Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Spinach, Feta and Pesto Fritters

Wow what a busy week I am having! We had a lovely weekend away in Auckland, visiting friends and watching this extravaganza of awesomeness, and this week is full to the brim with work and evening activities. Last night I went out to a potluck to meet the families we are going to be sharing a vege plot with this Summer! I don't know all the details of this amazing project yet but Paddy and I and the three other families in our group have access to 100 square metres of land to grow organic vegetables on, all the free, organic seedlings we need to fill this plot, organic sprays (i.e seaweed) and compost and gardening advice and guidance from the full time staff who manage the plot! All in exchange for a minimum of an hour a week of work. I am unbelievably excited about the prospect of an entire Summer of free, organic produce, and an opportunity to meet like-minded people. The project is aimed at a very diverse group of people and includes immigrants, recovering addicts and low-income groups such as beneficiaries. The aim is to promote and support healthy eating and self-sustainability. How amazing does this sound!? And even better, the whole thing is funded in full by the Ministry of Health. As the weather continues to improve, I am even more excited about what this Summer has to bring.

So, I pottered along last night to met my gardening group and took these delicious fritters with me. I was feeling very pleased with myself after creating these, as they include spinach from my garden, homemade feta and homemade pesto from last year's basil, that I liberated from the freezer. And, they turned out delicious! Served with homemade tomato chutney, they were the perfect addition to the potluck.

The gardening group decided last night that we will set up a blog to document our journey, so watch this space, as I will link up once it is underway. In other news, I have made a very big decision this week, which I am looking forward to sharing once I have told the special people in my life. Things will be different around my place for a while!

Spinach, Feta and Pesto Fritters
2-3 cups fresh spinach, washed well
1/2 block feta (about 1/2 cup?)
2 generous Tbsp pesto
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 - 1/2 cup water

Place spinach, feta, pesto, lemon juice and the egg in a food processor and blitz until blended (but don't worry about getting it smooth, as the chunks are nice). Sift flour and baking powder into a bowl and add the spinach mixture; season to taste. Begin to fold together and add water as necessary to make a thick batter (think corn fritter mixture). Fry blobs in olive oil, turning once brown and flattening on the cooked side to make fritters. Serve with tomato chutney or more pesto and salad greens.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Homemade Halloumi

Halloumi is a delicious, squeaky cheese that is super easy to make at home. Halloumi has a very high melting point, so unlike most cheese, it holds it's shape when you cook it. Traditionally made with a mixture of goat's and sheep milk, most of the stuff you buy from the supermarket will be made with cow's milk. Unlike most cheeses, halloumi only uses rennet as it's setting agent, and has no added bacteria or culture. I love halloumi as a component in various salads; it is also great as a protein option in pita pockets and some fancy-pants people serve it on teeny tiny skewers with watermelon.

Go out and find your self some rennet - mine is from Mad Millie, and dabble in cheesemaking at home. It really isn't as scary or difficult as you might think! I'm obsessed, and saving my pennies for a Mad Millie blue cheeses kit. Oh my goodness, can you just imagine homemade blue cheese? It must be epic...

This process looks quite long and involved, and while there are a lot of different steps to complete, the overall time required to actually do stuff is very little.

2 litres un-homogenised milk (I used raw milk, which is also unpasteurised)
1.5 mls rennet diluted in 5 mils cooled, boiled water

Step One
Set up a bain marie. I used a large pot, with a preserving ring inside, and a smaller pot (which lost it's handle a while ago) inside it. Then, I poured boiling water in the big pot. Add your milk to the smaller pot and stir until milk is at around 45 degrees Celsius. I don't actually have a thermometer so I just heat it until it feels quite hot to my finger. Alternatively, you could warm the milk in the microwave until it reaches temperature, and then add it to the smaller pot.


Step Two
Once the milk is at temperature, add the diluted rennet and stir thoroughly. Allow the milk to set at 45 degrees (I put the lid on to keep it warm) for 45 minutes, or until a clean break is achieved.


Step Three
After the curd is set firm, you will need to cut it into 1cm cubes vertically, horizontally and at 45 degree angles along both of these sets of lines. Have a look here for a picture tutorial. Then, gently stir curds for about 10 minutes, until they are much smaller and slightly springy.

Step Four
Once the curds are ready, scoop them into a colander lined with cheesecloth or muslin. Wrap the muslin over the curds and place a weight on top to press them down. I used a bowl of water. Once the curds are firm enough (about 5 hours for me), remove from muslin and cut into blocks.



Step Five
Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Place the blocks of halloumi into boiling water and cook for 5-10 minutes, or until the curds rise to the surface. Drain on a rack to cool. While draining, sprinkle with salt to preserve them and give the distinct salty taste.


The cheese will last for two weeks in the fridge in an airtight container. To serve, grill both sides of the halloumi until browned and slightly soft.

I served my most recent batch as part of a noodle salad with spinach, carrot, spring onion and a lemon pesto dressing. Yum!

