Category Archives: side dishes

Recipe: Crisp Vegetable Salad for Spring

I haven’t been doing much cooking recently, or at least, not much that is creative, but this little salad has been a nice change from the usual lettuce-cucumber-tomato-capsicum deal, and is a nice, fresh, crisp-tasting side-dish for spring.

Today’s version is brought to you by my friend A, who gave me a bag of baby carrots – really carrot thinnings, so even cuter – mint and other goodies from her garden when we went to pick her up for a freecycling trip.  The amounts are vague, because I am vague too, but the combination of small, sweet, crisp carrot with spicy radish, fragrant mint and aniseedy fennel is very tasty, and very easy to bring together on a plate.  You can use any light tasting vinegar – cider or white wine vinegar would work – but strawberry vinegar seemed to fit with the spring-like theme of this salad.

This recipe serves two as a side dish.

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Recipe: Arden Forest Salad

For too long has my Complete Works of Shakespeare languished, lonely and unloved, waiting in vain for our next reading to occur!  I do love our Shakespeare feasts, but they are quite fiendishly difficult to organise – as soon as I think I have a full cast, someone gets sick, or remembers a prior commitment, or moves overseas or interstate, and then everything has to be rearranged.

And then, of course, there is the cooking.  For reasons that even I do not entirely understand, I feel compelled not merely to drastically overcater, but to do so in a way that fits the theme or story of the play.  Which means sitting down with book in one hand and notepad in the other writing things like ‘fool.  Passionfruit?  Lots of hearts.  Venison!  Disguise. Pancakes, pancakes, pancakes’, and then trying to come up with a collection of recipes that both cover the most important keywords while actually producing a fairly balanced meal that covers this week’s collection of dietary restrictions…

This sounds like a big complaint, which it really isn’t – but it serves to explain why I have to be feeling pretty bold to plan one of these feasts, and why by the end of them, I feel both great satisfaction and as though I’ve been hit by a train.

Anyway.  Today’s play was As You Like It, which is one of Shakespeare’s comedies, clearly written at a point in his life when he had a lot of good musicians in his Company, because everyone sings, all the time.  He hasn’t quite written a musical, but you can see that he was seriously considering it.  As You Like It is notable for pretty much the entire cast running off to live, like Robin Hood, in the greenwood.  Half the characters start off in exile in the wood, more characters join them there as the play progresses, and at the very end, when everyone is set to return from exile, the villain of the piece puts himself into self-imposed exile – you guessed it, in the woods.

Clearly, the woods needed to be represented here, so I decided to create a salad forest, suitable for exile with random singing.  This is my excuse for making it quite so mildly psychedelic – I imagine most forests are not amply endowed with magenta rocks, but mine is.  This is, of course, a composed salad, and your dressing is essentially the layer that everything is standing on, so when serving, make sure you get a good scoop of the yoghurt layer and the nutty gravel to go with your vegetables.  It really is astonishingly delicious.

4 forest

 

Your Shopping List

300 g Greek yoghurt
1 tbsp tahini (unhulled is nice!)
100 g pistachios
100 g  slivered almonds
125 roasted chickpeas (sometimes called chick-nuts)65 g dried cranberries
6 small oranges (blood oranges or even mandarins would work – that’s about the size you are after.)
12 stems of broccolini
8 little bocconcini (ovalini are good)
4-6 spears of sage flowers or rosemary in bloom
8 small radishes in mixed colours
5 sprigs of thyme
a handful of dill
3-5 sprigs of mint
80 g fresh blueberries Continue reading

Recipe: Green ‘couscous’

Oops, bit of a hiatus there, wasn’t there?  I really owe this blog another travel post, but basically, I got distracted by politics, and then I got angry about politics and then a woman in my suburb was beaten up on a train for wearing Hijab and I got absolutely furious about politics, joined Women in Solidarity with Hijabis, and put on a headscarf for a week.  Which I then felt compelled to blog about.  And it turns out that when you are writing political blogs nearly every day – and also fighting with scarves and pins every morning, though I seem to have finally mastered the art of getting my scarf to stay on – there isn’t much time left for food blogging.  Sorry.  I have a feeling that between the Islamophobia and the coming State Election, I’m going to be living on Cate Speaks rather a lot for the next little while.

Anyway, the recipe that follows is inspired by a recipe for cauliflower couscous in the Green Kitchen App, which I exhort you all to buy, because it’s awesome.  Also, it has this ribboned asparagus salad recipe with blueberries that I’ve made about four times in the last fortnight.  But, while I wanted to try the cauliflower couscous, my cauliflower was looking rather sad, and my broccoli cheerfully green. Then, couscous is supposed (in my book) to have fruit in it, and here I was with a bag of freeze-dried pomegranates.  Also, I didn’t have pumpkin seeds, but I did have a bag of mixed pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds.  And so forth.

Also, my quantities are different.

