Saturday, April 12, 2014

Orecchiette with broad beans and lemon ricotta

Orecchiette with broad beans and lemon ricotta

So, end of daylight savings. I have to say, I haven't minded it too much so far. I loved the extra hour of sleep we got last weekend, and the extra light in the mornings is a total bonus. (Although we all know that's not hanging around for too long - winter, amirite?!) And even though it gets dark quickly in the evenings, at the moment I'm often tricked into thinking it's quite late and then realising, gratefully, that it's only six thirty, and I still have time to watch Judge Judy, knock up dinner, clean the flat and whatever else I feel like doing of an evening.

This pasta dish feels very spring time, but is primarily made with storecupboard and frozen ingredients. The perfect way to bring some sunshine into your kitchen on a gloomy evening. I got the idea of combining broad beans, orecchiette and ricotta from an old Nigel Slater column in The Guardian, but made it with frozen broad beans, added lemon for a zingy freshness, and really just made the method up as I went along, not following his recipe too strictly.

Broad beans. I think they're my favourite vegetable right now. (Or are they a legume?) Whatever, they taste good. I always keep a packet of frozen broad beans in my freezer. I've tried fresh before, but I've found that, similar to peas, they're only nice if you get them freshly picked, and if you prepare them straight away. Otherwise, they get all starchy and mealy. The frozen ones are picked and frozen at the height of freshness, so they're all nice and sweet and bouncy and fresh once you cook them.

I defrost them by pouring boiling water over them, then squeeze them out of their little shells. It's a bit of a pain to do, but the results are so worth it.

Shelling the broad beans

See how fresh and vibrantly green the little beans are?

Broad beans

So for this recipe, I cook orecchiette, adding the broad beans for the last five minutes of cooking. Once drained, I add butter (you could use extra virgin olive oil, but I love the milky richness of butter), salt, pepper, grated parmesan and chopped herbs. (I used chives and oregano, because I had them in the fridge and I love chives, but fresh mint would be nice too).

Adding butter

Incidentally, I've recently found good quality orecchiette at my local supermarket, in the home brand. I've noticed lately that supermarkets are starting to produce and sell upmarket home brand products, like pastas, jams, creams, preserves and whatever, and even increasing their range of non home-brand "gourmet" products, which I appreciate as a customer. (I remember majorly struggling in 2005-2006, during my Sarah Discovers How to Eat days, to try and find all those fancy ingredients Nigella used, like crème fraîche, Maldon salt, muscovado sugar, tinned chestnuts and so on). As much as I love slow specialty shopping in little stores and markets, despite my best intentions I always find that my precious weekend time gets away from me and I only manage to indulge once every month or so.

But back to the pasta! The addition of lemony ricotta really increases the freshness. I just got some ricotta and stirred through chopped herbs and lemon-infused olive oil (another impulse buy at the supermarket when I saw that they started selling Cobram Estate olive oil, which once upon a time was only available at snooty expensive stores). But I think plain extra-virgin olive oil (whichever brand you prefer) and a little lemon zest would work equally well for this purpose.

Lemon ricotta

And that's it! It's easy, it's fresh, it's quick, it uses pretty much all store-cupboard ingredients, and all the ingredients are available at a supermarket (but of course go specialty shopping if it makes you feel better). Enjoy!

Orecchiette with broad beans and lemon ricotta

Orecchiette with Broad Beans and Lemon Ricotta
Adapted (liberally) from Nigel Slater in The Guardian

400 grams frozen broad beans
250 grams orecchiette
1 tablespoon butter
Small sprig fresh herbs, finely chopped (I used chives and oregano)
200 grams ricotta
1 tablespoon lemon-infused olive oil (substitute 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil and the zest of half a lemon)
Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper

Place the broad beans in a heatproof bowl. Pour boiling water (from a recently boiled kettle) over the beans and leave to a minute to start to defrost. As soon as they are cool enough to handle, squeeze the beans out of their skins. Set the beans aside and discard the skins.
Place a large pot of salted water over a high heat. Once it has come to the boil, add the orecchiette. Once you are five minutes away from the pasta being cooked (check the packet for timing), add the broad beans and cook for a further five minutes.
While the pasta is cooking, prepare the lemon ricotta. Stir together the ricotta, lemon-infused olive oil and half the chopped herbs. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Drain the pasta and beans, then tip back into the pot. Add the butter, remaining chopped herbs and a generous grating of parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Stir until it the butter is melted and evenly distributed through the pasta.
Distribute the pasta into serving bowls and spoon the lemon ricotta over to serve.
Serves 2-3

