Friday, 18 April 2014

Kale Pesto & Sun-dried Tomato Toasts

Things have been a bit quiet around here you may have noticed. I hope you haven't minded the lack of recipe posts, but I've had some big things happening being the scenes. Firstly, you may have noticed that the blog design is in the process of changing around a bit. I felt it was due an update, but it is currently a work in progress and will get a few more tweaks - what do you think? You can be honest, is it too blocky and black?

Secondly I've been squirrelling away recipes here and there for my upcoming cookbook, which will be released later this year. Thirdly, I may have been caught up in organising a rather large event in which I'll get to wear a spectacular dress.

But I'll get back on track posting recipe soon, and in the meantime have this lovely recipe. It's a simple and easy finger food recipe which is never the less bursting with flavour and will have people going back for another one straight away. It's a very easy to prepare recipe, you can make the pesto the night before and even toast the bread in advance too. So that all you have to do when you want to serve them is spread some pesto on and place a sundried tomato on top - too easy!

I reccommed using a home made pesto on these, but if you're really not keen to make your own then you can also use a good quality store bought pesto. However, it won't have the same fresh taste or the bright green colour. I've used my home made kale and macadamia pesto, but you can use any pesto you like. For a bit more of a kick, try my rocket and chilli pesto, or if you're a traditionalist you can just stick with good old basil and pine nuts. Or for a different take on basil pesto - try my broad bean pesto.

Enough chat, though! Here is the recipe:

Kale Pesto & Sun-dried Tomato Toasts

1 jar kale & macadamia pesto
1 baguette (French stick)
1 jar sun dried tomato slices

To Make
1. Make the pesto first, you can do this up to a week in advance.
2. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees celcius and have it on the 'grill' setting (meaning the oven is hottest at the top).
3. Slice the baguette as thin as you can without it starting to break up (about 1 cm thick is usually about right). Arrange your slices on a tray and place in the oven. Keep watch over them, as they won't take very long to cook. Once they are slightly golden on one side, remove the tray and flip all the pieces over. Return to the oven for another couple of minutes, or until that side is a nice golden brown too. Remove and cool. You may have to do this in batches.
4. Once the toasts cool, they should have hardened up nice and crispy. No more than 20 minutes before you want to serve it, you can assemble them. Do so by spreading a generous layer of kale pesto on each of the toasts and topping with a slice of sun dried tomato. Serve and watch them disappear in minutes!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Avocado, Rocket and Almond Salad

I made this salad as an accompaniment to some fried tofu a while back and I couldn't believe how special it was with so simple a set of ingredients. The key is, of course, beautiful fresh ingredients. It's a very quick and easy to make and it's texture is fantastic, chewy & bitter rocket with fresh crisp cucumber, creamy avocado and crunchy flavourful almonds and pepitas. Use fresh lime juice for the dressing, bottled stuff just really doesn't cut it!

Avocado, Rocket & Almond Salad

2-3 cups fresh rocket (you can sub baby spinach, if you prefer)
1 large lebanese cucumber
2 ripe avocados
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup dry roasted almonds
2-3 tbsp pepitas
Cracked pepper, to taste

To Make
1. Arrange the rocket in a wide serving bowl. Roughly chop the cucumber and spread over the rocket. Dice the avocados and arrange on top of the cucumber.
2. Combine the lime juice, soy sauce and olive oil and then shake or whisk to combine well. Sprinkle over the top of the chopped avocado.
3. If the almonds are already dry roasted, simply sprinkle them on top. If they're not, dry roast them in a pan for a minute or two until just golden, shaking the pan often to ensure they don't get burn't spots. Sprinkle on the salad.
4. Dry roast the pepitas over a medium to low heat until they start to pop, shaking the pan regularly to prevent burning. Once they start to pop you can remove from the heat and sprinkle on the salad.
5. Garnish with cracked pepper if you like.

Serves 2 to 4, depending on what you're serving it with.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Chocolate & Grapefruit Marmalade Vegan Cupcakes

Today I'm baking. It's a big, big baking day involving loads of cupcakes. Why? Because I'm donating my time and my delicious cupcakes to the wonderful Swopera. Swopera is a great event created by best friend to raise money for promoting equal marriage rights in Australia. It's a really fun night in which singers choose arias from opposite gender roles to perform. You can get all the details on the Swopera facebook page. I'm really excited about it and am thrilled to donate my time to a cause I feel so passionate about.

If you're in Sydney this weekend & not doing anything on Saturday night then come on down to Paddington Uniting Church (Oxford St) for a really fun night. You can also get one of these badass cupcakes to go with your bitchin' cup of tea. You know you want to!

