Blackberry, Lemon, Yoghurt & Almond Streusel Muffins

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In my attempts to bake a healthier muffin, I have sacrificed so many lovely ingredients to the kitchen gods. An array of beautiful flours, the ripest fruits, different sweeteners, fragrant vanilla – they have all gone into creating some of the most unappetising muffins around. Generally dense, bland little numbers which you might only enjoy if truly committed to matyring yourself for “health food”.

And “health food” is such a loaded phrase, with such narrow parameters and misguided implications. I have not been trying to turn what is essentially cake into a “health food” but rather make it a bit more nutritious. Swapping out white flour for wholemeal, saturated fat for monounsaturated, using the sweetness of fruit with its vitamins and fibre – but still a pleasure to eat. I am soooo happy to say that the below recipe is a winner and saves me from throwing out any future dud muffins.

We used blackberries because they were surprisingly cheap – other berries (fresh or frozen) or ripe pear would go just as nicely.  Almonds could be replaced with walnuts or pecans and you could play around with the flours. When pears are plentiful, I would like to try swapping in some chestnut flour and adding pecans to the crumble.

I have played around a LOT with how much (or rather, how little) sugar I can use in this recipe without rendering the results bland or tough. The amount below seems to be the minimum required to make the muffin muffiny…  

Each small muffin has 10g added sugar from the maple syrup. The WHO recommends we limit our added sugar intake to less than 10%, ideally 5% of our daily diet. This translates to 25g sugar for adults and 12g sugar for young children.

Blackberry, Lemon, Yoghurt & Almond Streusel Muffins (makes 6 cupcake sized)

1 large egg
50g olive oil
80g maple syrup
120g yoghurt, plain (low-fat or full-fat)
½ lemon, finely grated zest of
150g wholemeal spelt flour
4g baking powder
Pinch bicarbonate soda
Pinch salt
125g blackberries

20g oats
20g finely chopped walnuts or almonds
20g wholemeal spelt flour
15g olive oil
20g maple syrup

Preheat the oven to 200’C and line 6-hole cupcake tin with liners or baking paper. Whisk the egg, oil, syrup, yoghurt and lemon zest together. In another bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate soda and salt together. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and just barely mix, maybe just 2-3 turns of the spoon. Don’t over mix muffins! Add the berries and gently finish mixing until the flour is just incorporated into the wet batter. Divide the batter between the 6 liners.

Combine the streusel ingredients all together and sprinkle over the muffins.         Bake at 200c x 15 mins.

buckwheat and quinoa granola

GranolaBowl

I prefer variations on a porridge theme for breakfast in winter. But as variety is so important,  I like to have a jar of this delicious granola on hand. This batch is a crunchy mix of buckwheat, quinoa flakes, nuts and seeds, sweetened with pureed dates and enriched with some tahini. As with all my recipes, most of the ingredients can be swapped for tastes you might prefer or half-packets of things you wish to use up.
GranolaBfast

buckwheat & quinoa granola

  • 300g buckwheat, raw
  • 150g quinoa flakes
  • 100g pepitas
  • 150g nuts (I used a mix of walnuts and brazil nuts)
  • 100g dates
  • 75g water
  • 25g olive oil
  • 25g tahini (or a mild nut butter)
  • pinch each of salt and cinnamon

Mix the buckwheat, quinoa, seeds and nuts together. Add the salt and cinnamon. Process the dates, water, olive oil and tahini until smooth. Add 1/3 of the dry mix to the processor and pulse a couple of times until roughly incorporated. Empty the date mix from the processor onto the remaining dry mix and stir until entirely mixed through. Distribute over 2 baking trays and bake in a 150’C oven for 30-40 minutes until golden and toasted. Allow to cool completely.

Kitchen tips: we like this granola with yoghurt and fruit and it is sweet enough for us. If you have a sweeter tooth, you could always add a dash of honey or maple syrup to the date puree.

road trip recovery nachos

nachos

I am living in post-holiday denial. Our bags are unpacked, the washing is done, the fridge has been replenished.  But I am still humming the holiday rhythm of lazy coffees, lunches with a view and no housework. A reality check tomorrow is inevitable. Until then, we shall have nachos and chocolate ice cream for dinner and pretend we have spent the day by the beach.

