Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ginger, coconut & ricotta pancakes with banana & honeycomb

I lazily awoke to the chimes of the Church bells, echoing through the trees to remind all those who heard that this morning belonged to Sunday. It wouldn't be long before the sounds of bicycle bells and children's laughter filled the streets or the whir of a lawn mower began; for a supposed day of rest everyone seems to be up to something.

For me, Sundays are Pancake Days. My morning begins later than most; I won't rise on a Sunday until the Sun has been up for at least a few hours, sending its golden arms throughout my home to dust even the coolest of corners with dazzling warmth. After a mini facial and stretch session to rival that of a cat's, I saunter into the kitchen, putting the water on to boil as I unhurriedly gather my pancake ingredients. With a few tips of the hand, whirls of the whisk and melting of butter, I happily spoon unctuous oatmeal-coloured dollops into the pan and serenely sip my cup of tea whilst I listen to them sizzle softly as I gaze out the kitchen window to watch the leaves quiver in the wind.

With the final pancake placed atop its tower, adorned with its necklace of creamy banana slices and its gleaming honeyed crown, I call out to my husband to awake from his lengthened slumber - his breakfast awaits.

Ginger, coconut & ricotta pancakes
serves 2-3, makes 6 pancakes

1 cup wholemeal spelt flour
1.5tsp ground ginger
2tsp baking powder
2tbs caster sugar
1/2 cup decimated coconut
2 eggs
200g ricotta
1.25 cup milk (add more if mixture is too thick).
1tsp vanilla extract

fresh banana and honeycomb to serve

Sift the flour, baking powder, ginger & sugar into a bowl. Stir in the cocounte and make a well int he center. Add the combined eggs, ricotta and milk. Mix until smooth.

Heat a frying pan over a low heat and grease lightly with a little butter. Pour 1/3cup of batter into the pan and swirl gently to create an even pancake. Cook until bubbles appear on the surface, then flip and cook for another minute or until golden. Repeat to use up batter.

Stack three pancakes onto each plate and top with sliced banana and honey.

ease: 4.5/5.
prep time: 5mins.
cooking time: 15mins to cook 6 pancakes.
total: 20mins.

taste: 4/5. Fluffy dreams, with a hint of the tropical and touch of spice.

In the photo above, I used regular flour as I was all out of wholemeal spelt, but they are lovely with either flour. I wasn't sure whether I would enjoy the ricotta cakes paired with warm ginger and chewy coconut, but I was pleasantly surprised. When topped with fresh banana and sweet honeycomb, these pancakes are rather delicious in an unexpected way. 

would I make it again: Yes.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Smoked salmon, bread & avocado salad

Tired of being held prisoner by the unseasonably cold weather, we reached for jackets puffed with fleece and insulation whilst thick scarves coiled around our necks in knots and loops. Satisfied that our armour would hold out again the bitter chill of the biting wind and the dampness of the side-walk, we clasped hands and braved the elements.

We marvelled at the first Autumn leaves to let go of their greeness to sashay down to slumber upon the ground and at the silvery remains of a snail's nightly journey recently taken. It wasn't long before we stumbled upon a tiny dandelion meadow, one small patch of grass brimming with downy orbs. Unable to resist, we each plucked one from the soil and made a wish before closing our eyes and parting our lips to blow. Upon opening our eyes we were dismayed to see that each of our stems still contained one achene yet to take flight. So we chose another and tried again but were once more left with a single stubborn seed. So we tried again and again before a touch of dizziness caused us to admit defeat and head home, leaving our wishes un-wished.

After returning home, pink cheeked and rejuvenated, I thought back to our dandelion-endeavour and a new strategy formed in my mind; tomorrow, we would each wish on a flower together, and with our combined breath, I am sure we would succeed in sending each parachute to flight with our wishes.

Smoked salmon, bread and avocado salad
serves 2
adapted from this Donna Hay recipe

1 avocado, quartered
150g smoked salmon slices
200g wild rocket (arugula) leaves
4 slices crusty bread, toasted

red onion dressing:
1/3cup 80ml lemon juice
2 teaspoons caster (superfine) sugar
1/2cup (125ml) olive oil
1/4 red onion, finely chopped
sea salt and cracked black pepper

To make the red onion dressing, place the lemon juice and sugar in a bowl and whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Add the oil, onion, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Set aside.

Divide the trout, rocket, avocado and bread between plates and spoon over the red onion dressing to serve.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 10mins.
total: 10mins.

taste: 4.5/5 - as rated by the husband.

