Monday, September 9, 2013

Baked Falafel

I’m going to be honest here, and say, this is not my recipe. But… I have no idea whose it is. It has been sitting in my recipe folder for well over a year now, just the recipe printed on a page, no URL at the bottom, nothing. I guess I cut-and-pasted it into a word document from somewhere on the interwebs. So, if you recognise it, please let me know so I can attribute it properly.

I am a massive fan of Middle Eastern food, and falafels in particular. But what I am not a fan of, is deep frying at home. Too. Freaking. Scary. Mr Alphie is totally unfussed by deep frying however, so I usually have to wait for him to be home from FIFO before I can indulge my habit. If you’ve ever tried baking falafels made from a dried box-mix, you will know my pain. They are like rocks.

As a result, I collect falafel recipes in much the same way as others might collect coins, comic books, or My Little Ponies… However, I have not really had much success in the past. Which has kind of put me off, and I will admit, I have resorted to the pre-made ones from the supermarket fridge section on more than one occasion (FYI, Woolies Macro SmokeyEggplant Falafel are pretty good, and Yumi's are a close second.)

The original recipe was a bit more manual, requiring you to finely chop the onions, garlic and herbs, and mashing the chickpeas in with a potato masher. I don’t have time for that kind of malarkey mid-week, especially when there is an easier option. And, to be honest, I don’t think there would be a noticeable difference in the end result.

Baked falafel
  • 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas (or 1 can)
  • ½ onion, peeled
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 6-ish stalks parsley
  • 3-ish stalks coriander
  • 2 tbs flour – plain, wholemeal, whatever (I used atta)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground coriander seed
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

Preheat oven to 200°C.

In a food processor, chop up the onion & garlic til fine. (If you have a small bowl attachment for your food processor, I’d use it for this – there’s not much mixture & I was constantly scraping the sides of mine). Add the fresh herbs, and chop again.

Add the remaining ingredients, and pulse until just combined. It should still be quite chunky.

Place spoonfuls of the mixture on a tray with baking paper. Squirt each one with an olive-oil spray, and bake for 15 minutes. Turn each one over, squirt again with the olive oil, and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until browned.

Delish as they are; with tabouli, hummus and flat bread; or use to fill a wrap; or top a salad.

Makes 10 or so falafels.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Microwave Potato Chips

Lately (and not so lately) I've been debating weather I should continue with this blog. Finding new & interesting things to write about is hard. I feel a lot of pressure from the myriad of fantastic, well-photographed, well-written, and just generally shmick, food blogs out there. And, as an engineer, words are hard. Really hard. But, I've been persuaded to give it another go by a lovely journalist friend, who is also a budding blogger.

The main challenge I have been having, is deciding if a recipe is blog-worthy. I feel like my everyday meals aren't 'exciting' enough. And most of my current more exciting favourites have come from other blogs (or at least from the internets), and a lot of the time I feel like it's cheating to post a recipe that's already freely available for you to find. I have recently come to the realisation that pulling some of the 'best' bits available out there in the big wide interents, is kinda the point of a blog. So I shouldn't feel ashamed of posting recipes found online. I will always reference my original source(s), and in most cases I will have made tweaks of some kind to the original anyway.

This recipe, if you can call it that, is an oldie in our house, but I still love it. I don't follow the original instructions exactly, mostly because it calls for equipment I don't have, and am unlikely to use for anything else (plastic microwave-safe steaming rack, anyone?).

I will preface this with a warning or two though; they taste a lot more 'potatoey' than your usual potato crisps, bit I guess that's because the potato is not masked by oil & salt. Also,  I know it takes a while to get a reasonable amount of chips, but because of that potatoey-ness and the no oil/reduced salt thing, you don't fell quite so much like scoffing a massive bag of them. (Not that I am against that - sometimes we all need that oily salty goodness..!) 

Microwave Potato Chips/Crisps
  • Potato(es)
  • Salt
Slice the potato into thin, even, rounds. I use a mandoline/v-slicer thingo, with the 'thin' blade attachment.

On top of a microwave safe plate, layer 2-3 pieces of paper towel, covering most of the plate. Spread out the potato slices on top of the paper towel, ensuring none of the slices touch (it will take a couple of 'rounds' to do a whole potato).

