A luxurious escape to many good things raw, organic, and somewhat vegetarian, Combi has no trouble attracting visitors. As welcoming as sunshine, this island hideaway is a few minutes from the Elwood canal.
Cocktail-esque and exotically dressed, you’ll find it hard to resist smoothies like “velvet cacao”, “mango shack”, and “liquid passion”. Almond milk is also available in chocolate, espresso, and chai options.
Adding to a multitude of sensory pleasures, a raw pizza, chia seed ‘parfait’, and raw organic zucchini spaghetti are also on the menu.
On this suburban oasis, fresh, raw, organic treats are so tasty it’s a delight to eat what’s good for you. As the menu items are raw, most will manage only a couple of items per visit, so be prepared take away.
Shop 1 / 140 Ormond Road, Elwood, Melbourne, VIC 3184
The smell of baking coconut, manuka honey, and banana wafting from the oven was too heavenly to resist. I had to share this recipe. I had half a carton of buttermilk left over, so I decided to bake a banana loaf for the week’s snacks. The buttermilk, combined with baking soda would produce a nice, light loaf.
Always thinking of how to make food healthy, yet full of deliciousness, I added coconut oil, manuka honey, and walnuts to the mix. Manuka honey packs a nice punch in flavour, especially in low-fat baking. And nuts are always a treat!
Low-fat Manuka Honey Banana Bread
5 ripe bananas, mashed
2T Manuka honey
1T coconut oil (you can also use butter or oil)
1 egg, beaten
1 cup buttermilk
2t baking soda
1t baking powder
1 cup wholemeal flour
1 cup plain flour
10 crushed walnuts
- Preheat the oven to 180˚C. Grease a 12cm x 22cm loaf tin.
- Combine the bananas with the honey and coconut oil. Then mix in the egg.
- Combine the buttermilk and baking soda. Add this to the banana mix.
- Next add the flours and spices. Mix until the wet and dry ingredients are just combined.
- Stir in the walnuts.
- Transfer the mixture to the prepared loaf tin.
- Bake for 45 minutes, or until the loaf bounces back when lightly touched and an inserted skewer comes out clean.
I’ve been waiting for the perfect opportunity to cook with coconut oil. I love coconut and it seems to be the superfood ‘flavour of the month’. Proselytising many (women at least), it’s being hailed as a mega-electrolyte source, an age-defying elixir, and of course, an aid to weight loss.
Back to coconut oil … I had some carrots in the fridge and so decided to make pumpkin carrot soup. Hence the (coconut oil) opportunity. I would sauté the vegetables in coconut oil and then also add coconut milk, to produce a rich coconut flavour. I would also add ginger and, at the end, chilli flakes and lime. Sounding Thai? I hoped so!
To get the vegetables to liquids ratio right, I sought guidance from Jamie’s Pumpkin and Ginger soup recipe.
Here’s what my recipe ended up looking like:
Coconut, Pumpkin, and Carrot Soup
1T coconut oil
large thumb of grated ginger
1L vegetable stock
200mL coconut milk
chilli flakes to taste
salt and pepper
half a lime
- Cut pumpkin and carrots into chunks.
- Heat coconut oil in a large pot and sauté pumpkin and carrots.
- Add ginger, vegetable stock, coconut milk, and chilli flakes.
- Bring mixture to the boil and then simmer for 40 minutes until vegetables are tender enough to mash or process.
- Mash or process soup mixture, to develop a texture to your liking (smooth or chunky).
- Season with salt and pepper and add a squeeze of lime before serving.
Coming up with ways to use left-over wine is one of my favourite dilemmas. “Left-over” wine? Yes.
Regardless of how it’s neglected, I’ll always take the opportunity to enrich a meal with it. In this case, it was white wine and I decided to make a low-fat mushroom lasagne with it.
When making ‘skinny’ meals, I work extra hard to ensure they’re full of flavour. Why make healthy-eating torture? The wine would add depth and flavour to the mushrooms; and the low-calorie ‘creamy’ partner would be a low-fat ricotta. For lift and complexity, I also added lemon zest to the ricotta.
As usual, I researched the net for mushroom ricotta lasagne recipes, before deciding on how I would shape my own recipe. I based my initial structure on the BBC’s GoodFood Quick Mushroom & Lasagne recipe:
My key changes to the recipe were:
- Adding white wine to the mushrooms
- Adding lemon rind to the ricotta
- Sautéeing the onions and mushrooms in a tablespoon of butter, for a hint of traditional comfort
Quick Low-fat Mushroom Lasagne with White Wine and Lemon Ricotta
1 T butter
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 small onion, diced
250g white button mushrooms, sliced
250mL white wine
pepper to taste
100g baby spinach
500g light ricotta cheese
grated rind of one lemon
6 fresh lasagne sheets
50g grated parmesan
- Preheat the oven to 200˚C /180˚C fan bake.
- Prepare a 19cm x 28cm baking dish with cooking spray.
- Melt butter in a large frying pan and sauté garlic and onion until onion is soft.
- Add mushrooms and cook until soft.
- Add white wine and cook until liquid has reduced to a small sauce. Season with cracked pepper.
- Add spinach and cook until just wilted.
- In a medium-sized bowl, combine ricotta and lemon rind.
- Line the baking dish with two sheets of lasagne, followed by the mushroom mixture. Add another layer of lasagne, then the ricotta. Sprinkle half of the parmesan over the ricotta. Finish with a final layer of lasagne, followed by the remaining parmesan.
