ginger pressed salad

stillife

I’ve recently been gently chastised by my husband Aaron for buying too many cookbooks, from which I cook… nothing. Yes. It’s not the purchasing that he’s opposed to (lucky for me), it’s more that I get terribly excited, pore over them for days, speak of large banquets including recipes from pages 14, 36, 79 and 124 and then… nothing becomes of it. Another one bites the (literal) dust.

It’s a bad habit. One that I’ve continually failed to break. 2013 was supposed to be the year when I cooked through Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty (2010) from cover to cover, but come 2015? I’ve, uh, made about three recipes. And plenty of hummus (Aaron can vouch for that).

Oh, and I now put pomegranate molasses on everything. That was definitely Ottolenghi-inspired. See, it was a worthwhile investment…plate

mixed

I’ve been thinking long and hard about my ‘habit’ over the past few days (in case you required more evidence that I overthink). I genuinely get excited about trying new, beautiful recipes from cookbooks, but then when dinner time arrives? I’m too hungry. There’s not enough time. I’ve run out of garlic. Or I flip through a cookbook and realize that my chosen recipe requires overnight marination, darn it.

So I ‘wing it’, in colloquial terms. For creativity and convenience. Or I’ll enter ‘pumpkin’ into Google and read blog posts ’til I feel somewhat inspired… and then I’ll cook something entirely from the mashed-up ideas in my head. I’ve admitted plenty of times that I’m an instinctual cook who finds it difficult to follow a recipe, so… why the cookbooks?

Aaron’s frustration makes perfect sense.

lokisniffchopbowl As far as I can explain, I constantly get drawn to the beauty of cookbooks. They’re inspiring, both in a creative and intellectual sense. I can read them for hours, soaking in cooking methods, personal anecdotes, ideas and rich imagery. I suppose they’re as much a consumable narrative to me as they are an instructional manual (does anyone else feel the same?).

In reflection, that in itself isn’t a bad thing. But when our bookshelves are already heaving with visual diaries, novels and plenty of cookery books (most of which, let’s face it, are rather large) it seems prudent to refrain from future purchases until I’ve at least cooked a few things from each volume.

bottle

Anyway, with gentle encouragement from my husband, I’ve made a decision to spend the rest of this year cooking through my existing book collection before investing in the next volume(s) on my ‘hit list’ (those being Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty More, Jamie Oliver’s Everyday Super Food,  Ella Woodward’s Deliciously Ellaohhhh dear).

My starting point will be a whole lot of goodness from my newest purchase, Amy Chaplin’s At Home in the Wholefood Kitchen with some equally vegetable-heavy (see my recent post on my food philosophy here) deliciousness from The Green Kitchen, Green Kitchen Travels (both by David Frenkel and Luise Vindahl) and A Change of Appetite (by Diana Henry, gifted to me by my beautiful friend Trixie – who also happens to be the author of Almonds are Mercurial).

I’m also hoping to add in a few meals from Tessa Kiros’ Apples for Jam, one of my favourite food-based narratives (that also happens to contain a recipe for the stickiest of jammy cookies).

radishchop

I’ll share a few of the recipes on here, possibly with a few adaptations thrown in (as per the recipe below, I just can’t help myself) whilst also continuing to work on my own vegan and vegetarian wholefood recipes. In fact, I might just have a coconut nectar, buckwheat flour banana loaf in the oven right now…

Watch this space.

And thanks, Amy, for this beautiful pressed pickle. It’s becoming a fast favourite.

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Ginger Pressed Salad

Adapted from At Home in the Wholefood Kitchen by the amazing Amy Chaplin

Notes: if you have a mandolin (or a minion) you will save yourself a lot of prep time. I cut everything by hand as I find repetitive slicing to be strangely therapeutic. If you’re preparing this salad in advance, store it without the black sesame seed garnish as the colour bleeds. Leftover salad can be stored in a jar in the fridge for up to one week (it will soften as the pickling process continues).

