Totally rawsome

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It’s entertaining season around here, and ‘stealing salad’ is a sneaky way to get two meals from one. Mexican black bean and corn salad is perfect for a potluck or BBQ and by pilfering 3 cups of prepared ingredients (before adding the avocado and Queso Fresco) and 3 tablespoons of dressing; you’ll have a ready-made salsa, to spoon into tacos with crumbed flathead and chipotle mayo for dinner the next day. My ten year old’s verdict – DELICIOUS!
I served this up at two Christmas lunches last week. The recipe is adapted from one my son made at school – he’s lucky enough to be part of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen program, where ingredients are plucked straight from the school veggie patch and cooked up by the kids.
This salad is a bowl of health, choc-full of raw veggies, and lots of texture and colour. I mucked around with the original recipe, adding mild chillies and onion, swapping lettuce for shredded red cabbage and replacing fetta with Mexican Queso Fresco. Damn I LOVE this cheese. It’s admittedly tricky to find, but well worth the hunt. it’s smooth and mild, holds its shape well and has a little kick of saltiness – the perfect salad cheese.
Wishing you all a very Happy New Year. See you in 2015! xx
PS. I had to share my vintage Japanese ‘Hostess’ brand salad servers. I love the wood/ceramic combination and the crazy colours. I found the red ones a couple of weeks ago. Do three sets constitute a collection? I hope so, as calling myself ‘a collector’ surely justifies me buying more…

Vintage Hostess salad serversMexican salad with Queso Fresco. One Equals Two.[Recipe 1] Mexican black bean and corn salad with Queso Fresco

Ingredients (makes salad for 8–10 people, plus tacos for 4):
250g (9 oz) dried black beans, soaked overnight (or tinned beans – see notes)
4 firm, ripe tomatoes, seeds and core roughly scooped out and discarded, chopped
2 cups uncooked corn kernels (cut from 2 large corn cobs)
1 white salad onion, peeled and finely diced
3 cups very finely shredded red cabbage (from ½ a cabbage)
2 red capsicums (bell peppers), de-seeded, finely chopped
2 long red chillies, de-seeded, very finely chopped
Lime dressing:
100 ml (3.4 oz) lime juice (from 2–3 limes)
½ cup olive oil
4 tablespoons maple syrup
1 large garlic clove, very finely chopped
½ teaspoon sea salt
(Note: you’ll be reserving 3 cups of the above salad ingredients, and 3 tablespoons of lime dressing, for the tacos in recipe 2)
To serve:
2 avocados, diced
1 cup chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
125g (4.5 oz) Queso Fresco (replace with firm fetta if unavailable), crumbled
Corn chips, smashed (optional)

Drain soaked black beans, 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, rinse and place in a large bowl. Allow to cool.
Add tomatoes, corn kernels, onion, cabbage, capsicum and chillies. Toss gently.
♦ Reserve 3 cups of salad mix for the flathead tacos with black bean salsa (recipe 2).
To make the lime dressing, place ingredients in a screw-top jar and shake well.
♦ Reserve 3 tablespoons dressing for the flathead tacos with black bean salsa (recipe 2).
Refrigerate salad ingredients and dressing separately, covered, until ready to serve. Both can be prepared the night before.
To serve, gently stir the large quantity of dressing through the large bowl of salad ingredients. Scatter with avocado, coriander, crumbled Queso Fresco and smashed corn chips (if using). Serve immediately.

  • 250g (9 oz) dried black beans yields approximately 3 cups cooked beans. You can replace the cooked beans with 2 x 400g (15 oz) cans black beans, drained and rinsed.
  • Although the corn chips are optional, kids will thank you for them! You can serve them in a separate bowl, alongside the salad. Guests can grab a handful and smash them over their own serve.
  • Dried black beans are available in Melbourne from Casa Iberica, Oasis Bakery, El Cielo and La Tortilleria; and in Sydney from Fireworks Foods. They can also be purchased online from guaca Mall-e.
  • Queso Fresco (‘fresh cheese’) is available in Melbourne at Casa Iberica and in Sydney at Fireworks Foods.
  • Be sure to scatter the avocado on top of the salad, rather than stir it through. If there is any leftover dressed salad, you can pick off the avocado and it will keep well for a couple of days – it’s great to take to work for lunch!
  • Reserved salad mixture and dressing (for the tacos) can be stored in the fridge, covered, for up to 3 days.

Flathead tacos with black bean salsa. One Equals Two.

[Recipe 2] Flathead tacos with black bean salsa and chipotle mayo

Ingredients (serves 4):
♦ 3 cups reserved salad mix (see above)
♦ 3 tablespoons reserved lime dressing (see above)
400g (14 oz) flathead (or other firm white fish, such as whiting) fillets
½ cup plain (all-purpose) flour
2 eggs, beaten
1½ cups panko breadcrumbs
Olive oil for shallow frying
8 blue corn tortillas (see notes)

Chipotle mayo

♦ To make black bean salsa, combine reserved salad mix and reserved lime dressing. Dredge flathead fillets in flour, dip into beaten eggs and coat well in breadcrumbs. Refrigerate, covered, until required.
Pour oil into a large non-stick frying pan, to about 3mm (.1″) deep. Shallow-fry the crumbed flathead fillets in batches for about 2–3 minutes each side, until light golden brown. Drain on kitchen paper.
Warm tortillas in a dry non-stick pan. Arrange flathead fillets and a good plop of black bean salsa on each. Drizzle with chipotle mayo, and serve immediately.

  • Blue corn tortillas are available in-store and online from Fireworks Foods in Sydney and El Cielo in Melbourne.
  • Japanese panko breadcrumbs make for an extra crispy coating. They’re available at large supermarkets and Asian grocers.
  • If using large pieces of fish, cut into strips before coating.

Seasonings Greetings (3 ways with dukkah)

[Recipe 1] PISTACHIO and ALMOND DUKKAH transforms into
[Recipe 2] SPICED LAMB PIZZA (lahm bi ajine)

It seriously feels like we packed away the Christmas tree two months ago. I cannot BELIEVE we’re half-way through November. Yikes!
Every Christmas I make a massive batch of something sweet or spicy to pop into jars for teachers, family and friends. Za’atar was popular, and dukkah is equally tasty and a cinch to whip up and package; especially if you employ child labour in your home, as we do.
I buy my fabric pieces at Amitié – they have a huge basket of off-cuts, the perfect size for topping jars. The raw tangerine string is from Araliya. It’s handmade from coconut fibre, and it was a birthday pressie (thanks Chris)!
For a more substantial gift, a small spice bowl could be added – Ingrid Tufts makes beautiful little hand-thrown porcelain condiment bowls.
My dukkah is adapted from Greg Malouf’s recipe in one of my most thumbed-through, dog-eared cookbooks, Arabesque. I made a couple of adjustments, replacing the hazelnuts with toasted pistachios and almonds (I’m far too lazy to skin a bulk load of hazelnuts). I also used less salt, adding a touch of thyme. Dried thyme is great for adding a salt-like kick to spice blends.
Dukkah is a flavour explosion! It can be sprinkled with gay abandon on just about anything; including poached eggs, salad or veggies (eg. my roasted cauliflower and chestnuts with dukkah).
Here are three more great ways to use dukkah. You’ll find the recipes below.
Spiced lamb pizza is a traditional Lebanese treat which usually contains allspice and/or cumin. In my humble opinion dukkah tastes even better.
Spiced honey dukkah popcorn is salty, sweet, spicy and incredibly moreish. We had fun experimenting and taste-testing this recipe – four enormous bowls, now gone!
Char-grilled dukkah lamb is a family favourite, and quick to prepare. Served with tahini sauce and tray-roasted veggies, it makes a super-tasty, healthy meal. Leftover roasted veggies and lamb, if any, can be tossed through a simple rocket, freekeh or couscous salad, and dressed with tahini sauce. We often cook up double the lamb and veggies for this purpose. Enjoy!

