Tag Archives: tomato

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: 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

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

Recipe: Roasted Root Vegetables with Creamy Cannelini Bean Sauce

It’s been very quiet around here.  What always happens is that I write a post explaining why it has been very quiet, and apologising, but of course by the time I write such a post, things have self-evidently calmed down at least somewhat.

Things have not calmed down this time.  I am still in the midst of grants, and every time I’m not reading grants I am singing Bach, and then there have been work politics, and then there have been social politics, and let’s not even think about federal politics, and then there have been more grants, and then there have been funerals, and friends being evacuated due to bushfires, and other friends just having thoroughly miserable times, and sick cats, and did I mention the vile, vile weather?  Anyway, what there hasn’t been around here has been a lot of inventive cooking.  And when there has been, it mostly hasn’t worked out very well.  You know things are bad when not only do I get quiet, but I only emerge to cook savoury food!

(And really, I’m fine, just very, very tired and very, very busy.  And I probably don’t need quite so many grants, either.)

Anyway.  I started writing this recipe just before the last round of chaos, and never finished it.  Let’s see if I can finish it this time, eh?  And I will try to see you on the other side, assuming such a thing exists.  In the mean time, in lieu of content of my own, I draw your attention to my Vegetarian Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes challenge, which is attracting some really fascinating recipes.  Hopefully this will feed your hunger for beautiful food while I try to catch up with the difficult work of existing!


I love roasted vegetables and would happily eat them five times a week or more.  But they aren’t quite a meal in their own right, and while I am all too ready to serve them with broccoli in cheesy sauce (or perhaps I should say, cheesy sauce with broccoli) and call them a meal, occasionally I feel the urge to do a little better.  Hence the cannelini bean sauce, which makes everything OK because it has proteiny goodness!

One thing that you need to know about this recipe is that it is possibly the ugliest thing I have ever photographed.  This is not wholly the fault of the recipe, because nothing is at its best if you photograph it after the sun has set, but the whole pinky-beige sauce slopped over vegetables was never going to be an aesthetic triumph.  I think next time, I’d serve the sauce on the side.  As it is, my photos look as though I took a whole lot of beautiful roast vegetables, slopped gravy all over them, then time-travelled back to the 1970s, got out my old Instamatic camera, and took all the photographs under fluorescent lighting.  Only not quite that pretty. 

In fact, the photos are so bad that I’m not going to show them to you at all, for fear of putting you off, because this is really a delicious (and wonderfully easy) meal.  Anyway, the point I’m getting at is that if you make this and it turns out looking really rather dreadful on the plate, don’t despair – you are almost certainly doing it right.  But it probably isn’t a dinner party dish for any money.

Honestly, though, ugly or not, I love this meal.  It’s going to become a regular on my cool-weather vegetarian (indeed, vegan!) menu.


Your shopping list

2 smallish sweet potatoes
6 little potatoes, like pink fir potatoes
6 baby carrots
1 long beetroot, or two small ordinary ones
1 onion
1 red capsicum
olive oil
lavender salt, or salt, pepper and rosemary
400 g tinned cannelini beans
150 g slow roasted tomatoes
2 garlic bulbs, roasted
1/4 cup good olive oil
zest of one lemon
salt, pepper, rosemary

Now what will you do with it?

Aargh, it’s so long since I made this recipe that I barely remember what I did!  Well, first, one must roast the vegetables.  Peel them and chop them into inviting-looking shapes.  Because really, this will be the only inviting thing about this recipe.  I think I may even have kept the little potatoes whole, because they were these adorable, thumb-sized things which really didn’t need peeling or chopping at all.  The carrots, I peeled and then sliced in half lengthways.  The beetroot got chunked, the sweet potato was sliced very thickly and those slices were quartered, and the onion was cut into half moons.  The red capsicum was sliced.

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C.


Microwave the beetroot for about 5 minutes in a tiny bit of water in a bowl, because it will otherwise take far longer than everything else put together.

Now fling all the aforementioned veggies onto a huge baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, pepper and lavender salt (or ordinary salt and lots of rosemary), and bake everything for 45 minutes to an hour, turning after about twenty minutes or so, and again at the 45 minute mark if you think the veggies aren’t done yet.


