coconut, banana and lime cake with lime syrup and candied carambola

cakesideazIf you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’d be well acquainted with the fact that I’m regularly ‘gifted’ with fresh garden produce by friends, family and acquaintances. Most of the time I view this phenomenon as a huge blessing; for example, I haven’t had to buy fresh limes for over three months.

However, last week’s bounty included four fresh carambola (star fruit), alongside six limes and a whole hand of overripe bananas (the latter were from an overly neglected fruit bowl). Being the headstrong, waste-hating cook that I am, I was determined to use the lot before heading to Margaret River for the weekend.

dropstar2So, early on Saturday morning, I awoke with one task in mind: to create a one-pan, palatable cake incorporating all of the above. As Aaron and I were planning to visit his family on the way to Margaret River, I decided to bake an organic, coconut-based cake for their predominantly healthy taste buds. Below, you’ll find the pleasing end result.

cocbanmontThis cake is dense, fragrant and lime-drenched, gently sweet with coconut sugar and soft, mild banana. I’ve used both coconut and plain flour for a super-moist interior, gently offset by the sweet, tropical candied carambola.

As the cake was topped, dusted and packed for transportation within 30 minutes of leaving the oven, I had little time to take beautiful photographs. It was served immediately in its warm, delicate form, with syrup still dripping from the knife.

Rest assured, there will definitely be a ‘version two’ of this tropical beauty. When that occasion arises, I will take some interior ‘slice’ shots and upload them for your perusal. Until then, please accept my apology… your imagination will have to suffice.

cakesideCoconut, Banana and Lime Cake

  • 1 1/2 cups plain (all-purpose) flour, sifted
  • 1 cup coconut flour, sifted
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut sugar (substitute brown sugar)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 large free-range eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup (270mL) coconut cream
  • 3 large, very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 3/4 cup (180g) Nuttelex (substitute Earth Balance or unsalted butter), melted
  • 2 limes, zest and juice (equivalent to 1/2 cup juice)

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees f). Grease and line a round 22cm springform tin, then set aside.

Combine dry ingredients and lime zest in a large bowl.

floursugarmontIn a separate bowl, combine your mashed banana, butter, coconut cream, lime juice and lightly beaten eggs. Add your wet ingredients to the dry mixture, then mix well with a wooden spoon or spatula until the mixture is smooth and no patches of flour remain.

batterPour into the lined cake tin. Bake for 40 minutes or until the top is slightly risen, golden and firm to the touch. A skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should come out with only a few moist crumbs attached.

Set aside to cool slightly whilst you make the syrup.

zestgrnLime Syrup

Makes about 1/2 cup

  • 1/2 cup white caster sugar
  • zest and juice of 2-3 limes (equivalent to 1/2 cup juice)

Combine sugar and lime juice in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Continue to simmer until the mixture thickens (about 5-10 minutes).

limemontRemove from the heat and add in the lime zest. Allow to steep for five minutes.

Whilst the cake is still warm, poke holes all over it with a wooden skewer. Slowly pour over the still-warm lime syrup in an even drizzle, allowing time for the liquid to penetrate.

soaktopSet aside to soak whilst you make your candied carambola (place a plate underneath your tin to catch any escaping syrup; pour it back over the cake as required).

crossec1Candied Carambola*

  • 2 firm carambola (star fruit)
  • 1 cup white caster sugar
  • 1 cup cold water

Wash your carambola, then slice off the ‘stalk end’ (the end that has an indent and a black spot. The other end should be pointy). Run your knife down the edge of each ‘rib’ to remove any discoloured or fibrous skin (see picture below, left). Slice the carambola into 0.5cm even slices, then remove any seeds with the tip of your knife.

sfmontAdd the sugar and water into a medium saucepan. Bring to the boil over medium heat, then simmer gently until all of the sugar dissolves. Add in the sliced carambola, then allow to simmer for around 20 minutes, or until the liquid reduced and the fruit becomes translucent and glossy. Remove from the heat.

