Saturday, February 28, 2009

Key Lime Pie

Someone asked me this week if I would try a Key Lime Pie for them, and as I am always up for a challenge I was more than happy to give it a try. I wondered however what a Key Lime was and why it would be so different to a normal like.

Key Limes are found in Florida and are much smaller than regular limes. They have thinner rinds, less seeds, a much much higher acidity and a sweeter flavour, which is why they are preferred for particular recipes like marinades for fish and meat.

Key Lime Pie is a very traditional recipe which dates back to the 1850's in the Florida Keys area. Before biscuits were used for the base, a pastry crust was made.

I started by crushing the biscuits which I put in a paper bag and bashed with my fist like there was no tomorrow, good stress relief, but I think a plastic bag would have been better as I ended up ripping a few paper bags in my quest for small biscuit crumbs.

The next task, after mixing the crumbs with butter was to press it into the base of a pan AND up the sides. Attempt 1 = fail. I put the crumbs back in the bowl and added double the amount of butter to really get the mixture moist so it would stick and it worked. Attempt 2 = success (although not perfect). Then due to force of habit I put it in my preheated oven until about 30 seconds later I realized I was supposed to put it in the fridge to cool for 15 once I prepared the filling then bake it all at once. No harm done though, as I took it out straight away.

The filling was quite simple, and at first taste I felt it lacked the real kick that limes have, so I added the zest of 2 more limes. I think one of the most important ingredients of this recipe is the whisked egg whites which you fold into the mixture as it gives such heavy ingredients (egg yolks and condensed milk) suck a lightness and makes this pie nice and fluffy when baked.

My base was ready so I filled it and baked. When I took it out of the oven I was quite eager to see what it was like once I took it out of the tin. I let it cool for about half an hour then attempted to take it out. I could see that it was still soft but I underestimated how much. Once I took lifted it out I pretty much put it back in straight away and left it in the fridge to set.

I went to inspect it this morning and it was harder and in a much better state. I lifted it out again and it was nice and square like it was meant to be (well for the fact I used a square tin as all of our round ones had gone walkabouts, especially the spring form one). The result was a nice and fluffy cake with a beautiful base. I have always loved the biscuit base many cheesecakes use but have never tried it, so now I know how easy it is.

The pie is generally garnished with extra whipped cream, but I thought it is not necessary as it is not a overly rich cake which needs something like ice cream or cream to balance the flavours.

Key Lime Pie

Preparation time: 25 mins
Cooking time: 25 mins
Cooling time: 4 hours


250g wheatmeal biscuits
200g butter
5 egg yolks
400ml (1 can) condensed milk -- please don;t use skim version as it just as extra sugar to compensate for lack of fat
zest of 3 limes
200mL lime juice (about 5 limes worth)
3 egg whites


1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees.
2. Crush biscuits and mix with melted butter.
3. Grease either a spring form tin, or line a non-spring form tin with baking paper (so it is easy to take out)

4. Press crumbs onto tin base and up the sides then refrigerate for 15 minutes.
5. Beat egg yolks until light and smooth
. Add condensed milk slowly and mix until combined.
6. Zest the limes BEFORE you juice them then add both into the egg mixture.
7. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until hard peaks form then fold into lime mixture.
8. Pour onto base and then bake for 25 minutes or until the top of the filling sets (the filling will still be soft on the inside but it will set further while it cools.
9. Once slightly cool, refrigerate overnight or at least for 4 hours.
10. Serve with slices of lime on top and IF you want, add fresh cream.

Naan bread

I have wanted to try making Naan for a while and felt today was the day. I attempted it a few weeks ago but as I used a recipe that obviously was not Indian because it did not work at all. I don't know why it didn't click to me when there was no yeast and no yogurt in the recipe, so I was a bit disappointed, even though it was my own fault.

Today however, I have researched a lot more, read many different recipes to try to find a common ground and gotten advice from my Threadist (an Indian technique of doing eyebrows). The two things I did not add last time were the two most important things.

