Saturday, August 27, 2011


Black beans make a superb soup - but you have to prepare them from scratch. Cooking the beans creates a velvety, thick purple broth that you simply cannot recreate with tinned black beans.

 Don't worry - it ain't that hard to cook black beans. It just takes a bit of foresight. While you can soak them over night, they don't actually need that long. A few hours is fine. The longer you soak the less time they will take to cook. No more than 12 hours though and at least three hours is a good guide for black beans - also known as Brazilian or turtle beans.

Pumpkin makes a great mate for black beans. And this soup is actually pretty simple and easy. Team it with the coconut corn bread below.

Slightly adapted from Three Bowls: Vegetarian Recipes from an American Zen Buddhist Monastery by Seppo Ed Farrey with Myochi nancy O'Hara


2 cups black beans, rinsed well and drained
2 tablespoons oil
1 onion, chopped
2 teaspoons salt
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
About 2kg pumpkin, skinned and chopped into bite-sized cubes
1 tablespoon tamari - or soy sauce
black pepper
sour cream
fresh coriander/cilantro, chopped

Soak beans in 6 cups of water for about four hours. Rinse well.  Prepare pumpkin.

Heat oil in large pot over medium heat and saute onion with salt for a few minutes. Add garlic and saute few more minutes, stirring now and then.

Add 6 cups of water with pumpkin and beans and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer with lid on, stirring now and then, until beans are soft but not mushy. If looks like to much liquid remove lid for last 15 minutes so it will reduce down a bit. You want a reasonable amount of broth though.

Remove one cup of the solids and one cup of the broth and puree. Return to pot and add tamari and pepper. Simmer for a few more minutes.

Carefully ladle soup into bowls and add a decent dollop of good quality sour cream, with fresh coriander sprinkled on top. Serve with bread below or on its own.

FOR BABIES SIX MONTHS AND OVER: Scoop out some pumpkin once it is cooked and puree
FOR BABIES EIGHT MONTHS AND OLDER: Scoop out some cooked beans and pumpkin and mash a little (avoid the broth as it contains salt)
FOR BABIES AND TODDLERS ONE YEAR AND OLDER: Serve as is, or blend and serve

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


 If you don't already own a loaf tin I suggest you go forth and purchase. (Get a silicon one if you can as mine keeps sticking.)

You are about to experience a bit of a loaf/bread frenzy. Now when I say 'bread' I'm not talking kneading and rising. I'm not even necessarily talking savory. But don't worry, I won't be disguising cake as bread, and suggesting you eat it for breakfast.

Australians will be familiar with this trick - the ubiquitous banana bread served at every cafe. When I first moved to Sydney I actually fell for it, trusting this 'bread' was somehow an acceptable thing to eat for breakfast. But turns out to be banana cake sliced like bread, served toasted with butter. Imagine the looks if I were to eat chocolate cake, toasted and buttered, with my morning (decaf) coffee.

The loafs/breads you will find on these pages may have a little maple syrup (just a wee bit) but primarily they will be designed to eat with soup, stews and salads.

As you likely know by now, I am obsessed with a couple of North American cook books that I am still working my way through. Both have whole chapters devoted to breads of the loaf variety, often featuring ingredients hard to source outside of the US, so we will be doing a bit of adapting.

First off the rank is this yummy Coconut Corn Bread, which teamed perfectly with a tasty and easy pumpkin black bean soup. Stay tuned for the soup recipe later this week.

It was delicious eaten straight out of the oven with a little butter, but the next day, and the day after, it went well toasted with fresh ricotta and honey.

I have adapted this from Three Bowls: Vegetarian Recipes from an American Zen Buddhist Monastery by Seppo Ed Farrey and Myochi Nancy O'Hara.


Dry Ingredients:
1 cup polenta
3/4 cup cornmeal (if you can't get it use half polenta/half regular flour)
3/4 cup wholemeal flour
3/4 cup shredded coconut, toasted in a dry fry pan over medium heat until just browning
2 teaspoons baking soda (if you only have baking powder just use an extra teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Wet Ingredients:
1 3/4 cups unsweetened yoghurt
2 large eggs
1/4 cup milk
3 tablespoons of maple syrup (you could use golden syrup if no maple)
2 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to medium hot. Line loaf tin or grease VERY well - unless you have a silicon one. 

Combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl, mixing well.

Whisk the wet ingredients in a separate bowl. 

Add wet ingredients to the dry but mix carefully and swiftly - as few strokes as possible to avoid a tough bread.

Pour batter immediately into prepared tin and spread evenly with spatula. Bake for about 50 minutes or until browned and a skewer/toothpick/knife inserted in the middle comes out clean. Turn out onto wire rack and cool for few minutes before slicing and eating.

Stay tuned for and Pumpkin Black Bean Soup instructions

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I rolled them in coconut last night, but ground almond works better

I've just realised that I don't have any photographic evidence of these delicious Blissed-Out Balls, despite making them twice. Oh well, I'll just have to whip some more up tonight for the camera. As good an excuse for sweeting (making sweet food that doesn't require baking) as any I would say.

Billie 'helped'  - taste-testing all the way
The inspiration for these came from: a) some balls marketed as Bliss that I purchased from our local health food store - no idea who makes them so I can't give any credit where it's due
and b) some recipes I used to make with high school friends on desperate Saturday nights when there wasn't any chocolate in the house.

One of those friends has been asking for my 'barfi' recipe lately - which is a bit different as I think it involved cooking up milk and setting it - but so far I haven't been able to locate it. So Kura, give this a whirl, it's more like the balls we used to make with butter and sultanas, only MUCH HEALTHIER.

