May 30, 2011

Pumpkin with pepitas and egg

Sometimes the best meals are really a result of  some improvisation and unexpectedness. Take these pumpkins, for instance. Here I thought I was well and truly done with pumpkin recipes for this season, but when I came across some irresistibly cute pumpkins at my local farmer's markets I just couldn't resist getting some. Now I have some five kilos of pumpkin to use up. I think I might just have to cook and purée some of it and stack in the freezer for later use. 

I'm so glad I did end up getting those pumpkins, as this dish is certainly one of my favourite ways to use them. This certainly is the simplest of meals to prepare, but then again, often those are the tastiest and the most satisfying as well. I love the combination of textures and flavours in this dish - the pan fried pumpkin holds it shape and has a bit of a bite to it, and the crunchy nutty seeds and the softness of the egg all complement each other perfectly.

 Pumpkin with pepitas and egg
(serves 2-4)

400g pumpkin, cut up in small cubes
1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves picked
1 tablespoon olive oil
pinch of salt
1/4 cup pepitas, toasted
2 free-range eggs, hard boiled

 1. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a medium sized frying pan. Add the rosemary and the cubed pumpkin and cook until the pumpkin is just tender, but holding its shape. You can add some water (a tablespoon or two) on to the pan if it looks like the pumpkin is starting to burn. Season with a pinch of salt and place on a large platter.

2. Toast the pepitas on a dry frying pan until crispy. Be careful not to let them burn.

3. Peel the hard-boiled eggs and grate them with a medium or fine grater. 

4. Sprinkle the pepitas on top the pumpkin and finish the dish off with the grated eggs. Serve immediately.

May 29, 2011

Black rice and purple carrot salad

Remember the black rice salad I made a few weeks a go? Well I'm on it again and this time I'm pairing it with another super-food - purple carrots. I am often attracted to ingredients because of their distinctive colour and these gorgeous carrots are no exception.  Not only beautiful, they are packed with nutrients and have a sweet flavour. 

I've made this a real super food salad by adding in pomegranate seeds, pumpkin seed oil, fresh herbs and lime juice. You can easily adapt the additional ingredients (like the herbs) to whatever you happen to have in hand or in your garden. Served with peppery greens this makes a lovely vegetarian meal on its own.

Black rice and purple carrot salad 
(Serves 2)

1 cup non-glutinous black rice
grated zest of 1 lime
juice of 1/2 lime
1 tablespoon brown rice vinegar
1 teaspoon tamari
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon pumpkin seed oil
3 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
5 small purple carrots, coarsely grated
1/2 pomegranate, seeds
2 shallot greens/spring onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh coriander, finely chopped
peppery greens, to serve

1. Cook the black rice in boiling water until soft (30 minutes). Drain and place in a large bowl.

2. Add in all ingredients and toss well to combine. Serve with peppery greens (rocket, mizuna, etc.)

May 27, 2011

Leek, broccoli and pea soup

I can't tell you how much joy my little green patch has brought to me this week. Every morning, the first thing, I've walk to the window and peak through the curtains to see how my herbs and plants are doing. They've survived a tough week of strong autumn winds and rain, with a little sunshine in between and I feel so proud and happy for this. 

I've celebrated my new kitchen garden with the best way possible - every day, whilst cooking, I've walked to the balcony to pick fresh herbs for my salads and soups and the herbs will hopefully thank me for this as they do enjoy their daily water and picking. I do realise, however, that herbs don't generally have a long life span so I'm prepared to replace in a few weeks time. I am also already planning what seeds to sow in a couple of month's time when we will be enjoying longer days and more sunshine again.

Today I also received other great news! We had our oven replaced into a brand new, fan forced ILVE gas oven and after two weeks of not being able to bake anything, I am really looking forward to giving the new oven a go.  Today, however, it was this soup that I was craving and my bright red French casserole full of good-doing soup was as welcoming as my little green patch outside.

Leek, broccoli and pea soup
(serves 4-6)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 big leeks, rinsed and sliced
1 green garlic, sliced
1 medium sized broccoli, florets and stalk, chopped
400g frozen peas
1 litre organic vegetable stock*
small handful of mixed fresh herbs (oregano, parsley, marjoram) 
freshly ground black pepper
(pinch of salt)
100 g soft ricotta, for serving
2 tablespoons lemon juice, for serving

*Use more stock if you want the soup to be thinner.

1.Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the leeks and the garlic and cook for a few minutes.