I started early today, 7:30am, to allow my dough to rise for quite a long time. It had definitely more than doubled by the time I checked it at 3. Kneading it again, I found it was quite sticky so once I had separated the dough into balls I coated it lightly in flour to allow me to roll them out easily. Traditionally Naan is made in a teardrop shape do I rolled it out as best I can, but I think in terms of shaping......I'll leave that to the pros.

As I don't have a tandoora or a pizza stone, which is the proper way to cook Naan, I first put the dough in the fry pan (without any oil or butter) just to set it a bit before I put it under the griller.
It was amazing at how much the dough puffs up while under the griller. Once browned on one side I turned them over to brown on the other side.

I had to decide before cooking the breads what topping I wanted to put on them. A simple garlic sauce? Cheese?........or use some of the truffle salt I have sitting in my cupboard.......well knowing me I want to try a bit of everything, so that is exactly what I did. First the garlic, then the cheese and finally a truffle salt butter topping.

(N.B. I'm not obsessed with truffles and think they are the best thing in the world and go gaga over any recipe that has truffles in them BUT since I have the truffle salt I am just trying to find ways of using it, honest!)

Unfortunately I could not get the thumbs up from someone who is a connoisseur of Naan, but I know my Dad really likes it and so he was my taste tester. The piece he had was a bit thicker on the base so he told me to roll it out a bit thinner next time, which I agreed with after I tried his, but the one I had was perfect, thin, light and puffed up fantastically.

I suppose I will have to try again. When I do, apparently another delicacy is to slice potatoes and lay them on the inside of the Naan before they are cooked. This is a challenge I am willing to try soon.

Naan Bread

Preparation Time: 30 mins
Resting time: 4 hours (at least)
Cooking time: 5 minutes


1 tsp dried yeast
3/4 cup lukewarm water
2 1/4 cups Plain Flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
Pinch baking soda
2 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
2 1/2 tbsp natural yogurt

2 garlic cloves crushed
150g butter

150g butter
1 tsp truffle salt


1) Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water and let stand for around 10 minutes until it is it starts to froth up.
2) Sift the flour, salt, sugar and baking soda together. Add the oil and yogurt and mix into a crumbly dough.
3) Add the yeast to the dough and knead for 10 minutes until soft and springs back.
4) Leave the dough to rise for at lest 4 hours in a warm place.
5) Once risen, turn on your grill so it gets nice and hot.
6) Separate your mixture into quarters. Roll each quarter out with a rolling pin to form a tear drop shape.
7) Wipe a little flour over the rolled out dough so it is not sticky, then heat slightly in a fry pan (without any oil or butter) for 15 seconds on each side so the dough sets slightly
8) Transfer the dough to a baking tray lined with baking paper and put under the grill. It will start to puff up, but once it is browned nicely on one side flip.
9) Repeat with other dough.
10) Top with your choice of butter. (I have included the garlic butter and the truffle salt butter but you can also top with cheese)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Campos Cupping Session

I was looking forward to attending a cupping at the Campos roastery all week as I was lucky enough to be Campos’ guest taster for their ‘Bean of the Month’. I must admit however, that I was a bit scared I would not be able to pick up all the right characteristics and be a bad taster. To get my palette up to speed, I have been making plunger coffee every morning, trying 2 new beans a week so I can pick up a wider variety of flavours. It helps that I have a coffee roaster around the corner from work, although not Campos :( , they are in Alexandria, but I pop in a couple of times a week to chat to the boys about the new beans they have in and we always do a few pour overs (similar to a filter coffee) which really lets some of the lighter roasts exhibit their flavours, for example a lot of single origins like the Ethiopian Yirgacheffe, Kenya AA, El Salvador or Brazil Impanema.