I used my own homemade grapefruit marmalade for this, but you can use store bought (if you can find it anywhere). If you can't get it anywhere I recommend making your own, it's very easy and the grapefruit marmalade gives the cupcakes a delicious depth. The hint of bitterness of the grapefruit rind compliments the chocolate beautifully and makes a really sohpisticated flavour. If you don't want to make the grapefruit marmalade you can try substituting 1/2 cup grapefruit juice instead of half of the oat milk.

These can also be made with other marmalades - try it with orange, lemon & lime, or even ginger marmalade (yum!). I've iced mine with orange buttercream icing, but you can use chocolate icing if you want to make them even more chocolatey.

Chocolate & Grapefruit Marmalade Cupcakes

1 cup oat milk (or soy milk)
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup canola oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup grapefruit marmalade
1 cup wholemeal plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda
1/2 cup cocoa powder

To Make
1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
2. In a large bowl whisk together the oat milk, sugar, canola oil, vanilla extract and grapefruit marmalade.
3. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk until all combined.
4. Fill your cupcake baking tray with liners and fill them 3/4 full of batter.
5. Bake for 23 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.
6. Allow to cool. To serve, dust with icing sugar or ice with orange buttercream icing (recipe below) or chocolate buttercream icing.

Makes 12 cupcakes.

Orange Buttercream Icing

The Icing:
1/2 cup nuttelex (or other vegan margarine)
2 2/3 cups soft icing mixture
1 tsp vanilla extracty
The zest of 1 orange

1. Mix the nuttelex, lemon juice, zest and icing mixture together in a bowl using either an electric mixer or a knife and some good old elbow grease (nice workout).
2. Once the cupcakes are cool, pipe the icing on in a spiral generously on the top of the cakes and decorate as you like (I used fresh blueberries).

Friday, 28 February 2014

Sweet Potato & Olive Filo Pastry Tunisian Briks

Here is a remnant from Tunisia month, back in January. I've been pretty busy, and generally trying to spend less time sitting and staring at my computer screen. So, as a consequence, I've succeeded in doing a lot less blogging so far this year. That meant that a few of my January Tunisian recipes didn't end up getting posted so I'll bring you a couple of late ones, starting with these briks.

Briks are a popular and common dish in Tunisian cuisine, but these ones are a far cry from the traditional ones! Traditionally they're made with a thicker pastry made with eggs and then deep fried. But I was on a bit of a health kick after Xmas indulgence so I thought I might bake them in flaky filo pastry. Traditional fillings include fish (especially tuna or anchovies), egg, capers, potatoes or cheese. I've made mine using sweet potato (because I love it so much), olives and capers.

1 small sweet potato, peeled and cubed (500g or so)
1/4 cup chopped shallots
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp harissa
1/2 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp capers
8-10 black olives, pitted and roughly chopped
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
Filo pastry sheets
Melted vegan butter/margarine 

To Make:
1. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees C. Boil the sweet potato until just tender. Drain and place in a large bowl. Mash until smooth.
2. Stir through the shallots, olive oil, harissa, cumin, capers, olives and parsley.
3. Take a sheet of filo pastry (keep all the other sheets covered with a damp teatowel while you work to prevent it drying out) and cut it into 3 rectangles. Brush each with melted butter and fold in half so that your rectangle becomes a square. Add a tablespoon of filling to each and fold over to form a triangle. Place on a baking tray and brush the tops with melted butter too. 
4. Continue until you have used up all the mixture. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until just golden brown (keep an eye on them as they will go from "cooked" to "overcooked" very easily).
5. Serve immediately.

Check out my other Tunisian recipe posts:

Monday, 24 February 2014

Vegan Choko Gratin (Guadeloupe)

Any excuse to eat chokoes! I love it when my world food challenge countries lead me to chokoes, I'll always choose those recipes :) This dish is gorgeous, it's a creamy white sauce gratin topped with crunchy breadcrumbs. But instead of tender potatoes or cauliflower under that white sauce, it's juicy, melt-in-your-mouth chokoes. The freshness of the buttery chokoes matched with the comforting creamy sauce makes this perfect for all seasons, great baked comfort food for winter, but not heavy so perfect for spring or summer.

I recommend wearing gloves when peeling and chopping the chokoes, as their juices can really irritate your skin!

