Eat, Fast and Live Longer. A 5-2 Fast Diet Meal Idea Under 300 Calories. Warm Winter Roasted Root Vegetable Salad With ‘Greens’ Pesto

Warm Winter Roast Root Vegetable Salad

If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again, the key to eating  happily and well on a 5-2 fast day is to eat seasonally, loading  up your plate with as much bright and vibrant, bursting with flavour produce as you can. Here is another “accidental” 5-2 offering thrown together for a family Sunday lunch. Inspired by a cross between my roasted chipolata sausage tray bake  (something of an institution in our family – served regularly either as a lazy Sunday night dinner option or to use up any leftover vegetables lingering in the crisper of our fridge before a major restock) and a warm roasted root vegetable salad on offer at one of my favourite seaside cafes Three Blue Ducks.

I love the idea of this salad. It takes a blank canvas of a medley of roasted whole root vegetables, providing layer upon layer of  flavour with a clever use of herbs and spices. Very little is wasted. The carrot tops and beetroot leaves are saved and stripped from their stalks to be used in two delicious and fresh tasting pestos. I’m amazed at how using exactly the same process and varying just one ingredient – the carrot tops or beet greens the result can be so deliciously different in terms of colour, texture and flavour.

Warm Winter Roast Root Vegetable Traybake

If truth be told, I had originally planned to serve this salad as a side for a little grilled chicken. I prepared my tray of root vegetables, popped them in the oven, promptly transformed the “greens” into pesto, and as so often happens became distracted. By the time I added cherry tomatoes and long green onions to the tray for the final 10 minutes of roasting, I decided to forgo the chicken, opting to pair my gorgeously rustic salad with a loaf of seeded sourdough bread.

Brought to the table it was met with a chorus of “Is this another of those 5-2 fast day meals?”. Well perhaps not so politely.

Warm Winter Roast Root Vegetables

Why is it chez nous that a meatless meal is so often perceived to be a fast day offering? I can attest that no-one at the table went hungry.  To prove the point, look at all that remained of my enormous tray of my warm winter roasted root vegetable salad – enthusiastically devoured by a family of five for Sunday lunch.

Interestingly, calorie counted out this salad easily met the fast day brief. A huge plateful judiciously dolloped with a little of each of the pesto sauces came in at a surprisingly low 250 calories per serve. Rustic, delicious and filling, it’s an easy crowd pleaser.  Just make sure it’s served with  plenty of fresh sourdough bread and extra pesto on on the side for those feasting not fasting.

Warm Winter Roast Root Vegetable Salad With Pesto

Warm Winter Roasted Root Vegetable Salad With ‘Greens’ Pesto
Serves 6 generously (250 calories per serve)

600g baby beetroots, scrubbed and quartered – keep beet leaves to make pesto (258 calories)
1 bunch (300g) Dutch baby carrots scrubbed – keep carrot tops to make pesto (106 calories)
500g butternut pumpkin, skin on, seeded and cut into wedges (130 calories)
2 medium(200g)  parsnips, scrubbed and cut into 6 wedges each (150 calories)
2 red capsicum, seeded and sliced into 6 wedges each (60 calories)
3 medium red onions, peeled and cut into 6 wedges each (138 calories)
1 garlic bulb, unpeeled cloves separated (32 calories)
2 long red chillies, roughly chopped, seeds and all (36 calories)
3 sprigs rosemary, leaves stripped from stems and roughly chopped (6 calories)
a dozen small sprigs thyme, leaves stripped from stems (6 calories)
2 tablespoons olive oil (240 calories)
2 tablespoons paprika (36 calories)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 punnet cherry tomatoes (54 calories)
4 long green spring onions, cut into 4cm lengths (40 calories)

To serve
3 tablespoons carrot greens pesto(recipe follows) (103 calories)
3 tablespoons beet greens pesto(recipe follows) (103 calories)

PREHEAT oven to 190 C. Line a large oven tray with baking paper.
PLACE prepared beetroot, carrots, pumpkin, parsnips, capsicum, red onions, garlic, chilli, rosemary and thyme onto the baking paper lined tray.
SPRINKLE over paprika, a couple of generous pinches of sea salt and a good grinding of  black pepper. Drizzle over olive oil. Toss gently to lightly coat all the vegetables.
PLACE baking tray in preheated oven and roast for 20-25 minutes.
REMOVE tray from oven, scatter cherry tomatoes and spring onions evenly over the tray. Return to oven and bake for a further 10-15 minutes until tomatoes are blistered and spring onions soft.
TO SERVE, squeeze roasted garlic from its skin and dollop over 3 tablespoons each of carrot and beet greens pesto.

