Saturday, 19 November 2011

Beetroot and Goat Cheese Salad

Recently as I was eating yet another beetroot and goat cheese salad (this last one in Texas), I realised that I had eaten this salad, in multiple countries around the world. So I thought a compare and contrast would be fun.

Texas style, Kenny and Ziggy's, Houston Texas, September 2011 (in case there are any doubts, this was HUGE, more platter size than plate)

Slightly more refined in Dublin, Ireland, June 2010, Marco Pierre White's Steakhouse and Grill. The thinly sliced beetroot almost visible under the greenery. This was sensational.

I know I've eaten this in Australia and New Zealand too, but sadly can't find any photographic evidence.

Do you have any meals that you will eat wherever you see them in the world?

This post is linked to Weekend Cooking, a fabulous weekly meme at Beth Fish Reads.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Autumn Power Porridge in Spring

It's not autumn, well not in Australia at least, but there I was no way that I could wait 6 months til it was autumn here again to try this porridge. After all it has multiple ingredients that speak to me. Pumpkin. Porridge. Pumpkin pie spice. Delicious flavours at any time of year.

Australians love pumpkin. We have it available fresh year round. And we cook it and eat it year round. It's not available here canned, and the idea seems rather odd to us. Pumpkin soup. Roast pumpkin. On pizza. In salads. I make a particularly delicious pumpkin pasta sauce.  But I'd never heard of or thought about Pumpkin Porridge- til now.

It's difficult finding the GI rating for pumpkin. Butternut pumpkin is listed as 51 in my Low GI Diet Shoppers Guide, and pumpkin generally as 66 on GI news, which is a wonderful go to source for GI information.

Porridge made from Uncle Toby's traditional oats seems to have a GI of 58. The range for porridge is quite vast, but essentially for the lowest GI options you should use traditional rolled oats or steel cut oats (these are difficult to find in Australia). The quick cook/microwave sachets are best avoided as they don't taste nearly as good, and they are high GI.

Quinoa is a low GI (51), gluten free superfood. It's become very available in the past few years, and is a common supermarket item now. You don't need to go searching in dusty healthy food shops to find it anymore. It's available in a range of colours, I used the white one today.

Autumn Power Porridge

1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1/4 cup cooked, mashed pumpkin
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tblsp agave syrup
Dried cranberries
Walnut pieces
Milk of your choosing, I've been using oat milk recently, but have just learnt that it is (high) medium GI of 69

Combine oats, quinoa and water in a small saucepan. Cook on stovetop over low to medium heat until cooked, about 15-20 minutes. Stir through pumpkin and spices.

Serve in bowls, add cranberries, walnuts, drizzle with agave syrup. Add milk.

Serves 2


I simplified the recipe, just cooking the pumpkin before hand, and then cooking the oats and quinoa together. I adjusted the quantities too, as there was noone else at home this day to help me eat it- well, Mr Adventures refused my generous offer to share.

I was anxious about the quinoa in the porridge. I've only made quinoa into a porridge once before, and it was an Abject Failure. Awful. And there was a tonne of it. I ended up feeding it to the dogs! It was much better here, but I'd probably increase the oats to quinoa ratio for my tastes next time.

You could easily put in more pumpkin, and spices- but then I am rather heavy handed with the spices, I'd already increased the quantity from the original recipe. I used some of the pumpkin pie spice I'd made recently.

To me this recipe is crying out for maple syrup instead of the agave, but somehow I had none in the fridge! This situation can not be allowed to continue.

This post is linked to Weekend Cooking, a fabulous weekly meme at Beth Fish Reads.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Something very exciting happened to me a little while ago. I won a book- simply by posting a comment on a blog! Australians never expect this sort of thing to happen to them. And if we were to win, we then wouldn't expect the book to be sent all the way down to the anitpodes. But Heather from Books and Quilts is a very generous person and very soon my prize was in my hot little hands. Heather is so generous that she included a number of other gifts in my parcel too. 

