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)

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Orecchiette with Zucchini

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A holiday on the other side of the world is all well and good, but then there’s the jetlag to contend with.  Currently, sleeping through the night is somewhat of a challenge and staying awake at work is only achieved with multiple cups of coffee and not allowing myself to sit down for too long, anywhere.  These are the times that I am thankful that I do not have a desk job.

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Gradually, my brain is convincing my baffled body that night is day and day is night.  Is it just my imagination that this transition gets more challenging the older I get?

The plus side to being wide awake against my will at some unearthly time is that it gives me a few unaccounted for hours with which to do things.  My hunger pangs led me to trawl through the pantry before the sun was even up and in the midst of cramming everything that was remotely edible into my mouth, I came across some lovely pasta from the good people of Barilla.  One pasta bible, a quick scramble for herbs around the still-dark garden, and half an hour later, there was a tasty, nutritious lunch to look forward to on my first bleary-eyed day back at work.

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You use the zucchini raw but the thin slices get partially cooked by the acidic lemon juice.  Cool, right?  I am quite partial to Orecchiette but you can, of course, use any short pasta that takes your fancy. For more pasta-related shenanigans, try out one of the classes at Casa Barilla in Sydney.Orchiette2

Orecchiette with Zucchini

Serves 3-4

Slightly modified from Pasta by Carla Bardi (page 134)

Get:
2 medium zucchini (courgette)
1 or 2 small red chillies, finely chopped
Small handful fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp salt
Freshly cracked pepper, to taste
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

250g good quality dried Orecchiette Pasta (I used Barilla)

Grated parmesan or pecorino cheese to serve

Make:

Using a vegetable peeler, shave the zucchini lengthwise into strips.  In a large bowl, toss the zucchini strips with the chillies, mint, salt, pepper, lemon juice and olive oil.  Leave for 20-30 min.

Cook the pasta in salted water according to packet instructions until al dente.  Drain and toss the pasta with the zucchini.  Taste and add more salt or pepper as neccessary.

Serve with a generous amount of parmesan or pecorino grated over the top.

This is NOT a sponsored post, however the pasta was kindly supplied by Barilla.

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On a roll

I am a bit of a novice on the bread side of things.  I mean, I love the stuff, it is possibly even my favourite carb.  I would indulge in crusty, soft centred white bread all day if both my gastrointestinal tract and my waistline were more accommodating.  But when it comes to actually baking it?  Well, let’s just say my bread resumé is a short one.

So knowing this, you would assume that I would keep it very simple, right?  Like, find a good recipe, read and understand it and follow it to the last gram?  Like, bake a few text-book loaves before I got too adventurous?

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Well if you think I’m that sensible, you clearly don’t know me too well.  We have to work on that.  Coffee next week?

Find a good recipe I did……Joy of Joy the Baker, one of my favourite blogs, posted a recipe for Cream Cheese Cinnamon Rolls which I had mentally bookmarked some time ago.  I finally had a chance to try it.  But follow it to a tee?? I don’t think I’m actually capable of that.

I had to spice it up, make it savoury and of all things, healthy.  Wholemeal flour……whaaaaat??

I had to fill it with a tangy coriander and dill pesto conjured up entirely in my own brain.

Then on a whim, I threw in some feta I found hiding unassumingly in the fridge.

Did I get away with it?  You bet your savoury scrolls I did!

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And the best thing is, you can too.  The possibilities for variations are drool-worthy.  Olive bread with an olive tapenade and rosemary filling? I am all over that like a rash!  Pepita bread with spiced pumpkin puree filling? Why not!

Like all bread, this one takes a little time and elbow grease.  It is left to rise while you vacuum the floors or go out for lunch or write your next blog post or whatever it is you do when you have to wait two hours for something.  Then after you cut the scrolls, you ignore it again for two hours while it rises again.