Making the sauce is even easier than this.  Drain the cannelini beans and put them in a blender with the slow-roasted tomatoes, the roasted garlic, the olive oil, lemon zest, and seasonings.  Blend until you have a thick sauce.  Add more olive oil if you think it needs filling.


Serve the veggies with the sauce poured over, or poured onto the side to dip them in.  I feel a side dish of green beans or broccoli or even a straightforward green salad would be an excellent addition to this meal.


Eat.  Pretend not to notice that this is very ugly food indeed, because it really does taste amazing.



This meal is gluten-free and vegan and nut-free and low GI, and if you skip the onions, it’s actually not too terrible on the fructose side of things.  Amazing!

You can roast any root vegetables that appeal to you.  You can heat the sauce up, or instead of blending it, you could put everything except the oil in a saucepan (with just one splash of oil), sauté it up a bit, and then mash it with a fork or potato masher.  At this point, it’s more a mash than a sauce, and there’s nothing wrong with that.  You might even add an extra tin of beans in these circumstances and make it a real side dish.

And… that’s it from me.  It’s bedtime in the house of cats.


One year ago: Recipe: Inside-Out Salad

Two years ago: Market Day: High Summer Masquerading as Autumn

Recipe: Funghi Alla Pizza! (With bonus Cheat’s Pesto)

I am so very amused by this recipe title, but really, what else could I call it?  If I called it ‘Mushroom Pizza’, that would sound as though I was talking about pizza with mushrooms on it.  Whereas this, my friends, is mushrooms with pizza on it, which I think you will agree is far more exciting!

It started like this:


That’s more than 300g of mushroom in one fine, fungal package there.  I think we can all agree that this is a mushroom that has made an effort.  A mushroom that knows what it wants.  A mushroom that deserves respect.

It is certainly not a mushroom that should be chopped or sliced and braised in a stew or sauté with other vegetables.  That, I am sure, would be wasteful.  No, this sort of mushroom deserves to be served whole, in all its fungal fabulousness.

Thus the advent of the mushroom as pizza base.  I’ve made mushrooms stuffed with pesto before, so that seemed like the place to start with my pizza, but I also couldn’t resist making one in the configuration of the pita bread pizzas I used to make under the grill as a child.

They didn’t look quite as pretty as I’d hoped once they were done, but they tasted *amazing*.  Oddly, I’m not the biggest mushroom fan (just a fan of the biggest mushrooms), but these had just the right amount of mushroominess – they were meaty and satisfying and not even a little bit slimy.  (Where does the sliminess come from, I wonder?  I had slimy mushrooms when I ate out recently, but I’ve never produced them myself – there is clearly a technique to it.  One I wish to avoid.) 

These pizzas – pizzettas?  funghizzettas? – still fall into the ‘light meal’ category, but they would certainly work for lunch, or for dinner with a reasonably substantial dessert.  Which reminds me that I do have a recipe for risotto with strawberries and champagne somewhere…

Your Shopping List

2 enormous mushrooms, or 4-6 portobello mushrooms of more moderate size.  You want about 650 g mushrooms overall.
olive oil spray
salt, pepper
1 punnet of cherry tomatoes
250 g bocconcini, or a small ball of mozzarella
tomato paste
1 roasted pepper
For the Cheat’s Pesto
50 g pinenuts
1 tube of Gourmet Garden fresh basil in a tube
1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic
salt, pepper


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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: 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: Stuffed Pasta Shells with Ricotta, Mint and Feta

Aargh!  Here I am, with the best intentions in the world about posting lots of exciting things, and I can’t, because I don’t have time, because I’m too busy cooking!  Well, and singing.  To give you a brief glimpse of the current craziness: Friday night was singing lesson and making vegan truffles for a birthday yesterday, yesterday I was out all day at said birthday, today was choir, a birthday dinner for a different set of people, practicing cake decorating, and bonus practice cupcakes erupting all over my oven (moral of the story: do not forget to put the eggs in the cupcakes.  It’s fine if they weren’t supposed to have eggs in the first place, but if they were, it turns out that one of the things eggs do is prevent bicarb-fueled cake eruptions), tomorrow is another singing lesson, Tuesday is a dinner party, Wednesday will be last minute cake experiments for the wedding cake I am making for Sunday, Thursday is choir, Friday is singing practice and baking wedding cakes, Saturday is baking more wedding cakes and decorating them, and Sunday is a wedding.

