All posts by Vanilla Zulu

NOURISH: It’s health and wellness month at Vanilla Zulu

Guys it’s been a big year, a financial year end that is, and thankfully I’m feeling finished.

Finished in a really good way.  Finished in a ‘I couldn’t have fitted anymore in if I tried’ kind of way.  I did it all.  I kicked all my goals.  I soared.  I was unstoppable.  I succeeded.  I pushed till I got there. I bobbed AND weaved, I saw and I conquered.

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Now don’t get me wrong, none of that was negative.  ALL of that was positive.  This year I thrived.  This year I took what I wanted and ran with it.  The universe was abundant.  And I wanted to share my success with you!

The reason I succeeded was that I thought of myself first.  Not in a selfish it’s all about me kind of way, but in a ‘I respect myself’ kind of way.  I ate healthy food.  I worked out.  I took the time to spend with my kids.  I took the time to spend time with my partner.  I took time to nurture my staff.  I took time to look ahead and also to look behind.  I took time each day to get excited about what I could achieve ‘today’.  Right here and right now I’m excited about all the work I’m going to do…and it worked.  Not only did I find time, but I somehow created more.  Because you see when you are focussed, you can achieve so much more.  When the housework got to much to bear I didn’t sink beneath it, no I got up half an hour earlier, had a coffee, and blitzed the place. I let the wise words of Arnie take over me when he said ‘just sleep faster’ and you’ll have more time in the day.  Love that saying and all that it means.

I think being mentally strong helps you to be physically strong. I can honestly say that I never give up.  And it’s all about balance.  You can’t feel good and happy and strong when you aren’t nourishing your body.  Your body is a finely tuned machine and filling it up with ‘bad’ food will honestly make you feel ‘bad’.

I call it happy food.  I’m a happy chef and a happy person therefore my food must be happy.  I eat to nourish my body.  We all know what our bodies need it’s truly very simple.  It’s really about making that commitment to yourself that you deserve this.  I want you to take your power back!  I want you to feel alive!  When was the last time you stood with your face to the rain, arms stretched out, feet planted firmly toes in the grass, feeling at one with your universe?  Now.  You can feel that now.  It’s not raining?  So what.  There’s no grass underfoot. So what.  Close your eyes, BREATHE, be present with yourself, take that moment for yourself and just be.  Had a terrible morning?  Had a terrible day yesterday?  Let it go.  Just breathe.  Reboot. Start again.

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Dieting is not difficult.  Just don’t think of it as dieting.  Just think of eating as a wonderful opportunity to nourish yourself.  Eat food that is good for you.  Eat food that is kind to you.  Yes chocolate is food and can be kind to you.  Yes you can have a drink at the party.  But don’t do it every night.  Don’t do it all the time.  Slowly slowly kindly kindly.  You know what food you need.  You know you need to drink more water.  Don’t deny it just embrace it.

I’ve gone weeks before eating badly, drinking badly and feeling badly.  Tired, bloated, unhappy, unmotivated.  But what I put in was what I got out.

Are you ready?  Let’s do it people!  Let’s put in wonderful and get out wonderful!

Make sure you shop to support your new NOURISH way of life.  If you don’t have healthy reliable food within easy reach you WILL reach for something bad because you will eventually have to.  Plan your meals.  They say in life in you fail to plan you plan to fail.  Same with eating!  It’s so obvious I know!  You’ll also save heaps of money cooking and planning your own food!  It’s never too late to start.

So yes, it’s Health and Wellness month at Vanilla Zulu because I wanted to make sure that everyone was taking care of themselves, their loved ones, work and just life in general.

Here’s one inspirational recipe for you.  You can rehash this a million times and never get sick of it.

