Category Archives: week night dinner

Asparagus carbonara

asparagus carbonara

So without further a do, I mean it has been eight weeks or something now, I have a new recipe, asparagus carbonara. A dinner born as a way to help make use of the gorgeous and abundant cherry tomatoes thriving in back yard. It’s such a joy to pick a new harvest each day with Thea, to subliminally teach her where food comes from as well as recognise colours. But why the lapse in sharing this simple recipe?

asparagus carbonara asparagus carbonara

Well. The cooking continues in my kitchen, but that little window when Thea has her nap that I used to reserve for writing down my recipes. Gone. Used now by me also for some daytime shuteye. And it’s not even a choice. I’d love to stay up and be productive but my body hits a wall and it’s all I can do to read Thea a story, usually Peepo, settle her into her cot and then climb into bed myself.

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Daytime naps are one of life’s little luxuries though. A mini holiday during the day. And the way I like to look at it, exclusive time for me and my 20 week bump. Lying on my side, hand on tummy, feeling the tiny little kicks that never fail to make me smile. I know. Half way. And thankfully growing well.

asparagus carbonara

Speaking of holidays. We are off to Fiji next week and I am so excited. Excited to spend time as three, swimming and relaxing. Spending our days at a different pace. My reading material is children’s fiction, Harry Potter and The Dream Snatcher – glorious worlds that I can easily lose myself in and may even be able to finish while away with Thea. I have also prepared a list potential restaurants, because holidays are as much about eating as they are unwinding. I know I will find inspiration for new recipes to bring home with me. Be patient until I share them.

asparagus carbonara

asparagus carbonara

 

Asparagus carbonara

For 4.

  • 1 bunch of asparagus
  • about 200-300g cherry tomatoes
  • a handful of  black olives
  • 4 clove garlic
  • 1 to 2  birdseye chilli, chopped
  • 30g butter
  • 4 tbsp oil
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta
  • 400g spaghetti or your favourite pasta
  • sea salt
  • black pepper

Snap the woody ends from the asparagus and then cut the spears into three. Cook these for about 3-5 minutes in boiling water, drain and then plunge into cold water, chilled with ice if you have a spare tray handy in the freezer. This step stops the asparagus cooking so that it retains its bite and colour. When the asparagus has completely cooled, drain and dry.

Cut the cherry tomatoes in half.

Pit the olives and then slice lengthways. You can put these three items into a bowl now ready to add to the pasta later.

In another bowl, place the yolks, milk, feta, salt and pepper and mix well.

Now chop the garlic and chilli and fry gently in the oil and butter until the garlic is fragrant but not coloured.

At this stage, everything is ready and you could go and bath children, have a bath yourself, open a bottle of wine and read a magazine, do the washing up. Whatever. The point is that when everything is done up to this task, the prep can be left and then continued on with again later.

Put a large pot full of water on the stove and bring to the boil. Drop the pasta into the boiling water and cook for about 10 minutes.

While the pasta is boiling, add the asparagus, tomatoes and olives to the garlic and chilli, gently heat and keep warm.

When the pasta is done, drain and then return it to the pot in which it was cooked. Working quickly, add the asparagus mixture to the pasta and gently stir and then straight away add the yolk mixture. Continue gently stirring the pasta. The yolks will cook with the pasta’s residual heat and a glossy coating will develop over everything in the pot.

Check for seasoning and enjoy.

Like this recipe. You might like spaghetti carbonara

Peach and burrata salad

I know. I know. I feel a bit sheepish coming back, but I really really would like to explain where I’ve been. And also make my comeback along with a killer summer peach and burrata salad that you are going to want to make. Juicy ripe peaches, soft creamy cheese, crunchy buttered almonds, clean fresh mint and tangy pomegranate molasses to marry the seasonal medley together.  A gorgeous starting point or accompaniment for any seasonal gathering.

peach and burrata salad

Ok. Let’s get to the point. Why was my last post back in November? Um, because I’m making a tiny human and the last 14 or so weeks have been all about sleeping, eating more citrus fruit that is necessary and copious amounts of tomatoes sprinkled with sea salt and olive oil, and generally just getting through the day. It does seem so unfair that pregnancy make you feel like half the person you once were. Sick, tired, cranky, constantly hungry. But as I write this, a small person is growing inside of me, apparently currently the size of a peach (you see what I did there).

peach and burrata salad

Not only have I been feeling exhausted though. If I’m very honest, which is easy on paper, I’m scared. I am just so scared. I know the absolute joy that comes with bringing a child into the world now, and I also know the anguish that comes with bringing a very tiny premature baby into the world, so I’d just like this time to be a smooth ride. A lazy, uninteresting, routine journey to 40 weeks. With a big party at the 30 week mark as I enter unknown territory.

peach and burrata salad

To instil some positivity, which I know can only come from inside myself, I have made a pregnancy vision board, full of beautiful round bellies and cherub like newborns. I bought some new onesies. Unisex ones. And no we’re not finding out this time around. Every night I now read Thea a book all about how she’s going to become a big sister. And you know, I feel a little more carefree.

peach and burrata salad

So with my new outlook (and hopefully second trimester renewed energy) comes new vigour to return to this space and share some beautiful recipes with you, starting with this rather special peach and burrata salad, as well as share this crazy, miraculous and wonderful journey.

