burnt toast

Category: Nibbles

Triangles

spinach and cheese triangle

Ah life. It is all quite vague and unclear at times, especially mornings. All of that “Why am I up? Should I eat or go back to sleep? And if I did choose to eat, what other than chocolate is there to choose from? Or indeed go for a run or dedicate more time to hating your neighbours because they’re up at six renovating again?” – business.

What is not unclear though, not in the least, is the incredible awesomeness of these little triangular parcels of tasty goodness. Ever feel as if that spinach and cheese triangle you’ve just bitten into hasn’t quite reached it’s full potential? Like not even near it? There has got to be more to it than that hot wet lump of mossy cardboard, really. Or is that what is to be expected? Don’t let them lower your triangular standards, never. There is so much deliciousness out there, and I have taken it upon myself to find it for you. I know. After all these years of suffering I come forth and save your taste buds’ world again – disgustingly romantic really.

Without further ado, I introduce you to my latest fling, the seductive herb, spinach, and cheese triangle.  What clearly defines its unmistakable tastiness is the combination of parsley, dill, coriander, mint and spring onions, as well as the spinach. The bland ricotta is replaced with some creamy Philadelphia, rounded off with a hint of cinnamon and cardamom.  Sound good? I know. Go on lover, go impress someone with these.

triangle bite

Herby Spinach and Cheese Triangles

 Makes 36 triangles

For the filling:

2 Tbsp each butter and olive oil

1 bunch spring onions, finely chopped

200g (about 4 cups firmly packed) baby spinach, chopped

2 cups (one of those massive bunches you can get these days) parsley, finely chopped

1 cup (about 1 bunch) coriander, finely chopped

½ cup dill, finely chopped

½ cup mint, finely chopped

splash soy sauce

2 tsp vegetable stock powder

a big pinch of chilli

¾ tsp ground cinnamon

¾ tsp ground cardamom

250g Philadelphia cream cheese, cut into 2cm chunks

about 4 sheets of frozen puff pastry

Melt the butter with the oil in a large fry pan over medium heat. Add the spring onions and cook till softened. Next comes the spinach. Give it a bit of a stir for a few minutes until it’s wilted, and there’s enough space to add the rest of the herbs. Give them about 5 minutes, before adding the soy, stock powder, chilli, cinnamon, cardamom and cream cheese. Reduce the heat to low and stir continuously, until the cream cheese is nicely incorporated into the mixture. Done! Now, let it cool.

In the meantime, Preheat the oven to 220°C and take out your frozen puff pastry to let it thaw. Working with one sheet at a time, cut it into nine equal squares. Place a scant tablespoon of filling on each, fold over a corner and seal by pinching the edges together, so that you’re left with a pretty little triangle. Continue with the rest until all the mixture’s used up. Place the lovelies on a prepared baking tray and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden.

Fridays

sour cream pizza with red wine onions and rocket

I like Fridays.  Friday afternoons. I like them best when I can share them with a good friend or two. I’ll whip up some sexy little cocktail and lay out something delicious and carb – based, like this sour cream pizza with red wine caramelized onions and rocket, yes sir. In case you were wondering, this is a radified version of the already quite mesmerizing Germain Flammkuchen, minus the cheese or the lardons.

And then we all eat and drink to our heart’s content and live happily ever after. It’s that good.

Sour Cream Pizza with Red Wine Onions and Rocket

Pizza dough

2 cups / 300g plain flour

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

1 sachet / 7g instant dried yeast

180 ml warm water, plus more if necessary

3 large red onions, halved and thinly sliced

3 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp soy sauce

50ml/ a splash of red wine

salt and pepper

250g sour cream

2 handfuls of rocket

Alright, lets start with the dough. Me and this recipe are pretty close chums at this point, because I make it at least once a week. You should too. Combine the flour, oil, salt, sugar and yeast in a big bowl. Stir in the water with a bread knife until roughly combined, then get your hands in there and knead it until it’s smooth. Cover with cling wrap and set aside in a warm place until doubled in size. Alternatively, cover and place in the fridge overnight for a slow rise. Whatever works best for you my pretty.

Next, ze onions. Throw them into a large fry pan with the olive oil and cook them slowly until soft and golden. At this point, add in the soy sauce and the red wine and let the liquids bubble away, until you’re left with a deliciously aromatic burgundy mess. Season with salt and pepper and cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 200°C. If you’re a proud owner of round pizza trays, get them out, otherwise, if you’re like me, use two rectangular ones. Grease them with butter – I find the dough has a much better grip on a buttered tray, rather than an oiled one.  Divide your dough into two and roll out in your tins. I usually use a round drinking glass for this. Schmear the sour cream evenly over the dough with a spoon, then spread over the onion. Bake in the oven for about 12 – 15 minutes, or until the edges are golden. Remove from the oven, top with the rocket, and cut into bite-sized pieces. Yum.