sfpotmontLine a large baking tray with greaseproof paper. Using a fork, carefully remove each piece of candied carambola, allowing excess syrup to drip back into the saucepan. Lay each ‘star’ onto the greaseproof paper to dry (this may take a couple of hours; if you’ve just cooked your cake you can place the tray into the still-warm oven [heat turned off] to accelerate the process).

sfcandiedmontWhen your carambola is ready, it should be slightly dry and sticky to the touch. To finish your cake, dust it gently with icing sugar then lay over your carambola ‘stars’ in a circular pattern, from the centre to the outer rim. If desired, add some extra lime zest or mint to serve.sfsimplesyrup

Notes:

  • This cake is beautiful served at room temperature with a dollop of thick Greek yoghurt or double cream.
  • For a vegan version, subtract the eggs and add in two flax eggs (1 egg = 1 tbsp ground flaxseed simmered in 3 tbsp water) or use an egg replacer such as Ener-G gluten-free egg replacer. Bear in mind that your finished cake may not rise as successfully, leading to a denser result.
  • *Keep the remaining carambola syrup for cocktails… I ended up with about 1/2 – 3/4 cup of residual syrup. It has a fresh, slightly sweet melon flavour and would be wonderful with mint, vodka (or gin), soda water and some extra sliced carambola (with a squeeze of lime if desired).
  • This cake can be frozen, wrapped or stored in an airtight container, for up to two months. I’d recommend storing it after soaking, without the candied carambola (the freezing and thawing process will remove some of its chewy texture).

closeuptexture

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boozy black cherry brownies

goodcloseEleven months ago, little Laura the fledgling blogger clicked ‘publish’ on a comprehensive recipe for her very own version of walnut fudge brownies. In her mind, these weren’t just any brownies; they were the best brownies in the world. Or possibly, the stratosphere.

In fact, these little squares of chocolatey goodness had been known to melt hearts, win friends and rescue cats out of trees. In a word? They were magnificent; unequivocally loved by lovers, family and friends for over ten years.

cocoamontOver the next few weeks, the rain came and went; grey changed to green and Winter slowly melted into Spring. As the trees started to sprout new leaves, Laura’s little post sat virtually untouched on the dusty shelf of cyberspace. As the days passed, her mind began to question the worth of the little post. Was it special? Was it nonpareil?

Despite being a touch unyielding, the answer was a deep, dark recalcitrant ‘no’ that chimed from the depths of the Google ocean; for this is where the brownie recipe sat, obscured by weeds of advertising and over eleven million moist, chocolatey clones.

silhouetteSo, after that long introduction, you’re probably wondering why on earth I’m posting yet another brownie recipe. Ha. I’m wondering the same thing, actually. By feeble explanation, this recipe wandered into my head spontaneously whilst I was staring at a bag of cherries.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ll be well aware that I’m all for seasonal, organic and local produce. Homegrown, if possible. I don’t normally tolerate imported fruit, particularly if it’s likely to have been waxed and sprayed prior to transport. However, after two months of mind-numbing apples, pears and oranges at the markets (darn boring Winter fruit) my resolve shattered and I squirreled home a bag of plump, dark stone fruit from the US of A.

cherrypitsUpon arriving home, I rinsed the fruit lightly, watching beads of moisture splash into the sink. I ate one, my mind flickering through options for dessert consumption: cherry pie? cherry clafoutis? black forest cake? Distractedly, my glance fell upon some nearby port wine and… click. Boozy cherry brownies: the dessert fairy had spoken.

Now, I’m not going to tell you that these are the best brownies in the world. Because they’re not. Well, probably not (how can you tell, with another eleven million comparisons?). I’ll tell you what I do know. These brownies are rich with dark chocolate, moist and fruity from the soft, boozy cherries and decidedly fudgy without being cloying. They’re naturally bittersweet. Their dark tinge of streaky crimson looks beautiful on the plate as it seeps into accompanying ice cream.

chocolatecutOh, that reminds me: on Saturday night, we ate them warm à la mode; drizzled with chocolate fudge and adorned with clotted cream. Four spoons clinked upon stoneware as we scraped up the last drops of melted vanilla and port wine. So, so delicious.

