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We picked the first of the season’s paw paws this morning (papaya in USA).  And Brian brought me a bucket of mulberries from their magnificent tree – the earliest around.  After months of citrus and custard apples, the berry season is here!

You don’t get to enjoy mulberries unless you have a tree (or know someone like Brian, or can find an unharvested neighbourhood tree) – one of the many fantastic foods that have never made it into our commercialised system only because they are too soft to transport and store.  Mulberries are  hugely healthy – most foods with that deep colour are rich sources of anti-oxidants, and mulberries are also a really good source of iron along with a batch of other vitamins and  minerals.

The best way to eat mulberries is to be ten years old and sitting up in the fork of the tree,  near naked to save clothes from stains, maybe with some other kids to chat with or maybe just with your thoughts, selecting the fattest purple berries to go directly from tree to mouth.  Failing that though, paw paw, strawberry, mulberry and citrus fruit salad is one of those made-in-heaven combinations.  With home made yoghurt and oat nut crumble….

Oat Nut Crumble

Get all the ingredients assembled before you start.  This cooks really quickly and is easy to burn.

Put a heavy bottomed fry pan on over a medium-high heat.

Add just 1 teaspoon honey and 1 teaspoon macadamia oil, then, as soon as they are warm and mixed,

  • 2 dessertspoons rolled oats
  • 3 dessertspoons seeds and nuts – I used one each of pepitas, sunflower seeds, and macadamias.

Cook, stirring, for a couple of minutes until they brown and the seeds start popping.

Best fresh made, and it only takes a minute.

(The Breakfast Cereal Challenge is my 2011 challenge – a year’s worth of breakfast recipes based on in-season ingredients, that are quick and easy enough to be a real option for weekdays, and that are preferable, in nutrition, ethics, and taste,  to the overpackaged, overpriced, mostly empty packets of junk food marketed as “cereal” .The Muesli Bar Challenge was my 2010 Challenge.)

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I picked the first of the peas this morning (late because the mice got so many of the early plantings)  and I have been waiting for them for just this recipe.   Super fast and easy, very low GI, very delicious.  Very fresh peas are so sweet, this is almost a sweet paste spread.  Besides all the usual legume nutrients, peas are rich in a phytonutrient called coumestrol, which is good for preventing osteoporosis along with several kinds of cancer, and lowering cholesterol at the same time.

(The Breakfast Cereal Challenge is my 2011 challenge – a year’s worth of breakfast recipes based on in-season ingredients, that are quick and easy enough to be a real option for weekdays, and that are preferable, in nutrition, ethics, and taste,  to the overpackaged, overpriced, mostly empty packets of junk food marketed as “cereal” .The Muesli Bar Challenge was my 2010 Challenge.)

The Recipe

For three laden slices of toast:

  • Pressure cook two-thirds of a cup of fresh, shelled peas in ¼ cup of water with a pinch of salt for just 3 minutes.  (Don’t go longer or the water will boil dry and they’ll burn).  If you don’t have a pressure cooker,  you can simmer the peas in a bit more water, in a pot with a tight fitting lid, for about 9 minutes.  You should end up with very soft peas and no water.
  • Blend the cooked peas with a teaspoon of olive oil and quite a lot of fresh mint – I use about 20 leaves.
  • Spread on good wholemeal toast and enjoy.

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I picked the first broad beans of the season this morning, and I cannot remember why I ever thought broad beans boring.  There was a time though, when I grew them just because they were so healthy and treated them as a filler.   Maybe I’ve just become a better cook? But we fought over the last piece of this sourdough toast with broad beans and herby labne this morning.

Broad beans are a super food.  They share all the good stuff in legumes in general –  low GI and good source of protein, fibre, several vitamins, potassium and iron. Their special claim to fame though is that they contain lots of l- dopa, a precursor to dopamine. There’s lots of research around about broad beans for Parkinson’s and some about broad beans for depression and anxiety, but at the least, they make you feel good.

(The Breakfast Cereal Challenge is my 2011 challenge – a year’s worth of breakfast recipes based on in-season ingredients, that are quick and easy enough to be a real option for weekdays, and that are preferable, in nutrition, ethics, and taste,  to the overpackaged, overpriced, mostly empty packets of junk food marketed as “cereal” .The Muesli Bar Challenge was my 2010 Challenge.)

