Roasted Beetroot & Lentil Salad

Ingredients

4 baby beetroot

100 gr swiss brown mushrooms, halved

1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

1 cup (200gr) French style fine green lentils

1 cup (50gr) baby spinach leaves

half a cup loosely packed fresh flat parley leaves

Seeds from one Pomegranate

Chopped Hazelnuts for garnish

Balsamic & Herb Dressing

2tbsp balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp pure maple syrup

1 tbsp fresh chives, coarsely chopped

Preheat oven to 200C (400 F)

Trim beetroot, leaving 5cm of stems attached, reserving half the trimmed leaves for the salad. Wash and drain well. Wrap beetroot individually in foil, place in a small baking dish, Roast for about 30 minutes or until tender.

Combine mushrooms and oil in a small bowl, add to baking dish for the last 5 minutes of beetroot cooking time.

Meanwhile, cook lentils in a medium saucepan of boiling water, about 25 minutes or until tender, Drain.

When beets are cool enough to handle, peel them, then cut into quarters or halves.

To make the balsamic and herb dressing, place ingredients in a screw top jar, season to taste and shake well.

Combine beetroot, mushrooms, lentils, pomegranate seeds, reserved beetroot leaves and parsley with the dressing in a large bowl, toss well to combine.

Serves two

 

RENT MY BRAIN…THE SOLUTION

 

ALWAYS CONSIDER THIS FIRST IN COOKING…

WHEN IT COMES TO EATING HEALTHFULLY AND PREPARING NUTRITIOUS MEALS, THE MOST IMPORTANT ELEMENT IS FLAVOUR. IF THE FOOD DOESN’T TASTE GOOD, WHY EAT IT?

Good cooking, be it healthy or not, is all about getting maximum flavour from the dishes we make. Because, let’s face it, the health benefits of certain foods alone are not always enough to keep us coming back for more. We want to enjoy our food, too.

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When you develop great flavours at every step in the process, you can change tasteless, colourless, “healthy” food into dishes that showcase colour, texture, and aroma. Making a dish flavourful and interesting can be as simple as introducing a new ingredient or cooking technique. Ruby red pomegranate seeds, deep purple eggplant, brilliant orange scallopini and pumpkins, vibrant greens, and a rainbow of chillies are just a few of the exciting foods that can add intense flavour and flair to everyday meals.

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THE IMPORTANCE OF FLAVOUR

Flavour is nothing if not subjective. What one person thinks is delicious another considers anything but, and what you perceive as much too salty or spicy may be “just right” to some one else.

Despite our tendency to keep flavour and nutrition separate, they are inextricably linked. Sweet foods like fruits and honey supply calories and energy. Savoury foods tend to be good sources of protein, vital for growth and development. Tart and sour foods are often rich in vitamins essential to good overall health.

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Flavour is composed of many elements, which makes it distinct in some ways from the related term, taste. Taste has to do with specific sensory experiences of food that occur primarily in the moth, like sweet, sour, salty, bitter, unami ( a Japanese word that means “deliciousness”), and possibly others, whereas flavour includes our total sensory experience: taste, smell, texture, appearance, and touch.

DEVELOPING FLAVOUR

While every cook is limited by a variety of factors, including the seasons, ingredients, and cost, it is in the act of cooking that you take control of flavour. With a few basic kitchen skills, you can turn ordinary or inexpensive ingredients into something fabulous.

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Cooking Technique

One of the greatest opportunities you have for influencing flavour is through the cooking technique you select. Heat alters the chemical structure of food, breaking down cell walls, releasing flavour compounds and nutrients, and making the food more tender. Dry heat cooking techniques let you reach temperatures let you reach temperatures higher than you can with moist heat methods, and these higher temperature allow foods to brown and develop a crust. Moist heat cooking methods are typically gentler, and because the foods do not brown, their flavours tend to be simpler and more pure. For example, consider the difference between grilled or roasted (dry heat) salmon and poached (moist heat).

Texture

A food’s texture affects how its flavour is perceived as well. A silky smooth bisque and a chunky chowder may have many of the same ingredients, but the pureed soup’s flavour may be subtler than the shower’s, where each ingredient remains distinct.

