burnt toast

Smoky Lentil Salad

smoky lentil salad

So remember when I said I’d found the recipe for the most amazing lentil salad, daring, even, to name it “the best”? I lied. I found its incredibly attractive and rather enticing cousin. I’ve never been competitive – because I think it’s a waste of time – and I also believe in equality, especially when it comes to lentil salad. I love these two recipes of mine equally, but because this one is newer, I feel like I have the right to play with it a little more often than the old one, so we get the chance to familiarise ourselves with one another, solidifying and deepening our friendship. Because ladies and sirs, this is one seductive salad. Packed with a delicious medley of roasted zucchini, feta and smoky paprika, this little number is sure to satisfy. Best packed lunch ever. Amen.

 

 Smoky Lentil Salad with Feta and Roasted Zucchini

Serves 2 incredibly hungry people, 3 medium hungry ones, or 4 as part of a meal.

 

1 cup Puy lentils

1 bay leaf

2 firm skinny zucchinis, on the medium side, sliced into 1cm rounds

2 carrots, finely diced

1 onion, finely chopped

1 tsp smoked paprika

 

Dressing

5 Tbsp olive oil

3 Tbsp dark balsamic vinegar

2 Tbsp soy sauce

1 ½ Dijon mustard

2 tsp vegetable stock granules

1 garlic clove, crushed

chilli flakes

 

150g Danish feta, crumbled

 

Throw your lentils in a saucepan and cover with 2 cups of water. Stick in the bay leaf while you’re at it. Let the lentils soak for an hour or so, then bring to the boil and simmer gently until cooked. You may or may not have to top up with water in the meantime, just make sure they never go dry.

Preheat the oven to 200°C and line two baking trays with paper. Spread the zucchini over them, drizzle with a little bit of olive oil and sprinkle over some sea salt. Bake in the oven until soft and about 2/3 of their original size. Remove from the oven and cool.

In a large fry pan, heat a few splashes of olive oil and add the carrots and onion. Stir over a low flame until soft, then add the paprika. How good does it smell?! Alright, remove that from the heat and have a look at how you’re lentils are going.

Once they’re soft, pour them into a fine-meshed sieve to get rid of any excess water, shake them a bit, and then transfer them to the large fry pan of delicious smoky goodness. Add the dressing ingredients and give it all a good stir. Let the lentils sit for about 15 minutes for all the flavours to unfold. After that, all you have to do is add the zucchini and feta. Have a taste now. Taste incredible? I know.

Quinoa – It’s come this far

quinoa and sweet potato patties

I like food that triggers emotion. The nostalgia a slice of good, crusty bread evokes within me, transporting me back to the magnificent bakeries of Bern. The tango of crunchy, creamy, salty, and sweet of a Greek salad, winking at you with all its healthy colours screaming “Eat me! I’m good for you!” Or the guilty decadence that comes with eating something rich and chocolatey, the guilt that over the years of consumption has turned into pleasure with a hint of satisfaction. Quinoa did none of these things to me. On the rare occasion I’d be eating it I’d question it’s validity, how serious this grain was about its super powers, because in all due respect, taste-wise, it gave me nothing.

However, being the flexitarian that I am, it seemed almost ridiculous not to give it and its complete protein and minerals a fifth chance. Apparently, we all seem to need more quinoa in our lives, so who am I to argue. Even though I’m incredibly hesitant to hop on that superfood bandwagon everyone’s been going nuts about, because, you know, it’s not really my style. I don’t follow trends. I will not admit defeat, I’m too proud. But I will admit that I’m still getting over how good these little suckers taste.

quinoa times

 

Quinoa and Sweet Potato Patties

Makes 9

1 medium sweet potato

2 fat garlic cloves, unpeeled

½ cup quinoa

1 bay leaf

pinch of cinnamon

vegetable stock granules, or salt, for purists

1 Tbsp white miso

¼ cup pumpkin seeds

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line a baking tray with baking paper. Chop the sweet potato into 2cm cubes, and place them into the baking tray, tossing them with a glug of olive oil, and finishing with a sprinkling of salt. Wrap the two garlic cloves in aluminium foil and pop next to the sweet potato cubes. Roast for about 20 minutes or until the sweet potato is soft. Remove from the oven and cool.

