photo (1)If there ever was a song best paired with a dessert there’s only one that can be attributed to this little concoction – that very memorable and unforgettable instantly up-lifting little 80’s ditty by Dave Dobbyn. No doubt some people would find the song irritating but the same cannot be said about this divine combination of frozen Kiwi Fruit and Chocolate.  And when you bite into this delectable creation, if ‘Heaven’ is the so-called place where only good things happen, this is promptly where you will find yourself along with wanting more of course. We’ve been putting strawberries and chocolate together and fonduing since the Ice-Age but Kiwi Fruit and frozen at that takes the tried and tested fruit-chocolate combo to a new dimension as the moon shines over your horizon.

photo (2)Is it my imagination or is anyone else noticing the abundance of Lindt Chocolate cutting us off at the path every turn of the trolley during food shopping expeditions? I always thought Harris Farm was primarily a fruit and veg marketplace. I realise other items besides produce have been appearing on their shelves for some time now but the special that hit me square in the face upon entering the store last week was three one hundred gram blocks of Lindt Chocolate for five dollars. Contrary to my local IGA selling them for a weekly ‘special’ of three dollars forty-nine cents per one hundred grams, the Harris Farm deal looked like a true bargain. I only needed some continental parsley and a bunch of eschalots, but my basket now had blocks of exotic sea-salt, chilli, coconut and zest of lime sensations thrown in as well. It’s only a matter of time before Lindt takes over the world as we know it.

photo (3)
Even dearer in North Sydney CBD….

Wrappings can be torn off and the chocolate consumed in that state immediately which of course is what is intended by the manufacturer but I like to experiment and find other ways with chocolate other than an instant fix. The Texans invented a Chocolate Chilli Con Carne and Nigella Lawson (the unsurpassed Chocolate Queen) uses it in her recipe too. Yes, it’s generic dark cooking chocolate they use rather than luxurious Lindt, but I never had a problem eating dark cooking chocolate straight from the packet either finding it perfectly edible. I struggle to find a reason why Lindt’s Sea Salt variety wouldn’t also work in the Con Carne.

If you can muster the strength and resist temptation to eat all the chocolate before you melt it for ‘Slice Of Heaven’ you’re doing well. Afterall you’ll be eating it eventually so it’s a healthy will-power exercise. With the knowledge you’ll also be rewarding yourself with a good Vitamin C dose from the Kiwi Fruit the guilt from chocolate consumption is a minor consideration. And kids love this, even the ones who are defiantly fruit-intolerant. Here-in probably lies the original reason fruit started being smothered in chocolate in the first place. Would it work the same with a member of the Brassica family I wonder, ‘Choccoli’ anyone?

SLICE OF HEAVEN*

6 Kiwi Fruit; topped tailed, peeled and sliced into thick rounds

2 TBS Coconut Oil

1 Cup Chocolate Pieces (Lindt or any other chocolate you like)

1/2 Tsp Chilli Powder (only for the Chilli fans, absolutely optional)

Catering cocktail forks to insert in Kiwi Pieces

METHOD

1) Insert forks into Kiwi slices, place in a single layer on baking paper and pop in freezer 30 mins

2) Melt chocolate and coconut oil in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Take off heat and bring to room temperature.

3) Remove Kiwi slices from freezer and spoon melted chocolate over each making sure they are covered evenly.

4) Place them back on the tray and put back into the freezer till ready to eat. OR

5) Repeat steps 2, 3 and 4 for a decadent double coat.

* The inspiration for this recipe can be found here.

 

IMG_9377 Surprisingly several songs exist with ‘Orange’ in the title like Orange Crush by REM, Clockwork Orange by Kraftwerk, Bruised Orange by John Prine, Orange Wedge by the Chemical Brothers and Orange Blossom Special of course. My favourite is ‘Orange Juice Blues’ by Bob Dylan & The Band. Not so surprisingly the term ‘Orange’ in these songs is purely metaphorical having nothing to do with the actual fruit itself. I tend to side with cooking exploitations of the very versatile Orange rather than writing or listening to songs about them. And no ducks were harmed in this recipe either!

My earliest memories of Oranges stems back decades ago to my childhood netball ventures. It was during rigorous Saturday afternoon games, when juicy segmented pieces of oranges presented in Tupperware containers was our hydration of choice. Fancy electrolyte sport drinks and bottled water hadn’t even been thought of back then and when H2O was required this entailed a trip to the bubbler queue. I still opt for an Orange segment over a swig of sugar-loaded Gatorade anyday. IMG_9380The quest is on-going during this long cold Winter to come up with tasty, to-the-bone warming and at the same time healthy, flu-fighting soup recipes and so far have succeeded in avoiding being bed-ridden with any un-welcome ailments even though have been in the front-line of exposure to sniffly individuals on pretty much a daily basis. (It could very well be due to the large amounts of garlic I consume which contributes towards the distance kept between us). More elaboration on this here – Flu-shot in a soup bowl.

IMG_9385The proven immune-boosting ingredients used in Carrot and Orange Soup takes flu-shot in a soup bowl to a new level and there is no compromise in taste either. The citrus bursting Orange flavour in this, next to robust beta-carotene ant-oxidant loaded Carrots, and Fennel which incidentally is also loaded with Vitamin C produces an extraordinarily delectable and moorish bowl of goodness indeed. For added eupepsy properties, I added a good lug of grated fresh ginger to further heighten the experience. Once assembled, this soup becomes a vision of orange exquisiteness due to the high carrot and orange content.

My new go-to version of Sea-Salt, combined with Chilli Flakes. 10 out of 10!
My new go-to version of Sea-Salt, combined with Chilli Flakes. 10 out of 10!

During the past week I prepared two different versions: One where the peel was removed before the blending process, and the other where I left the peel in. It made a difference to the end result, the second being far more zesty plus after recently discovering orange peels contain a ginormous amount of nutrients and should be consumed rather than discarded! Who’d have thought…

Carrot, Fennel & Orange Soup

(Serves 4-5)

Ingredients: 1 TBS Coconut Oil

1 Red Onion, chopped

1 Stick Celery, chopped

1 Kilo Carrots, peeled and chopped

1 Medium Sized Fennel Bulb, chopped

1 Orange, peeled

1 TBS grated Ginger

4 Cups Organic Chicken Stock or Veg Stock

Method

1) Heat Coconut Oil in large saucepan over medium heat then add onions and sauté gently for a few minutes.

2) Add Carrots, Fennel, Ginger,  Orange Peel and cook gently for five minutes, stirring often

3) Add Stock, bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes.

4) Turn off heat, let cool slightly then transfer contents to a blender, whizzing till smooth consistency. (Remove orange peel before blending if you don’t want it too orangey).

5) Pour back into saucepan; juice the orange and stir through soup then gently reheat till ready to serve

(Optional: A scattering of toasted sesame and a bit of chilli sea-salt (pictured above) goes very well with this). No need for any green garnishes, as detracts from the orange flavour).

 

GarlicThere appears to be much discussion in Sydney right now about the unusually warm weather we are experiencing for this time of the year, but it’s only a matter of time before it will inevitably snap. And when it does, contrary to Summer-loving Sydneysiders  I am a self-confessed cryophilic and find gratification with the on-set of Winter – presenting with it a season of opportunities to create hearty soups, aromatic stews, roasts and whatever else needed to be nourishingly slow-cooked for hours with the fire crackling away near-by, luckily situated in my kitchen. Early darkness also appeals, as this means I can get dinner cracking earlier and usually do a little happy Mexican Hat dance whenever Daylight Saving finishes as this signifies remedying, cosy kitchen times ahead.

Annoyingly, there is a not so enjoyable side to Winter in the form of the Flu. And the hot topic on the talk-back radio I caught today comes as no coincidence coinciding with the cooler weather approaching being about none other than the Flu-Shot. It’s not something have given much thought to before and only subliminally being aware of its existence after seeing posters on the walls at my GP’s office, or after hearing people talk about it. Visiting the USA last September, it was hard not to miss the confronting billboards displaying the question, ‘Have You Had Your Flu-Shot Yet?’ placed along freeways we were frequenting? Impressive and ominous advertising for a jab. I won’t bang-on about vaccinations here as it’s the recipe am in a hurry to share, and do realise the Flu-Shot is necessary for some people such as those chronically ill. However I truly believe if you are otherwise a healthy specimen with your immune system in top match-fit fighting condition achieved through consumption of good food full of vital nutrients on a regular basis, those nasty little flu germs should have little chance of successfully invading your body and creating the irritating havoc they are very capable of achieving.

Royal Blue Potatoes
Royal Blue Potatoes

Roast Garlic and Ginger soup is a good place to start. Not only is this incredibly tasty, but it can be referred to as having a ‘prophylactic’ nature, which translates to using with the ‘intention’ of preventing disease or infection but does not actually have an effect on the severity or duration of the symptoms if you are already sick, just what the Flu-Shot is designed for (I think devouring this soup is a more enjoyable experience).  Consuming on a regular basis, it can also decrease the frequency of colds and flu. There’s no secret about the therapeutic properties of Garlic having been used for thousands of years to treat various ailments particularly respiratory issues.

Head of Garlic, sliced and ready for roasting
Head of Garlic, sliced and ready for roasting

Garlic is the main star of this show, with Ginger in the co-starring role. Besides benefiting digestion, which ultimately leads to better immunity, Ginger also has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties and makes your body sweat out nasty toxins. And it tastes great in this soup, added in the cooking process and again finely minced and stirred through at the end.

Mmmm. Garlic Bread
Mmmm. Garlic Bread

The final essential ingredient for this soup is the home-made, thoughtfully prepared chicken stock. Apologies, but the pre-packaged store-bought variety which is usually just salty water, just won’t do here. If the prospect of making your own chicken stock scares you or isn’t something you’ve ever bothered doing preferring the purchasable convenience, I can offer assurance there is no comparison taste-wise between the home-made variety and the stock-standard cube. Plus if you’ve made it yourself, you know exactly what’s in it and it’s not likely you’d be adding extra flavour and colour enhancers or, gulp, MSG which is found in some of those mystery parcels.  Next time you roast a chicken, and go organic for extra taste and goodness, throw all of the remaining bones and bits in a pot with water, sea-salt, peppercorns, parsley, celery tops, onion, bay leaf and half a lemon. Bring to the boil then simmer for a few hours – don’t bother skimming off the fatty bits because you’re going to strain it afterwards. Then place in containers , freeze or refrigerate if using within the next week. Or, start from scratch with one kilo of chicken necks and feet using the same method.  Or even better, use this genius method to make a chicken stock from scratch in fifteen minutes !

Flu-Shot in a soup bowl :-), and unless you are watching you grain in-take, make sure you serve it up with some very garlicky bread or giant garlic croutons drenched with olive oil for an added hit.

 

ROAST GARLIC AND GINGER SOUP

1 Whole Head of Garlic; and a few extra cloves reserved for mincing and stirring through at the end

1 TBS Coconut Oil

1 Celery Stick, chopped

1 Brown Onion, chopped

1 Thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and minced – 1 Tsp full reserved for adding at the end

500gms Royal Blue Potatoes, peeled and chopped

500ml Chicken Stock

1 Bay Leaf

Fresh Thyme

Sea Salt

METHOD

1) Carefully slice the top off the head of garlic making sure it all stays in-tact, then wrap in foil and roast in 200C oven for 30-40 mins, or when smells amazing and is just caramelised.

2) Heat Coconut Oil in a pan then Saute Onion, Celery, Ginger till soft and fragrant

3)Add Potatoes and Thyme and gently fry for another five minutes

4) Pour in stock, add Bay leaf, bring to the boil then reduce heat and simmer till potatoes are soft

5) Turn off heat, squeeze all roasted garlic into potato mixture

6) Transfer into a blender and puree till smooth

7) Put back in the pot, re-heat till ready to serve

8) Just prior to serving, stir through reserved minced garlic and ginger

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

Watermelon Cake
Watermelon Cake

Birthday parties for kids are generally speaking synonymous with one thing – sugar, sugar and more sugar.  I shudder thinking of years gone by, gracing the lolly aisle of the supermarket investing in giant-size bags of all things equivalent to zero nutritional value and great expense resulting in short-lived sugar hit highs for all and added reasons to visit the dentist.  I once jokingly informed my daughter one particular year, we were going to have vegetable bags instead of lolly bags – cut up pieces of celery and carrot in shapes of lollies, and also broccoli chips. This idea was met with a very disappointed expression and the irony was lost on her, so it was back to the lolly aisle once again.

A decorated birthday cake can be a virtual work of art. Over the years I have occasionally splurged and ordered gorgeous custom-made and individually decorated cakes as am simply not skilled enough to make such a creation and there’s one less thing to think about on the day of the party. Additionally to the lolly bags, the actual birthday cake can also be an extra vessel for all things sugar and fat. Besides being visually attractive, cake batters are traditionally all butter, sugar and flour and then loaded with frosting which is also just more butter and icing sugar. Not to mention all of the other sugary trimmings on top of the icing, like crushed up Tim-Tams or shredded Mars-Bars with individual slices topped with scoops of Ben and Jerry’s Choc-Chip Cookie Dough – not something you’d want to consume everyday, once a year is enough.  Yes, there are many versions of ‘healthy’ cakes whether they be gluten-free, flour-less, sugar-free, fat-free, made out of vegetables even, falling short of putting a cauliflower head on a plate with some candles stuck in it, there can’t be anything healthier than the Watermelon Cake.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Whoever invented this idea is a genius. Really, it’s just a fruit salad but is in cake form as opposed to chopped up little pieces in a bowl. But trust me, when it comes to assembly and decoration of  a watermelon cake,  I really can’t remember having this much fun in the kitchen, ever.  And, with the knowledge that you are creating something that is also extremely healthy – fat-free, gluten-free, wheat-free (not sugar-free because of the high fruit-sugar level but it’s not the dreaded refined variety) this is most certainly a win-win situation.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The trickiest part about making a watermelon cake, is getting the desired shape. Topping and tailing a watermelon is potentially a perilous exercise without the aid of a very good quality razor-sharp kitchen knife. After each end of the watermelon has been removed, it’s then just a matter of carefully trimming off the skin and all the white melon part so that all that is left is the juicy vibrant red bit, sculpting as best you are able into a ‘cake base’ shape.  Once you are happy with the shape, it’s time to start decorating and creating your work of  ‘fruit art’.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Using tooth-picks, secure the fruit to the outside of the cake like pictured. I started with peeled and thinly sliced kiwi-fruit, and slithers of oranges. Next it’s time for the berries to work their visual magic – raspberries, strawberries, blueberries arranged in whatever creative way imaginable. Blackberries and Mulberries and pomegranate could also be used. And a very useful tool is a melon-baller – use this to scoop out cute little melon ball shapes out of the discarded watermelon tops, and some rockmelon then pile on top of the cake between the berries. I was slightly naughty at the end and added a dusting of vanilla sugar all over.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The kids were mightily impressed, demolishing this creation within seconds, and of course you slice it up like a normal birthday cake and remember to remove the toothpicks 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This cake isn’t just for kids, an adult-only version can also be made. We all know how wonderful Hendrick’s Gin and cucumber is, well there’s no surprise it also pairs extremely well with watermelon. You go about making the cake exactly the same way except prior to starting the decoration, pour a generous drenching of Hendrick’s over the cake base and let infuse for a few hours in the fridge.  Then get creative with a fancy mandolin slicer and use cucumber as decoration instead of or as well as berries.

Happy Daze indeed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere can’t be too many of us who haven’t ever subjected our bodies to some kind of ‘diet’ at some point in our lives. And for what ever reason it may have been for, undoubtedly would have been to lose weight. I’ve tried a few in my time – Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, The Liver Cleansing Diet, The Scarsdale Diet plus others. Out of these I think the Jenny Craig version was the most successful and easiest, only having to pull out little boxes of pre-prepared meals from the fridge and not really having to think much about it except for payment time as was quite a costly exercise and to be honest, quite bland food – not much love there. However, the goal of losing kilos gained during pregnancy was achieved at the time. But, I never really knew what I was consuming or how it had been prepared, something I am far more interested in now, almost a decade later as a result of the ‘dining boom’.

More recently I have become an advocate of good food consumption and it’s direct impact on health and well-being. This is an ideal of which there is no shortage of information available to us now on the internet or via nutritionists and dietitians. These are the principles that many of us follow everyday in our meal choices today, but sometimes the information given to us can be overwhelming and it may be challenging or sometimes difficult to adopt good eating practices. Especially when you start googling everything in relation to diet and just what we should be putting in our bodies, you’ll find relevant and helpful information yes, but also contradictions within the mountain of information available at our fingertips..

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt all began when my daughter became very ill, culminating into her not being able to move at all eventually (we had to carry her up and down stairs and lift her in and out of baths/cars etc) over a period of months and was eventually diagnosed with an auto-immune disease labelled dermatomyositis some years ago. As we were told by doctors at the time that this was an extremely rare disorder and they knew not of the cause but only how to treat the symptoms, it was up to us to do our own research to find out any information we could. An often unrewarded path being a rare condition and very little information existed anywhere except drug information in relation to treating the disorder. The drugs did indeed help the symptoms but had very nasty side-effects, one of which was immune suppressing – the very essence of what needed to be healed the most. So, it was not making much sense and did not seem like a sensible long-term option as they were really just masking her symptoms, not curing her.

The ordeal lasted almost three years, of which one was spent dragging her to hospitals and specialists, including invasive procedures like painful muscle biopsies before she was actually diagnosed. A glimmer of light was shone on the whole affair eventually after I was referred by a family member to a very knowledgeable naturopath who not only had heard of the disorder (as many other medical practitioners surprisingly had not), but had also treated another young patient with dermatomyositis back to health through a combination of natural herbal remedies and a diet consisting of organic, good, fresh food – nothing processed and no refined sugar. This naturopath told me that all diseases begin in the gut, and even though we didn’t know what had caused the disease, it was the gut that needed special attention in order for the healing process to begin.

The feeling of relief, firstly that someone out there finally had answers to a cure as well as an understanding of the process of recovery for this disorder was indescribable at the time after having almost nothing else to go by till then. The elimination process of non-helpful (processed and glutenous/sugary) and insertion of fresh, healthy variety foods began, and we watched as she eventually recovered while being weened off the drugs till non-existent and her good health finally returned. I witnessed first-hand how a truly good, sensible diet can eliminate disease and have a positive impact on health all around.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhere does Paleo come into this? Well, approximately one year ago it was I who became unwell. After a particularly gruelling few weeks of work/sleep deprivation at the Tamworth Country Music Festival the end result was sheer exhaustion and absolute depletion of energy to the point of almost being incapable of anything other than being immobile lounge lizard all day. On top of this there was digestion issues and headaches and I thought something more serious than exhaustion must be going on. A visit to the doctor and a few tests revealed nothing other than that. Just plain old exhaustion, the remedy being to keep lying on the lounge and to do absolutely nothing for a week.

At this point is where the decision was made to really scrutinise what I was eating and to see if I would feel any better by adopting a sensible diet to aid in the recovery process as I had been through with my daughter. I didn’t take herbal remedies except drank green tea and knocked the coffee on the head too. All grains were eliminated, mainly pasta and bread and consumed nothing that came in packaging of any kind (I believe any food presented in a packet has at some point been processed in some way). Then went the dairy – no milk or cheese, the cheese being difficult not to have as I love it so much. Instead, it was vegetables, vegetables and more vegetables – salads, steamed or raw vegetable concoctions and lots of boiled eggs dusted with turmeric. If an attack of the hungrys occurred, I’d have a few raw almonds, walnuts and cherry tomatoes – was purchasing those by the palette load. Yes it was a hard-core approach to begin with.

IMG_8854I included a reasonable amount of fish, and never having been a huge red meat-eater anyhow, kept this to consumption maybe once every two to three weeks. And this would be served in the form of a top shelf grass-fed eye fillet, served pretty much rare. No processed meats of any kind, and everything was cooked in coconut oil or good quality extra virgin olive oil – the good fats.

Basically, before putting anything in my mouth I was utilising common sense assessing the nutritional value while not being overly obsessive about it, and making sure everything was as fresh and as healthy as possible based on the principle of trying to digest only good food in order to feel better. It was a simple way of eating and I never consulted any diet site or scientific studies in regards to food, just got back to the basics. And, there was no surprises as it was only a matter of weeks when my energy started returning and the health problems departed.

IMG_8834As a pleasant and unexpected side effect, there was also weight loss. It was interesting that this had occurred, when it had not been my intention and had not being following a specific ‘diet’ of any kind. Following an eating regime consisting mainly (not always as mentioned above) of vegetables at main meals, it’s a challenge to keep coming up with new and interesting ways to serve them, without the assistance of flavour enhancers. Again, there is a minefield of recipe sites devoted to this but investigation can be mind-boggling and confusing. Till the day when was given a few lovely plump pumpkins from my mother’s thoughtful vegetable garden in the Hunter Valley when I decided pumpkin soup was best way to utilise this produce and I stumbled across a fabulous recipe of Spicy Coconut Pumpkin Soup on a website dedicated to all things Paleo.

Not only was this recipe a complete winner, it was also of Paleo nature which was a bit of an enigma to me at first. I’d heard of it but like many others immediately associated it with visions of dinosaurs and cavemen, so decided to research it more as the soup was so incredibly tasty. During investigation of Paleo principles I discovered that this was actually the way I had been eating and the path I was on. Further discovery revealed that this way of eating and lifestyle can be adopted as a way of life to prevent a multitude of diseases besides just inducing weight loss. It was quite a revelation to discover that what I had been doing via common sense and because of previous health issues suffered by my daughter, actually had a name and was a so-called ‘diet’.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA year has passed and I still continue to follow the Paleo principles of eating, and probably will for the duration of my life. I have discovered that Zucchini is far more versatile vegetable than ever imagined and many other ways with vegetables to make you wonder how you ever needed pasta or bread in the first place. However do nowadays allow myself the odd ‘non-paleo’ treat occasionally as also firmly believe in the old saying ‘everything in moderation’. I just make sure the non-paleo treats are of extremely good quality, like a spectacular piece of creamy Dauphinoise cheese, spread over a french baguette freshly baked and still warm, with a nice glass of red. I mean, who can resist this? One of my most favourite things.  Just as long as you don’t do it every day because you will appreciate it more when it is only very occasionally. And this includes chocolate too, go top-shelf for these rare occasions.

It’s all about how good you feel when you make wise and sensible food choices,  that’s my take on Paleo in a chestnut shell.

*Here is the recipe for the pumpkin soup from this fantastic website Eat Drink Paleo plus plenty of other great food ideas.

Image

‘Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams’, ‘Wrapped Up In You’. Anything that comes in wrapped form usually means there is a hidden treasure inside just waiting to be revealed. Brown paper packages wrapped (yes I realise it’s actually ‘tied’ in the lyrics) up in string must be favourite things for all of us. ‘Wrap it up’ (I’ll take it) by the Fabulous Thunderbirds, ‘Christmas Wrapping’ by the Waitresses or who could ever forget ‘Wrap Your Arms Around Me’ by Agnetha Faltskog.

How about food being wrapped up, how about that. Who hasn’t experienced the wrap? Who hasn’t ordered a mystery parcel in the form of a sour dough or wholemeal wrap at a lunchtime sandwich bar? You may have ordered a salad, teriyaki chicken or a roasted vegetable wrap. A ham and swiss, a bacon and egg, or a smoked trout, beetroot and horseradish wrap, how divine.

Whatever sort of wrap you have chosen, it will undoubtedly be wrapped. Unless you unwrap the wrap and who would do this unless it’s not been assembled correctly in which case easier to consume in the unwrapped version where the ingredients just spill-out everywhere. This scenario is fine considering all contained ingredients are thoughtful, tasty, fresh ones plus a knife and fork on hand. Wrapping a wrap is indeed an art-form, it’s all about placement.

And then there’s avocado wrapped eggs.

Eggs and Avocado
Eggs and Avocado

For the last few weeks have seen pictures flung all over the internet of eggs inside avocados, you may have seen similar visions. Sometimes cooked, sometimes even raw which would be a major protein hit and highly nutritious mono-stereo fat hit. This has been intriguing and have clicked on the links only to find that this is not a recipe at all but a site selling the miracle weight-loss cure called Garcinia Cambogia. I didn’t want to lose weight only wanting to find out more about those eggs and avocados. There is no recipe or any other mention at all but of course further googling uncovered several recipes for avocados and eggs. If there is any food that is going to wrap up another food, avocados and eggs are pure chemistry at its best. (Possibly only surpassed by grated lime-soaked carrot, garlic, mint and ginger wrapped up in chinese cabbage leaves).

IMG_8852As you’d expect, there are varying recipes for this type of dish – some calling for roasting the avocado with an egg cracked into its cavity. Personally am not a fan of baked avocado, finding the room-temperature sublimated flesh of a fresh, uncooked avocado irresistible. Poaching or boiling an egg and then placing into the avocado cavity splashed with lime juice and a dash of olive oil, seasoned with sea salt, cracked black pepper and a sprinkling of smoked paprika is truly something else. So basically simple and easy to assemble, this dish would appear to be a breakfast option but can be experienced any time of the Night Or Day.

Spicy Avocado Wrapped Eggs

Ingredients:

1 Ripe Avocado, sliced in two and pit removed

Juice from 1 Lime

1 Organic Free-Range Egg – Hard boiled and cut in half lengthways (Or two small poached eggs)

1 Tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Sea Salt and Black Pepper

Pinch of Smoked Paprika.

Method:

Remove a decent scoop of avocado flesh from each half. (Just enough to make room for the egg and at least half of it left as texture – don’t bother reserving the flesh for another use, consume immediately).

Drizzle each half with Lime Juice and Olive Oil

Place boiled egg halves or two poached eggs individually in each cavity and sprinkle over sea salt, pepper and smoked paprika.

Love Lettuce Wrap

(Ingredients pictured at top, such a gentle alternative using lettuce as the wrapping as opposed to a wheat-flour dough variety)

Iceberg Lettuce leaves, whole

1 Lebanese cucumber, thinly sliced with a mandolin

Avocado flesh for spread

1/2 Green or Red Capsicum, thinly sliced

Lemon Juice

Shredded Basil Leaves

1 Tsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Grated Cheddar Cheese

1 Tsp Airlie Beach Chilli Sauce (optional)

Method:

Wrap all listed ingredients inside the iceberg leaves same as you would do with San Choy Bau.

It’s a wrap.

Ruth's Festival Fuelling Fruit Salad
Ruth’s Festival Fuelling Fruit Salad

Hitting the New-England Highway each year as I drive away from Tamworth back to Sydney, my mind is undoubtedly swimming with many vast and varied wonderful musical moments and memories.  Mixed feelings of relief and exhaustion follow due to having survived it all once again because if there is one time of the year when musicians must be well nourished, match-fit both physically and mentally, the Tamworth Country Music Festival is it. Preparation and fore-thought is vital to endure this festival and to emerge on the other side of it intact rather than a dishevelled wreck which can occur after grabbing food on the run, sleep-deprivation, navigating roundabouts and the ever escalating build-up of traffic adding stress to reaching sound-checks on time only then having to locate a car-park after loading our equipment on to the stage – all of this madness carried out under searing degrees of 39 Celsius plus.  It’s a case of every musician for themselves in these conditions, not to mention the punters who follow a similar regime trying to get around and see as many favourites performing as possible over the ten days.  It’s a conundrum how this is achieved on the smell of an oily bucket of chips laced with chicken salt 🙂

During previous festivals, musician friends and I used to have competitions to see who could do the most gigs over ten days. In 1998 I did thirty-nine gigs, ten of which were in the attractive time-slot of midnight till 3am at the West Tamworth Leagues Club Legends Bar, followed by a few 8am Bluegrass Breakfast gigs and various shows throughout the day, then back to the midnight slot. In those days my body could handle it but now am a bit more selective and wiser (I hope). With that kind of carry-on, coupled with salubrious accommodation (such as squash court floor one particular year) there would always be what I label the inevitable ‘Mid-Festival Meltdown’, something I try to intercept from occurring these days.

Starmaker Grand Final View From The Stage
Starmaker Grand Final View From The Stage

While not hurtling around town from venue to venue navigating roundabouts, camels and cowboy hats, alternatively am required to be on a stage reading charts for more than ten hours backing Starmaker hopefuls, previous winners and students of the Academy of Country Music. Sustaining the level of concentration required for this (including executing fiddle solos in feel-good keys of C# and F#) can only be fuelled by sensible food options. In the words of Ian Lees – Musician of the Year 2014, “There’s nothing worse than staring at a chart and all you can see is a burger”.  Mercifully, the Starmaker organisers supply us with a beautiful fruit platter and some healthy vegetarian wraps on the busiest day which is a very welcoming sight indeed as catering for the musicians is usually a rare or substandard occurrence. (One day, we were presented morning tea in the form of a tray lined with hot-pink iced cupcakes and a plate of chocolate chip biscuits next to a crate full of Coke – not really my idea of musician nourishment however it’s the thought that counts). During these situations, I am grateful to have the hand-bag almonds on hand, never leaving home without them.

The Atrium in Ruth's House
The Atrium in Ruth’s House

It only took thirteen festivals to find her, but serendipitously my angelic Tamworth host Ruth Blakely now opens her home and her highly nutritional kitchen to me every year. Ruth’s home is quite simply Nirvana and an essential link to my survival of this festival. Every morning, she prepares an incredible fresh fruit salad of mangoes, strawberries, paw-paw, rockmelon, blueberries and what ever else of what seems to be endless supplies of fruit on-hand. After this, if she isn’t rushing off to work herself, she will offer to cook up a hot breakfast of eggs, bacon, mushrooms and tomatoes. Then, she will fill up jars with almonds, cashews and macadamia nuts for us to take away. Being a host to musicians for several years, she has surely observed the plight  we face every day and understands the value of a good breakfast in order to face the daily marathon, because when we leave her home each day we are often at the mercy of the un-known, food-wise. Sometimes all we will have time for later in the day in between shows, is a quick and easy no-queue-waiting soggy white bread salad sandwich in a plastic container. Or, if there is more than five minutes to spare, perhaps extravagance in the form of a roast dinner for $26.

Performing with The Bushwackers at the Longyard Hotel
Performing with The Bushwackers at the Longyard Hotel

A night off is not something I get to experience much during the festival, however do manage to squeeze one in this time. As all of my time not involved with performing has been writing charts and learning songs and repertoires, there’s been no time to go to any local restaurants or even do any research on where is best to eat out. Plus my ears need a rest from all of the music as some on-stage volume levels have been monumentally decibelic. A quiet, cleansing salad is in order so I rummage through the well-stocked fridge full of love and nourishment, with the addition of some of Ruth’s own home-grown produce to create this one.

Mid-Festival Meltdown Salad Fix
Mid-Festival Meltdown Salad Fix

As for any salad, you can add any ingredients you like but being absolutely fresh is the key. Even better if you are lucky enough to pick the produce straight from the garden. Realising my schedule for the next few days would be nothing short of monolithic, this was a definite pick-me-up :-).

Mid-Festival-Meltdown Salad

1 Bunch of English Spinach Leaves

1 Bunch of Rocket Lettuce

1 Zucchini, thinly sliced with a mandolin

1 Cucumber, sliced

Vine Ripened Cherry Tomatoes, cut in half

Basil Leaves, torn

Juice from freshly squeezed lemon

1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Sea Salt and Cracked Black Pepper

Dried Chilli Flakes

Method:

Place all ingredients in a bowl, add the lemon juice and olive oil and gently toss. Consume immediately. Goes nicely with a cup of organic green-tea

* You can also add sliced boiled eggs, or for the non-vegetarians some sliced grilled chicken breast.

Image

December is absolutely upon us, the finale to a lightning-speed elapsed year of 2013 and all of the celebratory carry-on and over-indulgence that will accompany the season right up to the New Year and beyond. There’s no easy escape for anyone, best just to go with it. Musicians particularly will most likely be following a hectic schedule right now playing at Xmas parties and participating in Candlelight Carol events around the country. This can mean hours of rehearsal then being placed on a stage to read endless charts of Xmas songs, like Mariah Carey’s epic arrangement of Joy to the World including three key changes, multiple chord-subsitutions and references to the ‘Three Dog Night’ song thrown in as well just to keep us on our toes. To keep up the level of concentration needed in these situations, being well-nourished is vital. Take a bag of almonds and some bananas  to the rehearsal.

I have decided this year to be well armed for the onslaught figuring a few weeks of healthy eating will put the body in ship-shape preparedness for the upcoming weeks and damage-control can be enforced prior to excessive consumption.  For this task am thinking along the lines of Green.

IMG_8708There are no limitations to an All-Green Salad, truly fresh being the most important element. Make sure every green ingredient of your choice (or follow list below) is fresh and clean by washing all leaves/herbs free from residues – organic included. Even if you’ve grown it all yourself  it still must be rinsed thoroughly. If you have cultivated your own greens you’ll be aware of the freshness and taste sensation as opposed to you know what. If you are purchasing from markets or grocers, go for the most vibrant looking and use that very same day.  The French approach – shop seasonally and if you are good with time-management, daily for optimum zest.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABroad Beans are the stars of this salad and are in season now, but really anything green and lush will work. Don’t be afraid of Broad Beans. Yes they are fussy and time-consuming to prepare but the results, both nutritionally loaded with protein and fibre also taste wise are worth it if you set aside the time to prepare them. Based on top of an all-green salad and served with Green Tea for the ultimate de-fox, this is a nice early Xmas present for your body. You could also serve this up with some cooked prawns and basil oil tossed through as a Turkey alternative on The Day itself.  You’ll have yourself a very merry little Christmas indeed.

All-Green Broad Bean (Pre-Xmas Detox) Salad

Ingredients:

1 Cup prepared Broad Beans

1 Bunch of Rocket Lettuce

1/2 Cup of Green Peas

Mint Leaves, shredded

Basil leaves, torn

Bunch of Chives, chopped

Lime Juice

Sea Salt

Method:

* To prepare Broad beans – Split the pods and remove the beans, discard pods. Blanch beans in boiling water for a few minutes, drain then place into ice water. Slip the skins off simply with your finger, or make a small incision with a knife and pop the inner bean out (this is the time-consuming part)

* Place the rest of the salad ingredients in a bowl with the beans, toss gently.

* Sprinkle with Sea Salt and Lime Juice

For a bit more of a zing, try the salad with this Basil Oil Recipe (which also is delicious with prawns)

Basil Oil

1/2 Cup Basil Leaves

1 Garlic Clove

1 TBS Lemon Juice

1 TBS Apple Cider Vinegar

1/2 Cup good quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Sea Salt and ground Black Pepper

Method:

* Place all ingredients in a food-processor and blend well.

* Pour what you don’t use straight away into a jar and store in the fridge, it will keep for a week. (Just bring it to room temperature before next use as the oil solidifies).  Once you try this oil, you’ll find you want to put it on everything – it’s spectacularly good on poached eggs for breakfast 🙂

Image

Sometimes you need to look outside the proverbial circle to source food and recipe inspiration, or maybe it just occurs naturally if you trust your instincts in certain situations. Usually I find green-grocery shopping nothing short of a rejuvenating sensory experience with display after display of fresh, multi-coloured fruit and vegetables beautifully presented like paint on an artist’s palette. They haven’t just been dumped randomly, serious thought has gone into these displays for maximum visual appeal which turns into enticement and ultimately (in my case) more purchases than needed at the time – like the four inviting artichokes I bought yesterday just because they looked so content nestling happily next to the eggplants, not because I was going to be using them in my recipe but solely for decorational purposes in my kitchen.

Thyme from the Wall Garden
Thyme from the Wall Garden

Right now it appears the planet is collectively obsessed with, either just starting, completely finished or half-way through that ubiquitary TV series Breaking Bad which has presented me with an inspiration for a dish. How is this be possible you ask? If you are familiar with this completely compelling piece of Television excellence you’d be familiar with the character Marie who, as the series goes on you eventually notice is constantly surrounded by the colour purple. Not only is she wearing purple (contrasted with yellow or other complimenting purple colour-matches) the kitchen is also full of purple appliances, the crockery, shopping bags, curtains, the bedroom theme, furniture and even a purple cork-screw makes an appearance.  I also wonder if she she eats eggplant every night for dinner? It’s entirely possible she does.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe more I watch this series and am blasted with visions of purple the more thoughts I have about eggplant and other assorted purple coloured vegetables to the point of Marie Schrader’s obsessive behaviour. Red Onions (which are really purple and should be called purple onions), Raddichio, Beetroot, Purple Garlic, Purple Carrots, Purple Chillis and the King of them all, Eggplant. Traditionally serving sliced, drenched with olive oil, grilled and consumed just like that is sensational but there are other ways to incorporate eggplant in your cooking if you like to experiment. This recipe is based on an Iranian dish ‘Mirza Ghassemi’ plus a few additions and omissions. Baked with thyme the night before, then folded through scrambled eggs the following morning the sweet, smokey flavour intensifies over night. Baking has to be one of the easiest and tastiest ways to prepare eggplant.  Chop the skin and flesh up, fold through the scrambled egg and serve on a bed of rocket topped with dollops of dill yoghurt. and a squeeze of lemon. For the Chilli freaks, throw some chopped fresh purple chillis over the final result.

Baked Eggplant Scramble

1 Large Eggplant; Cut in half lengthways criss-cross scored without piercing skin

2 tsp Sea Salt

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

Few sprigs of fresh Thyme

* Sprinkle salt in the slits of the eggplant and set aside for 30 mins

* Squeeze all liquid from eggplant (like a sponge)

* Pre-heat oven to 200 C

* Brush flesh sides with Olive Oil

* Place flesh side down on top of Thyme sprigs in a roasting tin and bake for 1 hour or till skin starts crisping up.

Creamy Scrambled Eggs

4 – 6 Free Range Eggs

1/4 Cup of cream or Milk (or if dairy issues, just plain old water)

50 gms Butter

Salt and Pepper

Smokey Paprika for dusting

* Crack eggs into a bowl and whisk with a fork

* Add milk then use an electric beater to whip them up till well mixed, light and aerated

* Melt butter in pan till sizzling, pour in egg mixture and let settle for around a minute before moving it all with a spoon.

* Do not over stir, just gently fold cooked parts over each other till barely cooked; just slightly un-cooked as off the flame it is still setting. (Over-cooked scrambled eggs become watery rather than what you want light and fluffy)

* Chop the eggplant at this stage and gently mix through the scrambled eggs.

* Serve on a bed of Rocket drenched with lemon with the dill yoghurt sauce and a sprinkle of smokey paprika

Dill and Yoghurt Sauce

1/2 cup of Greek Yoghurt

2 Tbs finely chopped fresh dill

* Mix together till well combined

Note*

For the full ‘purple explosion’, grate some purple carrot over the rocket and add some caramelised red-onions before the eggs go on top, sprinkled with some edible purple flowers. (Sorry there is no picture, am only imagining this but am sure would look great)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy cute little Artichoke 🙂