beetroot risotto

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nourishfoodlife.com.auVeggies can taste incredibly different depending on how they’re prepared, and beetroot is a classic case in point. It can be boiled whole and pureed, then whipped into Chocolate Beetroot Muffins or delicious dips; it can be grated into Borscht; or paired with apple, coriander and mint for an amazing salad.

In this recipe, beetroot comes into its own with the addition of basil – the oh-so-delicious result of having an abundance of both beetroot and basil at point of harvest in my garden one summer.

Beetroot’s vibrant colour and rich, earthy flavour is enough reason to get to know it better. An added bonus is that it’s full of immune-boosting nutrients and essential minerals, and has blood-purifying qualities as well.

Beetroot Risotto – serves 4-6

  • 8 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 leek, finely sliced then rinsed (you can substitute one finely diced onion if you prefer)
  • 1 large beetroot
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 cups arborio rice
  • ¼ cup of white wine or verjuice
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • A handful of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • A handful of basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • Extra fresh herbs, to garnish

Pour the stock into a medium-sized saucepan and heat to a gentle simmer.

Scrub the beetroot, and peel if needed. Dice into 1 cm cubes.

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-based pan. Add the leek or onion to the large pot, along with the garlic, and sauté gently until the onion has softened. Add the beetroot and cook for a few minutes, taking care not to brown the onion.

Add the rice to the large pot and stir with a wooden spoon until all the rice is coated in oil and is a lovely pink colour. Add the wine or verjuice and stir through.

Use a soup ladle to add a ladleful hot stock to the rice, stirring all the while. As each ladleful of stock absorbs, add another, and continue like this until the rice is tender.

Remove the pan from the heat while there is still a bit of soupy liquid left in the pan, as this will continue to absorb on standing.

Add the cheese, basil and parsley to the risotto and gently mix well to combine. Sprinkle with the extra herbs and serve at once on warmed plates.

 

 

caramelised fennel with lentils

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nourishfoodlife.com.au

Spring has well and truly arrived to the Adelaide Hills. The fruit trees that have stood bare all winter are now adorned in their blossomy gowns, sending out their petals on the gentlest breeze and scattering them like confetti. The sunshine is warm and delicious while the sun’s high; in the early evenings, a chill still sets into the air, and we know we’ll enjoy a few more nights yet with the fire roaring.

It’s at this exquisite time of year that fennel makes its appearance in the garden, and it’s as if mother nature created it with these golden days and frosty nights in mind. Raw, it’s crunchy, fresh aniseed flavour is delicious finely sliced into a fresh salad of raw greens and segments of late winter orange. But roasted to caramelised perfection it makes the ultimate warming comfort dish, lending itself perfectly to this hearty lentil base.

The lentil part of the dish is adapted from one I learnt from Simon Bryant, one of our local Adelaide food celebrities, of The Cook & The Chef TV series fame, and author of Vegies. I think Simon’s just awesome because one, he creates incredible recipes that let plant foods shine in their own right; two, he’s got a great ethical conscience around food and its production; three, he genuinely cares about the health of kids and young people; and four, when I summoned my courage and invited him to join us for the launch of one of the kitchen garden programs I am involved in, he said yes without hesitation, AND showed up, despite hills weather so dark and wintery it was as if the sun had forgotten to rise.

Like I said, he’s awesome. And you’ll think so too, once you’ve tasted these lentils.

With Maggie & Simon at our kitchen garden launch (thanks N. Mullins for the pic!)

With Maggie Beer & Simon at our kitchen garden launch (thanks N. Mullins for the pic!)

Caramelised Fennel with Lentils – serves 4-6

  • 2 large fennel bulbs
  • 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 300g puy or french-style lentils
  • few sprigs thyme, tied into a bunch with kitchen string
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 tsp sea or river salt flakes, plus extra for sprinkling (if using fine salt crystals you’ll need much less)
  • 1/4 cup verjuice (or white wine)

Preheat oven to 200°C

Trim the fennel, and cut the bulbs into quarters lengthways. Remove the cores, then cut the rest into 1.5 cm strips. Put into a colander and rinse under cold water, to remove any traces of soil that may have been caught between the fennel’s inner layers.

