A Food & Travel Blog

Middle Eastern Beetroot & Feta Salad

23/01/2015 | By

Middle Eastern Beetroot & Feta Salad

Middle Eastern Beetroot & Feta Salad

My veggie gardening efforts have been quite modest over the last couple of years – mostly due to the amount of time I’ve spent travelling and the lack of reliably motivated back-up from the resident young adults. 

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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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Moroccan Sweet Potato & Chick Pea Soup

23/05/2014 | By

Well – so much for autumn in the Adelaide Hills. We’ve been enduring unimaginable weather torments here for the last week or two, with day after day of warm sunshine and endlessly mild and balmy evenings.

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Turkish Red Lentil Soup

08/11/2013 | By

The Blue Mosque

My recent holiday in Istanbul was nothing short of gastronomic heaven. As a result of it’s unique geographic location, straddling Europe and Asia, Turkey’s cuisine is a blissful combination of Central Asian, European and Middle Eastern cuisines all brought together and cultivated in 400 years of Ottoman kitchens. Their culinary tradition is rich in the use of lamb, beef, chicken, fish, vegetables of all kinds, pulses and the generous use of herbs and spices, in particular some of my favourites – cumin, mint, oregano, parsley and paprika. During the week I spent there I dined at street food stalls, traditional Turkish lunch houses and restaurants run by the new breed of modern, young, Turkish chefs and I did not have one dud meal. Not one. As you can imagine, that made me a very happy girl.

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Bulgarian Fresh Food – With Produce like This, No Wonder They Love Salads!

04/11/2013 | By

DON’T MISS OUT! WIN A $300 DOUBLE PASS TO GORGEOUS FESTIVAL HERE!

The mountains behind Sofia

Bulgaria is a very beautiful country, full of rolling mountains, glistening lakes and alpine valleys, with a culinary tradition influenced by 500 years of occupation and a strong agricultural tradition. Before World War II, agriculture was the chief sector of the Bulgarian economy, but the face of this changed substantially after the war with the collectivisation of over 90% of agricultural land. Private, domestic vegetable plots have always been maintained on some level, contributing quite substantially to alleviating food shortages at some stages of Bulgarian history and probably going some way to explaining the passion in that country for the range of fabulous, fresh salads available everywhere.

Fresh berries at Sofia's Women's Market

Since 2007, Bulgaria has been a member of the European Union and agriculture is once again a thriving part of the economy. The countryside is a cornucopia of orchards and fields of vegetable crops, and almost every home in every village that we drove through had extensive and well tended vegetable gardens. Most of the produce from these gardens is organic as few can afford costly fertilisers or pesticides.

figs! Sofia night markets

market  vendor at the Womens Market, Sofia

Those who live in the cities and towns source their fresh produce from a range of outdoor markets of varying sizes and at the random roadside stalls that pop up spontaneously in side lanes and street corners. I visited the largest of these, The Women’s Market, which is extensive, with a wide range of seasonal produce supplied and sold by small-holders from near-by outlying regions. The food here is truly magnificent, although it would be unrealistic to expect to find your new best friend here – the traders are a somber lot. This may have something to do with the prices which are eye-poppingly cheap – great for the consumer, but not such a happy circumstance for the grower.

red capsicums, The Women's Market, Sofia

the Women's Market, Sofia

I also paid a visit to the night markets on Graf Ignatiev Street in central Sofia. This is a popular shopping street, with trams running down the centre of the road. If retail therapy is what floats your boat, I’d suggest having a wander through the many small boutiques and stores around there but, once again, I just couldn’t take my eyes off the amazing fresh foods. One stall was selling hot, ready-cooked pumpkin which was available in whole slabs or prepackaged with a spoon, ready to eat while you wander around window-shopping.

Cooked pumpkin, night markets, Sofia.

pomegranates, Sofia Night Markets

 grapes, the size of small plums - Women's Market, Sofia

My visit was in the early days of the northern autumn, so wonderful food was still readily available – I’d imagine the selection would become much more limited later in the year, although I suspect the Christmas markets would be pretty special. With such abundance around me, I enjoyed fresh berries and fruit with my morning yoghurt (another of their specialties), but the one thing that truly blew me away was the flavour quality of the tomatoes. I ate the local specialty, Shopska Salad, every day and was never once disappointed in the colour, flavour or texture of the tomatoes. No wonder they’re so keen on their salads in Bulgaria – they’d be mighty disappointed if their tomato selection was limited to the poor examples we tolerate here.

