Sunday, 30 December 2012

Thai style chicken & coconut salad

It's always lovely to be in my home country of Australia to celebrate Christmas with family, and I count myself very lucky to be part of a family that on both sides are very passionate about preparing good food whether it be at Christmas or anytime of the year :)  Christmas day, is of course an opportunity for everyone to come together to celebrate, and on my husband's side owing to the enormity of the get together . . . which is a tribute to a devoted family with many who travel from afar . .  everyone brings a plate or two of food rather than a gift, and the focus is on family, fun, conversation, and of course fabulous food (and wine).

As the guests arrive on the day, a large, long table is carefully adorned with the most delicious of creations. Some dishes are old family favourites that have a starring role each Christmas, and other dishes make their first appearance, but never disappoint due to the calibre of the cook that has prepared them! They meet the scrutiny of 60 plus people, and if we are lucky will return the following year. 

There is always an amazing spread of cold meats (turkey, ham, rare beef, chicken and even tongue for the more adventurous), with luxurious homemade condiments and simple, yet exquisite sides such as minted peas and glazed carrots among an assortment of gourmet salads from green salad, caprese, watermelon & mint, green bean & pine nuts and my favourites this year . . marinated citrus chicken, roast pumpkin rocket & fetta, pancetta & broad beans, Moroccan pearl couscous & chickpea, and coconut chicken salad . . . needless to say every plate was piled high and you were certainly the odd one out if you didn't come back for seconds or even thirds! 

We finished with two large glorious homemade steamed Christmas puds, one recipe handed down through generations . . served up with thick creamy vanilla custard and a lashing of hard sauce. 

The recipe below is my Thermomix version of the lovely Thai-style Coconut chicken salad or Yum Gai - which my gorgeous sister-in-law contributed to the festive feast. She was generous enough to share her recipe and I have made just a couple of tweaks. It is a perfect fresh flavoured Summer salad. I took it along to a friend's BBQ dinner and my girlfriend commented "this is a salad to impress". I hope you enjoy it as much as my family and friends do . . .

Thai-style coconut chicken salad

2 chicken breast fillets, skin off, quartered
1 pink lady apple, cored
1 large pink shallot (or sml red onion)
2 handfuls of fresh mint leaves
1 large carrot
1 punnet cherry or baby roma tomatoes
100g baby spinach leaves
100g cashews (raw or roasted - optional)

juice of 1-2 lemons (4 tbsp)
3 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp sambal olek (hot chill paste) - or to taste
4 tbsp coconut milk
2 spring onions, cut into 5cm pieces
2-3 fresh kaffir lime leaves
1 handful fresh coriander leaves

1. Add 500g boiling water to the TM bowl and chicken pieces into the Varoma dish. Set the Varoma into position and steam the chicken for approximately 15 minutes on speed 1 or 2 or until cooked through. Remove the Varoma tray, set aside and allow the chicken to cool.  Rinse out the TM bowl ready to prepare the salad dressing. 

2. Add all dressing ingredients to the TM bowl and blend for 10 seconds on speed 7 with the MC lid in place - you could also add the shallot here if you prefer to blend it in with the dressing. Decant and set aside.

3. Add the cooked chicken pieces to the TM bowl and shred for about 3 seconds on reverse speed 4. Remove the shredded chicken into a large bowl. Isn't this just so impressive! 

4. Prepare your carrot with the apple etc. in step 5 below, or for a fussier look you could cut julienne-style or use a spiraliser, and then add to the large bowl with the chicken. 

5. Add the apple, shallot (or red onion) and mint leaves to the TM bowl and chop roughly on speed 4 for 5-6 seconds. Decant and add to the large bowl with the other ingredients. 

