Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Instagrams of Yumness - Sauteed Mushrooms with Silverbeet (Chard)

Last night, after a gym work out, followed by Pilates, I didn’t get home until around 9pm. And starving. And desperate for protein! Luckily, on the weekend I headed to some new markets and bought a swag of mushrooms. I have never been terribly adventurous buying mushrooms. I usually stick to the cheaper button, field and Portobello styles. But in the spirit of trying new things, I picked up a punnet of shitake and a packet of enoki to go with the standard field mushrooms. I thought I would quickly fry them, minimal intervention to get a sense of their individual textures and flavours. I added some silverbeet to up the vege quota, a poached egg for more protein, some toasted nuts and seeds for crunch. Served with a slice of “Life Changing Bread” from My New Roots (a dark rye would do just as well) and a good dash of Sriracha. My husband’s newest sauce addiction. We’ve gone through a bottle in a fortnight!

Verdict – delicious and cooked in about 15 minutes. But this would most definitely a Vegetarian Meal Improved By Bacon. Crisp up a few rashes to add to the top and this would be perfect!


Sautéed Mushrooms with Silverbeet

Serves 2

Small punnet shitake (around 5 mushrooms), sliced

Small packet enoki (a decent sized handful)

2 medium sized field mushrooms

1 shallot

1 clove garlic


½ tsp dried thyme

1 tsp honey

Splash balsamic vinegar

Splash Worcestershire sauce

3 leaves silverbeet (chard),

¼ cup fresh basil leaves

Olive oil for frying – about 3 tbsps.

2 eggs

¼ cup walnuts

1 tbsp quinoa

2 tbsp pepitas

¼ tsp smoky paprika

Heat a pan/wok and gently toast the nuts, quinoa and seeds until golden and crunchy, stir through the paprika. Remove to a bowl and set aside to cool.

Add a little olive oil to the pan, heat to medium. Dice the shallots and fry until translucent, mince the garlic and add to pan. Add salt and pepper to taste, thyme and the teaspoon of honey. Mix to evenly distribute through the onion mixture

Finely slice the shitake and field mushrooms and lightly separate the enoki. These will further break apart when cooking, so don’t worry too much. Fry, stirring frequently, to coat them in the onion mixture. When softened slightly (around 5 minutes), boil water in a shallow pan to poach the eggs.

Add the splashes of Worcestershire sauce and balsamic vinegar, this should sizzle and cook out pretty quickly, so make sure you stir it through all of the mushrooms. Add the silverbeet and fresh basil leaves, cook until wilted, but still bright green.

Serve immediately with poached egg on top, sprinkled with the seeds and a slice of bread and sriracha on the side.

And as I said, next time I make this, I’ll be adding a rasher of crispy bacon on top.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Gardening and Grape Sorbet

I’m not a gardener. At all. To me, gardening is a chore, like cleaning. The only things in our garden that get looked after are the edible things – and even then it’s only a water here and there. When we bought our house, it came with an established mandarin and orange tree, a grape vine, and a mint shrub. Our first summer in the house, we discovered some cherry tomatoes must have self-sown and popped up down the back. I have grand plans to plant more of a vege and herb garden, but so far it has extended only to a jalapeno shrub, a few citrus trees and a few sickly looking herbs on my kitchen window sill. Eventually I will get the motivation, because there is nothing better than fresh herbs and they are so expensive to buy when you use them in the quantities I do. But in the meantime, I will continue to reap the benefits of someone else’s labour and use the abundance of mandarins, grapes and mint that grow in our backyard. (Stay tuned for my mojito cheesecake!)

That’s not to say I don’t like our garden, I love being outside. I have two favourite spots in our garden – a coffee table/bench set-up that we’ve affectionally named ‘date corner’. That’s where my husband and I have drinks and dinners outside to make it feel a bit more relaxed and un-windy and ‘special’ than having it where we do every other meal. And this grape vine gazebo, which we deck out for summer entertaining. In the heat of summer, it’s a good few degrees cooler than anywhere else shady in the yard and it’s just so darn laid back. At the moment we are LOADED with grapes. Thousands of them. It’s brilliant. My husband picks a big bowl full, blends them up and sieves them out to make the thickest, yummiest juice.

