chard, goat cheese and walnut galette with oat pastry

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My mother is one of those thoroughly gifted, green-fingered people who breathes life into dwindled branches on a daily basis. When I was a child, she’d routinely rescue half-dead potted shrubs from local garden centres for one dollar apiece; a few weeks later, she’d be separating densely-packed roots into two separate pots of glossy green leaves.

She’d also frequently save seeds from fruit such as apples or papaya, drying them on the windowsill til their skins became hard and glossy.  She’d then plant them, with plenty of faith and a mound of organic mulch (she still swears by the efficacy of regular mulching).

We had thirty papayas from one of those dried seeds. Fledgling tomatoes and an avocado too. Each year, I benefit from her yield of apples and citrus fruit until my fridge is bursting at the seams.

But no. I haven’t inherited her gift.

I’ve tried. Oh gosh, I’ve tried. My front doorstep is frequently cluttered with dusty pots from plants-that-were; a sad memorial to my horticultural ineptness. I’ve spent a fortune on seeds and organic potting mix, only to be met with the rotting stench of dead foliage (and failure, obviously).

So you can imagine my surprise when a last-ditch effort to grow organic rainbow chard actually yielded results. Meaning, they’re STILL ALIVE. And thriving.

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Since my initial planting in November last year, my little crop of rainbow chard has grown spectacularly; I’ve harvested handfuls of stems every other week and there’s no sign of waning yet.

Other than eating the leaves raw in salads, I’ve made many a thin-crusted chard pizza (with caramelized onions, pesto and goats cheese), variations of sauteed greens and a few toasted coconut sweet potato and chard based curries.

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However, a few days ago I happened upon the idea of making an oat-flour based chard galette, with fresh walnuts that my mother picked on a recent trip to Bright, Victoria.

This thing is glorious. Absolutely bursting with savoury deliciousness. The slight bitterness from the chard combines beautifully with the earthy toasted walnuts, sweet onions and rich melted cheese, all encased in flaky oaten pastry.

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If you haven’t got a glut of chard in your own garden, feel free to substitute with any other leafy green (Tuscan kale works exceptionally well) or just use a whole quantity of spinach.  Walnuts can be easily traded for pine nuts if you prefer.

This galette is beautiful served in thick wedges for lunch with a simple dressed salad and marinated olives, or perhaps accompanied by buttered sourdough for a light dinner.

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Chard, Goat Cheese and Walnut Galette with Oat Pastry

Serves 4-6

  • 1 cup (100g) organic, finely milled* oat flour
  • 1 cup (125g) plain (all-purpose) white flour + about 1/4 cup extra for kneading
  • 200g cold, cubed unsalted butter
  • a good pinch of salt
  • iced water, as required (about 2 tbsp)
  • a splash (about 1/4 tsp) apple cider vinegar
  • 1 free-range egg, white and yolk separated

*use a coarse mill if you prefer more of an oaten texture

Filling:

  • 1 medium red (Spanish) onion, finely chopped
  • 3 small cloves of garlic, peeled and finely diced
  • 1/2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 tsp fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
  • 100g fresh organic rainbow chard, stalks finely sliced, large leaves torn
  • 150g baby English spinach, leaves only
  • 50g raw walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 75g good-quality cheddar or ‘tasty’ cheese, grated
  • 50g goats cheese, crumbled
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp plain flour
  • 1 egg white, beaten with a splash of iced water (reserved from the egg used for the pastry)

For the dough: add the flours to a large mixing bowl with the salt and butter. Rub the butter in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs.

Add in the apple cider vinegar, egg yolk (reserve the white for glazing) and a trickle of iced water. Mix well with your hands, adding a little more iced water as you go until the mixture becomes smooth and cohesive (the dough will become a little sticky).

Tip out onto a well floured surface and knead until smooth. Form into a rough disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes whilst you prepare your filling.

For the filling: add the onion, herbs and garlic to a saucepan with a good splash of olive oil. Allow to saute on low heat until opaque (do not allow to brown).

Increase heat to medium, then add the rainbow chard stems and leaves. Cook, stirring for one minute until wilted. Add in the English spinach and cook for another 2 minutes or until just wilted. Season with salt, turn off the heat and set the mixture aside to cool slightly.

Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees f). Line large tray with baking paper and set aside.

On a well-floured surface, roll out your pastry to 35 cm diameter (about 0.5mm thick). Carefully transfer the pastry onto your lined baking tray.

Sprinkle the teaspoon of flour over the centre of the pastry disc in a thin layer (this will absorb any fluid from the spinach and ensure your pastry doesn’t become soggy). Evenly distribute the cooled spinach mixture over the flour, leaving a 3cm border around the edge of the pastry.

