Sunday, November 29, 2009

Barley Spinach Salad with Roasted Cashews and Tamari

We all survived the Thanksgiving feast , we more than likely tinkered with purchases on Black Friday - so now it is time to eat something light and healthy in preparation for the Holiday Season ahead.

I made this salad for clients a few weeks ago and EVERYONE loved it and it is my new go to salad , which even my two girls enjoyed . It is an inspiration from my go to food magazine delicious.

It is made with barley , not the instant 10 minute breakfast deal  but organic pearled barley that takes around 30-40 minutes to cook . But do not be put off by this because you will reap untold benefits for your patience and diligence . It is then loaded with vegetables whose benefits need no explanation , followed by a dressing stunning in its simplicity and taste.

I told my girls that barley is like eating brown rice ( we are all converts to this wonderful grain ) , they love broccoli and they love spinach . It also has sugar snap peas which are delicious steamed and some roasted cashews for crunch . This particular occassion I served it with pork tenderloin sliced and marinated in my own creation of tamari, fresh ginger , garlic and a touch of sweet chili sauce . The secret ingredient for me was the fresh mint , I was pleasantly surprised as to how much  flavour this herb gave the salad and it was the perfect finishing touch .

I have to say this salad stands up well as a room temperature salad , great for upcoming pot luck holiday get togethers - maybe consider some strips of roasted red peppers for an added festive touch  . Excellent vegetarian fare that will even convert die hard carnivores . You can also add any other combination of green you would like or have on hand . Oh..... and it keeps forever in the fridge for as long as you do not eat it !!!

Barley Spinach Salad with Roasted Cashews and Tamari
inspired by Bill Granger

Served 4-6

Salad Ingredients
1 1/4 cups organic pearled Barley
1/2 pound organic brocoli, trimmed and steamed
2 spring onions, thinly slices
2 cups organic baby spinach leaves
2 cups sugar snap peas, steamed
1/2 cup mint leaves, roughly torn
1/2 cup raw cashews , roasted ane then roughly chopped .

Tamari Dressing
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 1/2 tbsp light tamari ( wheat free soy sauce)
1 1/2 tbsp mirin
1 tsp fresh ginger , finely grated

Cook the pearled barley according to packet directions.

Prepeare oven to 400F/200C and place cashews in a cake tin and roast until lightly brown - this could take anywhere for 5-10 minutes depending on the size of the cashews and you oven . Please judge accordingly.

Trim and steam the broccoli and sugar snap peas and rinse inder cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain well .

Whisk all the ingredients for the dressing ans put aside . This could even be made a couple of days in advance to allow the flavours to develop.

In a large bowl toss together the cooled barley,m drained broccolu, sugar snap peas and green onions , toss well to combine then add the torn  mint leaves and dressing and combine well . Allow to stand for 10 minutes to allow flavours to develop.

Enjoy on it own or as a side to some pork , grilled tofu or grilled portabello mushrooms.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Spiced Pumpkin Pie

I am converted . I have had a conversion ..... I take back everything I have said or written .......NO ..... I am not joining a sect .... just beginning to like pumpkin pie !!

My little gourmet , daughter number 1 , professed to me that she likes pumpkin pie , and she would like to make one for Thanksgiving . I embraced the fact that she wanted to make something , BUT , I cringed at the thought of having to make pumpkin pie. The truth be told - my culinary experiences have been pretty sad to date and the thought of having to expose myself to actually making one needed a deep deep breathe !!!

So, we perused my collection of cookbooks and came across this wonderful and abundantly simple recipe by Sara Foster with the pie crust recipe from the Barefoot Contessa . Maybe keep this recipe in store for next year , maybe consider it for the upcoming holiday season . Have I just shown I am not a local by espousing that we dare to eat pumpkin pie after Thanskgiving ?

Number 1 daughter made this pie all by herself , barr a couple of minutes of tutorial from the Gourmet Goddess , mainly helping out with the pie crust ... the rest was sheer GG pride !!!!

I hope everyone had an enjoyable Thanksgiving and heres to the upcoming Holiday Season !!!

Spiced Pumpkin Pie
adapted from Sara Foster and the Barefoot Contessa

The Crust
2 cups graham crackers ( 14 crackers)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinammon
1 stick unsalted organic butter
Place crackers in food processor and pulse until nice and crumbly, add sugar and cinammon and pulse to combine then add the melted unsalted butter . Place in 11inch tart pan , with removable base , press evenly into the sides , using a measuring cup for uniformity. Bake for 10 minutes at 350F ans allow to cool slightly before adding the pumpkin mixture .
The Filling
3 large organic eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 can sweetened condense milk, 14 oz
1 tin organic pumkin puree , 15oz
3 tablespoons unsalted butter melted and cooled
1 tablespoon all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 tesaspoon ground cinammon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
pinch of kosher salt

1 prepared pie crust as per recipe above.

