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Iconic Ikan (fish) at Warung Mak Beng, Sanur

TripAdvisor is full of recommendations for Warung Mak Beng which was established by “Mother”Beng back in 1941 and is run today by her grandson, continuing a long family tradition. Situated near the beach in Jalan Hang Tuah 45 in Sanur, this is the classic “one dish speciality” warung serving only its famous crispy fried ocean fish or Ikan Laut Goreng.

It has taken us a while to make the effort to get to this Warung, but I can assure you the trip is well worth the effort of travelling from wherever you are staying in Bali to try their renowned speciality.

The fish is crispy brown (almost burnt looking) on the outside but tender and moist on the inside and accompanied a the delicious fish head soup and spicy sambal on the side. My bowl of soup had little evidence of fish head, rather just big chunks of fish that had been stewed in the soup. The soup also had big chunks of cucumber which had absorbed the flavours of the soup and daun salam leaves (Indonesian bay leaves). The spice mix they use in this soup is divine and complements the flavours of the fried fish brilliantly. The day we visited the catch of the day was snapper served up straight from that morning’s haul from the fishing boats off the coast of Bali.

This is one of the most simple yet satisfying meals we have had in Bali on this trip, and I can understand why people flock here and why this Warung has been flourishing for so many generations.

At IR45,000 (AU$4.50) a serve, this Warung is a favourite with locals and Indonesian tourists but when we visited we were the only foreigners there. We came on a weekday for lunch and only had to wait a few minutes for a spot at a communal table. However, I believe the weekends can be very busy so you might have to wait a while for your table. It will be worth the wait especially if you like to eat like a true local!

Sleepless in Bali: Siva Ratri, the night of Shiva

 

Many Balinese will not sleep tonight as they stay awake to observe the holy night of Shiva. Here’s a great explanation of this significant Hindu ceremony:

via Siwaratri Day – Night of Siwa

Ubud Food Festival 2018 to be held on 13-15 April

A very tempting reason to come back to Ubud in April!

Global Gastronaut

Indonesia’s leading food event, Ubud Food Festival (UFF) is returning for its 2018 edition on 13 – 14 April. This is the fourth iteration of the festival which highlights Indonesia’s food culture and promises three packed days of talks, workshops, cooking demonstrations, live performances and food tours.

“After three years of celebrating Indonesia’s culinary heritage and food heroes and connecting them with the region’s best, it’s clear we’re playing a vital role in putting Indonesia on the world food map,” said Janet DeNeefe, UFF’s founder and director.

SEE ALSO:Bangkok to host {Re}, region’s first multinational food symposium

34685696366_4b19d8e854_b Right most: Founder and Director Janet DeNeefe. Image Credit: Anggara Mahendra.

This year’s festival is themed after ‘Generasi Inovasi’ — or Innovative Generation – inspired by the young and tech-savvy population that’s spearheading the country’s boom in the innovation economy. Indeed, the World Economic Forum noted that the sprawling archipelago alone has over…

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Breakfast at Biku beckons in Bali

Biku is an iconic Seminyak restaurant in Jalan Petitenget that amongst other things serves breakfast all day!

Known for their amazing High Teas including Asian and Traditional versions, Biku also serves a High Breakfast that includes croissants, Danish pastries, corn cakes, omelette, sausages, grilled tomato and fruit salad! They are also known for having an amazing range of teas, all served in a gorgeous colonial feeling setting in a 150 year old teak joglo (traditional Indonesian wooden house). Eating outside in the garden courtyard is also very pleasant, and everywhere you look are beautiful fresh flowers brought in by local florists each day.

We weren’t hungry enough for the High Breakfast on this visit but were feeling like something more than the “Something Healthy”section of the menu which features items like Chia Pods, Smoothie Bowls, Fruit Salad and Scrambled Tofu. But Biku’s breakfast selection is really fantastic including a whole section of “Something Different” and another with “Something Classic” and “Something Indonesian”.

We opted to try some different things ordering the soft poached eggs on chive and buttermilk scones with wilted spinach and hollandiase sauce for Adrian and the Indian lentil pancakes with coconut sambal, yoghurt and chutney for me. Both dishes were delicious and decidedly different to the typical hotel, cafe and warung breakfasts available in Bali.