Warm Winter Roast Root Vegetable Salad With Carrot Top and Beet Leaves Pesto

For the Carrot or Beet Greens Pesto
Makes a generous cup or 16 tablespoons (34 calories per tablespoon)

1 ½  cups lightly packed carrot or beet greens, picked from the stem (33 calories)
1 large garlic clove (4 calories)
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted (116 calories)
zest and juice of ½ lemon (6 calories)
3 tablespoons olive oil (360 calories)
1/3 cup (35g) freshly grated parmesan (144 calories)
a generous pinch of sea salt and good grinding of pepper

PULSE garlic and pine nuts in a food processor until a coarse paste forms.
ADD greens, lemon zest and juice, and 3 tablespoons olive oil. Process until you have a chunky pesto. Adjust consistency using a little water, if necessary.
STIR through parmesan cheese and season with sea salt and pepper.
STORE in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week or freeze in small ziplock bags as needed.

Posted in Vegetarian, What I Love to Cook | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Inspired By Nigella. Christmas In July. Spiced Gingerbread Blondies.

Christmas In July Spiced Ginger Blondie

This week I became custodian of our family’s Christmas pudding bowl and associated accoutrements. In amongst the carefully wrapped packages were shiny silver pennies and a gorgeous array of miniature  Nigella-esque  reindeer and fir tree decorations.  I’ve written before about how one of the enduring pleasures of this blog has been scribing closely guarded recipes that  grace the table at family  celebrations, transcending  the test of time, so it goes without saying that I was beyond delighted and honoured to receive this very special gift.

Unwrapping the reindeer, the first image that sprung to mind was the glorious sticky gingerbread in Nigella’s Christmas. The figurines looked almost identical to those used to style her bake. I’m not sure where my copy of the cookbook has disappeared, it’s bright red spine certainly wasn’t visible in a quick scan of my groaning bookshelf, perhaps it’s been borrowed or simply misplaced.

No matter,  inspired by Nigella, I was determined to recreate my own little Christmas gingerbread tableau, complete with Rudolph and his bright red glowing nose. Taking the easy route I rustled up a quick mix spiced gingerbread style blondie. The result was stunning – deliciously rich, soft and fudgy . With the winter weather outside just frightful and a large part of our state uncharacteristically covered in snow courtesy of a severe cold front, what better excuse for an impromptu Christmas in July celebration.

Spiced Gingerbread Blondies
Makes 16 squares

Dry Ingredients
2 3/4 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground cinamon
3cm knob fresh ginger, finely grated
finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon

Wet Ingredients
225g unsalted butter
1 cup dark soft brown sugar
1/3 cup golden syrup
1/3 cup  dark treacle
2 large free range eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

sifted icing sugar, for dusting

PREHEAT oven to 180 C. Butter a 20cm square tin, then line with baking paper, leaving a generous overhang for easy removal of the blondie once baked. Set aside.
MELT butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently until the mixture bubbles and foams, and milk solids begin to separate. Continue to cook until nut brown. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
IN A MIXING BOWL combine flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, ground ginger, cardamom and coriander with finely grated lemon zest and fresh ginger. Set aside.
IN A SEPARATE BOWL, beat together burnt butter, brown sugar, golden syrup, treacle, eggs and vanilla until smooth and creamy.
FOLD dry ingredients into wet until just combined.
POUR batter evenly into the prepared baking tin.
Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, golden, puffed and slightly cracked on top. A toothpick inserted into the centre should come out with a few soft sticky crumbs.
WHEN cool cut into squares. Dust with icing sugar.

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Eat, Fast and Live Longer. A 5-2 Fast Diet Recipe Idea Under 300 Calories. Kale and Bacon Frittata Dressed With a Fresh Kale and Fennel Salad.

Kale and Bacon Frittata  Dressed With A Kale and Fennel Salad

One of the easiest and most satiating 5-2 fast day meal ideas has to be frittata. Whisk a few eggs and generously fill your skillet with any  variety of seasonal produce and a little cheese. The possibilities are endless, bounded only by your imagination and what is fresh and abundant at the markets.

Plunged into the depths of winter and a freezing cold snap, kale has become my leafy green of choice. It’s a brilliant substitute for soft lettuce leaves in all manner of  salads. Stripped from their stalks and shredded, the bright emerald leaves are effortlessly massaged into deliciously sweet silky softness with a little olive oil and lemon. It’s fair to say this super green has now become something of a staple on my winter menus.

Gorgeous as it might be fresh and raw in my salads, kale is equally wonderful sauteed, Italian style with a little onion, garlic and bacon. Cooked down it collapses and wilts much like spinach or silverbeet. What seems to be a huge pile of shredded kale at first glance quickly  decreasing in volume as it touches the heat.

In today’s 5-2 fast day frittata idea, I’ve taken a whole bunch of kale and combined the best of  both worlds. Two thirds of the stripped and shredded leaves sauteed as the basis of a filling for my frittata, the remainder duly massaged with lemon and olive oil  and tossed with shaved fennel to make a tangy little salad garnish. The result? 275 calories of nutritious deliciousness. What’s not to love about that?

