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Soufflés have an undeserved reputation. I think they’re much easier and more forgiving than their rap. This one is basically just a white cheese sauce folded through beaten egg whites and baked. I can’t really say it’s fast enough for the Breakfast Cereal Challenge, but it makes a great brunch.

Ironically, soufflés are great for winter when chooks lay less and eggs are less in season, because they make eggs go a long way.  This recipe makes 5 eggs feed 4 hungry people, more if you have more accompaniments.

The Recipe:

  • Find the right baking dish.  You need a ceramic or ovenproof glass baking dish, 21 cm diameter or 18.5 cm square, or some ramekins with a similar volume.
  • Turn the oven on to heat up to medium-hot.
  • Separate 5 eggs, being careful to get no egg yolk in the white. (I do them one by one, into a cup, so that if one egg yolk breaks it doesn’t ruin the whole batch).  You may find it a little easier to whisk the whites if the eggs are a day or two old – very fresh eggs can be a little harder to get stiff enough.  And you may find it a little easier with room temperature eggs, rather than straight out of the fridge. But really, it only makes a marginal difference.
  • Grate 60 grams of low fat feta cheese and 60 grams of low fat mature or vintage cheese.
  • Melt 2  dessertspoons of butter in a pot.  Add 4 dessertspoons of plain  flour.  (I used wholemeal plain flour because that’s what I had, but I sieved the bran out first.) Cook on a low heat for a few minutes until the flour bubbles, but don’t let it brown.
  • Pour in a cup of low fat milk, stirring all the while.  Keep stirring until it thickens.
  • Take it off the heat and straight away stir in the grated cheeses, so they melt through,  then whisk in the 5 egg yolks.
  • In a clean, dry bowl, beat the 5 egg whites until they are stiff. An old fashioned egg beater is the perfect implement – it takes literally less than a minute.
  • Gently fold the cheese sauce into the beaten egg whites.  Pour into your ungreased baking dish.
  • Bake for around 30 minutes, till it is risen and set.  Mine has never sunk through peeking, though it is best served straight away as it does deflate a bit as it cools.  I opened the oven half way through this one’s baking to add a tray of whole mushrooms and halved cherry tomatoes sprinkled with oregano, which made it into a real gourmet breakfast.

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Winter salad/summer salad, and not a single ingredient in common. We need more words for “salad”! So people don’t get confused and think they need tomato-rocks that have survived a road train trip to make a salad in winter, or soapy tasting hydroponic lettuce in summer!  End of rant.

The winter salad is:

  • lettuces of several kinds
  • rocket
  • parsley
  • celery
  • carrots
  • snow peas
  • nasturtium
  • mandarin segments
  • avocado
  • cottage cheese
  • dressing of lemon juice, olive oil, soy sauce and chili jam shaken together in a jar

The summer salad is

  • cucumber
  • tomato
  • basil
  • capsicum
  • aragula
  • red salad onion
  • olives
  • dressing of balsamic vinegar with olive oil, soy sauce and a little honey

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The bloke came back from fishing with three tailor, and a great big Australian salmon. Tailor are one of my very favourite fish.  They are listed as sustainable, they’re a good source of Omega 3, and they are such a good eating fish that it is a bit of a pity to do anything more to them than fillet, fry, and serve with lemon wedges and a good salad. And then use the frames for stock for a soup.

Salmon though are another matter.  Australian salmon are not a salmon at all, but a sea perch, and though sustainable, they are notoriously not a prized table fish.   If fresh caught, bled, skinned, and filleted to remove the dark “blood” meat,  the flavour is good – strong but good.  The texture is more the problem.  They are a bit chewy and soft at the same time.  Only one way to honour the life of an Australian salmon by really enjoying eating it! (Actually there’s two – they are really good smoked, but that’s for another day).

The Recipe:

This made a big pot of stew that would feed four for dinner easily.  We were greedy and ate the leftovers for lunch the next day.