Pistachio dukkah. One Equals Two.3 ways with dukkah. By One Equals Two. Home-made pistachio dukkah. One Equals Two.[Recipe 1] Pistachio and almond dukkah

Ingredients (bulk quantity – makes 23 cups, to fill 25–27 jars)
4½ cups (450g) ground coriander
4 cups (450g) ground cumin
½ cup (40g) dried thyme leaves
1 tablespoon fine sea salt
3 tablespoons (25g) fine white pepper
8 cups (1 kilo) sesame seeds, toasted
4 cups (575g) almonds, toasted (or store-bought unsalted dry roasted)
2½ cups (325g) pistachio kernels, toasted

Place coriander, cumin, thyme, salt, pepper and half the toasted sesame seeds into a large bowl and mix well. Blend almonds, pistachios and the remaining toasted sesame seeds in batches in a food processor, transferring to the bowl of dried spices as you go. Don’t grind them too fine or you’ll end up with a paste! Nuts should be chunky, and just broken.
Divide dukkah into sterilised jars, top the lids with a small square of fabric and seal with string. You can fashion your own funnel from cardboard, to make pouring into the jars easier. Reserve some dukkah for yourself, for the three recipes below!
Very loosely based on Greg Malouf’s recipe in Arabesque.

  • You can toast your own sesame seeds or buy them pre-roasted from Asian and Middle Eastern food stores.
  • Spices can be bought in bulk from Asian and Middle Eastern food stores. Mine were purchased, as always, from Oasis; where you can also find pre-shelled pistachios!
  • Most dukkah recipes call for whole coriander and cumin seeds, crushed in a spice or coffee grinder, or manually with a mortar and pestle. When making dukkah in bulk, pre-ground spices are recommended, as the crushing would take weeks! Incidentally, food processors aren’t great for seed-crushing as the seeds slip past the blades.
  • Dukkah should be stored in a cool dry place, and will keep for 3–6 months.

Spiced lamb pizza with tahini sauce. One Equals Two.

[Recipe 2] Spiced lamb pizza (lahm bi ajine)

Ingredients (serves 4):
1 quantity wholemeal (wholewheat) pizza dough
2 tablespoons olive oil for brushing
400g (14 oz) lamb backstraps, leg or fillets
3 teaspoons Pistachio and almond dukkah (see recipe above)
2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses
1 small red (purple/Spanish) onion, finely diced
2 firm Roma or vine-ripened tomatoes, seeds and liquid scooped out, diced
To serve:
Tahini sauce
Fresh chopped flat-leaf parsley
Lemon wedges (these are a must)!
Tomato and cucumber salad

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.
Divide wholemeal pizza dough into four. Sprinkle flour on work surface. Roll out each piece of dough into a log shape with your hands. With a rolling pin, roll each log into a large flat oval, approx. 12 x 30cm (5 x 12″). Lift the four bases onto two sheets of baking paper.
Place the chopped lamb, Pistachio and almond dukkah and pomegranate molasses into a food processor and process until minced.
Brush each pizza base lightly with olive oil.
Arrange the prepared lamb, onion and tomato over each base, leaving a 2cm (.8″) border.
Carefully slide pizzas and baking paper onto pre-heated pizza trays and bake for 10–12 minutes. Cook separately if they don’t fit side by side.
Remove from oven. Scatter with fresh parsley and serve with lemon wedges for squeezing; and Tomato and cucumber salad.
Recipe very loosely adapted from this one by Greg Malouf.

Honey-spiced dukkah popcorn. One Equals Two.

[Recipe 3] Spiced honey dukkah popcorn

Ingredients (makes 12 cups):
40g (1.5 oz) organic coconut oil
½ cup popcorn kernels
60 grams (2 oz/½ stick) butter
2 tablespoons honey
♦ 2 tablespoons Pistachio and almond dukkah (see recipe above)
½ teaspoon sea salt

Melt the coconut oil in your largest saucepan, over medium-high heat.
Add the popcorn kernels and cover.
When the kernels begin to pop, gently shake the pan now and again to prevent burning. Once the popping slows down to 2 or 3 seconds between each pop, remove the pan from the heat and tip popcorn into a large bowl.
Melt the butter and honey in a small saucepan. Add Pistachio and almond dukkah and salt and stir to combine.
Pour over the popcorn and stir to coat evenly. Tip into a large bowl and serve.

Dukkah lamb with tray-roasted veggies. One Equals Two.

[Recipe 4] Char-grilled dukkah lamb with tray-roasted veggies

Ingredients (serves 4):
2 x large lamb backstraps (approx. 500g/1.1 lb total)
¼ cup olive oil

⅓ cup Pistachio and almond dukkah (see recipe above), plus extra to serve
Vegetables for roasting:

650g (1.4 lb) kipfler potatoes, unpeeled, scrubbed, halved

3 smallish sweet potatoes (approx. 500g/1.1 lb), unpeeled, scrubbed, cut into wedges

2 red (purple/Spanish) onions, peeled, quartered

2 medium zucchini, each halved lengthwise and cut into 4

⅓ cup olive oil

Sea salt flakes and freshly-cracked black pepper
To serve:
Tahini sauce
Fresh chopped coriander

Place lamb pieces in a non-metallic dish or bowl.
Combine olive oil and Pistachio and almond dukkah and spread over the lamb pieces. Cover and allow to marinate for at least one hour or overnight.
Preheat oven to 220°C (425°F).
Place halved potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil, and simmer for 5 minutes, until just tender. Drain and pat dry with a clean tea towel.
Place par-boiled potatoes, sweet potato, onions, zucchini and oil into a large bowl. Toss to coat. Place into a large (preferably cast iron) baking pan, scatter with salt and pepper and roast for 45–50 minutes, turning every 10–15 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and set aside. Veggies can be served warm or at room temperature.
When you’re ready to serve, cook the lamb. Preheat a lightly-oiled barbecue or chargrill plate to medium–high heat. Cook lamb for 4 minutes each side, or until cooked to your liking. We like ours rare-ish. Set aside to rest for 5 minutes.
Slice lamb thickly across the grain. To serve, pile roasted veggies onto four plates. Top with sliced lamb, drizzle with tahini sauce and scatter with coriander and extra dukkah.

  • Char-grilled dukkah lamb is great for feeding a large crowd. To serve ten people, you’ll need 1.5 kilo (3.3 lb) lamb backstraps, ¾ cup olive oil and 1 cup Pistachio and almond dukkah. Cook the lamb on the BBQ, and serve with double quantity tahini sauce.
  • Veggies are a guide only. Feel free to toss unpeeled pumpkin wedges, carrot slices and/or halved firm Roma tomatoes into the roasting pan.
  • Char-grilled dukkah lamb is also delicious served with Farro salad.
  • Kid tip: Kids will love the char-grilled lamb in a wrap with tahini sauce (or smashed avocado), grated carrot and lettuce. Pluck some roast potato and sweet potato wedges from the roasting pan and call them ‘chips’.

