Thursday, February 27, 2014

Party Inspiration - Camp Molloy

In Perth, we’re coming up for a long weekend, and I know hundreds of us WAliens flock Down South for a lovely and relaxing break. What a perfect time to reminisce over my 30th birthday – an American Summer Camp Themed week-long adventure in the Augusta/Margaret River region we dubbed Camp Molloy. Maybe inspire a few of you on day trips and activities in the area. Opportune timing also as I haven’t gotten around to processing any food photos lately (don’t blame me, blame the new Donkey Kong)

Molloy Island is a small residential island in the Blackwood River, accessible via a 4-car barge. I’ve been going to Molloy Island ever since I was born and I love it. My husband has grown to love it, too. I learnt to ride a bike there, got proposed to there and spent a month there on my honeymoon. I absolutely love this area of my state. It only made sense that my 30th should be there, too.

Given that it was a week holiday, Lance and I designed and made the invitations early to give guests ample opportunity to take time off work and things like that. The invitation I am still particularly proud of. It consisted of 4 parts. A postcard written from Lance and I, telling people we had discovered this camp. A ‘brochure’ outlining the details of the camp, including activities planned, rules of the camp and a few joke paragraphs. A permission slip and an invitation for my actual birthday “dinner” on the Saturday night, for people who could only make it down for the weekend.

Despite the fact that it was a group ‘holiday’, we treated it like it was a camp in terms of organisation. It’s really hard to get a bunch of adults to make decisions, so we planned all activities and running schedule so that the time away was used to maximum enjoyment! And everyone going had expectations of what they’d be doing. It worked really well. A few weeks before my birthday, we sent a detailed itinerary.

For the activities, we went to the beach, played archery, had a limousine brewery tour day, a limousine winery tour day, Halloween happened to fall during the holiday so we had a dress-up mini-golf and maze day. Lance planned a quiz night one night, we played tennis and we had lots and lots of good food and wine.

Some of my favourite places and businesses we visited on Camp Molloy are:

Cape Naturaliste Winery – my favourite winery ever. Ever.
Margaret River Venison Farm - Venison Chorizo, need I say more?
Vasse Virgin Olives
Eagle Bay Brewery
Cheeky Monkey Brewery
Cruising the Cape Limos
Woody Nook WInery - definitely worth hitting for a good lunch spot on a winery trek
Vasse Felix Winery
And a whole bunch more I can't currently remember. Shoot me an email if you are interested in anything in particular. Or check out 
Have you ever planned a road trip party? What did you find that worked really well? What were the struggles? Would you do it again? I'm hoping to plan a foodie weekend down south soon!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Lost Ice Cream - Vegan Pina Colada Ice Cream

I was going through my various food photos and I discovered I'd missed a post! So, completely coincidentally, I am now posting two vegan recipes in a row. Given that it is still definitely summer in Perth, it's not too late for another ice cream recipe. This is a coconut ice cream, with pineapple added to make it pina colada. That's now two pina colada desserts, one for winter, one for summer!

This freezes quite hard if you leave it in the freezer for too long. If it's gone hard, simply pop it in the fridge for about an hour before serving. I have heard that arrowroot powder is good for preventing overhardening, but I haven't tried it myself. Maybe next time. Likewise, adding the rum to the ice cream mixture would help - but i quite like it drizzled over the top. Feels that little bit more naughty and decadent!

Vegan Pina Colada Ice Cream
440g tin pineapple pieces in juice, separated into fruit/juice
½ tsp vanilla paste
2x 400ml tins coconut cream
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
To serve
toasted coconut
dark rum

Puree half the pineapple pieces in a food processor. Put pineapple juice, puree and dark brown sugar and vanilla into a medium saucepan and heat to medium, bubble it away on a simmer until it reduces by half and becomes syrupy. Add the coconut cream and whisk to combine. Whisk and heat on a gentle simmer for 10 minutes to infuse. Pour into a glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap pressed to the surface to stop a skin forming and refrigerate until completely cold. Overnight is good.

