Huevos rancheros – for Sunday breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner

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Huevos rancheros, or “ranch eggs” are Mexican in origin, and a simple and quite humble dish. But they taste terrific, especially with lots of delicious accompaniments such as dollops of sour cream, sprinklings of fresh coriander, chunks of smooth avocado and rounds of soft tortillas. They are also, we decided at our place, the perfect Sunday meal at any time of the day. One pan, quick and easy, lots of punchy flavours, and loved by all. If you are feeding more than two, just double the recipe and use a bigger pan, or two smaller pans. If dining solo, then halve the ingredients and luxuriate in a dish that you can eat straight out of the pan.

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Serves 2

1 medium onion, finely diced
1 small red capsicum, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 long, fresh red chillies, finely chopped (if you like lots of heat then by all means add more, or add some dried chilli flakes)
400g cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 bunch fresh coriander
4 eggs
sour cream, sweet chilli sauce, freshly diced avocado, fresh coriander leaves, and soft tortillas, to serve

In a medium sized frying pan heat the olive oil and then saute the onions, capsicum, chillies and garlic until softened. Finely chop the stems of the coriander, and add to the pan, reserving the leaves for garnish. Add the tomatoes, a tablespoon of water, and cook over medium heat until the tomatoes have broken down somewhat and become quite soft. Season well with sea salt and a little black pepper. Using a spoon make wells in the tomato mixture for the eggs. Gently crack the eggs into the pan, lower the heat and cook the eggs to your liking. Take the pan to the table and serve straight away with the garnishes on the side for everyone to add to their taste. For breakfast and brunch have with orange juice then coffee. For lunch, a Corona, and for dinner, a crisp white wine.

Summer rice salad

Besides the noble art of getting things done, there is a nobler art of leaving things undone.

Lin Yutang

A week’s holiday in the middle of summer has been an opportunity to rest and relax before the busy year really begins in earnest. It’s been stiflingly hot in my part of the world, so hot that a very fit man in his early thirties died of heat stroke over the weekend while biking in a nature reserve just north of Brisbane. So outdoor projects have been taken off the agenda, besides keeping the garden alive by watering in the late afternoon. Instead, I have been reading, finishing a quilt and spending lots of time in the kitchen. Creating new recipes is something that relaxes me, and this season has been one of trying to incorporate more seeds and nuts into my diet, both for the health benefits and for their taste. This rice salad was today’s experiment. The fresh peas, asparagus and zucchini sit atop a bowl of brown rice, seasoned with rice wine vinegar and a little olive oil, and stirred through are pepitas, sunflower seeds and black sesame seeds. I ate it on its own, but this salad would also be delicious as a side with grilled salmon.

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Serves 2 as a meal, or 4 as an accompaniment

1 cup brown rice
2 cups water
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup pepitas
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup peas
1 large zucchini, sliced into thin strips, long-wise
1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed and cut into short lengths
2 tablespoons soft feta cheese

Bring the water to the boil in a medium sized saucepan. when boiling add the rice and stir gently. Cover and simmer for 20 – 25 minutes until the rice is cooked, but still retains some bite. Check the rice occasionally and add a little more water if it begins to stick to the bottom of the pan before it is cooked. Drain the rice and turn into a medium sized glass bowl. Stir through the rice wine vinegar and olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper. Leave to cool slightly. Meanwhile, rinse out the saucepan and bring more water to boil. Add the zucchini, asparagus and peas, and cook for 1 minute, until tender crisp and bright green. Stir through 1/3 of the vegetables into the rice and then place the rice into a serving dish. Top with the remaining vegetables and scatter over the feta. Best eaten warm or at room temperature.