I’d encourage you to try these if you want another brownie recipe in your repertoire. All superlative claims aside, they’re pretty darn good.

slabBoozy Black Cherry Brownies

Makes about 16 good-sized pieces

  • 150g good quality dark chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 cup (65g) unsweetened Dutch processed cocoa
  • 150g unsalted butter, chopped
  • 1 cup (200g) dark brown sugar
  • 3 large free-range eggs, separated
  • 1 cup (150g) plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt (a good pinch)
  • 400g fresh black cherries, stoned and halved (weight after stones have been removed)
  • 1ooml good-quality port wine (substitute sherry or kirsch, if desired)

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (360 degrees f). Grease a 20 x 20cm (8 x 8 inch) brownie pan and line it with baking parchment. Set aside.

Place your halved and stoned cherries into a medium bowl. Gently pour over the port wine. Leave to macerate overnight, or for at least one hour prior to cooking.

cherrymontPlace your chocolate and butter into a sturdy glass or metal bowl over a pan of simmering water (using the ‘double boiler’ technique). Allow to melt gently, stirring occasionally.

dboilmontWhen the last pieces of butter are slowly disappearing, remove the bowl from the heat and set it aside whilst you prepare the dry ingredients.

Sift your cocoa and flour into a large bowl. Mix in the brown sugar and salt, then make a well in the centre. Beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork before gradually whisking them into the cooled liquid chocolate mixture. Fold the now-thickened custard into the dry ingredients with most of the soaked cherry mixture (reserve a few cherry halves to top the brownie before baking). Stir well to thoroughly combine.

Beat the egg whites in a separate bowl until soft peaks form. Fold the egg white mixture gently into the brownie batter, taking care not to knock out all of the air pockets. The mixture is ready when it’s lightly speckled with egg white (no large patches of white should remain).

bowlmontPour the mixture into the prepared pan and top with your reserved cherry halves.

prebakeBake the brownie for 45-50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out with only a few moist crumbs attached. Serve warm or at room temperature, dusted liberally with good-quality cocoa.

strawbtop

Notes:

  • These brownies can easily be baked alcohol-free; just add in another 20g or so of butter to compensate for the reduced moisture.
  • Feel free to play around with fresh and dried fruit, nut and booze additions: raspberries with Chambord, flaked almonds and chocolate chips with Amaretto, orange zest with fresh orange juice, Grand Marnier or Cointreau (or any other brand of triple sec), dried sour cherries and Kirsch. I haven’t tried all of these combinations but I’m intending to (at present, I can vouch for the orange and raspberry versions. Both are incredibly delicious).
  • Pitting cherries can make you look like an artist (I was going to say ‘axe murderer’, but that sounded pretty bad). Be warned; wear gloves if you’re intending to split and hand-pit your fruit. The stains take ages to scrub off.

*Another last minute fact: these brownies are made so much better when they’re consumed with friends and family that you love to bits. Azza-the-awesome, I love you. Matt and Caryse, thanks for your unmatched wit, warmth and continued foodie inspiration (you guys are ah-mazing!) and huge thanks to little Boss for the wide-eyed tongue poking (I’m practicing for the next battle, just you wait!).

six-hour pulled pork with homemade bourbon barbecue sauce

interior2My husband awoke on Friday morning to a pyjama-clad wife cradling a baking dish full of spiced, marinated raw pork shoulder. “That looks like chocolate”, he stated, rubbing sleep from his eyes. “Uh, it’s marinated pork, baby. I’m going to slow-cook it whilst we’re at work today”. He nodded blearily and trundled off to the bathroom to wash his face. So cute.

But, ah… no Aaron. Not all brown foodstuffs are chocolate (though on second thought, that meat does look rather chocolatey).

marinademontToday’s post is based on a recipe for pulled pork by a fellow Antipodean blogger and recipe developer, Peter Georgakopolous. Peter’s blog, Souvlaki for the Soul, was one of the first I discovered as a fledgling foodie. It’s now four years on and I’m still addicted to his impeccable food styling, innovative recipes and top-notch photography.

