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

[Recipe 4] NACHOS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[Recipe 2] Southwestern black bean and chicken salsa soup

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

Fresh chopped coriander (cilantro)

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

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

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

[Recipe 3] Mexi burgers

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

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

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

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

Nachos with home-made salsa. One Equals Two.

[Recipe 4] Nachos

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

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

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

Glaze of glory

[Recipe 1] GLAZED HAM with ORANGE GINGER SAUCE transforms into
[Recipe 2] CAULIFLOWER, THYME and HAM SOUP (with leftover Christmas ham) and CROUTONS (from leftover Christmas bread)

If you celebrate Christmas, you’ll no doubt be way too busy for blog-reading, so I’m going to attempt to keep my preamble short and sweet. A difficult task for moi!
Hands up who has glazed and studded a ham. Me! Classic ham-glazing has been on my list of food techniques to try for years, and last Christmas I finally tackled it. I feel the need to drop a bold OMG here. OMG! It was sooo easy, looked impressive and was totally lip-smacking. I’m whipping up another one next Tuesday.
I hung onto this recipe, and the photos, knowing I’d have zero time for blogging this week. I’ve been rushing around like the proverbial headless chook; shopping, crafting, working, cooking and wrapping; but weirdly I love this pre-Christmas flurry. The boys are so excited, counting sleeps; and frankly, so am I.
Now, where was I? Ah yes, the ham! My tasty sticky glaze is a classic orange/mustard/brown sugar concoction, inspired by this one; and livened up with a dash of fresh ginger. One cup of the glaze is reserved for a beautiful (even if I do say so myself) Orange ginger sauce for serving.
After feasting, be sure to save the ham bone with all those flavoursome little bits of meat – it can be put to good use as a tasty base for hearty Cauliflower, thyme and ham soup. This is ridiculously easy to make, and is based on my friend Kym’s fab cauli and bacon soup. I’ve been making it on and off for the last couple of years and my boys love taking it to school in little thermoses for lunch. Swapping the bacon for leftover Christmas ham is just as delicious; and I’m sure you’d agree – everything tastes better with croutons.
You’ll find two further uses for leftover Christmas ham here; a lovely Pea, Zucchini and ham soup and our family favourite, 3-cheese macaroni.
Seasons Greetings to you all, lovely readers. See you next year! Mwah. xxxxx

How to prepare a Christmas hamGlazed Christmas ham[Recipe 1] Glazed ham with orange ginger sauce

Ingredients (serves approximately 18 people, plus leftovers):
1½ cups orange juice (from 2–3 oranges)
2 tablespoons orange zest
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
1 cup firmly packed (200g) brown sugar
½ cup (150g) honey
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon sea salt
Whole cloves, for studding
8kg (16 lb) cooked leg of free-range ham
Ingredients for orange ginger sauce:
1 cup reserved glaze (see recipe for instructions)
1 cup chicken stock
½ cup (125ml) dry white wine
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
2 teaspoons corn flour

Glaze (note: you’ll be reserving 1 cup of glaze for the orange ginger sauce):
Combine orange juice, zest, ginger, brown sugar, honey, mustard and salt in a small saucepan. Bring to the boil, reduce heat to low and cook for 6–8 minutes. Strain. This recipe yields approximately two cups of glaze – reserve one cup for the Orange ginger sauce (recipe as follows). Refrigerate until required.
Orange ginger sauce:
Place one cup reserved glaze (see above) into a small saucepan. Add chicken stock, wine, allspice, pepper and corn flour. Bring to the boil, turn heat down to low, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring continuously. Strain. Allow to cool, and refrigerate until required (sauce will thicken slightly in the fridge).
Preparing and glazing the ham (see photos above):
1. Using a sharp knife, cut around the hock end of the ham, about 8cm (3”) along. At the other end of the ham, run your fingers (or a small wooden spoon if you’re squeamish) along the outer edge of the skin. Gently loosen and peel away the skin, leaving a layer of white fat. When you reach the scored hock end, pull the skin flap off in one piece and discard.
2. With a small sharp knife, score a shallow (5mm/¼” deep) diamond pattern into the fat, at 1.5cm (½”) intervals, taking great care not to cut down to the actual meat, or your diamonds will unattractively split apart. Push a clove into each diamond.
3. Brush the scored fat thickly with the prepared glaze.
Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF). Place glazed ham on a rack in a large roasting pan. Pour 1 cup of water into the base of the roasting pan. Bake for 30–40 minutes, until golden brown. Baste ham with fresh glaze every 10–15 minutes.
Carefully remove ham from the oven and place onto a large plate. Tip: Wrap foil around your oven mitts and grasp the actual ham, rather than attempt to lift the baking pan full of splattering liquid and the ham all at once.
To carve, steady the ham with a large meat fork. Use a sharp carving knife to cut slices of ham away from the bone, following the grain of the meat. Transfer slices to a platter as you go. Continue slicing, working around the bone. Turn ham over and repeat on the other side.
Serve ham warm or at room temperature with a jug of warmed Orange ginger sauce on the side, and crusty sourdough bread.
Reserve ham bone and 1 cup ham for the cauliflower, thyme and ham soup.
Reserve uneaten Christmas bread for the croutons.

