beet salad with eggs, green peas and dill mayonnaise

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You could call this recipe a ‘happy accident’. A mash-up of sorts, the initial concept created from various leftovers in the fridge.

Not just any leftovers. I’d just completed two catering jobs within the space of one week, both of which focused largely on canapés and healthy finger-food. After plating everything from mushroom and truffle pies to artichoke and pea crostini, I naturally had bits and pieces left in Tupperware containers throughout the fridge. Being one who hates waste, I set to work on ‘being inventive’.

It wasn’t that hard really. I’m a naturally intuitive cook so I soon turned leftover rice paper rolls into a Thai-inspired salad (with a spicy lime dressing) and excess cheese into an artichoke and goat cheese flatbread. Leftover herbs became a herb-infused oil that slicked brightly across boiled new potatoes, whilst excess stone fruit was char-grilled and paired with the last wedge of roquefort.

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Towards the end of the week, I tackled some leftover condiments that were specifically made for the catering jobs (in other words, I hadn’t sterilised jars for long-term canning, hashtag amateur). There was a tub of beet relish, two jars of Thai peanut sauce, a jar of creamy herb mayonnaise and a Tupperware container of lemon avocado cream.

The peanut sauce was easy. It loaned itself beautifully to tofu stir-fries and Asian dishes, whilst the avocado cream was simply piled on toast (before being liberally adorned with chilli flakes). I used half of the herb mayo in a potato salad with bacon and shallots and then, on a whim, I decided to use the rest in ‘something Swedish’.

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If you’re new to this blog, I’d better explain: Sweden wasn’t just a random culinary destination. Aaron and I have family in Malmö (on the Southern-most tip of Sweden, separated from Denmark by the Øresund Strait) and we spent our Summer holidays there in mid-2014 eating plenty of rye bread, salmon and thick mayonnaise (read about our trip here and here).

Swedes definitely like mayonnaise. In fact, they even sell mayonnaise in squeezy toothpaste tubes, same with caviar and mustard. I figured the residual mayonnaise would work beautifully with the leftover beet relish in a salad of sorts, combined with butter leaf lettuce, boiled eggs, shelled green peas and fragrant dill.

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The salad was rather beautiful to eat. Summery and fresh, crunchy with fresh vegetables and creamy from the dollops of herb mayonnaise. It wasn’t exactly rocket science; the flavours aren’t new and I didn’t reinvent the Scandinavian wheel. However, we ate it with roasted sweet potatoes and something tomato-ey (roasted, I think) and both Aaron and I were happy. I was just glad to have conquered the pile of leftovers. It was good.

For that reason, I didn’t think further of this salad until late last week. It slipped into the corner of my mind, replaced by notes for chia puddings (my next post) and spelt sourdough (I am so excited Sandra!). But last Friday, Aaron and I were walking the dog in a local park when he stated: ‘I really liked that salad you made, the one with the eggs in it?’. ‘Oh, yeah, you mean the beet one?’. ‘Yeah, I think so. It was good’.

It was good.

Let me put this in context. Aaron hardly ever comments on my cooking these days, unless something is exceptionally good (e.g. this slice) or exceptionally bad (I once knocked a jar of smoked sea salt into a roasting tray of hand-cut chips). So, to get a comment from him about a salad made from leftovers? That’s enough for a blog post.

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So, fast forward to today and this little post on leftover salad. I decided to write my recipe notes down with some photos in case, you know, you’ve got leftover mayo and boiled eggs in the fridge (and a husband who likes both!).

As per most salad recipes, it’s more of a concept than a science, so I’d encourage you to play with substitutions and inclusions if you like the basic premise (beetroot + mayonnaise + eggs + dill). Steamed asparagus, extra capers, cooked quinoa or sliced avocado would combine beautifully, as would a little grated horseradish or mustard in the mayonnaise.

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I switched my original use of butter lettuce to spinach and beet greens for the purposes of this blog post, mostly as I love beet greens and I hate waste (the larger, more robust leaves from this bunch were eaten last night, sautéed in olive oil with shallots, garlic and a little bit of salt). However, both Aaron and I ate some of this salad for lunch today and his preference is still for the lettuce (because, crunch). My vote is for spinach and beet greens, so… each to their own, I guess.