What this is is a lovely, fresh-tasting recipe that can be made quite fast, and makes a lovely accompaniment to anything rich or protein-ish you were having for dinner.  And one can never have too many recipes like that, in my book.

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1 head of broccoli
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/4 cup mixed pumpkin and sunflower seeds
1/3 cup freeze-dried pomegranate seeds (or, of course, you could use the seeds from 1 actual pomegranate)
half a bunch of basil
a small bunch of parsley
80 g goats feta cheese
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/4 cup pumpkin seed oil

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Recipe: Roasted Peaches and Tomatoes

This is a simple side dish that I came up with last night and loved so incredibly much that now I feel as though it’s the only side dish I want all summer.  It’s the perfect accompaniment to grilled anything, really – I marinated chicken skewers and put them in for the final twenty minutes, which was pretty much perfect, but I could see this working with big grilled portobello mushrooms, or steak, or even just toasted bread and grilled haloumi cheese or hummus and rocket.

The tomatoes and peaches became so incredibly sweet and juicy during the cooking time (and I’m talking peaches which were a bit  hard when I put them in the oven, so consider this an excellent way to use fruit which may be a little on the imperfect side), and they are just *so very good*.  Sorry, I’m not being very descriptive or coherent here.  Just trust me when I say that this is a very low-effort vegetable side that tastes spectacular and will bring a beautiful touch of summer to your dinner.

Incidentally, today is, of course, Australia Day, an occasion that I am essentially ignoring in this post.  Nonetheless, as I type this, I am engaged in prolonged warfare with my oven over a properly patriotic pavlova, which my oven keeps deciding to cook at 200°C instead of 120°C.  (If this post is disjointed, it’s because I am constantly having to leap up and run out to the kitchen to turn the temperature back down after the oven cheerily announces – again – that it has raised the temperature.  I would like to pretend that the slightly blackened, or caramelised, as we like to call these things, pavlova is a deliberate symbolic reference to our sunburnt country, but really, it’s just about the fact that my oven is possessed by demons.) 

Anyway, all of this is pretty much taking over the space in my head that might be devoted to writing thoughtful posts about Australia Day, a holiday about which I am ambivalent for a number of reasons.  In lieu of writing anything new, I therefore present this essay, which I wrote back in 2007, about what I think it means to be Australian.  I’ve probably posted it here before, but I make no apology for that.  I admit, it isn’t perfect.  My opinions have evolved – and perhaps become stronger, in response to our government’s shameful treatment of refugees – but it still represents a very large part of what I think it means to be Australian, so I think it is appropriate for this occasion.  (And I can’t help noticing that my younger self managed to go off on a digression about food in the middle of it.  Of course.)

However you feel about this day, I hope it is a good one for you – and for the Aussies reading this, enjoy the day off tomorrow!  Because let’s face it – we don’t really care what the excuse is, so long as it means we don’t have to go to work…

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Your Shopping List (serves 2)

2 peaches, preferably not the clingstone variety, because why make your life harder?
2 medium-large tomatoes, or 2 big Roma tomatoes
1 smallish red onion
olive oil
salt, pepper, dried oregano or dried basil
1 tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp balsamic vinegar

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Two really easy recipes for things you want to have in the fridge

Also known as Roast Garlic and Slow Roasted tomatoes.  These are my personal saviours when it comes to vegetarian cooking in summer – I’ve been making batches of both these things every week and storing them in the fridge for use in any recipe that needs an instant flavour hit.  The roasted garlic is good in basically anything – mayonnaise, mashed cannelini beans, béchamel sauce, casseroles, pasta, or just spread on bread.  The roasted tomatoes are brilliant for pasta or salads (especially panzanella), particularly when the tomatoes at the shops are a bit lacklustre.  They are great for adding zing to a tomato soup or ratatouille, and are lovely on grilled anything (chicken, fish, tomatoes, and, I suspect, seitan), and again, are great on bread. 

Your Shopping List for both these items

3 bulbs of garlic (think big!)
3 punnets of cherry tomatoes, any kind
olive oil
salt
pepper
 

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Recipe: Strawberry Salad with Fennel and Parmesan

fennelThis is a salad that I’ve made twice recently, prompted by the unexpected availability of strawberries at local markets, along with the more seasonal fennel that is everywhere right now.  It’s inspired by – and quite similar to – a savoury strawberry salad by Michael and Cindy of Where’s the Beef, which is to say, I was sitting there with some strawberries and fennel which I wanted to turn into a salad and was trying to decide what to do next, and then I remembered that Michael and Cindy put parmesan in theirs and realised that this was clearly the ingredient I was missing.  Now I look at their version, I realise that toasted nuts of some kind would indeed have been fabulous, so I encourage you to add these.

Judging by the leftovers we had of this at dinner tonight, I would say you might profitably marinate everything except the salad greens and perhaps the parmesan in the dressing for an hour or so before serving (think balsamic strawberries), and then just toss the greens with everything at the last minute.  But you don’t have to.  It was lovely as is.