Blades of glory


There were moans at the dinner table. Not whiney ones, I mean the ‘Can’t talk, eating’ pleasure-induced type. I’ve gotta say these are two of the tastiest meals I’ve served in ages!
The inspiration for this post began with a dish the husband and I devoured recently at one of our favourite locals, The More the Better – perfectly unctuous pork belly strips, rolled up in large gossamer-thin slices of vinegary pickled daikon (Chinese white radish). The stand-out component for me though was the kimchi-style coleslaw dotted on top. Traditional Korean kimchi is made from fermented cabbage and other veggies, but The More the Better served theirs raw, so it retained a satisfying crunch. Man it was good.
I immediately set about creating my own version of kimchi slaw. We are a family of slaw hooverers, often eating it once a week in wraps with fish or lamb. Mine is usually a mostly-mayo concoction with a dash of apple cider vinegar, but elevating the vinegar to hero status is a taste sensation. Instead of mandolining a daikon to use for wrapping (too fiddly), I grated it and added it to the slaw for an extra kick of tartness. YUM!
Although we do love our pork belly, I served the kimchi slaw with strips of tender roast blade beef, rolled up like soft tacos in Chinese pancakes, with a squirt of creamy sriracha mayo to balance out the vinegared slaw.
As this blog is all about creating two meals from one, we enjoyed my slightly Asian-style blade beef pot roast on the first night, reserving a couple of cups of the juicy beef for the Chinese pancakes. This pot roast is the perfect Winter pig-out, drizzled with shiitake mushroom gravy (which just happens to be gluten-free) and served with confit-style baked spuds and super-tasty Brussels sprouts scattered with toasted walnuts for texture.
Two meals from one, too easy, and either meal would be perfect to dish up for Fathers Day next weekend. xx

Brussels sprouts with toasted walnuts. One Equals Two.Blade beef pot roast with shiitake mushroom gravy. One Equals Two.[Recipe 1] Blade beef pot roast with shiitake mushroom gravy and Brussels sprouts with toasted walnuts

Ingredients (beef serves 4 for two meals):
2 tablespoons olive oil
1.75 kilo (3.8 lb) blade (bolar) beef
2 cups good-quality beef stock
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon Chinese five spice powder
2 small brown onions, peeled and sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
4 large potatoes, cut into wedges
Brussels sprouts with toasted walnuts to serve
For the shiitake mushroom gravy:
40g (1½ oz) dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked for 30 minutes in 2 cups boiling water, drained (¼ cup soaking liquid reserved)
Salt and freshly-cracked black pepper

Preheat oven to 150°C (300ºF).
Heat olive oil in a heavy-based frying pan. Add the beef and cook over medium–high heat, turning occasionally, until well-browned all over, for about 8 minutes. Transfer to a small, close-fitting, lidded ovenproof pot, preferably cast iron.
Mix stock, soy sauce and Chinese five spice powder together and pour into the frying pan. Simmer gently for 2 minutes, scraping up all the brown bits from the bottom. Pour over the beef. Scatter the onion and garlic slices around the beef.
Place into the pre-heated oven and roast, tightly covered, for 1½ hours at which point the beef should be turned and ladled with pan juices.
Remove 1½ cups of the pan juices and pour into a small baking dish (I use a loaf-sized cake pan). Add the potato wedges, toss, cover tightly with foil, and place in the oven next to the beef. The potato pieces will deliciously poach confit-style in the beef juices for crisping later!
Bake beef and potatoes for a further 1½ hours, turning the potatoes once, after 45 minutes.
Total beef cooking time is 3 hours. Test to see whether beef is fork tender – if not, return to the oven for a further 30 minutes and check again.
Take the beef from the pan, place onto a board and rest, covered with foil, for 20 minutes.
Remove the potato chunks from the pan with tongs or a slotted spoon, and transfer to a tray lined with baking paper. Turn the oven up to 250°C (480ºF), and return potatoes to the oven for 25–30 minutes for crisping, while you prepare the gravy and slice the beef. Potatoes can be kept warm in a low oven.
For the gravy: ladle 1½ cups of the beef cooking juices from the pan, skim off the fat and pour into a small saucepan. Add a few tablespoons of the roasted onion and garlic slices, the soaked shiitake mushrooms and the reserved ¼ cup mushroom soaking liquid. Simmer for 5 minutes, until reduced. Season to taste. Puree in a blender until very smooth. Add a splash more stock or pan juices if it is too thick. Transfer to a small small warmed jug.
When ready to serve, slice the beef.
♦ Reserve half the sliced beef (approx. 2 cups/450g/1 lb), and ¼ cup of the cooking juices, for the Asian-style tacos (see recipe 2).
Drizzle the remaining sliced beef with pan juices. Serve with the roasted spuds, shiitake mushroom gravy and Brussels sprouts with toasted walnuts.

  • A pot roast must be cooked in a tightly-sealed pot! Like brisket, blade beef is best suited to wet roasting. Blade is a cheap cut and if not cooked properly can be as tough as an old boot! The key to beautiful, meltingly tender meat is lots of moisture and a long cooking time on a low heat. The beef should be fairly snug, with liquid at least half-way up the meat. I use a 4 litre (8½ pint) capacity cast iron lidded casserole pot. If yours is bigger, add a splash more stock.
  • Reserved roasted beef blade can be stored in the fridge, well-covered, for up to 3 days.
  • Leftover shiitake mushroom gravy can be refrigerated for up to 3 days; or frozen for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge. Warm, stirring, in a small saucepan. It’s delicious drizzled over steak!
  • Kid tip: Children may prefer plain steamed veggies with their roast, in which case adults can enjoy the leftover Brussels sprouts with toasted walnuts tomorrow, warmed in a lightly-oiled pan.
  • Dried shiitake mushrooms are available from Asian grocers and large supermarkets. If unavailable you can easily whip up traditional gravy instead. Ladle 2 cups of the cooking juices from the roasting pan into a small saucepan. Add a few tablespoons of the roasted onion and garlic slices and 2 tablespoons plain (all purpose) flour. Simmer gently for 10–15 minutes, stirring, until reduced and thickened. Season with salt and pepper. Puree in a blender until very smooth, and transfer to a small small warmed jug.

Kimchi coleslaw with daikon. One Equals Two.Blade beef, kimchi slaw and sriracha mayo Asian-style tacos. One Equals Two.

[Recipe 2] Asian-style tacos with blade beef, kimchi coleslaw and sriracha mayo

Ingredients (serves 4):
10 jian bing (Chinese pancakes)
♦ 2 cups (450g/1 lb) reserved roasted blade beef (+ ¼ cup pan juices), shredded, warmed
Sriracha mayo, to serve
Kimchi coleslaw (can make 1 day ahead):
½ wombok (Chinese/Napa cabbage), finely shredded (about 4 cups)
1 large carrot, grated (about 1 cup)
1 medium daikon (Chinese white radish), grated (about 1½ cups)
2 whole spring onions (scallions), thinly sliced
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon Gochugaru (Korean red chilli pepper flakes), or more (to taste)
⅓ cup (80ml) Japanese rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
½ teaspoon sea salt
Black sesame seeds, for sprinkling

Place wombok, carrot, daikon and spring onions in a large salad bowl. Mix sugar, gochugaru, vinegars and salt together and drizzle over. Toss well and scatter with black sesame seeds. Refrigerate until required.
Warm Chinese pancakes until just starting to bubble, in a lightly-oiled frying pan. Don’t overcook them, 1–2 minutes each side will suffice. Wrap in foil to keep warm.
To serve, spoon warmed reserved roasted blade beef and kimchi coleslaw onto each Chinese pancake. Drizzle with sriracha mayo and roll up to enclose. Enjoy!

