Lemon and Rosemary Shortbread

December has arrived, which means that it is time for me to ramp up my Christmas baking! Every year, I make a collection of Christmas goodies to share with family and friends and to give to the kid’s teachers.

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This year, aside from marinating the fruit for my Fruit Mince Pies, these Lemon and Rosemary Shortbread are the first Christmas baked good of the season. I also plan to make some gingerbread of some description, obviously the mince pies and I’m yet to decide what else. I enjoy getting the kids to help me during this time as it also helps to get them involved and share the Christmas spirit – they particularly enjoy choosing what shaped cutters we use. Claire chose the stars for these shortbread.

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I chose the lemon and rosemary flavour combination as lemon is delicious in shortbread and rosemary adds a splendid fragrance and hint of savoury to a traditionally sweet biscuit. I was debating whether to use rosemary or thyme as both pair very well with lemon…maybe my next batch will be thyme. These are great with a cup of tea.

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Last Christmas, I ordered a the patterned rolling pin I have used for this shortbread, but devastatingly, it arrived after I’d completed all my Christmas baking, so I was thrilled to be able to put it to use this year. I just wish that the imprint would stay as pronounced after it is cooked as what it is before it is cooked.

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Making food as gifts is such a lovely personal gift for someone. A food gift does not specifically need to be Christmassy, it could be as simple as a jar of muesli or granola. If you would normally buy someone a box of chocolates at this time of year, why not try baking them something special.

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

  • 200g plain flour
  • 80g rice flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 1/2 tsp finely chopped rosemary
  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 115g icing sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

Method:

  1. Remove the butter from the fridge about 30 minutes before starting to allow it to soften slightly.
  2. Place the flour, rice flour, salt, lemon zest and rosemary in a medium sized bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.
  3. Place the butter and icing sugar into the large bowl of a stand mixer and beat on medium speed for 3-4 minutes or until light and creamy. Add the vanilla and lemon juice and beat to combine.
  4. Add the dry ingredients slowly to the butter mixture and beat until combined. Remove from the stand mixer and place the dough onto a piece of cling wrap, forming the dough into a disk. Completely cover the dough and refrigerate for at least 30-60 minutes or until firm.
  5. Once the dough is firm, preheat the oven to 160°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  6. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of ~50-70mm. If using a stencilled rolling pin, roll the rolling pin over the dough, pressing down firmly to form an imprint. Using a cookie cutter of your choice, cut out the shortbread and place them onto the prepared tray. Re-roll any remaining dough and continue to cut out shortbread until all the dough is used.
  7. Place the shortbread into the oven and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until lightly golden in colour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before transferring to a cooling rack.
  8. Once completely cool, place into an airtight container and store at room temperature.

 

Mango, Asparagus and Avocado Salad

Now that Summer and Christmas are just around the corner, I thought that I would share the salad I made today when our friends came for a late dinner.

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This salad was very much made up on the spot with what I had in the fridge, but turned out to be the quintessential Spring/Summer Salad and makes use of two of my favourite ingredients, which pair together very well, mango and asparagus. Both mango and asparagus have very short seasons, which makes me very sad, but it has meant that we have been eating a lot of them lately to make the most of them while they are in season.

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I’ve posted about how to throw together a delicious salad before, but my key tips are:

  1. Start with a leaf – it could be lettuce, rocket, spinach or other.
  2. Add some veggies – this could be a roast vegetable or a blanched vegetable. In this case I have roasted some pumpkin and blanched some asparagus.
  3. Add some typical salad veggies – I have used cherry tomatoes.
  4. Add some fruit or something for a pop of sweetness – this is where the mango shines.
  5. Add some crunch – nuts or seeds work really well.
  6. Add some cheese and or dressing to bring it all together.

The key to a good salad is a balance of flavours, sweet, salty, sour and bitter.

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Using this above framework allowed me to throw this salad together at the last minute and from the recipe below you can see how it all came together.

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I hope this provides a delicious salad for your next gathering or family meal, or at least some inspiration for throwing together your own salad with what you have in the fridge.

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

  • 300g pumpkin, peeled and diced into 1-2cm chunks
  • 10 spears of asparagus, cut into thirds
  • 1/2 a lettuce (I used oakleaf lettuce), torn
  • 2 handfuls of rocket
  • 8-10 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 an avocado, diced
  • 1/2 a large mango, diced
  • 1/3 cup roasted almonds, roughly chopped

Dressing:

  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbs white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
  • 1/2 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup basil leaves, chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a tray with baking paper.
  2. Place diced pumpkin into a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and stir to coat. Place onto prepared tray and bake for ~30 minutes or until pumpkin is golden brown. Once cooked, set aside to cool slightly.
  3. Place chopped asparagus into a bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to sit for 3-4 minutes then refresh under cold water. Set aside.
  4. Prepare the dressing by placing all ingredients into a small jar or bowl and shake/stir well to combine. Set aside.
  5. Arrange the lettuce and rocket into the dish you are going to serve the salad in. Top with roast pumpkin, cherry tomatoes, avocado, mango and asparagus.
  6. Drizzle over the dressing and sprinkle the almonds. Lightly toss to allow the dressing to coat the salad and serve.

