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!!