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Tarka Dhal

Dhal is one of my favourite dishes. Although I usually like it as a side dish with curries, it’s lovely on it’s own or with rice or a heap of rotis or naans – perfect Indian comfort food. The recipe is pretty easy – if you want to make it really special, don’t leave out the tarka at the end – it’s worth the effort to really enhance the flavour.


1 cup of red lentils (rinsed)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic crushed (or finely chopped)
2-3cm fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon groundnut or vegetable oil
Approx 1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garam masala
Half a teaspoon tamarind pulp or a squeeze of lemon

For the tarka:

Half a teaspoon of black mustard seeds
Half a teaspoon cumins seeds
1 dried chilli
6 curry leaves
A pinch of asafoetida (optional)

  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onions, garlic and ginger and stir. Leave to cook for a few minutes until they begin to soften.
  2. Add the turmeric, stir, cook for another minute.
  3. Add the lentils and mix well so they are coated with the oniony mixture. Just cover the lentils with water. They will absorb the water so don’t add too much at this stage, you can top it up as the lentils cook if the consistency seems too thick.
  4. Cook the lentils for approx. 15-20 minutes (depends on the type of lentils, quick cook lentils will not take so long). Check them every few minutes to make sure that there is enough water. I like them to be saucy but not too runny, a kind of slurry consistency. Some prefer a thick porridge consistency, and others prefer them thin and runny, so cook them the way that you like. Taste them as you go, when they start to soften nicely, you can think about making the vagaar.
  5. For the tarka, heat a tablespoon or two of oil in a small frying pan. Add the mustard seeds, stir them and when they start to pop add the cumin, dried chilli and curry leaves – be careful – they can spatter. Give them all a quick stir for about 20 seconds. Add them to the lentils and stir in.
  6. Add a pinch of asafoetida if using (this helps with flatulence, but also enhances the flavour).
  7. Add garam masala.
  8. Add the salt and tamarind (or lemon juice) – just a little first and then taste the dhal, then add the rest if needed.
  9. You can also garnish with some coriander leaves. Dhal freezes well.

Meal Planning on a Budget

Sometimes it’s hard to know what to cook for dinner, it’s easy to waste food, and there’s nothing worse than clearing out a fridge full of ‘past its best’ food on bin day. In this post I am going to suggest a meal plan that will give you four dinners for two without spending too much money. You can adapt it of course to include different ingredients, but it is based around a chicken and a packet of sausages. You can also add things that are in your store cupboard too, I’ll make suggestions as we go along.

Here’s the shopping list:
One fresh chicken – choose a large one
2 onions
A pack of 8 sausages
Green veg – e.g. spring greens, silverbeet, brussels (get enough for leftovers)
Frozen peas
1 regular cayenne chilli
Fresh medium sized mushrooms (about 12 of them – a regular punnet should do) wiped clean of soil
Potatoes x 8 (pick good roasters – Red, Royal blue, King Edwards etc.)
Half a butternut squash
3 eggs
A tin of chopped tomatoes
A tin of plum tomatoes
A cup of rice (regular basmati rice) cooked and cooled, (or a pack of ready cooked rice)
200g dried penne pasta
Vegetable stock powder
Cherry tomatoes (fresh) – optional

Store cupboard items like salt, pepper, vinegar, lard, butter, oil, dried herbs.
Optional store cupboard items – jam, cranberry sauce, white wine vinegar, cornflour, jars of olives, anchovies, capers, lemon, parmesan, tabasco, chilli sauce, sesame oil, dried fried onions, ketjap manis (thick sweet soy).