Kale and Bacon Frittata Topped With a Fresh Kale and Fennel Salad

Kale and Bacon Frittata Dressed With a Fresh Kale and Fennel Salad
Serves 4 (275 calories per serve)

For anyone not feeding a family or looking for a smaller portion size, included at the bottom of the recipe is an option for individual frittatas baked in the oven in Texas muffin tins at just 137 calories per serve. These are suitable to freeze, dress with salad just before serving after frittatas have been thawed and reheated.

I small bunch (about 5 cups) kale, rinsed and dried, ribs removed, leaves thinly sliced crosswise (170 calories)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided  (240 calories)
1/2 small brown onion, finely diced (15 calories)
1clove garlic, finely sliced (4 calories)
3 short cut (lean) rashers bacon, rind removed (138 calories)
5 eggs (375 calories)
4 tablespoons grated cheddar cheese (116 calories)
1 baby fennel bulb (33 calories)
finely grated zest and juice of half a small lemon (6 calories)
sea salt and freshly  ground black pepper

PREHEAT oven grill to high.
HEAT one and a half tablespoons oil in a heavy based 18cm non-stick ovenproof frypan over medium heat. Reserve the remaining olive oil to dress the kale and fennel salad.
ADD onion, bacon and garlic and sauté until the onion has softened but not browned.
ADD 3 cups of shredded kale, reserve the remaining 2 cups for the salad. Sauté for about 5 minutes, until wilted but still a vibrant green.
MEANWHILE whisk eggs until just combined. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and stir in grated cheese.
ADD egg and cheeses mixture to the pan, tilting the pan as you pour to ensure an even spread over the kale, bacon and onion mixture.
REDUCE heat to low and continue to cook the frittata on the stovetop for 10 minutes or so until almost firm.
REMOVE from stove and place under a hot grill for a few minutes until the frittata is golden and puffed.
PLACE remaining 2 cups of shredded kale into a large bowl and toss with remaining half tablespoon olive oil, lemon juice and zest and a generous pinch of sea salt. Massage with your fingertips for a minute or two until kale is shiny and well-coated. The leaves should be a little darker in colour and volume decreased by a third.
USING a mandolin or very sharp knife very finely slice or shave fennel bulb. Add to kale and toss gently to combine.
TO SERVE, allow frittata to cool a little and dress with kale and fennel salad just before bringing to the table.

Alternatively bake individual frittatas (137 calories per serve) as follows:

PREHEAT oven to 180°C. Grease 8 holes of two large texas muffin trays ( 3/4 cup capacity per hole), and line the bases of each hole with a circle of baking paper to ensure the frittata doesn’t stick.
DIVIDE sauteed kale, bacon and onion mixture evenly into prepared muffin cups. Pour over cheese and egg mixture and bake for 20 minutes or so until golden brown and puffed.
ALLOW to cool a little before removing from the tin. Top each frittata with a little kale and fennel salad. Serve.

Posted in Eggs, Salads, What I Love to Cook | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

So Light. So Lovely. So Simple. Lemon Scented Ricotta Fritters

Lemon Scented Ricotta Fritters

Sometimes even I surprise myself. Another dreary winter’s afternoon. Yet again my rather peckish household was on the hunt for something sweet to eat with a hot drink. Of course, like a plague of locusts they’d already stripped my cupboards  of all but the barest staple pantry ingredients.  This is where the magic and age old wisdom of  my collection of Italian nonna recipes come to the fore. I put together this plate of light and lovely lemon scented ricotta fritters together in less than 30 minutes, including foraging time as I contemplated the contents of my rather limited pantry.

There’s a lot to be said about the beauty of simple, old fashioned recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation. By word of mouth and later pen to paper. Translated and invariably updated they use the most  basic of ingredients and techniques to produce something truly special. There was a huge sense of satisfaction in bringing these to the table. So light, fluffy and lovely, yet so simple to make. I served them simply dusted with icing sugar but they would be awesome with lemon curd, rhubarb and strawberry compote or a salted caramel sauce.

Trouble sourcing gorgeously fresh ricotta? Like a good Italian nonna you could try making your own – it is deceptively easy and takes no more than 2o minutes. Here’s the link for a tried and true recipe for home-made ricotta previously posted to the blog  I love the light creaminess of ricotta and always have a tub in my fridge. It’s the secret ingredient that  adds a gorgeous depth of flavour and beautiful fluffiness to these fritters.

I managed to shield these fluffy morsels from the circling seagulls just long enough to take the requisite photo. You should also know that whole plateful disappeared before I had time to boil the kettle for a cup of tea.

Lemon Scented Fritters

Lemon Scented Ricotta Fritters
Makes about 2 dozen

3/4 cup self raising flour
4 tablespoons caster sugar
finely grated zest of one lemon
generous pinch of salt
1 cup whole milk ricotta
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
icing sugar, for dusting
4 cups canola or any unflavoured vegetable oil, for frying

STIR together flour, sugar,  lemon zest and salt in a large mixing bowl until well combined.
WHISK together ricotta, eggs and vanilla extract in another bowl until  fluffy and smooth.
ADD wet ingredients to dry, beat together with a wooden spoon to combine. Batter should be of a soft dropping consistency. Set aside for 10 minutes to rest.

