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Lunch

Eggplants are on! It’s another polarising vegetable, isn’t it? I grew up on a very Anglo diet and never heard of or saw an eggplant until I was… I dunno… an adult at least.

That makes eggplant a challenge for me. But I have friends who lurrrve eggplant, so help is close at hand. While I’m still working eggplant out, Kat is all over it and put this little beauty of a dish together this week. It even includes fennel… another of those polarising vegetables. Double winning!

Unlike eggplant, I really don’t understand why fennel is so controversial. It’s the most marvellous thing. I only discovered it within the last five years. I was dubious at first, but now I’m mad for it. Raw or roasted, I just love it.

If you’re still on the fence about either veg, this is a great recipe to try. Not the prettiest dish, but certainly delicious!

Stuffed eggplant

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Serves: 4 Prep Time: Cooking Time:

Ingredients

  • 2 medium to large eggplants, topped
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1 extra teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried or a small handful of fresh oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried or small handful of fresh thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 can white or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 10 to 15 cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Freshly chopped parsley to garnish

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC.
  2. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
  3. Slice the eggplants lengthwise, score the flesh in a diamond pattern, without poking through the skin.
  4. Brush 1 teaspoon of the oil on each eggplant half and place them cut side down on the baking paper. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the eggplant is tender.
  5. In the meantime, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in your favourite frying pan.
  6. Add the fennel, oregano, thyme, garlic and salt and cook over medium to high heat for 5 minutes, until it starts to caramelise.
  7. Add 1/2 cup of water and continue cooking for another 5 minutes, until the fennel starts to soften.
  8. Add the beans, cherry tomatoes and balsamic vinegar and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  9. Top the roasted eggplant with the fennel and white bean mixture, sprinkle with the parsley and serve warm.
7 February, 2019 0 comment
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Recipe day this week was waaaaaay too hot to turn on an oven or hotplate. Like, seriously.

So Kat made this salad. Pretty much just made it up on the spot, then we shoved it in our bellies and it was perfect for a summer lunch.

Just perfect.

Make sure you don’t mix the feta into the salad until right before you eat it, so it doesn’t get soggy. It gives a fantastic contrasting texture and flavour to the rest of the dish.

Watermelon & cucumber salad

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Serves: 4 Prep Time:

Ingredients

  • 1/4 watermelon, cut into chunks
  • 2 cucumbers, halved lengthwise and cut into thick slices
  • 1 cup mint leaves, finely sliced
  • 180g, of feta cheese, cut into cubes or crumbled
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablesoolive oil

Instructions

  1. Combine watermelon, cucumber and mint leaves in a bowl.
  2. In a jug or bowl, whisk together the lime juice, maple syrup and olive oil.
  3. Just before serving, sprinkle the feta over the watermelon and cucumber, then drizzle with the dressing.
31 January, 2019 0 comment
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I almost always have a half-used packet of puff pastry in my freezer, but now that I’ve tried these curry puffs, I’ve added another dish to my arsenal for using up pastry.

I thought curry puffs were complicated. Ha! How wrong I was. Kat whipped these up in a jiffy. A great tip is to boil the potatoes in advance and let them cool and dry out. It will keep the moisture to a minimum and give you crispy pastry. It also means making the puffs themselves takes a fraction of the time.

The spice load in this recipe is pretty conservative. Feel free to throw more in, if that’s what floats your boat. You could also use pretty much whatever veggies you have at hand.

This is another great idea to cook in advance, then keep handy in the fridge or freezer for lunches, light meals or picnics.

Curry puffs

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Serves: 16 pieces Prep Time: Cooking Time:

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 500gm potatoes, scrubbed and diced into 1cm pieces
  • 3-4 chard or silverbeet leaves, stems removed and shredded
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoon curry powder
  • 4 sheets puff pastry, defrosted
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 cucumber finely diced
  • 1 cup yoghurt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder

Instructions

  1. Boil the potato pieces until almost completely cooked. Drain and allow to cool.
  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the onion, potato and carrot for a few minutes until all the ingredients start to soften. Add the chard, salt and curry powder and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Adjust the seasoning to taste.
  3. Heat the oven to 190ºC. Cut the pastry sheets into quarters and place a large spoon of the filling in the centre of each.
  4. Brush the pastry edges with egg and fold into triangular parcels, pushing the filling into the corners and crimping the edges with a fork. Brush the top of each triangular pastry with more beaten egg and place on a lined baking tray.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool slightly and serve with a little of the cucumber raita.

