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I’m not sure what this is called. I tried to look it up – I’m sure there must be some traditional bread on this kind of recipe – it’s such an obvious Spring excesses recipe. I think Bulgarian Kolach uses these ideas but in a neater way!

What I have is a unbleached sourdough enriched with eggs and yoghurt, baked free form with poppy seeds on top. It’s crusty, rustic, moist and dense and toasts magnificently.  My everyday bread is much heavier wholegrain, but this made a wonderful Father’s Day breakfast under Lemony Mushrooms and Spinach with 2 Minute Hollandaise.

The Recipe:

Step One:

Put 1½ cups of fed sourdough starter in a bowl and leave, covered, on the benchtop for around 8 hours.

Step Two:

Then add:

  • 2 big dessertspoons of low fat Greek yoghurt
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1½ cups of baker’s flour

Tip more baker’s flour on the benchtop, and knead for just a few minutes to get a smooth, not sticky dough.

Put a swig of oil in a bowl, and swish the dough around in it to cover, and leave it to prove in a warmish spot for another 8 hours or so.

Step Three:

I figured the sourdough bugs would have enough to do rising the bread with eggs and yoghurt in it without salt as well, so I held the salt to add late.

Sprinkle a teaspoon of salt on the benchtop and tip the dough onto it.  Knead in the salt, adding flour as you need to to stop it becoming sticky (but if you make it too dry the poppy seeds won’t stick). Sprinkle a good dessertspoon of poppy seeds on the bench top and roll the dough ball in them till they are well stuck.

I just put the dough ball, seedy side up, on a pizza tray.  Because I didn’t slash the top, it developed the moonscape texture, but I quite like that. I brushed the top with a bit of milk to glaze.

Leave, covered, in a warmish place for another hour or so, until it is well risen, then put in a cold oven set to medium.

Bake for around 50 minutes till the crust is golden and it sounds hollow when knocked.

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I’ve been waiting for this Tuesday Night Vego Challenge moment. I made it this time last year intending to post the recipe, but I was never quite happy enough with it to post it. This time though, I’ve think I’ve nailed a satay sauce based on macadamias and with no coconut milk.  So much so that we’ve gone for it several days in a row. Canned coconut milk is not a local ingredient for me, and I avoid canned foods as much as I can, both because the resource costs of canning are silly, and because I don’t trust the BPA in can linings.  Macadamias though are local.  Peanuts would be too, but macas are easier for me to grow.

The sweet spot where all the ingredients line up in season together for me is late winter/early spring, when the macadamias are just finishing but the egg glut is just starting,  there are lots of sweet baby vegies perfect for steaming, and the weather starts to feel like salad days again.

This one has so many superfoods in it that I’m not even going to list them. And probably in a pretty perfect balance too.

The Recipe:

For two adult serves.

Part One: The Vegies

Part one is just a salad of lightly steamed spring vegies with optional extras like boiled eggs.

If you are good at multitasking, you can juggle this at the same time as making the satay sauce that is the real star of the dish.

  • I put some baby beets on first in the pressure cooker, cooked them for a couple of minutes,
  • then let the pressure off and added some whole baby carrots and halved baby leeks, cooked them for a couple of minutes,
  • then let the pressure off and added peas, snow peas, broccoli, chinese cabbage and a couple of stalks of asparagus,
  • brought that up to pressure, turned it off and let it sit while the rest came together.

At the same time, I put two of our little bantam eggs for each of us on to boil.  I tried to choose the oldest of them so they would be easier to peel.

Part 2: The Satay Sauce

Dry roast half a cup of roughly chopped macadamias in a heavy frypan for just a couple of minutes till they start to turn light gold.

Tip them into a mortar and pestle and grind to a paste. (A food processor just doesn’t do it – they need to be ground. It only takes a couple of minutes with a mortar and pestle though.)

Add a little oil to the fry pan and sauté together:

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 or 5 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • a marble sized knob of fresh ginger, chopped fine
  • a marble sized knob of fresh turmeric, chopped fine (or substitute a half a teaspoon of powder)
  • one chili (more or less, depending on how hot your chilis are and how spicy you like your food.