Churn according to your ice cream makers instructions. Transfer to a sealed container and freeze to harden a further 2 hours or so before serving. Serve with leftover pineapple pieces, a shot of dark rum and some toasted coconut!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Experimenting with Tofu - Almond Butter and Dukkah Crumbed Tofu

I love meat. A lot. But I’ve been trying to incorporate more vegetarian meals into our average weeknights. Both because it’s cheaper to not have meat every day, and also because it’s good health-wise to be meat-free occasionally. Most frequently my vegetarian meals use tinned beans, because they’re already a pantry staple. Or some form of stir-fry or salad with every vegetable under the sun in them. I don’t tend to buy anything specific like tofu or tempeh to make a vegetarian dish – I tend to just omit the meat. In fact, the last time I cooked with tofu was about this time last year. And I included bacon. I don’t even tend to eat tofu out unless it is in miso soup. But for some reason, shopping the other day I swung past the aisle that has tofu and added a packet to my trolley.

So when I didn’t get meat out to defrost today (the usual motivation behind what day is now vegetarian day), I was going to hit the shops on the way home from work to buy some. I have been feeling fairly run down the last few days and wanted a high protein meal. When I remembered the tofu. Hello protein! The rest of the idea came from my current favourite snack. Carrot sticks, dipped in almond butter, dipped in dukkah. Seriously good. So addictive. To make the almond butter suitable for coating, you need to thin it out – I used water but almond milk would be better to prevent the flavour diluting too much. I also added salt as my nut butter didn’t have any, and the dukkah I used didn’t have a great deal of salt either. You should check both of these things before adding salt to yours. You can substitute the cornmeal for dry breadcrumbs (panko), I just thought I’d make it gluten-free as per a reader request! And realising this was also vegan up to this point, I decided to leave out the pecorino I was planning on adding. You can choose whether or not to add that.

The salad I’ve served with it was decided on the colours of the vegetables (purple cauliflower!), and then a bright lime and maple dressing because I find that tofu can verge on a little dry. You could also serve these as a vegetarian version of chicken nuggets and serve with a dipping sauce. And whilst I really enjoyed this dish, I do think that I’m still not the hugest fan of tofu. So this will probably be my last tofu dish on this site for another 12 months!

Do you have a recipe that will change my mind? Send me an email!


Almond Butter and Dukkah Crumbed Tofu
3 heaped tbsp. almond butter
¼ cup water (almond milk would be better)
¼ tsp salt
¼ cup fine cornmeal
¼ cup dukkah
300g firm tofu
Grapeseed oil or similar for frying
Lime wedges, maple for serving.

Put the tofu on a plate lined with paper towels. Add more paper towels on top, put a second plate on top of this, then something heavy on top of this to squeeze the packaging water out of the tofu. Leave it for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, add almond butter and water to a blender and blend until completely homogenised, if needed, add the salt and blend this in too. You want the almond butter to be a sauce-like consistency.

If the tofu is in one big block, cut in half to make two thinner rectangles, then each of those into 3 strips.

Grab two shallow bowls and a plate. Pour the thinned almond butter into the first one. Mix the cornmeal and dukkah together in the second. Coat each slice of tofu in almond butter, then the dukkah mix, then put on the plate ready for frying.

Heat a thin layer of oil in a frypan to medium-high. Working in two batches, cook the tofu for 3-5 minutes on each side until golden. Drain on paper towel and keep warm while you do the second layer.

Serve with a drizzle of maple syrup, a lime wedge and salad.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Birthday Meals - Fig and Apple BBQ Pasta Sauce

My husband and I both tend to have birthday week, at least. Sometimes birthday month. We generally don't buy each other presents unless there’s something specific we find (this is true for all gift-giving occasions). Instead it becomes a week or so full of birthday-related activities. This year, his parents threw their annual party. The day of his birthday I met his boat after work and we had tapas and beers at Monk Brewery with a few friends and the next day I cooked him this for dinner for his Birthday + 1. I had told him I wanted to cook him something special for his birthday and he told me he doubted I could. Everything I cook was special. Bless him.

