to use up what looks like nothing and turn it into something delicious. These fritters use zucchini simply because that’s what happened to be in my fridge but there are many other standby vegetables that make great fritters. Carrots taste delicious, especially if you add spices like cumin coriander seeds. Then there is corn, the most famous of the fritters but grated potato, sweet potato or peas also turn out tasty meals.

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Zucchini to me is a vegetable that needs the addition of a few other ingredients to really enhance its flavour. Pairing it with mint and chilli makes for a fresh, zingy fritter that is great for either breakfast or lunch.  The mint adds that hit of freshness and lightness while the chili gives the fritter a punchier kick. While fritters are tasty in their own right I find they taste best when there is a sauce or salsa added just because it gives the dish a different textural element and makes it a party for the senses. Creamy avocado salsa with a hit of zingy lime and the addition of an oozing poached egg on top equals a rather scrumptious trifecta.

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Zucchini, Mint and Chilli Fritters with Avocado Salsa and Poached Eggs

Serves: 3

Avocado Salsa:

  • 1 large avocado, roughly chopped
  • ¼ clove garlic, grushed
  • ½ chilli, deseeded and chopped
  • ½ Spanish onion, diced
  • ½ tbs lime juice + extra lime to serve
  • ½ tbs olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

 Zucchini fritters:

  • 2 large zucchini, grated
  • 1 chilli, deseeded and chopped
  • ½ clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 sprigs shallots, chopped
  • ½ cup mint leaves, chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tbs flour

Poached eggs:

  • 3 eggs
  • ½ tbs white wine vinegar

Method:

  1. Avocado Salsa: Place all the ingredients in a bowl. Using a fork, gently stir the ingredients together ensuring that the avocado still remains chunky. Season with salt and pepper and stir again.
  2. Zucchini fritters: Place all the ingredients in a bowl and stir to combine. Heat two-three teaspoons olive oil in a shallow fry pan over a medium-high heat. Drop 3 2tbs size dollops of the zucchini mixture into the fry pan and cook for 1½-2 minutes on each side or until cooked through and golden. Place fritters on a plate lined with paper towel. Repeat with the remainder of the mixture.
  3. Poached eggs: At the same time as you are preparing the mixture for the zucchini fritters fill a shallow saucepan close to the brim with water and place over a high heat on the stove. Add in the vinegar. Once the water has boiled lower the heat to a simmer. Crack each egg into a cup and gently pour the egg into the saucepan on the water’s surface. Do not drop the egg from a height or the white will spread and fill the pan. Repeat with each egg and cook for 2-3 minutes for a semi-soft yolk.
  4. To assemble stack two fritters, place a third of the avocado salsa on top and then finish with a poached egg. Serve with extra lime.