Cook this: fig & walnut jam

Nonna and Nonno have an enormous garden, full of fruit trees and vegetable plots, all lovingly tended to every day. I grew up surrounded by overgrown zucchinis and their flowers which mum and Nonna would stuff and fry, the sweetest mulberries that I ate by the (very literal) bucketload that I’d pluck from the lower braches of the tree myself, and my favourite,  figs.

Sweet, sticky, brightly coloured and impossibly delicious, figs are one of the most vivid tastes of my childhood. I’ve tried the odd few from a supermarket or fresh food market, but they’re just not the same as Nonno’s.  Now, every year when the figs come in, Nonno gets on the phone to let me know, and off I go to collect. I was pretty stoked last weekend to get the call up and find a kilo of figs waiting for me instead of the usual handful!

With my fructose intolerance,  I can’t stomach as many as I used to, but there was no way I was letting them go to waste, so I decided to eat a few, keep a few for the next few days, and turn the rest into jam! If you’re lucky enough to be able to get your hands on a kilo of fresh, sticky figs, this is a pretty easy way to keep them around for a little longer…

Ingredients:
– 1kg fresh figs (stems removed, roughly chopped)
– ½ cup caster sugar
– 1 tbsp vanilla extract
– juice of 1 medium lemon
– ½ cup toasted, crushed walnuts

 

Method:
1. Combine the figs, sugar, vanilla and lemon juice with ⅔ cup of water in a large pot. Set it over high heat and bring to the boil.

2. Once boiling, lower the heat and simmer for around 45 minutes, until it thickens up to a more jammy consistency.

3. Stir in the walnuts ans pour the jam into clean jars and cool to room temperature before screwing the lids on and refrigerating (will keep for 3-4 weeks). Easy!

 

This jam works really well on fruit toast, as a cake filling, and especially well on my date and sesame scones (smothered in jam above), which, if you have a spare $9.99 laying about, you can find in my cookbook 🙂

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Cook this: Vanilla raspberry protein loaf (lactose, sugar & gluten free)

I actually really enjoy baking with protein powder, and think it can be a bit of an underrated ingredient in the kitchen. If you can find one with a good flavor (I love a strong vanilla), it’s a great addition; it’s also a convenient way to pass off treats as “healthy”  ; )

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Anyway, when I saw this recipe on my blog roll a few weeks ago, I saved it to make later, and I finally got around to it this week. It’s a great one for those with special diets (you can substitute flour for more nut meal or GF flour if you’re coeliac), there’s no refined sugar unless you want to add some (but I find the sweetness from the berries good enough for me), you can use oil instead of butter if you prefer, and you can use any milk you want if you need a lactose free version. While the original recipe uses raspberries (and used them too because they’re my favourites), you can really use any frozen berries.

Also, it’s Friday – and if you want to treat yourself without totally eating crap, you may as well 🙂 Here’s my version of the protein berry loaf, inspired by Healthy with Anja’s recipe.

 

Ingredients:
– ½ rolled oats
– ½ cup plain flour, sifted
– ½ cup almond meal
– 2 scoops protein powder (I like vanilla Vital protein, which also happens to be vegan and dairy/soy free)
– 1 tsp baking powder
– ¼ heaped cup shredded coconut
– 2 large eggs, whisked
– 25g butter, melted and cooled
– ½ cup milk
– 1 heaped tbsp plain Greek yoghurt
– 1 cup frozen raspberries

Method:
1. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC and line a loaf tin with non-stick baking paper.

2. Combine the oats, flour, almond meal, protein powder, baking powder and coconut in a large mixing bowl.

3. Use a wooden spoon to mix in the eggs until completely combined, then add in the butter, again mixing until completely combined.

4. Stir in the milk next, a bit at a time (you may not need it all) until it comes together in a good cake-batter consistency.

5. Pour half the batter into the prepared tin and spread about two thirds of the raspberries over it. Cover the raspberries with the rest of the batter, and sprinkle the remaining berries over the top.

6. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove from the oven and cover with foil; bake for another 15 – 20 minutes, until cooked through.

