Acai Bowls

Acai bowl

Acai bowls are all the rage at the moment. I for one didn’t really get it the hype around them. I mean I love smoothies, but why do you need to make a smoothie that can only be eaten out of a bowl? After making a few myself though, I realized that eating them this way is what makes them special. It makes you really focus on the flavours when you’re having it a spoonful at a time, rather than slurping it up through a straw. Plus, the toppings add so much texture and extra flavour that you just can’t get from a normal smoothie. And so, the skeptic was converted.

Not only do they taste delicious, they are ridiculously aesthetically pleasing thanks to meticulously arranged fruit and seeds on top. I think that is the main attraction of making these bowls to be honest. You can add whatever toppings you like; honey, bee pollen, goji berries – whatever you think is Instagram-worthy really. Plus, they are full of acai, which is a modern day superfood hailing from Brazil. In Brazil, you can buy them fresh in their berry form, but here in Oz we have to use the powder, which is just as delicious. They are a rich source of antioxidants and fibre and help keep you fuller for longer, which is exactly what you want from your breakfast. Deee-licious!

Acai Bowls

Serves 2

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons acai powder
  • 2 bananas, chopped roughly (use frozen banana slices if you have time)
  • 1 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1 ½ teaspoons nut butter (I used peanut)
  • 1 tablespoon honey (optional)
  • 1 cup almond milk

For topping:

  • Strawberries
  • Bananas
  • Chia seeds
  • Granola
  • Coconut flakes

Place the acai powder, bananas, raspberries, nut butter and honey in a high-powered blender. Blend until creamy, then gradually add the almond milk until you get a smooth but thick consistency. You want it to be a bit thicker than a smoothie. Pour into bowls and arrange with toppings. Serve immediately.

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.

meringue 2

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.

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.

Fluffy Ricotta Pancakes

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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.

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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.

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Fluffy Ricotta Pancakes

Makes 12 pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 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

 Method:

  1. Place flour, egg yolks, caster sugar, milk and ricotta in a bowl and mix until just combined.
  2. Place egg whites in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer and stiff peaks form.
  3. Gently fold the egg whites through the batter mixture in two batches.
  4. 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.

Sunny Sunday Brunch

outside

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The first day of spring is upon us today and the weather gods certainly worked their magic. Not only have we entered the season of balmy nights and days spent frolicking on the beach, but today was also Father’s Day here in Australia and I couldn’t have picked a more beautiful day for it if I tried. To celebrate I decided to make dad a brunch that we could enjoy at home in the sunshine. I wanted to make it rather nice, as as you know my sister has just left for America, and so he was one daughter down.

strawberry tart

strawberry tart extreme close up

To celebrate strawberries being in season I decided to make a tarte aux fraises (strawberry tart) to showcase the berries in all their shining glory.  This recipe is better made a day ahead as you need to give the pastry time to rest in the fridge. However, if you are using store bought pastry you can easily begin on the day. This tart is filled with a frangipane filling which is a French term meaning a thick almond custard. This type of custard is different to a crème anglaise because it has a little flour added to the recipe, which means it can be boiled on the stove and thus thickened. It is creamy and oozing, and works superbly well with the fresh, sweet strawberries. Each element is very easy to make, it just requires a little patience on the part of the chef, but it is well worth it because it turns out to be quite the showstopper.

muffin close up

muffins

I also made berry, rhubarb and coconut muffins, rustic chicken and herbed mayo finger sandwiches and a zucchini, mushroom and bacon frittata. I may have made slightly too much for three people (!?) but that didn’t seem to stop us from chowing down.  It was all delicious as I know from my fourth and fifth helpings, and it was a lovely change from going out to get breakfast at a café. It was a lot more tranquil, less noisy, less frantic and overall more enjoyable. That is not to say I don’t love a good café brunch but on a day that is supposed to be about celebrating your dad there is no better way to say thank you than with homemade goodies, and by focusing your attention on him instead of being distracted by good looking café patrons! I mean, he deserves it every now and again…don’t you think?

sandwiches

chicken fingers close up

frittata

Tarte aux fraises

Adapted from ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ by Julia Child.

Ingredients:

  •  2 punnets strawberries, cut in half lengthways
  • 1 cup raspberry jam

For the tart shell (22-23cm tart tin):

  • 1 1/3 cups spelt flour
  • 4 tbs caster/white sugar
  • 105g chilled unsalted butter, chopped
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg beaten with 1 tsp water
  • ½ tsp vanilla extract
  • * You can use store bought sweet shortcrust pastry if you don’t have time to prepare your own.

