August 31, 2010

Winter Salad


Today is officially the last day of Winter, and although for someone who grew up in the Arctic the Sydney Winter has hardly been very wintery at all, there is still a reason for celebration. I am celebrating the last day of Winter with this colourful Winter salad that certainly creates a sensation of celebration just by looking at it.

There are just so many flavours and textures going on, but somehow they all still manage to come together and complement each other. This winter salad is undeniably a seasonal salad, but it is so light and delicious I urge you to try it whenever you have a chance.


Winter Salad

(Recipe adapted from the Masterchef Recipes)

6 baby beetroots

3 thyme sprigs

2 garlic cloves

1 tbs olive oil

1/2 cup blanched almonds

1 white witlof, small leaves picked, bigger leaves cut into half

4 small red radishes, washed and cut into halves or quarters

1/2 bulb of fennel, thinly sliced

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and cut into cubes
1/2 Murcott mandarin, peeled and broken into segments

1/2 Murcott mandarin, zested & juiced

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp honey

2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 180C. Cut most of the stems of the beetroots and place them on a piece of foil covered with a smaller piece of baking paper. Add the thyme sprigs, garlic and olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Wrap the foil into a loose parcel, place in an oven dish and bake for 40 minutes or until the beets are just tender. Set aside to cool and peel off the skins. Cut the cooled down beets into halves or quarters.

Put the almonds in a small saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to boil. Let simmer for about 5 minutes, drain and let cool. Cut into slices (alternatively you could use slivered almonds). Heat a small frying pan and lightly toast the almonds until golden.

To make the vinaigrette, whisk the mandarin zest and juice, mustard and honey and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Add the olive oil whisking continuously until slightly thickened.

Assemble all the salad ingredients on a plate and drizzle generously with the vinaigrette. Serve with fish or chicken.

Happy Last Day of Winter!

August 30, 2010

The Lightest Chocolate Pudding

This light and tasty chocolate pudding is another Finnish dessert classic, and so easy to make you can whip it up in a matter of minutes. It contains no eggs, no gluten, it's practically fat free and it doesn't have much sugar either. There's no gelatine and no setting in the fridge so it really is a great dessert choice for both dinner parties and for kids as a healthy alternative to those sugary shop bought puddings. If you want you can always make this more luxurious by using dark chocolate instead of chocolate powder and serve it with a selection of different berries.

It has a soft and gooey, almost jelly-like texture. I think this light chocolate pudding makes such a fun, guilt-free and tasty dessert for both adults and kids!

The Lightest Chocolate Pudding

500ml milk

2-3 tbsp brown sugar

2,5 tbsp potato starch

1,5 tbsp pure Dutch cocoa powder, with no sugar added

2 tsp vanilla sugar

strawberries, or other berries to serve


Put the milk, sugar, potato flour and cocoa into a saucepan and bring to boil stirring well the whole time. Turn down the heat and let simmer for a minute. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the vanilla sugar. Serve with fresh or frozen berries and cream or ice cream if you wish.

Enjoy!

August 29, 2010

Carrot Bread (Gluten-free)


The pumpkin chai bread I made the other day inspired me to try this carrot bread recipe which has a very similar feel to it, but with the difference of using almond meal instead of just flour. I'm loving these recipes with no butter (I omitted the cream cheese icing because I'm not a fan of it), and a healthy dose of spices to give some extra flavour.

With the trial diet continuing I made this gluten-free although I'm sure you can find similar recipes using normal plain flour instead. The texture was better in this one than in the pumpkin bread, but it wasn't as sweet. I cant' choose which one I like better though, they were both equally tasty!


Carrot Bread
(Recipe adapted from taste.com.au)

1/3 cup rice flour
1/3 cup gluten-free corn flour
2 tsps gluten-free baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
2 cups (about 200g) almond meal
2 medium size carrots, finely grated
4 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 160C and grease a loaf pan. Sift flours, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and the spices together in a bowl. Add the almond meal, carrots, walnuts and egg yolks and mix well.
In another bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold the egg whites into the carrot mixture and pour into the prepared pan. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. You can make a cream cheese icing for this if you like or just serve it on its own or with some butter.

Enjoy!

