Miso hungry

[Recipe 1] ROASTED PUMPKIN and MIXED SEED SALAD transforms into
This Roasted pumpkin and mixed seed salad was inspired by a dish my cousin Katja (hi Kat!) brought over on Christmas Day. Katja’s gorgeous salad was dressed with wholegrain mustard and balsamic vinegar. I’ve made mine a tad Japanese, with a gingery miso dressing.
I love roasted pumpkin salads. They’re great on the day they’re made though, but often a bit mushy the next day, and not so appetising. I transformed this salad into Spiced pumpkin and cashew patties a couple of days later and it took on a whole new life. Look for theorange diamonds within the recipe, for instructions on how much salad you’ll need to reserve for the patties.
Oh, and if you’re hosting a BBQ and need to cater for vegetarians, the salad and patties can be made at once. Lightly fry the patties on the flat section of the BBQ. Cold leftover patties are beautiful served for lunch, in a salad-stuffed roll. Yummmmm.

Roasted pumpkin and mixed seed salad

[Recipe 1] Roasted pumpkin and mixed seed salad

Ingredients (serves 4–6 for 2 meals):
2 kilos (4 lb) butternut pumpkin, peeled, de-seeded, cut into
2–3cm thick pieces
2 tablespoons peanut oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons pepitas (hulled pumpkin kernels), toasted
2 tablespoons sunflower kernels, toasted
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
1 tablespoon poppy seeds, toasted
1 cup chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves, plus extra for serving
Miso dressing:
¼ cup (60g) white miso paste
2 tablespoons (30g) honey
1 tablespoon soy sauce
Small piece ginger, grated and chopped (about 1 tablespoon)
1 tablespoon (15ml) water
1 tablespoon (15ml) Japanese rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Toss pumpkin and oil in a large bowl, until well-coated.
Place pumpkin on two baking trays lined with baking paper. Season. Roast pumpkin, turning once, for 20–30 minutes or until tender and light golden brown. Swap trays half-way through cooking if using two oven shelves. Set pumpkin aside to cool.
Meanwhile, make miso dressing. Place miso paste, honey, soy sauce, ginger and water in a small saucepan and warm, over a low heat, stirring, until miso and honey are dissolved (about 1–2 minutes). Stir in rice wine vinegar and sesame oil. Set aside to cool.
Place roasted pumpkin in a large bowl, add toasted seeds, coriander and dressing and toss gently to coat.
Reserve 3 cups (about 550–600g) roasted pumpkin and mixed seed salad for the Spiced pumpkin patties.
Scatter salad with extra with coriander.

  • You can turn this salad into a main meal by serving it with brown rice or fresh tuna (preferably Skipjack tuna, as it’s more sustainable than Yellowfin). You’ll need a 120g (4 oz) tuna fillet per person. Brush the tops of the tuna with some of the miso dressing, and bake in a 200°C (390ºF) oven for about 20 minutes, until just cooked. You can cook these in your already-heated oven while the pumpkin is cooling.
  • Miso paste is found in Asian Grocers and health food shops. Store miso paste in a sealed container in the fridge. It has a very long storage life, but over time the flavour will deteriorate, so use it up within a couple of months. Mix a tablespoon of miso into a cup of hot water and sprinkle with chopped chives for an individual, super-easy, serve of soup.
  • Japanese rice wine vinegar is readily available from large Supermarkets and Asian food stores.
  • Fussy kid tip: For children who won’t touch pumpkin, roast some potato chunks and thick carrot slices for them at the same time as the pumpkin. Serve with tuna fillets (see tip above).

Spiced pumpkin, chickpea and cashew patties

[Recipe 2] Spiced pumpkin and cashew patties

Ingredients (serves 4–6):
400g (15 oz) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained, rinsed; or 1½ cups cooked chickpeas
½ cup (75g) unsalted cashews, toasted, and roughly chopped
3 spring onions (scallions), green parts only, chopped
1 egg, lightly whisked
1½ cups (185g) dried breadcrumbs, plus extra if required
2 tablespoons (30ml) sweet chilli sauce, plus extra to serve
3 cups (about 550–600g) reserved roasted pumpkin and mixed seed salad
2 tablespoons peanut oil
To serve with patties:
Sweet chilli sauce
Asian mixed leaf salad (pictured), or simple green salad

Place chickpeas, cashews, spring onions, egg, breadcrumbs and chilli sauce in a large bowl.
Add reserved roasted pumpkin and mixed seed salad.
Mix and mash it all together well with your hands, adding more bread crumbs if the mixture feels too wet.