2. Add the broccoli, peas and the vegetable stock. Bring to boil and let simmer until all vegetables are soft (20 minutes). Add the fresh herbs and season the soup with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Purée the soup in a blender and serve with soft ricotta flavoured with some lemon juice.

May 26, 2011

Mizuna, persimmon and pomegranate salad with orange dressing

The other night, when I had already finished cleaning up in the kitchen after dinner, something made me stop what I was doing and just take a good look around. I felt so content looking at the beautifully green avocados from my partner's parents' garden, a bunch of vibrantly red parrot tulips in a simple glass vase and the bright orange persimmons I had bought from a farm we visited recently. As I switched off the kitchen light I had a smile on my face just thinking of all the recipes I could use those persimmons for.

The following morning I picked up a bunch of mizuna greens from the farmer's markets. I love it's mustardy flavour and I thought it would go so well with the persimmons, the oranges and the pomegranate I also happened to have at hand. This is such a simple salad, but the fresh ingredients and the lovely combination of flavours makes it a perfect dish to serve at any occasion.

Mizuna, persimmon and pomegranate salad

1 bunch mizuna greens, washed and shredded
2 persimmons, thinly sliced 
small handful cashew nuts, toasted
1/2 pomegranate, seeds

:: orange dressing ::

1 orange, juice and zest
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons fruity extra-virgin olive oil
pinch of salt

1. Scatter the mizuna, persimmons and the cashew nuts on a platter. Sprinkle over the pomegranate seeds. 

2. Mix all dressing ingredients together in a small bowl. Drizzle the dressing evenly on the salad. Serve immediately.  

May 24, 2011

Balcony makeover

Those of you who follow me on Twitter might've noticed how much I've been anticipating to get a makeover on my balcony. The wait is finally over and I am so happy to be able to share some photos of the new balcony with you! I am still putting in a few finishing touches and once these are in I will post more photos and give you a bit more detail on what we've actually done. 

Thank you so much Chris and Brent for making this happen!

 Here's my balcony before... Sad little thing.

And this is my balcony after the make-over! I am over the moon!

More details and photos to follow!

May 23, 2011

Buckwheat and spelt pancakes with chai poached pear and cardamom sauce

Hi friends! 

How did your weekend go? It was a beautiful weather here in Sydney and it's days like these when I feel so happy and fortunate to live in this stunning city. We walked down to the harbour, bought lunch from a near by cafe and sat on the grass to enjoy the views. People were out and about - families with children at the amusement park, artists lined up with their paintings of the famous Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House and people gathered around picnic blankets to spend the day with friends and family. What a perfect setting.

For some reason, making pancakes for a weekend breakfast always makes it seem a bit more special. Whether it is the little effort of standing next to the stove flipping the pancakes or enjoying a breakfast that is not your every day treat, they are always as welcoming and warming. What made these pancakes really something different, however, was the chai poached pear and cardamom sauce. Pears are in season now and when they are perfectly ripe I  love having them on their own, poached, in puddings or cakes or in a sauce like this one.


 Buckwheat and spelt pancakes with chai poached pear and cardamom sauce
(serves 2)

::Buckwheat and spelt pancakes::
 (makes 6 small pancakes)

300ml brown rice milk
50g buckwheat flour
60g whole spelt flour
1 free-range egg
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon olive oil + extra for frying

::Chai poached pear and cardamom sauce::

2-3 bags Chai tea
1 litre recently boiled water
2 ripe pears, peeled

1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon manuka honey

1. Whisk the egg, salt and a tablespoon of oil with the brown rice milk (or milk of your choice). Sieve in the flour and whisk to make a smooth batter. Let sit for 30 minutes.

2. In a small saucepan, soak the tea bags in the recently boiled (hot, but not boiling) water. Let sit for 2-3 minutes, then add the pears. Soak the pears, covered, for 20 minutes.

3. Heat a teaspoon of oil in a small frying pan. Pour in some batter (approximately one sixth) and cook for 2-3 minutes on each side or until golden. Continue with the rest of the batter.

4. Remove the pears from the poaching liquid. Core and half the pears and place them in to a food processor. Add in vanilla, cardamom and honey and process until smooth. Add in a tablespoon or two of the poaching tea if the sauce seems too thick. 

