kale & quinoa salad

kale, quinoa and salmon salad
kale, quinoa and salmon salad

Remember when you were growing up, and a salad was eternally comprised of a sad, round tomato, circles of cucumber and wads of damp iceberg lettuce, drowning in a sea of sharp, vinegary dressing? Oh, that salad. Sometimes it was accompanied by a ring of pungent onion, or a lonely olive that was also wondering why it was there. They weren’t particularly bad or good, they were just something that had to be heroically endured to get to the good stuff, like pizza and chicken and lasagne.

salmon on kale and quinoa salad
grilled salmon is a delicious indulgence

I’m not sure when it all started changing, but Australia probably owes a great debt to its multicultural history. Greek salad. Caesar salad. Someone heard a rumour of this amazing stuff called tabbouleh, others murmured words like panzanella and fattoush and niçoise.

And thus salads were set free, and we were all a lot happier for it.

kale and quinoa salad
Say yes to salads.

I love using kale as an alternative to salad leaves, because it feels so much more substantial than biting into lettuce (although don’t get me wrong, I also love lettuce). Quinoa is often a feature in my salads, not just because it’s excellent for my gluten-free friends, but also because it lends a brilliant texture, holds dressing well and gives the salad a certain heft.

And if you need something else to convince you, let me just say that the grilled salmon is a deliciously indulgent affair that means you’ll never have to dread eating a salad for dinner ever again. I promise.

Kale and quinoa salad with grilled salmon (serves 2)
For the salad:
1 x salmon fillet, grilled (try honey soy salmon)
100g kale
150g quinoa
5 baby radishes, sliced
100g plum of cherry tomatoes

For the dressing:
250g low-fat Greek yoghurt
Juice of a lemon
1 tbsp honey

Rinse the quinoa well and cook until just tender. This is quite often a much shorter cooking time than they suggest on the packet, so check it at 5 minutes.

Steam the kale (if your pot is big enough, you can steam it above the quinoa) and dry using a clean teacloth or a salad spinner.

Slice the radishes and tomatoes.

Combine all the salad ingredients and make the dressing by stirring the juice of a lemon into a cup of yoghurt, then sweetening with the honey.


spiced lamb sausage rolls

Lamb sausage rolls.
Lamb sausage rolls.

Oh Australia. Did you think I’d forgotten you?

One of the stranger quirks about being an expat is that you begin to hold national holidays even dearer to your heart than you would if you were actually living in the country. Where once you might have rolled your eyes at the prolific display of Southern Cross memorabilia and smirked at the plethora of green-and-gold boxing kangaroos, you instead find yourself looking at akubras with a certain fondness and tearfully googling the Australian flag.

It’s weird, yes. But it’s true.

Make these whenever you feel homesick.
Make these whenever you feel homesick.

I have trouble defining Australian cuisine, but there are generally a few things that come to mind: ANZAC biscuits, lamingtons, meat pies and sausage rolls. These stalwarts are often coloured by the irresistible compulsion to incorporate flavours from other cuisines – something fittingly characteristic of a nation inhabited by so many different cultures. And so we have chilli meat pies, barbecued curry prawns, pandan lamingtons and nutella pavlovas. I love it. If we are going to mend global fences, reach out to each other and live well together, I think it starts with food.

So in the spirit of Australia Day, I thought I’d make something quintessentially Aussie with a little twist. A while ago I found this wildly successful adana kebab recipe and to my delight it makes an excellent sausage roll, too. Lightly spicy, exotic yet familiar, these sausage rolls are my homage to the country I still call home.

Happy Australia Day, folks!

The familiar meets the exotic.
The familiar meets the exotic.

Spiced lamb sausage rolls
500g lamb mince
7.5g salt (about 2 tsp)
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp sumac
1 tbsp Urfa pepper flakes
2 eggs
4 tbsp breadcrumbs
1 roll (375g) puff pastry

Place the mince in a large, sturdy bowl and add the salt, cumin, sumac and pepper flakes. Mix, using your hands to knead, until the mince goes tacky and starts sticking to the side of the bowl.

