Baked Savoury Beetroot Leaf and Ricotta Pie

I went to the markets the other day and found an amazing bunch of beetroot with the most spectacular leaves on top. I eagerly purchased the bunch as I love beetroot leaves and I was horrified when the stall holder offered to remove the leaves to help me fit the beetroot into my bag. I gave her a shocked look and loudly proclaimed, “they’re the best bit!”

I was planning on cooking them in my usual favourite way, fried in a bit of butter with onion and breadcrumbs, but while I was out on a run my brain started to combine some things in the fridge in my head which created this dish and I was stoked with how well it turned out.

This dish is high in protein, low in fat, full of vegies, low in carbs and best of all it was super tasty! I think that this is a great dinner for people watching what they eat, and also for families with kids. Wouldn’t the kids love a slice of pink polka-dotted baked cheese? Just don’t tell them how healthy it is, or your husband for that matter. K and I really enjoyed it over 4 days, it keeps well and it still tasted just as good on the last day.

Healthy and delicious, what more could you want? Oh, I know, full of pretty pink polka-dots!

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Paprika and Lemon Myrtle Rub

Because the doctor has me on a mission to eat more vitamin B12 and iron I am on a mission to disguise meat with other flavours. As you may already be aware, I really love paprika and onion to make things tasty (see Egg White Omelette that wasn’t gross) and lemon goes great with everything so that is the basic idea behind the Paprika and Lemon Myrtle Rub.

For those who have never heard of lemon myrtle is a plant native to Queensland, Australia that is used as a herb in cooking. It has a delicate, but strong lemon flavour a little like lemongrass. It is absolutely scrumptious in shortbread and cookies but here I have used it in a savoury dish in which it was great. If you can’t get lemon myrtle (don’t be surprised if you can’t), just add some lemon juice to the mix.

I used this rub on both steak and kangaroo (yes, something of an Aussie theme today) and it would also be good on tempeh, chicken or tofu. Although the flavour combination is quite Portuguese (my soon to be home?) with paprika, lemon and garlic, it has a distinctly Australian flare

I think spices are so pretty

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Classic Pretzels

There are so many mysterious foods out there that are actually pretty easy to make. So it’s my mission to lift the lid on foods that we no longer bother to make at home but they’re really pretty easy.

It’s strange that so many of the popular cooking competition shows are encouraging people to take on fancy foods like sea scallops, duck confit, and other expensive time consuming dishes, but they haven’t got people making yoghurt, cottage cheese, fruit scrolls and pretzels. These foods are easy to make, tasty and really fun to learn how your favourite foods are made.

I love a fresh, soft pretzel. To be honest I love bread and salty foods, so pretzels are right up my alley. But in Australia they’re pretty expensive for what is little more than a tasty bread roll. The day I made 8 fresh, hot, soft salty pretzels for about 3 dollars I saw pretzels at the market for 3 dollars each!

I made pretzels because I was going to an afternoon of board games and beer, and I thought what goes better with beer than pretzels? Possibly nothing, but I have some crazy ideas that are twists on the classic pretzel I will be experimenting with over the next couple of months, so expect to see more pretzels. But for now, I give you the classic pretzel…

Now for board games and beer

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Homemade Almond Butter

Nut butters are a way to add heaps of nutrients and flavour to oatmeal, or on toast, or maybe even straight from a spoon…

The problem is that nut butters other than peanut can be super expensive and really they’re just blended nuts – so let’s try making it ourselves!

Just be mindful, nut butters are addictively delicious and although full of nutrients, protein and unsaturated fats, that does make them high in calories, so just use a little to add something extra to your next bowl of oatmeal.

Get a bit of almond butter into your life.

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3 Orange Baked Apple and Rhubarb

Brisbane is experiencing an unseasonably rainy July. Brisbane winters are usually dry, with cool nights and warm sunny days. We have blue skies that reach from one end of sky to the other. But not this year, it has rained and rained and rained.

So it’s an easy time to eat too much comfort food that is just no good. If you are after a warming dessert without lots of hollow calories, try this baked fruit which is full of nutrients without fat and is modest on the waist line. It would also be great at breakfast on muesli or yoghurt.

I prepared this one night and then it sat in the fridge overnight, this really helped all the flavours combine and deepen. If you have the time I would recommend letting it sit at least a couple of hours, but preferably closer to 24 hours.

You could also use other fruits like peaches and plums in summer, or pears or quince, just adjust the cooking time depending on the fruit. And I know I said three orange, and it’s only two, but using the rind and the juice gives it two different orange flavours and then the Cointreau adds even more orange oomph.

Nature gives us great flavours, so use them!

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Pomegranate Smash

I left the cocktail to last but I actually served it first. What better way than to start the evening than a nice cocktail. It sets the mood and the tone of the evening, plus it was a good way to introducing the special guest of the evening: pomegranate.

I know this cocktail isn’t much of a looker, but anything she lacks in style she makes up for in personality, sense of humour and character. Her redeeming qualities are so endearing that I think this is my new favourite cocktail and my dear friend Delilah is a wallflower once more.

