Eating

harvested

harvested

One of the advantages of city living is proximity to cafés and restaurants. It can also be dangerously tempting- it’s so easy to fritter away dollar after dollar on coffee and cake. Sometimes, however, it’s really worth forking out for a meal and this was one of those occasions.

Today I lunched at harvested, a pop up restaurant by food rescue organisation Oz Harvest. All the food on the menu has been rescued in some way, either from farms, restaurants, or shops/supermarkets. It’s basically food waste transformed into restaurant quality fare.

number one

first in the door and eating alone- table one!

harvested menu

You pay $15 as soon as you walk in the door and boy is it good value for money! Your $15 also allows Oz Harvest to feed 30 hungry Australians. I arrived as soon as they opened at 11:30am (to coincide with baby boy’s nap) and was seated appropriately at table number one. I ticked the items I desired on the menu and was promptly served the delicious dishes below.

flatbread and pumpkin labneh

spelt flatbread, pumpkin labneh

brussel sprouts

roast brussel sprout, crisp spiced onion, toasted almond dressing

lamb and hummus

spiced lamb, hummous, pine nut, baby cues salad

The food was lovely. I really enjoyed it and it was so nice to eat out guilt free. It was also great to see what beautiful meals can be created with food that was otherwise destined for the tip. Quite inspiring and a little challenge for those of us who cook and manage the food budget. I finished everything on my plate but any leftovers are composted. The serving sizes are also designed to prevent wastage.

If you’re in Sydney I highly recommend you visit for lunch before their donated lease from City West Housing finishes at the end of July. Go with someone else if you can, as you’ll be able to try more items on the menu. There’s no bookings, just turn up hungry!

Location: harvested, 56 Harris St, Pyrmont NSW
Opening times: Every Tuesday & Wednesday lunch only from 11.30am – 2.30pm (until end July 2015) 

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Cheats Christmas Fudge

Cheats Christmas Fudge

So you’re down to the wire and need something quick, easy, and Christmas-y to share with colleagues, gift to neighbours, or top up your party spread? Here comes your lifesaver: Cheats Christmas Fudge.

I must confess the only thing Christmas-y about this fudge is the crushed candy canes on top. That’s kind of a blessing though- it means you can whip this up at anytime of the year by swapping out the topping for another of your choice. Nuts are the first thing that come to my mind but I’m sure you have plenty of suggestions. Crushing the candy canes is a job undertaken very enthusiastically by toddlers in my experience. Stick a handful of candy canes in a plastic bag, seal it, hand a rolling pin to any child who needs to release some pent up up energy, remove all breakable objects from the vicinity, and let them at it. Tea towels are a good idea to protect your bench top.

Crushing candy canes

If you exclude the candy canes this recipe only has two ingredients. That’s correct. Two.

Ingredients:

1 can sweetened condensed milk (395g)
3 cups chocolate melts (I used milk chocolate but you could experiment with dark)

Method:

  1. Line a slice tin with aluminium foil
  2. Place a double boiler (or if you’re like me and don’t have one, a bowl over a saucepan will suffice) on the stove and pop the chocolate and sweetened condensed milk in the top
  3. Heat gently until the chocolate has melted, then stir to combine
  4. Quickly pour the melted mix into your lined slice tin, smooth the top, and decorate with toppings of your choice (crushed candy canes in this case) or leave plain
  5. Stick the whole tray into the fridge to set for a couple of hours
  6. Once set cut into squares and package or plate as you see fit!

Melting

You can also experiment with flavours added to the fudge mix itself. This time I added a few drops of peppermint essence but you could also try vanilla, or almond essence would be great with blanched almonds on top! Just be careful when adding to the mix as any water will make the chocolate seize.

Are you a fudge fan? What other flavour combinations can you come up with?

Food glorious food! Salmon Rillettes

Ricotta, honey, and banana toast

One of the things I dislike about pregnancy is the restricted diet. Australian guidelines are very full-on regarding what pregnant women can and cannot eat. Of course my pregnancy hormones appeared to have taken a look at the ‘do not eat’ list and decided to crave everything on it, well and truly putting my willpower to the test!

The very same day I gave birth my darling husband went out and bought me a great big hunk of blue vein cheese. Be still my beating heart.

Coffee time!

I’ve very much enjoyed my coffee (not too much as I’m breastfeeding), soft cheese, and charcuterie post-birth. And smoked salmon! Oh how I love smoked salmon. It can be cost effective if you just use a little in a dish too.

