September 30, 2010

Vegetable Lasagna


As I mentioned, I have convinced my partner to have one fully vegetarian dinner a week (hey, it's a start!) I realised I have to come up with some pretty awesome vegetarian meals to convince him further, and THIS is definitely one of those meals. I reckon this vegetarian lasagne could turn the most wholehearted carnivore into a vegetarian!

Lately, I have been truly inspired and touched by a blog called Green Kitchen Stories, which is written by a lovely Swedish-Danish couple David and Luis. As much as their lifestyle is enviable, I think it is also achievable. I believe we can all make better choices in what we eat and how we live our lives, and if only there were more couples like David and Luise, I think this planet would be a much better place!

This recipe is adapted from one of their recipes which they called "World's Greatest Vegetable Lasagna". I am not to argue with that statement as I am convinced it truly was the greatest in the world, but as my recipe is an adapted version of theirs, maybe it is fair to call this "World's Second Greatest Vegetable Lasagna" ;-)

Thank you David & Luise (and the cutest little Elsa!) for the inspiration!


Vegetable Lasagna
(Adapted from the Green Kitchen Stories)

For the Tomato Sauce

2 tbs olive oil
1 medium sized onion, finely chopped
1 big clove garlic, finely chopped
6 medium sized tomatoes, blanched, peeled and cut into chunks
400g canned cherry tomatoes
2 tbsp French capers, chopped
3 tbs Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
pinch of dried sweet basil
freshly ground black pepper

1/2 small butternut pumpkin, peeled and cut into thin slices
10 big leaves of English spinach, washed

200g Gluten-free lasagna sheets

300g ricotta (7% fat)
zest of 1 organic lemon
juice of 1/2 organic lemon

100g mozzarella, grated

Start with the tomato sauce. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan, add the onion and the garlic and sauté for a few minutes. Add the tomatoes (fresh and canned), 100ml water, capers and olives, the sweet basil and black pepper and bring to boil. Turn down the heat and let simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.

Combine the ricotta and the lemon juice and zest in a bowl.

To assemble, lightly oil an oven dish (I used a round deep oven dish but you could use a rectangular lasanga dish), and place the first layer of lasagna sheets on the bottom. Top with some tomato sauce, 1/2 the pumpkin slices and 1/2 the spinach leaves. Place another layer of lasagne sheets on top, spoon over some tomato sauce, then top with some of the ricotta mixture. Alternate layers of lasagna sheets, tomato sauce, ricotta, pumpkin and spinach so that the last layer will be just lasagna sheets, tomato sauce and ricotta (in other words, place the pumpkin slices and the spinach leaves somewhere in the middle). Top with grated mozzarella and place in a preheated 180C oven for 1 hour. Once done, leave to cool slightly before cutting.

September 29, 2010

Chicken with Orange Pecan Dressing


While I eat only vegetarian food at home, I cook free-range chicken for my partner most nights of the week. Red meat is usually on the menu only once a week, and fish a couple of nights a week. I have also convinced him to have one fully vegetarian dinner a week (but really it's up to me since I'm the one doing the cooking anyway). But because I cook chicken so often, I try to come up with variety of different recipes. I like making chicken meatballs as well as those are so quick and easy to prepare and cook in the oven. You can easily alter the flavour in them by using different herbs and spices.

Although I'm serving chicken with this orange pecan dressing, it is most definitely suitable for vegetarian salads or even fish as well. The flavour is just so refreshing and delicious, I really recommend you give it a go!


Chicken with Orange Pecan Dressing
(Recipe adapted from 80/20 Diet by Teresa Cutter)

2 free-range chicken breasts, cut into pieces
2 tbsp olive oil, for frying
sea salt, freshly ground black pepper

60ml orange juice
1 orange, segmented
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp flaxseed (linseed) oil
1 small handful of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
30g pecans, chopped

baby spinach, to serve

Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the chicken and fry until cooked through. Season with salt and pepper. (Alternatively you can poach the chicken).

To make the dressing, combine all ingredients in a bowl, and stir well.

