Seeds such as sunflower, pumpkin, sesame and flax are nutritional powerhouses. High in fibre, protein, vitamins, minerals and mono and polyunsaturated fats, they taste great and are extremely versatile.
Sunflower seeds are the grey-green fruits of the golden flower. They have a mild nutty flavour; are one of the main sources of polyunsaturated oil; and contain vitamins E, B1 and B6, manganese, magnesium, copper, selenium, phosphorus and folate. Use in pesto in place of pine nuts; or combine with parmesan cheese and raisins and sprinkle over steamed greens.
Pumpkin seeds - or pepitas - are flat, dark green seeds with a chewy texture and subtle sweet, nutty flavour. They are a good source of protein as well as iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, copper and potassium. In Mexico, pepitas are often ground and used to thicken sauces. Sprinkle pumpkin seeds over mixed roasted veges and top with yoghurt; or for crunch, add the seeds to your hamburger mix.
Sesame seeds have been cultivated for well over 5000 years. They are high in manganese and copper and a good source of calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorus, vitamin B1 and zinc. The seeds add nutty taste and delicate crunch to many dishes. Roll sushi in lightly toasted sesame seeds; brush salmon with sweet soy sauce and dust with the seeds before cooking; or add to toffee to make sesame brittle.
Linseeds (or flax seeds) are not the seeds of our native flaxes but come from Linum usitatissimum. They have a sweet nutty taste and are the richest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids. To best absorb their goodness, the seeds should be ground before enjoying: mix a tablespoon into your breakfast yoghurt; add a little to bakes and desserts; or stir into smoothies.
Fennel seeds are the dried fruit of the Florence fennel plant. They are yellowish or green and highly aromatic with an aniseed-like flavour. Fennel seeds are very effective for digestive problems and as a mouth refresher. Make into a tea to overcome gas, cramps and acid indigestion; use in moderation in stir-fries and casseroles; or sprinkle on top of muffins.
GRANOLA TRIFLE WITH STRAWBERRIES
The granola recipe makes six to seven cups but only about two are used in the trifle. Store the leftover granola in an airtight jar for breakfasts.
Granola: 1 & 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup each: desiccated coconut, raisins
1/2 cup each: pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, slivered almonds
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
2 tbsp each: brown sugar, golden syrup, treacle
Trifle: 1 cup each: custard, cream
2 tbsp icing sugar
2-3 cups strawberries, halved
To make the granola, preheat oven to 150C.
Combine rolled oats, coconut, raisins, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and almonds in a large bowl.
Combine butter, oil, spices, sugar, golden syrup and treacle in a saucepan. Heat, stirring until butter is melted. Fold into the dry ingredients.
Spread evenly into a large baking pan. Bake for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Cool and crumble.
To make trifle, place about 1/2 to 3/4 of a cup of granola in the base of a serving bowl. Top with half the custard. Cover with a single layer of strawberries.
Whip cream and icing sugar, until thick. Place about half over the berries. Top with more granola, custard, berries and cream. Garnish with berries and sprinkle with granola. Refrigerate until ready to serve - up to 8 hours. Serves 6.
LINSEED THUMBPRINT BISCUITS
1/2 cup packed dark cane sugar
1 large egg, separated
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 cup each: plain flour, wholemeal flour
6 tbsp ground linseeds
1/4 tsp each: cream of tartar, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg
1/2 cup apricot jam
Preheat oven to 180C. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Cream butter and 1/4 cup of the sugar until creamy, preferably with an electric beater. Add egg yolk and vanilla and beat well.
Combine flours, two tablespoons of the ground linseeds, cream of tartar, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in another bowl.
Gradually add to butter mixture, beating well, scraping down the side of the bowl when required.
Place egg white in a shallow bowl. Whisk with a fork until slightly fluffy. Combine remaining sugar and ground linseeds and place on a plate.
Take tablespoons of the dough - about 15g - and roll into balls. Dip each one in the egg white then roll in the linseed mixture. Place on the prepared tray. Press your thumb into the middle of each biscuit. Fill with a little jam. Bake for about 15 to 18 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Store in an airtight container in a cool place.
Makes about 22.
TOASTED SESAME SEED & COUSCOUS SALAD
4 tbsp sesame seeds
1/2 cup each: couscous, boiling water
3 each: cloves garlic, tomatoes, spring onions
1/2 telegraph cucumber, peeled and diced
1 cup packed parsley leaves, finely chopped
1/2 cup mint leaves, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
finely grated rind and juice 1 lemon, 1 orange
1/4 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Toast sesame seeds in a frying pan until lightly browned. Place the couscous in a bowl with the boiling water. Cover and stand for four to five minutes, until the water has been absorbed by the couscous.
Meanwhile, crush the garlic, seed and dice the tomatoes and chop the spring onions. Place in a salad bowl with the cucumber, parsley, mint, seasonings and citrus rind and juice. Add the couscous and sesame seeds and mix well. Drizzle with the oil before serving. Serves 4.
CITRUS, CINNAMON & FENNEL SEED CUSTARD
1 litre milk
thinly peeled rind 1 lemon, 1 orange
1 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
1 cinnamon stick
2 tbsp each: sugar, flour, cornflour
1/2 cup brown sugar
Bring milk to boiling point in a saucepan. Add lemon and orange peel, fennel seeds and cinnamon stick.
Cover pan and leave over low heat to infuse for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, whisk eggs in a bowl, until thick and light, then whisk in sugar, flour and cornflour.
Strain milk into the egg mixture and stir with a whisk until the mixture is smooth.
Return to pan and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for three to five minutes until thickened and flour is cooked - whisk constantly.
Transfer custard to a 1.5 litre, shallow baking dish to form a layer about 2.5cm deep. Refrigerate until cool or up to one day.
To finish, heat the grill to high. Sift brown sugar evenly over top of custard.
Carefully glaze it under the grill for several seconds, until sugar forms a crust or use a culinary blow torch to sizzle the top.
Great served with fresh berries. Serves about 6.