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

[Recipe 1] SUNSHINE CHUTNEY (pineapple, mango and lime) transforms into

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

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

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

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

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

Chicken tostadas with sunshine chutney. One Equals Two.

[Recipe 2] Chicken tostadas with Sunshine chutney

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

Fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped

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

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

Pulled pork tacos with sunshine chutney. One Equals Two

[Recipe 3] Pulled pork tacos with Sunshine chutney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The icing on the cake

Our boys had a combined birthday party recently at St Kilda Adventure Playground, one of the most magic kid’s spots in Melbourne. Just look at the place! It’s fantastically old-school – a little bit dangerous (no soft padded surfaces), amazing hand-built cubby houses, fort, flying fox and two trampolines. There is even a leopard-print fur clad ‘birthday throne’ in the party area. Best of all, the place easily accommodated the 30 kids we invited, and they had a ball. I talked about some of the food we served here.
I’m a bit embarrassed to share my wonky birthday cake creations with the world, but ah… what the heck! This blog functions as a bit of a diary for me. I have years of unsorted photos on my desktop, so it’s nice having the blog as a forum for our special occasions, creations and holidays.
My eldest is into everything technical and scientific so his cake this year was a 9-volt battery. My youngest is completely obsessed with the Thunderbirds so he scored a Thunderbird 1 rocket cake, and I made him a Thunderbird hand puppet too.
The cakes were decorated with ready-made fondant icing. If you’ve not used it before I highly recommend it. It’s simply rolled out like pastry and draped over the cake. You can cut letters and shapes out of it and it can be coloured with food dye too. While I’m rabbiting on about cakes, I might as well post my eldest’s cake from last year, an old-school computer keyboard cake. The base is white fondant, the keys are blocks of white chocolate, the space bar is a piece of white chocolate KitKat, and the writing was done with an Americolor Gourmet Food Writing pen. So easy! I did giggle though when my son’s friend pointed out how ‘incorrect’ some of the keyboard keys were. The fondant icing and writing pens are available from Something for cake, Amazon or Merryday cakes.
Last but not least, I wanted to share these fab tiny little bags of Lego which I used in the treat bags. They’re cheap as chips and available on Ebay (search for ‘Lego party favours’). I reckon they’d be great in pinatas too.
Have a lovely weekend folks. Recipes coming soon…

St Kilda Adventure PlaygroundEnergizer Battery birthday cakeThunderbirds cake and puppetOld school keyboard cakeTreat bag Lego

Meet your baker

[Recipe 1] KEEMA ALOO (Indian spiced minced beef and potatoes) with GLUTEN-FREE DOSAS transforms into
I’m not normally an OMG-double-exclamation-mark type of girl but OMG!! I’ve been baking my butt off!! On Saturday we hosted a mega combined party for our boys – one turned 6 and the other 9 (still can’t quite believe we have a 9 year old).
Having a combo party was fantastic but the biggest job was the catering, including TWO birthday cakes. There were 30 kids + adults. Yikes.
Our freezer was positively heaving by Friday. I made a huge batch of tsukune (teriyaki chicken balls), 100 mini margherita pizzas, a massive tray of honey joys (yep, you can freeze them in case you were wondering) and 80 Spiced beef and vegetable mini pasties; plus platters of the usual party fare (fairy bread, fruit, guacamole, snags etc).
I’m a bit chuffed as my little pasties turned out beautifully, and there were quite a few requests for the recipe. My boys loved them, and they went down really well with both the adults and the kids at the party. They came about when I had a lightbulb moment while making a vat of my Keema aloo (Indian spiced minced beef and potatoes) – it’s the perfect pastie filler! I used store-bought shortcrust pastry too, so they were incredibly easy to make.
My boys adore Keema aloo (I’m yet to meet a kid who doesn’t like a minced beef based dinner). It’s perfect for kiddy palates as it’s lightly spiced; and adult serves can be jazzed up with kasoundi (this recipe is great), a finely chopped red chilli or a dash of Tabasco. It can be frozen too, so it’s perfect for a quick mid-week dinner.
We roll up the keema aloo in easy home-made dosas (Indian-style pancakes). My dosa recipe is based on one by Jamie Oliver – I omit the mustard seeds and use gluten-free plain flour. Gluten-free flour (I like Orgran brand) contains maize and rice flours, making for a lovely light dosa batter.
So, our freezer is now spookily empty, but the oven is remaining off for quite a while while I recover from my baking overdose.

Keema Aloo (spiced Indian mince)[Recipe 1] Keema aloo (spiced minced beef and potatoes) with gluten-free dosas

Ingredients (serves 4 for 3 meals; or 4 for 2 meals plus 40 mini pasties):
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large red (purple/Spanish) onions, finely chopped
6 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 heaped tablespoon cinnamon
1 heaped tablespoon garam masala
2 tablespoons coriander seeds, toasted, crushed with a mortar and pestle
2 tablespoons cumin seeds, toasted, crushed with a mortar and pestle
½ teaspoon ground cloves
1½ kilos (3 lb) minced (ground) beef
3 large potatoes (approx. 750g/1½ lb), peeled, chopped into small pieces
2 large carrots, chopped into very small pieces (approx. 5mm/¼”)
7 tablespoons (140g tub) tomato paste (tomato concentrate)
1½ cups (375ml) water
2 x 400g (15 oz) cans lentils, drained, rinsed (or 2 cups cooked lentils – see tips below recipe)
2 cups fresh podded or frozen peas
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Home-made gluten-free dosas or store-bought dosas, to serve
Basic cucumber raita, to serve
Spicy accompaniment for adults (eg. kasoundi, finely chopped red chilli or Tabasco)