The Recipe:

Makes enough for three slices of toast (which is why we fought over the third!)

It’s fastest in a pressure cooker, but a pot with a tight lid is fine.

Saute a small onion, diced, in a good swig of olive oil (don’t be stingy with the oil – there’s no fat anywhere else in the recipe.)

When the onion is starting to brown, add

  • two cloves of garlic, crushed,
  • half a cup of shelled broad beans,
  • half a cup of water,
  • a grinding of black pepper
  • and a good pinch of salt

Bring to pressure and pressure cook for just 4 minutes, or put the lid on and simmer for 10 minutes watching it at the end.

Squeeze in the juice of ¼ lemon and simmer for another couple of minutes to reduce till there is barely any liquid left. Taste and adjust salt and lemon juice to taste.

While the broad beans are cooking, blend together

  • ¼ cup labne, quark or fromage frais (or any kind of low fat yoghurt cheese)
  • a few leaves of chives
  • scant teaspoon fresh thyme
  • scant teaspoon lemon rind
  • pinch of salt

Spread the herby cream cheese spread on toast (I used my homemade megagrain sourdough) and then the broad beans on top.

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If you’ve been following the Breakfast Challenge series at all, you’ll know that “my current favourite” breakfast is usually only the current favourite for a few weeks.

Partly that’s because what is best, in taste and in health and in cost, is always based on the fruits and nuts and grains and vegetables that are in season.  And partly it’s because I get bored fast, and it’s too easy to avoid boring breakfasts even on very busy school and work days.

So this is unusual.

This is my current favourite breakfast for weeks now, one that I have been regularly going for several days in a row.  I like it for all the usual reasons – tasty, easy, fast, cheap – but not least because I can feel it doing my cholesterol good.  Besides oats and oat bran, which are full of a kind of soluble fibre that reduces cholesterol, they have macadamias, which work as well as the “clinically proven to lower cholesterol” fake food margarines  based on hydrogenated sterols that are being so aggressively marketed these days.

Really good for crazy busy mornings, because I can make a batch that lasts for a few days and grab a couple on my way out the door.

Sadly, it’s coming to the end of the macadamia season, so I’m making the most of it.

The Recipe:

Turn the oven on high to heat up.  You want a hot oven.

In a food processor, blend together:

  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • ½ cup oat bran
  • ½ cup plain raw macadamias (if possible, freshly cracked)
  • a teaspoon of grated lemon zest

Blend until it is a coarse meal, like breadcrumbs, then add

  • 2 dessertspoons of honey
  • 2 dessertspoons of macadamia or rice bran oil
  • 2 dessertspoons of lemon juice

Blend a bit more just to combine.

You should be able to squeeze the mixture together, with wet hands, into little balls about half the size of an egg. If you need to, add a tiny dash more of any of the liquid ingredients and blend again till they will hold together. Put the balls on a greased biscuit tray and flatten them with a fork.

Bake for around 6 to 8 minutes until they are golden.  Cool on the tray (they will crispen up as they cool).

They will keep for a few days in an airtight jar.

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It’s not fair.

My partner went to the doctor for a minor thing, and because he is a male of a certain age who almost never goes to the doctor, and because she is good and thorough, he came away with a blood test.

Which gave him a clean bill of health and very good cholesterol levels.

This week I had a blood test but (and he’s still gloating about it) mine came back with high cholesterol.  The good news is that it was high for both kinds, good and bad, and higher for the good than the bad.  But still, coming from a family with a history of heart disease, I’d rather it was lower.  Here’s hoping our kids inherited his cholesterol genes.

So I have a newfound enthusiasm for oats for breakfast.

Oats are a super food, full of a soluble fibre that lowers bad cholesterol and keeps blood sugar stable. They also have lots of  B vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. I use oats in bread and baking, but I’ve only had one porridge recipe in the Breakfast Challenge series because I find porridge a bit bland without lots of sweetener which undoes some of the benefits.

I actually like my oats better savory than sweet, and in a pressure cooker, steel cut oats will cook quickly enough to be a good option. Steel cut oats are whole oats just chopped a bit.  They look like this.  They are available in supermarkets and health food shops. This recipe looks more complicated than it is.  It comes together within about 15 multitasking minutes.

