Red radish and apple salad with smoked salmon flowers

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This recipe has been languishing around un-posted since last year. I know, I know it’s only February, but that’s still about two months of me not telling you about this. Two months, you guise! OK, so it may not seem like that much of a loss, because smoked salmon isn’t everyone’s favourite, because it sounds weird and because quite frankly it is a little weird. But in a good way. I promise.

The reason we’re in this mess in the first place is simple: radishes. To be honest I just didn’t know what you were supposed to do with them. And then I decided, well, I’m an adult, I should be able to deal with some radishes. So I bought some.

Speaking of buying things, I’ve also acquired a few new gadgets since starting this blog. Things I thought it was worth investing in if I was going to actually start *measuring things* like some kind of *fancy* gentleman of the kitchen. Guys, meet my measuring scales.

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I’m not sure what to call them. What’s a good name for a set of dapper red scales like these?

Anyway, I’ve gone off topic – we’re here for the funky salad. So, off we go! Fishy floral arrangements!

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It kinda looks cool, right? And yet there’s something off-putting about it. A retro-ish vibe that seems to highlight how quickly good taste can become suspect. Or maybe it’s just the thought of cured pink salmon flesh coiled into the shape of a flower that’s doing it. But something here works. Salmon, crunchy things, the addition of dill, which for some reason reminds me of holidays (perhaps because of all the potato salad and smoked salmon appetisers floating around at summer soirees). Paired with a weird-ass gris blanc from the Barossa it went down a treat (two months ago, when we were celebrating *Housemate Christmas*). Maybe it was all the wine that made it ok.

Maybe.

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Ingredients:
5 red radishes
2 red delicious apples
2 chat potatoes
1 cucumber
1/2 cup walnuts
3 tbsp dill
2 tsp sugar
pinch salt
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 lemon juice
at least four slices of smoked salmon (120g)

Directions:
Cut potatoes into bite sized cubes. Submerge potatoes in water in pan and bring to boil. Turn down and gently boil for about 10 minutes until just tender. Set aside to cool. You’ll need a mandolin or a lot of time to cut all the apple, radish and cucumber into thin slices. Do this and toss together so they’re all mixed somewhat evenly. Serves four.

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Beer bean stuffed chillies

 

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When life gives you ten limes for $2, make a whole bunch of mexican food. That’s what I always say. And by “always” I mean, just now. Because I did find myself in the situation of ten limes, some of which I had kinda planned on making into preserved limes before I realised how fast I was actually going through them. Especially once I started putting them in drinks.

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Here’s where these bad boys come in, because guess what? They’re giant green chillies perfect for stuffing withcheese and beans. And they were 50c each at the markets the other morning. I didn’t have my prime decision-making face on that day, but when I saw these I got excited, because I’d been wanting to try out a recipe from The Sprouted Kitchen cookbook that called for just this sort of thing. And limes. At least one of them.

I went and stood over the chillies, scooping four into my hands before pausing confusedly to look up at my sister. “I don’t know how many to get”, I explained, peppers spilling pitifully from my fingers (like larger, greener, gnarlier fingers on a large, green negligent hand).

“Six,” she said, “get six”. Which was actually the correct number for the recipe, as it turns out. Hurruh! I freaking love the markets. Take that giant hand!

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The only problem with this recipe is it can be kinda difficult to find these ingredients in Australia outside of a capital city. Even black beans can be hard to get your hands on. The point is: I have no idea what kind of chillies I used. I should have asked, but I was vague and fatigued and overwhelmed with market decisions. I’m sure you’ll forgive me. Banana chillies or whatever large chilli variety you can get your hands on are probably fine. Also, while I have seen canned chipotle somewhere in Sydney, I don’t remember where. I already had a small red chilli hanging around from mum’s garden, so went with that. The cheese I changed to more widely available cheddar, Jack cheese and cojita being pretty scarce hereabouts. Also, I added cumin, because I can’t help myself.

Below is my version of the recipe, which I’ve more or less translated into common Australian ingredients and measurements. And while this version differs form the original, these babies are still terribly delicious. You’d be awfully silly not to squirrel this recipe away in your brain, so that when the perfect chance arises to cook things inside other things you don’t miss it. And while you’re at it make a note to check out The Sprouted Kitchen for more whole food kitchen wizardry.

