Category Archives: brunch

Asparagus carbonara

asparagus carbonara

So without further a do, I mean it has been eight weeks or something now, I have a new recipe, asparagus carbonara. A dinner born as a way to help make use of the gorgeous and abundant cherry tomatoes thriving in back yard. It’s such a joy to pick a new harvest each day with Thea, to subliminally teach her where food comes from as well as recognise colours. But why the lapse in sharing this simple recipe?

asparagus carbonara asparagus carbonara

Well. The cooking continues in my kitchen, but that little window when Thea has her nap that I used to reserve for writing down my recipes. Gone. Used now by me also for some daytime shuteye. And it’s not even a choice. I’d love to stay up and be productive but my body hits a wall and it’s all I can do to read Thea a story, usually Peepo, settle her into her cot and then climb into bed myself.

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Daytime naps are one of life’s little luxuries though. A mini holiday during the day. And the way I like to look at it, exclusive time for me and my 20 week bump. Lying on my side, hand on tummy, feeling the tiny little kicks that never fail to make me smile. I know. Half way. And thankfully growing well.

asparagus carbonara

Speaking of holidays. We are off to Fiji next week and I am so excited. Excited to spend time as three, swimming and relaxing. Spending our days at a different pace. My reading material is children’s fiction, Harry Potter and The Dream Snatcher – glorious worlds that I can easily lose myself in and may even be able to finish while away with Thea. I have also prepared a list potential restaurants, because holidays are as much about eating as they are unwinding. I know I will find inspiration for new recipes to bring home with me. Be patient until I share them.

asparagus carbonara

asparagus carbonara

 

Asparagus carbonara

For 4.

  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • about 200-300g cherry tomatoes
  • a handful of  black olives
  • 4 clove garlic
  • 1 to 2  birdseye chilli, chopped
  • 30g butter
  • 4 tbsp oil
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta
  • 400g spaghetti or your favourite pasta
  • sea salt
  • black pepper

Snap the woody ends from the asparagus and then cut the spears into three. Cook these for about 3-5 minutes in boiling water, drain and then plunge into cold water, chilled with ice if you have a spare tray handy in the freezer. This step stops the asparagus cooking so that it retains its bite and colour. When the asparagus has completely cooled, drain and dry.

Cut the cherry tomatoes in half.

Pit the olives and then slice lengthways. You can put these three items into a bowl now ready to add to the pasta later.

In another bowl, place the yolks, milk, feta, salt and pepper and mix well.

Now chop the garlic and chilli and fry gently in the oil and butter until the garlic is fragrant but not coloured.

At this stage, everything is ready and you could go and bath children, have a bath yourself, open a bottle of wine and read a magazine, do the washing up. Whatever. The point is that when everything is done up to this task, the prep can be left and then continued on with again later.

Put a large pot full of water on the stove and bring to the boil. Drop the pasta into the boiling water and cook for about 10 minutes.

While the pasta is boiling, add the asparagus, tomatoes and olives to the garlic and chilli, gently heat and keep warm.

When the pasta is done, drain and then return it to the pot in which it was cooked. Working quickly, add the asparagus mixture to the pasta and gently stir and then straight away add the yolk mixture. Continue gently stirring the pasta. The yolks will cook with the pasta’s residual heat and a glossy coating will develop over everything in the pot.

Check for seasoning and enjoy.

Like this recipe. You might like spaghetti carbonara

Peach and burrata salad

I know. I know. I feel a bit sheepish coming back, but I really really would like to explain where I’ve been. And also make my comeback along with a killer summer peach and burrata salad that you are going to want to make. Juicy ripe peaches, soft creamy cheese, crunchy buttered almonds, clean fresh mint and tangy pomegranate molasses to marry the seasonal medley together.  A gorgeous starting point or accompaniment for any seasonal gathering.

peach and burrata salad

Ok. Let’s get to the point. Why was my last post back in November? Um, because I’m making a tiny human and the last 14 or so weeks have been all about sleeping, eating more citrus fruit that is necessary and copious amounts of tomatoes sprinkled with sea salt and olive oil, and generally just getting through the day. It does seem so unfair that pregnancy make you feel like half the person you once were. Sick, tired, cranky, constantly hungry. But as I write this, a small person is growing inside of me, apparently currently the size of a peach (you see what I did there).