The Recipe:

(For a single serve – multipy by the number of people)

  • In a pressure cooker or saucepan, sauté half an onion, finely diced, in a little olive oil.
  • Add a bit of diced carrot and keep sautéing.
  • Use a garlic crusher or a grater to crush in a clove of garlic, a little knob of ginger and a little knob of fresh turmeric (or a pinch of turmeric powder).
  • Add a third of a cup of steel cut oats and two cups of water.
  • Put the lid on the pressure cooker. bring to pressure and cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Or put a lid on the saucepan and simmer for around 30 minutes.
  • While it is cooking, dice about two thirds of a cup of other vegetables.  I used peas, snow peas, and broccoli.
  • Release the pressure, stir, add the vegetables and a little dash of soy sauce, tamari or miso. Put the lid back on and cook for just a minute or so longer.
  • Serve into a bowl and add more soy to taste.

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This recipe is very similar to the 5 Minute Pressure Cooker Baked Custard featured in the Breakfast Cereal Challenge series back at the beginning of winter.  So it’s kinda nice to have the last of the winter recipes in the same vein.  A warm bowl of custard is the ultimate in comfort food, and with eggs, low fat milk, a small amount of sugar and anti-oxidant dark chocolate, it’s a healthy high protein low GI breakfast.

The recipe is super easy once you have sorted the right utensils to fit.  Besides a pressure cooker (which is one of my treasured kitchen tools) you need a ceramic bowl or cup per person, with a lid to fit.  I can fit 4 tea cups in my pressure cooker, with saucers from expresso coffee cups as lids  (The tea cup saucers won’t fit).

Ordinary tea cups are fine in my pressure cooker. If you are worried, you may need to do a test run with some cups or bowls that you won’t be upset to break.

The Recipe:

For a single serve.  Multiply by the number of cups you can fit in your pressure cooker.

Put the pressure cooker on with a cupful of water in it.

In a small saucepan, heat  2/3 cup milk (full cream or semi skim).

Break in one square of 70% dark chocolate and stir until it melts.

Meanwhile, blend together 1 egg and half to one teaspoon of treacle. It doesn’t need much sweetening – I like a scant half teaspoon, but if you are a sweet tooth you may like a little more.

With the blender going, add the chocolate milk.

There are two tricks to this.

  1. You need to blend before the egg starts to cook, so it needs to be quick.  I get the egg and treacle ready in the blending bowl while the milk is heating, pour in the milk, and blend.
  2. Ideally you want to create the least possible amount of froth so you have that silky texture right to the top.  I find with my stick blender, if I submerge the blender before I hit the trigger it does this nicely.

Pour the mix into your cups or bowls.  Cover with lids, and sit them in the little tray on top of the trivet in your pressure cooker.

Put the lid on, bring to pressure, turn down the heat so it is just burbling and cook for 5 minutes.  Then turn the heat off and let off the pressure slowly, ie, by releasing the pressure valve, not by running under cold water.

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I’m loving my gem iron.  I found it in an op shop, and it’s the perfect implement for breakfast baking because gems are so very fast.    This recipe takes just minutes to make – with a bit of practice you can probably have it on the breakfast table within less than 15 minutes. And gone within 20. If you can manage to make enough for leftovers, they go well in a lunch box.  If you can manage to make leftovers.

The Recipe:

Turn the oven on to  high and put the gem iron on the top shelf. It needs to be sizzling hot before you put the batter in.

For a dozen gems, mix together:

  • a generous ½ cup of  polenta
  • a generous ½ cup plain flour
  • good teaspoon of baking powder
  • good pinch salt

Whisk together

  • 1 large egg
  • a generous half cup of buttermilk (or substitute  plain low fat yoghurt mixed 50/50 with water)
  • a dessertspoon of olive oil

Mix the wet mix into the dry mix.  Just whisk them together – don’t overmix. You will end up with a  batter like muffin batter.

Take the hot gem iron out of the oven and put a tiny dob of butter in each hollow.  You only need a small teaspoonful altogether.  It will sizzle.  Tilt the iron to spread the melted butter.

Working quickly, spoon the batter into the hot gem iron, filling each hollow two thirds full.