Sprinkle with salt and/or your preferred flavourings - paprika works well, so would flavoured salt mixes.

And now this is where the magic happens...

Using my less than fantastic microwave (800W), I nuke the potatoes for 3 mins at 80%, 3 mins at 60% and 3mins at 40%, turning the slices over between each set. It may take you some time to work out what is best for your microwave. Also, you can go a bit 'hotter' for less time, but you need to watch them more (as in, some, I don't watch at all with the timings I use...).

Set aside to cool for a few minutes, they'll continue to 'crisp' as they cool.

Then repeat with your next plate of potato slices.

I think I've tried sweet potato in the past, but with little success - those darn 'hot spots' in microwaves and the high sugar content of sweet potatoes just doesn't work. But, inspired by all the veggie chip options out there at the moment, I'm thinking of trying a few other hard veggies - beetroot might be my first victim.

Original recipe can be found at - jugal bandi.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Lemon Tart

Alternate Title: A solution to the macaron-bakers dilemma

This tart came about as I was thinking of an alternate way to tackle the excess of egg yolks that I am left with every time I make macarons. I usually make the macarons, separating the yolks & whites, and then have a finite time to use the yolks before they go bad. Unfortunately, unlike egg whites, the yolks don't freeze very well, and I usually end up on a ice cream making marathon, a mere days after a macaron marathon. Honestly, it makes me exhausted just thinking about it.

I have plans to make macarons next weekend, so I started thinking about how I might deal with the yolks this time around. I had an ah-ha moment, while searching the internets for egg-yolk recipes for the nth time. Why don't I make something that uses yolks now (or weeks ago, even), and freeze the whites for next weekend. Egg whites freeze very well, and to be completely honest, I think they make better macarons having been frozen.

So with that in mind, and with a family dinner on Sunday, I had the perfect event to bake for. A discussion at SIL's house lead to the revelation that we all love lemon butter, and by extension, lemon tarts. So I had my end point, all I needed was how to get there using the most egg yolks possible.  I resumed the search, but it seemed that there are two camps of lemon tart recipes - those that use a lot of (whole) eggs, and those that use 2-3 egg yolks. Neither really worked for me.

After extensive recipe reading, I came up with something that I was pretty sure would work. It's primarily a combination of a Donna Hay recipe, and one from I blogger I haven't read before - Little Accidents In The Kitchen.

  •  1½ cups plain flour
  • 125g chilled butter, cut into cubes
  • ½ cup icing sugar
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tbs iced water
Place the flour, butter and icing sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. While the motor is running, add the egg yolks and process to combine. Add the iced water and process until the dough just comes together.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and gently bring together to form a ball. Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Lining the tin. The pastry is a little thick, but my arms
were sore from all the rolling!

Roll the pastry out between 2 sheets of non-stick baking paper to 3mm-thick. Line a lightly greased 20cm springform pan with the pastry, trim the edges and prick the base with a fork.
Refrigerate for 30 minutes & preheat oven to 180ÂșC.

Last 10min of baking, quite a bit of shrinkage going on there...

Line the pastry case with non-stick baking paper and fill with baking weights. Bake for 15 minutes, remove the paper and weights and bake for a further 10 minutes or until the pastry is light golden. 

Lemon Filling
  • 7 large egg yolks
  • 2 large eggs
  • 150g sugar
  • Grated zest from 2 lemons
  • Juice from 2 lemon
  • Pinch salt
  • 50g unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Eggs & sugar

In a heat proof bowl over a saucepan of water, whisk together egg yolks, eggs and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Add in lemon zest, juice and salt, whisking continually.

Measuring temperatures

Add butter and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture has thickened. This will take 5-10 minutes, or if you're the thermometer using type, it will have reached about 65-75°C.
It needs a bit of assistance to go through
the sieve at this point

Pour the mixture through a fine mesh sieve.

Ready for baking

Pour the filling into the cooled tart shell and bake at 140°C, until the filling is shiny and opaque (about 10-15 mins). The centre will jiggle slightly when shaken.