Over 200 smoothie recipes, and me with a new Thermomix!

The book is divided up into the usual sorts of sections
Tropical and Citrus

Of course I want to try things like Strawberry De-Lish Smoothie- basically a mango, a banana, some strawberries and ice. Who wouldn't? Or the Apple and Cinnamon Smoothie. Even the Apricot, Honey and Orange Smoothie. But for my first smoothie from the book I thought I'd push the envelope and delve into the Vegetable chapter. 

There are some recipes in there that are challenging to my mind- such as the Broccoli and Grape Smoothie. I don't know that I'll ever get to trying that one. And the Celery and Kiwi Smoothie will never get made in my house (I am yet to be convinced that celery is a food). I don't have a long history of drinking vegetable juice. I don't like tomato juice, and it was just last month that I was brave enough to try a green juice and a green smoothie for the first time. The green smoothie was delicious (lots of apple juice I suspect).

Delicious sweet potato chips, delicious green smoothie, meh green juice (timid attempt by me, too much celery) at
Field of Greens, Houston, Texas

So emboldened by such green smoothie success, I decided to make the Pumpkin Smoothie. Australians love pumpkin, I even had a wedge in the fridge, so I thought this would be a good place to start. 

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

165mL/ 3/4 cup chilled pumpkin puree
165mL/ 3/4 cup chilled milk
110mL/ 1/2 cup vanilla ice cream
1 tblsp agave syrup
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Combine all ingredients and blend til smooth. 

Made in a rush for dessert, so nighttime and not great lighting

So how was it? It tasted a bit like a slightly pumpkiny egg nog. I quite liked it. Mr Adventures was less keen, but still drank his share. I wonder what I'll try next?

I modified the original recipe a fair bit. I gave it the much better name of Pumpkin Pie Smoothie for a start. That sounds heaps better than Pumpkin Smoothie to me. 

I made my own pumpkin puree (mash). Simply steamed the chopped pumpkin in the microwave, and then mashed it, and chilled it. 

The original recipe used vanilla frozen yoghurt instead of icecream. Rural Australia didn't have any vanilla frozen yoghurt on the day I wanted it, (I'm not sure that we ever do actually) and since there was some icecream in the freezer I used that instead.

The original recipe also included 1 tblsp frozen orange juice concentrate. I'm not sure that frozen juice concentrate is available in Australia, if it was I wouldn't buy it, so I just left it out. 

The original recipe also used 2 tblsp of sugar. As a slight nod at trying to make this low GI I used agave syrup instead of the sugar. I've only recently started using agave syrup- its a very low GI (19) sweetener, made from the agave plant, a type of cactus, in Mexico. As it's sweeter than sugar I decreased the amount in the recipe. 

Pumpkin pie spice isn't all that available here. I just found a recipe on the internet, and made my own. I have quite a bit left over which I'm using up on my morning cereal. If it ever warms up, I might make a batch up pumpkin pie muesli. Oooh, yes, that sounds fab. Pumpkin pie muesli. Homer dribble......

This post is linked to Weekend Cooking, a fabulous weekly meme at Beth Fish Reads.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Red Lentil and Burghul Soup

I wasn't too sure what I thought of the notion of this soup. But I'd ripped it out of the newpaper (back in February!) and it was time to try it.

I like burghul (also called bulgur), but hadn't had it in soup form before. Of course it's most famous use is as a base for the middle eastern classic Tabbouli. I do like red lentils in soup- indeed some of my favourite soups contain red lentils now that I think about it.

Red lentils are an amazing nutritious, low GI food. GI 26.

Burghul/bulgur is simply whole wheat that has been hulled, steamed then cracked (which gives the other name of cracked wheat), and so it retains the wheat germ and bran. The GI for boiled burghul hasn't been measured, but when it is soaked as you would do for tabbouli it is 48.