Reading through various food blogs the other day, I came across a recipe with grape sorbet on The First Mess, and thought I would steal some of the juice to make my own. (I say steal, because my husband doesn’t like sorbet). Our grapes are super sweet at the moment, so I’ve added a touch of lime juice from the original, and a little ground ginger, because I was in a gingery kinda mood. I’m currently loving eating a scoop of this with my breakfast on the weekends, or as dessert with a scoop of coconut ice cream. They pair beautifully.

Grape & Ginger Sorbet

2 cups grape juice
1 cup water
1 cup agave nectar
2 tbsps lime juice
½ teaspoon ginger powder

Put all ingredients in a large jug apart from lime juice and whisk like crazy to mix. Taste for sweetness, add lime juice if necessary

Place grape mixture into an ice cream machine and follow manufacturer’s instructions.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day : Castle Gingerbread

I like the idea of Valentine’s Day, because I think all things love and romance should definitely be celebrated. Love is infectious!  But I find the reality is that when you have a partner, it can be more of an obligation than a loving thing. And not necessarily from your partner! Everybody judging what you’ve spent, how much effort has been put in.  My husband and I have never celebrated Valentine’s Day, instead celebrating the days that are significant to us throughout the year, and spontaneously showing our love to each other with gifts and dates. But it never hurts to show your love and appreciation to the special people in your life. Who doesn't love getting chocolates and flowers!

In the interests of spreading the love and joy and all the good parts of Valentine’s Day, I am going to tell you a story with this recipe of my first birthday with my partner. Hopefully it will make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. If I bring a smile to your face this Valentine’s Day, then I will consider it successfully celebrated.

Early on in our friendship, my husband learnt two pertinent facts about me.
1. That I was moving to Scotland (to live in a castle) and
2. That even as an adult, I still adore the movie “Labyrinth”.

Fast forward about 7 months later and I moved to Scotland, briefly, before moving home again. We then started dating and moved in together. One afternoon on the couch he tells me nonchalantly that he wants to throw me a masked ball, like in the Labyrinth, for my birthday. He’ll host it at his parent’s house, but it will mean him moving home for a few weeks before the party so he can do the gardens up, and prepare and decorate. The set-up is to be a surprise. We plan various things for the party over the next few months, we build a Zoltar machine, we send out invitations, we make our masks. He moves back into his parents’ house, and eventually the party is upon us. When I arrive, I am escorted outside. The garden has fairy lights everywhere, there is a throne for me to sit on and there are hundreds of our friends and family all in masks, looking amazing.

Then it is time for the “ceremony”. He plansed an elaborate presentation (again, based on the movie) in which this wonderful gingerbread Labyrinth castle is revealed to me. The whole thing is edible (minus a few props) and reflects different scenes from the movie. Everything it is made from had special significance to us and our relationship. It took him 3 weeks to bake and assemble the whole thing, and that was working 16 hour days. He took 3 weeks off work to do it! He is not a baker or caterer or anything like that by trade, he just got this wonderfully sweet idea in his head and decided to make it happen for me. For scale, I am a touch shy of 6'2".

So now, I present to you his recipe for  Castle Gingerbread. His notes for this are – heap the spoons of ginger, and best to make a double batch. Maybe you can spread the love and give your special people some gingerbread made from the heart.

Happy Valentine's Day.
Castle Gingerbread
125g butter
½ cup brown sugar
1 egg yolk
2 ½ cups plain flour
1tsp bicarb soda
3tsp ground ginger
2 ½ tbsp. gold syrup

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy
Add egg yolk, beat well until lighter in colour
Gradually add sifted dry ingredients alternated with golden syrup
Mix well, knead lightly
Roll out on a lightly floured surface to desired thickness, cut shapes
Place on baking paper on trays
Bake approx. 10 minutes at 180C
The 'Firies', the bog of eternal stench, the worm
The robot door man
Who can forget Hoggle peeing in the pond at the start of the movie?!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Summer: Blue Swimmer Crab and Chilli Pasta