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Sexy broccoli salad a’la Vanilla Zulu

Serves 2-4

100ml plain/Greek Style yogurt

1 tablespoon freshly chopped mint and/or basil

1 granny smith apple, cored and finely sliced

Half a cup fennel, finely sliced and then chopped (use purple cabbage if you prefer)

 

2 cups finely chopped broccoli

Lots of ground black pepper,

1 tablespoon grainy mustard

 

Method

Mix the ingredients together and mix to coat. This will be like a sexy and fabulous coleslaw. Either serve as it is as part of a meal, or as per the photo I arrange or stack this on a plate, garnish with fresh rocket and then your choice of cooked chicken breast, roast beef or even salmon! Photo above was made with roast beef!

 

Enjoy!

Mel. The Vanilla Zulu

 

 

 

THE ULTIMATE Crab and Prawn Lasagne with Prosciutto Prawn Bling

Crab and Prawn Lasagna

Crab & Prawn Lasagna.Yes!  This IS the perfect recipe for the Easter weekend!  Once you’ve feasted on all that fish and seafood, you can also use up any leftovers in this delicious seafood lasagna!

Don’t eat seafood?  Fear not!  I have also give my famous chicken and porcini mushroom lasagna for that little bit of class…enjoy!

Crab and Prawn Lasagne with Prosciutto Prawn Bling

4-8 fresh lasagne sheets

200g cooked crab meat mixed with 400g cooked prawns or cooked firm white fish (snapper or similar)

For béchamel sauce

3 T/50g butter

3 T/50g flour

600ml milk

80g Parmesan or Pecorino

¼ teaspoon turmeric /curry powder

3 Tablespoons white wine (optional)

Salt and pepper

Method

To make the béchamel sauce – melt the butter in a heavy based saucepan. Remove from heat. Add the flour and stir well to make a ‘roux’.

Gradually stir in the milk, half a cup at a time, stirring continuously. When the mixture is smooth return to the heat while stirring with a whisk. The mixture will thicken. Bring to the boil and cook through for about 1 minute, stirring constantly. . Remove from heat, add the turmeric and season to taste. Stir in the grated cheese and the white wine – you want it to be ridiculously cheesy and decadent! Set sauce aside to cool.

Grease a baking dish. Place a layer of sauce, then lasagne sheets, then 1/3 crab/prawn mix and smother with the cheesy béchamel sauce. Repeat until all meat is used. Finish with a layer of lasagne sheets and sauce and top with grated cheese.

Bake in a moderate oven (180°C) for about 30 minutes, until golden on top and pasta is

cooked through.

Wrap 2-4 large tiger or banana prawns with 4 thin slices Prosciutto, fry in a pan with a little olive oil, once first side is brown turn over and cook until second side is done. Remove from hot pan and then burn a lime that has been cut in half, cut side down into pan until it has caramelised and is brown and juicy!

To serve

For a round of applause, garnish a plate with balsamic glaze and black salt, serve up the lasagne, top with the prosciutto prawn bling, petals and black salt. Serve with a fresh salad of pear a rocket and Parmesan.

Chicken and Porcini Lasagne with Pancetta Bark

4-8 fresh lasagne sheets

500g chicken tenderloins or chicken breast and cut into very thin strips, pan fried hot and fast with 1 onion finely diced and shredded or sliced, cool.

4 Tablespoons minced or finely chopped Porcini/Portobello (use dried or fresh, but if they are dried cover in water and microwave for a minute to soften)

For béchamel sauce

3 T/50g butter

3 T/50g flour

600ml milk

80g Parmesan or Pecorino

¼ teaspoon turmeric

3 Tablespoons white wine (optional)

Salt and pepper

Truffle oil to drizzle (available from your local deli or even some specialty fruit and veg…and of course from Vanilla Zulus fabulous new shop)

Method

To make the béchamel sauce – melt the butter in a heavy based saucepan. Remove from heat. Add the flour and stir well to make a ‘roux’.

Gradually stir in the milk, half a cup at a time, stirring continuously. When the mixture is smooth return to the heat while stirring with a whisk. The mixture will thicken. Bring to the boil and cook through for about 1 minute, stirring constantly. . Remove from heat, Add the turmeric and season to taste. Stir in the grated cheese and the white wine – you want it to be ridiculously cheesy and decadent! Set sauce aside to cool.

