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Cleaning out my pantry

29 Apr

Wow! Tomorrow is the last day of April meaning May is just around the corner. For me, that means roughly thirty-five days to go before I set sail on my round-the-world adventure. I have finished my running list and the first major task complete: fly my cooking books and few sentimental goods like my tortilla press back to my hometown, Sydney. My remaining possessions fit into one medium-sized travel bag so that’s all I have to lug around for thirty-two days between nine or so cities.

Another item on my to do list is cleaning out my pantry. Whilst not the highest of priority, it’s still something that will need attention over the coming weeks. I’ve hoarded so many ingredients which I’d hope to experiment with or learn about, and others quite frankly I just bought too much of.

So what have I found deep in the abyss of my pantry? Polenta, semolina, agar, fungi, cracked wheat, vegetarian mushroom fluff, barley, several cans of coconut milk, hemp seeds and smoke dried chillies. Somehow, some way I will need to use up all these ingredients as I simply can’t throw food away. Any ideas?

Tonight to combat what seems like the start of an irritating cough and scratchy throat, I decided to go for my usual home soup remedy. No it’s not nice, not very tasty nor is the recipe worth sharing and it’s super hot. It’s a concoction of ginger, garlic, fresh chillies, an entire bag of black fungi (one item down) and a few vegetables.

After I’d finished scraping all the bugs off my throat with hot soup, I needed something sweet to soothe it. Honey was a must but I felt like I needed more ingredients with sustenance to maximise my chance of fighting off any remaining bugs. To a teaspoon of Manuka honey I added 1 Tbs Tahini, 1 Tbs hemp seeds, 1 Tbs pumpkin seed protein powder, 1 tsp coconut oil and 1 tsp sesame seeds. That’s it! Oh and a squeeze of lemon. Mix it up in a bowl, roll into a ball then coat with more sesame seeds. That was enough to make two bliss balls.

How were they? Blissful! Don’t believe me? Make them. If you don’t have pumpkin seed protein, use cacao perhaps. If they turn out too soft, put them in the fridge for a little while or add more cacao. Other variations? Sure, just use your creativity. Next time I’ll be adding crushed pistachios or walnuts.

And by the way, I managed to find my cooking mojo since my last post and delivered a Lebanese feast with several dishes plus Baklava and Mafroukeh which I’ll post soon 😉

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Beetroot Pearl Barley Risotto

13 Nov
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I’ve loved pearl barley ever since I was a child. My mother would make an amazing sweet winter soup called haboub (translates to grains I think). My mother’s recipe includes pearl barley, chickpeas, sugar, aniseed, fennel and water. After she had filled our bowls, we’d sprinkle a little desiccated coconut on top and gobble up with delight. I would go for seconds, at times even thirds, depending on how much I could squeeze in after dinner.

Since then, I hadn’t come across pearl barley until my recent cooking class on superfoods. When I saw pearl barley on the menu, it instantly brought back memories of the cold Sydney winter, flannel pajamas and warm bowls of haboub. However, this dish was savoury as opposed to sweet. I couldn’t wait to learn how to make it and taste it of course. After the first mouthful, I saw myself making it often.

When the first opportunity to show off my fresh knowledge on superfoods arrived, this dish made it onto the menu. A small portion was served as dish number five out of a seven course dinner. My diner, a recent beetroot convert was very pleased with the result and so was I.

Pearl barley is an interesting grain and very versatile. It can be served cold in a salad or warm in a soup. However, I’m stuck on the idea of using it like aborio rice and following a risotto theme. I used it just a few days ago. Again, in the same way, only this time with mushroom stock, re-hydrated mushrooms, gai lan and hard tofu. I thought it was delicious but am still wondering whether its worthy of a post.

Should the next pearl barley post be dedicated to haboub or the asian-style risotto, preference anyone? Care to share your favourite pearl barley recipe? I look forward to it!

Serves 2 (with leftovers)

Ingredients

  • 6 small beetroots, wrapped in foil and roasted until tender (about 45mins at 180C)
  • 1 cup of pearl barley, soaked in cold water overnight
  • 1/2 onion, diced finely
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped finely
  • 3 tbs of butter
  • 3 tbs of olive oil
  • 2 cups of vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup of chopped parsley
  • 1/3 cup of chopped dill
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

When the beetroots are cool enough to handle, peel skin, then grate or blitz in a food processor and set aside. Reserve one beetroot and cut into chunks.

In a heavy pot, melt butter, add olive oil and then saute onion until translucent. Add pearly barley and cook for a few minutes on medium heat. Drop to a simmer, then add stock gradually stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t stick to the base. It should take about 30 minutes to cook the pearl barley.

Add beetroot and combine with pearly barley. Then add parsley and dill, season to taste. If the risotto is too thick, add a little more butter or stock.

Serve with fetta, a few chunks of beetroot, garnish with extra dill and a little olive oil.

Adapted from original recipe by Brenda Fawdon

Kale Pesto

30 Oct

Kale Pesto Pine nuts sourdough

This recipe is part of a 7 course dinner which I recently prepared whilst in Vancouver. It is based on the original recipe of Brenda Fawdon. I reduced the pecorino cheese because my diner isn’t a huge fan of yellow cheese. I also used less pine nuts because I wanted the kale to stand out. Again, adjust to suit personal taste.

Try it and let me know what you think!

Makes 1 small bowl (increase quantities for larger portions)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 bunch of kale
  • 1/2 bunch of parsley
  • 1 small clove of garlic, chopped roughly
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 50g of pine nuts, toasted
  • 50g of pecorino cheese, grated finely
  • 2 tbs of extra virgin olive oil

Method

Blanch kale leaves in hot water then transfer to icy cold water. Then add kale, parsley and garlic into food processor then blitz until rough. Add lemon zest, lemon juice and pine nuts blend until combined. Add pecorino and olive oil then stir through and combine. (For a finer result, just add pecorino and olive oil to processor and keep blitzing until smooth)

Season to taste and store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Serve on crusty Italian bread like sourdough or pane di casa.

7 course dinner…at home

28 Oct

tasting menu

Recently, I spent last the 2 weeks of summer in Vancouver. Whilst I did get to savor some amazing food at several restaurants, I also had that one chance, to put my skills to the test and baptize a new kitchen.

A friend of mine had told me about a 5 course dinner that he had cooked to woo his girlfriend. I had to go one step further and cook an elaborate 7 course dinner. I have never cooked something so elaborate before and never in a kitchen I am unfamiliar with, but then I was not going to let that daunt me. I love challenges!

Leading up to the big day, I’d sourced enough ingredients to make 5 courses but needed to decide on another 2. Fortunately, two nights prior, I’d been watching an amazing documentary Step Up To the Plate. It provided plenty of inspiration, but in no way was it going to turn me into a 3 star Michelin chef overnight!

I still needed 2 more entrees. I narrowed it down to dishes which I thought would be hearty but not the stuff-you-silly kind. Soup it was. Besides, it was miserable outside, summer was coming to an end and rain, wind, cold was setting in.

Some of the dishes I made up, others I drew on inspiration and from participation at the Mondo Organics cooking class. Detailed recipes to follow.

Kale pesto on sourdough (original recipe by Brenda Fawdon)

Leafy green salad with semi-dried cranberries, pecans, goat milk fetta with a balsamic and agave dressing

Roasted tomato soup with thyme croutons

Wild mushroom soup with saffron croutons

Roasted pumpkin spelt gnocchi with sage butter sauce

Beetroot pearl barley risotto (adapted from original recipe by Brenda Fawdon)

Chocolate tofu tarts (adapted from original recipe by Brenda Fawdon)

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