Wednesday, January 23, 2013

food-lover's cleanse 2013: best recipe roundup

After my last post I suddenly decided that updates every two days detailing what I'm putting in my gob might be a bit naff. Although it does occur to me that I love reading that sort of thing. But what if I'm the only one? Anyway. At some point I decided that what actually may be more useful for readers is a little round-up type list of this year's cleanse recipes that I know I'll make again. So this is it.

Here are the dishes from the 2013 Bon Appetit's Food-lover's Cleanse that I'll gladly revisit during the rest of the year. From left to right, top row:

1. Sake-steamed clams with soba noodles Although one of my resolutions this year was to get better at cooking for myself, I couldn't cope with the thought of steaming clams for a meal for one. So my dear friend Nicole joined me for this Japanesey dinner and we both really enjoyed it. The meaty diamond shell Cloudy Bay clams I bought were simply steamed quickly in a broth of sake and ginger, then garnished with chopped spring onions and mixed with soba noodles (we used green tea type). It was a clean but tasty and satisfying dish. 

2. Yogurt-marinated chicken with fresh coriander, coconut and ginger chutney I loved grilled chicken with salsas and fresh chutney, but I haven't cooked much of it since moving into my little, BBQ-less apartment. This dish reminded me that it is worth doing, especially when you marinate the chicken to pack in extra flavour, which can help make up for the lack of black, smokey grilledness. And this fresh chutney - holy fark! If you like big spritxy punchy fresh flavours, you need to make this ASAP. And so easy. I'm looking forward to trying it with a meaty, full-flavoured fish, too. 

3. Chicken with fresh cranberry agrodolce  Another sauce for chicken that makes me want chicken. This is like a sweet and sour fresh cranberry jelly with chunks of apple and golden apple syrup. There's still some of this in the fridge and I'm planning to use it in a really great sandwich. 

4. Raspberry hazelnut muesli A lovely Bircher-style muesli that was a cold, soothing treat on hot summer mornings. Also, a reminder that I love Bircher muesli and the inspiration for a new recipe I am now making all the time (forthcoming shortly). 

And on the bottom:

5. Oatmeal with blueberries, almonds and sage I used steel cut oats here, which I can't get enough of. But the new touch was the combination of ripe summer blueberries and fresh sage. A surprising and welcome savoury note in my breakfast that day. 

6. Miso-marinated steak with purple cabbage, beet and apple slaw I bought a freaking beautiful Angus grass fed steak for this dish and worried insanely about slathering it in ginger-spiked miso. But holy heavens, it was outstanding - even overcooked, as it was. It seasoned the beef beautifully without taking over and the result was an umami-bomb that I will gladly rig up for explosion again. And the slaw - fantastic in both colour and texture, and a lovely side for that insanely good boof. 

7. Salmon with Swiss chard, olives and lemon & quinoa with pistachios The Swiss chard side for the first day's fish dinner made me close my eyes and nod lots and lots. Maybe it's my Greek genes, but sometimes there's nothing better than a bowl of super-fresh sweet greens with salty and tangy accents. This recipe included an unusual technique for the citrus: it had you boil a whole lemon up until soft, then chop it roughly to add to the chard. I think some people found it still too lemony, but I loved it. I imagine you could use preserved lemon to speed the prep up a little. And the quinoa? Nothing unexpected, but a well-timed reminder that using a good stock, and adding something crunchy and something fresh can really spruce up a grain-based side. 

8. Day four, left overs! This was leftovers of the chicken and chutney in number two for lunch the following day, with the genius addition fresh, juicy pineapple. I include it here because it reminded me how much I love chicken and pineapple, and fruit and meat in general. Suggestion noted!

Special mention also goes to the smoky lemon tahini salad dressing. I love tahini and the convenience of having a delicious homemade salad dressing ready to go in the fridge was really very exciting. 

One of the reasons I do the cleanse each year is because I end up with a handful of new recipes to go into the new year with, so 2013's didn't disappoint. Is there anything you know you'll be cooking lots of this year?


