Banana Flower, Jicama and Coconut Salad with Fish Baked in Banana Leaves

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On the weekend we were invited to a big bush party on a property about an hour out of Darwin. Friends of the people we have been staying with (who have also become our friends), were having a big combined birthday party. As Benny had already made plans for a big fishing trip out to some islands, I headed out on a solo mission.

It ran from Friday to Monday morning for some (myself not included I’m ashamed to admit, even though I was probably one of the youngest there). There was a lot of dancing, long and interesting conversations, awesome sets, wacky costumes (the theme was swamp suave), everyone took amazing dishes to share and the drinks were flowing. Surrounded by bushland, we could have been anywhere.

I was feeling more than worse for ware when I arrived back in Darwin on Sunday, but before going home I dragged myself to the markets to stock up for the week and to also buy some kind of spicy feast to fill my belly. As always, the green papaya salad won out. After eating and swimming all day I started to feel slightly human again and headed back to the house. What a surprise I had waiting for me!

The boys had finally had an amazingly successful fishing trip! Four mud crabs, three huge queen fish and five trevally! Totally amazing! Along with the market goods and the fruit and veg from the garden, we have been eating like Kings and Queens this week!

For this salad, because the banana flower is served raw, it is important that the banana flower is freshly picked. They can become much too bitter to eat when they have been off the plant for more than a day or two.

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Ingredients

1 large fresh banana flower, weighing 800g to 1kg

Juice of 1 lemon or lime

1 tsp salt

1 jicama, weighing 600-800g

4 spring onions, thinly sliced

1/2 cup fresh coconut flesh, grated

2 handfuls fresh coriander leaves

1 handful each fresh thai basil and mint leaves

1/2 cup roasted peanuts, roughly chopped

Dressing

2 tbs tamarind puree

Juice of 1-2 limes

2 tbs palm sugar, grated

2 tbs fish sauce

1 long red chilli, finely chopped

1 birdseye chilli, finely chopped

1 tbs fresh ginger, finely chopped

1/4 cup coconut cream

Red Spot Emperor Baked in Banana Leaves

1 kg whole Red Spot Emperor, gutted and scaled (you could also use red emperor, rock cod, snapper or trevally)

Banana leaves (or baking paper), for baking

2 cloves garlic

1 birdseye chilli

1 tbs fresh ginger

Juice of 1 lime

1 tsp salt

1 tsp palm sugar

1 tsp fish sauce

1/2 tsp sesame oil

Sliced spring onion, sliced chilli, coriander leaves, thai basil leaves and fresh lime wedges, to serve

Steamed rice or asian style rice cakes, to serve

Method

Line a large baking dish with banana leaves, leaving overhang to wrap the fish. Score the fish along both sides, just enough to let some flavour get in, but not down to the bone.

For the fish marinade,iIn a mortar and pestle, combine the garlic, chilli, ginger, lime juice, salt, sugar, fish sauce and sesame oil. Pour this over the fish, rubbing it into the cuts and a little into the cavity. Wrap the fish, finishing seam side down, and leave in the fridge to marinate for 30mins.

Pre-heat the oven to 200 degrees celcius.

To prepare the banana flower, remove the dark outer leaves and discard or keep for decoration. Have a large bowl of water with the lime/lemon juice and salt ready. Start removing all of the leaves of the banana flower, discarding the small flowering stems that gather at the base (these are very bitter), and stack the leaves as you go to make them easy to slice up. Thinly slice the leaves widthways, 0.5cm, placing them in the bowl of water as you go. Leave them in the water while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.

Peel and thinly julienne the jicama (a mandolin is ideal). Strain the banana flower, try and remove as much water as you can. In a large bowl combine the jicama, banana flower, spring onions, coconut, coriander, thai basil, mint, and peanuts (reserving some herbs and peanuts for garnish). For the dressing, combine all of the ingredients and set aside until ready to serve.

Place the fish in the oven and cook for about 40mins. Remove from oven, cut open the banana leaves and place the fish on a serving platter, pour over any cooking juices. Scatter with the spring onion, herbs and chilli and place fresh lime wedges alongside.

Toss the salad dressing through the salad and sprinkle with reserved herbs and peanuts.

