Bean day

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

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

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

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

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

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

Baked black bean and fish flautas

[Recipe 2] Baked black bean and fish flautas

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

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

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

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

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

Mash hits

[Recipe 1] SWEET POTATO and TUNA CROQUETTES with GREEN GODDESS SAUCE transform into
[Recipe 2] MINI SHEPHERD’S PIES with SWEET POTATO TOPPING
……………..

I’m sitting here, mug of hot cocoa in hand, blogging and Pinteresting to my heart’s content. The lovely husband is away on his annual man’s weekend. This years’ theme was Japanese so they’re ploughing through episodes of The Samurai and Gigantor, chugging sake in front of an open fire. I sent him on his way with a load of Tsukune (teriyaki chicken meatballs) and Sweet potato, quinoa and edamame salad with miso dressing.*
I spent the afternoon with some beautiful lady friends (partners/wives of the men’s weekend gang), kids and dogs; chatting, eating and drinking wine. The boys and I feel very well-nourished. Thanks JC!
Now, onto cooking… this week’s recipes (and rather gaudy photos) feature mash! Mash is fantastic and it’s always worth making more than you need as you can use it in countless ways. Leftover potato mash is perfect for korokke (Japanese potato croquettes), mashed pumpkin can be hidden in chocolate muffins and sweet potato mash forms the base for gorgeous Sweet potato and tuna croquettes. The only tricky bit with these croquettes is the double-crumbing, a technique I stole from the Dutch. This makes for the most beautiful crispy croquettes, and the crunchy layer protects the molten cheesy filling.
I’m all for my boys enjoying vegetables in many configurations, so the occasional deep-fried treat is fine by me. These croquettes are excellent dunked into classic Green Goddess sauce – a concoction traditionally made with sour cream, tarragon and parsley. Personally, I find blended tarragon and parsley can taste a bit like lawn clippings; so I prefer a mixture of dill and mint. I also use yogurt in place of sour cream.
Reserve half the sweet potato mash to use as topping for Mini shepherd’s pies. You can use just about any meat-based sauce, stew or ragu as the base – I’ve listed my suggestions in the recipe. We especially love Bolognaise shepherd’s pies. They make a fab change from pasta, and my kids will hoover anything mini-sized. How cute are the Le Creuset mini baking dishes?? I borrowed them from my lovely neighbour, who has an enviable excellently-stocked kitchen. Thanks Tracey!
*I know I’m the quintessential 1950s housewife cooking for my man, but we fell into gender-stereotypical roles pretty quickly in our relationship I’m afraid. I love to cook (no, really)! He doesn’t, but is happy cleaning, fixing stuff and doing the gardening. I figure as long as the boys witness me cleaning the loo and their dad occasionally cooking, they’ll grow up to be well-balanced young men. Thankfully both our boys love cooking, something I’m very happy about!

Sweet potato and tuna croquettes[Recipe 1] Sweet potato and tuna croquettes with Green Goddess sauce

Ingredients for the mash (serves 4 for 2 meals):
650g (1½ lb) peeled, chopped, mashing potatoes (desiree, sebago, spunta, idaho or coliban)

650g (1½ lb) peeled, chopped, orange sweet potatoes
1 large garlic clove, crushed
tablespoons (approx. 30g) butter, chopped
⅓ cup (80ml) milk
¾ cup (75g) finely grated vintage cheddar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra ingredients for the croquettes (serves 4, makes 16 croquettes):
45g (1½ oz) almond meal
2 spring onions, green ends only, finely chopped (approx. ¼ cup)
1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon rind
1 x 185g (6 oz) can tuna in olive oil, drained
1 cup plain (all-purpose) flour, for dusting

4 eggs, beaten
2 cups dry breadcrumbs
Vegetable or sunflower oil for deep-frying
Green Goddess sauce, to serve

Place potatoes and sweet potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil, and simmer for 15–20 minutes, until soft. Drain and return potatoes to pan. Add the garlic, butter, milk, cheese, salt and pepper and mash well.
♦ Reserve half the mash (600g/2 heaped cups) for the mini shepherd’s pies with sweet potato topping.
To the reminder of the mash add the almond meal, spring onions, sweet chilli sauce, lemon rind and tuna and mix well. Refrigerate mixture for at least one hour (and up to 1 day), to allow it to firm up.
Roll about 16 little sausage-shaped logs from the mixture. 
Double-coat the croquettes. Spread 1 cup of breadcrumbs out on a plate. Dredge each croquette in the flour, shaking off the excess. Dip into egg and coat well with the breadcrumbs. Refrigerate the croquettes for at least 15 minutes to help the coating adhere.
Repeat the entire coating process, using the second cup of breadcrumbs, so that each croquette gets two coats of flour, egg and breadcrumbs. Your hands will be a mess, but it’s worth the effort!
Deep-fry the croquettes in two batches at 180°C (350ºF) for 2–3 minutes, until golden brown. Don’t be tempted to cook them for longer, as they’ll start to split.
If you don’t have a thermometer, you can test whether the oil is ready by dropping a few breadcrumb lumps in the pot. They should sizzle as soon as they hit the oil.
Drain croquettes on kitchen paper and serve immediately, with Green goddess sauce.

