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

[Recipe 1] HOME-MADE CHUNKY COOKED TOMATO and RED PEPPER SALSA transforms into
[Recipe 2] SOUTHWESTERN BLACK BEAN and CHICKEN SALSA SOUP
[Recipe 3] MEXI BURGERS
[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)

Salt
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.

Let’s talk about Mex

Leftover par-boiled potatoes from this recipe transform into
BREAKFAST BURRITOS with CRISPY FRIED POTATOES, SCRAMBLED EGGS and PAN-FRIED SALSA

On our road trip through the US we ate and ate. And ate. I look way porkier in the photos taken towards the end of our holiday, but it was totally worth it! We traveled mainly through the Southwest, so that meant the 3 B’s – burgers, burritos and the occasional brisket. Oh, and beer!
If you can bare more holiday photos, scroll down past the actual recipe for snaps of some of the diners, cafes and taquerías we visited – all free-standing (a feature we don’t see in Melbourne), mostly family-run and all utterly beautiful.
I reckon I ate my weight in Breakfast Burritos. El Rancho Hotel in Gallup, New Mexico (one of our hotel highlights) served up theirs with crispy fried potatoes, and… oh my gawd! We’ve long been fans of scrambled egg burritos for brekkie, but the addition of crunchy spuds elevates this simple dish to a complete meal. Since we’ve been home, we’ve enjoyed these babies for dinner a couple of times and they’re immensely satisfying.
The recipe below is my take on El Rancho’s burritos. My Proper fish and chips allow for a planned-over stash of cooked potatoes, which I usually throw into a Spanish tortilla for dinner the following night; but they’re equally beautiful fried ’til they’re golden and crispy, stuffed into a burrito, with creamy scrambled eggs, a spoonful of pan-fried salsa (tomato, onion and green pepper) and a splash of hot sauce. ¡Buen apetito!

PS. If you’re serving this up to kids, you’ll be a hero! Older children will love it as is. For littlies, omit the pan-fried salsa and it’s basically an egg and chip wrap 😉

Breakfast burritos with scrambled eggs. One Equals Two.Best crispy fried potatoes! One Equals Two.Breakfast burrito with crispy potatoes. One Equals Two.[Recipe 1] Breakfast burritos with crispy fried potatoes, scrambled eggs and pan-fried salsa

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

♦ 
4 cups reserved par-boiled potato pieces, cut into small cubes (see Recipe 1 in this post which allows for leftover cooked potatoes)

1 small red (purple/Spanish) onion, diced
1 green poblano pepper, de-seeded and diced (or ½ green capsicum)
12 cherry tomatoes, or baby Roma tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon butter
8 free-range eggs
¼ cup full-cream milk
Salt and freshly-cracked black pepper

4 large (or 8 small) flour tortillas, wrapped in foil, warmed in a low oven for 10 minutes 
To serve:
Chopped flat-leaf parsley
Mexican hot sauce (we love El Yucateco)

Heat 1 cup of oil in a large cast iron or heavy non-stick pan, until shimmering.
♦ 
Dry reserved par-boiled potato cubes with kitchen paper.
With a slotted spoon, carefully add potato cubes to the hot oil in a single layer, pressing them down lightly. They should be almost covered with oil – add the extra ½ cup oil if required. Cook without stirring, on medium to high heat, for 10 minutes. Carefully flip the potatoes over and fry for a further 10–12 minutes, turning occasionally, until golden brown and crisp. Remove potatoes with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Season well with salt and pepper, and cover loosely with foil to keep warm.
Pour oil into a jar to re-use another time (see these tips), leaving a small amount in the pan.
For the pan-fried salsa, add the onion and green pepper to the pan and fry gently until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and stir gently until warmed through. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Melt butter in a small non-stick saucepan. Lightly whisk together the eggs and milk, and pour into the pan. Cook over a low heat, stirring continuously, for about 5 minutes, until the eggs are set and scrambled. Season with salt and pepper.
Divide fried potatoes amongst the warmed tortillas. Spoon the scrambled eggs alongside, top with pan-fried salsa and a splash of hot sauce. Roll up to enclose and serve immediately.

  • If starting this recipe from scratch (without leftover cooked potato pieces), you’ll need 6 large potatoes (approx. 1.125 kilos/2.5lb), par-boiled according to this recipe.
  • If you have a large stove top, you can of course expedite proceedings by having two pans on at once. Cook the potatoes and pan-fried salsa at the same time. Remove the pan-fried salsa when cooked through and keep warm on a plate loosely covered with foil. Cook the eggs in the last 5 minutes of the potato cooking time.

Joe & Aggie's Cafe, Holbrook, AZLa Cita, Tucumcari, NMEl Gallito, Cathedral City, CADelgadillo's Snow Cap, Seligman, AZCoyote Bluff Cafe, Amarillo, TXRoadkill Cafe, Seligman, AZBlack Cat Bar, Seligman, AZCindy's. Eagle Rock, LAMary & Tito's, Albuquerque, NMRanch House Cafe, Tucumcari, NM

Totally rawsome

[Recipe 1] MEXICAN BLACK BEAN and CORN SALAD with QUESO FRESCO
transforms into
[Recipe 2] FLATHEAD TACOS with BLACK BEAN SALSA and CHIPOTLE MAYO

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.

