Purple sprouting broccoli for breakfast

A few months ago, just when the season was right for it,  a dear friend brought me some purple sprouting broccoli fresh from her garden. It just also happened to be the weekend  and I was missing my Melbournian weekend brunches, as I often do in this small English town.

To pay for breakfast or brunch here is folly as the food is disappointing 9.5 times out of 10. So, I decided to make some myself using this lovely sprouting broccoli. A bit of google-ing and I settled on grilled purple sprouting broccoli and hollandaise sauce on a bed of sourdough and poached eggs.

Why do I post it now ? I was doing an audit of my food pictures folder and realised that I have so many things I need to write about and today, I just felt like writing about this one as it was so delicious. I’m sorry, I don’t have too many pictures of the process and next time I make this dish, I’ll be sure to take some.

Purple sprouting broccoli with hollandaise sauce over poached eggs and sourdough

Purple sprouting broccoli with hollandaise sauce over poached eggs and sourdough

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Mangoes, ricotta and toast – a simple pleasure

I was born in the country that gave common mangoes their scientific name – Mangifera indica. Come the Indian summer (April-June), dad would ride off on his LML Vespa to the local mango market and come back with bags and bags of golden, juicy, sweet deliciousness. He would bring us many varieties and always experimenting with new ones. Of them all, my favourite was “Banginapalle” (pronounced: Bung-in-a-pulse-lee) – thin skinned, juicy and sweet as nectar.

My years in New Zealand exposed me to nothing but disappointment in the form of green, peppery tasting (and smelling) Peruvian mangoes. However, when I moved to the more tropically inclined Australia, my longing for real mangoes was finally satisfied. I discovered the local varietal “Kensington Pride” which reminded me of my childhood favourite and boy did I gorge myself on them. Sticky mango fingers with pulp stains on one’s tee-shirt and chin may not be a very attractive look but the happiness on such a person’s face is priceless !

On our Christmas vacation in Australia, we once again got to indulge our mango cravings and I chose to do it in a simple yet highly satisfying way. The pepper on honey trick is one I learnt from a French colleague of mine. I thought it was weird until I tried it.

Finally, this recipe captures the very first images of food that I took with my DSLR. I will be eternally proud of them.

Do give this recipe a go – especially if you have fresh mangoes and fresh ricotta available. It is definitely healthier than an English breakfast!

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Weekend French toast

I’m pretty sure I’ve ranted before about the lack of places to go to for brunch where we are in England. Compared to the choice we had in Melbourne, this town is pretty dire. What we did try one Saturday morning is a chain restaurant called Bill’s. While Bill’s has the atmosphere of what a brunch place, the food itself was OK. My partner had the French toast and I the vegetarian breakfast stack with avocado, hummus and poached eggs. Just as he got though his French toast, my partner looked up and said – I’m sure you can make this a lot better!

Challenges like that never go unmet in our house. In many places, a breakfast order of French toast comes with a scoop of ice-cream in the centre but it was at  Cafe Arcadia in Melbourne that I first saw French toast being serves with yoghurt and a berry coulis and thought to myself – “Now there’s an idea worth stealing!”. Equipped with a challenge and a stolen idea from our former home, I set out to make the most delicious, yet slightly healthy French toast I ever did ( or so I thought). Turns out this isn’t the first time I tried to make French toast as in my folder of food photos, I found a whole lot more pictures of French toast as did I in my folder of photos from France.

The tastiest and most indulgent French toast is when a day old loaf of Brioche is used as the bread. However, I’ve gone for more generic bread that looked pretty. While slicing the bread, I sliced a little bit of my finger too and the bit of bread you find missing in the pictures are where my injury made itself obvious shall we say. Don’t be grossed out as indeed, the French toast was tasty and much better than Bill’s French toast. Though I will admit that their maple-flavoured syrup was tastier than my real maple syrup 🙂

Bon apetit!

French toast for breakfast anyone ?

French toast for breakfast anyone ?

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Summer holiday series: 2. Red capsicum/pepper and tomato dip

Cooking is my favourite form of relaxation. It makes me really really happy and completely relieves all my daily stresses. When on holiday, it’s even better as I have all the time in the world to plan, shop, prepare and present food and share it with those dear to me. This holiday has been no different. As I mentioned before, I’m joint queen of a rather wonderful kitchen with all modern appliances, cool pull-out drawers and cookbooks to last me a lifetime. Given these luxuries, I’ve been spending a fair bit of time in the kitchen. Not to mention, it is the coolest (temperature wise) part of the house.

