Sunday, February 28, 2010

Caprese Salad + side of fresh Figs topped with Maple Syrup

My philosophy with food is simplicity using affordable seasonable produce. This is one of my Summer favourites and hope you will try it sometime.

Caprese Salad serves 2

3 Truss Tomatoes, sliced thickly (9 slices)
1 big ball of Mozarella, sliced thinly (9 slices)
9 freshly plucked Basil leaves
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper to taste
Mixed Olives in Italian dressing, bought from the Deli (optional)

  1. On a wide platter, assemble all the ingredients and serve immediately. Serve with side of rice crackers!

Fresh Figs topped with Maple Syrup serves 2

3 fresh figs (12 slices)
4 tbsps Maple Syrup

  1. On a small platter, arrange all the ingredients. Served immediately.

My Kitchen Garden continues to flourish!

This Kitchen Garden was established in October 2009 under the initiative of my husband who measured out the space, ordered the basal blocks required, constructed it over a few weeknights after work, etc. It has been one of the best additions to our home as we continue to derive much satisfaction watching its continual flourish!

These photos were taken on the second last day of Summer and hope that they inspire you as much as it has nourished us!

(from left to right:  The last crop of cherry tomatoes, Passionfruit vine growing along the fence)

(from left to right: A passionfruit flower waiting to be pollenated, Lemongrass)

(from left to right: Okra also known as 'Ladies' Fingers', one of four cucumber seedlings)

(from left to right: 4 bushes of Lebanese eggplants, check out their healthy sizes)

(from left to right: 1 of 4 Basil bushes, delicious & peppery rocket leaves)

(from left to right: 1 of 4 Zucchinis, 1 of 4 Squashes - they've been establishing their roots very quickly!)

(from left to right:
Bok Choys have been very generous - I harvest a huge handful of leaves every 3 days to keep up with its vigiorous growth and have never bought another bunch of Chinese Vegetables from the supermarket since last October, 1 of 6 Beetroots - the leaves are delicious)

(from left to right: 1 Capsicum seedling, my Kitche Garden in 2 basal block garden beds)

Why raised garden beds?
We have clay soil which makes it incredibly hard to dig and clay soil does not drain well. Hence raised garden beds are perfect in this case. No digging involve and the water drains from the plant so that it does not suffer from root rot.

Is it high maintainence?
Not at all. I water our garden beds every other day using the rainwater harvested from our watertank and apply liquid fertiliser to them once a week during the growing season.

Any pests?
Definitely. However if you check your garden out at least once a day or every other day, you are able to combat them with your fingers! It's important to note also that Magnolias (the orange and yellow flowers bordering the garden beds) are great deterant of bugs!

What about Campanion Planting?
Oh! I definitely practice that. With the help of Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Campanion, I have certainly learnt never to plant tomatoes next to Asian Greens and to plant tomatoes next to basil!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Chilli Con Carne

With the arrival of our new 4 door stainless steel fridge, we decided to to go to Super Butcher to buy our meat in bulk since we now have a huge freezer! One of the many items we bought was lean beef mince. A very versatile meat for meatballs, bolognaise, stir-fries, etc.

I decided to make Chilli Con Carne with mine and it's yummy - fast to cook - with heaps of left overs for lunch the following day + another dinner for next week as it freezes very well.

Easy Peasy Chilli Con Carne serves 6
1kg lean beef mince
1 red onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
4 fresh tomatoes, cut roughly
2 stalks celery, diced
2 carrots, diced
6 tsps ground cumin
4 tsps ground coriander
2 tsps ground chilli powder
4 tbsps beef stock powder
1 tin of red kidney beans
1 tin of whole tomatoes
Salt & Pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Fresh coriander, optional

  1. In a deep stainless steel pan, add oil and fry spices (cumin, coriander and chilli powder) until fragrant. Add onion, garlic, celery and carrots. Combine well with spices

  2. Add beef mince and combine well. Making sure to break up the clumps of meat. When it is brown, add the rest of the ingredients. Cook it on high and simmer for 20 minutes

  3. Serve hot on its own, with tortilla or rice. Add salt and pepper to taste
Tips to enable successful multi-tasking
While the meal is simmering over the stove for 20 minutes, jump into the shower to wash the day off or partake in some menial household chores so that you don't have to do it 'later' e.g. folding and putting away laundry, tidying the couch of the various remote controls, feed the cat (in my case), etc

This meal freezes very well and that's why I cook this in bulk. I have enough to feed the husband & I for dinner, lunch for next day and another meal for the following week. That means, that's one less meal to cook the following week!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Yummy Fresh Basil Pesto

If you don't think you have 'green fingers', plant Basil. This wonderful herb / vegetable grows well in a pot or in the ground and it is oh-so-hardy! Plant basil next to your tomato plants and you will have no pest problems! I kid you not! Basil is a miracle plant.

So what am I going to do with the 4 thick bushes of basil plants growing in my garden? Well, I have a few recipes to share with you and today, I shall stick to the good old Pesto!

Yummy Fresh Basil Pesto

3 huge handfuls of fresh basil, leaves picked
1 handful of pine nuts, lightly roasted
1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced
1 handful of freshly grated parmesan
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
Lemon juice,optional

  1. Add all the ingredients except lemon juice in the food processor and pulse it until well-combined
  2. To serve, add lemon juice, extra olive oil and salt & pepper to taste

Uses for Basil Pesto?
  • Stir through pasta for a quick meal
  • As a sauce base on pizzas
  • Marinate chicken pieces with pesto for stir-fries or BBQs
  • Spread over toast, topped with a slice of tomato, a piece of crispy bacon and poached egg (yummy, filling and nutritious!)
Other information
This pesto will keep up to 3 months in an air-tight container stored in the refrigerator!