6. Shred the baby spinach with a knife or keep whole, add to the other ingredients and pour over the salad dressing. Use your spatula or salad servers to toss the salad to combine all ingredients and dish onto a large serving plate to serve. Sprinkle with cashews (optional) and garnish with a sprig of mint. Enjoy!

variation ideas
  • add red capsicum instead of cherry tomatoes
  • use fresh chilli in place of chilli paste
  • try chopping the baby spinach with the apple, onion and mint at step 5.

no thermomix?
  • Boil or steam chicken fillets on the stovetop & shred using two forks (oh no!)
  • Finely chop the spring onions and lime leaves and combine with the other dressing ingredients for a chunkier style dressing

Find me on Facebook at Mixing it up in HK

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Dark chocolate fruit cake

I have created this recipe now with Christmas in mind, but the inspiration for this cake comes originally from my amazing wedding cake which I had made for the occasion 12 years ago this coming March! It was the perfect combination of mud cake and fruit cake, decorated in a white chocolate ganache and topped with a beautiful arrangement of white chocolate shards and roses . . . and I haven't had anything quite like it since :)  Mud cake has long been a favourite of mine, but I rarely bake it at home purely because it is just too indulgent! My chocolate brownie always hits the spot when I'm in the mood for a rich chocolate, fudgy fix.

This is my own healthy version of a chocolate mud fruit cake, and for me it's the right mix of dark chocolate and fruity fudginess, plus it's not too sweet.  Making it this close to Christmas,  I have added a little mixed spice & the zest of an orange for a more festive feel. It's not too late to add this to your 'To do' list, there's no need to soak the fruit for days ahead :)

Dark chocolate fruit cake

80 raw almonds
100g good quality dark chocolate (or use your own TM made!)
150g organic dried prunes, pitted
150g organic dried dates, pitted
50g butter, chunks or coconut oil
100g goji berries
100g sultanas (or raisins)
100g currants
50g rapadura (or sucanat) or coconut sugar
2 tbsp raw honey
100g Baileys or Kahlua (coffee liquor)
juice of 1 organic orange (plus zest - optional)
3 tbsp raw cacao
3 large eggs
150g white spelt flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
pinch salt

1. If adding orange zest, peel to remove from your organic orange and add to the TM bowl with the almonds and dark chocolate and grind for 15 seconds on speed 7 into a coarse powder. Decant and set aside.
3. Mash prunes and dates at speed 6 for 10-15 seconds.
4. Add butter or coconut oil, goji berries, sultanas, currants, rapadura, raw honey, coffee liqueur (or Brandy), orange juice, raw cacao and salt to the TM bowl and heat the mixture for 8 minutes at 90°C on reverse, speed 1. Stop once to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Allow to cool for about 10 minutes.
5. While the mixture is cooling, preheat oven to 160°C and grease and line a 20cm round or square cake pan (or 4 individual tins 10x10cm square pans).
6. Add eggs, spelt flour, baking powder, bicarb and return ground nuts and dark chocolate to the TM bowl. Also add ½ tsp mixed spice here for a Christmas cake. Mix with the aid of the spatula for approx 20 seconds on reverse, speed 3-4. You will collapse the structure of the dried fruit if you mix at a higher speed. If you prefer to blend the fruit, this is an option.
7. Carefully pour the mixture in the prepared pan and bake for 35-40 mins or until darkened on the edges and a skewer comes out clean. Allow to sit in the cake pan for a few minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

no Thermomix?
Zest the orange using a grater, chop the dried fruits by hand or use a food processor and cook the liquor with the fruits etc. (step 4) on the stovetop.

  • for more of a festive flavour add 1/2 tsp mixed spice and the zest of a whole orange. You could also use brandy instead of coffee liquor
  • this recipe also works well as individual cakes to package for xmas gifts. Keep it simple and decorate with a wide Christmas ribbon :)
  • you could easily make this cake gluten-free by using a gluten-free flour in place of the spelt flour.
  • for a grain-free cake, try using coconut flour in place of the spelt flour. In theory, it should work well as a substitute in this type of recipe. I'll be giving it a try next time!

update Dec 24, 2015
Grain-free (gluten-free) success! . . .Simply make these alterations:
- increase baking powder and bicarb to 1 tsp of each
- add 1 flax egg (1 tbsp ground flaxseeds + 3 tbsp water)
- in place of the spelt flour use 50g coconut flour + 50g tapioca or arrowroot flour
- I also reduced the sweetener this year and used 30g coconut sugar + a little stevia powder and only 1 tbsp of raw honey :)