  • 1 celery heart (about 5 sticks/2 cups chopped)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 1 small Lebanese (thin skinned) cucumber, thinly sliced (if you can’t find a small Lebanese one, use a large one but remove the peel)
  • 8 radishes, topped and tailed, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 60ml (1/4 cup) brown rice vinegar
  • 1 small thumb-sized knob of fresh young ginger, finely grated
  • chilli flakes, optional
  • toasted black and white sesame, to garnish
  • shelled edamame beans, to garnish
  • optional: thinly sliced spring onions to garnish

Place all of the ingredients (except the garnishes) into a medium bowl and toss well to combine.

seasonedGently push down on the vegetables with your hands to help soften them and release their juices. Place a small plate on top of the salad and a weight on top of the plate (I used some cans of beans, however anything heavy would work). Set aside for 1 hour or longer to ‘press’ and pickle.

Remove the weight, drain off the liquid and season to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl (gently squeeze to release any more liquid if the salad is still very ‘wet’). Sprinkle with black sesame seeds, spring onion and edamame beans if desired.

Serve as an accompaniment to a bento set, with sushi or as a tasty accompanying pickle for barbecued meat.
stillife2vegportsticks

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red cabbage, radish and apple coleslaw

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

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

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

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

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

topdishRed Cabbage, Radish and Apple Coleslaw

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

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

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

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

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

drizzleNotes:

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

radishends

spiced hummus, flatbread, rainy days and radishes

I’m feeling a little sentimental today. Maybe it’s something to do with the onset of winter, the seemingly endless rain and the fact that I’m sore and sniffly for the fourth time in just over two months. Yeah, I think I’m sad. Or more accurately, suffering from SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder, more commonly known as the ‘winter blues’. That’s what I tell myself, anyway, as I curl up in a little ball under a polar fleece blanket with lingering melancholy seeping into my bones like moisture into porous stone.

Now, enough with the self-indulgent crap. I have had several opportunities today to do things that would never be possible on a normal working Tuesday:

  • I slept for seven daylight hours (SEVEN!) before waking up at approximately 8.15pm in a strange state of the unknown (ever had one of those moments where you wake up, still half unconscious, uncertain as to where you are or whether it’s night or day? Yep, it was one of those times). I then messaged my husband and was reminded that I’m Grover from the Muppets, on holidays in the Bahamas. How could I forget?
  • I read six chapters of an amazing book called Sidetracked by Henning Mankell. Now, I’m not a habitual reader of crime fiction but Swedish writer Mankell is pretty darn good. Even if I did need to Google what a ‘rape field’ was (if you’re equally curious, rape is a flowering plant related to canola, used primarily for production of vegetable oil and biodiesel. Interesting).
  • I ate snacks on the couch with my love whilst he worked on his VFX essay for college. Whilst eating radishes, hummus and seasoned flatbread I learnt that the ‘bluescreen’ method used for chroma key compositing was actually invented way back in the 1930’s by an American named Larry Butler to be used on the film ‘The Thief of Baghdad’ (1940). Smart guy.
  • I watched this video of Charley the Duck. Over and over and over. Especially 0:37. So freaking cute.

Now, as this is a food-related blog I’m naturally going to include a few notes about the snacks we had earlier, which are supremely simple to make but really delicious. Alongside instructions for seasoned flatbread and my version of hummus, I’ve also included a simple recipe for lemon-infused olive oil which is my go-to topping for extra delicious hummus, ciabatta slathered in borlotti bean puree, or even just seamed asparagus, green beans or broccolini. Yum.

So… read on for the promised recipes, young padawan. And be thankful for couch days, rain that waters the earth, sleep, ducklings, a body that heals and loved ones who give therapeutic hugs when you’re feeling down. Take pleasure in the small things. I’m beginning to realise that they’re all I need.