Heat oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, cinnamon, garam masala, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and cloves; and cook for 1–2 minutes, until aromatic. Add mince and cook over low heat, stirring often, for about 10 minutes or until brown. Break up the mince with a wooden spoon now and again. 
Add potatoes, carrot, tomato paste and water and simmer, covered, over a medium heat for 25–30 minutes. Add lentils and peas, and simmer for a further 15 minutes, covered, until liquid has evaporated and vegetables are tender. Add a splash more water if it starts to dry out too quickly. Season to taste.
Divide the the Keema aloo into plastic containers.
 The Keema aloo recipe will yield three portions of about 5 cups (1¼ kilos/2½ lb) each (1¼ kilos/2½ lb will serve four).
♦ Reserve 1 portion (5 cups/1¼ kilos) Keema aloo for the Spiced beef and vegetable mini pasties. The third portion can be frozen for another day.
Serve remaining Keema aloo with dosas and raita. Keema aloo can be placed into individual bowls, so people can roll up their own.

  • Keema aloo can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge and should be used within three days; or it can be frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Serve the Keema aloo with steamed basmati rice instead of dosa, for a change.
  • 2 x 400g (14 oz) cans lentils, drained, will yield 2 heaped cups lentils. For 2 heaped cups cooked lentils, cook 1 cup dry lentils in boiling water for 45 minutes, until tender. Drain and rinse. I often cook up a load of lentils, and freeze them in 1 cup portions to use when required.

Spiced beef and vegetable pasties

[Recipe 2] Spiced beef and vegetable mini pasties

Ingredients (makes 40 – recipe can be doubled if required):
10 x 25cm (8″) sheets ready-rolled frozen shortcrust pastry, thawed
♦ 1 portion (5 cups/1¼ kilos) reserved Keema aloo
2 eggs, lightly whisked
Easy spiced tomato chutney, store-bought chutney or tomato sauce (ketchup) to serve

Preheat oven to 220°C (425ºF). Line two baking trays with baking paper.
Use a 10cm (4″) round pastry cutter (or trace around a 10cm/4″ plate or Milo tin) to cut 4 discs from each pastry sheet.
♦ Spoon one heaped tablespoon of reserved Keema aloo onto each pastie circle. Don’t be tempted to overfill them or they’ll pop open.
Fold pasties in half to enclose filling. Seal edges of pastry with water and use fingertips to gently crimp and seal. Place on the lined trays. Lightly brush the tops of the pasties with egg.
You can bake one batch while you prepare the remaining pasties if your oven won’t accommodate two trays.
Bake in hot oven for 15–18 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through.
Serve hot with chutney or tomato sauce (ketchup).

  • If using refrigerated Keema aloo (not frozen), cooked pasties are suitable to freeze, for up to 3 months. Place baking paper (or plastic sheets from the pastry pack) between the layers. When serving, allow to defrost overnight in the fridge. Reheat in a hot oven, covered with foil, for about 10–15 minutes.
  • Instead of 10 sheets, you can use 8 sheets shortcrust pastry and seal the leftover strips of pastry together with water to make the extra 2 sheets.

Slowly does it

[Recipe 1] HUTSPOT met KLAPSTUK (DUTCH MASH with SLOW-COOKED BRISKET) transforms into

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.

Well red


The last couple of weeks have whizzed past in an absolute blur, with both boys at school, me back at work, and all the extra-curricular stuff. My 8-year old has joined Cub Scouts (so gorgeous in his ‘new chum’ scarf). My youngest started school and is loving it, which I’m brow-moppingly relieved about. I was expecting tears, but we were both fine.
There hasn’t been a great deal of fancy cooking going on around here, but these two meals were lovely, and they’re bright red – perfect for Valentine’s Day!
I made a big batch of marinated red capsicum last week, after scoring a huge bag of capsicums at Prahran market. I’ve been marinating capsicum for years. It’s super easy, and you can use it in sooo many different ways. My sister-in-law served up the classic bruschetta combo of roasted red capsicum (bell peppers), goat’s cheese and fresh basil as appetizers on Christmas day, and I gorged myself. We copied it last Saturday for lunch and on Sunday I whipped up a rather yummy Roasted red capsicum and fresh herb tart, which we brought to a BBQ at our neighbour’s house.
The husband and I took the remaining marinated capsicum to work for lunch, and scoffed it on fresh rye bread (from the fabulous Baker in the Rye) with rocket and Hungarian salami (from the equally fabulous Leon’s Smallgoods).
So… I’m all bell-peppered out, but it was excellent while it lasted.

Roast capsicum bruschetta[Recipe 1] Marinated roasted red capsicum and goat’s cheese bruschetta

Ingredients for the marinated roasted red capsicum (makes 2–2½ cups):
1½ kilos (3¼ lb) large red capsicums (bell peppers), quartered; membranes and seeds removed
4 large garlic cloves, peeled and very thinly sliced
½ cup (125ml) extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
3 bay leaves
For the bruschetta (serves 4–6):
1 loaf good-quality, chewy Italian bread (ciabatta or pasta dura), sliced
Extra virgin olive oil, extra, for brushing
60g (2 oz) goat’s cheese, crumbled
Fresh basil leaves, torn, to serve

Preheat oven to 250°C (480ºF).
Place capsicums on one or two trays lined with baking paper. Roast for 25–30 minutes, until skin is blistered and blackened.
Place capsicum pieces into a large bowl and cover with cling wrap or a lid for ten minutes (the steam will soften the skins).
Peel skin off capsicums, and slice. Return to the large bowl, with the garlic slices, oil and vinegar. Season and gently mix together. Divide mixture amongst 3 sterilised jars and place a bay leaf in each. Seal and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight. Marinated capsicums will keep for up to 3 months.
Reserve 1 cup of marinated roasted red capsicum for the Roasted red capsicum and fresh herb tart.
For the bruschetta, preheat a barbecue or chargrill on high. Brush bread lightly with oil on both sides. Chargrill bread slices, for 1–2 minutes each side, until you have lovely black stripes! Place toasted bread slices on a serving platter or board. Spread lightly with goats cheese, and top with a little mound of capsicum mixture. Scatter with fresh basil. Serve immediately.

