Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Carbonara from 'It's all Easy' by Gwyneth Paltrow.

Raw egg. Some people have a huge aversion to it. Whether it's scrambled eggs which aren't cooked enough and still have the wobbly bits, a whole raw egg in a protein shake, stirring it through hot pasta or the eggs in desserts that haven't being heat treated. Everyone has their limits, mine being the egg in the protein shake. Younger me was very different, I'd cook scrambled eggs until they were dry and rubbery. Now I like them silky and soft and taken off the heat just before they are all the way done so the residual heat continues to cook them ever so slightly. I would never have made them like this when I was younger, I would have cooked the buggery out of them each and every time. Same goes for spaghetti carbonara, it was more like spaghetti with a side of scrambled eggs- it was awful!


Being older and wise now my egg murdering days are gone but not forgotten and that might be because I've steered clear of carbonara and mastered the scrambled eggs. But when I received Gwyneth Paltrow's new cookbook 'Its All Easy' last weekend I was instantly drawn to the pasta and noodle recipes, more specifically the carbonara recipe. It's in a chapter called 'in a pinch'. Ha! I thought, carbonara in a pinch!? She's got to be joking. Then I read the recipe and it dawned on me that I could probably make this 'in a pinch' but would I end up with scrambled eggs again? She said it's easy, I mean she even says in the notes that 'it's shockingly easy to make' and I had all the ingredients so why not? I was kind of scared. Yes thats right. Scared of carbonara.

I could have gone for any of the other recipes that also caught my eye such as the chicken and zucchini noodle pho, ramen 4 ways- miso, spring veggie, spicy prawn, roasted pork, or the poached asian chicken salad or even the grilled cheese and easy tomato soup. All of which look amazing and mind you, don't look like your average midweek dinner but until you get reading, they are actually quite simple dishes to put together. But I'd set myself a challenge at this point and I wasn't backing down. I was going to make carbonara, no side of scrambled eggs tonight. I mean we could always have cheese on toast for dinner if I botched it up real bad.

Carbonara from Its all Easy by Gwyneth Paltrow | salt sugar and i

I followed Gwyneth's instructions as if they were sacred. While the pasta cooked and my bacon pieces fried I cracked my eggs yolks and whole egg into a large mixing bowl and added grated one and a half cups of parmesan (I even measured it) and one teaspoon of freshly cracked pepper. After a slight moment of yelling at the book when the cracked pepper ended up everywhere other than on my teaspoon, I gave it a mix. I clung to every step and reread them about five times when it came time to assemble and tossed my hot pasta in the egg mixture and bacon pieces adding a tablespoon at a time of the 'hot' pasta water (mixing constantly) until I got the silky consistency a carbonara should have. I served it straight away with a simple green salad with a punchy lemon dressing.

And... it's one of the best carbonara's I've ever eaten. Yep, I said it. It was creamy and cheesy and not gluggy at all, the amount of black pepper was so delicious and bitey. I thought it was going to be too much and over powering but it matched the richness of the sauce and the saltiness of the bacon perfectly. In saying that though, if you don't like pepper I wouldn't put so much in but I loved it. And you know what? There wasn't one bit of scrambled egg in there at all. A perfect carbonara if you ask me... in a pinch and shockingly easy. YUM.


Carbonara

ever-so slightly adapted from 'It's All Easy' by Gwyneth Paltrow
Serves 4 (or three greedy people)

salt
120g of bacon or pancetta, cut into small dice
2 egg yolks (or 3 to make it extra creamy)
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups finely grated parmesan cheese, plus more to serve
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
340g bucatini (tubular spaghetti)

- Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to boil over high heat for the pasta.

- Fry the bacon in a pan over medium heat until crispy, 5-7 minutes.

- Combine egg yolks, egg, parmesan and pepper to a large bowl and mix well.

- Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions until al dente reserving 1 cup of hot pasta water (the temperature is important because you are going to use this water to help cook the egg).

- Drain the pasta and add it immediately to the bowl with the cheese and eggs, tossing immediately to mix everything together.

