12 August 2012

French onion soup

What's not to like about a steaming bowl of french onion soup with a crusty roll? Spurred on by a recent burst of cold and windy weather, I found myself musing over the delicious french onion soup I was going to make that evening. You might not want to whip this one up all the time as it has a large hit of butter in it, but as an occasional soul-warming treat, it can't be beat. Like most soups, it's very easy to prepare and the aroma as it is cooking is bliss! Enjoy ...
50 g butter
4 large brown onions (although I used 6), halved and thinly sliced
3/4 cup (180 ml) dry white wine (this is not absolutely necessary - I left it out)
3 cups of water
1 litre (4 cups) of vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon of plain flour
1 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves

1. Melt butter in large saucepan.
2. Add sliced onion and cook over medium heat for about 30 mins or until caramelised. Stir occasionally.
3. In a separate saucepan, bring the wine to the boil, and boil for one minute.
4. Stir in the water, stock and bay leaf and return to a boil. Remove from heat once boiling.
5. Stir flour into the onion mixture. Cook, stirring, until the mixture bubbles and thickens.
6. Bit by bit, add the stock mixture, stirring until the mixture boil and thickens slightly. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 20 mins, stirring occasionally.
7. Remove the bay leaf and add the thyme.

9 August 2012

Chocolate caramel slice

This is an old favourite. After making it at home, you'll have trouble eating one bought from a cafe. I made this one for my Mum's birthday ...
1 cup of plain flour, sifted
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
125g butter, melted

400g can of sweetened condensed milk
2 tablespoons of golden syrup
60g butter

60g copha, chopped
125g cooking chocolate, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C.
2. Line a 3 cm deep lamington pan (28 cm x 18 cm).
3. Mix all base ingredients in a bowl, mixing well. Press into lamington tin.
4. Bake for 15 - 20 mins or until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool.
5. For the filling, combine all filling ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat.
6. Cook, whisking for 8 mins or until golden. Pour filling mixture over base.
7. Bake for 12 mins or until firm.
8. Cool completely, before chilling in the fridge for 3 - 4 hours.
9. To make the topping, place chopped copha and chopped chocolate into a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir until melted. Pour over caramel.
10. Refrigerate to set it. Cut into squares to serve.

15 July 2012

Felafel roll

Felafels are a veggie delight. You've probably tried a dodgy one from a street vendor, to be avoided at all costs. Similarly, I had a dry one at a cafe recently. I am fussy about these little Middle Eastern chickpea balls. They are so simple to make yet sometimes they can go so wrong. These homemade ones are very nice. There's a little work in rolling them into balls, especially if the mixture is too wet. You might need to add some more flour. Falafels apparently originated in Egypt but they are now so popular that a certain fast food brand markets a McFalafel. Falafels are high in protein and fibre so a good news story for vegetarians.
3/4 cup of frozen broad beans, thawed, peeled (I used tinned butter beans - easier!)
1 can of chickpeas
1/3 cup of coarsely chopped fresh parsley (flat leaf is best but I used garden parsley)
1 small red onion, chopped coarsely
1/3 cup (50 g) of plain flour
2 teaspoons of ground coriander
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1 teaspoon of bi-carb soda
1. Blend beans, chickpeas, parsley, onion, flour, coriander, cumin and bi-carb soda in a food processor until almost smooth.
2. Using a tablespoon, shape spoonfuls into ball-shaped patties.
3. Lay out on a tray and leave in the fridge for 30 mins.
4. Heat a frypan with a little oil and cook falafels until brown on both sides.
5. Place falafels on wrap bread, smothered with hummus, iceberg lettuce, tomato, red onion and a little sauce (chilli, barbecue, tomato). Wrap up tightly to serve.

13 July 2012

Tomato rice

Finishing my current obsession with brown rice, this is an interesting little dish. It is quite tasty and very easy to prepare. Fresh basil is a must for this one.
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil (or olive oil)
1 onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic
250 g of brown rice
250 g tomatoes
Sea salt
Fresh black pepper
2 cups of vegetable stock
25 g of tasty cheese, grated
1 teaspoon of butter
Fresh basil, chopped

1. Heat the oil in a fry pan and fry the chopped onion and sliced garlic.
2. Stir in the uncooked rice and cook until it is transparent (about 10 to 15 mins).
3. Skin the tomatoes by dipping them in boiling water for a moment. When you pull them out, you should be able to remove the skin.
4. Chop the tomatoes into small pieces and add to the pan.
5. Season with sea salt and pepper.
6. Add the vegetable stock, cover the pan (use a piece of foil if you don't have a lid that fits), and simmer for about 20 minutes. At the end, the rice should be cooked and all of the stock absorbed.
7. Stir in the cheese, butter and freshly chopped basil. Serve immediately.

