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Pasta Sauce

I like to make pasta sauces in advance – they are a great way of using up leftover vegetables, and can be really economic to make if you have a supermarket that offers misshapen or odd veggies at a lower price e.g. The Odd Bunch. If you have children, they won’t notice how many veggies are in the sauce because it will taste so good and also be very nutritious. My sauces tend to be red or green and both go really well with pasta. The red sauce is tomato based and great for meatballs (or Bolognese if you add mince to it), but it is equally nice on its own. The green sauce goes really nicely with fish and pasta, I tend to add some cooked salmon or crab to the green sauce and serve it with a nice penne or fusilli pasta.

red sauce

FOR THE RED SAUCE
2 stalks of celery chopped (leftover celery freezes really well, chop it up and place portions into zip seal bags)
1 onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic chopped
1 fresh red chilli chopped (or a teaspoon of chilli paste)
1 jar of passata
2 teaspoons of vegetable stock powder
Mixed herbs (dried, fresh or in a tube) – use whichever herbs you like, I used a large teaspoon of mixed dried herbs
Salt and pepper to season
Optional: tomato paste, sun dried tomatoes, capers, olives, roasted capsicum in a jar – this is great for using up all of those half used jars in the fridge.
Any veggies, for the sauce in the picture I used: 1 zucchini, 1 sweet potato, 3 large mushrooms, and half a red capsicum. You can also use eggplant, squash, carrots, cauliflower, swede, fresh tomatoes – anything that you have lying around will work. Chop all of the veggies into small pieces and keep the hard veg separate from the softer veg as it will take longer to cook.

METHOD
Using approx 2-3 tablespoons of oil (olive or vegetable), fry the onion, celery, chilli and garlic for a minute.
Add the hard vegetables e.g. carrot, swede, sweet potato, zucchini, squash.
After approx 5 minutes, add the soft vegetables and the passata. Add the herbs, vegetable stock powder and seasonings and continue to cook until all of the vegetables are soft and a little mushy.
Using a stick blender or food processor, whizz up the vegetables into a smooth sauce. When dividing portions for the freezer, 500ml of sauce is a good portion size for two people. Taste and adjust the seasoning to suit your taste.

FOR THE GREEN SAUCE
2 stalks of celery chopped (leftover celery freezes really well, chop it up and place portions into zip seal bags)
1 onion chopped
2 cloves of garlic chopped
2 teaspoons of vegetable stock powder
3 tablespoons of yoghurt, coconut cream, cashew cream, sour cream, ricotta or coconut yoghurt
Mixed herbs (dried, fresh or in a tube) – use whichever herbs you like, I used a large teaspoon of mixed dried herbs
Salt and pepper to season
Any green veggies, for the sauce in the picture I used: 1 zucchini, 1 head of broccoli, 1 large mushroom (okay it’s not green but I wanted to use it up), and a bunch of broccolini. You can also use kale, spinach, swede, green capsicum, yellow capsicum, cauliflower, green cabbage – again, anything that you have lying around that is predominantly green or yellow will work. Chop all of the veggies into small pieces and keep the hard veg separate from the softer veg as it will take longer to cook. You can also use any edible stems and leaves, just chop the stems a bit smaller e.g. broccoli stems.

METHOD
Using approx 2-3 tablespoons of oil (olive or vegetable), fry the onion, celery, chilli and garlic for a minute.
Add the hard vegetables e.g. zucchini, swede, broccoli.
After approx 5 minutes, add the soft vegetables. Add the herbs, vegetable stock powder and seasonings and continue to cook until all of the vegetables are soft and a little mushy.
Add the yoghurt, cream or ricotta. You may also need to add some water if the consistency is too thick.
Using a stick blender or food processor, whizz up the vegetables into a smooth sauce. When dividing portions for the freezer, 500ml of sauce is a good portion size for two people. Taste and adjust the seasoning to suit your taste.
If you wish to cook crab pasta for example, heat the sauce, prepare the pasta in a separate pot. When the pasta is almost cooked add approx 100g of cooked crab per person to the sauce, heat through for a few minutes, then drain the pasta and combine the sauce with the pasta.

