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.

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.

Lambtastic

[Recipe 1] SPICED ROAST LEG OF LAMB with CAULIFLOWER and LENTILS
transforms into
[Recipe 2] QUICK LAMB and VEGETABLE BIRYANI 
……………..

I’ve been making variations of these two recipes for years but have never written up a proper recipe. Until now! We’ve enjoyed them three times over the past few weeks, whilst I’ve tweaked and tested, and may I boastfully say GOD they’re SO good. Both my boys love them, as do the husband and I. I’d classify them as the perfect planned-over pair – an easy weekend dinner of spiced leg of lamb on a bed of roasted vegetables; followed up to 3 nights later by a super-fast Indian-style rice biryani.
The lamb is coated in a zingy home-made spice paste which chars the top of the lamb beautifully, and trickles down into the roasted veggies. Half the spice paste is reserved as a flavour base for the biryani, along with a portion of the roast lamb and vegetables. Throw everything into a deep frying pan with stock, basmati rice and a handful of baby spinach and your weeknight dinner is sorted.
A traditional biryani takes hours to prepare, but by using good old planned-overs you can have it on the table in 20 minutes!

Spiced roast lamb[Recipe 1] Spiced roast leg of lamb with cauliflower and lentils

Ingredients (serves 4 for 2 meals):
2¼ kilo (4½ lb) leg of lamb, bone in
1 large cauliflower, cut into florets
2 x 400g (15 oz) cans lentils, drained, rinsed (or 2 cups cooked lentils – see notes below recipe)
4 large carrots (approx. 650g/1½ lb), cut into thick 1cm (½”) slices
Coriander (cilantro) leaves, to serve
Spice paste (serves 4 for 2 meals):
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 tablespoon garam masala
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2½cm (1”) piece ginger, finely chopped (about 1½ tablespoons)
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest

Prepare the spice paste by processing the dry spices, garlic, ginger, salt, oil and lemon juice with a stick blender or food processor, until combined. Add the lemon zest and mix well.
♦ Reserve half the spice paste (¼ cup/60g) for the lamb biryani.
Make shallow incisions in the lamb and brush thickly all over with the remaining spice paste. Cover loosely and allow lamb to sit at room temperature for an hour, before roasting. (Note: lamb can also be coated in the spice mix, covered, and stored in the fridge for a few hours or overnight. Bring it to room temperature for an hour before roasting).
Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Place the spiced lamb into a lightly-oiled shallow baking dish. Add one cup of water. Roast for 1 hour.
Turn heat down to 180°C (350ºF). Add carrot slices to the pan and lightly toss to coat in the pan juices. Baste lamb. Roast lamb and carrots for a further 30 minutes.
Add cauliflower pieces to the pan and lightly toss to coat in the pan juices. Roast lamb, carrots and cauliflower pieces for a further 30 minutes.
Remove the lamb from the pan, cover lightly with foil, and rest for 20 minutes.
Total cooking time for 2¼ kilo (4½ lb) leg of lamb = 2 hours + 20 minutes resting time.
Meanwhile, add lentils to the pan and toss with the carrot and cauliflower pieces. Pop veggies back in the oven for a further 10 minutes, while the lamb is resting.
Slice meat from the bone.
♦ Reserve 1½–2 cups sliced roast lamb for the lamb biryani.
♦ Reserve 1½–2 cups cooked carrot, cauliflower and lentils for the lamb biryani.
Serve remaining sliced lamb with the remaining roasted carrots, cauliflower and lentils. Scatter with coriander.

  • Planned-overs (reserved cooked lamb, cauliflower, carrots and lentils) can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
  • Spice paste will keep, covered, in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  • Don’t worry too much about reserving the exact specified amount of lamb and vegetables for the biryani. The biryani is a pretty forgiving recipe and will easily cope with more or less meat or veggies. Unused leftover lamb and roasted vegetables are delicious in a sandwich or wrap with tahini sauce and baby spinach leaves.
  • 2 x 400g (14 oz) cans lentils, drained, will yield 2 heaped cups lentils. For 2 heaped cups cooked lentils, cook 1 cup dry lentils in boiling water for 45 minutes, until tender. Drain and rinse. I often cook up a load of lentils, and freeze them in 1 cup portions to use when required.
  • If you fancy baked potatoes with your roast, place two or three large quartered, peeled potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil, and simmer uncovered for 10–15 minutes, until almost tender. Drain and return potatoes to the dry pan. Place the lid on, and shake the pan over a medium heat to roughen and dry them. Add a splash of vegetable oil and toss to coat. Place prepared potato wedges into the pan at the same time as the carrots – they should be laid on top of the carrots so they crisp nicely. They can be cooked in a separate pan or on a small baking-paper lined tray, if your roasting pan is too full. 

Lamb biryani

[Recipe 2] Quick lamb and vegetable biryani

Ingredients (serves 4):
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small brown or red (purple/Spanish) onion, chopped
♦ 
¼ cup/60g reserved spice paste
♦ 1½–2 cups reserved sliced roast lamb, chopped
♦ 1½–2 cups reserved roast cauliflower, carrot and lentils, (carrot chopped into small pieces)
1¼ cups (275g) uncooked basmati rice, rinsed and drained
3 cups chicken stock, store-bought or home-made
75g (3 oz) baby spinach leaves, chopped
Cracked black pepper
65g (2¼ oz) slivered almonds, toasted
Greek yogurt, to serve

Heat oil in a heavy-based, deep-sided frying pan over medium heat. Cook onion for 5 minutes, until soft.
♦ Add reserved spice paste. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute, until aromatic.
♦ Add reserved lamb and vegetables and mix well. Add rice and stock, stir well to combine, and bring to the boil. Turn down heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add baby spinach and cook, uncovered, for a further 2–3 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid absorbed. Stir occasionally. Season with pepper.
Divide biryani amongst four bowls. Scatter with toasted slivered almonds and a large plop of Greek yogurt.

Fish for compliments

[Recipe 1] FISH WRAPS with CHILLI SLAW and CRUNCHY NOODLES transforms into
[Recipe 2] KEDGEREE
……………..
We’re back to school and work today after our two-week Easter break. We’ve had such a lovely time over the last week. Lots of crafting; including mini concrete mushrooms for the garden; a Barry Gibb beard; and a huge surrogate stuffed mother cat softie for our kitten. Squeezed in a trip to the beach, Kid’s Comedy Club at the Melbourne Comedy Festival and a visit to the Zoo. Melbourne readers – you must get to the Zoo ASAP to see baby Dewi the orangutan; and Sanook the baby elephant. We were mesmerised by Dewi for over an hour. He is hilarious. Little Sanook was closely guarded by his herd, and was divine. There were lots of ooohs and aaahs from the crowd; and a lady behind me was in raptures, repeating ‘Oh bless, oh bless, oh bless’ in a disturbingly deep voice, mantra-style in my ear.
The last week has seen a conga-line of quick and easy dinners; including a ripper Spaghetti with white anchovies and capers, from the Bartolini kitchens; and fish wraps with chilli slaw and crunchy noodles. These wraps are one of my 8-year old’s favourite dinners, so I figured it was about time I blogged ‘em. I even have a cheat’s version of this meal up my sleeve, for when we’re on holidays (see tips below the recipe).
Fish and chilli slaw are perfect partners in a wrap. By cooking a bit of extra fish, you can whip up a beautiful kedgeree for dinner the next night. That’s your two recommended fish meals a week sorted!
Kedgeree is a traditional English breakfast dish from colonial India, but it’s also fabulous for dinner; and frankly, I’m not a fan of fish for breakfast anyway. It commonly uses haddock, but it’s a great meal for using up leftover fish of any variety; and is super quick to throw together, particularly as it uses daggy old curry powder, instead of a bunch of different spices. We love it. Oh, the fresh limes are a must, adding a good dash of zing, so don’t omit them.

Fish and chilli slaw wraps[Recipe 1] Fish wraps with chilli slaw and crunchy noodles

Ingredients (serves 4 for 2 meals):
750g (1½ lb) King George whiting, flathead, gurnard or other firm white fish fillets
¾ cup plain (all-purpose) flour for dusting
1 tablespoon olive oil for frying
Mountain bread wraps or tortillas, to serve
Chilli slaw with crispy noodles, to serve
(plus 1 extra grated carrot for the kedgeree)

Place fish fillets in a large lidded container with the flour. Seal and shake gently to coat. Remove fish, shaking off excess flour. Refrigerate, covered, until required.
Heat oil in a large heavy-based frying pan over medium heat. Fry the fish fillets in batches for about 2–3 minutes each side, until light golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper.
Reserve 2 cups cooked fish for the kedgeree.
Serve each wrap or tortilla with one or two fish fillets and a good mound of chilli slaw. Roll to enclose, and serve immediately.

  • Reserved cooked fish should be placed in the fridge as soon as it has cooled. It will keep refrigerated for up to 2 days.
  • Fussy kid tip: my 5-year old isn’t a fan of coleslaw so I serve his fish wraps with avocado and grated carrot.
  • 5-minute vacation dinner: When we’re away on holidays I mostly stay away from the kitchen. I make a cheat’s version of these wraps with a store-bought pack of pre-chopped coleslaw ingredients and grilled fish fillets from the fish n’ chip shop!

Kedgeree

[Recipe 2] Kedgeree

Ingredients (serves 4):
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small brown onion, finely chopped
1 reserved grated carrot
1 tablespoon mild curry powder
2 tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and chopped
2 cups reserved cooked fish, flaked
3 cups cold cooked basmati rice (you’ll need 1 cup uncooked rice*)
1 cup cooked fresh or frozen baby peas
3 hard-boiled eggs
Lime wedges, to serve
Chopped parsley, to serve (optional)

Heat oil in a large heavy-based frying pan over medium heat. Cook the onion and reserved carrot until the onion is soft and transparent (about 5 minutes); then add the curry powder and tomatoes and stir until fragrant.
Add the reserved fish, cooked rice and peas to the pan. Cook gently for 3–5 minutes, turning frequently with a spatula, until heated through.
Divide kedgeree amongst four serving bowls. Quarter the eggs and arrange on the kedgeree. Serve at once with lime wedges for squeezing.

  • * You’ll get a better result with this dish if you use refrigerated cooked rice. The rice can be cooked up to 2 days in advance, and refrigerated until required. 1 cup uncooked rice yields 3 cups cooked rice. Cooked rice can also be frozen and defrosted overnight in the fridge. Break it up with a fork before using.
  • Rinse your rice well and drain before cooking, if you’re using the absorption method.
  • You can par-boil the tomatoes for peeling in the same pot as your rice. Peeled and de-seeded tomatoes will keep in the fridge for up to 2 days.
  • Fussy kid tip: you can dial the curry powder up or down according to taste. Children’s portions can be placed in a sieve and rinsed before serving – my 5-year old happily wolfs down rinsed kedgeree!

A pretty penne

[Recipe 1] PENNE ALL’AMATRICIANA transforms into
[Recipe 2] CHICKEN PARMIGIANA
……………..
Our Easter break has been lovely so far. What have you been up to? We’ve spent an inordinate amount of time mucking around with imotion, making Thunderbirds and lego movies; baked this amazing Roasted Hazelnut and Caramel Slice and yesterday we hung out at the newly restored – and highly recommended – St Kilda Adventure playground. Last weekend we visited Heide (one of my Top Ten Melbourne galleries, featuring one of my Top Ten Melbourne lounge rooms*) for three great exhibitions; Sid Nolan’s early experiments, Albert Tucker’s non-Western art and Louise Bourgeois + ten Australian artists (including Patricia Piccinini whose challenging work always goes down a treat with my boys).
I also dined with a lovely lady friend at Il Solito Posto. It’s a bit of a Melbourne institution and I love it. There is nothing remotely hipsterish about it (thank god – no queues); just beautiful, simple Italian food; friendly staff, perfect dim lighting, comfy decor and a great subterranean alley location. My dinner date had Bucatini all’Amatriciana – I’d forgotten how fabulous that dish is! I spied some beautiful bright red Doncaster tomatoes at the local greengrocer last week, so a pot of all’Amatriciana sauce was in order.
This recipe makes two lots of Amatriciana sauce. Be sure to save a portion for Chicken Parmigiana, or ‘parma’ as we refer to it in Australia. Crumbed chicken, topped with Napoli sauce and slathered with mozarella – is there better comfort food than that? An Aussie-style parma features a layer of ham, but by replacing the Napoli sauce with Amatriciana, there is no need for ham as the sauce is laden with beautiful pancetta, and to my mind this is much tastier.
The chicken parma is a classic and much-revered pub meal in Australia. If you live in Melbourne, you must check out parmadaze; which is part of the eparmony network, ‘connecting people with parmigiana’. If there is an Australian restaurant or pub serving parma, you can guarantee it will be featured and reviewed meticulously (and hilariously) on this site.
*The lounge room in the Heide 11 building is a swoon-worthy conversation pit with a beautiful hearth, almost entirely lined with hooked, untreated wool carpet.

