12.23.2012

That time of year - again!


Hello my lovely friends. How are you? I've been so preoccupied with other projects this year that I've let things slide - I know excuses, excuses...
I hope you've been able to check up on my latest collaboration with a few friends - Artisan Magazine - a great source for beautiful and delicious food, filled with recipes and other visual treats. Check out Issue 2 here.
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I wish you all a very happy holiday - whether you celebrate or simply enjoy a few days with family and friends - I do hope you make it a beautiful and delicious day! See you all in the new year. bx

7.27.2012

Something to stew...


A little bit of this and a little bit of that...that's all it takes to make a flavourful and delicious stew for your next dinner. The only effort this fragrant seafood stew requires is a trip to the nearest fish market or seafood counter.
When cooking with seafood it not only makes a huge difference to buy it as fresh as possible but also to cook it as fast as possible. In this particular stew I used fresh king prawns (a favourite here in Australia), black mussels and squid. In addition to the salty and briny flavours of the sea, I added some classic aromatic accompaniments like plenty of white wine, chopped garlic, fresh and tinned tomatoes, a touch of chilli and handfuls of herbs such as bay, fresh lemon thyme, rosemary and basil.  
The key to this dish is to let things stew - but not the seafood! Sounds funny, I know. First cook everything except for the seafood together on a slow heat, stir the pot a little and then, when all the tastes have come together you add the star.  Fresh prawns, mussels and squid cook in just a few minutes and they don't need any more handling than that. Follow the recipe and you'll have perfectly cooked seafood every time! So lovely and delicious...


fragrant seafood stew
serves 4

1 tbsp olive oil
3 shallots, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
2 bay leaves
1 sprig of rosemary
2 sprigs of lemon thyme
1 punnet cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tin of tomatoes (use a good brand if you can!)
1 cup white wine
1 red chilli, seeds removed and chopped
1 tsp sugar
sea salt and cracked black pepper
water (about 1/2-1 cup)
6 large prawns (like king prawns or similar), cleaned
8-10 large mussels, scrubbed
1 squid (cleaned, skinned and sliced into pieces)
handful basil leaves
fresh lemons, quartered

Place a large pot on medium heat and once hot add oil, shallots and stir for a few minutes. Then add garlic, bay leaves, rosemary and thyme.  Sweat for about 5-10 minutes and then add tomatoes and white wine. While simmering add chopped chilli, sugar, salt and pepper to taste. At this point add some water because it will evaporate while cooking. Let stew for about 20-30 minutes on a low heat and add a bit more water if too dry. At this point increase heat to medium and place seafood in - prawns first - let cook 1-2 minutes with lid on, then stir in mussels and squid, place lid on pot.  Wait just a few minutes until mussels are open.  Turn off the heat and serve right away in bowls with fresh basil leaves and a quick drizzle of olive oil to mellow things out- serve with fresh bread and lemon.

*credit: stoneware bowls in grey (with prawns) and green (with basil) by Golden Brown Fox Ceramics.






7.12.2012

A nutty day.


Quinoa (pronounced 'keen-wah') is considered a superfood. While I can't speak much on the reasons why this is the case, I can tell you that quinoa is actually an ancient seed and that it's quite delicious too.   It's packed with protein and a perfect substitute for folks with wheat and gluten allergies. I know it's on the list of many healthy food eaters but even the more indulgent eaters of the world would love this dish.
Combining simple ingredients - toasted quinoacrunchy raw almonds, fresh vegetables like red capsicum, cherry tomatoes and cucumbers, along with sweet sultanas and fragrant fresh mint leaves - make this quinoa dish the perfect lunch. I won't leave out the dressing: made with a touch of garlic, extra virgin olive oil, lemon, balsamic and a touch of honey and chilli - it's the best accompaniment to bring out all the flavours of the food.
Make this tonight and leave in the fridge for tomorrow's lunch - a great way to get something simple, fresh and delicious onto your plate. Enjoy!

nutty quinoa salad
makes 3-4 servings

salad
3/4 cup quinoa 
1/4 cup raw almonds, chopped roughly
1 small cucumber, quartered and chopped
1 small red capsicum, chopped
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, chopped 
1/4 cup organic sultanas/raisins
1/2 bunch fresh mint leaves, torn


dressing
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 small garlic clove, crushed
1.5 tsp dijon mustard
1/4 lemon, juiced
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp crushed dried chillies 
good pinch sea salt and fresh pepper

To make quinoa: place medium size pot on medium heat - add washed quinoa grains and stir consistently until grains become toasted (about 5-7 minutes, depending on heat). Once toasted, add almonds and enough water to cover quinoa. As quinoa cooks, keep adding a little bit of water at a time (about 1/3 cup) until fully cooked. Let cool.
While cooking quinoa, in a separate bowl mix vegetables, sultanas and mint. Make dressing by combining all ingredients (garlic is meant to impart flavour to the dressing, discard after letting it sit for a few minutes). Once quinoa is cooled, mix all elements together and adjust seasoning. Eat right away or place into fridge for a great lunch the next day!





