poached cod and noodle salad

Cool as a Cucumber

After developing and putting together the recipes for my Home-style Vietnamese cooking class (April 21) on the weekend, the sun was belting down and the palm sugar and lemon grass punch was flowing. I realized that the best way to keep cool during these hotter days is to surround yourself with clean, cool foods.  Vietnamese cooking or shall I say non-cooking is as refreshing as it gets, with luscious salads, splashes of lime, bites of chilli and loads of crispy fresh vegetables. 

 

cool as a cucumber

Here is my summer buster salad that fits for lunch or dinner with full crunch. Substitute whatever vegetables you have in the fridge. A tip for the kitchen, see if you can pick up a vegetable shedder from any good kitchen shop. This will ensure that your vegetables are all finely cut so that you have this amazing collection of colour, texture and flavor.

If you like the sound of this recipe and would like to try your hand at a few more then book in now for my class on the Tuesday 21 April 10am to 1.00pm. Click here for the schedule or book now.


Vietnamese poached cod and noodle salad with Asian flavours

Serves 4

Poaching the fish

  • 300g Blue eye Travalla or Blue eye Cod fillets
  • ½ cup brown onion, sliced
  • 2 tsp ginger, sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp lemon grass, crushed
  • 4 tbsp coriander roots
  • 3 cups fish or chicken stock just to cover the fish

For the salad

  • 200g rice noodles soaked in hot water until softened  and drained
  • 1 cup red capsicum thinly sliced
  • 1 long red chili, deseeded and thinly sliced
  • ½  cup red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup cucumber, thinly shredded
  • ½ cup bean sprouts
  • 1 cups white cabbage, shredded
  • 1 cup carrot, sliced in match sticks or grated
  • ½ cup coriander leaves and stalks, chopped
  • ½ cup picked Vietnamese mint

For the dressing

  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp of ginger, minced
  • 2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp tamari or light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • ½ tsp sugar (optional)

Method

  1. Place all the poaching ingredients except the fish into a fry pan and pour in enough stock to just cover the vegetables. Bring the liquid to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and place the fish in the liquid, the liquid must cover the fish, poach the fish for 10 – 15 minutes or until a knife inserted into the fish can pull the flesh apart.
  2. Remove the fish from the liquid and allow to cool slightly.
  3. Drain the vegetables out of the liquid reserving the liquid and bring it back to the boil to cook the noodles.
  4. Cook the noodles as per directed on the packet , drain and  rinse in cold water, toss with a few drops of oil and set aside. The cooking liquid can be frozen and kept as a stock for a seafood soup.

For the dressing

  1. Blend all the ingredients together in a blender or food processor and set aside.
  2. Place all the prepared vegetables into a large salad bowl, toss through the noodles and pour over a little of the dressing, flake in the barramundi and toss over the sesame seeds.  Divide the salad into individual bowls and drizzle over a little more dressing.

 

hot cross bun and cranberry pudding

Hot cross breakfast

I always relish the days after feasting. There always seems to be leftovers that are lovingly re-enjoyed.

If you have a creative culinary line running through you, you will be able to turn them into all sorts of new and amazing delicacies that will continue to surprise the family and even yourself.

Here is a delicious breakfast recipe for those hot cross buns that always seem to reappear even after you thought that the last one had been toasted, generously loaded with butter and devoured.

hot cross bun and cranberry pudding

Hot cross breakfast

Serves 5-6

  • ½ cup cranberries
  • ½ cup boiling water
  • 4 medium sized eggs
  • 300ml pouring cream
  • ¼ tsp vanilla bean paste
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 275ml milk
  • 700g hot cross buns

Preheat oven to 180.

Place the cranberries into a bowl and cover with the boiling water. When the water has cooled, whisk in the eggs, cream, vanilla, sugar and milk. Immerse the hot cross buns into the egg mix and allow them to sit in there for 15 minutes until soaked.

Grease a baking dish or similar with a little butter. Lay the hot cross buns into the baking dish whisk the remaining mixture and pour this over the buns ensuring that the cranberries are evenly distributed. (If you have left over Easter eggs you can break a few over the mix as well).

Bake this on the middle shelf for 50 minutes until golden brown and firm to touch. Serve hot or cold with maple syrup,  ice cream, cream or yogurt.

