Recipes to relish (3 ways with pineapple, mango and lime chutney)

[Recipe 1] SUNSHINE CHUTNEY (pineapple, mango and lime) transforms into
[Recipe 2] CHICKEN TOSTADAS with SUNSHINE CHUTNEY
[Recipe 3] PULLED PORK TACOS with APPLE SLAW and SUNSHINE CHUTNEY 
[Recipe 4] MAPLE-GLAZED PORK FILLETS with SUNSHINE CHUTNEY

We’re chutney chompers from way back, and the top shelf of the fridge is home to oodles of jars. Sunshine Chutney (pineapple, mango and lime) is our favourite. Make it and you’ll be dolloping it on just about everything, I promise. It makes a nice gift too – my boys teachers scored a jar for Christmas!
Mango Season is over in Australia, but this chutney can be made with frozen mango cheeks, and there’s no greater way to ward off Seasonal sadness than a sweet, sticky spoonful of sunshine on your slow-cooked Winter meat. I’ve shared our three favourite ways to enjoy Sunshine Chutney below.
TOSTADAS are crispy mini tortillas, topped with classic Mexican ingredients. We love tostadas el pollo, topped with avocado, leftover shredded roast chicken, a dollop of Sunshine chutney and scattered coriander. These are ace for a party, but you can be like Cher in Moonstruck and serve hors-d’oeuvres for dinner too!
PULLED PORK TACOS – my version of the Mexican classic, tacos al pastor. I seriously think my 8 year old would happily live on these.
MAPLE-GLAZED PORK FILLETS – if you haven’t cooked pork tenderloins before, go add them to your shopping list pronto! These are the perfect mid-week dinner. They take 20 minutes to roast and they’re SO juicy and lovely, especially with a hefty plop of Sunshine chutney 🙂

Sunshine chutney (pineapple, mango and lime). One Equals Two. 3 ways with Sunshine Chutney (pineapple, mango, lime). One Equals Two.[Recipe 1] Sunshine chutney

Ingredients: (makes 1.5–1.8 kilos/3.3–4 lb chutney):
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 white onion, finely chopped
2 small garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 long red chillies, de-seeded, finely chopped (retain seeds for extra oomph, if liked)
1 tablespoon yellow mustard seeds
1½ tablespoons freshly-grated and chopped ginger
6 large or 8 small just-ripe mangoes, peeled and chopped (approx. 5 cups chopped mango)
1 small ripe pineapple, peeled and chopped (approx. 3 cups chopped pineapple)
1 large firm pear, peeled, cored and chopped into small cubes
60 ml (¼ cup) lime juice (from 1–2 limes)
2 teaspoons lime zest (from 1–2 limes)
1½ cups verjuice (verjus)
2 cups caster sugar (superfine sugar)
½ teaspoon sea salt

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, garlic, chilli and mustard seeds. Cook, stirring, for 3 minutes until just softened; taking care not to burn.
Add all other ingredients and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 1– 1¼ hours uncovered; or until thick and jammy. Stir occasionally, and keep a close eye on the chutney towards the end of the cooking process, to ensure it doesn’t stick and burn. It should look like a thick, sticky orange puree with softened pineapple chunks, and it will firm up further on standing.
Divide the chutney among hot, sterilised jars. Store chutney in a cool, dark place.

  • Use good quality fruit that is not over-ripe. Fully ripened fruit contains less pectin, the substance that makes jams and chutneys set. It’s best to use your fruit as soon as possible after buying.
  • Frozen mango cheeks can be used in place of fresh mango if out of Season.
  • Double the ingredients for a bulk quantity (12 cups) to share with friends. Cooking time will be slightly longer, around 1½–1¾ hours.
  • I always add a pear or two to my chutneys and jams as they’re high in pectin which helps achieve a good set even if your hero fruit is beginning to over-ripen. Lime also contains a high amount of pectin.
  • Verjuice is available at large supermarkets and specialty food stores. In Australia, Maggie Beer’s verjuice is the best quality and flavour (IMHO)! Replace the verjuice with apple cider vinegar if unavailable (I’ve tested this recipe with both).
  • Resist the desperate urge to enjoy your chutney immediately! Allow it to further firm up for at least 24 hours, preferably longer, before using.
  • Chutney in properly sterilised jars will keep in a cool, dark place for up to ten months. Refrigerate after opening.

Chicken tostadas with sunshine chutney. One Equals Two.

[Recipe 2] Chicken tostadas with Sunshine chutney

Ingredients (makes 25):
25 x 9cm tostaditas (deep fried tortillas)
1 large avocado, sliced
2 cups cooked chicken, shredded (from ½ a roast chicken)
♦ ½–1 cup sunshine chutney (see Recipe 1, above)
1 red (purple/Spanish) onion, thinly sliced

Fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped

Arrange tostaditas on a large serving platter, or little individual plates (pictured).
Place 2 slices of avocado on each, top with 1 tablespoon shredded chicken, a couple of thin slices of onion and ½ tablespoon sunshine chutney. Scatter with fresh coriander and serve at once.

  • Deep-fried tostaditas are available in-store and online from from El CieloIf unavailable, make your own by placing mini corn tortillas on a tray lined with baking paper. Brush both sides lightly with olive oil and bake in a hot oven until crisp, 12–15 minutes. Alternatively, mini corn tortillas can be fried in hot, shallow oil, about 2–3 minutes each side until golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper.

Pulled pork tacos with sunshine chutney. One Equals Two

[Recipe 3] Pulled pork tacos with Sunshine chutney

Ingredients (serves 4):
1 tablespoon olive oil
12 x 14cm soft white corn tacos (tortillas)
2½–3 cups pulled pork (recipe here), warmed
Apple slaw (recipe here)
♦ 1 cup sunshine chutney (see Recipe 1, above)
Fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped, to serve

Lightly oil a non-stick frying pan. Pan-fry the tortillas in batches, for ten seconds each side, until softened. Wrap in a clean tea towel to keep warm, as you prepare the remaining tortillas.
To serve, spoon reserved pulled pork down the centre of each tortilla. Top with apple slaw and a good dollop of sunshine chutney.
Scatter with fresh coriander and serve at once.

  • Pulled pork can be warmed carefully in a small covered saucepan, or in the microwave (drizzle with the reserved cooking juices, cover with cling film, and microwave on high for 1–2 minutes). Don’t make it too hot!

Maple-glazed pork fillets with sunshine chutney. One Equals Two.