So you see, even typing very fast, that doesn’t leave much room for blogging.  Especially when the cakes you were hoping to blog about erupted all over your oven…

So here’s a random recipe I started writing down for you months ago and then forgot about completely and never came back to.  It’s still good, though.  It started off Italian in feel, but sort of started sidling shiftily in the direction of Greece with the herbs and feta.  Feta is very shifty that way.  Still, cultural identity issues aside, it tasted pretty good and was well worth making.  And finally I have something to do with those giant pasta shells that ogle me so enticingly from the supermarket shelves and then sit in my pantry for months doing nothing…

Your Shopping List

500 g frozen spinach
olive oil
5 cloves garlic
400g tinned tomatoes (chopped)
750 ml passata
1/2 cup water
1 small bunch basil
500 g ricotta (preferably fairly solid ricotta from a deli, not the smooth stuff in a tub)
150 g feta cheese
2 eggs
a large handful fresh mint
salt, pepper
375 g giant pasta shells
1/4 cup parmesan, approximately
1/4 cup breadcrumbs, fresh if possible


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Recipe: Vegetarian Chilli


(putting them in to soak before you go to work in the morning is fine)

This recipe is adapted from one of the Moosewood Cookbooks – I’m afraid I can’t recall which, as I keep on writing down the quantities and changing things and I’ve lost track a bit of where it started.  It’s fun to feed this to people and watch them try to figure out if it contains meat – it doesn’t, of course, but the tomato-soaked burghul looks a lot like mince, and the flavour is fairly meaty. It’s my favourite way of feeding a large group when I’m short on money.

I usually serve this with corn chips, grated cheese, sour cream and mashed avocado, which feeds 10-12 people easily.  If I bake a lot of potatoes to go with it, it stretches to 20 or more – which is to say, it very thoroughly fed 13 people, and I had about 6 potato-less servings worth of leftovers.  If I’m serving it to vegan friends, I replace the sour cream with a tub of tofutti cream cheese mixed with 6 spring onions, 3 crushed garlic cloves, salt, pepper, paprika, and the juice of half a lemon – it’s creamy and sour and pungent and nobody has complained about it yet.

Incidentally, this is a very mild (though still tasty) chilli, so do feel free to add more spices according to your tastes. 

Your Shopping List

3 cups dried kidney beans (or borlotti beans, or black beans, or a combination – whatever you have in the house is my policy), soaked overnight or at least 4 hours – the longer you soak them, the faster they will cook and the tastier they will be.  Theoretically, adding some bicarb of soda to the water makes them less windy, but I can’t say I’ve noticed a difference.
1 cup tomato juice (in fact, I found tomato juice to be too thick – I used a 170ml can of tomato juice and topped it up with 80mls water)
1 cup uncooked bulgur wheat (burghul)
olive oil
2 cups chopped onion (which is three or four onions, if you cook like I do)
8 large cloves garlic, minced. Or 10. Or a whole bulb.  Garlic is your friend!
2 medium carrots, diced
2 medium stalks celery, diced
1 tbsp cumin
2 tsp oregano
1 tbsp chilli powder, or to taste
1 tbsp paprika
salt (herbamare is excellent here, herbamare piquant, even better)
black pepper and cayenne to taste
3 medium capsicums (three colours!) chopped
1 zucchini, chopped
1 400g can chopped tomatoes
150ml tomato paste, or thereabouts


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Leftovers for Lunch: Roasted Vegetable and Chickpea Salad

I love roast vegetables.  About once a fortnight, I will do a huge roast vegetable fest – one enormous tray of potatoes, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions and beetroot, cut into chunks and the potato and beetroot parboiled, and then roasted with olive oil, garlic, rosemary and salt.  Another huge tray will have capsicums, halved or quartered roma tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant and red onion, with oregano, black pepper, a bit of brown sugar,  balsamic vinegar and olive oil.  Mostly, I chuck in some organic sausages to roast with this, but sometimes I’ll serve it with broccoli in cheese sauce, or with chickpeas or a cannelini bean puree, or even a roast chicken.  Continue reading