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Silverbeet Frittata

Five serves of vegetables a day doesn’t seem like that much. I love vegetables and eat lots of them. But it’s amazing how easy it is to miss a day or two. Lunch at a work meeting,  nice rolls with turkey and cranberry, but really only a bit of lettuce you could count as a vegetable. Late home for dinner, make a quick pasta with a vegetarian tomato based sauce but really only a couple of serves of vegetables in it.

This takes me literally less than 10 minutes to make, and half of that time I can multi-task, it is really delicious, low fat, high protein, low GI, and there’s two serves of vegetables straight up. And one of them is silver beet, which is coming right into season now – I’m starting to pick it in bulk in my garden.. Women specially can use all the iron and folic acid they can get into their diet, and feel so good for it. And I think this might be a good way to get kids interested in silverbeet.

The Breakfast Challenge??)

The Recipe:

(Serves two adults for breakfast)

Into the food processor put:

  • two big silver beet leaves stripped from their stems
  • a spring onion, greens and all
  • a big sprig of parsley stripped from the stem
  • a small sweet pepper, or about a quarter of a standard sized capsicum
  • 4 cherry tomatoes
  • a heaped dessertspoon of low fat cottage cheese
  • a slice of low fat tasty cheese or parmesan
  • 2 large eggs or 3 of the little eggs my bantam crosses lay
  • salt and pepper

Put a teaspoon of butter on to melt in a heavy based frypan.

Whiz the ingredients in the processor for just a few seconds, use a plastic spatula to scrape down and whiz again. The idea is to avoid blending it too much, just chopping the ingredients together.

Pour the lot into the pan, turn the heat down to very low, put a lid on, and try to avoid peeking more than is necessary. Cook for around 5 minutes until the top is just set.  The trick here is to have the heat low enough and the lid on enough so that it sets without the bottom burning.

Meanwhile you can make coffee and toast to go with it.

Cut the frittata into quarters. It should be set enough so that you can flip one quarter on top of another. (If it breaks up, doesn’t matter, just won’t “plate up” Masterchef style!) Turn the heat off and leave it for a minute – the residual heat will make sure the middle (which was the top) sets – I really don’t like unset eggs.

A slice of sourdough toast on the side, and you’re set up for the day.

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I know so many people who don’t eat nuts because their only real experiences with them have been a) shelled nuts, usually highly salted, in packets, that have been sitting around supermarket shelves for ages, or b) nuts in shell at Christmas time.

Both these option are perfect ways to spoil nuts for you forever!  Nuts go off.  Once they are shelled, they go off fast, and even in the shell, they don’t last for months.  Most nuts are harvested in autumn.  Macas are harvested through winter. Any nuts in shell at Christmas are either imported or most of a year old and are not going to be at all nice!

Once you get the idea of only using fresh, in season nuts, preferably in shell, you’ll have a totally different experience with them.  Which is a good thing, because nuts are very delicious and very nutritious – good oils and a whole lot of minerals that are hard to get.   We’re getting to the end of our macadamias now, but the commercial picking season is just getting going, so you should be able to get fresh macas.

(The Breakfast Cereal Challenge is my 2011 challenge – a year’s worth of breakfast recipes 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 Recipe:

Ok, so this one takes more than 10 minutes to make.  (Actually, it doesn’t take much more than 10 minutes work, just that work is spread over 24 hours).  But I reckon it qualifies for the Breakfast Cereal Challenge because with a loaf in the bread bin, super healthy toast is 2 minutes away.

The basis for this is very much like my Everyday Sourdough recipe.  The fruit and nuts though inhibit the rising, and I like it best when it’s chokka with fruit and nuts.  So it takes time – 24 hours.  And it does best if you have somewhere warmish to put it.  The sourdough bugs breed up best in temperatures like a warm summer day, not this cold winter weather.

Step 1: Make a Sponge

Put one cup of sourdough starter in a bowl and stir in a cup of bakers flour.  (I use Laucke Wallaby Unbleached Bakers Flour, which I can buy in 5 kg bags at the supermarket).

Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and leave it in a warmish place overnight or for 8 hours or so. We have the slow combustion stove going these days, so my kitchen bench is reasonably warm place. By morning, it should have grown to more than double its original size and be a sticky sponge like the picture.

