Archive | March, 2011

Chicken salad

Too much of a good thing is never a good thing. Take Thai food, for example. Sydney is positively saturated with it. There’s more Pad Thai’s in this city than you can poke a stick at. Just close your eyes and a new local Sydney Thai takeaway joint is likely to appear before your eyes. What I would give for a good local Vietnamese, Turkish or Moroccan restaurant, but no, we have about 20 Thai restaurants instead.

To help salvage my jaded taste buds from Thai overkill, I treated them to something different this weekend – Israeli food. There’s this charming little cafe up at Bondi Junction that makes my heart swell with happiness. It’s called Savta and it dishes up the most delicious Israeli food you can imagine. Not that I’m an expert on Israeli food, but believe me, if this cafe is anything to go by, then it’s worth ditching your green chicken curry for.

Savta is one of those blink-and-you-miss-it cafes as it’s hidden at the back of a mall. What it lacks in location, it more than compensates with food and service. The owner is one of the friendliest and warmest guys around and always has a big smile on his face. And did I mention value for money? The servings at this place are huge and you’ll pay half of what you cough up on Campbell Parade.

The only issue you’ll have is deciding what to order. The brekky menu is equally as good as the lunch menu. They do a great mezze plate. Paul swears by the kefta sandwich with gherkins. Then there’s the awesome Israeli breakfast that is guaranteed to fix the worst hangovers – chopped tomato and cucumber salad, dark olives, labneh (a soft cheese made from yoghurt), omelette and pitta.

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Pumpkin, date and macadamia salad

What’s your favourite vegetable? Mine is pumpkin. When I was living in Scotland, I remember getting strange looks when I bought it from the grocer. It’s known as butternut squash in the UK and apparently they use it as pig food. Shock horror, it’s not winning popularity contests as a result. Thankfully, pumpkin doesn’t suffer from such bad PR here in Australia. Unfortunate for pigs, lucky for me.

Pumpkin, date and macadamia salad

Pumpkin, date and macadamia salad

I would describe pumpkin as one of the most versatile vegetables around. You can puree it into soup, mash it into a pie, whip it into a cake (or scones if you’re like Lady Florence Bjelke-Petersen), chuck it into a stir-fry, carve it for Halloween or throw it into a salad. And did I mention it goes down a treat roasted with a pinch of nutmeg? According to our friends at Wikipedia, most parts of the pumpkin are edible, including the fleshy shell, the seeds, the leaves, and even the flowers. Who knew?

With autumn upon us here in the southern hemisphere, I’m starting to cook more soups and less salads. But in the interests of keeping the warmer months alive for just a little bit longer, I’ve invented a rock-star salad recipe. Since a friend of mine introduced me to adding dates to salads, I’ve become quite obsessed by the idea, so you’ll notice the appearance of a handful of pitted dates in this recipe. The addition of macadamias also goes down a treat, but lightly toasted pine nuts are just as tasty. This dish can be served on its own or as an accompaniment to meat. And, if there’s any leftovers, you can take a leaf out of my book and take them to work. Be warned, your workmates will be jealous.

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Cacao pudding recipe

Dessert is my favourite meal besides breakfast. And who would have thought that eliminating dairy, eggs and grains would give me the perfect excuse for eating dessert for breakfast? My idea of Nirvana. Introducing my latest creation – cacoa pudding. I whipped it up for brekky last week and topped it with fresh fruit and shredded coconut. Paul asked for seconds, so I’m thinking it must be good!

So, what on earth is cacoa pudding? Well, it’s basically blended nuts, dates, water and chocolate. I found the recipe in a cookbook by raw food crusader Ani Phyo. The book is called Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen: Easy, Delectable Living Foods Recipes. There’s no reason you couldn’t serve this dish as an actual dessert. I just think it’s better at breakfast as it’s nice and filling and full of protein.

Cacao pudding
Adapted from Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen: Easy, Delectable Living Foods Recipes
Serves 4

Cacao pudding

Almondy goodness in a glass

Ingredients:

2 cups almonds (preferably soaked overnight in water)
1 cup water 1/4 cup pitted dates
1 tbs cacoa nibs or powder (I used 75% dark Lindt chocolate which contains no butterfat)
1 tbs carob powder

Method:

1. Blend the almonds and water in the blender until smooth. Note, if you have a crapola blender like me, this can take ages, so I recommend buying a decent one.