Biku is definitely a great destination for breakfast but also has a high quality and diverse lunch and dinner menu catering to whatever food mood you might be in. Their children’s menu is much more than just the usual chicken nuggets and chips and ensures that it is a family friendly venue at any time of the day.

Owned and established by the Royal Princess of Ubud, Biku continues to deliver great food and ambience with a sense of grace.

Sardine – seafood safari in Bali

Sardine is a far cry from the trashy, tourist rip off traps along Jimbaran Beach that many travellers to Bali flock to for a fresh seafood experience.

Whilst it is expensive by Bali standards, the quality of the seafood is absolutely top notch, as is the divine setting with views across their own rice paddy and small farm, but right at Jalan Petitenget 21 not far from the Seminyak action.

I have been to Sardine on a few occasions now and they have not failed to impress with the simple but perfectly spiced dishes, warm welcome, smiling and snappy service, and good drinks list. They have also kept up the standards that won them Best Restaurant in Seminyak in 2016 in the popularly voted Yak magazine awards.

The current menu offers delicious starters such as Manis (sweet) Clams cooked with chorizo and chilli and Mussels in coconut milk sauce. The shellfish does not disappoint and is cooked to perfection preserving its sweetness and texture.

One of my favourite mains is the whole filleted fish cooked Jimbaran Style on the grill and served with brown rice and Balinese sambal matah. Hamachi, a fish not often seen on menus in Australia or elsewhere, is also often a feature on the menu with seasonal changes to the sauce and accompaniments that best complement this fish.

If you want really great seafood in a great setting when in Seminyak, then Sardine will bring all your fishy dreams true.

Warung Pantai shines at Batu Belig Beach, Bali

Pantai means beach in Indonesian and this Warung is true to it’s name, perfectly positioned on the beautiful Batu Belig beachfront, just north (about 10 minutes) of Seminyak in Bali.

Warung Pantai’s owner Wayan has a simple motto “work hard, play hard” and her philosophy shines through at her impeccable Warung. The pride in which Wayan and her team take in keeping the Warung spotless and taking care of guests is evident in every aspect of the food and service here.

Warung Pantai is my idea of Bali Bliss, with a location that is perfect for a restful day at the beach and a menu to suit all tastes but with particularly good Indonesian favourites such as Gado Gado (steamed vegetables with peanut sauce), spicy prawns and fish and delicious Ayam Goreng (Indonesian fried chicken), Nasi Campur, Nasi Goreng and Satays accompanied by authentic sambals and sauces.

The food is cooked off-site just up the road in Wayan’s kitchen in her traditional family compound, in an equally impeccable kitchen, and ferried to your table on covered trays by motorbike. Wayan invited me to visit the kitchen and watch her make the spicy grilled prawns and satays using her homemade Bali Bumbu(spice paste) and then grilling them on her schmick 4 burner gas bbq. (See video) There are also Western favourites and even espresso coffee skilfully delivered piping hot by bike!

Wayan’s motto is also evident in the fun and laughter that fills the kitchen and in the excellent, attentive but relaxed service of the wait staff.

A wonderful location and fabulous eating experience by the beach in Bali. Take your beach towels and head to Batu Belig for a swim and a lazy, long lunch at Warung Pantai next time you are in Bali.

Thank you Wayan and team for a great lunch and experience!

Recommend Warung Eny anytime!

We recently feasted at Warung Eny’s in Jalan Petitenget Seminyak and I would highly recommend dining here at anytime! A real local warung with decent almost local prices is difficult to find in the midst of all the Petitenget bling but Warung Eny certainly delivers the goods.

From the barbecue out front fanning coconut husk smoke across the entryway, the faded photos on the walls of past happy customers, Eny’s family busy serving and cooking in the kitchen, the piles of fresh vegetables and divine smells of home cooking, Warung Eny is a little piece of real Bali squeezed in between high fashion boutiques and fine dining foreign restaurants.

We went for dinner on a rainy Seminyak evening with friends who had visited twice before and we were surrounded by happy regular guests who had obviously, similarly enjoyed the delicious home cooked food before. Repeat visitation is surely the highest praise for any restaurant?

I can assure you that I will be going back there if not for the succulent, spicy minced pork steamed in banana leaves and delicious Gado Gado, then definitely for the chargrilled satay, giant king prawns also freshly grilled over coconut husks and the crab with sweet chilli sauce. Bintang or a freshly cut young coconut should be the drink of choice to go with your local feast!