Either way, give this salad a go. It’s a beautiful accompaniment to grilled or roasted meats, pumpernickel or rye bread, gravadlax (for the true Swedish feel) or crispy-skinned salmon. I’d even go as far as serving horseradish on the side, for a spicy little kick (just make sure it’s from a tube!).

Beet salad with eggs, green peas and dill mayonnaise

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

for the beets:

  • 1 bunch raw baby beets (leaves still attached, if possible)
  • 1/2 small Spanish (red) onion, thinly sliced
  • good quality olive oil
  • aged balsamic vinegar
  • red wine vinegar
  • a drizzle of honey or rice malt syrup
  • sea salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper

for the salad:

  • 2-3 boiled eggs, sliced into rounds
  • 1 cup cooked green peas (preferably fresh)
  • 1 cup (packed) washed and dried baby spinach leaves
  • torn soft green herbs (optional, I used both parsley and mint)
  • extra dill, extra to serve
  • extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle
  • freshly cracked black pepper

dill mayonnaise:

  • 1/2 cup (150g) homemade aïoli or whole-egg mayonnaise
  • 1 tbs finely chopped green olives
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh dill (some chopped fresh chervil or tarragon wouldn’t go astray here)
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tbsp salted capers, rinsed, drained and chopped
  • 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • sea salt
  • freshly cracked black pepper

To cook the beets: preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (356 degrees f). Detach leaves from beetroot, wash the small, tender ones well and set them aside (you’ll add these to your salad later. Keep the rest of the beet greens!).

Wash your beetroot well under cold running water, trim 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 cover with another layer of foil.

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Place your tray into the preheated oven and cook for about 30 minutes until the beets start to soften. Remove the foil and add in your sliced onion, then return to the oven for another 20-30 minutes, mixing occasionally, until the liquid has reduced, the onion is translucent and slightly browned and the beetroot is caramelised and soft. Remove the tray from them oven, then allow to cool.

Mayonnaise: while the beets are cooking, mix all of the ingredients for the dill mayo in a medium bowl. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Set aside until you assemble your salad.

To assemble: I like to do this in layers. Start with a handful of spinach, a few of the larger beet greens, some soft herbs, peas, beets and caramelised onions. Dollop over a little of the mayonnaise, then carefully place over some rounds of egg. Repeat the process, finishing with some extra sprigs of dill weed and a drizzle of any pan juices from the beets and onions (this creates lovely pink splashes on the egg and mayonnaise. You can skip this step if you think it’s a little garish!).

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shaved carrot salad with orange, pomegranate and mint

plateThere’s something about the end of another year that makes one strangely contemplative. Whilst I’m not one to make New Year’s Resolutions, I generally follow the loose aim to try to ‘be better’ as the clock ticks over to January 1.

A better wife; strong, gentle and wise. An efficient worker and homemaker. A better daughter (this one has spanned decades), generous and loyal. A better friend and sister, regardless of time and frustration. A clear representative of my faith. Just generally better than the year before.

Better. 

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Despite realising the folly of setting broad, inchoate goals (less added value, inexorable failure) the ‘reset’ has been somewhat subconscious. I mean, I don’t spend each December 31 meditating upon my failures (okay, well maybe I do to a certain degree), selecting ‘states of betterment’ whilst sitting in the lotus position.

It just happens, like a subtle alarm, the benefit of which is urgency for positive change.
ribbonsSo, on January 1 2016 at 12:59, I’m sitting under the air conditioner with a cup of steaming herbal tea (current temperature is currently 35 degrees C / 95 degrees F but I’m English and tea solves everything). I’m contemplating effective change, clearer goals and less self-depreciation, as adherence to old patterns would cast me as either a fool or a lemming.

Short term goals seem like a good idea. Achievable, smart and time limited. Michael Hyatt seems to think it’s a good idea to write them down, so I’m factoring in some blogosphere accountability (a strange concept indeed) and capping the number at three.

Goal one for this year is to secure a job (preferably) before the end of January. Being unemployed is liberating but also disconcerting in the worst of ways; I’m continually counting pennies with mounting portions of nervous energy. Please don’t be concerned regarding my self esteem or resilience. My contract ended due to economic circumstances within my organisation, not due to individual performance (golly gosh, I think I’d avoid sharing that on the internet. Please know I’m ok!). However, I’ve explained in previous blog posts that I’m a terrible overthinker and free time leads to unconstrained pondering at all times of the day (or night).

