raw cacao mint truffles

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The following recipe was created for my beautiful friend Stephie’s blog, Eat Your Heart Out, as part of her ‘Friends First‘ series for April. I’m re-posting it here primarily for organizational reasons.

I initially stumbled across Stephie’s blog in September last year. I can’t quite remember how (I initially thought it was through her mother, Julie, an equally kind and humorous reader of this blog. In hindsight, I think that she found me through Stephie) but after reading this post I was hooked by Stephie’s down-to-earth warmth, positivity and heartfelt honesty.

I’ve since been a loyal follower of Stephie’s blog (in part because of her incredible baked goods) whilst progressively discovering her feeds on facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And you know what? She’s an amazing inspiration.

Even if she doesn’t like chocolate (yeah… I don’t get it either).

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So, onto the recipe. I shared this method for raw cacao mint truffles with Stephie’s readers for two reasons; 1) Stephie hadn’t posted a similar recipe before, and 2) I figured that northern hemisphere readers might appreciate a ‘healthy sweet treat’ in the lead up to summer’s swimsuit months.

The biggest selling point is the fact that they’re no-cook, a.k.a ridiculously easy to prepare. In ten minutes, you’ve got something deliciously satisfying that’s also healthy. It’s a sweet treat to satisfy any chocolate craving.

So without further ado, scroll down for my raw cacao mint truffle recipe. Each bite is packed with both goodness and flavour, so your heart and your body will thank you.

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Raw Cacao Mint Truffles

Makes approximately 20 balls

  • 1 cup (100g) raw almond meal (ground almonds)
  • 1/2 cup (60g) raw cacao powder (substitute Dutch process cocoa)
  • 1-2 tsp cacao nibs
  • 4 Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp (15-30ml) raw honey*, maple syrup or agave, to sweeten
  • 1 tbsp (15ml) water
  • 2 tbsp (30ml) coconut oil
  • 1-2 drops peppermint oil, to taste
  • Cacao powder, cocoa or desiccated coconut, to roll

Place the almond meal, cacao, dates, water and coconut oil into the bowl of a food processor. Process until the mixture starts to come together. Taste and add some honey, maple syrup or agave to sweeten if required (I used 2 tbsp of honey, however if you’ve used cocoa instead of cacao powder you’ll probably require a little less). Process again and tip into a medium sized bowl.

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Add the cacao nibs and a drop of peppermint oil. Mix together, using your hands or a metal spoon. Taste again and add a little more peppermint oil if desired.

With clean hands, roll the mixture into balls (I used ½ tablespoon of mix per ball). Roll each ball into some cocoa powder or desiccated coconut before placing them onto a lined baking tray. Refrigerate or freeze until ready to serve*.

*Use maple syrup or agave as a vegan alternative to honey. Do not keep these balls at room temperature or they will become very soft.

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sticky fig, raspberry and chia jam

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I don’t remember when I first discovered chia jam. It must’ve been at least two years ago, possibly via Angela’s beautiful blog, Oh She Glows. Regardless of inspiration, chia jam is a godsend to those who enjoy sweet fruit spreads on buttered toast, scones or puddings. It’s a healthy way to enjoy a thick, glossy jam fix whilst avoiding a ton of refined sugar.

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The chia jam below was the product of a trip to my local market for milk and spelt flour. Whilst walking to the dairy cabinet, I passed a tray of slightly battered figs, the remnants of autumn’s bounty. I dropped a few into a paper bag, contemplating pies and frangipane tarts as I gathered my milk and headed to the check-out.

One hour later, I was eating a buttered scone sandwich with a glossy helping of sticky fig and chia jam.

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As you might have gathered, this recipe is quick and easy to prepare; far removed from the marmalade days of my English youth. Within half an hour, fresh or frozen fruit transforms into a thick, fragrant pool of jammy deliciousness, just begging to be slathered across fresh, crusty bread.

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If you’re unfamiliar with chia seeds, their flavour is best described as ‘nutty’ with a pleasant textural ‘pop’. However, within a sweet fruit jam the flavour itself only mildly discernible.

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Most noteworthy is the fact that these sticky seeds provide a healthy whack of omega-3 fatty acids, carbohydrates, protein, fiber, antioxidants and calcium with every mouthful. Definitely a worthy topping for steel-cut oats, thick Greek yoghurt, quinoa porridge… anything, really.

With this type of jam, it’s acceptable to form a habit.

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Sticky Fig, Raspberry and Chia Jam

Makes about 1 cup (250ml)

  • 3/4 cup quartered fresh figs (about 6)
  • 1/4 cup raspberries
  • 2 tbsp pure maple or agave syrup
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out

Bring the figs, maple syrup and 1/2 cup water to the boil over medium heat. Add the vanilla bean, cover and reduce temperature to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes or until the fruit has softened and started to break down. Mash a little with a fork, then pour in the chia seeds (add the other 1/4 cup water if the fluid has reduced too much).

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Cook, uncovered, for another 5-10 minutes or until the chia seeds have swelled and the mixture has reached a jammy consistency. Remove from the heat and pour into a sterilized jar or airtight container.