August 28, 2010

Seafood, fennel & lime salad


I'm loving all the fresh fennel at the moment and in my opinion they are best had at salads when you can still feel the crunch and the freshness and the beautiful aniseed flavour. With the addition of prawns and squid this salad is very wholesome and makes a perfect light meal on its own. It has so many flavours going for it: the aniseed, the fresh lime, the dill and the slight kick with the chilli.


Seafood, fennel and lime salad
(Recipe adapted from Ottolenghi The Cookbook)

1 big fennel bulb, finely sliced
1/2 Spanish onion, finely sliced
juice and grated zest of 1 lime
2 tbsp chopped dill
piece of mild chilli, seeded and finely sliced
4 tbsp olive oil
5 King prawns, peeled and de-veined
1 small tube of squid, cleaned and cut into rings
1 tbsp sumac
sea salt

In a large bowl, mix together the fennel, onion, lime juice and zest, dill, chilli and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and set aside. Place a grill pan over a high heat and leave until hot. Mix the prawns and the squid with the rest of the olive oil and season with salt. Grill them for a few minutes or until just cooked through. Add the seafood into the salad bowl, season with sumac and toss together.

August 26, 2010

Sweet Berry Soup


Where Finland might lack in exotic fruit they certainly have an abundance of wild berries. Most kids grow up helping their mums and dads picking berries of all sorts: wild blueberries, lingonberries, cloudberries... all available for everyone to pick for free. My parents always have a huge freezer full of berries at the end of the season and my 94 year old granny still picks more berries than she can possibly consume within one year.

This berry soup is probably one of the most common desserts in Finland, and it's almost always made using frozen berries. In my family mum would often make this soup using frozen strawberries and we would have it with rice porridge as a light meal. Similar soup is also made using rhubarb which is another one of my favourites.


Sweet Berry Soup

400g frozen berries
500ml water
50g sugar
3 tbs potato starch
2-3 tbs cold water

Add the frozen berries, water and sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to boil without stirring. Mix together the potato flour and water to form a smooth runny paste and add slowly and stirring into the berry mixture. Let the soup come "to bubble", and then take off the heat. Spoon into serving bowls and serve on its own or with porridge, you could even try it with a bit of natural yoghurt. If you're not serving the soup immediately, sprinkle the top with a bit of caster sugar to avoid a "film" forming on the top.

Enjoy!

August 25, 2010

Chicken, red rice & pumpkin salad

I love the earthy flavour of red rice and it's definitely my favourite rice along with brown rice. This is a fulsome healthy meal and you can easily make different variations of it depending on what ingredients you already have at hand: try replacing red rice with wild rice, pumpkin with sweet potato, and adding sun dried tomatoes for flavour. Why not even try salmon instead of chicken. I adore the colours of this salad, and of course it's tasty, too ;-)


Chicken, red rice & pumpkin salad
(Recipe adapted from The Gluten-free Kitchen by Sue Shepherd)

2 litres chicken stock
150g red rice
1/2 small butternut pumpkin, chopped into small cubes
olive oil
250g chicken, roasted & shredded
(you can flavour the chicken however way you want,
mine was flavoured simply with curry powder & salt)
1/2 small bunch of fresh basil to garnish
salt, black pepper to season

Preheat oven to 180C. In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock to boil and add the red rice. Simmer for 20 minutes or until tender. Drain and set aside to cool. Meanwhile, toss the pumpkin in olive oil and place on baking tray. Bake for about 20 minutes or until just tender. Remove from the oven and let cool. Place the cooled red rice, shredded chicken and pumpkin in a large bowl, drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper and toss gently to combine. Garnish generously with fresh basil.

Enjoy!

August 24, 2010

Pumpkin Chai Bread (Gluten-free)

Bored having the same old banana bread? Then try this recipe!

Lately I've been dealing a lot with pumpkins: I've roasted them, used them in salads and soups, but I hadn't yet tried my hands on the sweet pumpkin recipes. I browsed through a few recipes until I came across with this one: Pumpkin Chai Bread. Now how could I possibly NOT have tried this?

As I was mixing the dough it became obvious I was making something really good. The beautifully fragrant spices mixed with dark orange batter was just magical!