Monday, April 07, 2014

Coconut Flour Pancakes

Coconut flour pancakes, berries, maple, chemex coffee, icing sugar

Pancake time! I've made these coconut flour pancakes a zillion times before, and I love them as an indulgent, but still health-conscious, weekend breakfast. They take a bit of time to make, so aren't exactly weekday material, but I have found that leftovers reheat well if you feel like a nice little mid-week treat. (Incidentally, this is also a good recipe to try if you've bought some coconut flour and don't know what to do with it!) I guess it's a bit strange to be posting a weekend breakfast recipe on a Monday night... but this will give y'all time to go out and find some coconut flour before the weekend!

I found the recipe on the Nourishing Days blog and had really good results. The only thing to note is that they're quite hard to flip, much more so than wheat-flour pancakes. (You'll see in the pictures, lots of my pancakes have jagged little edges where they got smooshed up as I tried to flip them before they were ready). I've found that the best way to deal with this is to cook the pancakes slowly over a low heat, and only attempt to flip them once bottoms are totally sealed and golden brown, and the tops are almost cooked through. Patience is your friend.

Coconut flour pancakes

As I've told you before, coconut flour is much lower in carbs and higher in fibre than regular wheat flour. (It's also gluten free, if that's a health concern for you). Apart from nutritional benefits, this means they're quite a bit more filling than wheat-flour pancakes, and I find that four pikelet-sized pancakes make a very hearty weekend breakfast. (On weekdays, when I'm awake much earlier and usually in a rush, I find two is plenty). They're also a bit denser than your typical pancakes, so I always serve them with fresh fruit and maple syrup. (And sometimes some Greek yogurt).


Coconut flour pancakes with mango and maple

Coconut flour pancakes with berries, yogurt and maple syrup

Coconut flour pancakes with berries, yogurt and maple syrup

Coconut Flour Pancakes
Recipe adapted from Nourishing Days

1/4 cup coconut flour
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
Pinch of salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1.5 teaspoons honey, maple syrup or sweet syrup of your choosing
Coconut oil, butter or oil for frying

Preheat a non-stick frying pan over a medium heat.
Meanwhile, whisk together the coconut flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt in a small mixing bowl. Set aside.
In a measuring jug, whisk the eggs, followed by the milk and vanilla extract.
Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Allow to sit for a minute or so or until the coconut flour absorbs the liquid and the mixture thickens.
Melt a teaspoon of coconut oil in your frying pan. Drop two-tablespoon of batter into the pan for each pancake and spread out gently with the back of a spoon. Allow to cook for a few minutes or until the bottom side is golden brown and the tops are almost cooked. Very gently flip over and cook for another minute or so or until golden brown. Keep cooked pancakes warm in a low oven or tented under foil while you cook the rest of the pancakes.
Serve with maple syrup, sliced mango, yogurt, berries, powdered sugar
Makes approximately 10 pancakes, serves 2-3

Thursday, April 03, 2014

The Unblogged Files: March 2014

Hi everybody! Time for my March Unblogged Files! You might have noticed it was a bit quiet around the blog in March, with only five posts... and that's because we went on holiday to Malaysia! It was a really relaxing, food-filled couple of weeks in Langkawi and Penang. (Blogposts to come, obviously). Normally here I'd stick a photo from the holiday - a beautiful beach view, for example, or a picture of one of the hotel pools... but seeing as two of my last three posts have been about hotels, I thought I'd mix it up a bit and show you a picture of all the food we brought back! I swear I didn't think it looked like that much in the suitcase!

Treats from Malaysia

If I had been more organised, I could have set up a series of draft posts to automatically publish while I was away, but eh, this is a personal food blog, not a magazine or newspaper with deadlines... and I think one of the nice things about having a blog is that you can post as infrequently (or frequently!) as you like. I also managed to attend a few events this month that I haven't blogged yet - if you see anything that interests you let me know and I'll try to blog it in full! Let's go.

