Heirloom carrot autumn salad

Hello sweet little baby carrots in varying shades of orange and purple….lying there beguilingly, coaxing me into wanting to eat you all up.

Sorry, that may have come across as a tad creepy. These beautiful heirloom carrots, purchased from the Agrestic Grocery in Orange on our recent country sojourn, were just crying out to be paired with the local feta cheese from the Second Mouse Cheese Company. One of my nicknames as a child was Mouse (as well as Electric Rat and E Rattus, charming I know) so how could a mouse not buy this mousy cheese?

The bloke behind the counter informed us the cheese had recently won an award against other fetas at a cheese show (somewhere) and that it was a bit controversial due to the fact that this feta cheese is made of cows milk, instead of sheeps or goats milk. (Rumblings and bumblings, a possible cheesy fisticuffs, oh my!) How did it taste? Tangy, smooth, a wee bit crumbly, salty with background notes of the grass that those sweet cows had chowed down on. It certainly deserved it’s wee gold medal.

This salad is a grand accompaniment to whatever takes your fancy. The carrots are oven roasted in a coating of spices and topped with zesty feta and sweet, lemony, crunchy pomegranate seeds. A beautiful addition to our Easter feast this year.

1 bunch baby orange carrots, scrubbed and topped
1 bunch baby purple carrots, scrubbed and topped
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp coriander
1/4 tsp allspice
2 tbl olive oil
50 g Feta to garnish
1/2 a pomegranate, seeds scatter over
Extra virgin olive oil to garnish

Preheat oven to 180C.
Place carrots on tray lined with foil and toss with with salt, spices and olive oil.
Roast for 20-30 minutes until carrots are tender.
Place on a pretty dish, dob the feta over the dish.
Squeeze and sprinkle the pomegranate seeds over and add a light drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

We served this salad with grilled haloumi, lamb chops marinated in ras el hanout, and a big plate of roasted kumara and potato.

A cheergerm recipe

What the heck is an heirloom carrot you ask? In brief, heirloom vegetables, fruits and flowers are grown from seeds passed down from generation to generation. Heirloom seeds rely on natural pollination from insects or the wind.

These often unusual looking, multi coloured fruits and vegetables are more likely to be grown by small suppliers and are often organic. By buying or growing heirloom produce, you are helping to support crop biodiversity and assist in helping to keep these older varieties from becoming extinct.



Shades of Orange

Over Easter, the Yak, kidlets and myself enjoyed a family sojourn with Dad (Mr Bapgpipes) and his partner, the divine Ms N, in the beautiful countryside of Orange, breathing clean air and looking at big skies.

Orange is located about 3 1/2 hours from Sydney in Western NSW. Fertile soil in this region produces quality fruits, wine, beef and lamb. Orange has become somewhat of a country foodie Mecca for those who enjoy the delights of the table.

We were lucky to stay a few kilometres outside of Orange on about five acres of property. Ms N, was housesitting a gorgeous homestead that also had a little cottage attached. The home was a glorious blend of old and new and spoke of both the past and the present.

Scattered throughout the garden were ancient cold climate trees and shrubbery, lovingly highlighted by artistic touches in places you least expected them. Two fantastic dogs, a miniature pony, bunny rabbit and loads of running space. What else could two small lads (and parents) want?

Friday was a day of relaxation, a lunch of warming lentil soup cooked by Ms N and a slap up lasagna for dinner. Snuggling up under winter weight doonas in the chill, still quiet of the night was a balm for our weary, urbanised souls. Early morning cuddles with little boys who will soon grow out of such nonsense. I stroked their soft faces and clasped their warm little hands, baby fat has melted away into the leaner bodies of small children. If I close my eyes I can still see the chubby legs and starfish hands of their babyhood.

Saturday consisted of morning coffee at the very cool Agrestic Cafe in a renovated old mill. The food looked great but we opted for a coffee only, which took a little while to arrive. One of the sproglets ordered a very delicious, certainly homemade banana bread, served with the most scrumptious handmade pat of butter.