Red Lentil and Burghul Soup

1-2 tblsp olive oil
1 large brown onion, finely chopped
2 sticks celery, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
1.25 L chicken or vegetable stock
1/2 cup red lentils
1/3 cup burghul
2 tblsp tomato paste
2 tblsp chopped fresh mint and basil

Heat oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and saute onion, celery and garlic for 7 minutes, or until softened. Add chilli and cook for 1 minute. Add stock, lentils, burghul and tomato paste, stir and bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, or until grains are tender. Add a little extra stock if needed. Season to taste. Add mint and basil just before serving. Serve with a dollop of thick yoghurt.

Serves 4
David Herbert
Weekend Australian, February 26 2011

I omitted the chilli as I was making the 10 year old eat it for dinner.

It's a very quick and easy soup to throw together for a simple meal.

I wasn't sure I liked the appearance of the soup as it was- so I blitzed it in the Thermomix to make a smooth soup. The burghul then gave it a bit of a furry mouth feel. I don't know that I'd make this again, but it was interesting to try- and the 10 year old ate it with no fuss!

I will cross post this on my soup blog.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Potage St Germain (well nearly)

It's always great when a recipe combines several of your great loves, and this soup does that. Soup. Low GI goodness. France. And a friend's blog. Too good to pass up.

Split peas are a nutritional storehouse, with a fabulous low GI of 32.

I've never really been a fan of the traditional pea and ham soup, I find it too furry on the tongue, and the colour is usually unappealing. Here, we don't have the ham, and the soup is glammed  up by addition of fresh peas at the end to give it a great colour boost. So when my friend Hannah blogged this simple French potage, I knew I would have to give it a try quite soon. So I did. And it was fab.

Although it turns out this isn't really a traditional Potage St Germain, which is more a fresh pea soup made with stock, lettuce, onion and celery. I felt certain that Elizabeth David had a recipe for Potage St Germain in her book French Provinical Cooking, but I suddenly can't find it. The name of course brings to mind St Germain de Pres, a lovely but dilapidated church on the left bank of Paris.

2 cups green split peas (400g)
1 litre water
1 tblsp olive oil
1 large brown onion (200gm), coarsely chopped
2 trimmed sticks celery (150gm), coarsely chopped
1.25 litres chicken or vegetable stock
500gm frozen peas
Sea salt and freshly ground white pepper

Soak split peas in the water in a large bowl for 3 hours or overnight.

Heat oil in large saucepan; cook onion and garlic, stirring, until onion is soft. Stir in celery, cook, stirring for 2 minutes.

Add undrained peas and stock, bring to a boil; simmer, uncovered, about 1 hour or until peas are tender (skimming the surface and stirring occasionally). Stir in frozen peas; cook, for about 10 minutes until peas are tender.

Blitz soup in high speed blender, until smooth.

Return soup to pan. Heat through. Season to taste, and garnish, with mint or garnish of your choice.

Pretend you're in Paris whilst you eat.


My 10 year old ate this without complaint- just the usual bribe of bread and butter.

I garnished with creme fraiche and chives, as that's what I had on hand.

I only noticed the soup was meant to be simmered uncovered when I typed the recipe here. I did it covered.

I'm cross posting this on my soup blog.

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Better the second time round

I love the forced creativity that opening the fridge door sometimes creates. That simple act of opening the door focuses your thoughts on the contents of the fridge, and what you can do with them. Sometimes that doesn't go so well, and sometimes you surprise yourself. Like this day.

I had some left over cooked chicken. Chicken that hadn't really worked the night before. I used a recipe I'd made before but not for some time. It used to be fabulous, not quite sure what happened this night. A simple baked chicken with mustard powder, curry powder, butter and honey. Somehow I managed to make it really quite hot this time, when previously it was quite mild. The family didn't really like it, so I had leftovers...

And it made an absolutely delicious toasted sandwich the next day for lunch!

Curried chicken and mashed kumara toasted sandwich on rye

This post is linked to Weekend Cooking, a fabulous weekly meme at Beth Fish Reads.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Raw Vegan Low GI Chocolate? What the Hell.