  • Croquettes can be made in advance and stored uncooked in the fridge for up to 1 day.
  • Croquettes are best eaten immediately. They don’t stand up to re-heating in the oven as they lose their beautiful crispiness.
  • I’m not normally one to spruik multi-Nationals, however, Aldi’s ‘White Mill’ dry bread crumbs are magnificent! They contain rye, oats, barley, wheat bran, oat bran, linseeds, sesame seeds, amaranth and quinoa! And they’re made in Australia.
Mini shepherd's pies

[Recipe 2] Mini shepherd’s pies with sweet potato topping

Ingredients (serves 4):
800g (1.8 lb) bolognaise sauce (or lamb ragu or beef and guinness stew or chilli con carne)
♦ 2 heaped cups (600g) reserved sweet potato mash
1 egg, whisked

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Divide bolognaise (or ragu, stew or chilli con carne) amongst four 5cm (2″) deep 1 cup capacity lightly-oiled ovenproof dishes or ramekens.
♦ Spread evenly with reserved sweet potato mash and roughen the surface with a fork.
You’ll need about half a cup of mash for each mini shepherd’s pie. Brush tops lightly with egg.
Place shepherd’s pies on a baking tray. Bake in oven for 20 minutes, or until tops are golden.
Serve with a green salad.

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!

The reel deal

[Recipe 1] PROPER FISH and CHIPS with HOME-MADE TARTARE SAUCE transforms into
[Recipe 2] LOLITA’S TORTILLA ESPAÑOLA (SPANISH POTATO TORTILLA)
……………..
Last week I visited one of my favourite Melbourne food suppliers. If you’re ever choofing down to the Mornington Peninsula, I highly recommend, in fact I insist, you visit the Hutchins Brothers fish merchants. Neville and Dalton Hutchins are 5th generation fishermen, who sell their fresh fish daily, right on Fisherman’s beach in Mornington. You’ll know they’re open for business if their red and yellow sign is out by the side of the road. Descend the steps to the beach, and you’ll spot their blue timber hut, erected in 1910 after the original hut was destroyed in a storm.
The brothers head out onto Port Phillip Bay every morning in their little boat, then sell the day’s catch. I can’t imagine you’d get fresher fish than that anywhere else in Melbourne! The day I visited they had garfish, flathead and Australian salmon on offer. Nothing is wasted as they also sell the fish heads for stock.
I picked up a load of flathead fillets and we cooked up some 
proper fish and chips with home-made tartare sauce. These chips rock. They’re crispy and golden and relatively healthy as they’re baked not fried. The polenta meal adds a nice crunch and gives the chips a faux deep-fried flavour. The home-made tartare sauce honestly takes minutes to make, and it’s a bit of a cheat’s recipe as I use store-bought mayo.
By par-boiling double the potatoes (see tips below), you can make a rather excellent Tortilla Española (Spanish potato tortilla) for dinner the next night. A tortilla is a fab way to use up leftover boiled potatoes. It’s super quick and easy to make and my boys hoover it up. The recipe is adapted from one by my Spanish neighbour, Lolita. Lolita and her family served up this tortilla at our annual neighbour’s Christmas party and it practically teleported me to Barcelona. The husband and I were in Spain years ago, and nothing brings back the memory clearer than a genuine tortilla. Enjoy.

Mornington fish merchantsHutchins Brothers fish merchantsFish with polenta crusted chips. One Equals Two

[Recipe 1] Proper fish and chips with home-made tartare sauce

Ingredients for fish (serves 4):
4 x 120g (4 oz) flathead (or other firm white fish) fillets
½ cup plain (all-purpose) flour for dusting
1 tablespoon olive oil for frying
Cheat’s tartare sauce, or store-bought tartare sauce, to serve
Fresh dill, for scattering
Ingredients for polenta crusted chips (note: you’ll be reserving ½ the cooked potatoes for the potato tortilla in Recipe 2):
2¼ kilos (5 lb) potatoes (about 12 large), peeled, cut into 2cm (¾”) thick wedges
½ cup peanut oil
2 tablespoons olive oil, mixed with 2 teaspoons lemon juice, for coating reserved potatoes
2 tablespoons fine polenta (cornmeal)
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons sea salt

Preheat oven to 220°C (425°F).
Place flathead fillets in a plastic bag with the flour. Seal the bag and shake gently to coat. Remove flathead fillets, shaking off excess flour. Refrigerate, covered, until required.
Place cut potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil, and simmer uncovered for 5–7 minutes, until just tender (be careful not to overcook them). Drain and return potatoes to the dry pan. Shake the pan over a medium heat to roughen and dry the potatoes. Place potatoes on a large plate lined with kitchen paper and allow to sit for 30 minutes.
♦ Reserve half the par-boiled potatoes, about 4 cups, for Lolita’s Spanish tortilla (recipe 2).
To prevent reserved potatoes from turning grey: add the olive oil and lemon juice mixture, and toss to coat well. Store cooked potatoes in the fridge for up to 2 days. Dry well with kitchen paper before using.

