Labne (Marinated Yoghurt Cheese Balls)

You can make your own cheese at home. It’s easy and so delicious. You have to be patient as it takes a few days but it is so worth it. There are so many ways you can use these cheese balls… on a cheese platter or in stirred into soups and sauces, it adds a tangy creaminess. And it’s thick and rich enough to use in place of sour cream as a topping or in recipes. You will need to use full cream yoghurt for this recipe… low fat is not suitable.

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Ingredients

  • 1.5kg thick Greek yoghurt
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 sprigs oregano
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 cups (500ml) extra virgin olive oil

Preparation

  • Place yoghurt in a bowl with 2 teaspoons sea salt and stir to combine.
  • Lay muslin (double layer) in a large strainer, place yoghurt in centre, then gather up muslin sides and cover the top.
  • Place the strainer over a bowl. Leave to drain in the fridge for 3 days.
  • Discard the whey that has drained out, remove yoghurt to a bowl and discard muslin.
  • Roll yoghurt into walnut sized balls, place on a baking tray and refrigerate for an hour to dry out.
  • Place in a sterilised preserving jar with herbs and garlic, cover with oil and seal. Leave to marinate for 24 hours.
  • Keep for up to 1 week.

Notes:

  • A clean chux can be used instead of muslin.
  • Fresh herbs and/or cracked pepper can be added to the yoghurt before placing in the muslin.
  • Placing a small plate on top of the yoghurt in muslin and placing a tin on top  aids in draining the yoghurt.
  • The yoghurt balls can be rolled in zatar before placing in the jar and covering with olive oil.
  • Try adding different ingredients to the oil i:e lemon peel, chillis, peppercorns.

 

 

 

Marsala and Cinnamon Poached Pears

Poached pears are delicious and the marsala and cinnamon in this recipe really complement the fruit. This dish can be made well in advance.

poached pear

 

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 2 cups marsala
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 firm pears, peeled
  • 2 large slices of lemon peel

Preparation

  • Add pears and lemon peel to a bowl and pour over marsala. Let the pears steep in the marsala for at least half an hour.
  • Combine marsala, sugar, cinnamon, lemon peel and 2 cups of cold water in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir for four minutes or until sugar dissolves. Add the pears to the pan. Cover. Increase the heat to medium-high. Bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 30 minutes or until pears are just tender, turning halfway through cooking.
  • Carefully transfer pears to a heatproof dish. Bring syrup to the boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 15 to 20 minutes or until slightly thickened. Pour syrup over pears. Stand for 30 minutes. Serve pears with syrup and ice cream or cream.

Easy Peasy Mashed Potatoes

Who doesn’t love fluffy mashed potatoes? There are some tips and tricks to get them just right with a minimum of fuss. It’s worth investing in a potato ricer. You can pick one up for about $20.00 in most kitchen shops. Steaming the potatoes gives them a better consistency. You will need a large saucepan with steamer insert for this method.

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Ingredients

  • 800 grams potatoes
  • 50 grams butter
  • 1/3 cup cream
  • salt and white pepper

Preparation

  • Cut potatoes in half.
  • Add water to a saucepan.
  • Insert a  steamer basket and add potatoes cut side down.

 

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  • Steam potatoes for 20 minutes or until tender.
  • Heat cream and butter in a microwave for 3 minutes.
  • Place each potato half, cut side down in the potato ricer positioned over a bowl, press down. The peel should stick to the top of the ricer, allowing you to only have to clean the peel off the ricer when you have completed all the potatoes.

 

 

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  • When all potatoes are riced, slowly stir through the cream/butter mixture with a fork until the desired consistency is reached.

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  • Season to taste with salt and pepper.

To prepare in advance

  • Cover the mashed potatoes in the bowl with cling wrap, place in the fridge and microwave for 5 minutes or until piping hot just before serving.

 

Serving suggestion

  • Place mashed potatoes in a food ring on the serving plate and level the top. Remove ring and garnish with herbs or finely chopped spring onions.

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DIY Dusting Spray

Making your own dusting spray is easy. Lemon essential oil is a great addition to many home cleaning recipes.

This dusting spray will clean, disinfect and moisturise and nourish the wooden furniture you use it on.  Just make sure you test a small inconspicuous area on the item you are cleaning if you are worried about damaging the surface. I have used this spray on all my wooden furniture with no problems. This spray should keep for about 3 months, but I use it all in one go as I give all my wooden furniture a dust.

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Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup vinegar
  • 1/4 cup distilled water
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 15 drops of lemon essential oil

Preparation

Using a small funnel pour the lemon oil, olive oil, vinegar and then water into a small spray bottle. Shake well and then make sure you shake the spray bottle when you use it to make sure the ingredients stay mixed. Spray some of the dusting spray onto a microfibre cloth or a rag and wipe the surface.

Before and after use on my coffee table

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When life gives you lemons ……

Two bags full to be exact… What to do? With lemons, the possibilities are endless. I had a happy day in the kitchen making the most of this versatile fruit. At the end of the day I had low fat lemon curd, lemon cordial, lemon sugar cookies and enough squeezed frozen lemon juice to last me a while. Cooking tip – I freeze my lemon juice in mini muffin pans and when frozen I run a knife around the edge and pop the lemon ice out. Bag them for future use.

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Low Fat Lemon Curd 

I have been making this for years. It is simple and contains no butter, making it a low fat alternative. it is beautiful in puddings, on toast or on top of greek yoghurt. I have updated this recipe to include a microwave version.