Last time I told you about a Hurry Burry Curry. That was dinner for four one evening. The next evening, I thought we’d have something more fancy. Some sort of self-inmposed challenge with French food being so pretty and tasty. One thing that French food is frequently not and my food almost always is, is vegetarian! The menu on this fine summer evening ended up being a 3-course meal with the following items accompanied by a lovely bottle of Malbec that my partner’s dad had bought earlier in the week.

Starter: Red capsicum and tomato dip with Walnut bread
Main: Summer spaghetti with zucchini and cherry tomatoes
Dessert: Peaches and nectarines baked with a macaroon topping

I will share these recipes with you over the next 3 posts. Hope you try them and like them!

This recipe is a Donna Hay classic from a magazine published many years ago. I’ve made some modifications to it – some out of necessity and some out of curiosity. The walnut bread that we had with the dip was from the local village bakery.

Red capsicum and tomato chunky dip

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Baklava inspired cinnamon scrolls

THIS IS NOT (FULLY) MY OWN RECIPE !!!

Source: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2007/06/cinammon_rolls_/

I love baklava and its close relatives. Baklava is Turkish in origin and refers to a very particular kind of pastry – diamond shaped, layered with honey and pistachios/cashews. It’s close relatives refer to anything from finger shaped pastry, bird’s nest shaped pastry, semolina cakes etc. While it is Turkish in origin (or so says Wikipedia), you will find it regularly at Greek, Lebanese and Moroccan restaurants so I suspect it is more a regional dish than a country-specific one.  Some of the flavours I associate with these sweets are rose water, orange-blossom water, sugar/honey (lots of it) and cinnamon. These flavours are what inspired this experiment of mine.

Enough about baklava and more about the scrolls – I was chatting with a friend on Google Talk when I saw him chomping on some cinnamon scrolls that his wife had made for him. It reminded me of “Cinnabon” in American and their stonkingly sweet buns full of sugar and cinnamon. I thought that I could give them a try and actually control how sugary I make them and then thought of making them with rosewater and nuts, like a baklava.

So I went searching for a recipe and found the pioneer woman’s recipe. Ree’s words about the impact this dish would have on its consumer was so very inspirational that I set off on my own journey to conquer the hearts of all I know.Boy, was I disappointed. The rolls were too crispy, too crunchy and not at all like I’d been imagining them all day. I couldn’t really taste much of the cinnamon which was also disappointing.

I don’t think it is the recipe that was at fault – just some of the things I did that I shouldn’t have. Hope I can pass on some tips that will mean that your scrolls are a lot fluffier and tastier than mine turned out. I baked these in March this year and it has taken me this long to gather the courage to write about them. Learn from my mistakes and tell me if you make a fluffy baklava-inspired cinnamon scroll!

Baklava inspired cinnamon scrolls

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Vegan banana and raspberry bread

This recipe is vegan purely out of not having any eggs or butter and being too lazy to go to the supermarket to re-stock. Faced with the decision of going to the shop 100m down the road or continue with my baking adventures, I chose the latter and justified it by saying it would be healthier for us anyway. I looked for vegan banana bread recipes on the but I didn’t have egg substitute or applesauce. So I came up with my own substitutes swearing that if it worked it would be a miracle and I would have to post it. And the result was a very moist (almost too moist), yummy bread and here’s the random recipe for you to try.

 

Vegan banana and raspberry bread

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Easy foccaia two ways: Pear and blue cheese or caramelised onion and goat’s cheese

I’m afraid this one isn’t vegan friendly. Every imaginable kind of dairy-fat is included in this recipe. The end product however, is delicious and it disappears within minutes of making it to the kitchen table.

The original recipe was given to me by a girl I shared my office with. She printed an extra copy and rather than throw it away, she recycled it to me. I tried the bread recipe soon after and it was excellent so it was safely filed into my cooking book. The original recipe calls for blue cheese, pine-nuts and onion but I’ve made some modifications here to suit my taste (I’m a blue cheese wuss though my partner likes it). The dough for this bread is really soft and elastic and a lot of fun to work with. Don’t worry if the shape of the bread isn’t great or some of the filling oozes out as the end result is always fantastic.