Alongside this hip bustling place was a nifty little grocery selling a variety of local produce. We purchased some pretty little bunches of heirloom carrots and an award winning local feta cheese. As foodie gifts, some local pistachios, chemical free sultanas and spices also fell into the ‘take home basket’. There were local wines, olive oils, olives and vinegars to choose from as well as an abundance of local fresh fruit and veg.

Coffee cravings satiated, we took off for a hoon around Orange and up Mt Canoblas. The views from this extinct volcano were fantastic. Autumn leaves were just beginning to turn and vines were starting to change colour. Much needed recent rain meant the hills were covered in a swathe of emerald green grass. All this fresh air and natural beauty was starting to put the zing back in our zang.

Mr Bagpipes had booked a table for lunch at the Sisters Rock (yes they do) restaurant at Borrodell Vineyard. Plopped on the side of Mt Canoblas, this stunningly idyllic rustic restaurant looks out over vineyards and farmlets. The boys were happy with the children’s menu and us grown ups were more than happy with our choices.

Ms N and I gobbled up pithivier’s (posh for pie) of leeks and mushrooms with a tomato salsa and balsamic reduction. Mr Bagpipes has been on a venison roll lately, oh dear. (Sorry). He heartily enjoyed a loin of venison that was cleverly paired with a Borrodell red wine and plum spiced syrup . The Yak chowed down on a sinful twice cooked cheese soufflé with sides of asparagus and walnut butter as well as hand cut chips with lemongrass mayonnaise. This cheergerm dreamily sipped on a delicious glass of the Borrodel sparkling wine whilst plotting ways of moving out to the country.

Orange town itself comprises of traditionally wide Australian country streets, lined with trees in various autumnal shades. Beautiful heritage houses and buildings abound. Fantastic looking shops (closed due to Easter, ‘thank goodness!’ cried the Yak) and bountiful cafés and restaurants, enough to satisfy the hungriest visitor.

The rest of our time consisted of Easter eggs hunts, devouring chocolate, small boys climbing and playing, reading, cooking and walking. I watched our giggling lads swing from a rope ladder attached to a magnificent oak tree and tucked this memory into my heart. These days really are the best days of our lives and sometimes it’s easy to look past the simple moments of joy.

Sadly, holidays must come to an end. Farewells were said as little boys hugged doggers, horses and people that they had spent special time with.

A big thanks to Ms N for her delightful hospitality and the big box of Fuyu persimmons we took back from the property. These round little fruits are reminiscent of a Renoir still life painting. Having tasted one, the astringency quite knocked my socks off. The next fruit tasted was over ripe and mushy (almost gelatinous, my least favourite food texture). However, the actual flavour was quite nice. Mildly sweet, almost like a soft banana (that isn’t a banana), mayhaps a persimmon cake will eventuate in the near future, once they ripen more.

The heirloom carrots and feta ended up as part of Easter lunch, keep your eyes peeled for the next post.

For now, I leave you with a few images our country sojourn.




Spelt Anzac Biscuits

With Easter a not so distant chocolatey memory, those of us in Australia and New Zealand, turn our attention to Anzac Day this coming Friday. Anzac stands for ‘Australia and New Zealand Army Corp’ and this important national holiday marks the anniversary of the first military action fought by Australian and New Zealand forces in World War I.

Anzac Day has become a day to commemorate those brave soldiers who fought in the battle of Gallipoli in 1915 and also serves as a way of remembering all of our soldiers who lost their lives in World Wars I, II and and all military operations since then.

This brief description fails to convey the intangible ‘spirit of Anzac’ that is ingrained in the psyche of both our nations. It speaks of courage, humility, humour, mateship, understatement and facing unbeatable odds. The humble Anzac biscuit imbues this spirit and is a much loved biscuit, especially on Anzac Day.

A little bit of Anzac bikkie history, according to Alexa Johnston’s ‘Ladies: a Plate’. This biscuit wasn’t actually sent to New Zealand soldiers at Gallipolli as popular legend has it, at least, not under this name. Professor Helen Leach of Otago University researched the history of this biscuit and discovered that is wasn’t named until the year after World War I ended.

