Tag 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: 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…


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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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. 

Your Shopping List

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: 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…

Your Shopping List

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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Recipe: Mildly Courageous Potatoes

(NB: still no idea what’s happening with shifting web-hosting, which is making me reluctant to post much here just now, in case I hit exactly the wrong window and it all gets deleted. Sorry.  I had no idea it would be this complicated / confusing.  On the bright side, my music blog is getting extra posts as a result – all this writing has to go *somewhere*.)

There’s a Spanish recipe for potatoes cooked with a spicy, tomatoey sort of sauce called Patatas Bravas.  Roughly translated, this means Bold Potatoes.  I’ve never been nearer to Spain than a slightly dodgy Spanish restaurant many years ago, so I can’t claim to know what the original variety tastes like, but I’ve seen a few recipes for these potatoes around the place.

Trouble is, I’m a wimp when it comes to chilli.  I’m better than I was, but a lot of chilli in a dish tends to take all the fun out of it for me.  As a result, most Patatas Bravas are far too bold for me – hence this gentler, more quietly courageous version of the recipe.  You can, of course, chilli it all up again if that takes your fancy, but I rather like tasting all the flavours without being overwhelmed by chilli heat.  Also, sweet potatoes make everything better (and better for you), which is always a bonus.  Give it a try!

Your Shopping List

olive oil
400 g potatoes
400 g sweet potatoes
1 red onion
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 – 1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground chilli
1/2 – 1 tsp smoked paprika
pinch of saffron
salt, pepper
2 capsicums, preferably in two different colours
2 cloves garlic
400 g tinned tomatoes

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Recipe: Roast Potatoes with No Photos (Because we ATE THEM ALL)

No, I didn’t eat the photos.  I haven’t even eaten these potatoes all that recently, which is a tragedy, because they are possibly my favourite food in the world.  And, actually, I probably do have photos of these potatoes somewhere, which I will add at a later date.  But this post is a bit ad-hoc because I have become involved in Surprise Last-Minute Opera this week, and so my blog has been rather neglected (and probably will be for a few more days).  I wanted to write something, at leastt so that you didn’t think I had run away to join the… opera… hmm…

(Actually, the opera thing is fairly exciting – I got this email on Monday that some singers from Opera Australia were putting on a small production of Tosca this weekend and needed a few more people for the chorus, so I duly put my hand up, had rehearsal on Tuesday and Wednesday, and will be singing tonight and tomorrow night – just two choruses, but hey, it’s a chance to see Tosca and sing some Puccini, neither of which are things I’ve done before.  And it’s going to be a good and rather intimate performance, too – 5 soloists, ten or so people in the chorus, and all performed in a smallish church, so that the audience will really feel in the middle of things rather than at a distance.)

Anyway, recipe!  Everyone always asks me for my roast potato recipe, and it’s not really a recipe, but since I can make it in my sleep – which, coincidentally, is about how I feel right now – here goes!  These potatoes should be golden and crispy on the outside and nicely soft inside, with a happy garlicky rosemaryish personality.  They go with everything.  Personally, I like them with a tuna salad, because then I can pretend I am being healthy.  Or alternatively, they are great as part of a whole collection of roasted vegetables which you might serve with meat or stuffed mushrooms, but could just as easily serve as their own meal, with a big bowl of pesto or salsa verde or garlicky white bean dip or aioli on the side.  Yum.  Why aren’t I having this for dinner tonight?

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(Oh dear.  I really have no idea how many potatoes I usually use!)

750 g potatoes.  Maybe.  Really, use however many you would normally use for a roast potato side dish.  Do not use new potatoes – pick all-purpose or floury ones
2 red onions, sliced in the wrong direction so that they are little half moon shapes
3 tablespoons of olive oil.  I am totally making this quantity up.
a teaspoon or two of dried rosemary, or three sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons or so of garlic powder.  Yes, I know it’s disgusting, appalling stuff, but it is the best way to get the garlic flavour through the potatoes.
salt, black pepper
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Recipe: Preserved Kumquats (an unfinished tale)

My brother has a kumquat tree.  It’s quite an enthusiastic tree – apparently it bears fruit all year round, relentlessly.   Since kumquats are not, on the whole, a fruit you can just eat off the tree, he has been looking for things to do with them – and perhaps even more for people to give them to.  In particular, he’s bored with sweet kumquat recipes.

I have, in fact, made excellent kumquat pectin jellies in the past, but this was basically a labour of insanity, because zesting enough kumquats to make a batch of jelly is extraordinary fiddly and time-consuming.  Thus, I too was interested in a savoury use for kumquats (particularly given my brother’s increasingly pressing offers of kumquats by the tonne).

Anyway, at some point in the dim distant past, I remember seeing a recipe for kumquats preserved in the manner of Moroccan preserved lemons, and being of an enquiring disposition (and in possession of a kilo of kumquats), I decided to give the idea a try.  Of course, the recipe is long gone from my browser’s memory (particularly given that I now have an entirely different computer), but I had Stephanie Alexander’s preserved lemon recipe to guide me, so I boldly sallied forth into the world of briney citrus. 

So, will my kumquats be a tremendous success?  A hideous failure?  A curiosity?   Only time will tell…

Your Shopping List

850 g kumquats (like you need to buy them.  If you have them, you have them, and if you don’t, the supermarket won’t be much help to you)
200 g salt (yes, I mean 200 g)
2 cinnamon sticks
3 bay leaves
1-2 teaspoons fennel seed
a piece of ginger root about the size of your thumb

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Recipe: Drained Yoghurt (Labneh)

I’m not sure you can call something with exactly one ingredient a recipe, per se, but this is a really useful thing to know about, very easy, and a basis for all sorts of yummy things.  This is basically a yoghurt cheese, which you can make as firm as you have the patience (or planning) for.  It’s somewhat similar in personality to cream cheese, but has the advantage that you can choose what ever variety of dairy product you like to start with – low-fat or full-fat, cow, goat or sheep’s milk, according to taste or lactose tolerance.  Rumour has it you can even make this using soy yoghurt, but given the difficulty of finding a plain soy yoghurt in Australia, this is probably not going to be practical for my local vegan friends.

The only trick to this recipe is that you do need to start it at least 6 hours ahead of time (though I understand that soy labneh takes less time).  But since you don’t actually have to do anything with it during this time, we’re really talking a matter of planning rather than work.

The fun part, of course, is all the stuff you can do with it when it’s done… see below for many, many ideas.

Your shopping list

2 kg yoghurt of your choice, but bear in mind that you do want a reasonably well-flavoured yoghurt, and thicker, Greek-style yoghurts are easier to work with.  And yes, I know this is a lot of yoghurt but you will be losing a lot of the bulk as the liquid drains out, especially if you are using a fairly thin yoghurt or draining it for a longer time.  There’s really not much point in starting with less than 1 kg if you want a usable amount at the end.
You will also need cheesecloth (ha, like I can ever find that), clean chux wipes (the option preferred by my cheesemaking teacher), or a sacrificial tea towel (which you will really want to rinse out immediately after use, or horrible things will start growing in it very quickly), as well as a seive or colander and a bowl to sit it on.

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Recipe: Potato Salad with Saffron and Herbs, for Beth

This is another recipe that I promised to pass on more than  a year ago.  Maybe two years go.  Oh dear.  Sorry, Beth… Anyway, this recipe’s a real delight – light and herby and tangy, without the creaminess of traditional potato salads, but with so much more sharpness and flavour.  Also, it’s vegan!

The recipe originated in Julie LeClerc’s cookbook, Made in Morocco, which I can heartily recommend, though not quite as much as Taking Tea In the Medina, which I love even more and is one of my go-to books for things middle-eastern. I’ve added more herbs, and have upped the dressing-to-potato recipe because I’m evil like that.  Enjoy!

Your Shopping List

750g new potatoes, washed but not peeled
a good pinch of saffron threads
2-3 little red salad onions, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
several handfuls of herbs – Julie suggests mint and coriander or parsley (and in much smaller quantities) – I tend to use all three, plus whatever else I can find in my garden – a few sage leaves, some rosemary, basil, chives, tarragon, whatever. I recommend this approach!
salt and pepper to taste

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Recipe: Extremely Good Ratatouille

Ratatouille is one of those things that can be really good or really bland, I find.  I got it right this time, so I’m writing down what I did before I forget.  Also, I have to mention just in passing that I got part of my method from a character in a novel by Elizabeth Bear, who cooks a batch of ratatouille with great care as an act of kitchen magic.  I figured that if the method worked so well that you can do spells with this dish, it might also work to get flavour into it.  And it did.

Although the recipe looks long, I think it took me about 45 minutes from start to finish, including the time for the eggplants to release their juices.  So it isn’t too time consuming, I promise.

Also, I am being very vague about amounts of things like oil and spices and herbs.  This is partly because I think that flavours of these kinds are very much a matter of taste, and partly because I know some people prefer olive oil spray etc, but mostly (I cannot tell a lie) because I actually have no idea how much I used.  I suspect it was a good teaspoon or so of the lavender salt, a couple of pinches of the fennel, chilli, salt and pepper mix, and half a teaspoon or so of the mint, but don’t quote me on that.  I probably used about 4 – 6 tablespoons of olive oil, but it could have been less – I tend to just go once around the pan whenever it needs it, and don’t keep track.

Your Shopping List

Olive oil.  Quite a bit, really.
Two big, lovely eggplants
6 cloves of garlic
French lavender salt (this is a combination of salt, coriander, aniseed, lavender, fennel, pepper, chilli, garlic and ginger, apparently.  It tastes like salt with lavender and tarragon, but use a suitable combination of these herbs and spices, with emphasis on the lavender)
1/3 cup white wine
3 long, red sweet peppers (Australian supermarkets would call them sweet chillis, but they really have no heat to speak of – I think they are also called Italian Frying Peppers)
2 capsicums, preferably one yellow and one orange
salt, pepper, dried chilli and fennel (I have these in a grinder)
4 small-medium zucchinis, any colour or a mix of colours (which reminds me, I must go out and deal with the Marrow Revolution today)
dried mint, white pepper (black is also fine)
5 large tomatoes
500 ml passata with basil, or just passata and add some basil separately, or use a good quality tomato and basil pasta sauce
200 g green or yellow beans

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