Spiced Chocolate Granola

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I try and whip up a batch of granola every week or two. It’s ridiculously easy to make and it ends up being a lot healthier and a lot cheaper to do it yourself. The store bought varieties are often laden with sugar and can cost $15 for one packet! There are countless combinations and variations to try for granola. This recipe is my go-to standby because I love the chocolatey hit of the cacao and the extra sweetness you get from the spices, which also provide a delicious aroma throughout the house while its baking. Feel free to play around with spices, different nuts and seeds though – whatever mix is your favourite really. You can also sweeten with honey or maple syrup if you can’t find rice malt syrup, I just like the flavour of the rice malt because it’s a bit milder than honey. Once you’ve baked the granola and cooled it, it should last about two weeks in a sealed jar, which makes deciding what to eat for breakfast super easy! Try this and let me know how you go :) Do you have any other granola combinations you love? Izzy

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Spiced Chocolate Granola

Ingredients

  • 1 cup chopped natural almonds
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • ½ cup chopped cashews
  • 1 cup shredded coconut
  • 1 tbs goji berries
  • 1 tbs pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tbs sunflower seeds
  • 1 tbs cacao nibs
  • ¾ cup natural oats
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 tbs melted coconut oil
  • 2 tbs rice malt syrup

Method:

Preheat oven to 200C. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix to combine, making sure that the coconut oil and rice malt syrup evenly coat all the dry ingredients. Place the mix onto two trays lined with baking paper and spread evenly over the trays. Bake in the oven for about 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it cool, this will allow all the ingredients to crisp up and form clusters. Store in a sealed jar for up to two weeks. Serve with fresh berries, milk or yoghurt.

*N.B. To make this gluten free, omit the oats and add some extra nuts and seeds :)

The Best Mac and Cheese

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Mac and Cheese is my ultimate comfort food. Like, ULTIMATE. My nana first made this for me when I was little and she would always add bacon to her dish, hence why I have to have it in mine. I have made countless variations of this dish but this version here is seriously the best. It is everything you always hoped mac and cheese would be. It has a creamy, cheesy macaroni filling thanks to not one, not two, but three types of cheese. It’s scattered with little crunchy salty hits of bacon. You also get the subtle hint of the truffle oil, and then you have the topping, with even more bacon, more cheese and the super crunchy and delicious panko crumbs. This is a hangover cure in food form. It’s also the best dish to make when you’re feeling a bit sloth-like, you want to stay in your pyjamas all day and you are definitely not expecting visitors, because while this creamy delight can seemingly serve 4 people it can also serve one person straight from this dish. Let’s be honest, when this is the sort of food you’re craving you don’t care who’s judging you.

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The Best Mac and Cheese

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups macaroni
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 300g rindless bacon, roughly diced
  • ½ cup panko bread crumbs

Cheesy Béchamel Sauce:

  • 3 tsp truffle oil
  • 2 heaped tbs plain flour
  • 80g unsalted butter
  • 3 cups milk
  • ½ cup gruyere cheese
  • ½ cups vintage cheddar
  • ¾ cup good quality parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to season

Method

Bring a medium sized pot of water to the boil. Once boiled, add the macaroni and cook about a minute less than the packet instructions suggest as it will cook further in the oven later.

Heat a medium sized fry pan with the olive oil, and then add the bacon. Cook the bacon until cooked through and well coloured.

For the béchamel sauce, place the butter and flour in a medium sized pot over a medium-high heat and cook for about 2 minutes, so that the flour cooks out (this is called a roux). Add a little bit of the milk and using a whisk, beat it quickly and well so that there are no lumps, then add the rest of the milk still beating quickly. Keep stirring the mixture until it starts to thicken, this can take up to ten minutes. Once the mixture has boiled, coats the back of a spoon and is thick, add the gruyere, cheddar, ½ cup of the parmesan, truffle oil and season well, then take off heat.

Add the cooked macaroni and half the bacon to the béchamel mixture and mix through. Check again to see if it needs more seasoning. Pour the mixture into a 1.5 litre baking dish, then sprinkle over the remaining bacon and parmesan and then top with the panko crumbs. Place in the oven and bake for about 10-15 minutes or until the panko crumbs are nice and golden. Serve straight away.