Wednesday, January 2, 2013

step by step, on a piece of string

I disappeared for a minute there, in more ways than one. But I'm rematerialising now, molecule by molecule. More slowly than I'd like, but still.

Last year ended with a double-shot of scotch at about two in the morning. This one began with a bowl of oatmeal with apple and blueberries and walnuts. It's a tricky balancing act, life.

I'm spending the first two weeks with those peeps all over the globe who are doing Bon Appétit's annual Food-Lover's Cleanse. You can follow all the almond milk-fuelled action here, or by following me on instagram @lexicooks. Happy New Year, all.x

Saturday, September 1, 2012

apple cake & the first day of spring

Today was the first day of Spring. It was perfect: rainy and cold in the morning before the clouds cleared completely to let in that glorious golden sunshine that belongs only to the warmer months. I spent the day with the windows open, listening to Stereolab records while doing weekly chore stuff - cleaning and washing and sweeping and shopping. It's funny how those things in Winter can generate suicidal tendencies, but when the sun is shining, they feel therapeutic. I guess that's why the idea of Spring cleaning is so ubiquitous: nearly everyone is in some kind of hibernation in the Wintertime. 

Foodie-types look forward to there actually being more food around: new Spring vegetables like asparagus and all types of peas and beans. I get that. Food shopping can get a little depressing towards the end of Winter, when you tend to feel you've had more than enough orange and brown coloured things in your diet. But today I wanted to celebrate by letting the breeze weave the smells of sunshine and mixed spice through my little home while Quincy followed me around as I dusted for puffballs, dropping more puffballs for me to dust. So I baked an apple cake and put it on the window sill to cool. 

Actually I made this cake last week too, when so soon-to-be-parents Tash and Leith came over for afternoon tea. We spent the afternoon laughing and eating slice after slice, moving from coffee to tea to wine as the sun went down in that languid way so typical of Sundays. Later that evening I decided that I should make the cake again soon, and Tash went into labour. 

In addition to its labour-inducing properties, this cake is one of those lovely afternoon tea cakes that is pleasantly spicy, full of fruit and pretty to look at. It plays on that well-worn coupling of apple and cinnamon by concentrating the apple and elevating the spice element to a new multi-dimensional level. Rather than using cinnamon (which would also be delicious in this recipe), I swapped in my latest purchase from Gewürzhaus - an Apple Cake Spice blend containing cassia, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, pepper, rosehip, rose petal and chamomile - and the result was very elegant and very delicious. You can buy blends from Gewürzhaus online, but if you want to swap the spice in this recipe for cinnamon, I've included suggested quantities below. 

It's a very welcoming cake, which I felt was particularly fitting. Welcome to this world Max. And welcome to Spring. Lots of people have been waiting for you both. 


Apple Cake
Adapted from recipe by Donna Hay
185g (6.5oz) butter, softened
1 teaspoon Gewürzhaus Apple Cake Spice, or 3/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
2/3 cup caster sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 cups plain flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup milk
4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, halved and cored
1 teaspoon sugar 
1/2 teaspoon Gewürzhaus Apple Cake Spice, or ground cinnamon
1/4 cup apricot jam
1. Preheat the oven to 160°C (320°F). Line the base of a 22cm (8.5 inch) springform tin with non-stick baking paper.

2. Place the butter, spice and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until light, pale and creamy.
3. Add the eggs one by one and beat well between each addition. Sift the flour and baking powder over the butter and egg mixture. Add milk and beat on low until combined. Spoon mixture into prepared tin.
4. Take each apple half and cut a row of deep slits - avoiding bottom - and arrange over the top of the cake mixture. Press gently, but not to bottom of tin. Combine the sugar and remaining spice and sprinkle over the apples.
5. Bake cake in preheated oven for 50 minutes. In the meantime, warm apricot jam in a small saucepan over low heat.

6. When 50 minutes have passed, remove the cake and crush with the warm apricot jam. Return to the oven for 10 minutes, or until cooked when tested with a skewer. Cake will be shiny and golden brown. Remove springform ring and cool before cutting. 

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