Planning to eat

Ok, I’m a little bit food obsessed. But I’m speaking to a sympathetic crowd, right?

There are so many wonderfully delicious morsels of food that I have not yet had the opportunity to put in my mouth, and so few meal times left in which to do it. I mean, I might only have another 40 or 50 thousand good meals left in me.

There’s not a moment to spare! I can’t afford to waste a single day on crap, ‘it’s just a source of energy’ food. And that’s the REAL reason why I plan our weekly dinner menu with military precision. I pretend it’s so that we can write a shopping list and don’t waste either any time or any food. But we all know that’s just a ruse.

Although, to be fair, if we don’t have a weekly meal plan, 2 things happen.

  1. Mr Eleanor and I go the supermarket and wander endlessly up and down the aisles picking up random shit
  2. Each evening we assemble in the kitchen to prepare dinner and the conversation goes along the line of:

‘What do you want to eat?’
‘I don’t know, what do you want?’
‘I don’t know, what do you want?’
‘I don’t know, what do you want?’

Ad infinitum

And then we have cheese on toast.

cheese on toast

I once heard a statistic that said British families recycle the same 7 dinners over and over again, week in, week out. I can understand how for busy families that might happen, but I think I might lose my mind. And/or develop some type of malnutrition disease.

I like to think that we eat with variety and always eat something we’ve never had before, but that’s not to say that we don’t have a few rules.

  • Pilates night pasta
  • At least a couple of veggie/fish options for me
  • A night out or take away
  • Slow cook Sunday

So this week’s menu looks like this:

Monday: smoked trout* and courgette pesto / beef ragu pasta
Tuesday: hoki and scallop tacos with pineapple pepper salsa and chipotle slaw
Wednesday: grilled polenta with roasted ratatouille, fried egg and feta
Thursday: eating out
Friday: spicy pulled pork buns with pineapple slaw FRIDAY BONUS: elderflower martini
Saturday: lahmacun  and plenty of beer
Sunday: pomegranate and z’atar roasted chicken with cauli and quinoa cous cous, and tzatziki

I am looking forward to eating this week!

 

 

*Purchased at the weekend from Buxton Trout  – freakin’ delicious, wish I had bought some more.

Sugar-free, fat-free, fun-free cake?

Oh, goddamit, I’ve got to stop baking – I’m going to develop diabetes at this rate.

But on the other hand, if there was a cake that was low fat and low sugar, that would be ok, wouldn’t it? To be honest, I’m not really asking your permission 🙂

I was doing a little research for my writing (alright, alright, I was procrastinating and surfing the internet, dreaming up things to eat) and bumped into this Maltese recipe from SBS which contains NO ADDED SUGAR OR FAT OR EGGS!

No sugar, fat or eggs? Blergh, I hear you say, but you’d be wrong.

sugarless apricot and date cake

You can find the recipe here:

SBS: Sugarless apricot and date cake

The texture was surprisingly good – I expected it to be crumbly but it wasn’t. It was soft and moist and sweet, and everything a cake should be. As a bonus it is completely dairy free and vegan, and could easily be adapted for gluten free.

Tips from TheO
  • Soak the fruit in a little apple juice for an hour before you bake to keep it moist
  • Switch out the wheat flour for a wheat/gluten free option – I used wholemeal spelt, but perhaps this is taking the concept of healthy cake a step too far
  • If you’re not using SRF, add 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • Although the recipe didn’t say so, I assumed the oven temperature should be 180°C
  • Adapt the cooking time for your tin – I didn’t have a ring tin so used a loaf tin which took 50 minutes to cook
  • Mr Eleanor found the apricot flavour a little too strong so I might try using dried mixed fruit next time, and a bit of cinnamon.

Try it, you might like it.

Cauliflower and scallop pasta with hazelnut pangrattato

I’m gettin’ all Masterchef on yo asses!

Ok, I’ll stop.

For Melbourne summer’s absolutely last, promise this time, really last hurrah, Mr Eleanor and I went down to Cape Woolamai on Philip Island.

