Category Archives: everyday cooking

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.


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

Continue reading

Recipe: Lamb and Chickpea Stew with Tomato, Lemon, Chilli and Oregano

I keep popping my head up for air and then making big promises of a return to regular blogging.  And then I get swallowed up by work again, or come down with the plague, or both, and I disappear underwater again for another month.

So I’m not going to make any grandiose plans this time, except to note that I do, in fact, have three posts in progress right now, and a likely two more to come, if only I can tread water fast enough… After that, well, August is full of centenary stuff for work, so I suspect I will start sinking again.  But I’ll be back when I can, I promise.

(and if you are interested in the Centenary stuff, here’s a link to all the Science in the Square events for August – they look like a lot of fun, so if science is something you are interested in, come along and see what’s happening!)

To the recipe, Batman!

This was just a simple stew I put together one Sunday evening when I had a shoulder of lamb that wasn’t quite defrosted enough to roast, a couple of lemons which had been zested but not juiced, chickpeas from a tin that had been drained for meringue purposes and were drying out in the fridge, and a lot of tomatoes and onions – and also no desire to go to the shops.  I was in an Italian or Greek sort of mood, so I added oregano and chilli and just a little cinnamon, and the result was one of the best lamb stews I’ve ever made – very fresh and clean tasting, and lovely with Turkish bread, labneh and tabouli (and the next night, in a bake with macaroni and melted cheese).

Of course, the challenging part of this recipe – which I do not expect you to do – was getting the meat off the lamb shoulder.  You see, this was yet another piece of the infamous and enormous Roast Lamb Pack that I got at Easter, in a state of ill-advised post-Lenten euphoria, but we just don’t eat that many roasts in our household.  So I figured I’d carve the lamb off the bone and cut it into chunks myself.  This turned out to be tricky for two reasons.  First, the lamb just would not defrost, which made cutting it difficult.  And secondly, well, let’s just say that I have renewed respect for butchers as professionals.  Figuring out where the bone is (especially when the joint is half frozen) is really difficult.  Making usefully sized and shaped chunks out of the meat, while avoiding waste, is even harder.  I suspect diced meat is priced well under what it is worth in terms of labour.

But in this case, my work was all worthwhile.  This is a great stew, and I’ll be making it again.

(And apologies for returning to blogging with yet another meat post.  Sadly, the tireder I am, the more likely I am to revert to easy food, and my repertoire of easy vegetarian food that Andrew will also eat is just not up to the job… something to work on next year, when I have a life again!)

Your Shopping List

olive oil
500 g – 750g lamb shoulder, diced by someone else
2 tsp lamb spice mix from Gewürzhaus (optional)
2 big onions, sliced
2 tbsp chilli flakes (yes, this is quite hot, but it’s a nice, clean heat – I really liked it)
2 tbsp oregano
5 cloves of garlic (or cheat like I did, and use 1 tablespoon of Gewürzhaus garlic lovers spice)
a handful of cherry tomatoes (optional, I had some, they were going to go off if I didn’t use them, you know the drill…)
2 tins of tomatoes, or one tin of tomatoes and a jar of tomato-based pasta sauce
juice of two lemons
1 tin of chickpeas (drained)
1 cinnamon stick
salt and pepper to taste Continue reading

Pantry pantry pantry pantry pantry! And a challenge!

Oh God, that pantry.  I really have to do this whole pantry sorting thing more often, because the shelves are wide and deep and all sorts of things lurk up the back.  It’s scary.  And big.  And, currently, empty and awaiting cleaning.

(the table, on the other hand, is full)

The things I’m finding aren’t always bad things, of course.  It turns out, for example, that in addition to my four containers of dried chickpeas, I also have five litres of extra virgin olive oil, about a kilo each of cocoa and almond meal, two kilos of brown sugar, six different kinds of rice and an astonishing array of liqueurs.  Also, 11 kinds of honey and 12 kinds of jam, not counting what’s in the fridge.  And cocoa butter!

I see a lot of baking in my future.  In particular, I suspect a lot of honey cakes and Linzer tortes are on the horizon, not to mention a lot of chocolate cake.

I’m seriously considering attempting to live for the next month entirely on my rather frightening supply of pantry staples, plus fresh fruit, veg, dairy etc.  About the only thing I don’t have in quantity is tinned tomatoes, really.  Otherwise, I am pretty much set.

