Posts Tagged ‘vegetarian’

Superfood Salad

Superfood Salad

I am one of those people that are always skeptical of anything “healthy and delicious”. I used to think those two words could never co-exist in the same plate, like “airline food” or “diet ice cream”. I must admit though, in the last few months I’ve had to eat my words, so to speak. I now love to challenge myself to find tasty and healthy food and my salad is the poster child for this. The “fitspiration” comes from a little cafe near where I work called “The Nook”. Smoked Trout, Watercress, Quinoa, Edamame, Beetroot…How can you go wrong with an ingredient list that sounds like a superfood checklist?

I hope I can convince you to try it – I know it’s a bold claim – is this really the best ever Superfood Salad? You’ll have to try it and let me know!

No particular recipe here today – just a general guideline on how I put this together.

Chunks of Black Pepper covered Hot Smoked Trout (or Salmon)
Hardboiled Egg (or a poached egg would be great)
Roasted Beetroot (sliced beetroot drizzled with olive oil and seasoned, then roasted for 25 min at 200c)
Toasted Pine nuts
Caramelized Balsamic Vinegar and a squeeze of lime to dress the salad

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Preview to SBS Food Safari:
Last year I was contacted by the producer of SBS Food Safari, only the best food show ever, asking if I would consider featuring a recipe for an episode on Filipino Food. I think it was on the back of some of the posts they had seen on the Kulinarya Cooking Club. There was certainly no way I would pass on this chance!

As we tried to decide which recipe to feature, the producer suggested Pinakbet. When I asked Georgie why she was interested in that recipe, she mentioned that it was one dish that really stood out as featuring unique ingredients that Australians wouldn’t have normally cooked with. She was right, Pinakbet is a traditional vegetable stew usually made up of okra, talong (eggplant), ampalaya (bitter melon), and shrimp paste. I could understand why the dish would be worth showcasing but at that time it was not exactly a dish I would consider as a top choice. In fact, it probably wouldn’t have even been in my top ten favourite Filipino dishes.

I didn’t grow up enjoying vegetables. In fact, as a child I used to think that whoever invented Pinakbet must have really hated children because it had all the bitter and slimy vegetables I detested. The only saving grace, I thought, was the crispy bits of pork belly that was sprinkled throughout the dish. But I was determined to make sure that I would practice making the dish several times before the actual filming date.

The funny thing is, I started to appreciate the slimy okra, the bitter ampalaya, and the eggplant. The tastes started to grow on me and I thought of it as an acquired taste. The same way I learned as an adult how to appreciate a beautifully bitter dark chocolate, where as a child I would have preferred a sweeter milk chocolate.

The day of the filming came and I can honestly say I was a convert to Pinakbet. I cook this dish regularly nowadays. Sometimes the prejudices of our youth prevent us from enjoying something special.

And about the show? Maeve, the host of SBS Food Safari, and her team were fantastic! They do so much to promote the many cultures and cuisines of Australia. I was worried that Maeve would have the same reaction to Pinakbet as I did when I was a child. I was so wrong. She absolutely loved it! And in case you’re wondering, Maeve is every bit as nice and beautiful in person as in the show.

Food Safari airs in Australia on 7 March 2013 on SBS One at 7:30 pm.

Recipe for Pinakbet can be found here.

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Color Run Salad

Two months ago my husband and I decided to go for a run in a park a few minutes away from the house. I still remember that morning as if it was just yesterday. I took my GPS watch so that we could measure the distance we would go. The area was really more of an oval but truth be told, I wasn’t able to measure the entire distance as we stopped around half way through. My husband was out of breath – after 190 meters. The next day we ran the entire oval then walked another round. Little by little we would progress around the oval until one day we could do three or four rounds without stopping or heaving for breath.

Sometime in mid-December we agreed that we would have a goal, and that was to run in the Color Run that would be held in the Sydney Olympic park in February. So off we trained, a few extra hundred meters at a time until we were running the five kilometers maybe three or four times a week.

My brother, who runs marathons as a pastime told us that “one day, running the five kilometers will come so easily that it will feel like nothing…” that day, was clearly not going to happen anytime soon. We would finish each run, muscles sore, sweating profusely and trying to catch our breath. There were days when we would feel like sleeping in but we would try to motivate each other with little quotes like “there will come a day when you will not be able to run… today is not one of them” or when it was rainy we would tell each other that “there was no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing”.

