Butternut Squash and Chickpea Burgers with Smokey Garlic Chips

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Most of us have a love-hate relationship with takeaways.  Of late mine has been more of the latter, not only are takeaways really pricey, most of the time they leave you feeling pretty dissatisfied and a bit ill from all the grease.  For our little family a visit to most takeaway eateries costs between $30-$50 (obviously not fish and chips) which is ridiculous really for something that we could probably make at home for a fraction of the cost, with less grease as well as omitting all the extra preservatives and other nasties hidden within.   There is of course the convenience factor of takeaways but I am working on that!

For a long time we have been having Friday night ‘homemade-takeaway night’.  Occasionally it will involve a $3.00 chips from the local fish and chip shop to accompany what ever we have made, but more often than not it is entirely homemade and 100% guaranteed to not give you that takeaway guilt.

One of my absolute favourites is a good wholesome veggie burger and homemade oven chips, and this week I made these delicious Butternut Squash and Chickpea burgers.  They started off life as a left over meal,  I had a bunch of stuff needed using up, I bunged it all together and hey presto these no fuss, tasty and healthful burgers were born.  If you have the pumpkin and chickpeas already prepared the patties are so quick and easy to put together, for ultimate convenience the patties can be prepared in advance and frozen to be pulled out on your designated ‘homemade-takeaway night’.

Start by placing all the ingredients except for the semolina in a large bowl and mash with a potato masher.

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You could use a stick blender or put it in the food processor if you like but if you use the masher you can retain a bit of texture.

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When you have mashed the ingredients enough for the mixture to hold together (the photo doesn’t look too appealing at this stage!) simply divide it into six portions and shape them into burger patties.  Pour a quarter cup of semolina onto a plate and roll the patties in it to form a crust.

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If you are making the patties in advance, they can now be placed in the fridge and will keep for 3 days or in the freezer for 1 month.

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When you are ready to cook them simply preheat the oven to 200’C and line two baking trays with baking paper.  Place the patties on one of the trays and lightly brush them with olive oil.  Wash two medium potatoes and two medium kumera (sweet potato), chop them into chunky chips then toss them with two cloves of crushed garlic, olive oil and 1/2 tsp smoked paprika.  Place the chips on the second tray.

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When the oven reaches temperature pop both the trays in the oven and bake them for 30-35 minutes.  Halfway into the cooking time flip each of the patties and using a spatula shuffle the  chips around to ensure even cooking.  When the burgers are golden brown with a crunchy crust they are ready, serve them in a crispy roll with plenty of salad and some of your favourite relish or chutney alongside the hot garlicky, smoked paprika chips.

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Because our family is still only little this recipe is enough for two meals so I only serve three burgers and freeze the rest, and I find half the amount of chips is sufficient too. To freeze the patties I stack them with a small amount of baking paper between them (to stop them from sticking together) then wrap the whole lot in cling film.  Like this they should be good for a month or so.  When you want to cook them you can either leave them over night in the fridge to defrost and cook as normal or if cooking them straight from the freezer add an extra 10-15 minutes to the cooking time.

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Butternut squash and chickpea burgers with smokey garlic chips 

Prep time: 15 mins, cook time:35 mins
serves 6, $1.80 per serve

Ingredients:

butternut  squash and Chickpea burgers
  • 2 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 2 1/2 cups roasted butternut squash
  • 1 tbs mild curry powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1/4 cup of fine semolina or polenta
  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 6 bread rolls, salad and condiments to serve
Smokey garlic chips 
  • 2 medium kumera, washed and cut into chunky chips
  • 2 medium potatoes, washed and cut into chunky chips
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • Salt and Pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200’C/400’f
  2. Place all of the ingredients (except semolina) in a large bowl and mash together using a potato masher until you have a mixture the will hold its shape.
  3. Divide the mixture into 6 portions, then form them into patties approx. 8cm/3″ in diameter and 2.5cm/1″ thick.
  4. Pour the semolina onto a plate and roll the patties in it, to form a crust.
  5. Gently brush them with a little olive oil then place on a lined baking tray.
  6. To make the chips simply toss the prepared kumera and potatoes with the olive oil, crushed garlic and smoked paprika then sprinkle with a little salt and pepper then pour them onto a second lined baking tray and place them in the oven
  7. Both the patties and chips should take about 30-35 minutes to turn crispy and golden brown, just before they are ready to come out of the oven prepare the bread rolls by cutting them open and warming them through in the oven.  After 3 or 4 minutes take them out, spread liberally with avocado, mayo, chutney or other condiment, add some salad and your burger patty.
  8. Serve hot alongside the potato chips.

The uncooked burger patties will keep fresh in the fridge for 3 days or in the freezer for 1 month.

