Thursday, February 24, 2011

Marinated Mushrooms

This is a really easy way to brighten up a simple salad. Take 250g mushrooms, toss in 2 Tbsp balsamic, a little salt and pepper, a finely chopped garlic clove and a handful of chopped herbs, and leave to marinate for a few hours. They were still fresh and firm inside, with a tangy balsamic outer, and went perfectly with cherry tomatoes and avocado. If you want soft mushrooms, slice them really thinly, up the balsamic and leave them overnight. Then use the balsamic and mushroom-moisture pond that they'll be soaking in as salad dressing. Little ways to make the day a little brighter...

Speaking of things that are making my day a little brighter, tomorrow I'll be heading to the North Sea for the weekend, with my lovely housemate. Keep your fingers crossed that I don't freeze! :)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Cabbage and Orange Slaw

This is something incredibly basic and yet also incredibly tasty, which rates it pretty highly, in my humble opinion. Finely shredded red cabbage, mixed with little chunks of orange and a light dressing. Really, you can't go wrong. My only recommendations are that a) you use a food processor or mandolin to slice the cabbage, because I found it a little thick when I did it by hand, and b) leave it overnight to marinate. Yes, a marinated salad. I'm serious. The flavour develops and the orange juice seeps into the cabbage, softening it just a touch, without taking away too much crunch. To make simple into pretty, just scatter with a handful of toasted pistachios or cashews before serving.

Cabbage and Orange Slaw
1/4 head small red cabbage, finely shredded
2 large oranges, peeled and cubed*
salt & pepper
1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 Tbsp olive oil
(1 tsp wholegrain mustard, optional)

Mix dressing ingredients together in a jar, and shake until emulsified. Pour over cabbage and orange, and mix well to combine. Sit overnight in the fridge, and serve the next day, as a side dish or on your favourite burger.

*When you peel the oranges, squeeze any extra juice from your peel into the dressing.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


You know what's awesome? Olives marinated in chillies. It's only a pity that these weren't half as spicy as they look. Must have been adapted for the local tastebuds... :(

Cornbread Muffins

Aren't these pretty? Golden yellow cornbreads, just waiting to be nibbled up... which is precisely what happened, and the reason why there's only 4 left. I confess to having eaten half, and the housemate had another two, so it's not all my fault. What is, however, entirely my fault, is the use of cupcake papers. Don't do it. You might think you're saving yourself the trouble of washing the pans, but really, you're just going to end up with near-impossible to remove papers. Don't waste those precious crumbs of cornbread! Just grease your tins. This recipe speaks for itself; dead easy, pretty quick to bake, and delicious. I had a couple with vegemite, but my housemate recommends them with syrup.

Cornbread Muffins
(makes 12 small muffins)

1/2 cup plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1 cup coarse polenta
1 tsp rosemary or thyme, optional
1/4 cup olive oil
1 scant cup soymilk
1 Tbsp syrup (I used maple, but agave would also be great)

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees. Grease your muffin moulds of choice.
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. It will seem quite liquid, but don't stress.
Allow to rest for 10 minutes, so that the polenta can soak up some liquid. It'll be thicker when you come back to it.
Distribute evenly within 12 small muffin cups and bake, 20-25 minutes, until a skewer comes out clean.
Eat with your favourite Southern fixings, or better, with Vegemite. ;)

Friday, February 11, 2011

Kitchen Tales.

These are the tulips that I bought for my incredibly lovely housemate while she was writing her final paper. She was stressing out, and we'd just discussed how much we loved tulips, and then at the markets, I decided to do my good deed for the day. As luck would have it, a lovely flower stall had an amazing offer: 20 tulips for just 5 euro. I know, phenomenal! Flowers here are so much cheaper than at home; I imagine that relies on two factors: a) People give flowers here more frequently than at home, and b) It's probably a hell of a lot easier to keep flowers alive when the weather is so cold. Practical, but true. Ever tried to keep flowers from wilting when it's 30 degrees outside, even if you're only outside for 5 minutes while you get them home? More difficult than it sounds. Loose bunches you can hold upside down, but arrangements... sigh.

I'll point out that the lovely housemate also found a great supermarket special with giant pots of herbs (in terracotta! how cute!) for just 2 Euro each. So we now own rosemary, thyme, savoury and sage. The parsley in the corner of the photo is the lovely stuff that I buy from my favourite market lady. I buy two bunches every week! Who'd have ever thought I relied so heavily on parsley? I suppose the giant plants that I had at my old house probably didn't get enough use, but rest assured, next time I grow parsley, I intend to make full use of it! Helloooo, tabbouli.

So, this post is a tribute to the little things that make life so much happier. Herbs and tulips and my quiet Saturday mornings, market trips and hanging out in the kitchen cooking breakfast. When I go home to Australia, I won't miss the weather, but I hope I've gained a new-found appreciation for those occasional rays of sunshine that bring warmth and light to my kitchen... :)

Saag Channa

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking, "Megan, why are you posting pictures of ugly food again?" But hear me out on this one, please. I once saw an ex order a version of this when we ate Indian food for dinner. I saw a gloop of spinach puree (and this was back when I hated spinach), filled with cubes of curd cheese (I will ALWAYS hate each and every cheese, vegan or not) and wanted to throw up. Can anyone think of anything more disgusting? And then all of a sudden, I was faced with greens that needed using, a stomach that needed filling, and a strange craving for some spice. Uh-oh. This was about to get serious.