6.18.2012

A few things...


Hello friends! I have been meaning to post but it's been a hectic month so far! I do, however, have something to show for all the busy work.
A cover issue of Sunday Life Magazine! Photography: Katie Quinn Davies Food Preparation: Caroline Marson and food and props styling by yours truly. The cover featured a delicious fish and prawn pie  (trust me, I ate it!). This recipe was part of the magazine's food issue where I styled a number of different dishes. Look here for recipes and more shots!
Next up is a collaborative project created by myself and two friends and colleagues - Artisan Magazine. A magazine created exclusively for iPads, Artisan focuses on stories that speak to the local, personal and unique. It combines our love for all things simple, beautiful and handmade. You can learn a bit more about the magazine here, and you can download the magazine here for free. We'd love for you to share our work with anyone you might think would be interested. We hope you enjoy our stories as much as we loved creating them!

Will be back soon with more foodie posts! x0b


5.27.2012

A memorable muffin.


There is a cafe in an area of Toronto called Kensington Market.  When I lived there I used to spend my Saturdays getting a deliciously hot and strong cappuccino and walking from stall to stall to see the various fruits and vegetables grocers had to offer.  My morning was finished with a snack or lunch at an amazing vegan food spot called Urban Herbivore.
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Now this is the type of cafe I would want to run -- if I wanted to run a cafe, that is.  The place works because it offers a simple and fresh menu, often using overlooked ingredients that add that perfect little touch.  They even make their own bread for sandwiches -- it's those little details that make a place like this so memorable.
One of my favourite items from this cafe is a sweet potato muffin.  This is a serious muffin -- not one of those cake-like, sweet and fatty offerings drummed up by many bakeries and cafes.  In addition to using sweet potatoes, these muffins have whole grains and just enough sweetness.
This is my version of their muffin -- sweet potatoes, ripe bananas, sweet crimson raisins, wholegrain spelt oats, wholemeal flour, olive oil and agave syrup.  Definitely try this recipe out and if you're ever in Toronto, definitely visit Urban Herbivore - you won't be disappointed!

*side note: this blog does not advertise -- I am not paid to write about or recommend any of the restaurants or food products mentioned here -- I simply provide my opinion or take on things.

sweet potato muffins**
makes 12 muffins

1 cup spelt oats
1/4 cup crimson raisins (or any other kind)
2 ripe bananas, mashed 1/3 cup olive oil
1 egg, lightly beaten 
1/4 cup dark agave syrup
1 and 1/2 cup wholemeal flour
1 and 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamon
1 and 1/4 cup sweet potato, cubed, cooked and cooled

Preheat oven to 175 degrees C.
Place oats and raisins in a medium bowl and add enough boiling water to cover. Let soak about 10-15 minutes.  For wet ingredients, mix mashed bananas, olive oil, egg and agave syrup in a large bowl.  For the dry ingredients, place flour, baking soda and spices in a bowl and mix.  Strain soaked oats and raisins (rinse with cold water until cooled) and add to wet ingredients. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix carefully - don't over-mix!, then add in cooked sweet potatoes.  At this point if mixture is too dry, add either 1/4 cup yoghurt or 1/4 applesauce.

Place batter into muffin tin and bake about 30 minutes or until knife inserted comes out relatively clean (because you're using bananas you want to keep some moisture) Take out and let cool - serve with cream cheese - enjoy!

*note this is not a vegan muffin but if you want to make it so, just remove egg and replace with apple sauce.