Serve with steamed rice or asian rice cakes.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Banana, Coconut and Date Loaf, Banana, Carob and Walnut Muffins and Banana Jam (All Vegan. Yeah, we had a lot of bananas to use…)

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If you could see where I am sitting whilst writing this, you would surely laugh.

In two weeks time I’ll be swimming in the ocean and drinking ice cold Bintangs in Bali, but in the meantime, I’m sitting here, in my camping chair, in the searing heat, on the side of the free way, with a For Sale sign on the car. This better work….

Once this car is sold, my whole life will be back in my backpack, and man am I looking forward to that feeling! It’s been great having this big car, all equipped to live anywhere on this great brown land, but I’m ready for the backpacker life again! Beaches, jungles, hostels, beers, new friends, old friends, culture, food, art, adventure…the list is long!

Anyway, back to reality for a moment. We found ourselves with a huge bag of bananas last week, all going black very quickly. The chickens don’t seem to be laying as many eggs as they were a few months ago so I decided to try and make some vegan banana treats. They turned out so beautifully, I don’t think I will ever make a banana loaf with eggs again!

Not so sure about the banana jam though, it tastes a little (lot) like something you might feed your baby. But hey, why would you feed your baby something gross!

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Recipe

Vegan Banana Bread

Ingredients
3-4 over-ripe bananas, plus 1 to decorate
75g coconut oil, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g raw sugar
125g white or wholemeal self-raising flour
100g wholemeal plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
50g shredded coconut
70g dates (or other dried fruit or nuts), chopped

Method
Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees, celcius. Grease and line a loaf tin (banana leaves work great!)
In a large bowl, mash the bananas (reserving one to decorate). Add the coconut oil, vanilla and sugar, and mix well to combine.
Sift the flours, baking powder and cinnamon into the bowl with the banana. Add the coconut and dates and mix until all combined.
Pour into prepared loaf tin. Peel and cut the remaining banana in half, lengthways. Place, cut side up, on top of the batter and slightly press into the batter.
Bake for 40-50mins. Remove from oven and allow to cool in the tin.
Serve warm with banana jam, or topping of choice.
Enjoy!

Variation
Vegan Banana, Carob and Walnut muffins.
Replace 50g of the wholemeal plain flour with 60g of carob powder. Omit the coconut and the dates and add 80g of chopped walnuts, reserving some to sprinkle on top. Bake in a muffin tin for about 20mins.

Banana Jam

Ingredients
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
4 cups bananas, diced
2 1/2 cups caster sugar
2/3 cup water

Method
Combine the diced banana in a bowl with the lime juice.
In a large saucepan, combine the sugar and the water over medium high heat. Stir until sugar is dissolved and bring to the simmer. Cover and let it simmer for 2mins.
Uncover and add the bananas with the lime. On medium heat, bring to the boil. Cook, uncovered and stirring often, for about 30mins. At this point, if you want a smooth jam, use a stick blender to blend until smooth, otherwise, just keep cooking.
Cook for another 20-30mins or until jam is nice and thick.
Pour hot jam into sterilised jars.
Allow to cool at room temperature, undisturbed for 24hours before using.

Banana, Coconut and Chocolate Surprise Muffins (Gluten and Dairy Free)

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These muffins are to die for, especially when warm from the oven. As with most muffins, they are best eaten on the day they are made, but, due to the coconut and the moist chocolatey centre, these guys are more like little cakes, and will stay moist and delicious for up to five days. Ha! As if they will last that long!

This recipe was created for a new Australian company that contacted me regarding recipe development for one of the products that they send out to their subscribers every two months, along with their magazine ‘Provenace’; including recipes and information on the Australian producers. The company is called Spiced Fig, and I highly recommend subscribing to their tote, when I received mine I was overwhelmed with the beautiful products inside. In fact, I’ve got a Moroccan Chicken Curry simmering away on the stove right now, the sauce being one of the products in the tote. It smells pretty fantastic!

So, the product I ‘had’ (damn!) to develop recipes for was Nuibella, a certified organic, coconut and chocolate spread. It is seriously delicious, and, all natural, fair-trade, gluten free and vegan friendly. This muffin recipe wasn’t chosen for the magazine, my other, even more special recipe was chosen, but you will have to subscribe to find out what it was!