I need purpose for my cognition, posthaste.

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That leads me to goal two, interim creative projects. I’m going to use my free time (and aforementioned cognition) productively whilst waiting for the right employment door to open. I’m not going to sweat the small stuff, I’m going to exercise a little grace and appreciate each moment as it comes. It’s not exactly an epiphany, but I’m gradually realising that each juncture should be appreciated and utilised, whether it be for breathing space, rest or creativity. However long I’m waiting for a passing train.

Last but not least, goal three: finding a way to reconnect with Church. This is a rather personal goal that may only make sense to those of you who follow a congregational faith. If you’re a Christian, you’re probably familiar with dialogues surrounding Church (and organised religion in general).

I struggle with Church. I find it hard to attend one. But I know that I need to.

pombetterAnyway, as the photographs suggest, I’m posting a recipe today. Something fresh, light and healthy, perfect for hot days and balmy Summer nights. It’s a new favourite on our seasonal menu, mostly due to the innate adaptability of the recipe. Extra hungry? Add protein. Feeling exotic? How about adding some coriander and chopped red chilli?

Just use the basic dressing and carrot ribbons, then follow the core principles below:

  1. freshness – soft herbs like parsley, mint and coriander and/or fresh leaves e.g. some torn baby spinach, rocket, beet leaves or chard
  2. fruit – switch up the pomegranate for some raisins or dried cranberries soaked in the orange juice, add in some grated or slivered apple (perhaps with some chopped celery and walnuts, such a good combination), substitute mandarin for the orange
  3. crunch – substitute the almonds for some toasted, crumbled walnuts or pecans, even some toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds.
  4. optional added protein (for the extra hungry) – if you’d like to fill out the salad for a healthy light meal, I’ve added a few of my favourite protein-packed ‘extras’ below (under ‘optional add ins’).

As always, thanks to all of you for being not only readers, but friends across the seas. Wishing you a beautiful, blessed and memorable start to 2016!

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Shaved Carrot Salad with Orange, Pomegranate and Mint

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

  • 2 large carrots, washed and peeled
  • 2 spring onions (green shallots), topped and tailed, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup flaked almonds, toasted
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate arils
  • a good handful of washed mint leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 navel orange, segmented (squeeze the juice from the leftover pulp into the dressing – 1 got about 50mL)
  • a good plug of extra virgin olive oil, about 50mL
  • 2 tbsp (30mL) good quality white wine vinegar
  • sea salt and cracked black pepper
  • a squeeze of honey, to taste (use maple syrup for a vegan alternative)
  • optional, protein-packed add ins: good quality crumbled feta (about 100g will do), Italian canned tuna, rinsed cooked brown lentils, 1 cup cooked quinoa

Using a vegetable peeler, shave long thin strips off each carrot in a lengthwise rotation. Discard the hard centre and stem. Place shaved carrot into a medium bowl with the pomegranate arils, sliced spring onions, orange segments and mint (reserve some pomegranate arils and mint leaves to garnish later. Add in any optional tuna, quinoa, beans, lentils or feta (reserve some crumbled feta for garnish).

In a jug or bowl, whisk together the orange juice, extra virgin olive oil, white wine vinegar and a little honey or maple syrup. Taste, season and adjust sweetness as required.

Pour the dressing over the salad. Mix well, cover and refrigerate for 10 minutes for the flavours to develop. Remove from the refrigerator and gently mix through half of the toasted almonds, reserving the rest for garnish. Use tongs to transfer the salad to a serving platter, allowing excess dressing to drain back into the bowl.

Garnish with reserved pomegranate, mint, toasted almonds, feta (if using) and a grind of black pepper.

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ginger pressed salad

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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

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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.

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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.
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broccoli and quinoa tabbouleh with harissa dressing

aerial Broccoli was ridiculously cheap at my local market this week. Beautiful, too – tight green florets, crisp stalks, fresh-cut stems dripping with moisture. So, as most seasonal eaters do, I squirreled a few heads into my shopping basket without further thought as to what I’d do with them. They went straight into the vegetable drawer.

Cue yesterday afternoon when, in search of an avocado, I rediscovered my cruciferous hoard. I decided to turn some of it into ‘dinner’ but had little enthusiasm for my default roasted broccoli with garlic. broccoli I decided upon a salad, with initial thoughts gravitating towards this pomegranate wonder from Green Kitchen Stories. However, as pomegranates were $5 each at the supermarket, the idea became slightly less appealing (whilst also quietly defeating my seasonal locavore principles).

