I’m freshly back from a wonderful trip to Cuba. While I didn’t discover many amazing foodie delights to share with you, the food I experienced in Cuba was fresh and plentiful, but a bit on the plain side. I did however get a chance to cement my love of mojitos, which I’m fairly sure will be my drink of choice this summer. I also discovered a Cuban cocktail new to me, the Canchánchara at a beach party just outside of Trinidad. The beach party was fabulous complete with bonfire, Cuban band, sun setting into the ocean and the cocktails flowing.
My highlights from Cuba include the proud and passionate people, the amazing architecture – either crumbling or painstakingly restored, the music and salsa dancing.
Rum is cheap and plentiful in Cuba, and forms the basis for most Cuban cocktails. It is made with sugar cane or small guavas, ranging from white rums through to darker aged rums. Havana Club is the brand most easily obtained outside of Cuba, but Barcardi also originated in Cuba. This cocktail relies on a balance between sweet from the honey, sour from the lemon and a healthy kick from the rum. Lime and lemongrass can also be used instead of or as well as the lemon. Feel free to play with the ratios until you get a balance that is right for you. In the spirit of the margarita, and because of the heat in Cuba, you could also add a pinch of salt to replace some of the salts lost through sweating.
What I was cooking this time last year: Seasame Shortbread
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 2 shots of white rum
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- Soda water or sparkling mineral water
- Add the honey, rum and lemon juice to a glass. Stir to combine.
- Add ice and fill the glass with sparkling water. Stir. Enjoy.
What is your favourite summer cocktail recipe? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
It’s hard to believe it’s November already. For me, November heralds the start of the party season and the count-down to Christmas. As your calendar starts to fill up, it’s handy to have some tasty recipes for entertaining.
I actually “borrowed” this recipe from a friend who recently purchased a thermomix. Now I love my kitchen gadgets, but haven’t been able to make the commitment to purchase one, but I’ve heard they are fantastic and she was excited to be experimenting with new recipes. I’ve added my own twist to the ingredients and come up with the below version (no thermomix required). I used a store-cupboard standby with the roasted peppers, but you could roast your own fresh red capsicum if you desire. If you would like a chunkier version of this dip, process the ingredients without the cashews first, then add the cashews and pulse the food processor until you achieve your desired texture. If your dip is a little to thick, you could add a bit of the drained oil that the tomatoes came in to help in getting the desired texture.
Serve your dip with your favourite accompaniments – crackers or vegetable crudités.
What I was cooking this time last year: Passionfruit and Strawberry Gum Bavarian
Cashew and Tomato Dip
- 100g semi-sundried tomatoes in oil, drained
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 birds eye chilli
- 50g roasted red peppers or roasted red capsicum, drained
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 120g raw unsalted cashews
- 30g parmesan cheese
- Add the tomatoes, peppers, cashews, garlic, chilli, lemon juice and parmesan cheese to your food processor or thermomix bowl.
- Blend until you have achieved your desired texture.
- Transfer your dip to a bowl and serve (or refrigerate until ready to serve). Enjoy.
What is your favourite stand-by recipe when friends drop by? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
I was meeting friends in Centennial Park today for a baby shower picnic, and was responsible for bringing dips. I wanted to bring one of my favourite dips, tzatziki. After researching different recipes, it seems the secret with this dip is to keep things simple. I was thinking of experimenting with the addition of spices, but the only things that seem to be added are a generous amount of salt and pepper, and either mint or dill. I went with adding both herbs, and some lemon zest and lemon infused olive oil for an extra citrus kick.
The raw garlic actually adds a bit of heat to the dip, so taste as you go when adding the garlic and pepper. Some recipes ask you to peel the cucumber and / or scoop out the seeds, I didn’t but instead allowed the yoghurt and grated cucumber to drain to remove some of the excess liquid. Suspend your strainer over a bowl to allow the liquid to drip through.
Serve this dip with your favourite crackers, or vegetable crudités (I used celery and carrot sticks) or as part of a Middle-Eastern inspired feast.
What I was cooking this time last year: Asian Marinated Salmon
- 1 cup natural greek-style yoghurt
- 1 cucumber
- Zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon olive oil (I used lemon infused)
- 1 garlic clove, finely crushed
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint leaves
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill leaves
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Grate the cucumber and add to a suspended strainer.