Just falafs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Falafel with farro and chickpeas

[Recipe 2] Falafel with farro and chickpeas

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

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

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

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

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

The lovin’ spoonful (4 ways with ratatouille)

[Recipe 1] RATATOUILLE transforms into
[Recipe 2] FETTUCCINE with RATATOUILLE TOMATO SAUCE and
[Recipe 3] RATATOUILLE PIZZA with PEPPERONI, CHILLI and ROCKET 
and
[Recipe 4] TOASTIES with RATATOUILLE, PESTO and MOZZARELLA 


Is there a simpler, more virtuous dish than ratatouille? Veggies, olive oil, fresh herbs and a dash of salt and pepper. That’s it! It really doesn’t take much extra time to make a large batch and ratatouille is one of the ultimate 1=2 dinners, or in the case of this post, 1=4.
Ratatouille freezes well too, so you can make the other meal suggestions at a later date.
We serve it up on the first night as is, lovingly spooned into deep serving plates and scattered with fresh basil; every last bit mopped up with crusty bread (ours was olive sourdough from Noisette).
My favourite further uses for ratatouille are as the base for a lovely Ratatouille pasta sauce (this can be blended smooth for children – see tips below recipe); and as a rich, thick spreadable sauce for pizza, scattered with rocket (arugula), chilli and pepperoni. Lastly, I can’t go past a 90s-style toastie stuffed with ratatouille, pesto and mozzarella. Délicieux!
There are endless other ways to use leftover ratatouille:
1 Stir through scrambled eggs, or use as a filling for a rolled omelette.
2 Use in place of caramelised onions in a goat’s cheese tart.
3 Blend with chicken or vegetable stock to make a hearty soup.
4 Add a ratatouille layer to a traditional lasagna.
5 Finely chop and add to chilli con carne or bolognaise sauce.
6 Use in place of tomato-based sauce on chicken parmigiana.
7 Mix ratatouille with pearl couscous, crumbled fetta and a small can of chilli tuna for a quick lunch (the husband and I enjoyed this last week)!
8 Blend ratatouille smooth and use as the base for wholemeal bread scrolls with cheese, great for kid’s lunchboxes (recipe to come).
Notes: In testing my recipe for quantities and cooking time, I found roasting and removing the skins from the capsicums made for a milder-tasting ratatouille, which, when blended for the pasta sauce, my boys much preferred. A traditional ratatouille features un-skinned capsicums, so feel free to omit the roasting stage, and add them raw to the pan along with the zucchinis, skins and all; but there will be a slightly bitter undertaste to your ratatouille.

4 ways with ratatouilleRatatouille[Recipe 1] Ratatouille

Ingredients (makes 8 cups):
2 eggplants (aubergines), thickly sliced
Salt for sprinkling
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red capsicum (bell pepper), de-seeded, quartered
1 yellow capsicum (bell pepper), de-seeded, quartered
5 large portabella mushrooms, approx. 375g (13 oz), halved
2 tablespoons olive oil, extra
1 large red (purple/Spanish) onion, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 medium zucchinis (courgettes), thickly sliced
6 large very ripe tomatoes, peeled and de-seeded
1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn; plus extra for scattering
½ cup fresh oregano leaves (substitute with thyme or more basil if unavailable)
Salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
Lemon wedges or balsamic vinegar, to serve

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Season eggplant slices with salt. Set aside for ten minutes. Rinse slices with water and pat dry with a clean tea towel. Brush slices with a little of the olive oil.
Brush capsicum skins with oil.
Place capsicum quarters skin-side down, and prepared eggplant slices, on a large baking tray lined with baking paper. Roast for 15 minutes. Place mushroom halves on a separate tray and roast, together with the eggplant and capsicums, for a further 15 minutes. Mushrooms can be placed on the shelf below if required. Total roasting time is 30 minutes.
Remove roasted veggies from the oven. Carefully drain any juices from the mushrooms, chop roughly and set aside. Roughly chop eggplant.
Place roasted capsicums into a plastic container, pop on the lid, and set aside for 10 minutes. Slip the skins off the capsicums and discard.
Meanwhile, heat the extra olive oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 4–5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add zucchini slices to the pan and fry gently for 10 minutes.
Add roasted eggplant, mushrooms, capsicums and prepared tomatoes to the pan, bring to a simmer, turn down heat, cover and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Remove the lid for the last ten minutes if necessary.
Stir through fresh basil and oregano. Season to taste.
Serve ratatouille with thickly-sliced crusty bread; scattered with extra fresh basil and a good squeeze of lemon juice or drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
♦ Divide remaining ratatouille into 1-cup portions and reserve for Fettuccine with ratatouille tomato sauce; Ratatouille pizza with pepperoni, chilli and rocket and/or Toasties with ratatouille, pesto and mozzarella.

  • Reserved ratatouille can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Fussy kid tip: Kids may turn their noses up at the ratatouille, but will happily hoover it blended in a pasta sauce. You may like to whip up Recipe 2 immediately!