Put a little cube of feta cheese in each gem, and spoon the rest of the batter in on top, so the cheese is in the middle. I made these with Danish feta, which semi-melted beautifully.

Put the tray back in the oven, near the top and up fairly high. Bake for around 6 minutes till the gems are risen, golden and set.

(The Breakfast Cereal Challenge is my 2011 challenge – to the overpackaged, overpriced, mostly empty packets of junk food marketed as “cereal”. I’m going for a year’s worth of breakfast recipes, based on in-season ingredients, quick and easy enough to be a real option for weekdays, and  preferable, in nutrition, ethics, and taste.  The Muesli Bar Challenge was my 2010 Challenge.)

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Rocket is rich in a whole range of phytochemicals,  including some that are protective against prostate, breast and ovarian cancers.  It’s also rich in folic acid, vitamins A, B, C and K, and a range of minerals including calcium.  But all that is largely irrelevant in the amounts you’d normally eat.  I mean, who puts more than one or two leaves in a sandwich?

Except if you make pesto.  Very very yummy.  Uses a decent amount of rocket. As good as basil pesto. Maybe even better. In pretty much the same range of recipes – on pasta, on a sandwich, and for breakfast on toast.

Especially on a day like today.  It’s a fruiting planting day – the first one of the year where I seriously dare to plant all the spring annuals.  So I’m going for a very quick breakfast so I can get out into the shadehouse for an hour or so.

The Recipe:

In the food processor, or with a stick blender, blend together:

  • a cup (packed) of fresh rocket
  • ¼ cup toasted macadamias (or cashews or pine nuts)
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese
  • one clove of garlic
  • pinch salt
  • half to one chili (or not)
  • enough olive oil to make a paste

That’s it.  If you are planning to keep any, put it in a jar and pour a little olive oil over the top to cover to keep the bright green colour.

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I found this gem iron in an op shop.  It took me several months and quite a few goes to learn how to use it, but now it is one of my favourite kitchen tools.  It’s a heavy cast iron baking tray for tiny little cake-scone-muffin bites called gems. It’s an old fashioned implement designed for the days when any self-respecting cook was expected to be able to whip up a batch of baking at a minute’s notice. Which makes gem irons due for a resurgence in these days when time poverty beats money poverty every day.

Once you get the hang of gem irons, this can be done in less than 20 minutes – 5 minutes preparation and 10 to 12 minutes cooking time – making it feasible to be a domestic goddess (or god) and bake on weekday mornings.

The Recipe:

Turn the oven on to medium high and put the gem iron on the top shelf. It needs to be sizzling hot before you put the batter in.

Use an egg beater to beat together

  • 1 egg
  • 3 dessertspoons of plain low fat yoghurt
  • 1 dessertspoon of honey
  • pinch cinnamon

Stir in

  • half a cup (4 good dessertspoons) of dried fruit, seeds and nuts.  I used pepitas, sunflower seeds, chopped macadamias and sultanas, but you could use dates, dried apple, almonds – whatever you have and is in season.
  • half a cup of rolled oats
  • 3 dessertspoons of wholemeal self-raising flour

You will end up with a thick batter. Like muffin batter, it is best not over-mixed.

Take the hot gem iron out of the oven and put a tiny dob of butter in each hollow.  You only need a small teaspoonful altogether.  It will sizzle.  Tilt the iron to spread the melted butter.

Working quickly, spoon the batter into the hot gem iron and put it back in the oven, near the top and up fairly high. Bake for around 10 minutes till the gems are almost cooked.

The Syrup

Meanwhile, in a small pot, melt a good dessertspoon of butter and a good dessertspoon of honey together. Working quickly, spoon a little syrup over each gem and put them back in the oven for another few minutes.

They’re best hot, straight from the oven, but if you make a double batch, you may even have leftovers for lunch boxes, making this double as a Muesli Bar Challenge recipe as will.

(The Breakfast Cereal Challenge is my 2011 challenge – to the overpackaged, overpriced, mostly empty packets of junk food marketed as “cereal”. I’m going for a year’s worth of breakfast recipes, based on in-season ingredients, quick and easy enough to be a real option for weekdays, and  preferable, in nutrition, ethics, andtaste.  The Muesli Bar Challenge was my 2010 Challenge.)

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