Step 2: Mix in the fruit and nuts

macadamia ad fruit sourdough mixI like largish chunks of lightly toasted macadamias in this bread.  So crack half a cup of macadamia kernels (this is the tool that makes cracking macas a reasonable proposition). Chop them coarsely and dry roast for just a couple of minutes in a dry pan, till they just start to colour.

Tip half a cup of bakers flour on your work surface.  Tip the sponge out on top on it.  Tip another half a cup of flour on top and flatten it out.  Over the sponge, spread:

  • Your ½ cup of coarsely chopped lightly toasted macas
  • 1 cup of mixed dried fruit. (I used chopped dates, sultanas and currants)
  • a teaspoon of salt
  • You can also add 1 teaspoon of grated orange rind and ½ teaspoon of mixed spice if you like.

Roll it up and knead briefly until it has incorporated all the flour and the nuts and fruit are mixed through.

Put a good swig of olive oil in a clean bowl and put the dough ball in it, swirling it around to coat.  Cover with the clean cloth again and leave it in your warmish spot again for 8 hours or so, until it is doubled in size.

Step 3 – Knock Down the Dough

Tip the dough onto the bench and knead very  briefly, just to knock it down and make it into a loaf shape.  Put it in an oiled baking tin. Because of all the fruit, a boule is a bit difficult – the outside will tend to burn before the inside is cooked.  A fairly long, shallow loaf is easier. I try to poke any sultanas on the outside in as they tend to burn, but this isn’t too crucial.  Slash the top with a sharp knife to give it room to rise. Cover with the clean cloth again and leave for 3 to 4 hours.

Step 4 – Bake

The bread will double its size again and it is ready to bake.  Because of all the fruit it will tend to burn easily.  If you are using a gas or electric oven, you can put it on the second shelf (that is, not right at the top) of  a cold oven and turn the oven on to medium.  With my wood stove oven, I leave the door open for half an hour to cool it down before putting the bread in.  It is done when the crust is nicely brown and it sounds hollow.

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For perfect poached eggs, you need very fresh eggs.  You can add vinegar to the water, get it swirling into a little whirlpool, do whatever you like, but you won’t get perfect poached eggs without very fresh eggs.  Fresh eggs cook in one little mound with the white all staying together and a yolk that is high and has a glaze of white over it.  The white sets while the yolk is still runny.  If your eggs are more than a couple of days old, boil or scramble them instead.  It just won’t do it.

From then on, it’s just a matter of a good sourdough toast to put it on (sorry, the infatuation with sourdough means serious contenders for the The Breakfast Cereal Challenge still have to go on top of sourdough). Then they just need a bed.

And we are harvesting the first of the season’s silver beet, which are the perfect bed for poached eggs. Silver beet is a superfood, very high in antioxidant beta carotene, which helps protect against all sorts of chronic diseases due to cell damage, including sun damaged skin.  It’s also a very good source of folic acid, which is good for the immune and nervous systems.  And it’s good for iron (specially if served with a good source of Vitamin C – hence some cherry tomatoes on the side) which helps red blood carry oxygen, which stops you feeling tired and run down.

And best of all, silver beet and white cheese like cottage cheese, ricotta or feta are just meant for each other.

The Breakfast Challenge??)

The Recipe:

Strip the silver beet leaves off the stalks and blanch for a couple of minutes in boiling water.  Drain very well, pressing down to squeeze out excess moisture.

Put them in a blender or food processor with a spoonful of white cheese and, unless you are using a salty cheese like feta, a pinch of salt.

Meanwhile, put some bread on to toast and break two very fresh eggs into a fry pan full of gently boiling plain water.  Put a lid on the pan and poach for a couple of minutes until the white is set.

Serve with chopped cherry tomatoes, both for the flavour and because the vitamin C helps your body absorb the iron from the silver beet.

Sally forth into the day feeling as invincible as Pop-eye!

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This is the May-June carrots.  They were planted as seed back in January.  We had these for lunch in a tofu, noodles and Asian greens stir fry, and they were yum.

This is the June – July carrots.  They were planted as seed back in February.  They’re pretty well right for now.

This is the July – August carrots. I have a dozen tubes of them ready to be planted out today. They were planted as seed back in March, so it is actually two months now since sowing.  Carrots are slow to start but they’ll take off now.  I shall dig a little hole and plant the group as one in it, bottomless tube and all.  Any excess fertilizing would just make them go all to leaf and no root, so they get no compost and I  prefer spots where a heavy nitrogen feeder like a leafy green has come out.

