Saturday, August 25, 2012

Impromptu post

I didn't actually have a post planned, but the bok choy stir-fry we ate for dinner last night was just so amazingly good that I just have to give you a peak at the ones that are growing in the garden at the moment! Below, Dan (who manages the nursery) with  one bok choy (aka baicai/Chinese cabbage). 

If you're in the area, drop in and say hi and, while you're at it, pick up one of these bad boys for around five bucks... if you're looking for a way to eat them that's not stir-fried, you can throw them in this salad in place of the wombok :-)

Oh, baicai is also amaaaaazing in gyoza. Ahhh... *salivates*

- Matilda

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Green Kitchen Encounter Numero Uno: Herb & Pistachio Falafels + Frozen Pink Cheesecake

I'm not sure about you, but I know my family are sick and tired of hearing “Green Kitchen Stories this”, “Green Kitchen Stories that”, “David and Luise think”….  Etc, etc. It’s as if they’re part of our extended family that we never get to see! Hopefully they’ll never read this - they might be slightly freaked out. I realised though, that I never wrote about the first few things I made from the Green Kitchen: falafels and cheesecake.

In many ways, it was these two dishes that set in motion the cascade which has found me pouring over internet sites that sell ‘gourmet’ ingredients, as well as haunting the isles of stores such as the likes of Mrs Flannery’s. I made it to celebrate the end of my first year at university, a year which I very nearly did not finish. Thanks to the support of friends and family however, I managed to survive and I can’t be more glad that I stayed. I absolutely love what I’m studying and can’t even begin to imagine being anything other than a university student at this stage of my life.

After making these, I was absolutely desperate to have another go in the kitchen; it was my first time planning and preparing a meal for my family by myself (ok, Mum might have helped a lot bit) and I was bursting to do it again. Unfortunately though, I was due at the university’s other campus the next day. This involved moving up there for labs we had to complete… it was great fun though, living with my then-strangers-now-friends for two weeks. The kitchen at home hadn’t gone anywhere while I was away either, so it was still there for me to ruin when I came back :-)

Herb & Pistachio Falafel (adapted from Green Kitchen Stories
Serves 4 (about 24 falafels)

Ingredients:
8 sprigs fresh mint
8 sprigs fresh parsley
200 g pistachio nuts
2 cups chickpeas, rinsed and drained
2 cloves garlic
½ small onion
3 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1 Tbsp flour
1 tsp baking powder

Cashew nut dressing (recipe below)
Mint yoghurt (recipe below)
Tomato chilli salsa (recipe below)
1 head white cabbage (or any lettuce with big leaves)
Assorted fresh herbs
Extra pistachios
Raisins

Directions:

1. Blend the herbs in a food processor for around 30 seconds, before adding the pistachio nuts and pulsing until well combined.

2. Add the chickpeas,  garlic, onion, oil, cumin, flour and baking powder and process for a further minute.

3. Scoop out the mixture with a spoon and make 24 small round falafels.

4. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan and fry the falafels, turning occasionally, until they are brown and slightly crisp on the outside.

5. Separate the leaves of the cabbage/lettuce by removing the stem/cone with a knife before placing the vegetable under some gently running water and removing the leaves one by one. 

6. Hold one cabbage/lettuce leaf in your non-dominant hand and place 2 or 3 falafels inside the cup-shape formed.

7. On top of the falafels, add a dollop of cashew dressing, mint yoghurt and tomato salsa and garnish with fresh herbs, chopped pistachios and raisins.

8. Fold the leaf over gently and serve. I opted to put each of the components (falafels, leaves, dressings and other toppings) in the middle of the table and get everyone to serve themselves (saved me a fair bit of work!).

Note: In step 4, GKS bakes them a 200°C for about 15 minutes, turning them every 15 minutes in order to get an even brown colour. I, however, ran out of time to do this as a little toaster oven is all I had and I would have had to do it in about three batches…

Cashew Nut Dressing: Whisk all the ingredients in a small bowl until they are combined.

6 Tbsp cashew butter
6 Tbsp canola oil
3 Tbsp lemon juice
Pinch of salt

Mint Yoghurt: Add yoghurt, mint and lime in a bowl and stir until combined. Place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes to allow the mint flavour to seep through the entire mixture.

1 cup natural yoghurt
4 sprigs of fresh mint (chopped)
Juice of 1 lime

Tomato Chilli Salsa: Place everything in a serving bowl and stir, adding salt and pepper to taste. This can either be served immediately or be left to sit in the fridge for 30 minutes to achieve a more intense flavoured salsa.

3 tomatoes, finely diced
½ red chilli, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
3 Tbsp olive oil
Fresh oregano
Salt & pepper

Frozen Pink Cheesecake (adapted from Green Kitchen Stories)

Ingredients:

Crust:                                                                                              
300 g (2 cups) almonds
12 dates, pitted
2 Tbsp coconut oil
Pinch of salt

Filling:
2 cups fresh (or frozen) mixed berries (depends on what colour you’re after as to what mix you use – I used a mixture of raspberries and blueberries)
Juice of ½ a lemon
½ cup honey
1 cup mascarpone cheese
1 cup full-fat Greek yoghurt

Directions:

1. In a food processor, grind the almonds for around one minute.

2. Add the dates, coconut oil and salt and blend until combined. Scoop out a little bit of the mixture and try to form a ball – if the mixture does not hold together, add more dates.

3. Place the mixture in an 8” non-stick spring-form pan and flatten it out evenly over the bottom of the pan. Place in the fridge while making the filling.

4. Rinse the food processor and then into it, place the berries, lemon juice and honey. Blend.

5. Transfer the blended berries into a large bowl and stir in the mascarpone and Greek yoghurt.

6. Pour the berry mixture on top of the crust in the pan and place it in the freezer for 1-2 hours. It can be left in the freezer for days but it should be taken out to thaw slightly before serving.

7. If desired, top the cheesecake with fresh fruit and edible flours (clearly I wasn’t bothered to do this) and serve immediately.


The first time I tried this cheesecake I made the mistake of using natural yoghurt instead of Greek yoghurt. I’m a big fan of citrus desserts but some members of my family aren’t so it was a little bit too tart for them when the natural yoghurt was paired with the lemon juice. It was still delicious though! No, I didn’t make a lemon-berry cheesecake on purpose if that’s what you were thinking… it was a mistake, I swear ;-)

- Matilda

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Chocolate Black Bean Cookies

From a very young age, my parents brainwashed me into believing that Americanism is a very, very bad thing to which we should not subscribe – cultural imperialism my Dad called it.  Now in my second year of university and, as I like to think anyway, more independent in my thought processes, I can’t help but agree.  Everywhere we go, things wreak of America: fast food, commercial television, movies, etc, etc. I’ve become so sensitive to these sorts of stimuli that even uttering the word “cookie” makes me cringe.

To be fair, cookies and biscuits are different; that’s my way of justifying the vocalisation of the former. In my mind, cookies are large, soft and gooey while biscuits are usually a bit smaller and have a more crunchy texture.  For example, I would say Monte Carlos, Milk Arrowroots and Iced Vovos are most definitely biscuits while those choc-chip things they sell in big plastic tubs at Woolies and Coles would be cookies. Does anyone else have any ideas?

This brings me back to the cookies that are supposed to be the feature of this post, rather than my anti-Americanisation-of-Australia rants. These should be soft and gooey – and half of them did turn out that way – but when I turned my back for 10 minutes I found my parents had decided they were undercooked (they were straight out of the oven and still warm for goodness sakes!) and popped them back in to be roasted hard and dry.. apparently they taste better this way. Hmph. So basically, half the batch were cookies. The other half were biscuits.

Black bean cookies... it looks like one of the beans fell out + another one peeled as it roasted... ah well. The other ones were too ugly (in terms of shape) to use for a photo! (Or they had been eaten by my parents..)
The credit for this recipe goes once again to Green Kitchen Stories. I did originally make a batch with coconut palm sugar as they did, but tried to cook them using the ‘crisp’ function of the new microwave and promptly smoked the house out, leaving flat burnt carcinogenic paddies and a strong chocolate stench permeating the house. It turns out that “20 minutes in the oven” translates to “7 minutes or less in the microwave when it is set to crisp”. Something to keep in mind for next time.

Attempt #1: carcinogenic cookies
Attempt number two was a little more successful, apart from the already mentioned sabotage by my parents. This time though, I used honey (simply because we have 100kg of the stuff at home at the moment) instead of the coconut palm sugar and decreased the amount of the other liquid ingredients by a smidgen. I have previously made the ‘Black Bean Chocolate Chili Cherry Cookies’ from My New Roots and although they were absolutely delicious, these are simpler and much more worth it when considering the work to reward ratio. David from Green Kitchen Stories suggests adding in whatever else you might fancy because apparently these were created as a result of a desperate urge to bake, rather than being prepared for the task. However, I reckon they’re pretty darn good as they are.

On a final note: just because the unhealthiest ingredient in these is honey/olive oil/nut butter/salt, it doesn’t mean you can eat the whole batch at once. OK….. Yes…. Well….. It’s time for the recipe now.

(I think I need to practise this cookie-stacking business... it's harder than it looks :-| )

Chocolate Black Bean Power Cookies (adapted from Green Kitchen Stories)
Makes approximately 10 cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup cooked black beans
1 Tbsp olive oil (or coconut oil)
2 Tbsp nut butter (I used cashew)
1  Tbsp soy milk
½ cup (120 ml) honey
4-5 Tbsp cacao powder
1 tsp baking powder
Good pinch of salt



Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 180°C

2. Rinse the beans in cold water and drain them.

3. Put aside ~20 beans and place the rest in a food processor along with the oil, nut butter, milk and honey. Blend until smooth.

4. Sift together the cacao, baking powder and salt and add it to the bean mixture in the food processor. Blend until combined (the batter will look like a thick mousse).

5. Line a baking tray and spoon 9-12 dollops of batter onto it, evenly distributing them throughout the tray. Use a spoon/finger to push the batter into cookies of 7-10cm in diameter.

6. Top each cookie with a couple of the left over beans and bake for ~20 minutes (they will still be soft to the touch at this stage).

7. Set the tray aside for a few minutes before transferring the cookies to a wire rack to cool.


I had to exercise a lot of self control to not eat the batter as it was, straight out of the food processor. Even though people  might love cookies, people also love chocolate mousse… and that’s exactly what the batter was!

- Matilda

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Damper Scones

I've mentioned having to bake in a toaster oven and being restricted to using certain sizes of loaf pans.
Around April last year, our oven decided it would blow up, leaving us with no option but to either cook in the microwave or on the stove top. After a couple of months of this, I coerced Mum into taking me down to the local discount warehouse and buying a wee 9L toaster oven.

Since this time though, a few things have changed. For one, I no longer have to depend on my parents or the highly unreliable public transport system to get me from point A to point B. Yes, I finally sat my driving test and am finally starting to drive myself places. I forget to put my lights on half the time and I can’t park to save myself but those little things don’t ruin the feeling of freedom too much. Secondly, last month we bought a microwave that now roasts/grills/whatevers as well (our old microwave crapped itself last week, hence the need for a replacement) so my toaster oven isn’t as critical as it once was. It still has a place in our kitchen though for sure - it’s my ‘sweet potato roasting’ oven :-D

The only real inconvenience we experienced in the kitchen between the oven malfunctioning and purchasing the toaster oven was… well, not much to be honest. Obviously variety was restricted but where there is a will, there is a way. And I almost nearly found a way, albeit not conventional ones. The kitchen tool that really saved me during this time  was my Chefs Toolbox Saute Pan… one of my aunties gave it to me for my 18th birthday  and I haven’t looked back since. It’s incredibly versatile and you can use it for everything from scones to frittatas and cakes to casseroles. These days, it mainly gets used for scones.

Sautee pan (from web)
Now when I say scones, I’m not talking about your light n fluffy Devonshire tea variety. I am talking heavy, fruity, damper-like balls of baked flour. Ok, so maybe I don’t even like them all that much. For some unknown  reason however, my dad is absolutely obsessed with the things and can’t get enough of them. So I thought I would share the recipe anyway, in case there are others of you out there who have peculiar tastes … don’t get me wrong, they’re not bad. I would just rather buttermilk scones slathered in cream and jam.

Damper Scones
Makes 9-12

Ingredients:

3 cups wholemeal self-raising flour (can also use white, or a combination of both)
Pinch of salt
1 cup sultanas
1 cup milk (approximate)
Optional: 30ml sugar

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 180C .

2. Stir the flour and salt in a medium-sized bowl (and sugar if using).

3. Mix in the sultanas.

4. Make a well in the centre and add the milk slowly.

5. Mix to combine, without over mixing. Add more milk if necessary – the dough should be able to stick together but shouldn’t be too gooey to the point of oozing liquid.

6. Form 9-12 balls of dough and place on a prepared baking tray.

7. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until a skewer comes cleanly out of the middle and the tops are lightly brown.

8. Drown in butter, jam  or peanut butter.

Note: When I make these in the sauté pan (which is the only way I do at the moment), I preheat the pan on a medium-high heat and cook the scones for about 15 minutes. I then flip the scones over and cook them for another 5-10 minutes to brown the tops.


I go for peanut butter and strawberry jam when eating these, while Dad goes for the butter. They’re pretty ok with a cup of tea or coffee I suppose… the main attraction of these is that they are extremely quick and easy. I guess you could also say they’re healthy! They’re not loaded with butter and cream at the very least.

If you don’t ever get around to making these, fear not! They freeze extremely well and our freezer is always chocker-block full of scones as part of Dad’s emergency supply. Anyone is welcome to pop over at any time for a cuppa and a scone if they so wish :-)

A photo of the freezer supply (already depleted by over two-thirds)
- Matilda

Friday, August 3, 2012

Raw Apple Pie

After saying on local radio that I wouldn’t buy apples imported from China at the supermarket if faced with the option, I felt like a little bit of a hypocrite to then go and buy non-organic apples (definitely not from China though) and eating them. However once you take a bite, I can assure you that the tablespoons of pesticides you’re ingesting won’t even cross your mind!

The original recipe uses fresh lemon juice rather than passionfruit pulp but I was craving a little bit of summer. During the warmer months, Dad’s beekeeping mentor had given us buckets of passionfruit so I had frozen some for using in cooking at a later date. The seeds give the pie a nice crunch and temporarily made me forget about the rain and biting winter winds that marred the winter uni break.

Raw Apple Pie (adapted from Sweet Potato Soul

Ingredients:

3 apples, peeled & cored
2 Tbsp passionfruit pulp
2 Tbsp oat flour (I just ground rolled oats into a flour, measuring after grinding)
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or nutmeg + cinnamon)
Pinch sea salt 
¼ cup raw honey

2 cups nuts (I used a mix of cashews, almonds and pumpkin seeds)
10 pitted dates, chopped
Pinch sea salt
2 Tbsp oat flour

Directions:


A. To make the filling…

1. Slice 2 of the apples lengthwise to obtain very thin strips.

2. Place the apple strips in a large bowl and toss with 1.5 Tbsp of the passionfruit pulp, 2 Tbsp oat flour, spices, salt and honey (toss well so that the slices are coated but at the same time, be gentle so as not to break the slices).

3. Dice the third apple and place in the food processor with a dash of spice and the remaining passionfruit pulp. Blend the apple until you achieve an applesauce consistency.

4. Cover both the slices and the apple puree and place them in the fridge while making the crust.


B. To make the crust…

1. Place the nuts/seeds in a [rinsed] food processor and pulse until they are crumbled.

2. Add the chopped dates to the food processor and pulse to combine. Spoon out some of the mixture and try to form a ball in your hands – if it sticks together without crumbling, it’s ready. If the mixture doesn’t hold together, add another date or some raw honey and pulse again until a ball can be formed.

3. Dust the bottom of the pie plate with oat flour to prevent the crust from sticking.

4. Remove the crust mixture from the food processor, shape it into one large ball and place this ball in the centre of the pie plate. Flatten the ball and spread it out over the base of the plate so that the bottom and edges of the plate are covered, forming a pie crust.


C. To assemble the pie…

1.  Remove the apple slices and pureed apple from the fridge and spread the puree on top of the pie crust.

2. Layer the sliced apples on top of the puree to create a spiral of apples (to ensure the whole crust is covered, start near the edge and work into the centre of the pie).

3. Slice and serve immediately or let it sit on the bench or covered in the fridge for a couple of hours to allow the filling to soften and further take on the flavour of the ‘marinade’.


We also tried this with some ice cream and it upped the level of decadence by about 10-fold. Pictured in the photo below is some organic mint choc chip coconut milk ice cream which I quite liked but the rest of the family thought was weird and not worth the ridiculous price. I would probably have to agree with the latter. Next time we’ll go for our favourite – the ever-reliably creamy and delicious Blue Ribbon vanilla.

- Matilda