  • Marinated roasted red capsicum can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 months, in sterilized jars.

  • Glass jars, lids and rubber rings can be sterilised by running them through your dishwasher on the hottest cycle, on the top shelf. Jars should be hot when the capsicums are poured in, so time your sterilising to coincide with when your capsicums are ready.
  • Fussy kid tip: My boys love char-grilled ciabatta smeared with avocado and a tuna/mayo combo. If you have the time, a Smörgasboard-style weekend lunch is a bit of fun.

Roasted capsicum tart

[Recipe 2] Roasted red capsicum and fresh herb tart

Ingredients (serves 6):
1½ sheets store-bought shortcrust pastry, thawed (or ½ quantity home-made shortcrust pastry)
3 tablespoons grated parmesan (or Parmigiano Reggiano) cheese
5 eggs
150ml (5 fl oz) cream (I use light cooking cream)

½ cup basil leaves, chopped
½ cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped, plus extra for scattering
♦ 1 cup reserved marinated roasted red capsicum, drained, bay leaf discarded

60g (2 oz) goat’s cheese or goat’s fetta, crumbled

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Grease a 3cm (1-inch) deep, 25cm (10-inch) fluted tart tin, with removable base.
If using home-made pastry, roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface (or between 2 sheets of baking paper) until 3mm (⅛-inch) thick. Working quickly, roll the dough into a circle (joining pieces together if necessary) about 4cm (1½-inch) wider in diameter than your tart tin.
Line the tart tin with pastry, gently pressing down into the edges, and trim to fit.
Blind bake the pastry to prevent it going soggy: cover pastry base with baking paper and fill with pastry weights (or uncooked rice). Bake for 15 minutes. Carefully remove paper and weights. Bake for a further 10 minutes or until light golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.
Scatter parmesan over tart base.
Whisk eggs and cream together and pour into tart case, followed by the fresh herbs.
Spoon reserved roasted red capsicum mixture over the filling.
Dot with crumbled goat’s cheese. Bake for 35 minutes until the filling is set. Serve at room temperature, scattered with extra chopped parsley.

  • You can make and blind bake the pastry case ahead and store in the fridge for up to 2 days. Pastry can also be frozen for up to two months – defrost overnight in the fridge.
  • If you’re working with fresh pastry (not frozen) you could freeze an extra uncooked pastry base too. I almost always make two, and freeze one for future use. Defrost overnight in the fridge, and blind-bake.
  • Fussy kid tip: You can make a half-and-half tart with a child-friendly section containing grated carrot, grated zucchini (courgette) and grated tasty cheese (instead of the goat’s cheese).

The reel deal

[Recipe 1] PROPER FISH and CHIPS with HOME-MADE TARTARE SAUCE transforms into
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.

Bean me up

transforms into

Happy belated New Year! We’ve just returned from a beautiful week on the Mornington Peninsula – will post snapshots soon.
In the meantime, here are a couple of easy Summery recipes we chowed down on last weekend. The Cannellini bean, chorizo and sweet potato salad was a cinch to whip up and pretty damn nice! We served it up at a BBQ, along with a platter of chilli prawns and lots of wedges of lime.
You can use canned beans for the salad, but if you have the time, cooking dried beans is always worth the effort methinks.
Reserve half the salad (minus the chorizo and dressing – see the ♦ orange diamonds for details), and you can whip up some beaut Spiced bean burgers with chipotle mayo for dinner the next day.
I love transforming salads into patties or fritters.
 A few regular favourites of ours are these:
Sweet potato, quinoa and edamame salad > Sweet potato, quinoa and salmon cakes.
Roast corn, quinoa and pea salad > Corn, pea and quinoa fritters.
Roasted pumpkin and mixed seed salad > Spiced pumpkin and cashew patties.
The salads are all perfect to serve up at a BBQ or dinner party. Then, after a successful night of entertaining, when you’re just too pooped to cook the next day, you’ll open your fridge door and voila! an (almost) ready-made dinner will be sitting there.
The thing with these salads is that they’re mostly adult-friendly. The patties and fritters made from the reserved salads however, will be positively hoovered by kids. My boys will eat almost anything fritterised or pattied. And you can hide all manner of extra goodies in them too… oat bran, wheatgerm, LSA and/or extra vegies.
Have a lovely week. We’re adopting a kitten on Saturday (bit excited)!
Footnote: Thanks Rate your burn for including these recipes in your “15 healthy recipes for sweet potatoes” roundup!

White bean and chorizo salad[Recipe 1] Cannellini bean, chorizo and sweet potato salad

Ingredients (serves 4–6 for 2 meals):
2 orange sweet potatoes (about 700g/1½ lb), peeled, cut into 2cm cubes

1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 x 400g (15 oz) cans cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained, rinsed (or cooked dried beans – see notes below recipe)
1 medium salad (white) onion, quartered, finely chopped
I cup fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped, plus extra to serve
1 small chorizo sausage* (150g/5 oz), casing removed, halved lengthwise, sliced
Cracked black pepper, extra, to serve

2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon white wine (or white balsamic) vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon caster (superfine) sugar
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ teaspoon smoked paprika (pimentón), or sweet paprika if unavailable

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
In a large bowl, toss the sweet potato with the olive oil until well-coated. Place sweet potato onto a baking tray lined with baking paper. Season. Roast for 20–25 minutes or until tender.
Mix sweet potato, beans, onion and coriander together.
♦ Reserve half of the sweet potato and bean mixture (about 4½ cups) for the Spiced bean burgers.
Make the dressing by placing the ingredients in a screw-top jar. Shake until combined.
Heat oil in a heavy-based frying pan over medium heat and fry chorizo slices until crispy. Drain on kitchen paper.
Add chorizo slices to the remaining sweet potato and bean mixture (for tonight’s salad). Drizzle with the dressing and toss gently. Serve, scattered with extra coriander and pepper.