Shape mixture into twelve patties. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
Heat oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Fry Pumpkin and cashew patties until golden brown, about 4 minutes each side. Drain on kitchen paper.
Serve Spiced pumpkin and cashew patties with a simple green salad or Asian mixed leaf salad; and sweet chilli sauce on the side.

  • Leftover ginger can be grated and frozen in 1-tablespoon blobs, wrapped in cling film; ready to use when required.
  • Fussy kid tip: Moosh up 2 or 3 of the patties and add a small 95g (3 oz) can of drained tuna. Mix well and re-shape into patties. Prepare as above. You’ll be surprised how these patties will be inhaled by even the fussiest of children!

The working leek

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

Chicken, leek and corn soup

[Recipe 1] Chicken, leek and corn soup

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

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

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

Chicken and leek pot pie

[Recipe 2] Chicken and leek pot pie

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

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

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

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

Oh ragù, you’ve done it again

[Recipe 1] SPICED LAMB RAGÙ transforms into
[Recipe 2] MINI LAMB and MINT PIES
With Australia Day almost upon us, I think meat pies are called for, don’t you? Instead of making them from scratch, I make a delicious vat of Spiced lamb ragù. The remainder of this sauce is divided up, refrigerated or frozen as planned overs (look for the  orange diamonds) and used later for beautiful Mini lamb and mint pies. Stick a little Australian flag in each pie and serve on a large platter with a bowl of chunky tomato relish (or tomato sauce) for dipping. Onya.

Spiced lamb ragù with tagliatelle

[Recipe 1] Spiced lamb ragù with tagliatelle and pecorino

Ingredients (serves 4 for 3–4 meals):
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 brown onions, chopped
6 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 kilos (4 lb) minced (ground) lamb, shoulder if possible
1½ tablespoons ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg

3 large carrots, cut into very small cubes
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
4 x 400g (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes
1 cup (250ml) beef stock
½ cup (125ml) red wine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
½–1 cup chopped parsley (to taste), plus extra to serve
400g (14 oz) dried tagliatelle pasta (or approx. 625g fresh tagliatelle or pappardelle)
Shaved pecorino cheese to serve

Heat oil in a large heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 3 minutes.
Add mince and cook over low heat, stirring often, for 10 minutes. Break up the mince with a wooden spoon now and again. Carefully drain off most of the fat.
Add cinnamon and nutmeg and cook, stirring, for a further 2 minutes.
Add carrots, celery, tomatoes, stock and wine and simmer, covered, over a low heat for 1 hour. Stir occasionally. Remove lid and simmer for a further 15 minutes, or until thick. Season to taste and stir through parsley.
♦ Reserve 1 kilo (2 lb) spiced lamb ragù for the mini lamb and mint pies.
Divide the remainder of the lamb ragù into labeled plastic containers (see storage tips below).
Meanwhile, cook tagliatelle in boiling water until al dente. Drain.
Serve warm lamb ragù over tagliatelle, scattered with grated pecorino and extra parsley.

  • The Spiced lamb ragù recipe will yield three serves of about 1 kilo (2 lb) each (1 kilo will serve four) and, if youʼre lucky, one or two single portions too.
  • Spiced lamb ragù can be stored in a sealed container in the fridge and should be used within three days; or it can be frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Tagliatelle can be replaced with other flat ribbbon pasta, such as fettuccine or pappardelle.
  • Pecorino is a hard Italian cheese made from ewe’s milk, which goes beautifully with rich pasta sauces. If unavailable, replace with Parmesan or Parmigiano Reggiano.
  • Freeze leftover parsley stalks, and use in sweet tomato pasta sauce or home-made chicken stock.