Grease a baking dish. Place a layer of sauce, then lasagne sheets, then 1/3 chicken, onion and mushroom mix and smother with the cheesy béchamel sauce. Repeat until all meat is used. Finish with a layer of lasagne sheets and sauce and top with grated cheese.

Bake in a moderate oven (180°C) for about 30 minutes, until golden on top and pasta is

cooked through.

Pancetta BARK

Oven-roast 8-10 slices of Pancetta on a roasting tray until brown and crisp and serve as pancetta bark bling with this delicious lasagne! Will add some amazing crunch and sophistication to this dish!

Kaffir lime, pea and coconut soup with chilli and shallot bling…beautiful one-pot cooking!

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Kaffir lime, pea and coconut soup with chilli and shallot bling. One-pot cooking at it’s best!

Kaffir lime, pea and coconut soup with chilli and shallot bling could just be the perfect dish to get you into the winter months with some colour and personality and flavour.  One-pot cooking at it’s best. It’s super easy to make and so beautifully colourful too. 

I love the subtle Thai fragrances that really make this soup super special.

And no soup is complete without adding the finishing touches.  Always remember to have colour, flavour AND texture on your plate before serving.  That way you are practically guaranteed to get a round of applause when you serve a meal!  I call it culinary bling or culinary accessorising,  it’s that special little touch that let’s your guests or family know that you really do care.

Serves 4

250g frozen peas

1 tin coconut cream or milk (I prefer coconut cream because it’s richer and thicker

800ml good chicken or vegetable stock

1 tablespoon green curry paste/Chiang Mai paste

1 teaspoon kaffir lime DUST (you will need to finely chop some kaffir lime leaves)

1 teaspoon coconut or dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons fish sauce to season

Method

Place the peas, coconut milk/cream, stock, curry paste, lime dust and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Once heated right through you can season to taste with the fish sauce and then blitz to a thin soup with a stick blender. If this is too thick you can add some more stock, or just water, depending on the flavor.

I want a nice sweet but well seasoned result here, with the fish sauce adding that vital saltiness that balances off the sweetness of the peas and the coconut sugar.

If you want to strain this soup now, do so by pushing it through a course strainer with the back of a strong spoon. Discard pea shells.

Serve into gorgeous plates, making sure you use a transporter plate (aka saucer). Now garnish with coconut cream swirl (you will need to have kept some coconut cream aside) chopped chilli, lime dust and Asian shallots.

One-pot cooking!

Delicious one-pot cooking with serious attitude!

A little slice of heaven…brilliant bacon and sweet potato breakfast slice that is!

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A little slice of heaven…brilliant bacon and sweet potato breakfast slice that is! Just wish I had taken a photo of this gorgeous dish before it got devoured this morning!

Not only is this little slice of heaven easy to make, it’s packed with goodness, flavour AND personality!

You can also make it the day before or right before you need it so if you’re heading off for the Easter Weekend and you need a little something to take away…well look no further.

If you wanted to add chorizo, chopped speck or ham instead then just go ahead!  You can mix and match this slice for many years to come.

Don’t have zucchini?  Use corn.

Don’t have sweet potato?  Use up your leftover pumpkin or butternut!  We will have to remember this around the festive season with all those left overs that get left over! Foodie recycling at it’s best.

You will need:

1 cup of grated (raw) sweet potato

1 cup zucchini finely grated

4 rashers bacon finely diced

1 medium onion finely diced

4 large eggs

1 cup plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup grated cheese of your choice (you can use less if using parmesan or pecorino, maybe half a cup!)

2 cloves garlic crushed

1/2 cup chopped chives, parsley or spring onions

salt and pepper to taste

Method…there is no method!

This slice is so easy all you do is combine everything in a bowl.  Season. Bake (at 180c for about 20 minutes – this will depend on how thick the slice is which will depend on what tray you used.  The thicker this is, of course, the longer it will take to bake!

HAPPY COCONUT AND LIME CUPCAKES… IN A TEA CUP!

HAPPY COCONUT AND LIME CUPCAKES… IN A TEA CUP!

 

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Why not try baking these in pretty little tea cups!  Then decorate with icing, toasted coconut and berries!  So beautiful!

These little treasures were an absolute hit at the 96.5 FM ‘Brekky at your place’ live broadcast from Adrian and Rosanne’s place in Middle Park this morning so I thought I had to share!

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Not only are they simple to make, but the coconut and lime flavours are wonderfully refreshing and different…and of course very on-trend.

These beauties are loaded with goodness, and yes they have lots of sugar and butter but that only means that they will have a great shelf life!  So you can make them a day or two ahead if you have to…perfect for when you’re just about to get busy.

You will need…

300g sugar or castor sugar

240g butter

4 large eggs

250g plain flour

Pinch of salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon lime, lemon OR orange ZEST (always zest your fruit before you extract the juice so it’s easier to handle)

50ml lime, lemon OR orange juice

70g desiccated coconut

50ml coconut cream or milk

Method

Pre-heat your oven to 180c.

Cream the butter and the sugar together until pale and fluffy and the sugar has dissolved.  Now add the remaining ingredients and mix to form a smooth batter.

Spoon into greased cupcake/muffin tray, or into greased muffin cups, and then bake for 12-18 minutes (depending on the size of the cupcake tin/cups you have chosen.

To serve, sprinkle with some icing sugar ‘snow’, some edible petals and a big happy smile!

Enjoy!

Mel, The Happy Chef!

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Saffron, lime and chili infused butternut broth with creamy chive and feta dollop

Nothing is more satisfying than a healthy and nutritious bowl of fabulous pumpkin or butternut soup to warm the cockles of your heart.   Here’s a really easy and very sexy soup for you to try.  It’s all about adding a delicious dollop of creamy chive and feta for some texture, flavour and culinary bling.

Now not everyone can get their hands on saffron so do not fear, I have accounted for that in the recipe.  Read on fabulous foodie.

 

Saffron, lime and chili infused butternut broth with creamy chive and feta dollop                                 

 

Serves 6-8

 

2 teaspoons butter or olive oil

2 medium onions chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 good pinches saffron or use 1 teaspoon turmeric powder instead

600g -1 kg butternut, sweet potato or pumpkin cubed into 1 or 2 cm cubes (perfect way to use leftovers)

2 litres good chicken or vegetable stock

Salt and pepper to season

Zest of one lime

1 small chili crushed (or use more if you like!)

2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese or use mature cheddar (optional)

80 – 100 ml fresh cream

100 g Danish style feta mixed to a paste with 1 bunch chives or spring onions, finely chopped. Alternatively use Greek feta blended with a few tablespoons of cream until smooth!

 

Method

 

Fry the onions in the oil or butter with the garlic until just soft. Now add the saffron or turmeric and finely cubed butternut as well as the stock. Allow to come to the boil and cook for about 15 -25 minutes until the butternut is soft,  Now add the zest and the chilli as well as the fresh cream. Remove from heat and blend with a stick blender and blend until ridiculously velvety and smooth.  If this is too thick for your liking add some more stock and thin it down.

When you serve simply garnish with dollops of the feta and chives, and even some fried shallots for crunch!

Six Week Chef Skills Course

Six week chef skills course – culinary tuition

Brisbane’s only comprehensive six week Chef Skills Course runs six consecutive Mondays from 6-9.30 pm. Learn every skill you need to know to feel like the master of your kitchen. Pastry, chocolate & sugar work, knife skills and more!

Chefs Skills Course runs six consecutive Monday nights from 6-9.30pm. Suitable for all skill levels from beginners to advanced, this is a hands on, interactive cookery course designed for those with a passion for cooking but perhaps lacking the necessary skills or confidence to absolutely shine!
We should not be spending hours slaving away in the kitchen, cooking can be fun, creative, fulfilling and rewarding. We will prepare show stopping meals based on the fundamentals of essential cookery techniques but you will learn how to simplify and adapt these skills to make meals which take minimal time or effort to prepare! The focus is on enjoying the experience, gaining confidence, and learning essential cooking and presentation techniques.

Discover the art of:

  • Bread-making – focaccia, pizza, rolls, loaves, stuffed breads, rolls, pita and naan bread.
  • Sauces and Emulsions
  • Reductions
  • Flambés
  • Deboning and trussing
  • Preparing the perfect steak – rare, medium rare, medium perfectly every time
  • Overview of meat and fish cuts
  • Specialized fruit and vegetable cuts
  • Curing and preserving
  • Pasta Making: All types
  • Presentation skills.
  • Garnishes and decorations
  • Knife and carving skills
  • Chocolate work
  • Sugar work
  • Ice cream
  • Pastry work

ONLY $795……

NOTE: You MUST book in on week one of the course, we cannot allow attendees to commence the course on any of the other weeks!  The week 1 will be highlighted in blue on the calender!

BOOK HERE!
More information: The course consists of 6 lessons which run once a week over a 6 week period. Full payment of $795 or a 50% deposit will secure your place on the course. The full amount is due on the first night of the course. You are welcome to book with friends or family. Please note the price cannot be discounted due to non-attendance, so should a lesson be missed for any reason, you may make it up another time provided we are advised. Classes are limited to 12 people to ensure participants get the most out of the course. Places are limited…book soon to avoid disappointment! Upcoming courses are displayed on our calendar or email us info@vanillazulu.com.au

Purple Carrot Cake for Mum

I’m so excited!   In exactly one week my mum will fly in from South Africa to spend 9 glorious weeks with me and her beloved grandson’s.

It has been two years since we last saw each other and although we Skype and call and Whatsapp all the time, nothing can beat a cup of tea and a chat over a plate of something decadent, to really appreciate mother and daughter time TOGETHER!

My mother has always been a very keen and accomplished baker.  We used to live miles and miles away from the closest tiny towns so our ‘entertainment’ was not going to a malls and movies or restaurants as there simply weren’t any around.  No, our entertainment was ripping out recipes out of magazines and sticking them into our recipe folder.  Or pouring over recipe books booked out from the library (no google search in those days lol)

We also grew most of our own vegetables and produce so there were always fresh eggs, fruit and ridiculously good milk from our cows.  We used to have a stainless steel milk separator which would spin off the rich and delectably thick cream either to be used on scones, churned into butter, or baked into cakes and cookies.

Oh the sweet memories!

Carrot cake was always a firm favourite, and although I’ve adapted this to be a little more glamorous essentially it’s just a jolly fabulous carrot cake!

Enjoy!

Beat together

185g softened butter with 3/4 cup brown sugar in a mixer until light and fluffy, and until the sugar is dissolved.

Add 5 ml Vanilla Extract or Paste and 2 eggs and mix together.

Grate 2 medium sized purple carrots, you can use normal carrots here if you wish, into the mixture.  Sieve in 1 cup self raising flour and 1/2 a teaspoon EACH of cinnamon, mixed spice or ras el hanout, and also 1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda and 1 cup of pecans and/or pistachios. Mix together until combined and then pour into a greased cake or loaf tin.  Bake in a pre-heated oven of 170c for about 20-25 minutes until the cake is cooked, test with a skewer like they do in the movies lol!

Allow to cool.  While the cake is cooling you can whip up this delicious but ridiculously easy icing!

Take 1 small tub ricotta or cream cheese and into it add 2 tablespoons icing mixture, about 2 ml vanilla paste and the juice and zest of one lime.  Mix well and then dollop this onto the cake!  I cut the cake into portions first and arranged them on a platter before decorating each square with a dollop of the sweetened ricotta and a gorgeous little organic rose bud (available from my online store or at your local Indian spice shop)

Enjoy and let me know what you think!