Raw roasted realness

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You might notice a theme here; I’m a little obsessed at present with throwing a whole lot of summer produce in a roasting dish, tossing through some olive oil, salt and pepper, and blitzing it in a hot oven till the skins are wrinkly and sometimes a bit crispy and the innards are yielding – unctuous, sweet and juicy. So. Damn. Good. But even better when you then stir through some fresh stuff to offer contrast. Some raw tomatoes to marry with the cooked ones, bunches of fresh herbs from the garden, perhaps some fresh or crumbly cheese to give it an extra lift.

This bowl of goodness here also made use of some day-old sourdough, toasted a little, which soaked up all the juices very nicely, and to roast the veges in this bowl I coated them with a little pomegranate balsamic reduction made in Mangawhai  by Divinity. It’s phenomenally good in all sorts of ways but particularly embracing the wonderful late summer vegetables round right now.

When roasted meets raw, flavour wins.

Adventures in sorghum 

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On a whim I bought a pack of whole sorghum at my local Chinese grocer a while back and it sat obediently in the overflowing grains/staples section of my pantry, waiting for its star turn. It looks, tastes and cooks like a grain but is in fact a grass, which can grow in arid conditions which I somehow like the sound of, as we know how much havoc water-greedy crops can wreak. A good friend of mine has just, in her mid-thirties, been diagnosed celiac, meaning gluten causes her, as my four-year old would emphatically pronounce, for real pain and damage. I’m enjoying experimenting with gluten-free recipes to pass my discoveries on to her. So this bag of sorghum sat there for ages until one day recently I had a a craving for a one-dish special, using summer veges with something to bulk it out and tie all the flavours together – in this case the sorghum. You cook it like you would rice, the absorption method, but with a bit more water, about 1 part sorghum to 3 parts rice. It needs about 25 minutes on a low heat to soak up all the water, and you should drain and rinse it afterwards just to get rid of excess water and stickiness. It doesn’t have much flavour, though I can detect a slight grassy note, similar to buckwheat but far less noticeable. The texture when cooked is a bit softer than giant couscous, but still retains a bite which makes it good for salads like this. I combined the cooked sorghum with a mix of roasted cherry tomatoes, capsicums, garlic cloves and thin slices of lemon along with fresh rocket, sheep’s feta and a cashew cream I made with soaked cashews, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper. I drizzled over a little extra olive oil and lemon juice to finish and it tasted lovely. Next up I’m going to try popping the raw sorghum in my popcorn maker. Watch this space.

Roasted cauliflower with tahini lemon dressing

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This dish was inspired by one I ate at Ima a few years ago – owner Yael Shochat had made it for a magazine feature we were shooting. Yael had roasted cauliflower and served it with a tahini dressing – a simple dish where the nutty dressing was the perfect foil for the smoky/sulfuric vegetable. My version has, from memory, a sharper hit of lemon and garlic because I’ve gone lighter on the tahini – something I am wont to do as I do find tahini quite a pungent ingredient and use it sparingly accordingly. The mint in this dish adds the perfect refreshing note. I served this tonight with richly spiced braised chicken thighs and turmeric rice, with which it married nicely, but I can see that it would be even more brilliant with chargrilled steak or lamb, or hapuka steaks, even. Here’s the rough method and amounts to match a 3/4 head of cauliflower:

Cut 3/4 cauliflower head into small florets – use the stalk, too. Toss in a roasting tray with a couple of Tbsps oil (I used grapeseed), 2 tsp ground cumin, 2 tsp ground sumac, 1 tsp sea salt, 1 tsp black pepper. Roast in an oven preheated to 200 degrees for about 30 minutes until starting to brown round edges. Meanwhile make dressing by combining 2 Tbsp tahini, 2 Tbsp lemon juice, 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Toast 1/4 cup almond flakes and finely slice a handful mint leaves. Toss everything together and serve, lukewarm is nicest.