 

 

** Note – this is definitely more of a loaf than a cake in terms of sweetness, so if you want it a bit sweeter, add a tablespoon or two of caster sugar in with the dry ingredients **

Cook this: quick & healthy – frozen fruit, yoghurt & coconut granola bark

Happy Sunday guys and dolls! I hope everyone’s had a great weekend, relaxing or action packed, whatever your preference! Personally, around this time on a Sunday, I’m usually winding down, hanging out on the couch or in the backyard with my other half and fur baby, enjoying a read through the posts from my favourite blogs.

One of my favourites, even though it’s not actually a blog, is the Beautiful Pictures of Healthy Food Tumblr – it’s one of the best collections of healthy food recipes I’ve come across! All that pops up on my WordPress reader are gorgeous, colourful pictures of delicious looking food, and a link to the original recipe source if I want to know more (usually I do, there are some really quick, easy, healthy ideas on there) – perfect for someone who, by Sunday afternoon, has the attention span of a goldfish!

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I saw this this picture perfect pile of fruity frozen yoghurt clumps last weekend, and have been really looking forward to giving it a go; after doing the groceries on Friday night, I finally threw a batch together, and they came out brilliantly! Perfect little snack nuggets, especially coming into the warmer weather (any time now, Melbourne…), and particularly because we don’t really keep anything to snack on in our house… no loaves of bread, no bags of chips, no chocolate bars; old habits die hard when an ex-PT marries a PE teacher! It’s usually not a problem, until one of us reallllyyy needs a quick little nibble between getting home from work and dinner time, or before a gym session when we wake up hungry but don’t want to eat a big breakfast first.

These little guys are perfect – Greek yoghurt is low in lactose/fructose (yay for me) and high in protein, meaning it’ll fill you up for longer. Fruit is obviously your friend, and a healthier way of getting a sugar hit than a handful of lollies. And the little bit of toasted granola and coconut on top make it a little more substantial and delicious. And the best part? It doesn’t take long to throw together, it’ll keep in the freezer for quite some time, and you genuinely don’t have to feel guilty when you’re reaching for a piece to snack on. What’s not to love?!

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I didn’t actually bother clicking through to the recipe link, because this seemed pretty straightforward, and I had my own ideas. This isn’t really a recipe so much as a few basic guidelines, because really, you can do whatever the hell you want with this!

You’ll need:
– 2 or 3 cups of fresh fruit (I used a punnet each of strawberries and blueberries)
– 500g tub of Greek yoghurt (I actually used a tub of Coconut Chobani + 400g plain Greek yoghurt, just to up the ante on the coconut flavour a bit more) – side note: if you want to make this lactose free, just use lactose free yoghurt!
– 1½ cups homemade coconut granola or any granola you want, really.

*** If you want to do the coconut granola from scratch, I used one heaped cup of oats mixed with 2 tbsp melted coconut oil, mixed them together to coat the oats, and spread the oats out on a lined oven tray. I baked that an oven at 180°C for about 15min, until the oats started to get a little golden (it’s a good idea to stir them around every now and then so they cook evenly), then took the tray out to cool completely. I also mixed some shredded coconut through the oats. I really like coconut, can you tell?

Once all that’s done, mix the fruit and yoghurt together in a large bowl.

Line a large oven or lamington tray with non-stick baking paper.

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Spread the yoghurt mixture over the tray, using a spoon to flatten it out.

Top with the cooled granola, and cover the tray with plastic wrap  (I was a bit cheeky and also threw some chocolate chips on top of the muesli after taking this photo, because why the hell not?!).

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Pop it in the freezer for a few hours, until it’s set (preferably overnight).

Chop it up into pieces, throw it into a plastic tub, and keep it in the freezer to raid at your leisure!

Cook this: coconut chia oatmeal with maple blueberries (low FODMAP)

Winter may be officially over in Melbourne this weekend, but it’s still kinda cold right now! And, still recovering from the world’s nastiest throat infection, I’m still craving comforting and warming breakfasts in the mornings, like this one you have have seen on my Instagram feed last week and have been eating almost every morning since!

I absolutely love a good bowl of oats, be it in porridge/oatmeal form, baked, granola or overnight – hearty and filling, healthy and delicious, and wonderfully versatile, can’t really go wrong! Here’s my new favouritr way to do them (and yes, still FODMAP friendly).