  • Jian bing (very thin wheat-based Chinese pancakes) are available refrigerated in packets at Asian grocers, and are commonly used to wrap Peking duck. They’re usually prepared by lightly warming in a microwave, but I like gently frying them as the edges crisp nicely. Replace with small tortillas if unavailable.
  • Gochugaru (Korean red chilli pepper flakes) is available from Asian food stores. It is different to traditional chilli flakes, with more of a capsicum-ish flavour. Black sesame seeds and Japanese rice wine vinegar are available from large supermarkets and Asian food stores. 
  • You’ll need sriracha chili sauce for the sriracha mayo, which is available at Asian food stores and select supermarkets. Although commercially available at Woolworths, the authentic (and far superior!) version, made by Huy Fong Foods in California, is available in Australia from USA Foods.
  • Reserved shredded beef can be gently warmed in the microwave, covered with cling film. 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!
  • Kid tip: My 10-year old gobbles up these pancakes as is, but my 7 year old prefers tomato sauce (ketchup), grated carrot and sliced avocado in his.

Out of the box. 6 more bento 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)
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.


Spudtacular (mastering the hasselback)


Hasselback! Surely the best food name ever? These spuds are the bees knees. They’re simple to prepare, super kid friendly and look and taste spectacular. They originated at the Hasselbacken Hotel in Sweden.
The recipe is similar wherever you look. I’ve tried one on and Nigella‘s, which are drizzled in butter; but I now favour coconut oil*. I also alternate between fresh thyme and rosemary, depending on what’s available. Hasselbacks pair beautifully with pork sausages, roast asparagus and a good plop of sticky caramelised onion jam.
Being a planned-overs addict, I recently roasted double the asparagus and hasselback potatoes; and the following night whipped up a damn fine Potato salad with smoked trout, hard-boiled eggs, olives, asparagus and horseradish dressing. Although quite similar to nicoise, I actually took my inspiration from the Portugese stew, Bacalhau a Gomes de Sá (salt cod with onions, potatoes, olives and egg), which is traditionally served hot; but as we wilted through yet another heatwave in Melbourne recently, a salad was more fitting. I couldn’t lay my hands on cod, so opted for more readily available, and equally delicious, smoked trout.
*If you’ve not cooked with coconut oil, read this and this and you’ll be converted. No more nasty seed or vegetable oils for moi!

Hasselback potatoesBangers with caramelised onions and hasselback potatoes[Recipe 1] Bangers with hasselback potatoes, roasted asparagus and caramelised red onion jam

Ingredients (serves 4 for 2 meals):
12 roasting potatoes (2 kilos/4 lb)
40g (1½ oz) organic coconut oil, melted
1 sprig fresh rosemary, leaves picked (or fresh thyme if unavailable)
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch asparagus, trimmed, brushed lightly with coconut oil
To serve:
Good quality free-range pork sausages
Caramelised red onion jam

Chopstick guide for hasselback potatoesPreheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Place a potato on a board and make thin, evenly spaced cuts at 3mm intervals. Place a chopstick or thin-handled wooden spoon either side of the potato, to use as a guide to ensure you don’t cut all the way down through the potato. Gently fan out the slices.
Place prepared potato on a tray lined with baking paper and brush with coconut oil, pushing down between the slices. Repeat with remaining potatoes. Season with salt flakes and pepper. Scatter rosemary over 6 potatoes, for tonight’s meal (planned-over spuds for the salad in Recipe 2 are best left plain).
Bake prepared potatoes in oven for 1 hour or until golden brown and crisp.
Place asparagus spears on a separate small baking tray, and pop in the oven with the potatoes for the last 15 minutes roasting time. Give potatoes another light brush with coconut oil. Remove asparagus and set aside.
Check potatoes are tender. If not, pop them back in the oven for another ten minutes and test again.
♦ Reserve half the hasselback potatoes and half the roasted asparagus spears for the Roast potato salad with smoked trout and horseradish dressing.
Meanwhile pan-fry sausages, and keep warm in the pan, covered, until required.
Serve remaining hasselback potatoes immediately, with bangers, onion jam and roasted asparagus.

  • You could add a simple green salad to this meal, and kids will appreciate steamed corn or carrots on the side.
  • Planned-overs (reserved hasselback potatoes and roasted asparagus) can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Smoked trout, potato and olive salad

[Recipe 2] Roast potato salad with smoked trout, asparagus and horseradish dressing

Ingredients (serves 4):
6 reserved roasted hasselback potatoes, sliced through, at room temperature
Reserved roasted asparagus spears
150g (5 oz) smoked trout fillet, flaked
3 eggs, hard-boiled, peeled and quartered
Handful olives, pitted (I love Mount Zero Victorian-grown kalamata olives)
Horseradish dressing
2 spring onions, chopped finely
½ cup fresh dill, chopped
Flaked salt (Murray River pink salt flakes are my recent addiction – so good with fish)
Lemon wedges, to serve

Arrange reserved sliced hasselback potatoes and roasted asparagus on a large serving platter, or four individual serving plates.
Place flaked trout, eggs and olives on top; drizzle with horseradish cream and scatter with spring onions and dill.
Sprinkle with flaked salt and serve with lemon wedges on the side.

  • Fussy kid tips: This salad is easy to customise for children by replacing the asparagus with chopped avocado, and omitting the olives and onions, as required. You can also lightly drizzle kid’s serves with good-quality egg mayo or plain light sour cream. Kids may also prefer canned tuna instead of smoked trout; in which case you can use the leftover trout for lunch, in a bagel with cucumber and cream cheese!
  • Any mention of brand names in my recipes is simply because I really like and recommend the products. I don’t do sponsored posts!

Just falafs


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!

Get ya freekeh on

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chicken soup with freekeh and lemon

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

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

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

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

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

A fruitful venture

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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.

Beet this


Happy Father’s Day for yesterday daddy readers! We had a delightful weekend, starting with the Nicholas Building Open House on Friday night (one of Melbourne’s most lovely buildings, and a microcosm of small artist’s studios and tiny specialty shops); followed by a perfect coffee in the sun and a spot of art admiration at Commonfolk on Saturday; and culminating in a magnificent manly dinner – Amelia’s Bangers and mash with beer and onion gravy.
I plucked some big fat grass-fed beef bangers from my freezer, having bought them a couple of weeks ago at East Bentleigh Farmers Market, one of our favourites as it has a zero-waste policy, and always has everything I need, including custard tarts and home-made dim sims. I had a lovely morning there with my 6-year old, and we came home with the aforementioned snags, gorgeous baby coloured carrots, and a few bunches of beetroot including striped Chioggia. I set to work roasting the lot for a salad.
The weather has turned decidedly Spring-like over the past two weeks, and this salad, full of flavour and texture with a light scattering of roasted macadamias; made a perfect light dinner.
I reserved a cup of the roasted beetroot and whipped up a fab beetroot hummus the next day, basically my usual hummus with beetroot added and a handful of pinenuts. Delicious! The husband and I polished off a ridiculous amount, and took the rest to work for lunch on sourdough with roast beef and rocket. I made a second batch to test its freezability and it freezes really well. Who knew one could freeze hummus? Not I, and I’m pretty rapt as it’s a great way to avoid gorging.
Oh, right down the bottom of this post I’ve shared my favourite tea towel. A girlfriend gave it to me for my birthday last year (thanks Eileesh)! I used it as the tablecloth for this post but felt it needed to be seen in its entirety. Isn’t it a ripper!
Footnote: The coloured carrots came from the Greens Organic Farm stall. They also deliver to Melbourne’s south/bayside suburbs. The beetroot was purchased at the Peninsula Fresh stall; and my sausages came from Sage Beef. The beautiful bread pictured in my dip photo was from Rustica. These sellers are all regulars at East Bentleigh Farmer’s Market.

Coloured baby carrotsRoast beetroot, baby carrot and macadamia salad[Recipe 1] Roasted beetroot, baby carrot and macadamia salad

Ingredients (serves 4, plus extra beetroot for recipe 2):
3 bunches beetroot, about 1½ kilo (3 lb) total
3 bunches baby carrots, about 500g (1 lb) total
2 tablespoons macadamia oil (or olive oil), plus extra for brushing carrots
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
150g (5 oz) wild rocket (arugula) or radicchio (Italian chicory) leaves
60g (2 oz) macadamia nuts, roasted and chopped
Orange dressing:
⅓ cup freshly-squeezed orange juice (from 1 large orange)
2 tablespoons macadamia oil (or extra-virgin olive oil), extra
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey, warmed slightly

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Prepare dressing by placing all ingredients in a screw-top jar. Shake until combined. Refrigerate until required.
Wash the beetroot and carrots well. Trim the stems leaving about 1cm (½”) intact. If using large and medium beetroots, they can be halved.
Place the prepared beetroot onto a large sheet of foil. Drizzle with oil and wrap them up like a parcel. Place into a heavy baking pan and roast for 40 minutes.
Brush the prepared carrots with a little oil. Remove baking pan from the oven, and place the carrots next to the parcel of beetroot. You can use a small separate baking pan if there isn’t enough room, or lay another tray on top of your roasting pan.
Place everything into the oven and roast for a further 20 minutes until vegetables are just tender.
Macadamias can be placed in the oven for the last 5 minutes to roast.
Remove baking pan from the oven. Wearing gloves, slip the skins off the beetroot with a vegetable peeler or your fingers.
Reserve approximately 200g (7 oz) roasted beetroot for the Roast beetroot and pine nut humus.
Place the remaining roasted vegetables in a large bowl. Add rocket leaves and drizzle with the prepared dressing. Toss lightly until combined. Divide salad amongst four serving plates, and scatter with macadamias.

  • Small, young beetroot leaves can be used in your salad in place of the rocket leaves.
  • Fussy kid tip: Kids will love the roast baby carrots, but may turn their noses up at the beetroot. Roast a couple of sliced potatoes and pumpkin chunks for them at the same time.
  • This salad can be served with sliced oven-baked pork fillets (tenderloins); which require 20 minutes roasting time and can be placed in the oven at the same time as the carrots. Brush them lightly with oil and scatter with cumin. To serve, brush a little of the orange dressing on top!

Beetroot and pine nut hummus

[Recipe 2] Beetroot and pine nut hummus

Ingredients (makes 2 cups):
400g (15 oz) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained, rinsed; or 1½ cups cooked chickpeas
200g (7 oz) reserved roasted beetroot, peeled, tops trimmed
1 tablespoon hulled tahini
3 tablespoons lemon juice (from 1 large lemon)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, chopped
¼ cup (40g) pine nuts
1½ teaspoons dried cumin powder

Process all ingredients until smooth. Add a splash of water if it seems too thick. Season to taste. If using canned chickpeas, you may not need additional salt.
Serve with crusty bread and/or vegetable crudités.

  • Beetroot and pine nut hummus can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days, or frozen for up to 2 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge.

Uncle Albert's vintage tea towel

Pig out


“So THIS is why the big bad wolf wanted to eat the 3 little pigs”!
So said my 6-year old after his first-ever taste of pork belly crackling. We were a bit startled by his cheerful nonchalance! He couldn’t get enough of it, those oily little fingers reaching out for more and more; and frankly neither could I. I hadn’t had crackling in years, and before last weekend had never actually cooked it myself.
Oh boy was it good; and the beautiful melt-in-your mouth meat it encased was pretty damn excellent too.
I weighed up Jamie and Nigella‘s cooking methods. Jamie gives his pork a sharp burst of high heat to start with, then turns the oven down for the slow-cooking process. Nigella cooks hers in reverse, slow-roasting first with a hot blast at the end. I chose Jamie’s technique as it required my attention at the start of the process, then could be ignored until finished – ideal for weekend cooking.
I improvised and threw together a simple zesty marinade which worked a treat. The lovely pork belly was served up in soft tacos with pineapple ginger relish, a concoction I made up by adding bits and pieces to the saucepan until it tasted nice, and hot damn did it go well with the pork!
These tacos are my version of one of my favourite Mexican dishes – Al Pastor style pork and pineapple. You can sample the real deal in Melbourne at Mamasita, Fonda and our local, Eat Drink Love Taco in Carlisle Street. Al Pastor style pork is cooked on a huge vertical spit and served up in tortillas with finely chopped onion, lime, coriander and fresh pineapple. So good!
Amazingly we had quite a bit of leftover pulled pork, which I used the next night in a fab mixed rice salad with lime and peanuts; using Rice Plus, a locally-made product my friend Judy got me hooked on. It’s fantastic, a combo of black sesame seeds and grains including brown rice, black rice, red basmati, millet and quinoa. I always have a pack in the cupboard. I’ve made this salad a few times, and usually add chopped leftover roast chicken, but the pork was a fabulous inclusion. This recipe makes enough salad for lunch the next day (nothing better than lunch waiting in the fridge for you in the morning). My boys love the salad too, although I modify theirs slightly – see ‘fussy kid tip’ below. Now, onto the recipes…

Slow-cooked pork belly with cracklingPork belly tacos with pineapple relish[Recipe 1] Slow-roasted pork belly tacos with pineapple ginger relish and crackling

Ingredients (serves 4–6 for two meals, ie. tacos serve 4, salad serves 6):
2 kilo (4 lb) whole free-range pork belly
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons sea salt
1½ cups freshly-squeezed orange juice
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 corn cobs, silk and husks removed (to reserve for the mixed rice salad)
Olive oil, extra, for brushing corn
Pineapple ginger relish, to serve
Fresh coriander (cilantro), to serve
10 white corn tortillas, to serve (mine are from El Cielo)

Score the thick pork skin with a very sharp knife, in rows. Don’t cut all the way down to the meat – about 5mm (.2″) deep is perfect. Brush the skin all over with the oil, and sprinkle with salt.
Mix the orange juice, cumin, cinnamon and paprika together and pour into the bottom of a shallow, heavy baking pan. Pop the pork piece on top. Brush the marinade up the sides of the pork. Don’t brush the skin, as it should remain dry.
Note: if you’re using a baking dish that’s tricky to clean, you may wish to line it with a couple of layers of foil.
Allow the pork to marinate, uncovered, for at least 4 hours, or overnight. Keeping it uncovered allows the skin to remain nice and dry which is a must for good crackling.
Preheat oven to 250°C (480ºF).
Roast the marinated pork belly for 30 minutes.
Turn the oven down to 150°C (300ºF) and roast for a further 3 hours, until skin is golden and crispy. With 30 minutes of cooking time remaining, place the oiled corn cobs in the oven on a separate small tray, and roast together with the pork, turning once after 15 minutes. Total cooking time is 3½ hours.
♦ Remove the corn cobs and reserve both for the mixed rice salad.
Remove the pork from the oven and allow to rest, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
To serve, remove the crispy crackling from the top and break into pieces. Pull the pork belly apart with two forks.
♦ Reserve 1–2 cups (as much as you can spare) cooked pork for the mixed rice salad.
Serve the remaining pork belly with warmed tortillas and pineapple ginger relish, scattered with coriander. Serve the crackling on the side.

  • Reserved cooked pork can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 3 days.
  • Fussy kid tip: my boys loved their pork tacos with fresh guacamole instead of the pineapple relish. I served them a bowl of fresh pineapple on the side.
  • When using coriander (cilantro) leaves, freeze the white roots. They’re great for adding to home-made stock, or pounding into a paste for flavouring curries and stews such as Black bean, coconut and fish stew. Strip the tiny ‘hairy’ roots off before using.

Mixed rice salad with pork and peanuts

[Recipe 2] Mixed rice salad with pulled pork, lime and peanuts

Ingredients (serves 6):
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red (purple/Spanish) onion, finely chopped
2 cups (450g pack) gluten-free RicePlus, uncooked
♦ 2 reserved roasted corn cobs, kernels removed with a sharp knife
1–2 cups reserved cooked pork belly, chopped
Sea salt

1 cup coriander (cilantro), chopped
1 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
60g roasted peanuts, chopped, to serve
Lime and ginger dressing:
2 limes, juiced and zested (⅓ cup juice)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon honey, warmed slightly
1 teaspoon dried red chilli flakes
1 heaped tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion over a medium heat for 3 minutes, until just soft.
Add the Rice Plus and 4 cups of water to the saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn down heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to rest for 10 minutes (this will help any excess liquid to be absorbed).
♦ Add reserved roast corn kernels and reserved pork. Season well with salt.
(At this stage you may like to decant some of the undressed salad to serve to kids – see tip below).
Make dressing by combining ingredients in a screw-top jar. Shake until combined. Pour dressing over salad and toss gently. Add coriander and parsley and serve, scattered with chopped peanuts.
Serve at room temperature.

  • Fussy kid tip: For 2 kids, remove 2 cups of the rice salad before you add the dressing, coriander and parsley. You can serve it with reserved pork, but if you wish to keep the pork all to yourselves (bwahahaha – evil laugh); do as I do and stir a small, drained can of tuna in olive oil through the rice salad. Both my boys love this. A classic tuna, corn and rice salad! It’s equally nice made with leftover chopped roast chicken too. My 6-year old adds a huge slosh of tomato sauce (ketchup) to his, and the 10-year old stirs through some mayo.

Endless simmer

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

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 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).

Of rice and men

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

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

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

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

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

Brown rice balls with chunky peanut sauce

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

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

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

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

Feeling a bit seedy

This isn’t a planned-overs recipe, but I wanted to share it anyway as I loved it, and the husband gave it a big thumbs up too.
I’ve been trotting out the cranberry, ginger, mint and macadamia combo for years, but have always served it with couscous. Recently I replaced the couscous with amaranth seeds and it was fantastic!
I know – amaranth is the groovy ancient seed du jour, especially in blogland; but it lives up to the hype. It’s similar to quinoa, but not as bitter; and it’s so pretty, like miniature pearls. It’s also FULL of protein and fibre. Served with haloumi, it makes a lovely light dinner; and the leftovers are fab for lunch the next day.

My original intention was to create cookies from a reserved portion of the cooked amaranth and cranberries. I’ll admit it – I was extremely excited as I thought they’d be amazing. I even enlisted my lovely 11-year old gluten-intolerant niece as my kitchen assistant and taste-tester. OMG, those cookies were disgusting! Awful texture, chewy and unpleasant. I did have a nice time cooking and chatting with my niece though.
So, I didn’t want to waste the salad recipe. Do give it a try – it’s honestly scrumptious.
Footnote: Thank you Redbook for featuring this salad in your ’11 Supergrain Spring Salads’ roundup!

Amaranth, cranberry and orange saladAmaranth, cranberry and mint salad with macadamias and haloumi

Ingredients (serves 3–4):
1 heaped cup (250gm/½ lb) whole-grain amaranth (not flakes)

½ cup (75gm/2½ oz) craisins (sweetened dried cranberries)
½ cup shredded mint leaves, plus extra to serve
½ red (Spanish/purple) onion, finely sliced
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
½ cup (80g/3 oz) macadamia nuts, chopped and toasted
120g (4 oz) haloumi (Greek frying cheese), cut into 1cm (½ in) slices
1 tablespoon olive oil for frying cheese
Lemon wedges, to serve
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons freshly-squeezed orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon finely-grated fresh ginger (or more – to taste)

Bring 3 cups of water to the boil in a medium pot. Add the amaranth and craisins and simmer for 10 minutes, covered. Drain in a fine mesh sieve. Spread amaranth and craisins out on a tray and set aside for ten minutes to dry. Transfer to a large bowl.
Place dressing ingredients in a screw-top jar and shake to combine. Add to the amaranth and craisins, along with the mint and onion. Toss lightly. Season.
Rinse haloumi with water and pat dry with kitchen paper. Heat the olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and lightly fry the haloumi until golden brown, about 2–3 minutes each side.
Serve the amaranth salad, scattered with toasted macadamia nuts and extra mint.
Lay the haloumi slices on top or serve separately on a platter.

  • This salad is a ripper to take to work for lunch. It can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 days.
  • Amaranth is a tiny, gluten-free South American seed similar to quinoa. I cook mine for half the time noted on the packet as I like it with a bit of bite and nuttiness. It becomes quite porridge-like the longer you cook it. It is available from health food stores and markets.
  • Haloumi is a non-meltable cheese from Greece, made for pan-frying. It is salty and delicious. My boys love it, and refer to it as ‘squeaky cheese’. It is best eaten immediately as it rubberises upon standing. It is available from large supermarkets, specialty cheese stores and delicatessens.

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

Taking stock

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 minute chicken and corn soup

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

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

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

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

We’ll meat again

[Recipe 1] ROAST BEEF FILLET and ASPARAGUS with SWEET POTATO CHIPS transforms into
We’re right in the middle of asparagus season – one of my favourite vegetables. Stinky wee is such a tiny price to pay for something so delicious. They were $1 a bunch at the market recently, which helped alleviate my guilt from lashing out on a whole beef eye fillet. Yikes.
If you’ve not roasted a whole beef fillet before, I highly recommend you do. It’s the most beautiful, tender meat imaginable, and so easy to cook. It’s simply seared and tossed in the oven. I served it with sweet potato chips, although I do think ‘chips’ is a slight misnomer as they’re not exactly crunchy. They are however, absolutely scrumptious! The brown sugar is optional, but it does help the sweet potato caramelise nicely.
Reserve some of your roast beef fillet (look for the ♦ orange diamonds for quantity/instructions), and you can conjure up Vietnamese beef coleslaw with kaffir lime dressing for dinner later in the week. It’s actually a bit of a Thai/Vietnamese fusion, and it’s zingy and pretty fabulous. We ate ours outside on a beautiful balmy Melbourne evening, with a glass or two of Coopers ale. Bliss!