Meal 1 – Roast Chicken

As this is probably the most time consuming of the meals, I’d recommend making this for your Sunday lunch or dinner. It’s easy to do, it just takes at least an hour to cook depending on the size of your chicken. If you want to make it cook quicker you can ‘spatchcock’ it – this means taking the backbone out and squashing the chicken.
So first peel all of the potatoes, slice them in half lengthways (if they are huge you can quarter them) and parboil them in salted water. While they are parboiling set the oven to approx 180 deg C (fan) or a little hotter (185) if you don’t have a fan assisted oven.
Put 2 tablespoons of oil or lard in a roasting pan and put it in the oven so that the fat melts and gets hot.
Meanwhile wash the chicken, pat dry and season it. You can rub it with dark soy sauce if you have some soy in the cupboard, or if you prefer, you can use butter or other spread under the skin, season with salt and pepper, and lemon juice – just use whatever you have to hand. Stock powder is also a good seasoning that you can rub on the chicken skin. If you like garlic, peel and mash a clove and rub it over the chicken. Place the chicken on a rack and put 8 of the whole mushrooms in a pan underneath (this should be separate from the pan that you have prepared for the potatoes. If you’re not a fan of mushrooms, you can use slices of carrot and onion instead, but the chicken juices will drip on the veg below and that will be your basis for a lovely gravy. Put the whole pan and rack containing the chicken and mushrooms in the oven
Once the potatoes have boiled for about five minutes, drain them, give them a shake and put them in the hot pan. Shake them around the pan a bit to coat them with fat and put them in the oven.
Set the timer to an hour.
Now prep the greens and squash. If using spring greens or silverbeet I wash and shred them and place them in a saucepan of salted water. Brussels need a little trim and again can be placed in salted water. The squash can be peeled with a speed peeler (although peeling is not mandatory), the seeds should be scooped out with a spoon, then I halve the squash lengthways and slice it into large chunky pieces. Season the squash in a bowl with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper. The squash doesn’t need as long as the potatoes, so when the potatoes have been cooking for 25 minutes, shove them to one side of the pan and put the squash pieces next to them.
Place 1-2 cups of frozen peas in a small saucepan of salted water. If using brussels, you need to start cooking them about 10 – 15 minutes before the chicken is ready, silverbeet and greens should take about 5-10 minutes and frozen peas only take 5 minutes once they are boiling.
After 45 minutes of cooking check the chicken with a skewer and see if the juices run clear. The exact cooking time will depend on the size of the chicken and whether or not the backbone is in it. If you leave the backbone in, it can take up to 1.5 hours – this also depends on how efficient your oven is. If in doubt leave the saucepan veggies until the chicken is done and cook them while it rests.
Once the chicken is done, put it on a plate and cover it with foil and a few tea towels to insulate it.
Now you can make the gravy from the roasting pan. If you used mushrooms, add half a finely chopped onion and a little water to make a gravy. If you used soy on the chicken, this will season the gravy, but you may wish to add a sprinkle of stock powder and some jam/sugar/cranberry sauce to adjust the flavour. Add any juices from the resting chicken. Finish the gravy off on the hob while the potatoes and squash cook on in the oven. (If you used carrots and onion, instead of mushrooms, mash them up and add a sprinkle of stock powder plus a little jam/sugar/cranberry to balance the flavours). Sometimes a dash of vinegar (or white wine vinegar) works well too. The gravy might need straining to separate any mashed carrot.
The peas and greens should now be simmering too. As the green veggies cook you can add some of the cooking water to the gravy to enhance the flavour. If you want a thicker gravy, you can add a tablespoon of cornflour which has been mixed with some cold water.
When serving, serve a quarter of chicken for each person, and make sure that you keep some leftover potatoes, greens, peas and squash. I recommend serving a third of the veggies for each person and keep a third for leftovers. Pour the gravy over everything making sure that each person gets some mushrooms. The gravy also keeps if you want to have some gravy for the next meal. Place the leftover chicken in a bowl in the fridge covered with cling wrap. Do the same with the leftover veggies.

