15 June 2017

Risotto takes a holiday

Risotto lives in Italy, but sometimes likes to take a holiday.  Sometimes he heads to Spain and calls himself Paella (the Costa del Sol is a favourite spot).  A few years back he took a trip to Mexico, where the locals nicknamed him Chimichanga.  He's even done the odd world cruise, under the moniker Pilaf.  But this time Risotto decided to take a trip somewhere new, somewhere exotic.  India, where he called himself Biryani.  

Biryani, a word of Persian origin, is a mixed rice dish which was developed by Muslims living on the Indian subcontinent during medieval times.  Nowadays you'll find variations of biryani as a part of cuisines throughout the Arab world and South-East Asia (as well as India, of course!).  This recipe is derived from Annabel Langbein's collaborative website 'We Are What We Eat' and it was tasty!  The smell as well, as it cooked, was heavenly!  

1 cup plain, unsweetened yoghurt (I used Gopala full cream, delish!!)
2 tsp curry powder
1 lemon - finely grated zest AND juice
1/2 cup (or a little more) chopped coriander
1 tsp each salt and pepper
500 g skinless, boneless chicken thighs, chopped into 2 cm chunks

1.5 cups basmati rice 
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1-2 tbsp ginger, finely grated
2 tsp ground turmeric
salt and pepper

1 tbsp butter
1 cup frozen peas
2.5 cups chicken stock

extra coriander, sliced almonds - to serve
  1. Mix together all marinade ingredients, stir chicken through and put in fridge (covered) for an hour or so (half an hour will be fine too, but I prefer to prep earlier in the day, so mine sat in the fridge for about 5 hours).  
  2. Rinse rice in sieve (I think this is to rinse off some of the starch?).  Mix rinsed rice with garlic, ginger, turmeric, salty and pepper.  
  3. Melt butter in large frypan or pot.  When sizzling layer half the rice mixture, peas, chicken + marinade, followed by the remaining rice.  
  4. Pour over stock and bring to the boil.  Once boiling cover and reduce heat to low for 20 minutes.  
  5. If liquid not reduced after 20 minutes, remove cover and increase heat - let it burble away until reduced to a risottoy-looking meal.  
  6. Serve with coriander and almonds, and a little extra yoghurt, if you like.  
NB: Photo credit must go to Annabel Langbein's food photographer - I forgot to take one! 

14 June 2017

When the moon hits your eye, like a big shepherd's pie, it's amore...

Monday night.  Hunger is high.  Desire to do cook is low.  Who you gonna call?  Mince (busters).  Mince to the rescue!  

Monday afternoon, to be precise.  I decided to make a large pot of bolognese mince, figuring we could do any number of things with it when it came to dinnertime, with relatively little effort (as by dinnertime Mondayitis has usually set in).  We could have spaghetti bolognese, make a lasagna, eat with rice (or nachos!!), make a shepherd's pie...  

That's when it hit me - we had some hash browns in the freezer too.  Easiest meal EVER for the kids (and we actually made one for us too) - upside-down shepherd's pie, with a sour creamy cheesy top.  

The key to the mince is to secret as many veges as you can into it - this batch had the usual onion, tomato and garlic, but also grated carrot, grated beetroot, finely chopped celery and some diced mushrooms.  Throw a later of peas in when making up the pie and you've got a vegeful meal for little ones and big ones alike.  

  1. Make batch of mince (about 500 g mince will do, bulked up with whatever vege you like.  I like to cook ours with a combo of tomatoes (frozen from summer, or a tin), chicken stock (a good cup), worcestershire and BBQ sauces and tomato paste.  
  2. Place a layer of frozen hash browns on bottom of dish you're going to use (a lasagna dish works well).  Scatter a later of peas over this, followed by a good layer of mince.  
  3. Mix together grated cheese and sour cream.  Spread this over mince.  Scatter with a little more grated cheese (to fill any gaps).  Sprinkle with seeds (I used chia and sunflower).  
  4. Bake for about 30 mins (or until golden and bubbling) in oven at 180 degrees celcius (160 fan-forced).  
NB: Finely chopped broccoli would also work really well in this - just scatter along with the frozen peas.  

30 May 2017

smokey pumpkin zuppa zuppa

Pumpkin soup is awesome.  Soup, in general, is awesome - pea and ham, vege, chicken, chicken noodle, chicken and corn, minestrone, leek and potato (oh yum, one of my all time favs, especially with some bacon in it!!), chicken-peanut-blackbean (now that's got to be an upcoming post, it's amazing)...  But pumpkin soup is a personal fav - my grandma, Fran, would make it every time we went there for lunch.  Or dinner.  Sometimes for afternoon tea...  For years it was her thing - there was always some freshly-made pumpkin soup and toast in the offing.  Now, ordinarily I like to make a fairly traditional pumpkin soup as my base, and then add some curry paste (usually green, or laksa) and coconut cream.  Yum!  However, I've been on a bit of a paprika kick lately, so when I saw an Annabel Langbein recipe for a smokey pumpkin soup I thought I'd give it a go (with a few amendments, to suit what I had in the kitchen).  Buon appetito!!  