Ingredients

• Juice of 2 large lemons, strained
• 1/2 cup castor sugar
• 2 large eggs
• 4 tablespoons lemon zest (peel of 1 lemon for Thermomix version)

Preparation – Thermomix

  • Place lemon peel and sugar in bowl 30 seconds/ speed 9. Stop to scrape down the bowl a few times.
  • Add other ingredients into bowl.
  • Insert butterfly and cook  8 minutes/80º/speed 3.
  • Transfer to a container and cover (to prevent a skin from forming), then refrigerate.
  • Makes 1 cup of low fat lemon curd.

 

Preparation – stove top

  • Place strained lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan. Heat on low and stir until sugar has dissolved.
  • Lightly beat egg in a medium bowl.
  • Remove lemon syrup from heat and pour slowly into beaten egg while stirring the mixture with a whisk. Continue to whisk by hand for one minute.
  • Return mixture to saucepan; add lemon zest, and heat on low until it thickens — about two minutes.
  • Remove from heat. Transfer to a container and cover (to prevent a skin from forming), then refrigerate.
  • Makes 1 cup of low fat lemon curd.

 

Preparation – microwave

  • Place strained lemon juice and sugar in a microwave proof jug. Heat on full power for 1 minute stirring to make sure the sugar is dissolved.
  • Lightly beat eggs in a medium bowl.
  • Remove lemon syrup from the microwave and pour slowly into beaten egg while stirring the mixture with a whisk. Continue to whisk by hand for one minute.
  • Return mixture to the jug; add lemon zest, and cook for 1 minute on full power, stir, cook for another minute and stir. The curd should have thickened slightly.
  • Remove from heat.

Lemon Sugar Cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 3/4 cups plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon bi carb soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Zest of 2 large lemons
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar for rolling cookies

Preparation

  • Preheat oven to 180 degrees C. Line baking sheets with baking paper. Set aside.
  • In a small bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
  • Beat the butter and sugar until smooth and creamy.
  • Add lemon zest, egg, vanilla extract, and lemon juice. Mix until combined. Gradually blend in the dry ingredients.
  • Roll rounded tablespoons of dough into balls and roll in sugar. Place on prepared baking sheets,  about 4 cms apart.
  • Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until cookies are slightly brown around the edges and set. Let cookies sit on the baking sheets for five minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

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Lemon Cordial

Ingredients

  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 2 cups castor sugar
  • 2 cups lemon juice
  • 4 teaspoons citric acid


Preparation

  • Stir the sugar into the boiling water until it is dissolved.
  • Add the citric acid.
  • Allow to cool.
  • Juice the lemons and add the lemon juice to the sugar syrup.

Will keep in the fridge for  up to 6 weeks.

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Upside Down Pear Cake

I love pears. They are so cheap at the moment. I like to think of myself as a bit of a “pear whisperer” or “pear  wrangler” as I have prepared them so many ways, all equally delicious. I love short cuts as well… sometimes there isn’t time to prepare a recipe from scratch.  I have used a good quality yellow cake mix and tinned pears to make this recipe and it’s gorgeous. If using a packet mix, just follow the directions on the packet and pour over the pears and cook for the suggested time.

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Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 125 grams of butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups of self-raising flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 6 ripe pears, peeled, halved and deseeded
  • ½ cup of brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preparation

  •  Take the butter out of the fridge to soften and preheat the oven to 180°c.
  • Prepare a 20 x 23-centimeter baking pan with baking spray and line base with baking paper.
  • Beat the softened butter and sugar together until fluffy and light, then add the eggs and beat until light. Fold in the flour, salt and then the milk and vanilla. Beat everything together on low for 30 seconds, then high for 3 minutes.
  • Sprinkle the brown sugar, cardamom and cinnamon over the bottom of the cake pan.  Place halved pears flat side down over the sugar mix.
  • Pour the batter over the pears and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean.
  • Allow to cool for 10 minutes.
  • Invert the cake on top of a cake stand or a large serving plate and dust with icing sugar.
  • Slice and serve it warm or cold. It’s delicious with vanilla ice cream and /or whipped cream. Ramp it up a notch with a drizzle of caramel sauce.

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Individual Potato Beef Pies

Who doesn’t love a meat pie? They are easy to make and can be frozen or reheated from the fridge. I always have mine with tomato sauce. It wouldn’t be the same without it.

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Serves  8

Ingredients

  • 6 medium potatoes, peeled, chopped
  • 80ml (1/3 cup) milk
  • 50g butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 onions finely diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 tablespoon of curry powder
  • 500 grams beef mince
  • 2 cups mixed vegetables diced finely i.e. carrots, mushrooms, spinach, peas
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato sauce
  • 1 beef stock cube dissolved in ¾ a cup of  boiling water
  • 4 sheets shortcrust pastry defrosted

Preparation

  • Place potatoes in a large saucepan. Cover with cold water. Bring to the boil over medium-high heat.
  • Cook for 20 minutes or until tender. Drain. Return to pan. Add the milk and butter. Mash until smooth.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  •  Preheat oven to 180°C.
  • Brush eight 125ml oval pie tins with oil or cooking spray.
  • Cut each pastry sheet in half and then trim 1/3rd from each half.
  • Line the prepared tins with the pastry; pinch the excess to form a rim. Place in the fridge.
  •  Heat the oil in a large frypan over a medium heat.
  • Add the onion,garlic and curry powder and cook for two minutes.
  • Add the beef mince and cook until lightly browned, taking care to break up the lumps in the mince with a wooden spoon until it has an even consistency.
  • Add the mixed vegetables, sauces and beef stock and stir until mixed together.
  • Bring to the boil and reduce heat to very low.
  • Simmer for 10 minutes or until vegetables are cooked through and the liquid has reduced. Allow to cool.
  •  Divide the mince mixture among the pastry cases.
  • Pipe or spoon on the mashed potatoes.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes or until browned.