My adapted version is a little more like the recipe published in the 1933 Ideal Cookery Book, published by the Plunket Society. A Mrs Wyvern Wilson (strangely my mothers maiden name but no relation, I think!) used a well known formula of wholemeal flour and walnuts without oats. She also used much less sugar than today’s regular recipes. I do use oats and avoid nuts so they can be sent to school. If you have no spelt flour, it is just as good using wholemeal plain flour.

Not overly sweet, these biscuits have caramel undertones. The initial bite is crunchy but morphs into a delicious chewiness as you munch your way through it. The smell of them baking cries ‘childhood’ and ‘eat me now!’

Even though I consider myself somewhat of a pacifist, I am thankful for the sacrifices these brave men made to ensure the freedom of many. There exists a photograph of my maternal grandfather from World War II. He is on a horse, in Egypt. A young, handsome New Zealand soldier version of Lawrence Olivier. My other Pop worked on the railways back in New Zealand as he was unable to enlist due to health reasons.

Both of these men contributed to the war effort, as did all those left at home who assisted in other meaningful and valued ways. How lucky we were that our Pop came back. (Well, otherwise, I wouldn’t be here and that would really suck.)

Lest we forget.

Spelt Anzac biscuits

1 cup rolled oats
1 cup desiccated coconut
3/4 cup wholemeal spelt flour (or wholemeal plain flour)
2/3 cup coconut sugar (or raw caster sugar, rapadura sugar)
115g butter
2 tbsp golden syrup
1 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp boiling water

Preheat oven to 180C (350F) and line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper. If you like, pop the trays into the fridge to get them cold, this does help the biscuit (somehow!) but I don’t always do it.
In a large bowl, combine the rolled oats, coconut, flour and sugar.
Place butter and golden syrup in a small saucepan and stir with a wooden spoon until they have melted together.
Put the baking soda in a cup, add the boiling water and mix to dissolve the soda before pouring it into the mixture in the saucepan.
Stir with a wooden spoon then tip it into the dry ingredients and mixture to a crumbly mixture.
Drop heaped teaspoonfuls on the trays, or roll into balls for a more even shape, leaving 3cm of space around each biscuit as they do spread.
Bake for 10-15 minutes until they have spread out and are a dark golden colour. I like to give them 8 minutes then turn the trays around to ensure even baking.
Cool on a rack, Make sure they are fully cooled before storing as this helps to keep them crisp. Store in an airtight container.
Makes 18 biscuits.

A cheergerm adaptation from ‘Ladies, A Plate. Traditional home baking’ by Alexa Johnston

Pumpkin soup, the best you ever tasted?

The wee lads have a beloved book, it’s called Pumpkin Soup. It is impossible to say how many times this book has been read. One particular stanza has stuck in my mind.

‘Pumpkin Soup. The best you ever tasted. Made by the Cat who slices up the pumpkin. Made by the Squirrel who stirs in the water. Made by the duck who scoops up a pipkin of salt, and tips in just enough.’

This mantra is always in the back of my mind when making pumpkin soup. (Or as the Yak and I call it, snoup…no idea why.) Naturally, the children won’t touch the stuff.

Now, this may not be the best pumpkin soup you ever tasted but it ain’t half bad.

You could have a pumpkin soup recipe you love so much that no other can or will, hold a candle to it. If you have a hankering to try something new, this soup is buttery and softly sweet with a mild undercurrent of warming Indian spices. Feel free to add half a teaspoon of red chilli powder if you fancy a hit of the good stuff. Hearty autumnal soup, good for the soul and just the thing for the gobshite horrid weather that has descended upon us recently.