Add 1 egg and the breadcrumbs, then combine well. The final mixture should be springy and slightly sticky but not wet.

Chill the mince for at least an hour.

Take out the mince and divide it into 8 portions, then shape them into logs.

Wrap the logs in the puff pastry, overlapping the fold slightly. Score three times with a sharp knife, brush with beaten egg and bake in a 200C oven for 25-30 minutes.

sweetcorn pancakes with bacon

Oh Sunday brunch, will you ever stop with your loveliness?
Oh Sunday, will you ever stop with your loveliness?

There’s something impossibly lazy about a Sunday morning. I’m always reluctant to wake, generally unwilling to leave the sanctuary of the doona covers, but Sunday beckons to me nevertheless, murmuring of long coffees and longer brunches in the soft sunlight, hinting at mellow, gentle laughter and promising peaceful moments of perfect happiness.

And who am I to resist Sunday’s siren song?

Corn pancakes with bacon: the perfect Sunday brunch.
Corn pancakes with bacon: the perfect Sunday brunch.

It’s tempting to make something quick and easy like bagels, but if I’m feeling particularly motivated I like to make something indulgent and special for Sunday brunch. I love these corn pancakes – they’re basically a savoury variation of the American pancakes I made a few weeks ago. They might, in another lifetime, be called corn fritters, but I tend to think that fritters are deep-fried and crunchier, whereas these darlings are soft and fluffy, punctuated with sweet bursts of sunshine from golden kernels of corn.

They are best served with bacon and avocado, and I added a dab of crème fraîche and a splash of really good balsamic vinegar. You could also try something sharp like a citrusy salsa or springy relish. I did poach an egg to go on top, but don’t trouble yourself. In the end, I think it’s enough to go with the pancakes and bacon.

Rivers of rich egg yolk gliding down mountains of golden pancakes.
Rivers of rich egg yolk gliding down a mountain of golden pancakes.

My Sunday plans: feast well, then spend the rest of the day groaning under the immense weight of my own epicurian satisfaction.

Corn pancakes with bacon (makes 6)
225g plain flour (1½ cups)
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp sugar
1 pinch of salt
2 large eggs, beaten
30g butter, melted and cooled
300ml milk (1¼ cups)
400g tin of corn kernels, drained
2 spring onions, finely chopped
6 rashers of bacon

In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt together.

Add the eggs, butter, milk, corn and spring onions and mix well.

Let the mixture stand while you heat a non-stick pan to a medium heat. Add a ladleful of batter. When bubbles start to form on the surface (about 2-3 minutes), you can flip and cook on the other side.

Depending on how crispy you like it, you can start cooking the bacon when there’s two pancakes left to cook (I like it crispy but not tough, which takes about 6 minutes under a grill or on the stovetop). Serve together with lamb’s lettuce, balsamic vinegar and crème fraîche.

anzac biscuits

The Anzac biscuit - a national culinary treasure.
The Anzac biscuit – a national culinary treasure.

Anzac Day marks the anniversary of the battle at Gallipoli during the First World War, where many soldiers died during the campaign to capture Constantinople. It is said that Australia’s national identity, the ‘Anzac spirit’, was forged during that brutal campaign – a defining moment for a relatively new nation. It is a day of solemnity where we think about our troops, the fallen and the sacrifices they and their families have made to keep us safe.

Naturally, we also commemorate the day with biscuits.

Crunchy and chewy and golden and delicious.
Crunchy and chewy and golden and delicious.

It might seem strange that a day that inspires so much thoughtfulness, sadness and gratitude in Aussies should be accompanied by something as irreverent as a biscuit – but in some ways, there’s nothing more fitting.

Made with rolled oats, flour, coconut and golden syrup (and egg-free to ensure no spoilage on the long journey to the troops), Anzac biscuits are a national culinary symbol right up there with lamingtons and Tim Tams.

Oh, and you can’t call an Anzac biscuit a cookie. We’re a little touchy about that.

Fresh from the oven
Fresh from the oven

Wholemeal flour works really well in this recipe because the biscuits are already grainy and slightly nutty, so I substituted the whole lot. Rumour has it that you can actually make quite a few substitutions without affecting the final taste too much, but for the original crunchy-on-the-outside, slightly-chewy-on-the-inside biscuits I love this recipe.