To Fry The Fritters

POUR  oil into a medium sized  heavy saucepan and  heat to 180 C.If you don’t have a thermometer, test the temperature with a small cube of bread. When dropped in the oil it should turn golden brown in about a minute.  Once the oil reaches the correct temperature, reduce the heat to medium low, to avoid burning the fritters as the temperature of the oil will continue to rise.
CAREFULLY drop rounded teaspoonfuls  of the batter into the oil in batches, no more than 4 or 5 at a time to avoid overcrowding the pan. The fritters will puff up and double in size.
FRY, turning once or twice, until puffed and golden brown on all sides, about 3 or 4 minutes per batch.  Adjust heat as necessary as you cook – if the oil is too hot the fritters will brown too quickly on the outside but remain raw on the inside. Bring the oil back to 180 C before starting each new batch.
REMOVE fritters  from oil with a slotted spoon and drain well on paper towels before dusting with icing sugar. Serve hot.

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Eat, Fast and Live Longer. A 5-2 Fast Diet Recipe Idea Under 100 Calories. Orange Scented Double Cacao Hazelnut Bliss Bombs.

Orange Scented Double Cacao Hazelnut Bliss Bombs

Normally I would never post a recipe for something sweet on a 5-2 fast day. With a daily intake of only 500 calories, every morsel that passes my lips is carefully calorie counted with a very firm emphasis on wholesome and nutritious food. My fast days have become my goddess days filled with clean eating; everything on my plate fresh, delicious and vibrant. Pared back recipes with little added sugars and fats.

So it follows that today’s Orange Scented Double Cacao Hazelnut Bliss Bombs are a little bit of an exception. My winter fasting routine has evolved  to allocate 400 calories between a light late morning brunch and more substantial early evening meal.  Leaving 100 calories to play with to fuel any mid afternoon slump, particularly important on cold, wet and dreary afternoons, when cravings left unchecked can easily trump steely resolve.  A strategy cunningly designed to accommodate a skim milk cappuccino, until bliss balls crossed my radar.

Sugar free and rich in antioxidants, these good- for -you energy balls are  filled with naturally sweet dates, deep dark slightly bitter  cacao and crunchy hazelnuts. A healthy  raw food treat, they come together very quickly in a matter of moments in  the bowl of your food processor.  Scented with orange and a dash of vanilla they’re rich, fudgy and also extremely moreish. At just 92 calories per bliss bomb they have the makings of a perfect, guilt free mid afternoon pick me up. It goes without saying, that the trick is to be disciplined to stop at just one.

Orange Scented Double Cacao Hazelnut Bliss Bombs
Makes 16 Bliss Bombs (92 calories per serve)

10 medjool dates, each date pitted and scissored into 6 or 8 pieces depending on size (660 calories)
finely grated zest and juice of one orange (12 calories)
a scant pinch bicarbonate of soda
1 tablespoon unsweetened cacao powder (or substitute cocoa) (24 calories)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (12 calories)
1/2 cup hazelnuts, roasted with skins rubbed off , coarsely chopped(480 calories)
2 tablespoons almond meal (106 calories)
1/4 cup cacao nibs (181 calories)

PLACE scissored dates in a small heatproof bowl with the juice and finely grated zest of one orange. Add a scant pinch of bicarbonate of soda and soak for 15-20 minutes to soften. I like to place the bowl into the microwave and heat through on low for a minute to hasten the process.
TRANSFER softened date mixture into the bowl of a small food processor.  Add cacao powder and vanilla extract. Pulse until combined. The mixture will clump together and be soft and a little sticky.
ADD coarsely chopped hazelnuts and almond meal. Pulse once or twice more to combine all ingredients. Stir through cacao nibs.
TAKE level tablespoons of the mixture and roll into balls between moistened palms. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

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Banishing The Winter Blues. Sticky Date Bundt Cake With A Salted Burnt Butter Caramel Glaze.

Sticky Date Bundt Cake With A Salted Burnt Butter Caramel Glaze

Much to my family’s delight I’ve been banishing the winter blues with a renewed interest in baking. As always school holidays mean a full house and quickly depleting fridge and pantry courtesy of a contingent of constantly ravenous teenagers on the hunt for even more to eat. These holidays our eldest is also studying for his HSC trials. It’s hard to believe there’s just one term left and his secondary schooling will be done. Forty days left to be exact once school goes  back. Where have all those years gone? It seems like only yesterday we were taking the obligatory first day of kindergarten photo outside our front door.

My contribution to the study effort is a constant supply of food. Of the comforting, stick to your ribs, fill you up variety. Like this Sticky Date Bundt Cake dressed up with a Salted Burnt Butter Caramel Glaze. A rather sophisticated variation of our perennial favourite; the sticky date pudding with caramel sauce. Such an afternoon tea pleaser it disappeared, still warm from the oven, in the blink of an eye.