The service was impeccable overseen by a sharp-eyed Eny herself!

Wonderful Warung experience at warung prices in the heart of Seminyak. Please make sure you break away from the Seminyak scene long enough to enjoy a little bit of real Bali here! You will leave Bali with a very special memory.

Indian Spiced Fish Pie

For my friends in the northern hemisphere – this a great dish to warm you up!

freespiritfood

This recipe is based on Rick Stein’s classic fish pie recipe but with an Indian twist. The addition of traditional Indian spices to the milk and cream mixture in which the seafood is lightly poached, and using “aloo bharta” or Indian style mashed potato for the topping bring the flavours of the sub-continent to this classic British dish. (A kind of reverse colonialism, I suppose.)

Prep time: 1hr 20 mins  Cooking time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:
3 flathead fillets (or any firm white, unsmoked fish)
1 medium size fillet of smoked cod or haddock
8-10 green prawns peeled

2 eggs
1 egg yolk (to brush top of mash)
300ml milk + 3 tablespoons for mash
150ml cream

1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
1/2 finger length of ginger peeled
3 potatoes (fluffy potatoes like Desiree or King Edward)

6 cloves
6 cardamom pods
1.5 teaspoons turmeric
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder

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Night Rooster Cocktails rule the roost!

Stopped by Night Rooster by Locavore in Ubud for spectacular and very creative cocktails featuring a mixture of top shelf and homemade liquors. The delicious concoctions showcase unique Indonesian/Balinese spices and display a level of innovation in cocktail recipes that I have not come across before.

Adrian had the Ashes cocktail which is almost a live performance rather than just a drink. My Née-Groni was very nice too, not involving any fire, but made with Tanqueray gin and a homemade vermouth.

If you are lucky enough to get a seat on the balcony, you can sip your drinks with a bird eye view of Jalan Dewisita. Night Rooster is upstairs from Golden Monkey on the corner of Jalan Gootama and Jalan Dewisita.

Great looking bar and small dishes menu as well but we didn’t try on this occasion as we were on our way to dinner. Great value for money at IR130,000 (AU$13) each!

Definitely a must visit bar on your next trip to Ubud!

Brined Pork Chops

I had never thought of brining pork chops before I cook them before but after another recent successful turkey brining experience at Christmas , I though I would try it with pork. Of course then I found a host of articles about how brining is great for adding moisture to pork chops, cutlets and roasts and avoiding having dry pork ever again! (Took me long enough to find out!).
I just brined the chops for half an hour before cooking them and I cannot tell you what a difference it made to browning the chops and creating a delicious sauce to go with them. The chops were juicy and delicious. I can’t wait to try the technique with my next pork roast.

Prep time: 35-40minutes cooking time: 15-20 minutes including making sauce

Brining ingredients:
2 cups water
1/4 cup salt
Juice of half an orange
Half an orange sliced
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tspoon juniper berries
1 tablespoon or so of fresh rosemary leaves
2 pork chops or cutlets
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tspoon paprika
1 tspoon dried Italian herbs (mixed or just oregano)
Salt and pepper for seasoning

Sauce
Juice of 1 orange
1/2 tspoon cornflour
1/2 cup of water
Pepper and salt for seasoning

Method:

Mix together brining ingredients and cover pork chops in a single layer, leave in brine for 30 minutes.

Drain off brine and pat chops dry, then rub with olive oil, paprika, dried herbs and black pepper.

Heat heavy based frying pan, then add pork chops and cook for 4 minutes on each side, as well as 1-2 minutes on rind side, check to see if pork is cooked – juices run clear. Allow pork chops to rest in pan, off the heat. Juices will run into pan. Remove chops from pan.

Return pan to stove on medium heat, deglaze with orange juice then add water and using a wooden spoon scrape all the yummy bits from bottom of pan and bring to a simmer.

Mix cornflour with 2 tablespoons of water to a smooth paste and stir into gravy off the heat to avoid lumps from forming. The cornflour thickens the sauce and also gives it a glossy look.

Strain sauce through fine sieve and serve alongside pork chops.

These chops are delicious with rosemary roast potatoes.