  • Glaze and Orange ginger sauce can be made up to 3 days ahead, and stored in the fridge.
  • To serve ham warm on Christmas day, you can score and stud with cloves the day before. Cover with cling wrap and refrigerate until ready to glaze and bake.
  • To serve ham cool or at room temperature on Christmas Day (my preference – far less stressful), ham can be baked and glazed the day before. Store glazed ham in the fridge, covered with a pillowcase rinsed in a solution of ¾ cup white vinegar and 1½ litres (3 pints) water.
  • If you’re celebrating Christmas in Summer, glazed ham is also delicious served with Mango and mint salsa on the side. Amelia’s Boxing Day mango chutney looks like a lovely accompaniment too.
  • Leftover ham on the bone can be covered in a vinegared pillowcase (see tip above) and refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. Rinse out your pillowcase every 3 days with prepared vinegar solution, to keep ham moist.
  • Leftover ham can be frozen, cut into pieces, for up to 6 weeks (cured meat can’t be frozen for as long as other meats).

Cauliflower and ham soup

[Recipe 2] Cauliflower, thyme and ham soup (with leftover Christmas ham)

Ingredients (serves 8–10):
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 small brown onions, diced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 heads cauliflower, florets removed and chopped
♦ 1 leftover Christmas ham bone
8 cups (2 litres) chicken stock, home-made or low-salt store-bought
3 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (or 1½ teaspoons dried, if unavailable)
♦ 1 cup (approx. 200g) chopped leftover Christmas ham (you may not need the full amount – see recipe)
1 cup (250ml) cream (I use light cooking cream)
Freshly cracked black pepper
Chopped parsley, to serve
♦ 3 slices leftover sourdough bread, crusts trimmed, cubed
1 tablespoon olive oil, extra

Heat oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over low–medium heat. Cook the onion for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 3 minutes. Add cauliflower, ham bone, chicken stock and thyme. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is soft.
If time permits, allow soup to sit for one hour with the ham bone in.
Remove ham bone. Puree soup in a blender or with a stick blender.
Cut off any ham remaining on the bone, and return it to the soup with the cream, pepper and leftover Christmas ham. Stir well.
Note: If your ham bone is quite meaty, you may not need the extra cup of chopped ham.
To make croutons, preheat oven to 220°C (425ºF). Toss bread cubes and extra olive oil in a bowl until evenly coated. Spread cubes on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake for 10 minutes until crunchy and golden brown. Set aside.
Re-heat soup and serve, scattered with croutons and parsley.

  • Cauliflower, thyme and ham soup can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. If using fresh (not frozen) ham, the soup can be frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Croutons can be stored in an air-tight container for up to 3 days.
  • If you’re keen to try this soup, but don’t have a handy leftover Christmas ham bone lying around, you may be lucky to score one from your delicatessen or smallgoods store. Ham bones are often discarded, so if you ask nicely they may be quite happy to sell you one for a nominal price.

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.

I want to hold your ham

[Recipe 1] PEA, ZUCCHINI and HAM SOUP (with leftover Christmas ham) and
[Recipe 2] 3-CHEESE MACARONI (with leftover Christmas ham)
Thought you might fancy a couple of recipes for using up your leftover Christmas ham next week. I typed up and photographed these earlier in the year, saving them for now in case I was too pooped to post anything this week. Well, as my mum would say (in her beautiful Dutch accent) Sanks god for dat. Apart from present-wrapping, shopping, baking, visiting the Myer windows, attending nightly Chrissie parties and squeezing in some work; I’ve been stung by a wasp on the bottom of my foot, slammed the car boot lid on my head (don’t ask) and dropped my new umbrella in a toilet. Pretty crazy (and occasionally embarrassing) week!
Anyhoo, back to cooking… I’ve made both these recipes many times, and they’re pretty excellent, even if I do say so myself!
If you’re having ham on Christmas day, don’t toss the bone with all those lovely bits of ham stuck on it – use it to flavour Pea, zucchini (courgette) and ham soup. This soup is beautiful, and perfect for freezing and taking with you on holidays. Soup is always exactly what I crave after gorging myself on Christmas day.
The 3-cheese macaroni is the ultimate mac n’ cheese. My boys just LOVE it. It’s full of veggies, and super tasty with the addition of Gruyère cheese. Gruyère is one of my favourites, so nutty and creamy – just a whiff of it casts me straight back to my childhood dinner table and the steaming pots of cheesey, winey fondue made by my dad.
Hope you all have a beautiful holiday season and New Year. I’m unplugging for a while, and looking forward to some serious relaxation. Ciao for now. See you next year. xx
PS: You’ll find my Glazed Christmas ham recipe here.