Peach and burrata salad

For 2. 1 ball of burrata will serve 2 people so you can adjust this recipe according to how many people you are feeding

  • 1 ball burrata
  • 2 ripe yellow peaches
  • handful fresh mint leaves, roughly sliced
  • small handful of whole almonds
  • 1 teaspoon butter
  • pomegranate molasses

This peach and burrata salad is the kind of dish that needs to be made at the last-minute, but don’t let that deter you as it’s extremely simple and quick to prepare.

Begin by toasting the almonds in a pan with a teaspoonful of butter and then roughly chop them.

Depending on how rustic you’d like the salad to look, tear or cut the peaches into  walnut size chunks. Now take the ball of burrata and gently tear it and scatter it over the peach pieces.

Over the cheese and the fruit, sprinkle the mint leaves, the almonds, a frugal dousing of pomegranate molasses and enjoy.

Enjoy this peach and burrata salad recipe? Then you might like this marinated mozzarella salad

Making homemade crinkle cut chips

I failed. I missed a week. My intention at the start of the year was to write one blog post a week. Which sounds easy right. But with a small person in your life and the responsibility of a job, and the excitement of finishing your first marathon, yeah I did, but more on that later, sometimes despite the best of intentions, plans get overlooked. I mean I’ve done pretty well so far, even posting the week a tree fell on my house. But this week, I just didn’t. It’s like I used up all my motivation completing those 42 kilometres and didn’t have any left to write. I simply wanted to eat protein after all my carb loading, and take the pressure off myself a little bit. Something I did do though was dabble in the kitchen with a crinkle cutter to make homemade crinkle cut chips, to go with aforementioned protein.

homemade crinkle cut chips

For some reason I believed that crinkle cutters only existed in factories that prepared vegetables for the frozen food isle in the supermarket, which is rather strange since I have most kitchen gadgets under the sun. So when we moved in to Ma and Pa’s house back in April, I was pretty darn excited to find Ma’s crinkle cutter in the kitchen drawer. Any crinkle cut vegetable is fun. I suppose it’s not normal, not the way nature intended, but a bit  playful. Normally I would make little duck fat roast potatoes to go with steak, but this week it was all about the homemade crinkle cut chips. Let me be clear here. I made oven baked crinkle cut chips, not the fried variety. If you’re interested in how to make them, Gourmet Girlfriend has a lovely post on hot chips. It’s not that I’m against deep frying, there is definitely a place for it, but I seem have more success with getting chips crispy in the oven. And since there is always so much washing up in my kitchen from catering, I like to choose the easy wash option when it comes to my own dinner.

homemade crinkle cut chips

Something else that I failed to do this week was go for a run. Due to a bruised toe, I couldn’t walk, let alone run. And that felt strange after months of diligent training, to not have to worry about maintaing my run fitness. But I missed it. I felt restless. Part of my routine was lacking. Which allows me to now answer something that I had wondered in my last post before I ran my first marathon. Would I want to do it again? Hell yes. My competitive streak says, you can do it faster next time. You can train a bit harder. You can get new trainers and a fancy watch and really go for it. Those last 10 kilometres were hell, but it’ll be better second time around.

homemade crinkle cut chips

Sydney marathon was a lot of fun. Being able to run over the Harbour Bridge with choppers flying overhead was exhilarating and the first five kilometres flew by. I drank water at every drinks station, half in my mouth half over myself as I kept moving and after all the carbohydrates that I had consumed in the week leading up to the event, my body felt strong. Around the Botanic Gardens, through Kings Cross where late night revellers who hadn’t yet been to bed watched on, round the SCG and Centennial Park, back towards the city. Entering into 30 kilometre territory is where my body started to demand that I stop, or at the very least walk for a bit, but I kept going. Through The Rocks, around Pyrmont, round Circular Quay and towards the finish at the Opera House. I must’ve had a lot more gas left in my tank than I gave myself credit for, because I sprinted the last two kilometres. And then I crossed the line. That strange emotion of elation mixed with tears of relief flooded my heart and I was so happy to embrace my family who were waiting for me. I had done it. And I was still standing.

homemade crinkle cut chips

Thats the thing. Even if you miss a session, you have to continue on, rather than see the miss as a sign of failure and give up. So without further ado, my recipe for oven baked homemade crinkle cuts chips is below, and I’m off for a run.

Homemade crinkle cut chips

  • 500g floury potatoes, such as Sebago (look here for a great guide to the humble spud as well as other floury potato alternatives)
  • 2-4 tbsp neutral flavoured oil like vegetable or sunflower

Begin by peeling the potatoes. Sometimes I don’t peel roast potatoes because I like the texture of the skin and the nutrients that it provides, but for homemade crinkle cut chips, I think they need to be completely naked. No bits of skin anywhere.

Now, using the crinkle cutter, or a knife, cut the potatoes into thick batons. I like to cut the base off the potato first so that I can then use the flat surface that I have created as a stable base to stand the potato on while I cut the remainder of it up. This is a great tip when cutting up all veggies, it makes life easier and avoids the knife slipping into your fingers.

Ok, so chips cut. Next par boil them until they are soft enough that you can insert a knife into them with little resistance, but not so much that they are starting to fall apart. To do this, place the chips in a pot, cover them with cold water (this helps to remove the starch) and bring to the boil. Boil for about 10 minutes but maybe 15 depending on the potatoes.