1.5 kg pumpkin/kumara (I about 1.2 pumpkin and two medium orange kumara)
1 - 2 onions
12 button mushrooms (they were desperate to be eaten!!)
olive oil
1 tbsp each paprika, ground cumin, fennel seeds
1.5 L chicken stock (this made for quite a thin soup, so perhaps 1 L if you want it thicker)
2 tbsp harissa (I like Julie Le Clerc's for Sabato - can buy this is kitchen stores, some supys)
salt and pepper, to taste  
  1. Cut pumpkin and kumara into chunks.  Cut onions in half and remove paper.  remove ends of mushroom stems.  Place all on roasting tray, drizzle with oil and sprinkle with spices.  Roast for about 40 minutes at 200 degrees celcius (until cooked through and starting to go golden).  
  2. Put veges and stock in large stock pot.  Heat through gently.  Add harissa and salt and pepper.  Blitz with wand, or in food processor.  Heat again until hot enough to eat.  
  3. Serve with dinner rolls, toast with butter, little garlic breads...or refried leftover yorkshire puddings (oh yeah!!!!).   

11 May 2017

Bang bang!!

Satay would be one of my favourite flavours.  Love it with skewered kebabs, as a pizza base sauce, as a curry sauce, on a burger...  The list probably would go on indefinitely.  If it's savoury and can have sauce with it, it'll probably taste awesome with some satay.  However, one more or less key ingredient of the traditional satay are peanuts.  All well and good, unless you're allergic to peanuts.  My stepson is one such, no peanut butter for him.  Luckily for Harry tho, we live in a world today of seemingly endless flavours, products and semi-traditional fusions.  Enter cashew butter (or try almond butter, or hazlenut, walnut...).  We wanted to try a recipe for bang bang chicken (a popular street-food dish in China, apparantly so-named for the manner in which the meat is tenderised, using a stick or hammer to hit/bang it), so decided to give it a go with cashew butter.  It worked, the satay had a fantastic flavour.  This was such a good mid-week dish 'cause it didn't take long to make.  And in fact, I poached the chicken earlier in the day, so there was even one step less.  So, if you enjoy satay, this is for you!!  

Serves 3 

1 cup jasmine rice
1.5 cups water (boiling)
1 tsp sesame oil 
300 g chicken breasts
1.5 cups cold water
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp finely grated ginger (I used microplane)
2 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp nut butter (peanut, cashew, whatever)
2 tbsp sweet chili sauce
1 tbsp honey
1/4 cup water

2 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted (on low, slow but steady, in a dry pan)
iceberg lettuce/bok choi/spinach, shredded
1/2 carrot, cut into matchsticks
1/2 small cucumber, cut into sticks 
50 g mung bean sprouts
  1. Put chicken into pot with cold water, soy and sesame oil (as grouped above).  Cover with a lid and bring to a gentle boil on medium heat.  Once boiling, turn off the heat and leave, still covered, for 15 minutes.  After that remove chicken from pot and set aside to cool (once cool, shred it!).  Save the liquid, as you'll almost certainly need more than 1/4 cup liquid for the satay sauce.  
  2. Combine rice and oil in pot and place on high heat.  Add boiling water and stir well.  Once water level is more or less the same as the rice, reduce heat to low, cover pot with a paper towel and snug-fitting lid.  Leave for 20 minutes, then remove from heat.  Do not take the lid off until you are ready to serve (the rice will keep nice and warm for at least another 20 minutes after you remove from heat).  
  3. Combine all satay ingredients in a pot.  Keep mixing them until you have a nice, smooth sauce.  I like my sauces to be fairly runny, so I added about another 1/2 cup of liquid from my chicken poaching.  
  4. To serve - you can serve the chicken, the rice, and the veges up on separate platters and people can help themselves (remember the sesame seeds!!), or as we did, in individual bowls.  I did rice, veges, chicken, sauce, seeds and sprouts.  Delicious!!!!

