Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potato Salad with Lime and Garlic Dressing #Vegan

“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?” 
~ A. A. Milne

It’s a known fact that historically Ben won’t eat two things – Brussels Sprouts and Cottage Pie (which he calls Poo Pie!) after bad experiences at boarding school back in the day.

I have managed to win him over to a good Cottage Pie (which we are only allowed to call Savoury Mince Thing with Mashed Potato on Top) but have not been able to convince him of the deliciousness of Brussels Sprouts, until I invented this Salad.

This warm salad was born from the need for me to whip up something healthy and yummy for lunch but EASY because I am still unwell and lacking stamina so I wanted something nurturing that I could chuck together with minimum fuss. You can eat this as a main meal and proportions given will serve two, or four people as a tasty side.

Baking the Brussels Sprouts gives them a nutty flavour – super yum. Don’t be afraid – they really are delicious. The addition of apple gives a sweet note that contrasts well with the fresh tangy dressing. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • two cups of cubed sweet potato
  • one green apple cut into cubes
  • two cups of Brussels Sprouts cut in half lengthways
  • a tablespoon of olive oil
  • cumin and smoked paprika to sprinkle on your roasting vegetables (or leave it off if you don’t have these spices at home)
  • 2 to 4 cups of fresh green spinach leaves
  • 1/4 cup of walnut halves
  • 1/2 an avocado cubed
  • Dressing: 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 to 2 cloves of garlic minced (use to your own taste – I love garlic!), 1 teaspoon of honey, 1 teaspoon of coconut aminos or Braggs or soy sauce or tamari sauce or a pinch of salt (use what you have to hand)

Directions:

  1. Place cubed sweet potato, Brussels Sprouts and cubed apple onto baking tray and toss with one tablespoon of oil. Sprinkle some cumin and smoked paprika over and then roast in a moderate oven ( 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit ) for 30 minutes or until cooked and golden.
  2. Scatter spinach over the bottom of your serving bowl or plate.
  3. Make dressing by putting all ingredients in a jar and shaking well so that they emulsify and blend together. Taste dressing and adjust to your liking by adding
  4. Add baked vegetables to top of spinach. Scatter the avocado and walnuts over and then pour on the dressing.
  5. Serve on its own or as a side dish.

Easy Puff Pastry Ham and Egg Pie for Mother’s Day


 “Motherhood is a choice you make every day, to put someone else’s happiness and well-being ahead of your own, to teach the hard lessons, to do the right thing even when you’re not sure what the right thing is…and to forgive yourself, over and over again, for doing everything wrong.”
~ Donna Ball

It’s Mother’s Day this Sunday, May 12.

This simple ham and egg pie (or quiche if you’d rather) is simple enough for kids and non-cooks to attempt. It’s easy to modify the recipe too, to incorporate other ingredients or to make it bigger or smaller.

It makes a delicious breakfast or brunch dish, and can be eaten warm or prepared in advance and eaten cold. Warning, if you use a lot of cheese the pie might be a bit gooey straight out of the oven. Letting it sit for fifteen minutes before you cut into it will help it firm up. Or, just enjoy it cheesy-gooey if that’s your thing. I certainly like it like that!

Serve it on its own or with a side salad, some crusty fresh bread and a good chutney or relish. Any leftovers will keep, refrigerated, for three days.

Don’t have a mum or a grandmother to bake for? How about preparing it for an elderly neighbour, an overworked mum you know, or someone who is mourning the loss of a parent or child.

It’s also perfectly fine to bake it for yourself!

Hugs and love, Nicole ❤ xx

Ingredients

  • 1 sheet of pre-prepared puff pastry (use gluten-free if that’s an issue for you) *Hint, have an extra sheet on hand just in case 1 isn’t quite enough for your dish
  • 1 medium onion, diced and softened in a frypan over medium heat with a small amount of olive oil to grease the pan (don’t let it brown, just colour it up slightly)
  • 1 cup cooked ham, chopped
  • 1 cup cubed or grated cheese (I love using Swiss or Jarlsberg cheese but use whatever you have to hand)
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 cup of milk or cream
  • optional but good – some fresh green shallots or chives finely chopped
  • butter to grease the dish
  • one pie or casserole dish at least 22cm in diameter, with sides at least 4 cm high

Want to make this vegetarian? Omit the ham and use a cup of other vegetables of your choice. Capsicum (bell pepper), mushrooms and broccoli are favourites of mine. Once you’ve made this quiche a few times you’ll be confident to change out the ingredients to make all kinds of flavour combinations.