Let it cool completely, then refrigerate until ready to serve.

  • My pastry shrunk quite a bit. I think it's because I was a bit gung-ho with the water. Add it slowly, and as soon as the pastry starts to come together (don't wait for it to ball up in the food processor), turn it onto the bench and bring it together by hand. Nigella has some good tips on avoiding pastry shrinkage, here.
  • The thermometer is really not necessary for the filling. I get a bit nervous when a recipe says to 'stir until thick' as I never know what 'thick' actually means. In this case there is a very noticeable change around the 65°C mark, and the once very runny mixture turns into a thick custard. You can't miss it.
What are your tips for using up excess egg yolks?


Saturday, July 13, 2013

Mid-Winter Favourite Things

In this dreary part of winter, where rugging up against the cold is beginning to loose its charm; and the short days, while getting longer, are not doing so fast enough; I've started thinking about some of my favourite things, things that make me happy.

In no particular order, we have...

Organised spice racks

My cookbook bookshelves

A selection of sparkling water

A freezer of one-person meals. Lunch or dinner in minutes.

Tea and a selection of foodie magazines

De-cluttered wardrobe, with matching hangers

Red wine, Riedel glassware & the fire

Mid-winter tropical holidays with good friends

Absolutely amazing $1.65 Nasi Goreng on said tropical holiday

And on that note, I'm off to enjoy some red wine in front of our recently installed gas fireplace.

Keep warm,

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Slow roasted lamb & chilli fetta carrots

With the cooler weather (finally) hitting Perth, Mr Alphie has started requesting a Sunday roast. We've had roast chook (WA raised free range, of course) a couple of times now, and after the most recent request for a chicken roast, I realised that the alternative had to be pretty tempting to draw Mr Alphie from the roast chook obsession he was clearly about to fall in to. I had a quick ponder back to previous winters, and other roasts cooked, and remembered stumbling upon a fantastic lamb recipe last winter.

In the low calorie obsession of the last 12 months, I bought a number of cookbooks I would not have otherwise. On reflection, most of the books are are quite weird  but one that has had more than it's fair share of gems, is Jane Kennedy's OMG! I Can Eat That?. It still has some weird stuff in it, and I think she takes the low-carb thing a bit far sometimes, but the slow roast lamb recipe is definitely a winner. Beautifully soft, pull apart lamb shoulder, drizzled with a garlicky, lemony 'gravy'.... mmmm, oh, and the smell wafting through the house as it cooks... Perfection.

Another recent realisation I have had, is that just because we're having a roast, doesn't mean we have to have the full suite of traditional roast veges (potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, carrot, parsnip, etc), with an obligatory serve of green veg on the side (peas, beans or broccoli). Don't get me wrong, I adore roast veges, and have been known to just have roast veges for dinner, but I'm starting to fall for carefully crafted 'side dishes' to star along side the roast, rather than as uninspired support acts.

A recent favourite  thanks to a continuing excess of carrots that arrive in our fruit & vege delivery, is also found in OMG! I Can Eat That? Chilli feta carrots. So divine, and it's possible I love these more than regular roasted carrots, which I previously thought of as the best part of a roast. I have a continuing love affair with Brussels sprouts/cabbage and bacon, and of course, a roast is not a roast, without some form of roasted potato to accompany it - soft & fluffy in their jackets is my preference.

Slow Roast Lamb
slightly modified from Jane Kennedy's OMG! I Can Eat That? pg 105
Serves 4-6
  • approx 1kg boned lamb shoulder
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 1 head garlic, broken up, but not peeled
  • 2-3 stems rosemary
  • 1 cup chicken or beef stock
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
Preheat your oven to 220°C.

In a roasting pan, place the lemon wedges in the centre, ad surround with the garlic cloves. What you're trying to do here is create a 'trivet' for the lamb to rest on. Depending on the size of your lamb shoulder you may need another lemon, or some more garlic. Place the rosemary on top, followed by the lamb. Drizzle with a bit of olive oil, salt & pepper, and rub it all in.

Add the stock to the pan (Jane recommends you do this at the end to make the 'gravy', but I had too many experiences of the lemons & garlic burning on to the pan & engulfing the kitchen in acrid smoke), and cover tightly with foil. Chuck it in your hot oven, and immediately reduce the heat to 160°C.

