Baked fig + cashew cream tart (paleo, GF, DF)

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Did you know that figs are actually inside out flowers?! Mind- blown! All common fig varieties are actually female and need no pollination, therefore it makes sense for the seeds to be protected inside the fruit. I’m tempted to spell out the euphemism here, but I’ll keep it to myself.

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Figs have for centuries been a symbol of fertility and youth. In Roman times it was believed that figs were essential to keeping young and they were used to maintain health and vitality in the elderly. Fresh figs are a fantastic source of many vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, C, niacin, folate and potassium. They are also a great source of fibre. Dried figs are a good source of calcium and iron (1/2 cup contains approximately 150mg of calcium or 15% of the daily requirement and 1.5mg of iron or 19% of the daily requirement). Since figs are already so high in sugar, be mindful of your intake and always balance with fat and protein content.

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Here we have added fresh figs to a wonderfully sweet and decadent cashew cream tart. We hope you enjoy this as much as we do :)

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Baked Fig + Cashew Cream Tart

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 10 ripe fresh figs, cut in half lengthways
  • 2 tablespoons coconut sugar
  • 1 cup raw almonds
  • 8 medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup desiccated coconut
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup ground hazelnuts, toasted in medium oven until fragrant
  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked for 5 + hours (overnight if possible)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
  • 2 teaspoons agave syrup
  • 1/4 cup water (you may not need all of this)

Method

For the topping

Place figs cut side up on a baking tray in one layer. Scatter coconut sugar over the figs. Bake in a moderate oven for 15-20 minutes, until lovely and golden. Set aside to cool and move on to the base.

For the base

In a blender (we used a stick blender with bowl attachment), blend the almonds to almond meal consistency. Set aside. Then blend the chopped dates to a paste consistency. Place the ground almonds, desiccated coconut and oil in the processor with the dates and combine. The crust will be good if it holds together when you squeeze it in your palm. If it crumbles a lot, add more oil and/or dates. Press the base into a loose based tin (we used a 30cm x 10cm long tart tin). Pop in the fridge while making the filling.

For the filling

Place the toasted hazelnuts in the blender and process until smooth. Add the cashews, lemon, vanilla and agave and process, slowly adding the water until you get a thick and creamy consistency. This will take some time, you will need to scrape down the sides of the blender and re-blend a few times. Be careful not to add too much water.

With a spatula, smooth the cashew cream into the base. Then place the baked figs on top and drizzle over the fig & coconut sugar that has melted in the tin while baking. Voila!

Superfood salad (GF, V, DF)

superfood salad

The past couple of years have welcomed the idea of the “superfood”. On the one hand, I am encouraged by the turn of affections towards health, however on the other hand I see impending environmental disaster. When marketers decide that a berry only grown on top of one mountain in a small village in Tibet is suddenly what we all need for immortality, it seems the resources used to get that particular berry to every health shop in Australia results in a CO2 emission to rival Kanye Wests private jet emissions. Put simply, I think it’s a gee-up (the Urban Dictionary defines this as “having a lend”, or “taking the piss”).

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Apply some common sense. Why would our evolution (which technically shoots from Africa) have required us to attain a berry that grows only in Tibet, for good health? It doesn’t make any sense! Lets take goji berries for example. This self proclaimed “superfood” is touted as having the highest vitamin C level of all plants by some. A closer look finds they contain the same amount of vitamin C as an orange.

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This salad is a homage to the forgotten superfoods. The humble underdogs, like the sweet potato, which contains more beta carotene than a carrot, and the cauliflower, which contains plant sterols that help to lower the “bad” cholesterol naturally. Like Bruce Jenner, they are a misunderstood, and at times harshly criticised, generation of unique personalities. Unlike Bruce however, in supporting these old school vegetables we are making a difference in protecting our environment and supporting local businesses at the same time.

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These salad ingredients make this dish a late summer/early autumn specialty. Having said that, if there are different vegetables available at the time, get creative and use them! Ideas for winter substitutes include Brussels sprouts or turnips, or a summer salad could include beetroot or eggplant.

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Superfood Salad

Serves 4 generous portions.