Sprinkle over the cheeses and walnuts, then grind a good helping of black pepper over the filling. Turn the edges of the pastry disc up to roughly enclose the filling (don’t worry if it looks ‘rustic’, this is what a galette is all about!). Press together any overlapping pastry edges until you have a well sealed pastry crust. Brush with beaten egg white.

Bake the galette on a centre shelf in your preheated oven for 50-60 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and golden and the filling is bubbling. Allow to cool for five minutes before slicing to serve.

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Note: if you have a pizza stone (and love a crisp pastry crust) I’d highly recommend using it to bake this galette. Preheat the stone for five minutes, then carefully transfer the galette onto the stone atop the baking paper. Bake as above.

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spring pea, asparagus and strawberry salad

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For those of us heralding the arrival of autumn, today’s post might seem a little out of season. But trust me, there’s method to my madness: I’m guest-posting over at my friend Erin’s blog, The Speckled Palate, whilst she and her husband Winston enjoy precious time with their new baby girl!

Erin and Winston reside in Dallas, Texas, hence my reference to the pending arrival of spring (in technical terms, anyway… this forecast might say otherwise!). I can’t quite remember when we first struck up a friendship but over the last year or so, I’ve come to consider Erin as a dear blogging friend across-the-seas. She’s wonderfully creative, kind and nurturing and I know that she’s going to be the most incredible mother to ‘Lady Baby’ (as she’s known for now!).

Such exciting times.

strawberriesI’m including my original recipe below as part of the blog archive, but I’d encourage you to jump over to Erin’s blog post for a printable version (and more talk of how this Aussie blogger became friends with a big-hearted Texan photographer!).

You can also read more about Erin and her journey towards motherhood here and here.

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Back to peas and carrots strawberries.

The salad recipe below is more of a concept than an absolute instructional. Feel free to experiment with flavours and textures, harnessing the best fruit and vegetables that you can find. Add a little avocado for creamy goodness or some pea shoots if you can find nice ones at the market.

Swap the strawberries for juicy chunks of ripe peach, or add sauteed leeks or sweet onions as a beautiful accompaniment to the goats cheese.

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As per my notes, feel free to bulk out this recipe with some cooked and cooled quinoa for a more substantial dish. I’ve also added the almonds as an ‘option’ as… well, I’d like to say I was catering for nut-free people but to be honest, I just forgot about them (honestly, I can’t even blame baby brain!). If you do add the nuts, they’ll provide a gorgeously satisfying crunch.

Thanks Erin, for giving me the opportunity to share one of my favourite recipes with your readers. I’m sending you, Winston and (fur kid and big sister) Lucy lots of love from my apartment across the seas!

Oh, and talking about fur kids? I think we’ve got ourselves a little strawberry thief…

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Spring Pea, Asparagus and Strawberry Salad

Serves 2-4 as a side dish

  • 100g edamame beans, shelled (50g shelled weight)
  • 1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed
  • 50g sugar snap peas, stringed
  • large handful of fresh greens (I used baby spinach and rainbow chard, however watercress or rocket would be lovely)
  • 100 – 150g strawberries, washed, trimmed and halved (leave a few small ones whole for garnish)
  • 100g fresh goats cheese (substitute feta), broken into chunks
  • 1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest (from lemon below)
  • small handful of mint, washed and chopped (reserve a few leaves for garnish)
  • 50g slivered almonds, optional

For the dressing (combine all in a screw-top jar and shake*):

  • 2 tbsp cold-pressed sweet almond oil
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • juice from half a lemon
  • drizzle of honey or rice malt syrup, to taste
  • sea salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper

If using, scatter the slivered almonds over an oven tray and toast them at 180 degrees C (350 degrees f) for 8 minutes or until golden brown. Set aside to cool.

Blanch the asparagus spears in hot water for 2 minutes or until bright green. Refresh under cold water, drain and set aside.

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Slice the sugar snap peas into thin slivers on a diagonal. Place into a medium bowl with the shelled edamame and sliced strawberries. Pour over enough dressing to coat, then toss and adjust seasoning to taste.

Scatter the leafy greens over a serving platter. Lay the asparagus spears over the top and spoon over the pea and strawberry mix. Combine the goats cheese with the chopped mint, lemon zest and a little extra dressing. Gently mix, then spoon over the plated salad.

Scatter over the whole strawberries, remaining mint leaves and slivered almonds if desired.

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This salad is wonderful with seasoned grilled chicken, fish or pork on a warm spring day. You can also bulk it out with 1 cup of cooked quinoa and some flaxseeds for a wholesome vegetarian meal.

Notes: I mixed my salad dressing with just a tiny bit of honey to retain a ‘tangy contrast’ to the sweet, juicy strawberries. Don’t overdo the sweetness or you’ll throw out the balance of your salad. The ingredients listed above make more than enough dressing for this salad. Add just enough to coat the strawberry and pea mix with a little extra for the goats cheese and leaves. Don’t be tempted to pour over the remainder of the jar unless you’re adding cooked quinoa as suggested above (save it for another salad!).