11 July 2012

Fortified porridge

Here's another delicious brown rice recipe - perfect for that winter warm-up early in the morning. It packs a punch and you'll feel like you swallowed a bowling ball afterwards, but on the upside you won't be hungry for about 6 or 7 hours.
1 cup of rolled oats
3 cups of soy milk or water
1 tablespoon of raisins
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 cup of cooked brown rice
1 apple, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon of hazelnuts, chopped, or almonds
Honey to taste

1. Add the raisins to the milk in a saucepan and bring to the boil.
2. Stir in the oats, salt, chopped apple and nuts.
3. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes over a gentle heat.
4. Add the brown rice and cook for a further 2 minutes.
5. Sweeten to taste with honey.
6. Serve with milk, cream or yoghurt.

It makes enough for about 3 people.

9 July 2012

Spanish rice

I have a new best friend in the form of brown rice! It's not like the instant hit of white rice carbs, but brown rice keeps your energy levels powering along. Discovering brown rice has led me to a range of recipes that I'd previously shunned as hippie food or lacking taste. This one is yummy, easy to prepare and makes a lot so you have some for lunch the next day.
1 large onion
1 clove of garlic
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
100 g of mushrooms
1/2 cup of fresh peas or beans
3 tomatoes
1 tablespoon of parsley, chopped
1/2 tablespoon of basil, chopped
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
50 g black olives, de-stoned
3 cupfuls of brown rice, cooked
Tamari (a kind of soy sauce, available from Asian supermarkets or stores)
1. Finely chop the onion and fry with the sliced garlic in a pan with the oil.
2. When the onion is soft, add the chopped mushrooms and peas/beans and cover the pan. Cook for 10 minutes.
3. Add the chopped tomato, herbs, seasoning, the quartered olives and lastly the rice. Keep turning the mixture until the rice has heated.
4. Serve with tamari.

7 July 2012

Ricotta hotcakes with honeycomb butter

A recent visit to bill's at Darlinghurst inspired me to try bill's divine ricotta hotcakes at home.
I didn't take a detour from art class and become a fabulously successful, self-taught, international foodie (www.bills.com.au) along the way, but my ricotta hotcakes were not bad. Not as nice as Bill's (how does he get them so flat?) but definitely tasty! I also now have a log of honeycomb butter for later so that will be nice on toast.
Ingredients - hotcakes
1 1/3 cups of ricotta                                1 pinch of salt
3/4 cups of milk                                       50 g of butter
4 eggs separated                                      2 bananas or a punnet of strawberries
1 cup of plain flour                                  icing sugar for dusting
1 teaspoon of baking powder

Ingredients - honeycomb butter
250g of unsalted butter (softened)
100g Crunchie
2 tablespoons of honey

Method - hotcakes
1. Place ricotta, milk and eggs in a bowl and mix to combine. Use a wooden spoon, not beaters.
2.  Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a separate bowl. Add to the ricotta mixture and mix until just combined.
3. Place egg whites in a bowl and beat until stiff mountainous peaks form.
4. Fold the egg whites through the batter in two batches using a metal spoon.
5. Lightly grease a large non-stick frying pan with a small amount of butter and drop two tablespoons of batter per hotcake into the pan. Cook over a low to medium heat for 2 minutes or until golden.
6. Turn hotcakes over and cook until golden on other side. Ensure they are cooked through. (yes, you might have to have a taste!)
7. Place on a plate and assemble with other ingredients. Sliced banana or strawberries with a slice (or chunk) of honeycomb butter and dusted with a small amount of icing sugar. Dribble or lash with maple syrup, according to your taste.
Method - honeycomb butter
1. Place all ingredients in food processor and blend until smooth.
2. Shape into a log on plastic wrap, roll, seal and chill in fridge for about 2 hours.
3. Use remainder of butter on toast (from the Bowan Island Bakery www.bowanislandbakery.com.au)

Thank you Bill Granger. For those who want more of Bill's recipes, he has a recipe every Sunday in the Independent on Sunday (www.independent.co.uk) and he also used to contribute to Delicious magazine (www.taste.com.au/delicious).