Cupping involves grinding the beans to a coarse grind, similar to a plunger grade, We then smell the ground coffee to decide on a ‘Dry Aroma’. Water is then boiled and left to cool for a minute or so as boiling water will burn the coffee, so you want it to be between 95OC-91OC. 10g of ground coffee is put into a cup and 200mL of water is poured in and left to brew, during which the coffee floats to the top and forms a crust. After 5 minutes exactly, the ‘crust’ is broken using a soup spoon, dragging the crust to the edge of the cup and then mixing gently. This is when we smell to pick up the ‘Wet Aroma’ of the coffee. The crust is then scraped out of the cup so that a clean cup of coffee is left ready for the tasting.

To taste, we go along, one by one, and using our soup spoon we pick up the coffee and then slurp it into our mouths. It is a similar technique to tasting wine, although not as elegant, as you want to make a loud slurping noise and get as much air into our mouth as possible so that you can really open up the flavours of the coffee and get it around your whole mouth so each area of your taste buds can pick up different things.

I will admit, I did look really silly, and after a while I started spitting the coffee out as we continued to sip each coffee about 3 times and the coffee of the month I think about 10 time, which is a lot of coffee that would leave me buzzing for the rest of the night. However, even with wine, I was never a good spitter, so after a while I gave up and continued to drink it all.

The coffee of the month was the Indian Yelnoor Khan Cauvery. As it was roasted only an hour before the boys would do another cupping the following day to see how the flavours and aromas have developed. These however, are the results of today’s cupping:
Dry Aroma: Quite a strong wheat and barley smell with a underlying sweetness, but not overly sweet, more like a strongly burnt toffee.
Wet Aroma: A much earthier tone comes through, yet with still a hint of the burnt toffee.
Tasting: The coffee has completely transformed from our first smell. It is a coffee that hits you instantly with tar/smoky flavours, almost a pepperiness, which is still earthy and full of body. Although it might sound so, it is not too heavy and has a mid-high acidity making it pleasant to drink. I think the best thing about this coffee is that it leaves a really lovely aftertaste in the mouth. Dark chocolate or cocoa flavours leave a slight dryness on the palette which leaves you wanting to drink more.

Results of cupping the following day: Will (owner of Campos) and the other roasted thought that the Indian had calmed down a lot since the previous day and was a lot smoother. He explained this was because we tried it straight after it had been roasted, which is quite a harsh process, so it was quite volatile and showing off its full potential. After resting for a day, a much centered flavour came through and the boys liked it a lot more. (It will be available to buy as of this week in store).

Once we had finished tasting, I couldn’t help myself from looking around the roastery and having a chat to the head roaster, Ernest. As Campos supply to numerous cafes around town and also stock up their own store with beans, they roast around 3.8 tonnes of coffee a week. This means, over five days, they are constantly roasting from 6am-10pm as the roaster holds 24kg of coffee each batch, and each batch takes between 15-17 minutes to roast, depending of the bean of course. And that is not to mention smaller roasts for some of the single origins where they do not need such a quantity at once. Their aim is to roast only as much as they need so that they are not oversupplied and the coffee is as fresh as it can be. So each time you buy beans, they will be most likely roasted the day before, but they only hold them for five days, and then top up the containers with a new batch of beans.


Standing next to the roaster as the beans were released was the most amazing smell, and after a while, one that is absorbed quite strongly into your clothes......I wasn't complaining. It is a smell I miss since working at their retail store on Missenden Road in King St. If you haven't been I highly recommend it as the vibe is constantly buzzing with the machines going full throttle and the jazz playing in the background. The coffee you will drink, I assure you, will be one of the best cups you will have. It is a place I will go out of my way for, and even make an effort to get there despite the fact they will close 5 minutes after I arrive, as long as I get my double ristretto, I will be happy, and I can assure you it will put me in the best mood for the rest of the day.

...............this is the effect of a coffee from Campos...................get addicted!

