A Food & Travel Blog

Fennel Braised in Orange Juice – a Deliciously Simple Winter Favourite

18/08/2017 | By

This fennel braised in orange juice may not look like a show-stopping dish, but the flavours are deliciously intense. A fabulous use of seasonal favourites.

deliciously intense fennel braised in orange juice

It seems like ages since I shared a recipe with you, my lovely readers, but I made this modest-looking fennel braised in orange juice on the weekend and fell in love with it. 

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Lemon Ginger Cookies

31/07/2015 | By

Lemon ginger cookies – a perfect way to help deal with my current glut of lemons.

Lemon ginger Cookies

I think that, sometimes, it can be too easy for us here in the wide, brown , land to take for granted just how good we have it when it comes to a growing climate.

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Cherry & Cointreau Jam

12/12/2014 | By

Cherry jam

Cherry jam

In a burst of unseasonable weather, it’s been raining up here in the hills. Normally that  would be cause for happiness, but at this time of the year cherry producers really don’t want rain as too much moisture on an almost ripe crop will split the fruit.

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Fennel, Orange & Salmon Bake

06/06/2014 | By

I know one shouldn’t do this, but I frequently experiment with my new recipes on unsuspecting dinner guests. This may or may not put you off if I invite you for a meal but, in my defense, I’ve never had to throw the dinner out and order pizza. Neither have I had any gastric disasters that I’m aware of, although my friends may just be too polite to say.

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Cake Time! Pistachio Orange Blossom Cake

26/07/2013 | By

It’s been freezing, so I’ve been hunkered down here a bit for the last few weeks and my dear friend Stanley has been cranked to the max. I find the presence of a constantly hot oven generally prompts an insatiable urge for comfort food, and what could be more comforting than cake? While tidying up in a corner of the pantry the other day I stumbled upon a bag of pistachios. Pistachios (apparently a relative of cashews – who knew?) have been grown in the Middle East for many thousands of years – in fact they were said to be growing in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Their purplish skin and gorgeous green flesh make them one of the prettier nuts around and they are still hugely popular in one of my favourite cuisines – Middle Eastern cooking.

While winter in the Northern Hemisphere might mean a lack of fresh fruit in many areas, that is not the case here in Australia.  We are lucky in this great big land to be able to grow most fresh produce all year round. For most states in Australia, winter means fresh citrus fruit and loads of it. Australia grows some amazing citrus fruit all over the country. At this time of the year we can choose from oranges (Valencias and Navels), lemons, limes, mandarins and grapefruit, and I had a big bag of vibrant, juicy oranges sitting in the kitchen just begging to be treated extra specially. With a nod to the Middle East, it didn’t take me long to think up just one more ingredient to add to take that old family favourite, orange cake, up a notch or two and thus my Pistachio Orange Blossom Cake was born!

Oranges are a perennial favourite as they are rich in fibre, vitamin C and, most importantly, flavor – and adding them to cake is an inspired way to add fruit to the diet. Orange cake is always a crowd-pleaser, but with the simple addition of these special extra ingredients you will have a delicious cake that will be just as at home on the afternoon tea table or the after-dinner table! True to my preferences for keeping things easy, this recipe makes use of an indispensable kitchen appliance, the food processor, making the preparation quick and simple, however the addition of pistachios and orange flower water also make it stylish enough to serve as dessert at your next dinner party.

Pistachio Orange Blossom Cake
 
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A quick, but classy, cake to whip up for afternoon tea or as a special dessert.
Author:
Recipe type: Cake
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup unsalted shelled pistachios (approximately 4 ounces, 110 gms)
  • 1 cup SR flour
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ½ tsp orange blossom water
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 100 gms (3 ½ oz) unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • finely grated orange zest (from 1 medium orange)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 165C (350F).
  2. Butter loaf pan and line bottom with waxed paper.
  3. Using food processor, pulse pistachios until finely ground, about 40 seconds. (Do not over process, or mixture will become paste.) Set aside.
  4. In processor, at moderate speed, beat together butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  5. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then add orange rind, sour cream & vanilla, mixing in. Scrape down.
  6. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and nuts & mix until well combined.
  7. Spread batter evenly in pan and bake until wooden skewer inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes.
  8. Cool in pan on rack 10 minutes, then run knife around cake to loosen and invert onto rack.
  9. Drizzle with glaze made from icing sugar and the juice of the orange, decorate with candied orange peel and chopped pistachios.

