Hot Nights: Cool Dinners with hummus and lamb

It’s been hot here. Real hot. Our outdoor thermometer has often read in the high 30’s and into the 40’s for the past month (for those working on Fahrenheit, 40 degrees Celsius is 104 degrees) with a few days of blessed respite. By the time it’s dinner I just haven’t felt like cooking, much less sitting down to a hot meal and outdoor BBQ’s are still not fun. Thankfully, we’ve had a few great meals up our sleeve which are table, toddler and fun friendly.

I’ve adapted this dish from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Hummus Kawarma which is in his incredible book Jerusalem. This book is one of my favourites and while they’re not always applicable to weeknight dinners (see this post) the flavours speak for themselves.

My take on Yotam Ottolenghi’s Hummus Kawarma

Ingredients

To marinate:

  • 300gr Lamb backstrap (last night I also used veal scotch fillet with success)
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • good pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 tsp za-atar
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
  • 1 tsp salt

To serve:

  • A simple mix of chopped tomato and cucumber
  • Hummus
  • Flatbreads

Method:

  1. Chop lamb into small strips and set aside
  2. Mix all ingredients and marinate for at least half an hour in the fridge (I tend to do this around lunch time)
  3. About 30 min before it’s time to cook get your lamb out of the fridge so it’s not as cold before you cook it
  4. Bring together all your ingredients to serve and make sure they’re ready
  5. When the table’s set turn the stove on a medium high heat, put oil in a heavy frypan and cook your lamb (with all the ingredients it’s been marinating in) for about 4 minutes, stirring while it cooks
  6. Transfer the lamb to a separate bowl and with all the ingredients on the table each person serve themselves what they want: It’s very much a sharing dish and finger food fun.

Edible, Cookable Play Dough : Wholemeal spiced cookies

It’s school holidays here. It doesn’t affect our little family much except for one thing, the parks are SO much more crowded. Big kids having a wonderful play can be a bit daunting for Adventure Girl and Dash so we tend to avoid our usual haunts and either go to BIG open spaces to ride bikes, the beach, or make more fun at home. We’re making fun at home today with my version of play dough. The cookable, tasty kind that I can bring out at various times during the week for little hands to hold, roll, squish, shape and cut. We then bake them and have the most delicious snacks. The recipe I adapted these from calls for sugar, I leave this out entirely but do add maple syrup in replacement for molasses. Without the egg it’s edible in a raw form and could possibly be made with GF flour, although I haven’t tried this. I should though, Mr Incredible always comes home to a house smelling of cinnamon and ginger and feels quite left out that he can’t share in the treats!

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Wholemeal Spiced Cookies

Adapted from http://wholesomekids.com.au/spelt-and-chia-ginger-cookies-nut-freeegg-free/

Ingredients

  • 300g wholemeal flour
  • 150g butter
  • 50g maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds + 3tbsp water
  • 2tsp ground ginger
  • 2tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4tsp bicarb soda
  • pinch salt

Method

  1. Combine chia seeds and water in a small cup and let sit for 5 minutes to gel.
  2. While this is happening, in a food processor cream butter and maple syrup
  3. Combine all ingredients, including chia gel, in the food processor and mix well till a nice dough ball forms
  4. Cover dough a refrigerate for half an hour to make it easier to handle while rolling.
  5. Preheat oven to 180 degrees.
  6. Roll dough out to a thickness of roughly 4-5mm and cut desired shapes, transferring onto a baking paper lined tray.
  7. Cook in the oven for 12-15minutes, still should be slightly “cushiony” when ready, and will crisp up as they cool.

Cooking Notes

  • On occasion I’m so focused on cooking with the kids and forget to do step one separately and instead add the flour in the first step… don’t worry if you do this! It will still work out fine 🙂
  • The dough can be portioned out over a few days. Don’t feel like you need to use it all at once, just break off what you want to use for a moment of play and keep the rest chilled until the next day.
  • These are egg free, nut free and can be made to be gluten free.