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees celcius.
  2. Rub a little oil or butter around the inside of your pie dish and then line it with the pastry making sure that you go all the way to the top of the dish. It’s okay to cut pieces to fit. Just overlap them a little and then press them together well. It’s even okay if the pastry sticks over the top a little. Rustic is good too.
  3. Layer the cheese, ham and onion or whatever ingredients you have chosen onto the pastry crust.
  4. Break the eggs into a bowl, add the cream and beat together with a fork. Add salt and pepper and fresh herbs if you are using them and mix again.
  5. Pour egg mixture gently into pie shell.
  6. Bake for thirty to forty minutes or until quiche is lightly coloured and firm to touch. How can you tell if it’s cooked? When you give the pie a nudge the centre of the pie shouldn’t move. If there is movement or a wobble it’s not cooked through. Put it back in the oven and give it a bit more time if it’s still wobbly.

Five Dishes to Cook for a Fabulous Easter Feast

Cooking is at once child’s play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love. ” 
~
Craig Claiborne

If you’re looking for inspiration for a tasty and easy meal to share with your family this Easter I have some simple suggestions for you.

There’s a creamy Celery Soup for starters, followed by Slow Cooked Leg of Lamb with a Ruby Grapefruit and Asparagus Salad and Hasselback Potatoes, and Hot Cross Bun Bread and Butter Pudding for dessert.

If you’re vegetarian or vegan I’ve added some tips and twists in for you too.

Then all you need are a few drinks, some family or friends, some music and some relaxation time. Easy!

Just click on the link to access each recipe.

Soup: Cream of Celery Soup Recipe This is a super-healthy and totally delicious soup that is also useful for boosting your immune system and warding off colds and flu bugs. It makes a lovely first course and is gluten-free and can easily be made as a vegan dish.

Note: If you couldn’t be bothered with a big meal or you’ve eaten too many Easter Eggs why not have some cheese, crackers and fruit as your first or last course and pair that with this soup. Make sure you have some good bread to go with the soup – you’ll find it tasty and satisfying.

Salad: Ruby Grapefruit and Asparagus Salad

This is a scrumptious and very pretty salad and the acidity of the grapefruit goes well with the richness of the lamb roast.

Vegetarian? Throw in some extra avocado and feta cheese, double the size of the salad and forget about the lamb roast. Make sure you have some yummy bread as an accompaniment. A good rye bread or grainy sourdough is a great choice for this salad.

Vegan? See tips for vegetarians and omit the feta cheese.

Carb:Hasselback Potatoes? Opera House Potatoes? Best Ever Baked Potato Recipe!

This potato recipe is a favourite in our household and I will often make them for special occasions or when friends come to visit (which is often for us because we are blessed with good friends and good neighbours). They are crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle, and you won’t be able to stop at just one!

Main: Slow Roasted Leg of Lamb with Garlic, Herbs and Red Wine

Easter and Lamb Roasts go hand in hand. This is a simple recipe – it takes little effort and the results are always a show-stopper. It’s a moist, flavour-filled, melt-in-your-mouth dish that is easy for beginner cooks. It’s almost impossible to stuff up. But you do need five hours of cooking time, and fifteen minutes prep, as well as fifteen minutes to rest the roast after it has cooked. Totally worth the wait though!!!

Note: Sorry, vegetarians and vegans. If meat is not your thing I have no substitute for this one.

Dessert: Hot Cross Bun Bread And Butter Pudding

This pudding is made several times over the Easter period in our house, as it’s so simple and easy for feeding guests and we don’t seem to tire of it either! It’s a silky smooth bread pudding with a lightly spiced sweet custard – heavenly!

If you manage to have any as left-overs it is great eating cold as well. (We have been known to eat the leftovers with a big mug of tea or freshly brewed coffee as breakfast when we have had a late night at Bluesfest.)