That brings us to this gloriously spicy, crunchy, nutrient packed bowl of green deliciousness that I’ve loosely dubbed as ‘tabbouleh’ (hopefully the Levantines will forgive me). mix I’m sure that most of you would be familiar with traditional tabbouleh, a Middle Eastern salad packed with fragrant herbs, tomatoes, lemon juice, finely chopped onion and cracked wheat (known as burghul or ‘bulgur‘). I think I first came across it at a kebab stand as a young teenager, when I declined to have it applied to doner (my idea of ‘salad’ was iceberg lettuce and tomato).

I’ve since learned the error of my ways and enjoy tabbouleh in all its forms, both for nutritional and taste benefits. I’ve swapped out the bulgur for either quinoa or cous cous on a number of occasions and added a few crushed pistachios, however this is my first proper ‘reinvention’. harissa The base of this salad is a rough tumble of finely chopped broccoli and quinoa, with familiar herbs, onions and lemon drawing reference from tabbouleh. Crumbled feta adds creaminess whilst toasted almonds add a welcome crunch.

For me, the harissa dressing is the stuff of dreams: hot, smoky and slightly sweet from the addition of honey. I’d recommend that you taste and adjust your dressing to suit your personal heat tolerance.

I like to serve this salad on its own, with a big dollop of lemony hummus, for a complete lunch. For dinner, I’d push the boat out with some additional crispy falafel, pickled radishes, natural yoghurt and warmed flat bread. handbowl Broccoli and Quinoa Tabbouleh with Harissa Dressing Adapted from this recipe by BBC Food.

  • 100g quinoa, rinsed (I used black and red, but any colour will do)
  • 300g broccoli florets (don’t throw the stems away, take a look at these gorgeous ideas), very finely chopped or finely blitzed in a food processor
  • 4 spring onion stalks, thinly sliced
  • 1 lemon, zested and halved*
  • 100g feta cheese (the creamy type, I use goats feta), crumbled
  • large bunch parsley, washed and finely chopped
  • small bunch mint, washed and finely chopped
  • 50g toasted almonds, roughly crushed in a mortar and pestle
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Dressing:

  • 1 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp harissa paste (maybe start with a little less, mix, taste and add as desired)
  • 1 tbsp raw honey
  • juice from 1/2 lemon (above*)

Add the quinoa to a medium saucepan with 1 1/4 cups of water. Bring to the boil, then cover and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 15 minutes, then add the broccoli and continue to cook until the quinoa is tender and the broccoli steamed until bright green (you may need to add a splash more water before replacing the lid, do not allow the pot to boil dry).

Tip the broccoli and quinoa mix into a large bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Mix, then set aside to cool slightly. When at room temperature, add the herbs, spring onions, lemon zest and a good amount of salt and pepper. Set aside whilst you make the dressing.

Add all of the dressing ingredients to a medium screw-top jar. Shake, then check the balance of flavours (add a little more honey if too hot, a little more lemon if too viscous, a little more harissa if the heat’s not enough for you). pour Pour over the quinoa mix, add the crumbled feta and almonds, then mix thoroughly. Taste and check for seasoning. Serves 4-6 as a side dish (though I would happily eat it all myself!).  bowl2

the mexican table

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A couple of Sundays ago, Aaron and I got together with Matt from Inspired Food and Jemima from Feed Your Soul, Perth for the continuation of our ‘Table’ series, i.e. a sequence of themed long-table dinners with several dishes per course prepared by each blogger (and in this case, some talented family and friends).

As per our Moroccan and Spanish Table posts, you’ll find my recipes from the dinner below, alongside links for recipes prepared by Jemima, Matt, Lexi and Jamie (Lexi being Jemima’s sister and Jamie being a friend of the group who also happens to cook at Co-op dining).

jemimacooktortilla guac

As per usual, it was a pretty epic afternoon filled with incredible food, abundant beverages (lots of beer and Mexican cola) and the best of company. A big thanks goes out to Matt and his partner Alyssa for hosting this year’s Table dinner at their gorgeous new(ish) home alongside their hero puppy Max (who has recovered from some massive medical complications over the past twelve months. So good to see him running around again).