Serve the chicken with baby spinach (or rice) and drizzle with the dressing.

Enjoy!


September 28, 2010

Strawberry-Cocoa Soy Smoothie


If you happen to follow me on Twitter, you might have noticed my growing obsession with smoothies. Ever since I discovered how easy it is to make home-made soy milk, I have been experimenting with different delicious smoothie flavours. I have used a lot of strawberries since they are in season, but as we start to have more and more summer fruits (like mangoes!) available, I will most definitely be using them too.

The wonderful Coco Chocolate opened its store in Mosman just recently, and of course I had to pop in to buy a little treat. I decided to get a bag of cocoa nibs I had tried at the chocolate tasting evening. The cocoa nibs really give this smoothie a delicious, but slightest chocolate flavour and a beautiful fragrance, and it's 100% guilt-free! ;-)


Strawberry-Cocoa Soy Smoothie
(Serves 2)

250g strawberries, washed and hulled
1 tsp natural vanilla extract
1 tbsp organic maple syrup
1 tbsp unrefined cocoa nibs
700ml home-made soy milk

Place all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.


Enjoy!


September 27, 2010

Quinoa Pudding


I have been experimenting with quinoa lately, and I have found it surprisingly versatile! It makes wonderful salads, of course, but can also be used in a variety of other delicious ways.
This quinoa pudding reminds me of my favourite milk rice pudding I made some time ago, although the texture of quinoa is very different. This is quite a runny pudding, so if you prefer you could try using less milk (maybe just 3 cups instead of 4). I really recommend you wait until the next day to eat this, because the flavour and the texture really gets much better!

I love the cardamom in this pudding, and surprisingly we use this spice in Scandinavian cooking quite often. This pudding also hides my second love which is dried fruit (I also love nuts), so I was quite generous with the dried apricots. You could try using other dried fruit also, and by all means you can use red or white quinoa instead of the black variety that I'm using.


Quinoa Pudding
(Recipe adapted from Whole Living)

3/4 cup organic quinoa, rinsed
4 cups milk (use 3 if you prefer it thicker)
1/4 cup natural muscovado sugar
1/4 cup honey
2 large free-range eggs
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 cup sultanas
1/2 cup plump dried apricots, sliced

In a medium saucepan, bring 3 cups of the milk and the quinoa to boil. Turn down the heat and let simmer for about 15 minutes. In a bowl, mix together the rest of the milk, sugar, honey, eggs and cardamom. Pour the egg mixture into the quinoa while whisking continuously and let simmer (keep whisking) for another few minutes. Pour the pudding into a large dish and let cool. Place a glad wrap directly on the surface of the pudding, and place in the fridge for at least 2 hours, but preferably overnight.

September 26, 2010

Spiced Pumpkin, Cauliflower and Lentil Soup


Be it winter or summer I make soups almost weekly. It's often a pureed vegetable soup with a variety of vegetables I happen to have in the fridge. Pumpkin and lentil soup is one of my favourites, and this time I added some cauliflower for an extra veggie. Lentils really make these soups so velvety and smooth, there's absolutely no need to add any cream. I like the pureed soups very thick, but if you prefer them thinner, just add more stock. This soup freezes well too, so you can have it in the freezer ready for any hunger emergencies :-)


Spiced Pumpkin, Cauliflower and Lentil Soup

2 tbs olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

small knob of fresh ginger, grated

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp ground cumin
300g cauliflower, washed and cut into florets

approximately 1 kg butternut pumpkin, peeled, seeds removed and cut into chunks
1 cup red lentils

1 litre vegetable stock (or more if you prefer the soup thinner)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the onion, garlic and the ginger, and sauté for a few minutes. Add the spices and sauté for another minute (you can add a dash of water so that the spices won't burn). Add the cauliflower, pumpkin, lentils and the vegetable stock and bring to boil. Turn the heat down and let simmer for 15-20 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool slightly and puree using a blender or a stabmixer.