BALINESE SAMBAL MATAH (FRESH RAW CHILLI SAMBAL)

Looking forward to eating sambal mata soon in Bali..

MyKitchenAdventure

Owwh yeah, when I want to transport into sunny beaches in my home country, not only Bali in Particular, but all over beaches in Indonesia. Since Indonesia are country with a lot of island we definitely have plentiful beautiful beaches and this recipe are remind me of sitting on white sand, hot sunny beach, eating and eating *haha.

IMG_5908

Why particularly I associate this Sambal with beaches, hmm fresh spiciness for hit of hot sun, kaffir lime leaves for tropical wind, spicy shallot to blend the flavour and saltiness for the taste of sea water, it is quite reasonable, am I? hehe.

I enjoy this Sambal with Indonesian tempeh, yeahh, my culinary heritage, it is so humble yet so nutritious. I used to make tempeh by myself after living in Madrid, to craft it need a lot of patience, to set the right temperature, good treatment for the soy, and a…

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The spice of kings

Fabulous seeing what saffron flowers look like and learning more about this wonderful spice!

midihideaways

The spice of kings is saffron – a spice as expensive, or sometimes more so, than gold.  The reason behind the high price is not its rarity, or a difficulty in growing the spice.  It is entirely down to the laborious process of harvesting!

The saffron crocus (crocus sativus) is an autumn flowering perennial.  The red “threads” (the stigmas and styles of the flower) will turn into the precious spice once dry.  I’ve been growing saffron in my garden for a number of years, with varying degrees of success.  Last year, none of the corms produced any flowers.  This year has been much better! 🙂

One day last week,  I was able to pick twelve flowers!!  Saffron flowers emerge shortly after the leaves appear, sometime in October.  The leaves persist until around May, when they dry out and the plants lie dormant over the summer.  Saffron  plants need free draining…

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Tasty Thai Fishcakes with Sweet Cucumber and Chilli Sauce

Having done my dash with ham and turkey over the last week of Christmas festivities, I thought I’d spice things up for New Year’s Eve with some tasty Thai fishcakes. We were heading to friends to watch the spectacular Sydney fireworks and I wanted to take some treats that can withstand being served at room temperature.

This recipe makes about 20 bite-sized Fishcakes or you can make larger cakes and serve them as an entree to a main meal.

These fishcakes are so easy to make and are delicious with homemade sweet cucumber and chilli dipping sauce. Making the sauce is worth it as it so much zinger and fresher than bottled sweet chilli sauce and takes no time at all.

Fishcakes

Prep time including chilling mixture: 45 minutes. Cooking time: 10 minutes
Ingredients:

500g firm boneless white or red fish fillets
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 teaspoon store bought Thai red or green chilli paste
2 red chillies deseeded and diced finely
3 fresh kaffir lime leaves or Thai basil leaves very finely sliced
5-6 green beans very thinly sliced into rounds
Handful of coriander leaves finely chopped
1 stalk of lemongrass – chopped into quarters
1 tspoon sugar
1/2 tspoon salt

1 cup vegetable oil for frying

Method

Place fish fillets in microwave proof dish and just cover with water, add fish sauce and throw in the lemon grass stalks and a few kaffir lime or Thai basil leaves.

Microwave on high for 2-3 minutes, then drain well, remove herbs and flake fish.

Add flaked fish to bowl of food processor with curry paste, chillies and blend into a paste.

Put fish mixture into a bowl and add sugar, salt, chillies, chopped lime leaves, green beans, coriander and mix well.

Add 2-3 tablespoons of the beaten egg and mix into fish until mixture binds together but is not too wet.

Place mixture in the fridge to dry out for half an hour or so.

Form mixture into small balls and press down to create little cakes. I find squeezing the excess moisture out of the mixture as you make the balls helps to bind the cakes together.

Heat oil on high until very hot and fry the cakes until golden brown. Do not turn the cakes over until the bottom side is well fried as this will help the cakes stay together.

Serve with Sweet cucumber and chilli dipping sauce

Sweet cucumber and chilli dipping sauce

Prep time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 1 minute
Ingredients:

1/4 cup of water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cucumber finely diced
1 red chilli finely diced

Method:

Put sugar and water into pot and bring to a simmer for 1 minute, mixing until sugar dissolves.

Add cucumber and chilli to syrup and allow to steep while you fry Fishcakes.

