burnt toast

Sun-dried Tomato and Mushroom Polenta Hot Dogs

sun-dried tomato and mushroom hot dogs

Have you ever felt frustrated by the overpriced mediocreness of those tubes of biodynamic free range soy which, in the occasion of a barbecue, to which you are invited, being the only vegetarian, you are forced to procure, because you do not just want to be limited to boiled sweetcorn and grilled zucchini. You want to feel the fulness that only the combination of protein and carbs can give you. So you buy them anyway, but still feel like you’re not part of the mob, because obviously you’re missing out on what is the whole point of having a fire: Le meat. Do you? Ha I don’t. Not anymore. I suffered for years my friend, so  I do know your pain. However I feel as  soon as I started to finally become cool (e.g. joining the carnivores), cautiously, but evermore enthusiastically exploring what that world of meat had to offer, vegetarianism had started to become the new cool. Such a trendsetter I was, way way ahead of my time. What use was it to me now.

I kid you, it’s super helpful. I still predominantly eat vegetarian food. It’s fun, it’s delicious, it’s easy, but it’s also  a challenge. And I love challenges. We will never have an equal substitute for meat, because that would defy the point of not eating it, and it would be insulting to the deliciousness that meat has to offer.

What I present you is a delicious alternative to the hot dog. It is jam-packed with umami flavours, a beautiful marriage of sun-dried tomatoes, caramelised mushrooms, a hint of smoked paprika, a dash or red wine and a scattering of parmesan. And when you thought it couldn’t get any better, I sneakily add a handful ground almonds to boost the protein content. These hot dogs aren’t an alternative. They’re their own star. Go forth my vegetarian and non vegetarian friends, and enjoy the tastiness which is the incredible polenta hot dog.

 

Sun-dried Tomato and Mushroom Polenta Hot Dogs

This makes a bit more than a liter of mixture, which will fill one large baking tray, which can be sliced into 18+ rectangle hot dogs.

 

A few tbsp olive oil

2 onions, finely chopped

a drizzle of golden syrup, honey or a sprinkle of sugar

10 button mushrooms, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tsp chopped rosemary

1 tsp smoked paprika

freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbsp soy sauce

 

100ml red wine

900ml water

vegetable stock powder

1 cup / 160g fine polenta

50g butter, cubed

1 cup / 100g finely grated parmesan cheese

½ cup / 50g ground almonds

10 sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped

Heat the oil in a large fry pan and add the onions. Stir occasionally until starting to turn brown. Add the golden syrup to speed up the caramelisation. Once you’re happy with the colour, add the mushrooms, garlic, rosemary, paprika and black pepper, and cook, stirring, until it starts to smell delicious and the mushrooms seem cooked through. Add the soy sauce, stir a few more times, then take off the heat.

Heat the wine and water in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Add the veggie stock powder (up to you how much – you can always add more right at the end), and stir in the polenta. Keep stirring until it goes thick. Remove from the heat and add the butter, cheese and almonds. Once that’s nicely incorporated, add the sun-dried tomatoes and the mushroom mixture. Line a baking tray with baking paper and spread the mixture out evenly. Let it cool out completely, either at room temperature or in the fridge to speed things up, and cut into desired length/shape.

At this stage you can pack a few away into a plastic bag and find a nice spot in the freezer for them. Because really, you’re not going to manage to eat all of them in the next few days.

When you’re ready to finish them off, preheat your oven to 200°C and bake them for 20 minutes or so until browned. Same procedure for the frozen ones, although they might need to be in there for a bit longer. I found they hold their shape best with this method. You can also fry them, but make sure you use enough oil, because they tend to stick. Serve with hot dog – friendly condiments.

The Honeybee

the honeybee

I’ve always had a so-so relationship with honey. Oh no, I don’t mind the fact that it’s bee spew. Humans eat far worse things I’d think. It’s more that I felt that it wasn’t being worshipped enough. If we’re going to be so mean and ruin all that hard work by nicking it and stirring it into our tea, there should be a certain level of appreciation had. It’s pretty amazing stuff. Next to being wonderfully flavoursome, it can aid people in getting rid of allergies, while its antibacterial properties can help combat infections and heal wounds and burns. It’s part magic alright?