Mini lamb and mint pies

[Recipe 2] Australia Day mini lamb and mint pies

Ingredients (makes 20):
4 tablespoons plain (all-purpose) flour
1 kilo (2 lb) reserved spiced lamb ragù
2 teaspoons worcestershire sauce
2–3 tablespoons finely chopped mint leaves (about 20–30 leaves)
5 sheets frozen shortcrust pastry, thawed
3 sheets frozen puff pastry, thawed
2 eggs, lightly beaten

Tomato relish or Easy spiced tomato chutney, to serve

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

  • If you don’t have a 10cm (4-inch) round cutter, trace around a lid with a sharp knife (a lid from a 450g tin of Milo is the perfect size).
  • Join scraps of leftover pastry together and make little egg pies for breakfast or lunch. Grease and line standard-sized muffin pans with shortcrust or puff pastry. To make four, mix together 2 beaten eggs, a little chopped ham and grated tasty cheese. Pour into pastry cases (up to ¾ full). Bake at 220°C (425ºF) for 15-20 minutes.
  • The mini lamb and mint pies can be cooked the day before and stored in the fridge. If using fresh lamb ragù (not frozen) you can freeze the cooked mini lamb and mint pies, between sheets of baking paper, for up to one month. Thaw overnight in the fridge. 
  • To reheat pre-cooked pies, place the pies on a baking tray and bake at 180°C (350ºF) for 15 minutes, or until heated through.

Rice and easy

[Recipe 1] NO-STIR CHICKEN and ROAST PUMPKIN RISOTTO transforms into
We’re back from a week on the Mornington Peninsula. All that beach-going and relaxation was rather nice; although I did manage to scorch a large hot pink triangle on my chest region (after forgetting the sun screen on that one darn spot). The 7 year old said it made me look like a super hero. The 4 year old required a trip to hospital after being stung by a bee on his foot, which blew up like a balloon. He consequently spent most of his beach days being dragged around in a blow-up boat. So… we’re home and exhausted.
Time for an easy recipe methinks. Hello No-stir chicken and roast pumpkin risotto. A mum from my son’s school (hi Gab!) got me hip to the no-stir method. Risotto purists should avert their gaze. Instead of ladling incremental amounts of hot stock, and stirring and checking every 5 minutes; you can be grating the Parmesan and chopping the parsley while it practically cooks itself. Excellent!
Reserve some of the risotto as planned-overs (look for the orange diamonds within the recipe) and whip up a batch of scrumptious Crispy risotto balls the next day.
PS. Had to share my beautiful vintage happy flower fabric, a pressie from my friend Meagan. One day it will become an apron or skirt, but for now it makes a spiffy tablecloth!

Vintage flower fabricNo-stir chicken and roast pumpkin risotto. One Equals Two.

[Recipe 1] No-stir chicken and roast pumpkin risotto

Ingredients (serves 4 for 2 meals):
1 tablespoon olive oil
350g (12 oz) peeled, de-seeded butternut pumpkin, chopped into 1cm (½“) cubes (start with 500g/1 lb unpeeled pumpkin)
2 tablespoons olive oil, extra
4 skinless chicken thigh fillets (about 500g/1 lb), chopped into 1cm (½-inch) cubes
2 small brown onions, finely diced
3 cups (650g) arborio or carnaroli rice
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 cup fresh corn kernels (cut from 1 large cob/ear)
8 cups (2 litres) chicken stock, store-bought or home-made
1 cup frozen peas (or fresh podded peas – see notes)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (100g) grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus extra to serve

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Toss the pumpkin cubes in 1 tablespoon olive oil and roast for 20–25 minutes until cooked through. Set aside.
Meanwhile, heat the extra olive oil in a large saucepan and fry the chicken and onion over a medium heat for 5 minutes, until onion is soft and chicken is cooked through.
Add the rice and garlic and continue cooking, stirring frequently, for 2–3 minutes.
Add the corn kernels and 4 cups of stock. Stir once, cover, and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes until stock is absorbed. Sneak a peek after 8 minutes, to make sure it isn’t sticking.
Add peas and remaining stock. Return to the boil and simmer, covered, for a further 10 minutes. Gently stir through the roast pumpkin, Parmesan and parsley. Season well with salt and pepper.
Reserve 5 cups (about 1.2 kilos) chicken and roast pumpkin risotto for the crispy risotto balls.
Serve risotto, scattered with extra parsley.

  • Planned-overs (reserved risotto) can be stored in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  • Fresh peas can be used, instead of frozen. Add these with the corn kernels.

  • Roast some extra pumpkin with a couple of quartered red onions and you’ll have an instant salad for dinner (or lunch) tomorrow. Toss with a balsamic vinegar and olive oil dressing; and scatter with cracked black pepper and basil leaves.
  • Freeze leftover parsley stalks, and use in sweet tomato pasta sauce or home-made chicken stock.

Crispy risotto balls. One Equals Two.

[Recipe 2] Crispy risotto balls

Ingredients (serves 4, makes 25–30 balls):
♦ 5 cups (about 1.2 kilos) reserved chicken and roast pumpkin risotto
¾ cup dry breadcrumbs, plus 2 cups extra for coating
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup olive oil for shallow frying
Sea salt
Chilli mayo or sriracha mayo, to serve

Place reserved chicken and roast pumpkin risotto into a large bowl. Break up risotto roughly with a knife, add ¾ cup breadcrumbs and mix thoroughly.
Shape mixture into about 25–30 golfball-sized balls. Dip into beaten egg; then lightly roll in the extra breadcrumbs. Refrigerate up to 4 hours, until required.
Heat oil in a deep frying pan until shimmering. Fry risotto balls in 3–4 batches until crisp and golden, about 4 minutes. Roll the balls around in the oil with a slotted spoon or tongs, to ensure they brown evenly. Drain on paper towel.
Sprinkle with salt, and serve hot with chilli mayo or sriracha mayo, and a simple green salad. Yum.

  • You’ll need sriracha chili sauce for sriracha mayo, which is available at Asian food stores. The authentic version, made by Huy Fong Foods in California, is available in Australia at USA Foods.

God save the bean

transforms into

These two recipes are firm favourites around here, especially on weeknights as they’re super quick and easy. Although I love to cook up a big batch of dried beans, occasionally I have neither the time nor inclination. Canned beans are a convenient life saver and are put to excellent use in this zesty bean salad, served with succulent pan-fried chicken tenders!
Reserve the specified portion of undressed bean salad and cooked chicken tenderloins, as planned-overs (see the orange diamonds within the recipe); and you can create delicioso Tortillas with shredded chicken and beans another day. Yummo!

Bean salad with chicken tenders

[Recipe 1] Pan-fried chicken tenders with zesty bean salad

Ingredients (serves 4 for 2 meals):
2 x 400g (15 oz)
 cans kidney beans, rinsed, drained
2 x 400g (15 oz) cans cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained, rinsed
1 small salad (or white) onion, finely chopped
1 cup chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves, plus extra to serve
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 stick celery, halved lengthwise, finely sliced
½ red capsicum (bell pepper), very finely chopped
1¼ kilos (2½ lb) chicken tenderloins (about 18 pieces)
60g (2 oz) goat’s cheese crumbled, to serve
Lemon dressing:
2 tablespoons (30ml) olive oil
2 tablespoons (30ml) lemon juice
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 clove garlic, crushed

Make lemon dressing by whisking olive oil, lemon juice, brown sugar and garlic. Set aside.
Combine beans, onion, coriander, salt and pepper.
Reserve 500g (1 lb/3 cups) of this undressed bean mixture for the tortillas with shredded chicken and beans.
To the remaining bean mixture (for tonight’s salad), add prepared lemon dressing, celery and capsicum. Gently toss to combine.
Pan-fry or chargrill (charbroil) chicken, in batches, until golden brown and cooked through, about 4 minutes each side.
Reserve 8 cooked chicken tenderloins (about 420–480g/just under 1 lb) for the tortillas with shredded chicken and beans.
Pile tonight’s bean salad and chicken tenderloins onto plates. Serve, scattered with goat’s cheese and extra coriander.

  • Planned-overs (undressed bean salad and cooked, chopped, chicken tenderloins) can be placed together in a labeled plastic container and frozen for up to 3 months; so you can make the tortillas another time. You can also store in the fridge for up to 3 days.
  • You can use cooked dried beans instead of canned beans. You’ll need a total of 450g (just under 1 lb) dried beans (kidney and cannellini or haricot) for this recipe. Soak overnight, drain and rinse. Cook in boiling water until tender, about 30–45 minutes. Drain, rinse and cool.
  • My 4 year old won’t touch the bean salad*, so his chicken tenders are served shredded in tortillas with guacamole and grated carrot; and I take his uneaten bean salad to work for lunch, with a small can of chilli tuna stirred through.
    *Note: he LOVES the tortillas in Recipe 2 though!
  • Leftover goat’s cheese can be used for Caramelised onion and goat’s cheese tart.

Chicken and bean tortillas with tomato salsa

[Recipe 2] Tortillas with shredded chicken and beans

Ingredients (serves 4):
400g (14 oz) can diced tomatoes
1½ teaspoons ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground chilli (or more, as desired)
♦ 500g (1 lb/3 cups) reserved undressed bean mixture
8 cooked chicken tenderloins (about 420–480g/just under 1 lb), roughly shredded
10–12 tortillas
Choose your sides:
Shredded iceberg lettuce
Pico de gallo (fresh tomato salsa)
Sliced avocado or guacamole
Mexican hot sauce

Place tomatoes, cumin and chilli in a medium saucepan.
Add reserved undressed bean salad and reserved cooked, shredded chicken tenderloins.
Simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10–15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat tortillas in a lightly oiled fry pan.
Spoon chicken and bean mixture into warmed tortillas and roll up to enclose. Arrange the suggested sides in little sharing bowls on the table.

  • The chicken and bean filling can be made the day before and warmed in a saucepan when required.
  • Swap the tortillas for crunchy tacos or baked enchiladas, or serve with steamed rice, for a change.
  • If you’ve used fresh (not frozen) planned-overs for recipe 2, leftover chicken and bean filling can be frozen for up to 3 months.

Life is a crabaret

[Recipe 1] UDON NOODLE, SPINACH and SESAME SALAD transforms into

Udon noodle, spinach and sesame salad
is one of our favourite light Summer dinners. The boys love slurping up the slippery noodles – my 4-year old describes this act as ‘food rushing into my face’. So cute. Chopsticks and a large jug of iced green tea (or iced brown Heineken) are the only table accoutrements you’ll need.
Reserve the specified portion of noodles and spinach, and some of the ponzu dressing, as planned-overs (see the orange diamonds within the recipe); and you can create fab Crab fritters with cucumber salad later in the week. These fritters are adored by my boys, especially when I refer to them as ‘crabby patties’ (if you’re a Spongebob fan – and who isn’t – you’ll know what I mean).

Udon noodle and sesame salad

[Recipe 1] Udon noodle, spinach and sesame salad

Ingredients (serves 4 for 2 meals):
540g (just over 1 lb – the nearest pack size will be fine) dried udon noodles
150g (5 oz) baby spinach leaves, chopped
1 small continental cucumber, cut into spears
1 avocado, sliced
2 x 125g (4 oz) cans tuna slices in oil, drained (or 2 x 185g/6 oz cans tuna chunks in olive oil, drained, flaked)
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted
Pink pickled ginger, chopped, to serve
Ponzu dressing (note: you’ll be reserving 3 tbs for the cucumber salad in recipe 2):
100ml (3½ fl oz) Japanese rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons (30ml) soy sauce
1 tablespoon (15ml) lime juice
1 teaspoon brown sugar

Cook noodles in boiling water until tender (about ten minutes, or according to packet instructions). Add spinach to saucepan in last three minutes of boiling time. Drain. Refresh under cold water. Drain again.
Reserve 2 cups (about 375g/¾ lb) cooked noodles and spinach for the crab fritters.
Meanwhile, make ponzu dressing. Place all ingredients in a screw-top jar and shake until combined.
Reserve 3 tablespoons (45ml) ponzu dressing for the cucumber salad
Place remaining noodles and spinach (about 1 kilo/2 lb) in a large bowl. Add remaining ponzu dressing and toss gently.
Divide noodles between four bowls. Arrange cucumber spears, avocado and tuna slices on top. Scatter with toasted sesame seeds and pickled ginger.

  • Refrigerate and use Recipe 1 planned-overs within 3 days.
  • You can easily vary the udon noodle salad toppings, although the toasted sesame seeds are a must! Lightly steamed asparagus is a lovely addition, as is leftover roasted sweet potato. I often replace the canned tuna slices with char-grilled (charbroiled) fresh tuna or salmon.
  • Japanese rice wine vinegar and pickled ginger are readily available from large Supermarkets and Asian food stores.
  • You can toast your own sesame seeds, or cheat and buy them pre-roasted from Asian food stores.