peach and burrata salad

Not only have I been feeling exhausted though. If I’m very honest, which is easy on paper, I’m scared. I am just so scared. I know the absolute joy that comes with bringing a child into the world now, and I also know the anguish that comes with bringing a very tiny premature baby into the world, so I’d just like this time to be a smooth ride. A lazy, uninteresting, routine journey to 40 weeks. With a big party at the 30 week mark as I enter unknown territory.

peach and burrata salad

To instil some positivity, which I know can only come from inside myself, I have made a pregnancy vision board, full of beautiful round bellies and cherub like newborns. I bought some new onesies. Unisex ones. And no we’re not finding out this time around. Every night I now read Thea a book all about how she’s going to become a big sister. And you know, I feel a little more carefree.

peach and burrata salad

So with my new outlook (and hopefully second trimester renewed energy) comes new vigour to return to this space and share some beautiful recipes with you, starting with this rather special peach and burrata salad, as well as share this crazy, miraculous and wonderful journey.

Peach and burrata salad

For 2. 1 ball of burrata will serve 2 people so you can adjust this recipe according to how many people you are feeding

  • 1 ball burrata
  • 2 ripe yellow peaches
  • handful fresh mint leaves, roughly sliced
  • small handful of whole almonds
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • pomegranate molasses

This peach and burrata salad is the kind of dish that needs to be made at the last-minute, but don’t let that deter you as it’s extremely simple and quick to prepare.

Begin by toasting the almonds in a pan with a teaspoonful of butter and then roughly chop them.

Depending on how rustic you’d like the salad to look, tear or cut the peaches into  walnut size chunks. Now take the ball of burrata and gently tear it and scatter it over the peach pieces.

Over the cheese and the fruit, sprinkle the mint leaves, the almonds, a frugal dousing of pomegranate molasses and enjoy.

Enjoy this peach and burrata salad recipe? Then you might like this marinated mozzarella salad

Roast capsicum bruschetta with tomato and parsley

So now I’ve shared with you where we’ve been staying for the last three months, can you picture it? Can you hear the waves breaking from your pillow as you lie in bed reading a book, smell the jasmine wafting through the window in the middle of the night as you look out over the ocean lit by a full moon, see the whales breaching as you enter the kitchen first thing in the morning? It’s all still so fresh in my memory. Like this fresh and colourful picnic made up of roast capsicum bruschetta with tomato and parsley and a kale salad with roasted baby carrots, shared around a gigantic neolithic looking table at the bottom of the garden.

roast capsicum bruschetta

Exploring our surroundings during the first few days of our stay, Thea and I discovered an incredible, almost secret, garden artefact. Below a palm tree and shaded by its branches, on the last ‘tier’ of the house’s land, stood a huge stone table, its rough surface patched with lichen. Embraced by lush grass and perfectly placed for gazing out over the ocean, I pledged to myself that I would make an effort to make the most of such a wonderful thing. To read a magazine at it. To sip my morning cup of tea at it. To have a picnic around it and share it with friends.
roast capsicum bruschetta

Picnics are fun things and can be as simple as a cookie (the word I use with Thea to describe the homemade snacks I make her, like these granola bars) eaten in the park. They can also be as elaborate as wicker hampers burgeoning with cheeses, meats, pastries, fruit and champagne. I remember taking a long-term university flame on a romantic picnic to celebrate the end of his exams. The wicker basket kind. When we got to our destination though it was pouring and after trying to drink champagne under a tree we decided better of it and retreated to a nearby pub. We finished or picnic on the train home and the fact that I can still remember the event so vividly is probably because of the inclement weather. 
roast capsicum bruschetta