Meal 2 – Sausages, bubble and squeak, fried egg, tomatoes

Start off by gently pan frying the sausages, do all of them even if you can’t eat 8 sausages between you. You can also cook sausages in the oven if you prefer.
Chop up the leftover potatoes, squash, peas and greens into smallish pieces and mash them together in a large frying pan with a little olive oil. You can also add some finely chopped onion to them for extra flavour if you like. Just warm them through and mash them together as you go. You can add milk, water or leftover gravy to help bind them together. I love it when the bubble and squeak goes crispy and brown on the bottom, so you don’t have to do much with it once it is cooking and warming through.
Place the plum tomatoes in a saucepan and heat them through (you can also use a can of beans if you prefer).
When everything is almost ready, fry 2 eggs in a pan – you can also poach or scramble them, it’s nice to have runny eggs on top of the bubble and squeak.
Serve up 2-3 sausages each, half of the bubble and squeak, a fried egg and half of the beans or tomatoes. Serve with HP sauce. Reserve the leftover sausages.
You can also make this meal with a packet of bacon or vegan sausages if you prefer.

Meal 3 – Chicken pasta

Shred the leftover chicken. Chop half an onion, a chilli, and a clove of garlic quite finely. If you want the sauce spicy, leave the chilli seeds in, otherwise take them out. The chilli is optional anyway. Slice some leftover mushrooms. If you have any jars of capers, anchovies or olives in the fridge, take a few and chop the into small pieces.
Bring some water to the boil in a saucepan and add 200 – 250g of penne pasta to the water.
In a large-ish pan or wok, fry the onions and garlic in a tablespoon of oil until they soften. Add the mushrooms and fry for a minute longer. Add some dried herbs (about a teaspoon), and at this point add the capers/anchovies/olives if using them.
Now add the about two thirds of the shredded chicken stir around for a minute and add the tin of chopped tomatoes.
Season with salt, pepper and add a little stock powder if necessary. Taste to make sure the sauce tastes yummy.
Once the pasta is al dente, drain it and add it to the sauce. If the sauce is too thick, you can add a little of the pasta water to thin it out. Serve in nice bowls. Add some grated parmesan if you like.

Meal 4 – Special Fried Rice

This is where you use anything you have leftover. Chop up half an onion, a clove of garlic, some leftover sausages and slice any leftover mushrooms. Get some frozen peas ready in a cup. Beat an egg in a cup or jug – if you have any sesame oil in the cupboard add a drop to the egg, and season with salt and pepper.
Fry the onion and garlic in a little oil, you can also add a chopped chilli or some chilli sauce if you like, but this is optional.
Now add the sausages, mushrooms and any leftover chicken and stir to warm through. After about 2 minutes add the peas and stir through. Once the meats are getting nice and hot, make a little space in the pan and add the beaten egg. scramble it once it starts to go opaque and mix it in with the other ingredients. If you’re like me you’ll have some fresh cherry tomatoes in the fridge – feel free to halve a few and chuck them in if you like. Now add the rice and warm through. Check the seasoning – you can add salt, pepper, soy, chilli sauce. Serve in bowls. If you have crispy dry fried onions, sprinkle them on top (you can also use chives or spring onions if you have them), a drizzle of ketjap manis on top is also good.

Prawn and Pineapple Curry

I recently had a fab prawn and pineapple curry at a Thai restaurant and we decided to make our own one Sunday evening for a ‘date night at home’. It’s a sweet and hot curry, really full of flavour and can be served with plain boiled rice and some stir fried veggies.

ppc 1

It turned out really well, the only difference next time is that we will cook the spice paste a bit longer to really caramelize it.

Ingredients (serves 2)

Small tin of pineapple chunks or cubes from a small fresh pineapple
Half a teaspoon of tamarind pulp/paste
2 kaffir lime leaves
1 tin of coconut cream (approx 250 mls)
200mls water (if using tinned pineapple, use some of the juice from the can)
6 dried red chillies (soaked in hot water, sliced, and deseeded)
1 small red onion diced
approx 500g of fresh  raw tiger prawns (this is the weight with the shell on)
1 large clove of garlic or 3 small ones
2 cm of galangal (or ginger) peeled and finely sliced
2 lemongrass stalks (split most of the way along the length and then bashed) or 2 tablespoons of lemongrass paste
3 – 5 candlenuts (or macadamias)
1 teaspoon of blachan (shrimp paste) sliced
1 and a half teaspoons of salt
2 tablespoons of brown sugar

