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I have reached a new understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As if they don’t have enough problems to contend with there appears to be some dispute over who “owns” falafels.  Even if peace is one day brought to the region this is something I fear they will never reach an agreement on. Because who could deny the desire to call the falafel your own?

The main feature of the picnic foods I made this weekend for Tropfest, the world’s largest short film festival helf here in Sydney, Australia, the falafels had to fit my rules. I could not fry them (frying falafels in oil is traditionally the way to make them but for health and smoke detector reasons I decided baking was my only option) and I could not use a food processor to make them.

Disappointingly I found it difficult to find a recipe that fit both of these requirements. In fact I found one recipe where in the blog comments foodies argued over whether they could actually be made without a food processor with one clever reader pointing out that falafels were being made long before the advent of the food processor. Oddly the food processor advocates won out.

I eventually found this recipe from a blogger in Utah, USA called Kalyn whom I have to thank for saving the day with her recipe and dipping sauce combo. I’m not cure what her take on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict might be. I adjusted here and there (Kalyn is blessed with a food processor it would seem) and tada! Falafels for the Tropfest picnic.

Ingredients

Makes 12 falafel

Two 400g cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
Half chopped red onion
One chopped spring onion
Bunch of fresh continental parsley, chopped
Bunch of fresh coriander, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, minced
½ tablespoon of ground cumin
½ tablespoon baking powder
4 tablespoons whole wheat flour
Olive oil spray

Recipe

  1. Place rinsed chickpeas on clean towel, fold towel over top and rub gently. When you remove the towel you should see the little chickpea skins have loosened or come off. Remove the skins. This makes them easier to mash and more likely to stick together once you need to bake them.
  2. Mash chickpeas with potato masher until the consistency of a crunchy peanut butter. (see picture)

    Mushed up chickpeas

  3. Add all other ingredients to the mix and stir with fork until well combined. It should have the consistency of a dough for scones (not as smooth as cake dough). Check that you can easily form the dough into balls.
  4. Place in sealed container and chill in fridge for a few hours.
  5. Pre-heat oven to 200 degrees Celscius. Place flat baking tray with baking paper sprayed with olive oil in over to warm.
  6. Shape chilled dough into balls and gently flatten with the palm of your hand until about an inch thick.

    Ready to pop in the oven

  7. Place on warmed tray in oven. Cook for 12 minutes and then turn for even cooking/browning.
  8. Once browned (but not burnt!) remove from oven to cool.
  9. Serve with dipping sauce (see below)

Crunchy outside, soft inside

Dipping Sauce

Ingredients

  • 200grams Greek style yoghurt
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Juice from one lemon
  • 1/2 cup of tahini
  • 1 teaspoon of cumin
  • Salt to taste
  • Water to thin

Recipe

  1. Mix together all ingredients adding enough water for desired thickness.
  2. Serve with falafel.

Dipping sauce

Minted Fruit Salad

My balcony herbs are out of control. I went out there the other day and couldn’t work our what to do with all of that mint. It is spilling out of the pot. I never have any success with gardening up until now when I think I’m having a little too much success with the mint. While at first I was tempted to make a few too many mojitos (I am still considering this option) I decided a fruit salad on a hot summer day was probably more appropriate. The minty flavour makes the fruit taste just that little bit more refreshing. And in 35 degree Sydney heat, you need refreshing.

My balcony mint

Ingredients

Two kiwi fruit, peeled and cut into chunks
Two bananas, peeled and cut into chunks
One green apple, cored and cut into chunks
One punnet of strawberries, halved
2/3 cup orange juice
Handful of chopped mint

Recipe

1.    Mix together chopped mint and orange juice in medium bowl.
2.    Cut bananas and apple first immediately placing them in juice to avoid browning.
3.    Add other fruit chunks and stir.
4.    Can be stored in the fridge ready for a picnic!

I have discovered a new rule to life. It is: You can never have too much guacamole at a picnic. Think about it, you never get to the end of a group picnic and hear someone say, “Oh my goodness, what on earth are we going to do with all of this excess guacamole?” And if you do know anyone that faces this problem, introduce me to them an they’ll never experience it again. Its the ultimate dip, delicious and chunky and perfect. And the best thing about it is it is so easy to make. So here is a very very easy guacamole recipe that I think could work for 4-6 people.

Ingredients

Two ripe avocadoes
One vine-ripened tomato chopped into small pieced
Half a large red onion chopped into small pieces
Juice from one lime
Salt to taste (chilli salt is best)

Recipe

1.    Cut avocado in half removing seed. Slice each avocado while still in skin without piercing the skin and remove with spoon into medium sized bowl.
2.    Mash avocado with fork slowly mixing in juice of lime. The more juice you add the easier it becomes to mash.
3.    Add the chopped tomato and red onion. Stir through.
4.    Add salt to taste.

Hi my name’s Erin and I’m a Persian fetta addict. It began three years ago in Bangladesh, where delicious reminders of the food luxuries of home are few and far between. After over a year of having no good cheeses available they had almost escaped my diet altogether. But then a very large fancy hotel opened near my apartment and besides the icecream, prawn salads, buffet lunches and glasses of wine I discovered, much to my delight, that they sold Persian fetta. I would buy it in small lunch boxes and take it home to eat guiltily. Not small portions either and often on its own. And alone (like any addict I didn’t need the company of other to enjoy my vice). Its so smooth and salty and I can’t think of a food that is whiter.

