About Saskia (1=2)

My blog 1=2, presents creative ways of getting more out of your cooking; by preparing one night’s dinner, along with planned leftovers.

A nice pair of buns

TRANSFORM ONE BATCH OF GREEK EASTER BREAD DOUGH into
[1] CHOCOLATE and RAISIN GREEK EASTER BUNS and
[2] MIXED SEED and FRUIT BUNS


Is there a better school holiday activity than a good session of dough kneading? I think not, especially when said dough encases plump raisins and hidden chunks of couverture chocolate!
With eager helping hands available, it makes perfect sense to double up and make two batches of buns; in this case lovely Chocolate and raisin Greek Easter buns, best eaten hot, slathered in butter; and tasty little Mixed seed and fruit buns which can be popped in the freezer, ready for lunchboxes.
This recipe is admittedly time-consuming, and a definite weekend or holiday pursuit, but most of that time is in the resting and proving. We managed to squeeze in a movie during the first rising session (Peabody and Mr. Sherman – loved it, even though it was an absolute violation of the original cartoon)!
The dough is sweet and light, similar to brioche or challah; and is tweaked from last year’s Orange and currant Greek Easter bread, a treat we’ll be enjoying for breakfast this Sunday. For those who celebrate it, have a most eggcellent Easter! xx
PS. The little blue Danish apron with removable bunny is from my childhood. I’m so glad my mum is a hoarder like me!
PS2. Leftover couverture chocolate can be used for home-made Easter eggs. We whipped up a batch yesterday, which I posted on the 1=2 Facebook page this morning. I announce new blog posts, and often share extra bits n’ pieces and fun foodie facts on Facebook, so feel to ‘like’ for updates!

2 batches of buns from 1 batch of dough. Via One Equals TwoEaster buns and seeded buns. One Equals TwoGreek Easter buns with hidden couverture chocolate. One Equals TwoOne batch of dough =
[1]
Chocolate and raisin Greek Easter buns and
[2] Mixed seed and fruit buns

Ingredients (makes 24 buns: 12 Chocolate and raisin Greek Easter buns and 12 Mixed seed and fruit buns):
250 grams (8 oz/2 sticks) butter, melted
1 cup (215g) caster sugar
1½ cups (375ml) warmed milk
4 eggs, lightly beaten
½ teaspoon salt
1½ tablespoons (3 sachets/21g) dried yeast
1.3 kilos (2.8 lb) plain (all-purpose) flour
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon mixed spice
Olive oil, to grease
For the Chocolate and raisin Greek Easter buns:
125g (4oz) raisins
2 heaped teaspoons finely chopped orange zest
60g (2 oz) milk couverture chocolate, cut into 12 little cubes (or 12 couverture buttons)
For the Mixed seed and fruit buns:
60g (2 oz) raisins
60g (2 oz) dried apricots, chopped
2 tablespoons chia seeds
2 tablespoons mixed seeds for sprinkling (I used poppy seeds and pumpkin seeds/pepitas)
Glaze:
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon caster sugar, extra
1 egg yolk

Combine the melted butter, sugar and 1 cup (250 ml) of the warm milk in a large bowl. Gradually whisk in the eggs and salt.
Combine yeast and remaining ½ cup warm milk in a bowl, stir to remove lumps, and allow to stand for 8–10 minutes, until frothy. Add the yeast mixture to the butter mixture and stir to combine. Gradually add the flour, cinnamon and mixed spice. Use a wooden spoon to stir until combined, then use your hands to bring the dough together.
Dust your work surface with flour, and knead dough for 15 minutes, until smooth and elastic.
First rising:
Place dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and rest in a warm place for 2 hours (or up to 3 hours), until doubled in size.
Punching and resting:
Punch down the dough with your fist, and divide in half, handing one piece to your kitchen assistant! To one portion of dough (for the Easter buns) add the 125g raisins and orange zest; and to the other portion add the 60g raisins, 60g chopped dried apricots and chia seeds. Turn dough pieces onto a lightly floured surface and knead each for 10–15 minutes, until smooth.
Set prepared dough portions aside for 10 minutes to rest.
Line two baking trays with baking paper. Lightly pat each dough portion flat, and cut each into 12 even pieces (24 in total). Gently roll each piece into a ball and arrange on prepared baking trays, leaving 2cm (¾”) between each. Push a small cube or button of chocolate into each of the Easter buns (ie. the ones without seeds). Don’t push them all the way down, or they’ll burn on the bottom.
Second rising:
Cover prepared buns with two damp, well squeezed-out tea towels. Set aside in a warm place for 45 minutes or until almost double in size.
Meanwhile make the glaze by whisking together the milk, extra caster sugar and egg yolk.
Baking and eating:
Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Lightly brush the tops of the buns with prepared glaze. Sprinkle the mixed seed and fruit buns with poppy seeds and pumpkin seeds. Bake for 15–18 minutes or until buns are golden and sound hollow when tapped on the base. You can bake the buns in two batches if your oven can’t accommodate the trays side by side.
Mixed seed and fruit buns can be set aside to cool on trays, then frozen (see tips below).
Serve Easter buns immediately, pulled apart and spread with butter.

  • Chocolate and raisin Easter buns are best eaten immediately, while still warm, with lashings of butter. They can also be re-heated on Easter morning, covered in foil, in a warm oven; or split and toasted. Leftovers can be used for bread n’ butter pudding or French toast!
  • Couverture chocolate is premium quality, containing a higher percentage of cocoa butter than regular chocolate. It’s smooth, creamy and completely delicious. You’ll find it at specialty food stores. In Australia it’s available at Essential Ingredient, Melbourne Food Depot and Belgian Delights.
  • Mixed seed and fruit buns can be frozen in an airtight container for up to 2 months. Defrost overnight at room temperature and use in lunchboxes, lightly spread with butter or creamed cheese.

Greek Easter buns and vintage bunny. One Equals TwoVintage Danish apron with removable bunny

 

Out of the box. 6 more bento ideas!

6 BENTO (LUNCHBOX) IDEAS
I just loooove Autumn in Melbourne. The weather is lovely and mild, yet it’s warm enough to enjoy salads and light bento dinners without everything wilting, ourselves included.
I guest posted over at Simple Provisions a couple of weeks ago, sharing one of our favourite meals for this time of year, Teriyaki Beef Donburi (photo below); thinly-sliced beef fillet, fresh asparagus and avocado on a bed of sticky sushi rice and black quinoa. A portion of the beef and rice is reserved as planned-overs for a batch of Teriyaki beef and asparagus sushi rolls. Have a look at the recipes (if you like!) and while you’re there have a meander around Amelia’s inspirational blog. She has impeccable foodie credentials, having worked for the queen (Martha!), she’s a beautiful writer and photographer, and she celebrates the art of simple yet joyful cooking with seasonal ingredients.
My featured Teriyaki beef and asparagus sushi rolls make a regular appearance in our school and work lunchboxes. That’s them below, along with a round-up of weekend lunches and light dinners we’ve enjoyed over the past few months, served up obento-style in segmented lunchboxes. All the recipes are on the blog (links provided).
I’m signing off this post with a pic of my boys and their buddies at the seaside after school; probably our last beach date for a while. Time to bring out the cardies!
PS. If you’d like even more lunch inspiration, check out my last obento post, with 6 more combinations, here. You should also go visit Anna the Red and her incredible Kyaraben (character bento) gallery, featuring Where the wild things are, Spirited away and Totoro.
‘Obento’ or ‘bento’? Good question! The two Japanese words are interchangeable, although obento is the honorific term.

Teriyaki beef rice bowl. One equals TwoBento box ideas 1-3. Via One Equals TwoBento box ideas 4-6. Via One Equals Two

OBENTO 1: Teriyaki beef sushi rolls
Teriyaki beef and asparagus sushi rolls (from my guest post on Simple Provisions)
Edamame
Cucumber and chilli salad

OBENTO 2: Roast eggplant, farro and chickpea layered salad with tahini sauce
Roast eggplant, farro and chickpea layered salad
Tahini sauce

Beetroot and pine nut hummus
Mini pitas with sesame seeds
I copied these little pitas from my local Middle Eastern take-away, and they’re so good with dip! Use my wholemeal (wholewheat) pizza dough recipe to make mini pizzas. Cut little rounds of dough; about 7cm (2¾”) in diameter, and 5mm (¼”) thick. A full quantity of dough will yield 30 mini pizzas (you can make a half serve if preferred). Brush lightly with olive oil, coat with sesame seeds and bake at 220°C (425ºF) for 8–10 minutes. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn!

OBENTO 3: Scotch eggs
Scotch egg, halved
Cherry tomato salsa
Wholegrain bread, buttered
Scotch eggs are lovely served hot or at room temperature, with a good dollop of tomato relish or mustard.

OBENTO 4: Falafel
Falafel with farro and chickpeas
Fresh Turkish bread, split
Kid-friendly hummus
Tomato and cucumber salad
These falafel are super quick to prepare as they’re made from a planned-over portion of the salad shown in OBENTO 1.

OBENTO 5: Corned beef roll with egg and potato salad
Corned beef, in a roll with Swiss cheese and wholegrain mustard
2 large pickles
Egg and potato salad
Home-cooked corned beef is surprisingly easy to make and the leftovers are beautiful served up in a crunchy roll for lunch, or stirred through potato hash for brekkie.

OBENTO 6: Udon noodle, spinach and sesame salad
Udon noodle, spinach and sesame salad
Edamame, podded
Blanched asparagus spears, sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds
This is one of our favourite salads, and planned-overs can be set aside for crab noodle fritters! Podded edamame beans are available frozen from large Asian food stores.

Beach

Spudtacular (mastering the hasselback)

[Recipe 1] BANGERS with HASSELBACK POTATOES, ROASTED ASPARAGUS and CARAMELISED RED ONION JAM transforms into
[Recipe 2] ROAST POTATO SALAD with SMOKED TROUT, ASPARAGUS and HORSERADISH DRESSING

Hasselback! Surely the best food name ever? These spuds are the bees knees. They’re simple to prepare, super kid friendly and look and taste spectacular. They originated at the Hasselbacken Hotel in Sweden.
The recipe is similar wherever you look. I’ve tried one on taste.com and Nigella‘s, which are drizzled in butter; but I now favour coconut oil*. I also alternate between fresh thyme and rosemary, depending on what’s available. Hasselbacks pair beautifully with pork sausages, roast asparagus and a good plop of sticky caramelised onion jam.
Being a planned-overs addict, I recently roasted double the asparagus and hasselback potatoes; and the following night whipped up a damn fine Potato salad with smoked trout, hard-boiled eggs, olives, asparagus and horseradish dressing. Although quite similar to nicoise, I actually took my inspiration from the Portugese stew, Bacalhau a Gomes de Sá (salt cod with onions, potatoes, olives and egg), which is traditionally served hot; but as we wilted through yet another heatwave in Melbourne recently, a salad was more fitting. I couldn’t lay my hands on cod, so opted for more readily available, and equally delicious, smoked trout.
*If you’ve not cooked with coconut oil, read this and this and you’ll be converted. No more nasty seed or vegetable oils for moi!

Hasselback potatoesBangers with caramelised onions and hasselback potatoes[Recipe 1] Bangers with hasselback potatoes, roasted asparagus and caramelised red onion jam

Ingredients (serves 4 for 2 meals):
12 roasting potatoes (2 kilos/4 lb)
40g (1½ oz) coconut oil, melted
1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves picked (or fresh thyme if unavailable)
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch asparagus, trimmed, brushed lightly with coconut oil
To serve:
Good quality free-range pork sausages
Caramelised red onion jam

Chopstick guide for hasselback potatoesPreheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Place a potato on a board and make thin, evenly spaced cuts at 3mm intervals. Place a chopstick or thin-handled wooden spoon either side of the potato, to use as a guide to ensure you don’t cut all the way down through the potato. Gently fan out the slices.
Place prepared potato on a tray lined with baking paper and brush with coconut oil, pushing down between the slices. Repeat with remaining potatoes. Season with salt flakes and pepper. Scatter rosemary over 6 potatoes, for tonight’s meal (planned-over spuds for the salad in Recipe 2 are best left plain).
Bake prepared potatoes in oven for 1 hour or until golden brown and crisp.
Place asparagus spears on a separate small baking tray, and pop in the oven with the potatoes for the last 15 minutes roasting time. Give potatoes another light brush with coconut oil. Remove asparagus and set aside.
Check potatoes are tender. If not, pop them back in the oven for another ten minutes and test again.
♦ Reserve half the hasselback potatoes and half the roasted asparagus spears for the Roast potato salad with smoked trout and horseradish dressing.
Meanwhile pan-fry sausages, and keep warm in the pan, covered, until required.
Serve remaining hasselback potatoes immediately, with bangers, onion jam and roasted asparagus.