Roast eye fillet[Recipe 1] Roast beef fillet and asparagus with sweet potato chips

Ingredients (beef serves 4 for 2 meals):
1.65kg (3½ lb) beef eye fillet, trimmed and tied (see this youtube clip for method)
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus extra for brushing asparagus
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 bunches asparagus spears, ends trimmed
Spiced sweet potato chips (serves 4):
750g (1½ lb) orange sweet potato, peeled and cut into chips
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon raw sugar (optional)
1 teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 220°C (425ºF).
Heat a large heavy-based pan, add the olive oil, and seal the beef on all sides until browned. Place prepared beef fillet into a shallow baking pan.
Lightly brush the asparagus spears with olive oil. Place onto a large baking tray, lined with baking paper.
Place sweet potato pieces into a large bowl, add oil and shake well to coat. Mix all dry ingredients together, add to the bowl and shake or stir to coat evenly. Arrange the sweet potato chips next to the asparagus spears.
Place beef and vegetables into pre-heated oven and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the asparagus spears. Turn the sweet potato chips over and continue roasting along with the beef for a further 15 minutes. Sweet potato and beef will need a total of about 30 minutes cooking time. Remove beef, cover loosely with foil and rest for ten minutes. Remove string.
Reserve about 400g (14 oz) of the beef fillet for the Vietnamese coleslaw with lime dressing. Don’t be tempted to slice the beef for the salad now – it will be much easier to slice thinly when cold.
Carve the remaining beef into thick 1cm (½ inch) slices. Serve with the asparagus spears, sweet potato chips and a simple green salad.

Vietnamese beef coleslaw

[Recipe 2] Vietnamese beef coleslaw with kaffir lime dressing

Ingredients (serves 4):
½ wombok (Chinese/Napa cabbage), finely shredded (about 4 cups)
2 medium carrots, cut into fine match-sticks
1 cup bean shoots (mung bean sprouts)
3 spring onions (scallions), white parts only, thinly sliced (reserve dark green parts for serving)
1 cup chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
1 cup chopped fresh mint (or Vietnamese mint)
400g (14 oz) reserved roast beef fillet, very finely sliced
1 cup (150g) unsalted cashews, roasted, crushed with a mortar and pestle
Kaffir lime dressing:
1 tablespoon brown sugar
3 tablespoons lime juice (from 2 limes)
6 kaffir lime leaves, very finely shredded
3 small red birdseye chillis, de-seeded, finely chopped
2 tablespoons peanut oil (or olive oil)
2 tablespoons Japanese rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fish sauce

Make dressing by combining all ingredients in a screw-top jar. Shake until combined.
Place all salad ingredients (except beef and cashews) into a large bowl. Pour dressing over salad and gently toss to combine.
Arrange reserved sliced beef fillet on top of salad.
Serve, scattered with chopped green ends of spring onions and cashews.

  • Fussy kid tip: You can make a kid-friendly version of this salad by combining thinly sliced beef, carrot matchsticks and chopped avocado. Serve in soft wholemeal rolls with mayo or relish. If your kids are coleslaw fans, you could make them a traditional coleslaw, using some of the shredded wombok and carrot, with a spoonful of mayo.
  • Leftover Vietnamese coleslaw with lime dressing is lovely for lunch the next day. If you’ve used up all the beef, it’s equally delicious with leftover chopped roast chicken.
  • This salad is easy to very – stir through snowpeas, sugar snaps, celery or sliced cucumber. Cashews can be replaced with crushed roasted peanuts.
  • Kaffir lime leaves are available fresh, dried or frozen from Asian food stores. If unavailable, substitute with 2 tablespoons lime zest. You may be lucky to find kaffir limes at your market – the juice is too sour to use in cooking, but the leaves can be picked and frozen for up to 3 months. I always have a bag of them in my freezer. They’re beautifully aromatic and an essential ingredient for Thai recipes, particularly green curry and tom yum soup.
  • Japanese rice wine vinegar is readily available from large supermarkets and Asian food stores. Supermarkets often sell ‘sushi seasoning’ which is a good replacement.

Grain fed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A star is corn

[Recipe 1] ROAST CORN, QUINOA and PEA SALAD transforms into 
This Roast corn, quinoa and pea salad is an absolute ripper; zingy and zesty and perfect for Spring. I’ve based the recipe on one our friends Eileesh and Michael made for us last Summer. They barbecued their corn, but the weather isn’t quite warm enough for me to lift the BBQ lid yet (or clean the damn thing!), so I’ve roasted my corn in the oven instead. Eileesh and Michael’s salad featured roasted red pepper, which was fantastic; but I’ve swapped it for fresh peas as they looked so pretty at the market AND I reckon corn and peas are the perfect marriage.
You can serve the salad as is, or alongside chargrilled lamb, chicken or fresh tuna. It’s easy to modify for children and even babies – see tips below the recipe.
Reserve a portion of the salad (undressed) and you can make a batch of fabulous Corn, pea and quinoa fritters for dinner the following night. My boys adore these, and so do we! Ciao for now.

Roast corn, quinoa and pea salad[Recipe 1] Roast corn, quinoa and pea salad

Ingredients (serves 4–6 for 2 meals; ie. salad for 6, fritters for 4):
500g (1 lb) white quinoa, rinsed and drained

6 corn cobs, silk and husks removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
400g (14 oz) fresh podded peas (start with 1 kilo/2¼ lb unpodded)
3 cups coriander (cilantro), chopped
3 cups flat-leaf parsley, chopped
(Note: you’ll be reserving ⅓ of the above undressed salad ingredients for Recipe 2 below)

Lime chilli dressing:
½ cup lime juice (from 3–4 limes)
3 teaspoons lime zest, chopped

2½ tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons honey, warmed slightly

½ teaspoon dried red chilli flakes
½ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Place corn cobs onto a baking tray lined with baking paper, drizzle with olive oil and roast for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, allow to cool slightly, and cut the kernels from the cob with a sharp knife. Transfer to a large bowl.
Meanwhile, blanch the peas in boiling water for 3–4 minutes, drain and add to the corn.
Combine quinoa and 3 cups of water in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stand, covered, for ten minutes or until water has been absorbed. Spread quinoa out on a tray and set aside for ten minutes to dry. Add to the corn kernels and peas, along with the coriander and parsley.
♦ Reserve ⅓ of the undressed Roast corn, quinoa and pea salad (about 6 cups) for the Corn, pea and quinoa fritters (recipe 2).
To make the lime chilli dressing, place dressing ingredients in a screw-top jar and shake well until combined. Drizzle dressing over the remaining salad and toss gently.
Salad serves 6 (or 8 as a side).

