Thursday, January 2, 2014

Chocolate hazelnut spread




HAPPY NEW YEAR, peeps!

In summary, 2013 was ... really, nothing too great. It was a year of knuckling down and saving money in a job that I'm not too crazy about it in order to fund future travel for 2014 and onwards.

I'm feeling a little lost and disgruntled. I turned 25 at the end of the 2013, and a quarter-life crisis hit me like clockwork: what the hell am I supposed to be doing with my life? Is this it? Is there something more? I don't know. But I do know I'm the only person who can find the answer to that question and make life what I want it to be. There won't be a solution fluttering right into my lap any time soon, so there's no point in waiting around for something to 'happen' to me. Because it won't.

ANYWAY, getting to the point - the point being chocolate porn, of course. Enjoy.

This was partially devoured on top of chocolate banana bread, or alternatively stuffed into fresh dates for snacks everyday for about two weeks...

...Want the recipe?!?!?

I know you do. Only good things can happen if you make this.

Head over to Reana Louise! I followed her recipe and method to the dot with the exception of a few things:

- I quintupled the recipe (yes, I made 5 times the volume that Reana did. What can I say? I'm greedy) - so where Reana used 50g hazelnuts, I used 250g, and where she used 1 tbsp cocoa powder, I used 5 tbsp... and so on. And it worked fine. It made one pint jar.

- I used a blender, not a food processor. This meant that rather than slowly grinding the fats out of the hazelnuts over a few minutes, I violently smushed them up in my Vitamix and had to add some extra liquids to aid with the blending process. I used 1/2 cup melted coconut oil to help it along.

Phew, that was easy. I didn't have to type out a recipe this time! Enjoy, peeps!


Friday, November 29, 2013

Spiced beetroot and apple relish

I have just emerged from a profound addiction to beetroot. Yes, I'm doing fine, thanks. For a while there it just took over my life and my kitchen (and my mornings), but I now feel ready to talk about my beetroot problem. So let's talk about this beetroot relish. The whole lot was eaten in approximately 1.5 days, mainly by me, but I did spare one jar for my hungry hospital intern brother.

Beetroot galore.

This recipe is so easy if you have a food processor with a grater attachment - or anything similar (I'm sure there must be other gadgets which allow you to grate food at a fast speed that I don't know about). Basically, you just push all the veg through the grater, add to a stovetop casserole dish with a few spices and apple cider vinegar, and you're done. It just simmers there for two hours or so, while you read/vacuum/ogle at blogs. It might be the easiest relish I've ever made. Maybe.

Spiced beetroot and apple relish (vegan, gluten-free)

Notes: Makes around 1 and a half pints of relish (about 750 ml, or basically two big jars full!)
For grating the veg, if you don't have a food processor with a grater attachment, just use a box grater and be happy that at least your arm is getting a workout.

Ingredients

600g beetroot (about 2 large beetroots), peeled if desired - I just left the skin on and scrubbed any dirt off
250g apples (about 2 apples) - I used red delicious
1 red onion, peeled
2 tbsp grapeseed oil (or your favourite cooking oil)
60g / 1/4 cup raw sugar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
60ml / 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cups water
3/4 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
salt

Method

Chop the beetroot, apples and red onion into chunks that will fit into your food processor for grating, and grate everything up. Or if you're using a box grater (let's call it handmade relish), get grating.

Add the oil, grated beetroot, apple, red onion and raw sugar into a large stovetop casserole dish with a generous pinch of salt. Cook over a medium-low heat for around 20 minutes or so, stirring often.

Next, add the balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, and a cup of the water. Add more salt if you like at this stage. Stir through, turn the heat down to low, and leave to simmer for an hour or so. Come back and stir it occasionally.

Add the garam masala, cinnamon and yellow mustard seeds and the second cup of water. Leave to simmer for another hour. The beetroot really does take a long time to soften up!

It should be ready after 2 hours of simmering. 

Spoon into preserving jars and keep in the fridge.

Serving suggestions (tried and tested):
- with cheese (a creamy blue or a sharp cheese)
- with eggs and toast, with some rocket leaves on the side
- as a condiment on top of curry
- spread on toast with some grated cheese and black pepper

Do you luuuuurve preseeeerves? Look what else I did:
Spicy tomato relish (my first blog post!)


