Black pepper strawberries with goats cheese and walnut salad
 
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Earlier this year, we visited the red rock town of Sedona, known for its mysterious spiritual vortexes and "transformational energy", on our desert tour of Arizona. While I didn't feel any particular mystic forces while in Sedona, I was rather captivated by a leafy strawberry salad we ate for lunch at a local pizzeria. You will want your strawberries perfectly ripe and sweet for this salad. If your strawberries are not at their peak, add a little more sugar and perhaps a tiny drop of balsamic vinegar to tenderize them. if you have yet to try black pepper with strawberries, you'll be surprised by this unlikely perfect union. 

 

Black pepper strawberries with goats cheese and walnuts

serves 3-4 as a sharing dish

 

350g sweet, ripe strawberries, trimmed
1 tsp sugar
3 tightly packed cups (75g) baby spinach, baby rocket (arugula) or salad leaves
50g goats cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup (50g) blueberries
1 cup (100g) toasted walnuts, crushed
chopped chives
sea salt and lots of black pepper 

 

Strawberry honey vinaigrette
2 large ripe strawberries
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 ½ tsp honey
1 small shallot, finely sliced
sea salt and black pepper

Cut the strawberries in half or quarters, depending on their size; a variety of shapes and sizes is great. Add the sugar and a generous grind of black pepper; toss to coat and allow everything to macerate for 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the vinaigrette. Quarter each strawberry and squeeze out the juice – the easiest way to do this is to push the strawberry pieces through a fine sieve, catching the juice in a small bowl. Discard (or eat) the pulp. Whisk together the strawberry juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, honey and shallots, until well combined. Season with sea salt and black pepper.

Put the salad together by placing the leaves in a large serving plate. Add the macerated strawberries (including all the juices in the bowl), goats cheese, blueberries and spoon over the vinaigrette. Toss everything to combine. Taste, and season with sea salt and black pepper. To serve, scatter with chopped chives and walnuts. 

 

 
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SALADHetty McKinnon
Ciao Argentina: The olive harvest + charred veggies with burrata and chimichurri
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A nation’s food culture evolves over time, the result of climate, local trade, religion, war, and most of all, immigration. In Argentina, the vibrant, sprawling South American nation with its diverse landscape of the majestic Andes mountains, glacial lakes, and desert, the country’s immigrant history has given birth to a rich and lively food culture, abundant in European tradition. In particular, there is an undeniable Italian character that adds a Mediterranean flavour to both the food and its people.

In Argentina, California-based, Italian-inspired olive oil maker Lucini Italia is helping to keep Italian traditions alive with olive oil. In each bottle of their Everyday Extra Virgin Olive Oil, there are rich layers of history and tradition, of hard work and dedication, of old world techniques married with modern innovation.

As one of Lucini Italia’s current brand ambassadors, I am visiting Mendoza, Argentina to see the end of this year’s olive harvest. The season is short, just two months, from May until June. Mendoza, world famous for its Malbec wines and high-altitude vineyards, is also home to rolling ancient olive farms. In Maipú, located in southeast Mendoza, the Perez family is harvesting the last of their Frantoia olives, an Italian varietal, from 100 year old trees. Migrant workers travel from Columbia for the olive harvest and stay for the season. Here at the Perez family farm, all the olives are ‘hand-picked’ – the harvesters climb homemade ladders (fittingly constructed of olive branches) and forcefully smack the branches, the fruit falling to the ground, where they are caught in nets. There is a human touch at every step of this harvesting process, old world techniques, and minimal equipment. Here, the harvest is driven by nothing other than hard work and manual toil. It is humbling to think of the grind that goes into every bottle of oil. 

 
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If the Perez family’s plantation is all old school hard work and tradition, over at Olivaterra in San Juan province, it is all about innovation and pioneering the future of olive growing in Mendoza. In a previously untapped area of the Andean foothills, Horacio Peroni, Alejandro Vaugdana and Francisco Diaz use their agricultural knowledge and engineering backgrounds to approach olive growing in a scientific way. Founded in 2008, Olivaterra is part of an impressive olive tree plantation spanning 800 hectares. There are a staggering 700 trees per hectare. 

