Mexican Monday

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Quinoa SaladQuinoa Close Up

Recently I went through my folder of recipe clippings, saved from various sources over the years. I often save recipes that look great but I’m truly hopeless at getting around to making them.

I decided to change this pattern and made a Quinoa Salad recipe from Mamasita in Melbourne out of a Delicious magazine from a few years ago. I made a few additions to improve it and I have to say, it’s really yum. Great as a side dish or use it with some beef mince to stuff a burrito. Delish.

4 corn cobs with husks
1 cup (200g) quinoa
3 cups baby spinach
1 bunch coriander, leaves picked
2 long red chillies, deseeded, chopped
1 red capsicum, roasted, deseeded, peeled and chopped
250g feta cheese
toasted pepitas for garnish

Pico de gallo dressing
¼ telegraph cucumber, deseeded and finely chopped
¼ red onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
½ bunch coriander leaves, chopped
2 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley leaves
1 tbsp chopped dill
juice of 3 limes
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Cook corn in husks for 20 minutes or until tender. Drain and allow to cool, then remove and discard husks. Using a sharp knife, slice off corn kernels and set aside.

Meanwhile, place quinoa in a pan with 600ml water over medium heat. Simmer for 10 minutes or until tender. Drain. Cool.

For the dressing, combine ingredients in a bowl, then season to taste.

Toss corn, quinoa, spinach, coriander, chilli, capsicum and feta with the dressing. Sprinkle over the pepitas and serve.

Serves 8

Wombok Salad with Marinated Mushrooms and Fresh Herbs

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Wombok SaladWombok Salad CU

Lunch today was a simple salad and some seared Snapper. The salad was surprisingly tasty considering how easy it was. I based it on a Karen Martini recipe I found in the paper a few years ago.

60ml extra virgin olive oil
60 ml light soy sauce
4cm piece of ginger, finely grated
1 clove garlic, finely grated
2 pinches raw sugar
1 pinch salt flakes
1 pinch white pepper
juice ½ lime
1 green chilli, finely sliced
250g Swiss brown mushrooms, finely sliced
½ wombok (Chinese cabbage)
4 radishes, finely sliced
½ bunch basil
3 sprigs dill
5 sprigs mint
20g roasted cashew nuts

To make the dressing combine oil, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, sugar, salt, pepper and lime in a jar and shake to create an emulsion. Add the chilli and shake again.

Add dressing to the sliced mushrooms and let marinate for 5 minutes or so.

Separate wombok leaves, trim and lay on a platter. Top with the mushroom mixture but don’t put all the dressing on the lettuce as it will make it soggy (and anyway, you don’t really want all that oil). Instead I just lift the mushrooms out of the dressing with clean hands and place on the wombok leaves. You still get a splash or two of dressing around the place. Then, scatter over the sliced radishes. Wash the herbs and tear them over your salad letting the leaves fall where they may. Roughly chop the cashews and scatter them in the same way.

Serves 4 as a side dish.

Crispy Skinned Salmon with Avocado and Green Bean Salad

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SalmonSalmon Close Up

I love healthy food that’s tasty, quick and easy to prepare. This Bill Granger recipe ticks all the boxes. It made a filling yet light lunch today right after my spin class.

2 Lebanese cucumbers, peeled, cut into quarters lengthways and diced
1 avocado, peeled and diced
1 punnet yellow teardrop tomatoes, halved (I used regular cherry instead.)
1 small green capsicum, diced
200g green beans, trimmed, blanched and cut into 2cm lengths
1 small red onion, sliced
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp white sugar
1 red chilli, seeds removed and diced
1 tsp finely grated ginger
sea salt and black pepper
4 x 150g salmon fillets, skin on

Place cucumber, avocado, tomatoes, capsicum, beans and onion in a bowl and set aside.

For dressing, whisk together 3 tbsp olive oil, lemon juice, soy sauce, sugar, chilli and ginger. Season to taste. Pour dressing over vegetables and toss together very gently. Set salad aside.