Now gently, so as not to break the chips, drain them. At this point, as in so many of my recipes, you can spread the chips over a tray and leave them in the fridge to dry out, anywhere from a few hours to overnight.

To the cooking part. Preheat the oven to 200C. Place a large tray with about 2-3 tablespoons of oil on into the oven to heat. This step allows the chips to start cooking as soon as they hit the tray, rather than steam as they heat from cold. It ensures, or at least I believe it does, a crispy chip. So when the oil is hot, about 5 minutes, tip the chips onto the tray and they should begin to sizzle immediately.

Make sure that the chips are in one even layer. If you need to use two trays to achieve this, then do. Again, it avoids the chips steaming and helps them cook evenly.

Bake the chips for about 40 minutes to an hour. I don’t meant to be vague, but the cooking time does depend on your oven. Basically you are looking for crisp, golden, crinkly batons. Do toss the chips occasionally with the appropriate weapon, to make sure that they cook evenly. And that’s it. Sprinkle your homemade crinkle cut chips with salt, dip in the sauce of your choice and enjoy.

This steak would go deliciously well with these chips.

Penne pasta with brussels sprouts

penne pasta with brussels sprouts

It’s really happening. I’m going to run a marathon. In two days (at the time of writing). If I stop to listen, there is an electric hum pulsing around my body, generated by an amalgam of trepidation and excitement about Sunday’s event. I’m about to embark on something that has been a goal of mine for many years. And that feels good. Like something worthwhile. Like the stuff that life is about. Putting yourself on the line and chasing your dreams. To help in my quest, this week in the lead up to the big race, I’m stuffing carbs into my mouth left right and centre. Toast, porridge, bananas, dates, honey, pasta, rice, vegetables and the occasional snake. Yep. Who knew. Apparently snakes (jelly sweets) are a good source of glucose to help fill my cells with glycogen to burn while I’m running. I’ll try anything once if it’ll help get me across the finishing line. Preferably on two legs. My favourite source of fuel is still pasta though and this penne pasta with brussels sprouts will convert even the most staunch dislikers of these miniature cabbage like vegetables into new admirers.

penne pasta with brussels sprouts penne pasta with brussels sprouts

I’ve always fallen into the category of one of those strange people who enjoys eating brussels sprouts. At Christmas, I’d be one of only a few family members who would happily pile a small mound of the little edible green balls onto my plate. As I’ve grown older, I’ve experimented with sprouts, moving away from the simple method of boiling them. I’ve roasted them along with beetroot and the served the resulting medley with crisp bacon and a mapley Dijon dressing. I’ve shredded them to compose a salad with kale, parmesan, lemon and almonds. And I’ve braised them with lemon juice and cream a la Molly Wizenburg. And Molly’s lovely recipe for cream braised brussels sprouts was the inspiration for this pasta dish.

penne pasta with brussels sprouts penne pasta with brussels sprouts

Using the marathon as an excuse, a very good one I might add, we are staying in the city for the weekend. Running long distances seriously takes it out of me and after my longer training runs of 25km plus, I’ve almost needed an afternoon nap. Thea has prevented such luxuries from happening. But hopefully, in the city, in our hotel room, after a warm shower and a big plate of food, I might be able to have a little sleep, before celebrating my victory with a glass of champagne. I need to visualise after the event as much as I do running the course, because I feel that ultimately it will help spur me on to the end.

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I have also asked Ma and Pa, who have been so wonderful this week in cheerily finishing all the high carb meals that I have prepared (we are still living with them since the tree fell on our house) and will be looking after Thea for the weekend while I’m away, to come and watch me cross the finish line. I knownseeing their faces, plus Mark and Thea’s, in the crowd, will give me the boost I’ll need to get me across that line. More than that though. I feel that I would be doing them a disservice, as well as Thea who has accompanied me on many training sessions and Mark who has looked after our tiny wonder every Sunday while I’ve been off on my longer runs, if I don’t cross the finish at a fraction more than a walking pace. Everyone has been so instrumental in getting me this far and I owe it to them out of gratitude.

penne pasta with brussels sprouts

At the moment I’m unsure about whether marathon running will become a regular part of my life or just a one time goal. Getting to this point has filled a big part of the year, from our little holiday on the Central Coast in June when I ran the Bay to Bay half marathon to our now long weekend in Sydney for the full event, not forgetting all of the scheduled runs in between. It’s really fulfilling to have something to work towards and seeing yourself improve, if only in tiny increments. I like the idea of being a runner, able to put on trainers and fill my lungs with fresh air and get my pulse racing with speed and ease. It feels good. And you see the world from a different viewpoint; houses you’ve never noticed, flowers you’ve taken for granted, hills that always seem easy in a car. The nuances of your surroundings come at you in new and interesting way. So maybe I will continue with my running. Especially if it means I can eat more dinners like this penne pasta with Brussels sprouts. Watch this space.

penne pasta with brussels sproutspenne pasta with brussels sprouts

Penne pasta with brussels sprouts

Inspired by a recipe by Molly Wizenberg

  • 12 brussels sprouts
  • 25g butter
  • 1 cup cream
  • juice of a lemon
  • sea salt and black pepper
  • grating of nutmeg
  • 8 rashers streaky bacon, cut into batons
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 cup parmesan, finely grated
  • penne pasta

Begin by cutting the ends off the sprouts and discarding any loose outer leaves and then chopping them in half.

