In addition to being super easy one-bowl pancakes, these are perfect for any lactose-averse friends or loved ones AND they are soft, fluffy without being dry, and occasionally crisp where the corners aren’t drizzled with maple syrup or lemon/lime juice. If you want buttery flavour and can eat dairy, you can still cook them in butter or ghee (and because the butter is cooked, the flavour is a lot more intense), or use regular cream instead of coconut cream. I ran out of butter and cooked some in canola oil, and those ones tasted a lot more coconutty (ideal for lemon or lime juice and sugar or maple syrup). These are also barely sweet, so everyone can control how sweet they want the end result. Adding more sugar to the mix will mean they burn faster, so if you’re prone to burning your pancakes, try to leave the sweetening until after.
Remember to use a heavy wide frypan. You can keep them warm while you cook by placing your serving plates in the oven on a really low heat and popping them straight on the plates after they’re cooked.
Soft & fluffy coconut cream pancakes
- 1 egg
- 300ml shaken coconut cream (warm room temperature)
- 2 tsp lemon or lime juice (doesn’t have to be fresh unless you’re squeezing more over the cooked pancakes later)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 Tbs sugar (raw is best, but white is fine)
- 1 c plain white flour (fluff the flour up before measuring, or pour the flour into the measuring cup) – not “high grade” or strong bread flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- either butter, ghee, coconut oil or oil for cooking
Beat egg with a fork, then stir in coconut cream, lemon/lime juice, salt and sugar, and mix it up well. Sift over the rest of the ingredients (obviously not the cooking oil), and fold through with a fork until just combined – only bother crushing the large lumps, as overmixing will make these rubbery. Let mixture sit at least ten minutes, up to half an hour (this is important, so don’t skip this).
Heat your pan on medium heat (you can test if it’s properly hot by flicking a drop of water in the pan and it should evaporate immediately).
Working quickly: Put roughly 1 tsp oil or butter in the pan, tilt the pan to distribute the oil or brush it around the pan, and place small spoonfuls of batter in the pan so your pancakes are about 6cm wide. Their small size makes them much easier to flip.
Cook until the edges start to look drier, then using a fork, check how done the first one you put in is – you want it a nice brown. Flip once browned and probably by the time you’ve done this the first one will be nicely enough browned on the second side too. Move cooked pancakes to your hot plates in the oven (preferably not stacked on top of each other, or they’ll go soggy) and repeat until all your batter is used up. Serve with whatever you like.
If like me you are not patient enough to tend to the melting of chocolate over a water bath and make sure it doesn’t burn (I mean…it’s chocolate, not a baby, yeesh), AND you like your brownies fudgy, this is for you. On the other hand, maybe you don’t want a really easy cocoa brownie recipe, because all that melting chocolate kerfuffle prevented you from making and eating brownies, which is always good if you’re trying not to consume alarming amounts of butter.
Butter alarm bells aside, this is also alarmingly quick and non-offensive on the dishes front.
The only thing that might be a little difficult for some people is acquiring good quality cocoa. This is not the recipe for Cadbury’s cocoa, unless you like pallid brownies. I find nice cocoa usually has a reddish tinge, and usually the best stuff that isn’t top-of-the-line pretentiously expensive is found at health food shops (with the added bonus that they also stock organic fair trade). However I’m curious to know what everyone thinks of the Dutch van Houten stuff, which I finally spotted in the foreign food aisle of my local supermarket.
Another random but important side note for brownies more generally: I’ve given up on non stick metal pans and just use a pyrex or ceramic dish, so I don’t have to fuss with foil or baking paper which I hate using. It also means you can hack at it with a knife and not worry about scratching the non stick coating. I preferred the texture of the brownies I made in my ceramic bakeware too – less of the dry crunchy bits and more gooey meltiness, but I could also have cooked them shorter. If you only have nonstick, c’est la vie, but go for ceramic or glass if you can for your own sanity.
Gooey cocoa one-bowl brownies
- 275g salted butter (or use unsalted and 2-3 pinches salt)
- 1c good quality cocoa (I tend to avoid Cadbury’s) – this is key or your brownies won’t taste rich and chocolatey
- 2 1/4 c raw sugar, or 2c packed light brown sugar, or 2 1/4c white sugar + 1 tsp blackstrap molasses
- 4 small eggs or 3 large ones
- 2 tsp vanilla extract (real, otherwise just omit)
- 3/4c flour
- 220g whatever chocolate you like eating, chopped (Cadbury’s white chocolate is acceptable here, but none of their other chocolate if you’re trying to impress anyone)
Melt butter, add sugar and stir in a medium to large saucepan on mediumish heat, to melt the sugar just a bit. When the sugar and butter mixture makes its first bubble that pops, take it off the heat. You just want to melt the sugar a little bit to contribute to a gooey, smoother texture. Stir in cocoa, try not to faint from how amazing it smells.
In the meantime, preheat oven to 170C/340F (these’ll work at 160C too). Grease 2 small ceramic or glass baking dishes. Dust with cocoa to coat the butter mixture and allow for easier removal of brownies. If using non-stick, line with greased paper for your own sanity.
Beat in eggs and vanilla. You don’t want to aerate it, so beat until everything is just incorporated. The sugar granules should have melted a little more so that the mixture is not super grainy. If not let the mixture sit for a bit longer.
Stir in flour until just incorporated. Pour into greased baking pans (if you have a cold kitchen you may need to spread the mixture out), and throw in the middle rack of your oven until the top has taken on a dried appearance (around 20 mins in smaller pans, longer for larger pans). Stick a toothpick in – if it comes out with wet batter leave it in for five minutes more at a time until the toothpick comes out with a little batter clinging to it, but it’s no longer all liquidy (see here). Cool completely then refrigerate if you care at all about cutting them neatly (and even then…good luck!)
PS. I feel the above image makes the brownies look a lot more cakey than they actually are. Just so you know. If you like your brownie more like hard fudgy, refrigerate and eat cold. But hey, you didn’t need me to tell you that.
Whether your new year’s resolution is to eat more veg or fewer cute fluffy animals, you’ll have that much more success if you continue to keep your tastebuds happy. That’s where this post comes in. Over the last five years, I’ve learnt a lot about cooking vegetables, especially for those who are much warier of them. I don’t blame them – many have been brought up on sorry excuses for vegetables (that have usually been boiled beyond recognition), but chefs like Yotam Ottolenghi, Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and a host of others are finally giving them the loving attention they deserve. Surprisingly, the best part about eating more veges is that it isn’t always easy, especially if it’s a massive change for you. Suddenly, you find yourself discovering tricks and ingredients that you would have otherwise not bothered with, and they end up enriching your cooking for the better.
Here are my personal favourites and a little about them, but I’ll leave the creative application up to you. Is one of your favourites missing from the list? A go-to brand you love and trust? Please share :)
*s mean you might have to visit a health store – otherwise most supermarkets should stock the following, or an Asian supermarket.
- Smoked paprika – the real Spanish stuff – make sure the smell makes you salivate before buying it. This is like bacon spice but I think much nicer (although I am a little biased as I’m not a huge pork fan). Easier to find the best stuff at delis or upmarket supermarkets. I’ve heard liquid smoke is great too, but haven’t tried it.
- *Nutritional yeast/savoury yeast flakes – great at soaking up extra wetness in any burger or fritter, sauce or dip, and adding a mild toasty cheese-like flavour. Especially good at heightening cheesy flavour without making dishes too rich.
- Miso paste – even great in cookies if you use a smidgen and only unsalted butter or marg, to give the cookies a salted caramel, richer flavour. A simple dip of
- Seaweed/kelp/wakame – there’s a reason the Japanese use it so much! Especially yummy with toasted sesame, good soy sauce, and a little mirin if you have it. Daikon radish is also a happy partner.
- Soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, or tamari etc – adds caramelly colour and deliciousness. I use Yamasa, but Kikkoman or light Chinese soy sauces are also good. The dark Chinese soy sauces are more for colour – they aren’t really salty, more molasses-y.
- Tomatoes, as passata especially, although passata often needs a sidekick, whether with herbs, onion or garlic, lemon juice or vinegar, a pinch of extra sugar, good olive oil…
- *Truffles/truffle salt/oil – especially good with fatty dishes, butter, avocado.
- Molasses or treacle – molasses is what makes brown sugar brown, and delicious. I don’t buy brown sugar anymore, I just add as much molasses as I want for the darkness I desire. A nice space saver for those of you with limited kitchen cupboards! Usually in the baking aisle or health food aisle/store.
- Dark soy sauce (the Chinese brands) for savoury dishes – use sparingly.
- Honey or maple syrup – The clear golden stuff and Grade B respectively will give you more intense caramel notes.
- Hoisin or Cha(r) Siu – especially in combination with some sort of booze like mirin or wine.
- Frozen tofu, defrosted – goes spongy and therefore sucks up sauce wonderfully. I like to just tear it up into chunks. Depp fried tofu is good too but obviously doesn’t keep as long.