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Sweet supplies

Naturals Family Shot
Natural alternatives to refined cane sugar are a hot ticket these days, and one of the most respected is made from a leafy green South American bush called stevia. A few years back I grew a little stevia plant in my garden. The leaves were lovely sliced very thinly and thrown in fruit salads, on top of porridge or muesli and in spicy South East Asian salads in place of sugar. The winter cold got that poor plant, but I’ve always got a supply of stevia in the pantry. Early in its career, stevia was only really found in liquid or powder form, but the new Naturals range of natural stevia sweeteners includes crystals, so using it becomes much the same process as using sugar – fantastic news for keen bakers.
More sweet news: I’ve got three prize packs to give away, each including the full range of Naturals stevia as pictured here, plus a duo of lovely Bodum drinking glasses, delivered to your door. To enter, just pop over to Eats by Anna on Facebook, like the page, like the post on Naturals and you’re in the draw. The winner will be drawn this Friday, June 6 at 12pm. The competition is only open to those living in NZ.
Bodum Glass set 7

Raw winter warrior soup

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About a year ago I went to a cooking demo in which we were shown how a Vitamix blender could make all manner of dishes in minutes, even seconds. Within the space of an hour or so we were served five dishes made right in front of us, but the one that stood out to me was a soup made with kumara and cashew nuts. I’ve recreated a version of that soup here. Mine contains a lot more aromatics, because I just love the heady spiciness of ginger, kaffir lime leaves and all those other Southeast Asian favourites.

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I’ve used Beauregard kumara – the orange variety – because they have a beautiful sweet flavour that isn’t at all cloying, which I do find with red-skinned kumara. Unlike potato, which must be cooked in order to be digestible, kumara can be eaten raw. Next time you’re prepping kumara, try nibbling on a slice of it raw – it’s nutty and really rather lovely.

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Given that this soup is uncooked, all the nutrients of the raw ingredients remain intact, and so I like to imagine it would do an excellent job of warding off winter ills, especially with the ginger and garlic in the mix. With a Vitamix, the heat of the motor will actually gently warm the contents of the jug, so if you can blend this for four minutes or so until it has warmed up to around 40 degrees; by raw food ethics this is technically still raw, I believe. But I’m not too worried about the technicalities, more the taste, and this tastes damn good, I tell ya!

If you don’t have a high power blender, you can still give this a go (let me know if it works!) otherwise just steam the kumara and carrot very slightly till your blender can handle them – the rest shouldn’t be a problem.

Into the jug of your blender, add: 3 peeled Beauregard kumara; 2 scrubbed, skin-on carrots; 1 cup coconut milk; 1 cup soaked and rinsed raw cashews; small knob ginger; 3 whole, skin-on garlic cloves; 3 spine-removed kaffir lime leaves; 1 red bird’s eye chilli; handful coriander; 1 lime or lemon, peeled; 2 Tbsp fish sauce; about 3 cups filtered water. Turn on blender and increase to turbo until all the contents are pulverized. Serve as is or keep blending on medium speed until the soup is warm.

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I served this with a frugal drizzle of Uncle Joe’s coriander seed oil – frugal because this stuff is intense! If you’d like to tone down the spiciness from the chilli and the ginger and garlic – say for little mouths – you can add a Tbsp of raw cane or coconut sugar to increase the sweetness.

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Tamarind chicken thighs

Tamarind chicken thighs

This is a bit of a non-recipe so please fire me a comment if you feel you need any further details with amounts of types of ingredients. I’m on a bit of a tamarind buzz right now – it’s a summer thing. I crave more tart and sharp flavours in warmer weather, and tamarind ticks that box big time, plus it has that fruity element that gives depth to so many dishes. If I’m in a hurry and making something like pad Thai or a soup where the texture of tamarind isn’t required, I often use tamarind paste/sauce, but in this dish you really want to start from scratch with a sticky block of the stuff, as you get more of the dark, unctuous quality coming through. If you’re new to tamarind, look for it in an Asian grocers’. You’ll find the smooth paste in a pottle, plus blocks of the tamarind flesh either with or without seeds. No point really paying for seeds which you’re going to biff, so buy the seedless blocks. To prep it for use, simply soften the required amount of tamarind (cut off the block) in hot water for a few minutes, then strain out any tough bits of skin, but really push it through the sieve as you want a nice thick paste.

You could make this chicken dish by using the saucy ingredients as a marinade the night before cooking, but I was cooking on a whim, the ‘marinating’ bit happened during the cooking – but actually I like how this worked because I was able to then fry off the lemongrass, garlic and chilli first which gave a great flavor to the dish.