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char-grilled watermelon salad with mint and goats cheese

plate4It’s been a slow couple of months at the Mess. Slow and weary; mostly due to the insufferably hot Summer weather. Over the past two months I’ve been reluctant to even move, never mind turn on the oven. Aaron and I have spent a majority of nights sleeping on the cool kitchen floor underneath our single air conditioning unit (don’t get too excited, it hardly copes with humidity. Cool, wet towels have become my new best friend).

Meals? Well, they’ve largely consisted of raw vegetables, hummus, sourdough and cultured butter, chunks of good cheddar and the occasional barbecue chicken from Red Rooster. Oh, and homemade quinoa tofu sushi. That’s about as interesting as it gets. melonNot that I’m complaining. In fact, I’ve quite enjoyed these nights of light, simple food. My sole problem has been poor blogability, if that’s even a word. Nothing’s really stood out as beautiful enough to throw into the blogosphere.

Add that to the absence of my beloved laptop (which has officially bitten the dust) and the lack of Western Australian daylight savings and… well, you’re left with a dearth of recent blog content. I’m dreadfully sorry. vase But back to today’s post and the beauty of char-grilled watermelon. This, my friends, is the kind of food that makes my weary, sweat-soaked Summer heart sing.

Quickly tossing watermelon onto a hot grill plate creates a beautiful smoky exterior that contrasts perfectly against the sweet, juicy flesh. Add some fresh mint, creamy chevre, crunchy pistachios and piquant lemon and you’ve got a salad fit for warm weather entertaining. plate1 Or for eating by yourself, with sweet grilled chicken and a glass of chilled white wine.

Happy February, friends. plate3 Char-grilled Watermelon Salad

Serves 2

  • 4 one-inch-thick slices of seedless watermelon, rind removed
  • 2 spring onions, washed and thinly sliced on a diagonal
  • 1 sprig mint, washed and finely chopped
  • 2 hunks of good-quality goats cheese, preferably French chèvre (approx 20g per person)
  • 1 tsp lemon rind
  • 1 tbsp toasted, shelled pistachio nuts, crushed
  • light olive oil or coconut oil, to cook

Lemon Dressing:

  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh lemon juice (juice from half an average lemon)
  • a good pinch of brown or coconut sugar (to taste)
  • sea salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper

Heat a char-grill pan or barbecue plate to high heat (or until it starts smoking).

Rub each side of the cut watermelon with olive or coconut oil, then immediately transfer onto the hot pan or rack. Cook for 2 minutes on each side or until grill marks appear. Transfer two slices onto each plate.

Combine all of the dressing ingredients into a small screw top jar. Shake, then taste. Adjust amounts of acid or sweetness to your liking (ensure the dressing is a little acidic as you’ll require the acid as a contrast to the sweet watermelon.

dressingingred dressing Top the watermelon slices on each plate with some crumbled goats cheese, mint, spring onions and finely grated lemon rind. Drizzle with a bit of the lemon dressing and sprinkle with crunchy pistachio nuts.

Serve alongside some grilled white fish or chicken for a complete meal. Or as a Vegetarian option, add some sourdough and cultured butter for a pretty delicious lunch. plate2

marinated bell peppers with herbs and goats cheese

peppersBy now, you’ve probably already read my epic Spanish Table post that was generated after last weekend’s festivities with Inspired Food and Feed Your Soul, Perth. Here’s the final recipe for bell peppers marinated in fragrant herbs, lemon zest, garlic and extra virgin olive oil. Pile onto some fresh bread for a wonderful entree, lunch or tapas dish.

Marinated Peppers with Herbs and Goats Cheese

Serves 6 as part of a tapas meal, 2 as an entree

  • 200g mixed baby peppers
  • 1/4 cup chopped mixed herbs (I used dill, mint, parsley and coriander)
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 60g soft mild goats cheese or Persian feta
  • fresh bread, to serve

Preheat a char grill pan over medium-high heat. Add the whole baby peppers to the pan and cook, turning occasionally, until blistered and blackened.

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Whilst still hot, place into a plastic bag or bowl covered in plastic wrap and allow to steam (this allows the skins to loosen from the flesh). Set aside.

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Place the chopped herbs, lemon zest, crushed garlic and olive oil into a medium bowl. Mix well and season to taste. Set aside.

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When the peppers are cool, peel off the blackened skins and scrape out the seeds and membranes. Cut or tear into thick slices, then add to the bowl of herb oil. Mix well and allow to marinate for one hour.