Place remaining par-boiled potatoes (for tonight’s chips) into a large bowl. Mix polenta, thyme and salt together and scatter over the potatoes. Toss to coat.
Place peanut oil into a large roasting pan, and heat in the hot oven for about 10 minutes – this is the trick for crispy oven-baked chips!
Very carefully remove the baking pan from the oven. Place potatoes into the hot oil with tongs, gently toss to coat, and return to the hot oven. Bake for 45–55 minutes, turning every 10–15 minutes, until golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper.
Meanwhile, heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and fry the flathead fillets for about 2 to 3 minutes each side, until light golden.
Serve the fish and chips with tartare sauce on the side, and a nice green salad.

  • Planned-overs (par-boiled potatoes), coated in olive oil and lemon juice (see above), can be refrigerated for up to 2 days in a tightly-sealed container.
  • The best potatoes for chips are russet burbank, spunta, sebago and bintke; as they’re floury varieties and have a low moisture content.
  • Peanut oil is best for chips due to its high smoke point (it can sustain high heat without smoking). Vegetable oil is a close second.

Potato tortilla. One Equals TwoSpanish potato tortilla. One Equals Two

[Recipe 2] Lolita’s Tortilla Española (Spanish potato tortilla)

Ingredients (serves 4–6):
1 cup olive oil (+ extra ½ cup if required)

1 large brown onion, peeled, halved and finely sliced
4 cups reserved par-boiled potato pieces, cut into 1½–2cm (½-¾”) cubes
8 large eggs*
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly-cracked black pepper

Heat 1 cup oil in a large heavy-based non-stick frying pan over a low heat.
Dry reserved par-boiled potato cubes with kitchen paper. Add to the frying pan with the onion, spreading out the pieces to cover the base of the pan. The potato cubes should be almost covered with oil – add the extra ½ cup oil if required.
Fry gently over a low heat confit-style, until softened, but not brown, about 20 minutes. Don’t prod the potatoes too much, just allow them to gently soften in the oil.
Drain potatoes with a large sieve. The oil can be reserved in a large glass jar for re-using next time (see these tips).
Add 1 tablespoon extra olive oil to the pan. Whisk the eggs, salt and pepper, and pour into the pan. Carefully add the potato and onion mixture. Stir gently with a wooden spoon and spread out the potatoes evenly.
Cook over a low heat for 8–10 minutes. Lift tortilla after 8 minutes – the bottom should be light golden brown, and the middle of the tortilla should be a little runny.
Place your largest dinner plate upside down over the frying pan, and invert the pan to catch the tortilla. This is a messy process, but it works well!
Heat a little more olive oil in the pan and slide the tortilla and any uncooked egg back into the pan, to cook the other side. Fry gently over a low heat for 4 minutes, until the bottom is golden brown and the tortilla is just cooked through.
Remove from the heat and allow tortilla to rest in the pan for 5 minutes. Turn out onto a board, slice and serve warm or at room temperature.

  • *I use a 28cm (11″) frying pan. For a smaller pan, 6 eggs will suffice, and less potato pieces.
  • Leftover tortilla is excellent for breakfast. Lightly re-heat the tortilla in a frying pan and serve thinly sliced with buttered toast, and bacon or grilled tomatoes.

Grain fed

[Recipe 1] SWEET POTATO, QUINOA and EDAMAME SALAD with MISO DRESSING transforms into 
[Recipe 2] SWEET POTATO, QUINOA and SALMON CAKES
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Happy Halloween folks! Are any of you doing anything special on the 31st? My boys are Trick or Treating this year, for the very first time, and they’re SO excited. We also decorated a batch of gumnuts and made little skeleton heads and spooky screaming spiders with pipe-cleaner legs. The elves are for the Christmas tree (love getting in early with Christmas decorating). Their little hats are the pointy bits from inside an egg carton, stuck on with our trusty hot glue gun.
Here’s an orange and black recipe to celebrate Halloween. We’re a bit obsessed with quinoa at the moment (like the rest of the world). My lovely gluten-intolerant brother-in-law looked after our boys one night last week, so I made him (and us!) this Sweet potato, quinoa and edamame salad with miso dressing. It’s a conglomeration of my Roasted pumpkin and mixed seed salad and Roast corn, quinoa and pea salad and it’s pretty damn yummy.
The sweet potato, edamame, black sesame seed combo is lovely – I often serve up that combination on sushi rice with grilled fish. We love edamame and they’re such a kid-friendly vegetable, with all that squeezing and popping.
The sweet potato, quinoa and salmon cakes, made with a planned-over portion of the salad, are devoured by my boys. This recipe is a great way to stretch out a small portion of salmon, which is expensive, and also not a very sustainable fish. I use egg rings to make perfect little circles, but feel free to make them without – they’ll just be more free-form and fritterish. I’ve used both methods, and they work equally well.
Footnote: Thanks EatSmart for featuring these recipes on your blog!