1. Using a blender, make the chilli paste (rempah) by blending the chillies, some of the chilli soaking water, onion, garlic, galangal, lemongrass paste (if using the stalks, don’t blend them), blachan, candlenuts, salt and sugar.
2. Heat about 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large pan and fry the blended paste. If using lemongrass stalks, add them now (and bash them a bit with the stirrer) to flavour the paste but keep them intact so that you can easily remove them before serving.
3. While the paste is frying, peel the prawns, remove the poop tube, cut them in half lengthways or butterfly them, and give them a rinse before patting them dry with kitchen paper.
4. The paste needs to be really nicely caramelized, it should go much darker, and should end up fairly thick and a little claggy, The oil will separate from the paste. It shouldn’t taste or smell too much of the blachan. This process will take about 10-15 minutes on a low heat.
5. Now add the coconut cream, kaffir lime leaves, tamarind and pineapple along with some of the water. Give it a good stir and add more water if it is too thick – it should be a nice medium consistency – not too thick but not too runny – you want the sauce to coat the prawns nicely and have some to soak into the rice.
6. Cook for around 5-10 minutes then add the prawns and cook until they just go opaque, don’t overcook them.
7. Garnish with crispy fried shallots (you can find these in Asian grocers).

Serve with rice, veggies, rotis.

A note on the lemongrass – I never blend lemongrass stalks because I find that however much you blend them, you still end up with fibrous lumps in the curry. I sometimes buy the ready made lemon grass paste in the veggie herb section at the supermarket:

lg 1

I find that a tablespoon is equivalent to a lemongrass stalk.
When using the actual stalks, I tend to peel off the outer fibrous layers, then I split them almost all along the length, but leaving a little bit in tact so that the stalk doesn’t break up completely. If the stalk is fat, I will make another slit along it. The trick is to expose the white inner layer. Once slit, you can bash them with a heavy object like a rolling pin to release the flavour then add them to your curries. Once the curry is cooked, just lift them out again.

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Thai Creme Caramel

thai cc

This little dessert is a real winner. It is dairy free (unless you use milk chocolate) and gluten free too, and it tastes amazing.
The quantities given here will make enough to fill about 6 ramekins – it depends on the size of your ramekins. If you have too much you can always make an extra ‘tester’ portion.

500ml coconut cream
approx 6 tablespoons of golden syrup (or maple syrup, or sugar syrup made with brown
sugar and water)
2 teaspoons of vanilla essence
1 to 2 tablespoons of caster sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
4 eggs
a pinch of salt
200g Dark good quality chocolate e.g. Lindt 70%
Fruits – I used strawberries and lychees
Cocktail sticks

Heat the oven to 180 deg C.
Prepare a roasting tin which is large enough to contain all of your ramekins. The roasting tin will be a bain marie, so boil the kettle.
Grease the ramekins very lightly with a little oil or dairy free spread – just a very thin smear on a piece of paper towel.
Put approx a tablespoon of syrup at the bottom of each ramekin so that it spreads out and thinly covers the bottom of the ramekin.
Whisk the eggs in a bowl until they are light and fluffy – approx 2 minutes. Add the sugar, vanilla, salt and coconut cream and whisk again.
Pour the mixture gently into the ramekins (I used a ladle for mine), leave a gap at the top of the ramekin, don’t overfill them.
Place the filled ramekins in the roasting tin and pour some boiled water into the roasting tray so that it comes at least halfway up the side of them, bit don’t fill it up too much because you don’t want water to splash into the mixture.
Bake them in the oven for approximately 30 minutes until they are lightly set.
Cool them at room temperature, then put them in the fridge.
While they are cooling, melt the chocolate in a glass bowl over a saucepan with some water in it or use a double boiler.
Wash the strawberries and dry them on kitchen towel. Remove the leaves. If using tinned lychees, drain them well and pat them dry with kitchen towel.
Coat some of the strawberries and lychees in chocolate by dropping them into the chocolate, turning them with a spoon and using a cocktail stick to lift them out onto baking parchment. Place them in the fridge to harden.
To turn the creme caramels out, run a knife around the edge of the ramekin, place a plate over the top and invert them. Tap lightly until they fall out onto the plate – they will spread a little.
Serve with some natural fruits and some chocolate fruits. Dust with a little icing sugar or cocoa powder.
For variations you can flavour the custard with something other than vanilla e.g. almond, hazelnut, pandan paste.