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To serve, gently add in the crumbled goats cheese and turn into a serving bowl. Garnish with a bit of extra herbage if desired. Serve the peppers piled onto fresh bread or as a tasty addition to a wrap or sandwich. Make sure you drizzle over a bit of the delicious oil, too.

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courgette salad with lemon myrtle oil, chilli and mint

closeupThere’s something beautiful about summer squash. Their firm, sweet flesh requires little more than a brief flash in the pan before being served, drizzled in oil with a smattering of fragrant herbs.

I love them, whether they’re roasted, grilled, steamed or charred on a hot barbecue… particularly with lots of lemon, minted yoghurt and chilli. Perfectly easy food for summer nights.

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Over the past week, Aaron and I have eaten a lot of summer squash. Our first taste was fresh from Vicky’s garden, thick slices of charred green and yellow courgette bathed in olive oil, black pepper and herbs. We ate with sticky fingers and wide grins as the sun dropped below the horizon, breathing the scent of fresh eucalyptus on the wind.

That evening, our conversation rambled for hours. Plates were refilled, emptied and eagerly mopped up with torn ciabatta. Fresh air, open space and good company makes everything taste better. Sometimes, that’s all you need.

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Back to tonight’s courgette adventure. To be honest, it was more the product of an after-work ‘fridge hunt’ than anything else. Lucky for me, fresh goats cheese, herbs and lemons are staple refrigerator items, alongside home-cured olives, various nuts and grains.

I added these to a bag of fresh baby courgettes that I picked up at the weekend market, shiny and glistening in their skins. In an hour, dinner was on the table: roast chicken, courgette salad, hummus, garlicky tzatziki, sweet potatoes, tomatoes and olives. Summer food done simply.

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The recipe below is more of a ‘concept’ than a strict statement of quantities. It’s a dish that I make often with ingredients that I have on hand (you’ll see that I’ve added some ‘optional’ suggestions in the ingredients list) so all in all, it’s very forgiving.

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In my mind, courgettes partner beautifully with mint, however you could easily substitute coriander or basil as desired. If you’re gluten or wheat intolerant, just switch out the bulgur for cooked and cooled quinoa as a deliciously wholesome alternative.

It may go without saying, but this recipe works brilliantly with all summer squash including yellow squash, pattypans, tromboncinos and crooknecks… just ensure that they’re sliced similarly for ease of cooking.

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Courgette Salad with Macadamia Lemon Myrtle Oil, Chilli and Mint

Serves 4 as a side dish

  • 6-8 small courgettes (zucchini), washed and halved lengthwise
  • 1/4 cup fine grit bulgur (burghul)
  • 1/2 long red chilli, finely chopped (remove seeds if you’d like less heat)
  • mint and parsley leaves (about 1/4 cup in total) washed and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
  • good squeeze of lemon juice
  • about 30g goats cheese, crumbled (substitute good quality feta)
  • Brookfarm macadamia oil infused with lemon myrtle (substitute another lemon infused oil or good quality extra virgin olive oil)
  • sea salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • optional: toasted, crushed pistachio nuts or macadamias (sprinkle over to serve)
  • optional: small handful of pitted green olives, finely sliced

Heat a large griddle pan over high heat until hot but not smoking. Toss the courgettes in a little macadamia oil then lay them in a single layer onto the hot griddle, ensuring that each piece is in contact with the hotplate.

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Cook for 5 minutes each side or until cooked through and slightly charred.

Place the raw bulgur into a heatproof bowl or jug. Cover with boiling water until fully submerged, then cover with plastic wrap or an upturned plate.

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Leave for 10 minutes or until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Fluff with a fork and allow to cool.

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Place the chilli, mint, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper into a small bowl (if using olives, combine at this point). Drizzle over a good slug of lemon myrtle macadamia oil, then toss to coat.

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When the bulgur has cooled, combine with the chilli, mint and lemon mixture. Mix well.

Lay the courgettes out onto a serving plate. Top with the seasoned bulgur (make sure to pour over all of the juices) then crumble over the goats cheese.

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Grind over some cracked black pepper then drizzle over some extra lemon myrtle macadamia oil. Add some chopped mint and/or toasted, crushed nuts if desired.

sideplateBrookfarm macadamia oil infused with lemon myrtle is an award-winning high quality oil produced in New South Wales, Australia. It has a high smoke point (210 degrees C / 410 degrees f) and the beautiful herbal tang of lemon myrtle, an Australian spice that is unique to the northern rivers.

Brookfarm macadamia oil infused with lemon myrtle is a wonderful accompaniment to seafood, vegetable and pasta dishes. Find stockists here.

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

spiced lamb burgers with beetroot relish and hand-cut chips

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I love a good burger. There’s just something about a crisp-edged, juicy meat patty atop crusty bread with a myriad of cheeses, soft herbs and condiments. It’s portable, hand-held deliciousness, infinitely variable but perfect in its simplicity.

