The last week has been a lovely change in pace, with more time to appreciate every moment and take the time to do the things I enjoy. There has been a lot of new recipes happening in my house this week, as well as updating my portfolio site, holiday planning (Oh yeah, Matt and I are heading off to Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory of Australia in a little bit to explore, hike, camp and connect with the oldest living culture on earth and NOT be eaten by a crocodile like my dad keeps warning me!) and even a trip to the Melbourne Zoo.
With a little more time up my sleeve at the moment, I have really been able to think about what projects I want to start and what I want to share with you all. Last week I really witnessed for the first time, the nasty side of the internet where people hide like phantoms and feel entitled to tell you what you should and shouldn’t do on your own personal blog. I am really lucky to have a great group of inspired followers and readers who gain so much from being on this journey with me, and I know that all I need to do is stay true to who I am and what I create, and not only will I be fulfilled but I will keep providing inspiration in this space, and for me that is what it is all about.
So the answer is simple to me. There is no where else to go, but to make my favourite food and shoot it. In case you haven’t heard – I absolutely adore Asian cuisine and boy am I living in the right city for Asian fusion explosion. Here in Melbourne we are surrounded by amazing chefs testing the limits of Asian flavours and favourites. For me, this is my happy place and so I’m going to shoot and share some Asian delights on the blog over the coming weeks. This idea has also allowed me to seek out the great Asian Grocers near me, and gosh did I find heaven. The things you can buy there. This is going to be so much fun! Next up, I think will be dumplings. I have already enrolled Matt into a dumpling making Saturday, that’s tomorrow. Eating all day – now that’s my kinda day!
Five Spiced Salt ‘n’ Sichuan Pepper Chicken with Lotus Root Chips
Serves 2 or finger food for 4
Five Spiced Salt ‘n’ Sichuan Pepper Chicken
500g (1lb) free range chicken drummettes and wings, skin on
1/2 cup corn or rice flour
1 1/2 tablespoons chinese five spice
2 teaspoons sichuan peppercorns, ground
1 teaspoon salt flakes, ground
Vegetable oil for drizzling, (a light olive or sesame oil)
Soy Sauce for dipping
Lotus Root Chips
1/4 cup salt flakes, sightly crushed
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, ground
1kg (2.2lbs) lotus root*, thinly sliced
Vegetable oil for frying
Preheat oven to 180 C (375 F). In a bowl combine the flour, chinese five spice, sichuan pepper and salt. Stir until fully combined. Coat each chicken piece in the flour mixture and lay on a shallow baking tray. Place in the oven and bake for 55 minutes. Coat each chicken piece with a small amount of oil throughout the cooking process at 20 minutes and 40 minutes. After 55 minutes, increase the oven temperature to 240 C (465 F) and cook for a further 10 minutes to let the chicken brown and skin to crisp up. Turn off your oven.
While the chicken is cooking, you can make your lotus root chips. In a bowl, combine the salt flakes, lime zest and ground coriander. Set aside. After the 55 minute mark of the chicken’s cooking time – heat your oil over a medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, carefully place a handful (you might want to do more or less dependant on your pan size) of lotus root into the oil and allow to fry for a few minutes until they turn golden brown. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and allow to rest on some paper towel to remove the excess oil. Whilst still hot, sprinkle over your salt mixture (remember less is more). Keep frying and salting your chips in batches until done. (Leave the hot oil to cool before you attempt to dispose. Be careful during the cooking process as hot oil will cause nasty burns if spilt or it splatters during cooking. Keep water away from the oil as this makes it spit).
Remove the chicken from the oven, service with soy sauce for dipping and your lotus chips. You can even squeeze a lime over the chips or serve them on the side if you have one left over from the zest.
*Lotus Root – you can find lotus root at your local Asian Grocer. Fresh lotus root can be quite pricey, and if it is or out of season you should be able to pick up frozen, pre sliced lotus root from the Asian Grocer instead. If the slices are too thick, carefully halve them longways with a steady hand and sharp knife.
We all know that Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate these wonderful creatures who brought us into this world and have never stopped looking after us, enhancing us and making us who we are today. My mum has become really passionate recently in eliminating the vast number of products that contain unsustainable palm oil from her home in her bid to do her part to stop the devastation to the rainforest habitat of Sumatran and Bornean Orangutans, which pushes them closer to extinction, the exploitation of the local people and land, not to mention the carbon emission impact.
