Slow Cooked Beef Cheeks with Salsa Verde

Winter is the perfect time to make full use of slow cooked meals, whether you have a slow cooker or not. Slow cooked meals are the perfect prepare ahead meal as they usually cook for many hours, meaning that the bulk of the work, which is usually very little, can be done in the morning, leaving very little to do just before dinner time.

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Beef cheeks are a delicious cut of meat and are quite affordable. They are rich, smooth, lean and tender when slow cooked. They used to be a whole lot cheaper before the demand for them increased with their use in restaurants. Beef cheeks are much better slow cooked than cooked any other way, and the salsa verde that is added at the end in this meal cuts through the richness of the sauce and the beef perfectly.

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Salsa verde, or ‘green sauce’, is a sauce that is made from a combination of herbs – parsley, basil and mint, as well as garlic, capers, anchovies, Dijon mustard, olive oil, lemon juice and red wine vinegar. The result is such a light fresh, flavoursome sauce that is so good with this beef, but also works extremely well with fish or potatoes.

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I’m sure you’re wondering, what about the kids, I bet they don’t eat it? Mark really enjoys this meal, except he’d prefer to not have the salsa verde, most likely due to the bite that the uncooked garlic provides. Claire is always a bit funny with meat, if it’s not mince, but she always eats a small amount and Elise is hit and miss, on one occasion, she loved the slow cooked meat and on another she wasn’t interested. Depending on your family, this may be a dinner that is better saved for the adults, but I like to get our kids to eat the food that we eat the majority of the time.

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I would usually serve these beef cheeks with mashed potato or parsnip, or a combination of the two, as well as some steamed greens.

Enjoy xx

Ingredients:

Serves 4-5

  • 375mL red wine – a heavier wine such as Shiraz or Cab Sav work well
  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1kg beef cheeks
  • 1 brown onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • Zest of 1 orange, cut off in strips
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 2 tbs cornflour to thicken

Salsa Verde

  • 1 cup flat leaf parsley, loosely packed
  • 3/4 cup basil leaves, loosely packed
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves, loosely packed
  • 1 tbs Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tsp baby capers
  • 1 anchovy
  • 2 tbs red wine vinegar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Method:

  1. Place the red wine into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for ~10 minutes to reduce the wine. Remove from the heat after 10 minutes.
  2. Heat a frypan, or crockpot (if cooking on the stove or in the oven), over medium heat and add the olive oil and the beef cheeks. Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side to allow them to brown. Remove from heat.
  3. Place the onion in the frypan or crockpot and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, to give it some colour, add the garlic and cook for a further 1-2 minutes.
  4. Transfer the onion and garlic to the slow cooker or pot it will be cooked in and add the orange zest, bay leaves, thyme, stock and reduced red wine.
  5. Set the slow cooker to low and cook for at least 6 hours.
  6. If you are cooking on the stove top, cook, covered, over low heat for 3-4 hours or until the beef starts to fall apart. If cooking in the oven, cook, covered for 3-4 hours at ~140°C for 3-4 hours.
  7. While the beef is cooking, make the salsa by placing herbs, mustard, garlic, capers, anchovy and red wine vinegar in the small bowl of a food processor and pulse several times to chop the herbs. Add the lemon juice and olive oil and pulse a few times to combine. The salsa verde should not be completely smooth in consistency, so resist the temptation to over blend.
  8. After the 3-4 or 6 hours, depending on your cooking method, the beef should be very tender and starting to fall apart. At this point the liquid will still be quite thin.
  9. Remove 1 cup of liquid and add 2 tbs of cornflour to this 1 cup of liquid and mix to combine. Return this back into the slow cooker and mix gently to combine. This will help to thicken the sauce.
  10. Place the pot over low heat or increase the heat of the slow cooker and remove the lid and allow the liquid to bubble for around 5 minutes to help to further thicken the sauce.
  11. Serve the beef cheeks with mashed potato or parsnip and drizzle some salsa verde over the top.

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Tahini and Chocolate Chickpea Blondies

With school aged children, the need for nut-free snacks is imperative.