Nachos

  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 1 red capsicum, chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, chopped
  • smoked paprika, to taste
  • 1tb chipotle in adobo sauce (don’t fret if you don’t have this)*
  • 1 tin chopped/crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tin kidney beans, drained, rinsed
  • 1 tin refried beans

Saute the onion in some olive oil until soft. Add the garlic, capsicum, celery and paprika and continue cooking until soft and fragrant. Add the adobo chilli sauce if you have it. Add the tinned tomatoes, fill the empty tin with water and add that too. Add the beans and stir well. Season to taste and cook while stirring over a simmer until it thickens slightly.

Serves 6 with whatever trimmings you like.

I like our nachos spooned over sweet potato chips, baked tortilla pieces or decent bought corn chips. A light scattering of cheese, melted, and topped with guacamole, home made tomato salsa and some thick yoghurt is perfect. The nacho mix freezes well and makes the easiest, quickest meal in a flash.

*tinned chipotles chilis come in a rich, smoky sauce. This adobo sauce has much less heat than the chili but still imparts the fantastic spiced, smoky flavour of the chipotle. I use half chopped chipotle and half sauce to give the heat and flavour I like but adjust this as you wish.

 

chocolate ice cream

icecream

I first made this “ice cream” years ago for children I used to babysit. It is simply frozen bananas blended to a creamy iced treat. When I began working as a chef, I used to use this recipe (and it is barely that) or a cashew ice cream to garnish vegan or dairy-free desserts.

Despite the humble ingredients, the finished product is very rich and one scoop is more than satisfying.

Chocolate Banana Ice Cream

  • 2 large bananas, sliced and frozen
  • 1-2 tablespoons cacao
  • 1 tb tahini or nut butter of your choice – optional
  • vanilla, cinnamon, chilli – optional and to your taste

Simply throw everything into a blender or processor and blend until smooth and creamy. Serves 4.

*I try to keep 2 or 3 sliced, frozen bananas in a zip-lock bag in the freezer. They are then ready to add to smoothies or blend into ice cream. In the photo, I have sprinkled some nuts and coconut – quite unnecessary garnishes and my ineffective attempt to make brown food look slightly better.

mushroom barley risotto, roast tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella

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We have some absolutely gorgeous buffalo mozzarella in our fridge this week. The mozzarella comes from a local buffalo farm that we were lucky enough to visit recently. I was amazed at how social the buffalo were, congregating near us to say hello, and how graceful their gait.

This meal was born from a desire to showcase this lovely cheese without relying on my default dish of eggplant parmigiana. Pearl barley has a slight chewiness when cooked and is a delicious alternative to arborio rice. I encourage you to experiment with other additions to this risotto. Chorizo and tomato or bacon and pumpkin would be fantastic substitutions for the mushrooms.

mushroom barley risotto

  • splash of olive oil, knob of butter
  • 6 cloves garlic, diced
  • 6 sprigs of thyme, leaves of
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 doz button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1.5 litres stock of your choice (I used cold chicken stock)
  • 2c pearl barley
  • 2/3 c grated parmesan, plus extra to serve
  • a knob of butter
  • 2 balls buffalo mozzarella
  • 2 punnets cherry tomatoes, roasted
  • basil or parsley to serve

In a large pot, saute the onion, garlic and thyme leaves in the olive oil and butter until cooked through and fragrant. Add mushrooms, cook until golden brown. Add the pearl barley, stir through. Add the stock. Cook on a simmer for 15-20 minutes while stirring every now and then. When barley is soft and stock has reduced, remove the pot form the stove and stir through the parmesan and the second knob of butter. Add salt and pepper as desired. Serve, topped with extra parmesan, the roast tomatoes,herbs and torn mozzarella. Serves 6.