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Temperature

Even temperature can be used to add an unexpected element to a dish. Very hot and very cold foods tend to have less discernible flavours. Foods like ice-cream, cheese, and fruit have more developed flavours if they have been allowed to sit at room temperature for awhile. At the other end of the spectrum, piping hot foods and beverages can deaden the palate. An interesting contrast can be created in a meal when hot and cold foods are served together.

USING SEASONINGS AND FLAVOURINGS

The way you choose and use seasoning and flavouring ingredients determines the ultimate flavour of the dish. Some flavouring ingredients don’t require any special monitoring, toasted or freshly ground spices and chillies add rich smoky flavours without introducing sodium or fat, and fresh herbs and aromatics like garlic, lemongrass, ginger, and lime juice add flavour but not calories.. On the other hand, high sodium foods such as salt, capers, anchovies, and olives do call for strict measuring and proper handling. Sometimes you can rinse or soak salty foods to reduce their level of sodium. In addition, you can often find  low or reduced sodium versions of salty condiments like soy or tamarin sauce. salt itself should always be used properly and with care.

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RECIPE FOR SUCCESS

To prepare appetising and healthy meals at home, select high quality ingredients, consider your cooking method, and always put flavour first. Here’s to happy, healthy eating!

 

RENT MY BRAIN…THE SOLUTION

 

MAKING MEATLESS MEALS

Some of you may know me and you might be asking yourself, Why would he be writing about vegetarian dishes? I’m not, really.

We all know the health benefits of eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins; however, this isn’t about that either. Instead, I want to talk about the idea of truly celebrating seasonal foods and not missing what’s not on the plate.

“INTERESTED I AM”

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In the not so distant past, walking the produce section of most grocery stores revealed the usual suspects with very few new or different choices. We consumed the same handful of vegetables and fruits day after day. Today, though, we have stores bursting with product: tropical fruits with names we can’t pronounce, Asian greens and herbs we’ve never imagined, local and seasonal heirloom varieties we haven’t seen since those summers at our grandparents houses and numerous farmers markets scattered around almost every city. We are fortunate to have the communities of farmers and growers providing us with these choices in the greater area of the Whitsundays, and I am sure in your area’s as well.

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And the grains! Next time you’re at the supermarket, or at The Prickly Pineapple, walk through the grain section and buy a grain you’ve never tasted or haven’t thought of since that great dinner at a high end restaurant.

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Grains are high in protein, a great source of finer and nutrients and have a nutty flavour and satisfying bite. Several popular grain combinations can provide a sensory satisfying and nutrient dense component to a meatless meal, quinoa and kasha, barley and brown rice, wheat berries and wild rice, to name a few.

And, OK…. meat is great. I love meat and seafood and all types of tasty animal parts, but sometimes the idea of buying, cooking and eating meat just seems a little overwhelming to me, yes I know, you probably think Rod, what are you saying! Besides, celebrating fresh, seasonal artichokes or asparagus or summer scallopini’s and tomatoes or pumpkin or fave beans is fun!

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An easy way to have satisfying, meatless meal is to break it up into courses. Make a small portion of a light risotto or pasta with little sweet tomatoes, mint and grated local sheep’s milk cheese. For a second course, think quick braised okra and tomatoes with quinoa and kasha. And finish the meal with fresh figs, local honey, toasted pecans and some more of the local sheep’s milk cheese.

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Use what’s available. too many times, meatless meals are an afterthought for the people eating or preparing them. Meatless meals shouldn’t be a plate of all the other vegetable dishes offered at a restaurant or an all too well known preparation replacing the chicken with tofu.

The idea is to shop with a few things in mind: what’s fresh, what looks good and what sounds good. Buy fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains; don’t be afraid to experiment and combine different textures and temperatures. Celebrate the foods you love when they’re in season, and avoid them out of season.With the abundance of product and the amount of information available to us, enjoying seasonal produce and grains is easier than ever.

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I hope you’ll experiment with a few meatless meals a week, a month or even, baby steps, a few times a year.

ENJOY

 

RENT MY BRAIN…THE SOLUTION

 

 

ROLL WITH IT

No cook springs rolls turn dinner into a work of art

Soak a fistful of thin noodles in boiling water for a few minutes until softened, then rinse under cold water until chilled. Fill a baking dish with warm water and soak the round rice paper wrappers until just pliable but not limp, about 20 seconds.