So what is it I make when I decide to incorporate some magical goodness into my day, you will ask. Oh you know me too well. A cocktail of course. A delicious little combo of honey, lime juice, elderflower cordial, and vanilla vodka, with a sliver of fresh chilli to represent the sting of the bee. Pretty nifty eh?

 

The Honeybee

Serves 1

 

30ml fresh lime juice

30ml honey (if it’s too solid, give it a few seconds in the microwave)

15ml elderflower cordial

60ml vanilla vodka

Ice

1 slice of chilli (optional for those who are weak in the chilli – ingesting department)

 

Combine the lime juice, honey, cordial and vodka in a jar with a few cubes of ice. Give it a mighty good shake, then pour into a pretty glass over some fresh ice or just by itself. Float the chilli on top. Yum.

Zucchini, Thyme and Whipped Feta Quesadillas

zucchini and feta quesadilla

It is slightly disturbing how much I love flour tortillas. I rarely have bread in the house because I’m a snob and see bread as the easy way out, but also because I’m lazy and think that tortillas are a perfectly acceptable substitute. If you have bread, you have a snack. If you don’t have bread, you use flour tortillas because they they require that tiny bit more effort, resulting in you feeling like a sneaky genius because you just made something delicious and impressive looking.

This is possibly my most favourite quesadilla version to date. Zucchini, thyme and garlic is a killer combo in my book, and if you contrast that with  some salty sour whipped feta, topped off with drizzle of sweet chilli, then you are well and truly in the game.

a bite left

 

Zucchini, Thyme and Whipped Feta Quesadillas

Makes 3-4, depending on how generously you fill them

 

100g feta

125g Philadelphia cream cheese, at room temperature

big glug of olive oil

600g / 4 small zucchini, thinly sliced

1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

2 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped

salt

6-8 flour tortillas

sweet chilli sauce, to serve

 

Start with making the whipped feta. Combine the two cheeses in a jug and give them a whizz with a hand held blender until smooth. Alternatively, mash the feta very finely with a fork and then stir into the cream cheese. Either way, make sure it is at room temperature when you use it, or else it’ll be difficult to spread.

Next, heat some olive oil in a pan and chuck in the zucchini. Stir over high heat until they start caramelising in places. Add the thyme and keep cooking until they’ve reduced considerably in volume and are softened right through. Add the garlic and some seasoning and shake through a few times before taking off the heat.

To assemble, spread out a few spoonfuls of feta mixture over a flour tortilla and top with a thin layer of zucchini. Place another tortilla on top, then whack into a big frypan. Toast it on one side until golden (you don’t need any oil for this), flip, and finish toasting it on the other side. Transfer to a cutting board, slice into 8 pieces and drizzle with some sweet chilli. Eat while still warm and repeat with the remaining tortillas.

Caramel and Walnut Cookies

caramel and walnut cookie

If I were to ask you what your favourite type of cookie was, would you belong in group a.) Nothing too soft, no oats or other wannabe health food ingredients, no currants, and preferably with Lindt chocolate chunks or toasted walnuts. b.) Aaaaaaaaah anything? or c.) I don’t eat cookies unless they’re made from organic triple-distilled unicorn butter. I’d say I (obviously) belong to the a-team, although I’d admittedly really appreciate you as a human if you were from group c, because you’re funny and probably will never know.

This cookie is the leader of the a-team. The one with the I’m-so-cool-I’m-not-even-trying attitude, which they can totally pull off because they’re friggin awesome to hang out with. Everyone can do with one of those on their team. They’re good value. And might I also say delicious. The brown sugar does a wonderful job at providing a depthy caramel flavour, while the walnuts add a further dynamic with their toasty vibes. These cookies are even better and crunchier the next day, so keep a few to the side.