 

vanilla pears with baked nutty crumble

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After years of cooking in restaurants and crafting dishes of increasing complexity, I truly get the most pleasure now from recipes as simple as this crumble. A crumble is everything that is good about winter – warm, ripe fruit, a nutty crumble topping and the contrast of cold cream or ice cream.

pearscrumb

This crumble celebrates the natural sweetness of pears and the spiced topping is a mix of whatever nuts you may have in the cupboard. We had this for dessert a couple of nights ago and I have eaten it for breakfast since with some gorgeous Clevedon Valley buffalo milk yoghurt.

crumble

 

nutty pear crumble

  • 4-5 sweet, ripe pears, cored, diced (I used Buerre Bosc pears)
  • splash white wine
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 40g butter, unsalted, room temperature
  • 2 tb (40ml) rice malt syrup or maple syrup
  • 1/4c almond meal
  • 1/4c oats (traditional or quick) or quinoa flakes
  • 1/4c coconut flour
  • 1/2c nuts (I used half pistachio, half pine nuts)
  • 1/4c pumpkin or sunflowers seeds
  • 1/4tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4t salt
  • 1/2 lemon, zest of

Place the diced pears in a saucepan and add a splash of wine and the vanilla. Cover with a lid and cook over medium heat until the wine starts to simmer. Remove the lid and continue cooking until wine has almost evaporated and the pears have softened. This should take only minutes. Pour into a baking dish. Cool to room temperature.

For the topping, place all the ingredients into a food processor and pulse until the mix comes together but some of the nuts and seeds are still in large pieces. Sprinkle the crumble evenly all over the pears and bake at 175’C for 20-25 mins until the topping is golden brown. Delicious served with good yoghurt, cream or ice cream. Serves 6.

Note: If you can’t find coconut flour, simply process some dried coconut until a fine powder. This recipe could also be made with apples but you may need to sweeten them if they are more tart than sweet. The topping is gluten free if using certified gluten free oats or quinoa flakes and would make lovely biscuits, I think.

mushroom ricotta quinoa bake with hot smoked salmon

quinoabake

I do a bake of some sort every couple of weeks.  I love the simplicity of a “one bowl & bake” dinner and the resulting ready-made lunch for the next day. Pasta and rice are obvious choices for this dish but I used quinoa for our dinner last week. You could just as easily use brown rice, freekeh or couscous. Don’t have ricotta? Use sour cream or cream cheese instead. Some bacon, anchovies or chorizo sauteed with the mushrooms would be delicious if you choose. Like most of my recipes, this one is so easily adapted to what you have in your fridge or cupboard so make this meal work for you.

mushroom ricotta quinoa bake

  • 2c cooked quinoa (from about 1c raw)
  • 300g button mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 4 sprigs lemon thyme (or chopped parsley or basil)
  • 1 zucchini, grated
  • 2 big handfuls kale or spinach
  • 1c frozen peas
  • handful of olives
  • 250g ricotta
  • 2 eggs
  • about 1/3c grated parmesan (or cheddar)
  • salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 180’c. Saute the mushrooms on high heat in some olive oil until golden and cooked through. Add the garlic, thyme and zucchini and cook until aromatic. Season well. Throw in the spinach and peas and stir over the heat until the spinach is wilted and peas are hot. Tip this mushroom mix into a large bowl and add the cooked quinoa and the olives. Leave to cool a little and adjust the seasoning. Whisk the ricotta and eggs  together and add to the quinoa mixture. Mix until combined. Place mix into a 20cm baking dish, sprinkle with 2 pinches of parmesan and cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes, remove foil and bake for another 15-20 minutes. Serve sprinkled with the remaining parmesan and crisp green salad. We enjoyed this bake all warm and cheesy for dinner and then the next day with hot smoked salmon and a lemon mustard vinaigrette.

parsnip buttermilk pancakes

 

parsnipfritters

There is such comfort to be found in cold-weather cooking. Creamy porridge, hot soups, hearty stews and warm bread attain medicinal status when it is cold outside. But just as soothing, in my mind, is the way we cook in winter. We take the time needed . We braise slowly, simmer gently, roast until meat falls off the bone and vegetables caramelise.

What to do then, when warming comfort food is needed and time is short? Reach for those root vegetables that you would normally roast and grate them instead. Parsnips make truly delicious fritters – creamy and nutty on the inside and golden brown on the outside. Serve them with avocado and roast tomatoes, prosciutto and a dollop of creme fraiche or hot smoked salmon and aioli.

This lovely recipe is from a blog called “Seasonal Ontario Food”. These pancakes are so delicious that I suggest this recipe makes only enough for a quick breakfast or lunch for 2 or 3 people. The mix can be made the night before.