Campos Coffee
193 Missenden Road
9690 0294

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Press Club

My big 21st birthday dinner. Where to book? Who to go with? I decided to do something different though, and fly myself down to Melbourne for the week..........why not, I just wanted to indulge.

After consulting many people about the city's best restaurants, which resulted in a four page hit list, my options for the big dinner came down to the following places:

- Ezard;
- Verge;
- Vue de Monde;
- Grossi Florentino;
- Fifteen;
- The Press Club; or
- Guillame Bistro.

I had heard so much about The Press Club, which is a modern Greek restaurant, which at the time had two hats, and after buying the cook book and going gaga over it, I decided that is exactly where I wanted to dine. I was over the moon when my best friend decided to fly down also and have a girls weekend with me.....she can help me spend my money and splurge a bit.

We dolled ourselves up, of course, and arrived (in the rain) at 8:15. Our table wasn't quit early so we waited in the bar, which is a really nice area and great for a more casual dinner. The food that was going out looked amazing. Platters full of lamb, dips, olives and bread, saganaki martini, quail dolmathes.

After being teased for about 10 minutes, with food continuously going past, we were shown to our table which sat along the banquette along the side of the restaurant. It is not a restaurant that tries to be intimate and create a romantic atmosphere. Their philosophy is based around bringing family and friends together where they can talk, laugh and eat together. Hence the layout of the restaurant is not sparse but full of tables which when full brings an amazing energy into the restaurant which feels like it is just buzzing. So I would say it was the perfect choice for the celebration of my 21st....and as many of your know, I can talk the head off anything, so at least I would not feel embarrassed for talking in a fine dining restaurant :P

As we were seated we were served some a glass of Veuve (my favourite and a champagne that has special significance for me as it is something I always share with Zena on our birthdays). It was such a nice gesture and it was the best start to the night as I was over the moon already and I hadn't even had a bite of anything.

Our lovely waiter Kyle started to serve us and placed down our breads: a Greek country loaf, which was crusty and soft on the inside; a walnut, cinnamon and honey loaf; and a sun dried tomato foccacia. They were served with Cypriot Olive Oil and Cypriot BLACK sea salt. We were lucky though because as Kyle set the bread down he mentioned that George Calombaris (the owner and chef) had prepared a special menu for us so DO NOT fill up on bread. Even though we tried, we couldn't resist occasionally breaking off a little more bread to wet our appetite, it was just too nice.

The Somillier then came over and it was a bit hard to choose a wine as I didn't know what we were eating. I was told there were many courses and that we could have wines to match each course. That sounded like a great idea, but since we were in a restaurant with such an amazing Greek Wine list I thought I would ask for all Greek wines, as it is an area of wine I wanted to learn more about, as it is passed off regularly as cheap and very sweet (people just think of retsina).

The first course came out (although I did not get a complete photo of the dish and its presentation). It was a tasting plate trio which started with a Saganaki Martini served in a shot glass with tomato tea, cucumber and tomato, then sitting on top was a thick piece of fried, but not overly oily haloumi hanging over the tea on a skewer. The tea was really cold and refreshing, similar to a gazpacho I suppose, but when eaten with the slightly salty haloumi, it seemed as though you were eating a salad with haloumi, but in liquid form.
The next taster was a skewer of octopus and anchovy coated in a sweet pistachio crust which was probably made of pistachio, raw sugar and breadcrumbs. It was a beautiful combination, the saltiness and oiliness of the seafood with the sweetness of the crust.
The last taster was a freshly shucked oyster which had an eggplant and tomato compote on top which added a savory sweetness to the creamy salty oyster. It was served with its shell on top, a really nice touch I thought, and something you don't see very often.

Course 2 was like a taster as there were many accompaniments which went with the absolutely divine crisp pork belly. Would it be the fig syrup, poached quince which was slightly grilled on one side, natural Greek yogurt, and a coffee crumble which was made of coffee, chocolate, cinnamon and breadcrumbs. To combine all of the components of this dish was a bit too much on the palette, so I found I liked the pork with the fig sauce, then separately mixing the quince, yogurt and crumbs.