Halloween GumnutsQuinoa, sweet potato and edamame salad[Recipe 1] Sweet potato, quinoa and edamame salad with miso dressing

Ingredients (serves 4–6 for two meals, ie. salad serves 6, salmon cakes serve 4):
2 heaped tablespoons (45g) white miso paste
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 orange sweet potatoes (about 750g/1½ lb), peeled, cut into 2cm cubes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
800g (28 oz) frozen unshelled edamame, or 400g (14 oz/2 cups) frozen shelled edamame
2¼ cups (450g) white quinoa
3 cups coriander (cilantro), chopped, plus extra to serve
¼ cup black sesame seeds (or white, if unavailable), toasted
Miso dressing (for salad only):
2 heaped tablespoons (45g) white miso paste, extra
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons soy sauce (gluten-free or regular)
Small piece ginger, grated and chopped, about 1 tablespoon
1 tablespoon (15ml) water
1 tablespoon (15ml) rice wine vinegar

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Mix 2 heaped tablespoons miso paste and olive oil together to form a paste. Toss with the sweet potato in a large bowl, until well-coated. Place sweet potato onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Season. Roast for 20 minutes or until tender. Set aside.
If using unshelled edamame, squeeze the beans from their pods. Blanch shelled edamame in boiling water for 5 minutes. Drain and allow to cool. Add edamame to the roasted sweet potato.
Combine quinoa and 3 cups of water in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stand, covered, for ten minutes or until water has been absorbed. Spread quinoa out on a tray and set aside for ten minutes to dry. Add to the sweet potato and edamame, along with the coriander and sesame seeds.
♦ Reserve ⅓ of the undressed Sweet potato, quinoa and edamame salad (about 4 cups) for the Sweet potato and quinoa fritters.
Meanwhile, make miso dressing. Place dressing ingredients in a small saucepan and warm over a low heat, stirring, until miso and honey are dissolved (1–2 minutes). Set aside to cool. Drizzle dressing over the remaining salad, and toss gently. Scatter with extra sesame seeds and extra coriander.

  • Black sesame seeds are simply white sesame seeds, unhulled. They contain about 60% more calcium than hulled sesame seeds, and have a lovely strong, nutty flavour. They’re available at Asian food stores. If you can’t find them, they can be easily replaced with white sesame seeds. You can toast them yourself, or cheat and buy them pre-toasted.
  • White miso paste is available from Asian food stores.
  • Contrary to my heading, quinoa isn’t actually a grain, but a seed. It’s commonly referred to as a grain though – Coles even label their variety as ‘Organic white grain quinoa’. It’s gluten-free and is readily available from health food stores, and from the health section of large supermarkets.
  • Edamame are young soybeans, salted and boiled in their pods. They’re readily available from Asian food stores, and are usually sold frozen. As they’re already cooked, they need only be defrosted or lightly blanched before serving. They’re eaten by squeezing (or popping!) the soy beans out of the pods with your fingers. They’re very popular as bar snacks in Japan. *sigh*
    I always sigh when I mention Japan. *sigh*
  • You can prepare the salad one day ahead. Store the prepared quinoa and dressing in separate containers. Store the cooked sweet potato and podded edamame together. Prepare the coriander and assemble the salad close to serving time.
  • Undressed salad, reserved for the fritters, can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Quinoa sweet potato cakes[Recipe 2] Sweet potato, quinoa and salmon cakes

Ingredients (serves 4, makes 12–14 cakes):
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce
½ cup (75g) plain (all-purpose) flour (gluten-free or regular)

½ teaspoon salt
4 cups reserved undressed Sweet potato, quinoa and edamame salad
1 large salmon fillet (about 350g/12 oz), skinned and finely chopped
3 tablespoons finely chopped chives or spring onions (green part only)
4 tablespoons olive oil, for frying
Chilli mayo, to serve

Lightly whisk eggs and chilli sauce. Gradually add flour and salt and whisk to combine.
With a potato masher, roughly ‘crush’ the reserved undressed Sweet potato, quinoa and edamame salad. Break up the sweet potato chunks, as these help to bind the cakes.
Add the egg mixture, chopped salmon and chives (or spring onions), and mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate until required.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Place four oiled egg rings into the pan and fill each with about ½ cup fritter mixture. Flatten lightly with a spatula. Fry about 3 minutes, carefully remove the egg ring, and turn cakes over to cook the other side. Cakes should be golden and firm to touch.
You can also make free-form cakes without egg rings, by using ½ cup mixture for each fat little cake (approx. 8cm/3″ x 1.5cm/½” high). Don’t make them too thin or they won’t hold together.
Repeat with remaining mixture. Cakes can be served at room temperature or kept warm in a low oven until you’re ready to serve.
Serve quinoa cakes with a simple green salad and chilli mayo.

