Mixed Grain & Walnut Salad

A delicious and filling salad which makes a light main course, or substantial side dish.

Ingredients

  • 1 microwave pottle of “Steamed Grains”  (I use a “Super-Grains Multigrain Blend which includes brown & red rice, buckwheat, quinoa and chia”)
  • 2 cups leafy greens (lettuce, rocket, baby spinach etc)
  • 1 cup sweet grapes (cut in half)
  • 1 cup raw blueberries
  • 1 cup raw pineapple or apple (cut in chunks)
  • ½ cup cheddar cheese (cut into small cubes)
  • ½ cup walnuts (chopped)

Dressing                                          

  • 2 tbsp rice bran oil
  • 4 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp chia seeds
  • 1 tsp sesame seeds
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Microwave the mixed grains as recommended on the packet then allow to cool while you prepare the other ingredients.
  2. Toss all the salad ingredients (including the cooled grains) in a large salad bowl.
  3. Tip all the dressing ingredients into a jar with a lid and shake them well to mix.
  4. Pour the dressing over the salad and mix gently.

Serves 2 people as a main course, or 4 as a side dish.

Variations

Substitute cooked quinoa for grains to make this recipe grain-free / paleo.

Substitute any raw fruit for the pineapple or apple portion.

Substitute cherry tomatoes for the grapes

Bowl of mixed grain and walnut salad.
When I made this dish (both to photograph and eat) I discovered that I’d run out of grapes. Since we live an hour away from the nearest supermarket, I couldn’t just pop out to buy some. Fortunately, there were heaps of tiny cherry tomatoes growing in the tunnel house. That’s how I discovered this delicious variation.

Sweet Walnut & Apricot Balls

These Apricot Balls use walnuts, seeds and dried fruit to make a sweet and healthy snack. They will fill you up as well as satisfying sweet cravings.

Ingredients

Ingredients for Apricot Balls
  • 1 ½ cup raw, shelled walnuts
  • ½ cup sunflower and pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
  • 1 cup sultanas
  • ½ cup dried apricots (chopped)
  • ½ cup dried, shredded coconut
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp runny honey
  • 1-3 tbsp water (as needed)
  • More dried coconut to coat the balls.
  • 1 food processor with an “S” blade.

Directions

  1. Put the nuts and seeds into the food processor and process on high until they are well chopped (but not pulverised into crumbs.)
  2. Add the dried fruit and ½ cup coconut and process again until the fruit is thoroughly chopped and mixed with the nuts.
  3. Add peanut butter and honey and mix on lowest speed.
  4. The mixture should be sticky enough for you to easily form a small ball with your fingers. If not, add 1 – 3 tbsp water and mix again.
  5. Wet your fingers with water (to prevent them from being covered with sticky mixture) and form the fruit and walnut mixture into small balls.
  6. Coat the balls in dried coconut.
  7. Store in the refrigerator, where they will firm up and keep for several weeks.
Sweet walnut and apricot balls

Candied Walnuts

A healthy recipe for a sweet treat.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups shelled, raw walnuts

Caramel

  • 3 tbsp rice bran oil
  • 3 tbsp brown rice syrup
  • 1 tsp cinnamon powder
  • ½  tsp salt

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 180℃.
  2. Put the caramel ingredients into a large saucepan.
  3. Bring them to a rolling boil then simmer for 1-2 minutes. (If you cook this mixture too long the oil and syrup will start to separate.)
  4. Remove saucepan from the heat and add all the walnuts.
  5. Stir very well to coat the walnuts with the hot, sticky mixture.
  6. Tip onto an oven tray, and scrape all the leftover caramel over the nuts.
  7. Cook for 5 minutes, then stir the nuts well to coat them again.
  8. Cook a further 5 minutes
  9. Remove from oven and scrape onto another tray to cool. Clean the caramel off the tray immediately (or it will harden and become difficult to clean.)
  10. Once cool, keep the nuts in an airtight jar.

Variations

Brown rice syrup is a fructose-free sugar alternative, which makes this recipe ideal for those who are eating a low-sugar diet.

Substitute maple syrup for the brown rice syrup for a sweeter caramel.

Substitute popped corn for walnuts to make this recipe nut-free.

Candied walnuts

Choco-Banana Ice Dream

Bowl of soft-serve chocolate banana ice cream

Ice Cream is one of my favourite foods. Whether it’s summer or winter, in my mind an ice cream is a staple treat during an outing, and a must-have dessert.

