Sunday, 10 February 2008

A pleasing platter

Simplicity is elegance. It is all you need. But I have so many recipes and ideas, not to mention vegetables in my fridge to be used up, that I sometimes go a little further. So it was last night that we had a meal of many dishes, many flavours and lots of good food. The spread was:

Roast Potatoes with rosemary and garlic
Rumi Carrots with Dukkah and Tahini
Spinach and strawberry salad with pomegranate vinaigrette
Cherry salsa
Yeastfree rye and caraway bread
Pea, mint and bean dip
Smoky sweet potato and bean dip

Overall it was delicious but overwhelming. I think the roast potatoes, carrots and salad would have been enough for a good meal. I never intended it to be such a spread but I had the dips from last week and I have been wanting to make the bread since I stumbled over the recipe recently and then I bought cherries that made me realise cherry season is really at its end. And so the menu expanded.

The yeastfree rye and caraway bread is a recipe that I wrote in my recipe notebook over 10 years ago. It makes me wonder about my younger self – did I really believe one days I would have all those ingredients in my pantry or did I just think it looked interesting enough to write down for some future time when I might be inspired enough to buy them. I guess it is easier these days to buy what I fancy than in my student household days when we bought communal pantry goods from the household kitty.

Whatever my motivation in writing the recipe, I am glad I did. It is pleasing to feel my pantry is bountiful enough to be able to produce such ingredients. The only one I didn’t have was kibbled rye. In indignation – do cookbook writers really think we can find all these obscure ingredients – I searched for it. After some fruitless searching through the organic area of the Vic Market and E’s unhelpful comments about kibble sounding like a British sitcom character, I consulted Rose Eliot and Sarah Brown who both had pictures and advice. Apparently kibbled rye is the same as cracked rye - and quite similar to bulgar wheat which is also cracked but is boiled and dried (according to Rose) or steamed and roasted (according to Sarah). So I headed to a health shop in Northland that I know has a good range of grains and they had cracked wheat which would have to do.

The bread is, as my notes indicate, a heavy dense bread. It didn’t rise much and had a chewy crust that made hard work of slicing. I am not sure how much difference the cracked wheat made and don’t know what to do with the rest of the kilogram of it that I brought, but stay tuned! The caraway gives a distinct flavour that I have only recently grown to enjoy. The bread was interesting and tasty. It went well with dips or promite but did not leave me wanting to eat a whole loaf in minutes in the way of my recent cheese, onion and potato bread.

I was immediately intrigued when I saw Cindy write about the spinach and strawberry salad with pomegranate vinaigrette. She had found the recipe on Batter Splattered where Molly had made it with almonds rather than haloumi cheese. But a chance comment from Cindy about haloumi and fruit in salads reminded me I had haloumi in the fridge which needed to be used up pronto.

I probably could have had a little more spinach and less strawberries and haloumi – and made a few changes to the recipe I wrote up to address this. But what drew me to the salad was the vinaigrette with pomegranate molasses. This was an amazing salad dressing – sweet and sharp and different from any dressing I have had before.

The cherry salsa was something I chanced upon a few weeks ago on the Victorian Cherry Growers site. I loved their slogan – you don’t need a reason, it’s cherry season. I have been eager to try this salsa and promised myself I would before the end of the cherry season. Yet the opportunity has not presented itself. Then I bought some cherries at the Vic Market on Friday and they were not great so I thought the season is ending and these would taste best in a salsa.

The salsa was intense and spicy. A fine way to showcase the sweet flavours and deep purple of cherries, and yet another reason to get out my cherry pitter. Unfortunately, I think the salsa was a little overwhelming for this meal – it needs a stronger dish to complement the robust flavours. I will be eating the leftovers with some chilli non carne from the freezer tonight which I think might be more suitable. I would also like to try it with nutroast or quesadillas.

Yeastfree Rye and Caraway Bread

1 cup (120g) rye flour
1½ cups (180g) brown rice flour
½ cup soy flour
1½ tsp baking powder
2 tbsp kibbled rye (or wheat)
1 tbsp caraway seeds
½ tsp salt
2 tsp oil
1½ cups water
1 tbsp molasses (optional)
1 tbsp sunflower seeds
1 tbsp sesame seeds

Lightly grease a loaf tin (recipe suggested 8 x 26cm, but I used my 13 x 22cm silicone loaf tin which didn’t even need greasing). Preheat oven to 200 C.

Place flours, baking powder, kibbled rye, caraway seeds and salt in a medium mixing bowl. In a separate small bowl use a small whisk or fork to mix oil, water and molasses. Pour liquid mixture into bowl of dry ingredients and mix to combine. It will be quite stiff.

Spread mixture into prepared loaf tin and smooth top with the back of a spoon. Sprinkle seeds over the top and use your fingers to lightly press into the mixture. Cover tin with foil. Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Remove foil and bake a further 10 minutes or until browned. Stand 10 minutes and turn onto a wire rack to cool.

This recipe can be made a day ahead or frozen.

Spinach and Strawberry Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette
(adapted from Batter Splattered)
Serves 2-4

1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
½ tsp sesame oil
1 tsp olive oil
2 tsp cider vinegar
½ tsp agave syrup
pinch of red pepper flakes
pinch of salt

2-3 handfuls spinach leaves, roughly chopped
¼ red onion, thinly-sliced
¼ cucumber in thin sticks
¼-½ punnet strawberries, sliced
50g haloumi (or shaved parmesan or roasted almonds)

To make dressing, whisk ingredients in a small bowl or shake to combine in a screwtop jar. If using haloumi cut into 5mm thick pieces and dry fry for about 1-2 minutes either side. Place haloumi (or parmesan or almonds) with other ingredients in a salad bowl. Pour dressing over vegetables and toss to coat.

Cherry Salsa
(From Victorian Cherry Growers)
Yield: 8 servings, give or take!

1 cup cherries (fresh or frozen); pitted and chopped
2 tbp fresh basil; chopped
2 tbp green pepper; finely chopped
1 tsp lemon or lime juice
1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp grated lemon or lime zest;
1/4 tsp Tabasco sauce
1/8 tsp salt

Combine all ingredients in a small bowl; refrigerate at least 1 hour.

On the stereo:
Adagio Chillout – various artists


  1. Lots of tasty looking stuff there! Given that I ate it with slices of tofu, I can really see the strawberry and spinach salad working with haloumi.

  2. Thanks Cindy - the haloumi was really good but I think even just shavings of parmesan would go well with this salad!


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