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I have been seeing blondie recipes pop up everywhere lately, especially chickpea blondies, which I love. The only downside is that they all use either peanut butter or almond meal, which is not at all conducive when you can’t send your child to school with nuts (not that school-friendly snacks really matter when you’re schooling from home!!!). So, I have done some experimenting and have come up with these Tahini and Chocolate Chickpea Blondies.

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Don’t let the inclusion of chickpeas put you off as you really cannot taste them. Instead, your body just reaps the rewards of including a member of the pulse family in the diet. Chickpeas provide an excellent source of prebiotic soluble fibre. Prebiotics are the ‘food’ that feed the trillions of good bacteria (also called probiotics or microbes) that reside in your gut, which make up the microbiome. When fed adequately, these microbes flourish and produce short chain fatty acids, which control the permeability of the gut, ensuring that molecules stay inside the intestinal tract, where they belong, rather than leeching out and causing inflammation in the body. Inflammation in the body is an underlying cause of many chronic health conditions, so minimising it is very beneficial to overall health and well-being.

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One of the best things about this recipe is that you can pop everything into the food processor and blend it together, meaning only one bowl needs to be washed. Do make sure that you store these blondies in the fridge. One of the batches I made, I left at room temperature and within a couple of days they went mouldy, due to the moisture content of the chickpeas.

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If you don’t love the taste of tahini and have no need for these to be nut free, then you can substitute the tahini for peanut butter, which has a more mild flavour than the tahini. The chocolate is an optional extra, but I highly recommend including it. I have just sprinkled it on top here, but it can be folded through the mixture just before adding it to the pan.

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 x 400g tin of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup of hulled tahini
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 2 medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 50g dark chocolate, chopped or 1/3 cup dark choc bits

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a square baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Place the oats into the food processor and pulse 3 or 4 times to break up the oats.
  3. Add the chickpeas, tahini, maple syrup, dates, eggs, vanilla and baking powder and blend until a smooth, yet slightly lumpy consistency forms. You may need to stop the food processor to scrape down the sides.
  4. If you want the chocolate to be evenly distributed throughout the mixture then fold in the chocolate, otherwise pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the chocolate on top.
  5. Place into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes or until firm to touch.
  6. Allow to cool before slicing. Place into an airtight container and store in the fridge.

Apple and Blueberry Baked Oats

One of my new favourite breakfasts, when time allows, is baked oats. With some very fresh mornings this Winter, a nice warm breakfast really hits the spot. Porridge is a breakfast that always goes down a treat in our house, but it’s nice to have something a bit different, yet still have the same, if not more, nutritional properties as a hearty bowl of porridge.

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It took me quite a while to be completely happy with this recipe as I was really wanting something that has a creaminess, almost like custard, which meant playing around with the ratio of oats to eggs/milk, but we got there. I would describe this dish as a mixture between porridge and bread and butter pudding, with a generous spice profile.

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As far as a breakfast goes, this is a very nutritious option. Obviously, being made from rolled oats, it has all the nutritional benefits of a bowl of porridge – low GI carbohydrate and a good source of soluble fibre, providing a sustained energy release, increased satiety and improved digestive health. The addition of eggs and seeds provides a quality source of protein and essential amino acids as well as a dose of healthy fats and a range of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D, choline and B vitamins. The apple and blueberries also provide a good source of fibre, especially when the skin is left on the apple, antioxidants and vitamins and minerals.

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Baked oats can be prepared the night before to allow the oats to further soak up some of the liquid and save some time in the morning, or it can all be made in the morning. I prefer to do it the night before, which allows the flavours of the spice and zest to infuse well and 30 minutes of soaking time is taken care of while you sleep! This is also a breakfast that could be made in advance and then portions reheat when ready to eat.

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The kids LOVE this brekky and, after being slightly hesitant initially, they now have generous serves and second helpings most times I’ve made it. We serve it with some thick Greek style yoghurt and if you wanted some additional sweetness, you could serve with a drizzle of maple syrup.