- Add the bacon and any rendered fat from the pan to the bowl, toss to coat, and add the hot pasta water 1 tablespoons at a time until the sauce reaches a creamy consistency (this usually take about 1/4 cup)

- Taste and adjust with more cheese, pepper or salt.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Tikka Chicken with Mint Chutney and Naan from A Kitchen in the Valley

After my sighting of the weevils a few weeks back I was only too pleased to be rid of them, until I realised...that when there is one... there are many or should I say thousands of the little critters, everywhere... I mean EVERYWHERE. Everything that was open, in a plastic container (yes they penetrated my containers) or in a paper bag was crawling with them which meant it all went in the bin, no discussion. Everything else that was sealed properly got a wipe down with hot soapy water and vinegar and sat on the kitchen counters for two days while I aired my newly washed and vinegar-ed cupboards out. After putting what was left after my cull back inside the cupboards I was only too happy to never go back in there again in fear of seeing another critter but then Sally Wise's new cookbook A Kitchen in the Valley turned up on my doorstep and I took the dive and bought flour. I am still not game enough to put it in my cupboard and have stored it in my freezer just as google instructed me to. Supposedly it's to kill any un-hatched eggs and I'm keen to give anything a go.

But enough on my cupboard dramas and more on this cookbook you say? I agree. This new book of Sally Wise's is full of recipes using local produce found in the Derwent Valley, Tasmania where Sally lives. The recipes make you want to fill a long table full of food and invite everyone you know over just to feed them. Sally's home sounds picturesque with raspberry patches in the summer and a bed of giant rhubarb under the window and how can I forget Truffles the kitten?! The photography sets the feel for the book and although not every recipe has a photo, the titles of the recipes are tempting enough. There are some great sounding bread recipes in this book such as Tasty Breakfast Twirl which is a sort-of decadent stuffed breakfast bread, Raisin Bread and Turkish Breads with Spinach and Feta Stuffing or a Tomato and Bacon filling. Can you tell I have missed baking??

Tikka Chicken with Mint Chutney and Naan from A Kitchen in the Valley | salt sugar and i

There are also some classic afternoon-tea treats that would make a great home-made high tea like Neenish Tarts which I remember from the local bakery as a kid and the Raspberry and Cream Cheesecake Slice...yum. But what caught my eye for dinner was the recipe for Tikka Chicken with Mint Chutney and Naan. There was no fancy curry pastes to make in advance and no ingredients which you need a whole day to find and a trip to every supermarket in your area, everything was in my pantry (expect the flour which is still in my freezer).

I started my making the naan bread so it had time to rise before starting the curry which surprised me as I have this idea that a curry is a long slow cooking process and this relatively quick. I made one slight change in the naan bread and used full cream milk instead of coconut milk as I have a thing about opening a can and not using the whole thing and I was already using a whole can of coconut milk in the curry so happily used regular milk instead and it worked just fine. However I will say this, these naan breads are not your traditional restaurant naans which have the gnarly black bits with bubbles of dense dough, these are light and almost fluffy. I'm not sure if this was just me or if they were meant to do this (there is no photo for this recipe) but mine turned into a kind of pocket when I baked them which was great to fill with the curry and chutney and although sometimes you want those naan breads with the black gnarly bits, these were just as delicious and much lighter which meant you could eat more of them. Always a positive.

Spices | salt sugar and i

And for the chicken tikka and chutney. Wow. Tristan said, quote and quote 'this is one of the best curries I've ever eaten'. He didn't say it was the best but I'll take that compliment anyway and I had to agree with him. It is a much lighter curry then anything I've had from the local Indian restaurant and although I say it was light, it was packed full of flavour and didn't have that layer of oil which you sometimes get from using the store-bought curry pastes. I was a little worried about the sauce being quite liquid but the recipe says you can thicken it by making a cornflour slurry but I let it simmer away for a little longer instead as I have a slight aversion with cornflour and curries together...just reduce it I say. With lighter naan breads, the fresh mint chutney, I served it with some steamed rice and roasted cauliflower (how good is cauliflower in curry?!) and just so you know, it got even better the next day.

Overall it was a pretty damn delicious dinner which we gorged ourselves on a huge bowl each while watching the new StarWars movie on the couch. A perfect date night in if you ask me.