September 25, 2010

Quinoa with Golden Beets and Goat Cheese

I find colours so fascinating. I can't really paint, but in my work I have to deal with colours every day. When I'm drawing maps on my computer, I often have to decide what colours would look good on the map layout, and how everything on the map would look balanced. Of course there isn't that much I can change: the water needs to be blue, the roads usually have a pre-set range of colours to use, and so on. I think this fascination is one reason why I love cooking colourful food too. Eating different coloured foods is also a good way to have a balanced diet (and I'm not talking about eating different coloured m&m's :-)), and maybe a good way to get your kids eat those vegetables as well!

This quinoa salad has such vibrant colours, and the black quinoa and golden beets create a great contrast. You could certainly use white quinoa as well (to my understanding there is no significant difference in nutritional values), and use normal red beets instead of the golden variety. Goat cheese is such a classic with beets, and I've added some cashew nuts for texture. I've used this apple-balsamic dressing with beets before, and it goes lovely in this dish too!


Quinoa with Golden Beets and Goat Cheese

1 cup black quinoa, rinsed well
1 and 3/4 cup water
3 medium sized golden beets
60g goat cheese
small handful of cashew nuts, toasted

Apple-Balsamic Dressing

2 tbs caramelised balsamic vinegar
2 tsp organic apple cider vinegar
dash of fresh lemon juice

flat-leaf parsley, to serve

Wash the beets and cut of the stems leaving a few centimetres attached. Place the beets into a large saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to boil. Let simmer for 30-40 minutes or until just tender. Leave to cool. When cool enough to handle, peel of the skins and cut into pieces.

In a medium saucepan, bring the water to boil. Add the quinoa and let simmer for 20 minutes. Take off the heat and leave, covered for 10 minutes.

To make the dressing, combine all ingredients and mix well.

To assemble, mix the quinoa with the beets and spoon on a serving plate. Top with crumbled goat cheese, toasted cashew nuts and drizzle with the apple-balsamic dressing. For some extra colour, serve with fresh parsley.

September 24, 2010

Trout and buckwheat with basil lemon dressing


Most of the time I consider myself being a very practical girl. I wear practical shoes (with a 176cm frame I don't exactly need stilettos anyway), I make practical purchases (although some things are just meant to look pretty), and yes I sometimes even make practical decisions about cooking. This is why fish is often on the menu on Fridays as it isn't exactly friendly office food (it often has a fishy smell, to be exact). So often on Fridays I only make enough for dinner, with no leftovers to take for lunch the following day. Practical, I told ya'! ;-)


Trout and Buckwheat with Basil Lemon Dressing

300g trout fillet, deboned
1 cup buckwheat
1 shallot or Spring onions, green parts only, finely sliced

Basil Lemon Dressing
(Recipe adapted from Real Simple)

1/2 cup fresh basil
small pinch of sea salt
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

To pouch the trout, place the fillet in a frying pan, fill with water and bring to boil. Let simmer for 10 minutes or until the fillet is cooked through.

Bring plenty of water to boil in a medium saucepan. Add the buckwheat and let simmer for 5-7 minutes or until tender. Drain well.

To make the dressing, combine all ingredients in a bowl of a food processor and whiz until well combined.

To assemble the dish, break the trout into bite size pieces, and combine with buckwheat. Sprinkle with shallots and drizzle with the basil lemon dressing. Serve with a wedge of lemon.


Have a lovely weekend!


September 23, 2010

Toasted Almond Tofu Patties


Like most people who love cooking, I have an ever growing stash of recipes: some in the form of beautiful cookbooks, some in the form of retro recipe cards, some in magazines I've kept, some just written at a back of an envelope with nothing but a list of ingredients (which makes it even more exciting to cook because you can only guess what the outcome might be), but of course there are the digital recipes as well. I have a whole email inbox folder dedicated to recipes, I now (finally) have an iphone and a few recipe 'apps' in it, but I also seem to have recipes hidden on my memory stick. I had totally forgotten about this almond tofu burger recipe, and as I don't use my memory stick very often, I happened to find it only recently.