 

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Chicken, Leek, Fig and Fennel Ragout – a Winter Solstice Celebration

24/06/2013 | By

Winter solstice garden

Winter has been nipping at our heels in the Adelaide Hills of late, with a notable sartorial focus being placed by the locals on fleecy track pants, flannelette pyjamas, fluffy slippers or uggies and woolly hats.  This is a time of the year when comfort takes precedence over elegance (for anyone over the age of 25, that is) and some among us begin to wonder just exactly what time is considered too early to slip into the aforementioned cosy night attire.  Please be warned – anyone knocking on our door after about seven in the evening will not find us in a fit state to formally receive guests unless forewarned.  This is also the time of year when winter is at it’s deepest, but this weekend saw the passing of the winter solstice – the shortest day and longest night of the year – thus the summer light begins to glow ever so faintly at the end of the tunnel.

Winter solstice 2013

The winter solstice has much more significance in the icy northern hemisphere winters where it gets a good deal colder than here.  In ancient times, winter was a hazardous and uncertain season with no guarantee that the subsistence rural communities of the colder climates were going to make it through to the end intact.  Much depended upon careful planning during the harvest months and even more careful use of resources during the winter and the solstice celebrated the success of surviving the worst of it.   Some communities observed it before the worst of the deep winter, making it the last of the feasting celebrations, using the fresh meat afforded by the killing off of cattle to avoid having to feed them through the winter.

Winter solstice mists

The rituals associated with the winter solstice vary depending upon the cultural background of the tradition.  Many pagan rituals include the use of fire to signify warmth, cleansing for the coming new season and the renewal of light .  The ancient Romans kicked up their heels with feasting, gift-giving and days of Bacchanalian partying.  While we complain of the cold here in the southern hemisphere, we really don’t generally do it all that tough so I stop short of celebrating with days of decadence and debauchery, but did invite some friends over for dinner.

I had some irresistibly soft and sticky Willabrand dried figs  that I’d bought at Adelaide Showgrounds Farmers Market and wanted to combine them with some of the beautifully fat fennel bulbs that are in season.  I surfed around on the interwebz for a bit searching for inspiration and eventually developed this chicken, leek, fig and fennel dish.  It’s not the loveliest and most photogenic dish in the world, but it’s right up there for flavour and boasts something of the “wow” factor.  If you can’t find fig syrup or vincotto, use honey instead, but do try to find the fennel pollen.  It won’t overpower the dish with a fennel flavour, but adds a final burst of freshness that will surprise you.   Add that to the fact that it is another of my simple one-dish-wonders and it’s ticked all my boxes.  I hope you like it.

Winter solstice chicken, fig and fennel ragout

Winter Solstice Chicken, Leek, Fig & Fennel Ragout
 
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A warming one-dish comfort meal that will excite the taste buds on a chilly winters night.
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Serves: 6
Ingredients
  • 1 kilo chicken chops (chicken thighs on the bone, with or without skin - you decide)
  • 1 large (or 2 small) fennel bulb, sliced into wedges with base attached to hold together
  • 2 large leeks, sliced thinly
  • 4 large carrots, chopped in chunks
  • 250 gms soft, dried figs, roughly sliced
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 100 mls olive oil for frying
  • salt
  • pepper
  • fig syrup (or vincotto)
  • fennel pollen (available in gourmet stores)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 180C.
  2. Heat olive oil in shallow fry pan, season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and brown all over, in small batches. Set aside.
  3. Add more oil if needed, then add sliced leeks and sweat down until soft and just beginning to caramelise. Spread out in a large baking dish.
  4. Check oil again, then add the fennel wedges, browning on each side, but taking care not to break them up when turning. Distribute them in baking dish.
  5. Add browned chicken pieces to the baking dish, nestling them in on top of the leeks, among the fennel.
  6. Add the carrots and chopped figs.
  7. Pour over the hot stock and the wine.
  8. Cover with foil, place in the oven and cook for 40 minutes, until thighs are cooked through.
  9. Remove thighs and set aside in a warm place.
  10. Stir vegetables gently then, leaving baking dish uncovered, return to oven and cook vegetables for further 5-10 minutes until the liquid is reduced and thickened.
  11. Return chicken to the dish, stir gently to coat with vegetables and sauce.
  12. Drizzle with fig syrup, sprinkle with fennel pollen and serve.

All of the photos used in this post were taken on my Iphone and, if you think they look familiar, were previously shared on my Instagram account.  For these, and more, follow me on Instagram here.

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