- Add the yoghurt to the grated cucumber in the strainer and set aside for the excess liquid to drip through.
- Set aside the draining yoghurt and grated cucumber for half-an-hour while you prepare your vegetable crudités.
- Discard the liquid and add the yoghurt and grated cucumber to the blow.
- Grate the lemon zest and finely mince the garlic and add to the bowl.
- Add the finely chopped mint, dill, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
- Mix with a spoon until everything is combined.
- Transfer your dip to a bowl and serve (or refrigerate until ready to serve). Enjoy.
What is your favourite dip? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
In preparation for embracing the “Swank Diet” in the new year, I am taking steps to wean myself off certain favourite foods. A lot of the diets books I have been reading say it is important not to put your body through sudden and / or drastic changes, so I am currently cutting back on coffee and dairy products, and if I am eating dairy, using low-fat or no-fat versions. If you are regular follower of this blog, you may have detected that I love baking and I believe cake should be classified as its’ own food group. The inspiration for this recipe is to come up with a cake that doesn’t use butter. I wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s healthy, but for me, it’s a step in the right direction.
The cake has been drowned in a sticky syrup, which you could skip if you want or need to reduce your sugar intake. Delicious served warm alongside a scoop of fat free natural yoghurt.
What I was cooking this time last year: Veggie Burgers
Lemon Poppy Seed Yoghurt Cake
- 2 cups self-raising flour
- 3/4 cup raw sugar
- 1 cup zero fat yoghurt
- 1/2 cup rice bran oil (or other vegetable oil)
- 2 lemons
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoons vanilla extract
- Generous pinch salt
- 4 tablespoons poppy seeds
- 2 lemons
- 1/2 cup raw sugar
- Turn the oven on to 180°C to pre-heat.
- Add the flour, sugar, eggs, salt, vanilla, lemon zest, yoghurt and oil to your food processor bowl.
- Juice the zested lemons, and add 1/2 cup lemon juice to the food processor bowl.
- Mix until the cake batter is combined.
- Add the poppy seeds to the food processor bowl and pulse until mixed into the cake batter.
- Grease a cake tin.
- Pour the cake mix into your greased cake tin, and set a timer for 45 minutes (you may need to adjust the cooking time depending on your oven and cake tin size).
- To make the syrup zest 2 lemons to produce long strips of zest. Add to a saucepan.
- Juice the lemon, to create 1/4 cup lemon juice, add 1/4 cup of water and add to the saucepan.
- Add 1/2 cup of sugar to the lemon zest and juice mix.
- Cook the syrup mixture over a medium heat until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture comes to the boil.
- Take the syrup off the heat and set aside to cool.
- Once the cake is cooked, remove from the tin and pour over the syrup while the cake is still hot.
- Serve warm or once cooled. Enjoy.
What is your favourite healthy(ish) cake recipe? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
One of my all time favourite flavours is lemon. When I was making the Australian Women’s Weekly classic, Caramel Chocolate Slice recently, I was inspired to try a citrusy version. This slice is my Lemon and White Chocolate Slice.
I like to use the zest and well as the juice of lemons to give an extra citrus boost when I am cooking. Cooking the lemon filling is more to cook out the egg yolks than to actually thicken the curd, the reaction between the lemon juice and condensed milk when mixing without any heat produces a thick filling. With the cooking oil you use, I recommend you select a neutral flavoured oil, I used rice bran oil.
I recommend you bring your finished slice to room temperature before slicing if you have refridgerated it, otherwise the chocolate topping will be prone to cracking as you chop (I learnt this the hard way, and the firm chocolate caused the lemon filling to ooze out a little). The slice is quite rich, you I recommend you cut into dainty portions – you can always go back for seconds or thirds if you still have room.
What I was cooking this time last year: Banoffee Pie
Lemon and White Chocolate Slide
* This recipe was adapted from a Caramel Chocolate Slice recipe by The Australian Women’s Weekly recipe cards. I have modified and adapted it to come up with the below reincarnation.
- 120g butter
- 1 cup rolled oats
- 1/2 cup plain flour
- 1/2 cup self-raising flour
- 1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
- 400g can condensed milk
- 2 lemons
- 2 egg yolks
- Generous pinch of salt
- 22og white chocolate
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- Turn the oven on to 180°C. to pre-heat.
- Melt the butter in a saucepan over a low heat.
- Add the oats, flours, brown sugar and melted butter to a food processor bowl. Mix the biscuit base mixture until combined.
- Line a baking tray with grease-proof paper.
- Tip the biscuit base mixture into the lined baking tray, and press out evenly over the base of the tray.
- Cook the biscuit base in the oven for 10 minutes.
- Remove the biscuit base from the oven and set aside to cool.
- Add the condensed milk to the saucepan used to melt the butter.
- Zest and juice the lemons and add to the condensed milk in the saucepan.
- Add the 2 egg yolks and salt to the saucepan and mix everything to combine.
- Cook the lemon filling over a medium-low heat, stirring constantly until the mixture is hot. Continue cooking for a further two minutes to ensure the egg yolks are cooked.
- Pour the hot lemon filling over the biscuit base, spread out to create an even layer. Set aside to cool.
- Add the white chocolate and cooking oil to a large bowl.
- Suspend the bowl over a saucepan of hot water and gently heat until the chocolate is melted and everything is combined.
- Pour the white chocolate over the lemon filling layer, spread out to create an even layer. Set aside to cool.
- Remove the lemon slice from the baking tray and cut into serving size pieces. Enjoy.
What is your favourite lemon recipe? Has this post inspired any new ideas?
Next Sunday (the 2nd Sunday in May) is Mother’s Day in Australia, and lots of kitchens will be preparing breakfast in bed as a special treat for mum.
I first got the idea of using cottage cheese in pancakes from a Cheesecakelets recipe by Nigella Lawson, in her book Feast. Nigella’s recipe calls for separating the eggs and whisking the whites. This does produce lovely light pancakes but I think facing a whisk first thing in the morning is a bit much, especially if you have little helpers assisting with the cooking.
Cottage cheese is an under-utilised ingredient, it is a great alternative to ricotta cheese in cooking if you are trying to watch your fat intake. I am not using cottage cheese in this recipe because of it’s low(er) fat properties, but because the cottage cheese retains its curds, and once cooked, they melt and give a delicious oozy texture to the pancakes.
If you haven’t tried strawberries marinated in balsamic vinegar you may be skeptical, but the acid from the vinegar draws out the strawberry juice and you end up with a sweet sauce. You could add a little sugar to the vinegar and strawberries if the strawberries are especially tart, but I don’t find it is required. My only tip is to not leave the strawberries marinating too long (I wouldn’t leave them overnight) or they will continue to break down. Preparing the strawberries just before you start making the pancakes is sufficient time to allow the flavours to develop. Strawberries are expensive in Sydney at the moment, so if you wanted to skip them you could serve your pancakes with maple syrup, lemon and sugar or other fresh or defrosted berries.
What I was cooking this time last year: Bircher Muesli
Pancakes with Marinated Strawberries
Serves 2 – 3
- 1 cup self-raising flour
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 egg
- 250g cottage cheese
- Zest and juice of 1 lemon
- 100mls milk
- 20g butter (plus extra for frying if you don’t have a non-stick frying pan)
- 1 punnet of strawberries
- 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
- Wash then hull your strawberries and roughly chop. Add your chopped strawberries to a bowl and add the balsamic vinegar and stir to combine. Set aside to marinate.
- Measure out the flour, sugar and cottage cheese into a bowl.
- Add the egg to the bowl with the flour.
- Zest the lemon peel into the bowl.
- Juice the lemon and add to the bowl.
- Add the milk and stir everything to combine.
- Melt the butter in a frying pan over low heat. Add the melted butter to the pancake batter and stir to combine.
- Heat your frying pan over a medium heat and add spoonfuls of the pancake batter to the pan.
- Cook on one side, your pancakes are ready to turn when bubbles start to appear on the top of the pancakes.
- Flip your pancakes and cook on the other side until golden brown.
- Dish up straight from the pan or place in a low oven to keep warm until all of the pancakes are cooked.
- Top the pancakes with marinated strawberries. Enjoy.
What is your favourite breakfast in bed? Has this post inspired any new ideas?