Pea, zucchini and ham soup[Recipe 1] Pea, zucchini and ham soup

Ingredients (serves 8–10):
500g (1 lb) dried green split peas, soaked overnight
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 brown onions, diced
3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup frozen peas
2 large carrots, chopped into very small pieces
2 large zucchinis (courgettes), chopped into small pieces
2 full-length celery sticks, including leaves, chopped
1 large leftover Christmas ham bone, preferably double-smoked
8 cups (2 litres) water
2 bay leaves
♦ 1 cup (approx. 200g) chopped leftover Christmas ham (you may not need the full amount – see recipe)
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Fresh mint leaves, torn, to serve

Drain and rinse soaked split peas.
Heat oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 3 minutes. Add soaked peas, frozen peas, carrot, zucchini, celery, ham bone, water and bay leaves. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes, or until dried peas are very tender. Stir occasionally.
Allow to cool for one hour (leave the ham bone in). Remove ham bone. Discard bay leaves. Puree soup in batches in a blender, or with a stick blender.
Cut off any ham remaining on the bone, and return it to the soup with the chopped leftover Christmas ham. Season well with salt and pepper. Stir.
Note: If your ham bone is quite meaty, you may not need the extra cup of ham.
Re-heat the soup and serve, scattered with mint.

  • You’ll find my Glazed Christmas Ham recipe here.
  • Leftover Christmas ham be diced and frozen, for up to 6 weeks (cured meat can’t be frozen for as long as other meats). Freeze it in 2-cup lots, then you can whip it out for these recipes later! Defrost overnight in the fridge.
  • Pea, zucchini and ham soup can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. If using fresh (not frozen) ham, the soup can also be frozen for up to 3 months.
  • The quality of your ham will make a big difference to the flavour of this soup. Taste the soup after pureeing – if your ham bone was well-stripped of meat or only lightly smoked, you may need to add a crumbled beef stock cube dissolved in a little hot water. 

Ham and cheese macaroni

[Recipe 2] 3-cheese macaroni

Ingredients (serves 6–8):
400g (14 oz) dried macaroni
2 corn cobs
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into very small cubes (about 6mm/¼”)
1 head broccoli, florets removed, chopped into small pieces
1 cup (125g) frozen peas (or fresh – see notes below recipe)
1 cup (approx. 200g) finely chopped leftover Christmas ham
4 tablespoons (60g) butter
⅓ cup (50g) flour
2½ cups (625ml) milk
2 teaspoons wholegrain mustard
1 cup (100g) grated Gruyère
1½ cups (150g) grated extra-sharp cheddar
¾ cup (75g) grated mozzarella
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil for drizzling

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Bring a large pot of water to the boil. Add dried macaroni, corn cobs and carrot. Return to the boil and simmer for 8 minutes until macaroni is al dente (don’t overcook it, as it will continue to soften in the oven). Drain. Remove kernels from corn; and return to pan with macaroni and carrot. Set aside.
Steam broccoli and peas until just tender. Drain and add to the macaroni pot with the chopped leftover Christmas ham.
Place the butter in a medium saucepan and melt over a low heat. Add the flour. Cook over low heat for 1 minute, stirring often. Slowly stir in the milk, a cup at a time. Bring to the boil. Turn heat down to low and simmer for 4 minutes, until thickened and smooth. Stir in mustard. Remove from the heat and add Gruyère and cheddar. Stir until smooth, and season to taste. Add cheese sauce to the macaroni mixture and stir well.
Grease a 6cm (2″) deep, 32 x 22cm (12 x 9″) oven proof dish. Spoon in macaroni mixture.
Scatter mozarella over the macaroni, and drizzle lightly with olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes, until golden. Stand for 5 minutes before serving.

  • Fresh peas can be used, instead of frozen. Drop them into the pot with the corn, macaroni and carrot, in the last 5 minutes simmering time.
  • Gruyère can be replaced with Swiss cheese or Jarlsberg if unavailable, although the overall flavour of your macaroni will be milder.
  • Leftover Gruyère can be grated and frozen in a ziplock bag for up to 2 months. It’s excellent on pizza or in fondue!
  • This recipe serves 8. Leftovers can be re-heated in the microwave, or in a low oven, covered with foil. If you’re using fresh ham (not frozen) you can cook two smaller macaroni dishes, and freeze one for later, for up to 2 months. Defrost in the fridge overnight, cover with foil and warm at 180°C (350ºF) for about 20 minutes.

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).

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.