- *Seitan – made of vital wheat gluten, plus whatever your heart desires. You can make your own into steaks and schnitzels.
- *Crusty bread, or breadcrumbs – for things like panzanella, or as a bulking ingredient for making vege patties. Poor man’s parmesan is also made using crusty bread crumbs.
- Aubergine/eggplant and mushrooms – roasted or sauteed until golden brown on multiple sides. Both work especially well with soy sauce, miso, garlic, or tomato.
- Nuts, but especially peanut or cashew butter – even if it’s not the dominant flavour or ingredient, this can be a miracle worker. I especially love it in these tofu balls which I make into patties with smoked paprika. Peanut butter, garlic, soy sauce, honey and/or lemon or lime makes a delicious sauce for dipping or drizzling.
- Avocado – you’re missing out if you’ve never had avocado, good sea salt and freshly ground black pepper on good home made or proper bakery bread. Even more amazing with a pinch of smoked paprika.
- *Coconut oil – a great alternative to butter and great for baking, curries, stir fries and icing.
- Chickpeas – out of all the beans and lentilly things, chickpeas usually taste the most satisfying, and in flour form, make delicious fritters, especially with curry powder or other spices.
- Sesame oil (or other nut oils, like walnut & hazelnut) – admittedly this one’s a love-or-hate ingredient, but my noodles will rarely make it past a drizzle of sesame oil! Other nuts oils are a bit pricier but well worth it if you’re eating a lot of salads and making your own dressings.
- Mirin – if I don’t have wine, I’ll often substitute mirin, or stock/bouillon and mirin.
- Mirepoix (carrot, onion, celery), in stock or bouillon/cube (here’s my favourite home made method for bouillon). Especially good with garlic, roasted or sauteed, and wine or mirin. Pretty fantastic in small doses in tomato sauces, lasagne, bakes.
Binders (like egg)
Note: I wouldn’t use these instead of all of the eggs in a recipe, but maybe about a 1/3. If you’re only using an egg as a binder, like in a pattie, a “chia egg” will work fine.
- *Chia – mix just under 1 tsp ground chia with about 1/4-1/3c water for a “chia egg,” useful for things like patties or, in the case of baking, banana breads where there are other binders to help out. Depending on how rural/suburban your supermarket is, you might have to go to a health food store for this one. Flaxseed works too.
- Mashed bananas and other fleshy fruits – if you’re using baking soda, pureed fleshy fruits will help your baked goodies rise too, especially applesauce. Canned apricots/peaches/pears, soaked prunes (maybe in brandy…!) – pureed these all make great binders in cakes and add a delightful aroma. Leftovers are great in breakfast and desserts, and are easily frozen.
- Thou shalt not boil vegetables - Boiling is spoiling! Here’s a quicker alternative – add a little splash of water to a large frying pan, pop your veg in, cover with a lid, and bang up the heat until your veges are almost done. They may want a little more water. Turn off the heat and let sit for a maximum of five extra minutes (if longer, transfer them to a plate). Boiling is ok if you’re making a soup, or boiling potatoes for salad, but otherwise you’re effectively wasting time, energy and water heating up a pot of water, and then pouring out a lot of the flavour and nutrients. If you do have to, use the cooled down cooking water on the garden.
- Thou shall treat vegetables with the respect they deserve – you wouldn’t expect an unseasoned boiled piece of meat to taste very good. More often than not, meat is stuffed, marinated, sauteed, roasted, basted and generally given more flavouring. Treat your veges the same way and you’ll be surprised at how amazing they can taste.
- Thou shall try to buy and eat fresh – this can be easier and cheaper if you’re shopping locally and seasonally, but basically, don’t expect two-week-old veges to taste great. They may need a little help in the flavour department. Storing has a major effect on how long your veges keep – it’s a bit complicated to properly address here, but generally, don’t just chuck them on a shelf in your fridge, as they will dry and shrivel up very quickly.
PS. I did not get paid or given anything to feature any of the ingredients photographed, they just happen to be the ones I had on hand. I’m not actually very fond of the brand of passata pictured, but I happened to have it. Otherwise I’m pretty happy with all the other brands featured.
One of my favourite things about having Christmas in summer: summer fruits at their peak! We used our friends’ leftover fruit salad and turned it into a stunning punch! Mangoes, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries we froze as fruity little ice cubes, lemon basil from my local community garden, strawberry cordial from Real Food, and soda water.
Any other summer Christmas appreciators out there?
Hope everyone is having a good one :)
I am approaching the holiday season with a two-pronged attack.
- Avoid overcatering for the main meal (whether I end up doing lunch or dinner or both), and instead:
- Serve a lot of dips/condiments (especially ones with veges in) to have on tap throughout. In addition to being a lot more fun & creative for myself and guests mixing and matching dips and dip delivery mechanisms, I can prep all of this in advance, leave it in the fridge, and only have to face making one central dish being made on the day (no worrying about timing, other things getting cold, and a little less worrying about allergies/intolerances).
You could serve some of your dips and things as sides and/or snacks later too. Making your own dips can be a great way to sneak plenty of vegetables in without having to serve a salad that’s going to wilt in the summer heat or be totally out of season. Or you know, be totally ignored by that half of your family that doesn’t eat “rabbit food.”
My favourite dips at the moment are nut or bean based dips/spreads, for something just as filling as the dairy-laden variety but a little more interesting and varied. The sky is the limit – I adapted the now much-loved-and-spread beetroot/walnut/cumin/insert-dairy-of-choice dip combo, for example, by going with: pan roasted carrots, walnuts, cumin, olive oil, black garlic (sub: roasted garlic or onion & balsamic vinegar, or just leave it out) and feta brine (or you could just use yogurt, ricotta or water and salt). Simply puree, season to taste and devour with bread or crackers, and if you like, a little extra drizzle of balsamic and olive oil (which coincidentally is also easy and delicious). Here are a few formulas that should lead to deliciousness:
- roasted or pan-roasted vegetable (good way to use leftover roast veges) + nut/seed + optional dairy/other ingredient. Salt &/or sugar/honey to taste. Eg:
- parsnip, garlic and walnut
- cauliflower, cashew, cumin
- pine nuts, red pepper, cumin or basil
- beetroot, pistachio, feta
- mushroom, walnut, feta, thyme/parsley, plenty black pepper, garlic if you have it
- carrot, walnut or tahini, miso, honey/maple syrup
- sunflower seeds, lemon (see veganyumyum)
- roasted or pan-roasted vegetable + white beans + optional herbs or spices
- garlic, white beans, rosemary (plus thyme if you have it), optional balsamic
- carrot, cauliflower and/or parnsip, white beans, rosemary or cumin
…and here are a few tips:
- roast your veges in enough oil to fully coat, and roast until one side is speckled brown. To pan roast, oil a cold large frypan, a very small splash of water, and cover. Heat on high until things start sputtering, then reduce the heat to low until the veges are softened but not totally mushy.
- if you want extra rich nutty flavours, toast your nuts by putting them under the grill/broiler and WATCH them! They burn in next to no time. Take them out while they’re still slightly under-toasted for your liking, as they will continue cooking.
- if your veges aren’t at their best they might need a little more help in the flavour department – a little honey to bring out the sweetness in your carrots, a bit of miso paste for richness or a little lemon or lime juice and maybe zest can make a big difference.
What are your tactics for holiday cooking and eating?
I try not to waste food at any time of the year, given that I often spend quite a bit on getting quality, and knowing that producing food is one of the top causes of environmental problems. Throwing out food unnecessarily is also a major waste of the time and money you spend acquiring and cooking it. A rather shocking amount of food does go to waste though – in Australia for example, 35% of what is sent to landfill is food waste, and averaged, that equates to chucking $239 in the bin per person each year. Our environment also suffers – when food decomposes in landfill amongst things that aren’t biodegradable, methane is released, a gas which is more than twenty times worse for climate change than carbon dioxide.
Fortunately, reducing food waste is easy. Here are my top 3 tips:
- Don’t feel like you have to stick to a recipe completely – use what you’ve got and you’ll become much better at cooking creatively in the process!
- Reward your efforts – sometimes our leftover meals aren’t magical, but the fact that I saved the money on that meal sometimes justifies getting that better quality olive oil or balsamic next time I’m at the store for example. Stocking my pantry with quality ingredients also means I’m much more careful about wasting food.
- Stop peeling your veges and fruit! It’s often not only a waste of time, but the skins often contain the highest density of nutrients. Check out my post dedicated to saving your skins tastily – there are some ways you can please avid skin-haters in there too.
There are more tips within the 12 Do’s of Christmas website, which has twelve simple actions you can commit to taking to reducing your waste overall. One of the “Do’s” is dedicated to preventing food waste, so check out those tips too. You can even submit a photo into their facebook photo competition of your attempts to reduce waste and be in to win over $400 of green prizes, including this gorgeous book:
The recipes are from some big Australian cheffing stars, and the book is dedicated to glamming up your leftovers, showing them in a completely new (very flattering) light! Bonus: OzHarvest get some much deserved fundraising dollars from the sales.
Do you have any tips for cutting down your food waste (and bill)? Or some cool recipes for using up common leftovers?
The casual observer, or even frequent reader of this blog, would probably not realise that I really like Vietnamese and Thai food. The problems? I have trouble believing coriander (cilantro) is something anyone would want to eat or smell, up until now I’ve also had doubts about mint, and I am a complete lightweight when it comes to chilli. Oh, and I don’t feel much warmer towards fish or shrimp sauce. I know they can just lend “background flavours” and when someone else deals with them, it’s all good. Just don’t waft a bottle in my general direction.
If you happen to be of the rare breed with a similar frame of tastebud, or you simply want a noodle salad dressing recipe that isn’t as long as your arm, hopefully this will solve some of your woes. This is not authentic anything, but it is refreshing and delicious and pretty good for you. The noodle salad itself can vary widely depending what you have on hand, but the dressing is the real treat, and I urge you to use at least the 4 key ingredients in it. From there, you can experiment and add as much as you have in your cupboards – maybe some minced ginger, garlic, shallots, or chilli. Just don’t tell me about no coriander. Don’t be startled by how long the recipe looks, I just include a lot of variations.
Sweet peanut & lime noodles
Noodle salad ingredient suggestions:
- Some sort of noodle, eg:
- rice noodles (bring a pot of water to the boil, add noodles, cover, turn off heat, let sit until cooked – not long, rinse under cold water in a sieve)
- soba noodles (follow packet instructions, then rinse under cold water)
- mung bean or sweet potato starch noodles (ditto rice noodles)
- Some sort of green leafy thing (I used baby bok choy/choi, mizuna would also be great)
- Grated/very thin strips of carrot or red peppers or something red/orange
- Mung bean sprouts (the commercially grown stuff)
- Any and whatever combo of: basil, Thai basil, mint, lemon balm, spring onions, and fine, coriander – torn or finely chopped
- Protein – I like home fried tofu* and/or scrambled eggs. Extra roasted, non-salted peanuts could work too, or cashews
- Crispy fried shallots to sprinkle on top (you can get bags of these at many Asian supermarkets – try not to get ones fried in palm oil, for the orangutans an’ all)
- Um, this is where you tell me…because I’d like to try variations of this too!
I keep basically everything raw except the protein and noodles, make sure the noodles are well drained and then toss everything together. Then I spread a thin layer on a plate, drizzle over the dressing, and repeat. This makes for a more interesting eating experience as you get little pockets of varying flavours and textures.
Sweet peanut & lime dressing (would also make a rad dipping sauce for rice paper rolls)
- 1 lime, about 1 1/2 Tbs juice and all the zest…yes you could use lemon but it won’t be as awesome I reckon!
- equal amount of good soy sauce (I like Yamasa)
- equal amount of honey or golden syrup
- equal amount of good peanut butter (where the only ingredient is roasted peanuts, although salt and extra oil are ok) – I use crunchy but feel free to use smooth, there should be plenty of crunch from the raw veges anyway
- half the amount of lime juice worth of mirin
- freshly minced garlic, ginger or chilli
- tamarind paste
- whatever else you like
Mix together with a fork in a bowl – it’ll seem like it won’t ever combine, but keep at it. If using crunchy peanut butter it might not go uniform. Meh. Taste and adjust to your, well, taste. Too salty? Add more honey. Not tangy/fragrant enough? Add more lime. Not sweet enough? Add more honey. Not rich enough? Add more peanut butter. See, this dressing has it all.
*This is pretty convoluted, but yields a delicious result. Sit your firm tofu in nice salty water at least overnight. Slice thinly (but thick enough that you can pick it up with a fork and it won’t fall apart), dip both sides in cornflour that’s been mixed with salt and pepper. Shallow fry in a single layer in a large pan on both sides until lightly golden and crispy. Even though they don’t stay crispy the texture is still super moreish and holds the dressing a lot better.
The Make It Possible campaign to end factory farming. Even if you’re a meat eater, there are ways you can be part of the change to a kinder, more sustainable farming system. The only thing I’d add is that, as well as taking consumer-led actions (like refusing factory farmed meat or reducing your meat consumption), we need to flex our muscles as citizens too. That doesn’t just mean voting a certain way once every few years either – check out this podcast for more.