Pumpkin Chai Bread*
(Recipe adapted from GFG)

1 cup cooked and mashed pumpkin
1/2 cup light olive oil
1 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 large eggs
1/2 cup orange juice

1 1/2 cups gluten-free plain flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
(1 tsp xanthan gum)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

Sift the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Whisk together the pumpkin, olive oil, brown sugar, eggs, vanilla and orange juice. Stir in the dry ingredients and the walnuts and mix well until smooth. Pour the batter in to a greased loaf tin and bake in 175C for 40-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean.

*I've made this gluten-free, but you could try using normal plain flour instead.
For gluten-free versions I would recommend using xanthan gum (which I omitted), because the texture will become a tad too crumbly without it. If anyone, however, can recommend a substitute for xanthan gum, I'd be more than grateful!

Enjoy!

August 22, 2010

Lemon Custard Tart and Happy 1 year!

After one year and 395 posts later I feel like I have come a very long way. I have learned so much, and I still continue to learn something new every day; that is one thing that keeps me going. I have also met so many wonderful people who share the same interest as me, and who never get tired of talking about food with me; and I've surely cooked and eaten a lot.

I continue to blog because I love every part of it, because it creates the much needed balance in my life, and because I am truly passionate about cooking, eating, food styling and food photography.

Thank you so much to all of you who enjoy reading my posts; your comments and support really means a world to me! This lemon custard tart is for all of you!

Maria
xox


Lemon Custard Tart
(Recipe adapted from The Gluten-Free Kitchen by Sue Shepherd)

130g fine rice flour
75g gluten-free corn flour
45g plain gluten-free flour
3 tbsp caster sugar
160g cold butter, chopped
120ml iced water

Lemon filling

2 cups milk
3 eggs
1/3 cup lemon juice
3 tbsp finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup caster sugar

Icing sugar, to serve

Sift the flours in to a bowl making sure they are well combined. Process the flours, sugar and butter in a food processor until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Continue processing, adding 1 tablespoon of water at a time, until a soft dough forms. Turn the dough onto a floured board and knead for about 3 minutes or until smooth. Wrap in glad wrap and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Grease a 23 cm tart dish. Roll out the pastry to a thickness of about 3 mm, ease into the tart dish and trim the edges. Place in the fridge for a further 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 170C. Line the pastry case with baking paper and fill with baking beads. Blind bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

To make the filling, pour the milk into a saucepan and bring to simmer. Remove from the heat. Place the eggs, lemon juice and zest and sugar in a bowl and whisk with electric beaters until just combined. Whisk the hot milk into the egg mixture.

Pour the filling into the cooled pastry case and bake for 20 minutes or until firm to touch. Let cool and dust with icing sugar to serve.

August 21, 2010

Haloumi, pumpkin & rocket salad


You might have noticed that I've been making a lot of different salads lately. Well this trend is here to stay for at least a bit longer because I am absolutely loving the colours and the flavours of these salads! I'm a huge fan of cheese, and haloumi (along with feta cheese) is one of my all time favourites. Pumpkin is just gorgeous in salads, and instead of roasting you can just slice them up really thinly and place them on the grill for a few minutes. So tasty!

I usually find the rocket (arugula) a bit too peppery, but it really compliments the flavours in this salad and is beautiful with the salty haloumi and the mustard dressing. Pine nuts, seeds or other nuts are almost a must addition to every salad as they provide the lovely crunch and some extra protein.


Haloumi, pumpkin and rocket salad
(Recipe adapted from the Australian Good Food Magazine)

500g pumpkin, peeled, thinly sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
270g haloumi, cut into slices
a few big handfuls of rocket
40g pine nuts, toasted

Dressing

1 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp olive oil

Place pumpkin and haloumi slices in a bowl, add olive oil and turn to coat. Preheat a grill pan, cook the pumpkin for 3-5 minutes, and the haloumi for 2 minutes or until soft. To make the dressing, combine vinegar and mustard and gradually whisk in the oil. Toss rocket leaves with the dressing and place on a serving plate. Top with haloumi, pumpkin and pine nuts.

August 19, 2010

Milk Rice Pudding


In Finland rice is traditionally used quite differently to the Asian countries where it is present at every meal. For Finns potato is the main side dish, but rice is also used in a variety of dishes including rice porridge, which is cooked with milk and no sugar and served as a light meal with berry soup. The sweet and creamy rice pudding reminds me of this dish so I decided to make something in between: a milk rice pudding that doesn't have the heavy cream and is not loaded with sugar, but can still be served as a dessert. This is fully gluten-free and can also be made lactose free.