04 May 2017

Sayadiah (Arabian fish with rice)

Yesterday we decided that fish was on the menu for dinner.  So then I got to thinking, well what will we have with it?  Chips and salad is always a good go to.  But yesterday I just didn't fancy it.  I felt like a curry, but not a thai-style curry, with lots of sauce.  I felt like rice.  So, I turned to Dr Google and gave it 'fish + rice + harissa' (we had a fresh jar of Sabato harissa in the fridge), and a number of links came up for various middle-eastern/north African dishes.  This one, on a blog called The Spice Adventuress, was for a dish (typical to coastal Yemen) called Sayadiah - fish with rice.  Perfect!  We made a few alterations to the Spice Adventuress' dish - fennel seeds in place of cardamom, added shredded spinach leaves and toasted sliced almonds to the rice, doubled the tomatoes used - but wow, what a fantastically flavoured dish.  I wasn't too sure how it was going to turn out, but it ended being an incredibly moreish plate, which we both looked forward to for lunch the following day.  Besseha!!

Serves 4 

400 g firm white fish (I used 4 fillets of gurnard, so would use probably 2 large tarakihi or snapper)
2 tbsp harissa paste (it's straight-forward to make your own, of buy a good-qual one like above)
butter - 3 lots, one for fish, one for sauce, one for rice
1 red onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic (or 1 large clove), finely diced
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp turmeric powder
1 chili, chopped (hot or not, up to you)
4 tomatoes, skin removed and chopped (or we used 2 tomatoes and a couple handfuls cherry toms) 
1 zucchini, chopped into small pieces (optional, depending on season)
1 cup long-grain rice (basmati or jasmine)
2 cups boiling water
paper towel
handful spinach leave, shredded (or baby leaves)
1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds
  1. Cut fish into bite-sized pieces.  Coat with harissa and stir through some salt.  Cover and place in the fridge for at least an hour, to marinate.  
  2. Saute onion, garlic, ginger and fennel in some melted butter.  Add other spices to pan and stir before adding in the tomatoes and zucchini.  Let whole lot burble away until liquid is reduced.  We did not reduce it down completely, but left some liquid in the sauce, as we prefer a runnier sauce with rice.  Up to you though.  Set aside.  
  3. Melt butter in pot you'll use for rice.  Coat rice in melted butter and stir through some salt and pepper.  With element on high, add boiling water and stir.  Continue to stir until water has reduced down as far as the level of the rice.  Once the water and rice are at same level in the pot, reduce heat to low, place paper towel over pot and put pot lid on.  Leave for 20 minutes then remove from heat.  This rice can sit for a good 20 minutes with the lid on, without needing reheating or anything.  Stir through the spinach and almond just prior to serving.  
  4. Return sauce to low heat, to warm back through (depending on whether you've cooked the sauce at same time as the rice, or done that step earlier in the day, as I did).  
  5. Fry fish in butter.  
  6. Serve fish on sauce on rice, sprinkled with coriander.  

20 April 2017

Chili, with a twist

Vegetarian chili.  It's been done before, heaps and heaps.  Even I've made a vegetarian chili, using lots of black and kidney beans.  But this one was something really different - kumara, black bean and quinoa.  So it was super-filling, really hearty and was great alongside some snapper last night AND after a run this morning.  And KB had for lunch today (yep, it was a winner with the man of the house too).  Versatile meal - good for brekky, lunch and dinner!!  I'll definitely be making this one through winter.  In fact, might even make up a batch to take away for the long weekend...  

1 red onion, finely diced
1/2 capsicum (or 1 whole long skinny capsicum), finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp ginger, minced (I actually grated the ginger and garlic with a microplane)
400-500 g orange 
2 tbsp chili spice mix (I used Simon Gault's Mexican)  
2 zucchini, cut in half lengthways and then sliced 1 cm on angle
salt and pepper
1/4 cup white quinoa
400 g tin tomatoes
400 g tine black beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/2 cups stock (I used chicken, but vege stock if you're making this for a vegetarian)
sour cream, to serve
  1. Fry onion, capsicum, garlic and ginger in butter for a few minutes, until softened. 
  2. Add all other ingredients (except the sour cream) and cook on low-medium heat until kumara and quinoa are cooked and liquid reduced.  We cooked ours for about 25 minutes, the kumara was cooked but still firm, which was really nice.  
  3. Serve with a dollop of sour cream, alongside some fish or on its own as a very tasty, filling, healthy meal.  

11 April 2017

Spanish harlem

I love Spanish food.  The spices, the fresh vegetables, and the versatility - you could swap out chicken for prawns, zucchini and capsicum for broccoli and frozen corn kernels - whatever's to hand really.  This was a very warming casserole, perfect for a cooler autumn evening with a red wine :) 

This will serve 3-4 people.  

