Beetroot Hummus

beetroot hummus

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 🙂

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Beetroot Hummus

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

Method:
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.

Lemon Meringue Bars

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The hint of some sunshine again after bouts of moody, rainy weather gave me the inspiration for this summery, citrusy dessert. Everyone loves lemon meringue pie; it’s got the perfect mix of sour, tangy lemon and sweet meringue. So, I thought why not turn it into a bar and make this decadent treat a bit more fun! I have decided to go for an Italian meringue here because I love the cloudy, air-like billowiness of it, and of course the fact that it leaves you with the opportunity to use the blow-torch to finish it off. Of course, you don’t have to torch the meringue, it will still taste delicious, I just love the thrill of it. Being the glutton that I am I sliced these bars up into 12 portions, but that is not to say you couldn’t slice them into smaller pieces to feed more people. They are very rich and a few mouthfuls would be enough for most, but again, I am not most. Hope you enjoy 🙂

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Lemon Meringue Bars

Base and filling adapted from Donna Hay

Makes 12 bars

base

  • 1 cup (220g) caster (superfine) sugar
  • 1 cup (80g) desiccated coconut
  • 2 cups (300g) plain (all-purpose) flour
  • 200g unsalted butter, melted

lemon filling

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 egg yolks, extra
  • 2 cups (440g) caster (superfine) sugar
  • ⅓ cup (50g) plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon rind
  • 1 cup (250ml) lemon juice (about 3 medium lemons)

Italian meringue

  • 175 gm caster sugar
  • 2 eggwhites
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • 60ml water

 

Method: 

Preheat oven to 180ºC (350ºF). Place the sugar, coconut, flour and butter in a bowl and stir until combined and mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. You can also do this by popping everything in a food processor and pulsing it a few times.

Using the back of a spoon, press the mixture into the base of a lightly greased 20 x 30cm slice tin lined with non-stick baking paper. It’s important to press the base right into the edges and corners of the tin so the lemon filling can’t escape down any gaps.

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Set aside to cool completely.

To make the lemon filling, place the eggs and extra egg yolks in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the sugar, flour, lemon rind and lemon juice and whisk until smooth. Carefully pour the filling over the cooked base and bake for 30 minutes or until just set. Refrigerate for 2 hours or until firm.

Meanwhile, for Italian meringue, combine sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat, stir until sugar dissolves and brush down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush to remove any sugar particles. Increase heat to high and cook until syrup reaches 121C on a sugar thermometer (6-9 minutes). Meanwhile, when syrup reaches 110C, start whisking eggwhites and cream of tartar in an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually pour hot syrup over eggwhites in a thin stream, whisking continuously until cooled, thick and glossy (10-12 minutes).

Remove cooled lemon slice from tin and cut into 12 pieces. Transfer meringue to a piping bag fitted with a large star nozzle and pipe swirls on top of each piece. Brown with a blowtorch (optional) and serve.

Persimmon, Pomegranate and Farro Salad

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This salad came about because I was recently at Kitchen by Mike’s in Rosebery and I tried something similar. Regretfully, I didn’t take a photo on the day, so this salad is my recreation of what I can remember. Persimmon are the main feature in this salad and they are so delicious. I don’t eat them often, nor are they featured in menu items often but they should be. They have a delicate, sweet flavour which pairs beautifully with the tang of the pomegranate. The crunch from the nutty farro and walnuts rounds out the salad nicely. For people who are skeptical of eating salad as a main dish, make this for them. It’s packed with flavour, fills you up and there’s not a lettuce leaf in sight. Enjoy 🙂

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Persimmon, Pomegranate and Farro Salad

Serves 4 as a main or 6-8 as a side

 Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups farro, cooked according to packet instructions
  • 1 persimmon, finely sliced (mandolin is perfect)
  • Seeds of ½ pomegranate, juice reserved
  • 6 sprigs mint, leaves torn
  • 1 ½ tbs chopped chervil
  • 1 ¼ cups walnuts
  • 1 tbs maple syrup, plus 2 teaspoons
  • Zest and juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • Sea salt to season

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Scatter walnuts on tray and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the maple syrup. Bake in the oven for about 4 minutes or until just golden. Set aside to cool.
  2. To make the dressing, use the reserved juice from the pomegranates and mix it in a small bowl with the olive oil, remaining maple syrup, lemon juice and zest and season with salt.
  3. Combine all the remaining ingredients in a large bowl with the walnuts and pour over the dressing. Taste for seasoning and serve.

*To get the seeds out of a pomegranate, cut the pomegranate in half. Over a bowl, hold the pomegranate in your hand with the cut side facing your palm and using the back of a spoon bang it against the pomegranate. The seeds will fall out and with it some juice. Your hand should act as a barrier so that the white pith doesn’t go in the bowl.

Freekah and Haloumi Salad

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I think making this salad was wishful thinking. Sydney is still rather chilly and dreary at the moment. Getting up in the morning requires well thought-out layering of coats and scarves. Work lunches normally consist of soup, and numerous cups of hot tea are consumed throughout the day. But I am off to Europe in a month for my first holiday in two years and I think the thought of sunshine, warm water and balmy nights got me confused about which hemisphere I was on. I had urges for something light and fresh – something that I might order while I drink cocktails and relax by the pool in Santorini. This salad seemed to hit the mark rather well though. I may be slightly premature in my food choices but this salad is rather tasty. It’s zingy from the lemon, slightly textural with the crunch of the freekah, salty with the haloumi and with just the right amount of sweetness from the tomatoes. So if you’re dreaming of being on a different continent, do like I did and give this a go!

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Freekah and Haloumi Salad

Serves 4

Ingredients

175g freekah, cooked according to packet instructions

1 bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

1 handful mint, finely chopped

1 small red onion, finely diced

3 spring onions, sliced thinly

3 vine-ripened tomatoes, deseeded and finely diced

125ml extra virgin olive oil, plus extra

juice of 2 lemons

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

300g haloumi, cut into 4 slices

 

Method 

Put the freekah in a bowl and add the parsley, mint, red onion, spring onions and vine-ripened tomatoes. Mix well.

Whisk the olive oil and lemon juice together and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the dressing to the freekah and mix through thoroughly.

Place a pan onto the stove on a high heat and add a splash of extra virgin olive oil. When hot, add the haloumi slices and cook on one side for a minute until they turn brown and a crust forms.

Turn over and repeat.

To serve, slice up the haloumi, divide between 4 plates and spoon over the freekah salad.

Israeli Couscous Tabbouleh

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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

Ingredients:

  • 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

 Method:

  1. Cook couscous according to packet directions. Drain and rinse with cold water to avoid the couscous from becoming sticky and overcooking.
  2. 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.

Lemon Polenta Cake with Mascarpone Icing

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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.

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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.

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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

Cake:

  • 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

 Syrup:

  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup lemon juice

Mascarpone Icing:

  • 250 mascarpone
  • ½ cup icing sugar
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • Zest of ½ lemon

Method:

  1. Cake: Preheat oven to 160°C
  2. Grease and line 20cm springform cake tin.
  3. In a medium sized bowl beat together butter and sugar with electric mixers until pale and creamy.
  4. Add lemon rind and vanilla and beat well.
  5. 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.
  6. Add lemon juice, almond meal, polenta and baking powder. Using a wooden spoon stir until mixture is smooth.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. Icing: Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until smooth.
  10. 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.