I’ve made this Salmon Rillettes recipe a couple of times since Earle was born. It’s a  great recipe for us as I take the kids for a walk down to the fish markets to pick up the salmon fillets (I use tail as it’s boneless, cheap and gets flaked up anyway) and smoked salmon. It doesn’t involve a lot of cooking or fussing as you can prepare the salmon by pouring boiling water over it and leaving it to poach. Too easy! It’s a wonderful dish for summer as it doesn’t require you to heat up the kitchen.

Salmon Rillettes spread

Salmon Rillettes

Ingredients:
2 x 150g salmon fillets
75g smoked salmon, roughly chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
2 tbs capers, finely chopped
2 tbs lemon zest
handful of dill, finely chopped
3 tbs natural yoghurt (you could also use creme fraiche or sour cream but I make my own natural yoghurt so this is cheaper & easier for me)
salt, to season

Process:

  1. Poach the salmon by placing the fillets in a bowl, pour boiling water over the fillets, and leaving the bowl covered with a plate for 15 min
  2. Remove salmon skin (it peels away very easily after poaching) and flake the flesh into a bowl
  3. Add all the other ingredient and mix well
  4. D0ne!

Serve with crusty bread. You can toast any stale bread you have lying around or purchase a French baguette and slice it up into little rounds. It’s great as an hors d’oeuvre for a dinner party, or as part of a larger spread for a casual light dinner (how we usually enjoy it as per the image above). Hope you like it as much as we do!

Beneficial beans

Beans and pulses can be super cheap and a great way to increase fibre and protein in your diet. Due to the high protein content they are very filling, even for those members of the family who may baulk at the idea of a meat-free meal. They are also high in iron, although it is nonheme iron so it requires vitamin C to be absorbed properly. This is easy enough to do by including a fruit or vegetable high in vitamin C such as lemon or capscicum (bell peppers) in the dish. I’m currently anaemic due to my late stage of pregnancy and I’ve been increasing the amount of beans and pulses in our meals as there is only so much meat I can eat (and afford to eat!).

Soaked beans

I prefer to buy my beans dried. They are usually cheaper this way and it means I can store and prepare them the way I like. As I rarely drive they’re also easier to carry home- much lighter than a bunch of cans! If you are planning on using dried beans I cannot stress how important it is to soak them overnight! Soaking prevents that unpleasant gas and bloating effect that one can experience from eating beans (it’s one of the big reasons I like to prepare them myself as I find canned beans can produce discomfort). It also reduces the cooking time. If beans aren’t something you regularly include in your diet it’s also worth building up the amount you consume slowly, to allow your gut to adjust to the increase in fibre.

Bean packet

Rinsed beans

Beans in pressure cooker

I used to just prepare the amount of beans I needed for a recipe however I finally figured out it’s more effective to prepare a whole batch at once. I soak the whole packet over night, rinse the next morning, then pop in the pressure cooker with fresh water. It’s actually a very quick process. It only takes a minute to pour the dried beans into a bowl and cover with water before you go to bed, rinsing takes seconds, and the pressure cooker makes cooking super quick. Once they’re cooked I set aside the beans I need for my recipe that day, the rest I freeze in recipe sized portions (usually about a cup). This saves time and energy (gas used by the stove and electricity used by the freezer as a full freezer operates more efficiently) which equals dollars in my pocket!

I love having beans on hand in the freezer to toss into all sorts of meals to bulk things up. What’s your favourite meal using beans or pulses?

 

Scrumptious scrolls

I truly do not intend to focus on food on this blog but meals and the kitchen play such a big part in any family home it’s hard not to! Lately I found myself craving cinnamon scrolls. I’m not a big believer in sugar and refined carbs but sometimes one just has to give in to the cravings! All things in moderation, I say!

This scroll recipe is great because by its very nature you are making a large batch of scrolls. What you don’t eat straight away you can freeze and reheat later. It’s also wonderful because you can tailor it to what’s in the pantry or what you’d like to use the scrolls for. I wanted sweet scrolls for breakfast or morning tea so that’s what I made but if you were looking for something savoury for the kids’ lunch boxes or a picnic you could swap out the sweet ingredients for savoury such as cheese, ham, herbs etc.

I saved myself some time and mess by making the leaven dough in the bread maker (man I love that thing) and the rest of the steps were perfect for my toddler assistant to get involved. We took turns rolling out the dough and sprinkling ingredients etc. She just loves helping.

