Spanakopita

We plant spinach or silverbeet in our garden pretty much every year, and each year, it goes crazy! Then, I am left figuring out new and exciting ways to incorporate it into our week of meals. Often it will be added to a risotto or served alongside eggs or added into a smoothie, but spinach and silverbeet are something that I find the kids don’t love raw, ie. a lettuce based salad is much better received than a spinach based salad. Enter spanikopita.

The filo pastry lining the dish, with plenty of overhang, ready for the filling

Spanikopita is Greek for ‘spinach pie’ and there are quite a few variations of how it can be made, but mine uses a good chunk of the spinach or silverbeet in the garden, eggs from the chickens, as well as fresh herbs. I have been known to use beetroot leaves too, and it works just as well.

The filling in the pastry

Do the kids really love it? Well, yes! Mark does, and will happily gobble up any leftovers the next day. The girls will happily try it and very much enjoy the pastry, and will often finish off a good amount of their piece. I don’t push it, but we do insist that they try what’s on their plate, and I will continue to make this as I am pretty certain that with time, they too will love it.

Ready for the oven

Spanikopita is a great meal for vegetarians, as it contains a good source of protein, from the eggs, cheese and spinach. The greens are also a rich source of plant based iron. Leftover spanikopita can be enjoyed for a couple of days, although, I definitely recommend taking the extra time to reheat it in the oven and crisp up the filo pastry.

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

Serves 6

  • 4 cups spinach or silverbeet, finely chopped, washed and dried
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 2 spring onions, sliced
  • 5 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 375g ricotta cheese
  • 2 tbs mint, chopped
  • 2 tbs dill, chopped
  • 2 tbs parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
  • 100g feta
  • 8-10 sheets filo pastry

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
  2. Place the dried spinach into a large bowl, add salt and massage through leaves for ~ 1 minute. The salt will cause the spinach to wilt, without adding the extra moisture that cooking the spinach would. Set aside.
  3. Heat a medium sized frypan over medium heat and add a drizzle of olive oil, along with the leek and spring onions, cook for 3-4 minutes or until translucent. Remove from heat.
  4. In a bowl, mix together the eggs, ricotta, herbs, nutmeg, parmesan and lemon zest.
  5. Add the egg mix to the spinach, along with the leek and spring onions. Mix well to combine. Crumble the feta and gently fold through.
  6. Using a baking dish or skillet, prepare the pastry by laying down individual sheets of filo pastry, spraying or brushing with olive oil between layers. Overlap layers to allow the pastry to seal in the contents. Continue layering until the dish is covered, ensuring you leave some overhang.
  7. Place the spinach mixture inside the filo pastry and then fold the overhanging pastry back over the top of the spinach mixture.
  8. Place into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the filling is set and the filo pastry is golden brown.

Ham and Asparagus Frittata

First of all, Merry Christmas from my family to yours. I hope that everyone had a safe and enjoyable Christmas, and my heart goes out to those who were unable to share Christmas this year with loved ones, due to the year that has been, and the lockdowns, border closures and other barriers that have put limitations in place. Here’s for a better 2021!

So, here we are again, another Christmas done, guests have gone home, and we are now left with a fridge full of leftovers. The obvious option is the good old cold meat and salad for days on end, which is great, but can get a little but boring, especially for the kids.

Last night, I made a pasta salad using leftover roast turkey, and it was delicious. We have just finished up lunch, which was a spread of cold ham with condiments, leftover pasta from last night, a Peachy Caprese Salad, which is in my Salad e-book, some fresh sourdough bread and some other vegetables. With at least 500g of ham on the bone left, I will be making this Ham and Asparagus Frittata for dinner tonight. It is a good way to use up some of your leftover ham, as well as the eggs that we have accumulating, due to eggs not being on the menu due to Christmas, and the chickens continuing to do their thing and pump out an egg each day!

I made this frittata earlier in December and it was demolished, an absolute hit with the kids. If asparagus isn’t your thing, you could add in some roast pumpkin, zucchini or even some beetroot. You could even make it into a quiche, if you have a bit more time to make some pastry. I am all for the easy option at the moment, so we will be having it without the crust.