Continue reading

Recipe: Tired One-Pot Pasta with Lentils and Sausages

bowl1So it’s Saturday evening, the day before Farmers’ Market day, and the fridge is a bit bare.  Also, you were out all day and are now somewhat exhausted.  You really don’t want to go to the supermarket. And the dishes situation is really somewhat epic, due to the fact that you have made yourself four birthday cakes so far this week (this was not the original plan, but sometimes these things happen).

But you do need something sensible for dinner after all that picnic food and cake for lunch.  And you had takeaway last night, so that will certainly not do.

So you look in the fridge, and find the two carrots leftover from making carrot cake. You find the lovely sausages that were delivered today (meat being the one thing you currently do have fresh and in quantity).  You still have some of those chillis drying out on the table from the huge autumnal veggie box a few weeks ago, and you are certainly still rich in garlic and onions.  Three tomatoes are considering succumbing to dodginess on the fruit stand.  On the benchtop, there is half a packet of lentils and about a quarter of a packet of risoni pasta, and your father was just talking today about how Nonna used to make pasta with lentils and how he could probably still make it now.  (It’s almost certainly nothing like this recipe, though.)

Maybe you have the makings of dinner after all… and a one-pot, comfort-food dinner at that, just right for a cold night.

(Just don’t chop up the chillis and then rub your eyes and nose, or you will be much more awake and much less happy)

Your Shopping List (or, What’s Lurking In  The Kitchen Today?)

1 -2 tbsp olive oil
4 sausages, any kind that you think will go with lentils or that happen to be on hand
1 onion
1 garlic clove
1 dried red chilli
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
salt, pepper and a pinch of fennel if you have it
2 carrots
1/4 cup white wine
3 tomatoes
1 cup red lentils
1/2 cup risoni pasta

Continue reading

Recipe: Roast Zucchini and Tomato Pasta

pasta closeThis is such a lovely easy dinner – very fresh and full of flavour.  It’s also an excellent way to use up zucchini or tomatoes that are abundant but a bit watery – roasting concentrates the flavour, the balsamic vinegar sweetens them, and you wind up with a glorious, chunky, full-flavoured sauce that really takes only about five minutes of actual kitchen time.

What more could you want, really?

I do apologise for not actually giving quantities of things like oil, vinegar, herbs and seasonings – these are very much to taste, I think.  And also, I go, splash, splosh, drizzle, and this isn’t really very measurable.

Your Shopping List

8 roma tomatoes
8 zucchini, pattypan squashes, etc – any kind, and a mixture is excellent
1 bulb of garlic
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
salt, pepper
300 g pasta

Continue reading

Recipe: Half-baked Fruity Muesli

closeupI just couldn’t resist the pun in that title.  Sorry.  But it really is half baked, because I did toast about half of what went into this muesli while leaving the rest untoasted.  The reason for this is that we are about to have a houseguest who has expressed a preference for cereal for breakfast, and has diabetes.  I’m nowhere near as knowledgeable about diabetes as I should be, but to me this sounds like something low-GI is called for, and oats are pretty much the definition of low-GI.

Except that if I’m making muesli, I’d like to make a kind that I’ll eat myself, and I do rather like my muesli toasted.  But toasted means you have to toast it with something, generally either fat of some kind or sugar of some kind, neither of which are particularly diabetes-friendly. 

So I’ve compromised.  I haven’t used any fat, and have used a small amount of apple juice and agave nectar to crisp things up.  And then I’ve added extra, un-cooked and un-sweetened oats at the end, along with the dried fruit, to dilute any inappropriate sweetness.  I know I’ve created something delicious; the question will be whether it is both delicious and something my guest can eat…

Your shopping list

250 g rolled oats, plus 100 g rolled oats for later (proper oats, not the quick kind, please)
100 g flaked or chopped almonds
80 g raw unsweetened pistachios
85 g sunflower seeds
1/4 tsp cinnamon
30 ml agave nectar (or honey, of course)
60 ml unsweetened apple juice (which, lets face it, is plenty sweet already)
60 g dried cherries
60 g dried cranberries
60 g dried apples
60 g dried apricots

Continue reading

Recipe: Eggplant with Tomatoes and Yoghurt

yogurtThis recipe is inspired by our local Turkish restaurants, which we don’t go to nearly often enough, actually.  They all have some variation of eggplant ‘yogurtlu’, eggplant that has been fried in oil until it is sweet and caramelised, and then cooked into a yoghurt sauce.  Or something like that – I can deduce the ingredients, but I’m not 100% sure of the method.  It’s amazing stuff – juicy and tangy and sweet and addictive – possibly the best ever use for eggplants.