This is the August – September carrots.  They were planted as seed a month ago, last roots and perennials planting days. I shall move them to a sunnier part of the shadehouse today, so they get a bit more light so they don’t go leggy, but otherwise, they’re right for another month.

And this is the September – October carrots, planted today, companion planted with spring onions using my standard method.  If I had to plant them out today, I don’t know where I’d put them – the garden is too full, the bigger plants will out-compete them, one day of harsh sun as they germinate will kill them.  Planted like this in the shadehouse, I can keep them watered and weed free till July, by which time a lot of lettuces and cabbages will have been harvested to make room for them.

There’s very little actual work involved – I grabbed a bucket of creek sand on my way home last night and mixed it with some old compost to make the planting mix. The sowing takes minutes and the planting out only half an hour or so.  Of course it’s not quite that simple – there’s always seeds that don’t germinate,  mice that get them in the shadehouse, bandicoots that break into a garden bed, floods that drown them,  frizzle days that scorch them, and times when I get so busy that planting days just speed past.  But if I can keep the routine going, I can harvest a dozen or so carrots pretty well most weeks of the year.

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This was an accidental discovery. I had some friends coming for lunch and I had baked ricotta with salad in my mind.  But I’d forgotten that I’d used the ricotta.  Oops.

Lots of other lunch options of course, but you know when you have your mind set on something? I had some home-made Greek yoghurt in the fridge, and I thought perhaps I could make ricotta by lunch time?

Nope. I put 2 cups of the yoghurt in a strainer lined with cheesecloth over a bowl.  Two hours later I had something like labneh and it just seemed like that might work instead.

It was a lucky discovery – very easy and very delicious.

The Recipe:

Serves four for lunch.

This is quick and easy, but you need to start several hours ahead of time.

Mix

  • three cups of Greek yoghurt
  • a good pinch of salt
  • 3 teaspoons of grated lemon rind
  • juice of a large-ish lemon (150 ml)

Pour into a colander lined with cheesecloth over a bowl.  In this cool weather you can just cover with a cloth and leave it on the bench to drain – the yoghurt culture will protect it from any bad bugs. If it is hot find room for it in the fridge.

After a couple of hours, the bowl should have about a cup and a half of clear liquid and the cheesecloth about a cup and a half of thick, creamy spreadable curds.

Tip it into a bowl and mix in:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1½ cups of finely chopped fresh herbs.  I used spring onion greens, lemon thyme, basil, parsley, mint and nasturtium leaves.

Oil a tray of small muffin tins and spoon the mixure into the cups.  You should have enough for 8 small cups.

Bake in a medium oven for around 30 minutes until set and the top is golden.

Serve with a good sourdough bread toasted to spread it on and a green salad on the side.

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roast beetroot and macadamia dip

This is the second of my Halloween dips.  This one disappeared even faster than the pumpkin one, with the kids happily hoeing into beetroot.  I have beetroot in the garden and macas from our trees, and another batch in the oven right now, the second one since. I’ve developed a fetish for beetroot dip open sandwiches for lunch.

Beetroot is a super-superfood.  That deep red colour is a giveaway.  It is extremely rich in antioxidants, vitamins including folic acid, and a big range of minerals. And there’s even a few hints it might be good for fending off dementia, which, every so often, I swear I must be getting!

The Recipe:

Peel and chop 3 medium sized beetroot into bite sized chunks.

Oil a baking tray, and spread the beetroot on it with

  • 2 cloves of garlic (skin on)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seed

Bake in a medium oven for 20 minutes or so, until the beetroot is tender to a fork.

Spread ¼ cup of macadamias on another baking tray and roast them for around 10 minutes until they just start to brown.

Squeeze the garlic out of its skin and tip the lot into a food processor. Add 3 dessertspoons of lemon juice and a good pinch of salt.

Blend until it is finely chopped but not smooth, adding a little olive oil if necessary to get the texture right.

It’s better the next day, if you can  wait that long!

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This button squash has been so good to me this summer.  It has bourne and bourne, for about 5 months now, yielding kilos from just two plants. You will see its picture in all sorts of recipes. It has kept going when lots of other varieties of cucurbits have curled up their toes in the wet weather.

kangaroo stuffed summer squashThe plants came as seedlings, given to me by Johanna, extras that she wasn’t going to plant.  But she doesn’t remember the variety. They look to me like Sunburst, but who knows.