To make one serve:
– ½ cup rolled oats
– 1 tsp chia seeds
– 1 tbsp shredded coconut, plus more to top
– 1 cup milk (I use Zymil)
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– ¼ cup blueberries (frozen are fine)
– 1 tbsp pure maple syrup


Method
1. Combine the oats, chia seeds and coconut in a small bowl or tub, then pour over half a cup of the milk mixed with the vanilla (optionally here, you can mix that half cup of milk with protein powder – I like to use half a scoop of Nu Zest chocolate, best stuff ever!), then cover and rest in the fridge overnight.

2. In another small bowl or tub combine the blueberries and maple, and again cover and refrigerate overnight. Not essential (you can obviously just throw the berries and maple on top when you’re done cooking your porridge in the morning), but if do you remember the night before, the blueberries taste even better!

3. In the morning, put the soaked oats and the other half cup of milk in a small saucepan over low heat, and cook, stirring constantly, until it’s thickened up to a consistency you’re happy with. If you don’t have access to a stove/want a quick fuss-free breaky , microwave for about a minute and a half, take it out to stir and then give it another minute.

  
4. Serve immediately, topped with the maple soaked blueberries and a little more coconut on top.

10 Delicious Things To Eat In Thailand

I wrote this article last week for Outlet Magazine, and enjoyed writing it so much (it brought back so many great memories!) that I thought I’d share it here, too 🙂 Thailand has been relatively quiet in the world news since the Shutdown Bangkok movement of January 2014 that we somehow managed to get caught up in; that is, until the bombings in the country’s capital last week. For a country that makes a great portion of its living from tourism, this is a huge blow to the already struggling economy, which actually really upset me; for the most part, they’re good people who are working hard to make better lives for themselves. To be attacked like that is just cruel, it’s really really hard to hear about, especially when it’s Bangkok – the city gets a shitty wrap, but it’s still one of my favourite places! But, like I said when I wrote about the Shutdown thing, there are still so many great reasons to visit Thailand! Think cheap cocktails and beer, endless shopping, bustling markets and (best of all) some of the best food in the world. When things settle down and we’re all ready to head over to spend up on handbags and food, here are ten of the best things to eat.

 

  1. Anything on a stick
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    Chances are if it’s edible meat of any description, you’ll find it in Thailand threaded onto a skewer and grilled. Chicken, beef, pork, seafood, whatever – it’s all fair game, and it’s always delicious. Extra delicious if you can find honey marinated grilled pork skewers, those are the best.
  1. Noodles with wontons
    Photograph © Jess Carey 2014
    There’s a pretty noticeable Chinese influence in Thailand, and you can see it in a lot of the food. Fresh noodles with BBQ pork and wontons are one of those dishes that allows the Chinese influence to sneak in, but it’s so good no one seems to mind.
  1. Satay chicken skewers
    Photograph © Jess Carey 2014
    This is a simple dish, but a huge street food favourite. Grilled chicken on a stick with flavourful, delicious satay sauce. Really good option on the way home from a big night on Bangla Road.
  1. Freshly grilled seafood
    Thai food 4
    Find a decent seafood restaurant (look for somewhere super busy), pick out your dinner from the monster crustaceans displayed on ice out the front, ask to have them grilled and go with a simple butter garlic sauce on the side. Amazing!
  1. Pork fried rice
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    Another dish with a Chinese influence, fried rice is always a classic. It’s a great one to order from the street food vendors at night, particularly if you’re looking for something a bit more comforting and familiar.
  1. Nutella crepes
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    Every bit as good as the Parisian stuff. Actually, they’re better here, because more often than not, your Nutella and strawberry stuffed crepe will be doused in condensed milk before it’s served up to you. If that sounds unappealing to you, it’s only because you haven’t had one after a few cheap cocktails at 1am. You should try it.
  1. Pad Thai
    Thai food 7
    Duh – can’t well go to Thailand without eating Pad Thai!! Skip the tacky Westernised restaurants and head straight to the street food vendors; that’s where the best stuff comes from. Grab a fresh coconut to drink from while you’re at it – absolute winning combination.
  1. Fresh fruit smoothies
    Thai food 8
    These little stalls are set up absolutely everywhere and are the best way to feel better about your holiday food intake. Fresh mangos, strawberries, watermelon and pineapples all blended with ice into a cool, thick cup of healthy deliciousness. They also double up as great happy hour options if you buy your own liqueur at one of the infinite 7/11s floating around 😉
  1. Coconut sticky rice with fresh mango
    Photograph © Jess Carey 2014
    Another Thai classic – thick, sticky, coconut rice topped with sweet, fresh mango. It’s one of those dishes you don’t even need to be hungry to eat – it’s just soooo good!
  1. Coconut ice cream
    Thai food 10
    Yeah, they like their coconut over there. And when it’s so delicious and fresh, you can’t blame them for coming up with so many ways to use it. Freshly churned coconut ice cream at the end of a hot day is complete perfection. And because it’s technically made from fruit, you can eat as much as you like without feeling guilty! Everyone wins!

