Category Archives: egg-free

Recipe: Ratatouille for a ratty week

Taking a break from the travel diaries to write down a recipe that has been a bit of a lifesaver for me this year.  It tastes like comfort food, it’s full of vegetables, it creates copious leftovers, and it takes maybe ten minutes of preparation time.  Probably less, really.  And because the vegetables are all soft, I can even make it when my wrist is acting up and doesn’t want me to chop things. 

You can serve it with all sorts of things, really.  It goes with bread and hummus (or you can fling some chickpeas in to bake with the rest of the ratatouille), or grilled haloumi (which you can also chop into chunks and throw in to bake for the last ten minutes); with roasted or boiled potatoes and felafel or grilled fish or chicken; it’s great over giant couscous (again, with chickpeas), or stirred through pasta, or even made into a bake with bocconcini and more pasta. 

You can serve it hot, or warm, or at room temperature.  Tonight, I’ll be serving it hot with some little pies from Zaatar – lamb, and haloumi, and spinach.  And probably with some roast potatoes because everything is better with roast potatoes, especially when you are eating super late because it took nearly two hours to get home from work and your husband hasn’t even managed to leave work yet and it’s nearly 9pm…

This is not as fancy as my other ratatouille recipe, but it tastes very nearly as good and takes far less time.  It’s Friday night-worthy, which is really saying something, especially after a fortnight like the one I’ve had, with lots of stress and very little sleep.  (Though one of my scientists did bring me cake to cheer me up, which was possibly the nicest thing anyone has done for me ever.)

Oh, and it doesn’t create a lot of washing up, either.  Just one giant baking dish.  There’s really nothing not to like, unless you are entirely anti-vegetable.

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Your Shopping List

3 large capsicums, preferably in different colours
2 red onions
2 medium zucchini
1 largeish eggplant
olive oil
lavender salt
black pepper
rosemary
dried mint
400g cherry tomatoes
500ml – 750 ml (whatever size bottle you have) tomato passata
dried basil

(I know these amounts are very vague.  It really is a sprinkle of this and a sprinkle of that, and it is very much to taste.  If you don’t have lavender salt, a pinch of salt with some culinary lavender is good, or skip the lavender and add a little fennel, and rather more rosemary.  It will be fine.)

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Recipe: Modular Salad for Lots of Dietary Requirements

My best friend lives in Darwin, and she’s having a baby (!!!), so I went up for a quick visit last weekend, to hang out, help out a bit, but mostly just have a good chance to catch up for the last time before there is an adorably cute little barrier to conversation in the house!

The beach at Fannie Bay, just outside the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory

The beach at Fannie Bay, just outside the Museum of the Northern Territory

My friend has gestational diabetes, and her husband has a number of allergies and food sensitivities, and when you add to these culinary challenges the fact that Darwin is appallingly hot and humid, figuring out dinner is a bit of a challenge.

On the road south of Darwin.  This picture somehow conveys the weather perfectly.

On the road south of Darwin.

Like many people in Darwin, they don’t have family living locally, so we also talked a fair bit about planning for food that requires minimum preparation time when there is a small baby in the house.  (Not that I have ever had a small baby in the house, but I am all about minimal food preparation in hot weather.  Or grant season.)

Wattle, coming into bloom.  In hot weather.  Did I mention that Darwin was hot?

Wattle, coming into bloom. In hot weather. Did I mention that Darwin was hot?

We came up with this modular salad, which has the capacity to tick lots of mutually-exclusive boxes. It’s more an idea than a recipe, and it’s pretty simple, but it’s a useful one and worth sharing, I think.

(It’s unofficial name is Franken-Niçoise salad, because originally, there was going to be tuna.  But since we skipped the tuna, and the green beans were looking a bit dodgy, it’s just Modular Salad now.)

We liked it, and hope you will too.

