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You can make friends with salad!

16 Jun

Hey peeps, just thought I’d drop in with a quick post-long-weekend-post…I thought some of you might need a touch of inspiration to keep you going through the week! Or not! I probably shouldn’t assume everyone behaves the way I do in the midst of a long weekend [eating-wise of course], though to be fair, I am pretty confident a large number of my lovely readers are my dear friends, and that being the case I know they will be feeling much the same this week as I am!

I’m going to try to keep this short.

Porgie’s quinoa, pomegranate and feta mash-up

Taken from JOE M500

So the story goes, I had my own little ‘invention test cook-off what’s-in-the-box pantry party’ last night, and the outcome was nothing short of a gastronomic masterpiece – well, that’s probably a slight exaggeration but I’m doing my best to tempt you to try it!

We were planning to have fish for dinner and unofficial house rules state that I am the salad mastermind whilst the man of the house is the butcher/poissonnier.

 

Thanks to the weekend’s festivities, I wasn’t really in the mood to labour over a recipe so I got creative with the goodies in my pantry and this was the result.

  • 1 pomegranate
  • 1 cup uncooked quinoa [pronounced keen-wah, which is good to know if you’re going looking for it in a fancy pants deli…trust me, I’ve gone searching for ‘kwin-O-ah’ before and I’m pretty sure I gave the snobby deli foodies a good laugh]
  • I stick of celery, sliced on a slight angle
  • A handful of toasted walnuts
  • A bit of crumbled feta – i crumble it finely so it goes throughout the whole salad, that way you don’t end up with too much [I can see heads rolling right now – yes, there is such a thing as TOO MUCH feta – main offenders, you know who you are!]
  • Chopped mint – add as much/little as you like
  • Handful of torn rocket, which just adds a bit more greenery to the salad without being too overpowering

Dressing

  • 3 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tbs lemon juice
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • Salt & pepper

Make as much or little of this as you like – 3 parts olive oil, 1 part lemon juice and add garlic, salt & pepper to taste.

Wash quinoa and cook according to packet instructions  [this usually takes about 15 mins]. Chop/bash/toast/crumble/tear ingredients whilst the quinoa is cooking.

Don’t forget to make the dressing – combine and mix dressing ingredients.

Combine salad ingredients with quinoa in a large bowl, reserving a handful of pomegranate seeds to sprinkle on top of the salad.

I usually pour approximately half the dressing over the salad then mix it in and taste it, adding more if I think it needs it – there’s nothing worse than drowning a beautiful fresh salad in too much dressing.

For those of you who haven’t eaten or cooked quinoa before, don’t be turned off by its hippy, wholefood reputation. This stuff is amazing, chuck out your white jasmine rice – you don’t need it anymore! Quinoa is apparently really high in fibre and protein and is super versatile. I have a couple of other cracking quinoa recipes up my sleeve so buy a big bag of it!

Pomegranate is another ingredient touted as the ‘antioxidant superpower’. I’ve always thought they are quite expensive, but these days a pomegranate is cheaper than a punnet of tomatoes, and it’s such a good addition to a plain-ish salad. Those little morsels bursting in your mouth…unbeatable. They’re like Pop Rocks for adults, but even better!

To get the seeds out, half the pomegranate then bash the skin side with a wooden spoon over a big bowl. It’s a good idea to make sure you’re wearing an apron or stainable clothes at this point because the pomegranate juice tends to splatter everywhere*.

And a quick update on what’s to come…

On where i’m at with Pig vs Duck Round 2 – I had every intention to roast a duck for Peking Pancakes on my work-free Monday, but when i got round to shopping for ingredients [Monday] I realised that it was harder to source a whole, unfrozen duck on a public holiday than expected…oops. It is coming though!

I’ve also realised that my weekly blogging intentions may have been slightly ambitious! Sorry for the random, unpredictable posts, I’ve got so many great recipes that i’m dying to share, but not enough time to embellish a blog-worthy story around each of them…and where’s the fun in blogging if you’re not telling a story?

I’ve started a little ‘blog calendar’ to help me with this – at the moment it reads 1. duck, 2. salmon [my mystery dish], 3. Bun bo xao [a recent obsession], and then maybe something for the sweeties 🙂

I’ve had a few suggestions and requests which will have to go in there somewhere too… I’m hoping they might be accompanied by a guest post!

Ooh, one more thing – I spent the long weekend in Bowral, Southern Highlands of NSW – what a beautiful spot! If anyone is going down there, I highly recommend you make a booking at Onesta Cucina in Bowral. We ate there, albeit dubiously, on a recommendation from locals, and were very pleasantly surprised! In saying that, our doubts were hardly warranted [in typical Gen Y fashion, we were convinced it couldn’t be too good because we couldn’t find a website]! Anyway, big tick from myself and the rest of the group!