Spiced pumpkin soup

2 tbl oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped (I don’t peel, lots of goodness in the skin!)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp dried coriander
1/2 tsp dried cumin
1/2 tsp dried ginger
1/2 tsp dried turmeric
2 tsp sea salt (or a pipkin)
1 potato, roughly chopped (don’t bother peeling)
butternut pumpkin (my 1.4kg pumpkin yielded 900g chopped pumpkin)
6 cups water
1 cup dried red lentils, rinsed under cold water
Salt and pepper to taste

Sauté onion and carrot for 3- 4 few minutes over medium heat.
Add garlic, spices and salt and cook for one minute, stirring.
Add the pumpkin and potato and stir through.
Add the water, lentils and a few grinds of black pepper.
Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer and cook on medium heat.
Whilst cooking, check for salt, you may need to add a bit more.
When cooking lentils, sometimes a ‘frothy scum’ rises to the surface. Don’t go nuts but do skim off some of it whilst cooking.
Once the vegetables are soft and collapsing (about 40 minutes), take off heat and blend with a stick blender until smooth.
Add water to get the consistency of soup you prefer and gently heat through. I added about an extra 3/4 of a cup as I don’t enjoy overly gluggy soup. This soup does thicken quite a bit as it cools.
Garnish with a sprig of coriander and a dollop of plain yoghurt if you have it and serve with crunchy toast or your favourite crackers.
Great for the next day and for freezing.

A cheergerm recipe

A quick note on stock, many years ago I used to make my own chicken, seafood and beef stock. Then I had children. That is my excuse and I am sticking to it. Store bought ready made stock is very salty, so when I do use it, I either water or it down or try and buy the reduced salt variety. Frozen meat or vegetable stocks from butchers and gourmet food outlets are also a great alternative.

For veggie soups, I often don’t use any stock and try and let the natural ‘vegetable flavours’ shine through. (Although I will use a spoon of Massel veggie stock powder which is gluten free and vegan, sometimes.) Lately I have had a hankering to try making my own veggie stock. Stay tuned for that.

Book photo credits: ‘Pumpkin Soup’ written by Helen Cooper, published by Picture Corgi Books Transworld Publishers Ltd. Copyright 1998 by Helen Cooper.

Baked polenta pie and carking it

The following is a recentish conversation with Kid 1. The exact origins of how it began are murky. He may have been talking about living in our house once the Yak and myself had shuffled off this mortal coil.

Me: That can wait until you bury me in the cold hard ground.
Kid 1: Would you rather be buried or incinerated?
Me: Eek! Incinerated!? I hope you mean cremated?
Kid 1: Yes, yes! Actually, I think I will mount your head on the wall, hang on, maybe I will put you in a glass coffin like Snow White!
Me: Ummm…cremation will suffice thanks kiddo.

There is absolutely no way of linking this discussion to our recent ‘early Easter mums birthday family get together.’ Except that if you were to eat like this every day, you probably would shuffle off to an early grave. These events are no mean affairs, everyone contributes joyfully and the table groans from the weight of a feast fit for a King. That day we began with varying cheeses and crackers served with a nutty, rich fruit paste. Next was roast lamb, cauliflower cheese, potato bake, polenta pie and a green salad. To finish, a fruit platter the size of a small baby, lemon meringue cheesecake (to die for) and a decadent chocolate cake (both gluten free).

This vegetarian polenta pie is a great ‘big group gathering dish’, as it makes a motza. It’s an adaptation of a recipe from Two Peas and a Pod, a delightful food blog with tonnes of varied recipes. It’s a bit like a lasagna, without the pasta and white sauce. Polenta is cornmeal that is boiled into a hearty porridge (sounds scrumptious?) then eaten directly or baked, fried or grilled. It is gluten free so it’s a great ingredient for Silly Yaks.

(Ps whenever I do ‘pass onto the next realm’, can someone (anyone) please ensure I don’t end up hung ‘moose like’ on the wall or spend eternity on display in a glass box?)

Baked vegetarian polenta pie

4 tbl olive oil
1 large onion, diced
1 medium red pepper, diced
1 large eggplant, peeled and diced into 3cm dice
2 medium zuchinni, diced 2 cm dice
200g mushrooms, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes (leave out if you choose to)
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
2 tins (400g) crushed/diced tomatoes
1 cup water
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves roughly chopped
1 cup grated Parmesan
2 cups shredded/grated mozarella

Preheat oven to 180C and lightly oil a 3 litre baking dish.