In the meantime, soak the quinoa in ¾ cup water in a saucepan for 15 minutes. Add the bay leaf and cinnamon and bring to the boil. Simmer for 20 minutes, then cover and let steam until all the liquid has evaporated and the grains are nice and fluffy.

Toast the pumpkin seeds in a pan until they’ve all puffed up. Let them cool, than whizz them up to a fine powder in a blender. Stop before they turn into a paste.

To assemble, remove the bay leaf from the quinoa. Add the mashed sweet potato, the ground pumpkin seeds, the miso and as little or as much vegetable stock granules or salt as you think is right. Give it all a nice good stir, then, with wet hands, form into patties. Heat a frying pan with a splash of olive oil and fry those cuties until golden on each side. Done. I usually have them with some crumbled feta and a few chopped parsley leaves, sometimes even a fried egg. Best breakfast ever.

If you don’t feel like cooking them all at once, they’ll keep in the fridge for a few days.

Saffron, Rosewater and Pistachio Kulfi

pistacio top

They said I had too much wisdom, so they took it all away. Bastards. I mean, what is even the point of having four extra teeth right in the back of your mouth?  It’s a pretty flimsy attempt of interior decoration if anything. Just an added bonus for having successfully survived the crippling years teenage hood and transferred to the next blissful decade of so-called life. You’d think we would’ve evolved past that by now. Have an inbuilt toothbrush instead. Evolution? Whatever.

 

Other than pain I’ve had some other great things happen to me these last couple of days. Like soup. And cold packs. And delicious pain killers. Before you get all jealous though, let me tell you about ice cream. Because ice cream is delicious. You know those moments when you invite people for dinner and they bring along something that just completely blows your mind? Nah? You’ve got the wrong friends.

 

I’ve adapted, adopted and tweaked le recipe, and this is what I ended up with. In the past, a very long time ago – the wisdom era I like to call it – I made some cardamom and pistachio kulfi. A deliciously moreish and refreshing milky ice cream enjoyed in India. Well, now it’s time for another one, the rosewater and saffron one. Kittens, it truly is a stunner. And before you point it out, yes, it’s got pistachios as well, but come on, what goes better with saffron, both visually and tastedly?

saffron rosewater kulfi

Saffron, Rosewater and Pistachio Kulfi

 

400ml mi full cream milk

1 big pinch of salt

1 big pinch saffron threads, or 1 packet ground

1 can/379g condensed milk

1 can/354ml evaporated milk

2 Tbsp rosewater

50g pistachios,  chopped

 

Heat the milk in a saucepan until hot. Add the salt and the saffron and let it steep for a few minutes until the milk turns golden. If your saucepan is big enough, whisk in the condensed- and evaporated milk, as well as the rosewater. Alternatively, pour everything into a plastic container that will fit into your freezer. To speed everything up, place it into the freezer already. None of that “waiting till it’s room temperature” bullshit. Every half hour or so, whisk the mixture with a fork so as to break up the ice crystals. After about 4 hours or more, depending on how good your freezer is, your mixture will have the consistency of slushy snow. Now stir in the pistachios and fill into whatever mould makes you happy. I usually use small cups or those popsicle trays you can buy. If you’re lucky enough to have 2 of those trays, I reckon you could make 14-16. Now put them back into the freezer to firm up. When ready, hold a knife under a hot tap and slide it around the edge of each popsicle until it comes out.

Three-Cheese Quesadillas with Mango and Basil Salsa

three-cheese quesadilla

Quesadilla. The cheat’s pizza, the new toast – basically the most versatile piece of foodage out there. And delicious obviously. Crisped in a pan until golden, the cheese sexily oozing out of the sides as you cut it into triangles, as you try not to look like a glutton and ram a whole piece down your throat while you’re already topping the next with the fruity salsa.