For the raita:

  1. Combine the yoghurt, cucumber and cumin and add salt to taste.
24 January, 2019 0 comment
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Soooo many ways to eat zucchini! But I’d bet most of us cook it. Baked, barbequed, in a pasta, in a casserole, in a soup, in a quiche. Even making zucchini noodles. Oh my, but zucchini is a versatile veg to cook.

Fewer of us would think to eat it raw. It is fantastic in salads. Yes, OK, we have cucumber for salads in summer, but don’t ignore the humble zucchini because of your love for cucumber. And can cucumber do this?? No, that’s right. It can’t.

This recipe is super quick and so very tasty. Once again, it’s all in the dressing. As Kat remarked, who would have thought that a bit of lemon and mustard could create so many delicious and simple meals? And then I said, I know, right?

Make this right before eating. If you let it sit too long, the zucchini will start to sweat and soften too much.

Simple zucchini salad

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Serves: 1 as a meal or 2 as a side salad Prep Time:

Ingredients

  • 2 zucchini, peeled into thick ribbons
  • 1/4 cup raw walnuts
  • 1/4 cup parmesan flakes
  • 1/2 bunch parsley, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Preheat a small frying pan over a low to medium heat.

Add the walnuts and lightly toast. Keep the walnuts moving so they don’t burn. When they are ready and smelling toasty, put them aside.

In a medium to large bowl, whisk together the extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, mustard, salt and pepper until well combined.

Add the zucchini ribbons and parsley to the bowl and gently toss with the dressing. Using your hands works best.

Transfer the dressed zucchini and parsley into a serving bowl and sprinkle over the toasted walnuts and parmesan cheese.

10 January, 2019 0 comment
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Continuing with our approach to recipes (keep it simple, with a twist), this recipe for potato salad will astound you.

Potato salad for me was always trotted out at barbeques and I associate it with being heavy, sometimes gluggy, sometimes dry and too vinegary. I’ve not really been a huge fan, frankly.

But once again, Kat has found a way to reignite my interest in dredging up an old food memory and enjoying it with fresh tastebuds. If you’ve got blokey blokes in your family who love their carbs but you find potato salad too heart-attack inducing, this version will please all of you. The dressing is light and tangy, but it’s still reminiscent of those potato salads drowned in mayo of old.

It’s quite an 80s sort of dish, don’t you think? So we decided it should be served in a glass bowl. Voilà: an homage to the 80s barbeque with a 2019 update.

Potato salad with yoghurt dressing

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Serves: 4 Prep Time: Cooking Time:

Ingredients

  • 5 medium potatoes, scrubbed, cut into chunks
  • 1 red onion, finely sliced
  • half bunch parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 cup Greek yoghurt (we used Tilba Real Dairy plain yoghurt - perfect)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons wholegrain mustard
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Boil the potatoes until cooked, drain and allow to cool completely.
  2. Combine the potatoes, onion and parsley in a large bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl or jug, thoroughly combine yoghurt, oil, mustards, vinegar and honey. Season with salt to taste.
  4. Pour over the potatoes and mix well.
3 January, 2019 0 comment
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[in full Oprah voice] AAASPAAARAAAGAAAS!!!

Such a tricky thing to grow and this season, the weather has been making it particularly tricky for Don the asparagus man out at Cooma. He brings it to the SAGE Farmers Market when it’s on, so I make sure he puts enough in the van for LocalTable when he comes to town.

If you’ve eaten asparagus from a supermarket lately, then you will be blown away by the difference between those tasteless, hard, chewy things and these tender spears of heaven. My tippity-top favourite way to eat them is lightly sautéed in butter with lemon juice, pepper and parmesan, but these tarts with caramelised red onion that Kat made are real contenders for the top spot.