Easy foccacia: Onion and Goat’s cheese or Pear and blue cheese

Ingredients (Yields approximately 16 slices, each  1.5 cm thick):

2 cups strong flour (super-fine flour that is usually used to bake bread)

1 teaspoon of dry active yeast (5-7 gms or half a sachet)

3 teaspoons of  honey

2 tablespoons of olive oil

40 gms of unsalted butter, softened

50-70 gms of strong blue cheese (Stilton, Roquefort, Gorgonzola. If you are a blue-cheese wussy like me, Bleu d’Auvergne might be more up your alley)

50-70 gms of soft goat’s cheese (like chevre)

2 tablespoons toasted pinenuts

2 tablespoons toasted hazelnuts, skinned and chopped

1 large red onion, thinly sliced

1 large pear, halved and thinly sliced (see pictures 8 & 9)

2 teaspoons of sugar

Method:

1. In a small bowl, dissolve 1 teaspoon of honey in warm water. Add 1/3 cup or 50gms of flour, yeast and mix well. Allow to froth for 15-30 minutes.

2. In a large bowl, add the remaining flour. Make a well in the centre and add the yeast mixture in once it has frothed. Mix with your hands until the dough comes together.

3. Flip the contents of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface and knead well for 10 minutes or until the dough is smooth and elastic. The test for this is if you pinch a bit of dough between your thumb and pointing finger and pull, the dough should spring back to where it came from.

4.Wash, dry and  oil the bowl you used originally and place the dough back in it. Cover the dough with a clean tea towel and allow to rise until it doubles in size (picture 1). If it is winter or a cold day, turn the oven onto 50ºC while you are kneading the dough. Then turn the oven off and place the kneaded, covered dough in the oven to rise. Works like a charm every time.

5. In the time that the dough is rising, prepare the filling and topping.

6a. Sauté the onions in a teaspoon of oil. As the onions collapse and get all shiny, add the 2 teaspoons of sugar and mix in (picture 4). Optionally, add a teaspoon of caraway seeds that give the onions a sweet smell as well as taste. If you don’t know what they are or dislike them, best to stay away.

6b. Melt the remaining 2 teaspoons of honey in a small bowl and toss the pear slices in to lightly coat them with honey.

7. For the filling – take two small bowls and divide the softened butter between them. In one, add the toasted, chopped hazelnuts and blue cheese and in the other, add the goats cheese and pinenuts. Mix each lot until it looks uniform.

8. Once the dough has risen, punch it down and roll it into a smooth ball (picture 5). Divide the ball into two smaller balls and roll them until they are smooth.

9. Using a rolling pin, flatten each ball and try and coax it into a somewhat rectangular shape (picture 6). You can see how I haven’t been super successful with mine but as I said, it will work in the end.

10. Add your filling on one half of the flattened dough, 2cms from the remaining edges. This is to give you enough dough to fold over the filling.

11. Folding :

a. Bring the half of the dough that doesn’t have any filling over the half that does have the filling.

b. Imagine that you are closing the cover of a book over it. Don’t worry if it isn’t perfectly aligned.

c. Now that the book is closed, fold the ragged edges in towards the centre  and press down with your hands.

d. This is to seal the filling in and make the bread more rectangular. It will mean that the edges are slightly thicker than the centre but that’s OK.

e. Finally, flip the bread onto it’s tidier side where you cannot see any of the not-so-pretty folding.

f. With a sharp knife, make angular slashes on top of the dough to let out any steam that might build up during the baking process.

g. The end product will look like picture7.

h. Repeat  steps 10 and 11 for the other filling and the other half of the dough.

12. Preheat your oven to 200ºC. Place the foccacias on a flat baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper and bake for 8-10 minutes until slightly golden brown (picture 8).

13. Add the toppings – either the caramelised onion or honeyed pears and bake for a further 5 minutes until you see the edges go golden brown (picture 9).

14. Cut the bread into this slices and serve while they are warm and just out of the oven.

15. The two “loaves” give us enough for dinner and lunch the next day as we eat it as a main rather than a side.

16. The goat’s cheese one was my favourite!

Tips:

1. The hazelnut and blue cheese wasn’t the greatest combination. Hazelnuts were too crunchy for the dish. I would stick to the softer pinenuts for both variations.

2. The pears weren’t naturally very sweet and didn’t do a very good job of cutting through the salty blue cheese despite the extra honey. Do taste your pears before you add them to this dish.

Easy foccacia: Onion and Goat’s cheese or Pear and blue cheese
Kneaded dough has risen 2. Roasted hazelnuts 3. Blue cheese, hazelnuts and melted butter + Goat’s cheese, pinenuts and melted butter
4. Sauté red onions until caramelised 5. Turn the risen dough into a ball and divide into two 6. Roll the dough out and spread the filling on one half of
the dough 7. Fold the dough around the filling, flip the bread and make gashes on the top to let out steam 8. Top the half-baked bread with either
onions or pear and bake again to completion 9. Foccacia, ready to share.