Poultry in motion

[Recipe 1] CHICKEN, ALMOND and ZUCCHINI PATTIES transform into

I think I’ll launch head-first into the recipes this week. I’m absolutely pooped, and for once my brain is empty of chit-chat. Did I mention we have a newish cat, Moe (named after Moe from the Three Stooges)? We rescued him from the Greensborough Cat Protection Society, and he’s lovely. He’s such a good sport with our boys, tolerating endless tummy rubs and being wheeled around in home-made carts. The only negative about him is his daily 5.30am loud wakeup miaowing. Ouch. Although I would kill for an extra 90 minutes slumber, I’ve turned this ritual into a positive. The rest of the house manages to sleep ’til 7am, giving me a blissful 1½ hours of ‘me time’ every morning to blog and cruise Pinterest with a warm cat on my lap. I’m doing just that, as we speak!
Wow, I still managed some chit-chat, even in my sleep-deprived state. Now, onto the recipes… this week I’m sharing two fab chicken dishes. First up is Chicken, almond and zucchini patties. These are super easy to make, cheap and cheerful, and my boys love them. By making a large batch of the chicken mince mixture, you can set some aside and make chicken meatballs to use in a lip-smacking Chicken meatball and noodle soup for a second meal.
A word of warning – my 6-year old was quite freaked out by the ‘weird white balls’ in the soup, so the second time I tested the recipe I browned the balls before plunging them into the hot stock, and he was quite satisfied. You can choose your method, but cooking the raw meatballs in the stock is quicker, and more authentic. The husband and I prefer them done this way as the flavour is more delicate, but you may find that your kids will be happier with ‘proper brown balls’.
Ciao for now. Moe is hollering for his breakfast and I need a second coffee. Have a lovely week. xx

Moe-the-cat!Chook, zucchini almond patties[Recipe 1] Chicken, almond and zucchini patties

Ingredients (serves 4 for 3 meals; ie. 2 batches of patties and 1 batch of meatballs):
1 tablespoon peanut or vegetable oil
1 leek, white part only, halved lengthwise, cut into long strips and sliced finely
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1½ kilos (3 lb) minced (ground) chicken
3cm (1¼”) piece ginger, finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
3 tablespoons very finely-chopped lemongrass stalk, white part only
3 medium zucchini (500g/1 lb), grated, squeezed to remove excess liquid
250g (9 oz) almond meal
3 eggs, beaten
½ teaspoon sea salt
Peanut or vegetable oil, extra, for frying patties
To serve with patties:
Sweet chilli sauce
Green beans with toasted pine nuts

Heat oil in a small saucepan and fry the leek and garlic over a medium heat for 3 minutes. Process cooked leek, 500g (1 lb) of the chicken mince, ginger, lemongrass, zucchini, almond meal, eggs and salt until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl, add the remaining chicken mince and mix well.
Divide mixture into three portions of approx. 800g (1¾ lb) each.
Shape 2 portions into 8 patties each (total of 16 patties). Reserve one portion of 8 patties for tonight’s dinner. Freeze the other portion of 8 patties for another meal.
Roll the third portion of chicken mince into about 36 walnut-sized balls, with lightly-floured hands (use gluten-free flour if required).
♦ Reserve the chicken meatballs for the Chicken meatball noodle soup.
Note: The mixture is quite soft and sticky, but it firms up nicely when cooked; and makes for lovely light-textured patties and meatballs.
For tonight’s patties, heat extra oil in a large non-stick frying pan and cook patties on a low–medium heat for 6–8 minutes each side, until golden brown and cooked through.
Serve patties with sweet chilli sauce and green beans with toasted pine-nuts.

  • Uncooked chicken patties and chicken meatballs can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months. Defrost overnight in the fridge. Pat dry with kitchen paper before using, to soak up excess moisture.
  • This recipe makes two batches of patties, and one batch of meatballs. You could of course choose to make 3 batches of patties or meatballs instead!
  • For a change, the patties can be served in soft rolls with chilli slaw or sliced avocado and mayo.
  • Grated lemongrass can be purchased frozen from Asian stores. I keep a large block in my freezer and hack off a chunk when required.