At present, my favourite burgers are made at a small South Fremantle cafe called Ootong and Lincoln. I was first introduced to this eclectic venue by my best friend Vicky (aka Hippy Vic) who has long held an obsession with their dukkah-crusted lentil burgers. Yep, lentil burgers. They’re absolutely delicious, even from the position of a well-entrenched carnivore.

Perfectly seasoned, crisp-edged and soft-centred, these lentil patties are house-made and coated in toasted dukkah before being piled onto a fresh roll with melting haloumi, soft greens and homemade relish. Have I made you hungry yet?

beetrootwhole beetrootgrated

Anyway, after that three paragraph speal, I’m here to tell you that I don’t have the secret recipe for Ootong’s lentil patties. Or their relish, for that matter (but they do sell their dukkah crust in jars on site at the cafe, uh… well, that’s only marginally helpful).

What I do have is a recipe for completely non-vegetarian lamb burgers with a quick, throw-together beetroot relish. Perfect for a delicious after-work dinner when you can’t get your tired ass to Ootong in Fremantle.

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This entire meal is cheap to make and ridiculously easy. In fact, I threw it together in about 20 minutes (discounting the cooking time). Begin with your potatoes; chop then boil them whilst you combine ingredients for your patty mixture. Mold into patties, then refrigerate whilst you start frying the chips. When the chips are in the oven, start your beetroot relish, then leave it to macerate whilst you fry your meat. Before you know it, everything’s on the plate.

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The original concept for these burgers was from taste.com.au. However, as per usual, I’ve bastardized everything according to my own specifications.

The recipes for the chips, patties and relish are entirely forgiving so I’d encourage you to play around with them as you see fit. Add some toasted pine nuts, feta or chopped parsley to the patties if you like. Want some extra spice on the chips? Add in some chilli flakes, lemon rind or a pinch of cayenne pepper. The relish is also hugely adaptable; I’ve made it with grated apple, red cabbage, poppy seeds, caramelised onion, with and without extra lemon rind and brown sugar. It’s also wonderful with pomegranate seeds, finely chopped coriander and crushed pistachios. Infinitely adaptable. Like most good food should be.

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Lamb Burgers

  • 500g good-quality lamb mince
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 red Spanish onion, peeled and finely minced
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves, washed and finely chopped
  • 2 generous tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp chilli flakes
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • plain flour, to dust
  • olive oil, for frying

To assemble the burgers:

  • 4 crusty hamburger rolls
  • soft goats cheese
  • garlicky hummus
  • washed rocket leaves
  • beetroot relish
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • avocado, if desired

Mix all of the above ingredients in a large bowl, ensuring that the aromatics are finely distributed.

ingredientspatty

With moist hands, separate mixture into four equal-sized portions. Flatten each portion in the palm of your hand into a rough circle, approximately 1.5cm thick.

patties

Place each patty onto a lined tray, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes before cooking (during this time, you can prepare your beetroot relish).

To cook: Preheat oven to 180 degrees C  (350 degrees f). Lightly dust each patty with plain flour and sprinkle with a little more sea salt. Heat a good splash of olive oil in a heavy based, oven-safe frying pan. When oil starts to smoke, carefully place patties into the pan. Fry on each side until golden but not cooked through; transfer pan into oven and cook for another 5 minutes or until just cooked through.

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Whilst still warm, top each patty with a few slices of soft goats cheese. Toast the burger buns if desired, spread bottom half with hummus (and top half with avocado if desired) then top with a goats-cheese-topped lamb patty. Dollop on some beetroot relish, top with fresh rocket, grind over some fresh black pepper. Serve with oven chips (and aioli for dipping, if desired).

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Quick Beetroot Relish

Makes roughly 1.5 cups. Serve any remaining relish on crostini with soft goats cheese, or on toasted sourdough with poached eggs, hummus and fresh rocket for breakfast.

  • 250g peeled, cooked beetroot, grated coarsely
  • 1/2 red onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 ground sumac
  • handful of mint leaves, washed and finely chopped
  • good splash (approx 1 tsp) red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp dark agave syrup or honey
  • extra virgin olive oil

Place chopped onion into a small bowl with the lemon juice. Mix well, then leave to macerate for 15 minutes. Drain well.

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In a medium sized bowl, combine the grated beetroot with the soaked onion, agave, red wine vinegar, olive oil and spices.

beetrootsaladingredientsMix well and allow to soak for 5 minutes. Mix in the mint just before serving (for a quick version, like I did, you can just dump everything into a bowl and mix it together; however the beetroot definitely benefits from marinating).

chipsrawHand-cut Chips

This amount serves 2 (allow around 200-250g potatoes per person)

  • 450g waxy potatoes; I used Ruby Lou (approx 3 medium potatoes)
  • 3 garlic cloves, lightly crushed
  • 1 tbsp rosemary leaves
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves
  • smoked sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • olive oil, for frying

Cut each potato into rough batons, around 1x1cm in width. Place in a pot of cold, salted water, then slowly bring to the boil.

potReduce heat slightly, allowing the potatoes to simmer until tender (but not falling apart). Drain well, then season with smoked sea salt and black pepper.