Drain the fennel well, then place into a large baking dish. Toss through 3 tbsp of the olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and pop into the oven. Bake until well caramelised, opening the oven door now and then to let out the steam. Don’t worry if some of the ends of the fennel strips start to blacken ever so slightly – these little bits are just delicious!

Once the fennel is in the oven, place a large saucepan over medium heat and add the remaining oil. Sauté onion until soft and translucent, then add the garlic. Cook to soften.

Add the water to the pan to cool it, then pour in the lentils. Toss in the thyme and bay leaves and stir the whole lot together. Cover, bring to the boil then simmer gently until the lentils are tender but not mushy, and the liquid has reduced.

Remove the thyme and bay leaves, then stir in the sea salt and verjuice.

Serve immediately topped with strips of caramelised fennel.

 

my new favourite seed crackers

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nourishfoodlife.com.auDo you ever come across a recipe that is so simple to make, so delicious to eat, and so nourishing for your body that all it takes is to make it just once for it to put down its roots in your kitchen and become a pantry staple? That’s how this recipe was for me when I first made it some weeks back. Now find myself whipping up a batch every few days or so, spreading them with creamy avocado and a squeeze of lemon, dipping them into soups, serving them up with scrambled eggs and popping them into lunch boxes.

I love that these little crackers are high in protein and fibre, low in carbs and full of nourishing micronutrients.

The recipe is by the very talented Sarah Britton, who named them The Life Changing Crackers. Now that I’m hooked I can see why she did!  As I’ve been making them true to her recipe, I’ll send you over here to get it. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

 

kale & potato soup

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kale & potato soup nourishfoodlife.com.auYou have probably all heard by now about the wonderful health benefits of eating kale. But how do we get kids to eat it happily? When I first introduced this soup to the kitchen garden kids a few years back I was a little apprehensive. I hadn’t been working with them long and knew that the general consensus amongst kids was that green things were to be avoided at all costs. It was to my delight then that I found them lined up across the room waiting for seconds. How did that happen?!

The obvious reason is that it tastes great, but there’s something else going on too. Part of the secret to creating an environment where kids are willing to try new foods is to remove all pressure of exactly that – trying new foods – and to engage the child’s natural sense of curiosity.

In my classes with kids, I do have some expectations. I expect that they participate in both the cooking and the cleaning up. At the table, I expect that they use basic good manners – passing plates around rather than leaning across the table, waiting until everyone is seated before we start eating, listening quietly when someone else is talking – but I never expect them to eat the food. I do ask, however, that they serve at least a tiny bit of everything onto their plate, out of respect for the people who made it. If they don’t want to eat it, I tell them, that’s no big deal, they can quietly scrape the food into the chooks’ bucket at the end of the meal. Once the pressure is taken away, you would be amazed how many kids will be unable to resist a teensy taste, once their curiosity gets the better of them. Sometimes they’ll even eat it all. Repeat this experience enough times and next thing you know, you have a room full of kids happily eating their greens.

Instead of actively trying to encourage our children to accept different foods, it’s so much more productive (and enjoyable!) to sit back and travel the journey of discovery with them. I can tell you from my own experience, and from the feedback from parents of the kids I teach, that it really does lead to acceptance of a wider range of healthy foods.

This recipe is by Deborah Madison, and uses loads of immune boosting garlic, creamy potatoes and a pinch of chilli to give a warm tingle at the back of the throat. Oh, and don’t leave the chilli out because you think the kids won’t like it. Try it first. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Kale & Potato Soup – Serves 4-6

  • 1 bunch kale (you can use any variety, but I have to warn you, Red Russian will give you a pretty awful, swampy colour)
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 small red chilli, or ½ tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 medium potatoes, scrubbed and diced
  • 1.75 litres water or unsalted stock
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Using a sharp knife, remove the kale leaves from their stems and cut them into pieces roughly 5cm square. Wash well and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a soup pot, add the onion, garlic, chilli, bay leaf and salt, and cook over medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the potatoes and 1 cup of the water or stock. Stir together, cover and cook for about 5 minutes.