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Your shopping list (for about 5-6 serves, which can be held over for later if need be)

One lettuce
Two punnets of cherry tomatoes
Two Lebanese cucumbers
Two red capsicums
One tin of cannellini beans, drained
Six smallish potatoes, preferably waxy ones
Six eggs
A handful of olives (optional)
A few spring onions (optional)
A tin or two of tuna or salmon; or leftover poached or roasted chicken; or tuna steaks if you are willing to cook such; or marinated and grilled tofu; or pre-prepared felafel, or even toasted hazelnuts or cubes of cheese.  You want about 100g per person of protein that is ready to eat, essentially.
Extra virgin Olive oil
Red wine vinegar (or cider vinegar if that’s what your friend can eat)
Salt, pepper
Tzatziki, or mayonnaise, or plain greek yoghurt with a teaspoon of dijon mustard

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Recipe: Shortbread with Buddha’s Hand Citrus

I’ve only seen Buddha’s Hand Citrons once before, and weirdly, only at Coles, but I adore them.  Not only do they look like some sort of unnatural offspring of a lemon tree and a squid (leading to their affectionate nickname in our household of ‘Cthulu-lemons’ or ‘tentacle-fruit’), they smell rather amazing.  It’s a scent I can only describe as perfumed – lemony and floral at the same time. 

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Buddha’s Hand Citron (and I am now feeling rather concerned about the shape of Buddha’s hands, actually) is all zest and pith, with no juicy centre at all.  I’ve been fiddling around with different ways to use it to really bring out the flavour.  My mother’s shortbread recipe, which really only has four ingredients and thus tastes basically like butter and sugar (which, I hasten to add, is not a bad thing in any way) seemed like a good place to start.

The result is… well, it’s a rather nice biscuit, but in the end, I found the flavour rather subtle, and too much like lemon rather than anything else.  But when I tried testing it scientifically on real scientists, they seemed to like it more, and detect a different flavour.  So it’s possible that my tastebuds are just not sophisticated enough for the job.  This is entirely plausible, frankly.  I’ve often suspected that I was a fake foodie in this regard…

See what you think.

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Your shopping list

finely grated zest from one small Buddha’s Hand citron (about 5g)
150 g butter, softened
80 g caster sugar
150 g plain flour
40g rice flour Continue reading

Recipe: Jacket Sweet Potatoes with Vegetarian Chilli and Guacamole

I have no idea when I will escape this food blog hiatus!  Even when I make and photograph food, there never seems to be time to write about it – and most of the food I’ve been making this year has fallen into the category if quick and simple.  And they tend to rely pretty heavily on Gewürzhaus spice mixes, which isn’t so helpful for recording them here.

I’m very fond of jacket sweet potatoes.  Actually, I’m very fond of jacket potatoes, but my husband has an unnatural dislike of them, and sweet potatoes are better for you anyway, so that’s how it goes.  If I ever manage to achieve regular writing on this blog, you can expect a fair number of jacket sweet potato recipes going forward, as they are becoming a bit of a winter staple…

This particular recipe, though, I’ve made a few times recently.  It’s a nice, healthy, vegan dinner that is straightforward enough for a Friday night at the end of a long week.  It wasn’t vegan on purpose, which is one reason it is so good, I suspect – I always get the cheese out, but never seem to use it, and when I made a point of using it once, it didn’t taste as good.  So this is a meal that really wants to be vegan!  It also happens to be gluten free and low-GI, and reasonably healthy, and tastes lovely and fresh and comforting, which makes it a much better alternative to the Friday night takeaway which was becoming a habit.

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Your Shopping List

3 medium sweet potatoes (I know that’s vague, but aim for a similar sort of weight to what you’d do for an ordinary jacket potato meal)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, brown or red
1-2 tsp cajun spice mix, or a mixture of cumin, oregano, garlic, paprika and chilli
1 tin of black beans, drained (these are suddenly available at the supermarket!  Yay!  But if you can’t find them, red kidney beans also work)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1/2 tsp chipotle chilli powder, or to taste
a little salt (lime salt is great if you have it)
2 spring onions (the long, thin ones that also get called shallots)
2 roma tomatoes
juice of one lemon or one lime (I almost never have limes, lemons do nicely)
2 tsp Gewürzhaus Guacamole Spice, if you have it, but failing that, a mixture of salt, cumin and chilli will do – probably a teaspoon in total will be fine.
2 avocadoes
chopped coriander, optional

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Recipe: Super Easy Tomato Soup

Hello!  It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?  Sorry about that.  I got back from overseas, and dove straight into election mode, which meant a heap of work on my politics blog, and then I slept for several days, and then I went back to work, and then I got sort of low level sick for about a week and a half and then horrible things happened around the world and I got depressed about it, and then I had fiction writing to do, and then it was suddenly August.  I shall try not to go on such a prolonged hiatus again, but I make no promises – politics happens, work never stops happening, and I’m really enjoying writing fiction on my Stories Under Paris site at the moment, more than I’ve enjoyed writing anything for years, so a lot of my energy will be focused there.  I’m trying to reduce my hours at work, which should help a little, and I want to use some of the time I recapture to work on a cookbook, but I have to do things that aren’t writing sometimes, too, especially as my wrist is still not great…

