Category Archives: fruit

An Abundance Of Lemons And How To Preserve Them

 

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One of the first things that drew me to the house we have lived in for the past couple of years were the two lemon trees growing in the back yard. This is not entirely unusual for Sydney, yet to find a sunny back yard that had TWO established lemon trees was a bonus. It not only appealed to my culinary side, but also helped me feel a tiny step closer to my long-term dream of living on a property where we will one day grow, pick, and eat our own food (I did say long-term right?)…

As much as the flavour of lemons are reminiscent of summer, my trees bare their fruit in winter. This means each year I have an abundance of fruit to use, and I inevitably end up preserving more than a handful of jars of lemons to extend their shelf life.

Lemons are the citrus of choice for most cooks; I certainly would be at a loss without them in my kitchen. And although I love to preserve them I use them in all manner of cooking. 

When I use their pungent zest in cakes, or dressings,or marinades, I delight in the fact that their skin, let alone juice, has so much flavour to offer. Having home-grown lemons means no wax ( it drives me crazy that the shop-bought lemons are coated in a thin layer of wax, why do they have to do this!). Wax-free lemons should be available to all. It’s unadulterated zest, the best of its kind.

The juice of lemons can be a cooks best friend in the kitchen, and as a rule of thumb, keeping one or two in the fruit bowl will enhance all manner of dishes. Again, the juice is excellent in marinades, especially for chicken. Green tahini dressing is lifted to new heights, and even just a small squeeze of the pale yellow liquid will enhance soups, stews, or any slow cooked meats.

 

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Preserving lemons is very simple. The preparation is next to nothing: it’s the preserving that takes time; I leave mine at least six weeks and up to several months. The salt and juice slowly break down and soften the flesh whilst also mellowing the flavour, and this process just can’t be hurried.

As with all of the above ways of using fresh lemons, preserved lemons can be applied in much the same manner.

Check out this chermoula recipe for marinating and roasting on a chicken, or these lamb skewers  perfect for barbecuing.

I usually use a few 750ml parfait jars with working seals on them, but I also utilise large glass jars that I’ve washed and stored exactly for this reason.

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Preserved lemons

Makes 3-4 jars

Ingredients

15 large juicy lemons (wax free if you can)

3/4 cup cooking salt

12 cardamon pods

3 tsp coriander seeds

1 tsp whole  black pepper corns

First you need to sterilise the jars. Pre heat oven to 120C. Remove the rubber seal, wash the jars in warm soapy water, rinse, place on a tray and place in the oven for about 25 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave them there till you are ready to fill them.

Wash lemons. Take 10-12 of the lemons and cut in half. Slice through each half leaving 4cm of the top of the lemon un-cut. Squeeze the majority of the juice from each lemon and set the juice aside in a jug.

Juice the remaining 3-5 lemons, and add this to the reserved lemon juice. You should by this stage have about 3 cups of lemon juice.

Sprinkle the salt all over the cut lemons, rubbing it into the flesh. Take the sterilised jars from the oven and stuff each jar with lemons, press them in firmly to fill the jars. Divide the cardamon pods, coriander seeds and peppercorns between the jars. Then divide the lemon juice between the jars pouring it over the lemons. Top up each jar with boiling water so the lemons are completely covered.

Seal the lids and gently shake the jar several times to combine. Place lemons on a shelf in the pantry to preserve for about 6 weeks, or longer. Once you open a jar refrigerate the contents for up to 2 months.

Baked Rhubarb With Orange And Cloves

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Although rhubarb is readily available through autumn it’s often not till early winter that I get round to baking my first tray.

I keep it on hand in the fridge mainly to eat with breakfast, be it with porridge, yoghurt, or muesli. But it would be a crime against rhubarb to stop there. It’s such an interesting fruit to use in baking, that when I do have cooked rhubarb in the fridge, I often feel compelled to bake.