Sunday morning avocado

A lazy Sunday morning is not a regular feature of my week, but today was all that could be hoped for in that regard. After a gym workout I joined my husband and daughter at a local cafe for breakfast before discovering a treasure trove of new season fruits and vegetables at the Greengrocer’s Pantry next door. There was so much locally sourced produce it made my heart sing. I bought avocados and radishes, fresh Australian garlic and beetroots, and sweet strawberries, then came home to spend the rest of my morning cooking. We harvested rhubarb from the garden and a friend dropped by with a bag of cumquats to make marmalade. Domestic bliss for me, despite the excessive washing up!

avo-on-toast1-resizedI made this avocado with soft feta on grainy bread for a mid-morning snack. The avocado was creamy and soft; the feta sharp and salty; and the bread chewy and delicious.


avo-on-toast2-resizedFor each person you’ll need:

1/2 a ripe avocado
1 tablespoon soft feta or goat’s cheese
fresh chives
salt and pepper
1 slice of grainy bread
a squeeze of lemon juice

Peel and de-seed the avocado. Slice thinly and squeeze over the lemon juice. Spread the cheese on the bread and top with the avocado. Sprinkle over the chives and season to taste with salt and pepper. Eat right away, relishing each mouthful.

 

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Heritage tomatoes – no recipe required

Sometimes, the food we put on our table does not need to be cooked, or prepared in a special way, or even garnished. On its own it speaks to us; with beauty, astonishing flavour, and a certain joy that’s inherent with the feeding of the soul as well as the body.
That’s how I felt when I came across these heritage tomatoes in my local fruit shop at Indooroopilly. The tomatoes are grown in Fassifern, about an hour from where I live, by a couple, Matt and Sarah Muller, who started growing them commercially about a year ago.

They are so beautiful and the names entrancing – Green Zebra, Tigerella, Ida Gold, Black Cherry and the Mortgage Lifter, to name a few. All I did was to carefully wash them, put them in a bowl, and allow the family to eat them at will. The inside flesh was as much a revelation as their outside colour; rosy pink, bright green, shining yellow, deep purple and rich, dark red. I can’t think of any recipe that could have improved the experience we had when eating these tomatoes. If you live in south-east Queensland I encourage you to look for them. If not, perhaps your local Farmer’s Market might have a heritage tomato grower you can support. I know you will love them as much as we did.

Fassifern tomatoes

Cherry tomato tarts with mascarpone and herbs

It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.

Lewis Grizzard

For my friends in the northern hemisphere winter is ended and spring is bringing with it the promise of picnics, long sunshine filled days and new season fruits and vegetables – asparagus, baby peas, tiny new potatoes and strawberries. I’m sitting here listening to rain on the roof, recovering from a particularly nasty virus, feeling the unaccustomed chill of autumn in the air and contemplating all the things I love about winter; snuggling under the blankets at night, soup for dinner, sipping steaming hot chocolate, and sitting in front of the fire drinking a glass of red wine and watching the flames.

Cooking is so different in the winter; the seasonal ingredients respond to long, slow cooking and have a richness that warms from the inside. I love creating recipes with winter fruits, vegetables and spices, making casseroles, pies, and tasty puddings. But before I let go of light, summery food I wanted to make these delicious roasted cherry tomato tarts – a last taste of summer for me, and perhaps, a first taste of spring for my friends. They would be perfect for a springtime picnic, and they are still delicious in my world, to show off the last of the summer’s tomatoes. I hope you enjoy with a salad of soft herbs and peppery rocket.

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Makes 8 tarts

2 sheets frozen shortcrust pastry
250 g mascarpone
750 g mixed cherry tomatoes
olive oil
sea salt and black pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon raw caster sugar
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh herbs

Preheat oven to 180 C. Cut 8 rounds of pastry, 10 cm in diameter from the 2 pastry sheets. Prick all over with a fork, place on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper and bake in the oven until lightly browned and crisp. Take out of the oven and cool to room temperature. Slice the tomatoes in half and place sliced side up on a baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper. Drizzle with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil, season well with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with the dried oregano and sugar. Cook in the oven at the same time as the pastry, but for 25 minutes, until the tomatoes are soft, and look a bit shrunken and wrinkled. Take out of the oven and cool slightly. When ready to serve spread about 1 tablespoon of the mascarpone on each pastry round and top with the tomatoes. Scatter over the herbs and serve.

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Pumpkin and haloumi bruschettta

Some of my favourite things are combined in these tasty bruschetta; perfect for serving as a snack, or to pass around among friends with a chilled glass of wine. Sweet pumpkin, salty and squeaky haloumi, tangy lemon, crunchy almonds and fragrant oregano work wonderfully together to top the toasted slices of bread. Use the best olive oil you can afford to drizzle over the top because it will release a fruity perfume as it touches the warm haloumi and pumpkin, making the bruschetta irresistible. Enough waxing lyrical; go make them!