Note: Choose gluten-free buns or bread it needed. You can also use your favourite type of non-dairy milk, a butter substitute, and if you need to be egg-free replace the eggs with one cup of applesauce.

I encourage you to give these recipes a try.  Hopefully some of them will become an Easter Tradition in your household too.

Much love to you, ♥ Nicole xx

Quick and Easy Bacon and Vegetable Pasta Recipe

“People just adore pasta. It’s a simple fact.” 
Marc Vetri

I’ve had a girlfriend staying with me for a few days. And for those few days it has been cold here at the farm. Both of us have been unwell, so our days have been napping, reading books in front of the fire, writing, doctor visits and more naps.

One night we were both exhausted and Ben had gone back to the city for the evening to check on his elderly mum, leaving us to our own devices. Suddenly it was dinner time and we were starving but exhausted – a difficult combo when you don’t have much energy but still want something a bit more elaborate than egg and toast.

Solution? Pasta!

In the cupboard I had some egg fettucine noodles – the lovely tri-colour ones that cook in six minutes.

In the fridge I had some locally raised and cured free-range streaky bacon rashers and vegetables.

We put it all together and in less than ten minutes we were eating the most delicious bowl of pasta with a little grated parmesan on top. Bellissimo!

How to make this dish fit your special eating requirements:

  • If you’re vegan swap out the bacon, butter and cheese, use vegan substitutes, or use a little tempeh for the bacon-y taste.
  • Vegetarians omit the bacon and add extra mushrooms
  • Use gluten-free pasta if you need to
  • Low-carb diet? Use a high protein pasta or substitute spiralised zucchini
  • Cow’s milk free? Use a little goat or sheep’s milk cheese on top – feta is awesome!

Ingredients (this fed two people REALLY well)

  • Egg fettucine (if you use another kind of pasta adjust your cooking time)
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • Olive oil
  • 4 rashers streaky bacon cut into ribbons
  • 1 cup of sliced mushrooms
  • 1 generous teaspoon of crushed garlic (fresh or jar)
  • 1/2 red onion roughly diced
  • 1 cup chopped broccoli
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • 2 large handfuls of green spinach
  • water

Method:

  1. Put a large pot of water on to boil and add salt to the pot. I use a heaped teaspoon.
  2. Place a large frypan on low heat and add a slug of olive oil. Chuck the bacon in and then increase heat to medium. Fry for a minute or two until soft, fragrant and a little browned.
  3. Your water should be boiling now so chuck the pasta in and give it a poke with a wooden spoon to make sure it all becomes submerged. Bring it back to the boil and cook according to instructions on your packet.
  4. Add your sliced mushrooms to the pan along with the tablespoon of butter. Fry for a minute and then add the onions and garlic. Continue to stir. If it gets dry add a splash of water to moisten things up again. Season with a grind of pepper and a little salt.
  5. Now add the tomato and cook that down. It should be smelling fantastic by now. Add another splash of water if needed. 
  6. When the pasta is a minute or two off done thrown your chopped broccoli in the pot too. 
  7. A minute to go – add your big handfuls of spinach leaves to the frypan and wilt them down.  
  8. Drain your pasta and broccoli and then add into the frypan if it’s big enough. If not add back to the pot and dump your frypan contents in on the top. Stir to combine. 
  9. Place pasta and sauce into bowls, add a little grated parmesan and enjoy your easy, yummy meal! 

 

 

Easy Moist Lemon, Rosemary and Cider Roast Chicken Recipe

“If the home is a body, the table is the heart, the beating centre, the sustainer of life and health.” 
Shauna Niequist

 

I’m still getting over the flu, so I’m tired and useless and have no energy or brain for anything much at all. But we had friends arriving home to our village who’ve just been away at a family funeral. The thought of them arriving to a cold dark house and an empty fridge was just wrong. Anyway, they’re the kind of friends who don’t mind if I’m in my pyjamas or if I served them toast for dinner. Don’t you just love friends like that!

So I roasted some chickens and teamed it with baked vegetables and coleslaw. A simple meal. Easy to prepare and delicious. It also has the added benefit of giving me leftovers, and chicken frames to make stock tomorrow. Here’s my easy chicken stock recipe. I love cooking more than we need. That way the leftovers give me easy meals for days without much effort. I can have a plate of cold roast vegetables, chicken and salad for lunch, or put them in a wrap or sandwich. I can use the chicken meat in curries, pasta, soups and stir-fries for dinner. I can even use the leftovers in an omelette or frittata. Sounds good, doesn’t it!.

