Remains of the day

[Recipe 1] TWO ROAST CHICKENS with HERBED VEGGIES
[Recipe 2] NASI GORENG (Indonesian fried rice) with leftover roast chicken

Excuse my OTT enthusing but these two meals are massive box tickers. Cheap? Yep! Easy? Yep! Tasty? Yep! Kid-friendly? Yeppity yep!
First up is classic roast chicken. Roasting your own chook is an absolute cinch, and it takes no extra time to cook two; allowing for planned-overs to use during the week. Feel free to brush the chickens with olive oil, but I’m from the Margaret Fulton school of cookery and prefer lashings of butter.
One of the best ways to use leftover chicken is in Nasi Goreng. I’m a Dutchie (born in Amersfoort) and have always loved Dutch-Indonesian meals such as bami and loempia. Nasi Goreng was our family favourite though, cooked up in an electric frying pan with deep-fried prawn crackers for scooping. My dad always added the traditional dollop of fiery sambal oelak, but nowadays I prefer a good squirt of sriracha. My parents’ secret ingredient was Conimex Nasi Goreng spice mix, made in the Netherlands and still available today. I’m not a huge fan of packaged spice mixes though and this one contains nasty palm oil and MSG. The spice paste recipe below is my copycat version!
Roasted belachan (dried shrimp paste) is essential for a proper Nasi Goreng. It smells like a dead animal, but adds the most pungent salty kick to fried rice. It’s readily available in Asian food stores, and large supermarkets including Woolworths in Australia.
Eet smakelijk
(enjoy your meal)!

Two roast chickens and herbed veggies. One Equals Two.Roast chicken and herbed veggies. One Equals Two.[Recipe 1] Two roast chickens with herbed veggies

Ingredients (serves 4 people for 2 meals):
2 free range chickens, 1.75 kilos (3.8 lb) each, rinsed and dried with kitchen paper
60 grams (2 oz/½ stick) butter, melted
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 small limes
6–8 chat potatoes, peeled, halved
2 large red (purple/Spanish) onions, peeled and quartered
4 small–medium carrots, peeled, cut into thirds
1 red capsicum (bell pepper), de-seeded, cut into eighths
2 zucchinis (courgettes), trimmed, halved lengthwise and crosswise
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme and/or rosemary, as preferred
Steamed green beans, to serve

Preheat oven to 190°C (370ºF).
Bring chickens to room temperature for half an hour, while you prepare the veggies.
Place the chickens on a rack in a large roasting pan. I use a cookie rack over a large, deep tray that came with my oven, but two smaller pans side by side will suffice.
Remove and discard any white blobby fat and large loose pieces of skin from around the chicken cavities. Brush the chickens all over with butter and season well with salt and pepper. Place a whole lime into each cavity, tie the drumsticks together with butchers twine and turn chickens breast-side down (ie. legs down, wings up).

Arrange the potato pieces around the chickens and drizzle with remaining butter.
Roasting stage 1 (50 mins): Roast for 50 minutes, tossing and basting the potatoes with the chicken juices after 25 minutes (or drizzle with a little olive oil if your chickens haven’t produced enough juice yet).
Roasting stage 2 (40 mins): Carefully remove tray from oven and turn the chickens breast-side up. Add onion, carrots, capsicum and zucchini to the pan. Baste chicken and vegetables with pan juices; and scatter veggies with herbs, salt and pepper. Return pan to the oven and roast for a further 40 minutes, gently tossing the vegetables after 20 minutes; until the chickens are golden brown, and juices run clear when the thick part of a thigh is pierced with a skewer. If juices run pink, return to the oven for a further ten minutes and test again.

Total cooking time is 1½ hours (see notes below).
Allow chickens to rest on a board, lightly covered with foil, for ten minutes.
Remove and discard limes. Cut one chicken into quarters and serve immediately, with roasted veggies and steamed green beans.
♦ After dinner, strip off and discard the skin from the remaining chicken, and remove all the meat. Chop or slice the meat and store in a container in the fridge for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.

  • Roasting time will vary depending on the weight of the chicken. Cook for 25 minutes per 500g (1 lb).
  • 1 x 1.75 kilo chicken yields approx 4 cups chopped chicken meat – you’ll need 2 cups meat for Recipe 2.
  • Leftover roast chicken is fantastic stirred through Vietnamese style coleslaw. Use this recipe, replacing the beef with sliced chicken. Remaining cabbage can be used in Recipe 2 (see below)!
  • Leftover roast veggies and chicken are delicious in toasties with pesto and Swiss cheese; or in wraps with caramelised red onion jam, cheddar and rocket (arugula).

Nasi Goreng with leftover roast chicken. One Equals Two.

[Recipe 2] Nasi Goreng (Indonesian fried rice)

Ingredients (serves 4, plus leftovers for lunch the next day):
2 cups uncooked basmati rice
2 tablespoons coconut oil (or peanut or vegetable oil if unavailable)
125g (4.5 oz) bacon, chopped
1 brown onion, finely diced
♦ 2 cups reserved roast chicken, chopped (see Recipe 1)
600g (1.3 lb) raw veggies (I use ¼ cabbage, shredded; 2 corn cobs, kernels removed; 2 carrots, grated; ¼ green capsicum, diced and ½ cup frozen peas, defrosted)
4 eggs
Cracked black pepper
To serve:
Lime wedges
Sriracha sauce
Pre-cooked prawn crackers (optional)
Nasi Goreng spice paste:
20g (.7 oz) roasted belachan (dried shrimp paste)
3 large garlic cloves, chopped
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup Kecap manis
2 teaspoons sesame oil
3 teaspoons dried ground cumin

Prepare Nasi Goreng spice paste by pounding belachan, garlic and salt with a mortar and pestle. Transfer to a small bowl and add other spice paste ingredients. Mix well. Refrigerate, covered, for up to 2 days until required.
Cook rice according to packet instructions, by boiling rather than absorption. Rinse with cold water, drain well and allow to cool completely, covered, in the fridge. Rice can be prepared up to 2 days in advance.
Heat oil in a large wok over a high heat, until just smoking. Add bacon and onion and stir-fry for 3 minutes.
Add prepared Nasi Goreng spice paste and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
Add prepared vegetables and stir-fry over a high heat for 2 minutes.
Add the cooked, cooled rice to the wok with the reserved roast chicken. Toss gently for 2-3 minutes, until warmed through and well-coated in spice paste.
Meanwhile, fry the eggs in a non-stick frying pan until cooked to your liking.
Divide the Nasi Goreng amongst four bowls; reserving any leftovers for lunch the following day. Top each serving with a fried egg and scatter with pepper. Serve with lime wedges, sriracha sauce and prawn crackers.

