spelt + oat soda bread w maple-vanilla berry compote

morning snack

The morning I prepared and shot this post, I was on something like a wave of inspiration and very good vibes. Along with this post, I prepared and shot two others. It was a very good morning. I was in my little cooking-vibe, jamming away in my kitchen while Adam snoozed in bed, and coming up with some delicious results. Also the light was insane (see the last photo of this post – amazing, albeit not my usual style).

Sadly, my day did not continue so well. After a glorious morning of kitchen (and photo, I think) success, sitting down at a desk to read metaphysical philosophy (screw you, Hegel) is a big come down. Some days it’s fine, but others it most certainly is not. I struggled through for a few hours before falling into a decidedly awful existential crisis at lunch. “Why do I spend my time on something that makes me so unhappy? Why am I ruining my back sitting at a desk? What am I doing with my life?! Why can’t I cook and take photos and cook all day?” In other words, a little self-indulgent funk.

This happens every now and then, and I’m usually inconsolable and horribly grumpy for a few hours. It ain’t pretty folks. Anyway, this time I worked through it. Alternating 30 minutes of Hegel with 30 minutes of photo-editing, and I got through. Sometimes working through it is what works, other times it’s a walk, or the gym, or throwing in the towel and watching documentaries in bed for the rest of the day. No judgement.

Sitting there afterwords, in the cool and quiet almost-dusk light, my little funk seemed very far away and a little silly. And I can look at the photos from that morning, and the delicious food ready to be eaten, and it makes me really happy. Just like that. This bread, friends, is a happy-making bread. My go-to soda bread recipe (one that doesn’t taste only like bicarb soda – my number complaint of most soda breads), based off this recipe from 101 Cookbooks, that I’ve altered to make it vegan. I’m thrilled to share with you.

Straight out of the oven this bread is fragrant and soft with the crunchiest crust (although a bit tricky to slice). A few hours later the crust has softened a little, the flavours of nutty spelt and oatey oats have developed. The next morning it makes sensational toast. Especially if you slather it with some maple-vanilla berry compote. Or not (this bread is equally satisfactory when dunked in soups).

Berry compote is a condiment on regular rotation in our house. Adam has it on yoghurt, or we cut up some fresh fruit and top with granola and compote for a quick (and healthy) dessert. This time I’ve thrown in a used vanilla bean (i.e. I’ve already scraped out the seeds for another use), and it made a wonderful addition. I use any berries I have on hand, and frozen berries work just as well too. Soda bread and compote speaks to me of lazy weekends, sleepy mornings filled with tea, tranquility and some calm. Enjoy!

ready for the oven
berries
maple-vanilla berry compote
spelt and oat soda bread with maple-vanilla berry compote
spelt and oat soda bread
soda bread + berry compote
soda bread with berry compote
morning sun

Spelt and Oat Soda Bread

makes one loaf

Recipe notes

  • If you’re not making this vegan, substitute the almond milk and vinegar for 1 3/4 cups buttermilk, like in the original recipe.
  • Top with any seeds you like – I’ve used sesame and nigella here, but pumpkin, sunflower and poppy would all be lovely.
  • You can buy pre-ground oats if you like, but I just grind them for use in my coffee grinder. Whatever is easiest for you!

Ingredients

  • 1 3/4 cups almond milk, unsweetened
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups rolled oats, ground fine
  • 2 1/4 cups wholemeal spelt flour
  • 2 tsp bicarb soda
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1 tbsp seeds, for top

Preheat oven to 200 C (400 F) without fan. Line an 8 cup loaf tin with baking paper. In a small bowl, mix almond milk and vinegar and set aside for 5 minutes until thick and curdled.

In a large bowl, combine ground oats, spelt flour, bicarb and salt, mixing thoroughly. Stir in almond milk mixture (reserve 1 tbsp before mixing), working until a loose dough forms, then knead until it all comes together without cracks – about 1 minute. Form the dough into a cylinder shape by rolling it a few times, then lift into the tin. With a small sharp knife, make cuts in the top of the dough – this improves both the rise and the crust you’ll get. Brush the top with the reserved almond milk and sprinkle with seeds. Bake in the middle of the oven for 50 minutes.

Remove from the oven, and allow to cool in the tin for a few minutes before removing and letting cool completely on a wire rack. Stored in an airtight container at room temperature (or in the fridge) it should last 2-3 days.

Maple-Vanilla Berry Compote

makes about 1 cup

Recipe notes

  • Feel free to use whatever berries you have on hand. Here I’ve used frozen blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. But almost any berry would work!
  • Don’t be tempted to cook the compote until it’s really thick – it continues to thicken as it cools, and you want a spreadable consistency, not toffee.
  • I’m constantly finding new uses for this compote – I’d love to hear your favourites!

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups of berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, red currants, blackberries)
  • 1 used vanilla pod
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1.5 tbsp lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the berries have mostly lost their shape and the compote has thickened. Pour into a clean glass jar. Stored in the fridge, this compote should last 1 week.

massaged kale salad w a maple-lemon truffle dressing

massaged kale salad w strawberries, tomatoes + maple-lemon-truffle dressing

The salad screams of the transition between winter and summer. The kale is still going strong at the markets, which are also flush with strawberries (though it’s almost the end of strawberry season…sniff) and tomatoes. What better than to combine them into a massive, delicious kale salad? Nothing, dear reader, could be better than that.

This is a picnic-friendly, make-ahead, forget-about-it-in-the-frigde-for-a-few-hours kind of salad. It actually gets better the longer you leave it sitting in its own dressing (a rare beauty in the salad game). After a little while, the strawberries and tomatoes start to release their juices, enhancing the already kick-ass dressing, which by itself is zingy and light, with a touch of I-don’t-know-what thanks to the truffle oil. The almonds are toasty and crunchy, throwing their nutty, roasted flavour profile in the mix.

I took this salad to a birthday-picnic this past weekend, and perhaps it’s just my ego (a little), but this sturdy salad seemed to go down a treat. It makes a lot, and is definitely a salad to share. Need I mention the sheer physical joy of massaging kale? You may feel a little weird at first, but kale needs love (like everything), and getting your hands in there is the best way to go about it. After its massage, and a few hours marinating? macerating? (what verb to use?!), the kale softens and becomes silky, with the dressing clinging to all its nooks and crannies.

I think I’m going to be eating riffs on this salad all summer long. It’s simple and easy to make, but incredibly to both look at and taste. My sort of food. I’m already craving the next one. Enjoy! x

curly kale
torn kale leaves
tomatoes
the pinkest strawberries
strawberries + tomatoes
fresh mint
the salad of spring
massaged kale salad

massaged kale salad with maple-lemon truffle dressing

serves 6-8

recipe notes

  • If you don’t have truffle oil, don’t worry! Use regular olive oil, and it will still taste great.
  • If you’ve got basil instead of mint, feel free to substitute! I hand mint on hand, so used it.
  • I can’t stress enough how the kale really needs a decent massage here. Don’t be meek. Scrunch, rub, and crinkle it into a massaged glory.

for the salad

  • 1 bunch (3 stems) curly kale, stems removed
  • 1/3 cup flaked almonds, toasted
  • 250 g (just over 1/2 lb) fresh strawberries, hulled and halved
  • 320 g (about 5 smallish) tomatoes, sliced into bite-size wedges
  • 1/2 cup packed mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup spring onions, finely sliced

for the dressing

  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp truffle oil
  • pinch of sea salt
  • lots (about 1/2 tsp) freshly cracked black pepper

To make the dressing, combine all ingredients in a jar and shake, or mix in a small bowl. Tear the kale leaves into bite-size pieces, similar in size to the halved strawberries. In a large bowl, combine the dressing and torn kale. With your hands, massage dressing into kale leaves for at least one minute, preferably a couple more.

Add the rest of the salad ingredients to the bowl and stir (with your hands or spoon, whatever) to combine. Here, I usually add even more black pepper, but – up to you.Refrigerate until required, but eat the same day.

quinoa-amaranth flatbreads w garlic and dill

quinoa-amaranth flatbreads w dill and garlic

We eat a lot of curry in our household. At least once or twice a week, you’ll find a vast pot of curry simmering on the stove, enough for that night’s dinner with a few servings left over. For me, one of the most challenging aspects of cooking is cooking for another person. Don’t get me wrong: Adam is wonderful, and will try everything I cook (even really weird stuff and things I think are total failures), usually with a smile and a lovely compliment.

Occasionally though, I know my ways of cooking wear a little thin for him, and that he wants something comfortable, comforting and warm with a particular kind of familiarity (don’t we all sometimes?). My solution, you’ve probably guessed, is a curry.

But this isn’t a post about curry. It’s about these flatbreads. Which are utterly and totally delicious. Because who says you can’t have comforting, familiar curry AND something new at the same time? No one. Ever.