Sometimes I arrange batons of rhubarb across a butter milk cake – before it goes in the oven – or I fold it through and on top of muffins, and have even been known to layer it in the bottom of creme brûlées.

 

 

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The tartness of rhubarb is its defining appeal. And that tartness requires a certain amount of sweetness to tame its sour taste and soften its flavour. I use orange juice, brown sugar and cloves to do this.

As the rhubarb slowly cooks, covered in the oven, it half steams half poaches itself to tender pieces. When cooked just right rhubarb should hold its shape easily, yet still fall apart at the touch of a spoon.

So next time you’re out shopping and you see rhubarbs bright red stalks staring back at you, reach out, grab a bunch, come home, flick the oven on, and you too can discover the many possibilities with baked rhubarb.

 

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Baked rhubarb with orange and cloves

Ingredients 

1 bunch thick stemmed rhubarb

zest 1/2 an orange

1 orange juiced

1/4 cup brown sugar

8 cloves

Pre heat oven to 160C.

Trim the rhubarb of all its leaves, wash and cut into 6 cm lengths.

Lay the rhubarb neatly in a small baking tray.

Place the orange juice, orange zest, brown sugar and cloves in a small pan, stir over a medium heat till sugar dissolves, then pour the liquid over the rhubarb. Cover the tray tightly with foil and bake in the oven for about 35 minutes for thicker stalked rhubarb, less for thinner rhubarb.

Cool completely in the tray before transferring the rhubarb to a container, cover and store the rhubarb in the cooking syrup in the fridge for up to five days.

Quinoa, Cinnamon And Chia Seed Bars

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It’s been a lot of years since I have eaten store-bought muesli bars. They have too much sugar for my liking and added preservatives that I just don’t care for. I prefer to make my own.

This simple recipe is adapted from one I wrote for Who Magazine last year.

Oats and quinoa flakes are combined with spices, dried fruit and nuts. It uses rice bran syrup as a natural alternative to highly processed sugar, and chia seeds soaked to a gel to help hold it all together during baking.

 

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Using rice bran syrup makes these quinoa and chia seed bars low Gi, and that’s a good thing! Low GI foods are digested slower, causing a lower rise in blood glucose levels making it a more sustainable energy source, which also keeps you fuller for longer.  Yay! 

For those of you with children who face the weekly ordeal of packing lunch boxes,(I have two of them that like to inspect the contents of their boxes each day), teach them good food doesn’t come from a packet and add these to their weekly routine.

For hikers and bushwalkers, these bars can quickly become a backpack staple, and one you’ll be happy to have near by when hitting those mountains.

And if you are the type of person to have breakfast on the run (not me, I am truly dedicated to this first meal of the day, and cannot leave home with out it) these bars would get you off to a good start.

Get baking!

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Quinoa and chia seed bars 

1 tbsp (Australian standard size: 20ml) black chia seeds

1/2 cup rice bran syrup

1/4 cup rice bran oil, or grape seed oil

2 tbsp honey

1/2 tsp mixed spice

1 tsp cinnamon

1 cup quinoa flakes 

3/4 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup shredded coconut

1 1/2 cups trail mix (dried fruit and nut mix)

Pre heat oven to 175C

Place the chia seeds and 1/4 cup of cold water in  a small bowl, whisk and stand for 10 minutes till chia seeds turn to a thick gel.

Place the rice bran syrup, oil, honey (if using) and spices in a small saucepan, bring to the boil, turn off the heat and set aside.

In a large bowl combine the quinoa flakes, rolled oats, shredded coconut and trail mix.

Add the soaked chia seeds to the warm rice bran syrup and whisk to combine. Pour onto the quinoa and oat mixture and stir till well combined.

Line a 30cm shallow baking tray with baking paper. Place the quinoa mixture  into the lined tray and using a spatula press it firmly all over till it’s smooth and level.

Bake in the oven for 35 minutes. Allow to cool slightly in the tray before cooling on a wire rack.  Once bars have cooled, use a sharp knife to cut bars to desired size. Store in an air tight container for up to one week.

Note: For a vegan version of these bars, leave out the 2 tbsp of honey.

(C) Copy right foodfrommichelleskitchen 2016 –  Quinoa and chia seed bars

 

 

 

 

Nectarine and Coconut Bread

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Nectarines have become a favourite summer fruit and when they are this good and plentiful I buy nothing short of a kilo at a time. With these sweet beauties I decided to make a simple nectarine and coconut bread. Well, it’s more like a loaf really. I call it a bread as after enjoying it fresh on the day, the following day I toast it much the same as you would banana bread. It’s delicious with a lathering of butter and I find it hard to resist when served with a cup of hot tea.

This is getting a little personal. Do you ever store your fruit in the fridge? Please tell me you don’t. Please tell me you buy small amounts of in-season fruit, placing the pieces in a bowl on the bench or kitchen table so that you may enjoy the sweeter flavours of the natural sugars when the fruit is eaten at room temperature. Please, can you tell me that? Refrigerators are not meant for fruit. Especially stone fruit.

 

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This loaf, or sweet bread, has a method similar to making muffins. All the dry ingredients are placed in a bowl, the diced fruit is added, followed by the whisked eggs, milk and melted butter. The stirring is minimal, just as with muffins. This is important to keep the softness to the loaf, over stirring will give a tougher finish. I’ve used white nectarines but yellow ones are just as good. Smell the fruit before you buy it and pick the variety with the sweetest smell. When summer is over, and autumn begins, you can make this same loaf with pears instead of nectarines, for this 2 medium sized pears would be sufficient.

 

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Often what I do with this loaf is slice a few portions and freeze then individually so the following week when I fancy something for morning tea it’s on hand, and goes straight in the toaster and gets served with organic butter and raspberry jam.

 

Nectarine and coconut bread

Ingredients 

260g (2cups) wholemeal self raising flour

35g (1/3 cup) hazelnut or almond meal

50g (3/4 cup) shredded coconut

100g (1/2 cup) caster sugar

1/2 tsp bi carb soda (sifted if lumps are present)

3 white or yellow nectarines diced into 1cm pieces

100g butter, melted

2 free range eggs

1 tsp vanilla bean paste, or vanilla extract

125ml milk

 

Pre heat oven to 175C, or 165C fan forced. Lightly grease a loaf tin with butter then line the tin with baking paper.

Place the flour, hazelnut meal, coconut, sugar, and sifted bi carb soda in a large bowl, stir to combine. Make a well in the centre and add the diced nectarines.

In a medium sized jug, melt the butter, add the eggs, vanilla and milk, and whisk till well combined.

Pour the egg mixture onto the flour and stir briefly till the batter just comes together (remember not to over stir). Pour the batter into the lined tin, and spread lightly till surface is even. Bake in the oven for 60 minutes, or till an inserted skewer comes out clean. Remove from oven, cool slightly in tin then remove from tin and cool completely on a cake rack.

Once cooled, slice the nectarine bread and serve with butter and your favourite jam.

 

Blueberry and ricotta, buttermilk hotcakes

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There was a period there, about 10 (or more) years ago, where I spent entire weekends cooking ricotta hotcakes. I guess that’s to be expected when you’re working in a cafe, but there’s a limit to how many hotcakes one can make and still think of them as a food one might want to eat. I could possibly blame Bill Granger for introducing Sydney siders to hotcakes. His tiny Darlinghurst cafe, Bills popularised this weekend breakfast dish so every other cafe, including the one I worked in, followed suit and had a version on their menu. Mind you, he was obviously on to something, as 20 years on, hotcakes still feature on Bill’s menus across his now SEVEN cafes! Cafe work certainly offered a more social life style, even if we did cook hundreds upon hundreds of hotcakes each week. The bonus was obvious, the work hours were during the day (nights off) and we only worked 9 hours as opposed to the 16 i’d been doing in restaurants.

 

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It’s been six or seven years since I’ve made ricotta hotcakes. Seriously! You think I’m joking? I’m not!

Last weekend, I suddenly and whole heartedly knew I was ready to cook them again. Making a small batch of ricotta hotcakes at home was enjoyable. It was not stressful, sweaty, or tiring as it had been in the past. They deserved a second chance and they have redeemed themselves. Ricotta hotcakes have returned to my repertoire – yippee! I hope they find a place in yours too.

Adding fruit to a hotcake mix adds a level of sophistication that is amiss from the plain variety.

The cafe I worked at had several ways of serving hotcakes depending on the season. There was caramalised banana – every bodies favourite, sour cherries made an appearance, poached rhubarb was popular, and when in season raspberries always made a show.

But blueberries work a treat with ricotta. And that’s how I made them last weekend. I’ve tweaked my old recipe and replaced the white flour with wholemeal, and added almond meal to the mix too. This makes them a little healthier and these days that’s preferred.

 

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These blueberry and ricotta buttermilk hotcakes will have weekend brunch taken care of. Smother them in pure maple syrup, and serve them with double cream or yoghurt.

 

Blueberry and ricotta buttermilk hotcakes 

Ingredients

150g (1 cup) wholemeal self raising flour

25g (3 tbsp) almond meal

1 tsp bi carb soda

2 tbsp brown sugar

25g melted butter, plus extra for cooking

2 eggs, yolks and whites separated

190ml (3/4 cup) buttermilk – see note

150g fresh ricotta

1 punnet blueberries

Olive oil for cooking

 

Place the flour and almond meal in a medium bowl, sift in the bi carb, add brown sugar and stir to combine. Make a well in the centre of the flour.

In a small bowl, combine the melted butter, egg yolks and buttermilk, whisk till combined and pour this in the middle of the flour. Stir lightly, add the ricotta and fold and stir till well combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites to soft peaks. Add to the hotcake mix and fold gently till combined. Set aside to rest for 10 minutes.

Heat a non stick fry pan with oil and butter (about 1 tbsp of each), when the butter sizzles spoon 4 or 5 hotcakes into the pan, immediately scatter each hotcake with 4-5 blueberries, cook on a medium to low heat till golden on both sides. Continue to cook hotcakes using more oil and more butter till the mix is used up.

Serve blueberry hotcakes with maple syrup, and double cream or yoghurt.

Note – you can make buttermilk by adding 1 tbsp lemon juice to regular milk.

 

 

 

 

 

Cardamom and ginger poached pears

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I’m fussy about poaching pears. You have to be.

For a perfect poached pear there are rules to follow: I can think of seven.

Don’t go for heavily sugared poaching syrups – these must be avoided at all costs. Water enhanced with a little sugar, spice or citrus is just right and allows the natural flavour of the pears to shine through.

The pears must be firm but on their way to ripening. They should still be green but have a slight give when pressed firmly.

Prepare the syrup first so it comes to the boil BEFORE adding the fruit.

The syrup, once the fruit is added, must be kept to a simmer – one of soft bubbles just breaking the surface.

Watch over the pears as they poach – not like a hawk, more like a mother sneaking a peep on a sleeping baby.

And if the syrup gets too hot and begins to bubble too much, simply pull from the heat, till the syrup cools slightly, and return to a gentle simmer.

Once the pairs have become transparent, they are cooked. Remove from the heat and allow them to cool completely in the liquid.

I know, it’s fussy right?

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But then, the fuss pays off. And you have a bowl of glistening poached pears that can be eaten in so many ways, like with muesli or porridge, with yoghurt or ice cream, bake them in a crumble, serve them in a salad, eat them cold, or eat them warm; Serve them on a cheese platter.

Remember, never underestimate the fuss required for the prefect poached pear.