In fact, pondering picnics, Mark proposed to me half way through a picnic. At Clareville beach, mid bucket of prawns that we were sharing with my dad, he asked I’d like to go for a walk. “You’re not going to propose are you?! You never go for romantic walks” I affirmed, to myself as much as him. Poor guy. He replied that he wanted to go and see the tri-hull moored a short distance away, which seemed like a fair enough explanation. When we reached the boat in question though, he turned and dropped to one knee…

roast capsicum bruschetta

There is definitely a sense of romance where picnics are concerned. Not just girl boy in love romance, but something idealised, pretty and whimsical. Eating atop blankets and rugs, in the shade of trees, surrounded by nature, away from the pressures of life. So next time you take your lunch to a park bench, or pack an elaborate hamper, try this roast capsicum bruschetta with tomato and parsley. Perfect with or without champagne.

roast capsicum bruschetta

Roast capsicum bruschetta with tomato and parsley

Enough for 4 servings. Place the prepared ingredients into little containers so that you can assemble the roast capsicum bruschetta at your chosen picnic spot.

  • 4 red capsicums
  • 1 ripe truss tomato
  • small handful parsley leaves, finely sliced
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt
  • black pepper
  • slightly stale bread

Begin by preparing the capsicums. Cut them in half from stem to base and remove the seeds. Now cut side down, place them under a hot grill until they are blackened all over, then pop them into a bowl. Cover the bowl with cling wrap to allow the capsicums to steam, which will make peeling them easier.

While the capsicums are cooling, cut the tomato into grape size pieces.

When the capsicums are cool enough to handle, peel their charred skin off, but don’t wash them, as this will take away some of the lovely flavour that you’ve just imparted from grilling them. Now slice them into thin strips.

Why stale bread to make roast capsicum bruschetta? The reason I say stale bread is that it will absorb all the juices from the vegetables and still be firm enough to pick up. With fresh bread you may run the risk of creating something that is still delicious, but that you need to eat with a knife and fork.

To assemble, place a little pile of capsicum strips, several pieces of tomato, a generous dousing of oil, salt and pepper and a smattering of parsley on top of your bread and leave for a few minutes for all the flavours to mingle, then enjoy. Some crumbled feta or crunchy almonds, or hell, both, would also be lovely additions.

Need another picnic recipe. What about this marinated mozzarella salad.

Oven baked strawberry French toast

oven baked strawberry french toast

When it comes to strawberries, I’m pretty fussy. I grew up in an area where you could pick your own strawberries. In summer. Not all year round. They tasted like strawberries. Sweet, soft and juicy, oozing fruity nectar with each bite. And they smelt like strawberries too. Fragrant and jammy. Now these berries are ubiquitous, in every shop, during every month of the year and they just don’t taste of my childhood anymore. They just don’t taste like strawberries. Or so the story goes until I found some succulent strawberries at the farmer’s market this week, and with much excitement bought more punnets than I sensibly needed. I ate them with cream, in smoothies, Thea ate some, Mark ate some and there was still some left. So I made this. Oven baked strawberry French toast.

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oven baked strawberry french toast

I’ve wanted to try a baked French toast recipe for a while now, thinking that it would make a great communal breakfast centrepiece. And let me tell you. When I invited the girls over to breakfast one day this week. This one did. The roasted seasonal strawberries provided lots of ooos and ahhhs and pauses of appreciation. Plus, it just looked so darn pretty, all yellow and pink, wobbly and crisp all at the same time. Everyone dug in, taking seconds and thirds.

oven baked strawberry french toast

Since becoming a Mama, I reckon breakfast parties are the way to go. For a start instead of the alcohol that you would expect at an evening event, in the morning there’s coffee. Sometimes more essential to a new parent than a glass of wine anyway. Also, babes can come along to breakfast parties, no questions asked, and small people are usually at their best first thing after a night’s sleep. Due to the presence of children, breakfast parties end on time too, as little ones are taken home for naps. A combination of winning factors. And the best thing of all. This oven baked French toast can be made the night before, so all you have to do for the party is put the kettle on.