Lay one flat on a cutting board and fill it with some rice noodles and whatever vegetables, herbs and leftover meats you have in the fridge, think rotisserie chicken, carrot matchsticks, julienne peppers and cucumber, sliced avocado, fresh mint, coriander and basil.

Then comes the fun part: Tuck in the ends and wrap them into tight cylinders like burritos. Lastly, whisk together this Simple Ponzu Sauce.

SIMPLE PONZU SAUCE

Combine 1 TBS sugar,  1 TBS warm water in a small bowl, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Stir in 1 TBS fresh lime juice, 1 TBS mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine), 1 TBS soy sauce and 1 TBS unseasoned rice vinegar

 

RENT MY BRAIN…THE SOLUTION

CELERY & FENNEL SALAD

THIS HAS TO ONE OF MY FAVOURITES

To cook vegetables (and I don’t mean vegetarian), you really have to up your creative game to get people interested. you have to learn a whole new set of techniques. It doesn’t mean that other people can’t learn it, but it is starting from the basics again. You know when you’re growing up and someone is teaching you how to cook, or you’re learning through a cookbook, they’re really teaching you how to cook meat, they’re not teaching you how to cook vegetables.

To be a Chef, or a person that just loves bloody good food, you have to be creative, try not to have boundaries, just have that creative mind and the knowledge for the five senses. 

Celery & Fennel Salad

12 grams pumpernickel (remove crusts and cut into small dice)

Vegetable oil for frying pumpernickel

140 grams celery (about 4 stalks), string removed, sliced 1cm thick

140 grams fennel sliced 1cm thick, parallel to the base

15 grams extra virgin olive oil

Lemon juice as needed

Celery leaves, as needed

Fennel fronds, as needed

Small block of King Island Blue Cheese, Frozen Hard

  • Heat 3 cm of oil in a very small pot to about 130. Slowly fry the pumpernickel cubes until darkened and crispy, about 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon to paper towels and reserve.
  • Option 1; If you have a vacuum sealer, combine the sliced celery and fennel in a bag with a couple pinches of Maldon salt and seal at maximum vacuum. When ready to serve, transfer from bag to a bowl.
  • Option 2; Combine the sliced celery, sliced fennel, olive oil, and a couple of pinches of Maldon salt in a bowl.
  • Toss with lemon juice to taste and add more salt as needed.
  • To serve, divide the salad onto 4 chilled plates. Distribute the croutons and garnish with the celery and fennel leaves. Immediately before serving, remove the blue cheese from the freezer and shave a few paper thin slices over each salad, using a mandolin or a vegetable peeler.

If you happen to have access to a vacuum sealer compressing the celery and fennel gives a great texture and translucent appearance. If not, you can definitely skip it. Or if you have time, cut the vegetables and then freeze them the day before you want to serve, then thaw them an hour ahead of time, pat dry with paper towels, and then put them in the fridge to firm back again. In the freezer, ice crystals will rupture the cell walls, producing an effect somewhat similar to compression.

If you want to add one more component, a few pickled grapes would be really good I think. You could also replace or supplement the pumpernickel with toasted (or lightly candied) walnuts or pecans.

 

RENT MY BRAIN…THE SOLUTION

Making Artisan Bread at Home

YES, YOU CAN

Bread baking, like life, can be done simply or elaborately. You can make bread with a few basic ingredients and without a lot of gadgetry. And you don’t have to be an expert to do to. Anyone can make fine artisan breads at home, all it takes is the knowledge of ingredients, equipment, and techniques. Most home bakers don’t have a fancy brick oven, and many people get nervous at the mere mention of the word “yes at”. Not to worry; it isn’t as scary as you think. For one thing, commercial yeast is easier than ever to use. Thanks to the development of instant dry yeast, you can blend the yeast granules with the flour you are using without having to proof it first. A big plus.

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If you think baking bread will be hard to fit into your schedule, there are several ways to save time. Many doughs, such as pizza and sweet rolls, benefit from being mixed the night before and allowed to slowly rise in the fridge over night. Or, if you prepare a dough that doesn’t require a prolonged resting period, you can pull a crusty, satisfying loaf out of the oven in a few hours.