This particular dish is a perfect example of Peter’s generous hospitality, bold flavours and delicate-but-achievable presentation. It’s been featured on the freakishly cool subscription blog The Boy’s Club (which I also love, despite not being a boy) and I’ve wanted to make it since I first set eyes on his gorgeous food styling, recipe and words.

drinklikeSo on Thursday night, I set to work with Peter as my guide. I liberally covered a shoulder of pork in a fragrant dry rub of brown sugar, oregano, mustard and spices before wrapping and refrigerating the meat overnight.

The next morning, I stared out the window for a while, eating Cheerios whilst the meat returned to room temperature. I then blearily flung it into a hot roasting pan to brown before shoving it, foil-covered, into the oven. As I ran out the door, I hoped that the meat would take care of itself (luckily, it did).

gorgeousherbsIf you haven’t figured it out already, this recipe takes time. Lots of it. Unless you’re lucky enough to lead a flexible routine, I’d recommend that you plan ahead to:

a) marinate the meat and make the barbecue sauce the night before

b) start the cooking process in an oven or pressure cooker before work (it doesn’t matter if you’re away for 8-10 hours, just keep the temperature low; the longer the cook time, the better)

c) ensure that you have all of the other ingredients available for serving when guests arrive (I’m speaking to myself, as frantic “…just make yourself at home, I’ll be back in fifteen!” dashes to the supermarket just aren’t fun).

mmmmSix-hour Pulled Pork

Adapted from this recipe by Peter Georgakopolous.

Makes about 20 pulled pork rolls.

  • 1 pork shoulder, weighing between 1.5-1.7kg
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp rock salt, crushed
  • 1 tbsp white pepper
  • 2 tbsp smoked Spanish paprika
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • Bourbon barbecue sauce, to serve (recipe below)

Place the pork shoulder into a large, flat dish. Combine all of the dry rub ingredients in a bowl, then massage the mix into the pork shoulder until it is entirely covered (if there’s any residual dry rub, just pour it on top of the meat). Cover the dish in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator overnight (or for at least 8 hours).

dryrubmontRemove the pork from the oven at least one hour before cooking, so that it can return to room temperature. Preheat your oven to 120 degrees C (250 degrees f).

Heat a good splash of oil in a large oven-safe baking dish or pan over high heat. Gently pat any moisture and extra marinade off the pork meat, then seal it on all sides until well browned.

porkseal3Remove from heat, pour over any residual marinade then cover the baking dish with foil. Place in the oven and cook for at least six hours, or until falling off the bone.

After removing the pork from the oven, allow the meat to rest (with the foil removed) for 10-15 minutes before shredding (or ‘pulling’) it into long strands with two forks, like this:

flakemeatPlace the pulled pork into a bowl and toss with 1 cup of barbecue sauce (recipe below), ensuring it is mixed well.

pulledmeatsaucedServe in soft white rolls with a spoonful of coleslaw (see my post for Red Cabbage, Radish and Apple Coleslaw) and more mayonnaise, barbecue sauce or hot sauce, if desired. See extra serving suggestions below.

sauceHomemade Bourbon Barbecue Sauce

  • 1 cup (240ml) tomato ketchup
  • 2 cups (480ml) crushed tomatoes (substitute tomato passata)
  • 3/4 cup (165g) light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp mustard powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 3/4 cup Bourbon whisky
  • 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup apple cider or white wine vinegar
  • 20ml fish sauce
  • 3 tbsp hot sauce (I used Tabasco), or to taste

Place all of the ingredients into a medium sized pot and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 30 minutes, or until thickened. Store in a sterilised bottle for later use, or serve immediately with the pulled pork.

interiorServing Suggestions:

You can use storebought coleslaw in these rolls at a pinch. I’d suggest adding some coriander and mint upon serving for freshness, colour and flavour.

I’ve specified ‘white rolls’ for this recipe, though I normally eat brown, seeded or whole wheat bread at home. The soft neutrality of the white bread just seems to really work well with the spiced meat and coleslaw; use brown bread if you must (it’ll still be delicious).