Avocado

guacamole

Oh guacamole. It feels like we’ve known each other for ever. No matter where I go, or what I do, you will always sneak your way into my life. I have loved you, and hated you, as well as looked at you in pity. You have been good, bad, and extremely average. Before however I continue what could end up being a novel about the many facets of your personality, answer me this. What’s the go with that jarred version of you one finds at supermarkets next to the salsa and corn chips? Do people actually eat that or is it just to please the eye, to complete the colour composition of the snack isle? If it were, I’d pat you on the back and go “Nice one! But between the two of us, keep an eye on the natural flavoured corn chips. The two of you might clash a bit…” But whom are we kidding. I don’t know what you are but you will sure as hell not get the honour of being called guacamole. I have not dared look at your list of contents, but I assume it would include hydrated lettuce, tapioca, MSG and concentrated synthetic diluted reconstituted imitation guacamole extract. I know baby, I know. But I really appreciate how much effort you put into being perfect at home with me on the table, in that delicate white and blue bowl. You look beautiful together with those corn chips, they really bring out your smooth side. The slight bite of the lime, the tangy saltines of the goat’s cheese, the aromatic bouquet of the garlic and the spices. I will dare go as far and say baby, in my eyes, you are perfect.

Guacamole

2 large or 3 smallish ripe avocados

½ lime, juice

2 Tbsp sour cream

2 large garlic cloves, chopped finely

1/3 tsp ground cumin

1/3 tsp ground coriander

½  tsp salt

1 bunch coriander, leaves and stems, chopped finely

50g soft goat’s cheese or soft feta, crumbled, plus more to decorate

fresh chilli, as desired

Scoop out the beautiful avocado flesh into a bowl and mash roughly. Stir in the rest of the ingredients, adding as little or as much chilli as you’d like. Top with a little more cheese and maybe a few leaves of coriander for added prettiness. Bring out the tortilla chips and start that party.

Sun-dried Tomato and Cream Cheese Dip

sun-dried tomato and cream cheese dip

This one will be short and sweet. Salty, tangy, and creamy too. Yes, another dip. But I know you believe me when I tell you that I only give you awesome dip recipes. If I had to describe how dear this one is to me, I would say it would be like a favourite grandchild. You know, the one grandmas brag about with their 17 photo albums, the one who’s a successful med student with a beautiful blue-eyed girlfriend, and they reeeally just won’t shut up about them? That’s mine. Only I would hold myself back a little bit. Because it’s not your fault your grandchild isn’t as awesome as mine. But. Because I’m such a generous person, today I will let you in on my grandkid, my baby, so that you too can go brag about it. Share the love I say.

Sun-dried Tomato and Cream Cheese Dip

12 sun-dried tomato halves, roughly chopped

125g cream cheese, softened

125g sour cream

1 garlic clove, roughly chopped

1 tsp balsamic vinegar

¾ tsp vegetable stock granules

1 splash soy sauce

freshly ground black pepper

optional: a splash of milk

more chopped sundried tomatoes and basil, for garnish

Another dead easy one. Combine all ingredients, except for the garnish, in a jug, and give them a thorough whirl with your hand held blender. Add a splash of milk if it’s too thick for your liking. Voilà. Transfer to a pretty bowl and top with the extra sundried tomato and the basil.

I love this as a sandwich topping, or as part of a antipasti table, with some juicy kalamata olives, some steamed asparagus and some fresh focaccia.

Falafel

falafel

As a former vegetarian, I shall try not to overdo it with the enthusiasm. But as we all know the take-away choice of a vego is rather limited, especially if you’re feeling like something naughty. And “How about an apple?” just doesn’t seem to quite work anymore. So this was my naughty snack. While others had fries and sugary ketchup with their little squidgy cheese burgers, I was chomping into a huge colourful and (for me then) sinfully crunchy wrap with extra chilli. These days I don’t have these limitations anymore. The falafel however, has still stayed in my heart. Touching innit.

Amongst the many crazy veggie worshippers out there, with their “best” ultra-healthy oven-baked- or sweetpotato and white bean with alfa alfa sprout versions, there’s this recipe. Relatively traditional, just with the addition of tahini. This, in my opinion, makes it pop. And the frying of course. Go pretend to be a vegetarian for a while and make these. Then come tell me how awesome they were. You’re welcome.

Falafel

200g dried chickpeas, soaked overnight, drained

1 medium onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 spring onions, chopped

½ cup firmly packed chopped parsley (with stems)

½ cup firmly packed chopped coriander (with roots and stems)

70g (or about 4 Tbsp) tahini

1 Tbsp ground cumin

1 Tbsp ground coriander

1 Tbsp lemon juice

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp baking powder

3 Tbsp flour

1 tsp vegetable stock powder

salt

Blend everything in a food processor or with a handheld blender until a beautiful light green paste forms. Give it a little taste, and add as much salt as you think is necessary. Cover and keep in the fridge for 2 hours or more, until ready to use.