green sauce

Meatballs

Home made meatballs are so versatile and freezable, and once made ahead they are perfect for a quick midweek dinner with some pasta sauce and pasta, and the best thing is that if you make them yourself, you know exactly what goes into them. If you need gluten free or dairy free meatballs, beware of buying them in a supermarket because some manufacturers add milk, flour, and gluten containing breadcrumbs.

meatballs

Here’s the recipe that we use, and this quantity makes approximately 40 meatballs. We portion them up for the freezer by wrapping 8 in cling film and then placing them in a zip seal bag. We get 4 dinners out of approx 1 kg of meat, so that’s 125g of meat per person per meal which equates to 4 golf ball sized meatballs per person. If that’s too much or not enough for you, feel free to divide it up into larger portions or smaller portions to suit your family. If you want to be super swish you can weigh the finished mixture (makes sure you
note the weight of the empty bowl first), then you can weigh each meatball to make sure they are even.

Ingredients
1kg of minced meat (we vary ours but tend to mix two meats e.g. 500g of 5 star beef and 500g 3 star pork – this ensures that there is enough fat in them, but feel free to make them ‘leaner’ if you need, or use other minces such as turkey, chicken, veal, lamb etc.)
1 large onion, grated or whizzed up in a food processor (if you fry up the mashed onion first, this will release some of the water and make for a more manageable mixture, but you don’t have to).
2 slices of bread whizzed up into breadcrumbs (we prefer wholemeal, you can also use gluten free bread)
1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons of your favourite mustard – Dijon is a good choice
2 teaspoons of vegetable stock powder
Some herbs – dried mixed, minced in a tube, or fresh chopped such as parsley, basil etc.
Salt and pepper – approx half a teaspoon of each
Optional extras – if you want a spicier meatball you can add chilli, paprika, cumin, coriander, turmeric. If you can eat dairy, you can also add grated parmesan to the mixture.
You can also add a dash of nutmeg or some tomato paste if you like a tomatoey flavour.

Method
Mix everything together in a large bowl until all of the ingredients are nicely combined then shape into golf ball size balls.

Cooking
When you are ready to cook them, brown them in a little oil first in a frying pan, then add the sauce of your choice. Start your pasta cooking in a separate pot, and by the time the pasta is cooked (approx 12 minutes), the meatballs should be cooked through. Cut one in half to make sure. Obviously larger meatballs will take longer. Garnish with parmesan and black pepper (you can also buy good vegan parmesan if you prefer dairy-free).

Jambalaya

Jambalaya is one of those fairly quick one-pot meals which is really good for using up leftovers. It is basically a rice dish with paprika and chorizo, tinned tomatoes, various vegetables and either chicken or prawns or both. The joy of jambalaya is that you can flavour it however you like – if you want it to be a bit warm, add a chilli (or chilli paste) and/or some tabasco. You can also add sun-dried tomatoes,carrot, zucchini, fire roasted red pepper strips or any other pickles that you may have in the fridge.

jamb

This is my standard recipe, but please feel free to adapt it to your taste.
1 large onion, sliced or chopped how you like it
1 red chilli finely sliced
1 cup approx of rice
1 chorizo sliced
4 mushrooms
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 stock cube (once you have added the tomatoes, you can make up the stock cube or powder in the empty can)
1 tablespoon paprika
half a stick of celery sliced
half a capsicum (any colour) sliced
a few sun dried tomatoes sliced
8 raw tiger prawns chopped or sliced

1. Boil the kettle. Fry the onion, chilli and chorizo slices (in a large high-sided pan or wok) in a little olive oil for a few minutes, add the capsicum and celery plus any other hard veg that you are including.
2. Sprinkle with paprika and stir fry for a few minutes.
3. Add the rice and stir it around for about 30 seconds. Add the tinned tomatoes. Dissolve the stock cube in the empty tomato tin with some boiling water (this will capture any left over tomato juice). When you hold the can, be careful because it may be very hot where it conducts the heat of the water – add the stock to the pan.
4. Stir well – the rice will begin to cook and absorb the liquid. Now add the mushrooms and sun dried tomatoes.
5. It should take approx 12 minutes to cook depending on your rice, taste the rice as you go along to see how it is doing.
6. When the rice is almost done, add the prawns – they should only take a few minutes to turn opaque.
7. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. When you serve it, the rice should be cooked, and there should be a small amount of rich tomato gravy. I like mine sprinkled with deep fried onions (you can buy these ready made from your asian supermarket).