 

Caramel and Walnut Cookies

Adapted from orangette

Makes around 30

 

200g unsalted butter, at room temperature

250g / 1 ¼ cups brown sugar

1 large egg

2 tsp vanilla essence

250g / 1 ¾ cups plain flour

½ tsp baking soda

½ tsp salt

100g / 1 cup finely chopped walnuts

 

Preheat the oven to 190°C and line two baking trays with baking paper. In a medium bowl, whisk the butter and sugar with a hand-held mixer until well combined. Add the egg and vanilla and beat to incorporate. Throw in the flour, baking soda and salt, and mix until it all comes together. Finally, add the walnuts. Once they’re more or less evenly distributed, roll heaped tablespoonfuls of dough into balls and flatten them with your fingers to about 1 cm thickness on the baking sheet, making sure they have a 5cm gap between each other. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until lightly browned. Carefully transfer them to a wire rack or plate to cool while repeating the same process with the rest of the dough.

Store the cooled cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.

Hot Buttered Rum

hot buttered rumIt’s time, guys. Spring’s here. Jasmine bushes are exploding all over the place, sunscreen is taking the place of cologne and we can finally leave the house without a scarf. Oh how I love spring. To bid my farewell to winter, and helping you lovelies on the other side of the world ease into the realization the cold is going to come get you, I present to thee: Hot buttered rum.

 

The inspiration for this recipe came from a visit to this charming little bar down the road called Little Mess. If you’re ever in Brunswick, give it a go. They won’t be doing hot buttered rum till winter though. A few months back, when I asked about the ingredients that made up the delicious steaming beverage I was holding between my frozen paws, I was expecting something along the lines of “Ah, sorry. Secret recipe.” Which I did. But my disappointment must have guilt-tripped the friendly barman, so he ended up giving me a tiny insight into a short and incredibly vague list of ingredients make up the magic of which is hot buttered rum. So eagerly I went on home and over the following months taste-tested my own interpretation of it until I was certain that it had well and truly ticked all the boxes. May I present to you, a caramelly, buttery, spiced cup of sweet boozy goodness.

 

Hot Buttered Rum

Serves 1

 

60ml butterscotch sauce (recipe below)

30ml water

1 cardamom pod

1 clove

1 small piece of cinnamon bark

60ml Sailor Jerry’s or other spiced rum

 

Now ideally, try and get this first step done at least 15 minutes before you serve your drink. That way, the spices have a chance to develop and let themselves be noticed. Combine the butterscotch, water and spices in a heatproof mug and heat in the microwave for 30 seconds. If you hate microwaves, or just don’t have one, warm the mixture in a small pan until hot, but not boiling. Set aside for 15 minutes.

When ready to serve, add the rum to the cup and heat for a further 30 seconds in the microwave, until nice and hot, but again, not boiling. You, my sweet, are now ready to drink.

 

Butterscotch sauce

Makes enough for at least 5 drinks

 

160ml / 2/3 cup cream

155g / ¾ cup light brown sugar

75g butter, cubed

2 tsp vanilla essence

1/3 tsp salt

 

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and stirring, bring to the boil. Let it bubble away for about 5 more minutes until thickened slightly. Take from the heat and let it cool.

Can be sored for at least one week in the fridge.

The most pretentious salad ever

superfood saladSometime this year we all decided to give up and open our arms to the crazy superfood which is known as kale, and chose to love it unconditionally for now and forever. Not only because it’s high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C and calcium, no, it also makes us feel like we’re getting closer to nature with all that green grassy fibre it has to offer.

I am not the first to talk about this vegetable, nor will I be the last, so I’ll try and keep it short and sweet, because what you really want is the recipe, and not me talking about my kale-ian preferences. So. Kale chips, great stuff. However, there are only so many kale chips you can make. And they’re really hard to dip into anything, which is a wee bit frustrating, because I love dips and thusly, everything should be dippable. Once my enthusiasm for crisping it dwindled, I moved on to kale salad. I only have one piece of advice for you for crucial kale salad improvement, and that is: Massage it, baby. That way the fibres break down and the grassy rawness turns into soft feathery goodness.

