03 August 2017

K-lime glaze

Highly fragrant, a little sweet and sticky, and the perfect glaze for salmon, prawns, chicken kebabs... 

6 makrut (K-lime) leaves, central stem removed, finely chopped
2 tbsp coconut sugar, or brown sugar
2 tbsp sweet chili sauce
2 tsp hot sauce (I used some harissa as had no hot sauce)
1 tsp cornflour
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar (or white)
1 tsp sesame oil 
1/2 cup water
  1. Combine all ingredients in small saucepan.  Bring to boil, stirring.  Simmer for 2-3 minutes until starting to thicken slightly.  Makes about 1 cup.  
NB: From Nadia Lim's 'Dinnertime Goodness'.  

cheesy, with a chance of meatballs

These meatballs were taaaaassssty!!  They were a perfect hearty meal for everyone from us adults right down to Miss 2, and the boys in between.  This recipe made a truckload of food (I reckon we could have easily fed 6-7 adults, so froze half of it for an easy meal another night.  Mr 4 really enjoyed helping to make and mix the meatball mixture too, so a good one for kids in the kitchen.  

500 g beef mince 
2 tbsp paprika/ground cumin/ground coriander etc - (I used a Louisiana Creole spice mix with those spices, plus onion and garlic)
1/2 tsp salt 
2 eggs 
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs 
1 tbsp tomato sauce 
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
grated cheese, to top

1 onion, finely diced 
1 tbsp spice mix used in meatballs 
1 tsp salt 
70 g tomato paste 
2 stalks celery, finely chopped 
1 cup green veges, finely chopped (we used some broccoli and bok choy)
1/2 cup red wine (or stock)
1/2 cup stock (beef, chicken, vege...) 
1 tomato, diced (I used a couple tbsp of relish instead)
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce 

rice, to serve
  1. Mix all meatball ingredients together, except cheese.  Set aside until needed (Mr 4 and I made these in the morning, covered the bowl and put them in the fridge for the day). 
  2. When ready to get dinner going: roll meatballs and fry in large pan (one that can go under the grill, if possible) until browned all over but not cooked through.  Remove from pan and set aside. 
  3. Get rice cooking.  
  4. Fry onion in pan.  Add spices, salt, tomato paste, veges and red wine.  Stir for about a minute, then add other sauce ingredients.  Add meatballs back to the pan and simmer for about 5 minutes (at this point you can either carry on, or remove from heat and set aside again, until you're almost ready to eat - so this can, up to this point, be prepared earlier in the day - you'd just need to gently heat through again later).  
  5. Top with cheese and grill for 3-5 minutes, until browning and bubbling.  
  6. Serve on rice with a dollop of sour cream.  

Scrumptious Thai chicken salad

I love coconut in food.  It's a flavour which, I think, both works well with other flavours and as a stand-alone ingredient.  This salad uses both - the coconut milk which is mixed with various other Thai-inspired flavours and the shredded coconut, toasted and forming a major part of the overall meal.  

I found this little harbinger of delight was a recipe found in Chelsea Winter's cookbook 'Scrumptious'.  We altered it a trifle (I had run out of lemongrass, so used some makrut lime leaves instead, and we heated the shredded chicken back through in the sauce it had been poached in, making the overall dish not entirely cold).  Also, we used pinenuts, as Mr 12 is allergic to peanuts, but you could use peanuts, or cashews.  

350 - 500 g chicken breasts (I used 2 large) 
1/2 onion, diced 
1 tbsp sesame (or peanut) oil 
2 tbsp grated ginger 
2 makrut lime leaves, central steam removed and finely sliced (or pound and chop one stalk of lemongrass) 
2 tbsp ground cumin 
400 ml coconut milk

3/4 cup shredded coconut 
1/2 - 3/4 cup pinenuts (or peanuts, cashews...) 
100 g vermicelli noodles 
2 cups chopped bok choy (or pak choy, spinach etc) 
2 carrots, grated 
2 stalks celery, finely chopped 

1 cup coriander, chopped (leaves and stalks) 
1 red chili, finely chopped (optional) 

1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp sweet chili sauce 
2 tbsp lime juice 
1 clove garlic, crushed 
1/2 tsp sesame oil 
  1. Heat oil in pot over medium heat.  Cook onion, ginger, lime leaves and cumin for a few minutes until fragrant.  
  2. Add the coconut milk and chicken, increase heat and bring to simmer.  Simmer gently for about 8 minutes, turning chicken occasionally, until chicken is cooked through.  Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl with a lid (the chicken and the sauce).  Put in the fridge until needed (this part can be done up to 2 days in advance).  
  3. Whisk dressing ingredients together in a bowl.  Set aside.  
  4. Toast the nuts and shredded coconut in a dry pan.  Set aside when lightly browned.  
  5. Put the noodles and bok choy in a large bowl.  Cover with boiling water and leave for a few minutes until cooked.  Stir to separate the noodles, then drain.  
  6. Bring chicken out and shred.  Return, with the sauce, to a pot and heat through.  
  7. Mix other salad ingredients and coconut/nuts with the noodles.  Serve salad, topped with chicken and garnish with a little extra coriander.  

Chermoula fish

I came across this recipe earlier in the week, in an email from Mindfood.  Their recipes always sound beautiful and would undoubtedly be very tasty, but to be honest I usually just find them a bit too fussy for a weekday meal (after work, who can be bothered with tricky?).  This one however struck me as relatively straightforward.  And it was a fish recipe, perfect for a light, but tasty, Monday-meal.  

Chermoula is a marinade used extensively in North African cooking (particularly those areas along the Mediterranean).  It is traditionally used to season seafood, but can be used as a flavour-base for other meats or vegetables.  This marinade doesn't used cumin, but cumin is, along with coriander, a typical ingredient in chermoula. 

I used a combination of hoki (it was on special) and tarakihi for our meal.  But any firm white fish would do nicely.  Gurnard would be excellent!  

4 fillets of fish (roughly 700 g) 
500 g potatoes, cut into quarters lengthways
1 tbsp butter 
1 red onion, sliced
1 capsicum, cut into thick slices
1-2 tbsp grated ginger 
300 g tomatoes, cut into chunks 
1 cup chicken stock 
1/2 cup large green olives (Delmaine do ones in a jar which worked well)
1-2 limes, cut into thick slices (or 1 tbsp preserved lemon)
crusty bread, to serve (optional) 
coriander leaves, to garnish 

1 cup coriander 
1/2 cup parsley 
1/4 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic 
1 tbsp red wine vinegar (or apple cider)
salt and pepper
  1. Place chermoula ingredients in food processor  and process until all cut up and becoming smooth (I left a few bigger pieces in mine).  
  2. Cut fish into chunks.  Combine with chermoula in a bowl.  Set aside.  
  3. Steam potatoes until tender.  
  4. Heat butter in large pan/pot (it must have a tight-fitting lid), or a tagine (I don't have one, so used a large heavy pot).  Add onion and capsicum and cook for about 5 minutes, til softened.  
  5. Add ginger and tomatoes and cook for further two minutes.  Remove from heat and set tomato-onion mixture in a bowl.  
  6. Arrange potatoes in bottom of pot.  Spoon over half the tomato mixture.  Top with chermoula fish and second half of tomatoes.  Pour oven stock.  Scatter with olives and lime.  
  7. Cover pot with sheet of baking paper and tight-fitting lid (or your tagine's lid) and simmer gently for 10 minutes.  
  8. Serve with warm crusty bread (I used some par-baked dinner rolls).  

NB: Most supermarkets carry pre-mixed Ras el Hanout these days too - I have one in the pantry from Mrs Rogers Premium range, bought at our local Countdown.  

31 July 2017

The Queen of Tarts

Pastry.  I love pastry.  To be even more specific, I love to eat things made from pastry.  Pies.  Danishes.  Tarts.  Yum.  

Over the weekend I spent a day at The Food Show in Auckland, and saw some fantastic cooking demos by some of our coolest celebrity chefs.  It got me thinking back to past years at the show, and I remembered a tasty, but very quick, tart whipped up by Ray McVinnie, using mushrooms, pastry and butter (ok and a couple more ingredients, but you got the basics right there!).  

So, without further ado, here it is, as Frankie and I created it, yesterday for lunch...

Serves 2-3 (depending how hungry you are) 

2 sheets flaky puff pastry (I was using the pre-rolled Edmonds) 
1 egg 
sesame seeds 
c. 10-12 button mushrooms, sliced about 1/2 cm thick
3 tbsp butter, melted
1/4 onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced or chopped fine
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
2 tsp dried tarragon 
salt and pepper 
  1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees celcius.  
  2. Beat egg in a small bowl.  Brush 1.5 cm around edge of pastry with egg.  Fold over, creating a border.  Brush tops of border with more egg.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds.  
  3. Prick bottom of tart (within the border) - this will stop that pastry rising when cooking.  Place in oven for a few minutes, just to start cooking the area where the mushrooms will be - don't leave it for too long, 'cause you don't want the border cooked too much before you top the tart.  
  4. Remove from oven and top with a layer of mushrooms.  Mix together butter, onion, garlic, parsley, tarragon, salt and pepper.  Drizzle over the mushrooms.  Sprinkle with a few more sesame seeds.  
  5. Return to oven for 5 minutes.  Remove when nicely browned.  

27 July 2017

Hulk's signature dish

If Hulk were to take on cooking, I reckon this would be his signature dish.  It's hearty, rich in flavour and, as with Hulk, has more than one personality involved.  This dish is essentially a sausage casserole, but mixed with a pasta bake and a lasagna.  That's right - sausage casserole pasta bake lasagna - boom!!  

As with most casseroles (and indeed, most dishes I make), there are several places where you can switch things in or out, depending on your tastes and what you have (or don't have) in the fridge.  This is adapted from Chelsea Winter's recipe in Scrumptious (thanks Janelle!!).  

500 g pumpkin + kumara (I used butternut and orange kumara, chopped into 2cm chunks)
2 tbsp EVOO 
salt and pepper
smoked paprika
8-10 sausages (I used our local butcher's beefys) 
1 large onion, sliced
4 - 5 cloves garlic, chopped fine
2 cups chopped spinach (or 2 zucchini, grated)
1 tbsp dried oregano 
2 x 400 g tins tomatoes 
1 cup beef stock (fresh - if you use powdered, add a little extra water and no extra salt)
1/2 cup red wine (or another 1/2 cup stock)
1/2 cup tomato paste (I used half-and-half pizza sauce and BBQ sauce, 'cause I'd run out)
250 g dried pasta (penne, macaroni...) 
1.5 cups cheese sauce (however you like to make it) - or 200 g creme fraiche (sprinkle some grated chedder cheese on top, if you use creme fraiche)
1 cup freshly grated parmasan cheese
  1. Toss the pumkin/kumara with oil, salt and pepper, and paprika.  Roast in oven at about 180 degrees celcius for about 20 minutes.  
  2. Cook pasta as per instructions on the packet, to al dente.  
  3. While veges are roasting, chop sausages into 5 or 6 pieces each.  Melt some butter in a large frypan and brown all over.  Remove from pan and set aside.  
  4. Melt a little more butter, cook onion until softening.  Add garlic, spinach and oregano.  Cook for a couple more minutes.  
  5. Put sausages back into pan and add tomatoes, stock, wine, tomato paste.  Stir and bring to rapid simmer.  Simmer away for about 15 or so minutes, until sauce is thickened.  
  6. Make your cheese sauce, if using.  
  7. Mix roasted veges, cooked pasta and sausage saucey mixture together in a large lasagna dish (I had to use one large and a small one too).  Pour cheese sauce over all.  Grate parmasan on top.  
  8. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden in colour.  You could grill for a minute at end too, to get that really sweet golden top.  
  9. Serve on its own or with some stramed greens.  This is so yum!  
Serves about 10 adults.  

30 June 2017

Thai tastiness

I love Thai food.  These little 'cakes' (mini patties, really) convey all the flavours of the South-East that we love, in a quick, easy and versatile bite.  They make for a tasty midweek meal or a fantastic tapas option - I'm thinking perfect for watching the All Blacks take on the Lions tomorrow night!?  

350g pork mince (or chicken or turkey)
1.5 tsp Thai green curry paste
2 makrut leaves*, central stem removed and thinly sliced
1 tsp fish sauce
2 tsp sweet chili sauce
1 egg
1/2 cup panko crumbs
2 spring onions, white and green part thinly sliced
1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp finely grated ginger (I use a microplane)
1 clove grated/minced garlic
juice of 1 lime/lemon
2 tsp soy sauce
1.5 tbsp sweet chili sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/2 tsp fish sauce
  1. Mix together all first batch of ingredients and set aside until ready to form into little patties and fry (I made the mixture earlier in the day and kept it in the fridge). 
  2. Mix together second lot of ingredients, for the dressing.  Keep in fridge until you're ready for it. 
  3. Melt butter in large frypan and cook patties until browned on both sides.  
  4. Serve with dressing as a dipping sauce (tapas style!) or with coconut rice, winter slaw and toasted sesame/pinenuts, drizzled with the dressing (awesome meal!!).  
Makes enough for 4, as a meal with rice etc.  For the coconut rice I cooked 1 cup of rice in 1 cup coconut milk and 1/2 cup water.  Once boiling turn down to low and cover with lid.  After 20 minutes turn off and keep covered until ready to serve (can sit there steaming away for a good half hour).  

For the slaw we finely chopped coriander, bok choy and a carrot, then stirred through a couple of tablespoons of the dressing.  Yum!!  

NB: * makrut leaves = kaffir leaves.  Makrut (pronounced mah-krut) is the Thai word used to describe the bumpy-skinned lime otherwise referred to in many Western countries as the kaffir lime.  Given that word's place in many countries' vernaculars as a racial slur, there is a push to use the Thai name instead.  Given this lime's leaves are often seen in Thai cuisine, this makes complete sense to me.  So, same leave, different name.  

29 June 2017

Harissa chicken with fennel bulgur pilaf

We've been loving some of Nadia Lim's My Food Bag recipes lately, and last night's dinner was another winner.  Sometimes I have bought the food bag itself, sometimes I've just worked from the recipes on the website, as was the case here.  So there are a few tweaks, where I didn't have the exact ingredients that would've been sent out with the bags (ie: I used fennel seeds in place of fresh fennel bulb, and ras-el-hanout with a little turmeric powder in place of baharat mix).  

We'll definitely be doing this one again, would like to try it with lamb steaks in place of the chicken, or even some fish?  KB made the good point that, because it is VERY filling, perhaps a smaller portion of the pilaf and chicken, with some steamed greens on the side.  Yum!! 

300 g chicken breasts
3 tbsp harissa paste
1/4 tsp salt
2 - 3 carrots, peeled and cut into quarters lengthways

1/2 red onion, cut in half then thinly sliced
1.5 tsp ras-el-hanout 
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp fennel seeds 
1 tsp salt
1 cup water
3/4 cup bulgur wheat
50 - 75 g baby spinach leaves, chopped a little

75 g natural yoghurt (I like Gopala Full Cream)
2 tsp basil pesto (sundried tomato pesto would work well too)
2 tbsp coriander leaves and stalk, chopped
slivered almonds (these are great raw or toasted)
  1. Preheat oven to 150 degrees celcius, fan-forced (a little higher if not fan-forced).  
  2. Cut chicken into steaks by placing your hand flat on top of the breast and slicing through horizontally to make two thinner steaks.  Combine harissa and salt in medium bowl, add chicken and mix to coat.  Cover and place in fridge until you're ready to cook it (this can be done hours in advance, if you wish).  
  3. Melt butter in roasting tray and put carrots in to start cooking (season with a little salt and pepper).  
  4. Heat a little butter in a medium pot.  Add onion and cook for a couple of minutes until softening.  Add spices and second portion of salt.  Add water and bring to the boil.  Once boiling stir in wheat and cover with lid.  Remove from heat and leave covered to allow to steam for 10 minutes (don't take the lid off until you're ready to stir through the chopped spinach and serve).  
  5. Heat butter in large pan and fry chicken steaks briefly on both sides (to sear).  Remove from pan and add to roasting tray with carrots (these should already be cooking away). 
  6. While chicken and carrots finish cooking in the oven (remember chicken is relatively thin, so shouldn't take too long, maybe 15 minutes tops), mix together yoghurt and pesto. 
  7. Remove lid from pilaf and stir through the spinach.   
  8. To serve place dollop of yoghurt on each place, to help the pilaf remain in place.  Top with a couple spoons of pilaf (it's very filling!) and carrot sticks.  Next a layer of chicken (we sliced ours up once cooked), topped with almonds and coriander.  Enjoy!!

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!!