Tikka Chicken with Mint Chutney and Naan from A Kitchen in the Valley | salt sugar and i

Tikka Chicken with Mint Chutney and Naan

Adapted from A Kitchen in the Valley by Sally Wise.

For the naan.
2 cups plain flour
2 teaspoons instant dried yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
125ml warm coconut milk (regular milk also works)
125ml plain yoghurt
1 egg
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon juice

For the chicken.
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1kg chicken breast fillets, sliced (or half the chicken and add extra veggies)
2 onions, finely sliced
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger (jarred works great too)
2 long red chilli's, finely sliced
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 teaspoons garam masala
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
400ml can coconut milk
250ml chicken stock (stock cube is fine)

For the chutney.
60g fresh mint leaves (roughly half bunch)
3 tablespoons desiccated coconut
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar (regular sugar works too)
1 tablespoon vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, crushed
180ml plain yoghurt

For the naan.
- Starting with the naan breads, place flour, yeast, sugar, baking powder and one teaspoon salt in a medium bowl and mix well. Whisk together the coconut milk (or regular milk), yoghurt, egg, olive oil and lemon juice. Pour into the dry mixture and mix using a wooden spoon until well combined. This is a wet mixture so don't be alarmed that this looks more like a mess than a dough. Cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

- Line two baking trays with baking paper and preheat your oven to 200C.

-Turn the risen dough onto a lightly floured bench and knead for 2-3 minutes or until smooth. Cut into 4-6 pieces and dust each lightly with flour. Roll each piece into an oval about 12-15cm long and 8-10cm wide. Place on lined trays, covered with a tea towel to rise for 15 minutes.

- Bake the naan for 15 minutes or until cooked through and golden on top.

For the chicken.
- Meanwhile start on your chicken. To make the tikka chicken, heat the coconut oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat and sauté the chicken until it changes colour. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook for about 2 minutes or until fragrant. Add the spices along with 1 teaspoon of salt and stir to coat everything in the pan. Lastly, stir in the coconut milk and chicken stock and bring to a boil.

- Reduce to a simmer and cook for about 10-15 minutes until the chicken is tender. If your sauce needs thickening, simmer for 10 minutes longer or thicken with a cornflour slurry (3 teaspoon cornflour mixed with 2 tablespoons water).

For the chutney.
- Place all the ingredients except the yoghurt into a small food processor and process until smooth. Stir the yoghurt into the paste. Taste and season with pepper and a little salt if necessary.

Serve the curry with the naan, steamed rice and mint chutney.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Torta di Mele (apple cake) from 'Florentine' by Emiko Davies.

Over the weekend I escaped my apartment and went to my mums to mess her kitchen up instead, plus she has a dishwasher which makes the clean up sooo much more pleasant. I gave dad the option of Bomboloncini (donut holes) or Torta di Mele (apple cake), both recipes from Emiko Davies new cookbook Florentine. Although I gave him the choice I knew before I even asked that he'd choose the apple cake, I was secretly hoping he would pick the donut holes but since I'm a good daughter I made the apple cake for him and will have to save donut holes for another day.

Torta di Mele apple cake | Florentine | Emiko Davies | salt sugar and i

Florentine, wow. It is such a beautiful book. The cover is stunning and the photos inside transport you to the streets of Florence, Italy. Emiko has some snaps of the inside of the book on her site, so beautiful. It made me want to max out my credit card and buy a plane ticket but instead I am just going to have to bring Florence to my little corner of the world with her beautiful recipes. There are a few I cannot wait to try, of course the Bomboloncini (donut holes) I keep going on about but also the Polpettone alla Fiorentina (Florentine meatloaf) and the Pane Toscano (tuscan bread). I have a soft spot for meatloaf so can't wait to try it and tuscan bread... who doesn't love freshly baked bread?? The smell of it straight out of the oven is mouth watering but then again so was this apple cake.

Torta di Mele apple cake | Florentine | Emiko Davies | salt sugar and i

About 20 minutes after I put it in the oven we could start to smell the buttery goodness and sweet apples and it instantly made us hungry and eager for it to be finished. Still warm we had a piece with a cuppa and it was the perfect combination. The sweet apple on top and inside the cake was so delicious. I think the cake recipe would also work folding through mixed berries, its a lovely and buttery cake that isn't too sweet so works perfectly with the added fruit. It reminded me of a cake my Aunty made but poured sweetened mixed berries, heated up like a runny jam over the top when I went to visit years ago. Between four of us we managed to polish off the whole cake while drinking tea and playing rummicub late into the night.