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Beef and Puy lentil chili

I'm stoked that I discovered Puy lentils recently. I'd always seen them sitting there on the shelf at the supermarket labelled at three times the price of the brown and red lentils and ignored them. I mean, a lentil's a lentil, right? NO, past self, you were SO WRONG.

I started watching this program called The Little Paris Kitchen which I absolutely fell in love with, not only because Rachel Khoo is ridiculously cute and talented, but because she makes simple, good food look so effortless... and I'm telling you, her food is GOOD. It is the stuff of French cuisine, prepared in a tiny Paris apartment with very few tools. She makes it look like anyone could do it. Anyone could go down to the market, chat to the local fishmonger in fluent French, totally charm them with their cute foreign accent, and pick up some gorgeous fresh fish and cook it in brown butter and lemon. I could totally do that.

She also introduced me to some ingredients I'd never thought of using before, such as the Puy lentil, which is considered by many to be the 'best' lentil, since it holds its shape during cooking and has a unique flavour - I think it's peppery and almost meaty.

Look at them.  They're like delicate little green-grey pearls.

I've been dying to use these in some kind of vegetarian stew in place of mince. However, as well as myself, I also have to feed an omnivore. Last week our conversation about dinner went something like this:

Me:   Hey, I was thinking of making a chili this week.
Him:   Sounds awesome!
Me:  Did you want beef chili? Because I was thinking of using lentils instead of -
Him:   Beef.
Me:   But I -
Him:   Beef.

Okay, neanderthal man. So I made a compromise, and so beef and Puy lentil chili was born.




Ugh, it's just a giant pot of spicy, saucy bliss. I can't even.



Beef and Puy lentil chili (gluten-free)

Notes: Makes around 6 servings of chili.

I served this with some roasted summer squash and steamed green vegetables (broccoli and zucchini), but you could skip that and just serve with rice or quinoa. I find the lentils already quite filling, though.

Ingredients

1 cup (225g) Puy lentils (also known as black or du Puy), washed + 3 cups water
2 tbsp grapeseed or olive oil
1 large onion, peeled and diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced,
1 large red capsicum, or 5-6 mini ones, seeds removed, sliced into rough 2 cm pieces
500g extra lean beef mince
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp raw sugar
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp hot chili powder
2 tsp sweet paprika
2 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
1 x 400g tinned tomatoes
4 cups water
1 cinnamon quill
a handful of fresh coriander

Method

Add the lentils into a saucepan with 3 cups of water and a pinch of salt. Cook for 20 minutes or so. They will be cooked when you bite into one and it's still firm but yields to the bite!

Add the oil, onion, carrots and capsicum into a large stovetop casserole dish over medium heat with two generous pinches of salt. Saute for 2-3 minutes, or until fragrant and slightly softened. Add the beef, tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, and spices - oregano, ginger, hot chili powder, sweet paprika, smoked paprika, and cumin seeds. Stir everything together with a cooking spoon. Cook for 5 minutes or until beef is almost cooked. Add another two generous pinches of salt (or salt it to your taste).

Add the tinned tomatoes, 2 cups of water, and cinnamon quill and give it another good stir. At this stage, you can leave it for 30 minutes or so, coming back to stir it occasionally.

Add the cooked lentils and 2 more cups of water. Stir through, turn heat down to medium-low, and leave to cook for 1.5 hours, coming back to stir it occasionally.

Just before serving, stir through some fresh coriander, and leave a little bit to garnish.



Saturday, November 9, 2013

Beetroot berry smoothie

So I thought I ought to share with you the smoothie that I've been drinking every morning for the past two weeks. I am completely addicted to the nutrient-packed combo of fruit and veg that goes into this... but not as obsessed as I am with the COLOUR. I love its deep, burgundy red tones. But don't be fooled into thinking this is sweet and fruity. I sprung this on my lovely friend Tara one morning over breakfast. Her reaction was a mixture of surprise, followed by denial... or perhaps disgust? And then acceptance. I wish I could have video-taped it. I'm proud of her for drinking it all.