It’s about thyme

[Recipe 1] BARBECUED TUNA NIÇOISE SALAD transforms into
[Recipe 2] TOMATO and THYME SOUP
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Spring, my favourite Season, has sprung. Woohoo! We’ve been loving our slow-cooked meat dishes and stews but it’s time for salads and outdoor dining methinks. We dusted off the outside furniture and ate this meal in our tiny garden recently; admiring the almost-fluoro euphorbias, rejuvenated Boston ivy and show-offy leucadendrons (pictured). Lovely! The juicy tops have been lopped off almost all our plants by the possums though. Jeez, they’re lucky they’re cute…
Barbecued tuna niçoise salad is one of our favourite Spring treats, literally bursting with colour and flavour. It’s traditionally made with fresh tomatoes and raw red onion, but roasting them first intensifies the flavour and adds depth. It is so good, and I mean good as in virtuous. We call it ‘the big bowl of health’. It can be easily adjusted for kids – see my notes at the bottom of the recipe.
Recipe 2, Tomato and thyme soup is beautiful too. Thyme is the perfect piquant partner for roasted tomatoes. Instead of creating the soup from scratch, I roast extra tomatoes and onion when preparing the niçoise salad. It’s a cinch to whip up – throw in some stock and spices, give it a blend and voila! Both my boys love it and I feel like good mummy dishing this soup up instead of Campbells.
Have a lovely weekend.
Footnote: Thanks Nutritionist in the kitchen for featuring this salad as part of your ‘Fave Five Friday Healthy Tuna Recipes’ post!

Tuna nicoise salad[Recipe 1] Barbecued tuna niçoise salad

Ingredients (serves 4 for 2 meals):
3 tuna fillets (approx. 400g/14 oz total)
2 kilos (20 large) Roma tomatoes, halved
2 red (purple/Spanish) onions, unpeeled, halved
6 whole cloves garlic, unpeeled
1 tablespoon olive oil for brushing
Salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
8 chat (baby) potatoes
250g (9 oz) green beans, trimmed
4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled, quartered
12 kalamata olives, pitted, halved
100g (3.5 oz) baby spinach leaves
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
Niçoise Dressing:
½ cup egg mayonnaise
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 anchovies

Make the niçoise dressing by blending all ingredients until smooth. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Place tomatoes (cut side up), red onions (cut side down) and whole garlic cloves onto 1 or 2 trays lined with baking paper. Brush tomato halves with olive oil. Season well, and roast for 20 minutes. Remove garlic cloves and onion pieces. Return tomato halves to the oven and continue roasting for a further 30–35 minutes (tomatoes require about 50 minutes roasting time all up).
Remove 8 tomato halves and 2 red onion halves for the niçoise salad.
Reserve remaining tomato halves and pan juices (about 5 cups), remaining 2 red onion halves and all the roasted garlic cloves for the Tomato and thyme soup.
Simmer the whole chat potatoes until just tender, about 15 minutes. Lift potatoes out of the pot with a slotted spoon (don’t empty the water yet). Refresh potatoes under cold water, pat dry and slice thickly. Set aside.
Add beans to the pot of water and simmer for 3 minutes. Refresh beans under cold water and pat dry. Add beans to the potato slices.
Peel the 2 roasted red onion halves and finely slice.
Divide potatoes, beans, roasted tomato halves, roasted red onion, eggs, olives and baby spinach leaves amongst four serving plates.
Barbecue, char-grill (char-broil) or pan-fry the tuna pieces until medium rare, about 3 minutes each side. Flake the tuna and arrange over the salad.
Drizzle with niçoise dressing and scatter with salt and pepper. Serve with crusty bread.

  • Where possible, I choose Australian-caught Skipjack tuna, which is a much more sustainable option than Yellowfin. Skipjack also has lower mercury levels than Yellowfin. Fresh tuna can be replaced with 1 x 425g (14 oz) can tuna in olive oil, drained and flaked.
  • Fussy kid tip: I make a kid’s version of niçoise salad for my boys with tuna, potato slices, quartered eggs, chopped avocado, a few thin sticks of carrot and a decorative drizzle of kewpie mayonnaise. The unused kid’s portion of roasted tomatoes and onions can be added to the soup – no need to adjust the stock. The unused kid’s portion of green beans and spinach leaves can be tossed into a salad for lunch the next day. I often buy half a roast chook to chop up for our lunch. If I have leftover cooked or roasted veggies in the fridge, I make a chicken and veggie salad for the husband and I; while the boys tuck into chicken and avocado sangas.
  • Baby tip: Purée de-seeded roasted tomatoes, potatoes and tuna, so baby can join in on the feast. For older babies (over 12 months), you can serve up a rough, finely chopped ‘mash salad’ of egg, potato and tuna.
  • Use leftover anchovies (from the dressing) to make Puttanesca pasta!
  • Planned-overs (roast veggies) can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.

[Recipe 2] Tomato and thyme soup

Ingredients (serves 4–6):
2 reserved red onion halves, peeled and chopped

6 reserved roasted garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
5 cups reserved roasted Roma tomato halves (including pan juices)
1 litre (4 cups) vegetable stock
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves, plus extra to serve
½ teaspoon harissa (North African chilli paste) or ¼ teaspoon chilli powder (optional)
1 teaspoon sugar (if necessary – see notes in recipe)

Place reserved chopped roasted onions, chopped roasted garlic cloves and roasted tomatoes in a large saucepan.
Add thyme leaves and stock. Bring to the boil. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.
Blend until smooth. I don’t bother straining the soup and discarding the seeds, but feel free to do so!
If your tomatoes aren’t particularly sweet, add the teaspoon of sugar to counter the acidity. Return soup to the pot and warm gently. Serve, scattered with thyme leaves.