Penne alla matriciana[Recipe 1] Penne all’Amatriciana

Sauce ingredients (makes 2 batches, ie. serves 4 for 2 meals):
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small red (purple/Spanish) onions, finely chopped
300g (10½ oz) medium-thickness (about 2mm) pancetta, finely sliced
2 kilos (4½ lb) very ripe tomatoes, peeled, de-seeded, chopped
¼ teaspoon dried chilli flakes
½–1 tablespoon tomato paste (tomato concentrate), if required (see notes in recipe)*
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
To serve (serves 4):
400g (14 oz) dried penne
Fresh basil leaves, torn, to serve
Pecorino cheese, grated, to serve

Heat oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over low–medium heat. Cook the onion and pancetta for 10 minutes, until onion is softened and transparent.
Add tomatoes and chilli. Simmer gently, uncovered, for 20–30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thick. Season to taste.
*Taste the sauce – it should be rich and flavorsome. If you’ve used tomatoes that aren’t super ripe, you may need to add ½–1 tablespoon tomato paste (tomato concentrate); or even a dash of sugar to counter the acidity.
♦ Divide the Amatriciana sauce into two lots of about 2½ cups (600–650g/1.3–1.4 lb) each. Reserve one lot for the Chicken Parmigiana.
Meanwhile, for tonight’s dinner, cook penne in boiling water until al dente. Drain and return penne to pan.
Add one serve of Amatriciana sauce to the penne, and toss together. Serve, scattered with basil and Pecorino.

  • Pancetta is Italian salted pork belly, available from delicatessens and large supermarkets. If you can find it, guanciale (cured pork cheek) is even tastier, and a more authentic addition to Amatriciana sauce. Substitute for bacon, rind removed, if neither is available.
  • Pecorino is a hard, salty Italian sheep’s milk cheese, also available from delicatessens and large supermarkets. Substitute for Parmesan, if unavailable.
  • Amatriciana sauce can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.

Chicken parmagiana

[Recipe 2] Chicken Parmigiana

Ingredients (serves 4–6*):
3 large skinless chicken breasts (about 750g/1½ lb)
½ cup plain (all-purpose) flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 eggs, whisked
1 cup dry breadcrumbs, laid out on a plate for coating
♦ 2½ cups (600–650g/1.3–1.4 lb) reserved Amatriciana sauce
¼ cup olive oil
50g (1¾ oz) Parmesan (or Grana Padano), grated
150g (5 oz) Mozzarella cheese, grated
Fresh basil leaves, torn, for serving

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Carefully cut the chicken breasts in half horizontally, so you end up with 6 thin pieces. Working with one chicken piece at a time, place between two layers of baking paper and bash crazily with a meat mallet until flattened. You can also roll heavily with a rolling pin.
Place salt and flour into a large plastic bag. Add the chicken breasts and shake to coat. Remove from the bag and shake off excess flour.
Dredge the chicken breasts one piece at a time in the egg until well-covered, then coat both sides in breadcrumbs, pressing firmly.
Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan and fry the chicken pieces in two batches until golden brown, about 4 minutes each side. Wipe the pan clean before cooking the second batch. Drain chicken pieces on kitchen paper.
Line a tray with baking paper. Arrange the cooked chicken pieces on the tray, and top with parmesan.
♦ Spoon the reserved Amatriciana sauce on top, and scatter with mozzarella.
Bake for 15–20 minutes, until the cheese is bubbling.
Serve immediately with a simple green salad.

  • Chicken breasts can be crumbed in advance and refrigerated, raw, for up 1 day.
  • Unused mozzarella can be grated and frozen in ziplock bags for up to 2 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge.
  • *This recipe makes 6 pieces of chicken parmigiana. Leftovers can be reheated the following day, or sliced up and stuffed into a soft bread roll with rocket or baby spinach for lunch. Yummo.

Of rice and men

[Recipe 1] MARION’S BROWN RICE, MIXED NUT and GINGER SALAD transforms into
[Recipe 2] GOLDEN RICE BALLS with CHUNKY PEANUT and COCONUT SAUCE
……………..
The ‘men’ part of my post title pertains to the husband and his man friends, who are out reclaiming their youth tonight at Iggy and the Stooges, and the Beasts of Bourbon. He’ll no doubt be clunking down our hallway at some revolting hour.
I, on the other hand, am a lady of good health and virtue. I offer you this wholesome brown rice, mixed nut and ginger salad. It’s full of flavour and texture, with a good wallop of zing from the ginger; and whenever I bring it to a BBQ, as I did a couple of weeks ago, the recipe is always requested. It’s one of ‘those’ recipes. I’m sure you all have one. It’s my mother-in-law Marion’s specialty and she has been making it for years. It nearly always features on the table at family gatherings (along with Marion’s mysterious ‘24 hour salad’).
The recipe makes enough for 6, plus planned-overs to reserve (undressed, minus the capsicum) for a batch of fantastic, golden rice balls with chunky peanut and coconut sauce. My 8-year old loves these in wraps with chilli slaw.
Hope you all have a beautiful Easter.

Brown rice, ginger and mixed nut salad[Recipe 1] Marion’s brown rice, mixed nut and ginger salad

Ingredients (serves 4–6 for two meals, ie. salad serves 6, rice balls serve 4):
3 cups (600g) uncooked medium-grain brown rice
6 spring onions (scallions), sliced
150g (5¼ oz) raisins
100g (3½ oz) walnuts, roasted and roughly chopped
75g (2½ oz) cashews, roasted and roughly chopped
9 small cloves garlic, very finely chopped
7½ cm (3”) piece ginger, grated and chopped (equivalent to 3 tablespoons)
½ cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small red capsicum (bell pepper), thinly sliced (for salad only)
1 small yellow capsicum (bell pepper), thinly sliced (for salad only)
Dressing (for salad only):
½ cup olive oil
¼ cup soy sauce (gluten-free, if required)
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Place rice in a large saucepan. Add 5–6 litres (5–6 quarts) cold water. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 35–40 minutes, until cooked and not too chewy.
Remove rice from heat. Rinse, and drain well. Refrigerate for at least two hours, or overnight.
Add spring onions, raisins, toasted walnuts, toasted cashews, garlic, ginger and parsley. Season to taste, and mix well.
Reserve ⅓ of the undressed brown rice salad (4 cups) for the Golden rice balls.
Make the dressing by whisking ingredients together. Pour over remaining brown rice salad, add capsicum and toss together. Serve.

  • 3 cups uncooked brown rice yields 9 cups cooked rice.
  • Cooked brown rice can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge.
  • Planned-overs (undressed salad) can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days, so you can make the rice balls later in the week.
  • If you’d prefer to make the salad alone, you can play around with quantities. It’s hard to go wrong – just give it a taste and adjust the dressing up or down accordingly.
  • Fussy kid tip: reserve a cup of cooked brown rice, a tablespoon of finely chopped roasted nuts and a tiny splash of dressing; add cooked corn kernels and peas, and even a small drained can of tuna, and the kids will be happy. You’ll find kids will hoover the rice balls though, no adjustment necessary!

Brown rice balls with chunky peanut sauce

[Recipe 2] Golden rice balls with chunky peanut and coconut sauce

Ingredients (serves 4):
4 cups reserved undressed brown rice salad
125g (4½ oz) tofu
2 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce
1 egg, lightly whisked
½ cup (75g) atta flour
Peanut oil for deep frying
Chunky peanut and coconut sauce, to serve
Chilli slaw with crispy noodles, to serve (optional)

Place reserved undressed brown rice salad in a large bowl.
Add tofu, chilli sauce, egg and flour and mix well with your hands. Form mixture into golfball-sized balls.
Refrigerate for at least one hour.
Heat the peanut oil in a deep saucepan. Deep-fry the rice balls in two batches at 180°C (350ºF) for approximately 3 minutes, until golden brown. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can test whether the oil is ready by dropping a few pieces of cooked rice in the pot. They should sizzle as soon as they hit the oil.
Drain rice balls on kitchen paper and serve immediately with chunky peanut and coconut sauce and Chilli slaw with crispy noodles (or a simple green salad).
Makes approx. 20–22 rice balls.

  • These balls are extra crunchy and delicious when deep-fried, but if you have an aversion to deep-frying, they can also be shallow-fried in ¼–½  cup of peanut oil. Roll the balls around in the oil with a slotted spoon or tongs, to ensure they brown evenly.
  • Atta flour is a traditional wholemeal Indian flour made from durum wheat, with visible fine bran particles. It is available from large supermarkets, Indian and Pakistani grocers. In this recipe it can be replaced with dry breadcrumbs if unavailable.
  • If peanut sauce doesn’t float your boat, the rice balls are also lovely served with chilli mayo.

I want to hold your ham

[Recipe 1] PEA, ZUCCHINI and HAM SOUP (with leftover Christmas ham) and
[Recipe 2] 3-CHEESE MACARONI (with leftover Christmas ham)
……………..
Thought you might fancy a couple of recipes for using up your leftover Christmas ham next week. I typed up and photographed these earlier in the year, saving them for now in case I was too pooped to post anything this week. Well, as my mum would say (in her beautiful Dutch accent) Sanks god for dat. Apart from present-wrapping, shopping, baking, visiting the Myer windows, attending nightly Chrissie parties and squeezing in some work; I’ve been stung by a wasp on the bottom of my foot, slammed the car boot lid on my head (don’t ask) and dropped my new umbrella in a toilet. Pretty crazy (and occasionally embarrassing) week!
Anyhoo, back to cooking… I’ve made both these recipes many times, and they’re pretty excellent, even if I do say so myself!
If you’re having ham on Christmas day, don’t toss the bone with all those lovely bits of ham stuck on it – use it to flavour Pea, zucchini (courgette) and ham soup. This soup is beautiful, and perfect for freezing and taking with you on holidays. Soup is always exactly what I crave after gorging myself on Christmas day.
The 3-cheese macaroni is the ultimate mac n’ cheese. My boys just LOVE it. It’s full of veggies, and super tasty with the addition of Gruyère cheese. Gruyère is one of my favourites, so nutty and creamy – just a whiff of it casts me straight back to my childhood dinner table and the steaming pots of cheesey, winey fondue made by my dad.
Hope you all have a beautiful holiday season and New Year. I’m unplugging for a while, and looking forward to some serious relaxation. Ciao for now. See you next year. xx
PS: You’ll find my Glazed Christmas ham recipe here.

Pea, zucchini and ham soup[Recipe 1] Pea, zucchini and ham soup

Ingredients (serves 8):
500g (1 lb) dried green split peas, soaked overnight
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 brown onions, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup fresh (or frozen) peas
2 large carrots, chopped into very small pieces
2 large zucchinis (courgettes), chopped into small pieces
2 full-length celery sticks, including leaves, chopped
1 large leftover Christmas ham bone, preferably double-smoked
8 cups (2 litres) water
2 bay leaves
♦ 1 cup (approx. 200g) chopped leftover Christmas ham (you may not need the full amount – see recipe)
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Fresh mint leaves, torn, to serve

Drain and rinse soaked split peas.
Heat oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 3 minutes. Add soaked peas, fresh (or frozen) peas, carrot, zucchini, celery, ham bone, water and bay leaves. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes, or until dried peas are very tender. Stir occasionally.
Allow to cool for one hour (leave the ham bone in). Remove ham bone. Discard bay leaves.
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 chopped leftover Christmas ham. Season well with salt and pepper. Stir.
Note: If your ham bone is quite meaty, you may not need the extra cup of ham.
Re-heat the soup and serve, scattered with mint.