Note: For how to soak and cook dried chickpeas check out my Back to Basics: Hummus recipe.  The amount used in that recipe will yield enough for these patties.  And if you need ideas on how to roast the butternut squash check out my Roasted Butternut Squash, Spinach and Quinoa Fritatta, 1/2 a medium butternut squash should be enough to yield 2 1/2 cups once roasted.

 

Leek and Potato Soup with Carrot and Kumera

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I was beginning to feel positively summery at the start of the week, I vaguely remember a warm day at some point, we even had dinner out on the deck!  As the week has gone on though, it has turned quite nasty, blustery with torrential downpours and feeling more autumnal than anything else.  Soup weather I think, and what better way to take advantage of the leeks that are very soon going to be out of season.

Another reason for soup is my not so little newborn is now nearly six months and starting to sample a few delights of the real food world.  So far he nums down avocado and is quite partial to a little kumera (sweet potato for those outside NZ) as well as carrot and regular old white potatoes. This is a great ‘two birds with one stone’ dinner if you too are weaning a little one.  Just leave out the seasoning until the veggies are cooked and you have had a chance to remove a couple of small portions for the little one,  then continue on as normal.

Back to the cooking… leek and potato soup is delicious but I can’t help but add in some extra veggies.  A couple of carrots and some kumera just sweetens it up a bit an ensures empty bowls all around.  So start by prepping the veggies, slicing the leeks and peeling and chopping the rest.

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Melt the butter in a large saucepan or stockpot and stir in the leeks.  Pop a lid on and cook them slowly allowing them to sweat and wilt down.

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Add in the rest of the veggies and give them a good stir to combine them.  The veggies are the star of the show in this soup so stock isn’t essential, if you have some stockpiled in the freezer go ahead and use it, but if not don’t worry, a tablespoon of good quality vegetable bouillon powder and 1 litre of cold water will more than suffice.   Whichever you choose, add it in now.

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Bring the pot to the boil then reduce the heat to a simmer.  Cook until the veggies are soft but not mushy and the soup has thickened, about 40 minutes.  Taste and season with salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper.  If you want you can blend it or partially blend using a stick blender but I prefer to keep this soup chunky. The nature of the vegetables used means it is naturally thick so leaving the chunks gives you a bit of texture.  Serve with some grated vintage cheddar and some more black pepper and you have a hearty and comforting soup.

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Leek and potato soup with carrot and kumera

prep time: 10 minutes, cook time: 40 minutes
serves: 6, cost per serve: $1.10

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbs butter
  • 2 large leeks (650g), finely sliced
  • 2 potatoes (400g), peeled and cubed
  • 1 kumera (400g), peeled and cubed – any variety of sweet potato will do
  • 2-3 carrots (250g), peeled and chopped
  • 1 tbs vegetable bouillon powder + 1 litre cold water or 1 litre of stock

Method:

  1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan or stockpot and cook the leeks gently with the lid on until wilted, about 10 minutes
  2. Add in the remaining veggies along with bouillon and water or stock.
  3. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for around 40 minutes or until the veggies are soft and the soup has thickened.
  4. Taste and season with salt and black pepper.
  5. Blend or serve chunky.

Serve hot with vintage/sharp cheddar and plenty of black pepper.

Back to Basics: Hummus

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I had never seen so many varieties of hummus before I came to New Zealand.  Kiwis have an obsession with hummus and understandably so, it can be so healthy when made fresh, packed full of protein and fibre, calcium, iron, vitamins and antioxidants.

While convenient, a tub of hummus can cost around the same as a kilo of dried chickpeas, which will produce almost enough hummus to bathe in!  I highly recommend a visit to your local Indian supermarket or whole-food bulk food store for the best value, while there you can pick up a variety of dried legumes, dried fruits, flours, spices and countless other goodies at a fraction of the cost of the pre-packaged versions found in the supermarket.

You can of course use tinned chickpeas if you are short of time but for the freshest and cheapest option you just need a little planning.  Dried chickpeas need to soak for a minimum of 4 hours but I usually soak them at least 12 hours as this helps to activate the chickpea ensuring a quicker cooking time and unlocking beneficial enzymes, increasing vitamin contents and making it easier to digest just as with sprouting.

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Once soaked, the chickpeas should have more than doubled in size. Give them a quick rinse before throwing them in a saucepan and covering them with fresh cold water.  Then it is just a case of bringing them to the boil.  Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until tender, this usually takes around 30 minutes but depends on how dry the chickpeas were and the volume you are cooking.

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You may find as the starches cook, the water starts to foam like when cooking potatoes or pasta.To prevent it from bubbling over, simply lay a wooden cooking utensil (spoon, spatula or chopstick) across the top of the saucepan.

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When the chickpeas are tender, drain them and set aside to cool completely.  Then place them along with the remaining ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and blitz.

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As you blend the mixture scrape down the sides to ensure everything is incorporated, if the hummus is looking a bit dry or the food processor is struggling then add in a little water until it reaches the desired consistency.