Vietnamese beef skewers

vbs

One of my favourite dishes in Perth’s Viet Hoa is the beef skewers with wine and herbs. It took me a while to find a marinade that recreated them perfectly, but here it is:

Recipe
750g beef fillet
3 cloves garlic crushed
1 stalk lemon grass
1 small red chilli finely chopped
1 teaspoon caster sugar (brown is better)
1 tablespoon fish sauce (get vietnamese nuoc mam if you can)
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil

Put the beef in the freezer while you make the marinade.
You can chop the lemon grass if you like, but I prefer to slice the very end off, so you can see the white middle, and cut long slits down the length of the stalk, but leaving about an inch intact at the top. Then you can bash the bulbous bottom end with a mallet or a flat heavy knife to release the flavour, but the stalk remains in one piece that you can remove it easily at the end of marinading or cooking.
Mix all of the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl.
Slice the beef very thinly and marinate for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight (cover the bowl with cling film).
Thread the beef onto skewers and cook on a hot barbecue or griddle. If you like you can sprinkle them with sesame seeds before cooking, and serve with coriander leaves.
Enjoy.

Stir fried black bean beef

I made this dish after being totally inspired by the black bean beef dish served by Peach Garden at Singapore’s Changi airport (terminal 1). This simple dish was possibly the best meal at an airport that I have ever tasted, and I came home ready to make my own version. Sadly Peach Garden is no longer at Changi, but they do have several branches around Singapore.

bbb

I added mushrooms to my version and used both red and green capsicum peppers. It
wasn’t quite as perfect as the Peach Garden version, but it was definitely very very tasty and I will be making it again. The dish is very quick to make once that you have your prep done, so get everything ready first, make sure your rice is nearly ready, and then create your lovely beef dish. I have tried to keep the salt to a minimum because the light soy and the black bean sauce will have salt in them already – but please taste before serving and adjust the seasoning.
This recipe serves two with lots of nice sauce:

Approx 250 – 300g of good rump steak trimmed and cut into thin strips (I bought a 350g pack, but trimmed all of the fat off)
Half a tablespoon of cornflour
1 tablespoon of shao xing rice wine (widely available in asian shops, but you can substitute with sherry)
1 tablespoon of light soy sauce
Half a large red capsicum
Half a large green capsicum
One medium onion
2-3 large brown mushrooms
2 garlic cloves
4 cm root ginger grated
4 tablespoons black bean sauce
2 teaspoons sugar (preferably brown)
80mls chicken stock (try to use low salt variety)
Half a teaspoon of sesame oil

1. Mix together the cornflour, shao xing rice wine and light soy sauce in a bowl. Marinate the beef in this mixture for at least 10 minutes, but up to half an hour if you are organised.
2. Cut the onion and capsicums into bite sized chunks. Slice the mushrooms.
3. Make the sauce by mixing the stock, sesame oil, black bean sauce and sugar.
4. Fry the beef quickly in a few tablespoons of peanut or sunflower oil to brown it – just a few minutes. Remove the beef and keep it nearby on a plate.
5. Now put the onion, garlic, and ginger in the pan and stir fry for a few minutes. Add the capsisums and mushrooms and continue to stir fry over a fairly high heat for another 4-5 minutes.
6. Now add the sauce and the beef to the pan and stir fry for a further 3 minutes to heat through. Season to taste.
7. Serve with boiled or fried rice. You can garnish the beef with sliced spring onions if you like.

