Warm Roast Veg.and Quinoa Salad

I’m pretty sure just about everyone goes through the “What shall we have for dinner tonight?”  scenario all too often.

There we are standing in front of an open fridge, looking at what’s inside. What needs to be used up? What can do with this little bit of whatever? How can I turn that into a satisfying meal?  And the biggest question of all…What does my stomach feel like today???

Well yesterday my stomach felt like some roast veggies.

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I went through the fridge and the pantry and came up with a chunk of pumpkin, some sweet potato, a zucchini and other bits and pieces. So after looking at all these ingredients I got an image in my head and I acted on it…

I chopped up some pumpkin, a couple of potatoes, a zucchini, half an eggplant, a few chunks of sweet potato, a red onion and a tomato. (If I’d had some beetroot that would have gone in too. I wish I’d had some beetroot….oh well…)

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Into a large bowl went all the veg. along with some grated garlic, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and a good glug of olive oil. A toss around to coat the veggies in the garlicky goodness then onto a baking tray. A sprinkle of salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, ground cumin and a scattering of fennel seed. Into a hot oven, 230oC for about 30 minutes until veggies are cooked.

While waiting for the veggies to cook I put 1/2 cup of quinoa into a saucepan with 1 and a bit cups of water. I added a little finely sliced onion and a couple of garlic cloves. This was brought to the boil then the heat was turned right down, the lid put on and it was left to gently cook for 20 minutes.

On the serving plate was arranged some baby spinach, a little green and purple kale. Then the quinoa IMG_1818

and finally the roast veggies. A drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar and if you like some feta cheese.

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Oh and the left overs make a great lunch…

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Enjoy…

Curried Sweet Potato and Red Lentil Soup

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Mmmmm….I love sweet potato. I love it sliced thick or thin, cut in large wedges or even just in half longways and drizzled with oil and fennel seeds then baked. It’s a great alternative to mashed potato and I’ve even grated it and used it in cakes. So versatile.

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Or there’s this soup. A lower G.I. version of pumpkin soup.

30g butter + 30g olive oil
1 medium brown onion – diced
1 clove garlic – crushed
1 tsp fennel seeds
1\2 tsp turmeric powder
1\4 tsp curry powder
1 medium potato – diced
2 medium sweet potato – diced
1\4 cup red lentils
3 cups of water or chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste

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Heat butter and oil in large saucepan over a medium heat then add the onion and cook until soft. Add the garlic, fennel seeds, turmeric and curry powder and cook for about a minute.

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Throw in the potato, sweet potato and lentils. Top up with the water, bring to the boil then lower heat, cover saucepan and allow to simmer away happily for about 30 minutes or until the potato and lentils are soft.
Season with salt and pepper.
You could eat it as is or purée in a blender or food processor.
Serve with a dollop of natural or Greek style yoghurt and some warm buttered bread.
Perfect for a cool Autumn evening.

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Please enjoy…

Shanklish – A Lebanese Herby Yoghurt Cheese.

This is an amazing cheese. I remember not liking it so much when I was really young because of all the herbs and chilli coating the outside, but I definitely grew to love it and at the moment can’t seem to get enough of it.

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I did some research this morning with my mum and found it’s made from heating yoghurt to a certain temperature and then straining it through a cheese cloth  for several days. Once most of the liquid has drained, herbs and chilli powder are mixed in. Then you roll it into balls and roll the balls into another mix of herbs and chilli. It’s then left to dry for a few more days.

Aaahhh too long so for now I’ll just buy it from my local Lebanese green grocer who has a fridge full of different cheeses. I  will, however, one day attempt to make it.