Sticky Date Bundt Cake With Salted Burnt Butter Caramel Glaze

Sticky Date Bundt Cake With A Salted Burnt Butter Caramel Glaze
Makes 10 – 12  generous serves

1 cup (185g) medjool dates, each date pitted and scissored into six or eight pieces depending on size
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 cup (250ml) warm water
2 cups (250g) plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
225 g unsalted butter
1 cup (250g) brown sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla essence
2 eggs, well beaten
1 large granny smith apple, peeled and grated
1 3/4 cups (175g) pecans, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped, divided
1 teaspoon sea salt flakes, to sprinkle over cake

DISSOLVE the bicarbonate of soda in warm water and pour over the chopped dates. Cover with cling wrap and set aside for at least one hour, longer if possible. Overnight works well.
PREHEAT oven to 180 C. Butter and flour a large bundt tin.
SIFT together the flour and baking powder. Set aside.
ADD the apples and one and half cups of the pecans to the softened date mixture, reserving the remaining quarter cup of chopped pecans to garnish the cake.
IN A separate bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and vanilla until very light and fluffy.
BEAT in eggs one at a time, whisking well after each addition,
USING a wooden spoon stir the apple, date and walnut mixture into the creamed butter and sugar  in two or three batches, alternating with the flour. Be careful not to overmix.
POUR batter into the prepared tin and bake in the centre of the oven for 35 – 40 minutes until a skewer inserted into cake comes out clean.
ALLOW to cool a little in tin before turning out onto a wire rack set over a large baking paper lined oven tray. Using a large spoon quickly drizzle hot burnt butter caramel glaze (recipe follows) over the cake.
OPTIONAL: Stir up to 1/4 cup warmed cream through any unused burnt butter caramel glaze to create a delicious caramel sauce. So as to not waste any of the glaze, I like to scrape all the delicious drips caught on the baking paper back into the saucepan to make the sauce.
SPRINKLE over reserved chopped pecans and sea salt flakes to garnish Allow glaze to set at room temperature for 15 minutes or so before transferring to a serving platter.
SERVE warm or at room temperature with vanilla bean ice-cream and warm caramel sauce (optional).

For the Burnt Butter Caramel Glaze
75g butter
1/2 cup (100g) caster sugar
1/2 cup (100g) soft brown sugar
1/2 cup (125ml) pouring cream

MELT butter in a small saucepan over medium heat in a heavy saucepan, stirring frequently until the mixture bubbles and foams, and milk solids begin to separate. Continue to cook until nut brown. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
MEANWHILE combine sugars in a small bowl, stirring well to ensure there are no lumps.
PLACE a wok or large heavy based non stick pan over medium heat. Add sugar in an even layer.
HEAT without stirring  until the mixture caramelises, swirling the wok every now and then until all the sugar crystals have dissolved and the mixture is a deep golden colour. Once melted the mixture will caramelise very quickly in a matter of minutes. Resist the urge to stir for a smooth finish.
REMOVE wok from heat, then whisk in the brown butter and cream. Take care, the hot caramel mixture will bubble and spatter a little.
RETURN to low heat and cook for a few more minutes, stirring constantly until the butter and cream are completely incorporated.
TURN OFF heat. The caramel is ready for glazing the sticky date bundt cake

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Eat, Fast and Live Longer. A 5-2 Fast Diet Recipe Idea Under 400 Calories. Warm “Cauliflower Couscous” With Grilled Chermoula Spiced Chicken, Roast Pumpkin And Capsicum.

Warm Cauliflower Couscous with Grilled Chermoula Spiced Chicken, Roast Pumpkin And Capsicum

Today’s 5-2 fast day offering is all about generosity as I attempt to chase away the mid winter blues with a vibrant yet hearty plate of food. Fasting through the depths of winter is no mean feat. So many opportunities to veer off track. My particular Achilles Heel?  A sneaky warming (skim) milk cappuccino (70 calories). Manageable if I stop at one, challenging if I progress to two and a lost cause at number three. On my very best days I revert to tea. Black. No Sugar. No calories to speak of. Mariage Freres beautifully fragrant Marco Polo Rouge my current favourite brew.

On bleak days I’ve been consoling myself with the thought that at least we’ve passed the Winter Solstice (June 21) and our days will slowly but surely become brighter and longer. On cold fast days of successful cappuccino self denial I try to reward myself with a more substantial evening meal. And so it is that with loads of chermoula paste in the freezer from last week’s post and gorgeous heads of  cauliflower  in season at the markets tonight I’m feasting on a bright and comforting Warm Cauliflower Couscous With Chermoula Spiced Grilled Chicken and Roasted Pumpkin and Capsicum. So much flavour for so little calories – 336 for a heaping plate to be exact.

The secret is to take finely grated cauliflower “rice” and  dry toast it in a smoking hot heavy based pan with a generous pinch of turmeric. The resulting “grains” are light and fluffy with a glorious golden hue, wonderfully nutty flavour  and  ‘al dente’ texture. Prepared this way the cauliflower is almost indiscernible from regular couscous. A light but filling and very clever substitution for calorie dense grains in my fast day meal. It’s a trick I’m keeping up my sleeve for more ideas to come.