If you wanted to pretty this up, I would recommend serving in an opaque vessel over crushed ice topped with a sprig of mint and a sprinkle of arils.

Follow the light!

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Beer Soaked Apple Pie

I know this sounds crazy, but beer soaked apple pie is really good, well so long as you like beer and apple pie, and I really like beer and apple pie!

This recipe was invented when beer appreciation night was combined with pie night. Yes, I have awesome friends and we hold such events. So I thought let’s combine beer and pie, that seems like it can only make things better and being me, I challenged myself to combine beer into a sweet pie because clearly a savoury beer pie was just too easy. And hence, beer soaked apple pie was born.

What a good looking pie!

There are a few tricks to getting this to work, the most important of which is to get a beer that suits. I know they say you should always cook with your best wine, but let’s be honest, you usually use cheap plonk and drink the good stuff, but it is imperative for beer soaked apple pie to get the right beer. Surprisingly the beer is not a cider (that might work, I haven’t tried it, but it would have been cheating for beer appreciation night).

My preference is Moo Brew Pale Ale, I have made this pie twice with Moo Brew with spectacular results and this time I made it with 4 Pines Pale Ale which was a bit stronger in the final pie but still a cracking good dessert. What you are looking for is a good quality beer (something that is made with good ingredients), that has a clean taste, is a little hoppy, so a pale ale seems to work well.

The beer is not actually cooked into the final pie, the chopped apple just rests in the beer for a few hours to take on the flavours and characteristics of the beer. So your final pie doesn’t taste much like beer, but it is a little yeasty, a little hoppy and a little malty. So it really is almost like using the beer like a bouquet garni for apple pie.
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Sumac and Asparagus Couscous, Yoghurt Sauce, and Apple and Fennel Salad

A beautiful roast chicken should be served with sides that compliment it and round out all the flavours. These sides are actually good enough to have by themselves.

K and I had the sumac and asparagus couscous with some spiced tempeh and tomato salad which was super tasty in that combo. But when the chicken juices, all lemon-thyme-pomegranate-buttery goodness soaks in it was heavenly.

Clearly the apple, fennel and pomegranate salad is similar to the pear, fennel and parmesan salad I love, but this is taken back a step to make it more of a side than a main. It would be awesome with pork chops too.

The cucumber and mint yoghurt sauce went really well on anything on the plate. Some added it to the salad, some to the couscous, some drizzled it over the chicken, but everyone liked it.

Chicken with sides

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Sumac and Thyme Chicken with Pomegranate Glaze

This is not your normal roast chicken. I don’t know about you, but I find that 90% of the time roast chicken is boring and bland, and the other 10% of the time it is so salty and fatty I can’t enjoy it because I can feel my arteries clogging. Sumac and thyme chicken with a pomegranate and honey glaze was tender, moist and unbelievably tasty. Plus it was an easy. I’ll admit, I’m often a little scared of chicken because the line between salmonella and over-cooked leather can be fine, but this was just scrumptious.

LAB taking a break drinking the beer that the apple had been soaking in.

Sumac is a Middle Eastern spice made from dried, ground berries. It has a citrusy/berry/earthy flavour which was really, really good with chicken. You are most likely to find sumac in shops that stock other Middle Eastern foods (and you’ll be looking for pomegranate molasses for this recipe while you’re there). If you can’t find it, you could substitute a sweet/mild paprika, or in Australia, dried, ground bush tomato.

Sumac and thyme are the key spices in za’atar, and thyme and chicken are good together, so thyme and sumac seemed like a good flavour local from which to start. Then, given my current obsession with pomegranate, who could go past adding another citrusy layer to the flavours, and to top it off, I shoved a lemon in the cavity while it roasted.

Tastiest chicken ever.

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Smoky Eggplant and Roasted Garlic with Caraway Soup

This week will feature the dinner I made for my Dad’s birthday. It was a sort of Middle Eastern, Citrus/Pomegranate themed evening, except for the dessert which is a unique LAB invention. I’ll post the courses in order throughout the week, except that the cocktail we served as an aperitif will be on Friday because it seemed too strange to post a cocktail on a Monday.

So tomorrow will be the best roast chicken I’ve ever had, a sumac and thyme chicken, with a pomegranate and honey glaze, oh yeah, it’s one phenomenal chicken. Wednesday will be all the accompanying dishes we had with the chicken, which were: sumac and asparagus cous cous; fennel, apple and pomegranate salad; and cucumber and mint yogurt sauce. Thursday will be a beer soaked apple pie. Yes, you heard right, beer in apple pie. Just go with it. It may not be your Grandma’s apple pie but it is one heck of a unique dessert on beer appreciation night. Lastly on Friday, you can look forward to another ugly but delicious recipe with a pomegranate cocktail, I think it could be my new favourite cocktail!

But today I have for you a smoky eggplant and roasted garlic soup with caraway. I had the idea for an eggplant soup with caraway seeds a few weeks ago and hunted high and low for a recipe on the internet but there was nothing like the flavours I had running around my head, so I took the plunge and made it up myself. K and I think it is one of my best inventions ever.

Liquid velvet.

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