Lemon and Coconut Bliss Balls

I am always trying different flavours of bliss balls, as well as experimenting with ones that contain nuts and ones that are nut-free so that Mark can take them to school. Recently, Mum and Dad came to visit and brought with them a big bag of lemons, so I needed to use them up, which is where these Lemon and Coconut Bliss Balls came into play.

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Ordinarily, I would have made these with cashews or almonds, or a combination of the two, but in this case, I wanted these balls to be lunchbox friendly, so I made them with seeds rather than the nuts, which in my opinion, are not as delicious. The nuts seems to add a more smooth and creamy texture than the seeds.

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The flavour combination of lemon and coconut is reminiscent of my childhood – the good old lemon and coconut slice, which, to be honest, one of my favourite parts of this slice being made was licking the condensed milk tin! Delicious! I will still happily enjoy a piece of lemon slice if I come across one, but it is nice to be able to create similar flavours in a way that is much more nutritious for both adults and kids.

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Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

Make ~25 balls

  • 2/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 1/3 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/3 cup chia seeds
  • 2/3 cup shredded coconut, toasted
  • 12 medjool dates, pitted
  • 1 tbs coconut oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract) or 1 tsp vanilla protein powder
  • 1/3 cup desiccated coconut, for rolling

Method:

  1. Place oats, seeds and toasted coconut into the bowl of a food processor and blitz until resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Remove from bowl and set aside.
  2. Place dates into food processor and blitz on high until dates break up and then come back together to form a ball.
  3. Place the oats and seeds mix in with the dates and add the coconut oil and lemon zest and blitz on high to break up the ball of dates.
  4. Add the vanilla and lemon juice and blitz again until the mixture comes together and forms a large ball.
  5. Place mixture into a medium sized bowl and refrigerate for 10 minutes.
  6. In the meantime, place desiccated coconut into a small frypan and toast over medium heat until it turns golden brown. This happens quickly, so keep an eye on it.
  7. Remove the mixture from the fridge and take a heaped teaspoon of the mixture, roll into a ball and roll in the coconut. Repeat with remaining mixture.
  8. Refrigerate for up to 1 week or freeze for 2-3 months (they won’t last that long)!

Dhal with Cauliflower and Eggplant

Dhal (dal, daal, dahl) is a term used for dried, split pulses (legumes), and also for the thick soupy-like dishes that are made using these pulses.

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I have been playing around with a dhal recipe for a few months now and I’m keen to incorporate it into my regular repertoire as it’s a great way to include a meat free meal that is based on the nutrition powerhouses that are pulses. Dhal can be made using a variety of split pulses or lentils, such as red lentils, channa dhal (similar to yellow split peas) and even du puy lentils. Whichever pulse you choose to use, you are providing your body with a great source of plant based protein. Just 1/2 a cup of pulses provides as much protein as 1-2 cups of other plant based sources, such as quinoa and rice, respectively. They are also a good source of iron, folate and potassium. A great food group to include for everyone, but particularly those who choose to adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet.

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The fibre contained in pulses is soluble fibre, resistant starch and insoluble fibre. Soluble fibre assists with digestive health, as well as helping to manage body weight, increase satiety, as well as improve blood sugar levels and assist in improving cholesterol levels. Insoluble fibre assists with digestive health and provides roughage for the body, assisting with bowels. Resistant starch is possibly one of the most important types of fibre, as it is starch that is resistant to digestion, meaning it will reach the end part of the digestive tract, where all the good bacteria live, providing a source of food for these bacteria (probiotics) to feed on, improving gut health. Resistant starch also assists in improving blood sugar levels and blood cholesterol levels.

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We should be aiming to include about 1/2 a cup of pulses at least 2-3 times per week. Achieving this can be as simple as regularly consuming hummus or including kidney beans into tacos or brown lentils into a bolognese sauce or adding some chickpeas or cannellini beans into a casserole or stew.

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Often a dhal is made on its own, then served with vegetables, meat or naan on the side. I have decided to add some eggplant and cauliflower to this particular dish as the flavours work really well, it helps to bulk out the dish, increases the overall vegetable content of the meal, and the kids happily eat the eggplant, which they wouldn’t if I served it up on its own. The kids absolutely loved this meal the most recent time I made it, and I think it’s because I finally got the spice combination right, meaning that it wasn’t too spicy for them. All three of their bowls were clean at the end of the meal.