  • You can use cooked dried beans instead of canned beans. You’ll need a total of 450g (just under 1 lb) dried cannellini (white kidney) beans for this recipe. When cooked this is equivalent to 4 cans beans, drained. FYI, 2 cans beans, drained, is equivalent to approximately 225g (½ lb) cooked dried beans. Soak dried beans overnight, drain and rinse. Cook in boiling water until tender, about 30–45 minutes. Drain, rinse and cool. Cooking dried beans is not as time-consuming as it may seem – I often cook mine in the morning while we’re having breakfast, so they’re ready to use at dinner time. 
  • *Be sure to use good-quality dried salami-style chorizo, not fresh ‘sausage-style’.
  • Planned-overs (undressed sweet potato and bean mixture) can be frozen for up to 3 months; so you can make the bean burgers another time. You can also store the mixture in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Bean burger with chipotle mayo

[Recipe 2] Spiced bean burgers with chipotle mayo

Ingredients (serves 4–6):
♦ Half reserved undressed sweet potato and bean mixture (about 4½ cups)

1 small red birsdeye chilli, de-seeded, finely chopped (optional)
½ cup dried breadcrumbs
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons olive oil for frying
Nice buns and lettuce, to serve
Chipotle mayo, to serve

♦ Mash the reserved undressed sweet potato and bean mixture with a potato masher.
Add the chilli (if using), breadcrumbs, cumin and egg and mix well.
Shape the mixture into 6 burgers. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Heat oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat and fry for 2–3 minutes each side until golden brown.
Serve in buns with lettuce and chipotle mayo.

  • Uncooked burgers can be frozen for 3 months, between layers of baking paper. Defrost overnight in the fridge.
  • Chipotles are smoke dried jalapeños. Chipotle chilli powder (for the mayo) is available at specialty food stores and Spanish grocers. In Australia, it’s available online at Oasis and Fireworks foods

Hot for teacher

[Recipe 1] ZA’ATAR (Middle Eastern spice mix) transforms into
[Recipe 2] MANOUSHE BI ZA’ATAR (Lebanese pizza with za’atar) 
Our house was like a mini spice market last weekend. We made an absolute mega batch of Za’atar, mainly for my boy’s teachers for Christmas. It was 37 degrees (99°F) outside on Saturday – blech – the perfect weather for indoor action. The boys were on filling and lid-application duty, and we had music blaring in the background. See two songs from our playlist* below.
I’ve based my Za’atar recipe on this one, and added cumin and cinnamon – not really authentic additions, but they make for a smoother tasting za’atar methinks.
Za’atar is my favourite Middle Eastern spice blend – it’s oh so versatile! You can scatter it on roast vegies, use it as a dry rub on meat, sprinkle it over fatoush or fetta salad, or stir it through Greek yogurt as a quick dip. One of my favourite brekkies is scrambled eggs sprinkled with za’atar, served in a wrap with fresh tomato and rocket (arugula). Honestly, when we have a batch in the cupboard, it gets scattered on just about anything!
Recipe 2 is another beautiful, simple way to use Za’atar, Manoushe bi za’atar (Lebanese pizza with za’atar). We buy this regularly from Oasis and A1 Bakery, but when time permits, we love making our own.
If you’re not particularly crafty, or you don’t have the time (understandable at this mental time of year) a jar of Za’atar is an easy, inexpensive home-made gift. I bought all the fabric scraps at the swoon-worthy Amitié Textiles – some were already cut to size! Popped down to Oasis to stock up on bulk spices and numerous other items. I always end up with a bulging basket there. The spice section is mind-boggling, and the baked goods and sweets are impossible to walk past. Well worth the drive. Have a lovely week folks.
*If you need some background music while you’re mixing and measuring, you could listen to the inspiration for my blog post title, the very bad (in a good way) Van Halen’s Hot for Teacher. The drum intro is the perfect accompaniment to frenzied spice pounding. Or… for something more exotic, and because she’s named after the main spice in Za’atar, you could try the absolutely fabulous Yma Sumac (her real name is actually Amy Camus, but she niftily reversed the letters).

Jar of home-made zaatarZaatar label[Recipe 1] Za’atar (Middle Eastern spice mix)

OPTION 1: Bulk quantity (makes 16–17 cups, to fill 16–17 average-sized jars)
3 cups (150g) thyme
3 cups (150g) marjoram
3 cups (150g) oregano
1½ cups (150g) sesame seeds, toasted
5 cups (600g) fine-blend sumac
¼ cup (6 tablespoons) cinnamon
¼ cup (6 tablespoons) cumin
¼ cup (6 tablespoons) fine sea salt

OPTION 2: Small quantity (makes 2½ cups)
2 tablespoons thyme
2 tablespoons marjoram
2 tablespoons oregano
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
¼ cup fine-blend sumac
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon fine sea salt

Place thyme, marjoram, oregano and sesame seeds into a large bowl and mix well. Blend in batches in a food processor or with a stick blender. Don’t blend it too fine, just break it up a bit. If you’re making the smaller quantity of Za’atar, you can use a mortar and pestle.
Add sumac, cinnamon, cumin and sea salt and mix well. Divide za’atar into sterilised jars.
♦ Reserve 4 tablespoons za’atar for the Manoushe bi za’tar (Lebanese pizza with za’atar).