Perhaps you’ve found the time to bake bread by using a bread by using a bread machine (there’s no shame in that), but now you’re to take the next step. or you used to bake bread and want to get back into it again. Now’s the time! To get you started, here are some hints.

PREPARATION IS EVERYTHING

Before you do anything, read the recipe so you’re sure you understand the ingredients you need and the techniques and the timetable you are to follow. Next, get out your thermometer. By using a thermometer, you’ll be able to make sure your ingredients are at the correct temperature needed to provide the right environment for the yeast. The best way to ensure this is to control the temperature of your liquid and have the rest of your ingredients at room temperature. So, for example, if you store your flour in the freezer, be sure to take it out ahead of time.

BREAK OUT THE SCALE

Many home bakers rely on measuring cups to portion out their recipe ingredients by volume. It’s probably what you were taught to do, and it may seem to work well enough. Professional bakers, however, are always looking for consistent results and they search for ways to control the end product. knowing that the amount of flour in a measuring cup can and does vary (due to humidity, settling, how and when the flour was milled, the type of cup being used, and the way the cup was filled), professional bakes remove those variables by weighing their ingredients. Scales simply provide a more accurate measurement. If you don’t have a scale or aren’t ready to give up your measuring cups, that’s not a problem – I will provide volume measurements in my recipes for you.

GET A RISE OUT OF YOUR YEAST

There are several types of yeast available, but I recommend using instant dry yeast. It comes in packets or in bulk, and does not require proofing in warm water before you use it. You simply mix it with flour before adding other ingredients. Instant dry yeast is often labeled as “Bread Machine Yeast” or “Rapid Rise.” If the label isn’t clear, check the instructions for how to use the yeast granules with the dry ingredients, you’ve found the right yeast. Unlike “active” dry yeast, instant dry yeast will not make your bread turn gummy.mtmxntk2mdewndm3nzg5nza2

MIX IT UP

As you mix bread dough, there are several goals you need to keep in mind. Of course, you’re trying to combine the ingredients into a homogenous mass, but that’s not all. Proper mixing ensures that the flour absorbs the liquid appropriately and distributes the yeast uniformly. The right mixing technique will incorporate air and develop the gluten (or structure of the bread), resulting in bread with good volume and a good internal structure. So what is the right mixing technique? Different types of breads rely on different methods. Some call for short mixing periods, while others insist on longer mixing – it all depends on the level of gluten development needed. Read your recipe throughly and mix your dough according to the specified directions.

GIVE IT A REST

Once you have mixed the dough, consider the environment in which you’re placing it for the fermentation stage _ the period when the yeast goes to work and the dough rests and expands. If it’s a cold winter day and the temperature of your dough is cooler than expected, try to put it in a warm area, say, on top of a preheating oven or on top of your fridge. Check the dough periodically and move it if it gets too warm. In the summer, if you’re in a hot kitchen, you may want to try affecting the outcome before you mix the dough – make your water slightly cooler than directed to compensate for the ambient heat.

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IT’S ALL IN THE FOLD

If folding sounds new to you, perhaps it’s because in the past you’ve “punched down” or “deflated” your bread dough, or heard others describe it this way. Pummeling your dough is too rough a treatment, so please resist the urge. Why fold your dough? Because folding is just as important as mixing for the structure of the bread. Through proper folding, you redistribute the yeast, which allows it to continue to do its thing – create great bread. Here’s how you fold: gently stretch the dough to elongate it, then fold it into thirds like a sheet or a towel, making sure to dust off any flour on the dough as you go ( you don’t want raw flour added to your dough). Finally, cover your dough and watch the clock until it’s time for the next step.

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TURN UP THE HEAT

It’s wise to preheat your oven from 25 to 50 degrees higher than the temperature at which you intend to bake. Here’s why: when you open the oven door to load your bread, it can take a minute or two to get it in there, and a considerable amount of heat is lost while the oven door is open. Preheating at a higher temperature can compensate for this loss of heat. Once the bread is in and the oven door is closed, you can adjust the controls to lower the baking temperature and your oven will be at the right temperature from the start. But before you even get to the baking part, it helps to know your oven. If you haven’t already, read the manual to see how it works, and use an oven thermometer to test for hot spots. If something seems off, have a professional service the oven.

