February 28, 2011

Almond oats with baked Corella pears

Hello Monday, new week and last day of summer! How was your weekend?

I'm starting this week with a whole new page and I'm filling it up with ideas, thoughts and inspiration. On the weekend I dug out Mireille Guilliano's 'Women, Work and the Art of Savoir Faire' and started re-reading it. I think this book is a wonderful source of inspiration and a helpful work-life guide for all women. I personally took a major leap in my life last week when I decided to resign from my work. Now I am looking forward to the new challenges and projects that I will hopefully be able to share with you soon.

In the mean time, I am excited to share this recipe with you. It's a little twist to your ordinary oat meal, a bit more laborious, but definitely worth the effort! Making your own almond milk is much easier than you might think and gives the oats a perfectly creamy texture. 

Corella pears are crunchy and really perfect for baking as they will hold their shape and texture. Maple syrup and treacle guarantee a sticky, delicious coating which is lovely with the mellow oat meal. I think this is not a bad way to start a new week and a new life!

Almond oats with baked Corella pears
(Serves 2)

1/2 cup blanched almonds
2 cups water

1,5 cups oat groats
1/2 water
pinch of salt

3 Corella pears, cut in fours or eights
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp treacle
2 tsp ground cinnamon

maple syrup, extra, for serving

Soak the oats for at least one hour, then drain and place in a saucepan.

Preheat oven to 180C. 

Place the almonds and the water in a food processor and process for a couple of minutes. Drain the almond milk into a bowl through a sieve lined with a muslin and squeeze out all the liquid. You can use the left-over almond meal in baking or have it with your breakfast porridge. Pour the almond milk into the saucepan along with half a cup of water. Stir, bring to boil and leave to simmer for one hour or until almost all liquid has disappeared. Make sure to stir every now and then and keep an eye on it as it will boil over easily!

Place the pears in an oven proof dish, add maple syrup, treacle and cinnamon and stir well to combine. Place in the oven and bake for half an hour scooping the liquid on the pears and stirring every now and then.Once softened, remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly.

Once the porridge is done, take off the heat, add a pinch of salt and stir. Leave covered for 10 minutes. Serve the oats with the baked Corella pears and drizzle with the extra maple syrup.

Have a lovely new week!

February 27, 2011

Last weekend of summer - A day on the boat and thyme, pine nuts and feta muffins


It is the last weekend of summer here in Sydney! Saturday was beautiful so we decided to pack our picnic basket and bags and spend the day on the boat at Sydney's beautiful Pittwater. It was a stunning day and every time we go boating it feels like such a luxury. I love getting away from the city, away from all the traffic noise and masses of people. There is no better way to enjoy this beautiful city than on water and it really is the best way to relax and just get away from it all.

We usually take the boat a couple of hours drive away from the marina, anchor and enjoy lunch at a peaceful bay with no other sounds but the cicadas and the water. There was a gentle breeze and it wasn't too hot so we set up lunch, ate and had a good catch up with my partner's parents. I had prepared us a variation of this couscous salad to go along with savoury muffins of thyme, pine nuts and feta. Lunch on the boat is always the best part of the day!

These muffins are great picnic food. I would usually make this in a loaf form (and you could do that too, with the exactly same measurements), but individual portions worked better for this occasion. They are wholesome with rye flour, just enough salty with feta cheese and the pine nuts along with thyme give them extra boost of flavour.  

Thyme, pine nut and feta muffins
(Makes one loaf or 12 small muffins)

1 cup organic rye flour
3/4 cup organic white, unbleached spelt flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup pine nuts
few sprigs of fresh thyme
4 large free-range eggs
1/2 cup low fat milk
100g low fat feta cheese
3 tbsp pine nuts, extra

Preheat oven to 180C and prepare the muffin tins or a medium size loaf tin. Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl along with the pine nuts and the thyme leaves. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the eggs and the milk. Pour the egg mixture in with the dry ingredients and mix through. Finally crumble in the feta cheese and stir everything to combine. Spoon the batter into the prepared tins, sprinkle each muffin with extra pine nuts and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden and a tester comes out clean. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

We were back at the marina late at dusk - a little dazed from all the fresh air, but so happy and relaxed. Looking forward to the next time! Thank you again M & G!

February 25, 2011

Bitter almond tarts with sugar plums and honey ricotta

I simply cannot start my day without a proper breakfast. Often I have seasonal fruit or berries with organic yoghurt sprinkled with cinnamon and drizzled with maple syrup or raw honey. I love my morning exercise but sometimes, when I have the time, it is nice to have long, unrushed breakfasts reading the morning paper.


