Sometimes you wake up, maybe a touch under the weather, and you want a bit of brunch, but leaving your house seems like an impossible task. You drag yourself to the kitchen and find the cupboards and fridge are more or less bare – sure, you’ve got eggs, some random veggies, and all the oils and spices you could ever need, but these ingredients do not brunch make. Or do they?

Orzotto is a risotto made from barley and it’s damn tasty. I’ve made it from scratch (using raw barley) but you can also do it with leftover cooked barley, which is how this recipe came about. And I see no reason why you can’t eat it for brunch.

I’ve even made it extra flexible with ingredient options so that you don’t have to leave the house tomorrow morning. You’re welcome.

Bits-and-bobs Orzotto for one
A splash of oil and a smidge of butter
A pinch of salt
A spoonful of diced onion – you could also use fennel, capsicum, celery or garlic
A pinch of chopped parsley
A pinch saffron threads, soaked in ¼ c white wine
1 cup stock/water
4-5 tablespoons leftover cooked barley, or other whole grains/equivalent – eg, brown rice, farrow, quinoa, couscous, risoni…
3-4 florets of cauliflower – you could sub in brocolli, kale, brocolini, bok choy, asparagus.
1/2 a tomato, cut into wedges. You could also use beetroot, pickled onions or other pickles.
One egg
pepper and salt
fresh herbs, to garnish
butter, to add at the end
goats cheese/feta/other cheese, to serve.

Add the cauliflower florets (or whtever you’re using) to a bowl of salted warm water.

Heat oil and butter. Add a spoonful diced onion and a pinch of salt. Cook until translucent.

Boil a jug of water.

Add the cooked grains to the pan, heat through.

Add wine mix and parsley, freshly ground salt and pepper, simmer

Add water/stock, spoonful by spoonful, stirring as it is absorbed.

In a small frypan, put an egg on to fry.

Add the cauliflower into the orzotto.

Once egg is nearly done, cover, turn off heat on both pans. Add butter to the orzotto.

Assemble- orzotto, egg on top, tomato around, fresh herbs, sprinkle goats cheese.

What’s your fave homemade brunch?

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I’m gonna say it. I’m not a fan of substitutions. For example, you know those lil’ break-out boxes in those terrible women’s magazines you pick up to read on the plane sometimes? They kill me. ‘Want a handful of m & m’s? Substitute….a handful of sultanas. Want a slice of pepperoni pizza? Substitute ¼ of a piece of mountain bread with low fat cheese and a slice of lite ham. Profriterole? Granny smith apple. These are not substitutions, any more than a frozen banana put through the blender is ice cream.

Even things that are similar are not. the. same. Brown rice may be a replacement for jasmine rice, but they are different in many ways. Brown rice doesn’t have the heavenly scent, soft texture and marry with south-east Asian food in a perfect union the way jasmine does. A glass of rice milk is nothing like a frosty glass of full-cream Jersey goodness. Cocoa nibs are not as delicious as a hunk of proper chocolate. And nothing, NOTHING is a substitute for butter, I don’t care what anyone says.

The folks out there telling you that they are sooo looking forward to that second plate of kale chips? Trust me, they’re not. And if you *are* looking forward to these kale-y snacks, please don’t call them chips. Call them dehydrated kale chunks and be done with it. If you’re looking forward to your quinoa salad, by all means look forward to it, but *as* a quinoa salad, not as a substitute for prawn risotto with lashings of parmesan. They’re not even in the same league.

So. I want to eat some cheesecake this week. And even though I still have a few kilos I would like to lose, I am going to have some. This is my actual cheesecake recipe, and it is actually a cheesecake. It doesn’t have a crust, but in all other respects, it is what it appears to be. The secret to making it ‘healthy’, whatever that means, is portion size. Make this into 6 tiny cheesecakes. Oh, and it’s piss-easy. So get baking.

Lau’s tiny baked cheesecakes for non-crazy people

This recipe serves 6 and is best made a day ahead.

250g cream cheese (room temperature)
2 eggs (room temperature)
1/3 cup caster sugar
The juice of one lime or lemon
The zest of one lime or lemon, grated
1 cup of appropriate fruit – I used frozen blueberries

Preheat oven to 150°c. Beat the cream cheese, sugar and zest together until smooth. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until well incorporated. Add the juice and beat for about 30 seconds. Split mixture between 6 individual ovenproof dishes and sprinkle with fruit chunks.

Boil a kettle. Place the six dishes into a large baking tray and fill the tray with boiling water to halfway up the outside of the dishes.

Bake for 35 minutes, turn off the oven and leave to cool with the door ajar. Remove from oven and, once cool, refrigerate 3+ hours (I made them a day ahead and we ate them over the course of a week).

Whaddya say, chums? Got any legit substitution suggestions?

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I don’t often go out for breakfast these days, but when I do, I’m a sucker for a fritter and a good poached egg. Recently, I started trying to replicate the flavour and texture of café-style inch-thick, fluffy fritters in my own kitchen, and the results have been pretty amazing. Here are the 4 ‘fritter truths’ I discovered on my journey to corn fritter heaven.

