Tag Archives: capsicum

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.


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
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: Eggplant Tarts

My brother and I have an annual tradition for Christmas, where his gift to me is a ticket to one day of the Boxing Day test, and mine to him is a picnic lunch for my brother and sister-in-law and their guests at the cricket that day.  It’s a pretty good deal all round, except for the fact that my entry into the MCG seems to be the cue for everyone to forget how to bat properly – I’ve watched four batting collapses in four days of cricket over the last three years.  But this year, I was in luck, and got to spend a fabulous day yesterday watching India play test cricket as though they were playing a one day match, and the batting was spectacular (the less said about Australia’s fielding, the better.  Let’s just say that the batsmen spent most of the day throwing caution to the wind and hitting fours all over the place with impunity.  I loved it.).

I always over-cater, and never more so than this year, especially because my mother inexplicably decided to bring lunch for her and dad.  Apparently, it didn’t occur to my mother that I would be catering for them as well.  Anyone would think she had never met me…

Anyway, I made a big beetroot and carrot salad, and planned to make spiced roast pumpkin pasties, only I was really tired when making the pastry and quadrupled the flour when I meant to double it… and of course once I figured that out, I had to add more of everything else and had way too much pastry, so I decided to throw together some eggplant tarts as well.  Naturally, these turned out to be the hit of the day, which is a bit of a pest, since I hadn’t written down anything I’d done.  Or taken any photos, which is why these ones are so bad.

So this is my attempt to reconstruct said tarts, because they really were tasty, and I’d like to make them again sometime.


Your Shopping List

90 ml olive oil
90 ml cold water
380 g flour (3 cups)
1 tsp herbed salt – I used the Garlic Lovers Spice from Gewürzhaus
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1 egg + 1 egg yolk

olive oil
lavender salt
2 cloves garlic
2 medium eggplants
1/4 cup white wine
2 roasted peppers, sliced
1 x 180 g container Persian Feta, drained
a large handful of mint leaves, finely chopped

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Recipe: Cucumber Noodles with Gazpacho Sauce and Guacamole

I am the worst hostess ever for Pasta Please. No sooner do I set the Make Your Own Pasta challenge, but I acquire a Herman starter and become obsessed with him, and then disappear into my politics blog for a round of intensive pre-election blog-writing, pausing only to run out and sing in what feels like every church in Melbourne.  It’s a shocker.

But I am not a total failure, because here I am, a day before the end of the challenge, and I have made pasta! Or a kind of pasta anyway.  What with not being in my kitchen long enough to cook much of anything for the last couple of weeks, getting out the pasta machine was never going to be an option.  But my vegetable spiraliser is another story, and I had this random idea one one of the hot days recently about cucumber noodles, which would surely be an incredibly cooling thing to eat.  But what do you put with cucumber?  Well, I’m fairly sure cucumber gets used in Gazpacho, which is also lovely and cooling… at least until the lid falls off your bottle of hot sauce at the crucial moment and you accidentally add a tablespoon rather than a teaspoon.  My face is still tingling hours later…

Anyway, cucumber noodles with Gazpacho sauce it was, and very cooling and delicious it was too.  Alas, the weather was also quite cold, and not so auspicious for my purposes, so I’m calling this a trial run for the summer.  This is more of a light meal than a main, by the way – sort of a fancy salad, really.  But it’s very fast to make, and would be a beautiful starter for a long summer meal.

Your Shopping List

3 roasted capsicums (from a jar is fine, you’re adding vinegar anyway)
6 roma tomatoes + 1 for the guacamole
2 tsp red wine vinegar (see?)
1 tsp hot sauce, or to taste, or however much you drop into the blender by accident
3 celery sticks
1 red onion
a handful of coriander, plus another handful for the guacamole
2 small avocados
1 clove garlic
1 tsp guacamole spice mix (sorry, I’m lazy today)
juice of 1 lime
6 lebanese cucumbers Continue reading

Christmas Leftovers Recipe: Zucchini Pesto Surprise muffins

The thing with making a lot of antipasto dips and spreads is that then you have to work out what to do with leftover dips and spreads.  And yes, one could always have them on bread, but that stops being fun after a few days.  One of my favourite uses for antipasto dips is as pasta sauces, though they are also good on pizza bases instead of tomato paste.  But today I’m making food to take to the cricket, which means portable food, so it’s time for these dips to find their way into some muffiny goodness.