I hope you enjoy this really quick and easy meal. xx.

Ingredients:

  • 200g leftover Christmas ham, chopped
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 50g tasty cheese, grated
  • 1 bunch of asparagus, cut into thirds
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 tbs chives
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC and prepare a quiche dish.
  2. Heat a medium pan over medium heat, add the slice onion and cook until soft, ~5-6 minutes. Place into the base of the dish.
  3. Add the chopped ham and half of the asparagus to the dish and top with grated cheese.
  4. In a bowl, whisk the egg, chives and milk. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Pour the egg mix over the top of the ham, onion and asparagus. Top with the remaining asparagus and cook for 30-35 minutes or until the egg is set. Enjoy!

Chicken, Lemon and Mint Stir Fry

First of all, apologies for my lack of recipes being posted on here, I have been busy creating an e-book – Sensational Summer Salads, as well as finishing off the photography for my hard cover cookbook, and trying to juggle day-to-day life in the lead up to Christmas. I will have more recipes coming soon, I promise!

A stir fry has to be one of the quickest, easiest and most nutritious meals going around. This particular stir-fry has been jotted down on paper, photos taken, waiting for me to post it for at least 2-3 months, and now with Christmas just a few weeks away, this Chicken, Lemon and Mint Stir-Fry is the perfect mid-week meal to break up all the indulgences that come with Christmas.

Some of the main things I love about a stir fry are:

  • All the prep work can be done ahead of time – the marinating, the chopping, etc, leaving only the cooking to be done at the business end of the day, which takes less than 10 minutes.
  • They are suitable to all times of the year.
  • They can be enjoyed on their own or bulked out with rice or noodles.
  • They are SO full of flavour.
  • They can be adapted to utilise whatever vegetables you have on hand.
  • And the list goes on…

This Chicken, Lemon and Mint Stir Fry is light and fresh and the perfect stir fry for a warm Summer’s night. The mint combined with the lemon provides a freshness like no other. We have had this stir fry with soba noodles, hokkien noodles and also with rice and all work really well. Toasted cashews would also make a great addition just before serving.

The kids are usually pretty good with a stir fry. They will sometimes pick out the veggies they prefer and then other times eat the whole meal without complaints. A stir fry provides a great opportunity to offer kids vegetables that they may not usually like, along-side vegetables that they are comfortable with, offering the chance for them to try something new.

I hope you find this stir-fry as delicious as we do.

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

  • 500g chicken breast, cut into strips
  • 1 tbs ginger, finely grated
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Zest of 1 lime, finely grated
  • 1 tbs soy sauce
  • 2 tsp fish sauce
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 packet of ramen noodles
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 large carrot, cut diagonally
  • 1 small bunch of broccolini, halved
  • 2 stalks of celery, sliced
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 15-20 green beans, ends trimmed, halved
  • 15-20 snow peas, halved diagonally
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup mint leaves
  • 1 cup coriander leaves

Method:

  1. Make the chicken marinade by placing the ginger, garlic, lime zest, soy sauce, fish sauce and brown sugar into a bowl. Mix to combine. Add the chicken and mix to coat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
  2. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil and cook the ramen noodles as per the packet instructions, usually about 6-8 minutes. Drain, rinse and set aside.
  3. Heat a large wok over medium heat and add 1 tbs of oil of choice – olive oil, sesame oil and peanut oil all work well. Add the onion and cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes, then add the carrot and cook for a further minute.
  4. Add the chicken, allowing excess marinade to remain in the bowl to allow the chicken to brown. Cook until the chicken is all browned then add the broccollini and celery and cook for a further minute.
  5. Add the water to the remaining marinade and mix to combine, then add this all to the wok and stir to coat. Add the beans and snow peas and cook for another minute or so.
  6. Turn off the heat, stir through the noodles, along with the lemon juice, mint and coriander.
  7. Divide between bowls and enjoy.