5. Serve the pancakes warm with the pear and cardamom sauce.

May 22, 2011

Layered Meyer lemon yoghurt dessert

There is something so irresistible in citrus desserts. Alongside with berries, they are my favourite choice for a sweet treat. Knowing this, you probably understand how excited I was when during one of my recent visits to the countryside I was given a big bag full of gorgeously yellow Meyer lemons - picked straight from the tree.

Meyer lemons are sweeter than other lemon varieties and they have a thinner skin with a rounded fruit. The skin is smooth and vibrantly yellow and can be used in a variety of sweet and savoury dishes. I am a real lemon lover and can eat them on their own or as a hot drink with water and a big dollop of manuka honey. Filled with vitamin C, lemons are also great for alkalising your body.

I got this dessert idea when I was watching Jamie's 30-minute meals the other day. I'm a huge fan of Jamie, as I'm sure many of you are as well. I think what he's been doing in the world of food, especially with kids and school lunches, is just something so inspirational. I also think his food philosophy and approach to cooking is very down to earth and sensible and makes him easy to love and admire.

This dessert is easy to adapt to a gluten-free or dairy-free diet. You could use rolled rice or coconut flakes and replace the yoghurt with silken tofu or dairy-free yoghurt. You could even use oranges instead of Meyer lemons and sweeten the yoghurt with maple syrup or raw honey. This had a perfect sweetness for my taste and it was a delicious treat on a lazy Saturday afternoon.

Layered Meyer lemon yoghurt dessert
(serves 2)


1/4 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup rolled spelt
2 tablespoons flaked almonds
1 tablespoon raw cacao nibs
1 tablespoon raw natural vanilla sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

5 pitted dates
1 tablespoon extra-virgin coconut oil

::Meyer lemon yoghurt::

500g natural, pot-set, yoghurt
zest of 2 Meyer lemons, grated
juice of 1/4 Meyer lemon
1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Manuka honey

grated zest of 1/2 Meyer lemon, extra, for serving
fresh mint, for serving

1. Place the yoghurt in a sieve lined with muslin, placed on top of a bowl, and leave to drain for 1-2 hours.

2. Place the rolled oats, spelt, almonds, cacao nibs, vanilla sugar and cinnamon in a large frying pan and toast for a few minutes or until browned. (Be careful not to burn it!)

3. Pour the mixture into a  bowl of a food processor and ground until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. Add the dates and the coconut oil and continue to ground until the mixture starts to come together. Spoon the mixture into serving glasses or jars and flatten the bottom. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

4. Flavour the drained yoghurt with the zest and the juice of Meyer lemons (or oranges), vanilla and honey. Spoon the mixture on top of the chilled bases (which should have hardened in the fridge). Serve with extra grated lemon zest and fresh mint.

May 20, 2011

Frying pan bread with roasted capsicum and pumpkin spread

Could you easily live without some of the daily, modern-day necessities? Say, go camping with no electricity or running water, or leaving your phone home for the day. Do you get anxious, uncomfortable and irritated or do you take the opportunity to enjoy a break from it all? 
As much as I'd like to say I enjoy a break, I must admit I don't enjoy when it happens unexpectedly. I don't mind going to a place where there is no phone reception, but it does take me a while to stop checking my phone. I can live without running water or electricity if I can prepare myself for this beforehand. But when something breaks down and cannot be fixed, say, on the same day, I do get anxious.

I am, of course, talking about my oven. The oven that suddenly, on the night of the Friday 13th, broke down. Thankfully the stove top is still working, but not being able to bake for a whole week has certainly tested my patience. I was able to get the oven going again so that I could roast some veggies, but it wouldn't cope with any baking. The bad news is that this is most likely going to continue for another week! Thus, I will have to come up with alternative recipes. This frying pan bread is one of them and served with roasted capsicum and pumpkin spread it is the best comfort food until I get my oven back.

 Skillet pan bread with roasted capsicum and pumpkin spread
 (makes 6 small breads)

::Roasted capsicum and pumpkin spread:: 

1 red capsicum/pepper
300g pumpkin (kabocha), peeled and cubed

8 tablespoons (or about 1/2 cup) sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon pumpkin seed oil
a good pinch of salt
freshly ground black pepper
juice of 1/2 lime (or lemon)

::Frying pan bread::

1/2 litre brown rice milk
280g buckwheat flour*
240g besan flour
70g brown rice flour
70g potato starch
a good pinch of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon treacle (dark syrup)
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
buckwheat flour, extra, for baking**
Notes to the recipe

* I made my own buckwheat flour simply by pulverising raw buckwheat in a food processor. It's ok if the flour is not completely smooth, slight grittiness works well for this recipe. 