Parsnip Buttermilk Pancakes

  •  1.5 c loosely packed finely grated parsnip (2 large or 3 small parsnips)
  • 1/4c wholemeal flour (I used spelt)
  • 1/2 tsp salt flakes
  • black pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4c buttermilk (OR 1/4c milk and 5ml apple cider vinegar)

Mix the parsnip, flour and seasoning in a bowl so that the flour is evenly dispersed. Make a well in the middle of the parsnip. Add the egg and the buttermilk and mix them and the parsnip with a fork until combined. Cook in a hot pan in a little olive oil until each side is golden brown. Place the cooked pancakes on paper towel to absorb any excess oil. Makes 8 pancakes.

roast cauliflower with satay sauce

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The recipes on this blog truly reflect how I like to cook and eat at home. Simple, one pan creations that don’t require half the day in the kitchen or leave you with a pile of pots to wash when you would rather be sitting on the lounge with a glass of wine cup of tea.

This is in such contrast to my years working as a chef. In a commercial kitchen, you spend hours preparing individual components for dishes, stacking the resulting dirty trays and pots in the sink for the kitchen hand to wash. So while I have NOT brought that workload into my home kitchen,  there are certainly some chef habits that just make my life easier. So each week I write our menu, shopping and prep lists and spend some time organising my mise en place.

At home, my mise equates to having a few things in the fridge that will help bulk out leftovers or turn a tin of tuna into a lovely lunch. Each Sunday night I try to make a loaf of buckwheat zucchini bread, a robust salad and a lovely sauce or puree to get me through the week.

Here I share the simple salad I made this week. Caramelised cauliflower dressed with the easiest satay sauce. Make double the amount of satay sauce and keep some in the fridge. Toss it through rice noodles with some chicken or tofu and mushrooms or use it as a dipping sauce for sweet potato chips.

Satay sauce

  • 1/3 c coconut cream
  • 1/4 c peanut butter (or a mix of any nut or seed butter)
  • 1 tb soy sauce
  • 1 tb rice malt syrup or honey
  • 1/2 lemon, juice of (or the juice of a lime)
  • 3 garlic cloves, roasted and crushed to a paste*

Heat the coconut cream and whisk in the remaining ingredients. Adjust the salt, sweetness and acidity to your liking and maybe add some chilli if that suits you.                                                                                                       *I roast the unpeeled garlic cloves with the cauliflower.

Roast cauliflower satay salad

  • 1 cauliflower, sliced or broken into florets
  • olive oil
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1/4 spanish onion, finely sliced
  • 1/4 bunch coriander, chopped
  • satay sauce from above recipe
  • OPTIONAL: toasted coconut, almonds or crushed peanuts, bean sprouts, chickpeas.

While the cauliflower is cooling, mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Add the cauliflower and toss well.

call me converted (cauliflower pizza)

caulipizzaphoto

Cauliflower pizza is the pizza you have when you’re not having pizza. Because, let’s be honest, it doesn’t bear much more than a passing resemblance to a thin and crispy margarita. It does, however, deserve to be appreciated for its own deliciousness.

A cauliflower pizza carries your favourite toppings beautifully and offers a rich, golden base, crispy around the edges. And if you are trying to eat more vegetables or get your wee ones to eat them, this is the perfect nutrient-dense meal for a quick week-night dinner. The base can be mixed the night before, ready to be baked when you get home from a busy day.

Cauliflower Pizza

Makes 2 large single-serve pizzas.

  • 260g (2c) riced cauliflower, cooked, cooled
  • 60g ( ½c) almond meal
  • 15g ( ¼c) nutritional yeast flakes or ¼ c grated parmesan
  • 1                 egg
  • fresh thyme leaves or dried oregano
  • salt flakes and black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Spread out into 2 circles approx. 16cm diameter. Bake in an oven at 200’C for 20-30 minutes until golden brown. Top with desired toppings and place back in the oven to heat through, another 5 or 10 minutes.

My favourite toppings? Per pizza – 2tsp tomato paste, roast eggplant, Sicilian olives, marinated mushrooms or red capsicum, anchovies, feta.