One of my favourite dishes was Course 3, a 'deconstructed' Greek Salad which consisted of a seared piece of salmon coated in sesame seeds on an onion stifaldo (onion jam), cucumber with feta foam, tomato water bubbles, Skordalia (Greek garlic potato dip), Kalamata olive infused olive oil, ouzo dust, tomatoes, Greek Dondani feta and cracked pepper. The Salmon was so smooth and worked perfectly with the sesame, something I have never tried, but definitely a seed which is very prominent in Greek cuisine. The water bubbles were like nothing I have tried, so delicate and burst as soon as you touched then, but not as thin as water, a bit thicker, syrup like, but really did taste like a tomato, as did the flavour of the foam which perfectly expressed 'feta', but with such a lightness. The final touch on this dish was the ouzo dust which had a beautiful and strong aniseed flavour which was perfect with every element of this dish. AMAZING

Course 4 was a play on fish and chips. It was a mini fisherman's basket which consisted of crumbed fish, battered prawns, mussels and octopus. It was served with the most amazing salad of shredded cabbage, watercress, lemon juice and olive oil. It was such a nice lightness to match the fried seafood.

This dish felt special for me and maybe made me enjoy it so much more as my Papou (grandfather) loved seafood so much. If I had ever met him I know we would have learnt to love it from a young age, something I wasn't lucky enough to do, but now I do prefer seafood to meat and I know he would have been proud of me.

The last savory dish was the pinnacle of all dishes, and so it should have been as it was roast lamb, medium rare, so tender, juicy and just melted in my mouth. The meat was drizzled with a grape reduction sauce which added a sweetness to the meat, which some might not think would work, but since the meat was medium rare, its texture was much softer and therefore worked, it was not heavy at all but It was served with a mushroom and feta and ricotta Spanakopia. The filo was so golden and crisp but I felt that the mushrooms which were probably braised for a few hours overpowered the dish. But the lamb.............

The last dish was one we were so looking forward to, dessert, definitely something that should finish the experience with a bang, but sadly it left us feeling disappointed. It was a play on a Greek biscuit called Melamakaronia, which is a honey biscuit. The dish consisted of an orange cake which was served on custard with Greek yogurt sorbet, candied orange and a clementine. The sorbet was my favourite part of the dish as it was so refreshing and not overly sweet like other sorbet's, however the cake and custard, although lovely is not one of my favourite things to have for dessert. I was expecting a play on a baklava or stuffed locomathes.

To finish, we ordered coffee and were served a shot glass filled with sparkling mineral water with mastiha at the bottom which we eat with a spoon. Although Zena did not like it, I found it the best ending to such an elaborate meal as it is a gum which has a mint like freshness.

There is so much I could say about George Calombaris. He is so genuine, humble and really wants to just bring happiness to everyone who comes to dine. He truly made our night a night to remember and I am so glad I chose this restaurant to celebrate my 21st with my best friend. We ended up staying until 12:30am as we were too busy talking to Kyle (our waiter) who we became friends with over the night. The staff were so attentive and friendly, something which really makes a restaurant.

Overall my Melbourne birthday week ended up as follows:
Time spent shopping - 3 days max
Amount spend on clothes - $40
Number of restaurants I visited - 10 (3 fine dining)
Amount spent on dining - $900

BUT best birthday present to myself I could have asked for, and exactly what I would have wanted to spend so much money on.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Valentine's Day

The big day. Lots of hype. Huge expectations, and a headache for most I'm sure.

I will be honest though, the last thing I wanted to do was go out for dinner, especially since Valentine's falls on a Saturday night this year. Restaurants would be overcrowded with tables of two, offering over priced, mass produced set menus and overall not achieve a very romantic atmosphere. Waiters are rushing around trying to satisfy all of the high maintenance diners who are expecting all attention of them during the course of the evening, which most probably won't be the case, and in addition all the women are dolled up, looking around the room, peaking to see what special treatment others may be getting, how big their roses are, if they are drinking champagne, what type, and if anyone will be proposed to. I didn't want any of this..........