Dice (not too finely)and bring to the boil in a large pot:

  • 2 onions
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 potato
  • 2 stalks of celery
  • 5 cloves of garlic
  • 2 chilis
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped herbs (oregano, marjoram, thyme)
  • 10 pitted olives
  • 1 cup of white wine
  • 600 grams of fresh chopped tomatoes (or a can of tomatoes)
  • 1 piece of preserved lemon, finely chopped (or substitute 1 teaspoon of grated lemon rind)

Simmer for 10 minutes or so, until the carrot and potato are just starting to get soft, then add 700 grams of Australian salmon fillets (skinned, white meat only) chopped into large chunks.

Continue simmering for 5 minutes or so, until the salmon is just cooked. Taste and add salt to taste.

Meanwhile, make the dressing.

The Dressing:

(Does anyone know what this is called?  I’m sure it must be a traditional idea somewhere in the Mediterranean).

In a food processor, blend together:

  • 3 big sprigs of parsley, stripped from the stems.
  • 1 spring onion, greens and all
  • 1 slice of good bread
  • juice of a lemon
  • pinch of salt
  • little swig of good olive oil

Ladle the stew into bowls, sprinkle the dressing on top and serve.

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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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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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It is Halloween in Australia, and peak of the pumpkin season.  Roasted pumpkin seeds are a hugely healthy and totally addictive snack.  And they are so easy.

Halloween, or Samhain, marks the midpoint between autumn equinox and the mid-winter solstice. It is the last of the three traditional harvest seasons, marking the real last this-is-it end of summer – and it feels like it.  The weather has turned here. As far as day length goes, it is now officially winter – the season of the shortest days, and though, because the earth has lots of thermal mass the temperature drop lags by a few weeks, it really feels like winter today.

We celebrate with a progressive dinner, and this year due to my current obsession with sourdough, I’m starting off the feast with breads and dips.  On my kitchen bench I currently have rising a loaf of rye and caraway, one of olive and thyme, one of semi-sundried tomato, garlic and basil pesto, and one of pumpkin and sunflower seeds.  Here’s hoping they turn out!

But meanwhile, I’ve roasted the pumpkin seeds to snack on.

The Recipe:

Scoop the seeds out of the pumkin and into a bowl.  Fill the bowl with cold water and roughly wash the seeds.  Much of the pulp will float and can be scooped out.

Tip into a colander and wash a bit more.  Much of the rest of the pulp will wash through. Then it is very easy to pick out the last bits of pulp. Don’t worry if you miss some – it adds to the flavour.

Let the seeds dry in the colander for a little while.  They don’t have to be quite dry, just not sopping.  Tip them into a bowl with a teaspoon of olive oil, a teaspoon of soy sauce and a half a teaspoon of honey.

Stir this to coat the seeds, then tip them onto a baking tray and spread them so they are a single layer.

Bake in a moderate oven for around 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are well browned.  (I like them a bit darker than golden).  Watch them at the end as they turn quickly.

Try to at least let them cool before eating them all!

 

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Kids may not like this one (though it is surprising, sometimes, what kids like).  This is a recipe for people who like their chocolate dark, who like expresso coffee and olives and beer and marmelaide.  If you do like bitter flavours though, it is addictive and it’s my current favourite breakfast.

What led to this – a friend mentioned turmeric nut butter to me, and having fresh turmeric in the garden and a good macadamia season this year, and now the first of the season’s mandarins – I had to experiment.  I like sweet nut butters like the Macadamia and Pear Butter a couple of weeks ago, and the turmeric adds a lovely interesting spiciness to it.

Besides being an addictive taste, this is a real super-foods health breakfast.  Fresh turmeric is a really good source of anti-inflamatory anti-oxidants with some solid science behind it being a cancer preventative.  Macadamias are rich in the kind of oils that actually lower cholesterol, like the “clinically proven to lower cholesterol” margarines that are being so aggressively marketed these days (which are actually based on hydrogenated sterols from pine tree wood pulp).  And mandarins are a good source of “bioflavanoids” that, among other things, strengthen blood vessels (helping to prevent things like kidney disease and varicose veins).

(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:

This recipe makes enough for two slices of toast – one adult for breakfast.  It will store though, covered in the fridge, so if you decide you like it, you can make it in batches for a few days.  I actually think it is at its best on day two, though it is probably at its healthiest when fresh made.

First crack your macadamias.  This tool makes buying or harvesting macadamias in season in their shells a realistic option. (The recipe might also work with almonds, which are also in season now – I’d love to hear if someone tries it).