Fettuccine with ratatouille sauce

[Recipe 2] Fettuccine with ratatouille tomato sauce

Ingredients (serves 4):
400g (14 oz) dried fettuccine

♦ 1 cup reserved ratatouille, coarsely chopped
350g (12 oz) tomato passata (tomato purée)
2 leftover cooked good-quality pork sausages, thinly sliced (optional)
Grated Parmesan (or Grana Padano), to serve
Fresh basil, torn, to serve

Cook fettuccine in boiling water until al dente. Drain.
♦ Meanwhile, place reserved ratatouille in a small saucepan.
Add passata and simmer for five minutes, stirring occasionally.
If using, add sausage slices and simmer for a further 5 minutes, until warmed through.
Stir sauce through cooked fettuccine, scattered with Parmesan and fresh basil.

Ratatouille pasta bakeFussy kid tip: Before adding the sausage slices, blend one or two cups of the ratatouille pasta sauce completely smooth. Add a dash of water or extra passata if it’s too thick. My boys happily eat this, completely oblivious to all those lovely hidden veggies!
Ratatouille pasta bake is another fabulous way to use this sauce (pictured left). Blend ratatouille tomato pasta sauce completely smooth, add peas and pan-fried bacon; and stir through cooked penne. Pour into a baking dish, scatter with mozzarella and breadcrumbs and bake at 180°C (350ºF) for 15–20 minutes.

Ratatouille pizza with pepperoni

[Recipe 3] Ratatouille pizza with pepperoni, chilli and rocket

Ingredients (makes 2 pizzas, serves 4–6):
Flour, for sprinkling
1 quantity wholemeal (wholewheat) pizza dough, formed into 2 balls
50g (2 oz) pepperoni, thinly sliced (25g/1 oz per pizza)
250g (½ lb) mozzarella, thinly sliced
1 small red birdseye chilli, de-seeded, finely sliced
50g (2 oz) wild rocket (arugula) leaves (25g/1 oz per pizza)
Ratatouille pizza sauce:
♦ 1 cup reserved ratatouille
2 tablespoons tomato paste (tomato concentrate)

Preheat oven to 250°C (480ºF).
♦ Make Ratatouille pizza sauce by blending reserved ratatouille and tomato paste until smooth. Set aside.
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.
Sprinkle flour onto 2 sheets of baking paper. Place a dough ball on each. Roll out and press each dough ball into a large circle. Make the dough as thin as you can, as it will puff up a bit in the oven.
Spread each pizza base with prepared ratatouille pizza sauce.
Top with pepperoni and mozzarella; and scatter with chilli.
Carefully slide pizzas and baking paper onto pre-heated pizza trays and bake for 10–12 minutes until bubbling. Cook separately if they don’t fit side by side.
Remove from oven. Scatter pizzas with rocket. Serve immediately.

  • Fussy kid tip: Children may prefer their pizza served margherita-style with ratatouille tomato sauce and mozzarella only.

Ratatouille and pesto toasties

[Recipe 4] Toasties with ratatouille, pesto and mozzarella

Ingredients (serves 4):
1 large Turkish bread, split lengthways, cut into four pieces
75g (2½ oz) spinach, walnut and roasted garlic pesto
♦ 1 cup reserved ratatouille
125g (4½ oz) mozzarella, thinly sliced

Spread each piece of bread with pesto.
Fill with ratatouille. Top with mozzarella.
Cook toasties in a sandwich press or on a grill plate until mozzarella has melted and ratatouille is warmed through. Serve immediately.

  • Fussy kid tip: Blend ratatouille smooth for children; or serve their toasties with pesto and mozzarella only.
  • If your ratatouille is quite wet, you might like to drain it on kitchen paper first.

Beet this

[Recipe 1] ROASTED BEETROOT, BABY CARROT and MACADAMIA SALAD transforms into
[Recipe 2] BEETROOT and PINE NUT HUMMUS

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
Salt

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

Of rice and men

[Recipe 1] MARION’S BROWN RICE, MIXED NUT and GINGER SALAD transforms into
[Recipe 2] GOLDEN RICE BALLS with CHUNKY PEANUT and COCONUT SAUCE
……………..
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

AMARANTH, CRANBERRY and MINT SALAD with MACADAMIAS and HALOUMI
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
DRESSING:
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.

Well red

[Recipe 1] MARINATED ROASTED RED CAPSICUM and GOAT’S CHEESE BRUSCHETTA transforms into
[Recipe 2] ROASTED RED CAPSICUM and FRESH HERB TART

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roasted capsicum tart

[Recipe 2] Roasted red capsicum and fresh herb tart

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

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

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

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

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

Hey pesto!