Find more recipes to inspire you this Easter

 

Feast at Work and Celebrate

I have really come to believe that food is the ultimate ice breaker when it comes to getting to know new people or strengthening relationships with those who you already know.  We all love to eat. Sharing a meal with friends, family and even strangers can and does conjure feelings of joy and a sense of belonging.  

I have a saying: “Through the sharing of food we share life and one is never lonely or hungry.”

Being able to make a connection with people, especially those we work with is very important as we usually spend more time with them than our own families. A  connection made though the sharing of a meal can open lines to better communication,  patience, tolerance and  understanding. We can learn cultural rituals and lessons that are quite often priceless and not usually found at the lunch table. For the past couple of years I, among many other food identities and Australian chefs, have been an ambassador to “A taste of Harmony.” A week-long event from the 16th  to 22nd of March,  funded by the Scanlan Foundation.

The event gives workplaces an opportunity to celebrate and create an awareness around cultural diversity through sharing of food in the work place. Celebrating with food promotes conversation, cultural acceptance, unity, and understanding. Not to forget the advantage of stepping outside our comfort zone and trying something different – which in my mind always brings an essence of humility. Our dining experiences would be quite bland without our fellow foreigners landing on our shores and bringing to the table their life, culture and history on a plate. Being able to experience the foods, food rituals, traditions and recipes from others has really shaped Australia into the culturally-rich table it is now.

 

It doesn’t matter if your workplace is big or small or if it is culturally rich or not during this week. Register online at A taste of Harmony, pick a couple of recipes from different cultures and cook up a storm! Organise others at work to do the same and have a banquet of a celebration.

We have such an amazing collection of world cultures and cuisines right here on our doorstep. If you don’t have the opportunity to travel to exotic countries yourself, A Taste of Harmony and celebrating it is the next best thing.

Check out my recipe on the Taste of Harmony website here.

Experience and share a world of different flavours with our cooking classes at Putia Pure Food.

juices

Our fridge is the sanctuary of our kitchen

To me a healthy, organised and clean fridge means a healthy body and an organised kitchen! If you have stumbled with your new years resolutions of starting the year on the right foot and making some changes in your eating and lifestyle, and your fridge is still full of left over pizza, soft drink and something unrecognizable growing in the vegetable crisper then I am here to help. These simple tips will have you on the way to cooking with ease, eating a wider variety of healthy foods and give you all the pleasure that you will need from your chilled kitchen companion.

Fridge Organisation Tips

• Start by going through all those little bottles and jars in the fridge door. Check the use by dates and decide if the ones that you haven’t used in the past 3-4 months are ever going to get used…if not then I hate to say but its time to say goodbye. Those that you use regularly, sit them where you can see them.

If you have two or more of the same product open, then combine them into one jar and think where you can incorporate the relish, mustard, condiment in your next dish. It could be added as a marinade for grilled or barbeque meats, as a condiment to have on the side of your next roast or mixed with olive oil and a little vinegar as a tasty dressing for your salad.

• Homemade salad dressings are so easy to have on hand and can use up the bits and pieces of left over herbs that you have lying around as well.

• Keep all your dairy items together and incorporate a wide variety including yoghurts, cottage cheese, hard cheeses, quark (a German cream cheese – very low in fat and extremely versatile for dips, desserts and spreads) ricotta and cream cheese.

• For quick snacks and even quicker dinners have your celery, carrots, capsicum and any other vegetables that you enjoy, prepped, peeled and cut into batons. Store them in containers that allow the air to circulate and stay fresh. That way they are ready for you to dice, slice or simply munch on when you get hungry.

• Keep a variety of cherry tomatoes, round and gourmet tomatoes for salads, sandwiches and adding to vegetable or side dishes.

• Instead of having whole fruit in the fridge – which I find boring at times to eat, buy one each of your favourite fruits and make a container of fruit salad. Keep it stored in an airtight container and it will last the week. That way you have a wonderful mixture of flavours and colours as a high fibre low fat snack to take to work, for the kids at school of for a simple dessert with ice cream or yoghurt.

• When you buy your lettuce whole, wash it and break it up into leaves storing it in a lettuce crisper so that it’s easier for you to toss together a delicious salad.