Quirky and cool cocktails at Opium, London

Found this little gem on my recent trip to London when I was searching for a bar to meet up with a work colleague near the West End.

Don’t be put off by the rather dingy entrance (look for the Jade Door says their website) and creaky wooden stairs to Opium..it’s all part of the atmosphere of making you feel like you are in some back room opium den in old time Shanghai. After climbing up a few flights of stairs, you enter an atmospherically lit bar decorated with Asian flair.

Situated in the middle of London’s Chinatown and a hop from West End theatres, Opium is a great Pre or post -theatre drinks venue but also an excellent experience in it’s own right.

The Dim Sum menu features sharing platters as well as individual dumpling plates and the dumplings were freshly made and delicious.

The cocktail list is very inventive and includes a beautifully illustrated menu of cocktails themed around the Chinese animal zodiac and cocktails from this list are served in corresponding animal shaped jars!

Munching on dim sum as you enjoy the drinks is a great idea and the whole experiences is quirky and fun.

Make a booking online at http://www.opiumchinatown.com as it fills up fast and there are queues to get in.

Turkey and Pea Curry Puffs

We are now at the very end of the roast turkey leftovers (promise). Today we were heading to the beach for a picnic so I decided to use it all up by creating some curry puffs. The shredded roast turkey meat goes well with Indian spices and sweet peas and the curry puffs are perfect picnic food.

Prep time: 15minutes + 30 mins cooling Cooking time: 15 minutes
Ingredients:
1.5 cups shredded roast turkey meat
1 onion finely diced
2 cloves garlic crushed
1/2 tspoon chilli powder
1/2 tspoon turmeric powder
1/2 tspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tspoon cumin seeds
Handful of curry leaves (optional)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup water
1 beaten egg yolk for brushing pastries
3 sheets puff pastry

Method:
Remove puff pastry from  freezer to thaw.

Heat oil in pan over medium heat and add cummin seeds and curry leaves until they splutter and are fragrant.

Add onions and cook until transparent, then add crushed garlic and mix through for a minute until heated.

Add cummin powder, turmeric and chilli powder and mix thoroughly through onion mixture, heating until fragrant but be careful not to burn.

Add turkey to pan and stir fry, then add 1/2 cup after and peas – simmer for 5-8 minutes until all the water has evaporated and peas are just cooked.

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Cool mixture completely.

Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees celcius.

Cut pastry sheets into thirds lengthwise and horizontally to make 9 even squares.

Using a teaspoon, spoon small amounts of the turkey and pea mixture into one square at a time, fold over and use a cake fork to seal the edges creating a neat pattern across all edges. Repeat until all the mixture is used.

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Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper, then place filled pastries evenly spaced apart. Brush with beaten egg yolk and place in Pre-heated oven.

Bake for 15 minutes or so until pastry is puffed and golden brown.

Allow to cool, or pack for picnic between layers of kitchen towel paper.

.

Ham and Turkey Pizza

Still getting through the leftover ham and turkey and other bits and pieces in the house…so decided to go Italian with homemade garlic bread, a nectarine and baby spinach salad and a homemade, from scratch, ham and turkey pizza using ingredients from the fridge.

Prep time: 1 hour Cooking time: 20 minutes

Pizza base

Ingredients:

4 cups plain flour
7g yeast (1 sachet)
Pinch of caster sugar
1 teaspoon of salt
400ml warm water
60ml olive oil
Flour for dusting Board

Method:

Place yeast and pinch of caster sugar with half a cup of warm water in bowl and allow to develop until froth forms about 10 minutes

Place flour and salt in a large mixing bowl and make a well in the centre of the flour.

Add water to centre of well and then mix gently with your hands until well combined, then add olive oil and knead carefully to make a soft, elastic dough, making sure not to overwork.

Set aside covered with a cloth in a warm spot to allow to rise to almost double its size.

Knead dough back into a smooth round ball and divide in half. This quantity makes 2 good size bases but half the dough can be frozen for later use. (Just thaw for 24 hours in fridge before using)

Gently stretch and pat dough into pizza pan, working and spinning the dough carefully to stretch.

Your pizza base is ready for sauce and toppings.