Leave it for 4 hours. Yes, 4 hours. I promise you, it'll be worth it.

After the 4 hours are up, take the foil off & increase the oven to 220°C. Leave for another 20 minutes, just to get some crispy bits going.

Remove from the oven, set the lamb aside on the serving plate & cover with foil. Fish the lemon bits & rosemary out of the pan, and squeeze all that delicious slow roasted garlic out of its skins back into all the pan juices. You might also want to get rid of a bit of the fat in the pan at this point, although I don't always have to - it depends on the lamb. Mush up that garlic & put the pan on the cooktop on a medium heat to reduce a bit. It won't thicken up like a gravy, but that's ok.

This works best if it's served family-style - a big plate in the middle of the table & everyone can help themselves to the unctuous lamb & drippy pan gravy. So, shred the lamb on the serving plate & spoon the gravy over the top.

Serve & dig in!

(sorry about the lack of 'in progress' photos, I had to fight Mr Alphie for the oven & I got a bit frazzled trying to get it in on time)

Chilli Fetta Carrots

slightly modified from Jane Kennedy's OMG! I Can Eat That? pg 193
Serves 4-6

  • 3-4 carrots, peeled & sliced on the diagonal
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 1/4 - 1/2 tsp chilli flakes, to taste
  • 50g fetta cheese (or there about, I just eyeball it)
  • 2tbs chopped flat leaf parsley
Either toss your carrots in a bit of oil, then spread out on a baking tray lined with baking paper; or chuck them straight on the tray (still with baking paper) and spray with oil. Whichever method you choose, sprinkle the carrots with salt & freshly ground pepper & chilli flakes.

Roast the carrots in a 200°C oven for 25 or so minutes, until they're just golden. Mix with the fetta & parsley in a serving bowl.


Do you have any favoured side dish recipes that are starts in their own right? Please share, I'd love to hear about them.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Why I stopped blogging...

So I wasn't completely honest with you in my last post. There are two reasons I stopped blogging. One was the time factor I mentioned in my last post. But the other, well it's a bit flinchier, a bit harder for me to talk about.

Early last year (or maybe late the year before? It seems so long ago now), I started running, in a couch to 5k program, with the aim of getting fit for the upcoming soccer season, after having 2 seasons off. Running 2-3 times a week, combined with my usual twice weekly pilates, plus twice weekly soccer training once the pre-season started up meant I got fit, and lost a bit of weight. Not much, a kilo or so maybe. But I started to think, how much would I loose if I watched what I ate?

And this is the part I don't like talking about. I started counting calories. I was not overweight by any means, right in the middle of the healthy BMI range, but I just felt I'd be a better version of me if I was a couple of kilos lighter. I was tallying my daily food intake and playing it off against my exercise, counting out almonds for my afternoon snack and drinking macchiatos instead of flat whites because they had less calories. I stopped drinking alcohol, except for the occasional vodka & soda, and pretty much gave up eating bread. I dropped those few kilos. But it was hard, really hard, there was so much guilt, every time I ate something I felt I 'shouldn't', or that took me over my meagre calorie allowance. And I wasn't a better version of me, I was just a slightly skinnier me, and much more boring to be around.

I stopped blogging because I didn't think anyone would want to read about the low-fat, low-carb, mostly vegetable, and predominantly unexciting meals I was cooking. They weren't recipes I was proud of.

A few months ago, I decided I was done counting calories. It was consuming my life. All that endless weighing & counting and recording. I was done. I started going about my life making sensible decisions about what I ate - if Mr Alphie bakes some amazing bread, I eat it (with butter!), but not the whole loaf; if we're going out for a lavish dinner, I have a smaller lunch; I don't count my almonds; and if I feel like a drink after a long week/day at work, I have one (or two...). I'm not perfect, I'm still a sucker for hot chips, and peanut m&m's are a weakness I don't think I'll ever overcome (as evidenced in my previous post). But do you know what? I haven't gained a single kilo back. And I am much happier than I've been in a long time.