Since I was a kid, she has had on her bucket list to go to visit the Orangutans in Borneo, and it is sad that as I have gotten older, this dream has been slipping further away. With the yearly advertising push for us to ‘buy’ something ‘special’ for Mother’s Day, mum had expressed to me that what she really wants for Mother’s Day, what she truly wants, is for companies to change the way they produce, use and label palm oil in the vast number of products we consume in our daily lives.
In our western culture, we are so far removed from the sources of things we consume, how they are made and what they contain. I am sure that if consumers were to actually visit the farms, plantations, factories, see what goes on, speak to the people who work there, the majority of us wouldn’t think twice about being informed about the things we are consuming. I can’t think of one person who wouldn’t want to change the way palm oil is sourced if they visited these plantations in Indonesia and saw the devastation for themselves.
Palm oil is made from the African Oil Palm tree, and 85% of the world’s palm oil is produced in Malaysia and Indonesia as introduced unsustainable plantations that have cleared over 20 million hectares of natural forest. It is present in over half of all products that we find on supermarket shelves because it is cheap, versatile, high yielding and is currently widely produced. Current unsustainable production has seen 90% of the Orangutan’s habitat destroyed giving them a devastating 10 years before they are extinct.
However it is not all bad news. Current social pressure has seen changes to the industry with a number of countries pledging to and creating goals to have certified and 100% traceable, sustainable palm oil in all products sold, with Europe leading the way and countries like Australia, New Zealand and the US making moves to implement this in the next two years. As I live in a country where I do have the freedom of speech and am lucky enough to have choices in life, I feel it is our responsibility to take a stand and put pressure on companies to make a positive change.
This week I have trawled through online shopping lists of products that contain palm oil, who uses sustainable palm oil and who doesn’t, made a list of all the products that I consume and contacted those companies via email to let them know I am making a switch to products that do use 100% certified, sustainable palm oil and urging them to become leaders in their markets and pushing for that RSPO certification.
So what is the answer and what you you do? As you can imagine this is a complex issue and boycotting all products with unsustainable palm oil could do more harm than good. Be informed about the products you use and what they contain. Spend an afternoon (at your local coffee shop with your favourite hot drink) contacting these companies and telling them you want to see their products containing sustainable palm oil, replace your current products when they are finished with ones who do use RSPO palm oil – maybe even thank these companies for their stance on this issue. So far I have sent close to 50 emails to companies and the Australian Government, plus finding out about the alternative products I can purchase in the future.
I want to live a sustainable life, but in the western world I am limited to this by our social structure. I make choices where I can, however in order to do so fully, I need the help of the companies who supply us with our goods and services by providing me with correct labelling and choices. The way to do this is to have my voice heard about where I would like to see our world and consumption headed. I am not a mother myself, but I know that I need to make changes and inspire others to do the same if I ever want my children to live in a world that is different from the grim picture of the future we are faced with now. I am sure other mothers out there feel the same. Change needs to start NOW! (You might even be thinking to yourself that the production and use of palm oil is only one issue and there are so many, but getting informed about what’s in our products and where they come form is the first step to changing a lot of issues the world is faced with).
Not sure where to start? You can start by making your mum this delicious palm-oil free recipe and letting her eat it in bed! All ingredients contain no palm oil. If you are interested to read more, I have attached links after the recipe. Please feel free to email me also with any questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
Serves 1 (allow one egg per 1/2 cup coconut cream per person. To serve 4, 2-3 eggs with 2 cups coconut cream will work)
Dark Chocolate Hearts
100g (3.5oz) good quality 85% dark chocolate, melted (I have used Lindt Excellence 85% cocoa dark chocolate, totally palm oil free)
Coconut French Toast
1 egg (I never buy cage eggs, only ever certified free range eggs)
1/2 cup coconut cream (I have used Ayam coconut cream, totally palm oil free)
2-3 slices of bread (if unsure, grab a loaf from your local bakery and ask them directly)
Small hand full of fresh berries, raspberries and strawberries
Sprinkle of almond flakes
Ground cinnamon for dusting
To make the chocolate hearts; on a large sheet of baking paper, use a teaspoon with a small amount of melted chocolate on the tip as a pencil, and draw little misshapen hearts onto the paper. Reapply more chocolate and continue to draw if needed. Leave aside and allow the chocolate to set. Once completely set, carefully peel each heart from the baking paper and store in a cool place, in an air tight container until ready to use. (You can make these ahead of time).
