Forager’s Salad {Idiot Salad}


It was my birthday last month, and though I chose not to share the day with a crowd, it was special because it was shared with my boys. We have a favourite place to visit on special occasions, and this year was no different. We had missed going there on Mother’s Day, so opted to have lunch there on my birthday. The place is Newman’s Nursery, a nursery in the foothills that also boasts the most gorgeous little café boasting great coffee, a seasonal menu and mouth-watering desserts.


We arrived there just before midday, and after a short stroll decided it was time for a light lunch. We ordered a child’s tasting plate for Theo, a steak for us to share, and a winter leaf salad as a side. To my surprise, the salad came adorned with the common Cape sorrel, or soursob, the sight of which is all too familiar. Our yard, our neighbour’s yard and the entire suburb are covered in them throughout winter, though I have made it my business to weed them out and our yard is now soursob free.


But it was when my dessert arrived also adorned with the yellow flower, I was offended. I took a photo and uploaded it to Instagram with the comment, “Can’t say I’ve ever eaten soursobs before, but there’s a first time for everything” to which my friend replied, “I have. My dad used to put them in a salad he called idiots salad… I have no idea where the name came from. It was pretty good…” Of course, I had to have the recipe! She messaged me a few weeks later. “In my father’s words…


Onion, raw potatoes, cilantro would be good, lettuce we used leaf lettuce from the garden when I was a kid, sheep showers you won’t be able to get this I don’t think, vinegar or lemon or lime juice. Salt and pepper. Could put bell peppers I suppose.” Without further ado, I foraged in our garden for soursobs, lettuce, coriander and nasturtiums and the result was this very pretty winter leaf salad. It was fresh, and crisp and tangy, and I have to say, I won’t be so shy about eating weeds in future!


Forager’s Salad {aka Idiot Salad}
This is your classic poor man’s salad, or ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ salad. I have renamed it ‘Forager’s Salad’, because everything that we found growing freely in our garden went in!

Serves 4

2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1cm dice
½ red onion, peeled, cut in half and sliced thinly (I leave this out)
1 baby Cos lettuce, washed and leaves torn
¼ cup fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, lightly packed
Handful sour sob leaves and stems plus a few flowers for garnish*
Handful young nasturtium leaves plus a few flowers for garnish
1 red capsicum, diced (optional)

1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the dressing:
Combine ingredients in a small jar and shake vigorously until emulsified. Set aside.

For the salad:
Combine potato, lettuce, sour sob, coriander, and nasturtium leaves in a large bowl. Toss with a little dressing, decorate with nasturtium flowers and serve.

Note: *Make sure that you use only soursobs that you are certain have not been sprayed or poisoned.

Did you make this recipe?
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Buckwheat Pancakes with Winter Citrus {gluten-free with dairy-free option}


What’s your favourite meal when eating out? Mine would have to be breakfast slash brunch; I love the places that serve it all day! Whenever we stop at a café or restaurant for lunch, I always scope out the breakfast menu first… Should I have pancakes or Belgian Waffles with cream? Perhaps scrambled eggs on toast or Eggs Florentine! Sometimes we arrive just after the breakfast menu has closed… that’s always a blow. This would never happen at home. At home, it’s never too late for pancakes!


I already have a pancake recipe that I use regularly, but the other week I was given a challenge. My cousin, who now eats a gluten-free diet, had made buckwheat pancakes for her kids on a Sunday morning, and was devastated that they had been knocked back. “They were firmly rejected by the critics!!! They weren’t very tasty and quite heavy. May be my cooking skills!!

Do you have a good buckwheat pancake recipe that uses regular milk, not buttermilk?” she asked.


I did not, but it was all the excuse I needed! Before long, I had bought a bag of organic buckwheat flour, and begun the search for recipes. I didn’t have to look very far; Cookie and Kate’s was the first one I tried, and it was a winner! It uses buttermilk, but I would never buy buttermilk just for pancakes. You can easily make your own just by adding vinegar or lemon juice to the milk of your choice. As for a topping, berries are always nice, but it’s not summer here, and strawberries are $4 a punnet!


Yes, it’s still winter. The skies are grey, the temperature rather lower than one might wish. But one saving grace of the season is all the beautiful citrus fruit! The bright colours and tart juiciness contrast starkly with the cold, dreary days. My dad grows wonderful, tangy oranges and brought us a bucketful last week. They, along with pink grapefruit, tangelos and mandarins were peeled, segmented and piled atop our pancakes. Finished off with a drizzle of pure maple syrup, and we’re ready to eat!


Now that’s what I call brunch!


– More Citrus Recipes

Buckwheat Pancakes with Winter Citrus {gluten-free with dairy-free option}
Because buckwheat has such a distinctive flavour, which can take some getting used to, I’ve used half buckwheat and half all-purpose gluten-free flour here. If you don’t mind a heavier pancake, and/or are eating grain-free, use 100% buckwheat flour instead.

Makes 8 (14cm/5 ½ inch diameter) pancakes

½ cup buckwheat flour
½ cup plain (all-purpose) gluten-free flour
1 tablespoon caster (superfine) sugar (optional)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1¼ cups buttermilk*
1 large egg
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon citrus zest
1 mandarin, peeled by hand and separated
1 tangelo, peeled by hand and separated
1 navel orange, peeled and segmented
1 pink grapefruit, peeled and segmented
{Use whatever citrus makes you happy}
Butter or coconut oil, for the frypan

To segment oranges and grapefruit, simply cut off rind (including white pith) with a sharp knife, remove pithy core and slice into segments (wedges), removing seeds as you go. Prepare as much fruit as you need, and set aside.

Whisk together egg, buttermilk, vanilla extract and citrus zest. Set aside.

In a medium bowl, sift together flours, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the buttermilk mixture all at once to the dry ingredients. Beat together with a fork or whisk until well incorporated. The batter may be a little lumpy, but that’s fine. Let batter rest while you heat up the pan ready to fry.

Preheat your frypan over medium-low heat and brush with a little oil/butter. Give the batter a light swirl with a spoon in case the buckwheat is starting to separate from the liquid. Using a ¼-cup measure, scoop the batter onto the warm pan. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until small bubbles form on the surface of the pancakes (you’ll know they’re ready to flip when the surface is covered in bubbles and has turned from glossy to matte), and flip. Cook on the opposite side for 1 to 2 minutes, or until golden brown. Place cooked pancakes on an oven-proof plate in an oven heated to 100 degrees C/200 degrees F. This will keep the pancakes warm while you cook the rest.

Arrange the pancakes on a plate, and top with segmented citrus and pure maple syrup.

Note: *Make your own dairy-free buttermilk by adding a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar to 1 ¼ cups of almond, soy or coconut milk and letting it sit for 5-10 minutes before using.

Pancakes adapted from Cookie and Kate and citrus topping from Joy the Baker

Did you make this recipe?
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Spicy Red Lentil Soup with Cashew Cream and Lemon


So, I’m making soups these days… Very strange! What’s happening to me? I’m becoming like my mother (not such a bad thing). She used to make soup ALL.THE.TIME… which is possibly the reason I deferred it for so long! We lived in Tasmania, by far the coldest state in the country. Neither of my parents was on a steady income so it made complete sense for her to do so. But you know, those memories… spinach soup! Ugh. Let’s not go there. But comfort soups like her Lamb and Pearl Barley Soup – now that was a meal to remember! I’m all for comfort soups.


I’m also completely behind any meal that can be created in under one hour, with one pot and minimal effort. More days than I’d like to admit, it’s 5pm and I realise that dinner needs to be made – pronto! I was in just such a predicament the other day when I noted a half-empty bag of red lentils in the cupboard. What could I make with that? A quick Google search later, and this recipe came up trumps! With a fairly short list of ingredients, most of which were at hand, I was good to go! It was bubbling on the stove in no time and 30 minutes later, we were ready to eat.


Not long after, a friend shared a very similar recipe via social media, but with the addition of raw cashews… I was intrigued. It turns out that cashew cream is incredibly easy to make. The two recipes, fairly similar in their own way, were easily merged. Super simple to create, this lentil soup becomes even more nutritious with the addition of blended cashews, adding a creaminess not usually found in lentil soup/dhal. Alex loved it and Theo came back for seconds and then for thirds – something which has never happened before – so I think we’re onto a winner!