Katsu chicken curry

katsu

This delicious curry is relatively simple to make and is best made fresh – there’s nothing quite like freshly fried katsu chicken. If you want to be healthier, you can cook the chicken in the oven. The sauce comes in ready made roux blocks called Golden Curry and they have different strengths – this makes it really simple, but you can also make your own curry roux, so I am going to include the recipe for that too. To serve 2, one large chicken breast should suffice, but feel free to use as much or as little of the ingredients as you wish – these are the approximate quantities that I use.

Ingredients:
1 large chicken breast
Half an onion, chopped into large pieces
1 medium carrot sliced or large diced
1 medium potato large diced
Half a cup of frozen or fresh peas
Panko breadcrumbs
4 tablespoons of flour (any kind, but I use plain most often – you can also use almond flour)
1 egg, beaten
Half a teaspoon of chilli powder
Golden Curry Roux blocks (approx 20g per serving)
Vegetable oil (enough to fill your frying vessel to a depth of at least 2.5cm)

To make the katsu chicken:
1. Heat the oil in a suitable pan for frying – I tend to use a deep wide pan. It will be ready when you place a wooden spoon in the oil and small bubbles rise quickly from the spoon’s surface.
2. Put the flour, egg and panko breadcrumbs into 3 separate large bowls. Season the flour with salt and pepper, (and chilli powder if you feel so inclined).
3. Trim and wash the chicken breast. Pat dry. Place the chicken breast between two sheets of baking parchment and bash it with a rolling pin until it is flatter and thinner.
4. Cut the chicken into 2 or 4 equal size pieces (depending on how you think it will fit into your pan.
5. Coat the chicken pieces in the flour, shake off the excess, dip in the egg, then coat in panko breadcrumbs, pressing the breadcrumbs onto each piece.
6. Fry the pieces in the oil for approx 10 minutes, depending on size, thickness etc. Check that they are cooked by cutting into a thicker part of the meat and checking for pinkness.
7. When you are happy with the doneness, put them on some kitchen paper to absorb the excess oil.
8. You can also cook the chicken in the oven – approx 180 deg C for approx 20-30 minutes – again, check them regularly as the time will depend on the size of the pieces.
9. While the chicken is cooking, put the onion, carrot, potato and peas in a saucepan and cover them with just enough water. Simmer them until they are cooked.
10. Add the curry roux blocks to the vegetables and stir until dissolved. If the sauce is too thick, add some more water and keep stirring.
11. Slice the katsu chicken and serve with the vegetable curry sauce and some boiled rice.

katsu 2

If you prefer to make your own curry sauce, do this:
Finely chop or whizz up half an onion, 2 cloves of garlic and a small (half cm) slice of ginger in a food processor. Cook in a little oil until fragrant.
Mix half a tablespoon of your favourite curry powder with one and a half tablespoons of flour. Stir this in and then slowly add equal quantities of vegetable stock and apple juice until it is a nice thick saucy consistency. Stir well to combine. Stir in half a tablespoon of garam masala. Taste to check the flavour.
If you don’t have apple juice you can whizz up a fresh apple and add this instead, but you will need to keep tasting to get the sweet/savoury balance right.
Now when you simmer the vegetables, drain the water off after cooking and add them to the sauce – you get the same result but all totally homemade.

Raspberry and White Chocolate loaf cake

Raspberries and white chocolate make a great combination, and a loaf cake is easy to prepare and slice. This lovely light and slightly gooey cake is a sweet summer treat.
I have suggested a few things to reduce the dairy, but you really can’t remove it completely unless you use dark chocolate instead (which works equally well with raspberries).

loaf cake

If you are going for the reduced dairy version, first make your own buttermilk by adding a tablespoon of lemon juice to three quarters of a cup of your favourite non-dairy milk e.g. almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk. Leave it for ten minutes until it curdles.

Line a loaf tin with baking parchment and set the oven to 180 deg C.

Take a punnet of raspberries (1 cup approx). Wash and pat them dry and dust them lightly with some flour.

Take approx 75g of fine white chocolate and break it into small pieces – they don’t have to be uniform in size, just smallish pieces about the same size as choc chips that you would get in a choc chip cookie.

Put the curdled ‘buttermilk’ in a large mixing bowl and add:
125 ml vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 teaspoon of vanilla
Whisk them all together with an electric whisk for a few minutes.