I came up with this recipe as more of a joke than anything else. I set myself the challenge of creating a salad with as many superfood ingredients as I could fit into one bowl, a bowl of pretentiousness, but also as it figured out, of incredible tastiness. I like it best on weekends, as a replenishing recovery after a slightly too merry a night, and also as a packed lunch. Small tip here when we’re talking about portable lunches: Do you also hate the fact that all the crispy ingredients in your lunch turn soft by the time it’s ready to be eaten? And do you keep doing it because you can’t be bothered lugging 3 different containers with you to your place of work? I have a solution for you my friend. Get your take-away container and fill it with your food of choice, making sure you leave at least 1 cm of space between the food and the top of the container. Next, grab a sheet of cling wrap and place it over the top. Now heap on your toasted nuts or croutons and click on the lid. No softened crunchy bits, ever again. You’re welcome.

 

Superfood Salad

Serves 1 really hungry person or 2 average hungry people

 

1/4 cup quinoa

1 pinch cinnamon

1/2 cup water

 

1/4 – 1/2 bunch kale (depending on the size of your bunch of course, but I’d say more is better than less)

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 Tbsp soy sauce

1/2 avocado, thinly sliced

3 Tbsp slivered almonds, toasted

2 Tbsp goji berries

2 tsp chia seeds

 

Combine the quinoa, cinnamon and water in a saucepan and cook till done. I usually add a bit of veggie stock powder to flavour things at this point, but I’ll leave that decision up to you. Once it’s done, set it aside and let it cool down a bit.

Finely chop your kale, then transfer it to a bowl. Drizzle over the olive oil and start scrunching it with your hands until you can feel it soften. This will only take a minute or so. Add the cooled quinoa, the balsamic and soy sauce and toss. Once the dressing is evenly distributed, you can throw in the avocado. You can either pop it back into the fridge now and keep it for later, or heap it onto a plate and top it with the slivered almonds, goji berries and chia seeds. Yum.

Rosewater Almond Cake

rosewater almond cakeLook, it’s been a while, but I baked you a cake. And seeing as bribing you with food always seems to work, I’ll just stick with what I know best.

What have I been up to all this time you may ask? Well let me tell you. Stuff and a bit of more stuff. Most of it trivial and probably not interesting enough for you, except for maybe last weekend. Yes I’ll tell you about that. I’m incredibly blessed in that I have had a number of my beautiful Swiss friends find an excuse big enough (me obviously) to come and visit the vast and sunny planes of Australia. It’s such a long trip guys. And without one of those blow-up neck pillows and a good variety of films you actually haven’t seen yet, that flight is going to be a hell of a lot longer. So… thank you for making the effort! So me being the lucky person that I am, got to cook for and hang with these beautiful individuals until I could feel my throat hurting from using “ch” too much, while a halo of happiness appeared and decided to permanently cement itself around my head.

So in honour of that I’d like you to have this cake. It is a deliciously moist little thing, gluten-free even, I’ll have you know, with a hint of rosewater and deliciously caramelised outer edges.

Do it.

 

Rosewater Almond Cake

adapted from my name is yeh

 

1 1/4 cup/275g sugar

200g butter, softened

½ tsp salt

4 eggs

1 Tbsp lemon juice

2 Tbsp rosewater

2 tsp vanilla essence

1 tsp almond essence

2 cups/200g ground almonds

a small handful flaked almonds or chopped pistacios, for the topping

 

Preheat your oven to 180°C. Line a round baking tin with baking paper. In a bowl, whip together the sugar, salt and butter until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time. Beat in the lemon juice, rosewater, vanilla- and almond essence before adding the ground almonds. Once it’s all mixed up and ready to go, spread into the baking tin. Scatter with your almonds and transfer to the oven, where this baby’s going to bake for 45-55 minutes. Cover the top with some tin foil if it starts browning too quickly. Once the top is firm and a skewer inserted comes out relatively clean, take the cake out and cool it in the tin before transferring it to a plate. Shake some icing sugar over the top if you want to be schmancy, and serve with a dollop with Greek yoghurt.

Miso Tom Yum

miso tom yum

It’s time to talk about soup, kittens. Melbourne’s weather has once again turned into a European winter, just minus the snow and the fantastic European insulation.