The flavour of these muffins will depend a bit on what sort of pesto and dips you are using, but if you play your cards right, they might almost be healthy.  Certainly, the zucchini is a good start in this direction and if, like me, you are using homemade dips in your muffins, you might be working in all sorts of handy vitamins from roasted capsicums, sunflower seeds, broccoli, hazelnuts and herbs.  But having said that, these muffins will work with just about any sort of non-yoghurt-based vegetable or herb dip you have to hand.  So, I wouldn’t try them with hummus or tzatziki, but babaganoush would work, as would olive dip, sun dried tomato dip, or any kind of roast pepper dip or paté. Just make sure you really like the flavour of it, because it will be the main muffiny flavour.

A cream cheese dip would probably work, too, though be prepared for a very cheesy flavour to your muffin.  (Also, you just lost any claim to healthiness in this muffin.  Sorry.)  The dip is replacing some of the liquid, some of the egg, and some of the oil from a standard muffin recipe, so be mindful of this when making your dip selections.

As for the surprise – it’s more pesto!  Or rather, different pesto, in a dollop at the centre of the muffin.  This, in fact, is where your cheesy dip would really work, with a herby pesto in the muffin itself.  Or you could use a cherry tomato for a lovely fresh centre.

Your Shopping and Leftovers List

1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1/2 cup plain flour (wholemeal is good if you have it, might as well add an air of healthiness to these muffins)
1/2 tsp herbs such as paprika, oregano, thyme, chilli, fennel – depending on your dip flavours
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, optional
2 medium zucchini, coarsely grated
3/4 cup roasted capsicum and sunflower seed spread, or another pesto or vegetable/herb/nut  spread of your choice
2 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cup low fat milk
about 1/2 cup broccoli pesto, or other dip of your choice, or about 16 cherry tomatoes, whole

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Recipe: Mole Sauce, or something, with I only wish I knew what it goes with, other than bemusement

tomatilloSo I got these tomatilloes at the market, and a whole big box of peppers and chillis and then I had this black chocolate and I had pumpkin seed meal, and all of this pretty much said ‘Mexican’ to me, but there’s a problem – I really don’t know thing one about Mexican cooking.  I’m sort of aware of flavours that go together, but not how to make them do so, or anything like that.

When in doubt, I roast things, so I did that with the vegetables, and then stared at it all in confusion for a while, before sticking everything in a blender with a bunch of extra spices and  other bits and pieces.  It tasted pretty much as I imagine mole sauce is supposed to taste – spicy and chocolatey and dense – but then I didn’t know what to put it on.  I wound up roasting some zucchini and pumpkin and stirring the mole through that, and then I didn’t know what to put *that* on.  Rice?  Corn chips? Tortillas?  And what about protein?  And – argh.  I don’t know.  I still don’t know.  Something tells me it would be excellent on chicken, which is a fat lot of good to me right now. 

Anyway, I do know that it’s a tasty sauce – fresh-tasting and bitter and chocolatey and aromatic and peppery-hot – so I’m writing it up here just as a sauce, and maybe one of you will be able to figure out what it’s for…

Your Shopping List

6 tomatillos
4 small tomatoes
2 chillis (one red and one green is fun)
3 small round peppers
3 capsicums, assorted colours
5 long frying peppers, also sometimes called sweet chillis, assorted colours
1 bulb garlic
3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp oregano
50 g pumpkin seed meal, or pumpkin seeds, toasted and then ground
40 g black chocolate – 99% cocoa, so the really bitter stuff – chopped
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp chipotle pepper
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp thyme
salt, to taste

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Recipe: New World Stovetop Veggie Feast

So I kind of accidentally got captured by the internet last night and then it was 8pm and I hadn’t really thought about dinner, except that it needed to include corn, and all my cookbooks were useless on the subject, so I had to randomly make up this stew, which I didn’t think was going to be all that good.  Only then it was really good, so I had to write down the recipe and take bad photos of what was left in the pan, which is why the photos in this blog post are less than stellar.  But I promise you, the stew itself is lovely.

