Black Rice Salad

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Our biblestudy group gathered last Monday to celebrate the Passover. A meal rich with symbolism for Jews and Christians alike, it was a lovely time of slowing down and hallowing a moment, a memory. The lamb slain to spare the son, bitter herbs and bread eaten in a hurry because freedom was in the air. The Passover is a story of desperation and death, liberation and life.

As ours was a merging of Jewish and Christian stories and traditions, we didn’t follow either the Exodus menu or modern Jewish dictates strictly. Our host asked for a non-green salad and we had black rice in the cupboard and so this salad was born. Feel free to vary ingredients to suit your tastes – I was quite pleased with the overall effect though!

225g black rice
1 1/2 large kumera
1 large egg plant
a little olive oil and some salt
1/2 bunch of watercress
1 big handful of baby spinach leaves
1 big handful of mixed lettuce leaves
2 spring onions
1 bunch of broccolini
1 bunch of asparagus
1 handful of parsley

Dressing
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup red wine vinegar
1/2-1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic

Method:
1. Cook the black rice as per the instructions on the packet or using a rice cooker (I used the ‘brown rice’ setting which worked quite well).
2. Chop the kumera into rough 2-3cm cubes, toss in olive oil and lay out on a baking-paper-lined-tray, bake at  200oC for 25-35 mins or till golden brown. Allow to cool.
3. Slice the eggplant and layout on another baking-paper-lined-tray, sprinkle with salt and allow to sit for 15-20mins (allowing the water to begin being drawn out). Bake at 200oC for 20-30 minutes, or till soft with golden edges. Allow to cool.
4. Snap the ends off the asparagus (holding the base, ‘snap’ it off, this means that the tough bottom part of the stem will be removed, the rest of the stem is more tender, and nicer to eat) and chop off the base of the broccolini and slice each ‘branch’ into three portions. Steam both till tender. Refrigerate to cool the vegetables quickly.
5. Chop the watercress and toss with the spinach and lettuce.
6. Finely chop the spring onion (or shallots) and parsley.
7. Assemble the salad; layer the tossed leaves with cooled rice, potato and eggplant, asparagus and broccolini. Top with shallots and parsley.
8. Make the dressing by mixing all ingredients together; altering the seasoning to taste. Dress just before serving.

The Flour Chronicles : 3

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After a relatively successful first batch of sourdough (made using the rye in my valentines day basket of interesting ‘flours’) I let the starter die. Was it the travel to Brisbane and back? Or the salt added too early? Perhaps my not discarding any of the starter as I fed it meant it didn’t stay fresh. Whatever it was, I’ve restocked up on rye flour and will need to begin the sourdough project again soon, my rudimentary success and the price of a decent sourdough loaf urge me on!

In the mean time, I had a go at using one of the other ‘flours’ this week. Millet flour. I did some Pintrest searching and mostly came up with gluten free bread loaves and flat bread recipes. I wanted to bake something that was good as a take-to-uni-or-to-work-as-a-healthy-snack rather than a loaf of bread so hunted around for a muffin or biscuit recipe. I found one but, as the recipe author suggested, found that millet flour can sometimes leave a bit of a funny aftertaste in your mouth. The muffin recipe was also very (very) dry. I actually felt mean sending it off to uni with my brother the other day (he was desperate for some extra things to nibble on). I needed to come up with an innovative way of using them up without wasting them … so I dreamed up a cross between energy balls and cake pops. ‘Muffin mouthfuls’ maybe? I give instructions below for how to turn mildly sweet muffins into little chewy morsels perfect for morning tea!

Ingredients:
12 unsweetened muffins (mine were millet based, and therefore gluten free, but I’m sure wheat/spelt/another type of gf would work. A for flavour, the ones I used had 1 cup of grated sweet potato in them but any flavour you like would work, just adjust added ingredients depending on moisture content of your muffins)
250-270g roasted sweet potato
4 1/2 Tbs date paste (this is the sweetener, feel free to add more, you’ll just need to add more ‘drying ingredients’*, see below, to compensate).
2 1/2 Tbs oat bran*
1 1/2 Tbs chia seeds*
1 1/2 Tbs psyllium husk*
2 Tbs cacao nibs

Method:
1. Bake the muffins up as per the recipe.
2. When cool, place them in the bowl of the food processor with half the sweet potato, pulse to combine. Add more sweet potato as needed, ideally the mixture will stop looking like bread crumbs and start looking like dough.
3. Add in the date paste, check sweetness.
4. Add in ‘drying’ ingredients and cacao nibs. Check texture. If wet, add more of your chosen ‘drying ingredient’, if dry, add a little more date paste.
5. Roll into balls and freeze till needed! I’m sure they could also be rolled in something tasty, perhaps cacao or coconut, cinnamon sugar … but I’m going to enjoy mine plain this time!

Crunchy Oats for Breakfast

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Very loosely based on the grain free version of this recipe from Our Four Forks, I had a go at developing this nutritious toasted muesli recipe for my breakfast. I’m trying to get into making things for breakfast ahead of time, so I am more likely to make wise decisions when I’m hungry – following the advice I’m quick to give students … and am finding harder to follow now I’m the one who makes most of the food decisions in my house! I love sweet potato more than I do pumpkin, so that was my first switch – I also made a quite a big batch of this so it would last longer. We tried it out soaked overnight for a softer cereal (very nice), but it is also delightful crunchy, served with cold milk in the morning! I’ve recently tried a few other delicious ‘granola’ recipes; the peanut butter and honey one from Cooking Classy combines some of my favourite things (peanut butter and honey combined is my long time favourite toast topping … yum!) – I added some sunflower and pumpkin seeds too. I also really enjoyed the Oh She Glows Blissful Buckwheat Granola Clusters, very yummy! Although I might try using some buckwheat in my version next time I make it, the simplicity of the dates and sweet potato as the ‘wet mix’ is a bit of a winner! Hope you enjoy them as much as I have!

Dry Ingredients:
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup currents
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup pepitas
1/4 cup linseeds (partially ground in a coffee/spice grinder)
1/2-2/3 cup almonds (roughly chopped)
1/2-2/3 cup pecans (roughly chopped)

Wet Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups orange sweet potato/kumera puree (either boil in water, drain and puree or roast and then remove skins and puree soft inner sections*)
20 dried dates
2 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 tbsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt

a note about spices … 
when I made it the first time I under spiced the recipe – it was still delicious, here I’ve upped the spice levels so you can taste them but feel free to adapt and adjust to your own preference. 

Method:
1. Preheat oven to 140oC (my oven can’t go much lower without going out, if you can make it lower, do, it will take longer to cook though).
2. Combine all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
3. Mix the wet ingredients (including spices) and blend these with the dry till the texture is uniform.
4. Sprinkle the clumps of ingredients over about 3 baking trays and cook for about an hour and 40 minutes. Keep and eye on the mixture to see how it is drying out, adjust time if needed. I rotated the trays around every 30 minutes or so – this way it cooked evenly.
5. Enjoy as is or blend with other ingredients to stretch it out – rice puffs or raw oats could be nice, or perhaps chia seeds and psyllium husk for some extra fibre.
6. Serve with milk or yogurt and perhaps fruit. Enjoy your delicious breakfast (or snack at another time of the day)!

*See this link for helpful guidance on roasting sweet potatoes for making puree. The degrees centigrade conversion is 190oC .
http://thehealthyfoodie.com/deliciously-healthy-sweet-potato-brownies/