You know how there are some activities that just encapsulate a season for you? On top of the obvious things like swimming, eating stone fruit,  suffering mosquitos, celebrating Christmas and Australia Day, and generally trying to stay cool, something that jumps out and screams “Summer!!” for me is crabbing. Every year that I have been with my husband, we somehow managed to score a free night amongst the madness that is our holiday season – with birthdays it extends from the start of November til the start of February – to spend a night crabbing with his sister. It’s something I remember doing as a kid, too. We used to go down to our friend’s house in Mandurah, the dad’s would head out at dusk and crab all night, then we’d wake up to a massive pot of crabs cooking away as the sun rose. We have always done it more glamorously, wearing waders rather than old Dunlop vollies and bathers, so we can strip and drive off relatively clean and dry. But with torch nestled in our armpits, and scoop net in hand, we scour the bay for blue swimmer crabs. Turning our nose up at the females and little ones, going blind and delirious as the night goes on and you can’t see through the water anymore. And coming home to cook our catch at 3 in the morning. Back aching and completely exhausted from trudging through knee-deep water with a squelchy river bed; but excited to have done something a bit different on a balmy summer’s night. Most years we aren’t terribly successful, getting only a handful. This year, we ended up almost at our quota. So on top of eating a few claws fresh out of the pot, still warm, dipped in passionfruit vinegar, I got to be a bit experimental with the crab flesh.
We don’t tend to eat a lot of seafood, because it’s fairly expensive, but I am a big fan in almost all of it’s forms. Often, unless we catch it, we don’t eat it! Being a fairly delicate and sweet flavoured flesh, I thought simple and clean flavours was best for making a crab pasta. I didn’t want it to be lost in a heavy sauce. My husband, as well as re-acquainting me with crabbing, also introduced me to using tequila in cooking. One of his favourite things to do is pour a capful (maybe 5-10mL) of his favourite tequila over a big juicy steak. As it hits the steak and warms up, the aroma is incredible. Seriously, try it. I used a reposado for this dish, but ordinarily I stick to anejo’s or a Mezcal, as that is what we usually drink.
The crabs we boil in a large pot of water with 2 heaped tsps of hot English mustard and a good few glugs of white vinegar.
Crab and Chilli Pasta
2 shallots
2 BIG cloves garlic
1 chilli
2 sweet paprika, diced
1 tub grape tomatoes
3 yellow squash, diced
Zest and juice from 2 lemons
Splash tequila
2 handfuls of cooked crab meat
Fresh coriander
Fresh parsley
250g egg pasta
Parmesan, pepper and chilli flakes to serve
Bring plenty of salted water to the boil
Fry minced shallots, chilli and garlic in oil until translucent. Add lemon zest
Add sweet paprika, squash and tomatoes, cook until softened a tad
Cook pasta as per instructions
Smoosh tomatoes against side of the pan, add tequila, lemon juice and crab meat, stir until crab meat heated through
Add noodles, and a splash of olive oil, stir to coat and combine
Add fresh herbs
Serve with freshly grated cheese, pepper and chilli flakes.
Being an Australian Summer, I also recommend drinking a nice Semillon Sauvignon Blanc to go with it.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Two Super Easy Vegan 'Pantry' Curries

So I was reminded one afternoon that some of the girls at work were doing a bring-a-dish lunch the next day. I was most disheartened. Not because I don’t like lunching with the girls, but because it meant I’d have to specifically cook something to bring in. We were already going to have leftovers for dinner, so there was going to be no cooking. Nothing I could just make a little bit more of in order to bring in the excess for work. I also didn’t have much by way of fresh veges in the house, and I really didn’t want to go to the shops. So I went to the gym and had a brainwave whilst running...
Enter two of the simplest curries you’ll ever make. All from stuff in the pantry, and a sweet potato. Literally 5 minutes prep time, then I walked away for half an hour and then turned off the heat. Sorry the photos are pretty bad quality. Oh, and in the interests of full disclosure, the lentil curry photo is no longer vegan, we added some diced up leftover sausages with the leftovers the next night.
Lentil and tomato curry
1 tin of lentils, rinsed
1 tin of crushed tomatoes
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp dried chilli
1 tsp dried coriander
¼ tsp cumin seeds
¼ tsp cinnamon
Salt to taste
Chuck everything in a pot, add ½ cup of water, simmer over a low heat for 30 minutes or so. Check for seasoning.
Sweet potato and chickpea curry
1 large sweet potato, cut into small dice
1 tin chickpeas, rinsed
1 tin coconut milk
1 ½ tsp ginger
¼ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp smoked paprika
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut the sweet potato into small dice, put everything in a pot, add ½ cup of water and simmer over a low heat for 30 minutes or so, until the sweet potato is tender but holds it’s shape. Check for seasoning
 Serve  both with rice and breads etc. of your choice