SO instead I decided to cook for my man and treat him. A nice three course meal, nothing too fancy, but still fresh, hearty and indulgent food, with some good red wine, was my idea of a nice romantic evening. The table was set, wine glasses and all, music setting the mood, my gorgeous roses sitting in the background. However, I forgot to buy candles for the table to achieve that mood lighting all restaurants strive for, but not to worry, my down lights have a dimmer.

My preparation actually started the day before, but more on that later. After shopping all morning for ingredients for my feast, the first thing I wanted to prepare was the butter for the appetizer. I used the jar of Tetsuya's truffle salt,which was a present from the waiters I received when I dined there last year for my graduation. Just as they do, I mixed it with butter and Parmigiano Reggiano then served it with some freshly baked bread I prepared. (See 'Baking My Bread' but instead of adding a filling, just shape the bread, slit the bread across the top about 5 times and bake. It makes two large loaves). HOWEVER, disaster struck when I had to add more butter to the mixture as it was too salty. I slightly melted both the additional and the already prepared butter so I could mix them together, but I didn't realise that they had melted completely, so when I went to grab the ramekin with the truffle butter in it, it spilt all down my chest and also onto my just straightened hair which I was wearing out. This was the worst start to the evening I could imagine. Not only did I have to rewash my hair and re-straighten it, but prepare the butter all over again, this time without being a clutz.

By the time we went to sit down and started sipping some our first wine, a Paringa Estate Pinot Noir, and devouring the bread and butter, I just laughed at myself, as I am known for being clumsy. The truffle in the butter is very strong in flavour and that is why only a touch of the salt is needed to flavour the butter. It is soooo delectable smeared thickly onto warm bread, but since I knew what was to come I had to limit myself to one piece.

Whilst devouring the bread and sipping our wine, our taste buds I'm sure were widely awake by now, so I decided to serve our entree, but let it cook in front of us. It was a Peruvian Ceviche, which is a very traditional dish of raw white fish, in this case I used Perch, which is then cured with lime juice, ají limo (limo chili pepper), Spanish Onions and salt. Unfortunately I could not find ají limo, so I just chopped up some long red chillies, but they were not spicy enough for the dish. If anyone knows where I can get ají limo can you let me know : )

As I poured the juice mixture over the fish we watched it cook then ate it straight away with sweet potato and corn. The sweet potato added a nice sweetness to balance the citrus of the lime and....subtleness of the chilli, but I'm sure if the chilli was hot it would give a bit of relief from it.

View Peruvian Ceviche Recipe

I am sure there will be readers out there who might say my version is not the proper way to do Peruvian Ceviche, and they are probably right. I tried to research as much as I can, but with so much conflicting information out there it is hard to know what is the correct way to prepare it unless I went to a Peruvian's house and watched as they prepared it. Within the next few weeks I intend to dine at a Peruvian restaurant to see how they do it (review to come soon).

Generally I would serve this with a nice dry sparkling wine or blanc de banc to not overpower the fresh flavours of the fish, but as we started on red we just stuck to it. The Pinot I had chosen to start with was light and full of berry flavours. In my opinion, it is one of Australia's best Pinots, it has body, isn't too sweet with fruity flavours and is great to drink young.

I learnt last year around this time that there are two arguments to matching food and wine. The first says that every food has certain wines that will compliment the dish perfectly e.g. goats cheese and Sauvignon Blanc, lamb and Cabernet Sauvignon etc. Which is all good if you don't mind drinking many different wines throughout a meal or transitioning from champagne to white to red to fortified. In my opinion it can become quite an overload and leave you with a nasty headache the following day!
The second argument says that one should enjoy the wine they like best with each dish they have, regardless of whether that ends up being a nice big Shiraz with a fish dish, or a Chardonnay with duck, as long as you enjoy each individually, you will enjoy the meal regardless of whether the match............I choose argument #2 as I generally drink red wine and still enjoy it in warmer weather.