Cheese, caramelised onion & asparagus tarts

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Serves: 4 Prep Time: Cooking Time:

Ingredients

  • 3 red onions, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 250g ricotta cheese
  • 100g fetta cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lemon rind, grated
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 2 sheets puff pastry
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter

Instructions

First, get those onions caramelising. Use up the bottom half of the asparagus spears by slicing them thinly and caramelising them with the onion.

  1. Heat your favourite small frying pan over a low heat and pour in the oil.
  2. Add the onions and sliced asparagus bottoms with a good pinch of salt and cook very slowly for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent them from sticking to the pan. This must be done slowly over a low heat!
  3. When the onions are soft, add the sugar and balsamic. Continue to cook over a low heat for a further 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until sticky and caramelised.
  4. Remove from the heat and let cool (stick it in the freezer if you’re in a rush).

Now make the tarts.

  1. Preheat the oven to 220ºC and line two trays with baking paper, lightly greased with oil or butter.
  2. Combine the cheeses, parsley, and lemon rind in a bowl and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Cut each pastry sheet in half and place the 4 sections on the lined trays. Score a 1cm border around each sheet (don’t cut all the way through).
  4. Divide the caramelised onion mixture between the pastry sheets and spread to the scored lines. Repeat with the cheese mixture and arrange the asparagus tops on top.
  5. Brush some melted butter around the pastry edges and bake for around 15 minutes or until golden brown. Allow to cool slightly before removing from baking paper.
20 December, 2018 0 comment
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After Kat made those scrumptious roasted summer vegetables, she decided to make it into a soup, just because.

So we snacked on some of the veggies, picking out and eating all the carrots, because she didn’t want them to make the soup an icky colour, then we finished them off for lunch in liquid form!

I swear, that soup was something else. I am going to roast vegetables before making vegetable soup a lot more often from now on.

Roast vegetable soup

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Serves: 4 Prep Time: Cooking Time:

Ingredients

  • 3 medium potatoes
  • 1 large fennel bulb
  • 1 onion
  • 6 small cloves of garlic
  • Oil for roasting
  • 2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper
  • sprig of rosemary
  • 1 cup vegetable stock

Instructions

  1. Roast the vegetables as described in this recipe.
  2. Place the roasted veggies in a blender or food processor and blend, adding stock slowly until desired consistency is reached.
  3. If you’d like it runnier after adding all the stock, keep adding water in small amounts.
  4. Heat and serve.
13 December, 2018 0 comment
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These spring rolls are the first spring rolls Kat has ever made and they were a-m-a-z-i-n-g. Look how perfectly she fried them!!

Sometimes we avoid cooking certain things because we think they’re beyond us, but I watched Kat make these and thought “hmmmm, I reckon I could do that”.

Funny how all it takes to get over a hurdle is to just see if you can jump it.

Having eaten this dish, I’m already thinking about what other variations I can make. You can put all sorts of different veggies in these things. But whatever you do, make sure you use an oil that’s recommended for high temperatures and make sure it’s hot when you put those babies in.

This is another really good idea for kids. They love anything fried, amiright? And guaranteed, these will go down better than the slightly soggy spring rolls you get from the take away. Just watch out when you bite into them! No traumatising mouth scalding, please.

Spring rolls

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Serves: 6 Prep Time: Cooking Time:

Ingredients

  • 2 carrots, scrubbed and grated
  • 4 cabbage leaves, finely shredded
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 100g vermicelli noodles
  • 2 tablespoons tamari sauce
  • 2 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 12 sheets spring roll pastry
  • Small quantity of water mixed with a little cornstarch
  • Peanut or rice bran oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Defrost 12 sheets of spring roll pastry under a damp tea towel so the edges don’t dry out.
  2. Soak the noodles in boiling water for 10 mins. Drain and use scissors to cut into smaller lengths.
  3. Heat 2 tablespoons of peanut oil in wok and add the carrot, cabbage, onion, garlic, noodles and tamari. Cook for about 5 mins or until vegetables are soft.