Stay tuned piglets!

Miss Piggie x

*If only everyone had a kitchen like Jamie Oliver…how good would it be to cook without having to clean up after you enjoy the meal you made with every pot, pan and utensil in your kitchen! In my dream kitchen, I’ll be able to exit and shut the doors post meal whilst the suds pour out of the walls and the monster brushes appear from nowhere for a wash, polish and blow dry! Just like a big kitchen car wash! Oohyeah!

Duck 1 Piggie 0

18 May

The Challenge

Pan fried duck breast with vegetable wild rice.

The Verdict

A flop.

The Debrief

Firstly, I apologise to anyone who has been waiting patiently for the down-low on the duck. I imagine you were hoping for a raving post about the-most-uh-maaaaaaazing-duck-i’ve-ever-tasted. I know I was! Alas, it wasn’t to be.

To say it was a flop might be exaggerating a little but to be honest, the result was decidedly uninspiring!

The issue was it was one of those recipes that involved a lot of effort for an average outcome…not something I’d recommend for your first home-cooked duck experience!

In fact, the rice was probably the hero of the dish, which certainly wasn’t what I expected! I don’t think I’ve had wild rice since I was a kid, and I definitely wasn’t a fan back then {anything brown & nutty; or green or fishy for that matter, was on my ‘to be avoided’ list}, so I guess the one good thing to come out of my laborious and mediocre attempt at duck is that I now have renewed respect for the humble but nutritious grain that is wild rice!

Anyway, that’s enough from Negative Nancy! I have a few French cookbooks at home, so when I find a winner duck recipe I’ll be sure to post it!

This week’s challenge is not quite a ‘tear out’, rather it has been ear marked in my copy of Valli Little’s delicious. More Please since I got it!

The Challenge

Moroccan Apple Pies with Rosewater Custard – sounds as cutesy as it does delicious huh!? {Coincidentally, I have a team of 8 people coming for dinner this weekend, so they will no doubt end up as my guinea pigs for the challenge}

And how about a bit of mid-week inspiration….

In light of the dud duck result, I’ve decided to share a recipe I recreated at home after ordering it at Manly Wine one Sunday a few weeks ago…

In a bowl, this salad gives off that ‘I’ve put a whole lot of effort into this’ vibe, but I promise you, there is no more effort involved in creating this beauty than there is in putting together a pedestrian garden salad…I’m not bagging the garden variety, but combinations like this make eating salad a whole lot more tempting!

Orange, walnut & goats curd salad w roast chicken

This leafy bowl of goodness looks so incredible on the plate – it’s fresh and vibrant and tres chic.

  • 1 Orange separated into segments
  • Baby beets, halved
  • Rocket/baby spinach
  • Fresh goats curd
  • A handful of walnuts
  • Half a punnet of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Roast chicken {optional} – I had this for lunch and added left-over rosemary and salt & lemon roasted chicken breast.

Mix ingredients in a serving bowl or on a large serving platter, with chicken pieces on top. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and/or olive oil. Serve as a side salad with grilled fish or with a Sunday roast chicken lunch!

One recommendation I can confidently make is to try it with a jug of ice-cold, fruity sangria…thank you Manly Wine 🙂

One other thing…I’m blaming my delayed post on the overindulgent weekend I just had in the Hunter Valley at Lovedale Long Lunch. One word – Sensational! It’s everything a wine, food, cheese, and good-time loving girl could hope for in a weekend! If you live in Sydney or within driving distance to the Hunter, I vehemently recommend you get there next year!

Til next time,

Miss Piggie x

Remember your first time?

6 Apr

Well it certainly was a weekend of debuts for me…I’m actually feeling quite accomplished this week; proud even. Proud enough to do a little shameless boasting anyway! That was your warning people!

Most notably, I participated in my first (mini) triathlon! It was surprisingly fun, though I must admit I was decidedly terrified pre-race!

On the cooking front, I made fresh egg pasta for the first time (in preparation for my impending triathlon debut), baked my first loaf of fruit bread and whipped up my first ever batch of fruity, buttery scones! In hindsight, I possibly went a little overboard with the whole carbo-loading thing; nonetheless I had a great excuse!

Why scones you ask? No I haven’t joined the CWA; in fact, I had a perfectly good reason for baking a batch of the good ol’ fashion high tea favourites. JAM! More on this later.