Ingredients:

Dough

  • 1 1/2 cups (375ml) warm (not hot!) milk
  • 3 teaspoons dried yeast
  • 1 tablespoon caster sugar
  • 4 cups (600g) plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked

Flavouring

  • 80g butter, melted/softened (approx, I didn’t measure)
  • half a cup brown sugar (approx, I didn’t measure)
  • ground cinnamon
  • handful of sultanas
  • handful of walnuts, coarsely chopped

Method:

  1. Combine milk, yeast and sugar in a bowl. Set aside for 5 minutes until frothy.
  2. Combine flour and salt in the breadmaker; make a well in the centre. Pour milk mixture and egg into the well; turn it on and let the machine do its thing. (If you don’t have a breadmaker simply mix in a bowl and cover until dough has risen).

  3. When the machine has finished the leaven dough cycle and your dough has doubled in size preheat your oven to 180°C.  Line a tray with baking paper.

  4. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic.

    Dough

  5.  Use a rolling pin to roll to a 30 x 40cm rectangle. Brush/spread with butter, leaving some butter for later. Sprinkle cinnamon and sugar over dough, again reserving some for later. Fold a short side of dough over two-thirds of filling. Fold remaining 1/3 over the top to enclose filling. Roll dough out to a 30 x 40cm rectangle; repeat filling and folding process. You can do this s couple of times but I only did it once.

    rolling out

    cinnamon and sugar

    folded and rolling

  6. Roll dough to a 30 x 40cm rectangle. Repeat butter, cinnamon, and sugar steps. Sprinkle with sultanas and walnuts.

    more cinnamon

    walnuts

    ingredients done

  7. Roll up dough from a long side to enclose filling. Cut log crossways into portions. Arrange, cut-side up, on tray. Cover with a clean tea towel and set aside for 15 minutes to rise.

    rolling up log

    log

    cut pre-rise

    after 15min rise

  8. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Set aside for 30 minutes then turn onto a wire rack. (Your house will smell so good!)

    baked close-up

  9. If you like you can drizzle with a simple icing but they really don’t need it. Only ice those you are going to serve immediately if you choose to do so.

I couldn’t help but eat a couple as soon as they came out of the oven. In fact we could have eaten a lot more if I hadn’t forced myself to freeze half as soon as they cooled down. Each morning this week my husband popped a couple into the oven whilst I was in the shower and it was so good to come downstairs to a hot cinnamon scroll and cup of tea for breakfast! They do have a tendency to dry out when you’re reheating them so feel free to brush with a little milk before sticking them in the oven to ensure they remain nice and soft. I love a recipe that I can make in advance and still feel like I’m having a homemade treat!

Alternative flavourings:

  • cheese and vegemite
  • ham and cheese
  • pizza- tomato paste, herbs, garlic, cheese, ham etc
  • herb and garlic
  • apple and cinnamon
  • salami, sun-dried tomato, spanish onion
  • chocolate and hazelnut
  • apricot and pistachio

Do you make homemade scrolls? Have any other flavour combinations to offer?

*Please note: I have edited this post and adjusted the cooking temperature and time after further experimentation* 

Freezer Prep

As you know I’m pregnant with number two and this hasn’t been an easy pregnancy. I don’t have a day without significant pain and as a result I feel exhausted, grumpy, and guilty. One of the first things to slip when I’m feeling this way is good home-cooked meals. The time and energy it takes to plan, prep, and cook something frugal and healthy just seems too much. The temptation to send my husband out for take-away, order home delivery, or just eat cheese on toast has won out more than I like to admit. Then of course I feel horribly remorseful.

Paddy's MarketsSomething had to change so I started this very simple trick. I would visit the local markets and purchase about a kilo each of onions, carrots, and celery- the basic starter ingredients for so many soups, stews, and casseroles. Then I would come home, prepare these ingredients, and freeze in recipe sized portions. This is really time efficient (I use the food processor as it’s a large enough amount to make the washing up worthwhile) and frugal (no wasted veggies rotting in the crisper). I freeze the packs flat to take up less space and make them easy to organise in the freezer. Once frozen you can even store them upright in the freezer if that makes them easier to access for you.

diced carrots

Celery

Filling the bags

Onion skins

On those evenings when I feel like I can’t face cooking I can pull one of these little ziplock bags out of the freezer and the tedious prep work is done for me. It’s so easy to dump the frozen diced ingredients into a saucepan with a little oil and by adding some stock you have a simple soup which can be bulked up with pasta, noodles, lentils, and whatever meat and veggies you have lying around. If I really can’t raise my expanding bottom from the lounge I can even instruct my patient husband on the dumping, sautéing etc. process knowing that half the work is already done for him. I’ve also used these starter packs in the slowcooker/crockpot- makes getting the meal started in the morning before heading off to work even easier!