The sauce
Sauté onion and red pepper in olive oil for a few minutes.
Add eggplant, cook stirring for 2 minutes, add the zuchinni, cook 3 minutes.
Add the mushrooms, chilli, fennel, garlic and oregano. Stir for a minute or two.
Add tomato, water and season with salt and pepper.
Cook for 30-40 minutes until vegetables are tender and sauce is reduced and silky. Remove from heat and stir in the basil.

1.5 cups instant polenta
4.5 cups milk
1.5 tbl butter
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
Black pepper

Place the milk, butter, sugar, salt and a few grinds of black pepper into a large saucepan and bring to a light simmer.
Using a whisk, slowly add the polenta to the pot, whisking constantly. When the polenta starts to thicken swap the whisk for a spoon.
Once the polenta pulls away from the pot, add half of the Parmesan cheese and stir to combine. Remove from the heat.

Assembling the pie
Spread the polenta into the baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan cheese.
Pour the tomato vegetable sauce over the polenta and top with the mozarella.
Bake in a moderate oven for 30 to 35 minutes until golden brown and bubbly.
Rest for ten minutes before cutting into squares and serving.

It goes beautifully with a crisp, green salad and leftovers of this dish are fantastic the next day.

Adapted from Two Peas in a Pod. Go here for the original recipe:

Hot cross buns, a love letter to mum

Growing up, our mum baked bread. The aromas of rising yeast and mouthwatering smells of fresh loaves, speak to me of childhood. The warm crust slathered with butter and homemade jam was the best bit. These memories transport me back to our paddock surrounded ‘Billenya’ house in Holloway Road.

Of course, the bread was mostly wholemeal. My plea of ‘Mum, can’t I just have store bought white bread?’, must have driven her nuts. Rarely do my own sproglets have white bread. My, we really do turn into our mothers.

Mum also made her own hot cross buns. Having children of my own, helped me to truly appreciate what our own mother did for us. Not everyone is lucky enough to have mothers as emotionally and physically present as she was. (Even when things were less than idyllic.) As time has passed, some friends have sadly lost their mums. I am feeling very thankful for mum today.

Apart from pizza, yeast based products have never been my forte. That is about to change. On this slightly cloudy and drizzly day, with Easter on the horizon, something in me longs for the aromas of mums kitchen. These hot cross buns are a homage to her. In every knead of the dough, I pour in gratitude for all of her hard work, commitment and for always feeding her four girls so well and healthily.

No matter how much we may have moaned about it.

Hot cross buns

Light, airy with a lovely warmth from the spices, these were absolutely delicious, scoffed down with a cup of tea. Ambrosia.

I have slightly adapted an SBS website recipe by halving it, adding a touch of spelt flour and using less fruit. I have also provided the full recipe quantities if you would like to make about 20 buns. (See after the recipe.) I made 9 out of this quantity.

I only added sultanas as the kidlets don’t like a lot of dried fruit, but feel free to add some chopped apricots and currants if you like. (Maybe 50g or so.) Keep in mind the 1 hour and 45 minutes resting time.

200 ml milk
60g butter
2 cups bread (high protein ) flour
1/2 cup wholemeal spelt flour
40g raw caster sugar (or regular)
1 x 7g yeast sachet
120g sultanas
2 tsps cinnamon
1 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp salt
Zest one lemon
1/2 beaten egg

Cross paste (this makes too much for 9, its the full amount for 20 buns)
1/2 cup plain flour
75 ml sunflower oil (I used rice bran oil)
65ml water

Spice glaze
1/4 tsp mixed spice
70g raw caster sugar
50ml water

Place the milk and butter in a small saucepan over low to medium heat and stir until combined. Let cool slightly.
Place the sugar, yeast, flours, sultanas, cinnamon, mixed spice, salt and lemon zest into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Stir to combine.
Stir in the egg, then the milk mixture.
Knead for 9 minutes or until the mixture is smooth and elastic.
Turn the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with clingfilm and please in a warm and draught free spot for 1 hour or until doubled in size. (This process is called ‘proving’.)
Knock back the dough and divide into 9 or 10 equal pieces. Knead each piece for 1 minute until it is a smooth ball.
Place in rows on an oven tray lined with baking paper. Cover with a tea towel and place in a warm, draught free spot for 45 minutes or until dough doubles in size.