Ingredients for salad:

  • 1 tablespoon cultured butter
  • 2 sweet potatoes, roughly chopped
  • ½ head cauliflower, roughly chopped
  • 4 zucchinis, roughly sliced on the diagonal
  • 3 red onions, peeled and roughly chopped into eights
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground tumeric
  • Sea salt and pepper, desired amount for seasoning
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 1 teaspoon fresh chives, roughly chopped

Ingredients for dressing:

  • 3 heaped tablespoons hulled tahini
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cumin

Ingredients for topping:

  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cultured butter
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 thai red chilli, finely chopped
  • 25 curry leaves

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
  2. Melt butter by placing into oven for approximately 5 minutes in a roasting tray.
  3. Once butter is melted, place chopped sweet potatoes, cauliflower, zucchinis and red onions in the roasting tray, adding ground cumin, tumeric, salt and pepper. Mix to coat vegetables well with seasonings and butter. Place in oven for approximately 45 minutes or until vegetables are just browning and soft.
  4. While the vegetables are in the oven, pop the rice and 2 cups of filtered water in to a pot and place on high heat on the stove. Wait until water boils, then turn down to a simmer, cover and cook for 40 minutes or until all the water is absorbed, stirring every 10 minutes. When finished, fluff up with a fork.
  5. While the rice and vegetables are cooking, prepare the dressing. Whisk all ingredients in a bowl with a fork until you get the consistency of honey. Add more tahini to thicken and more water to thin the consistency.
  6. When all ingredients are ready, prepare the topping on the stove. In a pan, melt butter over high heat, then add mustard seeds. Wait 2 minutes, then add garlic, chilli and curry leaves. Stir and cook until garlic starts to brown, then remove from heat.
  7. To serve, mix vegetables in with rice, spoon over desired amount of tahini dressing, add topping and chopped chives to finish.

Raw lemon cheesecake (GF, DF, V)

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Lemon cheesecake with no cheese?! It’s like hosting a Greek BBQ where everything is vegetarian. At first it seems nothing but down right insulting. There will be yelling and plenty of tantrums. However, as your guests sample your perfectly cooked haloumi with lemon, then perhaps dabble in some of your delicious spanakopita, suddenly their worlds are turned upside down. They can be somewhat satisfied without lamb!

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That’s pretty much the experience I had with this dessert. I was skeptical, just as my Yia-yia was skeptical of our vegetarian babysitter, but like my grandma I gave it a go. And also like her- I realised I actually really like Ruth (and the cheese-less cheesecake). It arrives with a creamy, lemony smoothness and leaves with a sweet, nutty crumble.

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As well as being delicious- this recipe has nothing but goodness inside! Lemons provide an abundance of vitamin C, which amongst other things actually increases your iron absorption, so it is a good idea to consume iron rich foods with some lemon to maximise absorption. In Australia, summer is the only month that doesn’t supply us lemons, whereas in other (colder) parts of the world they are solely a winter fruit. Check the availability of your region and try to purchase only when in season from local growers if you can! Check our sustainability tip for lemons in this previous recipe. If you have a particularly “sweet tooth”, you may want to to add to the amount of figs added to the filling in this recipe. We hope you enjoy:)

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Raw Lemon Cheesecake

(serves 10)

Ingredients for base:

  • 1 cup raw macadamias
  • 2/3 cup shredded coconut
  • 8 medjool (or soft) dates
  • 2/3 cup flaxseeds
  • 2 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Method for base:

Blend altogether until smooth and sticky. Press down into a pie tin (approximately 25cm diameter for a circular pie tin) to form a base and refrigerate while you prepare the filling.

Ingredients for filling:

  • 1 cup (full fat) coconut cream
  • 160g dried figs (more if you prefer sweeter)
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • Lemon zest from 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla powder
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt

Method for filling:

Blend altogether until very smooth. Spread onto cold base, sprinkle some shredded coconut on top as decoration and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or until ready to serve.

Roast cauliflower + fennel salad with tahini dressing

 

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This is our last post for the year, so we just want to take the time to say thank you for reading our posts and sharing in our love for food and sustainability. We are so grateful for all of your support. Amongst our busy schedules, The Life Holistic is something we do for fun, without any material grain. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoy creating it. We love hearing from you, so please keep sending us your words and pictures.

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2014 has been a huge year for us: Georgia finished her law degree, hiked a volcano and became a lawyer, Nikki has catapulted into her status as a highly sought after lifestyle photographer (although she’s way too modest to admit it) and I finished my first year of medical school.

Merry Christmas and we hope 2015 is a year of inspiration, learning, growing, teaching, sharing and laughing. Until next time.