  • You’ll find my Glazed Christmas Ham recipe here.
  • Leftover Christmas ham be diced and frozen, for up to 6 weeks (cured meat can’t be frozen for as long as other meats). Freeze it in 2-cup lots, then you can whip it out for these recipes later! Defrost overnight in the fridge.
  • Pea, zucchini and ham soup can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. If using fresh (not frozen) ham, the soup can also be frozen for up to 3 months.
  • If your ham bone is only lightly smoked, or well-stripped of meat, you may need to add a crumbled beef stock cube. Taste the soup first – the stock cube can be dissolved in a little warm water and added at the last minute.

Ham and cheese macaroni

[Recipe 2] 3-cheese macaroni

Ingredients (serves 6–8):
400g (14 oz) dried macaroni
2 corn cobs
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into very small cubes (about 6mm/¼”)
1 head broccoli, florets removed, chopped into small pieces
1 cup (125g) frozen peas (or fresh – see notes below recipe)
1 cup (approx. 200g) finely chopped leftover Christmas ham
4 tablespoons (60g) butter
⅓ cup (50g) flour
2½ cups (625ml) milk
2 teaspoons wholegrain mustard
1 cup (100g) grated Gruyère
1½ cups (150g) grated extra-sharp cheddar
¾ cup (75g) grated mozzarella
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil for drizzling

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add dried macaroni, corn cobs and carrot. Return to the boil and simmer for 8 minutes until macaroni is al dente (don’t overcook it, as it will continue to soften in the oven). Drain. Remove kernels from corn; and return to pan with macaroni and carrot. Set aside.
Steam broccoli and peas until just tender. Drain and add to the macaroni pot with the chopped leftover Christmas ham.
Place the butter in a medium saucepan and melt over a low heat. Add the flour. Cook over low heat for 1 minute, stirring often. Slowly stir in the milk, a cup at a time. Bring to the boil. Turn heat down to low and simmer for 4 minutes, until thickened and smooth. Stir in mustard. Remove from the heat and add Gruyère and cheddar. Stir until smooth, and season to taste. Add cheese sauce to the macaroni mixture and stir well.
Grease a 6cm (2″) deep, 32 x 22cm (12 x 9″) oven proof dish. Spoon in macaroni mixture.
Scatter mozarella over the macaroni, and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes, until golden. Stand for 5 minutes before serving.

  • Fresh peas can be used, instead of frozen. Drop them into the pot with the corn, macaroni and carrot, in the last 5 minutes simmering time.
  • Gruyère can be replaced with Swiss cheese or Jarlsberg if unavailable, although the overall flavour of your macaroni will be milder.
  • Leftover Gruyère can be grated and frozen in a ziplock bag for up to 2 months. It’s excellent on pizza or in fondue!
  • This recipe serves 8. Leftovers can be re-heated in the microwave, or in a low oven, covered with foil. If you’re using fresh ham (not frozen) you can cook two smaller macaroni dishes, and freeze one for later, for up to 2 months. Defrost in the fridge overnight, cover with foil and warm at 180°C (350ºF) for about 20 minutes.

It’s easy being green

Mediterranean Food Elizabeth David[Recipe 1] SPANAKORIZO transforms into
[Recipe 2] SPINACH, RICE and FETTA SCROLLS
……………..
Many moons ago, when I moved out of the family nest, my first housemates were Paul and Mary, both Italian. We rented a decrepid, slightly spooky half-house in St Kilda, with stables in the backyard, and a huge, ancient kitchen. Paul and Mary were both cooking whizzes, and it was through them that I grew to love Mediterranean cuisine. Mary’s dad often arrived on our door-step with massive home-grown eggplants (aubergines) and bottles of home-made tomato sauce.
It was around that time that I discovered A book of Mediterranean food by Elizabeth David, one of my most favourite cookbooks ever, first published in 1950. Look at that beautiful cover art!
Greek meals were always on high-rotation in that house. Paul made a mean Moussaka; and I still have some of Mary’s hand-written recipes, including one for her fabulous Spanakopita. My version is made with planned-overs as I love the addition of rice and zucchini. I like to twist mine into scrolls too as they look ace and are more child-friendly, especially if you refer to them as snails.
I make up a big pot of Spanakorizo (Greek spinach and rice) first – a lovely, light dinner as is; or served alongside fish. By reserving a couple of cups, you can conjure up a scrumptious batch of Spanakopita (spinach, rice and fetta) scrolls later. Yum.

Spanakorizo (Greek spinach and rice)

[Recipe 1] Spanakorizo (Greek spinach and rice)

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 brown onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 zucchini (courgette), grated
10 cups roughly chopped fresh spinach (2 bunches)
3 cups long-grain white rice (I use Basmati)
2½ cups water
3 cups vegetable stock
1 cup (100g) grated parmesan cheese, grated
1 lemon, juiced and zested (approx. 2 tablespoons juice and 1 teaspoon zest)
½ cup chopped fresh dill, plus extra for scattering
Cracked black pepper
Lemon wedges, to serve
Crumbled fetta, to serve

Heat oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and zucchini and cook for 3 minutes. Add spinach and cook over a low heat, stirring often, until the spinach wilts, about 5 minutes.
Add the rice, water and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes until rice is cooked and liquid absorbed. Have a little peek after 10 minutes, and add a splash more water if necessary.
Lightly stir through the Parmesan, lemon juice, lemon zest, dill and pepper.
Reserve about 2½ cups for the Spanakopita (spinach, rice and fetta) scrolls.
Divide remainder amongst four deep bowls. Scatter with crumbled fetta and extra dill; and serve with lemon wedges and crusty bread.

  • 10 cups of spinach seems an obscene amount, but remember it shrinks when warm!
  • For a change, add one cup chopped button mushrooms with the garlic and zucchini; or flake 100g (4 oz) of smoked trout fillet over the spanakorizo before serving. Yum! Spanakorizo is also lovely served with toasted pine nuts scattered on top.
  • FUSSY CHILD TIP: Add 1 small drained can of tuna to children’s servings of spanakorizo.

Spinach, rice and fetta scrolls

[Recipe 2] Spanakopita (spinach, rice and fetta) scrolls

2½ cups reserved spanakorizo
1 cup (100g) vintage tasty cheese, grated
250g fetta cheese, crumbled
3 eggs, lightly beaten
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons (30g/1 oz) butter, melted, combined with 2 tablespoons olive oil
12 sheets filo pastry (3 sheets per scroll)
Sesame seeds, for sprinkling
Green salad or Green beans with toasted pine nuts, to serve

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF). Line a large baking tray with baking paper.
Place reserved spanakorizo into a large bowl.
Add tasty cheese, fetta, eggs, salt and pepper. Mix well.
Make 1 scroll at a time. Lay out one sheet of filo. Brush with butter/oil mixture. Add another 2 sheets of filo, brushing lightly with butter/oil mixture each time.
Spread a quarter of the spanakorizo and fetta mixture (about 1 cup) along one edge of the LONG side of your filo stack. Roll up into a sausage shape.
Place seam side down, and twist filo sausage to create a scroll (or ‘snail’ if you are preparing this with/for children). Brush top lightly with butter/oil mixture. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Repeat procedure to make four scrolls.
Lift scrolls onto lined tray and bake for 30 minutes, until golden brown.
Serve with a green salad or Green beans with toasted pine nuts (cooled, and served as a salad).
Makes 4 scrolls.

  • FUSSY CHILD TIP: Scoop out half (about 2 cups) of the spanakorizo and fetta mixture and add a handful of leftover chopped roast chicken, before rolling into scroll shapes.

Rice rice baby

[Recipe 1] MIXED RICE SUSHI HAND ROLLS transforms into
[Recipe 2] HAPPY ONIGIRI (RICE BALLS) with HOME-MADE FURIKAKE
……………..
I was inspired to share my sushi recipe after reading Michelle’s fab post. Check out her amazing sushi-rolling gadget! I need one of those. Michelle has an excellent tradition, Friday Night Kids Cooking, where her two children cook the entire family dinner, including dessert, every Friday night. My two are definitely in training for that, although I like the idea of Sunday Morning Kids Cooking (ie. breakfast in bed for mum and dad) too.
My Mixed rice sushi hand rolls contain a mixture of brown rice and traditional white sushi rice. I love adding brown rice to sushi as it packs a good nutritional wallop. I find a ratio of 1:2 works best – with too much brown rice they tend to fall apart.
By reserving some of the cooked sushi rice, you can whip up a batch of kawaii (cute) Happy onigiri (rice balls) with home-made furikake for the kid’s lunchboxes. They’re also fab for children’s parties. My friend Janet is the onigiri queen, and it was she who introduced me to furikake, a pre-made mixture available from Japanese and Korean food stores. There are many varieties, but our favourite is a combo of shredded nori, sesame seeds and salt. The only bummer with the store-bought furikake is that it usually has MSG in it. It’s easy to make your own though, and I’ve included my recipe below. The smiley faces are made with a nori punch (pictured below), available from Amazon, Fuji Mart and the fabulous Daiso. My boys love stamping out the little faces.
I haven’t included my sushi-rolling technique, as the instructions are always on the sushi rice or nori packet. There are gazillions of how-to videos on Youtube too. It’s super easy once you get the hang of it – my 8-year old is a pro.
Sayonara until next time.

Home made sushi hand rolls

Sushi hand rolls tuna and chicken[Recipe 1] Mixed rice sushi hand rolls

Ingredients (serves 4 for 2 meals; ie. sushi rolls plus rice balls):
1 cup medium grain brown rice
2 cups Japanese white sushi rice, rinsed and drained 3 times
5½ cups water
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1 teaspoon sea salt
⅓ cup (80ml) Japanese rice wine vinegar
6 toasted nori sheets
Soy sauce, to serve
Pickled ginger, to serve
Wasabi, to serve
Choose your fillings (all pictured above). Each will fill 4 hand rolls:
1.
Sliced avocado + 185g (6 oz) can tuna in oil, drained, mixed with 2 tablespoons Kewpie mayo
2. 1 cooked chicken schnitzel cut into thin strips + lettuce + Kewpie mayo + sweet chilli sauce
3. ¼ roast Chinese duck, boned and sliced + hoisin sauce + lettuce + thin strips spring onion
4. Sliced tamagoyaki (Japanese omelette, made by whisking 3 eggs and 1 teaspoon each of mirin, soy sauce and sugar) + steamed carrot strips

Place brown rice and 2¼ cups water into a large saucepan with a tight fitting lid.
Bring to the boil. Stir, turn the heat right down, place a piece of foil over the top of the pot and replace the lid. Simmer for 20 minutes. Remove lid and foil, and continue simmering for a further 5 minutes, until water is absorbed. Stir continuously.
Add rinsed sushi rice and 3¼ cups water to the brown rice. Stir, place foil and lid back on, and continue to simmer for a further 12 minutes. Remove from heat.
Place a clean dry tea towel over the top of the pot and replace the lid. Allow the pot to stand for about 10 minutes – the tea towel will absorb the excess moisture.
Meanwhile, make the rice seasoning liquid by combining sugar, salt and rice vinegar together.
Place the cooked rice into a large non-metallic container and pour in seasoning liquid. Use a large wooden spoon or rice paddle to carefully ‘slice’ through the rice and distribute the seasoning liquid.
Spread the cooked rice out on a large tray or 2 large plates, and quickly cool it by fanning a plate above it. The rice should become lovely and glossy. Refrigerate for up to 2 hours.
Reserve 2½–3 cups cooked, seasoned rice for the Happy onigiri (rice balls).
Prepare sushi rolls according to instructions on sushi rice or nori packet.
Makes 12 x 9cm (3½-inch) hand rolls + extra rice for onigiri.

  • Draining and rinsing your sushi rice three times seems excessive, but it will prevent your rice from becoming gluggy.
  • Kewpie (QP) mayo is a brand of Japanese mayonnaise, made with egg yolks instead of whole eggs. It’s a must for authentic sushi, and is readily available in large supermarkets and Asian food stores.
  • Rice wine vinegar and mirin (sweet, low-alcohol Japanese wine made from glutinous rice) are available from large supermarkets and Asian food stores.
  • Sushi hand rolls are best eaten within a few hours. They can be refrigerated until required. I do find the tuna/avocado-filled ones refrigerate beautifully overnight though, for the kid’s lunchboxes.