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Preheat oven to 200 degrees C (390 degrees f). Heat oil in a large, heavy based oven-safe frying pan or oven tray. Add in the garlic cloves and herbs. When smoking, toss in the seasoned potatoes and allow to crisp lightly on all sides.

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Transfer the tray or pan into the oven. Continue cooking the chips, turning them regularly until golden and crisp on all sides.

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Drain on paper towels prior to serving with assembled burgers.

chipbowl doneplatterEat, padawan. Eat. I know you want to.

*by the way, for those who read the Appreciation Post about Aaron, the board below is one of a set of two that he made for me. I still haven’t posted a proper shot of them, but hopefully you’ll get the idea.

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my favourite potato salad

likeyWhilst wandering my local farmer’s market last weekend, I noticed a large basket of dark, speckled tubers labelled purple congo potatoes. They were fascinating, thin and knobbly like kipflers wrapped in dusty black strips of parchment.

Being a sucker for new ingredients, I soon filled a bag and squirreled it home with fresh asparagus, artichokes and golden cherry tomatoes. Four days later, I threw together my default potato salad as a contribution to a barbecue at a friend’s place.

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This potato salad isn’t your typical run-of-the-mill mayonnaise fest. By incorporating creamy goats cheese, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic and a splash of bacon fat, the salad retains just the right amount of creaminess without masking the freshness of the boiled potatoes, herbs and cherry tomatoes.

Salty bacon adds some savoury complexity whilst toasted pine nuts add a sprinkle of necessary crunch. It’s the kind of salad that I can’t get enough of, as there’s variance in every bite.

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As you can tell from the photographs above, purple congos aren’t the most attractive of the tuber family. They’re rather squat, ribbed and speckled, bearing more resemblance to excrement than food. Their flesh is dry and rather floury after cooking so I definitely wouldn’t recommend them for roasting or chips. When boiled, they retain a firm but dry texture that soaks up butter or olive oil beautifully. They’re also wonderful in creamy (purple) mash.

This salad doesn’t have to be made from purple congo potatoes; in fact, it works even better with other waxy or all-rounder potatoes such as spuntas, Ruby Lou, Dutch creams, kipflers or bintjes. The only advantage of the purple congo is its inky colour variance that emerges upon cutting to luckily be retained after cooking.

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As with most other dark-pigmented vegetables (e.g. beetroot, red cabbage) purple congos stain terribly. I’d encourage you to use an old chopping board whilst preparing them. Wash all utensils as soon as possible to prevent staining.

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My Favourite Potato Salad

Serves 6 as a side dish

  • 500g waxy or all-rounder potatoes (I used a mixture of purple congo and royal blue)
  • 200g punnet cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
  • 175g bacon rashers, finely diced
  • 1/2 Spanish onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 4 spring onions (shallots)
  • handful of washed Italian (flat leaf) parsley, chopped
  • zest of 1 lemon (plus some juice)
  • 100g goats cheese, crumbled
  • 50g pine nuts, toasted
  • 1-2 tbsp aged balsamic vinegar
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt
  • cracked black pepper

Wash your potatoes and remove any eyes or blemished skin. Chop into even pieces (about 2cm x 2cm) and place into a pot of fresh salted water.

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Boil over medium heat until the potatoes are firm but tender (easily pierced with a knife but not falling apart; don’t worry if your water turns blackish-green, that’s normal with purple congos). Drain and place into a large bowl.

In the meantime, heat a good splash of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the garlic, bacon and Spanish onion, then cook on low to medium heat until the bacon is crisp and the onion is translucent (about 10 minutes; agitate the pan as required).

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Add to the still-warm* potatoes (including the residual fat from the pan) with the lemon zest, a squeeze of lemon juice, a good drizzle of balsamic vinegar, olive oil and some salt and pepper. Mix well and set aside to cool slightly.

*adding the dressing to the potatoes whilst they’re still warm allows them to soak up a lot of gorgeous flavour in the dressing. If your potatoes have cooled completely, warm them in the microwave briefly before adding the olive oil, lemon, balsamic and residual bacon fat.

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Add in the rest of the ingredients alongside another squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Mix well and season to taste.

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I like to serve this salad alongside some simple grilled meat or fish with another bowl of fresh green leaves.

*It’s also perfect as an abstract take on potato hash: Splash a little bit of oil onto the base of a medium heavy-based pan. Add in enough salad to cover the bottom of the pan. Make a couple of ‘indents’ into which you can crack a couple of eggs. Cook over medium heat until the bottom is crisp and golden and the egg whites are set. Serve with a green salad.