As soon as the onion is translucent, tip all this in with the macadamia paste and blend together.  I can use my stick blender directly in the bowl of the mortar and pestle, but you use what you have.

Add:

  • Juice of a lime (or you can substitute  about 30 ml lemon juice)
  • a scant teaspoon of soy sauce
  • enough water to make a smooth sauce (about 4 tablespoons)

Taste and adjust the lime and soy to taste.  You may like to add a tiny pinch of brown sugar, or not – I don’t add sugar – the macas make it quite sweet enough for me.

Assembling

Peel and halve the eggs and the beets.  Arrange the vegetables on serving plates and smother in the sauce.  Serve any leftover sauce on the side.

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This is one for the breakfast party people.  I’m not sure how it would go for preserving.  For me, lemon curd is lemon season party food rather than a pantry item.  This time of year, with lemons and eggs both in season, is it’s time to shine.

I think maybe standard recipes have so much sugar because it helps preserve them.  If you are making lemon curd for eating more or less straight away, you can use a lot less sugar. It’s still very sweet – plenty sweet enough for even the sweetest toothed kids at the party – and it would probably keep for a while in the fridge.  I never have leftovers to test that theory!

The Recipe:

You need a double boiler, which is just a heatproof bowl that fits nicely in the top of a saucepan.  I have an enamel bowl that is perfect for this.

Put a couple of inches of hot water in the saucepan and bring it to the boil.  The bowl will be heated by the steam.  This is important. It won’t work if you heat the curd directly.

Beat together:

  • 4 eggs (medium size – 50 grams each)
  • Juice from 3 lemons (200 ml)
  • 2 teaspoons of finely grated rind
  • ½ cup raw sugar
  • 100 grams of melted butter
Pour the mix into the bowl and stir constantly with a wooden spoon till it thickens.  This will happen quite quickly.  Don’t boil.  It will thicken up a bit more as it cools.
Wonderful on pancakes or croissants or toast for a special breakfast.
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It’s getting towards the end of the best season for leeks. Pretty soon, the big ones will start to realise it’s spring and want to bolt to seed.  if you have leeks hanging on in the garden, it’s a good time to use them, before they start developing the hard core they get as they go to seed. Ever since I figured out how to make pastry with olive oil and low fat yoghurt,  rather than butter, pies and tarts have become a reasonable midweek regular meal rather than a “sometimes food”, and leek tarts are a good way to use lots of leeks.

My chooks have already realised it’s spring.  A good number of my chooks are geriatric. They earn their keep just with their weed clearing, pooing and scratching, and they only lay well for a few months in spring.  But when they are all laying, eggs feature in a lot of my cooking.

This is a late  Tuesday Night Vego Challenge recipe this week – time just ran away on me.  But your fast, easy, healthy, midweek vego recipes are welcome in the comments.

The Recipe:

Makes 6 large muffin sized tarts. Recipe doubles fine.

The Pastry:

Into a food processor or a bowl, put 1 cup of wholemeal plain flour and a good pinch of salt.

Put a couple of good dessertspoons of low fat Greek yoghurt in a cup, then top it up to half full with olive oil. You want it about half and half – ¼ cup of each. You don’t need to mix them.

Tip the cup all at once into the processor or bowl and blitz them together.  In a food processor it’s just a couple of seconds, but you can do it just by stirring.  Knead just enough to combine into a dough.  It needs to be quite moist so don’t add any more flour than necessary, and don’t overwork the dough or it will get tough.  Put the dough in a plastic container in the freezer to cool while you make the filling.

The Filling:

Sauté 2 cups of chopped leeks in a little butter or oil (or a mixture of the two). I use the whites and pale green part, and save the dark green leaves for stock.

Use the (unwashed) food processor, or an egg beater to beat together:

  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup white wine (or substitute a squeeze of lemon juice in water, and use ordinary thyme rather than lemon thyme).
  • a dessertspoon of lemon thyme
  • a good grating of black pepper

Chop 60 grams of low fat feta cheese into tiny cubes and stir them in.