Onigiri rice balls

[Recipe 2] Happy onigiri (rice balls) with home-made furikake

Ingredients (makes about 16–20 rice balls):
2½–3 cups reserved cooked sushi rice
1 sheet toasted nori for eyes and mouths
Home-made furikake:
1 sheet toasted nori, extra
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted

Nori stampPlace reserved, cooked sushi rice into a large bowl.
Make the furikake by cutting the nori sheet into tiny pieces with kitchen scissors. Add salt and sesame seeds and mix well.
Stir furikake through reserved cooked sushi rice. Roll rice into walnut-sized balls.
Using a nori punch cutter (pictured), stamp out eyes and mouths, and place them onto the rice balls. Refrigerate onigiri (rice balls) until required.

  • You can toast your own sesame seeds, or buy them pre-roasted from Asian food stores.
  • Onigiri rice balls can be refrigerated for up to one day.

The bird is the word

[Recipe 1] SPICED ROAST CHICKEN with CHICKPEAS and CAULIFLOWER
transforms into
[Recipe 2] CHICKEN, CHICKPEA and SILVERBEET PILAF with PRESERVED LEMON
……………..
First up this week is Spiced roast chicken with chickpeas (garbanzos) and cauliflower. Roast chicken is the ultimate satisfying Winter dinner, don’t you think? We like ours spiced with a cheat’s chermoula – a simple mixture of dried spices and olive oil. The chicken is succulent, golden and crispy; and served on a bed of roasted cauliflower, potatoes, pumpkin and chickpeas.
I love roasting pieces of chicken instead of a whole bird. You can buy individual Maryland pieces if you’re not up to hacking into a raw chicken. With pieces, the baking time is less, and there is no need to turn the chook half-way through cooking. The vegetables and chickpeas soak up some of the juices from the chicken and taste amazing. I often roast this chicken dish on a Sunday, knowing there is a mid-week meal (mostly) taken care of as well.
By reserving half the chickpeas, roast cauliflower and chicken pieces; you can conjure up a fantastic Chicken, chickpea and silverbeet (Swiss chard) pilaf with preserved lemon, later in the week. My neighbour presented us with a jar of beautiful home-made preserved lemons (thanks Tracey), and they were such a fab, zesty addition to the pilaf.
Look for the orange diamonds in the recipe for suggestions on how many planned-overs to prepare for the pilaf. I haven’t included Fussy Kid Tips, as both my boys love these meals, even the 5-year old (although he peels off the ‘yukky’ chicken skin – his loss). Enjoy.

Individual roast chicken pieces with cauliflower

[Recipe 1] Spiced roast chicken with chickpeas and cauliflower

Ingredients (serves 4 for 2 meals):
¼ cup olive oil
2 large potatoes, peeled, cut into 8 wedges
1 large cauliflower, cut into florets
Approx. 350g (12 oz) pumpkin, cut into chunks
250g (9 oz) dried chickpeas (garbanzos), soaked overnight (or canned, see notes)
2 whole chickens (about 1¼ kilo/2½ lb each), cut into quarters
Lemon wedges, to serve
Chopped fresh coriander (cilantro), to serve
Spice mix:
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon sweet dried paprika
Salt
½ cup olive oil, extra

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Wash and dry the chicken pieces.
Drain soaked chickpeas and place into a large saucepan. Cover with water. Bring to the boil. Simmer for 40–50 minutes until just tender. Drain again.
Reserve half the cooked chickpeas, about 1½ cups; for the Chicken, chickpea and silverbeet pilaf.
Boil potato wedges for 10 minutes. Drain. Return to the hot saucepan and shake until dry.
Arrange par-boiled potatoes, cauliflower and pumpkin over base of large, oiled roasting pan. Toss to coat with the oil. Place chicken pieces on top.
Prepare the spice mix. Mix dry spices, salt and extra olive oil together in a small bowl. Brush over the chicken pieces, and drizzle the remaining spice mix over the vegetables.
Roast for 40 minutes, or until chicken is golden brown and cooked through. Remove chicken pieces and set aside, covered with foil.
Scatter tonight’s chickpeas over the roasted vegetables and gently toss to coat with the pan juices. Return pan to the oven for a further 5–10 minutes.
Reserve 4 roast chicken pieces for the Chicken, chickpea and silverbeet pilaf.
Reserve about 1 cup of roasted cauliflower pieces for the Chicken, chickpea and silverbeet pilaf.
Place remaining chicken and roasted vegetables on serving plates. Serve with lemon wedges on the side, scattered with coriander.

  • Planned-overs (reserved cooked chickpeas, chicken and cauliflower) can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
  • 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. You’ll need 1 can for the roast chicken, and 1 can for the pilaf. 
  • Note: 1 x 400g (15 oz) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained, yields 1½ cups cooked chickpeas. 

Chicken pilaf

[Recipe 2] Chicken, chickpea and silverbeet pilaf with preserved lemon

Ingredients (serves 4):
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small brown onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
1¼ cups (250g) medium grain white rice, rinsed and drained
4 reserved roast chicken pieces, chopped (discard bones and skin) – about 2 cups chopped chicken
1 cup reserved roast cauliflower pieces, chopped
3 cups (100g) silverbeet (Swiss chard) leaves, green parts only, chopped
3½ cups chicken stock, store-bought or home-made
Salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
♦ 1½ cups reserved cooked chickpeas (or 1 x 400g/15 oz can, drained)
(65g/2¼ oz) slivered almonds, toasted
Half a preserved lemon (skin only), rinsed and finely chopped

Heat oil in a heavy-based, deep-sided frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook onion for 5 minutes, until soft.
Add garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add spices and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Add rice, chicken, cauliflower pieces, silverbeet and stock. Season. Stir and bring to the boil. Turn down heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add chickpeas and cook, uncovered, for a further 8–10 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid absorbed. Add a splash more water or stock if necessary. Stir occasionally.
Serve pilaf scattered with toasted slivered almonds and preserved lemon.

  • For a quick mid-week dinner, you can also make this pilaf with a chopped up store-bought roast chicken. Replace the roasted cauliflower with a couple of grated carrots; and toss in a 400g (15 oz) can of chickpeas (garbanzos), drained and rinsed.
  • If you’re lucky enough to have an abundance of lemons, you can preserve them easily – I love Greg Malouf’s recipe from Arabesque. Preserved lemons are also available from specialist food stores and Middle-Eastern grocers (such as Gourmet Grocer, A1-bakerySimon Johnson, Essential Ingredient or Oasis bakery). You can buy Greg Malouf’s amazing preserved lemons with honey online too.

Rowdy, with a chance of meatballs [2]

Sophia Loren Cookbook cover[Recipe 1] BEEF, PORK and RICOTTA MEATBALLS transform into
[Recipe 3] LASAGNARONI
……………..
Have been spending way too much time faffing around on Pinterest lately. It’s a glorious time-waster, but where else would I have discovered this photo of Sophia Loren? It’s from her 1971 Cookbook, In Cucina Con Amore (In the Kitchen with Love), which I covet so badly.
The photo segues quite nicely into an Italian-inspired dish don’t you think? This is the third recipe to use reserved portions of beef, pork and ricotta meatballs and sweet tomato pasta sauce. It’s a fab cheesey lasagna-like macaroni dish, which I’ve named Lasagnaroni. My boys positively hoover it, and the whole family have minutes of fun playing Find the meatball.
If you’re feeling creative go ahead and bestow your own fancy name upon it, for everyone’s amusement. We like Soccer balls in the mud or Monster eyeballs in the swamp. Buon Appetito.

Macaroni cheese with meatballs

[Recipe 3] Lasagnaroni with meatballs

Ingredients (serves 4-6):
2 tablespoons olive oil
♦ 1 quantity (approx. 600g/1.3 lb) beef, pork and ricotta meatballs
♦ 1⅓ cups (600g) sweet tomato pasta sauce (or store-bought)
400g (14 oz) dried macaroni (or short-cut bucatini)
1 cup frozen peas (or fresh, shelled – see notes in recipe)
Salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon (15g/½ oz) butter
2 tablespoons plain (all-purpose) flour
1¼ cups (310ml) milk
1 cup (100g) grated Gruyère cheese
½ cup (50g) grated mozzarella, for scattering
½ tablespoon olive oil, extra, for drizzling

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Lightly oil a large casserole dish and set aside.
Place remaining olive oil into a large non-stick frypan.
Add beef, pork and ricotta meatballs and brown well on all sides.
Pour in sweet tomato pasta sauce and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 8–10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, cook macaroni in boiling water until al dente. Don’t overcook it as it will continue to soften in the oven. Add frozen peas for the last 2 minutes boiling time (fresh peas will need about 4–5 minutes). Drain macaroni and peas and set aside.
Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add flour, and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Gradually add the milk, stirring continuously. Return to the heat and stir for about 3–4 minutes until thickened. Add Gruyère and mix well.
Place half the cooked macaroni and peas into the prepared casserole dish. Pour over meatballs and tomato pasta sauce. Season.
Layer the remaining macaroni and peas on top. Pour the Gruyère sauce over the top, and scatter with grated mozzarella. Drizzle lightly with olive oil and bake for 20 minutes, until golden. Stand for 5 minutes before serving.

  • I love Gruyère and nearly always have it in the fridge. If unavailable it can easily be replaced with grated extra tasty cheese.
  • Leftovers can be taken to work for lunch, or to school in a thermos. Microwave or reheat in a low oven, covered in foil.
  • If you don’t have a deep-sided non-stick pan; cook the meatballs in a shallow-sided non-stick pan first; and transfer them to a deeper pan for cooking in the sauce.

The monster mash

[Recipe 1] SNEAKY CHOCOLATE PUMPKIN MUFFINS transform into
[Recipe 2] SNEAKY TUNA CASSEROLE with SEVEN HIDDEN VEGIES

……………..
For this week’s recipes you’ll need a mountain of mashed pumpkin (or pumpkin purée for our American friends). I’m a big fan of disguising vegies, and mashed pumpkin absolutely rocks as it’s so easy to sneak into baked goods.
The first recipe is for delicious and slightly kooky Sneaky chocolate pumpkin muffins. These are my take on the weirdest recipe I’ve ever found on the internet – pumpkin chocolate cupcakes with two ingredients: mashed pumpkin and packaged chocolate cake mix. I made them once, and although the concept seemed completely grosse, they were actually ok, and my 4-year old devoured them, completely oblivious to the pumpkin. I prefer not to use packet cake mixes though; so, with a bit of experimenting I’ve devised a way to make chocolate pumpkin muffins using ‘normal’ ingredients. My 4-year old loves these too. I’m all for deception of small children if it helps to get the vegies in; but if you can’t live with the guilt, go ahead and fess up to the pumpkin after they’ve tasted one.
Reserve some of the puréed pumpkin from the muffins (see the orange diamonds for quantities) and you can hide it in a creamy sauce added to a fab Sneaky tuna casserole with seven hidden vegies (eight, if you count the onion). Both my boys love this, and again have no clue there is pumpkin in it. I don’t know what it is about pumpkin. The boys positively hoover Maple roasted pumpkin and carrot soup or Creamy pumpkin fettuccine, but turn their noses up at pumpkin if it’s in a recognizable form.
Tuna casserole is the ultimate retro daggy dinner – mine even features curry powder (Keens of course), a back-of-the-cupboard spice I only ever pull out for this dish. It’s a fab weeknight dinner as it takes no time to put together, especially if you’re making it with leftover rice, and leftover steamed vegies. You can use any combination of vegies, as long as they add up to about 2½ cups in total (plus the onion and zucchini). Enjoy.