Olivaterra’s harvest begins in April and the work is done by their impressive machine harvester, rightfully named Colossus. During our visit, we witnessed the sheer force of Colossus, as it methodically stripped trees of their fruit, tree by tree, row by row. The olives are milled fresh onsite, at Olivaterra’s own processing mill which was built in 2017, a facility they share with neighboring olive farmers. Understandably, the machine is faster and cheaper than picking olives by hand, but quality also comes into consideration - with machine harvesting, the olives never touch the ground so there is less bruised fruit.

Olivaterra’s owners, along with their neighboring olive ranch owners, are a highly educated, dynamic group. Many of them are not farmers at all, but former engineers, or authors (or sometimes both), city slickers who relocate from cosmopolitan Rosario or Cordoba for the harvest season. The ranch owners, mostly of Italian ancestry, are colleagues, but also friends. They drink wine, laugh constantly and poke fun at one another. It is clear that, despite the high-tech feel of the processing plant, at the heart of Olivaterra is a strong sense of friendship and family, not dissimilar to the artisanal, old world Perez Family Farm. 

Each bottle of Lucini Italia Everyday Extra Virgin Olive Oil contains more than just an exceptionally smooth, fresh tasting everyday olive oil – it also holds a strong story of the vibrant Italian-inspired culture found in Argentina, of craftsmanship, modernity, friendship, and most of all, family. 

 
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Inspired by my recent visit to Mendoza with Lucini Italia, I’m bringing you a bright vegetable dish, that can be adapted to the seasons. Argentina is the land of asado (meat cooked over fire), but I found inspiration everywhere in their cooking techniques and the hyper-fresh farm grown vegetables. At Francis Mallman’s famous 1884 Restaurante, potatoes, carrots, sweet potato, onions and beets were cooked over fire, resulting in the most smoky vegetables imaginable. Tables were always brimming with roasted or stewed peppers, charred eggplant, tomato salads laced with red onion or scallions, grilled pumpkin, fennel and zucchini, and roasted quince. There were some lavish vegetarian meals – pumpkin malfati, an Italian-inspired rustic dish of large misshaped dumplings, very similar to gnocchi, billowing balls of burrata smothered in saffron oil, silky smooth beet puree and the crispiest fingers of potatoes, doused in chimichurri.

 
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This recipe for grilled seasonal vegetables with burrata and chimichurri is inspired by a similar platter at Casa de Uco, and the chimichurri served at our al fresco lunch amongst Olivaterra’s olive groves. Argentine chimichurri is a world away from most of the chimichurri sauces I’ve ever tried. It is more chunky, heavier in garlic, and without much spicy heat (though I have added some spice to my recipe below). This recipe is quite salty, which makes it perfect for slathering onto grilled veggies or roast potatoes. Or try stirring it into cream cheese, mascarpone or ricotta for a flavourful dip, as they did at winery and restaurant El Enemigo.

 

For this recipe, use whatever vegetables are seasonal in your part of the world. I used asparagus, beets, sweet potato, corn, baby peppers, spring onions, zucchini with flowers, eggplant, kale and baby cauliflowers. Char the vegetables on high heat (a barbecue is best), add a ball or two of creamy burrata and smother in an Argentine chimichurri. Enjoy xx

 

Charred seasonal vegetables with burrata and Argentine chimichurri

 

seasonal vegetables, washed and trimmed
Lucini Italia Everyday Extra Virgin Olive oil
1 lemon, halved
2 medium balls of burrata (or fresh mozzarella)
sea salt and black pepper

Argentine chimichurri
1 French shallot or small red onion, finely chopped
½ cup tightly packed (about ½ bunch) chopped parsley
1 tbsp (about 4-5 springs) chopped oregano
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ - 1 jalapeño or green chili, finely chopped
1 small tomato, peeled, deseeded and chopped
½ small red pepper (capsicum), finely chopped
2 tsp paprika
½ tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp sea salt flakes
½ tsp black pepper
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
¾ cup Lucini Italia Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 tbsp water

 

To make the chimichurri, toss together the shallot, parsley, oregano, garlic, chili, tomato, and red pepper (capsicum) - stir until well mixed. Add in both paprikas, salt, pepper, red wine vinegar, olive oil and water. Stir well. Use immediately or refrigerate to allow flavours to blend. This sauce can me made 3 days ahead – store in the fridge. 