Let the leeks cool a little while you roll out the pastry, then stir them into the egg mix too.

Assembling and Baking:

The pastry is quite fragile.  The easiest way to roll it out is to put a sheet of greaseproof paper on your bench top, put the ball of dough on it, and cover with another sheet.  Roll the pastry out between the two sheets, turning once or twice to un-wrinkle the paper. You can then peel the top sheet of paper off, cut the dough to fit your muffin tins, flip the lot and peel the other sheet off. Roll the scraps out between the greaseproof paper again.

I have a small bowl that cuts circles of dough the perfect size for my Texan muffin tin, and this recipe makes just enough to fill it.  Really though you can make them any size or shape you like.

Grease the baking tins lightly, line with pastry, and spoon in the eggs, cheese and leeks mix.

Bake in a medium oven for around 20 minutes till the pastry is golden.  Serve with a salad or steamed vegies on the side.

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End of winter, it’s been a hard few months, and I don’t often get sick, but I feel like I might.  Phó is my go-to dinner when I feel like I need to ward off I-don’t-know-what.  This isn’t a real Phó, but it’s got that ginger/garlic/chili/anise/cinnamon/lemon grass spice profile that my immune system seems to crave.  And it uses lots of Chinese cabbage and kale, that I have in bulk even in my very neglected garden.  And egg noodles – the chooks are already in spring mode and laying (the ducks and geese too).  This comes together in the half hour of the  Tuesday Night Vego Challenge rules, even including noodles from scratch.

The Recipe:

For two big dinner sized bowls.

Put a big pot or a pressure cooker on to boil with 5 cups of vegie stock.  While it is coming to the boil, make the egg noodle dough.

1. The Egg Noodle Dough:

Egg noodles are just pasta.  The story is that Marco Polo brought them back to Italy where they became spaghetti.  Easy to make, and so easy to make a small quantity that I don’t even bother to pull out the pasta maker.

In a food processor, blend for just a minute till it comes together into a dough:

  • ½ cup baker’s flour (high gluten flour) You can use wholemeal flour if you like.
  • an egg,
  • a spoonful of light flavoured oil like grapeseed oil,
  • a good pinch of salt.

Knead for just a minute to make a dough ball, then let it rest while you make the soup stock. To stop it drying out, I cover the dough ball with a wet cup upside down over it.

2. The Stock:

You’re going to strain it, so nothing needs to be elegantly chopped. Into the boiling stock add:

  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
  • a good thumb sized knob of fresh ginger, finely sliced
  • a thumb of galangal (if you have it), finely sliced
  • a stalk of lemon grass, chopped,
  • a chili, sliced
  • one inch of cinnamon stick
  • one clove of star anise
  • one or two bay leaves
  • the leaves from a couple of stalks of celery
  • the greens from a spring onion

Simmer for around 20 minutes, or pressure cook for about 7 minutes.  Then strain the stock, pressing down with a potato masher to get all the juice out.  Return it to the pot and bring it back up to the boil.

3: The Noodles:

While the stock is cooking, roll out the noodle dough.  If you flour the bench top well, and keep flipping it, you should be able to get it very thin.  Flour the sheet of dough and fold it over a few times, then, using a sharp knife, cut it into noodles.

Tease the noodles to separate them.

3. The Soup

By now the stock should be ready to strain and bring back to the boil. Add to it:

  • one spring onion whites, very finely sliced
  • 2 stalks of celery, very finely sliced
  • 1 (packed) cup of Chinese cabbage, very finely sliced
  • 1 (packed) cup  of cavolo nero kale, very finely sliced
  • 2 cups of mushrooms, finely sliced.

Simmer for another 5 minutes, or pressure cook for a couple of minutes, then add the noodles and simmer for just a couple of minutes more.

Taste and add soy sauce and/or lime juice to taste (or just allow people to add their own).

