When it’s cold and rainy, like it is here at the moment, soup is the perfect antidote for the weather. And the last thing you want to do when it’s raining is brave the outdoors, so I’ve come up with a delicious soup that’s hearty and full of goodness, with ingredients you should already have in your pantry. Score. You might see that this one has lentils, but don’t let their hippie connotations dissuade you. It’s time to embrace this luscious lentil, trust me! When they’re mixed with salty, delightful bacon and oodles of veggie goodness they come into their own and make this soup a real winner. I prefer to use dried lentils just because I think they taste a little nicer, but if you are short on time feel free to use tinned lentils, just add them in about 10 minutes before the soup is ready or they will overcook. If you like your soup smooth, feel free to puree it but it like it a bit chunkier like me, just leave it as is. You can make a big batch of this to see you through the week and I promise you’ll be glad you did 🙂
Bacon, Lentil and Vegetable Soup
Adapted from a recipe by Jamie Oliver
4 rashers streaky bacon, chopped
100g cubed diced pancetta
2 red onions, peeled and chopped
1 leek, sliced lengthways and chopped
3 carrots, scrubbed and chopped
3 sticks celery, trimmed and chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
a few sprigs fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon celery seed
200 g dried red lentils
1 organic vegetable stock cube, optional
410 g tinned cannellini beans, drained
extra virgin olive oil
Place a large saucepan (with a lid) on a medium heat. Add a large splash of olive oil and the bacon and pancetta. Fry slowly until the meats have started to release they tasty fat and start to go a little crispy. Then add the dried oregano, chilli, bay leaf, celery seed, onion, carrot, leek, celery and garlic.
Cook gently with the lid on for about 15 minutes, until all the vegetables are soft, then add the lentils and 1 litre water or vegetable stock. Bring to the boil and simmer until the lentils are soft. (Check the packet instructions as different types of lentils vary in cooking time. If you’re mixing your lentils, cook for the longest amount of time to make sure they are all cooked properly).Add the tin of cannellini beans and, if the soup’s a little thick, some more water. Bring back to the boil and simmer for another 10 minutes, then taste and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.Ladle into bowls and finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and the chopped parsley. Serve with some warm, crunchy bread rolls.
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!
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
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.
I was down the coast a few weeks ago and my friend Carmen whipped up these super yummy tacos. She used quinoa instead of brown rice, and they were so delicious, but I had brown rice in the cupboard at home, hence the change. Making vegetarian dishes seem just as appetising in their own right can sometimes be a challenge, but I definitely think these tacos do the trick. I didn’t even think about the lack of meat when I ate them. The addition of egg, which is used to bind the rice and corn, adds a creaminess and really balances out the filling. Once they’re topped with the salsa and sauerkraut it gives you the zingy, freshness that tacos need and makes these a real crowd pleaser. Bonus: they’re super easy and can be made in about 30 minutes!
Vegetarian Corn, Brown Rice and Chia Tacos with Avocado Salsa and Sauerkraut
2 teaspoons coconut oil
1 small brown onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
Kernels from 1 cob corn
1 cup cooked brown rice
1 tablespoon chia seeds
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 avocado, roughly chopped
1 handful coriander leaves
Juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons green sauerkraut
4 soft corn tacos
Salt and pepper to season
In a medium sized frypan, melt the coconut oil over a medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and corn and cook until the onion and garlic are softened. Next, add the rice, chia seeds and chilli flakes and cook until the rice is warmed through. Then add the eggs until they have evenly coated all the other ingredients (about a minute). Remove from heat.
To make the salsa, put the avocado and lime juice in a bowl and mix together, seasoning with salt and pepper.
Warm the corn tacos and place the egg and rice mix on first, followed by the avocado salsa, finishing with the sauerkraut.
Why change a traditional recipe that works so well and that tastes so delicious? You might be asking yourself that as you read the title of this recipe and I would understand. As a hummus lover myself, I just feel that the more hummus there is in the world, the happier a place it will be. I love hummus spiced with harissa, or with roasted garlic, but this variation with beetroot is so so delicious! The beautiful, vibrant pink colour provides instant happiness. It tastes heavenly with the subtle sweetness from the beetroot. It’s the perfect thing to keep in the fridge as a healthy snack, it goes nicely with celery sticks and crackers but is also amazing on toast with some avocado and sprinkled with chilli flakes. Enjoy 🙂
Makes about 2 cups
450g can beetroot, chopped roughly and drained
400g canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 ½ garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons tahini (adjust according to your preference)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to season
Place the beetroot, chickpeas, garlic, tahini, lemon juice and cumin in the bowl of a food processor and whiz to a coarse paste. With the motor running, slowly add the oil through the feed tube until mixture is thick and smooth. Season well and serve. Store covered in the fridge.
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.
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!
Prawn, Coconut, Finger Lime and Vermicelli Salad
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Preheat oven to 180C. Spread coconut over an oven tray and toast until golden (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).
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).
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.
375 ml (1½ cups) passionfruit juice
150 ml freshly squeezed orange juice
200 gm white sugar
6½ gelatine leaves, softened in cold water
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
3 egg whites
200g good quality white chocolate
½ cup caster sugar
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.
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.
3 passion fruit
Toasted coconut flakes
Handful mint leaves
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.
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.
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!
Coconut Celebration Cake with Pomegranate Mascarpone Icing
250g butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
2 cup caster sugar
1 ¼ cup desiccated coconut
3 cups self-raising flour
500g sour cream
2/3 cup milk
Pomegranate Mascarpone Icing
250g cream cheese
3/8 cup sugar
1 egg (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
½ tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tbs pomegranate molasses
½ cup toasted coconut flakes
Arils of ½ a pomegranate
½ cup freeze dried raspberries
Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan-forced). Grease two deep 22cm-round cake pans; line base with baking paper.
Beat butter, essence and sugar in a small bowl with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time.
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.
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.
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.
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.