To make the french toast; place the coconut cream and egg in a bowl, whisk until combined. Cover each side and each slice of bread with the coconut mixture, removing any excess, and cook in a non-stick frypan on medium heat. Allow to cook on each side for approximately 3 minutes, until the bread is lightly toasted, golden brown and has firmed up on the outside, but is soft on the inside. Remove from the pan.
Place fresh berries on top of the toast, sprinkle with almonds and dust with cinnamon. Serve with a dollop of coconut cream on the side and a few dark chocolate hearts.
I was not paid or promoted by any organisation to create this post. There is no motivation behind this other than to share a passion close to my mother’s heart on mother’s day and to inspires others to take action where they can.
Where did I get my information from?
Hi there, what is everyone up to? I feel like it has been a little while since I was present in this space, mostly because I have been shooting an enormous amount of recipes, washing endless dishes ( oh my have I washed some dishes this past month), editing and picking our hero shots for Primal Junction’s new book coming out in a about six weeks. Today marked the end of the recipe shoots, 65 recipes under the belt, however many thousand shots sorted through, picked and edited. It is a great feeling. I shot all sorts of Paleo goodies, from the tricky to the darn right simple and delicious. My favourite recipes were the chicken zoodles with kale pesto, apricot chicken, chilli con carne (with cacao – yum!), muesli with cashew nuts milk and a fabulous messy dessert with frozen raspberries and dark chocolate. Lizzy from Primal and I will be planning a few sneak peeks on here and on Instagram, as well as sharing a few favs.
The images for the book will be posted off on Monday and I will hardly know what to do with myself, for at least a few days anyway. I’ll get to have some time off, plan some posts for this space and for a new online community that is starting up called tête-à-tête & PLATE, hit out the Mud Australia seconds sale next week and shake off this cold that I have managed to pick up now that the weather has turned. Tonight we decided to celebrate with one of my favourite, (non Paleo – sorry Lizzy) recipes – homemade pizza. I simply love the feeling of the dough as it risen and is ready for rolling. Matt makes them to perfection and trust me I have tried and failed on all accounts. Well I’m to enjoy a slice or two, (who am I kidding, more like a pizza or two), if you miss my posts on here, I am ramping up my pics on Instagram so come and play!
Remember that this is first and foremost a photography blog about my personal journey into the world of food photography and sharing my photographic art with my community, and as such there will be portfolio updates from time to time that do not contain recipes.
With Easter only a few days away, and all of my time at the moment spent on shooting recipes for the Paleo book, I did manage to put some time aside with Talia to play with some ooey gooey melted chocolate and to bake these cute little egg cup cakes. I don’t usually make an easter recipe, so I thought it might be nice this year as I will be working over the break to shoot the last half of the recipes for the book. But don’t worry, I do have a picnic planned with friends on Good Friday, (which I will be making a dairy free chocolate paleo tart – and I am pretty excited about that), and Matt and I will be attending the Dave Matthews Concert here in Melbourne, which we are even more pumped about! It’s going to be a good week. What are you guys up to for Easter?
Baking cupcake batter in egg shells is not a new idea, but it is certainly something a little fun, easier than we thought and Talia is always up for modifying her recipes to suit my crazy requests. Once the eggs cupcakes are baked, it was really relaxing to sit around with a cup of tea, peeling egg shell off cake and getting messy with melted chocolate. I guess most of my regular readers have noticed that Talia and I have been working together quite a bit lately. As much as I enjoy cooking, there is just something so special about working with another passionate foodie (or baker I should say!), brain storming ideas, sitting around on the weekend eating and shooting the food we have created together. It’s even inspired Talia to start up her own blog, which I am so pleased about as it is what the TLS space is all about.
We decided to play with melted chocolate for the egg cupcakes as it is a simple yet classic touch. I love the beauty in simplicity and any of you who have been on Pinterest at the moment looking for Easter ideas will know that they seem to be getting more and more over the top, complex and if I am completely honest maybe even a little (or a lot) corny! You can however think of this as your blank canvas and decorate them however you like, buttercream icing, sprinkles, powered sugar, or a drizzle of maple syrup.