Tamarind chicken thighs

I started with six free-range chicken thighs. Brown your chicken thighs in a hot pan with a touch of oil and arrange in a roasting dish. In the same pan you browned the chicken, sautee 4-5 cloves garlic, 1 bird’s eye chilli chopped finely, 1 stalk lemongrass bruised and chopped extremely finely, and a 1-inch piece of ginger peeled and chopped finely. Once sizzling, add the paste squeezed from about 2 Tbsp tamarind and about 1 Tbsp grated palm sugar. Give that a stir then add about a cup of good-quality chicken stock. I’ve been loving the Simon Gault range of real stocks lately. Stir for a bit then pour this sauce over the chicken in the roasting dish and pop in the oven to bake for around 45 minutes, until the thighs are cooked through, with the juices running clear. Take out and baste using the sauce in the dish a few times during cooking. Once the chicken is cooked, turn the heat up for the last 6-7 minutes to about 220 to get a nice crisp and sticky topping on the thighs. Scatter over some spring onion, or herbs like coriander or mint, and serve with steamed jasmine rice.

I made a quick cucumber pickle to serve with the chicken. Lebanese cucumbers work best for this. Slice them in half lengthways then scoop out the seeds and slice along the length, making pretty little thin moon shapes. Toss in a bowl with a little rice vinegar, some Korean red pepper flakes (highly addictive stuff, but if you don’t have it, just use fresh red chilli or red chilli flakes), and a splash of fish sauce. Let the flavours settle and meld together for 10 minutes before serving. This quick pickle can be adapted however you like – add toasted sesame seeds and sesame oil to make it more Japanese/Korean-like; add a bit of hoisin or some palm sugar for a sweet note. You could even try adding a bit of belacan fried off first, or a smoky sambal- yumbo!

Quick cucumber pickles

For some more delicious ways to use tamarind, check out my tamarind fish, this awesome chicken dish, a finger lickin’ Javanese fried chicken, and this one for summer vege lovers.

Gluten-free Chocolate Cake

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Gluten-free Chocolate Cake

This gluten-free chocolate cake is not just for those with intolerances – anyone who loves a rich, chocolatey bit of lushness will be into this – it’s so moist, with a delicious depth of flavor from the coconut and almond, and best of all it’s a total cinch to make, with barely any dishes to wash afterwards! Free from gluten and refined sugar, this cake has a dense and moist crumb, made more so by the addition of the syrup at the end. This cake isn’t overly sweet and it doesn’t feel heavy at all, though it’s rich enough that one piece really is satisfying enough.

I’ve been experimenting with using coconut flour in baking, with mixed results. It’s a fickle beast, absorbing all the liquid you can throw at it and then some. Generally, if you are going to substitute coconut flour for wheat flour, you’re going to need a lot more eggs to get the batter to rise, and to satiate the thirsty nature of the flour. Check out this blog post for a detailed insight into baking with coconut flour. I’ve made this cake successfully using just coconut flour, but this version I made today using half coconut flour and half almond meal turned out wonderfully.

Gluten-free chocolate cake

Instead of cane sugar I’ve used coconut sugar and a little agave syrup – but if you don’t have those to hand you can just use about 1 1/2 cups raw sugar. If you can afford it, a good-quality cocoa powder gives the best flavor. I love Green & Blacks organic version, or Equagold Dutch cocoa powder.

I find a ring tin works well for this cake; it allows the centre to cook evenly with the outside.

125g unsalted butter
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1/4 cup pure agave syrup
1 cup coconut flour
1 cup ground almonds
1/4 cup cocoa powder
4 tsp baking powder*
1 cup milk
3 eggs

Syrup
1 cup strong black coffee
1/4 cup coconut sugar
25g salted butter

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius and grease and line a 23cm ring tin. In a saucepan large enough to hold a cake batter, melt the butter, then take off the heat and stir in the coconut sugar and agave syrup. Sift in the coconut flour, ground almonds, cocoa powder and baking powder and mix to combine.

Lightly beat the milk and eggs in a bowl then pour into the rest of the ingredients and stir well until evenly combined. Pour batter into greased ring tin. Bake for 40 minutes or until the top of the cake springs back when pressed. Allow to cool in the tin for 10-15 minutes, while you make the syrup.

Heat the coffee and sugar in a saucepan and boil until the sugar dissolves. Take off heat and add the butter, stirring until it melts into the hot coffee. Turn the cake out onto a serving plate and pour the syrup carefully over the cake, letting it seep down into the crevices and drip down the sides.

Lovely served with whipped cream or Greek yoghurt.

*If you’re strictly no gluten, check your baking powder is gluten-free.

gluten-free chocolate cake