Melt the butter over a moderate heat in a large flat bottomed pan and then place the sprouts flat side down in the pan and leave them undisturbed to brown for 5-8 minutes. Flip and then cook for about another 5 minutes on the other side.

When the sprouts are browned on both sides, sprinkle them liberally with salt, pepper and nutmeg, add the cream. Bring it to a gentle simmer, then turn the heat down to its lowest setting, put the lid on the pan and leave the sprouts to cook for about 10 minutes. You want them to be soft but still with a bit of bite and not falling apart. Turn off the heat and add the lemon juice.

In a new pan, fry the bacon until crisp and then add to the sprouts. In the same pan that you fried the bacon, with the residual oil, cook the garlic, then also add it to the sprouts along with the parmesan cheese. You can now move to the next step, or leave the sprout mixture in the pan and bath small children, even relax with a glass of wine and proceed to assembling dinner when you are good and ready.

When you are ready for dinner, cook the pasta and when it’s done, to the magical el dente state, about 10 minutes, drain it, but keep a few tablespoons of the pasta cooking water aside. Add it together with the pasta to the sprout mixture. Turn the heat back on under the sprout pan, stir and let everything heat through together. This step helps the lovely earthy creamy sauce stick to the pasta. Decant into bowls and eat.

Like this recipe? Then you might like my spaghetti carbonara recipe.

Baked lime chicken burritos


lime chicken burritos

Thursday dinners always seem to be Mexican in our house and this week it was something a little bit different from the normal tacos and quesadillas. I made baked lime chicken burritos. The inspiration for them came from a third birthday party a few weeks ago. This Mr. Three’s parents certainly set the bar high for the rest of us mums and dads in terms of how to throw a kid’s party. Upon walking through the front door we were greeted by dozens of little black felt capes, red stars emblazoned with everyone’s initials on the back, hung ready for their new owners to wear. The centrepiece of the celebration was a spectacular bright red fire engine cake, complete with Oreo cookie wheels, liquorice hose reel and chocolate wafer racks. That was for the littles though. For the grown ups there was delicious shredded chicken burritos.

lime chicken burritos

Before heading to the party I donned my trainers and earphones and headed out for an hours run. I’m still clocking up the miles in preparation for the Sydney marathon, now only a couple of weeks away. Hopefully I’m getting fitter. Some days my legs feel like jelly from the get go. One thing all the exercise does do though is give me an appetite, so despite having breakfast I was still hungry when I arrived at the party and very excited to hear that chicken burritos were going to be served. What fascinated me was the texture of the chicken, like angel hair, apparently shredded in a food processor. Genius. It packs into the tortilla so much better than pieces of chicken because it can be squashed down with the other obligatory burrito ingredients: Sour cream, guacamole, lettuce and grated cheese.

lime chicken burritos lime chicken burritos

So with my new insight of how to shred chicken fantastically fine, I set about cooking some to shred for dinner. Poaching is a great way of cooking poultry it as it helps to keep it moist, so that’s the road I decided to head down. Poaching chicken in milk along with some loosely Mexican inspired flavourings. When it was done (and had cooled), I will admit that I was more excited than I should have been to whizz it in the processor. The resulting chicken resembled fairy floss and was zingy with lime. It would be perfect wrapped up in lettuce leaves along with some strips of carrot and avocado, maybe some red cabbage for extra colour and a dousing of chilli sauce. Or served a top corn chips with some finely diced tomato (seeds removed) and red onion as little tostada appetisers. The chicken could even be poached in coconut milk and then served, strained poaching broth and all, with glass noodles, baby corn and coriander.

lime chicken burritos

This citrus spiked shredded chicken was folded into tortillas along with charred capsicum and onion, which were then packed into dish and baked. Enough for lunch and dinner, to keep my growling tummy tamed. Thea was quite content while all this was happeneing in the kitchen, wearing her super T cape and flying round the lounge. I hope I can come up with such lovely ideas, both to feed and entertain, when Miss 2 turns 3. For now though, I’m just happy with fairy floss chicken. And Thea is happy with her cape.

lime chicken burritos

 

Baked lime chicken burritos

Enough for 6 burritos

  • 1 chicken breast
  • 2 limes, zest and juice
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 200 ml milk
  • 1/2 red capsicum
  • 1/2 green capsicum
  • 1 red onion
  • 1-2 cups grated cheese like Cheddar or parmesan
  • 1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • pinch chilli flakes, optional
  • tortillas, I used flour ones
  • guacamole to serve, optional

Place the chicken, lime zest and juice, milk, garlic, pepper, salt and milk in an oven proof dish and bake for 30 minutes. Set aside to cool completely.

While the chicken is cooling, fry the capsicum and onion in some oil over a medium heat until the edges are nicely browned.

When the chicken is cool, cut it into 4 pieces and pulse it in a food processor until its finely shredded. Be careful not to over do this stage and make chicken puree.

To assemble the burritos, place a spoonful of chicken, some strips of capsicum and onion and a handful of grated cheese in a tortilla and roll. Place the filled tortilla roll in a baking dish and repeat with the remaining ingredients.

When all the tortillas are in the baking dish, pour over the chopped tomatoes, sprinkle over a few chilli flakes and top with as much extra grated cheese as you like.

Bake for 20-30 minutes at 180C until the cheese has melted and is golden and the tortillas are crisp.

Like the idea of poaching chicken in milk? Then you’ll love this recipe

Easy chicken vindaloo recipe

easy chicken vindaloo recipe

How do you celebrate father’s day with your dad when you’re in one country and he’s in another. A 24 hour fight between you. Well, I’ll tell you what I did. I cooked my dad his favourite meal. A spicy pungent Indian curry. And ate it in his honour. I think he would have liked my easy chicken vindaloo recipe. And I hope he likes the honesty and the good intentions that this post was written with, which is dedicated to him.

easy chicken vindaloo recipe

It must be hard being a dad and having your only child live so far away. Even harder when said child forgets English father’s day, in June, Australian father’s day being in September. There was a time when I didn’t send my dad father’s day cards at all, owing to a turbulent series of events during my teenage years. But as I grow older, I have come to see that people simply try to make the best of life. The best of their choices. Whatever may have come to pass, I am his daughter, he is my father and there is an unending bond between us.

easy chicken vindaloo recipe

If I think back to my childhood, it was a fun one. My dad would always be the one to encourage me to do adventurous things. Riding down rapids in a little blue and yellow inflatable boat at a river that we always used to visit. Jumping the big waves in the sea at Newquay until I had turned blue from the cold. Hanging from the beams in our house and when I could no longer hold on falling on to the bean bag that he had placed below. Sitting on his lap and steering the car up our steep driveway turning the wheel round the tree at the top my grandma protesting loudly in the back. Picking up large spiders trapped in the bath with my bare hands and returning them back outside. He instilled in me a sense of fearlessness, a spirit to just do things and make ideas happen. He made me believe that I could do anything that I set my mind to.

easy chicken vindaloo recipe

I’m sure that he is partly responsible for my passion for food too. You see my dad loves to eat. He’s one of those people for whom food is not just fuel for the body, it’s pleasure, it stimulates the senses, brings people together. The enjoyment of food for him is living life to its fullest. Thinking of him is thinking about Sunday roasts with every side and condiment available, a pub lunch of gammon and chips with pineapple AND a fried egg (you’re supposed to have one or the other), a full english breakfast, porridge, toast and a pot of tea, Chinese spare ribs, Greek lamb kleftiko, duck a l’orange and crepes Suzette flambéed at the table, asparagus and hollandaise sauce, bread and butter pudding with custard and ice cream, gooseberry fool. And of course, Indian curries.

easy chicken vindaloo recipe

Every Friday when I was wee, mum, dad and I and another family of three would go out for an Indian meal. Papadums, mango chutney, lime pickle, raita, samosas, bajees, naan bread, korma, malaya, tikka, jalfrezi, pilau, saag, gobi and of course vindaloo, are all words I could say probably before I could read. The restaurant that we went to was called Ali’s, run by Marge and Ali. When they returned to India to visit family, they used to bring back gifts for us. That’s how much we ate there.

easy chicken vindaloo recipe

So whatever has passed between us, I know that my dad still instinctively understands me like no other. He gave me some of the most important beliefs and values that I have. To chase after your dreams and not to stop until you achieve them, to dive head first into challenges without fear, to always entertain a sense of adventure and take the path less traveled. A dad who can do this, who can give you these qualities, has done a remarkable job. The hurt that was caused is in the past and the future is full of possibility. I think that food has a way of transcending words, so despite the fact that he can’t taste my easy chicken vindaloo recipe, hopefully the symbolic gesture of making it for him will convey my sentiments. Happy father’s day dad. I love you x

Easy chicken vindaloo recipe

Adapted from a recipe my Madhur Jafrey

  • 2 onions
  • 10 cloves garlic
  • 2 inch piece ginger
  • 1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 11/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 – 1tsp cayenne pepper **add as little or as much as you like to suit your chilli palate
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp coriander
  • 2 tbsp ghee, butter or oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 120ml apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbs brown sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 large chicken, jointed or 4 small chicken breasts, diced

In a food processor, blitz the onion, garlic and ginger and then add the turmeric, garam masala, **cayenne pepper, paprika, cumin and coriander and mix again until everything is well combined.

In a couple of tablespoons of ghee (I love Pepe Saya‘s), fry the mustard and fennel seeds until that start to pop and then add the curry paste that you have just made.

Fry for a couple of minutes before adding about three tablespoons of water and putting a lid on the pot and leaving the curry paste to slowly simmer for about 20 minutes to cook out the spices. Stir from time to time.

After the 20 minutes is up, add the tomatoes, vinegar, sugar and salt, stir to combine, then submerge the chicken pieces in the sauce and cook for about 30-40 minutes until the chicken is cooked.

At this point, to get the most flavour from this easy chicken vindaloo recipe, once the curry has cooled, store it in the fridge overnight and then gently reheat the next day. Serve with rice and any veggies that you fancy, but broccoli or cauliflower would work well.

IMG_3666 IMG_3668

Egg fried brown rice with chorizo

My freezer is full of chorizo. Of all shapes and sizes and with differing amounts of chilli. Why. Well, because it’s such a great ingredient. Versatile. Flavoursome. Quick and easy to use. I made a chorizo pilgrimage to Rodriguez brothers, a Spanish small goods shop about an hour and a half drive from home you see. And after such a long trip, decided to make the time taken to get there worth it. I selected enough chorizo to fill a grocery bag and in turn my freezer. Now at least one a week I challenge myself to put together a coherent creation with the paprika infused sausage as the star. This week it was egg fried brown rice with chorizo.

Egg fried brown rice with chorizo

It’s funny that I should think up with such a dish as egg fried brown rice with chorizo seeing as I’m a total purist when it comes to things like pizza toppings, salads and cheese. There is no room in my world for the cross pollination of dishes from different cultures. Indian ingredients on pizza. Balsamic vinegar to dress a Greek salad. Wasabi flavoured cheese. Who dreams up such combinations. Yet I still saw fit to blend Spanish, Chinese and some quintessentially English sauce to make dinner. My capricious streak I suppose. Besides it was delicious. Nutty, meaty and wholesome, slightly spicy and with a little piquancy from the worcestershire sauce.

Egg fried brown rice with chorizo

Other chorizo combinations have been less controversial, like using the sausage thinly sliced in place of pancetta in carbonara. Shedding the chorizo of its skin and whizzing it up in a food processor and then frying the meaty crumbs to serve over hummus a la Donna Hay. Thickly slicing it, tossing it with potatoes, cherry tomatoes and black olives and roasting the whole lot in the oven and the serving it tossed through with fresh rocket leaves. Once again, putting it in the processor, sans skin, with butter, combining the two then pushing the resulting mixture under chicken skin before roasting the chook. Mashing it up with chicken mince to make chicken and chorizo meatballs to cook in a rich tomato sauce.

Egg fried brown rice with chorizo

I will admit that reading through that list just shared, there’s world food combining galore. What would the Spanish make of chorizo crumbs used to make a Lebanese dip taste fantastic. I guess that’s just what we do as cooks. We are bower birds of the kitchen, collecting beautiful ingredients and moulding them together to make great dishes. So maybe I’m not such a purist after all. Maybe I just prefer my pizzas Margarita style and my cheese plain. But there’s still no reason to use balsamic vinegar on a Greek salad. Some lines just shouldn’t be crossed.

Egg fried brown rice with chorizo

Egg fried brown rice with chorizo

 

Egg fried brown rice with chorizo

Makes enough for 6 generous portions.

  • your choice of oil to fry with. I used a good quality lard
  • 2 cups cooked and cooled brown rice
  • 2 carrots, cut into semi circles
  • 2 chorizo, skins removed and meat chopped
  • 1 red oion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 eggs lightly beaten
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • worcestershire sauce
  • sea salt and black pepper

Begin by frying the carrots, chorizo and onion over a moderate heat in a pan big enough to take the rice when it comes to adding it.

When the vegetables have softened and the chorizo is starting to release its oil, add the garlic and fry for a minute or two until fragrant.

Now add the rice and peas and stir so that they are combined with the other ingredients.

Next make a well in the centre of the rice and pour in the eggs. Stir the eggs so that they start to scramble, slowly incorporating the rice as the egg cooks.

Season to taste with worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper, maybe garnish with some coriander and parsley and tuck in.

Enjoy this recipe. Then you might like easy chicken pasta recipe.

Easy chicken pasta with feta and veggies

easy chicken pastaWith less than six weeks to go, I’m starting to get nervous. Can I really run the 42 kilometres that is the Sydney marathon. I’ve been diligently training since January for number 27 on my list of 100 things to do in my life. Yep. Running for nearly five consecutive hours, rubbing my skin raw, bruising my toenails and generally exhausting myself has been an ambition of mine for a while. I’m curious to know if I have what it takes to complete the course. I’m definitely not a natural runner. I have stamina. But I’m not a runner. A swimmer maybe. Even a sprinter. Present me with a challenge though and I will grit my teeth, dig in my heels and give it my all. I slightly underestimated how much more I would need to eat though to help me achieve my goal. And although pasta isn’t my go to meal every night of the week, it’s definitely featuring more frequently, to provide the much needed energy. Like this fresh and easy chicken pasta that we had last night.

easy chicken pastaI can’t take the credit for this dish though. In what feels like another lifetime now, while at University in Glasgow, I used to work at Dimaggios, a hugely popular American Italian restaurant in the city’s West End. I was the cashier slash coffee maker slash telephone answerer. It was my first real insight into the fast paced and often frantic world of hospitality. And I loved it. There was the erratic happy one minute shouting at everyone the next head chef, who scared the hell out of me. Then there was moody pizza chef, who equally scared me, yet despite his demeanour, made really good pizzas. And the espresso with three sugars downing manager, who never said very much unless I did something wrong, and then he’d say even less, shake his head and purse his lips to form an expression of much dissapprovement. He definitely scared me. They were all big personalities and I was just a shy student learning about myself and experiencing life freely for the first time.
easy chicken pasta

After a busy shift I would often order this easy chicken pasta for dinner. It was named fusili el Greco, signaling to the little cubes of feta cheese scattered through it no doubt. There was also roast chicken, cherry tomatoes, carrot batons and snow peas, lots of olive oil and garlic. Considering the number of other dishes that were on offer, with lashings of cream and rich tomato sauces, I wonder now what it was about fusili el Greco that I liked so much. I think its simplicity. The colourful crunchy vegetables, salty squares of cheese, and garlicky olive oil coated spirals of pasta. Undeniably fresh, yet still very satisfying. Delicious hot or cold.

easy chicken pasta

I find it funny reminiscing about a job that I used to do while studying for an English degree. My dad always told me, just get a degree. It will stand you in good stead for the future, whatever you end up doing. I so wholeheartedly believed him, that it never once crossed my mind that hospitality might be an industry that I should explore more fully. My role at the restaurant was simply for extra cash, right. Just because I felt so at home working there, loved the thrill of a fully booked restaurant on a Friday night and was always sneaking glances into the kitchen to catch a glimpse of the action, I was going to work in marketing, advertising or publishing. Right. Well as it turns out now. No. And answering that question brings me full circle. Because I’m not a runner. Right. Well, in five and a bit weeks, I might prove myself wrong. Again.

easy chicken pasta

Easy chicken pasta

Enough for 4, or 2 dinners and then 2 lunches the next day.

