A simple sandwich

In the world of food the word 'simple' is used a lot and in quite different ways. These days, when life is hectic for so many people, to say that a recipe is 'simple' is a sure-fire way to sell it. Often a simple recipe implies that it will only use a few ingredients (hence cooking shows and books aptly name 'four' or 'five ingredients') and that assembly is straightforward and quick (30 minutes or less). My interpretation of simplicity might be a little different: for me, it has to do with using fresh ingredients - foods that haven't been processed too much already. Saying that a dish is simple doesn't necessarily imply a lack: the combination of a few simple ingredients can create something quite spectacular.
My 'simple sandwich' consists of a number of tasty items - bread, cheese, tomatoes, fresh greens - and a few little added touches like orange marmalade, garlic, dried rosemary and freshly cracked pepper. What is not simple about this sandwich is the flavour - tangy, salty, sweet and a little spicy, almost umami-ish. The textures of the soft, slightly chewy melted cheese with the crusty bread go perfectly against the smooth sweetness of the marmalade and the little kick of black pepper. So easy to assemble - no pan involved. All you need is a toaster and dare I say microwave (you won't often find me encouraging the use of microwaves but hey - thirty seconds to food heaven is so worth it).
This sandwich has become a favourite of mine - who knew simple could taste so good!

grilled cheese and tomato sandwich with marmalade and black pepper
makes one delicious lunch

two slices fresh wholegrain bread
1 garlic clove (keep whole)
3 slices tomato
a few slices of your favourite aged cheddar cheese (aged cheese has
the tangy flavour you need)
2 tsp orange marmalade
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp freshly cracked pepper

Place slices in toaster to toast. Take out and while still warm rub the garlic clove over each slice (gently so that you just get a hint of garlic). Next place slices of tomato and cheese on pieces of toast.  Drizzle with marmalade and sprinkle with dried rosemary and fresh pepper. Place pieces of toast together and microwave for 30 seconds or until just melted. If you don't have a microwave or don't use one - warm up the sandwich in a hot oven for a few minutes or until cheese is melted.  Enjoy!

Coffee & cookies

You know that time around 3pm when you hit that afternoon slump, can’t keep your eyes open but still have lots more work to do? At that time I need either caffeine or sugar (or both).
Yes, I know that caffeine and sugar aren’t the healthiest options for sustenance. But my oatmeal cookies are not all that sweet, and they do a great job satisfying afternoon cravings and giving you a little boost of energy.
My oatmeal cookies use wholegrain rolled oats, coconut, walnuts and of course, smooth, rich and anti-oxidant packed dark chocolate.  Once the batter was made, I used an ice cream scoop to make small little imperfect balls, pressed them down a little and baked for 10-15 minutes. Easy to make and delicious to eat – the perfect afternoon treat (with your coffee!).

oatmeal-coconut-walnut cookies
makes about 15 fat cookies

1/4  cup canola oil
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbsp soy milk
1/4  raw sugar
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 cup wholegrain oats
1/2 cup plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
pinch sea salt
1/4 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1/4 cup dark chocolate, chopped

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.
In a large bowl add oil, egg, vanilla, soy milk and sugar and mix until well incorporated.  In a separate bowl mix coconut, oats, flour, salt and baking powder.  Mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients and stir through walnuts and chocolate. Using an ice cream scooper or large spoon make little balls and place onto lined baking tray. Bake 10-15 minutes or until just golden. Enjoy with your afternoon coffee!

Cheese is what you need

It has been raining every day in Sydney.  Cheesecake is the kind of comfort you need on rainy days or when the weather is cold.
I love the creamy, smooth quality of the cheese against the crunch of the biscuit base and the sweet aftertaste. You don’t need a lot of sugar in cheesecake – somehow its richness is satisfying enough.
Sweet, creamy, tangy and refreshing – are some of the words that come to mind after tasting my baked citrus cheesecake. I used the zest and juice of lemon in the cake and served it with fresh mandarins. I kept the cake simple so that the freshness of ingredients would stand out; fresh ricotta, cream cheese, eggslemon and agave made up the body of the cake and I used wholemeal biscuits for the base.
My baked citrus cheesecake was super easy to make so I hope you try it out for yourself!
And for more cheesecake type recipes see here and here.

baked citrus cheesecake
serves 6-8

125g/12 biscuits wholemeal biscuits (you could also use graham crackers, granita)
1 1/2  tbsp melted butter

250g or 1 1/2 cups cream cheese (package)
250g fresh ricotta cheese
3 eggs – 2 whole and 1 yolk
zest from 1 lemon, juice from half
2 tbsp dark agave syrup (use honey or other sweetner if you don’t have it)
1 tbsp demerara sugar for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 170 degrees C.
Line the bottom of a 20cm springform pan with baking paper.
To make the crust, place biscuits in a processor and process until biscuits resemble sand-like texture. Place into bowl with melted butter and mix through. Place mixture into pan and press down.  Bake 5 minutes or until golden and take out to let cool.
To make filling: in a processor or with a beater mix both cheeses until softened, add in eggs one at a time, zest of lemon and juice, and agave syrup. Beat until everything becomes smooth . To get a dense and rich cheesecake make sure not to beat too much air into mix – it will just end up flopping in the centre. Once the filling is smooth, pour into pan on top of crust and sprinkle with demerara sugar (I do this to get a little brulĂ©ed crust). Cover pan with foil and place into centre shelf to bake* for 45 minutes – remove foil and bake another 15 minutes or until centre is firm.  Once baked, take out and let cool – refrigerate for a few hours – if you can wait! To serve, add mandarins or any other citrus fruit – pour over more agave syrup or use jam to add more sweetness. Enjoy!

*These are baking guidelines since ovens do vary – just make sure to keep an eye on the cake checking every 20 minutes or so.

My chocolatey cure

How can chocolate be so comforting? Its sweet, dark richness never fails to help me when I need to feel better, and I love finding ways to cook, bake and eat chocolate in new ways.
Molten lava cake, otherwise known as chocolate fondant, is one of the simplest and most satisfying chocolate desserts. It is a little bit like a flourless chocolate cake in that it has a similar moist and gooey interior, but it isn’t flourless.
It's made with just a few basic ingredients like chocolate (dark and good quality), butter, sugar, eggs and a little flour. I added some vanilla and a bit of espresso just for a change and an extra kick of caffeine.
These are my delicious little cakes – try them out for yourself, especially on a bad day and I promise you’ll feel better!

chocolate espresso molten cakes
makes two little cakes
*use organic where possible

60g dark chocolate – I used half 85%, half  70%
1 1/2 tbsp butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp espresso powder
2 eggs
1 1/2  tbsp confectionary sugar
2 tbsp plain flour, sifted

Preheat oven to 220 degrees C.
In a double boiler (bain marie) melt chocolate pieces and butter. Take off heat once melted and let cool a little and mix in espresso powder and vanilla.  Prepare two ramekins; grease with butter and dust with flour. In a mixing bowl, add eggs and sugar and beat until fluffy and a little pale in colour – about 3-5 minutes. Gently add in chocolate mix, stir carefully until combined and then fold in sifted flour, one spoon at a time. Pour into ramekins and bake for about 7-9 minutes – watching/checking that outside is cooked but inside still moist and gooey.  Remove and let cool a little before tipping out onto dish. Finish with a dust of cocoa powder and serve with espresso or cappuccino or anything else delicious!
nb: my cakes weren’t as gooey on the inside as I would have liked – I probably left them in the hot ramekins a little too long.