Or more correctly, I blame Hannah IV

I have a history of blaming Hannah for some things. Like buying somewhat ridiculous and overpriced chocolates. And having any desire whatsoever to try raw vegan low GI chocolate, which is really not my thing. At all. And now I know why.

I was so overwhelmed with the flavours available that I ended up trying all of them. So many things I had no real idea about- lucuma, maca, camu camu and purple corn. How did they taste normally? And what would they be like in chocolate? And what are Activated Almonds? Why would you activate them? And how?

Activated almonds peeking through

You should always stick with your instincts about new chocolate flavours. After all I've been eating chocolate for quite a few decades now, I think I know what I like. I picked the Activated Almond and Purple Corn as the first flavour to try. It was the best in my opinion. Turns out Activated Almonds are raw almonds that have been soaked to deactivate enzyme inhibitors that apparently make raw nuts hard to digest, and then dried out again at low temperature to make them crunchy again. I'm not sure I really buy into all that, but the activated almonds tasted fine, and didn't upset my delicate digestive mechanism. However I was rather astonished at raw chocolate. It's chocolate Jim, but not as we know it. The texture is well, awful, and the taste, well, not as we know it. And since I'm not sold on the benefits of a total raw food diet, I'd rather eat cooked chocolate, because it's nicer.

The sour cherry acai was next. I was still struggling with the texture and taste of raw chocolate, which came to the fore more given the absence of activated almonds. The taste did linger on the palate for quite some time even after a small delicate nibble on just a few squares. The flavour elements don't seem to blend, and the berries stand apart somehow. This isn't the sort of chocolate to gobble greedily. Perhaps a good thing. But if you are going to eat chocolate, really, you want to enjoy it more than this I think.

I'm vaguely interested in eating things that I have to google first to work out what they are. Always up for a new experience, me.

Sadly a bit bloomed

Stupid computer won't let me rotate this one

Goji berries, ok. They've been a bit of a trend over the past few years. I know what they are. But Camu Camu, Maca and Lucuma? Absolutely no idea of what they are, or how they will taste. Turns out they are all South American plants. Which is ok I guess but makes me start to ponder food miles and the utility of all this. Then I discover that Camu Camu is apparently at risk of becoming an endangered species because people like me like novel chocolate flavourings that are allegedly good for us, and chock full of anti-oxidants. And then none of them seemed to taste all that much of anything. Well at least in this format. Lucuma is meant to taste like caramel, and is a popular icecream flavour in Peru. I didn't get any caramel notions here though.

I left the Crunchy Mint to last, expecting not to like it. I've never been all that keen on the crunchy type chocolates, with shards of sugary flavours.  But to my surprise this was probably the second best one. The mint flavour was quite pleasant. Although I still hadn't got used to the whole raw chocolate vibe.

I think that my raw chocolate career may be over. I guess if you're really into the raw diet ethos then these at least would be treats- and they're still much better than carob!

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Kumara Hummus

I do love hummus. And it's so quick and easy to make hummus at home. Naturally home made hummus tastes much better than store bought.

Recently I found a fabulous blog post about variations on hummus, including the fabulously interesting kumara hummus. And I knew I had to make it sometime soon. I took inspiration from this recipe, and naturally fiddled with it a bit.

Kumara is delicious, and a fabulous low GI superfood. I've been trying kumara in a few new and different ways recently, and enjoying it very much. I commonly use it as a mashed vegie for dinner, but sometimes you want to try something new with an old favourite, or combine two trusted old friends.

Ras el hanout is another wonderful, aromatic spice blend. I have a wonderful pot of it that I bought in Melbourne last time I visited.

Kumara Hummus

450gm kumara
300gm chick peas
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 1/2 tsp ras el hanout
2 tblsp peanut butter
2 tblsp lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
1 tblsp olive oil + an extra slurp if needed for texture
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Peel kumara, and chop into even sized pieces. Microwave until tender (about 8-10 minutes).