 

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Cardamon and ginger poached pears 

Ingredients

8 William pears – green but starting to soften

10 Cardamon pods, bruised

6-8cm piece of ginger, sliced into 1cm thick pieces

2/3 cup caster sugar

1 .5 litres water

1 small lemon

Heat 1 .5 litres water in a large pot, add cardamon pods, sliced ginger, sugar and lemon, stir and bring to the boil.

Meanwhile, use a peeler to peel the pears. Cut pears into quarters, then use a small knife to remove the pips. Keep some of the stalks on the pears as these look great for presentation. Try to work quickly so pears don’t oxidise and turn brown.

When all the pears are prepared place them into the boiled syrup, turn down the heat, cover pears with a sheet of baking paper to weigh them down and poach on a low simmer for 25 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave pears to cool in syrup. Once cool, store in air tight containers for 1 week in the fridge. Eat cold or warm.

(C) Copy right Food From Michelle’s Kitchen 2016 Cardamom and ginger poached pears

Quinoa tabbouleh with feta and pomegranate

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This salad was inspired by my yoga teacher,  Linda Apps, who runs the Yoga Nook , a small yoga centre in Dulwich Hill, in the Inner West of Sydney. She follows my blog and every now and then, when not discussing yoga, we talk about food. She asked for a recipe that was yummy, and vegetarian, that she might share with the readers of her monthly newsletter. This salad immediately came to mind because it’s largely plant based and is healthy and delicious. Plus, i’ve been keen to write a recipe that uses pomegranate. Up until a few years ago, I was ignorant of it’s beauty.

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Traditionally tabbouleh is made with cracked wheat also known as bulgur. For a more nutritious salad, I like using quinoa. Any of the coloured varieties can be adapted here – red, white, or black. This salad relies on fresh parsley and mint. If you can snip these straight from the garden or planter box you will be rewarded. If you must buy your parsley and mint, smell it first! When demand out grows my supply of fresh herbs I’ll only buy them when I can smell them. If they have no smell they get left on the shelf. Both parsley and mint act as a digestive aid and this is reason in itself to eat this salad.

Pomegranate truly is one of the prettiest fruits I know. The jewel shaped kernels burst in the mouth with a sweet yet slightly bitter flavour. And the bright red colour is not only attractive to the eye but makes such a decorative garnish. For us Southern hemisphere folk, pomegranate are in season from March to May. Northern hemisphere dwellers will have to keep this salad in mind for September through to February.

You only need a little extra virgin olive oil to dress the quinoa. You can also drizzle this salad with avocado or hazelnut oil.

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A few other simple ideas include serving this salad with grilled salmon – a dear friend of my Mum’s served it this way – It’s a really nice combination and makes a fancy yet simple meal. When served with salmon I prefer to leave the feta out as I tend to stick to the rule of – don’t mix fish and cheese.

I also like to add sliced avocado and eat this salad with a piece of toasted rye bread, or sourdough to the side.

Quinoa tabbouleh – serves 2-3 or 4-6  as a side dish

Ingredients 

1 cup organic quinoa – white, red or black

3/4 cup picked and washed parsley leaves

3/4 cup picked and washed mint leaves

1/2 a pomegranate, seeds removed

1/2 lemon, juiced

Extra virgin olive oil

50g feta, crumbled

Sea salt and cracked black pepper

Cook quinoa in plenty of boiling water for about 15 minutes, Drain well and set aside to cool.

Once cool, place cooked quinoa in a medium bowl, add washed mint and parsley leaves, lemon juice, sea salt, cracked black pepper and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Toss to combine and either place on a serving platter, or divide between bowls.

Cut the pomegranate in half and gently break the membrane around the pomegranate to release the seeds. Collect them in a small bowl. Sprinkle the salad with plenty of pomegranate seeds and crumble over some feta. If preparing this ahead of time, don’t dress with the lemon juice or extra virgin olive oil till ready to eat.