Cheat's Nando's Paella/Spanish Rice

I’m sort of on a health kick lately. Well, by ‘lately’, I mean the last 12 months or so. Nothing too strenuous, I just aim to eat well the majority of the time, and exercise a few times a week. You don’t want to overdo these things. The eating well part can be difficult with such a busy schedule. Some nights I don’t get home til around 8:00pm and by that stage, the last thing I can be bothered doing is cooking a laborious dinner. I do, however, still want it to be relatively healthy and wholesome. What’s the point of killing myself at the gym if I come home and fill my body up with rubbish? I want a dish that is both nourishing and delicious. And after not too long of being ‘healthy’, getting takeaway to make life easier no longer feels like a ‘treat’ because your body rebels against the extra fat and salt that it’s not used to. True story.
On nights like this, I have a few good go-to dishes, but my current favourite is this cheat’s Nando's Paella, which in itself isn't a true paella, but more a spicy Spanish Rice served with their chicken. My mother-in-law gives us a box of spices and sauces as part of our Christmas present every year, and it always has a couple of the Nando’s ones, so it’s more ‘authentically’  Nando’s paella than it otherwise would be. I add extra vegetables just to amp up our intake, these change depending on what I have in the house at the time. The best part of this dish is that it has so little active cooking time. I chuck the rice in the microwave while I go have a shower, come back and cook/assemble in around 10 minutes.
Cheat's Nando's Paella/Spanish Rice
Serves 4
Two scallions
Two cloves of garlic
One green chilli
Zest/juice lemon
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp smoked paprika (heaped)
1 tsp dried thyme
¼ tsp cumin seeds
a few coriander seeds
3 chicken thighs, diced
1 capsicum/paprika
Half a punnet of cherry/grape tomatoes
Quarter head broccoli
Half cup frozen corn kernels
Half cup frozen peas
Nando’s sauces of choice
One cup rice of choice – here I used a pre-mixed product called “Rice Plus” which has brown rice, black rice, quinoa, sesame seeds, barley and quinoa. The black rice is what's turned it purple!
Fresh coriander/flatleaf parsley and a lemon wedge to serve.

Cook rice according to your preference – for me, I put 2 ½ cups water to 1 cup rice, then microwave for 22 minutes.

Fry scallions, garlic and chilli in a small amount of olive oil over a medium heat until soft and browning slightly.

Add lemon juice, zest, stir around well.

Throw diced chicken breasts into the pan and stir around to start browning, add the spices and mix well to coat the chicken.
Add your chosen vegetables, cut into small dice and stir around. Personally, I think the capsicum/paprika and tomato are almost non-negotiable. Everything else is. I also love this with lentils.
Cook for a few minutes until the vegetables have softened, then add the cooked rice and mix well to coat the rice with all the delicious spices and juices.
Serve with some the coriander/parsley, a lemon wedge and a big ol’ swirl of your favourite Nando’s sauce. I use a combination of the Lime Sweet Chilli and the “Hot” Peri Peri.

This would also be improved with bacon. Just saying.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Tofu, nectarine and broccoli salad with toasted quinoa. And bacon.

I am a carnivore. Well, technically an omnivore, I guess. But I love meat. And I love bacon. When I was younger, I used to tell mum I could be a vegetarian if it weren’t for bacon. This is not even slightly true anymore. I was going to start listing all the meats I couldn’t do without now, but it got too long just thinking about it. And that’s without even adding seafood into the mix. But I think I’ve someone taken that initial theory on in a subconscious way. Now when I see vegetarian recipes, I almost always find myself thinking, ‘that looks so good…but it’d be so much better if it had bacon’.