No butter. No Sugar. No gluten. Just good old milk powder. The important ingredient to get sorted is COCONUT OIL. It's that translucent fat the consistency of ghee that you find in most health food shops these days. It shouldn't be expensive - although some will try it on cause it's newish and all.

I was a bit concerned these bliss balls may not meet everyone's taste. However, I made them for our office Food Club and they got the thumbs up from a variety of palettes. There was even a bit of discussion about who could have the last one. I think they passed the test.


1 teaspoon vanilla 
3/4 cup dessicated coconut
2 T sesame seeds
3/4 cup milk powder
3 T coconut oil
3 T honey
ground almonds for rolling (or use extra coconut)

Melt coconut oil and honey in small pot over gentle heat. Remove from heat and mix rest of ingredients through quickly. 

Wet your hands with hot water and roll in teaspoon-full balls, then coat with ground almonds, or coconut. It's worth rolling them into nice round smooth balls as they can look a bit weird with a rough job. Unless you're planning to eat them yourself right away.

Place on plates or tray in a single layer and place in fridge to set. Store in container or jar in fridge, but remove from fridge a few minutes before serving.

Yes, those are fingers you see: Billie was eating them faster than I could roll

Monday, August 15, 2011

Easy-Peasy Chocolate Oat Pecan Cookies

I've done my research on chocolate chip cookies. These are definitely the easiest ones around.

I had to do a crash-course in cookie baking when I was pregnant with Billie. During out anti-natal classes I discovered something new about Miles. When we were told to introduce ourselves with a brief fact, Miles announced he loved homemade cookies. I never knew. The poor man had been deprived.

So at the next class, when it was our turn to bring some supper, I dutifully made chocolate chip cookies. First I called on my fellow kitchen friend Hannah in New Zealand, who emailed me about 20 chocolate chip cookie recipes.  Aside from additions of various nuts, they were basically the same. Creaming butter and sugar was necessary, and they made about 50.

Yes, 50. Lucky I was taking them to an anti-natal class full of people with appetites. It also meant I could experiment with each tray that went into the oven in terms of size, to flatten or not to flatten, and whether to cook til crunchy, chewy or a little soft and under-done. Miles was a good taste-tester.

So I worked my way through a few recipes. Problem was, Miles and I wound up eating three large cookies each night. So cookie baking was banned from this house before Billie even made it into this world.

Until I found this recipe, which DOES NOT INVOLVE ANY CREAMING OF BUTTER, and uses maple syrup instead of sugar (yes, much healthier but I have swapped it for golden syrup if you're on a budget), and only gives you a dozen cookies to eat through. (Unless you double the recipe as I did in this pic, or make them small).

Credit to Cynthia Lair (once again) and claps for her book Feeding the Whole Family. I have only slightly adapted it.


1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup wholemeal flour
1/2 cup maple syrup (or golden syrup if want a cheaper option)
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup chopped pecan nuts (Cynthia uses walnuts)
1/3 cup dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to medium-hot. Grease a flat tray or cover with baking paper.

Combine flour and oats in a large bowl. In a separate bowl mix syrup, melted butter and vanilla.  

Add wet ingredients to the dry and mix well. Stir the nuts and chocolate through. 

Wet your hands under the hot tap and make into dessert spoon-sized balls. Place on tray and flatten slightly with back of spoon. These don't spread like other cookies so you can place all on one tray.

Bake for 15 minutes, or until just golden. Place cookies on wire rack to cool, and cover with tea towel to prevent them all being eaten before you return to the kitchen.

Monday, August 1, 2011


Zen Bake before it goes in the oven

 I was fortunate enough to meet a wonderful woman called Dalia this year, who has since returned to the US - via Jordan where she is now visiting her family.

Dalia gave me a fantastic cook book  - 3 Bowls: Vegetarian Recipes from an American Zen Buddhist Monastery by Seppo Ed Farrey and Myochi Nancy O'Hara.  I've only dipped into it so far but it's clear they know what they're doing. Expect to see a fair bit of in these pages.

I adapted this delicious and very healthy recipe from the book, and cooked it for Dalia before she departed. I promised to post it so she can make it for her parents in Jordan, although I'm sure she's enjoying plenty of tasty Middle Eastern delights.

While this dish requires a few hours in the oven, it doesn't demand too much from the cook. It's extremely satisfying and nourishing and perfect for a cold winter weekend when you're pottering around at home in the afternooon.

The authors compare this to American Southern fare, particularly jambalaya. Miles assures me it's nothing like jambalaya, but I like that word so I wanted to use it. They used collard greens but I went for English spinach.


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped finely
1/2 tspn sea salt
8 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 bag English spinach or silverbeet
1 1/2 cups brown rice
1 cup black-eyed beans
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup tamari
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

If you have time, soak beans in 3 cups water for few hours, otherwise don't worry - they will still cook fine. Heat oven to moderate temperature. Place oil in large frying pan over medium heat and saute onion for few minutes. Add garlic and saute few more minutes. Stir in sweet potato and saute while you wash and pick the spinach. Place leaves in pan just long enough to wilt a little (they will cook plenty in the oven).

Place rice and beans in a large rectangle baking dish. Add the sweet potato etc and mix well. Stir cayenne, vinegar, tamari together in a small bowl and add one cup of the boiling water. Pour over beans etc and mix well but gently. Lastly pour rest of boiling water over, cover tightly with foil and bake for 1 1/2 hours. Rice and beans should be tender and most of the liquid absorbed. Serve hot. A little yoghurt on the side may be necessary for those sensitive to the pepper. 

It tastes soooo much better than it looks

Dalia and Luke join us for a 'farewell' dinner (we know they will be back)