** You could add sesame seeds or poppy seeds in the dough or on top of the bread when frying. There is no need to use any oil in this recipe.

*** Be patient when frying the breads. The dough is very sticky, but a sticky dough results in softer bread so try to avoid incorporating too much extra flour. Although perhaps not convenient, switching the gas off (or removing the pan off the heat) whilst spreading the next portion on the pan makes it easier to handle.

1. Roast the capsicum in a very hot oven or on a gas flame until blackened. Peel of the skin and remove the seeds. Set aside.

2. Place the peeled and cubed pumpkin in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to boil and let simmer until soft. Drain and set aside.

3. Place the capsicum and the pumpkin in a food processor. Add the sunflower seeds, pumpkin seed oil, salt, pepper and lime juice and puree until chunky. Set aside.

4. Mix all the bread ingredients in a large bowl until well combined. To make the first bread, using flour-dusted fingers, gently spread a big dollop (or divide the dough into 6 equal portions) of dough onto a small (19cm) frying pan. Try to be gentle and use the tips of your fingers to push the dough evenly onto the pan. Turn on the heat and dry-fry for 2-3 minutes. Flip the bread over and continue to fry on the other side until golden and firm to touch. Continue with the rest of the dough. Cover the breads with a clean tea towel until ready to serve. ***

5. Serve the bread warm with the roasted capsicum and pumpkin spread.

May 19, 2011

Orange flavoured roasted pumpkin with lentils

Simple roasted pumpkin flavoured with good olive oil, coarse sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and fresh rosemary is one of the best dishes I can think of. I think pumpkins look beautiful as they are and back in Finland I used to decorate my window sills and dinner tables with the mini pumpkins I was able to get there. Pumpkin is such a versatile ingredient too - just think of all the soups, casseroles, vegetable roasts, cakes or cookies you can make. The list is endless.

I was inspired to come up with yet another pumpkin recipe after seeing all the gorgeous pumpkins in a private garden the other week. I was amazed how big they can grow, how they have a different shape depending on whether they've been grown flat in the ground or hanging from a fence and how beautiful they looked being just harvested in their natural environment.

I have a theory that ingredients that are in season at the same time go naturally pretty well together. This may of course not apply to absolutely everything, but you're pretty safe combining fresh, seasonal ingredients for a tasty meal. Thus, I was not hesitant to use orange peel and juice to flavour the roasted pumpkin and served with a simple lentil salad this combination makes for the most satisfactory autumn dish.  

Orange flavoured roasted pumpkin with lentils
(serves 2-4)

1/4 Kabocha/Japanese pumpkin, cut into wedges
zest of one orange, peeled whole or finely grated
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1-2 tablespoons good olive oil
coarse sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

1 cup French style lentils, rinsed

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 celery stick, diced
3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme
juice of 1/2 orange
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
pinch of salt

baby spinach, for serving
goat cheese, for serving

1. Preheat the oven to 200C and line a baking tray with baking paper.

2. Place the pumpkin wedges on the baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle over the fresh rosemary and arrange the orange peel on the wedges. Bake for about 20-30 minutes or until just tender. Set aside.

3. In the meanwhile, place the lentils in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to boil and let simmer for about 20 minutes or until tender.

4. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan or a frying pan. Sauté the red onion and celery for a few minutes, season with a pinch of salt and fresh thyme.

5. Combine the red onion and the celery with the lentils and season with orange juice and apple cider vinegar.

6. Serve the pumpkin with the lentils, baby spinach and crumbled goat cheese. Drizzle with more orange juice if preferred.

May 18, 2011

Sweet quince chutney with poor man's orange

Lately I've been spoilt with almost weekly visits to the countryside and I'm becoming addicted to buying  fresh produce from the farms or, even better - picking my own fruit and vegetables. On my last trip I was fortunate to visit a beautiful private garden with big citrus trees, a sublime veggie patch and even a pistachio tree! I was given a big bag full of vibrantly yellow Meyer lemons (which are still waiting to be used) and something I had never seen or even heard of before - a poor man's orange.