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Taste as you go as well to make sure the seasoning is right.  There is no right or wrong so if you like it a with a bit more zing then add in some more lemon juice, if you think it needs more salt, add in a little more.  A word of caution with the garlic though;  as the hummus rests the garlic will infuse and its flavour will strengthen so if it doesn’t seem very garlicky when you first make it, let it sit for a bit before adding more, it can give that bitter raw garlic taste if you add too much.

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This recipe makes a couple of heaped cups of hummus and will keep for 3 to 5 days, so it is great if you are having friends over, you have a large family or like us you just love hummus smeared on absolutely everything.  If you don’t think you could consume 2 cups of hummus in 3 to 5 days simply soak and cook the chickpeas then divide them freezing half for a later date or using them is some veggie patties, a salad, bake them with some spices for a crunchy snack or toss them in whatever you are cooking for dinner for a protein and fibre boost, then halve the remaining ingredients to make a smaller batch of hummus.

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Hummus topped with dukkah as well as toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds

Use your hummus as a spread on toast for breakfast topped with some cucumber, tomato or sprouts, add it to salads in place of dressing or use it in sandwiches with some salad and cold cuts. Simply served as a dip drizzled with olive oil and a sprinkle of dukkah is also delicious …however you have it once you have tasted your own homemade hummus you will be a complete convert and the shop bought variety will quite quickly be forgotten.

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Three simple topping ideas from top to bottom; toasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds, smoked paprika and dukkah.  Each one drizzled with a little extra virgin olive oil first.


Back to Basics:  Hummus

Total cost: $4.00, Yield: 2 heaped cups
Chickpeas – Soak time: 4-36 hours, cook time: 30 mins
Hummus – Prep time: 10 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup/200g dried chickpeas
  • Water for soaking and cooking
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1/4 – 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 – 1tsp salt
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup of extra water for blending

Method:

  1. Place the chickpeas in a large bowl and cover with cold water, leave to soak for 4-36 hours changing the water periodically.
  2. Drain and rinse the chickpeas then place in a medium saucepan, cover with fresh water and bring to the boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until tender.
  3. Drain the chickpeas and set aside to cool.
  4. Once cold, place the chickpeas in the bowl of a food processor along with the remaining ingredients, blend until smooth.  You will probably need to scrape down as you go and add in some of the water to help the blending process as well as lightening the hummus.
  5. Once blended taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.  Also if it seems too dense add in a little more lemon, oil or water to loosen it up.

The hummus will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days.  Remember to factor in how fresh the chickpeas are i.e. if you cooked them the same day the hummus will last for 3-5 days but if you cook the chickpeas 2 days prior then the hummus will only be good for 1-3 days.

Not quite Dukkah, Dukkah!

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Dukkah is an Egyptian condiment combining spices, herbs and nuts.  Traditionally hazelnuts are used for the base but any nut can be substituted.  For this one I am leaving the nuts out completely and going heavy on the spices making it an ideal topping for hummus or crust for a piece of meat or fish.  It is definitely another opportunity to acquaint yourself with your local Indian supermarket or bulk food store as buying the spices from the supermarket in those tiny little boxes or jars will make this recipe quite costly.  I just paid a visit to my favourite Indian grocery store and jotted down the prices as I went.

  • Coriander seed… $10.90kg/$1.09 per 100g  vs  $2.10 for a 21g box/$10.00 per 100g
  • Cumin seed… $10.00kg/$1.00 per 100g  vs $2.30 for a 30g box/$7.67 per 100g
  • Fennel seed… $14.00kg/$1.40 per 100g vs $4.00 for 30g jar/$13.30 per 100g

So the first lot of prices are from the Indian store while the second lot I got from one of the bigger supermarkets here in NZ.  As you can see the difference is significant almost 10 times the price in some cases, so if you want to inject some spice into your life you know where to go and it feels good to support the little man instead of these huge supermarket chains!  If you live rurally and you feel the  supermarket is your only option, don’t fret there are some great online spice traders that ship nationwide too!

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Now we have our bargain price spices sorted lets get to it.   No real measuring is required and you can play around with the flavours to suit your tastes and mood.   So start by toasting your whole spices (some coriander, cumin and fennel) in a small dry frying pan over a medium heat.  Heat them until they are aromatic and you start to hear the odd pop.  Then toss them into a pestle and mortar.

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Toast the sesame seeds and pop them in the mortar too along with a pinch of salt, then give the whole lot a bit of a bash.  Again it is up to you how fine you go.   And that is it…

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The recipe makes just under a cup and will keep for several months in an airtight container.

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Not quite dukkah, dukkah

prep time: 5 minute, cook time: 5 minutes
Makes: 3/4 cup, Cost: less than $1.00

 

Ingredients:

  • 2tbs/12g coriander seeds
  • 2tbs/17g cumin seeds
  • 1tbs/5g fennel seeds
  • 4tbs/30g sesame seeds
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Method:

  1. Toast spices
  2. Toast sesame seeds
  3. Lightly crush spices and sesame seeds along with salt in a pestle and mortar

It will store in an airtight container out of direct sunlight for several months.