Anyways, back to the food......Once we had digested a bit, and had some more bread and butter, I really could not resist, I served our main, Moroccan Braised Lamb Shanks on Soft Polenta. I slow cooked this dish for over 4 hrs as I wanted the meat to just fall off the bone, and it did. The meat was so tender and had a nice bite to it from the Moroccan spices I added. The sauce from the meat mixed well with the polenta making it a gorgeous hearty meal for a cold night.

View Moroccan Braised Lamb Shanks with Soft Polenta Recipe

Of course, the best wine to pair with a lamb dish would be a big Cab Sauv, and I had a fantastic bottle. A 99' Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon which we let air for about 4 hours prior to drinking. It was smooth yet bold with a slight tannic finish. It was full of deep red cherry and plum flavours and an excellent companion to the lamb's heavy flavour.

Although the lamb was delicious we had to save room for dessert, of course. I started preparing this dessert the day before, which was good as it made it one less thing to worry about on the day. I made a Passionfruit Semifreddo, which is similar to ice cream but a bit softer and a lot easier to make, especially if your don't have an ice cream maker.

It was so creamy and had a strong fruit flavour, something I was a bit worried about, so I added extra passionfruit pulp. The best way to finish off the night for sure!

View Passionfruit Semifreddo Recipe

I couldn't think of a better way to spend Valentine's day than relaxing in my own house, with nice food, excellent wine, and the best company ever.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Did you want some bread with that?.......a day of cooking side dishes

Today I organised a family dinner and was planning for the whole week to cook up a new type of meat I haven't used before. I finally decided on duck in a plum sauce and serve them with Chinese pancakes......well things don't always go to plan. One Thea had already bought her steaks and then my Mum was quite stern she was cooking a special sausage dish. Therefore I could not really add more meat, even poultry or game, onto that.
That would normally be fine as I would usually then do some amazing dessert BUT another Thea had been assigned to make crepes. So what was I left to cook??? My Mum told me to do salad. I was 'over the moon' at the prospect. I told her they probably would not be our standard Greek Salad, but use some 'exotic' ingredients and will be a bit different.

I saw it as a challenge, I needed to make salads interesting so they could be more than 'just a side'. So this morning I drove to the fruit shop and just picked up what looked good that day, then I would work out the combinations. Pomegranates were huge, red and firm.........into the basket they go. String beans weren't small dark and withered, but quite the opposite, so they went in to. I needed some more nuts so I got a packet of walnuts as I thought I could incorporate them in some how. I did have a lot of other ingredients at home but I wanted these to be the main ones.

Once home I thought I wanted to make a few more things, not just salad, maybe some bread and biscotti, since I wasn't allowed to do a dessert. It was still 11am by this stage so figured the biscotti would be first up. I have been craving aniseed biscotti recently so I fumbled through the pantry hoping we still had aniseed, and I was in luck.

View Aniseed Biscotti (Paxamathia) Recipe

So as they were cooking I decided to make Turkish bread. There is a lot of variance between recipes. Some had milk, some had honey, but I eventually decided to make a simple mixture with yeast, water and oil.

View Turkish Bread Recipe

I served my bread with home made tahina, which is one of the simplest dips to make.

View Tahina Recipe

Finally I prepared the salads which were really a matter of throwing together all the ingredients.

View Pomegranate, Walnut, Rocket & Ricotta Salad Recipe

View String bean, cucumber, feta and mint salad Recipe

So I will admit sides can be quite fun, and it was a challenge which I did enjoy. It makes you think of ways to make such dishes more exciting and forces you to use some ingredients you may not always use to mix things up a bit and add some variety to your dishes.