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But all the effort is well worth it.  At the end of it all you will have eight perfect, filling scrolls for a picnic, breakfast or to pack for lunch.  And you will be glad you kneaded, waited, kneaded again and waited again.

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Wholemeal Coriander and Dill Scrolls

Dough recipe adapted from Saveur October 2008 via Joy the Baker

For the Filling:

Pesto:

1 cup (packed) fresh coriander, leaves and stalks
1 cup (packed) fresh dill, leaves and stalks
1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, peeled
3cm piece fresh ginger
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
10 raw cashews
1 tbsp cumin seeds

Other ingredients:

Zest of 1 lemon
40g feta
1 tbsp cumin, toasted

For the Bread:

1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 (7g) package active dry yeast
pinch sugar
1/2 cup milk at room temperature
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2 3/4 cups plain wholemeal flour, sifted, plus more for kneading
3/4 teaspoon salt
100g butter, melted, plus more for the pan

Make:

Toast all the cumin (2 tbsp) in a small pan over medium heat until slightly browned and fragrant.

In a large bowl combine yeast, pinch sugar and 1/4 cup water heated to 45 degrees C (a bit warmer than body temp if you do not have a thermometer).  Stir to combine and let sit until frothy and foamy, about 10 minutes.

Add egg, egg yolk and milk.  Whisk until well combined.  Add the flour, 1 tbsp toasted cumin and salt and mix with a wooden spoon until the dough just begins to come together.  Knead the dough for 3-5 mins.

Add the melted butter and continue to knead for about 5-6 minutes.  The dough will be a little wet and sticky.  Remove the dough from the bowl and grease the bowl.  Place the dough back into the bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel.  Leave in a warm place to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until doubled in size.

While the dough rises, make the pesto.  Combine the pesto ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and whizz until it reaches coarse paste consistency.

When the dough has doubled in size, place it onto a heavily floured work surface.  Gently knead the dough until it is no longer sticky, adding more flour as needed.  Knead for a few minutes.

Using a floured rolling pin, roll the dough into an oval of about 7 millimetre thickness, about 20cm x 30cm.

Spread the pesto evenly over the dough.  Grate the lemon zest finely over the top of the pesto.  Sprinkle 1 tbsp cumin seeds and crumbled feta evenly over the top.

Grasp hold of one long edge and roll as tightly as possible until it is one long roll

Place dough roll seam side down on a cutting board.  Using a sharp, thin knife, trim off the uneven edges.

Cut the roll into 8 equal slices.  Place the slices, cut side up and evenly spaced in a greased high-edged metal baking pan.  Cover pan with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours

Heat the oven to 190 degrees C.  Uncover the rolls and bake for 30-35 mins, or until a clean knife inserted into the bread comes out clean.

Notes:

For the second rise, Joy suggests that you could also leave the scrolls in the baking tray in the fridge to rise overnight.  The scrolls should be taken out of the fridge 15 min before baking.

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Between

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about transitions.  The road to change from one way of doing things to another……from one stage of life to another……or from one way of thinking to another.

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I have long known something about myself, which is that I am not comfortable with comfortable.  It seems that as soon as things start ‘chugging along’, a strange restlessness stirs inside me and I feel the need to stir things up.  It may just be in the smallest possible way…….a new hobby……a stimulating challenge at work……new friends.  Just something to feel like I’m evolving, changing or somehow transitioning.

It may be that I’m just one of those beings who is never quite satisfied with things the way they are.  Or perhaps I am happiest in a state of flux.  Whatever it is, when I recognised and embraced this aspect of myself a few years ago, I found my life became just that little bit easier.

My current transition is health based, a change in the interest of wellness.  A change I should have made a long time ago and yet, never thought I could until now.  More on that soon but I will say that I really am quite chuffed with myself so far.

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And this salad?  Well, I like to think of it as a transition between summer and winter.  An autumn salad, if you will.  Light enough for summer but served warm as a side dish to winter comfort food, it ticks many a box and is healthful to boot.  A little smokey, a tad sweet and with the kick of citrus, yet subtle enough to play co-star to a main meal.  It is inspired by a recipe in that gorgeous book Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi, which I have finally managed to get my eager little paws on.

Zucchini, Carrot and Fennel salad

Inspired by a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe.

Get:

4 Zucchinis, sliced diagonally into 5mm slices
Olive Oil
1 large carrot, shaved using a peeler
1/2 bulb fennel, shaved or thinly sliced
40g feta
2 tbsp pine nuts
Small handful flat-leaf parsely, leaves torn
A few fennel fronds

For the Dressing:

1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tbsp orange juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp walnut oil or olive oil

Make:

Heat a frypan (preferably a griddle pan) and drizzle a little oil onto it.  When the oil is hot, fry the zucchini slices on a medium heat until par-cooked and slightly caramelised.  You may have to fry the zucchini in 2 batches.  Place all the salad ingredients except for the pine nuts, fennel fronds and feta in a bowl.

In the same frypan, toast the pine nuts until they are nicely browned- careful as they burn quickly!

Ina small bowl, mix together the orange juice, lemon juice and salt until the salt is dissolved as much as possible.  Add the walnut oil and stir.  Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss gently.

Top with pine nuts, crumbled feta and fennel fronds just before serving.

Notes:

Toasted hazelnuts would also work beautifully in this instead of pine nuts.

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Warm Lentil salad with Goats Cheese, Cherry Tomatoes and Walnuts

A change is afoot boys and girls……..

Stay tuned.

Watch this space.

Hold your breath.

And all that.

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In the meantime, I give you this scrumptiously satisfying lentil salad.

This salad will not do your taxes.

It’s not going to fill in and mind your kids when that babysitter cancels at the last minute.

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But it will make a seriously yummy and healthy meal.

And it will purge you of all your Easter chocolate-related debauchery.

Who says one can’t have looks and brains all at once?

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Warm Lentil Salad with Goats Cheese, Cherry Tomatoes and Walnuts

Serves 3-4 for lunch or 4-6 as a side salad.

Get:

1 cup dry brown lentils
1/4 tsp coriander seeds
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
Olive oil
1 small hot red chilli, finely chopped (de-seed if preferred)
2 small or 1 medium clove garlic, peeled and grated or finely chopped
1/2 red onion finely sliced into half-rings
2 cups vegetables diced (pumpkin, sweet potato, red or yellow capsicum, snow peas, carrots, celery, frozen peas or corn all work well)
3/4 punnet or 150g cherry tomatoes, halved
80g goats cheese
1/2 cup walnuts, roughly chopped
1/2 tin chick peas, drained and rinsed well
Generous handful fresh dill, roughly chopped

For the Dressing:

1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar or Red Wine Vinegar
1 1/2 tsp Lemon Juice
1/2 tsp walnut oil or olive oil
1/2 tsp salt

Make:

In a large bowl, soak the lentils in at least twice the amount of water for at least 6 hours or overnight.  Drain and rinse them and place them in a saucepan (hold on to the bowl as you’ll be needing it) with at least twice the amount of water and 1/2 tsp salt. Boil for 15-20 min or until cooked through (but not mushy!).

Preheat the oven to 180C.

If using diced pumpkin or sweet potato, toss these in a drizzle of olive oil and a generous pinch of salt, and spread out on a baking tray.  Place in the oven until just cooked through (20 mins for sweet potato, 10-15 mins for pumpkin).

At the same time, place walnuts on a baking tray in the oven for 8-10 mins or until slightly browned. Remove and allow to cool.

In a large non-stick frypan, dry roast the cumin and coriander seeds until fragrant.  Powder in a mortar or pestle or a spice grinder.  In the same frypan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil and add powdered cumin and coriander seeds.  Allow to sizzle for a minute or so, then add chilli and garlic.  When garlic is browned, add onion and other vegetables (apart from pumpkin, sweet potato and tomatoes).  Fry over medium heat for 3-5 mins until the vegetables are slightly browned but still crisp.

In a small bowl or clean, empty jar, mix together the dressing ingredients until the salt has dissolved as much as possible.

Now it all comes together!  In the same large bowl that you used to soak the lentils, toss together the lentils, cherry tomatoes, saucepan mixture, sweet potato or pumpkin (if using), chick peas, dill and dressing.  Taste and add more salt if needed.

Serve warm topped with walnuts and chunks of goats cheese.

Notes:

If you are dill-averse, fresh coriander works quite well.

Use tinned lentils if you must- but know this, when it comes to lentils, freshly cooked ones are waaaayyyy better.

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Some superficial reflections and Quinoa Salad

Stupid things I did last week:

1. Spent half a day ignoring the large bag of chocolate bars that were free to a good home at work, only to succumb later in the day and shamelessly demolish an entire Crunchie bar. I could almost hear that low fat yoghurt in my bag screaming STOP!!  Mmmmm but that chocolate coated honeycomb…….

2. Resolved not to do 1. again only to repeat the performance two days later.

3. Cut my finger chopping vegetables. How does that happen? I’m a surgeon for gods sakes!  There was some blood. And pain. It was not good.

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Smart things I did last week:

1. Followed my intuition and operated on a sick cat at work on Saturday. It was just as well as the poor thing had a twisted gut.  Good judgement win.

2. Attempted to undo my sins (see 1.and 2. above) and launched into a 1 week detox (which is going surprisingly great, by the way!).

3. Decided to play with quinoa, a grain which I’m only just getting to know.  The result was this simple and scrumptious salad that I took to work for lunch.

I had previously put Quinoa in the category of ‘Things that are good for you but probably taste like cardboard’, along with corn cakes and brown rice. I am so glad I opened my mind (and mouth) to this grain.  For those who haven’t tried quinoa, don’t waste another day.  It has this lovely nutty quality and tends to coat all the other ingredients, sort of like a salad matrix.  Plus it made me feel so angelic that I swear I could feel little wings sprouting on my back a la Black Swan (but less creepy).

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Pumpkin and Quinoa Salad

Get:

1 cup uncooked white quinoa

500g butternut pumpkin, cubed into roughly 1cm x 1cm pieces

1 Red Capsicum diced
1/2 tin red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1/4 cup pistachio nuts, roasted
1 tsp chilli flakes
Salt
Lemon Juice
Olive oil

Make:

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C.

Boil quinoa in a pot with twice the amount of water, covered, for 13-14 mins.  Then drain the quinoa and rinse in a sieve.  Partly fill the pot with boiled water so that you can rest the sieve in the rim of the pot without it touching the water.  Place a folded tea towel over the sieve and cover with a lid.  Boil the water to steam the quinoa for 2-3 mins.

Toast cumin in a non-stick pan until fragrant.  Do the same to the pistachios.  Toss Pumpkin in a bowl with cumin, a pinch of salt,  a drizzle of olive oil and about a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice.  Spread pumpkin out on an oven tray and bake for about 10 mins or until cooked but firm.

In a bigger bowl, toss roasted pumpkin, drained quinoa, capsicum, kidney beans, pistachios, feta, juice from half a lemon, a drizzle of olive oil, chilli flakes and salt to taste (start with 1/2 tsp).

Enjoy for a light, healthy lunch that cancels out previously eaten chocolate bars.

Notes:

This makes quite a big batch, enough for 3 or 4 lunches for me.

Think of this salad as a blank canvas.  You can add almost anything to it to suit your tastes and the contents of your fridge/pantry.  Other additions that would go well are (but not limited to) broccoli in small florets, white beans, chopped and blanched green beans, pine nuts, chopped red onion, avocado, chick peas, tuna, pancetta and chopped up sausage.  Feel free also to play around with flavourings…..amp up the chilli, add other herbs or spices, etc. etc.etc.

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