Uncommonly good

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If spending Saturday night browsing dinner plates online with my bestie is a sign of a homewares obsession, then I plead guilty. Send in the troops, it’s time for an intervention. Just give me a minute to hide the boxes of crockery surreptitiously tucked into the corners of the garage behind the poor neglected bicycle and suitcase of winter clothes.  

My friend and I, unsurprisingly, have different tastes in plate patterns were but we happily examined each other’s choices in detail. We debated over critical matters such as how much one should spend on daily use serveware and whether 23cm was a large enough diameter for a dinner plate. If you’ve made it this far without crying from boredom or seeking something more interesting like watching grass grow, then you too may share our penchant for all things kitchen.  I personally blame my problem on food blogging and the food prop madness that goes with it all. I’m sure there’s a perfectly acceptable explanation for yours too.

if gazing longingly at homewares is indeed your idea of a good time, have a peek at the many good things over at UncommonGoods. They are a company that focuses on ethically made goods from artists and small manufacturers, and prides themselves on treating their employees with respect. 

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Photo credit: http://www.uncommongoods.com

Also, they have lots of cool stuff. These Owl Mugs from here are so darn cute I wanna eat them up. Know a couple who have it all? Try the very funky customisable wedding gifts. After you’ve bought all your gifts, you just might accidentally stumble into this bit and pick out a little something for yourself like the ‘i eight sum pi dish’ that is pictured. Then, you’ll have no excuse not to make this pie, or this one. A business that operates ethically AND has a sense of humour. How scrumptious!

(For my Aussie readers, yes they do ship to us.)

Happy New Year dear ones!

*This post is sponsored by www.uncommongoods.com however opinions are my own.

Things in Jars

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These are for the rushed ones. The breakfast-in-the-car eaters. The early-start- endurers. The I-don’t-have-time-for-breakfast-but-damm-I’m-hungry’ers.

They say you shouldn’t eat on the run. They say you should sit down, meal on a plate, focus completely on the food, chew each mouthful ten times. Swallow, then take a breath before your next bite.

They don’t know how funny they are.

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Keep all your glass jars. The standard sized ones fit into your car cup holders and so are perfect for eating on the run without a food-in-car mishap. Take in mouthfuls during red lights. Sip between pathetic releases of the foot brake during the maddening shuffle of peak-hour traffic. It’ll keep you from mouthing expletives at the other drivers. A hunger cure and road-rage cure in one.

Once you are done, you can pop the lid on and deal with the smell later when you have to wash the thing after it’s been in the hot car all day. Keep all your glass jars and dedicate a shelf to them. Buy things in glass jars just so that you can finish it, wash it out and use it for meals on the run. The pasta sauces, the peanut butters, the honeys and the jams. Ask relatives for their glass jars. They’ll think you’re cuckoo and it’s mostly worth it.

Then make one or two of these options, either the night before or in the morning. A couple of these need a fancy-pants food processor, but some need very little equipment. Each recipe makes one serving, but you can easily double them to set yourself up nicely for the next 2 days. As you are rushing out the door, grab the jar of yum, grab a spoon and GO GO GO!

Jars to spare? Use ’em for nut butters, piquant quick mango picklelemon curd or apple & ginger relish.

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Thing 1: Mango Avocado Whip (freezes well)

1/2 cup fresh or frozen mango flesh
1/2 avocado
1/2 cup milk of choice
1-2 scoops protein powder
Handful of baby spinach, washed
1/2 tsp vanilla powder or paste
Seeds of 2-3 cardamom pods or ¼ tsp cardamom powder (optional)

Place all ingredients in food processor bowl, blitz until homogenous mixture. Top with coconut, berries, nuts, seeds, chocolate or whatever tickles your fancy. To turn this into a smoothie, add a little more liquid (milk, coconut water, water).

Tip: Place the ingredients (apart from milk and avocado) in small snap-lock bags and freeze in single serves, ready for blitzing in the morning.

Thing 2: 1 Minute Pesto Eggs

2 eggs
1 tsp pesto of choice
Small handful baby spinach
Oil (optional)
Shredded cheese (optional)

Spray or brush the bottom of the jar with oil (optional, makes for easier cleaning). Place eggs and pesto in jar and whisk with a fork or small whisk. Fold through baby spinach leaves. With lid off, microwave on high for 40 seconds to start with, then another 20 seconds. Sprinkle a little shredded cheese over the top before the second microwaving session if desired.

Thing 3: Choc, PB and Banana Smoothie (freezes well)

1 ripe banana
1 heaped dessert spoonful peanut butter
1 tbsp raw cacao or cocoa powder
1-2 scoops protein powder
¾ cup milk of choice

Place all ingredients in food processor bowl, blitz until homogenous mixture.

Tip: Peel and freeze and bananas that are in danger on over-ripening before they are eaten, to use in this recipe later.

Thing 4: Anne’s Overnight Oats

2 tablespoons of chia seeds (white or black)
½ cup rolled oats
One decent-sized ripe banana
¾ cup milk of choice
1/2 tsp cinnamon or vanilla (optional)
Honey or other syrup to serve (optional)
Fruit, seeds, nuts, shredded coconut, chocolate chips to garnish (optional)

Mash banana in jar. Add chia seeds, oats, milk and cinnamon/vanilla. Stir well. Store in fridge for at least 4 hours, or overnight. Top with toppings of choice and sweetener. If using.

Adapted from a recipe by Anne who writes here.

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Tefal Cook4Me and Spiced Chickpeas with Coconut

I’m the first to admit that I have control issues in the kitchen. The stove is a ship and I, its captain.  This makes it near intolerable for anyone who dares to help me put together a meal.  It also makes it very difficult for any sophisticated appliances to be truly useful in my kitchen.  My need for control means that I must stir the pot myself, pottering between that and chopping of the next ingredient to be added, while simultaneously shooing out anyone who ventures in.

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When Tefal asked me to trial their Cook4Me Electric Pressure Cooker, I have to admit I was sceptical. I am a stovetop pressure cooker user from way back, refusing to be swayed even by an exploding-dhal-from prematurely-opened-cooker incident a few years ago.  Would I still be ‘hard core’ with an electric pressure cooker, I wondered?

I don’t know exactly when I officially joined the Tefal Cook4Me camp. Was it the heart-achingly moist, buttery fish fillets I made using the ‘Sweet Chilli Salmon’ recipe?  Or the realisation that I didn’t have to pay attention and count the whistles from a stovetop cooker in order to ensure my lentils were cooked but not pureed?  Whatever the trigger, the result is that I now use my Tefal Cook4Me almost every day.

You guys, this thing not only cooks things to perfection, retaining moisture and flavour, but it also tells you how to do it!! It is programmed with loads of gorgeous recipes that take you through the cooking process, step by step, for 2, 4 or 6 people. Even an intuitive cook like me is quite happy to minimise the firing of neurons at the end of the day and still end up with a delicious, healthy meal.  Also, this thing is one sexy looking machine! I know, I know……I saved the most important bit till last.

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A lot of things are supposed to change your life these days…..appliances, cars, cosmetics. The Tefal Cook4Me may not change your entire life, but it sure will transform the way you cook, especially if you like quick, healthy, simple meals that are easy to clean up afterwards and so, so good to eat.

Oosli, or Spiced Black Chickpeas with Coconut, is a traditional South Indian Dish, popular during festival times but made throughout the year. It is a protein rich dish, perfect for those who rely on non-meat sources of protein, but also delicious as a filling workday lunch.  The earthiness of the legume is offset by the freshness of coconut and a subtle-but-definitely-there hint of lemon.  If you can’t find black chick peas, you can also use regular chick peas.

Tefal Cook4Me was kindly provided by Tefal Australia, however all opinions are my own.  Cook4Me images are from Tefal.

Spiced Chickpea coconut  (4 of 5)

Spiced Chickpeas and Coconut (Oosli)

Serves 2-4 as a side dish

Get:

1 cup dried small black chick peas, soaked overnight
2 tsp coconut or vegetable oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
Pinch asafoetida
½ to 1 hot green chilli, split down the middle
2 dried red chillies broken into large pieces
8-10 curry leaves
3 tbsp fresh or fresh frozen (thawed) grated coconut
Salt
Lemon Juice
Small handful coriander, roughly chopped

Special Equipment:
Tefal Cook4Me Electric Pressure Cooker

Make:

Drain and rinse the soaked chickpeas. Place in the Cook4Me pot with plenty of the water (chick peas should be completely submerged with about 1 cm of water above them).  Choose manual on the Cook4Me panel and reduce the time using the dial to 2 minutes. Press ok to start.  Once your Cook4Me beeps to indicate that it is finished cooking, allow the pressure to dissipate (about 5-10 minutes).  Open the lid of the Cook4Me and remove the pot to drain the water from the chick peas.  The chick peas should be cooked through but firm.

Replace the empty pot into the Cook4Me and use the manual option to choose the ‘Browning’ setting. With the lid now left open, heat the oil in the Cook4Me pot.  Add the mustard seeds. Once they have popped, add turmeric, asafoetida, red chillies and green chilli.  Cook, stirring gently for 1-2 mins.  Add 4-5 curry leaves (they will splutter so step back or momentarily lower the lid).  Once the curry leaves have crisped, remove the green chilli and discard.

Drain the cooked chick peas and add to the pot. Add 1/2 tsp salt to start with.  Stir and leave to cook, with the lid lowered (but not latched), for a couple of minutes.  Add the coconut and remaining curry leaves, toss through.  Taste and add more salt if needed.  Stir again.

Turn off the Cook4Me and add 1 tsp lemon juice. Toss through, taste and add a little more lemon juice to taste.  The dish should be a little lemony but this shouldn’t be a dominant flavour.

Sprinkle with coriander just before serving. Serve as a side dish or as a vegan protein-rich main dish with flatbreads.

Notes:

All the ingredients should be available in Indian grocery stores.

Spiced Chickpea coconut (3 of 5)

Where I like to eat

With age comes wisdom, independence and a reduced tolerance for all things annoying. Also, a slower metabolism and a reduced ability to go out for big greasy meals without feeling like a garbage dump for the next few hours. More and more, I am favouring restaurant meals that leave me feeling light and nourished, not clogged up and overly full.

Asian food, especially Vietnamese fare is often a winner. I’m slightly obsessed with the quirky ambiance of the tiny corner establishment Madame Nhu. Their fresh tasting pho leaves me feeling positively angelic, that is until I find my legs taking me up the road to have the best gelato I’ve ever tasted at Gelato Rivareno. Other fabulous pics in the area are Xage, Yullis and Miss Chu, which serves a knockout frozen crushie besides the flavoursome food. If you go to Yullis, you really must leave room for dessert. Further into the city lights is Home Thai, which offers cheap, fast and no-nonsense Thai street-food.

If you don’t want to find that elusive empty parking spot in the city, Saigon Bowl offers good, authentic suburban Vietnamese fare.  I won’t order the dumplings anywhere except New Shanghai, where you can watch them being made and really taste the quality ingredients in the fillings. I have daydreams about their prawn wontons that are served in a divine peanut and sesame sauce.

Bamiyan, also suburban, offers Afghani cuisine, which feels a bit like a lighter version of Indian cuisine. As a bonus, you will probably be able to park right outside, a real luxury in Sydney.

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Being an Italophile, I seek my fix at La Disfida, also a suburban gem. Again, order dessert here or I will have to seriously reconsider our friendship. Sven Viking Pizza has been a pleasant surprise. I had no idea the Vikings made pizza but gosh they do it well! My most recent mouth-watering discovery is Soffrito, where they make handmade pastas that melt in the mouth. I dined here with two friends and each of our meals were flawless.

There’s nothing wrong with a bit of indulgence however and the Chicken Institute will sort you out for all of your fried chicken needs. You’ve ruined the diet anyway so you may as well follow up by gorging on some Turkish ice cream at Hakiki.

For some more dining recommendations, have a peek at Stay.com’s new travel app.

This post was sponsored by the super clever people at Stay.com but all opinions and recommendations are my own.

 

 

Sticky Tofu Achari

 

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“This is myyyyyy version of sticky tofu!” said my cousin Murali, brandishing a wooden spoon excitedly and channelling Kylie Kwong. Heart surgeon by day, cuisine clinician by night, his eyes light up equally brightly for a new way to bake bread as they do for a pioneering technique for salvaging failing heart muscle.

A pleasant side effect of starting my food blog was that it has prompted people in my life to share recipes or volunteer to teach me how to make things. As far as food blogger occupational perks go, this is a good one. From this has come great things like my cousin Chai’s Ivy Gourd and Coconut Stir Fry and my mum’s Green Mango Rice.

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So on a recent whirlwind trip to India, I managed to squeeze in an eight-and-a-half minute cooking lesson with another cousin in the enormous granite kitchen that I have known since before I was tall enough to see over the counter-tops. While Indian pickle and soy sauce mingled in the air and tofu sizzled in the pan, I tried to attribute measures to Murali’s “Little bit ” of this and “Put some” of that.

I have waxed lyrical here about the confusing, delightful and piquant experience that is Aachar (Indian pickle). Here, the gravy of it is in cahoots with soy and tomato sauces. Together they form a sticky, flavourful coating over plump cubes of tofu and whatever vegetables are chosen to assist in the operation.  I have added my own touches such as fresh ginger, garlic and chilli.  I assure you, they are not a make-or-break so not having them shouldn’t stop you from trying this dish.  The vegetables are interchangeable, amounts are approximate and depend on taste.  Snow peas, broccoli and just about anything else you like should work well.  Unlike heart surgery, this dish is anything but an exact science.

 

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Sticky Tofu Achari

Get:

2 tsp Olive Oil
A few drops Sesame Oil (optional)
1 medium clove garlic, crushed
2 cm ginger, finely grated
1 small red chilli, finely chopped
Pinch Asofoetida
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 1/2 tsp uncooked urad dhal (white lentils)
1 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
250g firm Tofu, cubed in 1-2 cm pieces
1/3 cup Tomato Sauce (I used sauce with no added sugar)
1 tbsp Lime Pickle Gravy
1 tbsp Soy Sauce, then more to taste
1/ tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 tsp vinegar, then more to taste
8-10 spears of Baby Corn, fresh or tinned, sliced into 1cm pieces
Small red capsicum, chopped
1 1/2 cups Mushrooms (button, king or oyster), chopped

Make:

Heat the oils in a large wok, then add mustard seeds and dhal. Once the seeds have popped and dhal has slightly browned, turn the heat down to medium.  Add ginger, garlic and chilli, and fry for a minute or so.  Add asofoetida and turmeric and stir, then add tofu and toss until coated. If using fresh baby corn, add this at the same time.  Cover and lower heat, cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add cinnamon, pickle gravy and sauces, and about 1/4 cup water. Stir, cover and cook.  Check every 2 minutes or so, adding a little more water if needed, until the corn is cooked through.  Add the other vegetables, including the baby corn if you are using the tinned version.  Add a little water if needed, stir, cover and leave to cook for 2-4 minutes.

Add the vinegar and stir through. Taste and add more soy sauce or vinegar if needed.

Serve with rice or flatbreads, or toss through some noodles.

Sticky Tofu Achari (5 of 6)

Another Year and a Giveaway

That day has come around again.  We all have one, happens every year.  That day that is all about you and you find yourself another year older, and if you are lucky, somewhat wiser.  Yes, today is my birthday.  So while I enjoy high tea in what is probably the poshest place I’ve set foot in, I have an equally delicious giveaway for one lucky reader.
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I have 2 tickets to the Cake Bake and Sweets Show at Sydney’s Olympic Park on the weekend of March 21-23, 2014.  This show will be pure sugar heaven, with useful resources for any enthusiastic baker and bustling with culinary celebrities to boot!  Think the gorgeous Eric Lanlard, the genius who is Adriano Zumbo and many Masterchef/GABO alumni.

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Brush up on your skills with live demonstrations and classes, and sample or buy some decadent products in the marketplace.  The competition is open to Australian residents only and please only enter if you will be in Sydney and available that weekend.  Both tickets will be awarded to one winner, and they cover entry to the show on one of the three days.
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To enter, please complete BOTH steps in the two step process:

1. Subscribe to onesmallpot by entering your email address in the ‘Follow’ box (scroll to the bottom of the home page).

2. Let me know in the comment box below the flavours you would choose for your dream cake.  The sky’s the limit on your answer and I will choose the most delicious and creative sounding entry to win.

Good luck and I can’t wait to drool over your answers!!

Entries close Thursday 13th March at midnight Sydney time and the winner will be informed by Monday 17th March.

Tickets are kindly provided by the shows’ organisers. Winner will be chosen by me based on satisfaction of the first criteria as well as what I deem to be the most intriguing answer.

*Update: The winner of the tickets is Louise Wallis! Her idea for Salted Caramel and Mango Cheesecake had me at hello 🙂 Enjoy the show Louise!

Rose and Saffron Pots De Crème

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It’s a funny thing, is rosewater.  Too much of it in a dish and each bite is like a group hug with a gaggle of perfumed grannies.  Although, get the balance right and you are greeted with a sensation that is more a scent than a flavour.  A nuance that adds a romantic and intoxifying quality to the dish, whether it be a scented middle eastern fried rice, a soft and yielding Turkish delight or the Indian Gulab Jamun.

In India, rose is a default flavour, much like chocolate or strawberry in Australia.  Growing up, rose milk, rose Kulfi and the Gulkand (rose jam) that my mum used to buy me from tiny footpath stalls in Bangalore were well-loved and anything but exotic.

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We Indians have the middle-east to thank for rosewater, which was obtained by chemists in the ancient Islamic world using a steam distillation method.  We now not only use it in our cooking, but also in Ayurvedic medicine and as a perfume.  It is not uncommon for unsuspecting wedding guests to be sprinkled with a liberal amount of it upon their entry to the venue as a welcoming gesture.

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When a friend gifted me a copy of the beautiful Delicious Home Cooking by Valli Little, I immediately zeroed in on the recipe for Honey Pots De Crème, the cogs in my mind turning as I worked out how I could make it a fructose-free version with Indian flavours.  The result was a smooth baked custard wafting with the fragrance of roses and saffron, which lends itself to a biscuit for dipping or a sprinkling of nuts as it pleases you.

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Rose and Saffron Pots De Crème

Modified from Delicious Home Cooking, Valli Little (ABC Books, Harper Collins)

Serves 3-4 in ramekins or 7-8 in shot glasses

Get:

150ml thickened cream
1/4 cup + 1 tsp rice syrup or honey
1/4 cup milk
2 tbsp Rosewater*
Generous pinch saffron strands
1 egg plus 2 egg yolks
1/2 vanilla bean
1 tbsp pistachios (optional)

Make:

Preheat the oven to 160 C.

In a medium-sized saucepan, warm the cream, milk, rosewater, saffron and syrup or honey until just simmering (but not boiling!).  Stir gently to incorporate the syrup/honey. Take off the heat and allow to cool a little.

Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into a mixing bowl.  Put the bean casing into the cream mixture.

To the bowl with the vanilla seeds, add the egg and egg yolks.  With an electric beater, beat until pale and a little thickened.  Add the egg mixture to the cream mixture and stir until well combined (do not beat or you will create more froth).  Set aside off the heat for 5 mins to infuse.  In the meantime, boil a kettle of water.

Place the ramekins (3 or 4) or shot glasses for smaller portions (8) in a deep ceramic baking dish.  You can also use small glass jars.  Strain the mixture into a jug and divide the mixture between the ramekins or shot glasses.

Set the dish with the ramekins on the middle shelf of the oven and carefully pour boiling water into the dish to a level about half of 3/4 of the way up the sides of the ramekins.

Bake for 40-45 mins or until set but with a slight wobble.

Remove the dish from the oven and carefully lift the ramekins out of the hot water and onto a tray.  Allow to cool completely, then chill in the fridge for at least an hour before serving.  I roasted the pistachios for about 6-7 mins, then crushed them and sprinkled them over the Pots de Crème before serving.  You could use anything that provides a bit of a crunch like other nuts, wafers or honeycomb.

*Rosewater is available at Indian and Middle eastern grocers.

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Six things to do when you have an over-achieving lemon tree

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Winter has hung up its dancing shoes and gone home.  The warmer, longer days are a welcome change and the fence alongside our clinic is hung with intoxicating wisteria which signals that spring has truly arrived.

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There are still bags of lemons in my fridge like stragglers at a party who hang around long after the champagne is drunk and the music has stopped.  The parents’ lemon tree has been in overdrive until a couple of weeks ago but the start of September has been hectic, leaving me with no time to address the excess citrus issue.

Each morning, I drink warm water with a good squeeze of lemon juice but I knew that the lemons wouldn’t keep long enough to be used up this way.  So as I always do, I turned to Dr. Google for ways of using them up before good lemons go bad, and the world wide web did not disappoint.

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Here’s my pick of the suggestions I found:

1. Squeeze them and freeze the juice in ice-cube trays for later.

2. Use the juice and zest in salad dressings like in this Quinoa Salad, or this Zucchini and Fennel Salad or even this one with Warm Lentils, Walnuts and Goats Cheese.

3. Make Lemon Curd.

4. Make lemonade or it’s slightly salty Indian cousin, nimboo pani for those warmer spring days.

5. Make preserved lemons to use in tagines and other middle-eastern dishes.  Here is a good method.

6. Bake the lemony goodness into these nankhatai biscuits, or these lemon marmalade meringue ones.  Consider also this lemon tart or these lemon chocolate cheesecake pots with lemon peel powder.

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While we’re on lemons, check out this ludicrously cute pics of tiny humans trying lemons for the first time.

What are your favourite ways of using up citrus?

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OSP @ Ungaro Raw, Rozelle

When it comes to the raw food movement, I have always been somewhat of a sceptic.  I suspect it has something to do with my ethnic background.  After all, us Indians are known for cooking things to within an inch of their lives.  So for me, going to a restaurant and paying for a meal that isn’t cooked seems preposterous to say the least.

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When a dear friend announced that she had quit her job and was going travelling indefinitely, I was insanely jealous but also keen to catch up with her before she left.  When she suggested we do lunch at Ungaro Raw, the sceptic in me was seduced by her description of their Mint & Coconut Chocolate Truffles.  She promised they would be an explosion of flavours in the mouth (her words, not mine) and I was sold.

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Ungaro Raw is nestled in the fun end of Darling Street in Rozelle, opposite the markets.  This place is so shiny and new that even tracking a phone number down for them is difficult and their website promises that it is the ‘future home of something cool’.  Don’t let that put you off from trying out their mouth-watering menu though.  Not everything on it is raw but it is all vegan, organic and made up of wonderful, fresh produce.

My friend and I were initially drawn to the display of desserts in the front glass cabinet, which I thought was an excellent tactic on their part.  We convinced each other we should really eat something sensible first and sat at one of the insanely cute vintage tables outside.  The rustic vintage decor stretched throughout the little restaurant, and sunshine streamed in the two huge doors, giving the place a gorgeous feel.  The sunshine must have been contagious as we found all the staff to be bubbly, very helpful and incredibly welcoming.

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A vege burger was ordered and devoured- fragrant crusty bread, scrumptious lentil pattie and all.  There was a plate of corn and millet fritters which my friend seemed to almost inhale, assuring me that it was delicious.  A berry smoothie was had; thick, filling and not over-sweet as so many other smoothies seem to be.

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And after what seemed like an eternity, it was time for dessert.  We decided to order two very different  dishes.  The lemon cheesecake had a cashew cream filling that meant it was not only gluten free, but lactose free as well.  The filling was unlike anything I’ve had before, leaving a satisfying, nutty flavour in my mouth that I wanted to savour every second of.

As for the Chocolate Mint slice, it’s beautifully textural layers were just what I was hoping for with just the right level of sweetness and refreshing mintiness to satisfy that sweet tooth.

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Don’t think I had forgotten about those Mint & Coconut Chocolate Truffles!  One of those babies as well as its’ neighbour, a Chocolate Orange ball came home with me in an innocent looking paper bag.  Both of them may or may not have reached home in a half-eaten state.  And as for these  after dessert desserts, I can think of no better way to describe it than the incredibly chocolaty taste explosion I was promised.

Ungaro Raw may make a convert out of me yet.  And you? Well, all I can say is, you’d better get in there before the rest of Sydney hears about the new kid in town.

Ungaro Raw is on the corner of Darling St. and National St. in Rozelle.  They do breakfast and lunch 7 days a week and dinner on Fridays and Saturdays.

Tel: (02) 8964 9223

ungaroraw.com (coming soon)

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Cauliflower and Apple Salad with Tamarind Dressing

When I was asked by the Australian Jewish Newspaper to contribute a recipe appropriate for the upcoming Jewish festival Rosh Hashanah, I got to thinking about food with respect to religion.  Food is so complexly linked to our culture which in turn influences the way we choose to celebrate important religious festivals.

From the universally known bread and wine of Christianity to the more complex dishes I was raised with that are linked to the multitude of Hindu festivals, I am fascinated by the basis for why certain foods are considered auspicious.

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This is a month that is heavily concentrated with important Hindu festivals.  Krishna Janmasthami, or Gokulashtami is next.  Traditionally, many sweet and savoury snacks are prepared as an offering to the cheeky Lord Krishna, known for his mischievous thieving of home-churned butter as a child.  It is easy to see why this festival was a childhood favourite of mine, and it wasn’t just because I was always quite fond of Lord Krishna.

Barely have our waistlines recovered from the excessive consumption during Gokulashtami before Ganesh Chathurthi arrives, a celebration of the elephant headed God.  Little steamed or deep fried pastry parcels with a coconut and jaggery filling are a traditional staple.  There are many stories associated with the auspiciousness of this dish, variations of which are called the modakam or kadabu.  The simplest explanation is that the sweets were a favourite of Lord Ganesha and he is often depicted with a plate of the delicacies at his feet.

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What especially strikes a chord with me is the significance of bevu bella, a mixture of bitter neem leaves and caramel-sweet jaggery.  A spoonful of bittersweet that is distributed during Ugadi, the Kannada New year.  It is a reminder that life brings with it both happiness and sorrow and one must begin each year prepared to handle both with equal grace.

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Rosh Hashanah falls in September and is the Jewish New year.  It is believed to be the anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve, and a ‘day of judgement’ for those that follow Judaism.  Foods such as apples, honey and dates are offered and eaten to symbolise a sweet new year.  Pomegranates are another auspicious food with their many seeds representing a fruitful year ahead.

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I put together a salad that was inspired by one I had at a trendy Sydney cafe, Kepos Street Kitchen.  There, hubs and I hipster-watched as we devoured a large bowl of an incredible cauliflower and pomegranate salad.  I couldn’t source any pomegranate for this recipe so I’ve used apple but pomegranate would also work well.

This is a salad that combines the bite of cauliflower with the tartness of green apples and cranberries.   The dressing is tamarind based, sweetened with honey and perfectly balanced with the warmth of cumin and paprika.  It is a dressing that will collect at the bottom of the bowl but this is far from a problem because you will find yourself sipping spoonfuls of it long after the solid ingredients are gone.  Crunchy toasted pecans, tossed in right before serving lend a final textural surprise.

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Cauliflower and Apple Salad

Serves 2-3 as a side dish

Get:

For the dressing:

Small ball of dried tamarind (ping-pong ball sized)
1/2 cup boiling water
1  1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp honey
1/2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp olive oil

For the salad:

1/4 cup pearl barley
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups boiling water
1/2 cup pecans
1  1/2 cups cauliflower in tiny florets
1/2 a green apple diced or 1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped
1 tbsp mint leaves, finely chopped
2 tbsp parsley (flat or curly), finely chopped

Make

Preheat the oven to 160 C.  When heated, place the pecans in the oven on a tray for 8-10 mins or until toasted.  Allow to cool and chop roughly.  You will not be needing the oven after this.

Soak the tamarind in 1/2 cup boiling water for about 10 minutes.  Mash the tamarind in the water with a fork and drain, reserving the water.  You can discard the tamarind pulp.

Place the pearl barley, 1 1/2 cups boiling water and 1/4 tsp salt in a saucepan or pot.  Bring to the boil and simmer for 30-40mins until the barley is cooked but still a little chewy.  Drain and set aside.

In a small non-stick pan, toast the cumin until a little browned and fragrant.  You could probably also do this in the oven.  Using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, grind 1/2 tsp of the toasted cumin to a powder.

Chop the stems off the cauliflower just at the base of the florets and divide into tiny florets.  Wash well.  Blanch in boiling water (enough to completely cover the cauliflower) for 5 minutes.  Drain and set aside.

Dice 1/2 a green apple into roughly 8-10 mm pieces.

To make the dressing, combine tamarind water and the rest of the dressing ingredients except for the whole cumin seeds in a large bowl.  Whisk to combine well.  Taste and add more salt or lemon juice if desired.

To the bowl add cauliflower, apple, barley, whole toasted cumin and herbs.  Toss well to coat in the dressing.  Just before serving, toss through the pecans.

Notes:

Dried tamarind is available at all Indian grocers.  You could also use tamarind paste- dissolve about 1/2 tsp in 1/2 cup boiling water.

Pomegranate seeds would also work really well in this salad either instead of or in addition to the apple.

Walnuts would also work well instead of pecans.

Want more salad? Try:

Quinoa Salad
Zucchini, Carrot and Fennel Salad
Warm Lentil Salad with Goats Cheese and Walnuts

cauliflower apple salad 3