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This is the second of my potato harvest Tuesday Night Vego Challenge  recipes. I often have lots of these tiny chats in my spud harvest, and they’re the best bit. Add some egg for protein and avoid loading up with mayonnaise, and it’s a healthy and very delicious dinner.

New harvested chats are easy enough to wash, that you don’t avoid teeny ones because of the tedium of washing them.  I put them in a cotton bag (a recycled flour bag) and put bag and all in a sink full of water, then just rumble them in the bag.  Potato skins contain a decent percentage of the nutrient value of the potato, and reduce the amount lost in cooking.

The Recipe

(For two)

  • Boil or pressure cook 350 grams of new chats until they are soft.  In a pressure cooker this will take just a couple of minutes. Drain and allow to sit for a minute or two for the steam evaporate off.
  • Finely slice a red onion, chop 3 or 4 cloves of garlic up fine, dice a red capsicum, and roughly chop 10 black olives
  • Heat a frying pan up to very hot, add a good slurp of good olive oil and all the vegetables at once.
  • Cook on high for 5 minutes or so, with minimal stirring.  You are looking for the potatoes to develop brown crispy bits without  breaking up.
  • While the vegetables are cooking, soft boil 3 eggs, drain and peel.  You want the yolks still runny. If you start with cold water, this will take between 3 and 4 minutes from boiling, depending on the size of the eggs.  Eggs that are very fresh will be impossible to peel – just scoop them out with a teaspoon.
  • And make the dressing: Blend together a big handful of herbs with a little olive oil and the juice of half a lemon. I like basil, flat leaf parsley, thyme, and aragula or rocket for this.
  • Chop some celery to give it a bit of crunch.
  • Toss the warm vegetables together with the eggs, dressing, celery, salt and pepper and serve.

Did you have a Tuesday Night Vego Challenge recipe?  Feel free to share links in the comments.

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I love my kitchen. It has a great big central kitchen bench in the middle of an otherwise very compact space (in a very compact house). I means cooking can be a social activity – several people can chop and stir and roll and fill at once.  Kids can sit up at a stool and be involved, and if they play it right get to listen in on adult conversations.

It only works though if it is not cluttered.  There are bowls of fresh fruit and veg, and a vase of flowers, and a few tools in daily use, like my garlic rock and mortar and pestle,  allowed on the bench, but nothing else.

Which brings me to my pasta maker.  I’ve just got one, yesterday, at a garage sale. I’m not sure at all whether it will be a stayer. The Rules of the Bench mean that it has to live up on a shelf and there are very few kitchen tools that are valuable enough to be taken down and used regularly to earn their space. Mostly I find the effort of washing up, putting away, pulling down, setting up is more than it’s worth.

With pasta, up until now I’ve always just gone with a rolling pin.  Lasagna and tortellini are easy peasy.  Tortellini are even easy and fast enough for the Tuesday Night Vego Challenge. I’ve been playing with a few different tortellini lately, but this has been our favourite.

The Recipe:

Makes two big serves, or three normal ones.

Pasta by Hand:

Put a kettle full of water on to boil. You will need a big pot of boiling water to cook the tortellini.

In a food processor, blitz until the dough just comes together (just a few seconds)

  • 1 cup of bakers flour (I use the same Laucke Wallaby Unbleached Bakers Flour that I use for my sourdough, but any high gluten flour will work)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 dessertspoons (or 1½ US tablespoons) of olive oil
  • good pinch salt

Flour the workbench and knead very briefly, then leave it to rest for a few minutes while you make the filling.

Lemon Feta Filling

You don’t need to wash the food processor.  Just blend together until smooth-ish

  • 160 gm feta (low fat is fine)
  • 4 dessertspoons (or 3 US tablespoons) plain yoghurt
  • 8 – 10 green olives (or you could substitute capers)
  • a good teaspoon of lemon rind ( I like a heaped teaspoon, but I really like citrus flavours)
  • Grind of black pepper
  • A tiny bit of fresh chili or chili powder

Assembling

Divide the pasta dough into 15 little balls about the size of a large macadamia in its shell.