Heat your barbecue to high and heat for 10 minutes. Prepare your vegetables by washing and trimming. If you are using root vegetables like sweet potato, beetroot, carrots or sweet potato, prick them with a fork, season with sea salt and black pepper, drizzle with olive oil and wrap them in a few layers of foil. Place the foiled packages directly on barbecue and close the lid – cook on medium for 10-20 minutes, depending upon the size of your vegetables. Turn the package every now and then to prevent burning. 

Working in batches, add your softer vegetables (eg, asparagus, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, kale) directly to the barbecue, and let them char. Turn and char on all sides. 

To serve, lay our charred vegetables on a large serving board or plate. Add your burrata, a wedge of lemon, and then generously slather over your chimichurri sauce. 

 
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SALADHetty McKinnon
White wine mushrooms on garlic toast
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Lately I’ve been getting to know the lovely drops from Austerity Wines. While I am no expert in food-and-wine pairing, what I love about Austerity’s wines is their drink-ability - they are the perfect everyday bottle, an elegantly smooth pour-and-sip wine that pairs perfectly with so many occasions and flavors.

Austerity Wines possess the cool, laid-back charm of it’s Californian roots. The wines are made from top quality, reasonably priced fruit from California’s Central Coast. The result is premium, easy drinking wines that are luxurious, yet accessible.

Earlier this month, we were lucky enough to attend the New York chapter of Simply Elevated, a chef and winemaker dinner series hosted by Austerity Wine and The Feedfeed. At Feedfeed’s Bushwick headquarters, we shared in an intimate evening of incredible Spanish-inspired dishes prepared by Michael Chernow of Seymore's and his team. The highlight of the night was a white wine sangria made with Austerity Chardonnay Arroyo Seco 2016, which I enjoyed so much, I went straight home and made my own fruit-loaded version - see my bonus recipe below. White wine sangria will be on high rotation in my house this Summer.

My main recipe this post - white wine mushrooms with garlic toast - is my nod to Michael Chernow’s paella served with wild mushrooms and roasted garlic. Austerity wines are rather perfect for cooking – affordable, with lots of deep, intricate flavors. The chardonnay adds a deep, tangy, woodsy note to the mushrooms, bringing out the earthiness. When you have finished cooking, drink the rest with your meal!

 
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Inspired by Austerity Wine x FeedFeed Simply Elevated dinner

White wine sangria


3 parts chardonnay (I used Austerity 2016 Arroyo Seco Chardonnay)
2 parts sparkling mineral water or club soda
1 part apple juice (for sweetness)
Add fruit and mint! I used apple, orange, raspberry, and figs.

Combine all the ingredients and serve!

 
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White wine mushrooms on garlic toast

Serves 4, as a snack

extra virgin olive oil
2 French shallots, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
500g mixed mushrooms, torn or sliced
3 sprigs thyme
1/2 cup dry white wine (I used Austerity Chardonnay)
2 tbsp salted butter
½ lemon
handful of parsley, leaves picked
sea salt and black pepper

Garlic toast
4 thickly sliced pieces of sourdough or rustic bread
1 clove garlic, halved
Olive oil

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, along with the shallots and garlic. Sizzle for 20 seconds and then add the mushrooms, thyme, a little more olive oil, and season well with 2 big pinches of sea salt and black pepper. Cook for 7-9 mins until softened and caramelized. Add the wine to deglaze the pan, and cook for 2 mins, undisturbed. Turn off the heat, and immediately add the butter and a squeeze of lemon. Taste and season with sea salt and black pepper, if required.

Heat a grill pan or skillet on high and when hot, add the sliced bread to the dry pan. Leave to char for 1-2 minutes, and then turn over and char the other side. Remove from pan and immediately rub both sides with garlic. Drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil, and then top with the mushrooms. Scatter with parsley and enjoy with a glass of cold chardonnay.

This blog post has been sponsored by Austerity & TheFeedfeed - all opinions are my own.

 

 
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Curried lentil, tomato and coconut soup
 
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I've been working with Lucini Italia for a few months now as a brand ambassador, and it has been immensely fun to get to know their products, and to think of new ways to use their delicious and flavorsome olive oils and bottled sauces. 

Lucini Italia's bottled sauces have been a revelation. I have been applying it in all the dishes that I would normally use fresh tomatoes in - in salad dressings (see last post), eggplant parmigiana, pasta bakes, vegetable stews, curries and more. The sauce is nothing like the usual bottled offerings. There's no added sugar, so it's not artificially sweet, and it has an intensely fresh flavor. For example, in this recipe, it is the perfect base for this richly spiced curried lentil soup. This is another perfect weeknight soup - loaded with flavor but ready in about 30 minutes.