[Recipe 4] Maple-glazed pork fillets with Sunshine chutney

Ingredients (serves 4):
2 free range pork fillets (tenderloins), 250-300g each
1 tablespoon olive oil
♦ ½–1 cup sunshine chutney (see Recipe 1, above)
Glaze ingredients:
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 heaped teaspoons smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon dried chilli powder (or more, as liked)
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Mix glaze ingredients together in a small bowl, and brush over the pork fillets with the back of a soup spoon.
Heat oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Add pork and sear on all sides until nicely browned, 4–5 minutes total.
Transfer pork to a tray lined with baking paper, and drizzle with any remaining glaze.
Bake in pre-heated oven for 15–20 minutes, until pork is cooked through. Remove from oven. Transfer pork to a board, cover lightly with foil and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
To serve, cut the pork into thick 1cm (½”) medallions. Arrange on plates and drizzle with any juices left on the tray. Serve with a dollop of sunshine chutney.

  • Pork fillet is also known as pork tenderloin, and is the eye fillet that comes from within the loin. It’s super tasty and lean; and is best cooked quickly in a hot oven as it can dry out if overcooked. Don’t make the mistake of buying pork loin, which is quite a different cut to a tenderloin and requires a longer cooking time. Read here for more information.
  • Leftover cooked pork fillet can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Thinly sliced leftover cooked pork fillet is THE BEST in sandwiches! Serve with Sunshine chutney and cos (Romaine) lettuce.

Mexcellent! [3 ways with home-made cooked tomato salsa]

[Recipe 1] HOME-MADE CHUNKY COOKED TOMATO and RED PEPPER SALSA transforms into
[Recipe 2] SOUTHWESTERN BLACK BEAN and CHICKEN SALSA SOUP
[Recipe 3] MEXI BURGERS
[Recipe 4] NACHOS

So, I’ve become a serious Insta addict since signing up in April. Nobody warned me how dangerous it was – there are vintage SHOPS on there!!! For a hoarder collector like me, that has meant a conga line of parcels arriving in the mail. My modest set of 3 vintage Japanese ceramic veggie dishes, found in local oppies (thrift stores), has blossomed to become a collection, thanks to @precious_junk, @touchwood_kollektiv and @teenagevintageboy.
My favourite is the green pepper, shown off below as a receptacle for home-made chunky cooked tomato and red pepper salsa. May I just say that this salsa is a knockout! My secret ingredient is biber salçasi (Turkish red pepper paste), available from Middle Eastern stores. It’s thick and rich, similar in consistency to tomato paste, made from sun-dried red peppers.
Below are three totally mexcellent ways to use the home-made salsa.
Southwestern black bean and chicken salsa soup takes literally minutes to prepare as the ingredients are simply dumped into a saucepan and simmered. It’s perfect for a quick mid-week dinner or weekend lunch. We first sampled this soup on our US trip early this year. My recipe is loosely adapted from this one by Betty Crocker.
Mexi burgers are a recent revelation, inspired by a visit to our local burger joint, Grill’d. I cheekily asked our waitress what their secret burger spice was, and she shared that their burgers contain 30% tomato relish mixed in with the beef! This allows them to use low-fat mince, with the relish adding juiciness. I copied their idea, using salsa instead, and Phwoar!
And lastly, Nachos! Seriously, is there a better afternoon schnack?

Vintage ceramic veggie dish collection. Made in Japan.Home-made cooked tomato salsa and 3 ways to use it. One Equals Two. Chunky cooked tomato and red pepper salsa. One Equals Two.[Recipe 1] Chunky cooked tomato and red pepper salsa

Ingredients (makes approx. 1½ kilos/3 lb; or 5 x 300g/10 oz jars)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium red (purple/Spanish) onions, finely diced
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 kilos (4.4 lb) very ripe tomatoes, peeled, de-seeded, chopped (about 5 cups)
1 small red capsicum (red pepper), or ½ large, de-seeded, finely diced
2 large red cayenne chillis, de-seeded, finely chopped; 1 teaspoon seeds retained
2 tablespoons brown sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
⅓ cup apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons mild biber salçasi (Turkish red pepper paste)
½ teaspoon salt
⅓ cup lime juice (from 2–3 limes)
⅓ cup finely chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)

Heat oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over low-medium heat. Cook the onion for 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes.
Add all other ingredients except coriander and simmer gently, uncovered, for 40-55 minutes (cooking time will depend upon the juiciness of your tomatoes), stirring occasionally, until thick with a little liquid remaining. Stir through coriander.
Scoop into hot sterilised jars and store for up to 6 months in a cool dark place, or freeze for up to 3 months in plastic containers.

Allow salsa to cool completely before using.
♦ You’ll need 2 heaped cups (about 600g/20 oz) for Recipe 2 (soup), 1 heaped cup (about 300g/10 oz) for Recipe 3 (burgers) and 1 heaped cup (about 300g/10 oz) for Recipe 4 (nachos).

  • Biber salcasi is available from Middle Eastern stores such as A1 and my fave Melbourne food emporium Oasis; as well as online from Amazon and Sous Chef (UK). You’ll find plenty of other uses for it – spread it on pizza bases and use it in place of tomato paste in baked eggs, Amatriciana pasta sauce or Lamb and lentil tagine. It can be frozen in 1-tablespoon lumps wrapped in cling film, for up to 3 months. If unavailable, replace with tomato paste (tomato concentrate) – I’ve tested my salsa recipe with both! Biber salcasi gives a richer more complex result, and tomato paste lends a more traditional flavour.
  • I find 1 teaspoon chilli seeds are enough for a little kick, especially for the kids, but feel free to include all the seeds for a more fiery salsa.
  • This salsa is amazing spooned over scrambled eggs or baked fish; dolloped on tacos, chilli con carne or baked jacket potatoes; and in the following 3 recipes…

Southwestern black bean and chicken salsa soup. One Equals Two.

[Recipe 2] Southwestern black bean and chicken salsa soup

Ingredients (serves 4-6):
2 heaped cups (about 600g/20 oz) reserved salsa (see recipe 1)
1½ teaspoons cumin
4 cups chicken stock, store-bought or home-made
1 x 400g (15 oz) can black beans, drained, rinsed
2 cups leftover chopped cooked chicken (from ½ a roast chicken)
1 cup uncooked corn kernels (cut from 1 large corn cob)

Salt
Fresh chopped coriander (cilantro)

Place all ingredients, except coriander, in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 10–15 minutes, covered, stirring occasionally.
Season to taste (if you’ve used store-bought stock you may not need salt).
Ladle soup into deep bowls and scatter with coriander.
Inspired by this Betty Crocker recipe.