- Bake for 35 minutes, until the top is golden and the lasagne is cooked through.
Eating healthily is important to me, but taste is a non-negotiable. Who wants to cook, let alone eat food that resembles cattle fodder or tastes like cardboard?
So in my pursuit of flavour, and health, I learnt that loaf recipes which include dates are generally low in fat. Dates and their sticky goodness, contribute flavour, sugar, and moisture without adding copious amounts of sugar or fat. This led me to an Apple and Date loaf recipe on foodinaminute.co.nz. And from there, I developed my own variety of ‘date loaf’.
To make this Apple and Date loaf even ‘healthier’, I made the following changes to the recipe:
- I halved the butter – one tablespoon is enough to add flavour. Sometimes I use oil instead.
- To begin with, I left the sugar out, as the dates contribute enough sugar of their own. These days, I sometimes add golden syrup for depth of flavour and colour.
- To me, eating healthily also means maximising the nutritional the value of my meals, so I always use a blend of wholemeal and plain flour, which adds fibre as well.
- My variation uses more boiling water as I prefer a softer, lighter loaf.
In addition, I get bored easily, so I change the flavour each time I make this loaf. This depends on what I’m in the mood for. I’ll include some of my variations at the end.*
‘Healthy’ Date Loaf
1 cup chopped dried dates
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp all spice
Boiling water (have at least 2 cups on hand)
1 T melted butter or oil
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/8 cup golden syrup (optional)
1 cup plain flour
1 cup wholemeal flour
2 tsp baking powder
- Preheat the oven to 180˚C.
- In a two-cup capacity jug, place the chopped dates, spices, and baking soda. Then fill the jug with the boiling water, to the top, covering the dates. Set aside to cool slightly.
- In a bowl, combine the butter, egg, and golden syrup (if using).
- Combine the flours and baking powder.
- Gradually add the date and egg mixtures to the flour mixture. The resulting mixture should be pourable, but not liquid. If you find the mixture is a bit stiff, add a bit more boiled water.
- Transfer the mixture to a greased loaf tin and bake for approximately 45 minutes. After about 40 minutes, test whether the loaf is baked. If the loaf bounces back when touched and an inserted skewer comes out (almost) clean, it’s done. You want the loaf to still be moist when you take it out of the oven. Cooked sticky date mix on the skewer is ideal. Raw batter goop on the skewer means you may need to exercise more patience!
- Once the loaf is cooked, remove it from the oven and leave it to sit in the tin for a few minutes. Then transfer it to a cooling rack. Slice when completely cold.
Serve with a dollop of yoghurt or reheated with low-fat custard, for added protein.
- Banana-Date Loaf: Add a ripe, mashed banana to the date mix.
- Pear-Date Loaf: Add a chopped, ripe pear to the date mix.
- Berry Loaf: Substitute the dates and boiling water for a cup of berries, in juice.
- Ginger-Date Loaf: Add a tablespoon of ginger to the spice mix and include the golden syrup.
- Extra-spicy Date Loaf: Add other spices to the mix, such as cloves or a few crushed cardamom pods.
- Coconut-Date Loaf: Stir through some coconut (approx half a cup) at the end.
They say cats eat grass when they’re ill. Some believe cats eat grass to relieve sore throats. And I’ve also heard it’s a natural laxative … As for me, grass probably isn’t going to do it, but I know green’s what I’ve yearned for while feeling under the weather.
So, broccolini has been it. This broccoli-kai-lan hybrid has been around for a while, but it’s only recently that I’ve really come to love it. Light cooking produces a bright spring green colour and it has an easy-to-eat appeal, particularly when you’re feeling like baby-bites of food – it’s so tender that you can eat the entire stalk. It’s also high in vitamin C, A, and B6; calcium, iron, manganese, and potassium.
When fresh, broccolini needs little attention. On this occasion, I stir-fried it with a few crushed garlic cloves; then added some tinned straw mushrooms, as well as some pre-marinated honey-soy tofu for protein. Keeping things clean and simple, I paired the stir-fry with rice (sushi rice, my favourite) and finished it off with a sprinkling of cashews.
Voilà. Clean, simple, healthy food for humans.
As a rule, I try not to shop too far ahead – food-wise – in case plans fall through, or I change my mind. However, sometimes my desire for being prepared and organised overtakes! On this occasion, I’d bought ingredients for a cherry custard tart. Sure enough, plans fell through. A rich custard treat for one was out of the question, but I still had eggs that needed using …
My solution? A cherry clafoutis. A clafoutis is a French pudding, which has become one of my ’pantry’ recipes for quick and delicious; cheap and easy; low-fat and healthy. And the choice of fruit? Well, yes cherries are out of season, but I got some preserved ones for a steal at the supermarket!
Recipe-wise, there are a myriad of interpretations out there. Some that use two eggs, three eggs, six … varying amounts of milk, flour, and butter … and some recipes even call for ground nuts! Yum.
On this occasion I was looking for a recipe that used just a few eggs; ‘healthy’ enough to be enjoyed over several serves. But I also wanted a stodgy pudding to provide some winter comfort. This led me to Neil Perry’s recipe on goodfood, which sits in the middle of the road, clafoutis-wise. It uses three eggs and a cup of flour, perfect for my intent and purpose.
Here’s the result!
Recipe: Cherry clafoutis