Cinnamon and maple toasted muesli

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My latest food obsession is with cinnamon. I can’t get enough of it. This ancient spice keeps finding ways into my cooking. I love it because it sweetens any thing it touches, not with a sugary sweetness, but with a spicy sweetness. Recently, i found out cinnamon is good for digestion. So, last week, when nearing the end of my home made muesli, I vowed to make a cinnamon inspired version, and here it is.

 

Once you’ve made your own muesli you’ll never return to the boring supermarket varieties. This toasted muesli recipe using another favourite ingredient of mine – pure maple syrup.  It’s a little expensive, but is a great sweetening alternative to highly processed sugar. It must be 100% pure maple syrup, not an imitation.

 

So a small amount of butter, a large pinch of cinnamon and a few glugs of 100% maple syrup make up the special rub to coat the rolled oats. Then it’s lots of nuts. The nuts can be substituted with any of your favourites. My choices are macadamia, pecan and almond, and if I’d remembered, I would of also included hazelnuts. Add some seeds – I’ve used pepitas and sunflower, rub it all together  and toast it in the oven for 10-12 minutes.

 

My final flourish, when the muesli has cooled, is adding some chopped fresh medjool dates. I think of them as fat, caramel sweets, they work perfectly with the cinnamon and the maple syrup. If you really want to set the bar high, try it with caramalised banana, and as with all muesli, finish with a dollop of yoghurt.

 

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A word of warning – this muesli is highly addictive.

 

Cinnamon and maple muesli

Ingredients
1kg rolled oats
100g (3/4 cup) cup pecan nuts
100g (3/4 cup) slivered almonds
100g (2/3 cup) macadamia nuts
70g (1/2 cup) sunflower seeds
70g (3/4 cup) pepitas
100g butter
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/3 cup maple syrup

 

Pre heat oven to 190C or 170C fan forced. Lightly crush the macadamia and pecan nuts. Place them in a large bowl with the almonds, pepitas, sunflower seeds and rolled oats.

 

Place butter and cinnamon in a small pan, heat till butter melts, then stir through the maple syrup. Pour cinnamon mix over oats and nuts and rub between your hands till all the oats are coated and the cinnamon mix is evenly distributed.

 

Line three large trays with baking paper. Spread the muesli over the trays and bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes, stirring once half way through baking. Allow to cool. Place toasted muesli in a large bowl.

 

Halve medjool dates and remove pip. Cut into a small dice. Toss dates through cooled toasted muesli. Store muesli in an air tight container for up to two months.

Pork and fennel meatballs

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There’s a bakery here in Sydney called Bourke street bakery. It’s become an institution with Sydney siders for their excellent bread, yummy baked tarts, and their delicious sausage rolls. My favourite is the pork and fennel. And inspiration for this recipe comes from this excellent combination of pork mince and fennel seed. I love fennel seeds. For a tiny seed, they pack a punch of flavour.  A little heat helps release the aniseed taste, which disperses through the mince, and imparts a soft, sweet fennel flavour. If you’ve never experimented with them here’s your chance.

 

As you’ll see in the recipe, the meatballs are actually half pork mince and half veal mince. This is what the Italians use when making meatballs. This is the real thing. Now a word of advice. Don’t be tempted to  substitute the veal mince for beef mince. The flavour of beef mince just doesn’t compare. Also, buy your mince from a butcher not a supermarket. A butcher tends to grind their mince on a coarser setting than a supermarket does. Coarser ground mince is what you need for a good meatball.

 

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Yum, I’m getting hungry! On to the methodical task of rolling the meatballs. Next a fast red wine sauce, and a quick cooking time of about 15 minutes.When it’s time to eat, I serve them with fettuccine or linguini. But you could also serve them with mash potato, or if you’re feeling adventurous, and want to fancy up the meal, soft polenta with any steamed green would also be delicious. There’s no right or wrong way to serve them, as long as they’re hot and fresh and straight from the pan.

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Pork and fennel meatballs

For the meatballs

250g pork mince

250g veal mince

1 red onion, diced

2 tsp fennel seeds

2 cloves garlic, grated

½ cup bread crumbs

1 egg

For the sauce

¾ cup red wine

700g jar passata (see note below)

2 cloves garlic, grated

1 tsp sugar

salt, pepper

Glug extra virgin olive oil

To serve

fettuccine or linguini

chopped parsley

 

Place both minces in a large bowl. Heat a small fry pan with 1 tbsp oil; add onions and fennel seeds and cook gently for 3 minutes. Place onions in bowl with mince; add garlic, bread crumbs, egg, salt and pepper. Use your hands to squish and squeeze the mince till well combined. Roll meatballs into 2cm diameter balls and place on a tray.

 

 Place red wine in a medium pan and bring to the boil. Reduce by half. Add passatta, garlic, rosemary, sugar and extra virgin olive oil. Bring to the boil, season with salt and pepper and turn off the heat.

 

 Heat a large fry pan with 1 tbsp vegetable oil. Place meatballs in pan and seal on all sides (3-4 minutes). Add red wine sauce to meatballs, cover with a lid and simmer meatballs gently in sauce for about 10 minutes.

 

Meanwhile, cook pasta in plenty of salted, boiling water till just al dente. Drain pasta. Divide between bowls, ladel meatballs on top of pasta and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

 

Note – Passata is a smooth, pureed tomato sauce. Keep a bottle stocked in the pantry at all times. It’s great for a quick pasta sauce.

Zucchini and red lentil soup

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Soup is the perfect meal. It’s warm, nourishing and easy to prepare.

 

Soup can be eaten all year long. In winter I eat hearty soups like pea and ham cooked with smoked pork bones or Moroccan lamb and lentil. In spring I eat chicken broths and Vietnamese pho. In summer I enjoy light vegetable broths and when Autumn hits I tend towards rich minestrones and thick vegetable soups.

 

This zucchini and red lentil soup is a staple in my kitchen at any time of year. I love it for it’s simplicity. The vegetable components of the soup, the onion, garlic, ginger and zucchini are all grated, for quick easy preparation. Turmeric and cumin flavour the soup with a simple Indian flavour and the red lentils cook to a soft consistency.  And the best part – there’s no blending!

 

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For the zucchini, you’ll need a grater with a coarse grating side to it. If you don’t have one, it’s a great tool to own. I coarsely grate zucchini for my stir-fry, my risotto, and my pasta dishes. It’s a quick way of getting a green vegetable into a meal with out fiddly slicing and dicing. The ginger and garlic are easily grated on a microplane grater – a fantastic tool to have in the draw.

 

The best way to finish this soup is with a dollop of yoghurt. I tend to use a “Greek style” yoghurt as my all rounder, though natural yoghurt does the job too.  A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a sprinkle of fresh herb, a dollop of yoghurt, it’s the prefect finish to this beautiful vegetable soup. Enjoy!

 

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Zucchini and red lentil soup

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive or grape seed oil

1 onion, grated and squeezed lightly

2 tbsp grated ginger

4 cloves garlic, grated

2 tsp turmeric

2 tsp ground cumin

1 ¼ cups red lentils

2 ltr vegetable stock

Cracked black pepper

3 zucchini

2 tbsp chopped coriander stem

To serve

Greek style yoghurt

Chopped coriander

Extra virgin olive oil

 

Heat a soup pot with the oil, add onion, garlic, ginger and spices, cook gently for 2 minutes. Add vegetable stock, red lentils and cracked pepper, bring to the boil and cook gently for 20 minutes.

 

Coarsely grate zucchini. Add to soup with chopped coriander stem, simmer a further 10 minutes. Adjust seasoning before serving.

 

To serve, ladle into bowls, add a dollop of yoghurt, a sprinkle of chopped coriander and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

 

Handy tip – Portion and freeze left over soup for next week when there’s no enthusiasm for cooking.