Preheat oven to 220C (conventional, 200C fan forced)
To make paste for the cross, place flour, oil and water in a bowl and stir to a smooth paste. Place into a piping bag with a small nozzle (or a small ziplock plastic bag with the tip cut off) and pipe a cross shape onto each dough ball.
Bake for 10 minutes at 220C (conventional, or 200C fan forced) for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 200C (or 180C fan forced) and bake for a further 9 minutes or until golden.

Make spice glaze while buns are baking, put mixed spice, sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer, dissolving sugar. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
Brush buns generously with glaze. Serve warm or at room temperature with butter.

A tip from one of my lovely sissies: If your house is draughty, try proving in the microwave! (Just don’t turn it on).

To make 20 buns:
400 ml milk, 120g butter, 4 cups bread (high protein ) flour, 1 cup wholemeal spelt flour, 75g raw caster sugar (or regular), 2 x 7g yeast sachet, 240g sultannas, 3 1/2 tsps cinnamon, 1 tsp mixed spice, 1 tsp salt, zest one lemon, 1 beaten egg.
The paste recipe is the same, for the glaze, use 1/2 tsp mixed spice and 125 g caster sugar.

Go here for the original recipe: http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/hot-cross-buns-0

Get stuffed eggplant

‘Get stuffed!’ Growing up in a certain era, as one did, this was a charming way you could tell someone who was irritating you, to get lost. Other equally lovely Aussie vernacular of the day included: ‘Get knicked!’, ‘Rack off!’ and ‘Bugger off!’.

What’s not to love about a stuffed vegetable? This is a rhetorical question. If you dislike or hate them, well, you know what you can do. Get stuffing a vegetable, you may change your mind!

Get stuffed eggplant

2 cups cooked quinoa (see quinoa notes below)
2 medium eggplants
2tbl olive oil
1/2 red onion
1/2 small red capsicum
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes
1/2 tin (200g) chopped tomatoes
1 tsp dried basil
2 tbl chopped parsley
1/3 cup grated Parmesan
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 180C.
Cut the eggplants in half lengthways, oil the flesh and place them flesh side down on a lined baking tray. Bake for 40 min at 180C or until they are tender.
Scoop out the flesh of the eggplant, let it drain for five minutes in a colander to get rid of excess water.
Chop the eggplant flesh. Place aside.
Sauté the onion and red pepper for a few minutes, until onion starts to soften.
Add the garlic and chilli flakes, cook for one minute.
Add the eggplant, cook for 2-3 minutes.
Add tomato and basil, cook for 5 minutes.
Stir in the cooked quinoa and chopped parsley.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Scoop filling back into eggplant shells and top with grated Parmesan
Cook in a 180C oven for 30 minutes until the tops are golden brown.
Serve with a salad.

Other stuffable veggies include red capsicum (peppers), zuchinni and mushrooms. This is a great way to use up leftover quinoa, it is just as delish using cooked brown rice or cooked buckwheat.

A cheergerm recipe

Quinoa: As you all know, it’s very hip and cool so I won’t crap on about it too much. The Incan’s called it the ‘mother seed’ and considered it to be sacred. It is being touted as a ‘superfood’ these days. Really, we are just walking in the footsteps of a long gone ancient race who used it as their staple food source for nigh on 5000 years. (Ain’t nothing new people.)

Pronounced ‘keen-wah’, this gluten free ‘grain’ is actually not a grain but the seed of a vegetable related to spinach. It is high in protein and is a complex carbohydrate with a low glycemic index. I actually HATED it when I first tried it but since then, have actually grown to enjoy chowing down on it, in various forms. Of course, it’s great for the Yak.

In it’s natural state, quinoa is coated with something called ‘saponin’ which is actually toxic and makes the quinoa taste bitter. Most commercial brands have been washed before packaging but it is a good idea to rinse your quinoa before use and like any food, moderation is the key. (Ie don’t chow down on it every day.)