The Color Run is a five kilometer run loosely based on the Indian Holi festival. Everyone starts with a white T-shirt and each kilometer is associated with a designated color. As you run or walk (or dance) each kilometer, you are blitzed with color so that by the end of it, you look like some sort of colorful grunge art piece.

There is a reason that the Color Run is called the happiest five kilometers. The event itself was truly amazing. There were over 20,000 who participated and needless to say running through each color zone definitely made the run more fun. But what really inspired and motivated me was crossing the finish line with my husband. Here was someone who could barely run 200 meters just two months ago and was now finishing his first run. Something he never (ever) thought possible.

This salad was a recipe given to me by my Aunt Jenni. I am not sure what the origin of the salad was but I think one of her friends gave it to her. We used to call it the Qantas salad because someone said they used to serve this as part of the first class meals (I have never ridden first class so I can’t confirm). In any case, I’ve renamed it the Color Run Salad in honour of our first run together. It’s as tasty as it looks beautiful and it’s healthy too!

The Color Run Salad

  • 1/2 butternut pumpkin
  • 1 small sweet potato
  • 2 beetroots
  • 1 cup semi dried tomatoes
  • 2 cups spinach or rocket leaves
  • handful of pinenuts, toasted
  • 100 grams feta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon dried mixed herbs
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Peel and cube the pumpkin, sweet potato and beetroot into cubes. Toss with the olive oil, mixed herbs and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Roast the vegetables in the oven for around 25 to 30 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  3. To serve, combine the roast vegetables with the pinenuts, feta and spinach/rocket leaves.

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Zucchini Flowers Stuffed with Ricotta

Zucchini Flowers Stuffed with Ricotta

My husband and I like to go to a little Italian restaurant around the corner from where we live (well, more like in the next suburb to be exact). The other day we were heartbroken to find out that the restaurant would be moving. We said that we needed to go there as often as we could so as to enjoy their food until the big move. One of the specials on the menu were these zucchini flowers stuffed with a prawn and scallop mousse. Of course we ordered the dish! How was it? It was fantastic. Crisp batter and a beautifully light mousse.

Do you remember how my Mom, aka the blog monster, thinks she is part owner of this blog? Well now there’s my husband as well, who I like to think of as the aspiring blogger. The other day he came home with a packet of zucchini flowers and said he would stuff them like the dish we ate a few nights earlier. He said he planned to make a vegetarian version with ricotta and some fresh herbs from our garden.

So he prepared the zucchini flowers all by himself, the only advice I offered was for him to stuff them using a piping bag instead of a spoon. But I pretty much left him alone in the kitchen. A few minutes later I heard a click from the kitchen… then another click… click … click…

Curious, I went to have a look, to see my husband taking photos of the zucchini flowers with his iphone! I knew then and there I created another blog monster! But hey, if he keeps churning out dishes like this one, it will definitely be worth it!

Zucchini Flowers Stuffed with Ricotta, Herbs and Pine Nuts

Serves 4
These zucchini flowers are a nice vegetarian dish. The ricotta mousse was delicious with the chopped herbs and the pine nuts added some nice texture to the dish.

  • 8 zucchini flowers
  • 250 grams ricotta
  • 1 egg
  • 25 grams pine nuts, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons of mixed fresh herbs – basil, parsley, and mint
  • salt to taste
  • 160 ml ice cold water
  • 100 grams tempura flour
  • oil for shallow frying
  1. First remove the yellow stamens inside the zucchini flower by pinching it off.
  2. Make the ricotta mixture by combining the ricotta, egg, pine nuts, fresh herbs and salt to taste. Place in a piping bag.
  3. Pipe the ricotta mixture into each zucchini flower, making sure not to overfill the flowers. Twist the edge of the flowers to seal.
  4. Make the batter by combining ice cold water and the tempura flour. Mix lightly, around 5 to 6 times, making sure not to over mix the batter, it should stay lumpy.
  5. Heat the oil and dip the zucchini flowers into the batter and then carefully lower into the oil. Shallow fry the flowers for around a minute in each side until crispy. Drain on paper towels. Serve with lemon wedges and sprinkle with salt prior to serving.
Zucchini Flowers Stuffed with Ricotta, Herbs and Pine Nuts

Zucchini Flowers Stuffed with Ricotta, Herbs and Pine Nuts

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Crisp Brussel Sprouts with Lentils

Crisp Brussel Sprouts with Lentils

This evening for dinner we had lamb and brussel sprouts. My nephew, who is eight, did nothing to hide his dislike for the vegetable. His parents asked him to keep an open mind and despite his protests, insisted that he at the very least, have a little taste before saying he didn’t like brussel sprouts. So he found a little leaf and took a bite and declared that he didn’t like it.