[Recipe 1] SPINACH, WALNUT and ROASTED GARLIC PESTO transforms into
[Recipe 2] TWO DIFFERENT PESTO PIZZAS
……………..
The school holidays have come to an end. Sidney, my scrumptious 5-year old, starts school for the first time tomorrow – his little uniform is sitting on the couch and it makes me well up just looking at it. I’m back at work tomorrow too, so cooking for me at the moment is all about stocking the freezer with easy bits and pieces for quick dinners.
I know there are probably one billion pesto recipes floating around in cyberspace, but mine is pretty ace, even if I do say so myself. The walnuts and roasted garlic make it extra tasty, and it’s full of vitamins as there is a load of spinach mooshed up in it too. Pesto freezes really well, and also keeps excellently in the fridge for up to 1 week. There is no need to add a layer of oil as some recommend. This pesto retains its vibrant green colour due to the splash of lemon juice. I prefer to add the parmesan to the pasta later as pesto keeps better without it.
My boys absolutely love pesto pasta, and it’s easy to add a few vegies to the pasta cooking water, such as peas; or even tiny broccoli florets.
This recipe makes 3 generous serves of pesto, so you can set some aside for two different pesto pizzas later in the week; one for mature tastebuds with roasted cauliflower and chilli; and a kid-friendly version with bocconcini and cherry tomatoes, which we like to call ‘the fancy margherita’. My wholemeal (wholewheat) pizza dough recipe is here. I make this dough often, and the pizza bases freeze well (see tips in the recipe).
PS. Do you like my ‘tablecloth’? It’s actually wallpaper. I’m extremely excited as I found a huge book of vintage wallpaper swatches in my local oppie last week. Be prepared for some kooky table covers in the coming weeks! 

Spinach, walnut and roasted garlic pesto[Recipe 1] Spinach, walnut and roasted garlic pesto

Pesto ingredients (serves 4 for 3 meals):
1 cup (100g) walnuts, chopped
3 tightly-packed cups (100g) baby spinach leaves, chopped
4 tightly-packed cups (3 large bunches) basil leaves
6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 cup (250 ml) olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Ingredients for tonight’s pasta:
400g (14 oz) dried spaghetti
1 cup frozen baby peas (or fresh peas)
50g (1¾ oz) parmesan cheese, grated, plus extra (shaved) to serve
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 150°C (300ºF). Wrap unpeeled garlic cloves in foil and roast for 40 minutes. Set aside.
Whizz the walnuts with a stick blender (in batches) or food processor until finely chopped – take care not to blend them for too long or you’ll end up with a paste. They should retain some texture. Set aside.
Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves from their skins and add to the remaining pesto ingredients. Blend in batches, with a couple of tablespoons oil added each time. Place into a large bowl as you go. Add the crushed walnuts and mix thoroughly.
Divide pesto into 3 portions of approximately 150g (5 oz); or 2 portions of 150g (5 oz) and 2 half portions of 75g (2½ oz). You’ll need 1 full portion of pesto for tonight’s spaghetti. The rest can be frozen – see tips below recipe.
Cook spaghetti in boiling water until al dente. Add peas to the same pot for the last 2 minutes cooking time (if using fresh peas, add to the pot for the last 4 minutes). Drain spaghetti and peas,
reserving ¼ cup of the cooking water, and place into a large bowl.
♦ 
Add 1 full portion of spinach, walnut and roasted garlic pesto, parmesan and reserved cooking water; and toss together. Season to taste. Serve immediately, scattered with extra shaved parmesan.

  • Pesto can be stored in a tightly-sealed container in the fridge for up to 1 week, or frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge. When using pesto with pasta, add parmesan just before serving. Pesto keeps better without the parmesan added.
  • Smaller pesto portions (for sandwiches, salad dressings and scrambled eggs) can be frozen in ice cube trays. Transfer the frozen cubes to a plastic container, and pop back in the freezer.
  • Both the garlic cloves for the pesto and the cauliflower for the pizza can be roasted up to 2 days in advance. They can be baked alongside other vegetables and stored in a container in the fridge until required. 
  • The basil and spinach leaves should be very well dried after washing so your pesto isn’t too watery. You can use a salad spinner, or pat them dry with a clean tea towel. Don’t worry about bruising the leaves – you’ll be pulverising them anyway!
  • This recipe can be varied by replacing the walnuts with cashews, pine nuts or pistachio nuts.
  • Baby tip: You can make pesto for older babies at the same time, by blending a handful of spinach leaves (about 60g/2 oz), 1 large basil leaf and a small undrained 95g (3 oz) can of low-salt tuna in springwater (or a small cooked fish fillet and a splash of water). Freeze in ice cube trays and defrost as needed. Serve with couscous (blended if required).

Pesto, cherry tomato and bocconcini pizzaPesto, roast cauliflower and chilli pizza

[Recipe 2] Two different pesto pizzas

Ingredients (serves 4–6):
1 quantity wholemeal (wholewheat) pizza dough, or 2 large store-bought pizza bases
250g (9 oz) home-made pizza sauce, or tomato passata (puree)
♦ Half portion (75g/2½ oz) reserved spinach, walnut and roasted garlic pesto

Pizza 1: Bocconcini, pesto and cherry tomato (‘fancy margherita’).
6 cherry bocconcini*, halved

8–10 cherry tomatoes (or mini Roma tomatoes), halved
Fresh basil leaves, chopped, for scattering
Pizza 2: Roast cauliflower, pesto and chilli
¼ cauliflower, cut into florets (about 1 cup florets)
½ tablespoon olive oil, for roasting the cauliflower
6 cherry bocconcini, halved

½–1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes (to taste)