Not a weeknight family dinner: Ottolenghi’s Beef Stew with pale ale, juniper and prunes

You know when things all come together in your pantry and fridge for a recipe you’ve heard of but never made? It’s brilliant. It’s seeing the brisket, the juniper berries, the beer and going… I think I’ve seen a recipe for this! Yesterday, when I purchased some beef brisket that had been “further reduced for quick sale” the inspiration came to make Ottolenghi’s Beef Stew with pale ale, juniper and prunes. Before I go any further, I’m a massive fan of this chef… I don’t think I’ve ever made anything of his that hasn’t had at least one person (usually everyone) exclaim with delight. It was enough, on a week that I’ve been struggling with a cold, to decide to make a meal that took 4 hours to cook… yup, you heard me right. Four hours. For a weeknight meal with just our little family of four eating it and leftovers for Mr Incredible’s lunches. Crazy right? Yeah. I hear you. When Adventure Girl refused to even taste it (in her defence she was super tired after a huge day and not having a nap) I was rather miffed. However, Mr Incredible loved it and there’s a big part of me hoping for work colleagues to be very jealous of his lunch today.

When I come to a meal like this I have to ask myself, “was it worth it?”. The truthful answer is no. It wasn’t worth it for last night’s dinner. However, should I have some people around one night it’s definitely on my repeat dinners list. For us as a family though, I should have used that brisket for something else or put it in the freezer for another night. Should you be unfamiliar with Ottolenghi please make yourself acquainted with his recipes! I’ll share more of them in weeks to come as the seasons change but his use of ingredients has changed my cooking dramatically, and, as stated above given delight to many of my friends and family.

Beef Stew with pale ale, juniper and prunes by Yotam Ottolenghi

Ingredients

  • 1 tsp juniper berries
  • ½ tsp black peppercorns
  • 4 tsp Flaky sea salt (if I were making this again I’d cut this down to 2-3 as I found the dish slightly  too salty for my taste)
  • 900g beef brisket, cut into 2 pieces
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 500g baby shallots, peeled and left whole
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 5g picked thyme leaves
  • 500ml pale ale
  • 2 tbsp date syrup (40g)
  • 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • 600g small waxy potatoes (desiree or charlotte), peeled and cut into 3cm chunks
  • 10 large pitted prunes (about 100g-worth)
    (finely grated zest of ½ lemon 80g soured cream, to serve: I didn’t use these but did serve with yogurt and a cauliflower and cashew mash)

Method

  1. Put the juniper berries and peppercorns in a spice grinder with four (3) teaspoons of salt. Blitz well, then put in a medium-sized bowl, add the two pieces of brisket and, using your hands, mix well until the beef is well coated, then set aside for an hour.
  2. Heat the oven to 160C/320F/gas mark 2½. On a medium-high flame, heat a tablespoon of oil in a 26cm-wide casserole or ovenproof saute pan for which you have a lid, then add the brisket pieces and fry for two to three minutes, turning them over halfway, so they brown on both sides, then lift out the beef on to a plate.
  3. Turn down the heat under the pan to medium and add another tablespoon of oil. Once hot, add the whole shallots and fry for five minutes, stirring frequently, until golden-brown, then add the garlic and thyme, and fry for another minute, just to soften. Stir in the ale, date syrup and mustard, return the brisket to the pot and bring to a boil. Pop on the lid, transfer the casserole to the oven and roast for two hours.
  4. After two hours, turn over the brisket pieces, stir in the potatoes and prunes, cover again and return to the oven for another hour, until the brisket is very tender, the potatoes are cooked and the sauce is thick. Take the pot out of the oven and leave the meat to rest for at least 10 minutes.
  5. To serve, cut each piece of meat into four to six chunks (or even shred it into smaller pieces), then divide the stew between four or six shallow bowls. Sprinkle lemon zest on top and serve with a spoonful of soured cream alongside.