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This recipe, like so many of my recipes, was created from lack of time and a severe lack of shopping. It was an amalgamation of leftover produce from the week. I hope it surprises you as much as it surprised me.

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Roast cauliflower + fennel salad with tahini dressing

  • 1 tablespoon organic cultured butter
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon tumeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ head Cauliflower, roughly chopped
  • Generous handful of hazelnuts
  • 1 fennel, outer edges chopped off and sliced lengthwise
  • 1 grapefruit, chopped
  • Handful of baby spinach leaves
  • Handful of sultanas
  • Tahini dressing (see previous post)

 

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degree C.
  2. Melt 12.5g butter and mix in cumin, tumeric, ground coriander and sea salt to make a paste.
  3. Coat cauliflower in paste.
  4. Put cauliflower in oven on a roasting tray for approximately 30 minutes or until it starts to brown. Take out of oven.
  5. Reduce heat of oven to 150 degree C and toast hazelnuts for approximately 10 minutes or until fragrant.
  6. Prepare salad by putting all ingredients into a bowl and coating with dressing.

Broccoli + pea salad with yoghurt dressing

Broccoli and pea salad

Plastic bags. Paper napkins. Polystyrene boxes. Wooden forks. BPA free water bottles… Packaged nuts. Packaged sultanas. Packaged tomatoes. Packaged lemons. Packaged apples. Packaged mushrooms. Packaged fucking leeks… Celery wrapped in plastic. Herbs wrapped in plastic. Flowers wrapped in plastic. Lettuce wrapped in plastic. Last night’s dinner wrapped in plastic. Chocolate wrapped in plastic. Coconut wrapped in plastic…

I could keep going but then we would both be bored. Don’t get me wrong, I love technology. As I write this post on my MacBook Pro that has been made from materials that probably won’t degrade until my great great great great grand daughter gets married, I am aware that I am no saint. I am a consumer in my own right. But this isn’t about extremism. It’s about common sense. No, I don’t need a plastic bag to carry my litre of milk and one lemon to my car which is 20 metres away. Yes, I am sure.

I’m also aware that most people value convenience over giving a shit. I am also aware that nobody thought twice about the sport of horse racing in Australia until two horses in their prime died publicly straight after Melbourne Cup this year. Suddenly social pressure meant that more people gave some thought to their actions.

The only way we are going to change our behaviour is if it is socially driven. Most people would think twice about lighting up their cigarette while pushing a stroller, because people just don’t do that in the first world anymore. We are social beings. You must fit in with your tribe if you want protection from the hungry lions outside.

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So this is my call to action. If you care about what we are doing to the planet as a species, let’s make it cool to care. Let’s be original, and lead by example. An attainable example, not an extremist weirdo with their knickers up their bum, preaching to whoever is unlucky enough to listen. Instead, let’s just say no (thank you) to the plastic bag if we can hold the items without. You dig?

Rant over – hope you like this recipe :)

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Broccoli + pea salad with yoghurt dressing

Serves 2 as a starter

Ingredients

  • 1 head broccoli, roughly chopped
  • 2/3 cup peas, fresh if possible
  • Small handful sunflower and pumpkin seeds
  • Yoghurt dressing:
    • 2 heaped tablespoons unsweetened, greek yoghurt
    • Juice and zest of ½ lemon
    • Sea salt and cracked pepper
    • Mint, chopped
    • Nigella seeds
  • Small handful of dill, roughly chopped

 

Method

  1. Steam broccoli until just tender and set aside to cool.
  2. Cook peas by covering in boiling water and boiling on stovetop for 2 minutes. Drain and set aside to cool.
  3. Toast seeds over direct heat for approximately 5 minutes or until just browning.
  4. Prepare dressing by mixing ingredients together in a jar.
  5. Prepare salad by mixing all ingredients together in a bowl. Mix dressing well.

Lime + herb salad with quinoa

Lime herb quinoa salad

We all know the feeling; you’re committed to staying healthy this time, but you can’t always make friends with the same old salad. You’re seriously weighing up if you can stand the monotony of yet another garden salad with grilled chicken. Kale doesn’t have the same shine as it used to. Yet you know vegetables are good for you.

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And you would be right, my friend. Fruit and vegetables are chock full of antioxidants, which basically protect you from “oxidative damage” that is inevitable as we age. As well as playing an anti-ageing role, a diet high in fruit and vegetables also protects you against cardiovascular disease, what kills more people than anything else.