Now, I'm kicking myself that this has taken me so long. Usually I'm pretty reasonable, and I come around to things relatively quickly. (Me, stubborn? Never!) But when I made this, and hesitantly tried a spoonful, I realised that I've been an idiot for the last 8 years. I'm sorry, tastebuds, that you've been deprived. My version was made with a mix of spinach and kale, a hefty sprinkling of spices, just enough chilli to have my lips tingling, and freshly-cooked chickpeas. Served over quinoa, a comfort food if ever there was one (creamy? check. grainy? check. Bases covered.) this was an amazing dinner, and an eye-opening experience. Saag, I'm sorry that I ignored you for so long. I promise to make it up to you in future... even if you are ugly.

Saag Channa

1 head kale or 1 huge bunch spinach (or a mix!) finely chopped
2 large spring onions (or 1 small onion), finely chopped
1x 4cm piece ginger, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbsp chilli puree (sambal oelek is fine!)
400g tin chickpeas (or 1 & 1/2 cups home-cooked; not sure what that is dry, sorry!)
1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp coriander seed powder
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large pot sautee garlic, ginger, onion, chilli, and spices in a tiny splash of oil, until fragrant. The garlic and onion should be transparent. Add the greens, and mix well, allowing the greens to wilt evenly.
As soon as the greens are wilted, transfer the entire mix to your blender. Blend carefully - remember that this is hot, and accordingly, I always remove the plastic insert in the lid of our blender, so that it won't explode with the steam pressure. You want the mix to be as smooth as humanly possible.
Return the mix to your pot and add the chickpeas. Season to taste with salt and pepper, allowing it just long enough to warm the chickpeas. Best served over grains; basmati rice or quinoa are my recommendations.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Garlic Spinach with Polenta

This is one of those staples-meals that I've been falling back on a lot recently. Over my busy last few weeks, I've wanted quick and easy food that still has good nutritional content. And I can't even begin to tell you how much I craved green vegetables. The craving is finally subsiding, so I must have fulfiled whatever vitamin/mineral deficiency that was (personally I think it's a reaction to a lack of sunlight, but meh, can't fight the weather gods). Irrespective of your cravings, creamy polenta and sauteed garlic spinach are a guaranteed winner.

3 heads young spinach (or one bunch spinach), thoroughly washed, chopped
3 cloves garlic
olive oil
salt, pepper
1 cup coarse polenta
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 tsp fresh thyme or savoury
water or vege stock

To prepare the polenta: Put the polenta into a small pot. Add boiling water (or hot vege stock), stirring continuously, in a slow but steady stream. Allow the polenta to be about as runny as cake batter. Cook until the polenta has softened into a mashed-potato like consistency, adding more water or stock, as required. Mix through the herbs, plus salt and pepper to taste, and keep warm.
To prepare the spinach: Heat a touch of olive oil in a pan. Add the garlic, allowing to just turn transparent, before adding the spinach. Fold the spinach over continuously, so that it cooks evenly. When done to your liking (I like mine to still have some bite, so the second that none of it looks raw) remove it from the heat. Season with salt and pepper, and serve over the polenta.

Raw Vegetable Wraps.

I felt like eating healthy today. I'd bought carrots with the intention of making the felafel from the Choosing Raw website, not because they were raw, but simply because I though they looked delicious. I had every intention of eating mine warm, though! But when I got back from the markets, I wasn't half as cold as I'd expected. The weather here in Paderborn was a balmy seven degrees (windchill notwithstanding) and, to be completely honest, I was feeling lazy.

However, I still felt like something a little spicy. Enter carrots; mine were finely grated, which took about five times as long as when I grate them normally, and were spiced with cumin, coriander seed, and finely ground black pepper. What did they taste of? Felafel. I'd managed to use the same spices. Well, I guess once I have something in my head, it's rather hard to get rid of!

To go with the carrot salad (which is easily moulded, by the way! In case I do ever make hot felafel balls out of it) I made a quick parsley salad, similar to the one you've already seen here, but without chickpeas. To go with all of this, I sliced some lovely cherry tomatoes, washed some salad leaves (to wrap; I recommend you find larger leaves, but I only had oakleaf lettuce!) and even got into a jar of olive tapenade. In the end, I liked

Raw Vegetable Wraps

2 carrots, finely grated, wrung free of juice (drink juice immediately. delicious!)
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/4 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp black pepper, finely ground
1 tsp finely diced spring onion (I used the green)
chilli powder, to taste
1 cup cherry toms (or a large tomato), sliced
1 large bunch parsley, finely sliced
10-ish lettuce leaves, washed
salt, to taste

For the carrots: mix together carrots, spring onion, cumin, coriander, pepper, chilli and salt to taste, until the carrots are evenly spiced.
For the parsley: mix chopped parsley with a little chopped tomato and season with salt and pepper. Lemon juice is also nice.
To assemble: Pick up a lettuce leaf. Add a spoonful of carrot, a spoonful of parsley salad, a few pieces of tomato, a sprinkle of salt (or just salt your tomatoes beforehand) and pepper, and fold over the leaf so that it encloses the filling.
Eat! Crunch crunch crunch...

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