Preheat oven to 350F.
Combine eggs, sugar , condensed milk and pumpkin puree in a bowl and mix with a wisk to combine well. Add the butter and stir until thoroughly blended .
Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl and add to the pumpkin mixture.
Pour into prepared and cooled pie crust and bake for 40-50 minutes until the pie is light golden brown on top and firm to the touch and set in the center when you jiggle it .
Cool completely and decorate with whipped cream or some delicious good quality vanilla ice cream.

Note to self : Maybe by this time next year I can write and let everyone know that I now LOVE pumpkin pie .... but lets not get ahead of ourselves !!!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Acorn Squash and Red Quinoa Harvest Salad

I am not too sure if you have heard of Quinoa , I discovered this amazing super grain a few years ago and I am completely obsessed. Apart for the amazing health benefits , supergrain , complete vegetarian protein , has all the amino acids our body requires ............. it is just so darn tasty .
Last weekend I was asked to cater for a christening brunch, as I discussed the menu details , a must have in my books was Quinoa . It is autumn , it is close to thanksgiving , it is also a tad chilly and I needed no excuse to make this delicious dish. 

In its entirety I named this dish Acorn Squash and Red Quinoa Harvest Salad  , some acorn squash was baked in the oven with apple cider and I thought this was the perfect bed and contrast for the quinoa salad.

I usually prepare the quinoa the day before and let it sit overnight in the fridge , I just find that it tends to become fluffy and separates easily. Just like rice which always tastes much better when it has "rested" in the fridge overnight . I am not a vegetarian,  so some prociutto was added at the last minute - but if you wanted to keep this dish 100% vegetarian I recommend some crumbled feta or goat cheese just before serving .

So here goes the recipe , and original GG recipe inspired by the season and thanksgiving . It can easily be halved - but please do not write to me with regrets !!

Acorn Squash and Red Quinoa Harvest Salad
served 12-16 people

1 packet Red Quinoa or 2 cups Quinoa
2 tblsp olive oil
2 handfuls Brussel Sprouts
2 stalks Celery
4 green onions
kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
fresh thyme 2-3 sprigs
1 red pepper
1 yellow pepper
1 small tin water chesnuts
1 1/2 cups apple cider
1 cup dried cranberries
8 slices prociutto (optional)
feta cheese or goat cheese (optional)

2 acorn squash
1 cup apple cider
1 tsp cinnamon
1 pinch nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
olive oil
unsalted butter

Cook Quinoa according to package directions.

Clean outer layers of brussel sprouts and then slice in half , lenghtways then each half into 4 pieces . Clean and slice celery on a diagonal , approx the same size as the brussel sprouts .

Heat some olive oil in a non stick pan , add brussel sprouts and saute until they turn a light green colour , then add the celery some salt and freshly ground pepper . Saute until the vegetables just start to soften . Meanwhile chop the red and yellow peppers into chunky squares, slice the green onions on a diagonal and drain and rough chop the water chestnuts . Add all these ingredients to the pan and stir until combined and the peppers barely start to soften . You need to just take the rawness out of the peppers .

Season again with salt and pepper and DO NOT overcook at this point or the brussel sprouts will become bitter . Check for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Remove from pan and add to the cooked and cooled quinoa. Toss to combine - it should very colourful .

Add the craisins and the apple cider into the saucepan and bring to a boil , then simmer for about 3 minutes until the craisins soften and the cider has reduces ever so slightly . Add this to the quinoa salad. Toss to combine.

Meanwhile preheat the oven to 400F , place the prosciutto slices onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and bake until it becomes crispy . Keep an eye on the time as each oven varies - should take about 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Also, clean and slice the acorn squash ( do not remove the peel) into 1 inch thick slices , saute slices in a combination butter and olive oil then place in an oven proof dish . Place rest of ingredients in a cup and mix well , then pour over the squash and bake until slightly brown and cooked through .

When all is done and cooled , get out your best platter , arrange the squash in an artful manner on the platter , then pile the quinoa salad mix on top then garnish with either crumbled prosciutto or feta/goat cheese .

Enjoy !

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Apple Cranberry Loaf

Thanksgiving is but a mere 8  days away , I am sure for everyone who is hosting, menus have been planned , shopping trips mapped out with military precision . And the all important "Turkey" has been nabbed !

Until I arrived to this country, I was not familiar with Thanksgiving. Yes,  I had heard of the pilgrims and the Mayflower , Yes, I had heard how they ate what the Indians ate ..... however the whole tradition surrounding this holiday began to slowly unravel itself to me over the past 10 years .

Upfront let me announce to the world that I LOVE turkey , as much as I LOVE chicken . Where I come from turkey was the main event for Christmas , stuffed "just right" and accompanied with roast vegetables ... and of course plum pudding . It was inevitably always hot on Christmas day - but all good cooks sweated it out in the kitchen - because Christmas just would not be Christmas without the turkey.