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Makes 16

1 medium-sized french bread stick
600 g Kent pumpkin
250 g haloumi cheese, sliced into 16 pieces
1/4 cup oven roasted almonds, roughly chopped
a handful fresh oregano or marjoram
1 lemon
good olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 200 C. Cut the pumpkin into thin wedges, leaving the skin on, but with the seeds and membrane removed. Drizzle with a little olive oil and season with sea salt. Roast for 30 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Meanwhile, cut the bread stick diagonally into 16 pieces and toast on a griddle pan on both sides until golden and crisp. When the pumpkin is cooked, carefully remove the skins and break up into chunks in a medium sized bowl. In a medium pan heat a tablespoon of olive oil and cook the haloumi on both sides until it is golden. It should take about 2 minutes per side. To assemble, place the pumpkin and haloumi on top of the bruschetta and season with black pepper. Top with the fresh oregano and the almonds and the zest of the lemon. Lastly drizzle over a little more olive oil (I use a beautiful lemon-infused olive oil for this) and serve straight away.

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Grilled peaches with thick yogurt and lime syrup

“you are ever
the only one

i want to give
all the peaches
in my heart to

the only one
by whom
i want them bruised.”

 Sanober Khan

A ripe peach, headily perfumed and heavy with sweet juice, is one of the delights of summer. I have been thinking over the last few days of friends in the United States who are experiencing the worst blizzard in many, many years, and the contrast between their world at the moment; blanketed in white, freezing cold, and resolutely indoors, and mine, which is blue-skied, hot and humid, and celebrating the outdoor life. This dish exemplifies that world, and I hope it brings a little sunshine to those who are huddled indoors today.

It works beautifully as a dessert, or a brunch dish, but depends on having great peaches and good quality yoghurt. There is very little done to the ingredients, because they are so spectacular – just a little magic woven to bring them all together. In Australia, now is the time when peaches are at their absolute best, so a perfect time to make this little bowl of sunshine and light.

Serves 4

4 large, beautifully ripe peaches
500 g thick Greek yoghurt (not the sweetened variety. Tang is required here to balance the lime syrup)
1 tablespoon butter
3/4 cup water
2/3 cup caster sugar
1 medium-sized lime
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise and the seeds scraped out

First make the lime syrup, In a small saucepan place the water, sugar, a few large pieces of lime zest (use a vegetable peeler to do this, but make sure there is no white pith on the zest – it is very bitter), and the vanilla bean and seeds. Bring to the boil and boil for 2 minutes. Take off the heat, and when it is at room temperature, remove the vanilla bean and add the juice of the lime. Set aside until ready to serve. You can do this a day ahead and store in the fridge until about an hour before needed. When ready to serve, carefully spoon the yoghurt into four lovely glasses. Halve the peaches and carefully remove the stones. In a medium sized, non-stick fry pan heat the butter until it begins to bubble. Place the peach halves, cut side down, in the pan and cook for about 3 -4 minutes on medium heat. Take off the heat and place on a dinner plate, cut side up, in a single layer, and pour over half the syrup. Carefully turn the peaches over and spoon the syrup that is in the plate over the peaches. Turn them over one more time and cut each peach half into three or 4 wedges. Top each glass with a few peach pieces and serve. Pass the remainder of the peaches around, along with the left-over syrup, so people can top up their glass with lime infused, peach wonderment.

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Figs with honey, yoghurt and toasted almonds

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Figs are one of the most beautiful fruits. Unctuously sweet and perfumed, they are also tender and very luxurious. Unless you have a fig tree they are an extravagance as they are so expensive, but for the short season when they are available, as an occasional treat there is nothing better. Give me figs over chocolate any time! They are one of the most ancient of fruits, and it is thought they might have been the very first agricultural crop, with fig tree fossils found in the Jordan Valley dating from thousands of years ago. They are certainly mentioned in Roman writings and in the Bible. The simpler the treatment of fresh figs, the better, and so, in this recipe, with just honey, yoghurt and lightly toasted almonds you can make a wonderful breakfast or brunch dish for the love of your life.