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Recipe

Ingredients

125g coconut oil, melted

165g raw sugar

3 large, very ripe bananas, roughly chopped

2 eggs

1 tsp coconut essence

300g gluten free, self-raising flour, sifted

50g desiccated coconut

12 heaped teaspoons of cold Nuibella

Chipped coconut to sprinkle

Method

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius, grease and line a 12 hole muffin tin.

Process oil, sugar, banana, eggs and coconut essence in a food processor until smooth. Combine the flour and desiccated coconut in a large bowl, then fold in banana mixture. Do not over mix.

Evenly distribute half of the batter into the muffin tray and gently place a heaped tsp of cold Nuibella into the centre of each, making sure that you have enough batter in each hole so that the Nuibella is not touching the bottom of the tin. Then, carefully and evenly spoon the rest of the batter around and on top of the Nuibella (spooning the batter around the Nuibella before on top of it will ensure the Nuibella stays in the middle of the muffins whilst baking). Sprinkle with the chipped coconut.

Bake for about 15-20mins or until muffins are golden and spring back when touched.

Cool in pan for 10 mins and then cool on a wire rack. Or eat one while it’s lovely and warm!

Sardine and Olive Scrolls with Herbed Cream Cheese

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IMG_2407 IMG_2391 IMG_2395Since winning a hamper at Christmas time, filled with marinated goodies and antipasto ingredients, I’ve had a jar of marinated sardine fillets, sitting at the back of the fridge, looking lonely and waiting to be used in something delicious. However, having only just learnt to appreciate tinned sardines and anchovies in the last two years (I learnt to like them after trying some delicious real deal ones in Portugal), apart from putting them on a pizza, I haven’t done much else with them. Until now!

I’d spent the afternoon with a friend, hanging out at the local pool (it’s next to the beach, the best we can do in the wet season here in Darwin), and we had organised for Saturday afternoon drinks at her new house. Perfect opportunity for me to make something delicious to share!
I love making dough, we’ve been making all our own bread for the last couple of months now so I felt pretty confident to try this idea. I was pleasantly surprised at how well they worked out. The perfect mix of soft chewy bread with the salty, flavoursome filling, along with the herby cream cheese and sweet fresh tomato. Delicious! I also had some tomato soup leftover from dinner a few nights ago, they went perfectly with this also.
These would also work just as well without the anchovies for a vegetarian option.

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Recipe

Makes 16 scrolls

Ingredients

400g strong white bread flour
300ml luke warm water
1 heaped tsp instant yeast
1 tsp salt
olive oil

400g pitted kalamata olives, drained and pureed
300g marinated sardine fillets, drained, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
small red onion, finely chopped
2 tbs fresh thyme leaves
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
cracked pepper
handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 large tomato, de-seeded, flesh finely chopped

250g cream cheese
1/4 cup fresh dill, finely chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
zest of 1 lemon

Fresh tomatoes or tomato soup, to serve

Method

In a large bowl combine the flour and the yeast. Add the salt and stir to combine. (Adding the yeast and the salt separately is important as the salt can start to kill the yeast with direct contact).
Make a well in the centre and add the water. Stir with a metal spoon until mixture only just starts to come together, no more than 30secs. Cover with a clean towel and leave for 10mins.
Using olive oil, put a little in your hands and on a clean work surface. Turn out the dough and gently knead for about 10secs by pushing the dough away from you and folding it back towards yourself, then turning, horizontally, 90 degrees, and repeating, four times.
Return the dough to the bowl and cover with the towel. Leave for 15mins and repeat the same process twice more.
After the third knead, cover and leave in a warm place for 45-60mins or until almost doubled in size.
Meanwhile, heat a tbs of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and the onion and cook, stirring, for about 5mins. Add the thyme and the chilli flakes and cook for a further 1min. Transfer to a bowl to cool.
When cool, add the chopped sardine fillets, pepper, parsley and tomato. Stir to combine.
In another bowl, combine the cream cheese with the dill, parsley and lemon zest. Stir well to combine and keep in the fridge until needed.
Prepare two baking trays with baking paper and a sprinkle of flour. Pre-heat oven to 190 degrees celcius.
When the dough is ready, turn it out onto a well floured surface. Cut in half evenly. Roll each piece out into a 20cm by 40cm rectangle, about 1cm thick.
Divide the pureed olives onto each piece of dough and spread out evenly with the back of a spoon, then sprinkle with the sardine mixture.
From the long side, gently roll each rectangle into a log.
Cut each log into 8 pieces. Place the pieces on the prepared trays, cut side up/down, about 5cm apart. Use your fingers to gently squash/mould into rounds (as cutting them has probably squashed the circle shape a little).
Cover each tray with a clean towel and leave in a warm place for about 45-60mins or until nearly doubled in size. (Be gentle when moving the trays during his time, so as not to knock the air out of the rising dough)
When ready, place the trays (gently), into the oven, and bake for 30-40mins, or until golden and feel hard when tapped with your finger.
Remove from oven and leave to cool for 15mins.
Serve warm with the cream cheese and some fresh sliced tomato. They are also really beautiful with tomato soup.
Enjoy!