When I returned to Australia I found Persian fetta at the grocery store, floating around being marinated in olive oil and pepper corns. If you whip it up it becomes the perfect creamy dressing or spread. Which led to my now, “I can’t be bothered cooking anything” staple. Until I find Persian fetta-holics anonymous, I plan to continue this love affair.

Ingredients

Sliced sour dough
Persian fetta (when sitting in olive oil it makes an easier spread)
Sliced tomatoes (kumatoes are brilliant)
Drained capers
Black pepper to taste

Recipe

1.    Toast sour dough.
2.    Loosen Persian fetta by crushing and mixing with a fork (add olive oil for smoother spread). Spread as thick as you like on toasted sour dough.
3.    Top with sliced tomatoes, drained capers and black pepper. Eat up and then, if you an addict like me, make more!

Really Easy Veggie Curry

I have been wanting to try out the new curry paste since making it and now that I’ve been launched back into uni and the busy-ness is setting in I have excuses for very simple dishes. I’m always amazed that some people seem to think making curry is difficult. It isn’t. In fact its almost fool proof. I say ‘almost’ because I once served a very unfortunate vegetarian guest and an unsuspecting couple a vegetarian curry that was so hot we couldn’t get through a sentence without coughing. It was a dinner party disaster that was not made any better by us serving crumbling flavourless vegetarian and gluten free balls of muck as entree. Once again, amateur cook = mistakes.

So here is something it is almost impossible to stuff up and is gloriously cheap and simple to make.

Serves 2-4. Vegetarian.

Ingredients

2 tables spoons of curry paste (you can make your own or buy one, Patak’s Tikka Masala or Rogan Josh are great)
Assorted veggies (I used a carrot, a zucchini, two tomatoes, a large potato, and two small onions because that’s what I had. Also great in curries is eggplant, capsicum,  and okra)
1 small can of coconut milk
1 can of chickpeas
1 bay leaf
Salt to taste
You can also add (and I have in the past to good effect), spicy mango chutney, chopped chilli, and any meat you like.

Recipe

1.    Cut up vegetables into bite-sized chunks and put in medium saucepan with bay leaf. For tomatoes, leave slightly larger as they will reduce significantly in size as they cook.
2.    Stir through 1-2 table spoons of curry paste.
3.    Pour over coconut milk.
4.    Almost cover with water.
5.    Heat on high heat and once bubbling reduce to low.  Keep returning to the pot to stir every few minutes. Mixture will slowly reduce becoming creamier. The longer you cook the more flavoursome and tender everything will be.  Cook for at least 45 minutes and up to 2.5 hours.
6.    Serve with brown rice. Curry always tastes better the day after so don’t forget to save some for lunch!

I hate it when I see a good recipe and then realise I need a food processor for it. I don’t have a food processor. I did not grow up in a household with a food processor. I believe that with two arms and  knife I should be able to do the job of a machine that would take up space I can’t afford to give up in this kitchen. That’s why when reading a recent post in Stone Soup (a place where recipes for people like me can always be found) that called for pesto and then gave me the recipe for a pesto I didn’t need a food processor for I was a little more than happy. Bravo for keeping my kitchen gizmo count down.

The other great thing about this recipe is it gave me the opportunity to try some of my new herb garden which has been happily growing on my balcony for the past fortnight. With the help of some worms, hay and labour from a friend I now have a bunch of herbs begging to be made into something delicious. This pesto will be my first chance to enjoy the fruits of my labour (or rather a friend’s labour but what the heck?).

Balcony Basil

Ingredients

Bunch of basil leaves
Handful of pine nuts
Extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic chopped
Two handfuls of finely grated parmesan cheese

Recipe

Makes one jar

1.    Wash and dry basil leaves then put in a sandwich bag and pound with a meat mallet. This bruises the basil and gets it releasing all its juices.
2.    Put basil, garlic and pine nuts on chopping board. Chop and mix together until it is all in little bits. Put in small mixing bowl.
3.    Slowly add extra virgin olive oil while stirring with a fork until the mixture is a little like a paste (be liberal with the oil).
4.    Add the parmesan cheese and mix through adding more extra virgin olive f needed. Add salt and black pepper to taste.
5.    Store in sterilized jar with oil over top if storing in fridge/freezer.

Tasty Curry Pasty

My aunty reminded me the other day of what a fussy eater I was as a child. My claim to fussy fame was that despite my mother being from a part of the world that is known for delicious curries and my father being one of the best curry makers around whenever we were served curry at home and would go to the sink and attempt to wash off every last bit of flavouring from the meat. I feel shame just writing that. Making this curry paste is part of my pathway to redemption.

Ingredients

½ cup white vinegar
1/3 cup peanut oil
2 hot red chillies, deseeded, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1/3 cup ground cumin
1/3 cup ground coriander
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard
1 tablespoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

Recipe

Makes one jar.

Combine everything and mix together well! Very easy I know. To store in the freezer after putting into jar pour a little peanut oil on top. When you need to use it. Take it and put it in the fridge the morning before you want to cook with it. Will store for about 4 months.

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