Meanwhile, season salmon liberally with salt and pepper. Heat extra oil in a large non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat.

Add fish fillets, skin side down, and cook for 3 minutes or until skin is crisp. Turn fish over and cook for 1 minute for rare. Keep it on the heat a little longer for medium or well done.

Serve salmon with the avocado and green bean salad.

My first ever kale chips

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My first ever kale chips

It was only a matter of time until I tried to make some of these. As it was my first go I made sure the recipe was a simple one, I gave them a quick spray with canola oil and slow baked at 90°C for about an hour. Once out of the oven a sprinkling of salt was all they needed. Many thanks to my friend Belinda for giving me the kale fresh from her garden.

A taste of Melbourne

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Chicken HeroChin ChinChicken Close Up

As an expat Aussie I love collecting souvenirs whenever I go home, but not the typical boomerangs and kangaroo scrotum money bags that the non-Australian tourists take away with them. I make a B-line for cook books from my favourite restaurants so I can taste the flavours of home when ever I miss them.

This time around I was lucky enough to get my hands on a copy of “Chin Chin. The Book.” It’s really hard to come by, you can only get it from their website, in person at the restaurant or from The Essential Ingredient in Prahran. International orders have to be specially requested via telephone which seems a bit too hard to me. So, to help all of you taste what it’s like to dine at the iconic Melbourne restaurant I’m going to publish the first meal I’ve cooked out of it. And, in keeping with my routine of doing some form of exercise every day, I went for a 45 minute jog before indulging. Not that I needed to work up an appetite, it tasted great.

Larb Gai
(Better known as Chicken Salad.)
10 white peppercorns
½ bunch coriander, roots washed, leaves picked
3-4 cloves garlic
2 scud chillies, plus extra chopped scuds to serve, optional
150g chicken or duck livers, optional (I left this out as offal is quite high in fat.)
2 tbsp rendered pork fat or vegetable oil (I just used a spray of Canola to keep the fat down.)
500g medium to coarse chicken mince. (They recommend having a high fat content but I went the opposite way and it still tasted great.)
juice of 2 limes
3-4 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp ground roast rice (Recipe to follow.)
1 stem lemongrass, pale part only, thinly sliced
½ tsp galangal powder (Recipe to follow. I used ground ginger as I couldn’t be bothered but, it’s there if you can be.)
2-3 shallots, thickly cut
2-3 apple eggplants, thickly cut, optional (As apple eggplants aren’t available in NZ, I used a regular eggplant and grilled it first.)
½ bunch mint, leaves picked
3-4 kaffir lime leaves, julienned

In a mortar and pestle, pound the peppercorns. Add the coriander root, garlic, scuds and a pinch of salt and pound together to a rough paste.

If you’re using the livers, trim them, put in a saucepan of cold salted water and bring to the boil to blanch quickly.

Heat the pork fat or oil in a hot wok, add the paste and fry until fragrant. Add the chicken mince and continue to cook. When the mince is almost done (about 2-3 minutes), add the liver, if using, and stir to combine.

Remove the wok from the heat, and put the cooked mince in a bowl. Season with lime juice, fish sauce and oyster sauce.

Add the ground roast rice, lemongrass and galangal powder and stir to combine thoroughly. Now add the shallots, apple eggplant, mint, coriander and lime leaves and toss to combine.

Transfer to a serving plate or bowl and garnish with the extra chopped scuds, if desired.

Serves 4

Ground Roast Rice
In pan, dry fry a cup of white glutinous rice with a couple of chopped kaffir lime leaves and some sliced lemongrass and shaved galangal. Keep stirring it the whole time so it doesn’t blacken on the bottom of the pan. When it starts to get a bit of colour and is nutty and fragrant, it’s done. Remove from heat and blitz to a powder in a food processor. Store in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. This is a great addition to salad, stir-fries and dressings.