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Ingredients:
1 tsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small to medium red chilli, chopped (with half the seeds removed if you’re chilli-sensitive)
250g dried black beans
375ml of dark mexican beer (I accidentally used a light-coloured beer and it was fine)
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
6 large chillies
2 cups grated cheddar cheese
juice of 1/2 a lime
1 tbsp olive oil

Directions:
Soak beans in large bowl of water for 6-12 hours.

Add olive oil to a large pan on medium heat. Saute onion, chilli and garlic until onion is just softened. Add cinnamon and cumin and fry for a few moments until fragrant. Drain the beans and add to pan along with 2.5 cups of water. Stir and bring to simmer and cook for about 45 minutes, until the beans are just cooked. Add beer and cook for another 20 minutes, until beer has evaporated/been sucked up by the beans. Salt to taste and set beans aside.

Cut a slit down the middle of each chilli. Get rid of all the gunk inside: seeds, membrane, what-have-you. Set the chillies on a tray and use a brush or your hands to cover each in a small amount of olive oil. Preheat either the barbecue or actual grill or griddle to medium-high heat. In a bowl mix the cheese and lime juice. Stuff each chilli first with a few tablespoons of beans, then with a handful of cheese. Cook until the cheese is and chilli are both blistery, about 7 minutes. Then either turn down your grill/griddle or move to a less-hot part of the barbecue. Cook for another 10 minutes or until chillies are perfectly soft.

Serve with whatever mexican extras you fancy. I’ve gone with chunky guacamole, below.

 

For chunky guacamole:

Ingredients:
1 avocado
10 cherry or grape tomatoes cut into quarters
handful of fresh coriander
tbsp lime juice
salt

Directions:
In a bowl squish your avocado. Add quartered cherry tomatoes and coriander. Stir in lime juice. Add a few grinds of salt to taste.

Orange and Pomegranate Hommus

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Hey, look, another magic post from magic land, where I’m not anywhere near my laptop and posts keep coming at you the way mosquitos inexplicably fly towards your head when you’re asleep. And, look, another colourful foodstuff, because I can’t seem to stay away from brightly coloured things.

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This hommus recipe is based roughly on the ingredients list of Paradise Beach orange and pomegranate hummus, which is so so delicious, but so so hard to come by. Also, expensive. Actually, if you live anywhere in Sydney it’s not that hard to get hold of (they sell it at Harris Farm), but otherwise you might have to get yourself a hommus mule. Or – and here’s the genius thing – you can make your own! This one isn’t exactly the same as its packaged cousin, but it’s just as complex and addictive as the original, with the added bonus of being really, really yellow.
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Ingredients:

800g chickpeas
2 cloves garlic
4 tbsp orange juice
3 tbsp pomegranate molasses
2 tbsp tahini
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 whole large red chilli (or chilli to taste)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp red onion
zest 1 orange

Directions:

Add chickpeas, garlic, onion, chilli, lemon juice, orange zest, orange juice to food processor and pulse until combined. Add remaining ingredients and pulse again. When all ingredients are well combined taste test and add more of any ingredient you think it might need. Serve with flatbread or crackers.

(I, of course, have no affiliation with Harris Farm or their delicious dip suppliers Paradise Beach.)

Dark chocolate cashew spice cookies

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Last night I realised it’s actually only a few weeks away from Christmas and holy crapsticks I have a lot of stuff on in December/January and I’m going to have to be on top of that. Luckily I’m spending this weekend at my mum’s place, where things are quiet, because from here on in it’s all Christmas parties, Christmas lunches, music festivals and travel. There are cocktails to drink, costumes to assemble and several flights to successfully catch. There’s also a bunch of boring administrative stuff I have to get done. Oh, and I’m going hiking.

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Which brings me rather clumsily to these cookies. Because, look, there’s no clear segue between my holiday plan freakout and the cookies or between the individual holiday events themselves. Both the cookies and these next two months are packed full of complex events. As complex as my feelings about the word “cookies”, as complex as my attitude towards this calm spell and the possibility of its ending. There are a lot of exciting things on the horizon, but at present I’d just as much enjoy a morning curled up with my kindle. This is all tied in with the fact that I’ve almost finished book four of A Song of Ice and Fire and the idea of finishing the series (thus far) fills me equally with eagerness and dread. The best thing about catching up to what’s been published will be knowing I can’t go any further, meaning I’ll have to get back to important real-life things. At least when the next book finally comes out, I’ll have a payoff for all the work I’ve been forced to do in its absence.