  • Tomato and thyme soup can be frozen for up to 3 months.

The monster mash

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

……………..
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 veggies, 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 veggies 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.
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 veggies. You can use any combination of veggies, 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, softened
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
18 large dark chocolate chips

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. Add salt and oats and stir to combine. Fold this into the wet mixture, 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 a chocolate chip into the top of each muffin.
Bake for 20–23 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.

  • 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 veggies

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.

  • 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 breadcrumb mixture on top just prior to baking. Leftovers are fab to take to work.

Sufferin’ succotash

TNT candles[Recipe 1] WRAPS with CRUMBED WHITING and SUCCOTASH transforms into
[Recipe 2] CHICKEN SUCCOTASH SOUP
……………..
Our boys love vintage Warner Bros cartoons, particularly The Road Runner Show, which is often a source of inspiration for kooky craft activities such as trap-making; and cardboard creations like these candles my 7 year old made to adorn the Christmas table last year.
Sylvester and Tweety are much-loved too, so for a long time we’ve wanted to try Sufferin’ Succotash. We’re a corn-lovin’ family, and corn is in fact one of only four vegetables the 4-year old will eat without whining.
My recipe is based loosely on one found at epicurious.com which features cherry tomatoes, and is more like a cooked salsa. Most of the other succotash recipes I came across contained – yoikes – slabs of butter and cream. I omitted the bacon, serving it up instead in wraps with crumbed whiting fillets. Yummmmm. This one is a keeper.
The wraps with crumbed whiting and succotash lead to a beautiful (even if I do say so myself) soup we enjoyed later in the week. I made a large batch of the succotash, and reserved half. Whipped it out of the fridge on a work-night, fried up some chopped chook thigh fillets, threw in some stock, and made a delicious Chicken succotash soup in 20 minutes, including prep time. Check out the orange diamonds in the recipe for hints on how much succotash to set aside for the soup.
The Tapatío hot sauce in the first photo is from the fabulous Oasis Bakery, which is worth the drive although it’s a money vacuum. I’ve been there many times, planning to pick up one or two items; and returning home with bulging bags of goodies. Why oh why do they place those honeyed Lebanese doughnuts right next to the cash register?

Wraps with crumbed whiting and succotash

[Recipe 1] Wraps with crumbed whiting and succotash

Ingredients for crumbed whiting (serves 4):
500g (1 lb) King George Whiting (or other firm white fish) fillets
½ cup plain (all-purpose) flour for dusting
2 eggs, beaten
1½ cups fresh or dry breadcrumbs
Olive oil for shallow frying
Mountain bread wraps, tortillas or home-made flatbread, to serve
Ingredients for succotash (serves 4 for 2 meals):
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
600g (3 punnets/4 cups/21 oz) cherry or perino tomatoes, halved
5 cups fresh, cooked, corn kernels (cut from 8 cobs/ears, boiled for 8 minutes)
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3 x 400g (15 oz) cans butter beans (lima beans), rinsed, drained (or 4 cups cooked beans)
½ cup fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Dust whiting fillets in flour. Dip into beaten eggs, then coat in breadcrumbs. Refrigerate, covered, until required.
Heat oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 4–5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add tomatoes and corn, and cook, stirring, until tomatoes just begin to lose their shape. Remove saucepan from heat and gently stir in lemon juice and beans.
Allow succotash to cool to room temperature and stir in coriander.
Season to taste.
Reserve half the succotash, about 5½ cups (1.2kg), for the Chicken succotash soup. Drain off any juices into this reserved succotash too.
Meanwhile, heat oil and shallow-fry the crumbed whiting fillets in batches for about 2–3 minutes each side, until light golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper.
Serve each wrap or flatbread with one or two whiting fillets and a good mound of succotash. Roll to enclose, and serve immediately.

Chicken succotash soup

[Recipe 2] Chicken succotash soup

Ingredients (serves 4–6):
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 skinless chicken thigh fillets (250g/½ lb), chopped
5½–6 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
5½ cups (1.2kg) reserved succotash
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh chopped parsley, coriander (cilantro) or basil to serve

Heat olive oil a medium-sized saucepan, and gently fry the chicken for 6–8 minutes, until just cooked through. Add chicken stock and bay leaf.
Add reserved succotash.
Bring to the boil. Turn down heat and simmer for 15–20 minutes. Discard bay leaf.
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. Season.
Ladle chicken succotash soup into bowls, scatter with parsley, and serve with crusty bread.

Fussy kid tip: My 4-year old was very happy to eat the wraps with fish, sliced avocado, grated carrot and plain cooked corn kernels. He LOVED the chicken succotash soup, but I needed to give his portion a few more whizzes with the stick blender, so it resembled baby food, his favourite soup consistency.

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! Fresh basil is a must. So pleased my potted basil is valiantly hanging in there, through this crappy weather!
I like to simmer everything first, then give it a good whizz to disguise all the hidden veggies. Adding canned tomatoes right at the end of the process adds texture and prevents your sauce looking like puréed baby food.
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. Enjoy.

