Saturday 28 March 2009

earth hour: low-carbon cooking

This is my entry into my own food blogging event celebrating Earth Hour 2009 by cooking recipes with low-carbon footprints that can be enjoyed by candle light.

With full disclosure, I am heavily involved in organising Earth Hour in Australia and now that the day has arrived I am more than a little nervous as to whether the lights will go off across the country tonight. I just hope everyone remembers to switch off at 8:30pm!

Being so involved in Earth Hour inspired me to bring it to my food blogging pals, hence my invitaton to this blogger event.

But the challenge I set my fellow bloggers was a really difficult exercise.

It made me realise that every country is so interdependent on each other for food and products. I went through my cupboard and found that my rice came from Thailand, crushed tomatoes from Italy, dried fruits from Turkey, pepper from India and salt from Australia.

Think of all the processing, packaging and transport they each took to get from its natural state to its final product in my pantry. It’s mind boggling.

So what could I make that reduced packaging and transport? Something fresh, in season and very local. Living in the inner city, that becomes quite difficult. And even if I did purchase fresh vegetables at a farmers’ market, I needed to mix them with something (packaging/transport) or cook them (energy consumption).

For those that want to be sustainable, this puts us in a bind. No one wants to live in the dark ages, munching raw vegetables we pulled from the earth so how can we find a balance?

Other bloggers have found their balance by using ingredients from farmers’ markets or growing vegetables in their own gardens. I decided to show another way we can all reduce our carbon footprint: using leftovers.

I took leftovers from multiple meals to make one mighty delicious dinner and reduced the waste and landfill of my home. It’s a simple option that so often people neglect.

When food is plentiful, people are often extravagantly wasteful. I think I’m worse than most due to my craving for new flavour sensations and my disdain for reheated food. Since I started working for a conservation organisation and had a lot less personal time I have become quite adept at turning leftovers into a meal in their own right.

In this case I took:
- avocado and a tomato halves remaining from making sandwiches
- some cherry tomatoes leftover from a salad
- potato and feta mash leftover from a previous dinner
- half a zucchini remaining from making a pasta sauce
- a few olives from an antipasto platter
- basil grown in my garden

And I turned it into Potato & Feta Cakes with two toppings of Caponata and Tomato & Avocado.

Potato & Feta Cakes w Two Toppings
Anna’s very own recipe. Serves 1.
1 cup potato & feta mash
1 egg, whisked
Olive oil, for frying
Avocado Topping
Tomato half, cubed
Avocado half, cubed
½ teaspoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon shredded basil
Caponata Topping
1 garlic clove, crushed
½ zucchini, finely sliced
4 cherry tomatoes, halved
4 black olives, chopped
1 tablespoon capers
1 tablespoon shredded basil
1. To make the potato cakes, combine the egg and potato & feta mash and mix well. Form into two patties. Refrigerate while you prepare the toppings.
2. In a bowl add avocado and tomato cubes, the remaining basil and season with salt and pepper. Dress with a little olive oil and white wine vinegar and toss to combine. Set aside at room temperature.
3. In a frying pan, heat olive oil. Fry the garlic and zucchini until softened.
4. Add the cherry tomato halves and squash. Add olives and capers and fry until tomatoes are soft also.
5. Remove from heat, add 1 tablespoon basil and season with salt and pepper. Set aside at room temperature.
6. In a frying pan, heat olive oil. Fry the potato patties until crispy on the outside.
7. Plate patties and spoon the toppings onto each patty. Serve immediately.