This meal is a very simple sauté-turned-stew of the kind of late-summer vegetables that I associate with the Americas.  I suspect it is vaguely Mexican, but I only suspect that because I know nothing about Mexican cooking… Anyway, it’s very easy to make, and also terribly healthy, as well as being gluten-free, vegan and low-GI, but it’s basic purpose was to do something with the corn I had bought at the Farmers’ Market as soon as possible, since corn is one of those vegetables that loses flavour within minutes of being picked (or so I am told – I’ve never grown corn, which means, I suppose, that I don’t actually know what it should taste like, really).

Also, it’s very pretty!  Look at all those lovely colours!

Your Shopping List

olive oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 red onions, chopped (I cut them in half through the root, then in half again across the equator, then I slice them into what would be half-moons if it weren’t for the equatorial slicing)
1 red chilli, finely chopped
1 tbsp cumin (or thereabouts – I wasn’t measuring)
1 tbsp oregano
1 tsp ground chilli
1 pinch of ground fennel seeds
salt, pepper
3 capsicums, all in different colours, chopped
1 sweet yellow chilli, chopped
kernels from 3 cobs corn
6 little zucchini, some yellow, some green (about 3 normal-sized zucchini, I should think), sliced
150 g cherry tomatoes, halved
2 tins chopped tomatoes
1 tin black beans
small handful coriander, chopped
guacamole, corn chips or cornbread, and grated cheese (to serve)

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Recipe: Easy Pasta Dinner

For some strange reason, nobody ever gives me hampers.  Possibly, they have some idea that my house is full of food already and a hamper is the last thing I need.  I can’t imagine where they would get such a notion.  Fortunately, I have aunts who are, if anything, even more determined to feed everyone than I am, so this Christmas they both gave me hampers!  I haven’t actually seen hamper #2 yet, but that’s just fine, because I have by no means exhausted the charms of hamper #1.

And hampers are endlessly exciting – I tend to spend a lot of December eyeing them off in shops.  There’s something utterly and compellingly desirable about a big basket of enticingly arranged and interesting foodstuffs that you haven’t chosen yourself.  Often, there are things you would not normally eat in there, but you know, if they are in a hamper you have to try them, and you never know – they might turn out to be excellent!

Anyway, this hamper is especially good because it contains Panettone (the Italian New Year’s Eve food of my youth), and a fascinating Sri Lankan lentil curry mix (just lentils and spices and you add water and coconut milk), and a  chocolate and aniseed vincotto (which I mistook for something you drink when you get home from the funeral and Really Need A Drink, but turns out to be something you then ladle out of your wine glass and pour over icecream, where it is equally efficacious), and then there is my all-time favourite brand of herbed salt (how did she know?), and jam, and good olive oil, and all sorts of other stuff, but also a bottle of really nice passata and a couple of packets of good pasta.  Which, when it comes down to it, is just what you need when you  are just exhausted after a very long month and don’t really feel like making an effort for dinner.

The following recipe is just tonight’s version of an endlessly varied pasta meal that I make with passata and whatever vegetables I have to hand.  Sometimes, I toss it through pasta, sprinkle it with cheese and bake it.  Sometimes, I stir chunks of feta cheese through it.  Or bocconcini.  Or, if I’m feeling particularly well-behaved, chickpeas.  But this is the straightforward version.  You should try it.

Your Shopping List (or garden list, ideally – this recipe works best if you start by wandering around the garden, seeing what happens to be ripe)

olive oil
4-6 cloves of garlic
1-2 smallish zucchinis, any colour, and hail damage is fine
1-2 capsicums, ditto
oregano, chilli, salt and pepper, or Italian herbed salt
1 1/2 cups passata (this is an Italian tomato sauce, which is basically just tomatoes cooked down and pureed into a thick sauce which isn’t quite a paste)
a handful each of basil and parsely leaves, chopped
200-300 g good pasta
grated parmesan or feta to serve, optional

(this amount serves 2-3 people, I should think)

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Recipe: One step up from takeaway

Today is the first day of my holidays, which means that I am exhausted to the point that I spent about ten minutes wandering around the kitchen at lunchtime today dithering about how to make a salad and continually opening the drawer to look for the little frying pan I use for omelettes, and then forgetting what I was looking for as soon as the drawer opened and shutting it again.