Chia, Date and Walnut Slice

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I don’t know how it happens but another week has gone, time is going way too quickly at the moment, I feel like I am in a constant whirlwind of laundry and dirty dishes.  It does mean though another weekend has rolled around and I have been kidding myself all week, thinking I could have just an incy little sleep in.  6:15am on a Sunday morning, is that a sleep in?  I don’t know anymore. All I do know is that if you value sleep…don’t have children!  Fortunately I also know there is light at the end of the tunnel, but until then there is a nice cup of tea, a hot shower and sunglasses (to cover the bags under my eyes!).

This week I thought I might share a multipurpose sweet treat that can be whipped up in a flash and serves as a mid morning pick-me-up, lunch box filler or a healthy dessert option.  It is basically an energy ball mixture that has been pressed into a tin to form a slice, so simple I wish I had thought of it before.  And with no added sugar or fat it is virtually guilt free.

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The recipe comes from a book called Supergrains which is full of simple and delicious ways to get more grains and seeds into your diet and as I mentioned before it is a cinch to make.  Start by measuring out the ingredients and placing everything but the dates in the bowl of a food processor.

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Blitz it all up until it resembles breadcrumbs.

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Then chop up the dates and while the motor is running add in the dates through the chute at the top.  It will give your food processor a bit of a work so be sure to only add a few at a time.  Mine wobbles around as if in protest!

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Once all of the dates have been incorporated the mixture should start to come together but may need the addition of a little cold water.  Test by taking a small amount of the mixture, if you squeeze it together it should hold its shape, however, if it crumbles and falls apart then add a little water. 

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Tip the contents of the processor bowl into a lined 20cm/8″ cake tin and press down firmly with clean hands until you have an even surface.  You can finish it off with the back of a metal spoon or fork if you prefer.  I like to use a silicone spatula, the firmer you press the denser the slice and the better it will hold together.

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Allow the whole thing to chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or until required.  Then cut into 16 equal wedges.

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The original recipe calls for a liberal dusting of icing sugar over the top, for presentation you may wish to do this, I personally don’t bother.  The dates offer plenty of sweetness and I think the dainty little wedges are pretty enough without this addition.

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chia, date and walnut slice

prep time: 10 mins, refrigeration time: 30 mins
serves 16, $0.40 per serve 

Ingredients:

  • 150g/1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 90g/3/4 cup walnuts
  • 35g/1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • 45g/1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbs cocoa powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 400g pitted dried dates, chopped
  • a little cold water

Method:

  1. Line the base of a 20cm/8″ cake tin then measure all the ingredients out and place all but the dates in the bowl of a food processor.
  2. Process until the mixture resembles bread crumbs.
  3. Keep the motor running and gradually add the dates, a few at a time.
  4. Next add the water little by little until the the mixture comes together, you may not need all of it.
  5. Tip the whole thing into the lined cake tin and with clean hands press it down firmly and evenly.  You can use the back of a metal spoon or the tines of a fork for a neater finish if you prefer.
  6. Place in the fridge to chill for at least half an hour or until required.  Then cut into 16 wedges and serve.

If wrapped tightly with cling film this slice will keep for up to two weeks.  I tend to cut the whole thing in half wrapping half in cling film then portioning the other half into 8 wedges before placing them into an airtight container.  Once those have been gobbled down I will portion the second half.  I find it stays fresher a little longer that way, not that we need to worry too much as it doesn’t seem to last more than a week in our house anyway!

Double Coconut and Berry Baked Oatmeal

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Mornings used to be a relaxed time of day when Oscar (my gorgeous nearly 4 year old) and I would enjoy a leisurely breakfast, usually involving some eggs and fruit, a bit of toast, sometimes some avocado and if we were really lucky a little smoked Salmon.  We would talk about what we were going to do during the day, the dishes would get done, beds would be made and there would be absolutely no rushing!  In April a spanner, albeit a very cute and innocent spanner, was thrown in the works when baby number two arrived, since then eggs have become a weekend treat, mornings are chaotic and usually a mad panic to get out of the door on time and in one piece.

Baked oatmeal is my secret weapon in the fight against skipping breakfast.  It is also so delicious that Oscar often requests it for dessert too.  It is moist and cake like but not super sweet.  The best part is it is so quick and easy, you can knock it together in the evening whilst preparing dinner, bung it in the oven and you have breakfast sorted for the rest of the week.

Start by measuring out the dry ingredients.  You need an apple, oats, coconut and a little ground ginger and baking powder.  Just like in my Banana Oat Slice I like to use a mixture of wholegrain rolled oats and quick oats.  The chunkier wholegrain oats add texture while the quick oats ensure it binds together.