Basically best Friday evening nibble ever. I’ve got a feeling I will be turning the topic of quesadillaing into a bit of a series because really, there are just so many different options to share.

Lets start with the mother of all cheese quesadillas, shall we? A riveting combo of feta, Philadelphia cream cheese and cheddar, satisfying that cheese tooth of yours to the max. Whack on some mango salsa – you’re done. It’s pretty simple and really, I don’t know why I’m still writing. Go make some. Now.

more three-cheese

 

Three-Cheese Quesadillas with Mango and Basil Salsa

 

Makes 4-5 quesadillas, depending on size

 

200g feta

250g Philadelphia cream cheese, softened

4 spring onions, finely sliced

200g or so grated cheddar cheese

 

2 mangoes, diced into small cubes

1 large shallot, finely chopped

1 large mild chilli, finely chopped

½ bunch basil, finely chopped

1 lime, juice

2 Tbsp olive oil

pinch of salt

 

8-10 flour tortillas

 

First of all you want to start making the “whipped feta”, which essentially is combining cream cheese and feta with a hand held blender in a bowl of some sort until smooth. Got it? Great. Now set it aside while you get on with the rest. Just don’t put it in the fridge, because we want it to be nice and spreadable for later.

Now, combine the mango, shallot, chilli, basil, lime juice, olive oil and salt in a bowl.  Easy as eh? Now you’re ready to roll. Place a flour tortilla on a flat surface such as a chopping board and spread over ¼ or a little less of the whipped feta. Sprinkle over some of the sliced spring onions and top off with a bit of cheddar. Place another tortilla on top and transfer to a large fry pan. Gently heat on one side until it goes golden and crispy, then turn and do the same thing there. Remove from the pan and continue with the rest. Slice the quesadillas into triangles and serve with the salsa.

 

Rosewater and Mint Lemonade

rosewater and mint lemonade

Yeah, it’s hot. Listen, this isn’t really what I signed up for when I decided to move to Melbourne. It was more the European autumns and the dry climate that enticed me. But hey, we’ve got aircon in our living room, so there’s no point in bitching anyway.

Before you go and drown yourself in H2O, may I suggest a more delicious way to go? I came across this refreshing and utterly delicious beverage in Brunswick Heads, up there in the tropical New South Wales, at a Middle Eastern café called Yami’s. The food is beautiful and fresh, plates of crispy falafel served with creamy hummus, parsley and tomato salad and warm pita bread. The lemonade though, that’s the reason I go back.

more lemonade

Rosewater and Mint Lemonade

Makes about 350ml of syrup

3-4 lemons, depending on size, to make 200ml lemon juice

175g sugar

2 Tbsp rosewater

¼ bunch mint, leaves torn, to serve

ice

Combine the lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan and stir over low heat, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Remove from heat and stir in the rosewater. Transfer to a glass jar, screw the top on and let it chill in the fridge. This syrup will keep for a couple of weeks, just so you know. So depending on if you’re serving a crowd or just yourself, you’ll have to adjust the amounts. As I’m a solitary lemonade drinker most of the time, here are the amounts I use: In a 250ml – sized teacup (to me, everything tastes better in teacups), combine 3 Tbsp syrup and two torn mint leaves. Chuck in a couple of ice cubes and top up with water. Proscht.

I know what you’re thinking. Laura, this drink does not contain any alcohol. What’s wrong. Darling, don’t you worry, I’ve been going over this in my head for a few weeks now. I haven’t tried it yet, but I’m certain it would taste quite delightful with some gin or perhaps even vodka. I’ll give it a go when things get a bit milder. But honestly – and I can’t believe I’m saying this – it’s too hot for spirits.

Rösti

brunch rösti

I feel like I owe you something pretty. And I think this image pretty much fulfills the absence of pretty pretty well, yeah?