I came across these gorgeous tiny sugar plums at my local green grocer the other day and started thinking of ways to use them in a recipe. They are lovely and sweet, so they don't need much help, but quickly softened with a little cinnamon and raw honey really lifted them to a whole new level.

The bitter almond and hazelnut tart is a great alternative for your regular piece of toast or croissant. They are wholesome and gluten-free and the notes of bitter almond is just perfect pared with the sweet plums. If you can't find bitter almond extract, however, you can substitute with almond extract.


Topped with guilt-free smooth honey ricotta this is a luxurious breakfast, perfect to celebrate the beginning of the weekend!

Bitter almond tarts with sugar plums and honey ricotta
(Serves 2)

Bitter almond tarts

1 cup almond meal
1 cup hazelnut meal
1 large free-range egg
75 ml unsweetened apple sauce
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp bitter almond extract
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cinnamon and honey sugar plums

10 sugar plums, cut in half and stones removed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp raw honey
1 tbsp water

Honey ricotta

200g light smooth ricotta
1 tbsp raw honey

flaked almonds, toasted, to serve

For the bitter almond tarts, preheat oven to 170C. Combine the almond meal, hazelnut meal and baking soda in a bowl and stir well. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk the egg with the apple sauce, then add bitter almond extract and vanilla. Pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredients and stir well to combine. Pour the batter into a square tin (19cm) lined with baking paper. Bake for 15 minutes or until the tart feels firm to touch. Cool on a wire rack then cut into 4 squares.

Place the sugar plums in a small saucepan and add cinnamon and honey along with one tablespoon of water. Bring to boil and turn off the heat. Stir gently to cover the plums with the sauce then leave to cool completely.

Mix the honey and the ricotta and set aside.

To serve, scoop some sugar plums on the almond tart, top with honey ricotta and sprinkle with toasted almonds.

Have a lovely weekend!

February 23, 2011

Simple Things and Sweet Potato Tart

What do you do when you need to re-focus and de-clutter your mind and your body? Do you go on detox for a few days? Go for a run? Listen to music? Meditate? I'm sure we all have different ways of balancing our minds and bodies, but how often do we actually remember to do so? If you're like me and have a very active mind, it's often hard to completely close things off and de-stress. When I do notice the imbalance I need to surround myself with the simple things in life, look at them and realise their beauty and importance.

Today was one of those days: I found it hard to concentrate on anything, I was having back pain, I had things that 'needed to get done'. No doubt we all have those days, so you probably know what I'm talking about. I don't seem to do very well in the kitchen then either and I crave for simplicity and pure flavours: a fresh salad, completed with a piece of seasonal fruit or a cup of herbal tea. That is all. 

I would love to hear what you think, what do you do when you feel like re-focusing and de-stressing? 

Sweet potato tart with rosemary and feta


1 cup brown rice flour
1/2 cup plain gluten-free flour
1/2 cup quinoa flour
pinch of salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup cold water


500g sweet potato, thinly sliced
2 large free-range eggs
150ml milk
freshly ground black pepper
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
100g feta cheese

To make the base, combine all ingredients in a bowl and knead lightly to combine. Scoop out the dough on a tart tin (25cm) brushed with oil. Using your fingers, smooth the dough evenly on to the bottom and the edges of the tin. Refrigerate for 20 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 170C. Blind-bake the base for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven and top with sweet potato slices. Whisk the eggs lightly with some milk and pour onto the sweet potato. Season with black pepper and scatter with rosemary. Return to the oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the tart from the oven and crumple with feta cheese. Continue to bake for 10-15 minutes. Cool on a wire rack before cutting.

February 22, 2011

Market Days and Quinoa Peach Cake

It is always a highlight of the week for me when I get to go to the farmers' markets. There is a different kind of atmosphere: people are out early, catching up by a cup of coffee, having breakfast and buying some incredible produce form the local farmers and the talented artisans. Although I fully understand the convenience of supermarkets, there is just something so 'right' about buying groceries from the farmers' markets. It gives you a good feeling and a clean conscience when you know you are helping the small entrepreneurs.

When I visit the markets I am always on the look out for seasonal produce, fresh loaf of bread, fresh flowers and some special treats such as good olive oil, vinegars, organic nuts and dried fruit.

Now, I have to warn you, this quinoa peach cake is not for the faint hearted. It is not too sweet, but it is very moist and has some definite notes of quinoa. I love using almond or hazelnut meal in cakes and you may have noticed I prefer using alternative flours rather than plain wheat flour. This cake was, however, a perfect little treat after a morning of shopping at the markets and a perfect way to celebrate seasonal produce!