I really love tofu, and more often than not I seem to get some long looks in the office for munching on a big block of tofu. I think it's perfect office food: it doesn't smell, it doesn't make a crunchy noise when eaten, but it's filling and tasty on its own. It also makes great almond tofu patties, like these ones!


Toasted Almond Tofu Patties
(Recipe adapted from Epicurious)

350g hard (firm) tofu
1/2 cup grated carrot
2 shallots, finely sliced
a small knob of grated ginger
1/2 cup natural almonds, toasted
1 large free range egg white
3 tbs less salt soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp sesame seeds (toasted)
black pepper
olive oil, for frying

If using a less firm tofu, you need to wrap the tofu in a clean tea towel, place on a cutting board and weigh down with a board topped with weights for one hour to draw out the water. Transfer the tofu and the almonds in to a bowl of a food processor and whiz a few times to blend.

Heat a medium frying pan, add a tablespoon of olive oil and sauté the carrot, shallots and ginger until slightly softened. Mix the vegetables with the tofu, add the egg white, soy sauce, sesame oil and sesame seeds and combine well. Season with freshly ground black pepper. Shape the mixture into four patties.

Heat some olive oil in a frying pan, add the patties and cook until golden brown and heated through, a few minutes on each side. Serve with a fresh salad.

September 21, 2010

My Tribute to NOMA - Golden Beets with Goat Cheese and Walnuts

(Image: Phaidon Press)

Incredibly Inspiring


Even for someone like me who grew up in the Nordic region the new book NOMA: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine (Phaidon Press, $69.95, on sale 1 October) is truly inspiring and motivating. NOMA is a giant, gorgeous book with some of the best food photography, and no doubt some of the most innovative and captivating recipes I have ever seen. This is not just a recipe collection of the best restaurant in the world, it is also a story of how NOMA's founder and head chef Rene Redzepi's persistence has paid off, how what he so strongly believed in and worked for has finally been recognised as the best in the world.

The Nordic region is one of the cleanest on Earth. The water is crystal clear, the air is clean, and there is an abundance of beautiful wild berries, native mushrooms, as well as the sensational sea food and game. Although I might be a little bias this region to me, really means the best food in the world. Yet there are dimensions in Rene's recipes I could not have ever even thought of. His innovativeness is simply astonishing. There is a thought behind every detail of every recipe, and as a whole that is what creates the best of the bunch.

As a Cultural Geographer myself, I am loving the references to 'sense of place' that his food philosophy has. Rene has taken the limitations of this harsh climate and made them work to his advantage. He has sourced the whole of the Nordic region for the best produce, and even included a diary of his voyages. It is yet another personal touch to this impressive book.

Needles to say I absolutely love this book, and I think this book means a lot to me because I have the deepest appreciation for the Nordic region. I have experienced the harsh climate first hand, I have seen how limiting the environment can be, and reading through Rene's experiences it becomes clear how much hard work and perseverance it has taken for him to achieve this position in the world's culinary podium.

I made this golden beets with goat cheese and walnuts dish in NOMA's spirit. I sourced the local produce markets for the ingredients, and I felt like creating something joyful and colourful. This humble dish is of course not to be compared to the masterpieces Rene is creating, but it is my little tribute to NOMA, a way of honouring Rene's food ideology, and supporting the work that he is doing in bringing the Nordic food to the map of the culinary world.


Golden Beets with Goat cheese, walnuts and apple-balsamic vinegar

3 medium sized golden beets
60g goat cheese
small handful of walnuts
2 tbsp caramelised balsamic vinegar
2 tsp organic apple cider vinegar
edible flowers, to serve

Cut off the stems of the beets, leaving a few centimetres untouched. Wash the beets and place in a large saucepan. Fill with cold water, bring to boil on a stove top and let simmer for 30-40 minutes or until tender. Let cool, peal off the skins and cut into thin discs.

In a small frying pan, toast the walnuts lightly being careful not to burn them. Place the walnuts on a clean tea towel, and using the tea towel rub the walnuts gently between your hands to remove the skins.

Arrange the beets on a serving plate, scatter over crumbled goat cheese and walnuts. In a small bowl, combine the balsamic and the apple cider and drizzle over the beets. Serve with colourful edible flowers.