Flour the bench well, and with a floured rolling pin, roll the balls out very thin.  (If you flip them several times while rolling, you’ll find you can easily get them very thin without sticking.)

Put a spoonful of filling on each circle. Use a pastry brush, or just your fingers dipped in water to wet the edges.  Fold the tortellini over and seal together like a little pastie.  With the fold towards you, bring the two corners round towards you and squeeze them together.

Cook in a big pot of boiling water for just a couple of minutes till they float to the surface.

The Sauce

And while they are cooking, again you don’t need to wash the blender. Just blitz together:
  • a tomato
  • a good handful of sweet basil
  • a little swig of good olive oil

Drain the tortellini, divide into bowls, spoon over a few spoonfuls of sauce and gently toss, and top with a grating of parmesan.

Have you been doing the Tuesday Night Vego Challenge? Links to fast, easy, healthy, midweek vego recipes are welcome.

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This year’s sweet corn has been less than exciting. First it was mice. There’s an Australia-wide mouse plague going on, and the mice around here have heard about it. I’ve tried a  fake owl, all sorts of elaborate protection, and in the end, bringing them in onto the verandah, using our Weber barbeque as a temporary propagation house, and trying (and not always succeeding) to remember to put the lid on every night!

I have ended up with corn seedlings to plant out, but later and fewer than usual.  Usually I have advanced seedlings of sweet corn 20 cm tall and ready to plant out in September, with succeeding plantings through till February. This year the first batch I successfully got up and planted out wasn’t until November, and then it was only a dozen odd plants.

Which exacerbated the second problem.  Corn is wind pollinated and won’t self pollinate. It does best in a block of at least a few dozen plants, with enough warm dry weather when it flowers (at the top) so the wind can blow the pollen from one plant around the silks of the corn on its neighbours.  We’ve have a distinct shortage of warm dry weather lately, and with just a dozen odd plants in the block, a distinct shortage of suitable dads to fertilize the corn.  I’ve had to hand pollinate, breaking a pollen-bearingflower off one plant and brushing it over the silks of all its neighbours.

Some years there is so much sweet corn, I am using up all my repertoire of corn recipes.  This year, half the cobs were missing kernels. I’ve had to actually choose my favourite recipes to use it on. This one made it.

The Recipe

Makes 4 bowls like this. The recipe has eggs, which give it a decent amount of protein, and corn is such a good, filling, high fibre, low GI food that, with some toast for dipping, that’s a good dinner for four.

  • In a little oil, sauté a chopped onion gently until it is transluscent.
  • While the onion is cooking, strip the kernels from about 3 large cobs of sweet corn, or, if your corn crop is like mine, enough to get two cups of corn kernels.
  • Blend the corn kernels and the onion in 2 cups of vegetable stock. You won’t get it completely smooth – you just want it to the texture of creamed corn.
  • Tip back into the pot and use another cup of stock to rinse out the blender and add it to the pot too.
  • I like to add a couple of tablespoons of grape juice (if grapes are on), or sweet white wine (if I have any) at this point, but it isn’t critical. Sometimes I also add a few drops of sesame oil.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste, then bring back to the boil and simmer for ten minutes or so.
  • While it is simmering, beat three eggs in a bowl.
  • Turn the heat off and stir the soup. Pour the egg into the hot, swirling soup in a thin stream.  The heat in the soup will cook it.
  • Serve in bowls with a little finely chopped spring onions, chives, or chili to garnish.
Did you do the Tuesday Night Vego Challenge this week? Links welcome.

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devil's eggs huevos diablos

I wasn’t going to post until the new year, but my love for patterns got in the way, and it seemed a pity not to make it a clean sweep – a Breakfast Challenge recipe for every week of the year.  And this is one I’ve been waiting all year to get to! It is my partner’s very favourite breakfast, and cooked tomatoes are specially good for blokes – there is good evidence the lycopene in them is strongly protective against prostate cancer – but there’s lots of reasons for women to like them too.