  • 1 chicken breast
  • 1 red onion, thickly sliced
  • 200g cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 2 carrots, cut into batons
  • a handful of snow peas, tops trimmed and cut in half on the diagonal
  • 1 long red chilli, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 100ml beautiful extra virgin olive oil
  • 200g feta, cut into cubes
  • 300g fusili pasta

Roast the chicken breast at 180C for 25-30 minutes and leave to cool. When its cool enough to handle, shred the chicken into large strips. Doing this with your hands rather than a knife adds a lovely texture to the dish.

Bring a big pot of water to the boil and cook the carrots and snow peas for about 3 minutes so that they retain some crunch. Scoop them out of the pot with a slotted spoon and plunge them into cold water (iced cold water if you can). This will stop the vegetables from cooking and help keep their colours bright. Once cool, drain and set aside.

You can now add the pasta to the same water that you have just cooked the veggies in. Cook for 10 minutes. Drain but do not rinse and set aside.

While the pasta is cooking, over a low heat, cook the onion in the olive oil until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and chilli and cook until the garlic becomes fragrant, another 5 minutes or so.

Now add the carrots, snow peas, halved cherry tomatoes and chicken to the pot and stir so that all the flavours combine and everything is heated through. Add the pasta and the feta, stir again, drizzle in some more olive oil if you like, a little sea salt and some black pepper.

Enjoy this? Then you might like spaghetti carbonara

Tuscan kale and bean soup

After a glorious food focused weekend in Melbourne (just Mark and me, no Thea, eeek), back in the regularity of my home kitchen, I wanted to make something simple and warming. Something both visually appealing and delicious, but more akin to the everyday than the food that I had relished over the past few days. Tuscan kale and bean soup, perhaps inspired by time spent on Lygon Street, Melbourne’s ‘Little Italy’, seemed like a good idea. Colourful and textural, with its nourishing chicken stock, sultry kale and comforting beans. Plus the snowy cap of parmesan that I could finely grate over the top for a salty kick, made it a perfect fit.

Tuscan kale and bean soup

Melbourne was fun and we ate very well. Black Angus intercostals, slow cooked for 36 hours, then charred to perfection and served with watercress and green chilli at the Town Mouse. Chorizo and mozzarella arancini (something to try and recreate at home) and crisp, salty crackling with remoulade at City Wine Shop. Beautifully fresh buffalo mozzarella simply dressed with peppery olive oil at DOP. And quite possibly the most stunning duck that I will ever eat in my life, 55 floors up, surrounded by a sea of twinkling lights illuminating the city below at Vue de Monde.

Tuscan kale and bean soup

Dining at Vue de Monde is not an everyday event. It’s a theatrical, multi course, gourmet adventure, the date reserved well in advance. An occasion anticipated with great fervor. Something to get really excited about. At least for me anyway. I have been longing to dine at this highly acclaimed restaurant for nearly a decade, so finally stepping in to the private elevator, to take us up the Rialto tower to our table was a dream come true.

Tuscan kale and bean soup

Every element of the dinner was flawless, from the filigree adorned cutlery, always perfectly positioned in readiness for the next course, to the absolute lightness of the finishing dish, a chocolate soufflé. The standout course though was roast duck. A duck that, before being carved, was brought to our table in all its roasted glory. Dry aged for 15 days and anointed with Tasmanian leatherwood honey and plentiful Murray River sea salt, roasted in a hot oven, the skin was an even dark caramel colour. The whole exterior reminded me of the top of a perfectly blowtorched creme brûlée, in that you know when you crack your spoon onto the glasslike melted sugar top, it will break with a wonderful crispy snap. Presented later to us on individual plates, the meat under the skin was blushing and the flavour, superb. With each mouthful, the duck was savoured and a food memory was firmly made.

I never get sick of eating. Or thinking about food and the things that I’m going to cook. Juxtaposing the elite creations sampled at Vue de Monde as well as the other wonderful food eaten in Melbourne though, with a simple but satisfying Tuscan kale and bean soup, allows me to take stock. To stand back and mentally digest the wonderfully indulgent, somewhat hedonistic, almost relaxing, (would have loved one more lie in) weekend just enjoyed.

Tuscan kale and bean soup

The quantities below make a large batch of Tuscan kale and bean soup, enough for a few suppers for two as well as several lunches.

For the chicken stock

  • 1 kg chicken bones
  • 2 sticks celery, roughy chopped
  • 2 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 2 onions, quartered, you can leave the skin on
  • few bay leaves
  • tsp black peppercorns
  • juice of a lemon

Simply place the bones, 5 litres of water and lemon juice in a pot and leave to sit for 20 minutes.  This simple step helps to extract all the minerals from the bones.