  • Leftover soup can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for 3 months.
  • You can use cooked dried beans for this recipe. 1 can black beans, drained, yields about 1½ cups of beans. For 1½ cups of beans, soak 125g (4.5 oz) dried black beans overnight. Drain, place into a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil. Simmer for 40–50 minutes, or until tender. Drain and rinse.
  • You can of course use store-bought Mexican salsa for this recipe if you’re pushed for time! You’ll need 2 x 300g (10 oz) jars.

Mexi Burgers with home-made salsa. One Equals Two.

[Recipe 3] Mexi burgers

Ingredients (makes 8 burger patties, 4 to be frozen for later):
1½ kilos (3 lb) minced (ground) beef
1 teaspoon salt
⅓ cup dry breadcrumbs
♦ 1 heaped cup (300g/10 oz) reserved salsa (see recipe 1)
1 large egg, lightly whisked with a fork
Olive oil, for cooking
To serve:

4 brioche buns (or other hamburger buns, as preferred)
Cos (romaine) lettuce leaves
Reserved salsa, extra (see recipe 1)
Pickled jalapeños
Thinly sliced red (purple/Spanish) onion
Sliced tomato

Mix and squeeze the beef, salt and breadcrumbs together well with your hands. Add the salsa and egg and bring together until well combined. Form into 8 patties (refrigerate or freeze 4 for another time).
Brush a BBQ or ridged grill plate with olive oil. Grill the patties for about 4 minutes each side, until just cooked through.
Meanwhile, split your hamburger buns. You can toast them if you like.
To assemble place a lettuce leaf on each bun, followed by a patty, a good dollop of extra salsa, a few pickled jalapeño slices, onion, one or two lettuce leaves and sliced tomato. Pop the lids on and tuck in!

  • We like our burgers BIG! Use the mixture for 12 smaller patties if you prefer!
  • Uncooked patties can be frozen in a plastic container, with baking paper squares between each, for up to 3 months. Defrost in the fridge overnight, and drain on kitchen paper before cooking.
  • Pickled jalapeños are available at large supermarkets. Replace with sliced pickles or whole cornichons if unavailable.
  • Customise the burgers as you like! Add beetroot, mayo, sliced avocado and/or Swiss cheese (after grilling one side, turn patties over and place a slice of cheese on top to melt).
  • Brioche buns are the best for hamburgers in my opinion, as they’re light and slightly sweet. Mine are from the swoon-worthy Brioche by Phillipe (four stores in Melbourne).

Nachos with home-made salsa. One Equals Two.

[Recipe 4] Nachos

Ingredients (serves 4):
200g (7 oz) corn chips

1 heaped cup (300g/10 oz)
(see recipe 1)
1 cup (100g/3.5 oz) grated tasty cheese
1 large avocado, mashed
Sour cream
Fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Line a large baking tray with baking paper.
Arrange the corn chips into 4 piles, and sprinkle with half the grated cheese. Spoon reserved salsa over, and top with remaining cheese.
Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes, or until cheese is bubbling. Remove from oven.
Top each serving with mashed avocado and a dollop of sour cream. Slide nachos stacks onto four separate plates, scatter with coriander and serve immediately.

Get ya freekeh on

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chicken soup with freekeh and lemon

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

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

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

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

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

Tree-mendous

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

Trentham holidayTaiwanese chicken

Poultry in motion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chicken meatball noodle soup

[Recipe 2] Chicken meatball and noodle soup

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

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

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

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

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 making Thunderbirds and Lego movies with imotion 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) 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. Simple Italian food; friendly waiters, 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.
Recipe 1 yields two lots of Amatriciana sauce, allowing for planned-overs to be used for Chicken Parmigiana. Crumbed chicken, topped with tomato-based sauce and slathered with molten mozzarella – is there better comfort food than that? An Aussie-style ‘parma’ features a layer of ham. By replacing the traditional sauce with Amatriciana, there is no need for ham though as the sauce is laden with pancetta, and to my mind this is much tastier.
The chicken parma is a 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’s a local restaurant or pub serving parma, you can guarantee it will be featured and reviewed meticulously (and hilariously) on this site.

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 (see Recipe 2 below).
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 (see recipe 1)
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 or rolling pin until flattened.
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 half 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 and add a little more oil 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.
  • If you’re pushed for time, you can of course make the Chicken Parmigiana with store-bought napoli sauce, in which case you could lay a thin slice of ham on each chicken breast.
  • *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.

Taking stock

[Recipe 1] POACHED CHICKEN, AVOCADO and ASPARAGUS SALAD transforms into
[Recipe 2] PAT’S CLASSIC 10-MINUTE CHICKEN and CORN SOUP
……………..
I have a serious asparagus addiction. Tossed with poached chicken, avocado, rocket (arugula) and a sprinkling of pickled ginger; it makes a damn fine, healthy Summer meal. I poach my chook breasts in a huge vat of home-made Asian chicken stock, to be used for other tasty meals later; such as Classic 10-minute chicken and corn soup.
This soup recipe comes courtesy of my friend Alicia’s mum-in-law, Pat. Alicia and her man Scott are well-known for hosting soup parties for their kid’s birthdays. They make 3 huge saucepans of different soup (including the chicken and corn), crank up the gas on the BBQs in their local park, and set the saucepans on the BBQs to keep warm. A stack of mugs is placed nearby, and folks help themselves. Such a brilliant idea – there is minimal serving of food required, so Alicia and Scott are free to enjoy a champers and a chinwag!
This chicken and corn soup is positively wolfed down by children. The recipe makes enough for 6, so the husband and I often take the leftovers to work the next day.
Oh, if you’ve not made your own stock before, it’s easy peasy – the ingredients are simply chopped, bunged in a pot, simmered and strained. It freezes well, and is so much nicer and healthier (no spooky additives) than bought stock.
PS. One more thing, and then I’ll stop jibber-jabbering. You can of course make these meals in any order you wish. You could prepare the stock and chicken breasts on a Sunday, make the soup on Monday and the salad on Wednesday (storing tips are below the recipe).