But such good genes, especially for a wet year. They may be a hybrid, or they may have crossed with something else in my garden, so they may not breed true, but it’s worth a go at giving those genes another generation.

It was hard to let it go to seed.  Constant picking keeps the plant producing. Once I had decided to leave a fruit to seed, that was the end for that plant.  I waited as long as I dared, then carefully labelled a good looking fruit so that I didn’t absent-mindedly pick it.

I kept watch on it to make sure it didn’t rot, and when it was fully mature and the plant was beginning to die back picked it.  I scooped out the seeds, washed them, and dried them on a tray in the shade for a couple of days.  On the third day, it was cold and wet, and rather than risk them going mouldy, I brought them in to sit on the kitchen bench and soak up the warm dry air from the wood stove for a day.

Today I’ve packaged them up.  Because it was such a grey, wet day, I had some fun making cute little origami purses for them with recycled pages from a magazine.  I will only plant a dozen at most next year, so I’ve kept two dozen seeds.  The rest I’ve packaged up to give away to friends, visitors, anyone who comes by and is willing to take a chance.

I’ve learned, if I lose a variety, the best insurance is a fellow gardener who has kept the gene line going.

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I have a bit of a family history of heart and vascular disease, so citrus season is a really good opportunity to change my risk level.  There’s some good science supporting the idea that the  bioflavinoids in citrus fruit strongly help prevent heart attacks, and there’s also  evidence that the pectin in the pulp in grapefruit is extra good.

And I quite like the bitterness of grapefruit.  I have a theory that bitter tastes are often acquired tastes, because bitter foods are usually either medicinal or poisonous.  So natural selection would favour tasters who were very tentative and cautious at first, but if there were no adverse effects, decided they really liked the flavour.

We’re just starting to pick pink grapefruit, and they’re sweet and juicy with just an edge of interesting marmelaide-y bitterness. But if grapefruit don’t do it for you, you might like to try the same idea with tangelos.

The Recipe:

Chop a grapefruit into quarters and peel.  Use a paring knife to remove the pith from the core – the white pith is the very bitter bit, and though it is very good for you, too much of it is overpowering.

Melt a teaspoon of butter in a pan.  Add

  • a teaspoon of honey
  • 2 dates, chopped
  • 6 macadamia nuts, roughly chopped. (Fresh macas in shell in season are a different thing to the stale old things you buy in packets. A macadamia cracker is a great piece of kitchen equipment.)
  • a big dessertspoon of rolled oats
  • a big teaspoon of sunflower seeds
  • half a teaspoon of vanilla essence

Break the grapefruit into its segments and add to the pan.  Gently cook for a few minutes, turning the grapefruit segments once and stirring gently, until the macas and the grapefruit just start to colour.

Scrape out into a bowl.  Put one grapefruit segment back and squash it to release the juice and deglaze the pan.

Serve warm topped with greek yoghurt.

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Pumpkin season.  Infinite number of pumpkin recipes required. This one has used up several of our pumpkins, and will use up several more before the season ends.

This is one of the dips I made for our Halloween progressive dinner (southern hemisphere Halloween, last weekend).  The kids got into it and made a very big dent in it before the adults even got a go.  Sadly I didn’t get any left over to bring home.  So I just had to make another batch for spreading on my lunch sandwiches.

(You could probably substitute cashews or almonds for the macadamias if you live outside maca growing country).

The Recipe:

Chop 500 grams of pumpkin into bite sized pieces and spread them on an oiled baking tray.

Add 3 cloves of garlic (skin on) and roast for 10 minutes or so  in a medium oven until the pumpkin is tender to a fork.

Spread ½ cup roughly chopped macadamias on another  baking tray, and roast for about the same time until they are just starting to brown.  (Best to do them on separate trays though, so you can avoid overcooking either part).

Tip into a food processor with

  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • scant ½ teaspoonground cumin
  • scant ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • good pinch of chili powder
  • good pinch of salt

Blend until chopped fine but not smooth – you want a bit of texture left in the nuts. Taste and adjust the chili, salt and lemon juice levels to your liking.

Best the next day, if you can wait that long.

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