Cape Woolamai beach

On the way back we picked up some seafood. A kilo of the stuff. All for meeeeeeee! Woop!

Pasta photos are tough going, especially when it’s dark. I assure you this is tastier than it looks.

cauli scallop pasta

Pasta in a creamed cauliflower sauce with roasted florets, scallops and crispy hazelnut, lemon zest and garlic pangrattato

But you don’t have to take my word for it, try it for yourself – here’s the recipe

Sugar: to tax or not to tax, that is the question

Despite the example set by raft of countries worldwide, the apparent support of the public and calls from Jamie Oliver no less, there was no announcement on a sugar tax in Tuesday’s budget.

SMH

I am entirely ambivalent on the issue. The more I think about it, the more undecided I become. Whilst I can see there is an obesity crisis in which sugar no doubt plays a part, I can’t help think this game would be better played if the government were not to beat the population with a financial stick, but rather lead it with a carrot. Literally.

Isn’t this is issue about education?

I think I would like to be able to buy food at the price the producer and retailer set, without interference by the government, deciding for myself how much sugar I consume based on what I understand it will do to my body.

But on the other hand, I don’t have a couple of calorie-crazed kids at my heel, screaming ‘Mummy, I’m hungry, can I have chocolate/sweets/lemonade’ and the numbers speak for themselves:

tax saves lives

So perhaps I should shut the fuck up.

Fakin’ filo

On a wheat-free diet there are now very few foods which are just totally irreplaceable. There’s always some means, some kind of flour that will just about pass for whatever cooking need you have. The foods that we’ve been unable to imitate are the ones which rely heavily on the structure that wheat gluten provides.

The one that stands out for me is filo pastry.

Spanokopita …. baklava … samosas … chicken pastilla … strudel …. and any number of food combinations, sweet or savoury, wrapped into a filo cigar. Crispy, buttery goodness. Godammit. I miss filo.

But have you heard of Mountain Bread? It’s an Aussie flatbread, not unlike a sheet of cooked filo. Sort of. Obviously they don’t have quite the pliable nature of uncooked filo – since I found out that there is an entirely spelt* version of the product, that is not going to stop me!

filo veggie tart

Spelt ‘filo’ cheese and vegetable tart

Sometimes you’re gonna spring a leak but as long as you’re careful, it works – here’s how I did it. I’ve also made chicken and mushroom parcels, fruit mince cigars, and a spectactular pear and berry frangipane strudel. Samosas next.

Happy baking!

 

*(I realise this doesn’t help out coeliacs, and for that I am sorry – perhaps one day Mountain Bread will perfect a gluten free formula.)

The biscuit tin needs a refill

I’ve really enjoyed having a tin of homemade Anzac biscuits winking at me from the kitchen this week. As a kid, my mum always had some freshly made delights waiting for us when we got home from school but as I didn’t drink tea or coffee until I was over 30 (I know! And I call myself British!) I never got into the whole ‘tea and biscuits’ scene.

Cake’s good, but there’s something rewarding about the crisp snap of a biscuit, or the way it yields to the warmth of a cuppa.biscotti

So I thought I might make some crisp, versatile biscotti. These are another type of biscuit that were made to travel. Traditional recipes do not call for any butter or oil, thus they are

  • naturally lactose free
  • low fat
  • keep for weeks

If you wanna make them a little more decadent, dip one end in dark chocolate and almond nibs.

There seem to be several techniques to make them, but Paul Hollywood’s method is a cinch – no processor or arm power required, and Martha Stewart’s uses polenta (cornmeal) – and as always I’m drawn to recipes that use ingredients other than wheat.

So this recipe is a combination of the two. Next time I might reduce the amount of sugar, and switch out for some almond meal. And there will be a next time!

Food for thought

What the hell are we doing? No, seriously, really what the fuck are we playing at?