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Combine the dry ingredients and pop them into a lined brownie tin (20cm/9″ x 20cm/9″).

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Next combine the wet ingredients.  Make sure the coconut cream is full fat, no skinny coconut milk here!  You need the fat to help keep the slice moist as well as for the flavour factor.  There is no added fat so the skinny option just won’t cut it!

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Measure out the berries, you can use fresh when they are in season but for the rest of the year frozen works just as well.

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Mix half the berries into the dry ingredients before pouring the wet ingredients over the top.

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Using a butter knife carefully push the mixture around to ensure the wet ingredients have penetrated all the way through then poke the rest of the berries into the batter and sprinkle with a little extra shredded coconut.

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Allow the whole thing to sit for 5 minutes, this just allows the oats to soak up some of the liquid, softening them and adding to the cakey texture of the finished slice. After 5 minutes or so pop it in the oven to bake for around 35-40 minutes.  If the edges start to darken too much before the centre is cooked, simply remove for the oven, cover the whole thing with a little tinfoil and place it back in the oven to finish off cooking.  It is ready when the centre no longer looks wet and a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Time for some patience, possibly!  If you let it cool completely in the tin you will be able to cut it into totally transportable slices, however, if like Oscar you cannot resist diving in whilst it is still warm, spoon a little into a bowl, add a dollop of extra thick greek yoghurt and a drizzle of honey and you have a breakfast dish that would easily be mistaken for a sinfully delicious dessert.

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Keep it refrigerated, in an air tight container and it will be good for four awesome, stress free mornings.  Alternatively you can individually wrap the portions and pop them in the freezer and they will last for a month.

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Double coconut and berry baked oatmeal

Prep time: 10 mins, cook time: 40 mins
serves: 9, cost per serve: $0.95

Ingredients:

Dry ingredients…
  • 1 cup wholegrain rolled oats
  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 1 cup shredded coconut (plus extra for topping)
  • 1 apple peeled, cored and chopped
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp baking powder
wet ingredients…
  • 1 400g can coconut cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup runny honey
other…
  • 1 cup mixed berries

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180’c/350’f.  Line a 20cm/9″ square baking pan with greaseproof paper.
  2. Combine the dry ingredients and distribute evenly in the lined baking tin.
  3. Mix in half of the berries.
  4. In a medium bowl, whisk together the wet ingredients, then pour them into the baking tin.
  5. Using a butter knife, carefully check the wet ingredients are mixed through the dry.
  6. Add in the remaining berries, pushing them gently into the mixture.
  7. Top with an extra sprinkle of shredded coconut then leave to sit for 5 minutes before placing in the oven for baking.
  8. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.
  9. If you wish to create slices allow to cool in the tin before dividing into 9 potions.

Serve hot or cold.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to four days or in the freezer for a month.

Note: *If using coconut cream free from emulsifiers (recommended) you often find the fat solidified at the top of can.  In order to incorporate this completely with the other wet ingredients gently heat the entire contents of the can to melt the fats and create an emulsion.

Roasted Butternut Squash, Spinach and Quinoa Fritatta

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I was reading an article in the NZ Herald yesterday about food establishments that had closed due to poor food safety and generally filthy conditions.  The pictures and descriptions included in the article were pretty stomach churning and enough to put you off your lunch.  Unless of course you packed it yourself!  I have always been a great lover of picnics and packed lunches, of opening up little parcels of home cooked goodness and my eldest son loves it too.  As soon as we hop in the car he asks if he can have something from his lunch box.  Not only is it usually a healthier option than eating out but it is so much cheaper.

This frittata is usually a weeknight dinner for us but it makes enough to fill our lunch boxes the next day.  Hot or cold it is delicious and a hearty tummy filler.

If you can pre-roast the butternut squash it will make the recipe much quicker, simply peel it and cut it into cubes, pour over a tablespoon of olive oil and toss together with a little salt and pepper.  Then spread on  baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper and bake at 180’c/350’f for around 30 minutes or until soft.

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 You can also prepare the quinoa in advance, just rinse 1/2 a cup of quinoa and throw it in a saucepan with 1 cup of cold water.  Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to a simmer, pop a lid on and cook for 10-15 minutes or until all of the water has been absorbed.  Then take it off the heat, but leave the lid on and allow the quinoa to steam for another 10 minutes.  Fluff with a fork and transfer to a bowl and set aside until required.

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When you are ready to bake the frittata simply line a baking dish of 25cm/10″ x 15cm/6″ with baking paper and gather the ingredients together.  Beat the milk, eggs and baking powder together with a 1/4 tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp black pepper.  Add in the garlic, quinoa and parmesan, the spinach and *sun dried tomatoes and mix until well combined, then carefully fold in the butternut squash.

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Now simply pour the mixture into the lined baking dish using a butter knife to distribute the ingredients evenly throughout the dish and finally crumble the feta over the top.