In a small pan, dry roast together 10 chopped macadamia nuts with a knob of fresh turmeric, peeled and chopped, about the equivalent to 5 macadamias – ie about half as much. Roast for just a couple of minutes, shaking, till the nuts start to colour.

Add the juice from one large-ish mandarin and a couple of dessertspoons of olive or macadamia oil and a good pinch of salt.

Blend this mixture in a food processor or with a stick blender till it is smooth and pale coloured, adding more juice or water if necessary to get it to the right texture.

Meanwhile  make some toast, and just warm some mandarin segments in the same pan.

Slather the turmeric and mandarin nut butter on toast, top with the warmed mandarin segments, and eat.

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I have to admit any  Breakfast Cereal Challenge recipe at the moment has to go on top of toast – I have a current obsession with sourdough. But this toast topping has been a favourite for a few weeks now.

Macadamia nuts are in right in season and they are super healthy. If you live too far south to get fresh macas, almonds are also in season and can’t think why they wouldn’t  work in this recipe too. Macadamias have quite some calories but their fats are the “good” kind – monounsaturated  – like olive oil.  There is good evidence that they lower cholesterol much more effectively (and cheaply, and tastily) than the new, very slickly advertised “clinically proven to lower cholesterol” margarines (that are based on hydrogenated sterols, primarily sitostanol derived from pine tree wood pulp).  They also have good quality protein, lots of fibre,  B vitamins and, like many tree crops, a big range of minerals and and antioxidant micronutrients.

This is the tool that has made macadamia nuts in shell a reasonable breakfast ingredient in our house, on a workday, when I have half an hour to be out of here, preferably with keys, purse, bills to pay, report for work and mail.  Fresh, in season, nuts in their shell are another one of those things that you never truly appreciate if you’ve been put off by stale old nuts at Christmas time, (when they would be in season in the northern hemisphere) or stale old shelled nuts in packets in the supermarket.

Pears are also in season, and though I can’t grow them (not enough chill factor) pear growers from the colder area up on the Tablelands are now bringing them to our local Farmer’s Market.

(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:

Dry roast a good handful of macadamia kernels in a heavy frypan over a medium heat for a couple of minutes, shaking the pan, till they just start to colour.

Add a chopped pear and a spoonful of water, just enough to stop the pears burning.

Cook for a couple of minutes till the pear softens and start to caramelise.

Add a squeeze of lemon juice, a pinch of salt and quarter of a teaspoon of vanilla essence.

Blend the mixture with a stick blender or food processor till smooth.

Slather onto your favourite bread, toasted, and eat.

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This is another of my favourite summer salads.  Cucumbers are practically in glut this time of year, but I can’t get inspired to do any preserving.  One year I made dozens of jars of bread-and-butter cucumbers, but by the time cucumber season finished I was quite happy to leave them un-opened.  By the time I started to feel like cucumber again, the season had come round again.  They sat very decoratively on a shelf for several years.

Now I try very hard to discipline myself to plant only one cucumber vine each fruiting planting break throughout spring and summer.  That way I have continuity of supply all season, and I still end up giving lots away.

The Recipe

This recipe uses 2 continental cucumbers. They need to be sliced lengthways very fine.  I use the broad blade on my grater, and to get the green edges, I grate the cucumber lengthways, and discard the first and last slices, and, if the middle is too seedy, a couple of middle slices too.

  • Put the sliced cucumbers in a colander, sprinkle with a dessertspoon of salt, and leave to drain for about half an hour.
  • Toast 2 dessertspoons of sesame seeds in a heavy pan, shaking to get an even toast.
  • Finely slice half a red onion.
  • Make a dressing by blending together
    • 1 or 2 chilis (depending on how hot they are)
    • 2 cloves of garlic
    • a thumb sized knob of fresh ginger
    • 4 or 5 leaves of culantro or sprigs of coriander
    • several drops of sesame oil
    • 4 dessertspoons of lime cordial
    • 1 dessertspoon of fish sauce
  • Rinse the cucumber in fresh water, drain well, pat dry, and toss with the sliced onion, toasted sesame seeds, and dressing.

This salad holds relatively well, so it’s a good one to take to a barbeque or make ahead of time.  Goes really well with barbequed fish.

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