 

Curried lentil, tomato and coconut soup

extra virgin olive oil (I used Lucini Italia Premium Select Olive Oil)

2 onions, finely chopped

2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped

3 inch (about 30g) piece of fresh ginger, grated

4 tbsp curry powder (use less if hot variety, your choice)

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1 ½ cups (300g) red lentils 

6 cups vegetable stock

3 cups (750g) good quality bottled tomato sauce (I used Lucini Italia Roasted Garlic Marinara)

6 cups vegetable stock

1 can coconut milk

sea salt and black pepper

 

Topping

big handful of cress, microgreens or baby salad leaves

handful of cilantro leaves

2 radishes, finely sliced

extra virgin olive oil

 

In a large pot, heat olive oil and add the onions with a pinch of sea salt. Cook for 8-10 minutes until golden. Add the garlic, ginger, curry powder, red pepper flakes and another pinch of salt; cook for 2 mins. Add the lentils, stir, and then pour in the stock and tomato sauce. Reserve about ¼ cup of the coconut milk for topping, and add the rest of the can to the soup. Stir and cook for 20-25 minutes. Taste and season soup with sea salt and black pepper. 

Combine salad leaves with the cilantro and sliced radishes. Drizzle with olive oil and season with sea salt and black pepper. 

Ladle soup into big bowls, drizzle over some of the reserved coconut milk and top with the leafy, radish salad.

 
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SOUPHetty McKinnon
Spring ratatouille salad with herby French lentils
 
 
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At this time of the year, I’m thinking ahead to the colour and vibrancy of new season salads. I love the transition of seasons, and the chance to marvel at the new arrivals at the farmer’s market.

This week’s recipe is a Spring ratatouille salad, but it could easily be an autumnal ratatouille salad (for those in the southern hemispheres). Along with ratatouille regulars eggplant and zucchini, I’ve added some spring time verve in the form of radishes, asparagus, spring onions and fennel (for those in Australia, I think brussels sprouts and turnips would be ah-mazing!). I’m very excited about this recipe because it features a great mid-week cooking hack -  I’ve used a high quality bottled tomato sauce to create this zesty, punchy, full-flavoured dressing. I’m seriously patting myself on the back for this dressing because it’s truly DELICIOUS! To be fair, Lucini Italia’s Fresh Organic Tomato Sauces are not your average bottled sauce. They are sugar-free, with no artificial ingredients or preservatives. Lucini's sauces taste like real tomatoes, which could have something to do with the fact that their tomatoes are grown on one of Italy’s first organic farms and travel from field to jar in less than 24 hours.

Working as a brand ambassador for Lucini Italia has really sparked my imagination. It’s so much fun to think of new and exciting ways to use everyday kitchen essentials. This is a great weeknight salad recipe - it’s as simple as combining your favourite new season veggies with the best bottled tomato sauce you can find. Another essential item to add to your larder.

 

Spring ratatouille salad with herby French lentils

During cookout season, chargrill your veggies on the BBQ!

 

Serves 4

olive oil

2 small (350g) zucchini, sliced into 1cm chunks

2 small or 1 large (500g) eggplant, peeled in stripy pattern + sliced and cut into 1cm chunks

6 radishes, trimmed + cut into 1cm slices

1 baby (180g) fennel, thinly sliced

200g asparagus (about ½ bunch), trimmed + cut into 5cm pieces

2 spring onions, white part quartered

handful of soft herbs (dill, chives, parsley etc)

handful of goats cheese, to serve (optional)

 

Herby Lentils

1/2 cup (150g) French lentils

extra virgin olive oil

big handful of parley, dill, scallions, chives etc

sea salt

 

Tomato dressing

3/4 cup good quality bottled tomato sauce (such as Lucini Italia Fresh Organic Sauces)

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

½ tsp sugar

8 black olives, pitted and roughly chopped

sea salt and black pepper

 

Cook lentils in a large pot of salted water. Finely chop the herbs. While the lentils are still warm, add the oil and herbs. Season with sea salt.