1 large tomato, roughly chopped
1/2 capsicum, diced 2 cm
300 g chicken thighs 
1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp each smoked paprika, sweet paprika, ground coriander and thyme/sage
salt + pepper 
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 zucchini, diced 
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce 
2 spring onions, sliced
25 g pine nuts, toasted
400 g potatoes (+ milk and butter, if you mash 'em like ours)  
  1. Chop up potatoes into bite-sized pieces and either put in oven to roast, or in boiling water to cook for mashing.  
  2. Heat large fry pan with butter and cook chicken for about 4 minutes, turning to brown all over.  Add onion, spices and cook for further minute. 
  3. Reduce heat to low-medium, add stock, tomato and capsicum.  Simmer for about 10 minutes until chicken is cooked through and sauce reduced slightly.  
  4. Add zucchini and Worcestershire.  Mash spud.  Serve with spring onions and pinenuts.  

06 April 2017

Leave the gun, take the cannoli

I used to cook a lot with ricotta, but haven't really used it for the last several years.  Last night we had a ricotta-spinach cannelloni - that cheese is so nice and creamy, it makes an awesome addition  to dishes like this one.  I would say though to make sure you use plenty of seasoning, 'cause it's a very mild flavour, and the dish needs some spice/herb to get it going.  
This is a vegetarian version, but this dish will work just as well with some pulled chicken, or mince cooked with a little seasoning and tomato.  

Top tip - give your baking dish a good shake after pouring the tomato sauce over the cannelloni - this will allow the sauce to seep in between all the tubes, so they'll not get stuck together.  

1/4 red onion, finely diced
1/2 carrot, grated
50 g baby spinach leaves, roughly chopped (about two handfuls)
200 g ricotta cheese
1 egg 
salt + pepper
2 tbsp Italian seasoning (basil, thyme, oregano, little paprika maybe?) 
400-500 ml tomato passata (bought, homemade, a couple tins of chopped tomatoes simmered down to reduce a bit)
1/2 zucchini, grated
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
6 squares of fresh lasagna sheets 
1 cup cheese, grated

  1. Combine onion, carrot, spinach, ricotta, egg, seasoning and salt + pepper in medium bowl.  
  2. In another bowl combine sauce with zucchini, Worcestershire, balsamic and salt + pepper.  Spread 1/3 of this over base of baking dish to be used.  
  3. Spread some ricotta mixture along edge of one lasagna sheet and roll up (you'll use about 2 heaped tablespoons worth.  Best to divvy it up among the 6 sheets, then roll up - that way if you have any leftover you can spread it amongst all the cannelloni.  
  4. Place the cannelloni seam-down in the baking dish.  Pour remaining sauce over top to cover.  Give the dish a shake and then cover with grated cheese.  
  5. Bake for 25 minutes at 200 degrees celcius (about 180 if fan-forced), until pasta is tender and cheese golden.  
  6. Serve with a side salad - we had one of shredded lettuce, grated carrot and beetroot, sliced capsicum and a honey-mustard dressing (1 tsp each dijon mustard, vinegar and olive oil mixed with 1/2 tsp honey).  

NB: photo up top is borrowed - we ate our meals before I remembered to take a photo!! 

05 April 2017

toastie de luxe

Ham and cheese toasties are great.  The only person I know who doesn't like them is our son Finn, 'cause he reckons he doesn't like ham.  But everyone else in the world (I realise this is blatantly untrue, call it poetic license) loves them.  So, how do you improve on the great ham-cheese toastie?  Relish, or pesto maybe?  A little caramelised onion perhaps?  Swap out the bread for buttery puff pastry?  Boom!  

These little parcels were morsels of delight.  And you can, obviously, change the fillings to suit your tastes and what you have in the fridge.  These ones had ham, grated mozzarella, sliced red capsicum and diced red onion inside.  Brush the top piece of pastry with egg and bake at 180-200 celcius for about 15 minutes (until golden).  Serve with a little relish and buon apetito!!  

04 April 2017

Meet the Lamburghlar

Spiced lamb steaks with crunchy bulgur salad and a harissa mayonnaise.  When I said to my 12-yr old stepson that he could choose what we made for dinner, that wasn't what I'd have had him pegged as picking.  But he did, so we did.  It is another recipe from Nadia Lim's My Food Bag, and definitely one we will be making again - the lamb was great, but it would have been equally nice with beef steak sliced up, or chicken drums, or (Harry reckons) crispy coated chicken tenders.   

This was the first time I'd ever used bulgur (I think the only place I've ever eaten it is when I get tabbouleh with my kebab!).  It's basically a wholegrain (good slow-release energy, high fibre, low GI etc etc) made from the groats of various wheats (give or take - click on the link for the full wikipedia article).  It had a firm, al dente texture, and was very very filling.  This salad could easily have fed 5!  