Unfortunately, since it’s high in fat, sugar, cholesterol and sodium, and low in most vitamins and minerals, I can’t justify eating loads of ice cream  eating any ice cream now that I’m sticking to a healthy diet.

So I was thrilled to discover that you can make a delicious “ice cream” from frozen bananas.  Naturally, I immediately tried the recipe. And of course, wanting to get maximum healthy bang out of every treat buck, I changed it.

NB: If you don’t like the taste of bananas then, sadly, this recipe is not for you.

Before starting, you’ll need to prepare some frozen food the day before:

  • Slice 1 large or 2 small bananas into small pieces and freeflow freeze them.
  • Open, drain, rinse and freeze canned chickpeas.
  • Slice and free-flow freeze approx ½ small courgetteSlices of banana and courgette, plus chickpeas ready to freeze.

Choco-Banana Ice Dream

Frozen banana and courgette slices (see above)

2 tbsp frozen chickpeas

2 tbsp raw cacao powder or cocoa powder (a cheaper option)

2 tbsp peanut butter (optional)

½ cup almond milk

What to do:

Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.

The mixture quickly becomes thick and creamy and you’ll probably need to push it down and stir with a wooden spoon a few times during the blending process.

Serve immediately as a “soft-serve dream” or pop it into the freezer for more of a solid frozen treat.

Bowl of soft-serve chocolate banana ice cream

Notes:

Bananas contain a fair amount of fructose (sugar), that I can’t deny. But they are also high in potassium, fiber and vitamins B6 and C. Add in the antioxidant qualities of raw cacao, plus the extra protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber from the vegetables and I reckon my Choco-Banana Ice Dream is definitely on the healthier side of the treat-food-scale.

This is a pretty forgiving recipe; you can add or subtract all sorts of things to make your own variations. I’ve tried adding small amounts of frozen cooked carrot and cauliflower, and no one has even noticed!

Keep a container of banana and vegetable slices in the freezer. That way you’ll be able to whip up this yummy dessert (or breakfast) without delay.

The Yummiest Breakfast Ever

I’ve been known to eat this for breakfast. To allay any possible guilt, I make it even healthier by adding 1 tbsp of protein powder, and chuck in a handful of frozen blueberries and  another of spinach leaves. (Blend it extra-well to disguise any little green flecks.)

Why not give this yummy dessert a try?

Make some changes to suit your taste then let us all know your delicious variations in the comments below.

I can’t wait to try YOUR inventions!

How To Make Perfect Cheese Scones

Cheese scones on a plate

Making a Savoury Cheese Scone

My daughters believe that I’ve always been able to make perfect cheese scones. When visitors arrive unexpectedly, or the family congregates, it’s no trouble to whip up a batch of scones and bring them out golden hot.

But, in reality, my road to the perfect cheese scone has been a long one. It started back in 1980 after a “bake off” with my boyfriend. At the time scones were the one thing I actually knew how to make. So when Neill showed me his scone recipe — which was very different from the one I used —  I was somewhat scathing about it. I distinctly recall saying “that’ll never work.”

Naturally he challenged me to a scone baking contest. He cooked every day. I could barely boil an egg. In hindsight, I don’t know what I was thinking. Of course he won the contest, hands down. His scones were light, moist and HUGE. Mine were tiny and tasteless. Oh no! I buried the remnants of my pride and wrote down his recipe.

Since then, I’ve made countless batches of scones. And I’ve given out that same recipe to many, including my daughters. For some reason the results never seem to work out quite as well for anyone else. Last month, I finally realised why…

I don’t actually use that recipe to make my cheese scones.

Over the years I’ve slowly changed it to fit my somewhat haphazard cooking style. It’s similar, but with important differences. Oops!

So here — with apologies to Steph, Debbie and Jenny for not realising the truth earlier — is the ACTUAL recipe that I now use for making light and delicious, perfect cheese scones.

scones, cooked, in the oven

Lyn’s Perfect Cheese Scones

2 heaped cups of plain flour         

4 heaped tsp baking powder

2 cups tasty cheddar cheese (shredded)    

1 egg

1 dessert spoon sugar

50g butter (melted)                        

Approximately 1 cup milk*               

pinch salt

*You may need a little more milk than this, depending on how much you’ve heaped the cups of flour.

