Easy Oven Baked Whole Potatoes

“Not everyone can be a truffle. Most of us are potatoes. And a potato is a very good thing to be.” 
~ Massimo Bottura

I love baked potatoes. They go well as a side dish for barbeques and salads, but you can also load them up with toppings and have them as a meal on their own.

The potatoes are quick to prepare but need around an hour to cook. It’s well worth it. The end result is a chewy crispy crust and a fluffy steaming interior, ready for a dab of butter and some chopped herbs or whatever else is your pleasure.

They’re also delicious cold and chopped into a salad.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large potato per person
  • olive oil
  • salt

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to hot – about 200 degrees celcius or 400 degrees fahrenheit
  2. Line a baking tray with foil.
  3. Cut out any blemishes from the potatoes, wash with water and pat dry with a cloth or paper towel.
  4. Prick the potatoes several times with a fork or skewer. This helps steam escape.
  5. Rub the potatoes all over with olive oil. Place on the tray and sprinkle with salt.
  6. Place in the oven and cook an hour minutes, turning once or twice during that time. Check doneness with a fork or skewer. It should be tender inside. Bigger potatoes may take longer to cook through.
  7. Eat with gusto!

Great toppings for your baked potatoes:

Tip: If you use cheese as a topping consider popping filled potatoes under a hot grill or back into the oven for a few minutes to melt the cheese!

  • Sour cream, butter or yoghurt and some chopped fresh herbs
  • Guacamole and salsa
  • Cooked bacon, cheese and chives
  • Baked beans, a fried egg and some cheddar cheese
  • Pizza sauce, pepperoni and mozzarella cheese
  • Basil, fetta cheese, red onion and sliced black olives
  • Leftovers smothered in cheese
  • Ham, tomato and cheese
  • Bean salad and dressing
  • Hummus, sliced red onion and some rocket (arugula)
  • Baba ganoush, a dollop of yoghurt and some fresh mint

Easy Stuffed Capsicum Bell Pepper Recipe

“The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found.” 
~ Calvin Trillin

I’m crazy for leftovers. There is something completely satisfying about cooking a large batch of something and then being able to make easy meals for days. One of our favourite easy meals is leftovers stuffed into capsicum (bell peppers) and baked, with cheese added near the end for some satisfying melty goodness. When you bake red capsicums they end up so sweet and tender. Yum!

Whenever I cook up a pot of Chilli Con Carne or make Spaghetti Bolognese sauce or my Cheesy Bean Pie I’ll make a double batch and freeze portions for emergency meals or to give to friends and family who need extra love and care. I also keep some in the fridge to use during the week when I’m tired and need something fast to prepare and good to eat. In fact almost everything I cook is a big enough serve to have leftovers for breakfast or lunch the next day. It saves on cooking and washing up and helps stretch ingredients further.

Ingredients:

  • cold leftover meat or bean dish
  • cheese that melts well
  • red capsicum/ bell peppers
  • fresh herbs as a garnish if you could be bothered or a little sprinkle of smoked paprika or cracked black pepper
  • a tossed salad or fresh bread or toast or corn chips as a side

You can use any left-over meat or bean dish. Feel free to mix cooked cold rice, vegetables or pasta in too. I’ve also used diced cold roast meat and vegetables, leftover cold mashed potato and peas with sausages, even cold curry and rice will do.

No leftovers? Try a tin of beans, tofu or tempeh with some salsa and chopped onion. Grated fresh vegetables with cheese also works a treat. So does my Easy Baked Egg Recipe.

Method:

Preheat your oven to moderate (170 degree celcius fan-forced or 180 degree oven – 350 degrees fahrenheit).

Cut the capsicum in half lengthways or if you have a good shape that sits nicely on its bottom chop off the stalk end. Remove any stalk and the seeds and white pith with your fingers or a small sharp knife.

Stuff the capsicums and place them in a greased dish with high sides. Place in the oven for about twenty minutes if you chopped them in half longways. You’ll need forty minutes if your capsicums are whole ones. The longer you leave them the softer and sweeter the capsicum will become. (It’s fine to turn the oven right down too and hold them until you’re ready to eat them. I left these ones in the oven over an hour before cheesing them because we had to chase a calf that had snuck into my vegetable garden!) Add your cheese to the top of the capsicums and return to oven at moderate temperature for another ten to fifteen minutes or until cheese is melted nicely.

Remove from oven and cool slightly. Transfer to serving plates. Sprinkle with a little smoked paprika, cracked pepper or fresh diced herbs if you’re feeling fancy. Enjoy!

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.

Home, after Rain

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“There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.”~ Jane Austen

I’m home. I slept last night in my own bed. After so long in the city it was good beyond measure to be here at my little farm, surrounded by a thick blanket of peace and the sounds of night; cattle lowing, croaking frogs, the grunts of the koalas and the cries of the owl.

I woke just before 4am, as is my wont, to meditate for a dear friend and her 99-year-old father who  is in his final days. The air was fresh and cool against my skin, and so quiet you could almost hear the earth breathing in and out. My wise owl sat just above me in the Jacaranda, and we communed together a while.

Now the sun is up, and there are the first stirrings of the day.  The world is waking to the sound of the Magpies, Black Cockatoos and Kookaburras, who seem especially joyful this morning.

There is heavy mist, and the air is moist and humid. All around me is lush greenery, and everything is bursting forth buds and new growth.