Shanklish has a very crumbly consistency and is usually served mixed with tomato, onion and olive oil. Even writing about it makes me hungry for it…

The other week I was trying to figure out what to make for our traditional Fun Food Friday and came up with Shanklish Bruschetta. It was a hit…

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And really easy…

All you need is:-

1 ripe tomato – diced

1/4 small red onion – finely diced

a few fresh basil leaves – finely chopped

a little fresh parsley – finely chopped

a generous glug of excellent extra virgin olive oil

some freshly ground black pepper

some crumbled Shanklish Cheese

A few slices of your favourite bread (or in this case what was available late on a Friday evening)

1 clove of garlic – peeled

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Mix everything but the shanklish in a bowl until combined then add the cheese and gently stir it through. You don’t want to over mix and cause the cheese to break down too much or you’ll end up with a mush…you want small chunks of cheese…

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Grill or toast your bread then gently rub the garlic clove over the surface (as little or much as you like)

Arrange on a serving plate then spoon the cheese mix over the top making sure not to waste any of the yummy dressing left at the bottom of the bowl.

Serve…

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Sooo Goooood…..

Enjoy…

Berry And Almond Yoghurt Cake

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It would seem I had my bake on this weekend.

After a visit to the wonderful Ramsgate Organic Markets (near Brighton-Le-Sands in Sydney) on Saturday morning, I baked 2 dozen Hot Cross Buns, then on Sunday a Berry Almond Cake and a humongous crusty Italian loaf, all of which ended up at mum and dads for our usual Sunday family feast.

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Though I didn’t end up tasting the cake I was told it was ‘the best cake ever’ so I thought I’d share…

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Berry And Almond Yoghurt Cake

150g butter – cut into cubes

155g castor sugar

2 eggs

10g vanilla extract

250g plain flour

15g baking powder

200g plain Greek style yoghurt

100g fresh blueberries

100g fresh raspberries

85g flaked almonds

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Preheat oven to 180oC. Butter a 19cm square cake tin and line with baking paper.

Cream the butter and sugar, using an electric beater or stand mixer, until light and fluffy. In a small bowl lightly whisk the eggs and vanilla then very slowly add to the butter mix being sure to scape down the sides a couple of times. This should take a couple of minutes, you don’t want to rush this part or the mix will split.

Sift together the flour and baking powder and add half to the butter mix along with half the yoghurt. Stir until just combined then add the rest of the flour and yoghurt and a few berries and stir until combined. Try not to over mix it.

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Spoon into baking tin and smooth the surface. Scatter with the almonds and remaining berries and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Take out of the oven and leave it to cool in the tin for 20 – 30 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Serve as is or with a spoonful of yoghurt.

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Enjoy…

Spinach on the Side

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I haven’t made this side dish in ages which is a shame considering how much we enjoy it. With the spinach looking super fresh this morning at the green grocers, I couldn’t resist.

This can be made with baby spinach and if you like add some pine nuts.

You’ll need:-

1 Tblsp olive oil

A good knob of butter

2-3 cloves garlic – thinly sliced

1/4 cup flaked almonds

1 bunch English spinach – washed and roughly chopped

In a large fry pan melt the butter in the oil over a medium heat. Add the garlic and almonds and sauté until golden brown.

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Throw in the spinach and lightly toss until wilted. Season with a little salt and pepper.

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That’s it.

I served it with baked salmon fillets that I marinaded in garlic, ginger, sesame oil and soy sauce along with baked sweet potato and fennel seeds.

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It was a great combination. The left over sweet potato made an excellent addition to garden salad for the lunch the next day.

Enjoy…

Hot Days and Chilled Yoghurt Soup.

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It’s too hot. It’s too humid and we’ve definitely over-indulged over the last few weeks.

Oh by the way…Happy New Year to everyone…

Just about everyone around me ate and drank too much and I know this because I ate and drank right along side them.

My family celebrate on Christmas Eve. All my siblings with their families and some friends that have become part of the family head over to my mum and dad’s around 7ish where there is always too much food.

We spend the night singing (out of tune) way too loudly, we dance way too wildly and we laugh like a bunch of lunatics, and would never change any of it for anything. This year was extra special because my sister, niece and nephew arrived from New Zealand at 7ish on Christmas Eve and are here for the holidays.

I only wish I had some photos to share with you of our crazy night. Maybe next year….

Anyway, too much food and wine time is over for a little while. Time to give the old body some healthy and that’s where this delicious and disgustingly healthy and cooling soup comes in.