I cannot wait to see Rene Redzepi at the Sydney Opera House! Read below...

"Rene Redzepi’s once-only appearance on stage at the Sydney Opera House will leave you in no doubt why his Copenhagen restaurant Noma was voted number one in the world for 2010. In conversation with Crave Sydney International Food Festival director Joanna Savill and special guests Rene Redzepi will discuss his team’s extraordinary foraging and cooking methods as well as his fascinating, at times provocative, thinking on local food.

If you haven't yet got your tickets visit www.cravesydneyfoodfestival.com.au for the foodies' event of the year, kicking off the festival on Friday 1 October at 6.30pm in the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall.

Tickets cost $45 for entry only. Rene’s Sydney gig is part of his first international author tour promoting his book Noma: Time and place in Nordic cuisine and a special book-ticket package is just $85 (saving $29.95 on RRP). The book, published by Phaidon Press, includes more than 90 recipes and details Redzepi’s reinvention of Nordic cuisine, his obsession with fresh and local produce from across Scandinavia and his continuous search for new ingredients."

In the lead-up to Rene’s Sydney arrival, the team at Noma has been busy filming restaurant vignettes – whet your appetite by checking out these previous appearances.

S.Pellegrino World's 50 Best Restaurants 2010 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_pVMUIr1CBU

ABC News America http://abcnews.go.com/Nightline/rene-redzepi-best-chef-world-platelist/story?id=10919355

US journalist Mark Bittman and René discuss Nordic cuisine, the importance of foraging, and being the ‘world's best chef’ while Noma's staff busily prepares for an evening of packed tables and nearly 30 courses. http://www.kitchendaily.com/2010/07/13/noma-copenhagens-crown-jewel/

September 20, 2010

Ottolenghi's Roasted Butternut Squash with Burnt Aubergine and Pomegranate Molasses


Ottolenghi's simple food philosophy is something I really want to live by:

"We keep food as natural as possible (...),
we make best of what we have and don't interfere with it too much"


This is food realism, keeping it simple, not playing with food, and honouring the real flavours. This is exactly what I live for. Keeping this in mind I cannot stop braising the genius behind the Ottolenghi recipes. They are just deliriously tasty, well balanced and wholesome. Take this roasted butternut pumpkin with burnt aubergine and pomegranate molasses, for instance. I am not the one glorying my own makings, but since I cannot take the credit for this wizard of flavours, I can honestly and wholeheartedly say this was possibly one of the best meals I have ever had.

There is the humble roasted pumpkin which already on its own is one of the best things I can imagine having. Combine that with the toasted seed mix and enjoy with the most amazing dip, you'll get the idea of what I'm talking about.

You have to try this!


Roasted Butternut Squash with Burnt Aubergine and Pomegranate Molasses
(Recipe from Ottolenghi, The Cookbook)

1 large butternut squash
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp green, unsalted pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp sunflower seeds
1 tbsp black sesame seeds
(1 tsp nigella seeds)
10g sliced almonds
basil leaves, to serve
sea salt, freshly ground black pepper

Sauce

1 medium aubergine
150g (I used less, about 100g) Greek yoghurt
(I used plain Organic yoghurt)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 tbsp pomegranate molasses (I love this stuff!)
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp flat-leaf parsley, chopped
(1 garlic clove, crushed)

Preheat oven to 220C. Trim the top and the bottom of the pumpkin and cut in half lengthways. Scoop out the seeds and cut each half into 3cm wedges. Cut each wedge into pieces about 5-7cm long. Place the pumpkin wedges on a roasting tray lined with baking paper, brush each wedge with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Roast for 30 minutes or until they feel just tender. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Reduce the oven temperature to 180C. Mix together all seeds and almonds and scatter on a roasting tray. Toast for 5-8 minutes or until slightly brown and fragrant (be careful not to burn them!)