There’s more rain coming. The creeks and rivers are already turgid and brown.  It won’t take much for them to burst their banks. We’re keeping one eye on the weather, and our bags will stay packed, ready to leave so that we won’t be flooded in again.

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The cows and their calves are fat as butter from the flush of fresh feed, and Mama Possum and her baby banged around on the roof last night to let us know they were here so that I would leave fruit out for them this morning.

I was worried everything would have rotted in the vegetable garden, but I found a handful of heritage French Breakfast radishes to add to my morning juice, and my parsley, mint, passionfruit, citrus and guavas are all going mad.  Hooray!

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I can’t stop smiling, and neither can the dogs. We’re home. Free to ramble through the paddocks, to breathe in the good, clean country air, to say hello to all our friends and neighbours, and to just be.

There is something so comforting about being home.  I’m glad you got to share some of this good energy with me.

Sending you much love, Nicole. Bless ♥ xx

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Spicy Calamari Stir Fry Recipe

I find cooking to be one of the most grounding and nurturing activities in my sometimes crazy life. This is a fantastically easy and tasty recipe that works equally well for squid/calamari, firm white fish fillets, tofu, chicken or pork. Pair it with a white wine, beer or a smoky tea. And please think about where your food comes from. Organic,free-range, local and seasonal produce is always best.

This recipe will provide three generous serves, or four if you are not ravenous. It’s not a hard and fast kind of a recipe – so feel free to vary quantities and ingredients to suit yourself.

Ingredients for marinade: One big teaspoon of honey, the juice of a freshly squeezed lime or lemon, an inch of ginger knob grated or finely chopped, two cloves of garlic crushed, 1/3 of a cup of soy sauce, a teaspoon of Chinese Five Spice powder (buy it ready-made or make your own with this easy recipe)  If you like chilli, feel free to add some in to your taste requirements.

Method: Mix all ingredients together in a large shallow bowl, big enough to hold the scored squid or other meat/tofu.

To prepare Calamari for marinade: Take your cleaned calamari (squid tubes) and use a knife to open them out flat, cutting into two halves along the natural seams. Score the inner surface in a criss-cross pattern with a sharp knife, being careful not to cut all the way through.  Lay each piece in the marinade, coating well.  Leave for one hour or more, returning to refrigerator.

***Timing Hint:  This is great served with steamed rice, so get that going before you assemble the rest of the dish.  The actual cooking time for the vegetables is ten minutes tops, and the calamari takes about two minutes on either side on the barbeque or on a heated griddle pan. So just before you add in your soft vegetables/leaves to the stir fry, make sure you’ve cooked your calamari so it’s ready to go when you need it.

To cook the Calamari:  Heat your barbeque or a heavy bottomed skillet or griddle. Oil if necessary.  Put the pieces onto the hot grill.  Don’t worry if they curl up.  After two minutes turn.  After another two minutes remove from heat.  Don’t cook too long or it will be chewy rather than tender.  If you’re unsure test a bit. Slice into rings ready to add to the vegetables.

Note – If you have a husband like mine, who is “in charge of the barbeque”, he may end up taking credit for this dish, even if his only job was heating the grill and turning the prepared product!

Stir Fried Vegetable Ingredients: If you are on a low carb diet use around six to eight cups of chopped/sliced mixed vegetables. Four will be fine if you intend to eat this with rice.  Sticking with my personal philosophy of fresh and seasonal, I am using a little over 2 cups of fresh button mushrooms, (knowing that I will eat some while they are cooking!), 2 large bok choi and some fresh spinach straight from my garden, and two sticks of celery. You also need a knob of butter, a teaspoon of sesame oil if you have it, a teaspoon of cornflour, two cloves of garlic crushed or finely chopped, an inch or so of peeled ginger root sliced finely, some water, pepper, a handful of cashew nuts, and a slurp of soy sauce.

Method:  In a large fry pan, heat the butter with a quarter cup or so of water, then dump in the mushrooms, garlic and ginger.  Use a high heat and stir often. Don’t be afraid to add more water if the pan dries out. Use the picture below as a guide to the liquid levels you need. You want to saute the mushrooms until they take on the flavours of the garlic and ginger. Feel free to eat a few as you go! Grind a little pepper over the top to taste.  (Sadly, after this pic was taken I had to add another large cup of mushrooms because I had already eaten so many!)  I must also add that this particular dinner tasted extra good because my friend Carly-Jay Metcalfe, our visiting poet, did most of the stirring in this stir fry!

Now add any firm vegetables such as broccoli or cauliflower that will take a little longer to cook.  Lastly add the vegetables that will cook in a flash, like Asian greens, snow peas, asparagus etc. as well as your sesame oil. Stir well over a high heat. Check the liquid in the pan.  Add the cornflour to a 1/2 cup of water, mix well and then stir through to thicken the pan juices. Add a slurp of soy sauce for some saltiness, and a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime.

Dump in your calamari and the cashews and stir to combine.  Remove from heat. Serve with rice or on its own.

Garnish:   A wedge of lemon or lime is a nice touch.  I would have added some chopped coriander (cilantro) on top as a garnish, but our resident wild mumma wallaby and her baby ate it all! (see picture to left)  As fast as it shoots back they mow it to the ground.

Herb Thieves: The wallabies are too cute for me ever to be mad at them, no matter how much of my garden they nibble.  Enjoy!