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
- 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
- Cook couscous according to packet directions. Drain and rinse with cold water to avoid the couscous from becoming sticky and overcooking.
- 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.
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.
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.
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
- 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
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 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.
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.
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
- 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
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup lemon juice
- 250 mascarpone
- ½ cup icing sugar
- 2 tbs lemon juice
- Zest of ½ lemon
- Cake: Preheat oven to 160°C
- Grease and line 20cm springform cake tin.
- In a medium sized bowl beat together butter and sugar with electric mixers until pale and creamy.
- Add lemon rind and vanilla and beat well.
- 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.
- Add lemon juice, almond meal, polenta and baking powder. Using a wooden spoon stir until mixture is smooth.
- 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.
- 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.
- Icing: Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until smooth.
- 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.
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.
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.
Zucchini, Mint and Chilli Fritters with Avocado Salsa and Poached Eggs
- 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
- 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
- 3 eggs
- ½ tbs white wine vinegar
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Sunday is the sort of day where you are allowed to treat yourself. You’ve come to the end of the weekend and you know you have to face the real world again tomorrow, you might be nursing a sore head or you might just be allowing yourself some well-earned relaxation time. Either way, it is my opinion that if it’s Sunday it is very much acceptable to indulge in some of the things you might not allow yourself to do during the rest of the week. And eating pancakes is one of them. And if you’re going to treat yourself you may as well do it right.
These pancakes are fluffy and light through the combination of the beaten egg whites and the creamy ricotta. This duo ensures that the stodge-factor, which is present in many pancakes, will not be present here. I have added only a little sugar as I’m not as fond of overly sweet pancakes but this amount can easily be adjusted according to personal preference. I topped them with fresh berries as they were in season but lemon, butter and sugar is always a hit as well.
Fluffy Ricotta Pancakes
Makes 12 pancakes
- 1 ½ cups self-raising flour
- 3 egg whites
- 2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
- 1 ½ tbs caster cugar
- 1 cup milk
- ½ cup fresh ricotta
- Butter, to grease
- Berries, to serve
- Maple syrup
- Place flour, egg yolks, caster sugar, milk and ricotta in a bowl and mix until just combined.
- Place egg whites in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer and stiff peaks form.
- Gently fold the egg whites through the batter mixture in two batches.
- Heat a fry pan over a medium heat. Melt a knob of batter in pan. Place large spoonful’s of the mixture in the pan and cook for about 2 minutes on each side or until the sides are golden in colour. Repeat until batter is empty. Serve with berries and maple syrup.
There’s something about the rain that makes you crave comfort. Soft blankets, hot tea and a terribly bad but oh so good romantic comedy. And maybe something to satisfy your belly as well. Last night the rain was torrential. I find it rather peaceful and soothing when it rains, especially when you can watch the droplets fall from the comfort of your dry, warm home. But some people don’t find it so comforting. Take my two dogs for example. Something inside them stirs and they turn into highly-strung, barking maniacs. So sadly, my moment to enjoy the rain was short lived last night. Instead I went to bed feeling rather annoyed at my cute but crazy canines. To make up for such an uneasy night I decided to comfort myself with these Middle Eastern baked eggs for breakfast this morning. And they seemed to do the trick.
This recipe is quite similar to shakshuka. I made it once at home when the pantry was rather sparse and it turned out to be a rather tasty dish. The main difference is that shakshuka contains capsicum and my dish does not, instead I use chickpeas. The spices too are quite similar. The lemony, citrus flavour of the freshly ground coriander seeds, the pungent earthiness of the cumin, the sweet paprika and hot dried chilli. I also add a little cinnamon for the beautiful aroma it provides and that spicier sweetness.
This dish is so simple and quick to make but still satisfies comfort food cravings. It is important to sauté the onions and garlic until they are translucent so that the sharp, slightly bitter taste subsides and the sweetness starts to shine through. The tomatoes adore this sweet garlic and onion mixture and once it is reduced further the dish turns a dark, velvety red and the sauce becomes rich. To finish the dish coriander is a lovely accompaniment, but sadly I had run out this morning. However I normally do add a little and it gives the dish that nice fresh hit to balance the rich tomato sauce.
Middle Eastern Baked Eggs
- 1 onion finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
- 400g diced canned tomatoes
- 125g canned chickpeas
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- ⅓ tsp chilli flakes
- ¼ tsp cinnamon
- ½ tsp sweet paprika
- 2 eggs
- Salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 200°C.
- Place the onion and garlic in a skillet pan or small frying pan. Sauté over a low heat until they start to become soft and translucent in colour.
- Add the canned tomatoes and cook over a medium heat for about 1 minute, stirring occasionally. Add the cumin, coriander seeds, chilli flakes, cinnamon, paprika and chickpeas and stir. Season generously with salt and pepper. Continue to cook for about 4 minutes or until the sauce starts to reduce and thicken.
- Crack the two eggs into a bowl. Make a well in the centre of the pan and pour the eggs in. Leave to cook on low heat for about a minute and then transfer to oven to cook for 12 minutes. Serve.
Does chocolate mousse really need an introduction? It’s well loved by millions for the simple fact that it’s delicious. It’s light and airy but at the same time rich and decadent. I think it really is the texture that does it for me. The egg whites perform little miracles in this dish. They produce the creaminess, the fluffiness and the lightness. When you fold the egg whites through the mixture it looks like a simple chocolate cake batter, but leave it in the fridge for a few hours and it’s transformed into the delight that is chocolate mousse – no gelatine required.
I had cravings for this because as I said in my last post, it has been very hot here in Sydney of late. And this sort of weather suppresses your appetite a little and leaves you wanting things that are fresh. No beef bourguignon on a 30 degree day for me thank you. So while I’d had a light dinner I couldn’t help hankering for something sweet, you see my sweet tooth knows no bounds. And then it hit me; chocolate mousse. This is chocolate mousse in it’s purest form – no gelatine, no butter, no espresso or other odd additions, just chocolate, cream, sugar and egg whites. This recipe is slightly different to the bulk of chocolate mousse recipes as it doesn’t use the egg yolks. I can’t really give a reason for this, it’s just the way I’ve always made it and to me it’s absolutely delicious like this. And egg yolks or not, it most definitley cured me of my sweet tooth cravings that night.
Rich Chocolate Mousse
- 250g dark chocolate, broken into chunks (I used Callebaut)
- 1/2 cup cream
- 1/4 cup caster sugar
- 3 egg whites
- Place chocolate and cream in a saucepan over a low heat. Stir with a spoon until chocolate is melted, careful not to let the bottom of the pan burn.
- Transfer chocolate mixture to a metal bowl and leave to cool.
- Meanwhile, place egg whites in a metal bowl and beat until soft peaks form. Gradually add the caster sugar until stiff peaks form.
- Gently fold the egg white mixture through the chocolate.
- Spoon into glass ramekins and leave to set in fridge for at least 2 hours.
- Garnish with strawberries or raspberries and serve.