For the sauce, place the aubergine under a very hot grill for about 30minutes or until the skin has clearly cracked and the aubergine feels heavy and soft. Remove from the oven, make a long cut through the aubergine and scoop out the flesh. Leave the flesh to drain in a colander for a few minutes, then chop the aubergine flesh roughly.

In a bowl, mix together the parsley, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, aubergine and the yoghurt. Season with extra salt and pepper if you wish (I didn't have to).

Place the butternut on a serving plate, sprinkle with the seed mix and serve with the aubergine sauce.

Enjoy to the fullest!

September 19, 2010

Apple & Walnut Loaf


Weekends often feel like a marathon in my household: there is a lot of housework to catch up on, friends to catch up with, outdoor exercise to do and at the same time I would like to spend as much time in the kitchen as I can. It's no exaggeration to say that I often feel like I need an extra day to relax after my weekend, and I think many people would in fact agree with this.


This is why it is nice to include some indulgence in my weekends. Whether it some impulse shopping I can do, a rare occasion of a massage or a nice cake like this apple & walnut loaf. You don't need to slave in the kitchen for hours making this cake, it does not include complex icing or decorations, it is just a few ingredients put together and an hour later enjoyed with a nice cup of tea.


Apple & Walnut Cake
(Recipe adapted from taste.com.au)

125g unsalted butter, softened
220g brown sugar
1 tsp natural vanilla extract
2 free-range eggs
2 Granny Smith apples
225g spelt flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
125ml milk
60g walnuts, finely chopped
1 tbs brown sugar, extra

Preheat oven to 170C and grease a loaf pan (9,5cm x 19cm). Using electric beaters, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs one by one beating well after each addition. Peel and core one apple and cut into small dice. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, 1 tsp of cinnamon and baking powder. Add the flour mixture into the butter mixture alternately with the milk mixing well but gently. Add in the apple dice and the walnuts and combine well. Pour the batter into the loaf pan. Peel the other apple, cut in half and remove the core. Cut the halves into thin slices and place on top of the cake. Sprinkle with extra sugar and cinnamon and bake for one hour or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Indulge!

September 17, 2010

Finnish Summer Soup - Simply Scandinavian


Earlier this week I received a beautiful book in the mail called Simply Scandinavian - Travelling in Time with Finnish Cuisine and Nature. This visually stunning book is created by two Finnish men: Kimmo Saira and Tero Kallio, and their goal in this book is to create the most traditional Finnish recipes, using the most traditional ingredients, but do so with a modern international twist. I think in many ways this is the culmination of Finnish mentality today. We are a very small, but a very proud nation, and we wish to maintain our heritage and culture, but we also want to be part of the international sphere.

I am amazed by the creativity of the recipes in this book. There are some truly traditional ingredients, including bark flour which is made out of the bark of a tree! Other traditional ingredients include a variety of wild berries and mushrooms, and of course reindeer and moose meat. These ingredients are a vivid reminder of how unique this part of the world is in its harsh climate, and how strongly the Finnish history still lives in the minds of all the Finns.

You don't have to be a Finn to love this book and feel so strongly about it. It is visually stunning, and cuts across the core of Finnish culture and cuisine. This is admittedly more of a coffee table book than a practical cookbook, but you are most definitely able to re-create these recipes even outside Finland. I think this book makes a magnificent gift for all those not only interested in Finnish food, but Scandinavia as a whole, and Scandinavian culture, nature and design.

I picked this beautiful soup recipe from the book because I've been meaning to make this for a while now. It is such a classic dish, and many Finns would associate it with childhood, others having bad memories of it, and others loving it. You can probably guess which group I belong to ;-)


Finnish Summer Soup
(Recipe from Simply Scandinavian by T. Kallio & K. Saira
Published by Raikas Kustannus, 2008)

500ml water
200g carrots, peeled and chopped
300g new potatoes, chopped
200g cauliflower, washed and cut into flo
2/3 cup green peas
500ml milk
1 1/2 tbs plain wheat flour
salt
small handful of fresh parsley, to serve

In a medium saucepan, bring the water to boil. Add the carrots, and the potatoes, season with a pinch of salt and let simmer for a few minutes. Add the cauliflower and the peas and simmer for 7-10 minutes. Whisk the flour with the milk and add into the soup. Let simmer until the vegetables are tender. Serve with fresh parsley.