*I haven’t attempted to properly can this jam due to lack of sugar as a preservative, though most recipes suggest it can be stored for up to 7 days in the refrigerator (possibly longer in the freezer).

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bib & tucker, north fremantle

boardwalkI love breakfast. It’s probably my favourite meal of the day, to the point where I often lie awake at night thinking about what I’ll eat in the morning. Steel cut oats, seeded toast with lemon-drenched avocado, crunchy macadamia muesli, fresh crumpets with Lescure butter and raw organic honey… I love it all. I’m one of those people who could very easy eat brinner every night of the week. But then again, where would that leave tacos and braised pork belly? Oh, the dilemmas!

A few months ago, a friend of mine mentioned a little cafe in North Fremantle called Bib & Tucker. Described as the ‘next best thing in breakfast’, I naturally wanted to visit… mostly as a comparison to my favourite breakfast destination of the moment, Harvest Espresso in Victoria Park (a place that actually solves my pork belly dilemma. They serve it for breakfast. Really).

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We arrived mid-morning last Saturday. The sky was pale blue, slightly overcast, with thick clouds wafting like a scattered blanket. By the time we pried open the front doors, sweat started to bead on our foreheads in a sticky sheen.

Luckily, we were ushered to an outside table where the reliable Fremantle Doctor was blowing. Cool, salty air gently lapped at our skin as we perused the breakfast menu.

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There’s something beautifully balanced about Bib & Tucker. Old favourites such as pancakes, eggs and crispy bacon sit snugly alongside redemptive kale, green lentils, chia seeds and almond milk. If would be fair to say that as a patron, you can be as virtuous or indulgent as you want to be. My favourite kind of place.

coffeebandt hatAfter ordering our coffees, we selected three dishes from the breakfast menu: fig chia pudding ($15), smashed avocado on cornbread ($19) and house-smoked ocean trout tartare ($24). Despite various criticisms on Urbanspoon about the ‘terrible service’ at Bib & Tucker, we met a wonderful brunette waitress who delivered our food within 15 short minutes. Nothing wrong with that.

As for the food? Well, it’s safe to say that we were three happy campers on this Saturday morning. Everything that arrived was fresh, generous, beautifully presented and suitably nourishing. My selection was (typically) chunky seasoned avocado atop thick, toasted cornbread with fresh greens, quinoa and vibrant chive oil. Aaron chose (typically) the smoked ocean trout, which was deliciously salty, soft and delicate against robust fried capers, fresh asparagus, croutons and lemon mascarpone.

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My lovely mother (atypically) selected the chia pudding, mostly out of ‘curiosity’. The dish arrived in a mason jar crowned with fresh wedges of fragrant fig, pomegranate arils and toasted almonds.

For a woman who habitually chooses ‘eggs any way with toast’ (a.k.a poached eggs with wholemeal bread), she enjoyed the breakfast variation. The chia seeds carried a slight creaminess from the organic almond milk, beautifully complimented by the sweet figs, acidic pomegranate and toasted nuts.

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From scanning the crowd, it would be fair to say that Bib & Tucker is a beautiful embodiment of the Fremantle subculture: eclectic, relaxed, slightly hippy (as opposed to hipster; these guys were growing kale in loamy soil far before the first hipster discovered plaid) artistic and entirely wonderful. As an ‘artsy’ type myself, I felt right at home.

It’s a place to contemplate, breathe and feel nourished within 100 metres of the Indian Ocean. A place I definitely want to revisit. Soon.

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Bib & Tucker

18 Leighton Beach Blvd, North Fremantle WA 6159

(08) 9433 2147

Coffee: Tues – Sun, 6am – 4pm

Breakfast: Tues – Sun, 7am – 11am

Lunch: Tues – Sun, 12pm – 3pm

Dinner: Wed – Sun, 6pm – 9pm

garlic kale with mushrooms, chorizo + a sunny egg

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I arrived home from work today carting some free range eggs, rolled oats and a giant bunch of kale from Gingin Organics. After greeting my husband, I wearily peered into the fridge for dinner inspiration.

“I feel like eating something virtuous tonight” I stated, retrieving a brown paper bag full of garlic from the vegetable drawer. Aaron looked at me pitifully, “…does that mean we’re not eating meat?”. I grinned, gesturing to the carton of free range eggs on the counter. “I’m poaching eggs. There will definitely be protein”.

His sad eyes drifted to a plastic wrapped chorizo sausage in the refrigerator, then back to me. “Uh… and sausage?”. “Okay”, I relented. He beamed, retreating from the room in satisfaction.

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Ah, men and their meat consumption. As for me, I was just excited about eating a bucket load of sauteed kale. Green, salubrious, leafy goodness with fragrant garlic, sauteed mushrooms and a runny poached egg. The chorizo definitely added a beautiful savoury punch to the dish, but to be honest, I wouldn’t have missed it. The mushrooms, chilli flakes and walnuts created a beautiful ‘meatiness’ of their own that required no further embellishment.

This dish warmly embraces adaptation. For a vegan version, just omit the chorizo and poached eggs (I would add some finely grated lemon zest for an extra dimension of flavour). If you’re extra hungry, toss some cooked puy lentils into the pan whilst frying your chorizo, mushrooms and walnuts. Want extra chilli? Sriracha. That is all.