I feel like I have a few other bloggers to thank for my new-found balance in life. Heidi from Apples Under My Bed, Nat from Lemon Living, and more recently Angela from Oh She Glows, have inspired me to be a happier, healthier me, and also, to share this story with you.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

My Week on a Plate - Mining Camp Style

Dearest Readers (if I have any left!), it has been far far to long between drinks. I do have a somewhat reasonable excuse though...

I have spent a large proportion of the last 6 months in Port Hedland, working 12 hour days, often for 12 days at a time (and with only 2 days off!). And, when I wasn't in Port Hedland, Mr Alphie and I were on holiday in North America - more on that later.

Initially in Port Hedland I was staying in a company-rented townhouse with two other people, but for the last few months I have stayed in a mining camp when I'm 'up north'. There are benefits and downfalls of both.

In the townhouse I got to cook/choose all my own food; I didn't have to put shoes/real clothes on to use the laundry; and I could leave most of my site specific stuff & some food there when I went back to Perth on R&R. But I also had wash my own sheets/towels; didn't have access to a gym, and jogging outside when it's 40° and upwards of 70% humidity is not fun; oh, and also, cook my own food and do my own dishes. I know I listed cooking as a benefit, but after a 12 hour day, sometimes you don't want to have to think about dinner. In comparison, most camps have access to a gym (the quality of which varies from camp to camp), the cleaning is looked after for you, and all your food is provided - breakfast & dinner in the 'mess' and an opportunity to pack your lunch, or 'crib', at breakfast. The downfalls being that the quality/choice/type of food may not be (or in my case, definitely is not) what you would choose to eat elsewhere.

I've just returned from an eight day stint, staying in a mining camp, and I thought I might share with you, my meals in that time. It's not actually going to be a full week, as I was taken out for a celebratory dinner the frst night, as we'd hit some production milestones on site, and the second night was Mr Alphie's birthday (who also works in Port Hedland), so we went out for dinner then too, and then the third night we resorted to a late night McDonalds run, after working late (even with a 12 hour day, you can still work overtime!) and missing dinner at camp. So, I've ignored those days as they're not typical - well the McDonalds might be, but I'd rather not acknowledge that...

We start on a Thursday evening.

Thursday, 7pm: Nothing looked too exciting tonight. I ended up with a slice of roast beef, some form of vegetable noodle stir fry, steamed carrots, asparagus with hollandaise, and a mug of water. For some reason, this particular camp does not provided drinking glasses, so we are left drinking water (or cordial, if that's your thing) from ceramic mugs. Weird.

Thursday 7pm
Every camp I have stayed in so far offers a full cooked/hot breakfast selection as well as cereal, toast, fruit and yoghurt. It is not uncommon to have poached eggs and omelettes available 'to order' in addition to the usual bain marie fried & scrambled egg options.

Friday 5:30am: I opted for the poached eggs to order this morning, packing my crib while I waited. Two poached eggs on a split English muffin - not a bad start to the day.

Friday 9am: I had to dash into an office for a teleconference with some of the team based in Perth & NSW, and took the opportunity to have a cheeky morning tea break. Instant (blurgh!) coffee & a Larabar from our recent US trip to tide me over 'til lunch.

Friday 1pm: Salad packed at camp from the 'crib selection' - cos lettuce, shredded carrot, a bean salad arrangement, corn, cucumber & tuna. Plus a coconut water for rehydration & water in my fab insulated S'well bottle - a Christmas gift from Mum, and it's taken an absolute beating in Port Hedland!

Friday 4.30pm: We had a bit of a break in production, so I nipped into the 'crib room' (aka lunch room) for a snack. Fruit salad camp style - melon always features heavily, topped with plain yoghurt (Chobani - from my secret stash!), and sprinkled with all bran.

Friday 7pm: Friday is fish night at most camps, but grilled or steamed fish is usually available 'from the grill' every night. I upset the chef (or is it a cook?) when I asked for grilled fish on 'fish night', as there was already fish available, but both other options were deep fried. Accompanied by stuffed capsicum, sauteed cabbage & peas, and the mug of water

Friday 5:30am

Friday 9am

Friday 1pm

Friday 4.30pm

Friday 7pm
Saturday 5:30am: Muesli & all bran with skim milk, fruit salad, a plain yoghurt and a mug of water.

