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Love is a fruit in season at all times, and within reach of every hand - Mother Teresa

INDIAN FAVA BEAN & CAULIFLOWER BALLS

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Some make it a habit to eat take-away regularly. Hubby and I rarely drop into a café or restaurant on the way home as we prefer home cooking. Instead, we eat out for most meals when on holidays. On a recent holiday to the Victorian High Country in Bright and Beechworth, we ate at a different restaurant every night for over a week. One night, every venue was closed except the Indian restaurant. Hubby grimaced. His last memory of Indian food was a disaster, too hot when he’s ordered a mild dish. So we hesitantly walked inside, sat down and purveyed the menu, ordered several dishes stressing our preference for mild options. Our first taste was made with trepidation. It was delicious and mild, the many small dishes when combined turned into a resounding flavour success. We thanked the waitress for guiding our selections and realised that maybe we’d previously visited a place with a heavy-handed chef.

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These Indian fava bean and cauliflower balls are what I call fusion cooking: using flavours typically associated with a country, yet also using ingredients from other places too. Like, I gave the trial balls in burger buns to my daughter and husband for lunch, and after tasting he said “they’re like falafels”. This could be true, but the legume base of the balls is lentils. Fava beans, like edamame, are green-colored legumes that come in their own "pod." Also known as broad beans, you can purchase them canned or frozen, fresh or dried. I used quinoa flakes to roll the balls in, as I don’t use breadcrumbs, creating a flakey coating with the advantage that they’re gluten free. I packed the ½ cup of fava beans so don’t be miserly with the amount you use. Talking the amount of chilli to use; I used ½ of an 1/8 teaspoon, very little as hubby and I like mild flavours, so feel free to adjust and taste until you get you’re desired flavour. To achieve the correct texture for the balls; when all the ingredients are placed in the food processor, pulse a little until the ingredients are just combined, and stop, to avoid ending up with a paste like consistency.

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Health benefits:

·       Fava beans are dense with nutrition. They have no saturated fat or cholesterol and contain a high concentration of thiamine, vitamin K, vitamin B6, potassium, copper, selenium, zinc and magnesium. They are also an inexpensive source of lean protein. Fava beans, when eaten as part of an overall healthy diet, may offer cardiovascular benefits and aid in weight management.

·       The health benefits of cauliflower include a reduced risk of cancer, heart and brain disorders, and relief from indigestion. It helps in boosting eye health, maintains hormone balance, detoxifies the body, and aids in weight loss. This vegetable also extends its benefits to keep you away from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation, diabetes, colitis and hypertension. The antioxidant power of cauliflower helps in strengthening the immune system. It also aids in maintaining bone and cellular health, electrolyte balance, and optimum cholesterol levels.

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INDIAN FAVA BEAN & CAULIFLOWER BALLS

V, GF, NF, DF

Makes 12 medium size balls

 

250 grams (9 oz.) frozen fava beans in pods (makes about ½ cup of soft fava beans)

¾ cup cauliflower, roughly chopped

400 grams (14 oz.) brown lentils

4 cloves garlic

1 shallot

1 cm ginger, minced

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

¼ cup fresh coriander

½ cup quinoa flakes

2 tablespoons coconut yogurt

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons curry powder

1/8 teaspoon chilli, to taste

salt and black pepper

extra quinoa flakes

Boil a saucepan of water and add frozen fava beans. Blanch for 3-4 minutes. Drain water, rinse in cold water and remove beans from pods. Add cauliflower to a food processor and pulse to a crumb consistency. Add lentils, garlic cloves, shallot, ginger, sesame seeds, coriander, quinoa flakes, yogurt and spices, and pulse until just combined (not a paste). Check the flavour and adjust to your personal taste. Roll the mixture into medium sized balls and roll in quinoa flakes.

Choice of cooking steps:

1.     Deep fry in 160’C / 325’F hot oil until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel to remove excess oil.

2.     Preheat oven to 230’C / 450’F and place balls on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake for 25 minutes, may flip the balls at the halfway point to prevent burning on the bottom.

Serve with coconut yogurt and spiced Indian sauce with a salad or roasted vegetables, on a burger, in green wraps or on pita with a salad.

Enjoy!

CITRUS FENNEL SALAD

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For most family get-togethers, my daughter requests this citrus fennel salad with fennel’s crunchy texture, a sweet orange verjuice dressing contrasted with the tarty olives and an aromatic caraway flavour of dill. This raw salad is flavourful and easy to prepare. Fennel, the hero of the dish, is a winter vegetable that I’ve paired with winter citrus, like navel oranges. The base of the dressing is verjuice which is an acidic juice made by pressing unripe grapes. If you cannot buy verjuice, simply use white grape juice. I became familiar with verjuice on a visit to Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop in the Barossa Valley in South Australia. In her farm kitchen, a cook demonstrated several ways of using verjuice to enhance the flavour of salads, cooked and roasted vegetables. Needless to say, I bought a flask of verjuice along with several of her vegetable and fruit pates.

If you don’t own a mandoline, slice the fennel as thinly as possible with a sharp knife. Slice the orange thinly enough so it retains its shape. You may choose to cut the orange slices in halves or quarters or leave whole. I love the flavour of kalamata olives, yet any variety is suitable. If you don’t like the flavour of dill, you could substitute with fennel fronds.

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Health benefits:

·       Fennel is highly prized for its licorice-like flavour and its health benefits. It’s been used in natural remedies since ancient times. Originally cultivated in the Mediterranean, fennel was popular in Greek and Italian dishes, but now is used around the world.

·       Fennel gives relief from anemia, indigestion, flatulence, constipation, colic, diarrhea, respiratory disorders, menstral disorders and helps in eye care. It’s also used in mouth fresheners, toothpastes and desserts.

 

CITRUS FENNEL SALAD

V, SF

Makes 1 serving platter for 6 people

 

For the salad:

1 fennel bulb, very thinly sliced (I used a mandoline)

1 navel orange, thinly sliced

½ cup kalamata olives, pitted

handful of fresh dill, roughly chopped

 

For the dressing:

200 ml verjuice, or white grape juice

½ orange, juiced

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 tablespoon brown rice syrup

pinch salt

To make the salad, place shaved fennel, orange slices, kalamata olives and dill in a large bowl. For the dressing, whisk all ingredients in a bowl, and pour at least half of the dressing over the salad ingredients. Toss to combine. To serve, pour salad onto a serving platter, drizzle with a little olive oil and a sprinkle of black pepper, if desired. Serve immediately with a small jug of the extra dressing.

Enjoy!

STRAWBERRY & PEACH GALETTE

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It’s no secret. A look at my lunchbox reveals I’m addicted. Yes, fruit and I have always been friends. Especially berries. Luckily in Australia, strawberries are cheaply available year round. Keeps me a happy lady.

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I created this galette on a recent Sunday morning for a going away lunch for our daughter, son-in-law and grandson, to farewell them on their brief trip to America. I used the fruit that was in my fridge: berries and peaches. It’s important to use fresh fruit, not canned or frozen as it will result in soggy dough. I used Bio Buttery, a vegan butter made in Australia to make the crust as its results are excellent. Bio Buttery was bought in one of my local health food stores.

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When suggesting vegan products, I often wonder if some of you find it difficult to buy similar products. If your local health food shop stocks the suggested products… I’ve found that if they don’t stock what I want, they’ll usually order the product for me. I shop at two health food stores that are not in the city of Melbourne. One is in the tiny village of Tooradin, on the Gippsland Highway, which we pass on our drive home from work in Melbourne. The other store is in Cowes, the main township on Phillip Island. Luckily, they both sell different products; what one doesn’t have the other does. I've found having a relationship with the owners of health food stores is important, as they’re more likely to order your requests if you’re friendly and support their store.

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Health benefits:

·       Strawberries are an amazing source of folate (the folic acid found in food). Inadequate amounts of folate when you're older can contribute to atherosclerosis, vascular disease and even a decline in cognitive function.

·       Strawberries could reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Strawberries are being studied for their unique ability to suppress the inflammatory responses of the body and reduce your risk of hypertension by lowering LDL cholesterol.

·       Strawberries contain more than 100 percent of our daily recommended intake of vitamin C in just one cup.

·       Strawberries are high in fibre, which is important for moving food through your digestive system and helping bowel movements. This can help improve digestion, especially with constipation or irregular stools.

·       Strawberries contain anthrocyanin, which is a powerful antioxidant that protects you from the damaging effects of your environment, especially the sun. The antioxidant power of the anthrocyanins found in strawberries lasts up to 24 hours after consumption; this makes them a great defence against free radical damage.

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STRAWBERRY & PEACH GALETTE

V, SF, DF, GF option

Makes a 25 cm galette

 

For the filling:

2 cups fresh strawberries, sliced

1 large ripe peach, pitted and sliced

2 tablespoons coconut sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

 

For the crust:

1½ cups spelt flour

OR GF option - 1 cup brown rice flour & ½ cup buckwheat flour

3 tablespoons coconut sugar

pinch salt

½ cup unsalted vegan butter, Bio buttery

2-4 tablespoons chilled water

To make the filling, add strawberries, peaches, coconut sugar, vanilla to a bowl and gently stir. Set the mixture aside.

To make the crust, add flour, coconut sugar and salt to a bowl and stir. Using a knife, cut the butter into the flour until the mixture becomes crumbly. Alternatively, rub the butter through the flour with your fingers until the mixture becomes crumbly. Add a little chilled water and bring mixture together to form a ball of dough with your fingers. Add only enough chilled water until the mixture comes together. Wrap the dough with baking paper, and place in the fridge to chill for ½ hour. Preheat the oven to 210’C (425’F/Gas mark 6).

Remove the dough ball from fridge and place between two pieces of baking paper. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough into a disk that’s about 3 mm thick and about 30 cm (12 inches) in diameter. If you used a little too much water when making the dough, you may need to dust the lower layer of baking paper with flour. Take the top layer of baking paper off the disk, and slip the lower layer of baking paper with the dough disk onto a baking sheet. Spoon the fruit (ONLY the fruit, avoiding the juice) into the centre of the dough disk, leaving 5-6 cm (2 inch) border around the fruit. Gently fold the dough edges over the fruit, and spoon a tablespoon of juice over the fruit. Using a pastry brush, brush the crust with some of the fruit juice. You may wish to sprinkle a little coconut sugar over the fruit for added sweetness. Bake for 25 minutes until the crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly, and serve warm, cut into triangles with a dollop of coconut yogurt.

Enjoy!

WATERCRESS, PEAR & WITLOF SALAD

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In my early childhood years, we lived in a valley inland from Mullumbimby on the north coast of New South Wales. Our house nestled beside a creek that trickled round a bend beside our garden lawn. My mother sometimes took us to the spring where cool green watercress grew in profusion around the edges of the bubbling spring. While we gathered the watercress, Sissy and I sneakily ate a few sprigs loving its cool peppery taste. Sadly, I cannot remember what dishes Mum made with the watercress, the walk to the spring is my only memory. Yet I am content, the memory is enough.

This salad echoes my childhood memories by using watercress with its peppery taste, sweet pear and a touch of bitter witlof. Witlof is a vegetable with white leaves that taste slightly bitter and are eaten in salads. It’s an unusual vegetable that ordinary supermarkets don’t often sell, but if you’re after a special salad for a dinner party and can’t buy witlof, use lettuce leaves. I’ve used corella pears as they’re my favourite because of flavour, yet any variety of pear is suitable. For this recipe, I use a hard vegan feta cheese that I buy at a health food store. The brand ‘Green Vie’ is manufactured in Greece, and is Mediterranean feta in flavour. It’s free from dairy, gluten, soya, lactose and palm oil. I’m sure any hard vegan cheese is a worthy substitute.