Anzac biscuits (makes 24)
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup wholemeal flour
²⁄3 cup (150g) caster sugar
¾ cup (60g) desiccated coconut
¹⁄3 cup golden syrup
125g unsalted butter
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons hot water

Mix the oats, flour, sugar and coconut together in a large bowl.

Place the butter and golden syrup over a low heat until melted.

Mix the baking soda with the hot water and then add to the butter/syrup mixture. It will froth up.

Pour this into the dry ingredients and mix well.

Oats are delicious!
Oats are delicious!

Shape into flat discs of about 5cm across – they spread quite far, so you need to give them a lot of room on the baking sheet.

Bake at 165 degrees celcius for around 10 minutes, until golden. They’ll come out soft, but let them cool for five minutes on the tray before transferring them to a wire rack and they’ll crisp up nicely.

chocolate chip hot cross buns

A delightful little Easter treat.
A delightful little Easter treat.

It’s the end of the Lenten season, which always means hot cross buns.

When I was little, I liked the delicately spiced buns, but hated the sickly sweet hit of the raisins and currants. It would take me ages to eat one because I would have to pull it apart, picking out the fruit and eating the bread. Occasionally I would get impatient and try to eat too much at once, accidentally biting into a fat, disturbingly squishy saccharine pod or a slightly bitter piece of peel. I would have given up on them altogether, but there’s something very festive and special about the scent of a warm hot cross bun wafting through the house.

Chocolate chip hot cross buns: all fun, no fruity fuss.
Chocolate chip hot cross buns: all fun, no fruity fuss.

It was a glorious day when Baker’s Delight introduced chocolate chip hot cross buns. To me, it’s the ideal substitute since the cinnamon and chocolate go together perfectly and there’s no unexpected fruit bombs going off where they shouldn’t be.

I’m completely new to making bread, which always makes for a few nerves. I tried my best to tinker with recipes, playing with wholemeal ratios, types of sugar and quantities of butter in an effort to make them healthier, but eventually I found that it’s best not to mess too much with hot cross buns – you just won’t get the same experience. Maybe someday I’ll be comfortable enough with baking to perfect a recipe for wholemeal low-sugar butter-free hot cross buns, but for now I’m going to sit back and enjoy a sweet treat.

Happy Easter!

For who can resist a hot cross bun, still warm from the oven?
For who can resist a hot cross bun, still warm from the oven?

Chocolate chip hot cross buns (makes 12)
For the buns:
1 tablespoon dried yeast
2 tablespoons of honey
100ml warm water
100ml warm milk
450g plain flour
2 teaspoons mixed spice
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
50g caster sugar
1 egg
50g melted butter
200g dark chocolate chips
For the crosses:
50g flour
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
For the glaze:
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablepoons water

Dissolve the honey in 100ml hot water and 50ml milk. Make sure the liquid is comfortably hot and add the yeast, covering it with a clean tea towel. Leave for 5 minutes until it forms a good froth on the surface.

Meanwhile, sift the flour, sugar, salt, spices and chocolate chips together in a large bowl and make a well in the centre.

When the yeast mix is ready, pour it into the well with the egg, melted butter and 50ml of warm milk. Mix gradually until it forms a rough dough, then turn it out onto a clean surface.

The rough dough
The rough dough

Knead for about 7 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic.

Watching dough come together is kind of magical.
Watching dough come together is kind of amazing.

Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a cloth, leaving it in a warm spot in the kitchen. Leave until it doubles in size (takes about an hour).

Take the dough and knead it back to its original size, then cut it into 12 balls. Score the tops in the shape of a cross and place into a deep baking tray lined with baking parchment. Cover and leave for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the crosses by mixing the flour with the water and vanilla. Roll into strips and attach to the top of the balls by wetting them slightly.

Bake at 190 degrees for 20 minutes.

Just before you pull them out of the oven, you can make the glaze by gently heating the sugar and water until it forms a syrup. Brush the buns with the glaze while they’re still warm.