Homemade Spicy Wedges with Aioli

February 26, 2011 § 3 Comments

I have had quite a few requests for this recipe, firstly at Friendly Beaches and then at our wonderful garden gig we had for the Luscombe street Community Garden last sunday.

To make these wedges you have to be prepared to go a bit wild in the spice cupboard. They are usually different every time I make them. This is probably depending on which spices aren’t too far back and hard to reach in the cupboard, but I will do my best to give you something to follow. I would also like to stress here that there is definitely room for personal touch. Sometimes I have made them with lemongrass, sometimes not, sometimes with cumin, sometimes not, sometimes with turmeric, sometimes not, sometimes with garam masala, sometimes not and so on. However, I think the lemon juice, zest and cinnamon are great ingredients to add an intriguing flavour.

I have provided an aioli recipe to go with the wedges but they are just as good with chutney or the like.

Spicy Wedges (Serves 4 – 5)

2 kg potatoes

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp paprika

2 tsp whole cumin seeds

2 tsp ground coriander seeds

1/2 tsp chilli flakes

1 1/2 tsp salt

Zest and juice of 1/2 a lemon

80 ml oil

1 stalk lemongrass beaten with the back of a knife and chopped finely

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C. Wash the potatoes and cut into wedges.  Place the potatoes and all the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. Mix until the potatoes are coated evenly.

Place the potatoes on two large baking trays making sure all wedges are touching the tray. Bake for 1 hour if using a fan forced oven, a bit longer if not.

Aioli

2 egg yolks

1 cup light olive oil or a combination of stronger  olive oil and sunflower oil

3 Tbsp lemon juice

1 tsp mustard

1 tsp lemon zest

2 cloves crushed garlic

A big handful of fresh herbs. I used parsley, oregano and thyme.

Place the egg yolks and 2 Tbsp lemon juice on a large plate and stir well with a fork. Add the olive oil very very slowly, stirring well with the fork after each drop.

Once all the olive oil has been added, stir in the remainder lemon juice, zest, garlic and mustard. Finely chop the herbs and add these too.

(If you want to cheat and buy a good quality mayonnaise and add garlic lemon juice, zest and herbs to make your aioli, I promise I won’t tell anyone. I have been guilty of this too).

Serve in a bowl alongside the wedges.

Enjoy!

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Everything Pink: Chocolate Beetroot Cupcakes

February 22, 2011 § 3 Comments

Pink is beautiful! I have only just noticed this.

My love affair with pink has crept up and surprised me, slowly taking form, settling into the back-seat of my mind, organising itself, getting comfortable before revealing itself to me.

Perhaps the seed was planted recently when I loved the paper curtain in our laundry.

Floral and patterned and pink.

Or when I started taking photos of pink roses.

Velvety and creamy and pink.

Or perhaps it was some years ago when I bought this dress.

1950’s and vintage and pink.

Or way back when I admired the stain of beetroot on everything it touched.

Bright and earthy and pink.

Either way, I have been told that pink is the colour of universal love and you should bring pink into your life when you want calmness, relaxation, acceptance and contentment.

Well that suits me just fine. Any excuse to make Chocolate Beetroot Cupcakes in a pink dress!

Recipe for Chocolate Beetroot Cupcakes with Orange Spiced Chocolate Mousse Topping

200 g dark cooking chocolate, I used Green and Blacks Organic 85% Cocoa
80 g butter
200 g dark brown sugar
3 free range organic eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
200 g raw beetroot finely grated
1 Tbsp natural yoghurt
Dash of milk if needed
80 g almond meal
80 g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Method

Pre-heat oven to 170°C/340°F

Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of boiling water.

In a large mixing bowl cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and beat until fluffy. Mix in the grated beetroot, yoghurt and milk. Add the melted chocolate and combine well. Add the almond meal and sift in the flour cinnamon and baking powder. Stir until just combined.

Place 16 – 18 cupcake cases in a muffin tray. Spoon mixture into the cases until about 3/4 full.

Bake for 25 to 35 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer.

Chocolate mousse topping

100 g dark chocolate (85% cocoa)
200 ml sour cream
Zest of 1/4 orange
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Pinch ground cloves
2 Tbsp honey

Method

While the cupcakes are cooling, make the topping by melting the chocolate along with the orange zest in a bowl over a saucepan with boiling water. Remove from heat and gradually stir in the sour cream. Add the cloves, vanilla extract and honey and smooth over the cooled cupcakes. Store in the fridge.

Enjoy!!

Because there was Silverbeet

February 16, 2011 § 2 Comments

I went to a friend’s house the other day and there in their front garden was the biggest chilli bush I had ever seen. It was about one and a half metres tall and covered in chillies red and green. Apparently they grow like this in the tropics and apparently that is just the kind of summer we have had here in Melbourne whilst I have been away. Tropical at 37 degrees south! Everything is growing, growing and growing. The grass fluorescent green is impossible to keep restrained, the tomatoes race to rot before they are picked and the silverbeet with huge happy leaves laughs in the rain and sun.