Toffee Fruits

One of my fond memories of UK Chinese restaurants is the toffee fruit dessert served with ice cream. You can get it in Australia, but it’s not quite as common or popular as in the UK.
Most restaurants serve toffee apple or toffee banana, but I have seen lychee before and theoretically you can do it with any firm fruit that can withstand deep frying. Pineapple and pear would probably also be good options.
The recipe is not the easiest thing to do at first, but once you work it out, the results are so worth it. My first attempt does look a bit clumsy and messy, but the guests loved them. Now I know what to do, next time the presentation will be better.

You can prepare and deep fry the fruits in advance to save time. The batter is enough to coat two apples, a banana and a can of lychees, it is fairly thick and made up of:

100g plain flour
1 large egg – beaten
1 tablespoon of peanut (groundnut) or corn oil
120 ml water
I used a large high sided frypan to fry my fruits but you can also use a wok, saucepan or deep fat fryer.

To prepare the fruits:
Apples – peel and core the apple then cut into 8 wedges
Lychees – peel and stone fresh lychees, for canned lychees, drain them well (make sure there is no liquid in the centre) and pat them dry with kitchen paper.
Bananas – cut them into chunks – I used zig zag cuts along the length of the banana.
Coat the fruits in batter and deep fry them in an unflavoured oil e.g. corn oil or peanut (groundnut) oil. Make sure that the fruit is fully coated with batter – a thicker batter helps with this. Fry the apple and banana for about 4-5 minutes turning frequently until the batter is a light golden brown. The lychees take a bit less time. Drain them on kitchen paper to keep them as crispy as possible.
If you are not serving them straight away – once all of the pieces have been fried, allow the oil to cool, sieve it to get rid of any debris, and keep the oil for the second frying.
When you are almost ready to serve re-fry the fruit pieces in the hot oil for just a minute to warm them up and get them crispy again.
Now the tricky bit, have a bowl of iced water ready and some sesame seeds handy.
In a wok or saucepan, warm 3 tablespoons of groundnut or corn oil. Add 9 tablespoons of white caster sugar and dissolve it in the oil over the heat. It may take on a strange appearance and look like white lumps, but persevere – keep stirring all the time and don’t overheat it. When it is ready it will turn a pale golden brown. Quickly coat the fruit pieces in the caramel, remember as you put the fruit into the caramel it will start to cool, so work quickly, then drop each piece into the iced water which will immediately set the caramel and then place the pieces on a serving plate.

Tips – if you are using a spoon to transfer your fruit from the caramel to the ice water, don’t let the spoon touch the ice water or your toffee fruit will stick to the spoon. Warm your spoon(s) first so that you are not dipping cold spoons into warm caramel. The Chinese use chopsticks to do this – so if you are a dab hand with chopsticks…maybe try them.
I am not quite sure if it is best to add the sesame seeds to the caramel while the fruits are being coated, or afterwards when they are on the plate. I think that they stick better if you add them to the caramel.
I placed my platter on the table and everybody just used their fingers to serve the fruits straight to the mouth – it was a lovely communal food moment. They are delicious with vanilla ice cream. As you can see from my picture, some of my lychees popped out of their batter coating. I think this was because they were not 100% covered in batter, so next time I will make sure that they are fully coated.

toffee fruits

Ricotta Pancakes

ricotta pancakes

I love a pancake, and I am always on the lookout for new pancake recipes. This one creates quite a thick batter and the amounts given are for one big one or two smaller ones. This one has no wheat flour, it is made with coconut flour and ricotta with some psyllium husk to make it light and fluffy. I topped mine with some frozen berries that I heated with a little water, a scoop of coconut yoghurt, honey and a sprinkle of granola.

Recipe – mix all the ingredients up in a jug or bowl:
60g ricotta (or coconut yoghurt)
1 egg (or egg replacer, aquafaba, or leave it out)
1 dessertspoon of psyllium husk
1 dessertspoon of coconut flour
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 dessertspoon of shredded coconut (optional)
a little water or soy milk

Heat a little oil in a frying pan (I use vegetable or groundnut oil), then scoop the batter into the pan (it will be too thick to pour). Smooth it out with a spatula and heat on low to medium heat for approx 5 minutes before flipping over and cooking for another 5 minutes.

ricotta pancakes 2
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It looks quite thick but the inside is soft and light. Topping options are endless including nutella, strawberries, peaches, nuts, honey, agave syrup, yoghurt, and cream.


There are many satay recipes around and it is difficult to find a really authentic one, so I have decided to share my favourite satay recipe. These skewers taste lovely, especially if you cook them on the barbecue. The recipe takes time, and you need to allow time for marinating, but the end result is well worth it.


If you are a busy person and you look at my recipe and think “blimey, I can’t do all that”, then make your way to Mr Weezee – he has two shops, one at Booragoon and one on Stirling Highway. Satay is his speciality – he supplies most of the restaurants in Perth, and you can buy chicken or beef satay either on sticks (12 sticks for $10) or as a pack of meat, fresh or frozen along with a pot of satay sauce. It is one of those things that I always keep in the freezer now for a good tasty dinner in super quick time. With the packs of meat, you just stir fry them with your favourite veggies. Here’s a tip, if you decide to make the trip to Mr Weezee on Stirling Highway, there is a wonderful cafe next door called Elixir.
Okay so here is the recipe – you will need a device to grind some ingredients to a paste. I have a Braun Multiquick, but there are plenty of other similar utensils.


Satay Recipe
1.5 Kg meat (beef or chicken work best)
Grind the following to a paste:
6 stalks of lemon grass (remove the fibrous outer layers – just use the white middles)
10 shallots or 2 red onions
4 cloves garlic
1cm galangal (use an extra cm ginger if you can’t get galangal)
1cm ginger
1.5 tablespoons turmeric
2 tablespoons caster sugar (brown if you have it)
1 teaspoon salt

Chop the meat into thin strips (you can do chunks if you prefer, but they will take longer to cook) and marinate in the paste in the refrigerator overnight. Make sure you mix it well so that the marinade really penetrates the meat.
Soak some bamboo skewers in water (this stops them from burning), then thread the strips of meat onto the skewers like thick ribbons.
Cook on a barbecue or under a hot grill – the timing depends on how thick your chunks of meat are, after a few minutes cut one of the pieces of meat to see how it is doing. Serve with satay sauce (see below), cucumber, onion and rice.

Satay Sauce Recipe
Grind the following ingredients to a paste:
4 stalks of lemon grass (again, discard the fibrous outer layers, just use the soft white inner core)
1 cm galangal (if you can’t find galangal just use an extra cm ginger)
1cm ginger
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon chilli paste (this is usually sufficient – add more or less depending on your taste)

You also need:
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
300g toasted peanuts coarsely ground
1 cup water
a quarter of a cup of thick tamarind juice (you can buy this in jars in asian supermarkets, but if you really can’t find it use lemon juice to add sourness to the sauce)
2 tablespoons sugar
palm sugar or honey if you need it to be sweeter
salt to taste

Heat the oil in a pot and fry the paste until it smells fragrant. Add all the other ingredients and cook until thick. Taste it as you go and add more salt, sugar,and tamarind if necessary to season to your taste.


I love tempura – the light batter and the soft veggies are such a great contrast. You can make your own dipping sauce for these kakiage, but I prefer to serve them with a nice thick homemade mayonnaise. Mine are a bit smaller than the traditional round ones that you see at sushi bars, but they cook fairly quickly and are great to be prepared in advance and then reheated in a hot oven for 10 minutes.


You can use any veggies, but I chose a combination of sweetcorn, broccoli, carrot and onion. This recipe makes 6 kakiage (plus a tester).

1 Onion thinly sliced
2 Small carrots cut into matchstick size pieces
1 Portion of kernels cut from the cob of one ear of corn (remove husk and silk first)
5 florets of broccoli cut into small pieces
8 tablespoons of plain flour
2 tablespoons of corn flour
1 teaspoon of salt
200mls of cold water (preferably from the fridge)
Enough vegetable oil to fill a small saucepan about a third full.

1. While the saucepan of oil is heating, prepare the vegetables and place them in a bowl.
2. In a separate bowl or jug, mix the batter ingredients – salt, flour, cornflour and water. Don’t overmix the batter – a few small lumps will be okay.
3. Add the batter to the vegetables and mix well.
4. Check that the oil is ready by dropping a very small droplet of batter into the pan. If it fizzes and rises up, the temperature is probably right.
5. Using a very large metal spoon or heat resistant spatula, scoop up a large spoonful of the batter/veg mixture. Carefully slide it off the spoon and into the oil. It might look like it won’t hold together, but it will – don’t worry.
6. After 3-4 minutes, flip the kakiage and cook for another 3-4 minutes on the other side. The kakiage won’t go really dark, but some of the veggies may look a little brown, The onion strands should be lovely and crispy.
7. Drain on kitchen paper and serve immediately.
8. Alternatively place in a an oven dish and cover with foil. When you are ready to serve, warm them up in the oven for 10 minutes at 190 deg C.
9. Serve with mayonnaise, or tentsuyu sauce with grated daikon.

Other good veggies for this recipe are potato, sweet potato, green beans, eggplant, squash, mushrooms, cauliflower, broccolini, spring onion. I would always recommend using onion because it adds so much flavour and gives some nice raggedy crispy edges.

Shepherd’s Pie

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shep 2

Shepherd’s Pie is one of those lovely warming winter dishes, nice tasty lamb mince with a mashed potato topping, finished off in the oven and served with veggies of your choice.
On the day that I made these 3 batches for the freezer, the supermarket had most of the ingredients I needed in a ‘bargain bucket’, and other than being a little misshapen or ripe, there was nothing wrong with them, hence the large quantities. I’ll give you the recipe here for 500g of mince which will serve at least 5 people and potentially 6 if you pack it with extra veggies. You can make one huge pie or split it into 3 portions as I have done.
Traditionally it does not contain zucchini or swede, but add whatever you like to make your own version.
If you are vegan you can use vegan mince and vegan cheese.

500g lamb mince, rinsed. (If it is very fatty you may wish to boil it first for a few minutes to get rid of excess fat then rinse in a sieve with boiling water.)
1 large onion, peeled and diced
2 sticks of celery diced
1 dried or fresh chilli (optional)
2 carrots diced
1 small swede peeled and diced (optional)
1 small zucchini/courgette diced (optional)
5 large ripe tomatoes diced (peel them if you feel so inclined)
a 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
a lamb stock cube
1 tablespoon of Worcester sauce
Half a tablespoon of Soy sauce
a bunch of chopped chives (optional)
1 tablespoon of mixed herbs (fresh or dried)
2 bay leaves
200g of potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons of butter or spread
a little milk (optional)
40g approx of grated cheddar cheese (optional)
salt and pepper