Chocolate pumpkin muffins

[Recipe 1] Sneaky chocolate pumpkin muffins

Ingredients (makes 18 muffins, plus extra puréed pumpkin for recipe 2):
1¼ kilos (2½ lb) chopped pumpkin – you’ll need one large 1½ kilo (3 lb) pumpkin
125 grams (4 oz/1 stick) butter, melted
1¼ cups firmly packed (250g) brown sugar
2 eggs
2 cups (300g) self-raising (self-rising) flour
¾ cup (75g) cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup (50g) rolled oats
1¼ cups (310ml) buttermilk
2 tablespoons dark chocolate chips (2 or 3 to poke into each muffin)
Icing sugar for dusting (optional)

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Steam the pumpkin pieces until soft. Purée until completely smooth, with a stick blender or food processor. You’ll need 3 cups (800g/28 oz) of puréed pumpkin for these two recipes. Allow to cool completely, in the fridge.
Reserve half of the puréed pumpkin, 1½ cups (400g/14 oz), for the Sneaky tuna casserole with seven hidden vegies.
Cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
Add eggs one at a time, mixing well before adding the next. Fold in 1½ cups puréed pumpkin until well incorporated. Don’t worry if it looks a bit curdled.
In a separate bowl, sift the flour and cocoa powder together. Stir through the salt and oats. Fold this into the wet ingredients, a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk. Stir lightly, until the mixture is just combined. Don’t over mix! Streaks are fine.
Divide mixture among 18 lined muffin pans. Push 2 or 3 chocolate chips into the top of each muffin.
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. Dust each with icing sugar if desired.

  • As a rough guide, 1½ kilos (3 lb) pumpkin when peeled, de-seeded and chopped yields approximately 1¼ kilos (2½ lb) pumpkin pieces which will give you approximately 3½–4 cups (950g/2 lb) of mashed/puréed pumpkin, depending on the variety.
  • Pumpkin purée can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.
  • 
I use a large bamboo steamer over a wok to steam my pumpkin. If you don’t have one, you may need to steam your pumpkin in two batches.

Tuna casserole with rice base

[Recipe 2] Sneaky tuna casserole with seven hidden vegies

Ingredients (serves 4–6):
1 x 425g (14 oz) can tuna in olive oil
1 medium zucchini, chopped into 5mm (¼-inch) pieces
1 small onion, finely chopped

1 medium carrot, chopped into 5mm (¼-inch) pieces, steamed
½ cup corn kernels, steamed
½ cup broccoli florets, steamed
½ cup cauliflower florets, steamed
½ cup peas, steamed
1 tablespoon (15g/½ oz) butter
2 tablespoons plain (all-purpose) flour
1¼ cups (310ml) milk
♦ 1½ cups (400g/14 oz) reserved puréed pumpkin, cooled
3 cups cooked medium-grain white or basmati rice (you’ll need 1¼ cups dry rice)
1 teaspoon mild curry powder
1 cup (100g) grated extra tasty cheese
½ cup dry breadcrumbs
Extra virgin olive oil (or melted butter) for drizzling

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Drain oil from tuna and reserve.
Lightly oil a large casserole dish with some of the reserved tuna oil, and set aside.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the reserved tuna oil in a small frying pan. Cook the zucchini and onion for about 5 minutes, until the onion is soft and transparent. Transfer to a large bowl, and stir in the steamed vegetables and drained tuna.
Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Add flour, and cook, stirring for 1 minute until smooth. Remove from heat. Gradually add the milk, stirring continuously. Return to the heat and stir for about 3–4 minutes until thickened.
Stir through the reserved puréed pumpkin.
Transfer pumpkin sauce to the vegetable/tuna mixture and stir until well-combined.
Place rice in a large bowl and add curry powder. Mix thoroughly and place into the prepared casserole dish. Pour over tuna and vegetable mixture.
Mix cheese and breadcrumbs together and scatter on top. Drizzle with oil or melted butter.
Bake for 25–30 minutes, until golden and bubbling. You can pop it under the griller for a few minutes if you like an extra-toasty top.

  • The broccoli and cauliflower should be cut into tiny florets.
  • For a change, replace the cooked rice with 3 cups leftover cooked macaroni with a little olive oil stirred through.
  • The tuna casserole can be completely prepared up to a day ahead, and baked when required. Sprinkle the cheese and breadcrumbs on top just prior to baking. Leftovers are fab to take to work.

Bam-ba-lamb

[Recipe 1] LAMB and SPINACH PILAF with TOASTED PINE NUTS
transforms into
[Recipe 2] LAMB and PINE-NUT SAMBUSEK
……………..

One of my favourite Melbourne restaurants is Abla’s. Abla Amad herself is considered Melbourne’s Queen of Lebanese cooking, and her signature dish is Djaj a riz (chicken and rice cooked with lamb and spices). It’s a taste sensation! I cooked it once and it was divine, but too time-consuming for a midweek family meal. Lamb and spinach pilaf with toasted pine nuts is my cheat’s version. It’s packed with veggies, and is super quick to throw together. I go through stages of making it once a week, and have been serving it up to my boys since they were toddlers. Mine doesn’t contain chicken so purists should avert their gaze, but leftover chopped roast chook can be stirred through before serving.
By doubling up on the spiced lamb mixture, and reserving half the toasted pine-nuts; you can whip up a batch of excellent Lamb and pine-nut sambusek (Lebanese pastries) for lunch or a light dinner later in the week. My boys adore these. Look for the orange diamonds in the recipe for instructions on how much to set aside as planned-overs. Enjoy!

Lamb, spinach and pine-nut pilaf

[Recipe 1] Lamb and spinach pilaf with toasted pine nuts

Ingredients (serves 4 for 2 meals):
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter (approx. 20g)
1 small red (purple/Spanish) onion, very finely chopped
750g (1½ lb) minced (ground) lamb
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
(Note: you’ll be reserving half the above ingredients, cooked, for Recipe 2)
1¼ cups (250g) long grain white rice (or basmati), rinsed and drained
3 small carrots, grated
3½ cups chicken stock, store-bought or home-made
Salt

3 cups (100g) baby spinach leaves, chopped
Salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
1 cup (130g/4½ oz) pine nuts, toasted

Heat oil and butter in a heavy-based, deep-sided frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook onion for 3–4 minutes, until just soft. Add lamb and cook for 5 minutes, breaking up the lumps really well. Carefully drain off any pan juices.
Add spices and stir well. Cover and cook over a very low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring once or twice, until aromatic.
Reserve half the spiced lamb mixture, about 1½ cups (250g/8 oz) for the Lamb and pine-nut sambusek (Lebanese pastries).
To the remaining spiced lamb mixture (in fry-pan) add rice, carrot and stock. Stir and bring to the boil. Turn down heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add spinach and cook, uncovered, for a further 3–5 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid absorbed. Stir occasionally. Season well with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, toast your pine nuts
Reserve half (65g/2¼ oz) of the toasted pine nuts for the Lamb and pine nut sambusek.

Serve pilaf with pine nuts scattered on top.

  • To save time, the nuts can be toasted, and the spinach chopped, while the rice is cooking.
  • Half a 400g (15 oz) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans) or lentils; drained and rinsed, can be added with the rice for variety. Freeze the extra half can (drained and rinsed) in a small plastic container, for up to 3 months.
  • Leftover chopped roast chicken can be added with the spinach, for the ultimate meat fest!
  • Planned-overs (reserved spiced lamb mixture and reserved toasted pine nuts) can be stored separately in the fridge for 3 days; or frozen in sealed containers for up to 2 months.
  • If you purchase 1 kilo (2 lb) of minced lamb, you can use the leftover 250g (½ lb) to make mini lamb parmesan burgers for the kid’s lunchboxes. Add 1 small finely grated carrot, ¼ cup (25g) grated parmesan, 1 egg and ¼ cup dried breadcrumbs. Mix well and shape into 6 little burgers. Fry, allow to cool, and freeze until required. Defrost overnight, and serve in dinner rolls with tomato sauce. Kids will happily devour these cold.

Lamb and pinenut sambusek

[Recipe 2] Lamb and pine-nut sambusek (Lebanese pastries)

Ingredients (makes 12):
1 quantity wholemeal (wholewheat) sambusek dough

1½ cups (250g/8 oz) reserved spiced lamb mixture

65g/2¼ oz) reserved toasted pinenuts, lightly crushed with a mortar and pestle
1 large tomato, seeds and liquid scooped out, chopped
2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses (replace with lemon juice if unavailable)
Vegetable oil for brushing
Tahini sauce, to serve

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Prepare wholemeal sambusek dough. While dough is resting, make the filling.
Place reserved spiced lamb mixture and reserved toasted pinenuts (crushed) into a bowl. Add tomato and pomegranate molasses. Mix well and set aside.
Line two large baking trays with baking paper.
Divide the pastry dough into two balls. Roll out one ball of dough (leaving the other in the covered bowl) on a lightly floured surface until quite thin, about 2–3mm (⅛-inch).
Using a 15cm (6-inch) round cutter (or tea-cup plate), cut out 6 circles from the dough.
Moisten dough edges with a little water. Place 1 tablespoon of lamb filling into the centre of each circle. Take two sides of the circle and pinch together to make a triangle. Lift the bottom of the circle towards the centre and pinch all three edges firmly together. Photo instructions below. Gather up scraps of dough and knead together as required.
Transfer sambusek to one baking tray, and brush each lightly with oil.
Repeat process with remaining dough and transfer to the other baking tray.
Bake for 15 minutes, until golden brown.
Serve with tahini sauce.

  • Swap trays part-way through cooking if your oven is not wide enough to accommodate the 2 trays next to each other. Or bake one tray of sambusek, while you prepare the other!
  • Cooked sambusek can be frozen, for up to 3 months. Place baking paper between the layers. When serving, allow to defrost overnight in the fridge. Reheat in a hot oven, covered with foil, for about 5 minutes.
  • Pomegranate molasses is available from specialist food stores, large supermarkets and Middle-Eastern grocers (such as Gourmet Grocer, A1-bakery, Simon Johnson, Essential Ingredient or Oasis bakery).

Folding sambousek

Porktastic [2]

[Recipe 1] PORK, PINE NUT and PANCETTA MINI MEATLOAVES transforms into
[Recipe 3] PORK and FENNEL CANNELLONI
……………..
I’ve had a bit of a mental week and am now completely pooped; so it was with some gratitude that I peeped into the freezer and spotted a planned-over portion of pork and pine nuts (how’s that for alliteration). I’d reserved it from making Pork, pine nut and pancetta mini meatloaves a while ago.
In a moment of madness, I threw caution to the wind and used the mixture for a Pork, fennel and spinach cannelloni instead of Fusilli with pork sausage and lentils and it was so yum. So… I figured I’d save myself the trouble of posting the usual two recipes, and share this one with you instead.
You’ll find the original recipe post here. It yields about 1½ kilos (3 lb). You’ll need ½ kilo (1 lb) of the pork and pine nut mixture for this cannelloni recipe, and the remaining 1 kilo (2 lb) can be refrigerated or frozen to make the Pork, pine nut and pancetta mini meatloaves (or two more dinners of fusilli or cannelloni) at a later date. This pork and pinenut mixture is fab to have in the freezer, as you can whip it out on a weeknight for a super-quick no-brainer dinner.