As promised, today’s download is all about last weekend’s road trip…

Destination: Blue Mountains

We got on the road bright and early Saturday morning to make the most of the day. Unfortunately I hadn’t quite packed appropriately for the chilly weather we encountered on arrival, so a good portion of our morning was taken up by emergency shoe shopping (needless to say, I wasn’t complaining)!

After a yummy macchiato at Stockmarket Cafe in Leura (regretfully we didn’t get to try their much-lauded & scrumptious looking breakfast menu) and a whip around the local shops and markets, we headed for Katoomba. We couldn’t visit the Blue Mountains without a trip to the famous 3 Sisters so we picked up a few picnic goodies and made the pilgrimage!

Our makeshift picnic lunch was hands down the most enjoyable dining experience of the weekend. Simple but delicious! The two standout ingredients were the near-authentic, super crusty demi-baguettes from Hominy Bakery in Katoomba and the morning’s market bought chutneys.

There’s just one other place I feel compelled to recommend to anyone who’s planning a visit to the Blue Mountains, Station Bar & Woodfired Pizza. It’s the perfect wintery watering hole…exactly what you need in a place like Katoomba!

We stumbled across this charming bar on our way to the pub for a pre-dinner tipple. The decor at Station Bar & Woodfired Pizza is oh-so-warm and inviting and the temperature inside, much the same. And though I can’t attest to the quality of their wood-fired pizzas, I can say that the few I saw and smelt nearly tempted me to cancel our dinner plans and settle in for the night!

Wood-fired pizzas; cocooning decor; a long and inventive cocktail list; live music and a sensational array of beers on tap and by the bottle…have I sold it to you yet? Get there!

I thought I might share a recipe with you this week. This one was inspired by my trip away…

So I have to confess, I’m a victim for a market (thanks Mum)!! I used to be found hanging around the bead and jewellery stalls but these days, for sure and certain, you’ll find me somewhere near the food, especially if there’s a sample to be had! So naturally I hunted down the local markets in the Blue Mountains area as soon as I knew our destination.

Et voila, success! Thanks to the weekend away my fridge is now laden with delicious chutneys and yummy jams!

In fact I came across rosella jam at the Penrith High St Markets on our way back to Sydney and couldn’t resist stocking up as it’s not so easy to find.

This was the inspiration for my introduction to the art of scone-making…ones of a healthy(er) disposition! See, I told you there was a good reason for it!

The following recipe is a combination of a few recipes that I liked – I’m not sure I’ve nailed it yet, but according to those who sampled the finished product, they weren’t half bad!!!

Please let me know if you have any tips or tricks for scone making!

Fig & Walnut Scones with a healthy(er) disposition

  • 165g cold butter, cubed
  • 3 cups flour or wholemeal flour if you like ’em really healthy!
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 cup coarsely chopped dried figs
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup cold buttermilk
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked for a wash
  • 2 tbs sugar mixed with 1 tsp cinnamon for dusting

Cinnamon Greek yoghurt

  • Small tub of plain Greek yoghurt or Greek style natural yoghurt
  • A couple of drops of vanilla essence
  • Sugar and cinnamon mix

Preheat oven to 220 deg Celsius and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Sift the flour into a bowl and add the baking powder, soda, and sugar. Mix.

Rub the butter into the flour mixture with your fingers, forming crumbs. Continue until the mixture is approximately uniform without letting the butter get too warm. Stir in the figs and walnuts.

Add the buttermilk and work it into the dough. Add more if needed to moisten the whole mixture. Be careful not to overwork the dough or it will create tough and chewy scones – not CWA approved!

Once the dough is mostly uniform, turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it in half. Pat each half into a circle or rectangle about 1 inch thick. Cut into relatively even wedges with a sharp knife.

Place wedges on the baking tray relatively close together to help the scones rise and avoid spreading. Brush each wedge with the egg wash and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Reserve any leftover cinnamon sugar for the Greek yoghurt.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the wedges are golden brown and smell irresistible!

And for the finishing touches… Cinnamon Greek yoghurt & rosella jam

Call me a killjoy, but I‘m always looking for ways to make sweet treats a little healthier without compromising on taste or decadence.

I’m not much of a cream girl (boring I know) so I created a substitute that will never make you miss cream on your scone again!

Whilst the scones are busy getting golden and delicious, mix some of the leftover cinnamon and sugar blend with a few tablespoons of Greek yoghurt (or Greek style natural yoghurt). Add a few drops of vanilla essence to taste. Once the yoghurt mixture is sweet enough for your liking, lightly whip with a fork or whisk to add some air to the mixture (if you wish).

Spoon into a bowl and serve with warm scones and jam of your choice!

Miss Piggie xx