Ready to freeze

Into the freezer they go!

It turns out I’m not the only person who has discovered the benefits of preparing and freezing the beginnings of a meal. I like my little starter packs because they are so versatile (who knows what this pregnant belly will crave from one day to the next!) but another way to go is preparing and freezing all the ingredients for a meal. This works well when you want to do all your dinner preparation on say Sunday and simply dump the lot in the slow cooker each morning (you can defrost in the fridge the night before to make it easier to remove from the ziplock bag if necessary). If you don’t mind a bit of repetition in your weekly meals you can buy ingredients in bulk and make multiples of the same meal. If you and your family tend to have curry/bolognese/daal every Tuesday night this is perfect. You can make a month of Tuesday night dinners in one afternoon. If you have close friends and family who enjoy similar food to you there’s even the possibility of exchanging meals. You could each prepare multiple lots of a meal and swap amongst yourselves so you end up with one of each- dinner for the week sorted with variety intact! Simply write the recipe name and instructions (e.g. 7 hours on low, add cream before serving etc) on the ziplock bag and you’re good to go. Would be great if you all had something like exam week coming up.

If you’re stuck for idea Pinterest is a good place to start. Try http://www.pinterest.com/faithbringsjoy/recipes-meal-planning-freezer-food-prep/ and http://www.pinterest.com/ahavey1/freezer-prep-meals/ or simply search for ‘freezer meals’ etc. I actually haven’t found many recipes online that work for me as most require processed ingredients such as sauces that we don’t use in our house (what is this obsession with adding packets of french onion soup to everything?!), but I’m slowly adapting our own well-loved recipes to make them suitable to freeze in advance and slow cook. Do you make use of your freezer to help with meal preparation? Have you ever frozen recipe ingredients in advance before putting in the slow cooker? Care to share a recipe?

Midweek Meals- Pressure Cooker Risotto

Risotto is a great winter meal. You only need one pot, some arborio rice, stock or broth, and whatever flavourings you like. What makes this dish extra easy is a pressure cooker. Seriously. The first time I made risotto in the pressure cooker I was dumbfounded. Then I got on the phone and called my Mum because I just had to share how amazing this was. It was so easy and so quick! No stirring. No watching like a hawk. Ingredients go in, lid goes on, seven minutes later you have perfectly cooked risotto. That’s right, SEVEN MINUTES! Who knew?!

Ingredients:

1 cup arborio rice
2 cups stock
1 onion diced or 1 leek sliced
Olive oil and a knob of butter
Parmesan cheese
Salt & pepper

Method:

  1. Heat the butter and olive oil in the pressure cooker
  2. Add the onion/leek and cook until translucent
  3. Add the rice and and stir to coat, cooking until the rice changes colour
  4. Add the stock, stirring quickly to deglaze the pan, then put the lid on
  5. Once the cooker has reached the appropriate pressure (high) cook for 7 minutes
  6. Once the time is up remove the lid and stir to allow any excess liquid to evaporate if needed
  7. Grate some parmesan into the pot and add salt & pepper to taste

Variations:

  • Increase/decrease the recipe using the ratio of 1 cup rice : 2 cups stock
  • Replace half a cup of  stock with white wine (use this to deglaze before adding the rest of the liquid)
  • Add protein such as chicken or bacon when you cook the onion/leek
  • Add any veggies you like, such as mushroom, pumpkin, peas etc.

leek

sliced mushrooms

leek, mushrooms, bacon

add the rice

Stock goes in

After 7 minutes

parmesan

give it a stir

Pressure Cooker Risotto

Risotto is a bit like soup in that you can use up whatever veggies and protein you have lying around and you bulk it up with the rice. This makes it very cost effective, which is great for those of us on a budget! Have you noticed most of my recent posts have been about food? Sorry about that. I think it’s the pregnancy- I’m obsessed with food! I’ll get onto something different next post, I promise!