Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Broad Bean, Pea, Orzo and Mint Salad with Avocado Mayonnaise

Oh boy. This salad is amazing! Just like every Sunday, I sat down to plan my meals for the week, based on what I have in the fridge and the garden. Following a delivery of a very large bag of fresh peas from my parents, some organic broad beans from the farmer's market, and a recent binge on mayonnaise making, this salad was born.

- 1 cup broad beans, podded and peeled (if you have the patience!)
- 1 cup freshly podded peas
- 1/2 cup dried orzo pasta
- 4 rashers of bacon, fried until crispy
- crumbled blue cheese, to taste (I used a beautiful, raw New Zealand blue from our cheesemonger- divine!)
- handful of fresh mint, finely diced
- 3-4 slices of fresh, grainy bread
- olive oil to toss
- salt and pepper to taste
Avocado Mayonnaise
- 2 whole, fresh, free range eggs
- 1 Tbsp vinegar (I used 1/2 balsamic, 1/2 white)
- 1 tsp whole grain mustard
- pinch of salt
- 1 cup oil (I used 1/2 EVOO, 1/2 canola)
- 1 past-it's-best avocado
- squeeze of lemon juice
- grind of black pepper

1. Boil the jug, and pour boiling water over the beans and peas to blanch. After they turn bright green, drain and run under cold water. Fry in a pan with some butter until they start to brown ever so slightly.
2. Cook orzo as per packet instructions. I boil mine like pasta, and keep a close eye on it, as it goes from cooked to soggy quite quickly! Drain and run under cold water.
3. Dice cooked bacon into small pieces.
4. Chop bread into pieces, toss in oil and seasonings, and fry in a dry pan until crispy. Set aside.
5. For the mayonnaise, place eggs, vinegar, mustard and salt into a blender and blend until foamy. Add 1/4 cup oil and blend until combined. Continue to add the oil in batches, blending until combined after each addition. At this point I took half of the batch out to have as plain mayonnaise for later. Then, to the remaining mayo I added the avocado, lemon juice and pepper, and blended again until well combined.
6. To assemble the salad, place peas and beans, mint, orzo, blue cheese and bacon into a bowl, and toss with the avocado mayonnaise. Serve with a side or crispy croutons and enjoy!

This salad was delicious! If you were vegetarian, it would be easy to exclude the bacon. This was filling enough for us as a light dinner, but some grilled chicken or BBQ-ed zucchini would also make a delicious addition. The avocado mayonnaise is a divine treat, and I bet would taste amazing on a BLT. Mmmm, lunch today, I think!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Homemade Crackers

For ages now I have had homemade crackers filed away in my mental list of things to make. My new-found free time (when I'm not writing this darn Honours thesis) and delicious inspiration from this talented lady, saw me finally crossing this off my list this afternoon.

I used the recipe from Sunday Hotpants, adding my own flavours as suited. I didn't have any black sesame seeds, so only used white seeds in my main dough.

Homemade Crackers
  • 3 cups of plain flour
  • 1/2 cup of wholemeal/wholewheat flour
  • 75 g cold butter
  • large pinch of salt
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1/4 cup of white sesame seeds
1. Place the flours, butter and salt in a food processor, and blend until crumbed. Add the sesame seeds and give a quick blitz to combine.
2. Slowly add the milk to the flour mixture, with the motor running, until a soft dough is formed. If you have a crappy food processor like me, your motor will start to smell funny from overuse and you will end up finishing the dough up by hand.
3. Gently knead until soft and combined, cover and let rest for 10 minutes. It's actually a very similar process to making pasta.
4. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celcious.
5. I then separated my dough into four portions, to trial four different flavours! To add the flavours, I cut my herbs up finely, and kneaded them into the dough. For the sweet chilli crackers, I left the dough plain and brushed sweet chilli sauce on just before baking.
6. Start rolling the dough out thinly, get tired arms, and change to the pasta machine (I went to number 5 thinness). Then, cut your crackers up into whatever shape you wish! Now, time for a funny story: the only cookie cutters I happen to own are x-rated, thanks to a prize I won at Paddy's staff mid-winter Christmas dinner. Consequently, I did produce at least 100 tiny, penis-shaped crackers. I then trialled circles, using a glass, and squares, using the ravioli cutter from my pasta maker.
7. Lay close together on an oven tray (they don't expand), and poke with a fork.
8. Bake for around 10 minutes, until lightly speckled with brown. Watch carefully, as it happens quickly! I managed to get 8 trays through, until I got distracted, and burnt my last batch!

The flavours I tried were: thyme and lemon zest, rosemary and sea salt, salt and pepper, and sweet chilli. They are all so yummy, I can't decided which one I like best! I've been eating them alllll afternoon, slathered in butter, but I would love to try them with some homemade cream cheese. I absolutely believe that things you make yourself always taste better than something you have bought from the shop, and these delicious morsels are no exception!

I have been playing with Paddy's fancy camera this afternoon, so, now it's time for some photos!

Inspiring Distractions

I am desperately trying to finish my Honours thesis before I start my new job (in 12 days!). This means lots of agonising hours spent at my laptop, along with scheduled breaks, for my sanity. In my last break I came across this wonderful website, full to the brim with delicious recipes and inspiring information. One particular post really spoke to me and I felt compelled to bring it to your attention.

I am a huge advocate of real, local, fresh, seasonal, organic (when possible) food. Paddy and I try our best to eat this way as much as possible, and feel so much better for it. It has taken me many years to figure out what I really think and feel about food, after many tumultuous years of negative relationships with it. The Nourished Kitchen article on Real Food really sums up how I feel now, and I plan to continue with this ethos for the rest of my life.

What do you guys think? I would love to hear about your food philosophies (if you have one).

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Wardrobe Wednesday

Since my 7th form ball wasn't actually THAT long ago, the photos are not really worth a mention. However, I did dress up this past week to celebrate me finishing Uni forever!! Yes that's right, I am no longer a student!! After six years, and two degrees, this is a HUGE achievement, made even more glorious by the fact that I have a job to go to. Double win!
This photo features my gorgeous man too, looking rather solemn may I add. We had several out-takes with the good ol' timer. Many funny faces ensued but this was the most normal of the bunch.

My dress was a bargain, $15 from a little shop in Dunedin called Nooz. Shoes were another bargain, end of season at Wild Pair a few years ago. (I'm very short so high heels are a fav of mine when I'm trying to pretend I'm a grown up!). My necklace is from an amazing costume jewellery shop in Christchurch called Mask. I bought it when I was a teenage and still love it. Paddy's shirt is from yd, jeans from Meccano and his shoes are No 1 Shoe Warehouse.  Wearing a dress without stockings is a huge deal for me as I'm extremely self conscious of my pale skin. I'm very proud of myself for making this public!

Check out more gorgeous gals here.

Two things to mention:
1) Be sure to check out the gorgeous giveaway at willow + moxie. Devon Smith is divine!
2) This blog has a link to an amazing, FREE sourdough ebook.  You must, must, must check it out!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Home Sweet Home?

No, home actually is quite sweet. It's the flu I have that isn't so. Yes, that's right, day 2 of freedom from University and I have acquired Paddy's horrible, cottonball-head, bones aching, sore throat, snotty nose, feeling like death flu. Safe to say, I'm not impressed! To rub it in even more, I rolled over yesterday morning and said "I feel like s**t". To which he perkily replied, "I feel GREAT! I should have given my flu to someone days ago!". I repeat, not impressed!

It's ok though I suppose, as I'm on holiday and he is in the throws of performing his latest play, and working. I'm just grumpy because it's 26 degrees in my garden right now, and I would much rather be out there than moping inside because I can't bend over from the aching!

I will be back when I feel better and have achieved something worthy of posting about!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Lemon Yoghurt Cake

I am always on the lookout for recipes that are quick and easy, yet impressive. Oh and they should also be delicious. I'm doing morning tea this week to thank my colleagues for having me the past 3 months. So along with scones, this cake will be part of the spread.

Lemon Yoghurt Cake with Lemon Drizzle
125g butter, softened
1 cup caster sugar
Finely grated zest of 2 lemons
3 eggs
1 cup flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
¾ cup yoghurt

1. Heat oven to 160°C fan bake. Grease a 20cm spring-form cake tin. Combine butter, sugar and lemon zest in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer until pale and creamy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Sift dry ingredients together and add alternately with yoghurt, stirring to just combine and form a smooth batter.
2. Spoon mixture into prepared tin and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Once cold, remove the cake from the tin and spoon over lemon drizzle icing so it covers the top and runs down the sides of the cake.

Lemon Drizzle
1 cup icing sugar, sifted
Juice of 2 lemons
Extra grated lemon zest to decorate

1. Combine icing sugar and lemon juice in a bowl and stir with the back of a spoon to form a smooth and pourable icing. Add a little boiling water if necessary, to achieve the correct consistency. Decorate with lemon zest and flowers.

This cake is so moist and delicious, and the drizzle turns crispy, and adds an amazing coating to the top of the cake. Serve with yoghurt. Prepare for sticky fingers and happy faces. Enjoy!

Recipe from here.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Scone Success!

Some people find it hard to believe that I have never made scones before. I had perhaps dabbled with them in my preschool years, but it is not something I remember. However, I have been spending a small fortune buying delicious scones from the cafe where I work, and it really needs to stop. I know most people can make scones with their eyes closed, but honestly, I am not most people. I seem to have a knack of not being able to do things that even the most domestically-challenged person can manage. See here for other examples of my odd incompetencies...

So, this weekend, I decided to conquer my fears, and give it a go. I turned to my trusty Edmonds Cookbook for the answers, with a few modifications of my own, of course. I said to Paddy that I probably should have tried plain scones first, but it's not really my style. He agreed.

I used the basic scone recipe from Edmonds, and added about 1 cup of chopped spinach, 2 Tbsp tomato paste, and some pepper to the milk mixture. Then I shaped, and sprinkled with cheese before baking.

I was skeptical, but they actually turned out really, really yummy. I was chuffed! Following this success I got a bit more adventurous. My next batch of scones included a pottle of sundried tomato pesto and 1/2 cup grated cheese, with more cheese sprinkled on top. These we also yummy, and I think had more flavour than the last batch.

And if you thought I might have made enough scones for one weekend, you were wrong... Things got crazy, and I turned to pinwheels. I have an unreasonable love for cream cheese, so it was only fitting that my next batch included it. For this batch, I added half a pottle of basil and garlic pesto to the mixture. Then, I rolled out the dough until it was about 1/2 cm thick, smeared on cream cheese and the remaining pesto, rolled the dough up, and sliced into pinwheels, which I topped with cheese before baking. Boy oh boy, I think I hit the jackpot with these babies. Very, very yum.

The work cafe can kiss my money goodbye, as I am most definitely making the scones from now on!

 Thanks to Devon, for her company during this scone expedition, and her selfless clearing up of any scraps.

Monday, November 1, 2010

A Long Time Away

I have been very slack with this blog lately, in action, but most definitely not in thought. Living away from home is hard. I am not around the people I care about most, I am not around my things, or in my space. But, after 3 months, and a lot of action, it is almost all over. I am 2 weeks away from being home again. Home to my loved ones, my garden, my sewing machine, my kitchen; home to my home.

I have spent these past 3 months working my butt off, finishing my degree, getting a job (yippee!!), and pondering life, and the direction I hope it will take. I look forward to getting back to my home, my space, and reviving this poor, wee neglected blog. What I have not neglected these past few months, is reading blogs. I am very, very humbled and in awe of all the amazing people out there, who inspire me daily to do better, to try harder, and to be true to myself and what I want for my life. Thank you to all those people who take time out of their day to share their wisdom, their thoughts, and a tiny snippet of their life, which truly helps me to strive for more, and makes me a better person.