• Along with your basic vegetables, commit to buying 3-4 other vegetables that you haven’t tried. Change them weekly to give you variety. You will eventually make it through all of our wonderful vegetables we have on offer and build up your repertoire of recipes. Aim to cook a different vegetable dish every night using up to 4 different vegetables.

Taking on these few simple hints you will notice a huge difference in the way you feel, and the ease of which you can prepare your meals. Aim for a ‘clean out the fridge day’ every week or fortnight depending on when you go shopping to use up the leftover fruit and vegetables.

That way, you will not only keep your fridge fresh, you will save money, save on wastage and you body and wallet will thank you.

To take your freshly organised and healthy fridge to a new level, why not grab some more ideas from our cooking classes? Perhaps you could take a class in ‘Healthy Desserts,’ ‘Food as Medicine’, or ‘Creating Healthy Meals in Minutes?’ See our class schedule for more details.

10 great tips for thinking outside the lunchbox

With school back in full swing and mothers, fathers and carers working back into a routine the weekly lunch menus are now up for debate. Now, just hearing that our nation’s lunchbox staple the vegemite sandwich has taken a kick from nutritionists for its lack of sustenance and nutritional value for our growing children, it’s a challenge for all parents to come up with healthy ideas that don’t come in colourful crackly plastic.  So while the clock ticks and amongst the morning hustle and bustle in getting out the door here are a few lunch ideas for the whole family to enjoy.

If you would like even more information come along to one of my specialised cooking classes for inspiration.

We have demonstration and hands on classes with ‘Kids Cooking in the Kitchen’ Booked Out (7 April), ‘Kids cooking’ and ‘Thinking outside the lunchbox’ (14 April and one for adults 15 April), and ‘Food for picky eaters’ (14 April).

Click here for my cooking class schedule.

Here’s my tips for healthy, interesting lunchboxes:

1. Make a plan, set up a menu and get organised.

2. Avoid highly processed meats, cheeses, and drinks.

3. Opt to save the lollies, dried fruit bars, chips, chocolates for special occasions on the weekend and encourage your family and children to eat healthy better choice foods during the week.

4. Mix up the breads with rye lavosh wraps. Corn, pink or green vegetable tortillas are great for colour. Seeded and multigrain breads and bread rolls and mini bagels are handy and not so messy.

5. Rice paper rolls and sushi are a great alternative and can be made the night before. Fillings can include chopped chicken, grated apple, avocado, lettuce with a light mayonnaise, curried egg with spinach, tuna mixed with sour lite cream and corn, diced vegetables and salsa.

6. Instead of sugary jams and chocolate pastes opt for firm ricotta blended with banana and cinnamon or whole nut spreads with sultanas and lettuce.

7. Other bread spreads ideal for a savoury lunch include hummus, tzatziki, salsa, pesto and low fat cream cheese.

8. Use left over vegetables and meat. Dice up and mix with rice, pasta or cous cous for a healthy salad.

9. For snacks, try toasted pita bread, rice crackers of corn thins with low fat dip, cubed cheese and cherry tomatoes; home popped pop corn, savoury muffins, vegetable slices or whole meal fruit muffins.

10. I encourage you to get your children involved in the baking of muffins, healthy slices and to select and create their favourite healthy snack to take to school.

Variety in all aspects of the lunch box is the key to keeping you and your family happy, and healthy too. I’m sure you will discover that the lunch box chore will soon become a pleasure.

Quick simple meals for fussy or allergy eaters

Getting back into daily routine after the crazy Christmas and New Year season need not send you into a panicked frenzy. For easy main meals for fussy or allergy eaters I always love to serve a selection of dishes banquet-style, as I myself love to have many different flavours and dishes on offer. With this option there is sure to be something that someone likes. Throwing together a wonderful dinner can be as simple as having a barbeque. To easily jazz it up, try brushing over chunks of vegetables with rosemary twigs soaked in olive oil and crushed garlic. You can also use thyme springs and then toss the grilled vegetables with mixed leaves and or crumbled feta.

Have a smaller selection of meats, pieces of fish or chicken that you can easily throw onto the grill or hot plate. Instead of trying to have different main meals, create a selection of salsas or dressings. This could include a Moroccan spiced charmoula, yoghurt scented with saffron, roasted garlic and sweet apple vinegar or a pistachio and herb dressing. These can be spooned over a plain grilled or barbequed piece of meat, chicken or vegetables. Many great side dishes, including wild grain and hearty vegetable salads can be made ahead of time and brought out just before serving.