Silence of the yams


I love orange sweet potatoes (yams) and schlepped a huge bag of them home from the market recently. The first recipe this week, Lamb cutlets with roasted capsicums (bell peppers) and sweet potato (yam) mash is a favourite of mine. I’ve been making it for years, since way BC (before children). It sounds simple and it is, but it’s a bit special too as it’s drizzled with a beautiful sweet reduction, made from the capsicum’s pan juices, mingled with wine and white balsamic vinegar. The basil garnish is a must and really finishes it off. I can hardly believe it, but my hardy little basil plant is still popping out leaves in this disgusting weather! It deserves a medal. The boys love this dish too, although they’re not keen on capsicum so I fling them a few steamed vegies instead.
By roasting a huge pan of red capsicums and steaming a mountain of sweet potatoes (see the orange diamonds in the recipe for quantities), you can reserve some for a fab Spiced sweet potato and red capsicum soup. Its lovely and zingy and the colour is amazing – true vermillion. I had a bunch of girlfriends over for lunch recently and they were my guinea pigs. All the soup was polished off, so I’m guessing they liked it! We had it with fresh bread made my clever friend Bec. Her bread is better than any bought loaf. It’s in fact on a par with De Chirico’s and that’s high praise indeed. Thanks Bec.

Roasted capsicums

Lamb cutlets with sweet potato mash[Recipe 1] Lamb cutlets with roasted capsicums and sweet potato mash

¼ cup (60ml) olive oil, plus more for cooking lamb cutlets
6 large red capsicums (bell peppers), de-seeded, cut into eighths
2 red (purple/Spanish) onions, peeled, halved
cup (125ml) white wine
¼ cup (60ml) white balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Salt and freshly-cracked black pepper

4 whole cloves garlic, unpeeled
6 large orange sweet potatoes (kumara/yams), peeled, chopped
1 tablespoon (15g/½ oz) butter, chopped
100ml (3½ fl oz) milk, plus extra if required

10–12 lamb cutlets, frenched
Fresh basil leaves, to serve

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Pour the olive oil into a large baking dish. Add the red capsicum pieces and onions and toss to coat with the oil. Mix together the wine, balsamic vinegar and brown sugar and pour over the vegetables. Season well. Roast for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and gently stir. Add the whole garlic cloves. Return to the oven and roast for a further 30 minutes. Remove and set aside. Drain off pan juices into a small jug.
Reserve all the roast onion and all the roasted garlic cloves for the Spiced sweet potato and red capsicum soup.
You’ll need about 2–3 strips of roasted capsicum per person, to serve with the lamb cutlets.
Reserve the remaining roasted capsicum, about 6 cups, for the Spiced sweet potato and red capsicum soup.
Meanwhile, steam the sweet potatoes until tender, about 10–15 minutes. You’ll need ⅓ of the sweet potato (about 3½ cups) for the sweet potato mash. Add the butter and milk and mash well, until nice and creamy. Set aside.
Reserve the remaining ⅔ of steamed sweet potato, about 8 cups, for the Spiced sweet potato and red capsicum soup.
Quantities don’t need to be exact for the soup recipe so don’t worry too much about weighing things. See my notes below the soup recipe.
Heat the extra olive oil in a heavy-based frypan over a medium heat, and cook the lamb cutlets for 3 minutes each side. Set aside on a covered plate while you make the saucy reduction. Pour the reserved capsicum pan juices into the frypan, turn up the heat (not too high), and simmer, stirring continuously, until reduced by half. Keep an eye on it, so it doesn’t reduce to nothing! This should take about 1–2 minutes. Scrape all the lovely meaty bits into the juice.
Place a mound of sweet potato mash onto each serving plate, top with 2 or 3 lamb cutlets and a few pieces of roasted capsicum. Drizzle with the sweet reduced juices and scatter with basil leaves. Serve immediately.

  • You can make the roasted red capsicums in advance, and keep them warm in a very low oven. You can also make the sweet potato mash in advance and heat gently when required. 
  • Reserved roasted red capsicum, garlic cloves, red onion and steamed sweet potatoes can be refrigerated for up to 3 days; so you can make the soup later.
  • I use a large bamboo steamer over a wok to steam my sweet potatoes, in two batches. You could also steam ⅓ of the sweet potato for the mash, and roast the remaining ⅔ for the soup at the same time as the red capsicums (on the shelf below).

Roasted red capsicum and sweet potato soup

[Recipe 2] Spiced sweet potato and red capsicum soup

4 reserved roasted red onions, chopped
4 reserved roasted garlic cloves, squeezed from their skins
6 cups reserved roasted red capsicum
8 cups reserved steamed sweet potato
2 large tomatoes, de-seeded, chopped
5–6 cups vegetable stock
1 teaspoon harissa (North African chilli paste)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
Natural yoghurt, to serve
Fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, to serve

Place all reserved vegetables into a large bowl.
Add tomatoes, vegetable stock, harissa and cumin. Blend until completely smooth, with a stick blender or food processor. Season to taste.
Warm gently in a saucepan, over medium heat. Season.
Ladle the soup into bowls. Serve, topped with swirls of yoghurt (stir the yoghurt first to thin it, before swirling), and scattered with coriander.
Serves 8

  • Harissa (North African chilli paste) is available from specialist food stores, large supermarkets and Middle-Eastern grocers (such as Gourmet Grocer, A1-bakery, Simon Johnson, Essential Ingredient, Oasis bakery or Manakish). Replace with a small red birdseye chilli, de-seeded and chopped, if unavailable.
  • You can adjust the consistency of the soup, by adding more or less stock. If you accidentally make it too thin, it can be thickened by adding and blending a 400g (15 oz) can chickpeas (garbanzos); drained and rinsed. This is a handy trick to have up your sleeve for other soup-thinning disasters, such as watery pumpkin soup.
  • This soup recipe makes a huge quantity. I like to freeze it for weekday meals. You can easily halve the quantities of vegetables in the first recipe though, to make a smaller batch of soup.