For those who want to do more to improve their carbon footprint in the kitchen, although I do not profess to be an expert, here are some sustainable tips:
* Reduce your consumption of meat and fish and choose animal products from local, ethical and sustainably-focused farmers.
* Educate yourself about aquaculture and learn which fish are endangered. Try to buy fish from plentiful stocks caught with sustainable methods.
* Shopping at farmers markets, butchers or a green grocer (rather than the supermarket) means you can ask questions about the produce and know where it came from and how it was grown. Prices are higher but the quality usually is higher too.
* When buying fruit and vegetables, use your sense of smell. Large, scentless produce is usually mass and often unsustainably produced. Smaller, less perfect specimens with fragrance are often the result of smaller scale farming techniques.
* Better still, grow your own food. Everyone has space for a pot of their own herbs, chilli plants and perhaps a citrus or tomato plant.
* Wash vegetables in a sink, not under running water.
* Cook with your leftovers. Turn baked potatoes into a frittata, leftover takeaway rice into fried rice or roast chicken bones and scraps into soup.
* Compost bins or worm farms are perfect for kitchen scraps, makes good fertiliser and reduces landfill. Just make sure there’s proper aeration or your compost may produce methane and undo your good work.

WWF has a great carbon footprint calculator. I took the test and came out at 3 planets - thanks to my vegetarian husband and not having a car - but even that is still too high. Take the test and see where you can cut down your emissions!

I hope to see many more of you participating in this event. For details click here.

And if you don't have time to join the food blogging event, please join Earth Hour: turn off your lights at 8:30pm (your own time zone) on Sat 28 March and cast your vote for the future of our planet. Register online to be counted!

Monday 23 March 2009

blackberry breakfast cake

My grandfather is a first generation American son of two very tough Eastern European migrants who would thriftily harvest the wild fruits and berries of Pennsylvania.

I remember my grandfather telling me stories of his youth spent picking berries in the field opposite his home.

It all sounded so romantic until he smiled and said “I hated picking those blackberries. The darn thorns would stick into my fingers and I’d go home all cut up. Since there were no girls in the family and I was the eldest of my mother’s children, I was stuck picking berries with all the other town’s women when my brothers were off having a good time.”

I still can’t help imagining my grandfather returning with buckets of blackberries and his mother, Anna, turning these into jam, pies and cakes for her brood of six boys. Seems so quaint but I suppose the reality was never as charming.

It’s also sad to think that after Uncle Andy died a month ago, my grandfather and his youngest brother, Uncle Ed, are all that is left of that large, vibrant family. It made me realise that we’re about to lose that generation and with them all the stories that they hold.

While introducing this recipe to you, I want to emphasis that it’s not outrageous to eat cake for breakfast!

What do you think a muffin is? Oh yes, we pretend cakes and muffins are quite separate but we know in our heart of hearts they are really just the same thing dressed up in different outfits.

And this cake is just like a muffin, only baked in a flat tin rather than cupcake tins.

The moist interior is alive with warm spices and luscious blackberries while the top is crunchy with toasted oatmeal and macadamia nuts.

The original recipe calls for cashews, and I just adored the results of macadamias, but I suppose you could just use whichever nuts are cheapest or on hand. Walnuts, hazelnuts or almonds would work just as well.

Blackberry & Oatmeal Breakfast Cake
Recipe by Food Blogga. Serves 6-8.


½ cup whole wheat flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup rolled oats
¾ cup fresh blackberries (cut in half if very large)
¼ cup chopped macadamia nuts
3 tablespoons chopped macadamia nuts, for topping
3 tablespoon rolled oats, for topping


1. Place rack in centre of oven and preheat to 180’C.

2. Grease an 8 inch square pan.

3. In a medium bowl, sift the flours.

4. Add baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

5. In a separate large bowl, beat the sugars and eggs at medium speed until light.

6. Beat in the vanilla, buttermilk and oil.

7. Reduce speed to low and add dry ingredients, including the oats.

8. Beat until just incorporated and the flour is combined.

9. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the blackberries and cashews until well blended.

10. Pour the batter into the pan and gently shake it to even it out.

11. Sprinkle the chopped cashews and oats evenly over the top of the cake and lightly coat with cooking spray.

12. Bake for 45 - 55 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and a cake tester inserted deep into the centre comes out clean.

13. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 10 minutes.

14. Unmold the cake and place on a rack and allow to set for at least 15 minutes before slicing. Serve with double cream.