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If you are making this for adults only, I would increase the mustard seeds and garam masala by half to add a little bit of punch. If you are adults sharing this meal with children and would like a bit more heat, you can add some chilli flakes or fresh chilli at the end to spice things up.

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

Serves 4-6

  • 2 cups channa dhal or yellow split peas
  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 brown onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 10g ginger grated
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 6-8 curry leaves
  • 1/4 cup cashews, finely chopped
  • 400g crushed tomatoes
  • 400ml coconut milk
  • 1L water
  • 1 medium eggplant, diced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups cauliflower, cut into small florets

Method:

  1. Place channa dhal or split peas into a bowl and cover with water. Leave to soak for at least 1 hour.
  2. Place the diced eggplant into a bowl and add salt. Toss and leave to sit for 20 minutes. Rinse off the salt and pat dry with paper towel. Set aside.
  3. Heat a large crockpot or saucepan over medium heat, add onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes until translucent. Add the ginger, garlic, mustard seeds, cumin seeds and fennel seeds and cook, stirring for a further 2-3 minutes. Add the remainder of the spices, curry leaves, cashews and tomatoes and stir to form a thick paste.
  4. Add the coconut milk, soaked pulses, eggplant and water and bring to the boil. Once boiled, reduce the heat and allow to simmer for at least an hour, stirring occasionally, until the pulses are tender but have not turned to mush. Add more water if needed.
  5. Once 20 minutes of cooking time has passed, add the cauliflower and continue cooking until the pulses are tender.
  6. Once cooked, serve with steamed rice or naan.

Roast Cauliflower and Cannellini Bean Soup

A cold Winter’s day call for a nice bowl of warm, filling and nourishing soup, and with Cauliflower in season, what better soup to make than a Roast Cauliflower and Cannellini Bean Soup.

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I do already have a Creamy Bacon and Cauliflower Soup on my blog, which is very popular, and super delicious, but if you are looking for a wholesome meat free cauliflower soup, then this is the one for you. The addition of the cannellini beans adds a quality source of plant based protein, helping to increase satiety and assist with muscle repair and growth, as well as being a rich soluble fibre source. Legumes, pulses and beans are often a forgotten group of foods, especially for meat eaters, which is a shame as they are a nutritional powerhouse. I am trying to include these into my cooking and our meals on a more regular basis.

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Cauliflower is a vegetable which belongs to the brassica family, the same family as broccoli, brussel sprouts and cabbage. It is very low in calories and a good source of fibre, which is important for digestive health, and antioxidants, such as vitamin C, which helps to boost the immune system and improve heart health. By roasting the cauliflower prior to making this soup, enhances the flavour of the cauliflower and provides a deep caramelised flavour, which pairs really well with the parmesan cheese that is added at the end.

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We have had this batch of cauliflower soup with some Pumpkin, Cheese and Rosemary Scones, a Not Quite Nigella recipe, which is linked here. These scones are light, fluffy and oh so flavoursome – definitely worth a try. If you’re not into scones, a nice crusty piece of bread with some butter works nicely, or even the soup on it’s own makes a great meal.

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The kids ate some of this soup. I wouldn’t say they loved it, but they ate it (except Elise, who threw her bowl on the floor…she is only 17 months, so I won’t take it to heart)! Despite this, I will continue to make soups like this and keep offering to the kids, and one day (hopefully) they will really enjoy them, and ask for a second bowl. Persistence and food exposure is key when it comes to kids.

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 red onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 5 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 cups of broccoli florets
  • 1 tin cannelini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 cups of chicken or vegetable stock
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 180°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Place the cauliflower florets into a bowl, drizzle with 2 tbs of olive oil and place onto the baking tray and bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.
  3. Heat a large soup pot over medium heat, add remaining olive oil and onion and cook, stirring regularly for 6-7 minutes or until soft, translucent and golden brown. Add garlic and thyme and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the roasted cauliflower, broccoli florets, stock, cannelini beans, salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes or until broccoli is tender. Allow to cool slightly.
  5. Using a stick blender, blend the soup until smooth. Add the cheese, milk, nutmeg and lemon juice and blend until incorporated.
  6. Serve topped with some fresh chives.

Moroccan Vegetable Stew

With the weather starting to cool down again, I have pulled the slow cooker out for some wholesome, hearty meals that require very little preparation.