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Health benefits:

·       Watercress contains more vitamin C than an orange, more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach and more folate than bananas.

·       Watercress contains vitamin K, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, iron, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus which all required for a healthy body.

·       Watercress is very low in calories, 7 calories in 2 cups of sprigs.

 

WATERCRESS, PEAR & WITLOF SALAD

V, DF, SF

Makes 1 serving platter for 6 people

 

For the salad:

1 corella pear, sliced into thin shards

3 handfuls watercress sprigs

1 head witlof, leaves separated

½ cup shaved vegan hard cheese

¼ cup walnuts, roughly chopped

 

For the dressing:

1 ripe pear

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup water

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 clove garlic

For the dressing, place all the ingredients into the blender and blend until combined. If too thick, add a little more water and blend again. Pour into a serving container.

For the salad, add all ingredients in a bowl, reserving half the walnuts. Drizzle with some of the dressing and gently toss. Spread over a serving platter, scatter the rest of the walnuts on top and serve with the remainder of the dressing in a pouring jar. Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

FETTUCCINE W ASPARAGUS, ARTICHOKES & WALNUTS

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Spring has arrived. The sun shone, the air was warm and everyone I met on my walk to the beach remarked that maybe the last bitter cold temperatures were finished, all said with a sigh of relief. Fingers crossed. On the way to school, peaks of green asparagus are poking their heads through the chocolate soil on the Koo Wee Rup flats. So to celebrate my own sigh of relief, I’ve created a pasta dish with spring greens: asparagus and artichokes.

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Recently learned a trick from Elizabeth Minchilli of @eminchilli on making pasta dishes taste authentically Italian, like chefs throughout Italy’s cafes and restaurants do. Put simply, follow the method in this pasta dish and you’ll taste a bit of Italy.

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Health benefits:

·       Pasta provides healthy carbohydrates. A cup of white spaghetti contains 43 grams of carbohydrates, while a cup of whole-wheat spaghetti offers 37 grams of carbs. Carbs are a primary source of fuel. Whole-wheat pasta also provides a considerable amount of fibre which helps fight chronic diseases like obesity and type 2 diabetes, and promotes digestive health. 

·       Both white and whole-wheat pastas are excellent sources of selenium, a mineral that activates antioxidant enzymes which protect your cells from molecular damage.

·       White pasta is a source of folate (vitamin B9) and whole-wheat pasta is a source of carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. Folate helps in red blood cell development and rapid cell growth.

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FETTUCCINI W ASPARAGUS, ARTICHOKES & WALNUTS

V, DF

Makes 4 small plate servings

 

250 grams fettuccine

¾ cup pasta water

3 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

pinch cayenne pepper or chili flakes

3 tablespoons savoury yeast

2 bunches of asparagus

275 grams marinated artichoke hearts, roughly chopped

¼ cup walnuts, roughly chopped

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil, add salt and fettuccine, and cook until the fettuccine is cooked al dente.

Meanwhile, add olive oil, garlic and cayenne pepper (chili flakes) to a large fry pan, turn on the heat and cook until the garlic starts to sizzle, turn off the heat (remove from the stove if the hotplate is electric). Bring water to boil in a small saucepan, chop the asparagus into 2 cm lengths discarding the woody ends. Cook for several minutes, drain water and plunge into chilled water to stop the cooking process so the asparagus will retain their bright green colour.

When the fettuccine is cooked al dente, scoop ¾ cup of pasta water, and drain. Add the fettuccine, pasta water and savoury yeast to the fry pan on a medium heat, and stir vigorously while the water is reducing to emulsify into a sauce. Take off the heat when the water is almost gone. Add asparagus, artichoke hearts and ¾ of the walnuts, and mix gently. Top with the remaining walnuts and serve on a platter.

Enjoy!