Blackberries are part of the bramble family, meaning that they are the thorny members of the genus Rubus in the rose family Rosaceae.

There are several hundred species of blackberries, all native to temperate climes and seemingly the Northern Hemisphere. In Australia, introduced blackberries have become an extremely invasive weed and I have seen many gardeners hastily uproot bushes when they spot them sprouting in their gardens

Interestingly, an Iron Age body found preserved in a bog in Denmark (Haraldskær Woman) showed evidence that the woman had been eating blackberries 2,500 years ago so scientists believe humans have been eating blackberries for quite some time. I guess it goes without saying that when you find a good thing, you stick with it.

Blackberries yield high levels of nectar, allowing bees to make a fruity honey.

According to Wikipedia, blackberries are “high in dietary fibre, vitamin C, vitamin K, folic acid and manganese” as well as antioxidants.

Their root is sometimes used for dysentery and the leaves make blackberry tea for treating diarrhoea and sore throats.

This is my contribution to Weekend Herb Blogging hosted by Anna from Anna’s Cool Finds (that gal’s got an awesome name!).

Be sure to check out her recap, but also remember to take part in the Earth Hour Food Blogging Event ending next weekend and hosted by moi!

References & Photo:

Thursday 5 March 2009

moroccan chicken tagine

I requested a tagine for Christmas and my parents kindly obliged. I have made two of the Moroccan casseroles since then, the chicken and olive version I'm posting here and a vegetarian version that I'll share soon.

Both were delicious.

Tagines are rich with spices and flavoured with preserved lemon, my Weekend Herb Blogging theme ingredient for the week.

Making a tagine was one of my 2009 food challenges, so I’m felling pretty positive about moving through my goals of the year too.

Tagines are so easy to make and you don’t really need the specially shaped conical pot. A good casserole dish will suffice, and may even be necessary for cooking large portions when juices may slosh out of a shallow tagine base.

Djej Emshmel (Moroccan Chicken Tagine w Lemon & Olives)

Anna’s adaptation of
Elise’s recipe
. Serves 4 - 6.

2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1.5kg chicken thighs and drumsticks
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
2 zucchini, sliced
2 potatoes, sliced
1 preserved lemon (see recipe below)
1 cup green olives, pitted
2 cups chicken stock
½ cup raisins
¼ cup chopped fresh coriander
¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Salt, for seasoning
Olive oil, for frying


1. Rinse preserved lemon in cold water. Discard pulp then cut peel into thin strips.

2. Combine all the spices in a large bowl.

3. Pat dry the chicken pieces and put in the bowl, coat well with the spice mixture. In a tagine (or heavy bottomed skillet), heat the olive oil on medium high heat.

4. Add the chicken pieces and brown for five minutes.

5. Remove chicken, lower the heat to medium-low, add the garlic and onions and any spices left in the bowl. Fry until soft.

6. Add potato. Fry for 5 minutes.

7. Add zucchini. Fry for 3 minutes.

8. Add the preserved lemon, olives, raisins and stock.

9. Bring to a simmer then add chicken. Cover and let cook for 10 minutes.

10. Turn chicken pieces over. Cook another 10 minutes (without lid if you need to reduce liquid). 11. Adjust seasonings to taste then mix in fresh parsley and coriander just before serving. Serve with couscous or rice.

My focus for WHB this week is preserved lemons.

I wrote a previous post about lemons, but now specifically I’m drawing your attention to Morocco’s preserved lemons.

They are central to North African and Middle Eastern cuisines and are actually a pickle, since the lemons are preserved in brine (salty liquid).

The flesh can be used, although the rind is preferable. To use, simply wash to remove excess salt and chop. The lemons add an extremely citrus flavour to stews, soups, salad dressings, slow braising casseroles and even as a cocktail garnish.

Hamad Muraqqad (Moroccan Preserved Lemons)

Recipe by Maggie Beer.