  • Sumac is a dark reddish purple Middle Eastern spice, made from the berries of the Sumac shrub. It has a tart, tangy flavour. It’s available in large supermarkets, specialty food stores and Middle Eastern grocers.
  • You can toast your own sesame seeds, or cheat and buy them pre-roasted from Asian and Middle Eastern food stores. 
  • Za’atar should be stored in a cool dry place, and will keep for 3–6 months.
  • Glass jars and lids can be sterilised by running them through your dishwasher on the hottest cycle, on the top shelf.

Zaatar pizza

[Recipe 2] Manoushe bi za’atar (Lebanese pizza with za’atar)

1 quantity wholemeal (wholewheat) pizza dough, or 2 store-bought pizza bases
2 tablespoons olive oil
♦ 4 tablespoons reserved za’atar
Tomato, Persian fetta and mint salad, to serve (optional)

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.
Brush each pizza base with olive oil.
♦ Liberally sprinkle reserved za’atar over each pizza.
Carefully slide pizzas and baking paper onto pre-heated pizza trays and bake for 10–15 minutes until golden brown around the edges. Don’t overcook the pizza, or you’ll end up with a giant biscuit! Have a peep after 10 minutes, and pop it in for an extra 5 minutes only if absolutely necessary. You’ll need less time overall if using pre-cooked store-bought bases.
Remove from the oven and serve immediately with Tomato, Persian fetta and mint salad.

  • You can make smaller manoushe as hors d’oeuvres. 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. Bake at a lower temperature (220°C/425ºF) for 8–10 minutes. Keep an eye on them so they don’t burn! You can see a picture of them here – they’re included in Bento box number 5.

Great balls of fire

[Recipe 1] LAMB, PUMPKIN and LEMON KÖFTES transform into
Hi all. Hope you had an excellent weekend. We went to a garage sale, attended two Christmas gatherings and set up the Christmas tree; so ours was full and fun.
I’m sitting here, wine in hand, feeling pretty great actually. We have a system in place (us old people like routines), where one night a week the husband heads back to the studio (ie. the place where we work) and gets out his easel and canvases for a painting session, while I sit here blogging to my heart’s content. I LOVE it. I write my weekly blog post, sort out recipes and fuel my Pinterest addiction; and he releases his creative juices. Bliss.
So… onto this week’s recipes… these two have been stuffed in my bulging recipe file for ages, and I was inspired to finally share them after reading Ali’s fab post recently. We had friends over for a simple BBQ a couple of weekends ago and lamb köftes (Middle Eastern football-shaped meatballs) were our glamorous replacement for hamburgers. They go down beautifully with adults and kids too. I like mine with pumpkin added and a dash of lemon rind for zing. You can plug them with almost any vegies though – I’ve made them in the past with grated carrot and even beetroot!
The accompanying tahini sauce takes seconds to make – the perfect task for young helpers. The 5-minute lentil and tomato salad is also a breeze to whip up. The harissa is optional, but I’m a harissa junkie, so I use it whenever I can. We recently discovered pilpel harissa in our local supermarket and it’s fantastic. Super spicy and intense.
The bonus with this köfte recipe is that you’ll end up with enough mixture to serve up a fantastic spiced lamb meatball and lentil tagine later. The meatballs freeze beautifully, so you can whip them out for a quick mid-week meal.
PS. The origin of the word köfte is the Persian word کوفته  (kufteh) meaning ‘mashed’. Just thought you’d like to know.

Lamb koftes with tahini sauce[Recipe 1] Lamb, pumpkin and lemon köftes

Ingredients (serves 4 for 2 meals):
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 red (purple/Spanish) onions, very finely chopped
3 teaspoons ground coriander
3 teaspoons ground cumin
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 kilo (2 lb) minced (ground) lamb
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon rind
200g (7 oz) butternut pumpkin (butternut squash), grated and chopped
4 large eggs, lightly whisked
1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus extra to garnish
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon olive oil for frying
Harissa, to serve (optional)

Store-bought pita breads, to serve (or try Sawsan’s fab recipe)
Tahini sauce, to serve
5-minute lentil and tomato salad, to serve

Heat oil in a large heavy-based frying pan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 3 minutes. Add the ground spices and cook for 1–2 minutes until aromatic. Allow to cool slightly.
Add cooled spiced onion to the minced lamb in a large bowl; along with the lemon rind, pumpkin, eggs, parsley and breadcrumbs. Moosh thoroughly with your hands.
♦ Reserve half the spiced lamb and pumpkin mixture (850g/1¾ lb or 3 tightly-packed cups) for the Spiced lamb meatball and lentil tagine.
Prepare your köftes. Divide the mixture into 14 portions and shape each into a football-shaped log. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a low heat. Add the köftes and cook, turning occasionally, for 8 minutes or until cooked through. Köftes can also be cooked, over a low heat, on the BBQ.
Place koftes on a large platter and serve with harissa (if using), pita breads, tahini sauce, and 5-minute lentil and tomato salad.

  • It’s very important that your onion and pumpkin are chopped as finely as possible, or your köftes and meatballs will be crumbly.
  • You can of course use the köfte mixture to make a double quantity of köftes, or double quantity of meatballs, as preferred.
  • Harissa is a North African hot chilli sauce, available at specialty food stores, Middle Eastern grocers and select supermarkets.
  • Uncooked lamb and pumpkin köftes and meatballs can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen with baking paper between the layers, for up to 3 months.

Lamb meatball tagine with couscous

[Recipe 2] Spiced lamb meatball and lentil tagine

Ingredients (serves 4):
♦ 850g/1¾ lb (3 tightly-packed cups) reserved spiced lamb and pumpkin mixture

1 tablespoon olive oil for frying
2 teaspoons tomato paste/concentrate
700ml (24 fl oz) tomato passata (tomato puree)
400g (14 oz) can lentils, drained and rinsed (or 1 cup cooked lentils – see notes below recipe)
1 cinnamon stick
⅛ teaspoon ground chilli powder (or more – to taste)
Salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper
Chopped flat-leaf parsley, to serve
Half a preserved lemon (skin only), rinsed and finely chopped (optional)
Greek-style natural yogurt, to serve
1¼ cups instant couscous

♦ Roll the reserved spiced lamb and pumpkin mixture into approximately 26 small meatballs (use 1 tablespoon of mixture for each ball).
Refrigerate for half an hour if time permits. 
Heat oil in a large non-stick saucepan over medium heat, and fry meatballs in two batches, until browned all over, about 3 minutes. Remove meatballs, and place on kitchen paper.
Place ½ cup water, tomato paste, passata, lentils, cinnamon and chilli into a large heavy-based saucepan and simmer, covered, over a low heat for 15 minutes, or until thickened. Stir occasionally. Add meatballs to the sauce and simmer for ten minutes, covered, until cooked through. Remove and discard cinnamon stick. 
Season to taste.
Meanwhile, prepare couscous. Bring 2 cups of water to the boil. Stir in the couscous, cover, and remove from heat. Let stand 10 minutes, until water is absorbed. Fluff up with a fork.
Serve meatball tagine over couscous, scattered with parsley and preserved lemon (if using), with a good blob of yogurt on the side.

  • Left-over tomato paste can be frozen in teaspoon or tablespoon lumps, individually-wrapped in cling film; ready to plop into your next pasta dish.
  • Freeze leftover parsley stalks, and use in sweet tomato pasta sauce or home-made chicken stock.
  • 400g (14 oz) can lentils, drained, will yield 1 heaped cup cooked lentils. For 1 heaped cup cooked lentils, cook ½ cup dry lentils in boiling water for 45 minutes, until tender. Drain and rinse. I often cook up a load of lentils, and freeze them in 1 cup portions to use when required.

She’ll be apples

[Recipe 1] APPLE, LIME and COCONUT CAKE transforms into 
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.

Pasta la vista [2]

[Recipe 1] FULL-OF-VEGGIES BOLOGNAISE (recipe posted here) transforms into
Our Grand Final* is on this Saturday but I’ve gotta confess that I’m not a football fan. I went to one match when I was 13, deciding there and then that I didn’t ever need to relive the experience.
Most sport-related activities don’t really float my boat; but I do like the charged, slightly mental, atmosphere on Grand Final day though. Friends usually drop in to watch the whole damn exciting thing on TV with us; ploughing through mountains of food. These mini meat pies, topped with cut-out pastry footballs, go down a treat. Perfect finger food!
The pies are super easy to whip up as they use store-bought pastry. They’re also relatively healthy as they’re made with a reserved portion of Full-of-veggies bolognaise (originally posted back in February), which is plugged full of veggies and lentils. Enjoy! Have a beaut weekend readers. Hope your team wins!
*Overseas readers: The Grand Final is the end-of-Season championship game for Australian Rules Football, mildly akin to the Super Bowl or World Cup, but with a speck of the budget. If you’re not familiar with it, Aussie Rules is probably the weirdest game you’ll ever have seen. Grown men in tiny shrunken shorts kick, punch and throw a misshapen ball around. If a goal is scored, a man in a silly outfit gesticulates from under the goal posts.

Grand Final mini meat pies

[Recipe 3] Grand Final Day mini meat pies

Ingredients (makes 20 mini pies):
4 tablespoons plain (all-purpose) flour
1 kilo (2 lb) reserved full-of-veggies bolognaise
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
5 sheets frozen shortcrust pastry, thawed
3 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Tomato sauce or Easy spiced tomato chutney, to serve

Preheat oven to 220°C (425ºF).
Grease 2 x 12-hole standard-sized muffin pans (you’ll need to grease 20 holes).
Blend flour with 3 tablespoons hot water to form a smooth paste.
Spoon reserved full-of-veggies bolognaise into a medium-sized saucepan.
Add flour paste and bring to boil. Simmer, uncovered, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes, or until thickened. Stir in worcestershire sauce.
Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate until cold.
Using a 10cm (4-inch) round cutter, cut out 20 circles from the shortcrust pastry. Press into prepared pan holes, covering them with a tea towel as you go, to prevent them drying out.
Brush inside pastry cases (this prevents them going soggy), and the edges, with egg.
Divide cooled bolognaise mixture among pastry cases.
Using a 7cm (2¾-inch) round cutter, cut out 20 circles from the puff pastry. Place on top of pies. Press edges together to seal. Cut out little football shapes from the puff pastry scraps and place one on top of each pie. You can score little lines for the laces on top too, if you have the patience. Brush tops of pies with egg, and prick with a fork.
Bake for 15–20 minutes, or until pastry is golden brown.
Serve with tomato sauce or Easy spiced tomato chutney.

  • If you don’t have a 10cm (4-inch) round cutter, trace around a lid with a sharp knife (a lid from a 450g tin of Milo is the perfect size).
  • The Grand Final Day mini meat pies can be cooked the day before and stored in the fridge.
  • If using fresh full-of-veggies bolognaise (not frozen) you can freeze the cooked mini meat pies, between sheets of baking paper, for up to one month. Thaw overnight in the fridge. To reheat pre-cooked pies, place the pies on a baking tray and bake at 180°C (350ºF) for 15 minutes, or until heated through.