To wrap the spring rolls:

  1. Place a sheet like diamond on a clean surface and place 2 tablespoons of filling in the nearest corner.
  2. Start to tightly roll the wrapper, fold over left side, then fold over right side. Paint a little of the cornstarch mixture along the edge and close it up.

When all the vegetable mixture is used up:

  1. Heat the peanut or rice bran oil in wok to high temperature. You’ll need enough oil to almost cover the spring rolls.
  2. Cook the spring rolls in batches, turning to ensure both sides are golden brown.
  3. Place on a cooling rack for a few minutes to drain excess oil.
  4. Serve hot and crispy with your favourite Asian dipping sauce.
6 December, 2018 0 comment
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Cooking and preparing meals is about simplicity. I really believe that Australia’s long-running obsession with cooking shows is because we know we’ll never make what they make on the telly. We get to watch our gourmet chef fantasy played out by others, saving us the trouble to actually do it. Most of us make meals that we know the family will eat, that we can make in our sleep and are easy. Or is it just me? Maybe I’ve said too much.

Point is, simple doesn’t have to be repetitive or boring. What I’ve learned from my friends who are accomplished home cooks is that it only takes a small twist in a recipe to make a new meal.

Take coleslaw. Cabbage, carrot, parsley in a mayonnaise dressing. So familiar, it’s unremarkable. But change the dressing and suddenly I feel like making coleslaw. Kat said that her dressing could have been more mayo-like if I had a better food processor, so it looks a bit chunky in the photo, but I can tell you it tasted great and I don’t care about the creaminess.

The kids still ate it. Bonus.

Coleslaw with cashew dressing

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Serves: 4 Prep Time:

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cabbage, shredded
  • 3 carrots, scrubbed and grated
  • 1 small bunch parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight (or soaked in hot water for an hour)
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Combine cabbage, carrot and parsley in a large bowl.
  2. Drain and rinse soaked cashews. Place cashews in a food processor with apple cider vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, salt and pepper and 1/4 cup of water. Blend on high speed until creamy. Add more water to reach desired consistency.
  3. Pour over the salad and mix well.
6 December, 2018 0 comment
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Spring and leafy veg. Sometimes it feels like spring is leafy veg. There sure is a lot of it, just as in summer, there’s a lot of fruiting veg. It is what it is, so that’s what we eat.

Luckily, we have some talented market gardeners who can bring other crops to harvest earlier than we can, so we’re not stuck with just greens, but it can be a challenge to keep up the variety in our meals at this time of year.

Enter: vegetable muffins!! Another genius Kat idea that I would never have come up with.

These are a brilliant (and delicious!) way to use up more vegetables for lunch or a snack. Great to have ready to grab for work or school.

I’m starting to sound like a morning television show cooking segment. God forbid.

Vegetable & goat's cheese muffins

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Serves: 12 muffins Prep Time: Cooking Time:

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups plain flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 40g parmesan, finely grated
  • 70g cheddar, finely grated
  • 3-4 chard leaves, finely shredded
  • 2 carrots, scrubbed and finely grated
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 150g goat's cheese
  • handful each of sesame and pumpkin seeds

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 180ºC.
  2. Pour milk and oil into a mixing bowl. Crack in the eggs and whisk together.
  3. Fold in the flour and baking powder, then the cheddar and parmesan, then the vegetables.
  4. Season to taste with salt (optional).
  5. Line a muffin tray with 12 paper cases (using greaseproof paper cases is a good idea), then half fill them with the muffin batter.
  6. Crumble the goat’s cheese onto each muffin, then spoon the remaining batter on top. Make sure the goat’s cheese is completely covered.
  7. Sprinkle with the sesame and pumpkin seeds.
  8. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes (check by piercing with a skewer after 20 minutes) until golden. After removing from the oven, let the muffins rest in the tray for about 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool. They’re good to eat warm or cold.

 

Notes

If you think the batter looks a bit too stiff, mix in a little more milk in very small increments until it has the consistency you think it should be before you fill the paper cases.

22 November, 2018 0 comment
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