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Props also go out to Aaron aka ‘the dog whisperer’ who managed to both create art and keep Max and Loki occupied whilst the rest of us prepared tostadas, guacamole and street corn. Serious skills right there.

Just look at these little faces:

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Without further ado, here was our menu for the day:

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We did learn slightly from our last feast (emphasis on slightly) and created less dishes per person, however after hours of snacking on leftover guacamole, we were rather stuffed by the time dessert appeared.

But with something as epic as this masterpiece by Jamie (below, containing layers of brownie pieces, lime curd, pureed avocado, chocolate mousse, chocolate soil, candied and fresh finger lime and candied chilli; no I am not joking) we all took to the last course with gusto.

dessert2candiedfingerlime

The only one to scrape the glass clean was Aaron, who had paced himself through the main courses due to an erroneous belief that we had ‘about five more things to come’ (after his Spanish Table experience). Maybe I should try and do the same next time.

I hear we’re cooking Indian.

chillies sauce

Salsa de Chile Rojo

Makes 1.75 cups

  • 3ox (85g) dried chillies – I used a combination of 70% smoky chipotle and 30% mixed arbol, ancho and pasilla (be aware that the combination of chillies you use directly affects the heat level of this sauce. I went a little overboard – as in mindblowingly hot but incredibly delicious – you might want to ‘up’ the ancho and pasilla content to 50%)
  • 1.5 cups hot water
  • 1/8 cup (2 tbsp) tomato sauce
  • 1/8 cup (2 tbsp) olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp crushed sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/8 tsp cumin seeds

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees f). Spread the dried chillies in a single layer over a heavy baking tray, then transfer to the hot oven. Toast for 3-4 minutes, turning if necessary, until fragrant (do NOT allow your chillies to blacken or burn as they’ll become incredibly bitter). Allow to cool.

With a sharp knife, remove the stems, seeds and membranes/pith from the chillies.

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Discard. Place the remaining chilli flesh into a large bowl and cover with the hot water (add a little extra if they are not completely submerged). Soak until softened (about 45-60 minutes).

Process the soaked chillies in a food processor or blender until smooth. Transfer into a medium saucepan with the garlic, oil, remaining water, salt, oregano and cumin.

Simmer, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Use straight away or transfer into a sterilised jar or bottle for later use.

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Esquites (Mexican Street Corn Salad)

Based on this recipe from Serious Eats with reference to Sam Ward’s Esquites recipe published in Recipes and Ramblings Volume II (Beaufort St Network)

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 ears fresh corn, shucked
  • 2 tbsp whole-egg mayonnaise + 1 tbsp to serve
  • 1/3 cup (100g) feta or cotija cheese, finely crumbled
  • 1/2 cup finely sliced spring onions
  • 1/2 cup fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, finely chopped
  • 1-2 jalapeño peppers (to taste), seeded and stemmed, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • zest and juice from 2 limes + extra lime wedges, to serve
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • 1 tsp arbol chilli powder

Heat a char-grill or barbecue to high heat. Ensure all strands of husk are removed from the corn, then grill on each side until you achieve a ratio of about 30% very dark to 70% lightly charred corn (if you don’t have a barbecue, feel free to do this over a gas flame. Just be very careful!). Allow the corn to cool completely, then remove the kernels with a sharp knife.

Place a large heavy based frypan or pot over medium heat and add the oil. Sweat the the spring onions, jalapenos and garlic until translucent. Add the corn, lime juice and a good splash of water (about 1/2 cup) then bring to a simmer.

Cook for about 10 minutes or until the corn is cooked and the mixture is fragrant. Add in the lime zest, mayonnaise, cheese, coriander (reserve a little to serve), about half the arbol chilli powder and a good dash of salt and pepper (to taste). Mix well and transfer to a large bowl.

Dollop over the reserved tablespoon of mayo, garnish with coriander and dust with the remaining arbol chilli powder. Crack over some black pepper and serve with lime wedges on the side.

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Until next time, keep track of Matt (aka Inspired Food) via Instagram, Facebook or Twitter and say hello to Jemima (aka Feed Your Soul, Perth) right here: Instagram, Facebook or Twitter.

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.

lemon

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.

marinated

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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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.

kalebowl

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).

kale

 

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.

vegetablebox

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.

cookingcaps

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.

capsicumsliced

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.

mustard

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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