Milk Rice Pudding
(Recipe adapted from taste.com.au)
Serves 2

600ml low fat milk
2 tbs sugar
1 tsp vanilla sugar
(zest of one orange, finely grated)
80g white short or medium grain rice
fresh or frozen berries to serve

Place milk, sugar and vanilla sugar (and orange zest) in a saucepan and bring to boil. Stir in the rice, then reduce the heat to low and let simmer for 30 minutes or until the rice is fully cooked and the pudding has thickened. Remember to stir often and add a bit of water if the pudding is getting too thick. Serve warm or room temperature with fresh or frozen berries.

Serve with berries

August 18, 2010

Salad of Beets, Chickpeas and Feta


This is another easy salad recipe that would work as well as a light meal, as a dinner party entrée. The deep red colour of the beetroot looks lovely mixed with the shiny white feta and the green rocket. I adore the flavours of this salad, and I can never have enough feta cheese. It gives its lovely creaminess and saltiness to this dish along with the peppery rocket and the mild chickpeas. Nutritionally this is also a wholesome meal as the chickpeas provide a good amount of protein to it. This is real feel good food.


Salad of Beets, Chickpeas and Feta
(Recipe adapted from Marie Claire 'Spicy')

3-4 small beets, leafy tops removed
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 orange, juiced
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cups rocket (arugula)
2 1/2 cups canned chickpeas, drained & rinsed
200g feta cheese

Preheat the oven to 200C. Put the beets into a baking dish, pour in 1/2 cup of water, cover with foil and bake for 1 hour or until knife passes easily through the beets. Allow to cool and peel the skins off. Cut the beets into small wedges and place in a bowl. Add the cumin, orange juice and olive oil and toss well. Arrange the rocket, beets, feta and chickpeas on a serving dish and drizzle on the remaining dressing.



Enjoy!

August 16, 2010

Banana Hazelnut Cake (Gluten-free)


What's so special about a banana hazelnut cake apart from having a killer combination of nuts and banana, of course? Well it might come as a surprise when I tell you that this particular version has the unexpected ingredient of mashed potato in it. Yup. Mashed potato. The world of flourless cakes just got a tad more interesting, now didn't it?

Either I've lived under a rock for the most of my life (which might be partly true given the location I grew up in) or mashed potato is not the first thing that comes in to mind when thinking of cakes. I am always intrigued to try interesting recipes so of course I had to give this one a go, and I'm glad I did! The cake turned out to be so moist without being too dense, and may I say it myself, really delicious! And is it just me or do flourless cakes improve in taste the next day?

You could easily make a chocolate version of this cake by adding a couple of tablespoons of cocoa powder in the batter OR instead of bananas you could use finely grated carrots!


Banana Hazelnut Cake (Gluten-free)
(Recipe adapted from Sue Shepherd - The Gluten-free Kitchen)
Serves 12

4 eggs, separated
1,5 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp gluten-free baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
180g caster sugar
40g unsalted butter, softened
1 tsp ground cinnamon
150g cooled smoothly mashed potato*
2 medium ripe bananas, mashed
160g ground hazelnuts
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

pure icing sugar, for dusting
*and no, the cake won't taste like potato

Preheat oven to 180C and grease a 22cm springform cake tin. Place the egg whites, vanilla, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda in a bowl and beat until firm peaks form. Beat the egg yolks, sugar, butter and cinnamon until thick and creamy. In a separate bowl, combine the mashed potato, banana, hazelnut and walnuts. Fold mashed potato mix in to the egg yolk mixture, then gently fold in the egg white mixture. Spoon the batter in to the tin and bake for 20 minutes, then cover with foil and continue to bake for 15 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Serve dusted with icing sugar.


Batter ready for the oven.

Dust with icing sugar

Enjoy!

August 15, 2010

Tasty Gluten Free Buckwheat Bread


Hands up those who still think gluten free bread is tasteless and boring? Or was I the only one? The newly enforced trial diet for my partner has meant me venturing in to the world of gluten free baking, and I must admit I have learnt a lot during the past few weeks!