I can't comment on the overall flavour as I am sure the salmon plays a large part. As far as the rest goes, the dressing is lovely, although I find raw onion a touch strong for me, but all in all it's a nice dish.

would I make it again: Yes, since hubby enjoys it so.

Friday, March 18, 2011


I nervously exited the car to stand on a dusty dirt road that lead to a court of limestone townhouses, sunset-coloured flowers cascading over wrought iron balconies with large wooden doors beneath. We had arrived at Malta airport not long before, and after a quick change of clothes, a spritz of perfume and a lashing of lip-gloss we were on our way to visit my husband's relatives, the first stop on our list was his Grandmother's home.

We had been together for four years, and were officially on our honeymoon. When planning our itinerary we included a short stopover in Malta so that I could finally meet my husband's entire family for the first time, therefore you can imagine the state of my nerves as I stood in that court, about to begin the introductions. As my husband raised his hand and knocked three times on her door I could feel my stomach somersault as if it were auditioning for the circus. The moment that door swung open however, I barely had a second to utter a 'hello' before being pulled into two overjoyed arms. There was a flurry of hugs, kisses, face holding and tear-stained smiles before we were led straight to the kitchen to be fed, afterall, we 'looked very thin and in need of a good meal'.

It was in this kitchen, a million miles from home, filled with the loving faces of my husband's cheerful relatives that I was first introduced to the Maltese sandwich known as Ftira. Back then I still consumed fish so Nana Lela had made it especially for me and watched eagerly as I took my first bite. Needless to say that was the first of many as I consumed enough portions to satisfyingly feed all three of my partner's uncles who were standing nearby. Despite feeling like a glutton afterwards, Nana Lela told me to keep eating so I could put more meat on my bones. I just smiled, reminded of my own Grandmother back home. No matter what country you come from, there is always a Grandmother trying to fatten you up.

serves 2

2 Turkish bread rolls
2x small tins of tuna in olive oil
1/4 red onion, chopped
2tbs tomato paste, or to taste
2tbs olive pate, or chopped kalamata olives
dried mint, to taste

Slice loaves in half. Spread 1/2tbs tomato paste on each half of the loaves. Then add half a tin of tuna, 1tbs olive paste, onion and dried mint to one half of each loaf. Top with remaining halves and enjoy.

ease: 5/5.
prep time: 8mins.
total: 8mins.

taste: 4/5. One helluva Maltese sandwich.

My single food memory of Malta consists of this sandwich, in fact, as soon as I arrived home I tried to recreate it immediately. It's nowhere near as good as Nana Lela's, but it's still pretty darn tasty :).

The tangy tomato, acidic onions, briny olives and sweet, cool mint combine beautifully with the oil bathed tuna.

would I make it again: Yes, it's a weekly lunch regular.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Vanilla bean rice pudding with poached rhubarb

The butterfly is a flying flower,
The flower a tethered butterfly.
~Ponce Denis Écouchard Lebrun

It seems the strange Summer just past has awoken more butterflies than I have ever seen. Even a brief sojourn outside has me greeting dozens of curious, but cautious butterflies, blithely flitting from one spot to another, occasionally fluttering so close that I can feel the breeze from their amber coloured wings kiss my cheek. No matter how lost in thought I am, a butterfly will always bring me to the present and instil in me the wide-eyed wonderment of a child.

It is during these fleeting moments of radiating sunlight that I take my breaks to walk amongst the butterflies, before the oppressive clouds smother the sky and empty their pails of water. After one such intermission I craved something to warm the damp from my bones after a particularly chilling and rain-sodden end to my walk.

I wanted something I could cradle in my hands, simple but nourishing and delicious. To me, a bowl of steaming rice pudding is filled with childhood nostalgia and comfort, the perfect antidote for weary bones.

Vanilla Bean Rice Pudding with Poached Rhubarb
Adapted from Vogue E+T Seasonal Kitchen
Serves 2-3

350ml pouring cream
150ml milk
75g Aborio rice
½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped
2tbs vanilla sugar, or to taste

Poached rhubarb
½ cup caster sugar (I also used vanilla sugar here)
½ vanilla bean, seeds scraped
5-6 medium stalks rhubarb, cut into 3-4cm lengths

For the rice pudding, place cream, milk, rice and vanilla bean and seeds in a medium saucepan. Bring to the boil over medium heat and then reduce heat to low and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the rice is tender. Add sugar to taste. Discard vanilla pod and set aside for rice to absorb excess liquid.