I shared this post on Real Food Wednesday and Simple Lives Thursday.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Self-Saucing Chocolate Mug Puddings

Apparently I am a bit behind the eight ball in the world of chocolate mug puddings...
I discovered this treasure of a recipe concept on Pinterest a few weeks ago and couldn't help but give them a try. The recipe I found had an egg in it, and as we always seem to run out of eggs, I was keen to try making one without. I found a few different recipes and tested them - they were all yummy but I am a long-time fan of self-saucing puddings, and decided this was exactly what they needed. I also wanted to tone the sugar levels down a bit, as I don't really have that much of a sweet tooth and the recipes I tried kind of made my teeth quiver. So, here is my version of the chocolate mug cakes (not that unlike the hundreds of other recipes around), with the added delicious addition of sauce and half the sugar.
Yum yum yum...

Self-Saucing Chocolate Mug Puddings
Per serve:
2 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp cocoa
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 Tbsp coconut oil
1 Tbsp chocolate chips
Dash of vanilla essence
3 Tbsp milk or water
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp cocoa
3 Tbsp boiling water

Using one large coffee cup per person, add the dry ingredients first and stir to combine. Then, add the coconut oil, chocolate chips, vanilla essence and milk or water and stir very well until all mixed together. Make sure you get right to the bottom of the cup or you will end up with lumps of flour in your cooked pudding. Smooth the top of the pudding out and sprinkle the second measure of cocoa and brown sugar on top. Pour the boiling water, over the back of a spoon, into the cup. Microwave each pudding in 30 second bursts until puffed up and springy. Mine took one minute each but be sure to do it in bursts because an over-cooked pudding is dry and yuck. Serve with cream, milk or yoghurt on top.

Add dry ingredients to your mug and stir to combine.

Add wet to dry, stir very well.
Smooth down the top of your batter...
... and sprinkle over the sugar and cocoa
and pour over hot water.
Cook until moist and springy. Consume.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

From My Kitchen - Sunday 21st August

It has been such a lovely weekend in Christchurch. After our second snow storm in three weeks, it has been such a treat to see the sun! I was very inspired yesterday to get out in the garden and started to feel positive about the space again. I had been feeling very unmotivated about the whole thing ever since the earthquake, but now I feel revived and ready to get stuck in again. I planted some new fruit trees, tidied up my herbal/medicinal garden and gave my strawberry bed a bit of VIP treatment. My plants had been furiously making babies and I managed to get 20 free plants from the runners! These are a wonderful variety of strawberries, which fruit continuously from about December till April/May. I managed to squeeze nine more plants into my patch and gifted the rest to my neighbour, Sharon.

The only thing left to tackle in my garden is the vege plot. As I have a small patch, I don't have the luxury of any kind of crop rotation, and I tend to be always planting, which means my poor soil never gets a rest. I have decided this week to try and empty whats left in my plot, and then give it a hefty fertilise/compost, so it is happy and ready to go when Spring planting starts. I might end up being a few weeks behind but it will be worth it in the long run.

So, this weeks meals are all planned around my vege plot. It currently contains: spinach, beetroot, carrots, kale, red onions, spring onions, broccoli and brussel sprouts and my goal this week is to eat it empty! I am also drawing on inspiration from a few different recipes I have tagged on Pinterest lately. I love trying new things, especially when it relates to food!

Sunday: noodle salad with spinach, carrot, spring onion, homemade grilled halloumi and a pesto dressing
Monday: broccoli and homemade feta pasta sauce on wholemeal penne
Tuesday: raw tuscan kale salad with roasted brussel sprouts and quinoa risotto
Wednesday: upside down potato and onion tart with grated beetroot and carrot salad
Thursday: spinach souffle with roasted vege and quinoa salad

- wholemeal sourdough
- muesli bars

Coming up this week:
- halloumi tutorial
- homemade natural toilet cleaner
- my experiences with ditching shampoo...


Yesterday I...

Bought a fancy fork for $1.
Decided to paint it.
Made feta.
Planted an apple tree...
... and an apricot tree.
Pampered my strawberry bed.

Enjoyed the smells of almost Spring.
Made a delicious loaf of rosemary and lemon ciabatta.
And laughed at my hilarious dog.
 All in all, a successful day.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Moroccan Spiced Split Lentil Soup

As I mentioned earlier in the week, I have been on a bit of a Moroccan kick lately, after borrowing a cookbook from a friend and realising that cooking from recipes isn't actually that hard after all (I almost never use recipes...). After finding this delicious and easy soup, I just had to give it a try. It turned out to be the perfect, quick dinner for a snowy Sunday night AND it would cost all of about $2 to make for four, good-sized servings. Is there anything not good about this recipe? I think not... I served mine with flat breads that I made out of a batch of sourdough that I hadn't got around to baking. You could do this with any bread dough - just separate into balls, roll out flat on a floured surface and cook in a hot pan until brown.