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, peeled, grated
1 medium sweet potato, peeled, grated
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 puree)
2 x 400g (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes
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, 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. 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.

Dill-icious

[Recipe 1] FLATHEAD FILLETS with CANNELLINI MASH and DILL GREMOLATA
transforms into

[Recipe 2] PANKO-CRUMBED SALMON CAKES
……………..
How was your weekend? Mine was ace. My sister and I celebrated my mum’s 70th with an overnight stay in Bendigo, so we could see the Grace Kelly exhibition at Bendigo Art Gallery. Mum was a young girl in Holland when Grace married Prince Rainier, and kept a scrapbook full of pictures of Her Serene Highness. The exhibition was gorgeous. If you have a free weekend before June 17th, I highly recommend it. Grace’s late 60s and 70s frocks by Mark Bohan (for Christian Dior) were works of art. One in particular had such a towering head-piece it necessitated Grace sitting on the floor of a van to be transported to her soiree! Loved spending quality time with my mum and step-dad; and with my sister too, without four little boys under-foot (my sis also has two sons). We actually managed to conduct more than one uninterrupted, meaningful conversation. Amazing! Now for some dinner…
These two recipes are a fab way to have your recommended two fish meals a week. First up is Flathead fillets with cannellini mash and dill gremolata. Adding cannellini beans to potato mash makes for a lovely creamy mash; high in fibre, protein and B Vitamins. It’s an ace way to add legumes to your diet. Set aside a couple of cups of the mash and some dill gremolata (see orange diamonds for exact quantities to reserve); and you can make scrumptious Panko-crumbed salmon cakes later in the week. Have a most excellent Easter or Passover folks.

Flathead fillets with cannellini bean mash and dill gremolata

[Recipe 1] Flathead fillets with cannellini mash and dill gremolata

4 x 120g (4 oz) flathead (or other firm white fish) fillets
½ cup plain (all-purpose) flour for dusting
1 tablespoon olive oil for frying
DILL GREMOLATA
1 tablespoon lemon zest, chopped
½ cup chopped parsley
¼ cup chopped dill
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
CANNELLINI MASH
1¼ kilos (2½ lb) peeled, chopped, mashing potatoes (see suggestions below recipe)
1 garlic clove extra, crushed
1 tablespoon (15g/½ oz) butter, chopped
½ cup (125ml) milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 x 400g (15 oz) cans cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained, rinsed
2 tablespoons olive oil, extra

Place flathead fillets in a plastic bag with the flour. Seal the bag with your hand, and shake gently to coat. Remove flathead fillets, shaking off excess flour. Refrigerate, covered, until required.
Make the dill gremolata by combining the lemon zest, parsley, dill and 2 cloves garlic.
Reserve 4 tablespoons dill gremolata for the panko-crumbed salmon cakes.
Set aside the remainder.
Place potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil, and simmer for about 15 minutes, until soft. Drain and return potatoes to pan. Add the extra garlic, butter, milk, salt and pepper to the potatoes and mash well.
Blend beans and olive oil with a stick blender (or food processor) until smooth. Stir the pureed beans through the potato mash. Cover the saucepan and set aside.
Reserve 2½ cups cannellini mash (about 625g) for the panko-crumbed salmon cakes.
Heat oil and pan-fry the flathead fillets for about 2 to 3 minutes each side, until light golden.
Reheat tonight’s cannellini mash in the saucepan, on a low heat, adding a dash of extra milk if required.
Place a mound of warm cannellini mash on each plate. Top with flathead fillets and scatter with dill gremolata. Serve with steamed broccollini or asparagus; and wedges of lemon.

  • Planned-overs (reserved mash and dill gremolata) can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge and should be used within two days.
  • Perfect mashing potatoes include desiree, sebago, spunta, marilyn, dutch cream, idaho and coliban.  
  • You can use any firm-fleshed white fish for this dish – try whiting or bream (both are sustainable, as is flathead).

Panko-crumbed salmon cakes

[Recipe 2] Panko-crumbed salmon cakes

2 x 180g (6 oz) cans boneless salmon (pink or red), drained, flaked
♦ 2½ cups (about 625g) reserved cannellini mash
4 tablespoons reserved dill gremolata
1 carrot, grated (on fine zester holes)
¾ cup dry breadcrumbs
½ cup plain (all-purpose) flour for dusting
2 large eggs, beaten
1½ cups panko crumbs
Olive oil for shallow frying

Combine the reserved cannellini mash and reserved dill gremolata in a large bowl.
Add salmon, carrot and dry breadcrumbs. Mix well. Divide and shape mixture into 10 cakes.
Dust cakes in flour, shaking off the excess. Dip into egg and coat well with the panko crumbs.
Refrigerate cakes for at least 30 minutes. Fry in two batches in hot shallow oil until crisp and golden, about 4–5 minutes each side. Drain on kitchen paper.
Serve hot with crusty bread, a simple green salad (or Asian herb and mixed leaf salad), tartare sauce (store-bought or home-made) and lemon wedges.
Makes 10

  • Panko are Japanese bread crumbs. They’re lighter and crispier than Western bread crumbs and are available in Asian grocers and many supermarkets. Replace with cornflake crumbs or dry breadcrumbs if unavailable.
  • Leftover salmon cakes are excellent in lunchboxes. I occasionally make a few tiny ones just for this purpose.
  • FUSSY CHILD TIP: I make smaller fish cakes for the kids, served in little dinner rolls with mayo. You can omit the dill gremolata from small children’s salmon cakes and add plain chopped parsley instead.

Life is a crabaret

[Recipe 1] UDON NOODLE, SPINACH and SESAME SALAD transforms into
[Recipe 2] CRAB FRITTERS with CUCUMBER SALAD
……………..

Udon noodle, spinach and sesame salad
is one of our favourite light Summer dinners. The boys love slurping up the slippery noodles – my 4-year old describes this act as ‘food rushing into my face’. So cute. Chopsticks and a large jug of iced green tea (or iced brown Heineken) are the only table accoutrements you’ll need.
Reserve the specified portion of noodles and spinach, and some of the ponzu dressing, as planned-overs (see the orange diamonds within the recipe); and you can create fab Crab fritters with cucumber salad later in the week. These fritters are adored by my boys, especially when I refer to them as ‘crabby patties’ (if you’re a Spongebob fan – and who isn’t – you’ll know what I mean).

Udon noodle and sesame salad

[Recipe 1] Udon noodle, spinach and sesame salad

Ingredients (serves 4 for 2 meals):
540g (just over 1 lb – the nearest pack size will be fine) dried udon noodles
150g (5 oz) baby spinach leaves, chopped
1 small continental cucumber, cut into spears
1 avocado, sliced
2 x 125g (4 oz) cans tuna slices in oil, drained (or 2 x 185g/6 oz cans tuna chunks in olive oil, drained, flaked)
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
Pink pickled ginger, chopped, to serve
Ponzu dressing (note: you’ll be reserving 3 tbs for the cucumber salad in recipe 2):
100ml (3½ fl oz) Japanese rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons (30ml) soy sauce
1 tablespoon (15ml) lime juice
1 teaspoon brown sugar

Cook noodles in boiling water until tender (about ten minutes, or according to packet instructions). Add spinach to saucepan in last three minutes of boiling time. Drain. Refresh under cold water. Drain again.
Reserve 2 cups (about 375g/¾ lb) cooked noodles and spinach for the crab fritters.
Meanwhile, make ponzu dressing. Place all ingredients in a screw-top jar and shake until combined.
Reserve 3 tablespoons (45ml) ponzu dressing for the cucumber salad
.
Place remaining noodles and spinach (about 1 kilo/2 lb) in a large bowl. Add remaining ponzu dressing and toss gently.
Divide noodles between four bowls. Arrange cucumber spears, avocado and tuna slices on top. Scatter with toasted sesame seeds and pickled ginger.

  • Refrigerate and use Recipe 1 planned-overs within 3 days.
  • You can easily vary the udon noodle salad toppings, although the toasted sesame seeds are a must! Lightly steamed asparagus is a lovely addition, as is leftover roasted sweet potato. I often replace the canned tuna slices with char-grilled (charbroiled) fresh tuna or salmon.
  • Japanese rice wine vinegar and pickled ginger are readily available from large Supermarkets and Asian food stores.
  • You can toast your own sesame seeds, or cheat and buy them pre-roasted from Asian food stores.

Udon noodle crab cakes

[Recipe 2] Crab fritters with cucumber salad

Ingredients (serves 4):
3 eggs
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce
♦ 2 cups (about 375g/¾ lb) reserved cooked noodles and spinach, roughly chopped

1 cup dried breadcrumbs
2 x 170g (6 oz) cans crab meat, well drained (or 250g/½ lb fresh crab meat, chopped)
3 spring onions, green ends only, chopped
½ cup chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves
¼ cup peanut oil for shallow frying
Chilli mayo, to serve

Cucumber salad:
1 continental cucumber, very finely sliced
¼ teaspoon dried chilli flakes
¼ cup chopped coriander (coriander) leaves, extra

♦ 3 tablespoons (45ml) reserved ponzu dressing

Whisk eggs, fish sauce and chilli sauce together in a large bowl.
Add reserved cooked noodles and spinach
. Stir in breadcrumbs, crab meat, spring onions and coriander. Shape mixture into 10–12 fritters. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, if time permits.
Fry crab fritters in two batches in hot shallow oil, for 2–3 minutes each side, until golden. Drain on kitchen paper.
Meanwhile, make the salad by placing cucumber, chilli flakes and extra coriander in a bowl.
Add reserved ponzu dressing. Toss to combine.
Serve crab fritters with chilli mayo and cucumber salad.

  • Crab fritters are best eaten immediately.
  • Chilli mayo is super easy to make and goes beautifully with these crab fritters. My 7-year old prepares this, while I’m preparing the fritters.
  • Peanut oil is best for shallow and deep frying, because of its high smoke point (the ability to sustain high heat without smoking); however you can also use vegetable oil.
  • My boys love their crab fritters in soft round rolls with lettuce, thinly sliced avocado and chilli mayo.