Poached chicken and asparagus salad[Recipe 1] Poached chicken, avocado and asparagus salad

Asian stock (makes 3–4 litres/100–140 fl oz):
2 kilos (4 lb) chicken bones
5 litres (5 quarts) water
3 onions, chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed under a knife
3 coriander (cilantro) roots, chopped (reserve leaves for salad dressing)
7½cm (3″) piece of ginger, thinly sliced
3 large carrots, chopped
3 celery sticks, leaves included, chopped
12 whole black peppercorns or Szechuan peppercorns
6 dried star anise
3 large skinless chicken breasts (2 for the salad, 1 for the chicken and corn soup)
Salad:
1 bunch asparagus (4 spears per person), woody ends trimmed, halved on the diagonal
80g (3 cups/3 oz) wild rocket (arugula)
1 large ripe avocado (or 2 small), chopped
2 reserved cooked, shredded chicken breasts (see above)
Half quantity coriander dressing
Pickled ginger, to serve

To make the stock, place all ingredients, except the chicken breasts, in a large stock pot. Bring to the boil, reduce heat, and simmer gently for 2½ hours, uncovered.
Add the chicken breasts to the stock for the last 2 minutes of simmering time. Turn off the heat and allow them to sit in the stock as it cools, for 2 hours. Remove the chicken breasts.
Chop 1 chicken breast and set aside for Pat’s classic 10-minute chicken and corn soup.
Shred the other two chicken breasts and reserve for the salad.
Strain stock with a colander into a large pan, and discard vegetables and chicken bones. Strain again with a fine sieve.
Refrigerate stock overnight. When completely cooled, skim and discard solid fat from top of stock. Divide stock into 6 cup portions and refrigerate or freeze until required.
Reserve 6 cups Asian chicken stock for Pat’s classic 10-minute chicken and corn soup.
To make the salad, blanch the asparagus in boiling water for 2–3 minutes, drain and rinse. Place the rocket into a large bowl, add 1 or 2 tablespoons of coriander dressing, and toss to combine. Place the asparagus, 2 shredded chicken breasts and avocado in another bowl, add a splash of coriander dressing and gently toss to combine. Divide the rocket amongst 4 serving bowls. Top with chicken, asparagus and avocado. Scatter with pickled ginger. Enjoy!

  • Cooked chicken breasts can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Stock can be stored in the fridge for up to 1 week, or frozen for up to 3 months. 
  • Dried star anise is available from the spice section of supermarkets, and Asian food stores.
  • Pickled ginger is available from Asian food stores.
  • When using fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, reserve the roots and freeze for up to 3 months. They’re fabulous for flavouring stocks.
  • Fussy kid tip: Make a kid-friendly version of this salad with poached chicken, chopped avocado and grated carrot or carrot sticks. You can even toss in a chopped boiled egg!

  • Baby tip: Don’t discard your celery and carrots from the stock – puree them with a dash of stock and a poached chicken breast (add another one to the pot, especially for baby). Freeze in ice cube trays and defrost when required.

10 minute chicken and corn soup

[Recipe 2] Pat’s classic 10-minute chicken and corn soup

Ingredients (serves 6):
6 cups reserved Asian chicken stock (or store-bought stock – see notes below)
 ♦ 1 reserved large poached chicken breast, finely chopped
1 x 420g (14 oz) can creamed corn
1 x 420g (15 oz) can corn kernels, drained, rinsed (or 1½ cups cooked corn kernels*)
3 tablespoons corn flour (cornstarch)
1 teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
Freshly cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 egg whites, whisked with 1 tablespoon water
3 spring onions (scallions), sliced, to serve
 

Place reserved Asian stock into a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn down heat.
♦ Add reserved poached chicken breast.
Add creamed corn and corn kernels, and simmer gently for 10 minutes, covered.
Blend cornflour with 3 tablespoons warm water. Add to the soup, and simmer until thickened, about 3 minutes. Add salt, pepper and sesame oil.
Turn off heat and gradually add egg white mixture, stirring well, for about 2 minutes, until the whites are cooked and streaky.
Ladle soup into deep bowls and scatter with spring onions.

  • *One 420g (15 oz) can corn kernels, drained and rinsed, yields about 1½ cups corn kernels. If you wish to use fresh corn instead, you’ll need to boil two small corn cobs for about 10 minutes, then remove the kernels with a sharp knife.
  • For variety, add a bunch of bok choy, leaves finely sliced (green parts only), at the same time as the corn.
  • If you’re really strapped for time, you can use store-bought chicken stock, in which case you should omit adding salt. You can also make this soup with an uncooked chicken breast. Chop the fillet finely and place it into the simmering stock with the creamed corn and corn kernels, and simmer for an extra 5 minutes (15 minutes total simmering time).

I’ll give you a pizza my mind

[Recipe 1] BAKED TANDOORI CHICKEN TENDERLOINS with RAITA transforms into [Recipe 2] TANDOORI CHICKEN PIZZA with FRESH ROCKET
……………..
First up this week is Baked tandoori chicken tenderloins with raita. We love tandoori chook. It’s a little bit daggy, as I use tandoori paste straight from the jar*, but it’s so yummy, dunked into home-made raita and dished up with saffron rice and peas. Both my boys love it, although I rinse the 5-year old’s chicken pieces a tiny bit as they’re too ‘burny’ for him.
Reserve a few pieces of the baked tandoori chicken and you can whip up a fantastic Tandoori chicken pizza with fresh rocket later in the week. Tandoori pizza features in the ‘gourmet’ section of our local pizza place (and probably yours too) but it’s served with huge soggy plops of sour cream – so unappetising. We love it with a simple scattering of bocconcini, red onion and rocket; on a thin, crispy home-made pizza base.
I’ve included my recipe for tasty home-made pizza sauce, which is full of hidden pureed vegetables. I nearly always have a batch of it in the freezer. It’s a fab sauce to use for quick margherita-style pizzas for the kid’s lunchboxes – nothing better than cold leftover pizza for lunch!
My recipe for wholemeal pizza dough is in the Handy Guides section too. It contains wholemeal atta flour (chapati flour), which is readily available nowadays; and oat bran, so it’s relatively healthy. Making pizza dough is the perfect kid’s activity. My 8-year old sous chef loves kneading and rolling; and my 5-year old kitchen assistant is a top-notch sauce-spreader. The kneading also provides excellent incidental exercise – hey, I grab my physical activity wherever I can. I ain’t no gym bunny (although I probably should be).
*Supermarket tandoori paste is fine, although it contains lots of numbers. We love Curry Creations pastes. They used to have a shop at Prahran Market, but now sell online only. Their pastes are fab as they have no artificial flavours or colours and no preservatives. Well worth the extra expense.