Pork, fennel and spinach canneloni

[Recipe 3] Pork, fennel and spinach cannelloni

700ml (24 fl oz) tomato passata (tomato puree)
♦ 500g (1 lb) reserved pork and pine nut mixture (uncooked)
250g (8 oz) fresh ricotta
¼ cup (25g) grated parmesan or romano
250g (8 oz) frozen spinach, thawed, liquid thoroughly squeezed out
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
250g (8 oz) fresh cannelloni sheets (or lasagna sheets – see notes after recipe)
1 cup (100g) grated mozzarella

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Lightly grease a 6cm deep, 32cm x 22cm (12½-inch x 8½-inch) oven-proof lasagna-style dish. Spoon one cup of passata over the base.
Place reserved pork and pine nut mixture in a large bowl. Add ricotta, parmesan, spinach, salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly.
Moisten each cannelloni sheet separately in a bowl of cold water before using.
Spoon about ¼ cup pork and ricotta mixture along the short side of a cannelloni sheet. Roll up to enclose the filling.
Repeat procedure with remaining cannelloni sheets. Arrange the cannelloni seam-side down in a single layer over the passata.
Pour remaining passata over cannelloni. Scatter with mozzarella. Cover with foil (make it ‘tent’ up so it doesn’t stick to the cheese) and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, turn oven up to 200°C (390ºF), and bake for a further 15–20 minutes, until golden and bubbling.
Serve with a simple salad or Roasted pumpkin and baby carrots with cumin – this can be cooked in the oven alongside the cannelloni.
Serves 4–6

  • If cannelloni sheets are unavailable, you can use fresh lasagna sheets. Cut 6 lasagna sheets into twelve 10cm (4-inch) x 15cm (6-inch) pieces.
  • You can freeze grated mozzarella (in 1 cup/100g lots) for up to 3 months.
  • Unused cannelloni and lasagna sheets can be frozen in a ziplock bag for up to 2 months.
  • Squeeze out as much liquid as you can from the thawed spinach – I pop it in a sieve above a bowl and repeatedly push down hard on it with the back of a spoon.
  • I love my measuring cups with handles – so easy to use for scooping messy ingredients, like minced meat!Measuring cups with handles

Rowdy, with a chance of meatballs

Dish for rings and jewelry[Recipe 1] BEEF, PORK and RICOTTA MEATBALLS transforms into
[Recipe 2] OVEN-BAKED TOMATO, SPINACH and MEATBALL RISOTTO

……………..
Nothing elicits a louder YUM from my boys at dinnertime than meatballs. These are lovely and light with the addition of ricotta. You’ll end up with four lots of beef, pork and ricotta meatballs with this recipe, so you can bung the rest in the freezer and defrost when required.
The trick with meatballs is to work the mixture with your hands first. The heat from your hands will soften the fat and help the mixture come together, preventing your meatballs from falling apart during frying. I take off my rings for this gross task, and place them in my little crying onion dish.
Recipe two is a fab Oven-baked tomato, spinach and meatball risotto, using reserved beef, pork and ricotta meatballs. Look for the orange diamonds in the recipe for hints on how many meatballs to set aside for this dish. This baked risotto is super-quick to make as there is virtually no stirring required. I know risotto purists will scoff, but I love a no-stir risotto. I’d much rather have a nice glass of red while my dinner cooks itself.

Meatballs with tomato pasta sauce

[Recipe 1] Beef, pork and ricotta meatballs

Ingredients (makes 100 meatballs; serves 4 for 4 meals):
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for frying meatballs
3 brown onions, very finely diced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 kilo (2 lb) minced (ground) beef
500g (1 lb) minced (ground) pork
125g (4.5 oz) Parmesan cheese, finely grated
250g (½ lb) fresh ricotta
1 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
3 eggs, beaten
1½ cups (125g) fresh sourdough breadcrumbs
1½ teaspoons salt
For tonight’s dinner:
1⅓ cups (600g) tomato pasta sauce (store-bought or home-made)
400g (14 oz) dried spaghetti
Extra grated Parmesan cheese, to serve 

Heat olive oil in a non-stick frypan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 3 minutes. Place into a large bowl and allow to cool. Add minced meat, Parmesan, ricotta, parsley, eggs, breadcrumbs and salt. Using your hands, mix and squash the mixture together until well combined.
Using your hands, roll level tablespoons of the mixture into balls. Divide meatballs into 4 lots (approx. 650g/1.4 lb or approx. 25 meatballs for each lot), placing baking paper between each layer. Freeze or refrigerate until required.
Reserve one quantity (approx. 600g/1.3 lb) of beef, pork and ricotta meatballs for the tomato and basil risotto with meatballs.
Heat extra olive oil in a large non-stick frypan, over medium heat.
Fry tonight’s meatballs in two batches until browned and just cooked, approximately 8 minutes. Remove and drain on kitchen paper. Wipe pan clean and pour in tomato pasta sauce. Add meatballs. Bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in boiling water until al dente. Drain.
Serve meatballs and tomato sauce warm, over spaghetti, scattered with Parmesan cheese.

  • Humanely-farmed veal can be used in place of pork.
  • Uncooked meatballs can be frozen for up to 3 months. Place baking paper between the layers. Defrost overnight in the fridge and drain on kitchen paper.
  • To make your own fresh breadcrumbs, remove the crusts from day-old sourdough bread and coarsely chop. Whiz in a food processor. Fresh breadcrumbs can be frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Instead of 4 lots of meatballs, use the mixture for 3 lots of meatballs and 1 lot of burgers. Simply shape 1 portion of the mixture into 4 or 6 patties and freeze until required. These burgers are delicious cooked on the BBQ. Serve in hamburger buns with lettuce, tasty cheese and tomato relish or caramelised red onion jam.
  • 
If you don’t have a deep-sided non-stick pan; cook the meatballs in a shallow-sided non-stick pan first; and transfer them to a deeper pan for cooking in the sauce.

Baked risotto with meatballs

[Recipe 2] Oven-baked tomato, spinach and meatball risotto

Ingredients (serves 4):
2 tablespoons olive oil
♦ 1 quantity (approx. 600g/1.3 lb) beef, pork and ricotta meatballs
1 small red (purple/Spanish) onion, chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped (approx. 5mm/1/4-inch cubes)
1½ cups (315g) arborio rice
400g (14 oz) can diced tomatoes
3 cups chicken stock (store-bought or home-made)
3 cups (100g) baby spinach leaves, chopped
Salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
Grated Parmesan cheese to serve
Chopped flat-leaf parsley, to serve

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large non-stick frypan, over medium heat.
Fry meatballs in two batches until browned and just cooked, approximately 8 minutes. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in an oven-proof (preferably cast iron) pot, on the stove-top. Add onion and carrot and cook for 5 minutes, until onion is softened.
Add rice and cook for a further 2–3 minutes, stirring, until grains are well-coated. Add tomatoes and stock. Bring to the boil. Remove from stove-top. Cover pot, and transfer to the oven.
Bake for 20 minutes. Remove pot from oven and gently stir in cooked meatballs, spinach salt and pepper. Return pot to oven and cook for a further 10–15 minutes or until liquid is mostly absorbed, spinach is wilted and rice is tender.
Serve, scattered with Parmesan and parsley.

A great way to pasta time

[Recipe 1] SWEET TOMATO PASTA SAUCE transforms into
[Recipes 2 + 3 + 4] PUTTANESCA + SWEET TOMATO SAUCE with CHILLI PRAWNS + SWEET TOMATO SAUCE with TUNA and PEAS
……………..
After a week of school holidays I can’t be shagged cooking anything fancy. Good old pasta has featured heavily on our table over the past couple of weeks.
This sweet tomato pasta sauce is fab, and full of veggies (sweet potato, carrot and even apple!) and fresh basil. My potted basil is valiantly hanging in there, through this crappy weather. You’ll end up with four lots of sauce for freezing and using later for ten-minute pasta dinners; including puttanesca, chilli prawns and tuna and peas.
If you’re pushed for time you can use bottled passata (tomato purée) and canned tomatoes. If you can get your hands on lovely ripe tomatoes that actually taste like tomatoes though, I strongly recommend the time investment. Use half your fresh peeled, de-seeded tomatoes to replace the passata, and add the other half after the whizzing stage (to replace the canned tomatoes).
I like to simmer everything first, then give it a good whizz to disguise all the hidden veggies. Adding canned tomatoes or extra chopped tomatoes right at the end of the process adds texture and prevents your sauce looking like puréed baby food! Enjoy.
FOOTNOTE: If you’re using fresh tomatoes, instead of discarding the seeds you can save them for harvesting! Check out Claire’s fabulous seed-saving tips here.

Home-made sweet tomato pasta sauce

[Recipe 1] Ravioli with sweet tomato pasta sauce

Ingredients (serves 4 for 4 meals):
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 small red (purple/Spanish) onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, very finely sliced
4 medium (or 2 large) carrots, grated
1 medium sweet potato, peeled, chopped into very small cubes (equivalent to 1 cup)
7 tablespoons (1 x 140g tub) tomato paste (tomato concentrate)
2 large red apples (any variety), peeled, grated
2 tablespoons verjuice (verjus), or 1 tablespoon brown sugar if unavailable
700ml (24 fl oz) bottle tomato passata (tomato purée) PLUS 2 x 400g (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes OR 2 kilos (4 lb) ripe tomatoes, peeled and de-seeded 
1 cup (250ml) water
8 parsley stalks (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup chopped basil
625g (12½ oz) fresh ravioli (I love alligator veal ravioli – so tasty and it freezes well)
Grated parmesan cheese to serve

Heat oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add carrot and sweet potato and continue cooking, covered, for about 10 minutes, stirring often. Add tomato paste and cook, uncovered, for a further 5 minutes, stirring often.
Add apple, verjuice, passata (or half the chopped fresh tomatoes), water and parsley stalks. Simmer, covered, over a low heat for 20-25 minutes. Stir occasionally.
Remove parsley stalks with tongs. Whizz with a stick blender or food processor until completely smooth.
Stir through the 2 cans diced tomatoes (or the other half of your chopped fresh tomatoes). Simmer, covered, for a further 10 minutes. Season. Stir through basil.
Divide the sauce into four lots of about 1⅓ cups (600g) each; and use as required, for the following recipes.
Meanwhile, for tonight’s dinner, cook ravioli in boiling water until al dente. Drain.
Serve one portion of warm sweet tomato sauce over ravioli, scattered with parmesan.

  • Freeze tiny containers of sweet tomato pasta sauce (a couple of tablespoons in each). Cook extra penne or rigatoni and pop it in the fridge. In the morning defrost your little portion of pasta sauce and stir it through the leftover penne. Microwave on high for about a minute, and pop it in little thermoses for the kid’s lunchboxes, with grated parmesan stirred through. Easy peasy!
  • If you’re feeling energetic, you can make a pot of Home-made pizza sauce as well. Both sauces use similar ingredients. Place your saucepans side-by-side on your stove top and maximize your time!
  • 
I keep parsley stalks in the freezer for flavouring pasta sauce and home-made stock.

[Recipes 2, 3 and 4] Puttanesca, Sweet tomato sauce with chilli prawns and Sweet tomato sauce with tuna and peas

There are a total of four recipes this week (including Recipe 1). That’s 50% extra for free! All these recipes use the sweet tomato pasta sauce in Recipe 1 as the base, and all will serve four. First up is Puttanesca, which translates as ‘whore’s pasta’. I’m guessing that’s due to it being cheap and easy. It’s mostly made with pantry ingredients, so is the ultimate quick feed.

Puttanesca pasta saucePuttanesca
400g (14 oz) dried rigatoni
1⅓ cups (600g) reserved sweet tomato sauce
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed, drained
1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
8 canned anchovies in oil, drained and chopped
½ cup (125g) black olives, pitted, halved
Grated parmesan cheese to serve
Chopped fresh basil, to serve

Cook rigatoni in boiling water until al dente. Drain.
Meanwhile, place reserved sweet tomato sauce in a saucepan. Stir in capers, chilli, anchovies and olives. Simmer 3 minutes. Add sauce to rigatoni. Toss. Serve, scattered with parmesan and basil.

Pasta sauce with chilli prawnsSweet tomato sauce with chilli prawns
400g (14 oz) dried linguini
1⅓ cups (600g) reserved sweet tomato sauce
250g (8 oz) prawns (shrimp), cooked and peeled
1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 spring onion (scallion), finely diced
1 lemon, zested
Chopped parsley, to serve

Cook linguini in boiling water until al dente. Drain.
Meanwhile, place reserved sweet tomato sauce in a small saucepan. Stir in prawns and chilli. Simmer 3–5 minutes until prawns are warmed through. Add spring onion and lemon zest and stir well. Serve over linguini, scattered with parsley.

Tuna pasta sauce with peasSweet tomato sauce with tuna and peas
400g (14 oz) dried penne
½ cup frozen baby peas

1⅓ cups (600g) reserved sweet tomato sauce
1 x 185g (6 oz) can tuna in olive oil, drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Shaved parmesan cheese to serve

Cook penne in boiling water until al dente. Add peas to the same pot for the last 2 minutes cooking time. Drain and return penne and peas to pan. Meanwhile, place reserved sweet tomato sauce in a small saucepan. Simmer 2 minutes. Stir in tuna, and simmer for 1 further minute. Add sauce to penne, and toss. Season. Serve, scattered with parmesan.

The bun also rises

[Recipe 1] PORK, GINGER and BOK CHOY FRIED RICE transforms into
[Recipe 2] LITTLE STEAMED WHOLEMEAL PORK BUNS
……………..
Pork, ginger and bok choy fried rice
is a quick and easy midweek dinner with an added bonus: by reserving some of the beautiful spiced pork mixture you can whip up a batch of fab Little steamed wholemeal pork buns for another meal! The pork mixture freezes excellently.
I love DIY Yum Cha and these little buns are super tasty, and quite healthy as they contain wholemeal flour. My boys just love them. In fact, my 4-year old has been known to need a lie-down after gorging himself on them.
The Pork, ginger and bok choy recipe contains basmati rice. Traditionally you’d use jasmine or plain white rice for a dish like this, but I love using basmati as it’s much lower GI. Here are the comparisons. Prepare to be amazed.
Low GI foods (slow energy release; ie. your best choice) = 55 or less
Medium GI = 56–69
High GI = 70 or more
Brown rice: GI 50
White basmati rice: GI 58
White glutinous rice: GI 86
White short-grain rice: GI 83-87
White jasmine rice: GI a whopping 109!

Pork and ginger rice

[Recipe 1] Pork, ginger and bok choy fried rice

Ingredients (serves 4 for 2 meals):
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1½ teaspoons sesame oil
½ cup (125ml) hoisin sauce
2 tablespoons peanut oil
750g (1½ lb) minced (ground) pork
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
tablespoons grated fresh ginger
5 spring onions (scallions), white parts only, thinly sliced (reserve green parts for serving)
Note: you’ll reserve
of the above ingredients, cooked, for the buns in recipe 2.
1 tablespoon soy sauce, extra
1 bunch bok choy (or choy sum), leaves trimmed and thinly sliced
1 medium carrot, chopped into small match-sticks
4 cups cooked basmati rice, cooled (you’ll need 1⅓ cups uncooked rice)
½ cup (50g) bean shoots (bean sprouts)
1 small red birdseye chilli, de-seeded, finely chopped*
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves, to serve

Combine soy sauce, brown sugar, sesame oil and hoisin sauce in a small bowl and set aside.
Heat oil in a wok over high heat until just smoking. Add pork, garlic and ginger and stir-fry until golden brown and just cooked, about 2 minutes. Carefully drain off any liquid – hold back the ingredients in the wok with a large pan lid, while you pour. Wipe any dribbles off the side of the wok so they don’t ignite!
Add the white spring onions and hoisin mixture and stir-fry for 1–2 minutes.
Remove wok from the heat.
With a large spoon or soup ladle, remove about ⅓ of the ginger pork mixture, or 1½ cups (325g), for the little steamed wholemeal pork buns. Set aside (see storage tips below).
Return wok to heat. Add the extra tablespoon soy sauce, bok choy and carrot, and stir-fry for 1–2 minutes, until bok choy wilts.
Add cooked rice, bean shoots and chilli* and toss over medium heat for 2 minutes until rice is heated through. Season to taste.
Divide amongst four bowls, scatter with coriander and chopped green ends of spring onions and serve hot.
*Chilli can be added separately, to adult serves only.

  • Cook double the rice and freeze half for next time. Cooked rice freezes really well, for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge, and break up with a fork before using.
  • Rice should be well-chilled before using in this recipe; and preferably made the day before and refrigerated (or defrosted overnight). If you have time, spread the rice out on a tray before using, and place in the fridge, uncovered, for at least 1–2 hours, to dry it out a bit. This will ensure your fried rice retains separate grains, and is not too gluggy.
  • Planned-overs (reserved ginger pork mixture) can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months, so you can make the buns another time.
  • Fussy child tip: I find both my boys will happily scoff this rice if it’s served without bean shoots, so I scoop out their serves before adding the bean shoots to the wok.

Little steamed wholemeal pork buns

[Recipe 2] Little steamed wholemeal pork buns

Ingredients (serves 4–6, makes 15 buns):
1 tablespoon corn flour (cornstarch)
2 tablespoons warm water
1 teaspoon Chinese 5-spice powder
♦ 1½ cups (about 325g) reserved ginger pork mixture
Bun dough:
½ cup (125ml) warm water + ½ cup warm water extra
4 teaspoons (2 x 7g sachets) dried yeast
¼ cup caster (superfine) sugar
1½ cups (225g) plain (all-purpose) flour
1 cup (150g) wholemeal plain (wholewheat all-purpose) flour
2½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon peanut oil
Sweet chilli sauce, to serve

Mix corn flour and water together. Place into a small pan with the Chinese 5-spice powder.
Add reserved ginger pork mixture to pan.
Bring to the boil. Turn down heat and simmer until mixture thickens, about 2–3 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, make bun dough. Combine ½ cup warm water, yeast and sugar in a small bowl. Stand in a warm place for 5 minutes until frothy.
Sift flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Stir. Add yeast mixture, extra ½ cup warm water, salt and oil. Stir to form a soft, sticky dough. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes or until smooth. Place the dough in a large, oiled bowl. Cover and put in a warm place (see tips below recipe) for an hour or until the dough doubles in size.
Divide dough into 15 pieces (cut dough into 3 large pieces first, roll each into a fat log, then cut each of the 3 logs into 5 portions). Pop the dough pieces back into the covered oiled bowl as you work, to prevent them drying out.
Working with 1 piece of dough at a time, shape and flatten each dough portion into a 7cm round, about ½ cm thick.
Place a heaped teaspoonful of pork mixture into the centre of each round. Stretch dough up around the filling by pleating along the edges. Bring the pleats up and twist and seal them together at the top. This lovely, noisy little youtube clip illustrates the technique. Repeat the procedure until all buns are ready, popping them on a tray covered with cling film as you go.
Line a bamboo steamer with 5 individual squares of baking paper, or waxed cupcake paper liners (one per bun).
Place the first 5 prepared buns (these will have rested sufficiently while the others were prepared), smooth side down, into the steamer. Don’t overcrowd your basket or they’ll stick as they expand. Cover with steamer lid. Place steamer over a wok or pan of boiling water. Make sure the steamer doesn’t touch the water.
Cover and cook for 8–10 minutes, until puffed, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of a bun comes out clean. Repeat with remaining buns. Serve with sweet chilli sauce.

  • If yeast mixture doesn’t thoroughly froth it should be discarded, as it’s well and truly deceased. Try again with new yeast.
  • ‘A warm place’ to put your bowl of dough can be in a sink of warm water, in the laundry when your dryer is on, or even in a warm car!
  • Leftover little steamed buns can be stored in the fridge for up to two days. They are fab for lunch boxes.

Souper Man

[Recipe 1] MAPLE ROASTED PUMPKIN and CARROT SOUP transforms into
[Recipe 2] CREAMY PUMPKIN TAGLIATELLE with CANDIED CHILLI WALNUTS
……………..
It’s Pumpkin Season, and heck I love a steaming bowl of Maple roasted pumpkin and carrot soup for lunch. Roasting the vegetables first brings out their sweetness, and adds a richer flavour.
Reserve some of the soup as planned-overs (look for the orange diamonds) and you can whip up a delectable Creamy pumpkin tagliatelle with candied chilli walnuts. My youngest son calls this pasta dish ‘cheesey worms’. Little does he know the golden colour is imparted by pumpkin, not cheese. This is a 10-minute dinner as the sauce is prepared while the pasta is cooking. It’s like a creamy Alfredo (that word casts me straight back to Leos in Fitzroy Street in the early 90s), but with less than half the cream and lots more flavour.
The candied chilli walnuts cut through the creaminess of the pasta sauce and add a beautiful textural topping. I strongly suggest you roast double the amount as you won’t be able to stop yourself gorging on them. Incidentally, they make an excellent beer snack too!

Maple roasted pumpkin soup. One Equals Two.

[Recipe 1] Maple roasted pumpkin and carrot soup

Ingredients (makes 3.25 litres/6.9 pints):
2 kilos (4 lb) peeled chopped butternut pumpkin (you’ll need 2½ kilos whole pumpkin)
250g (½ lb) peeled sliced carrots (you’ll need 3 large carrots, approx. 350g)
3 brown onions, peeled and thinly sliced
4 whole cloves garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons (45ml) olive oil
¼ cup (60ml) pure maple syrup
6 cups (1½ litres) chicken stock, home-made or store-bought, plus extra if required
⅛ teaspoon chilli powder
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
Spring onions (scallions), or chives, thinly sliced, to serve

Preheat oven to 220°C (425ºF).
Place pumpkin, carrots, onions, garlic, oil and maple syrup into a large oiled roasting pan and toss until well-coated. Roast, turning now and again, for 1 hour or until quite tender.
Transfer vegetables and their juices to a large bowl or saucepan. Add stock and chilli. Blend or process until completely smooth. Add extra stock if you find it too thick. Season to taste.
Ladle soup into deep bowls, scatter with spring onions and serve with crusty bread.
Reserve 1½ cups (375ml) of Maple roasted pumpkin and carrot soup for the creamy pumpkin tagliatelle with candied chilli walnuts.
Divide the remainder into plastic containers, label, and freeze for up to 3 months. This recipe makes approximately 3.25 litres (6.9 pints). I find 4 cups (1 litre) is sufficient for four people.

  • 2¼ kilos (4½ lb) of veggies seems an obscene amount, but if you’re going to the trouble of making a pan of soup, I say why not cook up a huge pot? It freezes excellently and is great for school and work lunches. Simply defrost in the morning and pour into thermoses.

  • You can of course make this soup vegetarian by using vegetable stock.
  • Try any mixture/ratio of orange vegetables (sweet potato is lovely too), as long as the quantity adds up to 2¼ kilos (4½ lb) of prepared veggies in total.
  • We like our soup thick – feel free to add extra stock if you prefer yours thinner.

Tagliatelle with creamy pumpkin sauce and candied walnuts. One Equals Two.Candied chilli walnuts. One Equals Two.

[Recipe 2] Creamy pumpkin tagliatelle with candied chilli walnuts

Ingredients (serves 4):
400g (14 oz) dried tagliatelle
1 tablespoon (15g/½ oz) butter
2 eschalots, finely sliced
4 rashers rindless bacon, chopped
♦ 1½ cups (375ml) reserved Maple roasted pumpkin and carrot soup
150ml (5 fl oz) cream (I use light cooking cream)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh parsley, to serve
For the candied chilli walnuts:
¾ cup (approx. 75g) walnuts, roughly chopped
½ teaspoon olive oil
½ tablespoon maple syrup
⅛ teaspoon chilli powder

To prepare the candied chilli walnuts, preheat oven to 220°C (425ºF). Line a baking tray with baking paper. Toss walnuts, oil, maple syrup and chilli together; and scatter on the tray. Roast for 5 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer to a plate to cool, while you prepare the pasta.
Cook tagliatelle in a large pot of boiling water until al dente. Drain. Return to pan and set aside.
Meanwhile, melt butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Cook the eschalots, stirring, for 2–3 minutes. Add the bacon and cook, stirring, for 2–3 minutes.
Place reserved Maple roasted pumpkin and carrot soup in a small saucepan.
Warm gently, then gradually pour in the cream. Stir over a low heat until warmed through.

Toss bacon, onions and creamy pumpkin sauce through pasta.
Divide amongst bowls and serve immediately, scattered with candied chilli walnuts and parsley.

  • If you have some fresh sage, toss a handful of torn leaves into the butter with the bacon. Delish.
  • You can roast the walnuts at the same time as the veggies in recipe 1. They’ll keep well in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  • Save on the washing up and cook a few corn cobs with the tagliatelle, to serve alongside dinner. Fish them out of the pasta pot before draining the pasta.
  • I always buy 300ml (10 fl oz) tubs of cream, and freeze the leftover 150ml (5 fl oz) cream in its tub. Allow it to defrost in the fridge overnight and use it for this recipe again; or for Caramelised onion and goat’s cheese tart or Chicken and leek pot pie. 150ml (5 fl oz) cream can also be used for a simple carbonara for 4 people. Fry 4–6 slices chopped thickly-sliced pancetta (or bacon) in 2 tablespoons (30g) butter. Add 150ml (5 fl oz) cream and stir until combined. Whisk 2 eggs. Stir pancetta, cream and eggs through just-cooked fettuccine until combined. Serve, scattered with parmesan cheese and cracked black pepper (or dried chilli flakes). Too easy. If you have some baby spinach leaves or peas, toss in the pot with the pasta for the last two minutes cooking time.