Pizza sauce:

Ingredients
2 ripe tomatoes
1 onion
4 cloves garlic
2 tsps mixed Italian herbs such thyme, oregano and rosemary – I used a combination of fresh and dried herbs
2 red chillies finely chopped (optional)
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tspoon salt
1 tspoon black pepper
1 cup white wine
1 cup water
2 tablespoons olive oil
Bowl of boiling water

Method:

Place tomatoes in boiling water and leave for 10 minutes, then remove skin which will peel off easily.

Cut tomatoes into quarters removing seeds.

Chop tomatoes into a fine dice and set aside

Finely dice onion

Crush garlic in a mortar and pestle or using a garlic press

Heat oil in non-stick pan and then add onions.

Sauté onions until transparent, then add garlic and heat through until fragrant.

Add tomatoes, salt, sugar and herbs and then white wine and water and simmer for 20 minutes or until all the liquid has evaporated and tomatoes have softened into a thick sauce. You can also add 1-2 teaspoons of tomato paste or tomato sauce to the mix if you prefer a thicker sauce. Stir occasionally to ensure sauce is not sticking.

Set aside to cool before using on base.

Pizza topping: (use your favourite topping ingredients)

Ingredients

1 cup chopped ham
1/2 cup chopped turkey
3-4 hot pickled peppers chopped finely
2-3 artichokes in brine chopped into bite size pieces
6 anchovies (optional)
4 bocconcini balls or mozzarella
Parmesan cheese for shaving over
Basil leaves for garnish

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 230 degrees celcius

Spread pizza sauce evenly over base

Place toppings on base starting with ham and turkey, then other topping ingredients.

Tear bocconcini and/or sprinkle over mozzarella over the top. Sprinkle salt in bocconcini.

Place in oven for 15-20minutes until base is crispy and cooked through and cheese is melted.

Shave over Parmesan and sprinkle with basil leaves and serve.

Turkey Pad Thai

This dish has now become a traditional Boxing Day dinner for our family. It’s a great way to use up leftover turkey and the spiciness is an excellent antidote to the richness of other Christmas dishes. For an extra chilli hit, serve the Thai sauce nam prik on the side…chopped chilli in equal parts fish sauce and lime juice.

Prep time: 30 minutes. cooking time: 15 minutes
Ingredients:

1 packet pad Thai rice noodles
2 tspoons store bought Thai red chilli paste
10 large green prawns, peeled with tails intact
1.5 cups Leftover turkey meat
4 cloves garlic thinly sliced
1 cup bean sprouts
3 eggs lightly beaten
2 tablespooons vegetable oil
1/2 cup chopped coriander
1 lemon juiced – about 3 tablespoons
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons white sugar
2 limes cut into wedges
4 green spring onion stalks chopped in half
1/2 cup roughly crushed peanuts
1 tablespoon chilli flakes

Method:

1. Boil 2 litres water, then allow to cool to warm, then add rice noodles to soak for 10-15 minutes until they are tender but not soggy.

2. Do all your preparation: Peel and devein prawns, chop turkey meat into chunks, lightly beat eggs, slice garlic, chop shallots and coriander, roughly crush peanuts, juice lemon and cut lime into wedges.

3. Drain noodles and set aside.

4. Heat vegetable oil in wok or large frying pan, add garlic and stir-fry until turning golden, add chilli paste and cook until paste is fragrant.

5. Add prawns and turkey and stir fry for 1 minute, then add fish sauce, sugar and lemon juice and stir until sugar is dissolved.

6. Add noodles and gently stir fry to mix through ingredients and heat noodles.

7. Push noodles to one side then add eggs and gently scramble and then stir through noodles along with 1/2 the crushed peanuts, shallots and bean sprouts.

8. Place into large serving dish or individual bowls and sprinkle with coriander, remaining peanuts and chilli flakes. Serve with lime wedges and nam prik chilli sauce to the side.

Our Holiday Favorite Spice: Cinnamon

Used cinammon in my syrup for my orange and date salad…the scent of cinammon through the house made it really feel like Christmas!

Crooked Bear Creek Organic Herbs

Most of us think of spices as incidental to our diets, but perhaps it’s time to update our appreciation of these flavorful, and powerfully health-promoting, seasonings.