Preheat oven to 250°C (480ºF).
Place two pizza trays into the hot oven to warm up, for at least 10 minutes. This is an important step for crispy-based pizzas.
If using home-made wholemeal (wholewheat) pizza dough, sprinkle flour on a sheet of baking paper. Roll out and press each dough ball into a rectangle. Make the dough as thin as you can, as it will puff up a bit in the oven.
Spread each pizza base with home-made pizza sauce, or tomato passata.
♦ Drizzle each with spinach, walnut and roasted garlic pesto.
For pizza 1: Top prepared pizza base with bocconcini and cherry tomatoes.
For pizza 2: Blanch the cauliflower florets in a pot of boiling water, covered, for 2–3 minutes. Drain. Dry thoroughly in a clean tea towel. Place into a bowl and toss with the olive oil until well-coated. Arrange the florets on a baking tray lined with baking paper (you can use one of the pizza trays). Sprinkle with salt. Roast in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Top prepared pizza base with bocconcini halves, followed by roast cauliflower, and chilli flakes.
Carefully slide pizzas and baking paper onto pre-heated pizza trays and bake for 10–12 minutes until bubbling. Cook separately if they don’t fit side by side.
You may need less cooking time if using pre-cooked store-bought pizza bases.
Remove from oven. Scatter pizza 1 with fresh basil. Serve pizzas immediately.

  • Bocconcini are small, white mozzarella cheese balls, packaged in water. Cherry bocconcini are very small, the size of a cherry strangely enough! They’re available at most large supermarkets and delicatessens. Replace with sliced mozzarella if unavailable.
  • Leftover pizza is of course excellent for lunch the next day!

The reel deal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grain fed

[Recipe 1] SWEET POTATO, QUINOA and EDAMAME SALAD with MISO DRESSING transforms into 
[Recipe 2] SWEET POTATO, QUINOA and SALMON CAKES
……………..
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 
[Recipe 2] CORN, PEA and QUINOA FRITTERS
……………..
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.

It’s easy being green

Mediterranean Food Elizabeth David[Recipe 1] SPANAKORIZO transforms into
[Recipe 2] SPINACH, RICE and FETTA SCROLLS
……………..
Many moons ago, when I moved out of the family nest, my first housemates were Paul and Mary, both Italian. We rented a decrepid, slightly spooky half-house in St Kilda, with stables in the backyard, and a huge, ancient kitchen. Paul and Mary were both cooking whizzes, and it was through them that I grew to love Mediterranean cuisine. Mary’s dad often arrived on our door-step with massive home-grown eggplants (aubergines) and bottles of home-made tomato sauce.
It was around that time that I discovered A book of Mediterranean food by Elizabeth David, one of my most favourite cookbooks ever, first published in 1950. Look at that beautiful cover art!
Greek meals were always on high-rotation in that house. Paul made a mean Moussaka; and I still have some of Mary’s hand-written recipes, including one for her fabulous Spanakopita. My version is made with planned-overs as I love the addition of rice and zucchini. I like to twist mine into scrolls too as they look ace and are more child-friendly, especially if you refer to them as snails.
I make up a big pot of Spanakorizo (Greek spinach and rice) first – a lovely, light dinner as is; or served alongside fish. By reserving a couple of cups, you can conjure up a scrumptious batch of Spanakopita (spinach, rice and fetta) scrolls later. Yum.

Spanakorizo (Greek spinach and rice)

[Recipe 1] Spanakorizo (Greek spinach and rice)

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 brown onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 zucchini (courgette), grated
10 cups roughly chopped fresh spinach (2 bunches)
3 cups long-grain white rice (I use Basmati)
2½ cups water
3 cups vegetable stock
1 cup (100g) grated parmesan cheese, grated
1 lemon, juiced and zested (approx. 2 tablespoons juice and 1 teaspoon zest)
½ cup chopped fresh dill, plus extra for scattering
Cracked black pepper
Lemon wedges, to serve
Crumbled fetta, to serve

Heat oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and zucchini and cook for 3 minutes. Add spinach and cook over a low heat, stirring often, until the spinach wilts, about 5 minutes.
Add the rice, water and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes until rice is cooked and liquid absorbed. Have a little peek after 10 minutes, and add a splash more water if necessary.
Lightly stir through the Parmesan, lemon juice, lemon zest, dill and pepper.
Reserve about 2½ cups for the Spanakopita (spinach, rice and fetta) scrolls.
Divide remainder amongst four deep bowls. Scatter with crumbled fetta and extra dill; and serve with lemon wedges and crusty bread.

  • 10 cups of spinach seems an obscene amount, but remember it shrinks when warm!
  • For a change, add one cup chopped button mushrooms with the garlic and zucchini; or flake 100g (4 oz) of smoked trout fillet over the spanakorizo before serving. Yum! Spanakorizo is also lovely served with toasted pine nuts scattered on top.
  • FUSSY CHILD TIP: Add 1 small drained can of tuna to children’s servings of spanakorizo.

Spinach, rice and fetta scrolls

[Recipe 2] Spanakopita (spinach, rice and fetta) scrolls

2½ cups reserved spanakorizo
1 cup (100g) vintage tasty cheese, grated
250g fetta cheese, crumbled
3 eggs, lightly beaten
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons (30g/1 oz) butter, melted, combined with 2 tablespoons olive oil
12 sheets filo pastry (3 sheets per scroll)
Sesame seeds, for sprinkling
Green salad or Green beans with toasted pine nuts, to serve

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF). Line a large baking tray with baking paper.
Place reserved spanakorizo into a large bowl.
Add tasty cheese, fetta, eggs, salt and pepper. Mix well.
Make 1 scroll at a time. Lay out one sheet of filo. Brush with butter/oil mixture. Add another 2 sheets of filo, brushing lightly with butter/oil mixture each time.
Spread a quarter of the spanakorizo and fetta mixture (about 1 cup) along one edge of the LONG side of your filo stack. Roll up into a sausage shape.
Place seam side down, and twist filo sausage to create a scroll (or ‘snail’ if you are preparing this with/for children). Brush top lightly with butter/oil mixture. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Repeat procedure to make four scrolls.
Lift scrolls onto lined tray and bake for 30 minutes, until golden brown.
Serve with a green salad or Green beans with toasted pine nuts (cooled, and served as a salad).
Makes 4 scrolls.

  • FUSSY CHILD TIP: Scoop out half (about 2 cups) of the spanakorizo and fetta mixture and add a handful of leftover chopped roast chicken, before rolling into scroll shapes.

Rice rice baby

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

Home made sushi hand rolls

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

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

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

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

Onigiri rice balls

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

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

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

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

Black beauty

[Recipe 1] BLACK BEAN, CORN and CHORIZO STEW transforms into
[Recipe 2] BLACK BEAN QUESADILLAS with MANCHEGO
……………..
The husband returned on Sunday night from his men’s weekend. They like to theme their getaways and this time it was Mexican. They watched B-Grade Mexican movies, and ingested quite a lot of Corona. Our male friends are all amazing cooks (and our lady friends too, for that matter). There were two tortilla presses along for the ride. They all brought a pot of something for dinner, and there wasn’t a bowl of nachos to be seen. There was an amazing carnitas (twice-cooked pork), a beaut shredded chicken number and spiced beans galore; including the load I sent my man on his way with – a Black bean, corn and chorizo stew. It’s probably more generally South American in origin but he wasn’t complaining. It’s served with a zesty Fresh capsicum and lime salsa and it’s delicioso.
Hope I’m not blowing my own trumpet too loudly about the recipes on this blog. I certainly wouldn’t go on and on about my artwork or anything else, but I reckon it’s different with food, and decided early on in this blog endeavor not to be too shy. I figured you’d be unlikely to try any of the recipes without some kind of testimonial!
Back to the cookin’… this Black bean stew is a great recipe to make if you have one or more vegetarians sharing the dinner table. You can scoop out a portion for them before you add the chorizo for the carnivores. It’s lovely and flavorsome, even without the chorizo; and I can’t begin to tell you how yummy it is, served up later as Black bean quesadillas, oozing with molten manchego cheese. Ay, caramba!
I absolutely love manchego. It’s a Spanish hard cheese made of sheep’s milk, and is smooth with a lovely salty bite. It’s available in good speciality food stores, but if you can’t find it you can easily replace it with pecorino or even good old vintage cheddar. My sons are just as happy with cheddar, so no point wasting manchego on them!
This recipe makes a huge vat, enough stew to serve 6–8 (or 5 Corona-fueled men), plus an extra portion for the tortillas. Adiós amigos.

Black bean, corn and chorizo stew

[Recipe 1] Black bean, corn and chorizo stew

Ingredients (makes stew for 6–8 people and quesadillas for 4):
1 kilo (2 lb) dried black beans (turtle beans), soaked overnight
1–2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large red (purple/Spanish) onions, finely chopped
1 large red capsicum (bell pepper), chopped
3 tablespoons cumin seeds, toasted, crushed with a mortar and pestle
3 tablespoons coriander seeds, toasted, crushed with a mortar and pestle
10 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon smoked paprika (pimentón), or sweet paprika if unavailable
2 green jalapeño chillies, de-seeded, chopped
3 cups fresh corn kernels (cut from 3 large cobs/ears)
2⅔ cups (700ml) tomato passata (tomato puree)
1 cup (250ml) dry white wine
2 tablespoons maple syrup
½ teaspoon chilli powder (or more, to taste)
1 teaspoon sea salt (or more, to taste)
1 large chorizo sausage* (300g/10 oz), casing removed, halved lengthwise, sliced thinly
Fresh capsicum (bell pepper) salsa, to serve
Fresh coriander (cilantro), to serve
Steamed rice, to serve

Drain soaked black beans and place into a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add 10 cups of water. Bring to the boil. Simmer for 50–60 minutes, covered, until just tender. Drain again, reserving 2 cups of the soaking water, and return to saucepan.
Heat oil in a heavy-based, deep-sided frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook onion and capsicum for 5–8 minutes, until soft.
Add toasted coriander and cumin seeds to the pan with the garlic. Cook for a further 2 minutes. Transfer onion, capsicum and spice mixture to the saucepan with drained black beans. Add paprika, chillies, corn kernels, passata, 2 cups reserved water (from the soaked beans) and wine. Cover and simmer over a low heat for one hour. Stir frequently as beans are notorious pot-stickers (see my note about using a heat diffuser, below this recipe).
Add maple syrup, chilli powder and salt and stir well.
♦ Reserve 2–3 cups Black bean stew for the Black bean quesadillas with manchego.
Add a splash more olive oil to the frying pan and fry chorizo slices until crispy. Drain on kitchen paper.
To the remaining black bean stew, stir in the chorizo slices. Reserve a few slices for scattering on top. Simmer, stirring, for a further ten minutes.
Ladle stew into deep serving bowls, and serve scattered with fresh capsicum salsa, extra chorizo slices and coriander; with bowls of rice on the side.

  • Be sure to use good-quality dried salami-style chorizo, not fresh ‘sausage-style’.
  • Black bean, corn and chorizo stew can be frozen for up to 3 months; or refrigerated for up to 3 days.
  • Black beans (turtle beans) are available in health food stores and speciality food stores. If you can’t find them though, you could replace them with dried kidney beans. This info on black beans is amazing. They apparently contain more than three times the omega 3-fatty acids than other beans (including kidney beans). They’re also a rich source of anti-oxidant flavonoids due to their black skin. Who knew?
  • To prevent beans, thick soups and sauces sticking to the bottom of my pots, I use a little heat-diffuser my mum (a kitchen gadget lover like myself) gave me years ago. I love it. It’s a metal disk with holes on the edges, for placing under a pot to prevent direct heat burning your ingredients. There are lots of different ones available on Amazon.

Black bean quesadillas

[Recipe 2] Black bean quesadillas with manchego

Ingredients (serves 4):
8 tortillas
2–3 cups reserved Black bean stew
1 cup (100g) shaved or grated manchego cheese
Lime wedges, to serve

Place four tortillas on your benchtop. Brush lightly with oil and flip over.
Top each with reserved black bean stew. No need to warm up the stew first – straight from the fridge is fine.
Scatter with manchego. Place remaining four tortillas on top, and brush tops with olive oil. Cook quesadillas in a non-stick saucepan until golden. Carefully flip them over after 2 or 3 minutes.
Cut quesadillas into quarters and serve immediately, with lime wedges and a simple green salad.

Silence of the yams

[Recipe 1] LAMB CUTLETS with ROASTED CAPSICUMS and SWEET POTATO MASH transforms into
[Recipe 2] SPICED SWEET POTATO and RED CAPSICUM SOUP

……………..
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
½
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.

Well-built [2]

[Recipe 1] ROASTED VEGETABLE STACKS with PERSIAN FETTA transforms into
[Recipe 3] ROASTED VEGETABLE TART
……………..
This is the third recipe to use a reserved portion of roasted vegetables. I made Roasted vegetable stacks with Persian fetta again this week, and instead of making Little roast vegie frittatas with the planned-overs, I whipped up this colourful Roasted vegetable tart. The mushrooms were replaced with 3 roasted roma tomatoes because, well, tomatoes just look so much prettier in a tart!
We had this for lunch, and the husband and I took the leftovers to work the next day.
You can make a half-and-half tart with a child-friendly section containing grated carrot, grated zucchini (courgette), grated tasty cheese (instead of the Persian fetta) and a small, well-drained can of tuna.

Roast vegetable tart

[Recipe 3] Roasted vegetable tart

2 sheets store-bought shortcrust pastry, thawed (or 1 quantity home-made shortcrust pastry)
♦ 3–4 cups reserved roasted vegetables, roughly chopped
½ cup (50g) grated parmesan (or Parmigiano Reggiano) cheese
10 eggs
150ml (5 fl oz) cream (I use light cooking cream)
150ml (5 fl oz) milk
60g (2 oz) well-drained Persian fetta, crumbled
Fresh parsley (or basil), to serve 

Preheat oven to 180°C (350ºF).
Grease a large rectangular 33cm (13-inch) x 23cm (9-inch) baking tin.
If using home-made shortcrust pastry, roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface (or between 2 sheets of baking paper) until 3mm (⅛-inch) thick. Working quickly, push the dough into a rectangular shape (joining pieces together if necessary) about 4cm (1½-inch) wider in diameter than your tart tin.
Line the tart tin with pastry, gently pressing down into the edges, and trim to fit.
Blind bake the pastry to prevent it going soggy: cover pastry base with baking paper and fill with pastry weights (or uncooked rice). Bake for 15 minutes. Carefully remove paper and weights. Bake for a further 10 minutes, until light golden. Remove from oven. Allow to cool.
Scatter parmesan over tart base.
♦ Spoon reserved chopped roasted vegetables over parmesan.
Whisk eggs, cream and milk together and pour into tart case, followed by the fetta.
Bake for 30–35 minutes until the filling is just set. Serve at room temperature, scattered with parsley.

  • You can make and blind bake the pastry case ahead and freeze for up to two months, or store in the fridge for up to 2 days.