2. Add the dates, cacao, and carob. Blend until smooth. I served it in small glasses topped with shredded coconut and blueberries.

Cook’s notes:
  • Keeps up three to four days in the fridge.
  • I found the texture kind of weird, but trust me, when you eat a bowl of cornflakes every day for breakfast, a change is as good as a holiday.
If you like the sound of this recipe, you might also like cashew coconut pudding.
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Raw food recipes

Let’s face it, there’s more food movements out there than you can poke a stick at – veganism, vegetarianism, gluten-free, wheat-free, slow food, macrobiotic. Just thinking about it makes me want to eat a cheeseburger. But here’s one you may not have heard of – raw foodism. It was flying under my foodie radar until a recent trip to Byron Bay (the organic and spiritual centre of New South Wales) where my best friend educated me on the virtues of this foodie movement.

So, what is raw food or rawism as it’s also known? Well, the theory goes that when food is uncooked and unprocessed, all the energy and nutritional goodness is retained. Raw foodists believe the greater the percentage of raw food in the diet, the greater the health benefits. Think fruit, vegies, nuts, whole grains, non-pasteurised dairy products… you get the picture?

To help further my education in raw foodism, my bestie (Bec) took me along to the Bangalow Food Markets to stock up on some raw food desserts. Bec knows more than anyone how much I love dessert, and more importantly, how deprived my dessert stomach has been since embarking on my food-sensitivity diet last year. So, off to the markets we went to load up on choccie bliss balls, chocolate beetroot fudge cake and lemon coconut “cheese” cake. I was like a pig in mud.

Raw chocolate beetroot fudge cake

Raw chocolate beetroot fudge cake. It tasted like cherry ripe

Honestly, I couldn’t believe my luck at these marvels. It was like discovering a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. “You mean, I can really eat these?” I repeatedly asked to a resounding, “Yes you can!”. These desserts are so healthy, you almost feel like you’re wearing a halo whilst eating them. Not only are they dairy, sugar and wheat-free, but they’re actually good for you.

Raw lemon coconut cheesecake

Raw lemon coconut cheesecake rocks my world.

So, let’s confront the elephant in the room. How on earth do you make a cake without eggs, milk and flour and stuff? Well, I’m glad you asked. I was wondering the same thing myself. Raw foodists are a creative and resourceful bunch. They use things like avocado, pitted dates, coconut oil, spices, nuts and oil and mash it all together and stick it in the fridge. It might not sound appetising, but trust me, these desserts are good… especially if you’re like me and can’t eat processed desserts. Be warned though, these babies are filling. Eat the whole slice in one sitting and risk bursting at the seams.

To keep the raw food dream alive, Bec has lent me a cookbook by raw food crusader Ani Phyo. The book is called Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen: Easy, Delectable Living Foods Recipes. It’s jam-packed full of raw food recipes, including this cashew coconut pudding and cacao pudding breakfast recipe.

 

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Coconut water

I made a new discovery recently whilst nursing the hangover from hell. It’s called young coconut water and it happens to work wonders for hangovers. Not only that, but it tastes divine and it’s good for you! Who needs a Berocca when you can sip on some coconut water and pretend you’re on a tropical island in Fiji?!

My friend, Yvette, who happens to know everything there is to know about the topic of health, tells me that during the war they used to hook up young green coconuts as a direct intravenous drip into soldier’s arms when they were out of medical saline. It’s an identical make up to our own blood plasma, hence the hydrating properties. It is naturally fat-free and low in food energy (16.7 calories or 70 kilojoules per 100 grams). It’s only as the coconut matures that they fat from the flesh gets sucked into the water, so when they’re young, that’s when the water is at it’s optimum.

Coconut water

Coconut water

You can buy young coconut water from health food stores, fruit and veg shops or supermarkets for around $2 to $5 a pop. Or, the thrifty types amongst you might prefer to buy a whole box load of them, but this would involve having to cut them yourself. Although, Yvette assures me that hacking into them yourself happens to be a good stress release.

If you like coconut, you might enjoy this cashew coconut pudding recipe.

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