Notes:

  • I served this with a cauliflower and cashew mash along with some plain yogurt
  • As noted, I’d decrease the salt in the beef rub as the whole dish was too salty for me (as Heston Blumenthal notes, salt is essential for bringing out the flavour of the dish but as soon as you can taste the salt, you have too much salt!)
  • I have seen a recipe for this adapted for a slow cooker… I might be interested to try that sometime but my previous slow cooker attempts never quite get the sauce right – it’s never reduced enough and the whole dish is compromised – any tips? Please!

Gluten Free Breakfasts on the go: Nigella’s Breakfast Bars

Mr Incredible, while being incredible in many ways is NOT incredibly good at getting out the door quickly in the morning.Since he was diagnosed as being allergic to wheat, this daily process has become harder. In my search to find an easy breakfast for him I chanced on this breakfast bar recipe by Nigella Lawson and I’m glad to say he loves it. Personally, I love it as it’s easily adaptable for whatever ingredients you have on hand – you don’t need to stick to Nigella’s recipe. Below, I’ve adapted it but you can see her original recipe here. I’m sure there’s a healthier alternative to condensed milk that you could use to bind this, but, as Mr Incredible likes it the way it is I’m not messing with what works (this time)!

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Breakfast Bars

Adapted from Nigella Lawson

Ingredients

  • 1 can (395mL) condensed milk
  • 250 grams rolled oats (not instant)
  • 425 grams of mixed dry ingredients (I use a blend of almonds, cashews, shredded coconut, chia seeds, sultanas, pepitas (pumpkin seeds), sunflower seeds and walnuts).

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 130 deg Celsius and line a roasting tray with baking paper
  2. Warm the condensed milk in a saucepan on the stove
  3. While that’s happening, mix all the dry ingredients
  4. When the condensed milk is thinner, pour it over the dry ingredients and mix (with your hands or a fork)
  5. Spread the mix into your prepared tray and press down with a spatula (or your hands)
  6. Bake for 1 hour and cut into 16 bars (4 cuts in each direction) and store in an airtight tin

Market Day Inspiration: Carrot and Cashew Dip

Each week we visit our amazing local markets. I buy most of our fruit and veg from one of the stalls, and while it’s not organic it’s all chemical free produce. The best thing is that, along with being affordable, it tastes like food should. Carrots taste richer and sweeter, apples are amazing and quite frankly, we’ve never eaten as many mushrooms in our lives. When food is seasonal, picked very recently and sold by the grower (so you can ask questions about how best to cook, store and utilise it) it is at its best.

Last week, I wandered by one of the other stalls and found “juicing carrots” for $2/kilo… not bad for organic carrots that were perfectly edible but just a little odd looking. I bought them for juicing but decided to try something different as Dash’s vegetable intake has recently left much to be desired. As we all eat the same food in our household (except for Mr Incredible’s wheat free) I don’t cook anything special for the kids… Adventure Girl knows she won’t get dessert (yogurt or a gold kiwi-fruit which she loves) if she doesn’t eat all her food but Dash is a lot more choosy as well as being younger – he still gets dessert regardless!  With this in mind I created the following dip, which, I am pleased to report Dash devoured for afternoon tea AND dinner, along with roast pumpkin bites and cauliflower mash with some marinated chicken.

IMG_6304.JPGCarrot and Cashew Dip

An original recipe

Ingredients

  • 4 carrots
  • A handful of cashews
  • A pinch of salt
  • A pinch of cumin
  • A Tbsp Olive Oil

Method

  1. Cut and steam carrots until soft (but don’t over cook)
  2. Blend all ingredients
  3. If too soft add more cashews and if too thick add cooking water or olive oil.