Pow! Right in the kisir!

[Recipe 1] SHREDDED LAMB with KISIR and TAHINI SAUCE transforms into
I’m a bit chuffed with these two recipes. Both boys hoovered them up (although I served my 5-year old’s pita breads differently – see Fussy Child Tips below recipe). First up is Shredded lamb with kisir* and tahini sauce. The lamb is boiled and it’s moist, flavorsome and fantastic. I much prefer it to char-grilled lamb, which can be a tad dry. I’ve based this recipe on traditional Turkish kuzu haslama (boiled lamb). Don’t let the ingredients list spook you. It’s SO easy. Toss a whole leg of lamb into a pot with water, a few spices and vegies and leave it to fend for itself for a couple of hours. The boiled lamb is then shredded and served with kisir*, tahini sauce and pita breads. Yummo.
The excellent bonus with this recipe is that when the lamb is done, you’re left with beautiful home-made lamb stock to set aside for later in the week. Pop the lamb stock in a saucepan, add some of the reserved shredded lamb (see the ♦ orange diamonds in the recipe for the exact quantities), barley and a few vegies and you can conjure up the most beautiful Lamb, fennel and barley soup. The perfect one-pot meal to mop up with crusty bread on a Wintery evening. Melbourne’s weather has been hideous, and the house has become a bit of a soup assembly line lately – this one was the definite winner.
*Kisir is the Turkish version of Middle Eastern tabouli. The main difference between kisir and tabouli (tabouleh) is that kisir has tomato paste and chilli in it. Kisir also has more burghul (bulgur) and less parsley so it’s a little more substantial.

Pita bread with lamb and hommus

[Recipe 1] Shredded lamb with kisir and tahini sauce

2 kilo (4 lb) leg of lamb, untrimmed, on the bone
4 litres (4.2 quarts) water
2 leeks, chopped
2 brown onions, chopped
4 whole cloves garlic, peeled, halved

3 large carrots, chopped
3 celery sticks, chopped
12 whole black peppercorns
2 cinnamon sticks, snapped in half
5 bay leaves
10 parsley stalks (reserved from preparing the kisir)

Tahini sauce or hummus, to serve
Store-bought pita breads, to serve (or try Sawsan’s fab recipe)
1 cup burghul (bulgur)
2½ cups boiling water
1 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 roma (or vine-ripened) tomatoes, chopped
1 small red onion, very finely sliced
2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses (optional)
1 tablespoon tomato paste (tomato concentrate)

1 teaspoon harissa (North African chilli paste)
¼ cup (60ml) lemon juice
¼ cup (60ml) olive oil
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Have your butcher cut the lamb leg in half; or alternatively, take a very sharp knife and cut through the lamb leg on two sides until you hit the bone. Place lamb, water, leeks, onions, garlic cloves, carrots, celery, peppercorns, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves and parsley stalks in a large stock pot. Bring to the boil, reduce heat, and simmer gently, uncovered, for 2 hours.
Meanwhile, prepare the kisir. Place the burghul in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Allow to stand for about 1 hour, until water is absorbed. You can prepare the other ingredients while you wait. Sieve the burghul, pressing down to extract excess water. Place burghul in a large bowl and fluff up with a fork. Add remaining ingredients. Season and gently stir to combine. Set aside.
Remove lamb from stock (including any small pieces that have fallen away from the bone) and transfer to a large plate. Strain lamb stock with a colander into a large pan, and discard vegetables. Strain again with a fine sieve. Allow to cool, then refrigerate overnight. Skim and discard solid fat from top of stock.
♦ Reserve 7 cups lamb stock for the Lamb, fennel and barley soup.
Cut the lamb into chunks, discarding the bone, and shred the meat coarsely with two forks.
♦ Reserve approximately 2 cups of shredded lamb for the Lamb, fennel and barley soup.
Arrange remaining shredded lamb and pita breads on serving platters. Place tahini sauce (or hummus) and kisir in serving bowls; and allow everyone to help themselves.

