Hummus. Yes.

Hummus

So, it’s really, really freezing. Melbourne has just decided to blast Winter right up in your face and not let you escape, nowhere, no how. Many cups of tea are needed, and make it spicy. After an Autumn where I craved Japanese non-stop and made Nasu Dengaku pretty much every week, I am now turning to warmth and comfort from the warming spices of the Middle East. I can’t get enough of cumin, paprika, coriander seed, a little chilli… I’m sprinkling dukkah on pretty much everything. Add in some lemon and some chickpeas and you will make me a happy woman.

Hummus has made a big comeback for lunchtimes, alongside a little of last night’s leftovers and a crispy fried egg, sprinkled with dukkah of course and some wilted greens with lemon. I am having desert dreaming, I need warming from the inside out.

So because all things Middle Eastern are floating my boat right now I am turning to my main man for delicious Middle Eastern inspiration – Yotam.

I have a food crush on Yotam Ottolenghi. There, I’ve said it. It’s not like I have met him, it’s just that every thing he makes I want to eat.

There are some people whose cookbooks I would buy without even opening the cover, just because I know how good they are going to be. People who just get it. Yotam is one of these people. His collection of books hold an important space on my bookshelf. My bookshelf has two layers of books now but Yotam’s books always stay in the front. The flavour just flies off the page. The way he talks about food, the way he plates it, they way it is all just make some deliciousness and stick it on a big platter for all your friends to devour. I just like it.

A few weeks ago, the kids were in bed and I flicked on the television and chanced upon Yotam visiting his home town of Jerusalem. He journeyed and remembered delicious food memories and made some new food discoveries, and he just made me want to eat every single thing. I may not be able to go to Jerusalem but from his cookbooks I can share in some of that magic and majesty and dream a little in my own kitchen.

Pomegranate

So here is one of our staples at the moment… Yotam’s Hummus. Add some pops of pomegranate from your neighbour’s yard (no really, she insisted I take them 😉 and you have yourself some comforting deliciousness.

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Basic Hummus from Yotam and Sami’s Jerusalem

  • 250g dried chickpeas
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 270g light tahini paste
  • 4 tbsp lemon juice
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 100ml ice cold water
  • salt

A day before you want to eat your hummus, rinse your chickpeas and pop them into a large bowl. Cover with double their volume of cold water and leave to soak overnight.

The following day, drain the chickpeas and place them into a medium saucepan. Add the bicarbonate of soda and place on a high heat, stirring and cooking for about 3 minutes. Add 1.5 litres of fresh water, and bring to the boil. Allow them to cook until they become soft (this can take somewhere between 20 and 40mins, you want them very tender, so you can crush them easily with your finger and thumb), skimming any foam that floats to the surface whilst cooking.

Drain the cooked chickpeas, and pop them into a food processor. Blitz those chickies until they become a thick paste, then whilst the machine is still running add in the tahini, lemon juice, garlic and a decent pinch of salt. Whiz whiz. Then trickle in the cold water and keep whizzing until your hummus is super smooth (about 5 minutes). Taste it and adjust the flavourings if you so desire.

Yotam and Sami recommend you let it rest for 30 minutes before eating, although I find this part tricky. And serve it at room temperature with something good and crunchy.

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Thanks Sarah from Love Katie and Sarah for my lovely photos… you’re a gem!

 

Strawberry and Coconut Vegan Cupcakes

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My kids have pretty strong opinions about cake.

This should come as no surprise really, given the amount of cake that is often being whipped up and going out of our kitchen. Always eager ‘helpers’, they often come up with their own combinations and drawings to articulate exactly what they mean. There were some pretty fancy numbers being dreamt up this year, let me tell you.

Speculation was rife as to what kind of cake everyone was going to have for their birthday. Some prefer tradition, whilst others have constantly evolving ideas throughout the year; the anticipation was huge.

Finally, after the usual intense brainstorming of ideas, it was decided that strawberry cupcakes with raspberry icing would suffice. But only if they were in the style of a fairy garden. Vision AND flavour, you see what I mean.

No worries, strawberry and raspberry, a berry-licious combination, as Strawberry Shortcake would say. The only challenge now, to make one that all our kinder friends can eat. Nut free, dairy free, egg free.

I got my substituting brain on, and remembered a birthday cake from my own childhood. A strawberry and coconut cake, which we baked in a heart shaped tin. Inspiration drawn, I got a-baking.