 

Outstanding Orange Cake: Gluten and Dairy free

I love simplicity in ingredients. Those recipes you look at and they immediately give comfort and warmth by the ease of making and the delicious outcomes. This is one of those cakes. What makes it better is that it’s the perfect gluten and dairy free “event” cake that you can stack. I make it for all sorts of reasons: A friend’s 70th birthday where a GF Celebration cake was needed – Double layered and slathered in ganache with a fancy cake topper (as pictured) – outstanding; a meeting where GF food is needed; and the reason for today’s incarnation, a childhood friend’s funeral. Her mother tasted this cake at a meeting I made it for, promptly asked for the recipe and has made it 3 times since. One of those times she shared it with her daughter whose funeral is tomorrow. Today I made it in honour of both of them, the daughter for memories of being able to enjoy good food, the mother in hope that this “soul food” which she enjoys might be something she feels like eating on what must be one of the worst days of her life. It looks a lot less fancy today, cut up on a paper plate ready for the morning-tea… but I trust it will do the job.

Flourless Orange Cake

From Cooking Under the Influence: Food to Drink to  by Ben Canaider and Greg Duncan Powell

Ingredients:

  • 2 Oranges
  • 250gr Almond Meal
  • 250gr Castor Sugar
  • 6 Eggs
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder

Method

  1. Simmer the oranges for 1.5 hours until they’re soft (this can be done in advance)
  2. Heat the oven to 180 degrees C.
  3. Beat the sugar and eggs together until they’re pale and thick
  4. In a food processor blend the almond meal, cooked oranges (remove pips and cut in half) and baking powder
  5. Fold the almond and orange mix into the egg and sugar mixture
  6. pour into a 23cm cake tin (lined in making paper/greased) and cook for an hour.

Notes:

  • To make this really special you could drizzle an orange syrup over it
  • I personally, if not making it for someone who’s dairy free, love to ice it in a dark chocolate ganache.

 

 

 

Oatcakes : better than rice crackers any day

In our search to cut more wheat out of our lives (while the kids and I can eat it fine, it’s less to buy if we all eat the same thing. And no, I haven’t decided if I want to read Grain Brain!). Sadly, rice crackers have become an all too familiar trade off in our household as we’ve compromised a wheat free diet with accessible snacks. Thankfully, I discovered how easy oatcakes are to make and how delicious they can be, especially when you include the satisfying crunch of seeds in the mixture. As an added bonus, they’re super easy to make and quite fun for the kids to help with… there’s no egg in the dough/batter so sneaky munching of the raw ingredients by Adventure Girl and Dash is ok.

Oatcakes.jpgI’ve been  a fan of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall ever since my mother and I watched The River Cottage on telly before he/it became famous (i.e the late ’90s!). I loved the idea of a smallholding that, with the help of neighbours and surrounding people, can be self-sufficient… I guess it’s community-sufficiency. Grow what you can, swap/sell what you have too much of and all help each other out. A romantic ideal that grabbed me from a young age and still does. Within his book, River Cottage Everyday, this recipe, along with many other gems, is found… true confession though… when Mr Incredible went to eat them today there was only one left! The rest may have been consumed by me even though I really did make them for him 🙂

BILL’S RONA OATCAKES

Ingredients

  • 300gr Oats : 150gr blended to oatmeal and 150gr blended to porridge oats (or 150r of each)
  • 1/2 tsp sea/Himalayan salt
  • A few twists of freshly ground pepper
  • A small handful of seeds (I like pumpkin or sunflower)
  • 75mL extra virgin olive oil
  • 150mL boiling water

Method

  1. Heat oven to 180 degrees C
  2. Mix all the dried ingredients together in a bowl and make a well in the centre
  3. Pour the oil in the well and stir
  4. Pour in the water to bind it into a firm dough
  5. Work the dough quickly and if too watery add more oatmeal
  6. Shape the dough into a ball and rest it for a couple of minutes
  7. Roll out the dough on a non-stick surface until about 5mm thick.
  8. Cut into rounds and place onto a baking tray
  9. Combine and work the remaining dough to roll it out again and repeat the process until all the dough is gone. Try not to work the dough too much though as the more you handle it the crumblier it will become
  10. Bake for 20min and then turn the cakes over and bake for another 10 minutes.
  11. Leave to cool on a wire rack and enjoy! (I love to eat these with cheese and pickles)

Cooking notes

  • The oatcakes will keep for a week in an airtight container.