There are so many things us humans are doing – to each other, to the planet and to its other inhabitants – that are so very wrong/immoral/cruel/selfish/just pure evil, I can’t bear to watch the news for fear of hearing what suffering we’ve inflicted today.

If you think that, as a single person, there’s nothing you can do to make the world a better place, you’re wrong.

You make informed decisions, and you do as much as YOU can – then the world is already a better place.

This is one person’s contribution to making us all better human beings by thinking about what we eat, and the implications of where it comes from, which made my heart warm a little:

food for thought vanessa kimbell
It’s just a bit of a shame (and more than a little ironic) that it’s not available as an ebook. However, you can use Look Inside to read the introduction (which is thought-provoking in itself) and if you press the Kindle tab at the top of the page, you can tell the publisher you’d like to read this as an ebook – that’s my contribution for this morning 🙂

Pea and avo pasta with fennel

This might be my new pasta obsession – I always have to have one on the go. I would cheerfully lick the blades of the food processor to get at the smears of sauce hiding from my persistent spatula.

pea and avo pasta with fennel

Pasta with pea, avocado and goats cheese sauce, with caramelised fennel and Parmesan and almonds

The avocado sauce so smooth and has a really good bite of raw garlic; the caramelised fennel gives a great sweet balance to it, with the Parmesan providing the salty umami flavour.

This is easily adapted for all sorts of food intolerance without losing much:

  • GF – use GF pasta
  • LF – use lactose free cream instead of goats
  • Vegetarian – use a vegetarian hard cheese instead of Parmesan
  • Vegan – omit cheese
  • Nut free – omit almonds

I’m REALLY glad I outgrew my childhood avocado allergy though!

If you wanna make it, the recipe’s here.

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What? They’re delicious AND vegan?

Anzac Day is nearly upon again: Australia’s equivalent to the British Remembrance Sunday to honour all those who have served.

Whilst Easter has Creme Eggs and Christmas has, well, all the food under the sun, Anzac Day is commemorated with the consumption of the Anzac biscuits. These sweet oaty biscuits do not, and never will, contain eggs – this was because of the scarcity of eggs during the war, and it also prolonged their shelf life. It also makes them incredibly easy to adapt to vegan.

Wikipedia tells me that Anzac is a protected term and, unless I abide strictly by the original recipe, I can’t call mine Anzac biscuits (never cookie!). I only read this AFTER I had gone buggering about with the ingredients. So here are my Anzac-style biscuits, adapted from the original for the inclusion and enjoyment of all.

anzac style biscuits

ingredients

  • 75g coconut oil*
  • 1/2 cup coconut sugar*
  • 1 tbsp golden syrup
  • 1/2 cup each rolled oats, desiccated coconut and flour (I used wholemeal spelt)
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • a dash of water

*NB I have used coconut products here only to enhance the flavour and not because of any particular beliefs about the superpowers of coconut – after all, oil is oil and sugar is sugar.

method

  1. Put the oven on to 180°C and line a large baking sheet with baking paper
  2. Put a small pan on a low-medium heat, melt together the oil, sugar and syrup. Once the oil has melted, cook for 1-2 mins then set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the oats, dessicated coconut and flour
  4. Add the bicarbonate and water to the syrup mix, stir and then pour over the oats**
  5. Mix to combine then form 12 golf sized balls, lay them on the baking sheet and give them a little press to flatten and bake for 10-12 minutes until they are golden and firm – allow to cool on a wire
  6. Don’t use your pilates class as an excuse to eat two whilst they are still warm

**Should you not be afraid that the Minister of Veterans’ Affairs will find out, you could add a quarter cup of raisins and 1 tbsp raw cacao powder here. Maybe even some cinnamon. I’m not saying you should, just that you could.

How long you cook them will depend how soft or crisp you like your biscuit – traditionally they are crisp which I think works best for this method. If you’re going to go buggering about with the traditional recipe as well, then changing the syrup could provide you with a texture or flavour more to your liking:

  • maple syrup – more crisp
  • honey – more soft
  • treacle (molasses) – deep, dark flavour