I love using a tri-coloured blend of quinoa but use whatever you have. Cooking instructions should be on the packet but it is usually 1 part quinoa to 2 parts liquid. This will yield about 3-4 cups cooked quinoa, more than enough for this recipe and for other uses. I like to use a part stock/part water blend to add a bit of flavour to the quinoa.

Yes, I did crap on for too long about ‘keen-wah’….sorry….





Market love

We are lucky enough to have a thriving local Growers/Food Market round these here parts. Look at all the beautiful goodies I scooped up today!

What floats my boat the most about these kind of markets? Methinks it’s the endless possibilities, the excitement of seeing vibrant fresh fruit and vegetables in season. The ‘what can I cook for dinner tonight?’ Perusing beautiful sourdough artisan breads (including gluten free), handmade cheeses and raw organic honey. A pear is no longer just a pear. It could become a caramelised pear cake or sliced, doused with lemon juice and thrown into a walnut and goats cheese salad. Pear, honey and pecan muffins anyone?

As a regular market goer for a number of years, I was asked to participate in a wee interview the other day by the Hornsby Market peeps. The lovely Jane sent me a few questions which I happily answered. If you would like to take a squiz, click on the link are the end of this post that will take you to the Organic Food Market blog.

I don’t feel entirely comfortable with throwing questions out into the blogosphere (the possibility of not being answered seems a tad, ummm, sad). However, I got my ‘market on’ today and I would love to hear from you about your fave growers/farmers market experiences. Do you have one near you, what do you like to buy and what is one of your fave recipes using a market ingredient?

If no-one answers, it’s cool. I will be at the Hornsby Market filling my belly with the scrumptious pancakes made by the cute French guys.


Green beans in olive oil (Loubyeh bi Zaht)

A standard purchase from our local Hornsby Growers Market is a bag of green beans. Sometimes they are added to a curry, sometimes they are blanched and tossed together with fennel and orange to make a vibrant salad. Sometimes I will just stare at them for hours at a time, pondering the true beauty of their verdant, glossy, bean-like attributes. But mostly likely, they will end up in this dish.

I like to fancy that I am a teeny part Lebanese, not through blood but through osmosis. A dear friend (who’s hubby is of Lebanese origin) gave me Abla Amad’s cookbook, ‘The Lebanese Kitchen’ about 12 years years ago. Abla started her restaurant in 1979. It soon became a Melbourne dining institution and is still serving simple, traditional style Lebanese food today. Having never eaten there, it is definitely on my list of things to do. Anyhoo, it has been a pleasure to trawl through this book and experiment with the variety of tasty dishes that grace the pages.

My next Middle Eastern connection was making friends with yet another amazing chick through mothers group. Our sons were born around the same time and she is also of Lebanese heritage. The tip of caramelising the onions for this dish came from her mum. (Just saying, but this good friend has yet to cook me a Lebanese feast…..I am still waiting.)

The Yak and myself love this dish served with baked or roasted potatoes and veggie burgers. It’s equally good with kafta (lamb mince patties), grilled chicken or haloumi. Other great pairings include quinoa dishes, stuffed eggplants or capsciums and flatbreads. It is equally yummy served hot, cold or warm.

Mopping up the velvety sauce at the end with whatever carbohydrate you fancy is the best bit.

Green beans in olive oil (Loubyeh bi Zayt)

1/2 cup olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
500g green beans, top and tailed and cut into 2cm length
1 1/2 tsps ground allspice
1 tin (400g) diced tomatoes
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Heat oil in a saucepan, add onion and sauté the onions until they are a dark golden brown. Cook over medium heat, this takes about 10-15 minutes.
Add beans and stir, then add allspice and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Add tomato, salt and pepper.
Replace lid and cook for 30 minutes over low heat, cooking until beans are tender. (I usually take the lid off for the last 10 minutes). I taste for seasoning about half way through, you may need a touch more salt.

You can make this dish without tomatoes but I never have. I love allspice but if you are unsure, try 1 teaspoon to start with. Seriously folks, take the time to caramelise the onions. It adds a depth of flavour that was missing when I used to sauté the onions lightly.

Adapted from The Lebanese Kitchen by Abla Amad