  • Sriracha sauce, pre-cooked prawn crackers (krupuk), roasted belachan (dried shrimp paste) and kecap manis (sweet Indonesian soy sauce) are all available at large supermarkets and Asian food stores. You can replace belachan with 2 teaspoons fish sauce if unavailable, but the overall flavour will be milder. 
  • Although my combination of veggies is recommended, particularly the cabbage, you can use other available vegetables to equal 600g (1.3 lb); including leek, celery, bean sprouts and mushrooms.
  • You can use leftover cooked cooled rice for this dish. 2 cups uncooked basmati rice yields about 6 cups of cooked rice. 
  • An ultra hot wok is imperative for perfect fried rice. If your wok is small and likely to be overloaded, you can cook the nasi goreng in two batches.
  • Leftover Nasi Goreng is excellent for lunch, reheated gently in a microwave. For a touch of freshness, scatter with chopped spring onions or sliced cucumber. You can also add a finely sliced omelette. My kids take warmed leftover Nasi Goreng in little thermoses to school (note: if your school has a nut-free policy, be sure to use coconut or vegetable oil for frying, rather than peanut oil).

A nice pair of buns

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Out of the box. 6 more bento ideas!

6 BENTO (LUNCHBOX) IDEAS
I just loooove Autumn in Melbourne. The weather is lovely and mild, yet it’s warm enough to enjoy salads and light bento dinners without everything wilting, ourselves included.
I guest posted over at Simple Provisions a couple of weeks ago, sharing one of our favourite meals for this time of year, Teriyaki Beef Donburi (photo below); thinly-sliced beef fillet, fresh asparagus and avocado on a bed of sticky sushi rice and black quinoa. A portion of the beef and rice is reserved as planned-overs for a batch of Teriyaki beef and asparagus sushi rolls. Have a look at the recipes (if you like!) and while you’re there have a meander around Amelia’s inspirational blog. She has impeccable foodie credentials, having worked for the queen (Martha!), she’s a beautiful writer and photographer, and she celebrates the art of simple yet joyful cooking with seasonal ingredients.
My featured Teriyaki beef and asparagus sushi rolls make a regular appearance in our school and work lunchboxes. That’s them below, along with a round-up of weekend lunches and light dinners we’ve enjoyed over the past few months, served up obento-style in segmented lunchboxes. All the recipes are on the blog (links provided).
I’m signing off this post with a pic of my boys and their buddies at the seaside after school; probably our last beach date for a while. Time to bring out the cardies!
PS. I often post lunch ideas such as these on the 1=2 Facebook page, and they don’t always make it to the blog, so do follow me there if you’d like to!
PS2. If you’d like even more lunch inspiration, check out my last obento post, with 6 more combinations, here. You should also go visit Anna the Red and her incredible Kyaraben (character bento) gallery, featuring Where the wild things are, Spirited away and Totoro.
PS3. ‘Obento’ or ‘bento’? Good question! The two Japanese words are interchangeable, although obento is the honorific term.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beach

Just falafs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Components for salad can be prepared a day ahead. Farro, chickpeas, red onion and parsley can be mixed together (remember to decant half this mixture and set aside for the falafel). Lemon dressing, tahini sauce and roasted eggplants should be stored in separate containers in the fridge. A couple of hours before serving the salad, stir through lemon dressing and arrange eggplant chunks and halved tomatoes on top. Drizzle tahini sauce and scatter extra parsley over the salad at the table.
  • 250g (9 oz) dried chickpeas (garbanzos) yields approximately 3 cups cooked chickpeas. You can replace the cooked chickpeas in this recipe with 2 x 400g (15 oz) cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed.
    Note: 1 x 400g (15 oz) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained, yields 1½ cups cooked chickpeas.
  • Cracked farro is available in specialty food stores, Mediterranean grocers and health food stores. In Australia, it can be purchased online from Mount Zero and Oasis. If unavailable, replace with pearled farro and increase cooking time to 30 minutes.
  • Reserved undressed chickpeas, farro, red onion and parsley (for falafel) can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  • Leftover salad is great for lunch!

Falafel with farro and chickpeas

[Recipe 2] Falafel with farro and chickpeas

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

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

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

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

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

A fruitful venture

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

May I suggest an excellent Christmas gift idea, perhaps for your parents or in-laws? A food tour! The CAE has a fab list of culinary walks and tours, and I can’t wait to head off on a mushroom hunting expedition with my mum next year. The husband and I took my mother-in-law on a food tour of Sydney Road 12 years ago. It was surprisingly intriguing playing tourist on one of our favourite streets, and I learned the technique for making khoshaf from our guide.
Khoshaf is a traditional Middle Eastern dried fruit salad; made by soaking, rather than stewing, dried fruit in water overnight with fragrant rosewater and spices. I dished it up to my lovely lady friends for breakfast, on our recent holiday in Trentham. A country vacation is not complete without enamelware, and I was rapt to discover 2 classic enamel picnic plates among the unmatched crockery – see my first photo below.
I’m not a fan of overly sweet fruit for breakfast, so although authentic khoshaf includes sugar, I’ve found using a mixture of water and orange juice adds just enough sweetness. Khoshaf usually includes nuts too, but I omit these and serve the fruit with my honeyed nuts on the side instead. The plump fruit and crunchy nuts go beautifully with a dollop of Greek yogurt. Such a lip-smackingly healthy way to start the day!
I made another batch of khoshaf recently, determined to see if I could transform it into a second meal, and lo and behold it morphed into the most addictive Orange, mixed fruit and chia muffins. My boys loved these, and I’m both embarrassed and proud to say we ate the lot in one day. I’ve since made another batch, and placed them directly in the freezer.
I used my own go-to muffin recipe as the base. The 1½ cups of reserved dried fruit salad can be replaced with almost any fruit – see ingredients for my banana, coconut and lime muffins and carrot and sultana spice muffins in the recipe notes. I must say dried fruit salad is one of my most favourite muffin additions to date, and I may go and snaffle one from the freezer right now.

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

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

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

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

  • Dried fruit salad will keep in the fridge for up to one week. Add a little more boiling water if it begins to need more liquid.
  • You can use any dried fruit for this dish; such as figs, medjool dates, pears or large raisins. This recipe is a great way to use up all those bits and pieces languishing in your pantry. You’ll need a total of 500g (approx. 1 lb).
  • If the idea of dried apricots marinating in a pool of sulphites isn’t appealing, you can use organic apricots – the colour won’t be as vivid but the flavour will be just as fabulous.
  • Rose water can be found at Middle Eastern grocery stores, such as Oasis or A1 Bakery. If you have roses in your garden, you can make your own. Leftover pure rosewater can be used as a natural face toner!

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

[Recipe 2] Orange, mixed fruit and chia muffins

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

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

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Combine flour, oat bran, chia seeds and sugar in a large bowl.
Lightly whisk buttermilk, egg and melted butter in a separate bowl. Add to the dry ingredients and mix lightly until just combined.
Add reserved dried fruit salad, orange juice and zest and fold together gently until just combined (a few floury lumps are perfectly fine). Don’t over-mix, or you’ll end up with tough muffins! Divide mixture among 12 lined muffin pans.
Bake for 20 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of a muffin. Allow to cool in tray for ten minutes, then turn onto racks to cool completely.