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Place in the middle of the oven and bake for about an hour at 180’c/350’f, you will know when it is cooked as the top will puff up evenly and be a sumptuous golden brown calling you to dig in!

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 It divides into 6 generous portions and you can serve it with seasonal veggies or a salad.  Cucumbers have just become affordable again and happen to be a certain 3 year olds favourite salad ingredient so we had a cucumber ladened Greek style salad with ours.  Yum!

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Roasted butternut squash, spinach and quinoa frittata

prep time: 35 minutes (from scratch), 10 mins if squash and quinoa are prepared ahead of time, cook time: 1 hour
Serves: 6, cost per serve: $2.00 (Using free-range eggs) 

 

Ingredients:

  • 650g butternut squash peeled and cubed
  • 85g/1/2 cup quinoa
  • 250ml/1 cup water
  • 8 eggs
  • 200ml/3/4 cup milk
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp of each salt and pepper
  • 3 cloves garlic crushed
  • 30g/1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 6 or 7 sun-dried tomatoes diced
  • 100g/1 cup frozen spinach, thawed and excess liquid removed
  • 100g/2/3 cup feta, danish style or soft goats cheese
  • 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180’c/350’f.  Peel the butternut squash and chop in to 1-2inch cubes.  Toss with a little olive oil, some salt and pepper, place on a lined baking sheet and bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until soft.  Set aside to cool.
  2. Prepare the quinoa by rinsing in cold water then place in a saucepan with 250ml/1cup of cold water.  Bring to the boil then pop the lid on and reduce the heat.  Cook for 10-15 mins or until all of the water has been absorbed.  Remove from the heat but leave the lid on and allow to steam for a further 10 minutes.  Once it has steamed fluff it with a fork and set aside to cool.
  3. If you did step 1 in advance preheat the oven again to 180’c/350’f.  Line a baking dish 25cm/10″ x 15cm/6″ with baking paper.
  4. In a large bowl beat the eggs, milk and baking powder together with the salt and pepper.
  5. Add in the garlic, quinoa, parmesan, sun dried tomatoes and spinach.  Stir until combined, then carefully fold in the butternut squash.
  6. Pour the mixture in to the prepared baking dish then top with the Danish style feta and grate over a little nutmeg.
  7. Place in the centre of the oven and bake for around an hour.  The frittata will turn golden brown and puff up when cooked.

Serve hot or cold with seasonal veggies, salad or on its own…Enjoy

Notes: *If you can find sun dried tomatoes that aren’t jarred you will save a bundle, I buy a 500g bag for around $5.00 at my favourite bulk food shop.  When you want to use them simply rehydrate them slightly by placing them in a small bowl and covering them with boiling water.  Allow them to stand for 5 minutes and they are ready to use.

Grapefruit Cordial

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Every other garden seems to sport a grapefruit tree here in Auckland so if you don’t have one of your own you are bound to know someone with one.  More often than not the tree is a prolific producer so some are given away, some are eaten but there is still a tonne of fruit to deal with.  We don’t have a grapefruit tree of our own but our neighbours do and they aren’t particularly fond of the citrusy goodness it offers at this time of year so they often deliver a bag or two which we eat for breakfast, toss in salads and then the rest usually gets turned into marmalade.

A day or two after our last delivery I was wondering what to do with the glut of fruit sitting on the kitchen table when my gardening magazine arrived with a recipe for grapefruit cordial.  I hadn’t thought about making cordial before as we don’t usually drink it, but I read the recipe, which was just a paragraph long, and thought I would give it a go.  I consulted a couple of other preserving books I have to fill in the gaps, as the recipe in the mag was fairly brief.

After a couple of goes I have come up with the following recipe, which is so quick and easy it is well worth a go if you too have a surplus of this vitamin C rich fruit.

So it comprise of just three ingredients; grapefruit juice, sugar and water.  You can juice your grapefruit however you like but if you use an electric juicer just make sure you separate the juice from the foam it produces, I do this by letting it sit for 5 minutes allowing the foam to rise to the surface, spooning the worst of it off then sieving the remaining juice.  You could use a jelly bag or some muslin to strain it , but I was too lazy…quick and easy is what I was going for!

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Next place the sugar and water in a large saucepan or stockpot and bring to the boil.  From this point the cordial doesn’t take very long so while the sugar syrup is reaching temperature wash your bottles and stick them into an oven preheated to 140’C to sterilise them.  Leave them in there until you are ready to bottle the cordial, hot liquid into hot bottles to avoid the glass cracking.sugar syrup and bottles

When the syrup comes to the boil, reduce the heat and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.  Then add in the juice and bring back to the boil.  Skim off any impurities that rise to the surface and allow to simmer for a further 5 minutes.

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Remove from the heat and if you like you can add in a teaspoon of citric acid to give it a little more sour or a teaspoon of tartaric acid which will enhance the truly unique grapefruit bitter, then simply pour into your hot sterile bottles.