4.30.2012

Back to bananas


It's amazing that just a few ingredients can create such a delicious treat.  Banana bread is one of those baking staples for when you are lacking time or patience. It's not just easy to put together but even when you mess up the recipe a little it often still turns out wonderful and moist!
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This recipe combines the sweet and creamy textures of overripe bananas (there are many in this recipe - I've used 4!), wholemeal and plain flour, olive oil (yes, I bake with this!) eggs and a touch of brown sugar. The perfect accompaniment to your morning or afternoon tea. Enjoy!

banana bread
makes 1 loaf

4 medium ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup olive oil 
1/4 brown sugar
2 whole eggs
1 cup wholemeal flour
1/2 cup plain flour
pinch sea salt
1 tsp baking soda


Preheat oven to 170 degrees C.
Grease a loaf tin.
In a large bowl mix together bananas, olive oil, sugar and eggs. In a separate bowl, mix together dry ingredients: wholemeal and plain flour, salt and baking soda. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix - don't overmix! Place batter in loaf tin and bake on middle rack for about 40-45 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean. Take out of oven and lest rest before slicing

4.09.2012

Bent on brownies


Delicious. Chocolate. Brownies. It doesn't take much to appreciate the sweet, rich density offered by a bite of brownie.
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These days I've been eating a lot of chocolate.  It's been Easter and therefore almost impossible to ignore all the stands of chocolate treats set up absolutely everywhere!
If you're going to eat chocolate you might as well find another way to eat it -- for example, in a brownie!  These ones are simple -- no intrusions, no additions like nuts -- just simple, unadulterated chocolate brownies. I used a combination of dark and milk chocolate, brown sugar and plain flour.  Too easy and seriously delicious!

chocolate brownies
makes 12 squares

175g good quality chocolate (150g dark, 25g milk), chopped
130g butter, chopped
120g brown sugar
pinch of salt
2 whole eggs, room temperature
75g plain flour

Preheat oven to 165 degrees C.
Line a square or rectangular tin with baking paper. Place chocolate and butter in a bowl and place over a pot of simmering water just until melted. Take off the heat and keep aside to let cool slightly.  In a separate bowl place sugar and salt.  Add chocolate butter mixture to sugar and salt and mix.  Add eggs one at a time until fully incorporated. Finally mix in flour well - ensuring not over mix batter.  Pour batter into tin and bake approximately 25 minutes or until skewer inserted comes out clean. Take out of oven and let cool before slicing.

3.25.2012

Pleasantly plum-filled.


Autumn is here in Sydney. I actually cannot believe that summer flew by so quickly - even though it was definitely not the warmest, sunniest summer I've experienced here. In fact it's been rainy and cloudy a lot!
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The fall is quite lovely and its cooler evenings mean that certain deliciously hearty and pastry-rich items feature back on the house menu.
Given the buckets of plums being showcased in markets at the moment, I thought a plum tart would be great idea for dessert.  Mixing sweet yet tart plums with smooth and nutty marzipan makes for a wonderful tart combination.
Baked until sticky and golden, oozing with almond goodness and encased in a buttery crust - this is definitely dessert time!

plum & marzipan tarts
makes 4 tarts

pastry
175g plain flour
80g butter, cold and cut into pieces
pinch of sea salt
1 tsp caster sugar
1 egg yolk (keep white aside)
1/4 cup cold water (you won't need it all)

filling
5-6 small plums, sliced
50g marzipan, cut into pieces
1/4 cup brown sugar
squeeze of lemon juice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
4 tsp honey

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.
To make the pastry: Sift dry ingredients into a bowl - using hands rub pieces of butter into the flour until mixture resembles sand. Mix in egg yolk and then bring mixture together by adding a bit of cold water (a little at a time) until it forms a ball. Wrap pastry in cling wrap and place in fridge 20-30 minutes.

To make filling: mix plums, sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon together. Keep aside.

Take out pastry and with rolling pin roll out until about 1/4 inch thick. Cut into appropriate sizes for tart cases (I used 15cm tart cases) and place into case carefully, pushing in all edges. Place into fridge 20 minutes. Take out lined cases, dock pastry and blind bake with beans/rice in oven for 10 minutes. Take out and let cool. Add pieces of marzipan to each case and add plum mixture, top each case with tsp of honey. Bake in oven about 45-50 minutes or until golden and plums are soft. Take out and let cool. Serve with cream or vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!

3.19.2012

Fruit & Nut...and a muffin.


Oh, and chocolate! You can't have fruits and nuts without a touch of chocolate.
This delicious combination of fruit, nut and chocolate came together to make these delicious banana and hazelnut muffins.  Perfect for the morning or any other time of the day, these muffins are exploding with banana flavour and a touch of spice.