Makes approximately 6
60g (2.1oz) butter, softened
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup caster sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup self-raising flour, sifted
Dark chocolate, melted
Milk chocolate, melted
Gently poke a small hole in the top of each egg using a cork screw or something with a small/fine sharp point. Carefully remove a small amount of the egg shell so the hole at the of the egg is around 1.5cm (0.5″). Turn the first 6 eggs upside down and pour out the eggs into a bowl. Store these in an air-tight container for use in another of your favourite recipes. With the last egg, empty its contents into a separate bowl that will be used for this recipe.
Fill a large bowl with cold, salted water. Rinse out the empty egg shells by submerging them into the water and allow to soak for approximately 30 minutes. Remove the eggs from the water, rinse them in fresh water and leave them to dry upside down on a clean tea towel or paper towel. Make sure they are fully dry before making the cake batter.
Preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F ).
Loosely line 7 holes of a muffin pan with foil and place the eggs into each muffin hole. Arrange and scrunch the foil around each egg so that the egg will stay upright during the baking process.
In a large mixing bowl, place all ingredients and beat with electric mixers on a medium speed until light, thick and creamy. Spoon the mixture into a piping bag, (you can also use a large zip lock bag with a small hole cut into one of the corners). Pipe the cupcake batter into the prepared egg shells about 2/3-3/4 full, (it is best if you can get it closer to 2/3 and not 3/4, or over 3/4 full as the cake batter will spill out and potentially crack the egg. This will result in an uneven shaped cake).
[ There is going to some mixture left over, which you can set aside to use again if your egg cupcakes spill over in the oven (you just need to make more egg shells), or you can make a few regular shaped cupcakes to decorate as well (the baking time might need to be adjusted to make regular cupcakes, so watch the cupcakes between 12-15 minutes and use a skewer to make sure the cupcake is cooked through). ]
Place the muffin pan with the eggs into the oven and bake for 15 minutes. It’s ok if the cupcake batter spills slightly over the top. Remove the muffin pan from the oven and allow the eggs to cool for around 5 minutes, before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Gently peel the egg shell away from the cake and discard. (You can leave this part until you are ready to decorate them, by storing them in an airtight container). With a small sharp knife, shape the cakes as necessary by cutting off any lumps or spillage from the tip of the cake. Now you have your egg cakes to decorate as you like.
We melted small amounts of dark chocolate and milk chocolate separately, placed the egg cakes in cupcake liners and piped the melted chocolate over the eggs (using a zip lock bag with a hole in it) using a steady stream of chocolate, then set them in the fridge. Don’t worry that they don’t look perfect, it’s all about the fun, getting messy and trying new things.
**Why 7 eggs? As one egg is used for the recipe, it leave you with 6 eggs to use in other recipes or enough to make an omelette. Inevitably one is going to go wrong, so we has a buffer of one and if it all works out, then great you have an extra egg to play with!
Life in its typical fashion likes to throw many things at us at once, and this month can definitely be summed by the phrase; ‘when it rains, it pours’, but it isn’t all bad news. I’m about to sign my very first contract this week as the sole photographer (eekk!) for a new Paleo recipe book with over 65 recipes to be shot in a month! I am pretty excited and it’s a great opportunity to get real with the things I do in my life, get my butt into gear and work on my time management skills. Oh and not to mention my creative and shooting skills. Shooting 65 recipes and making each of them fresh, real, unique and exciting will be a challenge that I am up for!
The book is being written by the lovely and talented lady Lizzy Marsh who runs Primal Junction, which is an online community that was created to explore a ‘back to basics’ approach to optimising nutrition, health and performance. The nitty gritty of the book is still in the works, but the great news is that it should be available in 24 countries around the world! One of the best things about this project is that I get to spend my days working with Lizzy, share in her passion to change the health of the world and live off her amazing recipes.
When it comes to being busy, I like to unwind by eating my favourite comfort foods and dips and chip are high on that list. Sitting down after a day of getting myself into all sorts of positions to ‘get those angles’, with a good avo dip and some salty corn chips (a margarita would be a nice addition too) – ah heaven, all in a days work. I have penciled in one day a week off, and over the weekend just gone, I spent that day with Talia shooting our Easter recipe. Playing with melted chocolate just hardly feels like work. That post to come soon!