“That little piece you ate was a mint leaf.” She said, and urged him to try again. So he found some of the little cabbage and maintained that he STILL didn’t like them.

Even if I had prepared the brussel sprouts, I have to admit I couldn’t blame him. I remember as an eight year old, I had my own biases against certain vegetables. I despised eggplants and okra. I thought that they were specially created as punishment for naughty kids. I still remember my parents saying I couldn’t leave the table until all the vegetables on my plate were finished. They said to think of all the “starving children”. In my naiveté, I thought, “Well, if there are so many starving children, take the vegetables on my plate and feed it to them!”.

I know there are many who have an aversion to brussel sprouts. But this dish from Porteno Restaurant is delicious. Deep fried brussel sprouts served with lentils and sprigs of mint and dressed with a sticky vincotto dressing – it’s enough to convert anybody (that is, of course, except my nephew).

Porteno’s Crispy Brussel Sprouts with Lentils

serves 10

  • 150 grams small green lentils
  • vegetable oil for deep frying
  • 2 kilos brussel sprouts, trimmed and halved
  • 1 1/2 cups mint, loosely packed, chopped
  • 100 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 50 ml fig vincotto
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon (or Hot) mustard
  • salt
  1. Place the lentils in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook until just tender, around 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Deep fry the brussel sprouts, around 4 to 5 minutes until the edges crisp and turn golden brown. Drain on absorbent paper. Season with some salt.
  3. Mix the olive oil, fig vincotto, mustard and a little more salt to taste.
  4. To serve, place the brussel sprouts in a large bowl, add the lentils, toss with the chopped mint and dressing.

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Pumpkin and Ricotta Lasagna

Pumpkin and Ricotta Lasagna

I had a friend who was visiting for a few days and I found out that she had stopped eating meat since the last time I saw her.  On a whim, I told her that I too would give up meat.   If you read my blog, you’ll notice that I’ve always loved cooking/eating meat and there are a considerable number of recipes penned here.  So while the decision to do this was initially born out of curiosity to see if I could last a few days, I knew lasting more than a week wasn’t going to be easy.  I don’t know how long this will last – a few more weeks?  Months perhaps?  Forever?  I’m not really sure but for the meantime, I’m starting to enjoy the challenge of making tasty and meatless dinners.

This is one of those meatless dishes that I could happily eat everyday.  Think layers of creamy pumpkin puree and ricotta in between sheets of homemade pasta – believe me – it’s enough to convert any carnivore.

A little note about the recipe – it’s very simple to put together – unless you’re like me where you want to complicate things and make your own pasta (it’s worth it though) – but if you’re pressed for time, use store bought lasagna sheets.  Also, the pumpkin puree is delicious as a side dish too.

“I’m vegetarian!” I told proudly told a  work colleague during drinks one day.

“Since when?”  he asked.

“Wait a second,” another friend interrupted.  “Didn’t you just put that pate in your mouth?”  She asked.

“Ahh… actually I still eat chicken… and sesafood.” I clarified.

Vegetarian… almost.

