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.

First workout of 2014

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First workout of 2014

My trainer’s back from holidays and put this little number together for the 5 girls in my group today. We’re usually a pretty fit bunch but we did struggle after having a few weeks off. Oh well, as Maree says “Pain is weakness leaving your body.” And by that account, a great deal of weakness left my body this morning….

Here are some demos:
Burpees http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burpee_%28exercise%29
Squats http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EmI9x_5aFdc
Stationary Lunge http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GA4STCHhAM
Tricep Dips http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xXNHHm9c5-E
Box Jumps (I use a step and make it about 5 levels high) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wc65Gdd2Omg
Mountain Climbers http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzGekP0XSVA
Four Point Push-Up http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cXEHGJMc_Zg
Alternating Lunges https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCpu8IhLvBg
Iron Cross http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jiVbKEkWbI8
Bicycle Crunches http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9FGilxCbdz8
Plate Crunches (My trainer had us put our legs straight in the air as opposed to the bent position in this video. We had to try to get the plate to touch our shoes, head doesn’t touch the ground.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zuzs_P7y24s
Russian Twist http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgSnIib9s5Y

I tawt I taw a turtle

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Turtle 1Turtle 3Turtle 2

I diiiiid, I diiiiiid see a turtle. Quite a few actually.

One of the many delights of Hamilton Island is grabbing a snorkel at low tide and swimming around until you meet a turtle, usually feeding on the reef. They say that once a turtle has identified a feeding site it will remain in the area for the rest of its life. And, considering their lifespan, that could be for the next 100 years.

These were some of the most beautiful creatures I’ve ever seen. It was such a special experience that I hope I get to enjoy again sometime. And on the fitness front, what better motivation to snorkel for a few hundred meters every day than to have a turtle by your side while you’re doing it?

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.

One last look at 2013.

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Shot 9Shot 8Shot 7Shot 6Shot 5Shot 4Shot 3Shot 2Shot 1

My first post of 2014 is about my last run of 2013.

Over the break my partner Alex and I visited Hamilton Island in the Whitsunday Passage, Queensland. Initially we went there to take in the beauty beneath the water, of the Great Barrier Reef, but the views on land were just as inspiring. This view, from the top of One Tree Hill, is one of the most celebrated on the island however, after tackling the 82 meter elevation to get there my breath was already taken. But, thanks to the power of photography, I can enjoy it forever without having to go through that again. 🙂

Three workouts to get you through the holidays.

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Monday WorkoutWednesday WorkoutFriday Workout

My trainer has been putting us through our paces this week and has come up with 3 really good workouts to keep the Christmas kilos at bay. Hope you enjoy them as much as I have. Merry Christmas.

Some exercise demos for you:
Medicine Ball Sit Up Throws (Sit further away than these people are so you get a good throw in). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wAL99HxaZrw
Russian Twist http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DgSnIib9s5Y
Iron Cross http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jiVbKEkWbI8
Med Ball Squat Throw http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6aC2o7204s
Medicine Ball Bridge with Leg Lift (About 2.14 seconds in to the video.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2mxYyMjfxY
Repeaters http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HnSzwCMXTSg
Mountain Climbers http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RzmKjlbbHzs
Medicine Ball Squats http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUbY2prXt-k
Medicine Ball Slam https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWghPf9dso0
Burpees http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burpee_%28exercise%29
DB Squats http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9O7EOXVIKY
Alternating Lunges http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zo1pFV8HMic
Squat Thrusters http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=87xtinde5y4
Knee to Pike Sit Up (Hold a weight in your hands and alternate one pike sit up with one crunch.) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=02b2QxcazOM
Thrusters http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7ljnk8OS3M
Sumo Squat https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9kiXid7pm6I
Hover http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRXKg21pE-4
Rope Pull http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGHmgqJeSu0
Box Jumps http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxldG9FX4j4
Medicine Ball Squat Toss http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4C0z1_uNHU0
Medicine Ball Crunches http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zb-kh42M-60
Chin Up http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FWqNXEWl34
Dead Lift http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Q_GnXm7LbI

Summer’s here.

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Piha 1Piha 2

It’s quite early in the season to go for a swim in New Zealand, but on Sunday that’s just what we did. It was only nippy for the first few minutes and then the water took on a beautiful warmth. Very uncharacteristic for the Kiwi summer where we usually have to wait until after Christmas to enjoy water as warm. After a great afternoon in the ocean, we spent the evening eating fish, chicken and salad while the sun set. #perfectweekend

 

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.