  • You could add a simple green salad to this meal, and kids will appreciate steamed corn or carrots on the side.
  • Planned-overs (reserved hasselback potatoes and roasted asparagus) can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Smoked trout, potato and olive salad

[Recipe 2] Roast potato salad with smoked trout, asparagus and horseradish dressing

Ingredients (serves 4):
6 reserved roasted hasselback potatoes, sliced through, at room temperature
Reserved roasted asparagus spears
150g (5 oz) smoked trout fillet, flaked
3 eggs, hard-boiled, peeled and quartered
Handful olives, pitted (I love Mount Zero Victorian-grown kalamata olives)
Horseradish dressing
2 spring onions, chopped finely
½ cup fresh dill, chopped
Flaked salt (Murray River pink salt flakes are my recent addiction – so good with fish)
Lemon wedges, to serve

Arrange reserved sliced hasselback potatoes and roasted asparagus on a large serving platter, or four individual serving plates.
Place flaked trout, eggs and olives on top; drizzle with horseradish cream and scatter with spring onions and dill.
Sprinkle with flaked salt and serve with lemon wedges on the side.

  • Fussy kid tips: This salad is easy to customise for children by replacing the asparagus with chopped avocado, and omitting the olives and onions, as required. You can also lightly drizzle kid’s serves with good-quality egg mayo or plain light sour cream. Kids may also prefer canned tuna instead of smoked trout; in which case you can use the leftover trout for lunch, in a bagel with cucumber and cream cheese!
  • Any mention of brand names in my recipes is simply because I really like and recommend the products. I don’t do sponsored posts!

I’m bananas over you!

FROZEN BANANA ICE CREAM, 4 FLAVOURS

It’s Valentines Day tomorrow, an occasion that brings together two of my great loves; anthropomorphised fruit and food puns! Below are a couple of puntastic vintage Valentines Day banana cards, dredged from this flickr collection.
While we’re on the subject of bananas, may I slip (‘scuse yet another pun) into a beautiful natural banana ice cream recipe? It’s a departure from my usual 1=2 theme, but I just had to share it.
You’ll no doubt have a few over-ripe rock hard bananas lurking in your freezer, and once you’ve tried this ice cream, banana cake will be a thing of the past. It’s even better than a Barney Banana, and it has no added sugar.
Processing frozen bananas isn’t my original idea; in fact you can even purchase a special machine for the job. A hardy food processor will perform the task perfectly though, and adding a touch of yogurt or coconut cream makes for a smoother consistency, and easier blending.
A whipped frozen banana is a thing of great beauty, so rich and silky. Quite honestly, it tastes exactly like ‘real’ ice cream. We’ve been experimenting during Melbourne’s heatwave and have come up with some fab flavour combinations. Methinks the pink one in particular would make a sweet Valentines Day treat for your loved one. My lovely 6 year old, and chief taste tester along with his older brother, can attest to how delicious this stuff is, and one serve contains a whole banana. So ap-peeling!

Natural banana ice creamBanana and mango ice creamBanana and pineapple ice creamBanana and raspberry ice creamNatural frozen banana ice cream, 4 ways

Tips: Peeling and cutting a frozen banana is an easy way to lose a finger. Be careful! I like to cut them in half first, which provides a flat base for easier removal of the skin. Use a sharp knife to take off the skin in downward slices. Bananas can also be peeled first, and frozen nude in a ziplock bag. I tend to throw them into the freezer whole though, as their skin functions as natural packaging!
The riper the banana, the sweeter the ice cream.
Ice cream can be eaten immediately, or popped back in the freezer for an hour for extra firming.
Frozen banana ice cream is best eaten on the day it is made as it will begin to discolour. Frozen leftovers are a lovely addition to a smoothie though.
There are beautiful vanilla yogurts with no added sugar available in Australia; my favourites being Jalna, Evia and 5:am.

Number 1: Banana ice cream (2 ingredients)
4 frozen very ripe bananas, peeled and chopped
½ cup vanilla yogurt
Place bananas and yogurt into food processor. Whiz until smooth. Serve as is, or spoon ice cream into a plastic bag with the corner cut off, and pipe into an ice cream cone (pictured). Serves 4.

Number 2: Mango Tango ice cream
1 mango, peeled, chopped and frozen
4 frozen very ripe bananas, peeled and chopped
½ cup vanilla yogurt
Shredded coconut to decorate
Chop up the frozen mango pieces, and place into food processor with bananas and yogurt. Whiz until smooth. Sprinkle with shredded coconut. Serves 4–5.

Number 3: Tropical ice cream (vegan)
1 cup chopped frozen pineapple
4 frozen very ripe bananas, peeled and chopped
½ cup natural coconut cream, frozen in an ice cube tray
Chop up the frozen pineapple pieces, and place into food processor with bananas and coconut cream blocks. Whiz until smooth. This blend takes a little longer to become smooth. It’ll look quite dry to start with, then will miraculously begin to swirl into a heavenly creamy concoction right before your eyes. Serves 4–5.
Note: Check coconut cream ingredients – many tinned varieties contain thickeners and preservatives. Look for ’100% natural’ on the label.

Number 4: Banana Berry ice cream
1 cup (125g punnet) frozen raspberries
4 frozen very ripe bananas, peeled and chopped
½ cup vanilla yogurt
1 tablespoon maple syrup (optional)
Place raspberries, bananas and yogurt into your food processor. Whiz until smooth. Taste for sweetness and add maple syrup if desired. Whiz again. Serves 4–5.

Vintage Banana Valentines

Just falafs

[Recipe 1] ROAST EGGPLANT, FARRO and CHICKPEA LAYERED SALAD with TAHINI SAUCE transforms into
[Recipe 2] FALAFEL with FARRO and CHICKPEAS

Happy New Year! We’ve popped out the other side of the silly season feeling pretty darn relaxed, having recently returned from a cracker of a holiday in beautiful Apollo Bay with friends (more on that in a later post).
How’s the weather?! My heart goes out to Northern hemisphere relatives and readers, suffering through their bone-chilling cold snap. Melbourne is facing the opposite extreme, with the mercury hovering around 43°C (109°F) all week. YUK! We’re on school holidays and have been hitting the local beach daily, straight after breakfast, to loll in the water for an hour or two before heading home for crafting, movies and reading with the curtains drawn.
Dinner for us during a heat-wave is a no-brainer – salad! I whipped up this Roast eggplant (aubergine), farro and chickpea layered salad to take to a potluck dinner a while ago. The top layer is a classic Middle Eastern combination of roast eggplant, fresh cherry tomatoes, parsley and creamy tahini sauce; nestled on a bed of chickpeas and nutty faro. Delicious! Loving farro at the moment. We’re bored with quinoa; and have been alternating between farro and freekeh. Both are absolutely bursting with nutrients. Farro (AKA emmer, the Hebrew word for mother) is an ancient variety of wheat, not dissimilar in flavour to barley, with more protein than brown rice. My salad features cracked farro as it’s easier to cook and less chewy than full-grain.
Regular readers will know that this blog is about preparing two meals from one; so half the farro salad (minus the top vegetable layer) is set aside to be put to use in falafel. I’ve always added grain to my falafel, usually burghul (bulger) and most recently freekeh; and farro is equally delicious. By making use of the reserved salad components, the falafel groundwork is done; namely the chickpea and farro preparation, onion slicing and parsley chopping. The mixture is simply tipped into your food processor with 4 extra ingredients, rolled into balls, fried, and voila! Lovely moist falafel with a crispy coating; on your table in no time.
Notes: I bought a falafel scoop recently and was all set to extol the virtues of it in this post, but on my second test and tweak of these recipes I hand-rolled the falafel and have decided I prefer less-uniform, homely little balls, as do my boys.
Pickled turnips are a must with felafel. They cut through the creaminess of the tahini sauce adding a lovely burst of zing. I buy mine locally, but I do plan to make them one day, using Michelle’s fab-looking recipe. Will keep you posted.
Footnote: So thrilled to have this salad shared on thekitchn! Thanks so much.

Farro, eggplant and chickpea saladFarro and chickpea salad with tahini sauce[Recipe 1] Roast eggplant, farro and chickpea layered salad with tahini sauce

Ingredients (serves 8 people for 2 meals; ie salad for 8 plus falafel for 8):
250g (9 oz) dried chickpeas (garbanzos), soaked overnight (or canned, see notes)
2½ cups (500g) cracked farro

1 large red (purple/Spanish) onion, quartered and very thinly sliced
3 cups chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus extra for scattering
Note: you’ll be reserving half of the above ingredients for the falafel

1 lemon, juiced (approx. ¼ cup juice) 
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
Freshly-cracked black pepper
2 medium eggplants (aubergines), thickly sliced
Salt, extra, for sprinkling on eggplant

2 tablespoons olive oil, for brushing on eggplant
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
Double quantity tahini sauce (you’ll be reserving a portion to serve with the falafel)

Drain soaked chickpeas, place into a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil. Simmer for 40–50 minutes until just tender. Take care not to overcook them as they should retain a bit of bite. Drain again and place in a large bowl.
Meanwhile, place the farro in a large saucepan of water, bring to the boil and simmer, uncovered, for 25 minutes. Drain, rinse and drain again; pushing down with the back of a fork to extract excess water. Spread cooked farro out on a tray to dry for ten minutes. Add to the chickpeas. Allow to cool, then stir through the red onion and parsley.
♦ Reserve ½ of the undressed chickpeas, farro, red onion and parsley (about 6 cups) for the Falafel with farro and chickpeas.
Place lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil and salt in a screw-top jar and shake well until combined. Drizzle over the remaining chickpeas, farro, red onion and parsley; add pepper, and toss gently. Arrange on a large platter.
To prepare eggplant, preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Season eggplant slices with the extra salt. Set aside for ten minutes. Rinse slices with water, pat dry with a clean tea towel and brush with olive oil. Place on a large baking tray lined with baking paper. Roast for 30 minutes. Chop roughly and arrange on top of the dressed chickpeas, farro, red onion and parsley; followed by the chopped tomatoes. Drizzle with tahini sauce, and scatter with extra parsley.
♦ Return any unused tahini sauce to the fridge for serving with the the Falafel with farro and chickpeas.

  • Components for salad can be prepared a day ahead. Farro, chickpeas, red onion and parsley can be mixed together (remember to decant half this mixture and set aside for the falafel). Lemon dressing, tahini sauce and roasted eggplants should be stored in separate containers in the fridge. A couple of hours before serving the salad, stir through lemon dressing and arrange eggplant chunks and halved tomatoes on top. Drizzle tahini sauce and scatter extra parsley over the salad at the table.
  • 250g (9 oz) dried chickpeas (garbanzos) yields approximately 3 cups cooked chickpeas. You can replace the cooked chickpeas in this recipe with 2 x 400g (15 oz) cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed.
    Note: 1 x 400g (15 oz) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained, yields 1½ cups cooked chickpeas.
  • Cracked farro is available in specialty food stores, Mediterranean grocers and health food stores. In Australia, it can be purchased online from Mount Zero and Oasis.
  • Reserved undressed chickpeas, farro, red onion and parsley (for falafel) can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  • Leftover salad is great for lunch!

Falafel with farro and chickpeas

[Recipe 2] Falafel with farro and chickpeas

Ingredients (serves 6–8):
♦ 
6 cups reserved undressed chickpeas, farro, red onion and parsley

6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon salt

½ cup besan flour (or plain/all purpose flour if unavailable)
Vegetable oil, for shallow frying
To serve:
♦ Reserved tahini sauce
Pickled turnip
Tomato and cucumber salad
4 pita or lavash breads, store-bought (or try Sawsan’s fabulous pita recipe)

♦ Place reserved undressed chickpeas, farro, red onion and parsley into food processor. Add garlic, cumin, salt and flour. Process until mixture starts to round over, forming a ball. Add a little more flour if mixture appears too wet. Take care not to over-mix; a bit of texture is good.
If your processor is too small to handle the full quantity of mixture; process in 2 batches with 3 cloves garlic, 1 tablespoon cumin, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ cup besan flour in each. Refrigerate mixture for at least 1 hour, then use your hands to roll approximately 48 walnut-sized balls.
Pour oil into a deep-sided frying pan, to a height of about 1cm and heat. Test whether the oil is ready by dropping a few breadcrumbs in the pan. They should sizzle as soon as they hit the oil. Cook falafel in batches, for 3 minutes each side, until dark golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.
Spread each pita or lavash bread with tahini sauce, scatter with pickled turnip and follow with tomato and cucumber salad. Top with 4 or 5 falafel. Roll up and enjoy!

  • Yield: If hand-rolling, you’ll end up with 48 walnut-sized balls. With a falafel scoop, mixture will yield 24 flat falafal. 
  • Fussy kid tip: Children may prefer shredded lettuce, plain Greek yogurt and grated carrot with their falafel. Kid-friendly hummus and Beetroot hummus are also lovely accompaniments.
  • Pickled turnip is available at Middle Eastern grocery stores. You may find your local Middle Eastern takeaway will sell you a small container (thanks Manakish)! 
  • Besan flour (or gram flour) is made from ground chickpeas (garbanzos) and is available at Middle Eastern grocery stores, Indian and Pakistani grocers and select health food stores. It can be used in veggie burgers, rice balls and pakoras; is gluten-free, high in protein and much tastier than plain flour.
  • Leftover falafel can be eaten cold the next day, or lightly warmed in a hot oven, covered with foil. Don’t be tempted to microwave them as they’ll very unattractively fall apart!

Glaze of glory

[Recipe 1] GLAZED HAM with ORANGE GINGER SAUCE transforms into
[Recipe 2] CAULIFLOWER, THYME and HAM SOUP (with leftover Christmas ham) and CROUTONS (from leftover Christmas bread)

If you celebrate Christmas, you’ll no doubt be way too busy for blog-reading, so I’m going to attempt to keep my preamble short and sweet. A difficult task for moi!
Hands up who has glazed and studded a ham. Me! Classic ham-glazing has been on my list of food techniques to try for years, and last Christmas I finally tackled it. I feel the need to drop a bold OMG here. OMG! It was sooo easy, looked impressive and was totally lip-smacking. I’m whipping up another one next Tuesday.
I hung onto this recipe, and the photos, knowing I’d have zero time for blogging this week. I’ve been rushing around like the proverbial headless chook; shopping, crafting, working, cooking and wrapping; but weirdly I love this pre-Christmas flurry. The boys are so excited, counting sleeps; and frankly, so am I.
Now, where was I? Ah yes, the ham! My tasty sticky glaze is a classic orange/mustard/brown sugar concoction, inspired by this one; and livened up with a dash of fresh ginger. One cup of the glaze is reserved for a beautiful (even if I do say so myself) Orange ginger sauce for serving.
After feasting, be sure to save the ham bone with all those flavoursome little bits of meat – it can be put to good use as a tasty base for hearty Cauliflower, thyme and ham soup. This is ridiculously easy to make, and is based on my friend Kym’s fab cauli and bacon soup. I’ve been making it on and off for the last couple of years and my boys love taking it to school in little thermoses for lunch. Swapping the bacon for leftover Christmas ham is just as delicious; and I’m sure you’d agree – everything tastes better with croutons.
You’ll find two further uses for leftover Christmas ham here; a lovely Pea, Zucchini and ham soup and our family favourite, 3-cheese macaroni.
Seasons Greetings to you all, lovely readers. See you next year! Mwah. xxxxx

How to prepare a Christmas hamGlazed Christmas ham[Recipe 1] Glazed ham with orange ginger sauce

Ingredients (serves approximately 18 people, plus leftovers):
1½ cups orange juice (from 2–3 oranges)
2 tablespoons orange zest
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
1 cup firmly packed (200g) brown sugar
½ cup (150g) honey
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon sea salt
Whole cloves, for studding
8kg (16 lb) cooked leg of free-range ham
Ingredients for orange ginger sauce:
1 cup reserved glaze (see recipe for instructions)
1 cup chicken stock
½ cup (125ml) dry white wine
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
2 teaspoons corn flour

Glaze (note: you’ll be reserving 1 cup of glaze for the orange ginger sauce):
Combine orange juice, zest, ginger, brown sugar, honey, mustard and salt in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil, reduce heat to low and cook for 6–8 minutes. Strain. This recipe yields approximately two cups of glaze – reserve one cup for the Orange ginger sauce (recipe as follows). Refrigerate until required.
Orange ginger sauce:
Place one cup reserved glaze (see above) into a small saucepan. Add chicken stock, wine, allspice, pepper and corn flour. Bring to the boil, turn heat down to low, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring continuously. Strain. Allow to cool, and refrigerate until required (sauce will thicken slightly in the fridge).
Preparing and glazing the ham (see photos above):
1. Using a sharp knife, cut around the hock end of the ham, about 8cm (3”) along. At the other end of the ham, run your fingers (or a small wooden spoon if you’re squeamish) along the outer edge of the skin. Gently loosen and peel away the skin, leaving a layer of white fat. When you reach the scored hock end, pull the skin flap off in one piece and discard.
2. With a small sharp knife, score a shallow (5mm/¼” deep) diamond pattern into the fat, at 1.5cm (½”) intervals, taking great care not to cut down to the actual meat, or your diamonds will unattractively split apart. Push a clove into each diamond.
3. Brush the scored fat thickly with the prepared glaze.
Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF). Place glazed ham on a rack in a large roasting pan. Pour 1 cup of water into the base of the roasting pan. Bake for 30–40 minutes, until golden brown. Baste ham with fresh glaze every 10–15 minutes.
Carefully remove ham from the oven and place onto a large plate. Tip: Wrap foil around your oven mitts and grasp the actual ham, rather than attempt to lift the baking pan full of splattering liquid and the ham all at once.
To carve, steady the ham with a large meat fork. Use a sharp carving knife to cut slices of ham away from the bone, following the grain of the meat. Transfer slices to a platter as you go. Continue slicing, working around the bone. Turn ham over and repeat on the other side.
Serve ham warm or at room temperature with a jug of warmed Orange ginger sauce on the side, and crusty sourdough bread.
Reserve ham bone and 1 cup ham for the cauliflower, thyme and ham soup.
Reserve uneaten Christmas bread for the croutons.

  • Glaze and Orange ginger sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead, and stored in the fridge.
  • To serve ham warm on Christmas day, you can score and stud with cloves the day before. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate until ready to glaze and bake.
  • To serve ham cool or at room temperature on Christmas Day (my preference – far less stressful), ham can be baked and glazed the day before. Store glazed ham in the fridge, covered with a pillowcase rinsed in a solution of ¾ cup white vinegar and 1½ litres (3 pints) water.
  • If you’re celebrating Christmas in Summer, glazed ham is also delicious served with Mango and mint salsa on the side. Amelia’s Boxing Day mango chutney looks like a lovely accompaniment too.
  • Leftover ham on the bone can be covered in a vinegared pillowcase (see tip above) and refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. Rinse out your pillowcase every 3 days with prepared vinegar solution, to keep ham moist.
  • Leftover ham can be frozen, cut into pieces, for up to 6 weeks (cured meat can’t be frozen for as long as other meats).

Cauliflower and ham soup

[Recipe 2] Cauliflower, thyme and ham soup (with leftover Christmas ham)

Ingredients (serves 8–10):
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 small brown onions, diced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 heads cauliflower, florets removed and chopped
♦ 1 leftover Christmas ham bone
8 cups (2 litres) chicken stock, home-made or low-salt store-bought
3 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (or 1½ teaspoons dried, if unavailable)
♦ 1 cup (approx. 200g) chopped leftover Christmas ham (you may not need the full amount – see recipe)
1 cup (250ml) cream (I use light cooking cream)
Freshly cracked black pepper
Chopped parsley, to serve
Croutons:
♦ 3 slices leftover sourdough bread, crusts trimmed, cubed
1 tablespoon olive oil, extra

Heat oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over low–medium heat. Cook the onion for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 3 minutes. Add cauliflower, ham bone, chicken stock and thyme. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is soft.
If time permits, allow soup to sit for one hour with the ham bone in.
Remove ham bone. Puree soup in a blender or with a stick blender.
Cut off any ham remaining on the bone, and return it to the soup with the cream, pepper and leftover Christmas ham. Stir well.
Note: If your ham bone is quite meaty, you may not need the extra cup of chopped ham.
To make croutons, preheat oven to 220°C (425ºF). Toss bread cubes and extra olive oil in a bowl until evenly coated. Spread cubes on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake for 10 minutes until crunchy and golden brown. Set aside.
Re-heat soup and serve, scattered with croutons and parsley.

  • Cauliflower, thyme and ham soup can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. If using fresh (not frozen) ham, the soup can be frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Croutons can be stored in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.
  • If you’re keen to try this soup, but don’t have a handy leftover Christmas ham bone lying around, you may be lucky to score one from your delicatessen or smallgoods store. Ham bones are often discarded, so if you ask nicely they may be quite happy to sell you one for a nominal price.

Food-related gift ideas [handmade in Melbourne]

18 SLEEPS ‘TIL CHRISTMAS! If you’re stressing over gift ideas, and are in dire need of inspiration, may I present my inaugural food-related Christmas Gift Guide! Everything below is available online and handmade in Melbourne. Just look at what these clever folks have created. I’m in awe.
For even more inspiration, check out the quirky/foodie/crafty gift guides at Craft Vic, Broadsheet, Simple Provisions and Meet me at Mikes. International readers should visit Kickcan and Conkers, Fine Little Day and of course, etsy. There is also a fab round-up of upcoming Melbourne craft markets at handmade life (a must-visit blog for news and views on everything crafty). OK, here we go…
1. Sandsmade Stix for Cooks. $14.95. Stix are ideal for stirring, blending and beating; made from satin box timber. They’re also kind to saucepans and bowls and naturally anti-bacterial. Made in Northcote and available here.
2. Sandra Eterovic ‘Ms Mortadella’. $88. Beautiful original artwork, hand-painted on recycled plywood, with a sturdy hanging device at the back. Available from Sandra’s etsy shop, along with her cards and paintings. For more of Sandra’s food-related art, see hamburger girl and Italian ingredients.
3. The Hungry Girls’ Cookbook. $25 (special price – was $35). This is more like a work of art than a regular recipe book. Cloth-lined, hand-sewn and filled with scrumptious recipes, illustrations and photography; these books are the work of three friends – Rachel Pitts, Leah Holscher and Katherine Bird. Available here.
4. Neryl ‘Josephine’. $75/$95. Homage to Ms Baker, the queen of fruit. She would look fab in any kitchen! Original art by Neryl, available in A4 and A3 giclee prints. Limited edition of 50, printed on 300gsm natural cotton rag art paper using quality archival inks. Available here.
5. Kirsten Perry ‘tea and whatev’ mug. $60. Handmade ceramic mug that holds a massive amount of tea or coffee! Kirsten’s ace ceramics are available at Mr Kitley, Craft Vic and her online shop.
6. Penelope Durston oven mit. $32. Made from felted wool and finished with bright binding and a loop for hanging, by renowned Fitzroy textile-designer Penelope Durston. Available at Craft Vic.
7. Greg Mann Princess Me pin. $30. Greg fashions recycled cutlery into amazing jewellery. This pin is made from a vintage teaspoon. You’ll find Greg at Rose Street Market.
8. Lucy Folk Supreme Pizza bracelet. $88. No food-related gift guide would be complete without reference to Melbourne’s queen of wearable food! This flavour-packed bracelet is made from crochet metallic thread, mother of pearl, glass beads, powder coated steel, sterling silver and gold plating. Available here (along with Lucy’s pizza, bento, feast, spices and taqueria ranges)!
9. Urban Cartel handmade porcelain replica vintage milk bottle. $23. Glazed internally and left raw on the outside, these are perfect for holding liquid (food safe glaze) or a floral arrangement; or just displaying by themselves. Available from their etsy shop.
10. Vonda Retro leaves tea towel (detail). $20. Hand-printed on 100% cotton. Methinks this gorgeous Australian gumleaf design is the perfect gift for friends and family overseas. Available here.
11. Spinspin Tree Towel. $20. Designed and screen-printed in Melbourne using eco-friendly, water based ink on European linen. Available here.
12. Blank baked goodies packaging. Various prices. These gift boxes are the perfect size to package an entire batch of cookies. Blank also stock translucent wax paper glassine bags, wood berry boxes and all the tags and wrap you’ll need. Visit Blank here.
Footnote: This is not a sponsored list. These are all items I genuinely love. I must fess up though – some of these makers are my friends!
Etsy prices are in USD, so these have been rounded down to the nearest dollar.
If you’re buying from overseas, be sure to check with the sellers that delivery is possible before Christmas.

© Please note all photos are the property of their respective owners.

2013 Gift Guide

Sheep trick

[Recipe 1] SLOW-ROASTED LAMB SHOULDER with ROASTED GARLIC and POTATOES transforms into
[Recipe 2] 20-MINUTE LAMB GYROS with ROASTED GARLIC SAUCE

I’ve been the quintessential Melbourne chick lately, with the last two Saturdays spent rummaging through markets and pop-ups. The run-down: Gorman home pop-up, Latin American Festival, Design Files Open House and Maribyrnong Makers Market. Living in Melbourne is exhausting!
A chock-a-block Saturday preceded by five days of work is invariably followed by bedlam, with our house looking positively ransacked. So… with the washing machine on high rotation, and mountains of detritus to sort on a recent Sunday, I decided to slow-cook a chunk of lamb, a process I love as the meat can be ignored for the day while it does its thing. The result is an impressive-looking feast, with tender and juicy meat that literally falls away from the bone after a light prod with a fork. A most excellent reward after a day of hard yakka!
There is minimal prepping required for this dish. I make a quick spice mix (as used for my pork belly, although I swap the smoked paprika for oregano), rub it over the lamb and bung it in the oven. I find it unnecessary to pre-marinate lamb shoulder, or bring it to room temperature for an hour or more, as many recipes exhort – 5 hours in the oven equals meat cooked to perfection with spices well and truly impregnated. Yum!
My friend Ed alerted me to her go-to lamb shoulder recipe recently, by Kate Gibbs, with beautiful halved full garlic heads. I threw a couple in with my lamb and oh my goodness, I don’t think I can eat roast meat without them ever again. I’ve often tossed single unpeeled cloves into a pan of potatoes, but the halved full heads are just so darn pretty, and absolutely delicious.
I saved a few cloves of the roasted garlic and used them in a creamy garlic yogurt sauce which we drizzled over lamb gyros the following night, made with reserved slow-cooked lamb. May I be so bold as to say the gyros were spectacular, and they took only 20 minutes to whip up! I made the exact same meal the following Sunday, to a background chorus of woohoos from my boys; and agitated grunting from the washing machine.
PS. The key to a perfect gyro is the right bread and pocketless pitas are the way to go, if you can find them. My lovely spongy pitas are hand-made by Kalimera in Oakleigh, a takeaway restaurant that is absolutely worth the drive. If you’re unable to find pocketless pita bread in your ‘hood, naan is a good replacement; ideally from an Indian grocer as supermarket naans can be a tad cardboard-like.

Slow roasted lamb shoulder and roasted garlicSlow roasted lamb shoulder[Recipe 1] Slow-roasted lamb shoulder with roasted garlic and potatoes

Ingredients (serves 4 for two meals):
2½ kilo (5 lb) lamb shoulder, bone in (have your butcher cut through the bone here and there)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons cinnamon
2 teaspoons oregano (fresh, chopped, if you have it)
2 whole heads garlic, halved crossways
4 large potatoes, cut into chunks
Salad to serve (eg. apple slawgreen beans with toasted pine nuts or tomato, fetta and mint salad)
Lemon wedges, to serve

Preheat oven to 250°C (480°F).
Pop the lamb into a heavy baking pan, fat side up. Score the fat all over with a very sharp knife. Mix the oil, salt, cumin, cinnamon and oregano together; and rub all over the lamb. Tuck the garlic heads around the lamb. Add a splash of water (about 4 tablespoons). Place a sheet of baking paper on top, then cover very tightly with two layers of foil.
Roast the lamb and garlic heads, covered, for 15 minutes.
Turn the oven down to 150°C (300°F) and roast, covered, for a further 4¾ hours (see tips below if your lamb shoulder is a lighter weight than stipulated).
Carefully add the chopped potatoes to the roasting pan for the last 2 hours, covered.
Remove the lamb from the oven, place onto a board and rest, covered with foil, for 20 minutes.
Remove the potato chunks and garlic heads from the pan and place them on a tray lined with baking paper. Turn the oven up as high at will go, and return them to the oven for 20–30 minutes for extra crisping, while you rest and prepare the lamb. Potatoes and garlic can be kept warm in a low oven.
When ready to serve, pull the lamb meat apart with two forks.
♦ Reserve 2 cups cooked lamb, and a few tablespoons of the pan juices, for the lamb gyros.
♦ Reserve 4 single cloves (8 halves) of roasted garlic for the roasted garlic yogurt sauce.
Place the remaining lamb on a serving platter with the lemon wedges. Serve immediately with roasted garlic heads, roasted spuds and salad.

  • Reserved slow-cooked lamb and roasted garlic cloves can be stored in the fridge, well-covered, for up to 3 days.
  • Lamb shoulder cooking time summary: For a 2½ kilo (5 lb) lamb shoulder, the total cooking time is 5 hours (1 hour per 500g/1 lb; including an initial ¼ hour at a higher temperature – see recipe). Allow an extra 20 minutes resting time.
    For a 2 kilo (4 lb) lamb shoulder, the total cooking time is 4 hours (1 hour per 500g/1 lb; including an initial ¼ hour at a higher temperature). Allow an extra 20 minutes resting time.

Home made lamb gyro with garlic sauce

[Recipe 2] 20-minute lamb gyros with roasted garlic sauce

Ingredients (serves 4):
4 pita breads, preferably without pockets (see notes in my introduction)
♦ 2 cups reserved slow-cooked lamb, shredded, warmed
2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
1 red (purple/Spanish) onion, thinly sliced
1 small cucumber, thinly sliced
Roasted garlic sauce (make 2 hours ahead if time permits):
1 cup (250g) Greek yogurt
♦ 4 reserved roasted garlic cloves
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Sea salt

Make the garlic sauce by processing ½ cup yogurt, reserved roasted garlic cloves and lemon juice until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl, add the remaining ½ cup yogurt and stir to combine. Season. Refrigerate for at least two hours, if possible, to allow the flavour to develop.
Warm pita breads on a chargrill or in a dry frying pan.
Pile reserved lamb, tomato, onion and cucumber onto each warmed pita bread.
Drizzle with garlic sauce and roll up to enclose. Serve immediately.

  • Garlic sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
  • Gyros are also lovely served with cucumber raita or tahini sauce, in place of the garlic sauce.
  • Lamb can be gently warmed in the microwave, covered with cling film.
  • Kid tip: My 9-year old gobbles up the gyros as is, but my 6 year old prefers plain Greek yogurt (stirred to thin it slightly), grated carrot and sliced avocado in his.

2013 Christmas giveaway (closed)

HAPPY BIRTHDAY 1=2! My blog is nearly two years old so it’s time for a Christmas Giveaway. This competition is open to everyone, anywhere in the world. Feel free to spread the word. I’ve loved putting this little prize pack together. One lucky winner will score seven fab food-related items; including a Gorman tea towel and Re-sew-cool gingerbread man craft kit. Yay!
Here’s how to enter:
Head over to the 1=2 Facebook page.
‘Like’ 1=2 on Facebook (if you don’t already)!
Leave a comment on the Facebook post about this competition, posted Monday 18th (pinned to the top of the Facebook page, above the other posts).
That’s it! I’ll drop all the names into randompicker and Voila!
Entries close 5pm Thursday 28th November AEST. The winner will be announced on the blog and Facebook on Friday 29th November.
Here’s the list of loot:
1. Hand-made vintage Christmas gift tags x 6, made by me from deceased Little Golden Books. Each is backed with kraft paper, and features butchers twine for fastening.
2. Gorman x Rhys Lee tea towel. What more can I say? Two of Melbourne’s best, Gorman and Rhys Lee, designed this beautiful linen tea towel for their collab range.
3. Derrière la porte picnic tote bag. Made in France. Holds 6 bottles! From French Bazaar.
4. Give What You Grow jam jar kit. Contains 20 lid covers in 3 designs, 20 coordinated tags in 4 designs (pictured), elastics and twine. From Lark.
5. L’épicerie des bidules child’s unisex gingham appliqued apron. Housed in a fab bag with appliqued fabric letters. Made in France. From French Bazaar.
6. Re-sew-cool make-your-own felt gingerbread man kit. Contains instructions, pattern, buttons, natural felt, yarn, needle and ric rac. Made from 99% recycled materials. This kit makes two gorgeous gingerbread men, and is suitable for beginners. By the fabulous Sister Outlaws.
7. Not Quite Nigella: the book! By the super talented Lorraine Elliott, one of Australia’s most popular food bloggers. Lorraine shares the story of her journey from corporate advertising job to full-time blogger; as well as reviews, recipes and tips, including the key to baking perfect macarons! Published April, 2013.
PS. This is not a sponsored competition. I shopped for this little lot all by myself!
Terms: Please check-in here, or on the 1=2 Facebook page, on 29th November to see if you’re the lucky winner! If prize is unclaimed after 2 weeks, I’ll re-draw the competition.
29th Nov 2013: Congratulations Yael Zalchendler. You are the randomly-chosen winner! 

2013 Christmas Giveaway

Get ya freekeh on

[Recipe 1] FREEKEH SALAD with MIXED NUTS and ROASTED TOMATOES
transforms into
[Recipe 2] CHICKEN, FREEKEH, SILVERBEET and LEMON SOUP

I freeking love freekeh! Freekeh (pronounced ‘free-ka’) is dried immature durum wheat. As it’s harvested early, while the grains are still soft and green, it contains more protein, vitamins and minerals than geriatric wheat. It’s also Low GI and packed with fibre. I tried it for the first time at my neighbour’s house a while ago – they whipped up Andrew McConnell’s beautiful cracked wheat and freekah salad with barberry dressing, which is on the menu at Cumulus Inc. I loved it; and have been on a freekeh kick ever since.
After a lot of tweaking and testing I’ve created my own freekeh concoction; Freekeh salad with mixed nuts and roasted tomatoes. I’ve brought it along to two BBQs recently – that’s us below, carting it off to a Día de Muertos party last weekend. Those roasted tomatoes go rather nicely with my dress don’t you think?
As this blog is all about creating two meals from one; I prepared a large quantity of the cooked freekeh, onion and garlic mixture and reserved half to use in a pretty damn delicious Chicken, freekeh, silverbeet (Swiss chard) and lemon soup; which we polished off for dinner with crusty bread. The leftover soup was frozen in lunch-sized portions to take to work. I usually make this soup with leftover cooked brown rice but freekeh was a fab substitute, and not as heavy as brown rice. This recipe is a definite keeper.
PS. If you’re scratching your head in puzzlement about the title of this post, here is the musical inspiration. It’s an excellent, slightly mental, track to cook along to.

Day of the Dead 2013Freekeh salad with roasted tomatoesFreekeh salad with mixed nuts[Recipe 1] Freekeh salad with mixed nuts and roasted tomatoes

Ingredients (serves 8 for 2 meals; ie salad for 8 + 8 serves of soup):
4 large Roma tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon olive oil for brushing
2 tablespoons olive oil, extra
2 large red (purple/Spanish) onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
500g (1 lb) cracked greenwheat freekeh, soaked in 2½ cups water for 15 minutes, drained (note: you’ll be reserving half the cooked freekeh/onion/garlic for the soup)
4 cups water, extra
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
½ cup (70g) slivered almonds, toasted
½ cup (70g) walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
50g (1¾ oz) baby spinach leaves
½ – 1 cup each roughly chopped mint and parsley
Lemon pomegranate dressing:
¼ cup (60ml) lemon juice
2 teaspoons lemon zest
¼ cup (60ml) extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses, warmed (replace with honey if unavailable)

Preheat oven to 160°C (320ºF).
Place halved tomatoes, cut side up, onto a tray lined with baking paper. Brush each with olive oil, and roast for 1 hour. Carefully turn each tomato over and roast for a further 20–25 minutes to allow the juices to drain off. Cut each in half and set aside to drain on kitchen paper until required.
Heat extra oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion and garlic for 2 minutes, until just fragrant (onion needn’t be completely soft).
Add prepared cracked freekeh and mix well. Add water. Bring to the boil. Turn down heat, cover and simmer over a low heat for 15 minutes. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow to rest, covered, for 10 minutes.
Spread out on a tray (or 2 large plates) to dry for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the dressing. Combine lemon juice, zest, olive oil and pomegranate molasses in a screw-top jar and shake well until combined. Set aside.

♦ Reserve half of the cooked freekeh and onion mixture (4 heaped cups) for the Chicken, freekeh, silverbeet and lemon soup.
Place remaining cooked freekeh and onion mixture in a large bowl. Add prepared dressing and mix well. Add salt, pepper, nuts, spinach and chopped herbs and toss lightly to combine. Arrange roasted tomatoes on top and serve.

  • This recipe uses cracked grain freekeh. If you’re using whole-grain freekeh, simmering time should be increased according to the packet. 
  • Freekeh and pomegranate molasses are available from specialty and health food stores (including my favourite locals, The Essential Ingredient and Aunt Maggies). You can also check this page for Australian and International stockists of freekeh; or buy it online at the Greenwheat Freekeh Australian online shop or Freekehlicious USA. Freekeh is also widely stocked at Middle Eastern Grocers.
  • This salad (and the planned-overs) can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Chicken soup with freekeh and lemon

[Recipe 2] Chicken, freekeh, silverbeet and lemon soup

Ingredients (serves 8):
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 chicken legs, skin on
2 large carrots, peeled, finely chopped
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves

♦ 4 heaped cups reserved cooked freekeh and onion mixture
8 cups chicken stock, home-made or store-bought (plus extra if required*)
1 bunch silverbeet (Swiss chard), 8–10 stalks, green part only, finely shredded
¼ cup (60ml) lemon juice
Salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
Lemon wedges to serve

Heat oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan and fry chicken legs over a medium heat, turning, for 10 minutes, until browned.
Add carrot, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, reserved cooked freekeh and onion mixture and stock. Mix well.
*Note: we like our soup thick. Feel free to add more stock as required.
Bring to the boil, reduce heat to low and simmer gently, covered, for 40 minutes.
Remove and discard bay leaves and cinnamon sticks. Add silverbeet and simmer, covered, for a further 20 minutes.
Using tongs, place chicken legs on a board. With two forks shred the meat from the bones. Discard bones and skin. Return shredded meat to the soup.
Add lemon juice and season to taste (if using store-bought stock, the soup may be salty enough).
Serve, with lemon wedges for squeezing.

  • Chicken, freekeh, silverbeet and lemon soup can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Fussy kid tip: If lemon and silverbeet are likely to give your child the heebie-jeebies, stir a couple of tablespoons of cooked corn kernels, or even creamed corn, into their soup portion. My 6-year old laps it up with either of these additions.

Best in show

It was my birthday recently and we had a weekend away in Birregurra, for their Annual Festival. As luck would have it, the Camperdown Show was on as well so we had a rollicking country weekend, as you’ll see in this photo of me and my youngest patting an alpaca, published in the Camperdown Chronicle.
I just love a good country show and Birregurra and Camperdown certainly delivered. Dog jumping, cow pat lotto, an Elvis impersonator, kid’s gardening workshop, ‘Best chicken in show’ and one of my favourite events, the wood chop. How those blokes manage to escape serious foot injury, with only Dunlop Volleys for protection, is beyond me. One of the lovely contestants allowed us to take home a losing log, which has pride of place in our garden as a stool/table. Isn’t it a beauty!
Squeezed in a bit of country op-shopping (see my haul of vintage kitchen stuff below); and had some fab food, including a gorgeous pork bánh mì – that’s me clutching it below. It was amazing, so juicy and flavoursome. The Birregurra General store make, in my humble opinion, the best hamburgers in Victoria; served on La Madre seedy buns. I’m well-stocked with chutney and relishes now too, thanks to the Birregurra branch of the Country Women’s Association (Loz, I don’t know who you are but your peach chutney rocks).
We stayed in Pomborneit, at this lovely place. It has just been put up for sale! If anyone is on the lookout for an 1800s bluestone church with a separate studio and gorgeous garden, this place ticks all the boxes.
Have a lovely weekend folks; and Melbourne readers, have a splendid Cup Day.

Birregurra Festival 2013Woodchop and stool

A fruitful venture

[Recipe 1] KHOSHAF (DRIED FRUIT SALAD) with HONEYED NUTS
transforms into
[Recipe 2] ORANGE, MIXED FRUIT and CHIA MUFFINS

May I suggest an excellent Christmas gift idea, perhaps for your parents or in-laws? A food tour! The CAE has a fab list of culinary walks and tours, and I can’t wait to head off on a mushroom hunting expedition with my mum next year. The husband and I took my mother-in-law on a food tour of Sydney Road twelve years ago. It was surprisingly intriguing playing tourist on one of our favourite streets, and I learned the technique for making khoshaf from our guide.
Khoshaf is a traditional Middle Eastern dried fruit salad; made by soaking, rather than stewing, dried fruit in water overnight with fragrant rosewater and spices. I dished it up to my lovely lady friends for breakfast, on our recent holiday in Trentham. A country vacation is not complete without enamelware, and I was rapt to discover two classic enamel picnic plates amongst the unmatched crockery – see my first photo below.
I’m not a fan of overly sweet fruit for breakfast, so although authentic khoshaf includes sugar, I’ve found using a mixture of water and orange juice adds just enough sweetness. Khoshaf usually includes nuts too, but I omit these and serve the fruit with my honeyed nuts on the side instead. The plump fruit and crunchy nuts go beautifully with a dollop of Greek yogurt. Such a lip-smackingly healthy way to start the day!
I made another batch of khoshaf recently, determined to see if I could transform it into a second meal, and lo and behold it morphed into the most addictive Orange, mixed fruit and chia muffins. My boys loved these, and I’m both embarrassed and proud to say we ate the lot in one day. I’ve since made another batch, and placed them directly in the freezer.
I used my own go-to muffin recipe as the base. The 1½ cups of reserved dried fruit salad can be replaced with almost any fruit – see ingredients for my banana, coconut and lime muffins and carrot and sultana spice muffins in the recipe notes. I must say dried fruit salad is one of my most favourite muffin additions to date, and I may go and snaffle one from the freezer right now.

Khoshaf (dried fruit salad)[Recipe 1] Khoshaf (dried fruit salad) with honeyed nuts

Ingredients (makes approximately 4 cups):
1 cup (150g/5¼ oz) dried apples, halved
1 cup (200g/7 oz) dried apricots (or dried peaches, halved)
1 cup (200g/7 oz) pitted prunes
2 cinnamon sticks
3 star anise
1 cup freshly-squeezed orange juice (from 2 oranges)
cups water
1½ teaspoons rose water
Honeyed nuts, to serve
Greek yogurt, to serve

Place dried fruit, cinnamon and star anise in a bowl. Bring orange juice and water to the boil in a small saucepan. Pour over the dried fruits and spices. Fruit should be well-covered with liquid, so add more boiling water if necessary. Sprinkle with rosewater.
Stir lightly. Steep overnight in the fridge, covered.
Serve with Greek yogurt, scattered with honeyed nuts.

♦ Reserve 1½ cups of the dried fruit salad for the orange, mixed fruit and chia muffins.

  • Dried fruit salad will keep in the fridge for up to one week.
  • You can use any dried fruit for this dish; such as figs, medjool dates, pears or large raisins. This recipe is a great way to use up all those bits and pieces languishing in your pantry.
  • If the idea of dried apricots marinating in a pool of sulphites isn’t appealing, you can use organic apricots – the colour won’t be as vivid but the flavour will be just as fabulous.
  • Rose water can be found at Middle Eastern grocery stores, such as Oasis or A1 Bakery. If you have roses in your garden, you can make your own. Leftover pure rosewater can be used as a natural face toner!

Orange, mixed fruit and chia muffinsOrange, mixed fruit, chia muffins

[Recipe 2] Orange, mixed fruit and chia muffins

Ingredients (makes 12):
2 cups (300g) self-raising (self-rising) flour
½ cup (50g) oat bran
3 tablespoons chia seeds

½ cup (100g) caster sugar
1 cup (250ml) buttermilk
2 eggs, lightly beaten with a fork
60 grams (2 oz/½ stick) butter, melted, slightly cooled
1½ cups reserved dried fruit salad, drained on kitchen paper, roughly chopped
¼ cup freshly-squeezed orange juice
2 teaspoons orange zest

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Combine flour, oat bran, chia seeds and sugar in a large bowl.
Lightly whisk buttermilk, egg and melted butter in a separate bowl. Add to the dry ingredients and mix lightly.
Add reserved dried fruit salad, orange juice and zest and fold together gently until just combined (a few floury lumps are perfectly fine).
Divide mixture among 12 lined muffin pans.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of a muffin. Allow to cool in tray for ten minutes, then turn onto racks to cool completely.

  • Muffins can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days – they remain surprisingly moist. If you’re frightened you may polish off the lot in one sitting, they can be frozen for up 2 months and thawed overnight in the fridge.
  • This muffin recipe is easy to vary:
    Banana, lime and coconut muffins: Replace the 1½ cups reserved dried fruit salad with 1 cup mashed banana (you’ll need 2 large very ripe bananas) and ½ cup shredded dried coconut. Replace the orange juice and zest with lime juice and lime zest. Sprinkle with extra shredded coconut.
    Carrot and sultana spice muffins: Add ½ teaspoon mixed spice and 1 teaspoon cinnamon to the dry ingredients. Replace the 1½ cups reserved dried fruit salad with 1 cup grated carrot (you’ll need 2 large carrots) and ½ cup sultanas.

Tree-mendous

Hellooo! Wow, I haven’t been here for ages. The school holidays are over and I dragged myself back, kicking and screaming, to work yesterday.
I spent most of last week with my boys, 3 lovely lady friends and their kids in beautiful Trentham. With tongues firmly planted in cheeks, we refer to ourselves as the GMC (Groovy Mothers Club), and our 8 children have known each other since they were babies. Coming together as a big clan for 5 days was noisy, nurturing and bloody fantastic.
Although we had one big burst of glorious sunshine (on our last day), it rained virtually non-stop; so the days were spent doing a helluva lot of crafting – twig bows n’ arrows, dream-catchers, little air-dry clay pots, cardboard swords and shields, blanket forts and home-made lanterns for the obligatory spooky twilight stroll to the local cemetery.
We all love our food, and the menu was excellent: baked breakfast oatmeal, dried fruit salad with honeyed nuts, home-baked sourdough, brownies, cookies, börek, pizzas, chilli relish, lasagne and Janet’s pièce de résistance, loved by all the adults and kids – Taiwanese rice and chicken in banana leaves (that’s me, gleefully serving it up below).
We spent an afternoon at the charming RedBeard Bakery, where the baker generously showed the kids around his kitchen, and allowed them to peer into the huge 19th century woodfired Scotch oven. Such a beautiful place and it’s for sale. Someone buy it, quick!
The kids were rapt to discover an abandoned mine whilst bushwalking, and almost every morning we were greeted by a couple of grazing kangaroos, rosellas and fat cockatoos.
When the children collapsed into bed; there was wine, long chats into the night, a game of Cards against humanity, and did I mention the wine?
Thanks ladies. I’m finding it hard to muster up the care-factor at work after such a gorgeous week. *sniff*.

Trentham holidayTaiwanese chicken

The lovin’ spoonful (4 ways with ratatouille)

[Recipe 1] RATATOUILLE transforms into
[Recipe 2] FETTUCCINE with RATATOUILLE TOMATO SAUCE and
[Recipe 3] RATATOUILLE PIZZA with PEPPERONI, CHILLI and ROCKET 
and
[Recipe 4] TOASTIES with RATATOUILLE, PESTO and MOZZARELLA 


Is there a simpler, more virtuous dish than ratatouille? Veggies, olive oil, fresh herbs and a dash of salt and pepper. That’s it! It really doesn’t take much extra time to make a large batch and ratatouille is one of the ultimate 1=2 dinners, or in the case of this post, 1=4.
Ratatouille freezes well too, so you can make the other meal suggestions at a later date.
We serve it up on the first night as is, lovingly spooned into deep serving plates and scattered with fresh basil; every last bit mopped up with crusty bread (ours was olive sourdough from Noisette).
My favourite further uses for ratatouille are as the base for a lovely Ratatouille pasta sauce (this can be blended smooth for children – see tips below recipe); and as a rich, thick spreadable sauce for pizza, scattered with rocket (arugula), chilli and pepperoni. Lastly, I can’t go past a 90s-style toastie stuffed with ratatouille, pesto and mozzarella. Délicieux!
There are endless other ways to use leftover ratatouille:
1 Stir through scrambled eggs, or use as a filling for a rolled omelette.
2 Use in place of caramelised onions in a goat’s cheese tart.
3 Blend with chicken or vegetable stock to make a hearty soup.
4 Add a ratatouille layer to a traditional lasagna.
5 Finely chop and add to chilli con carne or bolognaise sauce.
6 Use in place of tomato-based sauce on chicken parmigiana.
7 Mix ratatouille with pearl couscous, crumbled fetta and a small can of chilli tuna for a quick lunch (the husband and I enjoyed this last week)!
8 Blend ratatouille smooth and use as the base for wholemeal bread scrolls with cheese, great for kid’s lunchboxes (recipe to come).
Notes: In testing my recipe for quantities and cooking time, I found roasting and removing the skins from the capsicums made for a milder-tasting ratatouille, which, when blended for the pasta sauce, my boys much preferred. A traditional ratatouille features un-skinned capsicums, so feel free to omit the roasting stage, and add them raw to the pan along with the zucchinis, skins and all; but there will be a slightly bitter undertaste to your ratatouille.