Quinoa Peach Cake

3 large, free-range eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup organic, fat-free yoghurt
1/2 cup organic, unsweetened apple sauce
1 tsp natural vanilla extract
2 tsp gluten-free baking powder
100 g organic quinoa flour
50 g almond meal
50 g hazelnut meal
3 peaches, cut into thin wedges
icing sugar, to serve

Preheat oven to 180C and prepare a 23 cm round cake tin. Using electric beaters, whisk the eggs and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add yoghurt, apple sauce and vanilla and stir to combine. Mix the baking powder into the flour and sift the flour into the egg mixture. Fold to combine. Lastly, fold in almond meal, hazelnut meal and the peaches. Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for 30-40 minutes or until a tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Leave to cool on a wire rack and serve warm dusted with icing sugar.

February 21, 2011

Paradise Pear & Kamut Couscous Salad

Living in Australia means I have access to some of the amazing tropical fruit this country has to offer. Back in Finland I could only dream of the fresh in-season mangoes, papayas or passion fruit and some of the fruit and vegetables I've had here in Australia I had never even heard of before moving here. I still find it exciting when I see ingredients I've never tried or tasted before and it's especially fascinating when they sound something so exotic as "paradise pears". How could I possibly resist anything with such a name?

It turns out these tiny pears make a great salad and pared with kamut couscous it's not only tasty, but also full of right nutrients. I'm in love with different types of couscous. I'm sorry to say this but after spoiling myself with ferro and kamut, I can't even dream of going back to plain old couscous! Seasoned with ground cinnamon,  and orange zest and mixed with toasted pecans and organic mission figs, this salad is a clear winner to me. What a perfect start for the week!

Paradise Pear & Kamut Couscous Salad
(Serves 2-4)

2 tbsp olive oil
200 g kamut couscous
250 ml boiling water
1 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of sea salt
zest of one orange
juice of 1/4 orange
9-10 paradise pears, cut in thin wedges
small handful of organic mission figs, quartered
1/2 cup pecans, chopped and toasted
1 tsp ground sumac
fresh mint and orange wedges, to serve

Place the olive oil, kamut couscous, cinnamon and pinch of salt in a bowl and stir. Pour the boiling water on top, cover with cling wrap and leave for three minutes. Then, using a fork, fluff the couscous to separate the grains. Add the orange zest and juice, paradise pears, figs, pecans and sumac. Mix everything to combine and serve with fresh mint and orange wedges.

February 20, 2011

Chestnut Cakes

Sunday morning baking, can you think of anything better?

I hope you've all had a wonderful weekend so far. I felt like baking something for afternoon tea today and these tasty chestnut cakes are a perfect little treat for that occasion. Chestnuts remind me of winter, but since we are still in the midst of summer here in Sydney, I've used tinned chestnuts. They are just perfect for making cakes like these ones.

Chestnut Cakes
(Makes 5 big individual cakes or 10-12 small ones)

4 large free-range eggs
50g icing sugar
300g chestnut puree
100g almond meal
1 tsp baking powder
icing sugar, extra, for serving

Preheat oven to 180C and prepare 5 cake tins. Using electric beater, beat the eggs until light and fluffy, add the icing sugar and chestnut puree and continue to beat for a further minute or two. Fold in baking powder and almond meal. Pour into prepared tins and bake for 20-30 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack then dust with icing sugar to serve.

Happy Sunday everyone!

February 18, 2011

Quinoa Seed Bread

I can't believe it's Friday again! On the other hand the weeks can't go fast enough, but on the other hand the weekends come around so fast. Have you noticed this too? I'm really looking forward to a couple of days off though!

I made this quinoa seed bread earlier this week and I was quite excited about how it turned out. I always have a variety of seeds in my pantry and I love sprinkling them on salads, breakfast porridge and other dishes. I also love seedy breads and I was desperately craving one the other day so decided to make my own version of it. This is such a simple loaf to make and if you haven't tried quinoa flour yet then now is the time! It's high in protein and adds a lovely nutty flavour to breads and cakes. I've used kinako (soy bean flour) to add to the nuttiness and it also gives this loaf a beautiful scent. Satisfaction guaranteed! :-)

Quinoa Seed Bread

1 cup organic quinoa flour
1 cup organic white, unbleached spelt flour
2 tbsp kinako (soy bean flour)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
pinch of salt
1/4 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp white sesame seeds
1 tbsp black sesame seeds
4 large free-range eggs
1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 180C and prepare a medium size loaf tin. Mix the dry ingredients together, then in a separate bowl, whisk the eggs with the milk. Add the egg mixture into the dry ingredients and fold well to combine. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for about 30 minutes or until a tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Have a beautiful day!