However , I have digressed from the theme of Thanksgiving . As I eargerly await my portion of the bird next week I have begun to look at other offerings that can be enjoyed . Again , not wanting to put a damper on all things dessert for this day - pumpkin pie ......just does not cut it for me ....... . Don't get me wrong I love fresh pumpkin oven roasted - delicious ... but this strange dessert that everyone clamours for at Thanksgiving - has to this day, remained a mystery to me . My eldest daughter came home the other day after tasting some pumpkin pie and announced that it was " the best pie she had ever tasted!!!" .... I think an intervention is required .

So , the Apple Cranberry Loaf recipe was sent to me from down under , it had one crucial ingredient that make this a Thanksgiving must ... dried cranberries ....... I just simply had to make it .

It is delicious, it is healthy ( whole wheat flour and very little butter) , it is like an energy bar in cake form and perfect for the Thanksgiving table and travels really well . I made it in little mini cake loaves - because I thought they looked so cute .

So , if you are not responsible for the turkey and the hostess asks your " just bring a dessert" , consider forsaking the pumpkin pie and shake things up a bit with apple cranberry loaf .

Apple Cranberry Loaf

1 stick Unsalted Organic Butter
¼ cups White Granulated Sugar
¼ cups Light Brown Sugar
3 whole Organic Eggs
2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
½ teaspoons Kosher Salt
½ teaspoons Ground Allspice
½ teaspoons Ground Cinammon
¼ teaspoons Ground Nutmeg
¼ teaspoons Ground Cloves
½ cups Organic Whole Milk Or 2%
2 whole Granny Smith Apples, Grated
½ cups Walnuts, Chopped
½ cups Roasted (Unsalted) Whole Pepitas
¾ cups Cranberries


Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and line a loaf tin or 4 mini loaf tins.

Cream butter and sugar till pale. Add the eggs one at a time, beating and scraping sides between each addition.

Sift flour and spices into a bowl, then add flour mixture to the butter, slowly along with the milk.

Once the mixture comes together, add the grated apples (see note below). Fold in nuts, seeds and cranberries. Place in the loaf tin and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes, on the center rack of the oven. Remove from the oven and let the loaf stand in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out. Allow to cool before slicing.

Note: I peeled and quartered my apples, then put them in the food processor and pulsed until coarsely chopped. Do this step after you have added the eggs, or the apples will start to turn brown.

Enjoy this deliciously healthy bread!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Harvest Apple Sauce

I love apple sauce , it is comfort snacking at its simplest . What I do not like is the store bought apple sauce - way too much added sugar and things that do not belong .

My girls also like apple sauce - but growing up I spoiled them . Unlike all their friends who would open a packet of sauce and immediately start devouring the contents - my little pumpkins wanted the homemade - real deal - so every so often I whip up a batch .

Now that we have just enjoyed a wonderful apple season - what could be better than apple sauce made with apples from the orchards ( thank you for the contribution Kelly ! ) , fresh , unwaxed, crisp apples - it does not get better than that !
Preparations are simple , clean out the fruit bin of all the odds and ends of apples -I always seem to accumulate plenty

wash well , quarter and roughly cut out the core

place in saucepan with a cup of water

bring to a boil and simmer until everything is soft and mushy

by leaving the skins on the applesauce takes on a lovely pink/rosy hue

Allow to cool slightly then pass through a coarse sieve using a spatula , scrape all the goodness into a container , store in refrigerator and eat with abandon !!!

Enjoy on its own , with granola , and of course with roast pork and even roast turkey.

Please make some, you will never go back to the mass produced stuff again.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Halloween .......... and the great pumpkin adventure

Well we just survived another halloween , it was colder than usual - so bundling up was essential . The whole process begins the night before with the carving of the pumpkins . A lot of thought goes into this . Strategies are plotted , designs are sketched out ad nauseum ............ and most years we come up with some good pumpkins .

Now , getting to this point is all the fun . For the first time , the girls were brave enough to deal with pumpkin goop ............ yes! the hands dived in and scooped out all that fun stuff ( albeit with a little help from the master pumpkin carver - Dad) ....... Mum was spared the hard work ..... I think they had fun !!

So, as you can see from the sequence of events , things were moving along nicely, even Penelope gave her look of approval - before she disappeared for a while .


The next important strategy is the carving process ........... Number 1 daughter picked a "ghastly face " to carve ........ Engineer Dad plotted out the drawing with exacting precision and then set about carving the "ghastly face " ...... under the watchful eye of Number 2 daughter.

So, in the final stretch the girls were very proud of their efforts , Mum helped Number 2 daughter with her carving - hence all photographing ceased - because you cannot carve and photogragh at the same time .

Here is the final product - note how life imitates art ............ Number 2 daughter's toothless grin is also reflected in the pumpkin !!!! and Number 1 daughters devil ears are reflected in the"ghastly face" .....
The next day ........... Halloween preparations were in order and my two little pumpkins set off to trick or treat  as the "good little witch" and "the little devil" ............ but they hammed it for a photo.