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

Endless simmer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Corned beef and leek hash

[Recipe 2] Corned beef hash

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

♦ 800g (1¾ lb) reserved cooked potato pieces

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

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

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

Amazeballs!

NUT-FREE RAW CHOCOLATE ENERGY BALLS  
We’re in the middle of the School holidays and have had a blast so far – lots of crafting including tin can telephones and puppet-making, saw Monsters University (loved it, although it wasn’t a patch on Monsters Inc), playdates, a couple of scootering adventures, visited Scienceworks and Collingwood Children’s Farm, and we’re off to the zoo on Friday.
We’ve also been on a ball-making frenzy. Melbourne is awash with energy balls, with almost every cafe and health store around here pimping their own version. Jill Dupleix wrote a great article about them in Epicure recently. Her supplied recipe looks delicious, and was the inspiration for mine; but the biggest problem with all the energy ball recipes I’ve come across is that they contain nuts. My mission was to create some that could be used in the kid’s lunchboxes next week (their school has a nut-free policy).
My Nut-free raw chocolate energy balls are amazeballs! To be honest, like this post, they were part of a failed planned-overs experiment. My intention was to make cookies from a portion of the energy ball mixture but they just bloody well didn’t work! I really wanted to share the balls recipe though, as they’re so good. They come pretty close to truffles in texture, but they’re actually healthy. Lightly sweetened with honey, lots of dried fruit and seeds and, one of my favourite indulgences, pure organic cacao powder. If you’ve not used it before, you can buy it and check out all the health benefits here – you’ll never go back to ordinary cocoa powder again.
Both my boys gave these balls the thumbs up, as did the husband. Enjoy!
Footnote, April 2014: We’ve been experimenting with different ingredients for the past few months. A recent favourite has been ‘bliss logs’; a mixture of medjool dates, dried apricots, currants, coconut oil, good quality cocoa powder, rolled oats and a dash of maple syrup, rolled into coconut-covered logs (you can see them in my facebook post on April 2nd). Delish!

Nut-free chocolate energy ballsNut-free raw chocolate energy balls

Ingredients (makes 15 large energy balls):
100g (3½ oz) sunflower seeds

50g (1¾ oz) fine desiccated coconut
60g (2 oz) raw powdered cacao
60g (2 oz) organic coconut oil, melted
60g (2 oz) organic honey

85g (3 oz) craisins (dried sweetened cranberries)
5 medjool dates (100g/3½ oz), pitted and chopped
100g (3½ oz) pitted prunes, chopped
Approx. ¼ cup fine desiccated coconut, extra, for rolling

Process sunflower seeds until you have a fine meal. Add all other ingredients except the extra coconut and process until completely combined and smooth.
Refrigerate the mixture for about 15 minutes to make it easier to handle. Roll the refrigerated mixture into approx. 15 golf-ball sized balls and roll in the extra coconut. Refrigerate for at least one hour before eating. Yum!
[Recipe loosely adapted from Jill Dupleix]

  • Craisins can be replaced with dried goji berries, soaked for one hour in hot water and very well drained. You can also add chia seeds and/or sesame seeds.
  • Raw powdered cacao can be found at health food stores or online from Loving earth. Replace with good quality cocoa powder if unavailable.
  • Organic coconut oil is available from health food stores. It’s cold-pressed, and well worth the expense, being rich in short-medium chain fatty acids (these are good fatty acids, unlike long chain fatty acids) fibre, vitamins and minerals. You can read more about it here. Copha, the supermarket variety, is hydrogenated, refined and bleached. AWFUL!
  • Coconut oil can be melted by placing the required quantity in a bowl and sitting it in a sink of warm water until liquified.
  • Energy balls can be stored, covered, in the fridge for up to 2 weeks; or frozen for up to 3 months.

Just good friands

[Recipe 1] STEWED APPLE, RHUBARB and POMEGRANATE with CARAMELISED BUCKINIS transforms into
[Recipe 2] GLUTEN-FREE APPLE, RHUBARB and CHIA SEED FRIANDS
……………..

Happy Mother’s Day mamma readers. Are you doing anything special tomorrow? I’m looking forward to brekkie in bed and gifts from my son’s Mother’s Day stall at school (hoping for soap on a rope, just secretly).
This week I’m dishing up two pink recipes for Mother’s Day. First up is apple and rhubarb, stewed in pomegranate juice. The pomegranate juice adds a fab burst of pinkness and vitamins. Have also included instructions for seeding and juicing pomegranates. It’s pretty simple – slice them open, drop the chunks in water, furkle about for the seeds, and lightly blend them to extract the juice.
A friend gifted us a big bag of Loving Earth caramelised buckinis recently (thanks Danny!) which we sprinkled on top of the stewed fruit. They’re light and crispy, and absolutely delicious. Shhhh, they’re actually activated too, but I don’t want to risk saying that word out loud after the aftermath of the infamous Pete Evans interview, which had me spluttering into my coffee.
Reserve a cup of the stewed apple and rhubarb and you can make beautiful (even if I do say so myself) Gluten free apple, rhubarb and chia seed friands, perfect for Mother’s Day morning tea.

PomegranateStewed apple and rhubarb[Recipe 1] Apple and rhubarb stewed in pomegranate juice

Ingredients (makes approx. 6 cups):
4 tablespoons brown sugar 
½ cup (125ml) pomegranate juice (from 2 pomegranates)
8 large green apples (1½ kilos/3 lb), peeled, sliced thickly into 1cm (half-inch) slices
1 bunch (4 fat stalks) rhubarb, chopped into 2½ cm (1″) pieces

1 lemon, finely zested (about 1 tablespoon)
Greek yogurt, to serve (or try Good Cook’s home-made yogurt)
Caramelised buckinis, for sprinkling

Place the sugar and pomegranate juice in a large saucepan. Add apple slices, rhubarb and lemon zest and simmer, covered, over a low heat until apples are just tender and still holding their shape; and rhubarb is starting to break down; about 8–10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Allow to cool.
Reserve 1 cup of the stewed apple and rhubarb for the Gluten-free apple, rhubarb and chia seed friands.
Serve the stewed apple and rhubarb with Greek yogurt, scattered with caramelised buckinis.

  • Poached apple and rhubarb will keep in the fridge, covered, for up to one week; or can be frozen for up to 2 months.
  • Poached apple and rhubarb, pureed smooth, is great for kid’s lunchboxes. Keep it in little containers in the freezer and defrost overnight in the fridge.
  • Caramelised buckinis are available from health food stores or online from Loving Earth. Replace with muesli if unavailable.
  • Rhubarb leaves are poisonous, so don’t give them to your rabbits or guinea pigs!