Thai Fish Cakes

Thai fish cakes have to be one of the most flavourful foods I have eaten. So fresh and fragrant, these fish cakes are perfect as the weather is starting to warm up.

Ingredients for Thai Fish Cakes

I have had a few attempts at these fish cakes with different types of fish, using fish that is fresh and fish that has been frozen. From all of the trialling I have done, I have found that blue grenadier works best and using fresh fish as opposed to that which has been frozen, is definitely best. In one of my attempts, I used blue grenadier, which was frozen and I had allowed it to thaw. The freezing process resulted in it retaining a lot more moisture than the fresh fish. This meant that the mixture was too wet and when I cooked the fish cakes, they fell apart. So, if you are using frozen fish, ensure that you allow it to thaw completely and pat it dry, really well, with paper towel.

Thai fish cakes are really one of my favourite meals, but one that I have not made in a number of years, mainly because the kids were not too thrilled by them and all the different flavours going on. But, they are back on the menu, because if you don’t offer kids new foods, they won’t know if they like them, but if you offer the new foods, they might just eat them!! And they did! We have had these 3 or 4 times in the past couple of months and Mark LOVES them and they are growing on the girls more with each time we have them. We try to have fish at least once per week, so these have become one of our fish meals.

If you like a bit more bite to your Thai styled food, I would recommend adding some extra chilli into the fish cakes, as these are quite mild. You can also add a small red chilli into the dipping sauce, rather than the long chilli, for a real hit of heat. I, obviously, have gone easy on the chilli as I make these with small people in mind, but adjust them to your liking.

Thai Fish Cakes with dipping sauce and fried Chinese broccoli

These can be made ahead of time and formed into balls and kept in the fridge until needed.

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

  • 500g white fish, I used blue grenadier with the skin removed
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 stalk lemongrass, white part, finely chopped
  • 3 kaffir lime leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh coriander, loosely packed
  • 1-2 spring onions, finely sliced (optional)
  • 1/2 long red chilli, finely diced
  • 1 tbs red curry paste
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 4-5 green beans, finely sliced
  • 1 tbs ginger, grated
  • Zest of 1 lime, finely grated
  • 1 tsp fish sauce

Dipping Sauce:

  • 2 tbs castor sugar
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbs coriander root, finely chopped
  • 1/2 a long red chilli, finely chopped (optional)

Method:

  1. Ensure the fish is completely dry by patting it with paper towel and finely chop. Resist the temptation to put the fish in the food processor as it will result in a more rubbery textured fish cake. Place the chopped fish into a bowl.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well to combine.
  3. Take heaped tablespoons of mixture and form into balls. The mixture should make 10-12.
  4. Place in the fridge for at least an hour for the flavours to develop. Remove from the fridge about half an hour prior to cooking.
  5. Make the dipping sauce by placing all ingredients into a small saucepan. Bring to the boil, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and allow to bubble away for ~10 minutes until the sauce has thickened slightly. Remove from heat and set aside.
  6. Heat a large fry pan over medium heat. If the frypan is not non-stick, add a drizzle of olive oil and add the fish cakes to the pan, pressing them down gently until they are ~1.5-2cm thick. Cook for 3-4 minutes then carefully flip each fish cake and cook for a further 3-4 minutes on the other side.
  7. Serve immediately with the dipping sauce.

Roast Pumpkin, Pesto and Bocconcini Pasta Bake

Every now and then when I get completely uninspired with what to cook, I end up making a pasta bake of some sort with whatever we have in the fridge. This unplanned meal actually turned out to be quite delicious, hence while I’m sharing it. I have made this pasta bake using the remaining pasta we had in the pantry, however, my recommended pasta type to use would be spirals as they will ‘mop up’ more of the pesto.