Listen I don’t want to go on about my Swiss heritage and about how obsessively frequent we like to eat rösti (we don’t), but I would like to say this. Rösti is awesome, and it makes the world a better place. I’m particularly partial to the smaller, bite – sized version, not only because of its visual appeal, but also because of the crunchy exterior to inner softness –ratio. And because they look incredibly cute with stuff stacked on top of them, for brunch or indeed some shmancy themed dinner party. Just recently a friend of mine was so kind as to give me a couple of his quails’ eggs. As a result, these decadent brunch röstis came to be.

Brunch Rösti

Makes 12

2 medium potatoes

1 leek (250g), sliced into 2cm rounds

2 heaped Tbsp butter

80ml crème fraîche or sour cream

1 Tbsp seeded mustard or to taste

salt

6 quail’s eggs

a few sprigs flowering thyme, or some other tiny herb you like

cracked black pepper

You’ve got to start making these a little in advance, because you’ve got to boil the potatoes and make the leek confit first.

Pierce the potatoes with a knife all around to speed up the cooking process, then place them in a saucepan and top with water from a recently boiled kettle. Cook until soft, then drain. Cool.

In the meantime, melt the butter in a small saucepan on low heat and spread the rounds of leek out so the bottom is covered. Sprinkle over a pinch of salt.  Cover with a lid and on the smallest flame possible, let the leek simmer in the buttery goodness until soft. Stir as seldom as possible, because you want the leek to keep its shape. Once it’s done, remove from the heat and transfer to a jar. You know what you’ve just made? Leek confit. Pretty nifty, eh? This will keep for a week or so in the fridge. But I honestly don’t know who would wait that long.

Get your potatoes and grate them. Don’t bother with removing the skin, it’ll come off while you’re grating it. Divide the potato into 12 portions and shape into rounds. Heat a large fry pan with the bottom covered with olive oil and add the potato rösti. You might have to do this in batches okay? Don’t move them too early or they’ll fall apart. Once they’re golden on one side, flip them to get the other side done. Line a plate with some paper and transfer the rösti onto it to cool.

Next, combine your crème fraîche with the mustard and season with some salt, then set aside while you boil the quail’s eggs. I usually place them in the bottom of a pan and pour over some boiling water to cover them, then set the timer. The egg in the picture was in there for 3 ½ minutes, but I reckon 2 ½ would probably be even better, for a still slightly gooey yolk. When done, pour off the water and top with cold tap water. Once they’re cool enough to handle, peel the eggs and slice them in half.

Now, assembly time. Start with one rösti, top with a dollop of crème fraîche, leek and half an egg. Get your pretty herbs out and sprinkle that and a bit of cracked pepper on top. Repeat with the rest, then eat.

Just looking back over the recipe, it looks incredibly long, doesn’t it. It’s not complicated though. I just thought I’d throw in some extra detail there, just in case you forgot how to boil a potato or peel an egg. I just care about you kitten, that’s all.

Cucumber Gimlet

cucumber gimlet

Oh hey. Listen I’m sorry about all this not posting stuff. First there were the holidays, which had to be spent doing jolly things, no question. Then there was Cambodia, and then there’s this heat wave that is threatening to fry, or indeed melt the majority of the people who call Melbourne home. So you know, I’ve been busy.

Without further ado, and because it’s just so incredibly hot, here a delicious something which I feel everyone should know about really. We all know cucumber and gin have always been best friends, we just need to be reminded about it every now and again. Throw in some mint and lime and hey, you’re the coolest cat of the dead-end street. I love this tipple. It is the most frequently drunk cocktail in our house, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be at yours.

more gimlet

Cucumber Gimlet

Serves 1

2 thin slices cucumber, plus one extra for garnishing

15ml sugar syrup

15ml fresh lime juice

60ml gin

2 mint leaves, shredded, plus extra for garnish

ice cubes

Got a jam jar with a screw top? Good. Chuck your two slices of cucumber in there, and muddle them with the back of a knife or a rolling pin or an actual muddling utensil, until decently smashed. Add the sugar syrup, the lime juice, gin and mint leaves, and throw in about 4 ice cubes. Screw on the lid and give it a good shape. Now, get some more ice, and fill up a tumbler with ice. Pour the contents into the glass, by holding the lid slightly askew so as to catch any unwanted pulped cucumber. Get your saved cucumber slice and mint leaf and add to your drink in whatever way seems most appropriate.