Spiced Hummus

Makes about 1 cup

  • 400g can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
  • 2 heaped tbsp tahini (sesame paste)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1/2 garlic clove
  • 1 tsp dried cumin seeds
  • sea salt, to taste

Add your garlic, chilli flakes, cumin and a sprinkle of sea salt to a mortar and pestle and grind to a smooth paste. Place in the bowl of a food processor with your chickpeas and a little lemon juice. Blend until the ingredients form a thick paste. Add the rest of your lemon juice and about half the olive oil. Blend again, until the mixture looks thick, smooth and creamy (if it’s too thick or grainy, add in more olive oil and taste as you go). Taste, and season with a little more salt if necessary.  Place in a bowl and top with a drizzle of lemon oil to serve.

Lemon-Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil

If you can’t be bothered infusing your own oil, my favourite shop-bought variety is Australian Cobram Estate Lemon Infused extra virgin olive oil. I’m not in any way associated with Cobram Estate but their products are both delicious and easy to find in your local supermarket.

  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large lemon

Use a sharp knife to remove the zest from your lemon in large strips. If necessary, scrape off any remaining white pith prior to using.

Place your olive oil in a small saucepan over very low heat. When slightly warmed, add in the prepared lemon zest. Allow to steep for around 10 minutes, then remove from the heat and allow to cool. Place your oil and lemon zest into a sterilised bottle or jar. Cap well, and store in a cool, dark place.

Notes: the zest will continue to infuse more lemon flavour into your oil with time. When it gets to a level that suits you, remove it as required. You can also use this method to steep other flavours into your olive oil, such as chilli, vanilla beans (great with fish) or herbs. Just make sure that you don’t allow the oil to overheat (smoke) or simmer as you’ll destroy it’s flavour and quality.

Grilled Flatbread with Mint, Honey and Paprika

  • 2 large wholemeal pitta breads (substitute with lavash, mountain bread or any other flatbread)
  • 2 tsp dried mint
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 2 tbsp crushed walnuts
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Honey, to drizzle
  • Optional: 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • Optional: fresh mint, chopped, and goat’s feta

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (360 degrees f). Place your flatbread directly on the bars of your oven rack to toast. When crisp but not browned, drizzle over some honey and then top with your herbs, spices, walnuts and Parmesan, if using. Place back into the oven and toast until your bread is brown and crisped, the nuts look toasted and your spices have browned and formed a gloriously sticky coating with the honey and Parmesan.

If you’re going to eat this flatbread on it’s own, I’d recommend scattering over some fresh mint and smearing it with fresh goat’s feta. You could even drizzle over some pomegranate molasses. But for a simple and delicious option, just break it into pieces and eat whilst still warm with lashings of hummus.

Notes: Feel free to use this seasoning on Turkish bread or sliced ciabatta. Grill until the exterior is crisp and browned, then dip into your spiced hummus. Yum. The flatbread is also wonderful topped with both hummus and a generous spoonful of kale salad for lunch or a satisfying snack.

About Radishes:

Today was the first day that I’ve eaten radishes in about three years, and I bought them primarily because of their beautiful crimson hue. However, I did a bit of research and they’re actually very good for you. Eat some with your hummus, and enjoy the crisp heat of yet another vegetable that not only looks good, but is great for your body. God is definitely the master designer.

  • Radishes contain only 16 calories (0.0669kj) per 100g. So you can pretty much eat them til you explode and you’ll still be thin. Just… exploded.
  • They’re a rich source of antioxidants including eaxanthin, lutein and beta carotene whilst also being packed with dietary fibre.
  • Fresh radishes provide 15 mg or 25% of the daily recommended dietary intake of vitamin C per 100g.  Vitamin C is a powerful water soluble antioxidant required by the body for synthesis of collagen. It also fights free radicals which in turn works towards the prevention of cancer and inflammation whilst generally boosting immunity.
  • Radishes also contain folate, vitamin B6, riboflavin, thiamin and minerals such as iron, magnesium, copper and calcium.

“Eating pungent radish and drinking hot tea makes the starved doctors beg on their knees”

– Chinese proverb [*Please note: by including this proverb I am not condoning nor encouraging the starvation of any medical practitioners, via the purchase of radishes or otherwise]

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