Spices are defined as any “aromatic vegetable substance.” The keyword is a vegetable. Derived from “vegetables” in the form of tree bark {cinnamon}, seed {nutmeg}, or fruit {peppercorns}, spices have potent anticancer, anti-inflammatory and other health-promoting effects that are daily being confirmed by researchers. Indeed, the following spices have been identified b the National Cancer Institute as having cancer-preventive properties: sage, oregano, thyme, rosemary, fennel, turmeric, caraway, anise, coriander, cumin and tarragon. In one comparison of antioxidant power from the Agricultural Research Center, the compounds of oregano rank higher than vitamin E.

Spices also make major contributions to our health by allowing us to reduce the amounts of salt, sugar and fat in our foods.

We’ve chosen cinnamon as a super-spice because of its…

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Orange and date salad with pistachio yoghurt and mint

Inspired by an Australian Gourmet Traveller magazine recipe, I decided this salad would be a great accompaniment to the Christmas Roast Turkey with my traditional Christmas Turkey Stuffing.

I didn’t have any muslin cloth so I used a new piece of Chux superwipes (!!) with the holes in it to “hang” the yoghurt.

For extra Christmassy flavour I added a few cloves to the syrup mixture and then freshened up the salad by adding fresh mint leaves. It was delicious and simple despite requiring a bit of prep the night before.

Prep time: 8 hours/overnight

Ingredients:

240g Greek-style yoghurt

50g brown sugar

Piece of muslin or new piece of Chux superwipe cloth

1 cup caster sugar

1.5 cups water

1 cinnamon quill

3 cloves

2 pieces each lemon and orange peel, removed with a peeler

1 tsp rosewater

2 oranges, thinly sliced

4 dates, pitted and sliced into strips

1/2 cup pistachio kernels

Handful of fresh mint leaves

Method:

1. Line a small sieve with muslin or Chux superwipe and place over a deep bowl.

2. Layer a quarter of the the yoghurt alternating with a quarter of the brown sugar in the cloth, repeating until all he yoghurt and brown sugar is used up.

3. Tie the cloth tightly with string or an elastic band, and place yoghurt mixture in fridge for at least 8 hours. The liquid will come out of the yoghurt and collect in the bowl below.

4. Place cinammon quill, cloves, orange and lemon peel, sugar and water in a pot, bring to the boil stirring until sugar dissolves then simmer for 10 minutes until a syrup forms, be careful not to caramelise.

5. Allow syrup to cool slightly then add rosewater and mix through, then let syrup cool completely.

6. Carefully slice peel of oranges and pith off, then slice oranges thinly.

7. Deseed the dates and slice into slithers.

8. Place oranges in a single layer in a flat dish, then sprinkle with the dates and pour over syrup and place in fridge for at least 8 hours or overnight.

9. Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees. Peel pistachios and roast in oven for 5 minutes or until just turning brown, be careful not to burn.

10. Keep some pistachios aside whole to sprinkle over the salad for added texture. Cool pistachios completely then crush in a mortar and pestle or grind roughly in a spice/coffee grinder. You want a slightly rough mixture not a fine powder.

11. Take yoghurt from fridge and roll into small balls, then roll in pistachio mixture. The yoghurt will have lost a lot of moisture and be of a soft cheese consistency which makes this easy to do.

12. Place oranges and dates on a serving platter, discarding the syrup. Scatter with pistachio yoghurt balls, sprinkle over whole pistachios and a handful of torn mint leaves.

Pan-fried Scallops on pea purée with crispy proscuitto

Idea for a Christmassy starter…

freespiritfood

Red, white and green. These sweet scallops just pan-fried with a golden brown crust on the bright green pea purée topped with salty, red crispy proscuitto bits are a great Christmas starter or entree. The pea purée can be made ahead of time so it’s easy to assemble just before serving.

Prep time: 30 minutes cooking time: 20 minutes
Ingredients:

Pea purée
2 small eschallots finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic finely sliced
2 cups frozen peas defrosted
1/2 cup chicken stock
50g butter or 2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and finely crushed black pepper

Scallops
16-24 scallops (4-6 per person)
Olive oil spray

Proscuitto
4-6 slices very thin slices of proscuitto

Method
Pea purée
Heat butter or oil over medium heat
Add eschallots and garlic and sauté gently until soft and transparent
Add defrosted peas and chicken stock, bring to gentle simmer
Cook for maximum 5-7 minutes until peas…

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