6-8 large chokoes, peeled, cored & sliced
1/2 cup nuttelex (or other vegan margarine/butter)
2 onions, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup plain flour
1/2 cup vegetable stock (hot)
2 1/2 cups unsweetened oat milk (or rice/almond milk)
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp nutritional yeast
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup breadcrumbs

To Make
1. Layer the sliced chokoes in the bottom of a large rectangular baking dish. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
2. Melt the margarine in a medium saucepan and then add the onions and garlic. Cook until softened and translucent.
3. Add the flour and stir vigorously to make a roux. Gradually add the hot vegetable stock, stirring vigorously as you do to keep the roux smooth. Once all the vegetable stock has been added start adding the oat milk, also gradually and while stirring.
4. Once all the milk has been added, stir the roux over a low heat and add the lemon juice and the nutritional yeast. Season to taste with salt and pepper to taste.
5. Pour the white sauce over the top of the sliced chokoes and smooth over evenly. Top with bread crumbs and bake for 40 minutes.

This month I'm featuring lots of recipes from Guadeloupe!
Check out my other Guadeloupean recipe posts:

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Creole Salsa

Home made salsa is worth every one of the few minute you spend chopping it. The fresh, tangy and vibrant colours and flavours of this great salsa are so far superior to the mushy pulp that comes out of a jar. This creole salsa is delicious with corn chips, on a salad, on a burger or a wrap, toss it through a pasta salad, pile it on a pizza or on toasted bread as bruschetta. You don't need me to tell you what to do with salsa -  you know how many wonderful and delicious opportunities it has. In Guadeloupe it is served on fresh grilled fish and seafood.

Creole salsa is similar to other types of salsa, but with a few added kicks of flavour. If you can't find a vegan Worcestershire sauce, you can leave it out or look online to see if you can make your own vegan version.

3 ripe tomatoes
1/2 Spanish onion
1 fresh jalapeño chilli
1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 cloves fresh garlic
1 tsp Worchestershire sauce
1 tsp hot chilli sauce (such as Tabasco, Sririacha etc.)
Juice of 2 limes
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
Cracked pepper, to taste

To Make
1. Chop all the ingredients very finely and place in a bowl together. Add the sauces, lime juice, olive oil and salt and pepper.
2. Mix well and refrigerate for an hour or two to let the flavours really meld.

This month I'm featuring lots of recipes from Guadeloupe!
Check out my other Guadeloupean recipe posts:

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Guadeloupean Salsa Piquant

You might take a glance at the ingredients of this salsa and think that "piquant" might be an understatement given the number of ingredients which pack a punch of flavour. In cooking terms, piquant means to have an pleasant and agreeable sharp flavour, and this salsa really lives up to it's name. Yes, it's mostly onion combined with chilli, garlic and vinegar, which might sound like a bit much. But, I can assure it actually really works. Make it a little in advance and let the flavours really meld in the fridge for a while before you serve it. It's great in smallish quantities just like you would use any other salsa. On a salad, on grilled tofu or mushrooms or just on any dish to give it a bit of pep. I particularly recommend it on burgers - it will make your ordinary veggie burger sing like never before!

Salsa Piquant

2 onions, peeled and very finely diced
3-4 shallots, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 fresh jalapeño or green chilli, thinly sliced (I left the seeds in, but you can de seed it if you prefer)
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
Cracked pepper, to taste

To Make
1. Combine all the ingredients together and mix well. Keep in the fridge for at least an hour, you can even leave it over night. That's it!

This month I'm featuring lots of recipes from Guadeloupe!
Check out my other Guadeloupean recipe posts:

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Guadeloupean Chilli Mango Appetiser

A fresh appetiser which packs a real flavour punch as an appetiser or a burst of freshness between courses. It looks very simple, but the strong flavours dazzle your mouth with every bite. Keep the portions small if you're having it on it's own, or have it as a mango salsa as part of a meal.

This dish comes from the beautiful French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe - my featured country for this month. It's a challenging country, with strong French creole influences combing with tropical vibrant Caribbean ingredients and even, yep, quite a bit of curry from it's Sri Lankan influences. It makes for a unique combination of dishes and flavours, but all the dishes I made were delicious. They tended towards the simple, but with lots of fresh fruit and vegetables combined to make elegant and beautiful food.

3 ripe mangoes
1 fresh jalapeño chilli, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely minced
Juice of 2 limes
Cracked pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste

To Make
1. Dice the mangoes and place in a bowl. Add the jalapeño, garlic, lime juice and then add salt and pepper to taste.
2. Mix well and then refrigerate for an hour for the flavours to permeate the mango cubes. Serve in individual small bowls.

This month I'm featuring lots of recipes from Guadeloupe!
Check out my other Guadeloupean recipe posts: