Pepita and grain salad with pumpkin and tahini

A bounty of healthy grains and seeds matched with rich and sweet roast pumpkin, this salad makes a perfect side dish or hearty lunch. Packed with protein and flavour, this dish has it all. Pepitas add a crunch to the salad, which is bound by textures and colour. You can reserve the seeds from the pumpkin, roast them and add them to the salad. I love these ingredients; I have them every day, whenever I can. I tuck pumpkin into salads and soup, and pepitas and other seeds into my three-grain Be Natural porridge every morning. But here’s my recipe for pepita and grain salad with pumpkin and a creamy tahini dressing.

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{this week} in a few snaps

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Refusing to be held hostage by the weather this week in Sydney, I traipsed about looking for the best places to be during unrelenting downpours, and then when the sun and blue came out in all its glory. There’s nothing like a ramen to shun the winter chill, then to what is arguably Sydney’s best undercover market for important Saturday rituals of buying bright flowers and a crunchy croque madam with soft egg, and a sea pool for when it finally warmed up again. What did you do to escape from the chill this week? We’ll need ideas for the next few weeks… See more pics on Instagram.

clockwise from top left >> No. 01 Prawn ball sour ramen soup at Ryo’s in Crows Nest (egg and kim chi on the side)  >> No. 02 Flowers from the chap, after a nudge, from Eveleigh Markets >> No. 03 The Wombarra sea pool down south (only doable after you’ve warmed up by running to the pool first)>> No. 04 The Crooked Madam (or croque madam by Bird Cow Fish at the Eveleigh Markets.  

An A to Z (Apple cores to Zucchini stalks) on compost

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Separating plastics from paper is virtuous enough for those of us whose abandoned melon rinds and citrus peelings continue their steady march into the garbage bin.

Others are keeping vegetable scraps from all those amazing meals – plus coffee grains, tea bags, apple cores and corn cobs – in a bid to reduce waste and keep the garden flourishing.

The green design revolution has made few inroads with composters that appeal to the honorable recycler as well as the design aficionado. It’s not a problem for people with sprawling gardens, but in small spaces it’s a different story. Whether it’s to the worms or an apartment friendly compost bin, recycling food scraps is an economical and environmental win, and will provide health humus for whatever garden – pots, sprawling beds – you do have. {READ MORE}

How to grow (and cook) your own cauliflower

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Gone are the tomatoes, cucumber and zucchini of our happy summers, and chilly gardens are crying out for a new crop to bring into the kitchen. It’s time to grow cauliflower. Plus, now is your chance to turn this veg-in-bounty into something magical in the kitchen (jump to the recipe). This is a cool weather crop, making the pretty vegetable a perfect addition to the winter kitchen garden. {READ MORE}

{recipe} berry kombucha

strawberry kombucha

Kombucha, that fermented black tea you’re seeing cropping up in all the best cafes and in bottled commercial form in the chilled section at health food stores, is my latest fermenting experiment.

The drink is brimful of probiotics and the stuff is a stand out for digestive health. With two large jars brewing on the benchtop at all times, I can now drink it whenever I fancy, instead of hoarding it away like its some diminishing elixir, or stocking up on the bottled stuff every time my body needs a reboot. Here we have the second ferment, the part where you drain fermented tea from the “scoby” (that terribly ugly thing you see floating on the top of the kombucha, brown bits dangling off it, aka, “symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast”) and combine it with some sweet thing to make it taste better, and for a flavour kick.

Strawberries and raspberries lend a light fruitiness to kombucha. Strawberry-flavoured kombucha is available commercially and is usually made with a strawberry puree of some sort, but this is the real deal. Instead of adding sugar or loads of preservative-laden things, just add berries. I like a spot of vanilla extract in mine too (not essence). You could use any berry here, actually. I often add a few raspberries or blueberries. See the recipe after the jump here. {READ MORE}

christmas in july pudding

Australians who dream of a white Christmas, even if it never happens in December, can have it. But in July. Mulled wine, carols, all the merry trimmings are broken out mid year as we use the chilly season as an excuse to eat pudding and turkey. This Christmas in July pudding is a tilt on the pudding classic, but spooned in individual glasses and with boozy slices of orange, mascarpone cream and crunchy and toasted flaked almonds on top. It can feed all the relatives, the extension of inlaws, just as easily as it can feed two or (I’ll admit it), even one as leftovers. Here’s my recipe.

christmas in july {READ MORE}

The ultimate steak sandwich

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There’s a lot about this recipe that gets me excited. A crunchy Asian slaw and a sweet and peppery shallot salsa, the best possible grass-fed flank steak, which is packed with even more flavour that your popular fillet, plus it’s cheaper. I make a batch of the herby salsa every couple of weeks. It’s used up in a matter of days but when I have it I dollop it on everything. Sandwiches, grilled chicken, a warming homemade chicken soup, there’s very little I won’t pile it on. I toast a couple of slices of sourdough for extra crunch. A tip on that if you’re not a massive bread eater like I’m not: When you pick up a new loaf, slice it thickly, put the loaf back together, wrap it tightly in a leftover plastic bag and freeze it. When it’s time for toast, and we all have those times don’t we, just pull a couple of slices out and toast them to crispy golden perfection. Here’s my recipe for the ultimate steak sandwich.

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Garden to table

Growing your own food takes locavore to a whole new level. It’s paddock to plate, garden bed to salad bowl, in a matter of minutes.

For the green thumbed amongst us, it’s hard not to be scornful of those who wait for a theoretical right time in their lives to garden. Growing your own lettuce, for example, belies the one-day-I-will promise, just because it’s so incredibly easy to do.

While it’s less work and more cost effective to buy some things, say potatoes at the store or farmers’ market, growing many fruit and vegetables is a thrifty and satisfying connection to the land. I buy my own Be Natural porridge, a reassuring and healthy daily routine, but I grow whatever I can on my balcony, in the small space I do have. I do garden to table every day.

Even if you lack outdoor space, you can grow something. Basil and rosemary do well in a sunny window, and lettuce will flourish in a pot on a balcony. Beginners should avoid filling the garden or available space with a vast variety of temperamental plants, it’s better to do a few things well. Lettuce is perhaps the easiest thing to grow. Then, all it takes is a squirt of vinaigrette and a lunch is on the table.

cos lettuce

Planted as seedings in a sunny spot, lettuce will take the culinary gardener into winter in many Australian climates. Go for a variety of lettuce, mix up textures and flavours for their various gastronomic qualities. Cos, one of the best nutritionally, can be turned into Korean bo saam in the kitchen – palm-sized cups to hold thinly sliced seared steak, a knob of steamed rice, sriracha and a dot of soy sauce. {READ MORE}

Chilly harvests

Apple trees heavy with fruit, fat pumpkins ready to be picked from the earth; late autumn harvests, with their reckless abundance and promise of feasts to come, are ready.

Even though warm duvets and hot tea in bed seem like such a good idea at this time year, mornings can be better spent with calico bag on shoulder, traipsing through farmers markets to source the best local produce the cooler months have to offer.

In colder climates and for our northern hemisphere peers, many farmers markets close in the chilly season. There, tents are dismantled and tables collapsed for winter. But in Australia, a steady trickle of indoor and outdoor markets stay open. Year-round access to farmers markets means our fingers can stay on the pulse when it comes to which fruit and vegetables are in their prime.

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