Torta di Mele apple cake | Florentine | Emiko Davies | salt sugar and i

A little tip to keep in mind, the recipe says '2 large apples' and I used 2 small to medium sized apples thinking it'd be ok but I recommend using large apples, mine could have done with more apple on the inside in some slices. And don't be too alarmed when the mix starts curdling, it did this to me when I added the eggs to the butter but I turned the speed up and it seemed to come together until I added the milk which then made it curdle even more. My eggs and milk were cold though so I don't think it would have curdled if I had warmed the milk slightly to take the chill off, same for the eggs. But as soon as I folded the flour through it all came together perfectly, no dramas.

My mum has a dream oven and it baked so much better than if I'd baked it at home, it was evenly golden on top and didn't have a half burnt side. Such a great afternoon/morning tea recipe with a cuppa or two.

Torta di Mele apple cake | Florentine | Emiko Davies | salt sugar and i

Torta di Mele (apple cake)

recipe from Florentine by Emiko Davies.

2 large apples, peeled, cored and sliced into approx. 1cm slices
1 lemon, juice and zest
125g unsalted butter, softened
180g caster sugar
3 eggs (at room temp)
150ml milk (at room temp/lukewarm)
300g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
a pinch of fine sea salt

- Preheat oven to 180C/360F and line a 23cm/9inch cake tin.

- Place the apple slices in a bowl with the lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of the sugar.

- Beat remaining sugar with the butter until pale and creamy, add the eggs and beat very well until you have a thick, pale mixture. Add the milk and lemon zest, then fold through the flour, baking powder and salt then half the apples slices along with all the lemon juice to combine.

- Pour into prepared tin and place the remaining apple slices all over the top of the surface, Bake for 1 hour, or until the top is golden and springy to the touch.

Note: As this cake isn't overly sweet, Emiko suggests brushing the top with some apricot jam for a little shine and that extra bit of sweetness as an option for those of us who love things on the sweeter side.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

eggplant, mint & yoghurt dip from Feast by Nigella Lawson.

Over the long weekend I had grand cooking plans. I was going to make donut holes from Emiko Davies new book Florentine and also banana bread from The Violets Bakery Cookbook but those plans fell through when I pull out my full container of flour and I had friends show up. Unwanted friends. Weevils. They gave me the heebie-geebies. I didn't inspect the moving critters for long. I ran the plastic container to the garbage bin as fast as I could and closed my cookbooks with a heavy sign and a shiver. Isn't baking what your meant to do on a long weekend? Fill your tummies full of delicious baked goods?? Scared with what else might be lurking in the other flours I decided that with the creepy-crawly feeling on my skin, I'd leave the baking for next weekend and make dip instead. We were going to a welcome home drinks so nibbles were appropriate, although I am sure they would have welcomed donut holes just as much.

I decided to make the eggplant, mint and yoghurt dip from Nigella Lawson's Feast, I've made this a few times now over the years and it's always a winner. Feast was also one of the first cookbooks I ever bought myself and is full of splattered pages and bookmarked recipes, as a good cookbook should be.


I roasted the eggplants until tender but blackened on the outside and picked some 'mint gone wild' from our little balcony then slowly fried an onion and lots of garlic in olive oil until soft. It's a perfect recipe to potter around the kitchen and whip together something like say banana bread while you wait for everything to cool...

The dip is comforting yet fresh and best served with some crostini or toasted pita bread but I didn't have either so served it with crackers (which Tristan ended up leaving on the kitchen counter) and carrot sticks to counteract the chocolates we've all eaten.

Can't say my craving to bake has been satisfied or my craving to eat home-made sweet treats but my jeans are certainly happier not having to fit in a donut or two after everything else I consumed over the weekend.

Fingers crossed my baking ideas this weekend go to plan.

eggplant, mint & yoghurt dip

recipe adapted from Feast by Nigella Lawson

2 medium to small eggplants
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
1 small onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
pinch saffron threads
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
3/4 cup thick greek yoghurt
2 tablespoons pinenuts, toasted
salt and pepper

- Preheat your oven to 220C/400F and prick the eggplants with a fork all over.