It has been an interesting challenge. We have had a few favourites, recipes that made an appearance several times a week in their season, and variations on the same theme that flowed into another season.

Some version of a lhassi or smoothie, based on yoghurt and whatever fruit is in season has been a recurring theme – I posted Mango Lhassi and Custard Apple and Orange Juice Smoothie, but I skipped the Pawpaw and Strawberry Smootie,  Strawberry Milkshake, Mulberry Smoothie, Banana Smoothie and all the other fruit smoothies.

Some version of oatcakes, based on fruit in season, eggs and rolled oats has also appeared on our breakfast table most weeks of the year. I posted the Mango Oatcakes, and the Banana Oatcakes, but Peach Oatcakes, Blueberry Oatcakes, Apple Oatcakes, and Pear Oatcakes have also been favourites in their season.

Some version of omelette pikelets, with vegetables in season mixed with egg yolks and whipped egg whites are another standard.  I posted Sweet Corn and Capsicum Omelette Pikelets and Spinach and Feta Omelette Pikelets, and Fresh Pea and Mint Omelette Pikelets, but there have also been Broccoli and Lemon Omelette Pikelets and Pumpkin and Cheddar Omelette Pikelets and Zucchini and Feta Omelette Pikelets that haven’t made it onto the recipes yet.

Some version of a breakfast compote made from fresh fruit in season, with yoghurt and an oat-nut-seed topping comes up in our house at least once a week.  Tangelo Breakfast Compote, Apple and Peach Breakfast Compote, Pink Grapefruit Braised with Vanilla and Nuts are examples of the genre.

Nut butter on sourdough toast, made with macadamias and fruit in season was a favourite all the way through from April to August through maca season. I posted Macadamia and Pear Butter and Turmeric and Mandarin Nut Butter, but it felt a bit mean to post the Banana Nut Butter in this year when the bush turkeys ravages on our bananas were nothing compared to the effect cyclone Yasi had on prices.

Citrus curd – lemon curd, mandarin curd, lime curd, orange curd – on toast or pancakes came up much more often in real life than in the blog, but since the technique is the same it didn’t seem worth another recipe.

And of course there were eggs every which way, and a good few of my favourite ten minute vegetable recipes that are good for breakfast but also for a quick easy lunch or dinner. It’s been fun, it has made me a little more creative, a little less likely to just go with a piece of toast, and I hope it has shifted someone just a bit towards the idea that packaged breakfast cereals are a complete waste of everything – money, kilojoules, health, joy, food miles, packaging, water, and even, somewhere way back in the process, a little bit of agricultural land. Life’s too short for bad food!

The Recipe:

(For two.  But this is a good recipe for breakfast for lots of people if you multiply the recipe and use a very big pan, because it doesn’t require too much multitasking to get it all out at once.)

Toast on to cook and a heavy frypan on to heat up with a little olive oil.

Add (in this order):

  • An onion, diced
  • A zucchini, diced (or not – just we’re not allowed to eat anything without zucchini in it this time of year!)
  • A capsicum, sliced thinly
  • Chili to taste, finely diced (not too much – there’s not much to mellow it out in the recipe – I like spice and I only go for one mild-ish chili)
  • Garlic – two or three cloves crushed
  • Half a teaspoon of cumin seeds

Saute for a minute or two until the cumin seeds start to pop, then add tomatoes. If you have cherry or grape tomatoes, just add them whole. If you have Roma or beefsteak tomatoes, roughly chop them.  Cover the bottom of the pan with tomatoes – a good cup or two per person.

Add a little salt and pepper and cook for a minute or two till the tomatoes start to soften, then mash them roughly with a potato masher to release the juice.

Simmer for a couple of minutes, just to get it all hot then turn it down to medium low.

The next bit is easiest with a helper.  If you don’t have one handy, you’ll need to break eggs into cups first. Use an egg flip to make a little hollow in the tomato mix and quickly break an egg into it. Repeat for one or two eggs per person.

Put a lid on the pan and simmer for about three minutes till the whites of the eggs are set but the yolks are still runny.

Serve hot on toast.

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