The butter, herbs and cider in this recipe keep the chicken moist and tender, and the flavour is fantastic. (So is the smell of the chicken roasting!)

Confession – my coleslaw is a packet of shredded raw ingredients from the supermarket tossed with some dressing, and Ben has chopped up the vegetables for me. But easy is good and if it means healthy eating I’m all for that! Prep time for the entire meal was ten minutes.

Mother’s Day is just around the corner, and this meal is easy enough for non-cooks to create with confidence. Maybe you can bake it for your mum, or for you!

Ingredients

  • 1 or 2 whole chickens – preferably free range (I used two 1.5kg birds)
  • fresh rosemary – enough for a tablespoon of chopped leaves and a sprig to place in the cavity of the chicken (Want to use another herb? Try Thyme, Sage or Parsley)
  • 1 large lemon or two smaller ones – juice half and chop the other into quarters
  • 1 small onion cut in half (I used half an enormous onion and cut that in half again)
  • 2 tablespoons of butter per bird
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 small bottle of cider (about 1 and 1/2 cups)
  • olive oil

Method

1.Preheat your oven to moderate (180 degrees celcius or 350 degrees fahrenheit) – a little less if fan-forced.

2. Estimate your cooking time. You need 30 minutes for every 500 grams of body weight so a 1.5kg chicken will take 90 minutes to cook.

3. Lightly grease a large baking pan big enough to hold your chicken/s with olive oil

4. Wash the chickens well under cold running water, including the cavity and pat dry with a paper towel

5. Place chickens into the baking tray. Add the lemon, onion and sprig of herb to the cavity.

6. In a small saucepan (or you can microwave!) place the butter and lemon juice and gently melt together. Throw in the chopped herbs, mix well and then spoon over the chicken.

7. Season the top of the chicken with salt and freshly ground pepper.

8. Pour the bottle of cider into the bottom of the pan and place in the hot oven for thirty minutes.

9. After thirty minutes baste the chicken liberally by spooning the pan juices over the bird. Add any vegetables to the oven if you’re baking them.

10. Continue to baste the chicken at intervals of about fifteen minutes. This helps keep the meat moist and flavourful.

11. If the top of your chicken is browning too quickly cover with some aluminium foil and return to oven. (No need to baste further of you do this.)

12. After your cooking time is up check the chicken is cooked by seeing if the juices run clear when a knife or skewer inserted into the part of the chicken where the thigh meets the body. You can also test by gently easing the drumstick and thigh away from the body of the chicken and looking at the juices. There should be no pink at all.

13. Let the cooked chicken stand for ten minutes, and then serve. This helps the juices settle back into the meat so they don’t run everywhere when you carve the chicken, and it keeps the meat juicy and tender.

14. You can make a simple gravy with the pan juices if you want.

Fry-Up Bowl – An Easy Meal For Anytime!

 

“If you can eat with mates or friends or family, I mean, it’s such a brilliant thing isn’t it? If you feel really rubbish and you have a nice bit of food it makes you feel good, you know?” 
~  Jamie Oliver

 

Fry-Up Bowls are a favourite easy meal in our house.

To be honest they are not always 100% fried, and the ingredients often change, but they are always served in a bowl, so that’s something consistent I guess.

We eat this kind of food when a decent breakfast is called for. But it also works well for lunch and dinner, and is a fabulous way of using left-overs. In fact I often cook more food than can be eaten in one meal just so that I have left-overs to use at another. Don’t you?

Also, those potatoes? Totally worthy of being cooked ON THEIR OWN for immediate consumption when comfort food is called for or when the football is on!

Here are the basic ingredients:

Cold boiled potatoes or any leftover roast vegetables

Some chopped up green vegetables that I can quickly boil or fry

Salady things – chopped or ripped

Protein – This could be eggs; cold cooked meat from a previous meal; sausages, bacon, or any other meat that suits a quick fry-up.

Fermented Vegetables and a dab of butter to finish.

*Use variations of any of the above based on what you have to hand.