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Having said all those lovely things, fear and loathing shouldn’t be what drives you to eat healthy. It should be something you enjoy, i.e. the food should taste yummy and it shouldn’t be boring. Sometimes that means trying something new. We teamed up with Dan and Laura, the beauties behind The Vault Online to give you work lunch ideas to spice up your working weak. Check out the full feature here.

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Just add a protein of your choice (chickpeas, lentils, chicken, seafood or meat) and you have yourself a party (in and around your mouth).

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Lime + herb salad with quinoa

  • 1/3 cup quinoa
  • Handful each of roughly chopped parsley, mint, coriander and fennel
  • 2 spring onions, chopped to the ends
  • 2 limes, skin removed and flesh chopped
  • Handful of raw almonds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Feta (optional)
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • Olive oil for drizzling

 

Method

  1. Cook quinoa by adding 2/3 of boiling water (from the kettle) into a pot. Once it is boiling on the stove, turn heat down to a simmer, then cover and let simmer for 10 minutes. Leave to stand, covered. Allow to cool.
  2. In a large salad bowl, add the herbs, peas, quinoa, spring onions, limes, almonds and cumin. Toss.
  3. Crumble desired amount of feta on top.
  4. Add sea salt and pepper to taste.
  5. To finish, drizzle desired amount of olive oil on top.

Silverbeet curry with haloumi

Spinach curry with haloumi

Like Vegemite and avocado, this dish is an unlikely collaboration of India and Greece that surprised and negated my initial scepticism. Palak paneer is the traditional Indian dish: a pureed spicy spinach curry with paneer cheese. With this meal in mind, one day I found myself at a grocer with no paneer. “Don’t panic Jacqui, they have haloumi. It’ll be fine, right?” I couldn’t hide my hesitation.

Much to my delight, it turned out better (in my opinion) than the original! The saltiness of the haloumi accompanies the coolness of the yoghurt to create a perfectly balanced palate. Jacqui = 1, lack of time management = 0.

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Once I had perfected my recipe and shoot day came, my “misfortune” continued when the market stall I went to did not have spinach, only silverbeet. “Surely it would be ok?” Again, I was skeptical.

To be honest, this time I couldn’t claim it to be any better, since it didn’t taste markedly different. Having said that, it’s nice to mix it up and it teaches me that shopping for the season you are in can be easier than you expect. Substitute the silverbeet for spinach if that is more available to you, or any other fantastic variety of green. Here it is, my amalgamation of two cultures: Palak haloumi with silverbeet.

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It makes a big difference to the flavour if you can make your own curry powder, but if you don’t have time you can substitute for Indian curry powder. Serve this with rice as a vegetarian main, or with a mix of chicken, beef or pork curry, dahl, raita and poppadoms as a banquet.

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Silverbeet curry with haloumi

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 8 cloves
  • 5 cardomom pods, seeds taken out
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon tumeric
  • 30g organic, cultured butter
  • 1 red onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 5cm ginger, chopped
  • 1-2 thai chillis
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 bunch silverbeet
  • 5 curry leaves
  • ½ organic, unsweetened greek yoghurt
  • Brown rice, to serve

 

Method

  1. Dry roast the cloves, cardomom seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and tumeric for approximately 5 minutes or until fragrant, stirring continuously (be careful not to burn!).
  2. Blend spices until powder is formed.
  3. Melt butter over medium heat, add onion and sauté covered until soft. Add powdered spice mixture, garlic, ginger, chilli, salt and silverbeet and cook until silverbeet is wilted (approximately 5 minutes).
  4. Put mixture into blender and blend until desired consistency is achieved (I find this is a very individual taste, but I like it pureed).
  5. Add mixture to the saucepan again, add curry leaves and yoghurt and cook for a further 5-10 minutes.

seven tips to staying healthy + chocolate hazelnut smoothie

chocolate hazelnut smoothie
You already know how to be healthy, but you just can’t seem to actually do it and stick to it. Here’s our simple tips on how to prevent yourself from falling off the bandwagon, for good.
1. 80/20 = moderation!