4 ways with ratatouilleRatatouille[Recipe 1] Ratatouille

Ingredients (makes 8 cups):
2 eggplants (aubergines), thickly sliced
Salt for sprinkling
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red capsicum (bell pepper), de-seeded, quartered
1 yellow capsicum (bell pepper), de-seeded, quartered
5 large portabella mushrooms, approx. 375g (13 oz), halved
2 tablespoons olive oil, extra
1 large red (purple/Spanish) onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 medium zucchinis (courgettes), thickly sliced
6 large very ripe tomatoes, peeled and de-seeded
1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn; plus extra for scattering
½ cup fresh oregano leaves (substitute with thyme or more basil if unavailable)
Salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
Lemon wedges or balsamic vinegar, to serve

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Season eggplant slices with salt. Set aside for ten minutes. Rinse slices with water and pat dry with a clean tea towel. Brush slices with a little of the olive oil.
Brush capsicum skins with oil.
Place capsicum quarters skin-side down, and prepared eggplant slices, on a large baking tray lined with baking paper. Roast for 15 minutes. Place mushroom halves on a separate tray and roast, together with the eggplant and capsicums, for a further 15 minutes. Mushrooms can be placed on the shelf below if required. Total roasting time is 30 minutes.
Remove roasted veggies from the oven. Carefully drain any juices from the mushrooms, chop roughly and set aside. Roughly chop eggplant.
Place roasted capsicums into a plastic container, pop on the lid, and set aside for 10 minutes. Slip the skins off the capsicums and discard.
Meanwhile, heat the extra olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 4–5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add zucchini slices to the pan and fry gently for 10 minutes.
Add roasted eggplant, mushrooms, capsicums and prepared tomatoes to the pan, bring to a simmer, turn down heat, cover and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove the lid for the last ten minutes if necessary.
Stir through fresh basil and oregano. Season to taste.
Serve ratatouille with thickly-sliced crusty bread; scattered with extra fresh basil and a good squeeze of lemon juice or drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
♦ Divide remaining ratatouille into 1-cup portions and reserve for Fettuccine with ratatouille tomato sauce; Ratatouille pizza with pepperoni, chilli and rocket and/or Toasties with ratatouille, pesto and mozzarella.

  • Reserved ratatouille can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Fussy kid tip: Kids may turn their noses up at the ratatouille, but will happily hoover it blended in a pasta sauce. You may like to whip up Recipe 2 immediately!

Fettuccine with ratatouille sauce

[Recipe 2] Fettuccine with ratatouille tomato sauce

Ingredients (serves 4):
400g (14 oz) dried fettuccine

♦ 1 cup reserved ratatouille, coarsely chopped
350g (12 oz) tomato passata (tomato purée)
2 leftover cooked good-quality pork sausages, thinly sliced (optional)
Grated Parmesan (or Grana Padano), to serve
Fresh basil, torn, to serve

Cook fettuccine in boiling water until al dente. Drain.
♦ Meanwhile, place reserved ratatouille in a small saucepan.
Add passata and simmer for five minutes, stirring occasionally.
If using, add sausage slices and simmer for a further 5 minutes, until warmed through.
Stir sauce through cooked fettuccine, scattered with Parmesan and fresh basil.

Ratatouille pasta bakeFussy kid tip: Before adding the sausage slices, blend one or two cups of the ratatouille pasta sauce completely smooth. Add a dash of water or extra passata if it’s too thick. My boys happily eat this, completely oblivious to all those lovely hidden veggies!
Ratatouille pasta bake is another fabulous way to use this sauce (pictured left). Blend ratatouille tomato pasta sauce completely smooth, add peas and pan-fried bacon; and stir through cooked penne. Pour into a baking dish, scatter with mozzarella and breadcrumbs and bake at 180°C (350ºF) for 15–20 minutes.

Ratatouille pizza with pepperoni

[Recipe 3] Ratatouille pizza with pepperoni, chilli and rocket

Ingredients (makes 2 pizzas, serves 4–6):
Flour, for sprinkling
1 quantity wholemeal (wholewheat) pizza dough, formed into 2 balls
50g (2 oz) pepperoni, thinly sliced (25g/1 oz per pizza)
250g (½ lb) mozzarella, thinly sliced
1 small red birdseye chilli, de-seeded, finely sliced
50g (2 oz) wild rocket (arugula) leaves (25g/1 oz per pizza)
Ratatouille pizza sauce:
♦ 1 cup reserved ratatouille
2 tablespoons tomato paste (tomato concentrate)

Preheat oven to 250°C (480ºF).
♦ Make Ratatouille pizza sauce by blending reserved ratatouille and tomato paste until smooth. Set aside.
Place two pizza trays into the hot oven to warm up, for at least 10 minutes. This is an important step for crispy-based pizzas.
Sprinkle flour onto 2 sheets of baking paper. Place a dough ball on each. Roll out and press each dough ball into a large circle. Make the dough as thin as you can, as it will puff up a bit in the oven.
Spread each pizza base with prepared ratatouille pizza sauce.
Top with pepperoni and mozzarella; and scatter with chilli.
Carefully slide pizzas and baking paper onto pre-heated pizza trays and bake for 10–12 minutes until bubbling. Cook separately if they don’t fit side by side.
Remove from oven. Scatter pizzas with rocket. Serve immediately.

  • Fussy kid tip: Children may prefer their pizza served margherita-style with ratatouille tomato sauce and mozzarella only.

Ratatouille and pesto toasties

[Recipe 4] Toasties with ratatouille, pesto and mozzarella

Ingredients (serves 4):
1 large Turkish bread, split lengthways, cut into four pieces
75g (2½ oz) spinach, walnut and roasted garlic pesto
♦ 1 cup reserved ratatouille
125g (4½ oz) mozzarella, thinly sliced

Spread each piece of bread with pesto.
Fill with ratatouille. Top with mozzarella.
Cook toasties in a sandwich press or on a grill plate until mozzarella has melted and ratatouille is warmed through. Serve immediately.

  • Fussy kid tip: Blend ratatouille smooth for children; or serve their toasties with pesto and mozzarella only.
  • If your ratatouille is quite wet, you might like to drain it on kitchen paper first.

Beet this

[Recipe 1] ROASTED BEETROOT, BABY CARROT and MACADAMIA SALAD transforms into
[Recipe 2] BEETROOT and PINE NUT HUMMUS

Happy Father’s Day for yesterday daddy readers! We had a delightful weekend, starting with the Nicholas Building Open House on Friday night (one of Melbourne’s most lovely buildings, and a microcosm of small artist’s studios and tiny specialty shops); followed by a perfect coffee in the sun and a spot of art admiration at Commonfolk on Saturday; and culminating in a magnificent manly dinner – Amelia’s Bangers and mash with beer and onion gravy.
I plucked some big fat grass-fed beef bangers from my freezer, having bought them a couple of weeks ago at East Bentleigh Farmers Market, one of our favourites as it has a zero-waste policy, and always has everything I need, including custard tarts and home-made dim sims. I had a lovely morning there with my 6-year old, and we came home with the aforementioned snags, gorgeous baby coloured carrots, and a few bunches of beetroot including striped Chioggia. I set to work roasting the lot for a salad.
The weather has turned decidedly Spring-like over the past two weeks, and this salad, full of flavour and texture with a light scattering of roasted macadamias; made a perfect light dinner.
I reserved a cup of the roasted beetroot and whipped up a fab beetroot hummus the next day, basically my usual hummus with beetroot added and a handful of pinenuts. Delicious! The husband and I polished off a ridiculous amount, and took the rest to work for lunch on sourdough with roast beef and rocket. I made a second batch to test its freezability and it freezes really well. Who knew one could freeze hummus? Not I, and I’m pretty rapt as it’s a great way to avoid gorging.
Oh, right down the bottom of this post I’ve shared my favourite tea towel. A girlfriend gave it to me for my birthday last year (thanks Eileesh)! I used it as the tablecloth for this post but felt it needed to be seen in its entirety. Isn’t it a ripper!
Footnote: The coloured carrots came from the Greens Organic Farm stall. They also deliver to Melbourne’s south/bayside suburbs. The beetroot was purchased at the Peninsula Fresh stall; and my sausages came from Sage Beef. The beautiful bread pictured in my dip photo was from Rustica. These sellers are all regulars at East Bentleigh Farmer’s Market.

Coloured baby carrotsRoast beetroot, baby carrot and macadamia salad[Recipe 1] Roasted beetroot, baby carrot and macadamia salad

Ingredients (serves 4, plus extra beetroot for recipe 2):
3 bunches beetroot, about 1½ kilo (3 lb) total
3 bunches baby carrots, about 500g (1 lb) total
2 tablespoons macadamia oil (or olive oil), plus extra for brushing carrots
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
150g (5 oz) wild rocket (arugula) or radicchio (Italian chicory) leaves
60g (2 oz) macadamia nuts, roasted and chopped
Orange dressing:
⅓ cup freshly-squeezed orange juice (from 1 large orange)
2 tablespoons macadamia oil (or extra-virgin olive oil), extra
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey, warmed slightly

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Prepare dressing by placing all ingredients in a screw-top jar. Shake until combined. Refrigerate until required.
Wash the beetroot and carrots well. Trim the stems leaving about 1cm (½”) intact. If using large and medium beetroots, they can be halved.
Place the prepared beetroot onto a large sheet of foil. Drizzle with oil and wrap them up like a parcel. Place into a heavy baking pan and roast for 40 minutes.
Brush the prepared carrots with a little oil. Remove baking pan from the oven, and place the carrots next to the parcel of beetroot. You can use a small separate baking pan if there isn’t enough room, or lay another tray on top of your roasting pan.
Place everything into the oven and roast for a further 20 minutes until vegetables are just tender.
Macadamias can be placed in the oven for the last 5 minutes to roast.
Remove baking pan from the oven. Wearing gloves, slip the skins off the beetroot with a vegetable peeler or your fingers.
Reserve approximately 200g (7 oz) roasted beetroot for the Roast beetroot and pine nut humus.
Place the remaining roasted vegetables in a large bowl. Add rocket leaves and drizzle with the prepared dressing. Toss lightly until combined. Divide salad amongst four serving plates, and scatter with macadamias.

  • Small, young beetroot leaves can be used in your salad in place of the rocket leaves.
  • Fussy kid tip: Kids will love the roast baby carrots, but may turn their noses up at the beetroot. Roast a couple of sliced potatoes and pumpkin chunks for them at the same time.
  • This salad can be served with sliced oven-baked pork fillets (tenderloins); which require 20 minutes roasting time and can be placed in the oven at the same time as the carrots. Brush them lightly with oil and scatter with cumin. To serve, brush a little of the orange dressing on top!

Beetroot and pine nut hummus

[Recipe 2] Beetroot and pine nut hummus

Ingredients (makes 2 cups):
400g (15 oz) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained, rinsed; or 1½ cups cooked chickpeas
200g (7 oz) reserved roasted beetroot, peeled, tops trimmed
1 tablespoon hulled tahini
3 tablespoons lemon juice (from 1 large lemon)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, chopped
¼ cup (40g) pine nuts
1½ teaspoons dried cumin powder
Salt

Process all ingredients until smooth. Add a splash of water if it seems too thick. Season to taste. If using canned chickpeas, you may not need additional salt.
Serve with crusty bread and/or vegetable crudités.

  • Beetroot and pine nut hummus can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 2 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge.

Uncle Albert's vintage tea towel

Pig out

[Recipe 1] SLOW-ROASTED PORK BELLY TACOS with PINEAPPLE GINGER RELISH and CRACKLING transforms into
[Recipe 2] MIXED RICE SALAD with PULLED PORK, LIME and PEANUTS

“So THIS is why the big bad wolf wanted to eat the 3 little pigs”!
So said my 6-year old after his first-ever taste of pork belly crackling. We were a bit startled by his cheerful nonchalance! He couldn’t get enough of it, those oily little fingers reaching out for more and more; and frankly neither could I. I hadn’t had crackling in years, and before last weekend had never actually cooked it myself.
Oh boy was it good; and the beautiful melt-in-your mouth meat it encased was pretty damn excellent too.
I weighed up Jamie and Nigella‘s cooking methods. Jamie gives his pork a sharp burst of high heat to start with, then turns the oven down for the slow-cooking process. Nigella cooks hers in reverse, slow-roasting first with a hot blast at the end. I chose Jamie’s technique as it required my attention at the start of the process, then could be ignored until finished – ideal for weekend cooking.
I improvised and threw together a simple zesty marinade which worked a treat. The lovely pork belly was served up in soft tacos with pineapple ginger relish, a concoction I made up by adding bits and pieces to the saucepan until it tasted nice, and hot damn did it go well with the pork!
These tacos are my version of one of my favourite Mexican dishes – Al Pastor style pork and pineapple. You can sample the real deal in Melbourne at Mamasita, Fonda and our local, Eat Drink Love Taco in Carlisle Street. Al Pastor style pork is cooked on a huge vertical spit and served up in tortillas with finely chopped onion, lime, coriander and fresh pineapple. So good!
Amazingly we had quite a bit of leftover pulled pork, which I used the next night in a fab mixed rice salad with lime and peanuts; using Rice Plus, a locally-made product my friend Judy got me hooked on. It’s fantastic, a combo of black sesame seeds and grains including brown rice, black rice, red basmati, millet and quinoa. I always have a pack in the cupboard. I’ve made this salad a few times, and usually add chopped leftover roast chicken, but the pork was a fabulous inclusion. This recipe makes enough salad for lunch the next day (nothing better than lunch waiting in the fridge for you in the morning). My boys love the salad too, although I modify theirs slightly – see ‘fussy kid tip’ below. Now, onto the recipes…

Slow-cooked pork belly with cracklingPork belly tacos with pineapple relish[Recipe 1] Slow-roasted pork belly tacos with pineapple ginger relish and crackling

Ingredients (serves 4–6 for two meals, ie. tacos serve 4, salad serves 6):
2 kilo (4 lb) whole free-range pork belly
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons sea salt
1½ cups freshly-squeezed orange juice
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 corn cobs, silk and husks removed (to reserve for the mixed rice salad)
Olive oil, extra, for brushing corn
Pineapple ginger relish, to serve
Fresh coriander (cilantro), to serve
10 white corn tortillas, to serve (mine are from El Cielo)

Score the thick pork skin with a very sharp knife, in rows. Don’t cut all the way down to the meat – about 5mm (.2″) deep is perfect. Brush the skin all over with the oil, and sprinkle with salt.
Mix the orange juice, cumin, cinnamon and paprika together and pour into the bottom of a shallow, heavy baking pan. Pop the pork piece on top. Brush the marinade up the sides of the pork. Don’t brush the skin, as it should remain dry.
Note: if you’re using a baking dish that’s tricky to clean, you may wish to line it with a couple of layers of foil.
Allow the pork to marinate, uncovered, for at least 4 hours, or overnight. Keeping it uncovered allows the skin to remain nice and dry which is a must for good crackling.
Preheat oven to 250°C (480ºF).
Roast the marinated pork belly for 30 minutes.
Turn the oven down to 150°C (300ºF) and roast for a further 3 hours, until skin is golden and crispy. With 30 minutes of cooking time remaining, place the oiled corn cobs in the oven on a separate small tray, and roast together with the pork, turning once after 15 minutes. Total cooking time is 3½ hours.
♦ Remove the corn cobs and reserve both for the mixed rice salad.
Remove the pork from the oven and allow to rest, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
To serve, remove the crispy crackling from the top and break into pieces. Pull the pork belly apart with two forks.
♦ Reserve 1–2 cups (as much as you can spare) cooked pork for the mixed rice salad.
Serve the remaining pork belly with warmed tortillas and pineapple ginger relish, scattered with coriander. Serve the crackling on the side.

  • Reserved cooked pork can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 3 days.
  • Fussy kid tip: my boys loved their pork tacos with fresh guacamole instead of the pineapple relish. I served them a bowl of fresh pineapple on the side.
  • When using coriander (cilantro) leaves, freeze the white roots. They’re great for adding to home-made stock, or pounding into a paste for flavouring curries and stews such as Black bean, coconut and fish stew. Strip the tiny ‘hairy’ roots off before using.

Mixed rice salad with pork and peanuts

[Recipe 2] Mixed rice salad with pulled pork, lime and peanuts

Ingredients (serves 6):
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red (purple/Spanish) onion, finely chopped
2 cups (450g pack) gluten-free RicePlus, uncooked
♦ 2 reserved roasted corn cobs, kernels removed with a sharp knife
1–2 cups reserved cooked pork belly, chopped
Sea salt

1 cup coriander (cilantro), chopped
1 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
60g roasted peanuts, chopped, to serve
Lime and ginger dressing:
2 limes, juiced and zested (⅓ cup juice)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon honey, warmed slightly
1 teaspoon dried red chilli flakes
1 heaped tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion over a medium heat for 3 minutes, until just soft.
Add the Rice Plus and 4 cups of water to the saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn down heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to rest for 10 minutes (this will help any excess liquid to be absorbed).
♦ Add reserved roast corn kernels and reserved pork. Season well with salt.
(At this stage you may like to decant some of the undressed salad to serve to kids – see tip below).
Make dressing by combining ingredients in a screw-top jar. Shake until combined. Pour dressing over salad and toss gently. Add coriander and parsley and serve, scattered with chopped peanuts.
Serve at room temperature.

  • Fussy kid tip: For 2 kids, remove 2 cups of the rice salad before you add the dressing, coriander and parsley. You can serve it with reserved pork, but if you wish to keep the pork all to yourselves (bwahahaha – evil laugh); do as I do and stir a small, drained can of tuna in olive oil through the rice salad. Both my boys love this. A classic tuna, corn and rice salad! It’s equally nice made with leftover chopped roast chicken too. My 6-year old adds a huge slosh of tomato sauce (ketchup) to his, and the 10-year old stirs through some mayo.

Giveaway (Australian readers only) *closed*

I have a wee little giveaway. If you’d like to get your hands on a double in-season Australian pass to the charming comedy-drama and MIFF favourite, FRANCES HA:
1. ‘Like’ 1=2 on Facebook (if you don’t already)!
2. Leave a message on the Facebook Frances Ha giveaway post (posted at 10.30am today). It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just ‘Yep’ or ‘Me please’ or ‘Hell yeah’ will do.
I’ll use randompicker.com to select one lucky winner. Competition closes 6am Wed 21st Aug, AEST time. I’ll PM the winner tomorrow.
Awarded 4 stars each by Margaret and David; Frances Ha is a fast and funny tale about a group of New Yorkers trying to find bliss in the Big Apple. Beautifully shot in black and white, it’s a love letter to New York, best friends, and life. From acclaimed director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale).
Ticket is valid during the entire theatrical Season at participating Australia cinemas only.

Endless simmer

[Recipe 1] CORNED BEEF with POTATO AND EGG SALAD transforms into
[Recipe 2] CORNED BEEF HASH

I’ve been squeezing in as many slow-cooked meals as I can before Spring arrives. We love beef, and especially adore slow-roasted brisket but being a closet retro food lover, one of my personal favourites is corned beef. It has a unique, almost tangy, flavour and is so easy to prepare, simply simmered in water with a few chopped veggies and ignored until cooked.
My recipe is a conglomeration of one from my much-loved Complete Margaret Fulton (a book I received for my 12th birthday) and this recipe on taste.com. The whole grapefruit studded with cloves is a tip I learned from my neighbour Tracey, and it adds a beautiful zesty touch.
Although corned beef is traditionally served with white sauce and boiled veggies, we prefer ours Eastern-Euro style, with a large mound of egg and potato salad and a couple of crunchy pickles on the side. Incidentally, if you’re feeling energetic, you could make your own pickles too. Bartolini Kitchens and Wuppenif both posted lovely home-made pickle recipes last week.
Reserve some cooked potato pieces and chopped corned beef and you can whip up a batch of rustic corned beef hash for brekkie later. The mustard adds a good wallop of flavour and cuts through the stodginess, making for a tasty, hearty dish to set you up for the day. The husband polished off a huge bowl of it on Sunday, proclaiming it ‘really good’, before embarking on a full schedule of repairs to our ancient house. Actually, our house is a 1=2 story in itself… must write about it one of these days.
Have a lovely week dear readers. xx

Corned beef with egg and potato salad[Recipe 1] Corned beef with potato and egg salad

Ingredients (serves 4 for 2 meals):
1.75kg (3½ lb) piece uncooked corned (pickled) beef or silverside
1 whole grapefuit, studded with 8 cloves
2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped, leaves included
1 leek, halved lengthwise, coarsely chopped
1 large carrot, coarsely chopped
2 bay leaves
12 black peppercorns
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Wholegrain mustard, to serve
Pickles or gherkins, to serve
Ingredients for potato and egg salad (note: you’ll be reserving ½ the cooked potatoes for the corned beef hash):
2 kilos (4 lb) waxy potatoes, peeled and chopped into small cubes
1 tablespoon olive oil, mixed with 1 teaspoon lemon juice, for coating reserved potatoes
½ cup good-quality egg mayonnaise
⅓ cup light sour cream
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
¼ cup chopped chives
¼ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
Salt and freshly-cracked black pepper

Drain the beef and place into a bowl of water for 30 minutes. Drain again.
Place rinsed beef into a large saucepan with the studded grapefruit, celery, leek, carrot, bay leaves, peppercorns and brown sugar. Add cold water to cover by 5cm (2”) and bring to the boil. Simmer, covered, over medium heat for 2 hours or until meat is firm. Turn off the heat and allow the beef to rest in the liquid for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, make the potato and egg salad. Place potato pieces into a large saucepan. Cover with water, bring to the boil, and simmer for 10 minutes, or until tender. Drain, and allow to cool to room temperature for half an hour.

♦ Reserve ½ the cooked potato (approx. 800g/1¾ lb) for the corned beef hash.
To prevent reserved potatoes from turning grey, add olive oil and lemon juice mixture, and toss to coat. Store cooked potatoes in the fridge for up to 2 days. Dry well before using in Recipe 2 (below).

Mix together mayonnaise, sour cream and mustard. Plop over the remaining cooked potato pieces; add the chives, parsley and eggs and stir through gently. Season. Refrigerate until required.
Remove the corned beef from the cooking liquid and slice. Discard the liquid (although it pains me to discard food, I find this stock too salty and aromatic to use for other purposes).
Reserve 250g (½ lb) of the cooked corned beef for the corned beef hash.
Serve the remaining sliced corned beef, cold or warm; with the potato salad, mustard and pickles.

  • You can buy uncooked corned beef and silverside from the supermarket, but it does contain a few numbers, sulfites and preservatives. I purchase mine from my local butcher, beautifully nestled in a bag of simple brine and spices. If your butcher doesn’t stock it, you could try asking nicely if they would prepare one for you. You could of course cure it yourself, but I prefer to leave it to the experts.
  • Uncooked cured corned beef requires 30 minutes simmering per 500g (1 lb). I like to add an extra 15 minutes, and rest the beef in the hot stock for 30 minutes prior to carving. There is nothing spookier or more annoying than finding a little uncooked section in the middle of one’s corned beef!
  • Cooked corned beef and cooked potatoes can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days. You can also freeze corned beef in slices, with baking paper between the layers, in a tightly-sealed container for up to 2 months.
  • If egg salad doesn’t float your boat, corned beef goes beautifully with Russian potato salad too (cook an extra 1 kilo/2 lb potatoes to reserve for the hash).
  • Corned beef is also fabulous served up in a Reuban sandwich with braised red cabbage.
  • Fussy kid tip: Refer to the corned beef as ‘special ham’; and if your kids won’t touch potato salad, serve them up an oh-so-hipster deconstructed version with cooked potato cubes, quartered eggs and a decorative drizzle of kewpie mayo.

Corned beef and leek hash

[Recipe 2] Corned beef hash

Ingredients (serves 4):
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon (approx. 20g) butter
½ leek, white part only, halved lengthwise, cut into long strips and sliced finely

♦ 800g (1¾ lb) reserved cooked potato pieces

♦ 250g
(½ lb) reserved sliced corned beef, chopped
1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard
4 eggs
2 Roma tomatoes, halved
Salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
Chopped fresh parsley, for scattering

Heat oil and butter in a large, heavy-based saucepan and fry the leek over a medium heat for 4–5 minutes.
♦ Dry reserved cooked potato pieces with a clean tea towel or kitchen paper; and add to the frying pan with the reserved corned beef. Cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Using a wide spatula, flip sections of the mixture over to cook the other side for a further 5–10 minutes, until golden and crispy at the edges. Add an extra splash of olive oil if required. Shake the pan gently now and again to roughen the potatoes. Add mustard and gently toss to combine.
Meanwhile, fry or poach the eggs and fry or grill the tomatoes.
To serve, pile a mound of corned beef hash on each serving plate, top with a fried egg, a tomato half and a good grind of pepper and salt. Scatter with parsley.

  • Parsley can be replaced with thyme or basil.
  • You can add other leftover cooked veggies to hash; including carrot and corn.
  • Fussy kid tip: Kids will prefer plain hash, so add wholegrain mustard and parsley to adult serves only. Omit the grilled tomatoes, and serve with tomato sauce (ketchup).

Poultry in motion

[Recipe 1] CHICKEN, ALMOND and ZUCCHINI PATTIES transform into
[Recipe 2] CHICKEN MEATBALL and NOODLE SOUP

I think I’ll launch head-first into the recipes this week. I’m absolutely pooped, and for once my brain is empty of chit-chat. Did I mention we have a newish cat, Moe (named after Moe from the Three Stooges)? We rescued him from the Greensborough Cat Protection Society, and he’s lovely. He’s such a good sport with our boys, tolerating endless tummy rubs and being wheeled around in home-made carts. The only negative about him is his daily 5.30am loud wakeup miaowing. Ouch. Although I would kill for an extra 90 minutes slumber, I’ve turned this ritual into a positive. The rest of the house manages to sleep ’til 7am, giving me a blissful 1½ hours of ‘me time’ every morning to blog and cruise Pinterest with a warm cat on my lap. I’m doing just that, as we speak!
Wow, I still managed some chit-chat, even in my sleep-deprived state. Now, onto the recipes… this week I’m sharing two fab chicken dishes. First up is Chicken, almond and zucchini patties. These are super easy to make, cheap and cheerful, and my boys love them. By making a large batch of the chicken mince mixture, you can set some aside and make chicken meatballs to use in a lip-smacking Chicken meatball and noodle soup for a second meal.
A word of warning – my 6-year old was quite freaked out by the ‘weird white balls’ in the soup, so the second time I tested the recipe I browned the balls before plunging them into the hot stock, and he was quite satisfied. You can choose your method, but cooking the raw meatballs in the stock is quicker, and more authentic. The husband and I prefer them done this way as the flavour is more delicate, but you may find that your kids will be happier with ‘proper brown balls’.
Ciao for now. Moe is hollering for his breakfast and I need a second coffee. Have a lovely week. xx

Moe-the-cat!Chook, zucchini almond patties[Recipe 1] Chicken, almond and zucchini patties

Ingredients (serves 4 for 3 meals; ie. 2 batches of patties and 1 batch of meatballs):
1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
1 leek, white part only, halved lengthwise, cut into long strips and sliced finely
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1½ kilos (3 lb) minced (ground) chicken
3cm (1¼”) piece ginger, finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
3 tablespoons very finely-chopped lemongrass stalk, white part only
3 medium zucchini (500g/1 lb), grated, squeezed to remove excess liquid
250g (9 oz) almond meal
3 eggs, beaten
½ teaspoon sea salt
Peanut or vegetable oil, extra, for frying patties
To serve with patties:
Sweet chilli sauce
Green beans with toasted pine nuts

Heat oil in a small saucepan and fry the leek and garlic over a medium heat for 3 minutes. Process cooked leek, 500g (1 lb) of the chicken mince, ginger, lemongrass, zucchini, almond meal, eggs and salt until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl, add the remaining chicken mince and mix well.
Divide mixture into three portions of approx. 800g (1¾ lb) each.
Shape 2 portions into 8 patties each (total of 16 patties). Reserve one portion of 8 patties for tonight’s dinner. Freeze the other portion of 8 patties for another meal.
Roll the third portion of chicken mince into about 36 walnut-sized balls, with lightly-floured hands (use gluten-free flour if required).
♦ Reserve the chicken meatballs for the Chicken meatball noodle soup.
Note: The mixture is quite soft and sticky, but it firms up nicely when cooked; and makes for lovely light-textured patties and meatballs.
For tonight’s patties, heat extra oil in a large non-stick frying pan and cook patties on a low–medium heat for 6–8 minutes each side, until golden brown and cooked through.
Serve patties with sweet chilli sauce and green beans with toasted pine-nuts.

  • Uncooked chicken patties and chicken meatballs can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge. Pat dry with kitchen paper before using, to soak up excess moisture.
  • This recipe makes two batches of patties, and one batch of meatballs. You could of course choose to make 3 batches of patties or meatballs instead!
  • For a change, the patties can be served in soft rolls with chilli slaw or sliced avocado and mayo.
  • Grated lemongrass can be purchased frozen from Asian stores. I keep a large block in my freezer and hack off a chunk when required.

Chicken meatball noodle soup

[Recipe 2] Chicken meatball and noodle soup

Ingredients (serves 6, leftovers are great for lunch):
200g (7 oz) thin fresh egg noodles
2 litres chicken stock, home-made or store-bought
1–2 tablespoons fish sauce (to taste)
4 star anise
4 kaffir lime leaves
2 teaspoons sesame oil
♦ 800g (1¾ lb) portion reserved chicken meatballs
1 bunch bok choy (or choy sum), leaves only, very finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh coriander (cilantro), to serve
3 spring onions (scallions), thinly sliced, to serve

Place noodles in a large bowl. Cover with boiling water and set aside for 5 minutes to soften. Drain. Divide noodles amongst 6 deep serving bowls (or 4 bowls and 2 plastic containers if you’re saving 2 portions for the following day’s lunch).
Place stock in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Add fish sauce, star anise, kaffir lime leaves and sesame oil. Turn heat down to low and simmer for 5 minutes, covered.
Carefully place half the reserved raw meatballs into the hot stock. Simmer gently for 6–8 minutes, until cooked through.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked meatballs to 3 of the serving bowls. Repeat with remaining meatballs.
Note: if liked, meatballs can be browned in a lightly-oiled frying pan before adding to the stock. See my notes in the introduction.
Remove and discard star anise and lime leaves.
Add bok choy to the stock and simmer for a further 2–3 minutes. Season to taste – if you’ve used store-bought stock, it may be salty enough.
Ladle hot stock over the noodles and meatballs, and serve with scattered coriander and chopped spring onions.

  • Dried star anise is available from the spice section of supermarkets, and Asian food stores.
  • Kaffir lime leaves can be purchased fresh or frozen from Asian stores. 
  • 1 small red birdseye chilli, finely sliced, can be added to adult serves.

Bean day

[Recipe 1] BLACK BEAN, COCONUT and FISH STEW transforms into
[Recipe 2] BAKED BLACK BEAN and FISH FLAUTAS 

You know those ladies who hand out tiny samples of food at supermarkets? I used to do that! It was one of my weirdest casual jobs as a teenager. You name it, I have offered it up on a plastic tray. Everything from crisps at Woolworths to cans of Diet Coke at a golf tournament. I also dressed up as Santa once and handed out bags of mixed lollies to kiddies in cars at a petrol station. It was a hoot. I caused a semi-trailer to do a 6-point turn on High Street in Prahran. He had driven past bellowing ‘Hey Santa, you look like a bloody girl’. When I screamed ‘I AM a girl!’, he came back to apologise. I gave him a bag of lollies.
I was reminded of this job when I visited El Cielo a few weeks ago. Look at their fabulous sauce and salsa samples! I had to hold my boys back, reminding them it wasn’t a buffet.
El Cielo is tricky to find, as it’s hidden in the back streets of Port Melbourne amongst the factories; but it’s worth the drive. They bake blue and white corn tortillas (gluten-free) on-site; and sell mole paste, masa (corn dough), agave nectar, salsas, hot sauces, black beans and all manner of chillies. They deliver Australia-wide too. I promise this isn’t a sponsored post. I just love their stuff! I armed myself with a load of fresh tortillas, black beans and habenero sauce and whipped up two new recipes.
God, I love black beans. I’ve made this chorizo and black bean stew more times than I can remember and decided to shake things up a bit with some crazy experimenting. The result was this Black bean, coconut and fish stew and it’s fantastic, even if I do say so myself. Seriously, you must make it! Don’t be spooked by the ingredient list – it’s a cinch to make.
It’s lovely served up with rice and a good squeeze of lime juice; and it’s equally delicious served up again later in the week, as Baked black bean and fish flautas. Flautas (Spanish for ‘flutes’) are little tortillas rolled around a filling. They’re traditionally deep-fried, but are just as fabulous baked in the oven with a sprinkle of cheese on top. My boys adore them. El Cielo’s tortillas are authentically small (14cm/5½”), perfect for kids and just the right size for flautas. Fantástico!

El CieloBlack bean, pumpkin and fish stew[Recipe 1] Black bean, coconut and fish stew

Ingredients (serves 4 for 4 meals – recipe can be halved):
1 kilo (2 lb) dried black beans (turtle beans), soaked overnight
8–10 coriander (cilantro) roots, stripped of the thin ‘hairs’ finely chopped (reserve leaves)
5cm (2”) piece ginger, finely chopped (about 3 tablespoons)
8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 tablespoons cumin seeds, toasted, crushed with a mortar and pestle
4 tablespoons coriander seeds, toasted, crushed with a mortar and pestle
3 tablespoons desiccated coconut
1–2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large red (purple/Spanish) onions, finely chopped
2 cups chicken stock, home-made or store-bought
2⅔ cups (700ml) tomato passata (tomato puree)
400g (14 oz) can coconut milk
½ teaspoon chilli powder (or more, to taste*)
500g (1 lb) firm-fleshed white fish fillets, such as swordfish or mahi mahi, chopped
350g (¾ lb) peeled butternut pumpkin (butternut squash), chopped into very small cubes
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 cups fresh coriander (cilantro), plus extra to serve
Lime wedges, to serve
Steamed rice, to serve
Hot sauce, to serve*

Drain soaked black beans and place into a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add 10 cups of water. Bring to the boil. Simmer for 50–60 minutes, covered, or until tender (they may need less time if they’re quite fresh). Drain again.
Process coriander roots, ginger, garlic cloves, cumin seeds, coriander seeds and desiccated coconut until a rough paste forms. Don’t blend it completely smooth – chunky is good!
Heat oil in a heavy-based large saucepan over medium heat.
Add the onion and fry for 3 minutes, until just softened. Add spice paste and fry for a further 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
Add stock to the pan and stir well. Add drained beans, passata, coconut milk and chilli powder. Cover and simmer over a low heat for 45–50 minutes. Stir frequently as beans are notorious pot-stickers (see my note about using a heat diffuser, below this recipe).
Add fish and pumpkin and simmer, covered, for a further 15 minutes until fish is cooked through and pumpkin is tender.
Season with salt and add coriander leaves. Stir well.
Divide the Black bean, coconut and fish stew into four x 1 kilo (2 lb) portions (see storage tips below).
♦ Reserve 1 portion (1 kilo/2 lb, about 3½ cups) Black bean, coconut and fish stew for the Baked black bean and fish flautas, and 1 portion for tonight’s dinner. The other two portions can be frozen or shared! See notes below.
Divide the steamed rice amongst four deep serving bowls. Ladle stew over the rice, and serve scattered with coriander; with lime wedges for squeezing.

  • The black bean stew recipe will yield four serves of about 1 kilo (2 lb) each (1 kilo will serve four). I love making a massive vat of stew, as it freezes so well. It’s also lovely to share with your neighbours, new parents or friends! It’s easy to halve the ingredients though, if you’d prefer to make a smaller batch.
  • Black bean, coconut and fish stew can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. If you’ve used fresh fish (not frozen) the stew can also be frozen for up to 3 months.
  • When freezing stews and soups that contain fish, it’s important to use the freshest fish you can find. Fresh seafood smells like the sea! If you detect an overly ‘fishy’ smell, don’t buy it. You’ll find useful information here. Local fish, in season, is your best choice. This website is an amazing resource for checking the sustainability of Australian fish species.
  • *You can dial up the chilli for more heat. I find one teaspoon of chilli powder is just the right amount for kids though, and a good splash of hot sauce will liven up adults’ serves.
  • To prevent beans, thick soups and sauces sticking to the bottom of pots, a heat-diffuser ring is an excellent investment. There are lots of different ones available on Amazon.
  • Black beans (turtle beans) are available from health food stores, markets, Oasis, specialty food stores and online from El Cielo. Black beans contain more than three times the omega 3-fatty acids than other beans. They’re also a rich source of anti-oxidant flavonoids due to their black skin.
  • When using fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, freeze the white roots. They’re great for adding to home-made stock, or pounding into a paste for flavouring curries and stews such as this one. Strip the tiny ‘hairy’ roots off before using.

Baked black bean and fish flautas

[Recipe 2] Baked black bean and fish flautas

Ingredients (serves 4):
14–
16 small (14cm/5½“) tortillas

♦ 1 portion (1 kilo/2 lb, about 3½ cups) reserved Black bean, coconut and fish stew

Olive oil for brushing
75g (2¾ oz) grated tasty cheddar cheese (or whatever you have in the fridge – see below)
Lime wedges, to serve
Chopped avocado, to serve
Hot sauce, to serve

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Warm tortillas for 10 seconds each side in a dry frying pan to soften them up.
♦ Top each with about 3 tablespoons of reserved black bean and fish stew. Don’t over-stuff them! Roll up to enclose.
Place onto a lightly-oiled baking dish, seam side down. Lightly brush the tops with olive oil. Scatter with cheese and bake for 15–18 minutes, until cheese is melted and golden.
Serve immediately, with lime wedges, chopped avocado and hot sauce.

  • If you can’t find small tortillas, use halved large tortillas.
  • You can use any cheese for the topping including mozarella, pecorino or manchego.