DSC_0187 oven baked strawberry french toast

 

Oven baked strawberry french toast

Serves 6

Inspired by recipes from Butter baking and Pioneer Woman 

  • 1/2 loaf stale sourdough bread cut into rough cubes the size of large walnuts (about 4-5 cups bread once cut up)
  • 2 punnets strawberries hulled and halved
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup – optional depending on how sweet the fruit you use is. I didn’t need to use it here, but with for example raspberries, it might be a good idea.
  • 2 cups whole milk

For the crumble topping

  • 50g brown sugar
  • 50g plain flour
  • 50g cold butter, cubed
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • pinch sea salt

This is so easy. The night before, put the bread in a baking dish and scatter the strawberries over the top.

Mix the eggs, milk and syrup, if using, together and pour over the bread. Cover and refrigerate.

For the crumble topping, whizz all the ingredients in a food processor until they resemble breadcrumbs and then also store in the fridge overnight.

In the morning, pre heat the oven to 180C. Sprinkle the crumble topping over the bread and cook the oven baked strawberry French toast for about 45 minutes until the crumble topping is browned.

Love seasonal fruit? Then you might like Apricot jam

Home made crumpets in under an hour

I have fond childhood memories of weekend breakfast’s consisting of hot toasted crumpets spread with so much butter and honey that the two would melt and run down through the little holes on the crumpet’s surface and onto the plate below. Let’s be honest. This is the only way to eat toasted crumpets. An occasional treat bought from the supermarket, crumpets are not something that you can easily make at home. Or are they? Seeing a recipe for them in this month’s Gourmet Traveller, I read the list of ingredients. All pantry staples. And the method looked straightforward too. Before I knew it, I’d measured everything out, mixed it all together and crumpet dough was sitting in front of the fire proving. Half an hour later it had doubled in size and I poured mounds of the mixture into a pan and proudly watched as tiny holes formed in the batter. My first batch of home made crumpets.

home made crumpets

Ok. So that’s not the whole story. It took me three attempts to perfect my home made crumpets. After my first fail, I considered writing to Gourmet to tell them that their recipe hadn’t worked. But I had kept the batter in the fridge overnight and tried to make the crumpets the next morning. So I reconsidered. Not one to simply give up, I decided to have a second try and this time make the crumpets without leaving the batter chilling overnight, but cook it straight after it had doubled in size. I didn’t have any egg rings though, so although my second batch of crumpets had the signature divots in their surface, they were quite flat and more like drop scones.

home made crumpets

With two trials under my belt, on the third go, I even impressed myself with the results. Using buttered egg rings to cook the batter in made a huge a difference and my home made crumpets were tall, fluffy and perfectly dimpled.  I flipped a couple over in the pan to brown the tops and immediately spread them with rather a lot of butter and twirlings of sticky honey. Delicious.

home made crumpets

It’s very comforting when someone is able to try something out for you and report back that whatever it was is easy. Straightforward. Uncomplicated. It makes you feel safe and gives you confidence. I am now able to do this and tell you that home made crumpets are easy. That the recipe in the magazine does work. That a non stick pan will make the process a lot easier. That egg rings aren’t vital, but they do make a taller crumpets. That from start to finish, making crumpets will take under and hour. And they freeze beautifully. So go on. Have a go. PS. Thea is under the impression that Vegemite is best on crumpets.

home made crumpets

Home made crumpets

Recipe by Sean McConnell from August 2015 edition of Gourmet Traveller

  • 7g dried yeast
  • 30g caster sugar
  • 30ml warm just above blood temperature water
  • 500g plain flour
  • 3 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 50g butter
  • 800ml milk

Combine the yeast, sugar and water in a bowl and leave to stand in a warm place for 15 minutes.

Combine the flour and bicarb in a large bowl.

Melt the butter in a pot with 200ml of the milk. When the butter has melted, add the remaining 600ml of milk and when the time is up, the yeast mixture.

Add the yeast and milk mixture to the flour mixture and stir to combine. Now leave this mixture in a warm place for about 30 minutes or until the batter has doubled in size.

Heat a non stick pan over a medium heat and pour the batter into buttered egg rings inside the pan. Cook for about 10 minutes until holes have appeared and the surface of the crumpet is set.

At this point, the crumpets can be stored for future use, either in the fridge or freezer or toasted right away, smothered in butter and honey and enjoyed.