Thank you so much to Kati Lähdemäki at Kirjakaari for sending this book to me.

For all details on how to order this book, please visit www.raikaskustannus.fi

September 16, 2010

The Simplest Poached Salmon & Potato Salad


I am all for creating healthy and delicious meals at home even when life is at its busiest. In my mind there is no excuse for getting take-away when you can cook a home-made meal with less time, effort and cost. Admittedly this is easier if you happen to be an organised person. I always have ingredients in my freezer, fridge or pantry to whip up a proper meal, and when some might argue my 447 litre fridge looks full it can still look empty to me. That gives you an idea of how fully stocked it usually is.

This simple poached salmon and potato salad is definitely one of those quick and healthy meals.
You can of easily amend this by using a different type of fish, you could use broccolini or asparagus instead of green beans, and even use pasta instead of potato. The point is there are only a few ingredients, and yet it still is a full, healthy meal.


The Simplest Poached Salmon & Potato Salad

300g salmon or trout fillet, deboned
200-300g chat potatoes, washed
100g green beans, washed and tips cut off
few sprigs of fresh dill, for serving
lemon wedges, for serving

Vinaigrette

2-3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp (or to taste) lemon juice
tiny pinch of sea salt
freshly ground pepper, to taste

Place the fillet of salmon in a medium frying pan and cover with cold water. Bring to boil and let simmer for 10-15 minutes or until cooked through. Place the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to boil and let simmer until cooked through. Set aside to cool. In a small saucepan, bring some water to boil, add the green beans and boil for just a couple of minutes. Drain and immediately rinse with cold water. To make the vinaigrette, place all ingredients in a small bowl and whisk well to combine.

To serve, fork the cooked salmon into bite sized pieces. Cut the potatoes in half or quarters, and half the beans. Assemble on plates, add the dill and drizzle with the vinaigrette. Serve with additional lemon wedge on the side.

September 15, 2010

Soy Berry Smoothie


It is no secret that I love dairy. I think it's partly due to my Finnishness because dairy really is a big thing in Finland. Not a single day goes by without me having some dairy, usually in the form of milk, yoghurt or cheese. Lately I've swapped my milk to lactose-free milk due to my partner's trial diet, which has been fine until I suddenly got a craving for soy milk. We used to drink mostly soy milk at one stage, but then swapped back to regular low fat cow's milk, and when I now went back to buy a carton of soy milk I realised just how many additives and how much sugar it actually contains. So back in the shelf for the milk and instead I bought a whole kilo of raw soy beans!

Making soy milk is not a traditional Finnish thing, and soy is not as big in Finland as it is, say in Japan or other Asian countries. In fact, tofu is still ridiculously expensive even compared to the Australian prices! I recently had fresh soy milk made by my Singaporean friend, and I really loved it, although her version was quite a bit sweeter than mine!

I can guarantee making soy milk is not hard, and most definitely worth it! I whipped up these delicious soy berry smoothies while cooking dinner, and I have to say it was hardly any extra effort at all. Just remember, you need to start this recipe a day before you serve it. I haven't added any sugar to these smoothies and I honestly don't think you need to. The berries have their own natural sweetness and the natural vanilla adds to it.


Soy Berry Smoothie
(Serves 2)

125g soy beans (will make litre of milk)
water

300g mixed frozen berries (raspberries, blueberries)
1/2 tsp natural vanilla extract

Soak the beans overnight in plenty of fresh water. The following day, drain the beans, transfer to a bowl and microwave for 2 minutes on high. Add one litre of water in a large mixer bowl, add the beans and process until smooth. Sieve the mixture through a fine sieve or through a cheese cloth and recover the soy milk. Put the soy milk in a medium saucepan and bring to boil. Let simmer for 5-10 minutes. Leave to cool. Place the cooled down soy milk in a food processor, add the berries and the vanilla extract and process until smooth and frothy.