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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.

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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!

roasted beet salad with walnuts and chèvre

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It’s not exactly a secret, but… well, I’m a little bit in love with cheese. Actually, make that a lot. Give me a glass of red, some crackers and some cheese on a balmy evening and I’ll be in my version of dairy heaven. Well, except if the cheese of choice is Kraft Singles, as that’s not really cheese at all (ah, I’ll rant about this topic another day). In terms of recipe adaptability, my new favourite cheese is the deliciously creamy chèvre. It’s characteristically piquant flavour is adaptable enough to add to a range of dishes, from stuffed mushrooms, crepes and salads to creamy, semi-sweet desserts.

What, might you ask, is chèvre? Well, although it sounds fancy, it’s just the French name for soft, pressed curd cheese that’s been made with goat’s milk. It’s creamy, white and full of medium-chain fatty acids such as caproic, caprylic and capric acid, all of which contribute to a slightly tart flavour. I love it, and regularly consume it in a very simple fashion: spread thickly onto toasted sourdough, with fresh Italian parsley and a drizzle of lemon oil. It’s also fabulous in any recipe that calls for feta cheese, but make sure that you buy a medium-firm variety or you’ll end up with milky goat goo (don’t you love that word?) throughout your salad.

Image credit: Leela at 'She Simmers'. Click for a recipe on how to make your own homemade chèvre

Image credit: Leela at ‘She Simmers’. Click for a recipe on how to make your own homemade chèvre.

For those of you who are deterred by the fact that chèvre comes from a goat rather than a cow, let me explain a few benefits:

  • Goat milk typically contains less lactose than cow’s milk, which makes it favourable for people who suffer from lactose intolerance.
  • It’s protein composition is more similar to human milk than cow’s milk, so it’s often the milk of choice for the elderly, or children who are intolerant of certain proteins or sugars in traditional dairy milk
  • On average, goat cheese tends to contain 20% less calories and fat than cow’s milk cheese. It also contains shorter fat molecules that are easier to digest into ready-to-use energy.
  • It’s also lower in saturated fat, salt and cholesterol. In an average comparison of 1-0z. of cheddar cheese to 1-oz. goat’s cheese, cheddar comes up at 9g total fat, 6g saturated fat, 170mg sodium and 25mg cholesterol. Goat’s cheese scores 5g total fat, 3g saturated fat, 65mg sodium and no cholesterol. At all. How good is that?
  • Goat’s cheese doesn’t contain as much protein as pressed cheddar, as it’s less concentrated. But… if you look at the raw product, milk, goat’s milk contains an average of 8.7g protein, whereas cow’s milk contains 8.1g. In a balanced diet containing other sources of protein, the difference is negligible.
  • Other nutrients and vitamins readily available in goat’s cheese include tryptophan (an amino acid), phosphorus, vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin A (47% higher than cow’s cheese), niacin (three times as much as cow’s milk), selenium (an antioxidant), potassium and vitamin B6 (25% more than cow’s cheese). Goat cheese also contains a moderate level of probiotics (which aid gastrointestinal health) and lots of calcium (which is essential for bone health, amongst other things).
  • Last but not least, because goat products are often not as mass-produced as cow products, they’re less likely to have nasty synthetic hormones and other additives that can cause allergic reactions. That’s definitely a good thing.

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If you’ve looked at the picture above (yeah, that one of the beetroot) you’re probably wondering why I’ve spent the majority of this post talking about the benefits of goat’s cheese. Well… when eating some warm, crusty bread adorned with goat’s cheese, extra virgin olive oil and a splash of aged balsamic, I guess other things pale in comparison. But, I digress… both beetroot and goat’s cheese are very relevant to this recipe post, as we’ll be roasting this vibrant root vegetable in a deliciously sticky glaze before combining it with soft goat’s cheese, crunchy toasted walnuts, fresh herbs and balsamic dressing (if you’re wondering, beetroot is also very good for you. Take a look at the stats, here).

Below, you’ll find my go-to recipe for this classic roasted beetroot, walnut and chèvre (I felt like being French again) salad. It’s delicious on it’s own, with some added quinoa or as an accompaniment to a crispy-skinned salmon steak. If you feel like experimenting, check the ‘notes’ section below. I’ve included some of my favourite recipe variations which will hopefully be a delicious addition to your table over the festive Summer months.

Thanks again for reading, and apologies that my estimated week (for my next recipe post) ended up being almost two. Jouir de!

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Roasted Beetroot, Walnut and Chèvre Salad with Balsamic Dressing

Serves 2 as a substantial salad, 4 as an accompaniment.