Anyway, there were really beautiful eggplants at the shops yesterday, and we had guests round to dinner, so I thought I’d try giving it a shot.  My version of eggplant yogurtlu was a great hit, with the one problem being that I have hardly any leftovers.  We had it with youvetsi, a Greek lamb and tomato stew, because one of our guests doesn’t really eat vegetables unless you disguise them really well, or unless they are potatoes.  But it would also be fabulous as a meal in its own right, just served with really good Turkish or Lebanese bread, or, of course, as part of a mezze platter.

Your Shopping List

2 large eggplants (about 750 g)
quite a lot more olive oil than most people would recommend, but really, it’s wonderful and you need it.
6 roma tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic, crushed

400 g tinned tomatoes

salt, pepper, fennel, chilli, lavender
250 ml Greek yoghurt (incidentally, if you have access to Black Swan low fat Greek Yoghurt, I recommend it with enthusiasm)
small bunch mint leaves


Continue reading

Recipe: Pasta with Ricotta, Herbs and Spring Vegetables

This is the revised version of a recipe I noted down here a while back, because I never really put in any quantities, just typed in the ingredients as I remembered them, because it was late and I was tired!

But the recipe really is too delicious not to be written up properly, and with Jacqueline at Tinned Tomatoes starting a new Pasta Please monthly challenge with a cheese theme for January, it seemed the perfect time to re-visit this recipe and do a proper version of it.  So here is the new, improved version with actual quantities and also variations!

The quantities I’ve noted below will definitely work, but feel free to experiment or change things – the essence of this dish is pasta, ricotta, and some herbs and vegetables so that you can pretend it isn’t all about the cheese.  You really can’t go wrong with this sort of meal.

Vague shopping list

1 punnet (250 g, approx) shelled broadbeans

1 small bunch of parsley

1 handful each of basil and mint

350 g ricotta

100 g parmesan, grated
25 g salted butter
black pepper
1-2 tablespoons of butter, olive oil, or, ideally, a combination of the two, for sautéing vegetables.
3 spring onions (the long skinny kind)
1 baby fennel bulb
2 small bunches asparagus
3 yellow pattypan squash
350 g rigatone pasta

Continue reading

Recipe: Tuna Salad

salad2We’re getting into the really hot days now, when any recipe that doesn’t involve switching on the stove, oven, or even toaster, is a recipe to be valued.  And in these post-Christmas weeks, there is a certain urge towards salad, to balance out all the rich foods we have been eating recently…

This recipe is another one of those embarrassingly simple ones, but it’s so very useful I’m putting it here anyway.  There’s a lot to be said for a recipe that requires no measurements, is portable, and gives you a reasonably filling and balanced lunch at the end of it.  Now, if only I had a really good vegetarian version of this… (stay tuned, however – I have plans!)

Your shopping list (serves 2)

1 lebanese cucumber
1 red capsicum
1 green capsicum
350g – 500 g  (1 1/2 – 2 punnets) cherry tomatoes, any kind, or 3 nice tomatoes
1 x 185 g tin of tuna or salmon, in olive oil if possible
2 x 125 g tins four bean mix
black pepper
1-2 tbsp red wine vinegar

Continue reading

Recipe: Tortellini Soup for a Sick Day

I am a sad, sick little Catherine today.  Worse still, I woke up with no voice at all, which is most distressing, because I am supposed to be singing solos in three different performances this weekend, one of which will be my first ever go at doing a collection of solos from an oratorio.  Or anything. Assuming I have a voice.  Though I’ve been steaming it assiduously, and staying scrupulously silent, and it’s beginning to feel as though there might be a voice there after all. Fingers crossed…

Anyway.  If I’m going to spend half my time leaning over a bowl of steaming water, I figure it might as well be soup.  And since I had all this lovely, rich chicken stock left over from slow cooking a chicken last weekend, chicken-noodle soup seemed like the way to go.  I did a survey of the fridge and discovered beans, onions and carrots, and then toddled out to the supermarket for corn and tiny pasta… which is where I found that they had cheese tortellini on special. 

Tortellini in brodo (broth) is generally more of a celebration thing than a sick day thing in Italian culture, but given my Nonna’s penchant for feeding us eggy things and chickeny things when we were sick, it seemed appropriate.    So a miniaturised, more vegetable-oriented tortellini in brodo is going to be my lunch today…

Your Shopping List (serves 1-2)

olive oil
1 small onion
2 baby carrots (teenaged, really) or one adult carrot
100 g green beans
100 g corn – either in a tin or off the cob
2 cups of broth, any kind so long as it is actually tasty, because it’s the main flavour of the soup.
100 g dried tortellini (Barilla is a good brand)

Continue reading