What to do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.  I use fan bake.
  2. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and cheese into a large bowl.
  3. Make a well in the dry ingredients. (A well is like a hollow or depression.)
  4. Mix egg and sugar in a cup and pour into the well. Don’t mix it in yet.
  5. Melt the butter and add it to the well. Still don’t mix.
  6. Pour 1 cup of milk into the well. Now you get to mix.
  7. Use a spurtle (see Tip No. 1) to combine the ingredients so they form quite a sticky dough (see Tip No. 3). Add more milk if necessary. 
  8. Turn out onto a floured surface and gently squeeze the mixture  with both hands to further combine. (See Tip No. 4)
  9. Press, roll and pat with your hands until you’ve formed a long, fat rectangle.Raw scone dough
  10. Cut in half lengthways, and then cut each half into 6 pieces. Place the 12 scones onto a metal baking sheet, slightly separated. They shouldn’t stick to the tray.

Bake at 200°C for 13-15 minutes. Makes 12

Notes:

Perfect cheese scones are best served warm, with your favourite toppings. I like lashings of butter. Others prefer to add jam; my Farmer always tops his with honey. Some of the family love to add slices of tomato and ham, and —  if you’re in New Zealand — you can always add some Vegemite. (A special savoury topping, loved by New Zealanders and Australians.)

These scones will keep for a day in an airtight container, or can be frozen up to 3 months. You can refresh them in the microwave, wrapped in a dry paper towel.

Five Tips to Make You a Scone Expert

4 essentials for making scones: cheese, heaped cup of flour, an egg and a spurtle.

# Tip 1 — Use a spurtle to mix your scones.

A scone mixture shouldn’t be stirred. Instead you pull a spurtle through the mixture, almost as if you’re cutting it. As you cut, turn it over to mix. Stop mixing as soon as the dough comes together.

If you don’t have a spurtle, a blunt knife is the next best option.

# Tip 2 — Be generous with your measurements.                              

Scones respond well to generosity. My cupfuls look like mini flour mountains.

# Tip 3 — The dough should be somewhat sticky and moist.  

It should still be dough-like, but dry dough equals dry scones. It’s better to make it slightly too wet than too dry. You can always add more flour to the board when you tip the mixture out, to counteract any excess stickiness.

# Tip 4 — Don’t over-mix the dough.

As soon as it comes together, turn it out onto a floured surface. Squeeze and pat it with your hands until it forms into a long, fat sausage. The less you have to handle it the better. Having said that, over-mixing is not a catastrophic mistake. The scones will still taste great but might not be quite as light.

# Tip 5 — Practice makes perfect.

The more you make these, the better they—and you— will get.

Thanks are due

To Jessica, from A Taste For Living   who taught me a lot about recipe writing while we edited this together.

Collaborating in real-time on Google Docs was an experience we both had fun with.
Cheers, Jess.

Precious Pears

There are only 10 minutes in the life of a pear when it is perfect to eat. Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Harvest season is upon us here on the farm.

While my farming men are busy bringing in the grain, my own focus is on the bounty given to me by nature and the foresight of our pioneer ancestors.

This week the pears are ready to pick and preserve.

Bounty from the past.

When pioneering families settled their farms here in Garston 120 years ago, the land was devoid of trees. Grass, tussock and rocks were the main features of the narrow, river valley they would come to call home. Mountains lining both sides of the valley kept it freezing in winter and scorching in summer. Food was scarce and largely home-grown. The top priority was establishing a large vegetable garden beside a small, rough farmhouse. And next on the list was always planting the orchard.

For many years orchards, both small and large, were lovingly tended up and down the valley, but with the advent of sealed roads, speedy cars and modern supermarkets, the orchards have become overgrown and neglected in modern times. All the same, the sturdiest trees persist and each autumn they dot the valley with fragrant fruit for us to pick and be thankful for.

Harvest in the present.

So it is, that this week I’m harvesting the pears. It’s not as easy as you might think.

Sometimes the season is poor and there is scarcely a fruit to be seen, but this year there’s an abundance of pears on every tree. There are also birds, who can savour the best fruit on the highest branches which are impossible for me to reach. Not content with their share, however, they like to invade my territory on the branches below as well. They don’t eat the whole fruit: oh no! They would rather sample, leave a small hole, and move on to try the pear next door as well.