  • To vary the kisir, add thinly sliced radishes or cucumber.
  • Pomegranate molasses and harissa (North African chilli paste) are available from specialist food stores, large supermarkets and Middle-Eastern grocers (such as Gourmet Grocer, A1-bakery, Simon Johnson, Essential Ingredient, Oasis bakery or Manakish).
  • Burghul (bulgur), or cracked wheat, is available from health food stores and large supermarkets.
  • Reserved lamb stock can be stored in the fridge for up to 1 week, or frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Reserved shredded lamb can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.
  • When using parsley for other recipes, freeze the stalks instead of tossing them. They’re excellent in stock, and can also be used in sweet tomato pasta sauce.
  • BABY TIP: If you have a baby in the house, don’t discard the vegetables from the lamb stock. The celery and carrot can be puréed, with a little of the shredded lamb, so baby can join in on the feast!
  • FUSSY CHILD TIP: If your kids aren’t keen on kisir, serve their lamb with pita bread, diced avocado, sliced cucumber and lettuce instead.

Lamb and barley soup

[Recipe 2] Lamb, fennel and barley soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 brown onion, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
2 parsnips, finely chopped
1 large fennel bulb, trimmed and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
♦ 7 cups reserved lamb stock
2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
1½ cups (375ml) red wine
½ cup (125g) pearl barley, soaked at least 6 hours, drained
4 tablespoons tomato paste
♦ 2 cups reserved shredded lamb

3 cups (100g) baby spinach leaves, chopped
Salt and freshly-cracked black pepper

Chopped flat-leaf parsley, to serve

Heat oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, parsnip, fennel and garlic; and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes.
♦ Add the reserved lamb stock and stir well.
Add the rosemary, wine, barley and tomato paste and stir to combine.
♦ Add the reserved shredded lamb.
Reduce heat to low and cook, covered, for 1 hour. Add spinach and stir until wilted.
Season. Serve, scattered with parsley.
Serves 6-8.

  • If using fresh reserved lamb stock (not frozen); the Lamb, fennel and barley soup can be frozen for up to 3 months. It can also be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
  • I’m no expert, but according to my extensive web-surfing it’s safe to serve properly-prepared meals cooked with wine (or beer) to children over 2 years old. This dish is cooked long enough for the alcohol to evaporate, leaving only harmless trace residues and the rich, concentrated flavour of the wine. I prefer to cook with organic wine as it contains less sulfites and the grapes are of course grown without nasty pesticides.

That old chestnut

transforms into

Happy Queen’s Birthday folks. Gawd, it’s absolutely freezing in Melbourne today. Time for some comfort food methinks.
First up is Roasted cauliflower and chestnuts with dukkah. With chestnut season nearly over, I figured it was time I attempted to roast some myself, and last week I did! Chestnuts are packed with goodness –  fibre, folate, Vitamin C and heaps of minerals including iron and calcium. I’ve never roasted them before and they were scrumptious!
I often prepare roasted cauliflower as a side dish and recently tossed in a handful of roasted chestnuts and a dash of dukkah as an experiment. Mmmmmmmm. You must try it. It went down excellently alongside beef rendang – quite a multicultural mish-mash, but somehow it worked!
In Australia the prime months for fresh chestnuts are mid March, April, May and June. Contrary to my punny post heading, do use the freshest chestnuts you can find, as stale chestnuts are impossible to peel and taste like cardboard – believe me, I made that mistake with the first batch I tried. Blech. They should be hard, heavy and shiny.
By roasting double the cauliflower and chestnuts, you can reserve half and transform them into a creamy Roasted cauliflower, potato and chestnut soup. It is divine (oops, sorry, I think Karen Martini owns that word). So Wintery and delicious, especially when served with crunchy sourdough croutons. Enjoy.

Roasted chestnuts

Roasted cauliflower and chestnuts with dukkah[Recipe 1] Roasted cauliflower and chestnuts with dukkah

Ingredients (serves 4, plus soup which serves 6–8):
1 kilo (2 lb) fresh whole chestnuts
2 large (about 2½kg/5 lb) cauliflower, cut into florets
⅓ cup olive oil
Sea salt
1 tablespoon dukkah, store-bought or home-made
Note: you’ll be reserving half the roasted cauliflower and chestnuts for the soup in Recipe 2.

Preheat oven to 220°C (425ºF).
Carefully score a cross in the top of each chestnut with a very sharp knife. You may need to gently stab them first to get through the hard skin. Place chestnuts in a single layer on a tray lined with baking paper and roast for 20 minutes, until the skins begin to peel back and the nuts are light golden. When chestnuts are cool enough to handle, carefully remove the outer skins, and the dark brown thin inner skins.
Reserve half the peeled, toasted chestnuts, about 350g (¾ lb), for the Cauliflower, potato and chestnut soup.
Chop the remaining chestnuts roughly, and place in a large serving bowl.
Meanwhile, blanch the cauliflower florets in a large pan of boiling water, covered, for 2–3 minutes. Remove and drain. Dry thoroughly in a clean tea towel. Place into a large bowl and toss with the olive oil until well-coated.
On a large baking tray (or shallow baking dish) lined with baking paper, arrange the cauliflower florets in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt. Roast for 25–30 minutes, turning once, until lovely and golden.
Reserve half the cauliflower florets, about 4½ cups (600g/1⅓ lb), for the Roasted cauliflower, potato and chestnut soup.
Toss remaining roasted cauliflower and chopped roasted chestnuts together with the dukkah, and serve.

  • As a rough guide, 1 kilo (2 lb) raw, unpeeled chestnuts will yield approximately 700g (1½ lb) shelled chestnuts.
  • 2½ kilos (5 lb) cauliflower when trimmed and chopped yields approximately 1.6 kilos (3½ lb) florets which will give you approximately 1.2 kilos (2½ lb) of cooked (blanched/roasted) cauliflower.
  • Dukkah is available in most large supermarkets, and from Middle Eastern grocers. It’s super easy to make your own though.
  • Reserved toasted chestnuts and roasted cauliflower can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.
  • Kid tip: If your child won’t touch cauliflower, make some jacket potatoes instead. Throw a couple of whole, unpeeled potatoes into the oven at the same time as the cauliflower. Serve with sour cream or Greek yoghurt, and grated cheese. Most kids will happily eat the cauliflower chestnut soup though (see below), as it’s lovely and cheesey.

Cauliflower and chestnut soup

[Recipe 2] Roasted cauliflower, potato and chestnut soup

Ingredients (serves 6–8):
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 leeks, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
350g (¾ lb) reserved roasted chestnuts
4½ cups (600g/1¼ lb) reserved roasted cauliflower florets
3 large potatoes (500g/1 lb), peeled and chopped
1 bay leaf
6 cups chicken stock, store-bought or home-made (or vegetable stock)
1 cup (100g) grated Gruyère cheese
Salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
Sourdough croutons:
3 slices sourdough bread, crusts trimmed, cubed
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ teaspoon dried thyme

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan and fry the leek and garlic over a medium heat for 10 minutes, until leeks are soft. Stir often.
Add reserved roasted chestnuts and roasted cauliflower.
Stir well, then add potatoes, bay leaf and stock.
Simmer soup for 15–20 minutes, until potato is tender.
Meanwhile, make croutons. Preheat oven to 220°C (425ºF). Toss bread, olive oil and thyme in a medium bowl until bread cubes are evenly coated. Spread bread cubes on baking tray lined with baking paper. Bake for 10 minutes until crunchy and golden brown. Set aside.
Remove and discard bay leaf from soup. Season to taste. Using a blender or food processor, puree the soup completely smooth. Stir through grated gruyère.
Season to taste.
Ladle soup into deep bowls and serve, scattered with croutons.

  • The Roasted cauliflower, potato and chestnut soup will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days or it can be frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Gruyère is a beautiful creamy, slightly nutty Swiss cheese. It’s a great melting cheese, perfect for quiches and soups. The aroma always reminds me of cheese fondue, one of my favourite childhood dinners. Gruyère is readily available in large supermarkets and delicatessens.
  • Make double the croutons and store in an air-tight container for up to 3 days. The croutons can be roasted at the same time as the cauliflower or chestnuts, and stored until required.

Sufferin’ succotash

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

Wraps with crumbed whiting and succotash

[Recipe 1] Wraps with crumbed whiting and succotash

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

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

Chicken succotash soup

[Recipe 2] Chicken succotash soup

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

Heat olive oil a medium-sized saucepan, and gently fry the chicken for 6–8 minutes, until just cooked through. Add chicken stock and bay leaf.
Add reserved succotash.
Bring to the boil. Turn down heat and simmer for 15–20 minutes. Discard bay leaf.
Using a stick blender, give the soup four or five whizzes only, to help it thicken. Don’t blend it completely smooth – be sure to leave lots of chunks for texture. Season.
Ladle chicken succotash soup into bowls, scatter with parsley, and serve with crusty bread.

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

Souper Man

[Recipe 1] MAPLE ROASTED PUMPKIN and CARROT SOUP transforms into
Yeehaw, it’s Pumpkin season! I love a steaming bowl of Maple roasted pumpkin and carrot soup for lunch, and roasting the veggies first brings out their sweetness, and adds a richer flavour.
Reserve some of the soup as planned-overs (look for the orange diamonds) and you can whip up a delectable Creamy pumpkin tagliatelle with candied chilli walnuts. Our youngest calls this dish ‘cheesey worms’. Little does he know the golden colour is imparted by pumpkin, not cheese.
This is a 10-minute dinner as the sauce is prepared while the pasta is cooking. It’s like a creamy Alfredo (that word casts me straight back to Leos in Fitzroy Street in the early 90s), but with less than half the cream and lots more flavour.
The candied chilli walnuts cut through the creaminess of the pasta sauce and add a beautiful textural topping. I strongly suggest you roast double the amount as you won’t be able to stop yourself gorging on them. Incidentally, they make an excellent beer snack too!

Maple roasted pumpkin soup. One Equals Two.