Combine cooked kumara, chickpeas, garlic, ras al hanout, peanut butter, lemon juice, olive oil and seasonings in a food processor. Blend until desired texture. I like mine quite smooth, and not chunky.

I learnt to use peanut butter instead of tahini in my hummus last year. Nigella Lawson taught me. The peanut butter ratio I used here was probably a bit high, it almost came through as a separate taste. I was a bit distracted when I was making this, and had put more in than I wanted to before I quite realised. Plus my chickpeas didn't cook up into as much as I was expecting.

Because it's winter here and rather chilly at the minute I tried to think of some new ways to use hummus rather than just with crudites. Thus the evolution of the kumara hummus, roasted capsicum and ham pizza! Sadly no picture exists of this original treat. We have pizza and movie night every Friday night, and it made quite a nice change from the usual pizza toppings I use.

I was very excited to find these German crackers on a recent excursion to Sydney. I had originally seen them on a Chocolate and Zucchini post about peacamole. I was saving them for a special occasion, and naturally hoping to make my poiscamole to enjoy them with. Life, and kumara hummus intervened.

I can live with that.

This post is linked to Weekend Cooking, a fabulous weekly meme at Beth Fish Reads.

Saturday, 18 June 2011


Chestnuts are definitely a new adventure for me. They're low GI (54). Well, crushed, uncooked chestnut kernels are. I'm all for the low GI concept- by why test the raw product when they're almost always eaten cooked? Makes no sense to me.

I've eaten the very occasional chestnut product. But only really in the past year or two, when curiosity began to take over. And then they generally probably weren't all that healthy, or low GI.

Well, this chestnut yoghurt in Paris could well have been.

More like a mousse in texture, it was fabulous

But the Mont Blancs at Angelina's probably weren't

Very good for the disposition though
And I'd certainly never tried applying any heat to a chestnut in the safety of my own home. It seemed like a rather complicated thing to do. After all they can explode:

I didn't certainly want exploding chestnuts all over the house. Luck was with me, and I found a brochure put out by the chestnut growers, explaining how to cook the little blighters, without risk of explosion. I mustn't be the only nervous nellie about cooking chestnuts! I took advice from my facebook brains trust too. 

Only 3 steps. Cut. Cook. Peel. I could probably do this. Still I found the brochure a bit light on details. When you haven't cut a chestnut before, you don't really know what cutting the inner skin feels like. I was planning to try a few different methods of cooking, but it turned out that I hadn't bought enough to fully experiment. So I decided to microwave them. 

My glossy brochure just said to microwave on high for 2-3 minutes in a covered container (to reduce mess in case of explosion I imagine). But it didn't say whether to put water in or not. So I tried 4 in my microwave steamer without water. Not a good idea!

Hard nubbins of inedible chestnut, and showing the furry inner layer of the shell

I could peel them easily enough- another danger my brains trust had alerted me to. But the insides were hard, inedible nubbins of chestnut. So I tried two with water in the steamer- and success! They were edible. I got rather carried away and steamed my remaining chestnuts in several batches. Which was fine to cook them, but the peeling took a toll. They do become harder to peel as they cool, and I learnt that chestnut peel jamming up under your finger nails is a rather exquisite torture.

Stages of chestnut peeling
 Enquiring minds need to know more about unfamiliar ingredients so I cut one in half. And was strangely unsettled. I had flashbacks to my student years, and time spent in the pathology lab.

Cerebellum anyone?

Still, in the end the effort paid off. And I was left with enough chestnut meat to make my soup. Which was the reason for the whole exercise. In my inexperienced hands, with a bit of wastage, the 500 gm I bought, ended up giving me about 240 gm.

And as a happy byproduct of all this chestnutting today I remembered a secret stash in the pantry. A treasure brought home from France last year. Happily still in date! Although I'm probably back in the non-low GI chestnut product here.