- Place on a tray and roast for about 45 minutes to an hour, or until the insides have a soft squishy texture and the skin slightly darkened. Let them cool enough to handle, the scoop the insides out into a sieve to drain.

- While the eggplant flesh is draining, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over low heat and fry the onion and garlic until soft and almost golden, about 10 minutes. Add the eggplant flesh to the onions and cook for about 4 minutes, breaking up any bits that need it. Take off the heat and season with salt and pepper and allow to cool completely.

- Soak the saffron threads into 2 tablespoons of just boiled water and let sit so the water turns a vibrant yellow orange colour.

- Once the eggplant is cooled, mix in the greek yoghurt, saffron water, one tablespoon chopped fresh mint and another good pinch of salt and pepper.

- To serve, sprinkle over the remaining fresh mint, pine nuts and a drizzle of olive oil.

Friday, 25 March 2016

(The) Best Chicken: Baked Chicken in Creamy Tomato Sauce from Dinner: A Love Story.

Have you ever been so unorganised you've woken up and realised you have only one pair of clean undies in your drawer and the day was a near total disaster?? I've had that phew! feeling more than once over the past few weeks. I've been some what unorganised which has also lead to a lot of dodgy dinners like last Saturday night which consisted of cheese and crackers or the other week when I reheated pasta sauce from the freezer on toast at 9pm.

But everything changed last Monday night. I cooked dinner.

Baked Chicken in Creamy Tomato Sauce from Dinner: A Love Story | salt sugar and i

It made me realise that cooking is my zen. What yoga is to some, cooking is for me. Not the mad rush kind of cooking in a commercial kitchen, been there, done that and I didn't have thick enough skin. But cooking in my little kitchen and making a meal out of ingredients gives me a certain satisfaction and feeling of fulfillment. Cooking for one doesn't have quite the same feeling as when I'm cooking for two or more so maybe it's not the act of cooking itself but the act of sharing what I've made with the ones I love.

Or maybe that makes no sense at all and I was just so high on a home cooked meal I needed to share this with you all.

Baked Chicken in Creamy Tomato Sauce from Dinner: A Love Story | salt sugar and i

I made (The) Best Chicken: Baked Chicken in Creamy Tomato Sauce from Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach. It was so delicious. There was one problem, I only made enough for two and not enough for seconds or leftovers. It was a comforting, home cooked dinner at it's finest. It was simple yet so full of flavour. The canned tomatoes turn delicious and rich in the oven, almost sticky and as the chicken cooks it soaks up the flavour from the sauce and hint of herbs. I adapted the recipe slightly since we didn't have any marscapone as it's not a staple at our kitchen, instead I stirred through a couple of spoonfuls of greek yogurt at the end and it worked just as well. I served it with brown rice cooked with a stock cube and blanched sugar snap peas coated in butter and a good pinch of salt.

Baked Chicken in Creamy Tomato Sauce from Dinner: A Love Story | salt sugar and i

It was rich and comforting and a dinner I will repeat again, especially since it's started getting a little cooler here. Store cupboard ingredients, chicken from the freezer and dinner is practically already made, a perfect weeknight meal. This would also work really well served with pasta or to make it a little fancy, serve it with a saffron risotto and a side salad.

I'm now off to do some washing so that it's at least another week before I have that phew! moment again.

Baked Chicken in Creamy Tomato Sauce from Dinner: A Love Story | salt sugar and i

(The) Best Chicken: Baked Chicken in Creamy Tomato Sauce 

recipe adapted from Dinner: A Love Story by Jenny Rosenstrach
(find original recipe here)
serves 2

2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
400g canned chopped tomatoes
5 basil leaves, roughly torn (or a pinch of dried oregano)
2 tablespoons marscapone or thick greek yoghurt
salt & pepper

- Preheat oven to 175C/350F.

- Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in an oven proof pan or skillet on high heat and brown the chicken on all sides (they do not need to cook through). Remove from the pan and turn heat down to medium-low. In the remaining oil left in the pan cook the onion and garlic for about 2 minutes.