Maple Roasted Pumpkin, Kale, Blue Vein and Wild Rice Salad with Pomegranate Molasses

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How awesome are vegetables! They are so versatile, exciting, colourful, textural, interesting, and above all, nourishing. I love treating my vegetables as the main point of a meal, all you need is a bit of love and a few extra touches, and the next thing you know you’ll be turning your humble piece of pumpkin thats been hiding at the bottom of your veggie draw, into a beautiful, shining, and delicious star!

I came across this Naranka Gold Pumpkin at the markets here, I’ve never seen it before, but, as I love to roast pumpkin with its skin on, I thought the look of this pumpkin’s golden skin was very enticing. Roasted to perfection with a hint of sweetness and citrus, it was absolutely delicious. Not to mention the nutty wild rice, the bursts of sweetness from the pomegranate, the earthiness of the kale and the strong scent of the blue vein. It is perfectly satisfying as a main meal but would also be great as part of a feast, along with roasted meats, spreads, other salads and breads. You could also replace the rice with quinoa and the blue vein with goats cheese or feta.

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Recipe

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups blended black, red and brown rice

1/2 a small naranka gold pumpkin, about 800g-1kg, cut into thick 5cm wedges, seeds scraped out

1 tbs golden syrup

1 tbs lemon infused olive oil

1/2 cup mixed seeds, such as pepitas, sunflower and pine nuts, toasted

4 large kale leaves, about 120g, stems cut out and leaves finely shredded

Small red onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

Handful of fresh parsley and mint, roughly chopped

120g blue vein cheese. crumbled

Fruit from 1 fresh pomegranate

2 tbs pomegranate molasses

Splash of red wine vinegar and olive oil

Salt and pepper

Method

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees celcius. Line an oven tray with baking paper.

In a large bowl, toss the pumpkin with the lemon infused olive oil, maple syrup and some salt and pepper.

Lay the pieces of pumpkin in a single layer on the lined baking tray. Place in the oven and cook for about 45 mins, turning halfway, until golden and tender, crisp edges are good. Remove and allow to cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to the boil. Boil the rice until tender. Drain, and transfer to a large bowl to cool.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Sauté the onion and garlic until soft, about 5mins. Add the fennel seeds, cumin seeds, and kale, and continue to sauté for another 5mins. Add to the bowl with the rice, along with half of the toasted seeds, half of the pomegranate, the fresh herbs, a splash of red wine vinegar and olive oil, and some salt and pepper. Mix well.

Empty the rice mixture out onto a large serving plate. Top with the pumpkin, the rest of the seeds, the rest of the pomegranate, the blue vein, and a drizzle of pomegranate molasses.

Enjoy!

 

 

Nectarine, Rosemary and Gin Frangipane Tart

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Frangipane would have to be one of my most favourite sweet treats; the first time I tried it was while I was studying at Uni and working part-time in an ‘authentic’ sourdough bakery (I say ‘authentic’ cause it still wasn’t proper sourdough). However, their croissants were delectable and the almond ones were my favourite. I loved getting the open shift, where I would have to unload all of the trays of bread and pastries, delivered from the factory, onto the shelves in the cafe. Sometimes the almond croissants would have so much frangipane on them that it would break away from the edges and just be laying around on the trays…..good free breakfast for a uni student. Needless to say I was a little curvy after a few months in that job!

