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I saw an episode of Jamie Oliver’s American Food Revolution, where they were teaching people to cook corn on the cob with chili and lime.  The flavour combination inspired these.  They work really well.

Sweet corn and lime basil are both in season in my garden and I’m just starting to pick the first of the limes. If you don’t have lime basil, it’s a different recipe but it works with coriander.

What’s The Breakfast Challenge? A weekly fast, easy, healthy, ethical, in season recipe to challenge the big boxes of mostly air.

The Recipe:

Strip the kernels from 3 cobs of corn.

In the food processor, blend them with

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 dessertspoons of wholemeal self-raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 chili (seeds removed)
  • a good handful of lime basil leaves
  • salt and black pepper

Blend for a minute until the chili is chopped quite fine through the mix.

Fry spoonfuls of mixture in a little olive oil until they are golden and set.

Eat hot straight from the pan with a squeeze of lime juice.

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Bream is not one of my favourite fish, but it’s one of the easier ones to catch, and Lewie likes fishing. Bream are a good source of omega 3 and listed as sustainable, so it’s very unfortunate that they’re a bit bland and soft for my taste.  I could never get appropriately excited about the catch until I discovered just how easy Thai Fish Cakes are to make – easy enough to knock up after a day at the beach and good enough for me to properly praise the fisherman!

The Recipe:

It’s a good idea to make the dipping sauce first, because like many Asian dishes, this comes together really fast.

Cucumber Dipping Sauce

In a small pan, dry roast 2 dessertspoons of chopped macadamias or (more traditionally) peanuts.

In a small saucepan bring to the boil:

  • ¼ cup white vinegar
  • 3 dessertspoons sugar
  • chili, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fish sauce
  • the 2 dessertspoons of roasted chopped macadamias.

Cook for a few minutes, then take the pot off and put it in the sink with some water to cool down.

Deseed and finely dice about 3 dessertspoons of cucumber. When the vinegar is cool, stir in the cucumber.

While it is cooling, you can be making the fish cakes

Fish Cakes

This can all be done in a food processor.  Mine will do it all in one go, but you may like to do it in two batches the first time just to test your  food processor. It makes about 20 cakes.

First batch:

  • 350 grams of fish fillets with no bones (Use the skeleton for stock for Lao Style Fragrant Fish Soup, and you won’t resent wasteful filleting)
  • 1 chili minus seeds
  • 3 dessertspoons fish sauce
  • 3 dessertspoons lime cordial (or 3 teaspoons lime juice and 3 teaspoons brown sugar)
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • small knob of ginger and/or galangal

You can also add the white part of a stem of lemon grass or a couple of kaffir lime leaves if you have them and you like a strong citrus flavour (but go easy – it can be overpowering).

Blend this lot into a smooth paste.

Second batch:

I can just change the blade in my food processor for a grater and carry on into the same bowl.  But you may want to empty the fish paste into a bowl to check the texture your food processor delivers the first time you do this. You want this second batch to be very finely chopped or grated rather than a paste.

  • 2 small or 1 large spring onion
  • half a dozen snake beans
  • 1/3 cup packed coriander and/or Thai basil

Mix the two batches together.

Thai fish cakes are small – take a heaped teaspoon of the mixture and drop it on a plate of flour. Sprinkle flour on top and you will be able to pat the cake into a small, flat patty.

Heat a little oil in a pan – I use olive oil although it is not very traditional, just because I use it for almost all cooking. Fry the cakes in hot oil for just two minutes or so on each side until golden and puffed up.

Serve hot straight out of the pan with the dipping sauce.

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For practically the first time in my adult life, I have no chooks at present.  This is the culprit.

I am working on a new roost design.  If it works, the chooks will be able to put themselves to bed at night.  I will be able to let them free range in the daytime and she (or he) won’t be able to get them at night.

I am missing them for many reasons, but right now because it is egg season.  Luckily though, I have friends who have free-range, ethically raised chooks and, at this time of year an abundance of eggs.

My Muesli Bar Challenge series is a series of recipes for healthy lunch box baking based on fresh in-season produce.  This recipe melds the last of the citrus season with the start of the egg season.  It is a flourless cake with no butter but no less than six eggs.

Eggs are a great source of protein, but they go extra well in school lunches because they are rich in choline, which is needed for nerves and brain to function properly. Using them in baking makes them safer in the heat of a lunch box.

