Summer breakfast – vanilla spiced yoghurt

It’s the last day of my holiday today and I wanted to make something especially nice for my breakfast. Summer’s bounty has been particularly rich and beautiful this year. Stunning mangoes, peaches, nectarines, apricots, cherries and blueberries are available in abundance and typify the flavours of summer in my part of the world. This recipe is really about the thick vanilla spiced yoghurt that sits perfectly on top of toasted banana bread or fruit loaf or brioche and under the fresh nectarines and blueberries drizzled with maple and vanilla syrup. The possibilities of foods that would benefit from a dollop of this lusciously thick, creamy, slightly sweet and tangy yoghurt are endless. But here is how I did it this morning.

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Makes about 1 1/2 cups

500 g thick Greek yoghurt (my favourite brand id Farmer’s Union)
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 tablespoon icing sugar

In a medium sized bowl mix together the yoghurt, vanilla and sugar until well combined. Spoon the yoghurt into a piece of muslin. Place in a sieve over a bowl. Cover and place in the fridge overnight to drain. It will reduce to about 2/3 of the orginal amount and be super tick, almost like cream cheese in texture. In the morning, remove it from the muslin, discard the liquid, and store the thickened yogurt in an airtight container in the fridge.

Here’s a great photo of how to do this from Coloured plates that is far better than my words to describe this process. In their lovely blog post, Rachael and Ahmad describe how to make labne, which is a traditional Middle Eastern thickened yoghurt, usually paired with savoury ingredients. My version is simply a slightly sweet version.

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I toasted some banana bread, spread it thickly with the yoghurt, added nectarine slices and a few blueberries, and drizzled over a little maple syrup. Would love to hear of delicious variations from you.

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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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Sweet potato soup – winter joy

Simple food

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Pumpkin soup is ubiquitous as a winter time meal in my part of the world so I thought I’d mix it up a bit and try a sweet potato soup instead. Lots of spices and a bit of heat make this soup a little different and it would be a good introduction for the uninitiated to Indian style flavours, as it’s not too hot. I serve it with plain yoghurt on the side and crispy bruschetta for dipping. It is quite a thick soup, but you can add a little more stock to get the texture you like. Snuggle up on the couch and enjoy on a winter’s night – perfect for a Sunday night supper with a movie.

Serves 4 – 6

1/4 cup oil
3 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes (use 1/2 a teaspoon if your chilli…

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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

Cranberry and pecan sugar cookies

It’s Mother’s Day here tomorrow and these cookies would be a gorgeous gift. So easy an under-ten year old could do a beautiful job. If you are a mum I hope you have a lovely day tomorrow. margaretxx

Simple food

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Sweet and tender and crumbly, these sugar cookies are based on what I think is a traditional American recipe – although there seems to be an almost endless variety of sugar cookie recipes available, both in recipe books and online. It is hard to say for certain the true provenance, although I did read that the recipe can be traced back to the mid 1700s in Nazareth Pennsylvania where German Protestant settlers created a cookie that came to be known as the Nazareth Sugar Cookie and which is the official cookie of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. But at their heart they all seem to be a rich, buttery biscuit, with either icing piped or sugar sprinkled on top. I wanted to try to develop a recipe based on this concept, because the other great thing about them is that the dough can be kept in the freezer and the cookies made…

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Happy Christmas

Wishing you a happy Christmas with precious family and friends. I look forward to sharing more recipes in 2014 and learning from and being inspired by the wonderful food writers and cooks I meet online. Bless you. Margaret

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Here’s a roundup of some of the recipes that made it onto our summertime Christmas table. We feasted long and well and made much of our time together.

Rocket, apple and parmesan salad

Roasted balsamic onions

Lemon and thyme shortbread

Necatrines, prosciutto, mozzarella and mint

Lemon and gin jellies