Sunday, March 25, 2012

creamy lentil soup recipe + a cookbook review

I don't know about you, but there are two things I always do when I first lay hands on a new cookbook. One, I read the introduction to get a feel for who the author is, where they are from and where they are going to take me. Two, I start reading from the back to the front. Weird eh? As you are probably well aware I have a somewhat sweet tooth so it just makes sense for me to check out the sweet offerings at the back of the book first, before moving my way through the other chapters. Yes, backwards.

In Modern Flavours of Arabia, author Suzanne Husseini shares her most loved recipes and memories of a childhood filled with exotic spices and smells of a country long left behind. Her family moved to Canada when she was very young, but her mother keep their Arabian traditions alive by cooking up gorgeous feasts filled with the flavours of tahini, za'atar, rosewater, saffron and citrus. So many of my favourite ingredients are used in Suzanne's recipes from her ricotta-filled crepes with mango and rose syrup, scattered with pistachio nuts for that beautiful touch of green, to her orange scented date scones, labneh rolled in herbs and nuts and roast cauliflower with citrus tahini sauce. 

The book is set out as one would eat in the Arabian tradition; breakfast, mezze, lunch, dinner then dessert. And is filled with a stunning array of photographs, both of the finished food and ingredients all shot by internationally acclaimed Sydney-based photographer Petrina Tinslay.

I have so many recipes bookmarked to try out but with this slightly cooler weather finally kicking in it was her soups that had me skipping into the kitchen. First I tried out her lemony lentil soup with silverbeet, a version of Arabia's most popular soup. The kids and I enjoyed it for lunch with extras frozen for later use. It was beautiful, earthy puy lentils are cooked down with onions and olive oil, chunks of potato are added, along with stock, silverbeet and allspice. Then freshly squeezed lemon juice adds that final burst of freshness at the end. The second soup I tried, and todays recipe, was my favourite of the two. I can never seem to go past the perfect combination of red (referred to in the original recipe as orange) lentils, carrots and spice. The recipe called for the soup to be pureed, but I like my soups chunky so left it as is with the creaminess still coming through from the addition of arborio rice. It all comes together in a flash and with the added extras on top makes for one lovely bowl of goodness.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

a few of my favourite things {march 2012}

It feels like forever since I've done a favourites post... but I'm guessing it's only been a month! The weather has finally cooled slightly here in Perth and I gotta say, it's been really nice to not have the fan going all night. My mind is turning to warming foods and with Si working away I get to indulge in soups and all those other wonderful things that he's not a fan of, without fear of him threatening divorce! I'll be back in a few days with a beautiful nourishing soup recipe and a little write up on the latest addition to my ever-growing cookbook pile. Here's a few of my favourite things...

Sunday, March 18, 2012

mango and lime curd recipe

I had the hard word from my brother just a few weeks after we moved into our new house, he told me to stop talking about the damn mango trees. I tried, I really did. But please just allow me this one last hurrah will you? Mango season is officially over at our house, we have three mangoes left in the fridge so this will be the last, I promise.

If you are from New Zealand like I am you will understand my excitement, I mean it's not everyday you get to pick ripe mangos from a tree out the back now is it?! Feijoas, lemons, apples, plums, tamarillos, yes. Fresh mangoes. Sadly never. So I'm going to make the most of it while we are here, but I do apologise in advance for those of you who don't have access to fresh mangoes. You'll just have to take my word for it, this and all the other mango recipes I've been cooking are beyond awesome.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

roast tomato and thyme macaroni 'cheese' recipe {gluten-free, vegan}

I received an email from a reader the other day after my last post, it read:
"As much as it sound delicious, Dairy free it is not, since it has eggs."

I wont lie. I was dumbstruck and sat there starring at the computer screen scratching my head. Really? Dairy-free it is not, since it has eggs.

I thought about it all day long and commented back and forth on facebook, where a good number of you have also come up against similar misconceptions. It seems that many people get confussed by all the allergy-free terms out there and some assume that if you choose to avoid dairy, you also don't eat eggs. I think this is possibly because people mistakingly think that if you don't eat dairy, you must be vegan. And while yes, there are loads of people who are vegan, avoiding all meat, dairy and eggs, there are also people like us who are gluten-free vegetarians that eat very limited amounts of dairy but love eggs... confused? I don't blame you. 

To help clarify a few things I thought I'd share my explanations for all the different terms used to describe a person by what they eat, or don't eat. I'm not really one that usually gets into the whole 'title' thing and totally believe that what we eat is such a personal thing that doesn't require a label, but it might help to make things a bit clearer for those struggling to get their head around it all.
Thursday, March 8, 2012

dairy-free mango + coconut ice cream recipe

We are just coming to the end of mango season here in Perth with only two or three fruit left on our trees. At the start of the season we gorged ourselves on the unripe 'green' ones that fell in the wind, sliced thinly and dipped into chilli salt or Ada's favourite; sugar and fish sauce (she's so Vietnamese!). I enjoyed many a bowlful of green mango salad which makes me happy just thinking about it, but the time finally came in this past fortnight where we could sit down and eat juicy ripe mangoes straight from the tree. The local crows put up a bit of a fight, but after seeing them eat a few too many mangoes we decided to not take our chances any more and picked almost all of them in one go. Ripening only took a few days in a box, in this heat I think I could have almost put them straight into the fridge and they would have still ripened! I've been making mango yoghurt smoothies for breakfast, a non-frozen version of this, given some away to friends and family as well as eating loads straight up with mango juice dripping down my arms and into the sink. But before the last mango got eaten, I wanted to make something special to share with you all and ice cream seems to be the perfect fit for a week like we've had, with every day over 30C.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

buckwheat, apple and ginger muffin recipe {gluten-free, dairy-free}

We went down south to Yallingup for a wedding last weekend and it felt like going home. Firstly the temperature dropped so dramatically over those few days, that we instantly felt like we were in NZ, leaving us shivering in our totally unprepared attire. It rained. Something that now feels so foreign after months of nothing but blue skies and sunshine here in Perth. And we chanced upon a local surfing comp on the Sunday morning which made us feel like we were back in Raglan in the blink of an eye.

Si drove us around all his favourite surf breaks, telling the kids of all the times he used to travel down from Perth with his mates and tried to remember which house it was that they all crashed at for the night. The kids weren't all that interested, but then neither was I when it was my dad telling those same long-ago stories to me and my siblings in the back of our old Toyota ute. It's funny how life repeats itself.

I had planned on baking something special for the long drive down, but ran out of time, as you do. Instead I just packed loads of fruit and crackers for snacks and we picked up some lunch when our bellies started to growl. The barren landscape of W.A is just beautiful, and I kinda got a little bit obsessed with taking millions of out-the-window shots...

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