Method:

Squashed Crunchy Potatoes – Oh, we love these! I often boil up a heap of spuds, have some for dinner and then use others to chop into pasties or pies, to mash and add to the top of some savoury thing I’ve whipped up and some for fry-ups or as Squashed Crunchies. (Did I mention I’m the Queen of Leftovers?)

So, start with some boiled and well-drained or cold potatoes. Turn your oven up to HIGH and get out a heavy baking dish. Pour a good slug of oil into the pan and rub it around with your fingers to coat the bottom. Dump your cooked potato pieces into the oiled pan and then squash them down with your hand, the back of a spoon or a potato masher – whatever is closest. The potatoes will flatten and break up. Great! Now drizzle more oil over them and sprinkle with salt and a bit of herb (fresh or dried rosemary or oregano is good) and chuck them in the hot oven. Turn after ten minutes and cook again for another ten. You’ll end up with nice hot crispy potatoes that are still fluffy and soft in the middle.

While the spuds are baking put some hot water into a saucepan and bring to the boil (only do this if you aren’t frying everything – but know that frying everything is an option…) and get your frypan on. Add a little fat/oil to the frypan and then add any meat you are going to cook up or reheat.

Chop up any vegetables you’ll boil. I often use broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, brussel sprouts, carrots, green beans or asparagus. If you already have these as cooked vegetables from a previous meal you can reheat in the frypan. Put the hard texture vegetables in first – eg carrots and brussel sprouts (chop these dudes into halves or even quarters to speed cooking time) to give them a head-start with cooking. Add the broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini next and things like asparagus and beans just a few minutes before the rest are done. Drain when cooked and dump back into saucepan with a lid to keep warm. (Hint – I will often put an egg or two in their shells in with the vegetables if I couldn’t be bothered doing a fry up. When the vegetables are done just use a spoon to halve the eggs and scoop contents out onto your bowl of food. Three to four minutes for a soft yolk, longer for a hard yolk.)

Fry-up – your sausages, bacon or cold leftover meat will be well on its way to cooked or hot. Now you can add tomato, onion, mushroom, an egg or whatever else takes your fancy – or any vegetables that are pre-cooked and which need reheating. Turn occasionally to prevent sticking and allow even cooking.

To assemble:

Place some potato in bottom of bowl. Add some cooked vegetables and whatever you’ve fried up. Dab that butter on if you’re a butter kind of person. (Hint – pre-slicing cooked sausages or other meat makes eating it a whole lot better!) Add any salad items or chopped fresh herbs to the top, and a spoonful or two of fermented vegetables like kimchi or sauerkraut. Salt and pepper if you want. Eat!

 

Easy Puff Pastry Quiche

“Lunch makes me feel a bit better.” 
~  Suzanne Collins

 

Recently my friend Carly and I popped in to her parents’ house for lunch, and then a tour of her mum’s garden. Jewel made a lovely salad with fresh greens from her vegetable patch, and I took over a simple quiche that I’d whipped up from bits and pieces I had on hand.

(I also took a slab of my favourite fruit cake for us to have with a cup of tea. Rosco, Carly’s dad is a big fruitcake fan!)

Many years ago, when I was a college student, I worked in my holidays as a shearers’ cook on big outback sheep stations. The shearers and shed hands were mad for my quiche, but I didn’t dare call it that – far too fancy a name for them! Instead I called it Bacon and Egg Pie and they’d eat it with lashings of tomato sauce and not a lettuce leaf in sight.

This is a simple meal to throw together, and the puff pastry makes for a yummy texture combination with the silky egg filling.

Serve it warm or cold. It is also great for lunchboxes, will freeze well, or keeps in the fridge for three days.

You can also vary the filling to make this vegetarian, or to use up whatever is in your fridge.

I used a 24cm springform pan to cook my quiche, but you can use any dish that suits your fancy. Just make sure the sides are high enough to contain your filling.