Udon noodle crab cakes

[Recipe 2] Crab fritters with cucumber salad

Ingredients (serves 4):
3 eggs
1 tablespoon fish sauce
2 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce
♦ 2 cups (about 375g/¾ lb) reserved cooked noodles and spinach, roughly chopped

1 cup dried breadcrumbs
2 x 170g (6 oz) cans crab meat, well drained (or 250g/½ lb fresh crab meat, chopped)
3 spring onions, green ends only, chopped
½ cup chopped coriander (cilantro) leaves
¼ cup peanut oil for shallow frying
Chilli mayo, to serve

Cucumber salad:
1 continental cucumber, very finely sliced
¼ teaspoon dried chilli flakes
¼ cup chopped coriander (coriander) leaves, extra

♦ 3 tablespoons (45ml) reserved ponzu dressing

Whisk eggs, fish sauce and chilli sauce together in a large bowl.
Add reserved cooked noodles and spinach
. Stir in breadcrumbs, crab meat, spring onions and coriander. Shape mixture into 10–12 fritters. Refrigerate for 30 minutes, if time permits.
Fry crab fritters in two batches in hot shallow oil, for 2–3 minutes each side, until golden. Drain on kitchen paper.
Meanwhile, make the salad by placing cucumber, chilli flakes and extra coriander in a bowl.
Add reserved ponzu dressing. Toss to combine.
Serve crab fritters with chilli mayo and cucumber salad.

  • Crab fritters are best eaten immediately.
  • Chilli mayo is super easy to make and goes beautifully with these crab fritters. My 7-year old prepares this, while I’m preparing the fritters.
  • Peanut oil is best for shallow and deep frying, because of its high smoke point (the ability to sustain high heat without smoking); however you can also use vegetable oil.
  • My boys love their crab fritters in soft round rolls with lettuce, thinly sliced avocado and chilli mayo.


[Recipe 1] PORK, PINE NUT and PANCETTA MINI MEATLOAVES transform into
Welcome folks. For my inaugural post I figured we’d start with some pork on our forks! The first recipe is for scrumptious (even if I do say so myself) Pork, pine nut and pancetta mini meatloaves. We call them, ahem, PPP Loaves. They’re kid-friendly as they’re quite sausagey, but the fennel flavour is sophisticated enough for adult palates too. My boys just love them.
The meatloaf recipe allows for a good stash of planned-overs (look for the orange diamonds); in this case a flavoursome pork and pine nut mixture to be set aside for two further meals of Fusilli with pork sausage and lentils. This is a super-quick dish (no chopping up or frying of onions required) and you can prepare it while the pasta is cooking. Delicious!
PS. If you’re feeling energetic you could make the pasta sauce while the meatloaves are baking. There’s nothing more satisfying than a bulk cook-up, and the resulting well-stocked fridge or freezer.
You could also choose to use the mixture for a double quantity of meatloaves (they freeze really well cooked, and are excellent sliced in sandwiches); in which case you’d double all the meatloaf ingredients from the breadcrumbs down.

Pork, pancetta and pinenut mini meatloaves

[Recipe 1] Pork, pine nut and pancetta mini meatloaves

Ingredients (serves 4 for 3 meals; ie. 1 serve meatloaves, 2 serves pasta sauce):
2 tablespoons olive oil

2 leeks, white parts only, sliced lengthwise, finely chopped
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
1 kilo (2 lb) minced (ground) pork
500g (1 lb) good-quality sausage meat
(see notes)
1 cup (70g) fresh breadcrumbs (2 slices day-old sourdough, processed)
1 medium carrot, finely grated on zester holes
½ cup (60g) pine nuts, toasted

2 eggs, beaten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8–12 large thinly-sliced pancetta pieces (approx. 150g/5 oz)
To serve:
Easy spiced tomato chutney (or store-bought tomato relish)
Green beans with toasted pinenuts

Preheat oven to 200°C (390ºF).
Heat oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Cook the leek for 6–8 minutes, until soft. Add fennel seeds and cook, stirring, for 1–2 minutes until aromatic. Allow to cool in a large bowl. Add the pork mince, sausage meat, breadcrumbs, carrot, toasted pine nuts and eggs. Mix well with your hands until thoroughly combined. Season with salt and pepper and mix lightly.
This mixture will yield 2 kilos (4 lb) of pork and pine nut mixture. 1 kilo (2 lb) is required for the pork, pine nut and pancetta mini meatloaves.
Reserve the remaining 1 kilo (2 lb) of pork and pine nut mixture for the Fusilli with pork sausage and lentils (yields enough sauce to serve 8).