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Garlic Kale with Mushrooms, Chorizo and a Sunny Egg

Serves 2

  • 2 generous handfuls of washed organic kale leaves, centre stem and vein removed, finely shredded
  • 4 field mushrooms, brushed and sliced
  • 1/2 chorizo sausage, peeled and finely diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp chilli flakes (or to taste)
  • 1/2 avocado, peeled and sliced
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • coriander (cilantro) leaves, to garnish
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • white vinegar, for poaching the eggs

Heat about 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat in a large pan. Toss in 2/3 of the crushed garlic and cook until fragrant (do not allow garlic to brown). Add in the chopped kale leaves and stir gently. Cover, reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-10 minutes or until kale is tender (the residual moisture on the washed kale leaves will help to steam them). Season to taste, then set aside.

Add a small splash of olive oil to another pan over medium-high heat. Add in the diced chorizo. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the chorizo starts to release its fragrant oil. Add in the mushrooms, walnuts, chilli flakes and remaining crushed garlic. Cook for 5 minutes or until the mushrooms are tender, the chorizo is crisp and the walnuts have toasted. Set aside to cool slightly.

Fill a medium pan half-full with fresh water. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and then splash in a little white vinegar. Crack an egg into a ramekin. Carefully slide the egg into the water, then repeat with the remaining egg. Poach for 2-3 minutes or until cooked to your liking. Remove carefully with a slotted spoon. Allow to drain on a paper towel whilst you assemble the rest of the dish.

Distribute the sauteed garlic kale between two plates. Spoon over the mushroom and chorizo mixture, then top with a poached egg. Arrange the sliced avocado and coriander around the plate as desired. Season and eat (preferably with a big, virtuous smile on your face).

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char-grilled vegetable and quinoa salad

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Yesterday morning, Aaron and I woke early to have breakfast with my beautiful mother at Perth City Farm. The day was cool and fresh, slightly overcast; a welcome change from the blistering temperatures of summer.

We chatted and laughed, feasting on free-range eggs, organic sourdough, grilled tomatoes and lemony smashed avocado in the dappled shade. Between sips of coffee, we sampled spinach from the farm’s own garden before discussing family foibles, travel plans and (mostly) the 2014 Western Australian Senate (re)election.

Before leaving the farm, Aaron and my mother perused the Farm’s art exhibition while I chatted to some friendly Armenian growers at the Organic Market. I left with an armload of fresh produce including Armenian cucumbers, fresh zucchini, homegrown kale and tri-colour capsicums from their bio-dynamic garden.

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That afternoon, I snacked on torn bread and babaghanouj (made with their organic aubergines and home-pressed olive oil) whilst making the grilled vegetable salad below. My mother stayed for some quality mother-daughter time; we drank tea, laughed, took photographs and reminisced about old times.

That evening, the sky grew dark and cold. Aaron and I had a picnic in the park with our best friends, sharing stories over paper plates, grilled chicken and homemade empanadas. Whilst chewing a forkful of homegrown zucchini, I felt truly blessed and grateful; for farmers, fresh vegetables, weekends, warm jumpers and quality time with those I love the most.

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Thanks to all who travel through this life with me. In particular, my family, who embrace me despite weaknesses and always love unconditionally.

I’m grateful. I always will be.

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Char-grilled Vegetable and Quinoa Salad

Adapted from this recipe by the Australian Women’s Weekly

Serves 6 as a side dish or 4 as a light meal

  • 190g (1 cup) royal quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 3 small capsicums (bell peppers), preferably mixed colours
  • 200g sweet potatoes
  • 1 zucchini, thickly sliced
  • 1/2 Spanish (red onion) sliced into thin wedges
  • 1 cup washed, picked herbs (I used parsley and mint), coarsely chopped
  • 100g goats feta, crumbled
  • finely grated zest from 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup walnuts, roasted and crushed
  • olive oil, to cook

Dressing:

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 1 small clove garlic, crushed
  • salt and pepper

Place the rinsed quinoa into a medium pot with 500ml (2 cups) of water. Bring to the boil, then replace the lid and simmer for 15 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed and the quinoa is translucent. Place into a large bowl, drizzle over a little olive oil and add in the lemon zest. Mix well, then set aside to cool.

Cut the sweet potatoes into a medium (2x2cm) dice. Steam or boil until just tender. Drizzle with a little olive oil, then set aside.

Preheat a char-grill pan over medium-high heat. Cut the capsicums in half and scoop out the seeds and membranes. Brush the skins with oil, then char-grill them skin side down until the skins blacken and blister. Turn and cook for an extra minute to allow the inside to steam.

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Place into a sealed bag, covered bowl or airtight container and leave at room temperature until cool (the steam will help the skins to loosen, making them easier to peel).

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Brush the zucchini and onion with a little olive oil, then add them to the grill pan with the sweet potatoes. Cook until soft and lightly grill-marked. Add the grilled vegetables to the same bowl as the quinoa.

Peel the capsicum halves and slice them into long, thin strips. Add them to the salad bowl with the chopped fresh herbs, walnuts and feta.

