raw (everything-free) choc-mint slice

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What this slice lacks in refined sugar, it makes up for in its infinite potential for hashtags: #dairyfree, #paleo, #vegan, #raw, #glutenfree, #cleaneating etc. The only food trend – gluten free – is one I follow by force, not fashion. That being said, I secretly love health food crazes as they encourage trying new things with food. I’m not about to activate an almond or anything, but I genuinely enjoyed the added challenge of making something in a novel way. I especially enjoy how mint leaves themselves lended their colour to the green layer!

I have never been the hugest fan of vegan treats, let alone raw ones, but the Pana Chocolate cafe in Melbourne successfully swayed me to believe that such alternatives could be better than the real thing. One taste of their chocolate mint slice had me happily handing over $8 to indulge in a full piece. It was worth every penny, and I have thought about how amazingly decadent, rich and smooth it was on a regular basis since. All I needed at home to recreate it practically perfectly was patience and a reasonably powerful food processor. The ingredients themselves are not too hard to come by in most supermarkets, however they are more expensive than their standard, sugary counterparts. The batch ensuing is gigantic, however, and best stored frozen. Compared to how much a single piece costs at any hipster cafe, making this is almost economical when it comes to cravings.

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Asian glazed salmon with sesame roast vegetables and quick pickled cucumbers

DSC06770This “warmish” salad has become something of an unintentional fixture in my current cooking repertoire. I love how the soy sauce and miso salty-umami flavours cut through the richness of the fish – a far cry from my first experiences of eating salmon baked in a bed of puff pastry. Despite the fact salmon is definitely a rich meat, this makes it the perfect vehicle for the pickled cucumbers and loads of vegetables for freshness.

Because this salad is best served lukewarm/room temperature, it is easy to prepare in advance if hosting a group for lunch or casual summer dinner. I often pick up the fresh salmon tails or cut pieces from my supermarket as they are often on special despite only being packed that day – in which case I buy enough for four servings and make enough for lunches later. There are certainly a few components to this dish, however I think it would be a shame not to include them all as they work so well together.

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shamelessly good shakshoukah

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Serving this shakshoukah was my Sunday saving grace. Without this deliciously spicy baked egg number to provide me with the satisfaction of next level stay-at-home brunching, I’m afraid the latter half of my weekend would have been vastly less fulfilling (my attempts at napping twice were pathetic at best and I cleared my Gmail inbox out of over 4,000 messages dating back to 2005). I know something must taste good when I instantly want to share it with other people – so here you are, hastily snapped iPhone photo and all. I was far too busy demolishing my plate with a voracious appetite to grab my camera and haphazardly attempt to style the dish during the glorious eating process.

I’ve never made shakshoukah before – I think something about having to do two things and open a tin of tomatoes put me off, and now I’m seriously wondering why. With a handy pair hands nearby to cut the onions so I didn’t have to do any of the crying (seriously, it’s profuse and unfortunately not at all cathartic), it was nearly as easy as simply frying up my usual bacon and eggs. Perhaps what’s put me off further is that I’ve also never had a particularly amazing rendition of what I feel is its true potential when I have ordered it out at a restaurant – the tomato never quite reduced enough, the chorizo more sausage than Spanish vehicle for salty spiciness. I went all out in preparation for this, purchasing my very own “chorizo hot piece” imported from Spain for the experience.

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smoked salmon and preserved lemon frittata

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Egg bakes are one of the easiest, most nutritious ways to make four portions of main meals. The additions of smoked salmon with the salty, citrus bite of the preserved lemon makes these eggs taste next level – to the point where I have brought this along for night shift and quite happily consumed it on four consecutive occasions.

I’m a huge advocate for lazy, one bowl situations for meal preparation, and this dish here is no exception. I’m obviously not coming up with anything new – a frittata is a frittata, after all, but I can’t overemphasise how great a combination the fish and preserved citrus are together. I’ve had the two things lying about in the fridge for a while (another bonus) – both bought on special and keep forever – and so ultimately very little effort was taken here. Previously when I’ve been throwing together egg bakes I’ve used cheese to cut through the obvious “egginess” of the eggs, but with the lemons finely chopped throughout, there’s really no need. I’m not just catering to dietary restrictions here (dairy free, paleo, primal, low carb, pescatarian) – this is simply delicious in general.

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cauliflower “steaks” on cauliflower puree

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Cauliflower with cauliflower.

There’s no such thing as too much of a good thing, here. I’m not about to produce a vegetarian meal by halves.

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This recipe calls for an entire head of cauliflower to be consumed between two people. We are using the whole damn thing. If I was truly innovative, I would have crisped up the leafy fronds encasing the florets, but I’m afraid I was a little busy massaging my kale. Could I be more of a food wanker? Let me just add that this recipe can be easily adapted to be vegan, paleo or even both for good measure. I don’t often cook an entirely vegetarian meal, and so for some reason, making a dish based around vegetables in various disguises and then adding more vegetables to compliment it somehow made a lot of sense to me. Given that I absolutely love celebrating fresh produce, I’m seriously considering challenging myself to one meat free day per week. Once upon a teenage time, I was a vegetarian!

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cauliflower rice “paella”

This is not a paella by any stretch of the Spanish imagination, as it is clearly missing its integral rice component. To call it by any other name, however, and I couldn’t convey how it tastes nearly as good.

(Let it be noted, however, that it is in fact primal/paleo/keto friendly/low carb/gluten free/dairy free, but don’t let that put you off)

Evidently, it’s not all treats around here. I’ve subbed out rice for cauliflower – one of my favourite, fart-stench-creating-to-prepare low carb substitutes. I absolutely love the taste of rice – to the point where I have previously claimed it to be one of my favourite carbohydrates, but thankfully with the caramelised prawns and spicy chorizo to contend with, I don’t miss it here. It even reheats beautifully – however there was certainly none left when I served this to my parents while I was home for the weekend.

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chicken and aubergine tray bake with cauliflower rice “tabouleh”

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I made a terrible mistake in the preparation of this dish in that I purchased chicken breasts for protein. It’s not so much that I dislike chicken breast as I prefer pretty much every other cut of chicken to it. Generally when I’m meal prepping (as I did with this dish) with chicken, I will use boneless, skinless chicken thighs for ease, but a bonier cut such as a whole butterflied chicken or even just legs or drumsticks would work well and add more flavour. Chicken breast is fine, darker meat is delicious.

I suppose this recipe may end up looking a bit involved for something I actually intended to just have lying around for leftover dinner prior to leaving for night shift. It is highly likely that if I’d read it in a magazine I would have 100% skipped past it because it calls for more than one cooking vessel. However, once the bake is in the oven, there is very little to do for the cauliflower to make it the perfect little salad to balance out the meal. This is unsurprisingly one of those meals that gets better the longer you leave it, and so it was utterly marvellous to prepare for low effort dinners. I’d call it versatile enough to even serve to guests (especially as it can be prepared well in advance), but I think that’s just because it tastes really good. The bake itself is incredibly flavoursome. Beyond simply serving it alongside this fresh, citrus based salad, I would suggest a yoghurt-based accompaniment.

Some of the ingredients (preserved lemons, za’atar, pomegranate molasses) are not exactly typical kitchen staples, but I promise that they all hang about long enough for you to experiment and experience their deliciousness in other dishes also.

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