Anyway, I’ve been doing a lot of very easy cooking recently, and I’ve made this soup a couple of times (without once managing to photograph it, alas), and really like it.  I’m not going to claim that it is a work of genius, and it does rely rather on things from the pantry, but it’s a tasty soup for a winter night, especially when served with a toasted jarlsberg cheese sandwich.  I like the combination of tomato flavours from passata, chopped tomatoes and freshly roasted ones – I think you get an interesting balance of tomatoishness from the different treatments the tomatoes have received.  (But mostly I like it because it feels like a healthier version of my childhood comfort food of Campbells Tomato Soup from a tin…)

Your Shopping List

1 kg roma tomatoes
1 red onion
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegarolive oil, salt and pepper for roasting
1 tin (400g) chopped tomatoes
1 bottle (500-700ml) passata

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Recipe: Saffron and Cardamon Yoghurt (Shrikhand)

I originally encountered this recipe in a pack from the glorious (and sadly, now on hold) Curry Delights startup.  It is a beautiful, pale-yellow-tinted, cooling yoghurt dessert flavoured with cardamom and the honey-like scent of saffron, and I absolutely loved it – so much that I made it two nights running, in fact. 

Ambika and Vikram’s version of this dish was super-easy and very quick, but relied on a couple of products that I was unable to source in Australia, so once I ran out (i.e., about four days after first encountering the recipe), I was out of luck.  I did have recipes for Shrikhand in other books, but none of them looked quite right (though I *highly* approve of the one that suggests adding popping candy, and I will be doing this at the first opportunity), and most of them, being more traditional, required a longer preparation time, as the recipes relied on drained yoghurt.

But I was really craving those lovely, cooling flavours again this week, so I decided that it was time to see if I could cross the various recipes, modified slightly to my tastes, and make a version that was feasible here.

Short version?  I did, and it was glorious, and I’m writing it up right now, so that I don’t forget the quantities…

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Your Shopping List

saffron strands – a big pinch, crumbled between your fingers into a little bowl
250 g light cream cheese
1/3 cup icing sugar (slightly heaped, to be honest)
1/4 tsp cardamom powder, also heaped
350 g low fat Greek Yoghurt (nothing wrong with full fat, but the low fat Black Swan one is nicer than the full fat anyway, and frankly, this dessert does not need to be any richer than it is)
200g raspberries, to serve.  Trust me, you want something fresh and acidic. Continue reading

Recipe: Chocolate THING that is basically evil but really yummy

A couple of Thursdays ago, I read an article in the paper lamenting the fact that many Australians would be letting down their employers by taking a sickie on the Monday before Australia Day.  (The article did, at least, point out that employers should be reasonable about granting annual leave on this day, but something about the way it was written still left an unpleasant taste in my mouth.)

My scientists work ridiculous hours, and don’t tend to take sickies, even when they probably should (leading to the fun phenomenon of the Lab Lurgy – we are a sharing sort of team on 5 West!), but I thought that if others were getting a four day weekend, legitimately or otherwise, we should do something to make it worth coming in to work that day.  Accordingly, I proposed a casual lab lunch – anyone who wanted could bring a plate to share, and we’d set up in the meeting room for a couple of hours, with people dropping in, chatting and eating when they had time.

It turned into a smallish but pleasant gathering – certainly worth doing again, with an interesting variety of food ranging from Turkish bread and dips provided by our German lab head and vegetarian sausage rolls from one of our British postdocs, to a proper Gallette des Rois, brought in by one of our French scientists. 

Normally, I would make Nonna’s pizza for this sort of occasion, but my left wrist is still giving me a lot of trouble, and kneading is definitely beyond me.  So instead, I decided to pursue my current favourite confectionery strategy of melting a lot of chocolate, and then opening the pantry and flinging any sweet contents that seem plausible into it.  The results were very tasty – it’s quite a sophisticated, dark chocolate thing, full of glacé and freeze-dried fruits, but I also couldn’t resist pouring in some popping candy, and I got a great deal of glee out of hearing people go “oh, this is really nice – ooh!  Oh my God what is that?” at irregular intervals through the afternoon…

All in all, an excellent way to liven up the day before a holiday.