Ingredients:

  • 2 sheets of puff pastry or enough to line your serving dish
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup of cream
  • 1 onion, diced and sauted in a little oil until soft but not brown
  • 1/2 to 1 cup of diced ham
  • 1/2 cup of diced swiss cheese (if you’re cheese mad use a little more)
  • 1/2 to 1 cup of thinly sliced zucchini
  • a handful of grated tasty cheese or parmesan for the top of your quiche
  • salt and pepper
  • a little oil or butter

Want to make this vegetarian? Omit the ham and use a cup of other vegetables of your choice. Capsicum (bell pepper) and broccoli are favourites of mine. Once you’ve made this quiche a few times you’ll be confident to change out the ingredients to make all kinds of flavour combinations.

Method:

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees celcius.

Rub a little oil or butter around the inside of your pie dish and then line it with the pastry making sure. It’s okay to cut pieces to fit. Just overlap them a little and then press them together well. Also make sure that the pastry goes high enough up the sides of your dish. (It’s even okay if it sticks over the top a little. Rustic is good too. Mine’s rustic because I only just had enough pastry to cover the dish roughly.) Then prick the pastry base all over with the tines of a fork.

Now use baking paper to line the inside of the pan, and add some pastry weights. I actually use uncooked brown rice. You could even use dry beans. This is called baking blind, and you do this to enable the base of the pastry to be firm instead of soggy.

Bake the pastry for 10 to 15 minutes and then remove from oven. Drop the temperature of your oven back down to 180 degrees or 170 degrees for fan-forced. Leave your pastry shell to cool for ten minutes and then carefully remove the paper and weights. Replace the shell back in the oven for a further 10 minutes or until the base is golden brown. (Don’t panic if it puffs up. The weight of your filling will sink it back down again.)

 

Prepare the filling for your quiche while your pie crust is in oven:

  1. Dice your onion and then saute the onion in a frypan until pale, soft and slightly coloured but not brown.
  2. Chop your cheese and ham into small cubes.
  3. Slice your zucchini or any other vegetables you are using.
  4. Break the eggs into a bowl, add the cream and beat together with a fork. Add salt and pepper and mix again.

To finish the quiche add the softened onion to the bottom of the pie. Then sprinkle the cheese and ham into the dish. Pout the egg mixture over and then add the zucchini slices to the top of the egg. Sprinkle a handful of grated cheese on top and return quiche to the oven. Bake for thirty minutes or until quiche is lightly coloured and firm to touch.

Serve on its own or with a crisp salad.

Here’s the process in pictures:

Honey Pepper Beef Marinade and Stirfry Recipe

pepper beef

“I just love Chinese food. My favourite dish is number 27.” ~ Clement Attlee

 

Note: Finally, the recipe I tried to post the other day! This is the one that kept uploading pictures of the beach, instead of my food pictures. How grateful I am now that this post was already written and only needed to have the pictures added, as we are still grief-stricken here at the farm, and missing our dear dog Bert so very much. I could barely think what to write this morning. Now that I’ve added these pictures we are taking Harry to the beach for a walk and then a coffee, as he is heartbroken at the loss of his brother. Thank you for all of your messages of love and support. They have been a great comfort to us. Anyway, read on. It really is a very tasty recipe…

 

This is a simple but really flavoursome dish. I’ve given quantities to serve four, but the recipe can easily be adjusted for fewer or more people.

The meat needs to be marinated for an hour minimum, but I prefer to leave it at least four or five hours for the flavour to deepen. I’ve also left the meat in the marinade for a few days, well refrigerated, and it was delicious when finally cooked.

If you want you can also use the marinade for steaks, chops and ribs. It goes equally well with beef, pork or lamb.

 

Marinade Ingredients:

2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper, 1 teaspoon of cornstarch/cornflour or arrowroot, Pinch of salt, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon sherry or Shaoxing wine, 1 teaspoon of honey, 1 teaspoon sesame oil

Other Ingredients:

500 grams thinly sliced beef strips

For the Stirfry:

Four cups of mixed vegetables, chopped into thin slices or cut into pieces. A slug of your favourite oil for cooking. Rice to serve.

Any of the following are good: onion, red onion, asparagus, snow peas, cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, capsicum (bell pepper), cabbage, carrots, egg-plant, zucchini, Chinese vegetables such as bok choi or pak choi, canned or fresh baby corn spears, bamboo shoots, water chestnut slices.

Keep fast-cooking vegetables like bok choi to one side, to cook last.