In another bowl combine:
One and a half cups of flour
three quarters of a cup of caster sugar
1 heaped teaspoon of baking powder
Half a teaspoon of salt

Fold the dry ingredients into the whisked wet ingredients.
Fold in the raspberries and white chocolate pieces. Pour the mixture into the lined loaf tin and tap the tin on the kitchen worktop to ensure that the mixture gets into the corners of the tin.
Bake for just longer than an hour until a skewer comes out mostly clean (there will be some gooey choc on the skewer).

loaf 2

Cool the cake by lifting it out of the tin. Once almost cool, melt approx 100g white chocolate in a double boiler (a bowl that fits tightly over a saucepan, with some water in the saucepan will work nicely too. Just make sure that the water does not touch the bottom of the bowl.)
Drizzle the melted chocolate over the top of the cake. Done !

Mushroom, Onion and Tomato Tart

tart

I wanted to make a tart for our special lunch at work, and decided to make
something vegetarian so that everybody could have a taste. I made the pastry the day before and lined the pie dish with it. I then kept the pie dish in the fridge until I needed it.

PASTRY:
250g plain flour
125g butter (or 100g dairy free spread), diced
1 egg
pinch of salt

1. Mix the flour, salt and butter in a food processor until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.
2. Transfer to a large bowl and add the egg. Mix well with a spatula.
3. Add splashes of cold water until it binds together to form a nice round of dough.
4. Making sure that your hands are cold, pat the dough together and roll out on a floured surface. Line a pastry dish with the dough and hook it over the edge of the dish slightly (this will stop it from shrinking down in the oven). Wrap the whole dish in foil and store in the fridge until needed.
On the day that you are cooking the tart, bake the pastry case blind (use ceramic beads) for approx 10 – 15 minutes at 180 deg C. Once baked blind, gently press a rolling pin on the top edge to remove the excess pastry that was hooked over the sides.

FILLING:
You can use your imagination with the filling and include any veggies that you like, but I chose onion, mushroom and tomatoes.
ONIONS – Slice 1 large or 2 small onions (I used red onions), and fry them in a little olive oil. As they soften add a sprinkle of salt, a dash of balsamic vinegar (optional) and a little sugar (optional) to help them caramelise.
MUSHROOMS – Slice the mushrooms and cook them in a saucepan with a little salt and pepper and a teaspoon of dairy free spread or butter until they are just soft.
TOMATOES – I used cherry tomatoes halved and I cooked them – cut side down – in the onion pan just to concentrate some of the liquid in them. You can also add some chopped sun dried tomatoes to the tart. I seasoned them lightly with salt and pepper.
BASIL – tear or thinly slice some fresh basil leaves
SAUCE – 3 eggs whisked up with 280mls milk and some grated cheddar – I don’t know how much I used but it was probably enough to cover the surface of the tart. I mixed some cheese with the sauce and saved some to sprinkle on top.
Now arrange the onions, mushrooms and tomatoes in the tart, add some chopped basil, and pour the sauce over to fill the tart to the brim, Sprinkle a little cheese on top and bake in a preheated oven at 180-200 deg C for approx 25-30 minutes until the filling is set and golden.
Serve warm or chilled.

Granola

granola

Do you know exactly what goes into your breakfast cereal ? The regular supermarket cereals tend to be full of sugar and additives, and the more sophisticated cereals are expensive for what you get.
Making your own granola is easy and cheaper. You get exactly what you want and it tastes great with yoghurt and berries on top. It’s portable – you can put some granola, yoghurt and berries in a jar and take them into work for an easy desk breakfast. I have a long journey so I pop some frozen berries on top (cherries, blueberries) and by the time I get to work the berries have thawed.

Start by lining an oven tray with baking parchment and set your oven to approx 150 deg C.

Now the fun bit – you can make it up as you go along. If you are allergic to nuts, leave the nuts out, if you are allergic to oats, leave the oats out. Choose from any of the following, but don’t add any chocolate chips or dried fruit at this stage because they will melt and burn.