Apple rhubarb friands

[Recipe 2] Gluten-free apple, rhubarb and chia seed friands

Ingredients (makes 10):
1⅓ cups (160g) icing sugar (confectioners sugar)
½ cup (75g) buckwheat flour
1½ cups (180g) oven-roasted almond meal (ground almonds)
2 tablespoons chia seeds

5 egg whites, unbeaten
185 grams (2½ sticks) unsalted butter, melted
½ cup (60g) chopped walnuts

♦ 1 cup reserved stewed apple and rhubarb, large apple pieces roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Lightly oil a ten-cup capacity friand tin (or 10 petite loaf pans).
Sift icing sugar and flour into a large bowl. Add almond meal and chia seeds and stir until combined.
Add the unbeaten egg whites and melted butter and stir until well-combined. Fold through the walnuts and reserved stewed apple and rhubarb.
Spoon mixture into prepared friand tin and bake for 15–18 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of one.
Allow to cool in the tin for five minutes, then turn out and transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Sprinkle with extra icing sugar if desired.

  • Oven-roasted almond meal is a recent discovery of mine and it’s fabulous, so nutty and flavoursome. It is available at large supermarkets. Replace with traditional almond meal if unavailable.
  • You can replace the stewed apple and rhubarb with poached apple and feijoia for a change. 
  • Unlike muffins, friands will keep fresh and moist in a covered container for up to 3 days.
  • Egg whites are unbeaten for friands – don’t whisk them or the texture will change!

Oh bento! 6 lunchbox ideas.

Melbourne’s first week of Autumn (Fall) has been a stinker – it has been hovering around 35° (95°F), and that’s way higher than my optimal operating temperature of 25°.
It’s the perfect weather for outdoor dining though, and we especially love a good obento picnic. If you’re not familiar with the term, obento (or bento) is the Japanese word for food packed into a partitioned lunchbox. My boys adore bento meals, as they’re high on novelty, and easy to eat (and clean up). They’re also excellent to pack for school or work lunches.
Below are a few of our favourite combinations from the last few months. All the recipes are on the blog. Be warned though – I’m not a bento purist so they’re a bit of a cross-cultural mishmash.
BTW, you can find beautiful lacquered wooden bento boxes, but cheap and cheerful plastic ones are easier to transport. They’re available from the fabulous Daiso, or online from Biome or Little Bento.
PS. I often post lunch ideas such as these on the 1=2 Facebook page, and they don’t always make it to this blog, so do follow me there if you’d like to!

Bento box ideas 1–3Bento box ideas 4–6

OBENTO 1: Tsukune (Japanese teriyaki chicken meatballs)
⅓ quantity tsukune
Blanched asparagus spears, scattered with toasted white sesame seeds
Sushi rice (recipe below), scattered with toasted white sesame seeds
The linked tsukune recipe makes a huge serve of tsukune, about 60 balls in total, essentially three serves of 20 balls. You’ll need one serve (20 balls and ⅔ cup sticky glaze) for 4 bento boxes; approximately 6 tsukune balls per adult and 4 balls per child. I keep them frozen (with their sauce) and defrost overnight, for a super-quick mid-week dinner. Serve warm or at room temperature.

OBENTO 2: Sweet potato, quinoa and edamame salad with miso dressing
Sweet potato, quinoa and edamame salad with miso dressing
Pan-fried chicken tenderloins, scattered with toasted black sesame seeds
Pita bread, quartered
The linked salad recipe allows for planned-overs, which can be used for rather nice sweet potato, quinoa and salmon cakes.

OBENTO 3 (classic bento): Mixed rice sushi hand rolls
Mixed rice sushi hand rolls
Blanched edamame (salted soy beans)
Sliced tamagoyaki (Japanese omelette) – recipe below
My mixed rice sushi recipe makes 12 hand rolls plus planned-over rice for onigiri balls (these are great in bento boxes too, or for school lunch boxes). You can also make traditional white rice sushi, using my sushi rice recipe at the bottom of this post.

OBENTO 4: Pulled pork po’boys
Pork po’boys
Home-made BBQ sauce, or store-bought
Puréed apple or apple sauce
Apple slaw
The linked po’boy recipe is Part 2 of a post on slow-cooked pulled pork, which is also fabulous served with caramelised apples (see recipe).

OBENTO 5: Manoushe bi za’atar (mini Lebanese pizzas with za’atar)
Manoushe bi za’atar (Lebanese pizzas with za’atar), made into mini pizzas
Home-made kid-friendly hummus, or store-bought
Carrot and celery crudites
Use my manoushe recipe to make mini pizzas. Cut little rounds of pizza dough, about 7cm (2¾”) in diameter. A full quantity of wholemeal (wholewheat) pizza dough will yield about 40 mini pizzas (you can make a half serve if preferred). Bake at 220°C (425ºF) for 8–10 minutes. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn!

OBENTO 6: Poached chicken, avocado and asparagus salad
1 serve Poached chicken, avocado and asparagus salad
Steamed corn on the cob
Wholemeal dinner roll
You can 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!

RECIPES FOR SUSHI RICE and TAMAGOYAKI (JAPANESE OMELETTE)

Perfect sushi rice
2 cups Japanese white sushi rice, rinsed and drained 3 times
3 cups water
1 tablespoon caster sugar
½ teaspoon sea salt
4 tablespoons Japanese rice wine vinegar
Black or white sesame seeds, toasted, for sprinkling 

This method looks complicated, but once you’ve mastered it, it’s a cinch!
Place rice and water into a large saucepan with a tight fitting lid.
Bring to the boil. Stir, turn the heat right down, place a piece of foil over the top of the pot and replace the lid. Simmer for 12 minutes. Remove lid and foil, and remove from heat.
Place a clean dry tea towel over the top of the pot and replace the lid. Allow the pot to stand for about 10 minutes – the tea towel will absorb the excess moisture.
Meanwhile, make the rice seasoning liquid by combining sugar, sea salt and rice vinegar.
Place the cooked rice into a large non-metallic container and pour in seasoning liquid. Use a large wooden spoon or rice paddle to carefully ‘slice’ through the rice and distribute the seasoning liquid.
Spread the cooked rice out on a large tray or 2 large plates, and quickly cool it by fanning a plate above it. The rice should become lovely and glossy. Refrigerate for up to 10 hours. Bring to room temperature for about ½ an hour before serving. Scatter with toasted sesame seeds.

  • Draining and rinsing your sushi rice three times seems excessive, but it will prevent your rice from becoming gluggy.
  • Japanese rice wine vinegar is available from large supermarkets and Asian food stores.
  • You can toast the sesame seeds yourself, or cheat and buy them pre-toasted from Asian food stores.

Tamagoyaki (Japanese omelette)
3 eggs
1 teaspoon mirin
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon caster sugar

Tamagoyaki is a sweet rectangular-shaped omelette. Kids love it, and you can whip it up in minutes! It’s fabulous sliced up in nori handrolls too.
Whisk eggs, mirin, soy sauce and sugar together. Place the mixture into an oiled, non-stick frying pan. Cook until it’s half set. Fold in half with a spatula. Fold top down, and bottom up. Press down, and flip over. Lightly fry the other side. You can roll it up in a sushi mat, pressing hard, for an extra dense omelette; or slice it up as is.