Bulgarian tomatoes

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Spring and a Tomato and Three Cheese Tart

06/10/2013 | By

Tomatoes

Like everyone else in this world, I’ve gushed about spring in the past and droned on rapturously about the sunshine, flowers, birdies, bees, blah, blah, blah. That’s all lovely, of course, but there is another side to spring that has slightly fewer charms. I’m talking about the swallows which insist on annually nesting on my outdoor blinds, pooping all over said blinds and the table and chairs below. Or how about the changeable weather with it’s sunshine, gentle breezes, howling gales and pouring rains – often all in the course of just a few hours, meaning I am continuously underdressed or overdressed. Last week the evening temperature up here plummeted to 5C – just when we’d run out of fire wood. Then there’s the skyrocketing pollen counts and the subsequent cost of boxes of tissues and giant economy-sized packets of anti-histamines. And, most exciting of all, the sudden appearance of hungry and aggressively bad-tempered brown snakes who, combined with the triffid like growth of the grass/plants/weeds around our property, make my trips to the hen house to collect the eggs an anxiety-ridden scuttle, complete with long rubber boots and a machete. I’m telling you, it’s not all beer and skittles up here in springtime in the hills.

My first spring roses

Spring flowers, Columbine

There – I’m glad I’ve got that little moan off my chest.

Spring lavender & bee

Spring flowers, Banksia Rose

One thing I always welcome at this time of the year, though, is the reappearance of the first of the seasonal tomatoes. Tomatoes in general are mostly a disappointment these days, with even the pricey, vine-ripened ones failing to deliver much in the way of flavour, and my complete and utter inability to grow them up here means that I’m reliant on those I buy at the farmers markets. However, I recently made a slightly happy discovery with the purchase of a punnet of the mini Roma tomatoes from my local Foodland store. They seem to have a little more flavour than other commercially available tomatoes and really come into their own when slow roasted.

Tomato & 3 Cheese Tart

This recipe uses the tomatoes after they’ve been slow-roasted and, with frozen puff pastry and lots of fresh herbs from my garden, is another of my lazy-girl cheats dishes. I made it for my dear friend Liz for lunch the other day, along with a big plate of brownies for dessert and we were both pretty happy with the meal. Just one tip, watch the baking of this tart like a hawk. I didn’t and let it go just a little too long – it tasted great, but didn’t photograph so well.

Tomato and Three Cheese Tart
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Author:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 300 gms mini Roma tomatoes, halved
  • 50 mls olive oil
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 bunch fresh oregano
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed
  • ½ cup of grated cheese (either mozzarella or cheddar, you decide)
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan
  • 100 gms goats chevre or feta
  • 1 egg, beaten
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 150C (300F).
  2. Toss halved tomatoes, ½ the bunch of thyme leaves, ½ the bunch of oregano leaves, salt, pepper and olive oil in a bowl, then place the tomatoes on a lined baking tray, cut side up. Place in oven and roast for 1 hour. Leave to cool slightly.
  3. Raise oven temperature to 200C (400F).
  4. Place thawed pastry on a sheet of oven-proof paper, cover with another sheet and roll out gently to a rectangular shape.
  5. Leaving the pastry on the bottom sheet of paper, place it on a baking tray and using a sharp knife score a line 2 cms around the four sides of the inside of the pastry, making a 2 cm frame around the edge of the pastry.
  6. Sprinkle the interior rectangle with the cheddar cheese and the parmesan cheese and dot with the slightly cooled, roasted tomatoes.
  7. Sprinkle with the remaining thyme leaves and brush the pastry edge with egg wash.
  8. Bake in oven for 15-17 minutes - no longer or cheese will overcook.
  9. Scatter the tart with crumbled goats chevre or feta, then sprinkle with the remaining oregano leaves.

 

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