Enjoy xx

Ingredients:

Serves 4-6

  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 2 tbs linseeds
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • Zest of 1 orange, finely grated
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups milk
  • 3-4 tbs maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large apple, sliced
  • 1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • Thick Greek style yoghurt, to serve

Method:

The night before:

  1. Place oats, linseeds, spices and zest into a medium sized bowl and mix to combine.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, milk, maple syrup and vanilla to combine. Pour into the bowl with the oats and mix well. Cover and refrigerate overnight to allow the flavours to infuse. Note: this can be done in the morning, but I recommend leaving the oats to sit soaking for at least 20-30 minutes.
  3. In the morning, preheat the oven to 180°C. While the oven is heating, line a large baking dish with baking paper or grease with butter or coconut oil.
  4. Remove the oats from the fridge and pour into the prepared dish. Add the blueberries and gently fold them into the oat mixture. Scatter the apple over the top, pressing some pieces further down into the mixture.
  5. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until the oats are golden on top and the mixture is firm when pressed lightly on top.
  6. Serve portions with a dollop of thick yoghurt.
  7. Store leftovers, if there are any, in an airtight container in the fridge and reheat when needed or enjoy cold.

 

Slow Cooked Beef Pies

A wholesome, chunky, slow cooked pie makes the perfect dinner or weekend lunch, when the weather is cooler.

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It is so amazing how cooking a cheaper cut of meat for hours on end can turn into the most tender, flavoursome, melt in your mouth meal. Cheaper cuts of meat have higher levels of the protein collagen, which can be quite tough, but when slow cooked, the collagen is broken down into gelatin, which gives a much smoother mouth feel. I have used chuck steak for this this pie, but cuts such as skirt steak, gravy beef or shin would all work well.

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Homemade pies are well received in our household and the majority of the time the kids eat them without any fuss. These beef pies are rich and full of flavour and, if I must say so myself, one of the best pies I’ve tasted. If you wanted to add more veggies into this pie, potato or sweet potato would work well, as would some zucchini. I personally would prefer to leave it as it is and have a side salad for some extra veg.

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I have a pie maker, which makes the whole pie making process much simpler. It involves simply cutting out some pastry for the bottom, placing it in the pie maker, adding some filling and then adding the piece of pastry to the top. Think of a toasted sandwich maker but with a pie hole cut out and that’s what it is. It also meals that if you make more than you need for a particular meal, you can reheat the individual pies in the pie maker in about 5 minutes, rather than the best part of an hour in the oven, achieving perfectly crispy pastry every time. An investment well worth making!

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These pies can be made in a batch and frozen, then re-heated for another meal at a later date.

I hope you enjoy these pies as much as I do. xx

Ingredients:

Makes 6-7 small pies or 1-2 large pies

  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1kg chuck steak
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 large carrot, diced into 1cm cubes
  • 2 sticks celery, diced into 1cm cubes
  • 5 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 button mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 2 tbs plain flour
  • Puff pastry – 1 sheet for family sized pie, 6 sheets for individual pies
  • 1 egg yolk (for family sized pie)

Method:

  1. Heat a medium fry pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the steak and brown each side for 3-4 minutes. *If your slow cooker has a sear function, do this step in the slow cooker.
  2. Once browned, place beef into the slow cooker and add the vegetables, herbs, garlic, wine, tomato paste and stock. Mix as best you can to roughly combine. Turn slow cooker to low heat and cook for 7-8 hours, stirring once or twice during this time (stirring is not essential).
  3. Once the cooking time has lapsed, gently pull the beef apart and mix to spread evenly through the mixture.
  4. At this point, you may need to thicken the mixture slightly to make it more of a gravy. To do this, you can either add some flour or evaporate some of the liquid.
  5. To evaporate some of the liquid, you can set your slow cooker to a higher setting and remove the lid and allow it to simmer until the sauce thickens.
  6. To make it more of a gravy, take about 1/2 a cup of the liquid out of the slow cooker and place into a small bowl, add the 2 tbs of flour and mix to form a paste. Add the paste back into the bulk mixture and mix to combine.
  7. PIE MAKER: If you have a pie maker, turn it on and cut out the pastry circles, place the bottom piece of pastry in the pie maker, add ~1/2 a cup of filling and then add top piece of pastry. Repeat with remaining pies. Cook until pastry is crispy.
  8. OVEN: Turn the oven on to 200°C and prepare a pie dish. Place filling into pie dish and brush the rim of the dish with some egg yolk to help the pastry to stick. Drape the sheet of pastry over the top and trim around the edges. Brush the top with remaining egg yolk and place into the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and puffed.
  9. The pies will keep well in the refrigerator for 2-3 days and will freeze well for up to 3 months.