This tart came about as a result of some nectarines going too soft in the fridge; leftover from my habit of having to have stone fruit around the house at Christmas time, thanks Mum. Also, found a huge rosemary bush down the road; I’m sure it needed a trim. And….let’s face it, I’ve usually got some gin lying round.

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Recipe 

Ingredients

Pastry

1 1/2 cups plain flour

150g cold butter, cubed

2 tbs pure icing sugar

1 egg yolk

1 tbs cold water

Filling

200 g butter, softened

1/2 cup caster sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 cups almond meal

1tbs fresh rosemary, finely chopped, plus extra to decorate

1 tsp vanilla essence

1/2 cup gin

1/2 cup plain flour

2-3 nectarines, halved, stone taken out, thinly sliced

1/4 cup plum jam

Greek yoghurt, to serve

Method

For the pastry, sift the flour and icing sugar into a large bowl, add the butter and use fingertips to rub the butter into the flour until mixture resembles sand. Add the egg yolk and the water. Mix with a spoon until the dough comes together. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until just smooth, about 1min. Wrap in cling wrap and rest in the fridge for an hour.

Turn the pastry onto a lightly floured surface. Use a lightly floured rolling pin to roll out to a 3mm-thick disc. Grease and line the base of a round, fluted tart tin, with removable base. Line with the pastry, trim most of the excess but leave about 1/2cm of overhang to allow for shrinkage. Prick the base with a fork. Place in freezer for 30 minutes to rest.

Preheat oven to 200°C. Line the pastry case with non-stick baking paper. Fill with pastry weights or rice. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove paper and pastry weights or rice. Cook for a further 7 minutes or until golden.

Reduce oven temperature to 180°C. With an electric beater, beat the caster sugar, brown sugar, butter, vanilla essence,  rosemary and almond meal in a bowl until pale and creamy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add 2 tablespoons of the gin. Add the flour and beat until just combined.

Spoon almond mixture into pastry case and smooth the surface. Arrange nectarine on top, overlapping in a circular pattern. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until golden and firm to the touch. Set aside for 10 minutes to cool slightly.

Combine the jam and remaining gin in a small saucepan. Cook, stirring, on medium until combined and thickened slightly, about 5 mins. Brush the tart with the jam mixture. Sprinkle with extra rosemary. Serve with greek yoghurt.

Empanadas, two ways. Ham, Cheese and Egg or Pumpkin, Basil and Ricotta.

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Empanadas….What can I say…probably one of the best things I’ve ever eaten. Especially when bought from a lovely Abuelita on the streets of Buenos Aires, or ordered from the local bar, with a beer, for breakfast at 10am; breakfast of champions!

A recent catch-up with a dear friend, that has been living in Argentina for the last few years, got me reminiscing about the food I tried while I was there. Aside from empanandas; the Asados, Chimichurri, Choripan, and Dulce de Leche, were enough to turn me into a well ’rounded’ foodie. The Argeys certainly know how to relax, and eat well; you wouldn’t expect how well they are able to party after all of this…I guess that’s why you don’t go out until 3am.

The recipes here are far removed from anything typically Argentinian, but since I’ve been on a bit of a budget, I used what I had on hand; leftover christmas ham, and roasted pumpkin being the main culprits. You don’t need to make your own pastry, store bought shortcrust pastry will work perfectly, but, if you have time and you don’t mind a bit of kitchen labour, this pastry recipe is very easy to work with and turns out beautifully. I split the recipe into two bowls and added smoked paprika to one and nutmeg to the other, but, apart from giving the pastry different colours, I couldn’t really taste the spices; so i haven’t included that method here.

Check out my Roasted Pumpkin, Pistachio and Ricotta Dip; perfect for your leftover roasted pumpkin.

Salud!