Grease eight ⅔ cup (160ml) capacity mini loaf pans (or friand, muffin or cupcake pans). Line each pan with pancetta, allowing the sides to overhang.
Divide 1 kilo (2 lb) of the pork and pine nut mixture among the prepared pans, pressing mixture down firmly. Fold pancetta over to enclose the filling.
Bake meatloaves for 30 minutes, or until cooked through.
Drain any juices from the pan and carefully run a knife around each loaf to loosen.
Serve sliced, with easy spiced tomato chutney and green beans with toasted pine nuts. You can toast the pine nuts for the meatloaves and the green beans at the same time.
Makes 8 mini meatloaves.

  • For good-quality sausage meat, slit open free-range pork sausages and squeeze meat from the casings.
  • Pancetta is cured Italian bacon made of pork belly meat, and is available at delicatessens. Replace with very-thinly sliced bacon or prosciutto if unavailable.
  • Refrigerate and use Recipe 1 planned-overs (uncooked pork and pine nut mixture) within 3 days. Uncooked mixture can also be frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Meatloaf leftovers are excellent for lunch. Serve sliced in a sandwich with tomato chutney and cos (romaine) lettuce. Yum!
  • You can use any type of bread to make fresh breadcrumbs: white, rye, wholemeal (wholewheat) or – my preference – sourdough. Save scraps of leftover bread and freeze for up to 3 months, removing large pieces of crust before processing.
  • Dark green leek offcuts can be used in stock.

Fusilli with pork sausage and lentils

[Recipe 2] Fusilli (spiral pasta) with pork sausage and lentils

Ingredients (serves 8):
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium carrots, grated

♦ 1 kilo (2 lb) reserved pork and pine nut mixture
2 heaped tablespoons tomato paste/concentrate
2 x 400g (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes
2 x 400g (14 oz) cans lentils, drained and rinsed (or 2 cups cooked lentils – see notes)
2 cinnamon sticks
½ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley, plus extra for serving

Salt and freshly ground black pepper
400g (14 oz) dried fusilli (spiral pasta) per 4 people

Heat oil in a large heavy-based saucepan, and add grated carrot.
Add reserved pork and pine nut mixture.
Cook over low heat, stirring often, for about 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Break up large lumps with a spoon, retaining a few mini meatball-sized chunks for texture.
Add tomato paste, tomatoes, lentils, cinnamon sticks and ⅔ cup of water and simmer, covered, over a low heat for 15–20 minutes, until thickened. Stir occasionally. Remove and discard cinnamon sticks. Stir through parsley and season with salt and pepper.
If serving four people, divide sauce into two portions of 1 kilo (2 lb) each. The remaining 1 kilo batch of pasta sauce can be refrigerated or frozen for another meal (see notes).
Meanwhile, cook fusilli in boiling water until al dente. Drain.
Stir pork and lentil sauce through fusilli. Serve, scattered with extra parsley.

  • Left-over tomato paste can be frozen in 1 or 2 tablespoon lumps, individually-wrapped in cling film; ready to plop into your next pasta dish.
  • 2 x 400g (14 oz) cans lentils, drained, will yield 2 heaped cups cooked lentils. For 2 heaped cups cooked lentils, cook 1 cup dry lentils in boiling water for 45 minutes, until tender. Drain and rinse. I often cook up a load of lentils, and freeze them in 1 or 2 cup portions to use when required.
  • Although this sauce is lovely served as is, feel free to add extra veggies such as grated zucchini (courgette), baby spinach leaves or chopped silverbeet (Swiss chard).
  • Freeze leftover parsley stalks, and use in sweet tomato pasta sauce or home-made chicken stock.
  • Reserved pasta sauce can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen for up to 3 months. Note: if you’ve used frozen planned-overs of pork and pinenut mixture, pasta sauce should not be frozen.