If you are cooking with your oven, try a baked polenta or pasta dish or a simple fragrant curry full of fresh ginger, lemongrass and lime leaves. A braised beef dish with a splash of Lindeman’s Shiraz is easy to throw together and can be left to simmer until tender. These dishes are usually free from all nasty intolerance foods and generally suit everyone.

Don’t be bamboozled by desserts either. Try something a little different. Everyone loves ice cream and there are plenty of excellent dairy free/gluten free ice creams out there that you can team up with caramelised or chilled poached or fresh fruits. Serve the ice cream and fruits as is, or layered and frozen in a terrine. Slice it up and garnish with roast almond praline for something with a little more wow.

Allergy fussy eaters healthy dessert

Try some of the wonderful almond or hazelnut meal torts which are great for gluten free folks. Torts can be whipped up in minutes and are adaptable to all sorts of exotic additions. Chilled puddings of sago or tapioca sweetened with palm sugar and coconut milk are wonderful on the warmer nights and are delicious accompanied with tropical fruits tossed with zested lime and a splash of sparkling wine. Or wrap in baking paper and foil some bananas, sliced strawberries and a scattering of dark chocolate. Leave to sit on the barbeque until the chocolate is melted.
With all these ideas your back to work dinners will leave you enjoying the occasion with friends and family and not stranded and stressed in the kitchen.

If you also would like more help or inspiration why not join us at Putia for a great cooking class!

View Putia Pure food’s cooking class schedule.

Five Healthy Travelling Tips

This season – it doesn’t matter if you are going abroad or just cruising around our beautiful country, there is no excuse to let your health slide. Here are some useful travelling tips to stay in top condition and return home feeling revived and full of vitality.

Healthy travel

1) Be well prepared so you can go with the flow.

If you are flying, always drink lots of water. Take a small atomiser filled with water to refresh your face during flights. Snack on nuts, almonds, seeds and some small amounts of dried fruits. Eating fresh fruit will fill you up and have you less likely reaching for the chips, breads and salty snacks on the plane tray.

2) Pack for the road.

If you are travelling in a car or van cut up fresh fruit and drizzle with lemon juice to ensure no browning occurs.
Take some whole meal crackers, cut up carrots, celery and or cucumber and a container of hummus or dip. Baked corn chips and healthier snacks like boiled eggs, snow peas or even your own frozen yoghurt will all stay fresh and chilled stored in an esky. Make yourself a container of fantastic salad, bring along shredded roast chicken or make some wraps. If you start strong –then the temptation to snack at the road side service stations is eliminated and you will save money meaning more to spend at your vacation destinations.

3) Don’t be a Spoil Sport….being healthy is not about missing out!

Make sure you take along some of those exciting treats that you love to eat at Christmas to have along the way. Try my gorgeous Chocolate Balls that have no sugar in them – they don’t need refrigeration and with their delicious chocolaty flavour you won’t believe they are good for you.

4) Make sure you have a healthy breakfast or brunch that will sustain you for hours.

If you are travelling by plane, after a meal get up and walk around to help with digestion and get the blood flowing. Remember we generally only eat 4-6 small meals a day so don’t fall into the trap of eating every time the trolley comes around. Ask for fruit and extra bottles of water, and if you feel like a drink, have one but follow it with water. My favourite plane drink is a Virgin Mary – spicy tomato juice, pepper, lots of ice and lemon, I have this when I think I may be hungry as it makes for a reasonably healthy in between snack. If you are doing an adventure for the day, grab a tub of yogurt, a healthy muesli bar or a pre-made healthy muffin to get you going until lunch. We all know that the fresh or sea air makes us hungry.

5) Be restaurant and menu savvy.

If you have to eat out, don’t dive straight into the fast food trap. Try to always choose a healthier option. Burgers are fine as long as they are loaded with salad, and ask for what you want. Say no butter, whole meal bread for a sandwich, grilled fish, dressing on the side. You’ll feel better for it and your body will thank you too. Did you know that you can eat up to 18 x fresh oysters or grilled prawns instead of just 3 x fried calamari? You won’t be denying yourself and again, feeling proud of yourself for making the better choices.