 

Tom yum and I go way back. Oh yeah. As a wee kid my mum would joke that my love for the hot and sour soup started in her belly, when she regularly succumbed to her cravings by meandering down to China Town in Sydney for a steaming bowl of hot Thai goodness. Tom yum is my number one thing I will order at a Thai restaurant, but more often than not I’ll end up throwing one together at home when I can’t bother making something too lengthy and extravagant for myself. I’ve got a minor crush going for this soup, not only because it’s easy, but because it’s so versatile. Add some baby sweet corn or a few sliced snap peas,or if you’re feeling a bit mild, replace some of the water with coconut milk to make a tom ka.

 

Now you may have noticed that I omit the “goong” at the end of tom yum. Goong translated means prawns. And I hate them dearly. Often you can get chicken instead, or tofu if you ask nicely. I go vego all the way, mainly because I don’t tend to have a chicken waiting for me in the fridge. To make up for the missing prawn or chicken flavour, I add shitake mushrooms and a spoonful of miso.  Umami all the way darling. Chuck in some noodles at the beginning of the cooking time, or have it with rice.

 

Miso Tom Yum

 

Makes 1 serving

 

1 Tbsp sliced dried shitake mushrooms

1 garlic clove, sliced thinly

1 spring onion, sliced thinly

5 cm lemongrass, bashed with the back of a knife

2 kaffir lime leaves, bruised

3 cherry tomatoes, sliced thinly

3 thin slices galangal, or ginger if you cant find it, bruised

2 coriander roots including stalks, bruised (if you don’t have roots, just use a small bunch of stalks)

1 small red chilli, sliced finely

½ lime, halved

½ tsp vegetable stock powder

 

50g fried tofu, diced

1 Tbsp light miso paste

dash of soy sauce

small handful fresh coriander leaves

 

rice, to serve

 

Place the shitake mushroom slices in a small bowl and add a dash of hot water to soften. Alternatively, slice 2 button mushrooms very thinly and use in the next step.

 

Combine the soaked and softened mushrooms with their liquid, the garlic, spring onion, lemongrass, lime leaves, cherry tomatoes, galangal, and coriander roots to a small saucepan and cover with 300ml hot water from a recently boiled kettle. Bring to the boil and let it simmer for about 4 minutes, or until the tomatoes are mushy. While the soup is simmering away, you can decide how much chilli you want to add. Start with a few rings, you can always add more. Add the juice of ¼ lime and the vegetable stock powder. We only add this much because the miso is going to be quite salty. Now, once the cherry tomatoes are how they should be, add the tofu and bring to the boil again, until everything is heated through. Remove from the flame and add the miso. I usually mix it with a bit of the soup in a small bowl so it doesn’t go lumpy. Now, have a taste. Does it need more salt? Add a dash of soy sauce. Maybe some more acidity? Add the rest of the lime. Pour into a bowl and top with the coriander leaves.

 

Yay! Your tom yum is done! Serve with rice or whatever starchy accompaniment you feel is right.

 

Remember you can’t really eat the kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, coriander roots, or galangal. You’re welcome to give it a try but I doubt it would be very enjoyable.

Beetroot Dip

 

beetroot dip

Just when you thought there were no more dips, I come along and prove you wrong. Bam! I know, it’s a bit like Christmas. My pleasure. Truth be told, I don’t know why I’ve been withholding this baby from you. Too busy eating it I’d assume. Whatevs.

Do you like beetroot? I do. It’s particularly good in salady things, its earthy sweetness usually offset with the sour saltiness of some crumbled feta. Such a winning combo. Here in dip form, we oomp the awesomeness with some garlic, a little ground cumin and a dollop or two of greet yoghurt. You can use both canned or oven-roasted beets, only the canned variety will turn a more winey red and be more tangy, due to the pickling vinegar, while the latter will give you a zingy pink. You choose darling. I won’t judge you either way.

 

Beetroot Dip

 

1 medium beetroot

100g feta, plus a little bit more for decorating

1-2 Tbsp Greek yoghurt

1 small garlic clove

½ tsp ground cumin

½ vegetable stock granules

a sprinkling of chilli flakes

small dash soy sauce (umami that shit up)

a squeeze of lemon juice

 

Preheat your oven to 200°C. Line a tray with baking paper, get your beetroot, stab it all round – being incredibly careful as you do so okay? – wrap in tinfoil, then plonk it onto the baking tray and bake 45 min – 1 hour. Check with a knife to see if its done – it should slide in easily. Remove from the oven and cool. Once cool enough to handle, unwrap the foil and remove the skin. Roughly chop the flesh and transfer to a blender.