Turns out this fruit, which is also known as the New Zealand grapefruit is very high in pectin and thus perfect for making jams and marmalades. It looks like a grapefruit and has a similar taste to a grapefruit, but has a high amount of seeds (thus, the pectin). I decided to use the juice of the fruit to make this sweet chutney. I still had a couple of quinces to use so I chopped them up and boiled them with the juice until really soft. Seeing that I've only used a couple of tablespoons of honey along with a tablespoon of natural vanilla sugar you can hardly call this a 'jam', so I thought sweet chutney is more accurate. We enjoyed it at breakfast with oatmeal, but you could easily pair it with cheese and crackers, or have it with some creamy yoghurt or good vanilla bean ice cream. 

Sweet quince chutney with poorman's orange

2 ripe quinces, chopped into chunks
1 poorman's orange (or grapefruit)
2 tablespoons manuka honey
1 tablespoon natural, raw vanilla sugar

1. Place all ingredient in a large saucepan. Bring to boil. Turn down the heat and let simmer for about 40-60 minutes or until fully cooked and very soft. Add some water during the cooking if needed.

2. Gently mash the quince if necessary and serve with porridge, cheese, yoghurt or good vanilla bean ice cream.

May 16, 2011

A day at the National Park - Sydney scenery and wildlife

I thought I'd share a few photos with you from last Friday when my partner and I spent the day at the Ku-ring-gai National Park less than an hour's drive from where we live. It was a beautiful, sunny autumn's day and since we rarely get a chance to have a day off like this, we decided to spend time outdoors and do some light trekking and enjoying the nature and the scenery.

Sydney is surrounded by gorgeous beaches and large green areas and it is not hard to see why I fell in love with this city in the first place. On a sunny day like this one, Sydney is really showing off its best assets and the scenery takes my breath away every time. I think in Sydney you get a perfect balance of the city and the country. The countryside is a mere hour's drive away - you can visit farms, national parks and really get away from all the hustle and bustle of the city-life. On the other hand, Sydney also has all the benefits of a big city - museums, restaurants, speciality shops, and so on.

We were so lucky to be able to see so much wildlife on our day out. I always think it's a good sign to see the native flora and fauna  so close to a big city and surely as we entered the national park we saw swamp wallabies, one of them with a little joey in her pouch, kookaburras and even a young diamond python. It was so fascinating to see all these wild animals roaming free in their natural inhabitant.

I couldn't stop taking photos of the scenery and the animals. I took some video too which I've uploaded on VIMEO - so please go and have a look if you want to see more! In the mean time, I'm already planning my next mini-trip :-)

May 15, 2011

Kale with mushroom and kale pesto

I love my quiet Sunday mornings in the kitchen. After my morning exercise I often bake something for us to enjoy later in the day. Most Sunday mornings I feel peaceful and serene, knowing that I have a whole day to spend catching up on things and spending time with my partner. This is the perfect time to make something that I'd normally find fiddly or time-consuming. This dish is neither, but it made me happy to work with such beautiful ingredients.

I am always inspired by the beautiful produce I see at the farmer's markets or the green grocer. When I picked up two huge bunches of kale leaves from the green grocer the other day I had no idea what I'd make of them, but I knew they looked so pretty I couldn't leave them behind. The gorgeous purple pared with the snow white leaves looked just so inspiring. I wanted to make something that would celebrate this gorgeous vegetable and that wouldn't require hours in the kitchen. These cute little leaves filled with kale and mushroom pesto would make a perfect party snack or an appetiser and once again the recipe is easy to adapt to your own liking. Fresh herbs are a must, however, but you could use different mushrooms like shiitake or Swiss brown and use pine nuts instead of sunflower seeds.

Kale with mushroom and kale pesto

purple and white kale, one bunch each, leaves picked and washed

Mushroom and kale pesto

1 tablespoon good olive oil
small handful of mixed fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage)
1 clove garlic, finely sliced
10 cup mushrooms, sliced
pinch of salt (I use Pink Himalayan)
freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
juice of 1/4 Meyer lemon 
130g bigger kale leaves
1/2 Meyer lemon, to serve

1. Pick the small inner leaves off the kale - wash and set aside.

2. Cut the stems off the bigger leaves and place in a steamer. Steam for about one minute. Remove from the steamer and set aside.

3. Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a small frying pan. Add the garlic, herbs and mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Sauté until the mushrooms are just softened, 2-3 minutes.

4. Place the steamed kale leaves along with the mushroom and herb mixture (with any left-over oil in the pan) into a food processor. Add the sunflower seeds and squeeze in the lemon juice (use the zest too if you want more flavour). Blitz until coarsely chopped, not too fine.

5. Serve the small kale leaves with the pesto and extra wedges of lemon.