Warm Cauliflower Couscous with Grilled Chermoula Spiced Chicken, Roast Pumpkin And Capsicum.
Serves 4 (336 calories per serve)

500g skinless and boneless chicken thigh fillets (595 calories)
3 tablespoons chermoula paste (recipe here)(127 calories)
2 red capsicums (60 calories)
1/2 small butternut pumpkin, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced into crescents  (about 350g) (92 calories)
1 tablespoons olive oil, divided (120 calories)
1 medium head cauliflower (146 calories)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric (4 calories)
3 long green spring onions, finely sliced (21 calories)
handful coriander , finely chopped, to serve (2 calories)
handful mint, finely chopped, to serve (2 calories)
handful coriander, finely chopped (2 calories)
sea salt flakes

Chermoula Yoghurt Dressing
1/2 cup plain Greek yoghurt (85 calories)
2 tablespoons chermoula paste (recipe here) (85 calories)
freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon (2 calories)

To Prepare Chermoula Spiced Chicken
MAKE several deep cuts into the chicken thighs and spread chermoula paste evenly over the chicken.
COVER with plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator for a minimum 30 minutes to marinate. If you have time, leave the chicken to marinate in the refrigerator overnight.
HEAT barbecue plate or lightly greased griddle pan until smoking hot. Remove chicken from refrigerator, and  grill over medium to medium high heat, about 6 minutes per side, or until chicken is just cooked through.
ALLOW to rest for 10 minutes before slicing on the diagonal and serving.

To Prepare Capsicum  and Pumpkin
PREHEAT oven to 200 C. Line an oven tray with baking paper.
PLACE whole capsicum in oven directly over a rack and bake until skin is blistered and blackened, about 30 minutes.
TOSS thinly sliced pumpkin crescents with one tablespoon of olive oil until lightly coated. Arrange in an even layer over prepared oven tray.
SPRINKLE liberally with sea salt and place in hot oven to roast for 20 minutes until tender and golden, turning once after 10 minutes.
REMOVE roasted vegetables from oven and allow to cool. Peel and deseed capsicum, before slicing into strips. Set aside until ready to assemble the salad.

To Prepare Cauliflower ‘Couscous’
SEPARATE the cauliflower into florets and grate using either a box grater or food processor.
HEAT a large heavy based fry pan or wok until smoking. Toast grated cauliflower with turmeric until golden, stirring often to ensure cauliflower doesn’t burn. Set aside.

To Prepare Chermoula Yoghurt Dressing
COMBINE chermoula  paste with yoghurt and lemon juice in a small bowl.

To Assemble
IN A LARGE BOWL, combine toasted cauliflower with grilled chermoula spiced chicken, roasted capsicum and sweet potato. Season to taste with sea salt.
TRANSFER to a serving platter, scatter over finely chopped spring onions, parsley, coriander and mint. Finish with a good drizzle of chermoula yoghurt dressing.

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A Nanna Moment. Old-Fashioned Apple And Cinnamon Tea Cake.

Old Fashioned Apple Cinnamon Tea Cake

There’s a definite sense of comforting nostalgia associated with delving deep into my bottom kitchen drawer to retrieve a long forgotten favourite recipe. A trip down memory lane, resurrecting recipes for good old fashioned treats. The sort our nannas might have made.  An Aladdin’s cave filled with the carefully guarded secrets, perhaps scrawled on yellowing, crumpled scraps of paper in thin spidery script, or  ripped from the pages of newspapers and magazines. Earmarked as keepers and  haphazardly tossed into my drawer in the hope they might be rediscovered sometime in the not too distant future, on a less time pressured day.

It’s that time of year again. Cold, dreary and wet. As if on autopilot, I’m inexplicably drawn back to that bottom drawer. Afternoon tea is definitely on the agenda, a yearning for something sweet, simple and old-fashioned on my radar. Regular readers of this blog will remember the unearthed treasures of my previous like minded forays. Previous offerings have included, a simple slice of old fashioned buttercake, classic lemon sponge squares, magic vanilla custard squares, a Kiwi favourite Louise slice, the curiously named Chinese chews and melt and mix chocolate coconut slice, to name but a few. All simple recipes combining staple pantry items that are available in almost any kitchen pantry to produce something understated but special.

Today’s recipe for an old fashioned apple and cinnamon tea cake is no exception. Reliable and dependable, she pulls herself together in mere moments. With a minimum of fuss and advance planning. Just beat together the most basic of pantry ingredients – butter, sugar, eggs, flour, milk and vanilla. Top with a couple of thinly sliced apples (cored but no need to peel) in a pretty spiral arrangement. Bake in a hot oven for thirty minutes and cool a little before brushing with a little melted butter and dusting in a shower of cinnamon sugar. Your reward? A light and buttery almost flan like cake topped with melting leaves of cinnamon scented apples. Irresistibly delicious and so beautiful to behold, I still can’t quite believe this is a product of my kitchen. Proof positive that simplicity is always best.