A pasta bake is a great meal that can be prepared in advance and the baking completed when ready to eat, or even fully cooked and then reheated when needed. The bonus nutritional benefit with a pasta bake is the higher level of resistant starch, compared with a usual pasta meal. Resistant starch is a type of fibre that resists digestion, passing to the large bowel, largely digested, and feeds the ‘good’ bacteria, or probiotics, that reside in the large bowel. These probiotics, which are trillions of bacteria, make up the microbiome. When fed well, these bacteria thrive and produce short chain fatty acids, acetate, butyrate and propionate, which regulate the permeability of the intestinal wall, preventing molecules, such as endotoxins, passing this barrier to where they should not be. This process plays a role in helping to control inflammation within the body.

Pasta bake prior to cooking

You may ask why I have bothered pre-cooking the pumpkin in this dish when a pasta bake needs to cook for long enough to cook the pasta? Well, pumpkin, when roasted, gives a delicious caramelised flavour, which disperses throughout the whole dish. If you are short on time, you can omit the roasting of the pumpkin, but trust me, it’s better when roasted.

If you wish, this could be made into a simple pasta dish by skipping the baking step and cooking the pasta until al dente during the boiling process. If you choose to cook this dish in this way, I would recommend serving with a good handful of fresh rocket leaves.

Most meals that contain pasta are a hit in our household, and considering the kids often turn their noses up at pumpkin, the fact that they enjoyed this meal made me happy.

Enjoy xx

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups pumpkin, chopped into 1-2cm cubes
  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cups of pasta – spirals will work well
  • 3/4 cup of pesto
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 150g baby bocconcini
  • 1 cup reserved pasta water

Pesto:

  • 1 bunch basil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup of pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 tbs grated parmesan cheese
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a tray with baking paper.
  2. Place pumpkin cubes into a bowl and add olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place onto baking tray and bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown.
  3. Make pesto by placing all the ingredients into a food processor and blitz until combined. Set aside.
  4. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil. Once boiling, add the pasta and cook for 2 minutes less than what the packet says – the pasta will cook more in the oven and you don’t want the pasta overcooked. Add the broccoli florets for the final 2 minutes of pasta cooking.
  5. Once cooked, drain the pasta and broccoli, making sure you reserve 1 cup of the pasta water.
  6. Place the cooked pasta and broccoli into a large bowl, and add the roast pumpkin.
  7. Mix the reserved pasta water and pesto together and pour over the pasta mixture. Gently toss to combine.
  8. Place pasta mixture into baking dish and top with baby bocconcini and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese, if you with and bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and the cheese is nicely melted.

Slow Cooked Beef Cheeks with Salsa Verde

Winter is the perfect time to make full use of slow cooked meals, whether you have a slow cooker or not. Slow cooked meals are the perfect prepare ahead meal as they usually cook for many hours, meaning that the bulk of the work, which is usually very little, can be done in the morning, leaving very little to do just before dinner time.

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Beef cheeks are a delicious cut of meat and are quite affordable. They are rich, smooth, lean and tender when slow cooked. They used to be a whole lot cheaper before the demand for them increased with their use in restaurants. Beef cheeks are much better slow cooked than cooked any other way, and the salsa verde that is added at the end in this meal cuts through the richness of the sauce and the beef perfectly.

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Salsa verde, or ‘green sauce’, is a sauce that is made from a combination of herbs – parsley, basil and mint, as well as garlic, capers, anchovies, Dijon mustard, olive oil, lemon juice and red wine vinegar. The result is such a light fresh, flavoursome sauce that is so good with this beef, but also works extremely well with fish or potatoes.

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I’m sure you’re wondering, what about the kids, I bet they don’t eat it? Mark really enjoys this meal, except he’d prefer to not have the salsa verde, most likely due to the bite that the uncooked garlic provides. Claire is always a bit funny with meat, if it’s not mince, but she always eats a small amount and Elise is hit and miss, on one occasion, she loved the slow cooked meat and on another she wasn’t interested. Depending on your family, this may be a dinner that is better saved for the adults, but I like to get our kids to eat the food that we eat the majority of the time.

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I would usually serve these beef cheeks with mashed potato or parsnip, or a combination of the two, as well as some steamed greens.

Enjoy xx

Ingredients:

Serves 4-5

  • 375mL red wine – a heavier wine such as Shiraz or Cab Sav work well
  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1kg beef cheeks
  • 1 brown onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • Zest of 1 orange, cut off in strips
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 2 tbs cornflour to thicken

Salsa Verde

  • 1 cup flat leaf parsley, loosely packed
  • 3/4 cup basil leaves, loosely packed
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves, loosely packed
  • 1 tbs Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tsp baby capers
  • 1 anchovy
  • 2 tbs red wine vinegar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Method:

  1. Place the red wine into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and allow to simmer for ~10 minutes to reduce the wine. Remove from the heat after 10 minutes.
  2. Heat a frypan, or crockpot (if cooking on the stove or in the oven), over medium heat and add the olive oil and the beef cheeks. Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side to allow them to brown. Remove from heat.
  3. Place the onion in the frypan or crockpot and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, to give it some colour, add the garlic and cook for a further 1-2 minutes.
  4. Transfer the onion and garlic to the slow cooker or pot it will be cooked in and add the orange zest, bay leaves, thyme, stock and reduced red wine.
  5. Set the slow cooker to low and cook for at least 6 hours.
  6. If you are cooking on the stove top, cook, covered, over low heat for 3-4 hours or until the beef starts to fall apart. If cooking in the oven, cook, covered for 3-4 hours at ~140°C for 3-4 hours.
  7. While the beef is cooking, make the salsa by placing herbs, mustard, garlic, capers, anchovy and red wine vinegar in the small bowl of a food processor and pulse several times to chop the herbs. Add the lemon juice and olive oil and pulse a few times to combine. The salsa verde should not be completely smooth in consistency, so resist the temptation to over blend.
  8. After the 3-4 or 6 hours, depending on your cooking method, the beef should be very tender and starting to fall apart. At this point the liquid will still be quite thin.
  9. Remove 1 cup of liquid and add 2 tbs of cornflour to this 1 cup of liquid and mix to combine. Return this back into the slow cooker and mix gently to combine. This will help to thicken the sauce.
  10. Place the pot over low heat or increase the heat of the slow cooker and remove the lid and allow the liquid to bubble for around 5 minutes to help to further thicken the sauce.
  11. Serve the beef cheeks with mashed potato or parsnip and drizzle some salsa verde over the top.

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Slow Cooked Beef Pies

A wholesome, chunky, slow cooked pie makes the perfect dinner or weekend lunch, when the weather is cooler.

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It is so amazing how cooking a cheaper cut of meat for hours on end can turn into the most tender, flavoursome, melt in your mouth meal. Cheaper cuts of meat have higher levels of the protein collagen, which can be quite tough, but when slow cooked, the collagen is broken down into gelatin, which gives a much smoother mouth feel. I have used chuck steak for this this pie, but cuts such as skirt steak, gravy beef or shin would all work well.

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Homemade pies are well received in our household and the majority of the time the kids eat them without any fuss. These beef pies are rich and full of flavour and, if I must say so myself, one of the best pies I’ve tasted. If you wanted to add more veggies into this pie, potato or sweet potato would work well, as would some zucchini. I personally would prefer to leave it as it is and have a side salad for some extra veg.

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I have a pie maker, which makes the whole pie making process much simpler. It involves simply cutting out some pastry for the bottom, placing it in the pie maker, adding some filling and then adding the piece of pastry to the top. Think of a toasted sandwich maker but with a pie hole cut out and that’s what it is. It also meals that if you make more than you need for a particular meal, you can reheat the individual pies in the pie maker in about 5 minutes, rather than the best part of an hour in the oven, achieving perfectly crispy pastry every time. An investment well worth making!

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These pies can be made in a batch and frozen, then re-heated for another meal at a later date.

I hope you enjoy these pies as much as I do. xx

Ingredients:

Makes 6-7 small pies or 1-2 large pies

  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1kg chuck steak
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 large carrot, diced into 1cm cubes
  • 2 sticks celery, diced into 1cm cubes
  • 5 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 button mushrooms, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 2 tbs plain flour
  • Puff pastry – 1 sheet for family sized pie, 6 sheets for individual pies
  • 1 egg yolk (for family sized pie)

Method:

  1. Heat a medium fry pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the steak and brown each side for 3-4 minutes. *If your slow cooker has a sear function, do this step in the slow cooker.
  2. Once browned, place beef into the slow cooker and add the vegetables, herbs, garlic, wine, tomato paste and stock. Mix as best you can to roughly combine. Turn slow cooker to low heat and cook for 7-8 hours, stirring once or twice during this time (stirring is not essential).
  3. Once the cooking time has lapsed, gently pull the beef apart and mix to spread evenly through the mixture.
  4. At this point, you may need to thicken the mixture slightly to make it more of a gravy. To do this, you can either add some flour or evaporate some of the liquid.
  5. To evaporate some of the liquid, you can set your slow cooker to a higher setting and remove the lid and allow it to simmer until the sauce thickens.
  6. To make it more of a gravy, take about 1/2 a cup of the liquid out of the slow cooker and place into a small bowl, add the 2 tbs of flour and mix to form a paste. Add the paste back into the bulk mixture and mix to combine.
  7. PIE MAKER: If you have a pie maker, turn it on and cut out the pastry circles, place the bottom piece of pastry in the pie maker, add ~1/2 a cup of filling and then add top piece of pastry. Repeat with remaining pies. Cook until pastry is crispy.
  8. OVEN: Turn the oven on to 200°C and prepare a pie dish. Place filling into pie dish and brush the rim of the dish with some egg yolk to help the pastry to stick. Drape the sheet of pastry over the top and trim around the edges. Brush the top with remaining egg yolk and place into the oven and bake for 15 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and puffed.
  9. The pies will keep well in the refrigerator for 2-3 days and will freeze well for up to 3 months.

Roast Carrot and Lentil Salad

I made this salad on New Year’s Eve as a bit of a ‘throw together’ type salad and the feedback was exceptional. Everyone raved about it, so I thought it best that I write it up, which is always challenging when the original recipe was made up and not documented. So, last week, I made the salad again from what I could remember and here it is…

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Lentils make a great base for a more substantial salad. They are great source of both protein and carbohydrate, as well as providing a good amount of fibre and B vitamins. Lentils and other legumes should be included more regularly in most people’s diets, and are particularly important for those who choose to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet due to their iron, zinc and protein content, nutrients that are often lacking in a vegetarian or vegan diet.IMG_7974

Lentils are often overlooked as people aren’t always sure how to incorporate them into meals, however, regular consumption of pulses (at least 3 times per week) has actually been shown to decrease the risk of developing certain cancers, particularly, colorectal cancer, due to their high soluble fibre content, which helps to keep the bowels healthy and moving well. Salads, such as this one is a great use for lentils. Other ideas include adding some lentils into a bolognese sauce, making lentil burgers, or adding them to a curry or a stew. There are so many ways to include them regularly into the diet.

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The roasted chickpeas add a great crunch to this salad and really break up the texture of the lentils and roast vegetables well. The honey and cumin roasted carrot and pumpkin provide a sweetness and spice, which are complemented by the sweetness of the grapes. If you can’t get red grapes, pomegranate would make a good substitute.

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The components of this salad can all be prepared in advance and then assembled just before serving.

Enjoy xx

Ingredients:

  • 8 Dutch carrots, cut into 3cm pieces
  • 2 cups pumpkin, diced into 1-2cm cubes
  • 2 x 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbs honey
  • 1 tsp cumin, ground
  • 1 cup du Puy lentils
  • 400g chickpeas, roasted
  • 1/2 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 1/2 cups red grapes, halved
  • 1/2 cup of each coriander, mint and parsley, chopped
  • 1/4 cup pinenuts, toasted
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted

Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp honey

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C and line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
  2. Place chopped carrots and pumpkin into a bowl and add olive oil, honey and ground cumin. Toss to coat the vegetables then place onto one baking tray and cook for ~40-50 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven when cooked.
  3. Drain and rinse the chickpeas and dry well with paper towel or a tea towel. Place in a bowl and drizzle with 1 tbs of olive oil and season with salt a pepper. Place onto the second baking tray and bake for ~45-50 minutes or until dry and crunchy. Remove from the oven when cooked.
  4. While the vegetables are roasting, cook the lentils. Rinse the lentils and drain then add 1 1/2 cups of water. Heat on the stove top and bring to the boil, once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, until lentils are tender. Drain and rinse the lentils and allow to cool slightly.
  5. Place the lentils into a large bowl, along with the red onion and the herbs, reserving ~ 1 tbs of herbs for serving, then prepare the dressing by placing all ingredients in a small bowl or jar and mix/shake well to combine. Pour the dressing over the lentils and mix well to combine.
  6. Add the roast vegetables and grapes and gently toss to combine.
  7. Toast the pine nuts and pumpkin seeds in a small frypan over medium heat, stirring occasionally until lightly browned, ~1-2 minutes.
  8. Add half the nut/seed mix and half the roasted chickpeas to the lentils and toss gently to combine.
  9. Top with remaining nut/seed mix and chickpeas, as well as reserved herbs.
  10. Enjoy as a meal on its own or with some grilled chicken, barbecued meat or a piece of fish.

Fennel, Zucchini and Walnut Salad

Over the past few months, we have been enjoying a lot of salads, which I have just thrown together with whatever we have in the fridge and they have been turning out brilliantly. This is one of the ones that I actually documented what I did and thought I would share it.

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As with most salads, this one is a great one to pair with any sort of barbecued meat, chicken or fish and a good one to take to friends place if you’re asked to bring a salad as it’s a little bit different.

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I have found that with the regular appearance of new and different salads on the dinner table over the Summer, the kids have taken more of a liking to salad, especially Claire. Previously she would have a sparrows helping of salad, now she will help herself to seconds and thirds. Whether this is an age thing or a product of repetitive exposure, I’m not sure, but we’ll go with it and keep having salads.

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I have written posts before on ways to spice up a salad, but the main things that make this salad are:

  1. It contains fruit for a bit of sweetness
  2. It contains nuts for some crunch and protein
  3. It includes some veggies, which are more regularly seen as cooked veggies and not in a salad – the broccoli
  4. It is topped with cheese for some protein and, let’s be honest, everyone loves cheese.

While these points are crucial for every salad, they do help to make it a ‘next level’ salad rather than a lettuce, tomato and cucumber salad, which does get a little bit boring.

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Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 a medium zucchini, finely sliced
  • 1 tbs white wine vinegar
  • 1 baby fennel, finely sliced
  • 1 green apple, cut into matchsticks
  • 1/2 a small head of broccoli, cut into small florets
  • 10 snow peas, halved lengthways
  • 10 sugar snap peas, halved lengthways
  • 10 green beans, trimmed and cut into thirds
  • 1/3 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 2 tbs goats cheese
  • 1-2 tbs fennel fronds

Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbs apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp honey
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C and line a small tray with baking paper.
  2. Using a mandolin (if you have one), finely slice the zucchini into rounds and place into a small bowl. Add the white wine vinegar and toss to coat and set aside.
  3. Finely slice the fennel, using the mandolin and place into a large bowl. Change the mandolin setting to cut the apple into matchsticks and add to the fennel. If you don’t have a mandolin, using a knife will also work well for the zucchini, fennel and apple.
  4. Place broccoli florets, snow peas, sugar snap peas and beans into a medium sized bowl and blanch by covering with boiling water. Allow this to sit for 2-3 minutes and then drain the water and refresh under cold water. Add to the bowl with the fennel.
  5. Place the walnuts into the preheated oven and toast until golden brown. This will take 5-10 minutes but check after 5 minutes.
  6. While the walnuts are toasting, prepare the dressing by combining all ingredients in a small bowl or jar and mixing/shaking well to combine.
  7. Add the zucchini to the remainder of the salad ingredients, discarding the white wine vinegar. Add the dressing and toss to coat. Place into serving bowl and top with toasted walnuts, goats cheese and fennel fronds. Edible flowers are a lovely finishing touch also.
  8. Serve and enjoy.