Lemon, Blueberry and White Chocolate Muffins

It’s been awhile since I have shared a muffin recipe and I seem to be baking a new batch a few times a fortnight, so I thought I’d come up with something new.

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Lemon and Blueberry are always a great flavour combination, and the addition of any form of chocolate to a muffin makes most people happy. These are a light, fresh and flavoursome muffin. All of the kids have enjoyed the 2 batches of these that I have made, even when I forgot the milk in one of the batches….ooops!

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These are a simple one bowl muffin and freeze really well. They are also great for the kids lunchboxes, now that the restrictions are starting to lift and schools have returned…for us in Australia, at least.

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Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup wholemeal flour
  • 1 cup plain flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp bicarb soda
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 90g butter, melted
  • 3 tbs maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 200g fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 2/3 cup white chocolate chips or roughly chopped white chocolate

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven top 200°C and prepare an 18 hole muffin tray(s) for medium sized muffins or a 12-15 hole muffin tray for larger muffins.
  2. Place flours, baking powder, bicarb soda and lemon zest into a large bowl and mix to combine.
  3. Add the lemon juice, milk, eggs, butter, maple syrup and vanilla and stir to combine.
  4. Add the blueberries and white chocolate and fold through the mixture, being careful not to over mix.
  5. Divide the mixture between the muffin holes and place into the oven and bake for ~15 minutes or until the muffins bounce back when pressed on top.

Roast Tomato Passata

If you grow your own tomatoes, I’m sure you’ve encountered a situation where you just can’t eat enough of them. This happens to us every year, between the new plants that we plant and those that self seed from the previous year, we are always inundated, even with children that eat dozens of cherry tomatoes a day!

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This year, I decided to make some passata, something I’d never done before, and it actually turned out to be quite straight forward. I have roasted a lot of tomatoes this year, so after researching passata, I thought I’d try a roast tomato approach and it was really really tasty. We pulled our tomato plants out today, so depending on how many of the green and almost red tomatoes turn red, I will make another batch soon.

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Passata is a smooth, rich tomato sauce that is added to a range of different meals. The process of making passata is a traditional Italian family celebration, where families get together and all pitch in to make passata to last the year. This recipe doesn’t not make that much! The tomatoes are traditionally boiled on the stove tops and then flavoured accordingly, usually depending on the particular family’s traditions.

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I have reserved the seeds and skins, which are excluded from passata to ensure that the sauce is smooth. Instead of discarding this ‘paste’ I have preserved it into a jar as well and we have been using it as a pizza sauce on the base of our pizza, which really makes the pizza special.

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If you have an excess of tomatoes or see them on special at the shops, why not channel your inner Italian Nonna and make some of your own passata.

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

Makes 2-3L of passata.

  • 5kg tomatoes, halved (big ones work better)
  • 2 large onions, roughly chopped
  • 1 bulb garlic, peeled and squashed slightly
  • Generous drizzle of olive oil
  • Generous sprinkle of salt and pepper.
  • 2 good handfuls of basil

Method:

  1. Heat the oven to 180°C and line a prepare a large baking tray.
  2. Place all ingredients except the basil into the tray and toss together lightly. Place in the oven and bake until the tomatoes are starting to blister, roughly 30-40 minutes.
  3. Allow to cool slightly then tear and add in the basil. Mix to combine.
  4. Pass through a fine sieve or a mouli until all the juice has been extracted. Repeat this several times until what you have left is essentially a paste of tomato seeds and skins – don’t discard this.
  5. Ensure jars have been washed and sterilised any place the passata into the jars, leaving about 0.5cm at the top of the jar. Place the lids on tightly.
  6. Place the tomato seeds and skin paste into a separate sterilised jar and place the lid on.
  7. Place all jars into a large pot that has a tea towel at the bottom. This stops the jars from bouncing around. Pour water over the jars, ideally overing them and bring the water to the boil. Once boiling, reduce heat and allow to simmer for 40 minutes.
  8. Carefully remove the jars from the water and allow to cool. These will keep for 6 months at room temperature or can also be stored in the fridge.
  9. I store the tomato ‘paste’ in the fridge and use as pizza sauce for our pizza bases.

Sourdough Bread – how I make it

I have been making my own sourdough bread for almost 3 years now and it really makes ordinary bread seem quite inferior. This loaf below was the very first loaf I made:

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Over these past few years, I have had dozens of requests for my sourdough recipe, so here it is. There are plenty of sourdough recipes out there and confusing as to where to start as the world of sourdough can be a bit daunting, but why not take this time of isolation to do something that is a little time consuming and make your own delicious creations. The whole process takes about a day and a half but the actual hands on time is very limited.

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Making sourdough had always been on my to do list, but I didn’t know where to start, how to make a starter, would it work, would it not. This was all until one of my clients gave me some of her starter and I had no choice, I had to keep it alive, so I did. I fed it and I used it and I fed it some more and it is still going strong. Making your own starter will take about 1 week and here is a straight forward way to make your own starter with some helpful pics to guide you.

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Sourdough is a science. You will need a set of kitchen scales as you will find that all the recipes use grams of water, which is not commonly seen when cooking, but don’t be tempted to guess or use millilitres. The proportion of water to flour is important, especially when making and feeding your starter. It needs to be the same. The pictures below are of a starter that has just been fed (top two) and one that has been fed and allowed to become active over a few hours (bottom two). Note the bubbles in the active starter, this indicates that the starter is ready to be used.IMG_8583IMG_8584IMG_85825r90j

 

Feeding and storing your starter:

If you are baking loaves regularly, keep your starter at room temperature and feed it daily by adding equal parts flour and water. I usually add 15g of each. Once it is bubbling nicely it is ready to be used. Another way to test its readiness is to place a small spoonful into a glass of water and if it floats, you’re good to go.

You only need to keep about 1/4 cup of starter at any one time unless you are planning on making multiple loaves at once. Sourdough bakeries will keep litres on hand but this is not at all needed for the home baker. If you are storing your starter at room temperature and feeding regularly, you will need to discard some starter each time you feed it, unless you are baking a loaf. Discarding half will be adequate.

If you only bake one loaf per week, you can store your starter in the fridge in a glass jar. It will then need the time to warm back to room temperature and be fed before using it and then fed again before placing back into the fridge. You may find if you store the starter the fridge that after a few days a vinegary smelling liquid forms on top. This is normal, just pour this off and feed the starter again.

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Over the years I have made an array of loaves, including, wholegrain, wholemeal spelt, fig and walnut, fruit sourdough, olive sourdough, but my regular go to is a wholemeal loaf, detailed below.

Enjoy xx.

Pre-ferment/Levain

  • 50g wholemeal flour
  • 50g water
  • 30g starter that has been recently fed and is active (bubbly)

Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well to combine, cover and allow to sit at room temperature for 8+ hours. The picture below is what the levain should look like after 8 hours, smooth, sticky and starting to bubble.

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Bulk Ferment

  • 300g wholemeal flour
  • 200g white baker’s flour
  • 375g water
  • 15g salt
  1. Add all ingredients to the levain, which has been sitting for at least 8 hours and is now starting to bubble. Mix well, cover and leave to sit for 1 hour.
  2. After one hour, use a wet hand to loosen the dough from the bowl and grab the right side of the dough and fold it into the middle, then fold the left side into the middle, the top side into the middle and the bottom side into the middle. Lift the whole loaf and flip it over. Cover the bowl and leave to sit for another 2 hours. To see a video of how this fold it to be carried out, there is a video with the whole sourdough process on my instagram account @whatspruecooking.
  3. Over the next 2 hours, every 30 minutes, repeat the same fold.