Veggie Fritters from Gnome Espresso and Wine Bar, Surry Hills

1. Corn fritters aren’t just pancakes with a tin of corn chucked in. Not to say a batch of pancakes or pikelets studded with super sweet, fiberless corn kernels ain’t a delight to the palate, but there’s just so much more they COULD be. So I’ve discarded the pikelet + tinned corn method I’ve used since adolescence (served with a liberal slosh of sweet chilli sauce on the side).

Zucchini and Corn Fritters from Double Roasters, Marrickville

2. Good corn fritters are mostly corn, not batter; the main ingredient is given away in the title. The batter loosely bindes together the corn and other flavourful ingredients. It is light and fluffy and whipped-egg-white heavy (easy on the SR flour), and thus maleable. This means the fritters can be shallow or pan fried (even deep fried should the mood take you), in lumps or thick, flat saucer shapes.

Zucchini Fritters from The Reading Room, Footscray

3. Fresh corn is better! I’m told there are places in the world where the corn is so fresh and sweet you can gnaw is raw from the cob, but I don’t live in such a place so I find the corn needs to be sauteed a little pre-fritter. So saw those kernels off the cob, cook ‘em up, let ‘em cool and fold them into your feather-light batter, ready to dollop.

Zucchini and Haloumi Fritters from Le Monde, Surry Hills

4. There are other things in there besides corn. This was a revelation to me, but of course it makes sense. Garlic. Zucchini. Onions. Chilli. Fresh herbs. Salt and pepper. Spices. Mushrooms. Bacon. There are so many amazing tidbits you can toss into your sauteeing corn. Hell, there are so many ingredients you can use in PLACE of corn, I just really like corn.

Lau's Ultimate Corn Fritters (served with guac and crispy bacon)

Lau’s Ultimate Corn Fritters
serves 4 as a side

I’ve served these fritters many a way – with guac and crispy bacon, with tomato salsa and cumin yogurt, with asparagus and fried eggs. They are the perfect breakfast, brunch or breakfast for dinner.

For the guts of it
olive oil for pan frying (I prefer extra virgin)
1 single clove garlic bulb or 4 normal sized cloves
pinch salt
6-8 rashes bacon or similar, chopped
2 spring onions, chopped
1-2 Tbsp paprika
The kernels from 2 -3 small cobs of corn
½ bunch coriander, leaves finely chopped
For the batter itself
2 eggs, separated
¼ cup milk
½-¾ cup self-raising flour
To Serve
Crispy bacon
Guac

Heat the oil in a medium frying pan, sautee garlic with salt until soft. Add in bacon and cook until beginning to brown. Add spring onions, paprika and corn and cook until corn kernels are soft but still have some bite to them. Remove pan from heat and stir through coriander. Transfer to a large bowl to cool (perhaps in the fridge).

Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks.

Whisk milk and egg yolks together.

Once cooled, add enough flour to the corn mix so that everything is well coated. Fold through the yolk and milk mixture completely, then gently fold in the egg whites.

Dollop 8 dollops on a medium low grill or pan (oiled), flip when golden brown. Cook until cooked through.

Serve as you like. Suggestions include: crispy bacon, non-crispy bacon, guac, salsa, hot sauce, sour cream, poached eggs, fried eggs, hummus, greek yogurt, rocket, basil… the possibilities are endless.

What’s your go-to café breakfast?

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Sometimes a missing ingredient can lead to a tasty surprise. This is one such example, where I planned to make tabouleh for a bbq I was attending, but found that, strangely enough, Vietnamese greengrocers don’t always stock parsley. As the mint and spring onions smelled amazing and I’d already ducked into Woolies and found cracked wheat , the closest I could get to burghul (which is finely cracked wheat), I decided to forge ahead- almost-tabouleh it would have to be. Luckily there was plenty of dill around, so I improvised.

The recipe turned out well, very fresh-tasting and with a nice zing. The lemons I had were ancient (explains the $1/kilo price tag) so I had to add a teaspoon or so of castor sugar, but if your lemons are reasonably fresh you should be ok. This recipe makes a massive salad, a great addition to any summer feast.

Almost Tabouleh
1 cup cracked wheat or burghul
1-2 cups boiling water
1 clove garlic
6 spring onions
1 small bunch mint
1 bunch dill
3 large, ripe tomatoes
2 lebanese cucumbers
2 large juicy lemons
1-2 Tablespoons canola oil
1 -2 teaspoons baharat spice mix (if you have it)
Freshly cracked pepper and salt, to taste
Sugar (perhaps)

If you’re using cracked wheat, boil in 2 cups of water for 10-15 minutes and leave to cool. If you’re using burghul, soak in 1 cup boiling water, covered for 10 minutes. You may need to drain it a bit, I had to rinse the cracked wheat in cold water as it went quite starchy.

They key to this salad is fresh herbs, finely chopped. Very finely chop the garlic and mix through the burghul/wheat. Finely chop the spring onions. Pick the mint leaves, discarding the stalks and very finely slicing the leaves. Finely chop the dill until you reach the point where there’s more stalk than leaf. Stir the herbs through the wheat.

Roughly chop the tomatoes, then quarter and slice the cucumbers. Douse in lemon juice and a slosh of oil, adding everything else to taste. Stir well and refrigerate. Best made a few hours ahead, can make the day before.

Have you ever had a missing ingredient lead to an unexpected dish?

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