February 17, 2011

Long melon and almond soup with lemon and mint

Now here's an ingredient I've never tried cooking with before: long melon (also known as fuzzy melon). I believe it is widely used in Asian cuisines, but when I picked one up at the markets I hadn't any idea what to do with it. A salad, perhaps? What I was really feeling like was a refreshing, healthy and good-doing soup, so I came up with this lemony and minty version which, quite frankly, was exactly what I was hoping for.

I used almond meal to give the soup a thicker and wholesome feel and it's perfect for the mild long melon. Lemon and fresh ginger add freshness and tanginess to this soup and fresh mint (lots of it) completes the dish. I recommend you have this chilled with lots of lemon and fresh mint. It is truly refreshing and purifying!

Long melon and almond soup with lemon and mint
(Serve 2-4)

1 long melon, about 500g, peeled and chopped into chunks
250ml water
2 tbsp almond meal
1 thick slice organic lemon + 2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp lemon zest, finely grated
small knob fresh ginger, grated
small bunch fresh mint + more for pureeing 
pinch of salt

Place all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to boil. Simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the melon has softened. Let cool slightly then puree with some fresh mint. Leave to cool completely or chill in the fridge. Serve with fresh mint and extra lemon juice, if desired.

Recharge, Refresh, Renew

February 16, 2011

Pear and Semolina Pudding

As with figs and stone fruit, I always get excited about the new season pears. Seeing pears appear in the markets is the first reminder that the summer is coming to a close and it's time to start thinking of autumn recipes. I may be taking a false start as the temperatures are still in their high twenties, but I can't help but prepare myself for the new season.

This pear and semolina pudding reminds me of Åland's pancake which has always been a favourite of mine. Semolina gives the dish a soft texture and pear is such a perfect fruit to use for this dessert. Flavoured with cinnamon and cardamom this is certainly a promise of the cooler season!

Pear and semolina pudding
(Serves 2)

250ml milk
25g semolina

2 large free-range eggs
1 heaped tbsp brown sugar
250ml milk
60g white, unbleached spelt flour
1 tsp natural vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1 pear, cut in half

brown sugar, extra for serving
cinnamon, extra for serving

Start by making the semolina porridge: heat the milk in a saucepan to almost boil. Add the semolina whisking continuously to avoid lumps to form. Bring to boil and keep stirring well every now and then to avoid burning. Simmer for 7-10 minutes, then remove from heat and leave to cool. 

Preheat oven to 200C and grease two large (single-serve) ramekins. Using electric beaters beat the eggs and the sugar until light and fluffy. Add the milk, flour, cooled semolina porridge, vanilla and spices and fold well to combine. Pour into the ramekins (no more than 3/4 full).

Bake the puddings for 10 minutes, then remove from the oven and top with pear halves. Continue to bake for 30 minutes covering the ramekins with baking paper if necessary. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack. Sprinkle with brown sugar and cinnamon.
Indulge and enjoy!

February 15, 2011

Grilled Peaches and Haloumi Salad

There is something about the combination of fruit and cheese that I just can't resist. Think of figs and goat cheese, quince paste on a cheese platter, pear and blue cheese, cherries and feta... they all seem to compliment each other so perfectly. This simple grilled peaches and haloumi salad is celebrating summer and of what is officially left of it here in Sydney.


I go crazy for the stone fruit when they hit the markets, and love snacking on them as they are or occasionally making a salad like this one. Haloumi is a long time favourite of mine and I can't resist myself buying some every now and then. Lets celebrate the seasons!

Grilled Peaches and Haloumi Salad
(Serves 2)

2 peaches, cut in half and stones removed
1 tbsp olive oil
200g fat-reduced haloumi cheese, cut into slices
handful of rocket
few sprigs of lemon thyme
2 tbsp pomegranate balsamic
3 tbsp pine nuts, toasted

Heat a grill pan on high. Brush the peaches with a little olive oil and place cut side down on the grill. Leave on the grill for a few minutes, but be careful not to burn them! Grill the haloumi slices on both sides until just soft. Arrange the rocket on a platter, scatter with slices of the grilled peaches and haloumi. Sprinkle with lemon thyme and toasted pine nuts and finish off by a generous drizzle of pomegranate balsamic. Serve as a light meal.

Enjoy the flavours of the season!