*When making this recipe, please keep in mind that beetroot stains everything. Everything, including skin, chopping boards, clothing and unvarnished wooden benchtops. Please make sure that you handle them respectfully and cautiously, with gloves if desired. But despite this warning, any incidental staining is definitely worth it.

  • 1 bunch raw baby beets (leaves still attached, if possible)
  • 1/2 small Spanish (red) onion
  • 1 cup (packed) washed and dried baby spinach leaves
  • a handful of parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 3/4 cup walnuts, roasted then lightly crushed
  • 80g (or more, depending upon your preference) fresh chèvre (soft goat’s cheese), crumbled
  • good quality olive oil, to roast
  • aged balsamic vinegar
  • red wine vinegar
  • a drizzle of honey or rice malt syrup
  • sea salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil, to dress

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (356 degrees f). Detach leaves from beetroot, wash the small, tender ones well and set them aside (keep the rest of the beet greens! Separate the leaves, finely chop the stalks and saute in olive oil with some finely chopped shallot and a splash of water. Simmer until tender, add some salt (and a knob of butter, if you’re feeling generous) and serve… maybe with a poached egg on top!).

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Wash your beetroot well under cold running water, trimming any stray roots and tough bits of skin with a small, sharp knife. Pat beetroot dry with a paper towel, then cut them into even-sized wedges. Place them into a shallow, foil-lined baking tray then splash over some good olive oil, some aged balsamic, red wine vinegar, water, sea salt and cracked pepper (I don’t strictly follow any quantities here… basically, you want to create enough liquid for the beetroot to initially steam, then caramelise with a sticky, delicious glaze. Make sure there’s about 0.5-1cm of liquid covering the base of your tray before putting it in the oven). Toss to coat, then place your tray into the preheated oven to cook, turning occasionally, for about 40-60 minutes.

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Half way through the cooking time, add in your sliced Spanish onion to caramelise. Your beetroot will be done when the vinegars have reduced, the onion is translucent and slightly browned, and the beetroot can be pierced easily with a knife. Remove the tray from them oven, then allow to cool.

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Now, here’s the easy part: assemble your salad. Place your beetroot, the reserved tender beetroot leaves and spinach in a shallow bowl. Add in three quarters of the walnuts and chèvre. In a separate bowl (or your oven tray, if sufficiently cooled), add the beetroot and onion to your chopped parsley leaves. Toss well to coat, then add to the rest of your ingredients, including a splash more olive oil, balsamic and red wine vinegar. Scatter over the remaining walnuts, chèvre and some freshly cracked black pepper to garnish. Enjoy alone or as an accompaniment to your favourite protein.

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Notes:

  • Now you’ve mastered the basics of a beetroot salad, you can adapt this recipe to your individual preferences. Flavours that work wonderfully with beetroot include mint, feta, fresh green peas, yoghurt, crème fraîche or sour cream, Moroccan spices and other root vegetables such as sweet potato or carrots. I’ve made this recipe with additional roasted sweet potato, a sprinkling of dukkah and a yoghurt dressing instead of chèvre. Delicious.
  • An alternate way to roast your beetroot is to wrap it whole, in foil with a good splash of water and red wine vinegar. Place in the oven and roast for 1 1/2 – 2 hours, or until the vegetable can be easily pierced with a fork. Peel the beetroot, with gloved hands (I am talking from personal experience – beetroot stains take hours of scrubbing to remove), then discard the skins. You can then cut your beetroot into wedges for the above recipe, or finely dice it and add it to lots of finely chopped mint with some finely sliced raw Spanish onion, crumbled chèvre and a splash of extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Serve with a dollop of crème fraîche. So good with steamed salmon or gravadlax (Swedish dill-cured salmon. So delicious).
  • Beetroot also makes a wonderful base for healthy, vibrantly-hued dips. Roast your beetroot in foil as above, peel then add to a food processor with whatever flavours you desire: Moroccan spices, yoghurt, crème fraîche or sour cream (I like using a bit of both), ground walnuts, fresh mint or parsley, lemon juice and a slug of olive oil. All of these flavours work remarkably well with the beetroot, so definitely experiment and see what combination you like best. My friend Caryse also makes an amazing beetroot dip with pine nuts, olive oil and parmesan… I still need to wheedle out the recipe but it was deliciously good with grilled chicken, sourdough toasts and soft double brie.

bottlemont leaves

Uh, just one more point about my beloved cheese. And a TV show. You may or may not have heard of The Mighty Boosh but this absolute genius-of-a-show was the brainchild of comedians Julian Barrett and Noel Fielding. I’ll let you read up on other details via the link above, but… for the sake of novelty value, I’m going to conclude this post with one of my favourite scenes of all time. Indeed, it is cheese related. Indeed, it is legendary. It’s protein, in video form. Enjoy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8kkwXnTmMc

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