Baked tandoori chicken[Recipe 1] Baked tandoori chicken tenderloins with raita

Ingredients (serves 4 for 2 meals):
⅓ cup (80g) tandoori paste
⅓ cup (80g) Greek (or natural) yoghurt
1¼ kilos (2½ lb) chicken tenderloins (about 18 pieces)
Basic cucumber raita, to serve
Pico de gallo (fresh tomato salsa), mixed with rocket (arugula), to serve
Saffron rice with peas:
1 small red (Spanish/purple) onion, finely diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1½ cups basmati rice
Large pinch saffron strands
2 cups chicken stock, home-made or store-bought
1 cup water, plus ½ cup extra
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
1 cup frozen baby peas

Combine the tandoori paste and yoghurt in a large glass bowl. Add the chicken and toss to coat well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or overnight.
Meanwhile, make the saffron rice with peas. Heat olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 5 minutes. Add the rice, stock, 1 cup water and saffron. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for 10 minutes. Add an extra ½ cup water and the peas. Season. Simmer a further 5 minutes, until the rice is cooked through.
To cook the tandoori chicken tenders, preheat oven to 200ºC.
Place tandoori-coated chicken pieces on a tray lined with baking paper.
Bake for 10 minutes. Turn and bake for a further 5 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through. Be careful not to overcook them. Remove from oven and keep warm on the tray, lightly covered with foil.
Reserve about 350g (¾ lb) cooked tandoori chicken tenderloins for the Tandoori Chicken Pizzas with fresh rocket.
Serve the remaining chicken tenderloins with basic cucumber raita, cherry tomato salsa (mixed with rocket) and saffron rice with peas.

  • Chicken tenderloins, also called ‘chicken tenders’, are located under the breast of the chicken and are usually still weakly attached to the breast and easy to remove. They are super succulent and, dare I say it, tender! Most butchers sell them separately, but if unavailable, you can replace them with thick slices of chicken breast.
  • To make this meal more Wintery, swap the cherry tomato salsa for Roasted pumpkin and baby carrots with cumin. This can be cooked in the oven at the same time as the Baked tandoori chicken tenderloins.

Home-made pizza baseTandoori chicken pizza

[Recipe 2] Tandoori chicken pizza with fresh rocket

Ingredients (serves 4):
1 quantity wholemeal (wholewheat) pizza dough, or 2 large store-bought pizza bases

250g (9 oz) home-made pizza sauce, or tomato passata (puree)

About 350g (¾ lb) reserved tandoori chicken tenderloins, sliced
1 red (Spanish/purple) onion, very thinly sliced
4 or 5 bocconcini cheese balls, sliced
Fresh rocket (arugula) leaves, for scattering

Preheat oven to 250°C (480ºF).
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.
If using home-made wholemeal (wholewheat) pizza dough, sprinkle flour on a sheet of baking paper. Roll out each dough ball into a circle, roughly the same size as your baking tray. Make the dough as thin as you can, as it will puff up a bit in the oven.
Spread each pizza base with home-made pizza sauce, or tomato passata.
Scatter each pizza with reserved tandoori chicken.
Top with red onion and slices of bocconcini.
Carefully slide pizzas and baking paper onto pre-heated pizza trays and bake for 10–15 minutes until bubbling. You may need less cooking time if using pre-cooked store-bought pizza bases.
Remove from oven and scatter with rocket. Serve immediately.

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.

A yen for chicken balls

[Recipe 1] TSUKUNE (Japanese teriyaki chicken meatballs) transforms into
[Recipe 2] TERIYAKI NOODLES with BOK CHOY and CHICKEN MEATBALLS
……………..

Tsukune (Japanese teriyaki chicken meatballs)
are ace. Their flavour casts me back to Tokyo a few years ago, where the husband and I had a regular nightly pilgrimage to local izakayas for skewered yakitori chicken and other tasty morsels. *sigh*
I’ve played around with the ingredients and measurements in this recipe a lot, but the original recipe was given to me by my lovely lady friend Janet, who always has a bowl of tsukune at her gatherings. They’re perfect party nibbles as you can make them well in advance, bung them in the freezer, and defrost them the night before they’re required. They don’t need fancy plating – pop them in a bowl with a pot of toothpicks and watch them disappear. I have some waiting in the freezer as we speak, for my son’s upcoming 5th birthday party.
Be sure to reserve a portion of tsukune and sticky glaze (see the orange diamonds in the recipe for quantities) and you can conjure up a super tasty, very quick dinner later, Teriyaki noodles with bok choy and chicken meatballs. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, my 8-year old rates this recipe a 10, along with bolognaise, lamb nut rice and ‘curry’ (butter chicken if he was forced to nominate a particular one).

Tsukune (Japanese teriyaki chicken balls)

[Recipe 1] Tsukune (Japanese teriyaki chicken meatballs)

Ingredients (makes 60 balls; ie. 3 portions of 20 balls + 3 portions of teriyaki glaze):
1 tablespoon peanut (or vegetable) oil
1 leek, white part only, halved lengthwise, cut into long strips and sliced finely
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1½ kilos (3 lb) minced (ground) chicken
3 teaspoons sesame oil
2½ cm (1”) piece ginger, finely chopped (about 1½ tablespoons)
1 large carrot, finely grated (on zester holes)
1 large egg, beaten
6 spring onions (scallions), white parts only, thinly sliced (reserve dark green parts for serving)
½ cup (75g) sesame seeds, toasted
3 heaped tablespoons white miso paste
3 tablespoons corn flour (cornstarch)
Peanut (or vegetable) oil, extra, for frying
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, extra, for serving
Sticky teriyaki glaze:
½ cup soy sauce
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup mirin
¾ cup firmly packed (150g) brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt (preferably fine sea salt)