3/4 cup bulgur wheat
100 g pumpkin, peeled and diced 1 cm 
2 tsp 'pumpkin spice mix' (see below)
5-6 baby capsicums, cut in half and de-seeded (or 2 normal capsicums)
1/2 apple, diced 1 cm (do this at last minute) 
2 spring onions, thinly sliced (use all white AND green)
25 g sliced almonds 
2 tbsp crispy shallots (look in Asian part of supermarket)
zest + juice of 1 lemon
300 g lamb leg steaks (or beef, chicken etc) 
1 tbsp lamb spice mix (see below)
4 tbsp mayonnaise 
2-3 tbsp harissa (Sabato is a really nice one, or look online for a recipe to make your own)
mint leaves, roughly chopped, to serve

  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius.  Boil 1 L water in kettle.  
  2. Mix lamb pieces with lamb spice mix and a little olive oil in a small bowl.  Set aside.  
  3. Add bulgur and pinch of salt to large bowl, cover with boiling water and cover.  Soak for 15-20 minutes (if absorbs all water partway through, check texture and add a little more water if needed).  
  4. While bulgur soaks, toss pumpkin, capsicum and pumpkin spice mix with olive oil on roasting tray.  Roast for 20 minutes or so, until veges are tender and fragrant.  Remove when done and set aside.   
  5. Cook lamb in a medium-high heated pan (or on BBQ) for a couple of minutes on each side (give or take, depends how you like it cooked).  Set aside for a few minutes to rest. 
  6. When bulgur is ready drain it using a sieve and then add in: apple, zest and lemon juice (stir now - the lemon juice will prevent the apple oxidising, if you are going to set meal aside to serve a little later), roasted veges, almonds, spring onions and shallots. 
  7. Serve up salad, topped with mint and lamb, drizzled with harissa mayo.  Absolutely to die for! 
NB:  For the 'lamb spice mix' combine paprika, tomato paste and cumin - about 1 tbsp paste and a tsp each of the spices.  

For the 'pumpkin spice mix' combine ras el hanout, onion, garlic and fennel seeds - I used finely diced quarter of an onion, a couple of minced cloves garlic, 1 tbsp ras el hanout and 2 tsp fennel seeds.  You can make  your own ras el hanout (click link), buy a ready-made mix from a specialty store/asian supermarket or (as I did) mix things like cumin powder, ground coriander, turmeric, ginger, paprika, chili and pepper together to make a mix that is pretty close (just see what you have in the cupboard).  Fennel seeds was definitely a must here, they smelled AMAZING!!  

23 March 2017

'tis the season

Summer is salad season.  We're into Autumn now, but fortuantely the weather is still smiling, the garden's still growing, and salads are a mainstay of the dinner table.  The thing I love about a salad is that you can use virtually anything you like - leafy salads, salsa salads, coleslaw, grated beetroot, roast vege salad, hot, cold, nuts and seeds...  

KB made a really tasty concoction the other night with garden-fresh goodies - spring onion, beetroot, capsicum, cherry toms, herbs and a drizzle of oil and lemon juice.  My point - enjoy the salads while the produce is plentiful, 'tis the season!

14 March 2017

laksa soup

I love laksa.  I've blogged about it before.  Last night I tried a different recipe, using a ready-made laksa paste, and less coconut cream (instead of 60:40 stock:coconut it was more like 80:20).  It was good - tasty, filling and with that delicious laksa aroma, but to be honest, not as good as the original.  Why am I telling you this?  Partly to share the photo, and give someone a bit of mid-week meal inspiration, and partly purely to share my opinion - less is not more, with coconut.  More is good.  More is great.  So, red curry or laksa paste, lemon or lime, three things I have learnt after last night's meal - don't reduce the amount of coconut; don't omit the lemongrass and coriander; and 50 g of vermicelli rice noodles would have been sufficient!  (I used 100 g, and whoa, that was one solid soup!).  

Winner winner, chicken dinner - kids' meal inspiration

Kids meals.  Dinnertime.  It's really hard sometimes to branch out with kids and their evening meals.  Partly because kids tastes change almost as frequently as their favourite toys, partly because at dinnertime they're getting tired, and partly because let's face it - it's 5 pm and being creative just ain't top of the pops at that time of day.  I make our kids some wicked lunches - they look awesome, they're full of craftily disguised vegetables and the kids devour them.  Evening meals, not so much - it's usually a variation on a well-used theme.  Something they'll enjoy, which is vege-full, and not tooooo messy.  But every now and again you see something that inspires, a recipe or a photo and you think - hmmm, I could totally whip that up and I think the kids would be into it.  The rainbow pizza recently was one such inspiration.  Flicking through some recipes on Nadia Lim's Food Bag website yesterday put forth another one - and this is one which the whole family would enjoy, so whether you have littlies eating at 5, or a whole whanau sitting down a little later, this is a winner (and yes, it is a chicken dinner!).  Maple-drizzled kumara and orange salad with crumbed chicken and lemon mayo, yummmmmmm.  (NB: Photo came from website - I forgot to take one.  But mine totally looked as awesome as that).  

1 medium kumara (about two fists side by side)
maple syrup (real stuff, if you have it)
1/2 head broccoli
1 orange
1/2 telegraph cucumber
1/2 baby cos lettuce (or similar - baby spinach)
1 lemon 
olive oil
500 g chicken breasts
2 tbsp cornflour (or normal flour)
1 egg
panko crumbs (mix crushed cornflakes through, if you have them, for added crunch.  I didn't have any though and plain panko was absolutely crunchy enough)
1/4 cup thick mayo (Pams American or Best Foods are good options)
  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius (fan bake).  
  2. Cut kumara into roughly cm chunks and place in roasting dish/baking tray.  Drizzle with syrup and roast for about 20 minutes - toss and turn them once, to ensure even cooking.  
  3. While kumara is cooking steam broccoli florets and prepare the rest of the salad - orange and cucumber cut into chunks, lettuce into large shreds.  Once kumara is cooked toss together with a juice of half a lemon and a little olive oil.  
  4. Cut chicken into tender-sized strips (or into smaller chunks, if you'd prefer more nugget-style).  Dredge through flour, dunk in egg and then coat with panko.  
  5. Cook chicken in batches, in hot butter or oil, for 2-3 minutes on each side.  
  6. Mix juice of other half lemon with mayo.  Serve chicken alongside salad with lemon mayo dipping sauce.  Easy!!!  

03 March 2017

zucchini fritters with a secret weapon

We love corn fritters in our house, but at this time of year it's another vegetable which is going crazy in the garden and filling up the fridge - zucchini.  Zucchinis make a fantastic fritter, and when I saw a recipe for a corn fritter with ham and mayonnaise (in the fritter!) I thought yum, that'll work with the zucchinis and bacon we have in the fridge!!  

1 cup grated zucchini (well-drained)
1 cup bacon, chopped into small pieces
finely sliced spring onion
3 eggs
1/2 cup self-raising flour
1/2 cup mayonnaise (thick mayo is best)
herbs + spices, to your preference 
butter, for frying

  1. Mix together all ingredients, except butter. 
  2. Fry in hot pan, in batches, until all cooked.  
  3. Serve with dipping sauces (sweet chili, BBQ, sour cream...) - good hot OR cold! 

22 February 2017

Huli huli Hawaiian chicken

This was one of the tastiest chicken marinades I've had in a looooong time!  It caramelised beautifully and had just a little bit of heat.  The pineapple chutney through the rice was something different too, and definitely worthwhile - if you use tinned pineapple, make sure it's chopped up really finely (or buy crushed).  I served it this time with a bean salad, but you could serve with steamed veges, whatever is in season really - asparagus would be great too, or some zucchini!  

For the chicken: 

300 g boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 tbsp brown sugar
1.5 tbsp soy sauce 
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tbsp sriracha sauce (or some form of hot sauce)
1 tsp sesame seeds 

For the rice: 

3/4 cup rice
1.5 cups water
3 tbsp pineapple chili chutney (or mixture of a little chutney with a little tinned pineapple pieces) 

Bean salad: 

100 g green beans
1/2 capsicum 
75 g cherry tomatoes (about 10) 
1/4 bag baby spinach leaves (about 30 g)
4 tbsp honey mustard dressing (1 tbsp each honey, vinegar, Dijon or wholegrain mustard, olive oil + a little salt) 
  1. Mix all marinade ingredients together, pour over chicken and cover.  Put this in fridge to do its thing for at least a half hour (I made this in the morning and left it doing its thing all day).  
  2. Cook rice, drain and stir through chutney/pineapple.  
  3. Cut beans in half (and trim ends off), pour boiling water over them and leave for a couple of minutes.  Drain and add to other salad ingredients.  
  4. Cook chicken on medium heat, with marinade, until cooked through and marinade has reduced to a nice sticky sauce.  
  5. Serve on rice, sprinkled with extra sesame seeds.  Yum!!