- Add the can of chopped tomatoes and bring to a simmer, stir through basil (or oregano) and season with salt and pepper. If using marscapone, stir through now. Add the chicken back into the pan then place in the preheated oven.

- Bake for 40 minutes, turning half way through or until the chicken is cooked through.

- If you are using greek yogurt, remove the chicken from the pan and stir through the greek yoghurt now. Serve with rice, pasta or some nice crusty bread and some buttered greens.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Lemon Maple Granola from A Modern Way to Eat by Anna Jones.

It was one of those morning yesterday where I didn't want to get out of bed. I could have quite happily stayed under the covers all day with a pile of cookbooks to keep me company and thats it.

The only plus side was that I had homemade granola waiting for me, all I needed to add was thick greek yoghurt and fresh strawberries. It was amazing.

A few weeks ago I made the Lemon Maple Granola from Anna Jones's cookbook 'A Modern way to Eat' and then made it again since then it was so good. My old pickle jar which works great in its second life as a granola jar will soon be empty, I don't even think I can last until Friday which is a scary thought. I might be making a batch of granola after night classes on Thursday... I will have definitely gone granola mad if that happens. I need my fix in the mornings!!

I hated breakfast as a kid. How things have changed. My parents would drill it into me that I needed to eat a huge breakfast to get me through the day and they were right, I just never liked it. On week days, before school I would have to eat a bowl of fruit, a bowl of cereal and a piece of toast with a glass of orange juice to wash it all down. Weekend breakfasts weren't fun either, I hated eggs growing up so unless I got pancakes, breakfast was always a let down. I'd have rather eaten a bowl of spaghetti in the mornings instead.

Since I've grown up I love weekend breakfast and all eggs whether they are runny, hard, soft, scrambled, boiled, poached or fried but I never have time to make eggs of any sorts on the weekdays as I am running out the door like a mad woman. So for a while weekday breakfasts were a chore, I used to scoff down some dry cereal and that was that. Until I discovered home-made granola. It's a revelation. I'm fussy when it comes to cereals, they are either overly sweet, have too much 'fake' vanilla flavour or are heavy on the cinnamon and always have random bits of fruit in them. Making my own means I don't spend 5 minutes fishing out the mysterious yellow squares of dried fruit in my bowl that are listed as 'tropical' fruit on the box.


Anna Jones's Lemon Maple Granola is seriously delicious. The lemon gives is very subtle in the mix is a lovely freshness that gives you kick in the mornings and goes great with the sweet maple and earthiness of all the seeds and grains. It's quite a nubbly granola mix with all the seeds, baked dried fruit and nuts so goes great having some fresh fruit to serve with it and of course a healthy dollop or two of greek yogurt. It ticks all the boxes in the morning that a breakfast should do.

I now wake up and look forward to my granola in the mornings, just wish I could take it make to bed with me along with a book rather than leaving the house.

Thinking of making this one next which Amelia from Bon Appetempt makes with her son, Teddy. Am going on a dried cherry hunt this weekend, just need to hold out until then and refrain the crazy lady inside of me from making midnight granola.

Lemon Maple Granola

recipe adapted from A Modern Way to Eat by Anna Jones
makes 1 large jar

8 tablespoons maple syrup
2 large handfuls (150g) rolled oats
2 large handfuls (150g) quinoa flakes
1 handful (40g) pumpkin seeds
1 handful (40g) sunflower seeds
1 large handful (80g) almonds, chopped
1 handful (30g) unsweetened desiccated coconut
grated zest of 1 lemon
a handful (50g) of dried currants
a handful (50g) of dried cranberries

- Preheat oven to 180C or 400F and lightly grease two large baking trays with some butter or vegetable oil.

- In a large bowl add your oats, quinoa flakes, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, coconut, lemon zest and roughly mix until everything is spread evenly throughout. Pour over the maple syrup and give it a really good mix so all the little flakes and seeds are coated, don't rush this bit.

- Divide the mixture onto your two large trays and bake for a total of 30 minutes, but stir every 5-10 minutes to get an even colouring. You may need to bake it for a little longer or a little less, depending on how strong your oven is but in the last 10 minutes of baking try and throw in your dried currants and cranberries. This will turn them into sticky, almost caramelised, chewy nuggets throughout the granola.