Spicy Red Lentil Soup with Cashew Cream and Lemon
Serves 4 – 6

1 cup raw cashew nuts
1 cup cold water
2 tablespoons olive oil, more for drizzling
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon mild curry powder
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch of ground chilli powder or cayenne, more to taste
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1 stalk celery, trimmed and diced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 litre (4 cups) chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups water
1 cup red lentils
Juice of ½ lemon, more to taste
1 tablespoon honey, more to taste
3 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander (cilantro), to serve

Place cashew nuts in a bowl and cover with 1 cup of cold water. Set aside to soak while soup is cooking.

In a heavy-based pot, heat 2 tablespoons oil over low to medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until golden, about 2 minutes. Stir in spices and vegetables and fry for 2 minutes longer, stirring.

Add tomato paste, broth, water, and lentils. Bring to a simmer, then partially cover pot and turn heat to medium-low. Simmer until lentils are soft, about 30 minutes. Taste and add salt if necessary.

Using an immersion or regular blender or a food processor, purée the soup until smooth. Separately blend cashew nuts and cold water to make a thick cream. Add to the pot.

Reheat soup if necessary, then stir in lemon juice and honey, to taste. Serve soup drizzled with good olive oil and sprinkled with fresh coriander.

Serve with Ham, Corn and Polenta muffins as a side.

Adapted from NY Times via Revive Cafe

Did you make this recipe?
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Boiled Pineapple Fruit Cake


There was a very loud knock on our front door, and a lanky, grey-haired man, red-faced and bare foot shoved a bunch of spinach at me, and said, “You eat spinach?” “Why, uh yes! Thank you” I stammered, as he turned and hurried back to the safety of his house. This was my first meeting of our neighbour, Wayne. It was probably another twelve months before I finally met his lovely wife, Maureen. Since then, we’ve had more visits at the front door with more of their garden bounty and long chats in the driveway (our driveways are adjacent, with no more than a strip of garden to separate them).


It’s the country style of friendship, generosity and lending a hand that has taken us literally by surprise. For instance, one weekend when Alex was struggling to fix a leaking tap, and water was gushing everywhere from a broken pipe, I stepped out the front to turn off the water meter and Wayne (who is forever working on his car) asked what was wrong. Once I had explained the problem, he ducked into his shed and next thing he was over with a wrench, a replacement tap and washer and had the problem fixed in a jiffy. When I went to thank him, he had already disappeared back home!


As you can see, it’s about time we restored the balance and gave something back. I know Maureen is an accomplished cook, because she was given us some of her home cooked plum jam. But there has to be some way of giving back and considering their age (60+) and the fact Maureen makes her own fruit cakes, I knew they would enjoy this one. Taken from one of my most trusted cookbooks, this boiled fruit cake is a staple in our family. I’ve mentioned before that it is my dad’s signature dish. He has been making it for years now, often for church lunches or as gifts at Christmas time.


It’s a keeper.


Boiled Pineapple Fruit cake

440g tin crushed pineapple in juice
125g unsalted butter, chopped
1 cup brown sugar
500g mixed dried fruit
1 teaspoon mixed spice
1 teaspoon baking soda (bicarb soda)
1 cup self-raising flour
1 cup plain (all-purpose) flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Sherry (optional)
Flaked almonds for decoration (optional)

Grease a deep 20cm (8-inch) round cake tin with non-stick cooking spray and line base and sides with baking paper. Preheat oven to 180degC/350degF.

Drain pineapple and place pulp in saucepan with ½ cup of the juice. Add butter, sugar, fruit, spice and baking soda. Bring to the boil and simmer 3 minutes. Stir in a tablespoon of sherry (or brandy) and set aside to cool.

Sift flours together and stir into mixture with the beaten eggs and vanilla essence. Spread into prepared tin and bake for 1 ½ hours. Stand 10 minutes before turning out onto wire rack to cool.

Taken from ‘Cooking Made Simple for Home & Camp’ and adapted slightly from

Did you make this recipe?
Please let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and share a picture on Instagram with the hashtag #redhotcentre!

Pear and Rhubarb Almond Crumble {gf}


The sky is low, the clouds are mean,
A travelling flake of snow
Across a barn or through a rut
Debates if it will go.

A narrow wind complains all day
How someone treated him;
Nature, like us, is sometimes caught
Without her diadem.

The Sky is Low, The Clouds are Mean by Emily Dickinson


It’s the dead of winter, and I’m chilled to the bone, but as a friend said recently, all the best things about winter are about beating the cold; such as “warm, heavenly showers (though so hard to turn off), polar fleece sheets, so warm and snug (though hard to get out when it’s dark and cold), hot cuppas that warm up hands and body, glorious rainbows, refreshing rain, beautiful scarves, delicious soup, Ugg boots, dressing gowns, coats, doing vacuuming, ironing and dishes warms you up, so housework is more enjoyable!” hikes through the bush (my addition), and of course, pudding!


I wasn’t planning to post another rhubarb recipe so soon, but when one is invited over to help harvest some, there’s really nothing for it but to accept the invitation! Theo and I wasted no time in heading over to our friend’s place and she soon had us loaded us up with the long red and green stalks, freshly cut from the garden. I marvelled at the huge, elephantine leaves, and asked what the secret was to growing such a healthy crop. There wasn’t a clear answer; more luck than good planning, apparently. Luck or no luck, I’m just happy that we get to share the bounty and eat crumble for dessert!


My mother-in-law will be very pleased to see this dessert finally up on the blog. The first time I made it she was rather taken with the flavours, and scoured the city in her search for Turkish delight. As I’ve mentioned before, I have my own regular source for Turkish delight; my dad. There is only a certain amount of the sugary confection that one can eat, so there is often a bag stored away for moments like these. With the star ingredients at hand, it was a matter of minutes before this dessert was bubbling in the oven, warming up the house in the process. Beats doing housework, any day!


Pear and Rhubarb Almond Crumble {vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free}

Serves 6

1 bunch rhubarb (approx 500g)
4 ripe pears peeled, quartered, cored
1/3 cup water
2 tsp rosewater
6 pieces Turkish delight
½ cup flaked almonds
1 cup gluten-free rice flakes (I used gluten-free quick-oats)
1 cup shredded coconut
½ cup ground almonds (almond meal)
½ cup brown sugar
80g coconut oil, melted
1 tablespoon golden syrup
Cream, to serve

Preheat oven to 200 deg C. Trim, then discard green tops and base from rhubarb. Wash and chop into 6cm lengths. Place in an ovenproof dish with pear, pour over water, then sprinkle with rosewater. Cover with foil and bake for 25-30 minutes or until pear and rhubarb are tender. Remove from oven and add Turkish delight. Fold through gently.

Place almonds, rice flakes (or quick-oats), coconut, ground almonds, sugar, coconut oil and golden syrup in a large bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until combined.

Crumble topping over rhubarb mixture. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden on top. Serve with cream.

Adapted from Yahoo 7 Lifestyle

Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies


Hi, I’m Alison and I’m a peanut butter addict.


I don’t quite recall when this started, but it’s become a jar-a-week habit. Not only do I eat it on toast for breakfast, I often have it on my sandwich for lunch, and eat it straight out of the jar during the mid-afternoon slump. If it was up to me, there would be peanut butter sandwiches on regular dinnertime rotation, but alas, I am married with children, and my significant others require a balanced diet! My husband in particular cannot understand my addiction. Whenever our son asks for a “pea-tutt butter” sandwich, Alex always lets me get it, as he can’t even stand the smell of it.


Recently I shared the link to a skookie recipe on social media, and while I had no intention of making it because a) I do not own a skillet pan and b) I already have a damn fine recipe for peanut butter choc chip cookies, I had a pretty good idea who would be drawn to it… like bees to honey. I wasn’t wrong. Two friends who are similar in many other respects (e.g. chosen career, number of children, parenting style and schooling choice, etc) both also completely addicted to chocolate, but more pertinently, love the peanut butter and chocolate flavour combo. I mean, who doesn’t?


The home of the original brownie and the inventors of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups are to blame for this addiction… it’s clear that North Americans just know how to do extravagant really well! Like I said, I have been a big fan for a long time, but it was growing up with American friends in Papua New Guinea that tipped me over the edge. It was there that I discovered the awesomeness of peanut butter and jelly (jam) on bread, and the height of all hedonism… peanut butter and maple syrup on pancakes! These brownies join that enviable category – with glorious, fudgy, chocolate abandon!


“Popular in America since the first half of the 20th century, this dense chocolate cake is slightly under-baked and cut into individual servings. This decadent recipe pays homage to the American love of peanut butter…” SBS Food


Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies
Inspired by a Taste magazine I bought especially and specifically for the brownie recipes (there were several), and adapted from a recent recipe posted by simmer & boyle.