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Shaping the dough

  1. After 2 hours, scoop the dough from the bowl and place onto a lightly floured surface. Grab one side of the dough and fold it into the middle, work your way around the dough until you have formed a rough ball then flip the loaf over.
  2. With floured hands, cup the dough where it meets the bench and turn the loaf to form a nice ball shape. The dough may start to slightly stick to the bench here, this is ok as the aim is to create some surface tension, which is essential to shaping the dough.
  3. Place the bowl upside down over the shaped loaf and leave to rest for 30 minutes.
  4. While the dough is resting, prepare your brotformen (sourdough proving basket – see picture below) by sprinkling it with plenty of flour, getting into all the grooves. If you don’t have a brotformen, line a medium sized bowl with a tea towel and sprinkle and rub at least 1/4 cup of flour into it.IMG_00C2FDE24295-1
  5. To carry out the final shaping, flour your hands, scoop the dough and flip it back over. Repeat the same fold as in step 4 and 5, except when you are turning the loaf to form the ball make sure there is not too much flour where you are working as the formation of surface tension is essential for keeping the shape of the dough and sealing it.
  6. Once you have formed a nice tight ball, invert the dough into the prepared proving basket (ie. the side of the dough that was on the bench when you are forming the ball is now facing up).
  7. Cover the dough with cling wrap and place in the fridge overnight or for at least 6-8 hours.

Baking the dough

  1. Remove the dough from the fridge and allow it to come to room temperature, 30-45 minutes.
  2. Place a large crockpot, with a lid, that will fit your loaf in it into the oven and heat the oven to 240°C.
  3. Flip the dough out of the proving basket and onto a piece of baking paper. The top of the dough should be covered with flour from the proving basket. Using a sharp knife, score the top of the dough. This will allow the steam to escape and for the loaf to rise. Without scoring the dough, the loaf will blow out the side while baking. The score can be 2 lines down the centre of the loaf, a square or a criss cross pattern – there’s no wrong or right.
  4. Carefully remove the crockpot from the oven and take the lid off. Lift and lower the dough and baking paper into the pot and replace the lid. Return the pot to the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes.
  5. After 25-30 minutes, remove the lid from the crockpot and if the loaf has risen nicely then return to the oven, without the lid, lower the oven temperature to 220°C and bake for a further 10-15 minutes or until the loaf has a nice golden brown colour. If the loaf has not yet risen, return the lid to the pot and cook for a further 5 minutes before removing the lid.
  6. Once cooked, remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 1 hour before slice, if you can resist it. The loaf should sound hollow when tapped.
  7. Enjoy with a generous slather of butter!IMG_2819

Timeline for baking a loaf:

To bake a loaf on Saturday:

  • Thursday night – take your starter out of the fridge and feed it.
  • Friday morning – Make your pre-ferment or levain and leave to sit for 8+ hours.
  • Friday afternoon/evening – Do your bulk ferment, folding the loaf every 30-40 minutes for 3 hours.
  • Friday night – Place the loaf into a proving basket/tea towel lined bowl and allow to prove in the refrigerator overnight.
  • Saturday morning – remove the loaf from the fridge and allow 45 minutes for it to come to room temperature and bake the loaf.

When I am making my sourdough loaves, I will usually do the bulk ferment between 6-9pm. This has often resulted in me giving the loaves a couple of folds and then once the kids are in bed, sitting on the couch with a cup of tea or glass of wine or folding the washing and then 2 hours later realising I haven’t folded it again. In these instances, the bread has still worked and is still tasty but isn’t as amazing as one that has been given all the TLC a loaf of sourdough needs.