16 February 2017

Rainbow pizza

The name says it all really.  And who doesn't love rainbows and pizza?!  You could make this with whatever veges you like really, so long as they're colourful!  I used red onion, red cabbage, broccoli, corn, orange capsicum, cherry tomatoes, all piled on a foundation of tomato paste, cheese and oregano.  I sprinkled with a little extra cheese afterwards too, but not too much - don't want to cover the colour!!  Buon appetito! 

15 February 2017

Léim an Bhradáin, the salmon leaps

Nothing to do specifically with this dish, it's just the first thing that springs to mind when I think of salmon.  I stayed with friends and their family in Leixlip (Léim an Bhradáin), a wee town in County Kildare in Ireland, back in 2004, and discovered that the name referred to leaping salmon.  Definitely one of the most endearing names I've heard of for a town.  

Anyhoo, this week we've been trialing a few more of Nadia Lim's dishes and so far it's a 100 % success rate!  This one I was a little dubious about, as far as its reception by Mssr 12.  But it was an unequivocal hit, with almost-teen and parents alike - and let's be honest, finding a dish that is (a) devoured wholeheartedly by those two demographics AND (b) not pizza, lasagna, stir-fry, or some form of nachos-taco-tortilla, is pretty hard sometimes.  But here is one - a dish you can whip up really quickly and easily, full of veges, and is suitable for a family meal or served up at a casual dinner party with friends (I would like to do them half-sized, to serve alongside a second salad, or perhaps rice).   

Salmon filo parcels with honey mustard apple salad

2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1.5 cups milk
500g salmon, cut into good-sized chunks (2cm give or take) 
1 zucchini, grated
2 carrots, one grated and one not
5 mushrooms (not in original recipe but really good!!)
1 tsp salt
zest of one lemon (save juice)
10-12 sheets film pastry
1 egg, whisked (to brush, or you can use oil)
olive oil
sesame seeds (optional)
3 tbsp mayo 
1 tsp vinegar (I used apple cider)
1 tsp mustard (wholegrain or dijon are good)
2 tsp honey 
1 apple
4 cups bag rocket leaves 
  1. Preheat oven to 220 degrees celcius (200 fanbake).  Line oven trays with baking paper (we used two trays, so there was plenty of room between the filos).  
  2. Melt butter in large saucepan.  Add flour and stir briskly for a minute (to make a roux and 'cook' the flour).  Slowly add milk, stir constantly for about 2-3 minutes, until sauce thick and smooth.  Stir in some salt and pepper and remove from heat.  
  3. Fold salmon,zucchini, first carrot and mushrooms, salt and zest through the sauce and set aside.    
  4. Lay two sheets of filo on clean bench/board, with short side facing you.  Place about 2/3 cup of salmon mixture on pastry about 1/3 of the way up the sheet and shape into a thick sausage shape.  
  5. Fold edge of filo closest to you over salmon mixture.  Fold left and right edges of pastry inwards then brush with a little oil.  Roll parcel away from you to form a tight parcel.  Brush final edge with a little oil and place on prepared tray.  Repeat until you have 5 or 6 parcels.  Brush tops with egg or a little more oil and sprinkle with seeds, if desired. 
  6. Bake for 15 minutes.  Remove and pour out any excess liquid from trays.  Return to oven for a further 5-10 minutes until browned and starting to crisp up.  
  7. While filos bake, whisk together mayo, vinegar, mustard and honey. 
  8. Cut apple into quarters and thinly slice.  Use a vege peeler to peel second carrot into long ribbons.  Toss in bowl with rocket leaves and dressing.  Season with salt and pepper.  
  9. Serve filos with salad, drizzled with a little lemon juice.  
NB: Sweet chili and sour cream were a nice side for the filos too.  

09 February 2017


I love satay.  A few years ago I got this awesome recipe for a satay sauce from a friend, Mel (thanks Mel!!) and it has been a go-to every since.  It's quite a thick sauce, so perfect for on burgers, spreading on pizza bases, or kebabs.  For last night's satay stirfry though I added about a half cup (maybe a little more) of water, until I had more a simmer sauce consistency.  Yum!!  Normally I'd go for chicken for my satay, but thin strips of beef schnitzel made a really nice change.  Pick and choose which veges you have/feel like eating and bada bing bada boom, dinner is served.  