My first try at these was quickly one night as a friend was on their way over for a curry-and-movie night (yes, these do exist, and they’re wonderful). I tried frying them in a little olive oil, and while delicious, were very crispy and brittle. After some research in one of the best Indian vegetarian cookbooks I’ve come across, Prashad, I settled on a new method – using warm water to mix, and dry frying.

Bonus! Dry frying these flatbreads catapults them into very health-friendly territory, while still being very very tasty. I’ve flavoured them with garlic and dill, but there are just SO many possibilities here: cumin seed-garlic, coriander-chilli, rosemary-garlic. On and on it goes. I can already tell that they’ll be on regular rotation.

Lastly, these are fabulous with curry (any sort will do – how about a sweet potato jalfrezi?), but, cut into triangles, would jazz up any antipasti platter out there. Swathed in hummus? Or pesto? Versatility is their middle name.

mixing in dill and garlic
dill, dough and quinoa flour
stacked
quinoa-amaranth flatbreads
flatbreads

Quinoa-Amaranth Flatbreads with Garlic and Dill

makes 4

Recipe notes

  • As I mentioned above, feel free to play with the flavours, and uses for these flatbreads! They’d be awesome next to a salad, or topped with hummus, or cut into triangles and served with various antipasti.
  • Don’t be tempted to roll the dough super thin – stick to 1/4 in (0.5 cm) – it is a crumbly dough, so if it’s too thin will be likely to fall apart in the frying pan.
  • Did I mention they’re super quick to make? And can be made ahead?

Ingredients

  • 1/2 c (60 g) quinoa flour
  • 1/2 c (60 g) amaranth flour
  • 1/2 c (125 ml) hot water (boil the kettle just before you start)
  • 1 fat garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tbsp chopped dill

In a medium sized bowl, combine flours, garlic and dill. Add the hot water and mix quickly, until a solid ball of dough forms.

Divide the dough into four sections, and with a rolling pin on a floured surface, roll each section to approximately 15 cm in diameter and 1/4 inch thick. Stack with baking paper in between layers while you roll out the rest.

Heat a frying pan on medium-high. Gently place (perhaps using an egg-flip or spatula) a roll-outed flatbread and dry-fry for 2 minutes or so before flipping and cooking for a further 2 minutes. The dough should have gained some colour and smell fragrant. Repeat for the remaining flatbreads.

If not using the flatbreads immediately, store in an air-tight container in the fridge. Reheat over medium heat for a couple of minutes on either side and enjoy!

blood orange, garlic and coriander marinated olives

marinated sicilian olives

Our favourite pizza place, Vespa Pizza, not only does the tastiest wood-fired gluten-free vegan pizza I’ve ever tasted (guys, it has hummus on it, need I say more?), but their starter menu is pretty damn rad as well. It features smashed kipfler potatoes, a delicious tomato salad, and marinated olives. This is my take on those olives, using rosemary, garlic, coriander seeds and blood orange peel.

Winter, in Brisbane, passes in the blink of an eye if you’re not careful. A few weeks of cool weather (by cool, I mean 20C/68F), and then it’s over, really. One of the ways I really notice winter is at the markets, and a few weeks ago the blood oranges had come in. I bought a massive bagful and came home plotting how to use them. A good deal of them went into making braised red cabbage but knowing that I didn’t want to waste the delicious and beautiful peel, I removed it from two of the oranges, and have them nicely tucked away in the freezer. For occasions when just a little something more is needed.

I’ve solely used these nutty, green Sicilian olives in this version, though it works great with a combination of olives (Vespa does Sicilian, large green olives, and tiny Kalamatas). It’s excellent dinner-party food, and can be made in advance (up to two days, maybe?), then reheated when you’re ready. They’re also perfect as part of a tapas-style spread, and that’s how I enjoy them most, with lots of other little dishes. Good practice for a long summer of lighter, easy eating ahead.

In other news, as the days get longer and warmer, I can feel the pace of the year picking up at a scary rate. Adam and I are both in marking mode at the moment, with exams and essays piled around our study. There’s still a lot to be squeezed out of this year (four papers to present, two chapters to write), and I’m almost counting the days until our commitments wind up and we can enjoy a month or two of a slower pace. Keeping this space helps me retain a piece of my sanity, and keeps the things that matter most to me in sight. Thanks for being here and sharing with me.

sicilian olives
marinating ingredients
rosemary, garlic, blood orange peel and coriander seeds
blood orange zest
marinated olives

Blood Orange, Garlic and Coriander Marinated Olives

makes about 1.5 cups

Recipe notes

  • If you don’t have blood oranges lying around, you could easily substitute regular orange peel, or lemon peel, quite happily.
  • As I mentioned above, these can be made well in advance and reheated whenever you need them.
  • Don’t throw out the flavoured oil once you’re done guzzling the olives! Keep it in a jar and use for delicious dressings, or use it to roast vegetables.

Ingredients

  • 150 g olives (I used Sicilian)
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed slightly with the back of your knife
  • 3 small sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 3 strips blood orange zest
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

In a small saucepan, combine all the ingredients. Heat over medium-low for 15-20 minutes. You want everything to be warm and sizzling a little bit, but you don’t want the garlic or rosemary to burn.

If not using immediately, transfer to a storage container and store in the fridge. For the most flavourful results, storing them for 24 hours is ideal, but they’ll still be great straight away. Reheat over medium when required, and serve warm.

macaroni and cheese w grilled zucchini

vegan macaroni and cheese

Sometimes, you just need some comfort food. Some serious, serious comfort food. This recipe has been banging around in my brain for a while, but I’ve had some doubts about posting it. (Is this something people are interested in? Is it even macaroni and cheese? Is this silly?) A chat with a friend (who reminded me that not only vegans, but also those with lactose-intolerance, would find this recipe valuable) and Adam’s response while eating it (murmurs and exclamations of joy – from a man who is usually skeptical about ‘my’ versions of meals), were enough to overcome my self-doubts. And here we are.

It’s mac-and-cheese, but not as you know it! This is a gluten-free version, made with gluten-free macaroni (you could, of course use regular macaroni if you like). The sauce (which I could eat from a spoon) has a base of cashews, and made super savoury and delicious by nutritional yeast, miso paste, garlic, and a handful of herbs and spices.

On a nutritional note: nutritional yeast is a great source of vegan B12; and this dish is loaded with good-for-you monounsaturated fats, a respectable 13 g of protein and a decent amount of iron as well. Based on my (very approximate) calculations.

But nutrition is boring, and I bet you’re really wondering what it tastes like. It’s incredibly umami (savoury), the sauce is silky, rich and soft from the cashews. It is incredibly filling and satisfying. Because this is quite a rich dish, I prefer to serve it with some fresh green veggies. Here I’ve grilled some zucchini, but I’ve also used cooked (steamed, roasted, whatever) kale, broccoli, and spinach to great effect.

mac and cheese ingredient selection
blender shot
zucchini coins
grilled zucchini
mac and sauce

One final thing to mention: this recipe is quick. Very quick. If you’ve got the blender ready to go and your greens pre-cooked, it could take just the time it takes to cook the pasta. Quick, delicious, serious comfort food.

macaroni and cheese

Macaroni and Cheese with Grilled Zucchini

inspired by The Post-Punk Kitchen’s Chipotle Mac & Cheese

serves 4

Recipe notes

  • After many failures with gluten-free pasta, I’ve discovered the secret is a solid 1 minute of stirring from the second you’ve put the pasta in the water. Otherwise it tends to clump awkwardly.
  • Feel free to up the ante heat wise, by adding chilli flakes to taste.
  • If you save some and want to reheat it later, add a dash of water to loosen up the sauce.
  • The method for cooking this should flow something like this: prep zucchini, set water to boil, grill zucchini, add pasta to water, put sauce ingredients in the blender, when the pasta is almost done add pasta water to blender and blend sauce, drain the pasta, mix with sauce and serve.

Ingredients

  • 250 g dry macaroni pasta (I use san remo’s gluten free)
  • 1 cup (150 g) cashews, soaked in water overnight, then drained
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2 tbsp shiro (white) miso paste
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 tsp English mustard powder
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp tumeric
  • 1/4 tsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • lots of cracked black pepper
  • 1 cup cooking water from the pasta
  • lemon wedges and chopped chives, to serve

For the zucchini

  • 2 large, or 3 medium zucchini, sliced into coins
  • olive oil
  • sea salt

Fill a medium pot full of water, and add a big pinch of salt. Cover and bring to the boil. Meanwhile, in a large frying pan, heat a drizzle of olive oil. Working in batches, fry the zucchini coins in a single layer (sprinkle with a little salt) on both sides until crispy and golden. Re-drizzle with oil between batches.

Add the dry pasta to the saucepan of boiling water, stirring to ensure they don’t clump. Cook for the time indicated on the packet.

To make the sauce, put all the ingredients in a blender (add the pasta water towards the end of the pasta’s cooking time). Blend on high for 1-2 minutes, until a silky sauce is achieved. Drain the pasta and return to the pot. Pour in the sauce and stir to combine. Serve with grilled zucchini, sprinkle with chives, and squirt with lemon.