Well-built

[Recipe 1] ROASTED VEGETABLE STACKS with PERSIAN FETTA transforms into
[Recipe 2] LITTLE ROAST VEGIE FRITTATAS
……………..
I know, I know. Stacked food is so nineties, but heck it’s pretty, especially when it’s a construction of colourful roasted vegies; topped with a drizzle of pesto. So simple. So delicious. These Roasted vegetable stacks with Persian fetta are lovely served as is, or alongside fish, steak or snags for a more substantial meal. They’re also yum piled on a bed of couscous, drizzled with tahini sauce instead of pesto.
The second-best thing about roasting vegies is the leftovers, or in this case, the planned-overs. Set aside a couple of cups of chopped roasted vegies (see orange diamonds for details), add some beaten eggs, and you can whip up some gorgeous Little roast vegie frittatas for breakfast or lunch the next day.
My boys aren’t so keen on tucking into a mountain of different vegies, so I make roast potato, carrot and corn ‘quivering sky-scrapers’ for them (instructions and picture below main recipe). Enjoy.

Roast vegetable stacks

[Recipe 1] Roasted vegetable stacks with Persian fetta

2 eggplants (aubergines), thickly sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
6 large mushrooms (portabella or cap), halved
2 zucchinis (courgettes), thickly sliced

1 kilo (2 lb) pumpkin, peeled, cut into thick slices (you’ll end up with approx. 750g/1½ lb pieces)
2 red capsicums (bell peppers), de-seeded, sliced
4 red (purple/Spanish) onions, peeled and quartered
12 baby spinach leaves, stalks intact
Salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
Marinated Persian fetta, drained and crumbled, to serve
Pesto, store-bought or home-made, to serve 

Season eggplant slices with salt. Set aside for ten minutes. Rinse slices with water and pat dry with a clean tea towel. Brush slices on both sides with a little of the olive oil and set aside.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Line two large baking trays with baking paper.
Combine the remaining oil and garlic in a large bowl. Place the mushrooms and zucchini into the bowl and toss to coat with the garlic oil. Arrange the mushrooms and zucchini on one baking tray, season, and roast in the preheated oven 20–25 minutes. Remove and set aside.
Meanwhile, place the pumpkin, capsicum and onion into the bowl and toss to coat with the remaining garlic oil (add a little more olive oil if necessary). Arrange the pumpkin, capsicum, onion and prepared eggplant slices on two baking trays. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and roast in the preheated oven for 35–40 minutes. If you’re using two oven shelves, swap trays half-way through cooking. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly.
Reserve 3–4 cups of roasted vegetables for the Little roast vegie fritattas.
Place two slices of the roasted eggplant onto each serving plate.
Top each with mushroom slices; chunks of pumpkin and zucchini; baby spinach leaves and strips of capsicum. Top with crumbled Persian fetta and roasted onion. Add a dollop of pesto.
Serve at room temperature with crusty bread.

  • This recipe is easy to vary. Replace the Persian fetta with goat’s cheese or slices of grilled haloumi. You can of course use any mix of vegies – try sweet potatoes, purple carrots, Roma tomatoes or sliced fennel.
  • You can omit the eggplant and serve on grilled wedges of polenta instead. Make the polenta according to the directions on the pack, cut into wedges and grill or pan-fry until light golden.
Vegie quivering sky scrapersTo make ‘quivering sky-scrapers’ for two kids (pictured), start with three large potatoes and three large carrots (this will allow for leftovers for little frittatas). Par-boil the potato and carrot slices for 5 minutes and dry well before coating in the garlic oil and roasting together with the pumpkin (or lightly fry them in a non-stick pan if there is no room for sharing in your oven)! Serve the stacks, layered with sliced steamed corn. Skewer them to prevent them collapsing. Reserve about 1 cup of roasted potato and carrot pieces for 2 kid-friendly little frittatas. Add leftover cooked sliced sausage or bacon if you like. You can still make the full quantity of adult-friendly roasted vegetables, as you’ll find plenty of ways to use them over the next few days! Pop them on a pizza, toss them in pasta sauce and/or take them to work as a salad (or grab a sourdough roll on the way to work and stuff it with roasted vegies, Persian fetta and pesto at lunchtime). Mmmm…

Roasted vegetable frittata

[Recipe 2] Little roast vegie frittatas

4 tablespoons olive oil for frying
8–10 eggs
3–4 cups reserved roasted vegies, chopped
Salt and freshly-cracked black pepper
4 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
Basil leaves, torn, for serving

For each little frittata, beat 2 or 3 eggs lightly, add ¾–1 cup roasted vegies, salt, pepper and 1 tablespoon grated parmesan.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small omelet pan on a medium-high heat.
Add egg and vegetable mix and cook for 2–4 minutes, pulling the sides in to allow the uncooked egg to run underneath. Cover with a small lid if you have one. Slide the frittata onto a serving plate.
Repeat the process three times with the remaining egg and vegetable mixture.
Serve, scattered with basil.

  • If you don’t have a small omelet pan, you can easily make this recipe with a large non-stick pan. You’ll need 8–10 eggs in total to serve 4. Follow the recipe, adding all ingredients to the pan (you can make a half-and-half omelet with one kid-friendly side). Cook for 8-10 minutes, then cover with a lid (or round baking tray) and cook for a further 2 minutes until set.