Cold Yoghurt and Cucumber Soup with mint and garlic. It’s perfect as an entrée or served with Riz (rice and egg noodle pilaf. Check out the link for the recipe) or grilled lamb or just in a big bowl as it is.

You’ll need:-

350g natural Greek style yoghurt

1 large clove of garlic – crushed

2 lebanese cucumbers – either sliced or diced

some fresh mint leaves – finely chopped

250 ml icy cold water

salt to taste

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Now here’s the really hard bit..whisk together the yoghurt and water in a big bowl then stir in the rest of the stuff and serve.

Perfect…

Enjoy…

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Breakfast in Minutes…Spinach Omelette

Wow. It has been a long time between posts. Lets see if I remember how to do this.

Spinach omelette…

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Another super quick egg based breakfast that can easily be made into a super quick dinner by adding cheese and serving with a salad (or with some bacon or smoked salmon)

Melt a little butter in a small non-stick fry pan then toss in a couple of hands full  of baby spinach. Let them sauté for a minute or so until they’re wilted. In a small bowl lightly whisk 2 eggs with a tablespoon of cream and a pinch of salt and pepper.

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Pour the egg mix over the spinach and let it cook over a medium high heat for about a minute then carefully scrape the cooked egg into the centre allowing the uncooked egg to run to the sides of the pan and cook.

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Once it’s almost cooked either flip the omelette over or top with a little grated cheese and pop under a hot grill to finish of the cooking.

Served with some buttered toast and a few slices of fresh tomato or with some bacon or smoked salmon, this is a super quick and delicious meal.

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Enjoy…

Mmmm…where did I leave my coffee???

Ma’amoul Swirls

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As you near the house all you hear is a familiar sound. The BANG of the Ma’amoul mould being hit on the edge of the table. Yep, it must be nearly Easter and Mum and Dad are elbow deep in Ma’amoul biscuit dough. On one side there is a big bowl of date filling and on the other a bowl of crushed walnut and rose water. The smell of melted ghee wafts out the kitchen and invades your nostrils. Only a few more steps and you’ll be amid the organized chaos and within arms reach of this years batch of Ma’amoul.

And then you see them….

Mounds of lightly browned date or walnut filled biscuits, still slightly warm and definitely too good to just stand around and look at so you make a run for them. But no…. you’re forced back by the  ‘DON”T YOU TOUCH THOSE’ yelled out in unison by both Mum and Dad…

I’d love to say that is a memory of our childhood but the truth is it happens still, every year.

These little gems are quite different to the Ma’amoul we wait for every Easter. My sister makes something very similar and I could sit and eat a whole plate of them with a cup of tea or coffee.

Let me tell you how I made Ma’amoul Swirls from this months The Cookbook Guru‘s beautiful book of choice, Saha by Greg and Lucy Malouf.

For the filling you’ll need:-

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200g fresh dates, pitted and chopped

4 Tblsp water

1 Tblsp castor sugar

1 Tblsp Kahlua (which I didn’t have so I used Dranbuie)

Melt the sugar in the water over a low heat then add the dates, stir well and cover. Leave for four or five minutes to soften then take off the heat and stir in the Kahlua. Leave to cool slightly then blitz in a food processor until smooth. Leave to cool.

For the Biscuit dough:-

270g plain flour

150g butter

30g icing sugar

20ml olive oil

45ml milk

Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs then stir in the sugar then add the milk and oil and work into a smooth dough.

On a floured bench, roll out the dough to a large rectangle, about 3mm thick, and spread the filling over the top evenly leaving a small margin on one of the long sides.

Now roll into a long sausage making sure to seal the edge well. Chill in the fridge for about an hour (this helps with the cutting).IMG_1512

Pre heat the oven to 160oC. Slice the biscuit log on the diagonal about 1cm thick and place them on a baking paper lined baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes then turn the heat down to 140oC and bake for a further 10 minutes.

Cool on wire racks.

The result…melt in the mouth biscuits. Absolutely delicious….

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My sister’s version is rolled in sesame seeds. I’ll have to try that next time.