Footnote: Thanks Greatist.com for featuring Obento #2 in your 34 Healthy and Eye-Catching Bento Box Lunch Ideas roundup; and Buzzfeed for sharing Obento #1 in your Mouthwatering lunches to take to work post!

Slowly does it

[Recipe 1] HUTSPOT met KLAPSTUK (DUTCH MASH with SLOW-COOKED BRISKET) transforms into
[Recipe 2] BEEF BRISKET SLIDERS with RUSSIAN POTATO SALAD

……………..
One of my fave childhood meals was Hutspot met Klapstuk, which translates literally as ‘hotch potch with slap piece’ (so charmingly Dutch)! Hutspot is a messy mash of potato, carrot and onion. It ain’t pretty (Google ‘hutspot photos’ and face the horror), but it is delicious! Both my Oma (grandma) in Holland and my mum made it often. Oma had a special electric heated contraption that would sit in the middle of the table, where she would place the hutspot, beef and gravy in serving pots so we could help ourselves.
Klapstuk actually refers to beef cut from the rib but I prefer brisket as it’s so juicy and flavoursome (I still refer to it as klapstuk though, because it’s just such an excellent word).
The brisket needs a long slow cook. Everything is bunged in the pot, so it’s a cinch to throw together, especially if you have a serve of my easy home-made BBQ sauce waiting in your freezer. This forms the flavour base for the stewing liquid – admittedly a little more Texas-style than traditional Dutch, but so tasty. The BBQ sauce freezes well and it makes a large quantity. It’s perfect for pulled pork too.
I like to cook the brisket the day before it’s required. By resting it in the fridge overnight, and removing the firm layer of fat the next morning, it can simply be re-heated when required. I recommend cooking it on a Sunday, so dinner for Monday and Wednesday is sorted.
Reserve half the cooked brisket as planned-overs, and you can whip up a batch of brisket sliders, stuffed with creamy Russian potato salad and sliced gherkins. Delicious! Yep, I’ve unashamedly leaped onto the slider craze. They’re so ace, and so kid-friendly; and I feel a bit like Cher in Moonstruck serving up mini food for dinner. Enjoy!

Slow-cooked brisket and Dutch mash[Recipe 1] Hutspot met klapstuk (Dutch mash with slow-cooked brisket)

Ingredients for the slow-cooked beef brisket (serves 4 for 2 meals):
1.75 kilo (3.8 lb) beef brisket
1 cup home-made BBQ sauce
1 cup beef stock
1 cup water
Ingredients for the Dutch mash (serves 4):
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
750g (1½ lb) brown onions (4 medium), peeled and finely chopped

1 kilo (2 lb) potatoes (4 large), peeled and chopped
500g (1 lb) carrots (6 medium), peeled and finely chopped into small pieces
500g (1 lb) orange sweet potato (1 large), peeled and chopped
Sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 150°C (300ºF).
Place beef into a small, close-fitting, ovenproof pot. You may need to cut the meat in half. Mix home-made BBQ sauce, stock and water together and pour over the beef until well-covered. Place into the pre-heated oven and bake, covered, for approximately 3 hours; until the beef is very tender. Turn the beef over once, half-way through the cooking process. Test to see whether beef is tender after 3 hours. It should be easy to break apart with tongs. If not, return to the oven for a further 30 minutes and check again.
Remove pot from the oven and set it on a board to cool slightly, for an hour. Place in the fridge overnight.
The next day, scrape the thin layer of fat from the top and discard. Remove the brisket from the pot and divide into two portions. Return one portion to the cooking pot for tonight’s dinner.
Reserve the other half of the cooked brisket (about 2 cups/500g/1 lb) and ½ cup of the cooking juices for the Beef brisket sliders with Russian potato salad.
For tonight’s dinner, place the pot with beef and juices on the stove top. Simmer over a low heat, covered, stirring often, for 20–30 minutes, until brisket has softened and is warmed through.
To make the Dutch mash (hutspot): heat the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 3 minutes. Add the potatoes, carrots and sweet potato. Cover with water and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Drain. Mash, until combined and lumpy (Dutch mash should be rustic and not too smooth). Season.
The mash can be re-warmed in its pot when the beef is ready to serve.
To serve, pile a mound of hutspot onto each serving plate. Make an indentation (‘kuiltje’) in the top of the Dutch mash, ladle some of the pan juices into the kuiltje and place lightly-shredded brisket on top with a splash more of the juices. If liked, you can blend the remaining pan juices with a stick blender, and pour into a gravy jug. Serve and enjoy.

  • Reserved slow-cooked brisket can be stored in the fridge, covered, for up to 3 days.
  • For 2 kilo (4 lb) of brisket, the cooking time should be increased to 3½ hours.

Beef brisket sliders with Russian salad

[Recipe 2] Beef brisket sliders with Russian salad

Ingredients (serves 4):
12 mini bread rolls
2 cups (500g/1 lb) reserved cooked beef brisket, shredded; + ½ cup pan juices
Russian potato salad, to serve
12 dill gherkins, halved (or 24 whole small cornichons)

Split the mini bread rolls lengthways.
♦ Lightly warm the reserved slow-cooked beef brisket. This can be done in the microwave. Drizzle with the reserved pan juices, cover with cling film (or a lid), and microwave on high for 1–2 minutes. Don’t make it too hot! Stuff the mini breadrolls with the warmed brisket. Top with Russian potato salad and sliced gherkins. Serve immediately.

  • Fussy kid tip: My 5-year old isn’t too keen on Russian salad so I serve his sliders with sliced avocado, grated carrot and tomato sauce (ketchup).
  • I buy my mini bread rolls from Breadtop.

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.

She’ll be apples

[Recipe 1] APPLE, LIME and COCONUT CAKE transforms into 
[Recipe 2] MINI APPLE and COCONUT BAKED DOUGHNUTS (DONUTS)
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The School holidays have come to an end and I’m back on the school lunch and kid ferrying treadmill. We didn’t get up to anything fancy, but there was quite a bit of bike-riding, crafting and baking. Took the boys to a Bruno Munari mask-making workshop at Rae Ganim’s fabulous store. Munari is one of my biggest design crushes. His incredible book Circus in the Mist is one of my most treasured possessions (you can scroll through it here), and his kid’s book ABC was well-thumbed when my sons were little.
My boys and their Munari-inspired masks are shown in photos 9 and 11, and below! In the first photo on the Ganim store website you can also catch a glimpse of the exhibition they hosted, Hot Potatoes, with 40 artist’s interpretations of Mr Potato Head. Just gorgeous! There are more great photos of the show on one of my favourite Melbourne blogs, handmadelife. Check out Beci Orpin’s cutie.
My boys love baking and this moist Apple, lime and coconut cake we made for morning tea on the School holidays was a winner. We’ve been making variations of this cake for years – it’s also fab made with pear. The sweet, buttery aroma that fills the house as you bake it is an added bonus, as is the batch of fab Mini apple and coconut baked doughnuts (donuts). When my boys were toddlers I was a purist-mum and fully-fledged member of the food police. Nary a grain of sugar passed their little lips. I’m still a carrot cake/muesli slice kind of gal, but now the boys are strapping lads, I say there’s nothing wrong with the occasional sugar-rolled doughnut, especially if it’s home-made and full of apple! These are delicious and much lower fat than regular doughnuts as they’re baked, not fried. We like to call them no-nuts.
The cake is best baked separately from the mini doughnuts. You can bake the cake first, but we usually cook the doughnuts first, and slice the apples for the cake while we’re waiting.
Enjoy the rest of the week folks.