Thick-skinned lemons
Salt: 1 dessertspoon per lemon + one extra for the jar
Freshly squeezed lemon juice
Preserving jars


1. Cut lemons into quarters. Place the lemons, flesh side down, in the jar, sprinkling each quarter with salt as you add it to the jar.

2. For every lemon use a good dessertspoon of salt, and one for the jar.

3. When the jar is full, press right down on the lemons to squeeze as much juice out, filling the jar with more slices, again squeezing right down. Pack them in very tightly as they will shrink.

4. Immerse all the lemons by topping up the jar with fresh lemon juice.

5. Put a lid on the jar and 6-8 weeks later they will be ready to use.

To hold the lemon quarters under the lemon juice, use the little plastic devices found in takeaway pizza boxes that stop the topping from sticking to the cardboard lid.

To read the WHB round-up for this week, visit Haalo's Cook (almost) Anything At Least Once.

And for more preserved lemon recipes . . . .
Algerian-Style Duck w Preserved Lemon & Olives
Baby Cos Hearts & Asparagus w Preserved Lemon Dressing
Chicken, Haloumi & Preserved Lemon Skewers
Chorizo & Preserved Lemon Turkey Roll
Cumin-Spiced Snapper w Preserved Lemon Moghrabieh
Fennel & Preserved Lemon Salad
Feta & Preserved Lemon Salad
Fettuccine w Preserved Lemon & Roasted Garlic
Fried Artichokes w Preserved Lemon Dressing
Grilled Striped Bass w Preserved Lemon Rub
Kumera & Preserved Lemon Skewers
Marinated Yellow-Tail w Preserved Lemon
Moorish Lamb Cutlets w Preserved Lemon Yoghurt
Preserved Lemon & Goats Cheese Croutes
Split Pea, Sausage & Preserved Lemon Soup
Swiss Chard, Potato & Preserved Lemon Pot Pie
Tuna Tartare w Preserved Lemons




Tuesday 3 March 2009

second wedding anniversary

I can't believe it's been two years today since Jonas and I got married.

And exactly nine years since that first kiss in LouLou's Winnie the Pooh room.

We're both older, certainly chubbier, and still very, very happy.

Sunday 1 March 2009

earth hour 2009: blogging event

At 8:30pm on Saturday 28 March millions of people around the world will unite and switch off their lights for one hour, Earth Hour.

This event is a global public awareness campaign about the effects of climate change and I am personally involved in the project in Australia.

In 2009, Earth Hour will take place in more than 80 countries around the world, proving that climate change really is a global threat and that it will take all of us to work together to solve it. We are hoping that Earth Hour reaches one billion people.

In light of this (yes, twas a pun), I would like to throw a challenge out to all bloggers to take part in an Earth Hour food blogging event and cook a recipe that you can enjoy by candle light and that has a low carbon footprint (ie made from locally sourced ingredients and minimal packaging).

Blog your recipe from now until 8:29pm on Saturday 28 March (in your time zone), then at 8:30pm switch off your lights, your computer, your non-essential appliances, take everything off standby and join the world in one hour of beautiful candle light for Earth Hour.

* Post any recipe with a low carbon footprint that can be enjoyed by candle light
* Recipe must be posted before 8:29pm on Saturday 28 March (in your time zone) and cannot be submitted to any other event.
* Include a link back to this post: so others can find the round-up
* Email the following to morselsandmusingsATyahooDOTcomDOTau
- Name
- Location
- Recipe
- One sentence on what makes the recipe have a low carbon footprint
- Permalink
- Blog Name

Since I am heavily involved in Earth Hour in Australia, I might be a tad busy in the week post-Earth Hour but I’ll aim to have the round-up ready on Friday 3 April.

Other ways you can support Earth Hour:
- Turn off your lights and non-essential appliances at 8:30pm on Saturday 28 March
- Sign up online at
- Encourage friends, family and colleagues to participate and sign-up
- Host a Earth Hour logo and hyperlink on your blog
- Check out the downloads from your country’s Earth Hour website and learn about other ways you can get involved

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