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Recipe

Makes about 30

Ingredients

Pastry

160g butter, cold, cut into cubes

250g plain flour

250g wholemeal flour

1 tsp salt

180ml water

olive oil, for kneading

1 egg, whisked with a splash of water, for brushing

Ham, Cheese, Egg and Olive Filling

Olive oil

1 small brown onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

50g olives, roughly chopped

100g ham, roughly chopped

100g tasty cheese, grated

2 eggs, hard boiled, peeled, roughly chopped

pepper

handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped

Pumpkin, Basil and Ricotta Filling

1 butternut pumpkin, skin cut off, seeds cut out, cut into large chunks

4 cloves garlic, skin on, whole

olive oil

salt and pepper

white wine vinegar

large handful of fresh basil, finely sliced

1/4 cup sunflower seeds, toasted

125g firm ricotta, crumbled

2 tbs parmesan, finely grated

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

Method

For the pastry, in a large bowl, combine the flours, salt and butter. Use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour, working until mixture resembles sand. Add the water and use a spoon to mix until it starts to come together into a dough. Turn out onto a clean, oiled work surface and knead for 10-15mins. Wrap in plastic wrap and refridgerate for 2 hours.

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees celcius.

For the pumpkin filling, place the pumpkin and garlic cloves in a roasting tray, drizzle with a little olive oil and white wine vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine. Place in the oven and cook for about 45mins or until very tender. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. Turn the oven off.

In a medium bowl, combine 300g of the roasted pumpkin and 2 of the garlic cloves, squeezed from their skins. Mash with a fork until smooth. Add the basil, sunflower seeds, ricotta, parmesan, nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. Stir to combine but don’t mix too much, as you still want to have chunks of ricotta throughout.  Store in the fridge until needed.

For the ham filling, in a small frying pan, heat a little olive oil over medium heat. Fry the onion, stirring, for about 8mins, or until soft, add the garlic and fry for a further 2mins. Transfer to a medium bowl and allow to cool for 10mins. Add the remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Store in the fridge until needed.

To fold the empanadas. Working with half the dough at a time, on a lightly floured surface, use a rolling pin to roll out the pastry to approximately 3mm thickness. Use a round cutter, about 12cm across, to cut circles out. Keep them covered with cling wrap as you go to avoid them drying out.

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees celcius. Place a heaped tablespoon of mixture into the middle of a circle of dough. With wet fingers, moisten the edges of the circle. Fold the pastry over the mixture to make a half moon shape. Press the edges together to seal. Use a fork to make a pattern on the edge, or use your fingers to fold along the edge for an alternative pattern. Or do whatever pattern you like.

Line 2 baking trays with baking paper. Evenly space the empanadas out on the trays and brush with the egg mixture. Bake for about 30-40 mins, or until golden and crisp on the edges.

Serve with tomato chutney or caramelised onion on the side. You can find a recipe for caramelised onion here.

Enjoy!

M

Roasted Pumpkin, Pistachio and Ricotta Dip

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Dips, cheeses, marinated vegetables, chutneys, preserves, olives, salted meats, crackers, nuts, breads, fruits and tapenades….all of these things sound like heaven to me. Just put as many of these beautiful little treats as you can on a plate, pour some vino and you’re in for a good time. No need for dinner either, if you do it right!

This dip came about as a result of some roasted pumpkin, garlic and ricotta, leftover from making empanadas (to which I will post the recipe for in the next couple of days). We are really into eating well on a budget at the moment, which has resulted in some really creative and delicious meals. It’s so satisfying sitting down to a meal knowing that it cost us about $1 to make. I love getting home from work and looking through the garden, picking a few things that I want for dinner and seeing how others are coming along. The rains have finally settled in which means we should have a bumper crop of sweet potatoes coming on soon. I am so grateful to the beautiful people that have allowed us to look after their lovely house and friendly animals, it’s such a great experience.

IMG_0920 IMG_0932Recipe

Ingredients

1 cup roasted butternut pumpkin

2 cloves garlic, roasted in their skins, squeezed out

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1/4 tsp chilli flakes

1 tsp lemon juice

salt and pepper

handful of fresh parsley, finely chopped

1/2 cup firm ricotta, crumbled

1/3 cup pistachios, shelled, roasted and finely chopped

Method

In a small processor, or with a hand held stick blender, process the pumpkin, garlic, cumin seeds, chilli flakes, lemon juice and the salt and pepper. Add a little olive oil if it’s too dry.

Stir through the parsley, ricotta, and pistachios. Check for seasoning and add more if necessary.

Serve with crackers, vegetable sticks or whatever you like!