Monday, 10 December 2012

Gingerbread cookies

The festive season is upon us . . . doesn't it come around so quickly! Right on schedule my girls have been asking for gingerbread biscuits or 'cookies', depending on your inclination . . but we've already had this discussion here :) This is our second batch for the month as they're a popular addition to the lunchbox as well as a hit with playdates! It's always a fun activity to get out the cookies to decorate as an after school activity :) 

We do tend to associate this recipe with Christmas, but I have been known to make them at other times of the year. I developed this recipe a few years back and have now not only adapted it for the TM, but I also mill whole grains for the recipe rather than purchase ready-made flour. This does give a slight grainy texture to the cookies which my girls are very used too, but if you are only in the early days of experimenting with 'healthier versions' on your children, you might like to start with half white, half whole grain flour. This recipe is inherently higher in dietary fibre due to the wholegrains and also lower in sugar than most gingerbread recipes. There is the option to grind your own cinnamon and cloves too if you purchase them whole these days. 

I use blackstrap molasses in this recipe which imparts a robust flavour as well as a deep brown pigmentation to the gingerbread. Molasses is the dark sticky syrup which is removed from cane sugar during the process of making refined white sugar. It is also a very good source of iron, calcium and a variety of other minerals. If you prefer a lighter-style gingerbread, golden syrup also works very well, or try half and half. Have fun!

Gingerbread cookies (oat & spelt)
makes 3 dozen medium-size cookies

150g whole oats
350g whole spelt grains (or use wholegrain spelt flour)
100g unsalted butter, cut into chunks
100g rapadura (sucanat) or raw caster sugar
170g unsulphured blackstrap molasses (or golden syrup)
1 large egg
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
1 1/2 tsp ground dried ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon (or 2 cinnamon quills)
1/4 tsp ground cloves (3 whole cloves)
1/4 tsp salt 

Add whole oats and spelt grains to the TM bowl and grind into flour on speed 9 for 2 minutes. Decant the flour and set aside. You could also grind your own whole cinnamon and cloves at this step.

Add the butter, molasses and sucanat to the TM bowl and mix together for 1-2 minutes at 60°on speed 2 or until the butter has melted. If you don't have unsalted butter, use salted butter and omit the 1/4 tsp salt. Add the egg and bicarb soda and mix on speed 3 for 10 seconds

Return the oat and spelt flour to the TM bowl with the ground ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt - I like to use Himalayan salt, which is pure, uncontaminated and unrefined. 

Set the lid to closed position and combine on interval speed for 30 seconds or until the ingredients just come together to form a stiff yet slightly sticky dough. You may need to add more flour here if your mixture is too sticky, particularly if you are using white spelt in place of wholegrain spelt. 

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface (or your Thermomat), then use Turbo pulse 1-2 times to clear any dough from under the blade. Shape the dough into a smooth disc and wrap up inside your Thermomat (or cover in plastic wrap) and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Don't be concerned that the dough is sticky, it will stiffen in the fridge. 

Preheat fan forced oven to 180°C. Roll out the dough to approximately 6mm thickness. Cut into your shapes of preference and place on lined baking trays. Press the dough scraps together and roll out again. My girls love to get involved here . . . we have accumulated a beautiful collection of cookie cutters over the years :)

Bake 10-12 minutes or until the cookies begin to brown a little on the edges. Cool slightly on the trays before transferring to a cooling rack. 

Once your cookies are cool, decorate with homemade royal icing if you like. I make my own icing sugar from raw sugar, hence the off-white colour of the icing which gives a lovely rustic, homemade touch to the cookies and sure beats loading my children up with corn syrup, artificial flavours, colours and an assortment of other additives you'll find in the commercial ready-made stuff! I use a piping bag with a small tip, but you could easily pop some icing in a small ziplock bag, cut of the very tip and let little fingers do the decorating :)

  • As mentioned above, for a lighter coloured cookie without the robust flavour of molasses, use golden syrup or half & half
  • Use half white spelt flour and half wholegrain flour
  • Use 100g of whole raw almonds in place of 100g wholegrain spelt if there are no nut allergies in your family
  • I used this combination for the dry ingredients recently, which worked really well. Simply grind the almonds, spelt grains and oats first, set aside and return to the TM bowl with the white spelt flour at step 3. 
    • 100g raw almonds
    • 200g spelt grains
    • 100g whole oats
    • 200g white spelt flour