The first time I served these rolls, they were assembled by the light of a halogen work lamp on a tarp-covered trestle table at a friend’s partially renovated home. It was simple: rolls, meat, coleslaw, paper towels. We ate them fireside, with dust on our boots, beer in our bellies and sauce dripping down our chins. It was a beautiful illustration of hand-held food at its best; liberated from the restraints of cutlery, etiquette and dinner party decorum. I’d suggest warming the rolls on a barbecue first, if you have access to one, before serving with potato crisps and lots of fresh, citrusy beer (we had James Boags Premium Lager from Tasmania. Pretty good).

My second attempt took place at home, with the benefits of an oven, sink and refrigerator. I warmed the rolls in the oven until the outsides were slightly crisped and the insides were warm and soft. Meat was added, with coleslaw, a little extra hot sauce and lashes of mayonnaise. These were so, so good. The crisp roll, hot spiced pork and still-cold coleslaw was a fantastic combination. Even better with ice-cold Hoegaarden and some of the best friends on the planet.

gone

red cabbage, radish and apple coleslaw

sideA few years ago, I hated coleslaw. Or more specifically, I hated the thick, gluggy ‘pseudo-salad’ variety of coleslaw sold at every second fast-food joint as a token vegetable (alongside greyish mushy peas, drowned corn-on-the-cob and powdered potato with packet gravy).

However as time has passed, coleslaw has slowly been redeemed in my mind. I mostly credit this to British chef Jamie Oliver who created this recipe for winter vegetable coleslaw a few years ago. I instantly fell in love with it; the soft herbs, fresh radish, raw beetroot and fennel, all enrobed in a light, yoghurty dressing. It was coleslaw, revived. Refreshed and enlivened for a new generation (cue: cheers for Jamie).

radishandmontThe coleslaw recipe below was created specifically as an accompaniment for pulled pork rolls, the recipe for which you can find here. In my culinary mind, apples and radishes are natural friends of pork, so I’ve tossed in both alongside toasted almonds, shredded red cabbage, green onions and soft, mild herbs. The light, lemony dressing contains just enough creaminess to identify as ‘coleslaw’ without being cloying; it’s a beautiful contrast against the rich, sticky pork meat and soft white bread.

carrotmontEach bite of this salad has the sweet crunch of apple and carrot, peppery radish, earthy crushed walnuts and warmth from the red cabbage and onions. It’s all wrapped up in a slick of creamy lemon with fresh, citrusy undertones of coriander and mint.

So far, I’ve found that the salad pairs beautifully with grilled meats, felafel, warm pita bread, chickpeas, salmon and canned tuna. But above all, I’d recommend that you pile it liberally onto a soft white roll before topping it with warm, tender strands of pulled pork and a splash of hot sauce. Fireside, with a cold beer in hand, it’s my version of food heaven.

topdishRed Cabbage, Radish and Apple Coleslaw

  • 140g (2 cups) finely shredded red cabbage
  • 5-6 fresh radishes, washed and thinly sliced (I did a mixture of julienne and thin rounds)
  • 2/3 cup fresh washed coriander and mint, torn
  • 1 carrot, peeled and coarsely grated
  • 1 apple (either red or green is fine, I tend to use either red Jazz or Fuji apples), washed and julienned
  • 2 spring onions (shallots) trimmed, thinly sliced
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) olive oil
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar and honey (I used Wescobee*; substitute 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar and 1/2 tsp honey)
  • 2 tbsp whole-egg mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup crushed, toasted walnuts or flaked almonds (optional)
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place the prepared raw vegetables into a large bowl, then set aside.

bowlWhisk the olive oil, lemon juice, mayonnaise and sugar in a jug. Whisk to combine then taste and season with salt and pepper.

dressingmontAdd to the salad with the toasted nuts, then mix well.

sidespoonServe on its own, with grilled meats, in soft pita bread or atop split white rolls with tender pulled pork and a sticky drizzle of hot barbecue sauce (see recipe for pulled pork here). Deliciousness, amplified.

drizzleNotes:

  • Wescobee’s Apple Cider Vinegar and Honey* has swiftly become a new favourite condiment of mine. The product is produced from oak barrel fermented apple cider vinegar and a blend of nutrient-rich honeys containing 12 minerals, 12 vitamins and enzymes. In itself, apple cider vinegar is also viewed to have both antiseptic and antibiotic properties. I’m a bit skeptical about the full range of claims associated with the consumption of apple cider vinegar and honey, but I do feel that it’s wonderfully beneficial for digestion and overall well being (plus, it just tastes nice!). Read more product information here.
  • Exercise your jaw by eating coleslaw…‘ (Coleslaw by Jesse Stone). Possibly one of the most unnecessary songs ever. Still, I played it whilst making this recipe.
  • Veganise this recipe by swapping honey for maple syrup and using an egg-free vegan mayonnaise such as this recipe from Serious Eats (soy based, egg free) or this one from Jessica at Clean Green Simple.
  • Paul Merrett at BBC Food has a great tutorial for cutting julienne vegetables here. It’s easy. Trust me.

radishends

curing olives part two

jarcoloursloveAs of today, it’s been one month and two days since my virgin (or perhaps, extra virgin?) attempt at curing homegrown olives began. Four long, arduous weeks filled with impatience, saltwater, daily inspections and regrettably bitter taste tests.

For those of you who missed my original ‘olive harvest’ post, you can catch up on the details here. Roughly thirty days and four batches of brine later, I can gladly report that my little bullet-hard beauties are slowly progressing.

This morning, I sampled my second half-cured black olive. After four weeks, the shiny black fruit has progressed to a diluted shade of purple; the flesh has softened and the skin has taken on a smooth, almost-translucent appearance. In terms of flavour, the second taste test was drastically different to the first. The flesh has transitioned from hard and bitter to soft and sweet, with a whack of salt and fruity undertones.

olivebiteAfter some consideration, I do feel that there’s too much salt in the overall flavour profile. After the brining process concludes, I may soak the fruit in clean, fresh water prior to dressing the batch in olive oil and herbs. However, for a first attempt, I’m quite happy.

When it comes to the green olives, well… they’re taking much longer to cure than the blackened fruit. I didn’t attempt a taste test today (due to experiencing a bitter assault to the palate last time around) but the fruit itself is still resistant to a gentle squeeze. Interestingly, the bright green fruit has lost much of its attractive vibrancy. The predominantly green olives are now tinged with dirty yellow. Their variegated friends are now a pallid shade of dappled purple. A bit sad, really.

oliveswk4My favourite part of the curing process has been the brine itself. It’s therapeutic to watch the hard salt crystals bubbling in water, dissolving into a steaming pool of clarity. When poured into the jars, the density of the brine causes the olives to float like little ovular life buoys, and after a few days, the brine starts to acquire the pigment from the soaking olive skins.

Soft yellow turns to dark, bleeding khaki. A pale blush of rose seeps further into bright crimson. Each day has been different, like an evolving art piece that’s enlivened by the sun. Beautiful. It’s been almost sad to wash the brine down the drain.

jarcolours2So, that’s my week four report. As a naive estimation, I feel that I’ve probably got another two weeks to wait for the black olives, and… perhaps four for the resistant green fruit? In the meantime, feel free to send me your favourite recipes for dressing olives (so far I’m thinking herbs, lemon rind, perhaps some crushed garlic… all topped up with some fruity olive oil).

throughtheglass*As an offside, I just stumbled across a recipe for Martini Soaked Olives at the Kitchn. Gorgeously boozy, simple and delicious. Bookmarked for when the green olives are ready. I’m excited.