 

 

Easy Christmas Lunch. Spiced Rum and Marmalade Glazed Ham, Citrus and Fennel Salad and Crispy Sweet Potato Bake

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Here are a couple of easy recipes for Christmas Day if you don’t feel like slaving over a hot stove but still want to impress. Everything is really easy, and really tasty; each dish complements the other and when it’s all put out on the table, looks festive and exciting. I made these dishes for a last minute Christmas dinner with a bunch of our friends here in Newcastle before we head back to Darwin; to a very quiet Christmas day, consisting of just the two of us, three dogs, twelve chickens and hopefully a yummy seafood lunch.

You could serve these dishes as part of a bigger feast (we also had two roast chickens, a greek spinach pie, and multiple salads, all brought by our beautiful friends), but it is also nice just to have a few key dishes and really appreciate them. I find that sometimes at Christmas there is just so much to choose from that the flavours in each dish get hidden by one another; or maybe just by a big slosh of gravy.

I hope you’re all excited for Christmas and have some time off work to enjoy with your friends and family. Happy cooking!

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Recipe

Spiced Rum and Marmalade Glazed Ham

Serves 6

Ingredients

5kg smoked ham leg

2/3 cup spiced rum

1 cup honey

1/3 cup molasses

3/4 cup marmalade

1 tbs fresh ginger, grated

handful of cloves

pepper

Grain mustard and fresh white bread, to serve

Method

Combine all ingredients apart from the ham, mustard and bread in a medium saucepan over medium heat and stir to combine. Bring to the simmer and reduce heat to low. Continue to simmer for about 20mins or until thickened (be careful as it may foam up). Remove from heat to cool slightly. Strain through a sieve, reserving both the strained part and the unstrained.

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees celcius. Line a large baking dish with baking paper.

To prepare the ham, cut through the skin around the bone in a zigzag pattern. Use your fingers to separate the skin from the fatty layer underneath (you need this fatty layer to hold the glaze so try not to remove it).

In a criss-cross pattern, score the fat in lines about 2cm apart. Press a clove into each cross section. (traditionally they are pressed into the centre of each square but I think more flavour gets into the ham like this).

Brush the ham with some of the strained glaze and place in the oven. Cook for about an hour, brushing with the glaze every 10mins.

Remove from the oven and cool for 15mins or so before carving. Serve warm or cool. Combine any leftover glaze with the chunky parts left from when it was strained; serve this alongside, as well as the mustard and bread.

Citrus and Fennel Salad

Ingredients

2 baby fennel bulbs, thinly sliced

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

6 baby radishes, thinly sliced

1/2 a spanish onion, thinly sliced

3 oranges, peeled and sliced (a mixture of regular and blood is good, if you can get them)

1 red grapefruit, peeled and sliced

A few big handfuls of mixed mescaline leaves

A handful of mint leaves, torn

Seeds from 1/2 a pomegranate

Olive oil, red wine vinegar and salt and pepper for dressing

Method

Combine the fennel, lemon juice and pinch of salt in a bowl and toss to combine. Add the radishes and red onion and lightly toss, but don’t mix too much or the colour will leach out of the radishes.

In a large shallow bowl, arrange the mescaline leaves and most of the mint. Top with half of the fennel mixture, then half of the orange and grapefruit, then the rest of the fennel mixture and rest of the orange and grapefruit. Top with the pomegranate seeds and the rest of the mint. Very lightly drizzle with the olive oil and the red wine vinegar, season with salt and pepper.

Crispy Sweet Potato Bake

Ingredients

1-2 large white (purple skinned) sweet potato

6 red rascal potatoes

4 cloves garlic

Handful of fresh herbs, such as oregano, basil, parsley or sage

2 tbs dried mixed herbs

1/2 cup olive oil

3 tbs butter, melted

salt and pepper

Method

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees celcius.

Thinly slice the sweet potato, potatoes and the garlic on a mandolin. (or just thinly slice by hand if you don’t have one, but take your time as the slices need to be very thin).

In a large bowl combine the sliced sweet potato, potatoes and garlic with the remaining ingredients. Use your hands to mix, making sure everything is well coated.

Use your oily hands to grease a baking dish. Arrange the slices of potato in a vertical position, like books on a shelf, filling the gaps with smaller slices and arranging so that the tray is evenly filled.

Sprinkle with a little extra salt and pepper and bake for about 45-60mins or until tops are brown and crispy and underneath is tender.

Enjoy!