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If I could hand these cookies over to George R. R. Martin as encouragement to please write faster I would. And if he were as much the Santa Claus of fantasy epics as he appears, I’m sure these would make an ample offering. But I know first-hand that these things can’t be rushed, no amount of cookies will get me that elusive sixth book. This year I wrote not even a quarter of the length of one of his books and called it an accomplishment. Tenuously this brings me back to cookies. I only made four from this batch and squirrelled the rest away, because right now I have the calm and space to make unwarranted baked goods. The rest of the dough is rolled up in a piece of baking paper in the freezer, waiting to be thawed out when things get too hectic and baked goods become warranted again. In the meantime I guess I’ll begin the printing of boarding passes and wrapping of gifts, knowing that very soon I won’t have any time to bake or read or bemoan the time it takes to write a book. Christmas is coming.

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Ingredients:

125g butter
½ caster sugar
1 egg
2 cups plain flour
1 tbsp milk
1 tbsp finely ground coffee beans
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
½ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp ground ginger
200g dark chocolate
½ cup roughly chopped roasted cashews (salted or unsalted)

Directions:

Cream butter and sugar. Combine with egg. Gradually mix in flour, spices and coffee. Finally, add dark chocolate and cashews. Either form into balls and squash onto lined baking tray right away or roll into a tube of baking paper and store in freezer or fridge until needed. If using baking paper method you can unwrap dough as needed and slice into rounds. Bake for 12-15 minutes at 160 degrees fan forced. Leave to cool for ten minutes before moving from tray.

Baked haloumi and peach salad

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Sometimes everything falls apart in your hands, like so much vegan chocolate cake. (Not that I’m being disparaging about vegans or vegan food, it’s just my mum made me a vegan chocolate cake for my birthday and it was amazing, but cru-u-mbly). Then again, sometimes you only think things have fallen apart, when really, had you thought things through, you would have realised what you already knew: it is impossible to ruin haloumi cheese. Initially I set out on a quest for baked fetta with sweet slices of summer peaches. But how to make that into a meal? Perhaps the container of messaged kale taking up 1/4 of my fridge space would be the answer. And I could switch the fetta for haloumi – haloumi being firmer, more ready to survive a good tossing.

I should have known from the start that baking haloumi was risky business, but I threw it in a dish with sliced white peaches and some red onion anyway. Deciding that kale was a little overwhelming on its own, I mixed one cup of kale with two cups of mixed salad greens and awaited my tray of baking fruit and cheese.

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It all came out a bit of a mess, purple juices bubbling towards the haloumi side of the dish leaving the border cheese pale, deformed and clinging together. Nevermind though, the cheese on the edge of the pan was nicely golden and the salad turned out tasty enough, thanks to the indestructible deliciousness of cheese in general.

If I had my time again there are a few things I would change. Firstly, despite desperately wanting to reduce the amount of washing up anyone has to do, the peaches and the cheese need separate dishes. Secondly, I’d change the kind of leaf to a few simple handfuls of baby spinach, which is softer and subtler than kale, but nicer wilted than mixed salad leaves. Finally, I’d add some hazelnuts to the mix, just to give the salad some semblance of structural integrity. As an alternative you could leave the peaches fresh and just pan fry the haloumi, maybe adding some mint to the salad. I’m sure this version would be just as nice, especially in the heat we’ve been having. All in all I’m sure I’ll make this again, just a little differently. Which is good, because it means I’m learning, even if it’s stuff I thought I already knew.
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Ingredients:

4 peaches
1/4 Spanish onion
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
pepper
100g haloumi cheese
3 cups baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup whole hazelnuts
handful of mint (optional – but of course everything is)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 200 degree Celsius. Slice haloumi into bite-sized pieces and arrange sparsely on tray or baking dish. Put in oven. Slice peaches into thin wedges and onion into cemi-circles. Add to second baking dish with vinegar and a good grind of pepper. Put second dish in oven. Leave trays in over for 15mins or until haloumi is golden on top. In the meantime add spinach leaves to salad bowl. When cheese and peaches are cooked, leave to cool for ten minutes. Finally add warm ingredients to salad bowl, finish with hazelnuts and mint if you want it.