This is a common theme in my cooking, so it’ll end up being a common theme in my blog. Much like the more common Meatless Mondays, I present “Vegetarian Dishes Improved by Bacon”. I’ve told a few people now that it’s my dream to write a cookbook with that as the title, and so far have 10 willing buyers. Maybe one day, I’ll get there!

Anyway, I made this summer salad with beautiful sweet nectarines, salty crispy bacon and crunchy greens for dinner on a hot, humid night and it went down a treat. Unfortunately, this was before my decision to make this blog, and therefore take more photos. Food blogging is going to be a bit of a learning curve for me. I am not hugely comfortable taking food photos - yet. I love taking photos, I love food…but somehow the idea of taking photos of the process and finished result is a bit weird and foreign to me. Despite the fact I adore food porn. That’s pretty much all I am on pinterest for. I will try and improve at this. I’ve been practicing by uploading some photos of my dishes to Instagram (follow me!). In the meantime, and for when I am too lazy to whip the camera out, I will post “Instagrams of Yumness” such as this one.


Tofu, nectarine and broccoli salad with toasted quinoa. And bacon.
Serves 2

Tofu slices – around 200g I believe??

3 tbps balsamic vinegar

1 tsp olive oil

¼ cup quinoa

One small onion, diced

Two cloves garlic, minced

Zest of one lemon

Finely diced green chilli

3 rashers of bacon, cut into small dice

1 small eggplant,  sliced

Large tomato, finely chopped

1 tbsp wholegrain mustard

Juice of one lemon

1 tbsp agave nectar

Big handful Italian parsley

Salt/pepper to taste

Half head broccoli

2 nectarines

Half red capsicum


Add balsamic to slices of tofu, leave to marinate for at least 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, toast ¼ cup of quinoa until slightly golden, put in a bowl

Fry the onion,  garlic, chilli and bacon in the olive oil over a medium heat. The bacon should crisp up around the edges. Add the lemon zest

Add to the quinoa, mix well and set aside to cool slightly.

Chop tomato finely, add to quinoa bowl. Then add mustard, lemon juice, agave and parsley. Mix well. Check seasoning and adjust to taste.

Chop broccoli into small florets, cut capsicum to desired size and dice nectarine,. add to quinoa bowl, mix well and put in serving bowl

Grill eggplant slices until soft, a few minutes either side. This can be done in the same pan to save dishes.

Grill tofu until desired level of crispness on the outer layer.

Dice tofu and eggplant, and arrange on top of salad


Voila! Lovely summer salad!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Hello and Welcome

I love food. I love the way all of your senses work together when you eat. I love trying new flavours, I love experimenting in the kitchen and above all, I love sharing food. Growing up, my family was somewhat of an oddity in this day and age – we still ate together every night around the dinner table. The majority of my socialising revolves around eating – grabbing brunch, meeting for lunch, going out for dinner, hosting BBQs.

However, life often gets in the way of cooking. Working full time, fitting in the gym, household chores, maintaining relationships, and trying to squeeze in a little downtime means that I fall in to cooking ruts. I’ve started making a point of trying something new at least once a week – this can be in the form of a new ingredient, or a whole new recipe. This blog will chronicle some of my attempts at spicing up our food life – both with fancy ‘impress the socks off someone’ recipes and simple last-minute dishes. Hopefully it will serve as inspiration to some of you as I have been inspired by so many other people’s blogs and recipes!

As a little disclaimer - I don’t profess to be a great cook. I haven’t had any training. But, I think I have a pretty good sense of what tastes good together, and I’m willing to try new things. So I don’t always get it right, it’s not always pretty, but I absolutely love the experience.

I am now married to someone whose love of food and sense of family equals my own. It is an absolute delight to cook for someone who shares these passions and discover new tastes together. Like a lot of you, the kitchen is the heart of our home, and he calls me his Skamp. So welcome to Skamp’s Kitchen