Shape the paste or dough or whatever you want to call it at this stage into walnut sized balls. Once you’re ready, you can either get a deep fryer going, or, like me, because I’m scared of the idea of large amounts of hot oil bubbling around in front of me, half-fill a fry pan with oil. Once it’s hot, add the balls and fry them on each side until beautifully browned. Transfer onto some kitchen paper to soak up the residual oil and fry the rest of the babies. Once done, you can either keep them in a warm oven until you need them, or serve them immediately, in a wrap, as a mezze spread, or with some coriander yoghurt with a swirl of sriracha chilli sauce.

Carrots, Cashews and Goodbyes

I’ve never been a big fan of goodbyes. I’ve had my fair share of them, and no boubt there will be more to come. Change is good, even if it’s hard to come to terms with that fact at the beginning. My last “change” was three years ago, from Switzerland to Australia, from (little) capital city to tiny country town. And as much as I may have complained about the scarce public transport and the sleepy, laid back life style here, I have grown to love Mullumbimby. I have met the most interesting and beautiful people here and made incredibly good friends. I will miss working with my best friend at the local coffee shop/takeaway deli. I will miss knowing every coffee shop customer’s coffee order. I will miss making sandwiches, and I will miss hating making fresh juices. I will miss jogging the same old track to the cemetery every day. I will miss apéro time down the road. I will miss all the hugs, all the laughs and all the smiles shared. I will miss being here, in this sleepy little place, where people drive like lunatics, where nobody will give you a second glance if you walk to town in your pijamas, where pseudo hippies ask for spinach in their banana smoothie.

However I know my time here is up. I am ready for new adventures, for a change of scenery. Melbourne, you beautiful city, here I come.

But first, off to Switzerland. A month of freezing toes and old friends. Life’s good. Life’s great.

So in the meantime, I would like you to consider this little dip here. Yes, I recall telling you I have a thing for dips. Dips are awesome. They turn every end-of-day cup of wine into a little celebration. And in my opinion there’s never enough to celebrate. This one’s especially spectacular. The vibrant orange with speckles of green, the creamy, velvety texture offset by crunchy little morcels of cashew. The sweetness of the carrots complemented by the saltiness of the nuts and the zing of the lemon. If there’s something that could turn carrots into superstars, this would be it.

Carrot, Cashew and Coriander Dip

 

2 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

100g roasted cashews, plus 50g extra, roughly chopped

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground cumin

¼ tsp cinnamon

½ garlic clove, roughly chopped

½ lemon

½ tsp salt

dash of soy sauce

2 pinches chilli

2 Tbsp olive oil

2 Tbsp coriander, leaves finely chopped

Place carrot in a small saucepan and add a few tablespoons of water. Cover and let simmer until the carrot is cooked. Scoop it out and transfer into a jug. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend them with a hand held blender. Stir in the extra chopped cashews. You might have to adjust the seasoning later. Now, top with more nuts, maybe a slice of lemon, some paprika or maybe a few leaves of coriander. Let’s be hippies together, one last time.

By the way this goes really well with dukkah – crusted focaccia, jus’ sayin’.

Dukkah – dusted Focaccia

There are days ( specifically late Saturday and Sunday mornings), when the only thing that will do is bread. Pastry, starch. Anything soothing, filling and comforting. It’s even better if it has some sophisticated twist going on, so you have a reason to eat more, because you know, it’s sophisticated.

This is a beautiful combination of the previous two recipes. I dearly hope that you make it for dinner, and then, like me, have a nibble on a reheated piece the next day.

To weekends, to celebrations, and to my father’s wedding.

Dukkah – dusted Focaccia

I had this combination in Brisbane a few weeks ago at a little Italian restaurant called Conti, and it blew my mind a little bit. Maybe it was the combination of crusty, crunchy, dukkah –studded bread combined with the zingy hit of sharp olive oil and balsamic, or my starved self finally having some food to comfort my belly. Either way, it’s very sophisticated, in a tummy –filling sort of way.

1x focaccia dough, proven once, stretched out on a baking tray

a jar of dukkah, 5-7 Tbsp (about 1/6 of the previous recipe)

Preheat oven to 200°C. Brush your dough with some water – it makes the dukkah stick better than oil would. Sprinkle as much or as little dukkah as you choose over the top, and pop it into the oven, baking it for about 20 minutes or until golden. Serve with a combination of peppery olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and if you’re anything like me, with a dip and a few olives. But that’s entirely up to you.