To serve just add a splash in the bottom of a glass then top with a tonne of ice, fill with water to the brim and you have a truly superb sunny day quencher. Yum!

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GrapeFruit Cordial

Prep Time10 mins, cook time: 15 mins
total cost: $2.00 (Price of the sugar), makes 2 litres

Ingredients:

  • 1 litre/4 cups water
  • 800g/4 cups white sugar
  • 1 litre/4 cups grapefruit juice
  • 1tsp citric acid, 1tsp tartaric acid – optional

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 140’C
  2. Place the water and sugar into a large saucepan or stockpot and slowly bring to the boil.
  3. Prepare your bottles by washing them in hot soapy water, then rinse well and place them in the oven until you are ready to bottle the cordial.  
  4. When the sugar and water syrup reaches boiling point then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Add in the grapefruit juice, bring to the boil and cook for 5 minutes.
  6. Remove the cordial from the heat and whisk in the citric and/or tartaric acid (if using) then pour into your bottles and cap straight away.
  7. Allow to cool then label and store in the fridge for up to 3 months.

Back to Basics: Chicken Stock

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I have been trying to get back into the garden, Oscar and I did manage a few hours together last weekend and again today.  We did a bit of weeding and tidied up the strawberry patch and then today we gave them a good feed and mulched them with some lovely barley straw.  We also planted some radish and carrot seeds last week, which, to Oscar’s delight have sprouted already.  Each day we check their progress, radishes are quick to germinate, they don’t require a lot of space and are ready to eat in about 8 weeks so they are great fun for kids to grow.  If you have a fussy eater they might be more willing to try if they have grown it themselves too.2

Anyway back to the cooking.  I thought I would share my stock recipe, it is one of those things that for a little effort (and I really mean little) you get a really tasty reward that will boost the flavour of  a variety of dishes.  It costs virtually nothing as you use the bones left over from your roast chicken and it pretty much cooks itself simmering away while you go about your chores.

You can make this stock with the bones of just one chicken but for a fuller flavour I prefer to freeze the bones until I have a second carcass.  Also if you haven’t used the meat juices from the bottom of your roasting pan to make your gravy then save those too and add them into the stock.

So start by taking your chicken bones and placing them in a large saucepan of stock pot.

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A couple of carrots, an onion or two, a stick of celery, a bay leaf and half a dozen peppercorns are all you need.

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Place them in the pot with the chicken bones.

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Next cover with cold water.

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Bring to the boil, them reduce to a simmer.  Skim off any foam that collects on the surface.

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Continue to cook over a gentle heat for 2-3 hours.  You don’t need to pay it much attention, just skim off the foam as it forms on the surface and then leave it be.

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After 2 or 3 hours the carcasses will have broken down and the stock will have reduced by about half.  If you think it is reducing too quickly simply top it up with a little water and reduce the heat,  Low and slow is the key here.  When you are happy with the flavour of your stock simply remove from the heat, allow it to cool slightly then strain it through a sieve.

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Now it is ready to be turned into whatever you want and chicken stock is so versatile you have plenty of options.  Try a risotto using some of the leftovers from your roast chicken or a delicious chicken noodle soup.  It will keep in the fridge for 3 or 4 days or freeze it for use at a later date.


Back to Basics: chicken stock

prep time: 5 mins, cook time: 2-3 hours
Cost: less than $1

Ingredients:

  • The carcasses of 2 roast chickens
  • 2 carrots
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 1 bay leaf
  • half a dozen black peppercorns

Method:

  1. Place all of the ingredients in to a large saucepan or stock pot and cover with cold water.
  2. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.
  3. Skim off the foam and any impurities that rise to the surface.
  4. Continue to cook slowly for 2-3 hours.
  5. When the stock has reduced and you are happy with the flavour and intensity remove it from the heat and allow to cool slightly before straining through a sieve.
  6. Discard the bones and vegetables and your stock is ready to use or store.

 

Apple and Sultana Chutney

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I have to say I cannot resist a bargain and I love a good preserve.  There is something so satisfying to me seeing a row of jars filled with the goodness of abundant produce.  It is particularly satisfying when it has come from your own garden.  At the moment my little city garden is not particularly fruitful, I am ashamed to say the weeds have taken over and it is crying out for attention.

So back to the preserves, I make jams, chutneys and pickles all year round.  The idea is that it is a way of storing and prolonging the life of surplus produce, when it is in season and at its best.  Last week apples were on special for 29c a kilo so I couldn’t resist buying a few, kilos that is!

This chutney is one of the first I ever made it comes from a book called Good Home Preserving and  I love it because the yield is great and the ingredients are few.  It tastes fairly festive with the flavours of ginger and cinnamon shining through.