This simple bread recipe was my first bread baking experiment after trying a couple of delicious flourless cake recipes. I had thought the end result would be, as I suggested, boring and tasteless, but turned out I couldn't have been more wrong.

I have always loved baking bread, and I am so glad to know there are delicious gluten free bread recipes out there. This is a must try for everyone!

Tasty Gluten Free Buckwheat Bread
(Recipe by taste.com.au)

1 1/2 cups gluten free plain flour
1/2 cup organic buckwheat flour
3 tsp gluten free baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbs caster sugar
2 egg whites
1 cup reduced fat milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3-4 tbs seed mix (pepitas, sunflower seeds, pine nuts)

Preheat oven to 180C and grease a 6cm deep, 9cm x 19cm loaf pan. Sift together the gluten free flour, buckwheat flour, baking powder and salt and stir in the sugar. Beat the egg whites until just frothy, and stir in the milk and the vegetable oil. Pour the egg white mixture into the flour mixture and beat for 2 minutes or until smooth. Pour the batter into the pan, and press the seed mix lightly into the batter. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the bread comes out clean.

Stir the egg white mixture in to the flour

Pour the batter in to the pan and sprinkle with the seed mix

Et voilà! Tasty gluten free bread!

Serve warm with soft butter

August 14, 2010

Fennel & Orange Salad


This salad combines so many of my favourite flavours: the liquorice of the fennel, the sweetness of oranges, the crunchy walnuts, and the dark balsamic vinegar. I was able to get some organic oranges that were unbelievably sweet, and I used the beautiful Alto Bush Herb olives I bought from the Burnt Orange in Mosman. Fennels are in season now so I think I'll be making this salad and other fennel dishes many times in the near future!

Fennel & Orange Salad
(Recipe adapted from Marie Claire's 'Spicy' recipe book)

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 small fennel bulbs, finely sliced
2 oranges, segmented
1 handful of flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
20 olives

Combine the vinegar and oil in a small bowl and stir well. Toss the fennel, orange, parsley, walnuts and olives together and drizzle with the dressing.

Enjoy!

August 12, 2010

Rich Mineral Salad a.k.a. Super Healthy Salad


It may not always seem like it (at least judging by the amount of cakes I bake), but I actually live a pretty healthy life: I exercise daily, not because I have to force myself to do so, but because it's part of my lifestyle; I don't smoke, I hardly drink (compared to an average Finn I'm a teetotaller), and I cook healthy home made meals most nights of the week.

As boring as it may sound, I've always been this way and I think it's partly because of my genes (both of my parents are very active, and my mum's 94 year old mum still does exercise regularly), but also because of my up-bringing. Growing up in a small and remote town there was hardly any take away available. We didn't have Maccas or KFC and take away meals were considered as a rare treat when visiting bigger towns for speciality shopping, etc. Even now take away isn't what I automatically think after a long day. I usually prefer to cook a healthy home made meal instead, and many times I think I can actually put a meal together quicker than it would take me to wait for delivery or pick up take away.

I don't want to start preaching, but I could keep going on about healthy lifestyle, "your body is your temple"- kind of mentality for hours. This salad is one of those recipes that make you feel healthy already when you're putting the ingredients together: the freshness, the colours, the beautiful smell of fresh papaya and the dill. I also love to use buckwheat as an alternative to other grains.

I've posted this recipe once before but that time it was in Finnish so here's the recipe again in English. It's from a book called "Healthy Skin Diet" (which is not a diet book, but more of a lifestyle book) by Karen Fischer.


Rich Mineral Salad a.k.a. Super Healthy Salad
(Recipe adapted from Healthy Skin Diet by Karen Fischer)

1 cup buckwheat
1 tbs olive oil
1 small red onion, finely sliced
1/2 papaya, peeled and chopped into small cubes
2 cups of baby spinach, finely chopped
some fresh lemon juice (or lime juice)
1/2 cup of fresh dill, finely chopped
pinch of sea salt
(you may also add garlic and toasted pepitas)

Boil water in a saucepan, add the buckwheat and let simmer for 5 minutes or until just tender. Drain and rinse under cold water. Heat the oil in a frying pan and sauté the onion until soft, don't brown. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, season and serve with protein of your choice.