So not a good cooking day.  But what with the insanity of trying to get things to a point at work where I could take time off and not spend the whole week feeling compelled to check my work email to make sure everything was under control, this has been a pretty bad week in the kitchen all round.  I can’t even remember what I’ve been making for dinner, but I’ve bought lunch three days running, which means takeaway is off the menu tonight.

(and here is where I should apologise if this post is full of repetition and typos – I have read through it twice, but I’m quite tired and my proof reading is apparently very bad just now)

Hence this recipe, which is something I make when I need to be marginally healthier than takeaway, but really can’t get the energy or brains together to make proper dinner.  It’s basically a combination of things from tins and the freezer section at the supermarket, with a bit of garlic, some herbs, and occasionally a capsicum thrown in to add an illusion of nutritional value to the equation.  But it’s also tasty, covers the main food groups, and even contains that low-GI classic, legumes.  (Unless you’re too tired even for that, and serve it with pasta instead)

Your Shopping list (for 2 people)

olive oil
6 cloves of garlic (it’s a vegetable, deal with it)
dried oregano
salt, pepper
1 capsicum, chopped (optional)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 1/2 tins of cannelini beans, drained
dried rosemary
zest and juice of one lemon
extra virgin olive oil
2 single-person serves of your frozen protein of choice.  We like the giant chicken nugget things (Duets) stuffed with broccoli and cheese, but cutlets or cordon bleu or chicken kievs would work well, too.  I wouldn’t do this with frozen fish, but turkey, veal or beef would work, as would a good veggie loaf or similar – though not anything too beany or you might spontaneously transform into a giant legume after eating it, which would be bad.  Actually, I suppose you could go with something beany and have pasta instead of cannelini bean mash, but it’s a wonderful mash, so I don’t think you should forgo it.

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Not a proper recipe for not entirely Greek Salad

I think I may have to start a section of this journal for recipes that aren’t proper recipes but which people ask me for. You know, for recipes like pasta bolognese or fruit crumble, which are a handful of this, and one of those, and a sprinkle of that, and a whole tin of the other, and actually, maybe we need another handful of this after allThese kind of recipes are only ever going to be recordable by weighing all the ingredients you might possible want to use before you start cooking, and then weighing the packets again after you finish and calculating the difference.  Which is something I never think of until it’s too late. 

Inevitably, recipes like this are also the ones people ask for.  And this is very sad, because I have so many recipes I can describe, but when it comes to these ones, all I can do is wail “I don’t know what I put in there!”.  Because it changes every time.

Anyway, my mother in law asked for this recipe, so here it is.  Sort of.   I’m totally guessing at the quantities, especially for the dressing, so use your best judgment.  On the bright side, it’s a salad, so it’s pretty hard to go wrong on.  And sometime soon I really will figure out what I put in my fruit crumbles, too.  Promise.

Your shopping list

100g persian feta (the soft creamy kind that usually comes marinated)
100g marinated green olives (inauthentic, but I like them more than the black ones), stoned and halved
half a small red onion, sliced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil infused with blood orange, or plain extra virgin olive oil and a little blood orange juice or lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
salt, black pepper
250g of good cherry or mini Roma tomatoes, or whatever little tomatoes you have in your garden that have not been eaten by the very hungry caterpillar, cut in half
one largeish lebanese cucumber, peeled, quartered lengthways, and chopped into thick chunks
one red or yellow or orange capsicum, cut into thick slices and the slices halved
leaves from about half a small lettuce (I like butter lettuce for this), gently torn
a handful each of fresh mint and fresh oregano or marjoram leaves, gently shredded, and if you have some nasturtium petals or other herb flowers, why not add them too?

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