September 14, 2010

Zucchini with Avocado Pesto


It may not come to you as a surprise to hear that I used to be a vegetarian. It wasn't as much as a conscious choice as it was just a natural progression of my lifestyle: I have always been very active and health-conscious, and essentially I just didn't feel well eating large amounts of meat. My vegetarian days lasted for a good few years, but when I moved to Sydney I felt it was easier for everyone that I included some meat in my diet. To this day I still eat vegetarian meals 90% of the time.

As much as my partner is unbelievably flexible when it comes to food (he eats pretty much anything I put in front of him), he does prefer his protein in the form of lean meat. Last time I made him a fully vegetarian dinner I mentioned it was because he had told me he was going to opt for one vegetarian day a week. He replied "Was I? I think it was your thought honey, not mine"... So admittedly there is still a bit of work to do in convincing him to give up meat ;-)

This pesto recipe is, in my mind, almost revolutionary. I love pesto, but often feel it can get a bit heavy with all the oil and the parmesan. Why I never thought to use avocado to achieve the creaminess, I don't know, but I'm glad I found this recipe, because I don't think I'll ever go back to the normal pesto again! This pesto is lovely with zucchini, but I see no reason why you couldn't have it with fish, chicken or pasta.


Zucchini with Avocado Pesto
(Recipe adapted from the 80/20 Diet by Teresa Cutter)

1/2 avocado, peeled and stoned
1 garlic clove, crushed
juice of one lime
juice of 1/2 lemon
small handful basil

small handful flat-leaf parsley

20g green, unsalted pumpkin seeds

40g natural almonds, chopped

1 tsp honey

pinch of sea salt


4 small zucchini

200g cherry tomatoes, halved

1/2 small handful flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped 1 tbs balsamic vinegar

To make the pesto, put the avocado, garlic, lime and lemon juice, herbs, pumpkin seeds, almonds and honey in a food processor. Process until smooth, add 30ml water, and season well with freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of salt.

Cut the zucchinis into thin strips (julienne) and place into a large bowl. Add the pesto and toss well. In a small bowl, combine the tomatoes with the parsley and the balsamic, toss and spoon on top of the zucchini.

September 13, 2010

Chickpea Salad with Orange & Cinnamon Dressing


Last weekend I took my partner and his parents to the Healthy Chef Cafe in Avalon. The menu was bursting with whole foods, organic produce and delicious choices! I don't think I've ever had such a difficult time deciding which dish to order as I did there. I finally settled for a roasted beetroot salad and had an antioxidant smoothie to go with it. The food was absolutely delicious and I felt so good, happy and energetic afterwards!

It is exactly those feelings that I'm after when I cook in my home kitchen too. I opt for balance in flavours, but it is also important for me to use the best ingredients I can get and afford. I choose organic or free range products whenever I can, and I would love to buy even more local produce.

This fabulous chickpea salad is a recipe from the Healthy Chef's cookbook (The 80/20 Diet by Teresa Cutter). The book is full of delicious whole food recipes so I'm sure I'll be trying quite a few of them in the near future!


Chickpea Salad with Orange & Cinnamon Dressing
(Recipe adapted from the 80/20 Diet by Teresa Cutter)

400g raw chickpeas, soaked in plenty of water overnight
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 small handful mint, finely chopped
1/2 red onion, finely sliced
50g low-fat Danish feta cheese
6 dried, plump apricots, sliced
20g flaked almonds, lightly toasted

Orange & Cinnamon Dressing

juice from 1/2 lemon
1 garlic clove, crushed
zest from 1 organic orange
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp ground cumin
pinch of ground cinnamon
pinch of sea salt
lemon extra virgin olive oil

Drain the chickpeas, fill the saucepan of chickpeas with water and bring to boil. Let simmer for 30 minutes or until tender. Drain and rinse under cold water. Combine the chickpeas, tomato, mint, onion and apricots in a bowl. Top with crumbled feta and lightly toasted almonds. In a small bowl, mix the dressing ingredients together and pour over the salad. Toss well and serve.