  • Quinoa is a gluten-free South American seed, available from health food stores and from the health section of large supermarkets. It’s very high in protein and has a lovely nutty flavour.
  • You can use 400g (14 oz) frozen peas instead of fresh podded peas. Blanch in boiling water for 1–2 minutes.
  • You can prepare the salad one day ahead. Store the prepared quinoa and dressing in separate containers. Store the cooked corn and peas together. Herbs should be prepared and added close to serving time.
  • Leftover salad is fab for lunch!
  • Undressed salad, reserved for the fritters, can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  • Baby tip: Before adding the dressing and herbs, you can puree a portion of corn, peas and quinoa, for babies over 8 months old. 
  • Fussy kid tip: To modify the salad for kids, stir a small can of drained tuna, and 1 tablespoon of egg mayonnaise through 1 or 2 cups of dressed or undressed (as preferred) salad. You can even add a chopped boiled egg. Voila! Healthy, kid-friendly tuna salad. 

Corn, pea and quinoa fritters[Recipe 2] Corn, pea and quinoa fritters

Ingredients (serves 4, makes 16–18 fritters):
1 cup (150g) plain (all-purpose) flour (gluten-free or regular)

1½ teaspoons salt
3 eggs, separated
½ cup (125ml) milk
♦ 6 cups reserved undressed Roast corn, quinoa and pea salad
3 spring onions (scallions), white parts only, thinly sliced (reserve green parts for serving)
Olive oil for shallow frying
Sliced avocado or guacamole, to serve

Combine flour and salt in a large bowl.
Whisk the egg yolks and milk in a separate bowl and gradually add to the dry ingredients, whisking until smooth.
♦ Add the reserved undressed Roast corn, quinoa and pea salad, and the spring onion whites, and stir well.
Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form and fold into the fritter mix.
Heat 1–2 tablespoons olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Use a heaped ¼ cup of batter per fritter, and flatten lightly with a spatula. Fry 4 fritters at a time for about 2 minutes each side, until golden and firm to touch. If your stovetop is large enough to accommodate them, you can use two frying pans at a time.
Repeat with remaining batter. Fritters can be kept warm in a low oven, lightly covered with foil, until you’re ready to serve.
Serve fritters topped with sliced avocado or guacamole. Scatter with chopped green ends of spring onions.

It’s about thyme

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

Tuna nicoise salad[Recipe 1] Barbecued tuna niçoise salad

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

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

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

[Recipe 2] Tomato and thyme soup

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

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

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

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


transforms into

Texan-style pulled pork is one of our favourite, er, pig-outs. It’s totally lip-smackin’, and goes down beautifully with caramelised apples and a glass of cider. My boys just love it. You’ll need to whip up a batch of my home-made kick-arse BBQ sauce to cook the pork in – it’s lovely and tangy, with a bit of bite; and is super easy to make. It yields a large quantity of sauce and it freezes well, so you can make these recipes again at a later date.
The pork is slow-cooked for at least 4 hours, so it’s most definitely a weekend meal. Reserve half the pulled pork, and some of the BBQ sauce though; and you can serve up amazing Pork po’boys with apple slaw as a second meal in no time.
Po’boys are traditional Louisiana-style submarines stuffed with any type of warm meat or fish (chicken, roast beef, shrimp, oysters, crab, fried catfish or… pulled pork). They’re always dressed with salad and we love stuffing ours with apple slaw – can’t have pork without apple 😉
The key to a perfect po’boy is the bread – it must be crusty with a soft centre. The long white rolls sold at Vietnamese bakeries fit the description perfectly.
There are countless theories as to the origin of the term po’boy, but the most widely-accepted story (which I discovered here) is that they were invented by Clovis and Benjamin Martin, brothers and former streetcar drivers who opened a restaurant on St. Claude Avenue in New Orleans in the 1920s. When streetcar drivers went on strike in 1929, the brothers took up their cause and created an inexpensive sandwich of gravy and spare bits of roast beef on French bread that they’d serve the unemployed workers from the rear of their restaurant. When a worker came to get one, a cry would go up in the kitchen: ‘here comes another poor boy!’ The name was transferred to the sandwiches, which eventually became known as ‘po-boys’.
Gawd, all this talk of 1920s America has reminded me of Boardwalk Empire. Season 3 starts in 8 days. Not that I’m counting sleeps or anything…
Ciao for now.

Pulled pork with caramelised apples. One Equals Two.Pulled pork with caramelised apples and BBQ sauce. One Equals Two.[Recipe 1] Pulled pork with BBQ sauce and caramelised apples

Ingredients (serves 4 for 2 meals):
1.75 kilo (3.8 lb) piece free-range boned pork neck (pork scotch fillet)
1 cup home-made BBQ sauce, plus extra to serve
Caramelised (caramelized) apples:
2 tablespoons (30g) butter
2 large green apples, cut into eighths
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon verjuice (verjus)*

Preheat oven to 150°C (300ºF).
Place pork into a small, close-fitting, ovenproof pot.
Add 1 cup of cold water to the home-made BBQ sauce and stir well. Pour over the pork piece. Cook, covered, for 4–5 hours, basting with the marinade once every hour, until the pork is very tender. Test to see whether pork is tender after 4 hours. If not, return to the oven for a further 30 minutes and check again.
Meanwhile, make the caramelised apples. Melt butter in a heavy-based frying pan. Add apples and brown sugar. Cook, covered, over a medium-high heat until the apple is golden brown and caramelised, about 8 minutes. Reduce heat and stir in verjuice. Simmer for 1 to 2 minutes on high, uncovered, stirring constantly. Remove pan from heat and set aside. Apples can be warmed when pork is ready to serve.
Remove pork from pot, place on a board and allow to rest, completely covered with foil, for 15 minutes.
♦ Reserve ½ cup pan juices for the Pork po’boys with apple slaw.
Discard remaining pan juices. With two forks, pull the meat apart into shreds.
Reserve half of the pulled pork (about 2–3 cups) for the Pork po’boys with apple slaw.
Pile remaining pork onto a large platter. Place warmed caramelised apples and extra BBQ sauce into serving bowls, and allow everyone to help themselves. Yummo.

  • *Verjuice (or verjus) is made from the juice of unfermented grapes. The wonderful Maggie Beer, Australian cook and writer, has been producing verjuice since 1984. Hers is available world-wide, in large supermarkets and specialty food stores. If unavailable, replace with apple cider vinegar or white balsamic vinegar.
  • Reserved pulled pork can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  • Fussy kid tip: I peel a couple of the caramelised apples and puree them for my boys – pulled pork and apple sauce! Yum.

Apple slaw. One Equals Two.Pulled Pork Poboys. One Equals Two.

[Recipe 2] Pork po’boys with apple slaw

Ingredients (serves 4):
4 crusty French bread rolls, split lengthways
2–3 cups reserved pulled pork + ½ cup reserved cooking juices (see recipe 1)
Apple slaw, to serve
1 cup home-made BBQ sauce

Cut through bread rolls.
♦ Lightly warm the reserved pulled pork. This can be done 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!
Stuff the bread rolls with the warmed pulled pork.
Add apple slaw and drizzle with home-made BBQ sauce. Serve immediately.

  • Fussy kid tip: My 5-year old isn’t too keen on coleslaw so I serve his po’boy with avocado, grated carrot and tomato sauce (ketchup). We polish off the leftover coleslaw for lunch at work, with sliced poached chicken stirred through.