Dhal with Cauliflower and Eggplant

Dhal (dal, daal, dahl) is a term used for dried, split pulses (legumes), and also for the thick soupy-like dishes that are made using these pulses.

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I have been playing around with a dhal recipe for a few months now and I’m keen to incorporate it into my regular repertoire as it’s a great way to include a meat free meal that is based on the nutrition powerhouses that are pulses. Dhal can be made using a variety of split pulses or lentils, such as red lentils, channa dhal (similar to yellow split peas) and even du puy lentils. Whichever pulse you choose to use, you are providing your body with a great source of plant based protein. Just 1/2 a cup of pulses provides as much protein as 1-2 cups of other plant based sources, such as quinoa and rice, respectively. They are also a good source of iron, folate and potassium. A great food group to include for everyone, but particularly those who choose to adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet.

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The fibre contained in pulses is soluble fibre, resistant starch and insoluble fibre. Soluble fibre assists with digestive health, as well as helping to manage body weight, increase satiety, as well as improve blood sugar levels and assist in improving cholesterol levels. Insoluble fibre assists with digestive health and provides roughage for the body, assisting with bowels. Resistant starch is possibly one of the most important types of fibre, as it is starch that is resistant to digestion, meaning it will reach the end part of the digestive tract, where all the good bacteria live, providing a source of food for these bacteria (probiotics) to feed on, improving gut health. Resistant starch also assists in improving blood sugar levels and blood cholesterol levels.

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We should be aiming to include about 1/2 a cup of pulses at least 2-3 times per week. Achieving this can be as simple as regularly consuming hummus or including kidney beans into tacos or brown lentils into a bolognese sauce or adding some chickpeas or cannellini beans into a casserole or stew.

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Often a dhal is made on its own, then served with vegetables, meat or naan on the side. I have decided to add some eggplant and cauliflower to this particular dish as the flavours work really well, it helps to bulk out the dish, increases the overall vegetable content of the meal, and the kids happily eat the eggplant, which they wouldn’t if I served it up on its own. The kids absolutely loved this meal the most recent time I made it, and I think it’s because I finally got the spice combination right, meaning that it wasn’t too spicy for them. All three of their bowls were clean at the end of the meal.

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If you are making this for adults only, I would increase the mustard seeds and garam masala by half to add a little bit of punch. If you are adults sharing this meal with children and would like a bit more heat, you can add some chilli flakes or fresh chilli at the end to spice things up.

Enjoy xx.

Ingredients:

Serves 4-6

  • 2 cups channa dhal or yellow split peas
  • 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 brown onion, diced
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 10g ginger grated
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 6-8 curry leaves
  • 1/4 cup cashews, finely chopped
  • 400g crushed tomatoes
  • 400ml coconut milk
  • 1L water
  • 1 medium eggplant, diced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups cauliflower, cut into small florets

Method:

  1. Place channa dhal or split peas into a bowl and cover with water. Leave to soak for at least 1 hour.
  2. Place the diced eggplant into a bowl and add salt. Toss and leave to sit for 20 minutes. Rinse off the salt and pat dry with paper towel. Set aside.
  3. Heat a large crockpot or saucepan over medium heat, add onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes until translucent. Add the ginger, garlic, mustard seeds, cumin seeds and fennel seeds and cook, stirring for a further 2-3 minutes. Add the remainder of the spices, curry leaves, cashews and tomatoes and stir to form a thick paste.
  4. Add the coconut milk, soaked pulses, eggplant and water and bring to the boil. Once boiled, reduce the heat and allow to simmer for at least an hour, stirring occasionally, until the pulses are tender but have not turned to mush. Add more water if needed.
  5. Once 20 minutes of cooking time has passed, add the cauliflower and continue cooking until the pulses are tender.
  6. Once cooked, serve with steamed rice or naan.