French chestnut honey pearls- they're delicious!

This post is linked to Weekend Cooking, a fabulous weekly meme at Beth Fish Reads.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Beetroot and Apple Juice

I love beetroot, and never seem to cook or eat it often enough.  I can't seem to find a GI rating for fresh beetroot, only that for tinned beetroot! (64, which is medium). Are we that awful that we eat more tinned beetroot than fresh? Probably. 

Vegetable juice has a rating of 43. I'm not sure what is meant by vegetable juice though. Probably a carrot or tomato based juice. Neither of which I particularly like. Apple juice is low GI (40).

Beetroot is said to be low in carbohydrate, so the glycaemic load is low for typical servings. It is just such a marvelous colour that it must be chock full of nutrients. I just feel so virtuous eating it, and now drinking it. 

I've been buying the occasional bottle of this delicious Sunraysia Beetroot and Apple Juice for a few months now. We don't normally keep juice in the house. But as I don't drink tea or coffee, sometimes you need a bit of a break from water. 

Beware. The nice looking blueberry juice is not in the same league as the beetroot and apple juice at all. The beetroot and apple is just juice. The blueberry juice is just 18% juice, and the rest water and sugar. I wasn't expecting that. Tasty and all of course, but not quite as good for us. 

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Durian is low GI- but who really cares?

After all, durian isn't edible anyway.

That makes it no GI really. On formal testing durian has a low GI rating of 49.

Some misguided folks apparently refer to durian as the "king of fruits".

I was very excited to try this on my trip to Singapore last year. I had heard so much about it. But whatever you've heard can never prepare you for the smell of fresh durian.

Once you've smelt it you completely understand to your core why it's banned on trains and buses.

So how does it smell? It smells most like burnt vomit. Hard to get away from that fact. But it does. You can tell that there is a fruit stall around the corner, as you can smell that unmistakeable stench from that far.

Despite this smell that attacks the back of your throat I was still keen to try it. I thought that it would be most safe to try in icecream form. That durian icecream would be dilute enough, that it would be ok.

But it's not. I tried to like it, but I just couldn't do it. I only managed to nibble the icecream down to the start of the wafer. Couldn't do it any more. And I paid for it for hours later. Each time  you breathe out you can smell burnt vomit all over again.

Buying the icecream was fascinating in itself though. I bought it from a cart seller. The lady got a block of your desired flavour out of her freezer, and wielding a massive knife she cut a slice with great precision.

Not a great picture, but you get the idea

Durian, try this low GI treat at your own peril.

This post is linked to Weekend Cooking, a fabulous weekly meme at Beth Fish Reads.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Fruit Salad

Fruit Salad is a wonderful treat at any time of year. A delicious, filling breakfast. A healthy desert. A great snack. It's always slightly different depending on what fruits are available at the time of year. 

A near perfect fruit salad-pear, fig, raspberry, blueberry. Heaven. 

The GI ratings of individual fruits can be tricky to remember, but you can make some generalities.

Temperate fruits tend to be ok. Orchard fruits, citrus and berries.

Apple (38)
Apricot (34)
Blueberries (53)
Grapefruit (25)
Grapes (53)
Kiwifruit (53)
Nectarine (43)
Orange (42)
Peaches (42)
Pear (38)
Plums (39)
Raspberries- although untested, have little or no carbs. YAY I think they might be my absolute favourite fruit!
Strawberries (40)

Fig yoghurt completes it

Tropical fruits are more problematic, with just 2 being low GI.

Mango (51) Although mango is a very close second.
Banana (52)

Other tropical fruits have higher GI values, but that doesn't mean you can put some in a fruit salad.

Pineapple (59)
Paw paw (56)
Rockmelon/cantaloupe (88) is this the reason it's my favourite melon?
Watermelon (76)

The GI of figs hasn't been done, but dried figs are medium GI 61.

This post is linked to Weekend Cooking, a fabulous weekly meme at Beth Fish Reads.