You just need nuts seeds and grains at this time. Generally, oats form the major part of the base, but if you are allergic to oats try something different like plain puffed rice. Grab a large bowl and get mixing – I generally use the following:
Porridge oats (steel cut) 1-2 cups
Puffed rice with no added sugar 1-2 cups
As much as you fancy of:
sunflower seeds
pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
pine nuts
chia seeds
flax seeds
sliced almonds
shredded coconut
peanuts
walnuts
pistachios
hazelnuts
pecans
This is just a guide – you can use any nuts and seeds that you like

Stir through some coconut oil and honey (approx 4 tablespoons)
Spread it all out on the baking parchment – the thinner the layer, the quicker it will toast – and stir through every ten minutes. It should take about 30 minutes to toast nicely, and it will be a lovely golden colour. Leave to cool.
Now you can transfer it to a plastic cereal container but beforehand you can stir through any of the following, or you can add them each time you get your breakfast ready depending on how you feel.
Chop them or leave them whole :
plump dried apricots
prunes
dried peel
sultanas
craisins
cranberries
dried banana chips
dried figs
dark chocolate nibs
When you serve your granola, use a luscious thick greek style yoghurt like Gippsland (greek yoghurt has good protein content) or alternatively use ricotta cheese, marscapone, or soy/coconut yoghurt.
Top with fruit compote (really easy to make with frozen berries – just put some in a saucepan with a splash of water and a spoon of honey or sugar and heat gently for 5minutes), or use tinned fruits, or fresh fruits like pineapple, peaches, strawberries and banana. A yummy good quality breakfast.

gran 2

Chocolate Ginger Cookies

gcc 1

This recipe is based on my peanut butter and chocolate chip cookies, they really are simple to make and taste very good. The ginger chunks add a nice dimension and they are based on my memories of M&S extremely chocolatey biscuits. You just need a food mixer, a hand held one is fine, and the ingredients are really straightforward.

Start off by lining a few baking trays with baking parchment – you will need 2 large or 3 small baking trays.

Set the oven to 190 deg C.

Ingredients
180g plain flour
half a teaspoon of baking powder
a pinch of salt
150g butter or dairy free spread e.g. Nuttelex
60g soft brown sugar (you can also use caster but brown sugar adds gooeyness)
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
1 large egg
125g of chopped crystallised ginger (or the uncrystallised naked ginger works well) I use Buderim ginger, but please don’t use raw ginger – it’s not the same!
Optional: you can also include a handful of chocolate chips to the dry mix and a scoop of Nutella or peanut butter to the wet mix if you want an extra richness

For the coating – approx 200g chocolate of your choice – I like dark 70-80% cocoa

Method
1. Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl – flour, baking soda and salt. Add the ginger chunks (and choc chips if using them). Stir well.
2. Beat the sugar and butter together using the food mixer. If including a scoop of peanut butter or Nutella, wait until it is nicely combined and fluffy then add the Nutella/peanut butter and whisk again.
3. Now beat in the egg and vanilla, it may curdle a little but don’t worry the flour will sort that out.
4. Now mix in the dry ingredients and beat again – the dough should stiffen up quite a bit and you may need to add a little water to soften it, but don’t add too much because it needs to hold together on the baking tray. It should be a kind of plasticine consistency so that you can shape it into balls.
5. Now take a dessert spoon of mixture and roll it into a ball. If it sticks to your hands, just wet your hands a little. Put all of the balls on the baking trays to make sure that they are roughly equal in size, then press them either with fingers or the base of a glass, squashing them into round biscuit shapes. Keep a few centimetres distance between each biscuit because they will spread out. You should get around 12-14 cookies.
6. Bake for approx 12-15 minutes until they are slightly golden and still a little soft in the middle.
7. Once they are cool, melt the chocolate over a double boiler (or in a bowl over a saucepan of gently simmering water – if you do this the bowl must fit tightly and not touch the water).
8. Either pour some of the melted chocolate over the biscuits or dip them half into the molten chocolate, then place on baking parchment to set. Put them in the fridge to speed up the setting. Don’t forget to taste one just to check they are ready.

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