Simple Carrot Cake

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Carrot cake is a perennial favourite. It’s super moist, full of nutty goodness and topped with cream cheese icing…the world’s best type of icing! And the fact that it’s full of carrots makes you feel like you’re being vaguely healthy, right? My grandma used to make this when we my sister and I were little, and although her baking repertoire was not broad (she only really ever baked me this and banana cake) her carrot cake was always a winner. I think this is one of those desserts where everyone has their own recipe that’s been passed down. I remember a while back, a male widower wrote into a newspaper asking if anyone had a good recipe for a carrot cake as his late wife would bake him one as long as he grated the carrots. The response to the article was so overwhelming that the paper decided to have a bake-off to select the best recipe. I remember thinking that it was a such a sweet idea, but it also made me realise that EVERYONE has their own carrot cake variation, so hopefully you will enjoy my version of this classic which does not include sultanas, for those who (like me) can’t stand them :) Izzy

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Simple Carrot Cake

Serves 8

Ingredients:

Cake:

  • 2 cups finely grated carrot
  • ½ cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 ¾ cups self raising flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 heaped tsp ground cinnamon
  • Finely grated zest of 1 orange
  • 1 ½ tbs walnut oil
  • 6 tbs vegetable oil
  • 6 tbs sunflower oil
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten

Icing:

  • ½ cup icing sugar
  • 250g cream cheese
  • 125g mascarpone
  • 60g softened unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Method: Preheat oven to 180C. Mix together flour, sugar and spices. Make a well in the centre and pour in the eggs and oils. Stir together until just combined and then add in the carrots and walnuts, stirring again until just combined. Pour the batter into a greased 18cm spring form tin and bake for about an hour. It might take a little less or a little more, so be sure to check it using a skewer to see if it comes out clean.

For the icing: beat all the ingredients in a food processor until combined. Ice cake with icing once cake is fully cooled.

Chicken Meatballs with Tomato and Capsicum Salsa

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My boyfriend, who doesn’t generally cook that much, decided to make dinner for us the other night. I was pretty happy about this given it’s such a rare occurrence. But when he said he was making lamb kofta my happiness waned a little. While I love Lebanese food, kofta is not up on there on the list of things I generally order. I love the cabbage rolls, tabbouleh, sautéed eggplant, and beans with tomato…not the kofta, which I find to be a bit dry or just oily. BUT, I was not going to pass up a free home cooked dinner. I decided to make a salad to go with it and tried let him do his thing without giving him any ‘help’. I have a tendency be a little controlling in the kitchen. Shock horror. And what do you know, we sat down to dinner and bit into the kofta and it was delicious. It was super moist and super tasty and not like the ones you find in most Lebanese restaurants. It was exploding with flavour and I had to bite my tongue a little because he’d succeeded in making me think differently about a dish I would have never attempted at home.

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Anyway, it got me thinking about other ways to make kofta and how I could play around with them a bit. I’m always struggling to think of yummy lunchbox friendly recipes I can take to class. So, I decided to put a healthy twist on the Lebanese kofta and make chicken mince variation and sneak in a few veggies as well! The new version was just as yummy, especially when I paired it with a fresh tomato salsa. I also had mine with some tzatziki, which you can make yourself or just use the store-bought kind. And of course – the main tick, they are super easy to transport with you. So, if you want a healthy desk lunch to liven up a dismal office day, or something to nibble on in between uni lectures, then these are perfect. Have a go and let me know what you think :) Have a great weekend everyone! Izzy.

Chicken Meatballs with Tomato and Capsicum Salsa

Serves 4

Chicken Meatballs:

500g chicken mince

1 spanish onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, diced

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon za’atar

½ teaspoon ground chilli

1 handful coriander leaves, diced

1 cup kale leaves, diced

½ red capsicum, diced

1 egg, lightly whisked

½ cup breadcrumbs (I used panko, but normal are just fine)

Salt and pepper to season

Flour for dusting

2 tbs olive oil

Tomato and Capsicum Salsa:

250g red and yellow cherry tomatoes

½ red capsicum, diced

Large handful coriander, chopped

Juice of 1 lime

½ tablespoon olive oil

Sea salt and pepper to season

Method: 

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and, then using a dessert spoon scoop out some mix and roll it into a ball. Combine with the remaining mix, it should make about 16 balls. Dust each of the balls in flour and shake off the excess.

Heat about one tablespoon of the oil in a medium sized non-stick pan over a medium heat. Divide half the meatballs around the pan and cook for about 8 minutes or until cooked through, using tongs to turn throughout. Place the cooked meatballs on a plate and cover with foil to keep warm. Heat the reaming oil and repeat the process with the remaining meatballs. Serve with the tomato capsicum salsa. Also works well with some tzatziki.

For the salsa: combine all the ingredients in a bowl and toss together.

Prawn, Coconut, Finger Lime and Vermicelli Salad

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I spotted finger limes in the grocer the other day and I knew I had to make something with them. I tried them recently for the first time and they are the most amazing little citrus delights. They’re a native Australian fruit with a hard shell and once you open it up it reveals these gorgeous little shiny balls, often referred to as lime caviar. Once you bite into the balls they burst into a tangy, limey explosion. You probably won’t find them at your local supermarket but they are getting more and more popular. I found them at my local Norton St Grocer but I’m sure if you asked your local grocer they might have them or would be able to source them for you.

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I decided to pair them with a Thai inspired salad with lots of fresh zingy flavours. The flavour base for the dressing comes from grinding down the ginger, garlic and chilli into a paste, which gives the dressing a really good flavour hit. Don’t worry though, I’ve added some coconut milk as well, which tones it down it bit and makes sure the raw ginger and garlic aren’t too much. The addition of the lime juice, vermicelli and fresh herbs really brings the salad to life and while your eating, and bursting through one of the finger limes it really is a taste sensation. And how can you forget the sweet, succulent prawns! This is a perfect summer lunch or light dinner and you can whip it up in under 30 minutes. Enjoy!

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Prawn, Coconut, Finger Lime and Vermicelli Salad

Serves 6

INGREDIENTS

  • 1.5 kg cooked prawns, peeled and de-veined
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 1cm piece ginger, roughly chopped
  • ½ long green chilli
  • 1 small red Birdseye chilli
  • 2tbs lime juice
  • 2tbs fish sauce
  • 1tbs soy sauce
  • ½ tsp sesame oil
  • 2 ½ tbs grated palm sugar (or brown sugar)
  • 2 cucumbers, halved lengthways and chopped
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into thin strips, you can use a vegetable spiraliser
  • Seeds of two finger limes
  • 200g vermicelli rice noodles
  • 1 cup mint leaves
  • 1 cup coriander leaves

METHOD

  1. Place the garlic, ginger, and both chillies in a mortar and pestle and grind the ingredients down into a paste. Add the lime juice, fish sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil and sugar and mix until the sugar dissolves. Add the cucumber to the sauce mix and let it marinate for about 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, place the noodles in a large bowl and cover with boiling water and then cover the bowl for 5 minutes. Drain the noodles into a colander and rinse with cold water. Set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together the cucumber sauce mix and coconut milk with the noodles, carrots, finger limes and herbs. Divide the noodle salad into bowls, top with the prawns and garnish with some more mint coriander and chilli and serve.

Salted Caramel Lamingtons

Salted caramel lamingtons

It’s almost sacrilegious not to make lamingtons for Australia Day, they’re somewhat of a national treasure. The culinary icon consists of sponge cake dipped in chocolate icing and liberally sprinkled with desiccated coconut. As with a lot of famous desserts, it seems the lamington came into being due to an accident in the kitchen. A maid-servant to Lord Lamington, the eighth Governor of Queensland, allegedly accidentally dropped the Governors favourite sponge cake into some melted chocolate. The Governor, who didn’t like waste (wise man) suggested the cake be dusted in coconut to avoid messy fingers, and thus the lamington was born.

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I decided to put a slight twist on the traditional lamington by sandwiching it with some salted caramel before dipping it in the sticky chocolate mixture. There are already variations that sandwich it with either cream or jam but the salted caramel really brings it to life and is a delicious surprise when you bite in. Lamingtons are actually super easy, don’t be too scared off by the thought of making sponge – I’ve used a Women’s Weekly recipe as the base for these. They are perfect to take to your Australia Day barbeque and your friends will love you. Enjoy and Happy Australia Day!

 

Salted Caramel Lamingtons

Makes 16

INGREDIENTS

6 eggs

2/3cup (150g) caster (superfine) sugar

1/3 cup (50g) cornflour (cornstarch)

½ cup (75g) plain (all-purpose) flour

1/3 cup (50g) self-raising flour

2 cups (160g) desiccated coconut, approximately 

Chocolate Icing

3 cups (500g) icing (confectioners’) sugar

½ cup (50g) cocoa powder

15g (½ ounce) butter, melted

2/3 cup (160ml) milk

Salted Caramel

250g dulche de leche

½ teaspoon ground sea salt

 

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F. Grease deep 20cm (9-inch) square cake pan.
  1. Beat eggs in medium bowl with electric mixer about 10 minutes or until thick and creamy. Gradually beat in sugar, beating until sugar dissolves after each addition. Fold in triple-sifted flours. Spread mixture into pan.
  1. Bake cake about 30 minutes. Turn cake, top-side up, onto wire rack to cool.
  1. Meanwhile, make the chocolate icing. Sift icing sugar and cocoa into large heatproof bowl; stir in butter and milk. Stir icing over large saucepan of simmering water until of a coating consistency.
  1. For the salted caramel filling, combine the dulche de leche and sea salt in a medium sized bowl and mix until well combined.
  1. Cut cake into 16 squares, then cut each square in half. Place 1 ½ teaspoons of the salted caramel spread on one of the half squares, then top with the other half like a sandwich. Repeat this process for each of the squares. Dip squares in icing, drain off excess by letting sit on a cooling rack for about a minute; toss squares in coconut. Place lamingtons on wire rack to set.

 

Cherry Cheesecake Tart with a Gingersnap Crust

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Can you believe that Christmas is less than a month away?! I am so so excited, because it is by far my favourite holiday of the year. I get carried away in the romance of Christmas – the corny movies, twinkling lights, glimmering snow flakes and Christmas night-markets. One of my favourite traditions is going to buy the Christmas tree. Even though I live in Australia and it might seem silly buy a large, cumbersome pine tree in the middle of summer it always makes me happy. Scrupulously examining the line up of Christmas trees, making sure it has the right shape, that everything is in proportion and that it has a tip for the star to sit atop is definitely one of my favourite Christmas memories. The second is once the tree has been brought home and it’s time to decorate it. In my family, we make this into somewhat of a festivity by gathering together with Champagne and nibblies and taking turns to hang shimmering baubles on the tree. I know this might seem a little over the top, but it’s this silly extravagance that get’s me excited and in the Christmas spirit. We bought our tree last weekend and participated in said festivities and it was rather enjoyable. Sadly, the tree fell down and all the decorations have to be re-hung, but I guess that just means I can re-live the fun again.

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To get myself even more excited about Christmas I decided to make a Christmas inspired dessert and with all the gorgeous cherries that are in season I set about coming up with a way to use them. Recently I made a nectarine tart with a ginger crust from Smitten Kitchen’s blog, so I thought that by tweaking it a little and replacing the nectarines with cherries and adding a sweet cherry glaze this might be just about right for a Christmas dessert. The smell of the gingersnap crust cooking in the oven radiates Christmas all over the house, the aromatic spices from the ginger waft through the house and you can’t help but be in a good mood. I have to say that it’s very important to find ginger snap biscuits as opposed to ginger nut biscuits as the snap biscuits are soft and crumbly and are a much better texture for a tart crust, whereas the ginger nut biscuits are a lot harder and set like a rock. I found the ginger snap biscuits at our local Harris Farm supermarket, but I’m sure lots of good grocers would have them. The creamy cheesecake style filling made with mascarpone and a hint of lemon ensures the tart is not too sweet and means that less time is required to bake it in the oven! Score. Finally, the fresh cherries, topped with spoonfuls of the cherry ginger glaze give the tart it’s real Christmas spirit. This tart can definitely be made a day in advance because I ate some the next day, as you do, and I think it tasted even better!

 

Cherry Cheesecake Tart with a Gingernut Crust
For the crust:
225g gingersnap biscuits
90g butter unsalted butter
Preheat the oven to 175C. Break the gingersnaps up roughly, then put in a food processor and blend until fine. Melt the butter, then pour into the processor. Blend again until all the crumbs are coated. Tip into a 20cm tart tin with removable base. Use a glass cup or similar to press the crumbs down and into the sides firmly. Place in the oven and cook for about 10 minutes or until slightly darker. Let it cool on a rack for about 30 minutes, then pop in fridge to cool further.
For the cherry glaze:
15 cherries
1/2 cup caster sugar sugar
1 tsp finely chopped ginger
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbs strawberry jam (or raspberry or cherry)
2 tbs water
Put all the ingredients into a small saucepan over a medium heat. Keep stirring until mixtures starts to bubble and boil. Cook for about 5-10 minutes until mixture reduces and starts to take on a jammy consistency. Take off the heat and leave to cool.

 

For the filling:
250g mascarpone
200g cream cheese
1/4 cup caster sugar
zest of half a lemon
juice of half a lemon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Beat together marscarpone and cream cheese, then beat in the lemon juice and vanilla. Finally beat in the sugar and lemon zest.  Spread over the cooled base and put in the fridge.
To assemble:
Large handful black cherries
Pit and halve the cherries. Top the filled tart with the cherries and then spoon over the cherry ginger glaze. You can serve straight away or leave in the fridge and serve when desired.
Serves 10