For the Frangipane (almond custard filling):

  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 5 egg yolks
  • ½ cup flour
  • 2 cups boiling milk
  • 1 tbs butter
  • 1 ½ tbs vanilla extract
  • ½ cup almond meal

To make the tart shell:

  1. Place the flour, sugar, butter, and baking powder in the mixing bowl. Rub the butter and dry ingredients together with your fingertips until the butter has broken down into bits the size of oatmeal flakes.
  2. Blend in the egg and vanilla and quickly knead the dough with the heel of your hands.
  3. Form the dough into a ball and place onto a board sprinkled with some flour and using the heel of your hand again rapidly press the ball down with the heel of your hand and smear the dough along the board. Form back into a ball and repeat half a dozen times. Form back into a ball again and wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for several hours to chill. If you are in a hurry you can place the dough in the freezer for 20 minutes then move to fridge to quicken up the process but it may mean the dough will be slightly tougher.
  4. Once the dough is chilled, place it between two floured sheets of baking paper and roll it out until it is thin. Then, gently life the sheet of dough and mold into t he tin.
  5. Blind bake the tart at 200°C by placing a sheet of baking paper over the uncooked tart shell and filling it with baking weights or uncooked rice. This will help to prevent the sides from falling down. Bake for 5-6 minutes or until the dough is set. Then remove the rice and baking paper, prick the pastry shell with a fork and bake for another 8-10 minutes until it is lightly browned. Remove immediately from the mold and leave to cool.

To make the almond custard filling:

  1. Using electric beaters on a medium speed gradually beat the sugar into the egg yolks and continue beating for 2-3 minutes until the mixture is pale and forms ribbons.
  2. Beat in the flour. Continue to beat the mixture and gradually the pour the boiling milk in a thin stream into the egg mixture.
  3. Pour the mixture into a saucepan and set over a medium to high heat. Stir the pot with a whisk, ensuring that you reach all parts of the saucepan otherwise the mixture will stick and burn. When it starts to boil, lower the heat and continue to beat it for 2-3 minutes (this will get rid of any lumps that may have formed).
  4. Remove from the heat and beat in the butter and then the almond meal. If you are not using the custard straight away, clean off the sides of the pan and dot it with softened butter to prevent a skin from forming on the top. This custard keeps for a week in the fridge.

To assemble the cake:

  1. Boil the jelly in a small saucepan over a low-medium heat until it thickens and becomes sticky. Using a pastry brush, use half the jam and paint the interior of the tart shell with a thin glaze. This will waterproof the shell in a sense and make sure no custard escapes. Reserve the rest of the jam for glazing the strawberries.
  2.  Spread the frangipane filling into the tart shell and smooth it out with the back of a spoon.
  3. Arrange the strawberries on top creating a ring on the outer layer of the tart and moving your way inwards so you make a repeated strawberry circle pattern. Use the rest of the jam to glaze the top of the strawberries and serve.

Berry, rhubarb and coconut muffins

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch rhubarb, cut into 1 cm pieces
  • 5 strawberries diced
  • 75g raspberries
  • 2 ½ cupsself-rasing flour
  • 90g butter chopped
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 ¼ cup buttermilk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup desiccated coconut + 2 tbs extra to garnish

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C . Place muffin cases in 12-hole muffin pan.
  2. Place chopped rhubarb into a baking tray lined with baking paper and bake for 25-30 minutes. Take out of oven and leave to cool.
  3. Meanwhile, sift flour into large bowl, rub in butter with fingers. Add sugar, buttermilk, egg, desiccated coconut,  cooked rhubarb, strawberries and raspberries, and mix until just combined. Spoon mixture into muffin cases; sprinkle with extra coconut.
  4. Bake at 200°C for 20 minutes or until set. Stand muffins in pan 5 minutes then place on wire rack to cool.

Rustic chicken finger sandwiches:

Ingredients:

  • 2 large cooked chicken breast fillets, shredded
  • ½ cup whole egg mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • ½ tbs chopped chives
  • ½ tbs chopped dill
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to season
  • ½ loaf sourdough, thinly slice and chopped in half

Method:

  1. Combine chicken, mayonnaise, herbs, and lemon juice in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Spread filling onto slices of bread and top with remaining slices. Serve immediately.

Zucchini, mushroom and bacon frittata

Ingredients:

  • 3 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 diced onion
  • 4 rashers chopped bacon
  • 115g sliced mushroom
  • 2 zucchinis, grated
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 srpigs thyme (leaves only)
  • ½ cup grated parmesan
  • ¾ cup flour
  • olive oil

Method:

  1.  Preheat oven to 200°C. Grease and line a 15cm square baking tin.
  2. Heat a pan over a medium heat with some olive oil.
  3. Add garlic, onion and bacon and stir until bacon is cooked through and onion is soft.
  4. Add mushrooms to pan and let them soften.
  5. Add zucchini to pan and let it warm through slightly.
  6. Remove from heat.
  7. Mix together eggs, thyme, parmesan, flour. Add in ingredients from pan to egg mixture and combine.
  8. Pour into tin and bake for 40-45 minutes.