Strawberry and Coconut Vegan Cupcakes

(nut free, dairy free, egg free)
  • 120g spelt flour
  • 140g raw sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 40g coconut butter (not coconut oil), the more fragrant the better
  • 120ml coconut milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste
  • egg replacer to the equivalent of 1 egg
  • 100g chopped strawberries

Put out all of your ingredients, and allow them to come to room temperature. Cross fingers for a day that is not too cold so your coconut butter will be soft and pliable (please use coconut butter versus coconut oil. The butter is made with the whole coconut flesh, not just the pressed out oil, this gives it a much more voluptuous consistency as well as maximum tropical flavour! My favourite by far is Niugini Organics; they work with local communities in PNG to produce their coconut butter, so not only is it totally delicious, it’s good for karma points too.)

Preheat your oven to 170 degrees C. Line a 12 hole cupcake tray with some pretty cases.

Measure out your flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and coconut butter into the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on slow until the mixture looks uniformly sandy, without any large lumps and bumps.

Pour in the coconut milk and the splash of vanilla, and mix until well combined. Add your constituted egg replacer and give it a spin on medium speed until everything is nice and smooth.

Stir in your chopped strawberries, or if they are a bit on the cold side, drop them directly into the cupcake cases (so you don’t give that coconut butter a cold shock!)

Divide the mixture amongst the cupcake cases, it will be runny but don’t worry! These cupcakes turn out sweet, delicious and fragrant and not at all dry (if someone knows a better word than ‘moist’, then please, let me know).

Bake in the oven for around 30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cupcake comes out clean. My cupcakes didn’t go very brown, I think this is to do with using coconut butter rather than normal butter, so don’t rely on ‘golden brown’ being your indicator for the cupcakes being done!

Let the cupcakes cool down a touch before turning them out onto a wire rack to cool completely before icing.

Now, I wish I could give you a super awesome dairy-free and delicious frosting recipe. Unfortunately I can’t. I did experiment using coconut butter, icing sugar and fresh raspberries to create a super yummy and good for you frosting, and…. it was an epic fail. It went straight to the chickens. So instead I had to default and use a standard frosting recipe, just substituting dairy-free spread (I used Nuttelex) and coconut milk instead of cow’s. A dash of raspberry oil (from some macaron-ing days) added the required raspberry element. I would have way rather used fresh raspberries, but after one botched attempt, I just needed to get these babies done. I’ll put conquering that frosting recipe on the to-do list, and if you have an awesome dairy-free frosting that doesn’t use vegetable oils, then please let me know!!

Oh, and decorate to your heart’s content xx

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banana, date and cacao nib muffins

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A few months ago, I read about Gwyneth Paltrow’s new book ‘It’s All Good’ in the Sunday paper. ‘Delicious easy recipes that will make you look good and feel great’… yes please! The book grew from a tricky patch in Gwyneth’s life (look at me talking about her, like we’re friends), but her story was something I could relate to. Last year I took our family down the whole foods path, and let me tell you, we are all the better for it.

ingredients

I like to keep seriously sugary treats for just that, a treat. When I bake for a special occasion, whoa, I don’t hold back! But for everyday, I try and sneak in as much nutrition as I can. Occasionally we still succumb to an emergency muffin whilst out and about, but I much prefer to make snacks of my own. This allows me use less refined sugars (to get all of the nutrition from them you can) and add in some sneaky nutrients! So here are some muffins, inspired by Gwyneth’s, which use better sugars and include a superfood! High five to me!

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Banana, date and cacao nib muffins inspired by Banana-Date Muffins in It’s All Good by Gwyneth Paltrow and Julia Turshen

  • 2 bananas, roughly smashed
  • 250g spelt flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 30g cacao nibs
  • 40g dark chocolate chips
  • 100g dates, chopped into small pieces
  • 100ml rice syrup
  • 30ml maple syrup
  • 150ml milk
  • 120ml oil of your choice (I used grapeseed, but I think coconut oil would be an awesome substitute)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees C. Line a 12 cup muffin tin with papers.

Whisk together the flour and the baking powder. Add cacao nibs and chocolate chips into the flour mixture and stir to combine.

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In a separate bowl, combine the rice syrup, maple syrup, milk, oil and smashed bananas (a few chunks are just fine). Stir the wet mixture into the dry mixture, then add the dates (try to separate them from each other, they are super sticky!) and mix until combined.

bowlliquid

The mixture will look and feel really runny. Don’t stress! They will puff up beautifully in the oven and taste totally delish. Divide the mixture among the muffin cups and get ready to put your feet up. Pretty simple, huh? Bake them in the 200 degree C oven for 18 mins or until beautiful and golden and your house smells like an amazing banana wonderland.

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Then tuck into them, as fast as you can!

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