Make the mixture:
Heat oil in a small saucepan and fry the leek and garlic over a medium heat for 3 minutes. The leek shouldn’t be completely soft, just aromatic. Transfer to a very large bowl.
Add the chicken, sesame oil, ginger, carrot, egg, spring onions, toasted sesame seeds, miso paste and corn flour. Mix well.
Roll the tsukune mixture into walnut-sized balls. Use lightly-floured hands as the mixture is quite soft and sticky (they firm up beautifully on frying though)! Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or overnight if time permits.
Fry the balls:
Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan. Fry the tsukune in batches until browned all over, about 8 minutes. Transfer them to a large bowl as you go. If your stove-top is wide enough, you can have two frypans going at once to expedite proceedings.
Reserve ⅓ of the cooked tsukune (about 20 balls or 500g/1 lb) for the Teriyaki noodles with bok choy and chicken meatballs.
Make the glaze:
Meanwhile, make the sticky teriyaki glaze by combining the ingredients in a small bowl.
Reserve ⅓ of the sticky teriyaki glaze (⅔ cup) and set aside for the Teriyaki noodles with bok choy and chicken meatballs.
Simmer the balls:
Return the remaining tsukune to the frypan(s) and add the remaining sticky glaze. Bring to the boil, turn down heat, and simmer, continuously stirring, until lovely and sticky and glistening, about 10 minutes. You may need to do do this in two batches, using half the glaze for each batch, if you’re working with one frypan only. The tsukune should be quite saucy – don’t reduce the sauce too much or they’ll dry out.
Serve:
Arrange tsukune on a platter or in a serving bowl, scattered with extra toasted sesame seeds and chopped green ends of spring onions. Serve with toothpicks.

  • This recipe makes a huge serve of tsukune, about 60 balls in total, essentially three serves of 20 balls and three serves of sticky teriyaki glaze. You’ll be reserving one serve (20 balls and ⅔ cup sticky glaze) for Recipe 2. The remaining two serves (40 balls and 1⅓ cups sticky glaze) will feed about 10–15 people as finger food. You can easily make a smaller overall quantity by using ⅓ or ⅔ of the listed ingredients (most ingredients are in multiples of 3). Even with a smaller batch, one egg is fine, just use a small egg!
  • If time permits, the chicken mixture can be prepared the night before and refrigerated.
  • Tsukune are fab served as part of a DIY bento box, or as a light Summer dinner. Add cooked sushi rice on the side, a small bowl of pickled ginger and steamed asparagus or Asian mixed-leaf salad
  • Cooked, glazed (or unglazed) tsukune can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 2 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge. They can be lightly warmed in a microwave before serving, or served at room temperature.
  • Reserved sticky teriyaki glaze can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 2 months.
  • Miso paste is available refrigerated from Asian grocers. Use the leftover paste to make Roasted pumpkin and mixed seed salad!
  • You can toast your own sesame seeds, or cheat and buy them pre-toasted from Asian and Middle Eastern food stores.

Tsukune noodle stir-fry

[Recipe 2] Teriyaki noodles with bok choy and chicken meatballs

Ingredients (serves 4):
600g (1⅓ lb) fresh hokkien noodles

1 tablespoon peanut (or vegetable) oil
1 medium carrot, chopped into small match-sticks
1 small red capsicum (bell pepper), thinly sliced
♦ 1 serve (⅔ cup) reserved sticky teriyaki glaze
♦ 1 serve (500g/1 lb) reserved cooked tsukune (about 20 balls)
1 bunch bok choy, washed and very well dried, leaves trimmed and thinly sliced
Toasted sesame seeds, to serve
1 small red birdseye chilli, de-seeded, finely sliced, to serve (optional for kids)
Spring onions (scallions), finely sliced, to serve

Place noodles in a large bowl. Cover with boiling water. Stand for 2 minutes. Separate noodles with a fork. Drain in a large colander and set aside.
Heat oil in a wok over high heat until just smoking. Add carrot and capsicum, and stir-fry for 1–2 minutes. Remove from wok.
Add reserved sticky teriyaki glaze and reserved cooked tsukune. Simmer on a high heat for 6 minutes until sauce is reduced and thickened, and tsukune are warmed through and glistening.
Stir through prepared noodles and bok choy and toss over medium heat for 1–2 minutes until noodles are heated through and bok choy has wilted. Return carrot and capsicum to the wok. Divide amongst four bowls, scatter with sesame seeds, chilli and spring onions and serve immediately.

  • You can vary this recipe easily by replacing the bok choy with chopped baby spinach; or by adding bean shoots or steamed broccoli florets.

Rice to the challenge

[Recipe 1] SPECIAL FRIED BROWN RICE transforms into
[Recipe 2] FLUFFY BROWN RICE LSA PANCAKES
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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.

The working leek

[Recipe 1] CHICKEN, LEEK and CORN SOUP transforms into
[Recipe 2] CHICKEN and LEEK POT PIE
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I’m feeling knackered after a month of school holidays. A big bowl of Chicken, leek and corn soup always hits the spot. With these recipes, you’ll end up with enough soup to serve 8, and a lovely Chicken and leek pot pie, made from some of the cooked vegetables and chicken reserved from your soup preparation (look for the orange diamonds within the recipe).
The soup is extra good with home-made stock, if you have the time and inclination; but a good-quality store-bought stock is absolutely fine too. I used to make stock regularly, but my last horrific attempt is still indelibly etched in my brain. My mum offered to babysit my (then) newborn son while I had some ‘time to myself’. I decided, instead of op-shopping, reading or napping, that I would use my time for good instead of evil; and set about making a massive pot of chicken stock. It simmered for over 2 hours, filling the house with heady chickeny aromas. I placed a colander in the sink and proceeded to strain the beautiful lovingly-made liquid; not into a giant pot; but straight down the sink. As if it was manky pasta water. I didn’t exactly cry, but gosh did sleep-deprived me lament those wasted two hours.

Chicken, leek and corn soup

[Recipe 1] Chicken, leek and corn soup

Ingredients (serves 4 for 3 meals):
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 large leeks, white part only, halved lengthwise, sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
4 celery sticks, halved lengthwise, finely sliced
4 medium carrots, halved lengthwise, finely sliced
6 chicken breast fillets (about 1½ kilos/3 lb), chopped; or a mixture of breast/thigh
4 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from 4 large cobs/ears)
2 bay leaves
10 cups (2½ litres/85 fl oz) chicken stock, home-made or good quality store-bought
1 bunch bok choy (or ½ bunch silverbeet), green parts mostly, very finely chopped or shredded
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Dried fried shallots to garnish (optional)

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large saucepan and fry the leek, garlic, celery and carrots over a medium heat for 10 minutes, until leeks are soft. Transfer this vegetable mixture to a very large bowl.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in the same pan, and gently fry the chicken for 6–8 minutes, until just cooked through.
Remove the chicken from the pan with a slotted spoon (leave juices in the pan) and add to the vegetable mixture.
Reserve half this vegetable and chicken mixture, about 6 cups (1¼ kilos), for the chicken and leek pot pie.
Return the remaining vegetable and chicken mixture (for the soup) to the large saucepan. Add the corn kernels, bay leaves and stock. Simmer for 10 minutes. Remove and discard bay leaves.
Using a stick blender, give the soup four or five whizzes only, to help it thicken. Don’t blend it completely smooth – be sure to leave lots of chunks for texture.
Add the bok choy and simmer for a further 10 minutes. Season to taste.
Ladle soup into deep bowls, scatter with dried fried shallots, and serve with crusty bread.