Bruno Munari masksApple coconut and lime cake[Recipe 1] Apple, lime and coconut cake

185g (6 oz/1½ sticks) butter, softened
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup caster (superfine) sugar
3 eggs
2½ cups (375g) self-raising (self-rising) flour
¾ cup milk
¾ cup (70g) moist flaked coconut
3 peeled apples (any variety); 2 grated, 1 very thinly sliced
1 lime, zested and juiced 
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Beat butter, vanilla and sugar until light and creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well.
Add flour gradually, alternating with milk, and mix well with a wooden spoon. Stir in the coconut and two grated apples.
♦ Reserve 2¼ cups (approx. 550g) of the apple cake batter for the Mini apple and coconut baked doughnuts.
To the remaining 3 cups (750g batter), stir in the lime zest. Pour into a lined 23cm (10-inch) round springform cake tin. Don’t worry if it looks like a small amount of batter. It will puff up as it bakes.
Place thinly sliced apple on top, drizzle with lime juice and scatter with brown sugar.
Bake for 45 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack.

  • The apple, lime and coconut cake will keep well in a cake tin for up to 3 days. It can also be frozen for up to 3 months.

Baked apple coconut donuts

[Recipe 2] Mini apple and coconut baked doughnuts

2 tablespoons (30g/1 oz) butter, melted 
550g (about 2¼ cups) reserved apple cake batter

¼ cup caster sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Grease 2 x 12-cup mini muffin pans with the melted butter.
Fill 20 muffin pans with reserved apple cake batter.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of a doughnut.
Mix caster sugar and cinnamon together. Place hot cupcakes on a large plate. Scatter cinnamon sugar on top, and roll cupcakes around until well coated with cinnamon sugar.
Makes 20 mini doughnuts.

  • The mini apple and coconut baked doughnuts will keep well in a cake tin for up to 3 days. You’ll probably polish them off in one sitting though – we do! They can also be frozen for up to 3 months.

Rice rice baby

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

Home made sushi hand rolls

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

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

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

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

Onigiri rice balls

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

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

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

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

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
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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.

I beg your pudding

[Recipe 1] STICKY DATE PUDDING with TOASTED HAZELNUTS
transforms into

[Recipe 2] LITTLE LUMBERJACK CUPCAKES
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We’ve survived the first week of school holidays relatively unscathed. Gawd, the weather has been revolting, so there has been a lot of crafting and indoor fun and games; including Lego, Lego and Lego. Oh, and fort-making – my 5-year old received the most beautiful hand-made fort kit for his birthday last weekend (thanks Lauren)! We also saw Brave (loved it) and the boys (and me, just secretly) were riveted by episodes of Lassie on DVD. Did I mention we also played with Lego?
Winter brings out the baker in me, and warm desserts feature heavily on our menu. A good old Sticky date pudding is one of our favourite Sunday night desserts. We especially love ours topped with toasted hazelnuts. The bonus with this recipe is that you’ll also end up with a batch of yummo coconut-topped Little lumberjack cupcakes. They freeze well and are perfect for school and work lunchboxes. We scoffed the pudding in one sitting recently, and relinquished the batch of cupcakes to our school cake sale – they’re perfect for a baked goods stall as they remain lovely and moist for a couple of days.
Like my Banana honey cake, these two recipes are a little different to the usual 1=2 meals as they can be cooked together. If you can’t fit the pudding and cupcakes side by side in your oven though, place the cupcakes on the middle shelf, and the pudding below. When you remove the cupcakes after 20–25 minutes, move the pudding up a shelf and continue baking. If your oven is not good at sharing though, you can bake the pudding first while you prepare the cupcakes.

Sticky date pudding

[Recipe 1] Sticky date pudding with toasted hazelnuts

Ingredients (makes pudding to serve 6, plus 12 cupcakes):
400g (14 oz) pitted dates, chopped
1 cup (250ml) boiling water
125 grams (4 oz/1 stick) butter, softened
1¼ cups firmly packed (250g) brown sugar
4 eggs
350g (2⅓ cups) self-raising (self-rising) flour
100g (3½ oz) hazelnuts, roasted and skinned, roughly chopped, to serve
Sticky toffee sauce:
¾ cup firmly packed (150g) brown sugar, extra
150ml (5 fl oz) cream (I use light cooking cream)
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon (15g/½ oz) butter, extra

Soak dates in boiling water for at least 30 minutes, pushing them down well so they soak up all the water.
Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well before adding the next. Fold in flour until well incorporated, then stir in the soaked dates.
Reserve half the batter (3 cups/ 750g) for the little lumberjack cupcakes.
Spoon remaining mixture into a lined 20cm (8-inch) square cake tin.
Bake for 30 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle.
The Little lumberjack cupcakes can be cooked at the same time (see recipe 2).
Meanwhile, make the sticky toffee sauce. Place additional brown sugar, cream, vanilla and butter in a small heavy-based saucepan and cook over a medium heat, stirring, until sauce comes to the boil. Remove from heat.
Cut pudding into chunky squares to serve, scattered with toasted hazelnuts. Pour warm sticky toffee sauce over each and add a scoop of vanilla ice cream if desired.

  • The pudding, sauce and toasted hazelnuts will keep for 3 days in airtight containers in the fridge. They also freeze really well in separate containers, for up to 3 months. Warm the pudding and sauce, covered, in the microwave before serving.

Little lumberjack cupcakes

[Recipe 2] Little lumberjack cupcakes

3 cups (750g) reserved sticky date pudding batter [see recipe 1]
1 green apple, peeled and grated
½ cup (45g) shredded coconut
Extra shredded coconut for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Put reserved sticky date pudding batter into a large bowl.
Fold in apple and coconut.
Divide mixture among 12 lined muffin pans. Use waxed muffin cases; or for a café look, line the holes with hand-cut squares of baking paper. Sprinkle with extra shredded coconut.
Bake for 20–25 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of a cupcake.
The cupcakes can be cooked at the same time as the sticky date pudding (see recipe 1), side by side. Simply remove the cupcakes from the oven after 20–25 minutes (as quickly as possible so the oven doesn’t lose too much heat); and continue cooking the pudding for a further 10–15 minutes. See extra cooking hints in my post introduction.

  • Apple can be swapped for firm or just-ripe pear.
  • Choco-date muffins are also delicious – my boys love them. Replace the apple and coconut with ¼ cup sifted cocoa powder and ½ cup dark chocolate chips. Add 2 tablespoons milk.
  • The cupcakes will keep for 3 days in an airtight container in the fridge. They can also be frozen, with baking paper between the layers, for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight.