BRING ON THE STEAM

Some bread recipes instruct you to steam the bread once it’s in the oven. You may wonder whether you really need to do this, especially if – like most home bakers – you do not have a steam injected oven. Steam, in the early stages of baking, helps prevent the crust from forming too early, therefore allowing the bread to rise as high as it can. Steam also makes for a better quality crust that is thin, crisp, and glossy.

It’s easy to get steam into a regular oven: select a cast iron skillet or an old cookie sheet that you don’t mind warping. Fill it halfway with water and place it in the bottom of the oven while you are preheating, or for about 10 minutes before you plan to bake. This will produce steam when you need it. Using ice cubes by throwing them into a hot pan just as you put the bread in, I do not recommended. They don’t melt fast enough to produce the steam you need for proper “oven spring”

KEEP YOUR COOL

When your bread comes out of the oven, remove it from the pan or baking tray and place it on a cooling rack. This allows for proper airflow, lets the crust set up properly, and prevents the bottom of the loaf from getting soggy after contact with a solid surface. Cooling is an important step, so resist the temptation to tear right into the warm loaf of bread you just baked. A cooled loaf of bread will keep its shape and the crust will look good, just as it does in a professional bakery.

You now have the keys to making quality artisan bread at home. Remember to enjoy the experience, share it with others, and bake often!

RENT MY BRAIN…THE SOLUTION

Dry Aged Beef Hamburgers

The hamburger may well have European origins, but it took the Americans to see the potential of this “companionable and faintly erotic” chunk of seasoned beef as comfort food extraordinaire; the personification of “the Great Mother herself … the nipple of the Goddess, the beautiful belly-ball of Eve” as Tom Robbins so neatly puts it. 

Even if you tuck into cheese and caviar every weekend, I bet the scent of grilling burgers still gets you all around the the BBQ. It’s that primal, charred, slightly crunchy exterior, the soft, juiciness within – and of course, that perfect combination of topping, chosen in childhood and sacred ever after.

Burgers may be fast food, but they’re also a craft. There are clubs devoted to the cult of the perfect party, endless articles devoted to the 20 examples you must “try before you die”and every month, a new, and usually outlandish variation on the theme, from 200 gram hunks of foie gras to doughnut buns. But I am interested in taking the burger back to basics, with a classic beef number suitable for cooking on the barbecue, or a hot griddle pan.

THE BEEF

After a little experimentation, I realised that there is no place for lean, or finely ground beef in a burger – both produce a dry,  crumbly patty unworthy of the name. The best formula in my view would be like 40% fat, YES truly that much – otherwise it would not be moist!dsc_1698

Although you’ll probably struggle to find that high a fat content, avoid anything marked as lean, prime steak cuts like rump;  I recommend a 2:1:1 combination of chuck, short rib and brisket, but in my experience, plain old chuck will do nicely. Ideally of course, you would mince your beef yourself, but, if you have neither the time, nor the appropriate food processor attachment, then ask your butcher to do it for you, a course mince gives the best texture.

THE PURE BURGER

In its simplest form, the burger is nothing but minced beef and seasoning. Don from Master Butchers Whitsunday, (The Sausage King) unknownwanted something different for these Dry Aged burgers, so we came up with a recipe, we caramelised onions, shallots, garlic, palm sugar for two hours, then added them to our minced Dry Aged Beef, and a winner we ended up with. They are juicy and full of life, and do not take my word for it get down to the butchers and try some and let us know what you think!

 

I took them home and cooked them on the Barbie, added our own little touches to them and it was heaven, biting into it. They are completely gluten free and preservative free, this is great for all of the gluten free people out there. But in my view it has to have the good old bun to go with it, but for all you GF people, just toast some GF bread and you will be able to have these beauties.

 

 

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What goes into your perfect hamburger, and what goes on top, I would leave that up to you. Is beef still the best for burgers, and where serves the best in the world?

Master Butchers Whitsunday

42 Stewart Dr, Cannonvale QLD 4802 Phone 07 4946 6753

 

RENT MY BRAIN…THE SOLUTION