Serves 2

3 fresh, just ripe figs
4 tablespoons greek yoghurt
1 tablespoon honey (a floral one is best)
1 tablespoon lightly toasted flaked almonds
a few fresh rosemary or thyme flowers, if you have them, for garnish

Slice the figs in half, lengthwise and place three halves on each of two beautiful plates. Drizzle over the honey and then a couple of tablespoons of the yoghurt. sprinkle over the almonds and flowers, if you have them. Serve straight away.

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Ricotta and tomato tart

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The beauty of late summer, aside from a welcome relief from constant humidity and long, hot, sweaty nights, is the abundance of tomatoes that ripen almost before our eyes. There are a great variety of tomatoes available now – yellow pear tomatoes, vine ripened red tomatoes, green heritage varieties, cherry tomatoes and luscious roma tomatoes. I have used a number of varieties in this tart that brings together crisp pastry, creamy, herbed ricotta and gently roasted tomatoes. It’s a delicious light lunch for four served with a green salad and some chewy bread. I like to pile the top of the tart with fresh basil leaves as I serve it, warm rather than piping hot. I have so much basil this time of the year, it doesn’t even feel like a luxurious thing to do this.

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1 1/2 sheets of frozen butter puff pastry
250 g soft ricotta cheese
2 tablespoons fresh herbs, finely chopped (any combination of chives, parsley, oregano, basil and thyme that you have to hand)
40 g finely grated parmesan cheese
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 large, ripe red tomatoes, or 250 -300 g mixed tomatoes
a handful of fresh basil, to serve

Preheat oven to 200 C. In a medium bowl mix together  the ricotta, fresh herbs, and parmesan, and season well with salt and pepper. Place the full sheet of pastry on a sheet of silicon baking paper on a flat baking tray. Cut the half sheet of pastry into 4 strips and place around the edges of the full sheet of pastry, pressing down lightly to join them together. Use a sharp knife to make some decorative diagonal marks on the pastry edges. Carefully spread the ricotta filling onto the pastry, right up to the edges. Thickly slice the tomatoes, or if using a mixture of tomatoes slice small ones lengthwise and round tomatoes into slices and place all over the ricotta filling, quite close together. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown and the ricotta filling lightly browning around the edges. serve warm with a salad and fresh, crusty bread.

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Printable version: Ricotta and tomato tart

Flatbread with smoked olives, brie and prosciutto

Flatbreads have ancient origins, with the simplest and earliest forms just a mixture of some sort of flour, water, and sometimes salt, kneaded together, patted flat and fried over a fire. I love flatbreads, and have a weakness for chapatis, toasted pita bread, and tortillas. I’ve tried lots of recipes and this one is my absolute favourite – inspired a little from a Jamie Oliver recipe, and a little from the back of an Atta flour packet. It uses a couple of raising agents, so it isn’t a true flatbread, but the end result is very light in texture and the bread soft and almost fluffy. There is also a delicate sourness that comes from the yoghurt, and that’s what I like most about it. Paired with delicious smoked olives, soft and creamy brie and some salty prosciutto, it makes a perfect starter or pre-dinner snack. The flatbread can also be used to mop up a curry, smear with hummus or tzatziki, roll around a spicy meatball with tabbouleh, or serve as a base for a one person sort-of-pizza. They freeze well, too, so can be kept on standby for after-school teenager’s snacks.

Makes 12

500g self-raising flour, plus a little extra
3 teaspoons sea salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
500g greek yoghurt
1 tablespoon butter, melted
Smoked Sicilian olives, brie and thinly sliced prosciutto, to serve

In a medium sized mixing bowl combine the flour, salt, baking powder and yoghurt and bring together to form a soft dough. Turn out onto a board or bench top which is lightly dusted with the extra flour and knead lightly.  Form into a ball and then cut into 12 equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball and then roll out flat with a rolling pin to form a rough circle, about 10cm in diameter. Heat a heavy based griddle pan until quite hot. Don’t add any oil to the pan. The flatbread will not stick as long as you don’t try to turn it too early. Cook the flatbreads on the griddle, turning once after a minute or so, or when there are nicely browned marks from the ridges of the pan all across the surface of the bread. As you take each flatbread out of the pan, brush one side with a little of the melted butter. Keep warm while you cook all the flatbreads and then serve.

Printable version Flatbread with smoked olives, brie and prosciutto