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1/2 a red onion (how does one write that, anyway?  Writing out ‘half’ looks silly in a list, but there’s no doubt about it, 1/2 a red onion looks pretty damn silly too…)
2 tbsp blackberry vinegar, or balsamic vinegar, since I realise that not everyone is lucky enough to have blackberry vinegar, which is a truly sad state of affairs
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, and if it happens to be infused with blood orange, more power to you!
1 medium fennel bulb
375 g beautiful sweet strawberries
150 g mixed salad greens
20 g shaved parmesan
black pepper Continue reading

Recipe: Colourful Carrot Salad with Panch Poron

saladThis was an entirely serendipitous recipe, born out of the fact that my dinner really needed a salad to go with it, and what I had in the house was carrots.  And spices.  And orange juice.  It’s sort of based on a recipe by Allegra McEvedy, but the flavour profile has moved from the Middle East to India or thereabouts.  Basically, I didn’t have the pumpkin seeds and cumin that she recommended, but I did, as it turns out, have sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and a bottle of panch poron, a whole spice mix composed of fenugreek, nigella, cumin, black mustard seed and fennel seed.

It’s really rather good, and it takes five minutes to make.  Also, it’s very pretty!  And it used up the rest of my carrots, nicely in time for the market this Sunday, which is definitely a bonus. 

If your pantry looks anything like mine, you should try it.

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3 carrots, preferably in a range of colours, but orange will do!
2 tsp panch poron spice mix
1 tbsp sunflower seeds
1/2 tsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp currants or sultanas
1/4 cup orange juice
1 tbsp pumpkin seed oil

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Recipe: Roasted Root Vegetables with Sweet Spices, Tahini, and Maple Syrup

closedoneThis is a very simple recipe that can either be served as a side dish or over cous-cous or rice as a meal (though in that case, I’d probably stir in a tin or two of chickpeas ten minutes before the end of cooking).  But simple doesn’t mean ‘non-tasty’, at least not in my book, and this is rather gorgeous – the tahini balances the sweetness of the spices and maple syrup, preventing this from turning into Dessert Vegetables, which would be a bit weird even for me, and I love the way that every bite tastes slightly different – gingery or anisey or cinnamon-laden or sesame-seedish, though I admit, this is probably an artefact of me not mixing things together well enough.  The flavours do all go together beautifully, however.  And the colours are a perfect celebration of autumn!

I admit, there is a fair bit of peeling and chopping involved in this recipe, but it’s also a fairly relaxing recipe to make – you can peel serenely while listening to a CD, and then, when everything is in the oven, you can sit down with a book or pop onto the internet and read a blog post or two while it all bakes.  The oven is doing all the work.

If you happen to have leftovers after this, you can combine them with stock and more chickpeas to make a stunningly flamingo-pink soup, worth eating for the colour alone, but also gorgeously velvety and tasty. 

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1/2 a butternut pumpkin (mine was moderately sized, but this recipe is fairly approximate, so you decide what you like!)
4 carrots, as many colours as you can find
6 baby beetroots
3 parsnips
2 onions
500 g orange sweet potato

2 tbsp tahini

1/2 cup maple syrup

1/3 cup canola or sunflower oil

2 tsp cinnamon
3 star anises (what is the plural of star anise, anyway?)
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp allspice
1/2 tsp cumin
a knob of fresh ginger approximately 1 x 2 inches
a good pinch of nutmeg

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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.

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2 large eggplants (about 750 g)
salt
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

 

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Recipe: Quinoa Salad with Corn, Coriander and Lime

I’ve started a lunch swap at work with a colleague of mine. On Mondays (or sometimes Tuesdays), I bring lunch lunch to share with her, and on Thursdays, she brings lunch to share with me.  My colleague is vegetarian and can’t eat wheat or dairy, which makes life a bit more challenging, but it’s also kind of good, because I think it’s healthy to be vegan and gluten-free once in a while!

This week’s lunch was going to be quinoa tabouli, but when I got to the shops on Monday night, they were out of mint and flat-leaf parsley, which are kind of a necessity.  So I looked around the supermarket to see what they *did* have, and found coriander and basil and zucchini and roasted peppers and tomatoes and corn … I had limes and curly parsley and quinoa and spring onions at home, so I thought this might be the basis for an American-inspired sort of salad.

It’s pretty good, actually.  Lovely and fresh and terrifyingly healthy – and yes, it’s vegan and gluten-free and quite high in protein from that quinoa.  A good lunch for a sticky, humid day…

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1/2 cup quinoa, any kind
1 cup water
3 small white zucchini or 3 large pattypan squashes
2 corn cobs
1 small chilli, optional
6 spring onions (the kind that look like overgrown chives)
400 g assorted cherry tomatoes
1 bunch coriander
1 bunch parsley
10 basil leaves, or thereabouts
1/2 cup roasted peppers
juice of 1 lime
salt, pepper, olive oil

 

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