  • There is admittedly a lot of chopping required for this recipe, but remember, the end result is 3 meals for 4 people: 2 huge quantities of soup (each to serve 4–5 people) and 1 lovely pie! There is no need to prepare all the vegies and chicken before you start. Chop up the leek, garlic, celery and carrot first. You can chop up the chicken while these vegies are cooking. Remove the kernels from the corn while the chicken is cooking; and chop your bok choy while the soup is simmering.
  • Reserved leek, garlic, celery, carrot and chicken mixture can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months, so you can make the pie another time. There is nothing better than having a ready-made pie filling sitting in one’s freezer, for whipping out on a weeknight.
  • The chicken, leek and corn soup will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days (excellent to take to work for lunch), or it can be frozen for up to 3 months. This soup is also the perfect meal to give to a sick friend or new parents.
  • Pre-prepared thin egg noodles can be added to individual bowls before pouring in the soup. You’ll need about 200g (7 oz) noodles for four people. Soup should be frozen separately though (without noodles).
  • Fussy kid tip: The soup can be puréed completely smooth for fussy children.
  • Baby tip: Purée a cup of cooked chicken and vegetables with a small amount of stock for a delicious mash for babies. Freeze in ice-cube trays and defrost when required.

Chicken and leek pot pie

[Recipe 2] Chicken and leek pot pie

Ingredients (serves 4–5):
6 cups (1¼ kilos) reserved leek, garlic, celery, carrot and chicken mixture

½ cup (75g) plain (all-purpose) flour
1½ teaspoons dried tarragon (or thyme)
100ml (3½ fl oz) milk
150ml (5 fl oz) cream (I use light cooking cream)
2 teaspoons wholegrain mustard
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 sheets store-bought puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, whisked with 1 tablespoon milk, for brushing pastry

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Grease a 24cm (9½-inch) 6-cup (1½ litres) capacity ovenproof pie dish.
Place vegetable and chicken mixture in a large saucepan, and warm gently. Add flour and tarragon; and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
Gradually stir in milk and cream. Cook, stirring, over a low heat, until mixture boils and thickens, about 5–6 minutes. Stir in mustard. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes.
Place the pie dish upside down, on the pastry (cut 1 piece of pastry in half and add these pieces to the edges of the first sheet, with water to seal, to make a large sheet). Use the dish as a guide to cut a circle of pastry to fit, about 2cm bigger than the dish.
Spoon the chicken mixture into the pie dish. Place a pie funnel (if you have one) into the centre of the dish. Cut a cross in the centre of the pastry disc for the pie funnel (or prick pastry with a fork 2 or 3 times if you don’t have a pie funnel). Drape puff pastry circle over filling. Tuck overhanging pastry underneath to form a thick pastry edge. Press the edges to seal with your fingertips. Brush pastry with egg.
Bake 20 minutes or until pastry is puffed and light golden brown. Serve with steamed green beans and peas, or a green salad.

  • Fussy kid tip: My 4-year old loves this pie, but only if I omit the tarragon (or thyme) from his portion. I stir up his chicken filling in a separate little saucepan. Oh, the things we do.

Rice and easy

[Recipe 1] NO-STIR CHICKEN and ROAST PUMPKIN RISOTTO transforms into
[Recipe 2] CRISPY RISOTTO BALLS
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We’re back from a week on the Mornington Peninsula. All that beach-going and relaxation was rather nice; although I did manage to scorch a large hot pink triangle on my chest region (after forgetting the sun screen on that one darn spot). The 7 year old said it made me look like a super hero. The 4 year old required a trip to hospital after being stung by a bee on his foot, which blew up like a balloon. He consequently spent most of his beach days being dragged around in a blow-up boat. So… we’re home and exhausted.
Time for an easy recipe methinks. Hello No-stir chicken and roast pumpkin risotto. A mum from my son’s school (hi Gab!) got me hip to the no-stir method. Risotto purists should avert their gaze. Instead of ladling incremental amounts of hot stock, and stirring and checking every 5 minutes; you can be grating the Parmesan and chopping the parsley while it practically cooks itself. Excellent!
Reserve some of the risotto as planned-overs (look for the orange diamonds within the recipe) and whip up a batch of scrumptious Crispy risotto balls the next day.
PS. Had to share my beautiful vintage happy flower fabric, a pressie from my friend Meagan. One day it will become an apron or skirt, but for now it makes a spiffy tablecloth!

Vintage flower fabricNo-stir chicken and roast pumpkin risotto. One Equals Two.

[Recipe 1] No-stir chicken and roast pumpkin risotto

Ingredients (serves 4 for 2 meals):
1 tablespoon olive oil
350g (12 oz) peeled, de-seeded butternut pumpkin, chopped into 1cm (½“) cubes (start with 500g/1 lb unpeeled pumpkin)
2 tablespoons olive oil, extra
4 skinless chicken thigh fillets (about 500g/1 lb), chopped into 1cm (½-inch) cubes
2 small brown onions, finely diced
3 cups (650g) arborio or carnaroli rice
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup fresh corn kernels (cut from 1 large cob/ear)
8 cups (2 litres) chicken stock, store-bought or home-made
1 cup frozen peas (or fresh podded peas – see notes)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (100g) grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus extra to serve

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Toss the pumpkin cubes in 1 tablespoon olive oil and roast for 20–25 minutes until cooked through. Set aside.
Meanwhile, heat the extra olive oil in a large saucepan and fry the chicken and onion over a medium heat for 5 minutes, until onion is soft and chicken is cooked through.
Add the rice and garlic and continue cooking, stirring frequently, for 2–3 minutes.
Add the corn kernels and 4 cups of stock. Stir once, cover, and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes until stock is absorbed. Sneak a peek after 8 minutes, to make sure it isn’t sticking.
Add peas and remaining stock. Return to the boil and simmer, covered, for a further 10 minutes. Gently stir through the roast pumpkin, Parmesan and parsley. Season well with salt and pepper.
Reserve 5 cups (about 1.2 kilos) chicken and roast pumpkin risotto for the crispy risotto balls.
Serve risotto, scattered with extra parsley.