Pumpkin and Ricotta Lasagna

Pumpkin and Ricotta Lasagna

Pumpkin and Ricotta Lasagna with Sage, Hazelnuts and Burnt Butter Sauce

Serves 4

  • 1 kilo Pumpkin
  • 150 grams unsalted butter plus 50 grams butter
  • 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 400 grams ricotta
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 recipe pasta (see here)
  • 100 grams parmesan cheese
  • 10 sage leaves
  • 20 grams toasted hazelnuts
  1. To make the pumpkin puree, peel the pumpkin and diced into 2 inch cubes. Heat the 150 grams of butter in a pan and add the pumpkin once the butter is melted. Add the vanilla bean and scraped seeds and cook the pumpkin until soft enough that you can cut it with a spoon, around 20 minutes. Stir the pumpkin once in a while to make sure that the pumpkin doesn’t catch to the bottom of the pan. Once the pumpkin is soft enough, blend or process the pumpkin until smooth. Set aside.
  2. Mix the ricotta, egg and nutmeg together in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside
  3. Grease a baking pan with some olive oil and lay sheets of cooked pasta to cover the bottom of the pan. Layer a third of the pumpkin puree and top with more of the lasagna sheets.
  4. Top with a third of the ricotta mixture and the cover again with more lasagna sheets.
  5. Now add half of the remaining pumpkin puree and cover with the lasagna sheets. Add half of the remaining ricotta and again, more lasagna sheets. Finally, spread the remaining pumpkin puree and on top of this add the rest of the ricotta. Top with parmesan cheese.
  6. Bake the lasagna in a pre-heated oven at 180c (fan forced) for 30 minutes, or until the cheese is golden brown.
  7. Heat the remaining butter along in a small sauce pan until it goes nutty brown. Add the sage leaves and to crisp them up. Top with the toasted hazelnuts.
Pumpkin and Ricotta Lasagna

Pumpkin and Ricotta Lasagna

On another note, the Council of Italian Restaurants Association (CIRA) has just posted their latest class schedule for June/July/August.  If you are interested in attending any of their classes, email cira@cira.com.au or follow @italcira on twitter for more details.

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Vegetable Cake with carrots, broccoli and mushrooms

Vegetable Cake with carrots, broccoli and mushrooms

Dinner parties hosted by my family are a curious thing.  I grew up with a Mom who prepared for them with the same enthusiasm that sportsmen would train for the Olympics.  She would spend weeks planning and revising elaborate menus with no less than six or seven courses to be served.  Because we had a restaurant, it was easy for her to borrow some of the cooks to help out.  She would set up “stations” at different areas of the house.  One time there could be a grilling section where steaks were cooked to order for the guests.  Another station could be the carving station where she would serve maybe a suckling pig, or  a turkey and a ham.  Inevitably, the night would also end with a post-dinner commentary among ourselves about how the dinner went.  The assessment would go at length about whether the guests enjoyed the food, who went back for seconds (or thirds), who wore what, and god forbid, who didn’t show up when they said they would.  Then the wrap-up would end with a critique on what could be improved on for the next party.


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Roast Vegetable Frittata

Roast Vegetable Cake

What a year 2010 was!  As I reflect on the year that’s just past, I can’t help but feel grateful (despite many, many stressful moments) to be where I am at this point in my life.  My top five unforgettable moments this year:

1. Hong Kong in February  for a girls only weekend.  It was the first time in ages that we had an exclusive “girls”-cursion which included my Mom, sisters and aunt.  Lots of eating, shopping and bonding.  I could tell you more about what we did but what happened in Hong Kong, stays in Hong Kong…

2. Watching the birth of my nephew James – Last July I was with my sister and her husband when my nephew James was born after more than 13 hours in labour.  In exchange? I was given the honour of cutting his umbilical cord (well, more like my brother-in-law was too queasy to do it) and being named his godmother.

3. Teaching my first macaron class – In August I taught my first macaron class at The Essential Ingredient.  I was so worried about making sure my class ran smoothly that I actually took leave off work two days before the first class to practice, practice, and practice some more!

4. Moving homes is one of the most stressful things I did this year.  Especially when the move required two trips using a ten ton truck, a month of packing, twelve hours of moving,  and three days completely devoted to unpacking (we’re still unpacking bits and pieces until today).   There were times when I wondered to myself “is it worth it?”… looking around now, I can say it was definitely worth it.  But let me tell you, I never want to move homes again!

5. Changing Jobs –  I had reached a plateau with my previous job but I was also hesitant to make the change to do something new. With the encouragement of friends and family, I finally decided it was time to move on after four years.  I am extremely excited to be working with a committed and successful team when I get back to work in the new year.

So what’s instore for 2011?

I wouldn’t even want to take a guess because had someone told me this time last year that I would do any of the following: go to Hong Kong for a bonding session, be present for my nephew’s birth, teach a macaron class, move home or change job – I would have told them that they were crazy…. and to think I did all of that in the last year alone!