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To make the dressing, place the oil, mustard, sugar, garlic and vinegar into a small bowl. Whisk until well emulsified. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

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To serve, pour over the dressing and mix gently with a spoon or salad tongs. Place onto a platter and garnish with more herbs if desired.

This salad is wonderful as an accompaniment to grilled meats or fish. It’s also a nutritious light meal, embellished with some plump black olives and served with some fresh bread and butter.

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freekeh salad with hot-smoked salmon, pomegranate and feta

saladThere’s been a lot of talk about ancient grains recently. A LOT of talk. And by talk, I’m referring to virtual obsession… on the internet, in restaurant menus, in burgers, breads, cakes and breakfast cereals.

Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying that this is a bad thing. In fact, I’d happily state the opposite. Ancient grains are ridiculously good for you, they’re less refined and generally more nutritious than modern, over-processed grain products. They’re also frequently grown in an organic and sustainable manner, which is much better for the soil and the environment in general.

Yep, it’s all good.

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But rather than spending the rest of this post harping on about ancient grains (I’ll let those more qualified do that) I’m going to narrow down to one particular type of grain that I’ve recently fallen in love with: freekeh.

Technically, freekeh (“free-kah”) is a term given to any grain that is harvested, sun-dried, roasted and threshed whilst still green. In Australia, most available freekeh is currently made from durum wheat, however companies such as Greenwheat Freekeh in South Australia are currently working to produce green triticale and barley for commercial sale.

freekeh

Due to its early harvest, green freekeh contains more protein, vitamins and minerals than mature wheat and other grains. It is also higher in fibre whilst having a lower glycaemic index (GI), which means it’s great for management of diabetes.

Freekeh has been a staple part of Middle Eastern and North African cuisine for centuries, most commonly used in side dishes (like pilafs), stews and soups. It’s a wonderful, natural alternative to pasta or rice, with a slightly nutty flavour and crunchy texture.

My favourite way to consume freekeh is in a fresh, textural salad full of green herbs, nuts and seeds, great olive oil and sweet pops of fresh or dried berries. I’ve tried many over the past two years and I’ve loved most of them, the stand-outs being those that incorporate soft labne or goats curd, pomegranate arils and toasted nuts.

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The recipe that I’ve included below was a rather impromptu creation; the result of extreme hunger and some after-work fridge foraging (hence why some of the photographs were taken after dark; darn that yellowish tinge). Luckily, I had a beautiful Tasmanian hot-smoked salmon fillet on hand, alongside half a zucchini, broad beans, some organic freekeh and my favourite goats feta.

It all came together in a matter of minutes, discounting the ‘inactive cooking time’ required for wholegrain freekeh (about 45 minutes, which I spent drinking a Hendricks gin and tonic).

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When seasoning this salad, keep in mind that the salmon retains a lot of saltiness from the curing and smoking process. You’ll only need a little bit of salt to balance the rest of the dish.

However, if you generally avoid smoked fish, feel free to omit the salmon completely or substitute chunks of fresh seared salmon as desired. Whichever way, it’ll be delicious.

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Freekeh and Herb Salad with Hot-Smoked Salmon, Pomegranate and Feta

Serves 4 as a side dish, 2 as a main meal

  • 180g hot-smoked salmon fillets (preferably plain or peppered, not flavoured) roughly torn into pieces
  • 1/2 cup wholegrain freekeh, rinsed
  • 1 cup broad beans (fresh or frozen are fine), double-podded
  • 1/2 medium zucchini, washed and diced
  • 1 cup washed and coarsely chopped mint, coriander and parsley leaves
  • a big handful of washed baby spinach leaves
  • About 60g marinated feta, chopped or broken into pieces
  • 1/4 cup toasted, crushed nuts (I used almonds but pistachios or pine nuts would be wonderful)
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds (arils) – about 1/2 large pomegranate
  • 1 tsp sherry vinegar
  • juice from 1/2 lemon + 1-2 tsp finely grated rind
  • 3-4 tsp Brookfarm lemon myrtle infused macadamia oil
  • 1 tsp pomegranate molasses, or to taste

Place freekeh into a pot over high heat with 2 1/2 cups boiled water. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, covered, for 40 minutes or until the grains are softened but intact (they should still have a bit of ‘bite’ to them). Transfer to a large bowl, then set aside to cool slightly.

Heat 1 tsp Brookfarm lemon myrtle infused macadamia oil in a heavy-based pan over medium heat. Add zucchini and cook until slightly translucent. Add broad beans to the pan and continue cooking until the vegetables are light golden.

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Transfer to the same bowl as the freekeh (add any cooking juices that have collected in the pan).

Mix the lemon juice and rind, the rest of the Brookfarm oil, pomegranate molasses and sherry vinegar in a small bowl with salt and pepper to taste. Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl (reserve a bit of feta and some pomegranate arils to garnish, if desired), drizzle over the dressing and mix well.

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Serve on a platter, garnished with the reserved feta and arils. Drizzle with a little more Brookfarm oil or pomegranate molasses if desired.

This salad is beautiful on its own, as a barbecue accompaniment or just wrapped in warm, fresh flatbreads with a smear of homemade hummus (perfect for lunch).