 

Method:

Combine the marinade ingredients and pour over the beef strips. Mix well. Cover and chill for at least an hour. Longer is better and will give a more tender and flavoursome result.

To cook:

Use a wok or a large frypan with high sides. Have your prepared vegetables ready and your rice done or close to done. You’ll also need a large clean bowl to hold the cooked beef strips. *Never return cooked meat to a marinade, and never put a used marinade on cooked food!

Place some oil in the pan and put it on to a high heat. You want to cook this fast and hot.

Place a handful of strip in the pan. They should sizzle. Stir them until browned, remove to a clean bowl and then repeat with the rest of the beef.

Add a little more oil to the pan and then dump in the vegetables that will take longer to cook. Stir for a few minutes over high heat until they are softening. Add in any remaining marinade. Stir well, and then add the beef back in to reheat. Stir to combine and wait til everything is piping hot. Finally, add the quick-cooking vegetables like your Asian greens to the top of the pan. Stir them through. It will only take a minute or so for them to soften down.

Remove from heat. Serve over rice. Enjoy!

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Bacon, Egg and Broccoli Slice

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“If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it yourself.”
~ Albert Einstein

 

I am a big fan of using simple ingredients thrown together to make easy meals. Meals that ANYONE can cook. (Even people with no cooking experience, and people who have rarely ventured into a kitchen or whose repertoire consists of toast, take-away and two-minute noodles. Yep, I’m talking to you, Ben!)

I make variations of this particular meal often. It tastes delicious fresh from the oven, but it’s also great cold and it makes a good lunchbox filler.

Here’s what you’ll need. Adjust your quantities up or down, depending on how many mouths you’re feeding or how many meals you’d like to get out of this dish!

Method:

Grab a high-sided baking dish. It doesn’t matter what shape it is. (Or you could use smaller individual dishes. But that’s a lot more washing up.) Line it with some baking paper so that there is less mess to clean up later.

Ingredients:

Broccoli. Bacon. Red capsicum (bell pepper). Fresh or canned corn. Feta or grated tasty cheese. Salt and pepper. Fresh parsley or green onion (Shallots).

Really, you can add so many kinds of fresh vegetables to this recipe. If they are hard vegetables like carrots – grate them to reduce cooking time. You can also use thin slices of pumpkin, sweet potato, potato.

Eggs. For my baking dish (30cm x 25 cm) I used 8 large eggs. You could use more! Some milk, soy milk, almond or rice milk to mix with it. I used about a cup. What you are essentially making is a simple custard.

*Oven:

When you have lined your baking tray preheat your oven to 180 degrees – 350 degrees fahrenheit. (If your oven is fan forced drop the temperature by 10 degrees.) Then go ahead and prepare the filling for your slice while the oven is heating.

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Chop your bacon into rough small pieces. Make sure you have removed the rind first or it will be really chewy. For my big baking dish I used 3 very big fat rashers, which gave me about a cup of bacon pieces. Use as much or as little bacon as you want. You can also substitute ham or cold roasted meats for the bacon. Vegetarians may enjoy using a seasoned tofu or tempeh.

Cut broccoli into small florets. Throw these directly into your paper-lined pan. When the base of the pan is well covered with broccoli you have enough. Cauliflower also works well, or do a combo!

Remove the corn kernels from a fresh cob or two, or use a small (or large if you are a corn fan!) can of corn.

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De-seed and chop up your capsicum (bell pepper).

Then chop up a good handful of parsley (only the leaves, not the stalks) or a couple of green onions (shallots).

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Throw all of that into your baking tray and then use a large spoon or clean hands to mix it all together so that the ingredients are evenly distributed.

Sprinkle a pinch of salt and a good grind of pepper over the top.

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Now crack your eggs into a large bowl and add the milk of your choice. Whisk it gently together with a fork so that the yolks become broken and everything is blended.

Add a half cup of crumbled feta or grated cheese to the top of the vegetable and bacon mixture. Try to spread it evenly. Go on – use a bit more cheese if cheese is your thing. 🙂

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Pour the egg mixture into the baking tray. Use the fork you whisked the eggs with to gently poke the vegetables a bit to make sure that the egg mixture goes all the way to the bottom of the baking tray.

You’ll still have a few bits poking up that didn’t get covered. That’s okay. It will still cook and taste fine.