Rice rice baby

[Recipe 1] MIXED RICE SUSHI HAND ROLLS transforms into
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:
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.

Taking it on the chin

My lovely youngest had his birthday on the weekend. Happy 5th birthday Sidney! We celebrated with a Beard Party. I promise this was a request from him and not an attempt by us to leap onto Melbourne’s bearded hipster craze – which incidentally I am still loving, even the bushranger thing. The husband has sported a rather fetching beard for years.
My 5-year old, mimicking daddy, has worn stick-on beards in various configurations over the past year. We’ve made them from cardboard, cotton wool, faux fur, fabric, paper and even the pointy bits inside an egg carton. For a while there, he had a collection of them taped to the door-frame, so he could make his selection for the day.
The party was a hoot. With all that facial hair, at one point it looked like we were hosting a mini Spanish inquisition. Lots of kids brought their own beards – the blue beard drawn on with pastels and the brown knitted woollen one were personal faves. A girlfriend of mine sacrificed some of her own hair which she adhered to her chin and upper lip with eyelash glue. She was a terrifying, living vintage circus poster and frankly, she creeped me out.
We eased into the party with some craft. I found ace blank cardboard cut-out faces at Riot Art and we supplied paper beards, textas and glue for the kids to make their own bearded faces. It was a nice calm start to the afternoon. The peace and quiet was soon shattered with shrieks though when 
the husband bounded in, having reprised his popular role as El Camino, sombrero-toting balloon-animal-maker extraordinaire. We also played Pin the Beard on the Anthill Mob Dude (photo below). The weather was totally crappy so indoor games were an absolute necessity.
The beard cake was super easy to make. I made the beard hair by pushing ‘sausages’ of fondant icing through my son’s playdough string-maker. Ready-made fondant icing is fantastic. It’s super easy to use, and makes such an impressive, smooth coating. It’s simply rolled flat like dough and cut to fit. I used it for the bearded cupcakes too. You can buy fondant icing online (even on Ebay!) or from Merryday Cakes, Something for Cake or CakeDeco on Flinders Street.
The treat bags contained a mini bag of lollies from Aldi, stick-on moustaches from Ebay, a colour-your-own people paper chain from Riot Art, and bearded character badges (or ‘buttons’ for our American friends). One of the badges features a photo of my son’s favourite Thunderbird doll, with a beard and moustache made from plasticine. The girl’s badge features a fab bearded lady illustration found on Pinterest (who looks spookily like my aforementioned girlfriend). My 8-year old and I caught the train to Sticky Institute to make the badges. It’s in the beautiful Campbell Arcade in De Graves Subway – without a doubt one of my favourite places in Melbourne. Sticky Institute have an online badge template on their website, so you can pre-make your artwork. The 8-year old had a ball making all the badges, while I perused the zines and quaffed a perfect coffee from Cup of Truth.
The party food was nearly all eaten, which was a relief as I nearly always over-cater. We had popcorn, little sausages, fruit, guacamole with crackers and carrot sticks, honey joys, bearded cupcakes (I made my sneaky pumpkin chocolate muffins in oval-shaped friand pans), tsukune (teriyaki chicken balls) and cheese and spinach pastries from Oasis Bakery.
Jeez, didn’t mean for this post to become such an epic! Sorry guys. Ciao for now. New recipes coming soonish…

Beard cake

Beard party ideas

A yen for chicken balls

[Recipe 1] TSUKUNE (Japanese teriyaki chicken meatballs) transforms into

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

Tsukune (Japanese teriyaki chicken balls)

[Recipe 1] Tsukune (Japanese teriyaki chicken meatballs)

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

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

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

Tsukune noodle stir-fry

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

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

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

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

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


transforms into

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

Lamb and spinach pilaf. One Equals Two

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

Ingredients (serves 4 for 2 meals):
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter (approx. 20g)
1 small red (purple/Spanish) onion, very finely chopped
750g (1½ lb) minced (ground) lamb
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
(Note: you’ll be reserving half the above ingredients, cooked, for Recipe 2)
1¼ cups (250g) uncooked long grain white rice (or basmati), rinsed and drained
3 small carrots, grated
3½ cups chicken stock, store-bought or home-made
3 cups (100g) baby spinach leaves, chopped
Salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
1 cup (130g/4½ oz) pine nuts, toasted

Heat oil and butter in a heavy-based, deep-sided frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook onion for 3–4 minutes, until just soft. Add lamb and cook for 5 minutes, breaking up the lumps really well. Carefully drain off any pan juices.
Add spices and stir well. Cover and cook over a very low heat for about 5 minutes, stirring once or twice, until aromatic.
At this stage, scoop out half the spiced lamb mixture, about 1½ cups (250g/8 oz), and reserve for the Lamb and pine-nut sambusek (see recipe 2 below).
To the remaining spiced lamb mixture (in frying pan) add rice, carrot and stock. Stir and bring to the boil. Turn down heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add spinach and cook, uncovered, for a further 3–5 minutes or until rice is tender and liquid absorbed. Stir occasionally. Season well with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, toast your pine nuts
Reserve half (65g/2¼ oz) of the toasted pine nuts for the Lamb and pine nut sambusek.

Serve pilaf with pine nuts scattered on top.

