Friday, 17 April 2015

a smoky, savoury apple salad

A smoky, savoury apple salad.

Another salad!

I promise the next post won't be a salad recipe, but for now, I hope you are tolerating (and even enjoying) my recent run of salads.

I'll put some of the responsibility/blame on Simon - I was chopping up apples the other day and had all the intentions of making an apple dessert. He insisted that he wanted a salad and I gave in. On the bright side, it's nice that he is trying (with some success) to lose weight. Plus, given my appreciation for fruits and vegetables, it is really quite a good thing to have a boyfriend who likes salads. Right? Right?

So here we go... a simple, savoury apple salad that I created on a whim. The apples provide sweetness while the green capsicum pleasantly counterbalances that with a hint of grassy bitterness. The tomatoes add juiciness, while the lime juice keeps everything fresh and tangy. Garlic, smoked paprika and coriander leaves impart piquant, aromatic touches. This salad is easy to make, and it's easy to eat, too.

Sweet, smoky and tangy flavours...

a smoky, savoury apple salad

1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tart/green apple
1 sweet/red apple (optional - include for a sweeter, fruitier salad; omit for a more savory salad)
1 green capsicum / bell pepper
6 cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup roughly chopped coriander leaves / cilantro (or substitute with flat-leaf parsley)

Mix lime juice, extra virgin olive oil, minced garlic, smoked paprika, cracked black pepper and salt in a salad bowl.
Chop apple(s) and capsicum into bite-sized pieces, discarding the stems, cores and seeds. Cut cherry tomatoes into quarters or sixths. Place the pieces of fruits and vegetables in the bowl. Add the coriander leaves.
Toss everything together to combine the ingredients. It's preferable to let the salad rest in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes to allow the flavours to mingle, and if you do so, toss the salad again just before serving.

Healthy apple salad. Also vegan and gluten-free!

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Thursday, 26 March 2015

tahini-lime pistachio plum zucchini salad

Tahini-lime pistachio plum zucchini salad.

Now that I live in an area with an affordable farmers' market, I have been lavishly buying fruits every weekend. All through summer, and spilling into autumn, I have been snapping up peaches, nectarines and plums when I catch them at two dollars a bucket. The plums, in particular, frequently appear in different varieties - I don't know if I have a favorite, and if they're all cheap, I just play mix-and-match.

It is not often that you see plums in a savoury salad, but while I was peeling zucchini one day, I looked over at my assortment of gorgeous plums sitting on the kitchen counter and I thought - why not?

Why not, indeed. I'm proud of this salad. The plum slices went prettily with the zucchini strips, and they tasted great, too - a sweet, tangy counterpoint to the plainer zucchini. Pistachio nuts add a bit of crunch, and the creamy-yet-refreshing tahini-lime dressing pulls everything together for the final satisfying touch.

tahini-lime pistachio plum zucchini salad

1 medium zucchini
2 plums
1/4 cup pistachio nuts
1 tablespoon tahini
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon lime juice (add some zest too, if you like)
1/4 teaspoon each of salt and freshly cracked black pepper, or to taste

Use a peeler to peel the zucchini flesh. Aim to achieve nice, fettucine-like strips.
Slice the plums into bite-sized pieces. If you use two different types of plums, it can add more interest or color to the salad, but this is not necessary.
Toast and chop the pistachio nuts if you're not feeling lazy. I was, so I just used them whole. Shhh.
Place the zucchini, plums and pistachios in the same bowl. Stir in tahini, olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper. Make sure that you thoroughly combine all the ingredients. Adjust seasonings if necessary.
Cover the salad and chill it in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes to allow the flavors to mingle and dance together, then give it another stir just before serving.

Zucchini and plum salad, studded with pistachios and tossed through a lime and tahini dressing.

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Wednesday, 18 March 2015

illuminated giant rabbits intrude perth!

Brightly lit, inflatable giant rabbits for the Intrude public art installation.

It's starting to seem like we're seeing giant things every month in Perth. In February, we had giant marionettes. In March, we have inflatable, illuminated giant rabbits.