For a gf version, simply substitute the flour with 110g (1 cup) almond meal.

Makes 16

180g unsalted butter, chopped
180g dark chocolate, chopped (I used Whittaker’s 72% dark chocolate)
3 eggs
275g (1 cup + 3 tablespoons) white sugar
115g (¾ cup) plain (all-purpose) flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
30g (¼ cup) Dutch cocoa powder
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
¾ cup smooth peanut butter

Pre-heat oven to 175degC/347degF. Grease a 23cm (9-inch) square cake pan and line with baking paper, allowing paper to overhang long sides.

Sift flour, baking powder and cocoa and set aside. Place butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. (Don’t let the bowl touch the water). Stir with a metal spoon until melted. Remove from heat.

Beat eggs and sugar in a large mixing bowl until thick and creamy, then fold through melted chocolate. Gently fold through the flour and cocoa powder, vanilla and salt and stir until just combined. Pour into prepared pan.

Place peanut butter in a small heatproof bowl and heat in microwave on HIGH for 30 secs. Drop dollops of peanut butter filling (about 1 tablespoon each) on top of batter, spacing evenly apart. Gently swirl peanut butter into batter with a knife, running the knife lengthwise and crosswise through the layers (there is no science to this; just do your best!). Bake for 25 minutes or until brownie is dry and firm to touch. Set aside to cool completely before cutting into squares to serve.

*Brownies get better with time; so if you can, leave them to eat the next day!

Rhubarb, Orange and Hazelnut Cake {gf}


When a friend offered to pay me back “in kind” I knew just what to ask for. Rhubarb. Fresh, home grown, organic rhubarb. Of all the things that could turn me into an avid gardener, rhubarb would be it. It’s one of my favourite fruits, but also the one that never seems to go down in price! There are plans to plant some; of course… they just haven’t yet come to fruition. In the meantime, having friends who grow it will have to suffice. So when a former colleague asked me to come and take photos of her students and be paid in rhubarb, I was more than happy to help.


A short 20-minute drive from home and we got to meet some sweet new Australians (aka refugees) who are keen to continue their study of theology in English and come together every week to do so. Over the course of the next hour or so, I attempted to capture their eagerness and joy on film, my son got to attend (yet another) play group and we came away blessed. Not only had we made new friends, we had an armful of rhubarb and a bag full of rocket leaves, freshly picked. I am not yet sure how to use the rocket, but had no doubt where the rhubarb was going!


Perfect for sharing over a cuppa, this rhubarb, orange and hazelnut cake is my contribution to a virtual biggest morning tea hosted by JJ of 84th & 3rd along with Sally of Simmer & Boyle to raise funds for the Cancer Council of Australia. Though I haven’t yet been touched personally by cancer, we all know someone who has. So put the kettle on, grab a cuppa and some cake, and if you’re feeling generous, follow the links to the fundraising page. Any money you give will be used to fund research, community education and support for those affected by the disease.


Rhubarb, Orange and Hazelnut Cake {gluten-free}
Serves 8

3 eggs
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar, plus ¼ cup extra
2 teaspoons finely grated orange zest
2/3 vegetable oil
1 ¼ cups gluten-free plain flour
2 teaspoons gluten-free baking powder
½ cup hazelnut meal (ground hazelnuts)
1 ½ cups chopped rhubarb stems
2 tablespoons chopped hazelnuts (skin on)

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C/ 160C fan forced. Grease a 20cm (base diameter) round cake pan. Line base and sides with baking paper.

Using an electric mixer, beat eggs, sugar and zest in a bowl until thick and creamy (minimum beat time 3 minutes). Scrape down sides, drizzle oil in slowly and beat until incorporated. Sift flour, baking powder and hazelnut meal over mixture. Stir to combine.

Spread half the mixture into prepared pan. Sprinkle with half the rhubarb and half the extra sugar. Top with remaining cake mixture. Sprinkle with remaining rhubarb, sugar and hazelnuts. Bake for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted at centre comes out clean. (Mine needed a foil ‘tent’ over it for the last 10 minutes). Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes. Turn out onto a wire rack, right-side up, to cool.

From Recipes+ magazine, Issue 80, March 2013