Because, yes, it tastes like vegetables, but I love slurping my vegetables and smugly thinking about what an amazing start to the day I am giving my body. I mean, you'd never sit down and eat all these vegetables, raw, for breakfast. It's way too inefficient. This makes me feel full yet light, energetic, and totally ready for work every day.

Beetroot berry smoothie (vegan, gluten-free)

Notes: Makes just over one pint of smoothie.

Preparation is the key. I freeze what I can, already sliced, so that it's easy to just grab out of the freezer and dump into the blender. Also, I find that using a mixture of frozen and fresh fruit/veg gives this smoothie a nice thick texture and makes it icy cold, which is what I love! 

Add something like honey or maple syrup if you prefer your smoothies a bit sweeter. I personally find green grapes to be the perfect natural sweetener - they are so ridiculously sweet and delicious!

I usually team this with a slice of toast with one of my favourite toppings - avocado, peanut butter, marmite, tomato or tahini - and it keeps me super satisfied for the first three to four hours of the day!

Ingredients

Fresh:
About 4 1-inch wedges of beetroot (raw)
About 4 1-inch wedges of zucchini
A giant handful of spinach
3/4 - 1 cup of cold water

Frozen:
1/3 frozen banana
5 frozen grapes
3 tbsp mixed berries
2 tbsp sliced celery
1 frozen mint cube

Add ins:
1 tbsp cacao nibs
1 tbsp chia seeds

Garnish:
Cacao nibs and goji berries

Method

Place ingredients in the blender - first fresh ingredients, then frozen, then the add ins, then the cold water. I find that this order works best in my blender (Vitamix), meaning there is minimal tamping required! Add water depending on your taste - using 3/4 makes it nice and thick. Enjoy your fresh morning energy!


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Chai coconut almond butter

Hello, hello! Did you notice something different about my blog today? :D

I've had a makeover! The wonderful Reana Louise designed my new blog - the banner, the colours, the social media widgets, and menu buttons... and I think it looks amazing! She is an absolute whiz, and it would not have been anywhere close to possible for me to do this myself. Thank you so much, Re!

Making my own roasted nut butter has been on the blahg to-do list for quite sometime - ever since I won Joy's vanilla giveaway and vowed to make a roasted nut butter with the ahhhmazing bourbon-Madagascan-vanilla essence that she sent me (which I also rave about here). Today, I entered the magical land of roasted almond butter, and ohhh, and I'm so glad that I did!

This almond butter was lovingly slathered onto thin green apple slices and green grapes. But I think I'll have it on toast for breakfast tomorrow and maybe add a dollop into my smoothie for some toasted, creamy goodness. Just knowing that this now sits in my fridge makes me pretty excited.

This kinda shows you what the texture is like. At room temperature, it's creamy and runny, but when chilled it's a bit solidified - but still soft enough to scoop out with a spoon or knife!


Chai coconut almond butter (vegan, gluten-free)

Notes: Recipe directions are for a Vitamix. But you don't need a variable speed blender to make this. Everything can be dumped into a food processor and blitzed for around 5 minutes, but you need to scrape down the sides every so often until it forms a creamy mixture. I don't speak from experience, but I've seen it done here and here... among other places I don't even remember! But friends, it is totally possible to make nut butter in a food processor.

Keep refrigerated.

1 1/2 cups raw almonds, roasted at 180C degrees for around 15 minutes, or until fragrant (alternatively, buy them already roasted - there's no difference)
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 clove
seeds of one cardamom pod
pinch of salt
1/2 cup extra virgin coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla essence

Add the ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and cardamom seeds into a small spice grinder or alternatively a small mortar and pestle. Grind until everything is mixed into a fine powder.

Drop the almonds into the Vitamix blender bowl, and add the spice mix, salt and coconut oil. Start at variable speed 1 (very low) and blend for 15 seconds until roughly chopped. Slowly turn up to variable speed 10 and blend for around 30 seconds, using the tamper to push the mixture around. Aaaand you're done!

I'm sure this could work in other good blenders too, duh - and food processors, as noted above - but I can only vouch 100% for the directions given for the Vitamix.