In a large fry pan (or your outdoor BBQ or grill), heat some oil and, all in separate batches, panfry your zucchini, eggplant, radish, fennel, asparagus, and spring onions. Season each batch with sea salt and cook until caramelized but not mushy.

To make the dressing, whisk together the tomato sauce, red wine vinegar, oil, garlic, and sugar. When combined, stir in the olive and season with sea salt and black pepper.

Combine the tomato dressing with the vegetables. Spoon the lentils onto a serving platter and top with the tomatoey veggies. To serve, scatter with soft herbs, and scatter with goats cheese (optional)

 
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SALADHetty McKinnon
Kung pao root vegetable salad with aromatic chili oil and tahini
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I am no stranger to aromatic chili oil. I make it often to accompany dumplings, noodles, and rice. In fact, in recent times, I have come to view this oil as my go-to spicy condiment, topping everything from porridge, to soup, roasted veggies and salads.

This month, I have the honor of joining Lucini Italia as a brand ambassador. For me, working with brands comes with responsibilities, especially in being true to both the product I am working with, while remaining authentic to my food philosophies and style of cooking. I’m absolutely thrilled that working with Lucini Italia has already inspired me to try new ways of cooking with one of my pantry essentials, olive oil.

And so, to this recipe! It is loosely inspired by Mission Chinese Food’s Kung Pao Beet dish which I recently enjoyed with friends. While I’m normally not a fan of culturally-confused food, Mission Chinese’s adventurous fusion take on Asian classics really excites me. Their green tea soba noodles hit the spot every time. Not to mention their killer cocktail and wine list.

Kung Pao is not a dish I grew up eating (probably because it’s not an authentic Chinese dish ;)) but still, the flavours are mind boggling. Inspired by my partnership with Lucini Italia, and their deliciously zesty Everyday Extra Virgin Olive Oil, I have created my favourite Asian condiment, aromatic chili oil, using olive oil in place of the usual neutral oil. I have to say, aromatic chili oil made with olive oil has been a revelation - it has more of a ‘bite’, offering a fresh, peppery finish that perfectly amplifies the aromatic spices in the mix. This aromatic oil is the perfect pick-me-up for seasonal root vegetables; here I have sautéed potato, sweet potato, celery and beets, drizzled them generously with chili oil, and finished with the earthy and nutty tahini. There are so many dazzling flavours here. A beautiful end of winter salad.

 

Kung pao root vegetables with aromatic chili oil and tahini

Serves 3-4

extra virgin olive oil                                                                                                      

500g starchy potato (such as Idaho/russet), scrubbed and cut into 1cm cubes
300g sweet potato, scrubbed and cut 1cm cubes
1/2 cup vegetable broth or water
250g boiled beets, peeled and diced into 1cm cubes
2 sticks celery, cut into 1cm slices                                                                                                

1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp soy sauce or tamari
2 tbsp tahini
handful peanuts, chopped
Sesame seeds

Aromatic chili olive oil                                                                                                                        

½ cup extra virgin olive oil                                                                                                                  

3 star anise

1 cinnamon stick

1 inch piece of ginger, finely sliced

3 scallions, white part only (save green parts for serving)

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 tsp Sichuan peppercorns

2 tsp red pepper flakes

1 tsp sea salt flakes

 

To make the aromatic chili oil, heat the oil in a small pan over medium heat, along with the star anise, cinnamon stick, ginger, white part of scallions, fennel seeds, and Sichuan peppercorns. When it starts to bubble, immediately reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 15-20 minutes, on very low heat, allowing it to bubble gently and constantly (don’t let the spices burn). Allow the oil to cool for about 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the red chili flakes and salt; mix well. While the oil is still warm, remove the spices (star anise, cinnamon etc) and VERY CAREFULLY pour the oil over the red chili flakes and salt. Stir well. This oil can be stored in a sterilized jar for up to 6 months.

For the vegetables, heat two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a large fry pan. Add the potato and sweet potato and stir to coat in the oil. Add the broth, cover and cook for 4-5 minutes on medium heat until the potato is crisp tender. Remove from the pan and set aside.

In the same pan, add a good drizzle of olive oil, add beets and panfry for 3 minutes on medium, shaking the pan every now and then, until slightly caramelized. Add a touch more oil, and then add the celery, garlic and a pinch of salt, and cook for 1 minute. Add the potato, sweet potato and soy sauce and combine well. Cook for 5 minutes until the potatoes are fully tender.