You need a cup of macadamia meal for this recipe.  You can substitute almond meal – in fact I would be fairly sure that somewhere back in time I had an original version of this recipe  based on almond meal.  But for me, macadamias have no food miles at all. And they’re super healthy, with monounsaturated heart healthy oils  and a huge range of vitamins and minerals.  And fresh, in-the-shell macas in season are a taste sensation.  This little tool makes cracking macas easy, and the kernels blend to a meal easily in a food processor.

Once you have your maca meal, the recipe is dead easy. Let’s see what the reviewers think.

The Recipe:

Turn your oven on to heat up to medium.

Grease a 20 cm cake tin and line the base with a circle of greaseproof paper.

Blend together until smooth:

  • 1 cup of macadamia meal
  • 1½ teaspoons of baking powder
  • 1 cup of orange, tangelo, mandarin, or lime segments with seeds removed.
  • ¾ cup of brown sugar
  • 6 whole eggs

Stir in 3 good dessertspoons of poppy seeds.

The mixture will not be at all like a cake mix.  It will be quite liquid.

Pour it into your prepared cake tin and bake for around 40 minutes till the cake is set and a skewer comes out clean.

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Not so much a recipe as a reminder.  I have at long last moved on from Tangelo Breakfast Compote as my favourite breakfast.  There’s still a few tangelos, but the avocados are so beautifully in season now, and there’s also still plenty of limes.  Avocado on home-made heavy bread, toasted, with salt, pepper and a squeeze of lime juice.  Mmmm.

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No picture for this one.  It was one of those cooking experiments that just developed along the way, and was already eaten by the time I realised, hmm, this is a good one!

My tangelo compote is still my current breakfast fetish, but the possum is starting in on the tangelos, so I decided it was time to start using them at a faster rate than two a day. Kangaroo is my choice of red meat, for both health and ethical reasons, (see the links for why), and remembering how good the kangaroo with pomegranate sauce turned out, I wondered how it would go with the slightly grapefruity mandarin sweetness of tangelo.  Then, to cut the sweetness just a little I added some lime and ginger, and just kept tweaking until I had something I wish I’d photographed!

The Recipe:

Sear two kangaroo steaks in a little olive oil in a heavy pan, then continue to cook for a few minutes each side until they are medium rare. Take them out of the pan and let them rest while you make the sauce.

Into the juices in the pan, pour a cup of tangelo juice, a potato crisp sized slice of fresh ginger (skin and all), a whole peeled clove of garlic, juice of half a lime, a couple of teaspoons of balsamic vinegar, a scant teaspoon of brown sugar, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of black pepper. Reduce until it is a nice sauce-like consistency. Fish out the garlic and ginger. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper.

Slice the kangaroo steaks diagonally, arrange on the plates and drizzle over the  sauce.

We had it with sauteed radicchio and parsnip mash, both from the garden, and it was one of those epiphany moments where you realise how truly lucky we are.

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It’s getting a bit cold now of an evening for barbeques, but my partner still loves fishing. Fish soup is a great way to make a dinner party of the catch, and using the whole fish –  head, bones and all – I feel like an ethical predator.

This recipe works really well with bony fish like luderick (black fish) that have a bit of depth of flavour but are laborious to fillet.  It also works well with flathead or winter whiting (all of which are sustainable catches).

The recipe looks more complicated than it is – lots of ingredients can be substituted or left out – and although you need a few hours simmering time, there is very little actual work in it.

The Recipe

Clean and scale the fish and cut a few fillets off and put them aside.  You don’t need to worry about getting all the meat – the frame will be going into stock – but you do need to be sure to get no bones.  Bones in fish soup are not good!

Put the rest of the fish – head, bones and all – into a pot with a tight fitting lid, and cover with water.  This recipe uses 10 cups of water to cover the fish, and serves four generously for dinner, or more as an entree, so adjust your quantities to suit.

The rest of the stock ingredients just need to be roughly chopped, as you are going to strain them anyway.  To the pot, add:

  • 4 chillis, halved and seeds removed (or less, depending on how hot your chillis are)
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 thumbs ginger peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 thumb turmeric peeled and roughly chopped (or a teaspoon of  powder)
  • 4 stalks lemon grass, just the white part at the bottom
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves (or leave them out and add more lime juice at the end)
  • a swig of olive oil (to catch the oil soluble aromatics)

Put the lid on and simmer gently for several hours, then strain, pressing down to squeeze out all the juice.