Dukkah

Crunchy.  I love crunchy. I’m pretty sure you do, too. I want lots of crunch. Crunch makes me happy. Do you know dukkah? This dry Egyptian mix of nuts and spices, where you first dunk a piece of bread into olive oil, then into the nut mixture, then eat? Yeah? It makes me happy. Especially because of the hazelnuts. Anything with hazelnuts has to be good. And if it requires the action of dipping, well then, I’m sold.

Dukka

150g hazelnuts

100g almonds

100g sesame seeds

2 Tbsp cumin seeds

2Tbsp coriander seeds

1 Tbsp fennel seeds

¾ tsp freshly ground black pepper

¾ tsp cinnamon

1 ½ tsp vegetable stock powder

Dry-roast hazelnuts on a low flame till the skins crack and the nuts take on a golden, brown-speckled hue. I usually do this in two batches, first getting the skins to crack, rubbing them between a towel, then letting them have a second go in the frypan, for that deliciously toasty hazelnut flavour. Afterwards, let them cool. Repeat with the almonds and the sesame seeds. Next, combine the cumin, coriander and fennel in the pan and dry-roast them until they smell good and have taken on a little colour. Once everything has cooled down, pulse the nuts and seeds, each on their own, until roughly ground. Grind the spices with a pestle and mortar until also roughly ground. Combine with the remaining 3 ingredients. You could of course replace some of the almonds with pistacios for a bit of colour, but quite frankly I don’t think this needs changing.

Why do I always use stock powder? Because it has so much more flavour than plain salt, that’s why. If you don’t like it you can replace it with whatever salt that makes you happy. Just adjust the amount, okay?

Focaccia

focaccia

So um, hey. If I invited you over for dinner, would you say yes? Feel the pressure. Of course you would. I’d spoil you rotten you know that. So if you asked me what you could bring, chances are that if it’s not a bottle of wine, then something to dip with. Because you know me well enough that there will always be dip. That’s how I roll. Now, corn chips or crackers or crisps may be your first choice, and I understand that. But if you’re feeling a little creative, and think of making your own dipping utensils, then baby, you can come again. I’m sure you’ve got your own special cracker/flatbread recipe, which I’ll be more than delighted to taste, but for now, this is what I would make if you were inviting me. And I’ll bring a bottle of shiraz too, just in case.

This is my go-to dough for pizza and focaccia. Often I just top it with some sea salt flakes and a drizzle of olive oil, but I’ve been also known to infuse the oil with garlic, or scatter some fresh rosemary over the top.

 

Focaccia

300g (2 cups) plain flour

180ml warm water

1 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

1 packet (7g) dried yeast

2 Tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling

Plonk the flour in a bowl and make a well in the middle. Pour in the warm water, and sprinkle the rest of the ingredients over it, including the oil. Stir with a butter knife until roughly combined, then give it a go with your hands, until it comes together and gets that soft and elastic feel. Oil the bottom of the bowl you’ve just used and turn the dough in it. Now cover with cling wrap or a damp towel and place somewhere warm for an hour. Once it’s risen to twice its size, give it a little punching action and transfer it to an oiled baking tray, rolling it as thin or as thick as you like. Ideally now, you cover it again and let it rest for about 20 minutes. I’m usually too impatient and only let it get about 10. Then, once it’s risen again slightly, gently dimple the risen dough back down with your fingers. This is where you can top your focaccia.Olive oil, maybe some halved cherry tomatoes or a scatteing of parmesan. Now place the tray in the oven and bake at 200°C for 20 minutes. After it’s done, drizzle with some more olive oil and cut into wedges.

More dip

It is time my friends. Time for what you may ask. I will turn my head and stare whistfully into the distance, and in a husky voice I will answer: It is time… for some dip. The original, the fabulous, the guilt-free-because-it-contains-chickpeas-and-tahini-and-that-stuff’s-supposed-to-be-good-for-you dip. Yes. Hummus. “Oh hummus!” you scoff. “I can go and buy a big tub of that at the supermarket! You surely don’t want to make it now, do you?!” Well, yeah?! Is there anything easier than making hummus? I think not. So stop being lazy and chuck that half-eaten tub of beige Super Organic, Gluten Free and Taste Free plust 20% Extra sludge and hop in the kitchen for approximately ½ a minute.

Hummus

1 can chickpeas, with 1/3 of the liquid reserved

1 big garlic clove, halved

2 Tbsp tahini

½ lemon, juice

2-3 Tbsp olive oil

¾ tsp ground cumin

a splash of soy sauce (umami that stuff up)

salt and pepper

ground paprika, more ground cumin and sesame seeds (optional)

Now. Take above mentioned ingredients (minus the optional ones), and place them in a blender, or in a jug, and wack out your hand held blender. Blend until desired consistency and or flavour is reached. You know, add more lemon juice if you like it zingy, more salt if you’re like me. Transfer to a bowl and add decorative dustings of paprika, cumin and sesame seeds, or, if you’re too impatient, grab a bag of tortilla chips and demolish.

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