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.

Honey, I shrank the burgers

[Recipe 1] SCOTCH EGGS transform into
[Recipe 2] MINI BURGERS with HIDDEN VEGGIES
……………..
This week Scotch eggs morph into tiny Mini burgers. Scotch eggs have long featured on my ‘kooky UK meals to try’ list (along with Toad in the Hole, Spotted Dick and Bubble and Squeak), and a couple of months ago I gave them a burl. Delicious! As we’re coming up to Easter, I figured now was the perfect time to share them.
Scotch eggs are traditionally coated in sausage meat, but I just can’t bring myself to deep-fry a ball of sausage (easier to just rip my arteries out); so I use a mixture of beef and pork mince, which has more flavour, more iron and much less fat! I also throw in some mustard and onion for extra bite.
I’ve experimented with this recipe quite a bit, and although scotch eggs *can* be baked (lightly oiled at 200°C/390ºF for 25 minutes); they’re really much yummier deep-fried, with that lovely crunchy golden coating. I’m not at all adverse to the occasional deep-fried treat!
Double-crumbing is a technique I learned from the Dutch, and it makes for an extra crispy crust, whilst ensuring the scotch eggs don’t split open during cooking.
By making double the beef/pork mixture for the scotch eggs you can whip up a batch of gorgeous little Mini burgers with hidden veggies later. Look for the ♦ orange diamonds within the recipe, for instructions on how much beef/pork mixture to reserve for the burgers.
My beautiful friend, and Japanese culture junkie, Janet, introduced me to the tiny burger snacks at the ubiquitous Breadtop, an Asian bread/pastry chain popping up all over Australia. The bun itself is like a cross between brioche and a puff of air, and it holds a tiny cold hamburger patty, a smear of tomato sauce, a minuscule slice of cheese and a tiny leaf of lettuce. That’s it! Gone in two mouthfuls, but absolutely delicious. You can so easily make them yourself for the kids lunchboxes. Freeze the patties and little buns separately (you can buy the buns in bags of eight at Breadtop, or in bulk from Costco); defrost them overnight, and assemble in the morning. Two per child should suffice. Such a lovely change from boring sandwiches! They’re also perfect for kid’s birthdays, and adult parties (add a teaspoon of fennel seeds with the onion to ramp up the flavour).

Scotch eggs. Via One Equals Two

[Recipe 1] Scotch eggs

Ingredients (serves 4 for 2 meals; ie. 6 scotch eggs + 12 mini burgers):
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 brown onion, very finely chopped
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
500g (1 lb) minced (ground) beef
500g (1 lb) minced (ground) pork
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried, if unavailable)
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
½ cup dry breadcrumbs
1 egg, beaten
6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled

¼ cup plain (all-purpose) flour, for coating
3 eggs, extra, beaten, for coating
1¼ cups dry breadcrumbs, extra, for coating
I litre (34 fl oz) vegetable or peanut oil for deep-frying
Easy spiced tomato chutney (or store-bought chutney), to serve

Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 4–5 minutes, until soft. Drain on kitchen paper and allow to cool.
In a large bowl, mix together the cooked onion, mustard, beef, pork, thyme, salt, pepper, ½ cup breadcrumbs and 1 beaten egg. Process until well combined; or mix and mash with your hands.
♦ Reserve half the beef/pork mixture (about 2 cups or 600g/1¼ lb) for the mini burgers.

Divide the remainder of the beef/pork mixture into 6 even portions, patting each piece into a flat oval shape, the size of your palm.
Coat each of the 6 peeled, hard-boiled eggs in flour. Wrap each floured egg evenly in a portion of beef/pork mixture, making sure they are smooth and completely covered.
 Dip each mince-coated egg into the extra beaten egg, then roll gently in breadcrumbs until well-coated. Double-coat by repeating the egg and breadcrumb stages. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, reserving a couple of eggy breadcrumb lumps for testing the oil temperature.
Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Heat vegetable oil in a deep saucepan on the stovetop until it reaches 180°C (350ºF). If you don’t have a thermometer, you can test whether the oil is ready by dropping a breadcrumb lump in the pot. It should sizzle as soon as it hits the oil.
Deep-fry the scotch eggs (in two batches if necessary) for approximately 4–5 minutes, until golden brown and crispy.
Remove scotch eggs with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Place on a tray lined with baking paper paper and bake in the hot oven for 7 minutes (this will ensure meat is cooked through).
Serve warm or at room temperature with Easy spiced tomato chutney and a green salad or Green beans and toasted pine-nuts (pictured).

Mini burgers. Via One Equals Two

[Recipe 2] Mini burgers with hidden veggies

Ingredients (serves 4, makes 12 little patties):
1 medium carrot, grated on fine zester holes
1 small zucchini (courgette), grated, chopped, liquid squeezed out with your hands

2 tablespoons oat bran (or wheatgerm)
♦ 2 cups (about 600g/1¼ lb) reserved beef/pork mixture
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

To serve:
12 mini buns or dinner rolls
Butter or baby cos (romaine) lettuce
Thinly sliced cheddar cheese
Tomato sauce (ketchup)

Put carrot, zucchini and oat bran into a large bowl.
Add reserved beef/pork mixture.
Season. Mix and mash it all together well with your hands. Shape mixture into twelve tiny patties, about 5 cm (2″) diameter. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Heat extra oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Fry mini burgers until cooked through, about 2-3 minutes each side. Drain on kitchen paper.
Serve mini burgers in little buns with lettuce, sliced cheese and tomato sauce.

  • Cooked patties, and little buns, can be frozen with baking paper between the layers, for up to 3 months. Defrost as required, for lunchboxes.
  • Patties can also be frozen uncooked, for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge.
  • As these patties are tiny, it’s very important to ensure the onion, carrot and zucchini are chopped and/or grated into very small pieces or your burgers will fall apart when cooked. The tiny zester holes on your grater are perfect for carrot. I grate zucchini on the normal grater holes though as it gets too watery. Give the mound of grated zucchini a good extra chop afterwards to make the pieces smaller.
  • You can use this mixture to make four large patties instead of mini burgers. Pop them in the freezer for a quick mid-week dinner.

For goodness cake

Use one batch of batter to make a cake and 12 muffins!
[Recipe 1] BANANA HONEY CAKE
 
and 
[Recipe 2] ABC MUFFINS
……………..
You’ll need four very ripe, large bananas for these two recipes so you may need to attach a ‘don’t eat me’ sticky note on them while they ripen. Using the same batter as the base for two different batches of baked treats is excellent in so many ways. It’s a cure for lunchbox fatigue, conserves energy (both your own and your oven’s) and it saves time and money.
The first recipe is for a delicious Banana honey cake. Reserve some of the batter (see the orange diamonds for quantities) and you can bake a batch of ABC muffins at the same time. A’ is for apple, ‘B’ is for banana and ‘C’ is for chocolate, although the ‘C’ ingredient can be easily varied (see tips).
These two recipes are a little different to my usual 1=2 meals as they can be cooked together. If you can’t fit the cake and muffins side by side in your oven, place the muffins on the middle shelf, and the cake below. When you remove the muffins after 25 minutes, move the banana cake up a shelf and continue baking.
Note: If your oven is not a good sharer, you can bake the cake first while you prepare the muffins.