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Like a lot of chutneys it benefits from a maturing period allowing the flavours to infuse and develop in the jar.  I recommend at least 6 weeks but if sealed correctly in properly sterilised jars it will be good for at least a year if not longer.  While it will last you through to the following apple season, it is nice to share, and homemade preserves do make a lovely gift especially when teamed with an assortment of other homemade goodies to create a hamper or as an alternative to the uninspiring bottle of wine or chocolates when heading to dinner at a friends’.  Get crafty and decorate the jar with a piece of cloth tied down with a ribbon or piece of twine and maybe a little personalised card?  However you enjoy it, have a go…I promise it is so easy and well worth it.

So the only real labour is the apple peeling and chopping, it can be a little monotonous if you attempt it alone so I suggest getting the rest of the family involved, or throw a chutney party.  Invite some friends over and make up a batch together, while it cooks you can catch up, then when everyone goes home they get a jar to take with them.   Take it in turns and before long you will have a pantry stocked with a variety of jars packed full of jams and chutneys much tastier than anything you could buy at the supermarket.

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 Last weekend we had a glorious day of winter sun so we took the apples and a couple of chopping boards outside and set up a production line.

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Once peeled and cored, chop the apple into small pieces then throw into a large preserving pan or stock pot with the remaining ingredients.

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Stir together and place on the stove, slowly bring to the boil.  Keep stirring until all of the sugar is dissolved then reduce to a simmer with the lid off.

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Stir intermittently, it will start to get darker in colour and become more homogeneous as the apple starts to break down.  The picture below is after one hour of cooking.

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After a further half hour of cooking turn the oven on to 140’c/280’f.  You need to now sterilise the jars, lids and any utensils you will use to aid your jarring process Eg. a ladle, jam funnel etc.

  • The ladle is easy, give it a wash in hot soapy water, rinse, then you can just stick it in the chutney and leave it in there for at least 10 minutes before jarring and the heat from the chutney cooking will sterilise it.
  • For the jam funnel or jug, make sure it is oven safe then wash in hot soapy water, rinse  and place in the oven for 10 minutes.
  • The jars also need to be washed in hot soapy water and rinsed.  Then place them upside down on a baking sheet lined with a clean cotton tea-towel.  Pop them in the middle of the oven for 10 minutes or until the chutney is ready, it is important that the jars are hot when you pour the chutney in.  If the glass is cold the temperature of the hot chutney will crack the glass.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Note: I reuse regular jam, pickle mayo etc. jars, occasionally I do use proper preserving jars, which have thicker and therefore stronger glass.  Just be aware that if you are reusing jars as I do there is a small risk that with they will crack or shatter when they are heated as they may have flaws or be made of inferior glass.  It has only happened once to me but it can happen.

  • With the lids, check them for any rust or mould, give them a good scrub in hot soapy water, rinse then place in a saucepan and cover with boiling water.  Pop the lid on and boil for 10 minutes.  Leave covered until you need them.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Okay, so now you will be into the last 10-15 minutes of cooking and it is imperative you keep a watchful eye on the pot, stirring the chutney at regular intervals to keep the sugars from sticking and burning.  It is ready when the bulk of the chutney resembles thick apple sauce with a little liquid remaining the consistency of which will resemble maple syrup.  The syrup will coat the back of a spoon with a thin layer and if you run your finger through it a channel will remain.  It does thicken as it cools so ensure some liquid remains.

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At this point pull the jars out of the oven and start filling, put the lids on as you go so as everything cools down you will achieve a vacuum seal which will keep all your hard work fresher for longer.

The tricky part now is having the patience to allow your chutney to mature.  It will be completely edible right now but will taste eve better if you can wait 6 weeks!  Good luck and let me know how it goes.  I am on a mission to spread the home preserving bug and would love to hear if I have made a convert of you.

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Apple And Sultana Chutney

Makes approximately 3.5litres or 7 x 500g  jars
prep time – 30 minutes (depending on how many people are helping!) cook time – 2 hours

 

Ingredients:

  • 3.5kg apples
  • 500g sultanas
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 litre malt vinegar (you can also use white vinegar)
  • 1.5kg white sugar
  • 1 heaped tsp ground ginger
  • 2 heaped tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 tsp salt

Method:

  1. First peel, core and chop all the apples and place in a large stock pot or preserving pan along with all of the other ingredients.
  2. Stir together and place over a low heat continuing to stir until the sugar has dissolved.
  3. Raise the heat and bring to a simmer.  Cook for two hours or until the chutney is thick and smooth like apple sauce.  In the first hour and a half you will only need to stir it sporadically but in the last half hour you will need to keep a closer eye on it, stirring it regularly to prevent the sugars sticking and catching.
  4. When you are happy with the consistency ladle into hot sterilised jars and seal immediately.
  5. Leave to cool then label the jars.  Allow to mature for 4-6 weeks before eating.  Store in a cool dark place.  Once opened store in the refrigerator.