- Once it is a lovely golden colour, allow to cool completely in trays then transfer cooled mix into an airtight jar or container. The granola will last up to 4 weeks, although mine never seems to last that long as the jar seems to be forever empty.

- Serve with some thick greek yoghurt and chopped fresh fruit.

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

Sriracha Prawns over Coconut Rice from 'My Kitchen Year' by Ruth Reichl.

I'm going to be brutally honest with you all. I wanted to make the 'Big New York Cheesecake' from Ruth Reichl's new book 'My Kitchen Year' which has a chocolate wafer base for dinner on Sunday. And since Tris left for sea that night I had no one to tell me what I could and couldn't have for dinner. But then this pesky thing call conscious kicked in, it's like the little devil on my shoulder but I did kind of agree that making a whole cheesecake for one isn't really the healthiest option so instead I went with the more dinner suitable recipe from her book. Sriracha Prawns over Coconut Rice.

The main ingredient is obviously Sriracha chilli sauce. This isn't a staple in our home so I didn't have any on hand and after hunting the supermarket isles for this Sriracha chilli sauce like a mad woman and coming up empty in the international food section I almost gave up hope. There have been a few recipes where I have had grand plans but then can't find an ingredient and have easily been defeated. I thought I'd check the sauce isle to see if for some odd reason it was there and boom! One last bottle was sitting there all on its lonesome. It was mine for the taking.

This recipe is sweet, sour and spicy all at the same time but is mellowed out by the coconut rice which almost acts like sour cream does to a spicy chilli. The prawns release their sweetness while the sauce is fragrant from the garlic and ginger but spicy and sour from the lime and Sriracha chilli sauce. As always, I can't cook rice for one and didn't follow that part of the recipe and I ended up with so much coconut rice I have it coming out of my ears (and freezer) now.

Sriracha Prawns over Coconut Rice | salt sugar and i

I've made this twice now, the second time I didn't have as many prawns as the recipe asked for so filled it out with some sugar snap pea which worked really well. Also ff your not a fan of seafood or have an allergy you could always substitute to for chicken breast. I think it's a great dinner to change up slightly for what you have in the cupboard/freezer at the time.

Next on the list to make from this Ruth's book is the pork dumplings. I want to make batch and freeze them for later mid-week dinners to put in asian soups or noodle dishes or even just on their own with the dipping sauce. You never know, with them in the freezer, it might even suppress the Friday night takeaway urges?

Now for those sweet-toothed readers who feel cheated and are still stuck on the cheesecake in the first sentence, you will find the recipe over on Bon Appetempt thanks to Amelia and for those Australians who have no clue what the 'Famous Chocolate Wafer' is, you'll find the recipe for them over on Smitten Kitchen, which Deb has created.

Sriracha Prawns over Coconut Rice

recipe from My Kitchen Year by Ruth Reichl (slightly adapted)
serves 3-4

450g prawns, peeled (I used frozen)
1 lime
Sriracha sauce
1 cup basmati rice
1 cup coconut milk
butter
salt
vegetable oil
1 brown onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 knob ginger, grated
450g asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces

- Start with the prawns. I used frozen thawed prawns for this recipe but if you can get raw prawns from the fish show, even better. Make sure they are peeled then place in a bowl with the lime juice and 3-4 tablespoons of Sriracha sauce and let marinade for abut 15 minutes.

- While the prawns are marinating, get on with the coconut rice. Wash the rice until the water runs clear. Drain and then sauté in a knob of butter. When its glossy add the coconut milk and 3/4 cup water (you can vary the proportions here to have more or less coconut milk, I used a whole can which is 400g and added less water). Add a pinch of salt, on medium heat bring to a boil, cover, then turn the heat down to low and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for a further 10 minutes.

- Heat a frying pan over medium heat with about 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in it. Once it is hot, add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook until the onions are translucent and it smells fragrant (about 5 minutes) add the asparagus and cook for a further couple of minutes. Lastly add the prawns and all their marinade, turn the heat up to high and cook until prawns are cooked through (about 3 minutes - depending on the size of them).

- Serve prawns over the top of the coconut rice with extra Sriracha sauce if you need more of a kick.