If you have a cat, at this stage he will be pestering you like crazy because he is assuming that the big lump of maroon you’re handling absolutely must be a sheep’s heart. Either ignore him, or to further confuse him, give him a sniff of the beetroot. He will be thoroughly unimpressed, but will decide to keep on meowing anyway. Cause that’s how he rolls.

Add ¾ of the 100g of feta, the yoghurt, cumin, vegetable stock granules, chilli and soy sauce. Give it a nice whiz, then have a little taste? Not tangy enough? Add a small squeeze of lemon juice. Crumble in the remaining 1/4 of the feta, give it a stir, then transfer to a bowl. Sprinkle over the extra feta over the top and you’re in business.

If you were to do this with tinned beetroot, a small can should do it, or an amount equivalent to what we used above. Omit the lemon juice because it will be tangy enough.

Quiche

zucchini and leek quiche

Quiche. Quiche can be many things. The most common species would be the bland quiche, with a handful of boring, unloved veggies chopped up and chucked in, usually raw, so you end up with this wonderfully average watery slice of wodge. Then there’s the just as famous eggy quiche, which just overtrumps with le flavor de egg, more of a frittata in a tart case than anything else. Then there’s the tasty quiche, with creamy and ultra delectable fillings, the one that trumps all. That is my favourite.

A good quiche only needs about three or so different flavourings. Three that work, three that shine. By roasting the zucchini with the thyme and softening the leek first, you concentrate the flavours, also guaranteeing yourself a non-watery filling. Not having a crazy amount of eggs is also key, and the sour cream, well that’s just delicious, and it makes things super silky.

Obviously you don’t have to make a tart crust, but I like to, because you know, if you’re going bake a quiche, you might as well do it properly.

 

Happy quiching.

quiche

Zucchini and Leek Quiche

 

 

1 2/3 cups (250g) plain flour

½ tsp salt

125g unsalted butter, chilled, finely chopped

2-3 Tbsp water

1 egg, chilled

 

1 leek (250g), white part only, sliced thinly

2 smallish zucchini (500g), sliced into ½cm rounds

2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves

Salt

Olive oil

 

400ml sour cream

3 eggs

1 tsp vegetable stock powder

salt to taste

freshly ground black pepper

 

Combine the salt and flour in a large ball. Rub the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Whisk the water and the egg together and add to the flour mixture, combine and knead until it comes together and forms a ball. Wrap in cling wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Preheat oven to 220°C. Spread out the zucchini on lined baking tins, sprinkle over thyme, salt and some olive oil and bake until soft, reduced in size and caramelized in some bits. Remove from the oven and cool.

In the meantime, fry the leek in a saucepan over a low heat with a good glug of olive oil and a knob of butter until soft.

When you’re ready to pre-bake the crust, make sure the oven is still at 220°C and roll out the dough and fit it into a tart tin. Make sure you have a walnut-sized ball of dough left, so you can patch up any possible cracks after. Got the dough ready? Get some baking paper, lay it on top of the dough and fill with beans, or alternatively, if you’re like me and you don’t have any beans to bake, get a few sheets of aluminum foil and fit it snugly against the dough. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then remove the beans/foil and bake for 10 more minutes, until very lightly golden. Remove from the oven. If there are any tears or cracks, get your leftover dough and patch them up.

Combine the sour cream, eggs, and vegetable stock powder in a jug and give it a few bursts with a hand held blender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Now darling, time to assemble. Turn the oven down to 180°C. Get your leeks and spread them over the base of your tart. Pour over the filling, then arrange the zucchini over the top. Place in the oven and bake for 40 minutes. If you have a gas oven, I suggest you bake it on the bottom part of the oven for the first 20 minutes, then transfer to the top for the next 20. If you have a fan-forced oven, then I am truly jealous of you. The quiche is done when it’s not wobbly in the middle anymore and is nicely golden on top.

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