How to make scrambled eggs

It happened at 7.10pm on Friday 26th July 2013. Two years ago today. Under bright lights, in a bustling room, with morphine coursing through my veins and Mark’s cheek pressed hard against mine. I became a mum. Even writing that sentence brings a lump to my throat. It’s a big deal becoming a parent. Your life is no longer your own, as the wellbeing of a tiny human becomes the centre of your universe. And Thea was tiny. 576g. That’s a little over two blocks of butter. As a cook, I always I think of it that way.how to make scrambled eggs

Tears were rolling down my face and my heart was sinking in my chest as Thea entered the world. Momentarily she was revealed to us, delicately cupped in latex covered hands, before being taken to the resuss team. 29 weeks was too early to be born, and at just over a pound she was incredibly small, even for her gestation. Yet, she cried out with reassuring kitten like screams. Mum, dad, I’m ok. I’m itty-bitty, but I’m ok.how to make scrambled eggs

Having a premature baby is an odd experience. Instead of holding my new bundle of joy on my chest, feeling delirious and exhausted, gazing at her with utter love and amazement as I had always imagined I would, I was able to have a fleeting glimpse of her propped on a little nest of carefully arranged turquoise sheets, inside a warm perspex box. Mark had cut her umbilical cord and told me how she had tightly gripped his little finger with all of hers. He had said that she was perfect. Absolutely beautiful. All I could see was a tiny, fragile looking creature whom I didn’t know how to care for. All of my motherly instincts were useless.

how to make scrambled eggs

After a few hours sleep, breakfast arrived on a tray, as it had done for the duration of my stay in hospital, an occurrence I remember now with fondness. Who doesn’t love breakfast in bed. Under a brown plastic cloche were scrambled eggs. A bland, solidified, pale yellow mound, swimming in a little pool of liquid on a white plate. I ate them, but without much gusto. I still wasn’t quite sure how to feel about having become a mother, but I stoically kept my smile in place. Everything would work out for the best. Two days later, I left hospital after my three and a bit week stay, relieved to be going home where I felt safe and away from all the constant monitoring. I was leaving my brand new daughter behind though and all of the careful preparations that I had made for her arrival; washed and folded newborn onesies, cot sheets with little blue clouds, a giraffe painted on the wall overlooking her cot, were redundant. A reminder of her absence. (Yes, I had made all these preparations, even so early on. I was so excited be having a baby and organising was a joy).

how to make scrambled eggs

For 12 weeks until Thea came home, I diligently returned to the hospital every day. To say it was easy would be a lie. I cried, I laughed, I hurt, I got angry, I was impatient and confused. The traffic to and fro drove me crazy. But I wouldn’t change the experience. Not for anything. In fact I’m thankful for it. I had the privilege of meeting Thea early. I was able to watch as her eyelashes and finger and toe nails grew (she was born without any). She reached a kilo in weight and I baked all the nurses a Chez Panisse chocolate cake to celebrate the milestone. She started to fit into tiny clothes that friends and family bought for her. We persevered together to master breastfeeding. Her wires and tubes became less. She became more and more beautiful every day. And she was alive. She wasn’t sick or injured. She was just small and growing, ready to come home. She gave me perspective and strength and a view on life that I would not otherwise have. I am grateful, humble and oh so proud to be her mum.

How to make scrambled eggs

For 2

  • 200ml cream
  • 4 eggs
  • 20g butter
  • pinch sea salt
  • non stick pan
  • silicon spatula

Crack the eggs into a bowl, add the cream and whisk gently to combine.

Melt the butter in a non stick pan over a medium heat. As soon as it’s liquid, add the egg mix and leave it to sit for about 10 seconds.

Using the spatula, go around the outside of the pan moving the egg that has set to the centre and then take the spatula through the centre of the egg mix, making sure to run it against the base of the pan. Do this a few times and then leave the eggs to sit for another 10 seconds, before repeating the process.

Remove the eggs from the heat before they are fully set as they will continue cooking as you portion them on to pieces of hot buttered toast. Season with a pinch of sea salt and enjoy.

If you liked how to make scrambled eggs, you might like this carbonara recipe.

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