1/2 portion of Mel's satay sauce (you'll actually probably only use half of what you make up, but better to have too much and put some in the fridge for another meal, than to be lacking on the peanutty goodness) - so coconut cream, peanut butter, 1/2 onion, 2 clove garlic, sweet chili sauce, 2 tbsp lemon or lime juice, 1 tbsp fish sauce

300 g beef schnitzel (or chicken etc) 
1/2 onion
2 cloves garlic
2 cm ginger, grated
2 cups veges - we used capsicum, button mushrooms, zucchini and corn 
noddles or rice, to serve
steamed veges, to serve 
  1. Prepare sauce, set aside. 
  2. Saute diced onion and garlic.  Add in veges and stir fry for a few minutes.  Add sauce and stir through to coat everything.  Add a little water at a time, stirring to combine, until you get the amount and thickness you want.  
  3. Add in strips of beef and stir through to combine.  
  4. Serve with rice/noodles and steamed veges, sprinkled with pieces of peanut or cashew.  
NB:  If peanuts are a no-go, make the satay sauce with cashew butter.  It'll cost more, but taste amazing!  I used Pic's peanut butter, amazing product from Nelson.  Yum!! 

29 January 2017

Black bean, quinoa and corn stacker

I've been enjoying trying out a few of Nadia Lim's recipes lately, in particular some of the ones from the My Food Bag website.  This was one from the vegetarian bag, and is one of the tastiest dishes I've come across in a long time.  Great variety of flavours, but all ones that meld together in a harmonious symphony to satiate the palate.  This is a Mexican-inspired dish, using black beans, guacamole and chipotle sauce (plus quinoa from Peru!).  Chipotle is a smoked jalapeno pepper and has a wonderful smokey, earthy taste and aroma.  Not spicy, though you could easily add in extra dried or fresh chili if you wanted.  I've used both Culleys and Barkers brands, and both are good, though I would rate Culleys as the better one.  

Serves 4-5 (or a little more, if served with a side of fish or steak)

3/4 cup red or black quinoa (white is ok, but tends to be fluffier in texture)
kernels of 1 corn cob
1 red onion, finely diced
1 capsicum, diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 tomato, diced
1 lemon, zest and juice
1/2 cucumber, diced
2 avocados
1/2 tin pineapple, chopped
lettuce (cos or iceberg are good)
2 tbsp fresh coriander/basil, roughly chopped
1 can black beans, rinsed out
2 tbsp Mexican spice blend (I like Simon Gault's Taste of Mexico) 
1/4 cup mayo (good thick mayo) 
1 tbsp chipotle sauce

  1. Cook quinoa in pot of boiling water for about 15 minutes, until tender with slight al dente bite.  Drain, rinse under cold water, then set aside to thoroughly drain (I used a sieve).  
  2. Heat knob of butter in large fry pan and cook 1/2 the onion and 3/4 capsicum for a few minutes until softened.  Add zucchini, tomato, corn, black beans and spice mix and cook for further few minutes.  
  3. Remove pan from heat, stir through drained quinoa, lemon zest and 1/2 the lemon juice.  
  4. In one bowl mix together pineapple, cucumber, remainder of capsicum and 1 tbsp coriander.  In another bowl mash avocados and mix through remainder of onion, lemon juice and coriander.  In smaller bowl mix mayo and chipotle sauce.  
  5. Layer plate with ripped up pieces of lettuce.  Layer black bean mix, guac and salsa, topped with some chipotle mayo.  Sprinkle with a little extra coriander, if you have it.  

24 January 2017

Coconutty carbonara

We love carbonara.  It's such a comforting dish, and can be made using so many different ingredients (or only a handful!).  Our favourite may is with coconut cream.  The flavour the coconut cream gives when coupled with fresh herbs is amazing!!  And it's not a rich or heavy as using normal cream (obviously, if you're making traditional carbonara you wouldn't be using cream at all, but...).  So, we love this dish but, incredibly, I've never blogged it before.  Remiss of me, absolutely.  Rectifying my laxness, yes I am.  

Following is what KB put in our carbonara last night, but we will often have chicken in there as well, and broccoli, zucchini...whatever is in season really.  Thyme works well too, herb-wise.  Change it up to suit your taste, and what's in your fridge.  

To serve 4 (sweet - dinner for the whole fam, or leftover lunches the next day!)

1/2 - 1 pack dried fettuccine (depending how much pasta you like)
6 rashers streaky bacon, chopped into matchsticks
1 onion, diced
10 mushrooms, diced or sliced
1/2 capsicum, diced
1 tin coconut cream
2 eggs
1 packet powder chicken soup 
good-sized pile grated parmesan cheese 
salt and pepper
chives and basil, chopped

  1. Bring water to boil for pasta, cook until al dente.
  2. Fry bacon in pan until beginning to crisp. Add onion, mushrooms and capsicum in butter, on low-medium heat until softened.    
  3. Mix coconut cream, eggs and soup together well.  Add herbs and salt and pepper.
  4. Stir cooked and drained pasta through the veges and bacon in pan.  Stir through coconut cream mix and cook on low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  
  5. When ready to serve stir through cheese.  Voila!!