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Disclaimer: Brookfarm supplied me with a sample of their lemon myrtle infused macadamia oil for the purpose of this recipe post. However, I was not compensated and as always, all opinions are my own.

blueberry and peach porrij crumble slice

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It’s hard to believe that I’m writing this post on the fifth day of January, 2014. Where did the holiday season go? After months of expectation, the festivities and countdown have finished; twinkling lights and streamers have been cleared and returned to cardboard confinement. The new year is barreling full-steam ahead.

Over the past few days, I’ve heard many friends discussing their personal ‘new years resolutions’, a concept that I’m familiar with but have never practiced. More exercise, less sugar, less alcohol, more productivity… all very worthy ideas.

I guess I’m of a similar mindset, despite lack of proclamation. Aaron and I went for our first run of the year on Thursday, around 4km of varying terrain including Jacob’s ladder and the insufferable Kokoda track. On Friday, we tackled a sizeable walk around Tomato Lake, watching families picnic and waterbirds building nests.

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From a nutritional point of view, I’ve also been focusing on fresh organic produce after the unavoidable excess of Christmas. Bowls of Brookfarm natural macadamia muesli with fresh blueberries and organic yoghurt, homemade hummus with spicy harissa and raw vegetables, grilled chicken with quinoa, homegrown herbs, pomegranate arils and plenty of lemon.

Simple, wholesome food, healthy fats, minimally processed. I feel better for it. Infinitely.

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One of the most beautiful things about Summer is the ready availability of fresh seasonal fruit such as blueberries, mangoes, peaches, sweet strawberries and nectarines. I’ve been lapping it up, eating fresh bowls of mango with plenty of mint, adding grilled peaches into salads and blueberries into jam and baking.

This Saturday morning, I decided to turn three punnets of blueberries into a healthy crumble slice, sandwiched with Vicky’s tiny homegrown peaches between layers of crunchy amaranth, oats, macadamias, flax and quinoa (courtesy of Brookfarm‘s organic Power Porrij).

The house smelled divine during the baking process; buttery crumble interspersed with sweet cinnamon, bubbling fruit and earthy grains.

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After allowing the slice to cool, I roughly cut it into squares before devouring a piece immediately. The soft, moist fruit was a perfectly sticky foil for the crunchy, organic wholegrain crumble. Delicious. Definitely moreish. Slightly ‘healthy-tasting’ in the best of ways.

This slice is perfect as a transportable energy snack for work, school or leisure. In fact, Aaron and I have packed a few pieces into an airtight container to take to a picnic this afternoon… and I am certain that I’ll be taking a piece to work tomorrow.

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Happy new year everyone. Thanks to all of you who regularly read Laura’s Mess, particularly those who take the time to comment and share ideas or thoughts with me. You’re a precious source of inspiration and friendship, despite the fact that we are yet to meet. May 2014 be the very best year yet.

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Blueberry and Peach Porrij Crumble Slice
Makes 24 pieces

  • 1 cup raw caster sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups plain (all purpose) flour
  • 2 cups Brookfarm Power Porrij (find stockists here)
  • 220g cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • zest of 1 lemon (about 1 tbsp)

For the fruit filling:

  • 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 2 cups pitted, diced fresh peaches (about 4 medium fruit)
  • 1/2 cup white caster sugar
  • 1/4 cup plain (all purpose) flour
  • juice of 1 lemon

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees f (190 degrees C). Grease and line a 9×13 inch shallow baking pan, then set aside.

Base: In a medium bowl, stir together the raw sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, flour and Porrij mix. Mix in the salt and lemon zest.

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Using your fingers, rub in the cubed butter until the mixture comes together into a crumbly dough. basedough

Press half of the dough into your prepared pan. Refrigerate the pan and the rest of the dough whilst you prepare your filling.

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Filling: In another bowl, stir together the sugar, flour and lemon juice. Gently mix in the blueberries and diced peaches.

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Remove the crust from the refrigerator and spoon over the fruit mixture, ensuring an even distribution of blueberries and peaches. Crumble the remaining dough over the fruit mixture (don’t worry if patches of fruit show through).

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Bake the slice in a preheated oven for 45-60 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and the fruit mixture is bubbling at the sides (it should look slightly ‘jammy’ in consistency).

Cool completely before cutting into 24 squares (I’d recommend refrigerating it for an hour to prevent the crust from crumbling). Store in plastic wrap or in an airtight container for up to four days.

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This slice is also a worthy dessert à la mode, served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream… because everyone needs a little indulgence sometimes.

Disclaimer: Brookfarm is an Australian-owned, New South Wales based company that prides itself on the production of delicious, premium quality macadamia products and wholefoods. The company supplied me with samples of their Power Porrij for this recipe post, however I was not compensated and all thoughts and opinions are my own.

maki sushi (巻き寿司) with salted edamame and sashimi

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It’s been a beautiful, sun-drenched Monday here in Perth, 35 degrees C (95 degrees f) with clear skies and a light breeze. As I sit in the living room, dappled light filters gently through the window. It’s making rhythmic patterns on the floor as my fingers click incessantly against black plastic keys. Completely beautiful, in a domestic kind of way.