Add the kale and the rest of the water, and bring to the boil. Simmer, covered, until the potatoes are soft.

Puree using the stick blender. Taste the soup, and add more salt if need, plus a generous grinding of black pepper (If you’re using water, a scant teaspoon of salt should be just about right).

Serve with a dollop of crème fraiche, sour cream or natural yoghurt if desired.

 

 

spinach & ricotta filo rolls

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nourishfoodlife.com.auThere are some recipes that are firm favourites with the kids in my kitchen garden cooking classes, and this is one of them. These little filo pastry rolls tick all the boxes when I’m choosing what to make with them: they’re simple enough for the kids to make but still tricky enough to keep them happily engaged, they are filled with green goodness from the garden and, most importantly, the kids love to eat them. Give them enough dishes like this to try, and before you know it they will be telling you they love spinach! It’s a delight to watch how carefully the kids handle the delicate filo pastry, the concentration given to master the folding and rolling and how proud they are of their efforts at the end.

Of course there are never any leftovers at when we make them school, but at home, they make a great lunch box addition too.

Spinach & Ricotta Rolls (makes 20)

  • 1 small bunch spinach (silverbeet or rainbow chard will do just as well)
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 brown onion, finely diced
  • 3 small garlic cloves, crushed
  • 250 g fresh ricotta
  • 150 g feta, crumbled
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 10 sheets filo pastry, cut in half to make 20 long rectangular sheets

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.

Heat a little of the oil in a large frying pan over a medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring until soft. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for a further 30 seconds or so.

Wash the spinach and cut down both sides of the stems. Discard stems. Finely chop the leaves and add to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally until the spinach has wilted.

Meanwhile, place the ricotta, feta, nutmeg and pepper into a bowl and mix together. Add the spinach mixture, discarding any liquid that may be left in the bottom of the pan, and stir to combine.

Unwrap the pastry and place on a clean work surface. Cover with a clean, dry tea towel, followed by a damp tea towel, to keep pastry from drying out. Take one sheet of pastry and lay it down with the shortest side closest to you. Brush the sheet with olive oil.

Spread a tablespoonful of the mixture evenly along the narrow end of the pastry, about a centimeter from the edge. Fold the end of the pastry over the mixture, then fold the long edges in about a centimeter and roll up gently. Place seam side down on the tray. Repeat with the remaining pastry and filling.

When all the rolls are done, give them a light brush with olive oil then pop them into the oven for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

lemon slice

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lemon slice - nourishfoodlife.com.au

About once a term, the kids in my kitchen garden cooking classes come into the kitchen to find dessert on the menu along with the usual veggie-based dishes. Being winter there are plenty of lemons to play with, so when dessert week came around this term I decided to indulge them with Stephanie Alexander’s deliciously sweet and tangy Lemon Slice. It’s a fun recipe to make, in that it’s baked in two separate layers, but it comes out looking more like three; crumbly and biscuity at the bottom, cakey on the top, and lusciously gooey in the middle. Magic!

Lemon Slice – makes about 16 squares

  • 75 g plain flour plus 3 tbsp
  • 65 g cold butter, roughly chopped, plus extra for greasing
  • 1 cup caster sugar plus 2 tbsp
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • icing sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 160°C. Butter a 18 cm x 18 cm baking dish and line with baking paper.

Put the 75 g flour, the butter and 2 tbsp of the caster sugar into a food processor, if you have one, and whizz until it starts to form a ball. If you don’t have a food processor you can use your fingers to rub the butter through the dry ingredients, then gradually work into a smooth dough.

Press the dough into the tin with your fingers, then bake for 20 minutes or until golden.

When the base is nearly cooked, whisk the eggs and remaining sugar until well mixed but not thick. Stir in the lemon juice, then sift in the remaining 3 tbsp flour and whisk gently to combine.

Remove the base from the oven and reduce the temperature to 150°C. Pour the lemon mixture over the base then bake for another 35 minutes or until the top is golden and is springy to touch.

Allow to cool completely before cutting into squares and dusting with icing sugar.

green tomato chutney

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green tomato chutney - nourishfoodlife.com.au

At this time of year, if you still have tomato bushes in the garden, there’s a good chance they are holding onto a few green tomatoes that are never destined to ripen. Rather than toss them onto the compost heap, you can turn them into a delicious, spicy chutney instead. This recipe has evolved in my kitchen from one by Sophia Young. As I tend work with the ingredients that I have on hand, I have used red onion for the chutney that you see in the photograph. Using brown onion instead will give you a greener Green Tomato Chutney, which is lovely too.

Green Tomato Chutney

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
1 small red chilli, finely chopped or ¼ teaspoon red chilli flakes
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon sea salt
100g caster sugar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
4 large green tomatoes (or equivalent), cut into quarters then thinly sliced

Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the onions, mustard seeds, chilli, allspice and sea salt and cook until the onion has softened and become translucent.

Add sugar, vinegar and tomatoes and cook for a further 10 minutes or until tomatoes are soft. Allow to cool before serving.

glazed jerusalem artichokes

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glazed jerusalem artichokes - nourishfoodlife.com.au

Today I’m sharing a recipe by Stephanie Alexander, one of my food heroes. Her passionate dedication to her vision for a country where children grow up connected to the sources of their food by learning how to grow, harvest, prepare and share delicious food, has led to the establishment of Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program in hundreds of schools around Australia. You can read the whole story here. In many ways it is thanks to her and the success of her program, that I am able to earn my living doing something I love – teaching children how to cook, using the gorgeous, organic produce that they’ve grown in their school gardens.

Sometimes, I have to pinch myself. I remember some years ago, standing in a bookshop, babe on hip, wistfully poring over the pages of Stephanie’s first book on the subject, Kitchen Garden Cooking with Kids. At that time, I remember thinking what a wonderful idea it was, how inspired I felt flicking through the pages, and how hard it was to put it back on the shelf.

I loved that the program sought to create kitchens in schools that looked and felt like home rather than the sterile home economics rooms of yesteryear, that food acceptance was taught through positive experience and pleasure, not food pyramids, and that food labels such as healthy or unhealthy, good or bad were thrown away in favour of words like fragrant, juicy, sweet and slippery. When you are cooking from the garden, it’s all good! It resonated deeply with my own beliefs about kids and food and I wanted more.

Fast forward a few years, we are looking at high school options for that little babe, and each day that I go to work I find myself right there amongst the pages of that book (figuratively speaking!). At the time, I would have been happy just to have taken the book home – I never dreamt that it would become something that I live and breathe every day.

So these days, part of my job (along with working with gorgeous children and passionate, awesome adults) is to design menus based on what’s ready to harvest from the garden. Jerusalem artichokes are one of those vegetables that, once planted, reward the gardener with an abundant harvest year after year. The problem for many people is knowing what to do with them all. I have used the basic recipe shown here with lots of different vegetables over the years, and they are always a winner with the kitchen garden kids. Thanks Stephanie!

Glazed Jerusalem Artichokes
Serves 4

500g jerusalem artichokes
2L water
pinch salt
40 g of butter
2 teaspoons caster sugar
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 fresh bay leaf
Several sprigs of parsley
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Give the jerusalem artichokes a good scrub with a veggie brush, then, using a vegetable peeler, remove any darkened or rough patches that may be left on the surface. Chop into 2cm pieces.

Boil the water, turn down to a simmer, then carefully drop in the artichokes, along with a pinch of salt. Simmer for 3-5 minutes.

Heat butter and sugar in a sauté pan or wide-based saucepan over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Stir with the wooden spoon to ensure mixture doesn’t stick to pan.

Tip in artichokes and shake to coat with the syrupy liquid. Add stock and bay leaf, then cover and simmer for around 10 minutes.

Test artichokes with a skewer.  If tender, remove lid, increase heat to high and shake pan so the liquid evaporates, coating everything with the golden sauce.

Season with pepper and sprinkle with chopped parsley before serving.

spinach & herb risotto

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spinach & herb risotto - nourishfoodlife.com.au

Risotto is one of those dishes that is really worth mastering. There are so many different variations that you can make, with just a few pantry staples and some fresh produce from the garden. For some reason, many people think that risotto is difficult to make, but it doesn’t have to be. The most common mistake I see people make with risotto is taking it off the heat when they think it looks about the right consistency. As the liquid continues to absorb for a while afterwards, by the time it gets to the table it is gluggy, thick and not very appealing, thus reinforcing the belief that risotto is hard to make. But take it off the heat while it’s still a little soupy, and by the time you are ready to eat it will be perfect!

Spinach & Herb Risotto
Serves 4

8 cups vegetable stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
Small bunch of spinach
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 cups arborio rice
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
A handful of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Few sprigs of oregano, leaves roughly chopped

Put the stock into a saucepan and heat to just below a gentle simmer.

While it’s heating, wash the spinach and remove the stems. Place the leaves into a metal colander which has been placed in the sink, then pour a kettleful of boiling water over it to blanch. Refresh with cold water.

Now pop the spinach into food processor and whizz to a puree. Alternatively, you can chop the spinach very finely. Set the spinach aside.

Next, heat the olive oil in a large, heavy based pan, and add the onion and garlic. Stir with a wooden spoon and gently cook until the onion becomes translucent.

Add the rice to the large pot and stir with the wooden spoon until all the rice is coated in oil.

Using a soup ladle, add a ladleful hot stock to the rice, and stir continuously. As the liquid is absorbed, keep adding the stock, a ladle at a time, until all the liquid is used up and the rice has softened to al dente. This will take around 20 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat while there is still a little more liquid around the rice than you think you need. This will continue to absorb.

Just before serving, gently stir through the pureed spinach, parmesan and herbs. Serve at once on warmed plates, sprinkled with extra parmesan and/or parsley if desired.

 

silverbeet & herb damper

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silverbeet & herb damper - nourishfoodlife.com.auSilverbeet is one of the best veggies to let run wild in your veggie patch. The colourful varieties of silverbeet, known collectively as rainbow chard, add vibrant splashes of pink, orange and yellow to the garden. It takes very little care and can be used in so many different ways. Silverbeet and spinach can easily be exchanged in recipes, and, once blanched, it shreds up so finely that it’s a great way to get some more greens into fussy eaters.

Damper is a quick, scone-like bread that is easy to whip up to serve with soups in autumn & winter, so I’ve got a few variations that I make with kids in their school kitchen garden programs. The secret to a light and fluffy damper is to avoid over-kneading the dough – which can be somewhat challenging for young cooks!

rainbow chard - www.nourishfoodlife.com.au

Silverbeet & Herb Damper

3 ½ cups self-raising flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp caster sugar
40g butter
½ cup milk, plus extra for brushing
1 ¼ cups water, approximately
3 silverbeet leaves
½ cup grated cheese
A handful of parsley
A few sprigs of oregano

Preheat the oven to 220C. Wash the silverbeet and remove stems. Place in a colander over the sink, and pour a kettleful of boiling water over it to blanch it.

Using tongs, place the silverbeet into a potato ricer, if you have one, and squeeze to remove all excess moisture. Otherwise, leave in the colander and try to drain away as much water as possible.

Turn out onto a chopping board and shred finely.

Wash the herbs and remove all the leaves. Discard stems, and chop leaves finely.

Sift flour, salt and sugar into a large bowl and rub in butter.

Mix in silverbeet, cheese and herbs.

Stir in milk and enough water to mix (you may not need the whole 1 ¼ cups) into a sticky dough.

Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until just smooth.

Divide dough in half and place halves onto greased oven trays. Shape into rounds, and with a large knife, mark the rounds into 8 wedges.

Brush dough with a little extra milk.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden. Serve at once.

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