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Your Shopping List

500 g good dark chocolate (I used half Lindt, half Green and Blacks, both 70% cocoa)
250 g glacé fruit (I used pineapple, peach and apricot, but cherries, pears, oranges, or anything else that takes your fancy would work.  Probably not citron, though.)
50 g crystallised ginger
35 g freeze-dried fruit (I used strawberries and blueberries, but again, pick your own preferred flavours)
35 g popping candy
100 g praline paste (I used almond, but use whatever you prefer)

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Recipe: Easy pasta with chicken and optional kittens

This is a recipe I posted on my personal blog back in 2003, when Mystery and Mayhem were still kittens.  The idea was to have a pasta recipe that was done by the time the pasta was cooked.  This recipe can, of course, be made vegetarian with feta replacing the chicken, and these days I might also make it vegan with chickpeas and a little chilli for zing.

I’m re-posting this recipe today for several reasons.  First, Mystery has not come home, and at this point, we are inclined to think that we have lost her.  I have written a memorial post for her on Cate Speaks, but I remembered this post, and thought it made a fitting memorial to put on a food blog.

Second, I have tendonitis, so typing is painful, and this recipe comes pre-typed.

Thirdly, it turns out that cooking is even more painful than typing, so I’m probably not going to be writing much here in the next little while.  I wanted to explain my probable absence in advance for a change.

Your shopping list

1/2 barbecued chicken
1 punnet cherry tomatoes
2 roma tomatoes
1 green capsicum
1 bunch basil
200g sundried tomato pesto (the ‘stir a whole bottle through pasta’ kind, not the ‘use two teaspoons worth’ kind)
Dried oregano and black pepper to taste
300g vegeroni sprial pasta
Two black and white kittens (optional garnish) Continue reading

Recipe: Vegan Cheeseburger Cupcakes

This is the time of year when bloggers do their retrospectives, but I don’t feel like doing a blog retrospective for 2015.  For one thing, I did hardly any blogging, and barely kept up with reading other blogs.  For another, the end of 2015 was made absolutely horrible for us by the disappearance of our beloved cat, Mystery.  She slipped out on the evening of December 22nd, and has not been seen since.  We’ve letterboxed and doorknocked and rung vets and visited shelters, but to no avail, and at this stage, we hold out little hope.  It’s been a painful and distressing way to end an exhausting year, and it’s very hard to look ahead and come up with plans, resolutions, or even hopes for 2016 at this point – because right now we are all too aware that life is uncertain and cannot truly be planned for.

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So no perspectives from me, just a remarkably silly recipe, inspired by Rosanna Pansino’s Nerdy Nummies Cookbook.  She has a very fun recipe for a cupcake that looks like a cheeseburger, with a brownie patty, coconut lettuce, and buttercream piped to resemble cheese, tomatoes.

It’s very cute, but it also looked terribly sweet.  Also, I was cooking in part for Steph, so I needed a vegan recipe, and frankly, I found the idea of a vegan cheeseburger cupcake absolutely hilarious and thus irresistible, so off I went.

To avoid the excessive use of buttercream, I decided it would be more fun to give the burger a fruity sort of theme. Mango fruit leather strips make an excellent (and truly revolting-looking) substitute for plastic cheese, jam makes a fine substitute for tomato sauce, and tinned plums replace the beetroot that is a necessity in any Aussie hamburger. Mint leaves made a delicious substitute for lettuce, and at that point, you’re done.

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Recipe: Pasta with Chickpeas and Greens

This is a recipe I made way back in August after being given a big bunch of broad bean leaves  – I didn’t even know they were edible.  It’s a nice, simple, wholesome dinner recipe, good for Boxing Day, when you just want something plain and not too rich and reasonably healthy to eat.

You can use any greens you have in the garden – wild greens, tromboncino zucchini greens, Warrigal greens, silverbeet – whatever.  Or you can use supermarket greens.  120g is a standard packet size for a lot of things like rocket and baby spinach.  Just get a good mix – 2-3 big bunches worth – chop them roughly and off you go.

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olive oil
4 garlic cloves (I mean it!)
1 tbsp chilli flakes (I mean that, too!)
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp italian herbs (or just oregano)
salt, pepper
120 g baby kale
120 g baby spinach
1 bunch broad bean leaves
400 g chickpeas, tinned (drain and use the water for meringues!)
300 g pasta
80 g pine nuts
parmesan to serve

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