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As sweet air drifts through the open door, I find my thoughts drifting also; mainly towards nourished roots, freshly turned soil and home-grown carrots. I blame Pam, the beautifully creative woman who blogs over at Brooklyn Farm Girl (if you’re yet to become acquainted, click here). Ever since she shared a post about her massive, rooftop-grown soy bean (edamame) harvest, I’ve been dreaming about urban gardens, high-rise planting and lush crops of dark-veined greens. But beneath the idealism, well… I’ve mostly been dreaming about fresh edamame.

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It may be difficult to believe, but I’m yet to sample a fresh edamame bean. One month of searching hasn’t helped; the bright green, furry pods remain an illusive figment of my culinary dreams. Last Friday, I caved and purchased a bag of frozen edamame that had traveled to Perth from Japan. That’s a lot of air miles.

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But yet, when I popped the first bright green, edamame jewels from their ice-frosted pod, my heart danced a merry beat. Despite being in complete violation of my fresh-picked locavore policy, I loved every bite.

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Aaron and I ate homemade maki sushi (rolled sushi in nori) and sashimi with our precious salted edamame. It’s hardly worth providing a recipe as the edamame were eaten straight from their pods with thinly sliced salmon and red snapper tail, sesame chicken sushi, salmon sushi, pickled cucumbers, enoki mushrooms and ginger, soy and wasabe.

However, in the event that you’d like to replicate our (admittedly, slightly Westernised) meal, I’ve included a few ingredients and token instructions below (alongside some links that explain the process much better than I ever could).

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P.S If you live in Perth and know a market that stocks fresh edamame beans, let me know (or even better, if you grow them, please be my private supplier. I’ll pay you in marmalade).

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Maki Sushi (巻き寿司)

Maki sushi or Nori maki is any variety of sushi rolled as a cylindrical piece with the help of a bamboo mat, or makisu. It’s generally sold wrapped in nori (seaweed) and cut into rounds of six or eight.

This recipe makes three rolls of eight slices, or 24 pieces.

  • 1 1/4 cup of short-grain sushi rice (I used Nishiki)
  • 2 tbsp Japanese rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp fine-grain salt
  • 3 sheets of nori (dried seaweed)

Place rice into a medium saucepan, then add 1 1/2 cups (375ml) water. Mix well, then bring to the boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the water is fully absorbed (your rice should be fluffy and expanded).

In a small bowl, mix the rice vinegar, sugar and salt together. Blend the mixture into the rice with a flat spoon. Keep warm, covered with a clean damp tea towel, until ready to use.

fish

For salmon rolls:

Cut your ingredients whilst the rice is cooking for quick assembly.

  • 150-200g fresh sashimi-quality salmon, cut into long, thin strips
  • 1/2 fresh avocado, cut into similarly long, thin strips
  • cucumber batons (I cut them into 0.5 x 0.5cm strips)
  • toasted sesame seeds
  • Kewpie Japanese mayonnaise

Place one nori sheet into the centre of a bamboo sushi mat, shiny side down. With a damp spoon, spread a thin (about 1cm thick when pressed together) layer of rice over 2/3 of the nori sheet, leaving a 0.5cm border. Spread with a thin layer of Kewpie mayonnaise and toasted sesame seeds.

Arrange 1/3 of the cucumber, avocado and salmon into a horizontal line in the centre of the rice. Lift the end of the mat carefully, then roll forwards, pressing the filling towards you with your fingers. Seal with a little bit of water if the end of the nori doesn’t stick.

Refrigerate your roll for 30 (or preferably 60) minutes so that it will firm up before slicing. Cut rounds from the centre of the roll to the edge with a sharp, wet knife. Serve immediately, with bowls of soy sauce, pickled ginger, wasabe and/or other accompaniments as desired.

seeds

For sesame chicken rolls:

Start this recipe 1 hour before making your sushi rice.

  • 150g fresh chicken thigh meat, sliced into strips
  • 1-inch knob of peeled, finely grated ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp sake (Japanese rice wine)
  • 1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • toasted sesame seeds
  • Japanese sesame salad dressing (bought or see recipe here)
  • 1/2 fresh avocado, cut into long, thin strips
  • small handful of coriander (cilantro) leaves
  • peanut oil, for frying

Place the sliced chicken into a bowl with a good drizzle of sesame oil, soy sauce, honey, sake, dried chilli, garlic and ginger. Grind over some sea salt and pepper, then mix well. Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for 1 hour (or preferably, overnight).

sauce

Heat 2 tbsp peanut or vegetable oil in a medium wok or heavy-based frying pan over high heat. When smoking, drain your chicken from the marinade and toss it into the hot oil. Fry until golden brown and cooked through. Drain on paper towels, sprinkling with toasted sesame seeds.

After cooking your sushi rice: place one nori sheet into the centre of a bamboo sushi mat, shiny side down. With a damp spoon, spread a thin (about 1cm thick when pressed together) layer of rice over 2/3 of the nori sheet, leaving a 0.5cm border. Spread with a thin layer of Japanese sesame dressing.

Arrange 1/3 of the coriander, avocado and chicken into a horizontal line in the centre of the rice. Lift the end of the mat carefully, then roll forwards, pressing the filling towards you with your fingers. Seal with a little bit of water if the end of the nori doesn’t stick.