Rice to the challenge

[Recipe 1] SPECIAL FRIED BROWN RICE transforms into
[Recipe 2] FLUFFY BROWN RICE LSA PANCAKES
……………..
I make this Special fried brown rice frequently. My 7 year old loves it and suggested I should ‘put it on the blog’ so here it is. By cooking extra brown rice as planned-overs, you can make delicious, Fluffy brown rice LSA pancakes for breakfast later in the week. Look for the orange diamonds for instructions on how much rice to set aside.
I’ve experimented with this pancake recipe over the past couple of weeks, as I wanted to make a tasty Low GI/high fibre pancake that could be frozen for toasting during the week. After a few attempts (lumpy first, doughy second), I gotta say this recipe is now perfected, and seriously ace. The pancakes are lovely and fluffy and excellent droozled with maple syrup. The trick was to process the cooked rice with the wet ingredients until completely smooth. The 7 year old said ‘These taste like normal pancakes mum, not like an experiment or anything’. Success!

Special fried brown rice

[Recipe 1] Special fried brown rice

Ingredients (serves 4 for dinner + extra brown rice for pancakes):
2 cups (400g) uncooked brown rice
2 tablespoons peanut oil
2 skinless chicken thigh fillets (250g/½ lb), chopped
2 rashers rindless bacon, finely sliced (or a few pieces of Chinese roast pork, chopped)
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 spring onions (scallions), white/light green parts only, thinly sliced (reserve dark green parts for serving)
1 large carrot, chopped into match-sticks
2 eggs, lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon sesame oil
½ cup frozen peas, thawed (or fresh – see tips below)
2 tablespoons kecap manis
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Crushed peanuts, to serve (optional)
Sweet chilli sauce, to serve

Place rice in a large saucepan. Add 12 cups (3 litres/100 fl oz) cold water. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30–35 minutes, until cooked and not too chewy.
Remove rice from heat. Rinse, and drain well. Refrigerate for at least two hours, or overnight.
Reserve 2 cups (330g) cooked brown rice for the Fluffy brown rice LSA pancakes.
Set aside the remaining 4 cups of cooked rice for the Special Fried brown rice. Separate the grains with a fork.
Heat 1 tablespoon peanut oil in a wok over high heat until just smoking. Add chicken and stir-fry until golden brown and just cooked. Remove from wok and set aside. Wipe wok clean with kitchen paper.
Add 1 extra tablespoon peanut oil to the wok, and fry the bacon until just brown. Add the ginger, garlic, white spring onions and carrot and stir-fry for 1–2 minutes or until aromatic.
Push the contents of the wok to one side. Add a tiny splash of extra oil if necessary. Pour in the eggs and sesame oil, and stir until set.
Add the cooked rice, peas, kecap manis and cooked chicken and toss over medium high heat for 2–3 minutes until rice is heated through. Season to taste.
Divide amongst four deep bowls, scatter with peanuts and chopped green ends of spring onions and serve hot, with a good blob of sweet chilli sauce on top.

  • Planned-overs (reserved cooked brown rice) can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge.
  • You can use fresh peas instead of frozen. Lightly steam or boil for about 5 minutes before using.
  • Add finely chopped red capsicum or sliced celery for a change. You can also swap the bacon for 200g (7 oz) of small cooked, peeled prawns (shrimp); or a 200g (7 oz) can of prawns (shrimp), drained.
  • Kecap (or Ketjap) Manis is a sweet Indonesian soy sauce, readily available at Asian grocers and supermarkets. You can make a similar substitute by combining equal parts soy sauce and either brown sugar or palm sugar. Simmer in a small saucepan until sugar is dissolved.
  • Fussy kid tip: Disgustingly enough, my fussy 4-year old will happily chow down on this dish as long as it’s drowned in tomato sauce. Yep, you read correctly.

Brown rice pancakes (flapjacks) with LSA

[Recipe 2] Fluffy brown rice LSA pancakes

Ingredients (makes 18–20 pancakes; extras can be frozen):
2 cups (300g) self-raising (self-rising) flour, sifted
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
2 tablespoons LSA (linseed, sunflower seed, almond) meal
2 eggs
2⅓ cups (600ml) buttermilk
2 cups reserved cooked brown rice
Maple syrup, fresh fruit and icing sugar to serve
Butter and/or vegetable oil for frying

Combine flour, bicarbonate of soda and LSA in a large bowl.
In a separate bowl, whisk eggs and 1 cup buttermilk until well combined.
Stir in reserved cooked brown rice. Process (with a stick blender or food processor) until completely smooth.
Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients. Add remaining buttermilk and stir until just combined.
Heat a heavy-based frypan over a low to medium heat. Melt a bit of butter, and a splash of oil. Wipe away excess with kitchen paper.
Use ¼ cup batter for each pancake. Lightly spread the mixture out a bit so each pancake is a bit larger than the size of your palm. The mixture is quite fluffy, so you may not get perfect circles! Cook 2 or 3 at once, until golden (about 2 minutes each side).
Dust with icing (confectioners) sugar, and serve with maple syrup and fresh fruit.

  • Leftover cooked brown rice pancakes can be frozen, between sheets of baking paper, for up to 2 months. There is no need to thaw them – simply pop them in the toaster! These are fab for a quick breakfast during the week, and make a lovely change from boring old toast. Spread lightly with butter and honey.
  • You can swap the brown rice for leftover cooked basmati rice. Basmati rice is excellent as it’s Low GI too – the lowest of all the white rices in fact!

  • LSA is a combination of linseeds, sunflower seeds and almonds, made into a ground meal. It’s very high in vitamins, Omega 3, protein and fibre, and is available from health stores and large supermarkets. Store it in the fridge. Omit it from the pancakes if unavailable, or replace with almond meal.

Pasta la vista

[Recipe 1] FULL-OF-VEGGIES BOLOGNAISE transforms into
[Recipe 2] LASAGNA with RICOTTA and SPINACH
……………..
A recipe for bolognaise? Meh, I hear you uttering. I’m guessing you probably have a container or two of sauce tucked in your freezer prepared with your own fail-safe recipe. Thought I’d share my Full-of-veggies bolognaise recipe though, as it’s, well, full of veggies strangely enough; including lentils. It’s pretty delicious and my boys inhale it.
Instead of serving up spag bol over spaghetti week after week, I always set aside a portion for an ace Lasagna with ricotta and spinach (look for the orange diamonds in the recipe for instructions on how much sauce to reserve). I love a good lasagna, but wouldn’t dream of preparing one from scratch. With the sauce already made, it’s a cinch to throw this lasagna in the oven within half an hour. So, anyway, my secret bolognaise ingredient is lentils – what kooky ingredients feature in your spag bol?

Full-of-veggies bolognaise

[Recipe 1] Full-of-veggies bolognaise

Ingredients (serves 4 for 4+ meals):
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 brown onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 kilos (4 lb) minced (ground) beef (not too lean)
4 x 400g (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes
280g (10 oz) tomato paste (tomato concentrate)
1 cup (250ml) water
4 bay leaves
2 tablespoons dried oregano
2 large carrots, grated
2 zucchinis (courgettes), grated
1 x 400g (15 oz) can lentils, drained, rinsed (or 1 cup cooked brown or green lentils)
1 cup chopped parsley (to taste), plus extra to serve
1 heaped tablespoon brown sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
400g (14 oz) dried spaghetti (or as required for 4 serves)
Grated parmesan cheese to serve

Heat oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 3 minutes. Add mince and cook over low heat, stirring often, for about 10 minutes or until brown. Break up the mince with a wooden spoon now and again.
Add tomatoes, tomato paste, water, bay leaves and oregano and simmer, covered, over a low heat for 30 minutes. Add carrot and zucchini and continue cooking, covered, for about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally. Remove lid and simmer for a further 8–10 minutes, or until thick. Remove and discard bay leaves.
At this stage I like to give the bolognaise 2 whizzes (no more) with a stick blender to help it come together – this is optional of course. Stir through parsley, lentils and brown sugar. Season to taste.
Reserve 4 cups (1 kilo/2 lb) Full-of-veggies bolognaise for the Lasagna with ricotta and spinach.
Divide the remainder of the Full-of-veggies bolognaise into labeled plastic containers (see storage tips below).
Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in boiling water until al dente. Drain. Serve warm Full-of-veggies bolognaise over spaghetti, scattered with grated parmesan and extra parsley.

  • The Full-of-veggies bolognaise recipe will yield four serves of about 1 kilo (2 lb) each (1 kilo will serve four) and a couple of single portions too. I love making a massive vat of spag bol, but if you don’t have the freezer space, it’s easy to halve the ingredients.
  • Full-of-veggies bolognaise can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge and should be used within three days; or it can be frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Besides B vitamins, lentils are high in protein, fibre and a variety of minerals. It’s so easy to plop them in bolognaise sauce. They take on the flavour of the other ingredients and are virtually imperceptible. You can add lots of other vegetables to this recipe – try adding small cubes of eggplant or sliced button mushrooms with the onions. You can also throw in chopped baby spinach with the lentils.
  • I love Australian garlic. The taste is superior to Chinese garlic; and imported garlic is fumigated with methyl bromide and often bleached too. Blech. Interesting article here.
  • Baby tip: while you’re making the spag bol, you can make a small baby-friendly portion in a little saucepan. Use similar ingredients, but omit the canned tomatoes, canned lentils and tomato paste (canned foods are generally too salty for babies). Replace with peeled and de-seeded fresh tomatoes, and water. For a burst of iron, throw in a chopped organic beef liver. Puree until smooth and freeze in ice-cube trays until required.

Lasagna with ricotta and spinach

[Recipe 2] Lasagna with ricotta and spinach

Ingredients (serves 6):
1⅓ cups (350ml) tomato passata (tomato puree)

♦ 4 cups (1 kilo/2 lb) reserved full-of-veggies bolognaise

3 eggs
2 heaped cups (600g) fresh ricotta
¼ cup (60ml) milk
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup (100g) grated parmesan cheese
250g/10 oz packet frozen spinach, thawed, excess liquid completely squeezed out
375g (13 oz) fresh lasagna sheets
1 cup (100g) grated mozzarella

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Place tomato passata in a large bowl.
Stir in reserved full-of-veggies bolognaise.
Set aside.
Place eggs, ricotta, milk and salt into a food processor, and process until creamy. Add parmesan and pulse to just combine. Stir in spinach. Set aside.
Lightly grease a 6cm deep, 32cm x 22cm (12½-inch x 8½-inch) oven proof dish. Spoon half the bolognaise/passata mixture over the base. Top with a layer of lasagna sheets, trimming extra sheets to fit if necessary. Spoon over half the spinach/ricotta mixture. Add one more layer of lasagna sheets. Spoon over the remaining bolognaise/passata mixture. Top with another layer of lasagna sheets, then the remaining spinach/ricotta mixture. Scatter with mozzarella. You should have 8 layers in total:
LAYER 1 (bottom): Bolognaise, LAYER 2: Lasagna sheets, LAYER 3: Ricotta, LAYER 4: Lasagna sheets, LAYER 5: Bolognaise, LAYER 6: Lasagna sheets, LAYER 7: Ricotta, LAYER 8 (top): Mozarella.
Cover with a layer of baking paper, followed by a layer of foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove baking paper and foil and bake for a further 15–20 minutes.
Remove from oven and set aside for 10 minutes (this will help it hold its shape). Serve with a simple green salad.

  • If you purchase a 700ml bottle of tomato passata, you can freeze half in a labelled plastic container for next time; for up to 3 months.

  • Grated parmesan and mozzarella (in 1 cup/100g lots) can be frozen in ziplock bags for up to 3 months.
  • Unused lasagna sheets can be frozen in a ziplock bag for up to 2 months.
  • Leftover lasagna can be warmed in a low oven, covered in foil.