When people ask me how I am so healthy, the first thing I say is that I am not strictly healthy 100% of the time. Yes, I do eat a lot of good food, but 20% of the time I don’t. I eat chocolate almost every day. I drink socially. I eat dessert at dinner parties. But I do all of this in moderation. I only have a couple of squares of (very dark) chocolate. I don’t drink to excess and I try to stick to less sugary drinks. I treat myself when people make an effort to cook for me. I love eating, it’s such a great part of life. The moment you start to deny yourself foods you love is the second you start to crave those exact foods and sooner or later you will get sick of using willpower to stop yourself. It’s exhausting, trust me I’ve tried it. Let yourself off the hook, but learn to treat yourself in moderation.

2. Preparation!

This one is sooooo important. You know the feeling, you get home from a 12 hour work day and the last thing you want to do is spend 10 minutes cutting up vegetables, then wait 45 minutes until they are cooked. So my hot tip is – twice a week spend an hour or so preparing food for the next 3 days. Every sunday I try to visit the local market, I cut up a ridiculous amount of vegetables and I bake them. Then I use these in frittatas, salads, soups, wraps, etc, for the next few days. For protein, I make up a big batch of hummus, or cook extra chicken or whatever I am making for that sunday meal. Another great thing to pre-prepare is snacks, such as bliss balls or raw brownies to stop myself snacking on processed sugar during the week. Make it a habit you enjoy, put on some music, do it in your underwear, whatever floats your boat.

3. Befriend your freezer

This one is linked to preparation, but every time you make a meal, make extra and freeze it for a time when you haven’t got anything prepared and you can’t be bothered to make something. Trust me, these times always creep up and it’s so nice to be able to reheat something you have home made.

4. Substitute

Substitute your favourite processed, refined sugar-filled foods with home made alternatives with natural sugars. For example, swap your chocolate bar for home made dark chocolate like this one on our website, swap battered and fried fish and chips for our marinated trout recipe or swap store bought chocolate milk for this chocolate and hazelnut version! There are always better alternatives and often they are even tastier!

5. Figure out your triggers

Most people when trying to get healthy have people, places or situations that trigger them to eat unhealthy. Whether it’s overeating with friends, or eating sugar when you’re alone, try to figure out where/when/whom are your triggers and just for the first few months, try to avoid them as much as possible. After a couple of months, you’ll be so used to eating healthier, it shouldn’t be such an issue.

6. Stop, breath and leave

When you do get the urge to eat something naughty (and you think you’re over your 20% leeway), the best advice I can give you is to stop, think about your goa, take 3 deep breaths with your eyes closed and leave the scene. Do something else. Have a glass of water instead, go for a walk, call a friend. Do something that takes you away from whatever is triggering you.

7. Forgive and forget

This one can be difficult, but I think it is the most important. If you slip up and you eat more crap than you would have liked, then please don’t beat yourself up over it. Don’t let yourself sink into feeling guilty or like you have failed in some way. This is a dangerous road, trust me. The best advice I have been given is to use your sense of humour instead. Notice your thoughts and actions and try to laugh at how ridiculous it is instead. How silly are we?! Humans have such an enormous intellectual capacity, yet we can’t even stop ourselves from putting something in our mouth! Whatttt?!!

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Chocolate Hazelnut Smoothie

Serves 1

Ingredients

  • ½ cup hazelnut milk (see previous post or substitute almond milk, coconut milk, cows milk or any milk your heart desires)
  • 2 tablespoons cacao
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 3 dates, pitted
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-2 raw eggs (protein/fat source to balance the sugars)

Vegan alternative to egg: chuck in the flesh of a coconut (1 whole young or 1/4 of a mature coconut) or a handful of nuts (preferably soaked overnight)

 

Method

  1. Put all ingredients into blender and…blend! :)

Raw hazelnut milk

Hazelnut milk

Before you embark on this journey, I feel I should impart some of my wisdom that I have picked up along the way. That is, telling someone you made hazelnut milk is apparently akin to a sort of social suicide. I honestly don’t know why. I know it’s a bit strange, but I don’t see where it crosses the border of being socially unacceptable. How does blending a handful of nuts in water cross more social standards than drinking liquid that has been squeezed out of a farm animals nipple? More than just a new trend, different nut milks have apparently been around since the Middle Ages!

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People are funny. It got me thinking, how much of our behaviour is dictated by what we think of as social norms and how much of it is purely free will? Go out past midnight in any city and people are doing crazy stuff because parts of their brain are being inhibited by alcohol. Is this weird stuff just in there all the time being suppressed?