Galangal Powder
Roughly chop a whole galangal root (or two) and blitz in a food processor. Thinly spread the paste on a baking paper-lined baking tray. In a low 70°C oven, completely dry the galangal (about 5-6 hours). When it’s cool, blitz again. Store in an airtight jar.

People say the strangest things when they’re in a vegan restaurant.

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People say the strangest things.

For lunch today I rewarded my hard work at the gym with a trip to the Little Bird Unbakery, a raw vegan café in Ponsonby.

I ordered the Dosa (cooked), a fermented dahl and rice pancake served with fresh mango, coconut and ginger chutney and a sprouted chickpea and cucumber salad. I also had an Imperial Yunnan silver needle tea which was pretty fantastic as well.

Being a solo luncher, I sat at the large communal table where a number of people were busily chatting. It’s strange how some things take on added meaning when you hear them in a very angelic, vegan environment.

For example:
“My Dad is a hunter and for Christmas this year he gave me a card with a huge wild boar on it.”

“I’d really love to have some chickens.”

“They say it’s made with cacao not coco. Apparently they’re different but I’m not sure what the difference is.”

I also heard people nonchalantly throw healthy statements into their conversations.

“I’ve stopped eating red meat but you’re still eating mince aren’t you?

“I grow my own wheatgrass… And I have a juicer.”

“All I’ve been eating for the last few days is organic. But you have to wash everything really vigorously. Oh, and some kale.”

I’m not usually one to eavesdrop, but when it makes you smile and the people are sitting right next to you, what can you do?

Dippy, but not hippy.

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Spinach Yoghurt Dip 1Spinach Dip Side On

I’ve often thought the key to maintaining a healthy weight is to find snacks that won’t pile on the pounds. Things like humus, olives, dark chocolate, cheese and crusty bread all taste great but are way too calorie intensive. So, after trying Karen Martini’s low-fat beetroot dip last week, I couldn’t wait to get into her silverbeet, spinach, yoghurt and pinenut one. Again, it was really easy to create a low fat version and a guilt free way of getting a few more greens.

I also really like her formula of combining equal quantities of 1% fat prebiotic yoghurt with your favourite combination of pureed vegetables, herbs and spices. It’s opened up a whole new world on the type of dips I can create. Next time I might try rocket, spinach, basil, mint and parsley together with a bit of lemon juice and garlic. Or, if I’m feeling a bit more adventurous, roasted carrot with onion, garlic, cumin, coriander and a squeeze of lemon. Here’s Karen’s recipe if you’d like to try.

Ingredients
80ml extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra
(I just used a spray of olive oil in the pan. If it gets too dry add a little water.)
5 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 leek, finely sliced
1 bunch silverbeet, trimmed of ¾ of the stalk and finely chopped
3 handfuls baby spinach
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp sweet smoked paprika
250g thick plain yoghurt (I used 1% fat probiotic Greek.)
80g pinenuts, toasted briefly in a dry frypan
(I omitted these from the dip and just scattered a few on top.)
1 lemon

Method
In a wide-based pot, add 80ml of oil and cook the garlic until fragrant. Add the leek and cook for five minutes. Add the silverbeet and cook for another 10 minutes over low heat with the lid on, stirring through every now and then.
Add the spinach, cumin and paprika and, if the pot is too dry, a splash of water. Cook for another five minutes, season and set aside to cool.
If the greens are quite wet, drain off a little liquid, then puree with the yoghurt and half the pinenuts until you have a smooth paste. Spread on to your serving plate, squeeze over some lemon, scatter over the remaining pinenuts, dress with a little oil and serve with flatbread.

Silverbeet, Zucchini and Herb Omelette with Manuka Smoked Eggs

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FrittataEggsClose Up

It was perfect weather for the Taste of Auckland festival over the weekend. My friends and I had a great day deciding which restaurant’s food we were going to try next. So much so we needed a lie down by the end of it.

On one of our walks around the various stalls we came across some manuka smoked eggs. I had tried these a couple of years ago but have found them really hard to get hold of since. Naturally, I bought 2 boxes and started using them immediately.