Find more healthy recipes for great food this holiday season.

Ten reasons to hail the legume

There is wide speculation at the moment about the legume and its health benefits in some of the food diets and food trends. And legumes have been given a bit of a boot out when it comes to what is the healthy food pyramid. I am here to say that the legume is one of the most important aspects in our whole food diet and I’m giving you 10 tips as to why your diet and pantry should include these humble ancient beans.

Ten reasons to hail the legume

Eating like our ancient fore-fathers has never reigned truer than including the legume. Cultivation, preparation and consumption of legumes is evident from the royal tombs of ancient Egypt to the classical Greece of Homer’s Iliad and even in the Old Testament. The use of legumes as a basic dietary staple can be traced back more than 20,000 years in some Eastern cultures, while the common bean, the lima bean and the pinta, were being cultivated for the first time in the very earliest Mexican and Peruvian civilisations more than 5,000 years ago, being popular in both the Aztec and Inca cultures.

I am a huge fan of keeping legumes stocked in the pantry, and any sort of legume, beans and peas in both the tinned and dry varieties. Legumes, are often referred to as ‘pulses’, and they are all forms of beans and peas coming from the Leguminosae family. The Leguminous plants yield seeds of variable sizes, shapes and colours within a pod and have huge nutritional and health benefits. Some of the more popular legumes and beans include chickpeas, broad bean, field pea, lentils, mungbean, azuki bean, navy bean, butter beans, haricot (navy) beans, cannellini beans, red kidney beans, broad beans, black-eyed beans, soybeans, mung beans, lentils, and split peas. The legume is fundamentally a meal in itself although a couple of tips when cooking and using the beans.

For your dried varieties, usually soaking is required except for split peas and lentils and generally overnight in room temperature water is best, changing the water to fresh just before boiling. This soaking rehydrates the bean making it easier to cook them. Before soaking, pick through the beans, discarding any discoloured or shrivelled beans and depending on how much time you have there are two soaking methods to produce the perfectly cooked bean.

Option 1, In a bowl cover 1 cup of dried beans with 5 cups of water. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Option 2, In a stockpot, bring 1 cup of dried beans and 5 cups of water to a boil. Cover and set aside and let beans soak for 1 to 4 hours at room temperature.

Cooking the legumes is usually done in simmering unsalted water salting the water produces a tough outer skin, although you can flavour the water with onions, spices and bay leaves. Depending on the bean usually 20 – 30 minutes is required to achieve a well-cooked bean, to test simply squash the bean between your fingers and if it squashes easily then they are ready for the draining. Once the water comes to the boil I will quite often boil for 3-5 minutes, cover and let them stand for one hour, then discarding the soaking water, I then rinse and cover with new water and cook as directed.

It is best to skim any scum that rises to the surface of the boiling water as this is just the impurities from the beans. This aids in the digestion of the bean.

Cooked beans can then be used for salads, purees curries and dips, for soups and casseroles vegan pates’ and bulking out meat dishes, legumes are the perfect addition when the weather chills up, quite often soaking is always required and then the beans are added to the soup liquid to simmer until cooked through.

If you are using a variety of different beans then you may need to cook them separately and then add them to your dish.

Beans need flavour! Add salt or acidic ingredients, such as vinegar, tomatoes or juice, near the end of the cooking time, when the beans are just tender. If these ingredients are added too early, they can make the beans tough and slow the cooking process. Beans are done when they can be easily mashed between two fingers or with a fork. To freeze cooked beans for later use, immerse them in cold water until cool, then drain well and freeze. Cooked beans freeze very well making them a great sand by as you can then just tip them into your dishes when needed if you don’t have tinned on hand. 1 cup of dried beans will give you about 2- 2 ½ cups of cooked beans. Or 1 x 400g tin of cooked beans will give you about 1 ½ cups of cooked drained beans.

Always drain and rinse tinned beans.

Beans love flavour so don’t be shy to season them with spices, dressings, sauces, garlic, herbs and olive oil after they are cooked depending on your dish.

They are very inexpensive and a small amount yield a lot usually 1 cup of dry beans will yield 2 ½ cups of cooked beans. So leap for the legumes, save money, increase your fibre and protein and discover why they are an amazing kitchen staple world-wide.