And then, we have the wind. Autumn can be a windy season around here, and this year is no exception. Many of the pears end up on the ground before they are ripe. These windfalls are often the ones I collect. They are easy to reach, and being still quite firm, have not taken any harm from their fall. However, danger lurks below. There’s a wasp nest somewhere around the orchard and the wasps begin feasting long before I arrive. They go for the half-rotten fruit, preferably already holed by the birds. So I tread very carefully under the trees, and restrict my haul to the unripe pears, preferably well away from the busy wasps.

The windfall pears are poles apart from Emerson’s perfect 10 minutes, and unfortunately, they are most unlikely to reach that happy state. For years, no matter how carefully I stored them or what ripening tricks I tried, many pears ended up going bad before they’re ripe enough to eat.

But I’m ever hopeful and this year I’m trying a new trick. I read some helpful pear hints in “This NZ Life” and they shed some light on my past pear problems.

Apparently, pears ripen from the inside out, so that even if a pear feels rock hard on the outside it may well be ripening on the inside.  So the best thing to do is to chill the pears as soon as you pick them, then bring out a few to finish ripening as you need them.

Pears and bananas in a paper bag to ripen
Apparently bananas and apples emit ethylene which will help to ripen, or at least soften the fruit.

Pears are a-cooking for the future.

Fortunately, if these new ripening ideas still don’t work, cooking will save the day. Poaching the pears in a sweet and delicious liquid will add flavour and soften the unripe fruit. I don’t have the time, skills (or quite frankly the inclination) to spend hours this week preserving multiple jars of fruit. I’ve tried it before and failed miserably every time.  So now I pick a little every day, and while the evening meal is cooking it’s often joined by a pot of pears bubbling gently on the stove. To preserve them, I’ll simply portion the cold pears into containers with the syrup and freeze.

Soft pears are cooked in a matter of minutes. I don’t trust these to the cooktop: they go into the microwave, with a little maple syrup, a knob of butter, cinnamon, vanilla essence and lemon juice for just a few minutes. They form their own delicious juice and taste exquisite. I’ve just finished cooking up the latest batch that did manage to ripen successfully.  I can’t wait to serve them up for dessert tonight.

But most pears will not be so ripe, so here’s how I’ll treat the main crop of windfall pears.

Pears poaching in a pot.
Pears in their sweet poaching liquid.

Simple Sweet’n’Spicy Poached Pears

8-12 firm pears            4-5 tbsp brown sugar or coconut sugar                

1-2 tsp ground cinnamon            1 lemon

Water                                                     Raisins or sultanas (optional)

What to do:

    1. Cut the pears into quarters, discarding core and stem. There is no need to peel.
    1. Put them into a deep saucepan on the stove (cooktop).
    1. Finely grate the lemon rind.
    1. Juice the lemon. (Use a lemon juicer to get as much as possible.)
    1. Add these to the pot.
    1. Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon into the pot and add water until the pears are almost covered.
    1. Cover and bring to the boil.
    1. Simmer gently until the pears are soft but not falling apart. This could take 20 – 30 minutes, or even longer depending on the size of the pieces and the temperature of the cooking liquid. Slow is best.
  1. Once cooked, add a handful of raisins or sultanas if desired. Leave everything to cool in the pot. The pears will increase in sweetness and the dried fruit will plump up and add more flavour.

To serve:

I love these pears with maple-walnut ice cream. The walnut flavour goes so well with pears, but really any ice cream would be nice. Sometimes I add an extra topping of chopped, toasted walnuts. Cover the pears and ice cream with spoonfuls of the hot cooking syrup.

To download this recipe as a PDF click the link below.

Simple Sweet’n’Spicy Poached Pears PDF

There’s something deeply satisfying about eating food you’ve gathered and cooked yourself. It hearkens back to our hunter-gatherer roots perhaps? Or maybe nostalgically to what we think of as a simpler time.

Your Turn To Talk

Are you a forager who enjoys finding food in the wild?

Or are you, like me, lucky enough to have an orchard nearby, or random trees growing in the backyard? 

Maybe you have hints or recipes to share.

Let’s start a fruitful conversation in the comments.

Harvesting Stories Abound On The Blog

Mushrooms Galore.

Walnut Trees On The Farm

The Old Apple Tree

Hops In A Hurry

Gathering In The Grain