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

Lamb and pinenut sambusek

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

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

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

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

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

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

Folding sambousek

It’s chapati and I’ll fry if I want to

[Recipe 1] KEEMA MATTAR (Indian spiced minced lamb and peas)
transforms into

This week’s recipes are Indian. First up is Keema mattar. Keema is hindi for any type of ground meat and mattar are green peas. My version of Keema mattar contains carrot and cauliflower and is so flavoursome. It’s a fairly dry curry so it’s lovely served with yoghurt raita, and scooped up with home-made chapati (flatbread). You can whip up home-made chapati in a naan-o-second (sorry, can’t resist a bad pun) but you can of course use store-bought naan or chapati if you’re really pushed for time.
The Keema mattar recipe yields two large freezeable meals, each plenty for 4 people; plus an extra portion to be used as filling for delicious Baked filo pastry samosas, perfect for a weekend lunch or party nibbles. Look for the orange diamonds in the recipe for instructions on how much Keema mattar to set aside for the samosas.
Keema matter is a fab meal to take with you on holidays (even easier than bolognaise) as you need only bring a packet of chapati or roti to have with it. No need to muck around with rice or pasta. We’re off on our annual pilgrimage to the Apollo Bay Music Festival this weekend and I have a vat of Keema mattar in the freezer, ready to go. 
The lovely Michelle of formandreform blogged beautifully about cooking this meal. Check out her blog – she is one clever girl.

Keema mattar (Indian spiced mince lamb and peas). One Equals Two.

[Recipe 1] Keema mattar (Indian spiced mince lamb and peas)

Ingredients (serves 4 for 3 meals):
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 red (purple/Spanish) onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1½ heaped tablespoons fresh grated ginger
1 heaped tablespoon cinnamon
1 heaped tablespoon garam masala
2 tablespoons fennel seeds, toasted, crushed with a mortar and pestle
3 tablespoons cumin seeds, toasted, crushed with a mortar and pestle
½ teaspoon ground cloves
2 kilos (4 lb) minced (ground) lamb
1 long green chilli, de-seeded, finely chopped
2 large carrots, grated
1 small head cauliflower (or ½ large head), cut into very small florets
7 tablespoons (140g tub) tomato paste (tomato concentrate)
1 cup (250ml) water, plus extra if required
4 bay leaves
2 x 400g (15 oz) cans chickpeas (garbanzos), drained, rinsed (or 2 cups cooked chickpeas – see tips below recipe)
2 cups (500g/1 lb) frozen peas
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chapati (flatbread), store-bought, or home-made, to serve
Basic cucumber raita, to serve
Fresh coriander (cilantro), to serve

Heat oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, cinnamon, garam masala, fennel seeds, cumin seeds and cloves, and cook for 3 minutes, until aromatic. Add mince and cook over low heat, stirring often, for about 10 minutes or until brown. Break up the mince with a wooden spoon now and again.
Add chilli, carrot, cauliflower, tomato paste, water, bay leaves and chickpeas and simmer, covered, over a medium heat for 25–30 minutes, until liquid has evaporated. Add more water if it starts to dry out too quickly. Toss peas into the pot for the last 5–10 minutes cooking time. Remove bay leaves. Season to taste.
Serve Keema mattar on top of chapati, scattered with coriander (cilantro), with raita on the side.
Divide the remainder of the Keema mattar into plastic containers (see storage tips below).
Reserve 3 cups (600g) Keema mattar for the Baked filo pastry samosas.

  • The Keema mattar recipe will yield three portions; ie. two serves of about 6 cups (1¼ kilos) each (1¼ kilos will serve four) plus a 3 cup (600g) portion to be used for the Baked filo pastry samosas.
  • Keema mattar can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge and should be used within three days; or it can be frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Serve the Keema mattar with steamed basmati rice instead of naan, for a change.
  • 2 x 400g (14 oz) cans chickpeas (garbanzos), drained, will yield approximately 3 cups chickpeas. For 3 cups cooked chickpeas, soak 250g (9 oz) dry chickpeas overnight. Drain and cook in boiling water for 45–50 minutes, until just tender. Drain and rinse. I often cook up a load of chickpeas, and freeze them in 1 cup portions to use when required.

Baked filo pastry samosas. One Equals Two.

[Recipe 2] Baked filo pastry samosas

Ingredients (makes 20):
1 tablespoon corn flour (cornstarch)
4 tablespoons warm water

♦ 3 cups (600g) reserved Keema mattar

½ cup (50g) dessicated coconut
1 x 375g (12½ oz) packet (20 sheets) frozen filo (phyllo) pastry, defrosted in fridge overnight
Vegetable oil for brushing
Easy spiced tomato chutney, or store-bought chutney, to serve

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Mix corn flour and water together. Place into a small pan.
Add reserved Keema mattar to pan.
Add coconut and stir well.
Bring to the boil. Turn down heat and simmer until mixture thickens, about 2–3 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Cut though all 20 sheets of filo pastry at once, with a sharp knife, into 3 long strips each measuring about 8½cm (3-inch) in width.
You’ll need three strips of pastry per samosa, making a total of about 20 samosas.
Place 1 tablespoon of the Keema mattar filling at the top end of a pastry strip and pull the left corner of the sheet diagonally to the right so that it forms the first little triangle. Keep folding the samosa over and over in the same way maintaining the triangle shape. After every third fold, brush a little oil on the pastry.
Repeat the procedure until all the samosas are ready, popping each on an oiled tray (with the last fold underneath), covered with a clean tea towel as you go.
Lightly brush the top of each samosa with vegetable oil.
Bake for 15–20 minutes, or until golden. Serve hot with Easy spiced tomato chutney.

  • Work quickly with the filo pastry, so it doesn’t dry out. Keep unused pastry portions covered with a clean tea towel as you work.
  • If using refrigerated Keema mattar (not frozen) this recipe is suitable to freeze. Freeze cooked samosas, for up to 3 months. Place baking paper between the layers. When serving, allow to defrost overnight in the fridge. Reheat in a hot oven, covered with foil, for 5–10 minutes.