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Slow Roasted Tomato Bruschetta

What a crazy time it is that we are all living in….Coronavirus, halting our lives, forcing us to stay home and slow down. An inconvenience or a blessing in disguise?img_5773-e1496487456421

We have been self-isolating for two weeks now, leaving the house to go to the shops, to exercise or go to work. The kids haven’t ventured out of our suburb in two weeks and were actually shocked when I bought home some Easter eggs from the supermarket the other day as they haven’t come shopping with me since before all the easter stock was front and centre!IMG_7766

With a little more time on our hands, I’ve been trying to think up recipes that I can share that are delicious and suitable for working from home lunches or dinners, which don’t take too long to prepare, yet are not suitable for taking to work. This slow roasted tomato bruschetta is exactly that. It requires about 5-10 minutes hands on time, yet requires time in the oven to roast – perfect to be put on mid morning and roast away while you get back to work.

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Our garden has been producing tomatoes in abundance over the past 6 or so weeks. Elise loves to eat the cherry tomatoes as they are and I have been making Passata with the larger ones, but we are still over flowing with cherry tomatoes, so this is a great dish to use up a chunk of tomatoes if you have an excess. We’ve had it a couple of times now and it is really makes a traditional bruschetta look quite inferior. The kids have enjoyed it too.

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Hope you’re all surviving this weird and wonderful time. Remember to sit back and embrace the extra time you have as it won’t last forever.

Enjoy xx

Ingredients:

Makes 4 slices

  • 400g cherry tomatoes, some halved
  • 2 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed
  • Zest of 1/2 a lemon, coarsely grated
  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbs balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 slices of sourdough bread
  • 1 large handful of basil leaves
  • Feta, to serve

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 140°C and line a baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Place the tomatoes into a bowl and add the thyme, lemon zest, oil, balsamic vinegar and a good grind of salt and pepper. Mix to combine.
  3. Place onto baking tray and slow roast for 45-50 minutes.
  4. Once roasted, remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
  5. Toast the bread and drizzle with olive oil. Top each slice with 1/4 of the tomato mixture. Top with some torn basil leaves and crumbled feta.
  6. Serve as is or with a poached egg.

Roast Carrot and Lentil Salad

I made this salad on New Year’s Eve as a bit of a ‘throw together’ type salad and the feedback was exceptional. Everyone raved about it, so I thought it best that I write it up, which is always challenging when the original recipe was made up and not documented. So, last week, I made the salad again from what I could remember and here it is…

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Lentils make a great base for a more substantial salad. They are great source of both protein and carbohydrate, as well as providing a good amount of fibre and B vitamins. Lentils and other legumes should be included more regularly in most people’s diets, and are particularly important for those who choose to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet due to their iron, zinc and protein content, nutrients that are often lacking in a vegetarian or vegan diet.IMG_7974

Lentils are often overlooked as people aren’t always sure how to incorporate them into meals, however, regular consumption of pulses (at least 3 times per week) has actually been shown to decrease the risk of developing certain cancers, particularly, colorectal cancer, due to their high soluble fibre content, which helps to keep the bowels healthy and moving well. Salads, such as this one is a great use for lentils. Other ideas include adding some lentils into a bolognese sauce, making lentil burgers, or adding them to a curry or a stew. There are so many ways to include them regularly into the diet.

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The roasted chickpeas add a great crunch to this salad and really break up the texture of the lentils and roast vegetables well. The honey and cumin roasted carrot and pumpkin provide a sweetness and spice, which are complemented by the sweetness of the grapes. If you can’t get red grapes, pomegranate would make a good substitute.

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The components of this salad can all be prepared in advance and then assembled just before serving.

Enjoy xx

Ingredients:

  • 8 Dutch carrots, cut into 3cm pieces
  • 2 cups pumpkin, diced into 1-2cm cubes
  • 2 x 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1 tsp cumin, ground
  • 1 cup du Puy lentils
  • 400g chickpeas, roasted
  • 1/2 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 1/2 cups red grapes, halved
  • 1/2 cup of each coriander, mint and parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup pinenuts, toasted
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted

Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp honey

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C and line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
  2. Place chopped carrots and pumpkin into a bowl and add olive oil, honey and ground cumin. Toss to coat the vegetables then place onto one baking tray and cook for ~40-50 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven when cooked.
  3. Drain and rinse the chickpeas and dry well with paper towel or a tea towel. Place in a bowl and drizzle with 1 tbs of olive oil and season with salt a pepper. Place onto the second baking tray and bake for ~45-50 minutes or until dry and crunchy. Remove from the oven when cooked.
  4. While the vegetables are roasting, cook the lentils. Rinse the lentils and drain then add 1 1/2 cups of water. Heat on the stove top and bring to the boil, once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, until lentils are tender. Drain and rinse the lentils and allow to cool slightly.
  5. Place the lentils into a large bowl, along with the red onion and the herbs, reserving ~ 1 tbs of herbs for serving, then prepare the dressing by placing all ingredients in a small bowl or jar and mix/shake well to combine. Pour the dressing over the lentils and mix well to combine.
  6. Add the roast vegetables and grapes and gently toss to combine.
  7. Toast the pine nuts and pumpkin seeds in a small frypan over medium heat, stirring occasionally until lightly browned, ~1-2 minutes.
  8. Add half the nut/seed mix and half the roasted chickpeas to the lentils and toss gently to combine.
  9. Top with remaining nut/seed mix and chickpeas, as well as reserved herbs.
  10. Enjoy as a meal on its own or with some grilled chicken, barbecued meat or a piece of fish.

Fennel, Zucchini and Walnut Salad

Over the past few months, we have been enjoying a lot of salads, which I have just thrown together with whatever we have in the fridge and they have been turning out brilliantly. This is one of the ones that I actually documented what I did and thought I would share it.

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As with most salads, this one is a great one to pair with any sort of barbecued meat, chicken or fish and a good one to take to friends place if you’re asked to bring a salad as it’s a little bit different.

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I have found that with the regular appearance of new and different salads on the dinner table over the Summer, the kids have taken more of a liking to salad, especially Claire. Previously she would have a sparrows helping of salad, now she will help herself to seconds and thirds. Whether this is an age thing or a product of repetitive exposure, I’m not sure, but we’ll go with it and keep having salads.

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I have written posts before on ways to spice up a salad, but the main things that make this salad are:

  1. It contains fruit for a bit of sweetness
  2. It contains nuts for some crunch and protein
  3. It includes some veggies, which are more regularly seen as cooked veggies and not in a salad – the broccoli
  4. It is topped with cheese for some protein and, let’s be honest, everyone loves cheese.

While these points are crucial for every salad, they do help to make it a ‘next level’ salad rather than a lettuce, tomato and cucumber salad, which does get a little bit boring.

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Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 a medium zucchini, finely sliced
  • 1 tbs white wine vinegar
  • 1 baby fennel, finely sliced
  • 1 green apple, cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 a small head of broccoli, cut into small florets
  • 10 snow peas, halved lengthways
  • 10 sugar snap peas, halved lengthways
  • 10 green beans, trimmed and cut into thirds
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 2 tbs goats cheese
  • 1-2 tbs fennel fronds

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbs apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a small tray with baking paper.
  2. Using a mandolin (if you have one), finely slice the zucchini into rounds and place into a small bowl. Add the white wine vinegar and toss to coat and set aside.
  3. Finely slice the fennel, using the mandolin and place into a large bowl. Change the mandolin setting to cut the apple into matchsticks and add to the fennel. If you don’t have a mandolin, using a knife will also work well for the zucchini, fennel and apple.
  4. Place broccoli florets, snow peas, sugar snap peas and beans into a medium sized bowl and blanch by covering with boiling water. Allow this to sit for 2-3 minutes and then drain the water and refresh under cold water. Add to the bowl with the fennel.
  5. Place the walnuts into the preheated oven and toast until golden brown. This will take 5-10 minutes but check after 5 minutes.
  6. While the walnuts are toasting, prepare the dressing by combining all ingredients in a small bowl or jar and mixing/shaking well to combine.
  7. Add the zucchini to the remainder of the salad ingredients, discarding the white wine vinegar. Add the dressing and toss to coat. Place into serving bowl and top with toasted walnuts, goats cheese and fennel fronds. Edible flowers are a lovely finishing touch also.
  8. Serve and enjoy.