We are both big fans of ribs. Sticky, BBQ sauce smothered ribs. Preferably smokey. Along with my collection of hot sauces, I have a handful of different BBQ sauces in my pantry, too. I was thinking about how they all have a similar base flavour, and started contemplating what it was that makes a BBQ sauce taste like a BBQ sauce. Basically it’s a combination of sweet, salt and vinegar. The ‘sweet’ is usually fruity. And then it’s got some spice in there. Pretty simple, really. I knew I didn’t have enough time to come home from work and cook ribs (they are so much better slow-cooked), but I still wanted that sticky sweet sauce. I got it in my head to make a pasta, but didn’t want to just use a BBQ sauce from the bottle because they tend to be a bit ‘much’ in large quantities. The vinegar and sugar can take over.

I had been given a few sundowner apples from my parents’ after an orchard trip. I’m not the hugest fan of them to just eat, I find they can be a bit ‘floury’. I like my apples tart and crisp – like pink ladies, or fujis. But, I thought they’d make the perfect sweet base for a BBQ sauce. I added some figs, because I had some. You can always substitute another apple, or maybe a few nectarines or peaches seeing as they’re in season. To me, the sauce turned out perfectly and Lance swears up and down that it wasn’t BBQ sauce but was delicious. I asked him what it tasted like and what BBQ sauce tasted like. He repeated back all of the same flavours for both. What was ‘missing’ was it being further reduced to concentrate the flavours like the traditional condiment – but this was the reason I didn’t want to just use a bottled sauce in the first place. So, I am going to make this again, but cook it in my slow cooker for a few hours to reduce it further, then puree it to make a condiment BBQ sauce. And as a compromise, I am calling this a BBQ Pasta Sauce instead of just a BBQ sauce.

To make the pasta, I had some beautiful little yellow squash and zucchini, then some leftover roast beef that I shredded. Some pork or chicken would go well, too. Then I added a tonne of basil and flat leaf parsley at the end. I wanted it to be more of a vegetable than a herb.
This recipe has a lot of ingredients, but most of them are spices, so don’t get too overwhelmed by that. For me, they are all pantry staples. The mustard seeds and cumin seeds I measured before I toasted and ground them. If you have pre-ground spices, then you’d probably need a little less.

Fig and Apple BBQ Pasta Sauce
(serves 4-6)
2 shallots
4 cloves garlic
2 apples
6 figs
1 shot bourbon
2 tsp sweet paprika
2 tsp smokey paprika
1 tsp chipotle chili powder
2 tsp salt
1 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp pepper
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 cup water
½ cup apple cider vinegar

Assembling the Pasta
6 yellow squash, diced
1/2 zucchini, diced
1 cup shredded cooked beef
Bunch basil leaves, roughly torn
Bunch flatleaf parsley leaves, roughly torn
500g egg noodles

In a large, tall sided pan (I used my tagine pan) on a low heat, add the olive oil and when it’s warmed up, add the shallots and garlic and sautee for about 5 minutes until translucent. You don’t want to colour them, you want it sweet and soft. Then add the apples, figs, salt and bourbon. Stir well, then cover and leave to simmer around 10 minutes while you prep the rest.

In a dry pan, toast the cumin and mustard seeds for 15-30 seconds until the mustard seeds ‘pop’. Add to a spice grinder or mortar & pestle with the peppercorns and grind until fine. Add the two paprikas and chili powder to the spice mix. Mix together the water, Worcestershire sauce, apple cider vinegar and honey. Pour into the apple mixture. Add the spice mixture into the pan as well and mix everything really well. Cover again and simmer away for at least 20 minutes. The fruit should break down and go mushy turning into a delicious sticky sauce. Check for seasoning.

Meanwhile, place a pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta. Cook according to packet instructions. Add the squash, beef and zucchini to the sauce and cook until warmed through and the vegetables have softened – 10 minutes. Add the pasta when al dente, and the herbs, and stir through. Serve!