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I have only had a slow cooker for a few years and I really don’t know what I did before it.  I particularly find it very useful for the days that I am working, as I can get everything ready that morning or the night before and then turn it on before I go to work, then when we return home, not only does the house smell amazing, but dinner it ready – just like going to a restaurant, right!!??! 🙂 On the days that I work, I finish between 5-5:30pm, and by the time I pick the kids up from childcare and after school care, we don’t get home until around 6pm, and we like to have the kids in bed at 7pm, which leaves little time for meal prepping.

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Once I got home, I added the cannellini beans to the Moroccan Vegetable Stew while the kettle was boiling for the cous cous. Once the kettle boiled I cooked the cous cous, and while this was cooking, served up the stew (in which time the cous cous was pretty much done), topped with yoghurt, preserved lemon and coriander, so we were eating around 6:05pm. Win!

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The kids enjoyed this, which was great as it had a variety of vegetables and beans/legumes for a protein source. If you wanted you could definitely add some chicken or lamb to this at the start if you wanted it to be a meat containing meal.

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If you didn’t want to serve this with the quinoa, you could leave it out and have it as a soupy stew or with some fresh crusty bread to mop up the juice.

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

Serves 4-6

  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 tbs ginger, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/3 head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
  • 300g pumpkin, peeled and diced
  • 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of saffron
  • 1 tsp harissa
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
  • 400g tin crushed tomatoes
  • 400g tin cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cups baby spinach leaves, chopped
  • Quinoa, to serve
  • Natural yoghurt, to serve
  • Preserved lemon, finely chopped or squeeze of lemon juice, to serve
  • Fresh coriander leaves, to serve

Method:

  1. In a small bowl, combine the cumin, cinnamon, saffron, harrisa and turmeric and mix to combine.
  2. Into the slow cooker, place the onion, ginger, garlic, cauliflower, pumpkin, chickpeas, spices, honey, stock and tomatoes. Mix gently to combine, place the lid on the slow cooker and set to low and cook for 8 hours.
  3. When ready to serve, add the cannellini beans and spinach and mix to combine, allowing to cook for another 5 minutes.
  4. Place the cous cous into a bowl, allowing ~1/3 cup of uncooked cous cous per person, and cover with equal amounts boiling water. Cover and allow to sit for 5 minutes.
  5. Divide cous cous between bowls, top with the stew and serve with a dollop of natural yoghurt, lemon and coriander leaves.

Pesto

Pesto is a super easy way to add some serious flavour to a whole variety of dishes.

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In my first trip overseas as an adult, I went to Italy and stayed in a little town on the Cinque Terre coast…take me back! While I was there, I did a cooking course, which involved making pesto, Italian style. All the participants made their own version of pesto, using the same 6 ingredients, basil, parmesan cheese, garlic, pine nuts, olive oil and salt, just adding our own quantity of each ingredient. We then tried everyones pesto, and they were all so different, it was incredible. I have no idea what the quantities of my pesto back then were, but this recipe outlines the quantities I use now.

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I like to use pesto as a dip, to mix through pasta, vegetables or risotto or even to make scrambled eggs more delicious (see recipe below). One of my favourite dishes to use pesto in is my Roast Tomato and Pesto Risotto, a lighter risotto that is great for warmer nights.

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Nutritionally, the pine nuts in pesto provide a good source of protein and healthy fats. The olive oil is also and excellent source of healthy fats. Garlic is from the allium family and has a great deal of health benefits and can help boost the immune system, decrease blood pressure and it is an excellent source of manganese, vitamin B6, vitamin C and selenium. The basil itself, which makes up the majority of the pesto, and actually belongs to the same family as mint. It is a potent antibacterial that contains antioxidants, including polyphenols flavonoids and anthocyanin. It may also have anti-inflammatory properties.

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Pesto, is something you can make and store in the fridge. It will keep well, provided it isn’t exposed to the air. Covering the exposed pesto with a layer of olive oil will keep it fresh.

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large handfuls of basil leaves
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted (toasting optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 50g parmesan, grated
  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to taste

Method:

  1. Begin by toasting the pine nuts in a small frypan over medium heat, until they are golden brown. This step isn’t necessary, but it gives the pesto a deeper flavour if you do toast them. Allow them to cool completely.
  2. Place the basil, pine nuts, garlic and parmesan into the food processor, process for~1 minute. With the motor running, add the olive oil and process until smooth.
  3. Set aside until needed.

 

Pesto Scrambled Eggs:

  1. To make the pesto scrambled eggs, combine 1-2 eggs per person into a small bowl, along with 1 tsp of cream per person, 2 tsp of pesto, salt and pepper. Beat well to combine.
  2. Heat a small non-stick fry pan over medium heat. Add 1 tbs of olive oil and gently pour the egg mix into the frypan. Gently move the eggs around the pan with a spatula, until just cooked and glossy.
  3. Once the mixture is glossy, turn off the heat and serve the eggs.