Banana buttermilk cake

[Recipe 1] Banana honey cake

Ingredients (mixture makes 1 cake and 12 muffins):
250 grams (8 oz/2 sticks) butter, softened
2 cups (450g) caster (superfine) sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup (45g) honey
4 large very ripe bananas, mashed
1¾ cups (260g) self-raising (self-rising) flour, sifted
1¾ cups (260g) wholemeal plain (wholewheat all-purpose) flour, sifted, bran returned to bowl
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
¾ cup (180ml) buttermilk

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Cream butter and sugar until pale and fluffy.
Add eggs one at a time, mixing well before adding the next. Add vanilla, cinnamon and honey and beat well.
Fold in banana until well incorporated.
In a separate bowl, mix together flours and bicarbonate of soda. Fold this into the cake batter, a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk.
Reserve half the honey banana cake batter, about 4 cups (approx. 950g), for the ABC muffins (see recipe 2 below).
Spoon remaining mixture into a lined 20cm (8-inch) square cake tin.
Bake for 40–45 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the cake. The ABC muffins (see below) can be cooked at the same time.
Cut cake into thick slices and serve.

  • I like to mash my bananas with a stick blender so they’re beautifully smooth. This works well with the texture of the cake, which is as soft as a pillow thanks to the use of buttermilk.
  • The cake and muffins will keep for 3 days in an airtight container in the fridge. Both can also be frozen, with baking paper between the layers, for up to 3 months. Cut up the cake before freezing.

ABC muffins

[Recipe 2] ABC muffins

Ingredients (makes 12):
1 green apple, peeled and grated
2 heaped tablespoons oat bran
½ cup (85g) dark chocolate bits (or any of the other options suggested below this recipe)

♦ 
4 cups (approx. 950g) reserved banana honey cake batter (see recipe 1)

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Put apple, oat bran and chocolate bits into a large bowl.
Fold in reserved banana honey cake batter.
Divide mixture among 12 lined (or greased) muffin pans.
Bake for 25 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle of a muffin.
Muffins can be cooked at the same time as the banana honey cake (see Recipe 1) – simply remove the muffins from the oven after 25 minutes (as quickly as possible so the oven doesn’t lose too much heat); and continue cooking the banana cake for a further 15–20 minutes. See extra cooking instructions in my post introduction.

  • You can play around with the ABC muffin recipe. ‘A’ is for apple, ‘B’ is for banana and ‘C’ is for chocolate, but there are many other ‘C’ ingredients that can be used for variety. Swap the chocolate for:
    ½ cup (65g) dessicated coconut OR
    1 medium grated carrot plus 1 extra tablespoon oat bran OR
    ½ cup (100g) currants OR
    ½ cup (100g) chopped cashews

The bun also rises

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

Pork and ginger rice

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

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

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

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

Little steamed wholemeal pork buns

[Recipe 2] Little steamed wholemeal pork buns

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

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

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

Oatally awesome

[Recipe 1] PEAR and WHITE CHOCOLATE MUESLI SLICE transforms into
[Recipe 2] APPLE and COCONUT CRUMBLE
……………..
This Pear and white chocolate muesli slice is a corker. It’s lovely and chewy; and relatively healthy. OK, it has white chocolate in it; but give me that any day over the creepy yogurt topping on packaged muesli bars – what is that stuff anyway? The slice freezes well and is perfect for lunchboxes. The bonus with this recipe is that you’ll also end up with a beautiful Apple and coconut crumble. Look for the orange diamonds in the recipe and reserve the specified portion of muesli slice mix (before adding the pear, chocolate and chia seeds), scatter it on top of stewed apple and – voila – an apple and coconut crumble will appear right before your very eyes.

Pear and white chocolate muesli slice

[Recipe 1] Pear and white chocolate muesli slice

350g (10½ oz ) butter, melted
¼ cup (60g) golden syrup
1½ cups (300g) firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup (150g) self raising (self-rising) flour
1 cup (150g) wholemeal plain (wholewheat all-purpose) flour
2½ cups (265g) rolled oats
½ cup (35g) dessicated coconut
1 cup (200g) dried pears, chopped into small pieces
¾ cup (125g) white chocolate bits
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1 egg, beaten

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Line the base of a large 33cm (13-inch) x 23cm (9-inch) tin with baking paper.
Mix together butter and golden syrup. Add brown sugar, self raising flour, wholemeal plain flour, rolled oats and coconut.
Reserve 285g (about 2½ cups) of this slice mix for the Apple and coconut crumble.
To the remaining (about 5 cups) muesli slice mix, add the dried pear, white chocolate bits, chia seeds and egg and mix thoroughly.
Press very firmly into prepared tin. The mixture can be quite sticky, so you may need to place baking paper on top, before pressing down.
Bake for 25–30 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked when tested with a skewer.
This can be baked in the oven at the same time as the Apple and coconut crumble.
Allow to cool completely in the tin. Cut into squares or bars.

  • This slice will keep for 3 days in an airtight container in the fridge, or you can cut it up and freeze it, with baking paper between the layers, for up to 3 months.
  • Chia seeds are high in fibre, omega 3, protein and antioxidants. They’re available from large supermarkets and health food stores. They can be omitted from this recipe though, if unavailable.
  • You can replace the dried pears with chopped raisins or dried apricots for variety. For added naughtiness, you can pipe melted white chocolate on top in drizzled lines.

Apple and coconut crumble

[Recipe 2] Apple and coconut crumble

1 x 800g (30 oz) can pie apples (or 3 cups stewed apples – see tips below)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons brown sugar
2½ cups (about 285g) reserved slice mix

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Stir cinnamon and brown sugar into apples. Divide apples between four lightly-oiled 1–1¼ cup capacity ramekins.
Roughly scatter the reserved slice mix on top of the apple.
Bake for 25–30 minutes or until golden brown.
This can be cooked in the oven at the same time as the Pear and white chocolate muesli slice; or the crumble topping can be stored to use later (see tips below).
Serve warm with cream or ice cream.

  • Although the slice and crumble can be cooked together, the uncooked crumble topping can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days if you’d prefer to save it for another night. It also freezes really well, for up to 3 months. Simply break up the frozen topping with a fork, scatter on the apple and bake!
  • For a change, add a handful of flaked almonds to the crumble mix; or a handful of sultanas to the apple.
  • Canned pie apple is super handy to keep in the pantry. It contains no additives and is perfect for a quick crumble. If you have time to make your own stewed fruit though, you’ll need about 1¼ kilos of fruit (8 large green apples or pears, or 10 of the smaller varieties, like corella pears); peeled, cored and sliced thickly. Put fruit in a saucepan with 2 tablespoons water. Cover and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 10–15 minutes or until just tender. Drain and cool.