So whatever happens in 2011, I say bring it on.  If 2010 is any indication – it’s going to be an exciting year!

Roast Vegetable Frittata

Roast Vegetable Cake


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Basmati Risotto with Grilled Prawns

Basmati Risotto with Grilled Prawns (Tomislav Restaurant)

Is it persistence or stubbornness? Maybe both?

When I have an idea in my head, I’ll do whatever it takes to get it (all within legal means of course!) and I never back down from a dare.  Ever.

Every now and again these two traits can get me into trouble.  Like the time I confidently told my sister that I could get ourselves into the Qantas First Class lounge only to be evicted twenty minutes later as we were about to take a sip of our coffees (she never has forgiven me for that).

But more often than not, I try to channel these traits more noble pursuits.  Like finding a way to get a recipe for a dish I really enjoy, or getting a seat at a restaurant that is booked months in advance or experimenting with food or gadgets I’ve never used.

Introducing: Dare me…

This idea was born out of a conversation between me and my husband.   We were having dinner at Tomislav Restaurant the other night and I was blown away with the Basmati Risotto with Yamba Prawns.  “I wish there was a way to get my hands on this recipe.”  I told him.

“I dare you ask the chef for it.”  He said.  “You seem to get your hands on many of the recipes you like.” he added.  I wasn’t able to ask Chef Tomislav for the recipe that night (he had not yet arrived) but I managed to find the recipe anyway.  I made this dish twice in two days.  Yes, it was that good.  The first time I made it over the stove top, adding the chicken stock gradually as you would a regular risotto.  The next day I made the basmati risotto using the thermomix.  I’m pleased to report both techniques work as well as each other.

So here’s the first of hopefully a series of posts called : Dare me.

If you’re looking for a recipe that you really love – then dare me to find it for you. Just drop me an email or a comment at the end of this post and I’ll turn your craving into a fun challenge and get you that coveted recipe!

Tomislav’s Basmati Risotto with Prawns

  • 250 grams good quality Basmati Rice
  • 1000 to 1500 ml good quality hot chicken stock (homemade is best)
  • 125 grams unsalted butter
  • 10 ml soy sauce
  • 40 grams acidulated butter (see below)
  • 2 tablespoons mascarpone
  • Lemon Juice
  • Chopped Nori roll (1 sheet)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped chives
  • 200 grams prawns, chopped

Regular Method

  1. Place the butter in a wide surfaced pan and melt. Add the rice and toast for around 3 minutes until the butter is slightly browned and nutty. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Add the chicken stock (I only used 1000 ml but the recipe calls for 1500 ml) a little at a time and stir continuously for around 15 minutes. The rice will still have a little bite and remember that the dish will not be as creamy as a risotto using regular risotto rice.
  3. Once the rice is cooked, finish the dish by stirring in the soy sauce, acidulated butter, mascarpone, lemon juice, chopped nori roll and chives. Season with more salt and pepper if needed
  4. Grill the prawns and top the risotto with grilled prawns and grated lemon zest.

Using the Thermomix
FYI: I halved the recipe on the Thermomix

  1. Heat the butter at 100c on speed 3 for 2 minutes.
  2. Add the rice and heat for 5 minutes using the butterfly attachment on reverse and speed soft.
  3. Add the stock (I added 500 ml for 125 grams rice but feel free to add more stock if necessary towards the end of the cooking time) and continue to cook (butterfly attachment, reverse, speed soft) for 15 minutes.
  4. Add the soy, acidulated butter, mascarpone, lemon juice, nori and chives and give it another stir for 5 or so seconds on reverse, speed soft.
  5. Top with grilled prawns and lemon zest and serve immediately.

Acidulated Butter

  • 100 grams unsalted butter
  • 50 grams basmati rice

In a pan, melt the butter and add the rice and cook until nutty brown flavour is released. Pass this through a sieve. Set aside.

  • 90 ml white wine
  • 90 ml white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 finely chopped onion
  • 100 grams butter

Combine the onion, white wine and white wine vinegar and heat in a pan and reduce until the pan is almost dry. Take this off the heat and whisk in the butter until the butter is emulsified. Pass through a sieve.

Mix both butters and leave to set in the fridge for around 8 hours. You will have enough for several batches and this lasts a few days in the fridge.

Stumble It!

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