Refrigerate your roll for 30 (or preferably 60) minutes so that it will firm up before slicing. Cut rounds from the centre of the roll to the edge with a sharp, wet knife. Serve immediately, with bowls of soy sauce, pickled ginger, wasabe and/or other accompaniments as desired.

Rolling guide:

rollingsushistart makingsushi rolling1 rolling2

Links:

sashimi2 shells

lemon, coconut and cacao truffles

almostgone

It’s been a rainy Saturday here in Perth. Wet, cold and predominantly grey. Quite amusing really, as it was only three weeks ago that I posted a recipe for slow-roasted lamb as a ‘…final homage to the beautiful winter-that-was’. Upon reflection, I should change that to the winter that is, as it’s been cold and rainy all week.

Oh well. All the more time for slow food, hot soup, snuggling under blankets and drinking hot chocolate with plenty of treats like these gluten-free, dairy-free bites of lemon cacao bliss.

squeeseblend

These particular truffles were made two weeks ago for my beautiful friend Anna (who is an amazing singer-songwriter, check out her website here) who can’t tolerate wheat, gluten or dairy. We ate them with fruit, Medjool dates and wine after a vegan dinner at our house, and I liked them so much that I snapped a few photos in preparation for a blog post.

Due to my delay in posting, these treats are now well and truly finished. Gone. Absent and departed. Seeing their photos in memoriam makes me sad.

ingredients

They taste like moist little bundles of almond, coconut and honey with soft, fragrant lemon undertones and the crunch of cacao nibs. I rolled half in raw cacao and the other half in dessicated coconut; after a great deal of taste testing we’ve decided that the coconut are superior to their more-bitter-on-the-tongue cacao cousins.

All this talk is making me hungry. It’s time to make another batch.

peel

balls

Lemon, Coconut and Cacao Truffles

Makes roughly 22 truffles. Adapted from this recipe by Eleanor Ozich at Petite Kitchen.

  • 1 1/2 cups (110g) unsweetened desiccated coconut
  • 1 cup (110g) almond meal
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin coconut oil
  • 4 tbsp honey (to make these completely vegan, substitute with maple syrup or agave as desired)
  • zest and juice of one unwaxed lemon
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tbsp raw cacao nibs (or extra, to taste)
  • a pinch of crushed sea salt

For rolling the truffles:

  • 1/4 cup (18g) unsweetened dessicated coconut
  • 1/4 cup raw cacao powder

Place the dessicated coconut, almond meal, coconut oil, honey, lemon juice and zest, vanilla extract and sea salt into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the mixture comes together (around 1 minute).

honey

trufflemix

Turn out into a bowl and add the cacao nibs. Mix together with a wooden spoon.

Use your hands to roll 1/2 tbsp of the mixture into a small bowl. Roll in dessicated coconut or cacao (I placed each coating in a separate bowl to roll the truffles as desired), then gently place onto a lined tray. Repeat with the rest of the mixture.

rolling2

Refrigerate the truffles for at least half an hour before eating.

I prefer to eat them straight out of the refrigerator but you can store them at room temperature if desired. To keep them a little longer, store them in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

bittenbetter

lemon quinoa salad with cherry tomatoes and persian feta

bowl2It’s just passed 02:00am. Instead of sleeping, I’m listening to the sound of rain beating on the bedroom window; steady, soft, dull and rhythmic. A lone bus drifts down the highway, groaning under the weight of tired passengers and reinforced steel. I feel equally heavy. Strained under the weight of contemplation, emotion and unreasonable alertness.

I fidget, shifting my weight from right to left. Cold fingers tap incessantly on black keys, futilely aiming to translate muddled thoughts.

Type. Erase. Type…. rephrase. Begin again.

Progress. Fail. Darn it.

tommontBy now, you’re probably wondering why I’m writing such a bleak introduction to a vibrant, colourful recipe post. I’m not really sure; my brain has many things to say, but my heart and hands aren’t adequate translators. Let me start with a small recollection of recent events.

Earlier this evening, Aaron and I visited two beautiful friends of ours, Brett and Kendall Stanford. I’m being completely honest in saying that Brett and Kendall are some of the best people you could ever meet: warm, gentle, kind, strong, ridiculously funny, faithful and wise. They’re both generous and loving in every sense of the word.

tomboxl

By day, Brett works as a physiotherapist in a private clinic. He donates his weekends and extra time to Perth-based basketball trick shot group How Ridiculous, which you may have heard of in relation to their Guinness World Record for highest basketball shot (66.89m / 219 ft 5 in). Since 2009, these four Perth guys have been making basketball trick shot videos as a source of both entertainment and sponsorship for the not-for-profit organization Compassion. They’ve been featured by media worldwide and have over 72K subscribers on YouTube. Everything they do radiates genuine passion for the alleviation of poverty, worldwide.