Baby shower baking like a boss :) Cook this: orange blueberry tart

As a general rule, I don’t have a maternal bone in my body. I’m closing in on 30 and still feel no urge to procreate – I don’t think I have that “internal clock” so many women my age freak out about when they hear ticking. I’m not much at all into babies or kids, and don’t really enjoy spending time with them – don’t even think about asking me if I want to hold one. The only exceptions at the current time are my two nieces, who are deliciously cute, and pretty cool little monkeys, thanks in large part to their amazing mum/my sister-in-law. You know how some women just have it? Like, they’ve just got the whole mothering thing down pat, they make it look almost fun, even on the crappy days, and they somehow handle those crappy days with dignity and grace? She’s one of those mums, one of those freaky magical unicorns who you don’t think can actually exist in real life. What a star.

Anyway, my other sister-in-law is also pregnant, which I predicted would happen when I booked my trip to Japan, and we’re going to have another little lady joining the family soon!

Side note: How was I able to predict a baby with travel? Simple; every time I whip out my passport and book a trip overseas, someone in the family has a baby. Niece #1 was born on our honeymoon. Niece #2 was born a few days before we went to Egypt/Europe. Cousin’s baby was born a few days before America. So when I booked Japan, it was pretty obvious someone was going to be getting knocked up, and true to form, niece #3 is due the day before I’m due to fly back to Melbourne. So, sisters and sisters-in-law, upcoming trips I’m planning include one either October-ish or Christmas time-ish 2016, and another one around the same time in 2017. One or more  of you will be having babies over the next 2 years. Consider yourselves warned.

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But back to my lovely sister-in-law currently carrying the newest addition to the family – she’s going to be just as amazing a mum as her older sister. Again, calm beyond belief, so very level-headed, and very drama free, she’s a totally amazing woman; I couldn’t be happier for her 🙂 And, despite my dislike of baby related things and gatherings, I was stoked to be asked to do some baby shower baking for the day, which went off beautifully yesterday, hosted by my mum-in-law and with my sister-in-law surrounded by a whole lot of happy, supportive friends and a few pink balloons!


I arrived armed with freshly baked mini lemon meringue tarts, raspberry pistachio blondies, chocolate fudge cupcakes and a blueberry orange tart (can’t even tell you how exhausted I was after baking all that between 6pm Thursday night and 3pm Friday afternoon)…

While I’m generally a chocoholic, I surprisingly really love the blueberry orange tart, a super quick and easy recipe I found months ago in one of those freebie supermarket recipe magazines that sit at the check out. Actually, that’s a lie – the recipe I found was for a lemon blueberry tart, but I like orange blueberry better, so (as usual), I made some changes. Anyway, it’s a delicious one that’s pretty easy to throw together, especially if you need something relatively last minute, got heaps of flavour (the orange zest always comes through so well), and you can play around with it a little, using other berry/citrus combinations – I’m thinking of trying raspberry and lemon, or maybe strawberry and lime next…

Ingredients:
– 2 sheets of frozen shortcrust pastry, or 2 serves of this homemade stuff
– 2 eggs, at room temperature
– ⅔ cup caster sugar
– finely grated rind of one orange
– ½ cup plain flour
– ⅓ cup milk
– freshly squeezed juice of half an orange
– 2 tsp vanilla extract
– 1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
– icing sugar to dust (optional)

 

Method:
1. If you’re going to make the pastry from scratch, follow the link above and make that first. Once it’s rested for half an hour in the fridge, pre-heat the oven to 180°C and roll out the pastry. Then, carefully lay the freshly made or pre-made frozen pastry into a large greased pie, tart or rectangular cake tin.

2. Place a sheet of non-stick baking paper over the pastry and throw in some pie weights or rice, and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the baking paper and weight, and bake for another 10 minutes.

3. While the tart shell is baking, make the filling – whisk the eggs, sugar and orange rind together, then sift in the flour and whisk in until completely combined.

4. Whisk in the milk, orange juice, and vanilla. Then, once the pastry is baked, pour the mixture in, sprinkle the blueberries over the batter and bake for 20 – 25 minutes, until golden and just set.

5. Let the tart cool enough to handle before removing from it’s baking tin to cool on a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar to serve, if that tickles your fancy.

Eat here: Addict Food & Coffee, Melbourne 

Addict Food & Coffee 240 – 242 Johnston St, Fitzroy, Melbourne https://www.facebook.com/addictmelbourne IMG_7536 I realise this next statement may make me sound like yet another Melbourne hipster, but quite frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn. I love a good weekend brunch. Particularly in the Fitzroy/Collingwood region. Yup. Hipster. In my defense, they’ve been my favourite suburbs for a long time now, since I went to uni in the area, years before the hipster revolution. Now I sound like an old hipster. Crap. So, Addict is one of the newer kids on the block, having been around for about a year now. The fact that it’s taken me this long to get there because every time I’ve been past it’s been absolutely jam packed with a line out the front speaks quite highly of it already! Last weekend, we decided to roll out of bed on Sunday morning and head straight on over, hoping that our naturally early rising body clocks would beat the hipsters; we were right 😉 IMG_7529This may be the first coffee shot on my blog – see, I’m not a stereotypical hipster, I hate coffee! My husband used to as well, but he’s converted. Sell out. He said it was really good though, so if you’re a coffee person like 98.97% of other Melbournians, this is a good option. I’m a nanna, so I got a pot of tea. Which I thoroughly enjoyed. But we weren’t there for drinks, we were there for food. And food we ate; there were too many amazing options, so we decided to combine them all with the breakfast board! Clockwise from top right, you’ve got – Potato hash nuggets – Grilled cheese kransky – Cured ocean trout – Perfectly poached eggs – Toast with relish – Even more perfect french toast with berries and mascarpone and berry coulis IMG_7533 This may be one of the best breaky spreads going around. Honestly. There wasn’t a single thing on this board that I didn’t like. Picking a favourite is pretty much impossible too. Actually, it is. I loved everything on there. And surprisingly good value at $32.00 for the words. It would comfortably fill up two normal people. But we’re pigs, and I wanted to try the coconut chia pudding with mango puree and strawberries. So we got that too. IMG_7535 Outstanding chia pudding, the coconut cream was smooth and properly creamy, the mango puree was great, made even better by the little chunks of peach hidden within it. And the puffed buckwheat was the crunchy icing on the chia pudding cake. I know everyone is doing a variation of this, but Addict’s was totally on point. And perfectly sized, too – not impossibly big, not tiny. And the other thing that makes or breaks a place, in my opinion; the service. Absolutely top notch, even with the long weekend craziness. We were well and truly looked after, even my request for a cinnamon-less serving of French toast was fine, and as an even more pleasant surprise, it was not only service with a smile, but service with personality and fun! Some people might not care, they’re just there for breaky, but first thing on a Sunday morning, it makes the world of difference to be served by someone who looks like they’re having a good time, and not pissed off to be helping you! I’m kinda pissed off with myself, though, for having been so put off by the crowds now. I wish I’d visited a year ago when they first opened. I wish I’d been visiting regularly. The weekend is coming up again, which means the hipsters are starting to plan their weekend brunches. Put this place on your list, hipster or not. That said, if brunching with delicious food makes me hipster, pass me the super tight jeans and ironic accessories, and meet me at Addict!

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