Avocado & Jalapeño Dip
2 avocados, peeled and seeds removed
Juice of 2 limes
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
Small handful of fresh coriander
1 garlic clove
1 jalapeño, finely, halved
Salt and pepper to taste
Favourite corn chips to dip
Microgreens or a few coriander leaves to garnish if you wish
In a small food processor combine all of the ingredients, keeping aside half of the jalapeño, until smooth and creamy. Finely chop the remainder of the jalapeño. Place the dip in a serving bowl and garnish with the finely chopped jalapeño, microgreens or coriander leaves. [If you want a less spicy dip, just use half of the jalapeño and either process with the rest of the ingredients or sprinkle on top]. Serve with your favourite dipping food!
I absolutely love the shape and look of cakes. There is something about a circle that is just so perfect and pleasing to my eyes. It is probably a good thing that my baking skills are not awesome, cause I would shoot cake everyday of the week if I could. I have been following linda lomelino from Call Me Cupcake on Instagram and I absolutely admire both her baking and cake shooting skills. She fuels my urge to bake and luckily I have my friend Talz who can bake a mean cake for me whenever I feel like I need to sink my teeth into a cake shoot.
This is Talia’s simple butter cake recipe with her to die for buttercream icing. I really wanted to focus capturing the simple yet pleasing shapes, textures and tones that we all associate with cakes. The way the light bounces off the sponge, you can almost feel how moist and fluffy the cake is.
Although I didn’t make this cake, I sure made the icing and it was perfect! So easy to make, light, fluffy and easy to spread. I made the icing from Talia’s Cupcake Dream e-book. I also made a double layer version of this cake by baking two separate butter cake layers and I’ll share that shoot with you a little bit later.
White Butter Cake
250g (1 stick) of butter, chopped and softened
1 cup of caster sugar
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
2 cups of self raising flour
1 cup of milk
200g (7oz) vegetable shortening
40ml (2.5 tablespoons approx.) water
500g (1lb, 3 1/2 cups approx.) powered sugar
10ml (2 teaspoons) clear vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F). Grease and line the bottom of a 22cm (8.5″) deep round cake tin.
Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla extract with electric beaters on medium to high speed until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, until well combined. Sift in the flour and add the milk in 2-3 batches . Gently stir after each addition until well combined.
Pour the mixture evenly into the prepared tin and bake for 60-70 minutes, or until golden on top. Test with a skewer in the middle to check that the cake is cooked through. (The cake works well if you cook it at 180 C (350F) for the first hour, and then reduce to 160 C (320F) for the last ten minutes or so).
Allow the cakes to completely cool in the tin on a wire rack before turning the cake out.
To make the icing; combine the vegetable shortening and water in a bowl then use an electric mixer on a low-medium speed to cream them together. Sift in the icing sugar. Add vanilla extract. Combine on a low speed, then beat on a medium speed until creamy and fluffy. Refrigerate until ready to use.
When ready to serve the cake, spread the icing evenly across the entire cake with a knife.
Today was just such a beautiful autumn day. It was a blue bird day, the perfect temperate with a gorgeous breeze floating through the air. It is by far my favourite season, especially early on when summer fruits are still lingering around and the days are still long. Before figs slip out of season, I wanted to make a fig salad as they are just such an intricate fruit with a taste like no other. Just a simple side salad if you need a little change from veggies. I can’t resist figs with cheese and creamy feta cheese is a well suited addition.
I have been growing new batches of microgreens each week and am loving their taste and look in my salads. Have you grown your own micro greens before?
Fig Salad with Marinated Danish Feta & Sweet Balsamic Vinegar
4-6 fresh ripe figs, sliced
Handful of marinated danish feta, crumbled
Generous handful of freshly cut micro microgreens (cress, amaranth red garnet & pea shoots)
Sprinkling of peppercorns, to taste
1 1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 tablespoon maple syrup
On a serving platter, place the sliced figs and crumble over the feta. Sprinkle over the micro greens and peppercorns.
In a small bowl, add the balsamic vinegar and maple syrup and stir to combine. Either drizzle over the salad when read to serve, or serve on the side.