I woke up this morning and new I couldn’t ignore it any longer. It needed eating. And because it is the middle of the week it needed to be something quick and easy. So here is something very simple for a fresh summer breakfast when you want something a bit more than just toast or muesli.

Silverbeet and Tomatoes with Lemon and Almonds on Sourdough (serves 2)

Olive oil

2 cloves garlic roughly chopped

1 tsp fresh ginger roughly chopped

6 – 8 big silverbeet leaves washed and roughly chopped

A big handful of tomatoes roughly chopped

2 Tbsp tamari (if you don’t have tamari soy sauce will do)

A lemon

Small handful of almonds roughly chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large skillet, lightly sauté the garlic and ginger in a little oil. Add the silverbeet and cook until it just starts to wilt. Add the tomatoes and tamari and continue to cook until the tomatoes just begin to become soft but still hold their shape. Season with salt and pepper. Serve on sourdough toast with a squeeze of lemon juice and sprinkle of almonds.

Enjoy your day!!

What it Means to be Perfect: Chocolate coated dried plums marinated in white wine and a hint of thyme

February 11, 2011 § 9 Comments

Chocolate coated dried plums

When in Belgium I went to visit my great aunty and uncle Yvonne and Jos in the small town of Bellingen. Oom Jos just turned 90 and Tante Yvonne isn’t far behind. We ate cake with a fork and knife before a dinner of witlof wrapped in ham and baked in snowy white sauce. This is a very traditional Flemish dish. As a child I was always glad witlof was so hard to find in Australia so it rarely ended up in my mother’s kitchen. But now I enjoy it in small amounts provided there’s plenty of ham and sauce to go around.

During the Flemish conversations around the dinner table I mostly daydreamed at the paintings on the wall and marvelled at the young spirit of my aunt and uncle gossiping and laughing about the local goings on. At one point, the conversation briefly turned to English and my uncle proclaimed,

Tante Yvonn and Oom Jos

‘No one is perfect.’

Then after reflecting on this statement for a while he continued,

‘Except for my wife! She is Perfect. She cleans and cooks all day. She is perfect… only problem is she has no time for making love. She is too busy. She never has time to kiss me.’

I am always struck when I see an old relationship full of humour, love and adoration like this one, a little reminder that life can indeed be great, full of warmth and happiness.

So because the conversation here is about love and perfection and because it is almost Valentines Day and because I am sadly alone with my darling still in Africa, I have decided it is most suitable I share this recipe so perfect and delicious it will make you weak at the knees and your heart melt. Well at least I hope so.

I got the idea of chocolate covered prunes from Stephanie Alexanders book The Cooks Companion. She stuffs them with almonds and soaks them in brandy. I have adapted it some by using white wine and adding a few little bits and pieces for extra freshness. I think the thyme and lemon zest brings something unique and light to the richness of the chocolate. I also changed the terminology a bit because for something with a valentine spirit ‘prunes’ doesn’t really have the right um… connotations in regards to some of its well known uses. Dried plums on the other hand….

Recipe for Chocolate Coated Dried Plums

You will need

30 pitted prunes

30 almonds

3/4 cup white wine

Juice of an orange

Sprig of thyme

Zest of 1/4 of  a lemon

200g dark cooking chocolate

Stuff an almond into each prune where the pip would have been and place in a bowl along with the white wine, orange juice, thyme and lemon zest. Allow to soak for 1 – 2 hours then drain well.

drain well

Melt the chocolate in a heat proof bowl over a saucepan of boiling water.

Melted chocolate

Dip each prune into the chocolate. Allow to cool in the fridge on a tray covered with baking paper until the chocolate sets.

Allow to cool on baking paper

Serve on a pretty plate and eat with someone special.

Enjoy!!

Belgian Memories

February 7, 2011 § 6 Comments

Belgium, full of the smells of my Oma; mashed potatoes with nutmeg, that particular washing detergent, that special smell of cold icy weather, cigars, sausages and green shrubs. Not that my Oma smoked cigars but that is the smell of Belgium that is so intertwined with the memory of her in my mind. And it is bitterly cold. I have been sleeping in a jumper, woollen pants, socks three blankets and two quilts.

Here on the outskirts of Brussels in the brown fields mixed with old houses and ever multiplying industries and shopping complexes, I stay with my uncle in the old family home. This is the house that my great grandparents built alongside their fields that they passed on to my grandparents and they to my uncle. The narrow street leads from the canal to their shrub-lined driveway with that very particular smell. The church on the other side rings memories of being a child. The graveyard where they are all buried lies across the field of what was the old rose nursery that is now lying bare and empty.

I have a week here of wandering the streets of Brussels, peering in the shops filled with chocolate and tempting pretty things and watching people in the warm lit old wooden decorated cafes. I have been practicing pretending I know French and am oh so bourgeois. Mainly by not saying anything other than the simplest phrases and guessing what other people are saying when they speak to me. It’s always fun when I get away with it.

Stupidly in my mad rush to leave Australia in five hours which you can read more about here, I decided not to bring my camera which was fine in Salone as I could use D’s but much regretted now that he is not here. I have been taking these photos with the web cam on my laptop. I have been too embarrassed to do it anywhere too public so these are all just taken from around my uncles place. It is impossible to frame a picture without my head getting in the way so they end up being random and wonky most of the time but in their own way they have a certain charm.

Beaches Bikes and Brake Failures

February 3, 2011 § 2 Comments

On reflection, I still feel a little guilty; apart from this little attempt, I have done a completely terrible job at giving you much of an indication of the cuisine in Sierra Leone. To ease my guilt I can say, well, it’s already been done. In case I have left you curious and wanting, look here for a detailed effort on many of Salone’s dishes. But the real truth is there are just so many other more exciting things to write about. You have to trust me on this one; food is definitely not the countries strong point. Although I cannot say the same for my last five days in Sierra Leone spent on the beaches of the peninsular.

Tokeh, River #1

To get to the beaches we take bikes. The going is fast and dusty, the mountains rising from the sea swallowing us up forested and deep.  We stay at different places along the way sleeping in little thatched huts on the sand with mattresses made of old rice sacks stitched together and stuffed with grass. The water is bath like warm as we float in its blue and green. We laze in the shade of the palm trees sharing the beaches with the fishermen and their nets, their boats at sea tied to trees on the shore. The colourful wooden vessels are sharp-nosed and slim with names like “Believe in God”, Jesus is in the Boat” and “ Movement of Jah People” painted on their sides in blue and yellow. They have a certain knack for names here, At John O’bay we meet a Mr. Perfect, and at Bureh a Prince William, just to name a few. In this tropical paradise we dine on fish, lobster, crab and oysters plucked straight from the sea.

We spend two nights in York staying with the Whale Foundation an NGO that works in the area. York was built by freed slavers once slavery was abolished (look here for more info). The town escaped the burnings of the civil war and the old buildings charm us, tall, wooden, shuttered and dilapidated.  The windows look into shadowy insides, floating with curtains of blue and pink printed roses that are pleasing against the faded and pealing salmon pink and brown of the houses.

York

Each night we can see the lights of the illegal fishing boats out at sea. They pay bribes to the navy and the ministry of fisheries to rape the seas with their trawlers and fishfinder radars. The locals are no competition with their leaky rigs and nets that they scare the fish into by rhythmically drumming the sides of their boats. They tell us how the illegal boats will attack them and cut their nets if they get too close. They have noted the dwindling fish stocks since the illegal boats arrived. Now the locals need to go further and further for their daily catch. We meet a man from the Environmental Justice Foundation an NGO that do research and work in the area trying to stop the illegal fishing and to protect the local people from its effects. The foundation provides very interesting information and videos that you can find here.

Sadly our beautiful time on the beach, warm and relaxed, toes up in the sun, comes to an end. Heading back to Freetown from Tokeh we can only find one bike. So it is D, me, our bags, a big bundle of water under my arms and the driver all atop the Honda. The drivers slow and careful pace pleases me, until, that is, we start going down a hill and discover that the brakes don’t work!!! I look down at the bottom of the hill, an eroded and bumpy corner turning into a narrow concrete bridge with no railings over a rocky river. As we begin to gather speed, I notice that the driver has begun to direct us in the direction of the jungle on the side of the road. D, me, our bags, the big bundle of water under my arms, the driver and the Honda crash into the dense green scrub, sharp thorny branches breaking our fall, the bike falling on our legs. Lucky we’re only left with a few bruises and scratches. Somehow I don’t feel overly fazed. I must be getting used to break failures. This is our second one in less than two weeks. The last one leaving me petrified rolling backwards down a steep hill and a nasty cut on the underside of my big toe. I lose my shoe when I try to launch myself off the bike to what I think is safety. As a result, I get stuck, my foot dragging on the gravel as D desperately tries to pull me back on before my leg goes under the wheel. In hindsight I didn’t react in the most sensible manner. However, at the time it seemed better than continuing backwards down the hill! I had already calculated in my head approximately how fast we would be going when we hit the corner and it was pretty damn fast, especially for reverse. But somehow with me half on and half off the driver put the bike into gear and turned it sideways brining us to a stop.

Back in the jungle lying in the thorns under the bike, we decide to get a lift in a red sports car that comes by in a timely manner. Covered in dust, the axle grinding and bumping along the road we make it to Lakka and from there to Freetown in a taxi.

That night I fly out of Sierra Leone leaving the warm weather and my darling D behind, but not forgetting a bout of gastro to accompany me my 20 hour flights and stopovers to Belgium. One last departing gift.

Where Am I?

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