Moroccan Spiced Split Lentil Soup from 'Made in Morocco' by Julie Le Clerc and John Bougen
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 onions, finely diced
2 Tbsp Moroccan spice blend*
2 x 400 gram tin of tomatoes
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 cup split red lentils
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley or coriander

Heat oil in a saucepan and cook onions until soft. Add spice blend and cook a further minute until fragrant. Add tomatoes, stock and lentils and bring to the boil. Simmer 15-20 minutes, stirring regularly. Add more water if mixture becomes too think. Season with salt and pepper and serve garnished with herbs. I added a dollop of organic yoghurt on top of mine too.

*Spice Blend
2 tsp each of cumin, coriander, paprika, ginger and cinnamon
1 tsp each pepper and turmeric
1/4 tsp each chilli powder and nutmeg

Place all spices in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and mix until combined. Store in a sealed jar. Makes 1/4 cup.

Last night I made a beautiful lamb kefta tagine with tomato and honey sauce from this same recipe book - it was divine! I highly recommend you check out this book if you are keen to give Moroccan cooking a try. It is simple, beautifully photographed and the recipes use normal ingredients that you are likely to have in your pantry. My kind of cooking.

'Made in Morocco' by Julie Le Clerc and John Bougen

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Project - suggestions needed!

Hello, hello - it's very unusual for me to be writing a post in the middle of a Monday, but the snow I was talking about yesterday arrived! Somewhere between bedtime last night and the alarm this morning, a considerable sprinkle was sprunkled and here we are, with the second snow day in three weeks! It's actually very much like de ja vu... but I'm not complaining! A surprise day off is giving me time to catch up on some reports for work but also some much neglected blog posts!

So, for my project - I had been on the hunt for a new light fitting for our dining area for some time now. The current one is embarrassingly hideous and since we bought our gorgeous new/old table, I had visions of a talking piece much like this one... Well, a patient wait on Trade Me had me purchasing this little beauty last night (I went and collected it about half an hour after the auction finished, I was so excited!). It's solid brass, weighs a ton and cost me all of $29. I was quite pleased with myself :)

But, I have a quandary. I always had visions of painting it, much like my inspiration, to be a funky, colourful centre piece above the classic wood table. However, Paddy thinks we should leave it brass... I've taken some photos of the area it is to go in, and I'm after some advice from you all! So, please, impart your wisdom and taste on me - to paint or not to paint? And if so, what colour??

The old lampshade - you can see why I want to upgrade!

The new lamp shade!

To hang above the table...

Painted maybe the same colour as the chalk board?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

From My Kitchen - Sunday 14th August

Well I am sitting here writing this and hoping for yet another snow storm to hit! This time it will be much more exciting and enjoyable as we now have a fully functioning heating system and are all snuggled up warm inside. The weather has been wild all day but still no sign of snow... Fingers crossed we wake up to a decent layer of white tomorrow morning...

I have borrowed a Moroccan cookbook off a friend and have ear-marked a few recipes to experiment with this week. On the stove at the moment is a pot of ridiculously easy split red lentil soup, it only takes 10 minutes to cook, smells amazing, and is made with ingredients I have in my cupboard - sounds pretty good to me! Here is what else I'm cooking for dinner this week...

Sunday - Moroccan split red lentil soup with sourdough flatbreads
Monday - miso, leek, mushroom and soba cha noodle broth with pork and ginger dumplings
Tuesday - tagine of kefta meatballs with tomatoes and eggs (from my Moroccan cookbook!)
Wednesday - vegetarian shepard's pie with steamed broccoli and kale
Thursday - buckwheat kasha with roast veges

- wholegrain sourdough
- chocolate and craisin biscuits

To Do
- soak lentils and chickpeas (for shepard's pie)

Coming up this week (so I'm accountable and actually get around to posting things!):
- split red lentil soup recipe (cos' it's so darn easy and you should all make it!)
- my version of the super easy and delicious self-saucing chocolate mug puddings
- miso, leek, mushroom and soba cha noodle broth recipe
- an exciting new make-over project

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

From My Kitchen - Sunday 7th August

I'm a few days late this week as things are busy, busy, busy in my neck of the woods. I've been helping out with Paddy's school production, which opens tomorrow night and with the gym and acupuncture, I'm only just getting to sit down for a few minutes now! We have booked a trip to Melbourne in October, and to save money for it I have set myself a goal of not buying lunch for a single day this term. Usually I am pretty good but I can get a bit slack and it soon eats away at my money (no pun intended). I normally try to make sure I cook enough dinner for us to both have some for lunch the next day, and this works best if I dish it up when I serve dinner, so we aren't tempted by second helpings! However, on those days when there isn't enough I have a few go-to tricks to feed a hungry tummy. Watch this space for some cheap, quick and easy lunch ideas for thse busy working bodies out there. Anywho, here's dinner for this week:

Sunday - dinner at the neighbours
Monday - lemon and caper chicken on brown rice with steamed broccoli
Tuesday - coconut cream mushroom cabonara with wholemeal penne
Wednesday - warm roast pumpkin, orzo and chorizo salad with a spicy dressing
Thursday - grilled halloumi on a lentil and greens salad with Asian dressing

- sourdough
- perfect recipe for self-saucing chocolate mug puddings (recipe coming!)

To Do
- soak brown rice
- make halloumi
- soak lentils