Thin the tahini with 1-2 tablespoons of water and season with a pinch of sea salt and black pepper.  

To serve, spoon the vegetables onto a serving plate, drizzle generously with the aromatic chili olive oil, followed by a drizzle of tahini. Scatter with scallions, peanuts, and sesame seeds.

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SALADHetty McKinnon
Gentle Morning Kitchari
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One of my favourite dishes in New York City is a gentle rice and lentil dish at ABCV called kitchari. Kitchari, a traditional Ayurvedic dish, means mixture, usually of two grains - yellow mung dal and basmati rice - and soothingly spiced with cleansing and detoxifying spices such as turmeric and fresh ginger. This bowl of grainy goodness is really my ideal breakfast. 

When I opened my friend Gena Hamshaw's new book Power Plates, my eyes immediately fell to her Gentle Morning Kitchari recipe. I had never made this breakie favourite at home before, but this was all about to change. Gena's recipe is equal parts delicious and nutritious. And best of all, it takes about 20 minutes to make. I used basmati rice and red split lentils which are faster cooking.

Power Plates, like Gena's blog, The Full Helping, has proved a big inspiration for me lately. I'm not vegan but Gena's creative, full-flavoured plant-based recipes have inspired me to eat dairy-free more often. The book reflects Gena's unpretentious approach to vegan food, a brilliant resource for those looking for hearty plant-based recipes without fuss or labels. 

Gena has generously allowed me to share her kitchari recipe here. Hope you enjoy this lovely bowl, for gentle mornings (or evenings!).

 

Gentle Morning Kitchari

Words and recipe by Gena Hamshaw.

This recipe is extracted from Power Plates: 100 Nutritionally Balanced, One-Dish Vegan Meals, published by Ten Speed Press. 

If I could eat one thing for breakfast every day, it might be kitchari, a gently spiced rice and lentil dish that holds a cherished place in Indian cooking. Also known as khichdi, the dish varies from region to region, but it’s nearly always a combination of basmati rice and dal (dried split peas or lentils, which can be found at Indian grocers or well-stocked health foods stores). White basmati or long-grain rice will yield the best results, but if you don’t have either on hand, quinoa is a good substitute.


Makes 4-6 Servings


1 tbsp coconut oil
2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 white or yellow onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon finely grated or minced fresh ginger, or 1 teaspoon ground ginger
3⁄4 cup (140 g) white basmati or jasmine rice, rinsed
1 cup (200 g) dried moong dal, toor dal, urad dal, or red lentils
1 tsp ground turmeric
1⁄4 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp salt
1⁄4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 cups (950 ml) low-sodium vegetable broth
2 cups (475 ml) water

Optional toppings: Lemon wedges, chopped fresh cilantro, melted coconut oil for drizzling


Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat. When the oil is shimmering, add the mustard and cumin seeds and cook, stirring constantly, until the seeds begin to pop, about 2 minutes. Add the onion, carrots, and ginger and sauté for about 5 minutes, until the onion is tender and translucent. 


Stir in the rice, dal, turmeric, cloves, salt, pepper, broth, and water and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove the lid, stir well, and then simmer, uncovered, for 5 to 10 minutes, until the texture resembles porridge (for a soupier texture, decrease the cooking time, and for a thicker texture, cook it a bit longer). Taste and adjust the seasonings if desired. Serve with your toppings of choice.

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BREAKFASTHetty McKinnon
Hawaij roasted carrots with mung beans and preserved lemon yoghurt
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Before my friends NEW YORK SHUK gave me a bottle of their new spice Hawaij, I had never heard of this little known Yemeni spice before. Pronouncing it requires some practice too - try this "huh-why-adge"... Unusual name and ambiguous identity aside, this vibrant, golden-hued spice has the POWER! It's flavour is heavy-hitting - featuring turmeric, cumin, black peppercorns, and cardamom. These bold flavours are perfect for roasting vegetables, particularly root vegetables, and also a great way to build a robust flavour profile in soups, stews or salads.. 

There are actually two types of Hawaij. As I learnt from my friend Molly, there is hawaij that is used for soups, stews, marinades etc (like NY Shuk's) and then there is another hawaij spice which is a coffee blend. The coffee blend typically includes ginger and cardamom, along with any combination of the following: cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, maybe anise or fennel. 