  • Planned-overs (reserved risotto) can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  • Fresh peas can be used, instead of frozen. Add these with the corn kernels.

  • Roast some extra pumpkin with a couple of quartered red onions and you’ll have an instant salad for dinner (or lunch) tomorrow. Toss with a balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing; and scatter with cracked black pepper and basil leaves.
  • Freeze leftover parsley stalks, and use in sweet tomato pasta sauce or home-made chicken stock.

Crispy risotto balls. One Equals Two.

[Recipe 2] Crispy risotto balls

Ingredients (serves 4, makes 25–30 balls):
♦ 5 cups (about 1.2 kilos) reserved chicken and roast pumpkin risotto
¾ cup dry breadcrumbs, plus 2 cups extra for coating
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup olive oil for shallow frying
Sea salt
Chilli mayo or sriracha mayo, to serve

Place reserved chicken and roast pumpkin risotto into a large bowl. Break up risotto roughly with a knife, add ¾ cup breadcrumbs and mix thoroughly.
Shape mixture into about 25–30 golfball-sized balls. Dip into beaten egg; then lightly roll in the extra breadcrumbs. Refrigerate up to 4 hours, until required.
Heat oil in a deep frying pan until shimmering. Fry risotto balls in 3–4 batches until crisp and golden, about 4 minutes. Roll the balls around in the oil with a slotted spoon or tongs, to ensure they brown evenly. Drain on paper towel.
Sprinkle with salt, and serve hot with chilli mayo or sriracha mayo, and a simple green salad. Yum.

  • You’ll need sriracha chili sauce for sriracha mayo, which is available at Asian food stores. The authentic version, made by Huy Fong Foods in California, is available in Australia at USA Foods.

God save the bean

[Recipe 1] PAN-FRIED CHICKEN TENDERS with ZESTY BEAN SALAD
transforms into

[Recipe 2] TORTILLAS with SHREDDED CHICKEN and BEANS
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These two recipes are firm favourites around here, especially on weeknights as they’re super quick and easy. Although I love to cook up a big batch of dried beans, occasionally I have neither the time nor inclination. Canned beans are a convenient life saver and are put to excellent use in this zesty bean salad, served with succulent pan-fried chicken tenders!
Reserve the specified portion of undressed bean salad and cooked chicken tenderloins, as planned-overs (see the orange diamonds within the recipe); and you can create delicioso Tortillas with shredded chicken and beans another day. Yummo!

Bean salad with chicken tenders

[Recipe 1] Pan-fried chicken tenders with zesty bean salad

Ingredients (serves 4 for 2 meals):
2 x 400g (15 oz)
 cans kidney beans, rinsed, drained
2 x 400g (15 oz) cans cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained, rinsed
1 small salad (or white) onion, finely chopped
1 cup chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves, plus extra to serve
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 stick celery, halved lengthwise, finely sliced
½ red capsicum (bell pepper), very finely chopped
1¼ kilos (2½ lb) chicken tenderloins (about 18 pieces)
60g (2 oz) goat’s cheese crumbled, to serve
Lemon dressing:
2 tablespoons (30ml) olive oil
2 tablespoons (30ml) lemon juice
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 clove garlic, crushed

Make lemon dressing by whisking olive oil, lemon juice, brown sugar and garlic. Set aside.
Combine beans, onion, coriander, salt and pepper.
Reserve 500g (1 lb/3 cups) of this undressed bean mixture for the tortillas with shredded chicken and beans.
To the remaining bean mixture (for tonight’s salad), add prepared lemon dressing, celery and capsicum. Gently toss to combine.
Pan-fry or chargrill (charbroil) chicken, in batches, until golden brown and cooked through, about 4 minutes each side.
Reserve 8 cooked chicken tenderloins (about 420–480g/just under 1 lb) for the tortillas with shredded chicken and beans.
Pile tonight’s bean salad and chicken tenderloins onto plates. Serve, scattered with goat’s cheese and extra coriander.

  • Planned-overs (undressed bean salad and cooked, chopped, chicken tenderloins) can be placed together in a labeled plastic container and frozen for up to 3 months; so you can make the tortillas another time. You can also store in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  • You can use cooked dried beans instead of canned beans. You’ll need a total of 450g (just under 1 lb) dried beans (kidney and cannellini or haricot) for this recipe. Soak overnight, drain and rinse. Cook in boiling water until tender, about 30–45 minutes. Drain, rinse and cool.
  • My 4 year old won’t touch the bean salad*, so his chicken tenders are served shredded in tortillas with guacamole and grated carrot; and I take his uneaten bean salad to work for lunch, with a small can of chilli tuna stirred through.
    *Note: he LOVES the tortillas in Recipe 2 though!
  • Leftover goat’s cheese can be used for Caramelised onion and goat’s cheese tart.

Chicken and bean tortillas with tomato salsa

[Recipe 2] Tortillas with shredded chicken and beans

Ingredients (serves 4):
400g (14 oz) can diced tomatoes
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground chilli (or more, as desired)
♦ 500g (1 lb/3 cups) reserved undressed bean mixture
8 cooked chicken tenderloins (about 420–480g/just under 1 lb), roughly shredded
10–12 tortillas
Choose your sides:
Shredded iceberg lettuce
Pico de gallo (fresh tomato salsa)
Sliced avocado or guacamole
Mexican hot sauce

Place tomatoes, cumin and chilli in a medium saucepan.
Add reserved undressed bean salad and reserved cooked, shredded chicken tenderloins.
Simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10–15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat tortillas in a lightly oiled fry pan.
Spoon chicken and bean mixture into warmed tortillas and roll up to enclose. Arrange the suggested sides in little sharing bowls on the table.

  • The chicken and bean filling can be made the day before and warmed in a saucepan when required.
  • Swap the tortillas for crunchy tacos or baked enchiladas, or serve with steamed rice, for a change.
  • If you’ve used fresh (not frozen) planned-overs for recipe 2, leftover chicken and bean filling can be frozen for up to 3 months.