In the meantime, dissolve sugar in ¾ cup of water and bring to the boil. Add vanilla seeds. Add rhubarb and cook for 6-8 minutes or until rhubarb is tender but keeping its shape. Remove rhubarb with a slotted spoon and set aside. Turn the heat up to high and boil remaining liquid until a syrup forms.

To serve, divide rice mixture among 2-3 bowls, top with rhubarb and spoon over the rhubarb syrup.  

ease: 4.5/5.
prep time: 10mins.
cooking time: 20mins.
total: 30mins.

taste: 5/5. A bowl of unctuous heaven. 
I was literally swooning with pleasure after a spoonful of creamy vanilla shaded sweetness with the comfort of milk and an almost white chocolate edge - words can't describe the pure joy this rice brought.
When paired with the tart cerise rhubarb and the lolly-esque syrup it brought from the realm of childhood delight to adult deliciousness. Yum.

The only modification I made was to use vanilla sugar instead of regular. I also chose to add 2 tablespoons of sugar to the rice.

At first I thought it was only enough for two serves, but the rice is actually quite filling so it is definitely enough for three

WARNING: Eat IMMEDIATELY. This does not eat well cold (it becomes too hard), and cannot be reheated as the butter separates from the rice.


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Raspberry & creme fraiche tart with lavender honey

I have watched the clock tick over as I sat here wondering how to begin. A long absence has spun cobwebs in my brain and remembering how to write and how to begin feels like learning to walk after months spent in bed; incredibly foreign and daunting.

Perhaps I should start by way of explanation; I was not the cause of the extended break in transmission, rather an error on behalf of our internet provider is where the blame solely lies. What was meant to be two weeks without the information highway whilst we upgraded our plan, turned into over six weeks, making me feel as though I was shut away in some cabin in the middle of nowhere, against my will.
At first I struggled with the lack of email, weather checking, blog reading and Facebook updates, but eventually, as with everything, I became accustomed to my technologically-reduced life. So accustomed in fact, that when my husband informed me the internet had finally been restored, it didn't even cross my mind to check my email, as I couldn't even remember I had one as I had instead kept in touch with friends and family by phone only for those six weeks. I had to rack my brain to remember which sites I liked to visit and what I needed to perhaps, catch up on.

Which also explains my tentative return to blogging, attempted only after my husband asked me, 'so when are you going to start blogging again?'

So I have begun with a recipe that I made and photographed during the pre-blackout era, and I will endeaveour to get back into the swing of things and resume my regular weekly posts as well as catching up on all of the lovely blogs I follow as quickly as possible.

Have you taken a break this year, whether voluntary or due to circumstance?

Raspberry & creme fraiche tart with lavender honey
adapted from

For crust:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
100g cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 large egg

For filling:

200g cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup crème fraiche
3 1/2 tablespoons lavender honey
4 cups raspberries

Make crust:
Pulse together all crust ingredients in a food processor just until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Put tart pan on a baking sheet and press dough evenly onto bottom and up side of tart pan with your fingertips. Chill shell, covered, on baking sheet until firm, about 30 minutes.

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 170°C. Line shell with a buttered sheet of heavy-duty foil (buttered side down) and fill shell one third of the way up with pie weights.

Bake (on sheet) until edge is pale golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Carefully remove pie weights and foil, then bake until edge and bottom are golden, about 20 minutes more. Cool completely in pan on a rack.

Make filling:
Beat cream cheese in a bowl with a handheld electric mixer at high speed until smooth, then add crème fraiche and 1 1/2 tablespoons honey and beat until combined well. Spread filling evenly in shell, then top with raspberries. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons honey in a very small saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring constantly, until liquefied, then drizzle over raspberries. Serve with additional melted honey on the side.

ease: 4.5/5.
prep time: 38mins.
cooking time: 30mins for pastry shells.
total: 1 hour & 8mins.

taste: 3.5/5. Fresh & simple with a touch of luxury.

I chose to add all the honey to the cream mixture (which I doubled - also used equal parts creme fraiche to cream cheese). Despite using a lavender honey I couldn't really taste the lavender, instead I would sprinkle lavender buds to increase the lavender flavour if you wish.
I made four mini tarts. I did find that the crust was a little on the tough side and I had to use some force to cut into it. Aside from that the fresh, tart raspberries work well with the sweet, luxurious cream and buttery crust.

would I make it again: No - although the flavour combo is lovely, hubby isn't a fan of tarts unless they are super amazing.