Old Fashioned Apple Cinnamon Cake

Old-Fashioned Apple And Cinnamon Tea Cake

Apple Tea Cake
65g butter, softened
2/3 cup caster sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup self-raising flour, sifted
1/3 cup milk
2 small granny smith apples, cored and thinly sliced

Cinnamon Topping
20g butter, melted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1tablespoon caster sugar

PREHEAT oven to 160 C fan-forced. Grease a deep, 20cm round, removable base (springform) cake tin. Line base with baking paper.
USING an electric mixer, beat butter, sugar, egg and vanilla together for approximately 5 minutes until very light and  fluffy.
USING a wooden spoon, gently stir in sifted flour and milk. Spoon mixture into prepared cake tin. Arrange apple slices on top.
BAKE for 25 to 30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean. Stand in tin for 5 minutes, before removing to a cooling rack.
COMBINE cinnamon and sugar in a bowl. Brush hot cake with butter. Sprinkle with cinnamon mixture. Serve warm. Best eaten on the day it is baked.

Posted in Baked, What I Love to Cook | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Eat, Fast and Live Longer. A 5-2 Fast Diet Recipe Idea Under 100 Calories. Whole Roasted Cauliflower With A Chermoula Spiced Yoghurt Crust.

Whole Roasted Cauliflower With A Chermoula Spiced Yoghurt Crust

One of my favourite and most luxurious 5-2 fast day meals is salmon smothered in home made chermoula and slow baked in the oven. Vibrant, filling and satisfying, it’s a fast day feast on the plate. I’ve always loved the way chermoula adds freshness and zing to almost everything. In our house a jar never lasts long in the fridge, alternatively moonlighting as a marinade, stir through Moroccan style pesto sauce and even burger or sandwich relish. Combined with Greek yoghurt it even becomes a delicious dip.

In this recipe I’ve taken chermoula spiced yoghurt in a whole new direction. Slathered over a whole head of cauliflower, then baked in a hot oven to produce a gloriously golden  crust. The process couldn’t be easier, the result no less stunning. Visually and flavourwise. Baked to perfection it’s guaranteed to elicit ooh’s and aah’s from appreciative diners, before being easily sliced into wedges and served with a simple salad of winter greens.  With one delicious wedge of  roasted chermoula yoghurt spiced cauliflower accounting for just 75 calories, this will easily become another of my fast day favourites.

Whole Roasted Cauliflower With A Chermoula Spiced Yoghurt Crust
Slice into 6 wedges (75 calories per wedge)

1 medium sized head cauliflower (144 calories)
3/4 cup low fat Greek yoghurt (135 calories)
1/4 cup chermoula paste (170 calories) (recipe follows)

TRIM outer cauliflower leaves. Trim away and discard stalk so the cauliflower can sit flat, then cut a cross into the base.
COMBINE chermoula  paste with yoghurt in a large, shallow bowl. Dip cauliflower head into the chermoula yoghurt paste mixture, ensuring entire head is evenly coated with the marinade.
PLACE into an oven proof, heavy based Le Creuset style pot. Spoon over a little more marinade, cover with lid (or foil) and roast in hot oven for 30 minutes. Cooking time is for a medium sized head of cauliflower, if using a large cauliflower increase initial roasting time to 40 – 45 minutes.
REMOVE cover and bake  for a further 20 minutes until cauliflower is tender and crust golden. To test if cauliflower is cooked,  insert the tip of a paring knife through the base of the cauliflower, florets should be firm but tender.
ALLOW to cool for 10 minutes before slicing into 6 wedges, and serving with green salad leaves.

Chermoula Paste With Preserved Lemon (Fast Day Version)

Makes 1 cup /16 tablespoons per cup
680 calories per cup / 42.5 calories per tablespoon

1/2 cup coriander leaves and tender stems only, well washed (4 calories)
1/4 cup mint leaves, well washed (3 calories)
1/2 cup flat leaf Italian parsley leaves and tender stems only, well washed (11 calories)
4 long green spring onions,chopped (40 calories)
4 cloves garlic, roughly chopped (16 calories)
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger (4 calories)
1 long red chilli, roughly chopped (18 calories)
1 tablespoon sweet paprika (18 calories)
1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric (12 calories)
2 teaspoons sea salt flakes (0 calories)
1/2 teaspoon white pepper (4 calories)
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, lightly roasted (4 calories)
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, lightly roasted (4 calories)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (480 calories)
1/2 preserved lemon, roughly chopped (50 calories)
juice of 1 lemon, freshly squeezed (12 calories)

COMBINE all ingredients in a food processor, spice grinder, or mortar and pestle. Process or pound to a rough paste.
IF MAKING the chermoula ahead of time, transfer it to an airtight container. Seal and place in the fridge.

