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 burst 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

 

Chewy Meringues with Mascarpone and Berries

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meringue

There are some foods that are a part of your psyche. They’re foods you’ve grown up with and often dishes that get you feeling a little nostalgic. For me, one of these dishes is meringue. It’s such a simple dish, quite literally as it can be made with just two ingredients. But somehow, the mix of egg whites and sugar creates wondrous little discs with crispy shells and soft, chewy insides. Adding a generous amount of cream, or in this case mascarpone, and lots of fresh fruit serves to create a dish that’s designed to make people want seconds. It also conjures up memories of Christmas day and eating mouthfuls and mouthfuls of these sugary nests till you were left feeling like rather a glutton. But then, if by any chance there were any left over that didn’t stop you eating them again for breakfast on Boxing Day. Although, on second thought that just might be me. That said, you should get yourselves into the kitchen and give these a go.

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Chewy Meringues with Mascarpone and Berries

Meringues:
2 egg whites
1/2 cup castor sugar
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla

To serve:
250g mascarpone
1/2 punnet strawberries, cut into pieces
1/2 punnet blueberries
Edible Flowers

Preheat oven to 150ºC and line a baking tray with baking paper. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form, then add sugar, a little at a time, still beating. Beat in vanilla. Divide mixture into four and place four circular mounds of meringue on a baking tray and bake for 45 mins. Turn oven off, leave door slightly ajar and allow meringues to cool completely in oven.
Once meringues have cooled, divide mascarpone between the meringues and dollop on top. Scatter with berries and edible flowers. If you can’t find edible flowers, dried rose petals also look lovely.

Coconut Panna Cotta with Passionfruit Jelly, Caramelised Mango and White Chocolate Mousse

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Summer is almost upon us and that means it’s time for barbeques, salads and long days at the beach. I should know, because as I write this post I am looking rather red from spending rather too much time in the sun. Tut tut. Because the days are warm, we want food that is fresh and light, and while desserts are usually decadent affairs, that does not mean we have to miss out. I know that must be a sigh of relief for all you sugar fiends out there – myself included.

One of my favourite summer desserts is panna cotta, which essentially translates to ‘cooked cream’. I remember first eating his dessert while on holidays with my family in Italy in a tiny little town just outside Florence. It was at a small traditional restaurant and the panna cotta was heavenly – it was smooth and creamy but oh so light and melted on your tongue. We had spent the day sightseeing in the heat, so to end the day eating this chilled creamy vanilla goodness topped with fresh berries was perfect.

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The variation I have made here is a coconut infused cream – make sure you toast the shredded coconut yourself first and try to give it the full hour for the flavours to envelop the cream mixture as it really makes a difference to the end result. I wanted to make this dessert scream summer so I’ve given it a tropical hit with the caramelized mango and passion fruit jelly – with just a hint of pure sugary sweetness from the white chocolate mousse. The flavours work sublimely together it really makes you feel like you’re on holidays in some far away exotic location. While each of the elements is a little time consuming as there is quite a bit of chilling required, they are not all that hard, so please don’t be put off.

Give this a go for your next barbie, or when you want to impress your friends at a dinner party and let me know how you go!

 

Coconut Panna Cotta with Passionfruit Jelly, Caramelised Mango and White Chocolate Mousse

Serves 6

Coconut Panna Cotta

  • 140 gm shredded coconut
  • 400 ml milk
  • 400ml pouring cream
  • Thinly peeled rind of 1 lime
  • 110 gm (1/2 cup) raw caster sugar
  • 4 titanium-strength gelatine leaves, softened in cold water for 3-5 minutes
  • 150 ml coconut cream
  1. Preheat oven to 180C. Spread coconut over an oven tray and toast, stirring occasionally (4-5 minutes). Transfer to a large saucepan, add milk, cream and rind, and bring to the boil over medium-high heat, then remove from heat and stand to infuse (1 hour).
  2. Bring coconut mixture back to the simmer over medium-high heat, add sugar and stir to dissolve. Squeeze excess water from gelatine, add to coconut mixture, stir to dissolve, then strain into a bowl through a coarse sieve (press on solids to extract all liquid; discard solids). Stir in coconut cream, then pour into six 1 cup-capacity jelly moulds or one 1 litre cake tin and refrigerate until set (overnight).
  3. To serve, dip the moulds in hot water, then gently pull edges of jelly away from sides with your fingertip (this helps break the vacuum and release the jelly). Place a plate on top, invert mould and plate, then remove mould.

 

Passionfruit Jelly

  • 375 ml (1½ cups) passionfruit juice
  • 150 ml freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 200 gm white sugar
  • 6½ gelatine leaves, softened in cold water
  1. Combine juices, sugar and 1 cup water in a saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves, then pass through a muslin-lined sieve. Warm ½ cup juice mixture in a saucepan over medium heat, squeeze excess water from gelatine, add to pan and stir until gelatine dissolves, then add remaining juice mixture. Cool slightly and pour into six 1 cup-capacity glasses and refrigerate for 4 hours or until set. Once set, cut jelly into small cubes.

Note: To make passionfruit juice, blend passionfruit pulp in a food processor to crack seeds, then strain through a fine sieve. Twelve passionfruit yield about 1 cup of juice.

 

White Chocolate Mousse

  1. 3 egg whites
  2. 200g good quality white chocolate
  3. ½ cup caster sugar
  4. 1 egg yolk
  • Melt the white chocolate over a bain-marie until smooth. Remove from heat.
  • Whisk egg white in the bowl of an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually add sugar to egg whites. Keep beating until sugar has dissolved and the egg whites are stiff.
  • Gently fold through white chocolate mixture and egg yolk until the mixture has incorporated.
  • Place bowl in fridge and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

 

Caramelised Mango

2 mangoes, flesh sliced into thin pieces

½ cup brown sugar

25 g butter

  • Heat a medium sized frypan over a medium heat. Place the sugar into the plan and leave to heat for about 30 seconds, then add the butter in small knobs around the pan. Mix the butter and sugar together until it forms a caramel paste. Add in the mango and coat it in the sugar mix. Take the mango off the heat and place on a plate after about 30 seconds.

To serve 

  • 3 passion fruit
  • Toasted coconut flakes
  • Handful mint leaves
  1. Arrange the de-molded panna cottas onto plates. Place a few pieces of the caramelized mango around the panna cottas. Scatter some jelly cubes over the mango. Using a piping bag, pipe little mounds of the mousse into the gaps between the mango and jelly. Place toasted coconut flakes into the white chocolate mounds – use the mousse as a glue to stick the coconut into. Garnish each of the six plates with mint leaves and the pulp of half a passion fruit. Serve immediately.

Coconut Celebration Cake with Pomegranate Mascarpone Icing

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I was having a look at my blog the other day and realized it had been a year since I started, so I thought I’d make a little celebration cake to mark the occassion! While I would love a bit more time to devote to it, I love the outlet it provides me to share my recipes with other foodies. It keeps me inventing new recipes and forces me to take risks in the kitchen, which is a lot of fun. So, thanks to everyone who comes by and checks it out.

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To celebrate, I decided to make one of my all time favourite cakes, a super moist coconut cake that I’ve loved ever since I was little. It’s a Woman’s Weekly classic that uses sour cream to ensure the cake’s moist texture and make sure it isn’t overly sweet. While I love this cake as is, I decided to take it up a notch and add a delicious pomegranate mascarpone icing to really add that oomph! The icing is tangy and complements the cake perfectly. To top it off, I thought the cake needed a bit of texture, so I added some toasted coconut that I just baked in the oven at 220°C for about 6 minutes. And to add some colour, I finished it with some freeze dried raspberries and pomegranate arils. And I have to say, it was incredible. I don’t like to boast to much but flavours and textures in the cake are so delicious, every plate in the house was licked clean. I hope you like it as much as I did!

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Coconut Celebration Cake with Pomegranate Mascarpone Icing

Coconut Cake

  • 250g butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 2 cup caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 ¼ cup desiccated coconut
  • 3 cups self-raising flour
  • 500g sour cream
  • 2/3 cup milk

Pomegranate Mascarpone Icing

  • 250g cream cheese
  • 125g mascarpone
  • 3/8 cup sugar
  • 1 egg (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • ½ tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbs pomegranate molasses

Topping

  • ½ cup toasted coconut flakes
  • Arils of ½ a pomegranate
  • ½ cup freeze dried raspberries

 

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Grease two deep 22cm-round cake pans; line base with baking paper.
  2. Beat butter, essence and sugar in a small bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time.
  3. Transfer mixture to a large bowl. Stir in half the coconut and half the sifted flour, half the sour cream and half the milk, then add remaining coconut, flour, sour cream and milk; stir until smooth.
  4. Divide the mixture into the two pans; bake for about 50 minutes or until cooked when tested. Stand cake in pan for 10 minutes before turning onto wire rack, top-side up, to cool.
  5. Meanwhile, while the cake is baking, start on the icing. In a large bowl beat cream cheese, mascarpone, and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy.
Add egg, beat well.
Add vanilla, lemon juice, and pomegranate molasses and mix until combined.
  6. To assemble the cake: place one of the cakes on a board or cake stand. Using a large spoon, place half the icing mixture into the middle of the cake. You don’t want to spread it all the way to the edge as once you place the second cake on top the weight will push the icing to the side. Place second cake on top and dollop the rest of the icing on top and spread evenly. Sprinkle with the toasted coconut, pomegranate arils and freeze dried raspberries and serve.