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Sometimes muffins can be heavy and dense but using half flour/half hazelnut meal, ensured that these sweet little treats were kept light. In addition to the sweet ripe bananas, I added a touch of brown sugar, spices like mace and cinnamon and a necessary addition - chocolate! Not just any chocolate - these were pieces of dark hazelnut filled chocolate - the perfect pairing of fruit, nut - and chocolate. Try it out!


banana and hazelnut muffins
makes 12 muffins

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup hazelnut meal (if you can't find/make then use almond meal)
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup brown sugar
pinch sea salt
1/4 tsp ground mace
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 whole eggs
1/4 cup non-fragrant oil
2 medium ripe bananas, mashed
50g dark hazelnut chocolate, cut into pieces

Preheat oven to 175 degrees C. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.
In a medium bowl sift dry ingredients - flour, hazelnut meal, baking powder, sugar and salt. Keep aside.
In another bowl, beat eggs lightly and mix in oil and mashed bananas. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix just until incorporated - don't overmix! Then mix through pieces of hazelnut chocolate.
Spoon mix into cases and bake for about 20 minutes. Take out and let cool. Enjoy!

2.24.2012

Just so peachy.


It's golden, crumbly and slightly sweet -- a topping like no other. Underneath you find golden yellow peaches flecked with sweet crunchy specks of sugar and cut with a slight tang of blueberry flavour.

This is cobbler.

Such a simple but understated dessert. I've never made a cobbler before but I have made many crumbles. Quite similar desserts but a cobbler is more like a deconstructed pie -- and anything with a sweet buttery pastry like topping is ok by me.
So easy to make -- it requires just a few ingredients -- fruit, of course -- any stonefruit and berry combination works well.  I used peaches and blueberries but you could try other pairings like plum and blackberries or strawberries and rhubarb...Easily tossed in lemon juice and sugar and topped with a simple mix of flour, oatsbutter and demerara sugar.
Try it out and you will be pleased!

peach and blueberry cobbler
serves 4
(recipe adapted from Gourmet)

mix
4 large peaches (or 5-6 small)
1 cup blueberries
1/4 lemon, juiced
1 tbsp demerara sugar
1 tsp cornflour/cornstarch

topping
1/2 cup flour (I used wholemeal self-raising)
1/2 cup oats
1/4 cup demerara sugar
pinch sea salt
80g (about 3/4 stick) cold butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup boiling water

Preheat oven to 210 degrees C.
In a large bowl mix peaches, blueberries, lemon juice, sugar and cornstarch. Place fruit mixture into a baking dish (I used a pie dish).

To make the topping: In a bowl combine flour, oats, sugar and salt and then rub in cold butter pieces with hands until mixture forms a crumbly like texture like sand -- leaving some lumps is ok. Stir in hot water a little at a time until mixture just combines, don't overmix. Drop spoonfools of topping over fruit mixture and bake in the oven for about 25 minutes or until topping is golden brown. Note: I didn't pre-cook my fruit as I wanted it to have some texture and not be too soft.








2.14.2012

An exciting thing...


Hello friends - just an exciting bit of news for this post...here is the latest cover of MasterChef Magazine - styled by yours truly! Photography: Ben Dearnley. If you happen to live in Australia make sure to get the magazine (paper or ipad version) as it's full of tasty and delicious recipes covering a range of diverse flavours - along with plenty of great foodie stories and information. Will definitely be back soon with another piece of something delicious and beautiful...x0
ps -- I wanted to add a little shout out to my very creative friend Leigh-Ann Thomas - her work is simply beautiful! I've used one of her ceramic pieces in the shot/story and you can see more of her  work here.

1.29.2012

A simple salad


If you’ve been to my blog before you are familiar with my celebrations of simplicity. Simple, fresh ingredients are usually all you need to make things taste delicious and look beautiful.
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One of the simplest dishes that I make often are salads – all kinds, whether they consist of many ingredients or just two, have roasted vegetables or fresh and crunchy ones. I love my salads.
This particular salad features pan-fried mushrooms as its star; mushrooms seared in a hot pan and then tossed in a vinaigrette of olive oil, apple cider vinegar, mustard, garlic, fresh thyme and rosemary, and plenty of pepper. Other tasty additions include colourful cherry and grape tomatoes, cos and radicchio leaves, and cucumber slices. Just a few simple things can make the best dinner ever – try it out!