1. In a large deep pan, heat approx 3 tablespoons of olive oil and add the lamb mince. Stir fry until it gets some colour and then add the onion, carrots, celery, swede, zucchini and chilli.
2. Fry until they begin to soften. Meanwhile, boil the potatoes in some salted water in a large saucepan until they are soft enough to mash (takes about 10 minutes depending on the size of the dice).
3. To the lamb mixture add the tomatoes, fresh and tinned, herbs, Worcester and soy sauces, and crumble the stock cube in to the mixture. Rinse the tomato can with water and add, it if it needs thinning out a little.
4. Cook for approx 20 minutes, and taste. Add salt and pepper as necessary.
5. Drain the potatoes (leave a little water in the pan), return to the pan and mash with the addition of the butter, milk, part of the cheese and some salt and pepper to season.
6. Put the lamb mixture in an ovenproof dish and cover with mash. Top the mash with some cheese (as much or as little as you like).
7. At this point the pie can cool and be frozen for later use. If you are eating it now, pop it into an oven at 170 – 180 deg C for about 15-20 minutes until the cheese browns and bubbles. If reheating from frozen, thaw first (if you have time) for at least 2 hours, then reheat in an oven at 170-180 deg C for about 40 minutes. Cooking directly from frozen works but will take longer and a lower temperature is recommended to heat it through slowly before turning the heat up to 180 for the last 15 minutes.
8. Serve with a side of veggies such as peas, broccoli, spinach.
Optional other ingredients: Mushrooms, Eggplant, Button squash, Tomato paste, Sweet potato mash.

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Vietnamese Chicken Curry

Those of you who know me will know that I love a curry. This vietnamese chicken and sweet potato curry is one of my favourites – once all of the ingredients are prepared, you just chuck them in the pot and leave it to cook. Once the sweet potato is soft, it is ready to serve. It also benefits from the addition of a small amount of caramel – sweetness is very good for relieving hot raw spices, and if I am cooking a curry that tastes too hot, I will generally add a teaspoon of sugar, leave it for a few minutes and then taste again.
Vegans can adapt this curry by using vegan fish sauce and chicken substitute.

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I got this recipe from Ghillie Basan’s Vietnamese cook book, but I have added a few tweaks of my own.

One and a half tablespoons curry powder (I use Indian Madras curry powder – if you feel really adventurous you can make your own)
One and a half tablespoons garam masala
1 tablespoon turmeric
500g chicken skinned – thighs are juicier, but I like to mix thigh and breast meat (If you are vegan you can replace the chicken with Tofurkey chick’n pieces)
One and a half tablespoons brown sugar (any type)
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 shallots (or half a red onion) chopped finely
2 garlic cloves chopped or crushed
4cm galangal (if you can’t find it, use ginger), peeled and grated (it will be mushy when grated)
2 lemon grass stalks (remove the outer fibrous leaves, cut the end off to reveal the white middle, keep about 3cm intact, and make 4 long slits in the other part then bash with a mallet or flat heavy knife blade to release the flavour)
2 teaspoons chilli paste (sambal oelek – or use a large dried red chilli)
1 medium to large sweet potato, peeled and chopped
3 tablespoons fish sauce (use vietnamese nuoc mam if you can find it) If you are vegan use vegan fish sauce
600ml coconut milk
small bunch coriander chopped
salt and pepper to taste

1. Mix the curry powder, garam masala and turmeric in a large bowl. Add the chicken and mix to coat with the dry spices.
2. Heat the sugar on a low heat with one and a half tablespoons of water, after a while it should dissolve and turn golden. Remove from the heat.
3. Heat a large wok and add the sesame oil. Stir fry the shallots (or onion) with the garlic, galangal and lemon grass until they smell fragrant and lovely. Stir in the chilli paste.
4. Now add the chicken with all of the dry spice mix (don’t leave any behind) – stir fry for 2-3 minutes.
5. Add the coconut milk, mix well. Then add the caramel, fish sauce and sweet potato. Rinse out the caramel saucepan with 150ml water, and add it to the curry.
6. Bring to the boil and then simmer until the chicken is cooked and the sweet potato is tender.
7. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir in the coriander. Remove the lemon grass stalks before serving.

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