As they’re cold smoked you can use them as you would a normal egg to add a subtle manuka flavour to your egg repertoire. And for me, they’re like a little part of the festival I can enjoy even after it’s over.

The following recipe is adapted from a Neil Perry Frittata I saw in the Herald a few years ago.

Ingredients
2 manuka smoked eggs, lightly beaten (or regular if you can’t find them)
1 tbsp chopped parsley leaves
1 tbsp chopped chives
salt and pepper
1 zucchini, thinly sliced lengthways
2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp rosemary, finely chopped
1 tbsp thyme, finely chopped
3-4 silverbeet leaves, sliced into ribbons
pecorino or parmesan or a bit of both

Method
Whisk the eggs, then add the parsley, chives, salt and pepper. I like to let the eggs come to room temperature before I cook them. While that’s happening, cook the zucchini slices in a pan with a spray of canola oil to prevent sticking. Remove when they’re lightly golden and set aside.

Then, spray the pan with canola oil again and add the garlic, rosemary and thyme. Stir until fragrant then add the silverbeet. Keep stirring until it has wilted to your liking.

Spray an omelette pan with canola oil and add the egg mix. Gently pull the edges of the egg away from the sides as it cooks and redistribute the raw egg around the pan until it begins to set.

Quickly place a few of the zucchini slices and some of the silverbeet over the eggs and wait for the mixture to set. This won’t take long at all. Grate a little pecorino or parmesan (or both) over the top and a little black pepper if you like too.

You will have left over zucchini and silverbeet but that’s the way I like it. It’s great to have some in the fridge so you can easily whip up another when you get home from the gym.

A Yummy and Healthy Snack. It’s Possible.

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Beetroot Dip HeroPommegranate MintBeetroot Dip Support

I’m always looking for healthy snacks as the immediate options are so lacklustre. Carrot stick anyone? So, I was really thrilled when I found Karen Martini’s recipe for roasted beetroot, cinnamon and pomegranate dip. It was really easy to create a low-fat version and whether you eat it on the recommended flat bread or a rice cracker it tastes fab. A word of warning though, don’t wear a white t-shirt when you make it.

Ingredients
900g medium beetroot, washed well, trimmed and cut in sixths
Extra-virgin olive oil (I just used a spray.)
Salt flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp ground cinnamon, plus extra
1 tsp ground allspice
½ tsp chilli powder (or to taste)
300g thick plain yoghurt (I used 1%fat greek, tasted great.)
100ml pomegranate molasses
100g feta
2 handfuls pomegranate seeds
1 handful mint leaves

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan-forced or 200C conventional.
2. Place the beetroot pieces into a roasting dish, drizzle with oil, season with salt and pepper, add the cinnamon and allspice and toss through to evenly coat. Add a splash of water to the dish, cover with baking paper and foil and roast for one hour.
3. After an hour, remove the paper and foil and bake for about another 15 minutes. The beetroot should be tender and starting to caramelise. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
4. Once cooled, puree the beetroot with the chilli powder until smooth. Add the yoghurt and pomegranate molasses and process until combined. Adjust the seasoning, then spread on to a serving plate, crumble over some feta, sprinkle a little cinnamon, scatter over the pomegranate seeds and mint and serve with flat bread.

Makes a large batch, I made half this quantity.

Lunch

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Lunch

Lunch today consisted of a Yoga class followed by some organic rotisserie chicken and Bok Choy Stalks Braised with Cherry Tomatoes, Chilli and Basil.

They say a good cook never wastes anything but, what do you do with silverbeet and bok choy stems when you don’t really like them in the first place? Well, this recipe by Justin North is a really good option. It was easy to make, tasty and helped ease my conscience as I didn’t toss the bok choy stems left over from last night’s stir-fry.

Click here if you’d like to try this clever dish. http://www.goodfood.com.au/good-food/cook/recipe/silverbeet-stalks-braised-with-cherry-tomatoes-and-chilli-and-basil-20130418-2i1zs.html