If you over-calculated and have too much egg mixture make another quick small individual serve in a bowl or ramekin or even some muffin cases! Just chuck a few bits of vegetable and cheese and maybe a little extra bacon or ham in there. Note: If you use small dishes grease them well with a little butter or oil or the egg and cheese will stick!

If you don’t have enough egg mixture, whisk another egg or two with a splash more milk and pour over. Use your best guess but don’t get stressed about it. It takes practice to work out quantities well.

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Place baking dish into the oven and cook for forty minutes, or until golden and puffy on top and cooked through. You might want to check on the slice after thirty minutes baking time, just to see how it is going.

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Serve on its own, with a spoonful of your favourite relish or chutney, or with some green leaves or a salad.

Any leftovers will keep in the fridge for up to four days.

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PS – Ben, if you are reading this now, some time post my surgery in early September, you are an awesome husband and you have totally got this. It’s easy, babe. Promise!

Easy Tuscan Chicken Recipe

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“No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.”
~ Laurie Colwin

 

This is a simple meal to throw together, and a regular in our household. The flavours are wonderful and the chicken remains moist and fall-off-the-bone tender. I love to make this when friends come over for a casual dinner, or on a lazy Sunday afternoon for just the two of us so that we have plenty of leftovers to enjoy in the week ahead. (Keep in fridge for five days or up to three months in the freezer.)

My grandmother, Marga, taught me to make this dish when I was still at school. I can’t fail to make it now without thinking of her.  It’s a very versatile recipe, and can be served with all kinds of sides.

I’ve served this chicken with crusty bread and a glass of wine. I’ve chucked a tin of white beans and a couple of cups of sliced mushrooms into the pot an hour before the cooking was finished and made it into a one-pot meal. I’ve served it with a big fresh salad and cobs of corn. I’ve served it on a bed of rice, and also on a bed of pasta. I’ve served it with mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables, or a big pan of all manner of roasted vegetables. Work with what’s seasonal and fresh in your area right now, and what you and your family love. That way you can’t go wrong.

Do try and make this with chicken pieces that have bones. The flavour will be more robust and the longer cooking and the acid from the tomatoes will help leach all the fat-soluble minerals from the bones, as well as amino acids and the collagen and other nutrients from the meat, cartilage and tendons.

The recipe can also be easily halved, if you prefer.

Here’s last night’s leftovers, all set to go into the fridge. The photo below reminds me of so much of Marga, a fabulous cook who was always putting leftovers into re-purposed ice-cream or butter containers, ready to begin the makings of another meal.

I’ll pull all the meat off the bones tomorrow, and put it back into the sauce. Then it can be used as a ragu over pasta or vegetables, or even served warm for breakfast with a runny poached egg and a handful of fresh herbs on top.

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Ingredients:

2 kilograms (4.4 pounds) of chicken drumsticks or chicken pieces with the bones in, 1 small head of fresh garlic (about 12 cloves), 1 large brown onion, 1 cup of your favourite olives, 2 tins of diced tomatoes, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of dried oregano, 4 tablespoons of concentrated tomato paste, olive oil, two teaspoons of grated fresh lemon rind, salt and pepper

Method:

Separate the garlic cloves, crush lightly with the flat of a knife and remove the skins. Cut into halves or thirds. Chop the onion into a rough dice.

Heat a slug of oil in the bottom of a very large skillet or high-sided frying pan on medium to high heat. Brown the chicken in batches. The chicken doesn’t need to be cooked through. You simply need to brown the skin and outer flesh. Place chicken to one side.

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Pop the garlic and onion into the pan and reduce heat. Stir until soft and fragrant and then add in the olives and the oregano. Stir some more.

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Now dump in one teaspoon of the grated lemon zest, the tomatoes and the tomato paste. Give a good grind of pepper and a sprinkle of salt and stir well.

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Add the chicken pieces back in, making sure that they are well covered with sauce. Add a lid and cook over low slow heat for four hours, turning occasionally.

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This can also be cooked successfully in a slow cooker for the same length of time.

Just before serving taste the sauce. Add in the extra teaspoon of lemon zest to freshen up the flavour and adjust salt and pepper if needed.

Serve and enjoy!

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