1.17.2012

Scintillating squash


Summertime calls for many things – icy cold treats, fresh fruit for breakfast, cold mint tea…all things fresh and light.  There is, however, one food very wintry in nature that I cannot resist even in summer: squash.
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It may be a hearty root vegetable but there is no denying its bright, golden-orange hue belongs in my notes for summer …

This vegetarian pasta has everything you’re looking for – fresh, delicious but also healthy and filling (but I promise you can still go swimming afterwards!). A little bit like a pasta primavera – a springtime vegetable medley – this pasta has it all. I sautéed  onion, celery, carrots, garlic and butternut squash – added plenty of white wine, fresh parsley and bay leaves. I finished it off with a hint of mace, lots of freshly cracked pepper and a touch of light cream. A perfect summer treat.

summer squash pasta

serves 4-6

1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 red onion, sliced finely
2 bay leaves
2 stalks celery, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
3/4 kg butternut squash (any pumpkin is fine), peeled and cut into sizeable pieces
1 1/2 cups white wine (I used pinot grigio because I was drinking it!)
1 cup peas
1/4 cup light cream
pinch of mace (use nutmeg if you don’t have mace)
sea salt
freshly cracked pepper
bunch of fresh parsley
500g wholemeal pasta 

Place a large pot on medium heat – wait a few minutes then when hot add oil, onion, bay, celery, garlic and carrot – sweat for 5 minutes. Add the squash and cook, stirring every minute or so for about 10 minutes – add white wine to deglaze the pot. Cook another 5 minutes or until squash is tender. At this point, place water in a large pot to boil for pasta. Salt the water, add pasta and cook until al dente (about 11-12 minutes for wholemeal pasta). To finish the sauce, add peas and cook 2 minutes, then add cream, mace, salt and pepper to taste. Finish the sauce with fresh parsley and dried chili if desired. I also added cheese – because I simply love it! Enjoy.

1.07.2012

Party-time


Happy New Year folks! I hope you all enjoyed your holidays and that much fun was had while copious amounts of food and wine were consumed – this is how I like to celebrate! Speaking of celebrations, December was a month of fun at my house. It’s the month of my birthday and my wedding anniversary – and those great gift-giving days of Christmas fun – so many reasons to eat, drink and be merry.

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For my birthday I made a few tried and tested party foods. Dips are never a miss at parties – finger foods are not only easy to make but serve a great purpose; you can hold your drink in one hand and eat with the other, all the while making conversation – this is efficiency people :). For this special night I made a simple 4 ingredient hummus dip and a charred eggplant dip (somewhat like a baba ganoush).

For the end of the night nothing works better than the famous ‘trashy truffle’. This particular dessert, inspired by a Paula Dean recipe for cookie dough truffles, was aptly named by my sister. I tweaked the recipe a little and came up with sweet little pieces of chocolately drizzled trashy joy, with a slight biscuity crunch. Yum, I love parties.



Recipes
4 ingredient hummus
400g chickpeas, drained
1 tbsp tahini paste
juice from 1 small lemon
extra-virgin olive oil 2-3 tbsp (plus more for finishing)

Place chickpeas, tahini and lemon juice in food processor and blend. While blending drizzle in olive oil until mixture resembles smooth, creamy paste. If too thick, add a little water to thin out. Season with sea salt and give a final mix. Place into bowl and finish with a little more olive oil and a touch salt.

charred eggplant dip
1 large eggplant
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup greek/full fat yoghurt
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
extra-virgin olive oil, to finish

First char the eggplant on the bbq (as I have done) or grill. Let cool and remove most of the blackened bits (keeping a little is fine and imparts a smoky flavour). Next, chop up the softened eggplant (it falls apart easily), mix in onions, add salt and fold through the yoghurt (here I didn't over-mix as I like the look and taste of uneven layers of yoghurt and eggplant). Finish with fresh pepper and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

trashy truffles
(slightly adapted from Paula Deen)
makes about 5 dozen truffles
1/2 cup organic butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups organic plain flour
1 can condensed milk
1/2 cup finely chopped biscuits (I used something like a graham cracker but use anything you fancy)
150g milk chocolate, melted

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter, sugar and vanilla. Gradually mix in flour and add condensed milk. Mix in biscuit crumbs and shape dough into 1 inch balls (dip fingers in flour to make it easier to roll). Place on waxed/baking paper and chill in fridge for an hour.

Melt chocolate in a double boiler on low-heat. Take out tray of truffles and drizzle with melted chocolate – I dipped some whole in the chocolate and kept some simply drizzled – it’s up to you!