The big billowing bunnies play a whimsical part in the 2015 Fiesta festival, and they define the Intrude public light art installation by Australian artist Amanda Parer, whose works speak about our relationships with the environment. We decided to go for a picnic in the park and enjoy pizza in the presence of the giant rabbits.

Families taking photos with their kids posing in front of the giant rabbits.

It was nice to see other families around, some walking their dogs, others watching on as their delighted children played with the giant rabbits, and still more just chilling out and taking in the atmosphere. It's not as epic nor as dynamic as the giant marionettes, but it's not meant to be. It was a peaceful, pleasant evening and I had a lovely time.

The Intrude public art installation is free and it is on every night 6.30pm to 10.30pm from Sunday the 15th of March to Saturday the 21st of March 2015 at Sir James Mitchell Park, South Perth.

Families having fun with the giant rabbits!

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Wednesday, 4 March 2015

cayenne, mint & bay leaf tea (and it's more than just a tea!)

Cayenne, mint, and bay leaf tea. A herbal drink to enjoy hot or iced.

Hello, everyone! It's been a while. I've been busy with some freelance work, and have thus neglected this blog. The lack of work-life balance is really not cool, though, so I'm going to take a step back, and try to regain some measure of blogging momentum.

Here is a simple cayenne, mint and bay leaf tea that is more than just a tea. More about that in a moment, but as a beverage, this tea possesses a certain intrigue with the use of bay leaves. The distinct fragrance of bay leaf lends a pleasant sense of mystery that fascinates the nose and the taste buds. I originally made this for another purpose, but bay leaf tea is definitely now in my tea-drinking repertoire. Apparently bay leaf tea is good for digestion, so that's a benefit to add to the appeal - but mostly, I'm drinking it because I like it.

cayenne, mint & bay leaf tea

2 cups freshly boiled water
4 fresh mint leaves
4 dried bay leaves, torn up
1 pinch cayenne powder

Pour the hot, freshly boiled water over the mint leaves, bay leaves, and cayenne powder in a mug or jug. Stir, cover, and allow the flavours to steep for at least 10 minutes. Strain and add sweetener of your choice, if desired. I like it with a touch of honey. You may drink it while it's still hot to keep yourself cozy, or chill it and add some ice for an invigorating coolness.

Note: Some people simmer the bay leaves with boiling water in a saucepan for a few minutes instead of steeping them. This will likely draw out more flavour, so if you choose this route you can probably use just 2 bay leaves. I was feeling lazy and I thought it would be more convenient to use the electric kettle.

Some cayenne, mint and bay leaf tea, coming up!

But wait, there's more! As I said, there is more to this bay leaf tea, it goes beyond a mere beverage. In fact, I originally created this as a natural insect repellent. That's right! We have had some issues with ants and cockroaches lately, and apparently a combination of cayenne, mint and bay leaf can work to deter both. For the natural insect repellent, I made the solution more potent, adding extra mint, bay leaves and cayenne powder, as per the following:

cayenne, mint & bay leaf insect repellent

2 cups freshly boiled water
1 sprig mint, or 1 mint tea bag
6 dried bay leaves, torn up
1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder

Almost the same instructions as for the tea recipe above, except I leave the "tea" to sit until it's completely cool, and obviously I don't use any form of sweetener. I then stir the mixture, strain it, and pour the pinkish-orange water into a spray bottle.

I've been using this spicy, aromatic solution in lieu of store-bought detergents to wipe surfaces around the home, so I'm basically using it as a 2-in-1 spray for cleaning surfaces and repelling insects. It works nicely as a cleaner, and while I have not performed any controlled experiments with this, I do observe less insects around. I feel good about using this - it's all natural with edible ingredients, so if I drop some food on the counter and pick it back up, I know that instead of potentially toxic chemicals, it will have traces of mint, bay leaf and cayenne in it. Which is totally fine by me!

Cayenne, mint and bay leaf solution as a natural insect repellent.

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Sunday, 15 February 2015

the incredible and phenomenal journey of the giants to the streets of perth

The Little Girl Giant walks the streets of Perth.

The Giants are in Perth for the weekend!

So, for Valentine's Day, Simon and I spent our Saturday afternoon following giant marionettes up and down the streets of Perth.

The Giants is street performance art, created by Royal de Luxe, a French mechanical marionette street theatre company founded by Jean-Luc Courcoult. Since the 1990s, the Giants spectacular has toured city streets around the world, bringing delight and wonder to their wide-eyed inhabitants.

The summer 2015 event in Australia is titled "The Incredible and Phenomenal Journey of The Giants to the Streets of Perth", with the story unfolding gradually over the course of three days, featuring the main marionette puppet characters of the 6-metre-tall Little Girl Giant and the 11-metre tall Diver Giant.

Giant girl cruises the streets of Perth in a boat, wearing a raincoat to help keep herself dry amidst the splashes!

During her travels, the Little Girl Giant stumbled upon an Aboriginal community, where she was warmly welcomed, and she decided to stay.

One day, however, she realised that she wanted to return to her family again, and embarked upon a voyage across Western Australia in search of her uncle, the Diver Giant.

In the end, the Giants were reunited. They embraced, the Little Girl danced, and on the last day, they both left in a barge for their next exciting journey.

Diver Giant, the Little Girl's uncle.

I was grateful to be part of this unique spectacle - it was crowded, yes, but people were generally quite well-behaved, and it was a truly magical sight to see these giant marionettes trundling the streets of Perth, dwarfing the shops and the people in their presence.

There were several facets to the performance, where in addition to walking the streets, you could observe the Giants partaking in various activities - sleeping, exercising, resting, reading a book, licking ice cream, riding a scooter, taking a shower, changing clothes, drinking water, even doing a wee - in various locations in the Perth city. We didn't catch all of that, but we are happy to have experienced some great moments of the Giants up close. So thank you, Royal de Luxe, for this creative production, and thank you, Perth International Arts Festival and all the sponsors and supporters, for making it happen in Australia. You've got me hooked, and I hope to see the Giants again, somewhere in the world, someday!

Little Girl Giant in Perth, Australia.

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Sunday, 8 February 2015

summer potluck butter bean salad

Summer potluck butter bean salad.

Potlucks are fun. I fret about what I make, and I worry about how they will be received, but I also love thinking about potluck ideas - I get excited about all the possibilities and what I can bring to the table. Not to mention how awesome it is to try all the potluck dishes that everyone else is sharing with the crowd. Ultimately, a potluck is a pretty cool food adventure.

But in addition to potlucks, I want to talk about something else. I have only recently realised that butter beans are actually rather tasty, with their mild flavour and soft, creamy texture. To think all this time I've been ignoring them in the supermarket aisles.

Driven by an impending summer potluck date with friends, and fueled by a desire to make up for lost butter bean time, here's a corn and butter bean salad I created for the occasion. It's supremely wholesome, it's light and refreshing, and it travels well in a container to take to a potluck, or even a picnic if you're feeling outdoorsy. It's also gluten-free and vegan-friendly. Best of all, it's easy to make. No complicated tricks, no cooking required: just a bit of chopping and then tossing it all together, and you've got yourself a sunny salad with a friendly outlook - bright and colourful with an abundance of healthy, delicious ingredients.

summer potluck butter bean salad

2 cans butter beans (cans of approximately 400g / 14oz each)
1 can corn kernels (can of approximately 420g / 15oz) or 1.5 cups fresh corn kernels
20 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 capsicum / bell pepper, sliced (any colour - I used red)
1 chilli, sliced thinly (any colour - I used green)
2 celery stalks, sliced
2 tablespoons lime juice or lemon juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and cracked black pepper, to taste

Drain the cans of butter beans and corn kernels, but reserve 2 tablespoons of liquid from one of the butter bean cans to form part of the salad dressing.
Mix the butter beans, corn kernels, and reserved liquid in a large bowl or container. Add all other ingredients and toss everything together thoroughly.
You may serve the salad immediately, or allow the flavours mingle for a while before eating. It keeps well, so you can make it in advance and store it in the fridge overnight for consumption on the following day.

Assorted vegetables, butter beans, and corn salad for summer picnics and potlucks.

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Saturday, 31 January 2015

grape & yoghurt icy poles / popsicles

Grape & yoghurt icy poles.

It's summer in Australia, and it's hot, hot, HOT. Most of my time is spent indoors, trying to stay comfortable. And alive.

Frozen desserts seemed like a good idea, so when I bought a bucket of green grapes from the farmers' market recently, I soon put them to use, pairing them with honeyed yoghurt to create ice cream on a stick. You can use them fresh as well, but I decided to stew my grapes in coconut oil to soften them and concentrate their sweetness.

I indulged myself in these grape and yoghurt icy poles as an invigorating cold snack any time I felt like I needed a pick-me-up, and the truth is, they are so wholesome that you can eat them for breakfast and pat yourself on the back for a pretty tasty well-balanced start to the day.

grape & yoghurt icy poles / popsicles / ice pops
(makes around 5, depending on the size of your ice cream moulds)

1 cup grapes
1 teaspoon coconut oil or olive oil
1 cup unsweetened yoghurt (plain - natural or greek)
1 tablespoon honey 

Slice about a quarter of the grapes in half, leave the rest whole. Cook in coconut oil or olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until soft. Alternatively, you could roast them in the oven.
Mix yoghurt and honey together in a bowl.
You can either stir the grape compote directly into the honeyed yoghurt before spooning it into the ice cream moulds, as I did, or try alternating the mixtures by spooning in the yoghurt and the grapes in turns.
Freeze until solid - this usually takes several hours for me, and I tend to just let them do their thing overnight.
When you would like to eat your grape yoghurt icy poles, run some warm tap water over the moulds to loosen them and gently ease them out.

Yogurt popsicles, studded with grapes.

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Sunday, 25 January 2015

food monkey cafe, northbridge

Perth has a reputation for expensive prices, particularly for eating out, so when some new friends invited me to the relatively new establishment Food Monkey (101 Lake St, Northbridge) for brunch recently, I was pleasantly surprised at how reasonable their prices were.

The menu had plenty of food options under the $10 mark, with a few closer to $15 if you feel like splurging a little more. As an unemployed person living off my savings in a foreign state, I appreciated this very much. It's nice to be able to afford to widen my social circle without breaking the bank!

Take this veggie bagel that Simon ordered, for example. It's not a huge item, but it's fair and wholesome at $6.95, layered with grilled eggplant, zucchini, capsicum, olive and sundried tomato cream cheese, spinach and aioli. If a plain bagel is too boring, you can get a fancier one topped with sesame or poppy seeds at no extra charge. I didn't try it, but Simon seemed pretty happy with his choice.

Veggie bagel ($6.95).

Meanwhile, I received my potato, carrot and onion hash cakes with poached eggs, which was a much heartier serving than I imagined for $8.95. I was expecting a few standard pieces of hash browns, but what came out really were literally large triangular slices of hash brown cakes. It was very satisfying.

Hash cakes and eggs ($8.95).

I also give them bonus points for offering complimentary water infused with cucumber or orange slices. I personally find Perth tap water to be objectionable, so anything that makes it more palatable is a win. The venue's multiple indoor spaces was also pretty cool.

My only criticism here may be the use of small wooden boards for serving their dishes. I can see it working for some things - dainty sandwiches, perhaps; or cheese, crackers, and cured meats - but for anything that has the potential to fall off the edge easily, or get drippy or messy, there isn't much room for error. I had to be very, very cautious with my poached eggs and hash cakes, when all I wanted to do was to attack them with fervour and tuck in without a care in the world, but that cute hipster cutting board was cramping my style.

So, there was that, but overall, I genuinely had a good time at Food Monkey, and I'd be happy to return for more. Give me a plate, and I'll probably be even happier!

Food Monkey Cafe on Urbanspoon

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