Santé darling. It’s good to see you again.

Pumpkin Bread

a slice of pumpkin bread

You were almost hoping this would really be a bread recipe, right? Just a bit of bread dough with a bit of pumpkin puree folded in, yay, some healthy stuff for once. Are you kidding? Everything is healthy. It just depends on your attitude towards it, and in what quantities you consume it. Bring on the cake. Guilt? I don’t even know guilt feels like. Is it edible? Whatever, lets go back to pumpkin bread shall we? Why do people call cake in the shape of a loaf “bread”? Is it to calm their conscience? Back home, in a land far far away, also known as Switzerland, we call them loaf-shaped things Cake. The round ones are called Kuchen, and if they have some sort of custardy whipped component, they go over into the Torte realm. That’s a bit of trivia you can totally stun people with at the next dinner party. Bam!

In other words, this is a deliciously aromatic, sweetly spiced pumpkin bread. Great on its own, toasted, or with a smear of sour cream. Because you’re worth it baby.

pumpkin bread

Pumpkin Bread

¼ large jap pumpkin, seeds and skin removed, chopped into 2cm pieces

1 Tbsp butter

2 cups/300g plain flour

1 cup/220g caster sugar

3 tsp baking powder

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp grated nutmeg

¼ tsp ground cloves

1 tsp salt

220g butter, melted

1 Tbsp golden syrup (or maple syrup or molasses if you don’t have any)

1 tsp vanilla essence

1 egg

Chuck the pumpkin onto a lined baking dish, dot over the butter and bake in a preheated oven for about 30 minutes at 200°C or until soft. Remove from the oven and cool. Once it’s cool enough to touch, whizz it to a smooth puree in your food processor. You will need one cup/250ml of this. Do something imaginative with the rest, or just eat it. Whatever mood hits you first.

Lower the oven temperature to 180°C. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, spices and salt.

In another bowl, possibly the one you melted the butter in, stir together the butter, golden syrup and vanilla. Whisk in the egg, then add the cup of pumpkin puree.

Pour the liquid pumpkin mixture into the flour mixture and gently combine. Don’t over mix it – it’s fine if you have a few bits of flour lurking about. The process is basically the same as that of a muffin. Spoon into a prepared loaf tin and bake it for about 1 hour, until a skewer inserted comes out clean and the top is nice and golden. Mind, our oven is extremely temperamental, so just keep an eye on your little loaf and periodically check after 50 minutes.

White Russian

white russian

Once upon a time, a long long time ago, I used to like coffee. I had a great love for it, made even greater by the fact that I worked at a café, which was known by its locals for its coffee.  One shot late, one sugar, or sometimes even a mocha, depending on my mood. Then one day, during my “at least three coffees a day” – phase, I decided to quit. What followed was a week of headaches, and a taste for coffee no more. I can’t exactly pinpoint what it is, but I would say that it’s the combination of aroma and flavour that makes my tummy turn just a little. Maybe also the fact that that’s what you can smell on people’s breaths first thing in the morning on the tram to uni. That off, bitter fragrance of unbrushed teeth wafting through the tightly packed carriage.

All is not lost though. I still like kaluha. That counts as coffee in my books. Delicious, sweet, alcoholified coffee.

You already know I’m a sucker for a good cocktail, although mind, purists will say this isn’t.  To which I will agree and say of course not, it’s sophisticated dessert. Now do you want one or not.

I find most of the time, White Russians are a rather neglected drink, usually resembling a careless coffee milkshake – ice, Kahlua, milk, done. No, no, no.

I tasted this version almost a year ago in this little cellar bar called Abflugbar in Bern. If you’re ever there – go. It’s great. The barmen come have a little chat with you to determine what cocktail would suit you best. Anyway.  What I was served then was an incredibly pleasant surprise: A two-layered drink, dark and strong down the bottom with a  white cloud of cream floating on top. Delish.