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My grandparents are getting to that stage in their lives where dementia is starting to take an effect on their psyche. I notice little things that they do that are out what’s “normal” for them. They have emotional outbursts frequently and when they do, they scream and yell and to put it bluntly, act like children. Dementia is a process whereby the frontal lobe of the brain starts to degenerate. Your frontal lobe is where your inhibitions lie. It is your moral code, your societal norm and your logical sense. Is this where society has a hold on our behaviour? Maybe, but I tell you don’t knock this till you try it!

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If you are wondering about the ecological footprint of nut milks, this article explains it nicely. Basically it is saying that the dairy industry has a much more detrimental impact on the environment than plant based alternatives. The good news is hazelnuts use less water to grow and produce than almonds, so this alternative is more environmentally sustainable for that reason.

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Hazelnut Milk

Makes 2 cups!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup hazelnuts
  • 2 cups filtered water
  • 2 dates (optional)

(Essentially you want a 1:4 ratio of nuts:water)

Equipment

  • 1 muslin cloth
  • 1 sterilised jar (a wide opening helps)

Method

  1. Blend nuts, water and optional sweetener (dates) in a powerful blender for about 1-2 minutes or until frothy and no large “bits” left.
  2. Lay muslin cloth over jar, feeding a little into the body of the jar to hold some of the liquid.
  3. While securing the muslin cloth, slowly pour the liquid through the cloth into the jar.
  4. Squeeze excess “milk” out of muslin cloth until you are left with just hazelnut meal.
  5. Store milk and hazelnut meal separately in fridge.

Tomato braised fennel

Tomato braised fennelIt is the last week of winter here in Australia and I could not be more excited. The days creep seductively further into the night, the air becomes thicker with delicious humidity and best of all, the sunshine turns the atmosphere into a playground. Smiles come out of the woodwork. People come out of the woodwork. Sometimes I question the fact that humans are not a hibernating species. I know of many people (me included) that could testify against that fact.

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I have often thought how funny it is that we allow things like seasons and weather to dictate what we do and how we feel. In a philosophical sense, it could be seen as bowing to external circumstances. Not a very yogic way of living, when we are aiming for equanimity and all that jazz. On the other hand, maybe it is exactly what we evolved to do. After all, going out into a blizzard in animal skin and without the latest Helly Hansen jacket probably wouldn’t be the most effective decision. Maybe we evolved to be lethargic in the colder months in order to prevent us from braving weather to the detriment of our family tree. Or maybe it was common sense that prevailed. It makes me ponder, how much of our behaviour is controlled by us and how much of it is overlooked by ancient evolutionary traits that are beyond our conscious thought? When we are making our own choices, practicing freedom of will, how much of that is actually a conscious choice that we make?

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As the days become warmer, so our bodies crave different foods. Meals become lighter, fresher and cooler. This dish includes fennel as a star ingredient, which is technically still a cold month food. It contains loads of vitamin C, which is important in fighting colds especially during these last cold weeks, and folate, important for women of child bearing age especially. Interesting fact about fennel, apparently it was Thomas Jefferson’s favourite vegetable. If that doesn’t convince you to tuck in, I don’t know what will.

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We hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do. Thanks to The Vegie Trail for the produce, it made the dish that much tastier! Make sure you source fresh, herbicide and pesticide free ingredients were possible.

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Tomato braised fennel

Serves two

Ingredients

• 2 bulbs of fennel
• ½ onion, finely sliced
• 1 tablespoon butter or EVOO
• 1 sprig of thyme
• 1 small garlic clove, crushed
• 2 tablespoons tomato paste
• 1 cup vegetable stock
• a splash of white wine if you have some
• 5 large, ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
• 1 small teaspoon fennel seeds
• handful of small black olives (Ligurian or Kalamata)

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
  2. Clean the fennel bulb, trim the green leaves (don’t discard the leaves – they are good for a garnish) and remove the outer leaves. Cut in quarters lengthways and remove the hard inner core.
  3. Heat the butter in a large ovenproof pan over medium heat.
  4. When hot, add the onion, fennel seeds thyme and cook for 5 minutes, stirring.
  5. Add the fennel and cook until golden, turning them regularly and making sure the onion doesn’t burn too much. This will take about 10 minutes.
  6. Add the splash of wine now and cook off til it stops smelling alcoholic.
  7. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic, olives, stock, salt and pepper, cover and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the tomatoes break down. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast for 20 minutes, or until the fennel is tender.
  8. Serve with roast fish, pork or chicken.