Update: my finished, dressed olive post is available here. I now have five large jars of soft, juicy olives marinating in extra virgin oil, herbs, citrus rind and cracked spices. Definitely worth every minute.

broad bean salad with lemon, mint and goats cheese

mixedIt’s been seven long years since my first trip to the sunny northeast coast of the Iberian Peninsula. Despite the passage of time, I remember each detail with a clarity that only survives the best of holidays: the warm gust of air as I exited Barcelona-El Prat and boarded the shuttle bus to the city centre; the vibrant, glossy mosaics lining the terrace in Park Güell; the salty crunch of chorizo wrapped in bread from a smiling street vendor. One visit was enough to stimulate a lifelong love of Spanish culture, food and tradition.

beanbowlmontBarcelona is a beautiful city; a vibrant tumble of old and new, poor and affluent, traditional and modern. Gothic streets juxtapose against modern vehicles like an unintended social statement. Cracked pavements gleam with hidden mosaic tiles. Barcelona is art, embodied, endlessly evolving, complex and raw.

rindIf you’ve traveled to Spain, you may understand my persistent infatuation with Spanish cuisine. Crisp, hot, deliciously fragrant, quickly devoured in shades of blackened crimson, vivid green and soft white. My first meal upon landing was white fish ceviche, delicately opaque, dripping with fresh lemon and good olive oil. Despite eating dinner at 11.00pm (the Spanish way) my taste buds awakened to crisp red peppers, delicate herbs and succulent fish tinged with acid. I’ve never forgotten one bite of that meal, despite being amply lubricated with my first tastes of Spanish sangria; crimson, sweet and lingering. Each bite was a glimpse of culinary heaven.

I fell in love that night. Not with a man, but with the cultural richness, generosity of flavour and reckless abandon embedded in Spanish cuisine. It travelled back with me, from Barcelona’s urban landscape to the dusty red soil of my Australian hometown, Perth.

As soon as I arrived home, I began an endless quest to recreate some of the meals that I enjoyed in Spain, specifically tapas fare: snack-style grazing plates found in every bar and cafe around Barcelona city. As the years have passed, my collection of ceramic tapas dishes has slowly grown to occupy an entire shelf in the kitchen cupboard, interrupted only by a wine decanter that I use to make summer sangria.

cheesemintBeing a diasporic child, it’s safe to say that I incorporate ‘fusion’ in many of my tapas dishes, an example being today’s recipe for broad bean salad. Though broad beans are very popular in Spain, they’re mostly eaten raw or in meaty dishes such as habas con jamon (broad beans with ham). This lemon-infused, chilli flecked concoction is entirely my own, designed to be a fresh, vibrant accompaniment to jamon serrano, crisp pescaito frito, patatas bravas and other tapas staples.

If you can’t find fresh broad beans, frozen will do; just ensure that you handle them carefully whilst peeling their resilient skins. Serve this dish warm or at room temperature, slicked in fruity extra virgin olive oil and accompanied by warm, crusty bread.

header

Broad Bean Salad with Lemon, Mint and Goats Cheese

Serves 4 as part of a tapas meal or 2 as a side dish

  • 1 cup (170g) podded fresh broad beans (habas, or fava beans)
  • 1 small garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tbsp good extra virgin olive oil (or lemon-infused extra virgin olive oil, if you can find it)
  • 2 tsp finely grated lemon rind
  • 1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1 small handful mint, washed and chopped
  • 50-70g firm organic goats cheese, crumbled
  • sea salt, to taste
  • ground black pepper, to taste
  • lemon wedges, to serve (optional)

Blanch the broad beans (still in their papery skins) in boiling water for 2-3 minutes. Drain and refresh under cold running water. Carefully slip the broad beans out of their skins and into a medium sized bowl, then set aside.

beanmontPlace the crushed garlic, lemon rind, chilli flakes and olive oil into a small bowl. Mix carefully, then add to the broad beans with the mint, goats cheese, salt and pepper. Gently toss together.

tablecloserTransfer the salad into a serving dish. Drizzle over a little more olive oil. Serve with lemon wedges (to squeeze over the salad as desired), warm crusty bread and other tapas accompaniments.

saladtop2*Note: In response to several requests from blog followers, I’ve finally established a facebook page for Laura’s Mess: https://www.facebook.com/laurasmessblog. With one extra click, you’ll find all of my recipe links, daily musings, foodie scribbles and snapshots for your enjoyment. Feel free to drop me a line on facebook if you have any day to day questions, recipe links and tips. It’ll take me a while to connect myself with other bloggers on facebook, so if you have your own page, please let me know about it. I’m excited to finally be a part of the facebook food blogger’s community!

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