Enjoy…

Flat Chicken with Broad Bean Crush

Another recipe from Greg and Lucy Malouf’s recipe book Saha  for this months The Cookbook Guru.

The idea of the broad bean crush was too enticing to pass up, especially considering broad beans are currently in season and plentiful here.

When we were kids (and there is 7 of us) Dad used to go to the fruit market out at Flemington on Saturday mornings and come back with boxes and bags of fresh fruit and vegetables. He would unload the car, leaving everything in the tiny alcove near the front door and we would go back and forth carrying boxes to the kitchen where my mum would start to organise things for storage.

As the box of broad beans was being carried into the house we would reach in as it went past and grab a pod or two and begin to pod and peel the beans as we continued to cart fruit and veg into the house. What a memory that is.

Well, I don’t buy boxes of broad beans but I did buy a bagful (some for the recipe, some for me to munch on while I tackled the recipe). Mmmm… so fresh…

I have to admit I was a little disappointed with this particular recipe though. It had wonderful ingredients, all the makings of a great dish but the flavour didn’t really do much to enhance the meal. In fact I found the broad bean crush to be a little bitter. It did look amazing though…

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I used a free range chicken, cut out the back bone, then with the breast side up I pressed down with my hand to flatten it.

Next I seasoned the chicken well with salt, pepper, cinnamon, cumin, sumac and some sweet paprika. I lay it on a couple of sliced potatoes and a sliced onion then popped it in a preheated 200oC oven for about 45 minutes. (The recipe calls for 2 x 500g chickens and is grilled instead of baked but the chicken I got was 1.5kg and was not going to fit under my grill, so I baked it on the top shelf in the oven.)

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For the broad bean crush:-

1 clove of garlic, crushed

pinch of salt

125g broad beans, podded and peeled

1 shallot, finely diced

1/4 cup coriander leaves, finely chopped

50ml extra virgin olive oil

pinch cayenne pepper

freshly ground black pepper

juice of 1 lemon

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Pound the garlic and salt together in a mortar and pestle until you have a smooth paste, then gradually add the rest of the ingredients while pounding them all together until you get a sludgy mix. (You can always put everything into a blender or food processor)

This is where I tasted the mix and found it wasn’t quite to my likings so I added in a teaspoon of brown sugar in the hope of masking the bitterness, and it did help.

Once the chicken is cooked, smear the broad bean mix over it then pop it back into the oven for about 5 minutes to cook the beans and garlic a little.

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I served the chicken pieces with the potato and onion from the baking dish and a fresh garden salad.

Sorry to say I don’t know that I would make the broad bean crush again but I won’t be stopped from eating fresh broad beans straight out of the pod or digging into a plate of broad beans and rice Riz ib Fool. Yum….

Pickled Turnip

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Wow. It sure has been a while since I’ve posted on The Cookbook Guru but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been keeping up with all the contributions that have been added over the past couple of months. It’s always great to see how recipes are interpreted and shared.

For October we’ve been offered Saha by Greg and Lucy Malouf as The Cookbook Guru’s book of the month.

What an amazing book. A kind of modern twist on some of the foods I grew up on. I’m looking forward to a lot of the recipes in this book and though I can say I will try to follow the recipes as they are written, you and I both know I won’t. For instance:

Pickled Turnips

4 turnips

1 beetroot

2 1/2 Tblsp salt

boiling water

white vinegar

(The recipe also calls for peppercorns, thyme and bay leaves but instead I added a few fresh red chillis which is the way my mother makes them.)

IMG_1450 Trim and wash the turnips and beetroot. Cut them in half then in wedges or batons then mix them together and place them in a sterilized jar

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Dissolve the salt in about 500ml boiling water.

Fill 1/3 of the jar with vinegar then top up with salted water to cover the turnips. Seal and turn the jar upside down a couple of times to make sure everything is mixed.

Store in a cupboard for about 5-7 days to allow the turnips to pickle. Once opened store in the fridge.IMG_1453IMG_1455

We serve these pickles as part of a mezza or as an accompaniment to just about any savoury dish. I love them best in a falafel roll. Yum.

As always…

Enjoy…