So what you first need is a fancy glass, preferably a coupe. To this, add, shaken at different intervals, ice, Kahlua, vanilla vodka and cream – by which I would just like to mention – what is it with this “thickened cream”  Australia? How about pure cream? Does thickening it make it easier (and so much more time efficient – “takes only one minute to whip instead of two! Wow!”) for lazy people to whip it? If that’s the case, you should wear a bag over your head and get the pre-whipped sweetened can of cream from the back isle. Shame on you.

If you’re in a big enough supermarket, chances are you’ll find cream without any thickeners in it. That, or you add a splash of milk to your cream before shaking. Your choice.

White Russian

 Serves 1

45ml Kahlua

45ml Vanilla Vodka

60ml cream

splash of milk if using thickened cream

ice

Find a jam jar with a tightly fitting lid. Add the Kahlua, vodka and 3 cubes of ice, screw the lid on and give it a good shake. Pour into your coupe glass, making sure you catch all the ice. Throw the ice into the sink, give the jar a wash, then add the cream (and milk) and 2 ice cubes. Give it a good shake. Gently pour over the back of a teaspoon onto the Kahlua vodka, making sure you catch the ice again.

Happy dessert time.

In case you were wondering how to drink this – just sip it. You’ll get a nice mixture of the two layers with every sip.

Also, you can use as many ice cubes as you want. We always seem to run out, so I’ve adapted my needs to our ice cube tray.

Potato and Pea Samosas

samosasYeah. Samosas. Right up there on my list of favourite snack food. But then again, anything coming from the beautiful country of India gets top marks in my book. In my oh-so-short life I have been there three times already, and you can take my word I’ll be going back there again.

Top three random memories of India:

Playing hide and seek as a nine year old in the hotel’s 5-day old algae-tinged pool. Endless hours of fun. Other experiences included pools almost opaque with chlorine your eyes stung just by looking at it. These did not include hide and seek, or me, for that matter.

The after effects of my first sips of my mum’s gin and tonic making a 12-year old me walk dizzily into a rubbish bin next to our tiny hotel room situated right on the beach in Goa. Don’t laugh. That’s just mean.

A cook in the green hills of Kumili showing my 16-year old self how he made his beetroot malai kofta. They were insane guys. Served in a coconut cashew sauce spiced with star anise. You know you’re jealous.

a bite of samosa

I don’t think I have to tell you how much I love these little guys. I mean, deliciousness wrapped in pastry? Right? Give ‘em a go please. Right now.

Potato and Pea Samosas

 

4 medium (floury) potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1cm cubes

2 Tbsp each of vegetable oil and butter

2 medium onions, finely chopped

2 fat garlic cloves, crushed

1 knob of ginger, grated, giving you about 1 Tbsp of grated ginger

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 ½ tsp ground cumin

1 ½ tsp ground coriander

¼ tsp chili flakes

¼ tsp cinnamon

1 Tbsp lemon juice

splash of soy sauce

salt

1/2 cup (65g) frozen peas

½ bunch coriander, leaves roughly chopped

4 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed

Place your cubed potatoes into a pot and cover with water from a recently boiled kettle. Boil until soft, but still holding their shape. Drain.

In the meantime, melt the oil and butter in a wide fry pan. Add your onions and gently cook over low heat until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and ginger, and turn up the heat a little. Stir until everything takes on a little colour. Add the turmeric, cumin, ground coriander, chili, cinnamon and lemon juice, give it a stir, then add the potatoes. Let them hang out together for about 10 minutes. Season with a little soy sauce and salt. Remember, the potatoes will soak up quite a bit of flavor i.e. salt, so you may need to adjust your seasoning later again. Once the potatoes have gone a little mushy, remove from the heat. Stir in the peas and coriander, and let cool to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 220°C. To make the triangles, cut each sheet into 9 squares. Place a scant tablespoon of filling on each and fold over a corner. Pinch the edges together – if you can get a fancy twist going all the better – and lay them on a baking sheet. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden.

Serve hot with coriander and coconut chutney.

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