If you can't get your hands on store-bought hawaij, I recommend substituting with a simple homemade combo of ground turmeric, ground cumin, freshly ground peppercorns and cardamom - grind everything with a mortar and pestle. 

Hawaij roasted carrots with mung beans and preserved lemon yoghurt

I use preserved lemon in the yoghurt, but if you can also substitute with fresh lemon zest and a few squeezes of lemon juice.

serves 4-6

500g (1 pound) small carrots, tops trimmed and scrubbed

1 tsp chopped preserved lemon (or juice of ½ lemon)

handful of coriander, finely chopped

¾ cup mung beans, rinsed

handful toasted almonds, toasted

handful mint and coriander leaves

1 lemon, cut into 4 wedges (to serve)

sea salt and black pepper

Hawaij yoghurt marinade

2 tbsp hawaij

1 clove, finely grated

½ cup plain whole-milk Greek yogurt

extra virgin olive oil

sea salt

 

Preheat oven to 220˚C/425°F.

Mix hawaij, garlic, yogurt, and a big drizzle of olive oil (2-3 tablespoons) in a large bowl until smooth; season with salt. Add half of the yoghurt mixture to the carrots and toss to coat. Reserve the rest of the yoghurt for serving.

Place the carrots in a single layer on a large baking try. Roast for 25-30 minutes, turning once or twice, until the carrots are tender and charred in spots. 

Meanwhile, place the mung beans in a medium saucepan and cover with 5cm (2 inches) of water. Season the water with 2 big pinches of salt. Place on medium-high heat and bring to the boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 25-30 minutes until tender. Drain.

Add the preserved lemon to the remaining yoghurt and mix to combine.

Combine the mung beans with the carrots and toss to combine. Season with sea salt and black pepper, and drizzle with olive oil. Drizzle with preserved lemon yogurt and scatter over the almonds, mint and coriander. Serve with lemon wedges.

 

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SALADHetty McKinnon
Salted pretzel peppermint bark shortbread
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This is one of my favourite baked treats during the holiday season - buttery shortbread, smothered with dark chocolate, topped with smashed up candy cane and pretzels, and scattered with white chocolate. It's the perfect sharing treat to take to parties, full of Christmassy flavours, and a real crowd pleaser for adults and kids alike.

gluten free

Shortbread

1 ¾ cup all-purpose gluten free flour (or plain flour)

¼ cup rice flour

½ cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small slices

Topping

225g (8 oz) dark chocolate, broken up

a few large handfuls of gluten free salted pretzels (or regular ones)

6 peppermint candy canes, smashed

113g (4 oz) white chocolate

½ tsp peppermint extract (optional)

 

Preheat oven to 165˚C / 325˚F. Line a 10 inch x 12 inch slice tin with baking paper.

In a food processor, whizz the flour, rice flour, sugar, vanilla extract and salt together in a few short pulses. Add the butter and process briefly, just until the mixture starts to clump together. You can also do this step by hand, by rubbing the butter into the dry mixture with your fingertips or a pastry cutter. Pour the mixture onto your bench top and knead it just once or twice to gather the loose crumbs.

Press the dough into the prepared pan. Place it in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes, or just until the shortbread is starting to turn golden. Watch it closely so it doesn’t burn or brown too much. When ready, remove from the oven and allow it to cool completely.

Place ¾ of the semi-sweet and bitter-sweet chocolate into a dry, clean glass bowl. Melt the chocolate by microwaving on high heat for 30 seconds, stir, and then microwave again for another 30 seconds, until the chocolate is just melted. Add the remaining chocolate and stir until smooth (if it isn’t fully melting, microwave on high for another 15 seconds). You can do this by placing the bowl of chocolate over a saucepan of just-boiled water and stirring intermittently until melted.

Pour the chocolate evenly all over the cooled shortbread base. Arrange the pretzels over the chocolate and sprinkle over MOST of the smashed up candy canes. Save a little to sprinkle over right at the end.

Melt the white chocolate using the same method as above. Once melted, stir in the peppermint extract (if using). Take spoonfuls of the white chocolate and flick it back and forth over the pretzels to create a criss-cross pattern. Scatter over the remaining candy canes. Allow the chocolate to set – this will take at least 2 hours or longer. Once dry, cut into squares or triangles.

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SWEETHetty McKinnon