[Recipe 1] Maple roasted pumpkin and carrot soup

Ingredients (makes 3.25 litres/6.9 pints):
2 kilos (4 lb) peeled chopped butternut pumpkin (you’ll need 2½ kilos whole pumpkin)
250g (½ lb) peeled sliced carrots (you’ll need 3 large carrots, approx. 350g)
3 brown onions, peeled and thinly sliced
4 whole cloves garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons (45ml) olive oil
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
6 cups (1½ litres) chicken stock, home-made or store-bought, plus extra if required
⅛ teaspoon chilli powder
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
Spring onions (scallions), or chives, thinly sliced, to serve

Preheat oven to 220°C (425ºF).
Place pumpkin, carrots, onions, garlic, oil and maple syrup into a large roasting pan and toss until well-coated. Roast for 1 hour, turning vegetables every 20 minutes.
Blend roasted veggies (and their juices) in batches, adding a little stock each time. Transfer to a large saucepan as you go. Add chilli, salt and pepper and stir well to combine. Add extra stock if you find the soup too thick.
Reserve 1½ cups (375ml) of Maple roasted pumpkin and carrot soup for the creamy pumpkin tagliatelle with candied chilli walnuts.
To serve, gently heat soup and ladle into deep bowls, scatter with spring onions and serve with crusty bread.
Divide the remainder of the soup into plastic containers, label, and freeze for up to 3 months. This recipe makes approximately 3.25 litres (6.9 pints). 4 cups (1 litre) is sufficient for four people.

  • 2¼ kilos (4½ lb) of veggies seems an obscene amount, but if you’re going to the trouble of making a pan of soup, I say why not cook up a huge pot? It freezes excellently and is great for school and work lunches. Simply defrost in the morning and pour into thermoses.

  • You can of course make this soup vegetarian by using vegetable stock.
  • Try any mixture/ratio of orange vegetables (sweet potato is lovely too), as long as the quantity adds up to 2¼ kilos (4½ lb) of prepared veggies in total.
  • We like our soup thick – feel free to add extra stock if you prefer yours thinner.

Tagliatelle with creamy pumpkin sauce and candied walnuts. One Equals Two.Candied chilli walnuts. One Equals Two.

[Recipe 2] Creamy pumpkin tagliatelle with candied chilli walnuts

Ingredients (serves 4):
400g (14 oz) dried tagliatelle
1 tablespoon (15g/½ oz) butter
2 eschalots, finely sliced
4 rashers rindless bacon, chopped
♦ 1½ cups (375ml) reserved Maple roasted pumpkin and carrot soup
150ml (5 fl oz) cream (I use light cooking cream)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh parsley, to serve
For the candied chilli walnuts:
¾ cup (approx. 75g) walnuts, roughly chopped
½ teaspoon olive oil
½ tablespoon maple syrup
⅛ teaspoon chilli powder (a good pinch)

To prepare the candied chilli walnuts, preheat oven to 220°C (425ºF). Line a baking tray with baking paper. Toss walnuts, oil, maple syrup and chilli together; and scatter on the tray. Roast for 5 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer to a plate to cool, while you prepare the pasta.
Cook tagliatelle in a large pot of boiling water until al dente. Drain. Return to pan and set aside.
Meanwhile, melt butter in a large frying pan over medium heat. Cook the eschalots, stirring, for 2–3 minutes. Add the bacon and cook, stirring, for 2–3 minutes.
Place reserved Maple roasted pumpkin and carrot soup in a small saucepan.
Warm gently, then gradually pour in the cream. Stir over a low heat until warmed through.

Toss bacon, onions and creamy pumpkin sauce through pasta.
Divide amongst bowls and serve immediately, scattered with candied chilli walnuts and parsley.

  • If you have some fresh sage, toss a handful of torn leaves into the butter with the bacon. Delish.
  • You can roast the walnuts at the same time as the veggies in recipe 1. They’ll keep well in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  • Save on the washing up and cook a few corn cobs with the tagliatelle, to serve alongside dinner. Fish them out of the pasta pot before draining the pasta.
  • I always buy 300ml (10 fl oz) tubs of cream, and freeze the leftover 150ml (5 fl oz) cream in its tub. Allow it to defrost in the fridge overnight and use it for this recipe again; or for Caramelised onion and goat’s cheese tart or Chicken and leek pot pie. 150ml (5 fl oz) cream can also be used for a simple carbonara for 4 people. Fry 4–6 slices chopped thickly-sliced pancetta (or bacon) in 2 tablespoons (30g) butter. Add 150ml (5 fl oz) cream and stir until combined. Whisk 2 eggs. Stir pancetta, cream and eggs through just-cooked fettuccine until combined. Serve, scattered with parmesan cheese and cracked black pepper (or dried chilli flakes). Too easy. If you have some baby spinach leaves or peas, toss in the pot with the pasta for the last two minutes cooking time.

The working leek

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

Chicken, leek and corn soup

[Recipe 1] Chicken, leek and corn soup

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

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

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

Chicken and leek pot pie

[Recipe 2] Chicken and leek pot pie

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

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

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

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