Add all the remaining ingredients and bring the stock to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer the stock for anywhere between 4-24 hours. The longer you cook the stock, the more nutrition will be extracted from the bones.

Cook for a minimum of four hours though to get a good flavour.  For the first two hours, periodically skim the top of the stock, just with a large spoon, to remove any foam.

After the desired cooking time, strain the stock though a sieve and discard the cooked ingredients.

For the Tuscan kale and bean soup

  • 250g cannellini beans, soaked in water overnight OR 2 400g tins cannellini beans
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 sticks celery, sliced
  • 4 rashers bacon, diced
  • 1/2 butternut squash, cut into small cubes
  • 1 bunch cavolo nero (or other kale), finely shredded
  • sea salt and black pepper to taste

Begin by cooking the soaked and strained beans in the chicken stock. This will take about 30 minutes.

At the same time, in another pot, sweat the onion, celery and carrot in a little oil. By sweat I mean cook the vegetables over a low heat with the lid on until they are very soft, but not browned.

Add the bacon to the sweated vegetables and cook for a few minutes before adding the chicken stock containing the cooked beans, cavolo nero and squash, salt and pepper. Simmer gently until the pumpkin and kale are cooked about 20 minutes. Check fro seasoning at this point and adjust as necessary.

Now here’s the thing. This Tuscan kale and bean soup is the perfect make ahead meal because it’s best cooked the day before it’s eaten. So, if you can resist, cool it, put it in the fridge and then reheat and enjoy the next day. With lots of finely grated parmesan, extra pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.

Enjoy this recipe? You might also like chestnut soup.

Indonesian chicken curry

My niece is turning 13. Officially becoming a teenager. And I have volunteered to cook her birthday meal. She’s vegetarian though and the challenge is to make food that she and her sometimes fussy siblings, five and seven, will enjoy, as well as the rest of the family. With the flavours of ginger, lemongrass and turmeric still lingering on my palate from a recent holiday to Bali, I felt inspired to make an Indonesian chicken curry. Ahem. Chicken in the form of skewers to be cooked on the barbecue. A medley of vegetables in the sauce. It’s a recipe that I’ve made many times before and I was sure that that the slightly sweet and creamy dish would appeal to everyone.Indonesian chicken curry Indonesian chicken curry

Making curry paste from scratch is a rewarding activity. It’s also fun, akin to being in an apothecary shop, collecting an array of less commonplace spice jars form the kitchen cupboards and transforming them into a flavoursome base for a dish. Some might be put off by the long list of ingredients needed for a spice paste, but there’s no reason. Only one (usually) process needs to be applied to them all, pounding with a pestal and mortar or the less strenuous method of blitzing in a food processor. For large batches of pastes, utilising a motor is very handy, but for small quantities, bashing ingredients together by hand can be extremely satisfying. Even therapeutic.

Indonesian chicken curry

It’s worth mentioning that the turmeric in this recipe, which is vital for the colour and flavour of the dish, will stain. Your hands. Food processor. Kitchen bench. Chopping board. Even sink. Don’t be alarmed though. Simply clean as you go and no permanent damage will be done. Besides, the health benefits of turmeric far outweigh any yellow spots that might sit on the kitchen bench for a few days.

Indonesian chicken curry

It turned out that everyone loved the bright yellow curry, especially the birthday girl, who asked for seconds. Even Miss. five and Miss. seven enjoyed it and both my sister in laws wanted to know the recipe, something that’s always taken as a huge compliment. And always shared. As far as curry pastes go, this one is pretty easy. And if my family is anything to go by, it’s universally liked. So go on, get those spice jars from the back of the cupboard and have a go.

DSC_1534

Indonesian chicken curry

Adapted from a recipe by Alina Lucas

For the curry paste

  • 100g medium–hot red chillies, seeded 
  • 100 g (French) shallots, roughly chopped 
  • 25 g garlic cloves 
  • 5 macadamia nuts 
  • 40 g fresh turmeric, chopped 
  • 15 g ginger, chopped
  • 2 lemongrass stalks, tough outer stem removed and sliced 
  • 25 g galangal, chopped 
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
    2 tsp ground coriander 
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds, toasted and ground
    2 tsp ground cinnamon 
  • 1 tsp grated nutmeg 
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 2-4 tbs melted coconut oil  

Simply combine all ingredients in a food processor and run the motor until a coarse paste is formed. Loosen with melted coconut oil.

For the curry

  • 1 litre coconut milk
  • 1 tbs fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp salt 
  • 75 g sugar
  • 1 kg chicken thigh fillets, cut into walnut-sized pieces 
  • 1 kg mixture of pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, broccoli and snow peas

Fry the curry paste over a moderate heat until it is fragrant, about five minutes. There should have been enough coconut oil added to the paste for there to be no need for any more, but if it starts to stick to the pan, you can add a little non-flavoured oil.

Now add the coconut milk, fish sauce, salt, sugar and bring the brilliant yellow sauce to a simmer.

Add the chicken and root vegetables and simmer until all are just cooked through, about 20 minutes. Now add the green veggies, simmer for a further 5 or so minutes. Check the sauce for seasoning and add more fish sauce, salt or sugar as necessary. The curry should be slightly sweet, rich and creamy.

Enjoy with steamed white rice, or simply in a big bowl with a spoon.

If you liked this recipe, you might also like this beef in red wine stew