On the other hand, Kendall is one of the sweetest, kindest nurses that you could ever wish to meet. She has a generous heart for people and has been a loyal friend to Aaron and I for many years now. She sung at our wedding at short notice, standing in the boiling sun for sound checks with a bad sound system and persistent flies (nevertheless, she was wonderful, as was Chris, who sung and played with her). Aaron and I attended the Stanford wedding around one month later, hand-in-hand as husband and wife, with smiles from ear to ear. It was beautiful, memorable… uniquely Brett and Kendall.

avoLast Sunday, Aaron and I read a message from Brett that has since permanently burned into the back of our minds. Around four weeks ago, Kendall began experiencing increased fatigue, headaches and facial swelling. After many investigations, she was diagnosed with Primary Mediastinal B-Cell Lymphoma, a rare form of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

Yes, cancer. It’s scary. I’m angry, sad and frustrated all at the same time. Kendall’s diagnosis brings back memories of my beautiful mother suffering through breast cancer surgery, then months of chemotherapy and radiotherapy a few years ago. It’s a fate that I wouldn’t wish upon anyone, particularly not a woman of 24 years.

Kendall has now commenced chemotherapy, and the rest of us have commenced a routine of prayer, more prayer and practical help as required. A few days ago, Kendall sent me a message to ask if I could bring them a bite of dinner on Thursday night. I jumped at the chance, ecstatic to be able to do something tangibly ‘helpful’. I brought over this salad (below) with warm bread, dips and slow-cooked lamb. I hoped that the food would be palatable, nourishing and satisfying, but I still felt a little bit… well, ineffective. Kendall jokingly remarked in a text, ‘…we may want to be on your blog too’. So, after some thought, that’s exactly what I did.

fetacloseAs Kendall tells her story much better than I can, I’d encourage you to read her beautifully honest words over at Kendall Stanford: As I Battle Lymphoma. She’s planning to write updates as she progresses through the next few months, both as a personal means of catharsis and for information sharing. As for me, I’ve signed up for the ‘food roster’ (actually, I requested that she create a food roster!) so you may see a few more Kendall updates on here as time passes, if it feels right to do so.

One last request: if you’re a Christian as we are, I’d like to humbly ask you to please pray alongside us, specifically for Kendall, Brett, their families and friends, the treating doctors involved in her care… and otherwise as you feel led. We’re praying for victory, healing and renewed strength. Thanks beautiful friends. I appreciate every one of you.

quinoasalad2

This salad is simple, nourishing and comforting, speckled with lemon zest and fresh garden herbs. If you don’t have quinoa, you can easily substitute it for brown rice, bulgur (burghul) or cous cous.

Lemon Quinoa Salad with Cherry Tomatoes and Goats Cheese

Serves 2 as a light meal, 4 as a side dish

  • 1 cup dry organic white Royal Quinoa
  • 200g punnet mixed cherry tomatoes, washed
  • 1/2 red capsicum, stem and seeds removed
  • 1 avocado, seed and peel removed
  • 1 small Lebanese cucumber (substitute half a telegraph cucumber)
  • 1/2 small Spanish onion, outer peel removed
  • 1 handful washed Italian parsley leaves
  • 1 handful washed coriander leaves (retain stalk)
  • 1 large unwaxed lemon, zest and juice
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup organic Persian marinated feta
  • extra virgin olive oil

Place the quinoa into a fine mesh strainer, then rinse it thoroughly under fresh cold water. Swish the quinoa around with your hands, rubbing slightly to remove the bitter outer coating (called saponin, which can contribute a slightly bitter or soapy flavour).

Drain well, then place into a medium saucepan with two cups of fresh cold water. Replace the lid and bring the mixture to a rolling boil; immediately lower the heat to a gentle simmer, then cook with the lid on for 10-15 minutes.

lemonycookedWhen your quinoa is cooked, the liquid should be fully absorbed and the germ should slightly curl away from the quinoa seeds. Allow to stand for five minutes (covered) then add in a good splash of extra virgin olive oil, some salt and the fresh lemon zest. Mix well, then set aside to cool.

caponionChop your cherry tomatoes, capsicum, Spanish onion, cucumber and avocado into small (0.5 x 0.5cm) dice. Place into a medium bowl, then squeeze over the juice of half a lemon. Finely chop the herbs and add them to the rest of the raw ingredients with the lemony quinoa, crumbled Persian feta, a good drizzle of olive oil and the rest of the lemon juice. Mix well and season to taste with sea salt and black pepper.

finmontServe this salad on its own or topped with warm chickpeas, freshly grilled chicken, fish or a handful of toasted pepitas. It’s also great as part of a Summer barbecue spread with a selection of salads, meat and some cold beer.

quinoasaladNotes:

  • Quinoa (‘keen wah’) is one of the most nutrient rich grains around. It’s an excellent source of iron (needed to transport oxygen around the body), B vitamins for energy, calcium and magnesium (for healthy nervous system function) and vitamin E (a powerful antioxidant).
  • For more information on quinoa (including basic cooking ratios) see my previous post, Quinoa Salad with Preserved Lemon, Pomegranate and Mint.
  • The Australian website taste.com.au has a nice little collection of quinoa recipes here. Beautiful, versatile nutrition. Love it.
  • This salad can be easily veganised by omitting the Persian feta. I’d recommend additions of toasted pepitas, chickpeas or other nuts for added substance, texture and flavour.

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