Pavs are deceptively easy to make and taste gorgeous. Best on a warm summer's day with fruit and ice cream. I made this one for my Dad's birthday ...
4 egg whites
1 cup caster sugar
1 tablespoon cornflour
1 teaspoon white vinegar
300 ml thickened cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon icing sugar

1. Pre-heat oven to 120 degrees C (100 degrees fan-forced).
2. Line baking tray with baking paper and mark out an 18 cm circle (trace around a cake tin).
3. Beat egg whites in small bowl with a mixer until soft Alp-like peaks form.
4. Gradually add caster sugar, beating until sugar dissolves before adding more.
5. Fold in cornflour and vinegar.
6. Spread meringue on circle on tray. This is difficult to manage and you might need a spare pair of hands to hold the bowl for you. Try not to squash it, rather lift it up and towards the centre.
7. Place in oven and bake for about an hour and a quarter.
8. When ready, turn oven off and leave pav to cool inside with the oven door open.
9. Serve with beaten cream (add cream, vanilla, 1 tablespn icing sugar and beat), ice cream, passionfruit, mango, strawberries, raspberries, banana ...

The pav was supposedly called pavlova because it is as light as the Ballets Russes dancer Anna Pavlova. Anna also has a pretty rose named after her.

Blueberry and raspberry cheesecake

Vegerama has been distracted by the rich tapestry of life lately, but with the cooler weather I have been taking the opportunity to venture into sweetland. I made this cheesecake for an overseas guest recently and it hit the spot! Like most cheesecakes, it's very easy to make. Wrangling with the spring form pan is the most difficult part of making this delicious dessert. Unfortunately I had to devour the leftovers . . . .

250 g digestive biscuits (eg granitas or hob nobs)
100 g melted butter
1 vanilla pod (available at supermarkets, in organic and non-organic variety)
600 g soft cheese (Philly cream cheese)
100 g icing sugar
280 ml double cream (the type that blocks your arteries)

For the topping, use 400 g of blueberries and rapsberries, but you can also use strawberries
25 g icing sugar
1. Spread butter on base of  (23 cm) spring form pan and line the bottom.
2. Place biscuits in a plastic bag and hammer with rolling pin.
3. Place biscuit crumbs in bowl and add melted butter.
4. Mix completely so that the crumbs are coated all over.
5. Pour the buttered crumbs into the tin and firmly press down, creating a nice base.
6. Chill in fridge for at least an hour.
7. Taking a vanilla pod, split it lengthways with a knife and gently scrape out the little seeds.
8. Place Philly cheese, icing sugar (100 g) and vanilla seeds in a bowl and beat with mixmaster until smooth.
9. Pour in the cream and continue to beat until the mixture is combined.
10. Spoon the cream mixture onto the biscuit base, starting from the edges and moving inwards. Try to avoid any air bubbles if possible.
11. Smooth the top of the cheesecake down with the back of a spoon or a spatula.
12. Leave to chill out in the fridge overnight.

To serve
1. Bring to room temperature, or at least bring the cheesecake out of fridge 30 mins before serving.
2. Place the base over an upside down glass or can and gently pull sides down.
3. Process half of the raspberries or strawberries in a food processor with 25 g icing sugar and 1 teaspoon of water. Sieve the mixture to create a pureed topping.
4. Place the remaining berries on the cake and pour over the topping.

6 March 2012

Tomato and chickpea curry

This curry was inspired by the fact that I had Roma tomatoes needing to be used up and the discovery of a can of chickpeas in the pantry. It's quick to make and very tasty. You can add more curry powder if you prefer a stronger curry flavour.

1 can of chickpeas (you can boil your own from a food co-op but they smell and a can is much easier!)
2 - 3 small onions
2 - 4 cloves of garlic
2 - 3 tbspns curry powder
dash of coriander seeds
good shake of cumin
salt n pepper
approximately 6 - 8 Roma tomatoes
135ml light coconut milk
1 tbspn olive oil

1. Add oil to fry pan and allow to heat.
2. Chop onions and garlic. Fry on low to medium heat until onions are soft.
3. Add curry powder (you can use more if you want more curry flavour). Stir.
4. Add coriander seeds and cumin, along with salt and pepper (to taste).
5. Drain the chickpeas from the can. Add about 3/4 of the can to the curried onion mixture. Stir.
6. Pour in light coconut milk (make sure it does not boil).
7. Add tomatoes and cook on moderate heat around 10 mins, or until you can smell curry.
8. Cook rice to serve with curry (I usually make mine in a microwave, cooking on medium heat for around 20 mins).
9. Serve curry with rice.

Unfortunately vegerama's blood pressure has skyrocketed lately, so you expect to see some lighter, low cal meals from now on, as she tries to shift some blubber.