Posted in Vegetarian, What I Love to Cook | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

The Ultimate Comfort Food. Inspired by Curtis Stone. Individual Mac And Cheese With Panko Crumb.

I have a confession to make. Until last week I had never made macaroni and cheese. Not ever. Perhaps because the go to pasta dish in our house has always been pasticcio; a deliciously molten mass of baked pasta, bolognaise, bechamel sauce and cheese. That said, I’ve always been aware that  far, far away on the other side of the world, our American cousins have a patriotically fearsome obsession for good old mac ‘n’ cheese. Some would even go so far to say it’s a national dish. The ultimate childhood comfort food.

Legend has it that good old mac and cheese was introduced to the nation by founding father Thomas Jefferson. He’s famously attributed with returning home from a sojourn in Europe with a wheel of parmesan cheese and an Italian pasta machine, sometime in the latter part of the eighteenth century. I rather like this romantic notion and after a little research think there may well be some truth in this tale.

Those who know me well, are also well aware I have a fascination with word associations and history. Consider this. Whilst it’s common knowledge that ‘macaroni’ is a variety of Italian pasta, less well known and quite obscure is the following fun fact. In eighteenth century Britain “macaroni” was also used as a reference to young aristocratic gentlemen returning from their grand tours with a fascination of all things European; in particular food (pasta) and fashion. More aptly used to describe the coterie of  bright young things frequenting The Macaroni Club in London, famous for their outlandish dress, members fashionably donned striped silk cravats and feathers in their hats. Indeed, one could even go so far as to say “macaronis” were considered the metrosexuals of their time.

Here’s more food for thought, excuse the pun. Is it mere co-incidence that the well known rhyme of the 1780’s Yankee Doodle Dandy opens with the following verse:

Yankee Doodle went to town
Riding on a pony
Stuck a feather in his cap
And called it macaroni.

But I digress. In seeking out a fabulous recipe for my inaugural attempt at macaroni cheese, I stumbled across Curtis Stone’s excellent  Mac and Cheese with Gruyere, Cheddar, and Bacon. As Curtis puts it – “How do you make the world’s best mac and cheese? I think that the combination of Cheddar and Gruyere cheese puts this one over the top”. I couldn’t agree more. Here is my version, cobbled together with the contents of my pantry and fridge. Unequivocably inspired by Curtis, a much loved Aussie expat cooking up a storm in the United States. Laden with three types of cheese, butter, milk and cream its exceedingly naughty but incredibly delicious. There’s method in my madness. Fearing lack of self control I’ve baked my mac and cheese in individual ramekins. The challenge, should you choose to accept it,is to stop at just one.

Individual Mac And Cheese With Panko Crumb

Individual Mac And Cheese With Panko Crumb
Inspired by What’s For Dinner by Curtis Stone
Serves 8

500g box dried macaroni
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 leek, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
2 tablespoons plain flour
3 cups (750 ml) milk
1 carton (300ml) cream
1 1/2 cups (180g) Gruyere Cheese, grated
1 1/2 cups (180g) Cheddar Cheese, grated
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 kernel freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
16 (180g) long, very thinly sliced strips pancetta

For the Panko Crumb
2 tablespoons melted butter
2/3 cup Japanese panko crumbs (or substitute regular breadcrumbs)
1/3 cup of Parmesan Cheese, freshly grated
2 tablespoons finely chopped chives

HEAT oil and butter in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat.
ADD leek with  a generous pinch of sea salt. Cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes, or until translucent, then add garlic and sauté for a minute until fragrant. Do not allow the garlic to brown or burn.
REDUCE heat to medium-low, whisk in flour, and cook, whisking, for a minute or teo. Gradually whisk in the milk and cream, then bring the sauce to a gentle simmer over medium heat and simmer gently for a further 10 minutes.
GRADUALLY whisk in Gruyere and Cheddar cheeses with mustard. Remove saucepan from heat and season cheese sauce to taste with freshly grated nutmeg, sea salt and pepper. The sauce will seem loose but will continue to thicken once the pasta is added.Set aside.
MEANWHILE bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Stir in tmacaroni and cook, stirring often to prevent it from sticking together, for about 8 minutes, or until tender but still firm to the bite. Drain well.
STIR macaroni into the hot cheese sauce. If the sauce begins to thicken too much add more milk or cream to thin it to the desired consistency.Season to taste again with sea salt and pepper. Stir through two tablespoons chives. Set aside.

To Assemble
PREHEAT oven to 180 C. Butter 8 ramekins.
ARRANGE two strips of pancetta in a criss cross fashion over the base of each ramekin. Fill each ramekin with macaroni cheese.
IN A SMALL bowl, toss together panko crumbs, grated parmesan cheese, chives, and melted butter. Season with sea salt and sprinkle evenly over macaroni cheese.
PLACE filled ramekins in hot oven and bake for 30 minutes until the topping is golden and macaroni cheese bubbling. Allow to stand at room temperature for 5 minutes before serving.

Posted in Pasta, What I Love to Cook | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments