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.

 

 

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

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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.

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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.

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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’.

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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.

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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 🙂

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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.

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‘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.

Sauce

This is a recipe created by some dear friends in Airlie Beach many years ago and is my adaption of the original one.  You can add as many chillies as you can stand, up to you.  Being a chilli fanatic I go full throttle with the amount.  For extra zing, a pinch of the sauce can be added to many dishes such as pizza, Bolognese or napolitana sauces, scrambled eggs or anything your imagine comes up with.  Add a few teaspoons to a cup of natural yoghurt as an accompaniment to fish and chicken or for the vegetarians, smothered on top of roasted vegetables (particularly eggplant) is also very tasty. If you are a chilli fan, you will use this in everything. Even if you aren’t a chilli fan you will still like this sauce, I promise you.

Ingredients:

Birds Eyes Chillies (depending on the heat factor you can stand – I used 500g, that’s heaps)

4 ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped

2 brown onions, roughly chopped

2 red capsicum, roughly chopped

2 cups white vinegar

1 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp coconut sugar (or brown sugar)

Sea Salt

Method:

1. Place all ingredients in a blender (not olive oil and brown sugar) you will have to do this in two batches and blend well.

2. Heat oil in a heavy based saucepan and add the blended mixture, bring to the boil slowly and let bubble away for a while.

3. Reduce heat to a simmer, add the brown sugar and cook uncovered  for several hours. *

The sauce will begin to change colour to a lovely deep, vibrant, orangey red and at this point turn the heat off, cover and let the sauce rest over night.  Put into sterilized jars and it will last for a few months refrigerated.

* Make sure the kitchen is well ventilated during this time as the brewing chilli aroma will be strong!

Snapper Marinade Ingredients

There are some musicians who throw themselves into performing on stage with as much gusto and energy as they do cooking. They are as passionate about singing, songwriting and honing their craft much the same as they are at preparing and serving up a favourite recipe. One such musician is Shane Flew who I have performed with many times over the years and witnessed first-hand his high level of enthusiasm exuded on stage which also extends to his passion in the kitchen.

Interestingly before becoming a full-time musician, Shane was employed in the food industry briefly. Firstly a stint in the Mossvale Abattoir (so I am not surprised at his skilful ways with a knife watching him slice up the Snapper) and then as a kitchen hand at a North Sydney Hotel. While being a kitchen hand, he got some time off work to attend the Nimbin Aquarius Festival in 1973 – Australia’s answer to Woodstock. This set him on a path to pursue music for a living so hung up his apron from then and has had a very successful musical career ever since, working with many great Australian Artists as a drummer, guitarist and vocalist. In more recent times he has forged his own solo-career being a clever songwriter as well.

Snapper Prep
Snapper Prep

Having survived a recent bout of cancer, healthy eating is of very high-importance to Shane. His approach to cooking and food preparation involves the freshest ingredients possible, preferably organic and sensible eating habits. When it came to sourcing and picking out the freshest Snapper for this recipe, he looked into the eyes to make sure they were bright and clear rather than dull-eyed as this in an indication they may be past their prime.

Asian Baked Snapper

After contacting Shane for a musicians recipe, he made the suggestion to visit my place and cook his chosen dish up for me. This was a fabulous idea, a dinner party at my place where didn’t have to prepare anything! I just had to supply the vegetables and the oven, perfect. The Snapper was also delicious. South East Asian flavours of ginger, spring onions, chilli and coriander infused well into this baked dish, I must invite Shane over to cook for me more often 🙂

Shane’s Asian Baked Snapper:

Ingredients:

1 medium-sized piece of ginger, peeled and chopped

3 Shallots, chopped

Bunch of Coriander, chopped

1/2 Red Capsicum, diced

1 Tbs Olive Oil

1/2 Lemon, sliced

Sea Salt

1/2 Jar of Masterfoods Soy Honey Garlic Marinade Sauce

Method:

1) Pre-heat oven 180 C and line a large baking dish with baking paper

2) Place all chopped vegetables in a bowl with Olive Oil and Soy Garlic Marinade, use hands to mix together

3) Place Snapper on a board and carefully slice deep down one side of the spine, creating a cavity

4) Cut three incisions on side of Snapper (as pictured)

5) Stuff marinade ingredients into the cuts and cavity and pour the rest over the top

6) Place Lemon slices over and sprinkle with sea-salt

6) Place fish inside foil, wrap, put in lined baking dish and bake for 30 minutes

7) Serve with  Jasmine Rice and steamed Bok Choy

Prawn and Mango Salad – (A suggestion from Shane to serve this as an entrée with the Snapper)

1 ripe Mango, peeled and sliced

10 Banana Prawns, cooked

1 Bunch Coriander, chopped

Juice of 1 Lime

Method

Place all ingredients in a salad bowl, mix to combine

Zucchini Linguine

Judging by warmer temperatures and Christmas decorations now appearing in department stores, Winter is officially over in Sydney. As a cold weather lover always happy to embrace the commencement of Winter I actually look forward to the oncoming months of slow cooked roasts and stews brewed up all day to be consumed in my kitchen next to the glowing  Jøtul cast iron wood stove. If I could afford the luxury of regularly travelling to any destination in the world I’d be pursuing the Winter climates over basting in sunny-hot, humid and balmy conditions any day. There’s just something about rugging-up, slipping on Ugg Boots and sipping a nice glass of spicy-sweet mulled wine that is much more appealing than enduring a sun-burnt sweat-fest.

Suffering a mild case of denial and not yet ready to put away the Ugg Boots or my cast-iron Chasseur pot, inevitably it’s time to start thinking about culinary choices that will suit the warmer weather approaching. And unlike Eggplant, there are countless songs written about Summer and all things Sunshine to get a bit of kitchen inspiration. Mostly positive, happy and upbeat songs like Heat Wave, Summer in the City, The Boys Of Summer, California Dreamin’, Surfin Safari, Under the Boardwalk, Summer of ’69 and that’s just the tip of the equatorial iceberg. Conversely Cruel Summer by Bananarama paints Summer in a darker light as does Summertime originally sung by Ella Fitzgerald.

Zucchini Flowers
Zucchini Flowers

The most quintessential summer song I can think of has to be the Brian Hyland recording of Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka dot Bikini. Mostly because I had to sing this song for the Bushwackers Beach Party in Tamworth a few years ago so is the song used as inspiration for Zucchini Linguine. How can this song inspire a recipe you say? Easily. Apart from the obvious rhyme of Zuchini and Bikini, think yellow with polka dots and the possibilities are endless. My thoughts straightaway leaned towards yellow capsicum, capers, preserved lemon and black sesame seeds. And Zucchini sliced thinly into lengthways strips I have recently discovered, surprisingly is an excellent and far healthier alternative to pasta. If you want your Bolognese sauce to stand out next time both visually and textually, try serving on a bed of Zucchini Linguine.

Slashed of high carbohydrate content and also gluten-free, who knows you might just be able to squeeze into that teeny weeny bikini this summer, or at least not be afraid to come out of the water wearing one 🙂

Yellow Polka-Dot Zucchini Linguine with Crunchy Parmesan:

Ingredients:

4 Zucchini, topped and tailed, sliced into thin strips lengthways, then again into linguine style strips like this:

Zucchini Shredded

1 Yellow Capsicum, sliced thinly in strips

1 Tbs Coconut Oil

2 Tbs Olive Oil

2 Cloves Garlic, minced

1 Birds-eye Chilli, de-seeded and chopped finely

1/4 Piece of Preserved lemon, chopped finely

1 Tbs Baby Capers, rinsed

1 Tbs toasted Black Sesame Seeds

Coriander Leaves chopped roughly

Method:

1) Melt coconut oil in a frying pan over medium heat

2) Add Zucchini and Capsicum and sauté for a few minutes until just tender

3) In a new saucepan, add Olive Oil, Garlic, Chilli and Preserved Lemon and gently simmer over medium heat till fragrant, one minute tops

4) Pour Olive Oil mixture over Zucchini Linguine and stir till well combined

5) Scatter with toasted Sesame Seeds and Coriander

Crunchy Parmesan:

Ingredients:

Handful of Raw Almonds, ground up in a processor

3 Tbs finely grated Parmesan Cheese

4 Zucchini Flowers with baby zucchini attached

Splash of Olive Oil

Sea Salt

Method:

1) Preheat Oven to 180 C

2) Mix Almonds and Parmesan together in a bowl

3) Place Zucchini Flowers in roasting pan, splash with Olive Oil and Sea Salt

4) Bake for 15 Minutes, remove and let rest

5) Detach flowers from baby Zucchini, crush up with fingers and add to the Parmesan mixture

6) Either eat the roasted baby Zucchini now, or throw into main dish

6) Sprinkle on-top of Zucchini Linguine

Rhubarb

When it comes to fruit and vegetable selection, I like to follow their seasonal habits so they are at their absolute best. This way you are getting them in their full glory, they taste better and are also cheaper. For instance, I wouldn’t attempt a Jamie Oliver Thai Mango Salad in the middle of winter, firstly because you won’t find a mango then (unless you’ve been diligent enough to freeze some pulp from the previous Summers’ abundant supply, who does that anyhow?) And secondly, it’s not really a Winter dish, it’s more appropriate to be slicing up mango and cucumber into slithers while wearing Havaianas in the kitchen rather than Ugg Boots – that just doesn’t seem right.

There are a few perennial vegetables and lucky for us, one of them is Rhubarb. While having a chat with my neighbour the other day about food, she mentioned Rhubarb and the fact that she had always thought it to be a fruit but had recently discovered it is actually a vegetable. This got me thinking about Rhubarb and the fact that I had never really considered making a dish with it. I’ve certainly sampled some lovely baked apple and rhubarb crumble with cream from country cafes during my travels but never thought to do something with it in my kitchen. That same day, I spotted a huge bunch of it in my local IGA and promptly purchased it. It was meant to be.

Now, what to make with it. After trimming the leaves and roots off as these contain poisonous oxalic acid and leaving only the edible stalks, I try a piece, raw.  This is a mistake as Raw Rhubarb is definitely an acquired taste, not something I could get used to or have any desire to either. It won’t hurt you to eat it like this and is certainly loaded with many vitamins and minerals this way, but the good news is that apparently these are retained in cooked form, a much wiser choice 🙂

Quinoa, Rhubarb and Apple
Quinoa, Rhubarb and Apple

Stewing Rhubarb seems to be the tried and tested way of preparing this vegetable, so I cook it up with some apple, coconut sugar, a few spices and serve it on a bed of white Quinoa (the new black) with Greek Yoghurt, strawberries, toasted sesame seeds and a splash of Maple Syrup. Turns out to be a wonderful dessert, as well as a great alternative to rolled oats for breakfast if you are trying to take it easy on the grains. If you are also trying to take it easy on the sugar, leave it out along with the Maple syrup and use a bit more cinnamon instead, but it won’t be anywhere near as delectable 🙂

Quinoa with Stewed Apple and Rhubarb:

4 Rhubarb Stalks, washed, trimmed and cut into 2cm diagonal slices

1 Large Red Apple, peeled, cored and sliced (get yourself one of those super-duper apple-peeler corer machines – gets this job done in seconds)

1 Tbs Coconut Oil

1/4 Cup Coconut Sugar

1/4 Cup Water

1 Tsp of Cinnamon

1 Star Anise

Pinch of Nutmeg

Prepared Quinoa

Toasted Sesame Seeds

Method:

1) In a fry-pan over medium heat, melt coconut oil

2) Add rhubarb, apple, sugar, water and all spices.

3) Fry gently, stirring often till rhubarb breaks down and apples are softened. About 20 mins.

4) Top Quinoa with stewed rhubarb mixture, Greek Yoghurt, sliced strawberries, sesame seeds then drizzle the Maple Syrup over.

Oh yes, thank you Rhubarb.