At the start of March, I attended a complimentary bloggers High Tea at the Om Nom dessert bar in the newly revamped Adelphi Hotel (187 Flinders Lane, Melbourne 3000). The offering was a bit different from your traditional high tea (not a scone to be seen!), quite creative and unusual. Surprisingly, the savouries were impressive too - the foie gras macaron topped with chive-flecked cream cheese and figs, as well as the mushroom vol-au-vent, were standouts. (Anyone keen on a full blog post?)

The high tea tier

Sandra bought me a surprise MINION CUPCAKE! It's from The Cupcake Family, and I think was quite expensive, around $8. I'm not a fan of fondant icing, but the strawberry sponge cake underneath was very nice, and the cuteness of Minions is irresistible! (The matching phone cases are, ahem, my own).

Minion cupcake

We celebrated my parents' 37th wedding anniversary with dinner at Di Palma's (684-690 High Street, Kew 3101). Di Palma's is a solid suburban Italian restaurant that's fancy enough to feel a little special (tablecloths and slick interiors), but casual enough to be welcoming. The bruschetta, with a base of freshly baked pizza dough, was divine.

Dinner at Di Palma's

One day, I went on a team lunch (self funded!) with my workmates at an Israeli restaurant: Tavlin (678 Glen Huntly Road, Caulfield South 3162). It was fantastic - amazing dips, great grilled meats, fabulously fluffy baked flat bread, and the best felafels I've ever had. I seriously want to organise another lunch there soon!

Lunch at Tavlin

I met up with the lovely Helen from Grab Your Fork for drinks at Ferdydurke (31 Tattersalls Lane, Melbourne 3000. (And let me tell you, despite her being so nice, I felt a lot of pressure trying to pick a venue for her, haha!)

Drinks at Ferdydurke

Another month, another visit to Beatrix (688 Queensberry Street, North Melbourne 3051). This time we tried a peanut butter whoopie pie...

Peanut Butter Whoopie Pie

... and the smoothest vanilla cheesecake I've ever eaten!

Beatrix Vanilla Cheesecake

My Aunty Rosie from Penang was visiting, so we took her to Burch and Purchese (647 Chapel Street, South Yarra 3141) for some sweet treats.

Burch and Purchese DELICIOUSNESS

And then we made a giant roast rib of beef for dinner. Yum.

Beef Rib (before roasting)

This isn't food-related, but it is blog-related - I finally bought a new laptop! My previous one was really slow and actually losing keys, haha. It's a 13 inch MacBook Air - yup, I'm officially an Apple person now. (And having used PCs all my life, I'm struggling like a total grandma). Oh well, I'll get the hang of it soon! And I love how light and fast it is!

New baby

I attended a complimentary media dinner at Cecconi's (61 Flinders Lane, Melbourne 3000), which I was very excited about as I remember loving Cecconi's back when it was in Crown. (Our last visit to Cecconi's was - eep - nine years ago!) Funnily enough, I had been thinking about going there for my birthday this year so I was doubly thrilled to get the invitation so I could test it out before deciding whether or not to make a booking. (Spoiler alert: it was awesome, so I'll be going for my birthday dinner - yay!) Here's a very generously garnished truffle risotto. Mmm...

Risotto, freshly shaved black truffle, parmesan, truffle oil

I made a roast pork leg for dinner one night. It's been ages since I made a roast! Crackling!!! The whole flat smelled like pork for the next day, but it was totally worth it.

Roast pork leg

Finally, we enjoyed a super-delicious BBQ lunch at Mr and Mrs Food Trail's place, with yummy chilli and cheddar corn...

Chilli and Cheddar Corn

... pork brisket and pulled beef buns...

Pork brisket and pulled beef buns

 .... and a crazy good chocolate buttermilk cake with crushed peanuts. Wow! Thank-you guys so much for the fantastic lunch!

Chocolate Buttermilk Cake with chocolate ganache and crushed peanuts

Oh what the hell, here's a photo from my holiday. (I couldn't help it!) Here's the view from a private beach in Langkawi we hired for the day. (For realsies!)

Private Island in Langkawi

And that was March! April will be a big month... it's my birthday! Can't wait!