Archive for the ‘Garden’ Category

Coconut Quinoa Salad with Kale-Cashew Pesto

In Garden, Main meals, Salads on December 8, 2012 at 8:12 pm


I found the recipe for this salad here.

Now, I said I would be including more of my own adaptations and this one probably isn’t the best choice to begin with as I didn’t really need to adapt it at all – except for the pesto, and that was because I didn’t have any fresh cilantro. However, start with it I shall!

I didn’t really have any problems with the salad itself; it is dead simple. However, unlike the recipe, I did use normal quinoa (which assumably is white quinoa) and didn’t find it to be too bland! But each to their own. It did need a bit of time to sit before I could use it for the salad, just so that last bit of moisture to evaporate. I used some of the kale from my monster garden harvest. Before making the pesto, I toasted the coconut and cashews in the oven (in which I happened to be roasting some artichokes) for a bit of extra flavour. I used use coconut threads as opposed to flakes; less pretty, but cheaper and slightly more versatile.

While the tropical pesto from the original recipe looked amazing, I was quite happy to use up some more of my kale to make kale pesto. I’ve done it before with walnuts and been very happy with the result, as I was here. Toasting the nuts beforehand definitely makes a difference! I would say you’ll get a much better result than buying already roasted nuts.

All you need is:

generous bunch kale, approx. 2-3 cups, stems removed and roughly chopped

3-4 cloves of garlic, depending on their size and how much you love garlic!

2-3 cup cashews, preferably toasted

olive oil

dash lemon juice

salt and pepper, if desired

Chuck everything in your food processor and get keep processing until it reaches the consistency you want; you might want it chunky, you might prefer it smooth. Myself, I like it relatively smooth but with a few chunks remaining. The cashews seemed to take longer to process than the walnuts, so be patient! You can adjust the consistency by adding more olive oil, but try not to add too much. I also didn’t bother to add salt and pepper this time and it tasted fine, but obviously a small amount of salt and pepper never hurts!


Roasted Artichokes with Mustard-Mayo Dip

In Garden, Snacks on December 8, 2012 at 8:04 pm


This year was the first year that my artichoke plant decided to actually produce artichokes and boy did it produce! It’s unfortunate it decided to do this the year I had to leave my flat, but at least I was able enjoy some before I left. The three artichokes I used for this dish were the last of the lot; a wee bit smaller the first ones harvested but no less delicious! I had no previous experience of cooking artichokes – they aren’t something we see a lot of in New Zealand – though they seem to grow very well. Like any good 21st century girl, I looked to google for some answers.

I found this site as well as this site very helpful. All I did was trim the bottom of the artichokes, cut off the tips of the leaves (an optional step, but it does look nicer) and sliced off the very top of the centers. Then I peeled a few cloves of garlic and stuffed them in between a few of the leaves. Finally, I seasoned them with a bit of olive oil and wrapped them in foil, cooking them in a preheated oven of about 200 degrees for about an hour. How long you leave the artichokes in the oven will depend on their size (and your tastebuds, I suppose – the leaves can be quite tough!) The first time I tried roasting artichokes they were still pretty touch after an hour, but this time they were smaller and an hour seemed to work quite well. 

To serve, I simply mixed a few tablespoons of mayonnaise with approximately a tablespoon of mustard (about a 1:4 ratio). The first time I used Dijon mustard (which is probably a more classic choice) but this time I used wholegrain and it worked fine. I still think I have a long way to go before I can confidently say I can cook with artichokes, but for the moment – I’m still keen to try!


Finocchi Gratinati (Baked Fennel Gratin)

In Cheese, Garden, Main meals on May 6, 2012 at 8:34 am

A little while ago, my mother was kind enough to ‘give’/share with me Jo Seagar’s new Italian cookbook. In this book, Jo has definitely gone with a more upmarket approach and I must say, the cookbook really is beautiful! I was drawn to this particular recipe as the last two fennel bulbs in my garden were calling out to be eaten and I’m always curious about new ways to cook fennel. Plus now that winter appears to have well and truly set in over here….gratin just seemed wonderfully appealing!

I only had about half of the fennel required for the recipe, so I substituted some of the rest with celery and onion. I also might have altered some of the ingredient proportions to taste, but I can’t remember exactly what those were. But I’m guessing I probably added more butter 😉

The recipe is as follows:

3-4 fennel bulbs (about 750 g)

1 1/4 cups full cream milk

25 g butter

1 tbsp flour

salt and pepper

1/2 cup dry breadcrumbs

1/2 cup grated parmesan (though I didn’t have any and used tasty cheese – a crime, I know. So sue me)

Preheat oven to 220 degrees celsius (keep your own oven in mind, I dropped the temp to 200-190 for mine). Spray a small lasagne or casserole dish with cooking spray.

Chop off root ends and stalks of the fennel. Cut the bulb into quarters or thick slices. If using onion or celery like me, do the same for those. Place in a large saucepan and pour over the milk. Simmer for 10-15 mins or until fennel has softened. Strain, reserving the milk. Lay fennel in prepared dish.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter. Whisk in the flour and season. While whisking over medium heat, slowly add the milk. Stir until sauce thickens. Check seasoning – be generous (I might have been guilty of being under generous). Pour sauce over the fennel. Sprinkle with the breadcrumbs and parmesan. Bake for 20-25 mins or until nicely browned. It is supposed to serve 4-6 people.

Side note: I thought I’d try and be clever and use some of the leftover breadcrumb topping from the devilled eggs instead of making a new topping. Well, after 5 mins in that superhot oven, I got a whiff of the dreaded burning smell and had to whip the gratin out. I had forgotten that I’d made the original topping with oil and not butter, so it had all burned. I had to scrape that topping off and make a new one. That said, it still turned out fine….and it will teach me a a lesson about taking shortcuts! Anyway, that’s why there’s a few stray black breadcrumbs in the photo.

Herbed Mini Muffins

In Baking, Cheese, Egg, Garden, Muffins, Snacks on April 2, 2012 at 9:48 am

The other day I was asked to provide some baking for a shared lunch and was in a bit of a pickle about what to bring. I already had some sweet biscuits prepared – my 100s & 1000s (which I feared were too juvenile) and some classic shortbread. In the end, I decided to opt for something savoury – and decided that one can’t go wrong with savoury muffins. Why are savoury muffins so much rarer than sweet ones? (At least, that has been my experience) These are gorgeous mini muffins that you can make with basic pantry ingredients and I can vouch for their delectability! Sadly the mini size makes you want to eat heaps of them – but then, because they are mini, there’s no need to feel guilty about doing so!

I found the recipe in my trusty ‘Dishes without Red Meat’ – from good old Alison and Simon Holst.

1 cup flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 cup grated cheese

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1 tbsp fresh chopped herbs

1 spring onion, chopped

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp sugar

1/8 tsp sugar

1 egg

1/2 cup

Measure together in a large bowl the first nine ingredients. Use the fresh herbs you like best or which best suit what you plan to eat with the muffins. Toss well to mix.

In another bowl, beat the egg and the milk together with a fork or whisk. Tip the egg mixture into the dry ingredients and fold together, stirring just enough to dampen the flour. Do not overmix!

Spoon mixture into mini muffin pans (well greased with non stick spray). Bake in preheated oven at 200 degrees celsius, or until the centres bounce back when pressed.

Serve whole or split with savoury spreads, smoked salmon or shaved smoked meats if desired.

Recipe makes between 12-18 mini muffins (I found it made closer to the 18).