Bring the stock back up to simmer, and add:

  • the reserved fish fillets, chopped into bite sized pieces
  • rice noodles, more for a dinner, less for an entree
  • 4 desertspoons of fish sauce
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 4 desertspoons of chopped fresh dill (or a teaspoon of dried dill)
  • 4 desertspoons of chopped fresh coriander
  • 4 desertspoons of chopped spring onions
  • 1 shredded bok choy and/or 1 cup fresh mung bean sprouts
  • 8 or so mushrooms, chopped

Simmer gently for just a few minutes until the fish and noodles are cooked.  Taste and add lemon or lime juice and salt to taste.

Serve with a sprinkle of coriander on top.  I added a bit of amaranth as well, just for the colour.

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I have a thing about preserves.  I can see the sense in climates where it snows and for several months there is no fresh food, but in my climate it seems like make-work.  Why eat bottled peaches when there are fresh pears?  Why eat frozen peas when there are fresh beans?  Especially given that preserving uses not just work but also fuel and often salt and sugar in quantities too great to be really healthy.

There is a permaculture saying that “the problem is the solution” – as in: you don’t have a surplus of snails – you have a deficit of ducks.  Perhaps a surplus of fresh produce is really a deficit of trade/barter/gift partners? Producing community is more important for living well in lean times than a well stocked cellar.

I see preserves more as condiments than food, and this is the rationale for lime cordial.  It is not actually for cordial but for use in salad dressings and marinades through early summer when fresh citrus fruits aren’t available.  It is because I refuse to buy  imported lemons no matter what the recipe says!  This recipe works for lemon or lime cordial, but limes have a shorter season when fresh ones are available.

The Recipe

Sterilize a 750 ml bottle and its lid by boiling for 10 minutes or pressure cooking for 5, or (given that it is probably too tall for your pots!) baking in an oven for 15 minutes (in which case you will probably need to boil the lid separately because it is likely to have plastic in it).

In an enamel or stainless steel pot, bring to the boil 1½ cups of lime juice, 1½ cups of water, 3 cups of sugar, and the finely grated rind of the limes.  You will find it easier to grate the rind before you juice the limes. You can use any kind of sugar.  I tend to use brown or raw sugar for everything, but it will make your cordial a darker colour and a richer flavour than refined white sugar.

Boil for a couple of minutes, just to dissolve the sugar well.

You need the mix and your sterilized bottle to be a similar temperature – otherwise the bottle will crack. I find the best way to do this is to let both cool slightly before bottling your cordial.

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The idea for this recipe came partly from Steamy Kitchen, and partly from remembering as a kid cooking our catch of butter bream on pandanus leaves over a fire on the beach with no kitchen utensils at all and believing it was the best food ever (a memory I really want my grandkids to be able to have too),

My partner came back from a day at the coast fishing (his favourite form of meditation) with seven flathead.  They’re not the prettiest fish, but they are one of the best tasting, and listed as a sustainable catch.

We needed to invite people for dinner to help eat them, but on a midweek work night it had to be a recipe that was super fast and easy.

He lit the barbecue and cut some banana leaves.  I picked some lemon basil, dill and culantro from the garden and blended the herbs with a bit of lime juice, garlic and olive oil to make a thick marinade.  We laid the fish on the banana leaves on the hot barbecue plate, spooned the marinade over the top, and put some whole cobs of corn and whole zucchini on the side.  Guests arrived, opened the bottle of wine, turned the fish over, and total of twenty minutes later dinner was served.

These fish took only a few minutes each side.  The banana leaves blacken and curl and impart a nice smoky flavour but hold in the marinade long enough to  add its flavours too.  Very delectable.  And made cleaning the barbecue plate afterwards a cinch too.

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This is an Indian style oil-based pickle that is fantastic on the side of a vegetable curry, and really really good with cheese on bread.  I think it is probably a classic recipe – my version came from Rod but I don’t know where his came from!  It’s a great way to manage a surplus of limes.  It only takes minutes to make, but you need to start three days in advance.

The Recipe

Three days before bottling day:
• Slice 12 limes into eighths then crosswise into sixteenths.
• Layer in a bowl, spreading each layer with salt (4 tablespoons altogether).
• Cover and leave in a warm spot for 3 days, stirring or shaking occasionally.
On bottling day:
• In a large saucepan, heat 1 ½ cups of olive oil and sauté
4 teaspoons mustard seeds
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons ground ginger
½ teaspoon pepper

• Drain the limes and add, along with
¼ cup white vinegar
3 cloves of garlic (crushed)
3 dried hot chillies (crushed)
• Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, then add 2 tablespoons sugar.
• Spoon and pour into hot sterilized jars.
• Store in a cool dark place for at least a month before using
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