Saturday 10am: Ryvitas with cheese & tomato and a couple of strawberries - a rarity at camp, I had to grab them while they were there!

Saturday 2pm: Salad for lunch, and was much the same as yesterday, but I've swapped the tuna for chicken, and there was no bean salad today, so I went for a (Thai?) noodle salad thing instead. No coconut water today though - I didn't spend much time out in the heat, so water should do it.

Saturday 7pm: Lamb Rogan Josh with some white rice, and a stack of veggies - silverbeet, mushrooms, corn, squash & zucchini. Was keen for dessert tonight, but nothing really appealed - cake & custard, and not even any exciting ice cream flavours.

Saturday 5.30am
Saturday 10am

Saturday 2pm

Saturday 7pm
Sunday 5:30am: Back to a hot breakfast today. A poached egg on multi-grain toast, mushrooms and some beans.

Sunday 10am: Spending most of the day in the office catching up on paperwork, so morning tea was at my desk. Camp style fruit salad, topped with plain yoghurt, and sprinkled with all bran & chia (brought with me from home).

Sunday 2pm: More salad - cos lettuce, shredded carrot, some green bean salad , tomato, cucumber & tuna. Plus a Larabar, as I was super hungry by Sunday lunchtime, for some unknown reason!

Sunday 7.45pm: As it's my last night in camp, and we had quite a successful week on site, I took the team out for a drink or two before dinner. Two beers is just enough to make a ravenous, so I opted for the 'Green Curry Chicken' - whole chicken thighs in a vaguely green curry sauce - with a stack of veges. And finished off with a slice of almond cake, which I completely forgot to photograph - sorry.

Sunday 5:30am

Sunday 10am
Sunday 2pm

Sunday 7.45pm
Monday 5:30am: Back to the fruit salad, topped with plain yoghurt, and sprinkled with all bran & chia, and a crumpet with honey. I had forgotten how good crumpets are! I think I'll have to make them part of my regular camp breakfast rotation.

Monday 11am: Got completely distracted working on a pump with one of the boys this morning, and missed my usual morning tea break. I went for a quick option while catching up with some of the team back from R&R. Coconut water, Larabar & an apple.

Monday  1.30pm: Had a last minute meeting from 1pm for most of the afternoon, and given I had only just had morning tea when I found out about said meeting, I nibbled on my salad throughout. Iceburg lettuce, shredded carrot, chickpea salad , cucumber & a boiled egg.

Monday  8.30pm: Back home! Mr Alphie cooked as the flight doesn't usually get in 'til about 7.30. Winter kale & potato curry from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's River Cottage Veg Everyday. Delish!

Monday 5.30am

Monday 11am

Monday 1.30pm

Monday 8.30pm

In conclusion, just a few notes about camp food...

There is always something lacking on the camp menu that I feel I can't survive without. Luckily, we have quite a bit of freedom to supplement the camp food with regular groceries, and I usually get to the supermarket on my first or second night. Nuts, m&m's, coconut water and Chobani (I'm really not a fan of the overly sweetened yoghurts they provide at the camps) are regular items on my list. Depending on the crib options, I might also get some salad things, dry biscuits, or some tinned tuna or salmon.

I generally start each day on site with a plunger coffee. The aforementioned m&m's have pride of place on the engineering desk - I would have a handful (or more, depending on the stress of the day!) of those over the course of the day. I am trying to minimise that though, and have recently added a container of almonds, Brazil nuts & dried cranberries to that corner of the desk.

fruit/nut & m&m's jars 

You might have noticed in the photos that I generally use re-usable plastic containers for my lunch. Most camps have a huge stack of plastic takeaway containers, in varying sizes, disposable cutlery, and plastic shopping bags in the crib area. It frightens me to think how many plastic containers & bags end up in the Port Hedland Landfill, with over 2,000 people staying in one of the camps in town any night of the week. In small act of rebellion, I bring a couple of containers from home, some snap lock bags, my adorable Fred cutlery set and my usual work lunch bag up with me.