Chicken meatball noodle soup

[Recipe 2] Chicken meatball and noodle soup

Ingredients (serves 6, leftovers are great for lunch):
200g (7 oz) thin fresh egg noodles
2 litres chicken stock, home-made or store-bought
1–2 tablespoons fish sauce (to taste)
4 star anise
4 kaffir lime leaves
2 teaspoons sesame oil
♦ 800g (1¾ lb) portion reserved chicken meatballs
1 bunch bok choy (or choy sum), leaves only, very finely chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chopped fresh coriander (cilantro), to serve
3 spring onions (scallions), thinly sliced, to serve

Place noodles in a large bowl. Cover with boiling water and set aside for 5 minutes to soften. Drain. Divide noodles amongst 6 deep serving bowls (or 4 bowls and 2 plastic containers if you’re saving 2 portions for the following day’s lunch).
Place stock in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Add fish sauce, star anise, kaffir lime leaves and sesame oil. Turn heat down to low and simmer for 5 minutes, covered.
Carefully place half the reserved raw meatballs into the hot stock. Simmer gently for 6–8 minutes, until cooked through.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked meatballs to 3 of the serving bowls. Repeat with remaining meatballs.
Note: if liked, meatballs can be browned in a lightly-oiled frying pan before adding to the stock. See my notes in the introduction.
Remove and discard star anise and lime leaves.
Add bok choy to the stock and simmer for a further 2–3 minutes. Season to taste – if you’ve used store-bought stock, it may be salty enough.
Ladle hot stock over the noodles and meatballs, and serve with scattered coriander and chopped spring onions.

  • Dried star anise is available from the spice section of supermarkets, and Asian food stores.
  • Kaffir lime leaves can be purchased fresh or frozen from Asian stores. 
  • 1 small red birdseye chilli, finely sliced, can be added to adult serves.

Bean day

[Recipe 1] BLACK BEAN, COCONUT and FISH STEW transforms into

You know those ladies who hand out tiny samples of food at supermarkets? I used to do that! It was one of my weirdest casual jobs as a teenager. You name it, I have offered it up on a plastic tray. Everything from crisps at Woolworths to cans of Diet Coke at a golf tournament. I also dressed up as Santa once and handed out bags of mixed lollies to kiddies in cars at a petrol station. It was a hoot. I caused a semi-trailer to do a 6-point turn on High Street in Prahran. He had driven past bellowing ‘Hey Santa, you look like a bloody girl’. When I screamed ‘I AM a girl!’, he came back to apologise. I gave him a bag of lollies.
I was reminded of this job when I visited El Cielo a few weeks ago. Look at their fabulous sauce and salsa samples! I had to hold my boys back, reminding them it wasn’t a buffet.
El Cielo is tricky to find, as it’s hidden in the back streets of Port Melbourne amongst the factories; but it’s worth the drive. They bake blue and white corn tortillas (gluten-free) on-site; and sell mole paste, masa (corn dough), agave nectar, salsas, hot sauces, black beans and all manner of chillies. They deliver Australia-wide too. I promise this isn’t a sponsored post. I just love their stuff! I armed myself with a load of fresh tortillas, black beans and habenero sauce and whipped up two new recipes.
God, I love black beans. I’ve made this chorizo and black bean stew more times than I can remember and decided to shake things up a bit with some crazy experimenting. The result was this Black bean, coconut and fish stew and it’s fantastic, even if I do say so myself. Seriously, you must make it! Don’t be spooked by the ingredient list – it’s a cinch to make.
It’s lovely served up with rice and a good squeeze of lime juice; and it’s equally delicious served up again later in the week, as Baked black bean and fish flautas. Flautas (Spanish for ‘flutes’) are little tortillas rolled around a filling. They’re traditionally deep-fried, but are just as fabulous baked in the oven with a sprinkle of cheese on top. My boys adore them. El Cielo’s tortillas are authentically small (14cm/5½”), perfect for kids and just the right size for flautas. Fantástico!

El CieloBlack bean, pumpkin and fish stew[Recipe 1] Black bean, coconut and fish stew

Ingredients (serves 4 for 4 meals – recipe can be halved):
1 kilo (2 lb) dried black beans (turtle beans), soaked overnight
8–10 coriander (cilantro) roots, stripped of the thin ‘hairs’ finely chopped (reserve leaves)
5cm (2”) piece ginger, finely chopped (about 3 tablespoons)
8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 tablespoons cumin seeds, toasted, crushed with a mortar and pestle
4 tablespoons coriander seeds, toasted, crushed with a mortar and pestle
3 tablespoons desiccated coconut
1–2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large red (purple/Spanish) onions, finely chopped
2 cups chicken stock, home-made or store-bought
2⅔ cups (700ml) tomato passata (tomato puree)
400g (14 oz) can coconut milk
½ teaspoon chilli powder (or more, to taste*)
500g (1 lb) firm-fleshed white fish fillets, such as swordfish or mahi mahi, chopped
350g (¾ lb) peeled butternut pumpkin (butternut squash), chopped into very small cubes
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 cups fresh coriander (cilantro), plus extra to serve
Lime wedges, to serve
Steamed rice, to serve
Hot sauce, 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, or until tender (they may need less time if they’re quite fresh). Drain again.
Process coriander roots, ginger, garlic cloves, cumin seeds, coriander seeds and desiccated coconut until a rough paste forms. Don’t blend it completely smooth – chunky is good!
Heat oil in a heavy-based large saucepan over medium heat.
Add the onion and fry for 3 minutes, until just softened. Add spice paste and fry for a further 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
Add stock to the pan and stir well. Add drained beans, passata, coconut milk and chilli powder. Cover and simmer over a low heat for 45–50 minutes. Stir frequently as beans are notorious pot-stickers (see my note about using a heat diffuser, below this recipe).
Add fish and pumpkin and simmer, covered, for a further 15 minutes until fish is cooked through and pumpkin is tender.
Season with salt and add coriander leaves. Stir well.
Divide the Black bean, coconut and fish stew into four x 1 kilo (2 lb) portions (see storage tips below).
♦ Reserve 1 portion (1 kilo/2 lb, about 3½ cups) Black bean, coconut and fish stew for the Baked black bean and fish flautas, and 1 portion for tonight’s dinner. The other two portions can be frozen or shared! See notes below.
Divide the steamed rice amongst four deep serving bowls. Ladle stew over the rice, and serve scattered with coriander; with lime wedges for squeezing.

  • The black bean stew recipe will yield four serves of about 1 kilo (2 lb) each (1 kilo will serve four). I love making a massive vat of stew, as it freezes so well. It’s also lovely to share with your neighbours, new parents or friends! It’s easy to halve the ingredients though, if you’d prefer to make a smaller batch.
  • Black bean, coconut and fish stew can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. If you’ve used fresh fish (not frozen) the stew can also be frozen for up to 3 months.
  • When freezing stews and soups that contain fish, it’s important to use the freshest fish you can find. Fresh seafood smells like the sea! If you detect an overly ‘fishy’ smell, don’t buy it. You’ll find useful information here. Local fish, in season, is your best choice. This website is an amazing resource for checking the sustainability of Australian fish species.
  • *You can dial up the chilli for more heat. I find one teaspoon of chilli powder is just the right amount for kids though, and a good splash of hot sauce will liven up adults’ serves.
  • To prevent beans, thick soups and sauces sticking to the bottom of pots, a heat-diffuser ring is an excellent investment. There are lots of different ones available on Amazon.
  • Black beans (turtle beans) are available from health food stores, markets, Oasis, specialty food stores and online from El Cielo. Black beans contain more than three times the omega 3-fatty acids than other beans. They’re also a rich source of anti-oxidant flavonoids due to their black skin.
  • When using fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, freeze the white roots. They’re great for adding to home-made stock, or pounding into a paste for flavouring curries and stews such as this one. Strip the tiny ‘hairy’ roots off before using.

Baked black bean and fish flautas

[Recipe 2] Baked black bean and fish flautas

Ingredients (serves 4):
16 small (14cm/5½“) tortillas

♦ 1 portion (1 kilo/2 lb, about 3½ cups) reserved Black bean, coconut and fish stew

Olive oil for brushing
75g (2¾ oz) grated tasty cheddar cheese (or whatever you have in the fridge – see below)
Lime wedges, to serve
Chopped avocado, to serve
Hot sauce, to serve

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Warm tortillas for 10 seconds each side in a dry frying pan to soften them up.
♦ Top each with about 3 tablespoons of reserved black bean and fish stew. Don’t over-stuff them! Roll up to enclose.
Place onto a lightly-oiled baking dish, seam side down. Lightly brush the tops with olive oil. Scatter with cheese and bake for 15–18 minutes, until cheese is melted and golden.
Serve immediately, with lime wedges, chopped avocado and hot sauce.

  • If you can’t find small tortillas, use halved large tortillas.
  • You can use any cheese for the topping including mozarella, pecorino or manchego.

Black beauty

[Recipe 1] BLACK BEAN, CORN and CHORIZO STEW transforms into
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.